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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

John 5:4

for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.]
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Angel (a Spirit);   Jesus, the Christ;   Miracles;   Thompson Chain Reference - Bible Stories for Children;   Children;   Home;   Pleasant Sunday Afternoons;   Religion;   Stories for Children;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Angels;   Water;  
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Disease;   John, gospel of;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Miracle;   Sabbath;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Pool;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Angels;   Bethesda;   Jesus Christ;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Bethesda;   Diseases;   Hour;   John, the Gospel of;   Pool;   Sabbath;   Season;   Sign;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Jesus Christ;   Trinity;   World;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Angels;   Bath, Bathing;   Bethesda;   Disease;   Impotence;   Sinners;   Tree (2);   Water (2);   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Various Readings;   1910 New Catholic Dictionary - raphael the archangel;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Bethesda;   Chief parables and miracles in the bible;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Bethesda;  
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Jesus of Nazareth;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Angel;   Bath;   Bethesda;   Cistern;   Disease;   Johannine Theology, the;   Pool;   Text and Manuscripts of the New Testament;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Bethesda;  
Every Day Light - Devotion for February 1;  

Clarke's Commentary

Verse John 5:4. Angel — "Of the Lord," is added by AKL, about 20 others, the AEthiopic, Armenian, Slavonic, Vulgate, Anglo-Saxon, and six copies of the Itala: Cyril and Ambrose have also this reading. If this reading be genuine, and the authorities which support it are both ancient and respectable, it destroys Dr. Hammond's conjecture, that, by the angel, a messenger only, sent from the Sanhedrin, is meant, and that these cures were all performed in a natural way.

Those who feel little or none of the work of God in their own hearts are not willing to allow that he works in others. Many deny the influences of God's Spirit, merely because they never felt them. This is to make any man's experience the rule by which the whole word of God is to be interpreted; and consequently to leave no more divinity in the Bible than is found in the heart of him who professes to explain it.

Went downκατεβαινεν, descended. The word seems to imply that the angel had ceased to descend when John wrote. In the second verse, he spoke of the pool as being still in existence; and in this verse he intimates that the Divine influence ceased from these waters. When it began, we know not; but it is likely that it continued no longer than till the crucifixion of our Lord. Some think that this never took place before nor after this time. Neither Josephus, Philo, nor any of the Jewish authors mention this pool; so that it is very likely that it had not been long celebrated for its healing virtue, and that nothing of it remained when those authors wrote.

Certain season — This probably refers to the time of the feast, during which only this miraculous virtue lasted. It is not likely that the angel appeared to the people-his descent might be only known by the ebullition caused in the waters. Was not the whole a type of Christ? See Zechariah 13:1. He is the true Bethesda, or house of mercy, the fountain opened to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness; unto which all the diseased may come, and find health and life eternal.

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on John 5:4". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary


46. Healing at Bethesda and its outcome (John 5:1-29)

Jesus came from Galilee to Jerusalem for a Jewish religious festival. While there he visited a pool where many blind and crippled people hoped to find healing (John 5:1-5). One of the men asked Jesus for help, not to heal him (for he did not know who Jesus was) but to assist him into the pool. Jesus responded by healing him instantly (John 5:6-9). As the healing took place on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders were anxious to find out who was responsible. Jesus must have known that the healed man’s wrongdoing was partly the cause of his troubles, and urged him to repent. But the man’s response was to report Jesus to those who were looking for him (John 5:10-15).

When the Jewish leaders accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath laws, he replied that his Father also works on the Sabbath. Day by day he maintains the world and cares for his creatures. When he makes the sun to rise, the rain to fall and the grass to grow on the Sabbath, he does not break the law. Jesus is united with his Father, and he does not sin when he carries out acts of mercy on the Sabbath (John 5:16-17).

The Jews objected even more strongly when they heard Jesus call God his Father. Jesus replied that in all their work the Father and the Son are united. They are separate persons, but one God. In healing on the Sabbath, Jesus was not acting against the Father’s commands, but doing what the Father wanted (John 5:18-20a).

Because Jesus is God, he will do even greater works than this; he will raise the dead to life and bring in final judgment. Those who reject the Son dishonour God, but those who receive the Son pass immediately from spiritual death to spiritual life (John 5:20-24). When the dead are raised for final judgment, that judgment will be carried out by the Son. But there will be no condemnation for those who have received the life that he offers (John 5:25-29).

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Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on John 5:4". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". 2005.

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

An angel - It is not affirmed that the angel did this “visibly,” or that they saw him do it. They judged by the “effect,” and when they saw the waters agitated, they concluded that they had healing properties, and descended to them. The Jews were in the habit of attributing all favors to the ministry of the angels of God, Genesis 19:15; Hebrews 1:14; Matthew 4:11; Matthew 18:10; Luke 16:22; Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19; Acts 12:11. This fountain, it seems, had strong medicinal properties. Like many other waters, it had the property of healing certain diseases that were incurable by any other means. Thus the waters of Bath, of Saratoga, etc., are found to be highly medicinal, and to heal diseases that are otherwise incurable. In the case of the waters of Bethesda there does not appear to have been anything “miraculous,” but the waters seem to have been endued with strong medicinal properties, especially after a periodical agitation. All that is special about them in the record is that this was produced by the ministry of an angel. This was in accordance with the common sentiment of the Jews, the common doctrine of the Bible, and the belief of the sacred writers. Nor can it be shown to be absurd or improbable that such blessings should be imparted to man by the ministry of an angel. There is no more absurdity in the belief that a pure spirit or holy “angel” should aid man, than that a physician or a parent should; and no more absurdity in supposing that the healing properties of such a fountain should be produced by his aid, than that any other blessing should be, Hebrews 1:12. What man can prove that all his temporal blessings do not come to him through the medium of others - of parents, of teachers, of friends, of “angels?” And who can prove that it is unworthy the benevolence of angels to minister to the wants of the poor, the needy, and the afflicted, when “man” does it, and Jesus Christ did it, and God himself does it daily?

Went down - Descended to the pool.

At a certain season - At a certain time; periodically. The people knew “about” the time when this was done, and assembled in multitudes to partake of the benefits. Many medicinal springs are more strongly impregnated at some seasons of the year than others.

Troubled the water - Stirred or “agitated” the water. There was probably an increase, and a bubbling and agitation produced by he admission of a fresh quantity.

Whosoever then first - This does not mean that but one was healed, and that the first one, but that those who first descended into the pool were healed. The strong medicinal properties of the waters soon subsided, and those who could not at first enter into the pool were obliged to wait for the return of the agitation.

Stepped in - Went in.

Was made whole - Was healed. It is not implied that this was done instantaneously or by a miracle. The water had such properties that he was healed, though probably gradually. It is not less the gift of God to suppose that this fountain restored gradually, and in accordance with what commonly occurs, than to suppose, what is not affirmed, that it was done at once and in a miraculous manner.

In regard to this passage, it should be remarked that the account of the angel in John 5:4 is wanting in many manuscripts, and has been by many supposed to be spurious, There is not conclusive evidence, however, that it is not a part of the genuine text, and the best critics suppose that it should not be rejected. One difficulty has been that no such place as this spring is mentioned by Josephus. But John is as good a historian, and as worthy to be believed as Josephus. Besides, it is known that many important places and events have not been mentioned by the Jewish historian, and it is no evidence that there was no such place as this because he did not mention it. When this fountain was discovered, or how long its healing properties continued to be known, it is impossible now to ascertain. All that we know of it is what is mentioned here, and conjecture would be useless. We may remark, however, that such a place anywhere is an evidence of the great goodness of God. Springs or fountains having healing properties abound on earth, and nowhere more than in our own country. Diseases are often healed in such places which no human skill could remove. The Jews regarded such a provision as proof of the mercy of God. They gave this healing spring the name of a “house of mercy.” They regarded it as under the care of an angel. And there is no place where man should be more sensible of the goodness of God, or be more disposed to render him praise as in a “house of mercy,” than when at such a healing fountain. And yet how lamentable is it that such places - watering places - should be mere places of gaiety and thoughtlessness, of balls, and gambling, and dissipation! How melancholy that amid the very places Where there is most evidence of the goodness of God, and of the misery of the poor, the sick, the afflicted, men should forget all the goodness of their Maker, and spend their time in scenes of dissipation, folly, and vice!

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on John 5:4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

4. For an angel went down. It was, no doubt, a work peculiar to God to cure the sick; but, as He was accustomed to employ the ministration and agency of angels, so He commanded an angel to perform this duty. For this reason the angels are called principalities or powers, (Colossians 1:16;) not that God gives up his power to them, and remains unemployed in heaven, but because, by acting powerfully in them, he magnificently shows and displays his power. It is, therefore, wicked and shameful to imagine any thing as belonging to the angels, or to constitute them the medium of communication between us and God, so as to obscure the glory of God, as if it were at a great distance from us, while, on the contrary, he employs them as the manifestations of his presence. We ought to guard against the foolish speculations of Plato, for the distance between us and God is too great to allow us to go to the angels, that they may obtain favor for us; but, on the contrary, we ought to come direct to Christ, that, by his guidance, protection, and command, we may have the angels as assistants and ministers of our salvation.

At intervals. God might have at once, in a single moment, cured them all:, but, as his miracles have their design, so they ought also to have their limit; as Christ also reminds them that, though there were so many that died in the time of Elisha, not more than one child was raised from the dead, (Genesis 4:32;) (95) and that, though so many widows were famished during the time of drought, there was but one whose poverty was relieved by Elijah, (Genesis 17:9; Luke 4:25.) Thus the Lord reckoned it enough to give a demonstration of his presence in the case of a few diseased persons. But the manner of curing, which is here described, shows plainly enough that nothing is more unreasonable than that men should subject the works of God to their own judgment; for pray, what assistance or relief could be expected from troubled water ? But in this manner, by depriving us of our own senses, the Lord accustoms us to the obedience of faith. We too eagerly follow what pleases our reason, though contrary to the word of God; and, therefore, in order to render us more obedient to him, he often presents to us those things which contradict our reason. Then only do we show our submissive obedience, when we shut our eyes, and follow the plain word, though our own opinion be that what we are doing will be of no avail. We have an instance of this kind in Naaman a Syrian, whom the prophet sends to Jordan, that he may be cured of his leprosy, (Genesis 5:10.) At first, no doubt, he despises it as a piece of mockery, but afterwards he comes actually to perceive that, while God acts contrary to human reason, he never mocks or disappoints us.

And troubled the water Yet the troubling of the water was a manifest proof that God freely uses the elements according to his own pleasure, and that He claims for himself the result of the work. For it is an exceedingly common fault to ascribe to creatures what belongs to God alone; but it would be the height of folly to seek, in the troubled water, the cause of the cure. He therefore holds out the outward symbol in such a manner that, by looking at the symbol, the diseased persons may be constrained to raise their eyes to Him who alone is the Author of grace.

(95) The French version runs thus: “ combion que du temps d’Elisee il y eust plusieurs de ladres, toutesfois nul d’eux ne fut nettoye sinon Naaman Syrien;” — “ though in the time of Elisha there were many lepers, yet not one of them was cleansed except Naaman a Syrian, ” (Genesis 5:14; Luke 4:27.)

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on John 5:4". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.

Smith's Bible Commentary

Shall we turn in our Bibles to the fifth chapter of the gospel of John.

John has just recorded in the fourth chapter the ministry of Jesus in the Galilee when He was at the city of Cana and the nobleman came to Him concerning his son, who was sick. And Jesus spoke the word and some twenty miles distance the Spirit of God did a work and healed the nobleman's son.

So after this, that would be after His ministry there in Cana, and the healing of the nobleman's son,

There was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there He's at Jerusalem by the sheep market at a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. And in these there lay a great multitude of impotent folk, blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: and whosoever then first after the troubling of the waters stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty-eight years. And when Jesus saw him lying there, and he knew that he had been a long time in this case, he said unto him, Would you like to made whole? And the impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I'm trying to get in, another steps down before me. And Jesus said unto him, Rise, take up your bed, and walk ( John 5:1-8 ).

So John is now giving us another little scene in the ministry of Jesus. We remember that the gospel of John is selected pictures. In the nineteenth chapter of John he tells us that Jesus did many other things which are not recorded. But these were recorded that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and by believing have life in His name. So John is telling you that he's just selecting certain things out of the life and the ministry of Jesus to demonstrate to you the fact that He was the Messiah, the Son of the living God. That by your believing in Him you might have life in His name. When John closed his epistle he said there are so many things that could be written about Jesus. That I suppose if someone tried to write them all, all of the libraries in the world could not hold all that could be written about Him. Well, surely we are proving that today with a multitude of books that are being published concerning the Bible and concerning Jesus, and yet, we have not nearly exhausted all that could or perhaps should be said. This is another little insight. The pool of Bethesda, inside it said of the sheep gate, today it lies inside of what is known as the lion's gate, the sheep gate no longer exists in the walls of the city of Jerusalem. But inside the lion's gate, in their excavations they have found the pool of Bethesda where the five porches where Jesus ministered to this lame man.

There were many people around there blind, lame and all, for a tradition had been developed about the pool. That whenever the waters began to move whoever was the first one into the water would be healed of whatever disease they had. So all of these people who where lame, blind, maimed, or whatever, would lie around this pool just waiting for the water to be troubled. Can you imagine what a pitiful sight that must've been? To see this pool of water with these five porches and all of these grotesque creatures lying around it just waiting for the water to be troubled and then the mad scramble and the blind person was, of course, was disadvantaged because he can only hear the rustling of people and then realize what must be going on and trying to get in, and everyone trying to get in first, and the first one in was healed of whatever disease he had. You say, "Well, how can you explain that, that the first one in could be healed?"

We know there is tremendous power in faith. Jesus said if you can believe, all things are possible to him that believes. How many times Jesus said to people by faith has made you whole. Faith is a tremendous power. It can activate the work of God in your behalf. And people oftentimes need a point of contact for releasing their faith. Many times faith is rather passive. Our faith in God is often passive, but should not be. I'm not advocating this, I'm just making a statement of fact. But passive faith really doesn't do much. I believe that God can. I believe that God created the universe, so I know that God can do anything. I have the passive faith to believe that God could replace an amputated arm. I say the passive faith to believe that because I don't have the active faith to believe that. You say, "Well, do you believe that God created the world?" Sure. "Do you believe God can do anything?" Sure. Then if God can do anything, sure He can put a new arm upon a person who had his arm amputated. I believe He can. I don't believe He will. You see, that's the difference between the passive faith and an active faith. An active faith believes He will.

Now many times we need some kind of a place, a point, an experience where we turn our faith from a passive faith which does little, to an active faith that will accomplish a lot. And oftentimes the point of contact is extremely valuable.

Now with these people a point of contact have been developed to where, whenever the water became troubled they believed that the first one into the water would be healed of whatever disease or malady they had. And because they believed this to be so, the first one into the water, his faith was immediately activated and he believed God is going to heal me. And because he believed that God was going to heal him, he was healed. His faith became active.

Much as the woman who in her heart said, "I know the moment I touched the hem of His garment, I would be made whole of this plague." And so she made her way through the crowd until she got close enough to reach out and touch the hem of His garment, and the moment she did, she released her faith. It became active and God's power ministered to her as the virtue went out from Jesus, because God responds to our faith. Your faith can be a hindrance or a blessing. What I believe is very important. If I believe that God can't or won't do a certain thing, then it usually follows that God doesn't. If I believe that God will do a certain thing, then it usually follows that God does.

When I was a child, unfortunately, there was a lot of negative preaching. And many people became victim of the negative preaching. I heard many sermons against a lot of things. And one of the favorite subjects of attack by those ministers was smoking cigarettes. And I heard over and over as a child that if you smoke a cigarette, God will not, you cannot be a Christian, you cannot be a child of God and smoke a cigarette. And I heard this.

Now there were many of my companions who also heard this teaching and this preaching and they believed what they heard. So that when they began to experiment and smoke cigarettes they believed, "Well, God can't save me. I'm a sinner because I smoke a cigarette, and I can't be saved as long as I smoked this cigarette." And because they believed that they could not be saved smoking a cigarette, it became true. They could not be saved, they could not believe that God could save them while they were bound by a cigarette habit. Because what you believe becomes the reality in that case. And unfortunately, many people have been destroyed through negative preaching.

I had a man in Tucson who said, "Chuck, I would like to be a Christian. I would like to come to church, I would like to live for the Lord. I used to be the youth director in our church when I was growing up. And I was serving the Lord and I was happy and all and I would like to do it now, but my job gives me a lot of stress. And when I get home in the evening after a stressful day on the job I love to sit down and relax and have a can of beer. And so I can't be saved." I said, "Eddie, who told you that you can't have a can of beer?" I said, "That isn't the issue." Just to shock him I said, "I drink all the beer I want; I don't want to drink any."

But many people are kept away from God because they have become entangled into habits or into patterns that they can't break. They've tried to break them, they've been told as long as they were doing that they can't be a child of God. And so they've tried to quit smoking, but they can't quite smoking, and so they think, "Oh, God, I wish I could be saved. Oh, I wish I can be a child of God." And they long and desire to be, but they're bound; they can't quit smoking. What they're trying to do is get the cart before the horse. You give your life to Jesus Christ, and He'll take care of those things in your life as the Spirit of God conforms you into the image of Jesus Christ.

We so often in our endeavor to be righteous before God are trying to work from the outside in, but that is always a difficult, if not impossible, project. The Spirit of God works from the inside out. He brings to pass those changes within me which have their expression on the outside. So our faith, what I believe to be, becomes a reality in my life. But there is that possibility of activating faith, and oftentimes, the point of contact is valuable in doing that. If there are any sick among you, let him call for the elders of the church, and let them anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord and the prayer of faith will save the sick and the Lord shall raise them up.

Now, as the elders come and anoint with oil and lay hands in the name of Jesus and pray for that person, it gives the point of contact to release the faith. "I know as soon as the elders get here and anoint me with oil and pray for me in the name of the Lord I'm going to be healed. Oh bless God, I can hardly wait for them to come. Oh praise the Lord." You know, and as the doorbell rings, "Oh, they're here bless God. I'm going to be healed now in just a few moments, the moment they lay their hands on me and anoint me with oil in the name of Lord." And because I believe the promise of God and I believe the Word of God, the moment they lay their hands on me in the name of Jesus and they pray for me, I'm healed. Why? Because I've now triggered or activated the faith. It is no longer if God can heal me, but God is healing me now at this moment, and it is that activating of faith.

So these people sat around the pool waiting for the waters to be troubled. Because it created the point of contact with their releasing their faith for that work that God was wanted to do in their lives. But this man had been lame for thirty-eight years. And he had been lying around here for a long time. But he was so crippled that whenever the waters began to stir, by the time he could get his body into the water someone else had already gotten there in front of him. And thus, he remained in his crippled condition, hoping and waiting that some day he might be the first one in. And as his case was, he didn't have any friend to help him. You know, those who were just there beside him and holding him and as soon as the waters troubled toss him in. So he was there in that hopeless state, and Jesus said would you like to be healed? And he brought up his problem to Jesus, "Of course I would like to be healed, but there's no one to help me. When the waters are troubled someone always get there in front of me." And then Jesus commanded him to do the impossible. Jesus said unto him, "Rise, take up your bed and walk."

I love the way Jesus is always giving to people impossible commands. Because whenever the Lord gives you an impossible command then you are faced with one of two choices. The first choice is you can obey the command that Jesus gave you, or you can argue with the command.

Now this man could have said, "Who are you trying to kid, mister? I told you I don't have anybody to help me, the waters aren't troubled now. You think that if I could carry my bed away from here I'd be lying here all this time. I've been thirty-eight years like this, man, there's no way I can stand up." And he could have argued with the command of Jesus and remained impotent. But he made a wise choice, he chose to obey the command of Christ. And we read,

And immediately the man was made whole, and he took up his bed, and walked ( John 5:9 ):

He chose to obey the command of Christ, though he knew it was an impossible command.

Now many times the Lord gives to us commands that, to us, seem like an impossible command. Maybe there is an area of weakness in our life that we have struggled with for years. It has kept us in a defeated state. And the Lord said, "Alright, now don't do that again." We say, "Oh, Lord, you don't know how I would like to quit. Oh, you don't know how miserable I am when I do this. I don't get any joy out of this." And we argue with Jesus and we tell Him all the times we tried. We tell Him of all of the programs that we've been on. All of the books we've read. All of the money we spent trying to change our behavioral patterns and I'm still the same. And we are arguing with Him, rather than willing to obey.

Now, one thing we must learn and that is, though Jesus gives to us what seems to be an impossible command, that Jesus never commands us to do anything, but if we will, but will to do it, He will in that moment give to us all of the capacity all of the power and all of the ability to do it. Don't argue with Him and say, "Yes, Sir," and do it. Because if you will will to obey the command of Christ, immediately you will receive all that is necessary to obey that command. So many times we look and we say, "That's impossible, Lord." Not anymore, because He told me to do it. And by virtue of the fact that He told me to do it, He will give me the capacity to do it.

So this man was made whole, he took up his bed and walked, but they weren't looking at the calendar.

the same day was the Sabbath ( John 5:9 ).

And he didn't get very far until some of these black robe men with black hats and long curls said unto him that was cured,

It's the Sabbath day: it's not lawful for thee to carry thy bed ( John 5:10 ).

It's interesting to me the tradition that man can acquire, but really what amazes me most is how deeply ingrained tradition can become in a person's life. You know, I think one of the hardest things to be freed from is tradition. It's just awfully hard to shake ourselves from tradition. Unfortunately, into the church there has come a lot of tradition, church tradition, which has its roots in the mystery Babylon in religion. But it has become a part of church tradition. But because it is tradition, it has become so deeply ingrained that when Martin Luther sought to make his break and did make a break, it wasn't a truly clean break from all of the abuses. For he brought into the Protestant Reformation much of what was tradition brought in from the mystery Babylon religion systems. So that as Jesus wrote to the church of Sardis, the Protestant Reformation, He said, "I have not found your work complete before God. You still got a lot of these trappings that belong to the mystery Babylon religion that have no place in the body of Christ." But traditions are very difficult to throw off. They are so deeply ingrained within a person.

They had certain traditions that had developed concerning the Sabbath. They sought to interpret the Sabbath law. They had what was known as the Mishnah. The commentaries on the law of Moses. And in the Mishnah some twenty-three chapters were devoted to the interpreting of the law of the Sabbath day. How God just said, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy, six days shalt though labor and do thy work, but the seventh day is the day of rest." So just remember the Sabbath day, keep it holy.

Now they began to try to interpret this particular law, and in twenty-three chapters of the Mishnah you find interpretation of the law. What constitutes bearing a burden on the Sabbath day.

Now the other day when we were in Jerusalem on the Sabbath day, our bus was going down the street, and there was this little Jewish boy, looked to be ten or twelve years old, with his black robe and black hat and long curls. And as the bus went by, he was incensed that the bus should be traveling on the Sabbath day, and he made all kinds of faces at us. Finally he stuck out his tongue at us because we were daring to ride in a bus on the Sabbath day. Now it was lawful, I guess, to stick out his tongue but... There were certain areas of the city of Jerusalem that we could not drive the bus. Certain areas that had barricades near the area known as the Miasherim. And should we have tried to drive the bus by that area, though it was unlawful to bear any burdens on the Sabbath day, they would have stoned us.

This man was nailed; he's carrying a bed on the Sabbath day. "Hey, fellow, it's the Sabbath day. It's not lawful to carry your bed."

And he answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up your bed, and walk ( John 5:11 ).

Now they, no doubt, knew this man. Jerusalem did not have that many people, but what a man that have been around lame for thirty-eight years became sort of a public figure, and people knew him, recognized him. And so he calls to their attention the fact that he was cured. "Surely, anybody that can cure me after thirty-eight years of lameness must have some word of authority, and so He told me to take my bed and walk."

And they asked him, Who is it who said to you to take your bed and walk? And he who was healed didn't know who it was: for Jesus had just conveyed himself away, because there were a lot of people in that place. So afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and he said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, less a worse thing come upon thee ( John 5:12-14 ).

Now in this particular case, it would seem that Jesus related the man's illness to some sin in his life. "Sin no more less a worse thing come upon thee."

There can be a relationship between sin and a particular malady. But it would be very wrong to generalize and say that any sickness or malady is directly related to some sin. This is the mistake that Job's comforters made, and it is a mistake that often people make even subconsciously in their mind when a person is quite sick or afflicted, and unfortunately, there are those evangelists today who would sort of foster that false concept. "If you just had enough faith, you could be healed. Just get your life straightened up; God wants to heal everybody. And if you're not healed, it's because there's something wrong in your life, something wrong with your faith." And all they are doing is heaping heavy burdens upon the poor sick people that they don't need. Making them feel guilty or even worse in their condition. God has a special judgment, I'm sure, for such comforters.

This man did not know who Jesus was until Jesus found him in the temple. And his condition had a relationship to some sin in his life, and Jesus just warned him, "Go your way and sin no more, less a worse thing come upon." Jesus taught that when an evil spirit goes forth out of a man, he goes through dry places seeking a house to inhabit, and in finding none he'll come back to the house from once where he was driven. And if he finds it all slept in garnish he will go out and get seven other spirits that they might come and make their abode in that house. So that the last state of the man is actually worse than his first. We are told in the scriptures that it would be better for a man to never have known the way of truth than to know it and to walk away from it. If you've had a work of God wrought in your life, you then have certain responsibility towards God. If you come to God for some work in your life then you do have a definite responsibility towards God. And not just opening, your life to God's work, but opening your life to God Himself.

And so the man departed and [finked on Jesus] he told the Jews it was Jesus, who had made him whole ( John 5:15 ).

And this was something that the Jews never forgave Jesus for. This is what eventually brought Jesus to the cross. His violation of their traditional interpretation of the Sabbath day.

Therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the Sabbath day ( John 5:16 ).

Now to them their traditional keeping of the law was more important than the healing of a man. Jesus said to them one time, "Which of you if you had an ox or a donkey, if it falls in a ditch on a Sabbath day won't you lift it out? Now if you're that concerned with your dumb animals, don't you think God is concerned with a person who is needing help whether it be the Sabbath day or not?" So they sought to persecute Jesus because He had done this on the Sabbath day.

But Jesus answered them, and said, My Father works today, and I work ( John 5:17 ).

Aren't you glad the Father works on the Sabbath day? What if God took off every Sabbath day? Think of all the mess the world would be in, trying to recover from God taking a rest every Sabbath day. He that keeps Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. God doesn't take any day off. God is working in the lives of His people all the time. And so Jesus said, "Look, my Father works, and so I work."

Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the Sabbath, but he said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God ( John 5:18 ).

Now there are those today who say, "Well, Jesus never claimed to be God. That this was something that others build up around Him, the aura and all of divinity." These people studying the records today read this, or get this understanding as they study the records today. Those people that Jesus talked to knew exactly what He was meaning and what He was saying. They didn't have any mistaken ideas about what He was claiming. Because if He was saying He was the Son of God, they knew that He was making Himself equal with God and they were wanting to kill Him for it.

Then Jesus said unto them ( John 5:19 ),

And He begins to talk to them now, emphasizing what He's saying with these words verily, verily. And the repetition of the word is for emphasis, it's, "Alright, now hear this." I mean, it's really calling their attention to what I'm about to say.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father do: for what thing soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise ( John 5:19 ).

And so Jesus is claiming here that His works are the work of God. That they are not His works. That He is showing to them the work of God and doing the work of God. "I've brought this healing to the man, but it was God who brought the healing. I don't work apart from God. I'm working in total harmony with God. You're finding fault with Me for working on the Sabbath day, but this is the work of God that was wrought on the Sabbath day. Can't you see that?" But they couldn't because traditions have blinded their eyes.

For the Father loveth the Son, and he shows him all things that himself does: and he will show him greater works than these, that ye may marvel ( John 5:20 ).

God is going to continue to work and even do greater works just that you might marvel at what He does.

For as the Father raises up the dead, and makes them alive; even so the Son will make alive those whom he will ( John 5:21 ).

And so, as we follow on in the ministry of Jesus, we find Him raising to life the son of that widow in the city of Nain, Jairus' daughter there in Capernaum, and finally Lazarus, who have been dead. Because God can make alive even those who are dead, and the Son, doing the work of the Father, will give life to those whom He will.

For the Father judges no man, but he has committed all judgment unto the Son ( John 5:22 ):

I'm acting in accord to the Farther in harmony with Him doing His work.

That all men should honor the Son ( John 5:23 ),

And this is what God is desiring, that we should honor the Son.

Now, one of the marks of a false cult is the failure to honor the Son. There are three things that Satan is constantly attacking: the Word of God, the divinity of Christ, and the work of the Holy Spirit. He's attacking the Godhead. He attacks God's Word. Hath God said, and he still attacks the Word of God. He attacks the divinity of Jesus Christ, and you find this in every false cult. Try the Spirits to see if they be of God, and if their testimony of Jesus Christ where it really reveals itself. And he attacks the work of the Holy Spirit.

So God has wrought these works through Jesus,

That all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. And he that honoreth not the Son honoreth not the Father which have sent him ( John 5:23 ).

There's so many people say, "Well, I believe in God, but I don't see the necessity for Jesus. I really don't know about Jesus." Jesus is here declaring, "Look, if you don't honor Me, you're not honoring the Father." And so the Jehovah Witnesses, and these who fail to really honor Jesus, though they claim to be Jehovah Witnesses, they are not really honoring the Father.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that hears my word, and believes on him that sent me, has everlasting life ( John 5:24 ),

Believing on the word of Jesus, believing in the Father who sent Him.

and he shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life ( John 5:24 ).

"He that hears my word," that is, hears in the sense of observing, keeping my word, and believing on God, you have eternal life. You will not come into condemnation, but you have passed from death to life.

Now look at how man has interpreted this through the church history and how many regulations and requirements we put on a man in order to say, you know, "Your sins are absolved and you're a child of God, if you do this and this and this. Keep these rules and read these regulations and follow this, you know, and pay your tithes, and all this kind of stuff." And we lay all these heavy burdens on them. Where Jesus said, "Look, if you just hear my word and believe in Him who sent Me, you have everlasting life. You're not going to come into condemnation, you passed from death to life." It is Satan's work to condemn the child of God. And he is very adept at it. He never ceases.

The angels in the Book of Revelation cry out, "Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitors of the earth, for the accuser of the brethren is cast out who accuses them before God day and night." "The accuser of the brethren," one of the titles of Satan. And how he accuses us, but if you hear the word of Jesus and believe on God, you have everlasting life. You won't come into condemnation, but you passed from death to life.

Verily, verily I say unto you, [the third verily, verily] The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live ( John 5:25 ).

Jesus will soon be going down into hell and preaching to those souls in prison. That He might deliver them from their captivity. The hour is coming, it's upon us almost where those that are dead are going to hear the voice, and they that hear shall live.

For as the Father hath life in himself; so has he given to the Son to have life in himself ( John 5:26 );

Jesus said in a little while as we get into John, "No man takes My life from Me; I give My life. I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it up again." Even as the Son have that self-generating, even as the Father has life within Himself, so the Son has that life within Himself, and power to give life, the authority, and He has given to Him the authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.

Now marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice ( John 5:28 ),

Jesus is talking about that ministry that He's going to have very soon to those faithful, who with Abraham were waiting the fulfillment of the promise of God. Those who died in faith, not having received the promise, but seeing it afar off were embracing it, holding on to it, waiting for that redemption to be completed.

And they shall come forth; they which have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they which have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. And I can of my own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not my own will, but the will of the Father which sent me ( John 5:29-30 ).

He again is declaring that He is working in perfect harmony with the Father. Later on He will tell Philip, "The works that I do I do not of Myself, but the Father that dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works." The same witness that He's giving here. "What I'm doing, I'm only doing because I've seen the Father do it. I'm doing the works of the Father in your midst."

And if I bear witness of myself ( John 5:31 ),

And now He's going to talk about the witnesses of Him, but He said if I bear witness of Myself,

the witness is not true ( John 5:31 ).

Not that it wouldn't be a true witness, but they would not accept the witness if He would witness of Himself.

And so there is another that bears witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesses of me is true. For you sent unto John, and he bore witness of the truth. But I do not receive testimony from man [or the witness of man]: but these things I say, that you might be saved. For he was a burning in the shining light: and you were willing for a season to rejoice in his light ( John 5:32-35 ).

So I, if I would witness of myself, it would be acceptable. But John bore witness of Me, and you went out and you heard him and you were satisfied to walk in the light that he brought. But he said, "I do not even except the witness of John as the final proof of who I am."

But I have a greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me ( John 5:36 ).

And so Jesus is appealing to the miracles and to the works that He wrought as the witness and the testimony of His authority and of His origin.

Now Nicodemus came to Him and said, "Rabbi we know that you are a teacher that came from God, because no man can do the works that You do unless God was with him." And Nicodemus recognized this as a valid witness when he came to Jesus.

Philip said to the Lord, "Lord, just show us the Father and it suffice with us." And Jesus said, "Have I been so long in time with you, Philip, and have you not seen Me? He that hath seen Me has seen the Father. Why do you then say, 'Show us the Father'? Believeth thou not that I'm in the Father and the Father is in Me? The works that I do I do not of Myself but the Father that dwells in Me, He does the work. Now believe Me that I'm in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the very works' sake." He calls as a witness of His authority the works that He was doing, for He was doing the works of God. And they are a powerful witness of who He is. And to deny that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God is to deny the miracle and the works that He has wrought. Now you will always find those liberals who are seeking to do just that. Rationalizing all the miracles.

And as we get into the next chapter and Jesus feeds the multitude with the five loaves and the two fish, they'll tell you that in those days everybody carried their lunch in their long sleeves which were tied at the wrist. And they were all so selfish that none of them were willing to share their food with others that may have forgotten to bring theirs. And they all sat there in their selfishness, not wanting to eat their own food in front of others, but still not willing to share--until finally one sweet little boy came forth and said, "Here, Jesus, I'll give you my lunch." And they were all so moved and touched by the beautiful example of this child, that a miracle took place. They all untied their sleeves and shared their lunch so that when they gathered up the fragments they have given more than twelve baskets full, you know. Isn't that sweet and wonderful the example of a child leading the congregation to generosity? And so the lesson that they would teach is that an example of a child being able to lead us into benevolent acts.

Jesus really wasn't walking on the water, He was walking around the shore, and the disciples were almost at the beach already, they just didn't realize that. And so, He just waded out and got in the boat, and they were at the shore, you know, there's no problem. Too bad Peter was so dumb he didn't realize it and started to sink and had to cry for help. Isn't it... Figures don't lie but liars sure can figure.

So Jesus is declaring, "I could testify of Myself, but you wouldn't receive that. John testified of Me, but I don't ask you to believe that. The works, they are the witness, but even more than the works."

And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath born witness of me ( John 5:37 ).

"The Father is witness of Me." When Jesus was baptized, God spoke from heaven and said, "This is My beloved Son in whom I'm well pleased." "The Father is born witness of Me." But Jesus wasn't referring to that, He was referring to the Old Testament scriptures. Where in the Old Testament, God bore witness of His Son who He would send into the world. "The Father hath born witness of Me."

But you have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape ( John 5:37 ).

"You don't know the Father, you've never heard the Father. For you do search the scriptures." Now this is often misinterpreted. People think that Jesus is saying, "You go home and you search the scriptures." He's not saying that, He's saying you do.

Search the scriptures [you have searched the scriptures]; for in them you think you have life: but really they are testifying of me ( John 5:39 ).

Peter in his epistle said, "We did not follow cunningly devised fables when we declared unto you the glory of the Lord. But we were actually eyewitnesses of His glory on that most holy mountain. But we have a more sure word of testimony in prophecy. I saw it with my own eyes, but I'm not even asking you to believe what I saw with my eyes, we've got something that is more sure than what we have seen. We've got the Word of God and the witness of God in the Old Testament scriptures, and if you really search the scriptures, you will find that they testify of Jesus Christ." The whole Old Testament was bearing witness of that One who was to come. As Jesus said, "I have come in the volume of the book it is written of Me to do thy will Oh Lord." Declaring that the volume of the book, the Old Testament, was written about Jesus.

Now He saying to them, "You haven't really heard the voice of God. You search the scriptures because in them you think you have life. But in reality you haven't heard God's voice because those scriptures testify of Me."

But you will not come to me, that you might receive life. [Now He said] I do not receive the honor from men. But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. For I have come in My Father's name, and you have received me not: but there's another who is going to come in his own name, and him you will receive ( John 5:40-43 ).

The reference here is to the antichrist who will soon be coming on the scene. And though the Jews rejected Jesus Christ, they will embrace this man who will come on with a great deception, a program of peace and prosperity.

If you talk to the orthodox Jew today, they will tell you that they will recognize their Messiah, for He will come and bring them their temple. And they are looking for the rebuilding of the temple today, but they're looking for some man to lead them in the rebuilding of the temple. And whoever that man is will be hailed by them as the Messiah. And that is the sign that they are looking for, whatever man will bring to them the rebuilding of their temple. But because they are in unbelief of the Son of God they will be deceived, and the man who is going to lead them into the rebuilding of their temple is the antichrist, who will becoming in his own name. But Him, Jesus "came in my Father's name and My Father's authority but you didn't except Me." This man is going to come in his own name and you're going to receive him. And the prince of the people that shall come will make a covenant with the people, but in the midst of the week, he will break the covenant and he will establish the abomination which cause desolation. He's going to come into the temple after three and half years declaring that he is god and demanding to be worshipped as god. And through his blasphemy he will trigger the great wrath of God which will be poured out at that time upon the Christ-rejecting world.

How can you believe, you who are receiving honor one of another ( John 5:44 ),

One of the most sickening things to me is that building up of other men's egos. In the bestowing of honor and glory and the heaping of praises upon man. When I was within a denomination, one of the most sickening things that I had to go through were the convention. Where the men would get up and honor each other. The introduction of the speakers were a pain to endure. As they began to tell of the great mighty, marvelous instrument of God. That God is sent to us in these days to be a blessing and honor and glory, and then the guy when he gets up to start to speak has to give honor to the guy who gave him such a glorious introduction. Who, "I thank God for brothers like this who has stood and all was for God," and they go on and just patting each others' back and exalting each other and lifting up men. Jesus said as long as you're lifting up men, how can you hear the voice of God? The voice of God seeks to exalt Jesus Christ. John said, "He must increase, I must decrease." And so says every true child of God. Rather than seeking the honor and glory of man, He is seeking the honor and the glory of God. And Jesus said, "How can you believe when you receive honor one from another,"

and you seek not the honor that comes from God only? But don't think that I'm going to accuse you to the Father: I'm not going to accuse you, Moses, the one you [love and] are trusting in ( John 5:44-45 ).

He's the one that's going to accuse you.

Now the law came by Moses; grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "I didn't come to condemn the world, but that the world through Me might be saved. And he that believeth is not condemned, but he that believeth not is condemned already." Moses is accusing you. Moses laid out the law. Moses told you how God would have you to live. And you haven't lived up to that standard, and thus the law stands as the accuser of man. Not the Redeemer, not the Savior. The law cannot save you, it cannot make you righteous. The law condemns you and accuses you, cause it shows you how far short you have come from what God would have you to be. "Don't think," Jesus said, "I'm going to stand up there and accuse you before the Father. The one you're trusting in is the one that is going to accuse you. Moses, he is going to accuse you. For you believed Moses."

If you have believed Moses [he said], you would have believed me: because he wrote of me ( John 5:46 ).

So go back in the first five chapters, you'll find, as Jesus said, "You do search the scriptures; in them you think you have life, but they are actually testifying of Me." And you go back and truly understand the first five books, you'll find Moses is talking about Jesus all the way through as he deals with the sacrifices and the various types of sacrifices and all. He is talking about Jesus who is to be the great sin offering that would be offered for the men of the world.

But if you don't believe his writings, how are you going to believe My words? ( John 5:47 )

Because actually, Moses was declaring My word. Jesus here is claiming the authorship of the books of the Old Testament. "

Copyright Statement
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on John 5:4". "Smith's Bible Commentary". 2014.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

1. The third sign: healing the paralytic 5:1-9

This third sign in John’s Gospel signaled Jesus’ identity and created controversy that followed. Particularly it testified to Jesus’ authority over time. [Note: Tenney, John: The Gospel. . ., p. 312.]

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on John 5:4". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". 2012.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

This section of the text has doubtful authenticity. No Greek manuscript before A.D. 400 contains these words. [Note: Blum, p. 289; Tenney, "John," p. 62.] Evidently scribes added these statements later to explain the troubling of the waters that occurred periodically (John 5:7). [Note: For defense of the authenticity of John 5:4, see Zane C. Hodges, "The Angel at Bethesda-John 5:4," Bibliotheca Sacra 136:541 (January-March 1979):25-39.] However these scribal explanations seem superstitious. They appear to have been common in Jesus’ day. A more probable explanation for the troubling of the water is the presence of springs that occasionally gushed water into the pools below the surface of the water. [Note: Carson, The Gospel . . ., p. 242.] Probably the (warm?) water had a high mineral content that had medicinal benefits for people suffering from muscle and joint ailments.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on John 5:4". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". 2012.

Barclay's Daily Study Bible

Chapter 5


5:1-9 After this there was a Feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, near the sheepgate, there is a bathing-pool with five porches, which was called in Hebrew, Bethzatha. In these porches there lay a crowd of people who were ill and blind and lame and whose limbs were withered [waiting expectantly for the moving of the water. For an angel of the Lord came down into the pool every now and then and disturbed the water; so the first person to go in after the disturbing of the water regained his health from any illness which had him in its grip]. There was a man there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and since he knew that he had already been there for a long time, he said to him: "Do you want to be made well?" The sick man answered: "Sir, I have no one to hurry me into the pool when the water is disturbed; so, while I am on the way, someone gets down before me." Jesus said to him: "Get up! Lift your bed! and walk!" And the man was made well, and he lifted up his bed and walked.

There were three Jewish feasts which were feasts of obligation--Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. Every adult male Jew who lived within fifteen miles of Jerusalem was legally bound to attend them. If we take John 6:1-71 before John 5:1-47 we may think of this feast as Pentecost, because the events of John 6:1-71 happened when the Passover was near ( John 6:4). The Passover was in mid-April, and Pentecost was seven weeks later. John always shows us Jesus attending the great feasts, for Jesus did not disregard the obligations of Jewish worship. To him it was not a duty but a delight to worship with his own people.

When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem he was apparently alone; there is no mention of his disciples. He found his way to a famous pool. Its name was either Bethesda, which means House of Mercy, or more likely, Bethzatha which means House of the Olive. The better manuscripts all have the second name, and we know from Josephus that there was a quarter of Jerusalem actually known as Bethzatha. The word for pool kolumbethron ( G2861) , which comes from the verb kolumban ( G2860) , to dive. The pool was deep enough to swim in. The passage we have put in brackets is not in any of the greatest and best manuscripts and was probably added later as an explanation of what people were doing at the pool. Beneath the pool was a subterranean stream which every now and again bubbled up and disturbed the waters. The belief was that the disturbance was caused by an angel, and that the first person to get into the pool after the troubling of the water would be healed from any illness from which he was suffering.

To us this is mere superstition. But it was the kind of belief which was spread all over the world in ancient days and which still exists in certain places. People believed in all kinds of spirits and demons. The air was thick with them; they had their abodes in certain places; every tree, every river, every stream, every hill, every pool had its resident spirit.

Further, ancient peoples were specially impressed with the holiness of water and especially of rivers and springs. Water was so precious and rivers in spate could be so powerful that it is not surprising that they were so impressed. In the west we may know water only as something which comes out of a tap; but in the ancient world, as in many places still today, water was the most valuable and potentially the most dangerous of all things.

Sir J. G. Frazer in Folk-lore in the Old Testament (ii, 412-423) quotes many instances of this reverence for water. Hesiod, the Greek poet, said that when a man was about to ford a river, he should pray and wash his hands, for he who wades through a stream with unwashed hands incurs the wrath of the gods. When the Persian king Xerxes came to the Strymon in Thrace his magicians offered white horses and went through other ceremonies before the army ventured to cross. Lucullus, the Roman general, offered a bull to the River Euphrates before he crossed it. To this day in south-east Africa some of the Bantu tribes believe that rivers are inhabited by malignant spirits which must be propitiated by flinging a handful of corn or some other offering into the river before it is crossed. When anyone is drowned in a river he is said to be "called by the spirits." The Baganda in Central Africa would not try to rescue a man carried away by a river because they thought that the spirits had taken him. The people who waited for the pool in Jerusalem to be disturbed were children of their age believing the things of their age.

It may be that as Jesus walked around, the man of this story was pointed out to him as a most pitiable case, because his disability made it very unlikely, even impossible, that he would ever be the first to get into the pool after it had been troubled. He had no one to help him in, and Jesus was always the friend of the friendless, and the helper of the man who has no earthly help. He did not trouble to read the man a lecture on the useless superstition of waiting for the water to be moved. His one desire was to help and so he healed the man who had waited so long.

In this story we see very clearly the conditions under which the power of Jesus operated. He gave his orders to men and, in proportion as they tried to obey, power came to them.

(i) Jesus began by asking the man if he wanted to be cured. It was not so foolish a question as it may sound. The man had waited for thirty-eight years and it might well have been that hope had died and left behind a passive and dull despair. In his heart of hearts the man might be well content to remain an invalid for, if he was cured, he would have to shoulder all the burden of making a living. There are invalids for whom invalidism is not unpleasant, because someone else does all the working and all the worrying. But this man's response was immediate. He wanted to be healed, though he did not see how he ever could be since he had no one to help him.

The first essential towards receiving the power of Jesus is to have intense desire for it. Jesus says: "Do you really want to be changed?" If in our inmost hearts we are well content to stay as we are, there can be no change for us.

(ii) Jesus went on to tell the man to get up. It is as if he said to him: "Man, bend your will to it and you and I will do this thing together!" The power of God never dispenses with the effort of man. Nothing is truer than that we must realize our own helplessness; but in a very real sense it is true that miracles happen when our will and God's power cooperate to make them possible.

(iii) In effect Jesus was commanding the man to attempt the impossible. "Get up!" he said. His bed would simply be a light stretcher-like frame--the Greek is krabbatos ( G2895) , a colloquial word which really means a pallet--and Jesus told him to pick it up and carry it away. The man might well have said with a kind of injured resentment that for thirty-eight years his bed had been carrying him and there was not much sense in telling him to carry it. But he made the effort along with Christ--and the thing was done.

(iv) Here is the road to achievement. There are so many things in this world which defeat us. When we have intensity of desire and determination to make the effort, hopeless though it may seem, the power of Christ gets its opportunity, and with him we can conquer what for long has conquered us.

THE INNER MEANING ( John 5:1-9 continued)

Certain scholars think this passage is an allegory.

The man stands for the people of Israel. The five porches stand for the five books of the law. In the porches the people lay ill. The law could show a man his sin, but could never mend it; the law could uncover a man's weakness, but could never cure it. The law, like the porches, sheltered the sick soul but could never heal it. The thirty-eight years stand for the thirty-eight years in which the Jews wandered in the desert before they entered the promised land; or for the number of the centuries men had been waiting for the Messiah. The stirring of the waters stands for baptism. In point of fact in early Christian art a man is often depicted as rising from the baptismal waters carrying a bed upon his back.

It may well be that it is now possible to read all these meanings into this story; but it is highly unlikely that John wrote it as an allegory. It has the vivid stamp of factual truth. But we do well to remember that any Bible story has in it far more than fact. There are always deeper truths below the surface and even the simple stories are meant to leave us face to face with eternal things.

HEALING AND HATRED ( John 5:10-18 )

5:10-18 It was Sabbath on that day. So the Jews said to the man who had been cured: "It is Sabbath and you have no right to lift your bed." He answered them: "He who made me well, it was he who said to me: 'Lift your bed and walk'!" They asked him: "Who is the fellow who said to you: 'Lift your bed and walk'?" The man who had been cured did not know who he was, for Jesus had slipped away, for there was a crowd in the place. Afterwards Jesus found him in the Temple and said to him: "Look now! You have been made well. Sin no more in case something worse happens to you!" The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. Because of this the Jews were out to persecute Jesus, because he had done these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them: "My Father continues his work until now, and so do I continue mine." Because of this the Jews tried all the harder to find a way to kill him, because not only was he habitually breaking the Sabbath, but he also kept on saying that God was his own Father, thereby making himself equal with God.

A man had been healed from a disease which, humanly speaking, was incurable. We might expect this to be an occasion of universal joy and thanksgiving; but some met the whole business with bleak and black looks. The man who had been healed was walking through the streets carrying his bed; the orthodox Jews stopped him and reminded him that he was breaking the law by carrying a burden on the Sabbath day.

We have already seen what the Jews did with the law of God. It was a series of great wide principles which men were left to apply and carry out but throughout the years the Jews had made it into thousands of little rules and regulations. The law simply said that the Sabbath day must be different from other days and that on it neither a man nor his servants nor his animals must work; the Jews set out thirty-nine different classifications of work, one of which was that it consisted in carrying a burden.

They founded particularly on two passages. Jeremiah had said: "Thus saith the Lord: take heed for the sake of your lives, and do not bear a burden on the Sabbath day or bring it in by the gates of Jerusalem. And do not carry a burden out of your houses on the Sabbath or do any work, but keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your fathers" ( Jeremiah 17:19-27). Nehemiah had been worried at the work and the trading that went on on the Sabbath day and had stationed servants at the gates of Jerusalem to see that no burdens were carried in or out on the Sabbath ( Nehemiah 13:15-19).

Nehemiah 13:15 makes it perfectly clear that what was in question was trading on the Sabbath as if it had been an ordinary day. But the Rabbis of Jesus' day solemnly argued that a man was sinning if he carried a needle in his robe on the Sabbath. They even argued as to whether he could wear his artificial teeth or his wooden leg. They were quite clear that any kind of broach could not be worn on the Sabbath. To them all this petty detail was a matter of life and death--and certainly this man was breaking the rabbinic law by carrying his bed on the Sabbath day.

His defence was that the man who had healed him had told him to do it, but he did not know his identity. Later Jesus met him in the Temple; at once the man hastened to tell the authorities that Jesus was the one in question. He was not seeking to get Jesus into trouble, but the actual words of the law were: "If anyone carries anything from a public place to a private house on the Sabbath intentionally he is punishable by death by stoning." He was simply trying to explain that it was not his fault that he had broken the law.

So the authorities levelled their accusations against Jesus. The verbs in John 5:18 are imperfect tense, which describes repeated action in past time. Clearly this story is only a sample of what Jesus habitually did.

His defence was shattering. God did not stop working on the Sabbath day and neither did he. Any scholarly Jew would grasp its full force. Philo had said: "God never ceases doing, but as it is the property of fire to burn and snow to chill, so it is the property of God to do." Another writer said: "The sun shines; the rivers flow; the processes of birth and death go on on the Sabbath as on any other day; and that is the work of God." True, according to the creation story, God rested on the seventh day; but he rested from creation; his higher works of judgment and mercy and compassion and love still went on.

Jesus said: "Even on the Sabbath God's love and mercy and compassion act; and so do mine." It was this last passage which shattered the Jews, for it meant nothing less than that the work of Jesus and the work of God were the same. It seemed that Jesus was putting himself on an equality with God. What Jesus really was saying we shall see in our next section; but at the moment we must note this--Jesus teaches that human need must always be helped; that there is no greater task than to relieve someone's pain and distress and that the Christian's compassion must be like God's--unceasing. Other work may be laid aside but the work of compassion never.

Another Jewish belief enters into this passage. When Jesus met the man in the Temple he told him to sin no more in case something worse might happen to him. To the Jew sin and suffering were inextricably connected. If a man suffered, necessarily he had sinned; nor could he ever be cured until his sin was forgiven. The Rabbis said: "The sick arises not from sickness, until his sins be forgiven." The man might argue that he had sinned and been forgiven and had, so to speak, got away with it; and he might go on to argue that, since he had found someone who could release him from the consequences of sin, he could very well go on sinning and escaping. There were those in the church who used their liberty as an excuse for the flesh ( Galatians 5:13). There were those who sinned in the confidence that grace would abound ( Romans 6:1-18). There have always been those who have used the love and the forgiveness and the grace of God as an excuse to sin. But we have only to think what God's forgiveness cost, we have only to look at the Cross of Calvary, to know that we must ever hate sin because every sin breaks again the heart of God.


5:19-29 This is the truth I tell you--the Son cannot do anything which proceeds from himself. He can only do what he sees the Father doing. In whatever way the Father acts, the Son likewise acts in the same way; for the Father loves the son and has shown him everything that he does. And he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be moved to wondering amazement. For, as the Father raises the dead and makes them alive, so also the Son makes alive those whom he wishes. Neither does the Father judge anyone, but he has given the whole process of judging to the Son, that all may honour the Son, as they honour the Father. He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent him.

This is the truth I tell you--he who listens to my word and believes on him who sent me has eternal life, and is not on the way to judgment, but he has crossed from death to life.

This is the truth I tell you--the hour is coming and now is when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and, when they have heard, they will live. For, as the Father has life in himself, so he has given to the Son to have life in himself; and he has given him authority to exercise the process of judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be astonished at this, for the hour is coming when everyone in the tombs will hear his voice, and will come forth; those who have done good will come out to a resurrection which will give them life, but those whose actions were base will come out to a resurrection which will issue in judgment.

Here we come to the first of the long discourses of the Fourth Gospel. When we read passages like this we must remember that John is not seeking so much to give us the words that Jesus spoke as the things which Jesus meant. He was writing somewhere round about A.D. 100. For seventy years he had thought about Jesus and the wonderful things which Jesus had said. Many of these things he had not fully understood when he had heard them. But more than half a century of thinking under the guidance of the Holy Spirit had shown him deeper and deeper meaning in the words of Jesus. And so he sets down for us not only what Jesus said, but also what Jesus meant.

This passage is so important that we must first study it as a whole and then take it in shorter sections.

First, then let us look at it as a whole. We must try to think not only how it sounds to us, but also how it sounded to the Jews who heard it for the first time. They had a background of thoughts and ideas, of theology and belief, of literature and religion which is very far from our background; and, to understand a passage like this, we must try to think ourselves into the mind of a Jew who listened to it for the first time.

This is an amazing passage, because it is woven together of thoughts and expressions which are all claims by Jesus to be the promised Messiah. Many of these claims we do not now readily see, but they would be crystal clear to the Jews and would leave them aghast.

(i) The clearest claim is the statement that Jesus is the Son of Man. We know how common that strange title is in the gospels. It has a long history. It was born in Daniel 7:1-14. The King James Version mistranslates the Son of Man for a son of man ( Daniel 7:13).

The point of the passage is this. Daniel was written in days of terror and of persecution, and it is a vision of the glory which will some day replace the suffering which the people are undergoing. In Daniel 7:1-7 the seer describes the great heathen empires which have held sway under the symbolism of beasts. There is the lion with eagle's wings ( Daniel 7:4), which stands for the Babylonian Empire; the bear with the three ribs in his mouth, as one devouring the carcase ( Daniel 7:5), which stands for the Median Empire; the leopard with four wings and four heads ( Daniel 7:6), which stands for the Persian Empire; the beast, great and terrible, with iron teeth and with ten horns ( Daniel 7:7), which stands for the Macedonian Empire. All these terrible powers will pass away and the power and the dominion will be given to one like a son of man. The meaning is that the Empires which have held sway have been so savage that they could be described only in terms of wild beasts; but into the world there is going to come a power so gentle and kind that it will be human and not bestial. In Daniel the phrase describes the kind of power which is going to rule the world.

Someone has to introduce and exercise that power; and the Jews took this title and gave it to the chosen one of God who some day would bring in the new age of gentleness and love and peace; and so they came to call the Messiah Son of Man. Between the Old and the New Testaments there arose a whole literature which dealt with the golden age which was to come.

One book which was specially influential was the Book of Enoch and in it there appears again and again a great figure called That Son of Man, who is waiting in heaven until God sends him to earth to bring in his kingdom and rule over it. So when Jesus called himself the Son of Man, he was doing nothing less than call himself the Messiah. Here was a claim so clear that it could not be misunderstood.

(ii) But not only is this claim to be God's Messiah made in so many words; in phrase after phrase it is implicit. The very miracle which had happened to the paralysed man was a sign that Jesus was Messiah. It was Isaiah's picture of the new age of God that "then shall the lame man leap like a hart" ( Isaiah 35:6). It was Jeremiah's vision that the blind and the lame would be gathered in ( Jeremiah 31:8-9).

(iii) There is Jesus' repeated claim to raise the dead and to be their judge when they are raised. In the Old Testament God alone can raise the dead and alone has the right to judge. "I, even I, am he and there is no god beside me: I kill and I make alive" ( Deuteronomy 32:39). "The Lord kills and brings to life" ( 1 Samuel 2:6). When Naaman, the Syrian, came seeking to be cured from leprosy, the king of Israel said in bewildered despair: "Am I God to kill and to make alive?" ( 2 Kings 5:6). The function of killing and making alive belonged inalienably to God. It is the same with judgment. "The judgment is God's" ( Deuteronomy 1:17).

In later thought this function of resurrecting the dead and then acting as judge became part of the duty of God's chosen one when he brought in the new age of God. Enoch says of the Son of Man: "The sum of judgment was committed to him" (Enoch 69: 26-27). Jesus in our passage speaks of those who have done good being resurrected to life and of those who have done evil being resurrected to death. The Apocalypse of Baruch lays it down that when God's age comes: "The aspect of those who now act wickedly shall become worse than it is, as they shall suffer torment," whereas those who have trusted in the law and acted upon it shall be clothed in beauty and in splendour (Baruch 51:1-4). Enoch has it that in that day: "The earth shall be wholly rent asunder, and all that is on earth shall perish, and there shall be judgment on all men" (Enoch 1: 5-7). The Testament of Benjamin has it: "All men shall rise, some to the exalted, and some to be humbled and put to shame."

For Jesus to speak like this was an act of the most extraordinary and unique courage. He must have known well that to make claims like this would sound the sheerest blasphemy to the orthodox Jewish leaders and was to court death. The man who listened to words like this had only two alternatives--he must either accept Jesus as the Son of God or hate him as a blasphemer.

We now go on to take this passage section by section.

The Father And The Son ( John 5:19-20)

5:19-20 This is the truth I tell you--the Son cannot do anything which proceeds from himself. He can only do what he sees the Father doing. In whatever way the Father acts, the Son likewise acts in the same way; for the Father loves the Son, and has shown him everything that he does. And he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be moved to wondering amazement.

This is the beginning of Jesus' answer to the Jews' charge that he was making himself equal to God. He lays down three things about his relationship with God.

(i) He lays down his identity with God. The salient truth about Jesus is that in him we see God. If we wish to see how God feels to men, if we wish to see how God reacts to sin, if we wish to see how God regards the human situation, we must look at Jesus. The mind of Jesus is the mind of God; the words of Jesus are the words of God; the actions of Jesus are the actions of God.

(ii) This identity is not so much based on equality as on complete obedience. Jesus never did what he wanted to do but always what God wanted him to do. It is because his will was completely submitted to God's will that we see God in him. Jesus is to God as we must be to Jesus.

(iii) This obedience is not based on submission to power; it is based on love. The unity between Jesus and God is a unity of love. We speak of two minds having only a single thought and two hearts beating as one. In human terms that is a perfect description of the relationship between Jesus and God. There is such complete identity of mind and will and heart that Father and Son are one.

But this passage has something still more to tell us about Jesus.

(i) It tells us of his complete confidence. He is quite sure that what men were seeing then was only a beginning. On purely human grounds the one thing Jesus might reasonably expect was death. The forces of Jewish orthodoxy were gathering against him and the end was already sure. But Jesus was quite certain that the future was in the hands of God and that men could not stop what God had sent him to do.

(ii) It tells of his complete fearlessness. That he would be misunderstood was certain. That his words would inflame the minds of his hearers and endanger his own life was beyond argument. There was no human situation in which Jesus would lower his claims or adulterate the truth. He would make his claim and speak his truth no matter what men might threaten to do. To him it was much more important to be true to God than to fear men.

Life, Judgment And Honour ( John 5:21-23)

5:21-23 For as the Father raises the dead and makes them alive, so the Son also makes alive those whom he wishes. Neither does the Father judge anyone, but he has given the whole process of judging to the Son, that all may honour the Son, as they honour the Father. He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent him.

Here we see three great functions which belong to Jesus Christ as the Son of God.

(i) He is the giver of life. John meant this in a double sense. He meant it in time. No man is fully alive until Jesus Christ enters into him and he enters into Jesus Christ. When we make the discovery of the realm of music or of literature or of art or of travel, we sometimes speak of a new world opening out to us. That man into whose life Jesus Christ has entered finds life made new. He himself is changed; his personal relationships are changed; his conception of work and duty and pleasure is changed; his relationship to God is changed. He meant it in eternity. After this life is ended, for the man who has accepted Jesus Christ there opens life still more fun and still more wonderful; while for the man who has refused Jesus Christ, there comes that death which is separation from God. Jesus Christ gives life both in this world and the world to come.

(ii) He is the bringer of judgment. John says that God committed the whole process of judgment to Jesus Christ. What he means is this--a man's judgment depends on his reaction to Jesus. If he finds in Jesus the one person to be loved and followed, he is on the way to life. If he sees in Jesus an enemy, he has condemned himself. Jesus is the touchstone by which all men are tested; reaction to him is the test by which all men are divided.

(iii) He is the receiver of honour. The most uplifting thing about the New Testament is its unquenchable hope and its unconquerable certainty. It tells the story of a crucified Christ and yet never has any doubt that at the end all men will be drawn to that crucified figure and that all men will know him and acknowledge him and love him. Amid persecution and disregard, in spite of smallness of numbers and poverty of influence, in the face of failure and disloyalty, the New Testament and the early church never doubted the ultimate triumph of Christ. When we are tempted to despair we would do well to remember that the salvation of men is the purpose of God and that nothing, in the end, can frustrate his will. The evil will of man may delay God's purpose; it cannot defeat it.

Acceptance Means Life ( John 5:24)

5:24 This is the truth I tell you--he who listens to my word and believes on him who sent me has eternal life, and is not on the way to judgment, but he has crossed from death to life.

Jesus says quite simply that to accept him is life; and to reject him is death. What does it mean to listen to Jesus' word and to believe in the Father who sent him? To put it at its briefest it means three things. (i) It means to believe that God is as Jesus says he is; that he is love; and so to enter into a new relationship with him in which fear is banished. (ii) It means to accept the way of life that Jesus offers us, however difficult it may be and whatever sacrifices it may involve, certain that to accept it is the ultimate way to peace and to happiness, and to refuse it the ultimate way to death and judgment. (iii) It means to accept the help that the Risen Christ gives and the guidance that the Holy Spirit offers, and so to find strength for all that the way of Christ involves.

When we do that we enter into three new relationships. (i) We enter into a new relationship with God. The judge becomes the father; the distant becomes the near; strangeness becomes intimacy and fear becomes love. (ii) We enter into a new relationship with our fellow men. Hatred becomes love; selfishness becomes service; and bitterness becomes forgiveness. (iii) We enter into a new relationship with ourselves. Weakness becomes strength; frustration becomes achievement; and tension becomes peace.

To accept the offer of Jesus Christ is to find life. Everyone in one sense may be said to be alive; but there are few who can be said to know life in the real sense of the term. When Grenfell was writing to a nursing sister about her decision to come out to Labrador to help in his work there, he told her that he could not offer her much money, but that if she came she would discover that in serving Christ and the people of the country she would have the time of her life. Browning describes the meeting of two people into whose hearts love had entered. She looked at him, he looked at her, and "suddenly life awoke." A modern novelist makes one character say to another: "I never knew what life was till I saw it in your eyes."

The person who accepts the way of Christ has passed from death to life. In this world life becomes new and thrilling; in the world to come eternal life with God becomes a certainty.

Death And Life ( John 5:25-29)

5:25-29 This is the truth I tell you--the hour is coming and now is when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and, when they have heard, they will live. For, as the Father has life in himself, so he has given to the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to exercise the process of judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not be astonished at this, for the hour is coming when everyone in the tombs wig hear his voice and will come forth; those who have done good will come out to a resurrection which wild give them life, but those whose actions were base will come out to a resurrection which will issue in judgment.

Here the Messianic claims of Jesus stand out most clearly. He is the Son of Man; he is the life-giver and the life-bringer; he wig raise the dead to life and, when they are raised, he will be their judge.

In this passage John seems to use the word dead in two senses.

(i) He uses it of those who are spiritually dead; to them Jesus will bring new life. What does it mean?

(a) To be spiritually dead is to have stopped trying. It is to have come to look on all faults as ineradicable and all virtues as unattainable. But the Christian life cannot stand still; it must either go on or slip back; and to stop trying is therefore to slip back to death.

(b) To be spiritually dead is to have stopped feeling. There are many people who at one time felt intensely in face of the sin and the sorrow and the suffering of the world; but slowly they have become insensitive. They can look at evil and feel no indignation; they can look at sorrow and suffering and feel no answering sword of grief and pity pierce their heart. When compassion goes the heart is dead.

(c) To be spiritually dead is to have stopped thinking. J. Alexander Findlay tells of a saying of a friend of his--"When you reach a conclusion you're dead." He meant that when a man's mind becomes so shut that it can accept no new truth, he is mentally and spiritually dead. The day when the desire to learn leaves us, the day when new truth, new methods, new thought become simply a disturbance with which we cannot be bothered, is the day of our spiritual death.

(d) To be spiritually dead is to have stopped reprinting. The day when a man can sin in peace is the day of his spiritual death; and it is easy to slip into that frame of mind. The first time we do a wrong thing, we do it with fear and regret. If we do it a second time, it is easier to do it. If we do it a third time, it is easier yet. If we go on doing it, the time comes when we scarcely give it a thought. To avoid spiritual death a man must keep himself sensitive to sin by keeping himself sensitive to the presence of Jesus Christ.

(ii) John also uses the word dead literally. Jesus teaches that the resurrection will come and that what happens to a man in the after-life is inextricably bound up with what he has done in this life. The awful importance of this life is that it determines eternity. All through it we are fitting or unfitting ourselves for the life to come, making ourselves fit or unfit for the presence of God. We choose either the way which leads to life or the way which leads to death.


5:30 I cannot do anything which originates in myself. As I hear, so I judge. But the judgment which I exercise is just, because I do not seek to do what I wish to do, but I seek to do what he who sent me wishes to do.

In the preceding passage Jesus has claimed the right of judgment. It was not unnatural that men should ask by what right he proposed to judge others. His answer was that his judgment was true and final because he had no desire to do anything other than the will of God. His claim was that his judgment was the judgment of God.

It is very difficult for any man to judge another man fairly. If we will honestly examine ourselves we will see that many motives may affect our judgment. It may be rendered unfair by injured pride. It may be rendered blind by our prejudices. It may be made bitter by jealousy. It may be made arrogant by contempt. It may be made harsh by intolerance. It may be made condemnatory by self-righteousness. It may be affected by our own self-conceit. It may be based on envy. It may be vitiated by an insensitive or deliberate ignorance. Only a man whose heart is pure and whose motives are completely unmixed can rightly judge another man--which means to say that no man can.

On the other hand the judgment of God is perfect.

God alone is holy and therefore he alone knows the standards by which all men must be judged. God alone is perfectly loving and his judgment alone is delivered in the charity in which all true judgment must be given. God alone has full knowledge and judgment can be perfect only when it takes into account all the circumstances. The claim of Jesus to judge is based on the claim that in him is the perfect mind of God. He does not judge with the inevitable mixture of human motives; he judges with the perfect holiness, the perfect love and the perfect sympathy of God.

WITNESS TO CHRIST ( John 5:31-36 )

5:31-36 If I bear witness about myself, my witness need not be accepted as true; but it is Another who is bearing witness about me, and I know that the witness which he bears about me is true. You sent your envoys to John, and he bore witness to the truth; but the testimony which I receive is not from any man, but I say these things that you may be saved. He was the lamp which burns and shines. For a time you were pleased to take pleasure in his light. But I have a greater testimony than John's. The works which the Father granted to me to accomplish, the very works which I do, are evidence about me to prove that my Father has sent me.

Once again Jesus is answering the charges of his opponents. His opponents are demanding. "What evidence can you adduce that your claims are true?" Jesus argues in a way that the Rabbis would understand for he uses their own methods.

(i) He begins by admitting the universal principle that the unsupported evidence of one person cannot be taken as proof. There must be at least two witnesses. "On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses he that is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness" ( Deuteronomy 17:6). "A single witness shall not prevail against a man for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offence that he has committed; only on the evidence of two witnesses, or of three witnesses, shall a charge be sustained" ( Deuteronomy 19:15). When Paul threatens to come to the Corinthians with rebuke and discipline he says that all his charges will be confirmed by two or three witnesses ( 2 Corinthians 13:1). Jesus says that when a Christian has a legitimate complaint against a brother he must take with him some others to confirm the charge ( Matthew 18:16). In the early church it was the rule that no charge against an elder was entertained unless it was supported by two or three witnesses ( 1 Timothy 5:19). Jesus began by fully admitting the normal Jewish law of evidence.

Further, it was universally held that a man's evidence about himself could not be accepted. The Mishnah said: "A man is not worthy of belief when he is speaking about himself." Demosthenes, the great Greek orator, laid it down as a principle of justice: "The laws do not allow a man to give evidence on his own behalf." Ancient law well knew that self-interest had an effect on a man's statements about himself. So Jesus agrees that his own unsupported testimony to himself need not be true.

(ii) But there are other witnesses to him. He says that "Another" is his witness, meaning God. He will return to that, but for the moment he cites John the Baptist who had repeatedly borne witness to him ( John 1:19-20; John 1:26; John 1:29; John 1:35-36). Then Jesus pays a tribute to John and issues a rebuke to the Jewish authorities.

He says that John was the lamp which burns and shines. That was the perfect tribute to him. (a) A lamp bears a borrowed light. It does not light itself; it is lit. (b) John had warmth, for his was not the cold message of the intellect but the burning message of the kindled heart. (c) John had light. The function of light is to guide, and John pointed men on the way to repentance and to God. (d) In the nature of things a lamp burns itself out; in giving light it consumes itself. John was to decrease while Jesus increased. The true witness burns himself out for God.

In paying tribute to John, Jesus rebukes the Jews. They were pleased to take pleasure in John for a time, but they never really took him seriously. They were, as one has put it, like "gnats dancing in the sunlight," or like children playing while the sun shone. John was a pleasant sensation, to be listened to as long as he said the things they liked, and to be abandoned whenever he became awkward. Many people listen to God's truth like that; they enjoy a sermon as a performance. A famous preacher tells how after he had preached a somber sermon on judgment, he was greeted with the comment: "That sermon was sure cute!" God's truth is not a thing by which to be pleasantly titillated; it is often something to be received in the dust and ashes of humiliation and repentance.

But Jesus does not even plead John's evidence. He says it is not the human evidence of any fallible man he is going to adduce to support his claims.

(iii) So he adduces the witness of his works. He had done that when John sent from prison to ask if he was the Messiah. He had told John's enquiring envoys to go back and tell him what they saw happening ( Matthew 11:4; Luke 7:22). But Jesus cites his works, not to point to himself but to point to the power of God working in him and through him. His supreme witness is God.

THE WITNESS OF GOD ( John 5:37-43 )

5:37-43 And the Father who sent me has home witness about me. You have never heard his voice, nor have you ever seen his form. You do not have his word dwelling in you, because you do not believe in the One whom he sent. You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life. It is they which bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. I receive no glory from men; but I know you and I know that you do not have the love of God in you. I came in the name of my Father and yet you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him.

The early part of this section may be taken in two ways.

(i) It may be that it refers to the unseen witness of God in a man's heart. In his first letter John writes: "He who believes in the Son of God, has the testimony (of God) in himself" ( 1 John 5:9-10). The Jew would have insisted that no man can ever see God. Even in the giving of the Ten Commandments "you heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice" ( Deuteronomy 4:12). So this may mean: "It is true that God is invisible; and so is his witness, for it is the response which rises in the human heart when a man is confronted with me." When we are confronted with Christ we see in him the altogether lovely and the altogether wise; that conviction is the witness of God in our hearts. The Stoics held that the highest kind of knowledge comes not by thought but by what they called "arresting impressions;" a conviction seizes a man like someone laying an arresting hand on his shoulder. It may be that Jesus here means that the conviction in our hearts of his supremacy is the witness of God within.

(ii) It may be that John is really meaning that God's witness to Christ is to be found in the scriptures. To the Jew the scriptures were all in all. "He who has acquired the words of the law has acquired eternal life." "He who has the Law has a cord of grace drawn around him in this world and in the world to come." "He who says that Moses wrote even one verse of the Law in his own knowledge is a despiser of God." "This is the book of the commandments of God and the Law that endureth for ever. All they that hold it fast are appointed to life, but such as leave it shall die" ( Bar_4:1-2 ). "If food which is your life but for an hour, requires a blessing before and after it be eaten, how much more does the Law, in which lies the world that is to be, require a blessing?" The Jew searched the Law and yet faded to recognize Christ when he came. What was wrong? The best Bible students in the world, people who meticulously and continuously read scripture, rejected Jesus. How could that happen?

One thing is clear--they read scripture in the wrong way.

(i) They read it with a shut mind. They read it not to search for God but to find arguments to support their own positions. They did not really love God; they loved their own ideas about him. Water has as much chance of getting into concrete as the word of God had of getting into their minds. They did not humbly learn a theology from scripture; they used scripture to defend a theology which they themselves had produced. There is still danger that we should use the Bible to prove our beliefs and not to test them.

(ii) They made a still bigger mistake--they regarded God as having given men a written revelation. The revelation of God is a revelation in history. It is not God speaking, but God acting. The Bible itself is not his revelation; it is the record of his revelation. But they worshipped the Bible's words.

There is only one proper way to read the Bible--to read it as all pointing to Jesus Christ. Then many of the things which puzzle us, and sometimes distress us, are clearly seen as stages on the way, a pointing forward to Jesus Christ, who is the supreme revelation and by whose light all other revelation is to be tested. The Jews worshipped a God who wrote rather than a God who acted and therefore when Christ came they did not recognize him. The function of the scriptures is not to give life, but to point to him who can.

There are two most revealing things here.

(i) In John 5:34 Jesus had said the purpose of his words was "that you may be saved." Here he says: "I am not looking for any glory from man." That is to say: "I am not arguing like this because I want to win an argument. I am not talking like this because I want to score off you and win the applause of men. It is because I love you and want to save you."

There is something tremendous here. When people oppose us and we argue back, what is our main feeling? Wounded pride? The conceit that hates any kind of failure? Annoyance? A desire to cram our opinions down other people's throats because we think them fools? Jesus talked as he did only because he loved men. His voice might be stern, but in the sternness there was still the accent of yearning love; his eyes might flash fire, but the flame was the flame Of love.

(ii) Jesus says: "if another comes in his own name, him you will receive." The Jews had their succession of impostors claiming to be the Messiah and every one had his following (compare Mark 13:6; Mark 13:22; Matthew 24:5; Matthew 24:24). Why do men follow impostors? Because they are "men whose claims correspond with men's own desires." The impostors came promising empires and victory and material prosperity; Jesus came offering a Cross. The characteristic of the impostor is the offer of the easy way; Jesus offered men the hard way of God. The impostors perished and Christ lives on.


5:44-47 How can you believe when you are out for the glory that you get from each other, and when you do not search for the glory which comes from the only God? Do not think that it is I who will accuse you to the Father. You have an accuser--it is Moses I mean--on whom you set your hopes. If you had believed in Moses, you would have believed in me, for he wrote about me. If you do not believe in his writings, how will you believe in my words?

The scribes and Pharisees desired the praise of men. They dressed in such a way that everyone would recognize them. They prayed in such a way that everyone would see. They loved the front seats in the Synagogue. They loved the deferential greetings of men on the street. And just because of that they could not hear the voice of God. Why? So long as a man measures himself against his fellow men he will be well content. But the point is not: "Am I as good as my neighbour?" The point is: "Am I as good as God?" "What do I look like to him?" So long as we judge ourselves by human comparisons there is plenty of room for self-satisfaction, and that kills faith, for faith is born of the sense of need. But when we compare ourselves with Jesus Christ, we are humbled to the dust, and then faith is born, for there is nothing left to do but trust to the mercy of God.

Jesus finishes with a charge that would strike home. The Jews believed the books which they believed Moses had given them to be the very word of God. Jesus said: "If you had read these books aright, you would have seen that they all pointed to me." He went on: "You think that because you have Moses to be your mediator you are safe; but Moses is the very one who will condemn you. Maybe you could not be expected to listen to me, but you are bound to listen to the words of Moses to which you attach such value and they all spoke of me."

Here is the great and threatening truth. What had been the greatest privilege of the Jews had become their greatest condemnation. No one could condemn a man who had never had a chance. But knowledge had been given to the Jews; and the knowledge they had failed to use had become their condemnation. Responsibility is always the other side of privilege.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

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Barclay, William. "Commentary on John 5:4". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". 1956-1959.

Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool,.... This angel is not to be understood of a messenger sent from the sanhedrim, or by the priests, as Dr. Hammond thinks; who has a strange conceit, that this pool was used for the washing of the entrails of the sacrifices; and which at the passover being very numerous, the water in it mixed with the blood of the entrails, was possessed of an healing virtue; and which being stirred by a messenger sent from the sanhedrim for that purpose, whoever went in directly received a cure: but this angel was "an angel of the Lord", as the Vulgate Latin, and two of Beza's copies read; and so the Ethiopic version reads, "an angel of God"; who either in a visible form came down from heaven, and went into the pool, the Ethiopic version very wrongly renders it, "was washed in the pool"; or it was concluded by the people, from the unusual agitation of the water, and the miraculous virtue which ensued upon it, that an angel did descend into it; and this was not at all times, but at a certain time; either once a year, as Tertullian thought, at the time of the feast of the passover, or every sabbath, as this was now the sabbath day; or it may be there was no fixed period for it, but at some times and seasons in the year so it was, which kept the people continually waiting for it:

and troubled the water; agitated and moved it to and fro, caused it to swell and rise, to bubble and boil up, and to roll about, and be as in a ferment. The Jews have a notion of spirits troubling waters; they speak of a certain fountain where a spirit resided, and an evil spirit attempted to come in his room; upon which a contest arose, and they saw ערבובייא דמייא, "the waters troubled", and think drops of blood upon them q: the Syriac r writers have a tradition, that

"because the body of Isaiah the prophet was hid in Siloah, therefore an angel descended and moved the waters.''

Whosoever then first after the troubling of the waters stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had; from whence it seems, that only one person at a season received a cure, by going in first into the water, so Tertullian thought s: the Jews ascribe an healing virtue to the well of Miriam; they say,

"a certain ulcerous person went to dip himself in the sea of Tiberias, and it happened at that time, that the well of Miriam flowed, and he washed, ואיתסי, and was healed t.''

Now this angel may represent a minister of the Gospel, for such are called angels, Revelation 1:20; being called of God, and sent by him, with messages of grace to the sons of men; and the preaching of the Gospel by such, may be aptly signified by the troubling of the waters, as it is by the shaking of heaven, earth, and sea; see Haggai 2:6, compared with Hebrews 12:25; especially when attended with the Spirit of God, who moved upon the face of the waters in the first creation; and who, in and by the ministry of the word, troubles the minds of men, and whilst the prophet prophesies, causes a shaking among the dry bones, which is done at certain seasons; for as there are certain seasons for the preaching of the Gospel, so there is more especially a fixed, settled, and appointed one, for the conversion of God's elect; who are called according to purpose, and at the time the Lord has appointed: and whoever now, upon the preaching of the Gospel, are enabled to step forth and come to Christ, and believe in him, are cured of all their soul maladies and diseases, be they what they will; all their inquiries are pardoned, their persons justified, and they are saved in Christ, with an everlasting salvation: and as this cure was not owing to any natural virtue in the water, nor even to the angels troubling it, but to a supernatural power; so the conversion of a sinner is owing to ministers, and to the word and ordinances as administered by them, but to the superior power of the grace of God; and which is exerted in his time, and on whom he pleases.

q Vajikra Rabba, sect. 24. fol. 165. 2. r Vid. Hackspan. Interpr. Errabund. sect. 20. s De Baptismo, c. 5. t Midrash Kohelet, fol. 71. 4.

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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
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on John 5:4". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

The Cure at the Pool of Bethesda.

      1 After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.   2 Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.   3 In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.   4 For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.   5 And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.   6 When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?   7 The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.   8 Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.   9 And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.   10 The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed.   11 He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk.   12 Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk?   13 And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place.   14 Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.   15 The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole.   16 And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.

      This miraculous cure is not recorded by any other of the evangelists, who confine themselves mostly to the miracles wrought in Galilee, but John relates those wrought at Jerusalem. Concerning this observe,

      I. The time when this cure was wrought: it was at a feast of the Jews, that is, the passover, for that was the most celebrated feast. Christ, though residing in Galilee, yet went up to Jerusalem at the feast, John 5:1; John 5:1. 1. Because it was an ordinance of God, which, as a subject, he would observe, being made under the law; though as a Son he might have pleaded an exemption. Thus he would teach us to attend religious assemblies. Hebrews 10:25. 2. Because it was an opportunity of good; for, (1.) there were great numbers gathered together there at that time; it was a general rendezvous, at least of all serious thinking people, from all parts of the country, besides proselytes from other nations: and Wisdom must cry in the places of concourse,Proverbs 1:21. (2.) It was to be hoped that they were in a good frame, for they came together to worship God and to spend their time in religious exercises. Now a mind inclined to devotion, and sequestering itself to the exercises of piety, lies very open to the further discoveries of divine light and love, and to it Christ will be acceptable.

      II. The place where this cure was wrought: at the pool of Bethesda, which had a miraculous healing virtue in it, and is here particularly described, John 5:2-4; John 5:2-4.

      1. Where it was situated: At Jerusalem, by the sheep-market; epi te probatike. It might as well be rendered the sheep-cote, where the sheep were kept, or the sheep-gate, which we read of, Nehemiah 3:1, through which the sheep were brought, as the sheep-market, where they were sold. Some think it was near the temple, and, if so, it yielded a melancholy but profitable spectacle to those that went up to the temple to pray.

      2. How it was called: It was a pool (a pond or bath), which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda--the house of mercy; for therein appeared much of the mercy of God to the sick and diseased. In a world of so much misery as this is, it is well that there are some Bethesdas--houses of mercy (remedies against those maladies), that the scene is not all melancholy. An alms-house, so Dr. Hammond. Dr. Lightfoot's conjecture is that this was the upper pool (Isaiah 7:3), and the old pool,Isaiah 22:11; that it had been used for washing from ceremonial pollutions, for convenience of which the porches were built to dress and undress in, but it was lately become medicinal.

      3. How it was fitted up: It had five porches, cloisters, piazzas, or roofed walks, in which the sick lay. Thus the charity of men concurred with the mercy of God for the relief of the distressed. Nature has provided remedies, but men must provide hospitals.

      4. How it was frequented with sick and cripples (John 5:3; John 5:3): In these lay a great multitude of impotent folks. How many are the afflictions of the afflicted in this world! How full of complaints are all places, and what multitudes of impotent folks! It may do us good to visit the hospitals sometimes, that we may take occasion, from the calamities of others, to thank God for our comforts. The evangelist specifies three sorts of diseased people that lay here, blind, halt, and withered or sinew--shrunk, either in one particular part, as the man with the withered hand, or all over paralytic. These are mentioned because, being least able to help themselves into the water, they lay longest waiting in the porches. Those that were sick of these bodily diseases took the pains to come far and had the patience to wait long for a cure; any of us would have done the same, and we ought to do so: but O that men were as wise for their souls, and as solicitous to get their spiritual diseases healed! We are all by nature impotent folks in spiritual things, blind, halt, and withered; but effectual provision is made for our cure if we will but observe orders.

      5. What virtue it had for the cure of these impotent folks (John 5:4; John 5:4). An angel went down, and troubled the water; and whoso first stepped in was made whole. That this strange virtue in the pool was natural, or artificial rather, and was the effect of the washing of the sacrifices, which impregnated the water with I know not what healing virtue even for blind people, and that the angel was a messenger, a common person, sent down to stir the water, is altogether groundless; there was a room in the temple on purpose to wash the sacrifices in. Expositors generally agree that the virtue this pool had was supernatural. It is true the Jewish writers, who are not sparing in recounting the praises of Jerusalem, do none of them make the least mention of this healing pool, of which silence in this matter perhaps this is the reason, that it was taken for a presage of the near approach of the Messiah, and therefore those who denied him to be come industriously concealed such an indication of his coming; so that this is all the account we have of it. Observe,

      (1.) The preparation of the medicine by an angel, who went down into the pool, and stirred the water. Angels are God's servants, and friends to mankind; and perhaps are more active in the removing of diseases (as evil angels in the inflicting of them) than we are aware of. Raphael, the apocryphal name of an angel, signifies medicina Dei--God's physic, or physician rather. See what mean offices the holy angels condescend to, for the good of men. If we would do the will of God as the angels do it, we must think nothing below us but sin. The troubling of the water was the signal given of the descent of the angel, as the going upon the tops of the mulberry trees was to David, and then they must bestir themselves. The waters of the sanctuary are then healing when they are put in motion. Ministers must stir up the gift that is in them. When they are cold and dull in their ministrations, the waters settle, and are not apt to heal. The angel descended, to stir the water, not daily, perhaps not frequently, but at a certain season; some think, at the three solemn feasts, to grace those solemnities; or, now and then, as Infinite Wisdom saw fit. God is a free agent in dispensing his favours.

      (2.) The operation of the medicine: Whoever first stepped in was made whole. here is, [1.] miraculous extent of the virtue as to the diseases cured; what disease soever it was, this water cured it. Natural and artificial baths are as hurtful in some cases as they are useful in others, but this was a remedy for every malady, even for those that came from contrary causes. The power of miracles succeeds where the power of nature succumbs. [2.] A miraculous limitation of the virtue as to the persons cured: He that first stepped in had the benefit; that is, he or they that stepped in immediately were cured, not those that lingered and came in afterwards. This teaches us to observe and improve our opportunities, and to look about us, that we slip not a season which may never return. The angel stirred the waters, but left the diseased to themselves to get in. God has put virtue into the scriptures and ordinances, for he would have healed us; but, if we do not make a due improvement of them, it is our own fault, we would not be healed.

      Now this is all the account we have of this standing miracle; it is uncertain when it began and when it ceased. Some conjecture it began when Eliashib the high priest began the building of the wall about Jerusalem, and sanctified it with prayer; and that God testified his acceptance by putting this virtue into the adjoining pool. Some think it began now lately at Christ's birth; nay, others at his baptism. Dr. Lightfoot, finding in Josephus, Antiq. 15. 121-122, mention of a great earthquake in the seventh year of Herod, thirty years before Christ's birth, supposed, since there used to be earthquakes at the descent of angels, that then the angel first descended to stir this water. Some think it ceased with this miracle, others at Christ's death; however, it is certain it had a gracious signification. First, it was a token of God's good will to that people, and an indication that, though they had been long without prophets and miracles, yet God had not cast them off; though they were now an oppressed despised people, and many were ready to say, Where are all the wonders that our fathers told us of? God did hereby let them know that he had still a kindness for the city of their solemnities. We may hence take occasion to acknowledge with thankfulness God's power and goodness in the mineral waters, that contribute so much to the health of mankind; for God made the fountains of water,Revelation 14:7. Secondly, It was a type of the Messiah, who is the fountain opened; and was intended to raise people's expectations of him who is the Sun of righteousness, that arises with healing under his wings. These waters had formerly been used for purifying, now for healing, to signify both the cleansing and curing virtue of the blood of Christ, that incomparable bath, which heals all our diseases. The waters of Siloam, which filled this pool, signified the kingdom of David, and of Christ the Son of David (Isaiah 8:6); fitly therefore have they now this sovereign virtue put into them. The laver of regeneration is to us as Bethesda's pool, healing our spiritual diseases; not at certain seasons, but at all times. Whoever will, let him come.

      III. The patient on whom this cure was wrought (John 5:5; John 5:5): one that had been infirm thirty-eight years. 1. His disease was grievous: He had an infirmity, a weakness; he had lost the use of his limbs, at least on one side, as is usual in palsies. It is sad to have the body so disabled that, instead of being the soul's instrument, it is become, even in the affairs of this life, its burden. What reason have we to thank God for bodily strength, to use it for him, and to pity those who are his prisoners! 2. The duration of it was tedious: Thirty-eight years. He was lame longer than most live. Many are so long disabled for the offices of life that, as the psalmist complains, they seem to be made in vain; for suffering, not for service; born to be always dying. Shall we complain of one wearisome night, or one fit of illness, who perhaps for many years have scarcely known what it has been to be a day sick, when many others, better than we, have scarcely known what it has been to be a day well? Mr. Baxter's note on this passage is very affecting: "How great a mercy was it to live thirty-eight years under God's wholesome discipline! O my God," saith he, "I thank thee for the like discipline of fifty-eight years; how safe a life is this, in comparison of full prosperity and pleasure!"

      IV. The cure and the circumstances of it briefly related, John 5:6-9; John 5:6-9.

      1. Jesus saw him lie. Observe, When Christ came up to Jerusalem he visited not the palaces, but the hospitals, which is an instance of his humility, and condescension, and tender compassion, and an indication of his great design in coming into the world, which was to seek and save the sick and wounded. There was a great multitude of poor cripples here at Bethesda, but Christ fastened his eye upon this one, and singled him out from the rest, because he was senior of the house, and in a more deplorable condition than any of the rest; and Christ delights to help the helpless, and hath mercy on whom he will have mercy. Perhaps his companions in tribulation insulted over him, because he had often been disappointed of a cure; therefore Christ took him for his patient: it is his honour to side with the weakest, and bear up those whom he sees run down.

      2. He knew and considered how long he had lain in this condition. Those that have been long in affliction may comfort themselves with this, that God keeps account how long, and knows our frame.

      3. He asked him, Wilt thou be made whole? A strange question to be asked one that had been so long ill. Some indeed would not be made whole, because their sores serve them to beg by and serve them for an excuse for idleness; but this poor man was as unable to go a begging as to work, yet Christ put it to him, (1.) To express his own pity and concern for him. Christ is tenderly inquisitive concerning the desires of those that are in affliction, and is willing to know what is their petition: "What shall I do for you?" (2.) To try him whether he would be beholden for a cure to him against whom the great people were so prejudiced and sought to prejudice others. (3.) To teach him to value the mercy, and to excite in him desires after it. In spiritual cases, people are not willing to be cured of their sins, are loth to part with them. If this point therefore were but gained, if people were willing to be made whole, the work were half done, for Christ is willing to heal, if we be but willing to be healed, Matthew 8:3.

      4. The poor impotent man takes this opportunity to renew his complaint, and to set forth the misery of his case, which makes his cure the more illustrious: Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool,John 5:7; John 5:7. He seems to take Christ's question as an imputation of carelessness and neglect: "If thou hadst had a mind to be healed, thou wouldest have looked better to thy hits, and have got into the healing waters long before now." "No, Master," saith the poor man, "It is not for want of a good will, but of a good friend, that I am unhealed. I have done what I could to help myself, but in vain, for no one else will help me." (1.) He does not think of any other way of being cured than by these waters, and desires no other friendship than to be helped into them; therefore, when Christ cured him, his imagination or expectation could not contribute to it, for he thought of no such thing. (2.) He complains for want of friends to help him in: "I have no man, no friend to do me that kindness." One would think that some of those who had been themselves healed should have lent him a hand; but it is common for the poor to be destitute of friends; no man careth for their soul. To the sick and impotent it is as true a piece of charity to work for them as to relieve them; and thus the poor are capable of being charitable to one another, and ought to be so, though we seldom find that they are so; I speak it to their shame. (3.) He bewails his infelicity, that very often when he was coming another stepped in before him. But a step between him and a cure, and yet he continues impotent. None had the charity to say, "Your case is worse than mine, do you go in now, and I will stay till the next time;" for there is no getting over the old maxim, Every one for himself. Having been so often disappointed, he begins to despair, and now is Christ's time to come to his relief; he delights to help in desperate cases. Observe, How mildly this man speaks of the unkindness of those about him, without any peevish reflections. As we should be thankful for the least kindness, so we should be patient under the greatest contempts; and, let our resentments be ever so just, yet our expressions should ever be calm. And observe further, to his praise, that, though he had waited so long in vain, yet still he continued lying by the pool side, hoping that some time or other help would come, Habakkuk 2:3.

      5. Our Lord Jesus hereupon cures him with a word speaking, though he neither asked it nor thought of it. Here is,

      (1.) The word he said: Rise, take up thy bed,John 5:8; John 5:8. [1.] He is bidden to rise and walk; a strange command to be given to an impotent man, that had been long disabled; but this divine word was to be the vehicle of a divine power; it was a command to the disease to be gone, to nature to be strong, but it is expressed as a command to him to bestir himself. He must rise and walk, that is, attempt to do it, and in the essay he should receive strength to do it. The conversion of a sinner is the cure of a chronic disease; this is ordinarily done by the word, a word of command: Arise, and walk; turn, and live; make ye a new heart; which no more supposes a power in us to do it, without the grace of God, distinguishing grace, than this supposed such a power in the impotent man. But, if he had not attempted to help himself, he had not been cured, and he must have borne the blame; yet it does not therefore follow that, when he did rise and walk, it was by his own strength; no, it was by the power of Christ, and he must have all the glory. Observe, Christ did not bid him rise and go into the waters, but rise and walk. Christ did that for us which the law could not do, and set that aside. [2.] He is bidden to take up his bed. First, To make it to appear that it was a perfect cure, and purely miraculous; for he did not recover strength by degrees, but from the extremity of weakness and impotency he suddenly stepped into the highest degree of bodily strength; so that he was able to carry as great a load as any porter that had been as long used to it as he had been disused. He, who this minute was not able to turn himself in his bed, the next minute was able to carry his bed. The man sick of the palsy (Matthew 9:6) was bidden to go to his house, but probably this man had no house to go to, the hospital was his home; therefore he is bidden to rise and walk. Secondly, It was to proclaim the cure, and make it public; for, being the sabbath day, whoever carried a burden through the streets made himself very remarkable, and every one would enquire what was the meaning of it; thereby notice of the miracle would spread, to the honour of God. Thirdly, Christ would thus witness against the tradition of the elders, which had stretched the law of the sabbath beyond its intention; and would likewise show that he was Lord of the sabbath, and had power to make what alterations he pleased about it, and to over-rule the law. Joshua, and the host of Israel, marched about Jericho on the sabbath day, when God commanded them, so did this man carry his bed, in obedience to a command. The case may be such that it may become a work of necessity, or mercy, to carry a bed on the sabbath day; but here it was more, it was a work of piety, being designed purely for the glory of God. Fourthly, He would hereby try the faith and obedience of his patient. By carrying his bed publicly, he exposed himself to the censure of the ecclesiastical court, and was liable, at least, to be scourged in the synagogue. Now, will he run the hazard of this, in obedience to Christ? Yes, he will. Those that have been healed by Christ's word should be ruled by his word, whatever it cost them.

      (2.) The efficacy of this word (John 5:9; John 5:9): a divine power went alone with it, and immediately he was made whole, took up his bed, and walked. [1.] He felt the power of Christ's word healing him: Immediately he was made whole. What a joyful surprise was this to the poor cripple, to find himself all of a sudden so easy, so strong, so able to help himself! What a new world was he in, in an instant! Nothing is too hard for Christ to do. [2.] He obeyed the power of Christ's word commanding him. He took up his bed and walked, and did not care who blamed him or threatened him for it. The proof of our spiritual cure is our rising and walking. Hath Christ healed our spiritual diseases? Let us go whithersoever he sends us, and take up whatever he is pleased to lay upon us, and walk before him.

      V. What became of the poor man after he was cured. We are here told,

      1. What passed between him and the Jews who saw him carry his bed on the sabbath day; for on that day this cure was wrought, and it was the sabbath that fell within the passover week, and therefore a high day,John 19:31; John 19:31. Christ's work was such that he needed not make any difference between sabbath days and other days, for he was always about his Father's business; but he wrought many remarkable cures on that day, perhaps to encourage his church to expect those spiritual favours from him, in their observance of the Christian sabbath, which were typified by his miraculous cures. Now here,

      (1.) The Jews quarrelled with the man for carrying his bed on the sabbath day, telling him that it was not lawful,John 5:10; John 5:10. It does not appear whether they were magistrates, who had power to punish him, or common people, who could only inform against him; but thus far was commendable, that, while they knew not by what authority he did it, they were jealous for the honour of the sabbath, and could not unconcernedly see it profaned; like Nehemiah. Nehemiah 13:17.

      (2.) The man justified himself in what he did by a warrant that would bear him out, John 5:11; John 5:11. "I do not do it in contempt of the law and the sabbath, but in obedience to one who, by making me whole, has given me an undeniable proof that he is greater than either. He that could work such a miracle as to make me whole no doubt might give me such a command as to carry my bed; he that could overrule the powers of nature no doubt might overrule a positive law, especially in an instance not of the essence of the law. He that was so kind as to make me whole would not be so unkind as to bid me do what is sinful." Christ, by curing another paralytic, proved his power to forgive sin, here to give law; if his pardons are valid, his edicts are so, and his miracles prove both.

      (3.) The Jews enquired further who it was that gave him this warrant (John 5:12; John 5:12): What man is that? Observe, How industriously they overlooked that which might be a ground of their faith in Christ. They enquire not, no, not for curiosity, "Who is it that made thee whole?" While they industriously caught at that which might be a ground of reflection upon Christ (What man is it who said unto thee, Take up thy bed?) they would fain subpoena the patient to be witness against his physician, and to be his betrayer. In their question, observe, [1.] They resolve to look upon Christ as a mere man: What man is that? For, though he gave ever such convincing proofs of it, they were resolved that they would never own him to be the Son of God. [2.] They resolve to look upon him as a bad man, and take it for granted that he who bade this man carry his bed, whatever divine commission he might produce, was certainly a delinquent, and as such they resolve to prosecute him. What man is that who durst give such orders?

      (4.) The poor man was unable to give them any account of him: He wist not who he was,John 5:13; John 5:13.

      [1.] Christ was unknown to him when he healed him. Probably he had heard of the name of Jesus, but had never seen him, and therefore could not tell that this was he. Note, Christ does many a good turn for those that know him not, Isaiah 45:4; Isaiah 45:5. He enlightens, strengthens, quickens, comforts us, and we wist not who he is; nor are aware how much we receive daily by his mediation. This man, being unacquainted with Christ, could not actually believe in him for a cure; but Christ knew the dispositions of his soul, and suited his favours to them, as to the blind man in a like case, John 9:36; John 9:36. Our covenant and communion with God take rise, not so much from our knowledge of him, as from his knowledge of us. We know God, or, rather, are known of him,Galatians 4:9.

      [2.] For the present he kept himself unknown; for as soon as he had wrought the cure he conveyed himself away, he made himself unknown (so some read it), a multitude being in that place. This is mentioned to show, either, First, How Christ conveyed himself away--by retiring into the crowd, so as not to be distinguished from a common person. He that was the chief of ten thousand often made himself one of the throng. It is sometimes the lot of those who have by their services signalized themselves to be levelled with the multitude, and overlooked. Or Secondly, Why he conveyed himself away, because there was a multitude there, and he industriously avoided both the applause of those who would admire the miracle and cry that up, and the censure of those who would censure him as a sabbath-breaker, and run him down. Those that are active for God in their generation must expect to pass through evil report and good report; and it is wisdom as much as may be to keep out of the hearing of both; lest by the one we be exalted, and by the other depressed, above measure. Christ left the miracle to commend itself, and the man on whom it was wrought to justify it.

      2. What passed between him and our Lord Jesus at their next interview, John 5:14; John 5:14. Observe here,

      (1.) Where Christ found him: in the temple, the place of public worship. In our attendance on public worship we may expect to meet with Christ, and improve our acquaintance with him. Observe, [1.] Christ went to the temple. Though he had many enemies, yet he appeared in public, because there he bore his testimony to divine institutions, and had opportunity of doing good. [2.] The man that was cured went to the temple. There Christ found him the same day, as it should seem, that he was healed; thither he straightway went, First, Because he had, by his infirmity, been so long detained thence. Perhaps he had not been there for thirty-eight years, and therefore, as soon as ever the embargo is taken off, his first visit shall be to the temple, as Hezekiah intimates his shall be (Isaiah 38:22): What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the Lord? Secondly, Because he had by his recovery a good errand thither; he went up to the temple to return thanks to God for his recovery. When God has at any time restored us our health we ought to attend him with solemn praises (Psalms 116:18; Psalms 116:19), and the sooner the better, while the sense of the mercy is fresh. Thirdly, Because he had, by carrying his bed, seemed to put a contempt on the sabbath, he would thus show that he had an honour for it, and made conscience of sabbath-sanctification, in that on which the chief stress of it is laid, which is the public worship of God. Works of necessity and mercy are allowed; but when they are over we must go to the temple.

      (2.) What he said to him. When Christ has cured us, he has not done with us; he now applies himself to the healing of his soul, and this by the word too. [1.] He gives him a memento of his cure: Behold thou art made whole. He found himself made whole, yet Christ calls his attention to it. Behold, consider it seriously, how sudden, how strange, how cheap, how easy, the cure was: admire it; behold, and wonder: Remember it; let the impressions of it abide, and never be lost, Isaiah 38:9. [2.] He gives him a caution against sin, in consideration hereof, Being made whole, sin no more. This implies that his disease was the punishment of sin; whether of some remarkably flagrant sin, or only of sin in general, we cannot tell, but we know that sin is the procuring cause of sickness, Psalms 107:17; Psalms 107:18. Some observe that Christ did not make mention of sin to any of his patients, except to this impotent man, and another who was in like manner diseased, Mark 2:5. While those chronical diseases lasted, they prevented the outward acts of many sins, and therefore watchfulness was the more necessary when the disability was removed. Christ intimates that those who are made whole, who are eased of the present sensible punishment of sin, are in danger of returning to sin when the terror and restraint are over, unless divine grace dry up the fountain. When the trouble which only dammed up the current is over, the waters will return to their old course; and therefore there is great need of watchfulness, lest after healing mercy we return again to folly. The misery we were made whole from warns us to sin no more, having felt the smart of sin; the mercy we were made whole by is an engagement upon us not to offend him who healed us. This is the voice of every providence, Go and sin no more. This man began his new life very hopefully in the temple, yet Christ saw it necessary to give him this caution; for it is common for people, when they are sick, to promise much, when newly recovered to perform something, but after awhile to forget all. [3.] He gives him warning of his danger, in case he should return to his former sinful course: Lest a worse thing come to thee. Christ, who knows all men's hearts, knew that he was one of those that must be frightened from sin. Thirty-eight years' lameness, one would think, was a thing bad enough; yet there is something worse that will come to him if he relapse into sin after God has given him such a deliverance as this, Ezra 9:13; Ezra 9:14. The hospital where he lay was a melancholy place, but hell is much more so: the doom of apostates is a worse thing than thirty-eight years' lameness.

      VI. Now, after this interview between Christ and his patient, observe in the John 5:15; John 5:16, 1. The notice which the poor simple man gave to the Jews concerning Christ, John 5:15; John 5:15. He told them it was Jesus that had made him whole. We have reason to think that he intended this for the honour of Christ and the benefit of the Jews, little thinking that he who had so much power and goodness could have any enemies; but those who wish well to Christ's kingdom must have the wisdom of the serpent, lest they do more hurt than good with their zeal, and must not cast pearls before swine. 2. The rage and enmity of the Jews against him: Therefore did the rulers of the Jews persecute Jesus. See, (1.) How absurd and unreasonable their enmity to Christ was. Therefore, because he had made a poor sick man well, and so eased the public charge, upon which, it is likely, he had subsisted; therefore they persecuted him, because he did good in Israel. (2.) How bloody and cruel it was: They sought to slay him; nothing less than his blood, his life, would satisfy them. (3.) How it was varnished over with a colour of zeal for the honour of the sabbath; for this was the pretended crime, Because he had done these things on the sabbath day, as if that circumstance were enough to vitiate the best and most divine actions, and to render him obnoxious whose deeds were otherwise most meritorious. Thus hypocrites often cover their real enmity against the power of godliness with a pretended zeal for the form of it.

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Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on John 5:4". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". 1706.

Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible

The opening verses (John 1:1-18) introduce the most glorious subject which God Himself ever gave in employing the pen of man; not only the most glorious in point of theme, but in the profoundest point of view; for what the Holy Ghost here brings before us is the Word, the everlasting, Word, when He was with God, traced down from before all time, when there was no creature. It is not exactly the Word with the Father; for such a phrase would not be according to the exactness of the truth; but the Word with God. The term God comprehends not only the Father, but the Holy Ghost also. He who was the Son of the Father then, as I need not say always, is regarded here as the revealer of God; for God, as such, does not reveal Himself. He makes His, nature known by the Word. The Word, nevertheless, is here spoken of before there was any one for God to reveal Himself to. He is, therefore, and in the strictest sense, eternal. "In the beginning was the Word," when there was no reckoning of time; for the beginning of what we call time comes before us in the third verse. "All things," it is said, "were made by Him." This is clearly the origination of all creaturehood, wherever and whatever it be. Heavenly beings there were before the earthly; but whether no matter of whom you speak, or of, what angels or men, whether heaven or earth, all things were made by Him.

Thus He, whom we know to be the Son of the Father, is here presented as the Word who subsisted personally in the beginning ( ἐν ἀρχῆ ) who was with God, and was Himself God of the same nature, yet a distinct personal being. To clench this matter specially against all reveries of Gnostics or others, it is added, that He was in the beginning with God.* Observe another thing: "The Word was with God" not the Father. As the Word and God, so the Son and the Father are correlative. We are here in the exactest phrase, and at the same time in the briefest terms, brought into the presence of the deepest conceivable truths which God,. alone knowing, alone could communicate to man. Indeed, it is He alone who gives the truth; for this is not the bare knowledge of such or such facts, whatever the accuracy of the information. Were all things conveyed with the most admirable correctness, it would not amount to divine revelation. Such a communication would still differ, not in degree only, but in kind. A revelation from God not only supposes true statements, but God's mind made known so as to act morally on man, forming his thoughts and affections according to His own character. God makes Himself known in what He communicates by, of, and in Christ.

* I cannot but regard John 1:2 as a striking and complete setting aside of the Alexandrian and Patristic distinction of λόγος ἐνδιάθετος and λόγος προφορικός . Some of the earlier Greek fathers, who were infected with Platonism, held that the λόγος was conceived in God's mind from eternity, and only uttered, as it were, in time. This has given a handle to Arians, who, like other unbelievers, greedily seek the traditions of men. The apostle here asserts, in the Holy Ghost, the eternal personality of the Word with God.

In the case before us, nothing can be more obvious than that the Holy Ghost, for the glory of God, is undertaking to make known that which touches the Godhead in the closest way, and is meant for infinite blessing to all in the person of the Lord Jesus. These verses accordingly begin with Christ our Lord; not from, but in the beginning, when nothing was yet created. It is the eternity of His being, in no point of which could it be said He was not, but, contrariwise, that He was. Yet was He not alone. God was there not the Father only, but the Holy Ghost, beside the Word Himself, who was God, and had divine nature as they.

Again, it is not said that in the beginning He was, in the sense of then coming into being ( ἐγένετο ), but He existed ( ἦν ). Thus before all time the Word was. When the great truth of the incarnation is noted in verse 14, it is said not that the Word came into existence, but that He was made ( ἐγένετο ) flesh began so to be. This, therefore, so much the more contrasts with verses 1 and 2.

In the beginning, then, before there was any creature, was the Word, and the Word was with God. There was distinct personality in the Godhead, therefore, and the Word was a distinct person Himself (not, as men dreamt, an emanation in time, though eternal and divine in nature, proceeding from God as its source). The Word had a proper personality, and at the same time was God "the Word was God." Yea, as the next verse binds and sums up all together, He, the Word, was in the beginning with God. The personality was as eternal as the existence, not in (after some mystic sort) but with God. I can conceive no statement more admirably complete and luminous in the fewest and simplest words.

Next comes the attributing of creation to the Word. This must be the work of God, if anything was; and here again the words are precision itself "All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made." Other words far less nervous are used elsewhere: unbelief might cavil and construe them into forming or fashioning. Here the Holy Ghost employs the most explicit language, that all things began to be, or received being, through the Word, to the exclusion of one single thing that ever did receive being apart from Him language which leaves the fullest room for Uncreate Beings, as we have already seen, subsisting eternally and distinctly, yet equally God. Thus the statement is positive that the Word is the source of all things which have received being ( γενόμενα ); that there is no creature which did not thus derive its being from Him. There cannot, therefore, be a more rigid, absolute shutting out of any creature from origination, save by the Word.

It is true that in other parts of Scripture we hear God, as such, spoken of as Creator. We hear of His making the worlds by the Son. But there is and can be no contradiction in Scripture. The truth is, that whatever was made was made according to the Father's sovereign will; but the Son, the Word of God, was the person who put forth the power, and never without the energy of the Holy Ghost, I may add, as the Bible carefully teaches us. Now this is of immense importance for that which the Holy Ghost has in view in the gospel of John, because the object is to attest the nature and light of God in the person of the Christ; and therefore we have here not merely what the Lord Jesus was as born of a woman, born under the law, which has its appropriate place in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, but what He was and is as God. On the other hand, the gospel of Mark omits every thing of the kind. A genealogy such as Matthew's and Luke's, we have seen, would be totally out of place there; and the reason is manifest. The subject of Mark is the testimony of Jesus as having taken, though a Son, the place of a servant in the earth. Now, in a servant, no matter from what noble lineage he comes, there is no genealogy requisite. What is wanted in a servant is, that the work should be done well, no matter about the genealogy. Thus, even if it were the Son of God Himself, so perfectly did He condescend to the condition of a servant, and so mindful was the Spirit of it, that, accordingly, the genealogy which was demanded in Matthew, which is of such signal beauty and value in Luke, is necessarily excluded from the gospel of Mark. For higher reasons it could have no place in John. In Mark it is because of the lowly place of subjection which the Lord was pleased to take; it is excluded from John, on the contrary, because there He is presented as being above all genealogy . He is the source of other people's genealogy yea, of the genesis of all things. We may say therefore boldly, that in the gospel of John such a descent could not be inserted in consistency with its character. If it admit any genealogy, it must be what is set forth in the preface of John the very verses which are occupying us which exhibit the divine nature and eternal personality of His being. He was the Word, and He was God; and, if we may anticipate, let us add, the Son, the only begotten Son of the Father. This, if any thing, is His genealogy here. The ground is evident; because everywhere in John He is God. No doubt the Word became flesh, as we may see more of presently, even in this inspired introduction; and we have the reality of His becoming man insisted on. Still, manhood was a place that He entered. Godhead was the glory that He possessed from everlasting His own eternal nature of being. It was not conferred upon Him. There is not, nor can be, any such thing as a derived subordinate Godhead; though men may be said to be gods, as commissioned of God, and representing Him in government. He was God before creation began, before all time. He was God independently of any circumstances. Thus, as we have seen, for the Word the apostle John claims eternal existence, distinct personality, and divine nature; and withal asserts the eternal distinctness of that person. (Verses John 1:1-2)

Such is the Word Godward ( πρὸς τὸν Θεόν ). We are next told of Him in relation to the creature. (Verses John 1:3-5) In the earlier verses it was exclusively His being. In verse 3 He acts, He creates, He causes all things to come into existence; and apart from Him not one thing came into existence which is existent ( γέγονεν ). Nothing more comprehensive, nothing more exclusive.

The next verse (John 1:4) predicts of Him that which is yet more momentous: not creative power, as in verse 3, but life. "In him was life." Blessed truth for those who know the spread of death over this lower scene of creation! and the rather as the Spirit adds, that "the life was the light of men." Angels were not its sphere, nor was it restricted to a chosen nation: "the life was the light of men." Life was not in man, even unfallen; at best, the first man, Adam, became a living soul when instinct with the breath of God. Nor is it ever said, even of a saint, that in him is or was life, though life he has; but he has it only in the Son. In Him, the Word, was life, and the life was the light of men. Such was its relationship.

No doubt, whatever was revealed of old was of Him; whatever word came out from God was from Him, the Word, and light of men. But then God was not revealed; for He was not manifested. On the contrary, He dwelt in the thick darkness, behind the veil in the most holy place, or visiting men but angelically otherwise. But here, we are told, "the light shines in the darkness." (Ver. John 1:5) Mark the abstractedness of the language it "shines" (not shone). How solemn, that darkness is all the light finds! and what darkness! how impenetrable and hopeless! All other darkness yields and fades away before light; but here "the darkness comprehended it not" (as the fact is stated, and not the abstract principle only). It was suited to man, even as it was the light expressly of men, so that man is without excuse.

But was there adequate care that the light should be presented to men? What was the way taken to secure this? Unable God could not be: was He indifferent? God gave testimony; first, John the Baptist; then the Light itself. "There was ( ἐγένετο ) a man sent from God, whose name was John." (v. John 1:6) He passes by all the prophets, the various preliminary dealings of the Lord, the shadows of the law: not even the promises are noticed here. We shall find some of these introduced or alluded to for a far different purpose later on. John, then, came to bear witness about the Light, that all through him might believe. (Verse John 1:7) But the Holy Ghost is most careful to guard against all mistake. Could any run too close a parallel between the light of men in the Word, and him who is called the burning and shining lamp in a subsequent chapter? Let them learn their error. He, John, "was not that light;" there is but one such: none was similar or second. God cannot be compared with man. John came "that he might bear witness about the light," not to take its place or set himself up. The true Light was that which, coming into the world, lighteth every man.* Not only does He necessarily, as being God, deal with every man (for His glory could not be restricted to a part of mankind), but the weighty truth here announced is the connection with His incarnation of this universal light, or revelation of God in Him, to man as such. The law, as we know from elsewhere, had dealt with the Jewish people temporarily, and for partial purposes. This was but a limited sphere. Now that the Word comes into the world, in one way or another light shines for every one: it may be, leaving some under condemnation, as we know it does for the great mass who believe not; it may be light not only on but in man, where there is faith through the action of divine grace. It is certain that, whatever light in relation to God there may be, and wherever it is given in Him, there is not, there never was, spiritual light apart from Christ all else is darkness. It could not be otherwise. This light in its own character must go out to all from God. So it is said elsewhere, "The grace of God that bringeth salvation to all men hath appeared." It is not that all men receive the blessing; but, in its proper scope and nature, it addresses itself to all. God sends it for all. Law may govern one nation; grace refuses to be limited in its appeal, however it may be in fact through man's unbelief.

*I cannot but think that this is the true version, and exhibits the intended aim of the clause. Most of the early writers took it as the authorized version, save Theodore of Mopsuestia, who understood it as here given: Εἰπὼν τὸ · ἐρχόμενον εἰς τὸν κοσμον , περὶ τοῦ δεσπότου Χριστοῦ καλως ἐπήγαγεν τὸ · ἐν τῳ κοσμῳ ἦν , ὥστε δεῖξαι , ὅτι τὸ ἐρχόμενον πρὸς την διὰ σαρκὸς εἶπεν φανέρωσιν . (Ed. Fritzsche, p. 21)

"He was in the world, and the world was made by him." (Verse John 1:9) The world therefore surely ought to have known its Maker. Nay, "the world knew him not." From the very first, man, being a sinner, was wholly lost. Here the unlimited scene is in view; not Israel, but the world. Nevertheless, Christ did come to His own things, His proper, peculiar possession; for there were special relationships. They should have understood more about Him those that were specially favoured. It was not so.

"He came unto his own [things], and his own [people] received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power [rather, authority, right, or title] to become children of God." (Ver. John 1:11-12; John 1:11-12) It was not a question now of Jehovah and His servants. Neither does the Spirit say exactly as the English Bible says "sons," but children. His glorious person would have none now in relation to God but members of the family. Such was the grace that God was displaying in Him, the true and full expresser of His mind. He gave them title to take the place of children of God, even to those that believe on His name. Sons they might have been in bare title; but these had the right of children.

All disciplinary action, every probationary process, disappears. The ignorance of the world has been proved, the rejection of Israel is complete: then only is it that we hear of this new place of children. It is now eternal reality, and the name of Jesus Christ is that which puts all things to a final test. There is difference of manner for the world and His own ignorance and rejection. Do any believe on His name? Be they who they may now, as many as receive Him become children of God. It is no question here of every man, but of such as believe. Do they receive Him not? For them, Israel, or the world, all is over. Flesh and world are judged morally. God the Father forms a new family in, by, and for Christ. All others prove not only that they are bad, but that they hate perfect goodness, and more than that, life and light the true light in the Word. How can such have relationship with God?

Thus, manifestly, the whole question is terminated at the very starting-point of our gospel; and this is characteristic of John all through: manifestly all is decided. It is not merely a Messiah, who comes and offers Himself, as we find in other gospels, with most painstaking diligence, and presented to their responsibility; but here from the outset the question is viewed as closed. The Light, on coming into the world, lightens every man with the fulness of evidence which was in Him, and at once discovers the true state as truly as it will be revealed in the last day when He judges all, as we find it intimated in the gospel afterwards. (John 12:48)

Before the manner of His manifestation comes before us in verse 14, we have the secret explained why some, and not all, received Christ. It was not that they were better than their neighbours. Natural birth had nothing to do with this new thing; it was a new nature altogether in those who received Him: "Who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." It was an extraordinary birth; of God, not man in any sort, or measure, but a new and divine nature (2 Peter 1:1-21) imparted to the believer wholly of grace. All this, however, was abstract, whether as to the nature of the Word or as to the place of the Christian.

But it is important we should know how He entered the world. We have seen already that thus light was shed on men. How was this? The Word, in order to accomplish these infinite things, "was made. ( ἐγένετο ) flesh, and dwelt among us." It is here we learn in what condition of His person God was to be revealed and the work done; not what He was in nature, but what He became. The great fact of the incarnation is brought before us "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father"). His aspect as thus tabernacling among the disciples was "full of grace and truth." Observe, that blessed as the light is, being God's moral nature, truth is more than this, and is introduced by grace. It is the revelation of God yea, of the Father and the Son, and not merely the detecter of man. The Son had not come to execute the judgments of the law they knew, nor even to promulgate a new and higher law. His was an errand incomparably deeper, more worthy of God, and suitable to One "full of grace and truth." He wanted nothing; He came to give yea, the very best, so to speak, that God has.

What is there in God more truly divine than grace and truth? The incarnate Word was here full of grace and truth. Glory would be displayed in its day. Meanwhile there was a manifestation of goodness, active in love in the midst of evil, and toward such; active in the making known God and man, and every moral relation, and what He is toward man, through and in the Word made flesh. This is grace and truth. And such was Jesus. "John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This is he of whom I spake: He that cometh after me is preferred before me, for he was before me." Coming after John as to date, He is necessarily preferred before him in dignity; for He was ( ἦν ) [not come into being ( ἐγένετο )] before Him. He was God. This statement (verse John 1:15) is a parenthesis, though confirmatory of verse John 1:14, and connects John's testimony with this new section of Christ's manifestation in flesh; as we saw John introduced in the earlier verses, which treated abstractly of Christ's nature as the Word.

Then, resuming the strain of verse John 1:14, we are told, in verseJohn 1:16; John 1:16, that "of his fulness have all we received." So rich and transparently divine was the grace: not some souls, more meritorious than the rest, rewarded according to a graduated scale of honour, but "of his fulness have all we received." What can be conceived more notably standing out in contrast with the governmental system God had set up, and man had known in times past? Here there could not be more, and He would not give less: even "grace upon grace." Spite of the most express signs, and the manifest finger of God that wrote the ten words on tables of stone, the law sinks into comparative insignificance. "The law was given by Moses." God does not here condescend to call it His, though, of course, it was His and holy, just, and good, both in itself and in its use, if used lawfully. But if the Spirit speaks of the Son of God, the law dwindles at once into the smallest possible proportions: everything yields to the honour the Father puts oil the Son. "The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came ( ἐγένετο ) by Jesus Christ." (ver. John 1:17; John 1:17) The law, thus given, was in itself no giver, but an exacter; Jesus, full of grace and truth, gave, instead of requiring or receiving; and He Himself has said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. Truth and grace were not sought nor found in man, but began to subsist here below by Jesus Christ.

We have now the Word made flesh, called Jesus Christ this person, this complex person, that was manifest in the world; and it is He that brought it all in. Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

Lastly, closing this part, we have another most remarkable contrast. "No man hath seen God at any time: the only-begotten Son," etc. Now, it is no longer a question of nature, but of relationship; and hence it is not said simply the Word, but the Son, and the Son in the highest possible character, the only-begotten Son, distinguishing Him thus from any other who might, in a subordinate sense, be son of God "the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father." Observe: not which was, but "which is." He is viewed as retaining the same perfect intimacy with the Father, entirely unimpaired by local or any other circumstances He had entered. Nothing in the slightest degree detracted from His own personal glory, and from the infinitely near relationship which He had had with the Father from all eternity. He entered this world, became flesh, as born of woman; but there was no diminution of His own glory, when He, born of the virgin, walked on earth, or when rejected of man, cut off as Messiah, He was forsaken of God for sin our sin on the cross. Under all changes, outwardly, He abode as from eternity the only-begotten Son in the bosom of the Father. Mark what, as such, He does declare Him. No man hath seen God at any time. He could be declared only by One who was a divine person in the intimacy of the Godhead, yea, was the only-begotten Son in the bosom of the Father. Hence the Son, being in this ineffable nearness of love, has declared not God only, but the Father. Thus we all not only receive of His fulness, (and what fulness illimitable was there not in Him!) but He, who is the Word made flesh, is the only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, and so competent to declare, as in fact He has. It is not only the nature, but the model and fulness of the blessing in the Son, who declared the Father.

The distinctiveness of such a testimony to the Saviour's glory need hardly be pointed out. One needs no more than to read, as believers, these wonderful expressions of the Holy Ghost, where we cannot but feel that we are on ground wholly different from that of the other gospels. Of course they are just as truly inspired as John's; but for that very reason they were not inspired to give the same testimony. Each had his own; all are harmonious, all perfect, all divine; but not all so many repetitions of the same thing. He who inspired them to communicate His thoughts of Jesus in the particular line assigned to each, raised up John to impart the highest revelation, and thus complete the circle by the deepest views of the Son of God.

After this we have, suitably to this gospel, John's connection with the Lord Jesus. (ver. John 1:19-37; John 1:19-37) It is here presented historically. We have had his name introduced into each part of the preface of our evangelist. Here there is no John proclaiming Jesus as the One who was about to introduce the kingdom of heaven. Of this we learn nothing, here. Nothing is said about the fan in His hand; nothing of His burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire. This is all perfectly true, of course; and we have it elsewhere. His earthly rights are just where they should be; but not here, where the only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father has His appropriate place. It is not John's business here to call attention to His Messiahship, not even when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask, Who art thou? Nor was it from any indistinctness in the record, or in him who gave it. For "he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? (ver. John 1:20-25) John does not even speak of Him as one who, on His rejection as Messiah, would step into a larger glory. To the Pharisees, indeed, his words as to the Lord are curt: nor does he tell them of the divine ground of His glory, as he had before and does after.* He says, One was among them of whom they had no conscious knowledge, "that cometh after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to loose." (Ver. John 1:26-27; John 1:26-27) For himself he was not the Christ, but for Jesus he says no more. How striking the omission! for he knew He was the Christ. But here it was not God's purpose to record it.

* The best text omits other expressions, evidently derived from verses John 1:15; John 1:30John 1:30.

Verse John 1:29 opens John's testimony to his disciples. (Ver. John 1:29-34) How rich it is, and how marvellously in keeping with our gospel! Jesus is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, but withal, as he had said, the eternal One, yet in view of His manifestation to Israel (and, therefore, John was come baptizing with water a reason here given, but not to the Pharisees in verses 25-27). Further, John attests that he saw the Spirit descending like a dove, and abiding on Him the appointed token that He it is who baptizes with the Holy Ghost even the Son of God. None else could do either work: for here we see His great work on earth, and His heavenly power. In these two points of view, more particularly, John gives testimony to Christ; He is the lamb as the taker away of the world's sin; the same is He who baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. Both of them were in relation to man on the earth; the one while He was here, the other from above. His death on the cross included much more, clearly answering to the first; His baptizing with the Holy Ghost followed His going to heaven. Nevertheless, the heavenly part is little dwelt on, as John's gospel displays our Lord more as the expression of God revealed on earth, than as Man ascended to heaven, which fell far more to the province of the apostle of the Gentiles. In John He is One who could be described as Son of man who is in heaven; but He belonged to heaven, because He was divine. His exaltation there is not without notice in the gospel, but exceptionally.

Remark, too, the extent of the work involved in verse 29. As the Lamb of God (of the Father it is not said), He has to do with the world. Nor will the full force of this expression be witnessed till the glorious result of His blood shedding sweep away the last trace of sin in the new heavens and the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. It finds, of course, a present application, and links itself with that activity of grace in which God is now sending out the gospel to any sinner and every sinner. Still the eternal day alone will show out the full virtue of that which belongs to Jesus as the Lamb of God, who takes away the world's sin. Observe, it is not (as is often very erroneously said or sung) a question of sins, but of the "sin" of the world. The sacrificial death of Him who is God goes far beyond the thought of Israel. How, indeed, could it be stayed within narrow limits? It passes over all question of dispensations, until it accomplishes, in all its extent, that purpose for which He thus died. No doubt there are intervening applications; but such is the ultimate result of His work as the Lamb of God. Even now faith knows, that instead of sin being the great object before God, ever since the cross He has had before His eyes that sacrifice which put away sin. Notably He is now applying it to the reconciliation of a people, who are also baptized by the Holy Ghost into one body. By and by He will apply it to "that nation," the Jews, as to others also, and finally (always excepting the unbelieving and evil) to the entire system, the world. I do not mean by this all individuals, but creation; for nothing can be more certain, than that those who do not receive the Son of God are so much the worse for having heard the gospel. The rejection of Christ is the contempt of God Himself, in that of which He is most jealous, the honour of the Saviour, His Son. The refusal of His precious blood will, on the contrary, make their case incomparably worse than that of the heathen who never heard the good news.

What a witness all this to His person! None but a divine being could thus deal with the world. No doubt He must become a man, in order, amongst other reasons, to be a sufferer, and to die. None the less did the result of His death proclaim His Deity. So in the baptism with the Holy Ghost, who would pretend to such a power? No mere man, nor angel, not the highest, the archangel, but the Son.

So we see in the attractive power, afterwards dealing with individual souls. For were it not God Himself in the person of Jesus, it had been no glory to God, but a wrong and a rival. For nothing can be more observable than the way in which He becomes the centre round whom those that belong to God are gathered. This is the marked effect on the third day (ver. John 1:29; John 1:29John 1:34; John 1:34) of John Baptist's testimony here named; the first day (ver. 29) on which, as it were, Jesus speaks and acts in His grace as here shown on the earth. It is evident, that were He not God, it would be an interference with His glory, a place taken inconsistent with His sole authority, no less than it must be also, and for that reason, altogether ruinous to man. But He, being God, was manifesting and, on the contrary, maintaining the divine glory here below. John, therefore, who had been the honoured witness before of God's call, "the voice," etc., does now by the outpouring of his heart's delight, as well as testimony, turn over, so to say, his disciples to Jesus. Beholding Him as He walked, he says, Behold the Lamb of God! and the two disciples leave John for Jesus. (ver. John 1:35-40) Our Lord acts as One fully conscious of His glory, as indeed He ever was.

Bear in mind that one of the points of instruction in this first part of our gospel is the action of the Son of God before His regular Galilean ministry. The first four chapters of John precede in point of time the notices of His ministry in the other gospels. John was not yet cast into prison. Matthew, Mark, and Luke start, as far as regards the public labours of the Lord, with John cast into prison. But all that is historically related of the Lord Jesus inJohn 1:1-51; John 1:1-51; John 2:1-25; John 3:1-36; John 4:1-54. was before the imprisonment of the Baptist. Here, then, we have a remarkable display of that which preceded His Galilean ministry, or public manifestation. Yet before a miracle, as well as in the working of those which set forth His glory, it is evident that so far from its being a gradual growth, as it were, in His mind, He had, all simple and lowly though He were, the deep, calm, constant consciousness that He was God. He acts as such. If He put forth His power, it was not only beyond man's measure, but unequivocally divine, however also the humblest and most dependent of men. Here we see Him accepting, not as fellow-servant, but as Lord, those souls who had been under the training of the predicted messenger of Jehovah that was to prepare His way before, His face. Also one of the two thus drawn to Him first finds his own brother Simon (with the words, We have found the Messiah), and led him to Jesus, who forthwith gave him his new name in terms which surveyed, with equal ease and certainty, past, present, and future. Here again, apart from this divine insight, the change or gift of the name marks His glory. (Verses John 1:41-44)

On the morrow Jesus begins, directly and indirectly, to call others to follow Himself. He tells Philip to follow Him. This leads Philip to Nathanael, in whose case, when he comes to Jesus, we see not divine power alone in sounding the souls of men, but over creation. Here was One on earth who knew all secrets. He saw him under the fig tree. He was God. Nathanael's call is just as clearly typical of Israel in the latter day. The allusion to the fig-tree confirms this. So does his confession: Rabbi, thou art the Son of God: thou art the King of Israel. (SeePsalms 2:1-12; Psalms 2:1-12) But the Lord tells him of greater things he, should see, and says to him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, henceforth (not "hereafter," but henceforth) ye shall see the heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of man. It is the wider, universal glory of the Son of man (according toPsalms 8:1-9; Psalms 8:1-9); but the most striking part of it verified from that actual moment because of the glory of His person, which needed not the day of glory to command the attendance of the angels of God this mark, as Son of man. (Verses John 1:44-51)

On the third day is the marriage in Cana of Galilee, where was His mother, Jesus also, and His disciples. (John 2:1-25) The change of water into wine manifested His glory as the beginning of signs; and He gave another in this early purging of the temple of Jerusalem. Thus we have traced, first, hearts not only attracted to Him, but fresh souls called to follow Him; then, in type, the call of Israel by-and-by; finally, the disappearance of the sign of moral purifying for the joy of the new covenant, when Messiah's time comes to bless the needy earth; but along with this the execution of judgment in Jerusalem, and its long defiled temple. All this clearly goes down to millennial days.

As a present fact, the Lord justifies the judicial act before their eyes by His relationship with God as His Father, and gives the Jews a sign in the temple of His body, as the witness of His resurrection power. "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." He is ever God; He is the Son; He quickens and raises from the dead. Later He was determined to be Son of God with power by resurrection of the dead. They had eyes, but they saw not; ears had they, but they heard not, nor did they understand His glory. Alas! not the Jews only; for, as far as intelligence went, it was little better with the disciples till He rose from the dead. The resurrection of the Lord is not more truly a demonstration of His power and glory, than the only deliverance for disciples from the thraldom of Jewish influence. Without it there is no divine understanding of Christ, or of His word, or of Scripture. Further, it is connected intimately with the evidence of man's ruin by sin. Thus it is a kind of transitional fact for a most important part of our gospel, though still introductory. Christ was the true sanctuary, not that on which man had laboured so long in Jerusalem. Man might pull Him down destroy Him, as far as man could, and surely to be the basis in God's hand of better blessing; but He was God, and in three days He would raise up this temple. Man was judged: another Man was there, the Lord from heaven, soon to stand in resurrection.

It is not now the revelation of God meeting man either in essential nature, or as manifested in flesh; nor is it the course of dispensational dealing presented in a parenthetic as well as mysterious form, beginning with John the Baptist's testimony, and going down to the millennium in the Son, full of grace and truth. It becomes a question of man's own condition, and how he stands in relation to the kingdom of God. This question is raised, or rather settled, by the Lord in Jerusalem, at the passover feast, where many believed on His name, beholding the signs He wrought. The dreadful truth comes out: the Lord did not trust Himself to them, because He knew all men. How withering the words! He had no need that any should testify of man, for He knew what was in man. It is not denunciation, but the most solemn sentence in the calmest manner. It was no longer a moot-point whether God could trust man; for, indeed, He could not. The question really is, whether man would trust God. Alas! he would not.

John 3:1-36 follows this up. God orders matters so that a favoured teacher of men, favoured as none others were in Israel, should come to Jesus by night. The Lord meets him at once with the strongest assertion of the absolute necessity that a man should be born anew in order to see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus, not understanding in the least such a want for himself, expresses his wonder, and hears our Lord increasing in the strength of the requirement. Except one were born of water and of the Spirit, he could not enter the kingdom of God. This was necessary for the kingdom of God; not for some special place of glory, but for any and every part of God's kingdom. Thus we have here the other side of the truth: not merely what God is in life and light, in grace and truth, as revealed in Christ coming down to man; but man is now judged in the very root of his nature, and proved to be entirely incapable, in his best state, of seeing or entering the kingdom of God. There is the need of another nature, and the only way in which this nature is communicated is by being born of water and the Spirit the employment of the word of God in the quickening energy of the Holy Ghost. So only is man born of God. The Spirit of God uses that word; it is thus invariably in conversion. There is no other way in which the new nature is made good in a soul. Of course it is the revelation of Christ; but here He was simply revealing the sources of this indispensable new birth. There is no changing or bettering the old man; and, thanks be to God, the new does not degenerate or pass away. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." (Verses John 3:1-6)

But the Lord goes farther, and bids Nicodemus not wonder at His insisting on this need. As there is an absolute necessity on God's part that man should be thus born anew, so He lets him know there is an active grace of the Spirit, as the wind blows where it will, unknown and uncontrolled by man, for every one that is born of the Spirit, who is sovereign in operation. First, a new nature is insisted on the Holy Ghost's quickening of each soul who is vitally related to God's kingdom; next, the Spirit of God takes an active part not as source or character only, but acting sovereignly, which opens the way not only for a Jew, but for "every one." (VersesJohn 3:7-8; John 3:7-8)

It is hardly necessary to furnish detailed disproof of the crude, ill-considered notion (originated by the fathers), that baptism is in question. In truth, Christian baptism did not yet exist, but only such as the disciples used, like John the Baptist; it was not instituted of Christ till after His resurrection, as it sets forth His death. Had it been meant, it was no wonder that Nicodemus did not know how these things could be. But the Lord reproaches him, the master of Israel, with not knowing these things: that is, as a teacher, with Israel for his scholar, he ought to have known them objectively, at least, if not consciously. Isaiah 44:3; Isaiah 44:3, Isaiah 59:21, Ezekiel 36:25-27 ought to have made the Lord's meaning plain to an intelligent Jew. (Verse John 3:10)

The Lord, it is true, could and did go farther than the prophets: even if He taught on the same theme, He could speak with conscious divine dignity and knowledge (not merely what was assigned to an instrument or messenger). "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven." (Verses John 3:11-13) He (and He was not alone here) knew God, and the things of God, consciously in Himself, as surely as He knew all men, and what was in man objectively. He could, therefore, tell them of heavenly things as readily as of earthly things; but the incredulity about the latter, shown in the wondering ignorance of the new birth as a requisite for God's kingdom, proved it was useless to tell of the former. For He who spoke was divine. Nobody had gone up to heaven: God had taken more than one; but no one had gone there as of right. Jesus not only could go up, as He did later, but He had come down thence, and, even though man, He was the Son of man that is in heaven. He is a divine person; His manhood brought no attainder to His rights as God. Heavenly things, therefore, could not but be natural to Him, if one may so say.

Here the Lord introduces the cross. (Ver. John 3:14-15; John 3:14-15) It is not a question simply of the Son of God, nor is He spoken of here as the Word made flesh. But "as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must ( δεῖ ) the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life." As the new birth for the kingdom of God, so the cross is absolutely necessary for eternal life. In the Word was life, and the life was the light of men. It was not intended for other beings it was God's free gift to man, to the believer, of course. Man, dead in sins, was the object of His grace; but then man's state was such, that it would have been derogatory to God had that life been communicated without the cross of Christ: the Son of man lifted up on it was the One in whom God dealt judicially with the evil estate of man, for the, full consequences of which He made Himself responsible. It would not suit God, if it would suit man, that He, seeing all, should just pronounce on man's corruption, and then forthwith let him off with a bare pardon. One must be born again. But even this sufficed not: the Son of man must be lifted up. It was impossible that there should not be righteous dealing with human evil against God, in its sources and its streams. Accordingly, if the law raised the question of righteousness in man, the cross of the Lord Jesus, typifying Him made sin, is the answer; and there has all been settled to the glory of God, the Lord Jesus having suffered all the inevitable consequences. Hence, then, we have the Lord Jesus alluding to this fresh necessity, if man was to be blessed according to God. "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life." But this, however worthy of God, and indispensable for man, could not of itself give an adequate expression of what God is; because in this alone, neither His own love nor the glory of His Son finds due display.

Hence, after having first unmistakably laid down the necessity of the cross, He next shows the grace that was manifested in the gift of Jesus. Here He is not portrayed as the Son of man who must be lifted up, but as the Son of God who was given. "For God," He says, "so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life." The one, like the other, contributes to this great end, whether the Son of man necessarily lifted up, or the only begotten Son of God given in His love. (Verse John 3:16)

Let it not be passed by, that while the new birth or regeneration is declared to be essential to a part in the kingdom of God, the Lord in urging this intimates that He had not gone beyond the earthly things of that kingdom. Heavenly things are set in evident contradistinction, and link themselves immediately here, as everywhere, with the cross as their correlative. (See Hebrews 12:2, Hebrews 13:11-13) Again, let me just remark in passing, that although, no doubt, we may in a general way speak of those who partake of the new nature as having that life, yet the Holy Ghost refrains from predicating of any saints the full character of eternal life as a present thing until we have the cross of Christ laid (at least doctrinally) as the ground of it. But when the Lord speaks of His cross, and not God's judicial requirements only, but the gift of Himself in His true personal glory as the occasion for the grace of God to display itself to the utmost, then, and not till then, do we hear of eternal life, and this connected with both these points of view. The chapter pursues this subject, showing that it is not only God who thus deals first, with the necessity of man before His own immutable nature; next, blessing according to the riches of His grace but, further, that man's state morally is detected yet more awfully in presence of such grace as well as holiness in Christ. "For God sent not his Son into the world to judge the world; but that the world through him might be saved." (Ver. John 3:17; John 3:17) This decides all before the execution of judgment, Every man's lot is made manifest by his attitude toward God's testimony concerning His Son. "He that believeth on him is not judged: but he that believeth not is judged already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (Ver. John 3:19; John 3:19) Other things, the merest trifles, may serve to indicate a man's condition; but a new responsibility is created by this infinite display of divine goodness in Christ, and the evidence is decisive and final, that the unbeliever is already judged before God. "And this is the judgment, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God." (VersesJohn 3:20-21; John 3:20-21)

The Lord and the disciples are next seen in the country district, not far, it would seem, from John, who was baptizing as they were. The disciples of John dispute with a Jew about purification; but John himself renders a bright witness to the glory of the Lord Jesus. In vain did any come to the Baptist to report the widening circle around Christ. He bows to, as he explains, the sovereign will of God. He reminds them of his previous disclaimer of any place beyond one sent before Jesus. His joy was that of a friend of the Bridegroom (to whom, not to him, the bride belonged), and now fulfilled as he heard the Bridegroom's voice. "He must, increase, but I decrease." Blessed servant he of an infinitely blessed and blessing Master! Then (ver. John 3:31-36) he speaks of His person in contrast with himself and all; of His testimony and of the result, both as to His own glory, and consequently also for the believer on, and the rejecter of, the Son. He that comes from above from heaven is above all. Such was Jesus in person, contrasted with all who belong to the earth. Just as distinct and beyond comparison is His testimony who, coming from heaven and above all, testifies what He saw and heard, however it might be rejected. But see the blessed fruit of receiving it. "He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true. For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him." I apprehend the words the Authorised Version gives in italics should disappear. The addition of "unto him" detracts, to my mind, from the exceeding preciousness of what seems to be, at least, left open. For the astonishing thought is, not merely that Jesus receives the Holy Ghost without measure, but that God gives the Spirit also, and not by measure, through Him to others. In the beginning of the chapter it was rather an essential indispensable action of the Holy Ghost required; here it is the privilege of the Holy Ghost given. No doubt Jesus Himself had the Holy Ghost given to Him, as it was meet that He in all things should have the pre-eminence; but it shows yet more both the personal glory of Christ and the efficacy of His work, that He now gives the same Spirit to those who receive His testimony, and set to their seal that God is true. How singularly is the glory of the Lord Jesus thus viewed, as invested with the testimony of God and its crown! What more glorious proof than that the Holy Ghost is given not a certain defined power or gift, but the Holy Ghost Himself; for God gives not the Spirit by measure!

All is fitly closed by the declaration, that "the Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand." It is not merely or most of all a great prophet or witness: He is the Son; and the Father has given all things to be in His hand. There is the nicest care to maintain His personal glory, no matter what the subject may be. The results for the believer or unbeliever are eternal in good or in evil. He that believes on the Son has everlasting life; and he that disobeys the Son, in the sense of not being subject to His person, "shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" Such is the issue of the Son of God present in this world an everlasting one for every man, flowing from the glory of His person, the character of His testimony, and the Father's counsels respecting Him. The effect is thus final, even as His person, witness, and glory are divine.

The chapters we have had before us (John 1:1-51; John 2:1-25; John 3:1-36) are thus evidently an introduction: God revealed not in the Word alone, but in the Word made flesh, in the Son who declared the Father; His work, as God's Lamb, for the world, and His power by the Holy Ghost in man; then viewed as the centre of gathering, as the path to follow, and as the object even for the attendance of God's angels, the heaven being opened, and Jesus not the Son of God and King of Israel only, but the Son of man object of God's counsels. This will be displayed in the millennium, when the marriage will be celebrated, as well as the judgment executed (Jerusalem and its temple being the central point then). This, of course, supposes the setting aside of Jerusalem, its people and house, as they now are, and is justified by the great fact of Christ's death and resurrection, which is the key to all, though not yet intelligible even to the disciples. This brings in the great counterpart truth, that even God present on earth and made flesh is not enough. Man is morally judged. One must be born again for God's kingdom a Jew for what was promised him, like another. But the Spirit would not confine His operations to such bounds, but go out freely like the wind. Nor would the rejected Christ, the Son of man; for if lifted up on the cross, instead of having the throne of David, the result would be not merely earthly blessing for His people according to prophecy, but eternal life for the believer, whoever. he might be; and this, too, as the expression of the true and full grace of God in His only-begotten Son given. John then declared his own waning before Christ, as we have seen, the issues of whose testimony, believed or not, are eternal; and this founded on the revelation of His glorious person as man and to man here below.

John 4:1-54 presents the Lord Jesus outside Jerusalem outside the people of promise among Samaritans, with whom Jews had no intercourse. Pharisaic jealousy had wrought; and Jesus, wearied, sat thus at the fountain of Jacob's well in Sychar. (Ver. John 4:1-6; John 4:1-6) What a picture of rejection and humiliation! Nor was it yet complete. For if, on the one side, God has taken care to let us see already the glory of the Son, and the grace of which He was full, on the other side, all shines out the more marvellously when we know how He dealt with a woman of Samaria, sinful and degraded. Here was a meeting, indeed, between such an one and Him, the Son, true God and eternal life. Grace begins, glory descends; "Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink." (VerseJohn 4:1; John 4:1) It was strange to her that a Jew should thus humble himself: what would it have been, had she seen in Him Jesus the Son of God? "Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water." (VerseJohn 4:10; John 4:10) Infinite grace! infinite truth! and the more manifest from His lips to one who was a real impersonation of sin, misery, blindness, degradation. But this is not the question of grace: not what she was, but what He is who was there to win and bless her, manifesting God and the Father withal, practically and in detail. Surely He was there, a weary man outside Judaism; but God, the God of all grace, who humbled Himself to ask a drink of water of her, that He might give the richest and most enduring gift, even water which, once drank, leaves no thirst for ever and ever yea, is in him who drinks a fountain of water springing up unto everlasting life. Thus the Holy Ghost, given by the Son in humiliation (according to God, not acting on law, but according to the gift of grace in the gospel), was fully set forth; but the woman, though interested, and asking, only apprehended a boon for this life to save herself trouble here below. This gives occasion to Jesus to teach us the lesson that conscience must be reached, and sense of sin produced, before grace is understood and brings forth fruit. This He does in verses 16-19. Her life is laid before her by His voice, and she confesses to Him that God Himself spoke to her in His words: "Sir [said she], I perceive that thou art a prophet." If she turned aside to questions of religion, with a mixture of desire to learn what had concerned and perplexed her, and of willingness to escape such a searching of her ways and heart, He did not refrain graciously to vouchsafe the revelation of God, that earthly worship was doomed, that the Father was to be worshipped, not an Unknown. And while He does not hide the privilege of the Jews, He nevertheless proclaims that "the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." This brings all to a point; for the woman says, "I know that Messiah cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things." And Jesus answers, "I that speak unto thee am he." The disciples come; the woman goes into the city, leaving her waterpot, but carrying with her the unspeakable gift of God. Her testimony bore the impress of what had penetrated her soul, and would make way for all the rest in due time. "Come, see a man that told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?" "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God." It was much, yet was it little of the glory that was His; but at least it was real; and to the one that has shall be given. (Verses John 4:20-30)

The disciples marvelled that He spoke with the woman. How little they conceived of what was then said and done! "Master, eat," said they. "But He said to them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of." They entered not into His words more than His grace, but thought and spoke, like the Samaritan woman, about things of this life. Jesus explains: "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. And herein is that true saying, One soweth, and another reapeth. I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours." (Verses John 4:31-38)

Thus a despised Christ is not merely a crucified Son of man, and given Son of God, as in John 3:1-36, but Himself a divine giver in communion with the Father, and in the power of the Holy Ghost who is given to the believer, the source of worship, as their God and Father is its object for the worshippers in spirit and truth (though surely not to the exclusion of the Son, Hebrews 1:1-14). So it must be now; for God is revealed; and the Father in grace seeks true worshippers (be they Samaritans or Jews) to worship Him. Here, accordingly, it is not so much the means by which life is communicated, as the revelation of the full blessing of grace and communion with the Father and His Son by the Holy Ghost, in whom we are blessed. Hence it is that here the Son, according to the grace of God the Father, gives the Holy Ghost eternal life in the power of the Spirit. It is not simply the new birth such as a saint might, and always must, have had, in order to vital relations with God at any time. Here, in suited circumstances to render the thought and way of God unmistakable, pure and boundless grace takes its own sovereign course, suitable to the love and personal glory of Christ. For if the Son (cast out, we may say, in principle from Judaism) visited Samaria, and deigned to talk with one of the most worthless of that worthless race, it could not be a mere rehearsal of what others did. Not Jacob was there, but the Son of God in nothing but grace; and thus to the Samaritan woman, not to the teachers of Israel, are made those wonderful communications which unfold to us with incomparable depth and beauty the real source, power, and character of that worship which supersedes, not merely schismatic and rebellious Samaria, but Judaism at its best. For evidently it is the theme of worship in its Christian fulness, the fruit of the manifestation of God, and of the Father known in grace. And worship is viewed both in moral nature and in the joy of communion doubly. First, we must worship, if at all, in spirit and in truth. This is indispensable; for God is a Spirit, and so it cannot but be. Besides this, goodness overflows, in that the Father is gathering children, and making worshippers. The Father seeks worshippers. What love! In short, the riches of God's grace are here according to the glory of the Son, and in the power of the Holy Ghost. Hence the Lord, while fully owning the labours of all preceding labourers, has before His eyes the whole boundless expanse of grace, the mighty harvest which His apostles were to reap in due time. It is thus strikingly an anticipation of the result in glory. Meanwhile, for Christian worship, the hour was coming and in principle come, because He was there; and He who vindicated salvation as of the Jews, proves that it is now for Samaritans, or any who believed on account of His word. Without sign, prodigy, or miracle, in this village of Samaria Jesus was heard, known, confessed as truly the Saviour of the world ("the Christ" being absent in the best authorities, ver. 42). The Jews, with all their privileges, were strangers here. They knew what they worshipped, but not the Father, nor were they "true." No such sounds, no such realities were ever heard or known in Israel. How were they not enjoyed in despised Samaria those two days with the Son of God among them! It was meet that so it should be; for, as a question of right, none could claim; and grace surpasses all expectation or thought of man, most of all of men accustomed to a round of religious ceremonial. Christ did not wait till the time was fully come for the old things to pass away, and all to be made new. His own love and person were warrant enough for the simple to lift the veil for a season, and fill the hearts which had received Himself into the conscious enjoyment of divine grace, and of Him who revealed it to them. It was but preliminary, of course; still it was a deep reality, the then present grace in the person of the Son, the Saviour of the world, who filled their once dark hearts with light and joy.

The close of the chapter shows us the Lord in Galilee. But there was this difference from the former occasion, that, at the marriage in Cana (John 2:1-25), the change of the water into wine was clearly millennial in its typical aspect. The healing of the courtier's son, sick and ready to die, is witness of what the Lord was actually doing among the despised of Israel. It is there that we found the Lord, in the other synoptic gospels, fulfilling His ordinary ministry. John gives us this point of contact with them, though in an incident peculiar to himself. It is our evangelist's way of indicating His Galilean sojourn; and this miracle is the particular subject that John was led by the Holy Ghost to take up. Thus, as in the former case the Lord's dealing in Galilee was a type of the future, this appears to be significant of His then present path of grace in that despised quarter of the land. The looking for signs and wonders is rebuked; but mortality is arrested. His corporeal presence was not necessary; His word was enough. The contrasts are as strong, at least, as the resemblance with the healing of the centurion's servant in Matthew 13:1-58 and Luke 7:1-50, which some ancients and moderns have confounded with this, as they did Mary's anointing of Jesus with the sinful woman's in Luke 7:1-50.

One of the peculiarities of our gospel is, that we see the Lord from time to time (and, indeed, chiefly) in or near Jerusalem. This is the more striking, because, as we have seen, the world and Israel, rejecting Him, are also themselves, as such, rejected from the first. The truth is, the design of manifesting His glory governs all; place or people was a matter of no consequence.

Here (John 5:1-47) the first view given of Christ is His person in contrast with the law. Man, under law, proved powerless; and the greater the need, the less the ability to avail himself of such merciful intervention as God still, from time to time, kept up throughout the legal system. The same God who did not leave Himself without witness among the heathen, doing good, and giving from heaven rain and fruitful seasons, did not fail, in the low estate of the Jews, to work by providential power at intervals; and, by the troubled waters of Bethesda, invited the sick, and healed the first who stepped in of whatever disease he had. In the five porches, then, of this pool lay a great multitude of sick, blind, lame, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. But there was a man who had been infirm for thirty and eight years. Jesus saw the man, and knowing that he was long thus, prompts the desire of healing, but brings out the despondency of unbelief. How truly it is man under law! Not only is there no healing to be extracted from the law by a sinner, but the law makes more evident the disease, if it does not also aggravate the symptoms. The law works no deliverance; it puts a man in chains, prison, darkness, and under condemnation; it renders him a patient, or a criminal incompetent to avail himself of the displays of God's goodness. God never left Himself without witness; He did not even among the Gentiles, surely yet less in Israel. Still, such is the effect on man under law, that he could not take advantage of an adequate remedy. (Verses John 5:1-7)

On the other hand, the Lord speaks but the word: "Rise, take up thy couch and walk." The result immediately follows. It was sabbath-day. The Jews, then, who could not help, and pitied not their fellow in his long infirmity and disappointment, are scandalized to see him, safe and sound, carrying his couch on that day. But they learn that it was his divine Physician who had not only healed, but so directed him. At once their malice drops the beneficent power of God in the case, provoked at the fancied wrong done to the seventh day. (VersesJohn 5:8-12; John 5:8-12)

But were the Jews mistaken after all in thinking that the seal of the first covenant was virtually broken in that deliberate word and warranty of Jesus? He could have healed the man without the smallest outward act to shock their zeal for the law. Expressly had He told the man to take up his couch and walk, as well as to rise. There was purpose in it. There was sentence of death pronounced on their system, and they felt accordingly. The man could not tell the Jews the name of his benefactor. But Jesus finds him in the temple, and said, "Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee." The man went off, and told the Jews that it was Jesus: and for this they persecuted Him, because He had done these things on the sabbath. (Verses John 5:13-16)

A graver issue, however, was to be tried; for Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. For this, therefore, the Jews sought the more to kill Him; because He added the greater offence of making Himself equal with God, by saying that God was His own Father. (Verses John 5:17-18)

Thus, in His person, as well as in His work, they joined issue. Nor could any question be more momentous. If He spoke the truth, they were blasphemers. But how precious the grace, in presence of their hatred and proud self-complacency! "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." They had no common thoughts, feelings, or ways with the Father and the Son. Were the Jews zealously keeping the sabbath? The Father and the Son were at work. How could either light or love rest in a scene of sin, darkness, and misery?

Did they charge Jesus with self-exaltation? No charge could be remoter from the truth. Though He could not, would not deny Himself (and He was the Son, and Word, and God), yet had He taken the place of a man, of a servant. Jesus, therefore, answered, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and showeth him all things that himself doeth: and he will show him greater works than these, that ye may marvel. For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment." (Ver. John 5:19-29)

It is evident, then, that the Lord presents life in Himself as the true want of man, who was not merely infirm but dead. Law, means, ordinances, could not meet the need no pool, nor angel nothing but the Son working in grace, the Son quickening. Governmental healing even from Him might only end in "some worse thing" coming. through "sin." Life out of death was wanted by man, such as he is; and this the Father is giving in the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son hath not the Father; he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also. This is the truth; but the Jews had the law, and hated the truth. Could they, then, reject the Son, and merely miss this infinite blessing of life in Him? Nay, the Father has given all judgment to the Son. He will have all honour the Son, even as Himself

And as life is in the person of the Son, so God in sending Him meant not that the smallest uncertainty should exist for aught so momentous. He would have every soul to know assuredly how he stands for eternity as well as now. There is but one unfailing test the Son of God God's testimony to Him. Therefore, it seems to me, He adds verse 24. It is not a question of the law, but of hearing Christ's word, and believing Him who sent Christ: he that does so has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment; but is passed from death unto life. The Word, God (and only begotten Son in the Father's bosom), He was eternally Son of God, too, as born into the world. Was this false and blasphemous in their eyes? They could not deny Him to be man Son of man. Nay, therefore it was they, reasoning, denied Him to be God. Let them learn, then, that as Son of man (for which nature they despised Him, and denied His essential personal glory) He will judge; and this judgment will be no passing visitation, such as God has accomplished by angels or men in times past. The judgment, all of it, whether for quick or dead, is consigned to Him, because He is Son of man. Such is God's vindication of His outraged rights; and the judgment will be proportionate to the glory that has been set at nought.

Thus solemnly does the meek Lord Jesus unfold these two truths. In Him was life for this scene of death; and it is of faith that it might be by grace. This only secures His honour in those that believe God's testimony to Him, the Son of God; and to these He gives life, everlasting life now, and exemption from judgment, in this acting in communion with the Father. And in this He is sovereign. The Son gives life, as the Father does; and not merely to whom the Father will, but to whom He will. Nevertheless the Son had taken the place of being the sent One, the place of subordination in the earth, in which He would say, "My Father is greater than I." And He did accept that place thoroughly, and in all its consequences. But let them beware how they perverted it. Granted He was the Son of man; but as such, He had all judgment given Him, and would judge. Thus in one way or the other all must honour the Son. The Father did not judge, but committed all judgment into the hands of the Son, because He is the Son of man. It was not the time now to demonstrate in public power these coming, yea, then present truths. The hour was one for faith, or unbelief. Did the dead (for so men are treated, not as alive under law) did they hear the voice of the Son of God? Such shall live. For though the Son (that eternal life who was with the Father) was a man, in that very position had the Father given Him to have life in Himself, and to execute judgment also, because He is Son of man. Judgment is the alternative for man: for God it is the resource to make good the glory of the Son, and in that nature, in and for which man blind to his own highest dignity dares to despise Him. Two resurrections, one of life, and another of judgment, would be the manifestation of faith and unbelief, or rather, of those who believe, and of those who reject the Son. They were not to wonder then at what He says and does now; for an hour was coming in which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; those that have done good to resurrection of life, and those that have done evil to resurrection of judgment. This would make all manifest. Now it is that the great question is decided; now it is that a man receives or refuses Christ. If he receives Him, it is everlasting life, and Christ is thus honoured by him; if not, judgment remains which will compel the honour of Christ, but to his own ruin for ever. Resurrection will be the proof; the two-fold rising of the dead, not one, but two resurrections. Life resurrection will display how little they had to be ashamed of, who believed the record given of His Son; the resurrection of judgment will make but too plain, to those who despised the Lord, both His honour and their sin and shame.

As this chapter sets forth the Lord Jesus with singular fulness of glory, on the side both of His Godhead and of His manhood, so it closes with the most varied and remarkable testimonies God has given to us, that there may be no excuse. So bright was His glory, so concerned was the Father in maintaining it, so immense the blessing if received, so tremendous the stake involved in its loss, that God vouchsafed the amplest and clearest witnesses. If He judges, it is not without full warning. Accordingly there is a four-fold testimony to Jesus: the testimony of John the Baptist; the Lord's own works; the voice of the Father from heaven; and finally, the written word which the Jews had in their own hands. To this last the Lord attaches the deepest importance. This testimony differs from the rest in having a more permanent character. Scripture is, or may be, before man always. It is not a message or a sign, however significant at the moment, which passes away as soon as heard or seen. As a weapon of conviction, most justly had it in the mind of the Lord Jesus the weightiest place, little as man thinks now-a-days of it. The issue of all is, that the will of man is the real cause and spring of enmity. "Ye will not come to me that ye might have life." it was no lack of testimony; their will was for present honour, and hostile to the glory of the only God. They would fall a prey to Antichrist, and meanwhile are accused of Moses, in whom they trusted, without believing him; else they would have believed Christ, of whom he wrote.

In John 6:1-71 our Lord sets aside Israel in another point of view. Not only man under law has no health, but he has no strength to avail himself of the blessing that God holds out. Nothing less than everlasting life in Christ can deliver: otherwise there remains judgment. Here the Lord was really owned by the multitudes as the great Prophet that should come; and this in consequence of His works, especially that one which Scripture itself had connected with the Son of David. (Psalms 132:1-18) Then they wanted to make Him a king. It seemed natural: He had fed the poor with bread, and why should not He take His place on the throne? This the Lord refuses, and goes up the mountain to pray, His disciples being meanwhile exposed to a storm on the lake, and straining after the desired haven till He rejoins them, when immediately the ship was at the land whither they went. (VersesJohn 6:1-21; John 6:1-21)

The Lord, in the latter part of the chapter (verses John 6:27-58), contrasts the presentation of the truth of God in His person and work with all that pertained to the promises of Messiah. It is not that He denies the truth of what they were thus desiring and attached to. Indeed, He was the great Prophet, as He was the great King, and as He is now the great Priest on high. Still the Lord refused the crown then: it was not the time or state for His reign. Deeper questions demanded solution. A greater work was in hand; and this, as the rest of the chapter shows us, not a Messiah lifted up, but the true bread given He who comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world; a dying, not a reigning, Son of man. It is His person as incarnate first, then in redemption giving His flesh to be eaten and His blood to be drank. Thus former things pass away; the old man is judged, dead, and clean gone. A second and wholly new man appears the bread of God, not of man, but for men. The character is wholly different from the position and glory of Messiah in Israel, according to promise and prophecy. Indeed, it is the total eclipse, not merely of law and remedial mercies, but even of promised Messianic glory, by everlasting life and resurrection at the last day. Christ here, it will be noticed, is not so much the quickening agent as Son of God (John 5:1-47), but the object of faith as Son of man first incarnate, to be eaten; then dying and giving His flesh to be eaten, and His blood to be drank. Thus we feed on Him and drink into Him, as man, unto life everlasting life in Him.

This last is the figure of a truth deeper than incarnation, and clearly means communion with His death. They had stumbled before, and the Lord brought in not alone His person, as the Word made flesh, presented for man now to receive and enjoy; but unless they ate the flesh, and drank the blood of the Son of man, they had no life in them. There He supposes His full rejection and death. He speaks of Himself as the Son of man in death; for there could be no eating of His flesh, no drinking of His blood, as a living man. Thus it is not only the person of our Lord viewed as divine, and coming down into the world. He who, living, was received for eternal life, is our meat and drink in dying, and gives us communion with His death. Thus, in fact, we have the Lord setting aside what was merely Messianic by the grand truths of the incarnation, and, above all, of the atonement, with which man must have vital association: he must eat yea, eat and drink. This language is said of both, but most strongly of the latter. And so, in fact, it was and is. He who owns the reality of Christ's incarnation, receives most thankfully and adoringly from God the truth of redemption; he, on the contrary, who stumbles at redemption, has not really taken in the incarnation according to God's mind. If a man looks at the Lord Jesus as One who entered the world in a general way, and calls this the incarnation, he will surely stumble over the cross. If, on the contrary, a soul has been taught of God the glory of the person of Him who was made flesh, he receives in all simplicity, and rejoices in, the glorious truth, that He who was made flesh was not made flesh only to this end, but rather as a step toward another and deeper work the glorifying God, and becoming our food, in death. Such are the grand emphatic points to which the Lord leads.

But the chapter does not close without a further contrast. (Verses John 6:59-71) What and if they should see Him, who came down and died in this world, ascend up where He was before? All is in the character of the Son of man. The Lord Jesus did, without question, take humanity in His person into that glory which He so well knew as the Son of the Father.

On this basisJohn 7:1-53; John 7:1-53 proceeds. The brethren of the Lord Jesus, who could see the astonishing power that was in Him, but whose hearts were carnal, at once discerned that it might be an uncommon good thing for them, as well as for Him, in this world. It was worldliness in its worst shape, even to the point of turning the glory of Christ to a present account. Why should He not show Himself to the world? (Verses John 7:3-5) The Lord intimates the impossibility of anticipating the time of God; but then He does it as connected with His own personal glory. Then He rebukes the carnality of His brethren. If His time was not yet come, their time was always ready. (Ver. John 7:6-8) They belonged to the world. They spoke of the world; the world might hear them. As to Himself, He does not go at that time to the feast of tabernacles; but later on He goes up "not openly, but as it were in secret" (verseJohn 7:10; John 7:10), and taught. They wonder, as they had murmured before (John 7:12-15); but Jesus shows that the desire to do God's will is the condition of spiritual understanding. (Verses John 7:16-18) , The Jews kept not the law) and wished to kill Him who healed man in divine love. (Verses John 7:19-23) What judgment could be less righteous? (Ver. John 7:24) They reason and are in utter uncertainty. (Ver. John 7:25-31) He is going where they cannot come, and never guessed (for unbelief thinks of the dispersed among the Greeks of anything rather than of God). (VersesJohn 7:33-36; John 7:33-36) Jesus was returning to Him that sent Him, and the Holy Ghost would be given. So on the last day, that great day of the feast (the eighth day, which witnessed of a resurrection glory outside this creation, now to be made good in the power of the Spirit before anything appears to sight), the Lord stands and cries, saying, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink." (Ver. John 7:37) It is not a question of eating the bread of God, or, when Christ died, of eating His flesh and drinking His blood. Here, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink." Just as in John 4:1-54, so here it is a question of power in the Holy Ghost, and not simply of Christ's person. "He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." (Ver. John 7:38; John 7:38) And then we have the comment of the Holy Ghost: "(But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified)" There is, first, the thirsty soul coming to Jesus and drinking; then there is the power of the Spirit flowing forth from the inner man of the believer in refreshment to others. (Verse John 7:39)

Nothing can be simpler than this. Details are not called for now, but just the outline of the truth. But what we learn is, that our Lord (viewed as having entered into heaven as man on the ground of redemption, i.e., ascended, after having passed through death, into glory) from that glory confers meanwhile the Holy Ghost on him that believes, instead of bringing in at once the final feast of gladness for the Jews and the world, as He will do by-and-by when the anti-typical harvest and vintage has been fulfilled. Thus it is not the Spirit of God simply giving a new nature; neither is it the Holy Ghost given as the power of worship and communion with His God and Father. This we have had fully before. Now, it is the Holy Ghost in the power that gives rivers of living water flowing out, and this bound up with, and consequent on, His being man in glory. Till then the Holy Ghost could not be so given only when Jesus was glorified, after redemption was a fact. What can be more evident, or more instructive? It is the final setting aside of Judaism then, whose characteristic hope was the display of power and rest in the world. But here these streams of the Spirit are substituted for the feast of tabernacles, which cannot be accomplished till Christ come from heaven and show Himself to the world; for this time was not yet come. Rest is not the question now at all; but the flow of the Spirit's power while Jesus is on high. In a certain sense, the principle of John 4:1-54 was made true in the woman of Samaria, and in others who received Christ then. The person of the Son was there the object of divine and overflowing joy even then, although, of course, in the full sense of the word, the Holy Ghost might not be given to be the power of it for some time later; but still the object of worship was there revealing the Father; butJohn 7:1-53; John 7:1-53 supposes Him to be gone up to heaven, before He from heaven communicates the Holy Ghost, who should be (not here, as Israel had a rock with water to drink of in the wilderness outside themselves, nor even as a fountain springing up within the believer, but) as rivers flowing out. How blessed the contrast with the people's state depicted in this chapter, tossed about by every wind of doctrine, looking to "letters," rulers, and Pharisees, perplexed about the Christ, but without righteous judgment, assurance, or enjoyment! Nicodemus remonstrates but is spurned; all retire to their home Jesus, who had none, to the mount of Olives. (Verses John 7:40-53)

This closes the various aspects of the Lord Jesus, completely blotting out Judaism, viewed as resting in a system of law and ordinances, as looking to a Messiah with present ease, and as hoping for the display of Messianic glory then in the world. The Lord Jesus presents Himself as putting an end to all this now for the Christian, though, of course, every word God has promised, as well as threatened, remains to be accomplished in Israel by-and-by; for Scripture cannot be broken; and what the mouth of the Lord has said awaits its fulfilment in its due sphere and season.

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Bibliographical Information
Kelly, William. "Commentary on John 5:4". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. 1860-1890.