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In the Temple at the Feast of Tabernacles.
(October, a.d. 29.)
D John VII. 11–52.
d 11 The Jews therefore sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he? [It was now eighteen months since Jesus had visited Jerusalem, at which time he had healed the impotent man at Bethesda. His fame and prolonged obscurity made his enemies anxious for him to again expose himself in their midst. John here used the word “Jews” as a designation for the Jerusalemites, who, as enemies of Christ, were to be distinguished from the multitudes who were in doubt about him, and who are mentioned in the next verse.] 12 And there was much murmuring 444among the multitudes concerning him: some said, He is a good man; others said, Not so; but he leadeth the multitude astray. [The use of the plural, “multitudes,” suggests that the vast crowd disputed as groups rather than individuals. The inhabitants of some towns were disposed to unite in his defense, while those from other towns would concur in condemning him.] 13 Yet no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews. [They would not commit themselves upon a question so important until the Sanhedrin had given its decision.] 14 But when it was now the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught. [As the feast lasted eight days, the middle of it would be from the third to the fifth day. Though Jesus had come up quietly to prevent public demonstrations in his favor, he now taught boldly and openly in the very stronghold of his enemies. His sudden appearance suggests the fulfillment of Mal. iii. 1.] 15 The Jews therefore marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned? [The enemies of Christ were content to know but little about him, and now when they heard him they could not restrain their astonishment at his wisdom. By letters was meant the written law and the unwritten traditions which were taught in the great theological schools at Jerusalem. The same word is translated “learning” at Acts xxvi. 24 . No one was expected to teach without having passed through such a course. Skeptics of our day assert that Jesus derived his knowledge from the schools, but the schoolteachers who are supposed to have taught him complained of him that he was not their scholar, and surely they ought to have known.] 16 Jesus therefore answered them, and said, My teaching is not mine, but his that sent me. [Seeing the Jews inquiring as to the source of his wisdom, Jesus explains that it was given him of God, and was therefore not derived from any school.] 17 If any man willeth to do his will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from myself. [Those who would test the divinity of the doctrine of Christ can not do so by rendering a 445mere mechanical obedience to his teaching. A willing, heartfelt obedience is essential to a true knowledge of his doctrine. Such a disposition makes a good and honest heart in which the seeds of his kingdom must inevitably grow. But a spirit of disobedience is the general source of all skepticism.] 18 He that speaketh from himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh the glory of him that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him. [Those who bear their own message seek their own glory. Those who bear God's message seek God's glory, and such seeking destroys egotism.] 19 Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you doeth the law? Why seek ye to kill me? [The point he makes here is, that their seeking to kill him was proof that they were not keeping the law.] 20 The multitude answered and said, Thou hast a demon: who seeketh to kill thee? [The multitude had sought to kill him at his last visit, and it now affects to deny it. Wild notions and extraordinary conduct indicated insanity, and insanity was usually attributed to demoniacal possession. Comp. Matt. xi. 18. Their meaning therefore was that the words of Jesus were insanely preposterous, and their words savored more of roughness and irreverence than of malignant unkindness.] 21 Jesus answered and said unto them, I did one work, and ye all marvel because thereof. [Jesus forbears to speak further as to the plot to murder him, knowing that time would reveal it; but refers to the miracle performed on the Sabbath day at Bethesda eighteen months before, which gave rise to the plot to murder him. A reference to the excitement at that time would recall to the thoughtful the evidence and bitter hostility which the Jerusalemites had then manifested.] 22 Moses hath given you circumcision (not that it is of Moses, but of the fathers); and on the sabbath ye circumcise a man. 23 If a man receiveth circumcision on the sabbath, that the law of Moses may not be broken; are ye wroth with me, because I made a man every whit whole on the sabbath? 24 Judge not 446according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment. [The law which said that no work must be done on the Sabbath day was in conflict with the law which said that a child must be circumcised on the eighth day, whenever that eighth day happened to fall on the Sabbath. It was a case of a specific command making exception to the general law. Circumcision was great because it purified legally a portion of the body. But the healing worked by Jesus was greater, for it renewed the whole man. If the act of Christ in healing a man were judged as a mere act, it might be considered a breach of the Sabbath. But if the nature of the act be taken into account and all the laws relative to it be considered—in short, if it be judged righteously in all bearings—it would be amply justified.] 25 Some therefore of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he whom they seek to kill? 26 And lo, he speaketh openly, and they say nothing unto him. Can it be that the rulers indeed know that this is the Christ? [Thus, by referring to the miracle at Bethesda, Jesus not only brought to mind the former opposition of the Jewish rulers, but he started the people of Jerusalem (who were acquainted with the present tempter of the hierarchy) to talking about the intention to kill him, thus warning the people beforehand that they would be called upon to assist in his crucifixion. The men of Jerusalem spoke more freely because the present boldness of Jesus led them to think that maybe the rulers were changing their attitude toward him.] 27 Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when the Christ cometh, no one knoweth whence he is. [Jerusalem shared the prejudice of its rulers: its citizens felt sure that the rulers could not accept Jesus as Christ because his manner of coming did not comply with accepted theories. Prophecy fixed upon Bethlehem as the birthplace and the line of David as the family of the Christ, but the Jews, probably influenced by Isa. liii. 8, appear to have held that there would be a mystery attached to the immediate and actual parentage of the Messiah. Surely there could have been no greater mystery than the real origin 447of Jesus as he here outlines it to them, and as they might have fully known it to be had they chosen to investigate the meaning of his words.] 28 Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am; and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not. 29 I know him; because I am from him, and he sent me. [Our Lord here asserts their ignorance as to his divine origin. Since he came from God, and they did not know God, they consequently did not know whence he came. As they expected a Messiah who would be supernaturally sent, they ought to have been satisfied with Jesus. But they had no eyes with which to discern the supernatural.] 30 They sought therefore to take him [because they understood his language as referring to God and were incensed that he should so openly declare them ignorant of God] ; and no man laid his hand on him, because his hour was not yet come. [Because it was not the will of God that he should be arrested at this time.] 31 But of the multitude believed on him; and they said, When the Christ shall come, will he do more signs than those which this man hath done? [Their question was an argument in favor of the Messiahship of Jesus.] 32 The Pharisees heard the multitude murmuring these things concerning him; and the chief priests and the Pharisees [that is, the Sanhedrin, described by its constituent classes] sent officers to take him. [When the Sanhedrin heard the people expressing their faith in Jesus they felt that it was time to take action.] 33 Jesus therefore said, Yet a little while am I with you, and I go unto him that sent me. [Knowing their attempt to arrest him, Jesus tells them that it is not quite time for them to accomplish this purpose.] 34 Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, ye cannot come. [They would soon destroy Jesus; after which they would seek him in vain. Their violence would result in his return to his Father. In the dark days which were about to come, the Jews would 448long for a Messiah, for the Christ whom they had failed to recognize in Jesus. They, too, would desire the heavenly rest and security of a better world, but their lack of faith would debar them from entering it.] 35 The Jews therefore said among themselves, Whither will this man go that we shall not find him? Will he go unto the Dispersion among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? 36 What is this word that he said, Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, ye cannot come? [The words of Jesus were plain enough, but the assertion that he would return to God, and that such a return would be denied to them was, in their ears, too preposterous to be entertained. They therefore made light of it by construing it nonsensically. They asked if he would go among the Jews who had been dispersed or scattered by the captivity and who had never returned to Palestine, and if, when so doing, he would teach the heathen among whom these dispersed were scattered, assuming that such teaching would certainly frustrate and render absurd his claims to be a Jewish Messiah. They little suspected that Jesus, through his apostles, would do this very thing and thereby vindicate his claim as the true Messiah of God.] 37 Now on the last day [the eighth day], the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. [If we may trust the later Jewish accounts, it was the custom during the first seven days for the priests and people in joyful procession to go to the pool of Siloam with a golden pitcher and bring water thence to pour out before the altar, in commemoration of the water which Moses brought from the rock and which typified the Christ (I. Cor. x. 4). If this is so, it is likely that the words of Jesus have some reference to this libation, and are designed to draw a contrast between the earthly water which ceases and the spiritual water which abides, similar to the contrast which he presented to the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well.] 38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said. [in such passages as Isa. lviii. 11; Zech. xiv. 8, 449etc.] from within him shall flow rivers of living water. [For comment on similar expressions see page 145.] 39 But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believed on him were to receive: for the Spirit was not yet given; because Jesus was not yet glorified. [The first and second chapters of the Book of Acts is the best comment upon this passage. When Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father and was glorified, he sent forth the Spirit upon his apostles on the day of Pentecost, and the apostles in turn promised the gift of the Spirit to all who would believe, repent, and be baptized.] 40 Some of the multitude therefore, when they heard these words, said, This is of a truth the prophet. 41 Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, What, doth the Christ come out of Galilee? 42 Hath not the scripture said that the Christ cometh of the seed of David, and from Bethlehem, the village where David was? 43 So there arose a division in the multitude because of him. [Some of the well disposed toward Jesus, seeing the boldness with which he proclaimed himself, asserted that he was the prophet spoken of by Moses (Deut. xviii. 15), which prophet was thought by some to be the Messiah himself, and by others to be no more than the Messiah's forerunner. Still others of the multitude went further and asserted that he was the Christ. These latter were confronted by those who contended that Jesus was not born in the right place nor of the right family. These did not know that he had satisfied the very objections which they named.] 44 And some of them would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him. [We note here that the enmity of the rulers which had been taken up by the men of Jerusalem (see verse 30) had now reached a faction even of the multitude, so that it desired his arrest, but was restrained from acting.] 45 The officers therefore came to the chief priests and Pharisees [i. e., to those that had sent them]; and they said unto them, Why did ye not bring him? [These officers were temple police or Levites, under direction of the chief priests. The words suggest 450that the Sanhedrin was assembled and waiting for the return of the officers. An extraordinary proceeding for so great a day, but no more extraordinary than that assembly at the feast of the Passover which met and condemned Jesus six months later.] 46 The officers answered, Never man so spake. [Their report has passed into a saying, which is as true now as when first spoken.] 47 The Pharisees therefore answered them, Are ye also led astray? 48 Hath any of the rulers believed on him, or of the Pharisees? 49 But this multitude that knoweth not the law are accursed. [This rebuke to the officers may be paraphrased thus: You are to respect the authority of the officers and the judgment of the Pharisees, but you have permitted yourselves to be influenced by a multitude which rests under a curse because of its ignorance.] 50 Nicodemus said unto them (he that came to him before, being one of them) [therefore able to speak from a position of equality], 51 Doth our law judge a man, except it first hear from himself and know what he doeth? [Nicodemus bids these proud rulers note that they were breaking the very law which they extolled—Deut. i. 16; Ex. xxiii. 1.] 52 They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and see that out of Galilee ariseth no prophet. [They laid the lash to the pride of Nicodemus by classing him with the Galilæans who formed the main body of Jesus' disciples, thus separating him from the true Jews. There is no clear evidence that any of the prophets save Jonah was from the district at this time called Galilee, and this fact would justify the hasty demand of the objectors, who were not very scrupulous as to accuracy.] 451
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