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John 5:33-36

33. You sent to John, and he gave testimony to the truth. 34. But I receive not testimony from man; but these things I say that you may be saved. 35. He was a burning and shining lamp, and for a time you were willing to amuse yourselves in his light. 36. But I have greater testimony than that of John; for the works which my Father gave me to perform, the very works which I do, testify concerning me that the Father hath sent me.

 

33. You sent to John. Before producing the testimony of God, he presses them with the answer of John, from which they could not honorably withhold their belief. For of what use was it to send to him, if they did not intend to abide by his words? They send to him as a Prophet of God, and thus they pretend that his word will be regarded by them as an oracle. Now, though this implies another admission in their favor, still Christ openly brings against them this charge, that nothing but their own malice 106106     “Rien que leur propre malice.” hinders them from believing. And, therefore, we see that this circumstance is highly appropriate to the matter in hand, namely, that they sent to John, and — as if their motive had been a desire to learn — inquired at him who was the Messiah, and yet paid no attention to his reply.

34. I receive not testimony from men. Yet it was not in vain that God chose Christ to be a witness to him, and Christ himself declares, on another occasion, that the disciples

will be his witnesses. You shall be witnesses to me, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth,
(Acts 1:8.)

I reply, Christ avails himself of the testimony of John, not because he needs it, but so far as it is advantageous to us to receive from it some confirmation. Men borrow testimony from one another, because they cannot dispense with that assistance. The case is different with God and Christ. For if philosophers assert that virtue has no need of foreign aid, what has man in himself to lend support to the truth of God? And Christ immediately adds, that he produces the testimony of John on their account: these things I say that you may be saved. By this statement he means that it is not so much from a regard to himself as from a desire to promote the advantage of men, that he raises up the heralds of his Gospel by whom he testifies to us concerning his will. In this we see also a striking proof of his wonderful goodness, by which he regulates all things for our salvation. It is therefore our duty, on the other hand, to strive that the great care which he bestows in saving us may not be fruitless.

35. He was a burning and shining lamp. When he calls John a burning lamp, this proves their ingratitude; for it follows that they are only blind, because they choose to be so, since God kindled a lamp before their eyes. The meaning of the words therefore is, “God did not intend that you should go astray; for he appointed John to be a lamp, that he might direct you by his brightness; and, therefore, when you do not acknowledge me to be the Son of God, this arises from voluntary error.” This is followed by another reproach, that not only did they shut their eyes, and thus obstruct the entrance of the light which was offered to them, but they intentionally abused it for the purpose of crushing Christ. For when they were ready to applaud John beyond what he justly deserved, this arose from a wicked and treacherous design not to give way to the Son of God.

And you were willing to amuse yourselves in his light. This wicked abuse of the heavenly light Christ elegantly compares to foolish mirth; as if the head of a family were to light a lamp for his servants by night, that they might perform the duties which he had enjoined on them, but they, instead of doing so, employed it for debauchery and every kind of licentiousness. By these words Christ accuses the Jews, and at the same time conveys to all of us a warning that, when God sends faithful teachers to guide us in the right way, we should take care not to abuse them by wandering in every direction. How useful this warning is, the experience of all ages shows. God undertakes to direct men, throughout the whole course of their life, to the final goal, and sends his prophets to be their guides. Yet such is the madness of the folly of men that, instead of walking, they prefer to indulge in wanton dancing, without making any progress; so light and unsteady are they that, despising and rejecting his continued guidance, they are hurried away by the sudden impulses of their passions.

For a time, or, for an hour. By this term he reproves them for their folly in thinking that wickedness of a transitory nature and short duration can extinguish the light of God. Thus in our own day all those faithful teachers whom God has given to his Church as burning lamps are applied by the Papists to a contrary purpose; as if their intention were, by looking at the light, to dazzle their eyes. And not only do they abuse the lamps for extinguishing the light of God, but they often indulge in foolish gaiety amidst the darkness, as when they rise against the pure doctrine of the Gospel, and glory in the foolish sayings of their noisy declaimers. But what Christ here asserts concerning John, Paul declares to be common to all believers, because, having the word of life, they ought to give light to the world, like torches. But Christ shows that it belongs strictly to the Apostles and ministers of the Gospel to go before others and hold out the torch to guide them; 107107     “Pource qu’ils marchent les premiers, portans le flambe au devant les autres pour les guider.” for though we are all blind, and in the midst of darkness, God shines upon us by the light of his word. But here he peculiarly adorns John the Baptist with this honorable designation, because by his ministry God shone on his Church with much greater brightness.

36. But I have greater testimony than that of John. After having showed that, in the person of John, the Jews had wickedly corrupted the gift of God, he now repeats a second time what he had said, that he has no need of the testimony of man, as if he had not enough of himself; although, perceiving that they held his person in contempt, he sent them to his Father, according to his custom.

For the works which the Father hath given me to do. He holds out to view two things, by which he was proved to be the Son of God. “My Father,” says he, “attests by miracles that I am his Son; and before I came into the world, he gave abundant testimony to me in the sacred writings.” Let us always remember what object he has in view. He wishes to be recognized as the Messiah promised by God, that he may be heard, and, therefore, he maintains that he is now manifested to be such a person as Scripture describes him. It may be asked, Are miracles sufficient to prove this; for similar miracles had been already performed by the Prophets? I reply, those miracles which God performed by the agency of the Prophets did not go beyond the purpose for which they were intended, namely, to show that they were the ministers of God, because they could in no other way obtain the authority due to their office. But God intended to exalt his Son more highly, and this purpose of God ought to be regarded by us as the design of miracles. Therefore, if the Jews had not been prejudiced by malice and voluntarily shut their eyes, Christ might easily have proved to them by his miracles who and what he was.


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