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Bible Commentaries

The Fourfold Gospel

John 1

Verses 1-18


II.
JOHN’S INTRODUCTION.
dJOHN I. 1-18.

d1 In the beginning was the Word [a title for Jesus peculiar to the apostle John], and the Word was with God [not going before nor coming after God, but with Him at the beginning], and the Word was God. [Not more, not less.] 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him [the New Testament often speaks of Christ as the Creator--see John 1:10, 1 Corinthians 8:6, Colossians 1:13, Hebrews 1:2]; and without him was not anything made that hath been made. [This shows that Jesus himself is not a creature.] 4 In his was life [As in the Father ( John 5:26). As this life animates the living, so can it reanimate the dead-- John 11:25; and the life was the light of men. [The life of Jesus is the light of men, because from that life we get our intellect and understanding, and because that life formed and governs the creation around us by which we become enlightened as to the existence and power of God-- Romans 1:18-21, Acts 14:16, Acts 14:17.] 5 And the light shineth in the darkness [an ignorant, benighted world]; and the darkness apprehended it not. [Did not receive or admit it. Jesus, the Light of the world, was despised and rejected by men.] 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 The same came for witness, that he might bear witness of the light. [that he might tell men that Jesus was the Messiah], that all [who heard his testimony] might believe [in Jesus] through him. 8 He was not the light ["He was the lamp that burneth and shineth" ( John 5:35); but not the Sun of righteousness-- [2] Malachi 4:2], but came that he might bear witness of the light. 9 There was the true light [as opposed to the imperfect, incomplete, and transitory lights], even the light which lighteth every man [all men are enlightened in some degree and enlightened of Christ: some by nature, some by conscience, and some by Bible revelation], coming into the world. 10 He was in the world. [invisibly present, renewing and sustaining his creation], and the world was made through him, and the world knew him not. [Though it might and should have known him-- Romans 1:18-21, Acts 14:16, Acts 14:17.] 11 He came [visibly in the flesh] unto his own [his own land or possessions-- Hosea 9:3, Jeremiah 2:7, Zechariah 2:12], and they that were his own [the children of Israel-- Exodus 19:5, Deuteronomy 7:6, Deuteronomy 14:2] received him not. 12 But as many as received him [whether Jew or Gentile], to them gave he the right to become children of God [comp. Romans 3:14-17, Galatians 3:26, Galatians 4:6, Galatians 4:7, 1 John 3:1, 1 John 3:2], even to them that believe on his name: 13 who were born, not of blood [descent from Abraham, David or any other godly person does not make a man a child of God-- Luke 3:8, Matthew 3:9, John 8:39, John 8:40, Galatians 3:6, Galatians 3:7, Galatians 3:29], nor of the will of the flesh [the efforts and exertions of our own human hearts and natures may reform, but can not regenerate, the life-- John 3:6], nor of the will of man [we are not begotten of God by the acts and deeds of our fellow-men, however much they may aid us in leading right lives], but of God. [ John 3:5, 1 John 4:7, 1 John 5:1.] 14 And the Word became flesh [by being born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary], and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory [in his miracles, and especially in his transfiguration-- John 2:11, 2 Peter 1:16-18], glory as of the only begotten from the Father) [such glory as was suitable to the Son of God], full of grace and truth. [The glory of Christ was not in pomp and worldly grandeur, but in the holiness, grace, and truth of his daily life.] 15 John [the Baptist] beareth witness of him [the words of John the Baptist still witness to unbelieving Jews and Gentiles], and crieth, [3] saying, This was he of whom I said [John had preached about Jesus before Jesus appeared; he now points to Jesus as the one about whom he had preached], He that cometh after me [He for whom I as a forerunner have prepared the way-- Matthew 3:3] is become before me [is worthy of more honor and reverence than am I]: for he was before me. [Though born into the world six months later than John, Jesus, as the Word, had existed from eternity. (In John 1:16 the words are the apostle John’s, and not John the Baptist’s.)] 16 For of his fulness [Jesus was full of grace and truth--and all the attributes of God-- Ephesians 1:23, Ephesians 3:19, Ephesians 4:13, Colossians 1:19, Colossians 2:9] we all received [by union with him all his perfection and righteousness became ours-- Philippians 1:10, Philippians 1:11, Philippians 3:8, Philippians 3:9, 1 Corinthians 1:30], and grace for grace. [This may mean that we receive a grace kindred to or like each several grace that is in Christ ( Romans 8:29, Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:11-13). But it more probably means fullness of grace, or fresh grace daily added to the grace already bestowed.] 17 For the law [the Old Dispensation with its condemnation ( Romans 3:20, Galatians 2:21) and its types and shadows-- Colossians 2:16, Colossians 2:17, Hebrews 8:4, Hebrews 8:5, Hebrews 10:1] was given through Moses [by angels at Mt. Sinai-- Hebrews 2:2]; grace and truth [the New Dispensation with its justification ( Romans 3:21-26) and its realities-- Hebrews 9:1-15] came through Jesus Christ. [ Hebrews 1:1, Hebrews 1:2, Hebrews 2:3.] 18 No man hath seen God at any time [ 1 John 4:12, 1 John 4:20, John 1:18, 1 Timothy 4:16]; the only begotten Son [the word "only begotten" indicates that none other bears with Christ a like relationship to God], who is in the bosom of the Father [who bears the closest and tenderest relationship and fellowship as to the Father], he hath declared him. [ John 3:2, John 15:9, Colossians 1:15.] [4]

[FFG 2-4]

Verses 19-34


XX.
JOHN’S FIRST TESTIMONY TO JESUS.
(Bethany beyond Jordan, February, A. D. 27.)
dJOHN I. 19-34.

d19 And this is the witness of John [John had been sent to testify, "and" this is the matter of his testimony], when the Jews [The term "Jews" is used seventy times by John to describe the ruling classes of Judæa] sent unto him [In thus sending an embassy they honored John more than they ever honored Christ. They looked upon John as a priest and Judæan, but upon Jesus as a carpenter and Galilæan. It is probable that the sending of this investigating committee marks the period when the feelings of the rulers toward John changed from friendliness to hostility. At the first, probably led on by the prophecies of Daniel, these Jews found joy in [101] John’s coming ( John 5:33-35). When they attended his ministry in person he denounced their wickedness and incurred their hatred] from Jerusalem priests and Levites [they were commissioned to teach ( 2 Chronicles 15:3, Nehemiah 8:7-9), and it was probably because of their wisdom as teachers that they were sent to question John about his baptism] to ask him, Who art thou? 20 And he confessed, and denied not; and he confessed [The repetition here suggests John’s firmness under repeated temptation. As the questioners ran down the scale from "Christ" to "that prophet," John felt himself diminishing in their estimation, but firmly declined to take honors which did not belong to him], I am not [in this entire section ( John 1:20-24) John places emphasis upon the pronoun "I," that he may contrast himself with Christ] the Christ [When the apostle John wrote this Gospel it had become fashionable with many of the Baptist’s disciples to assert that the Baptist was the Christ. (Recognitions of Clement 1. 50, 60; Olshausen, Hengstenberg, Godet.) In giving this testimony of the Baptist, John corrects this error; but his more direct purpose is to show forth John’s full testimony, and give the basis for the words of Jesus found at John 5:33. The fact that the Jews were disposed to look upon John as the Messiah gave all the greater weight to his testimony; for the more exalted the person of the witness, the weightier are his words. John’s own experience doubtless caused him to feel the influence of the Baptist’s testimony.] 21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elijah? [Malachi had declared that Elijah should precede the Messiah ( Malachi 4:5). The Jews interpreted this prophecy literally, and looked for the return of the veritable Elijah who was translated ( Matthew 17:10). This literal Elijah did return, and was seen upon the Mount of Transfiguration before the crucifixion of our Lord. But the prophecy of Malachi referred to a spiritual Elijah--one who should come "in the spirit and power of Elijah," and in this sense John fulfilled Malachi’s prediction-- Luke 1:17, Matthew 11:14, Matthew 17:12.] And he saith, I am not [He answered their question according to [102] the sense in which they had asked it. He was not the Elijah who had been translated about nine hundred years before this time.] Art thou the prophet? [Moses had foretold a prophet who should come ( Deuteronomy 18:15-18), but the Jews appear to have had no fixed opinion concerning him, for some thought he would be a second Moses, others a second Elijah, others the Messiah. The Scriptures show us how uncertain they were about him ( Matthew 16:14, John 6:14, John 7:40, John 7:41). As to Jeremiah being that prophet, see II. Macc. ii. 7. Even Christians disagree as to whether Moses refers to Christ or to a line of prophets. Though divided in opinion as to who this prophet would be, the Jews were fairly unanimous as to what he would do. Finding in their Scriptures two pictures of the Christ, one representing him as a great Conqueror, and the other of his priesthood, setting him forth as a great Sufferer, they took the pictures to refer to two personages, one denoting a king--the Messiah--and the other a prophet. The Jews to this day thus divide the Christ of prophecy, and seek to make him two personages.] And he answered, No. [He was not the prophet, either as he or they understood that term. John gives us a beautiful example of humility. Like Paul, he would not be overvalued-- Acts 14:13-15, 1 Corinthians 1:12, 1 Corinthians 1:13.] 22 They said therefore unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us What sayest thou of thyself? [Unable to guess his office, they asked him to state it plainly.] 23 He said, I am the voice [It is as though John answered, "You ask who I am. My personality is nothing; my message everything. I shall pass away as a sound passes into silence; but the truth which I have uttered shall abide." In his answer John shows himself to be the spiritual Elijah, for he declares that he came to do the work of Elijah; viz.: to prepare the people for the advent of Messiah. There are many echoes in the world; but few voices] of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord [prepare the minds and hearts of the people that Christ may freely enter in], as said Isaiah the prophet. [ Isaiah 40:3.] 24 And they had been sent were from [103] The Pharisees. [Of all the Jewish sects the Pharisees were most attentive to external rites and ceremonies, and hence would notice John’s baptism more than would others. It is interesting to notice that the Pharisees, who were Christ’s most bitter opponents, were warned of John about the presence of Messiah from the very beginning.] 25 And they asked him, and said unto him, Why then baptizest thou, if thou art not the Christ, neither Elijah, neither the prophet? [If you are no more important personage, who do you presume to introduce any other ordinance than those provided for by the law of Moses? The question shows that to them John’s baptism was a new rite. Even if proselyte baptism then existed at this time (of which there is certainly no sufficient evidence), it differed in two marked ways from John’s baptism: 1. John baptized his converts, while proselytes baptized themselves. 2. John baptized Jews and not Gentiles.] 26 John answered them, saying, I baptize in water: but in the midst of you standeth one whom ye know not, 27 even he that cometh after me [that is, follows in that way which I as forerunner am preparing for him], The latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to unloose. [The words "standeth" and "shoe" showed that the person of whom the Baptist spoke had a visible, bodily form. To loose the latchet was a peculiarly servile office. The Talmud says,"Every office a servant will do for his master, a scholar should perform for his teacher, except loosing his sandal-thong." The greatest prophet felt unworthy to render Christ this humble service, but unconverted sinners often presume to serve Christ according to their own will, and fully expect to have their service honored and rewarded. Taken as a whole, the answer of John appears indirect and insufficient. What was there in all this to authorize him to baptize? This appears to be his meaning: "You demand my authority for baptism. It rests in him for whom I prepare the way. It is a small matter to introduce baptism in water for one so worthy. If you accept him, my baptism will need no explanation; and if you reject him, my rite and its authority are both wholly [104] immaterial."] 28 These things were done in Bethany beyond the Jordan [Owing to variation in the manuscripts, we may read "Bethany" or "Bethabara," or even possibly "Bethabara in Bathania." Tradition fixes upon the Jericho ford, which is about five miles on an air line north of the Dead Sea, as the site of Jesus’ baptism. But this spot is eighty miles from Cana of Galilee, and hence Jesus, leaving it on foot, could not well have attended the wedding in Cana on "the third day" ( John 2:1). We must therefore look for Bethany or Bethabara farther up the river. John the Baptist was a roving preacher ( Luke 3:3), and during the forty days of Jesus’ temptation seems to have moved up the river Jordan. Fifty miles above the Jericho ford, and ten miles south of the Sea of Galilee, Lieutenant Conder found a ford named ’Abarah (meaning "ferry"), which answers to Bethabara (meaning "house of the ferry"). It was in the land of Bashan, which in the time of Christ was called Bathania (meaning "soft soil"). This spot is only twenty-two miles from Cana. Being beyond the Jordan, it is not in Galilee, as Dr. Thomson asserts. Conder says: "We have collected the names of over forty fords, and no other is called ’Abarah; nor does the word occur again in all nine thousand names collected by the survey party."] where John was baptizing. 29 On the morrow he seeth Jesus coming unto him [Jesus had just returned from the temptation in the wilderness. This is his first appearance in John’s Gospel. The fact that John leaves out all the early history of Jesus shows that he wrote many years after the other evangelists, when all these facts were so well known as to need no mention by him], and saith, Behold, the Lamb of God [Lambs were commonly used for sin-offerings ( Leviticus 4:32), and three of them were sacrificed in the cleansing of a leper ( Leviticus 14:10). A lamb was also the victim of the morning (9 A. M.) and evening (3 P. M.) sacrifice ( Exodus 29:38)--the hours when Jesus was nailed to the cross and when he expired. A lamb was also the victim at the paschal supper. The great prophecy of Isaiah, setting forth the vicarious sacrifice of Christ ( Isaiah 53:1-12) depicts him as a lamb, and in [105] terms which answer closely to the words here used by John. The Jews to whom John spoke readily understood his allusion as being to sacrificial lambs; but they could not understand his meaning, for they had no thought of the sacrifice of a person. Jesus is called the Lamb of God because he is the lamb or sacrifice which God provided and accepted as the true and only sin-offering-- Hebrews 10:4-14, 1 Peter 1:19], that taketh away the sin of the world! [The present tense, "taketh," is used because the expiatory effect of Christ’s sacrifice is perpetual, and the fountain of his forgiveness never fails. Expiated sin is this spoken of as being taken away ( Leviticus 10:17, Exodus 34:7, Numbers 14:18). Some, seeking to avoid the vicarious nature of Christ’s sacrifice, claim that the Baptist means that Jesus would gradually lift the world out of sin by his teaching. But lambs do not teach, and sin is not removed by teaching, but by sacrifice ( Hebrews 9:22, Revelation 5:9). Jesus was sacrificed for the world, that is, for the entire human family in all ages. All are bought, but all do not acknowledge the purchase ( 2 Peter 2:1). He gives liberty to all, but all do not receive it, and some having received it return again to bondage ( Galatians 4:9). The Baptist had baptized for the remission of sins. He now points his converts to him who would make this promise good unto their souls. A Christian looks upon Christ as one who has taken away his past sin ( 1 Peter 2:24), and who will forgive his present sin-- 1 John 1:9.] 30 This is he of whom I said [for this saying see John 1:15, John 1:27], After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. [As a man John was six months older than Jesus, but Jesus was the eternal Word. The Baptist therefore asserts here the pre-existence of our Lord.] 31 And I knew him not [had no such certain knowledge of him as would fit me to testify concerning him]; but that he should be made manifest to Israel, for this cause came I baptizing in water. [John baptized not only that he himself might know Christ by the spiritual sign, but also that through that knowledge duly published all Israel might know him.] 32 And John bare witness, [106] saying, I have beheld the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven; and it abode upon him. [The descent of the Spirit served at least two purposes: 1. It enabled John to identify the Messiah. 2. It was, so to speak, an official recognition of Jesus as Messiah similar to the anointing or crowning of a king. It is asserted by some that it was of no benefit to Jesus, since his own divine powers permitted of no addition; but the language of Scripture indicates otherwise-- Isaiah 11:2, Isaiah 11:3, Luke 4:17-19, John 3:34.] 33 And I knew him not [John’s assertions that he did not know Jesus are assertions that he did not know him to be the Messiah. He believed it, as appears from his reluctance to baptize him, but he did not know it. His language to the people shows this ( John 1:26). Many of the people must have known Jesus, but none of them knew him to be the Messiah. Moreover, when John denied that he knew Jesus as Messiah we must not take it that he was ignorant of the past history of Jesus. No doubt he knew in a general way who Jesus was; but as the official forerunner and announcer of Jesus, and as the heaven-sent witness ( John 1:6, John 1:7), it was necessary that the Baptist should receive, by personal revelation from God, as here stated, an indubitable, absolute knowledge of the Messiahship of Jesus. Without this, John would not have been truly qualified as a witness. That Jesus is the Son of God must not rest on hearsay evidence. John kept silent till he could testify of his own knowledge]: but he that sent me [thus humbly does John claim his divine commission as a prophet] to baptize in water, he said unto me, Upon whomsoever thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and abiding upon him [John seems to emphasize the abiding of the Spirit. The Spirit of God was also bestowed upon the prophets and the apostles, but in them his power was intermittent, and not constant; visions came to them intermittently, but with Christ the fellowship of the Spirit was continuous], the same is he that baptizeth in the Holy Spirit. [Christ bestows the Spirit upon his own. If he himself received the Spirit at the time of his baptism, why should [107] it be thought strange that he bestows the Spirit upon his disciples at the time of their baptism?--See Acts 2:38, Acts 19:1-7, Titus 3:5.] 34 And I have seen [that is, I have seen the promised sign], and have borne witness that this is the Son of God. [This is the climax of John’s testimony. It was twofold, embracing the results of the two senses of sight and hearing. 1. John saw the dove-like apparition of the Spirit, which convinced him that Jesus was the one to baptize in the Spirit. 2. He heard the voice of the Father, which convinced him that Jesus was the Son of God. As to each of these two facts he had a separate revelation, appealing to a different sense, and each given by the personage of the Deity more nearly concerned in the matter revealed. John was not only to prepare the people to receive Christ by calling them to repentance, and baptizing them for the remission of their sins; there was another work equally great and important to be performed. Their heads as well as their hearts needed his preparatory services. His testimony ran counter to and corrected popular opinion concerning Christ. We see that John corrected four errors: 1. The Jews looked for a Messiah of no greater spiritual worthiness than John himself, but the Baptist disclaimed even the right to unlace the Lord’s shoe, that he might emphasize the difference between himself and the Messiah in point of spiritual excellency. 2. The Jews looked for one who would come after Moses, David, and the prophets, and lost sight of the fact that he would be before them, both in point of time and of honor ( Matthew 22:41-46). 3. The Jews looked for a liberator from earthly bondage--a glorious king; John pointed them to a liberator from spiritual bondage, a perfect sacrifice acceptable to God. 4. The Jews looked for a human Messiah, a son of David. John enlarged their idea, by pointing them to a Messiah who was also the Son of God. When the Jews accept John’s guidance as a prophet, they will believe in the Messiahship of Jesus.] [108]

[FFG 101-108]

Verses 35-51


XXI.
JESUS MAKES HIS FIRST DISCIPLES.
(Bethany beyond Jordan, Spring A. D. 27.)
dJOHN I. 35-51.

d35 Again on the morrow [John’s direct testimony bore fruit on the second day] John was standing, and two of his disciples [An audience of two. A small field; but a large harvest]; 36 and he looked [Gazed intently. The word is used at Mark 14:67, Luke 22:61, Mark 10:21, Mark 10:27. John looked searchingly at that face, which, so far as any record shows, he was never to see on earth again. The more intently we look upon Jesus, the more powerfully we proclaim him] upon Jesus as he walked [This detail seems to be introduced to show that the Baptist did not stop Jesus and enter into familiar conversation with him. The witness of John was wholly that of an inspired, unbiased prophet, and not that of a friend or a familiar acquaintance], and saith, Behold the Lamb of God! [John repeats this testimony. He might have chosen another message, but preferred this one. Paul also had but one theme-- 1 Corinthians 2:2, Galatians 6:14.] 37 And the two disciples [Andrew and probably John, the writer of this Gospel. The following are indications that it was John: 1. From this time on he speaks as an eye-witness. 2. We have no other account in his Gospel on his call to discipleship. 3. On seven other occasions in this Gospel he withholds his name-- John 13:23, John 19:26, John 19:35, John 20:2, John 21:7, John 21:20, John 21:24] heard him speak, they followed Jesus. [Here is the fountainhead of Christianity, for Christianity is following Jesus.] 38 And Jesus turned, and beheld them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? [They doubtless felt such awe and reverence for the person of Jesus as would make them hesitate to address him. Hence Jesus himself opens the way for intercourse with himself.] And they said unto him, Rabbi (which is to say, being interpreted, Teacher) [109] [By the way in which John explains Jewish words and customs, it becomes apparent that his Gospel was written for Gentiles as well as for Jews. Some take these explanations as evidence that John’s Gospel was written after the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem. They are indeed a slight evidence of this, for it is more expedient to explain a custom which has ceased to exist than one which survives to explain itself], where abidest thou? 39 He saith, Come, and ye shall see. [The fitting invitation of him who says: "Seek, and ye shall find."] They came therefore and saw where he abode; and they abode with him that day: it was about the tenth hour. [It being a crisis in his life, John remembered the very hour. If John reckoned time according to the Jewish method, it was about 4 P. M. If according to the Roman method, it was 10 A. M. We are inclined to accept the latter as correct.] 40 One of the two that heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He findeth first [before he did anything else] his own brother Simon [The word "own" is here coupled with "brother" to show that Simon was not a mere relative (as the word "brother" might mean), but it was literally Andrew’s brother] and saith unto him, We have found the Messiah (which is, being interpreted, Christ). ["Messiah" is Hebrew, "Christ" is Greek, "Anointed" is English. Jesus is the anointed of God. In finding him, Andrew had made the greatest discovery which it is possible for a man to make.] 42 He brought him unto Jesus. [Thus Andrew has in a sense the honor of being the first Christian evangelist.] Jesus looked upon him, and said, Thou art Simon [this name means "hearing"] the son of John: thou shalt be called Cephas (which is by interpretation, Peter). [Cephas is Hebrew, Peter is Greek, stone is English. It means a mass of rock detached from the bed-rock or strata on which the earth rests. The future tense, "thou shalt be," indicates that Peter was to win his name. It is given prophetically to describe the stability to which the then weak and vacillating Simon should attain.] [110] 43 On the morrow he was minded to go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip [In the synoptists, Philip is a mere name in the apostolic list. Through John we gain some acquaintance with him-- John 6:5, John 12:21, John 14:8]: and Jesus saith unto him, Follow me. [The Lord’s usual invitation to discipleship-- Matthew 4:19, Matthew 8:22, Matthew 9:9, Matthew 19:21, Mark 2:14, Mark 10:21, Luke 5:27, Luke 9:59, John 21:19.] 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida [Bethsaida of Galilee, on the northwestern shore of the Lake of Galilee. It was a wicked place-- Matthew 11:21], of the city of Andrew and Peter. [It appears that Peter afterward removed to Capernaum--Mark i. 29.] 45 Philip findeth Nathanael [Nathanael is commonly identified with Bartholomew for the following reasons: 1. The name Bartholomew is only a patronymic, and hence its bearer would be likely to have an additional name. (Compare Matthew 16:17, Acts 4:36.) 2. John never mentions Bartholomew, and the Synoptists never mention Nathanael, though John mentions him among apostles at the beginning and at the close of Christ’s ministry. 3. The Synoptists, in their list of apostles, invariably place Philip next to Bartholomew, and show a tendency to place brothers and friends together. 4. All the other disciples mentioned in this chapter become apostles, and none are so highly commended as Nathanael. 5. Bartholomew is connected with Matthew in the list at Acts 1:13, and the names Matthew and Nathanael both mean the same, and are equal to the Greek name Theodore, which means "gift of God." But even so the identification is not perfect], and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, wrote [The whole law is full of symbolism which refers to Christ. The following references may be taken as more specific: Genesis 49:10, Numbers 24:17-19, Deuteronomy 18:15. The passages in the prophets are too numerous to mention. For samples see Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 9:6, Isaiah 52:13, Isaiah 53:1-12, Ezekiel 34:23-31. In brief, Moses wrote of him as a Prophet, David as Lord, Isaiah as the Son of the virgin and suffering Servant, Jeremiah as the [111] Branch, Ezekiel as the Shepherd, Malachi as the Messenger of the Covenant, Daniel as the Messiah. Christ is the hero and subject-matter of both Testaments-- 1 Peter 1:11, John 5:39], Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. [Philip knew no better at this time, and John did not change the words of Philip to suit his later knowledge of Christ’s parentage. John has already declared the divine origin of Jesus ( John 1:14), thereby agreeing with the detailed account of Matthew and Luke.] 46 And Nathanael said unto him, Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? [Because of their want of culture, their rude dialect, and their contact with Gentiles, the Galileans were lightly esteemed by the inhabitants of Judæa ( John 7:52). But here Nathanael, a Galilean himself, speaks slightingly of Nazareth. Some think that Nazareth was no worse than the rest of Galilee, and that Nathanael speaks thus disparagingly because he dwelt in the neighboring town of Cana, and felt that jealousy which often exists between rival villages. The guileless Nathanael had no such jealousy, and the persistency with which the enemies of Jesus called him the Nazarene indicates that there was more than a local odium attached to the name Nazareth. Moreover, it was the first city to offer violence to Christ and was ready on one day’s acquaintance with his preaching to put him to death.] Philip saith to him, Come and see. [So said afterward the woman of Samaria ( John 4:29). Investigation removes prejudice.] 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed [An Israelite in spirit as well as in flesh ( Romans 2:28, Romans 2:29, Romans 9:16). Such a character contrasted sharply with the prevalent formalism and hypocrisy of that day], in whom is no guile! [Some see in the word guile a reference to Jacob. He was a man full of all subtlety and guile in his early years, but his experience at Peniel ( Genesis 32:22-31) changed his nature and his name, and he became Israel, the spiritual father of all true Israelites.] 48 Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? [Nathanael’s surprise clearly indicates that the knowledge [112] which Jesus exhibited was miraculous. Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. [The fig-tree affords the densest shade in Palestine--a shade where no sunspot can be seen. This fact has made it immemorially a resting-place and a refuge from the fierce Syrian sunlight. Under such a cover Jesus saw Nathanael when he was alone. Such superhuman knowledge wrought faith in Nathanael, as it did afterward in the woman of Samaria.--See Proverbs 15:3.] 49 Nathanael answered and said unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel. [ Psalms 2:7, Isaiah 9:6 prophetically announce Jesus as the Son of God. These and other prophecies had just been more clearly announced by the Baptist ( John 1:34). It is clear, therefore, where Nathanael got his words; but it is not so clear how well he understood them. This is the first recorded uninspired confession of the divinity of Jesus, but Matthew 16:16, Matthew 16:17 indicates that it was but partially comprehended, else Peter might have been instructed by Nathanael. The expression "King of Israel" probably expressed the hope which Nathanael then entertained that Jesus would restore the ancient Jewish kingdom of David-- Acts 1:6.] 50 Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee underneath the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these. [Nathanael regarded the revelation of his character and whereabouts as a great thing, but he was destined to see yet greater miracles. Opportunities improved lead to larger privileges, and for those who believe, the evidences are increased.] 51 And he saith unto him, Verily, verily [This word means "in truth." John twenty-five times represents the Saviour as thus using the double "verily." Matthew quotes the single "verily" thirty times, Mark fourteen times, and Luke seven times. The word is used to mark the importance of the truth about to be uttered], I say unto you ["you" is plural and includes all present as well as Nathanael], Ye shall see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man. [113] [Jesus having referred to Nathanael as a true Israelite, promises to him--and to those like him--a blessing answering to Jacob’s vision of the ladder; that is, that the ascent and descent of ministering angels shall be by means of Christ. Jesus calls himself the Son of man upwards of eighty times. The expression is found in all four Gospels, but is there invariably used by Christ himself. Stephen ( Acts 7:56) and John ( Revelation 1:13) also use this title, to indicate that the glorious being whom they saw was like Jesus--like him in his human estate. In this chapter Jesus has been called by others "The Lamb of God," "the Son of God," "the Messiah," and "the King of Israel." Jesus chooses yet another title, "Son of man," for himself. At this earliest dawning of their expectations, while their minds were thus full of his titles of glory, Jesus introduces to his disciples this one which speaks of his humanity and humility. The expression may have been suggested by Daniel 7:13, Daniel 7:14.]

[FFG 109-114]

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
Bibliographical Information
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on John 1". "The Fourfold Gospel". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tfg/john-1.html. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.