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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
New American Standard Version
Bible Study Resources
Nave's Topical Bible - Falsehood; Jesus, the Christ; Temple; Word of God; The Topic Concordance - Belief; Jesus Christ; Sanctification; Sending and Those Sent; Witness;
Verse 35. Unto whom the word of God came — Bishop Pearce thinks that "the word λογος, here, is put for λογος κρισεως, the word or matter of judgment, as in 2 Chronicles 19:6, where Jehoshaphat, setting up judges in the land of Judah, says: Take heed what ye do: judge not for men, but for the Lord, who is with you in judgment - λογοι της κρισεως, in the words or matters of judgment, - SEPT., which is nearly according to the Hebrew to בדבר משפט bedebar mishpat, in the word or matter of judgment. In Deuteronomy 1:17, when a charge is given to the judges that they should not be afraid of the face of man, this reason is given: for the judgment is God's. Hence it appears probable that λογος is here used for λογος κρισεως: and it is called λογος Θεου, because it is the judgment that properly belongs to God, and which they who give it on earth give only as acting in the stead of God. A way of speaking very like to this is found in Hebrews 4:13, where the writer says, προς ὁν ἡμιν ὁ λογος, with whom we have to do, i.e. by whom we are to be judged."
But the words λογος Θεου may be here understood for the order, commission, or command of God; and so it properly signifies, Luke 3:2; and in this sense it is found often employed in the Old Testament. When it is there said that the word of the Lord came, c., it means, God gave an order, commission, c., to such a person, to declare or do such and such things.
And the scripture cannot be broken — αυθηναι, dissolved, rendered of none effect, i.e. it cannot be gainsayed or set aside every man must believe this, because it is the declaration of God. If those were termed gods who were only earthly magistrates, fallible mortals, and had no particular influence of the Divine Spirit and that they are termed gods is evident from that scripture which cannot be gainsayed; what greater reason then have I to say, I am the Son of God, and one with God, when, as Messiah, I have been consecrated, sent into the world, to instruct and save men; and when, as God, I have wrought miracles which could be performed by no power less than that of omnipotence?
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on John 10:35". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/john-10.html. 1832.
94. At the Feast of Dedication (John 10:22-42)
The Feast of Dedication commemorated the rededication of the temple in 165 BC after the defeat of Antiochus Epiphanes (see ‘The New Testament World’). It was held about two months after the Feast of Tabernacles (cf. John 7:2) and was the Jews’ only winter festival (cf. John 10:22).
Many Jews felt it was time Jesus made a clear public statement that he was the Messiah. Jesus replied that his works were a clear enough statement, but most of the Jews refused to recognize them (John 10:22-26). Some, however, accepted him and followed him, and these were his true people. They had eternal life, and their eternal security was guaranteed by both Jesus and his heavenly Father, with whom he was inseparably united (John 10:27-30).
The Jews again burst into anger, claiming that Jesus was calling himself God. Jesus replied that in one Old Testament passage even Israel’s rulers were called ‘gods’, because of the God-given authority they exercised. How much more should the one who was united with the heavenly Father call himself God (John 10:31-36). But Jesus did not want the Jews to excuse their unbelief by arguing about words. The works that Jesus did were sufficient proof of his divine origin (John 10:37-38).
Once more the Jews tried to seize Jesus, but he escaped and left Jerusalem. This time he went across Jordan into Perea, where the people’s ready belief was in sharp contrast to the hardness of the people in Jerusalem (John 10:39-42).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on John 10:35". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/john-10.html. 2005.
Jesus answered them - The answer of Jesus consists of two parts. The first John 10:34-36 shows that they ought not to object to his use of the word God, even if he were no more than a man. The second John 10:37-38 repeats substantially what he had before said, left the same impression, and in proof of it he appealed to his works.
In your law - Psalms 82:6. The word “law” here, is used to include the Old Testament.
I said - The Psalmist said, or God said by the Psalmist.
Ye are gods - This was said of magistrates on account of the dignity and honor of their office, and it shows that the Hebrew word translated “god,” אלהים ̀elohiym, in that place might be applied to man. Such a use of the word is, however, rare. See instances in Exodus 7:1; Exodus 4:16.
Unto whom the word of God came - That is, who were his servants, or who received their dignity and honor only because the law of God was intrusted to them. “The Word of God” here means the command of God; his commission to them to do justice.
The scripture cannot be broken - See Matthew 5:19. The authority of the Scripture is final; it cannot be set aside. The meaning is, “If, therefore, the Scripture uses the word “god” אלהים ̀elohiym as applied to magistrates, it settles the question that it is right to apply the term to those in office and authority. If applied to them, it may be to others in similar offices. It cannot, therefore, be blasphemy to use this word as applicable to a personage so much more exalted than mere magistrates as the Messiah.”
Whom the Father hath sanctified - The word “sanctify” with us means to make holy; but this is not its meaning here, for the Son of God was always holy. The original word means to set apart from a common to a sacred use; to devote to a sacred purpose, and to designate or consecrate to a holy office. This is the meaning here. God has consecrated or appointed his Son to be his Messenger or Messiah to mankind. See Exodus 28:41; Exodus 29:1, Exodus 29:44; Leviticus 8:30.
And sent into the world - As the Messiah, an office far more exalted than that of magistrates.
I am the Son of God - This the Jews evidently understood as the same as saying that he was equal with God. This expression he had often applied to himself. The meaning of this place may be thus expressed: “You charge me with blasphemy. The foundation of that charge is the use of the name God, or the Son of God, applied to myself; yet that same term is applied in the Scriptures to magistrates. The use of it there shows that it is right to apply it to those who sustain important offices (see the notes of John 10:34-35). And especially you, Jews, ought not to attempt to found a charge of blasphemy on the application of a word to the Messiah which in your own Scriptures is applied to all magistrates. And we may remark here:
- That Jesus did not deny that he meant to apply the term to himself.
- He did not deny that it was properly applied to him.
- He did not deny that it implied that he was God. He affirmed only that they were inconsistent, and were not authorized to bring a charge of blasphemy for the application of the name to himself.
The works of my Father - The very works that my Father does. See John 5:17; “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” See the note on that place. The works of his Father are those which God only can do. As Jesus did them, it shows that the name “Son of God,” implying equality with God, was properly applied to him. This shows conclusively that he meant to be understood as claiming to be equal with God. So the Jews naturally understood him John 10:39, and they were left with this impression on their minds.
Believe the works - Though you do not credit me, yet consider my works, for they prove that I came from God. No one could do them unless he was sent of God.
Father is in me ... - Most intimately connected. See John 5:36. This expression denotes most intimate union - such as can exist in no other case. See Matthew 11:27; Notes, John 17:21.
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on John 10:35". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/john-10.html. 1870.
35. To whom the word of God was addressed. For Christ means that they were authorized by an undoubted command of God. Hence we infer that empires did not spring up at random, nor by the mistakes of men, but that they were appointed by the will of God, because he wishes that political order should exist among men, and that we should be governed by usages and laws. For this reason Paul says, that all who
resist the power are rebels against God, because there is no power but what is ordained by God, (Romans 13:1.)
It will, perhaps, be objected, that other callings also are from God, and are approved by him, and yet that we do not, on that account, call farmers, or cowherds, or cobblers, gods I reply, this is not a general declaration, that all who have been called by God to any particular way of living are called gods; but Christ speaks of kings, whom God has raised to a more elevated station, that they may rule and govern. In short, let us know that magistrates are called gods, because God has given them authority. Under the term Law, Christ includes the whole doctrine by which God governed his ancient Church; for since the prophets were only expounders of the Law, the Psalms are justly regarded as an appendage to the Law. That the Scripture cannot be broken means, that the doctrine of Scripture is inviolable.
Calvin, John. "Commentary on John 10:35". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/john-10.html. 1840-57.
So chapter 10, it would seem to be as just a continuation of this whole movement here of the blind man receiving his sight, being put out by the organized religious system, being taken in by Jesus Christ. And so Jesus said,
Verily, verily I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber ( John 10:1 ).
Now later on He said, "I am the door." If a man tries to come by any other system, by any other way, he's a thief and a robber. Jesus said, "I'm the way, I'm the door. There's one way into the sheepfold, that's through the door. I am the door." Try to climb over the walls or whatever, that's the action of a thief, of a robber. If you try to enter the kingdom of heaven by your good works, if you try to enter the kingdom of heaven by being religious, you'll never make it. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life, and no man comes to the Father but by Me."
Doctor Adam Smith, who traveled extensively in the Holy Land for years, getting the insight into the culture of the people, has written a fascinating book giving biblical background and color by the understanding of the culture of these people. And he relates of talking with a shepherd one day as the shepherd was pointing out this walled enclosure. And explaining to him how that they would drive the sheep into that enclosure at night or lead them into the enclosure, and there in the enclosure the sheep would be safe. And Doctor Smith said to him, "Well, you don't have any door, how do you keep the sheep from going out?" And he said, "I am the door." He said, "Once I have all of the sheep in, I lie across the opening here, and this is where I sleep. And no sheep can get out or no wolf can get in except to cross over me."
Now he wasn't coming from any kind of a biblical thing, in fact, he probably didn't even know the scriptures. But just, "I'm the door, I'm the one, you've got to come over me to get in, and you've got to come over me to get out." Now Jesus is talking about this kind of a sheepfold that they have over there. The walled-in enclosures, where the sheep were driven in at night.
And He said,
He that enter in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. And to him the portal openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and he leads them out ( John 10:2-3 ).
So in the evening, when they would drive them into these enclosures for safety, in the morning when they were ready to leave there would be several herds driven into these enclosures. And during the night they would mingle, but in the morning when the shepherd was ready to lead them out to the fields for pasture, he would go to the door and he would call, and his sheep knew his voice. They would come out of the herd and follow him. And you can try to mimic that call, but the sheep would never follow you. They know the voice of the shepherd, they respond to him. And so he said, "The sheep hear his voice and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out." And so it's a very colorful picture that was very familiar to those people in that culture, unfamiliar to us in our culture. But the idea is, is that the shepherd knew his sheep, for there were sheep that were his and there were sheep that were not his.
And in carrying that over into the spiritual allegory tonight, the world is comprised of two kinds of people: those that are His sheep, and those who are not His sheep. Two classes in the world today. You're His or you're not His. He knows His sheep. He calls them by name.
Now, to me every sheep looks alike, basically. I mean, I can't tell the difference between sheep. I've watched them flock a sheep on the hillside, to me they all look alike. But you go up to the shepherd that's watching those sheep and you'll say, "Hey, there's one of your sheep that's straying away." And he'll call it by name. "Oh, I have trouble with that Joe you know." He's a miserable sheep, you know, I . . . you'll call him, "Joe, get back here!" Maybe you'll let out a whistle and his dog will go out and start yipping and drive him back into the herd. He knows his sheep, he calls him by name. So the Lord the knows you if you're one of His sheep, He calls you by name, knows your characteristics. And they know his voice.
Now when he puts forth his own sheep, he goes before them, and his sheep follow him: for they know his voice ( John 10:4 ).
So He calls His own sheep, they hear His voice and they follow Him. Though all of the sheep hear the voice, only His sheep respond.
A week from Thursday night we will be dealing in Romans, chapter 8, with that interesting passage, "for whom He did foreknow He did also predestinate that they should be conformed to the image of His Son." And we're gonna be talking about predestination and those whom He foreknew He also chose, and those He chose He called. And He calls, and though all hear His call only His sheep respond. And how do you know you're His sheep or not? By whether or not you've responded to His call. And if you had responded to His call you are His sheep. If you haven't responded to His call, then you're not His sheep. Just that simple, and yet, it isn't so simple when you start getting into it. "My sheep, they hear My voice and they follow Me."
A stranger [He said] they will not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. And this parable spake Jesus unto them: but they did not understand the things of which he was speaking unto them ( John 10:5-6 ).
And so He began to explain it.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them ( John 10:7-8 ).
Now He's not referring to Moses and Elijah and the prophets when He said, "All that came before Me are thieves and robbers." But He is referring to the decadent religious system that Judaism had degraded into. Trying to make another way to God. Trying to bring men to God through works, through the foolishness of the Pharisees and their endeavor to keep the traditional aspects of the law. "But the sheep did not hear them."
I am the door: by me if any man will enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture ( John 10:9 ).
"I'm the door." Jesus said. "You've got to come...you've got to enter by Me. The religious system of Judaism isn't going to make it for you, you've got to enter by Me."
Now the thief comes not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy ( John 10:10 ):
And that's exactly what false religious systems will do for you. They will steal from you. They will rob you and ultimately they'll destroy you. But Jesus said,
I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly ( John 10:10 ).
What a contrast to the religious systems and to Christianity. Unfortunately, Christianity is often ranked as one of the religions of the world. Christianity is far from a religious system as I study and analyze religious systems and make a comparison to Christianity. The basic difference lies in that religions are all man's endeavors to reach God. And so if I were to draw a cartoon to represent religion, I would draw a circle, the earth, and because of my artistic ability, I'd put a little stick man on the circle with hands lifted up trying to reach God. Man's starting at its earth base. I'd put him on his tiptoes trying to reach heaven, trying to reach infinity, trying to reach God. The religious systems are man trying to build a bridge to God. But no matter how tall he may stretch you cannot bridge from the finite to the infinite. It's an impossibility.
If I were to draw a picture of Christianity, I would have the round circle, the earth, and hands coming out of heaven towards that little man on earth. For Christianity is God's endeavor to reach man. When Jacob was fleeing from his brother Esau, and he came to Bethel, and he found a rock, he used it for his pillow, and because of his exhaustion went to sleep. As he was sleeping he had a dream, and in his dream he saw a ladder and it was planted on earth and it went up to heaven and the Lord was standing at the top of the ladder. And the angels of God were ascending and descending on this ladder from heaven to earth. And when he awoke in the morning he was filled with this sense of awe, and he said, "Truly the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not. Last night when I arrived here frightened, tired, weary, sore I had no consciousness of the presence of God. A barren, rocky, desolate place, I knew it not, but I know it now. Truly the Lord is in this place and I knew it not" ( Genesis 28:16 ). Notice the tenses. The Lord is here. I didn't know it last night, I sure know it now. That ladder between earth and heaven.
Now religion tries to build that ladder from the earth to reach up to heaven. The finite trying to reach the infinite, but with Christianity the infinite has reached the finite. Now, I can accept that the infinite can reach down and touch the finite, that's no problem for the infinite God. And so with Christianity I have no problem and all, with religion I have tremendous problems because you have the finite trying to reach the infinite. How can it happen? It can't.
Now Jesus, interestingly enough, declared to His disciples when He was first calling them, He said, "You gonna marvel at this, just because I said I saw you in the fig tree? Hey, stick around, you're gonna see a lot more than this man. From now on, you're gonna see the heavens open and the angels of heaven ascending and descending on the Son of Man" ( John 1:50-51 ). What is He saying? "I am Jacob's ladder. I am the access to God. You're gonna see heaven open for man, for God is reaching down, God is building the ladder, and I am the ladder that God has made where by man might come to God." So the vast difference between Christianity and religion, the religious system will rob a man. They'll destroy a man, for as Christianity will bring a man life, and that more abundantly. The religious systems all have their little formulas, the works that you must do in order that you might be accepted by God. And they have all of these little work trips that you've got to accomplish in order that you might be accepted by God.
Christianity says there's not a single work that you can do that God would accepted, they're like filthy rags in His sight. To be accepted by God, you must believe. Not by works of righteousness which we have done but by faith will God accept a man. Religions say you have to be good enough and worthy enough for God to accept you, Christianity say there's no way you can be good enough or worthy enough that God will accept you. The only way God can accept you is in His Son. So he that has the Son has life and he who has not the Son has not life. So we see the contrast between the religions which Jesus said were thieves and robbers. Trying to bring man into the sheepfold by another way and the door whereby a man may enter into the sheepfold. One system is based upon works, the other system based upon faith.
Now Jesus said, "I've come that they might have life and they might have it more abundantly." How Satan has lied to men about the Christian experience. You see, it was Satan's ploy to make Christianity a religion. And unfortunately, he was quite successful. And so, in many places Christianity became a religion and whenever that transition was accomplished, it died. True Christianity died. And it became a form. And even in the biblical times, Paul spoke of those who had a form of godliness but no power, no life. The religious systems points and says, "Now that's the way you ought to live if you want God to accept you." But it gives you no assistance to live that way. Jesus points and says, "Now this is the way and you can't do it, but as you believe in Me, I'm gonna come and I'm gonna indwell you. I'm gonna take over, and I'm gonna make you a new person, and I'm gonna give you the power to do what you can't do. Because I want you to have this abundant life of fellowship with the Father." And He does for us what we can't do for ourselves, by the indwelling. You see, no religious system gives you the power to abide by its concepts. Only Christianity is the infusion of God's power to live the life that God would have you to live, that more abundant life in Christ.
Jesus then went on to say,
I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep. But he that is a hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and flees; and the wolf catches them, and scatters the sheep ( John 10:11-12 ).
So Jesus points out the contrast between the shepherd, the true shepherd, and the hireling.
A young minister came to me, for he had been invited by a church to be its pastor. And he went to the church and preached a sermon, that the people enjoyed, and he met the board. And the board laid down for him his salary, his duties, and also the restrictions that they sought to put upon him. They gave him quite a list of what he could do and what he couldn't do. And he came to me because he was wondering whether or not he should accept the invitation to become their pastor. And I encouraged him not to accept it. I said, "They're really not looking for a shepherd, they're looking for a hireling. They're gonna hire you to be their minister. To say the things they want to hear. To do the things they want done, but they're not really looking for a shepherd, they're looking for a hireling, and I wouldn't be a hireling for anybody. My services are not for sale."
The hireling really doesn't care for the sheep, the shepherd does. The shepherd knows the sheep, he loves the sheep, he would give his life for the sheep. The hireling, danger comes, he'll run, because he's only a hireling. What more do you expect? But the shepherd will hazard his life; he'll lay down his life if necessary for his flock because he loves them. Jesus said, "I'm the Good Shepherd. The other religious system, they're hirelings, they'll run, they'll leave you to the wolves who will rip and scatter the flock, but I'm the Good Shepherd, I'll lay down my life for the flock."
The hireling flees, because he is a hireling, and doesn't really care for the sheep ( John 10:13 ).
Now, unfortunately, today there are many men in the ministry who are hirelings, they're professionals. They really don't care for the sheep because they're hirelings. And their only concern is to fleece the flock of God, and there's a bunch of guys out there seeking to fleece the flock of God. They sit up nights figuring new ways to extract money out of people. "Now, if we write this in a letter, and . . . " You know, they spend, well, they spend thousands of dollars having professionals write these letters with the gimmicks. All designed to fleece the flock of God. They're hirelings, they really don't care for the flock of God. Though in the letters it often says, "Oh, I've been thinking about you today, Charles. Is everything alright? The Lord brought you to my mind when I was in prayer this morning and how I would love to come to your house there in Costa Mesa and sit down and talk with you, but I know you're so busy, you probably wouldn't have time for me to come. But why don't you write to me your request and please enclose an offering, because our ministry is facing, you know, ahhhhhhh..." Hirelings, fleecing the flock of God.
The shepherd's concern is to feed the flock of God. Bring them in to good pasture, food that they might grow. Jesus said to Peter, "Feed My sheep." Peter wrote, "Feed the flock of God which is among you." And the shepherds seeks to feed the flock, they might be strong and healthy.
God has blessed us abundantly in many ways. God has blessed investments that we have made and has prospered us far beyond anything we'd ever dreamed. And because of God's blessings, I thank the Lord that I'm able to return over half of my salary to the church each year. My son said to me, "Dad, why do you keep preaching, why do keep going on, man? You could retire, cause you give most of your salary back anyhow, why don't you just retire, Dad, and take it easy, you know. Why are you, you know, you're still pushing so hard when you don't have to anymore?" And I just smile and said, "What would I do? You know it's my heart. It's my love. It's my life, feeding the flock of God. I love it." You don't really realize this, but you could cut off my salary and I'd still be here, because I love it. It's just to me a glorious thing to see God work and to have this privilege. It's wonderful when people call for me to come and speak in various areas. And they say, "What honorarium do you charge?" And it's the thrill to be able to say, "Well, I have a very wealthy Father, and He has underwritten all of my expenses, I don't charge anything, He covers for me." Oh, how glorious it is to have received freely so that we can give freely. I thank God for the position that He has put me in. That as Paul, I'm really chargeable to no man, I'm responsible to God. To be His servant, to do His work.
Not a hireling, you can't hire me. But I want to be His undershepherd, feeding His sheep. Jesus said,
I am the good shepherd, and I know my sheep, and am known of mine ( John 10:14 ).
That beautiful relationship that we have with Him. He knows me, I know Him. He loves me, I love Him. And I have this beautiful relationship with the Good Shepherd.
And as the Father knows me, even so I know the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep ( John 10:15 ).
Now He said earlier that He gives His life for the sheep, now He says, "I lay down My life for the sheep,
And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold ( John 10:16 ):
And, of course, He's talking about the Gentiles. Those who would believe in...He's talking about you. You're a part of the other sheep that were not of that fold.
them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd ( John 10:16 ).
And so in Christ there is neither Jew, nor Greek, Barbarian, cythian, bond or free, we're all one together in Him. There's neither status, rank, whatever, we're just all common, one in Jesus Christ. Long hairs, short hairs, coat, ties, doesn't matter. We're one in Jesus Christ, that common denominator who has broken down every barrier that man has built up to divide himself from others.
One of the sad byproducts of existential philosophy is the way it divides man and isolates man into an island all by himself. There is no universal base of truth according to these philosophers. It is only as you personally experience it and interpret it that it becomes truth to you. But it is only truth to you and not necessarily to the one next to you, you're isolated, you're alone. And so you look at modern art, which is an expression of existential philosophy. And you see these colors, just like someone stood back at ten paces, picked up a ball of red paint and threw it at the canvas, and you get this splattering effect, and then you picked up a blue ball and threw it and then he puts a title underneath, "Sunset under the Grand Canyon." And you look at that thing and you study it and someone standing next to you and they say, "Oh, isn't that beautiful, isn't that glorious?" And you think, "Man, what are they seeing?" You know and the critics acclaim that as marvelous art. "There's an eye here, there's a toe down here, and a hand out over here," and "Oh, classic art." But for the life of me I can't see it, but that's the whole idea. You have to interpret it.
In these stories where it really leaves the end of the story hanging, the guy is walking down the road and you don't know if he's gonna pull out his forty-five and blow his brains out and that's the end. Or you don't know if he's gonna be reconciled to his wife and live happily ever after. They leave you hanging. You've got to put the end on yourself, because that's an expression of existential philosophy. Every man must interpret it for himself. So you've got to put your own interpretation on the story. What did it really say? What did it mean? Man, I don't know, I think that it's really oftentimes an excuse for the senility of the writers; they don't know what they're trying to say either! But it appears very profound because nobody could understand it, you know, and so everybody acclaims it, "Oh, marvelous, nobody can understand it, that's glorious." But what it does is isolates us. Puts me on this little island all by myself, I'm alone in a great big world. And no one really shares my same feelings, no one really shares my same thoughts, and I feel this horrible isolation. Man has a way of building up walls between himself and others, but Jesus has the way of breaking down those walls. And He brings us all together and He makes us one and He declares, "I am the truth." And He gives us a universal base for truth, He is that universal base for truth. So together in Him, we are brought together. The walls are down and so as Paul said, "He has broken down that wall of partition that used to exist between us and has made us all one." "Other sheep have I, who are not of this fold, I've got to go out and call them too that there might be one fold and one shepherd."
Therefore does my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again ( John 10:17 ).
So here He is prophesying both His death and resurrection, which at this point are about five months away.
No man takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father ( John 10:18 ).
Jesus testified, "I have the power to lay My life down." He demonstrated it on the cross. "No man takes My life from Me." They did not kill Jesus on the cross, they hung Him on the cross, but He dismissed His Spirit. He robbed them of the opportunity of killing Him. They couldn't have killed Him. He dismissed His Spirit. He said, "Father, into Your hands I commend My Spirit," and it says, "and He dismissed His Spirit." He gave His life, "No man taketh My life, I give My life. I have the power to lay My life down, I have the power to take it up." He proved He had the power to lay it down, and then three days later He proved that He had the power to take it up, and He rose from the dead. And we'll be celebrating that. The tomb is empty, He has power to take it up again.
Now there was a division again among the Jews because of these sayings. Many of them said, He has a devil, he's mad; why are you even listening to him? And others said, These are not the words of [a mad man or] a man that has a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind? ( John 10:19-21 )
And so there came at this point a very sharp division among the people.
Now time lapse. And between verse John 10:21 and 22 there is time lapse from October to December. The things in verse John 10:21 were taking place during the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem in October. Now John tell us,
And it was at Jerusalem the feast of dedication ( John 10:22 ),
Also known as the Feast of Lights, which took place on the twenty-fifth of December. This Feast of Dedication was their celebration of the cleansing of the temple by Judas Maccabeus after it has been profaned by Antiochus Epiphanes, the Syrian leader or leader of Syria, he was a Greek. And this was the celebration of that cleansing again of the temple by this brave warrior. And Jesus was again in Jerusalem and it was winter, December.
And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch. And the Jews gathered around him, and they said unto him, How long do you leave us in doubt? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly. And Jesus answered them, and said, I have already told you, but you did not believe ( John 10:23-25 ):
He had already told them, "before Abraham was, I am." And so He said, "I've already told you." They wanted Him to say plainly, "I am the Messiah." And He would not give them that satisfaction.
Earlier Jesus said to His disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" And Peter said, "Thou art the Messiah, the Son of the living God." And Jesus said, "Blessed art thou Simon, flesh and blood didn't reveal this to you, but My Father which is in heaven." He acknowledged it before the disciples.
To the woman of Samaria who said, "I know that when the Messiah comes, He's going to teach us all things." He said, "Woman, I who am speaking to you am He." But yet, He had not plainly said it to the Jews and they were wanting this plain declaration. "How long do You leave us in doubt? If You are the Messiah, tell us plainly." And Jesus answered them and said, "I've told you. And you believe not."
now the works that I do in My Father's name, they are bearing witness of me ( John 10:25 ).
The opening the of eyes of the blind, the healing of the man that was lame for thirty-eight years, these miracles that He was accomplishing. Said I..."You don't need that I tell you plainly, these works testify of who I am." And if you go back in the prophecy of Isaiah concerning the Messiah, chapter 61, you'll find these things written of Him.
But you do not believe me, because you are not my sheep ( John 10:26 ),
Interesting statement, we'll get into that when we get into predestination.
as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me ( John 10:26-27 ):
Now it's three months later and He's coming right back to the last thing He was talking to them about, His sheep following Him. So those...there's been a lapse of time, Jesus brings them right back to this same subject that He was talking to them about earlier. Now, He is making some very interesting statements between...concerning His sheep, and listen carefully. "My sheep hear My voice, I know them, they follow Me."
And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand ( John 10:28 ).
You know when I read that, it makes me so thankful that I am one of His sheep. What a glorious assurance that brings to me tonight. To be one of His sheep, to have heard His voice, to have responded, to follow Him, to have received that eternal life, realizing I will never perish and no man can pluck me out of His hand. He said,
My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father's hand. I and My Father are one ( John 10:29-30 ).
You want me to tell you plainly, how plain do you want it? "I and My Father are one." That's plain enough.
They took up stones to stone him ( John 10:31 ).
We've got the message; it's plain enough.
Jesus is here claiming what is rightfully His claim, equality with the Father. In Philippians, the second chapter, we read, "That He who was in the beginning with God and thought it not robbery or something to be grasp to be equal with God" ( Philippians 2:6 ). "I and the Father are one." Claiming the equality with God, claiming deity. They understood the claim. To them it was blasphemous, and they were ready to stone Him according to their understanding of the law for blasphemy. People say, "Well, Jesus never claimed to be God." They never read the scriptures. "I and the Father are one." How plain can you get?
Jesus answered them, Many good works have I showed you from my Father; now for which of these works are you gonna stone me? ( John 10:32 )
Are you gonna stone Me because I opened up the blind man's eyes? Or because I healed the lame man at the pool of Bethesda? Which of My works are you gonna stone Me for?
And they said, We're not stoning you for the good works; but for blasphemy; because that you, being a man, make yourself God ( John 10:33 ).
They understood exactly what He was saying when He said, "I and the Father are one." You being a man are making Yourself God.
And Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said ( John 10:34 ),
"Notice in your law that I said," here He is claiming the authorship of their law, "have you not written in your law, that I said,"
Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; say ye of him, whom the Father had sanctified, and sent into the world, You blasphemist; because I said, I am the Son of God? If I'm not doing the works of my Father, then don't believe me ( John 10:34-37 ).
Again, calling His works as a witness.
Now, what does He mean "those to whom the Word of God came were called gods?" This we find quoted in Psalms 82:6 ,and you might look at it there, in fact, you might put a little note in John, Psalms 82:6 ,so that when the Mormons come to your door and try and prove that they have every right to claim an ascendancy to God and to become gods, this is the basis, because He said, "Ye are gods." And in Psalms 82:6 ,it said, "I have said, 'Ye are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High.'"
Now, notice He is quoting there, "I have said." He's quoting the scripture. What scripture is He quoting? Put in Psalms 82:6 ,Exodus 22:8-9 ,and now you have your own chain reference Bible. In Exodus 22 , God is now laying down His law that the judges were to enact upon the people. And when these things would happen, this kind of a condition existed, this is how the judges were to rule in those cases. And so the Word of the Lord is coming to the judges over Israel that they might enact upon Israel the laws of God. So in verse John 10:8 , as He's talking about a situation of a thief is not found, then the master of the house shall be brought to the judges. To see whether he has put his hand into his neighbor's good. For all manner of trespass, whether it is for an ox, or an ass, or sheep, or raiment, or for any matter lost thing, which another challenges to be his. The cause of both party shall come before the judges and whom the judges shall condemn, he shall pay double his neighbor.
Now, you're missing your jacket, and you look all over the house and you can't find it, and you go down to the store and you see your neighbor wearing your jacket. And you say, "That's my jacket, that's been missing out of my house." "Oh, no it's not, it's my jacket I bought it at Buffums." And so you've got this dispute going. The man denies that he stole it from you. So you come before the judges, and the judges then are to make this decision. The cause of both parties brought before them. Now, the interesting thing is that the word translated judges is the Hebrew word elohim, which is the word for gods. So that the judges are as gods over the people in that they are controlling the destiny of these people as they meet out their judgment. They are acting in God's place, and so those whom He called gods were actually those judges who were enacting God's laws upon the people. It was not a doctrine that, you know, if you're a good Mormon, you and your wife can be god and have your own earth someplace. But it is just declaring that the judges were called gods because of the responsibility they had of enacting God's judgments upon the people. And so, to whom the word came, the judges, the rules came to them, they were then called gods. And so, Jesus said, "Is it not written in your law, that you're gods, I said you're gods." So He's not really referring to Psalms, but He's referring directly back to the book of Exodus, chapter 22, verses John 10:8 , and John 10:9 .
While we're on the Mormons, I had a couple of young boys come to the door this past week, and desired to engage me in conversation. And I told them that somehow we didn't believe in the same God. Though they use a lot of the same terms that I use and they talk about Jesus and they talk about God, and they talk about salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, and through faith in His blood that was shed for our sins. And to talk to them it seems that they believe very fundamentally much as I believe. But I said, "The problem is, when you talk about God, you're talking about a different god than the God that I believe in. Because, I do not believe that Adam is my God. He is not the god that I am worshipping and serving. Though your prophet, whom you acknowledge as a prophet, Brigham Young, did state that Adam is our god and the only god with whom we have to do." He said, "Well, you don't really understand what the prophet was trying to tell us." I said, "Well, I don't know, I've read the sermon several times and I have read all of his defenses of the sermon and the magazine articles in the Morning Star that followed." And I said, "In reality, don't you believe that you're going to be god?" And he said, "Yes." I said, "If you remain faithful to your Mormon beliefs and faithful to the church that you can ascend and you can be god and you can have your own planet and all?" "Yes, we believe that." I said, "Then in reality, what Brigham Young was saying is in perfect consistency of what you believe. You're taking it one step ahead. You say we're gonna ascend, we're going to be god, we'll have our own planet." He took it back one step and he was saying that Adam somewhere in some other world achieved this level of perfection, became god and brought one of celestial wives, Eves to the earth, and started the whole thing here on the earth. So he only took the Mormon doctrine back a step instead of forward a step. And if the forward step is a logical step, then the backward step would be a logical step. So Brigham Young was correct in his interpretation of your doctrine that you're going to be god, only taking it backward a step instead of forward a step. Because this progression must of been going on through eternity." And I said, "And you talk about believing in Jesus Christ and salvation through your faith in Him, but the Jesus you believe in, is he the brother of Lucifer?" And he said, "Yes, we believe he's the brother of Lucifer." And I said, "Well then, he's not the same Jesus that I believe in. You're talking about another Jesus Christ. I don't know the Jesus you are talking about. Because the Jesus that I believe in is not the brother of Lucifer, because that would make Lucifer a Son of God. But the Jesus that I believe in is the only begotten Son of God; He's not a created being, and Lucifer is a created being of God. And if you believe that Jesus is the brother of Lucifer, then you brought Jesus down. Jesus said, 'I and the Father are One.' So the Jesus I believe in is not a brother of Lucifer, but is one with the Father. And so we believe actually in different gods and in different Jesus.'"
Poor boys were stunned. And they walked away shaking their heads and I'm praying for them. I'm praying for them very seriously. They were sweet young men. I didn't like devastating them, but I felt that it was important that they see that the Jesus they are proclaiming to believe in is actually a different Jesus than the One who is my Shepherd, whose voice I have heard and am following. Because the Jesus I believe in is one with the Father. He can say "I and the Father are one." So this business, "You are gods" is a reference to the judges who are enacting God's laws upon the people. If He called them gods unto whom the Word of God came, the scripture cannot be broken, "Say ye of him whom the Father have sanctified."
Now Jesus said, first of all, "The Father has set Me apart and has sent Me into the world, and you're saying to Me that I am blaspheming because I say I'm the Son of God. And if I do not the works of My Father, then don't believe Me." Again, He's calling the works. These are the testimony. Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and we'll be satisfied." And He said, "Have I been so long a time with you, Philip, have you not seen Me? He that seeth Me hath seen the Father. How sayeth thou then, 'Show us the Father'? Believeth thou, that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the very works' sake." The works are testifying, no man can open the eyes of the blind, no man can do these works except God is with Him, as Nicodemus recognized in chapter 3.
But if I do, though you believe not me, believe the works ( John 10:38 );
If I do not the works of My Father, don't believe me, but if I do the works of My Father, then, you don't believe Me, at least believe the works.
that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him. Therefore they sought again to take him ( John 10:38-39 );
They were gonna arrest Him, but His hour had not yet come, and thus, He escaped out of their hand. They had Him surrounded,
but he escaped out of their hand, and so now he went away again beyond Jordan unto the place where John at first was baptizing; and there he stayed ( John 10:39-40 ).
Stayed until He made His final trip back Jerusalem at the call of Mary and Martha to raise their brother Lazarus from the dead, and then to be arrested at the Passover and to be crucified.
So now He's now down by the Jordan River, near the area where He began His ministry with John the Baptist.
And many resorted unto him, and said, John did no miracle: but all things that John spake of this man are true. And many believed on him there ( John 10:41-42 ).
People lived in the area who had heard John's ministry said, "There's one coming after me, mightier than I, the latch of whose shoes I'm not worthy to stoop down and unloose." They said, "Everything John said about this Man is true." And many believed on Him down there by the Jordan River. And He spent the next couple of months, actually from December, January, February, March until the month of April, He spent down there by the Jordan River before making His journey back to Jerusalem.
Now in chapter 11, we get Him coming back to the area of Bethany to Lazarus and that marvelous miracle, again, "the works, if you don't believe Me, believe the works," and now He is showing works that are indisputable as He raises Lazarus from the dead, and we enter into the final aspects of the life of Christ prior to His crucifixion.
So chapters 11 and 12 for next Sunday. Again, we pray that the Lord will just give you a marvelous week. May He strengthen you, may He give wisdom to you, may He bless you on your jobs and your various activities. May He open up opportunities of service and of witnessing. And may He use your life as an instrument to do His work in this needy world. May His Spirit rest upon you in a very special way, and may, as you celebrate the resurrection, you just be filled with that joy and that power of the Spirit. That same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, as He dwells within you. Making you alive unto God and to the things of God, all to the glory of Jesus our Lord. "
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on John 10:35". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/john-10.html. 2014.
8. The confrontation at the feast of Dedication 10:22-42
The present section of the fourth Gospel is strongly Christological and focuses on Jesus’ identity. In this subdivision of the text Jesus presented Himself as the Messiah (John 10:22-30) and as the Son of God (John 10:31-39). This resulted in the climax of hostility against Him.
"It becomes clear that people must either recognize that Jesus stands in such a relation to the Father as no one else ever did, or else reject him entirely." [Note: Morris, p. 458.]
The final few verses are transitional and describe Jesus’ withdrawal from Jerusalem and the fact that many people believed on Him (John 10:40-42).
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Jesus’ claim to be God’s Son 10:31-39
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The clause "the Scripture cannot be broken" means that man cannot annul it, set it aside, or prove it false.
"It means that Scripture cannot be emptied of its force by being shown to be erroneous." [Note: Morris, p. 468.]
Jesus’ statement affirms the unity, authority, and inerrancy of Scripture. Jesus held a very high view of Scripture. His point was that it was inconsistent for the Jews to claim the Old Testament as their authority (John 10:34) and then to disregard something that it said because they did not agree with it. It was inconsistent for them, specifically, to stone Jesus for claiming to be God and the Son of God when the Old Testament spoke of humans as gods and as God’s sons.
"In the singular he graphe usually means a single passage of Scripture, and the verb translated broken (luo) is used in John 10:18 of disregarding the letter of the law. The meaning here is ’this passage of Scripture cannot be set aside as irrelevant to the matter under discussion’." [Note: Tasker, p. 136.]
Jesus did not use this argument to claim that He was God. He used it to stall His critics. He wanted them to see that the divine terms that He was using to describe Himself were terms that the Old Testament itself also used of human beings. They could not logically accuse Him of blasphemy because the Father had set Him aside and sent Him into the world with a special mission. He was a legitimate Son of God for this reason.
As the Jews had sanctified their temple after its desecration by Antiochus Epiphanies, so God had sanctified His Son. The Jews celebrated the sanctification of their physical temple with the feast of Dedication, but they were unwilling to accept the spiritual temple that replaced it, namely, Jesus.
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THE SHEPHERD AND HIS SHEEP ( John 10:1-6 )
10:1-6 Jesus said: "This is the truth I tell you; he who does not enter the sheepfold through the door, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber. But he who comes in through the door is the shepherd of the sheep. The keeper of the door opens the door to him; and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. Whenever he puts his own sheep out, he walks in front of them; and the sheep follow him, because they know his voice. But they will not follow a stranger, but they will run away from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers." Jesus spoke this parable to them, but they did not know what he was saying to them.
There is no better loved picture of Jesus than the Good Shepherd. The picture of the shepherd is woven into the language and imagery of the Bible. It could not be otherwise. The main part of Judaea was a central plateau, stretching from Bethel to Hebron for a distance of about 35 miles and varying from 14 to 17 miles across. The ground, for most part, was rough and stony. Judaea was, much more a pastoral than an agricultural country and was, therefore, inevitable that the most familiar figure of the Judaean uplands was the shepherd.
His life was very hard. No flock ever grazed without a shepherd, and he was never off duty. There being little grass, the sheep were bound to wander, and since there were no protecting walls, the sheep had constantly to be watched. On either side of the narrow plateau the ground dipped sharply down to the craggy deserts and the sheep were always liable to stray away and get lost. The shepherd's task was not only constant but dangerous, for, in addition, he had to guard the flock against wild animals. especially against wolves, and there were always thieves and robbers ready to steal the sheep. Sir George Adam Smith, who travelled in Palestine, writes: "On some high moor, across which at night the hyaenas howl, when you meet him, sleepless, far-sighted, weather-beaten, leaning on his staff, and looking out over his scattered sheep, every one of them on his heart, you understand why the shepherd of Judaea sprang to the front in his people's history; why they gave his name to their king, and made him the symbol of providence; why Christ took him as the type of self-sacrifice." Constant vigilance, fearless courage, patient love for his flock, were the necessary characteristics of the shepherd.
In the Old Testament God is often pictured as the shepherd, and the people as his flock. "The Lord is my shepherd: I shall not want" ( Psalms 23:1). "Thou didst lead thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron" ( Psalms 77:20). "We thy people, the flock of thy pasture, will give thanks to thee for ever" ( Psalms 79:13). "Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou who leadest Joseph like a flock" ( Psalms 80:1). "He is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand" ( Psalms 95:7). "We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture" ( Psalms 100:3). God's Anointed One, the Messiah, is also pictured as the shepherd of the sheep. "He will feed his flock like a shepherd: he will gather the lambs in his arms, and will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young" ( Isaiah 40:11). "He will be shepherding the flock of the Lord faithfully and righteously, and will suffer none of them to stumble in their pasture. He will lead them all aright" (SS 17:45). The leaders of the people are described as the shepherds of God's people and nation. "Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!" ( Jeremiah 23:1-4). Ezekiel has a tremendous indictment of the false leaders who seek their own good rather than the good of the flock. "Woe be to the shepherds of Israel who have been themselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?"
This picture passes over into the New Testament. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He is the shepherd who will risk his life to seek and to save the one straying sheep ( Matthew 18:12; Luke 15:4). He has pity upon the people because they are as sheep without a shepherd ( Matthew 9:36; Mark 6:34). His disciples are his little flock ( Luke 12:32). When he, the shepherd, is smitten the sheep are scattered ( Mark 14:27; Matthew 26:31). He is the shepherd of the souls of men ( 1 Peter 2:25), and the great shepherd of the sheep ( Hebrews 13:20).
Just as in the Old Testament picture, the leaders of the Church are the shepherds and the people are the flock. It is the duty of the leader to feed the flock of God, to accept the oversight willingly and not by constraint, to do it eagerly and not for love of money, not to use the position for the exercise of power and to be an example to the flock ( 1 Peter 5:2-3). Paul urges the elders of Ephesus to take heed to all the flock over which the Holy Spirit had made them overseers ( Acts 20:28). It is Jesus' last command to Peter that he should feed his lambs and his sheep ( John 21:15-19). The very word pastor ( Ephesians 4:11) is the Latin word for shepherd.
The Jews had a lovely legend to explain why God chose Moses to be the leader of his people. "When Moses was feeding the sheep of his father-in-law in the wilderness, a young kid ran away. Moses followed it until it reached a ravine, where it found a well to drink from. When Moses got up to it he said: 'I did not know that you ran away because you were thirsty. Now you must be weary.' He took the kid on his shoulders and carried it back. Then God said: 'Because you have shown pity in leading back one of a flock belonging to a man, you shall lead my flock Israel.'"
The word shepherd should paint a picture to us of the unceasing vigilance and patience of the love of God; and it should remind us of our duty towards our fellow-men, especially if we hold any kind of office in the church of Christ.
THE SHEPHERD AND HIS SHEEP ( John 10:1-6 continued)
The Palestinian shepherd had different ways of doing things from the shepherds of our country; and, to get the full meaning of this picture, we must look at the shepherd and the way in which he worked.
His equipment was very simple. He had his scrip, a bag made of the skin of an animal, in which he carried his food. In it he would have no more than bread, dried fruit, some olives and cheese. He had his sting. The skill of many of the men of Palestine was such that they "could sling a stone at a hair and not miss" ( Judges 20:16). The shepherd used his sling as a weapon of offence and defence; but he made one curious use of it. There were no sheep dogs in Palestine, and, when the shepherd wished to call back a sheep which was straying away, he fitted a stone into his sling and landed it just in front of the straying sheep's nose as a warning to turn back. He had his staff, a short wooden club which had a lump of wood at the end often studded with nails. It usually had a slit in the handle at the top, through which a thong passed; and by the thong the staff swung at the shepherd's belt. His staff was the weapon with which he defended himself and his flock against marauding beasts and robbers. He had his rod, which was like the shepherd's crook. With it he could catch and pull back any sheep which was moving to stray away. At the end of the day, when the sheep were going into the fold, the shepherd held his rod across the entrance, quite close to the ground; and every sheep had to pass under it ( Ezekiel 20:37; Leviticus 27:32); and, as each sheep passed under, the shepherd quickly examined it to see if it had received any kind of injury throughout the day.
The relationship between sheep and shepherd is quite different in Palestine. In Britain the sheep are largely kept for killing; but in Palestine largely for their wool. It thus happens that in Palestine the sheep are often with the shepherd for years and often they have names by which the shepherd calls them. Usually these names are descriptive, for instance, "Brown-leg," "Black-ear." In Palestine the shepherd went in front and the sheep followed. The shepherd went first to see that the path was safe, and sometimes the sheep had to be encouraged to follow. A traveller tells how he saw a shepherd leading his flock come to a ford across a stream. The sheep were unwilling to cross. The shepherd finally solved the problem by carrying one of the lambs across. When its mother saw her lamb on the other side she crossed too, and soon all the rest of the flock had followed her.
It is strictly true that the sheep know and understand the eastern shepherd's voice; and that they will never answer to the voice of a stranger. H. V. Morton has a wonderful description of the way in which the shepherd talks to the sheep. "Sometimes he talks to them in a loud sing-song voice, using a weird language unlike anything I have ever heard in my life. The first time I heard this sheep and goat language I was on the hills at the back of Jericho. A goat-herd had descended into a valley and was mounting the slope of an opposite hill, when turning round, he saw his goats had remained behind to devour a rich patch of scrub. Lifting his voice, he spoke to the goats in a language that Pan must have spoken on the mountains of Greece. It was uncanny because there was nothing human about it. The words were animal sounds arranged in a kind of order. No sooner had he spoken than an answering bleat shivered over the herd, and one or two of the animals turned their heads in his direction. But they did not obey him. The goat-herd then called out one word, and gave a laughing kind of whinny. Immediately a goat with a bell round his neck stopped eating, and, leaving the herd, trotted down the hill, across the valley, and up the opposite slopes. The man, accompanied by this animal, walked on and disappeared round a ledge of rock. Very soon a panic spread among the herd. They forgot to eat. They looked up for the shepherd. He was not to be seen. They became conscious that the leader with the bell at his neck was no longer with them. From the distance came the strange laughing call of the shepherd, and at the sound of it the entire herd stampeded into the hollow and leapt up the hill after him" (H. V. Morton, In the Steps of the Master, pp. 154, 155). W. M. Thomson in The Land and the Book has the same story to tell. "The shepherd calls sharply from time to time, to remind them of his presence. They know his voice, and follow on; but, if a stranger call, they stop short, lift up their heads in alarm, and if it is repeated, they turn and flee, because they know not the voice of a stranger. I have made the experiment repeatedly." That is exactly John's picture.
H. V. Morton tells of a scene that he saw in a cave near Bethlehem. Two shepherds had sheltered their flocks in the cave during the night. How were the flocks to be sorted out? One of the shepherds stood some distance away and gave his peculiar call which only his own sheep knew, and soon his whole flock had run to him, because they knew his voice. They would have come for no one else, but they knew the call of their own shepherd. An eighteenth century traveller actually tells how Palestinian sheep could be made to dance, quick or slow, to the peculiar whistle or the peculiar tune on the flute of their own shepherd.
Every detail of the shepherd's life lights up the picture of the Good Shepherd whose sheep hear his voice and whose constant care is for his flock.
THE DOOR TO LIFE ( John 10:7-10 )
10:7-10 So Jesus said to them again: "This is the truth I tell you--I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If any man enter in through me, he will be saved, and he will go in and out, and he will find pasture. The thief comes only to kill and to steal and to destroy; I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."
The Jews did not understand the meaning of the story of the Good Shepherd. So Jesus, plainly and without concealment, applied it to himself.
He began by saying: "I am the door." In this parable Jesus spoke about two kinds of sheep-folds. In the villages and towns themselves there were communal sheep-folds where all the village flocks were sheltered when they returned home at night. These folds were protected by a strong door of which only the guardian of the door held the key. It was to that kind of fold Jesus referred in John 10:2-3. But when the sheep were out on the hills in the warm season and did not return at night to the village at all, they were collected into sheep-folds on the hillside. These hillside sheep-folds were just open spaces enclosed by a wall. In them there was an opening by which the sheep came in and went out; but there was no door of any kind. What happened was that at night the shepherd himself lay down across the opening and no sheep could get out or in except over his body. In the most literal sense the shepherd was the door.
That is what Jesus was thinking of when he said: "I am the door." Through him, and through him alone, men find access to God. "Through him," said Paul, "we have access to the Father" ( Ephesians 2:18). "He," said the writer to the Hebrews, "is the new and living way" ( Hebrews 10:20). Jesus opens the way to God. Until Jesus came men could think of God only as, at best, a stranger and as, at worst, an enemy. But Jesus came to show men what God is like, and to open the way to him. He is the door through whom alone entrance to God becomes possible for men.
To describe something of what that entrance to God means, Jesus uses a well-known Hebrew phrase. He says that through him we can go in and come out. To be able to come and go unmolested was the Jewish way of describing a life that is absolutely secure and safe. When a man can go in and out without fear, it means that his country is at peace, that the forces of law and order are supreme, and that he enjoys perfect security. The leader of the nation is to be one who can bring them out and lead them in ( Numbers 27:17). Of the man who is obedient to God it is said that he is blessed when he comes in and blessed when he goes out ( Deuteronomy 28:6). A child is one who is not yet able by himself to go out and to come in ( 1 Kings 3:7). The Psalmist is certain that God will keep him in his going out and in his coming in ( Psalms 121:8). Once a man discovers, through Jesus Christ, what God is like, a new sense of safety and of security enters into life. If life is known to be in the hands of a God like that, the worries and the fears are gone.
Jesus said that those who came before him were thieves and robbers. He was of course not referring to the great succession of the prophets and the heroes, but to these adventurers who were continually arising in Palestine and promising that, if people would follow them, they would bring in the golden age. All these claimants were insurrectionists. They believed that men would have to wade through blood to the golden age. At this very time Josephus speaks of there being ten thousand disorders in Judaea, tumults caused by men of war. He speaks of men like the Zealots who did not mind dying themselves and who did not mind slaughtering their own loved ones, if their hopes of conquest could be achieved. Jesus is saying: "There have been men who claimed that they were leaders sent to you from God. They believed in war, murder, assassination. Their way only leads for ever farther and farther away from God. My way is the way of peace and love and life; and if you will only take it, it leads ever closer and closer to God." There have been, and still are, those who believe that the golden age must be brought in with violence, class warfare, bitterness, destruction. It is the message of Jesus that the only way that leads to God in heaven and to the golden age on earth is the way of love.
Jesus claims that he came that men might have life and might have it more abundantly. The Greek phrase used for having it more abundantly means to have a superabundance of a thing. To be a follower of Jesus, to know who he is and what he means, is to have a superabundance of life. A Roman soldier came to Julius Caesar with a request for permission to commit suicide. He was a wretched dispirited creature with no vitality. Caesar looked at him. "Man," he said, "were you ever really alive?" When we try to live our own lives, life is a dull, dispirited thing. When we walk with Jesus, there comes a new vitality, a superabundance of life. It is only when we live with Christ that life becomes really worth living and we begin to live in the real sense of the word.
THE TRUE AND THE FALSE SHEPHERD ( John 10:11-15 )
10:11-15 "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep. The hireling, who is not a real shepherd, and to whom the sheep do not really belong, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and runs away; and the wolf seizes them and scatters them. He abandons the sheep because he is a hireling, and the sheep are nothing to him. I am the good shepherd, and I know my own sheep, and my own sheep know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep."
This passage draws the contrast between the good and the bad, the faithful and the unfaithful shepherd. The shepherd was absolutely responsible for the sheep. If anything happened to a sheep, he had to produce some kind of proof that it was not his fault. Amos speaks about the shepherd rescuing two legs or a piece of an ear out of a lion's mouth ( Amos 3:12). The law laid it down: "If it is torn by beasts, let him bring it as evidence" ( Exodus 22:13). The idea is that the shepherd must bring home proof that the sheep had died, and that he had been unable to prevent the death. David tells Saul how when he was keeping his father's sheep, he had the battle with the lion and the bear ( 1 Samuel 17:34-36). Isaiah speaks of the crowd of shepherds being called out to deal with the lion ( Isaiah 31:4). To the shepherd it was the most natural thing to risk his life in defence of his flock. Sometimes the shepherd had to do more than risk his life: sometimes he had to lay it down, perhaps when thieves and robbers came to despoil the flock. Dr W. M. Thomson in The Land and the Book writes: "I have listened with intense interest to their graphic descriptions of downright and desperate fights with these savage beasts. And when the thief and the robber come (and come they do), the faithful shepherd has often to put his life in his hand to defend his flock. I have known more than one case where he had literally to lay it down in the contest. A poor faithful fellow last spring, between Tiberias and Tabor, instead of fleeing, actually fought three Bedouin robbers until he was hacked to pieces with their khanjars, and died among the sheep he was defending." The true shepherd never hesitated to risk, and even to lay down, his life for his sheep.
But, on the other hand, there was the unfaithful shepherd. The difference was this. A real shepherd was born to his task. He was sent out with the flock as soon as he was old enough to go; the sheep became his friends and his companions; and it became second nature to think of them before he thought of himself. But the false shepherd came into the job, not as a calling, but as a means of making money. He was in it simply and solely for the pay he could get. He might even be a man who had taken to the hills because the town was too hot to hold him. He had no sense of the height and the responsibility of his task; he was only a hireling.
Wolves were a threat to a flock. Jesus said of his disciples that he was sending them out as sheep in the midst of wolves ( Matthew 10:16); Paul warned the elders of Ephesus that grievous wolves would come, not sparing the flock ( Acts 20:29). If these wolves attacked, the hireling shepherd forgot everything but the saving of his own life and ran away. Zechariah marks it as the characteristic of a false shepherd that he made no attempt to gather together the scattered sheep ( Zechariah 11:16). Carlyle's father once took this imagery caustically to his speech. In Ecclefechan they were having trouble with their minister; and it was the worst of all kinds of such trouble--it was about money. Carlyle's father rose and said bitingly: "Give the hireling his wages and let him go."
Jesus' point is that the man who works only for reward thinks chiefly of the money; the man who works for love thinks chiefly of the people he is trying to serve. Jesus was the good shepherd who so loved his sheep that for their safety he would risk, and one day give, his life.
We may note two further points before we leave this passage. Jesus describes himself as the good shepherd. Now in Greek, there are two words for good. There is agathos ( G18) which simply describes the moral quality of a thing; there is kalos ( G2570) which means that in the goodness there is a quality of winsomeness which makes it lovely. When Jesus is described as the good shepherd, the word is kalos ( G2570) . In him there is more than efficiency and more than fidelity; there is loveliness. Sometimes in a village or town people speak about the good doctor. They are not thinking only of the doctor's efficiency and skill as a physician; they are thinking of the sympathy and the kindness and the graciousness which he brought with him and which made him the friend of all. In the picture of Jesus as the Good Shepherd there is loveliness as well as strength and power.
The second point is this. In the parable the flock is the Church of Christ; and it suffers from a double danger. It is always liable to attack from outside, from the wolves and the robbers and the marauders. It is always liable to trouble from the inside, from the false shepherd. The Church runs a double danger. It is always under attack from outside and often suffers from the tragedy of bad leadership, from the disaster of shepherds who see their calling as a career and not as a means of service. The second danger is by far the worse; because, if the shepherd is faithful and good, there is a strong defence from the attack from outside; but if the shepherd is faithless and a hireling, the foes from outside can penetrate into and destroy the flock. The Church's first essential is a leadership based on the example of Jesus Christ.
THE ULTIMATE UNITY ( John 10:16 )
10:16 "But I have other sheep which are not of this fold. These too I must bring in, and they will hear my voice; and they will become one flock, and there will be one shepherd."
One of the hardest things in the world to unlearn is exclusiveness. Once a people, or a section of a people, gets the idea that they are specially privileged, it is very difficult for them to accept that the privileges which they believed belonged to them and to them only are in fact open to all men. That is what the Jews never learned. They believed that they were God's chosen people and that God had no use for any other nation. They believed that, at the best, other nations were designed to be their slaves, and, at the worst, that they were destined for elimination from the scheme of things. But here Jesus is saying that there will come a day when all men will know him as their shepherd.
Even the Old Testament is not without its glimpses of that day. Isaiah had that very dream. It was his conviction that God had given Israel for a light to the nations ( Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 56:8) and always there had been some lonely voices which insisted that God was not the exclusive property of Israel, but that her destiny was to make him known to all men.
At first sight it might seem that the New Testament speaks with two voices on this subject; and some passages of the New Testament may well trouble and perplex us a little. As Matthew tells the story, when Jesus sent out his disciples, he said to them: "Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" ( Matthew 10:5-6). When the Syro-Phoenician woman appealed to Jesus for help, his first answer was that he was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel ( Matthew 15:24). But there is much to be set on the other side. Jesus himself stayed and taught in Samaria ( John 4:40); he declared that descent from Abraham was no guarantee of entry into the kingdom ( John 8:39). It was of a Roman centurion that Jesus said that he had never seen such faith in Israel ( Matthew 8:10); it was a Samaritan leper who alone returned to give thanks ( Luke 17:18-19); it was the Samaritan traveller who showed the kindness that all men must copy ( Luke 10:37); many would come from the east and the west and the north and the south to sit down in the Kingdom of God ( Matthew 8:11; Luke 13:29); the command in the end was to go out and to preach the gospel to all nations ( Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:19); Jesus was, not the light of the Jews, but the light of the world ( John 8:12).
What is the explanation of the sayings which seem to limit the work of Jesus to the Jews? The explanation is in reality very simple. The ultimate aim of Jesus was the world for God. But any great commander knows that he must in the first instance limit his objectives. If he tries to attack on too wide a front, he only scatters his forces, diffuses his strength, and gains success nowhere. In order to win an ultimately complete victory he must begin by concentrating his forces at certain limited objectives. That is what Jesus did. Had he gone here, there and everywhere, had he sent his disciples out with no limitation to their sphere of work, nothing would have been achieved. At the moment he deliberately concentrated on the Jewish nation, but his ultimate aim was the gathering of the whole world into his love.
There are three great truths in this passage.
(i) It is only in Jesus Christ that the world can become one. Egerton Young was the first missionary to the Red Indians. In Saskatchewan he went out and told them of the love of God. To the Indians it was like a new revelation. When the missionary had told his message, an old chief said: "When you spoke of the great Spirit just now, did I hear you say, 'Our Father'?" "Yes," said Egerton Young. "That is very new and sweet to me," said the chief. "We never thought of the great Spirit as Father. We heard him in the thunder; we saw him in the lightning, the tempest and the blizzard, and we were afraid. So when you tell us that the great Spirit is our Father, that is very beautiful to us." The old man paused, and then he went on, as a glimpse of glory suddenly shone on him. "Missionary, did you say that the great Spirit is your Father?" "Yes," said the missionary. "And," said the chief, "did you say that he is the Indians' Father?" "I did," said the missionary. "Then," said the old chief, like a man on whom a dawn of joy had burst, "you and I are brothers!"
The only possible unity for men is in their common sonship with God. In the world there is division between nation and nation; in the nation there is division between class and class. There can never be one nation; and there can never be one class. The only thing which can cross the barriers and wipe out the distinctions is the gospel of Jesus Christ telling men of the universal fatherhood of God.
(ii) In the King James Version there is a mistranslation. It has: "There shall be one fold and one shepherd." That mistranslation goes back to Jerome and the Vulgate. And on that mistranslation the Roman Catholic Church has based the teaching that, since there is only one fold, there can only be one Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and that, outside it there is no salvation. But the real translation beyond all possible doubt as given in the Revised Standard Version, is: "There shall be one flock, one shepherd," or, even better, "They shall become one flock and there shall be one shepherd." The unity comes from the fact, not that all the sheep are forced into one fold, but they all hear, answer and obey one shepherd. It is not an ecclesiastical unity; it is a unity of loyalty to Jesus Christ. The fact that there is one flock does not mean that there can be only one Church, one method of worship, one form of ecclesiastical administration. But it does mean that all the different churches are united by a common loyalty to Jesus Christ.
(ii) But this saying of Jesus becomes very personal; for it is a dream which every one of us can help Jesus to realize. Men cannot hear without a preacher; the other sheep cannot be gathered in unless someone goes out to bring them in. Here is set before us the tremendous missionary task of the Church. And we must not think of that only in terms of what we used to call foreign missions. If we know someone here and now who is outside his love, we can find him for Christ. The dream of Christ depends on us; it is we who can help him make the world one flock with him as its shepherd.
LOVE'S CHOICE ( John 10:17-18 )
10:17-18 "The reason why my Father loves me is that I lay down my life that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own free will. I have full authority to lay it down, and I have full authority to take it again. I have received this injunction from my Father."
Few passages in the New Testament tell us so much about Jesus in so short a compass.
(i) It tells us that Jesus saw his whole life as an act of obedience to God. God had given him a task to do, and he was prepared to carry it out to the end, even if it meant death. He was in a unique relationship to God which we can describe only by saying that he was the Son of God. But that relationship did not give him the right to do what he liked; it depended on his doing always, cost what it may, what God liked. Sonship for him, and sonship for us, could never be based on anything except obedience.
(ii) It tells us that Jesus always saw the Cross and the glory together. He never doubted that he must die; and equally he never doubted that he would rise again. The reason was his confidence in God; he was sure that God would never abandon him. All life is based on the fact that anything worth getting is hard to get. There is always a price to be paid. Scholarship can be bought only at the price of study; skill in any craft or technique can be bought only at the price of practice; eminence in any sport can be bought only at the price of training and discipline. The world is full of people who have missed their destiny because they would not pay the price. No one can take the easy way and enter into glory or greatness; no one can take the hard way and fail to find these things.
(iii) It tells us in a way that we cannot possibly mistake that Jesus' death was entirely voluntary. Jesus stresses this again and again. In the garden he bade his would-be defender put up his sword. If he had wished, he could have called in the hosts of heaven to his defence ( Matthew 26:53). He made it quite clear that Pilate was not condemning him, but that he was accepting death ( John 19:10-11). He was not the victim of circumstance. He was not like some animal, dragged unwillingly and without understanding to the sacrifice. Jesus laid down his life because he chose to do so.
It is told that in the First World War there was a young French soldier who was seriously wounded. His arm was so badly smashed that it had to be amputated. He was a magnificent specimen of young manhood, and the surgeon was grieved that he must go through life maimed. So he waited beside his bedside to tell him the bad news when he recovered consciousness. When the lad's eyes opened, the surgeon said to him: "I am sorry to tell you that you have lost your arm." "Sir," said the lad, "I did not lose it; I gave it--for France."
Jesus was not helplessly caught up in a mesh of circumstances from which he could not break free. Apart from any divine power he might have called in, it is quite clear that to the end he could have turned back and saved his life. He did not lose his life: he gave it. The Cross was not thrust upon him: he willingly accepted it-for us.
MADMAN OR SON OF GOD ( John 10:19-21 )
10:19-21 There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said: "He has an evil spirit, and he is mad. Why do you listen to him?" Others said: "These are not the words of a man possessed by an evil spirit. Can a man with an evil spirit open the eyes of the blind?"
The people who listened to Jesus on this occasion were confronted with a dilemma which is for ever confronting men. Either Jesus was a megalomaniac madman, or he was the Son of God. There is no escape from that choice. If a man speaks about God and about himself in the way in which Jesus spoke, either he is completely deluded, or else he is profoundly right. The claims which Jesus made signify either insanity or divinity. How can we assure ourselves that they were indeed justified and not the world's greatest delusion?
(i) The words of Jesus are not the words of a madman. We could cite witness after witness to prove that the teaching of Jesus is the supreme sanity. Thinking men and women in every generation have judged the teaching of Jesus the one hope of sanity for a mad world. His is the one voice which speaks God's sense in the midst of man's delusions.
(ii) The deeds of Jesus are not the deeds of a madman. He healed the sick and fed the hungry and comforted the sorrowing. The madness of megalomania is essentially selfish. It seeks for nothing but its own glory and prestige. But Jesus' life was spent in doing things for others. As the Jews themselves said, a man who was mad would not be able to open the eyes of the blind.
(iii) The effect of Jesus is not the effect of a madman. The undeniable fact is that millions upon millions of lives have been changed by the power of Jesus Christ. The weak have become strong, the selfish have become selfless, the defeated have become victorious, the worried have become serene, the bad have become good. It is not madness which produces such a change, but wisdom and sanity.
The choice remains--Jesus was either mad or divine. No honest person can review the evidence and come to any other conclusion than that Jesus brought into the world, not a deluded madness, but the perfect sanity of God.
THE CLAIM AND THE PROMISE ( John 10:22-28 )
10:22-28 It was the Festival of the Dedication in Jerusalem. It was wintry weather, and Jesus was walking in the Temple precincts in Solomon's Porch. So the Jews surrounded him. "How long," they said to him, "are you going to keep us hanging in suspense? If you really are God's Anointed One, tell us plainly." Jesus answered them: "I did tell you and you did not believe me. The works that I do in the name of my Father, these are evidence about me. But you do not believe because you are not among the number of my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them from my hand."
John begins by giving us both the date and the place of this discussion. The date was the Festival of the Dedication. This was the latest of the great Jewish festivals to be founded. It was sometimes called The Festival of Lights; and its Jewish name was Hanukkah. Its date is the 25th of the Jewish month called Chislew which corresponds with our December. This Festival therefore falls very near our Christmas time and is still universally observed by the Jews.
The origin of the Festival of the Dedication lies in one of the greatest times of ordeal and heroism in Jewish history. There was a king of Syria called Antiochus Epiphanes who reigned from 175 to 164 B.C. He was a lover of all things Greek. He decided that he would eliminate the Jewish religion once and for all, and introduce Greek ways and thoughts, Greek religion and gods into Palestine. At first he tried to do so by peaceful penetration of ideas. Some of the Jews welcomed the new ways, but most were stubbornly loyal to their ancestral faith.
It was in 170 B.C. that the deluge really came. In that year Antiochus attacked Jerusalem. It was said that 80,000 Jews perished, and as many were sold into slavery. 1,800 talents--a talent is equal to 240 British pounds--were stolen from the Temple treasury. It became a capital offence to possess a copy of the law, or to circumcise a child; and mothers who did circumcise their children were crucified with their children hanging round their necks. The Temple courts were profaned; the Temple chambers were turned into brothels; and finally Antiochus took the dreadful step of turning the great altar of the burnt-offering into an altar to Olympian Zeus, and on it proceeded to offer swine's flesh to the pagan gods.
It was then that Judas Maccabaeus and his brother arose to fight their epic fight for freedom. In 164 B.C. the struggle was finally won; and in that year the Temple was cleansed and purified. The altar was rebuilt and the robes and the utensils were replaced, after three years of pollution. It was to commemorate that purification of the Temple that the Feast of the Dedication was instituted. Judas Maccabaeus enacted that "the days of the dedication of the altar should be kept in their season from year to year, by the space of eight days, from the five and twentieth day of the month of Chislew, with gladness and joy" ( 1Ma_4:59 ). For that reason the festival was sometimes called the Festival of the Dedication of the Altar, and sometimes the Memorial of the Purification of the Temple.
But as we have already seen, it had still another name. It was often called the Festival of Lights. There were great illuminations in the Temple; and there were also illuminations in every Jewish home. In the window of every Jewish house there were set lights. According to Shammai, eight lights were set in the window, and they were reduced each day by one until on the last day only one was left burning. According to Hillel, one light was kindled on the first day, and one was added each day until on the last day eight were burning. We can see these lights in the windows of every devout Jewish home to this day.
These lights had two significances. First, they were a reminder that at the first celebrating of the festival the light of freedom had come back to Israel. Second, they were traced back to a very old legend. It was told that when the Temple had been purified and the great seven branched candlestick re-lit, only one little cruse of unpolluted oil could be found. This cruse was still intact, and still sealed with the impress of the ring of the High Priest. By all normal measures, there was only oil enough in that cruse to light the lamps for one single day. But by a miracle it lasted for eight days, until new oil had been prepared according to the correct formula and had been consecrated for its sacred use. So for eight days the lights burned in the Temple and in the homes of the people in memory of the cruse which God had made to last for eight days instead of one.
It is not without significance that it must have been very close to this time of illumination that Jesus said: "I am the Light of the world." When all the lights were being kindled in memory of the freedom won to worship God in the true way, Jesus said: "I am the Light of the world; I alone can light men into the knowledge and the presence of God."
John also gives us the place of this discussion, Solomon's Porch. The first court in the Temple precincts was the Court of the Gentiles. Along two sides of it ran two magnificent colonnades called the Royal Porch and Solomon's Porch. They were rows of magnificent pillars, almost forty feet high and roofed over. People walked there to pray and meditate; and Rabbis strolled there as they talked to their students and expounded the doctrines of the faith. It was there that Jesus was walking, because, as John says with a pictorial touch, "it was wintry weather."
THE CLAIM AND THE PROMISE ( John 10:22-28 continued)
As Jesus walked in Solomon's Porch the Jews came to him. "How long," they said to him, "are you going to keep us in suspense? Tell us plainly, are you or are you not God's promised Anointed One?" There is no doubt that behind that question were two attitudes of mind. There were those who genuinely wished to know. They were on an eager tip-toe of expectation. But there were others who beyond a doubt asked the question as a trap. They wished to inveigle Jesus into making a statement which could be twisted either into a charge of blasphemy with which their own courts could deal or a charge of insurrection with which the Roman governor would deal.
Jesus' answer was that he had already told them who he was. True, he had not done so in so many words; for, as John tells the story, Jesus' two great claims had been made in private. To the Samaritan woman he had revealed himself as the Messiah ( John 4:26) and to the man born blind he had claimed to be the Son of God ( John 9:37). But there are some claims which do not need to be made in words, especially to an audience well-qualified to perceive them. There were two things about Jesus which placed his claim beyond all doubt whether he stated it in words or not. First, there were his deeds. It was Isaiah's dream of the golden age: "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing for joy" ( Isaiah 35:5-6). Every one of Jesus' miracles was a claim that the Messiah had come. Second, there were his words. Moses had forecast that God would raise up the Prophet who must be listened to ( Deuteronomy 18:15). The very accent of authority with which Jesus spoke, the way in which he regally abrogated the old law and put his own teaching in its place, was a claim that God was speaking in him. The words and deeds of Jesus were a continuous claim to be the Anointed One of God.
But the great majority of the Jews had not accepted that claim. As we have seen in Palestine the sheep knew their own shepherd's special call and answered it; these were not of Jesus' flock. In the fourth gospel there is behind it all a doctrine of predestination, things were happening all the time as God meant them to happen. John is really saying that these Jews were predestined not to follow Jesus. Somehow or other the whole New Testament keeps two opposite ideas in balance--the fact that everything happens within the purpose of God and yet in such a way that man's free-will is responsible. These had made themselves such that they were predestined not to accept Jesus; and yet, as John sees it, that does not make them any the less to be condemned.
But though most did not accept Jesus, some did; and to them Jesus promised three things.
(i) He promised eternal life. He promised that if they accepted him as Master and Lord, if they became members of his flock, all the littleness of earthly life would be gone and they would know the splendour and the magnificence of the life of God.
(ii) He promised a life that would know no end. Death would not be the end but the beginning; they would know the glory of indestructible life.
(iii) He promised a life that was secure. Nothing could snatch them from his hand. This would not mean that they would be saved from sorrow, from suffering and from death; but that in the sorest moment and the darkest hour they would still be conscious of the everlasting arms underneath and about them. Even in a world crashing to disaster they would know the serenity of God.
THE TREMENDOUS TRUST AND THE TREMENDOUS CLAIM ( John 10:29-30 )
10:29-30 My Father, who gave them to me, is greater than all; and no one can snatch them from the hand of the Father. I and the Father are one.
This passage show's at one and the same time the tremendous trust and the tremendous claim of Jesus.
His trust was something which traced everything back to God. He has just been speaking about his sheep and his flock; he has just been saying that no one will ever snatch his own from his hand, that he is the shepherd who will keep the sheep for ever safe. At first sight, and if he had stopped there, it would have seemed that Jesus put his trust in his own keeping power. But now we see the other side of it. It is his Father who gave him his sheep; that both he and his sheep are in his Father's hand. Jesus was so sure of himself because he was so sure of God. His attitude to life was not self-confidence, but God-confidence. He was secure, not in his own power, but in God's. He was so certain of ultimate safety and ultimate victory, not because he arrogated all power to himself, but because he assigned all power to God.
Now we come to the supreme claim. "I and the Father are one," said Jesus. What did he mean? Is it absolute mystery, or can we understand at least a little of it? Are we driven to interpret it in terms of essence and hypostasis and all the rest of the metaphysical and philosophic notions about which the makers of the creeds fought and argued? Has one to be a theologian and a philosopher to grasp even a fragment of the meaning of this tremendous statement?
If we go to the Bible itself for the interpretation, we find that it is in fact so simple that the simplest mind can grasp it. Let us turn to the seventeenth chapter of John's gospel, which tells of the prayer of Jesus for his followers before he went to his death: "Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one" ( John 17:11). Jesus conceived of the unity of Christian with Christian as the same as his unity with God. In the same passage he goes on: "I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one" ( John 17:20-22). Jesus is saying with simplicity and a clarity none can mistake that the end of the Christian life is that Christians should be one as he and his Father are one.
What is the unity which should exist between Christian and Christian? Its secret is love. "A new commandment I give to you, That you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another" ( John 13:34). Christians are one because they love one another; even so, Jesus is one with God because of his love of God. But we can go further. What is the only test of love? Let us go again to the words of Jesus. "If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love; just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love" ( John 15:10). "If a man loves me, he will keep my word" ( John 14:23-24). "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" ( John 14:15). "He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me" ( John 14:21).
Here is the essence of the matter. The bond of unity is love; the proof of love is obedience. Christians are one with each other when they are bound by love, and obey the words of Christ. Jesus is one with God, because as no other ever did, he obeyed and loved him. His unity with God is a unity of perfect love, issuing in perfect obedience.
When Jesus said: "I and the Father are one," he was not moving in the world of philosophy and metaphysics and abstractions; he was moving in the world of personal relationships. No one can really understand what a phrase like "a unity of essence" means; but any one can understand what a unity of heart means. Jesus' unity with God came from the twin facts of perfect love and perfect obedience. He was one with God because he loved and obeyed him perfectly; and he came to this world to make us what he is.
INVITING THE ACID TEST ( John 10:31-39 )
10:31-39 The Jews again lifted up stones to stone him. Jesus said to them: "I have showed you many lovely deeds, which came from my Father. For which of these deeds are you trying to stone me?" The Jews answered him: "It is not for any lovely deed that we propose to stone you; it is for insulting God, and because you, being a man, make yourself God." "Does it not stand written in your law," Jesus answered them, "'I said you are gods'? If he called those to whom the word came gods--and the scripture cannot be destroyed--are you going to say about me, whom the Father consecrated and despatched into the world: 'You insult God,' because I said: 'I am the Son of God'? If I do not do the works of my Father, do not believe me. But if I do, even if you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and recognize that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father." They again tried to lay violent hands on him, but he evaded their grasp.
To the Jews Jesus' statement that he and the Father were one was blasphemy. It was the invasion by a man of the place which belonged to God alone. The Jewish law laid down the penalty of stoning for blasphemy. "He who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him" ( Leviticus 24:16). So they made their preparations to stone Jesus. The Greek really means that they went and fetched stones to fling at him. Jesus met their hostility with three arguments.
(i) He told them that he had spent all his days doing lovely things, healing the sick feeding the hungry, and comforting the sorrowing, deeds so full of help and power and beauty that they obviously came from God. For which of these deeds did they wish to stone him? Their answer was that it was not for anything he had done that they wished to stone him, but for the claim he was making.
(ii) This claim was that he was the Son of God. To meet their attack Jesus used two arguments. The first is a purely Jewish argument which is difficult for us to understand. He quoted Psalms 82:6. That psalm is a warning to unjust judges to cease from unjust ways and defend the poor and the innocent. The appeal concludes: "I say, 'You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you.'" The judge is commissioned by God to be god to men. This idea comes out very clearly in certain of the regulations in Exodus. Exodus 21:1-6 tells how the Hebrew servant may go free in the seventh year. As the King James Version has it, Exodus 21:6 says "Then his master shall bring him unto the judges." But in the Hebrew, the word which is translated judges is actually 'Elohiym ( H430) , which means gods. The same form of expression is used in Exodus 22:9; Exodus 22:28. Even scripture said of men who were specially commissioned to some task by God that they were gods. So Jesus said: "If scripture can speak like that about men, why should I not speak so about myself?"
Jesus claimed two things for himself. (a) He was consecrated by God to a special task. The word for to consecrate is hagiazein ( G37) , the verb from which comes the adjective hagios ( G40) , holy. This word always has the idea of rendering a person or a place or a thing different from other persons and places and things, because it is set aside for a special purpose or task. So, for instance, the Sabbath is holy ( Exodus 20:11). The altar is holy ( Leviticus 16:19). The priests are holy ( 2 Chronicles 26:18). The prophet is holy ( Jeremiah 1:5). When Jesus said that God had consecrated him, made him holy, he meant that he had set him apart from other men, because he had given him a special task to do. The very fact that Jesus used this word shows how conscious he was of his special task. (b) He said that God had despatched him into the world. The word used is the one which would be used for sending a messenger or an ambassador or an army. Jesus did not so much think of himself as coming into the world, as being sent into the world His coming was an act of God; and he came to do the task which God had given him to do.
So Jesus said: "In the old days it was possible for scripture to speak of judges as gods, because they were commissioned by God to bring his truth and justice into the world. Now I have been set apart for a special task; I have been despatched into the world by God; how can you then object if I call myself the Son of God? I am only doing what scripture does." This is one of those biblical arguments the force of which it is difficult for us to feel; but which to a Jewish Rabbi would have been entirely convincing.
(iii) Jesus went on to invite the acid test. "I do not ask you, he said in effect," to accept my words. But I do ask you to accept my deeds." A word is something about which a man can argue; but a deed is something beyond argument. Jesus is the perfect teacher in that he does not base his claims on what he says, but on what he is and does. His invitation to the Jews was to base their verdict on him, not on what he said, but on what he did; and that is a test which all his followers ought to be able and willing to meet. The tragedy is that so few can meet it, still less invite it.
PEACE BEFORE THE STORM ( John 10:40-41 )
10:40-41 And he went away again to the other side of Jordan, to the place where John first used to baptize; and he stayed there. And many came to him, and they kept saying: "John did no sign; but everything John said about this man is true." And then many believed in him.
For Jesus the time was running out; but he knew his hour. He would not recklessly court danger and throw his life away; nor would he in cowardice avoid danger to preserve his life. But he desired quietness before the final struggle. He always armed himself to meet men by first meeting God. That is why he retired to the other side of Jordan. He was not running away: he was preparing himself for the final contest.
The place to which Jesus went is most significant. He went to the place where John had been accustomed to baptize, the place where he himself had been baptized. It was there that the voice of God had come to him and assured him that he had taken the right decision and was on the right way. There is everything to be said for a man returning every now and then to the place where he had the supreme experience of his life. When Jacob was up against it, when things had gone wrong and badly wrong, he went back to Bethel ( Genesis 35:1-5). When he needed God, he went back to the place where he had first found him. Jesus, before the end, went back to the place where the beginning had happened. It would often do our souls a world of good to make a pilgrimage to the place where we first found God.
Even on the far side of Jordan the Jews came to Jesus, and they too thought of John. They remembered that he had spoken with the words of a prophet; but had done no mighty deeds. They saw that there was a difference between Jesus and John. To John's proclamation Jesus added God's power. John could diagnose the situation; Jesus brought the power to deal with the situation. These Jews had looked on John as a prophet; now they saw that what John had foretold of Jesus was true, and many of them believed.
It often happens that a man for whom a great future is painted, and who sets out with the hopes of men upon him, disappoints that future and belies these hopes. But Jesus was even greater than John had said he would be. Jesus is the one person who never disappoints those who set their hopes upon him. In him the dream always comes true.
-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Barclay, William. "Commentary on John 10:35". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/john-10.html. 1956-1959.
Scripture cannot be broken. Jesus is depending on just one word (“gods”) in the OT for his argument. When he says that Scripture “cannot be broken,” he implies that every single word in Scripture is completely true and reliable. His opponents do not differ with this high view of Scripture, either here or anywhere else in the Gospels.
The Scriptures (both Old and New Testaments) were recognized by the early church as the final authority on all matters of faith and practice. Jesus spoke of the letters (Matthew 5:18) and verb tenses (Matthew 22:31-32) as being significant and authoritative.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on John 10:35". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gbc/john-10.html. 2021.
If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came,.... The Syriac version reads, "because the word of God came to them"; either the divine "Logos", the essential word, the Son of God, who appeared to Moses, and made him a God to Pharaoh, and who appointed rulers and magistrates among the Jews; and who is the King of kings, and Lord of lords, from whom all receive their power and dominion: this sense is favoured by the Ethiopic version, which renders it, "if he called them gods to whom God appeared, the word of God was with them": or else the commission from God, authorizing them to act in the capacity of rulers and governors, is here meant; or rather the word of God, which, in the passage of Scripture cited, calls them so, as it certainly does:
and the Scripture cannot be broken; or be made null and void; whatever that says is true, there is no contradicting it, or objecting to it: it is a Jewish way of speaking, much used in the Talmud y; when one doctor has produced an argument, or instance, in any point of debate, another says, איכא למיפרך, "it may be broken"; or objected to, in such and such a manner, and be refuted: but the Scripture cannot be broken, that is not to be objected to, there can be no confutation of that.
y T. Bab. Zebachim, fol. 4. 1. & Becorot, fol. 32. 1. & passim.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Gill, John. "Commentary on John 10:35". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/john-10.html. 1999.
|Christ's Conference with the Jews.|
22 And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. 23 And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch. 24 Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. 25 Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me. 26 But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. 30 I and my Father are one. 31 Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, Many good works have I showed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? 33 The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. 34 Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? 35 If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; 36 Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? 37 If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. 38 But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.
We have here another rencounter between Christ and the Jews in the temple, in which it is hard to say which is more strange, the gracious words that came out of his mouth or the spiteful ones that came out of theirs.
I. We have here the time when this conference was: It was at the feast of dedication, and it was winter, a feast that was annually observed by consent, in remembrance of the dedication of a new altar and the purging of the temple, by Judas Maccabæus, after the temple had been profaned and the altar defiled; we have the story of it at large in the history of the Maccabees (lib. 1, cap. 4); we have the prophecy of it, Daniel 8:13; Daniel 8:14. See more of the feast, 2 Mac. i. 18. The return of their liberty was to them as life from the dead, and, in remembrance of it, they kept an annual feast on the twenty-fifth day of the month Cisleu, about the beginning of December, and seven days after. The celebrating of it was not confined to Jerusalem, as that of the divine feasts was, but every one observed it in his own place, not as a holy time (it is only a divine institution that can sanctify a day), but as a good time, as the days of Purim, Esther 9:19. Christ forecasted to be now at Jerusalem, not in honour of the feast, which did not require his attendance there, but that he might improve those eight days of vacation for good purposes.
II. The place where it was (John 10:23; John 10:23): Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch; so called (Acts 3:11), not because built by Solomon, but because built in the same place with that which had borne his name in the first temple, and the name was kept up for the greater reputation of it. Here Christ walked, to observe the proceedings of the great sanhedrim that sat here (Psalms 82:1); he walked, ready to give audience to any that should apply to him, and to offer them his services. He walked, as it should seem, for some time alone, as one neglected; walked pensive, in the foresight of the ruin of the temple. Those that have any thing to say to Christ may find him in the temple and walk with him there.
III. The conference itself, in which observe,
1. A weighty question put to him by the Jews, John 10:24; John 10:24. They came round about him, to tease him; he was waiting for an opportunity to do them a kindness, and they took the opportunity to do him a mischief. Ill-will for good-will is no rare and uncommon return. He could not enjoy himself, no, not in the temple, his Father's house, without disturbance. They came about him, as it were, to lay siege to him: encompassed him about like bees. They came about him as if they had a joint and unanimous desire to be satisfied; came as one man, pretending an impartial and importunate enquiry after truth, but intending a general assault upon our Lord Jesus; and they seemed to speak the sense of their nation, as if they were the mouth of all the Jews: How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ tell us.
(1.) They quarrel with him, as if he had unfairly held them in suspense hitherto. Ten psychen hemon aireis--How long dost thou steal away our hearts? Or, take away our souls? So some read it; basely intimating that what share he had of the people's love and respect he did not obtain fairly, but by indirect methods, as Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel; and as seducers deceive the hearts of the simple, and so draw away disciples after them,Romans 16:18; Acts 20:30. But most interpreters understand it as we do: "How long dost thou keep us in suspense? How long are we kept debating whether thou be the Christ or no, and not able to determine the question?" Now, [1.] It was the effect of their infidelity, and powerful prejudices, that after our Lord Jesus had so fully proved himself to be the Christ they were still in doubt concerning it; this they willingly hesitated about, when they might easily have been satisfied. The struggle was between their convictions, which told them he was Christ, and their corruptions, which said, No, because he was not such a Christ as they expected. Those who choose to be sceptics may, if they please, hold the balance so that the most cogent arguments may not weigh down the most trifling objections, but scales may still hang even. [2.] It was an instance of their impudence and presumption that they laid the blame of their doubting upon Christ himself, as if he made them to doubt by inconsistency with himself, whereas in truth they made themselves doubt by indulging their prejudices. If Wisdom's sayings appear doubtful, the fault is not in the object, but in the eye; they are all plain to him that understands. Christ would make us to believe; we make ourselves to doubt.
(2.) They challenge him to give a direct and categorical answer whether he was the Messiah or no: "If thou be the Christ, as many believe thou art, tell us plainly, not by parables, as, I am the light of the world, and the good Shepherd, and the like, but totidem verbis--in so many words, either that thou art the Christ, or, as John Baptist, that thou art not," John 1:20; John 1:20. Now this pressing query of theirs was seemingly good; they pretended to be desirous to know the truth, as if they were ready to embrace it; but it was really bad, and put with an ill design; for, if he should tell them plainly that he was the Christ, there needed no more to make him obnoxious to the jealousy and severity of the Roman government. Every one knew the Messiah was to be a king, and therefore whoever pretended to be the Messiah would be prosecuted as a traitor, which was the thing they would have been at; for, let him tell them ever so plainly that he was the Christ, they would have this to say presently, Thou bearest witness of thyself, as they had said, John 8:13; John 8:13.
2. Christ's answer to this question, in which,
(1.) He justifies himself as not at all accessary to their infidelity and skepticism, referring them, [1.] To what he had said: I have told you. He had told them that he was the Son of God, the Son of man, that he had life in himself, that he had authority to execute judgment, c. And is not this the Christ then? These things he had told them, and they believed not why then should they be told them again, merely to gratify their curiosity? You believed not. They pretended that they only doubted, but Christ tells them that they did not believe. Skepticism in religion is no better than downright infidelity. It is now for us to teach God how he should teach us, nor prescribe to him how plainly he should tell us his mind, but to be thankful for divine revelation as we have it. If we do not believe this, neither should we be persuaded if it were ever so much adapted to our humour. [2.] He refers them to his works, to the example of his life, which was not only perfectly pure, but highly beneficent, and of a piece with his doctrine; and especially to his miracles, which he wrought for the confirmation of his doctrine. It was certain that no man could do those miracles except God were with him, and God would not be with him to attest a forgery.
(2.) He condemns them for their obstinate unbelief, notwithstanding all the most plain and powerful arguments used to convince them: "You believed not; and again, You believed not. You still are what you always were, obstinate in your unbelief." But the reason he gives is very surprising: "You believed not, because you are not of my sheep: you believe not in me, because you belong not to me." [1.] "You are not disposed to be my followers, are not of a tractable teachable temper, have no inclination to receive the doctrine and law of the Messiah; you will not herd yourselves with my sheep, will not come and see, come and hear my voice." Rooted antipathies to the gospel of Christ are the bonds of iniquity and infidelity. [2.] "You are not designed to be my followers; you are not of those that were given me by my Father, to be brought to grace and glory. You are not of the number of the elect; and your unbelief, if you persist in it, will be a certain evidence that you are not." Note, Those to whom God never gives the grace of faith were never designed for heaven and happiness. What Solomon saith of immorality is true of infidelity, It is a deep ditch, and he that is abhorred of the Lord shall fall therein,Proverbs 22:14. Non esse electum, non est causa incredulitatis propriè dicta, sed causa per accidens. Fides autem est donum Dei et effectus prædestinationis--The not being included among the elect is not the proper cause of infidelity, but merely the accidental cause. But faith is the gift of God, and the effect of predestination. So Jansenius distinguishes well here.
(3.) He takes this occasion to describe both the gracious disposition and the happy state of those that are his sheep; for such there are, though they be not.
[1.] To convince them that they were not his sheep, he tells them what were the characters of his sheep. First, They hear his voice (John 10:27; John 10:27), for they know it to be his (John 10:4; John 10:4), and he has undertaken that they shall hear it, John 10:16; John 10:16. They discern it, It is the voice of my beloved,Song of Solomon 2:8. They delight in it, are in their element when they are sitting at his feet to hear his word. They do according to it, and make his word their rule. Christ will not account those his sheep that are deaf to his calls, deaf to his charms, Psalms 58:5. Secondly, They follow him; they submit to his guidance by a willing obedience to all his commands, and a cheerful conformity to his spirit and pattern. The word of command has always been, Follow me. We must eye him as our leader and captain, and tread in his steps, and walk as he walked--follow the prescriptions of his word, the intimations of his providence, and the directions of his Spirit--follow the Lamb (the dux gregis--the leader of the flock) whithersoever he goes. In vain do we hear his voice if we do not follow him.
[2.] To convince them that it was their great unhappiness and misery not to be of Christ's sheep, he here describes the blessed state and case of those that are, which would likewise serve for the support and comfort of his poor despised followers, and keep them from envying the power and grandeur of those that were not of his sheep.
First, Our Lord Jesus takes cognizance of his sheep: They hear my voice, and I know them. He distinguishes them from others (2 Timothy 2:19), has a particular regard to every individual (Psalms 34:6); he knows their wants and desires, knows their souls in adversity, where to find them, and what to do for them. He knows others afar off, but knows them near at hand.
Secondly, He has provided a happiness for them, suited to them: I give unto them eternal life,John 10:28; John 10:28. 1. The estate settled upon them is rich and valuable; it is life, eternal life. Man has a living soul; therefore the happiness provided is life, suited to his nature. Man has an immortal soul: therefore the happiness provided is eternal life, running parallel with his duration. Life eternal is the felicity and chief good of a soul immortal. 2. The manner of conveyance is free: I give it to them; it is not bargained and sold upon a valuable consideration, but given by the free grace of Jesus Christ. The donor has power to give it. He who is the fountain of life, and Father of eternity, has authorized Christ to give eternal life, John 17:2; John 17:2. Not I will give it, but I do give it; it is a present gift. He gives the assurance of it, the pledge and earnest of it, the first-fruits and foretastes of it, that spiritual life which is eternal life begun, heaven in the seed, in the bud, in the embryo.
Thirdly, He has undertaken for their security and preservation to this happiness.
a. They shall be saved from everlasting perdition. They shall by no means perish for ever; so the words are. As there is an eternal life, so there is an eternal destruction; the soul not annihilated, but ruined; its being continued, but its comfort and happiness irrecoverably lost. All believers are saved from this; whatever cross they may come under, they shall not come into condemnation. A man is never undone till he is in hell, and they shall not go down to that. Shepherds that have large flocks often lose some of the sheep and suffer them to perish; but Christ has engaged that none of his sheep shall perish, not one.
b. They cannot be kept from their everlasting happiness; it is in reserve, but he that gives it to them will preserve them to it. (a.) His own power is engaged for them: Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. A mighty contest is here supposed about these sheep. The Shepherd is so careful of their welfare that he has them not only within his fold, and under his eye, but in his hand, interested in his special love and taken under his special protection (all his saints are in thy hand,Deuteronomy 33:3); yet their enemies are so daring that they attempt to pluck them out of his hand--his whose own they are, whose care they are; but they cannot, they shall not, do it. Note, Those are safe who are in the hands of the Lord Jesus. The saints are preserved in Christ Jesus: and their salvation is not in their own keeping, but in the keeping of a Mediator. The Pharisees and rulers did all they could to frighten the disciples of Christ from following him, reproving and threatening them, but Christ saith that they shall not prevail. (b.) His Father's power is likewise engaged for their preservation, John 10:29; John 10:29. He now appeared in weakness, and, lest his security should therefore be thought insufficient, he brings in his Father as a further security. Observe, [a.] The power of the Father: My Father is greater than all; greater than all the other friends of the church, all the other shepherds, magistrates or ministers, and able to do that for them which they cannot do. Those shepherds slumber and sleep, and it will be easy to pluck the sheep out of their hands; but he keeps his flock day and night. He is greater than all the enemies of the church, all the opposition given to her interests, and able to secure his own against all their insults; he is greater than all the combined force of hell and earth. He is greater in wisdom than the old serpent, though noted for subtlety; greater in strength than the great red dragon, though his name be legion, and his title principalities and powers. The devil and his angels have had many a push, many a pluck for the mastery, but have never yet prevailed, Revelation 12:7; Revelation 12:8. The Lord on high is mightier. [b.] The interest of the Father in the sheep, for the sake of which this power is engaged for them: "It is my Father that gave them to me, and he is concerned in honour to uphold his gift." They were given to the Son as a trust to be managed by him, and therefore God will still look after them. All the divine power is engaged for the accomplishment of all the divine counsels. [c.] The safety of the saints inferred from these two. If this be so, then none (neither man nor devil) is able to pluck them out of the Father's hand, not able to deprive them of the grace they have, nor to hinder them from the glory that is designed them; not able to put them out of God's protection, nor get them into their own power. Christ had himself experienced the power of his Father upholding and strengthening him, and therefore puts all his followers into his hand too. He that secured the glory of the Redeemer will secure the glory of the redeemed. Further to corroborate the security, that the sheep of Christ may have strong consolation, he asserts the union of these two undertakers: "I and my Father are one, and have jointly and severally undertaken for the protection of the saints and their perfection." This denotes more than the harmony, and consent, and good understanding, that were between the Father and the Son in the work of man's redemption. Every good man is so far one with God as to concur with him; therefore it must be meant of the oneness of the nature of Father and Son, that they are the same in substance, and equal in power and glory. The fathers urged this both against the Sabellians, to prove the distinction and plurality of the persons, that the Father and the Son are two, and against the Arians, to prove the unity of the nature, that these two are one. If we should altogether hold our peace concerning this sense of the words, even the stones which the Jews took up to cast at him would speak it out, for the Jews understood him as hereby making himself God (John 10:33; John 10:33) and he did not deny it. He proves that none could pluck them out of his hand because they could not pluck them out of the Father's hand, which had not been a conclusive argument if the Son had not had the same almighty power with the Father, and consequently been one with him in essence and operation.
IV. The rage, the outrage, of the Jews against him for this discourse: The Jews took up stones again,John 10:31; John 10:31. It is not the word that is used before (John 8:59; John 8:59), but ebastasan lithous--they carried stones--great stones, stones that were a load, such as they used in stoning malefactors. They brought them from some place at a distance, as it were preparing things for his execution without any judicial process; as if he were convicted of blasphemy upon the notorious evidence of the fact, which needed no further trial. The absurdity of this insult which the Jews offered to Christ will appear if we consider, 1. That they had imperiously, not to say impudently, challenged him to tell them plainly whether he was the Christ or no; and yet now that he not only said he was the Christ, but proved himself so, they condemned him as a malefactor. If the preachers of the truth propose it modestly, they are branded as cowards; if boldly, as insolent; but Wisdom is justified of her children. 2. That when they had before made a similar attempt it was in vain; he escaped through the midst of them (John 8:59; John 8:59); yet they repeat their baffled attempt. Daring sinners will throw stones at heaven, though they return upon their own heads; and will strengthen themselves against the Almighty, though none ever hardened themselves against him and prospered.
V. Christ's tender expostulation with them upon occasion of this outrage (John 10:32; John 10:32): Jesus answered what they did, for we do not find that they said any thing, unless perhaps they stirred up the crown that they had gathered about him to join with them, crying, Stone him, stone him, as afterwards, Crucify him, crucify him. When he could have answered them with fire from heaven, he mildly replied, Many good works have I shown you from my Father: for which of those works do you stone me? Words so very tender that one would think they should have melted a heart of stone. In dealing with his enemies he still argued from his works (men evidence what they are by what they do), his good works--kala erga excellent, eminent works. Opera eximia vel præclara; the expression signifies both great works and good works.
1. The divine power of his works convicted them of the most obstinate infidelity. They were works from his Father, so far above the reach and course of nature as to prove him who did them sent of God, and acting by commission from him. These works he showed them; he did them openly before the people, and not in a corner. His works would bear the test, and refer themselves to the testimony of the most inquisitive and impartial spectators. He did not show his works by candle-light, as those that are concerned only for show, but he showed them at noon-day before the world, John 18:20; John 18:20. See Psalms 111:6. His works so undeniably demonstrated that they were an incontestable demonstration of the validity of his commission.
2. The divine grace of his works convicted them of the most base ingratitude. The works he did among them were not only miracles, but mercies; not only works of wonder to amaze them, but works of love and kindness to do them good, and so make them good, and endear himself to them. He healed the sick, cleansed the lepers, cast out devils, which were favours, not only to the persons concerned, but to the public; these he had repeated, and multiplied: "Now for which of these do you stone me? You cannot say that I have done you any harm, or given you any just provocation; if therefore you will pick a quarrel with me, it must be for some good work, some good turn done you; tell me for which." Note, (1.) The horrid ingratitude that there is in our sins against God and Jesus Christ is a great aggravation of them, and makes them appear exceedingly sinful. See how God argues to this purpose, Deuteronomy 32:6; Jeremiah 2:5; Micah 6:3. (2.) We must not think it strange if we meet with those who not only hate us without cause, but are our adversaries for our love, Psalms 35:12; Psalms 41:9. When he asks, For which of these do you stone me? as he intimates the abundant satisfaction he had in his own innocency, which gives a man courage in a suffering day, so he puts his persecutors upon considering what was the true reason of their enmity, and asking, as all those should do that create trouble to their neighbour, Why persecute we him? As Job advises his friends to do, Job 19:28.
VI. Their vindication of the attempt they made upon Christ, and the cause upon which they grounded their prosecution, John 10:33; John 10:33. What sin will want fig-leaves with which to cover itself, when even the bloody persecutors of the Son of God could find something to say for themselves?
1. They would not be thought such enemies to their country as to persecute him for a good work: For a good work we stone thee not. For indeed they would scarcely allow any of his works to be so. His curing the impotent man (John 5:1-46; John 5:1-46) and the blind man (John 9:1-41; John 9:1-41) were so far from being acknowledged good services to the town, and meritorious, that they were put upon the score of his crimes, because done on the sabbath day. But, if he had done any good works, they would not own that they stoned him for them, though these were really the things that did most exasperate them, John 11:47; John 11:47. Thus, though most absurd, they could not be brought to own their absurdities.
2. They would be thought such friends to God and his glory as to prosecute him for blasphemy: Because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. Here is,
(1.) A pretended zeal for the law. They seem mightily concerned for the honour of the divine majesty, and to be seized with a religious horror at that which they imagined to be a reproach to it. A blasphemer was to be stoned,Leviticus 24:16. This law, they thought, did not only justify, but sanctify, what they attempted, as Acts 26:9. Note, The vilest practices are often varnished with plausible pretences. As nothing is more courageous than a well-informed conscience, so nothing is more outrageous than a mistaken one. See Isaiah 66:5; John 16:2.
(2.) A real enmity to the gospel, on which they could not put a greater affront than by representing Christ as a blasphemer. It is no new thing for the worst of characters to be put upon the best of men, by those that resolve to give them the worst of treatment. [1.] The crime laid to his charge is blasphemy, speaking reproachfully and despitefully of God. God himself is out of the sinner's reach, and not capable of receiving any real injury; and therefore enmity to God spits its venom at his name, and so shows its ill-will. [2.] The proof of the crime: Thou, being a man, makest thyself God. As it is God's glory that he is God, which we rob him of when we make him altogether such a one as ourselves, so it is his glory that besides him there is no other, which we rob him of when we make ourselves, or any creature, altogether like him. Now, First, Thus far they were in the right, that what Christ said of himself amounted to this--that he was God, for he had said that he was one with the Father and that he would give eternal life; and Christ does not deny it, which he would have done if it had been a mistaken inference from his words. But, secondly, They were much mistaken when they looked upon him as a mere man, and that the Godhead he claimed was a usurpation, and of his own making. They thought it absurd and impious that such a one as he, who appeared in the fashion of a poor, mean, despicable man, should profess himself the Messiah, and entitle himself to the honours confessedly due to the Son of God. Note, 1. Those who say that Jesus is a mere man, and only a made God, as the Socinians say, do in effect charge him with blasphemy, but do effectually prove it upon themselves. 2. He who, being a man, a sinful man, makes himself a god as the Pope does, who claims divine powers and prerogatives, is unquestionably a blasphemer, and that antichrist.
VII. Christ's reply to their accusation of him (for such their vindication of themselves was), and his making good those claims which they imputed to him as blasphemous (John 10:34; John 10:34, c.), where he proves himself to be no blasphemer, by two arguments:--
1. By an argument taken from God's word. He appeals to what was written in their law, that is, in the Old Testament whoever opposes Christ, he is sure to have the scripture on his side. It is written (Psalms 82:6), I have said, You are gods. It is an argument a minore ad majus--from the less to the greater. If they were gods, much more am I. Observe,
(1.) How he explains the text (John 10:35; John 10:35): He called them gods to whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken. The word of God's commission came to them, appointing them to their offices, as judges, and therefore they are called gods,Exodus 22:28. To some the word of God came immediately, as to Moses; to others in the way of an instituted ordinance. Magistracy is a divine institution; and magistrates are God's delegates, and therefore the scripture calleth them gods; and we are sure that the scripture cannot be broken, or broken in upon, or found fault with. Every word of God is right; the very style and language of scripture are unexceptionable, and not to be corrected, Matthew 5:18.
(2.) How he applies it. Thus much in general is easily inferred, that those were very rash and unreasonable who condemned Christ as a blasphemer, only for calling himself the Son of God, when yet they themselves called their rulers so, and therein the scripture warranted them. But the argument goes further (John 10:36; John 10:36): If magistrates were called Gods, because they were commissioned to administer justice in the nation, say you of him whom the Father hath sanctified, Thou blasphemest? We have here two things concerning the Lord Jesus:-- [1.] The honour done him by the Father, which he justly glories in: He sanctified him, and sent him into the world. Magistrates were called the sons of God, though the word of God only came to them, and the spirit of government came upon them by measure, as upon Saul; but our Lord Jesus was himself the Word, and had the Spirit without measure. They were constituted for a particular country, city, or nation; but he was sent into the world, vested with a universal authority, as Lord of all. They were sent to, as persons at a distance; he was sent forth, as having been from eternity with God. The Father sanctified him, that is, designed him and set him apart to the office of Mediator, and qualified and fitted him for that office. Sanctifying him is the same with sealing him, John 6:27; John 6:27. Note, Whom the Father sends he sanctifies; whom he designs for holy purposes he prepares with holy principles and dispositions. The holy God will reward, and therefore will employ, none but such as he finds or makes holy. The Father's sanctifying and sending him is here vouched as a sufficient warrant for his calling himself the Son of God; for because he was a holy thing he was called the Son of God,Luke 1:35. See Romans 1:4. [2.] The dishonour done him by the Jews, which he justly complains of--that they impiously said of him, whom the Father had thus dignified, that he was a blasphemer, because he called himself the Son of God: "Say you of him so and so? Dare you say so? Dare you thus set your mouths against the heavens? Have you brow and brass enough to tell the God of truth that he lies, or to condemn him that is most just? Look me in the face, and say it if you can. What! say you of the Son of God that he is a blasphemer?" If devils, whom he came to condemn, had said so of him, it had not been so strange; but that men, whom he came to teach and save, should say so of him, be astonished, O heavens! at this. See what is the language of an obstinate unbelief; it does, in effect, call the holy Jesus a blasphemer. It is hard to say which is more to be wondered at, that men who breathe in God's air should yet speak such things, or that men who have spoken such things should still be suffered to breathe in God's air. The wickedness of man, and the patience of God, as it were, contend which shall be most wonderful.
2. By an argument taken from his own works,John 10:37; John 10:38. In the former he only answered the charge of blasphemy by an argument ad hominem--turning a man's own argument against himself; but he here makes out his own claims, and proves that he and the Father are one (John 10:37; John 10:38): If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. Though he might justly have abandoned such blasphemous wretches as incurable, yet he vouchsafes to reason with them. Observe,
(1.) From what he argues--from his works, which he had often vouched as his credentials, and the proofs of his mission. As he proved himself sent of God by the divinity of his works, so we must prove ourselves allied to Christ by the Christianity of ours. [1.] The argument is very cogent; for the works he did were the works of his Father, which the Father only could do, and which could not be done in the ordinary course of nature, but only by the sovereign over-ruling power of the God of nature. Opera Deo propria--works peculiar to God, and Opera Deo Digna--works worthy of God--the works of a divine power. He that can dispense with the laws of nature, repeal, altar, and overrule them at his pleasure, by his own power, is certainly the sovereign prince who first instituted and enacted those laws. The miracles which the apostles wrought in his name, by his power, and for the confirmation of his doctrine, corroborated this argument, and continued the evidence of it when he was gone. [2.] It is proposed as fairly as can be desired, and put to a short issue. First, If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. He does not demand a blind and implicit faith, nor an assent to his divine mission further than he gave proof of it. He did not wind himself into the affections of the people, nor wheedle them by sly insinuations, nor impose upon their credulity by bold assertions, but with the greatest fairness imaginable quitted all demands of their faith, further than he produced warrants for these demands. Christ is no hard master, who expects to reap in assents where he has not sown in arguments. None shall perish for the disbelief of that which was not proposed to them with sufficient motives of credibility, Infinite Wisdom itself being judge. Secondly, "But if I do the works of my Father, if I work undeniable miracles for the confirmation of a holy doctrine, though you believe not me, though you are so scrupulous as not to take my word, yet believe the works: believe your own eyes, your own reason; the thing speaks itself plainly enough." As the invisible things of the Creator are clearly seen by his works of creation and common providence (Romans 1:20), so the invisible things of the Redeemer were seen by his miracles, and by all his works both of power and mercy; so that those who were not convinced by these works were without excuse.
(2.) For what he argues--that you may know and believe, may believe it intelligently, and with an entire satisfaction, that the Father is in me and I in him; which is the same with what he had said (John 10:30; John 10:30): I and my Father are one. The Father was so in the Son as that in him dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead, and it was by a divine power that he wrought his miracles; the Son was so in the Father as that he was perfectly acquainted with the whole of his mind, not by communication, but by consciousness, having lain in his bosom. This we must know; not know and explain (for we cannot by searching find it out to perfection), but know and believe it; acknowledging and adoring the depth, when we cannot find the bottom.
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on John 10:35". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/john-10.html. 1706.
The point at which we have arrived gives me an opportunity of saying a little on the beginning of this chapter, and the end of the last; for it is well known that many men, and, I am sorry to add, not a few Christians, have allowed appearances to weigh against John 7:53 John 8:11 a very precious portion of God's word. The fact is, that the paragraph of the convicted adulteress has been either simply left out in some copies of Scripture, or a blank equivalent to it appears, or it is given with marks of doubt and a good deal of variety of reading, or it is put in elsewhere. This, with many alleged verbal peculiarities, acted on the minds of a considerable number, and led them to question its title to a place in the genuine gospel of John. I do not think that the objections usually raised are here understated. Nevertheless, mature as well as minute consideration of them fails to raise the slightest doubt in my own mind, and therefore to me it seems so much the more a duty to defend it, where the alternative is a dishonour to what I believe God has given us.
In its favour are the strongest possible proofs from such a character in itself, and such suitability to the context, as no forgery could ever boast. And these moral or spiritual indications (though, of course, only to such as are capable of apprehending and enjoying God's mind) are incomparably graver and more conclusive than any evidence of an external sort. Not that the external evidence is really weak, far from it. That which gives such an appearance is capable of reasonable, unforced, and even of what seems almost to amount to an historical solution. The meddling was probably due to human motives no uncommon thing in ancient or modern times. With good and with bad intentions men have often tried to mend the word of God. Superstitious persons, unable to enter into its beauty, and anxious after the good opinion of the world, were afraid to trust the truth which Christ was here setting forth in deed. Augustine,* an unimpeachable witness of facts, nearly as old as the most ancient manuscripts which omit the paragraph, tells us that it was from ethical difficulties some dropped this section out of their copies. We know for certain that dogmatic motives similarly influenced some in Luke 22:42-43. One of the considerations, adverted to already, ought to weigh exceedingly with the believer. The account, I shall show, is exactly in harmony with the Scripture that follows it not less so than the Lord's refusal to go up to the feast and show Himself to the world, with His words which follow on the gift of the Holy Ghost in John 7:1-53; or, again, the miracle of the miraculous bread, with the discourse appended on the needed food for the Christian inJohn 6:1-71; John 6:1-71. In a word, there is here, as there, an indissoluble link of connected truth between the facts related and the communication our Lord makes afterwards in each instance respectively.
* The suspicion that some weak believers or enemies of the faith omitted the section, as the Bishop of Hippo suggests, would expose the passage to be tampered with. It is very likely that the Christians who read the Shepherd of Hermas in their public services would omit John 8:1-11. Similar unbelief inclines critical judgment in that direction now. Judgment of facts is apt to be swayed and formed by the will.
For, let me ask, what is the salient divine principle which runs through our Lord's conduct and language when the scribes and Pharisees confront Him with the woman taken in adultery? A flagrant case of sin was produced. They manifest no holy hatred of the evil, and certainly feel no pity for the sinner. "They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?* This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him." Their hope was to ensnare Christ, and to leave Him only a choice of difficulties: either a useless repetition of the law of Moses, or open opposition to the law. If the latter, would it not prove Him God's adversary? If the former, would He not forfeit all His pretensions to grace? For they were well aware, that in all the ways and language of Christ, there was that which totally differed from the law and all before Him. Indeed, they counted on His grace, though they felt it not, relished it not, in no way valued it as of God; but still they so expected grace in our Lord's dealing with so heinous a sinner as the one before them, that they hoped thereby to commit Him fatally in the eyes of men. Enmity to His person was their motive. To agree with Moses or to annul him seemed to them inevitable, and almost equally prejudicial to the claims of Jesus. No doubt, they most expected that our Lord in His grace would oppose the law, and thus put Himself and grace in the wrong.
* It is the remark of a critic unfriendly to the passage, that this question belongs to the last days of our Lord's ministry, and cannot well be introduced chronologically here. Unconsciously, however, this is really a strong confirmation; for morally John starts with the rejection of Jesus, and gives at the beginning even (as in the cleansing of the temple) similar truths to those which the rest attest at the close.
But the fact is, the grace of God never conflicts with His law, but, on the contrary, maintains its authority in its own sphere. There is nothing which clears, establishes, and vindicates the law, and every other principle of God, so truly as His grace. Even the proprieties of nature were never so made good as when the Lord manifested grace on the earth. Take, for instance, His ways inMatthew 19:1-30; Matthew 19:1-30. Who ever developed God's idea and will in marriage as Christ did? Who cast light on the value of a little child till Christ did? When a man left Himself, who could look so wistfully and with such love upon him as Jesus? Grace therefore is in no way inconsistent with, but maintains obligations at their true height. It is precisely thus, only still more gloriously, with our Lord's conduct on this occasion; for He weakens not in the least either the law or its sanctions, but contrariwise sheds around divine light in His own words and ways, and even applies the law with convincing power, not merely to the convicted criminal, but to the more hidden guilt of her accusers. Not a single self-righteous soul was left in that all-searching presence none indeed of those who came about the matter, except the woman herself.
Choose for me in all Scripture a preface of fact so suited to the doctrine of the chapter that follows. The whole chapter, from first to last, beams with light the light of God and of His word in the person of Jesus. Is not this undeniably what comes out in the opening incident? Does not Christ present Himself in discourse just after as the light of the world (so continually in John), as God's light by His word in Himself, infinitely superior even to law, and yet at the same time giving the law its fullest authority? Only a divine person could thus put and keep everything in its due place; only a divine person could act in perfect grace, but at the same time maintain immaculate holiness, and so much the more because it was in One full of grace.
This is just what the Lord does. Therefore, when the charge was brought thus heartlessly against outward evil, He simply stoops down, and with His finger writes on the ground. He allowed them to think of the circumstances, of themselves, and of Him. As they still continued asking, He lifted up Himself, and said unto them, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast the stone at her." And again, stooping down, He writes on the round. (Verses John 8:6-8) The first act allows the full iniquity of their aim to be realized. They hoped, no doubt, it might be an insuperable difficulty to Him. They had time to weigh what they had said and were seeking. When they continued to ask, and He lifted Himself up and spoke to them those memorable words, He again stoops, that they might weigh them in their consciences. It was the light of God cast on their thoughts, words, and life. The words were few, simple, and self-evidencing. He that is without sin among you, let him first cast the stone at her." The effect was immediate and complete. His words penetrated to the heart. Why did not some of the witnesses rise and do the office? What! not one? "They which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last.; and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst." (v. John 8:9) The law had never done this. They had learnt and trifled with the law up to this time; they had freely used it, as men do still, to convict other people. But here was the light of God shining full on their sinful condition, as well as on the law. It was the light of God that reserved all its rights to the law, but itself shone with such spiritual force as had never reached their consciences before, and drove out the faithless hearts which desired not the knowledge of God and His ways. And this a waif tossed haphazard on the broken coast of our gospel! Nay, brethren, your eyes are at fault; it is a ray of light from Christ, and shines just where it should.
It was not exactly, as Augustine says, "Relicti sunt duo, misera, et misericordia" ( In Jo. Evang. Tr., xxxiii. 5); for here the Lord is acting as light. Therefore, instead of saying, Thy sins are forgiven, He asks, "Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more."* It is not pardon, nor mercy, but light. "Go, and sin no more" (not, "Thy faith hath saved thee: go in peace"). Man invented such a story as this! Who since the world began, had he set to work to imagine an incident to illustrate the chapter, could or would have framed such an one as this? Where is there anything like it, that poet, philosopher, historian ever wrote, ever conceived? Produce the Protevangelion, the gospel of Nicodemus, or any other such early writing. These, indeed, are the genuine productions of man; but what a difference from that before us! Yet is it in the truest sense original, entirely distinct from any other fact, either in the Bible, or anywhere else, not, of course, excepting John himself. Nevertheless, its air, scope, and character can be proved, I think, to suit John, and no other; and this particular context in John, and no other. No theory is less reasonable than that this can be either a mere floating tradition stuck in here by some chance, or the work of a forger's mind. I do not think it harsh, but charitable to speak thus plainly; for the course of incredulity is now running strong' and Christians can hardly avoid hearing of these questions. I therefore do not refuse this opportunity of leading any simple souls to see how truly divine the whole bearing of this portion is how exactly apposite to that which the Lord insists on throughout the chapter. For, immediately after, we have doctrine unfolded which, no doubt, goes farther, but is intimately connected, as no other chapter is, with the story.†
*The fact that κατακρίνω is found here twice, and here only in John, is of no weight against the genuineness of the passage. It is the strict judicial term for passing an adverse sentence among men. How, where, could this be anywhere else in John? It is not true that κρίνω is ever used in this sense anywhere in John. It means, and should always be rendered, "judge," not "condemn," though the effect for the guilty (and man is guilty) be necessarily condemnation.
†Among the detailed objections to the genuineness of the passage (John 7:53; John 8:1-11), it is contended that the evidence of Augustine and Nicon (who distinctly tell us that it was expunged wilfully on account of the supposed license it gave to sin) does not account for the omission ofJohn 7:53; John 7:53. But this is short-sighted. For the going of each to his home is in evident connection with, and contra-distinction to, the going of Jesus to the mount of Olives. He was ever the stranger here. And what gospel, or whose style, does this simple but profound contrast suit so much as John? (Compare John 20:10-11) We know, fromJohn 18:2; John 18:2, that this neighbourhood was the frequent resort of Jesus with His disciples.
Next, the idea of many distinct and independent texts (as distinguished from abundance of various readings) seems an evident exaggeration. Take the fact, that this is eked out by putting the Received Text as one; the text of D (or Beza's Cambridge Uncial) as another; and that of most of the MSS. E F G H K M S U, etc., as a third. Now, what right has the Received Text to be thus ranged? It was formed by collating some of those very manuscripts which are thrown together as a third text. The true conclusion, therefore, is simply the not at all unprecedented phenomenon that D differs considerably from almost if not all other manuscripts, and that the Received Text is but a poor approximation to a text based on a collation of manuscripts. A really standard text, which gives just but discriminating value to an worthy witnesses, is as yet a desideratum.
Thirdly, what the contents of the passage are which countenances the notion that there is some inherent defect in the text to invalidate its claim to a place in the sacred narrative I cannot divine, as it is not here explained.
The fourth objection is the very general concurrence of the MSS. that contain the passage in placing it here. Why this place, of all others, should have been selected, will be no difficulty to those who feel with me; but, on the contrary, in my judgment, it refutes the "desperate resource" (as it is even allowed to be, strange to say, by those who adopt it), that the evangelist may have in this solitary case incorporated a portion of the current oral tradition into his narrative, which was afterwards variously corrected from the gospel to the Hebrews, or other traditional sources, and from different diction put in at the end ofLuke 21:1-38; Luke 21:1-38, or elsewhere. I am convinced, that where there is a real understanding of John 8:1-59 as a whole, the opening incident will be felt to be a necessary exordium of fact before the discourse which, to my mind, manifestly and certainly grew out of it, as surely as it happened then, and at no other time. Lastly, the mind which could conceive that the fact, as well as the tone or the moral drift of this incident, fits in to the end of Luke 21:1-38 rather than to the beginning ofJohn 8:1-59; John 8:1-59, seems so decidedly imaginative, that reasoning is here out of place, particularly as it is allowed, along with this, that its occurrence here (spite of the evidence of some cursive MSS. for Luke 21:1-38) seems much in its favour. Lastly, I have examined with care, and satisfied myself, that the alleged weightiest argument against the passage, in its entire diversity from the style of John's narrative, is superficial and misleading. Some peculiar words are required by the circumstance; and the general cast and character of the passage, so far from being alien to the evangelist's manner, seems to me, on the contrary, in his spirit, rather than in any other inspired writer's, no matter in which of the manuscripts we read it. D is the copy which makes the chief inroads; this is a common thing with that venerable, but most faulty document.
Jesus spoke again to them (the interrupters having disappeared). "I am the light of the world." He had just acted as light among those who had appealed to law; He here goes on, but widens the sphere. He says, "I am the light of the world." it is not merely dealing with scribes and Pharisees. Further, "He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." The life was the light of men, the perfect display and guide of the life He was to His followers. The law never is this good if a man use it lawfully, but not for a righteous man whose Christ is. So Christ tells the Pharisees who objected that He knew whence He came, and whither He was going: they were in the dark, and knew nothing of it. They were in the unrelieved darkness of the world, they judged after the flesh. Not so Jesus: He did not judge. Yet, if He did, His judgment was true; for He was not alone, but His Father was with Him. And their law bid them bow to two witnesses. But what witnesses? His testimony was so decided, that the reason why they did not then lay hands on Him was simply this His hour was not yet come. (Verses John 8:12-20)
The Lord throughout the chapter speaks with more than usual solemnity, and with increasing plainness to His enemies, who knew neither Him nor His Father. They should die in their sins; and whither He went, they could not come. They were from beneath of this world; He from above, and not of this world.
The truth is, that throughout the gospel He speaks as One consciously rejected, but morally judging all things as the Light. He therefore does not scruple to push things to an extremity, to draw out their real character and state most distinctly; to pronounce on them as from beneath, as He Himself from above; to show that there was no resemblance between them and Abraham, but rather Satan, and not the smallest communion in their thoughts with His Father's. Hence it is, too, that later on He lets them know that the time is coining when they should know who He was, but too late. He is the rejected light of God, and light of the world, from the first, and all through; but, more than this, He is the light of God, not only in deed, but in His word; as elsewhere He let them know they would be judged by it in the last day. Hence, when they asked Him who He was, He answers them to that effect; and I refer to it the more, because the force is imperfectly given, and even wrongly, in verse 25: "Who art thou? And Jesus saith unto them, Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning." Not only is there no need of adding "the same," but there is nothing that answers to "from the beginning." And this, again, has involved our translators in a change of tense, which is not merely uncalled for, but spoils the true idea. Our Lord does not refer to what He had said at or from any starting-point, but to what He speaks always, as then also. In every respect the sense of the Holy Ghost is enfeebled, changed, and even destroyed in the common version. What our Lord did answer is incomparably more forcible, and in exact accordance with the doctrine of the chapter, and the incident that begins it. They asked Him who He was. His answer is this: "Absolutely that which I also am speaking to you." I am thoroughly, essentially what I also speak. It is not only that He is the light, and that there is no darkness in Him as there is none in God, so none in Him; but, as to the principle of His being, He is what He utters. And, indeed, of Him only is this true. A Christian may be said to be light in the Lord; but of none, save Jesus, could it be said, that the word he discourses is the expression of what he is. Jesus is the truth. Alas! we know that, so false is human nature and the world, nothing but the power of the Spirit, revealing Christ to us through the Word, keeps us even as believers from departure into error, misconduct, and evil of any kind. None but One could say, "I am what I speak." And this is precisely what Christ is showing throughout the scene. He was the light to convict the doers of darkness, however hidden; He was the light which made others no matter what they might have been in the world to be light, if they followed Himself, God manifest in flesh. He manifested God, and made man manifest also. Everything was manifested by the light. Who is He? "Absolutely ( τὴν ἀρχὴν ) what I speak." What He utters in speech is what He is. There was not the smallest deflection from the truth; His every word and way declared it. There was never the appearance of what He was not. He is always, and in every particular, what He speaks.
How entirely this falls in with what we have elsewhere, does not need to be pressed. We see farther on the same doctrine, only ever expanding; revelation clearer, and more antagonistic to more and more determined unbelief. He lets them know, that when they have lifted up the Son of man, then they shall know that Jesus is He (the truth would be thoroughly out), "and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things." It is not miracles here, but the truth. He not only is the truth in His own person, but He speaks it. He speaks it to the world also; for all through John's gospel, although it be the eternal life that was with the Father, the Word that was with God in the beginning, still, He is also (from John 1:14) a man on earth a real, true man here below, however truly God. And so it is in this chapter. It began by showing that He is so in act; then it opens out that He is so in word. He said to the world what He heard from Him that sent Him as they rightly understood, from the Father.
He pursues the same line in dealing with the Jews who believed in Him (verse John 8:31): "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." Thus His word (not the law) is the sole means of knowing the truth and its liberty. It was not merely a question of commands, or of something God wanted from man. That had been given, and tried; and what was the end of it for them and Him? Now much more was at stake, even the manifestation of God in Christ to the world, and this also in His word, in the truth. It became a test, therefore, of the truth; and if they continued in His word, they should be His disciples indeed; and should know the truth, and the truth should make them free.
But then there is another thing required to set free, or rather which does à fortiori set free. The truth learnt in the word of Jesus is the only foundation. But if received, it is not merely that I have the truth, so to speak, as an expression of His mind, but of Himself of His person. Hence it is that He touches on this point in verse 36: "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." It is not merely, then, the truth making free, but the Son. He who pretends to receive the truth, but does not bow before the glory of the Son, proves that there is no truth in him. He that receives the truth might at first be very ignorant; the truth may be, then, nothing more than that which lets in the light of God graciously, but in a limited measure. It is rarely that all at once the full glory of Christ bursts in upon the soul. As with the disciples, so it might be with any soul now. There might be real, but gradual perception; but the truth invariably works thus, where God is the teacher. Then, as light increases, and the glory of Christ shines more distinctly, the heart welcomes Him; and so much the more rejoices as He is exalted. On the contrary, where it is not the truth, but theory or tradition a mere reasoning or sentiment about Christ, the heart is offended by the full presentation of His glory, stumbles at it, and turns away from Him, just because it cannot bear the strength and brightness of that divine fulness which was in Christ: it knows not God, nor Jesus Christ whom He has sent. Eternal life is unknown and unenjoyed.
Further, the Lord brings out here another thing worthy of all attention; especially as the same principle runs through from the incident at the beginning of the chapter. It is not merely light, truth, and the Son known in the person of Christ, but also as contrasted with the law. Did they boast in the law? What place had they under it? Slaves! Yes, and they were faithless to it; they broke the law; they were slaves of sin. It is not the slave, but the Son, who abides in the house. Thus the law is not in any way lowered, but at the same time there is the bright contrast of Christ with it. The law has its just place; it is for servants, and deals with them justly. The consequence is, there is no permanence for them, any more than liberty. Law could not meet the case; nothing, and none short of the Son. "Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin." Was not this precisely what He had brought home to the conscience at the beginning of the chapter? Before God (and He was God) it was not what the poor woman had done that was all, but what they were, and they were convicted of sin; they were not without sin. He had said, "The servant abideth not in the house;" and this was precisely the case with them; they were obliged to go.* "But the Son abideth ever," and so He does in the best, and highest, and truest estate. Thus the doctrine entirely harmonizes with the fact, and in a way that does not appear at first sight, but only as we look into it a little more closely, and search into the depths of the living word of God, though none of us can boast of the progress we have made. Nevertheless, we may be permitted to say, that the more closely we are given of God to apprehend the truth, the more the divine perfectness of the entire picture becomes manifest to our souls.
*"They were struck by the power of the word of Christ," says an opponent of the claim of the commencing section to a genuine and divinely given place in the chapter, unconscious that he is thereby illustrating its connection with the whole current of the chapter.
I need not go through the particulars which the Lord brings out in laying bare the condition of the Jews, the seed (not the children) of Abraham, but really of their father the devil, and manifesting it in the two characters of liar and murderer. They did not know His speech, because they could not hear His word. The truth meant is the key to the outer vehicle of it just the reverse of man's knowledge. In fine, all is shown in its true essential character here, the convicted one and her accusers, the Jews, the world, the disciples, the truth, the Son, Satan himself, God Himself. Not only is Abraham* seen truly (not as misrepresented in his seed), but One who was greater than "our father" Abraham, who would say, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing; but who could say (with a verily, verily), "BEFORE ABRAHAM WAS, I AM." He is the light in deed and word. He says so. Then He deals with them, convicting them more and more. He shows that the truth is found here only in His word. He, the witness, testifies that He is the Son. But the chapter does not end before He announces His eternal Godhead. He is God Himself, yet hides Himself when they took up stones to stone Him. His hour was not yet come. This is the truth of them, as of Him. He was God. Such is the truth. Short of this, we have not the truth of Christ. But it is the growing rejection of Christ's word that leads Him on step by step to the assertion that He was very God, though a man upon the earth.
* I apprehend that by "my day" He means the day of Christ's glory; not vaguely the time of Christ, but the day when He will be displayed in glory. "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day." He looked for that day of Christ's appearing in glory, and he "saw it, and was glad." It was the day when the promises would be accomplished, and very naturally he who had the promises looked for the time when they are to be made good in Christ.
Like the preceding, John 9:1-41 shows us the Lord rejected here in His work, as there in His word. The difference a little answers to what we have seen in John 5:1-47; John 6:1-71. In the fifth chapter He is the quickening Son of God; but all testimonies are vain, and judgment awaits the unbeliever a resurrection of judgment. In John 6:1-71. He is seen as the suffering Son of man, who takes the place of humiliation, instead of the kingdom which they wanted to force on Him. But no; this was not the purpose for which He had come, though true in its own time; but what He took, and took because His eye was ever single, viewed as man, was for God's glory, not for His own; and the real glory of God in a ruined world is only met by the service and death of the Son of man dying for sinners and for sin. Somewhat similarly in John 8:1-59 He is the rejected Word, who confesses Himself (when most scorned and men are ready to stone Him) to be the everlasting God Himself. As man becomes more hardened in unbelief, Christ becomes more pointed and plain in the assertion of the truth. Thus the more it is pressed down, the more the brightness of the truth makes its way out, that He is God. They had fully heard now who He was, and therefore must He be ignominiously cast out. His words brought God too close, too really; and they would not bear them.
But now He is rejected in another way, and in this it is as man, though declaring Himself and worshipped as Son of God. We shall see that there is stress on His manhood, more especially as the necessary mould or form which divine grace took to effect the blessing of man, to work the works of God in grace on the earth. Accordingly, here it is not merely that man is seen to be guilty, but blind from his birth. Doubtless there is light that discovers man in his evil and. unbelief; but man is sought and met by His grace; for here the man had no thought of being healed never asked Jesus to heal him. There was no cry here to the Son of David. This we hear most properly in the other gospels, which develop the last offer of the Messiah to the Jews. In every one of the gospels, indeed, we have Him finally presented as the Son of David; and therefore, although it be the proper province of Matthew, yet inasmuch as all the synoptic gospels dwell on our Lord at the close as Son of David, all the gospels give the story of the blind man at Jericho. Matthew, however, gives blind men over and over again, crying to Him, "Son of David." The reason is, I suppose, that not merely is He so presented at the last, but all through in Matthew. In John this case does not appear at all; no blind man cries to the Son of David throughout. What is brought before us in the man, blind from his birth, is a wholly different truth. It was, indeed, the most desperate case. Instead of the man looking to Christ, it is Christ that looks at the man, without a single cry or appeal to Him. It is absolute grace. If it be not the Father seeking, at any rate it is the Son. It is One who had deigned to become man in love to man. He is seeking, though rejected, to display the grace of God toward this poor blind beggar in his abject need: "As Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?"
They had nothing better than Jewish thoughts about the case. But all through the gospel of John Christ is setting aside these thoughts on every side, whether in enquirers outside, or more particularly in disciples, who were under this pernicious influence like other people. Here the Lord answered, "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents." The ways of God are not as man's; and their revelation stands in contrast with Jewish notions of retributive justice. The reason lay deeper than what his parents deserved, or the foresight of what he would do amiss. Not that the man and his parents were not sinners; but the eye of Jesus saw beyond nature, or law, or government, in the man's blindness from his birth. To divine goodness, the inner and true and ultimate reason, God's reason if one may be permitted such a phrase was to furnish an opportunity for Christ to work the works of God on the earth. How blessedly grace operates in, and judges of, a hopeless case! That it was wholly outside the resources of man made it just the occasion for Jesus, for the works of God. This is the point of the chapter Jesus working the works of God in free unconditional grace. In John 8:1-59 the prominent feature. is the word of God; here, the works of God made effectual and manifest in grace. "I must work the works of him that sent me while it is day." Therefore can one say, that it is unqualified grace, because it is not merely God mercifully answering man's appeal, and blessing man's work, but God sending, and Christ working. "I must work the works of him that sent me." What grace (save in Jesus all through) can be compared with this? Jesus, then, was doing this work "while it is day." Day was while He was present with them. Night was coming, which would be, for the Jew, the personal absence of the Messiah; indeed, such for any would be the departure of the Son of God. "The night cometh when no man can work." (Verse 4) Higher things might follow in their season, and brighter light suited to them when the day should dawn, and the day-star arise in hearts established with grace. But here it is the time of the absence of Jesus in contrast with His presence on earth as He then was. "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." (Verse 5)
This establishes very plainly the fact, that these two chapters are so far linked together, in that they look at Christ as light, and the light of the world too. But, far from being confined to Israel, it rather sets aside the Jewish system, which assumes to order things justly now according to man's conduct, thus ignoring man's ruin by sin, and God's grace in Christ as the sole deliverance. Here it is not so much the light by the word convicting man, and bringing out God's nature and the reality of His own personal glory, but "the light of the world" as manifesting God graciously working in power contrary to nature. It was a question not of light for eyes, but of giving power to see the light to one wholly and evidently incapable of seeing as he was. Hence we do well to remark the peculiarity in the Lord's manner of working. He lays clay upon the man's eyes; an extraordinary step at first sight. In truth, it was the shadow of Himself become man, an apt figure of the human body which He took in order therein to do God's will. He was not simply Son of God, but Son of God possessed of a body prepared of God. (Hebrews 10:1-39) He became man; and yet the fact of the body of Christ of God's Son being found in fashion as a man only and greatly increases the difficulty at first sight, because nobody, apart from the word of God, would look for a divine person in such a guise. But when faith bows to the word, and accepts the will of God in it, how precious the grace, how wise the ordering yea, how indispensable it is learnt to be! So with the man already blind before. Putting the plaster of clay over his eyes did not at once mend his blindness in the least; but, if anything, the contrary would have hindered his seeing, had he seen before. But when he goes at the word of Jesus, and washes in the pool of Siloam that is, when the word is applied in the Holy Ghost to his case, revealing Jesus as the sent One of God (compareJohn 5:24; John 5:24), all was so far plain. It was not a mere man who had spoken; he apprehended in Jesus One Sent (for the pool to which the Lord directed the man to wash his clay-covered eyes in was called "Siloam;" that is, it bore the very name of "sent"). It was then understood that Jesus had a mission on earth to work the works of God. Though, of course, man born of a woman, He was more than human: He was the Sent One the Sent of the Father in love into this world, to work effectually where man was entirely incapable even of helping in any way.
Thus the truth was in process of application, so to speak. The man goes his way, washes, and comes seeing. The word of God explains this mystery. The Son's taking humanity is ever a blinding fact to nature; but he who is not disobedient to the word will assuredly not fail to find in the acknowledgment of the truth Christ's glory under His manhood, as well as the need of his own soul met with a power and promptness which answers, as it is due, to His glory who wrought in grace here below.
Nevertheless, the word of the Lord tried him as ever; other hearts were tested by it too. The neighbours were astonished, and questions arise; the Pharisees are stirred but divided (for this miracle, also, was wrought on a sabbath). The parents being summoned, as well as himself questioned, all stand to the great and indisputable fact: the man just healed was their child, and he had been born blind. The man indeed witnessed what he believed of Jesus, and the threat of the consequences was only made the clearer, even though there was a total avoidance of all dangerous answers on the parents' part, and a determination to reject Christ and those who confessed Him in the Pharisees. The work of grace was hated, and especially because it was wrought on the sabbath day. For this bore solemn witness, that in the truth of things before God there was no sabbath possible for them: He must work if man was to be delivered and blessed. Of course, there was the holy form, and there was no doubt as to the duty; but if God revealed Himself on earth, neither forms nor duties, paid after a sort by sinful men, could hide the awful reality that man was incapable of keeping such a sabbath as God could recognise. The day had been sanctified from the beginning; the duty of the Jew was unquestionable; but sin was man's state; after every remedial measure, he was thoroughly and only evil continually.
In fact, so far the Jew quite understood, as far as that went, the moral meaning of the Lord's working thus both either on the impotent man before, and now on the blind man. For such deeds on the sabbath did pronounce sentence of death on that whole system, and on the great badge of relationship between God and Israel. If Jesus was true God as well as man, if He was really the light of the world, yet wrought on the sabbath day, there was plain evidence on God's part of what He thought of Israel. They felt it to be a matter of life and death. But the man was led on by these conscienceless attacks, as is always the case where there is simple faith. The effort to destroy the person of Christ and to undermine His glory only developed, in the goodness of God, that divine work which had already touched his soul, as well as given him eyes to see. Thus was his faith exercised and cleared, side by side with the unbelief and hostility of the enemies of Christ. The consequence is, that we have a beautiful history in this chapter of the man led on step by step; first owning the work the Lord had wrought with simplicity, and therefore in force of truth: what he does not know he owned with just the same frankness. Then, when the Pharisees were divided, and he was appealed to once more, "He is a prophet" was his distinct answer. Then, when the fact was only the more established by the parents, spite of their timidity, the hypocritical effort to honour God at the expense of Jesus draws out the most withering refutation (not without a taunt) from him who had been blind. (Verses 24-33) This closed, they could not answer, and cast him out. (Verse 34)
How beautiful to mark the Spirit's love, dwelling fully and minutely on a blind beggar taught of God, thus gradually and evermore beating their in credulous objections smaller than when they cast him out as dirt in the streets! What a living picture of the new witness for Christ! A character plain, honest, energetic, not always the most gracious, but certainly confronted with the most heartless and false of adversaries. But if the man finds himself out of the synagogue, he is soon in the presence of Christ. The religious world of that day could not endure a witness of divine power and grace which they themselves, feeling not the need, denied, denounced, and did all they could to destroy. Outside them, but with Jesus, he learns more deeply than ever, so as to fill his soul with profound joy and gladness, that the wondrous healer of his blindness was not merely a prophet, but the Son of God just object of faith and worship. Thus clearly we have in this case the rejection of Jesus viewed, not in open attack on His own person, as in the. chapter before, where they took up stones to stone Him, but here rather in His friends, whom He had first met in sovereign grace, and did not let them go till fully blessed, ending in Jesus worshipped outside the synagogue as the Son of God. (Verses 38-40)
Then the Lord declares the issues of His coming. "For judgment," He says, "I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind." In this gospel He ]lad said before, that it was to save and give life, not to judge, that He came. Such was the aim of His heart, at all cost to Himself; but the effect was moral in one way or the other, and this now. Manifest judgment awaits the evil by-and-by. And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth." They were offended at the notion of their not seeing. Did they insist that they saw? The Lord admits the plea. If they felt their sin and shortcoming, there might be a hope. As it was, then, sin remained. The boast, like the excuse, of unbelief is invariably the ground of divine judgment.
John 10:1-42 pursues the subject and opens out into a development, not of the spiritual history of a sheep of Christ, but of the Shepherd Himself, from first to last, here below. Hence, the Lord does not rest in a judgment extorted by their unbelief, and in contrast with the deliverance of faith, but develops the ways of grace here, as always in marked antithesis with the Jewish system, though connected with the man for His sake turned out of the synagogue, then found by Himself, and led into the fullest perception of His own glory outside the Jews, where alone real worship is possible. Accordingly our Lord traces this new history His own from the beginning.
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber." It was not so with Jesus. He had entered in by the door, according to every requisition of the Scriptures. Although Son, He had submitted to each ordinance which God had laid down for the Shepherd of His earthly people. He accomplished the work that God had marked out for Him in prophecy and type. What had been required or stipulated, according to the law, that had He not rendered in full tale? He was born at the measured time, in the due place, from the sworn stock, and of the defined mother, according to the written word. God had taken care beforehand to make each important point plain, by which the true Christ of God was to be recognised; and all had been fulfilled thus far in Jesus thus far; for it is quite allowed that all the prophecies of subjugation and judgment, with the reign over the earth, remain to be accomplished. "To him," He says, "the porter openeth." This had been realized. Witness the Holy Ghost's action in Simeon and Anna, not to speak of the mass; and, above all, in John the Baptist. God had wrought by His grace in Israel, and there were godly hearts prepared for Him there.
"And the sheep hear his voice." (VerseJohn 10:3; John 10:3) So we find in the gospels, particularly Luke's, from the beginning. And he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out" an evident allusion to what had befallen the blind man. No doubt he had been turned out of the synagogue; but Christ imprints, on this, their wicked act, His own interpretation, according to divine counsels. Little did the man know at that painful moment, that it was in reality grace which was leading him out. If it was a little before His own public and final rejection, it was, after all, the same principle at the bottom. The disciple is not above his master; but every one that is perfect shall be as his master. "He goeth before them." This seems to refer to the manner in which it had been, and should be, accomplished. Already had the Lord tasted the enmity and scorn of man, and especially of the Jews; but He also knew the depths of shame and suffering which He must soon pass through, before there was an open separation of the sheep. Thus, whether it were done virtually or formally, in either case Jesus went before, and the sheep followed; "for they know his voice." This is their spiritual instinct, as it is their security not skill in determining or refuting error, but simple cleaving to Christ and the truth. See this exemplified in the once blind man. What weight had the Pharisees with his conscience? None whatever. They, on the contrary, felt he taught them. "A stranger will they not follow," any more than he would follow the Pharisees. For now, by the new eyes which the Lord had given him, he could discern their vain pretensions, and their hostility against Jesus so much the worse, because coupled with "Give God the praise." "A stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him" not because they are learned in the injurious jargon of strangers, "for they know not the voice of strangers." They know the Shepherd's voice, and this they follow. It is the love of what is good, and not skill in finding out what is evil. Some may have power to sift and discern the unsound; but this is not the true, direct, divine means of safety for the sheep of Christ. There is a much more real, immediate, and sure way. It is simply this: they cannot rest without the voice of Christ; and that which is not the voice of Christ they do not follow. What more suitable to them, or more worthy of Him?
As these things were not understood, the Lord opens out the truth still more plainly in what follows. Here (verse John 10:7) He begins by taking the place of "the door of the sheep;" not, be it observed, of the sheepfold, but of the sheep. He had entered in Himself by the door, not of the sheep, of course, but by the door into the sheepfold. He entered in according to each sign and token moral, miraculous, prophetic, or personal which God had given to His ancient people to know Him by. But enter as He might, the people who broke the law refused the Shepherd; and the end of it was, that He leads His own sheep outside, Himself going before them. Now, there is more, and He says, "I am the door of the sheep." The contrast of pretended or merely human shepherds is given in the next verse, which is parenthetical. "All that ever came before me [such as Theudas and Judas] are thieves and robbers [they secretly or openly enriched themselves by the sheep]: but the sheep did not hear them."
In verse 9 He enlarges. "I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture." The portion He gives the sheep is a contrast with the law in another way; not as light simply, as in the beginning of John 8:1-59, in detecting all sin and every sinner. Now, it is grace in its fulness. "By me," He says not by circumcision, or the law "By me if any man enter in." There was no question of entering in by the law; for it dealt with those who were already in a recognised relation with God. But now there is an invitation to those without. "By me if any man enter in, he shall be saved." Salvation is the first need of a sinner, and certainly the Gentile needs it as much as the Jew. "By me if any man" no matter who he may be, if he enter, he shall be saved. Nevertheless, it is only for those that enter in. There is no salvation for such as abide outside Christ. But this is not all; for grace with Christ freely gives, not salvation alone, but all things. Even now, too, "he shall go in and out." It is not only that there is life and salvation in Christ, but there is liberty, in contrast with the law. "And he shall find pasture." Besides, there is food assured. Thus we have here an ample provision for the sheep. To him that enters by Christ there is salvation, there is liberty, there is food.
Again, the Lord contrasts others with Himself. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy." By their fruits they should know them. How could the sheep trust such shepherds as these? "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." There had been life when there was only a promise; there had been life all through the dealings of law. Clearly Christ had ever been the means of life from the day death entered the world. But now He was come, it was not only that they might have life, but that they might have it "more abundantly." This was the effect of the presence of God's Son in this world. Was it not right and becoming, that when the Son of God did humble Himself in this world, even to death, the death of the cross, dying also in atonement for sinners, God should mark this infinite fact and work and person by an incomparably richer blessing than ever had been diffused before? I cannot conceive it otherwise than the Word shows it is, consistently with the glory of God, even the Father.
Further, He was not only the door of the sheep, and then the door for others to enter in, but He says (verse John 10:11), "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep." It is no longer only in contrast with a thief or a robber, with murderous intent or evidently selfish purposes of the worst kind, but there might be others characterised by a milder form of human iniquity not destroyers of the sheep, but self-seeking men. "He that. is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep." Christ, as the good shepherd, does nothing of the kind, but remains to suffer all for them, instead of running away when the wolf came. "I am the good shepherd, and know those that are mine, and am known by mine, as the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father." Such is the true sense of the verse. The John 10:14 th andJohn 10:15; John 10:15 th verses really form one sentence. They are not divided as we have them in our Bibles. The meaning is, that He showed Himself as the good Shepherd because He knew the sheep, and was known of them, just. as He knew the Father, and was known of the Father. The mutuality of knowledge between the Father and the Son is the pattern of the knowledge between the Shepherd and the sheep. In what a wondrous. place this puts us and the character of knowledge we possess. The knowledge which grace gives to the sheep is so truly divine that the Lord has nothing to compare it with, except the knowledge that exists between the Father and the Son. Nor is it merely a question of knowledge, intimate and perfect and divine as it is; but, moreover, "I lay down my life for the sheep." Other sheep, too, He intimates here, He had, who were to be brought in, that did not belong to the Jewish fold; He clearly looks out into the world, as always in the gospel of John. There was to be one flock (not fold), one Shepherd.
Moreover, in order to open yet more the ineffable complacency of the Father in His work abstractedly, He adds, "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life." Not here "for the sheep," but simply, "that I might take it again." (VerseJohn 10:17; John 10:17) That is to say, besides laying down His life for the sheep, He laid down His life to prove His perfect confidence in His Father. Impossible for another, or all others, to give so much. Even He could not give more than His life. Any other thing would not be comparable to the laying down of His life. It was the most complete, absolute giving up of Himself; and He did give up Himself, not merely for the gracious end of winning the sheep to God from the spoiler, but with the still more blessed and glorious aim of manifesting, in a world where man had from the first dishonoured God, His own perfect confidence in His Father, and this as man. He laid it down that He might take it again. Thus, instead of continuing His life in dependence on His Father, He gives it up out of a still profounder and truly absolute dependence. "Therefore," says He, "doth my Father love me." This becomes a positive ground for the Father to love Him, additional to the perfection which had ever been seen in Him all His pathway through. Even more than this; although it is so expressly an act of His own, another astonishing principle is seen the union of absolute devotedness on His own part, in perfect freeness of His will, with obedience. (Verse 18) Thus the very same act may be, and is (as we find it in all its perfection in Christ) His own will, and yet along with this simple submission to His Father's commandment. In truth, He and the Father were one; and so He does not stop till we have this fully expressed in verse John 10:30. He and His Father were one one in everything; not only in love and gracious counsel for the sheep, but in nature, too in that divine nature which, of course, was the ground of all the grace.
But, besides this, the unbelief of the Jews brings out another thing; that is, the perfect security of the sheep a very important question, because He was going to die. His death is in view: what will the sheep do then? Would the death of Christ in any way imperil the sheep? The very reverse. The Lord declares this in a most distinct manner. He says, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." (VersesJohn 10:27-28; John 10:27-28) First of all, the life is everlasting. But then it is not merely that the thing itself is eternal, but they shall never perish; for it might be pretended, that though the life lasts for ever, this is conditional on something in its recipients. Nay, "they shall never perish" the sheep themselves. Thus, not merely the life, but those who have it by grace in Christ, shall never perish. To conclude and crown all, as far as their security was concerned, the question is answered as to any hostile power. What about some one external to them? Nay; there again, as there was no internal source of weakness that could jeopard the life, so there should be no external power to cause anxiety. If there was any power that might do so righteously, surely it must be God's own; but, contrariwise, they were in the Father's hand, no less than in the Son's hand none could pluck them out. Thus the Lord fenced them round even by His death, as well as by that eternal life which was in Him, the superiority of which over death was proved by His authority to take it again in resurrection. This was the life more abundantly which they derived from Him. Why should any one wonder at its power? He was, for the sheep, against all adversaries; and so was the Father. Yea, "I and the Father are one." (VersesJohn 10:29-30; John 10:29-30)
As there had been a division among the Jews for His sayings, and their appeal in doubt to Him had drawn out both His treatment of them as unbelievers, and the security of the sheep who heeded His voice and followed Him, as He knew them (ver. John 10:19-30) so our Lord, in the presence of their hatred and still growing enmity (ver. John 10:31; John 10:31), convicts them of the futility of their objection on their own ground. Did they find fault because He took the place of being the Son of God? Yet they must allow that kings, governors, judges, according to their law, were called gods. "If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?" A fortiori had He not a place which no king ever had? Did He, on their own principles, blaspheme then, because He said He was the Son of God? But He goes far beyond this. If they regarded not God's word, nor His words, He appeals to His works. "If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him." This connects, as I apprehend, the tenth chapter with the foregoing, and is in contrast with the eighth. They had thus repeatedly sought to kill Him, and He abandons them for the place in which John first baptized. In the face of total rejection, and in every point of view, both as the expression of God in the world, and of His working the works of grace in the world, the result was plain. Man, the Jew especially, settles down in resolute unbelief and deadly hostility; but, on the other hand, the indefeasible security of the sheep, the objects of grace, only comes out with so much the greater clearness and decision.
Nevertheless, though all was really closed, God would manifest by a full and final testimony what was the glory of Christ, rejected as He was, and previous to His death. And accordingly, in John 11:1-57; John 12:1-50 is given a strikingly rich presentation of the Lord Jesus, in many respects entirely differing from all the others; for while it embraces what is found in the synoptists (that is, the accomplishment of prophecy in His offer of Himself to Zion as the Son of David), John brings in a fulness of personal glory that is peculiar to his gospel.
Here we begin with that which John alone records the resurrection of Lazarus. Some have wondered that it appears only in the latest gospel; but it is given there for a very simple and conclusive reason. The resurrection of Lazarus was the most distinct testimony possible, near Jerusalem, in the face of open Jewish enmity. It was the grandest demonstrative proof that He was the Son of God, determined to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. Who but He on earth could say, I am the resurrection and the life? Who had ever looked for more in Messiah Himself than Martha did raising up the dead at the last day?
Here I may just observe, that Romans 1:4 does not restrict the meaning to the fact that He was determined to be the Son of God with power by His own resurrection. This is not what the verse states, but that resurrection of the dead, or the raising of dead persons, was the great proof that defined Him to be the Son of God with power. No doubt His own resurrection was the most astonishing instance of it; but His raising of dead persons in His ministry was a witness also, as the resurrection of His saints by-and-by will be the display of it. Hence the verse in Romans 1:1-32 expresses the truth in all its extent, and without specifying any one in particular. So Lazarus, as being the most conspicuous case of resurrection any where appearing in the gospels, except Christ's own, which all give, was the fullest testimony that even John rendered to that great truth. Hence, then, as one might expect from its character, the account is given with remarkable development in that gospel which is devoted to the personal glory of Jesus as the Son of God. To this attaches the revelation of the resurrection, and the life in Him as a, present thing, superior to all questions of prophetic time, or dispensations. It could be found nowhere else so appropriately as in John. The difficulty, therefore, in its occurrence here and not elsewhere, is really none whatever to any one who believes the object of God as apparent in the gospels themselves.
But, then, there is another feature that meets us in the story. Christ was not only the Son of God, but the Son of man. He was the Son of God, and a perfect man, in absolute dependence on His Father. He was not to be acted upon by any feeling, except the will of God. Thus He carries His divine sonship into His position as a man on earth, and He never allows that the glory of His person should in the smallest degree interfere with the completeness of His dependence and obedience. Hence, when the Lord hears the call, "Behold, he whom thou lovest is sick" the strongest possible appeal to the heart for acting at once on it He does not go. His answer is most calm, and, if God be not before us, to mere human feeling it might seem indifferent. It was not so, but was utter perfection. "This sickness," He says, "is not unto death." Events might seem to contradict this; appearances might say it was to death, but Jesus was and is the truth always. "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby." And so it was. "Now, Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus." Whatever, therefore, it might appear, His affection was unquestionable. But, then, there are other and even deeper principles. His love for Mary, for Martha, and for Lazarus weakened in no respect His dependence on God; He waited on His Father's direction. So, "when he heard that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was. Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judea again. They say, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again? Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night he stumbleth, because there is no light in him." In Jesus there was nothing but perfect light. He was Himself the light. He walked in the sunshine of God. He was the very perfection of that which is only partially true with us in practice. "If, then, thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light." Indeed, He was the light, as well as full of it. Walking accordingly in this world, He waited for the word of His Father. At once, when this came, He says, "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth, but I go that I may awake him out of sleep." There was no darkness in Him. All is plain, and He go" forth promptly with the knowledge of all He is going to do.
Then we have the ignorant thoughts of the disciples, though not unmixed with devotedness to His person. Thomas proposes that they should go to die with him. How marvellous is the unbelief even of the saints of God! He was going really to raise the dead; their only thought was to go and die with him. Such was a disciple's sombre anticipation. Our Lord does not say a word about it at the moment, but calmly leaves the truth to correct the error in due time. Then we have the wonderful interview with the sisters; and, finally, our Lord is at the grave, a consciously divine person, the Son of the Father, but in the perfectness of manhood, yet with such deep feeling as Deity alone could produce not only sympathy with sorrow, but, above all, the sense of what death is in this world. Indeed, our Lord did not raise up Lazarus from the dead, until His own spirit had just as thoroughly taken, as it were, the sense of death on His soul, as when, in the removal of any sickness, He habitually felt its burden (Matthew 8:1-34); not, of course, in a low, literal, physical manner, but weighing it all in His spirit with His Father. Of us it is said, "with groanings that cannot be uttered." If Christ groaned, His could not but be a groan in accordance with the Spirit justly and perfectly uttering the real fulness of the grief that His heart felt. In our case this could not be, because there is that which mars the perfectness of what is felt by us; but in the case of Christ, the Holy Ghost takes up and groans out that which we cannot fully express. Even in us He gives the sorrow a divine expression to God; and, of course, in Christ there was no shortcoming, no mingling of the flesh, but all was absolutely perfect. Hence, along with this, there comes the full answer of God to the divine glory and perfection of Christ. Lazarus comes forth at the word of Christ.
This seems to me of deep interest; for we are too apt to look on Christ merely as One whose power dealt with sickness and with the grave. But does it not weaken His power if the Lord Jesus Christ enters into the reality of the case before God? On the contrary, it better manifests the perfectness of His love, and the strength of His sympathy, to trace intelligently the way in which His spirit took up the reality of the ruin here below to bear and spread it before God. And I believe that this was true of everything in Christ. So it was before and when He came to the cross. Our Lord did not go there without feeling the past and present and future: the atoning work is not the same as the anguish of being cast off by His people, and the utter weakness of the disciples. Then the sense of what was coming was realized by His spirit before the actual fact. It is not true, but positively and wholly false doctrine, to confine our Lord Jesus to the matter of bearing our sin, though this was confessedly the deepest act of all. Of course, the atonement was only on the cross: the bearing of the wrath of God, when Christ was made sin, was exclusively then and there. But to find fault with the statement that Christ did in His own spirit realize beforehand what He was going to suffer on the cross, is to overlook much of His sufferings, to ignore truth, and despise Scripture either leaving out a large portion of what God records about it, or confounding it with the actual fact, and only a part of it after all.
It is true that many Christians have been absorbed with the bare exertion of power in the miracles of Christ. In His healing of disease they have passed by the truth expressed inIsaiah 53:4; Isaiah 53:4, which Matthew applies to His life, and to which I have referred more than once. It seems undeniable, that not only was the power of God exhibited in those miracles, but that they afforded opportunity for the depth of His feelings to display itself, who had before Him the creature as God made it, and the deplorable havoc sin had wrought. Thus Jesus did perfectly what saints do with a mixture of human infirmity. Take again the fact that the Lord is pleased at times to put us through some exercise of heart before the actual trial comes: what is the effect of this? Do we bear the trial less because the soul has already felt it with God? Surely not. On the contrary, this is just what proves the measure of our spirituality; and the more we go through the matter with God, the power and blessing are so much the greater; so that when the trial comes, it might appear to an outside observer as if all was perfect calmness, and so indeed it is, or should be; and this because all has been out between ourselves and God. This, I admit, increases the pain of the trial immensely; but is this a loss? especially as at the same time there is strength vouchsafed to bear it. Thus the principle applies even to our little trials.
But Christ endured and did everything in perfection. Hence, even before Lazarus was raised up at the grave, we do not see or hear of One coming with divine power and majesty, and doing the miracle, if I may so say, off-hand. What can be more opposed to the truth? He who has such a meagre notion of the scene has everything to learn about it. Not that there was the smallest lack of consciousness of His glory; He is the Son of God unmistakably; He knows that His Father hears Him always; but none of these things hindered the Lord from groans and tears at the grave which was about to witness His power. None of them hindered the Lord from taking on His spirit the sense of death as no one else did. This is described by the Holy Ghost in the most emphatic language. "He groaned in spirit, and was troubled." But what was all this, compared with what. was soon to befall Himself when God entered into judgment with Him for our sins? It is not only granted, but insisted, that the actual expiation of sin, under divine wrath, was entirely and exclusively on the cross; but thence to assume that He did not previously go through with God the coming scene, and what was leading on to it, and everything that could add to the anguish of our Lord, is defective and erroneous teaching, however freely it is allowed that there was in the scene itself the endurance of wrath for sin which separates that hour from all that ever was or can be again.
Then, before the end of the chapter, the effect of all this divine testimony is shown. Man decides that the Lord must die; their intolerance of Jesus becomes now more pronounced. It was well known before. The giddy multitude may never have realised it till it came; but the religious folk, and the leaders at Jerusalem, had made up their minds about it long before. He must die. And now he who was high priest takes up the word, and gives though a wicked man, yet not without the Spirit acting the authoritative sentence about it which is recorded in our chapter. The resurrection power of the Son of God brought to a head the enmity of him who had the power of death. Jesus might have done such works at Nain or elsewhere, but to display them publicly at Jerusalem was an affront to Satan and his earthly instruments. Now that the glory of the Lord Jesus shone out so brightly, threatening the dominion of the prince of this world, there was no longer a concealment of the resolution taken by the religious world Jesus must die.
In John 12:1-50, accordingly, we have this, the under-current, still, but in a beautiful contrast. The Spirit of God here works in grace touching the death of Jesus, just as much as Satan was goading on his children to hatred and murder. God knows how to guide a beloved one of His where Jesus was abiding for a little season before He suffered. It was Mary; for John lets us hear the Lord Jesus calling His own sheep by name; and however rightly Matthew and Mark do not disclose it, it was not consistent with John's view of the Lord that she should be called merely "a woman," In his gospel such touches come out distinctly; and so we have Mary, and Mary's act with greater fulness as to its great principles, than anywhere else the part Mary took at this supper, where Martha served, and Lazarus sat at the table. Everything, every one, is found in the just place and season; the true light makes all manifest as it was, Jesus Himself being there, but about to die. "Mary took a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus." She did anoint His head, and other gospels speak of this; but John mentions what was peculiar. It was natural to anoint the head; but the special thing for the eye of love to discern was the anointing of the feet. This was specially shown in two ways.
The woman in Luke 7:1-50 did the very same thing; but this was not Mary, nor is there any good reason to suppose that it was even Mary Magdalene, any more than the sister of Lazarus. It was "a woman that was a sinner;" and I believe there is much moral beauty in not giving us her name, for obvious reasons. What could it do but become an evil precedent, besides indulging a prurient curiosity about her? The name is here dropped; but what of that, if it be written in heaven? There is a delicate veil cast over (not the grace shown by the Lord, but) the name of this woman who was a sinner; but there is an eternal record of the name and deed of Mary, the sister of Lazarus, who at this much later moment anoints the feet of Christ. Yet, as far as this goes, both women did the same thing. The one, in the abasement of feeling her sin before His ineffable love, did what Mary did in the sense of His deep glory, and with an instinctive feeling withal of some impending evil that menaced Him. Thus the sense of her sin, and the sense of His glory, brought them, as it were, to the same point. Another point of analogy is, that neither woman spoke; the heart of each expressed itself in deeds intelligible, at least, to Him who was the object of this homage, and He understood and vindicated both.
In this case the house was filled with the odour of the ointment; but this manifestation of her love who thus anointed Jesus brought out the ill-feeling and covetousness of one soul who cared not for Jesus, but was, indeed, a thief under his high pretensions of care for the poor. It is a very solemn scene in this point of view, the line of treachery alongside of the offering of grace. How often the self-same circumstances, which draw out fidelity and devotedness, manifest either heartless treachery or self-seeking and worldliness 1
Such, in brief, was the interior of Bethany. Outside Jewish rancour was undisguised. The heart of the chief priests was set on blood. The Lord, in the next scene, enters Jerusalem as the Son of David. But I must pass on, merely noting this Messianic witness in its place. When Jesus was glorified, the disciples remembered these things. The subsequent notice we have is the remarkable desire expressed by the Greeks, through Philip, to see Jesus. Here the Lord at once passes to another testimony, the Son of man, where the introduction of His most efficacious death is couched under the well-known figure of the corn of wheat falling into the ground and dying, as the harbinger, and, indeed, the means, of much fruit. In the path of His death they must follow who would be with Him. Not that here again the destined Head of all, the Son of man, is insensible at the prospect of such a death, but cries to the Father, who answers the call to glorify His name by the declaration that He had ( i.e., at the grave of Lazarus), and would again ( i.e., by raising up Jesus Himself).
The Lord, in the centre of the chapter just after this, opens out once more the truth of the world's judgment, and of His cross as the attractive point for all men, as such, in contrast with Jewish expectation. There is, first, perfect submission to the Father's will, whatever it may cost; then, the perception of the results in all their extent. This is followed by their unbelief in His proper glory, as much as in His sufferings. Such must ever be for man, for the world, the insuperable difficulty. They had heard it in vain in the law; for this is always misused by man, as we have seen in the gospel of John. They could not reconcile it with the voice of grace and truth. Both had been fully manifested in Jesus, and above all, would be yet more in His death. The voice of the law spoke to their ears of a Christ continuing for ever; but a Son of man humbled, dying, lifted up! Who was this Son of man? How exactly the counterpart of an Israelite's objections to this day! The voice of grace and truth was that of Christ come to die in shame, yet a sacrifice for sinners, however true also it was that in His own person He should continue for ever. Who could put these things together, seemingly so opposed? He who only heeds the law will never understand either the law or Christ.
Hence the chapter concludes with two closing warnings. Had they heard their own prophets? Let them listen also to Jesus. We have seen their ignorance of the law. In truth, the prophet Isaiah had shown long before that this was no new thing. He had predicted it inJohn 6:1-71; John 6:1-71, though a remnant should hear. The light of Jehovah might be ever so bright, but the heart of the people was gross. "Seeing they saw, but they did not understand." There was no reception of the light of God. Even if they believed after a sort, there was no confession to salvation, for they loved the praise of men, Jesus the Son of God, Jehovah Himself stands on earth and cries His final testimony. He pronounces upon it claims once more to be the light. He was "come a light into the world." This we have seen all through, from John 1:1-51 down toJohn 12:1-50; John 12:1-50. He was come a light into the world, that those that believed on Him should not abide in darkness. The effect was plain from the first; they preferred darkness to light. They loved sin; they had God manifested in love, manifested in Christ. The darkness was thus rendered only more visible in consequence of the light. "If any man hear my words, and believe not. I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day." Christ had not spoken from Himself, but as the sent One from the Father, who had charged Him what to say and what to speak. "And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak."
Time does not admit of more than a few words on the next two chapters (John 13:1-38; John 14:1-31), which introduce a distinct section of our gospel, where (testimony having been fully rendered, not indeed with hope of man, but for the glory of God,) Christ quits association with man (though supper time was come, not "ended" ver. 2) for a place suited to His glory, intrinsic and relational, as well as conferred; but alone with this (blessed to say), to give His own a part with Him in that heavenly glory (instead of His reigning over Israel here below).
Before concluding tonight, this I can notice but briefly, in order to bring my subject within the space allotted for it. Happily there is the less need to dwell on the chapters at the length they might claim, since many here are familiar with them, comparatively speaking. They are especially dear to the children of God in general.
First of all, our Lord has now terminated all question of testimony to man, whether to the Jew or to the world. He now addresses Himself to His own in the world, the unwavering, abiding objects of His love, as one just about to leave this world actually for that place which suits His essential nature, as well as the glory destined Him by the Father. Accordingly our Lord, as one about to go to heaven, new to Him as man, would prove His increasing love to them, (though fully knowing what the enemy would effect through the wickedness of one of their number, as well as through the infirmity of another,) and hence proceeds to give a visible sign then of what they would only understand later. It was the service of love that He would continue for them, when Himself out of this world and themselves in it; a service as real as any that He had ever done for them while He was in this world, and if possible, more important than any they had yet experienced. But, then, this ministration of His grace was also connected with His own new portion in heaven. That is, it was to give them a part with Him outside the world. It was not divine goodness meeting them in the world, but as He was leaving the world for heaven, whence He came, He would associate them with Himself, and give them a share with Himself where He was going. He was about to pass, though Lord of all, into the presence of God His Father in heaven, but would manifest Himself the servant of them all, even to the washing of their feet soiled in walking here below. The point, therefore, was (not here exactly suffering for sins, but) the service of love for saints, to fit them for having communion with Him, before they have their portion with Him in that heavenly scene to which He was going at once. Such is the meaning suggested by the washing of the disciples' feet. In short, it is the word of God applied by the Holy Ghost to deal with all that unfits for fellowship with Christ in heaven, while He is there. It is the Holy Ghost's answer here to what Christ is doing there, as one identified with their cause above, the Holy Ghost meanwhile carrying on a like work in the disciples here, to keep them in, or restore them to, communion with Christ there. They are to be with Him alone; but, meanwhile, He is producing and keeping up, by the Spirit's use of the word, this practical fellowship with Himself on high. While the Lord, then, intimates to them that it had a mystical meaning, not apparent on the face of it, nothing could be more obvious than the love or the humility of Christ. This, and more than this, had been abundantly shown by Him already, and in His every act. This, therefore, was not, and could not be, what was here meant, as that which Peter did not know then, but should know hereafter. Indeed, the lowly love of His Master was so apparent then, that the ardent but hasty disciple stumbled over it. There ought to be neither difficulty nor hesitation in allowing that a deeper sense lay hidden under that simple but suggestive action of Jesus a sense which not even the chief of the twelve could then divine, but which not only he, but every one else, ought to seize now that it is made good in Christianity, or, more precisely, in Christ's dealing with the defilements of His own.
This should be borne in mind, that the washing meant is not with blood, but with water. It was for those who would be already washed from their sins in His blood, but who need none the less to be washed with water also. Indeed, it were well to look more narrowly into the words of our Lord Jesus. Besides the washing with blood, that with water is essential, and this doubly. The washing, of regeneration is not by blood, though inseparable from redemption by blood, and neither the one nor the other is ever repeated. But in addition to the washing of regeneration, there is a continual dealing of grace with the believer in this world; there is the constant need of the application of the word by the Holy Ghost discovering whatever there may be of inconsistency, and bringing him to judge himself in the detail of daily walk here below.
Note the contrast between legal requirement and our Lord's action in this case. Under the law the priests washed themselves, hands as well as feet. Here Christ washes their feet. Need I say how highly the superiority of grace rises over the typical act of the law? Then follows, in connection and in contrast with it, the treachery of Judas. See how the Lord felt it from His familiar friend! How it troubled His spirit! It was a deep sorrow, a fresh instance of what has been referred to already.
Finally, at the end of the chapter, when the departure of Judas on his errand brought all before Him, the Saviour speaks again of death, and so glorifying God. It is not directly for the pardon or deliverance of disciples; yet who does not know that nowhere else is their blessing so secured? God was glorified in the Son of man where it was hardest, and even more than if sin had never been. Hence, as fruit of His glorifying God in His death, God would glorify Him in Himself "straightway." This is precisely what is taking place now. And this, it should be observed again, is in contrast with Judaism. The hope of the Jews is the manifestation of Christ's glory here below and by-and-by. What John shows is here in the immediate glorification of Christ on high. It does not depend upon any future time and circumstance, but was immediately consequent on the cross. But Christ was alone in this; none now could follow no disciple, any more than a Jew, as Peter, bold but weak, would prove to his cost. The ark must go first into Jordan, but we may follow then, as Peter did triumphantly afterwards.
John 14:1-31 (and here, too, I must be brief) follows up the same spirit of contrast with all that belonged to Judaism; for if the ministration of love in cleansing the saints practically was very different from a glorious reign Over the earth, so was the hope here given them of Christ just as peculiar. The Lord intimates, first of all, that He was not going to display Himself now as a Jewish Messiah, visible to the world; but as they believed in God, so they were to believe in Him. He was going to be unseen: quite a new thought to the Jewish mind as regards the Messiah, who, to them, always implied One manifested in power and glory in the world. "Ye believe in God," He says, "believe also in me." But then He connects the unseen condition He was about to assume with the character of the hope He was giving them. It was virtually saying that He was not going merely to bless them here. Nor would it be a scene for man to look on with his natural eyes in this world. He was going to bless them in an infinitely better way and place. "In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you." This is what the Son tells. Very different is the burden of the prophets. This was a new thing reserved most fitly for Him. Who but He should be the first to unveil to disciples on earth the heavenly scene of love and holiness and joy and glory He knew so well? "If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." This is the turning-point and secret "where I am." All depends on this precious privilege. The place that was due to the Son was the place that grace would give to the sow. They were to be in the same blessedness with Christ. It was not merely, therefore, Christ about to depart and be in heaven, maintaining their communion with Himself there, but wondrous grace! in due time they, too, were to follow and be with Him; yea, if He went before them, so absolute was the grace, that He would not devolve it on any one else, so to speak to usher them there. He would come Himself, and thus would bring them into His own place "That where I am, there ye may be also." This, I say, in all its parts, is the contrast of every hope, even of the brightest Jewish expectations.
Besides, He would assure them of the ground of their hope. In His own person they ought to have known how this could be. "Whither I go ye know, and the way ye know." They were surprised. Then, as ever, it was the overlooking of His glorious person that gave occasion to their bewilderment. In answer to Thomas, He says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." He was the way to the Father, and therefore they ought to have known. because no man comes to the Father but by Him. By receiving Jesus, by believing in Him, and only so, one comes to the Father, whom they had seen in Him, as Philip should have known. He was the way, and there was none other. Besides, He was the truth, the revelation of every one and everything as they are. He was also the life, in which that truth was, by the Spirit's power, known and enjoyed. In every way Christ was the only possible means of their entering into this blessedness. He was in the Father, and the Father in Him; and as the words were not spoken from Himself, so the Father abiding in Him did the works. (Verses 1-11)
Then our Lord turns, from what they should even then have known in and from His person and words and works, to another thing which could not then be known. This divides the chapter. The first part is the Son known on earth in personal dignity as declaring the Father imperfectly, no doubt, but still known. This ought to have been the means of their. apprehending whither He was going; for He was the Son not merely of Mary but of the Father. And this they then knew, however dull in perceiving the consequences. All His manifestation in this gospel was just the witness of this glory, as they certainly ought to have seen; and the new hope was thoroughly in accordance with that glory. But now he discloses to them that which they could only do and understand when the Holy Ghost was given. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you." This supposes the Holy Ghost given. First, it is the Son present, and the Father known in Him, and He in the Father. Next, the Holy Ghost is promised. When He was given, these would be the blessed results. He was going away indeed; but they might better prove their love by keeping His commandments, than in human grief over His absence. Besides, Christ would ask the Father, who would give them their ever-abiding Comforter while He Himself was away. The Holy Ghost would be not a passing visitor on the earth, even as the Son who had been with them for a season. He would abide for ever. His dwelling with them is in contrast with any temporary blessing; and besides, He would be in them the expression of an intimacy which nothing human can fully illustrate.
Observe, the Lord uses the present tense both for Himself and for the Comforter the Holy Spirit in this chapter, in a way that will be explained shortly. In the early part of verse 2 He says about Himself, "I go to Prepare a place for you." He does not mean that He was in the act of departure, but just about to go. He uses the present to express its certainty and nearness; He then was on the point of going. So even of coming back again, where likewise He uses the present, "I come again." He does not precisely say, as in the English version, "I will come." This passage of Scripture suffices to exemplify a common idiomatic usage in Greek, as in our own and other tongues, when a thing is to be regarded as sure, and to be constantly expected. It seems to me an analogous usage in connection with the Holy Ghost "He dwelleth with you." I apprehend that the object is simply to lay the stress on the dwelling. The Holy Ghost, when He comes, will not come and go soon after, but abide. Hence, says the Lord, Jesus, "He abideth with you" the same word so often used for abiding throughout the chapter; and next, as we saw, "He shall be in you:" a needful word to add; for otherwise it was not implied in His abiding with them.
These, then, are the two great truths of the chapter: their future portion with Christ in the Father's house; and, meanwhile, the permanent stay of the Holy Ghost with the disciples, and this, too, as indwelling on the footing of life in Christ risen. (Ver. 19) I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you." Thus, having the Holy Ghost as the power of life in Him, they would know Him nearer to them, and themselves to Him, when they should know Him in the Father, than if they had Him as Messiah with them and over them in the earth. These are the two truths which the Lord thus communicates to them.
Then we have a contrast of manifestation to the disciples, and to the world, connected with another very important point the Holy Ghost's power shown in their obedience, and drawing down a love according to the Father's government of His children. It is not merely the Father's love for His children as such, but Father and Son loving them, because of having and keeping the commandments of Jesus. This would be met by a manifestation of Jesus to the soul, such as the world knows nothing of. But the Lord explains further, that if a man loves Him, he will keep His word, and His Father will love him, "and we will come to him, and make our abode with him." (v. 23) This is not a commandment, but His word a simple intimation of His mind or will; and, therefore, as a more thorough test, so followed by a fuller blessing. This is a beautiful difference, and of great practical value, being bound up with the measure of our attentiveness of heart. Where obedience lies comparatively on the surface, and self-will or worldliness is not judged, a commandment is always necessary to enforce it. People therefore ask, " Must I do this? Is there any harm in that?" To such the Lord's will is solely a question of command. Now there are commandments, the expression of His authority; and they are not grievous. But, besides, where the heart loves Him deeply, His word* will give enough expression of His will to him that loves Christ. Even in nature a parent's look will do it. As we well know, an obedient child catches her mother's desire. before the mother has uttered a word. So, whatever might be the word of Jesus, it would be heeded, and thus the heart and life be formed in obedience. And what is not the joy and power where such willing subjection to Christ pervades the soul, and all is in the communion of the Father and the Son? How little can any of us speak of it as our habitual unbroken portion!
* It is difficult to say why Tyndale, Cranmer, the Geneva, and the Authorised Versions give the plural form, which has no authority whatever. Wiclif and the Rhemish, adhering to the Vulgate, happen to be right. His word has a unity of character which is of moment. He that loves Christ keeps His word; he that does not love Him keeps not His words; if he observes some of them only, other motives may operate; but if he loved Christ, he would value His word as a whole.
The concluding verses (25-31) bring before them the reason of the Lord's communication, and the confidence they may repose in the Spirit, both in His own teaching them all things, and in His recalling all things which Jesus said to them. "Peace," He adds, "I leave [fruit of His very death; nor this only, but His own character of peace, what He Himself knew] with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you." "Not as the world," which is capricious and partial, keeping for itself even where it affects most generosity. He alone who was God could give as Jesus gave, at all cost, and what was most precious. And see what confidence He looks for, what affections superior to self! "Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I." Little remained for Him to talk with them. Another task was before Him not with saints, but with Satan, who coming would find nothing in Him, save, indeed, obedience up to death itself, that the world might know that He loves the Father, and does just as He commands. And then He bids the disciples rise up, and go hence, as inJohn 13:1-38; John 13:1-38. He rose up Himself (both being, in my opinion, significant actions, in accordance with what was opening out before Him and them).
But I need and must say no more now on this precious portion. I could only hope to convey the general scope of the contents, as well as their distinctive character. May our God and Father grant that what has been said may help His children to read His word with ever deepening intelligence and enjoyment of it, and of Him with whose grace and glory it is filled!
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Kelly, William. "Commentary on John 10:35". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wkc/john-10.html. 1860-1890.
the Fifth Week after Easter