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The twelfth chapter neither belongs intrinsically to that which precedes nor to that which follows. It is a paragraph of high significance, as bearing on the construction of the Gospel. It is the transition between the public and the private ministry, the great pause between the two classes of manifestation forming the climax of the public ministry.
III. CONSUMMATION OF THE PUBLIC MINISTRY.
1. The feast of love and gratitude.
Jesus therefore, six days before the Passover. Every preliminary of that solemn feast is memorable to our evangelist. The coincidence of the Passover feast and the killing of the Paschal lamb, with the sacrifice of "Christ our Passover," cannot be concealed. [For the grammatical construction with πρὸ, cf. note, John 11:18, where a similar use of ἀπό occurs; not, however, a Latinism, as some have supposed, as similar phrases are found in good Greek.] The date from which the calculation is made is complicated with the intricate controversy upon the day of our Lord's death, i.e. whether he suffered on the 14th or 15th of Nisan, and whether a "harmony" is possible or not with the statements of the synoptists, who all three assert that our Lord ate the Passover with his disciples £. However this matter be finally settled, if the 14th of Nisan was the day on which the Passover was killed, "between the evenings," the 13th was reckoned as the first day before the Passover, and the sixth day would be the 8th of Nisan. If the weekly sabbath occurred on the 16th, then the 9th also was a sabbath. The Lord would then have reached Bethany on the eve of the sabbath, and have rested on the sabbath itself. The evening of the 9th would be the occasion of the feast, and the 10th would correspond with Palm Sunday. If the Lord were crucified on the 14th, and the weekly sabbath coincided with the Passover-day of convocation, the 15th, then the previous sabbath was on the 8th, and our Lord must have reached Bethany in "the end of the sabbath," and then the feast was on the following day. When Jesus halted at Bethany, the vast crowd of pilgrims advanced into the suburbs of Jerusalem, encamping on the Mount of Olives, and would be ready for the great demonstration of the next day. Westcott, after Bengel, observes that John's Gospel begins and ends with a sacred week (cf. John 1:29-35, John 1:43; John 2:1). Jesus therefore, sis days before the Passover, came to Bethany. The quiet rest of that last sabbath with the family at Bethany is a thought full of suggestion. Thoma accounts for the triumphal feast and anointing, "six days before the Passover," as answering to the day on which the lamb was separated from other and secular animals, and consecrated for this holy service (Exodus 12:3-6; Hebrews 7:26). The segregation, however, was partial or premature, and the anointing (see below) took place five days before the Passover. It is not said that the day of his arrival at Bethany is the day of the festive welcome. Bethany is described as the place where Lazarus was. The explanatory clause, £ he who had been dead, is not necessary, as the evangelist limits and explains sufficiently the great motive for his pause and presence at Bethany by adding, whom he (Jesus) raised from the dead. It is extraordinary that some most able expositors should be so unwilling to accept the synchronous statements of the synoptists. Their narrative is not out of harmony with the hypothesis that our Lord passed the previous days with the pilgrim-band from Peraea, and that, taking the head of the procession as it was passing through Jericho., he should thus have distinctly challenged the authorities, and taken up the public position to which they were anxious he should lay claim. By his visit to the house of Zacchaeus he proclaimed the new feature and spirit of his kingdom; by healing the blind man he gave a typical illustration of the work of grace needed by all his disciples; by resting at the home where human love and Divine power had been so wonderfully blended he called the most solemn attention to his supreme claims; by pressing on with urgency up the steep mountain pathway at the head of his disciples he seemed to be ready, in his own words, "to lay down his life, that he might take it again." The οὖν, according to Meyer, is simply the resumption of the narrative, but surely those are right who regard it as a distinct reference to John 11:55. The Sanhedrists had given the ἐντολή that if any knew where he was, they should declare it. Christ was resolved, now that his hour was come, to lift the whole responsibility from his friends, and take it upon himself. The other evangelists do not mention the halt. Their purpose was not a chronological one. They give the narrative of the anointing apart from its deepest meanings and consequences, apart from any references to Lazarus. There are other subtle omissions from the synoptists, the difficulties of which must be settled as between themselves. Thus, according to Mark 11:12 and Mark 11:20, an interval of a whole day and night took place between the withering of the fig tree and the conversation about it, but Matthew makes the conversation follow immediately upon the miracle. In like manner, John abstains from any reference to the discussions in the temple, to the withering of the fig tree, to the cleansing of the temple, or to the parables which followed.
There, therefore, they made him a supper, and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. John does not tell us in whose house "they made the dinner" or supper, and unless Simon the leper is a member of the family, we cannot suppose that it was in the quiet home of Bethany that this feast in honor of Jesus was held, but that it took place, as the synoptists positively declare, "in the house of Simon the leper." Simon may easily have been one of the many lepers whom our Lord had healed, and whose soul was filled with accordant gratitude. At that table there would be seated two transcendent; proofs of the power of Jesus to save, not only from the semblance but from the reality of death (see Meyer; Matthew 26:6). We wonder, with Godet, that Meyer should reject this simple supposition as "spurious harmony." All that is here stated is in agreement with it:
(1) that Martha should have shown her reverence by serving her Lord, according to her wont, not necessarily as hostess (Hengstenberg and Lange), but as the expression of her devoted thankfulness;
(2) that Lazarus should have been one of those who sat at meat, reclined at table, with him, i.e. took a position as a guest, like himself; and
(3) that Mary should have poured forth her costly spikenard, in royal self-forgetting love. The conduct of all the three thus mentioned is compatible with the fact stated in the synoptic narrative, that the festival was celebrated in the house of Simon the leper. Our Lord had commented, in the house of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:44, etc.), on the absence of the customary anointing with oil. Mary knew of this, and resolved that, whatever the woman who was a sinner had done, no similar act of neglect should occur on that memorable evening. A chronological discrepancy renders an identification of the synoptic narrative of Matthew with this story perplexing. In Matthew 26:2 we are brought to within two days of the Passover, whereas here we cannot well be less than five days before it. However, there is nothing in Matthew 26:6-13 which indubitably declares the date of the supper The "two days" may refer to the date of Judas's treachery, after mentioning which he goes back to an event which furnished occasion and temptation to the avaricious mind of Judas.
Mary therefore took a pound of ointment ("liquid perfume," sometimes added to the more ordinary oil), of pure (or possibly; pistie) nard. Mark uses this unusual word πιστικός, which belongs to later Greek. The derivation of πιστκτικός from πίνω, equivalent to "potable," is not appropriate in meaning, though this "nard" was used for perfuming wine. In Mark 14:3 also the Authorized version translates it "spikenard," as it does here (cf. also Song of Solomon 1:12 and Song of Solomon 4:13, Song of Solomon 4:14, where Hebrew דְּרְןֵ corresponds with νάρδος). But the one place where the word was supposed to be found in Aristotle is now seen not to be πισττικός, but πειστικός, trustworthy, or unadulterated. It is possible that the word may have had a local geographical value, belonging to some proper name, and is untranslatable. Very precious. Mark (Mark 14:3) uses the word πολυτελοῦς, and Matthew (Matthew 26:7) βαρυτίμου. John appears to combine the idea of both words in his πολυτίμον. Each of the synoptists severally mentions a fact which John omits—that Mary broke the alabaster box, and poured the costly unguent on his head in rich abundance, as though hers had been the royal or high-priestly anointing (cf. Psalms 133:1-3.); but John shows that this at least was not all she did. She anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment. Thoma thinks that, conformably with John's idea, the anointing of the head of the true High Priest was the work of God alone, quoting Philo's comment on Le John 21:10, etc., "The head of the Loges, as High Priest, is anointed with oil, i.e. his innermost essence gleams with dazzling light;" and adds, that as the feet of the high priest were washed with water from recent defilement of the world's dust, so God's anointed Lamb and Priest was anointed on his feet with the spikenard of faith, the best and costliest thing that man could offer. So profound an analogy seems to us contrary to the simplicity of the narrative, which is perfectly natural in its form. The perfumed nard ran down to the Savior's feet and the skirts of his garments, and there accumulating, the significant act is further recounted how Mary wiped off the superfluous perfume from his feet with the tresses of her loosened hair. This simple act proclaimed the self-humiliation and adoration of her unbounded love, seeing that the loosening of a woman's hair was a mark of unusual self-abandonment, Many most unnecessary inferences have been drawn from this. John adds an interesting feature, revealing the sensitive eye-witness of the scene, "and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment;" and the whole house of God ever since has been fragrant with her immortal and prophetic act.
But Judas the Iscariot, one of his disciples £, who was about to betray him, said. The speaker here is singled out by name. Matthew refers the speech to the disciples generally, in whom the suggestion of Judas had stirred up (without guile or blame on their part) a not unnatural inquiry. Mark says "some" murmured to themselves, "Why this waste?" (loss, destruction). John (without the malice which Renan has attributed to the writer) mentions the source of the suggestion, "Judas Iscariot, Simon's son." The word Σίμωνος, contained in T.R., is omitted here in the best texts. The fact that he was the traitor, being one of the well-known and awful events of the gospel history when John wrote some half a century later, might well be introduced by the evangelist, with no other than a purely historical motive.
John 12:5, John 12:6
Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? Sinful motive often hides itself under the mask of reverence for another virtue. In Mark's Gospel the same price was put upon the pound of pure nard as that which is mentioned here—about f10 of our money. Christ had given emphatic advice about generosity to the poor, and even during this very week (John 13:29) it is clear that his words were not forgotten, and in his great discourse, probably also delivered during this same week, he identified himself with the poor (Matthew 25:35, etc.), and called for unreserved consideration of them; so that this language was not unnatural. The value of this ointment is another minute indication that there is no connection between the Lazarus of John and the Lazarus of the parable. But John adds that the utter lack of perception on Judas's part of Mary's self-devotion was prompted by the most unworthy motive. The suggestion of Judas is put down by the evangelist to the sheerest covetousness. During the interval that elapsed, Judas had revealed his character, and John did not hesitate to refer the suggestion to the traitor. Now this he said, not because he cared for the poor. He really cared nothing for the poor. He was ambitious, eager for the display of the Master's power, anxious for the rewards which might follow the Master's assumption of supreme authority, turning to his own account all that might happen. But because he was a thief, and having £ possession of the common purse (the word γλωσσόκομος, which occurs in the sense of a chest (2 Chronicles 24:8), has a curious etymology, which had passed out of recognition; from γλώσσα and κομέω comes γλωσσοκομεῖον, that in which month-pieces of flutes might be kept in safety, and subsequently a chest or box for the safe guardianship of other valuables), he was the bearer—perhaps, bore array (see John 20:15, and Josephus, ' Ant.,' John 7:15. John 7:3, for this use of βαστάζω), at all events had at his disposal—of the things which were cast, in generous profusion, into it. Thoma makes the astounding suggestion that "John" here covertly refers to Simon Magus of Acts 8:18, etc. The question is often asked—Why was Judas entrusted with the common purse? Was it not likely to aggravate a disposition to which he was prone? Did not Jesus know what was in man? and had he not discerned the propensity of Judas (see John 6:71)? In reply:
(1) The appointment may have been made by the apostles themselves.
(2) Our Lord may not have interfered with it, deeming confidence more likely to help him than distrust.
(3) It may also show how, if men will yield themselves to sin, God will not and does not promise them immunity from temptation, but sometimes even brings them into it.
(4) The purse might have been a preservative against the vile temptation to sell his Master, and a test and motive for self-con-quest.
The two readings of the text must here be compared with one another and with the synoptic narrative. The T.R. reads, Let her alone: £ unto the day of the preparation for my burial she has carefully guarded this precious perfume. This is, in one sense, that very day, and she has found out the solemn fact in a way in which the disciples had as yet failed to do. With this agrees the language of the synoptists," Why trouble ye the woman? she hath wrought a good work on me;… she hath done that which was possible to her (ὃ ἐσχεν ἐποίησεν)" of Mark 14:8. In fact, Mark expressly conveys this thought—"she has anticipated the anointing of my body for the burial." If we have the direct testimony of Mark (i.e. Peter), Christ must have expressed himself thus. Matthew also in different words records the same pathetic and subtle thought: "For in that she poured [cast] this ointment upon my body, she did it to prepare me for burial" (Jn 26:12) Hengstenberg, Godet, and Stier abide by the reading of the T.R.; but the principal manuscripts, in most powerful combination, have led Lachmann, Alford, Tischendorf, and Westcott and Hort to read here, Ἵνα εἰς τὴν ἡμέραν τοῦ ἐνταφιασμοῦ τηρήση αὐτό, "In order that she may keep or guard this for the day of my burial." Westcott says that the synoptists imply rather, by the word κατέχεεν, that She had not already consumed the whole of the ointment. Meyer, with this text, translates, "Let her alone, that she may preserve it (this ointment, of which she has just poured some over my feet) for the day of my embalmment." This certainly seems inconsistent with the complaint of the disciples or of Judas, at the apparently superfluous expenditure, and would compel us to restrict the abed to the unused portion. The advocates of the T.R. reading say that it represents the original text, which has been altered by criticism arising from misunderstanding of the idea of the day of burial having ideally arrived; but why did they not alter on the same principle the language of the synoptists? The advocates of Lachmann's text say that it has been altered by copyists, to bring it into accord with the text of the synoptists. Lange justifies the Revised version, "Suffer her to keep it against the day of my burying," and puts it thus: "Permit her to keep it [i.e. to have kept the ointment which she might have used at the burial of Lazarus] for the day of my burial," now ideally present in the outbreak of Judas's devilish malignity. So virtually Luthardt and Baumgarten-Crusius. Godet argues that this is forced and ungrammatical. But there is this advantage in it, that it brings the language into much closer relation with the synoptists. Westcott prefers the idea of Meyer. The older view is to me far mere satisfactory. Edersheim (2:35) adds to this, "Mary may have had that alabaster box from early days, before she had learned to serve Christ. When she understood that decease of which he constantly spake, she may have put it aside, "kept it," "against the day of his burying." And now the decisive hour is come.
This verse is omitted in D, but abundantly attested here. It occurs almost verbatim in Matthew and Mark, and cannot be set aside on the authority of this one eccentric manuscript. For the poor ye have always with you (cf. Deuteronomy 15:11). You will always have opportunity of doing to them, as to representatives of me, what is in your heart of compassion (cf. Matthew 25:40-45). But me, as an object of personal, tangible regard and visible attention, deserving thus and ever the affluence and exuberance of your love, ye have not always; and, though I shall be with you always in my Divine power and Spirit, even unto the end of the world, and though I shall always be with you in the person of the poor and needy, yet in the sense in which this expression of love Can be made, I shall be absent. As though he had said, "After this very night, the opportunity to offer me affectionate attention or symbolic homage, to give expression to feelings in accordance with just presentiments as to my mission, will be over forever, and belong to the irrecoverable past—Now or never! She has done this thing, she will have everlasting remembrance thereby." The frankincense of the Wise Men, the ointment of Mary, the homage of the Greeks, were symbols, and can never be repeated. The greatest motive for generous and affectionate interest in the poor is that they represent the Lord; but they are not to be rivals of the Lord himself. Westcott remarks, "The promise of the future record of the act of love is omitted by the one evangelist who gives the name of the woman who showed this devotion to her Master." Moulton, "The very charity that cares for the poor whom we see has been kept alive by faith in and devotion to the crucified Redeemer whom we cannot see."
2. The effects of the great sign.
(1) On much people of the Jews. The article (ὁ), which the best texts introduce before ὄχλος πολὺς, gives to these words an almost technical force. The huge multitude of the Jews—the surging crowd of ever-gathering pilgrims blended with the "common people," the bulk of the population of Jerusalem and its neighborhood (John 11:55, John 11:56)—therefore—because, i.e., of the rumors of the feast, the news of the royal consecration and sacred anointing, which had taken place in honor of Jesus and his last great miracle—learned that he was there—that he had left his unknown place of retirement at Ephraim. We gather from the synoptic narrative that he had joined the pilgrim-throng, advancing first into Jericho, and then, after a night spent there, had moved onwards to Bethany. The dispersion of hundreds of these excited followers into Jerusalem had again bruited abroad the fact of the resurrection of Lazarus, and, by reason of the Lord's return to Bethany, the Jerusalem-party at length learned where he was. Ὁ ὄχλος ἐκ τῶν Ἰουδαίων shows an antithesis intended between the Judaean and the Galilean crowds. These the synoptists describe as "those that went before, and those that followed after." And they came, not for the sake of Jesus only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he raised from the dead. Jesus was not the only attraction; the risen man Lazarus was a rival in popularity, and by this ocular, tangible specimen of the supernatural resources of Jesus, they would deepen their interest and strengthen their convictions. Many of this Jerusalem populace, on account of him (Lazarus), and the fact of his resuscitation (ὑπῆγον), went away, perhaps, though not necessarily so, "apostatized," from the high-priestly party, from the hostile party in the capital, and separated themselves from the open but desperate plot against the Divine Master, and believed on Jesus—threw in their part and lot with the Lord and his disciples. This roused the malignity of the unspiritual and unscrupulous party of Caiaphas, of Annas, and of the Pharisees in the Sanhedrim
John 12:10, John 12:11
(2) On the chief priests. The chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus. They deliberated to kill Lazarus as well as Jesus. It was not enough that one man should die; another and another must follow if their plan is to succeed. And now the hour had come (John 2:4; John 7:30), but not until our Lord once more warned the disciples with intense significance and explicitness of his approaching death and burial. Thus another striking illustration is given of the judgment, the crisis, the sifting process, which is always going on in the presence of Christ. His greatest signs, his wisest teachings, his most amazing love, bring out the twofold result. Some receive, some reject, some burst into louder acclaim, some try to slay. As with the history of this "Gospel," some hear in it the very voice of the Eternal, but there are others who would grind it to powder. Because Ignatius and Polycarp bear witness to the existence of the Gospel, these Lazaruses must be put to death, or banished to a later period out of harm's way. Even the genuineness of the Apocalypse, so long a tower of defense for the Tübingen school, is too powerful a proof of St. John's residence in Asia to be accepted with equanimity or left in possession, and some of the later critics have taken counsel to repudiate its Johannine authorship.
3. The triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Christ's challenge of the authorities, and its results. On the precise order of events it is difficult to speak with absolute decision. The main difference between the synoptists and John is in the break at Bethany of the journey from Jericho to Jerusalem, to introduce a feast, which is related afterwards by the synoptists, though not limited by them to any later chronological position. It should be observed, moreover, that the synoptic narrative contains numerous references to the residence in Bethany during several days of the week which followed. John adds important details, and while he omits the great discussions in the temple, the withering of the fig tree, the cleansing of the temple, the parables of the judgments on scribes and Pharisees, and the prophecy of the future, he portrays the inner life of the Lord, and records his most gracious esoteric teaching and sublime prayer. The current tradition of the Church, the distinct note of time for Christ's arrival at Bethany (six days before the Passover), make the triumphal entry take place on Sunday afternoon (cf. verse 1) of Passion week.
John 12:12, John 12:13
The next day (on the morrow) must be the day after the feast. We have seen that that feast probably took place on the evening of the sabbath. The events that happened are far more abundantly described in Matthew, Mark, and Luke—the excitement in Jerusalem, the method in which the triumph was carried through, the mode adopted to secure "the young ass," the weeping ever Jerusalem from the summit of the hill; none of these circumstances are inconsistent with this account. Brief, however, as our narrative is, it adds some features which are peculiar and highly historic. A £ vast crowd that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. These that had come from the country, and had already encamped near or in Jerusalem, came group after group to Bethany to escort him into the city. The synoptists, not mentioning the pause of the sabbath at Bethany, and not clearly indicating where and when the feast at Bethany took place, naturally connect the journey from Jericho with the entrance into Jerusalem. John explains, in addition, that there were of the Jerusalemites themselves certain who had been led to go to Bethany and throw in their lot with the Lord. The early pilgrims mentioned in John 11:55, John 11:56, also came forth from the city to hail and welcome his approach. Took branches of the palm trees, and went forth to meet him. The synoptists had mentioned that the triumphant host had cut "branches," κλάδους (Matthew 21:8), from the trees, and Mark (Mark 11:8) had said στιβάδας, fragments of trees, grass, small branches, that could be strewn in the way. Luke (Luke 19:35) simply mentions the garments thus strewn—a fact mentioned also by Mark and Matthew. Our narrative gives greater definiteness, and even adds a new feature, by speaking of τὰ βαία τῶν φοινίκων, "the palm branches of the palm trees," which they waved probably in triumph, as they had been accustomed to do in token of the approach of a conqueror (cf. 1 Macc. 13:51, where Simon's return to the city was celebrated with "thanksgiving and βαΐ́ων and with harps and cymbals," etc.). The use to which the branches of the well-known palm trees were put, differs from, but does not exclude, the use to which κλάδοι and στοιβάδες were also put. Bethany (see note, John 11:1) was "the house of dates," and the palm branches for the Feast of Tabernacles, on its first celebration after the Captivity (cf. Leviticus 23:40), Were fetched from the mount (Nehemiah 8:15). The palm tree was a sacred symbol for Israel "Tamar," a palm tree, was a favorite name for a woman. The Maccabaean coins were decorated with the palm and vine. The medal struck by Titus represented a captive sitting under a palm. Throughout their history, in their gorgeous temple ritual, it continually reappears, and at the last the Apocalypse represents the victorious songs of triumphant elders accompanied by the waving of the palm. If we compare the four accounts of the demonstration, we shall see again how in combination they vividly represent the whole scene. The multitude cry, according to—
Matthew 21:9 : "Hosanna £ to the Son of David: Blessed be he that cometh in the Name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest."
Mark 11:9, Mark 11:10 : "Hosanna; Blessed be he that cometh in the Name of the Lord: Blessed be the coming kingdom of our father David: Hosanna in the highest."
Luke 19:38, remembering the angel's song: "They praised God with a loud voice.… Blessed be the King that cometh in the Name of the Lord: in heaven peace, and glory in the highest."
John says they went forth to meet him, palm branch in hand, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed be he that cometh in the Name of the Lord, and (blessed be) (even) the King of Israel.
These differences show how various groups used with freedom the tones and sentiment of the hundred and eighteenth psalm, adopting the welcome with which the priests were accustomed to greet the pilgrims to the festival. But each account demonstrates that, on this occasion, there was a general ascription to our Lord of Messianic honor. He is hailed by the people as King of Israel, as the Head of the coming kingdom of their father David, and as giving glory to God. The Name of the Lord is the manifestation and compendium of all the perfections of the Lord. For centuries the gracious hope had rung forth in the sacred liturgy, and now the people see that the hope is on the point of realization.
And Jesus, having found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written. The whole account of the process by which our Lord secured this ὀνάριον is described at great length by the synoptists. The foal implies that the animal had never borne another burden. The account of Matthew refers to the mother and the foal, as though they were inseparable, and together bore the sacred burden. Mr. Holman Hunt, in his picture of the 'Triumph of the Innocents,' has represented the beast bearing Mary and her Child as accompanied by the colt. The entire process of securing both must have taken time, and augmented the excitement. Christ at length, on the eve of his Passion which he so distinctly foreshadowed, allowed the enthusiasm of the people to prevail, and accepted the homage. The Galilee pilgrims take up the demonstration, which was commenced, as we see from John's Gospel, by "the Jews" and those Jerusalemites who had been profoundly moved by the significance of the resurrection of Lazarus. The circumstances thus elucidated from the four narratives, reveal undesigned coincidences. The entry into Jerusalem did not take place till the afternoon, and so we find that all that our Lord did on arrival was to "go to the temple, look round on all things, and, now that the even was come, to revisit Bethany with the twelve" (Mark 11:11).
John, as well as Matthew, sees here a symbolical fulfillment of what had been declared by one of the latest of the prophets, as the peculiarity of the Messiah (Zechariah 9:9): Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass's colt. £ This oracle is admitted by commentators of opposite schools to refer to the Messiah. There was no need, in order to fulfill the spirit of the whole passage, that the King should come to his own literally upon the back of a beast of burden. The prophecy does, however, suggest the modesty, the absence of all pomp or display of worldly wealth and power; nay, the humiliation on the part of the true King. Both Matthew and John omit the characteristics of "righteous and saved," £ i.e. "delivered" from the hands of his cruel enemies. The suffering Servant of God of the great oracle of Isaiah 53:1-12. was in the mind of the Prophet Zechariah, and he adds this feature to the triumphant coming of the true Prince of Peace, that he would "cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem," i.e. so act that even the national pride and power and military prowess should come to an end; "Speak peace to the nations; rule from sea to sea, from the river to the ends of the earth." As John and Matthew both see the symbolical fulfillment of the prophecy, they doubtless would have us bear in mind the whole passage. John transforms the "Rejoice greatly, shout," etc., of the prophet into "Fear not." He seems to take it at one stage only of fulfillment, when anxiety might momentarily be put to rest. The "Fear not" is a lower form of "great rejoicing." It is something for men to dismiss their doubts and hush their unrest, even when they cannot burst into song. Hengstenberg and Godet urge that the "meekness and lowliness" to which the prophet referred, and which Matthew cited from him, was imaged in the lowly beast on which never man sat. But it must not be forgotten that the ass was used by distinguished personages (Judges 5:9, Judges 5:10; Judges 10:4; 2 Samuel 17:23; 2 Samuel 19:26). And all that was really meant by it was the choice of a creature associated rather with daily life than with military display. Meyer and Moulton urge that it was a chosen symbol of peace (καθήμενος is substituted for the ἐπιβεβηκὼς ἐπὶ of the LXX. and Matthew 21:5). Contrary to Keim's animadversion, our Lord and his disciples adopted here the idea of a Jewish Messiah, stripping it of its worldly characteristics. It should be observed that, while John's narrative is in harmony with the synoptists, he greatly abbreviates it.
These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him. This verse shows that the disciples (of whom John was one) took part in the celebration, though they did not see at the time, nor until after the Ascension—not until they saw by faith the δόξα into which the Lord had entered—that the honor which they had done to him had corresponded strangely with the marvelous words of the old prophecy. And that they had done—clearly the disciples, on grammatical grounds; οἱ μαθηταὶ, is the subject of ἐποίησαν—these things unto him. Ἐδοξάσθη is used of the uplifting to the glory which he had before the world was; not until then was the Spirit given that explained so much of the mysterious life. (For other illustrations of τὸ πρῶτον, in the rare sense of "at first," see John 10:40; John 19:39.)
(1) Men often act and speak without perceiving the full meaning of deed or word, not grasping the link of connection thus instituted between a consecrated past and a predestined future.
(2) Words and actions are freely done from personal motives and in entire spontaneity when they are nevertheless fulfilling the Divine purpose and working out the plan of God.
(3) The revealing moment comes, and the whole significance flashes into view.
These verses connect the enthusiasm of the multitudes with the great miracle of John 11:1-57., indicating a point concerning which the synoptic narrative is silent, and further they consociate the miracle and its effect upon the multitude with aggravation of the malignant feeling of the constituted authorities which leads to the capture and crucifixion of the Lord Jesus.
The multitude therefore which was with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb, and raised him from the dead, were bearing witness. The seventeenth verse goes back to the (ὄχλος) multitude who are mentioned in John 11:42; i.e. to the friends of Mary and Martha and to other inhabitants of Bethany, as well as visitors from Jerusalem (John 11:31). All these are involved in the explicit declaration, ὁ ὤν μετ αὐτοῦ. Which was with him when £ he called Lazarus out of his grave, and (not only so, but) raised him from among the dead. Those who had actually beheld the miracle, and were as eye and ear witnesses of the event, who had hovered about Bethany since his return to it,—these were bearing witness. They spread themselves abroad in the crowd of Galilaean pilgrims and others, and were uttering their testimony on all sides. The word is used absolutely, as in John 19:35, and the imperfect tense should not be turned here into a mere preterit.
For this cause also the (ὁ ὄχλος) multitude—which here seems to be the aggregate of the (ὄχλος πολύς) crowds made up of the Judaean and Galilaean pilgrims and "the Jews" who had believed on him—met him (see especially John 12:12, John 12:13)—went forth, and cut down the branches of the palm trees, and came in high jubilance to meet him—because they heard that he had wrought this sign. The resurrection of Lazarus is the motive of the triumphal procession. The synoptists, who have omitted the whole episode of Bethany, are naturally silent concerning the impression produced by it on the Passover pilgrims and the Jerusalem crowd. John, more intimately acquainted with the currents of thought in the capital than the rest, drew here from his experience and memory, and has preserved historical features which they had ignored.
The Pharisees therefore, at the sight of the popular enthusiasm, said to themselves; i.e. to their own inner circle. Hengstenberg thinks here is a hint of some medium of communication between John and the Pharisees, and imagines it to be found through Martha and Simon (her husband). Their language was, Perceive [ye]—or, ye perceive (either imperative or indicative)—that ye prevail nothing! The interrogative may also be a true translation. Do ye perceive that ye prevail nothing? On either hypothesis, it cannot be, as Chrysostom says, the language of the friends of Jesus among the Pharisees, but rather the cry of despair and rage. Behold, the (κόσμος) world has gone away after him. They are repenting that they had not followed out the coercive plans and murderous designs of Caiaphas, and had been content with half-measures.
4. The desire of the "Greeks "—the representatives of the Western world—go see Jesus, and his reply. And now a scene is related of transcendent interest—the one solitary incident of the Passion week between the triumph and the night of the Last Supper. John assumes here a knowledge of all that, in current tradition and narrative, had taken place between these two events. The cleansing of the temple, the solemn parables by which Jesus repulsed the Sanhedrin, the conflict with Sadducees and scribes, and with the combined forces of Herodians and Pharisees, the denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees, and the prophetic parables, possibly the awful doom of Jerusalem, and the departure from the temple. This event may have occurred towards the close of this solemn and crowded week, and it made profound impression upon John. The Hellenes were probably "proselytes," like the Ethiopian chamberlain (Acts 8:27). Edersheim says they were "proselytes of righteousness," for no others would be allowed to worship at the feast. Whether they came from some Greek city in Ituraea, or from Cyrene or Edessa, Ephesus or Alexandria, we know not. As wise men came from the East to the cradle of the Lord, some can imagine these Hellenes to have been Judaized thoughtful men who were longing for the light and joy found in the Holy Scriptures, and the religious teachings or ceremonial of the temple, into the outer courts of which they would be admitted. When they saw the kind of reception which this mighty Sage was receiving from his own people and from the constituted authorities, they were ready to plead with him to go among them, and to offer his message to the Gentiles. For the most part he had confined his mission to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel," but in his care for the Herodian nobleman, the Roman centurion, the Syro-Phoenician woman, and his references to the "other sheep he had," to the "world" which his Father loved, etc., he partially revealed his ultimate mission to the whole world, though he always implied that such a mission presupposed his cruel cutting off and awful mysterious hour.
Now there were certain Greeks among those that went up to worship at the feast. Τινες implies a group, and a larger company of these ἀναβαινόντων, who were and are in the habit of going up (perhaps were still doing it even when John, before writing his Gospel, had first put the narrative into words). They went up with a view to worship in the feast, that is, there were burnt offerings and thank offerings which they were allowed to present. This shows that they were not heathen nor uncircumcised Hellenists, whichever view of that word be accepted.
These therefore came to Philip, who was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus. The first expression of that great yearning which, swollen by multitudes without number, is loud as the voice of many waters and mighty thunderings. It is the wail of every penitent; it is the birth-cry of every renewed soul; it is the raptured burst of joy as each son of God passes behind the veil The "therefore" implies some kind of previous relation with Philip, whose somewhat timid, cautious, speculative mind, as hinted in the earlier portions of the Gospel, made him accessible to them. Personal acquaintance is, of course, possible. Was Philip identical with the Aristion of Papias? The mention of Bethsaida of Galilee confirms the suggestion that they were inhabitants of one of the Greek cities of Decapolis, or of the slopes of the Lebanon. Many commentators refer to Philip's Greek name as indicating proclivities or sympathies on his part which would make him peculiarly accessible.
The slight modification of text preferred by the Revised version gives great vivacity to the picture (see below, note 1). Philip receives the respectful request of the Greeks, "Sir [my lord], we would see Jesus," i.e. "converse with." They probably sought to bring some proposal before him. Surely they must have had, if they wished it, many opportunities of merely seeing Jesus, when he crossed the Mount of Olivet during those three days, or tarried in the court of the Gentiles; now they pressed for an interview. Philip cometh and telleth Andrew. Andrew was the earliest of the disciples, who brought his own brother Simon to Jesus (John 1:40-42). He is mentioned as in close association with Simon, James, and John, as partners with them in the fishing-trade on the lake of Galilee. There is some hint that Andrew and John, after the first call to become followers of Christ, clung to him, and went with him to Jerusalem, and then returned with him through Samaria, after which occurred the second call of the brothers Simon and James. The frequent references to Andrew and Philip in this Gospel correspond with the tradition preserved in the Muratorian Fragment on the Canon, touching Andrew's part in the composition of this Gospel. These two disciples are represented as consulting with each other on previous occasions, as though peculiarly related in sympathy. Philip sees certain difficulties, and Andrew has a practical mind, and proposes a way out of them (see John 6:7, John 6:8). There was something now to be said on both sides. Their ancient prophecies anticipated a world-wide aspect of the Messianic kingdom (Isaiah 55:4, Isaiah 55:5; Isaiah 56:3, Isaiah 56:7; as well as Genesis 49:10). Now, if this incident occurred after Jesus had claimed the hundred and tenth psalm as an oracle which described his own Divine claims and his universal victory as the Lord and Son of David and royal Warrior-Prest (Matthew 22:41-46, and parallel passages), Philip may have felt this moment to be a most critical one in his history; for he may have been perfectly aware of the outbreak of peril which converse with Greek proselytes might at that moment have provoked in the minds of the turbulent populace. £ Andrew cometh and Philip, and they (together) tell Jesus. Jesus alone could solve the difficulty at that time, and Jesus himself is the just and reasonable Source of all enlightenment. Jesus is at this hour the highest Expression of man and his destiny, and he is also the perfect Manifestation of the Father, the only Mediator between God and man, absolutely one with both. We still go to him to know what God is and what God would have us to think and to be, and to learn what man may become. We take to him the puzzles of our logic, the accusations of our conscience, and the burdens of our heart. Additional interest is thrown round this narrative by a suggestion of Archdeacon Watkins, that, in the course of this week, our Lord had cleansed the temple and courts of its profane traffic, and declared it to be a house of prayer for all nations. Such grand revolutionary conceptions as those of our Lord must have deeply stirred the souls of the susceptible Greeks. Aliens were, as we know from Josephus ('Ant.,' 15:11.5), forbidden to pass beyond the balustrade round the ἵερον,. M. Ganneau £ has found among the ruins of Jerusalem one of the slabs of stone which recorded this exclusion.
(1) The glorification of the Son of man in and through death.
And Jesus answereth £ them. Many commentators (Ewald, Godet, Hengstenberg) think that Jesus did not address the following words to the Greeks, that until he had gone through the agony of death, and entered in human nature on his Divine and mediatorial reign, the mission to the Gentiles could not commence. Tholuck supposed that the interview was over, and that the solemn words are addressed to the disciples in the presence both of Greeks and of others afterwards; but there is no such break suggested. It is more probable (with Luthardt, Edersheim, Lunge) that the Greeks were close behind Andrew and Philip, and that our Lord at once, for their advantage, as well as for that of the disciples, proceeded to explain the solemn impression made upon himself by this remarkable desire. Surely it is unnecessary to say that our Lord was anxious not to give umbrage to the priests, or to rouse the animosity of the people. Every word of the terrible address of Matthew 23:1-39., all the controversies in the temple, even the triumphal entry itself, would and did give mortal umbrage to the priestly party and to the Sanhedrim He had boldly challenged their entire position, tie had smitten down their prejudices and assailed their notions of exclusive privilege, and therefore would not have shrunk, on that ground, from intercourse with devout Greeks worshipping at the feast. The words are surely said to them and about them, but in the main for the instruction of the disciples themselves. The hour is come for which he had been waiting (see John 2:4; John 13:1)-the mysterious "hour" on which his glory would depend, and the destiny of the world turn. God not only contemplates great periods, eons of time, but "acceptable years," "days of the Lord," "moments of time," as parts of the eternal plan. That the Son of man should be glorified. The "Son of man," rather than "Son of God," is the term he uses in reference to, and in the presence of, the Greeks. The highest Man is now about to assume his supreme glory, to go forth, as the mighty Man, to rule the world of men. The Son of man is about to ascend into his eternal throne, to clothe himself with all authority of judgment and mercy in heaven and earth. The glorification of the Son of man is one of the high main themes of the Gospel, and its justification is to be found in the fact that the Son of man is indeed the Loges made flesh, and the Lamb slain, and like the Serpent is being lifted up, and as the true Shepherd is laying down his life that he might take it again. The advent of the Greeks opens prophetic vistas which involve tremendous experiences of his own, and also great principles of service for all his followers. His Passion was so inextricably interwoven with his glory, that the former becomes verily the prelude of his victory and supreme exaltation. His death is but his glory. Moreover, the approach of the Gentiles suggested the universal belief in him which would follow upon his Passion and resurrection, and he" foretells that the hour of his glorification was already come".
The oracle is introduced with a solemn Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν: Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except the corn (or, grain) of wheat, having fallen to the ground, die, it abideth by itself alone: but if it die, it beareth much fruit. The simple illustration of life through death, life triumphing over death. "Even nature protests against the Hellenic fear of death" (Lange). As long as the corn of wheat is scrupulously kept from decomposition and death in the granary, the hidden germ is dormant; let it be sown as "bare grain" (1 Corinthians 15:36, etc.), then the strange force within it puts forth its hidden faculty, the outer covering of this point of energy falls away, and the new thing appears. God gives it a body, and much fruit is brought forth. Thoma suggests that the Johannist here is putting into the lips of Jesus the thoughts of Paul. How much more probable is it that Paul grasped the thought of Jesus, and applied a part of it to the grand argument for the resurrection, both of Christ and Christians! Compare with this the teaching of John 6:1-71., where the Bread of life is given for the food of men. Even the "bread-making" for man involves, in another way, the temporary destruction of the living germ in the grain of which it is composed, that it may become the life of men. Christ is himself the "Son of God," the "Logos incarnate," the "Son of man." By becoming, in his death, the food of man's soul, he created thus a new life in the hearts of men. Over and over again our Lord has declared himself to be "the Life," and "the Source of life," for men; but he here lays down the principle that this life-giving power of his is conditioned by his death. The great harvest will be reaped only when he shall have sacrificed his life and put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. It is, too, only as every believing man dies to himself, is crucified with Christ, is dead with him to the world, that he rises again in the newness of life.
John 12:25, John 12:26
The Lord here introduces a solemn, almost oracular utterance, which proves how close and intimate is the relationship between the synoptics and the Fourth Gospel. On several great occasions our Lord has impressed this law of the Spirit of life upon his disciples. Thus in Matthew 10:37-39, in the lengthened commission given to the twelve, after calling on his followers to place his own claim on their affection as greater than that of father, mother, friend, and calling for self-sacrifice, and self-crucifixion, he said, "He that findeth his life (ψυχὴ) shall lose it: he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it." Again (Matthew 16:25, etc.), after rebuking Peter for his unwillingness to recognize the necessity and significance of the killing of "the Son of the living God," he laid down the same law once more, calling for self-denial and daily cross-bearing, and adds, "Whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." So also Luke 9:23, etc. Luke (Luke 15:26) also introduces the same solemn aphorism in our Lord's discourse concerning the close of the Jewish national life. Surely here he is applying to his own case the law of the Divine life which he had shown to be universal, and of which he was on the point of giving the crowning and climacteric expression. He does it with amplifications and a supply of motives. If life be regarded as an end in itself; if it be treated as complete when rounded with its own individuality; if life shrink from sacrifice, if it "love itself," and will at all hazards preserve itself; if the natural and instinctive fear of death, and instinct of self-preservation, become a self-idolatry;—that life will "abide alone." If it sacrifice itself for higher ends than self; if it regard the higher end as more valuable than itself; if it lose itself in the object to which it is consecrated; if it be content to "die;"—it abideth no longer "alone," but "bringeth forth much fruit."
He that loves his own life (ψυχή); life used as equivalent to "self," in that totality of being which, like the life of the seed-corn, survives the accident of death—he that loves his own life (self) is losing £ it; or, perhaps, destroying it, ipso facto. There are ends and objects of love so much greater than" the self," that to keep it by some act of will and recreant fear is to make it utterly valueless, is really to destroy its true vitality. And he that hateth his (ψυχή) life (self) in this world, wherever the greater claim of Christ and of the Father would be compromised by loving it, shall veritably preserve it, viz. the self, unto eternal (ζωή) life; i.e. to the blessedness of eternal being. The ψυχή is a great possession; and "what advantageth a man if he should gain the whole world, and lose it?" But if a man persists in gaining the world, and forgets that this earthly existence is not capable of satisfying the demands or finding a sphere for the true self, and so makes the earthly reign or enjoyment of the ψυχή the end of all striving,—then he miserably fails. So far it is clear that our Lord is applying a great principle of the true life to the case of his own Messianic work and ministry. He draws, from a law of the superiority of the Divine life to the fear of death and to the fact of death, a justification of his own approaching doom. He can only by dying live his perfect life, win his greatest triumph; reap his world-wide harvest.
In this verse the Lord brings the light of heaven down into this deep paradox. He speaks like an anointed King and great Captain of salvation, who has (διάκονοι) "servants" willing to do his bidding. If any man will be my servant, let him follow me along the line which I am prepared to take, in the way of sacrifice and death, which is the true glorification; and where I am, there shall also my servant be. This association of the servant with the Lord, as the sufficient and the transcendent motive, pervades the Gospels (cf. John 14:3 and John 17:24; comp. also Luke 23:43, "with me in Paradise;" and 2 Corinthians 12:2, 2 Corinthians 12:4; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23). It is remarkable that Christ chose the twelve that they should be "with him" (Mark 3:14). There is no greater blessedness. Still, the Lord adds, If any man serve me, him will the Father honor. For the Father to honor a poor child of the dust seems almost more than we can receive. The conception of the steps by means of which the Lord makes this possible to his followers and servants produced in his own self-consciousness one of those sudden and overwhelming crises and changes from joy to perturbation, as of agony to peace and to reconcilement with the eternal Father's will, which prove how certainly St. John is always portraying the same Personage, the same transcendent character whom the synoptists describe (Luke 12:49, Luke 12:50; comp. Luke 19:38, Luke 19:41; Matthew 11:20, Matthew 11:25; Matthew 16:17, etc., and 21). More than this, the whole passage that follows is a solemn prelude to that agony of the garden which the synoptists alone record, while they omit this.
(2) The anticipation of Gethsemane.
Now, at this moment, has been and yet is my soul troubled ("concurrebat horror morris et ardor obedientisa," Bengel). In John 11:33 we hear that he troubled himself, and shuddered wrathfully in his "spirit" (πνεύμετι) at the contemplation of all the evils and curse of death; now his whole ψυχή, i.e. his life centered in its corporeal environment as a man, the self which the Son of God had taken up into the Divine essence, was in depth of agony, preluding the strong crying and tears to which Hebrews 5:7 refers. These perturbations of his soul and spirit can only be accounted for by the uniqueness of his Personality, the capacity for suffering, and the extent to which he was identifying himself with the sinful nature with which he had invested himself. Sin is the sting of death. He had by the nature of his incarnation become sin for us. Martyrs, freed from sin, delivered from its curse and shame and power through him, face it with calmness and hope; but there was infinite space in his breast for all the curse of it to rain its horrible tempest. He felt that the hour of his extremest travail had come upon him. And what shall I (must I) say? What is the regal passion of my heart? What is the right revelation for me to make to you? What is the prayer for me to offer to the Father? It remains a great question whether the next utterance is the primary answer of the question itself, or whether it continues the interrogation—whether, i.e., the Lord lifts up for a moment the cry of heart-rending grief, Father, save me from this hour! £ or whether he said, Shall I say, Father, save me from this hour? The first view supposes in the first place actual uncertainty and awful bewilderment, and then a most intense cry (Hebrews 5:7) to him who was able to save him from death. Save me either from the death itself, or from the fear and horror which accompanies it (Lucke, Meyer, Hengstenberg, and Moulton). It need not be a prayer to leave the world unsaved, to sacrifice all the work on which he had come. We are told by the apostle (Hebrews 5:7) that he was "heard" (ἀπὸ τῆς εὐλαβείας) and delivered from human weakness which might have rebelled in the intolerable darkness of that hour. Father, save me from this hour; the equivalent to the prayer, "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me," with its grand "nevertheless," etc. If this be its meaning, we have a scene nearly, if not closely, identifiable with the agony of the garden. The correction which immediately follows augments the comparison with the scene in Gethsemane recorded by the synoptists. The R.T. and Revised version have put their note of interrogation after ταύτης into the margin, and not into the text. Ewald, Lange, Kling, Tholuck, Lachmann, accept this punctuation, and Godet regards it as an hypothetical prayer, although he does not place the interrogation after ταύτης. The self-interrogation of the previous utterance at least reveals the presence of such a desire, but one which vanishes as the mysterious hour engulfs and wraps him round. If this be the true interpretation, then the clause that follows must be, Nay this I cannot say, for on account of this very conflict—for this cause—only to fight this great battle—I came steadily forward to this hour. I cannot pray to escape from it. If, however, we have the expression of an actual though momentary prayer, and if we give it the meaning, "bring me safely through and out of this hour," it corresponds with the Divine trust in the Father's love which, in the extremity of the anguish and desertion, he yet reveals, and the ἀλλά becomes equivalent to "Pray, this I need not say; the end is known" (Westcott). I know that I shall be delivered, for this cause, viz. that I should encounter and pass through the hour I came into the world, and have reached the final crisis. This is, to my mind, more satisfactory; the interrogative prayer gives a sentimental character to the utterance out of harmony with the theme. Godet thinks that the fact that, according to the synoptists, our Lord in the garden did actually offer the prayer which he here hesitates to present, is evidence of the historic character of both accounts. I differ from him, because the sublime answer to the prayer here given would seem to preclude the necessity of the final conflict. The circumstance that he did offer the prayer as interpreted above, a prayer which was veritably heard, is in harmony with the narrative of the agony.
John 12:28, John 12:29
A heavy thunder-cloud seems to hang over him; for a moment a break in the darkness, a rift in the clouds, presents itself, and, though he might have prayed for legions of angels, he did not. The second Adam knows the issue of the tremendous trial, and, in full apprehension of the answer to his deepest prayer, he cries, Father, glorify thy Name. The "thy" is emphatic. A contrast is implied between the eternal glory and the glory of the Christ. "I am thine; thou art mine;" "Thy will be done;" "Not as I will, but as thou wilt;" "If this cup cannot pass away from me except I drink it, thy will be done;" "Not my will, but thine be done." I bare my breast for the blow; I yield my ψυχή absolutely to thy control! God glorifies himself in many ways, and here we see the highest point to which the human can rise. Godet calls attention to the extraordinary mistake made by Colani, who founds a charge against the Gospel itself on the supposition that these solemn words were, "Father, glorify my Name." The synoptists tell us that at the baptism (Matthew 3:17) and at the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:5) a literal voice of words was heard from heaven conveying intelligible ideas to Jn the Baptist and subsequently to Peter, James, and John. And here the same John (son of Zebedee) records, not only that such a kind of voice was repeated on this occasion, but reports the very words themselves. There came therefore a voice out of heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. These words many of the crowd round about him, as well as Jesus himself, distinctly heard. The multitude that stood by said, It has thundered; hearing only a voice of thunder. It will not, however, on that account be fair to this evangelist to say (with Paulus, Lucke, and even Hengstenberg) that there was no objective audible voice which any ear beside that of Jesus could hear, and which none but the mind of Jesus could interpret. It is not sufficient to say "that the thunder and the voice were identical." Hengstenberg quotes numerous passages from the Old Testament where thunder was interpreted to mean the "voice of Jehovah" (1 Samuel 12:18; Psalms 29:1-11.; Job 37:4; Psalms 18:13), but there are numerous passages both in the Old Testament and in the Gospels and Acts where an objective voice was heard. Such voice was at times accompanied by thunder, but not in the majority of cases. In the promises made in the garden of Eden, in the call of Moses and Samuel, and in the communion that passed between the Lord and Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samuel, Solomon, and Elijah, Jehovah spake in audible words without such auxiliary. When communications were made to Eli, to David, to Hezekiah, and others, they were given by the lips of prophetic men. When the Law was given to all the tribes of Israel, the thunder-trumpet was exceeding loud and long, and the people could not bear the awful experience, so that the Lord was pleased to speak to Moses only, and he was to communicate with the people. The case of Elijah is remarkable because the "still small voice" is distinguished from the thunder, etc., which had preceded it. Why should Hengstenberg have refrained from giving these Old Testament facts their proper weight? The rationalistic view would make the words spoken to have been the inference that either Jesus or John drew from a clap of thunder, and must conclude that the crowd, so far as the objective fact was concerned, were practically in the right. The narrative itself recounts a varied appreciation of a distinct and objective fact. Those who were not alive to any voice from heaven confounded it with thunder, lowered the Divine communication down to an ordinary natural fact. Others, i.e. "a few others," were much nearer to the reality when they said, An angel hath spoken to him (compare reference to the angelic aid that came to the Lord in Gethsemane). The voice of God's plenipotentiary angel speaking in his Name, was recognized as a supernatural communication, though the meaning of it was not grasped (cf. the voice with which Jesus spoke to Paul on the way to Damascus). But we may reasonably suppose that these Greeks, that the disciples who surrounded Jesus, that the beloved John, found in the voice a direct answer to the previous sublime cry of the Lord. The prayer, "Father, glorify thy Name," received the answer, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again; i.e. In thy work and life hitherto, as Prophet, Master, Example, as my beloved Son, my Name has already been glorified in thee, and now in thy approaching sacrificial agony in which thou wilt become perfect as a Priest-King, and the Author of eternal salvation, "I will glorify it again."
Jesus answered to the confused murmur of remark, and said, This voice hath not come for my sake, but for your sakes. This surely establishes, on the authority of Jesus, the objective character of the revelation. "It was necessary that you should hear and know and feel who and what I am." Ever thinking of others, living in them, he thinks of their spiritual advantage now. Thoma says that whereas the whole scene corresponds with the synoptic account of Gethsemane, it is idealized on the basis of the Johannine idea of the Divine Lamb and the Loges in flesh, and that Jesus here shows that he needed no strengthening, as the objective revelation was entirely for the sake of others, and not for his own consolation. This ingenious criticism of Thoma rests on the unjustifiable hypothesis that the scene before us did not precede the agony of the garden, but was a bare invention of the evangelist, because the latter ruled that Gethsemane needed "idealization." Why should not the two scenes be equally true, revealing the fundamental identity of character and personality, the one, moreover, preparing for the other? (See notes on John 19:1-42.)
5. The judgment of this world.
Still more emphatically does Christ expound the heavenly voice, and vindicate for himself the most solemn position with reference to the world and its prince. The" world," or humanity evolving itself to the highest form of a complicated civilization, was present to him far more vividly than when the tempter showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them. Instead of holding them in royal fee of the devil, and of compelling them to do his bidding, he declares that his hour, which had come, was an hour of judicial condemnation for the world. The corruption of the world, the radical injury done to human nature, starts out on its beautiful and decorated front like the leprosy did on the face of Naaman. Now is a judgment of the world. Observe, not κρίσις. This is compatible with the statements of John 3:17-19, and not inconsistent with the frequent references in John 5:1-47. to the "last day." Because John gives prominence to the great principles of judgment, and implies that the books of remembrance and condemnation are written all over indelibly by the hand of the world itself, there is no proof that the Lord (in John) says nothing of the great catastrophic judgments of which the synoptic Gospels preserve the prophecy. Our Lord has rather revealed (according to John) the principles which make the judgment of the great day credible. What a man has become at any epoch of his existence, what a nation is about at any crisis of its history, whatsoever act represents the spirit of the whole world, is in each ease the judgment which God, by his providence, passes upon him or it. Still more impressively with a second, Now, he adds, shall the prince of this world be cast out. The phrase, "archon of this world," is a well-known later Hebraic phrase for "the ruler of the darkness of this world," the shir-olam of the rabbinical books, the angel of death, to whom was entrusted the rulership of the world outside of the sacred family. Christ declares that his own hour, in which the world and its prince would seem to be triumphant, would be the hour when he should be cast out of earth as he had been already cast out of heaven. This expulsion and destruction of the power and works of the devil was one great end assigned to the manifestation of the Son of God (1 John 3:8). It is important, however, to notice the difference of tenses. "Now is the judgment of this world,"—this is the immediate result of his death; "Now shall the prince of this world be east out" describes the gradual victory of truth, which is pursued more explicitly in the next verse.
John 12:32, John 12:33
And I, if I be lifted out of (or, from) the earth, will draw all (men) to myself. Now this he spake, signifying by what death he was about to die. Ὑψωθῶ has been by Meyer, as well as many of the Fathers, referred to the Lord's resurrection and ascension. The ἐκ τῆς γῆς would certainly be in favor of it, and be a possible rendering if we hold (with Westcott and others) that resurrection and uplifting from the earth involve and presuppose a previous death, or that John always speaks of Christ's death as itself a glorious thing, as itself the commencement of the supreme glory of the Son of man. On the other hand—though this idea is reiterated by the opponents of the Fourth Gospel—there is nothing in the New Testament which makes the cross of Christ in itself a symbol of the exaltation of Jesus. Moreover, the next verse compels a closer reference to "the way in which he was about to die"—a mode of departure admirably expressed by the term "uplifting." The language of Jesus to Nicodemus, in which the same word occurs in describing the lifting up of the Son of man after the fashion in which the serpent was uplifted in the wilderness, confirms this interpretation of the evangelist, which we have no claim to traverse (cf. also John 18:32; John 21:19). Christ declared that the attraction of the cross would be mightier than all the fascination of the prince of this world. The word ἐλκύσω, "I will draw," is applied elsewhere (John 6:44) to the Father's work of grace, which preveniently prepares men to come to Christ. In these words we learn that the attraction of the cross of Christ will prove to be the mightiest and most sovereign motive ever brought to bear on the human will, and, when wielded by the Holy Spirit as a revelation of the matchless love of God, will involve the most sweeping judicial sentence that can be pronounced upon the world and its prince. In John 16:11 the belief or the conviction that the prince of this world has been already condemned (κέκριται) is one of the great results of the mission of the Comforter.
The audience of Jesus on this occasion has swollen into a vast group. The few Greeks, with Philip and Andrew, the other disciples, the smaller circle of sympathetic listeners, the disturbed and feverish crowd, are all about him, as he claims by death itself to judge the world, to win all men, and east out the spirit and prince of the world from his usurped throne. The multitude then £ answered him, We heard—received information by public teaching—out of the Law that the Christ abideth forever. Numerous passages may have been reasonably in their minds—Psalms 110:1-7.; Isaiah 9:1-21.; Ezekiel 37:25; Daniel 7:13, Daniel 7:14—in which the glories of an everlasting kingdom were predicted. In Daniel 7:23 the Lord had in their hearing spoken of himself as "Son of man." Meyer, by giving the dominant sense of glorification to the ὑψώθω, thinks that the people must be contrasting, in pert criticism, the lowly "Son of man" before them with the "Son of man" of Daniel's vision. But it would be far more probable that the people accepted Christ's intimation of the manner of his death, and hence felt the incongruity of such a Son of man—One who dies, and therefore lives again—with the glowing pictures of Daniel or the 'Book of Henoch.' "The Christ abideth forever." And how sayest thou that the Son of man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of man? They did not identify "the Son of man" with the Messiah. They probably supposed two manifestations. They may have doubted, as John the Baptist did, whether Jesus had fulfilled the whole conception of the ἐρχόμενος. It was once more a vague, dull inquiry, "Who art thou?" We are still in doubt who thou art, and how thou canst claim to be the Christ of our prophecies. To be our Christ, and die, is a contradiction in terms.
Christ's reply is introduced with a simple εἶπεν. Jesus therefore said to them, not in answer to their question, but by taking up a title of dignity that he had claimed before, tie evidently assumes to be the Light of the world (John 8:12), and now the time is almost over when they could see its luster or discern other things, either themselves, or their sins, or this world, or the next world, by that Light. The time for further instruction, or remonstrance, or declarations is at an end. The evangelist sums up, in John 12:44-50, the general substance of our Lord's teaching with reference to himself and his disciples and the world which would not believe; and thus, then, in a wonderful way, justifies, as it were, the non-answer to the captious question, "Who is this Son of man?" Yet a little while is the Light amongst you. The "little while" of our Lord's day of ministry was often upon his lips (John 7:33; John 13:33; John 14:19; John 16:16). Verily to his consciousness it must have been but as the twinkling of an eye, and now it was a very little while even for his hearers. Based on this solemn fact, he makes a last public appeal to individuals, propounding gracious invitation, Divine promise, solemn warning; and so he terminated his public ministry, and vanished from before them. As far as the memory of his living words and deeds might influence them, the Light, though not among them, might still shine, and the glory of Pentecost would renew the appeal. Walk as ye have the Light; make progress in the understanding of self, of duty, of time, of eternity, and act accordingly. The ὡς is the reading preferred to the ἕως of the T.R. in this and the following verse by Tischendorf, Meyer, Westport and Hort, and the Revisers' text. Meyer here differs from Godet and others who, accepting the reading ὡς, give it, in virtue of certain passages in the classics, the sense of quamdiu, and justly maintains the sense "as," "in the measure that." According to the light that you see, walk, lest (ἵνα μὴ, "in order that not") darkness overtake you: and he that walketh in the darkness knoweth not whither he goeth; lest the possibility of seeing the Divine revelation in me be taken from you, and lest there be taken away from you that which you seem to have (cf. Jeremiah 13:16). Then, in harmony with the great sayings of John 9:4, John 9:5 and John 11:9, "In the night no man can work;" "In the night, when men cannot see the light of this world, they stumble over unseen perils and pitfalls;" so here, he says, in the darkness that will come upon men from making no use of the Light of the world, "they will not know whither they are going," they will find no work, have no perception of imminent danger, but, driven on and on by measureless force, they will drift over the fathomless unknown into infinite and endless suspense. When the Light of the world is spurned, and a godless evolution made to supply its place, humanity and the world have no goal set before them; there is no end at which they aim—no mind or will to guide the progress of mankind.
But he concludes with one more glorious invitation. As, up to this moment, you have the Light, Believe in the Light; treat it as light—receive the revelation I have given you (cf. the ninth and eleventh chapters); "Work while it is called today;" "stumble not;" make no irreparable mistake. "Become "—so walk that ye may become yourselves sons of Light, illumined and luminous. This fine expression is found in Luk 16:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:5; and, with alteration of υἱοὶ into τέκρα, in Ephesians 5:8. This last word, public word, of Jesus, which was in part accepted by some of his hearers, as we see from verse 42, corresponds with the Beatitudes, and sustains one at least of the main theses of the prologue: "The Life was the Light of men." These things spake Jesus, and departed, and was hidden from them. This utterance records the close of the Lord's public ministry, and therefore the solemn termination of the various scenes and discourses preserved in the synoptic narrative. The people of his love saw him no more till he appeared as a criminal in the hands' of the officers of the Sanhedrin, on his way to the Praetorium. In the silence of the home- at Bethany he probably spent the last day of his earthly ministry, which terminated in the marvelous converse at the Last Supper. "This time it was no mere cloud which obscured the sun, for to them the sun itself had set." And now, through several verses, the evangelist presents his own reflections on the cause of the strange paradoxical proceeding which led "his own" not to receive him.
6. The reflections of the evangelist.
Though he had done so many signs in their presence, yet they believed not on him, If "so many" be the correct reading, John is simply implying what he elsewhere expresses, that a widespread knowledge was possessed by him of groups of miraculous signs, of which he recorded only seven crucial symbolic specimens;
(3) walking on the sea;
(4) healing nobleman's son;
(5) healing impotent man;
(6) resurrection of Lazarus; to he followed by
(7) the healing of the ear of Malchns, and the resurrection of the Lord himself.
(a) Signs in heaven, earth and sea;
(b) startling miracles on human nature, and
(c) on dead men, did not compel belief.
The inaccessibility of the people reveals their mental condition, but no reproach is thrown upon the method which the Lord took to reveal his Divine mission. The tragic refrain still echoes on, "He came unto his own, and his own received him not?
In order that the words of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who believed our report? or the message which the prophets have delivered—the prediction they made of a suffering and rejected Christ, of One who would "sprinkle many nations," and in the very "travail of his soul see his seed." To whom was the arm of the Lord revealed? It does not mean that no hearts responded to the appeal, that the voice from heaven fell on no susceptible ears; but that it is one of the anomalies of human life that man does seem so insensible to his own highest interests. Prophets are always wondering at the condition of mankind. Even Jesus marveled at the unbelief of his hearers. The λόγος of Isaiah shows that prophets foresaw the issue of the kind of reception that a people who had been so faithless to Jehovah's lesser manifestations would give to the most amazing of all his self-disclosures. The ἵνα πληρωθῇ must not be explained away, the outline was presented by Isaiah of the reception which the favored but prejudiced and hardened house of Israel gave to Divine revelations. It would be filled in by the events which were then about to be enacted. God's intuition of actual facts, his unconditional foreknowledge of all contingent phenomena, do not necessitate their occurrence so as to deprive sinners of their guilt; yet when they have occurred, the causes which produced the widespread unbelief in the days of Isaiah were seen to be still at work, and to account for the strange incomprehensible mystery that blindness in part had happened to Israel. God works by law, and works freely by men and in them, not only foreseeing the evil and blindness, but positively punishing sin by blindness, taking away from a man that which he seemeth to have. By this means the "altar was built, the wood and the knife" for the great sacrifice. The use made of various portions of this oracle, by the Lord, by evangelists, by the apostles, by the deacon Philip, by Paul and Peter, shows that the early Church regarded it as the detailed description of the character suffering, and work of Christ. It became virtually a portion of the New Testament, and it was practically treated as such by Barnabas and Justin Martyr. The fifty-third of Isaiah may have been imperfectly understood by its author, may in his mind have had this, that, or the other original reference, and have suffered various Judaic interpretations. Modern criticism may scoff at it as a Messianic prophecy. All this does not touch the patent fact that nearly all the writers of the New Testament and numerous classes in the early Church used it as descriptive of their idea of Christ's work. It thus becomes of priceless value.
John 12:39, John 12:40
In these verses, however, a deeper difficulty still is involved. The διὰ τοῦτο... ὅτι leave us no option (see John 7:21, John 7:22) but to translate: For from this reason they were unable to believe (see other illustrations of the usage, John 5:18; John 8:47; John 10:17). There was a moral impossibility inherited by them through ages of rebellion and insensibility to Divine grace, and through their misuse of Divine revelation. The issue of it was, "'they could not believe." Because Isaiah said again; i.e. in another place; illustrative of this great Messianic oracle and the reception it would meet with from the nation as a whole. In the passage which follows we have a translation which does not directly correspond with either the Hebrew or the LXX. of Isaiah 6:9, Isaiah 6:10. The prophet is bidden by the Lord to punish the people for their obduracy by blinding their eyes and hardening their heart, and even arresting the conversion and healing of the covenant people. This same solemn passage is quoted in four other places in the New Testament. Perhaps Luke 8:10 is hardly to be regarded as a citation; a small portion only of the passage is introduced from the prophet without reference to him, and this is inverted in order. In Matthew 13:14,Matthew 13:15 there is the nearer approach to the LXX., which, however, transforms the עמוֹמשָׁ וּעמְשִׁ, "to hear, hear ye," into ἀκοῇ ἀκούσετε, "by hearing ye shall hear;" and similarly with the other clauses,—the imperative of God's command to the prophet being resolved into the future of most certain accomplishment, and in place of "Lest they understand with their heart, and convert, and he [God] heal them," LXX. reads, "Lest... should convert, and I [who give you the command to deliver such a message, notwithstanding its results upon them] heal them." This St. Matthew has followed. Mark 4:12 has given a different representation again, and, while omitting a considerable portion of the passage, passes to the climax, which is put thus: "Lest they should be converted, and their sin should be forgiven them," showing that the evangelist, looking to the Hebrew rather than to the LXX., has resolved its meaning into a clearly related paraphrase. In Acts 28:26, Acts 28:27 the passage almost verbally follows the LXX. Here in the remarks of St. John the whole passage seems independent of the LXX., and to have resolved the Hebrew "imperative," addressed to the prophet, into an awful assurance of Divine agency in the matter. Instead of "shut their eyes," Hebrew imperative, or LXX. "their eyes they closed," ἐκάμμυσαν, LXX., he says, τετύφλωκεν, He hath blinded their eyes; and so with the other terms: He hardened £ their heart; in order that they should not (lest they should) see with their eyes, and perceive with their heart, and should turn, and I should heal them. In ἰάσωμαι the evangelist, returning to the first person, draws a distinction between the retributive activity of the pre-existent Christ of the earlier revelation and the historical Savior. There is no slip or negligence. Godet and Hengstenberg go a long way in making God the Author of the sin and rejection, and the cause of the impossibility of their repentance and healing. That which in all the several quotations of this passage we learn from Isaiah's oracle is that the unforced and willful rejection of the Divine Word is visited by condign withdrawment of the faculty to receive even more accessible and apprehensible truth. This is the great law of Divine operation in the nature of all moral beings. This law is described as a distinctly foreseen event, and by LXX. as an apprehensible and even conspicuous fact, and it is quoted by St. John as the direct consequence of the Divine activity. He does not mean to say that, because Isaiah foretold this as a Divine reprobation, they, whether they would or not as individuals, were fated to die the death of blindness, but they could not believe, because, on the principle involved in Isaiah's predictions, the Divine government had fulfilled itself, had acted upon its universal law, and in consequence of vows and acts of willful disobedience, they had thus fallen into the curse that belongs to a neglect of the Divine. "They could not believe." Thus even now disinclination to God and to righteousness leads to moral incapacity. Sin is punished by its natural consequences: unbelief is punished by unsusceptibility to clearest evidence; prejudice by blindness; rejection of Divine love by inability to see it at its best. How is this natural evolution brought about? Surely by laws of God. What are these laws but God's ways of acting with all moral agents whatever?
These things said Isaiah, because £ he saw his glory, and he spake of him. By this reference to the theophany of Isaiah 6:1, Isaiah 6:2 the evangelist here identifies Christ with the Adonai whom the prophet saw in his vision, and thus expresses his conception of the Christ. Because the prophet saw the glory of Christ, the unutterable majesty of the "Word of God," he delivered, as we know, this tremendous burden. Few utterances of the New Testament convey in more startling form the conviction of the apostles touching the pre-existence of the Lord, and the identification of the Divine Personality of the Christ, with the highest conception that the Hebrew prophet entertained of the Almighty One, of the eternal Godhead.
There are several illustrations in this verse that the diction of the evangelist differs from that which he uses when recording the words of Christ. Thus ὅμως μέντοι is peculiar to John himself, and thus is an ἅπαξ λεγόμενον; but μέντοι occurs five times in the style of John himself (see John 4:27; John 7:13; John 12:42; John 20:5; John 21:4), not once by our Lord. Ὁμολογεῖν again is used four times by the evangelist, and seven times in the Epistles and Apocalypse, but never put by him into the lips of Jesus. Nevertheless many of the rulers believed on him. These words are used, not to mitigate the charge, but to show that, though individuals did believe, even among the rulers, they had not courage to avow their faith. The instances of Nicodemus and Joseph and others lie upon the surface. Godet thinks rather of Gamaliel and the like, "the Eras-muses of those days." Theirs was, indeed, an hypocrisy of unbelief, and it is not 'altogether banished from the modem world, and notwithstanding Christ's rejection by the nation as a nation, individuals saw his glory and believed. It is still true of municipalities, nations, even Churches, that they reject Christ, while individuals among them are molded by and obedient to the faith. But by reason of the Pharisees—our Lord's most deadly enemies, from John 1:1-51. to John 12:1-50.—they were making no confession—or, acknowledgment—of his claims, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; become the excommunicate, fall under the terrible ban (see John 9:22). The fear of class exclusion, the dread of running counter to the current opinion of the Church or the world, has led to much of the misery of both.
The generalization is given as a reason, For they loved the glory (δόξα, very nearly in the original Greek use of the word," opinion," "good reputation") of men, very much more than the glory of God. The form of the expressions, "of God' and "of men," is different from the παρὰ τοῦ μόνου Θεοῦ and παρὰ ἀλλήλων of John 5:44, and the statement is apparently inconsistent with the declaration that those in such a state of mind "could not believe." Moulton suggests that the glory here thought of by the apostle was the "glory" of John 5:41—the glory of the union of the Redeemer with his people, the glory of suffering and death. The reference to Isaiah 6:1-13. appears to be the true solution. The glory of God himself in his awful holiness was of less interest than the glory of the Sanhedrin and the approval of the world. Alas! this glory is nearer, more obvious and has more to do with tangible, sensuous, advantages, than the Divine approval.
7. The summation of the supreme conflict between our Lord and the world. The portion of the chapter which follows is regarded by most commentators, Lucke, Meyer, Godet, Olshausen, and Westcott, as a summary of our Lord's teaching, as a reiteration by the evangelist of those salient points of the Lord's ministry which, while they are the life of the world, are nevertheless the grounds on which blinded eyes and hardened hearts rejected him. John 12:44-46 characterize the believer; John 12:47, John 12:48 emphasize Christ's relation to the unbeliever; John 12:49, John 12:50 the principle upon which both deliverances turn and will continue to turn. There are those who think that these were special private addresses to the disciples, uttered after our Lord (ἐκρύβη) was hidden, but the word (ἔκραξε) "cried aloud," would not then have been used, as it was used for the most public expressions of his doctrine, when given once for all (here comp. John 7:28, John 7:37, with Luke 18:39). Keim, De Wette, Baur, and Hilgenfeld think that, because there is no fresh departure here, it is proof that all the discourses of Christ in John are similarly put together with no historical basis. But if it be so, this differs strangely from all the rest of our Lord's discourses recorded by John in that it has no occasion, or persons, or opportunity to which it seems to fit. Certain aorists suggest the idea that John has here given specimens of our Lord's appeals which had ended in his being rejected by the nation as a whole. Luthardt takes the view of these words being spoken totidem verbis on our Lord's departure, and with him Hengstenberg also agrees. These critics suppose that they form the closing words of our Lord's public ministry, delayed by the intercalary remarks of the evangelist, and really belong to the close of the thirty-sixth verse. Though the expressions flint follow are built upon the discourses elsewhere uttered, we admit, with Hengstenberg, that there is no verbal parallel that is at all close, and that therefore the evangelist must not be quoting from what he had already reported, but giving the substance of a threefold class of observations found from one end of the Gospel to the other, and in words that he had heard the Master use.
John 12:44, John 12:45
Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me; and he that beholdeth me, beholdeth him that sent me. These words do not occur before, but in every form our Lord had exalted "him that sent him." His doctrine or teaching, his purpose in manifestation, the secret food that sustained him, the Divine presence that never left him alone, the entire background of the mission of his human will and life into the world, the object of faith to men as revealed in his humanity, and that which the spiritual eye ought to see, nay—if the beholder did but know it does see, constitute an unveiling of the eternal Father who sent him into the world (see John 4:34; John 5:36; John 6:38; John 7:17, John 7:18, John 7:29; John 8:28, John 8:42; John 10:38; cf. also John 14:1, John 14:9, John 14:24). It becomes, then, of high value to grasp the truth. We actually believe in God when believing in him. His mission is lost in the glory of God who appears in him. So far as he is sent, he was necessarily of lower order and rank than he who sent him. His humanity began to be in time; it was generated in the womb of the virgin; it was sanctified and sent into the world; and yet through it there was the highest revelation of the Father. We cannot attribute so stupendous a thought to the evangelist, and at the same time we admit the portentous singularity and uniqueness of the consciousness which could thus aver identity of nature with God and the completeness of revelation that the Speaker was making in himself of the Father.
The revelation of God becomes the light of the soul and the light of the world. The evangelist had said, in his prologue, "In him was life," and the Life (the eternal Loges of life) was "the Light of men." All true understanding, all purifying, gracious influence shed on human affairs, nature, or destiny, are the issue and result of the Divine Life which, under every dispensation, has wrought in humanity. Above all, "the Light that lighteth every man," namely, that which has always and which ever will radiate from the life conferred on our humanity by the Loges, the life of God in mind and conscience, "came into the world"—came, that is, in a new and more effective form, came in the radiance of a perfect human life. The evangelist has sustained his teaching by quoting the solemn words of Jesus in John 3:19; John 8:12; also John 9:5, where a special narrative of miraculous love typified both the need in which the human family, the sacred Israel, and even his own disciples, stood of light, and of the light which he could pour upon the sightless eyeballs. And now the connection of this passage is—You could not behold me if light did not stream forth from me. I have come, and am come (ἐλήλυθα, this has been and is my abiding purpose; cf. John 5:43; John 7:28) a Light into the world, and my object has been and is that whosoever believeth on me—whoso-ever sees by the inward eye that which I really am, sees how my life stands related to the Father, whosoever assents to the new revelation thus given, even over and above the "inward light" of the Logos—should not abide in the darkness which enwraps all souls; for, as said in the prologue, "the Light" (the archetypal Light) shineth upon the darkness of human nature, and the darkness comprehendeth it not." It should be especially noticed that in 2 Corinthians 4:6 St. Paul had grasped and uttered the fullness of this thought.
If any one shall have heard my sayings, and have (guarded) kept £ them not. Here our Lord passes from the effect of his earthly life, which is light, to that of the words (ῥημάτα) by which the whole future of mankind will be affected, and one is reminded of the close of the sermon on the mount, where the condition of that man is portrayed who hears the λόγους of Christ and doeth them net, whose destiny will be determined by the natural course of things (see Matthew 7:26, Matthew 7:27). Keep (guard) them not (see Matthew 19:20). The "hearing" is clearly not identical with spiritual acceptance, but is restricted to the awful charge of responsibility that comes upon every man who simply hears, knows what Christ's words are, and then "keeps" them not so as to fulfill their intention. Christ says, I judge him not. I am not now pronouncing a sentence upon him; I am his Savior; but this is his condemnation, that he believes not, etc. (John 3:17-19). Our Lord claimed, in the sermon on the mount, to be the Executor of a judgment, and in John 5:22-29 he declared that he would be as Son of man, the final Adjudicator of doom on the disobedient (cf. Matthew 25:1-46.), and in many places he made this thought even more solemn by speaking of himself on that occasion, not as the compassionate Savior, but the Administrator of an inviolable law, which cannot be swayed by immediate emotion, but will effectuate itself on eternal and unswerving principles. The Law accuses the old Law (John 5:45)—but I judge him not; for I came (ἦλθον) not to judge, but to save the world, referring to the Incarnation in its purport and supreme motive.
He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my sayings (ῥήματα), hath one that judgeth him—perhaps, that which judgeth him—the word (λόγος) which I spake, that will judge him at the last day. There is no more awful utterance than this. How strange that some critics should, with a view to disparage the authenticity of the Gospel, make it appear that there is no reference in it to judgment to come, or to the last day, and should deliberately ignore this feature of the Johannine Gospel!
John 12:49, John 12:50
There is much emphasis to be laid upon the ὅτι, which implies that our Lord would give a sacred reason for the tremendous power with which his λόγος would be invested. The λόγος, the ῥήμα, is not simply his; it did not proceed from himself only, from his humanity, or even his Divine Sonship alone, but from the Father which sent me. He stood and spake always as the voice of the Eternal One, from whom he came, with saving powers. He has given me commandment what I should say, and what I should speak. The two words εἶπω and λαλήσω (dicam and loquar, Vulgate), though Hengstenberg says it is frivolous to distinguish, are supposed by Meyer, Westcott, and Godet, to discriminate matter and form, as Godet says, "What I should say, and how I should say it." My words and their manner and opportunity and tone are all of them the outcome of the Father's ἐντολὴ. It certainly is incredible that John could have put these words into the lips of Jesus. They are no mere summary. They are set down with awful sincerity as having burned themselves into his memory. But the Lord added, "I may be rejected and my words spurned, and yet they may go on as apparitors of judgment, but however that may be, and I know (οἶδα) that his commandment, his commission to me, is life eternal—is so now" (cf. John 3:36; Joh 17:3; 1 John 5:12, 1 John 5:13). "The Law is ordained unto life," said Paul, and "the goodness of God leadeth us unto repentance." The depth of this sublime experience goes down and back into the eternal counsels. The things which therefore I speak (am speaking even at this moment), even as the Father has said unto me, so I speak. "In rejecting me and my words, men reject and insult the Father. His word they dare to renounce, as solemn and unalterable as the word spoken on Sinai. They not only reject me, but they count themselves unworthy of eternal life. They not only spurn Law, but love." Thus, at the conclusion of the public ministry, the evangelist sets forth, in a few burning words, the theme of the prologue, so far as it is realized in the offer of a full revelation of the Logos to the world in human flesh. This Logos found adequate utterance through the human life and lips of Jesus. "The Father has been so amply revealed that the non-believer and rejecter, who hears and does not keep my sayings, is disbelieving and rejecting Hill." These potent words, and this wonderful conclusion of the entire record of the public ministry of Jesus, is the appropriate summary of teachings which were now brought to a dose. Without any exact parallels, they breathe the spirit of the whole teaching, they supply the basis of the prologue. It is, however, dear that the style is different from the prologue, and from the reflection of the evangelist in previous verses. Just as the whole Gospel is a series of recollections which form from their own intrinsic glory and truth a sacred inimitable whole, so this spicilegium is a brief evangelium in evangelio—a gathering up of the whole in the narrow compass of a few precious lines. Though "the hour" has come, it waits. The comparison between this method of the evangelist and that of the apocalyptist is very impressive.
The supper at Bethany.
While the hostility of the Jews grows day by day, the devotion of our Lord's friends visibly increases.
I. THE TIME OF THE SUPPER. "Six days before the Passover."
1. The most probable opinion is that it took place on the day after the Jewish sabbath.
2. The edict of the authorities at Jerusalem respecting Jesus had no deterrent effect upon his friends at Bethany. This feast is their answer to it.
II. THE PLACE OF THE SUPPER.
1. It was, as we learn from the other evangelists, held in the house of Simon the leper. Probably he had been healed by Jesus, and gave the feast as a sign of his gratitude and love.
2. The guests were Jesus and his apostles; Martha, who gave her personal service; Mary, whose extraordinary act showed equal faith and love; and Lazarus, whose very presence glorified our Lord.
III. THE ACT OF MARY. "Then took Mary a pound of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair."
1. Other evangelists mention that she anointed his head; that, however, was a common courtesy. Mary's act was an extraordinary mark of honor, for she anointed his feet as well as his head.
2. Her act was a virtual consecration of Jesus to a Divine work, involving death.
3. No apostle had ever, perhaps, sacrificed so much upon the Lord as Mary, for her offering was "very costly." A loving heart judges no offering too precious for Christ.
IV. THE HYPOCRITICAL REMONSTRANCE OF JUDAS ISCARIOT. "Why was not this perfume sold for two hundred pence, and the price given to the poor?"
1. It was undoubtedly a large sum to expend for such a purpose. Says Mark (Mark 14:5), "It might have been sold for more than three hundred pence," a sum equal to the support of a working man during a whole year.
2. The complaint of Judas was echoed by the other apostles. "And they were angry at her" (Mark). How ready even good men are at times to respond to the suggestions of selfish but plausible men!
3. The objection of Judas to Mary's profusion was dictated in no degree by a genuine regard for the poor. "Now he said this, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and kept the bag, and took what was put in it."
(1) Judas thought it would have been a wiser act for Mary to entrust the value of this costly offering to his keeping.
(2) It would have given him a fresh opportunity of purloining from the common stock.
(3) Mark how a covetous heart grudges everything to Christ.
(4) Mark the false motive that prompted the remonstrance. How common is the tendency to undervalue a generous act through envy or selfishness!
(a) He had no compassion for the poor.
(b) The poor always had their share of the common fund provided for the apostles (John 13:29).
V. OUR LORD'S VINDICATION OF MARY'S DEVOTEDNESS. "Let her alone: against the day of my burial hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always."
1. Mary utters not a word in her own vindication.
2. Jesus vindicates her act, as having relation to his approaching burial.
(1) It was usual to make such preparations for the grave.
(2) Her act showed that she believed in his approaching death. In this respect Mary saw further than the apostles themselves.
3. Faith honors a crucified as well as an ascended Lord.
4. The act of Mary now begun was completed by Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea. (John 19:40.)
5. There is a proper season for the honor or love to be shown to those dear to us.
(1) There will never be wanting the poor to receive the tokens of a kindly heart. "For the poor shall never cease out of the land" (Deuteronomy 15:11).
(2) Jesus in his human life was soon to disappear from the world.
VI. THE CURIOSITY OF THE JEWS CONCERNING JESUS. "Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead."
1. The miracles he had wrought profoundly interested the people in the Person of our Lord.
2. It was curiosity rather than conscience that led to the desire to see Lazarus as well as Jesus. Curiosity, however, is lawful and right when it leads to a serious inquiry into the facts.
VII. THE FRESH ACT OF VIOLENCE CONTEMPLATED BY THE CHIEF PRIESTS. "Now the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus to death also."
1. The sacrifice of one life often leads to the sacrifice of more. Yet what injury had Lazarus done?
2. The idea of the authorities was to destroy the living evidence of a most remarkable miracle.
3. The cause of the bloody design was the effects of the miracle in adding to the number of Christ's converts. "Because many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus."
(1) They not only withdrew from the communion of Judaism and the jurisdiction of the chief priests,
(2) but became true disciples of Jesus. Nothing so enrages the enemies of Christ as the enlargement of his kingdom.
The triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
On the day after the feast at Bethany, Jesus catered the city under circumstances of unusual public enthusiasm.
I. CONSIDER THE PERSONS WHO ACCORDED TO HIM THIS PUBLIC MANIFESTATION OF FAVOR. "On the next day a great crowd of people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was come to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees, and went forth to him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the Name of the Lord."
1. They were not Jews of Jerusalem, who were almost entirely hostile to Jesus, but Galilaeans who had come up to observe the Passover. These people were far more receptive of truth than the people directly under the guidance of the religious chiefs of the nation.
2. The palm branches were emblematic of triumph, strength, and joy.
3. The exclamation of the people, which is taken from Psalms 118:1-29., was a recognition of the Messiahship of Jesus.
II. CONSIDER OUR LORD'S RESPONSE TO THE SALUTATIONS OF THE PEOPLE. "Jesus having found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written, Fear not, daughter of Zion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass's colt."
1. The action was a Messianic sign of humility. The ass is as despised in the East as in the West. The entry of Jesus upon it set forth the essentially spiritual aspect of his Kingship.
2. The quotation from ancient prophecy might assure the Jews that this King would be no tyrant.
3. Yet the true import of the sign was not directly understood even by the disciples. "Now the disciples understood not these things at the time."
(1) The disciples were often "slow of heart" to believe all that the prophets bad spoken.
(2) But, in the light of our Lord's ascension, they saw the import of his action, and understood the part which they themselves had contributed to it.
III. THE EXPLANATION OF THIS DEMONSTRATION. "The multitude therefore that was with him when he called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised him from the dead, bare him witness; and for this cause also the multitude met him, because they had heard that he had done this miracle." Both the Jews of Jerusalem and the strangers bore witness to the miracle which led to the demonstration it shows how profound was the impression made by the miracle.
IV. THE EFFECT OF THE DEMONSTRATION ON THE PHARISEES. "Whereupon the Pharisees said among themselves, You see that you prevail nothing; behold, the whole world is gone away after him."
1. This is the language of weak and irresolute despair.
2. They seem to blame each other for the frustration of their plans.
3. They evidently deem that the time is past for mere half-measures, and are prepared to adopt the more energetic and extreme measures suggested by Caiaphas.
The interview of the Greeks with Christ.
This is the only incident recorded between the entry into Jerusalem and the institution of the Lord's Supper.
I. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THIS INTERVIEW. "And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast."
1. They were not Gentiles, but-proselytes oft he gate, of Gentile extraction, who had been admitted to Jewish privileges. They came to the Passover as reverent and earnest worshippers.
2. They probably belonged to one of the Greek cities of Decapolis, which were full of Greeks. These cities were on the other side of the sea of Galilee. Thus we understand their application to Philip of Bethsaida in the first instance.
3. It is significant that Philip and Andrew were the only disciples whose names are of Greek origin.
4. The request of the Greeks was for a private conversation with Jesus on religious subjects. "We would see Jesus."
5. It is significant that these Greeks should bring our Lord into relation with the Gentile world at the end, as the Magi from the East did at the beginning.
6. It is still more significant that these proselytes of the Gentiles should be so anxious to see Jesus at a time when the Pharisees were taking steps for his destruction in a spirit of the deepest hate.
7. The interview was readily conceded, after the two disciples consulted cautiously with one another about the matter, as they must have remembered our Lord's words, "I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
II. OUR LORD'S ANSWER TO THE APPLICATION OF THE GREEKS. It is, in substance, that the extension of the gospel to the Gentiles was conditioned by his death.
1. The presence of the Greeks suggests the thought of the scattered sheep for whose gathering the Shepherd must lay down his life. (John 10:16-19.) Jesus sees already "the other sheep" as ready to be gathered into the fold.
(1) His language implies that the hour of his Passion was at hand. "The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified"
(2) It implies that the conversion of the Greeks would be a chief feature in his glorification.
(3) It implies that his human nature would be exalted. It is as the Representative of humanity that Jesus is to be glorified.
2. Jesus states the condition of his communicating blessing to the Gentiles. "Except a corn of wheat fall into the earth and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit."
(1) The principle here stated is true of all life. The particle of grain seems to be dead, but there is lodged in it the possibility of a manifold life. The seed by dying is united to the life that quickens all seeds.
(2) The principle is illustrated in the life of Christ.
(a) His death took him out of the loneliness of his unapproachable glory and connected him with the whole race of man. Through his death a new life went forth to millions.
(b) If he had not died, he would have been confined to one spot of earth, and the Spirit's influences would have been confined to his own Person. But by his death the Spirit became universally diffused.
(3) The principle is illustrated in Christian life.
(a) Sin isolates the sinner.
(b) But when he "dies unto sin and lives unto God," he is delivered from solitude. He is no longer alone. He is the member of a heavenly family.
3. Jesus asserts his own subjection to that fundamental law which he so often applied to his disciples. "He that loveth his life loseth it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it in life eternal."
(1) There is a love of this mere physical life that imperils the higher life. If Jesus had not died, he would not have been glorified. His life would have been sterile.
(2) There is a reward involved in the sacrifice of the present life in the cause of God.
4. The claims of discipleship.
(1) The Lord's service implies a close following of the Master. "If any man serve me, let him follow me." They must obey his doctrine and imitate his example.
(2) Faithful service will be rewarded by the servant being eternally associated in glory with the Master. "And where I am, there also shall my servant be."
(3) The Father will crown with dignity those who serve his Son in a holy obedience. "If any man serve me, him will my Father honor."
5. Jesus is deeply moved at the prospect of his approaching sorrows. "Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me out of this hour; but for this cause came I to this hour. Father, glorify thy Name."
(1) The shock had already come. John does not mention the agony of Gethsemane, but it is really true. The very words of that scene occur here.
(2) There is one element of perplexity implied in this deep trouble. "What shall I say?" The thought of deliverance was present to the mind, but not admitted. The prayer which would have delivered him would have been the ruin of the world.
(3) The prayer actually offered was not for deliverance from death, but for deliverance out of death, as the word signifies in the original. It is a prayer to be brought safely out of the conflict.
(4) The real design of this suffering was that he might win a victory over sin and death. "But for this cause came I to this hour."
(5) His exemption from suffering would have been inconsistent with the glory of God. "Father, glorify thou me."
6. The Father's approval of the Son's Consecration. "Then came there a voice from heaven: I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again."
(1) It was a real articulate voice, not a mere sound of thunder, though the multitude may not have understood the words uttered flora heaven.
(2) The glorification past referred to the voices at his baptism and his transfiguration, in which the Father's character was revealed along with his own Sonship.
(3) The glorification in the future would follow from the universal proclamation of the gospel to a sinful world.
7. Jesus explains what is involved in the glorification of the Father's Name by himself. "This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes." It was designed to convince the people of the true purport of his mission.
(1) It was for the judgment of the world. "Now is the judgment of this world." The cross would disclose the moral condition of man, and reveal the secrets of all hearts; and, above all, their attitude toward Christ.
(2) It was for the casting out of Satan. "Now shall the prince of this world be cast out."
(a) Satan is a usurper, and thus the "god of this world," "the spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience."
(b) It is natural that the judgment of the world should be followed by the casting out of its ruler.
(c) Christ, by his death, will deliver men from the dominion of Satan and the slavery of sin.
(3) It was for the accession of the true Sovereign to his kingdom. "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me."
(a) He refers here to the manner of his death. He is to be lifted up on the cross; yet he points likewise to the ascension which is to follow his death. He will thus be freed from all earthly ties, and placed in immediate relation to the whole world of man, that he may become "Lord of all" (Romans 10:12).
(b) The effect of his death and ascension. "I will draw all men unto me."
(α) He is himself the Center of the world's attraction.
(β) He will attract, but not force, men into saving relationship with himself. The language implies that men are at a distance, and alienated from him. "Draw me, we will run after thee." There is a marvelous drawing power in the lifted-up Redeemer.
(γ) He will draw all men unto himself. Not only Jews, but Gentiles.
The words cannot signify that all men will be saved, for there are many already lost, and there will be many at the last day to whom he will say, "Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity."
8. The popular misapprehension of our Lord's meaning. "The people answered him, We have heard out of the Law that Christ abideth forever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?"
(1) The question implied that they understood their own Scriptures. Yet they had no true insight into their meaning, for they imagined the Messiah would be a temporal prince who would deliver them from Roman bondage.
(2) They could not reconcile their idea of the Messiah with the idea of his death and his transportation from earth, for earth was to he the scene of the achievements of their Messiah.
9. The last appeal of Jesus to the Jews. "Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you."
(1) It is an appeal to the Jews to use their opportunities while the light was among them, and not to trifle with their destinies by captious and idle objections.
(2) The words of Jesus imply that the last hour of Israelite opportunity was at hand. He would be but "a little time" with them.
(3) They imply that progress heavenward was still possible and necessary, for the darkness had not yet descended.
(4) The way to become children of light is to believe in the light. "While we have the light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light."
(a) Believers become like Christ by believing in him.
(b) They will become "light-bearers" (Philippians 2:15) to the world in proportion as they receive of the light of life.
10. Our Lord's farewell. "These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them." Jesus had no other answer to give, and here closed his ministry to the Jews. "He then retired, and. did not reappear on the morrow. This time it was no mere cloud which obscured the sun, but the sun itself had set."
The causes of Jewish unbelief.
The evangelist now turns to the remarkable failure of the Messiah's work in Israel, and proceeds to account for it.
I. THE UNBELIEF OF THE JEWS WAS INEXCUSABLE. "But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him."
1. It is implied that Jesus did many more miracles than the seven recorded in this Gospel.
2. The miracles were done "before them," so as to leave them without this excuse of ignorance.
3. The imperfect tense of the verb," believed," emphasizes the persistence of their unbelief.
II. THEIR UNBELIEF WAS PREDICTED. "That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?"
1. The unbelief of the large body of the Jewish nation was clearly foreseen centuries before the advent of Christ, as well as their disregard of the evidence of his miracles. "The arm of the Lord."
2. Let not ministers be surprise g that their gospel is neglected or refused, for their Master encountered a similar disappointment.
3. Yet the prediction was not the cause of Jewish unbelief.
III. THE TRUE CAUSE OF THEIR UNBELIEF. "Therefore they could not believe, because that Isaiah said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them."
1. God in judgment gave them over to hardness of heart. It is a fixed law that power disused destroys itself. Thus the persistent disregard for religion makes it more difficult to obey or to believe. The callous heart is the effect of willful unbelief.
2. What an obstacle it would have been to a pure spiritual Christianity if the Jews had been received by Christ on their own conditions of a carnal and legal Phariseeism!
3. The apostle does not attempt to explain or reconcile the mystery of God's sovereignty and man's responsibility, but simply accepts the two facts as standing each on its own impregnable foundation.
IV. THIS PREDICTION EXPRESSLY REFERRED TO CHRIST. "These things said Isaiah, when he saw his glory, and spake of him."
1. The glory was that of the pro-incarnate Word of God.
2. The supreme Deity of Christ is here implied.
John 12:42, John 12:43
A movement Christward among the chief rulers.
The unbelief of the Jews was neither total nor final.
I. THE ADHESION OF MANY CHIEF RULERS. "Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him."
1. Some of them, like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea, were true believers.
2. Others, probably, were inwardly persuaded that he was the Messiah, but could not bring themselves to an open discipleship. The causes were twofold.
(1) The fear of excommunication. "But because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue."
(a) This proves at once the crushing tyranny exercised by Christ's most determined foes, and
(b) the reality of the decree already mentioned (John 9:22).
(2) The fear of a loss of reputation. "For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God." This fear has often been a powerful obstacle to the profession of religion. Yet confession is necessary to salvation (Romans 10:10).
The responsibilities attaching to Jewish unbelief.
The evangelist now takes a retrospective glance at the unbelief of Judaism. What follows is but a summary of our Lord's past teaching.
I. MARK BY CONTRAST THE POSITION OF THE BELIEVER. "He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me. And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me."
1. The believer recognizes Jesus as the Messiah sent by the Father, as the Revelation of the Father's love and mercy and righteousness. The Jew, therefore, who believed in Christ did not believe in man, but in God.
2. He recognizes the doctrine of Jesus as the clear manifestation of the Father's mind. "I am come a Light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness." Thus the believer becomes a son of light.
II. MARK THE POSITION OF THE UNBELIEVER. "And if any man hear my words, and keep them not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world."
1. The fate of those who reject Christ's Word. It is judgment.
2. The Judge is not Christ, though he is to be the final Judge; but he will then only apply the rule of the Word to each life. The Law, in the nature of things, is the accuser.
III. MARK THE IMPORTANCE WHICH JESUS ATTACHES TO THE WORD OF JUDGMENT. "For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father who sent me has himself commanded me what I should say, and how I should say it."
1. His teaching, as to matter, is from the Father. Its essential principle is "life everlasting."
(1) It tells of life;
(2) it offers life;
(3) it is "spirit and life."
2. His teaching, as to its variety of form, is from the Father. Thus the message of mercy comes to man with every equipment of true wisdom, and bears the very accent of Heaven in its utterance.
HOMILIES BY J.R. THOMSON
The odorous offering.
The fact that three of the evangelists have recorded this interesting incident, proves how deep was the impression it made upon the minds of Christ's followers and friends. We recognize in Mary's gift—
I. AN EVIDENCE OF GRATEFUL LOVE. Mary had many reasons for regarding Jesus with affectionate thankfulness. To him she was indebted for many precious lessons in spiritual knowledge. Sitting at his feet, she had imbibed his incomparable teaching. To him she was indebted for a brother restored to life and home. That she appreciated what Jesus had done for her is abundantly apparent from her conduct on this occasion. And her love is a rebuke to the cold-heartedness with which many of our Savior's professed disciples regard him to whom they owe every privilege in the present, and every prospect for the future.
II. AN INSTANCE OF CHRIST-LIKE SELF-SACRIFICE. Although the circumstances of the family of Bethany may be presumed to have been easy, still the costly gift of perfumed unguent here described was the fruit of self-denial. Mary did not offer a common gift, did not give of her superfluity, did not part with what cost her little or nothing. Our offerings to Christ's cause too seldom in this respect resemble hers. But if we give our hearts to Jesus, it will be natural in us to render to him offerings which shall be meet expressions of our consecration, to serve him with our best.
III. THE WILLINGNESS OF JESUS TO ACCEPT THE OFFERING OF A FRIEND. One of our Lord's disciples looked with cold disapproval upon this act of ardent love, grudging a gift evidently costly but not, in his view, evidently useful. To Jesus himself the tribute was welcome, for it was the sincere and genuine tribute of affection. Christ had, and has, a human heart; and he can understand and sympathize with the disposition which is not satisfied unless treasure can be poured out at his feet. He found a meaning in the gift deeper than any of which the giver was conscious. He saw in the perfumed unguent the offering for his embalming, for he knew that his death and burial were at band. They who bring to the Lord Christ any gift which the heart dictates and the judgment approves, need not fear lest he should repulse them. Since he seeks and desires their love, it must needs gratify him to receive its genuine expression, whatever form it may assume. It may be said that this is to take a somewhat simple and childlike view of religion. Be it so; still the language and conduct of Christ here recorded assure us that it is a view which the Lord himself approves.—T.
The desire to see Jesus.
The wish of these Greek-speaking Gentiles, who (being proselytes to the faith of Israel) had come to Jerusalem to take part in the sacred festival, is a wish not to be explained with certainty. How far they were animated by mere curiosity, how far by intelligent interest and spiritual yearning, we cannot say. But the language in which they expressed their desire is not only beautiful in its simplicity, it is susceptible of appropriation by all those who have felt their need of the Savior.
I. WHAT PROMPTS THE DESIRE TO SEE JESUS? To answer this question we must consider:
1. The spiritual impulse. Man is so made as that he desires "to see good," and that, if his soul be really awakened to newness of life, be desires to see the highest and the purest good. They who have seen many earthly objects and persons have come to understand that all which this world can give is in its very nature unsatisfying. If sought as the supremely excellent, worldly good cannot fail to disappoint. Thus there remains an aspiration which is unquenched, and, so far as earthly streams are concerned, is unquenchable. But we must consider:
2. The attractiveness of Christ. The Greeks had heard something, perhaps much, of Jesus of Nazareth; in any case they had heard enough to induce them to seek a personal interview and acquaintance with the great Prophet. When the gospel is published, and the spiritual charms of the Savior set forth, he is portrayed before men's eyes as the "chief among ten thousand,... the altogether lovely." To hear of him "with the hearing of the ear" is, where there is any susceptibility to spiritual excellence and beauty, to desire closer knowledge and fellowship. Thus the preaching of Christ is designed to lead to the very application made by these inquiring Greeks.
II. WHAT IS INVOLVED IN THE DESIRE TO SEE JESUS?
1. A longing for acquaintance with the personal, historical, Divine Savior. They who ask to see Jesus imply by their request that there is "one Jesus" who may be known; not a fiction of the imagination, but a real and living Being, who may be approached and studied.
2. A readiness of faith to find in Jesus all that he declares himself to be. The desire in question is not merely for speculative satisfaction; it is for spiritual enrichment. The soul hopes to see in him a mighty Savior and a gracious Friend.
3. An earnestness, candor, and teachableness of spirit, such as become those who have nothing when they draw near to One who has all.
III. HOW DOES JESUS REGARD THE DESIRE TO SEE HIM?
1. He is willing to be sought. Never during his ministry did he hide himself from those who really wished to have an interview with him. He was ever accessible to the needy, to the suffering and sorrowful, to the sinful and penitent.
2. He is ready to befriend and bless and save. Do men ask to see Jesus? his answer is, "Look unto me, and be ye saved." Do men timidly approach Jesus? he encourages them by saying, "Come unto me, and I will give you rest."
IV. To WHAT ISSUES MAY THIS DESIRE LEAD?
1. It may lead to the action to which the soul is encouraged by the Savior, i.e. to true spiritual approach to himself.
2. It may then lead to the enjoyment of the blessings which, through the knowledge and fellowship of the Lord Jesus, may be experienced by the soul that sees the Savior with the gaze and vision of true faith. The eyes of the understanding being opened, the illumined nature looks upon the Lord; and to look upon him is to live.
V. WHAT MAY CHRIST'S CHURCH DO TO SATISFY THIS DESIRE? The Greeks came to the disciples, and the disciples introduced the strangers to the Lord. They themselves could give no satisfaction to the inquirers, but they could lead them to him in whom such satisfaction was to be found. Thus those who themselves have seen Jesus, and who know him, may point to him whom they know and love, and may say in the hearing of others, "Behold the Lamb!"—T.
The hour of glory.
Our Savior was "a Light to lighten the Gentiles," as well as "the Glory of God's people Israel." It is remarkable that on the several occasions upon which Jesus was brought into contact with Gentiles, such contact was suggestive of the wide and far-reaching consequences of his mission to mankind. The faith of the centurion prompted the prediction, "Many shall come from the East and from the West, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God." When the Samaritans believed, the Lord saw that the fields were already ripe unto the harvest. The inquiry of certain Greeks gave rise to Christ's prediction, "I will draw all men unto myself." As at Christ's birth the wise men came from the East to his cradle, so before his death the Greeks came from the West unto his cross.
I. THERE WAS IN THE HISTORY OF IMMANUEL A CRISIS OF SUFFERING.
1. This was a fixed, a certain, an expected hour. If our Lord's birth was in "the fullness of time," it is reasonable to believe the same to have been the case with his death. Hitherto Jesus had said, "My hour is not yet come;" henceforth his language was, "My hour is at hand, is near, is come." He was prepared for it, and for all it might bring.
2. This was a solemn and momentous hour. There are great and memorable hours in the history of nations—as when a great act passes the legislature; when a mighty revolution is accomplished; when slavery ceases; when, after a long war, peace is concluded; when some momentous decision upon national policy is formed. So this approaching hour in the Savior's life was that for which all others had prepared, which had been foretold, expected, and waited for.
3. This was the hour of the apparent success of Christ's foes. The conspiracy was successful; the innocent was condemned; seemingly the work of Christ was brought to a close and proved a failure.
4. This was the hour of humiliation and of woe. Jesus alone could fully appreciate the magnitude of the crisis, the mysterious import of the great transaction. It was the hour of sacrifice and of redemption.
II. THIS CRISIS OF SUFFERING WAS TO CHRIST'S PROPHETIC MIND A CRISIS OF GLORY. He saw not as man sees. Satan appeared victorious; Christ's enemies seemed to have succeeded in their malignant schemes; his disciples and friends seemed overwhelmed with consternation and despair. But Jesus looked beyond the cruel cross to the immortal crown! The hour was at hand when Jesus should receive his personal glorification the Son of man. As the Word, the Son of God, this exalted Being had enjoyed glory with the Father before the world was. But now his humanity was to be glorified. He loved to call himself the Son of man; in this capacity he was about to be raised to immortal majesty.
2. His glory was to be shown as the accepted of the Father in his resurrection from the dead. God raised him from the dead, and gave him glory. In his ascension Jesus Christ was "received up into glory." There was evident humiliation in the cross, and. as evident glory in his exaltation to the throne.
3. His official glory was to be displayed in his kingship and dominion. In heaven he was to receive the homage both of angels and of glorified men; upon earth he was to extend, by his Spirit and by his Word, the empire be had founded by his death.
4. Christ's truest glory was to consist in the salvation of multitudes of the human race by means of his sacrifice and intercession. The highest glory of an earthly monarch consists in the number and loyalty of his subjects. No earthly king has ever exercised a sway so wide, so beneficent, so enduring, as that of Christ. The kingdoms of this world are to become the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ. All foes shall be put beneath his feet. The inclusion of Jews and Gentiles in the "one new humanity" is a triumph of Christ's spiritual kingship. On his head are many crowns. To an enlightened and spiritual mind there is no proof of royal majesty secured by sacrificial love so convincing as this—the subjugation of human hearts and lives to his moral authority, whose "kingdom is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost."—T.
Death and fruitfulness.
The principle here stated, and applied by Christ to himself, is one ordained by the Creator of the moral universe. The only true enrich-merit is through giving, the only true gain is through loss, the only true victory is through suffering-and humiliation, the only true life is through death. The earth yields a harvest when the grain is entrusted to its keeping, even when the Egyptian husbandman casts his bread upon the waters. And the Son of God saw clearly that he must die and be buried, in order that he might become to mankind the source of spiritual and eternal life.
I. THE LIFE OF THE WORLD'S SPIRITUAL SEED. Imagination can see in an acorn all which may arise from it—an oak, a ship, a navy; for the acorn has a life-germ which is capable of increase and multiplication. Imagination can see in a handful of seed-corn carried to a distant isle, a nation's food. So in one Person, the speaker of these words, there lay—though only Omniscience could clearly foresee this—the spiritual hopes of a whole race. Jesus himself knew that this was so, and foresaw and foretold the results of his obedience unto death. In the coming of these Greeks he discerned the earnest of a glorious future; and the prospect of approaching suffering and of future victory stirred and troubled his soul with a mighty emotion. The explanation of this marvelous potency is to be found in the fact that Christ was Life—the Life of men. His Divine nature, his great vocation, his faultless character, his gracious ministry, his spiritual power, his unrivalled love, his incomparable sacrifice, are all signs of the possession by him of a wonderful life. Only a divinely commissioned and qualified Being could become the world's Life. Because he was the Son of God, it was possible for him to bring to this human race what none other could confer—spiritual vitality and fruitfulness. The claim which Jesus made may have seemed to an observer of his ministry incredible or even presumptuous. Yet as a tiny seed- may produce a majestic tree, because in the seed is a germ of life, so in the lowly Nazarene was the promise of a new and blessed life for this humanity. "I am come," said he, "that they may have life, and may have it abundantly." Such sayings, from his lips, were the simple, literal truth.
II. THE DISSOLUTION OF THE WORLD'S SPIRITUAL SEED. To one unacquainted with the mystery of growth, it must seem that the strangest use to which a seed could be put is to bury it in the ground. Death is the unlikeliest road to life. Yet experience teaches us that dissolution is necessary to reproduction. The substance of the grain dissolves, and nourishes and protects the living germ, which by means of warmth and moisture puts forth the signs of life, grows and develops into a corn-plant or a tree. Had not the seed been planted, it would have remained by itself alone and unfruitful. The law obtains in the moral realm. Our race gains its best of knowledge, experience, progress, happiness, virtue, not from the prosperous and the peaceful, but from those whose life is a life of toil, endurance, patience in suffering, and sacrifice. The world is infinitely indebted to its confessors, its martyrs, its much-enduring heroes. The highest exemplification of this law is to be found in the sacrifice of the world's Redeemer. His life of labor and weariness was closed by a death of shame and anguish. He gave up his body to the cross and to the tomb. His whole life was a death unto self, unto the world; and he did not shrink from that mortality which is the common lot of man. This death did not come upon him by accident; he several times distinctly foretold it—it was part of his plan. He is not to be numbered among the many who might have been spiritual forces for highest good, but who remained fruitless because they dared not die. The ignominious cross has ever been a stumbling-block to many; but to multitudes, spiritually enlightened, and touched in the heart by his Spirit, it has been the supreme revelation of God. The cross and the grave are to the unspiritual an offence; but to Christians they are a glory and a joy, the power of God and the wisdom of God. Via crucis, via lucia. Christ's body did not indeed see corruption; yet his life's close was an exact correspondence to the dissolution of the seed. A bystander might naturally have said, "Here is the end of the professions and the work of Jesus! But God's ways are not our ways.
III. THE FERTILITY OF THE WORLD'S SPIRITUAL SEED. One grain of wheat, if sown, and its produce resown, may in time produce a vast, all but incalculable crop. One grain seems thrown away, but millions are gathered and garnered. Much fruit rewards the faith of the husbandman. Our Lord teaches us that, in the spiritual realm, a similar result follows a similar process. He knew that he was about to die; but he knew also that his death should be rich in spiritual fruit. The immediate results verified his prediction. In a short space of time after our Lord's death, the number of his disciples was not merely increased, it was multiplied. The fruit borne upon the day of Pentecost was the firstfruit of a rich, abundant harvest. Not only in the Jewish world, but among the Gentiles also, it was speedily manifest that Jesus had not died in vain. Israel had conspired to kill him; but he became the Savior of the true Israel—the Israel of God. The Romans had put him to death; but in a few generations the Roman empire acknowledged his supremacy. The world had cast him out; but the world was saved by him. The history of Christendom is the story of one long harvest—a harvest yielded by the spiritual seed which was sown on Calvary. The future has yet to reveal the vastness of the work which Christ has wrought. He shall draw all men unto himself. "Many shall come from the East and from the West." A great multitude, whom no man can number, shall join in the grateful praise and reverent adoration of heaven.
1. Our indebtedness to Christ.
2. Our identification with Christ.
3. Our hope in Christ.—T.
Service and reward.
In both parts of this declaration made by our Lord, there is a condescension to our human ignorance and imperfection. The Master makes use of language drawn from human relations and human experiences.
I. WHAT CHRIST REQUIRES.
1. Service. This is not equivalent to bondage, but to personal ministration. It is a just and helpful view to take of the' Christian life, to regard it as consisting of a personal attendance upon the Lord Jesus, and a reverent and affectionate obedience to him. A Savior he is; but he is also the kindest and the best of Masters. The twelve felt this, and their life was a practical acknowledgment of it, both during the Lord's ministry and more especially after his departure. The Greeks, whose coming suggested this language, may have cherished some desire and hope of being admitted into the number of Christ's servants. It is the highest ambition any man can cherish to be counted an adherent, a retainer, a minister, of Jesus.
2. Following. This involves:
(1) Obedience to Christ's commands. His people obey him from love, but still they do obey him.
(2) Conformity to his character. He not only says, "Do what I bid you!" but, "Be what I am!"
(3) Endurance of the trials incident to his service. It is for Christ's people to bear their Leader's cross.
II. WHAT CHRIST PROMISES. It is observable that Jesus addresses to his followers no promise of worldly or carnal advantage, such as Mohammed, for example, made use of to allure and inspire his adherents. Jesus invited men to become his, even when he saw the cross before his eyes. There was sublimity in such an invitation given in such an hour. And as the service to which he invited men was not without its perils, so the recompense he offered was unworldly and spiritual.
1. His own fellowship and society. They who know and appreciate Christ deem it the highest and purest happiness to be "with" him, to share his conflict, to hear his encouraging voice, to participate in the glory of his victory.
2. The honor of the Father. The honor which men seek from their fellow men is often inadequate, often misplaced, often pernicious. There are no such disadvantages attaching to the Divine Father's approbation. It is indeed well with him "whom the Lord commendeth." What brighter prospect can there be than this, "Then shall every man have praise of God"?—T.
John 12:27, John 12:28
The soul-conflict of Christ.
Only now and again do we observe the Savior's regard turned inwardly upon himself, upon his own feelings and anticipations. Usually his thoughts and his speech concerned others. But in this passage of his ministry he gives us an insight into his inmost heart.
I. THE CRISIS OF THIS CONFLICT. The approach of the Greeks marks "the beginning of the end." Now the Son of man began to feel by anticipation the burden of the cross. Opposition and persecution were at hand. He was about to tread the winepress alone. Pain, humiliation, sorrow, death, were close upon him. The "hour" which he had long foreseen was now nearly marked upon the dial of his life; it was the hour of his enemies' power and of the prince of darkness.
II. THE CHARACTER OF THIS CONFLICT.
1. On the one side was personal feeling, which expressed itself in the cry, so human, so touching, so sincere, "Father, save me from this hour!" This was the voice of human weakness, to be repeated afterwards in the form, "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me!" This shrinking from all that was involved in the sacrifice was real. Our Lord's human nature was reluctant to endure the anguish of Gethsemane, the agony of Golgotha.
2. On the other side was the perception that all the past experience of his humanity led up to just this distressful burden, the pressure of which he was now beginning to feel. He had consented to live in order that he might consent to die. The baptism of sorrow must overwhelm him, the bitter cup must be drained to the dregs, in order that his ministry might be complete. The Incarnation itself contemplated, and virtually included, the sacrifice. The past would prove to have been endured in vain, if the future should be evaded; and the life of the Savior, with the cross left out, if such a conception be possible, would be all but powerless in the spiritual history of humanity.
3. Hence the distraction of mind evinced in the exclamation, "What shall I say?" The two wishes were inconsistent with each other. With which of them should the deliberate and decisive resolve identify itself?
III. THE DECISIVE CRY OF THE CONFLICT. The issue of the struggle within the Savior's Spirit was apparent when he uttered the exclamation, the prayer, "Father, glorify thy Name!" For this revealed the fact that Jesus was turning away from himself and from his own feelings, and was turning to his Father. He was sinking the consideration of himself and his sufferings in a filial regard to his Father's honor, to the Divine purposes which underlay the whole of his mission. God was exalted in the completion of the Mediator's work. Jesus learned obedience, and displayed obedience, in the things which he suffered. Our salvation was assured when the decision was reached, when the cry was uttered, when the Father's glory, by its dazzling brightness, its burning radiance, consumed all beside.
IV. THE CLOSE OF THE CONFLICT. The solemnity and grandeur of the crisis is shown by the audible interposition with which the Father responded to the cry of his beloved, chosen Son.
1. The voice from heaven was a reminder. How the Father had glorified his Son we know from the record of what took place at the baptism and at the Transfiguration. But to the spiritually enlightened and discerning there had been apparent, all through our Savior's ministry, a moral glory which was hidden from the thoughtless world.
2. The voice from heaven was a promise. The further glory of the Father in his Son was to be manifested in all the events to follow the perfect obedience unto the death of the cross. Especially in the resurrection of Christ did God "give him glory." The Ascension, the marvels of Pentecost, the signs accompanying the preaching of the gospel, were evidences that the Divine purposes were in course of fulfillment. The whole dispensation of grace is "rather"—i.e. in a superior measure and degree—"rather glorious." The establishment of the kingdom of God among men, the introduction of a new and higher life into our humanity, the salvation of untold myriads of sinners, the peopling of heaven with the redeemed from every nation,—these are signs that the Lord has seen of the travail of his soul and is satisfied, that the purposes of the Father are accomplished, that the glory of the Father is secured.—T.
The shadow of the cross lay athwart the path of Jesus. His soul was troubled, for the hour was come. The grain of wheat was about to fall into the soil, and there to die. Yet our Savior looked beyond the near to the distant future. He knew that, though the hour was come, it was the hour in which God should be glorified; that though the seed should die, it should bear much fruit; that though he himself was about to be lifted up from the earth, he should draw all men unto himself.
I. WHO WAS HE WHO LOOKED FORWARD TO A PROSPECT SO GLORIOUS? This must be asked, because the words used are such as from ordinary lips might naturally be deemed but vain boasting. How often have conquerors hoped to subdue the world, thinkers to convert all mankind to their opinions, preachers and promulgators of religious systems to win the empire over the hearts of the race! Experience has dispelled many such illusions; and we are slow to accept claims to universal dominion. Who, then, was he who uttered this confident expectation—that all men should be drawn to him? To all outward appearance a peasant, a teacher, a healer, a reformer, a benefactor of his fellow men. What prospect was there of one in such a position realizing a hope so vast? And how, if he was about to be crucified, could he find the cross a means to such an end? The thing seemed incredible, even to his own adherents and friends. If Jesus had been a mere man, although a saint or a prophet, such language would have been egotism. But Jesus knew the purpose of the Father, and felt within him the consciousness of power to achieve a work so great. And the events which followed—the Resurrection and Ascension, and especially the Pentecostal outpouring—opened the eyes of his disciples to the glory of their Master's Person, the power of his Spirit, the certainty of the prospect he beheld,
II. WHAT WAS THE CONDITION OF THE EXERCISE OF THIS SUPERHUMAN' POWER? The expression, "lifting up," as applied by Jesus to himself, is interpreted for us by the evangelist. Used three times, it denotes, in each instance, the manner of Christ's death, the lifting up upon the cross. This was, indeed, to be followed by the lifting up to the Throne of empire and of glory. As a Savior, Jesus was crucified; as a Divine Savior, he was exalted. The wisdom of God, the power of God, were to be displayed in this triumph of humiliation, suffering, and death.
III. WHAT WAS THE NATURE, THE ACTION, OF THIS ATTRACTIVE POWER? It is very significant that the "drawing" which Jesus exercised displayed itself even whilst he hung upon the tree. The multitude gathered around; and if the soldiers viewed the scene with indifference, there were women who watched and wept, and there were among the people those who smote their breasts in sorrow and in fear. But we have to notice, not the curiosity or the natural emotions excited by the spectacle of one suffering crucifixion, but the spiritual attraction of Calvary. The incomparable love and pity manifested by the Crucified possess a mysterious charm. It is the Shepherd smitten for the flock he came to save, it is the Friend laying down his life for his friends, who exercises this Divine magnetism. They who discern in the Lord's sufferings and death the appointed means of man's redemption, who know that "with his stripes we are healed," can understand how a spiritual force emanates from the cross as gravitation from a central sun. Man's nature is such as to be affected by the exhibition on Christ's part of love stronger than death, of compassion worthy of a God. That the sacrifice of our Redeemer had its bearing upon the government of God—this is clearly taught in Scripture. But here our Lord lays stress upon its bearing upon the heart of man, upon human society and human prospects.
IV. WHITHER DOES THE CRUCIFIED ONE DRAW THOSE WHOM HIS INFLUENCE AFFECTS? The suffering, the glorified Redeemer draws men away from sinful affections and sinful courses; he draws them unto safety, peace, and life. But it is observable that Christ declares his purpose to draw them "unto himself," i.e. to enjoy his fellowship, to participate in his character. A personal power draws men to a personal Savior, Friend, and Lord. Men are drawn by the cross, not to Christianity, but to Christ.
V. WHAT IS THE RANGE OF THIS ATTRACTION? Jesus is a universal Savior. He proposes and promises to draw all men unto himself. The firstfruits of this harvest were yielded whilst he still hung upon the tree. The conversion of the dying malefactor, the enlightenment of the centurion, were an earnest of greater victories. It was the intention of Christ to save friends and foes, Jews and Gentiles. And the facts of history are a proof of the extent to which this intention has already been fulfilled. The idolater has forsaken his "gods many;" the Jewish rabbi has abandoned confidence in the "letter," and has learned to rejoice in "the Spirit;" the philosopher has found the wisdom of God better than the wisdom of this world. Human beings of all grades have felt and yielded to the Divine attraction of the cress. The young and the old, the profligate and the ascetic, the tempted, the aged, and the dying, are day by day being drawn unto the heart of Immanuel. The marvels of Pentecost were an omen of a new life for all nations of mankind. The apostles themselves witnessed enough to convince them of the truth of their Master's words, the depth of their Master's insight, the vastness of their Master's prophetic view. Looking back, and looking around, we learn to look forward with an inspiring confidence to the realization of a promise so benevolent and so glorious as this from the lips of him who was about to die.—T.
The Son of man.
Perplexity and inquiry mingle in this question which the Jews were prompted to put, when they heard the language in which Jesus claimed authority in his death to gather mankind around himself.
I. THE DESIGNATION APPLIED TO JESUS. The expression, "Son of man," was familiar to the Jews.
1. In the Old Testament it was used as equivalent to "man." It is applied in the Book of Ezekiel to that prophet himself, in about eighty passages. There is one passage in the Book of Daniel in which the Messiah is introduced as "like a Son of man."
2. In the New Testament the expression occurs eighty-two times, and in almost all instances it is used by Jesus of himself. It is found in all four Gospels. Here only in the Gospels is it used by others of our Lord, and as if it were desired to understand the full meaning of the phrase. Stephen, when threatened with the martyr's, death, made use of this appellation, which shows that it was well known and current among the early Christians. The same is apparent from its employment by John in the Apocalypse, when describing the ascended Christ.
3. There are passages from which it would seem that "Son of man" was regarded as almost equivalent to "Son of God." Thus in Peter's great confession, in answer to Christ's inquiry (see Matthew 16:13-16). And again in Caiaphas's interpretation of our Lord's language (see Luke 22:69, Luke 22:70).
4. To the Christian the designation is suggestive of great and distinctively Christian doctrines. The Son of man is to him incarnate Deity, and yet Deity in participation with our nature, in priestly fellowship with our life, in human sympathy with our feelings, in humiliation and sacrifice. And on the other hand, the Son of man assures us that he is our Representative above, our Mediator and Friend, our Lord and Judge.
II. THE QUESTION ASKED CONCERNING JESUS. "Who is this Son of man?"
1. It is a question which is prompted by our acquaintance with the facts of Christ's ministry. The record of what Jesus did, suffered, and said, is the most amazing record in the history of humanity. Is it possible, seriously and thoughtfully, to make acquaintance with the facts of his life, death, and resurrection, without being urged to the inquiry, "Who is this?"
2. It is a question upon the answer to which great issues depend. Was Jesus an impostor, or a fanatic, or an altogether mythical personage? Upon many questions we can afford to suspend our judgment; but not upon this. It makes all the difference to the world, it makes all the difference to ourselves, whether or not Jesus be the Savior from sin, and the Lord of righteousness and life.
3. It is a question which admits but of one reply. Reason and conscience alike are satisfied, and can find rest, when the assurance is given that the Son of man is Son of God.—T.
Light on the path.
The occasion of this admonition is intelligible enough. The Jews were naturally perplexed at Jesus' saying (John 12:32) concerning his approaching death, and the mysterious power which in and after his death he should exercise over men. No wonder that they asked who this Son of man could be. Jesus did not want to discourage them from this inquiry as one of great speculative interest; truth, especially upon the highest themes, must be reverently and earnestly sought. Yet it was the desire of Jesus that the Jews should remember the practical bearing of his language. His ministry among them was a probation to those who were brought into contact with him. Some used that probation aright; many misused it. Now that the light shone, it was for those favored with its shining to walk by its celestial guidance.
I. AS INJUNCTION.
1. What is the light in which we are directed to walk? Undoubtedly the spiritual light shed upon the world by Christ and his gospel—the light which is Divine, glorious, unsetting, and sufficient for the illumination of all men. This is the clear light of knowledge, the pure light of holiness, the bright light of joy, the welcome light of counsel and of safety.
2. What is it to walk, having the light? It is in the first place to accept the true and Divine light in preference- to false, delusive lights of earth. Then to be practically guided by it so as to escape the errors and follies and sins into which men are prone to be misled. Then to learn by experience so to love the light as to partake its very nature, and so to become the children of the light.
II. A WARNING. "That darkness overtake you not." A traveler in a lonely desert or a dangerous country is anxious to travel by daylight, and to reach his halting-place or his destination before nightfall. Making use of this similitude, our Lord enjoins all who value his counsel to speed their onward way, lest, if they be slothful and inattentive to Divine guidance, they be overtaken by the night of judgment and destruction. The darkness to be dreaded is the darkness of spiritual insensibility. The soul that shuns the light learns to hate the light. And such a moral failure to use aright the precious advantages conferred involves the privation of privilege. Thus the unfaithful is brought into the darkness of Divine displeasure and death. How the warning of Christ was fulfilled in the experience of Israel as a nation, history has recorded. The destruction of Jerusalem, and the dispersion of the once favored nation, show that "darkness overtook" them. No more solemn warning exists against negligence and unfaithfulness.—T.
"Sons of light."
This remarkable expression occurs four times in the New Testament. In Luke 16:8 the Lord Jesus contrasts with the children of this generation the sons of light. In this passage he holds out the prospect before those who believe on the Light that they will become sons of light. Paul, in Ephesians 5:8, admonishes Christians to walk as children of light, and in 1 Thessalonians 5:5 assures Christians that they are all sons of light. The designation is instructive and appropriate as indicating—
I. THEIR ORIGIN; FOR THE GOD OF LIGHT IS THEIR FATHER. God is Light; he is the Author of natural light, for he first said, "Let there be light: and there was light." He too "hath shined into our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
II. THEIR ILLUMINATION; FOR CHRIST BY THE HOLY SPIRIT ENLIGHTENS THEM. In the forty-sixth verse it is recorded that Jesus said, "I am come a Light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me may not abide in the darkness." Not only does Christ as the Light of the world shine upon us in spiritual glory; but the Holy Spirit illumines the inner nature by opening the eyes of the understanding to perceive the truth and grace of heaven.
III. THEM CHARACTER; FOR THEY ARE LIGHT IN THE LORD. Christians possess the light of knowledge, distinguishing their state from the darkness of ignorance; the light of holiness, by which their condition contrasts with that of those who love and do the works of darkness; the light of happiness and spiritual joy, for they are delivered from the gloom of despondency and of fear.
IV. THEIR CALLING AND WORK; FOR THEIR MISSION IS TO SHINE UPON A BENIGHTED WORLD.
"Heaven doth with us as we with torches do—
Not light them for themselves."
It is distinctive of true Christians that they not only receive the light, but diffuse it abroad. They thus adorn their profession, become the agents in the salvation of others, and glorify their God.
V. THEIR FINAL GOAL AND HOME; FOR THEY ARE PREPARING FOR AND HASTENING UNTO THE HEAVEN OF LIGHT. There is a sense in which this present state is the night, which is far spent; the day is at hand. The fullness of light is where God is in his glory, and where he purposes that his people shall be with him, and see his face. The prospect before the sons of light is none other than "the inheritance of the saints in light."—T.
John 12:44, John 12:45
The knowledge of the Eternal through Christ.
The world's great want is to believe in God. Men believe in power, in wealth, in pleasure, in prosperity, in science; that is to say, they believe that such things are desirable and attainable, and worth trying and toiling and suffering for. These are prized, and therefore sought. They are more or less good. Yet they cannot satisfy, they cannot bless, man; for he has a spiritual and imperishable nature, for which all earthly things are not enough, which they cannot meet and satisfy. Yet multitudes of men have found nothing better. Some believe that the good things of this world are man's highest good, and strive to bring down their souls to this level. Others know that this cannot be, and are most unhappy, because they are strangers to aught that is higher and better; because they are not convinced of their own spirituality and immortality; because they do not feel assured that there is in the universe a Being greater, holier, and more blessed than they are. It is the childish fashion of the day to doubt all save what is often a most doubtful kind of knowledge—the knowledge which we have by sense. What men chiefly need is to believe in a Being who is both in and above all things seen and temporal; who administers and governs all; who is ever revealing himself in all things, and to all his intelligent creation; who has purposes, and purposes of wisdom and of love, towards all his children in every place. In a word, what they need is to believe in God. This is faith, and faith is the essence of religion. Faith in a living Person, conscious and moral; not in an impersonal intelligence inferior to ourselves; but in a Father in heaven, in whom is every moral excellence which we admire in our fellow-men, only in measure exceeding our imagination and indeed altogether beyond measure. If men live, as millions do, without this faith, they live below the possibilities of their nature and calling. It is this faith that gives to the human heart peace, strength, and hope; and to the human life and lot meaning, stability, and grandeur. Without it, man is not truly man; with it, he is a son of God himself. Yet this faith is not easy to any of us; to multitudes it is, in their state, barely possible, perhaps not possible at all. God knows this, and pities our infirmity. Hence his interposition on our behalf, his revelation of himself to our ignorant, necessitous, and helpless souls. His mercy, his compassion, his Fatherly counsel, have provided for this emergency. The supreme manifestation of himself is not in lifeless matter or in living forms, is not even in the universal reason and conscience of mankind. He has come unto us, and spoken in our hearing, and made himself known to our spirits, in the Person of his Son. In him he appeals to us, summoning and inviting us to faith. No longer is he hidden from our sight, no longer distant from our heart.
I. CHRIST'S PRESENCE AMONG MEN IS THE PRESENCE OF GOD. This, indeed, is the meaning of the incarnation of our Lord. God's works we see on every side, proofs of "his eternal power and Godhead"—witnesses without which he has never left himself. But God himself no man hath seen at any time. Yet he would have us know him; not only know something about him, but know himself. Hence "the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." He is "the Image of the invisible God," "the Brightness of his glory, and the express Image of his Person." Christ was conscious of this relation, and both assumed and declared it. Nowhere in language more definite and simple than here: "He that seeth me sooth him that sent me." What wants were met in this manifestation! One fancies the exiled Hebrew, panting forth his heart's deep want, exclaiming in religious fervor, "My heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God! When shall I come and appear before God?" Some glimpse of his majesty and his grace the devout psalmist might hope to gain in the temple, which was the scene of his presence, his service, and his praise. But what language would that ardent spirit have found to express its wondering gratitude, could the vision of Immanuel have flashed upon it? One fancies the Athenian philosophers, "seeking the Lord, it haply they might feel after him and find him;" the Athenian poet, by a stretch of imagination and in a rapture of natural piety, rising to the conviction, "We are also his offspring." But what satisfaction, what joy, would have come to such hearts, yearning for the unknown God, had the Divine Man come to them, with the declaration of marvelous simplicity and grace, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father"! But this was a revelation, not only for saints and prophets, for sages and for poets, but for all mankind. When the husbandman hailed the rising sun, and the seaman gazed upon the steadfast pole-star, this question must have arisen—Is this the handiwork of God? When the father looked upon the lifeless form of his beloved child, what thought could soothe and temper the bitterness of his bereavement and his woe, except his confidence in the supreme Father's care and love? And when the old man came to die, what could light up the dark future into which he was hastening, save the uncreated light which comes from the unseen? In their manifold questionings and doubts, sorrows, infirmities, and fears, men have looked above, and we do not say they have not received some tokens of Divine sympathy and love; they have ' cued unto God with their voice," and he has heard and succored them. But how dim has been their vision! How faint their faith! How inarticulate the response which has reached them from afar! They would fain have believed; from many a soul went up the eager and intense inquiry, "Who is he, that I might believe?" Nothing did they so deeply desire as to see him, who is the Author of all being and the Arbiter of all destinies; but as they strained their vision, it was as those peering into the scarcely penetrable twilight, with eyes suffused with tears. Who can by searching find out God, or know the Almighty to perfection? Why this want was at once awakened, and allowed to remain so long unsatisfied, we cannot tell. It is one of those mysteries upon which eternity may shed some light; for time has little to yield. It is enough for us that "in the fullness of the time God sent forth his Son," that this Son of God is the one Object of human belief, the Center attracting the gaze of all eyes, and the love and reverence of all hearts. In human form, through human life and death, with human voice, God, the unknown, makes himself known to us; God, the unseen, makes himself visible to us. For we can believe on Christ, our Friend, our Brother; we can behold him, the human Immanuel. We greet him as he comes to us from heaven; we listen to him as he speaks to us in earthly language. For us the problem is solved, the chasm is bridged, the impossible is achieved; as Jesus says, "He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me. And he that sooth me sooth him that sent me." Some persons have found it hard to believe that "God was manifest in the flesh." But it seems far harder to believe that God was not in Christ, that Christ was not "God with us." It seems hard to imagine how otherwise we could be brought to realize the unspeakable nearness of our heavenly Father, how otherwise we could look into his face, recognize his voice, love him and delight in him. God is in nature; but can it be said, "He that believeth in physical law, that sooth material glory, believes in and beholds the Father above"? He spake by the prophets; but could Moses assert, or Elijah, "He that sooth me sooth him that sent me"? The incongruity must strike every mind; such language from human lips would send a shock through every Christian heart. There are good men living now; will the best of them stand up before the world, and, claiming to come from God, declare, "He that seeth me sooth him that sent me"? But how naturally do such words come from Jesus of Nazareth! How simple! How free from exaggeration and assumption] And how justly and confidently do many hearts rest in his Divine, his welcome, his precious, his authoritative assurance, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father"!
II. CHRIST'S WORDS ARE THE WORDS OF GOD. This is indeed the meaning of the ministry of Jesus, as a ministry of teaching. In the context this truth is brought out with special distinctness and power. "I have not," says the great Teacher, "spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak Whatsoever I speak, therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak." It is true that all human language is imperfect, and that, if it is not capable of expressing all the thoughts, and especially all the feelings of men: it is not reasonable to expect that it shall utter in completeness the mind of the infinite God. This objection is brought by some against a revelation in words—against the Bible itself. But it is no valid objection. Because the most high and eternal God cannot make himself fully known to man, inasmuch as no means by which he can communicate can do other than partake of human imperfection, shall he therefore refuse to commune with us at all? His fatherly pity will not consent to this. He "spake to the fathers by the prophets," and "in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son." And what words they are in which our Lord has addressed us! Who can believe them without believing the Father, who sent as Messenger his own honored and beloved Son? He is indeed "the Word," being, in his own faultless Person and sacred ministry, the very speech of the Divine mind, appealing to humanity with the summons, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." His words were true. Of himself he could speak as "a Man who telleth you the truth." The unbeliever may come to believe his words, and so to believe in himself; the Christian believes in him, and therefore receives his utterances with an unquestioning faith. On the highest themes, on themes of the deepest and most imperishable interest for man, Christ has spoken; and his words are final, never to be questioned, never to be disproved. His words are words of power. As he himself declared, "The words which I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." His words are immortal. "Heaven and earth," said he, "shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." His words are more than human; The officers were conscious of the authority of his teaching, when they returned and said, "Never man spake like this Man!"
III. CHRIST'S LOVE IS THE LOVE OF GOD. This is the meaning of the ministry of Jesus as a display of character and disposition, as a constant extension to men of healing, pardon, grace, and help. Our Savior struck the key-note of his ministry in the words he addressed to Nicodemus: "God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved." The worst evils which men suffer they inflict upon themselves; the greatest blessings which they experience are given them by God. How could men be convinced that God is a Savior? The best answer to this question is the fact that they have been so convinced by the mission and the ministry of Christ. As he "went about doing good;" as "he healed all manner of sickness and disease among the people;" as he pronounced to the contrite and believing sinner the gracious words, "Be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee!"—men felt, as they had never felt before, that God was visiting and redeeming his people. Human sorrow awakened the response of Divine sympathy, and human sin the response of Divine clemency and forgiveness. It was not the timely but casual interposition of a human friend; it was the one typical eternal intervention of a God. The ministry of our Redeemer in Judaea and in Galilee was the outward and visible sign of the unchanging pity of our Father's heart. It was "the acceptable year of the Lord," but it was a year that has no end. In Christ, the God of all grace is forever addressing mankind in the language of an unfailing gospel, and is saying, "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth." "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that God loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins?
IV. CHRIST'S SALVATION IS THE SALVATION OF GOD. This is the meaning of Immanuel's death and sacrifice. What it is wished especially to draw from this passage, as elucidating redemption and salvation, is this—that in the cross of Christ we do not so much behold Christ reconciling us unto God, as God in Christ reconciling us unto himself. The gospel is the setting forth and publication in time of the great truth and reality of eternity—that God is a just God and a Savior. To believe in Christ is to believe in God's purposes of mercy; God's method of mercy; God's promise of mercy. What follows from the truths now stated? How do they practically affect us?
V. THE ACCEPTANCE OR REJECTION OF CHRIST IS THE ACCEPTANCE OR REJECTION OF GOD. These words were uttered at the close of our Lord's public ministry in Jerusalem, probably on the Wednesday of the Passion week. On the whole, Christ's teaching had met with unbelief and hostility. Pharisees and Sadducees had been rather silenced than convinced. Many of the chief rulers, indeed, believed on Jesus, yet they had not the courage and honesty to confess him. In this very chapter, whilst we read that "many believed" on Jesus, we are informed of others that "they believed not on him." It is clear that there was general interest in Christ's teaching and claims; but that those who acknowledged the Prophet of Nazareth as the Messiah were few and timid, whilst his opponents were bold and bitter and determined. It was the very crisis of our Lord's ministry. His "hour was come." The cycle of his public teaching and beneficence was complete. He had now only to lay down his life, and thus to carry out his fore-announced intentions, and to finish the work his Father had given him to do. And these words and those which follow are Christ's final testimony to the Jews. He sums up in a brief compass the truth concerning himself, and then the practical bearing of that truth upon his hearers. He has come from God. He has come, with Divine authority, as the world's Light, and as the world's Savior. He has come with everlasting life in his hands, as Heaven's choicest gift. Yet he sees around him, not only those who hear, believe, and receive him, but those also who reject him. It is not for him to judge; for he has come to save. But judgment awaits the unbeliever. And what is the witness which the compassionate Savior bears as his last solemn message to mankind? How does he bring home to their souls the awful responsibility of association with him, of enjoying a day of Divine visitation? He does this in this sublime statement, in which he identifies himself with the Father from whom he came. No one can disbelieve and reject him, can close the eye to his glory, without in so doing rejecting God, turning away from the sight of God, and stopping the ear against the voice of God. This was, and is, a truth at which men may well tremble. Here we are brought face to face with the great probation, the great alternative, of human life and destiny. Only those who are thoughtless or hardened can think of this truth without the deepest seriousness and solemnity. It may justly be said to men, "You have been so framed by the Divine Maker of all that you must either accept or reject him. In either case it must be your act, and you must be answerable for it. And there is no third course open to you; for not to acknowledge, honor, and trust the Christ of God, to be indifferent to him and to his salvation,—this is to spurn the most sacred privilege, to neglect the most precious opportunity with which God himself can favor you. It is to shut the eyes to the light of heaven; it is to disbelieve and to reject the eternal God himself."—T.
HOMILIES BY B. THOMAS
The immortal box of ointment.
We have here—
I. THE OFFERING OF LOVE. "Then took Mary," etc.
1. This offering of love is made to its Object. Jesus was the Object of Mary's supreme love, and him she now anoints. We may look at her act as:
(1) An expression of her profound personal esteem. Esteem for his character, his life, and his Person.
(2) An expression of her profound gratitude. Gratitude for many acts of kindness, for many words of Divine wisdom, comfort, and guidance, and especially for his matchless miracle of power and friendship in the restoration to life of a dear brother.
(3) An expression of her profound homage and submission. She anoints Jesus as the Sovereign of her heart, the King of her soul, the Lord of her life, the Messiah of the nation, and the Savior of men. Inward love will ever find an outward expression.
2. This offering of love somewhat corresponds with the love it expresses. Think of this ointment, the offering of Mary's love.
(1) Think of its quality. It was most precious and genuine; the best that could be found even in the East, the land of delightful perfumes.
(2) Think of its costliness. It was very costly. According to Judas's valuation (and who knew better?) it was worth "three hundred pence "—about £10 of our money.
(3) Think of its quantity. "A pound." A pound of many things would not be much, but a pound of this genuine and costly ointment was a large quantity. But it was not too genuine in quality, too costly in value, and not too much in quantity, to satisfy the loving impulses of Mary's heart. Doubtless there was a tear of love trembling in her eye at the time, because the offering was not worthy of her affections, and especially not worthy of their supreme Object.
3. This offering of love was made in a very suitable and interesting manner.
(1) It was deliberately made. Whether the ointment was originally bought for the purpose of anointing Jesus or for private use cannot be decided. The latter supposition adds value to the offering. In any way, it was either deliberately bought, or preserved and appropriated as an offering of love to Jesus. It was not an accident or an impulse of the moment.
(2) It was most heartily made. "She took a pound," etc., or, according to another account, "she brake the box." Some think that all was not used. If so, it is strange that Judas did not propose to sell the remainder. This supposition is rather against the narratives, and certainly against the genius of genuine and burning love. A heart broken with love for its object naturally breaks the box over his head.
(3) It was most self-obliviously and gracefully made. "She wiped his feet with her hair." Self-oblivious, forgetful of the laws of etiquette, unmindful of the presence of those around her, and not having a towel at hand, not one at least in her esteem worthy of the occasion, she so wiped those feet, at which she so often sat, with the long tresses of her hair—an act of tender womanly kindness, unsurpassed in the richest records of romance and the finest fancies of poetry. Love often rises above the rules of social etiquette, and dares to be original and natural, and consequently most pleasing and attractive. What a picture we have here of the offering of simple and ardent love! Never feet had a softer towel, and never a towel had worthier feet to wipe than those of him who went about doing good.
II. THE OBJECTION OF AVARICE.
1. It came from an unexpected quarter. "Then saith one of his disciples," etc. One would think that any token of love to the Master would be hailed by the disciples with satisfaction and joy; but it was not so. It came from one of them, but our surprise is lessened when we are told that this disciple was no other than the betrayer.
2. It was most indignant.
(1) It commenced within. The soul of Judas took fire, his passions were all ablaze, and this was to some extent contagious.
(2) It soon found outward expression. In angry looks, in disapproving gestures, in condemnatory whispers, and at last it thundered forth in the betrayer's question, "Why," etc.?
(3) The mouthpiece of the question was its originator. Judas was the originator as well as the mouthpiece of this foul objection. The breaking of the box broke his heart. The sweet perfume of the ointment stank in his nostrils, and burnt in his soul, and broke out in burning indignation. The other disciples were but his innocent victims.
3. It was most plausible.
(1) It was apparently an unprofitable act. Christ was not better after than he was before it was performed.
(2) An unprofitable act at a great expense. Three hundred pence were wasted to no purpose.
(3) There was a worthy cause for which the money might have been appropriated—the ever worthy and crying cause of the needy poor. What cravings of hunger might be satisfied with what, was spent merely to please a woman's whim! What a glaring and an unpardonable offence was the whole affair! The objection is most plausible, and worthy of a benevolent philanthropist. We are not surprised that it moved the other innocent disciples into indignation, and emboldened the traitor to make it with confidence of being justified in the eyes of his Master.
4. It was most false and selfish. "This he said, not," etc. The objection in itself is natural, but as coming from Judas it was most selfish and insincere. When he said the poor he really meant himself. In this fair garb of philanthropy lurked the vile demon of sordid gain and selfish avarice. It is one of the mysteries of iniquity that it can speak the language of holiness. Avarice can utter the sentiments of benevolence. "All is not gold that glitters." Judas valued the ointment more highly than he valued his Master. The former he would not sell under three hundred pence, but sold the latter for thirty pieces of silver. His nature was miserably false and selfish. This act of love ripened and revealed his character. The loss of the ointment hurried him to sell his Master. Thus we have the stench of avarice in the same room as the perfume of love.
III. THE DEFENCE OF JESUS. "Then said Jesus," etc. This defense is addressed, not to Judas but to the other disciples. Jesus could now scarcely hope to extinguish the fire which was raging in Judas's soul, but could stop it from damaging other premises. In his defense:
1. A sound advice is given. "Let her alone." There is implied here:
(1) The goodness of the deed. This is expressed by another evangelist. Jesus could not tolerate evil, not even let it alone.
(2) His sympathy with the performer. Her feelings were hurt, and he at once stood between innocence and the foul tongue of slander, and between love and the cold touch of avarice.
(3) The proper conduct of the disciples. "Let her alone." When we cannot understand and agree with our brethren in their way of manifesting their love to the Savior, our duty is clearly to let them alone. Between them and him:
2. Love's offering is explained.
(1) As having a reference to his death and burial. "Against the day of my burying," etc. How far the death of Christ was understood and believed by Mary we cannot say. However, it is evident that she was now inspired by love to perform on him an act which he looked upon as a befitting preparation for his burial.
(2) As having a symbolic reference to his resurrection. The symbolic language of the offering rhymed with that of prophecy concerning him, "that his soul should not be left in hell," etc.
(3) As having a symbolic reference to the benefit of his death and his sovereignty over men. He was anointed as their King. She brake the box on Jesus. Jesus brake the box of Divine love on Calvary. "The house was filled," etc. The world will be filled with the odor of his sacrifice—the infinite sacrifice of Divine love. Mary did what the nation ought to do, and what the world has been gradually doing ever since. She was partly unconscious of what she did. Love to Jesus is often blind, blinded by its own dazzle—especially by the dazzle of its glorious Object; but its instincts and its intuitions are very strong, correct, deep, and far-reaching. Jesus can see in the offerings of love more than the offerers themselves. They may often ask, "When saw we thee an hungered," etc.? but he answers, "Inasmuch," etc.
(4) As being made to the proper Object. To him, and not to the poor. For:
(a) In any act of kindness to him the poor were recognized. Who was poorer than he? And yet he was the poor man's Friend. When love pours the ointment on him, it shall return to them with interest. Whatever is done to the poor, Jesus counts as done to him; would not they willingly now return the compliment?
(b) Opportunities to serve the poor were many and permanent. "The poor ye have always," etc.
(c) Opportunities to honor Jesus personally were few and brief. He was a Pilgrim in the land, only just passed by. Any act of personal kindness to him must be done at once or never.
(d) When the claims of the poor come into collision with those of Jesus, the former must give way. While their claims are fully admitted, his are supreme. They are to be ever helped, but he is to be anointed King of the heart and enthroned in the affections. The claims of the poor and these of Jesus can never come into collision but by the cunning opposition of avarice, or the thoughtless blunders of friendship.
(5) As being made in time. The offerings of genuine and ardent love are never after the time; they are often before, as in this case. Mary performed an act of kindness to her living Savior. Many mourn over the graves of those they worried in life; but Mary anointed her living Lord. She was determined that he should taste the sweets of human kindness and smell the perfume of human, love and homage ere he passed away, and, being inspired with the thought that this might be the last opportunity, she poured the ointment on his sacred head and feet.
1. No genuine offering of love to Christ can be a waste. It was not so in this case. To Mary it was a most delightful exercise; to the disciples a most important lesson; to Christ a most gratifying deed; to the world a most beneficial teaching. It was only waste to him who was the son of waste.
2. Those who manifest self-sacrificing love to Christ must ever expect opposition. Opposition even from quarters they would least expect. There is a Judas in most societies, and avarice is eternally opposed to benevolence, and selfishness to love.
3. Any objection to the offerings of love, however plausible, should ever be regarded with suspicion. Avarice can often argue better than benevolence. Benevolence is often too timid to defend itself, but is bold enough to break the box of ointment. Let it do this, and Jesus will ultimately and successfully defend it. The offerings of love are more than a match for all the objections of avarice; the latter petrify, and are increasingly obnoxious; while the former are increasingly odorous and sweet—they fill the house and the soul of Jesus with their sweet odor. Avarice never yet found an object worthy of its generosity. It is ever shifting. An offering which has the preponderating appearance of love, listen to no objection against it. If you cannot heartily commend, let it alone.
4. We can well afford the objection of others if we have the approval of Jesus. What need had they to care after Jesus said, "Let her alone," etc.?
5. Those who are in responsible positions should be on their guard. Office tests, forms, and reveals character. The "bag" is a tree of life or death to all who have to do with it. How many can trace their ruin to a bag? Judas can do so. He began to take what was in it; little thinking that what he took from the bag was small compared with what the bag took from him—took his soul. The bag was the greatest thief; but Judas was the responsible one.
6. Rather than be too hard upon Judas, let us humbly and prayerfully examine ourselves. We are also men. The most courteous opponent Judas ever met was Jesus. Instead of meeting his selfish objection in the scathing language it justly deserved, he met it with peculiar mildness. Judas has suffered most from himself and his family. The celebrated Judas of history has been a scapegoat for many modern ones. Their denunciations of him have been only a cover to do the same, and something even worse.—B.T.
Jesus and his enemies.
I. THE ATTRACTION OF JESUS. "Much people of the Jews," etc.
1. He was attractive in his work. In the sick he had healed, the blind to whom he had given sight, and the dead he had restored to life, especially in his last miracle on Lazarus. In this he manifested:
(1) His complete mastery over death. Death had done its work completely; decomposition and corruption had set in. Lazarus had been in his grave for four days. The mastery of Jesus over death was complete in the miracle.
(2) His complete mastery over life. This was the secret of his mastery over death, because he possessed all the resources and energies of life. As the Prince of life alone he could be the Master of death. Death will only yield to almighty life.
(3) His unquestionable Divine power and mission. If this would not prove the Divinity of his Person and mission, no act of power ever could. It had this effect on all who were open to conviction. The supernatural and the Divine brought to counteract the forces of nature are ever attractive. They were pre-eminently so in this instance.
2. His work was attractive in him. Lazarus restored to life was his immediate and undeniable work, and Lazarus was attractive, and the people came, "not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also," etc. Lazarus was attractive:
(1) As the subject of the most wonderful changes. From life to death, and from death back to life again; and all the changes had taken place in a short period of time. He had only just returned from the land of death. A most wonderful phenomenon!
(2) As the subject of supposed strange experiences of life and death and restoration. His experience, perhaps, could not be related. All to him was like a pleasant dream of flitting beauty—broken music and delightful sensations which could scarcely be reproduced in human language but in very general and indefinite terms. He was only a babe four days old in the spirit-life. The first thing, probably, he could distinctly remember was to hear the voice of Jesus say, "Lazarus, come forth!" Many questions were doubtless put to him on the subject of his strange experiences, but nothing is recorded only as, having experienced such dispensations, he attracted many.
(3) As the living monument of the most wonderful Tower—the power of Jesus of Nazareth. They came to see Lazarus also, but he was attractive on account of what Jesus had done to him. He had many monuments, but this was his masterpiece, and from it every reflective and earnest mind would turn with reverence and awe to the great Artist.
3. He was very attractive at this time.
(1) He attracted very many people. "Much people of the Jews," etc. They came to know where he was. The miracle of Bethany had stirred up Jerusalem. He could not be hid. His fame now blazed with peculiar brilliancy.
(2) He attracted many in spite of difficulties. There was much popular prejudice and unbelief. He had the bitterest opposition of the leading spirits of the nation; wealth, learning, power, and authority in Church and state were against him. Every obstacle to the flow of the populace to him was placed in their way, but in spite of all, Bethany mightily attracted Jerusalem in those days.
(3) He attracted many to faith. "Many of the Jews believed on him." To attract attention, curiosity, general interest, and personal presence and attendance was but little to him, after all. Many came to Jesus, but believed not on him; they admired and even believed the work, but not on the Worker; but he attracted many to real faith—faith which was spiritual and lasting.
II. THE OPPOSITION OF HIS FOES. "The chief priests," etc.
1. Their opposition was really to Jesus.
(1) They opposed Jesus in Lazarus. The Master in the disciple; the great Operator in his work. They had nothing personally against Lazarus; but thought that they could not so effectively strike Jesus as through ]aim. He became the target of their hatred. This is not the first time, and certainly not the last, Jesus is persecuted in his followers, and his followers persecuted on his account.
(2) They opposed Lazarus because he was a loss to them. Because on his account many of the Jews went away—left them. The miracle of which Lazarus was the living monument attracted many from them. Their ranks were quickly thinned, and their reputation on the wane. This enraged their anger against Lazarus.
(3) They opposed Lazarus because he was a gain to Jesus. Many on his account left them and believed on Jesus. This, after all, was the sting of his offence. They could bear their own loss better than his gain; their own ebb than his flow. They would rather backsliding adherents should take any direction than this. This was a mortal offence. In connection with Jesus Lazarus had become intolerable.
2. Their opposition was most wicked and cruel.
(1) It involved murder. The taking away of life. This was the bitter end. They could go no further. They had no right to this. Life is sacred.
(2) It involved willful murder. "They consulted how," etc. Anyhow, only let Lazarus be put to death. It was not the impulse of the moment, the outburst of passion, but the deliberate and united act of the will. "They consulted," etc.
(3) It was the willful murder of the innocent. Jesus was innocent; but if to perform miracles and attract the people constituted real guilt, he was guilty. But what had Lazarus done? Was it an offence to be raised from the dead and breathe the old air, mix with old acquaintances, and enjoy the old life once more? True, he was a most genuine and dear friend of Jesus; but a most quiet and undemonstrative one, much beloved by his nation in life and mourned in death. In a sense he was the passive monument of a most benevolent and Divine power. And what could he help that his miraculous restoration engendered faith in Jesus? Blind and cruel bigotry could scarcely select a more innocent victim, nor contemplate a more wicked deed.
3. Their opposition was increasingly wicked and cruel.
(1) The death of Jesus was already determined. His life was already doomed as far as the Jewish authorities were concerned. There was a reward already offered for his capture.
(2) The death of Lazarus was now contemplated. Lazarus was the first contemplated martyr for Jesus on record. We have no proof that they carried out their purpose; probably not. They had Jesus, and this satisfied them for the time, and Lazarus escaped.
(3) One sin leads to another. Sin generates and multiplies very fast. The determination to murder Jesus led to the determination to murder Lazarus.
(4) The capacity to do the greater involves the capacity to do the less. If they can put Jesus to death, they can easily put Lazarus. The violent death of Jesus made the violent death of his follower a comparatively easy matter.
4. Their opposition was most foolish. Reason was off its throne. For:
(1) The death of Lazarus could not undo the miracle and its results. The miracle by this time was an established and an admitted fact. It had in a sense gone from Jesus and Lazarus and was a public property, and, whatever would become of them, the miracle would still remain. It was well known to these authorities, and there is no attempt to deny it, but a most foolish attempt to destroy it.
(2) The death of Lazarus could not prevent the performance of another miracle. It is foolish to attempt to dry the stream while the fountain is still springing. It was foolish to put Lazarus to death whilst Christ was still alive. They could not send his spirit so far to the invisible world that his voice could not reach and recall it. They could not hope to mangle his body to such an extent that the chemistry of his Divine power could not reunite it. He could cause Lazarus to appear before them and scare them, till they would be only too glad to let him alone.
(3) Lazarus was not the only monument of Christ's Divine power. He had hosts of them throughout the whole country. The destruction of all these monuments would involve such a massacre as would be beyond their power and authority to perpetrate. Their opposition was foolish.
5. Their opposition was pitiably futile.
(1) Physical death cannot destroy Divine life and energy.
(2) Physical death cannot destroy Divine purposes. They flow on like a mighty river, increasing in magnitude and force, and sweeping every opposition before them. The futile devices of priests and stratagems of Pharisees are seen carried away on its crested and sweeping flood.
(3) Physical death cannot destroy spiritual principles, but rather increase and intensify them. Faith, hope, and love can thrive in chains, feed on flames, and leap with life, even in death. If Lazarus were put to death and fell a martyr to these priests and never again return, thousands would leap to life from his grave and feed upon his ashes. The futility of physical opposition to truth was aptly expressed by the Pharisees, when some of that sect said, "Perceive ye not," etc.?
6. Their opposition came from an unexpected quarter. "The chief priests."
(1) They were in the best position to examine the genuineness of the miracle and understand its meaning. As a class they were educated and highly privileged. They were the leaders of religious thought, and one would naturally expect that they had sufficient philosophical insight and integrity, apart from their religious position, to inquire into such a strange phenomenon and accept its plain and inevitable teaching.
(2) They should be the foremost to accept the claims of Jesus, see in him the promised Messiah, the fulfillment of prophecy, and the substance of all sacrifice—the Lamb of God.
(3) What ought to breed faith bred in them murder. The reason which led others to believe in Jesus, led them to hate and oppose him. The miracle of life revived in them the vilest passions for death. What stronger proofs of Christ's Divinity and Divine commission could they wish or have? How could faith be satisfied better than by an outward sign? And yet the reason for faith they want to destroy, and the light of faith they want to extinguish; the monument of faith they want to overthrow, and the object of faith they want to murder. What moral depravity and blindness does this reveal!
1. The leaders of the people have often been the bitterest opponents of truth and progress. They have opposed every true reform, and instead of leading the people to the light, they have stood between the people and it, and have attempted to extinguish it.
2. If the leaders of the people are so opposed to truth, what can be expected of the people themselves.
3. When they will not lead the people, the people should lead them and help themselves.
4. All people, learned and unlearned, rich and poor, have a true Leader in Jesus.—B.T.
Through trouble to triumph.
I. JESUS IN TROUBLE. He was not a stranger to trouble, but this was a special one.
1. Trouble arising from a vivid realization of his approaching death and sufferings. They already cast their awful shadows upon his pure soul. The unparalleled tragedy of his death, with all its sinfulness on the part of his foes, and all its cruelties, agonies, and shame, was now acted in his soul, and it caused him to shudder. He was far from being a coward, but quite so far from being a heartless Stoic. He was courageous, but human; most heroic, but still most sensitive.
2. Trouble arising from the immediate effect of his death on others. The Gentiles were already knocking at his door for admission; but the opening of the door involved his death and the rejection of that people whom he came to save. The more remote joy of his death was hushed in its immediate effects upon his own nation. This judgment which his death involved troubled him.
3. Trouble which affected his Whole nature. "Now is my soul troubled," etc. The soul here represents his whole human nature, of which it is the highest and most important part, and most capable of refined and spiritual sufferings, and even his flesh quivered at the prospect of such treatment at the hands of those from whom he expected and deserved kindness. There is a close connection between the soul and the body—sympathy between them. Suffering is contagious.
II. JESUS IN PRAYER.
1. It was a prayer in trouble, and trouble sent him naturally to his Father for succor. Inward and outward trouble naturally drives the devoted soul to God. It had this effect on Jesus now. And who could approach God with such confidence and certainty of success as he? He had not brought the trouble upon himself, but bore it for others in accordance with the eternal will.
2. It was a prayer in which he found it difficult to express himself. "What shall I say?" This difficulty arose:
(1) From the troubled state of his soul. When a man is in great trouble, accurate expression to God or man is difficult. It will be inaccurate, or he must pause and ask, "What shall I say?"
(2) From a severe conflict between the flesh and the spirit. Jesus was thoroughly human, and was now young and in the bloom of life, and also innocent and pure. In him the claims of life and the terrors of death would be naturally great. There was a severe conflict between the weakness of the flesh and the readiness of the spirit; and the natural prayer of the former would be, "Father, save me from this hour," etc.
(3) From the conflict between the possibility of escape, and the law of obedience in his heart. The possibility and advantages of escape were now doubtless presented to his mind—one of the last temptations of the prince of this world. The temptation in the wilderness was not the only one he encountered. It was only the introduction. He was tempted through life. His own power and superiority were used as instruments of temptation. The possibility and present advantages of escape were presented to him to the last; and, if such a consideration triumphed, his natural prayer would be, "Father, save me," etc.
(4) The ruling principles of his soul immediately triumphed. The question, "Shall I say, Father, save me from this hour?" The loyalty of his soul immediately answered, "No, I shall not say that, because for this cause came I to this hour." Such a prayer would be a contradiction to his whole spirit and history before and after the incarnation; would be against the very purpose of his coming, which was well known to him; would be a victory for the enemy. But his loyalty triumphed, and the prince of this world was cast out.
3. It is a prayer, the burden of which is his Father's glory. "Glorify thyself." This implies:
(1) An intense desire that his Father should be glorified. This is the prayer of his soul and the soul of his prayer, and the affectionate cry of his agonies, that the Divine power, wisdom, goodness, justice, mercy, and love, should be crowned, and the reputation of the Divine name should be advanced.
(2) An intense desire that his Father should be glorified in him—in his life and death; that he should be the medium of his glorification; that in his incarnate life and death his Father's glory should be increased here and everywhere.
(3) A self-sacrificing submission to his Father's will. He is entirely lost in the Divine will. His prayer is not, "Father, save me," but "Glorify thyself." In what is coming never mind me; take care of thy Name. He would not be saved at any risk to the Divine Name. He offers himself a willing Sacrifice on the altar of his Father's glory. Selfishness is conquered, and love is all ablaze.
(4) The highest note of devotion. "Glorify thy Name." This, as uttered by our Lord, is the highest note of human devotion, the climax of human worship, and the sweetest music of self-sacrifice.
III. THE PRAYER OF JESUS ANSWERED.
1. The answer is full and direct. "I have both," etc. We have here the glorification of the Divine Name in Jesus.
(1) In relation to the past. "I have," etc. His past life and work had been in the highest degree acceptable and efficient, and satisfactory to the Divine Being, and served the highest interests of the Divine nature.
(2) In relation to the future. "And will," etc. Jesus's past is only an earnest of even a brighter future. In him the Divine Name will be ever glorious, the Divine glory will ever shine, and the Divine attributes blaze with special and increasing brilliancy. In him the Divine nature will reach its highest and brightest manifestations.
2. The answer was immediate. "There came a voice," etc. There was no delay. The prayer went up in agony, and immediately came back in glory. Jesus was near heaven when on earth, and heaven was near him, and ever ready to respond. Heaven is ever near and responsive to the prayers of earnest faith.
3. The answer was audible. "A voice," etc. The prayer went up in a voice, and in a voice the answer returned. This was the third time Heaven spoke audibly respecting Christ—at his baptism, transfiguration, and now at his Passion.
(1) All heard it. "The people who stood by and heard." It was loud enough for all to bear. This is like Heaven; when it speaks, it speaks in clear and mighty tones. When the material heaven speaks, it often speaks in storms and thunders.
(2) A few only understood it. To the majority it was a mere sound like thunder. To some it suggested the broken articulations of an angel, whilst to the disciples, and perhaps many others, it was the very voice of God. John fully understood it, and copied its Divine meaning, and handed it down to us. Only those who have ears to hear can hear and understand what the Spirit saith. John had a good ear for the Divine voice. What seems to us only thunder may be the immediate voice of God.
4. The answer was audible for the sake of others. Jesus required no voice from Heaven. He understood the language and thoughts of Heaven intuitively. Christ was not dependent upon the human voice as a medium of revelation. He knew what was in man; he was conscious of what was in God. God spoke in him; but man requires a voice, and Heaven supplied it now.
(1) As a public testimony to the life and death of Christ.
(2) As a test and confirmation of faith.
(3) As a Divine indication of the special importance of the hour which included the Passion of Christ. Its importance to earth, to heaven, to the Gentiles, to Jesus, to the Father, and to the universe.—B.T.
The saving influence of Christ.
I. IN SOME OF ITS CHARACTERISTIC FEATURES.
1. It is the influence of the greatest Person. "And I," etc. To know something about influence, let us ask who influences?
(1) The Son of God. The eternal Word, who was in the beginning with God, and is God. Thus the source of the influence is Divine, infinite, and exhaustless.
(2) The Son of God in human nature. The eternal Word manifested in the flesh, assumed the nature he came to save, and in that nature taught men by precept and example, and manifested before them the most powerful and fascinating attributes of the Divine and human, in a beautiful combination, and led them on to their highest destiny.
(3) The Son of God in personal contact with the human race, with a full knowledge of, and an intense sympathy with their spiritual wants, inspired with the purpose of salvation, and a passionate desire to advance their spiritual welfare. Thus the fallen human nature is brought again within the moral attraction of the Divine.
2. The influence of the greatest Person, having made the greatest sacrifice. "And I, if I be lifted up." The incarnate Word laid down his life as a sacrifice for sin. This sacrifice is infinite, perfect, and matchless.
(1) It is the manifestation of the greatest love. Divine love for the salvation and happiness of the fallen human family. The tongues of men and angels together could not set forth the greatness of the Divine love so eloquently as the Divine sacrifice offered on Calvary. If it be asked how great is God's love towards fallen man, the most expressive answer is in the words of the evangelist, "God so loved," etc.
(2) It removes all difficulties to reconciliation with God. In it all Divine claims are satisfied, and human enmity slain, and the mightiest hindrances to Divine attraction are removed.
(3) It furnishes the most powerful motives to reconciliation. In the light of this sacrifice sin appears most hateful, its consequences moat disastrous, while virtue appears most charming, and God most attractive. As an instrument it is calculated in the highest degree to arouse the conscience in condemnation of sin, to melt the heart, to bend the will, and to attract the whole nature from sin to holiness, from the kingdom of darkness to that of light. The supreme and all-conquering motive furnished by it is God's love.
(4) It procures the most powerful helps to reconciliation. The Holy Spirit, with all his influences, gifts, and blessings. All that man requires in order to return to God is furnished through Christ and the sacrifice of his blood.
3. The influence of the greatest person in the most advantageous position. The lifting up from the earth refers to the consequent exaltation as well as to the crucifixion.
(1) A position of the most complete triumph, a triumph achieved under the most disadvantageous circumstances, on a cross, achieved over the mightiest foes of God and man, and achieved on behalf of God and man. Man now has only a conquered foe to encounter.
(2) A position of the highest honor and glory. Glory won through shame, life procured by death, the glory of victory and self-sacrifice. If he achieved so much on a cross, what can he not do under a crown?
(3) A position of the greatest authority and power. Authority and power native and acquired. "All power is given me," etc. All the realm of spiritual forces, good and bad, is under his control.
4. The influence of the greatest Person exercised in the most efficient way. "I will draw," etc. Man is to be drawn, not driven. The saving influence of Christ is voluntary, not compulsory; it is moral and spiritual, influences man through his mental and spiritual nature, and binds the heart and will with the cords of love, and gently draws them Godwards.
II. IN ITS GLORIOUS TRIUMPH. This we see if we consider:
1. The objects of its attraction. In order to estimate the drawing power of any influence, let us consider who are drawn, and from what.
(1) The greatest sinners sunk in the deepest sin.
(2) Inspired with the deadliest enmity against God and virtue.
(3) Backed up by the mightiest spiritual opponents of God and virtue. But in spite of all, "I will draw," etc.
2. The completeness of the drawing. "Unto me," etc.
(1) Unto faith in him.
(2) Unto his character and likeness.
(3) Unto his position and society. The drawing will be most complete; hence the glory of the influence—his triumph.
3. The extensiveness of the attraction. "All men," etc. Jews and Gentiles? More than these. We shall not, in the presence of the cross of our Lord, venture to limit this phrase, but let it tell its simple but grand tale of the glorious triumph of saving grace through Christ.
(1) This extensive idea is in perfect harmony with human need. All have gone astray from God, and require to be drawn to him. The greater the want, the greater the mercy.
(2) It is in perfect harmony with the Divine will. "Who willeth that no man should perish, but that all should turn," etc.
(3) It is in perfect harmony with the infinitude of the sacrifice. Is it not naturally adapted to draw, and does it not deserve to be universally successful?
(4) It is in perfect harmony with our highest notion of the supreme Being as a God of infinite love.
(5) It is in perfect harmony with many other expressions of God's revealed will.
(6) It is in perfect harmony with our highest motions of the ultimate glory of God.
4. The certainty of the attraction. This lies:
(1) In the Divine purpose.
(2) In the Divine provision.
(3) In the Divine promise. Jesus has not promised to do more than he has purposed, is willing, and fully able to do.
1. What the foes of Jesus thought would punish him, was the very thing to advance his interests. They said, "Crucify him, and his influence will be at an end." He said, "Crucify me, and I will draw," etc.
2. Time and eternity are on the side of Christ, and also the superior power of Divine principles. Truth is more powerful than error, good than evil, and the attractions of Jesus mightier than the evil one. Let Christ have time, and his promise will be fulfilled, and Divine love triumphant.
3. It is better for the sinner to yield now than to battle with Divine love. It would be far better for the prodigal to return soon after leaving his father's house, than after experiencing the keenest pangs of hunger. Return he did at last.—B.T.
Christ's farewell sermon to the public,
I. THE MISSION OF CHRIST IN RELATION TO FAITH.
1. Faith in the Son involves faith in the Father. "He that believeth on me, believeth not on me [only]."
(1) Christ reveals the Father as the supreme Object of faith. The Son as yet was a Revealer of the Father as the supreme Object of faith.
(2) His mission naturally and directly led faith to the Father.
(3) Faith in him was as yet a stepping-stone to faith in the Father. The introduction—the first resting-place of faith on her upward flight to the Supreme. There would be a time when Christ would be revealed as the special Object of faith; but now the Father is revealed as such, and the Revealer keeps in the background.
(4) Yet faith in Christ involves faith in the Father. No one can believe in Christ without believing in the Father. There is such an essential and official connection between the Sender and the Sent that faith in one involves faith in the other. When faith embraces the Son it finds the Father.
2. A spiritual vision of Christ involves a spiritual vision of the Father. "He that seeth me," etc.
(1) Christ is the express Image of his Person.
(2) The express Reflection of his character and attributes.
(3) The express Revelation of his will and purposes.
3. Faith in Christ alone made full faith in the Father possible.
(1) Knowledge is essential to faith. We must know God to some extent before we can exercise an intelligent faith in him. Indeed, appropriated knowledge is faith. "This is life," etc.
(2) Christ alone fully revealed God to mankind, and furnished them with knowledge concerning him. "I am come a Light into the world."
(3) Faith in Christ, as the Light, alone can result in faith in the object which it reveals. "That whosoever believeth on me," etc. The enjoyment of light can alone save us from darkness, and bring us face to face with the objects around us. The enjoyment of Christ by faith alone can bring us to enjoy the Father.
II. THE MISSION OF CHRIST IN' RELATION' TO UNBELIEF.
1. Unbelief develops itself in two ways.
(1) In attentive hearing but non-observance. (verse 47.)
(2) Entire rejection. (verse 48.)
2. Both these classes incur judgment.
(1) Not directly by Christ. "I judge him not."
(2) The primary purpose of Christ's mission was not judgment.
(3) Its primary purpose was salvation.
3. The unbeliever's judge is Christ's message. "The Word that I spake," etc.
(1) Judgment is the secondary result of Christ's Word. Its primary and natural result is eternal life. Man turns it into judgment by rejection. When it fails to save on account of unbelief it judges and condemns.
(2) The judgment of the Word is partly present. "He hath," etc. Now the unbeliever is condemned by his own reason and conscience, and in the light of the Word he is self-condemned.
(3) It is more suitable that the Word should judge now than if Christ were to do so. He could not directly judge and save at the same time. But his Word must condemn when it fails to benefit.
(4) The final and full judgment of the Word will be in the future. "At the last day," etc. Then the judgment by the Word will be published, and reach its finality. The Word, like Christ, is unchangeable. The rejected Word will judge. It will be the same at the last day as now, and will deliver its final verdict.
III. THE MISSION OF CHRIST IN RELATION TO HIMSELF AND THE FATHER.
1. His mission was purely Divine.
(1) It was not self-derived. "I have not spoken of myself," etc. This in his case would be an impossibility, for he and the Father are one.
(2) It was not a mixture of the human and the Divine.
(3) It was purely the will of the Father.
2. His mission was minutely defined.
(1) It was embodied in a Divine command. (verse 49.)
(2) This command embraced the minutest details of his mission. "What I should say and speak," etc.
(3) This command was ever present to him in his inward consciousness, written as a law in his heart. It was the inspiration of every thought and the burden of every word. It was, in fact, a part of himself.
3. His mission was fully understood by him. "And I know," etc.
(1) Understood in its natural results. "Life everlasting."
(2) Understood in its awful importance. The fate of the human family hung on his message.
(3) Understood most absolutely. "I know." It is not "I think or believe."
4. His mission was most faithfully discharged.
(1) Without any additions.
(2) Without any deductions.
(3) With the most devoted fidelity. With regard to its substance and spirit, it was discharged with the greatest care. There was no partiality for favors, no evasions on account of frowns, no pandering to taste, no fishing for praise; there was no attempt to please any one but his Father.
IV. THE MISSION OF CHRIST IN RELATION TO ITS LAST PUBLIC NOTES.
1. There was intense earnestness. "He cried," and why?
(1) There was great danger. Judgment was at hand.
(2) There was a slight possibility to avert it. There was a little intervening time. It was brief, but must be used, and his message must be published.
(3) It was his last opportunity. His farewell sermon to the public.
2. A special effort is made. "He cried."
(1) He was intensely desirous to gain hearing and attention.
(2) He was intensely desirous to be understood.
(3) He was intensely desirous to be believed. Hence he did what was unusual for him—"he cried;" and the ministry to this day is the echo of that cry of Jesus.—B.T.
HOMILIES BY GEORGE BROWN
A good work wrought in season.
When Jesus lay, a helpless Infant, in the manger at Bethlehem, there came strangers from the East and poured rich offerings at his feet—gold and frankincense and myrrh; and now that he was about to leave the world, an unexpected act of homage was done to him, not indeed by a stranger, but by a gentle and unobtrusive disciple. The occasion was this. Our Lord, weary with his journey from the country beyond Jordan, his last long earthly journey, was resting the last sabbath of his earthly life at his favorite Bethany. There they made him a supper, and the disciples were present, and Martha was in waiting, and Lazarus, as might be expected, was a noted guest. It was then that Mary took her pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly—we may well suppose the most precious thing which she possessed—and poured it on Jesus' feet as he reclined at the banquet, and wiped his feet with her hair. The evangelist takes care to note that "the house was filled with the odor of the ointment," and it has been beautifully said that" the Church, which is the house of God, still smells the fragrance, of that woman's spikenard;" for how wonderfully have the words of Jesus, which we may borrow from another Gospel, been fulfilled, "Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be told for a memorial of her"! And how does the consciousness of his own Divine authority burst forth in these words of Jesus! Who else was ever certain that by a simple word he could make an action memorable till the end of time? Consider—
I. THE MOTIVES OF MARY'S ACT OF HOMAGE. One of them at least lies on the surface. Jesus had not been in Bethany since he raised Lazarus from the dead; and when Mary saw her brother sitting at the same table with him who turned her mourning into joy, could any gift be too great or precious to express her gratitude?
"Her eyes are homes of silent prayer,
Nor other thought her mind admits:
But he was dead, and there he sits;
And he that brought him back is there."
This was enough; but there was a deeper obligation still. It was not in vain that Mary herself had sat at Jesus' feet and heard his Word. She knew that he was the Christ, the Savior of the world. He had come to deliver her and all believers from a deeper darkness than that of the tomb, and a death more terrible than the death of the body. Gentle and amiable as she was, she could not receive the gift of eternal life without "dying unto sin;" and who can doubt that it was with a contrite and forgiven heart that she poured her precious ointment on the feet of Jesus? This gave the alabaster box its highest value. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit." But once more. Had Mary the impression that so fitting an opportunity of testifying her gratitude to the Redeemer might never occur again? She was not called, like his disciples, to follow him from place to place as he went about preaching the kingdom, and the visits of Jesus to Bethany were necessarily few in number. She could not, indeed, have foreseen all that was coming so soon—the conspiracy, the betrayal, the cross of agony and shame. She could not have known that on the very next sabbath her beloved Master would be lying cold and still in Joseph's sepulcher. But, on the other hand, Jesus had spoken again and again to his disciples of his approaching death and departure to the Father. They indeed were incredulous; but some report of his words would reach Mary's ears. An undefined presentiment that her Master was not to be long upon earth may well have arisen in her mind, and all the more eagerly would she seize the present opportunity of doing him honor. Hence "she did what she could."
II. THE GENERAL MURMUR. While the house was filled with the odor of the ointment, a murmur of dissatisfaction arose. It came first from the lips of the traitor. "Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred pence [about £10], and given to the poor? and this he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief," etc. This picture of the son of perdition is almost too painful to dwell upon. His blindness to the moral loveliness of Mary's action. His vexation at losing an imagined chance of plunder. His avarice, his jealousy; and, worst of all, his mask so readily assumed of zeal for the cause of the poor! So ripe was he for Satan's last temptation, that the next thing we read of him is his stealing away to the priests at Jerusalem to bargain with them about his Master's blood, and sell his own soul. "When lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." But while Judas stood alone in his covetousness and hypocrisy, we learn from the Gospel of Matthew that others joined him in his censure of Mary of Bethany. The disciples said, "To what purpose is this waste?" Their common thought was, "This sacrifice is too great, too costly for the occasion. The spikenard is of great price. Surely it would have been better to bestow its value on the poor. To spend it on an evanescent fragrance is extravagance and waste." Here pause for a moment. Are we certain that, had we ourselves been present, we might not have joined in the rising murmur? At all events, how often has the spirit of the censure broken out afresh? It is not so long ago since the Churches of our own country awoke to the duty of preaching Christ to the heathen world. But missions are costly things, and often they produce but little visible fruit for many days. They seem to spend their fragrance on the desert air. And how long and loud was this complaint!—"'To what purpose is this waste?' Might not the money and labor of Christian people be better bestowed? Are there not poor at home to be fed and clothed? and are there not home-heathen to be taught? Let such duties as these be exhausted before thinking of 'the regions beyond.'" No! Utility is one standard of action; but both in the service of God and man it is far from being the only standard.
III. THE VERDICT OF JESUS. "Let her alone: against the day of my burial hath she kept this." Instead of directly rebuking the disciple, he contents himself with vindicating her whom they were wounding with their words. But there is more in his words than meets the ear. "Let her alone," he seems to say to Judas," for there is nothing in common between her and you, between a child of light and a child of darkness. And let her alone, ye unthinking disciples. Allow her gratitude to flow unchecked in the channel which it has worn for itself. Why trouble ye the woman at such a moment as this? She hath done what she could, and she hath done more than any of you are aware of, for my hour is near at hand. If ye saw her do this on the day of my burial, would ye say to her then, To what purpose is this waste? Would ye think then of balancing the claims of common charity against the claims of unbounded gratitude? But since she has come beforehand with her offering, it is all the more precious in my sight. She alone has grasped the thought that my earthly ministry is drawing to a close. The poor ye have always with you; she alone has laid it to heart that me ye have not always." Thus Judas was silenced, and the disciples were overawed, and Mary was comforted, and the poor were not forgotten. What lessons are taught by this episode in the gospel history? In its outward form and substance the act of Mary can never be repeated. It stands alone. A few days came and went, and never again was Jesus to be indebted to the sons of men for a place where to lay his head; never again were his feet to be wearied with the hot and dusty paths of this world. Henceforth those who knew Christ in his humiliation were to know him so no more; and we need not say that to idolize his empty sepulcher, or to pray towards it as some do, or, saddest of all, to waste the blood of Christian nations in fighting for its possession, is at best to seek the living among the dead. "Hearts on high!" was the watchword of the ancient Church. "Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him."
1. But ask yourselves—Have you anything of Mary's spirit in your hearts—the spirit of love and gratitude to the Redeemer? Where that spirit exists it will tend to diffuse itself over the ordinary duties and charities of life, so that what you do you will "do heartily as to the Lord, and not unto man." But more than this. It is of the nature of love to be ingenious and original in its ways of expressing itself, and opportunities will sometimes occur of honoring Christ in ways which no one could prescribe to you—it may be in supporting his cause, it may be-in showing kindness to his people; and these you will think it a privilege to embrace simply for his sake. Nothing was further from Mary's thoughts than the fame which followed her action; any such calculation of consequences would have spoiled the sacrifice. And so it will ever be with the good works that spring from love to Christ. The impulse which inspires them comes from within, and not from the world without. Hence they will evermore be spontaneous and free, and yet all the more, in the apostle's language, they will be as "the odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable and well-pleasing to God."
2. When you witness any act of self-sacrifice in a great or good cause, beware of the spirit of jealousy and detraction. Let a work be ever so good, it is always possible to find fault with it on one ground or another—to call generosity extravagance, and zeal ostentation. Ah! there is a kind of criticism which sees some mote in the most honest eye, some vein of selfishness in the kindest heart, which is quick to detect unworthy motives, and "vaunteth itself" in its own acuteness in so doing. Verily this wisdom cometh not from above, and yet how strangely congenial it is to our fallen nature! It was in a moment of hallowed enthusiasm that Mary poured her spikenard on Jesus' feet; but even Jesus' disciples murmured till the Master stamped the offering with the broad seal of his approbation, and called it "a good work"!
3. We do no dishonor to the affecting words, "Me ye have not always," if we allow them to suggest to us the homely counsel, "Be kind to your friends while you have them." Are there not some who have nearer, dearer claims on you than all others? It may be an aged parent, a brother or a sister, or one closer to you still. Providence marks out that person for your special sympathy, for a tenderness to which the rest of the world has no claim. Do what you can for that friend. The tie may any day be broken, and only the memory of it remain. See that no negligence or impatience on your part may yet tinge that memory with self-reproach. "The poor ye have always with you," but no kindness to the outside world will atone for the neglect of personal claims. There are those who will not be with you always. Christ seems to say to you, "Remember them."—G.B.
John 12:24, John 12:25
Mors janua vitro.
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone," etc. These words belong to the day of Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem—the day of palms. Amidst the general enthusiasm, certain Greeks, who had come up to worship at the feast, asked the Apostle Philip to obtain for them a private interview with Jesus. Philip consulted with Andrew, and the two together laid the request before their Master. Our Lord was deeply moved—his reply even thrills with emotion; and why was this? Here were representatives of the great Gentile world waiting for him, seeking after him, ready, it would appear, to enter his kingdom. But not till he had been rejected by his own, not till he had been glorified by his death and resurrection, could he open his arms to receive them. Hence he regarded the request of the Greeks as a sign that the crisis of his course was at hand; not that he needed such a sign, but he hailed it and welcomed it as it came, even while his "soul was troubled" as he looked through the vista which opened up between him and the joy set before him. "The hour is come," etc. (John 12:23). For Christ's way to glory was through death. Yet a few days, and his own disciples and the inquiring Greeks, and all who loved and admired him, would be appalled by the dread spectacle on Calvary. How, then, was our Lord to speak of what was coming in the presence of the people who surrounded him? How should he foreshadow the glory of his cross and the everlasting fruitfulness of his precious death and burial? He chose to do so in words dark indeed and mysterious at the moment they were uttered, but which would cling to the memories of those who loved him, and which were soon to be explained for them and for all mankind.
I. Our Lord's first saying is this, that HIS DEATH AND RESURRECTION HAVE A PERPETUAL EMBLEM IN THE KINGDOM OF NATURE. "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die," etc. This language is, of course, popular and familiar (for it takes no notice of the invisible germ in such a seed that does not die). But plainly a grain Of wheat must cease to be a grain, it must undergo a death-like change, a death-like transformation, before it springs up and bears its appointed fruit. Suppose one such seed carried to some region of the earth, if such there be, where wheat is still unknown; let it be kept and treasured up as a precious thing, and year after year it abides alone, perfect in itself but fruitless for mankind. But let the same seed fall into the ground" taste cold and darkness and oblivion there," and ere long it will enter on a higher life and bear fruit and multiply itself, and in after years it may be said that all the harvests of the land sprang from that single seed. With the words, "Verily, verily!" with a twice-repeated "Amen!" our Lord applies to himself this mystery of nature. In him was treasured up the life of the world—"the bread of God that cometh down from heaven." But only by the sacrifice of himself could he impart this life to others. Without death his ministry would have remained unfulfilled for its highest ends. His bright and beautiful example taken by itself would have founded no kingdom. Had he abode on earth on some mount of transfiguration, and then been translated like Enoch, so that he should not see death, then, like a golden grain of wheat, he would have remained alone, without a ransomed Church on earth or a triumphant Church in heaven. But such was not the object of his mission. His heart was set on bearing much fruit, and even now he foresaw the harvest. Looking down the stream of time and abroad on the great world, he saw the Churches of the Gentiles, each with its company of believers springing into life through his death and resurrection, and spreading in wider and still wider circles in the regions beyond. In crowded cities and in quiet villages, in far-off lands and in the islands of the sea, they should be found. And as in nature the fruit ever resembles the seed, so it is in the kingdom of grace. Christ's spiritual offspring must needs bear his image and likeness. This was the harvest that filled our Lord's field of vision—a great multitude, which no man can number, each one of them washed by his blood and sanctified by his Spirit. This was the joy that he set before him when he endured the cross and despised the shame. Dying, he should rise again, and bear much fruit.
II. Our Lord's second saying is this, that HIS DEATH AND RESURRECTION HAVE A PERPETUAL LESSON IN THE KINGDOM OF GRACE. (John 12:25.) "He that loveth his life shall lose it; but he that hateth his life," etc. Now, no doubt when we read these words, we naturally think first of all of the noble army of martyrs, each of whom added his dying "Amen!" to them. We cannot forget that in many ages and in many lands certain of Christ's disciples have been called literally to drink his cup and to be baptized with his baptism, sealing with their own blood their testimony to his cause. This they did on the faith of his promise, believing that where Christ is there shall also his servants be. And we may well remember, too, how fruitful their example has been. The blood of the martyrs has been called, from early times, the seed of the Church. Not in vain did they lay down their lives. "Fear not, brother Ridley," said Latimer, on the way to the stake; "we shall this day light a candle in England which will never be put out." But this sharp paradox is not merely a watchword for the forlorn hope of the army of the faith. In one form or another it was repeatedly on Jesus' lips, addressed too, as it is here, to all his disciples. Its meaning is this—"The life that is hoarded up for selfish ends must needs be a lost and barren one; and it is only hating such a life that we can bring forth fruit for God and eternity." But even thus explained this is a hard saying. For what is the kind of life which Christ's disciples are forbidden to love? Surely our Lord does more than condemn a life of vicious indulgence and wild extravagance, or of grasping greed and oppression. It needs no paradox to impress on us that such a career is self-ruined and thrown away. No] he is speaking more widely and sweepingly of a life of self-seeking and self-pleasing—such a life, in fact, as is natural to us all. We need no one to teach us how to lead it. The spirit of the present world fosters it and feeds it, and even natural conscience offers all too feeble a protest against it. The self-centered enjoyment of an earthly portion seems to the multitude the one thing needful, and their posterity approve their sayings. You all know the parable which describes this favorite type of happiness and success—the busy prosperous worldling who heaped up treasure for himself, and was not rich towards God; and many of you may remember Tennyson's poem founded on the parable—
"I built my soul a lordly pleasure-house,
Wherein at ease for aye to dwell;
I said, 'O soul, make merry and carouse,
Dear soul, for all is well.'"
Ah! such a life may be stained by no crimes; it may be enriched by intellectual culture and adorned with the spoils of art, but yet, weighed in the balances of Heaven, it is found wanting. He that loveth such a life as this is losing it; and when it is all spent and gone an awful voice will say to him who made it his portion and idol, "Thou fool!" But this is not the life of Christ's disciples. In coming to him they renounce it at the first; in following him they learn to mortify it day by day. They must hate it as a soldier would hate the life purchased by cowardice before the enemy, or as a patriot would hate the life bought by treason to his country; and lest they should forget this, our Lord puts it more sternly before them in those words of his. And where shall we find the motive—the deep secret of this "great renunciation"? I reply—In the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. For while that accepted sacrifice of his stands sublimely alone as an atonement for the sins of the world, it has at the same time a wondrous transforming influence on all who come to him by faith. The "mind of Christ" is given to them by God's Holy Spirit. The love of Christ constrains them. In view of him who died for their sins, their old self-seeking life loses its attraction; in view of him who rose again and lives forevermore, they see before them what is far better—a life which has God for its Center, and love for its ruling principle, and eternity for its boundless horizon. Ah! this is the true life of man, the chief end of his creation; and while it was partly revealed under the old covenant, when there was a cloud on the mercy-seat and a veil on the holy of holies, we may say with the highest truth that it was manifested in Christ Jesus, and brought to light in the gospel. "The life was manifested, and we have seen it."
APPLICATION. Now, this great lesson of Christ's appearance among us is one which Christians are never done with in this world.
1. Beware of forgetting it in the day of prosperity. When projects succeed, and riches increase, "and men are praising thee because thou doest well unto thyself," remember that your true life consists not in the abundance of the things that you possess, but in receiving Christ's fullness and being inspired by his Spirit. How shall you be preserved from abusing the kindness of Providence, and from wasting and spoiling God's common gifts and mercies? Where shall you find a perpetual motive to being rich in good works, patient in service, unwearied in well-doing? Think of your Master and of what he has done for you. No doubt you are softened into gratitude and love when you meet with others at his table, and take into your hands the memorials of his body and blood. But these emotions, if they are true, will ripen into deep principles within you. Think what an example he has left, that you should follow in his steps. He was certainly no ascetic like John the Baptist, dwelling in a lone wilderness estranged from social life and the companionship of friends. But "even Christ pleased not himself." Wherever he went some blessing fell. The aim he kept in view was not his own ease nor his own glory, but the will of him that sent him. Oh! put on the Lord Jesus Christ if you would spend and be spent in the service of God and man.
2. Remember this lesson in the day of sifting trial. You are by no means called to invent crosses for yourselves, or perversely overstep God's providential path in quest of them. But there are times in the life of every disciple when the plain path of obedience is hard. Christ may call you to forego for his sake some friendship, some advantageous opening, and you may think this a cruel sacrifice. His voice may summon you to leave your quiet nest of coveted repose, and spend time and sympathy on ungrateful people and amidst uncongenial scenes. Unbelief whispers that you will only labor in vain, and spend your strength for naught. Why impoverish your life for such uncertain returns? Why scatter precious seed in such unpromising soil? Yet think again what a world it was to which he came, and how poor you would be without him; and listen to his own words, "If any man serve me, let him follow me, and where I am there also shall my servant be."—G.B.
HOMILIES BY D. YOUNG
A sister's expression of gratitude.
What a remarkable company was here gathered together!
1. Jesus, within about a week of his death, and distinctly apprehending what was before him.
2. His host, Simon the leper, not mentioned here, but mentioned by Matthew and Mark—a man who, in all probability, had his own occasion of gratitude to Jesus.
3. Lazarus, just brought back from the grave, and in company with Jesus, who was going down to it.
4. Martha and Mary.
5. The disciples. So the company was neither a small nor a commonplace one, and in its midst there was done a deed which Jesus said should be told as a memorial of the doer wherever the gospel was preached.
I. MARY HAD THE VERY STRONGEST REASON FOR DOING SOMETHING. No doubt Mary had done all she could in the way of words. But just because words are so easy and inadequate, the real grateful heart wants to do something in addition. Araunah offered David a place for an altar, and oxen for burnt offerings; but the king replied in a way that was kingly and right: "I will not offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing." And so Mary seems to have said, "I will not offer to my Master and Benefactor thank offerings which cost me nothing." The occasion, the raising of a brother from the dead, certainly was not beyond the deed. And we too have occasion for something great in the way of thank offering to Jesus. Doing nothing, or next to nothing, for Jesus, we give a pretty clear proof that Jesus has not been allowed to do his great work for us. Mary had yet a richer thank offering to make for a greater service. Jesus had to bring back Mary herself from another death, even her own death in trespasses and sins, and in due time she would learn to present her own self a living sacrifice, a reasonable service.
II. THE FAULT FOUND WITH MARY'S THANKSGIVING. Judas, it is very plain, looked upon Mary's act as one that had robbed him of a fine chance of thievish gain. But at this time the disciples had not found him out. We read in Matthew, that the other disciples had indignation, and said, "To what purpose is this waste?" Judas was doubtless the leader, and the others readily chimed in. As it has been said, "Censure infects like a plague." Nor must we look only at the positive fault-finding. If no fault had been found, still there would have been lack of appreciation. The absence of blame is not the presence of praise. It was peculiarly a woman's way of showing gratitude. It took a Being like Jesus, who understands all the movements of the heart, in woman as in man, to appreciate the gift and act of grateful Mary. Even Martha would hardly understand Mary, though it was not an occasion for her to say anything.
III. MARY FINDS A MIGHTY DEFENDER IN JESUS. "The Lord God is a Sun and Shield." Jesus had risen, a true Sun of quenchless light, on the dark, dark night of Mary's sorrow—a night that seemed without a single star; and now he comes as a Shield, to shelter her from the darts of an avaricious foe. Mary did her best, according to knowledge and opportunity. Jesus eared very little for the fragrant spikenard in itself; the perfume from a thousand gardens is his. The fragrance was not in the gift, but in the giving. And who can tell but what Mary was really helping the poor? If she spent three hundred pence and more with the growers and makers of spikenard, that would help to prevent them getting poor. It is better to do this than help the poor when they are poor. But Mary was also doing more than she knew. The deep impulse of love was also an impulse from above. Jesus indicates how we are to show our gratitude. Judas helped him to the hint. We can do nothing for Jesus according to the flesh. Gratitude to Jesus is now to be service to men. The One that could be anointed went from the earth long ago; but the One that can be served and pleased in a thousand ways is here still.—Y.
The triumphal entry.
I. WHAT PRECEDED THIS TRIUMPHAL ENTRY. All the Galilsean and other ministries outside of Jerusalem must have contributed to this enthusiastic demonstration. It is often taken as an illustration of popular fickleness that the multitude said "Hosanna!" one day, and the next day, "Crucify him!" But it is very doubtful if the component elements of the multitude were the same. Those who cried "Hosanna!" were people who had seen Jesus do wonderful works in their own cities and villages. Some of them, doubtless, had known in their own persons his healing power. More still would have occasion to be thankful and happy for mercies vouchsafed to their relatives. Those whom Jesus blessed directly and indirectly during his ministry of flesh and blood must have been indeed a multitude. To them the kingdom of God had indeed come in power, and they had the best right to expect still greater and deeper manifestations when things were ripe for them.
II. THE EXPECTATIONS OF THE PEOPLE. They had been blessed individually. Now they wanted to be blessed as a people, nationally, collectively. Praise and prayer would be combined in their "Hosanna!" They would welcome Jesus as already a royal victor, and at the same time signify their belief that he had greater victories yet in store.
III. JESUS ACCEPTING THE HONOR. Jesus was now doing what he had declined to do in John 7:6. His time had fully come—the time of crisis and publicity. The time had come for Jesus to take to him his great power and reign. Therefore, though he knew well how deluded the people were as to the true nature of his mission, yet he accepted their homage and jubilation as directed toward the right Person, and offered at the right time. Not, of course, that Jesus cared for this exhibition in itself. His true joy and satisfaction were clearly from purer sources than the applause of the multitudes. But this triumphal procession was symbolical of that glad, triumphant attitude which the true people of Jesus are ever able to maintain. The kingdom of God in Christ is ever coming; and the multitudes who watch and acclaim its growth are ever swelling in numbers, and uttering louder and heartier shouts of welcome. What Jesus has done, truly measured, may well make us confident of his resources for the mighty work that has yet to be done.—Y.
The fruitfulness of the dying Jesus.
These words come very abruptly into the narrative. But looking carefully into all the circumstances, the fitness of the words is soon seen. If these Greeks had come earlier, and come into Galilee in the thick of the Galilaean ministry, Jesus would have said, "Let them come and welcome. They shall see the works of the Christ in great abundance." But they have come just too late. Jesus has done his last great work in the body according to the flesh—he has raised Lazarus from the dead. These Greeks have come a little too late for one set of experiences, and a little too soon for another. Any day up to the time of sowing the seed you may see it; but when sown, you must wait to see the seed in the glory of the fruit that comes from it.
I. SEASONS WHEN THE WORDS ARE SPECIALLY SUGGESTIVE.
There might be an ecclesiastical calendar according to the order of nature. Jesus would have us think specially of his death at the sowing-time, when the corns of wheat are being scattered abroad over so much of the surface of God's earth. What an immense quantity of grain finds its way into the soil the wide world over! And every one sowing, and every one who sees the sowing, is invited to consider that most wondrous of all seed-corns laid away in the soil when Jesus breathed his last natural breath. And as to natural emblems and reminders of the resurrection, there is a long time in which to study them. The moment we see the delicate blades timidly peeping above the surface, then the word comes to our hearts that Jesus also rose from the dead; and then at last, when, instead of the seed that was sown, we behold the stalk with its hundredfold, why, we are helped to feel what a difference there is between Jesus in the days of his flesh and Jesus according to his resurrection from the dead.
II. WE MUST LOOK AS CLOSELY AS POSSIBLE AT THE WORDS. The more closely, the more encouraging and inspiring they will be. Put a corn of wheat away in a drawer. Leave it for twelve months, and then look. It is there still, abiding alone. But put that corn of wheat into a flower-pot. Let it grow till it is ripe, and then you have a great company of grains of wheat exactly similar to the one you sowed. This indicates just what Jesus wants as the greatest result of his presence among men. He wanted to see countless multitudes with a spirit and a character like his own—holy as he was holy, loving as he was loving, and becoming fit for the glory to which he himself was going. During the days of his flesh, he remained like the unsown corn of wheat, alone. He produced nothing like himself. People would not say of his disciples when they met them, "What good, holy, lovable men these are!" How could anybody say that of them, seeing that not long before their Master's death they were wrangling which should be the greatest? But what a difference when Jesus has died and risen again! Jesus no longer abides alone. He is truly the Firstborn among many brethren. If we be true Christians at all, we are more like Christ than we are to those of our fellow-men who are not Christians. Jesus sees great differences where we see great resemblances, and vice versa. It is demanded of all the children of the heavenly Father that they should be fruitful, and to this end they are to be as branches in the vine. And he who is peculiarly the Son of the Father sets the example that makes our fruitfulness possible. The risen Savior himself brings forth much fruit. A handful of corn has been sown in the earth on the top of the mountains, and the fruit thereof shakes like Lebanon. There is a double resurrection. Not only did Jesus rise again in his own proper personality; he has also risen again in that great multitude concerning every one of whom this is true, "I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." There is no way of making Christians except through the Spirit of the living Christ working in them. A stalk of wheat cannot be got save by sowing the seed from which it is to spring. And so, too, Jesus himself must be the principle in us of a new, a holy, and an eternal life.—Y.
The Father glorifying his Name.
I. THE DESIRE OF JESUS FOR HIS FATHER'S GLORY. Jesus did not seek that the eyes of men should be fixed in admiration on him. With powers such as never belonged to any other being of flesh and blood, he never used them for his own advancement among men. The pleasures of human ambition and human fame were far from his heart. No one truly glorifies Jesus unless he glorifies the Father of Jesus. Jesus was glad to find men drawn to him in ever-increasing numbers; he would be glad to find such as these Greeks who had just been inquiring for him; but all the time he felt how there was another Name and another power to which human attention needed to be increasingly directed. The name of Jesus had been already made glorious after a fashion; men had made it glorious. They talked about Jesus; no name would be better known through the land than his; but all the time Jesus felt that he was getting the fame which was only his in part. It was right and serviceable that men should talk of him; but that talk would only lead into delusion and disappointment unless they could talk of his Father also.
II. THE EFFORTS OF JESUS TO GLORIFY HIS FATHER. HOW he kept the Name of his Father before his disciples! He talked of the Father as of One with whom he was in constant and most familiar connection. But men could not see the Father as they could see Jesus, and hence the Father-Name remained but a name. And thus we have this strange fact to notice, that whereas Jesus came to reveal the Father, he rather seemed at first to hide him. The fact was that Jesus hid the revelation of the Father for a while in himself, just as the revelation of the full-developed plant is hidden in the seed. Jesus had to speak of things which his audience understood not as yet; but those same things would by-and-by be unveiled, and not only unveiled, but the brightest light of heaven would be cast upon them.
III. THE FATHER GLORIFYING HIS NAME. The hour was impending when Jesus would appear to the natural man utterly weak, shorn of his habitual strength and resources, just as Samson was when he lost his locks. Many a one would be puzzled to reconcile the Jesus, so mighty in doing wonderful works in Galilee, with the Jesus seemingly so helpless in the hands of his enemies at Jerusalem. But eclipse is not the same thing as destruction. Jesus went into obscurity for a little while that the glory of the Father might more distinctly appear. When Jesus breathed his last, the Father got the opportunity, to be fully used, of glorifying his Name. And then the Church entered fully upon its privilege, and was permitted to behold the Father glorifying himself in the Son, and the Son correspondently glorified in the Father.—Y.
The all-attracting Jesus.
I. THE AIMS AND HOPES OF JESUS DIFFERENT FROM THOSE TO WHOM HE SPOKE. Those who questioned and criticized him cared for no country but their own. Not that they were ignorant of other Countries, for they went to live in them, but they still kept communion and close touch with Jerusalem. The Jew liked to make money out of the Gentile, and so he would go and live in the Gentile city, but it never seemed to strike him that the God of the Jew was God also of the Gentile, and that the Christ for whom the Jew waited was needed by the Gentile just as much. But Jesus, being himself the Christ, longed inexpressibly for the hour when he should begin to draw all men to himself. Even in the days of his flesh he began to draw the Gentiles. For even as Jews went to dwell in Gentile lands, so Gentiles came to dwell in the Jewish land; and when Jesus went about doing good, humanity in all its pressing need overleaped the bounds of nationality, and came to him for help.
II. OUR AIMS AND HOPES ARE ALSO DIFFERENT. Most part of men certainly do not care to be drawn to Jesus. Jesus is interested in everybody, while our deep, underlying desire is to get as many people as possible interested in us. We are mightily grieved if other people do not think almost as much about us as we do about ourselves. But it is not quite so much a matter of course to be interested in other people. And to be interested in Jesus, to set ourselves in real sober earnest to find out all we can about him, may strike us as an eminently unpractical thing.
III. Look AT THIS DRAWING POWER IN THE EXERCISE OF IT.
1. The purpose of Jesus is clear. He made that abundantly plain while he lived under the conditions of ordinary humanity. The times of retirement and avoidance of men were only exceptional. The miracles of Jesus were advertisements in the best sense of the word. His wondrous works were things that people talked about, and were meant to have this effect.
2. The motive also is clear. All were to be drawn, because of the need of all. We all need Jesus, just as every growing plant in the field needs the sunshine and the rain. As none can live the natural life without air and food, so none can live the higher life without Jesus. We can never be what we were meant to be, until Jesus the Christ is using us for himself. We are like unlighted candies, and Jesus alone can light us. The glory of a candle is in its burning, and the glory of a human being is in his shining Christianity. We ourselves feel the paramount claim of need upon us, and shall Jesus not feel it?
3. The means must be noticed. Drawing, not driving. The only effectual compulsion is that of love. We must be drawn because we cannot help it. So long as we prefer self-indulgence, ease, mere drifting, we shall not be drawn. We must come within the circle of which Jesus is the Center. Then shall we ever tend more and more toward that Center.—Y.
A warning to the traveler.
I. A HINT THAT HE IS MAKING NO PROGRESS. We are in this life like travelers, who have so much of their journey to do in so many hours. There is ample time if only they will keep steadily on, remembering that the sun does not stop, waiting on their convenience and their indolence. While these Jews were disputing, doubting, and deferring, their opportunities were slipping away. They talked as if their decision affected Jesus rather than themselves, as if the validity of his position depended on their assent, whereas it was the validity of their own position that came in question. Jesus was the Christ; he needed not to discuss that point among men, save as discussion made it clearer to them. And if men in their perversity chose to deny that Jesus was the Christ, assuredly they would get no other. We have to come to Jesus at last. We may think we have light among us, but if that light be darkness, then how great will that darkness be. We may be moving, but mere move-merit is not progress. Year after year finds no advance; we are older, that is all; but nothing nearer to the reward and crown of all true work.
II. WHAT MUST HAPPEN WHERE THE LIGHT OF JESUS IS TRULY USED. That light is not merely to exhibit what would otherwise be dark and hidden. Light comes that we may use our eyes, but use of eyes leads to use of hands and also use of feet. The word of Jesus here must be compared with his similar word in John 9:1-41., where he says, "The night cometh, when no man can work." The light of Jesus is given to us that we may make safe and speedy progress in all the activities of life. Thus we make the very best that can be made out of life's short opportunities.—Y.
John 12:42, John 12:43
Believing yet not confessing.
Here we have one of the mighty hindrances, one that explains a very great deal indeed, to the full acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Christ. Between the bold believers and the open unbelievers there is a very large class, which cannot but believe, yet will by no means avow its belief. Human beings are not so stupid and insensible in the presence of Jesus as they often seem to be. None can see better the fallacies and follies of unbelief, but they lack the courage and self-denial which turn belief into a full and profitable act. Suck were many of the chief rulers of Jerusalem after the resurrection of Lazarus.
I. WHAT THEY DID. They believed, but did not confess. If they confessed not, how did John know their belief? We find the answer in a very common experience; people will say things in private which you never can get them to utter in public. The now numerous companions of Jesus would be in constant communication with the outside world. Thus they knew how there was really a great deal of secret admission that Jesus was the Christ. And this is just what we might expect. If Jesus did these things he is reported to have done, with ample means for knowing it by multitudes of people, then certainly many must have been convinced, whatever they did with their convictions. We are never to estimate the lodgment Jesus has in the minds of men just by the number who confess him. Many feel in their hearts that Jesus is right. They know that if only they were brave and resolute, and counted truth as dear a treasure as human heart can hold, then they would come out and be on his side. Those who know they ought to be Christians, and yet are not, must be very many indeed.
II. WHY THEY DID IT. John goes into the whole matter, right down to the bottom of it. There is the reason people themselves would be ready to give, and there is also the real reason deep underneath the surface. People would be quite willing to admit that they dare not risk being put out of the synagogue. To express it in modern language, they would be excommunicated. They would be shut out from certain religious privileges. The doorkeepers of the temple would have orders to turn them away. The Pharisees knew what they were doing when they sent out word that if any man confessed Jesus to be the Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. Though they could not stop people from believing, they might stop them from confessing. Nothing considerable has ever been done for Jesus without stirring up a nest of hornets. But John knows there is a deeper reason than the fear of excommunication. Our attitude to Jesus is determined as much by what we love as by what we fear. Those who believed and did confess were drawn to Jesus by an irresistible affection. The same excommunication hung over them, but it did not deter. The disciples might not yet have come to the perfect love that casts out fear; but they knew this much—that faithful fellowship with Jesus was a pearl of great price, worthy to be kept, though in the keeping all visible possessions and temporal interests had to be surrendered. Love, not fear, must rule in our hearts, if we are to keep faithful to Jesus. Jesus himself was always above the threatenings of men, and he must lift his followers to the same elevation. When we really love Jesus, nothing can separate him from our love. Threats operating powerfully upon the man of this world never move the Christian.
III. THE RESULTS OF THIS SMOTHERED CONFESSION. Some present gain, but an incomparable future loss. The evil day has only been put off, to be more evil than ever. What most who hear the gospel need is courage and decision. And those who do confess had better look into things, and make sure that their confession is grounded in reality. It must not be a mere external and temporary consequence from the gregarious nature of mankind. We never can know the abiding gain without being ready for the passing loss.—Y.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on John 12". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29