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1. In the beginning Originally: before all things else.
Was the Word Not was created, or brought into existence, but was. Fix any assignable point as the beginning, and the Word was, and still was. That is, the Word is absolutely eternal.
The Word As mind manifests itself in the spoken word, so God, the eternal mind, manifests himself in the eternal LOGOS or Word. And as this Word is in John 1:14 said to have been made flesh, and in John 1:14; John 1:18 is called the only begotten of the Father, the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, so this Word by which God manifests his own hidden and unknowable nature is identified with Jesus the Messiah. The propriety and beauty of both the terms Word and Son, to designate that in God by which his absolute essence is revealed in the universe, are such that we might suppose them originated by the mind of the Evangelist himself, under the guidance of inspiration. But we know, historically, that the term Word is used in a somewhat similar sense in the Old Testament, in the old Jewish Targums, in the Jewish apocryphal writings, by the Greek philosopher, Plato, and Greekish Jew, Philo, of Alexandria. Consult Watson’s Institutes, Part II, chap. 12. and Clarke’s excellent notes on John 1:0. In the Old Testament the first chapter of Genesis describes the creation as taking place at the divine word spoken. We have, Genesis 15:1, “The WORD of the Lord came to Abraham.” 1 Samuel 3:21, “The Lord revealed himself by the word of the Lord.” 2 Samuel 7:21, “For thy word’s sake.” In the Targums we find the term Word, ( Memra,) used for God revealing himself. Thus they say, “The Wo rd [ Memra ] of Jehovah creates man.” “Jehovah thy God, his Word [ Memra ] goeth before thee.” “The Lord said unto his Word.” Philo applies such passages as we have above quoted from the Old Testament expressly to the Logos. He describes the Logos as being the image of God, the second God, the eldest son of the eternal Father, etc. The term Logos being thus prepared and used by uninspired writers and in different systems, John adapts and limits it to the true Christian use. This Logos, as now defined, is the second person in the Holy Trinity, incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ. The term “Word” is used in the New Testament by John alone in this sense.
Was with God Literal Greek, was TO God. The eternal word was inherent to, in, with, God. This mysterious inherence is, as Asthanasius said, “hid by the wings of the cherubim.”
The Word was God The Arians, who hold that the Word is inferior in essence to the supreme God, though superior to all other finite beings, read this clause the Word was a god. But there is no reason for interpreting this word God differently from the same word in the former part of this verse, or from the same word, God, in John 1:6; John 1:12-13, etc. The Arian hypothesis has a strong tendency to polytheism.
3. All things were made by him Rather, all things became, or came into existence, by him. The sublime opposite of nothingness.
Without… anything All that from nothing rose, rose not without him. There may be things in their own nature strictly eternal and uncreated, such as space and number; such as the antithesis of right and wrong. Such things the Logos made not; but made all things which were made in accordance with these eternal natures.
3-5. Our Evangelist traces in beautiful climax the ascending stages of the creative work of the Logos; namely, as producing existence, life, consciousness, natural, moral, and spiritual.
4. In him was life Life original and essential. For had he not possessed original life, neither life, nor motion, nor sense could have ever existed in the universe. And from his original life all other life is derived. And this life is more than mere existence. A thing may exist and yet have no life. Life is the opposite of death; existence is the opposite of annihilation or non-existence. Existence is at the bottom and is the basis, and life overlies it.
And the life was the light of men This life imparted by the Logos to man became the light; that is, the consciousness. It appears as the physical or sensitive consciousness by which men feel; the intellectual consciousness by which they perceive and reason. But this light, thus far, is possessed, more or less distinctly, by mere animals. But it is rather the light possessed by men alone, over and above mere animal nature, that our Evangelist speaks of. There is the moral and spiritual consciousness by which men have eternal and divine conceptions: such as conceptions of God, of absolute right, of holiness, and of immortality. And this highest consciousness of the human spirit is the basis of the operation of the divine Spirit in and upon man, by which he is able to be in himself a responsible and a holy being. Thus have we the climax of existence, of life, and of consciousness, intellectual and spiritual.
5. Light shineth in darkness Not only was there from the Logos a moral consciousness created in man’s original nature; but when, nevertheless, the moral and spiritual consciousness of men through sin again became dark and inert, the Logos, Christ, shed the beams of truth and love into it, unappreciated and unaccepted. This shining and rejecting existed in all ages; but specially during the incarnation, of which John is about to write.
6. There was a man Yes , a man; and that is a noble title; but what is it in comparison with the Logos?
Sent from God And so sent he has a grand going forth; but what is it compared to the eternal goings forth of the Logos?
6-8. Thus far the Evangelist has traced the Word from his eternity into his creation of things, his creation and original enlightening of man’s nature, and his shedding new but rejected light into man’s darkness. He is soon ( 9-18) to trace the entrance of the Logos into our living world; but he first takes care (6-8) that we shall not be led astray in our thoughts by mistaking for the Logos one who was not the Logos. The disciples of John the Baptist, even to a late date, maintained that he was the superior of Jesus. Our Evangelist John, with his brother James, had both been disciples of the Baptist; and he is, therefore, the very man to correct the error. He does so now by this preliminary statement; in which he brings John into a comparison of overwhelming inferiority with the supreme eternal Light.
8. Witness of that Light The Logos, as incarnate, is now by the Evangelist identified as the living Light. We have, then, Jesus and John as the Light and its witness. The entire body of prophets and the whole Old Testament were indeed witnesses to this Light; but John, the last of the prophets, was the only living personal witness to the living and personal Light. The term Light here becomes personal, and is rightly commenced with a capital.
9. The best commentators render this verse,
That was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlighteneth every man. The true Light In opposition to John, whom some supposed to be the true light; and in opposition to every false light.
Coming into the world For the Evangelist now traces, as before said, the Logos as coming by the incarnation into the living human world.
Every man Every child of Adam. Every human being is endowed by the Logos with a preparatory light, so that he need not be in that darkness which comprehends not the light. (See note on John 1:5.)
9-14. Having secured us from confounding him with another being, the Evangelist now traces the Logos as entering, operating, and dwelling in our living world.
10. He was in the world This clause confirms the interpretation just given of the previous verse, which refers the coming into the world to the Logos.
Made by him The Creator came into the world which he had created, but was unrecognized by the world; partly because he was disguised in the incarnation, and partly because the world, that is, the natural heart of man, refused to use the light mentioned in the ninth verse, and so became the darkness which comprehended not the light.
11. To his own This word own is in the plural neuter, and signifies own things, possessions, or properties. The second own is in the plural masculine, and signifies his own living beings; that is, men. As the landlord comes to his own estates, but his own tenants receive him not, so the Logos came to his own world of things, and his own world of creatures, men, did not receive him. This does not refer to his rejecters as Jews or as his countrymen, but to men, as his own responsible subjects.
12. But There were happy exceptions.
Power Not so much ability as right, prerogative.
Sons Rather, children. His name Which stands for all that his name comprehends. Our faith must embrace Christ in his fulness. And with how transcendent a fulness does the Evangelist’s description endow him! To receive him is faith in act. It is not, as Olshausen says, a mere susceptibility, but an activity; an appropriation of Christ by a free putting forth of the will.
13. Which were born Though the term regeneration but seldom appears in Scripture, yet the terms which variously express it are abundant.
Not of blood As the blood of the parent flows into the veins of the offspring.
Nor of the will of the flesh Nor from the carnal impulse of sensual nature.
Nor of the will of man Though the will of man be a previous condition upon which God regenerates, the will of man does not regenerate either another man or himself. Self-regeneration is an impossibility in fact and an absurdity in thought. Man consents, and God regenerates. Man repents, and God forgives. Man turns, and God converts. Man believes, and God justifies. But antecedent to either or all of these operations the divine Logos ENLIGHTENS every man, (John 1:9,) both by his own truth and power and by his Holy Spirit sent into the heart.
14. Word was made flesh So that which in the first verse was God, now is made flesh, God incarnate. He is made flesh not by ceasing to be Logos or God, but by investing himself with humanity. He does not become body, for that might imply that the Logos was the proper soul of the body and the substitute for a human soul. The incarnate is one Christ, perfect man and perfect God.
Dwelt among us There are in the Old Testament appearances of the angel-Jehovah, which have every proof of being transient manifestations of God himself to man. But their phenomenal bodies were not truly flesh, and so the Divine dwelt not among men permanently, but only appeared transiently.
His glory Moses on the contrary could not stand the effulgence of Jehovah. See Exodus 33:18-23. John beheld in vision the glory of Christ, (Revelation 1:12-17,) and fell as dead. The apostles beheld his glory at the transfiguration, and were struck with stupor. But this effulgence to the senses is but the symbol of that divinity which shone in the spirit, the words, and the works of the Incarnate.
Only begotten of the Father He who has thus far been styled the Word is now viewed as the Son. The terms we think beyond all question express essentially the same thing. Remove all physical elements from both, and conceive the pure spiritual import, and they express an ineffable derivation of the second person of the Trinity, in his divine nature, from the first person. We most easily conceive it as identical with the distinction between God as the eternal, unknowable background, and God as self-manifesting. Both are living God. But the latter is the living Word, the living Son, uttered, generated from the former. The difference between the Word and Son is, that, while the former most distinctly expresses revelation, the latter expresses personality. But as the former implies no physical lips or voice in the utterance, so the latter expresses no sex or real physical begetting.
Full This adjective agrees with the term
Word. Of grace and truth Grace to bring salvation to man; truth to guide him in the way to that salvation.
15. John bare witness of him Our Evangelist adduces the Baptist’s testimony not to prove (as he will in John 1:19-34) that Jesus, and not himself, was the Messiah; but to prove what he is just now saying, that the Messiah was truly of this exalted nature. And cried The great truth was maintained with a cry; a lofty voice that made the wilderness ring.
Cometh after me… preferred before me Put in the form of a paradox; my successor is my predecessor. He is my successor in time, my predecessor in a previous eternity. This was indeed crying up the divine Comer to his true divine height.
For he was before me Literally, he was my First. Not merely my former, but my absolute FIRST: first in the train of all my predecessors; therefore at the eternal beginning. The quotation of the Baptist’s words embraces but this verse, and then follows the Evangelist in continuance.
16. Of his fulness Namely, of grace and truth, as mentioned in John 1:14.
All we received This all embraces all men; being spoken in our character as
men. Grace for grace Grace additionally bestowed for grace improved. As light previously implanted by the Logos in man is necessary for his reception of light, so grace fundamentally bestowed upon man is the basis of all his possible reception of further grace. But that first grace ”a gracious ability” must be exerted by the free will of the agent; and then the Only Begotten adds grace additionally bestowed for grace originally improved.
17. The law was given by Moses The law is the expression of absolute justice, which in itself knows not grace nor mercy. This was given from God to men by Moses; but if there were nobody better than Moses, we should have had nothing but law alone. There would have been no grace to bring salvation from its penalty; no consequent truth to reveal that grace. These came, even into the Old Testament dispensation, by Jesus Christ. All the mixture of grace with law in the Old Testament is from Christ.
18. No man hath seen God… Son hath declared him The Evangelist winds up this exordium as he began it, with the declaration that the Son, like the Word, is the manifest God, revealing the God invisible and unknowable. In the 17th verse the Son gives, reveals, grace and truth; in the 18th he is the declarer or revealer of the infinite Unseen.
The only begotten This begetting is as truly figurative as the utterance of the Word is figurative. Derivation and infinite wisdom are expressed in the latter; derivation and infinite power are expressed in the former.
Only begotten Son Mr. Tregelles seems to have established the fact that the true reading is only begotten God. The passage thereby becomes a striking proof-text of the divinity of the Son.
In the bosom of the Father As the Word was in the divine intellect before its incarnation, so the Son was in the love, the bosom, the heart of God, before his earthly birth. The Wordship and the Sonship are equally divine, before the creation and the First Advent, and eternal.
The prologue of the Gospel has now terminated, and the narrative proper commences at this point; to which point the forty days’ Temptation in the Wilderness is the last preceding event. Nor is there, as sceptical critics have pretended, the slightest difficulty in finding ample place for the Temptation at this point.
FIRST testimony of the Baptist for Jesus, to a delegation from the Sanhedrim, 19-28.
19. Record Not a written, but a spoken, memorable testimony.
The Jews Our evangelist has a way of using the word Jews, as if he were not himself a Jew, and as if they were a foreign race. This arises, doubtless, not only from the fact that the nation has been overthrown, and that he is writing among and for Gentiles, but also from the fact that the Jews had been the deadly enemies of Christ and persecutors of his followers, and so had become, at the time of writing this Gospel, a distinct and hostile sect.
Who art thou? The scathing denunciation by John of the vices of the age had not spared these dignitaries. If they can get him to profess certain things in regard to his own character and mission, he may be arraigned to make his pretensions good, or undergo the punishment of an impostor. He completely eludes their plots.
§ 18. THREEFOLD TESTIMONY OF JOHN THAT JESUS, AND NOT HIMSELF, WAS THE MESSIAH, AND ITS EFFECTS, John 1:19-51 .
These three testimonies were made by John: first, to the delegation of priests and Levites, 19-28; second, to the people, 29-34; third, to two of his disciples, 35-37. John was now at Bethabara, (or rather Bethania or Bethany,) in the maturity of his ministry. See John 1:28. All Jerusalem and Judea had been aroused, and many of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 3:7) had come to his ministry to encounter his stirring admonitions. With perhaps some hostile purpose, the Sanhedrim sent a delegation to him for an explicit declaration of his mission. Our Evangelist, John, and his brother James, were at that time with the Baptist and his disciples, and our John was then able to hear those replies of the Baptist, which decided him afterwards to join Jesus, and which he now quotes in his Gospel to correct those misled disciples of the Baptist who were still claiming him to be superior to Jesus. At the time of John’s receiving this deputation, Jesus, having passed through his baptism and temptation, was now standing among the people, (John 1:26,) silently waiting the hour of his manifestation.
20. Not the Christ Some of his disciples may, in their pride, have given out that their master was the Messiah himself. This committee cross-examine him, and thus draw out a prompt and explicit denial, which our Evangelist adduces to silence all false claimants in John’s behalf.
21. Art thou Elias? John may have quoted the prophecy of Malachi as applicable to himself; and the Jews may have reported that he claimed to be the literal Elijah, risen from the dead. To this supposition, embraced in their question, he gives a prompt negative.
That Prophet The prophet foretold by Moses as like unto himself; (Deuteronomy 18:15,) and which some Jews identified as being Jeremiah. There is perhaps here a descending scale of names, the Messiah, Elijah, Jeremiah. After exhausting all special names, they press John to a full self-description, that they may give answer to those who sent them.
23. I am the voice John’s answer, while it evades all their malice, invests him with the dignity of being foretold by ancient prophecy. He humbly yet sublimely pronounces himself to be not the WORD, but a voice; yet what a voice! the heraldic voice of a divine warning to prepare the way for the great King.
24. Were of the Pharisees Who held most strenuously that no prophet, after Moses, had a right to introduce any new sacred usage, rite, or ceremony among the Mosaic institutions, except the arrived Messiah himself. The question then in the following verse, Why baptizest thou then? was a very peremptory one.
26. I baptize with water John’s answer is very pertinent. My baptism is the symbol and precursor of a real baptism by the great Baptizer.
Standeth one among you Not necessary that he was at that moment there standing; but that he was then living and being among the people, to them unknown.
28. In Bethabara Nearly all the ancient manuscripts read Bethany instead of Bethabara. The latter name was substituted for the former by Origen, because he knew a Bethabara but not a Bethany near the Jordan. Stanley, however, maintains that Bethabara is the right reading. If Bethany or Bethania is the true reading, it nevertheless may be in the Aramaic a different word, as well as a different place from the Bethany of Lazarus and his sisters on Mount Olivet. The former may be a word signifying the place of (ferry) boats; the latter the place of dates.
Perhaps this long-debated question has been rightly settled by a late very scholarly traveller in Palestine, Revelation Mr. Tristam, (1864,) who identifies Bethabara with Beth-Nimrah, a little north of the Bethabara on our map. It is probably the ford passed by the Baptist’s great type, Elijah the Tishbite, on his way to his ascension. Quarantania, the Mount of Temptation, is in sight. It is a place amply supplied with convenient waters. Its very name in the Septuagint, Baethanabra, is about half way between Bethany and Bethabara, and might be transformed either way or both ways. Numbers 32:36; Joshua 13:27.
SECOND testimony of the Baptist to Jesus That before the people, John 1:29-34.
29. The next day There were three days of testimony of John to Jesus, John 1:19; John 1:29; John 1:35. The last two were testimonies to the present Jesus.
Seeth Jesus coming unto him He who had been standing among them now singles himself out. To others’ eyes he is but an ordinary man; to the divinely-opened eyes of the Baptist there is a dignity in his person above all earthly dignity. And in Jesus there is a silence, at once elevated and meek, by which he waits to be attested, but must not say to the world, I am he, until his official introducer says, “
This is he.” Behold the Lamb of God The Lamb by God supplied for the sacrifice. Genesis 22:8. The term Lamb here used must have been full of meaning to the men of Jerusalem, who were accustomed every day to see two lambs taken to the great altar and sacrificed, one in the morning and one at evening. Dr. Gill tells us that “the Jewish doctors say that the morning daily sacrifice made atonement for the iniquities done in the night; and the evening sacrifice made atonement for the iniquities done by day.” Josephus tells us that “the Jews say that they offer sacrifice twice a day for Caesar and the people of the Romans.” And in his Antiquities, he says, “The law is, that at public expiations a lamb of a year old shall be sacrificed at the opening and closing of each day.” It may indeed be true, that John alludes to Isaiah 53:7, making Jesus to be the lamb of prophecy. But prophecy is but the spoken prediction, of which the sacrifice is the visible sign. The lamb of the daily sacrifice, though not specifically a sin-offering, doubtless had an expiatory force. This lamb of God, not of man, takes away sin in reality; as the lamb of man’s providing did in symbol.
Taketh away the sin On the great day of the atonement the priest, confessing the sins of the people, laid them upon the scape-goat, who both bore them as substitute for the people, and took them away, being sent into the unknown depths of the desert. As the innocence of Jesus is prefigured by the Lamb, so his taking away the sin of the world is borrowed from this act, though not from the animal, on the day of atonement. The lamb is selected to symbolize the personal innocence of the Redeemer; the goat to signify his symbolical or representative guilt as substitute for the sinner. This taking away of sin is, first, by expiation; second, by forgiveness; and third, by sanctification through the Holy Spirit.
Of the world Many of the Jewish doctors limited the atoning power of sacrifice to Israel, but John extends it to the world. Such is the divine design. Christ died for every man alike. No plan or decree excludes any man from its blessed results; nothing but man’s own will; a will fully able to accept when it refuses.
Strauss and others wonder how it is that John should understand the doctrine of the atonement, of which even the apostles at the time of Christ’s resurrection had but little conception. Our reply is, that John at this time was living in inspired communication from God, as is repeatedly declared. He understood it as Isaiah announced it centuries beforehand. We do not doubt that there were numbers of the more spiritual Jews who understood the prophetic and typical doctrines of the atonement; but of all persons in the nation, none should have a more clear view (even if it had to be obtained by immediate prophetic revelation) of the true nature of the Messiah’s office than he, the harbinger himself. His clearness of view, in this the bright morning of his mission, may not only have been clearer than that of the apostles during the Saviour’s sojourn; but clearer than even he possessed, when in the day of darkness and trial he sent his message from prison to Jesus. Nor is it true that the Baptist is represented by our Evangelist as expressing views of the dignity and future history of Jesus in advance of any thing he is made to utter in the first three Gospels. The Baptist is clearly made to declare that the personage whose forerunner he is, is LORD, that is, Jehovah, in Matthew 3:3; he indicates the call of the Gentiles in Matthew 3:9; he ascribes the sending of the Holy Ghost to Christ, Matthew 3:11; and he pronounces Christ the judge and executor of final and eternal retribution, Matthew 3:12. Our present Evangelist is indeed, as he purposes to be, more diffuse and extended in representing the Baptist’s testimony to the high personality of Jesus; but he is not more decisive. The Baptist’s Christ is just as divine a being in the first Evangelist as in the last.
30. This is he See note on John 1:15.
I knew him not See note on Matthew 3:14. But how was it possible that John should be the cousin of Jesus and he personally unacquainted with him. Must they not have met at some of the Passovers in Jerusalem? We might reply that John, according to Luke 1:80, was required by a special dispensation to dwell in the wilderness. He may, by a divine speciality, never have attended any Passover; or at least any at which Jesus was present. But if even he had seen Jesus, and had known from human information his whole history, he yet had no right according to the divine order to him given, officially to know and proclaim him as Messiah. As it was the Apostles’ office to be eye-witnesses and not reporters from hearsay, so it was John’s office to be not a second-hand, but an immediate witness from the Holy Spirit himself. He could therefore know the Messiah only as God revealed him.
32. It abode upon him The mystic symbol did not alight and then fly off again; it remained until it became invisible, as if fusing down into his person.
33. The same is he Though John may have recognized Jesus, even as the Messiah, at the moment before his baptism, by spiritual insight or divine prophetic impulse; yet he was bound to wait the divine sign, which marked the Christ out from all the race as the very one and no other, before he could officially know him as Messiah.
34. This is the Son of God At the baptism, God’s own voice attested to the Baptist’s ear, This is my beloved Son, marking him to view as the sole and single One among all the beings of the universe.
THIRD testimony of the Baptist to Jesus in the presence of two of his disciples, with the effects, 35-42.
35. John stood Doubtless upon the banks of the Jordan, contemplating his sacred work.
And two of his disciples Our Evangelist gradually approaches the touching moment when Jesus was made known to himself; not however in the feeling of self-importance (for he delicately omits the mention of his own name) but of tender personal interest. That the unnamed disciple here is John himself, is evident froth his usual method of implying rather than mentioning himself by name.
36. As he walked Yesterday Jesus was coming fresh from his victory in the Temptation unto John; as if to signify, though silently, that the time to be attested had now come; and nobly did the Baptist then answer it. Jesus is to-day passing, as if in contemplative silence; and the Baptist points his two disciples to the Lamb. For so doing he will lose willingly, though perhaps sadly, his two disciples.
38. Jesus turned John still stands to his work; but his disciples will follow the Lamb. How far we know not; but Jesus turns, and our Evangelist arrives at the first thrilling word which the eternal Word uttered in his hearing. That word is not to teach, but to question, and draw out.
What seek ye? This is the word which the great Teacher addresses to us all, to call us to reflection, and to seeking aright the right.
Where dwellest thou They address this to the TRUTH; and so we ask of divine and suffering truth where it dwells.
39. Come and see The usual formula addressed by the rabbi to his pupil when he would invite his attention to some striking point or new doctrine.
Where he dwelt It may have been a house, a tent, or, as is often the case in Palestine, a cave or grot. There did Andrew and John spend the residue of the day in converse with Jesus; and there did they, these two disciples of the Baptist, come to that faith in Jesus by which, without if or qualification, they could say to Simon, We have found the Messiah. See note on John 1:45.
The tenth hour Ten o’clock A.M. by Roman time; or four P.M. by Jewish time. See note on John 19:4.
40. Followed him Followed him at his invitation to come and see where he dwelt. We note this particularly, as some have interpreted it to follow him as already a chosen apostle; whereas he was not chosen as apostle until the miraculous draft of fishes. See Luke 5:1-11.
41. Findeth his own brother Simon A circle of friends, it would seem, from Galilee, mostly from Bethsaida, are now at the Jordan, drawn by the ministry of the Baptist, and in more or less close connection with him. Of these Jesus will now form the nucleus of his apostolic college. But they are special disciples rather than apostles.
The Messias… the Christ Inasmuch as our Evangelist writes for Gentiles, in a city distant from Palestine, he interprets the term.
42. Jesus beheld him A memorable glance to fervid Peter. For the first time he meets that Messiah foretold by prophets for ages, whose influence was to shape his future life, and give him a wonderful place in future history. Think of St. Peter’s Church, standing at this day in the ancient capital of imperial Rome, the most magnificent of human structures!
Thou art Though it be the first time that Peter ever saw Jesus, it is not the first time that Jesus, in spirit at least, ever saw Peter. He knows his parentage, his name, and history.
A stone Jesus gives him the new name now, not so much, perhaps, to describe what he already is, as to prophesy and assure him what he may yet become. He had the hardihood of stony material; he may yet acquire the firmness of the rock. When Peter made his memorable confession in Matthew 16:18 our Lord recognized his title, as if the probation had been sufficiently passed to fix his claim, as a basis of his position in the new Church. Both passages are perfectly harmonious.
43. The day following The fourth day. See John 1:19; John 1:29; John 1:35.
Would go forth into Galilee Probably on his way home after his baptism and temptation.
And findeth Philip Before he goes into Galilee he finds the entire complement of five disciples; the narration of which finding extends to the close of this chapter.
44. Of Bethsaida And therefore, being acquainted with Andrew and Peter, was probably prepared by their statements for this ready adherence to Jesus as soon as he received the call.
45. We have found A celebrated mathematician of antiquity, while meditating, suddenly solved one of the profoundest problems of geometry. Such was his rapture at the discovery, that he instantly ran through the street clapping his hands and exclaiming, Eureka, I have found. Philip here joyfully uses the same word, We have found. He had discovered the great problem of salvation.
46. Good thing… out of Nazareth Some object that there is no proof of any special stigma adhering to Nazareth; and hence apologists have endeavoured to explain these words as simply referring to the insignificance of Nazareth as a very small unknown town. We should rather reply, that the passage itself is ample proof of a contempt attaching to Nazareth. How much know we of any ancient Nazareth at all without the Gospels? It may have had a generally bad reputation; or it may have merely suffered the odium which Nathanael’s neighbouring little town of Cana, with the usual jealousy of rival villages, attached to it.
47. No guile If he has a prejudice, as this prepossession against Nazareth, he utters it in simplicity; but it prevents not his readiness to come and see, and judge from evidence.
48. Under the fig-tree The Jewish writers often speak of the shade of the fig-tree as the place of meditation and prayer. Probably it was in some such shade, within some enclosure secluded from the possible reach of the human eye of Jesus, that Nathanael won his title of Israelite, (as did Jacob of old that of Israel,) by prevailing prayer with God. As the nation was alive with the hope of the Messiah, and as Nathanael’s mind was doubtless agitated by John’s preaching a Messiah at hand, Nathanael’s prayer was very probably for a sight of the Messiah himself. When Jesus, therefore, showed himself acquainted with that secret supplication, who can wonder at the burst of rapture with which he hails Jesus himself as that very demonstrated Messiah?
49. Thou art the Son of God The title which the Baptist had taught them to apply to Jesus, John 1:34.
King of Israel King in that kingdom of God for which he perhaps had prayed.
50. Greater things than these Greater than this, the Lord’s knowledge of his secret prayer. That should be but the beginning of wonders.
51. Angels… ascending and descending upon the Son of man Christ now presents himself to this Israelite indeed, as the reality, of which the ladder that ancient Israel saw (Genesis 28:12) is the symbol; as the mediator through which the intercourse of heaven and earth shall be opened in the new dispensation. Prayers and holy intercession should ascend; blessings and holy communions, revelations, miracles, powers, and gifts of the Holy Ghost should descend; blessings of which angels are but the messengers and symbols. The person of the Son of man, with his feet upon the earth and his head above the highest heavens, should be the conduct or of these communications. This miracle of Jesus’s knowledge of Nathanael’s secret prayer was how small compared with these intercourses of the new dispensation!
Son of man Though Nathanael has just acknowledged Jesus as the Son of God, Jesus himself here appropriates the humbler title of Son of man. See note on Matthew 8:20; Luke 1:35.
Jesus thus, having by divine attraction attached these five disciples to himself, proceeds on his return home to Nazareth; whence he had last departed to receive baptism, to undergo temptation, and to attain from his harbinger his due attestation, preparatory to the hour of his ministration to the world, by miracles of power and mercy. It is now full time to receive the narrative of his first miracle.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on John 1". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany