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Bible Commentaries

The Fourfold Gospel

John 7

Verse 1

P A R T S I X T H.

(Time: One Year Less One Week.)

(Galilee, probably Capernaum, Spring A. D. 29.)
aMATT. XV. 1-20; bMARK VII. 1-23; dJOHN VII. 1.

d1 And after these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Judæa, because the Jews sought to kill him. [John told us in his last chapter that the passover was near at hand. He here makes a general statement which shows that Jesus did not attend this passover. The reason for his absence is given at John 5:18.] a1 Then there come to Jesus from Jerusalem b1 And there are gathered together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, who had come from Jerusalem, 2 and had seen that some of his disciples ate their bread with defiled, that is, with unwashen, hands. [Evidently several days intervened between the address of John 6:22-40. and the events recorded here, for the Pharisees and scribes would not be likely to leave Jerusalem until after the passover. Isaiah 29:13], asaying, bas it is written, This people [394] honoreth me with their lips, But their heart is far from me. 7 But in vain do they worship me, Teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men. 8 Ye leave the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of men. 9 And he said unto them, Full well do ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your tradition. [These Pharisees coming from Jerusalem could find nothing wherein Jesus or his disciples transgressed the law, so they eagerly grasped this transgression of the tradition as affording ground for an accusation. Jesus does not deny their charge, but justifies his disciples by attacking the whole traditional system, basing his attack upon a pointed prophecy which condemns it. It is hard for us to learn and apply the distinction between serving God as God wishes to be served, and serving him according to our own wishes and notions.] a4 For God {bMoses} said [that is, God said it through Moses], Honor thy father and thy mother; and, He that speaketh evil of father or mother, let him die the death [see Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16, Exodus 21:17, Leviticus 20:9]: 11 but ye say, If a man {aWhosoever} shall say to his father or his mother, That wherewith thou mightest have been profited by me bis Corban, that is to say, Given to God; a6 he shall not honor his father. b12 ye no longer suffer him to do ought for his father or his mother; aAnd ye have made {b13 making} void the word of God by {abecause of} your tradition. bwhich ye have delivered: and many such like things ye do. [Leaving for a moment the main question concerning uncleanness and washing, Jesus makes good his indictment against their tradition by giving an example of the mischievous way in which it set aside God’s commandments. The law required the honoring of parents, and for any one to cast off his parents in their old age, thus subjecting them to beggary or starvation, was to do more than to speak evil of them. Such conduct was practically to curse them, and to incur the death penalty for so doing. But at this point the Pharisees interfered with their tradition, which taught that [395] a son could say of that part of his estate by which his parents might be profited, It is a gift; that is, a gift to God, and by thus dedicating that part to God, he would free himself from his obligation to his parents. Thus tradition undid the law. God’s law leads to pure and acceptable worship, while human additions and amendments make worship vain, if not abominable. There is probably not one such addition or amendment which does not to a greater or less degree make some commandment void.] 14 And he called to him the multitude again, and said unto them [Having been accused by the scribes and Pharisees of a breach of their tradition, Jesus points out to them generally the iniquity of tradition, for it lay within their power as leaders to remedy the whole system of things. Having done this, he turns to the multitude and answers before them as to the offense with which he is specifically charged. Thus he gives to the leaders general principles, and to the common people the single instance], Hear me all of you, and understand: a11 Not that which entereth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which proceedeth out of the mouth, this defileth a man. b15 there is nothing from without a man, that going into him can defile him: but the things which proceed out of the man are those that defile the man. 17 And when he was entered into the house from the multitude, a12 Then came the disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, when they heard this saying? [The entire speech offended them. He charged them with hypocrisy. He showed that their tradition, which they reverenced as a revelation from God, led them into sin, and he disturbed their self-complacency by showing that the ceremonial cleanness, which was founded on tradition, and in which they prided themselves, was worthless in comparison with the moral cleanness required by God’s law, which they had ignored. It grieved the disciples to see Jesus offend these reverend gentlemen from Jerusalem. Like many modern disciples their respect for men counteracted their zeal for truth.] 13 But he answered and said, Every [396] plant which my heavenly Father hath planted not, shall be up rooted up. [God had planted the law with its doctrine: he had planted the Hebrew religion as given by Moses. He had not planted the tradition of the elders; so it, and the religion founded upon it, was doomed to be rooted up.] 14 Let them alone: they are blind guides. And if the blind guide the blind, both shall fall into a pit. [This proverbial expression is found in the Sermon on the Mount. See Psalms 37:1, Psalms 37:2). The words of Jesus are full of encouragement to those who adhere to the simple teachings of God; for they show that God guarantees that every error shall be uprooted, and that every teacher of error or false religion shall participate in the judgment which uproots, and shall fall into the pit of ruin; and his disciples, no matter how numerous, shall share his fate. In this particular instance, the destruction of Jerusalem was the pit. The Jewish leaders led their disciples into it, and God uprooted their system of tradition, that the pure gospel might be sowed in the room which they occupied.] 15 And Peter answered and said unto him, Declare unto us the parable. [The word "parable" is used here in its looser sense to indicate an obscure saying.] bhis disciples asked of him the parable. [They asked what he meant by the words contained in the Matthew 15:11. 18 And he saith {asaid,} bunto them, aAre ye even yet bso without understanding also? [It was to be expected that the multitude, swayed by the teaching of the Pharisees, would be slow to grasp what Jesus said about uncleanness; but the disciples, having been so long taught of him, and having felt free to eat with unwashed hands, should have been more quick of understanding.] Perceive ye not, that whatsoever from without goeth into the man, it cannot defile him; 19 because it goeth not into his heart, but apasseth into the {bhis} belly, and goeth out into {aand is cast out into} the [397] draught? bThis he said, making all meats clean. 20 And he said, a18 But the things which proceed out of the mouth come forth out of the heart; and they defile the man. bThat which proceedeth out of the man, that defileth the man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of men, acome forth {bproceed,} aevil thoughts, bfornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22; covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye [an envious eye] afalse witness, railings: {brailing,} pride, foolishness: 23 all these evil things proceed from within, and a20 these are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashen hands, defileth not the man. [Thus Jesus sets forth the simple doctrine that a man’s moral and spiritual state is not dependent upon the symbolic cleanness of his physical diet, much less is it dependent on ceremonial observances in regard to things eaten, or the dishes from which they are eaten. Of course, Jesus did not mean at this time to abrogate the Mosaic law of legal uncleanness. These uncleannesses worked no spiritual defilement, but were merely typical of such; for the food in no way touched or affected the mind or soul, the fountains of spiritual life, but only the corporeal organs, which have no moral susceptibility. The Pharisees had erred in confusing legal and spiritual defilement, and had added error to error by multiplying the causes of defilement in their tradition. By thus showing that legal defilement was merely symbolic, Jesus classed it with all the other symbolism which was to be done away with when the gospel reality was fully ushered in ( Colossians 2:16, Colossians 2:17). In saying, therefore, that Jesus made all meats clean, Mark does not mean that Jesus then and there repealed the law. The declaration of such repeal came later ( Acts 10:14, Acts 10:15). He means that he there drew those distinctions and laid down those principles which supplanted the Mosaic law when the kingdom of God was ushered in on the day of Pentecost. Here was the fountain whence Paul drew all his teaching concerning things clean and unclean.] [398]

* It was a whole year.--J. W. McG.

[FFG 393-398]

Verses 2-9

(Galilee, probably Capernaum.)
dJOHN VII. 2-9.

d2 Now the feast of the Jews, the feast of tabernacles, was at hand. [The John 7:1 tells us that Jesus kept away from Judæa because the Jews sought for his life. See page 393. This keeping away or seclusion began at the Passover season, and led Jesus not only to keep away from Judæa, but even to hover upon the outskirts of Galilee itself. This seclusion is described in Sections LXV.-LXXI. We now turn back to take up with John the narrative which tells how, after his six months’ retirement, Jesus prepared to appear once more in Judæa. The Feast of Tabernacles began on the 15th day of the month Tisri, which answers to our September-October, and consequently came six [439] months after and six months before the Passover. It was the most joyous of the two great feasts, and not only commemorated the time when Israel dwelt in the wilderness in tents, but also celebrated the harvest home. It was, therefore, a thanksgiving both for permanent abodes and for the year’s crops. As the people dwelt in booths, the feast partook much of the form and merriment of a picnic.] 3 His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may behold thy works which thou doest. 4 For no man doeth any thing in secret, and himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou doest these things, manifest thyself to the world. [When we consider how Jesus had withdrawn into the regions of Tyre, Sidon, Decapolis, and Cæsarea Philippi, and with what assiduity he had avoided crowds and concealed miracles, these words become very plain. The twelve had been instructed sufficiently to confess his Messiahship, but thousands of his disciples had not seen a miracle in six months. To his brothers such secrecy seemed foolish on the part of one who was ostensibly seeking to be known. They were not disposed to credit the miracles of Jesus, but insisted that if he could work them he ought to do so openly.] 5 For even his brethren did not believe on him. [This verse explodes the idea that the parties known in the New Testament as our Lord’s brothers were the sons of Alphæus and cousins to Jesus. The sons of Alphæus had long since been numbered among the apostles, while our Lord’s brothers were still unbelievers. As to his brothers, see pp. 224-226, 360.] 6 Jesus therefore saith unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is always ready. [Jesus is answering a request that he manifest himself. The great manifestation of his cross and resurrection could not properly take place before the Passover, which was still six months distant. But his brothers, having no message and no manifestation, could show themselves at Jerusalem any time.] 7 The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that its works are evil. [The world can [440] not hate you because you are in mind and heart a part of it, and it can not hate itself. It hates those who are not of it, and who rebuke its sins and oppose its ways.] 8 Go ye up unto the feast: I go not up unto this feast; because my time is not yet fulfilled. 9 And having said these things unto them, he abode still in Galilee. [He did go to the feast, but he did not go up to manifest himself, as his brothers asked, and hence, in the sense in which they made the request, he did not go up. Six months later, at the Passover, he manifested himself by the triumphal entry somewhat as his brothers wished.]

[FFG 439-441]

Verse 10

(Through Samaria. Probably September, A. D. 29.)
cLUKE IX. 51-56; dJOHN VII. 10.

d10 But when his brethren were gone up unto the feasts, then went he also up, not publicly, but as it were in secret. [This section follows immediately after the preceding. The secrecy of this journey consists in the fact that Jesus did not join the caravans or pilgrim bands, and that he did not follow the usual Peræan route, but went directly through Samaria.] c51 And it came to pass, when the days were well-nigh come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, 52 and sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. [Taken in its strictest sense, the expression "taken up" refers to our Lord’s ascension, but it is here used to embrace his entire passion. Though our Lord’s death was still six months distant, his going to Jerusalem is described as attended with a special effort, because from that time forth Jerusalem was to occupy the position of headquarters, as Capernaum had done, and his [441] withdrawals and returns would be with regard to it. The presence of the twelve alone is sufficient to account for the messengers. He did not wish to overtax the fickle hospitality of the Samaritans by coming unannounced.] 53 And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he were going to Jerusalem. [Had Jesus come among them on a missionary tour he would doubtless have been received. But when he came as a Jew passing through to Jerusalem, and using their highway as a convenience, they rejected him.] 54 And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we bid fire to come down from heaven, and consume them? 55 But he turned, and rebuked them, 56 And they went to another village. [Refusing to receive a religious teacher was considered a rejection of his claim. This rejection roused the ire of the two sons of thunder and prompted them to suggest that the example of Elijah be followed ( 2 Kings 1:9-12), but Jesus was a Saviour and not a destroyer, so he passed on to another village. The conduct of John in after years contrasts sharply with the wish which he here expressed-- Acts 8:14-25.]

[FFG 441-442]

Verses 11-52

(October, A. D. 29.)
dJOHN VII. 11-52.

d11 The Jews therefore sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he? [It was now eighteen months since Jesus had visited Jerusalem, at which time he had healed the impotent man at Bethesda. His fame and prolonged obscurity made his enemies anxious for him to again expose himself in their midst. John here used the word "Jews" as a designation for the Jerusalemites, who, as enemies of Christ, were to be distinguished from the multitudes who were in doubt about him, and who are mentioned in the John 7:12.] 12 And there was much murmuring [443] among the multitudes concerning him: some said, He is a good man; others said, Not so; but he leadeth the multitude astray. [The use of the plural, "multitudes," suggests that the vast crowd disputed as groups rather than individuals. The inhabitants of some towns were disposed to unite in his defense, while those from other towns would concur in condemning him.] 13 Yet no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews. [They would not commit themselves upon a question so important until the Sanhedrin had given its decision.] 14 But when it was now the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught. [As the feast lasted eight days, the middle of it would be from the third to the fifth day. Though Jesus had come up quietly to prevent public demonstrations in his favor, he now taught boldly and openly in the very stronghold of his enemies. His sudden appearance suggests the fulfillment of Malachi 3:1.] 15 The Jews therefore marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned? [The enemies of Christ were content to know but little about him, and now when they heard him they could not restrain their astonishment at his wisdom. By letters was meant the written law and the unwritten traditions which were taught in the great theological schools at Jerusalem. The same word is translated "learning" at Acts 26:24. No one was expected to teach without having passed through such a course. Skeptics of our day assert that Jesus derived his knowledge from the schools, but the schoolteachers who are supposed to have taught him complained of him that he was not their scholar, and surely they ought to have known.] 16 Jesus therefore answered them, and said, My teaching is not mine, but his that sent me. [Seeing the Jews inquiring as to the source of his wisdom, Jesus explains that it was given him of God, and was therefore not derived from any school.] 17 If any man willeth to do his will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from myself. [Those who would test the divinity of the doctrine of Christ can not do so by rendering a [444] mere mechanical obedience to his teaching. A willing, heartfelt obedience is essential to a true knowledge of his doctrine. Such a disposition makes a good and honest heart in which the seeds of his kingdom must inevitably grow. But a spirit of disobedience is the general source of all skepticism.] 18 He that speaketh from himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh the glory of him that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him. [Those who bear their own message seek their own glory. Those who bear God’s message seek God’s glory, and such seeking destroys egotism.] 19 Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you doeth the law? Why seek ye to kill me? [The point he makes here is, that their seeking to kill him was proof that they were not keeping the law.] 20 The multitude answered and said, Thou hast a demon: who seeketh to kill thee? [The multitude had sought to kill him at his last visit, and it now affects to deny it. Wild notions and extraordinary conduct indicated insanity, and insanity was usually attributed to demoniacal possession. Comp. Matthew 11:18. Their meaning therefore was that the words of Jesus were insanely preposterous, and their words savored more of roughness and irreverence than of malignant unkindness.] 21 Jesus answered and said unto them, I did one work, and ye all marvel because thereof. [Jesus forbears to speak further as to the plot to murder him, knowing that time would reveal it; but refers to the miracle performed on the Sabbath day at Bethesda eighteen months before, which gave rise to the plot to murder him. A reference to the excitement at that time would recall to the thoughtful the evidence and bitter hostility which the Jerusalemites had then manifested.] 22 Moses hath given you circumcision (not that it is of Moses, but of the fathers); and on the sabbath ye circumcise a man. 23 If a man receiveth circumcision on the sabbath, that the law of Moses may not be broken; are ye wroth with me, because I made a man every whit whole on the sabbath? 24 Judge not [445] according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment. [The law which said that no work must be done on the Sabbath day was in conflict with the law which said that a child must be circumcised on the eighth day, whenever that eighth day happened to fall on the Sabbath. It was a case of a specific command making exception to the general law. Circumcision was great because it purified legally a portion of the body. But the healing worked by Jesus was greater, for it renewed the whole man. If the act of Christ in healing a man were judged as a mere act, it might be considered a breach of the Sabbath. But if the nature of the act be taken into account and all the laws relative to it be considered--in short, if it be judged righteously in all bearings--it would be amply justified.] 25 Some therefore of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he whom they seek to kill? 26 And lo, he speaketh openly, and they say nothing unto him. Can it be that the rulers indeed know that this is the Christ? [Thus, by referring to the miracle at Bethesda, Jesus not only brought to mind the former opposition of the Jewish rulers, but he started the people of Jerusalem (who were acquainted with the present tempter of the hierarchy) to talking about the intention to kill him, thus warning the people beforehand that they would be called upon to assist in his crucifixion. The men of Jerusalem spoke more freely because the present boldness of Jesus led them to think that maybe the rulers were changing their attitude toward him.] 27 Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when the Christ cometh, no one knoweth whence he is. [Jerusalem shared the prejudice of its rulers: its citizens felt sure that the rulers could not accept Jesus as Christ because his manner of coming did not comply with accepted theories. Prophecy fixed upon Bethlehem as the birthplace and the line of David as the family of the Christ, but the Jews, probably influenced by Isaiah 53:8, appear to have held that there would be a mystery attached to the immediate and actual parentage of the Messiah. Surely there could have been no greater mystery than the real origin [446] of Jesus as he here outlines it to them, and as they might have fully known it to be had they chosen to investigate the meaning of his words.] 28 Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am; and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not. 29 I know him; because I am from him, and he sent me. [Our Lord here asserts their ignorance as to his divine origin. Since he came from God, and they did not know God, they consequently did not know whence he came. As they expected a Messiah who would be supernaturally sent, they ought to have been satisfied with Jesus. But they had no eyes with which to discern the supernatural.] 30 They sought therefore to take him [because they understood his language as referring to God and were incensed that he should so openly declare them ignorant of God]; and no man laid his hand on him, because his hour was not yet come. [Because it was not the will of God that he should be arrested at this time.] 31 But of the multitude believed on him; and they said, When the Christ shall come, will he do more signs than those which this man hath done? [Their question was an argument in favor of the Messiahship of Jesus.] 32 The Pharisees heard the multitude murmuring these things concerning him; and the chief priests and the Pharisees [that is, the Sanhedrin, described by its constituent classes] sent officers to take him. [When the Sanhedrin heard the people expressing their faith in Jesus they felt that it was time to take action.] 33 Jesus therefore said, Yet a little while am I with you, and I go unto him that sent me. [Knowing their attempt to arrest him, Jesus tells them that it is not quite time for them to accomplish this purpose.] 34 Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, ye cannot come. [They would soon destroy Jesus; after which they would seek him in vain. Their violence would result in his return to his Father. In the dark days which were about to come, the Jews would [447] long for a Messiah, for the Christ whom they had failed to recognize in Jesus. They, too, would desire the heavenly rest and security of a better world, but their lack of faith would debar them from entering it.] 35 The Jews therefore said among themselves, Whither will this man go that we shall not find him? Will he go unto the Dispersion among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? 36 What is this word that he said, Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, ye cannot come? [The words of Jesus were plain enough, but the assertion that he would return to God, and that such a return would be denied to them was, in their ears, too preposterous to be entertained. They therefore made light of it by construing it nonsensically. They asked if he would go among the Jews who had been dispersed or scattered by the captivity and who had never returned to Palestine, and if, when so doing, he would teach the heathen among whom these dispersed were scattered, assuming that such teaching would certainly frustrate and render absurd his claims to be a Jewish Messiah. They little suspected that Jesus, through his apostles, would do this very thing and thereby vindicate his claim as the true Messiah of God.] 37 Now on the last day [the eighth day], the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. [If we may trust the later Jewish accounts, it was the custom during the first seven days for the priests and people in joyful procession to go to the pool of Siloam with a golden pitcher and bring water thence to pour out before the altar, in commemoration of the water which Moses brought from the rock and which typified the Christ ( 1 Corinthians 10:4). If this is so, it is likely that the words of Jesus have some reference to this libation, and are designed to draw a contrast between the earthly water which ceases and the spiritual water which abides, similar to the contrast which he presented to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.] 38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said. [in such passages as Isaiah 58:11, Zechariah 14:8, [448] etc.] from within him shall flow rivers of living water. [For comment on similar expressions see Deuteronomy 18:15), which prophet was thought by some to be the Messiah himself, and by others to be no more than the Messiah’s forerunner. Still others of the multitude went further and asserted that he was the Christ. These latter were confronted by those who contended that Jesus was not born in the right place nor of the right family. These did not know that he had satisfied the very objections which they named.] 44 And some of them would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him. [We note here that the enmity of the rulers which had been taken up by the men of Jerusalem (see John 7:30) had now reached a faction even of the multitude, so that it desired his arrest, but was restrained from acting.] 45 The officers therefore came to the chief priests and Pharisees [i. e., to those that had sent them]; and they said unto them, Why did ye not bring him? [These officers were temple police or Levites, under direction of the chief priests. The words suggest [449] that the Sanhedrin was assembled and waiting for the return of the officers. An extraordinary proceeding for so great a day, but no more extraordinary than that assembly at the feast of the Passover which met and condemned Jesus six months later.] 46 The officers answered, Never man so spake. [Their report has passed into a saying, which is as true now as when first spoken.] 47 The Pharisees therefore answered them, Are ye also led astray? 48 Hath any of the rulers believed on him, or of the Pharisees? 49 But this multitude that knoweth not the law are accursed. [This rebuke to the officers may be paraphrased thus: You are to respect the authority of the officers and the judgment of the Pharisees, but you have permitted yourselves to be influenced by a multitude which rests under a curse because of its ignorance.] 50 Nicodemus said unto them (he that came to him before, being one of them) [therefore able to speak from a position of equality], 51 Doth our law judge a man, except it first hear from himself and know what he doeth? [Nicodemus bids these proud rulers note that they were breaking the very law which they extolled-- Deuteronomy 1:16, Exodus 23:1.] 52 They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and see that out of Galilee ariseth no prophet. [They laid the lash to the pride of Nicodemus by classing him with the Galilæans who formed the main body of Jesus’ disciples, thus separating him from the true Jews. There is no clear evidence that any of the prophets save Jonah was from the district at this time called Galilee, and this fact would justify the hasty demand of the objectors, who were not very scrupulous as to accuracy.] [450]

[FFG 443-450]

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 7". "The Fourfold Gospel". Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.