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John 2:18-22

18. The Jews then answered and said to him, What sign 5151     “Quel signe, ou, miracle?” — “What sign? or, What miracle?” showest thou to us, that thou doest these things? 19. Jesus answered and said to them, Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up in three days. 20. The Jews therefore said, Forty and six years was this temple in building; and wilt thou raise it up in three days? 21. But he spoke of the temple of his body. 22. When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had spoken.


18. What sign showest thou to us? When in so large an assembly no man laid hands on Christ, and none of the dealers in cattle or of the money-changers repelled him by violence, we may conclude that they were all stunned and struck with astonishment by the hand of God. And, therefore, if they had not been utterly blinded, this would have been a sufficiently evident miracle, that one man against a great multitude, an unarmed man against strong men, all unknown man against great rulers, attempted so great an achievement. For since they were far stronger, why did they not oppose him, but because their hands were loosened and — as it were — broken?

Yet they have some ground for putting the question; for it does not belong to every man to change suddenly, if any thing is faulty or displeases him in the temple of God. All are, indeed, at liberty to condemn corruptions; but if a private man put forth his hand to remove them, he will be accused of rashness. As the custom of selling in the temple had been generally received, Christ attempted what was new and uncommon; and therefore they properly call on him to prove that he was sent by God; for they found their argument on this principle, that in public administration it is not lawful to make any change without an undoubted calling and command of God. But they erred on another point, by refusing to admit the calling of Christ, unless he had performed a miracle; for it was not an invariable rule that the Prophets and other ministers of God should perform miracles; and God did not limit himself to this necessity. They do wrong, therefore, in laying down a law to God by demanding a sign. When the Evangelist says that the Jews asked him, he unquestionably means by that term the multitude who were standing there, and, as it were, the whole body of the Church; as if he had said, that it was not the speech of one or two persons, but of the people.

19. Destroy this temple. This is an allegorical mode of expression; and Christ intentionally spoke with that degree of obscurity, because he reckoned them unworthy of a direct reply; as he elsewhere declares that he speaks to them in parables, because they are unable to comprehend the mysteries of the heavenly kingdom, (Matthew 13:13.) But first he refuses to them the sign which they demanded, either because it would have been of no advantage, or because he knew that it was not the proper time. Some compliances he occasionally made even with their unreasonable requests, and there must have been a strong reason why he now refused. Yet that they may not seize on this as a pretense for excusing themselves, he declares that his power will be approved and confirmed by a sign of no ordinary value; for no greater approbation of the divine power in Christ could be desired than his resurrection from the dead. But he conveys this information figuratively, because he does not reckon them worthy of an explicit promise. In short, he treats unbelievers as they deserve, and at the same time protects himself against all contempt. It was not yet made evident, indeed, that they were obstinate, but Christ knew well what was the state of their feelings.

But it may be asked, since he performed so many miracles, and of various kinds, why does he now mention but one? I answer, he said nothing about all the other miracles, First, because his resurrection alone was sufficient to shut their mouth: Secondly, he was unwilling to expose the power of God to their ridicule; for even respecting the glory of his resurrection he spoke allegorically: Thirdly, I say that he produced what was appropriate to the case in hand; for, by these words, he shows that all authority over the Temple belongs to him, since his power is so great in building the true Temple of God.

This temple. Though he uses the word temple in accommodation to the present occurrence, yet the body of Christ is justly and appropriately called a temple. The body of each of us is called a tabernacle, (2 Corinthians 5:4; 2 Peter 1:13,) because the soul dwells in it; but the body of Christ was the abode of his Divinity. For we know that the Son of God clothed himself with our nature in such a manner that the eternal majesty of God dwelt in the flesh which he assumed, as in his sanctuary.

The argument of Nestorius, who abused this passage to prove that it is not one and the same Christ who is God and man, may be easily refuted. He reasoned thus: the Son of God dwelt in the flesh, as in a temple; therefore the natures are distinct, so that the same person was not God and man. But this argument might be applied to men; for it will follow that it is not one man whose soul dwells in the body as in a tabernacle; and, therefore, it is folly to torture this form of expression for the purpose of taking away the unity of Person in Christ. It ought to be observed, that our bodies also are called temples of God, (1 Corinthians 3:16, and 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16) but it is in a different sense, namely, because God dwells in us by the power and grace of his Spirit; but in Christ the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily, so that he is truly God manifested in flesh, (1 Timothy 3:16.)

I will raise it up again. Here Christ claims for himself the glory of his resurrection, though, in many passages of Scripture, it is declared to be the work of God the Father. But these two statements perfectly agree with each other; for, in order to give us exalted conceptions of the power of God, Scripture expressly ascribes to the Father that he raised up his Son from the dead; but here, Christ in a special manner asserts his own Divinity. And Paul reconciles both.

If the Spirit of Him, that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you,
(Romans 8:11.)

While he makes the Spirit the Author of the resurrection, he calls Him indiscriminately sometimes the Spirit of Christ, and sometimes the Spirit of the Father.

20. Forty and six years. The computation of Daniel agrees with this passage, (Daniel 9:25;) for he reckons seven weeks, which make Forty-nine years; but, before the last of these weeks had ended, the temple was finished. The time described in the history of Ezra is much shorter; but, though it has some appearance of contradiction, it is not at all at variance with the words of the Prophet. For, when the sanctuary had been reared, before the building of the temple was completed, they began to offer sacrifices. The work was afterwards stopped for a long time through the indolence of the people, as plainly appears from the complaints of the Prophet Haggai 1:4; for he severely reproves the Jews for being too earnestly engaged in building their private dwellings, while they left the Temple of God in an unfinished state.

But why does he mention that temple which had been destroyed by Herod about forty years before that time? For the temple which they had at that time, though it had been built with great magnificence and at a vast expense, had been completed by Herod, contrary to the expectation of men, as is related by Josephus, (Ant. Book 15. chapter 11.) I think it probable that this new building of the temple was reckoned as if the ancient temple had always remained in its original condition, that it might be regarded with greater veneration; and that they spoke in the usual and ordinary manner, that their fathers, with the greatest difficulty, had scarcely built the temple in Forty-six, years

This reply shows plainly enough what was their intention in asking a sign; for if they had been ready to obey, with reverence, a Prophet sent by God, they would not have so disdainfully rejected what he had said to them about the confirmation of his office. They wish to have some testimony of divine power, and yet they receive nothing which does not correspond to the feeble capacity of man. Thus the Papists in the present day demand miracles, not that they would give way to the power of God, (for it is a settled principle with them to prefer men to God, and not to move a hair’s breadth from what they have received by custom and usage;) but that they may not appear to have no reason for rebelling against God, they hold out this excuse as a cloak for their obstinacy. In such a manner do the minds of unbelievers storm in them with blind impetuosity, that they desire to have the hand of God exhibited to them and yet do not wish that it should be divine.

When therefore he was risen from the dead. This recollection was similar to the former, which the Evangelist lately mentioned, (verse 17.) The Evangelist did not understand Christ when he said this; but the doctrine, which appeared to have been useless, and to have vanished into air, afterwards produced fruit in its own time. Although, therefore, many of the actions and sayings of our Lord are obscure for a time, we must not give them up in despair, or despise that which we do not all at once understand. 5252     “Il ne faut pas pourtant quitter la tout par desespoir, ne mespriser ce que nous n’entendons pas tout incontinent.” We ought to observe the connection of the words, that they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had spoken; for the Evangelist means that, by comparing the Scripture with the word of Christ, they were aided in making progress in faith.

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