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John 5:37-40

37. And the Father who hath sent me, himself hath testified concerning me; you have never heard his voice, or seen his shape. 38. And you have not his word abiding in you; for whom he hath sent, him you believe not. 39. Search the Scriptures; for you think that you have eternal life in them: and they are they which testify concerning me. 40. And you will not come to me, that you may have life.

 

37. And the Father who hath sent me. To limit this statement, as some have done, 108108     “Aucuns s’abusent.” to the voice which was heard at his baptism, (Matthew 3:17,) is a mistake; for he says in the past tense, that the Father (μεμαρτύρηκε) testified, in order to show that he did not come forward as an unknown person, because the Father had long ago distinguished him by such peculiar marks that, bringing them along with him, he might be recognized. I explain, therefore, that God testified concerning his Son, whenever in past times he held out to the ancient people the hope of salvation, or promised that the kingdom of Israel would be fully restored. In this manner the Jews must have formed an idea of Christ from the Prophets, before he was manifested in the flesh. When having him before their eyes, they despise and therefore reject him, they show plainly that they have no relish for the Law, with which Christ also reproaches them; and yet they boasted of their knowledge of the Law, as if they had been brought up in the bosom of God.

You have never heard his voice. After having complained that they do not receive him, Christ breaks out in still more severe language against their blindness. When he says that they had never heard the voice of God, or seen his shape, these are metaphorical expressions, by which he intends to state generally that they are utterly estranged from the knowledge of God. For as men are made known by the countenance and speech, so God utters his voice to us by the voice of the Prophets, and, in the sacraments, takes, as it were, a visible form, from which he may be known by us according to our feeble capacity. But he who does not recognize God in his lively image, plainly shows by this very fact that he worships no Deity but what he has himself contrived. For this reason Paul says, that the Jews had a vail placed before their eyes, that they might not perceive the glory of God in the face of Christ, (2 Corinthians 3:14.)

38. And you have not his word abiding in you. This is the true way of profiting, when the word of God takes root in us, so that, being impressed on our hearts, it has its fixed abode there. Christ affirms that the heavenly doctrine has no place among the Jews, because they do not receive the Son of God, on whom it everywhere bestows commendation. And justly does he bring this reproach against them; for it was not in vain that God spake by Moses and the Prophets. Moses had no other intention than to invite all men to go straight to Christ; and hence it is evident that they who reject Christ are not the disciples of Moses. Besides, how can that man have the word of life abiding in him who drives from him the life itself? How can that man keep the doctrine of the Law who destroys the soul of the Law, as far as lies in his power? For the Law without Christ is empty and has no solidity. Just in proportion, therefore, as any man knows Christ, is the proficiency which he has made in the word of God.

39. Search the Scriptures. We have said that the statement which Christ formerly made — that he has the Father for a witness in heaven — refers to Moses and the Prophets. Now follows a clearer explanation; for he says that that testimony is to be found in the Scriptures. He again reproves them for their foolish boasting, because, while they acknowledged that they had life in the Scriptures, they perceived nothing in them but the dead letter. For he does not absolutely blame them for seeking life in the Scriptures, since they were given to us for that end and use, but because the Jews thought that the Scriptures gave them life, while they were widely opposed to its natural meaning, and — what is worse — while they quenched the light of life which was contained in them; for how can the Law bestow life without Christ, who alone gives life to it?

Again, we are taught by this passage, that if we wish to obtain the knowledge of Christ, 109109     “Si nous voulons avoir cognoissance de Christ.” we must seek it from the Scriptures; for they who imagine whatever they choose concerning Christ will ultimately have nothing instead of him but a shadowy phantom. First, then, we ought to believe that Christ cannot be properly known in any other way than from the Scriptures; and if it be so, it follows that we ought to read the Scriptures with the express design of finding Christ in them. Whoever shall turn aside from this object, though he may weary himself throughout his whole life in learning, will never attain the knowledge of the truth; for what wisdom can we have without the wisdom of God? Next, as we are commanded to seek Christ in the Scriptures, so he declares in this passage that our labors shall not be fruitless; for the Father testifies in them concerning his Son in such a manner that He will manifest him to us beyond all doubt. But what hinders the greater part of men from profiting is, that they give to the subject nothing more than a superficial and cursory glance. Yet it requires the utmost attention, and, therefore, Christ enjoins us to search diligently for this hidden treasure. Consequently, the deep abhorrence of Christ which is entertained by the Jews, who have the Law constantly in their hands, must be imputed to their indolence. For the lustre of the glory of God shines brightly in Moses, but they choose to have a vail to obscure that lustre. By the Scriptures, it is well known, is here meant the Old Testament; for it was not in the Gospel that Christ first began to be manifested, but, having received testimony from the Law and the Prophets, he was openly exhibited in the Gospel.

40. And you will not come to me. He again reproaches them that it is nothing but their own malice that hinders them from becoming partakers of the life offered in the Scriptures; for when he says that they will not, he imputes the cause of their ignorance and blindness to wickedness and obstinacy. And, indeed, since he offered himself to them so graciously, they must have been willfully blind; but when they intentionally fled from the light, and even desired to extinguish the sun by the darkness of their unbelief, Christ justly reproves them with greater severity.


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