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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

John 8:57

So the Jews said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?"
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Blindness;   Jesus Continued;   Self-Righteousness;   The Topic Concordance - Knowledge;  
Dictionaries:
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Jesus christ;   John, gospel of;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Jesus Christ;   Word;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Jesus Christ;   Marriage;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Abraham;   Consciousness;   Creator (Christ as);   Dates (2);   Death of Christ;   Deceit, Deception, Guile;   Error;   Jews;  

Clarke's Commentary

Verse John 8:57. Thou art not yet fifty years old — Some MSS. read forty. The age of our blessed Lord has never been properly determined. Some of the primitive fathers believed that he was fifty years old when he was crucified; but their foundation, which is no other than these words of the Jews, is but a very uncertain one. Calmet thinks that our Lord was at this time about thirty-four years and ten months old, and that he was crucified about the middle of his thirty-sixth year; and asserts that the vulgar era is three years too late. On the other hand, some allow him to have been but thirty-one years old, and that his ministry had lasted but one year. Many opinions on this subject, which are scarcely worthy of being copied, may be found in Calmet.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on John 8:57". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/john-8.html. 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

91. True freedom; true sonship (John 8:31-59)

Jesus used an illustration from slavery to show the people how he could help them in their need. They all knew that slaves could not free themselves. The only person who could free them was the owner of the house in which the slave worked, or the owner’s son, acting on his father’s authority. The Jews were slaves, in bondage to sin and unable to free themselves. The only one who could free them was God, acting through his Son Jesus. They would find their true freedom through faith in Jesus and continual obedience to his teaching. Again the Jews did not understand the spiritual truth Jesus was illustrating. Thinking only of ordinary earthly life, they argued that they had never been slaves of any nation. They had the freedom of sons, Abraham’s sons (John 8:31-36).

To explain further, Jesus told his Jewish hearers that spiritually they were not sons of Abraham at all, but sons of the devil. They were trying to kill Jesus, and murder was a characteristic inherited from their spiritual father the devil, not from their earthly father Abraham (John 8:37-40).

Beginning at last to see that Jesus was applying the illustration to their relationship with God, the Jews argued with him accordingly, but again they missed his meaning. They thought, perhaps, that he was accusing them of being like the Samaritans, who were of mixed blood and mixed religion. They assured him that they were pure sons of Abraham nationally and pure sons of God spiritually (John 8:41). Jesus responded that if God was their Father they would welcome his Son as their Messiah, not try to kill him. They would believe his teaching, not dispute it. Truly, their father was not God, but the devil (John 8:42-47).

The Jews gave further proof that God was not their Father when they insulted his Son and so guaranteed God’s judgment upon them. The Son is not concerned with gaining honour for himself. His chief concerns are to give honour to the Father on the one hand, and life to believers on the other (John 8:48-51). The Jews objected that Jesus was boasting to be greater than Abraham. Jesus replied that he was not boasting but merely telling the truth: he was united with God (John 8:52-55).

As for Abraham, he himself acknowledged Jesus to be greater by rejoicing when he foresaw the coming of the Messiah. The Jews objected that Jesus could not know Abraham’s thoughts, because Abraham had died hundreds of years before Jesus was born. They were angered more when Jesus said that he existed even before Abraham. Jesus is the eternal God. The Jews considered such a claim to be blasphemy and immediately but unsuccessfully tried to kill him (John 8:56-59).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on John 8:57". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/john-8.html. 2005.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

The Jews therefore said unto him, Thou art not fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was born, I am.

Hast thou seen Abraham ... Certainly, Jesus had seen Moses and Elijah (Matthew 17:1ff); and there is more than a possibility that he had similarly seen Abraham during his personal ministry, but Jesus answered by an affirmation even more wonderful than that, declaring that he existed before Abraham was born.

The majestic "I AM" with which Jesus concluded this confrontation suggests God's "I AM THAT I AM" (Exodus 3:14), and there can be no reasonable denial that Jesus here claimed equality with God. See my Commentary on Romans, p. 315. A check of the teachings in this chapter reveals that Jesus presented himself as one with Almighty God no less than a dozen times. Fittingly, it should be concluded with the greatest of John's "I am's," but which, for some incredible reason, is never listed in the "seven"!

Copyright Statement
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on John 8:57". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/john-8.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Fifty years old - Jesus is supposed to have been at this time about the age of 33. It is remarkable that when he was so young they should have mentioned the number 50, but they probably designed to prevent the possibility of a reply. Had they said 40 they might have apprehended a reply, or could not be so certain that they were correct.

Hast thou seen Abraham? - It is remarkable, also, that they perverted his words. His affirmation was not that he had seen Abraham, but that Abraham had seen his day. The design of Jesus was to show that he was greater than Abraham, John 8:53. To do this, he says that Abraham, great as he was, earnestly desired to see his time, thus acknowledging his inferiority to the Messiah. The Jews perverted this, and affirmed that it was impossible that he and Abraham should have seen each other.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on John 8:57". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/john-8.html. 1870.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

57. Thou art not yet fifty years old. They endeavor to refute Christ’s saying, by showing that he had asserted what was impossible, when he who was not yet fifty years of age makes himself equal to Abraham, who died many centuries before. Though Christ was not yet thirty-four years of age, yet they allow him to be somewhat older, that they may not appear to be too rigid and exact in dealing with him; as if they had said, “Thou certainly wilt not make thyself so old, though thou wert to boast that thou art already fifty years of age. ” Consequently, those who conjecture that he looked older than he actually was, or that the years mentioned in this passage are not solar years, in either case labor to no purpose. The notion of Papias, who says that Christ lived more than forty years, cannot at all be admitted.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on John 8:57". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/john-8.html. 1840-57.

Smith's Bible Commentary

Chapter 8

Now Jesus went unto the Mount of Olives. And early in the morning he came again to the temple ( John 8:1-2 ),

Now the feast is over, but Jesus is returning to the temple on the next day.

and all of the people came on to him; and he sat down, and taught them ( John 8:2 ).

I told you this morning that the rabbi always sat when he talked.

And the scribes and the Pharisees brought unto him a women taken in adultery; and when they sat her in the midst, they said unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act ( John 8:3-4 ).

We caught her in the very act.

Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what do you say? And this they said, tempting him, that they might have an occasion to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he did not even hear them. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and he said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they were surded, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the women standing there in the midst ( John 8:5-9 ).

Now, I have a couple of...well, I have one problem with this, and then a comment. The problem: where was the man? Because they caught them in the very act. And according to the law of Moses they were both to be stoned. Why did they only bring the woman if they were caught in the act? So there was an injustice at the very onset, in their own judgments. They should have brought the man too. The question: what was Jesus writing there in the sand? Now, of course, the scripture doesn't tell us, so we can guess. My guess is that starting with the oldest of those Pharisees in the crowd, who were really pushing Him and challenging, "Our law says stone her, what do you say?" you know. And here was ole Levi, the old man, pressing the point, and so Jesus probably wrote in the sand the name Levi. And then, "Last Tuesday at two in the afternoon, why were you," and started writing out what Levi was doing the other day at two in the afternoon. And Levi said, "Hmm, I think my wife wanted me to pick up a loaf a bread. I better get home, you know." And he split. It says they were one by one convicted. So Levi's gone, so he writes "Simon". And He begins to write one of Simon's sins of the previous day or so. Simon gets all embarrassed and flustered and he takes off.

And so down the line from the oldest to the youngest, Jesus begins to write their names and write the things they have been doing. Because they were, all of them, convicted one by one in their own conscious. And they went out one by one, beginning from the eldest even to the youngest, until there was no one left but the woman. And when Jesus had stood up again, He just put His head down and just started writing. Finally,

When he stood up again, he saw no one but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, what happen to your accusers? hasn't any man condemned you? And she said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn you: go, and sin no more ( John 8:10-11 ).

That's an important thing. "Go," but don't forget the last, "and sin no more." It's not just a license. Jesus said, "God did not send Me into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through me might be saved. And he that believeth is not condemned" ( John 3:17-18 ). So here's a woman caught in the act of a capital sin according to the Mosaic Law, but Jesus is saying to her, "I don't condemn you." Because He didn't come to condemn, He came to save. And there He demonstrated His glorious ministry: seeking and saving that which was lost. She didn't need to be condemned, she needed to be saved. We don't need to be condemned, we need to be saved.

Now as we move on in Romans 8:0 on Thursday nights, we're soon gonna be getting to that interesting rhetorical question, "Who is he that condemeth?" It is true that Christians live under much condemnation. But who is he that condemns? If you as a child of God are living under condemnation, is it because Jesus is condemning you? God help us to be freed from this stereotype picture of God that we have of just waiting for us to do something wrong so He can rub us out. We so often sort of transpose the image of Santa Claus over to God, as though God is a Santa Claus and, you know, all of our prayers are just to get the good gifts from Him. Tell me what you want today. What do you want for Christmas little boy? And so prayers just to get all the things from God that we want. But in carrying that image over, we also see Him making out a list and checking it twice, gonna find out who's naughty and nice. And because we know that we've been naughty and we feel guilty over our sins, we feel that God is condemning. Who is he that condemns? Paul does not declare who condemns. He only declares negatively who isn't condemning. He said, "It is Christ who has died, yea rather is risen again, and is even at the right hand of the Father, making intercession for us" ( Romans 8:34 ). He's not condemning us. He's interceding for us. And Jesus did not condemn the sinner. To this woman He said, "Neither do I condemn you. Just go and sin no more."

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: and he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life ( John 8:12 ).

He said, "I am the bread of life." Now He is declaring, "I am the light of the world." He is making radical claims. "If a man follows Me, he will not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."

And the Pharisees therefore said unto him, You are bearing record of yourself; and so your record is not true. Jesus answered and said unto them, Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true: for I know from whence I came, and where I'm going; but you cannot tell from whence I've come, or where I'm going. You judge after the flesh; and I judge no man. And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me ( John 8:13-16 ).

And again pressing the claim, "The Father sent me."

It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true. I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me bears witness of me. Then they said unto him, Where is your Father? And Jesus answered, You neither know me, nor my Father: for if you had known me, you would of known my Father also. And these words spake Jesus in the treasury, as he taught in the temple: and no man laid hands on him; for his hour was not yet come. Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sins: for where I go, you cannot come. Then the Jew said, Is he gonna kill himself? because he says, where I go, you cannot come. And he said unto them, You are from beneath; and I am from above: you are of this world; I am not of this world. I said therefore unto you, that you will die in your sins: for if you believe not that I am, ye shall die in your sins ( John 8:17-24 ).

Notice again what heavy radical statements Jesus is making. I mean, He's laying things now straight on the line. He's declaring very plainly to them the truth, and what is the truth? If you don't believe in Him you're going to die in your sins. For God has made provision for the forgiveness of our sins, but that provision is believing in Jesus Christ, and if you don't believe in Him then there is no provision and you will die in your sins. And if you die in your sins you are lost.

And so Jesus is just squaring off with these fellows now. He's saying "You're from beneath, I'm from above."

Then they say unto him, Who are you? And Jesus said unto them, The very same one that I told you from the beginning. And I have many things to say and to judge of you: but he that sent me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him. And they understood not that he was speaking to them of the Father. And then said Jesus unto them, When you have lifted up the Son ( John 8:25-28 ),

And, of course, that term lifted up is the term that refers to the cross. So He's actually saying, "When you have lifted Me up on the cross, or, when you have crucified the Son of man,"

then shall ye know that I am, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me: and the Father has not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him ( John 8:28-29 ).

What a remarkable statement to be able to make!! Oh, I wish that I could make that statement. After just one day I wish I could make that statement. "I do always those things that please Him."

Now the Father testified that, he said, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." Jesus said, "There's no unrighteousness in Me, I do always those things that please Him." And in a little bit He's gonna to say, "Which of you can convince Me of sin or show Me a sin that I have done?" "I do always those things that please Him."

Now as He spoke these words, many believed on him. And then Jesus said to those Jews which believed on him, If you continue in my word, then you are my disciple indeed ( John 8:30-31 );

Now you believe on Me, now just continue in My Word, and if you do then you are really my disciples.

And you will know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. And so they answered him and they said, We are Abraham's seed, we were never in bondage to any man ( John 8:32-33 ):

Right at the present moment they were in bondage to Rome, but they didn't recognize that and that was one of their problems.

They continually rebelled against the Roman authority and finally in 70 A.D. the nation was completely wiped out because of this attitude, "We are in bondage to no man." And that attitude brought the destruction of the nation...in the revolt of 70 A.D. when the Romans sent Titus with his legions and they came and just wiped out the nation itself. But it's interesting the spirit of these people. "We are Abraham's seed, we're in bondage to no man." Jesus said, you know, "You shall the truth, the truth shall make you free." How do you say you will be made free?

Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever commits sin is a servant of sin ( John 8:34 ).

You say you're free, but if you commit sin you're a servant of sin. The Bible tells us that whomsoever we yield ourselves servants to obey, his servant we become. Whether of sin unto unrighteousness or of obedience unto eternal life.

Now it is interesting how quickly a person can become a slave of sin. It's interesting how quickly sin can get a hold upon a person's life and begin to control them. If you yield yourself, your body to sin, it can get such a hold upon you that you become its slave, and we have seen people enslaved by sin. And Jesus is here declaring that if you commit sin you become the servant of sin. You say you are free . . . oh no you're not; you're the servants of sin.

And the servant who abides not in the house for ever: but the Son abides ever. And if the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed ( John 8:35-36 ).

How I love my freedom in Jesus Christ. How I love my liberty that I have in Him. In fact, I love it so much that I carefully guard it.

Now one problem that a lot of people have is that they don't appreciate their freedom and they don't guard it. The freedom that I enjoy is the freedom not to. Not necessarily the freedom to. I have the freedom to, but I enjoy the freedom not to. Because many times if I exercise the freedom to, then I no longer have the freedom not to. So it's important how you exercise your freedom. Thank God I don't have to drink. Thank God I don't have to do these things. Some people are compelled. Some people have no control. Some people are slaves. I'm free; I don't have to. I have the freedom not to because I've been set free by the Son. And I tell you, Paul the apostle spoke about guarding that freedom. He said, "All things are lawful for me." Man, I am free. But he said, "I will not be brought under the power of any." If I exercise my freedom in an activity that in itself can bring me under its influence or power, I'm sacrificing my freedom and I'm no longer free--I'm now under the influence of the power of this habit of whatever it is that I have done. I've become controlled by the...I'm now the servant or the slave of sin. But when the Son set you free, you're free indeed. And thank God He can set you free from any binding power of sin that you might have in your life. He can set you free from drug addiction. He can set you free from alcoholism. He can set you free from any power of sin that might be holding you tonight. You need not be a servant of sin, because Jesus Christ can set you free tonight from whatever it is that is binding your life and holding you under its influence and power. Whom the Son sets free is free indeed. Oh, how I revel in it and enjoy my freedom.

"I know that you are Abraham's seed."

Now they said here earlier, "We are Abraham's seed, we're not in bondage to anybody." Jesus said,

I know you're Abraham's seed; but you seek to kill me, because my word has no place in you. And I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and you do that which you have seen with your father. And they answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father ( John 8:37-39 ).

And Jesus said, "Oh, no." How is it they are Abraham's seed and Abraham is not their father? Because Jesus is talking both about the physical and the spiritual. Being of the seed of Abraham does not make you a child of Abraham. For Abraham was the father of those who believed. He was actually the progenitor of many nations, from Abraham came for the Ishmaelites. They were Abraham's seed, but they weren't Abraham's children by promise. So He's talking about the spiritual children and the physical seed of Abraham, and there is a vast difference. And even to these Jews He's acknowledging, "Yes, you are of Abraham seed, but he's not really your father." You see, spiritually you're not a child of Abraham because you don't believe, and He was making that distinction. So, "I know that you are Abraham seed, you've descended from him, but you seek to kill Me because My word has no place in you and speak that which I have seen and all." They answered and said unto Him, "Abraham is our father."

And Jesus said unto them, If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill me, a man that has told you truth, which I have heard of God: and this did not Abraham ( John 8:39-40 ).

Abraham didn't try and kill Me; he believed God's works, and that's what God accounted to Him for righteousness. Now I'm telling the word of God and you're trying to kill Me. That isn't Abe...you're not doing Abraham's work when you're trying to kill Me.

You do the deeds of your father. And then they said unto him, We're not born of fornication ( John 8:41 );

This could be a reference to the virgin birth. They could be here declaring your mother bore you out of wedlock. "We're not born of fornication." And it could be that the story of Mary had gotten around. That Joseph wasn't really the father of Jesus. And they did not believe that He was conceived of the Holy Spirit, and so they are accusing Him of being born out of wedlock.

Now the Bible asserts that Mary was a virgin and that the birth of Christ was a divine miracle because the power of the Highest came upon her, and Jesus was the Son of God. Born through the work and agency of the Holy Spirit impregnating Mary. Here it seems to be a low blow at Jesus, challenging the virgin birth.

There is an interesting conclusion that can be drawn from this. In the accounts in the scripture, the accounts of Mary, the mother of Jesus, we do find that she is one of the most remarkable women who ever lived. Surely the most blessed woman who ever lived. When she visited her cousin Elizabeth there in the hill country of Judea, she said, "Blessed art though among women. And blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And from hence forth all generations shall call you blessed." Why? Because God gave to her the highest honor and privilege that any woman could ever have. God chose her as the instrument to bring His Son into the world. What an honor. But, God, in making that choice, made the choice wisely and, no doubt, chose a young girl of highest character and virtue, and this is demonstrated in what is called the Magnificat of Mary in Luke's gospel, chapter 2, where her...in chapter 1 there, where we hear her declaring, "My soul that magnify the Lord and my spirit that rejoice, for He has regarded the lowest state of His handmaid . . . " and goes on and just in glorious, rapturous praises unto God, expressing a depth of character in soul that is just absolutely marvelous. And all the way through, the accounts where Mary is brought into the picture it's always in a very admirable way. Except here. "We're not born of fornication." You know your mother bore you out of wedlock.

Now, being this admirable character that Mary was, and knowing the psychology of a mother's love for her child, there's nothing, it seems, in the world that quite excels that mother's love for a child. That natural God-given love. When Jesus was being tried to be crucified, Mary could have put an end to the whole procedure, very quickly, very simply. When she saw that things were going against her son, that He was being condemned to be crucified, she could have stepped before Pilate and said, "Hold on, wait a minute. I'll name the man who did it." And she could have named the father of Jesus, had there been an earthly father. And I'm sure, had there been, she would of, knowing a mother's love. But she couldn't, she was helpless. And she had to see Him die because there was no way that she could free Him by naming an earthly father because He was born of God. And that is one of the powerful arguments for the virgin birth of Jesus; it's one of the psychological arguments of the virgin birth. The fact that Mary could not free Him from condemnation by naming an earthly father because He had no earthly father, He was born of God.

But here it seems that they're sort of casting this aspersion at Him.

We're not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God. And Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, you would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent Me ( John 8:41-42 ).

Now He's been telling, you know, "He who have sent Me...He who have sent Me." Now He's telling them plainly Who it was that sent Him. "If God were your Father you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God." A plain declaration of Jesus that He proceeded forth and came from God.

There are those who say, "Well, Jesus never claimed to be the Son of God." Wait a minute. Right here He is proclaiming and declaring plainly to them, "I proceeded forth and came from God. Neither came I of Myself. I didn't come on My own, He sent Me."

And why do not understand my speech? even because you cannot hear my word. For ye are of your father the devil ( John 8:43-44 ),

They said, "We have Abraham for our father." And then they said, "We have one father even God." And Jesus said, "Oh, no. God is not your father, but ye are of your father the devil."

and the desires of your father you will do ( John 8:44 ):

Satan's desire to destroy Jesus, you're gonna do it.

he was a murderer from the beginning ( John 8:44 ),

You're gonna murder Me.

he abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. And when he speaks a lie, he's only speaking of his own nature: for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, you do not believe me. Which of you can convince me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do you not believe me? He that is of God hears God's word: ye therefore hear them not, because you are not of God ( John 8:44-47 ).

Now this is a very heavy thing. Because as you are here tonight, are you hearing God's word or is this just all gobbly gook? You're saying, "Ah well, you know, get over with it, will you, man. I wanna go home." Are you really...does God's word speak to your heart? Do you receive it? Does it strike your heart? Is it warming your heart? Is it ministering and feeding you, or is it just something that you just are sort of shoving aside? You can very quickly tell who your father is. "He that is of God hears God's words. You therefore hear them not because you are not of God."

Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Did we not well say that you're a Samaritan, and you have a devil? And Jesus answered, I don't have a devil; but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. And I seek not my own glory: there is one who seeks and judges. Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keeps my sayings, he shall never see death ( John 8:48-51 ).

Oh, Jesus is not gonna let them off the hook. He's just gonna put the knife in deeper. I mean He's ready for controversy. You guys want to hear it? Alright, go . . . let's go for it, you know.

And now this radical statement, "If a man keeps My saying he shall never see death." Then the Jews said unto Him, "Now we know that you have a devil. For Abraham is dead and the prophets, and you say if a man keeps my saying he shall never taste of death."

Jesus often was misunderstood because Jesus spoke of spiritual things and these people could only think in terms of material things. And there is a biblical definition of death and a material definition of death. And from a human material definition, death is the separation of a man's consciousness from his body. If they put the EKG on a person, and they get a flat reading, there's no motion at all, and twenty-four hours later they again put the EKG on and there is still a flat reading, if they then, which they often do, pull the plug and watch the EKGs if there still remains a flat movement, the person is clinically dead. It means that there is no activity in the brain at all. The brain or the consciousness of the person has departed, there's no brain activity. He is dead, his consciousness is now separated or has left his body.

Now a spiritual definition of death is the separation of your consciousness from God. So that, the Bible says if a person is living only for pleasure they're dead while they're still living. You see, if pleasure is your god, if pleasure is your chief goal, if you're living simply for pleasure, then your consciousness is separated from God, thus you are dead. Even though you may still be alive from a physical standpoint, yet you're dead because your consciousness is separated from God. God is not in your conscious the Bible says.

So Jesus, making reference to that spiritual definition, "If a man keeps My sayings he will never see death." I will never consciously be separated from God. Hey, my consciousness may leave this old body, but I will not be dead. I'll be more conscious of God then than ever, because I'll be right in the presence of God. Very much alive. "He that keeps my saying will never see death," I believe that. I believe that completely. I believe that one day my consciousness will leave this body and people will read in the paper "Chuck Smith died." That's poor reporting, inaccurate to say the least. To accurately record they must write "Chuck Smith moved out of a decrepit worn-out tent into a beautiful new mansion." I won't be dead, I'll be very much alive their in the presence of God in His eternal kingdom. For we know that when this earthly tabernacle is dissolved, we have a building of God not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. So then we who are in these bodies do often groan earnestly desiring to move out. Not to be an embodied spirit, but that I might move in to that new body which is in heaven. For I know that as long as I'm still living in this body I'm absent from the Lord. So I would rather be absent from this body and to be present with the Lord. So one day I'm gonna move out of the tent into the house. Not dead, just moved.

The Jews said unto Him, "Now we know that you have a devil, for Abraham is dead and the prophets, and you say if a man keeps my saying, he shall never taste of death." Now they made a wrong assumption of Abraham. You remember, Jesus when He was talking to the Sadducees, and He asked them the question...they, you know, they were the ones that didn't believe in resurrection or spirits or angels. Jesus said, "How come when God spoke to Moses at the burning bush, He said, 'I am the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob'?" He's not the God of the dead, but of the living. They made a wrong assumption when they said Abraham was dead. Abraham was very much alive at that point. In fact, he was comforting all of those who were awaiting the Messiah. Luke, the sixteenth chapter, and the poor man was taken by the angel into Abraham's bosom where he was comforting those who were waiting.

So are you greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets which are dead: who do you make yourself? And Jesus answered, If I honored myself, my honor is nothing: it is my Father that honors me; of whom you say, that he is your God: Yet you have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I don't know him, I would be a liar just like you: but I know him, and I keep his sayings ( John 8:53-55 ).

You see, Jesus is not really mincing words with these guys now. I mean, He's laying it on them. And then He said,

Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. And the Jews said unto him, You're not even fifty years old yet, and have you seen Abraham? And Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am ( John 8:56-58 ).

This is it. This is His open plain declaration of His divinity. Using now that name of the eternal God. When Moses said, "Whom shall I say sent me?" "Say I Am that I Am hath sent thee." The name that expresses the eternal nature of God. "You're not fifty years old. You mean that Abraham saw You?" And Jesus said, "Before Abraham was, I am."

Now they understood what He said because,

They took up stones to throw at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so he passed by ( John 8:59 ).

Now when did Abraham see Him? "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad." When did Abraham see Him? It is quite possible that this is a reference to Melchizedek in the Old Testament. For when Abraham came back from the victory over the five kings, there came out the King of Salem, the King of Peace, and met Him and gave Him bread and wine or communion. And Abraham gave tithe of all that he had to Him, or give Him a tenth of all of the spoils. Now this priest of the Old Testament, Melchizedek, was called the priest of the Most High God. Honored by Abraham, by Abraham giving of his substance to Him, of tithe of all that he had. And it is quite possible that Melchizedek was what is known as a theophany, the appearance of God in the Old Testament in the form of Jesus Christ. "Before Abraham was, I am. And that Abraham rejoiced to see My day and he saw it." There is other evidence that shows that Melchizedek could very well have been none other than Jesus Christ. It is said there is no record of his genealogies. He did not come from the Levitical priesthood, because Levi wasn't even born. Levi was a descendent of Abraham, from which the priest...the family of the priest came. So it is quite possible that Melchizedek was actually an appearance of Jesus to Abraham in the Old Testament.

There is one other possibility, and that is, when the angel of the Lord was on his way to destroy the city of Sodom. As you read the text carefully, Abraham was talking with Jehovah, or Jesus Christ. As he was interceding for the cities of Sodom/Gomorrah. "What if there are fifty righteous people, will you destroy the righteous with the wicked? Shouldn't the Lord be fair?" And as you read that, you'll find that Abraham is addressing Jehovah and Jehovah is answering Abraham. So it is possible that that is where Abraham saw Jesus and rejoiced to see His day. But Jesus existed from the beginning and was manifested during the Old Testament period. So this is an interesting sidelight.

Next week, chapters 9 and 10. May you be blessed of the Lord as you go your way. Strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit working in your life. Filled to overflowing with God's love as you go out as a light shining in the darkness, to bring that light to those who sit in darkness that they may have hope in a day of great darkness. In Jesus' name. "



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Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on John 8:57". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/john-8.html. 2014.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

5. The light of the world discourse 8:12-59

Following Jesus’ claim to be the water of life (John 7:37-38), official opposition against Him intensified considerably. The following sections of this Gospel trace this rising opposition. While some believed on Jesus, most of His own people rejected Him (cf. John 1:11-12). This section of the text deals with Jesus’ claim to be the Light of the World and the controversy it generated.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on John 8:57". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/john-8.html. 2012.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

The violent response of Jesus’ critics 8:48-59

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on John 8:57". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/john-8.html. 2012.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

The Jews did not understand Jesus’ meaning because they disregarded the possibility of His deity. To them it seemed ludicrous that Abraham could have seen Jesus’ day in any sense since millennia separated the two men. Evidently they chose 50 years old as a round number symbolic of the end of an active life (cf. Numbers 4:3). Jesus was obviously not that old since He began His public ministry when He was about 30 (Luke 3:23), and it only lasted about three and a half years. According to Hoehner’s chronology, Jesus would have been in His mid-thirties at this time. [Note: Hoehner, p. 143.]

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on John 8:57". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/john-8.html. 2012.

Barclay's Daily Study Bible

Chapter 8

WRETCHEDNESS AND PITY ( John 7:53 ; John 8:1-11 )

8:1-11 And each of them went to his own house; but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he was again in the Temple precincts, and all the people came to him. He sat down and went on teaching them. The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman arrested for adultery. They set her in the midst and said to him: "Teacher, this woman was arrested as she was committing adultery--in the very act. In the law Moses enjoined us to stone women like this. What do you say about her?" They were testing him when they said this, so that they might have some ground on which to accuse him. Jesus stooped down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they went on asking him their question, he straightened himself and said to them: "Let the man among you who is without sin be the first to cast a stone at her." And again he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. One by one those who had heard what he said went out, beginning from the eldest down to the youngest. So Jesus was left alone, and the woman was still there in the midst. Jesus straightened himself and said to her: "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She said: "No one, sir." Jesus said: "I am not going to pass judgment on you either. Go, and from now on, sin no more."

[This incident is not included in all the ancient manuscripts

and appears only in a footnote in the Revised Standard

Version; see: NOTE ON THE STORY OF THE WOMAN TAKEN

IN ADULTERY]

The scribes and Pharisees were out to get some charge on which they could discredit Jesus; and here they thought they had impaled him inescapably on the horns of a dilemma. When a difficult legal question arose, the natural and routine thing was to take it to a Rabbi for a decision. So the scribes and Pharisees approached Jesus as a Rabbi with a woman taken in adultery.

In the eyes of the Jewish law adultery was a serious crime. The Rabbis said: "Every Jew must die before he will commit idolatry, murder or adultery." Adultery was, in fact one of the three gravest sins and it was punishable by, death, although there were certain differences in respect of the way in which the death penalty was to be carried out. Leviticus 20:10 lays it down: "If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbour, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death." There the method of death is not specified. Deuteronomy 22:13-24 lays down the penalty in the case of a girl who is already betrothed. In a case like that she and the man who seduced her are to be brought outside the city gates, "and you shall stone them to death with stones." The Mishnah, that is, the Jewish codified law, states that the penalty for adultery is strangulation, and even the method of strangulation is laid down. "The man is to be enclosed in dung up to his knees, and a soft towel set within a rough towel is to be placed around his neck (in order that no mark may be made, for the punishment is God's punishment). Then one man draws in one direction and another in the other direction, until he be dead." The Mishnah reiterates that death by stoning is the penalty for a girl who is betrothed and who then commits adultery. From the purely legal point of view the scribes and Pharisees were perfectly correct. This woman was liable to death by stoning.

The dilemma into which they sought to put Jesus was this: If he said that the woman ought to be stoned to death, two things followed. First, he would lose the name he had gained for love and for mercy and never again would be called the friend of sinners. Second, he would come into collision with the Roman law, for the Jews had no power to pass or carry out the death sentence on anyone. If he said that the woman should be pardoned, it could immediately be said that he was teaching men to break the law of Moses, and that he was condoning and even encouraging people to commit adultery. That was the trap in which the scribes and Pharisees sought to entrap Jesus. But he turned their attack in such a way that it recoiled against themselves.

At first Jesus stooped down and wrote with his finger on the ground. Why did he do that? There may be four possible reasons.

(i) He may quite simply have wished to gain time and not be rushed into a decision. In that brief moment he may have been both thinking the thing out and taking it to God.

(ii) Certain manuscripts add, "As though he did not hear them." Jesus may well have deliberately forced the scribes and Pharisees to repeat their charges, so that, in repeating them, they might possibly realize the sadistic cruelty which lay behind them.

(iii) Seeley in Ecce Homo makes an interesting suggestion. "Jesus was seized with an intolerable sense of shame. He could not meet the eye of the crowd, or of the accusers, and perhaps at that moment least of all of the woman.... In his burning embarrassment and confusion he stooped down so as to hide his face, and began writing with his fingers upon the ground." It may well be that the leering, lustful look on the faces of the scribes and Pharisees, the bleak cruelty in their eyes, the prurient curiosity of the crowd, the shame of the woman, all combined to twist the very heart of Jesus in agony and pity, so that he hid his eyes.

(iv) By far the most interesting suggestion emerges from certain of the later manuscripts. The Armenian translates the passage this way: "He himself, bowing his head, was writing with his finger on the earth to declare their sins; and they were seeing their several sins on the stones." The suggestion is that Jesus was writing in the dust the sins of the very men who were accusing the woman. There may be something in that. The normal Greek word for to write is graphein ( G1125) ; but here the word used is katagraphein, which can mean to write down a record against someone. (One of the meanings of kata ( G2596) is against). So in Job 13:26 Job says: "Thou writest (katagraphein) bitter things against me." It may be that Jesus was confronting those self-confident sadists with the record of their own sins.

However that may be, the scribes and Pharisees continued to insist on an answer--and they got it. Jesus said in effect: "All right! Stone her! But let the man that is without sin be the first to cast a stone." It may well be that the word for without sin (anamartetos, G361) means not only without sin, but even without a sinful desire. Jesus was saying: "Yes, you may stone her--but only if you never wanted to do the same thing yourselves." There was a silence--and then slowly the accusers drifted away.

So Jesus and the woman were left alone. As Augustine put it: "There remained a great misery (miseria) and a great pity (misericordia)." Jesus said to the woman: "Has no one condemned you?" "No one, sir," she said. Jesus said: "I am not for the moment going to pass judgment on you either. Go, and make a new start, and don't sin any more."

WRETCHEDNESS AND PITY ( John 7:53 ; John 8:1-11 continued)

This passage shows us two things about the attitude of the scribes and the Pharisees.

(i) It shows us their conception of authority. The scribes and the Pharisees were the legal experts of the day; to them problems were taken for decision. It is clear that to them authority was characteristically critical, censorious and condemnatory. That authority should be based on sympathy, that its aim should be to reclaim the criminal and the sinner, never entered their heads. They conceived of their function as giving them the right to stand over others like grim invigilators, to watch for every mistake and every deviation from the law, and to descend on them with savage and unforgiving punishment; they never dreamed that it might lay upon them the obligation to cure the wrongdoer.

There are still those who regard a position of authority as giving them the right to condemn and the duty to punish. They think that such authority as they have has given them the right to be moral watch-dogs trained to tear the sinner to pieces; but all true authority is founded on sympathy. When George Whitefield saw the criminal on the way to the gallows, he uttered the famous sentence: "There, but for the grace of God, go I."

The first duty of authority is to try to understand the force of the temptations which drove the sinner to sin and the seductiveness of the circumstances in which sin became so attractive. No man can pass judgment on another unless he at least tries to understand what the other has come through. The second duty of authority is to seek to reclaim the wrongdoer. Any authority which is solely concerned with punishment is wrong; any authority, which, in its exercise, drives a wrongdoer either to despair or to resentment, is a failure. The function of authority is not to banish the sinner from all decent society, still less to wipe him out; it is to make him into a good man. The man set in authority must be like a wise physician; his one desire must be to heal.

(ii) This incident shows vividly and cruelly the attitude of the scribes and Pharisees to people. They were not looking on this woman as a person at all; they were looking on her only as a thing, an instrument whereby they could formulate a charge against Jesus. They were using her, as a man might use a tool, for their own purposes. To them she had no name, no personality, no feelings; she was simply a pawn in the game whereby they sought to destroy Jesus.

It is always wrong to regard people as things; it is always unchristian to regard people as cases. It was said of Beatrice Webb, afterwards Lady Passfield, the famous economist, that "she saw men as specimens walking." Dr. Paul Tournier in A Doctor's Casebook talks of what he calls "the personalism of the Bible." He points out how fond the Bible is of names. God says to Moses: "I know you by name" ( Exodus 33:17). God said to Cyrus; "It is I, the God of Israel, who call you by your name" ( Isaiah 45:3). There are whole pages of names in the Bible. Dr. Tournier insists that this is proof that the Bible thinks of people first and foremost, not as fractions of the mass, or abstractions, or ideas, or cases, but as persons. "The proper name," Dr. Tournier writes, "is the symbol of the person. If I forget my patients' names, if I say to myself, 'Ah! There's that gall-bladder type or that consumptive that I saw the other day,' I am interesting myself more in their gall-bladders or in their lungs than in themselves as persons." He insists that a patient must be always a person, and never a case.

It is extremely unlikely that the scribes and the Pharisees even knew this woman's name. To them she was nothing but a case of shameless adultery that could now be used as an instrument to suit their purposes. The minute people become things the spirit of Christianity is dead.

God uses his authority to love men into goodness; to God no person ever becomes a thing. We must use such authority as we have always to understand and always at least to try to mend the person who has made the mistake; and we will never even begin to do that unless we remember that every man and woman is a person, not a thing.

WRETCHEDNESS AND PITY ( John 7:53 ; John 8:1-11 continued)

Further, this incident tells us a great deal about Jesus and his attitude to the sinner.

(i) It was a first principle of Jesus that only the man who himself is without fault has the right to express judgment on the fault of others. "Judge not," said Jesus, "that you be not judged" ( Matthew 7:1). He said that the man who attempted to judge his brother was like a man with a plank in his own eye trying to take a speck of dust out of someone else's eye ( Matthew 7:3-5). One of the commonest faults in life is that so many of us demand standards from others that we never even try to meet ourselves; and so many of us condemn faults in others which are glaringly obvious in our own lives. The qualification for judging is not knowledge--we all possess that; it is achievement in goodness--none of us is perfect there. The very facts of the human situation mean that only God has the right to judge, for the simple reason that no man is good enough to judge any other.

(ii) It was also a first principle with Jesus that our first emotion towards anyone who has made a mistake should be pity. It has been said that the duty of the doctor is "sometimes to heal, often to afford relief and always to bring consolation." When a person suffering from some ailment is brought to a doctor, he does not regard him with loathing even if he is suffering from a loathsome disease. In fact the physical revulsion which is sometimes inevitable is swallowed up by the great desire to help and to heal. When we are confronted with someone who has made a mistake, our first feeling ought to be, not, "I'll have nothing more to do with someone who could act like that," but, "What can I do to help? What can I do to undo the consequences of this mistake?" Quite simply, we must always extend to others the same compassionate pity we would wish to be extended to ourselves if we were involved in a like situation.

(iii) It is very important that we should understand just how Jesus did treat this woman. It is easy to draw the wrong lesson altogether and to gain the impression that Jesus forgave lightly and easily, as if the sin did not matter. What he said was: "I am not going to condemn you just now; go, and sin no more." In effect what he was doing was not to abandon judgment and say, "Don't worry; it's quite all right." What he did was, as it were, to defer sentence. He said, "I am not going to pass a final judgment now; go and prove that you can do better. You have sinned; go and sin no more and I'll help you all the time. At the end of the day we will see how you have lived." Jesus' attitude to the sinner involved a number of things.

(a) It involved the second chance. It is as if Jesus said to the woman: "I know you have made a mess of things; but life is not finished yet; I am giving you another chance, the chance to redeem yourself." Someone has written the lines:

"How I wish that there was some wonderful place

Called the Land of Beginning Again,

Where all our mistakes and all out heartaches

And all our poor selfish grief

Could be dropped like a shabby old coat at the door,

And never put on again."

In Jesus there is the gospel of the second chance. He was always intensely interested, not only in what a person had been, but also in what a person could be. He did not say that what they had done did not matter; broken laws and broken hearts always matter; but he was sure that every man has a future as well as a past.

(b) It involved pity. The basic difference between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees was that they wished to condemn; he wished to forgive. If we read between the lines of this story it is quite clear that they wished to stone this woman to death and were going to take pleasure in doing so. They knew the thrill of exercising the power to condemn; Jesus knew the thrill of exercising the power to forgive. Jesus regarded the sinner with pity born of love; the scribes and Pharisees regarded him with disgust born of self-righteousness.

(c) It involved challenge. Jesus confronted this woman with the challenge of the sinless life. He did not say: "It's all right; don't worry; just go on as you are doing." He said: "It's all wrong; go out and fight; change your life from top to bottom; go, and sin no more." Here was no easy forgiveness; here was a challenge which pointed a sinner to heights of goodness of which she had never dreamed. Jesus confronts the bad life with the challenge of the good.

(d) It involved belief in human nature. When we come to think of it, it is a staggering thing that Jesus should say to a woman of loose morals: "Go, and sin no more." The amazing, heart-uplifting thing about him was his belief in men and women. When he was confronted with someone who had gone wrong, he did not say: "You are a wretched and a hopeless creature." He said: "Go, and sin no more." He believed that with his help the sinner has it in him to become the saint. His method was not to blast men with the knowledge--which they already possessed--that they were miserable sinners, but to inspire them with the unglimpsed discovery that they were potential saints.

(e) It involved warning, clearly unspoken but implied. Here we are face to face with the eternal choice. Jesus confronted the woman with a choice that day--either to go back to her old ways or to reach out to the new way with him. This story is unfinished, for every life is unfinished until it stands before God.

[As we noted at the beginning, this story does not appear in all the ancient manuscripts. See the Note on the Story of the Woman Taken in Adultery ( John 8:2-11).]

Note On The Story Of The Woman Taken In Adultery ( John 8:2-11)

To many this is one of the loveliest and the most precious stories in the gospels; and yet it has great difficulties attaching to it.

The older the manuscripts of the New Testament are, the more valuable they are. They were all copied by hand, and obviously the nearer they are to the original writings the more likely they are to be correct. We call these very early manuscripts the Uncial manuscripts, because they are written in capital letters; and we base the text of the, New Testament on the earliest ones, which date from the fourth to the sixth century. The fact is that of all these early manuscripts this story occurs only in one, and that is not one of the best. Six of them omit it completely. Two leave a blank space where it should come. It is not till we come to the late Greek manuscripts and the medieval manuscripts that we find this story, and even then it is often marked to show that it is doubtful.

Another source of our knowledge of the text of the New Testament is what are called the versions; that is, the translations into languages other than Greek. This story is not included in the early Syriac version, nor in the Coptic or Egyptian version, nor in some of the early Latin versions.

Again, none of the early fathers seems to know anything about it. Certainly they never mention it or comment on it. Origen, Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Cyril of Alexandria on the Greek side do not mention it. The first Greek commentator to remark on it is Euthymius Zigabenus whose date is A.D. 11 18, and even he says that it is not in the best manuscripts.

Where, then, did this incident come from? Jerome certainly knew it in the fourth century, for he included it in the Vulgate. We know that Augustine and Ambrose both knew it, for they comment on it. We know that it is in all the later manuscripts. It is to be noted that its position varies a great deal. In some manuscripts it is put at the end of the fourth gospel; and in some it is inserted after Luke 21:38.

But we can trace it even further back. It is quoted in a third century book called The Apostolic Constitutions, where it is given as a warning to bishops who are too strict. Eusebius, the Church historian, says that Papias tells a story "of a woman who was accused of many sins before the Lord," and Papias lived not very long after A.D. 100.

Here, then, are the facts. This story can be traced as far back as very early in the second century. When Jerome produced the Vulgate he, without question, included it. The later manuscripts and the medieval manuscripts all have it. And yet none of the great manuscripts includes it. None of the great Greek fathers of the Church ever mentions it. But some of the great Latin fathers did know it, and speak of it.

What is the explanation? We need not be afraid that we shall have to let this lovely story go; for it is guarantee enough of its genuineness that we can trace it back to almost A.D. 100. But we do need some explanation of the fact that none of the great manuscripts includes it. Moffatt, Weymouth and Rieu print it in brackets; and the Revised Standard Version prints it in small type at the foot of the page.

Augustine gives us a hint. He says that this story was removed from the text of the gospel because "some were of slight faith," and "to avoid scandal." We cannot tell for certain, but it would seem that in the very early days the people who edited the text of the New Testament thought that this was a dangerous story, a justification for a light view of adultery, and therefore omitted it. After all, the Christian Church was a little island in a sea of paganism. Its members were so apt to relapse into a way of life where chastity was unknown; and were for ever open to pagan infection. But as time went on the danger grew less, or was less feared, and the story, which had always circulated by word of mouth and which one manuscript retained, came back.

It is not likely that it is now in the place where it ought to be. It was probably inserted here to illustrate Jesus' saying in John 8:15: "I judge no man." In spite of the doubt that the modern translations cast on it, and in spite of the fact that the early manuscripts do not include it, we may be sure that this is a real story about Jesus, although one so gracious that for long men were afraid to tell it.

THE LIGHT MEN FAILED TO RECOGNIZE ( John 8:12-20 )

8:12-20 So Jesus again continued to speak to them. "I am the Light of the World," he said. "He who follows me will not walk in darkness, but he will have the light of life." So the Pharisees said to him: "You are bearing witness about yourself. Your witness is not true." Jesus answered: "Even if I do bear witness about myself, my witness is true, because I know where I came from and where I am going to. You do not know where I came from and where I am going to. You form your judgments on purely human grounds. I do not judge anyone. But if I do form a judgment, my judgment is true, because I am not alone in my judgment, but I and the Father who sent me join in such a judgment. It stands written in your law, that the witness of two persons is to be accepted as true. It is I who witness about myself, and the Father who sent me also witnesses about me." They said to him: "Where is your Father?" Jesus answered: "You know neither me nor my Father. If you had known me you would know my Father too." He spoke these words in the treasury while he was teaching in the Temple precincts; and no one laid violent hands upon him, because his hour had not yet come.

The scene of this argument with the Jewish authorities was in the Temple treasury, which was in the Court of the Women. The first Temple court was the Court of the Gentiles; the second was the Court of the Women. It was so called because women might not pass beyond it unless they were actually about to offer sacrifice on the altar which was in the Court of the Priests. Round the Court of the Women there was a colonnade or porch; and, in that porch, set against the wall, there were thirteen treasure chests into which people dropped their offerings. These were called The Trumpets because they were shaped like trumpets, narrow at the top and swelling out towards the foot.

The thirteen treasure chests all had their allotted offering. Into the first two were dropped the half shekels which every Jew had to pay towards the upkeep of the Temple. Into the third and fourth were dropped sums which would purchase the two pigeons which a woman had to offer for her purification after the birth of a child ( Leviticus 12:8). Into the fifth were put contributions towards the cost of the wood which was needed to keep the altar fire alight. Into the sixth were dropped contributions towards the cost of the incense which was used at the Temple services. Into the seventh went contributions towards the upkeep of the golden vessels which were used at these services. Sometimes a man or a family set apart a certain sum to make some trespass- or thank-offering; into the remaining six trumpets people dropped any money which remained after such an offering had been made, or anything extra which they wished to offer.

Clearly the Temple treasury would be a busy place, with a constant flow of worshippers coming and going. There would be no better place to collect an audience of devout people and to teach them than the Temple treasury.

In this passage Jesus makes the great claim: "I am the Light of the World." It is very likely that the background against which he made it made it doubly vivid and impressive. The festival with which John connects these discourses is the Festival of Tabernacles ( John 7:2). We have already seen ( John 7:37) how its ceremonies lent drama to Jesus' claim to give to men the living water. But there was another ceremony connected with this festival.

On the evening of its first day there was a ceremony called The Illumination of the Temple. It took place in the Court of the Women. The court was surrounded with deep galleries, erected to hold the spectators. In the centre four great candelabra were prepared. When the dark came the four great candelabra were lit and, it was said, they sent such a blaze of light throughout Jerusalem that every courtyard was lit up with their brilliance. Then all night long, until cock-crow the next morning, the greatest and the wisest and the holiest men in Israel danced before the Lord and sang psalms of joy and praise while the people watched. Jesus is saying: "You have seen the blaze of the Temple illuminations piercing the darkness of the night. I am the Light of the World, and, for the man who follows me there will be light, not only for one exciting night, but for all the pathway of his life. The light in the Temple is a brilliant light, but in the end it flickers and dies. I am the Light which lasts for ever."

THE LIGHT MEN FAILED TO RECOGNIZE ( John 8:12-20 continued)

Jesus said: "He who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." The light of life means two things. The Greek can mean either the light which issues from the source of life or the light which gives life. In this passage it means both. Jesus is the very light of God come among men; and he is the light which gives men life. Just as the flower can never blossom when it never sees the sunlight, so our lives can never flower with the grace and beauty they ought to have until they are irradiated with the light of the presence of Jesus.

In this passage Jesus talks of following himself. We often speak of following Jesus; we often urge men to do so. What do we mean? The Greek for to follow is akolouthein ( G190) ; and its meanings combine to shed a flood of light on what it means to follow Jesus. Akolouthein ( G190) has five different but closely connected meanings.

(i) It is often used of a soldier following his captain. On the long route marches, into battle, in campaigns in strange lands, the soldier follows wherever the captain may lead. The Christian is the soldier whose commander is Christ.

(ii) It is often used of a slave accompanying his master. Wherever the master goes the slave is in attendance upon him, always ready to spring to his service and to carry out the tasks he gives him to do. He is literally at his master's beck and call. The Christian is the slave whose joy it is always to serve Christ.

(iii) It is often used of accepting a wise counsellor's opinion. When a man is in doubt he goes to the expert, and if he is wise he accepts the judgment he receives. The Christian is the man who guides his life and conduct by the counsel of Christ.

(iv) It is often used of giving obedience to the laws of a city or a state. If a man is to be a useful member of any society or citizen of any community, he must agree to abide by its laws. The Christian, being a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, accepts the law of the kingdom and of Christ as the law which governs his life.

(v) It is often used of following a teacher's line of argument, or of following the gist of someone's speech. The Christian is the man who has understood the meaning of the teaching of Christ. He has not listened in dull incomprehension or with slack inattention. He takes the message into his mind and understands, receives the words into his memory and remembers, and hides them in his heart and obeys.

To be a follower of Christ is to give oneself body, soul and spirit into the obedience of the Master; and to enter upon that following is to walk in the light. When we walk alone we are bound to stumble and grope, for so many of life's problems are beyond our solution. When we walk alone we are bound to take the wrong way, because we have no secure map of life. We need the heavenly wisdom to walk the earthly way. The man who has a sure guide and an accurate map is the man who is bound to come in safety to his journey's end. Jesus Christ is that guide; he alone possesses the map to life. To follow him is to walk in safety through life and afterwards to enter into glory.

THE LIGHT MEN FAILED TO RECOGNIZE ( John 8:12-20 continued)

When Jesus made his claim to be the Light of the World the scribes and Pharisees reacted with hostility. That claim would sound even more astonishing to them than to us. To them it would sound like a claim--as indeed it was--to be the Messiah, and, even more, to do the work that only God could do. The word light was specially associated in Jewish thought and language with God. "The Lord is my light" ( Psalms 27:1). "The Lord will be your everlasting light" ( Isaiah 60:19). "By his light I walked through darkness" ( Job 29:3). "When I sit in darkness the Lord will be a light to me" ( Micah 7:8). The Rabbis declared that the name of the Messiah was Light. When Jesus claimed to be the Light of the World, he was making a claim than which none could possibly be higher.

The argument of this passage is difficult and complicated, but it involves three strands.

(i) The Jews first insisted that a statement such as Jesus made could not be regarded as accurate because it was backed by insufficient witness. It was, as they saw it, backed by his word alone; and it was Jewish law that any statement must be founded on the evidence of two witnesses before it could be regarded as true. "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). "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). "No person shall be put to death on the testimony of one witness" ( Numbers 35:30). Jesus' answer was twofold.

First, he answered that his own witness was enough. He was so conscious of his own authority that no other witness was necessary. This was not pride or self-confidence. It was simply the supreme instance of the kind of thing which happens every day. A great surgeon is confident in his own verdict; he does not need anyone to support him; his witness is his own skill. A great lawyer or judge is sure of his own interpretation and application of the law. It is not that he is proud of his own knowledge; it is simply that he knows that he knows. Jesus was so aware of his closeness to God that he needed no other authority for his claims than his own relationship to God.

Second, Jesus said that in point of fact he had a second witness, and that second witness was God. How does God bear witness to the supreme authority of Jesus? (a) The witness of God is in Jesus' words. No man could speak with such wisdom unless God had given him knowledge. (b) The witness of God is in Jesus' deeds. No man could do such things unless God was acting through him. (c) The witness of God is in the effect of Jesus upon men. He works changes in men which are obviously beyond human power to work. The very fact that Jesus can make bad men good is proof that his power is not simply a man's power, but God's. (d) The witness of God is in the reaction of men to Jesus. Wherever and whenever Jesus has been full displayed, wherever and whenever the Cross has been preached in all its grandeur and its splendour, there has been an immediate and overwhelming response in the hearts of men. That response is the Holy Spirit of God working and witnessing in the hearts of men. It is God in our hearts who enables us to see God in Jesus.

Jesus dealt in this way with the argument of the scribes and Pharisees that his words could not be accepted because of inadequate witness. His words were in fact backed by a double witness, that of his own consciousness of authority and that of God.

(ii) Second, Jesus dealt with his right to judge. His coming into the world was not primarily for judgment; it was for love. At the same time a man's reaction to Jesus is in itself a judgment; if he sees no beauty in him, he condemns himself. Here Jesus draws a contrast between two kinds of judgment.

(a) There is the judgment that is based on human knowledge and human standards and which never sees below the surface. That was the judgment of the scribes and Pharisees; and, in the last analysis, that is any human judgment, for in the nature of things men can never see below the surface of things.

(b) There is the judgment that is based on knowledge of all the facts, even the hidden facts, and that can belong only to God. Jesus claims that any judgment he passes is not a human one; it is God's--because He is so one with God. Therein lies at once our comfort and our warning. Only Jesus knows all the facts. That makes him merciful as none other can ever be; but it also enables him to see the sins in us which are hidden from the eyes of men. The judgment of Jesus is perfect because it is made with the knowledge which belongs to God.

(iii) Lastly, Jesus bluntly told the scribes and Pharisees that they had no real knowledge of God. The fact that they did not recognize him for who and what he was was the proof that they did not. The tragedy was that the whole history of Israel had been designed so that the Jews should recognize the Son of God when he came; but they had become so involved with their own ideas, so intent on their own way, so sure of their own conception of what religion was that they had become blind to God.

THE FATAL INCOMPREHENSION ( John 8:21-30 )

8:21-30 So he said to them again: "I am going away, and you will search for me, and you will die in your sin. You cannot come where I am going." So the Jews said: "Surely he is not going to kill himself, because he is saying: 'You cannot come where I am going'?" He said to them: "You are from below, but I am from above. You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world. I said to you that you will die in your sins. For if you will not believe that I am who I am, you will die in your sins." They said to him: "Who are you?" Jesus said to them: "Anything I am saying to you is only the beginning. I have many things to say about you, and many judgments to deliver on you; but he who sent me is true, and I speak to the world what I have heard from him." They did not know that it was about the Father that he was speaking to them. So Jesus said to them: "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am who I am, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but that I speak these things as the Father has taught me. And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do the things that are pleasing to him." As he said these things, many believed in him.

This is one of the passages of argument and debate so characteristic of the Fourth Gospel and so difficult to elucidate and to understand. In it various strands of argument are all woven together.

Jesus begins by telling his opponents that he is going away; and that, after he is gone, they will realize what they have missed, and will search for him and not find him. This is the true prophetic note. It reminds us of three things: (i) There are certain opportunities which come and which do not return. To every man is given the opportunity to accept Christ as Saviour and Lord; but that opportunity can be refused and lost. (ii) Implicit in this argument is the truth that life and time are limited. It is within an allotted span that we must make our decision for Christ. The time we have to make that decision is limited--and none of us knows what his limit is. There is therefore every reason for making it now. (iii) Just because there is opportunity in life there is also judgment. The greater the opportunity, the more clearly it beckons, the oftener it comes, the greater the judgment if it be refused or missed. This passage brings us face to face with the glory of our opportunity, and the limitation of time in which to seize it.

When Jesus spoke about going away, he was speaking about his return to his Father and to his glory. That was precisely where his opponents could not follow him, because by their continuous disobedience and their refusal to accept him, they had shut themselves off from God. His opponents met his words with a grim and mocking jest. Jesus said that they could not follow where he went; and they suggested that perhaps he was going to kill himself. The point is that, according to Jewish thought, the depths of hell were reserved for those who took their own lives. With a kind of grim blasphemy, they were saying: "Maybe he will take his own life; maybe he is on the way to the depths of Hell"; it is true that we cannot and will not follow him there.

Jesus said that if they continued to refuse him they would die in their sins. That is a prophetic phrase (compare Ezekiel 3:18; Ezekiel 18:18). There are two things involved there: (i) The word for sin is hamartia, which originally had to do with shooting and literally means a missing of the target. The man who refuses to accept Jesus as Saviour and Lord has missed the target in life. He dies with life unrealized; and he therefore dies unfitted to enter into the higher life with God. (ii) The essence of sin is that it separates a man from God. When Adam, in the old story, committed the first sin, his first instinct was to hide himself from God ( Genesis 3:8-10). The man who dies in sin dies at enmity with God; the man who accepts Christ already walks with God, and death only opens the way to a closer walk. To refuse Christ is to be a stranger to God; to accept him is to be the friend of God, and in that friendship the fear of death is for ever banished.

THE FATAL INCOMPREHENSION ( John 8:21-30 continued)

Jesus goes on to draw a series of contrasts. His opponents belong to earth, he is from heaven; they are of the world; he is not of the world.

John frequently talks about the world; the word in Greek is kosmos ( G2889) . He uses it in a way that is all his own.

(i) The kosmos ( G2889) is the opposite of heaven. Jesus came from heaven into the world ( John 1:9). He was sent by God into the world ( John 3:17). He is not of the world; his opponents are of the world ( John 8:23). The kosmos ( G2889) is the changing, transient life that we live; it is all that is human as opposed to all that is divine.

(ii) Yet the kosmos ( G2889) is not separated from God. First and foremost, it is God's creation ( John 1:10). It was through God's word that his world was made. Different as the world is from heaven, there is yet no unbridgeable gulf between them.

(iii) More than that, the kosmos ( G2889) is the object of God's love. God so loved the world that he sent his Son ( John 3:16). However different it may be from all that is divine, God has never abandoned it; it is the object of his love and the recipient of his greatest gift.

(iv) But at the same time there is something wrong with the kosmos ( G2889) . There is a blindness in it; when the Creator came into the world, it did not recognize him ( John 1:10). The world cannot receive the Spirit of truth ( John 14:17). The world does not know God ( John 17:25). There is, too, an hostility to God in the kosmos ( G2889) and to his people. The world hates Christ and hates his followers ( John 15:18-19). In its hostility Christ's followers can look only for trouble and tribulation ( John 16:33).

(v) Here we have a strange sequence of facts. The world is separate from God; and yet between it and God there is no gulf which cannot be spanned. God created the world; God loves it; God sent his Son into it. And yet in it, there is this blindness and hostility to him.

There is only one possible conclusion. G. K. Chesterton once said that there was only one thing certain about man--that man is not what he was meant to be. There is only one thing certain about the kosmos ( G2889) , it is not what it was meant to be. Something has gone wrong. That something is sin. It is sin which separated the world from God; it is sin which blinds it to God; it is sin which is fundamentally hostile to God.

Into this world which has gone wrong comes Christ; and Christ comes with the cure. He brings forgiveness; he brings cleansing; he brings strength and grace to live as man ought and to make the world what it ought to be. But a man can refuse a cure. A doctor may tell a patient that a certain treatment is able to restore him to health; he may actually tell him that if he does not accept the treatment, death is inevitable. That is precisely what Jesus is saying: "If you will not believe that I am who I am you will die in your sins."

There is something wrong with the world--anyone can see that. Only recognition of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, obedience to his perfect wisdom and acceptance of him as Saviour and Lord can cure the individual soul and cure the world.

We are only too well aware of the disease which haunts and wrecks the world; the cure lies before us. The responsibility is ours if we refuse to accept it.

THE TRAGIC INCOMPREHENSION ( John 8:21-30 continued)

There is no verse in all the New Testament more difficult to translate than John 8:25. No one can really be sure what the Greek means. It could mean: "Even what I have told you from the beginning," which is the meaning the Revised Standard Version takes. Other suggested translations are: "Primarily, essentially, I am what I am telling you." "I declare to you that I am the beginning." "How is it that I even speak to you at all?" which is the translation of Moffatt. It is suggested in our translation that it may mean: "Everything I am saying to you now is only a beginning." If we take it like that, the passage goes on to say that men will see the real meaning of Christ in three ways.

(i) They will see it in the Cross. It is when Christ is lifted up that we really see what he is. It is there we see the love that will never let men go and which loves them to the end.

(ii) They will see it in the Judgment. He has many judgments still to pass. At the moment he might look like the outlawed carpenter of Nazareth; but the day will come when they will see him as judge and know what he is.

(iii) When that happens they will see in him the embodied will of God. "I always do the things that are pleasing to him," Jesus said. Other men however good are spasmodic in their obedience. The obedience of Jesus is continuous, perfect and complete. The day must come when men see that in him is the very mind of God.

THE TRUE DISCIPLESHIP ( John 8:31-32 )

8:31-32 So Jesus said to the Jews who had come to believe in him: "If you remain in my word, you are truly my disciples: and you will know the truth: and the truth will make you free."

Few New Testament passages have such a complete picture of discipleship as this.

(i) Discipleship begins with belief. Its beginning is the moment when a man accepts what Jesus says as true, all that he says about the love of God, all that he says about the terror of sin, all that he says about the real meaning of life.

(ii) Discipleship means constantly remaining in the word of Jesus and that involves four things.

(a) It involves constant listening to the word of Jesus. It was said of John Brown of Haddington that when he preached he paused every now and then as if listening for a voice. The Christian is the man who all his life listens for the voice of Jesus and will take no decision until he has first heard what he has to say.

(b) It involves constant learning from Jesus. The disciple (mathetes, G3101) is literally the learner, for that is what the Greek word means. All his life a Christian should be learning more and more about Jesus. The shut mind is the end of discipleship.

(c) It involves constant penetrating into the truth which the words of Jesus bear. No one can hear or read the words of Jesus once and then say that he understands their full meaning. The difference between a great book and an ephemeral one lies in the fact that we read an ephemeral book once and never wish to go back to it; whereas we read a great book many times. To remain in the word of Jesus means constantly to study and think about what he said until more and more of its meaning becomes ours.

(d) It involves constant obeying of the word of Jesus. We study it not simply for academic satisfaction or for intellectual appreciation, but in order to find out what God wishes us to do. The disciple is the learner who learns in order to do. The truth which Jesus brought is designed for action.

(iii) Discipleship issues in knowledge of the truth. To learn from Jesus is to learn the truth. "You will know the truth," said Jesus. What is that truth? There are many possible answers to that question but the most comprehensive way to put it is that the truth which Jesus brings shows us the real values of life. The fundamental question to which every man has consciously or unconsciously to give an answer is: "To what am I to give my life? To a career? To the amassing of material possessions? To pleasure? To the service of God?" In the truth of Jesus we see what things are really important and what are not.

(iv) Discipleship results in freedom. "The truth will make you free." "In his service is perfect freedom." Discipleship brings us four freedoms. (a) It brings us freedom from fear. The man who is a disciple never again has to walk alone. He walks for ever in the company of Jesus, and in that company fear is gone. (b) It brings freedom from self. Many a man fully recognizes that his greatest handicap is his own self. And he may in despair cry out: "I cannot change myself. I have tried, but it is impossible." But the power and presence of Jesus can re-create a man until he is altogether new. (c) It brings freedom from other people. There are many whose lives are dominated by the fear of what other people may think and say. H. G. Wells once said that the voice of our neighbours sounds louder in our ears than the voice of God. The disciple is the man who has ceased to care what people say, because he thinks only of what God says. (d) It brings freedom from sin. Many a man has come to the stage when he sins, not because he wants to, but because he cannot help it. His sins have so mastered him that, try as he will, he cannot break away from them. Discipleship breaks the chains which bind us to them and enables us to be the persons we know we ought to be.

O that a man may arise in me

That the man I am may cease to be

That is the very prayer which the disciple of Christ will find answered.

FREEDOM AND SLAVERY ( John 8:33-36 )

8:33-36 They answered him: "We are the descendants of Abraham and we have never been slaves to any man. How do you say: 'You will become free'?" Jesus answered them: "This is the truth I tell you--everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave is not a permanent resident in the house; the son is a permanent resident. If the son shall make you free you will be really free."

Jesus' talk of freedom annoyed the Jews. They claimed that they had never been slaves to any man. Obviously there was a sense in which this was simply not true. They had been captives in exile in Babylon; and at the moment they were subjects of the Romans. But the Jews set a tremendous value on freedom which they held to be the birthright of every Jew. In the Law it was laid down that no Jew, however poor, must descend to the level of being a slave. "And if your brother becomes poor beside you, and sells himself to you, you shall not make him serve as a slave: ... For they are my servants, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves" ( Leviticus 25:39-42). Again and again Jewish rebellions flared up because some fiery leader arose who insisted that the Jews could obey no earthly ruler because God was their only King.

Josephus writes of the followers of Judas of Galilee who led a famous revolt against the Romans: "They have an inviolable attachment to liberty, and they say that God is to be their only Ruler and Lord" (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 18: 1, 6). When the Jews said that they had been no man's slaves they were saying something which was a fundamental article of their creed of life. And even if it was true that there had been times when they were subject to other nations, even if it was true that at that very moment they were subject to Rome, it was also true that even in servitude they maintained an independence of spirit which meant that they might be slaves in body but never in soul. Cyril of Jerusalem wrote of Joseph: "Joseph was sold to be a bond slave, yet he was free, all radiant in the nobility of his soul." Even to suggest to a Jew that he might be regarded as a slave was a deadly insult.

But it was another slavery of which Jesus was speaking. "Everyone," he said, "who commits sin is the slave of sin." Jesus was reiterating a principle which the wise Greeks had stated again and again. The Stoics said: "Only the wise man is free; the foolish man is a slave." Socrates had demanded: "How can you call a man free when his pleasures rule over him?" Paul later was to thank God that the Christian was freed from slavery to sin ( Romans 6:17-20).

There is something very interesting and very suggestive here. Sometimes when a man is rebuked for doing something wrong or warned against such a thing, his answer is: "Surely I can do what I like with my own life." But the point is that the man who sins does not do what he likes; he does what sin likes. A man can let a habit get such a grip of him that he cannot break it. He can allow a pleasure to master him so completely that he cannot do without it. He can let some self-indulgence so dominate him that he is powerless to break away from it. He can get into such a state that in the end, as Seneca said, he hates and loves his sins at one and the same time. So far from doing what he likes, the sinner has lost the power to do what he likes. He is a slave to the habits, the self-indulgences, the wrong pleasures which have mastered him. This is precisely Jesus' point. No man who sins can ever be said to be free.

Then Jesus makes a veiled threat, but one which the listening Jews would well understand. The word slave reminds him that in any household there is a difference between the slave and the son. The son is a permanent dweller in the household, but the slave can be ejected at any time. In effect Jesus is saying to the Jews: "You think that you are sons in God's house and that nothing, therefore, can ever banish you from God. Have a care; by your conduct you are making yourselves slaves, and the slave can be ejected from the master's presence at any time." Here is a threat. It is a terrible thing to trade on the mercy of God--and that is what the Jews were doing. There is warning here for more than the Jews.

REAL SONSHIP ( John 8:37-41 a)

8:37-41a "I know that you are the descendants of Abraham, but you are trying to find a way to kill me, because there is no room in you for my word. I speak what I have seen in the presence of the Father. So you must do what you have heard from the Father." "Our father is Abraham," they answered. "If," answered Jesus, "you are the children of Abraham, act as Abraham acted. But, as it is, you are trying to find a way to kill me, a man who has spoken the truth to you, truth which I heard from God. That Abraham did not do. As for you, you do the works of your father."

In this passage Jesus is dealing a death-blow to a claim which to the Jews was all-important. For the Jew Abraham was the greatest figure in all religious history; and the Jew considered himself safe and secure in the favour of God simply because he was a descendant of Abraham. The psalmist could address the people as : "O offspring of Abraham his servant, sons of Jacob, his chosen ones!" ( Psalms 105:6). Isaiah said to the people: "But you, Israel, (are) my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend" ( Isaiah 41:8). The admiration which the Jews gave to Abraham was perfectly legitimate, for he is a giant in the religious history of mankind, but the deductions they drew from his greatness were quite misguided. They believed that Abraham had gained such merit from his goodness that this merit was sufficient, not only for himself, but for all his descendants also. Justin Martyr had a discussion with Trypho the Jew about Jewish religion and the conclusion was that, "the eternal kingdom will be given to those who are the seed of Abraham according to the flesh, even though they be sinners and unbelievers and disobedient to God" (Justin Martyr, The Dialogue with Trypho, 140). Quite literally the Jew believed that he was safe because he was a descendant of Abraham.

The attitude of the Jews is not without parallel in modern life.

(a) There are still those who try to live on a pedigree? and a name. At some time in the history of their family someone performed some really outstanding service to church or state, and ever since they have claimed a special place because of that. But a great name should never be an excuse for comfortable inaction; it should always be an inspiration to new effort.

(b) There are those who try to live on a history and a tradition. Many a church has a quite undue sense of its own importance because at one time it had a famous ministry. There is many a congregation living on the spiritual capital of the past; but if capital be always drawn upon and never butt up anew, the day inevitably comes when it is exhausted.

No man or church or nation can live on the achievements of the past. That is what the Jews were trying to do.

Jesus is quite blunt about this. He declares in effect that the real descendant of Abraham is the man who acts in the way in which Abraham acted. That is exactly what John the Baptist had said before. He had told the people plainly that the day of judgment was on the way and that it was no good pleading that they were descendants of Abraham, for God could raise up descendants to Abraham from the very stones, if he chose to do so ( Matthew 3:9; Luke 3:8). It was the argument which again and again Paul was to use. It was not flesh and blood which made a man a descendant of Abraham; it was moral quality and spiritual fidelity.

In this particular matter Jesus ties it down to one thing. They are seeking a way to kill him; that is precisely the opposite of what Abraham did. When a messenger from God came to him, Abraham welcomed him with all eagerness and reverence ( Genesis 18:1-8). Abraham had welcomed God's messenger; the Jews of the present were trying to kill God's messenger. How could they dare cam themselves descendants of Abraham, when their conduct was so very different?

By calling to mind the old story in Genesis 18:1-33, Jesus is implying that he too is the messenger of God. Then he makes the claim explicit: "I speak what I have seen in the presence of the Father." The fundamental thing about Jesus is that he brought to men, not his own opinions, but a message from God. He was not simply a man telling other men what he thought about things; he was the Son of God telling men what God thought. He told men the truth as God sees it.

At the end of this passage comes a shattering statement. "You," said Jesus, "do the works of your father." He has just said that Abraham is not their father. Who then is their father? For a moment the full impact is held back. It comes in John 8:44 --their father is the devil. Those who had gloried in the claim that they are the children of Abraham are devastatingly confronted with the charge that they are children of the devil. Their works had revealed their true sonship, for man can prove his kinship to God only by his conduct.

CHILDREN OF THE DEVIL ( John 8:41 b-45)

8:41b-45 They said to him: "We were born of no adulterous union. We have one Father--God." "If God was your Father," said Jesus, "you would love me. For it was from God that I came forth and have come here. I had nothing to do with my own coming, but it was he who sent me. Why do you not understand what I am saying? The reason is that you are unable to hear my word. You belong to your father, the devil, and it is the evil desires of your father that you wish to do. He was a murderer from the very beginning, and he never took his stand in the truth, because the truth is not in him. When he speaks falsehood it is his characteristic way of speaking, because he is a liar and the father of falsehood. But because I speak the truth, you do not believe in me."

Jesus had just told the Jews that by their life and conduct and by their reaction to him they had made it clear that they were no real children of Abraham. Their reaction was to make an even greater claim. They claimed that God was their Father. All over the Old Testament there is repeated the fact that God was in a special way the Father of his people Israel. God commanded Moses to say to Pharaoh: "Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son" ( Exodus 4:22). When Moses was chiding the people for their disobedience, his appeal was: "Do you thus requite the Lord, you foolish and senseless people? Is not he your Father who created you?" ( Deuteronomy 32:6). Isaiah speaks of his trust in God: "For thou art our Father, though Abraham does not know us and Israel does not acknowledge us; thou, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer from of old is thy name" ( Isaiah 63:16). "Yet, O Lord, thou art our Father" ( Isaiah 64:8). "Have we not all one Father?" demanded Malachi. "Has not one God created us?" ( Malachi 2:10). So the Jews claimed that God was their Father.

"We," they said proudly, "were born of no adulterous union." There may be two things there. In the Old Testament one of the loveliest descriptions of the nation of Israel is that which sees in her the Bride of God. Because of that when Israel forsook God, she was said to go awhoring after strange gods; her infidelity was spiritual adultery. When the nation was thus faithless, the apostate people were said to be "children of harlotry" ( Hosea 2:4). So when the Jews said to Jesus that they were not the children of any adulterous union, they meant that they did not belong to a nation of idolaters but they had always worshipped the true God. It was a claim that they had never gone astray from God--a claim that only a people steeped in self-righteousness would ever have dared make.

But when the Jews spoke like this, there may have been something much more personal in it. It is certainly true in later times that the Jews spread abroad a most malicious slander against Jesus. The Christians very early preached the miraculous birth of Jesus. The Jews put it about that Mary had been unfaithful to Joseph; that her paramour had been a Roman soldier called Panthers; and that Jesus was the child of that adulterous union. It is just possible that the Jews were flinging at Jesus even then an insult over his birth, as if to say: "What right have you to speak to the like of us as you do?"

Jesus' answer to the claim of the Jews is that it is false; and the proof is that if God was really their Father, they would have loved and welcomed him. Here again is the key thought of the Fourth Gospel; the test of a man is his reaction to Jesus. To be confronted with Jesus is to be confronted with judgment; he is the touchstone of God by which all men are judged.

Jesus' closeknit indictment goes on. He asks "Why do you not understand what I am saying?" The answer is terrible--not that they are intellectually stupid, but that they are spiritually deaf. They refuse to hear and they refuse to understand. A man can stop his ears to any warning; if he goes on doing that long enough, he becomes spiritually deaf. In the last analysis, a man will only hear what he wishes to hear; and if for long enough he attunes his ears to his own desires and to the wrong voices, in the end he will be unable to tune in at all to the wavelength of God. That is what the Jews had done.

Then comes the scarifying accusation. The real father of the Jews is the devil. Jesus chooses two characteristics of him.

(i) The devil is characteristically a murderer. There may be two things in Jesus' mind. He may be thinking back to the old Cain and Abel story. Cain was the first murderer and he was inspired by the devil. He may be thinking of something even more serious than that. It was the devil who first tempted man in the old Genesis story. Through the devil sin entered into the world; and through sin came death ( Romans 5:13). If there had been no temptation, there would have been no sin; and, if there had been no sin, there would have been no death; and therefore, in a sense, the devil is the murderer of the whole human race.

But, even apart from the old stories, the fact remains that Christ leads to life and the devil to death. The devil murders goodness, chastity, honour, honesty, beauty, all that makes life lovely; he murders peace of mind and happiness and even love. Evil characteristically destroys; Christ characteristically brings life. At that very moment the Jews were plotting how to kill Christ; they were taking the devil's way.

(ii) The devil characteristically loves falsehood. Every lie is inspired by the devil and does the devil's work. Falsehood always hates the truth, and always tries to destroy it. When the Jews and Jesus met, the false way met the true, and inevitably the false tried to destroy the true.

Jesus indicted the Jews as children of the devil because their thoughts were bent on the destruction of the good and the maintaining of the false. Every man who tries to destroy the truth is doing the devil's work.

THE GREAT INDICTMENT AND THE SHINING FAITH ( John 8:46-50 )

8:46-50 "Who of you can convict me of sin? If I speak the truth, why do you not believe in me? He who is from God hears God's words. That is why you do not hear, because you are not from God." The Jews answered: "Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan, and that you have a devil?" Jesus answered: "It is not I who have a devil. I honour my Father, but you dishonour me. I do not seek my own glory. There is One who seeks and judges."

We must try to see this scene happening before our eyes. There is drama here, and it is not only in the words, but in the pauses between them. Jesus began with a tremendous claim. "Is there anyone here," he demanded, "who can point the finger at any evil in my life?" Then must have followed a silence during which the eyes of Jesus ranged round the crowd waiting for anyone to accept the extraordinary challenge that he had thrown down. The silence went on. Search as they like, none could formulate a charge against him. When he had given them their chance, Jesus spoke again. "You admit," he said, "that you can find no charge against me. Then why do you not accept what I say?" Again there was an uncomfortable silence. Then Jesus answered his own question. "You do not accept my words," he said, "because you are not from God."

What did Jesus mean? Think of it this way. No experience can enter into a man's mind and heart unless there is something there to answer to it; and a man may lack the something essential which will enable him to have the experience. A man who is tone deaf cannot experience the thrill of music. A man who is colour blind cannot fully appreciate a picture. A man with no sense of time and rhythm cannot fully appreciate ballet or dancing.

Now the Jews had a very wonderful way of thinking of the Spirit of God. They believed that he had two great functions. He revealed God's truth to men; and he enabled men to recognize and grasp that truth when they saw it. That quite clearly means that unless the Spirit of God is in a man's heart he cannot recognize God's truth when he sees it. And it also means that if a man shuts the door of his heart against the Spirit of God, then, even when the truth is full displayed before his eyes, he is quite unable to see it and recognize it and grasp it and make it his.

Jesus was saying to the Jews: "You have gone your own way and followed your own ideas; the Spirit of God has been unable to gain an entry into your hearts; that is why you cannot recognize me and that is why you will not accept my words." The Jews believed they were religious people; but because they had clung to their idea of religion instead of to God's idea, they had in the end drifted so far from God that they had become godless. They were in the terrible position of men who were godlessly serving God.

To be told that they were strangers to God stung the Jews to the quick. They hurled their invective against Jesus. As our present form of the words has it they accused him of being a Samaritan and of being mad. What did they mean by calling him a Samaritan? They meant that he was a foe of Israel, for there was deadly enmity between the Jews and the Samaritans, that he was a law breaker because he did not observe the law, and above all that he was a heretic, for Samaritan and heretic had become synonymous. It would be extraordinary that the Son of God should be branded as a heretic. And beyond a doubt it would happen to him again if he returned to this world and its churches.

But it is just possible that the word Samaritan is really a corruption of something else. To begin with, we note that Jesus replied to the charge that he was mad, but did not reply to the charge that he was a Samaritan. That makes us wonder if we have the charge of the Jews rightly stated. In the original Aramaic the word for Samaritan would be Shomeroni (compare H8111) . Shomeron was also a title for the prince of the devils, otherwise called Ashmedai and Sammael and Satan. In point of fact the Koran, the Mohammedan bible, actually says that the Jews were seduced into idolatry by Shomeron, the prince of the devils. So the word Shomeroni could quite well mean a child of the devil. It is very likely that what the Jews said to Jesus was: "You are a child of the devil; you have a devil; you are mad with the madness of the Evil One."

His answer was that, so far from being a servant of the devil, his one aim was to honour God, while the conduct of the Jews was a continual dishonouring of God. He says in effect: "It is not I who have a devil; it is you."

Then comes the radiance of the supreme faith of Jesus. He says: "I am not looking for honour in this world: I know that I will be insulted and rejected and dishonoured and crucified. But there is One who will one day assess things at their true value and assign to men their true honour; and he will give me the honour which is real because it is his." Of one thing Jesus was sure--ultimately God will protect the honour of his own. In time Jesus saw nothing but pain and dishonour and rejection; in eternity he saw only the glory which he who is obedient to God will some day receive. In Paracelsus Browning wrote:

"If I stoop

Into a dark tremendous sea of cloud,

It is but for a time; I press God's lamp

Close to my breast; its splendour, soon or late,

Will pierce the gloom: I shall emerge one day."

Jesus had the supreme optimism born of supreme faith, the optimism which is rooted in God.

THE LIFE AND THE GLORY ( John 8:51-55 )

8:51-55 "This is the truth I tell you--if anyone keeps my word, he will not see death for ever." The Jews said to him: "Now we are certain that you are mad. Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you are saying: 'If anyone keeps my word, he will not taste of death for ever.' Surely you are not greater than our father Abraham who did die? And the prophets died too. Who are you making yourself out to be?" Jesus answered: "It is my Father who glorifies me, that Father, who, you claim, is your God, and yet you know nothing about him. But I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar, like you. But I know him and I keep his word."

This chapter passes from lightning flash to lightning flash of astonishment. Jesus makes claim after claim, each more tremendous than the one which went before. Here he makes the claim that if anyone keeps his words, he will never know death. It shocked the Jews. Zechariah had said: "Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live for ever?" ( Zechariah 1:5). Abraham was dead; the prophets were dead; and had they not, in their day and generation, kept the word of God? Who is Jesus to set himself above the great ones of the faith? It is the literalmindedness of the Jews which blocks their intelligence. It is not physical life and physical death of which Jesus is thinking. He means that, for the man who fully accepts him, death has lost its finality; he has entered into a relationship with God which neither time nor eternity can sever. He goes, not from life to death, but from life to life; death is only the introduction to the nearer presence of God.

From that Jesus goes on to make a great statement--all true honour must come from God. It is not difficult to honour oneself; it is easy enough--in fact, fatally easy--to bask in the sunshine of one's own approval. It is not over difficult to win honour from men; the world honours the successful man. But the real honour is the honour which only eternity can reveal; and the verdicts of eternity are not the verdicts of time.

Then Jesus makes the two claims which are the very foundation of his life.

(i) He claims unique knowledge of God. He claims to know him as no one else ever has known him or ever will. Nor will he lower that claim, for to do so would be a lie. The only way to full knowledge of the heart and mind of God is through Jesus Christ. With our own minds we can reach fragments of knowledge about God; but only in Jesus Christ is the full orb of truth, for only in him do we see what God is like.

(ii) He claims unique obedience to God. To look at Jesus is to be able to say; "This is how God wishes me to live." To look at his life is to say: "This is serving God."

In Jesus alone we see what God wants us to know and what God wants us to be.

THE TREMENDOUS CLAIM ( John 8:56-59 )

8:56-59 "Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it and was glad." The Jews said to him: "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them: "This is the truth I tell you--before Abraham was I am." So they lifted stones to throw them at him, but Jesus slipped out of their sight, and went out of the Temple precincts.

All the previous lightning flashes pale into significance before the blaze of this passage. When Jesus said to the Jews that Abraham rejoiced to see his day, he was talking language that they could understand. The Jews had many beliefs about Abraham which would enable them to see what Jesus was implying. There were altogether five different ways in which they would interpret this passage.

(a) Abraham was living in Paradise and able to see what was happening on earth. Jesus used that idea in the Parable of Dives and Lazarus ( Luke 16:22-31). That is the simplest way to interpret this saying.

(b) But that is not the correct interpretation. Jesus said Abraham rejoiced to see my day, the past tense. The Jews interpreted many passages of scripture in a way that explains this. They took the great promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:3: "By you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves," and said that when that promise was made, Abraham knew that it meant that the Messiah of God was to come from his line and rejoiced at the magnificence of the promise.

(c) Some of the Rabbis held that in Genesis 15:8-21 Abraham was given a vision of the whole future of the nation of Israel and therefore had a vision beforehand of the time when the Messiah would come.

(d) Some of the Rabbis took Genesis 17:17, which tells how Abraham laughed when he heard that a son would be born to him, not as a laugh of unbelief, but as a laugh of sheer joy that from him the Messiah would come.

(e) Some of the Rabbis had a fanciful interpretation of Genesis 24:1. There the Revised Standard Version has it that Abraham was "well advanced in years." The margin of the King James Version tells us that the Hebrew literally means that Abraham had "gone into days." Some of the Rabbis held that to mean that in a vision given by God Abraham had entered into the days which lay ahead, and had seen the whole history of the people and the coming of the Messiah.

From all this we see clearly that the Jews did believe that somehow Abraham, while he was still alive, had a vision of the history of Israel and the coming of the Messiah. So when Jesus said that Abraham had seen his day, he was making a deliberate claim that he was the Messiah. He was really saying: "I am the Messiah Abraham saw in his vision."

Immediately Jesus goes on to say of Abraham: "He saw it (my day) and was glad." Some of the early Christians had a very fanciful interpretation of that. In 1 Peter 3:18-22 and 1 Peter 4:6 we have the two passages which are the basis of that doctrine which became imbedded in the creed in the phrase, "He descended into Hell." It is to be noted that the word Hell gives the wrong idea; it ought to be Hades. The idea is not that Jesus went to the place of the tortured and the damned, as the word Hell suggests. Hades was the land of the shadows where all the dead, good and bad alike, went; in which the Jews believed before the full belief in immortality came to them. The apocryphal work called the Gospel of Nicodemus or the Acts of Pilate has a passage which runs: "O Lord Jesus Christ, the resurrection and the life of the world, give us grace that we may tell of thy resurrection and of thy marvellous works, which thou didst in Hades. We. then, were in Hades together with all them that have fallen asleep since the beginning. And at the hour of midnight there rose upon those dark places as it were the light of the sun, and shined, and all we were enlightened and beheld one another. And straightway our father Abraham, together with the patriarchs and the prophets, were at once filled with joy and said to one another: 'This light cometh of the great lightening.'" The dead saw Jesus and were, given the chance to believe and to repent; and at that sight Abraham rejoiced.

To us these ideas are strange; to a Jew they were quite normal, for he believed that Abraham had already seen the day when the Messiah would come.

The Jews, although they knew better, chose to take this literally. "How," they demanded, "can you have seen Abraham when you are not yet fifty?" Why fifty? That was the age at which the Levites retired from their service ( Numbers 4:3). The Jews were saying to Jesus: "You are a young man, still in the prime of life, not even old enough to retire from service. How can you possibly have seen Abraham? This is mad talk." It was then that Jesus made that most staggering statement: "Before Abraham was, I am." We must note carefully that Jesus did not say: "Before Abraham was, I was," but, "Before Abraham was, I am." Here is the claim that Jesus is timeless. There never was a time when he came into being; there never will be a time when he is not in being.

What did he mean? Obviously he did not mean that he, the human figure Jesus, had always existed. We know that Jesus was born into this world at Bethlehem; there is more than that here. Think of it this way. There is only one person in the universe who is timeless; and that one person is God. What Jesus is saying here is nothing less than that the life in him is the life of God; he is saying, as the writer of the Hebrews put it more simply, that he is the same yesterday, today and forever. In Jesus we see, not simply a man who came and lived and died; we see the timeless God, who was the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, who was before time and who will be after time, who always is. In Jesus the eternal God showed himself to men.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Barclay, William. "Commentary on John 8:57". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/john-8.html. 1956-1959.

Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Then said the Jews unto him, thou art not yet fifty years old,.... One copy reads forty, but he was not that; no, not much more than thirty; not above two or three and thirty years old: the reason of their fixing on this age of fifty might be, because Christ might look like such an one, being a man of sorrows and acquainted with griefs, as well as of great gravity; or they might be free in allowing him as many years, as could be thought he should be of, and gain their point; for what were fifty years, when Abraham had been dead above two thousand? and therefore he could never see Abraham, nor Abraham see him; moreover, this age of fifty, is often spoken of by the Jews, and much observed; at the age of fifty, a man is fit to give counsel, they say a; hence the Levites were dismissed from service at that age, it being more proper for them then to give advice, than to bear burdens; a Methurgeman, or an interpreter in a congregation, was not chosen under fifty years of age b; and if a man died before he was fifty, this was called the death of cutting off c; a violent death, a death inflicted by God, as a punishment; Christ lived not to that age, he was now many years short of it:

and hast thou seen Abraham? if he had not, Abraham had seen him, in the sense before given, and in which Christ asserted it, and it is to be understood.

a Pirke Abot, c. 5. sect. 21. b T. Bab. Chagiga, fol. 14. 1. Juchasin, fol. 44. 2. c T. Hieros. Biccurim, fol. 64. 3. T. Bab. Moed Katon, fol. 28. 1. Macsecheth Semachot, c. 3. sect. 9. Kimchi in Isa. xxxviii. 10.

Copyright Statement
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 8:57". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/john-8.html. 1999.

Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

Christ's Discourse with the Pharisees


      51 Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.   52 Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death.   53 Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself?   54 Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God:   55 Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying.   56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.   57 Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?   58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.   59 Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.

      In these verses we have,

      I. The doctrine of the immortality of believers laid down, John 8:51; John 8:51. It is ushered in with the usual solemn preface, Verily, verily, I say unto you, which commands both attention and assent, and this is what he says, If a man keep my sayings, he shall never see death. Here we have, 1. The character of a believer: he is one that keeps the sayings of the Lord Jesus, ton logon ton emon--my word; that word of mine which I have delivered to you; this we must not only receive, but keep; not only have, but hold. We must keep it in mind and memory, keep it in love and affection, so keep it as in nothing to violate it or go contrary to it, keep it without spot (1 Timothy 6:14), keep it as a trust committed to us, keep in it as our way, keep to it as our rule. 2. The privilege of a believer: He shall by no means see death for ever; so it is in the original. Not as if the bodies of believers were secured from the stroke of death. No, even the children of the Most High must die like men, and the followers of Christ have been, more than other men, in deaths often, and killed all the day long; how then is this promise made good that they shall not see death? Answer, (1.) The property of death is so altered to them that they do not see it as death, they do not see the terror of death, it is quite taken off; their sight does not terminate in death, as theirs does who live by sense; no, they look so clearly, so comfortably, through death, and beyond death, and are so taken up with their state on the other side death, that they overlook death, and see it not. (2.) The power of death is so broken that though there is no remedy, but they must see death, yet they shall not see death for ever, shall not be always shut up under its arrests, the day will come when death shall be swallowed up in victory. (3.) They are perfectly delivered from eternal death, shall not be hurt of the second death. That is the death especially meant here, that death which is for ever, which is opposed to everlasting life; this they shall never see, for they shall never come into condemnation; they shall have their everlasting lot where there will be no more death, where they cannot die any more,Luke 20:36. Though now they cannot avoid seeing death, and tasting it too, yet they shall shortly be there where it will be seen no more for ever,Exodus 14:13.

      II. The Jews cavil at this doctrine. Instead of laying hold of this precious promise of immortality, which the nature of man has an ambition of (who is there that does not love life, and dread the sight of death?) they lay hold of this occasion to reproach him that makes them so kind an offer: Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead. Observe here,

      1. Their railing: "Now we know that thou hast a devil, that thou art a madman; thou ravest, and sayest thou knowest not what." See how these swine trample underfoot the precious pearls of gospel promises. If now at last they had evidence to prove him mad, why did they say (John 8:48; John 8:48), before they had that proof, Thou hast a devil? But this is the method of malice, first to fasten an invidious charge, and then to fish for evidence of it: Now we know that thou hast a devil. If he had not abundantly proved himself a teacher come from God, his promises of immortality to his credulous followers might justly have been ridiculed, and charity itself would have imputed them to a crazed fancy; but his doctrine was evidently divine, his miracles confirmed it, and the Jews' religion taught them to expect such a prophet, and to believe in him; for them therefore thus to reject him was to abandon that promise to which their twelve tribes hoped to come,Acts 26:27.

      2. Their reasoning, and the colour they had to run him down thus. In short, they look upon him as guilty of an insufferable piece of arrogance, in making himself greater than Abraham and the prophets: Abraham is dead, and the prophets, they are dead too; very true, by the same token that these Jews were the genuine offspring of those that killed them. Now, (1.) It is true that Abraham and the prophets were great men, great in the favour of God, and great in the esteem of all good men. (2.) It is true that they kept God's sayings, and were obedient to them; and yet, (3.) It is true that they died; they never pretended to have, much less to give, immortality, but every one in his own order was gathered to his people. It was their honour that they died in faith, but die they must. Why should a good man be afraid to die, when Abraham is dead, and the prophets are dead? They have tracked the way through that darksome valley, which should reconcile us to death and help to take off the terror of it. Now they think Christ talks madly, when he saith, If a man keep my sayings, he shall never taste death. Tasting death means the same thing with seeing it; and well may death be represented as grievous to several of the senses, which is the destruction of them all. Now their arguing goes upon two mistakes:-- [1.] They understood Christ of an immortality in this world, and this was a mistake. In the sense that Christ spoke, it was not true that Abraham and the prophets were dead, for God is still the God of Abraham and the God of the holy prophets (Revelation 22:6); now God is not the God of the dead, but of the living; therefore Abraham and the prophets are still alive, and, as Christ meant it, they had not seen nor tasted death. [2.] They thought none could be greater than Abraham and the prophets, whereas they could not but know that the Messiah would be greater than Abraham or any of the prophets; they did virtuously, but he excelled them all; nay, they borrowed their greatness from him. It was the honour of Abraham that he was the Father of the Messiah, and the honour of the prophets that they testified beforehand concerning him: so that he certainly obtained a far more excellent name than they. Therefore, instead of inferring from Christ's making himself greater than Abraham that he had a devil, they should have inferred from his proving himself so (by doing the works which neither Abraham nor the prophets ever did) that he was the Christ; but their eyes were blinded. They scornfully asked, Whom makest thou thyself? As if he had been guilty of pride and vain-glory; whereas he was so far from making himself greater than he was that he now drew a veil over his own glory, emptied himself, and made himself less than he was, and was the greatest example of humility that ever was.

      III. Christ's reply to this cavil; still he vouchsafes to reason with them, that every mouth may be stopped. No doubt he could have struck them dumb or dead upon the spot, but this was the day of his patience.

      1. In his answer he insists not upon his own testimony concerning himself, but waives it as not sufficient nor conclusive (John 8:54; John 8:54): If I honour myself, my honour is nothing, ean ego doxazo--if I glorify myself. Note, Self-honour is no honour; and the affectation of glory is both the forfeiture and the defeasance of it: it is not glory (Proverbs 25:27), but so great a reproach that there is no sin which men are more industrious to hide than this; even he that most affects praise would not be thought to do it. Honour of our own creating is a mere chimera, has nothing in it, and therefore is called vain-glory. Self-admirers are self-deceivers. Our Lord Jesus was not one that honoured himself, as they represented him; he was crowned by him who is the fountain of honour, and glorified not himself to be made a high priest, Hebrews 5:4; Hebrews 5:5.

      2. He refers himself to his Father, God; and to their father, Abraham.

      (1.) To his Father, God: It is my Father that honoureth me. By this he means, [1.] That he derived from his Father all the honour he now claimed; he had commanded them to believe in him, to follow him, and to keep his word, all which put an honour upon him; but it was the Father that laid help upon him, that lodged all fulness in him, that sanctified him, and sealed him, and sent him into the world to receive all the honours due to the Messiah, and this justified him in all these demands of respect. [2.] That he depended upon his Father for all the honour he further looked for. He courted not the applauses of the age, but despised them; for his eye and heart were upon the glory which the Father had promised him, and which he had with the Father before the world was. He aimed at an advancement with which the Father was to exalt him, a name he was to give him,Philippians 2:8; Philippians 2:9. Note, Christ and all that are his depend upon God for their honour; and he that is sure of honour where he is known cares not though he be slighted where he is in disguise. Appealing thus often to his Father, and his Father's testimony of him, which yet the Jews did not admit nor give credit to,

      First, He here takes occasion to show the reason of their incredulity, notwithstanding this testimony--and this was their unacquaintedness with God; as if he had said, "But why should I talk to you of my Father's honouring me, when he is one you know nothing of? You say of him that he is your God, yet you have not known him." Here observe,

      a. The profession they made of relation to God: "You say that he is your God, the God you have chosen, and are in covenant with; you say that you are Israel; but all are not so indeed that are of Israel," Romans 9:6. Note, Many pretend to have an interest in God, and say that he is theirs, who yet have no just cause to say so. Those who called themselves the temple of the Lord, having profaned the excellency of Jacob, did but trust in lying words. What will it avail us to say, He is our God, if we be not in sincerity his people, nor such as he will own? Christ mentions here their profession of relation to God, as that which was an aggravation of their unbelief. All people will honour those whom their God honours; but these Jews, who said that the Lord was their God, studied how to put the utmost disgrace upon one upon whom their God put honour. Note, The Profession we make of a covenant relation to God, and an interest in him, if it be not improved by us will be improved against us.

      b. Their ignorance of him, and estrangement from him, notwithstanding this profession: Yet you have not known him. (a.) You know him not at all. These Pharisees were so taken up with the study of their traditions concerning things foreign and trifling that they never minded the most needful and useful knowledge; like the false prophets of old, who caused people to forget God's name by their dreams,Jeremiah 23:27. Or, (b.) You know him not aright, but mistake concerning him; and this is as bad as not knowing him at all, or worse. Men may be able to dispute subtly concerning God, and yet may think him such a one as themselves, and not know him. You say that he is yours, and it is natural to us to desire to know our own, yet you know him not. Note, There are many who claim-kindred to God who yet have no acquaintance with him. It is only the name of God which they have learned to talk of, and to hector with; but for the nature of God, his attributes and perfections, and relations to his creatures, they know nothing of the matter; we speak this to their shame,1 Corinthians 15:34. Multitudes satisfy themselves, but deceive themselves, with a titular relation to an unknown God. This Christ charges upon the Jews here, [a.] To show how vain and groundless their pretensions of relation to God were. "You say that he is yours, but you give yourselves the lie, for it is plain that you do not know him;" and we reckon that a cheat is effectually convicted if it be found that he is ignorant of the persons he pretends alliance to. [b.] To show the true reason why they were not wrought upon by Christ's doctrine and miracles. They knew not God; and therefore perceived not the image of God, nor the voice of God in Christ. Note, The reason why men receive not the gospel of Christ is because they have not the knowledge of God. Men submit not to the righteousness of Christ because they are ignorant of God's righteousness,Romans 10:3. They that know not God, and obey not the gospel of Christ, are put together, 2 Thessalonians 1:8.

      Secondly, He gives them the reason of his assurance that his Father would honour him and own him: But I know him; and again, I know him; which bespeaks, not only his acquaintance with him, having lain in his bosom, but his confidence in him, to stand by him, and bear him out in his whole undertaking; as was prophesied concerning him (Isaiah 50:7; Isaiah 50:8), I know that I shall not be ashamed, for he is near that justifies; and as Paul, "I know whom I have believed (2 Timothy 1:12), I know him to be faithful, and powerful, and heartily engaged in the cause which I know to be his own." Observe, 1. How he professes his knowledge of his Father, with the greatest certainty, as one that was neither afraid nor ashamed to own it: If I should say I know him not, I should be a liar like unto you. He would not deny his relation to God, to humour the Jews, and to avoid their reproaches, and prevent further trouble; nor would he retract what he had said, nor confess himself either deceived or a deceiver; if he should, he would be found a false witness against God and himself. Note, Those who disown their religion and relation to God, as Peter, are liars, as much as hypocrites are, who pretend to know him, when they do not. See 1 Timothy 6:13; 1 Timothy 6:14. Mr. Clark observes well, upon this, that it is a great sin to deny God's grace in us. 2. How he proves his knowledge of his Father: I know him and keep his sayings, or his word. Christ, as man, was obedient to the moral law, and, as Redeemer, to the mediatorial law; and in both he kept his Father's word, and his own word with the Father. Christ requires of us (John 8:51; John 8:51) that we keep his sayings; and he has set before us a copy of obedience, a copy without a blot: he kept his Father's sayings; well might he who learned obedience teach it; see Hebrews 5:8; Hebrews 5:9. Christ by this evinced that he knew the Father. Note, The best proof of our acquaintance with God is our obedience to him. Those only know God aright that keep his word; it is a ruled case, 1 John 2:3. Hereby we know that we know him (and do not only fancy it), if we keep his commandments.

      (2.) Christ refers them to their father, whom they boasted so much of a relation to, and that was Abraham, and this closes the discourse.

      [1.] Christ asserts Abraham's prospect of him, and respect to him: Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it, and was glad,John 8:56; John 8:56. And by this he proves that he was not at all out of the way when he made himself greater than Abraham. Two things he here speaks of as instances of that patriarch's respect to the promised Messiah:--

      First, The ambition he had to see his day: He rejoiced, egalliasto--he leaped at it. The word, though it commonly signifies rejoicing, must here signify a transport of desire rather than of joy, for otherwise the latter part of John 8:56 would be a tautology; he saw it, and was glad. He reached out, or stretched himself forth, that he might see my day; as Zaccheus, that ran before, and climbed the tree, to see Jesus. The notices he had received of the Messiah to come had raised in him an expectation of something great, which he earnestly longed to know more of. The dark intimation of that which is considerable puts men upon enquiry, and makes them earnestly ask Who? and What? and Where? and When? and How? And thus the prophets of the Old Testament, having a general idea of a grace that should come, searched diligently (1 Peter 1:10), and Abraham was as industrious herein as any of them. God told him of a land that he would give his posterity, and of the wealth and honour he designed them (Genesis 15:14); but he never leaped thus to see that day, as he did to see the day of the Son of man. He could not look with so much indifferency upon the promised seed as he did upon the promised land; in that he was, but to the other he could not be, contentedly a stranger. Note, Those who rightly know any thing of Christ cannot but be earnestly desirous to know more of him. Those who discern the dawning of the light of the Sun of righteousness cannot but wish to see his rising. The mystery of redemption is that which angels desire to look into, much more should we, who are more immediately concerned in it. Abraham desired to see Christ's day, though it was at a great distance; but this degenerate seed of his discerned not his day, nor bade it welcome when it came. The appearing of Christ, which gracious souls love and long for, carnal hearts dread and loathe.

      Secondly, The satisfaction he had in what he did see of it: He saw it, and was glad. Observe here,

      a. How God gratified the pious desire of Abraham; he longed to see Christ's day, and he saw it. Though he saw it not so plainly, and fully, and distinctly as we now see it under the gospel, yet he saw something of it, more afterwards than he did at first. Note, To him that has, and to him that asks, shall be given; to him that uses and improves what he has, and that desires and prays for more of the knowledge of Christ, God will give more. But how did Abraham see Christ's day? (a.) Some understand it of the sight he had of it in the other world. The separate soul of Abraham, when the veil of flesh was rent, saw the mysteries of the kingdom of God in heaven. Calvin mentions this sense of it, and does not much disallow it. Note, The longings of gracious souls after Jesus Christ will be fully satisfied when they come to heaven, and not till then. But, (b.) It is more commonly understood of some sight he had of Christ's day in this world. They that received not the promises, yet saw them afar off,Hebrews 11:13. Balaam saw Christ, but not now, not nigh. There is room to conjecture that Abraham had some vision of Christ and his day, for his own private satisfaction, which is not, nor must be, recorded in his story, like that of Daniel's, which must be shut up, and sealed unto the time of the end,Daniel 12:4. Christ knew what Abraham saw better than Moses did. But there are divers things recorded in which Abraham saw more of that which he longed to see than he did when the promise was first made to him. He saw in Melchizedek one made like unto the Son of God, and a priest for ever; he saw an appearance of Jehovah, attended with two angels, in the plains of Mamre. In the prevalency of his intercession for Sodom he saw a specimen of Christ's intercession; in the casting out of Ishmael, and the establishment of the covenant with Isaac, he saw a figure of the gospel day, which is Christ's day; for these things were an allegory. In offering Isaac, and the ram instead of Isaac, he saw a double type of the great sacrifice; and his calling the place Jehovah-jireh--It shall be seen, intimates that he saw something more in it than others did, which time would produce; and in making his servant put his hand under his thigh, when he swore, he had a regard to the Messiah.

      b. How Abraham entertained these discoveries of Christ's day, and bade them welcome: He saw, and was glad. He was glad of what he saw of God's favour to himself, and glad of what he foresaw of the mercy God had in store for the world. Perhaps this refers to Abraham's laughing when God assured him of a son by Sarah (Genesis 17:16; Genesis 17:17), for that was not a laughter of distrust as Sarah's but of joy; in that promise he saw Christ's day, and it filled him with joy unspeakable. Thus he embraced the promises. Note, A believing sight of Christ and his day will put gladness into the heart. No joy like the joy of faith; we are never acquainted with true pleasure till we are acquainted with Christ.

      [2.] The Jews cavil at this, and reproach him for it (John 8:57; John 8:57): Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Here, First, They suppose that if Abraham saw him and his day he also had seen Abraham, which yet was not a necessary innuendo, but this turn of his words would best serve to expose him; yet it was true that Christ had seen Abraham, and had talked with him as a man talks with his friend. Secondly, They suppose it a very absurd thing for him to pretend to have seen Abraham, who was dead so many ages before he was born. The state of the dead is an invisible state; but here they ran upon the old mistake, understanding that corporally which Christ spoke spiritually. Now this gave them occasion to despise his youth, and to upbraid him with it, as if he were but of yesterday, and knew nothing: Thou art not yet fifty years old. They might as well have said, Thou art not forty; for he was now but thirty-two or thirty-three years old. As to this, Irenæus, one of the first fathers, with this passage supports the tradition which he says he had from some that had conversed with St. John, that our Saviour lived to be fifty years old, which he contends for, Advers. Hæres. lib. 2, cap. 39, 40. See what little credit is to be given to tradition; and, as to this here, the Jews spoke at random; some year they would mention, and therefore pitched upon one that they thought he was far enough short of; he did not look to be forty, but they were sure he could not be fifty, much less contemporary with Abraham. Old age is reckoned to begin at fifty (Numbers 4:47), so that they meant no more than this, "Thou art not to be reckoned an old man; many of us are much thy seniors, and yet pretend not to have seen Abraham." Some think that his countenance was so altered, with grief and watching, that, together with the gravity of his aspect, it made him look like a man of fifty years old: his visage was so marred,Isaiah 52:14.

      [3.] Our Saviour gives an effectual answer to this cavil, by a solemn assertion of his own seniority even to Abraham himself (John 8:58; John 8:58): "Verily, verily, I say unto you; I do not only say it in private to my own disciples, who will be sure to say as I say, but to you my enemies and persecutors; I say it to your faces, take it how you will: Before Abraham was, I am;" prin Abraam genesthai, ego eimi, Before Abraham was made or born, I am. The change of the word is observable, and bespeaks Abraham a creature, and himself the Creator; well therefore might he make himself greater than Abraham. Before Abraham he was, First, As God. I am, is the name of God (Exodus 3:14); it denotes his self-existence; he does not say, I was, but I am, for he is the first and the last, immutably the same (Revelation 1:8); thus he was not only before Abraham, but before all worlds,John 1:1; Proverbs 8:23. Secondly, As Mediator. He was the appointed Messiah, long before Abraham; the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8), the channel of conveyance of light, life, and love from God to man. This supposes his divine nature, that he is the same in himself from eternity (Hebrews 13:8), and that he is the same to man ever since the fall; he was made of God wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, to Adam, and Abel, and Enoch, and Noah, and Shem, and all the patriarchs that lived and died by faith in him before Abraham was born. Abraham was the root of the Jewish nation, the rock out of which they were hewn. If Christ was before Abraham, his doctrine and religion were no novelty, but were, in the substance of them, prior to Judaism, and ought to take place of it.

      [4.] This great word ended the dispute abruptly, and put a period to it: they could bear to hear no more from him, and he needed to say no more to them, having witnessed this good confession, which was sufficient to support all his claims. One would think that Christ's discourse, in which shone so much both of grace and glory, should have captivated them all; but their inveterate prejudice against the holy spiritual doctrine and law of Christ, which were so contrary to their pride and worldliness, baffled all the methods of conviction. Now was fulfilled that prophecy (Malachi 3:1; Malachi 3:2), that when the messenger of the covenant should come to his temple they would not abide the day of his coming, because he would be like a refiner's fire. Observe here,

      First, How they were enraged at Christ for what he said: They took up stones to cast at him,John 8:59; John 8:59. Perhaps they looked upon him as a blasphemer, and such were indeed to be stoned (Leviticus 24:16); but they must be first legally tried and convicted. Farewell justice and order if every man pretend to execute a law at his pleasure. Besides, they had said but just now that he was a distracted crack-brained man, and if so it was against all reason and equity to punish him as a malefactor for what he said. They took up stones. Dr. Lightfoot will tell you how they came to have stones so ready in the temple; they had workmen at this time repairing the temple, or making some additions, and the pieces of stone which they hewed off served for this purpose. See here the desperate power of sin and Satan in and over the children of disobedience. Who would think that ever there should be such wickedness as this in men, such an open and daring rebellion against one that undeniably proved himself to be the Son of God? Thus every one has a stone to throw at his holy religion, Acts 28:22.

      Secondly, How he made his escape out of their hands. 1. He absconded; Jesus hid himself; ekrybe--he was hid, either by the crowd of those that wished well to him, to shelter him (he that ought to have been upon a throne, high and lifted up, is content to be lost in a crowd); or perhaps he concealed himself behind some of the walls or pillars of the temple (in the secret of his tabernacle he shall hide me,Psalms 27:5); or by a divine power, casting a mist before their eyes, he made himself invisible to them. When the wicked rise a man is hidden, a wise and good man, Proverbs 28:12; Proverbs 28:28. Not that Christ was afraid or ashamed to stand by what he had said, but his hour was not yet come, and he would countenance the flight of his ministers and people in times of persecution, when they are called to it. The Lord hid Jeremiah and Baruch, Jeremiah 36:26. 2. He departed, he went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, undiscovered, and so passed by. This was not a cowardly inglorious flight, nor such as argued either guilt or fear. It was foretold concerning him that he should not fail nor be discouraged, Isaiah 42:4. But, (1.) It was an instance of his power over his enemies, and that they could do no more against him than he gave them leave to do; by which it appears that when afterwards he was taken in their pits he offered himself,John 10:18; John 10:18. They now thought they had made sure of him and yet he passed through the midst of them, either their eyes being blinded or their hands tied, and thus he left them to fume, like a lion disappointed of his prey. (2.) It was an instance of his prudent provision for his own safety, when he knew that his work was not done, nor his testimony finished; thus he gave an example to his own rule, When they persecute you in one city flee to another; nay, if occasion be, to a wilderness, for so Elijah did (1 Kings 19:3; 1 Kings 19:4), and the woman, the church, Revelation 12:6. When they took up loose stones to throw at Christ, he could have commanded the fixed stones, which did cry out of the wall against them, to avenge his cause, or the earth to open and swallow them up; but he chose to accommodate himself to the state he was in, to make the example imitable by the prudence of his followers, without a miracle. (3.) It was a righteous deserting of those who (worse than the Gadarenes, who prayed him to depart) stoned him from among them. Christ will not long stay with those who bid him be gone. Christ did again visit the temple after this; as one loth to depart, he bade oft farewell; but at last he abandoned it for ever, and left it desolate. Christ now went through the midst of the Jews, and none of them courted his stay, nor stirred up himself to take hold of him, but were even content to let him go. Note, God never forsakes any till they have first provoked him to withdraw, and will have none of him. Calvin observes that these chief priests, when they had driven Christ out of the temple, valued themselves on the possession they kept of it: "But," says he, "those deceive themselves who are proud of a church or temple which Christ has forsaken." Longe falluntur, cum templum se habere putant Deo vacuum. When Christ left them it is said that he passed by silently and unobserved; paregen houtos, so that they were not aware of him. Note, Christ's departures from a church, or a particular soul, are often secret, and not soon taken notice of. As the kingdom of God comes not, so it goes not, with observation. See Judges 16:20. Samson wist not that the Lord was departed from him. Thus it was with these forsaken Jews, God left them, and they never missed him.

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Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on John 8:57". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/john-8.html. 1706.

Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible

The point at which we have arrived gives me an opportunity of saying a little on the beginning of this chapter, and the end of the last; for it is well known that many men, and, I am sorry to add, not a few Christians, have allowed appearances to weigh against John 7:53 John 8:11 a very precious portion of God's word. The fact is, that the paragraph of the convicted adulteress has been either simply left out in some copies of Scripture, or a blank equivalent to it appears, or it is given with marks of doubt and a good deal of variety of reading, or it is put in elsewhere. This, with many alleged verbal peculiarities, acted on the minds of a considerable number, and led them to question its title to a place in the genuine gospel of John. I do not think that the objections usually raised are here understated. Nevertheless, mature as well as minute consideration of them fails to raise the slightest doubt in my own mind, and therefore to me it seems so much the more a duty to defend it, where the alternative is a dishonour to what I believe God has given us.

In its favour are the strongest possible proofs from such a character in itself, and such suitability to the context, as no forgery could ever boast. And these moral or spiritual indications (though, of course, only to such as are capable of apprehending and enjoying God's mind) are incomparably graver and more conclusive than any evidence of an external sort. Not that the external evidence is really weak, far from it. That which gives such an appearance is capable of reasonable, unforced, and even of what seems almost to amount to an historical solution. The meddling was probably due to human motives no uncommon thing in ancient or modern times. With good and with bad intentions men have often tried to mend the word of God. Superstitious persons, unable to enter into its beauty, and anxious after the good opinion of the world, were afraid to trust the truth which Christ was here setting forth in deed. Augustine,* an unimpeachable witness of facts, nearly as old as the most ancient manuscripts which omit the paragraph, tells us that it was from ethical difficulties some dropped this section out of their copies. We know for certain that dogmatic motives similarly influenced some in Luke 22:42-43. One of the considerations, adverted to already, ought to weigh exceedingly with the believer. The account, I shall show, is exactly in harmony with the Scripture that follows it not less so than the Lord's refusal to go up to the feast and show Himself to the world, with His words which follow on the gift of the Holy Ghost in John 7:1-53; or, again, the miracle of the miraculous bread, with the discourse appended on the needed food for the Christian inJohn 6:1-71; John 6:1-71. In a word, there is here, as there, an indissoluble link of connected truth between the facts related and the communication our Lord makes afterwards in each instance respectively.

* The suspicion that some weak believers or enemies of the faith omitted the section, as the Bishop of Hippo suggests, would expose the passage to be tampered with. It is very likely that the Christians who read the Shepherd of Hermas in their public services would omit John 8:1-11. Similar unbelief inclines critical judgment in that direction now. Judgment of facts is apt to be swayed and formed by the will.

For, let me ask, what is the salient divine principle which runs through our Lord's conduct and language when the scribes and Pharisees confront Him with the woman taken in adultery? A flagrant case of sin was produced. They manifest no holy hatred of the evil, and certainly feel no pity for the sinner. "They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?* This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him." Their hope was to ensnare Christ, and to leave Him only a choice of difficulties: either a useless repetition of the law of Moses, or open opposition to the law. If the latter, would it not prove Him God's adversary? If the former, would He not forfeit all His pretensions to grace? For they were well aware, that in all the ways and language of Christ, there was that which totally differed from the law and all before Him. Indeed, they counted on His grace, though they felt it not, relished it not, in no way valued it as of God; but still they so expected grace in our Lord's dealing with so heinous a sinner as the one before them, that they hoped thereby to commit Him fatally in the eyes of men. Enmity to His person was their motive. To agree with Moses or to annul him seemed to them inevitable, and almost equally prejudicial to the claims of Jesus. No doubt, they most expected that our Lord in His grace would oppose the law, and thus put Himself and grace in the wrong.

* It is the remark of a critic unfriendly to the passage, that this question belongs to the last days of our Lord's ministry, and cannot well be introduced chronologically here. Unconsciously, however, this is really a strong confirmation; for morally John starts with the rejection of Jesus, and gives at the beginning even (as in the cleansing of the temple) similar truths to those which the rest attest at the close.

But the fact is, the grace of God never conflicts with His law, but, on the contrary, maintains its authority in its own sphere. There is nothing which clears, establishes, and vindicates the law, and every other principle of God, so truly as His grace. Even the proprieties of nature were never so made good as when the Lord manifested grace on the earth. Take, for instance, His ways inMatthew 19:1-30; Matthew 19:1-30. Who ever developed God's idea and will in marriage as Christ did? Who cast light on the value of a little child till Christ did? When a man left Himself, who could look so wistfully and with such love upon him as Jesus? Grace therefore is in no way inconsistent with, but maintains obligations at their true height. It is precisely thus, only still more gloriously, with our Lord's conduct on this occasion; for He weakens not in the least either the law or its sanctions, but contrariwise sheds around divine light in His own words and ways, and even applies the law with convincing power, not merely to the convicted criminal, but to the more hidden guilt of her accusers. Not a single self-righteous soul was left in that all-searching presence none indeed of those who came about the matter, except the woman herself.

Choose for me in all Scripture a preface of fact so suited to the doctrine of the chapter that follows. The whole chapter, from first to last, beams with light the light of God and of His word in the person of Jesus. Is not this undeniably what comes out in the opening incident? Does not Christ present Himself in discourse just after as the light of the world (so continually in John), as God's light by His word in Himself, infinitely superior even to law, and yet at the same time giving the law its fullest authority? Only a divine person could thus put and keep everything in its due place; only a divine person could act in perfect grace, but at the same time maintain immaculate holiness, and so much the more because it was in One full of grace.

This is just what the Lord does. Therefore, when the charge was brought thus heartlessly against outward evil, He simply stoops down, and with His finger writes on the ground. He allowed them to think of the circumstances, of themselves, and of Him. As they still continued asking, He lifted up Himself, and said unto them, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast the stone at her." And again, stooping down, He writes on the round. (Verses John 8:6-8) The first act allows the full iniquity of their aim to be realized. They hoped, no doubt, it might be an insuperable difficulty to Him. They had time to weigh what they had said and were seeking. When they continued to ask, and He lifted Himself up and spoke to them those memorable words, He again stoops, that they might weigh them in their consciences. It was the light of God cast on their thoughts, words, and life. The words were few, simple, and self-evidencing. He that is without sin among you, let him first cast the stone at her." The effect was immediate and complete. His words penetrated to the heart. Why did not some of the witnesses rise and do the office? What! not one? "They which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last.; and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst." (v. John 8:9) The law had never done this. They had learnt and trifled with the law up to this time; they had freely used it, as men do still, to convict other people. But here was the light of God shining full on their sinful condition, as well as on the law. It was the light of God that reserved all its rights to the law, but itself shone with such spiritual force as had never reached their consciences before, and drove out the faithless hearts which desired not the knowledge of God and His ways. And this a waif tossed haphazard on the broken coast of our gospel! Nay, brethren, your eyes are at fault; it is a ray of light from Christ, and shines just where it should.

It was not exactly, as Augustine says, "Relicti sunt duo, misera, et misericordia" ( In Jo. Evang. Tr., xxxiii. 5); for here the Lord is acting as light. Therefore, instead of saying, Thy sins are forgiven, He asks, "Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more."* It is not pardon, nor mercy, but light. "Go, and sin no more" (not, "Thy faith hath saved thee: go in peace"). Man invented such a story as this! Who since the world began, had he set to work to imagine an incident to illustrate the chapter, could or would have framed such an one as this? Where is there anything like it, that poet, philosopher, historian ever wrote, ever conceived? Produce the Protevangelion, the gospel of Nicodemus, or any other such early writing. These, indeed, are the genuine productions of man; but what a difference from that before us! Yet is it in the truest sense original, entirely distinct from any other fact, either in the Bible, or anywhere else, not, of course, excepting John himself. Nevertheless, its air, scope, and character can be proved, I think, to suit John, and no other; and this particular context in John, and no other. No theory is less reasonable than that this can be either a mere floating tradition stuck in here by some chance, or the work of a forger's mind. I do not think it harsh, but charitable to speak thus plainly; for the course of incredulity is now running strong' and Christians can hardly avoid hearing of these questions. I therefore do not refuse this opportunity of leading any simple souls to see how truly divine the whole bearing of this portion is how exactly apposite to that which the Lord insists on throughout the chapter. For, immediately after, we have doctrine unfolded which, no doubt, goes farther, but is intimately connected, as no other chapter is, with the story.†

*The fact that κατακρίνω is found here twice, and here only in John, is of no weight against the genuineness of the passage. It is the strict judicial term for passing an adverse sentence among men. How, where, could this be anywhere else in John? It is not true that κρίνω is ever used in this sense anywhere in John. It means, and should always be rendered, "judge," not "condemn," though the effect for the guilty (and man is guilty) be necessarily condemnation.

†Among the detailed objections to the genuineness of the passage (John 7:53; John 8:1-11), it is contended that the evidence of Augustine and Nicon (who distinctly tell us that it was expunged wilfully on account of the supposed license it gave to sin) does not account for the omission ofJohn 7:53; John 7:53. But this is short-sighted. For the going of each to his home is in evident connection with, and contra-distinction to, the going of Jesus to the mount of Olives. He was ever the stranger here. And what gospel, or whose style, does this simple but profound contrast suit so much as John? (Compare John 20:10-11) We know, fromJohn 18:2; John 18:2, that this neighbourhood was the frequent resort of Jesus with His disciples.

Next, the idea of many distinct and independent texts (as distinguished from abundance of various readings) seems an evident exaggeration. Take the fact, that this is eked out by putting the Received Text as one; the text of D (or Beza's Cambridge Uncial) as another; and that of most of the MSS. E F G H K M S U, etc., as a third. Now, what right has the Received Text to be thus ranged? It was formed by collating some of those very manuscripts which are thrown together as a third text. The true conclusion, therefore, is simply the not at all unprecedented phenomenon that D differs considerably from almost if not all other manuscripts, and that the Received Text is but a poor approximation to a text based on a collation of manuscripts. A really standard text, which gives just but discriminating value to an worthy witnesses, is as yet a desideratum.

Thirdly, what the contents of the passage are which countenances the notion that there is some inherent defect in the text to invalidate its claim to a place in the sacred narrative I cannot divine, as it is not here explained.

The fourth objection is the very general concurrence of the MSS. that contain the passage in placing it here. Why this place, of all others, should have been selected, will be no difficulty to those who feel with me; but, on the contrary, in my judgment, it refutes the "desperate resource" (as it is even allowed to be, strange to say, by those who adopt it), that the evangelist may have in this solitary case incorporated a portion of the current oral tradition into his narrative, which was afterwards variously corrected from the gospel to the Hebrews, or other traditional sources, and from different diction put in at the end ofLuke 21:1-38; Luke 21:1-38, or elsewhere. I am convinced, that where there is a real understanding of John 8:1-59 as a whole, the opening incident will be felt to be a necessary exordium of fact before the discourse which, to my mind, manifestly and certainly grew out of it, as surely as it happened then, and at no other time. Lastly, the mind which could conceive that the fact, as well as the tone or the moral drift of this incident, fits in to the end of Luke 21:1-38 rather than to the beginning ofJohn 8:1-59; John 8:1-59, seems so decidedly imaginative, that reasoning is here out of place, particularly as it is allowed, along with this, that its occurrence here (spite of the evidence of some cursive MSS. for Luke 21:1-38) seems much in its favour. Lastly, I have examined with care, and satisfied myself, that the alleged weightiest argument against the passage, in its entire diversity from the style of John's narrative, is superficial and misleading. Some peculiar words are required by the circumstance; and the general cast and character of the passage, so far from being alien to the evangelist's manner, seems to me, on the contrary, in his spirit, rather than in any other inspired writer's, no matter in which of the manuscripts we read it. D is the copy which makes the chief inroads; this is a common thing with that venerable, but most faulty document.

Jesus spoke again to them (the interrupters having disappeared). "I am the light of the world." He had just acted as light among those who had appealed to law; He here goes on, but widens the sphere. He says, "I am the light of the world." it is not merely dealing with scribes and Pharisees. Further, "He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." The life was the light of men, the perfect display and guide of the life He was to His followers. The law never is this good if a man use it lawfully, but not for a righteous man whose Christ is. So Christ tells the Pharisees who objected that He knew whence He came, and whither He was going: they were in the dark, and knew nothing of it. They were in the unrelieved darkness of the world, they judged after the flesh. Not so Jesus: He did not judge. Yet, if He did, His judgment was true; for He was not alone, but His Father was with Him. And their law bid them bow to two witnesses. But what witnesses? His testimony was so decided, that the reason why they did not then lay hands on Him was simply this His hour was not yet come. (Verses John 8:12-20)

The Lord throughout the chapter speaks with more than usual solemnity, and with increasing plainness to His enemies, who knew neither Him nor His Father. They should die in their sins; and whither He went, they could not come. They were from beneath of this world; He from above, and not of this world.

The truth is, that throughout the gospel He speaks as One consciously rejected, but morally judging all things as the Light. He therefore does not scruple to push things to an extremity, to draw out their real character and state most distinctly; to pronounce on them as from beneath, as He Himself from above; to show that there was no resemblance between them and Abraham, but rather Satan, and not the smallest communion in their thoughts with His Father's. Hence it is, too, that later on He lets them know that the time is coining when they should know who He was, but too late. He is the rejected light of God, and light of the world, from the first, and all through; but, more than this, He is the light of God, not only in deed, but in His word; as elsewhere He let them know they would be judged by it in the last day. Hence, when they asked Him who He was, He answers them to that effect; and I refer to it the more, because the force is imperfectly given, and even wrongly, in verse 25: "Who art thou? And Jesus saith unto them, Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning." Not only is there no need of adding "the same," but there is nothing that answers to "from the beginning." And this, again, has involved our translators in a change of tense, which is not merely uncalled for, but spoils the true idea. Our Lord does not refer to what He had said at or from any starting-point, but to what He speaks always, as then also. In every respect the sense of the Holy Ghost is enfeebled, changed, and even destroyed in the common version. What our Lord did answer is incomparably more forcible, and in exact accordance with the doctrine of the chapter, and the incident that begins it. They asked Him who He was. His answer is this: "Absolutely that which I also am speaking to you." I am thoroughly, essentially what I also speak. It is not only that He is the light, and that there is no darkness in Him as there is none in God, so none in Him; but, as to the principle of His being, He is what He utters. And, indeed, of Him only is this true. A Christian may be said to be light in the Lord; but of none, save Jesus, could it be said, that the word he discourses is the expression of what he is. Jesus is the truth. Alas! we know that, so false is human nature and the world, nothing but the power of the Spirit, revealing Christ to us through the Word, keeps us even as believers from departure into error, misconduct, and evil of any kind. None but One could say, "I am what I speak." And this is precisely what Christ is showing throughout the scene. He was the light to convict the doers of darkness, however hidden; He was the light which made others no matter what they might have been in the world to be light, if they followed Himself, God manifest in flesh. He manifested God, and made man manifest also. Everything was manifested by the light. Who is He? "Absolutely ( τὴν ἀρχὴν ) what I speak." What He utters in speech is what He is. There was not the smallest deflection from the truth; His every word and way declared it. There was never the appearance of what He was not. He is always, and in every particular, what He speaks.

How entirely this falls in with what we have elsewhere, does not need to be pressed. We see farther on the same doctrine, only ever expanding; revelation clearer, and more antagonistic to more and more determined unbelief. He lets them know, that when they have lifted up the Son of man, then they shall know that Jesus is He (the truth would be thoroughly out), "and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things." It is not miracles here, but the truth. He not only is the truth in His own person, but He speaks it. He speaks it to the world also; for all through John's gospel, although it be the eternal life that was with the Father, the Word that was with God in the beginning, still, He is also (from John 1:14) a man on earth a real, true man here below, however truly God. And so it is in this chapter. It began by showing that He is so in act; then it opens out that He is so in word. He said to the world what He heard from Him that sent Him as they rightly understood, from the Father.

He pursues the same line in dealing with the Jews who believed in Him (verse John 8:31): "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." Thus His word (not the law) is the sole means of knowing the truth and its liberty. It was not merely a question of commands, or of something God wanted from man. That had been given, and tried; and what was the end of it for them and Him? Now much more was at stake, even the manifestation of God in Christ to the world, and this also in His word, in the truth. It became a test, therefore, of the truth; and if they continued in His word, they should be His disciples indeed; and should know the truth, and the truth should make them free.

But then there is another thing required to set free, or rather which does à fortiori set free. The truth learnt in the word of Jesus is the only foundation. But if received, it is not merely that I have the truth, so to speak, as an expression of His mind, but of Himself of His person. Hence it is that He touches on this point in verse 36: "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." It is not merely, then, the truth making free, but the Son. He who pretends to receive the truth, but does not bow before the glory of the Son, proves that there is no truth in him. He that receives the truth might at first be very ignorant; the truth may be, then, nothing more than that which lets in the light of God graciously, but in a limited measure. It is rarely that all at once the full glory of Christ bursts in upon the soul. As with the disciples, so it might be with any soul now. There might be real, but gradual perception; but the truth invariably works thus, where God is the teacher. Then, as light increases, and the glory of Christ shines more distinctly, the heart welcomes Him; and so much the more rejoices as He is exalted. On the contrary, where it is not the truth, but theory or tradition a mere reasoning or sentiment about Christ, the heart is offended by the full presentation of His glory, stumbles at it, and turns away from Him, just because it cannot bear the strength and brightness of that divine fulness which was in Christ: it knows not God, nor Jesus Christ whom He has sent. Eternal life is unknown and unenjoyed.

Further, the Lord brings out here another thing worthy of all attention; especially as the same principle runs through from the incident at the beginning of the chapter. It is not merely light, truth, and the Son known in the person of Christ, but also as contrasted with the law. Did they boast in the law? What place had they under it? Slaves! Yes, and they were faithless to it; they broke the law; they were slaves of sin. It is not the slave, but the Son, who abides in the house. Thus the law is not in any way lowered, but at the same time there is the bright contrast of Christ with it. The law has its just place; it is for servants, and deals with them justly. The consequence is, there is no permanence for them, any more than liberty. Law could not meet the case; nothing, and none short of the Son. "Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin." Was not this precisely what He had brought home to the conscience at the beginning of the chapter? Before God (and He was God) it was not what the poor woman had done that was all, but what they were, and they were convicted of sin; they were not without sin. He had said, "The servant abideth not in the house;" and this was precisely the case with them; they were obliged to go.* "But the Son abideth ever," and so He does in the best, and highest, and truest estate. Thus the doctrine entirely harmonizes with the fact, and in a way that does not appear at first sight, but only as we look into it a little more closely, and search into the depths of the living word of God, though none of us can boast of the progress we have made. Nevertheless, we may be permitted to say, that the more closely we are given of God to apprehend the truth, the more the divine perfectness of the entire picture becomes manifest to our souls.

*"They were struck by the power of the word of Christ," says an opponent of the claim of the commencing section to a genuine and divinely given place in the chapter, unconscious that he is thereby illustrating its connection with the whole current of the chapter.

I need not go through the particulars which the Lord brings out in laying bare the condition of the Jews, the seed (not the children) of Abraham, but really of their father the devil, and manifesting it in the two characters of liar and murderer. They did not know His speech, because they could not hear His word. The truth meant is the key to the outer vehicle of it just the reverse of man's knowledge. In fine, all is shown in its true essential character here, the convicted one and her accusers, the Jews, the world, the disciples, the truth, the Son, Satan himself, God Himself. Not only is Abraham* seen truly (not as misrepresented in his seed), but One who was greater than "our father" Abraham, who would say, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing; but who could say (with a verily, verily), "BEFORE ABRAHAM WAS, I AM." He is the light in deed and word. He says so. Then He deals with them, convicting them more and more. He shows that the truth is found here only in His word. He, the witness, testifies that He is the Son. But the chapter does not end before He announces His eternal Godhead. He is God Himself, yet hides Himself when they took up stones to stone Him. His hour was not yet come. This is the truth of them, as of Him. He was God. Such is the truth. Short of this, we have not the truth of Christ. But it is the growing rejection of Christ's word that leads Him on step by step to the assertion that He was very God, though a man upon the earth.

* I apprehend that by "my day" He means the day of Christ's glory; not vaguely the time of Christ, but the day when He will be displayed in glory. "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day." He looked for that day of Christ's appearing in glory, and he "saw it, and was glad." It was the day when the promises would be accomplished, and very naturally he who had the promises looked for the time when they are to be made good in Christ.

Like the preceding, John 9:1-41 shows us the Lord rejected here in His work, as there in His word. The difference a little answers to what we have seen in John 5:1-47; John 6:1-71. In the fifth chapter He is the quickening Son of God; but all testimonies are vain, and judgment awaits the unbeliever a resurrection of judgment. In John 6:1-71. He is seen as the suffering Son of man, who takes the place of humiliation, instead of the kingdom which they wanted to force on Him. But no; this was not the purpose for which He had come, though true in its own time; but what He took, and took because His eye was ever single, viewed as man, was for God's glory, not for His own; and the real glory of God in a ruined world is only met by the service and death of the Son of man dying for sinners and for sin. Somewhat similarly in John 8:1-59 He is the rejected Word, who confesses Himself (when most scorned and men are ready to stone Him) to be the everlasting God Himself. As man becomes more hardened in unbelief, Christ becomes more pointed and plain in the assertion of the truth. Thus the more it is pressed down, the more the brightness of the truth makes its way out, that He is God. They had fully heard now who He was, and therefore must He be ignominiously cast out. His words brought God too close, too really; and they would not bear them.

But now He is rejected in another way, and in this it is as man, though declaring Himself and worshipped as Son of God. We shall see that there is stress on His manhood, more especially as the necessary mould or form which divine grace took to effect the blessing of man, to work the works of God in grace on the earth. Accordingly, here it is not merely that man is seen to be guilty, but blind from his birth. Doubtless there is light that discovers man in his evil and. unbelief; but man is sought and met by His grace; for here the man had no thought of being healed never asked Jesus to heal him. There was no cry here to the Son of David. This we hear most properly in the other gospels, which develop the last offer of the Messiah to the Jews. In every one of the gospels, indeed, we have Him finally presented as the Son of David; and therefore, although it be the proper province of Matthew, yet inasmuch as all the synoptic gospels dwell on our Lord at the close as Son of David, all the gospels give the story of the blind man at Jericho. Matthew, however, gives blind men over and over again, crying to Him, "Son of David." The reason is, I suppose, that not merely is He so presented at the last, but all through in Matthew. In John this case does not appear at all; no blind man cries to the Son of David throughout. What is brought before us in the man, blind from his birth, is a wholly different truth. It was, indeed, the most desperate case. Instead of the man looking to Christ, it is Christ that looks at the man, without a single cry or appeal to Him. It is absolute grace. If it be not the Father seeking, at any rate it is the Son. It is One who had deigned to become man in love to man. He is seeking, though rejected, to display the grace of God toward this poor blind beggar in his abject need: "As Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?"

They had nothing better than Jewish thoughts about the case. But all through the gospel of John Christ is setting aside these thoughts on every side, whether in enquirers outside, or more particularly in disciples, who were under this pernicious influence like other people. Here the Lord answered, "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents." The ways of God are not as man's; and their revelation stands in contrast with Jewish notions of retributive justice. The reason lay deeper than what his parents deserved, or the foresight of what he would do amiss. Not that the man and his parents were not sinners; but the eye of Jesus saw beyond nature, or law, or government, in the man's blindness from his birth. To divine goodness, the inner and true and ultimate reason, God's reason if one may be permitted such a phrase was to furnish an opportunity for Christ to work the works of God on the earth. How blessedly grace operates in, and judges of, a hopeless case! That it was wholly outside the resources of man made it just the occasion for Jesus, for the works of God. This is the point of the chapter Jesus working the works of God in free unconditional grace. In John 8:1-59 the prominent feature. is the word of God; here, the works of God made effectual and manifest in grace. "I must work the works of him that sent me while it is day." Therefore can one say, that it is unqualified grace, because it is not merely God mercifully answering man's appeal, and blessing man's work, but God sending, and Christ working. "I must work the works of him that sent me." What grace (save in Jesus all through) can be compared with this? Jesus, then, was doing this work "while it is day." Day was while He was present with them. Night was coming, which would be, for the Jew, the personal absence of the Messiah; indeed, such for any would be the departure of the Son of God. "The night cometh when no man can work." (Verse 4) Higher things might follow in their season, and brighter light suited to them when the day should dawn, and the day-star arise in hearts established with grace. But here it is the time of the absence of Jesus in contrast with His presence on earth as He then was. "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." (Verse 5)

This establishes very plainly the fact, that these two chapters are so far linked together, in that they look at Christ as light, and the light of the world too. But, far from being confined to Israel, it rather sets aside the Jewish system, which assumes to order things justly now according to man's conduct, thus ignoring man's ruin by sin, and God's grace in Christ as the sole deliverance. Here it is not so much the light by the word convicting man, and bringing out God's nature and the reality of His own personal glory, but "the light of the world" as manifesting God graciously working in power contrary to nature. It was a question not of light for eyes, but of giving power to see the light to one wholly and evidently incapable of seeing as he was. Hence we do well to remark the peculiarity in the Lord's manner of working. He lays clay upon the man's eyes; an extraordinary step at first sight. In truth, it was the shadow of Himself become man, an apt figure of the human body which He took in order therein to do God's will. He was not simply Son of God, but Son of God possessed of a body prepared of God. (Hebrews 10:1-39) He became man; and yet the fact of the body of Christ of God's Son being found in fashion as a man only and greatly increases the difficulty at first sight, because nobody, apart from the word of God, would look for a divine person in such a guise. But when faith bows to the word, and accepts the will of God in it, how precious the grace, how wise the ordering yea, how indispensable it is learnt to be! So with the man already blind before. Putting the plaster of clay over his eyes did not at once mend his blindness in the least; but, if anything, the contrary would have hindered his seeing, had he seen before. But when he goes at the word of Jesus, and washes in the pool of Siloam that is, when the word is applied in the Holy Ghost to his case, revealing Jesus as the sent One of God (compareJohn 5:24; John 5:24), all was so far plain. It was not a mere man who had spoken; he apprehended in Jesus One Sent (for the pool to which the Lord directed the man to wash his clay-covered eyes in was called "Siloam;" that is, it bore the very name of "sent"). It was then understood that Jesus had a mission on earth to work the works of God. Though, of course, man born of a woman, He was more than human: He was the Sent One the Sent of the Father in love into this world, to work effectually where man was entirely incapable even of helping in any way.

Thus the truth was in process of application, so to speak. The man goes his way, washes, and comes seeing. The word of God explains this mystery. The Son's taking humanity is ever a blinding fact to nature; but he who is not disobedient to the word will assuredly not fail to find in the acknowledgment of the truth Christ's glory under His manhood, as well as the need of his own soul met with a power and promptness which answers, as it is due, to His glory who wrought in grace here below.

Nevertheless, the word of the Lord tried him as ever; other hearts were tested by it too. The neighbours were astonished, and questions arise; the Pharisees are stirred but divided (for this miracle, also, was wrought on a sabbath). The parents being summoned, as well as himself questioned, all stand to the great and indisputable fact: the man just healed was their child, and he had been born blind. The man indeed witnessed what he believed of Jesus, and the threat of the consequences was only made the clearer, even though there was a total avoidance of all dangerous answers on the parents' part, and a determination to reject Christ and those who confessed Him in the Pharisees. The work of grace was hated, and especially because it was wrought on the sabbath day. For this bore solemn witness, that in the truth of things before God there was no sabbath possible for them: He must work if man was to be delivered and blessed. Of course, there was the holy form, and there was no doubt as to the duty; but if God revealed Himself on earth, neither forms nor duties, paid after a sort by sinful men, could hide the awful reality that man was incapable of keeping such a sabbath as God could recognise. The day had been sanctified from the beginning; the duty of the Jew was unquestionable; but sin was man's state; after every remedial measure, he was thoroughly and only evil continually.

In fact, so far the Jew quite understood, as far as that went, the moral meaning of the Lord's working thus both either on the impotent man before, and now on the blind man. For such deeds on the sabbath did pronounce sentence of death on that whole system, and on the great badge of relationship between God and Israel. If Jesus was true God as well as man, if He was really the light of the world, yet wrought on the sabbath day, there was plain evidence on God's part of what He thought of Israel. They felt it to be a matter of life and death. But the man was led on by these conscienceless attacks, as is always the case where there is simple faith. The effort to destroy the person of Christ and to undermine His glory only developed, in the goodness of God, that divine work which had already touched his soul, as well as given him eyes to see. Thus was his faith exercised and cleared, side by side with the unbelief and hostility of the enemies of Christ. The consequence is, that we have a beautiful history in this chapter of the man led on step by step; first owning the work the Lord had wrought with simplicity, and therefore in force of truth: what he does not know he owned with just the same frankness. Then, when the Pharisees were divided, and he was appealed to once more, "He is a prophet" was his distinct answer. Then, when the fact was only the more established by the parents, spite of their timidity, the hypocritical effort to honour God at the expense of Jesus draws out the most withering refutation (not without a taunt) from him who had been blind. (Verses 24-33) This closed, they could not answer, and cast him out. (Verse 34)

How beautiful to mark the Spirit's love, dwelling fully and minutely on a blind beggar taught of God, thus gradually and evermore beating their in credulous objections smaller than when they cast him out as dirt in the streets! What a living picture of the new witness for Christ! A character plain, honest, energetic, not always the most gracious, but certainly confronted with the most heartless and false of adversaries. But if the man finds himself out of the synagogue, he is soon in the presence of Christ. The religious world of that day could not endure a witness of divine power and grace which they themselves, feeling not the need, denied, denounced, and did all they could to destroy. Outside them, but with Jesus, he learns more deeply than ever, so as to fill his soul with profound joy and gladness, that the wondrous healer of his blindness was not merely a prophet, but the Son of God just object of faith and worship. Thus clearly we have in this case the rejection of Jesus viewed, not in open attack on His own person, as in the. chapter before, where they took up stones to stone Him, but here rather in His friends, whom He had first met in sovereign grace, and did not let them go till fully blessed, ending in Jesus worshipped outside the synagogue as the Son of God. (Verses 38-40)

Then the Lord declares the issues of His coming. "For judgment," He says, "I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind." In this gospel He ]lad said before, that it was to save and give life, not to judge, that He came. Such was the aim of His heart, at all cost to Himself; but the effect was moral in one way or the other, and this now. Manifest judgment awaits the evil by-and-by. And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth." They were offended at the notion of their not seeing. Did they insist that they saw? The Lord admits the plea. If they felt their sin and shortcoming, there might be a hope. As it was, then, sin remained. The boast, like the excuse, of unbelief is invariably the ground of divine judgment.

John 10:1-42 pursues the subject and opens out into a development, not of the spiritual history of a sheep of Christ, but of the Shepherd Himself, from first to last, here below. Hence, the Lord does not rest in a judgment extorted by their unbelief, and in contrast with the deliverance of faith, but develops the ways of grace here, as always in marked antithesis with the Jewish system, though connected with the man for His sake turned out of the synagogue, then found by Himself, and led into the fullest perception of His own glory outside the Jews, where alone real worship is possible. Accordingly our Lord traces this new history His own from the beginning.

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber." It was not so with Jesus. He had entered in by the door, according to every requisition of the Scriptures. Although Son, He had submitted to each ordinance which God had laid down for the Shepherd of His earthly people. He accomplished the work that God had marked out for Him in prophecy and type. What had been required or stipulated, according to the law, that had He not rendered in full tale? He was born at the measured time, in the due place, from the sworn stock, and of the defined mother, according to the written word. God had taken care beforehand to make each important point plain, by which the true Christ of God was to be recognised; and all had been fulfilled thus far in Jesus thus far; for it is quite allowed that all the prophecies of subjugation and judgment, with the reign over the earth, remain to be accomplished. "To him," He says, "the porter openeth." This had been realized. Witness the Holy Ghost's action in Simeon and Anna, not to speak of the mass; and, above all, in John the Baptist. God had wrought by His grace in Israel, and there were godly hearts prepared for Him there.

"And the sheep hear his voice." (VerseJohn 10:3; John 10:3) So we find in the gospels, particularly Luke's, from the beginning. And he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out" an evident allusion to what had befallen the blind man. No doubt he had been turned out of the synagogue; but Christ imprints, on this, their wicked act, His own interpretation, according to divine counsels. Little did the man know at that painful moment, that it was in reality grace which was leading him out. If it was a little before His own public and final rejection, it was, after all, the same principle at the bottom. The disciple is not above his master; but every one that is perfect shall be as his master. "He goeth before them." This seems to refer to the manner in which it had been, and should be, accomplished. Already had the Lord tasted the enmity and scorn of man, and especially of the Jews; but He also knew the depths of shame and suffering which He must soon pass through, before there was an open separation of the sheep. Thus, whether it were done virtually or formally, in either case Jesus went before, and the sheep followed; "for they know his voice." This is their spiritual instinct, as it is their security not skill in determining or refuting error, but simple cleaving to Christ and the truth. See this exemplified in the once blind man. What weight had the Pharisees with his conscience? None whatever. They, on the contrary, felt he taught them. "A stranger will they not follow," any more than he would follow the Pharisees. For now, by the new eyes which the Lord had given him, he could discern their vain pretensions, and their hostility against Jesus so much the worse, because coupled with "Give God the praise." "A stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him" not because they are learned in the injurious jargon of strangers, "for they know not the voice of strangers." They know the Shepherd's voice, and this they follow. It is the love of what is good, and not skill in finding out what is evil. Some may have power to sift and discern the unsound; but this is not the true, direct, divine means of safety for the sheep of Christ. There is a much more real, immediate, and sure way. It is simply this: they cannot rest without the voice of Christ; and that which is not the voice of Christ they do not follow. What more suitable to them, or more worthy of Him?

As these things were not understood, the Lord opens out the truth still more plainly in what follows. Here (verse John 10:7) He begins by taking the place of "the door of the sheep;" not, be it observed, of the sheepfold, but of the sheep. He had entered in Himself by the door, not of the sheep, of course, but by the door into the sheepfold. He entered in according to each sign and token moral, miraculous, prophetic, or personal which God had given to His ancient people to know Him by. But enter as He might, the people who broke the law refused the Shepherd; and the end of it was, that He leads His own sheep outside, Himself going before them. Now, there is more, and He says, "I am the door of the sheep." The contrast of pretended or merely human shepherds is given in the next verse, which is parenthetical. "All that ever came before me [such as Theudas and Judas] are thieves and robbers [they secretly or openly enriched themselves by the sheep]: but the sheep did not hear them."

In verse 9 He enlarges. "I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture." The portion He gives the sheep is a contrast with the law in another way; not as light simply, as in the beginning of John 8:1-59, in detecting all sin and every sinner. Now, it is grace in its fulness. "By me," He says not by circumcision, or the law "By me if any man enter in." There was no question of entering in by the law; for it dealt with those who were already in a recognised relation with God. But now there is an invitation to those without. "By me if any man enter in, he shall be saved." Salvation is the first need of a sinner, and certainly the Gentile needs it as much as the Jew. "By me if any man" no matter who he may be, if he enter, he shall be saved. Nevertheless, it is only for those that enter in. There is no salvation for such as abide outside Christ. But this is not all; for grace with Christ freely gives, not salvation alone, but all things. Even now, too, "he shall go in and out." It is not only that there is life and salvation in Christ, but there is liberty, in contrast with the law. "And he shall find pasture." Besides, there is food assured. Thus we have here an ample provision for the sheep. To him that enters by Christ there is salvation, there is liberty, there is food.

Again, the Lord contrasts others with Himself. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy." By their fruits they should know them. How could the sheep trust such shepherds as these? "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." There had been life when there was only a promise; there had been life all through the dealings of law. Clearly Christ had ever been the means of life from the day death entered the world. But now He was come, it was not only that they might have life, but that they might have it "more abundantly." This was the effect of the presence of God's Son in this world. Was it not right and becoming, that when the Son of God did humble Himself in this world, even to death, the death of the cross, dying also in atonement for sinners, God should mark this infinite fact and work and person by an incomparably richer blessing than ever had been diffused before? I cannot conceive it otherwise than the Word shows it is, consistently with the glory of God, even the Father.

Further, He was not only the door of the sheep, and then the door for others to enter in, but He says (verse John 10:11), "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep." It is no longer only in contrast with a thief or a robber, with murderous intent or evidently selfish purposes of the worst kind, but there might be others characterised by a milder form of human iniquity not destroyers of the sheep, but self-seeking men. "He that. is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep." Christ, as the good shepherd, does nothing of the kind, but remains to suffer all for them, instead of running away when the wolf came. "I am the good shepherd, and know those that are mine, and am known by mine, as the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father." Such is the true sense of the verse. The John 10:14 th andJohn 10:15; John 10:15 th verses really form one sentence. They are not divided as we have them in our Bibles. The meaning is, that He showed Himself as the good Shepherd because He knew the sheep, and was known of them, just. as He knew the Father, and was known of the Father. The mutuality of knowledge between the Father and the Son is the pattern of the knowledge between the Shepherd and the sheep. In what a wondrous. place this puts us and the character of knowledge we possess. The knowledge which grace gives to the sheep is so truly divine that the Lord has nothing to compare it with, except the knowledge that exists between the Father and the Son. Nor is it merely a question of knowledge, intimate and perfect and divine as it is; but, moreover, "I lay down my life for the sheep." Other sheep, too, He intimates here, He had, who were to be brought in, that did not belong to the Jewish fold; He clearly looks out into the world, as always in the gospel of John. There was to be one flock (not fold), one Shepherd.

Moreover, in order to open yet more the ineffable complacency of the Father in His work abstractedly, He adds, "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life." Not here "for the sheep," but simply, "that I might take it again." (VerseJohn 10:17; John 10:17) That is to say, besides laying down His life for the sheep, He laid down His life to prove His perfect confidence in His Father. Impossible for another, or all others, to give so much. Even He could not give more than His life. Any other thing would not be comparable to the laying down of His life. It was the most complete, absolute giving up of Himself; and He did give up Himself, not merely for the gracious end of winning the sheep to God from the spoiler, but with the still more blessed and glorious aim of manifesting, in a world where man had from the first dishonoured God, His own perfect confidence in His Father, and this as man. He laid it down that He might take it again. Thus, instead of continuing His life in dependence on His Father, He gives it up out of a still profounder and truly absolute dependence. "Therefore," says He, "doth my Father love me." This becomes a positive ground for the Father to love Him, additional to the perfection which had ever been seen in Him all His pathway through. Even more than this; although it is so expressly an act of His own, another astonishing principle is seen the union of absolute devotedness on His own part, in perfect freeness of His will, with obedience. (Verse 18) Thus the very same act may be, and is (as we find it in all its perfection in Christ) His own will, and yet along with this simple submission to His Father's commandment. In truth, He and the Father were one; and so He does not stop till we have this fully expressed in verse John 10:30. He and His Father were one one in everything; not only in love and gracious counsel for the sheep, but in nature, too in that divine nature which, of course, was the ground of all the grace.

But, besides this, the unbelief of the Jews brings out another thing; that is, the perfect security of the sheep a very important question, because He was going to die. His death is in view: what will the sheep do then? Would the death of Christ in any way imperil the sheep? The very reverse. The Lord declares this in a most distinct manner. He says, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." (VersesJohn 10:27-28; John 10:27-28) First of all, the life is everlasting. But then it is not merely that the thing itself is eternal, but they shall never perish; for it might be pretended, that though the life lasts for ever, this is conditional on something in its recipients. Nay, "they shall never perish" the sheep themselves. Thus, not merely the life, but those who have it by grace in Christ, shall never perish. To conclude and crown all, as far as their security was concerned, the question is answered as to any hostile power. What about some one external to them? Nay; there again, as there was no internal source of weakness that could jeopard the life, so there should be no external power to cause anxiety. If there was any power that might do so righteously, surely it must be God's own; but, contrariwise, they were in the Father's hand, no less than in the Son's hand none could pluck them out. Thus the Lord fenced them round even by His death, as well as by that eternal life which was in Him, the superiority of which over death was proved by His authority to take it again in resurrection. This was the life more abundantly which they derived from Him. Why should any one wonder at its power? He was, for the sheep, against all adversaries; and so was the Father. Yea, "I and the Father are one." (VersesJohn 10:29-30; John 10:29-30)

As there had been a division among the Jews for His sayings, and their appeal in doubt to Him had drawn out both His treatment of them as unbelievers, and the security of the sheep who heeded His voice and followed Him, as He knew them (ver. John 10:19-30) so our Lord, in the presence of their hatred and still growing enmity (ver. John 10:31; John 10:31), convicts them of the futility of their objection on their own ground. Did they find fault because He took the place of being the Son of God? Yet they must allow that kings, governors, judges, according to their law, were called gods. "If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?" A fortiori had He not a place which no king ever had? Did He, on their own principles, blaspheme then, because He said He was the Son of God? But He goes far beyond this. If they regarded not God's word, nor His words, He appeals to His works. "If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him." This connects, as I apprehend, the tenth chapter with the foregoing, and is in contrast with the eighth. They had thus repeatedly sought to kill Him, and He abandons them for the place in which John first baptized. In the face of total rejection, and in every point of view, both as the expression of God in the world, and of His working the works of grace in the world, the result was plain. Man, the Jew especially, settles down in resolute unbelief and deadly hostility; but, on the other hand, the indefeasible security of the sheep, the objects of grace, only comes out with so much the greater clearness and decision.

Nevertheless, though all was really closed, God would manifest by a full and final testimony what was the glory of Christ, rejected as He was, and previous to His death. And accordingly, in John 11:1-57; John 12:1-50 is given a strikingly rich presentation of the Lord Jesus, in many respects entirely differing from all the others; for while it embraces what is found in the synoptists (that is, the accomplishment of prophecy in His offer of Himself to Zion as the Son of David), John brings in a fulness of personal glory that is peculiar to his gospel.

Here we begin with that which John alone records the resurrection of Lazarus. Some have wondered that it appears only in the latest gospel; but it is given there for a very simple and conclusive reason. The resurrection of Lazarus was the most distinct testimony possible, near Jerusalem, in the face of open Jewish enmity. It was the grandest demonstrative proof that He was the Son of God, determined to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. Who but He on earth could say, I am the resurrection and the life? Who had ever looked for more in Messiah Himself than Martha did raising up the dead at the last day?

Here I may just observe, that Romans 1:4 does not restrict the meaning to the fact that He was determined to be the Son of God with power by His own resurrection. This is not what the verse states, but that resurrection of the dead, or the raising of dead persons, was the great proof that defined Him to be the Son of God with power. No doubt His own resurrection was the most astonishing instance of it; but His raising of dead persons in His ministry was a witness also, as the resurrection of His saints by-and-by will be the display of it. Hence the verse in Romans 1:1-32 expresses the truth in all its extent, and without specifying any one in particular. So Lazarus, as being the most conspicuous case of resurrection any where appearing in the gospels, except Christ's own, which all give, was the fullest testimony that even John rendered to that great truth. Hence, then, as one might expect from its character, the account is given with remarkable development in that gospel which is devoted to the personal glory of Jesus as the Son of God. To this attaches the revelation of the resurrection, and the life in Him as a, present thing, superior to all questions of prophetic time, or dispensations. It could be found nowhere else so appropriately as in John. The difficulty, therefore, in its occurrence here and not elsewhere, is really none whatever to any one who believes the object of God as apparent in the gospels themselves.

But, then, there is another feature that meets us in the story. Christ was not only the Son of God, but the Son of man. He was the Son of God, and a perfect man, in absolute dependence on His Father. He was not to be acted upon by any feeling, except the will of God. Thus He carries His divine sonship into His position as a man on earth, and He never allows that the glory of His person should in the smallest degree interfere with the completeness of His dependence and obedience. Hence, when the Lord hears the call, "Behold, he whom thou lovest is sick" the strongest possible appeal to the heart for acting at once on it He does not go. His answer is most calm, and, if God be not before us, to mere human feeling it might seem indifferent. It was not so, but was utter perfection. "This sickness," He says, "is not unto death." Events might seem to contradict this; appearances might say it was to death, but Jesus was and is the truth always. "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby." And so it was. "Now, Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus." Whatever, therefore, it might appear, His affection was unquestionable. But, then, there are other and even deeper principles. His love for Mary, for Martha, and for Lazarus weakened in no respect His dependence on God; He waited on His Father's direction. So, "when he heard that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was. Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judea again. They say, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again? Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night he stumbleth, because there is no light in him." In Jesus there was nothing but perfect light. He was Himself the light. He walked in the sunshine of God. He was the very perfection of that which is only partially true with us in practice. "If, then, thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light." Indeed, He was the light, as well as full of it. Walking accordingly in this world, He waited for the word of His Father. At once, when this came, He says, "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth, but I go that I may awake him out of sleep." There was no darkness in Him. All is plain, and He go" forth promptly with the knowledge of all He is going to do.

Then we have the ignorant thoughts of the disciples, though not unmixed with devotedness to His person. Thomas proposes that they should go to die with him. How marvellous is the unbelief even of the saints of God! He was going really to raise the dead; their only thought was to go and die with him. Such was a disciple's sombre anticipation. Our Lord does not say a word about it at the moment, but calmly leaves the truth to correct the error in due time. Then we have the wonderful interview with the sisters; and, finally, our Lord is at the grave, a consciously divine person, the Son of the Father, but in the perfectness of manhood, yet with such deep feeling as Deity alone could produce not only sympathy with sorrow, but, above all, the sense of what death is in this world. Indeed, our Lord did not raise up Lazarus from the dead, until His own spirit had just as thoroughly taken, as it were, the sense of death on His soul, as when, in the removal of any sickness, He habitually felt its burden (Matthew 8:1-34); not, of course, in a low, literal, physical manner, but weighing it all in His spirit with His Father. Of us it is said, "with groanings that cannot be uttered." If Christ groaned, His could not but be a groan in accordance with the Spirit justly and perfectly uttering the real fulness of the grief that His heart felt. In our case this could not be, because there is that which mars the perfectness of what is felt by us; but in the case of Christ, the Holy Ghost takes up and groans out that which we cannot fully express. Even in us He gives the sorrow a divine expression to God; and, of course, in Christ there was no shortcoming, no mingling of the flesh, but all was absolutely perfect. Hence, along with this, there comes the full answer of God to the divine glory and perfection of Christ. Lazarus comes forth at the word of Christ.

This seems to me of deep interest; for we are too apt to look on Christ merely as One whose power dealt with sickness and with the grave. But does it not weaken His power if the Lord Jesus Christ enters into the reality of the case before God? On the contrary, it better manifests the perfectness of His love, and the strength of His sympathy, to trace intelligently the way in which His spirit took up the reality of the ruin here below to bear and spread it before God. And I believe that this was true of everything in Christ. So it was before and when He came to the cross. Our Lord did not go there without feeling the past and present and future: the atoning work is not the same as the anguish of being cast off by His people, and the utter weakness of the disciples. Then the sense of what was coming was realized by His spirit before the actual fact. It is not true, but positively and wholly false doctrine, to confine our Lord Jesus to the matter of bearing our sin, though this was confessedly the deepest act of all. Of course, the atonement was only on the cross: the bearing of the wrath of God, when Christ was made sin, was exclusively then and there. But to find fault with the statement that Christ did in His own spirit realize beforehand what He was going to suffer on the cross, is to overlook much of His sufferings, to ignore truth, and despise Scripture either leaving out a large portion of what God records about it, or confounding it with the actual fact, and only a part of it after all.

It is true that many Christians have been absorbed with the bare exertion of power in the miracles of Christ. In His healing of disease they have passed by the truth expressed inIsaiah 53:4; Isaiah 53:4, which Matthew applies to His life, and to which I have referred more than once. It seems undeniable, that not only was the power of God exhibited in those miracles, but that they afforded opportunity for the depth of His feelings to display itself, who had before Him the creature as God made it, and the deplorable havoc sin had wrought. Thus Jesus did perfectly what saints do with a mixture of human infirmity. Take again the fact that the Lord is pleased at times to put us through some exercise of heart before the actual trial comes: what is the effect of this? Do we bear the trial less because the soul has already felt it with God? Surely not. On the contrary, this is just what proves the measure of our spirituality; and the more we go through the matter with God, the power and blessing are so much the greater; so that when the trial comes, it might appear to an outside observer as if all was perfect calmness, and so indeed it is, or should be; and this because all has been out between ourselves and God. This, I admit, increases the pain of the trial immensely; but is this a loss? especially as at the same time there is strength vouchsafed to bear it. Thus the principle applies even to our little trials.

But Christ endured and did everything in perfection. Hence, even before Lazarus was raised up at the grave, we do not see or hear of One coming with divine power and majesty, and doing the miracle, if I may so say, off-hand. What can be more opposed to the truth? He who has such a meagre notion of the scene has everything to learn about it. Not that there was the smallest lack of consciousness of His glory; He is the Son of God unmistakably; He knows that His Father hears Him always; but none of these things hindered the Lord from groans and tears at the grave which was about to witness His power. None of them hindered the Lord from taking on His spirit the sense of death as no one else did. This is described by the Holy Ghost in the most emphatic language. "He groaned in spirit, and was troubled." But what was all this, compared with what. was soon to befall Himself when God entered into judgment with Him for our sins? It is not only granted, but insisted, that the actual expiation of sin, under divine wrath, was entirely and exclusively on the cross; but thence to assume that He did not previously go through with God the coming scene, and what was leading on to it, and everything that could add to the anguish of our Lord, is defective and erroneous teaching, however freely it is allowed that there was in the scene itself the endurance of wrath for sin which separates that hour from all that ever was or can be again.

Then, before the end of the chapter, the effect of all this divine testimony is shown. Man decides that the Lord must die; their intolerance of Jesus becomes now more pronounced. It was well known before. The giddy multitude may never have realised it till it came; but the religious folk, and the leaders at Jerusalem, had made up their minds about it long before. He must die. And now he who was high priest takes up the word, and gives though a wicked man, yet not without the Spirit acting the authoritative sentence about it which is recorded in our chapter. The resurrection power of the Son of God brought to a head the enmity of him who had the power of death. Jesus might have done such works at Nain or elsewhere, but to display them publicly at Jerusalem was an affront to Satan and his earthly instruments. Now that the glory of the Lord Jesus shone out so brightly, threatening the dominion of the prince of this world, there was no longer a concealment of the resolution taken by the religious world Jesus must die.

In John 12:1-50, accordingly, we have this, the under-current, still, but in a beautiful contrast. The Spirit of God here works in grace touching the death of Jesus, just as much as Satan was goading on his children to hatred and murder. God knows how to guide a beloved one of His where Jesus was abiding for a little season before He suffered. It was Mary; for John lets us hear the Lord Jesus calling His own sheep by name; and however rightly Matthew and Mark do not disclose it, it was not consistent with John's view of the Lord that she should be called merely "a woman," In his gospel such touches come out distinctly; and so we have Mary, and Mary's act with greater fulness as to its great principles, than anywhere else the part Mary took at this supper, where Martha served, and Lazarus sat at the table. Everything, every one, is found in the just place and season; the true light makes all manifest as it was, Jesus Himself being there, but about to die. "Mary took a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus." She did anoint His head, and other gospels speak of this; but John mentions what was peculiar. It was natural to anoint the head; but the special thing for the eye of love to discern was the anointing of the feet. This was specially shown in two ways.

The woman in Luke 7:1-50 did the very same thing; but this was not Mary, nor is there any good reason to suppose that it was even Mary Magdalene, any more than the sister of Lazarus. It was "a woman that was a sinner;" and I believe there is much moral beauty in not giving us her name, for obvious reasons. What could it do but become an evil precedent, besides indulging a prurient curiosity about her? The name is here dropped; but what of that, if it be written in heaven? There is a delicate veil cast over (not the grace shown by the Lord, but) the name of this woman who was a sinner; but there is an eternal record of the name and deed of Mary, the sister of Lazarus, who at this much later moment anoints the feet of Christ. Yet, as far as this goes, both women did the same thing. The one, in the abasement of feeling her sin before His ineffable love, did what Mary did in the sense of His deep glory, and with an instinctive feeling withal of some impending evil that menaced Him. Thus the sense of her sin, and the sense of His glory, brought them, as it were, to the same point. Another point of analogy is, that neither woman spoke; the heart of each expressed itself in deeds intelligible, at least, to Him who was the object of this homage, and He understood and vindicated both.

In this case the house was filled with the odour of the ointment; but this manifestation of her love who thus anointed Jesus brought out the ill-feeling and covetousness of one soul who cared not for Jesus, but was, indeed, a thief under his high pretensions of care for the poor. It is a very solemn scene in this point of view, the line of treachery alongside of the offering of grace. How often the self-same circumstances, which draw out fidelity and devotedness, manifest either heartless treachery or self-seeking and worldliness 1

Such, in brief, was the interior of Bethany. Outside Jewish rancour was undisguised. The heart of the chief priests was set on blood. The Lord, in the next scene, enters Jerusalem as the Son of David. But I must pass on, merely noting this Messianic witness in its place. When Jesus was glorified, the disciples remembered these things. The subsequent notice we have is the remarkable desire expressed by the Greeks, through Philip, to see Jesus. Here the Lord at once passes to another testimony, the Son of man, where the introduction of His most efficacious death is couched under the well-known figure of the corn of wheat falling into the ground and dying, as the harbinger, and, indeed, the means, of much fruit. In the path of His death they must follow who would be with Him. Not that here again the destined Head of all, the Son of man, is insensible at the prospect of such a death, but cries to the Father, who answers the call to glorify His name by the declaration that He had ( i.e., at the grave of Lazarus), and would again ( i.e., by raising up Jesus Himself).

The Lord, in the centre of the chapter just after this, opens out once more the truth of the world's judgment, and of His cross as the attractive point for all men, as such, in contrast with Jewish expectation. There is, first, perfect submission to the Father's will, whatever it may cost; then, the perception of the results in all their extent. This is followed by their unbelief in His proper glory, as much as in His sufferings. Such must ever be for man, for the world, the insuperable difficulty. They had heard it in vain in the law; for this is always misused by man, as we have seen in the gospel of John. They could not reconcile it with the voice of grace and truth. Both had been fully manifested in Jesus, and above all, would be yet more in His death. The voice of the law spoke to their ears of a Christ continuing for ever; but a Son of man humbled, dying, lifted up! Who was this Son of man? How exactly the counterpart of an Israelite's objections to this day! The voice of grace and truth was that of Christ come to die in shame, yet a sacrifice for sinners, however true also it was that in His own person He should continue for ever. Who could put these things together, seemingly so opposed? He who only heeds the law will never understand either the law or Christ.

Hence the chapter concludes with two closing warnings. Had they heard their own prophets? Let them listen also to Jesus. We have seen their ignorance of the law. In truth, the prophet Isaiah had shown long before that this was no new thing. He had predicted it inJohn 6:1-71; John 6:1-71, though a remnant should hear. The light of Jehovah might be ever so bright, but the heart of the people was gross. "Seeing they saw, but they did not understand." There was no reception of the light of God. Even if they believed after a sort, there was no confession to salvation, for they loved the praise of men, Jesus the Son of God, Jehovah Himself stands on earth and cries His final testimony. He pronounces upon it claims once more to be the light. He was "come a light into the world." This we have seen all through, from John 1:1-51 down toJohn 12:1-50; John 12:1-50. He was come a light into the world, that those that believed on Him should not abide in darkness. The effect was plain from the first; they preferred darkness to light. They loved sin; they had God manifested in love, manifested in Christ. The darkness was thus rendered only more visible in consequence of the light. "If any man hear my words, and believe not. I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day." Christ had not spoken from Himself, but as the sent One from the Father, who had charged Him what to say and what to speak. "And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak."

Time does not admit of more than a few words on the next two chapters (John 13:1-38; John 14:1-31), which introduce a distinct section of our gospel, where (testimony having been fully rendered, not indeed with hope of man, but for the glory of God,) Christ quits association with man (though supper time was come, not "ended" ver. 2) for a place suited to His glory, intrinsic and relational, as well as conferred; but alone with this (blessed to say), to give His own a part with Him in that heavenly glory (instead of His reigning over Israel here below).

Before concluding tonight, this I can notice but briefly, in order to bring my subject within the space allotted for it. Happily there is the less need to dwell on the chapters at the length they might claim, since many here are familiar with them, comparatively speaking. They are especially dear to the children of God in general.

First of all, our Lord has now terminated all question of testimony to man, whether to the Jew or to the world. He now addresses Himself to His own in the world, the unwavering, abiding objects of His love, as one just about to leave this world actually for that place which suits His essential nature, as well as the glory destined Him by the Father. Accordingly our Lord, as one about to go to heaven, new to Him as man, would prove His increasing love to them, (though fully knowing what the enemy would effect through the wickedness of one of their number, as well as through the infirmity of another,) and hence proceeds to give a visible sign then of what they would only understand later. It was the service of love that He would continue for them, when Himself out of this world and themselves in it; a service as real as any that He had ever done for them while He was in this world, and if possible, more important than any they had yet experienced. But, then, this ministration of His grace was also connected with His own new portion in heaven. That is, it was to give them a part with Him outside the world. It was not divine goodness meeting them in the world, but as He was leaving the world for heaven, whence He came, He would associate them with Himself, and give them a share with Himself where He was going. He was about to pass, though Lord of all, into the presence of God His Father in heaven, but would manifest Himself the servant of them all, even to the washing of their feet soiled in walking here below. The point, therefore, was (not here exactly suffering for sins, but) the service of love for saints, to fit them for having communion with Him, before they have their portion with Him in that heavenly scene to which He was going at once. Such is the meaning suggested by the washing of the disciples' feet. In short, it is the word of God applied by the Holy Ghost to deal with all that unfits for fellowship with Christ in heaven, while He is there. It is the Holy Ghost's answer here to what Christ is doing there, as one identified with their cause above, the Holy Ghost meanwhile carrying on a like work in the disciples here, to keep them in, or restore them to, communion with Christ there. They are to be with Him alone; but, meanwhile, He is producing and keeping up, by the Spirit's use of the word, this practical fellowship with Himself on high. While the Lord, then, intimates to them that it had a mystical meaning, not apparent on the face of it, nothing could be more obvious than the love or the humility of Christ. This, and more than this, had been abundantly shown by Him already, and in His every act. This, therefore, was not, and could not be, what was here meant, as that which Peter did not know then, but should know hereafter. Indeed, the lowly love of His Master was so apparent then, that the ardent but hasty disciple stumbled over it. There ought to be neither difficulty nor hesitation in allowing that a deeper sense lay hidden under that simple but suggestive action of Jesus a sense which not even the chief of the twelve could then divine, but which not only he, but every one else, ought to seize now that it is made good in Christianity, or, more precisely, in Christ's dealing with the defilements of His own.

This should be borne in mind, that the washing meant is not with blood, but with water. It was for those who would be already washed from their sins in His blood, but who need none the less to be washed with water also. Indeed, it were well to look more narrowly into the words of our Lord Jesus. Besides the washing with blood, that with water is essential, and this doubly. The washing, of regeneration is not by blood, though inseparable from redemption by blood, and neither the one nor the other is ever repeated. But in addition to the washing of regeneration, there is a continual dealing of grace with the believer in this world; there is the constant need of the application of the word by the Holy Ghost discovering whatever there may be of inconsistency, and bringing him to judge himself in the detail of daily walk here below.

Note the contrast between legal requirement and our Lord's action in this case. Under the law the priests washed themselves, hands as well as feet. Here Christ washes their feet. Need I say how highly the superiority of grace rises over the typical act of the law? Then follows, in connection and in contrast with it, the treachery of Judas. See how the Lord felt it from His familiar friend! How it troubled His spirit! It was a deep sorrow, a fresh instance of what has been referred to already.

Finally, at the end of the chapter, when the departure of Judas on his errand brought all before Him, the Saviour speaks again of death, and so glorifying God. It is not directly for the pardon or deliverance of disciples; yet who does not know that nowhere else is their blessing so secured? God was glorified in the Son of man where it was hardest, and even more than if sin had never been. Hence, as fruit of His glorifying God in His death, God would glorify Him in Himself "straightway." This is precisely what is taking place now. And this, it should be observed again, is in contrast with Judaism. The hope of the Jews is the manifestation of Christ's glory here below and by-and-by. What John shows is here in the immediate glorification of Christ on high. It does not depend upon any future time and circumstance, but was immediately consequent on the cross. But Christ was alone in this; none now could follow no disciple, any more than a Jew, as Peter, bold but weak, would prove to his cost. The ark must go first into Jordan, but we may follow then, as Peter did triumphantly afterwards.

John 14:1-31 (and here, too, I must be brief) follows up the same spirit of contrast with all that belonged to Judaism; for if the ministration of love in cleansing the saints practically was very different from a glorious reign Over the earth, so was the hope here given them of Christ just as peculiar. The Lord intimates, first of all, that He was not going to display Himself now as a Jewish Messiah, visible to the world; but as they believed in God, so they were to believe in Him. He was going to be unseen: quite a new thought to the Jewish mind as regards the Messiah, who, to them, always implied One manifested in power and glory in the world. "Ye believe in God," He says, "believe also in me." But then He connects the unseen condition He was about to assume with the character of the hope He was giving them. It was virtually saying that He was not going merely to bless them here. Nor would it be a scene for man to look on with his natural eyes in this world. He was going to bless them in an infinitely better way and place. "In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you." This is what the Son tells. Very different is the burden of the prophets. This was a new thing reserved most fitly for Him. Who but He should be the first to unveil to disciples on earth the heavenly scene of love and holiness and joy and glory He knew so well? "If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." This is the turning-point and secret "where I am." All depends on this precious privilege. The place that was due to the Son was the place that grace would give to the sow. They were to be in the same blessedness with Christ. It was not merely, therefore, Christ about to depart and be in heaven, maintaining their communion with Himself there, but wondrous grace! in due time they, too, were to follow and be with Him; yea, if He went before them, so absolute was the grace, that He would not devolve it on any one else, so to speak to usher them there. He would come Himself, and thus would bring them into His own place "That where I am, there ye may be also." This, I say, in all its parts, is the contrast of every hope, even of the brightest Jewish expectations.

Besides, He would assure them of the ground of their hope. In His own person they ought to have known how this could be. "Whither I go ye know, and the way ye know." They were surprised. Then, as ever, it was the overlooking of His glorious person that gave occasion to their bewilderment. In answer to Thomas, He says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." He was the way to the Father, and therefore they ought to have known. because no man comes to the Father but by Him. By receiving Jesus, by believing in Him, and only so, one comes to the Father, whom they had seen in Him, as Philip should have known. He was the way, and there was none other. Besides, He was the truth, the revelation of every one and everything as they are. He was also the life, in which that truth was, by the Spirit's power, known and enjoyed. In every way Christ was the only possible means of their entering into this blessedness. He was in the Father, and the Father in Him; and as the words were not spoken from Himself, so the Father abiding in Him did the works. (Verses 1-11)

Then our Lord turns, from what they should even then have known in and from His person and words and works, to another thing which could not then be known. This divides the chapter. The first part is the Son known on earth in personal dignity as declaring the Father imperfectly, no doubt, but still known. This ought to have been the means of their. apprehending whither He was going; for He was the Son not merely of Mary but of the Father. And this they then knew, however dull in perceiving the consequences. All His manifestation in this gospel was just the witness of this glory, as they certainly ought to have seen; and the new hope was thoroughly in accordance with that glory. But now he discloses to them that which they could only do and understand when the Holy Ghost was given. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you." This supposes the Holy Ghost given. First, it is the Son present, and the Father known in Him, and He in the Father. Next, the Holy Ghost is promised. When He was given, these would be the blessed results. He was going away indeed; but they might better prove their love by keeping His commandments, than in human grief over His absence. Besides, Christ would ask the Father, who would give them their ever-abiding Comforter while He Himself was away. The Holy Ghost would be not a passing visitor on the earth, even as the Son who had been with them for a season. He would abide for ever. His dwelling with them is in contrast with any temporary blessing; and besides, He would be in them the expression of an intimacy which nothing human can fully illustrate.

Observe, the Lord uses the present tense both for Himself and for the Comforter the Holy Spirit in this chapter, in a way that will be explained shortly. In the early part of verse 2 He says about Himself, "I go to Prepare a place for you." He does not mean that He was in the act of departure, but just about to go. He uses the present to express its certainty and nearness; He then was on the point of going. So even of coming back again, where likewise He uses the present, "I come again." He does not precisely say, as in the English version, "I will come." This passage of Scripture suffices to exemplify a common idiomatic usage in Greek, as in our own and other tongues, when a thing is to be regarded as sure, and to be constantly expected. It seems to me an analogous usage in connection with the Holy Ghost "He dwelleth with you." I apprehend that the object is simply to lay the stress on the dwelling. The Holy Ghost, when He comes, will not come and go soon after, but abide. Hence, says the Lord, Jesus, "He abideth with you" the same word so often used for abiding throughout the chapter; and next, as we saw, "He shall be in you:" a needful word to add; for otherwise it was not implied in His abiding with them.

These, then, are the two great truths of the chapter: their future portion with Christ in the Father's house; and, meanwhile, the permanent stay of the Holy Ghost with the disciples, and this, too, as indwelling on the footing of life in Christ risen. (Ver. 19) I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you." Thus, having the Holy Ghost as the power of life in Him, they would know Him nearer to them, and themselves to Him, when they should know Him in the Father, than if they had Him as Messiah with them and over them in the earth. These are the two truths which the Lord thus communicates to them.

Then we have a contrast of manifestation to the disciples, and to the world, connected with another very important point the Holy Ghost's power shown in their obedience, and drawing down a love according to the Father's government of His children. It is not merely the Father's love for His children as such, but Father and Son loving them, because of having and keeping the commandments of Jesus. This would be met by a manifestation of Jesus to the soul, such as the world knows nothing of. But the Lord explains further, that if a man loves Him, he will keep His word, and His Father will love him, "and we will come to him, and make our abode with him." (v. 23) This is not a commandment, but His word a simple intimation of His mind or will; and, therefore, as a more thorough test, so followed by a fuller blessing. This is a beautiful difference, and of great practical value, being bound up with the measure of our attentiveness of heart. Where obedience lies comparatively on the surface, and self-will or worldliness is not judged, a commandment is always necessary to enforce it. People therefore ask, " Must I do this? Is there any harm in that?" To such the Lord's will is solely a question of command. Now there are commandments, the expression of His authority; and they are not grievous. But, besides, where the heart loves Him deeply, His word* will give enough expression of His will to him that loves Christ. Even in nature a parent's look will do it. As we well know, an obedient child catches her mother's desire. before the mother has uttered a word. So, whatever might be the word of Jesus, it would be heeded, and thus the heart and life be formed in obedience. And what is not the joy and power where such willing subjection to Christ pervades the soul, and all is in the communion of the Father and the Son? How little can any of us speak of it as our habitual unbroken portion!

* It is difficult to say why Tyndale, Cranmer, the Geneva, and the Authorised Versions give the plural form, which has no authority whatever. Wiclif and the Rhemish, adhering to the Vulgate, happen to be right. His word has a unity of character which is of moment. He that loves Christ keeps His word; he that does not love Him keeps not His words; if he observes some of them only, other motives may operate; but if he loved Christ, he would value His word as a whole.

The concluding verses (25-31) bring before them the reason of the Lord's communication, and the confidence they may repose in the Spirit, both in His own teaching them all things, and in His recalling all things which Jesus said to them. "Peace," He adds, "I leave [fruit of His very death; nor this only, but His own character of peace, what He Himself knew] with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you." "Not as the world," which is capricious and partial, keeping for itself even where it affects most generosity. He alone who was God could give as Jesus gave, at all cost, and what was most precious. And see what confidence He looks for, what affections superior to self! "Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I." Little remained for Him to talk with them. Another task was before Him not with saints, but with Satan, who coming would find nothing in Him, save, indeed, obedience up to death itself, that the world might know that He loves the Father, and does just as He commands. And then He bids the disciples rise up, and go hence, as inJohn 13:1-38; John 13:1-38. He rose up Himself (both being, in my opinion, significant actions, in accordance with what was opening out before Him and them).

But I need and must say no more now on this precious portion. I could only hope to convey the general scope of the contents, as well as their distinctive character. May our God and Father grant that what has been said may help His children to read His word with ever deepening intelligence and enjoyment of it, and of Him with whose grace and glory it is filled!

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Bibliographical Information
Kelly, William. "Commentary on John 8:57". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wkc/john-8.html. 1860-1890.