John 5

CHAPTER V.

The man who had been diseased thirty-eight years healed on

the Sabbath day, 1-9.

The Jews cavil, persecute Christ, and seek to kill him, because

he had done this cure on the Sabbath, 10-16.

Our Lord vindicates his conduct, and shows, from the testimony

of the Father, the Scriptures, John the Baptist, and his own

works, that he came from God, to be the light and salvation of

the world, 17-39.

He reproves the Jews for their obstinacy, 40;

hatred to God, 41, 42;

pride, 43, 44;

and disbelief of their own law, 45-47.

NOTES ON CHAP. V.

Verse 1. A feast] This is generally supposed, by the best

critics, to have been the feast of the passover, which was the

most eminent feast among the Jews. In several excellent MSS. the

article is added, ηεορτη, THE feast, the grand, the principal

festival. Petavius supposes that the feast of Purim, or lots, is

here meant; and one MS. reads ησκηνοπηγια, the feast of

Tabernacles. Several of the primitive fathers believe Pentecost

to be intended; and they are followed by many of the moderns,

because, in Joh 7:2, mention is made of the feast of

Tabernacles, which followed Pentecost, and was about the latter

end of our September; and, in Joh 10:22, mention is made of the

feast of Dedication, which was held about the latter end of

November. See Bp. Pearce. See Joh 10:22.

Calmet, however, argues that there is no other feast with which

all the circumstances marked here so well agree as with the

passover; and Bp. Newcome, who is of Calmet's opinion, thinks Bp.

Pearce's argument concerning the succession of the feasts to be

inconclusive; because it is assumed, not proved, that the three

feasts which he mentions above must have happened in the same

year. See much on the same subject in Bp. Newcome's notes to his

Harmony, p. 15, &c.

Lightfoot has observed, that the other evangelists speak very

sparingly of our Lord's acts in Judea. They mention nothing of the

passovers, from our Lord's baptism till his death, excepting the

very last: but John points at them all. The first he speaks of,

Joh 2:13; the

third, Joh 6:4; the

fourth, Joh 13:1; and the

second in this place: for although he does not call it the

passover, but a feast in general, yet the circumstances agree

best with this feast; and our Lord's words, Joh 4:35, seem to

cast light on this subject. See the note there.

Verse 2. There IS] This is thought by some to be a proof that

John wrote his Gospel before the destruction of Jerusalem; and

that the pool and its porticoes were still remaining. Though there

can be little doubt that Jerusalem was destroyed many years before

John wrote, yet this does not necessarily imply that the pool and

its porticoes must have been destroyed too. It, or something in

its place, is shown to travellers to the present day. See

Maundrell's Jour. p. 108. But instead of εστι, IS, both the

Syriac, all the Arabic, Persic, Armenian, and Nonnus, read

ην, WAS; which is to me some proof that it did not exist when

these versions were made, and that the pool which is shown now is

not the original.

By the sheep market] Rather, gate: see Ne 3:1, 32; 12:39.

This was in all probability the gate through which the sheep were

brought which were offered in sacrifice in the temple.

A pool] Bp. Pearce thinks the word κολυμβηθρα should be

translated bath, and that this place was built for the purpose of

bathing and swimming in. He observes that κολυμβαν signifies to

swim, in Ac 27:43. In proof of this, he cites

three of the old Itala, which have natatoria, a bathing or

swimming place.

Bethesda] This word is variously written in the MSS. and

versions: Bezatha-Bethzatha-Betzetha-Belzetha-Belzatha-Berzeta;

and many have Bethsaida. But the former reading is the genuine

one. Bethesda, or according to the Hebrew Bethchasdah,

signifies literally, the house of mercy. It got this name probably

from the cures which God mercifully performed there. It is likely

the porticoes were built for the more convenient reception of the

poor and distressed, who came hither to be healed. It does not

appear that any person was obliged to pay man for what the mercy

of God freely gave. Wicked as the Jewish people were, they never

thought of levying a tax on the poor and afflicted, for the cures

they received in these healing waters. How is it that a

well-regulated state, such as that of Great Britain, can ever

permit individuals or corporations to enrich themselves at the

expense of God's mercy, manifested in the sanative waters of

Bristol, Bath, Buxton, &c.? Should not the accommodations be

raised at the expense of the public, that the poor might enjoy

without cost, which they are incapable of defraying, the great

blessing which the God of nature has bestowed on such waters? In

most of those places there is a profession that the poor may drink

and bathe gratis; but it is little better than a pretence, and the

regulations relative to this point render the whole nearly

inefficient. However, some good is done.

Verse 3. Blind, halt, withered] To these the Codex Bezae, three

copies of the Itala, and both the Persic, add παραλυτικων,

paralytic; but they are probably included among the withered.

Waiting for the moving of the water.] This clause, with the

whole of the fourth verse, is wanting in some MSS. and versions;

but I think there is no sufficient evidence against their

authenticity. Griesbach seems to be of the same opinion; for

though he has marked the whole passage with the notes of

doubtfulness, yet he has left it in the text. Some have imagined

that the sanative virtue was communicated to the waters by washing

in them the entrails of the beasts which were offered in

sacrifice; and that the angel meant no more than merely a man sent

to stir up from the bottom this corrupt sediment, which, being

distributed through the water, the pores of the person who bathed

in it were penetrated by this matter, and his disorder repelled!

But this is a miserable shift to get rid of the power and goodness

of God, built on the merest conjectures, self-contradictory, and

every way as unlikely as it is insupportable. It has never yet

been satisfactorily proved that the sacrifices were ever washed;

and, could even this be proved, who can show that they were washed

in the pool of Bethesda? These waters healed a man in a moment of

whatsoever disease he had. Now, there is no one cause under

heaven that can do this. Had only one kind of disorders been cured

here, there might have been some countenance for this deistical

conjecture-but this is not the case; and we are obliged to believe

the relation just as it stands, and thus acknowledge the sovereign

power and mercy of God, or take the desperate flight of an

infidel, and thus get rid of the passage altogether.

Verse 4. Angel] "Of the Lord," is added by AKL, about 20 others,

the AEthiopic, Armenian, Slavonic, Vulgate, Anglo-Saxon, and six

copies of the Itala: Cyril and Ambrose have also this reading.

If this reading be genuine, and the authorities which support it

are both ancient and respectable, it destroys Dr. Hammond's

conjecture, that, by the angel, a messenger only, sent from the

Sanhedrin, is meant, and that these cures were all performed in a

natural way.

Those who feel little or none of the work of God in their own

hearts are not willing to allow that he works in others. Many deny

the influences of God's Spirit, merely because they never felt

them. This is to make any man's experience the rule by which the

whole word of God is to be interpreted; and consequently to leave

no more divinity in the Bible than is found in the heart of him

who professes to explain it.

Went down] κατεβαινεν, descended. The word seems to imply that

the angel had ceased to descend when John wrote. In the second

verse, he spoke of the pool as being still in existence; and in

this verse he intimates that the Divine influence ceased from

these waters. When it began, we know not; but it is likely that it

continued no longer than till the crucifixion of our Lord. Some

think that this never took place before nor after this time.

Neither Josephus, Philo, nor any of the Jewish authors mention

this pool; so that it is very likely that it had not been long

celebrated for its healing virtue, and that nothing of it remained

when those authors wrote.

Certain season] This probably refers to the time of the feast,

during which only this miraculous virtue lasted. It is not likely

that the angel appeared to the people-his descent might be only

known by the ebullition caused in the waters. Was not the whole a

type of Christ? See Zec 13:1. He is the true

Bethesda, or house of mercy, the fountain opened to the house of

David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for

uncleanness; unto which all the diseased may come, and find health

and life eternal.

Verse 5. Had an infirmity thirty and eight years.] St.

Chrysostom conjectured that blindness was the infirmity of this

person: what it was, the inspired writer does not say-probably it

was a palsy: his case was deplorable-he was not able to go into

the pool himself, and he had no one to help him; so that poverty

and disease were here connected. The length of the time he had

been afflicted makes the miracle of his cure the greater. There

could have been no collusion in this case: as his affliction had

lasted thirty-eight years, it must have been known to multitudes;

therefore he could not be a person prepared for the occasion. All

Christ's miracles have been wrought in such a way, and on such

persons and occasions, as absolutely to preclude all possibility

of the suspicion of imposture.

Verse 6. Wilt thou be made whole?] Christ, by asking this

question, designed to excite in this person faith, hope, and a

greater desire of being healed. He wished him to reflect on his

miserable state, that he might be the better prepared to receive a

cure, and to value it when it came. Addresses of this kind are

always proper from the preachers of the Gospel, that the hearts,

as well of hardened as of desponding sinners, may be stirred up to

desire and expect salvation. Do you wish to be healed? Do you know

that you are under the power of a most inveterate and dangerous

disease? If so, there is a remedy-have immediate recourse to the

physician. Questions of this kind are frequently asked in the

secret of our souls, by the inspirations of God's Spirit. Happy

those who pay attention to them, and give right answers.

Verse 7. Sir, I have no man] ναικυριε-"Yes, sir; but I have no

man:"-this is the reading of C*GH, fourteen others, both the

Syriac, later Persic, Arabic, and Chrysostom. Reader, be

thankful to God for health and outward comforts. When long

affliction has been allied to deep poverty, how deplorable is the

state!

Verse 8. Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.] Jesus speaks here as

God. He speaks in no name but his own, and with an authority which

belongs to God alone. And what is the consequence? The man became

whole immediately; and this sudden restoration to health and

strength was an incontestable proof of the omnipotence of Christ.

It has been remarked, that our Lord, after having performed a

miracle, was accustomed to connect some circumstance with it,

which attested its truth. After the miracle of the five loaves, he

ordered the fragments to be collected, which were more in quantity

than the loaves themselves, though several thousands had been fed.

When he changed the water into wine, he ordered some to be taken

first to the steward of the feast, that he might taste and bear

testimony to its genuineness and excellency. When he cured the

lepers, he commanded them to show themselves to the priests, whose

business it was to judge of the cure. So here, he judged it

necessary, after having cured this infirm man, to order him not

only to arise, but to take up his bed, and walk, which

sufficiently attested the miracle which he had wrought. God's work

is ever known by its excellence and good effects.

The bed of a poor Hindoo is seldom any thing besides a single

mat, or a cloth as thick as a bed-quilt. Men carrying such beds

may be seen daily on the highways.

Verse 9. The same day was the sabbath.] Mr. Toynard supposes

that this miracle was wrought on the 11th of Nisan, the sabbath

before the passover, which was celebrated the 14th of Nisan, or

28th of March. But why did our Lord command this man to carry his

bed on the sabbath, as the law prohibited all servile work, and

especially the carrying of burthens? See Ex 20:8; Jer 17:21;

Ne 13:15. To this it may be answered, 1. The man was a

poor man, and if he had left his bed he might have lost it; and

he could not have conveniently watched it till the next morning.

2. Christ showed by this that he was Lord of the sabbath: see

Mt 12:8. 3. This was not contrary to the spirit of the law: the

sabbath was made to honour God in, and this was a public monument

of his power and goodness. 4. It was consistent with the wisdom of

Christ to do his miracles so that they might be seen and known by

a multitude of people, and especially in Jerusalem, which was the

capital of the country, and the centre of the Jewish religion; and

this very circumstance of the healed man carrying his bed on the

sabbath day must call the attention of many to this matter, and

cause the miracle to be more generally known.

Verse 11. He that made me whole, &c.] The poor man reasoned

conclusively:-He who could work such a miracle must be at least

the best of men: now a good man will neither do evil himself,

nor command others to do it: but he who cured me ordered me to

carry my bed; therefore, there can be no evil in it.

Verse 13. Jesus had conveyed himself away] Or, had withdrawn

himself. And this he might easily do, as there was a crowd in the

place. Some think the words indicate, that Jesus withdrew on

seeing a multitude in the place, i.e. raising a tumult, because of

the man's carrying his bed. See the margin. He had not yet

finished his work, and would not expose himself to the envy and

malice of the Jewish rulers.

Verse 14. Jesus findeth him in the temple] The man being

conscious that it was through the mercy of God that he was

restored, (though he did not as yet know distinctly who Christ

was,) went to the temple to return thanks to God for his cure.

Whether this was on the same day, or some other, does not

distinctly appear: it was probably the same day, after he had

carried home his couch. How many, when they are made well, forget

the hand that has healed them, and, instead of gratitude and

obedience to God, use their renewed health and strength in the

service of sin! Those who make this use of God's mercies may

consider their restoration as a respite only from perdition.

Sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.] Our Lord,

intending to discover to this man who he was, gave him two proofs

of the perfection of his knowledge. 1. He showed him that he knew

the secret of the past-sin no more: thereby intimating that his

former sins were the cause of his long affliction. 2. He showed

him that he knew the future-lest a worse thing come unto thee: if

thy iniquity be repeated, thy punishment will be increased.

Verse 15. The man departed, and told the Jews] He did not say it

was Jesus who had ordered him to carry his bed, but it was Jesus

who had cured him; and he left them to draw the inference, viz.

That this Jesus must be the miraculous power of God.

Verse 16. And sought to slay him] This clause is omitted by

BCDL, some others, and several ancient versions. Griesbach has

left it out of the text; and Professor White says, certissime

delenda: but it does not appear to me that it should be omitted.

However, it was true of the Jews, whether the words were

originally in the evangelist or not. For what cause did these

persons seek to destroy our Lord? Because he had healed a poor

man, who had been diseased thirty-eight years, and ordered him to

carry home the couch on which he lay! How implacable must their

malice have been! The spirit of religious persecution has always

been the most fell and dangerous of all on this side perdition.

Every other disposition appears to have its moderator; but this is

wholly abandoned to the guidance of Satan, and has for its objects

the men who know the truth, and who live to the glory of their

God, and for the benefit of mankind. How strange that such should

ever be objects of malice and hatred! But the Satanic nature in

fallen man is ever opposed to whatever comes from God.

Verse 17. My Father worked hitherto, and I work.] Or, As my

Father worketh until now, &c., καθως being understood. God created

the world in six days: on the seventh he rested from all creating

acts, and set it apart to be an everlasting memorial of his work.

But, though he rested from creating, he never ceased from

preserving and governing that which he had formed: in this

respect he can keep no sabbaths; for nothing can continue to

exist, or answer the end proposed by the Divine wisdom and

goodness, without the continual energy of God. So I work-I am

constantly employed in the same way, governing and supporting all

things, comforting the wretched, and saving the lost; and to me,

in this respect, there is no sabbath.

Verse 18. Making himself equal with God.] This the Jews

understood from the preceding verse: nor did they take a wrong

meaning out of our Lord's words; for he plainly stated that,

whatever was the Father's work, his was the same; thus showing

that He and the Father were ONE. They had now found out two

pretenses to take away his life: one was that he had broken the

Sabbath-ελυε, dissolved, as they pretended, the obligation of

keeping it holy. The other was that he was guilty of blasphemy, in

making himself equal to God: for both which crimes, a man,

according to the law, must suffer death. See Nu 15:32;

Le 24:11, 14, 16.

Verse 19. The Son can do nothing of himself] Because of his

inseparable union with the Father: nor can the Father do any thing

of himself, because of his infinite unity with the Son.

What things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son] God does

nothing but what Christ does. What God does is the work of God,

and proper to no creature-Jesus does whatsoever God does, and

therefore is no created being. The Son can do nothing but what he

sees the Father do: now, any intelligent creature may do what God

cannot do: he may err-he may sin. If Jesus can do nothing but

what God does, then he is no creature-he can neither sin nor err,

nor act imperfectly. The conclusion from our Lord's argument is:

If I have broken the Sabbath, so has God also; for I can do

nothing but what I see him doing. He is ever governing and

preserving; I am ever employed in saving.

Verse 20. Greater works than these] Two of these he immediately

mentions: Raising the dead, Joh 5:21. And

judging the world, Joh 5:22.

That ye may marvel.] Or, So as to make you wonder. Our Lord

sometimes speaks of himself as God, and sometimes as the

ambassador of God. As he had a human and Divine nature, this

distinction was essentially necessary. Many errors have originated

from want of attention to this circumstance.

Verse 21. As the Father raised up the dead] This he did in the

case of the widow's son at Sarepta, 1Ki 17:22, by the ministry of

the Prophet Elijah. And again, in the case of the Shunamite's son,

2Ki 4:32-35, by the ministry of the Prophet Elisha.

The Son quickeneth whom he will.] He raiseth from death to life

whomsoever he pleases. So he did, for he raised the ruler's

daughter, Mr 5:35-42; the widow's son at Nain, Lu 7:11-15; and

Lazarus, at Bethany, Joh 11:14-44.

Whom he will. Here our Lord points out his sovereign power and

independence; he gives life according to his own will-not being

obliged to supplicate for the power by which it was done, as the

prophets did; his own will being absolute and sufficient in

every case.

Verse 22. The Father judgeth no man] This confirms what he had

said before, Joh 5:17, 19, that the Father acts not

without the Son, nor the Son without the Father; their acts are

common, their power equal.

Verse 23. That all men should honour the Son, &c.] If then the

Son is to be honoured, EVEN AS the Father is honoured, then the

Son must be God, as receiving that worship which belongs to God

alone. To worship any creature is idolatry: Christ is to be

honoured even as the Father is honoured; therefore Christ is not a

creature; and, if not a creature, consequently the Creator. See

Joh 1:3.

He that honoureth not the Son] God will not receive that man's

adoration who refuses to honour Jesus, even as he honours him. The

Jews expected the Messiah as a great and powerful Prince; but they

never thought of a person coming in that character enrobed with

all the attributes of Godhead. To lead them off from this error,

our Lord spoke the words recorded in these verses.

Verse 24. He that heareth my word] My doctrine-and believeth on

him that sent me-he who credits my Divine mission, that I am come

to give light and life to the world by my doctrine and

death-hath eternal life-the seed of this life is sown in his

heart the moment he believes-and shall not come into condemnation,

ειςκρισιν, into judgment-that which will speedily come on this

unbelieving race; and that which shall overwhelm the wicked in the

great day.

But is passed from death unto life.] μεταβεβηκεν, Has changed

his country, or place of abode. Death is the country where every

Christless soul lives. The man who knows not God lives a dying

life, or a living death; but he who believes in the Son of God

passes over from the empire of death, to the empire of life.

Reader! thou wast born in death: hast thou yet changed the place

of thy natural residence? Remember that to live in sin is to live

in death; and those who live and die thus shall die eternally.

Verse 25. The dead shall hear the voice] Three kinds of death

are mentioned in the Scriptures: natural, spiritual, and eternal.

The first consists in the separation of the body and soul. The

second in the separation of God and the soul. The third in the

separation of body and soul from God in the other world.

Answerable to these three kinds of death, there is a threefold

life: Natural life, which consists in the union of the soul and

body. Spiritual life, which consists in the union of God and the

soul, by faith and love. Eternal life, which consist in the

communion of the body and soul with God, by holiness, in the

realms of bliss.

Of the dead, our Lord says, the hour is coming, and now is, when

they shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and live. The hour is

coming, when all that sleep in the dust shall awake at the voice

of the Son of man, and come to judgment: for he giveth life to the

dead, Joh 5:21, 28, 29. Again, the hour is

coming, when some of those who have died a natural death shall

hear the voice of the Son of God and live again here. It is likely

that our Lord had not as yet raised any from the dead; and he

refers to those whom he intended to raise: See Clarke on Joh 5:21.

Lastly, the hour now is, when many who are dead in trespasses and

sins, shall hear the voice (the word) of the Son of God, believe,

and receive spiritual life through him.

Verse 26. Hath he given to the Son to have life, &c.] Here our

Lord speaks of himself in his character of Messiah, or envoy of

God.

Verse 27. Because he is the Son of man.] Because he is the

Messiah; for in this sense the phrase, Son of man, is often to

be understood. But some join this to the next verse thus:-Marvel

not at this, because he is the Son of man.

Verse 28. Marvel not at this] I think it quite necessary to

follow here, as noted above, the punctuation of both the Syriac,

the Armenian, Chrysostom, Damascenus, Theophylact, Euthymius, and

others; which is found also in some very good MSS. Theophylact

says that the common method of reading this, which he highly

objects to, was the invention of Paul of Samosata. In

Joh 5:26, 27, our Lord, speaking of himself as envoy of God,

said, the Father had given him to have life in himself, so that,

like any of the ancient prophets, he could vivify others; and that

he had given him authority to execute judgment, probably referring

to that judgment which he was shortly to execute on this

unbelieving nation, and apparently in direct reference to

Da 7:13,

Behold one like the Son of man came with the clouds, &c., a place

which the Jews expound of the promised Messiah. In this verse he

anticipates an objection, as if they had said: "This cannot be:

thou art a man-thou wast born among us." Our Lord answers: Don't

marvel at this, BECAUSE I am a man-for greater things than these

shall be done by me: he who now addresses you, though disguised

under the form of a man, shall appear in the great day to be the

Judge of quick and dead: by his almighty power, he shall raise all

the dead; and, by his unerring wisdom and justice, shall adjudge

the wicked to hell, and the righteous to heaven. The first sense,

however, of this passage, appears to some the most probable;

though they both amount nearly to the same meaning.

Verse 30. I can of mine own self do nothing] Because of my

intimate union with God. See Clarke on Joh 5:19.

I seek not mine own will] I do not, I cannot attempt to do any

thing without God. This, that is, the Son of man, the human nature

which is the temple of my Divinity, Joh 1:14, is perfectly

subject to the Deity that dwells in it. In this respect our

blessed Lord is the perfect pattern of all his followers. In every

thing their wills should submit to the will of their heavenly

Father. Nothing is more common than to hear people say, I will do

it because I choose. He who has no better reason to give for his

conduct than his own will shall in the end have the same reason to

give for his eternal destruction. "I followed my own will, in

opposition to the will of God, and now I am plunged in the lake

that burneth with fire and brimstone."

Reader, God hath sent thee also to do his will: his will is that

thou shouldst abandon thy sins, and believe in the Lord Jesus.

Hast thou yet done it?

Verse 31. If I bear witness] If I had no proof to bring of my

being the Messiah, and equal to God, common sense would direct you

to reject my testimony; but the mighty power of God, by which I

work my miracles, sufficiently attests that my pretensions are

well founded.

Bishop Pearce gives a different turn to this verse, by

translating it interrogatively, thus: "If I only bear witness of

myself, is not my witness true? i.e. is it, on that account, not

true? In Joh 8:14, he says,

Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true. And in

Joh 8:18, he says,

I am one that bear witness of myself."

Verse 32. There is another] God the Father, who, by his Spirit

in your prophets, described my person, office, and miracles. You

read these scriptures, and you cannot help seeing that they

testify of me:-no person ever did answer the description there

given, but myself; and I answer to that description in the fullest

sense of the word. See Joh 5:39.

And I know] Instead of οιδα, I know, οιδατε, ye know,

is the reading of the Codex Bezae, Armenian, and two of the Itala.

Ye believe the Scriptures to be of God, and that he cannot lie;

and yet ye will not believe in me, though these Scriptures have so

clearly foretold and described me! It is not one of the least

evils attending unbelief, that it acts not only in opposition to

God, but it also acts inconsistently with itself. It receives the

Scriptures in bulk, and acknowledges them to have come through

Divine inspiration; and yet believes no part separately. With it

the whole is true, but no part is true! The very unreasonableness

of this conduct shows the principle to have come from beneath,

were there no other evidences against it.

Verse 33. Ye sent unto John] I am not without human testimony of

the most respectable kind:-Ye sent to John, and he bare witness.

There are several circumstances in John's character which render

his testimony unexceptionable. 1. He is consulted by the very

enemies of Christ, as a very holy and extraordinary man. 2. He is

perfectly free from all self-interest, having declined making the

least advantage by his own reputation. 3. He is sincere,

undaunted, and so averse from all kinds of flattery that he

reproves Herod at the hazard of his liberty and life. 4. He was so

far from being solicited by Christ to give his testimony that he

had not even seen him when he gave it. See Joh 1:19-28.

Verse 34. But I receive not testimony from man [only.] I have no

need of John's testimony: the works that I do bear sufficient

testimony to me, Joh 5:36.

But these things I say, &c.] You believed John to be a prophet-a

prophet cannot lie: he bore testimony that I am the Lamb of God,

that beareth away the sin of the world, Joh 1:29; therefore, that

ye may be saved by believing in me as such, I have appealed to

John's testimony.

Verse 35. He was a burning and a shining light] ηνολυχνοςο

καιομενοςκαιφαινων, should be translated, He was a burning and a

shining LAMP. He was not τοφωςτουκοσμου, the light of the

world, i.e. the sun; but he was ολυχνος, a lamp, to give a

clear and steady light till the sun should arise. It is supposed

that John had been cast into prison about four months before this

time. See Clarke on Joh 4:35. As his light continued no longer

to shine, our Lord says he WAS.

The expression of lamp our Lord took from the ordinary custom of

the Jews, who termed their eminent doctors the lamps of Israel. A

lighted candle is a proper emblem of a minister of God; and,

Alteri serviens consumor-"In serving others, I myself

destroy:"-a proper motto. There are few who preach the Gospel

faithfully that do not lose their lives by it. Burning may refer

to the zeal with which John executed his message; and shining may

refer to the clearness of the testimony which he bore concerning

Christ. Only to shine is but vanity; and to burn without shining

will never edify the Church of God. Some shine, and some burn, but

few both shine and burn; and many there are who are denominated

pastors, who neither shine nor burn. He who wishes to save souls

must both burn and shine: the clear light of the knowledge

of the sacred records must fill his understanding; and the holy

flame of loving zeal must occupy his heart. Zeal without

knowledge is continually blundering; and knowledge without zeal

makes no converts to Christ.

For a season] The time between his beginning to preach and his

being cast into prison.

To rejoice] αγαλλιασθηναι, To jump for joy, as we would

express it. They were exceedingly rejoiced to hear that the

Messiah was come, because they expected him to deliver them out of

the hands of the Romans; but when a spiritual deliverance, of

infinitely greater moment was preached to them, they rejected both

it and the light which made it manifest.

Verse 36. But I have greater witness] However decisive the

judgment of such a man as John may be, who was the lamp of Israel,

a miracle of grace, filled with the spirit of Elijah, and more

than any prophet, because he pointed out, not the Messiah who was

to come, but the Messiah who was already come: nevertheless, I am

not obliged to depend on his testimony alone; for I have a greater

one, that of Him whom you acknowledge to be your God. And how do I

prove that this God bears testimony to me? By my works: these

miracles, which attest my mission, and prove by themselves that

nothing less than unlimited power and boundless love could ever

produce them. By my word only, I have perfectly and instantly

healed a man who was diseased thirty and eight years. Ye see the

miracle-the man is before you whole and sound. Why then do ye not

believe in my mission, that ye may embrace my doctrine, and be

saved?

Verse 37. The Father himself-hath borne witness] That is, by his

prophets.

Ye have neither heard his voice] I make these words, with Bp.

Pearce, a parenthesis: the sense is-"Not that my Father ever

appeared visibly or spake audibly to any of you; but he did it by

the mouths of his prophets." Lately, however, he had added to

their testimony his own voice from heaven, on the day of Christ's

baptism. See Mt 3:17.

Verse 38. Ye have not his word abiding in you] Though ye believe

the Scriptures to be of God, yet ye do not let them take hold of

your hearts-his word is in your mouth, but not in your mind. What

a miserable lot! to read the Scriptures as the true sayings of

God, and yet to get no salvation from them! Thy word, says David,

(Ps 119:11,)

have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee. This,

these Jews had not done. Reader, hast thou?

Verse 39. Search the Scriptures] ερευνατεταςγραφας. This

should be translated, not in the imperative, but in the indicative

mood-thus, Ye search the Scriptures diligently. That these words

are commonly read in the imperative mood is sufficiently known;

but this reading can never accord well with the following verse,

nor can the force and energy of the words be perceived by this

version.

The rabbins strongly recommend the study of the Scriptures. The

Talmud, Tract. Shabbath, fol. 30, brings in God thus addressing

David: "I am better pleased with one day in which thou sittest and

studiest the law, than I shall be with a thousand sacrifices which

thy son Solomon shall offer upon my altar."

Perhaps the Scriptures were never more diligently searched than

at that very time: first, because they were in expectation of the

immediate appearing of the Messiah; secondly, because they wished

to find out allegories in them; (see Philo;) and, thirdly, because

they found these scriptures to contain the promise of an eternal

life. He, said they, who studies daily in the law, is worthy to

have a portion in the world to come, Sohar. Genes. fol. 31. Hence

we may infer: 1st. That the Jews had the knowledge of a future

state before the coming of Christ; and 2ndly. That they got that

knowledge from the Old Testament Scriptures.

The word ερευνατε, which might be translated, Ye search

diligently, is very expressive. Homer, IL. xviii. l. 321, applies

it to a lion deprived of his whelps, who "scours the plains, and

traces the footsteps of the man." And in ODYSS. xix. l. 436, to

dogs tracing their game by the scent of the foot.

In the Septuagint, the verb ερευναω answers to the Hebrew

chapash, to search by uncovering; to chakar, to

search minutely, to explore; to chashaph, to strip,

make bare; and to mashash, to feel, search by

feeling. It is compounded of ερεω, I seek, and ευνη, a

bed; "and is, "says St. Chrysostom, "a metaphor taken from those

who dig deep, and search for metals in the bowels of the earth.

They look for the bed where the metal lies, and break every

clod, and sift and examine the whole, in order to discover the

ore." Those who read the verse in the imperative mood consider

it an exhortation to the diligent study of the Sacred Writings.

Search; that is, shake and sift them, as the word also signifies:

search narrowly, till the true force and meaning of every

sentence, yea, of every word and syllable, nay, of every letter

and yod therein, be known and understood. Confer place with

place; the scope of one place with that of another; things

going before with things coming after: compare word with word,

letter with letter, and search the whole thoroughly. See Parkhurst,

Mintert, and Leigh.

Leaving every translation of the present passage out of the

question, this is the proper method of reading and examining the

Scriptures, so as to become wise unto salvation through them.

Verse 40. And ye will not come to me] Though ye thus search the

Scriptures, in hopes of finding the Messiah and eternal life in

them, yet ye will not come unto me, believe in me, and be my

disciples, though so clearly pointed out by them, that ye may have

that eternal life which can only come through me.

Verse 41. I receive not honour from men.] I do not stand in need

of you or your testimony. I act neither through self-interest nor

vanity. Your salvation can add nothing to me, nor can your

destruction injure me: I speak only through my love for your

souls, that ye may be saved.

Verse 42. But I know you, that ye have not, &c.] Don't say that

you oppose me through zeal for God's honour, and love for his

name, because I make myself equal to him: no, this is not the

case. I know the dispositions of your souls; and I know ye have

neither love for his name, nor zeal for his glory. Incorrigible

ignorance, and malicious jealousy, actuate your hearts. Ye read

the Scriptures, but ye do not enter into their meaning. Had you

been as diligent to find out the truth, as you have been to find

out allegories, false glosses, and something to countenance you in

your crimes, you would have known that the Messiah, who is equal

with God, must be the Son of man also, and the inheritor of

David's throne; and that the very works which I do are those which

the prophets have foretold the Messiah should perform. See

Da 7:13, 14; Isa 9:6, 7; 11:1-5, 10; 35:4-6.

Verse 43. I am come in my Father's name] With all his influence

and authority. Among the rabbins, it was essential to a teacher's

credit that he should be able to support his doctrine by the

authority of some eminent persons who had gone before. Hence the

form, Coming in the name of another.

If another shall come in his own name] Having no Divine

influence, and no other authority than his own, him ye will

receive. That this was notoriously the case may appear from

Josephus, Antiq. b. xviii. c. 14; Ac 5:36, 37;

Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. b. iv. c. 6. It is by the just judgment of

God, that those who will not believe the truth of God shall be so

given up as to believe the most absurd of lies. For an account of

these false Christs, See Clarke on Mt 24:5.

Verse 44. How can ye believe, which receive honour, &c.] The

grand obstacle to the salvation of the scribes and Pharisees was

their pride, vanity, and self-love. They lived on each other's

praise. If they had acknowledged Christ as the only teacher, they

must have given up the good opinion of the multitude; and they

chose rather to lose their souls than to forfeit their reputation

among men! This is the ruin of millions. They would be religious,

if religion and worldly honour were connected; but as the kingdom

of Christ is not of this world, and their hearts and souls are

wedded to the earth, they will not accept the salvation which is

offered to them on these terms-Deny thyself: take up thy cross,

and follow ME. It is no wonder that we never find persons making

any progress in religion who mix with the world, and in any

respect regulate their conduct by its anti-Christian customs,

maxims, and fashions.

From God only?] Or, from the only God-παρατουμονουθεου. Two

of the ancient Slavonic versions read, From the only begotten Son

of God.

Verse 45. Do not think that I will accuse you] You have accused

me with a breach of the Sabbath, which accusation I have

demonstrated to be false: I could, in return, accuse you, and

substantiate the accusation, with the breach of the whole law; but

this I need not do, for Moses, in whom ye trust, accuses you. You

read his law, acknowledge you should obey it, and yet break it

both in the letter and in the spirit. This law, therefore, accuses

and condemns you. It was a maxim among the Jews that none could

accuse them but Moses: the spirit of which seems to be, that only

so pure and enlightened a legislator could find fault with such a

noble and excellent people! For, notwithstanding their

abominations, they supposed themselves the most excellent of

mankind!

Verse 46. He wrote of me.] For instance, in reciting the

prophecy of Jacob, Ge 49:10.

The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from

between his feet, until SHILOH come; and unto him shall the

gathering of the people be. And in De 18:18:

I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren like

unto thee; and I will put my words in his mouth, &c. Confer this

with Ac 3:22, and Ac 7:37. Besides, Moses pointed out the

Messiah in a multitude of symbols and figures, which are found in

the history of the patriarchs, the ceremonial laws, and especially

in the whole sacrificial system. All these were well-defined,

though shadowy representations of the birth, life, sufferings,

death, and resurrection of the Saviour of the world. Add to this,

Moses has given you certain marks to distinguish the false from

the true prophet, De 13:1-3; 18:22, which, if you apply to me,

you will find that I am not a false but a true prophet of the Most

High God.

Verse 47. But if ye believe not his writings, &c.] If you lay

them not to heart-if you draw not those conclusions from them

which their very letter, as well as their spirit, authorizes you

to draw, how shall ye believe my words, against which ye have

taken up the most ungrounded prejudice? It is no wonder that we

find the Jews still in the gall of bitterness, and bond of

iniquity: as they believe not Moses and the prophets, in reference

to the Messiah, it is no marvel that they reject Christ and the

apostles. Till they see and acknowledge, from the law and the

prophets, that Christ must have come, they will never believe the

Gospel. St. Paul says, 2Co 3:15, that

even until this day, when Moses (i.e. the law) is read, the VEIL

is upon their hearts:-so that they see not to the end of that

which is abolished: 2Co 3:13. Nor will this veil be taken away,

till they turn from worldly gain and atheism (which appears to

be their general system) to the Lord, 2Co 3:16; and then the

light of the glory of God shall shine on them in the face (through

the mediation and merits) of Jesus Christ.

It appears that this discourse of our Lord had effectually

confounded these Jews, for they went away without replying-a

manifest proof they had nothing to say.

1. IN all periods of their history, the Jews were both an

incredulous and disobedient people: perhaps it was on this ground

that God first chose them to be keepers of his testimonies; for

had they not had the most incontrovertible proofs that God did

speak, they would neither have credited nor preserved his oracles.

Their incredulity is, therefore, no mean proof of the Divine

authority of the law and the prophets. The apostles, who were all

Jews, partook deeply of the same spirit, as various places in the

Gospel prove; and, had not they had the fullest evidence of the

divinity of their Master, they would not have believed, much less

have sealed the truth with their blood. Thus their incredulity is

a strong proof of the authenticity of the Gospel.

2. When a man, through prejudice, bigotry, or malevolence, is

determined to disbelieve, both evidence and demonstration are lost

upon him: he is incapable of conviction, because he is determined

not to yield. This was, this is, the case with the Jews-there are

facts before their eyes sufficient to convince and confound them;

but they have made a covenant with unbelief, and therefore they

continue blind, ignorant, and wicked; obstinately closing their

eyes against the light; and thus the wrath of God is coming upon

them to the very uttermost. But shall not a rebellious and wicked

Christian be judged worthy of more punishment? Certainly: for he

professes to believe that truth which is able to make him wise

unto salvation, by faith in Jesus Christ. Reader, it is an awful

thing to trifle with the Gospel!-the God of it is pure, jealous,

and holy. Come unto him and implore forgiveness of thy past sins,

that thou mayest have eternal life.

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