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As we turn to the fourth Gospel we come to entirely different ground from that which we have traversed in the other three. True, the period of time which is covered by it, is the same as in the others; true, that some of the incidents that have already been looked at will here come before us again; and true it is that he who has occupied the central position in the narratives of the first three Evangelists, is the same One that is made preeminent by John; but otherwise, everything here is entirely new. The fourth Gospel is more elevated in its tone, its viewpoint is more exalted, its contents bring before us spiritual relationships rather than human ties, and higher glories are revealed as touching the peerless person of the Saviour. In each of the first three Gospels, Christ is viewed in human connections, but not so in the fourth. Matthew presents Him as the Son of David; Mark, as the perfect Workman of God; Luke, as the Son of Man; but John unveils His Divine glories. Again, Matthew writes, particularly, for the Jews; Mark, is specially adapted to God’s servants; Luke’s is written for men as men; but John’s Gospel is concerned with the Family of God.
John’s Gospel is the fourth book of the New Testament, and four is 3+1. The numerals of Scripture are not employed fortuitously, but are used with Divine discrimination and significance. The reverent student is not left free to juggle with them at his own caprice, nor may he give to them an arbitrary meaning, so as to fit in with any private interpretations of his own. If he is honest, he will gather his definitions from the manner in which they are employed in Scripture itself. Thus, whether our statement that four is 3+1 is an arbitrary assertion or not, must be determined by its support, or lack of it, in the Word. The numeral four is used two ways in the Bible. First, its meaning as a whole number, and second, its meaning as a distributive number. In its first usage, four is the world number, the number of the earth and all things therein, the number of the creature, as such; and hence, it comes to signify, Universality. But in its second usage, the distributive, when employed in connection with a series, it is frequently divided into three and one. Four is rarely, if ever an intensified two; that is, its significance does not represent 2x2.
The last paragraph sounds somewhat academical, we fear, but its force may become more apparent as we apply its principles to our present subject. The four Gospels form a series, and the character of their contents obviously divide them into a three and a one, just as in the four kinds of soil in the parable of the Sower, representing four classes of hearers of the Word, are a series, and similarly divided—three barren and one fruitful. As we have seen, the first three Gospels have that in common which, necessarily, binds them together—each looking at Christ in human connections. But the fourth is clearly distinguished from the others by presenting Christ in a Divine relationship, and therefore it stands separated from the others. This conclusion is established beyond all doubt, when we observe that the character of its contents is in perfect accord with the significance of the numeral one. One speaks, primarily, of God: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord” (Deut. 6:4). And again: “And the Lord shall be King over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and His name one” (Zech. 14:9). In all languages one is the symbol of unity: it excludes all others. The first of the ten commandments, therefore, was: “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me” (Ex. 20:3). So in John’s Gospel, the one following the other three, it is the Godhead of Christ which is in view.
Each book in the Bible has a prominent and dominant theme which is peculiar to itself. Just as each member in the human body has its own particular function, so every book in the living Body of Divine Truth has its own special purpose and mission. The theme of John’s Gospel is the Deity of Christ. Here, as nowhere else so fully, the Godhead of the Lord Jesus is presented to our view. That which is outstanding in this fourth Gospel is the Divine Sonship of our Saviour. In this Gospel we are shown that the One born at Bethlehem, who walked this earth for over thirty years, who was crucified at Calvary, and who forty-three days later departed from these scenes, was none other than “the Only-Begotten of the Father.” The evidence presented for this is overwhelming, the proofs almost without number, and the effect of contemplating them must be to bow our hearts in worship before “The great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).
Here is a theme worthy of our most reverent and prayerful attention. If such Divine care was taken, as we saw in the previous chapter, to guard the perfections of our Lord’s humanity, equally so, has the Holy Spirit seen to it that there should be no uncertainty concerning the affirmation of the absolute Deity of our Saviour. Just as the Old Testament prophets made known that the Coming One should be a Man, and a perfect Man, so did Messianic prediction also give plain intimation that He would be more than a Man. Through Isaiah, God foretold that unto Israel a Child should be born, and unto them a Son should be given, and that “the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, the Father of the ages (Heb.), the Prince of Peace” (9:6). Through Micah, He declared, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be Ruler in Israel: whose goings forth have been from the days of eternity”—marginal rendering (5:2)! Through Zechariah, He said “Awake, O Sword, against My Shepherd, and against the Man that is My Fellow, saith the Lord of hosts” (13:7). Through the Psalmist, He announced, “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool” (110:1). And again, when looking forward to the time of the second Advent, “The Lord hath said unto Me, Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee” (or, “brought Thee forth”) 2:7.
Coming now to the New Testament we may single out two or three of the most explicit witnesses to the Deity of Christ. In Rom. 9, where the apostle is enumerating the peculiar privileges of Israel, he says in verse 5, “Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.” In 1 Cor. 15 we are told, “And the first man is of the earth, earthy, but the second Man is the Lord from Heaven” (v. 47). In Col. 1:16 we read, “For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities or powers: all things were created by Him and for Him;” and again, in 2:9, “For in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” In Heb. 1 we learn that “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed Heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds; Who being the Brightness of His glory, and the express Image of His person, and upholding all things by the Word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:1–3). While in Rev. 19:16 we are informed that when He comes back to earth again, “He hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, King of Kings, and Lord of lords.” A more emphatic, positive, and unequivocal testimony to the absolute Deity of Christ could not be borne.
In these days of widespread departure from the Truth, it cannot be insisted upon too strongly or too frequently that the Lord Jesus Christ is none other than the Second Person in the Holy Trinity. Vicious but specious are the attacks now being made upon this cardinal article in the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Satan, who poses as an angel of light, is now sending forth his ministers “transformed as the ministers of righteousness.” Men who are loudly trumpeting their faith in the verbal inspiration of Scripture, and who even profess to believe in the vicarious Sacrifice of Christ are, nevertheless, denying the absolute Godhood of Him whom they claim to be serving: they repudiate His essential Deity, they deny His Eternality, and reduce Him to the level of a mere creature. It was concerning men of this class that the Holy Spirit said, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ” (2 Cor. 11:13).
In keeping with the special theme of the fourth Gospel, it is here that we have the fullest unveiling of Christ’s Divine glories. It is here we behold Him dwelling “with God” before time began and before ever a creature was formed (1:1, 2). It is here that He is denominated “the Only Begotten of the Fathe" (1:14). It is here John the Baptist bears record that “this is the Son of God” (1:34). It is here we read, “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth His glory” (2:11). It is here we are told that the Saviour said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (2:19). It is here we read that God sent His Son into the world, not to condemn but to save (3:17). It is here we learn that Christ declared, “For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom He will. For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He that honoreth not the Son honoreth not the Father which hath sent Him” (5:21–23). It is here that we find Him affirming, “For the Bread of God is He which cometh down from Heaven, and giveth life unto the world” (6:35). It is here we find Him saying, “Before Abraham was, I am” (8:58). It is here that we find Him declaring, “I and Father are One” (10:30). It is here we hear Him saying, “He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father” (14:9). It is here He promises “Whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may glorified in the Son” (14:13). It is here that He asks, “And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own Self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was” (17:5).
Before we take up John’s Gospel in detail, and examine some of the more prominent lines in his delineation of Christ’s person and ministry, a few words should be said concerning the dispensational scope and bearings of this Gospel. It should be evident at once that this one is quite different from the other Gospels. There, Christ is seen in a human relationship, and as connected with an earthly people; but here, He is viewed in a Divine relationship, and as connected with a heavenly people. It is true that the mystery of the one Body is not unfolded here, rather is it the family of God which is in view. It is also true that the Heavenly Calling is not fully disclosed, yet are there plain intimations of it—what else can be said, for example of the Lord’s words which are found in 14:2, 3?—“In My Father’s House are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”
In the first three Gospels, Christ is seen connected with the Jews, proclaiming the Messianic kingdom, a proclamation which ceased, however, as soon as it became evident that the Nation had rejected Him. But here, in John’s Gospel, His rejection is announced at the beginning, for in the very first chapter we are told, “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. It is, therefore, most significant to note that John’s Gospel, which instead of presenting Christ in connection with Israel, views Him as related to believers by spiritual ties, was not written until after A.D. 70, when the Temple was destroyed, and the Jews dispersed throughout the world!
The dispensational limitations which attach to much that is found in the first three Gospels, do not hold good with John’s Gospel, for as Son of God, He can be known only by believers as such. On this plane the Jew has no priority. The Jews claim upon Christ was purely a fleshy one, whereas believers are related to the Son of God by spiritual union. The Son of David, and the Son of Man titles link Christ to the earth, but the “Son of God” connects Him with the Father in Heaven; hence, in this fourth Gospel, the earthly kingdom is almost entirely ignored. In harmony with these facts we may observe, that it is only here in John’s Gospel we hear of Christ saying, “And other sheep I have, which are not of this (i.e., the Jewish) fold. Them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice; and there shall be one fold (i.e., the Christian fold), and one Shepherd” (10:16). It is only here in John we learn of the wider scope of God’s purpose in the Death of His Son, “Being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; And not for that nation only, but that also He should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad” (11:51, 52). It is only here in John that we have fully unfolded the relation of the Holy Spirit to believers. And it is only here in John that we have recorded our Lord’s High Priestly prayer, which gives a sample of His present intercession on high. These considerations, then, should make it abundantly clear that the dispensational bearings of John’s Gospel are entirely different from the other three.
Coming now to a closer view of this fourth Gospel we may observe how striking are its opening verses: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made” (1:1–3). How entirely different is this from what we find in the introductory statements in the other Gospels! John starts, immediately, by presenting Christ as the Son of God, not as the Son of David, or the Son of Man. John takes up back to the beginning, and shows that our Lord had no beginning, for He was in the beginning. John goes right back behind creation, and shows that Christ was Himself the Creator.
Every clause in these opening verses is worthy of our closest attention. First, the Lord Jesus is here termed, “The Word.” The significance of this title may, perhaps, be most easily grasped by comparing with it what is said in v. 18 of this first chapter of John. Here we are told: “No man hath seen God at any time; the Only Begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him,” or “told Him out.” Christ is the One who came here to tell out God. He came here to make God intelligible to men. As we read in Heb. 1: “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son.” Christ is the final Spokesman of God. Again; the force of this title of Christ, “the Word,” may be discovered by comparing it with the name given to the Bible—the Word of God. What are the Scriptures? They are, the Word of God. And what does that mean? This: that the Scriptures reveal God’s mind, express His will, make known His perfections, and lay bare His heart. This is precisely what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for the Father. But let us enter a little more into detail:
(a) A “word” is a medium of manifestation. I have in my mind a thought, but others know not its nature. But the moment I clothe that thought in words, it becomes cognizable. Words, then, make objective, unseen thoughts. This is precisely what the Lord Jesus has done, as the “Word” Christ has made manifest the invisible God. Christ is God clothed in perfect humanity.
(b) A “word” is a means of communication. By means of words I transmit information to others. By words I express myself, make known my will, and impart knowledge. So, Christ as the “Word,” is the Divine Transmitter, communicating to us the Life and Love of God.
(c) A “word” is a method of revelation. By his words a speaker reveals both his intellectual caliber and his moral character. It is by our words we shall be justified, and by our words we shall be condemned. And Christ, as the “Word,” fully reveals the attributes and the character of God. How fully He has revealed God! He has displayed His power: He has manifested His wisdom: He has exhibited His holiness: He has made known His grace: He has unveiled His heart. In Christ, and nowhere else, is God fully and finally revealed.
But was not God fully revealed in Nature? “Revealed,” yes; but “fully revealed,” no. Nature conceals as well as reveals. Nature is under the Curse, and is far different now from what it was in the day that it left the hands of the Creator. Nature is imperfect today, and how can that which is imperfect be a perfect medium for manifesting the infinite perfections of God. The ancients had Nature before them, and what did they learn of God? Let that altar, which the apostle beheld in one of the great centers of ancient culture and learning, make answer—“To the unknown God,” is what he found inscribed thereon. No; in Christ, and in and by Him alone, is God fully and finally revealed.
But lest this figurative expression—“the Word”—should convey to us an inadequate conception of the Divine person of the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit goes on to say, in the opening verse of this Gospel, “And the Word was with God.” This denotes His separate Personality, and also indicates His essential relation to the Godhead. He was not “in God.” And, as though this were not strong enough, the Spirit expressly adds, “And the Word was God.” Not an emanation from God, but none other than God. Not merely a manifestation of God, but God Himself made manifest. Not only the Revealer of God, but God Himself revealed. A more unequivocal affirmation of the essential Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ it is impossible to imagine. Granted, that we are in the realm of mystery, yet, the force of what is here affirmed of the absolute Godhead of Christ cannot be honestly evaded. As to how Christ can be the Revealer of God, and yet God Himself revealed; as to how He can be “with God,” and yet be God, are high mysteries that our finite minds are no more capable of fathoming than we can understand how that God can be without beginning. What is here stated in John 1:1, is to be received by simple, unquestioning faith.
Next we read, “All things were made by Him; and without Him (apart from Him) was not anything made that was made” (1:3). Here, again, the absolute Deity of Christ is emphatically affirmed, for creation is ascribed to Him, and none but God can create. Man, despite all his proud boasts and lofty pretensions, is utterly unable to create even a blade of grass. If, then, Christ is the Creator, He must be God. Observe, too, that the whole of Creation is here attributed to the Son of God—“all things were made by Him.” This would not be true, if He were Himself a creature, even though the first and highest. But nothing is excepted—“all things were made by Him.” Just as He was Eternal—before all things—so was He the Originator of all things.
Again we are told, “In Him was life; and the life was the Light of men.” This follows, necessarily, from what has been said in the previous verse. If Christ created all things, He must be the Fount of life. He is the Life-Giver. But more: “The Life was the light of men.” What this means is made clear in the verses that follow. “There was a man (in contrast from “the Word,” who is God) sent from God, whose name was John,” and he, “Came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe” (1:6, 7). Compare with these words what we are told in 1 John 1:5, “God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” The conclusion, then, is irresistible, that the Lord Jesus is none other than God, the Second Person in the Holy Trinity.
But we pass now to the fourteenth verse of this opening chapter of John. Having shown the relation of our Lord to Time—without beginning; having declared His relation to the Godhead—a separate Person of the Trinity, but Himself also God; having defined His relation to the Universe—the Creator of it, and the great Life-Giver; having stated His relation to Men—the One who is their God, their “Light,” having announced that the Baptist bore witness to Him as the Light; and having described the reception which He met with here upon earth—unknown by the world, rejected by Israel, but received by a people who were “born of God,” the Holy Spirit goes on to say, “And the Word was made (better, “became”) flesh, and dwelt (tabernacled) among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” This verse announces the Divine incarnation, and brings out, once more, the Divine glories of the One born of Mary.
“The Word became flesh.” He became what He was not previously. He did not cease to be God, but He became Man. becoming Man, He “tabernacled” among men. He pitched His tent here for thirty-three years. And then we are told that the testimony of those whose eyes Divine power had opened, was, “We beheld His glory.” The language of this verse takes us back in thought to the Tabernacle which was pitched in the wilderness, of old. The Tabernacle was the place of Jehovah’s abode in the midst of Israel. It was here that He made His dwelling-place. The Tabernacle was where God met with His people, hence was it termed “the Tent of Meeting.” There, within the Holy of Holies was the Shekinah Glory manifested. The Lord Jesus Christ was the Anti-type. He was, in His own person, the Meeting-place between God and men. And just as the Shekinah—the visible and glorious manifestation of Jehovah—was seen in the Holy of Holies, so those who came near to Christ, in faith, “beheld His glory.” The Lord Jesus was God manifest in the flesh, displaying “the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father.” For, as the 18th verse goes on to say, “No man hath seen God at any time; the Only Begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” Thus, the essential Deity of the One born at Bethlehem is, once more, expressly affirmed.
Next we have the witness of John the Baptist. This is quite different from what we find in the other Gospels. Here there is no Call to Repentance, there is no announcement of “The kingdom of heaven” being at hand, and there is no mention of Christ Himself being baptized by His forerunner. Instead of these things, here we find John saying, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (1:29). And again he says, “And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God” (1:34). It is also to be noted that when referring to the anointing of Christ with the Holy Spirit, a word is used which is not found in the other Gospels: “And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from Heaven like a dove, and it abode upon Him” (1:32). The Spirit did not come upon Him and then leave again, as with the prophets of old: it “abode,” a characteristic and prominent word in John’s Gospel (see particularly chapter 15), having to do with the Divine side of things, and speaking of Fellowship. We have the same word again in 14:10—“Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of Myself: but the Father that dwelleth (“abideth,” it should be) in Me, He doeth the works.”
The first chapter closes by describing the personal Call (not the ministerial call in the other Gospels) of the first disciples of the Lord. Here only do we read of Christ saying to Nathaniel, “Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee” (1:48): thus manifesting His Omniscience. Here only do we find recorded Nathaniel’s witness to Christ. “Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God; Thou art the King of Israel” (1:49). And here only did Christ tell His disciples that, in the coming Day they should “see Heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (1:51).
Coming now to the second chapter, we find described there the first miracle performed by the Lord Jesus, namely, the turning of the water into wine. John alone records this, for only God can fill the human heart with that Divine joy, of which the wine was here the emblem. In this miracle we are shown the “Word” at work. He, Himself, did nothing. He simply told the servants what to do, and at His word the wonder was performed. The special point in connection with this miracle is stated in v. 11, “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth His glory; and his disciples believed on Him.”
In the remainder of this chapter we witness Christ cleansing the Temple. Here, again, John brings into the picture his own distinctive lines. Here only do we find the Lord terming the Temple “My Father’s house” (v. 16). Here only do we find Him saying, in reply to the challenge of His critics for a sign, “Destroy this temple (meaning His body), and in three days I will raise it up” (v. 19). And, here only do we read, “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, in the feast, many believed in His name, when they saw the miracles which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself unto them, because He knew all, and needed not that any should testify of man: for He knew what was in man” (vv. 23–25). What a proof was this of His Deity! Only He “knew what was in man.” Compare with this the words of 1 Kings 8:39—“Hear Thou in Heaven Thy dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart Thou knowest—for Thou, even Thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men.” In thus reading the hearts of men, what a demonstration did the Saviour give, that He was God manifest in flesh!
John 3 records the interview of Nicodemus with Christ—something not found in the other three Gospels. In full accord with the scope of this Gospel, we find the Saviour here speaking to Nicodemus not of faith or repentance, but of the New Birth, which is the Divine side in salvation, declaring that, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” And only here in the four Gospels do we read, “God so loved the world, that He gave his Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (3:16).
In John 4 we find another incident that is not described elsewhere, namely, the Lord’s dealings with the poor Samaritan adulteress. And here, once more, we behold flashes of His Divine glory shining forth. He tells her, “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (v. 14). He manifests His omniscience by declaring, “Thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband” (v. 18). He speaks to her of worshipping the Father “in spirit and in truth.” He reveals Himself to her as the great “I am” (v. 26). He brings her from death unto life, and out of darkness into His own marvellous light. Finally, He proved His oneness with the Father by affirming, “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work” (4:34).
John 5 opens by recording the healing of the impotent man who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. None of the other Evangelists make mention of it. This miracle evidenced “the Word” at work again. He does nothing to the poor sufferer, not even laying hands upon him. He simply speaks the authoritative and healing word, “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk,” and “immediately,” we read, “the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked” (v. 9). The miracle was performed on the Sabbath day, and the Lord’s enemies used this as an occasion of criticism. Not only so, but we read, “Therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath day” (v. 16). We also read in the other Gospels, of Christ being condemned because He transgressed the Jews’ traditions respecting the Sabbath. But there, we find a very different reply from Him than what is recorded here. There, He insisted on the right of performing works of mercy on the Sabbath. There, too, He appealed to the priests carrying out their Temple duties on the Sabbath. But here He takes higher ground. Here, He says, “My Father woreth hitherto, and I work” (v. 17). The meaning of these words could not be mistaken. Christ reminded His critics, how that His “Father” worked on the Sabbath day, worked in connection with His government of the universe, in maintaining the orderly course of Nature, in sending rain, and so on. And because He was one with “the Father,” He insisted that what was right for the Father to do, was equally right for Him to do. That this was the force of His reply, is clear from the next verse, “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill Him, because He not only had broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God” (5:18). In the remaining verses of the chapter we find that Christ continued to affirm His absolute equality with the Father.
The sixth chapter opens by describing a miracle, which is narrated by each of the other Evangelists, the Feeding of the five thousand. But, here, it is followed by a lengthy discourse which is not recorded elsewhere. Here the Lord presents Himself as “The Bread of God,” which had come down from Heaven to give life unto the world. He here declares that He alone can satisfy the needy soul of man: “And Jesus said unto them, I am the Bread of Life: he that cometh to Me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst” (v. 35). We cannot now follow the details of this wonderful chapter, but it will be evident to the student that it is the Divine side of things which is here dwelt upon. For example: it is here we are told that the Saviour said, “No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him” (v. 44). It is here we are told that “Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him” (v. 64). And it is here we learn that when many of the disciples “went back and walked no more with Him,” and He said to the twelve, “Will ye also go away?” that Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life” (v. 68).
The seventh chapterbrings before us Christ at Jerusalem during the feast of tabernacles. There is much here that is of deepest interest, but it is beside our present purpose to give a complete exposition. We are not here writing a brief commentary on John, rather are we attempting to point out that which is distinctive and characteristic in this fourth Gospel. Notice, then, one or two lines in this scene which serve to emphasize the Divine glories of Christ. We are told that, about the middle of the feast, “Jesus went up into the Temple, and taught.” His teaching must have been exceedingly impressive, for we read, “And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned” (v. 15). But, arresting as was His manner of delivery, what He said only served to bring out the enmity of those who heard Him: “Then they sought to take Him: but no man laid hands on Him, because His hour was not yet come” (v. 30). How striking this is, and how thoroughly in accord with the central theme of John’s Gospel! bringing out, as it does, the Divine side, by showing us God’s complete control over the enemies of His Son. Next, we read “In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (vv. 37, 38). How this brings out the Divine sufficiency of Christ! None but God could make such a claim as that. Finally, we may observe here, that when the Pharisees heard that many of the people believed on Him, they “sent officers to take Him” (vv. 31, 32). How striking was the sequel: “Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought Him? The officers answered, Never man spake like this Man” (vv. 45, 46).
John 8 opens by recording the incident of the woman taken in adultery, brought to Christ by the scribes and Pharisees. Their motive in doing this was an evil one. It was not that they were zealous of upholding the claims of God’s law, but that they sought to ensnare God’s Son. They set a trap for Him. They reminded Him that Moses had given commandment that such as this woman should be stoned—“but what sayest Thou?” they asked. He had declared that, “God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). Would He, then, suffer this guilty adulteress to escape the penalty of the Law? If so, what became of His other claim, “Think not that I am come to destroy, but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17)? It seemed as though He was caught on the horns of a dilemma. If He gave the word for her to be stoned, where was grace? On the other hand, if He allowed her to go free, where was righteousness? Ah, how blessedly did His Divine wisdom appear, in the masterly manner in which He dealt with the situation. Said He to them that sought to trap Him, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” It was “the Word” at work again, the Divine Word, for we read, “And they which heard Him, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst” (v. 9). The way was now open for Him to display His mercy. The Law required two “witnesses” at least; but none were left. To the woman He said, “Where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?” And she answered, “No man, Lord.” And then, to manifest His holiness He said, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (v. 11). Thus, do we here behold His glory, “the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Then followed that lovely discourse in which Christ proclaimed Himself as “The Light of the world,” saying, “he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (v. 12). This was peculiarly appropriate to the occasion, for He had just given proof that He was such, by turning the searching Light of God upon the conscience of those who accused the adulteress.
What follows in the next is closely linked to that which has just been before us. Here Christ gives sight to a man who had been blind from his birth, and immediately before He gives light to the darkened eyes of this man, He uses the occasion to say, again, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (9:5). The sequel to this miracle had both its pathetic and its blessed sides. The one who had had his eyes opened was brought to the Pharisees, and after a lengthy examination they excommunicated him, because of the bold testimony he had borne to his Benefactor. But we are told, “Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found Him, He said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? And he answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on Him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen Him, and He it is that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped Him” (vv. 35–37). Thus did Christ graciously evidence that when God begins a good work in a soul, He ceases not until it has been perfected. The chapter closes with a most solemn word against those who opposed Christ, in which we behold the Light blinding: “And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind” (v. 39).
John 10 is the chapter in which Christ is revealed as the Good Shepherd, and there is much in it which brings out His Divine glories. Here He presents Himself as the Owner of the fold, and makes it known that believers, under the figure of sheep, belong to Him. They are His property, as well as the objects of His tender solicitude. They know Him, and they are known of Him. His, is the Voice they follow, and the voice of strangers they heed not. For the sheep He will lay down His life. But, be it carefully noted, the Saviour declares, “No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (v. 18). No mere man could have made good such a claim as this. Nor could any mere human teacher say to his disciples, “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of My hand” (v. 28). That He was more than Man, that He was God the Son, incarnate, is expressly affirmed in the words with which the Saviour here closed His discourse—“I and Father are one” (v. 30).
John 11 brings us to what, perhaps, was the most wonderful miracle that our Lord performed, while here on earth, namely, the Raising of Lazarus. Record of this was, appropriately, reserved for the fourth Gospel. The others tell us of the raising of the daughter of Jairus, just dead; and Luke mentions the raising of the widow of Nain’s son, as his body was on the way to the cemetery; but John only records the raising of Lazarus, who had been in the grave four days, and whose body had already begun to corrupt. Signally did the performance of this miracle demonstrate Christ to be the Son of God. Here, too, we behold “the Word” at work. The daughter of Jairus He took by the hand; concerning the widow’s son, we read, “He touched the bier;” but here He did nothing but speak: first, to the spectators to remove the stone which lay over the entrance to the grave, and then to Lazarus, He cried, “Come forth.”
John 12 brings us to the close of our Lord’s public ministry as it is followed in this Gospel. The chapter opens with a scene which has won the hearts of all who have gazed by faith upon it. The Saviour is seen in a Bethany home, where deep gratitude made Him a supper, and Lazarus is also one of the guests. After the meal was over, Mary anointed His feet with fragrant ointment that was “very costly,” and wiped His feet with her hair. It is very striking to notice the differences between Matthew’s account of this incident and what is recorded here. It is only John who tells us that Lazarus sat at the table with the Lord; it is only John who says that “Martha served,” and it is only John who gives the name of this devoted woman who expressed such love for Christ: here everything is “made manifest’ by the Light. Moreover, note particularly, that Matthew says the woman poured the ointment “on His head” (26:7), but here in John, we are told, she “anointed the feet of Jesus” (12:3). The two accounts are not contradictory, but supplementary. Both are true, but we see the hand of the Holy Spirit controlling each Evangelist to record only that which was in keeping with his theme. In Matthew it is the King who is before us, hence it is His “head” that is anointed; but in John we are shown the Son of God, and therefore does Mary here take her place at His “feet”!
John 13 is in striking contrast with what is found at the beginning of the previous chapter. There, we behold the feet of the Lord; here we see the feet of His disciples. There, we saw His feet anointed; here, the feet of the disciples are washed. There, the feet of Christ were anointed with fragrant and costly ointment; here the feet of the disciples are washed with water. There, the feet of the feet of the Lord was washed by another; but here, the feet of the disciples are washed by none other than the Son of God Himself. And observe that the anointing of His feet comes before the washing of the disciples’ feet, for in all things He must have the preeminence. And what a contrast is here presented! The “feet” speak of the walk. The feet of the disciples were soiled: their walk needed to be cleansed. Not so with the Lord of glory: His walk emitted nought but a sweet fragrance to the Father.
At first sight it appears strange that this lowly task of washing the disciples feet should be recorded by John. And yet the very fact that it is recorded here supplies the surest key to the interpretation of its significance. The act itself only brought out the amazing condescension of the Son of God, who would stoop so low as to perform the common duties of a slave. But the mention of this incident by John indicates there is a spiritual meaning to the act. And such, indeed, there was. The “feet,” as we have seen, point to the walk, and “water” is the well known emblem of the written Word. Spiritually, the act spoke of Christ maintaining the walk of His disciples, removing the defilements which unfit them for communion with a holy God. It was members of His Church that were here being cleansed by the Head “with the washing of water by the Word” (Eph. 5:26). How fitting, then, that this should have found a place in this fourth Gospel, for who but a Divine Person is capable of cleansing the walk of believers and maintaining their fellowship with the Father!
In the remainder of John 13 and to the end of chapter 16 we have what is known as the Lord’s “Pascal discourse.” This, too, is peculiar to John, and almost everything in it brings out the Divine glories of the Saviour. It is here that He says to the disciples, “Ye call Me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am” (13:13). It is here that Christ said, anticipating the Cross, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him” (13:31). It is here that He speaks of going away to “prepare a place” for His people (14:2, 3). It is here He invites His disciples to pray in His name (14:13). It is here He says, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you” (14:27). It is here that He says so much about fruit-bearing, under the beautiful figure of the Vine. It is here that He speaks of “The Comforter whom I will send unto you from the Father” (15:26). And it is here that He declares of the Holy Spirit, “He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you” (16:14).
John 17 contains what is known as the High Priestly prayer of Christ. Nothing like it is found in the other Gospels. It gives us a specimen of His present ministry on High. Here we find the Saviour saying, “Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee” (v. 1). Here He speaks of Himself as the One given “power over all flesh” (v. 2). Here He is inseparably linked with “the only true God” (v. 3). Here He speaks (by way of anticipation) of having “finished” the work given Him to do (v. 4). Here He asks, “O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was” (v. 5). Here He prays for His own beloved people: for their preservation from evil, for the supply of their every need, for their sanctification and unification. His perfect equality with the Father is evidenced when He says, “Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me: for Thou lovest Me before the foundation of the world” (v. 24).
The remaining chapters will be considered in another connection, so we pass on now to notice some of the general features which characterize this Gospel in its parts and as a whole.
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