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John 7:31-36

31. And many of the multitude believed in him, and said, When Christ shall come, will he do more miracles than this man doth? 32. The Pharisees heard the multitude muttering these things concerning him; and the Pharisees and priests sent officers to seize him. 33. Jesus, therefore, said to them, Yet a little while am I with you, and I go to him who hath sent me. 34. You shall seek me, and shall not find me; and where I am, you cannot come. 35. The Jews, therefore, said among themselves, Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? Will he go to those who are scattered among the Greeks, 191191     “Vers ceux qui sont espars entre les Grecs.” and teach the Greeks? 36. What is this saying which he hath spoken, You shall seek me, and shall not find me, and whither I go, you cannot come?

 

31. And many of the multitude believed in him. We might have thought that Christ preached to deaf and altogether obstinate persons; and yet the Evangelist says that some fruit followed. And, therefore, though some may murmur, and others scorn, and others slander, and though many differences of opinion may arise, still the preaching of the Gospel will not be without effect; so that we must sow the seed, and wait with patience until, in process of time, the fruit appear. The word believe is here used inaccurately, for they depended more on miracles than they relied on doctrine, and were not convinced that Jesus was the Christ; but as they were prepared to listen to him, and showed themselves willing to receive instruction from him as their Teacher, such a preparation for faith is called faith When the Holy Spirit bestows so honorable a designation on a small spark of good disposition, it ought to encourage us, so as not to doubt that faith, however small it may be, is acceptable to God.

32. The Pharisees heard. Hence it appears that the Pharisees, like persons set on the watch, were anxious on all occasions not to permit Christ to be known. In the first instance the Evangelist calls them only Pharisees, and next he adds to them the priests of whom the Pharisees were a part. There can be no doubt that, as they wished to be reckoned the greatest zealots for the Law, they opposed Christ more bitterly than all the other sects; but finding that their unaided exertions were not sufficient to oppress Christ, they committed the affair to the whole order of the priests. Thus they who, in other respects, differed among themselves now conspire together, under the guidance of Satan, against the Son of God. Meanwhile, since the Pharisees had such ardent zeal and such incessant toil for defending their tyranny and the corrupt state of the Church, how much more zealous ought we to be in maintaining the kingdom of Christ! The Papists in the present day are not less mad or less eager to extinguish the Gospel; and yet it is monstrously wicked that their example does not, at least, whet our desires, and cause us to labor with greater boldness in the defense of true and sound doctrine.

33. Yet a little while am I with you. Some think that this sermon was addressed to the assembly of the people who were present, and others, that it was addressed to the officers who had been sent to seize Christ. But for my own part, I have no doubt that Christ particularly addresses his enemies, who had taken counsel to destroy him; for he ridicules their efforts, because they will be utterly ineffectual, until the time decreed by the Father be come And at the same time, he reproaches them for their obstinacy, because they not only reject, but furiously oppose, the grace which is offered to them; and threatens that ere long it will be taken from them. When he says, I am with you, he rebukes their ingratitude, because, though he had been given to them by the Father, though he had come down to them from the heavenly glory, though, by calling them to be his familiar associates, he desired nothing more than to assist them, still there were few who received him. When he says, Yet a little while, he warns them that God will not long endure that his grace should be exposed to such shameful contempt. Yet he also means, that neither his life nor his death is placed at their disposal, but that his Father has fixed a time, which must be fulfilled.

I go to him who hath sent me. By these words he testifies that he will not be extinguished by his death, but, on the contrary, when he shall have laid aside his mortal body, will be declared to be the Son of God by the magnificent triumph of his resurrection; as if he had said, “Labour as much as you please, yet you will never hinder my Father from receiving me into his heavenly glory, when I have discharged the embassy which he has committed to me. Thus not only will my rank remain undiminished after my death, but a more excellent condition is then provided for me.” Besides, we ought to draw from it a general admonition; for as often as Christ calls us to the hope of salvation by the preaching of the Gospel, he is present with us. For not without reason is the preaching of the Gospel called Christ’s descent to us, where it is said,

he came and preached peace to those who were far off, and to those who were near,
(Ephesians 2:17.)

If we accept the hand which he holds out, he will lead us to the Father; and so long as we must sojourn in the world, not only will he show himself to be near us, but will constantly dwell in us. And if we disregard his presence, he will lose nothing, but, departing from us, will leave us altogether strangers to God and to life.

34. You shall seek me. They sought Christ, to put him to death. Here Christ alludes to the ambiguous signification of the word seek, for soon they shall seek him in another manner; as if he had said, “My presence, which is now irksome and intolerable to you, will last for a short time; but ere long you shall seek me in vain, for, far removed from you, not only by my body, but also by my power, I shall behold from heaven your destruction.” But here a question may be put, of what nature was this seeking of Christ? For it is plain enough that Christ speaks of the reprobate, whose obstinacy in rejecting Christ had reached the utmost point. Some refer it to doctrine, because the Jews, by foolishly pursuing the righteousness of works, did not obtain what they desired, (Romans 9:31.) Many understand it as referring to the person of the Messiah, because the Jews, reduced to extremities, in vain implored a Redeemer. But for my own part, I explain it as merely denoting the groans of distress uttered by the wicked, when, compelled by necessity, they look in some manner towards God.

And shall not find me. When they seek him, they do not seek him; for unbelief and obstinacy — by shutting up their hearts, as it were — hinders them from approaching to God. They would desire, indeed, that God should aid them, and should be their Redeemer, but, by impenitence and hardness of heart, they obstruct their path. We have a very striking example 192192     “Un fort bel exemple.” in Esau, who, on account of having lost his birthright, not only is oppressed with grief, but groans and gnashes his teeth, and breaks out into furious indignation, (Genesis 27:38; Hebrews 12:17.) But yet so far is he from the right way of seeking the blessing, that, at the very time when he is seeking it, 193193     “Quand il la cherche.” he renders himself more unworthy of it. In this manner God usually punishes the contempt of his grace in the reprobate, so that, either afflicted by severe punishments, or oppressed by a conviction of their misery, or reduced to other extremities, they complain, and cry, and howl, but without reaping any advantage; for, being always like themselves, they nourish within their hearts the same cruelty which they formerly displayed, and do not go to God, but rather wish that he were changed, since they cannot destroy him. Hence let us learn that we ought to receive Christ without delay, while he is still present with us, that the opportunity of enjoying him may not pass away from us; for if the door be once shut, it will be vain for us to try to open it.

Seek the Lord, says Isaiah, while he may be found; call upon him, while he is near,
(Isaiah 55:6.)

We ought therefore to go to God early, while the time of his good pleasure lasts, as the prophet speaks, (Isaiah 49:8;) for we know not how long God will bear with our negligence. In these words, where I am, you cannot come, he employs the present tense instead of the future, where I shall be, you shall not be able to come

35. Whither will he go? This was added by the Evangelist, for the express purpose of showing how great was the stupidity of the people. Thus not only are wicked men deaf to hear God’s instruction, but even dreadful threatenings are allowed by them to pass by in mockery, as if they were listening to a fable. Christ spoke expressly of the Father, but they remain fixed on the earth, and think of nothing else than a departure to distant countries.

Will he go to the dispersion of the Greeks? It is well known that the Jews gave the name of Greeks to all nations beyond the sea; but they do not mean that Christ will go to the uncircumcised nations, but to the Jews, who were dispersed through the various countries of the world. For the word dispersion would not apply to those who are natives of the place, and who inhabit their native soil, but applies well to the Jews, who were fugitives and exiles. Thus Peter inscribes his First Epistle παρεπιδήμοις διασπορᾶς, to the strangers of the dispersion, that is, to the strangers who are scattered 194194     “Aux estrangers qui estes espars.” through Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, (1 Peter 1:1;) and James salutes the twelve tribes ἐν τὣ διασπορᾷ, in the dispersion, that is, scattered abroad, (James 1:1.) The meaning of the words therefore is, “Will he cross the sea, to go to Jews who dwell in a world unknown to us?” And it is possible that they intended to teaze Christ by this mockery. “If this be the Messiah, will he fix the seat of his reign in Greece, since God has assigned to him the land of Canaan as his own habitation?” But however that may be, we see that the severe threatening which Christ had uttered did not at all affect them.


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