On The Gospel Of John


The Gospel of John has a special character, which has struck the minds of all those who have given it a little attention, even though they have not always clearly understood what it was that produced this effect: it not only strikes the mind, but attracts the heart in a way not to be found in the other parts of the holy book. The reason of this is, that the Gospel of John presents the Person of the Son of God—the Son of God come down so low, that He can say, “Give me to drink.” This attracts the heart, if the heart be not altogether hardened. If Paul teaches us how a man can be presented before God, John presents God before man. His subject is God, and eternal life in a man, the apostle following out the subject in the Epistle, shewing us this life reproduced in those who possess it in possessing Christ. I speak only of the leading features which characterise these books; for many other truths besides those which I have just noticed are to be found in them, it is needless to say. Indeed it is John’s Gospel which gives us the doctrine of the sending of the Spirit of God, that other Comforter, who is to abide with us for ever.

The Gospel of John is very clearly distinguished from the other three synoptical gospels, and we shall do well to pause for a moment to consider the character of these last, especially as this concerns the difference between them and the Gospel of John. The three synoptical gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, afford the most precious details of the life of the Saviour down here, of His patience and His grace: He was the perfect expression of good in the midst of evil; His miracles (with the exception of the cursing of the fig-tree, which expressed the truth as to the state of Israel, that is, of man in possession of all the privileges which man could enjoy from God) were not only a confirmation of His testimony, but were all miracles of goodness—the expression of divine power manifested in goodness. Here we find good; God Himself, who is love, acting, although, in a certain sense, still hidden, according to the grace which was soon to be plainly revealed. Thus was the blessed Saviour presented to man, to be recognized and received: He was unknown and rejected. It has often been noticed that each of the three evangelists presents the Saviour in a different aspect: Matthew brings before us Emmanuel in the midst of the Jews; Mark, the Servant Prophet; Luke (after the first two chapters, which present to us the most interesting picture of a remnant with whom God was, in the midst of a hypocritical and rebellious people) gives us the Son of man, more in relation with that which exists at present; that is, heavenly grace; but all three, in the main, present the Saviour in His patient ways of grace in this world, that man may receive Him; and man rejected Him! Mark s Gospel, relating the service of Jesus, has no genealogy. Matthew, in relation with the Jews and earthly dispensations, traces the Saviour from Abraham and David, and also shews the three things, which take the place of Judaism; that is, the kingdom as it exists in the present time (chap. 13), the church (chap. 16), and the kingdom in glory (chap. 17). Luke, which presents to us grace in the Son of man, follows His genealogy up to Adam. These three Gospels always speak of Christ as a Man down here, presented to men historically, and they follow up their account until He is positively rejected, announcing then His entering into the new position which He has taken by resurrection. The ascension, which is the foundation of our present place, is only given in Luke directly; allusion to it is made in the last supplementary verses in Mark.

The Gospel of John regards the Lord in quite another manner: it presents to us a divine Person come down here, God manifested in this world; a marvellous fact, upon which all in man’s history depends. It is no longer a question here of genealogy; it is no longer the second Man responsible toward God (though that be ever true), and perfect before God, and all His delight, while we see upon every page that it is no longer Messiah according to prophecy; it is no longer Emmanuel, Jesus, who saves His people; it is no longer the messenger who goes before His face: in John it is God Himself, as God, who in a Man shews Himself to men,32 to the Jews— for God had promised Him—but first of all to put them entirely aside (chap. 1:10, 11), shewing at the same time that nothing in man could even comprehend who was there present with him. Then, at the end of the Gospel, we find the doctrine of the presence of the Holy Spirit, who should replace Jesus here below, in revealing His glory on high, and in giving us the consciousness of our relationships with the Father and with Him. It is also to be remarked that all John’s writings, and amongst them his Gospel, look upon the Christian as an individual, and do not recognise the church, either as the body or as the house. Further, the Gospel of John treats of eternal life; he does not speak of forgiveness of sins, except as a present administration confided to the apostles; and, as far as Christ is concerned, he treats essentially the subject of the manifestation of God down here, and of the coming of eternal life in the Person of the Son of God; consequently he hardly speaks at all of our heavenly portion, three or four allusions excepted. But it is time to leave these general reflections, to consider what the Gospel itself teaches us.

First of all, then, let us look at its structure. The first three chapters are preliminary: John had not yet been put in prison, and Jesus, although He taught and performed miracles, had not yet begun His public ministry. The two first of these three chapters, up to chapter 2:22, form a whole. Chapter 3 gives us the basis of the divine work in us and for us—that is, the new birth and the cross, this latter introducing heavenly tilings as to us, and as to Jesus Himself. In chapter 4, Jesus passes from Judea into Galilee, leaving the Jews who did not receive Him, and takes the place of Saviour of the world in grace. In chapter 5 He gives life as Son of God; in chapter 6, He becomes, as Son of man, the sustenance of the life, in His incarnation and in His death. Chapter 7 shews us that the Holy Spirit should replace Him—the feast of tabernacles, the re-establishment of Israel, to take place later on. In chapter 8, His word is definitely rejected; in chapter 9, His works: but he who has received sight follows Him. Thus, in chapter 10, He will have His sheep, and keep them for better things to come. In chapters 11 and 12, God bears witness to Him, as Son of God, by the resurrection of Lazarus; as Son of David, by His entry into Jerusalem; as Son of man, by the coming of the Greeks; but this title of Son of man, brought in with it death, a subject which is then treated of. Bethany is a scene by itself; Mary seized in her heart the position of Jesus; He who gave life must Himself die. His title of Son of man closes the history of Jesus down here, introducing Him by death and by redemption into a far wider sphere of glory. But then (chap. 13) the question arose naturally, Was Jesus going to leave His disciples? No; being glorified on high, He would wash their feet. But whither He went the disciples could not follow Him now. In chapter 14 we find the resources of comfort during the time of the Lord’s absence: the Father had been revealed in Him already during His life down here; when He should have gone back on high, He would send another Comforter; by His means, the disciples would know that He was in the Father, and they in Him, and He in them. Chapter 15 shews us the relationship of the disciples with Him upon earth, taking the place of the Jews; the place of the disciples before the world, that of the Jews in rejecting Him, and then the Comforter. Chapter 16 tells us what the Holy Spirit would do when come; what His presence would be the proof of in the world, and what He would teach the disciples, putting them at the same time into immediate relationship with the Father. In chapter 17 the Lord, taking His stand upon the accomplishment of His work, and the revelation of the Father’s name, places His own in His own position before the Father and before the world; the world is judged, in that it has rejected the Lord, and His own are left here in His place. In chapters 18 and 19 we have the history of the Lord’s condemnation and crucifixion; in chapter 20, His resurrection and manifestation of Himself to His disciples, as well as their mission. Chapter 21 gives us His interview with His own in Galilee, Peter’s restoration, and the prophecy of Jesus as to the latter, and as to John.

After this short sketch of the Gospel as a whole, we will enter now upon the detail of the chapters.

Chapter 1

The first chapter presents to us the Person of the Lord in all its positive aspects—what He is in Himself. Not in His relative characters; He is not here the Christ, nor Head of the church, nor High Priest—that is to say, what He was, or what He is, in relationship with men down here, whether Jews or Christians. But it is Christ personally who is presented to us as well as His work.

The chapter begins with the divine and eternal existence of the Person of Jesus, the Son of God, with that which He is in the essence of His nature, so to speak. Genesis begins with the creation, and the Old Testament gives us the history of responsible man upon the earth, the sphere of that responsibility; John begins with that which preceded creation; he begins all anew here, in the Person of Him who became the second Man, the last Adam.

It is not, “In the beginning God created”; but, “In the beginning was the Word.” All is founded upon the uncreated existence of Him who created everything: at the beginning of all things He was there, without any beginning. “In the beginning was the Word,” is the formal expression that the Word had no beginning. But there is more in this remarkable passage: the Word was personally distinct, “the Word was with God”; but He was not distinct in nature, “the Word was God.” Thus we have the eternal existence, the distinct personality, the identity of nature, of the Word; and all this existed in eternity. The distinct personality of the Word was not, as people have wished to make it, a thing which had a beginning. “In the beginning the Word was with God,” v. 2. His personality is eternal as His nature. This is the great and glorious basis of the doctrine of the gospel and of our eternal joy, what the Saviour is in Himself, His nature, and His Person.

Now comes what He is in His attributes, being such. First of all, He has created all things, and here we come to the beginning of Genesis. We have to do with Him in that which He is; the world is but that which He has made. All things were made by Him, and there is nothing created of which He was not the Creator. All that subsists, subsists by Him. He was (eeri); all that began to exist (egeneto) began “by him.” He was the Creator of all beings. (Compare Heb. 1:2, 10.)

The second quality found in Him is, that “in him was life,” v. 4. This cannot be said of any creature; many have life, but they have it not in themselves. Christ becomes our life, but it is He who is it in us. “God hath given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son; he that hath the Son, hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life.” This is a very momentous truth, as regards Himself, as regards us, and as regards the life that we possess as Christians.

But more; this life is “the light of men,” a word of immense value for us. God Himself is light, and it is the divine light as life which expresses itself to men in the Word. It is not the light of angels, though God be light for all, for He is it in Himself, but, as it is relative, adapted to other beings, it is not to angels; His delights were in the sons of men; Prov. 8. The proposition is one which is called reciprocal; that is, the two parts of the proposition have an equal value. I could say just as well, the light of men is the life which is in the Word. It is the perfect expression of the nature, counsels, and glory of God when all shall be consummated. It is in man that God will make Himself to be seen and known. “God was manifest in flesh… seen of angels.” The angels are the highest expression of God’s power in creation; but it is in man that God has shewn Himself, and that, morally, in holiness and love. We ought to walk as Christ walked, to be imitators of God as His dear children, and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us; and also, “we are light in the Lord,” for He is our life. If we know love, it is in that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. If God chastises us, it is to make us participators of His holiness. We walk in the light, as He is in the light. He has chosen us in Christ, to be “holy and irreproachable before him in love,” which is the character of God Himself, a character perfectly realised in Christ. We purify ourselves, even as He is pure, knowing that we shall be like Him—being transformed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord—being renewed in knowledge after the image of Him who hath created us. And this is not a rule, although there be in it a rule (for we ought to walk as He walked), but a life which is the perfect expression of it, the expression of the life of God in man. Ineffable privilege! Wonderful nearness to Jesus! “Both he who sanctifieth, and they that are sanctified, are all of one.”

Redemption develops and manifests all the moral qualities of God Himself, and above His qualities, His nature—love and light, and that in man, and in connection with men. We are, as being in Christ, and Christ in us, the fruit and expression of all that God is in the fulness and revelation of Himself. He will shew, in the ages to come, the exceeding riches of His grace, in His kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. But then, in order that all this should be brought out, love and even light, an occasion must present itself; and that, not in an object amiable and intelligent in good (for then man could love), but there, where all the opposite of this nature shewed itself; it was necessary also that good should be proved superior to evil, in letting evil have its free course. “The light shone in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.” Not only was man not light, not only was he darkness, without any glimmering of the nature of God, but there was no power in him of receiving this light; there was opposition of nature. They saw no beauty in Him to desire Him. In that which was nothing else than the exhibition of the divine nature in itself, it was impossible to go further. In natural things, if there is light, there is no more darkness; but in the moral world it is not so; the light, that which is pure in itself, and manifests everything, is there, and it is not perceived who is there. “Is not this the carpenter’s son?” “If thou knewest who it is that saith unto thee, Give me to drink.” “If this man were a prophet”—it is a definite judgment, pronouncing Him not to be a prophet, when God is there, and shews Himself as such. For since that which God is in this world reveals that which is above, the mind that reigns there does not associate itself with a single principle which governs the heart and the habits of men. There is in that heart no knowledge of sin, no knowledge of God, no knowledge of the state into which sin has plunged us; sin itself is estimated according to the evil which it has done to ourselves, not according to its opposition to God’s nature, although I admit that a conscience has been acquired by the fall; egotism has become the starting-point for everything. Then, when the light comes, which, on the contrary, shews what sin is, where this has placed man morally before God, everything is judged of according to egotism as a starting-point; and the manifestation of God finds no entry into the heart. This is an unknown field for man: it is the truth, and man is in a state of falsehood, as he is without God, and he understands nothing here. God is light; and when He is manifested such as He is, but adapted to man, man’s state is such that nothing responds to this manifestation. If the conscience, which is from God, is reached, the hatred of the will is awakened. (See the end of Acts 7 and John 3:19.)

We have, then, in an abstract way, in these first five verses that which the Lord is, divinely, in Himself; and together with this, at the end, the effect of His manifestation in the midst of men, such as they were, still in an abstract way. Thus it is as light that He is here presented; it is not love which is revealed. Come down here as love, He has been active, both towards the world, and efficaciously towards His own, which implies the cross, that is to say, the light rejected. But here it is what the Lord is which is presented to us, not that which He does in divine activity. Verses 16-19 of chapter 3 give us the summary of what He is in these two particulars. God is love; but Christ was the activity of this love, according to the nature and settled purpose of God. (Compare verse 17 of the chapter we are examining.) The law demanded of man that which man ought to be; in Christ something “is come” from God—light and love; but this subject will occupy us more fully in a moment. I only repeat, that what is given us, up to the present, is what the Lord is in Himself, but in the character which puts man to the test, which shews what man is; and the passage terminates with the effect of the manifestation of what He is, without His being named. This Light can manifest itself there, where there is nothing that answers to it: it is not comprehended. It is moral incapacity, not hatred; the latter is opposed to love.

We may remark, that, in being made partakers of the divine nature, we become light; Eph. 5:8. It is never said that we are love. God is sovereign in His love; without doubt it is His nature, in communion, and in goodness, and in mercy, but free. We are made partakers of this nature, and we walk in love, as the love has been manifested in Jesus, because He is our life; but* it is in obedience that we walk thus, it is a duty, a joyful duty—easy, if we walk with joy, and stronger than the evil, but not free, having its source in ourselves. We cannot say that we are supreme love, a source from which love springs; but the new man is holy in himself; it is that which he is, although this be, in our case, in relation with an object.

In the sixth and following verses we begin the history: Christ should appear. It is not now what He is abstractedly; now we find a forerunner—John the Baptist. God, in His goodness, was not satisfied with giving the light: He announces it by another, so as to draw men’s attention. John the Baptist bears witness to the Light, but here it is that all may believe, and not for Israel only: John the Baptist was not the Light, but he came to bear witness to Him who was. Now the true true Light is He who, coming into the world, is light for every man, Pharisee or sinner, Jew or Gentile. He is the Light, who, come from on high, is such for every one, whether He be rejected or received: for a Simon or a Herod, for Nathanael or for Caiaphas. He is the expression of God, and of the mind of God for every man, whatever state he may be in. The subject here is not that of receiving the light into the heart. In that case it is a question of the state of him who receives; here, of the fact of the appearing of the Light in this world. It was in the world in the Person of the Saviour; the world was made by Him; but when He was in the world, the world did not know Him; He came to His own, the Jews, He who was their Jehovah and their Messiah, and His own received Him not (v. 9-11).

This is the result of the manifestation of the Light in the midst of men, historically—incapacity to understand it, and rejection when it was directly addressed to those who had already been in relation to it by promises and prophecies, and who had received the law from it, the rule of human life— though always remaining Light. Some, however, received it; and to those He gave the right to take the place of children of God,, not that there were some of a better quality, or of a will less perverse than the others; no, they were born again, born of God; “born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” The exterior revelation of the light in the Word was accompanied by a quickening power of God, which gave it a vital reality in the soul, in forming the incorruptible seed of God. As life, Christ was there. The man was born of God.

This terminates the exposition of the Word as light in itself, and as revealed in the world and in the midst of His own; presented abstractedly in verses 1-5, and in verses 7-13 historically, but still in its nature as light, and not as a man; then, after all, if it were received, in what the difference consisted.

At verse 14, historical Christianity begins. Up to that, it is what Christ was, as well as what was the state of the sphere in which He was manifested. Now we have that which He became— “The Word became flesh.” It was not an appearance, as in the Old Testament, but He took a tabernacle to dwell amongst us, even though it were but for a time. It was a Man in the midst of men (He will keep the tabernacle for ever); but He has lived down here full of grace and truth, love and light, adapted to the state of man down here; then we, believers, have received of His fulness and grace upon grace; in short, as the only begotten Son in the bosom of the Father, He has revealed the Father. The Word made flesh has been among us, revealing the glory of an only-begotten Son with His Father, full of grace and truth: we have all received of His fulness: then He has revealed the Father. He was the Son in manifestation, Man in the midst of men, the Word, which was God, made flesh. In Him grace and truth came into the world; He is a full source of grace for us, from which we have all received abundance of grace, and He has also revealed the Father.33 This is the second part of our chapter, the history of the Person of the Christ. To this also John bears witness: he was not the Christ, but His forerunner, the voice that cries in the wilderness, and who, in calling to repentance, prepares the way of the Lord.

This introduces a third point. Whilst announcing His Person, he who presents Him hides himself; he is neither the Christ, nor the prophet promised by Moses, nor Elias, promised by Malachi, but only according to Isaiah’s word, the voice to announce another, whom the Pharisees did not know, He who was coming after him, but who was preferred before him, the latchet of whose shoe he was not worthy to unloose. This is turned into personal testimony when Jesus appears before John the next day. (Verse 29, and following.) John designates Him here, not as the Messiah, but in connection with His work, of which there are two parts: He takes away sin, and He baptises with the Holy Ghost.

Jesus is “the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” Sin must be taken away from before God. The time will come when there will be no more sin before the eyes of God, nor before ours, a time of eternal repose for God and for our hearts. What a true rest, and how blessed for the heart! There has been a paradise of innocence, which depended upon the creature’s faithfulness, a state of innocence uncertain, and at once lost: there has been a world of sin, where nevertheless God has been acting in grace: there will be a world of new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell, a state of things which cannot be shaken, morally immutable, for the value of Christ’s work remains always the same. This will not be a state of innocence where all depended upon obedience put to the test, and in which man failed, but a happiness where obedience was perfectly tested, and accomplished. Righteousness ensures the stability of this state of things, for God cannot slight the perfection of the work of Christ, for His glory. Also there will be nothing there but holiness. All there will glorify God in all that He is; nothing will be contrary to His nature. Sin will be taken away from before God in the new heavens and the new earth. Jesus is the One who takes it away: the work is done, the result is not yet produced. The passage does not say, “The Lamb of God who hath taken away,” nor, “who will take away”—it presents the character of Him who was there before the eyes of John the Baptist, He who was doing the thing. The passage does not treat of the guilt in which we are (a most important subject in its place), that is evident, but of a state of things before God. John takes things habitually thus in their great principles. It is God who has appeared, and all is judged according to the light of His presence. His holiness demands— yea, His majesty, inasmuch as He is holy—that sin be taken away from before His eyes. He who accomplished the work, who was doing it, was now there, present upon the earth. He was “the Lamb of God,” the Lamb who suited perfectly the glory of God, the Lamb that God alone could have provided for Himself, who was able to establish His glory, His highest glory, there where sin was found; the Lamb who could give Himself freely for this glory, and to accomplish thus a work which should be the moral foundation (its value being immutable, and subsisting without the possibility of change, for the work was always itself) of an eternal blessing, according to God, and before Him.

The cross is the basis of this blessing. All the moral elements of good and evil have been clearly brought to light, and have been shewn each in its proper place, and Christ is at God’s right hand, as Man, in the divine glory, in virtue of having resolved every question that was thus raised. There could have been seen, man in his absolute hatred of good, of God Himself manifested in goodness, and that for him, “they have both seen and hated both me and my Father”—all Satan’s power, “the prince of this world cometh”; “it is your hour, and the power of darkness” —man in his absolute perfection in Christ; “but that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father hath commanded me, so I do”; and that when both had been tested in the most absolute manner—then God, in His righteousness against sin, as nowhere else: sin in us, but God in His infinite love to the sinner. Thus man, in the Person of the Son of God, has entered into quite a new position, in the glory, beyond the reach of sin, death, the power of Satan, and the judgment of God after having passed through it—man, according to the counsels of God, putting the most positive seal upon the responsibility of man as a creature, meeting the consequences of this responsibility, and glorifying God in such a way as to obtain for man, from the love and the righteousness of God, a place which should be the eternal glorifying of God in His sovereign counsels and in His glory, the glorifying of Him who introduced man there to be the vessel of it, whilst, at the same time, the order of creation should subsist in result before God in a state where He would find the respose of His nature, and where Christ, the glorified Man, should be the centre of all God’s ways in their blessed result.

The Saviour was to do yet another thing; that is, to baptise with the Holy Ghost. This is introduced by one of the most interesting and touching facts: Jesus receives the Holy Ghost as Man, and the scripture employs the same words as to Him as when it speaks of us: “Jesus of Nazareth … whom God anointed with the Holy Spirit, and with power”; and the Lord Himself said, “Him hath God the Father sealed.” Jesus has been sealed as Son, Man down here, in virtue of His own perfection, and His own relationship with the Father as Son; we are sealed, being sons by faith in Him (Gal. 3:26; ch. 4:6), in virtue of the redemption that He has accomplished. We, consequently, could not be sealed before He had taken His place as Man on high—witnesses at the same time of the efficacy of redemption, and of that which redemption has acquired for us. “Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground, and die, it remaineth alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit.” Thus we read (John 7:39), “The Spirit was not yet [that is, not yet on earth in believers], because Jesus was not yet glorified.” It was the witness that He was the Son personally. Now that redemption is accomplished, and that Jesus is glorified, after its accomplishment, the Holy Ghost is given to us who believe in Jesus.

Thus also, although the result of the sacrifice of Christ, taking away the sin of the world, be not yet brought out, we know that that which forms the basis of this blessed result is accomplished, and we enjoy its efficacy in the perfect purification of our conscience, and in the glorious hope of being with Christ, like Him in heaven, the Holy Ghost assuring us of one of these things, in being the earnest of the other. Christ baptises (or rather now we say has baptised) His own with the Holy Ghost, giving us the consciousness of being sons in full liberty before the Father, who hath sealed Him as being personally the Son of God, perfect in everything. It was this sign given to John the Baptist, that opened his mouth to bear witness that Jesus was the Son of God. John saw clearly that Jesus was a glorious Person, whose shoe-latchet he was not worthy to unloose, and he felt that it was not his place to baptise this Person. But the descent of the Spirit upon Jesus is the clear, heavenly testimony, shewing who Jesus was, as to His Person, as Son of God: John saw and bore witness that He was the Son of God Himself in this world. It is very precious for us (although in our case it is no question of our persons, but of sovereign grace) to think that, if ascended into glory He has baptised us with the Holy Ghost (the witness that we are sons and giving us the consciousness of it), He the eternal Son received Himself first of all as Man down here this same testimony, the seal and unction of the Spirit, which enables us to cry, “Abba, Father!” It is the foretaste of that truth, that He which sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one; Heb. 2:11.

But if down here, a divine testimony has been given that Jesus was the Son of God, His title as Lamb of God is that which characterises Him. John the Baptist’s heart recognised Him already as such, for the witness he bears here is not a testimony borne in his preaching. He saw Jesus walking before him, and his heart, full of the deep truth, exclaims, “Behold the Lamb of God! “He had already announced Him in that character, and no one had followed Jesus; but now that which came from his heart in grace attracted hearts; two of John’s disciples hear him, and follow the Lord. Thus Jesus begins to gather His disciples. He accepts the position of the centre of gathering. The two disciples had received the word of God from the mouth of John the Baptist; but neither John, nor any one of the prophets, had ever taken the place of being a centre, around which those who received God’s word assembled; now there was One in the world around whom they could thus gather; it was “the Lamb of God.” Jesus, seeing the two disciples following Him, said to them, “Whom seek ye?” They said to Him, “Rabbi, where dwellest thou?” He answered, “Come and see.”

This is an important principle and fact; there was not only upon earth a testimony but a Person who was a gathering-point for those who received God’s word, and this from God Himself. This was the fruit of John the Baptist’s testimony. Andrew, one of John’s two disciples, finds Simon, his own brother, and announces to him that they had found, not the Lamb of God, but the Christ. The testimony which we receive, always attaches itself to that which is already in the heart; it does not go beyond that which adapts itself to what is there. If all God’s love in Christ is preached, if work is done in the soul, this will produce a conviction of sin, perhaps even to make us nearly despair of salvation. “The Lamb of God” goes infinitely further than “the Messiah”; but these sincere souls that we see here, and who had received the word of God in their heart, had found “the Messiah,” v. 42. Andrew brings Simon to Jesus, who calls him Cephas, otherwise Peter. The right of giving names is the expression of sovereignty, as we constantly find in the word; only Christ gives the names with a divine knowledge of the persons. He appropriated to Himself supreme authority, but with the competency of a divine Person. Never would John the Baptist have given names to his disciples in this way.

But although Jesus was the centre that gathered those who received the testimony of God, He was come to bear witness to the truth, and in carrying out this work He had nowhere to lay His head. He begins this active service in verse 43: He would go into Galilee, where His testimony was to be borne amongst the poor of the flock, and He finds Philip Himself. This is the second character of testimony. The first was John, and that which followed; here it is Christ, and it is a question of following Him, Him who was a pilgrim and stranger in this world. Christ thus appears also in another character; up to this time we have seen Him as centre, He received believers, and surrounded Himself with them there, where He dwelt; here they must follow Him, where He was a pilgrim— a second testimony of all-importance.

As the object of John the Baptist’s testimony, Jesus was the centre, and He is always; but, in fact in His own testimony down here, He was a stranger, and had nowhere to lay His head; He began at the manger, and ended at the cross. All His life was the life of One who was a stranger down here, who walked in the world to bear witness in it to God in grace, but in following a path which no vulture’s eye hath seen. The two characters of testimony bring out into bold relief, the state of the world, on the one hand; and on the other, that which Jesus was doing there. Why have in this world a centre of gathering, on the part of God, if it be not that the world, and even God’s people according to the flesh, had entirely got away from God, and that it needed some one to draw souls out of this state by the revelation of God in the midst of this world? And now, again, the principle is the same, only the blessed Centre is in heaven: He gave Himself for our sins, to take us out of this present evil age. Then, why follow Jesus, to be a pilgrim as Jesus always was down here? Adam was not a pilgrim in paradise; we shall not be pilgrims in heaven: there was no need of a road in the one, and we shall find none in the other, as if we wished to get out of it. It was the sabbath of God below; it is the eternal rest of God on high; one will not go out of it; there was no need, and there will be no need, in the one, or in the other, of a path where some one is to be followed. Here it is not so; neither the rest of God, nor the rest of man, is to be found upon the earth, and what we want is a path across the desert. There is only one which is sure, and One alone could trace it; and faith alone discerns it; it is Jesus who says, “Follow me.” We need a path, and the path is found. Philip also was of Galilee. God’s work was not built upon Jerusalem, the old centre according to the flesh; but the basis, the path, and the centre, is the Son of God, the revelation of God Himself in the world, Himself the First of all, the despised and rejected of men, but the image of the invisible God.

Philip finds Nathanael, an Israelite, full of prejudices, but a guileless heart, for the Lord found under the fig-tree even, men of this stamp, attached to Judaism—a remnant whose heart was opened to the truth, faithful men, who waited for the redemption of Israel. Nathanael did not think that anything good could come out of Nazareth, that place which, far from being the Jerusalem of promise, was one of the most despised and disreputable places. But it was to Jesus that one must come, it was to His Person that souls were invited to come: “Come and see”! The Lord shews His perfect knowledge of what was passing in Nathanael, declaring him to be without guile, and shewing this knowledge in a way to penetrate his heart. Nathanael recognises Him, according to Psalm 2, as King of Israel and Son of God. In His answer, the Lord recognises Nathanael’s faith, founded upon what He had told him of himself, and He announces to him His own glory, according to Psalm 8, the glory which belonged to a rejected Messiah; for in Psalm 2 the Messiah is rejected, in a passage quoted by Peter to this effect, the psalm announcing that God would establish His anointed King over Israel, notwithstanding His rejection. But after the prophetic recital of the sufferings of the remnant in Psalms 3-7, Psalm 8 announces God’s counsels as to man in the Person of the Son of man. This guileless man, who is here presented to us under the fig-tree, becomes thus the occasion of the revelation of the Messiah in His connection with Israel, then of the revelation of His glory as the Son of man, whom all the highest creatures should serve, and who should be their object as the means of established relationship between the heavens and the earth.

We should notice that it is here, as we have observed, the second day of testimony; the first being found in verse 35, the second in verse 43. It is not the history of the Gospel, but the testimony borne to Jesus by John the Baptist first of all, and then the testimony borne by Himself. In the first case He takes John the Baptist’s place; in the second, it is the manifestation of Himself, a testimony which goes on from His service on earth until the accomplishment of Psalm 8. Looked at already as rejected of the Jews, and unknown to the world (chap. 1:10, 11), He takes, from this time, the title of Son of man, the title by which He constantly calls Himself, although He could not take the position itself until He had passed through death. These are the two days of testimony borne to Christ as having come into this world, which are developed in the supremacy which He possesses over all things, presented here in its nature only. For the rest, the heavenly position of the Lord is hardly the subject of the teaching of John’s Gospel: allusion is made to it, indeed, but that is all.

Chapter 2

That which follows, in chapter 2, reveals in principle what will happen when the Lord takes His place of authority over the Jews; the wine of gladness of the wedding will take the place of the water of purification, and Christ will purify His Father’s house by judgment. But it will be a risen Christ who will accomplish these things. It is the resurrection that is presented to us, the fact of having left all His relationships with the world, and with His people down here according to the flesh, and of having placed man in quite a new position, the position which bears witness to His rights to execute the judgment of God. But notice, He was already the true temple. Jehovah was no longer really in the temple at Jerusalem, although that temple was owned as an outward thing by the Lord Himself until judgment was executed: only, at the time of His death, He no longer calls it His Father’s house, but their house. God, in fact, was in Him; His body was the true temple.

These words of the Lord terminate this presentation of His Person, and of the position that He took in this world until the end, shewing us at the same time that it was in resurrection that His glory should be accomplished. He declares also here that He would raise Himself up; He had, therefore, perfect right to judge the corrupt and defiled temple.

What follows speaks of the relationship of the Lord with others; the subject begins from verse 22. It is a question of man’s state, and of the work that God was doing in him, and for him. The great principle that all blessing belongs to the resurrection-state, or is based upon it, man in his natural state being left completely behind, recurs constantly in John, as one may see in chapters 5, 6, and indeed all through the Gospel. We have then, here, the two great foundations of Christianity, as far as our state is concerned; that is, the new birth and the cross, both being absolutely necessary for our salvation; but the second going further than that which was necessary, according to the nature even of God, and introducing us into heavenly things.

To have a part in the kingdom, one must have an entirely new life. Even faith in Jesus, as founded upon a demonstration which could be addressed to human intelligence, was worth nothing. Men might be truly convinced (there were such at that time, and there are still such), whether by education, or by the exercise of their mind, but in order to be in relationship with God, there must be a new nature—a nature which can know Him, and which answers to His own. Many believed in Jesus when they saw the miracles that He did (v. 23); they concluded, like Nicodemus, that a man could not do what Jesus was doing, if He were not what He pretended to be. The conclusion was perfectly right. Passions to be overcome, prejudices to be laid aside, or interests hard to sacrifice were not concerned in the question. Man’s reason judged rightly enough of the proofs given, the rest of his nature was not aroused. But the Lord knew man; He knew, with divine intelligence, what was in him. There was no lack of sincerity, perhaps, but what there was with these men was but a conclusion, a human conviction, which had no power over man’s will, nor against his passions, nor against the wiles of the prince of this world. “Jesus did not trust himself to them.” There must be a divine work, and a divine nature, to enjoy divine communion, and to walk in the divine path across the world. That which follows is very distinct.

Chapter 3

Nicodemus comes to Jesus with the declaration of the same principle which had produced the conviction of those in whom Jesus had no confidence—the miracles were to him a demonstration that Jesus was a teacher sent from God. I even think that the others went further than Nicodemus; it is said they believed in His name (chap. 2:23). As to Nicodemus, he was convinced that Christ’s teaching must have God for its source, thus he was disposed to listen. The belief of the former did not produce any need in their souls; in this case conviction may go as far as you like, without the soul’s being troubled, or any effect whatever being produced: it costs nothing—we often see this.

But in Nicodemus’s case there was more, and it was a proof of the action of God; there was with him a need. The Holy Spirit of God always acts thus, even in the Christian. This feeling of need which He begets produces activity in the soul; this is what had happened to Nicodemus. More, when the Spirit of God acts in a soul, the word of God asserts its authority over it, and creates the desire to hear that word; this never fails. There are so many unsatisfied desires in the soul, that when it is awakened, the need to know what God has said is produced in it. The soul has the consciousness of having to do with Him, and the need of knowing what He has said becomes the spring of its activity, and characterises it. It is not the reception of a system of doctrine, or of dogmas about a divine Person; it is the soul that hungers and thirstibr what God has said; ignorant of everything but its need, it wishes to receive. It is a good thing for the soul to trust in God’s word, in the source of truth (this is already implicit faith), without the truth being, as yet, communicated in fact; for it listens with confidence. Nicodemus was in this state; the Samaritan woman also, but, in her case the conscience was more in question; so also with the twelve; when several of His disciples abandoned Jesus, they would not leave Him, for He had the words of eternal life. When God acts, the link between God and the conscience and soul is not broken; I am not speaking of union, but of a moral work in the heart. But notice, as soon as ever the need is produced in Nicodemus’s heart, he feels instinctively that the world, and the religious authorities—the worst part of the world—will be against him. There is fear; Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night.. Poor human nature! If a soul puts itself in relationship with God, in recognising His word, the world will not stand it. We know this. But Nicodemus’s faith did not go farther than to recognise the authority of the Saviour’s word as a word which came from God, grace having produced in his heart the need of these communications from God.

It is a great thing to have a real need, feeble though it be morally; for here, in Nicodemus’s case, there was little need in the conscience, and no knowledge of himself. He was cleaving to religious hopes, to doctrines, and a revelation given from God; he was seeking instruction from Jesus, but he had his part in the general conviction that the miracles of Jesus produced—a conviction strengthened by uprightness, and by personal need; Jesus was a teacher sent from God. But Jesus stops Nicodemus short; the resurrection and kingdom were not come, but in order to receive the revelation which had been given of it, there must be a divine operation, a new nature; it was necessary to partake of an entirely new life. The kingdom was not coming in a way to attract attention, but the King, with all the perfection that belonged to Him, was there present, and consequently the kingdom itself, presented in His Person; only this kingdom, not being revealed in power, the rejection of the King caused by the very perfection of His Person, as well as the work accomplished in His rejection, introduced a heavenly inheritance. Further this work, and this rejection, brought those who should be identified with a rejected Christ into those courts above where God displayed His glory, and this is far higher than the glory of the Messiah, if it had been then accomplished. It was already the dawn of the accomplishment of the counsels of God not yet revealed.

Two things are presented to us in the first half of the chapter before us: first of all, the kingdom, and what is needed to have part in it, and, in measure, the earthly things, and what is necessary to enjoy them with God, but also the kingdom, as it was then presented in its moral character. Then, secondly, heaven, eternal life; that which is essential to our most real and intimate relationships with God, namely, the possession of eternal life before Him, in contrast with the thought of perishing. Here it is no question of the kingdom, it is eternal life, such as Jesus, come from heaven, could reveal it to us. But this supposes the cross: it is no question of Messiah, but of the Son of man, and of the love which God has had for the world, not of His intentions with regard to the kingdom, and the promises connected with this kingdom, but of plans far more vast and exalted, heavenly in their character, in which God reveals what He is; and Jesus, rejected as Messiah, dies, and enters into glory as the Son of man who has suffered. No doubt this new birth is in any case necessary, subjectively, even that we may see the kingdom, and enjoy it, much more, that we may enjoy heavenly things in the presence of God. But as the passage speaks of the new birth, it does not treat of the heavenly glory; for this the cross must be brought in also. However it is well to remark that this whole passage, in its two parts, supposes the new order of things, where grace was acting, and that not limited to the Jews. It was an entirely new thing that was being brought in; the kingdom was not established in glory, but founded and received in the Person of the King, demanding a new nature to see it, and extending itself to every one whom grace could reach. It was morally and subjectively, the new thing; only in the first part, we have neither heavenly things, nor eternal life; in the second, we have not the kingdom.

The first thing the Lord does in stopping Nicodemus short— who only spoke of being instructed in the state in which he was, he, a child of the kingdom according to the flesh—is to tell him that it was not a question of that, but that he must be born entirely anew. We will look into the details in a moment; it is, however, important, first of all, to seize, that the Lord speaks of the two characters of blessing, that is, of the heavenly glory, and of the kingdom according to promise, but that He speaks of them according to the aspects they presented at that very time. We may say that He presents them, with regard to His Person in their spiritual character; on the one hand, the King despised, and that which was heavenly meeting with the cross in His Person; but, on the other hand, the new birth and life-giving power, the Son of man, the love of God, and consequently what concerned the world and man, not only dispensations and the Jews. For, faithful though God be to His promises, He cannot, when He reveals Himself, confine Himself to the Jews.

First of all then, the kingdom was being revealed in a way which did not attract attention, not by a power that should rule over the world, nor by its outward glory; a new nature was needed to perceive it. The King was there, and He gave proofs of a divine mission and of the presence of Him who was to come, but in humiliation; to the natural eye He was the carpenter’s son. Nicodemus reasoned well in saying, in verse 2, “We know … for no one can do the miracles which thou doest, unless God be with him”; but God had His, “Except a man be born again”—born entirely anew. This life is a beginning again of life, of a new source, and of a new nature— a life that came from God. But Nicodemus still remained within the bounds and limits of the flesh, of the natural man. They are the limits of what man is, of his intelligence. Man cannot be more than he is; he cannot get beyond his nature. But the class of infidels who boast of having made this immense discovery, shew, on the one hand, the limit of the human understanding, so that they can discern nothing beyond what man is; and, on the other hand, the absence of solid reasoning in themselves; for, from what they have discovered, there is no proof that a more powerful Being cannot introduce something new. Their wisdom is a self-evident fact; man by himself cannot see beyond that which is in himself; their conclusion is absolutely without force. By their principle they can conclude nothing beyond the limits of humanity; but the limits of active power are not necessarily those of receptivity. Let us return to our chapter, and seek to listen to and understand the Saviour’s words better than Nicodemus.

Nicodemus, as we have said, confines himself to the experience of what happens in man; Christ revealed that which was being accomplished on God’s part—the key of all the Lord’s history. He had spoken of that which was necessary to see, to discern the kingdom: one must be born of water and of the Spirit. It is the kingdom of God, in whatever state it may be, and one must be made meet for this kingdom, must have a nature fit to take part in it. Two things are found here, water and the Spirit—a nature thus characterised, morally and in its source. Water as a figure, is always the word applied by the Spirit; it brings the thoughts of God heavenly, divine, but adapted to man; it judges what is found in him, but it brings in these divine thoughts, and so purifies the heart. For water purifies what exists; but also it is the new man who drinks it, and this is not separated from that which is entirely new. “That which is born of the Spirit, is spirit,” partakes of the nature of that of which it is born; this is, in truth, the new nature. The practical purification of our thoughts and hearts, of which we have spoken, is indeed the effect of that which this nature receives, of things for which the flesh has no desire. We could not say, “That which is born of water, is water.” Water purifies that which exists; but we receive a new life, which is really Christ Himself in power of life in us, that which Adam innocent had not. We partake of the divine nature, as Peter expresses it; and where this expression is found, in the Second Epistle of Peter, it is connected with birth by water; we escape the corruption that is in the world by lust.

It is thus only that we enter the kingdom. The kingdom of God is more than a paradise for man, it is what is fitting for God, and it is necessary that we should have a nature that answers to it. Adam, in his state of innocence, had not this, his level was man, as God had created him. For the kingdom of God, he who finds himself there, must have that which—in man however—is suitable to God Himself. Notice, that the Lord goes outside all questions of dispensations, He has in view the moral nature, that which is born of the flesh, is flesh, has that nature; that which is born of the Spirit is spirit, that is to say, corresponds to the divine nature, which is its source. But then it could not be a question only of the Jews; if any one had this nature, he was fit for the kingdom. It was not a question of a people already chosen of God, but of a nature suitable to God.

Two things are brought to light when these principles have been laid down; first of all, the necessity of this new birth, in order to enjoy the promises made to the Jews for the earth; and secondly, that this work was of God, who communicated this new nature. God could communicate it by His Spirit to whom He would, and this opened the door to the Gentiles. Nicodemus, Jesus told him, ought not to have been astonished at the Saviour saying that the Jews must be born again; the prophets had announced this (see Ezek. 36:24-28), and Nicodemus, as a master or teacher in Israel, ought to have known it. The wind, too, blew where it listed (v. 8); so was the operation of the Spirit. It was a work of God, and thus could be accomplished in any one.

There were still the heavenly things. Now if Nicodemus did not understand these earthly things of Israel’s blessing, how would he understand if the Lord spoke to him of heavenly things? Now no one had ascended to heaven, so as to be able to bring word of what was there, and of what was necessary to be able to enjoy it, save He who had descended thence, who spoke of what He knew, and bore witness to what He had seen; not the Messiah—that had to do with the earth—but the Son of man, who, as to His divine nature, was in heaven.

Thus we have a revelation of heavenly things brought directly from heaven by Christ, and in His Person. He revealed them in all their freshness, a freshness which was found in Him, and which He, who was ever in heaven, enjoyed; He revealed them in the perfection of the Person of Him, who made the glory of heaven, whose nature is the atmosphere which all those who are found there breathe, and by which they live; He, the object of the affections which animate this holy place, from the Father Himself down to the last of the angels who fill heaven’s courts with their praises, He the centre of all the glory. Such is the Son of man, He who came down to reveal the Father—truth and grace—but who divinely remained in heaven in the essence of His divine nature, in His Person inseparable from the humanity with which He was clothed! The deity which filled this humanity was inseparable in His Person from all the divine perfection, but He never ceased to be man, really and truly man before God.

But we have another truth here: the Son of man was to re-enter heaven as Man, to be Head over all things. As Son of God He has been appointed Heir (Heb. 1); He is such as Creator (Col. 1), but also as Man and Son of man, according to God’s counsels. (Psalm 8, quoted in Ephesians 1, in 1 Corinthians 15, in Hebrews 2—passages which develop clearly His place in this respect.) Proverbs 8 teaches us that He who was Jehovah’s delight before the foundation of the world, rejoiced then in the habitable parts of the earth, and His delights were in the sons of men. The angels (Luke 2) recall this truth, or rather the proofs which His incarnation gave of the thoughts of God in this respect; they speak of this incarnation as the manifestation of God’s good pleasure in men. As then He has been the manifestation of God upon earth, He enters as Man into the glory of God on high. He will reign over the earth as Head of the creation, gathering together all things under His authority34 (Col. 1); but here we speak of heavenly things. The Son of man takes His place on high to be Head over all things (1 Peter 3:22; John 13:3; ch. 16:15). Man, in His Person, has entered heaven, into the presence of God Himself, without a veil, and all things are to be subjected under His feet. But will they be so, such as they are, and men who are to be His joint-heirs, will they be so, such as they are in sin, enemies of God by their wicked works? It is impossible. Another fundamental thing is necessary, redemption. Man, with a thousand times more sin than that which caused him to be driven irrevocably from the earthly paradise—man, who had gone so far as to have accumulated upon his head, the rejection of God, of grace, and of the Son of God—could not, such as he was, enter the heavenly paradise: it was impossible. If, then, Christ should as Man possess the glory which in the counsels of God was the portion of man, and if He was to have joint-heirs, and introduce them into His Father’s house, He must redeem them and purify them according to the glory of God. He must also redeem creation from the yoke under which sin had placed it, and from Satan’s dominion. Here it is a question only of the state of the heirs, and of their deliverance from death and condemnation. Now, when the Son of man is presented to us, His sufferings and death are constantly introduced. As Messiah He was rejected upon earth by His people; but the only result of this was His passing into the wider sphere of Son of man, Head of the entire creation, and Head, in a special way, of those whom He is not ashamed to call His brethren. But for this, redemption was needed; we learn this in Matthew 16:20, 21, and more definitely in Mark 8:29-31, and Luke 9:20-22, with the consequences which result from it for us. In John’s Gospel too, before He leaves the world, the Father would have a testimony borne to the titles of glory of Jesus. As Son of God, He was glorified by the resurrection of Lazarus; as Son of David, by His entry into Jerusalem on the ass’s colt; finally, the Greeks, who had come up to worship at Jerusalem, having sought the disciples in their desire to see Jesus, and the disciples having communicated this to Him, the Lord says, “The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit,” John 12:23, 24.

Thus, in all the Gospels, we find the Messiah giving place to the Son of man, but in each case the Son of man passing through death, in order to enter into His new and universal position of glory. He might have had twelve legions of angels, but then God’s counsels, as revealed in the Scriptures, would not have been accomplished; Christ would have been without joint-heirs.

We have already remarked, and we recall the reader’s attention to it, that in this chapter, the presentation whether it be of life, or of the work which procures it for us, is given in connection with its present and personal application; it is a presentation of what these two things are in their nature, not as to the extent of their result, but in their application to us as a means of having part whether in the kingdom, or in heavenly things. The lifting-up of the Son of man on the cross corresponds down here, both on the side of our need, and that of God, to the revelation of the heavenly things which the Son brought down—to that which is found in heaven. It is a question of being before God when He is fully revealed, not only when the Messiah promised to the Jews had been rejected (so that the right to the accomplishment of the promises was lost for those who possessed this right, after that the law had been broken), but when man’s hatred against God—against a God revealed in goodness—had been clearly manifested. It was no longer merely sins, and the violation of the law, it was the rejection of grace, when sins and the violation of the law were already there. Man would not have God at any price (see John 15:22-24); how could he have part with Christ in God’s presence, a part in heavenly glory? Still, the sin of man has not brought the grace of God to nought. But if, as Son of man, Christ had undertaken man’s cause, He must undergo the consequences of this, since He had become responsible for it before God; Heb. 2:10. In order that we might have part in the heavenly things, it was necessary that the Son of man should be lifted up,35 and that according to God’s glory, in connection with that which had so much dishonoured Him; now it is, as made sin, Christ accomplished this, Himself also bearing our sins. Far from God, we must have perished in our sins; He came forward for us, receiving all, as Man, from the hand of His Father, and obeying Him ever; He took the form of a servant in a nature which He will never leave, and in this nature He has become, by right, according to the righteousness and according to the counsels of God, Lord of all things; He whom no one knows but the Father only, but who reveals the Father to us, He who came down close to us—who has touched us, so to speak—who took our nature, though He could say, “Before Abraham was, I am.” He of whom our tongues and intelligence can speak but imperfectly is the Creator of everything; but His place as Man is at the head of the creation. He it is who came to reveal heavenly things to us, and to shew their effect in His Person as Man, while living in the midst of heavenly things all the time; so that, being Man down here, He should reveal them in all their freshness, adapted at the same time to man, so that he should live by them, and enter in spirit with Him there, where that was which He revealed, and later on should enter there glorified and like Him.

The Son of man is then the One who, as Man, is to be Head over all things in heaven and earth, according to God’s counsels. Already Messiah and Son of God when He was upon earth, and rejected as such (see Psalm 2), He must take the more extended position of Son of man, set over the works of God, all things being put under His feet; Psalm 8. We find Him also in Daniel 7, brought to the Ancient of days to receive the kingdom. The fact that He had created all things is given us in the Colossians as the motive for (in taking His place in the result of the counsels of God in His creation) being there as Firstborn, first, to bear the sorrow of it before God, to be the propitiation for our sins, and to blot them out for ever, so that we should not perish. There it was that, in an absolute manner, He who had not known sin was made sin before God, it was there that absolute obedience was perfect; “That the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father hath commanded me, even so I do.” He must be lifted up, the necessity for it was weighing upon us; righteousness—the very nature of God—demanded that our sin should be put away. But the sinner could not put away his own sin; burdened as he was already with this sin, what could he do to put it away? But the Son of man, rejected by men, has been lifted up before God, to be sin, without any other thing or person—alone before God. It was no longer any question here of Jew or of promise, but of satisfying God’s glory in this place; it was the last Adam, not disobedient, when he was enjoying all the blessings of God, but obedient, there, even where He was enduring—He who had dwelt eternally in the Father’s love, and in holiness itself—not only the suffering of death, but that of the curse and the forsaking of God. No one could fathom such a thing; nevertheless, we can even by this recognise that the suffering was infinite, but necessary on account of what we were, if God’s glory was to be guarded, and if we were to be saved. The more we see who He was, the more we feel the depth of the abyss into which He descended; but in that very thing He could say, “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again,” John 10:17. The glory of God has been manifested as it never was, and never could have been known.

The Son of man had to be lifted up. In taking this place (which He took for us also in grace), He was free. “Then said I, Lo, I come.” His sufferings were necessary for us. Oh, solemn word! But God having been there perfectly glorified, the work in all its value being perfectly accomplished, whosoever believes shall not perish, but has everlasting life. Our lot was to perish; to have eternal life, to be with Christ, and like Christ in glory, is the effect of the sufferings, of the work of the Saviour for all who believe. This is one side of the truth: as Son of man Jesus went to meet the judgment which was about to fall upon us. The Son of man must be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. He that believes does not perish; but, much more, he possesses eternal life, now as life, soon as heavenly glory with Christ. Lifted up from the earth, Jesus draws all men unto Him. A living Messiah was for the lost sheep of the house of Israel; in the Son of man lifted up upon the cross, it is no longer a question of the promises, but of an accomplished work, available in God’s sight for all those that believe. For God so loved the world, that He gave His Son; this is the source of all. Here the end is the same; “that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” These are two aspects of the same Person; Son of man down here, but at the same time Son of God. God hath not spared His own Son. But it is a principle, a fact of all importance. The must of verses 14, 15, although it flows from God’s very nature, and from man’s state, bears the character of a requirement on God’s part: it clothes God in our mind with the character of a judge. There is, doubtless, much more: God’s holiness, His glory, that which becomes Him (Heb. 2:10), are to be found here too; but the thought of a judge is in effect connected with culpability. Now all this gives still a very imperfect idea of the truth. The work bears this character; it is a propitiation; without it we should perish, shut out from God’s presence; one would perish necessarily, if this work were not accomplished, on man’s side, by man. But where could be found one who could accomplish it? It must: Jesus could say this, for He came from heaven. God is not named in the passage, for Jesus speaks of the necessity in which man was, if he would enter into heaven. But God is sovereign, and God is love. Divine love is sovereign; it is above evil, although it rejects it by the necessity of its nature, and judges it with the authority of its righteousness. God is love; this is the sovereign liberty of His nature. This is why, according to Ephesians 5, we ought to walk in love; but we are not love, we are light. God is love and light. Well, then, it is in this sovereign liberty that God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son (He who, in consequence, became the Son of man), so that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life (v. 16).

It is of all importance to understand this well, otherwise God must always bear for the heart the character of judge—a satisfied judge, it may be—and He who is love is not known; God is not known. As to that which relates to us, we have made Him a Judge in falling into sin; but in His supreme nature, God has risen above everything, and the result for us is a blessing answering to this supreme nature, a blessing infinitely higher than the blessing which we should enjoy as perfect creatures, a blessing given to us in His Son Jesus, as only-begotten Son of the Father. It is not, the Father so loved the world; it is, God as God, and we know Him as Father as a consequence of this grace. But He has revealed Himself, in this grace towards us.

What immense grace to be able to say, I know God; and again, I am known of Him: I know Him, Himself; not only, I am saved, however precious it may be to be able to say that, but, I know the One who has saved me! The thought of this salvation comes from Him; it is the revelation of what He is, even for the angels. His love is the source of it; His nature, the depth of His heart, is revealed in it; His glory and His own nature are revealed in it. Son of God, Son of man, Jesus meets man’s need, and reveals what God is. He who hath seen Him, hath seen the Father. Blessed be God! we know Him.

The purpose and consequences of His coming are then established. God has not sent His Son into the world to judge the world—He will come back in glory to do this—but that the world might be saved through Him (v. 17). The world has rejected the Son of God, but such a manifestation of God in the Word made flesh, and such an accomplishment of the work which glorifies God, bear their consequences, and bear them necessarily. He who believeth in Him is not judged. All that concerned God’s glory as to man’s sin has been accomplished; the righteousness of God, His love, His holiness. His majesty—all that He is, has been clearly brought out, and that in the judgment which fell upon Christ, made sin for us, and bearing our sins in His body upon the tree. Thus the whole question of responsibility and the glory of God as to the believer is resolved and settled; there can be now no judgment for him, otherwise all would not be settled; it would be a denial of the efficacy of Christ’s work. The soul would be placed upon another ground; a ground necessarily false if that of Christ be true, for nothing and no one can be what He has been.

He, then, that believes in Him shall not be judged, as it is said also in chapter 5 of this same Gospel. He who believes has everlasting life, and he shall not come into judgment. But he that believes not in Him is judged already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God. The presentation of the Son of God, of the Word of God, made flesh, had already put man to the test; the question of his state had been resolved, he rejected God in the Person of His only-begotten Son, the full Light; and God is light, as He is love. It is not here sovereign love, but conscience and responsibility. The light has been in the world, and has shone clearly; the light of men, adapted to men. They loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. Conscience feels the light, but that does not change the will; and if the will remains perverse, conscience makes divine light insupportable. The state of the will, as to God manifested down here, when conscience recognises the light, is that which forms the basis of an existing judgment, present, but final, there where Christ has been thus presented.

The end of the chapter determines the relative position of John the Baptist and of Christ. John’s proper mission was an earthly one; he spoke of the Messiah to Israel, of the kingdom in connection with this people; as the immediate precursor of the Christ, the nearest of all those who, vessels of the testimony of God, had preceded him, he was, by this fact, greater than all the prophets: but he did not come up to the manifestation of that which is heavenly. Those who have believed since Christ’s ascension enjoy this; the least even in the kingdom of God is greater than John. In the Person of the Christ, the Baptist glimpsed the glory which belonged to Him, and which, by grace, belongs to His own also; but the veil was not rent, and there was not a man in heaven. Personally, Jesus had brought that which was heavenly; He revealed the Father, He spoke the words of God; but the grain of wheat remained alone, redemption was not accomplished, although He who came from above was there, and spoke that which He had seen and heard in words which were the words of God. No one received His testimony.

Verse 29 is rather a figure, and the bride he speaks of is not a particular bride. If one wished to apply it, it would indicate the earthly bride.

This difference between the prophetic testimony, which, although divine, is an earthly testimony, and the revelation of heavenly things, of God Himself, and the portion we have in the glory, is of all importance; it corresponds to the essential difference between Christianity and all that preceded it. Man glorified in heaven, the veil rent, the Holy Ghost come down here, and dwelling in us, to put us in living and actual relationship with heavenly things—all this differs entirely from the promises, and even from the prophecies of the coming of Messiah upon earth. That which relates to the personal history of the Christ, up to His session at the right hand of God, is found as prophecy in the Old Testament; but all that the accomplishment of these things reveals to us morally of man and of God, all that is the consequence of the Holy Ghost’s presence in believers down here, could not exist before Christ, as Mediator, had accomplished His work and had gone up on high. John the Baptist was evidently, of all the prophets, the nearest to these things, having seen the Saviour; still, the work was not yet accomplished, and John could not enter into the heavenly things, although he knew, as an inspired witness, that Christ had come down from heaven, and as such was above all.

Let us see how John presents the difference of which I speak. He could not do it as possessing these things, for they were not yet; but his testimony as to the rights of the Person of Christ, goes a long way in this passage, where he is speaking to his disciples. His joy was to have seen the Bridegroom, and that in the character of a friend: this is the first difference. He to whom all belonged by right was there: He had the bride, perhaps here the earthly bride, I have already spoken of it, but He was the Bridegroom. John’s joy was to see Him. It was a great thing even to compare himself to Him who was come from heaven, although he accepted the disappearing of his own importance with unfeigned piety and joy, because He who eclipsed the brightness of John’s testimony, by the presence of the object itself of that testimony was there. John’s piety shines out in its clearest light as he thus goes into the shade, in order to exalt the One who, although unknown, was the true divine light, and who made His forerunner disappear by His divine brightness. Truth in the inner man manifested itself by the effect which the truth he announced should produce; his soul was at the height of the testimony he bore. This is much to say of a man; but this was the fair fruit of grace in this honoured witness of the Saviour.

The divine, heavenly Person of the Saviour is then put in contrast with the testimony of John, inspired as he was; his testimony was only a testimony, and a prophetic and earthly testimony: Christ came from heaven, and spoke of what He Himself had seen and heard, not as a prophet, whether, of future things, recalling the law of Moses, the servant of God, or of a Messiah to come, and even upon the earth; no, Jesus spoke of the actual things which existed there whence He had come. No one received His testimony, for these were heavenly things, things which existed in God’s presence, of which He spoke: man did not understand them, and did not want them. But the nature of the testimony was nevertheless divine; it was no longer the Spirit “by measure,” a “Thus saith the Lord,” where the prophet, having finished, all was said—perfect truth, but truth limited to that which was expressed—and again, it was of earthly things, the veil not being rent. The truth itself was there, the Spirit without measure (up to that time upon Him alone), filling Him with the things that were found there whence He was. He whom God had sent always spoke the words of God Himself in all that He said, and that in a man, and by a man, but who was the Son of God, and by the Spirit without measure.

It is very possible that the last two verses of the chapter are by the evangelist, and not by John the Baptist, as it has been thought; but I see no peremptory reason why they should not be by the latter. Up to the end of verse 34, it seems clear to me that they are the words of John the Baptist; and John mingles his testimony with the things he relates, the whole being of God. The last verse might make one think that the words are those of the evangeUst, as they contain a testimony so often repeated in his writings. There is also in the testimony a change analogous to what we have seen in verses 16-18 of chapter 1, as to the use of the name of God, and of that of Father. We must here notice carefully this fact, that the thing in question is not to know whether the testimony of the two verses is of God, but that it is only for our instruction, and as an interesting subject for our hearts, that we may take into account the person who was the vessel of this testimony. The Spirit of God committed the word to John the Baptist; the same Spirit directed the evangelist, whether in bringing to our memory that which John the Baptist said, or in the words which he himself pronounces. The last two verses, however, seem rather the expression of a reality that the evangelist knew and possessed by the Holy Ghost, as a present and actual thing, than a prophetic testimony, however high it might be.

The difference between the names of God and of Father is always distinctly maintained in John’s Gospel. When it is a question of the nature, and of the acting of God according to that nature, as the origin of redemption, and of the responsibility of man, the word God is employed; when it is a question of the grace which acts in Christianity, and by Christ in us, it is the name of Father. Thus “God so loved the world”; and in chapter 4, “God is a Spirit, and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth”; but, in grace, “the Father seeketh such to worship him”; and here, “the Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hands.” (Compare chapter 13:3.) The Father has been revealed in the Son, and we have received the Spirit of adoption; the little children in Christ have known the Father. “The only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath revealed him”; and on the other side, “No one hath seen God at any time.” Thus the Person of the Son come into the world, and for us, the exaltation of Jesus, after He had accomplished the work which the Father had given Him to do, then the descent of the Holy Ghost, in a word, the grace which operates in the Person, and for us, by means of the work of Jesus—there is where we find the Father revealed. Jesus revealed this name to His disciples, although they had understood nothing of it (John 17:26); and now that the work which purifies us and justifies us has been accomplished, we have received the Spirit, by whom we cry, “Abba, Father.” The name of Father is a name of relationship, revealed by the presence of Christ, and which one knows and enjoys individually by the Holy Ghost. This is what characterises Christianity, and we may say, Christ Himself. God is what God is in His nature and His authority, the name of a Being, not of a relationship, except in the rights of absolute authority that belong to Him; but of a Being who, being supreme, enters into relationship with us, in grace. We see the importance of this distinction in the words of Christ Himself. During the whole of His life He does not say, “my God,” but, “my Father,” even in Gethsemane; and the enjoyment of this relationship is perfect. “I am not alone, for the Father is with me.” He says again, “Father,” when He explains what it is for Him to drink the cup. On the cross He said, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? “Made sin for us, He felt what it was to be it before God, God being what He is. After His resurrection He employs the two names of God and of Father, when He introduces His disciples into the position into which He entered, from that time forth, as Man, according to the righteousness of God. “I ascend unto my Father, and your Father, unto my God, and your God.” His own were, by grace, as Himself, in their relationship with God as Father; they were, by His work, before God such as He is in His nature, and that in righteousness, according to the value of the work that He had accomplished, and according to their acceptance in His Person, well pleasing in the Beloved. But what a wonderful privilege to know what the Father’s affections are set upon, and to know Him who is the object of them, and who is worthy of them—who suffices for these affections! What happiness to know the Lord, for the Father wills that there where He finds His delight we should find ours. What perfect, infinite happiness!

Finally, all things are given to Him, and set under His feet; it is to Him they will be subjected, although they are not yet, as far as the accomplishment of God’s ways are concerned (Heb. 2); but He has all power in heaven and on earth.

It is well to remark here, that it is always the Word made flesh,36 He who emptied Himself, and took the form of a servant, as a man down here, who is before the eyes of John. Consequently, although the divinity, or rather the deity, of the Saviour appears on every page of the Gospel, Christ is presented to us in it as receiving everything from His Father. He is God, He is one with the Father; men should honour Him as they honour the Father; He can say, “Before Abraham was, I am”; but He never goes out of the place He has taken, and while speaking to the Father as to an equal, everything, glory, and all things, are given to Him. No one knows the Son, but it is very beautiful to see the perfect faithfulness of Jesus, in that He does not glorify Himself, but remains, without effort, in the place He has taken. Blessed be God, it is always a Man!

We have already said that this third chapter lays the foundations, and does not develop the results. We find there the possession of that which enables us to enjoy these results, that is, the new birth and the cross. This is the subjective side of the thing for us. And so we find again here at the end, whosoever believes in the Son, whom the Father loves, has eternal life. (Compare 1John 5:11, 12.) He who does not believe on Him, who does not receive the witness He bears (compare chap. 5:21), shall never see life, but the wrath of God abides upon him (v. 36). The Son of God, Jesus, in His Person, is the touchstone of every soul, precious to those who believe; He is it as the manifestation of God Himself, adapting Himself to man in grace. We can see here also how the change of the name of Father to that of God is found again, when the Holy Ghost passes from grace to responsibility. When the Father is brought in, it is always grace acting by the Son, and in the Son who reveals Him.

Let us notice here, that in these first three chapters we have a preface to the Gospel, before the public ministry of the Saviour. The fact is established in chapter 3:24, compared with Matthew 4:12, 17, and Mark 1:14, 15. John 4 confirms this appreciation of the facts. No doubt Jesus had already taught and performed miracles, but He had not yet publicly presented Himself, so as to say, “The time is fulfilled.” He announces Himself thus in Luke 4:18 and following verses, although His preaching then in the synagogue at Nazareth was not His first, as verses 15 and 23 testify. But this preface of the first three chapters is really an introduction to the whole of Christianity, at least in its great and divine roots. It begins with what Christ was in His essential nature, and what man, alas! was also. It is not yet a question of God’s acting in grace. It was the light; man was darkness; it was necessary to be born of God in order to receive Him who was it. Then we find that which He became; the Word was made flesh, and the only-begotten Son revealed God, being Himself in the bosom of the Father; it is grace in His Person. Then we have His work in all the extent of its effect, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, so that we may enjoy it now. And then the work of gathering, but this latter carried on on the side of the ways of God more upon earth, but in general according to the rights of the Person of Christ, the Jews, except the remnant, being set aside. Christ, recognised by this remnant according to Psalm 2, passes on, and presents His place, according to Psalm 8, as far as that regards His Person; after which the espousals and their joy, as well as the judgment, are brought in. But it is by resurrection, in raising Himself from the dead, in raising His own body, God’s true temple, that the demonstration of His title and power will be given. That which is subjective in us, and the work for us, follows; His reception, according to human conviction, founded upon miracles, was worth nothing; it was what was in man; whilst, to see the kingdom, and to enter into it in its earthly and Jewish form, one must be born entirely anew. But there were also the heavenly things which Jesus revealed. He came from heaven, He was there— He alone could announce the heavenly things. And the natural man, too, was not fit to enter in; it needed that He who had undertaken his cause, whether for the glory of God, or for man’s guilt (for the new birth does not purify the conscience), it needed that the Son of man, unless He should remain alone, should be lifted up. But then it was not merely entrance into the kingdom, and the enjoyment of the promises, which were thus found, but eternal life, that which is in Christ Himself. The blessed source of all is given to us after that; God so loved the world, that He gave His Son, that we might live eternally. Thus we find, first of all, the righteous necessity, that which the nature and rights of God over man demanded, accomplished by the Son of man, then God’s infinite love revealed. The Son of God had become Son of man, but the Son of man could take this place, because He was Son of God. At the end of chapter 3 we find the testimony of John the Baptist carried to its highest point, a witness of the deep and perfect personal piety of him who bore it. Still, he was of the earth—more than a prophet, yet always earthly; of dust, and speaking as being of the earth, belonging to that which was outside the veil, not yet rent. Christ came from within the veil, and His flesh was this veil. He spoke of that which He knew thus, and no one received His testimony. John had the joy of hearing the voice of the Bridegroom; he was not that; that which he said was given of God as testimony, but the testimony being borne, all on his part was accomplished. Christ was Himself the subject of the testimony, and, more than this, the words He spoke were God’s words, for God did not give the Spirit by measure. All His words were God’s words; He was above all. Finally, we find still one thing remaining to complete this revelation of Christ, and of God Himself, in the great elements which were in connection with Christ’s Person and our state: the Father and the Son are presented to us. This is the crowning point of all in grace; He was the satisfying object of all the Father’s divine affections, He in whom the infinite and perfect love of the Father found its delight: also to Him He had given all. As Son, come down here, Jesus receives all from the Father. But the Father and the Son do not remain alone in the plenitude of their perfection; we are brought into it to enjoy it, although, in a certain sense, they remain necessarily alone in their perfection. But he who believes in the Son has eternal life already, although down here in weakness; he possesses subjectively that which, later on, will be his glory with Christ. (Compare the first verses of chapter 1) Now this revelation of the Father in the Son became the definitive test of man: he who did not receive this testimony, who did not submit to Him by faith, should never see life, but the wrath of God abode upon him. That which refers to the Holy Ghost, whom those only who had believed in Jesus should receive, is already found in verses 32-34 of chapter 1. The development of the subject is found in the Saviour’s last discourses; the history of His presence is to be found in the Acts and the Epistles, and in the consciousness of His presence which believers possess.

Having completed the review of the three introductory chapters, it may be well perhaps to give a kind of index of the chapters of the whole Gospel; for there is much order and system in John’s writings.

The rejection of the Messiah by the Jews is already stated in chapter 1; the judgment of the people, which results from this, shews itself clearly in the course of the Gospel, and in many of the chapters. The doctrine of each chapter is often in contrast with Jewish things, this contrast furnishing the occasion and basis of the doctrine. Another characteristic feature flows from it; the judgment bears on all the world (chap. 1) that had not known Him, and upon His own, the Jews, who had not received Him; it opens the way for the establishing and development of sovereign grace which alone produces the divine life in us. This implies the admission of the Gentiles into the enjoyment of the blessings of grace, and then the important fact that these blessings would be found in a world, and also in a state, altogether new, into which one enters by the resurrection. In the synoptical Gospels Christ is presented in His three characters of Jesus Emmanuel, the Messiah; of Prophet; and of Son of man; His history being traced in these three points of view, with the account of His rejection and death. In John, who shews us God manifest in flesh, His rejection is established at the beginning; for, being light, the darkness did not receive Him. The result is, that, unlike the three other Gospels, where Christ is presented historically to be received, and where His rejection is recounted to us, but in connection with man’s responsibility, John though he affirms this responsibility as doctrine, presents to us the sovereign grace which, we have already seen, sought His sheep among Jews and among Gentiles, for life eternal. Finally, we must not let pass without notice, the feature, that in John all is individual; he never speaks of the church.

Chapter 4

After the introductory chapters, the Gospel of John begins by shewing us Jesus leaving Judea, and quitting the Jewish capital, the centre of the throne of God on the earth, the ancient seat of Him who, now come down in grace, could not find where to lay His head in an adverse world. The jealousy of the Pharisees gave occasion to the departure of Jesus. But here already we can perceive that the Lord, having the consciousness of an origin and of a purpose which went beyond all the thoughts even of those who had received Him, does not act to gather together those who received His word, according to the thoughts of the disciples who surrounded Him with affection: Jesus Himself baptised not, but His disciples. The Word made flesh, Son of God, Saviour of the world, Redeemer, Son of man, He could not baptise in order to attach them to Himself as Messiah, although He was the Messiah; for He knew too well His rejection, and, as Peter expresses it, the sufferings which were to be the portion of Christ, and the glories that should follow. As to what was outside His position, Jesus could but allow His disciples to baptise thus; for them it was the truth, even the whole truth, although they had learned to add “living” to His title of Son of God. But if He Himself had baptised, He would have been entirely below the consciousness which He had of the object of His coming, and of that which was going to happen: it was not the truth for Him; although He was truly the Messiah, He came not to take this place then, but to give His life a ransom for many. That which drove Him away from Jerusalem, hindered Him also from baptising. The city where formerly He had been seated between the cherubim, and whose children He had often desired to gather together, drove Him from its neighbourhood; He went away, the despised and rejected of men, without having where to lay His head, to carry the testimony of God’s love elsewhere, and to display it in His Person. This supposed that He was rejected as Messiah; but more, God manifested in grace, and coming, according to the promises made to the Jewish people, He was the last test of the human heart, which was thus found to be enmity against God, and against God come in grace. It was a question, then, of God’s sovereign grace when man would not have Him; it was necessary then that He should be found quite apart, that He should have nothing down here—He who, coming amongst men to bring them love, a love which answered to all their necessities, was at the same time light for their consciences, put Himself within the reach of all, used their very necessities to gain them in love, but called them to the enjoyment of heavenly things, which He, and He alone, was able to reveal to them.

We shall see that the fourth chapter answers perfectly to this position. But what a precious and deep truth to see the Son of God, God manifest in flesh, rejected; He who had come according to the promises, giving up everything down here, made nothing of, and abased, and shewing in this very thing the fulness of the Godhead in love and light—always hidden in lowliness, so as to be near all, and taking nothing of that which was His own, so as to be Himself alone everywhere, as God must be, and always manifested, if any one had eyes to see—all the more manifested because He was hidden, that the love might come nigh unto all, this infinite love of God manifested in His humiliation, in order to reach those who lay low, in alienation and hatred—infinite love, love which was above everything, in its exercise towards those who hated it—Master of Himself, in order to be the Servant of all, from His Father down to the most wretched of sinners, and that even unto death! Shall we not love Him? We cannot fathom these things; but that which He has been manifestly, can take possession of our whole heart, and form, or rather create, its affections by the object presented to them. He has sanctified Himself for us, that we might be sanctified by the truth. Looked at in this way, this chapter has an immense bearing; but we will follow out the facts historically as they are presented to us.

In going from Judea into Galilee, the Lord, unless He made a circuitous journey, must pass through Samaria. Now Samaria, whilst seeking to appropriate the promises, was outside the circle of them: they belonged to the Jews. But the pretensions of the Samaritan to have part in them excessively irritated the Jews. Indeed, though mixed, the population of Samaria was, in great part, of heathen origin. “Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil,” said the Jews to Jesus. The Samaritans were in fact outside the promises and people of God. The Lord recognised these promises and that people, but He introduced that which was above both, and set them aside (v. 21-24, and already v. 5, 6). If Jacob’s well was there, the Son of man was there too, the Son of man, weary with His journey, thirsty, and without water, in the heat of the day, with no resting-place but the side of the well where He might sit, and dependent for a little water and to quench His thirst, upon any one who might come—upon a poor Samaritan woman, abandoned, and the offscouring of the world. This woman, tired of life, comes to draw water. Isolated in fact, isolated in her heart, she did not come at the time when women draw water. She had followed after pleasure in doing her own will; she had had five husbands, to whom, probably, she had been devoted, and the one she had was not her husband. She was weary of life; her will and her sin had left her heart void; she was isolated and abandoned by the world: her sin had isolated her; respectable people did not want her; nor was this astonishing. But there was One who was more isolated than she, who was alone in this world, whom no one understood, not even His disciples! What man, in the midst of this perverse world, understood the heart of Him who brought the thoughts of God into a world of sin, His love into a world of selfishness, His light into a world of darkness, heavenly things into the midst of a world which grovelled in material interests? This was good in the midst of evil, perfect good there where there was none. There was a point of contact between these two, love on the one hand, and need on the other: but grace was necessary to produce the consciousness of the need.

The manner of Jesus had attracted the woman’s attention: a Jew speaking kindly to a Samaritan woman, content to be beholden to her! The Lord begins from on high, by divine grace, joined to the perfect humihation and lowliness which set the goodness of God within the reach of man, grace which shews itself, which is measured, in going down so far as to meet with sin, and the misery to which sin has reduced us. The Lord indicates the two things. “If thou knewest the gift of God.” In Jesus, God does not demand anything. He produces every kind of good, but He makes no demand. There was here no right to anything, no promise; there was no morality, no link with God existed; but grace existed in God for those who were in this state. The woman’s attention was arrested; she saw something extraordinary, without rising above the circumstances in which her spirit moved. But the Lord goes to the source of all, or rather He came from it in His spirit. Two things are seen here, as I have just said; God giving in grace, and the perfect humiliation of Him who was speaking. Next, what this gift of God was is revealed, that is, the present enjoyment, by the power of the Holy Ghost, of eternal life in heaven.

How many new things these few words contained! God was giving, in grace and in goodness; He was making no demands, He was not turning back to man’s responsibility, which is the basis of eternal judgment, but was acting in the freedom and power of His holy grace. Then, He who had created the water was there, weary and dependent, in order to be able to drink of it from such a woman, who did not know what she was. He does not say, “If thou knewest me,” but, “If thou knewest who it is that saith unto thee, Give me to drink,” who He is who has come down so low, surmounting all the barriers which kept Him from thee, “thou wouldest have asked of him.” Confidence would have been established: as to goodness and as to power, He could, and would, give that which brought into relationship with God. There was the answer: “He would have given thee living water”; words clear enough, it would seem; but the poor woman cannot get further than the circumstances of her daily labour. It is not now with her, astonishment in seeing Him who spoke with her, passing over religious barriers, but the impossibility, as He was, of having water; for she goes no further than her daily toil, though seeing plainly that she has to do with an extraordinary Person; the Lord was leading her on, she knew not yet where. Was He, then, who spoke to her greater than Jacob, the stock of Israel, who had given them the well? The Lord now expresses more clearly what was in question: “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again, but 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.”

But to arrest the attention of a soul, however useful this may be, is not to convert it: the moral communication between the soul and God is not yet established by the knowledge of oneself and of Him; the eyes are not yet opened. Thus the heart remains in its natural surroundings, absorbed, or at least governed, by the circle in which it lives. The poor woman, attracted by the Lord’s manner, which had gained ascendency over her, asks Him to give her of this water, so that she need no longer come there to draw laboriously. All true intelligence was wanting to her: she was absorbed by her weariness and labour, and the circle of her thoughts went no further than her waterpot, that is to say, than herself, but herself possessed by her circumstances. This is human Life, and people judge of revealed things by their relation to these circumstances; sometimes we find moral truth, as here; sometimes open unbelief. How can an entrance be found into the heart of man? This is easy for God, and for man this entrance is found when God is there, and reveals Himself, and man’s conscience is touched. “Adam, where art thou? “He hid himself, because he was naked. All was out. The fig-leaves that could set him at ease in hiding him from himself were simply nothing when God was there. The first manifestation of this new faculty in man, conscience, this sad but useful companion that always goes with him now through his career, as a part of his being is, for God, the only door of entrance to the heart, and for man, of intelligence. Only here it is love, never weary, that acts. God and the sinner are found each in his true place; man, responsible entirely known of God, but feeling that all is known, and that He who knows him is there.

I dwell a little on this point, because it is the opposite of the entrance of paradise; it is not paradise regained, or even that which is much better, but the soul receiving subjectively truth and grace in the Person of Jesus, who gives it the capacity for this. In either case its state of sin is revealed to the soul; but in paradise it was to judge, and begin a world where God was not, but where Satan reigned; here sin also is manifested, but God is manifested in this same world in love; formerly, light and judgment; now, light and grace. All understanding as to the gift of God, of the Person of Christ, of eternal life, was wanting, and had no place in the woman’s heart. “There is none that hath understanding.” But whilst, formerly, God had driven out man, here love remains perseveringly near the sinner; when it is God, love is persevering and patient. Only all must be real: “Go, call thy husband, and come hither.” “I have no husband,” replies the woman. It is shame which, though speaking the truth, hides the evil; not an upright conscience before God. But patient love still carries on its work; it pursues it there, where entrance is found into the understanding—or rather into the soul of man, which is thoroughly wanting in understanding as to divine things—conscience. “Go, call thy husband.” Then, upon her answer, the Lord tells the woman enough of her history to make her know that she has to do with Him before whom all is naked and laid bare.

The work was going on in this soul; her attention, we have said, had been arrested. The effect deserves to be well considered; the woman neither excuses herself, nor is astonished, nor asks, How dost thou know this? The word of God is for her the word of God. “Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.” She does not only say, That which thou sayest is true; no, the authority and source of the word of Jesus were for her divine. All He says comes from God, who reveals Himself by this means among men. This is a deep change in the soul’s condition. God has spoken to her, and she has recognised that it is He; but more, that His word, as a whole, as a source, is of Him. What she thought was, not only that Jesus, in this particular case, spoke the truth, although that was the means by which her conscience was reached, but God was speaking to her conscience, and that always produces the effect we see here: He who was speaking was a true and sure source of divine communications. It was faith in the word of God, the soul brought into communication with Him: all that He said had for her a divine authority. Divine intelligence was there with regard to the things in which God was drawing near to man.

Nevertheless the woman was still pre-occupied with that which filled her mind: Ought we to worship at Jerusalem, or on Mount Gerizim? It was the external aspect of what existed, and her mind had been exercised about these things: Where was God to be found?—but in a way which did not go beyond what was in man. God takes the opportunity of revealing the true, the new worship, the worship of the Father, of God, in spirit and in truth. This change characterises the whole of the chapter, that is, the introduction of heavenly relationships in the place of the earthly Jewish system, a change which depended upon the revelation of the Father in the Son, a change but little known as yet, but which was necessarily connected with His Person, and of which consequently, He could say, “the hour now is” (v. 23).

Two things, based upon the revelation which was being made, characterised this worship; the nature of God, and the Father’s grace. The worship of the true God must be a worship “in spirit and in truth.” God’s nature required this; God is a Spirit; and the worship would not be according to what God is, if it were not “in truth,” for what is false is not according to what He is, and the revelation of that which He is has come in Christ, who is Himself the truth, for “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” The law given by Moses told what man ought not to do, and the Lord knew well how to find in this law that which man ought to feel; to love God and his neighbour. But the law does not reveal what God is, it reveals what man ought to be. Now here was God fully revealed in the world, who, rejected as Messiah, object of promise, leaves His special connection with the Jewish people, although it had been (outside that which was earthly and legal) established by Himself, and comes to reveal Himself in the Person of the Son, substituting God amongst men, in grace, for all the forms in the midst of which, hidden behind the veil, He forbade all men to come near Him—to reveal Himself I say, to all this ignorance, which worshipped she knew not what, and where there was no answer whatever to the needs of the heart. It was the Father seeking true worshippers in spirit and in truth, according to His own nature fully revealed; for “God is a Spirit, and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth.” But grace precedes; the initiative is with God; He comes Himself to seek such worshippers. We have seen that it was the gift of God; but God is Light, and He reveals Himself. It is, we have also seen, God revealed in goodness, but the conscience reached by the light, and God giving that which springs up unto everlasting life.

Thus it is the grace of the Father which seeks, the light of God that acts on the conscience, grace which gives divine life, according to the presence in power of the Holy Ghost, and all the truth which unfolds itself in this: this is what produces true worship in spirit and in truth. All that belongs to Jerusalem and Samaria is necessarily left behind by the presence of God Himself, the Son revealing the Father, and communicating eternal life in connection with heavenly things; the Messiah being rejected, and the Father’s heart being the source of all, which places us necessarily in connection with heaven, by Him who can reveal these things, Himself the Son of the Father.

We may remark here that our Gospel speaks of the revelation of the Father in the Son; of what God is, who is the object of worship; of that which reaches the conscience; of eternal life; but not of that which purifies the conscience. This last subject is not that which John treats of in his Gospel, but John speaks of the revelation of God the Father in the Son; of this revelation for judgment, as to its result, and according to grace, as to its object; it is the Son in the world, to reveal His God and Father, and as eternal life. At the end of the Gospel, the Holy Ghost is introduced in place of the Son, that we may know Him as Man in heaven at the right hand of God.

We find an example of the isolation of the Lord in the total want of intelligence in the disciples, when the Lord opens His heart, in the joy that the prospect of the conversion of sinners gave Him—of the fruit of His ministry. Except communion with His Father, which He always enjoyed, the Lord had no joy upon earth but in the exercise of His love in the good that He did: that was worthy of God. Perfect whilst being truly Man in His communion on high, and exercising His love down here, He went about doing good. Such was His whole life, except the sufferings He endured at the hands of men, He, a Man of sorrows, and knowing well what languor was. Not that He was without human affection: He loved Martha, and Mary, and Lazarus; He loved him whose Gospel we are reading; but this does not appear till His hour had come. He defers all expression of it until then, explicitly as to His mother, and, as we see in the history, as to what concerns John and the family at Bethany. In His ministry He was wholly for His Father, and for the sinners of the world; His meat was to do the will of Him that sent Him, and to finish His work (v. 34).

The result for the woman, who received a flood of fresh light in her soul, and who, even while being enlightened, had suddenly too much light to see distinctly, is, that she refers it to Christ. God had brought it about by a real work in her conscience. She thought that if only she had the Christ (for Him she believed in, and knew He was to come), He would tell her all clearly, and make her know all things. It is there that the woman was brought; and Christ was there before her. It is always thus. Many questions arise in an awakened and sincere soul, but when Christ is found, all comes out clearly, there is a full answer to all the soul’s needs: all is found. But who was He who had acted upon the heart and conscience of this poor woman, and who had been good to her, when He knew all that she had done? When the word of God reaches the conscience, it is not the flesh that acts, it is the Saviour God, who has been there all along.

There is another interesting little circumstance to be remarked here. We have seen the isolated woman bowed down under the burden of life, whose ill-requited labour was represented by the pitcher: she was absorbed by it, her heart could not throw it off: now (and it is not for nothing that the Holy Ghost presents to us these little touches) the pitcher is entirely forgotten. The woman does not seek isolation any longer; she goes to announce to everyone what she has found; this Man was surely the Christ (v. 28, 29). No doubt she had to draw water again, but the burden that weighed upon her soul was taken off, the energy of a new life was there. What she said touched very nearly on her shame; but Jesus filled her heart, and she can talk of these things, in finding Christ there—Christ who preoccupied her by the light of His grace: “Come, see a man who hath told me all things that ever I did; is not he the Christ?” When she got home, she could think of the gift of God, and of Him who had said to her, “Give me to drink”; but all her further life is lost in the splendour of the revelation of God in Christ.

We may remark that the reapers gathered fruit unto life eternal, and also received their hire. The prophets had laboured (the woman was expecting the Christ), also John the Baptist. The disciples were only reaping, but the fields were white unto harvest. In the very worst times, when judgment even is close at hand, God has His good part, and faith sees it, and is consoled by it.

Notice, too, that the Samaritans call Jesus “the Saviour.” They knew very well, at bottom, that their Gerizim was nothing, but under the influence of grace, that opened their hearts to a wider conception of the Saviour’s work. No Jew would have said, “the Saviour of the world.”

As His field of work, Jesus does not take again the road to Jerusalem—He goes away into Galilee. His own country had rejected the Prophet, and lost the Saviour. This expression, which embraces all the extent of the scene of His redeeming work as Saviour,. closes this account, where His departure from Judea to introduce it into the sphere of sovereign grace is given to us, while presenting the principles of eternal life, and of the worship to be rendered to the Father.

The following episode, in which the illness of the courtier’s son is related to us, begins, I think, to unfold to us the great elements of the revelation of God in the Person of the Son, first of all in healing that which remained in Israel, but ready to perish. Further on He shews that man is dead spiritually; but there were in Israel quickened souls, as we see indeed in the beginning of Luke. But all was going to perish; the nation was going to be judged, was going to terminate its existence under the old covenant, no longer to subsist in relationship with God as a vessel of blessing. But He who is the Resurrection and the Life was there, to awaken and sustain life individually, to be its bread, there, where faith received Him. He shewed this, too, at Jerusalem, but it began naturally in Galilee, in the midst of the poor of the flock, where He went when He was driven out of Judea. Faith receives the word of Christ, and He who is the Life and who brings it, re-animates it taking away weakness, and communicates life. This application that we make of physical restoration is fully sanctioned by the use the Lord makes of it in the following chapter. The principle and faith are equally simple here; the father believed in the power of Jesus, but his faith was like that of Martha, Mary, and the Jews; he believed that Jesus could heal37—nothing more. He prays the Lord to come down before his son dies. Jesus would have men believe on a word, and not only in seeing signs; however He does not raise the question of the power to quicken, but He has compassion on the poor father, making everything depend, nevertheless, on faith in His word, when He says to the father, “Thy son liveth.” The father believes the word of Jesus, and goes away; on the way he meets his servants, and they announce to him that his son is healed, and that this was so at the very moment when Jesus said the word. “And he believed, both he and all his house.” The power of death had been arrested by the power of life come from above, and the man that had profited by it believed in Him who had brought it, and who was it; for in Him was life. (Compare 1 John 1:1-3 and ch. 5:11, 12.)

Chapter 5

There still remained amongst the Jews some fragments of the ancient blessing: “I am Jehovah that healeth thee”; and by the administration of angels, a general principle of the ways of God among this people. It was but little, but a sign that God had not entirely abandoned His people; there were still cures in the pool of Bethesda; he who was the first to throw himself into it, when the angel troubled the water, was healed. The man who thus went into the water shewed faith in the intervention of God, and the desire to profit by it. But the history recorded for us in chapter 5 leads us to a far greater power, and to far more important principles.

A poor paralytic man was there, in the midst of all these infirm people who were lying in the porches of the pool; Jesus comes there. What is presented in Him has a double character; He is the answer in power to all need, and He also gives life.

There were needs in Israel at that time, needs of the soul, as well as of the body, and a consciousness of these needs. The Lord could say, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” The poor paralytic man is the type and figure of this. In order that the object of the blessings which were enjoyed under the law should be able to profit by them, he must have power in himself. Whether it be to have righteousness according to the law, or whether to enjoy other blessings, there must be, in the man who wished to possess them, a subjective state fitted for this; there must be power in man. The paralytic man’s disease had deprived him of that power which was necessary in order to profit by the means of healing. It is the same thing as to sin. The blessings and means which the law offers, demand strength in man. The desire to be healed is supposed— “Wilt thou be made whole?” The Lord puts the question thus. Power was wanting, as in Romans 7, to will was present. Jesus brings with Him the power that heals; the good which He does, does not demand power in us. It was when we were deprived of all strength that His grace acted. (See Romans 5:6.) In John, we must remember, it is a question of life; even when he speaks of the cross, it is for eternal life, not for pardon.

Jesus then comes: power is in what He says; it accompanies His word—and the man is healed. Now that day was the sabbath. God’s rest is the portion of His people; the sabbath was thus the sign of the covenant made with Israel; Exodus 31:13; Ezek. 20:12. The sabbath was the rest of the first creation, and of the first covenant, which depended upon the responsibility of man, and upon his strength to accomplish that which it demanded of him: “Do this, and thou shalt live.” It was for man to act in order to get blessing. Here all is changed. God could not rest where sin was, where misery was; His holiness and His love made the thing equally impossible. Corruption, depravity, the horrors that sin produced, did not make of such a scene the scene of God’s rest, of which the sabbath was the expression and the figure, but upon the principle of obligation and law. But before the law even, the sabbath had been instituted as the rest of the old creation. The law imposed it, but man never entered into it, and a ruined creation was not God’s rest, and did not give rest to man’s troubled spirit. But God, if He could not rest, could work in grace: and this is the answer, infinitely beautiful, and beautiful because it is true, that the Saviour makes to the accusation of the Jews. It was the judgment of the entire old creation, but it said that since the fall, the grace of Him who was now fully revealed, the Father, in the coming of the Son, was working, to quicken and bless, at the work of the new creation (viewed in its moral aspect); for everywhere here it is this side, not the outward manifestation in result that we find. “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” Unless it be in His infinite essence, God has no rest: infinite blessing! grace without measure! God acts, He works now. When He shall have rest as to His operations, we shall have it with Him, and in the knowledge of the Father and the Son. God will rest in His love, in the blessing which surrounds Him in the glory of the Son, in the accomplishment of His counsels, in the eternal blessedness of which He is the centre and source.

We shall now see what this work is which the Father and the Son are doing, for it is of them that he speaks, of these names which John always uses in speaking of the operations of grace. He says, indeed, that God so loved—which is the source and foundation of all; there the Son of man and the Son of God, and God Himself, are introduced as source and foundation of all blessing; but when the subject is the operations of grace, in John, we always find the Father and the Son.

The Jews understood perfectly the position which Jesus took, and sought to kill Him. The Lord does not refuse this position which the apostle John recognises as His (for in verse 18 it is John who speaks); but He puts everything in its place. All that the Father does, He does it; but it is not as another, a second and independent authority, that He acts. He does that which the Father does, and He does nothing else: He acts in agreement with the Father, and moved by the same thought as He, and He does all things that the Father does. But having taken the form of a servant, He does not leave it, and whilst declaring Himself one with the Father (for before Abraham was He was the “I AM”), He receives all, in the position He has taken, in these operations of grace, and in their fruits in glory, from the Father’s hand. This is striking in this Gospel, where the divine side of His Person is more fully brought out than in the others, although it be not more definitely affirmed. We find constantly that when He speaks of being on the same footing as His Father, He places Himself, nevertheless, ever upon the ground of receiving all from Him.

Jesus then goes on here to the work which, in fact, was being accomplished, and is being still accomplished, whether by the Father, or by the Son only, and He does all that the Father does. There is one work which He does as Son of man, and which the Father does not. “Father” is the name of grace and relationship; “Son of man,” that of conferred authority. If the Father and the Son work, it is a work of grace that is in question. But the Father has not been humbled; He remains in the unchangeable glory of the Godhead. All judgment is committed to the Son, so that those who shall have despised Him, will be compelled to recognise Him by this means.

But let us take the instructions of the passage in their order. The Son does more than heal; “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 honour the Son even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father which hath sent him “(v. 21-23). Thus the Son’s glory is maintained in a twofold manner, in that like the Father He quickens, and this we can understand, for we are in relation with the Father and the Son, as partaking of the divine life; then by judgment, for the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son, that all may honour Him. Those who are quickened, honour Him with all their heart, and with goodwill; those who do not believe, judgment will compel to honour Him, in spite of themselves.

To which of these two classes do I belong? The 24th verse furnishes us with the answer to this question—a simple, complete answer, and full of precious light. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but is passed from death unto life.” The word of Christ is that which is presented to the soul, to bring the glad tidings of grace: the effect produced, where this word is received, is faith in the Father as having sent His Son. But He who thus believes in the Father as sending His Son, grace and truth thus come in Him, has eternal life. That is one side of the answer; he who believes is quickened. We have seen that this is one means of ensuring the Son’s glory: the other means is not mixed up with this one. If Christ has quickened, it is not to put His work to the test of judgment; that is impossible: Christ would judge His own work, and would call in question its efficacy; and who is the judge? The consequence is evident: the other means of ensuring Christ’s glory is not employed; he who has received life does not come into judgment. I limit myself to what the passage before us says; otherwise we should remember that He who sits as Judge is the same One who bore the sins of all those who believe. But John does not treat this side of the subject: to judge him who believes, would be to call in question the quickening work of Christ, and that of the Father also.

Here is what is precise and formal as to the two things by which the Son is glorified; that is, the quickening of souls, and judgment; the first which He accomplishes, in common with the Father; the second, which is entrusted to Him alone, because He is the Son of man.

This is not all that is said here. He who has eternal life is “passed from death unto life.” It was not a cure: the soul had been spiritually dead, separated from God, dead in its trespasses and sins, and it has come out of that state of death by the quickening power of the Saviour. It is not merely that, being quickened, it escapes the consequences of its responsibility when the day of judgment shall come: the Lord has taken the other means, in grace, of glorifying Himself with regard to it. The soul was already dead: it is the teaching of the Epistle to the Ephesians: a new creation. The unrepentant sinner will come into judgment, if he who is under grace escapes it. But we are all dead now; it is the state of us all already: we are dead as regards God, without a single sentiment which answers to what He is, or to His call, and if it were a question merely of that which is found in man, it would be impossible to awaken any. But God communicates life, and the soul passes from death unto life. It is a new creation; we become partakers of the divine nature. At the same time it ever remains true that we shall give account of ourselves to God, that we shall all be manifested before the judgment-seat of Christ; but it is not a question there, for us who believe, of any judgment as to our acceptance. We are in the glory, like Christ, when we get there; Christ, Himself will have come in person to seek us, that we may be there, and He will have changed the body of our humiliation into conformity to His body of glory.

Let us continue to study our chapter. The Father quickens; the Son also quickens and judges. The hour was coming, and had then already come, when it would not only be the Messiah, Jehovah Himself, who would heal the sick in Israel, in keeping with the promises and prophecies given to Israel according to the government and discipline of God in the midst of His people, working a cure which might give place to a more severe discipline; but from this time quickening power and eternal life in the Person of the Son, who revealed the Father in grace, were come, so that the dead should hear the voice of the Son of God, and those that should hear it should live {v. 25). This was the great proclamation as to life: it was there, and as the Father had life in Himself, He had given to His Son, a Man upon earth, to have life in Himself—a divine prerogative, but here found in a Man, come in grace upon earth.

I have already noticed that, while shewing us in Christ things which belong to God only, and that absolutely, in the Gospel of John, the Son, having become Man and Servant, never leaves the position of receiving everything. He has received authority also to execute judgment, because He was the Son of man. But one might be judged upon earth, and in fact the living will be judged there.

There still remains an important part of His power which belongs to the teaching of this chapter: the dead shall rise again, and, according to that which has already been declared in verse 24, life and judgment are not mingled here. Men were not to marvel that the souls who should hear His voice would live by the spiritual life which He could communicate: the hour was coming (and that hour was not yet come, and is not yet come) when all those who are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth. … It is no longer here, “those who shall hear shall live,” but all shall hear, and shall come forth; those who have done well to the resurrection of life, those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

Notice carefully, that, although the judgment assigns to each one his place according to his works, it is not the judgment that separates the risen; the resurrection itself makes the separation. Those who have done well have not part in the same resurrection as those who have done evil. He does not here speak of the interval of time which separates the resurrection of the one from the resurrection of the other; that must be sought in the revelation that God gives of the dispensations. Here it is a question of the essence of things: there is a resurrection, which is that of the just, called thus; and another resurrection, distinct from the former, a resurrection of judgment, in which the living, glorified in the first, do not participate. Sometimes, indeed, a difficulty has been raised as to the word, “hour,” which is employed here, but it is a poor argument, for the same expression is found again in verse 25, which presents to us as an “hour,” a space of time which has lasted nearly two thousand years, and which comprises two distinct states of things—one in which Christ upon earth acts personally, and the other, in which Christ glorified acts by the Spirit. These two epochs, nevertheless, make up but one “hour,” from the point of view in the passage; it is the same thing here. The first hour is the period during which Christ quickens souls; the other hour, the period of verse 28, is that during which Christ raises bodies. This is quite simple; one of these hours, as I have said, has already lasted more than eighteen centuries.

Having declared these great truths, which reach to the end of God’s ways with men, in His Person, as to life, and as to judgment, Christ goes back to the great principle which was at the very beginning of His discourse; that is, that He could do nothing as an independent Person from the Father. If it had been otherwise, it would have been, indeed, the denial of that bond between Him and the Father in which they were one, and which was found in everything, with this additional fact, that He had the form of a servant, of One sent by the Father. He did nothing of His own will: according as He heard, He judged, and. His judgment was just, for He sought not His own will in anything, but that of the Father who had sent Him (v. 30). No selfish motive whatever was to be found in His manner of viewing things, but the judgment which He formed, whatever it might be, flowed from the communications that the Father made to Him: this was divine perfection. He acted as Man, and as sent, but He did so according to the immutable perfection of God, not of Himself as a Man, which would not even have been human perfection, but forgetfulness of Him whose Servant He had become. Still, it was as Son of man, in this title of glory as of grace, of Him who had been humbled, that He executed judgment with authority.

The rest of the chapter treats of the question of man’s responsibility as to life, as that which precedes presented to us the sovereign grace that gives life. Divine life was present in the Person of Jesus, and God had vouchsafed four testimonies to men that it was there: the testimony of John Baptist; the works which the Father had given Him to do; the Father Himself; and the Scriptures. They had been glad to rejoice in John the Baptist for a time, for the people held him to be a prophet. Now John had borne a clear testimony to the Lord on the part of God. Then the works of Jesus were an unexceptionable testimony that the Father had sent Him: the Father had given Him these works to do, and He did them. The Father Himself also had borne witness to Him: the multitude had thought they heard thunder; but His word did not dwell in them, for they believed not Him whom He had sent. Finally, they had got the Scriptures; they boasted of this, they thought to find eternal life in them; and what they did was to bear witness to Christ, to Jesus, who was there before their eyes. The Life was there, living before them; they had these testimonies, but they would not come to Him, that they might have life. The life was there, but they would not profit by it (v. 40). It was not that the Lord sought glory from men; but He knew them, and knew that they had not the love of God in them. He was come in His Father’s name, revealing what He was; they would not receive Him, alas! because He revealed Him perfectly. Another should come in his own name, with human pretensions, and adapted to man’s heart, not to God’s heart, him they would receive (v. 43). Terrible prophecy of that which shall happen to the people, as a consequence of their rejection of Jesus, and of the motives which impelled them to reject Him. The Antichrist will deceive them in the last days, because he will come with pretensions and motives adapted to the heart and desires of carnal men; the Jews will give themselves up to his deceptions and pretensions. The state of their souls hindered them from receiving the truth; they sought to receive honour and esteem from men, not the honour which comes from God alone. They were not following the path of faith, but quite the contrary; not that the Lord would accuse them before the Father: Moses, in whom they boasted, sufficed for that. He, in whom they placed their confidence, bore the most explicit testimony to the Lord. If they had believed Moses, they would have believed Jesus also: Moses had written of Him.

It is important to remark one or two things here: first of all, the clear testimony which the Lord bears to the writings of Moses; the writings were the writings of Moses; he had written concerning Christ. That which he had written was the word of God; one must believe what he said. More, that which is written is authority pre-eminently, as Peter says: “No prophecy of scripture”; and Paul, “Every scripture is inspired of God.” Besides, it is evident that if men ought to believe in what Moses had written of Christ so many centuries before His coming, that which Moses wrote was divinely inspired. It is evident that what Jesus said had divine authority; but as to the form of communication, the Lord attaches more importance to that which was written, than to that which was communicated by the living voice: God had deposited it there for all times—a very important testimony for these days of infidelity.

Chapter 6

The fifth chapter presented to us Christ quickening whom He will in common with the Father, then judging as the Son of man. It is Christ acting in His divine power. In the sixth chapter He is the food of His people, as Son of man come down from heaven, and dying. It is not His quickening power in contrast with the obligation of the law, but who He was, the history of His Person, if I may dare to say so—that which He is essentially, that which He became—a history which terminates by His entering again as Son of man there where He was before: it is essentially the humiliation of Jesus in grace, in contrast with that which He was in right of enjoyment, with that which was promised in the Messiah when He should be upon earth. The teaching of this chapter embraces all, from His coming down from heaven, until He enters it again, so that in descending and ascending, He fills all things; but this teaching rests especially on the Lord’s incarnation and death, in connection with which He gives eternal life, and introduces His own into the glory of the new creation, far above and beyond all that an earthly Messiah could give.

Jesus went away beyond the sea of Galilee, and sat there upon a mountain with His disciples. Now the passover was near; and this fact gives the tone to all the discourse we have here. Lifting up His eyes, Jesus sees the multitude that had followed Him, and asks Philip where they should buy bread for all this people, knowing well what He would do. The disciples think, not according to the thoughts of faith, but considering the resources upon which man can calculate; one thinks of what would be needed, the other, of what there was. There was indeed an immense disparity between the five loaves of bread and the five thousand men. Now one of the promises made for the time of the Messiah, was, that Jehovah would satisfy His poor with bread (Psalm 132); and Jesus accomplished this promise, working a miracle, which had its effect on the crowds which surrounded Him; there was abundance, and there remained over and above.

This gives occasion (v. 14-21) to a kind of framework of the Lord’s whole history, a history in which He replaces the Messianic blessings by spiritual and heavenly blessings which should be consummated in resurrection, upon which He insists four times in the course of the chapter. He is recognised as the Prophet who was to come; they wish to make Him a king; but He avoids that by going up to pray alone, and the disciples cross the sea without Him. They are looked upon here in the character of the Jewish remnant; still, it is this that has become the Christian assembly. But these few verses give us, as I have said, the framework of Christ’s history, recognised as Prophet, and refusing royalty, to exercise priesthood on high, whilst His people cross the waves of a troubled world with difficulty. As soon as Jesus rejoins them, they arrive at the place where they were going; difficulties are over, their goal reached: here the disciples represent entirely the Jewish remnant.

The multitude rejoin the Lord on the other side of the sea, astonished to find Him there, knowing that there was not, where He had been, any other boat but that of His disciples. The Lord accuses them of seeking Him, not because they had seen the miracle, but because they had eaten the loaves, and had been filled, and He invites them to seek that food which abides unto life eternal, which the Son of man would give them; for Him had God the Father sealed (v. 26, 27).

In the fifth chapter Jesus is Son of God; here, Son of man, and we shall see what faith in Him as such works. The legal question of the crowd (v. 28), rather vague and trivial, introduces this development. What shall we do (they say), that we may work the works of God? This is the work of God (the Lord replies), that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent. Thereupon they ask of Him a sign, led of God in their question, remembering the gift of the manna in the desert, as it was written: “He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.”

This quotation introduces directly the doctrine of the chapter. Christ was the bread. It was not a question of shewing a sign to men; He was Himself the sign of God’s intervention in grace, in His Person as Son of man come down here upon earth, and not as Prophet, or Messiah, or King. My father gives you the true bread which comes from heaven. The Father—it is always He when it is a question of active grace—gave them the bread of God. The true bread, in its nature, is He who cometh down from heaven, and giveth life to the world. This goes entirely outside Judaism: it is the Father, the Son of man, He who comes down from heaven, and whom God gives for the life of the world; not Jehovah fulfilling the promises made to Israel by the coming of the Son of David, although Jesus was this indeed. Like the poor Samaritan woman—but impelled here by a vague need of the soul, they ask that the Lord would give them part in this bread of God which gives life. This furnishes the occasion for the full development of the teaching of Jesus. “I am the bread of life. He who cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth in me shall never thirst” (v. 35). If you would have bread for ever which is food indeed, come to Me; you shall never hunger. But, adds the Lord (for such was Israel’s state, always thus looked upon in John), ye have seen Me, and ye believe not. If it be a question of you, and of your responsibility, all is lost: the bread of life has been presented to you, and ye would not eat of it, ye would not come to Me to have life; but the Father has counsels of grace, He will not allow you all to perish. “All that the Father has given me shall come to me”; for grace, sovereign and certain in its effects, is clearly taught in this Gospel: since it is the Father who has given him to Me, I will never cast out the one that comes to Me, however wicked he may have been, or insolent enemy of Myself. The Father has given him to Me, and I am not come to do My will, but the will of Him that hath sent Me. What a humble place the Lord takes here, although all was fulfilled at His expense! He had made Himself a Servant, and He accomplishes the will of another only, the will of Him who sent Him (v. 38).

This will is now presented to us in a double aspect, and in a very striking manner: “This is the will of him that sent me, that of all that he hath given me, I should lose nothing.” Their salvation is assured by the Father’s will, the fulfilment of which nothing can hinder. But it is in another world that the blessing will take place. It is no longer here a question of Israel and of the Messiah, but of the resurrection at the last day. The expression, “the last day,” which we find four times in this part of the chapter, designates the last day of the legal dispensation in which the Messiah was to come, and will come. The course of these dispensations has been interrupted by the rejection of the Messiah when He came, which has given place to the introduction of heavenly things, which are brought in parenthetically between the death of the Messiah and the end of the weeks of Daniel. Those whom the Father gives to Jesus will enjoy as raised, the heavenly blessing which the Father’s love keeps for them, and which the Son’s work assures to them. Not one of them will be lost: all will be raised by the power of the Lord. Such are the unfailing counsels of God.

It is also the Father’s will that whosoever sees the Son, and believes in Him, has eternal life: and the Lord will raise him up at the last day (v. 40). The Son is presented to all, that they may believe in Him, and whosoever believes has everlasting life. Here, again, it is not a question of the Messiah and of promises, but of seeing the Son, and believing on Him, of eternal life and resurrection. Before, it was the Father’s counsels that could not fail; here, it is the presentation of the Son of God as the object of faith; if, through the humiliation of the Lord, one saw the Son, and believed upon Him, one would have everlasting life, and the result would be the same. In the first case it is a question of the Father’s counsels and of His acts, as well as of those of Jesus in raising them: the Father gives them, Jesus raises them, not one of them is lost. Next, we have the presentation of the Son in connection with man’s responsibility: if a man believed, he would have eternal life, and would rise again. These are the two aspects, brought together, in which these great truths are presented.

The Jews murmur because the Lord said that He had come down from heaven. They saw the Son, and did not believe in Him: they knew Him after the flesh; He was, for them, Joseph’s son. The Lord then insists upon the fact, that no one can come unto Him unless the Father draw him; He insists upon the necessity of grace to be able to come, not that every one was not free, as people say, to come, for whosoever should see the Son, and believe on Him, would have eternal life; but He shews that the mind of the flesh is enmity against God. There is the blinding of sin, of the flesh, and hatred of God, as far as He reveals Himself; there is none that understandeth, none that seeketh after God; so that the power of grace is needed to dispose the heart to receive Christ. Now when the Father draws to Jesus, it is by efficacious grace in the heart: the eyes are opened, one passes from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God; one passes into a salvation assured by Christ, who will raise up such a soul at the last day. It is the revelation of Jesus to the soul by the grace of the Father: the soul sees the Son, it receives eternal life, it shall never be lost, but raised up at the last day. It is important to observe, that he who is drawn by the Father will never be lost, and that at the last day he will have his part with the redeemed in an entirely new world, in an entirely new state. Such a soul is taught of God to recognise the Son; the Father has spoken to it; it has learned of Him; it comes to Christ, and is saved; not that any one hath seen the Father, save Christ Himself. Christ had revealed Him, and he who believed in Christ had everlasting life (v. 47). Solemn but precious assurance! Eternal life has come down from heaven in the Person of the Son, and he who believes in Him, possesses it, according to the efficacious grace of the Father, who draws him to Christ, and according to the perfect salvation that Christ has accomplished: his faith lays hold, as to life, of this Son of God, who will manifest His power later on, in raising the redeemed one from among the dead.

We see that, as in chapter 5, Christ is presented to us as a quickening power, He is here set before us as the object of faith, and that in His humiliation, as come down from heaven, and put to death. It is not the promised Messiah. It is Christ come down from heaven to save those that believe. His re-entrance into heaven is mentioned at the end of the chapter as testimony, with the title, “There, where he was before.”

As we have seen, the multitude, under the hidden direction of God, had alluded to the manna, asking some similar sign of the Lord. Jesus had said to them (a touching reply!): I am the sign of God’s salvation, and of eternal fife sent into the world; I am the manna, the true bread, which the Father, God acting in grace, gives to you: “He that comes to me shall never hunger, and he that believes on me shall never thirst.” I recall all this, although we have already spoken of the verses which follow, in order to bring together what is said about the bread, and I pass now directly also to verse 48. “I am the bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die… If any one shall have eaten of this bread, he shall live for ever.” Here it is Christ come down from heaven, the incarnation, setting aside all idea of promise; it is the great and mighty fact, that, in the Person of Jesus, people saw Him who was come down from heaven, the Son of God become Man, as we see in the first chapter of the First Epistle of John: “that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have contemplated, and our hands handled, concerning the word of life … the eternal life which was with the Father, and has been manifested to us.” It was as to His Person, not yet as to our entrance into it, the beginning of the new order of things. Come of a woman, so that, according to the flesh, He was connected with the human race, Son of man, but still come down from heaven, one with the Father, in order that we might have part in this life, that we might be of this new order of things, He must needs die; otherwise He remained alone. But He had taken this flesh; He had been made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, having taken this flesh, which He was going to give for the life of the world.

The first great point, then, was the incarnation, Christ come down from heaven, the Word made flesh—life in Him— and to give eternal life to him who should eat Him. The second point is, that Christ gave this flesh for the life of the world. He must die, close all relationship with the world, and the lost human race, by death; and begin a new seed, that He would not be ashamed to call His brethren, because He that sanctifieth, and they that are sanctified, are all of one; then, redemption38 being accomplished, He would introduce them, risen, into the glory of the Father’s family, according to the counsels of that Father who had given them to Him. This arrests the Jews: How could this Man’s flesh be eaten? But Jesus does not spare them. He is, thus known, eternal life. It was no longer a question of conciliating the Jews, but of giving salvation and eternal life to the world by faith in Him, who had come from heaven for this, and of presenting to the Father those whom the Father had given to Him, such as the Father would have them in His love, and in His counsels, according to His nature, if they were to be in His presence. If they did not eat His flesh, and drink His blood, they had not life. In themselves there was none for that new world of glory, that blessed race. For that, it was necessary that a divine and heavenly life should come down from heaven, and be communicated to souls, and that in a Man; it was necessary that this Man should die, and terminate all relation with the fallen race, and risen, should begin a new race,39 possessing the divine life (inasmuch as they had appropriated Christ to themselves by grace), and which should be raised again by the Saviour’s power, when the moment should come, “at the last day.”

This work is accomplished. Now it is not of its efficacy to redeem our souls that we are speaking at this moment, nor of the pardon which we enjoy in virtue of its accomplishment, precious as these truths may be, but of the connection which there is between these divine events and the possession of life, in virtue of which we have part in this redemption and in this pardon, with all the consequences which flow from them. Christ is received in His incarnation; but, though the incarnation preceded necessarily, historically, the Saviour’s death, I do not think that one can really seize the bearing of this life of humiliation, unless one first enters into that of His death. Personally, the new thing, as we have already said, was presented in His Person—a Man, God manifested in flesh, but He in whom was life, He who was this eternal life which had been with the Father, and which was now manifested to the disciples. But, in this state, the corn of wheat remained alone, however productive it should be; in order to introduce those whom God gave to Him into the position of the last Adam, of the second Man, it was necessary that He should die, that He should give up His life in this world, to take it again in the state of resurrection, beyond sin, death, the power of Satan, and the judgment of God, after having passed through all these things, and having taken again His life of Man, but in a spiritual and glorified body. Now His death was, morally, the end of man driven out of paradise; His resurrection, the beginning of the new state of man, according to the counsels of God. Now man in Adam had no life in himself; he had not the life of God, and, in order to have it, he must understand and receive not only the incarnation, or a promised Messiah, but the judgment on the first man, borne by Christ’s death; he must enter, as to himself, into the conviction, the realisation of this state thus shewn forth, although in grace, in the Saviour’s death. He who appropriated to himself the death of Christ, accepted this judgment with regard to himself, when sin (not sins) was condemned in another. Sin in the flesh, which is enmity against God, has been condemned for us. In receiving by faith Christ’s death as the absolute condemnation of that which I am, I have part in the efficacy of that which He has done: sin has been before God, and has disappeared from before His eyes in the death of Christ, who, however, had not known it. I say to myself, That is I. I eat it; I place myself there by the operation of the Spirit of God, not that I believe that it is for me personally, but I recognise what His death signified, and I place myself in it by faith in Him. There, where I was, in death spiritually, by sin and disobedience, Christ entered in grace and by obedience, for the glory of His Father, in order that God might be glorified. I recognise my state in His death, but according to the perfect grace of God, according to which He took my place there; for it is in this that we know love, that He laid down His life for us. Now, if one died for all, then were all dead. By faith and repentance I recognise myself there, and I have eternal life. Now I can follow Jesus through the whole of His life, even the fact of His having been a Man down here, and I can feed upon this bread of life, upon all His patience, His grace, His gentleness, His love, His purity, His obedience, His humility—upon all that perfection of every day, and all the day long, which ended only at the cross, where all was consummated. “He who eateth me shall live for ever.” I have everlasting life, and Jesus will raise me up at the last day.

We have still some points to notice in this chapter.

The verb, “to eat,” is employed in it in two different tenses. He who has eaten, has eternal life; he who, by grace, has taken his place in the death of Christ, outside of all promise, of all title of any kind whatsoever, feels that he depends upon the sovereign grace that has placed Christ there, and believes in it. He who shall have eaten of this bread, shall live for ever. But in verses 54 and 56 we have the character of the man, and his eating is a present thing. Two things are the consequence of it: first, he has eternal life, and shall be raised up; secondly, he who feeds upon this bread, dwells in Jesus, and Jesus in him: first of all, general blessing, with salvation present and to come; then communion, and the permanent presence of Jesus with us, and even in us. For as the Father, who has life in Himself, sent Jesus, and Jesus lived because of Him, as inseparable from Him, so he that eateth Christ shall live, because of the life that is in Christ. “Because I live, ye shall live also.” It is a union in life, by grace, with Jesus: life in us is inseparable from Him; we live because He lives. He is our life. As He is inseparable from the Father, and even as Man down here, living because of the life that was in the Father, this life in Him could not be separated from the Father, and our life should not be separated from Jesus. That is the bread which came down from heaven, that one may eat of it, and not die.

We may also notice that the passage before us comprehends more than a single discourse. The beginning refers to the moment when the crowds met the Lord again after He had crossed the sea, whilst the last part was spoken in the synagogue at Capernaum (v. 59). The Jews were scandalised at it, taking what He said literally, and thinking that Jesus wanted them to eat His flesh; many of His disciples even said, “This is a hard saying, who can hear it?” The Lord appeals to the fact, that He was going to ascend up where He was before. He was not an earthly Messiah, but a heavenly Saviour, come from heaven into this world, come down into this world, in order to accomplish that which was necessary to make us ascend up there, to give eternal life to man, and to raise him up when the moment should come, to give him a part in the second Man, in the Man and in the world of God’s counsels and grace, an eternal part in His favour, by redemption, according to His counsels in grace. It was not a succession of dispensations, a Messiah come in glory to terminate them, a Son of David according to the promises; but it is He (and that as a present thing) who came down from heaven to communicate eternal life, and to place the believer in heaven, as to the state of his soul, and finally, as to his body, fit for the light and the divine glory. But to have part in this, one must see Him who came down, not only in humiliation, as the bread come down from heaven, but who has been rejected, such as He was, by man, in order to enter into the presence of God, according to the true state of humanity which was enmity against God—passing through death and judgment, when He was made sin for us—and recommencing His life of Man in an entirely new state, beyond death and judgment. All relationship of God with the first man being impossible, save by the cross, where Christ in grace made a Substitute for the believing sinner met with God; man, dead in trespasses and sins, must know Him in this character, recognising there his own state; that is to say, in Christ dead, made sin, and sin condemned in Him. But the believer, in the fact that he died in thus identifying himself with Christ, as with Him who was made that which man is really himself, and who endured the penalty of it—in this fact, the believer, I say, is dead unto sin, he who before was dead in his trespasses and sins, for he has known himself there where Christ died to sin. Christ died there in grace, as sin condemned before God; and the sinner says to himself, That is really myself; I am that in the flesh; and now, Christ having offered Himself for that, God has made Him sin for us; but Christ, in dying, has done with sin, and therefore I have done with it too. There is, then, no existing relationship between God and the race of the first Adam: the death of Jesus has made evident this fact, when God had tried everything, even to the gift of His Son. God has done with all this race of the first man upon the cross; and as for me, I have done with sin, which was the basis of all this. Oh, how marvellous and perfect are God’s ways, full of infinite grace!

I recall also that it is not here a question of our present heavenly position; John, as we have said elsewhere, hardly ever speaks of it. Christ will raise up the believer at the last day. He speaks of His own ascension to complete the truth: come from heaven, He will go back there; but He does not associate us with Himself in heaven as a present fruit of His work. For us, He passes from His ascension to the resurrection of our bodies.

One remark more. I have spoken of the incarnation and of the death; and, as to that which is reached here, it is the knowledge of these things that sets us clear, and that delivers us. But the Lord says, in verses 40, 47, that He is come, that whosoever believeth in Him may have everlasting life, and that he that believeth on Him hath everlasting life; so that whosoever really sees the Son of God in the despised Man of Nazareth, has everlasting life. The Lord, however, does not hide the bearing of this fact; His rejection, His death, could but be the consequence of His presentation to a world such as the one in which we live, and of which we are according to the flesh; it is important we should know it.

In answering the Jews, offended at the fact of His ascension, Jesus adds, that it is the Holy Ghost that quickeneth—the flesh profiteth nothing—that He did not speak as though they were to eat of His flesh in a material sense. The words He spoke to them were “spirit and life.” It was by the word that spiritual things were communicated; and by the power and by the action of the Spirit they become realities, and living realities, in the soul, a real part of our being. But the Lord knew well that there were, even amongst those who followed Him as His disciples, persons who believed not, and He told them so j He well knew, too, who it was who should betray Him. These were the branches that were to be cut off, and that have been. Jesus must walk in the midst of those whom He knew to have no root, of whom He knew even that they would betray Him, and He adds: “It is for this that I said unto you, that no man can come unto me, unless it be given unto him of the Father” (v. 65). From that time many of His disciples left Him, and walked no more with Him.

It is striking to see how the Lord would have that which was true, divine, permanent, and nothing else. That which had led many to follow Him was not hypocrisy; there were, no doubt, hypocrites, but many had come under the influence of a passing impression, which wore off in presence of the difficulties of the way, and before the stumbling-block which was found in the truth, or rather in the prejudices which the truth offended. Jesus therefore said to the twelve, “Will ye also go away?” Simon Peter, always ready to put himself forward, prompted by a warm affection, but full of an ardour which sometimes betrayed him, and involved him in a path, out of which it could not take him with an undefiled conscience, this time becomes, happily, the mouthpiece of all to express true faith. There was with him—with all of them—(not to speak of Judas) a real need, to which Jesus alone answered. This is very important. It does not at all appear that Peter had understood what Jesus had said: he knew not how to accept the sufferings of his Master, who called him Satan on that occasion when the flesh shewed the supremacy it exercised over him. Still, the root was there with Peter; the need of possessing eternal life was awakened in him; he was conscious that this life was only to be found in Jesus, and that He was the sent One of God, come from God; Jesus possessed the words of eternal life. Whatever want of clearness might be in Peter’s views, Peter thought of eternal life, with the need of possessing it himself; he believed and knew that Christ had the words which revealed it, and, by grace, communicated it, and that He was the Holy One of God, the One whom the Father had sanctified, and sent into the world. True faith was there, as well as the needs which God produces. There was not knowledge either of the deep truths which Christ was teaching, or of the persons for whom Peter answered, when he said, “we”; but the needs of the soul were there, as well as faith in the words and in the Person of Christ. Thus, through many falls, Peter was kept to prove himself to be faithful to the Saviour to the end, and the Lord confided to him the sheep and lambs He loved—the apostle’s ministry amongst the Jews— and also gave him to be the first who should bring in a Gentile. It is interesting to see that if the knowledge of the truths taught in this chapter was wanting, if there was true faith in the words and in the Person of Jesus, as sent of God (not merely as a prophet who spoke that which God gave him to say, but as being personally the Holy One of God, who had the words of eternal life), one possessed this eternal life, one possessed all.

Chapter 7

The fifth and sixth chapters, which we have just been through, contain the doctrine of the Person of Christ: the fifth chapter presents Him as the life-giving Son of God, the sixth chapter, as Son of man come down from heaven, dying for men, and thus an object of faith.

In the fourth chapter Jesus had left Judea, to go into Galilee: it was there that He stayed, and presented Himself to the people; He would not walk in Judea any more, for the Jews sought to kill Him. The occasion of this special hatred was His having healed the paralytic on the sabbath-day, and that He presented Himself as Son of God, making Himself equal with God. The first of these acts set aside the Jewish system—not only according to the law, but in that which was the seal of the covenant, and the sign of the part which the Jews had in the rest of God; the second was the introduction, in His Person, of an entirely new system: later on, the healing of the man born blind excited their anger, as we shall see, God willing. A little remnant only attaches itself to Him, with a true, though ignorant, faith, receiving only that which was necessary to have salvation, namely, Christ and His words, as He presented Himself to them; but, I repeat, by a true faith given by God.

We find therefore now, in the seventh chapter, the Lord’s refusal to present Himself to the world, His brethren’s unbelief, and the declaration that the time was not come for Him to celebrate the feast of tabernacles. But this needs some development.

There were three great feasts of the Jews: every male who was a grown up man had to go to Jerusalem to celebrate them; these were, the Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles. The antitype of the Passover is found in the cross; that of Pentecost, in the descent of the Holy Ghost; but the antitype of the Feast of Tabernacles is still wanting: no event answers to it. Nevertheless, the ordinances established for this feast throw light upon that which should be its antitype. The Feast of Tabernacles derives its name from the fact, that the Israelites, once entered into the land of Canaan, ought, according to the law, to live during eight days in huts, made of branches of trees, bearing witness thus that they had been pilgrims in the desert, but that God, in His faithfulness, had brought them into the promised land. Moreover, this feast was celebrated after the harvest, and after the vintage, two events employed everywhere in Scripture as figures of the judgment: the harvest, of the judgment, which separates the good and the bad upon earth; the vintage, of the extent of vengeance on enemies, when Christ shall tread the wine-press. The fulfilment of this feast will take place when Israel shall no longer be dispersed, but shall enjoy the effect of the promises which God has made to them, after the judgment which will separate the tares from the good grain, and after that vengeance has been executed, the wine-press of God trodden, according to Isaiah 63, by the Lord Himself.

Now the time for these things was not yet come when Christ was upon the earth; it was needful for their accomplishment that He should be manifested in glory. To give life as Son of God He could; to suffer as Son of man, it was what He had before Him; but to shew Himself to the world, to fulfil in power all the promises made to Israel, after having judged and destroyed His enemies; for that the moment was not yet come. What He was going to do, but after His rejection and death down here, was, being glorified, to give His Spirit to believers (v. 37-39). The bread come down from heaven He was; as to dying and shedding His blood, that was soon to happen to Him; but if it were a question of judging, of accomplishing the promises down here, and of shewing Himself to the world, it could only take place later on, when He would take His great power, and act as a King. In the meantime, having ascended on high, He was going to give His Spirit, until He returned.

Such is the teaching of this chapter: we are going to consider some details of its contents. Times are of God, as well as facts. It was not then for Jesus the time to shew Himself to the world, nor to observe the feast of Tabernacles. All times suit those who are of the world to profit by that which is worldly. They are of the world, and float with its current. The world does not hate them: there, where God’s testimony is, is the object of its hatred. An upright mind may be struck by the testimony that God bears to the truth, but there is not in this, sufficient motive to break with those who desire opposition, and* it is this that the intelligent leaders of evil always desire. Besides, in the world there are opinions for or against a thing, not a conviction of heart and conscience, and thus a need for oneself: it is there that the soul meets with God, and braves the world (chap. 6:68).

The Lord does not go up to the feast, but when His brethren had gone up, then He also went up, and He taught in the temple (v. 9, 10).

Let us notice, in passing, that we must not confound the people and the Jews. The people were composed of Galileans and others, who had come to take part in the feast; the Jews were those of Jerusalem itself, or at least of its environs. Thus, in verse 20, the people did not know that they wanted to kill Jesus; those of Jerusalem, on the contrary, well knew what they were plotting there against Him (v. 25).

The Jews, accustomed to listen to the rabbis, were astonished that Jesus, an illiterate Man from their point of view, could teach as He did. His doctrine was of the Father, not human. The means of understanding it was a state of soul answering to such a mission; the desire to do the Father’s will would recognise the word which came from Him (v. 14-17). The moral state of the soul, the single eye, is the means of receiving, of intelligently discerning, the doctrine that comes from the Father; the conscience is open, the heart quite ready to receive the truth. Many things in the teaching may go beyond the knowledge possessed by such a soul; but the teaching answers to its needs; it bears to it the impress of truth, of holiness; it suits God; there is not self-seeking; the good of souls is sought, the conscience is sounded, however dealing in grace. Now there is a conscience in all men; and here the desire to obey is supposed. Such a man discerns that which is of God, when God speaks. It is not reasoning which convinces the mind: reasoning never convinces the will; but the desire being there, it is God who adapts Himself in His teaching to the wants and to the heart of man. It is the truth here, the words of God Himself. But amongst the Jews, and in the mass of the people, all was in confusion. Without scruple as to circumcising, and thus as to violating the sabbath by working, the divine power which healed by a word exercised no influence over them, unless that of producing in them the desire to put to death Him who had given this proof of the goodness and of the power of God, whose rights were beyond even the sabbath. This confusion amongst the unbelievers is striking. Those who came from a distance jeered at the thought that some wished to kill Jesus: those of Jerusalem, who wished to kill Him, on account of the miracle He had done, were astonished that He spoke thus freely, and asked themselves if the rulers had then recognised Him as the true Christ; nevertheless, said they, “when Christ cometh, no one will know whence he is” (v. 27). Further, they wished to take Him; but, says the evangelist, no one laid hands upon Him, because His hour was not yet come. God’s ways are sure.

Nevertheless many believed on Him (v. 31). The Pharisees heard the people murmuring these things of Him, and sent officers to take Him. These found Jesus occupied in teaching the crowd. There, too, was the same uncertainty: some said that He was the prophet, others that He was the Christ; but others objected that the Christ could not come from Galilee, but that He should come of the seed of David, and from the town of Bethlehem, without giving themselves the trouble to ascertain the fact. Some would have wished to take Him, but no one laid hands on Him, and the officers return under the influence of His words: “Never man spake like this man!” The Pharisees and rulers did not hesitate: they sought to put Him to death. They disperse, disgusted. This is the picture of the heart of man, in presence of the truth; the mind made up of the religious leaders, confusion and uncertainty in the mind of the masses, who waver between prejudices and the power of the word of God. Faith was neither in the one, nor in the other. As to Jesus, “his hour was not yet come”; His hour, remark, is the hour when He gave Himself on the cross for our offences.

Let us now go back to the teaching of the Lord, and to His position relatively to the people, from whom He was in a certain sense already separated, by refusing to go up to the feast, whilst continuing to teach them in grace.

Some details of the Saviour’s teaching mark out His position, before He speaks of the promise of the Holy Ghost, and after the discussion which took place about the desire to kill Him, when they made the remark, that they knew not whence the Christ would come. Jesus formally declares that they knew whence He came, but that they did not know the Father who had sent Him (v. 28). Terrible accusation! The proof was there in their conscience: they would not have wished, as they did, to get rid of Him, if they had not had the inward consciousness that He came from God. The proofs were there: the testimony in their conscience. The multitude (v. 25-27) seem to have had the same conviction in the main, although they excused themselves by the fact that they knew whence He came; to which the Lord replies, but in words the bearing of which went far beyond the application that the crowd, taught by tradition, could make of them to the Messiah’s character. “Ye know me, and ye know whence I am.” Terrible testimony, the truth of which we see in the words of Nicodemus that are related to us, and which, although they do not go so far, attest the conviction that the miracles of Jesus were producing in hearts. It was their will that opposed itself to this condition, and if Pilate was able to discern the surface of their motives (they had delivered Him up through envy), he was not able to understand a hatred against God which decided to kill Lazarus, rather than allow the people to believe the coming in grace of the God, who had so often wished to gather them under His wings. They were disputing confusedly about the Messiah, and their God was there in grace, the Son sent by the Father. Their leaders knew very well, at bottom, that He who was doing these miracles, did them not by human power; they might attribute them to Beelzebub, but certainly not to man. The character of the miracles of Jesus, and the power that was manifested in them, confirmed His words: these shewed the source from which they came, and words and miracles shewed who He was, and whence He came. But they had no knowledge of the Father, of Him from whom Jesus came; they were not of those who desired to do His will, and they sought to blind others. The ignorant people strove, in the confusion, with some passing convictions; their leaders resisted, with an intelligent conviction that He who came from God was there, but decided not to receive Him. All this is developed further on, and affirmed by the Lord Himself (chap. 15:22-24).

It is important, painful though it be, to bring out clearly the state of this poor people, whether as to the leaders, or as to the mass: the mind of the former made up to reject Jesus; the moral, and, alas! wilful, blindness of the multitude. Jesus had no longer any place amongst them as Messiah; He must take a place far otherwise important and excellent—that of Man at the right hand of God. Still, He was the Good Shepherd, and the porter opened to Him; and, accomplishing His will, He went through the dangers, and His sheep heard His voice. So it was at this moment; a great number, “many amongst the multitude,” believed on Him, saying, “When Christ cometh, will He do more miracles than this man hath done?” (v. 31). Then the Pharisees send officers to seize Him, which becomes the occasion of a touching answer of Jesus, an answer which clearly sets forth the situation, “Yet a little while I am with you,” says He, “and I go to him that sent me. Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me; and where I am ye cannot come.” You have no need to be in a hurry to seek Me, to get rid of Me; you will have Me for a little time longer, and then all will be over; it will no longer be a question of the Messiah; you will seek Me then, but you will not find Me. I go unto My Father; there you have no access. All will be changed; it will be all over as to the Messiah; the Son, as Man, will go to sit at the Father’s right hand—there you will not be able to come.

This was indeed where things were with regard to the Jews, and with regard to Jesus. The blindness of the Jews, and their religious pride, were as great as their hatred of the true God. They understood nothing of what the Saviour said, only suggesting among themselves that perhaps He would go to the dispersed amongst the Gentiles, to teach the Gentiles. The position was clearly defined.

Now the Lord shews who should come to take His place, since the hour was not yet come for Him to celebrate the feast of Tabernacles, and to shew Himself to the world. It was the great day of the feast, the last day, for the feast of Tabernacles had one day more than the two other great feasts, an eighth day, which was the great day of the feast. This day began a new week; the earthly testimony was complete, but with this eighth day we go beyond that which was complete down here. The two other feasts had their sabbath on the seventh day; this one had its great day, its solemn feast, afterwards. I do not doubt but that this was, as a type, the beginning of the new week of God, that which is heavenly and eternal, as the resurreaion of Jesus was the first day of the week. Now the Lord gives to that day its true significance. It was no longer a question of the effect of the Messiah’s presence, but of Him who should be the representative of a glorified Saviour, rejected in His humiliation. The manifestation of Jesus in glory down here could not take place now; but He could give to those who should believe upon Him, thus rejected upon earth, the earnest of the heavenly glory, and by this means a present joy which overflowed in blessing, as testimony of salvation and of the glory. On the great day of the feast, a day specially called “solemn,” or “a day of obligation,” in the Old Testament, Jesus stood there, and cried: “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth in me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake he of the Spirit which they who believed on him should receive” (v. 37-39).

That is the great teaching of chapter 7: The Holy Ghost here below in believers, following upon the glorifying of Jesus as Man, instead of an earthly Messiah, according to the promises of God. Rejected as Messiah He takes His place as Man, according to the eternal counsels of God, in the heavenly glory, at God’s right hand, and that according to the righteousness of God, who has glorified Him with Himself. After having established all God’s glory at the cross, and taken this place in the glory as having accomplished redemption, He sent the Holy Ghost, witness of the glory into which He had entered, and of the redemption He had accomplished. To possess the Holy Ghost is the Christian position; not merely new desires, but the full answer of grace to these desires in the revelation of Christ glorified. We await participation in that glory, but we know that it is our portion, and the accomplishment of redemption gives us the right to be there. We wait for the return of Jesus to enter into it, that our body may be transformed into the likeness of His glorious body; and the love which has given us all this which has thought of giving it to us, is shed abroad in our hearts.

There are some details to be noticed here. The Lord invites those who thirst to come unto Him, and drink. This principle is to be found in John, although sovereign grace, which quickens, is very clearly and positively announced in chapter 5, as also the fact, that those alone whom the Father draws come in reality. In calling the reader’s attention to this point, I would wish to bring out the important difference that there is, between the work which disposes the heart, and produces needs in the heart or in the conscience, or, as it always happens, at the same time, in one and the other, and the answer to these needs in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus. This desire can produce a true kind of piety, but never peace, nor a state of soul distinctly Christian; for this, the knowledge of the Person and of the work of Jesus, and the presence of the Holy Ghost, are necessary. One may feel that he has need of Him, and even love Him, but he is not yet, in the true sense, “of him.” See the prodigal son, before and after he had met his father; and the poor woman that was a sinner. Everything belongs to such a soul, but it does not possess it. The prodigal had not yet the best robe, and the poor woman had not yet heard the voice of Jesus saying to her, “Thy sins be forgiven thee, go in peace”; but she loved much. So, again, the thief on the cross shews a remarkable faith, but it is the answer of the Saviour that gives him the certainty of his present happiness, founded on the work of Christ. I notice these cases, that the reader may distinguish between the word that attracts and awakens the conscience, and the answer, founded upon the work, which gives one to enjoy pardon and salvation.

It is well that we should also call attention to the three operations of the Spirit of God. In chapter 3 we are born of the Spirit; in chapter 4 it is a fountain springing up to everlasting life. Here the new man enters into the enjoyment of things not seen, of things heavenly and eternal; when they fill the heart—when the heart, drinking of that which is in Jesus, is satisfied, then these things overflow, and refresh thirsty souls; heavenly affections meet souls, shewing what it is that revives a soul without God, which groans, without knowing, perhaps, what is wanting. The words of Jesus were truly some of those waters.

The people who were not armed with a breastplate of ill-will, and determination already come to, felt this; and, without any miracle, under the influence of the words of Jesus, cried out, “Of a truth this is the prophet.” Others said, thinking that Jesus was the Christ, “Shall Christ come out of Galilee?” But the reasoning of the human mind raises difficulties, and closes other hearts to the power of the word in His mouth. The people are divided, and the officers return, under the impression which the words of Jesus had produced, to throw into the same confusion the minds of those who, pretending to guide Israel, were the blindest of all. Nicodemus expresses a thought of equity according to their own law. They attack him, he also must be of Galilee. The theologians of the Sanhedrim shew their contempt for those who, according to the prophets, were the sphere of the light which God sent in Israel, the poor of the flock; claiming for Jerusalem and for themselves the glory of all that God had given, they affirm that no prophet had arisen out of Galilee (v. 52). As a matter of fact it was false; and then, again, how had they treated the prophets, of whatever country they might have been? Where was the city who had slain the prophets, and was going to slay Him of whom all the prophets had spoken? Irritated at their powerlessness, being able to do nothing to hinder the testimony of Jesus, they disperse, and every one goes to his own house. His hour was not yet come.

Chapter 8

The history which is given us of the Lord in this Gospel of John to replace the Jews, and their portion in the Messiah, according to the promises, ends with this chapter 7, which has just occupied us. In the fifth chapter Jesus is Son of God, who quickens; in the sixth, Son of man in incarnation and in death, His return to heaven being in view; then, in the seventh chapter, not being able yet to shew Himself to the world, but, being glorified, He gives the Holy Spirit to believers, that which could not take place till after He was glorified; He is rejected, but, as we have seen, His time was not yet come. In the two chapters upon which we are now entering, we find His word rejected in chapter 8, His works rejected in chapter 9. These are the two great personal testimonies which declare His origin. (See chapter 15:22-25.) In the tenth chapter He declares He will have His sheep for Himself nevertheless, notwithstanding the obstinacy of the leaders of the people. The eleventh and twelfth chapters shew us, in a very interesting way, the testimony which the Father bears to Him as being the Son of God, Son of David, Son of man, when man has rejected Him. Then, from the thirteenth chapter onwards, come heavenly things, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, that other Comforter, who should replace Him on earth.

At the beginning of our chapter 8, the law in man’s hands, raised against outward immorality, but without uprightness, without life, and without grace, is put in a striking manner, in contrast with the word of God, that searches hearts, that turns the sword of the law against every one, and leaves room for grace, not quickening, or pardoning grace, but the grace which at least does not give its force to the law to condemn; that was not the Saviour’s mission. The whole world was placed under condemnation by the law, if God were to apply it; God had not come for this; but in shewing them to be all condemned, without exception, on this ground, entire humanity disappears under the sentence of the law, at least the humanity which takes the law as a means of righteousness, and the ground is cleared to bring in the light of life, from God. The position of the adulteress is only negative; it is quite a different case from that of the woman that was a sinner, in Luke 7, where the full grace which saves is established. All were guilty, but the Lord was come to reach the conscience of all, not to apply the law to the guilty. He does not condemn—only every mouth is stopped. The conduct of these men was wretched; sinners, like the accused one without mercy, and without pity, they desired to expose this woman, so that the Saviour might find her guilty; for, if He condemned her, there was no advance upon the law, He was neither Messiah nor Saviour; if He did not condemn her, He put Himself into opposition with the law of Moses. The scribes and Pharisees did not know with whom they had to do. The penetrating voice of God needs only a word to reach the conscience: “Adam, where art thou?” or, “Let him that is without sin among you cast the first stone!”—suffice to lay bare the conscience, because the power of God is there, and man is found necessarily revealed to himself in the presence of Him who is light. But the will is not changed, and man avoids that presence; one takes refuge amongst the trees of the garden; others, rather with shame than with a sincere conscience which leads to confession, slink away, each one alone, to preserve his reputation; the eldest first, but fearing, even to the last, that presence which pierces them through, and ashamed of finding themselves in each other’s presence. Then, having given the law its full force upon all, Jesus allows the poor woman to go away, according to divine mercy.

After this, we have the doctrine with regard to the Saviour, which is connected with the preceding fact: “I am the light of the world” (v. 12), not yet here the Messiah of the Jews, but the presentation, on the part of God, of light in the world, light which manifested everything, but which remained alone, for the whole world was darkness, far from God, and the heart of man himself darkness. This light manifested the effect of even the law, it shewed where man was, as placed under it. But it was far more; if man followed it, it was “the light of life” (compare chap. 1:4), that which made manifest as the revelation of the divine nature, but that which communicated life to those who received this light. It was an entirely new thing come into the world, God Himself, in the power of grace, become Man; rejected, all was morally judged; but, received by grace, it was the new life, the life eternal, for Christ is eternal life come down from heaven; 1 John 1:1, 2. As light and life, it was for us, for it was communicated to us; the new man is created according to God in righteousness and holiness of truth, and there is also the renewing of knowledge according to the image of Him who created us. But it was the word of life, and it was a question of receiving that word; and here it is the light in conflict with darkness. All depends, as we shall see, on the Person of Him who speaks.

The question is put in verse 13: “Thou bearest witness of thyself; thy witness is not true.” Now, they might have spoken in this way, if it had been a question of a man who bore witness of himself; but if God speaks, that which He says is necessarily the truth, and reveals Him. One question only arises: Do men know Him, and is the soul capable of receiving the truth even? The two things go together, as we shall see. Jesus came from heaven, from the Father; He was going back there, and had the consciousness of it; it is the lowest point of His testimony here; He is forced, by the opposition He meets, to go to the end and to say “I am” (v. 56); but here it is as Man in the world, who nevertheless had the consciousness of whence He came. (Compare chap. 3:11-13, 33, 34.) His words were the words of God, but by the Spirit, without measure, in a Man, who also could say of Himself: “The Son of man who is in heaven.” He spoke with the consciousness of whence He came. They knew nothing about it; for them He was a carpenter of Galilee, who had not even learnt letters. But it was the divine nature in the presence of that of man. They judged according to the flesh; He, as He had just shewn, judged no one. He had not come for that, but to bear witness. Nevertheless, even if He judged, His judgment would be just, for not only He knew whence He came, but the Father was with Him—He was not only such a Son of man, but He was also Son of God. The law said that the testimony of two men was true; well then, He (the Son) bore witness of Himself, and the Father, who had sent Him bore witness of Him. Then they ask Him: “Where is thy Father?” for there was no divine light in them, not even a conscience sensible to the truth, unless when the eye of the Light penetrated it, in spite of them. No man, however, laid hands on Him; His hour was not yet come (v. 20). We cannot separate this divine testimony from that which is given at the end. He spoke the words of God; but the form is different, He did not speak directly in His divine nature, although that which He said implied it; but as Man upon earth on the part of God, and as Son, by the Holy Ghost.

The Lord begins again by telling them, that all was over, that He was going away (v. 21, etc.). They would seek Him, indeed, but they would not find Him: “I go away, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sin: where I go, ye cannot come.” The separation, fruit of their unbelief, was complete and final; they, dead in their sins, He in heaven; but He did not say openly where He was going. The Jews only looked upon Him as a man, and remained in their self-righteousness, as heirs of the promises. “Will he kill himself? “and thus deprive Himself of them. The Lord’s answer is decisive: “Ye are from beneath; I am from above.” There was absolute opposition, moral and actual—with a terrible supplement for all that surrounds us: “Ye are of this world” —of this world, of which Satan is the prince, and those who are of it in heart are of him. Christ was not of it. He was, indeed in the world, but He was not of the world. He was essentially of heaven, the bread which had come down from heaven, personally and morally; but here He is speaking negatively, and this is the chief point for us. He was not of this world: He brought the divine light, God Himself, into this world; but He was not of it. This is why He had said to them, “Ye shall die in your sins”; for they were rejecting the Light which had come into this world, grace, the Son of God. “If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.”

But this introduces a principle of all-importance; that is, the identification of His word with Himself. He was God; His words expressed God; it is this that left the Jews without excuse; in rejecting Him, they despised God who was speaking to them. In answer to the words of Jesus, they say “Who art thou?” (v. 25). The answer of Jesus declares this identification: “Absolutely that which also I speak unto you”:— perfectly, in principle and in reality, that which I speak unto you. The words of Jesus expressed what He was; and being thus the true expression of God manifested to man, they put man into the place of either receiving or rejecting God, and God as light of men. If God speaks, and expresses Himself, man accepts what He is, or rejects Him. The Saviour was in a position to say many things to them, and to judge them; but now He was communicating to them, as a faithful witness, that which He had heard from the Father. This was, indeed, the truth sent by the Father: He was telling the world that which He had received of the Father. This was now His service as the sent One. The Jews did not understand of whom He was speaking. Later on, when it would be too late to receive Him as come to them in grace, but when the thought of God should be accomplished, and their own hands should accomplish His counsels in crucifying the Son of man,40 the consequences which would flow from this for the Jews, would cause them to know (Jesus does not say, to believe) that it was indeed He, that He did nothing of Himself, but that He spoke as the Father taught Him. His word was the demonstration of that which He was, and though He could say many things to them, and judge them, He only told them now that which He received of the Father. Once rejected as Son of man, and put to death, then, when He should no longer be there, they should know that it was He, the Messiah, and that He had spoken to them from the Father. But more, He who had sent Him was then with Him; He had not left Him alone, because all that He did was pleasing to the Father. Under the effect of His testimony, by the weight of His words, the expression of what He was and that all His conduct confirmed, many believed on Him (v. 30).

That which this chapter puts forward most distinctly, is, the divine character of Jesus, demonstrated by His words, and the diabolical character of the Jews manifested in the way in which they had received Him. Already, in verse 23, the Lord announced it, with the terrible testimony, that that which was of this world was from beneath, that is to say, of the devil, whilst He was from above, and not of this world. That which He said expressed His nature, His divine character. He reveals the Father: His words are the words of God; that which He said revealed Him to the world (v. 26, 27; ch. 1:10; ch. 3:32, 33). That which follows, on the other hand, throws into relief the character of the Jews.

The Lord declares to those who had been brought to believe in Him, that, if they remained firmly attached to His word (for it is a question of His word), they should be His disciples indeed, they should know the truth, and the truth should set them free (v. 31, 32). The truth supposes the full revelation of that which is divine and heavenly, that which was revealed in His Person, and in His words, and would be fully made evident when He should be glorified, and the Holy Ghost should have come. I do not think that those of whom verse 23 speaks were those who believed in Jesus, but the Jews in general. They trust to their outward position according to the flesh: they had never been in bondage, they say, forgetting, however, all their history, and their position at that very moment. The Lord passes over all that, to present the ground of the truth as to the state of man before God, and the effect of the law; for He identifies these two things—being a slave of sin, and being under the law, as the man of Romans 7. “Every one that practises sin, is the slave of sin,” captive of that terrible law of sin that is in his members; but being a slave, he may be sent away from the house, and sold. The Jews, sinners under the law, would be sent away from the house of God; but the Son belonged to the house, and dwelt there always, and necessarily; if He made them free, they should be free indeed, free from sin, and free from the law. The Son, the revelation of the Father, as object, and power of life in him who shall have received Him, acting by the word, takes the place of the principle of sin in man, and the law which in vain forbade man to commit it.

Outwardly the Jews were indeed the children of Abraham; but the word of Christ had no place nor entry into their hearts, and they sought to kill Him. Here the contrast becomes formal: Jesus spoke (for it is always His word) that which He had seen with His Father, Himself the Son who revealed Him, and announced that which was heavenly and divine; but this brought out of their hearts the Satanic hatred against God which fills the heart of man. Here, then, the two great principles of sin which characterise the adversary, manifested themselves in them—murder, and the absence of the truth (v. 44, 45). This opposition between the revelation from above, and that which is in the world and from below, characterises the chapter, and forms its basis. Their descent from Abraham is for the Lord but a circumstance of no value. If, in the moral sense, the Jews had been the sons of Abraham, as the believer is, they would have done the works of Abraham; but instead of that, they sought to kill a Man who had told them the truth He had received from God. The Jews take still higher ground: Abraham no longer suffices for them, it is God who is their Father (v. 41). They are conscious that the words of Jesus come more home to them and they retire into the stronghold of their privileges. The Lord follows up the side of moral and essential truth, whilst avoiding, so to speak, to declare everything openly at once; but He is obliged, as it were, to say it, both as to them, and as to Himself.

Until now we have had the revelation of the thing heavenly and divine, in itself, in a positive way, outside and above all that was Jewish; here we are come to the conflict between man’s heart and this revelation, and there, where the privileges of a religion which was composed of the elements of the world (separated from Him who, all earthly as was this religion, was its centre), only blinded the more the hearts which made their boast in it. The divine word, in the Person of Jesus, the Father’s word, which was in His mouth, pierced through all this religious drapery, and manifested man’s heart. The Lord, in His answer to the assertion of the Jews that God was their Father, shews that the rejection of His Person gave the lie to such a pretension. The question was raised and decided by His presence and by His word: if they had had God as their Father, they would have loved Jesus, for He came from God; He did not come of His own will; God had sent Him. It was necessary to speak openly, for things were being fulfilled: truth, and hatred against the truth, against God, are found in presence of one another. The Jews did not understand the words, because they did not understand the things, a very important principle in divine things: in human things, words are explained, in order to learn what the things are; thus we but designate by a word things which come under the senses, or things of the intellect, for these things are within man’s grasp; divine things are not so. If I say, “born again,” to understand the words, I must know what it is to be born again. Let us remember this.

The Lord allows no uncertainty to remain here any longer: you have the devil for your father, and you will do his works; and “he is a liar, and the father of lies “(v. 44). As we have said before, the double character of Satan and of sin, is to be “a murderer “and “a liar”; man has added to it corruption. Such was the character of these poor Jews. They did not believe Jesus, because Jesus spoke the truth, and they were going to kill Him. They claimed, indeed, to be of God—sad and blinding effect of an official religion; but if they had really been, they would have listened to the words of God. There is a certain perception which belongs to the life of God, which recognises that which is of Him, and especially His words. It was, for a Jew, a monstrous thing, subversive of all his pretensions, of the whole divine history of the ages, to say to Jesus that He was not of God. Who, then, was He? A Pagan, a Samaritan? This was enough to shew whence Jesus was.

Jesus continues to shew the effect of His word where it is received into the heart. “If any one keep my word, he shall never see death.” This put Jesus above Abraham and all the prophets. Who, then, was Jesus? For, with all their pretensions, the Jews were really in great embarrassment; they felt the force of His words; this can take place where the will is not at all changed; but they sought to justify themselves in their own eyes by interpreting His words according to human reasoning. The Lord does not spare them any longer, for they were enemies of the truth. He spoke in His Father’s name, and He knew Him: He would have been a liar, like themselves, if He had denied it. The second character of the enemy was thus realised in them. “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it, and was glad” (v. 56); for it is He who was expected, according to the promises. The Jews, who only saw things according to the natural mind, cry out at the folly of it: then, as He had declared of whom they were, the Lord now openly declares who He is Himself: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am” (not, I was). The Jews were speaking with God, and they resisted His words: their hatred bursts forth, and they take up stones to stone Him.

Note here, that Jesus gave eternal life by His word; He was the accomplishment of the promises; but, again, He was God in this world; life and truth were on one side; murder and falsehood on the other. It is this that makes this chapter so solemn. That which, grace excepted, was the whole life of Jesus in the midst of this people, in this world—the truth, the life, the sent One of the Father, God manifest in flesh—in the presence of hatred of the truth and of God, are concentrated in this chapter, and are in presence of one another.

It is important also to remark, that it is a question, not of miracles, but entirely of the word of Jesus. The Jews do not ask for a sign, as they often did: it is not the ordinary current of incredulity that we have here before us; but the truth, the light, are in direct conflict with the darkness which does not understand them, but which, at the same time, is troubled by them; for the light shines even when it is not received. It is not in man’s heart; and that makes itself felt in the heart: nothing can be imputed to the witness which weakens the testimony; no one could convince the Lord of sin; they did not believe, because He told them the truth. Here it is the pure opposition of man’s heart to the truth, because it was the truth. Light may reach the conscience, and if the will is not changed, this only produces hatred, as in the case of Stephen; but here, I repeat, it is the truth itself and the light that are in conflict with the darkness, He who came from above, with whom the Father was, and then men, who alas! were from beneath. What could be more solemn than such a meeting? God, in the presence of men, to be rejected, and that for ever and ever!

It may be useful here to notice some details: the Lord begins by announcing Himself, personally and distinctly, as the light of the world. In John, it is always a question of the world; also, it is not a question of the Messiah according to the promises, but of what the Lord is in Himself, of what He is, He only, in the midst of the darkness. In following Him, one would have the light of life; for the life was the light of men. We see how this chapter reproduces that which is said in chapter 1; only here it brings out historically the contrast and the conflict between the light and the darkness, for the world was in it, and Satan was the prince of the world. The Lord having thus announced Himself as light (and light manifests itself, and manifests everything), His testimony is rejected, as being that of a Man who bore witness of Himself (v. 13). They do not see the light, they reject it; that which is divine is hidden, although it is light. He was the light, and His words were the expression of what He was; but He had not come to judge, as the case of the woman shewed, however just His judgment would have been, for the Father was with Him. But the law was their law; then Jesus was the revelation of God Himself in that which He was as light: it was Himself and the word of testimony, the Father being with Him. If that were rejected, it was not disobedience to a commandment, but the rejection of divine life and light, so that those who rendered themselves guilty of it should die in their sins.

All chapter 8 is the expression of the divine light by the testimony of the Lord; but the chapter treats of more than one subject, where this testimony is given in more than one aspect. The first part is to be found from verse 12 to 20, which present the position in itself: the Lord is the divine light; He is not come to judge, but the Father is with Him; God and the truth are presented to men; He is rejected by the darkness of man’s heart, but His hour is not yet come. Then (v. 21-29) He goes away. In John His death is never what is spoken of, but He goes away, and the Jews would know when He had been lifted up as Son of man, that it was He; it would then be too late to find Him again. After that (v. 30), many having believed in Him, He announces to them what their position should be, if they persevered; the Son would make them free, and they would be free indeed; this in contrast with the Jews. There was a complete change of position. Man committed sin—he was the slave of it: the Jews, no doubt, were in God’s house, but by the law as slaves; for to be under the law, and to commit sin, is the same thing. The Jews, therefore, had no sure place in the house; and they would even lose the one which they had: but Christ then would have His place as Son over God’s house, and those who believed in Him, who persevered in His word, made free by Him, should possess true divine liberty. As to the promises, they were indeed, according to the flesh, the seed of Abraham; but they were not sons of Abraham according to God. Being come personally as light, the Lord would have what is true, not merely dispensations j they were, in reality, sons of him who was a murderer and a liar; they were rejecting the truth, they were going to put Christ to death, and did not believe Him, because He spoke the truth. Finally, for He was the life as well as the truth, he who should keep His word, would never taste death (v. 51); He was not only the light, but the light of life. Besides, not only was He the object of the promises which Abraham’s faith had realised, but He existed with an eternal existence, God— “I am,” before Abraham was. Then the hatred of unbelief burst out. Before, they had maliciously sought to turn away the truth, and to justify themselves before one another in rejecting Him, but as soon as what He was is fully revealed, their murderous hatred shews itself by violence.

Chapter 9

In the eighth chapter we had the testimony given, the divine word of the Saviour: the ninth chapter relates to the testimony of His works. The Lord sets aside the entire governmental system of the Jews; He speaks, too, of Himself as being only a little longer of this world; but so long as He was, He must do the works of His Father who had sent Him, for although He was God present in this world, He always takes the place of a Man subject to God, and He does so specially in John’s Gospel, where His Person is set in relief. It is this position Satan sought to get Him out of, in the temptation in the wilderness, a position in which He remained firm and perfect. He is always the sent One, although He be Son of God, and one with the Father.

Crossing this poor world, the Lord meets with one born blind, a picture of man, and specially of the Jews. Here He is truly the light of the world, while announcing, as I have just said, that He was going to leave the world. But there is more; He works in grace, He gives life. Not only is He the light of the world as long as He is in it, for this is only for a time; but He is powerful in grace to give the capacity of enjoying the light. Nevertheless, although it be divine power that communicates it, He must be received as the sent One of the Father; He never leaves His position. His presence, without His work, only blinds the more, at least presents an outward difficulty; He is a stone of stumbling. The spittle (v. 6) presents the efficacy which came from Himself; the earth, the humanity which He had taken. But that, in itself alone, only made the blind man doubly blind: a positive obstacle was added to natural blindness: but it was necessary that this object should be before his eyes. Jesus sends the poor man to the pool of Siloam. The text itself gives the meaning of this word: it signifies “Sent.” The moment this truth is connected with the Person of Jesus, in the blind man, all is accomplished; the man sees clearly, with a clearness which is according to the power of God: “I washed, and I see” (v. n).

In the eighth chapter it was a question of man’s responsibility, a responsibility connected with the testimony of the word of God: here it is its powerful efficacy to give sight to the blind man, in revealing the Son sent by the Father. Man’s folly, his religious blindness, are made manifest: for him, Jesus was not of God, because, although He did works of power and of divine goodness, He did not keep the sabbath. Now, the sabbath was the sign of God’s covenant with Israel, the sign of the rest of God. But in Jesus, God was there, and the Son of man was Lord of the sabbath, and the rest of God was not for those who rejected Him. Further, this rest became heavenly at that moment.

What is striking in this passage is the perplexity of religious people, and they instructed in their religion, characterised by the elements of this world, when they are in the presence of divine power. “He does not keep the sabbath!”. What a subterfuge! Others said, “How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? “The evidence was too strong: there was a division among them. Then they would not believe that the man had been born blind, until they had called his parents. These feared to compromise themselves, but bear the only testimony that it was of consequence to hear from them, that is, that the man was really their son, and that he was born blind. The Jews call back the man himself for the second time, and seek to cover up the whole question by their religious authority. They are quite willing to recognise the fact that the man had been blind, and that now he saw, and they invite him to give glory to God for that; but, as to owning the truth and the Son of God, they will not do that; it is with them a foregone conclusion. The poor man is indignant at their blindness, wise as they were, and guardians of their religion, for he had personally experienced the powerful efficacy of the word of Jesus. His testimony is clear and simple: “he is a prophet,” and taught of God, he does not understand how the Jews can hesitate to receive the brilliant proof of it, that was there before their eyes; for simple faith, that had experienced the power of God, does not understand the difficulties which religious learning opposes to it, when will does not want the truth and Jesus. This man did not know what governed the hearts of those who were questioning him; but, as for them, they well knew that they were resisting the light of divine power. Disgusted at his bold frankness, which wonders at their unbelief, they arrive exactly at the conclusion that the Lord had condemned; that is, that the man’s blindness was the effect of his sin: and they cast him out.

Thus the Lord’s sheep finds itself outside: the Lord rejected already, having heard of it, seeks it, but to bring it into the flock of grace, by the knowledge of His Person. All that belonged to those who found a place there, was not yet developed; but the Person of the Son of God was down here, and the Father’s name was revealed, for he who had seen the Son, had seen the Father. Expiation was necessary, in order that all the privileges might be revealed, and that the door of heaven might be opened, for entrance into the most Holy place. Until Christ had been glorified, the Holy Ghost had not come down to reveal these things: but the Good Shepherd seeks His sheep, and puts the question to him: “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” (v. 35, 36).

Remark here, that the man had received the Lord’s word as the word of God; he had said, “he is a prophet.” To speak thus was, like the woman of Sychar, to believe what Jesus said—not only to own the truth of something He had said, but the authority of what He said. Further, this man’s heart was attracted; fully persuaded of the folly of his religious leaders, he sought that which the prophet of God would say to him. This reception of the word as having divine authority, and the desire of the heart to possess it, and to possess that which it reveals, is of all-importance; we have already seen it in the case of the Samaritan woman. Here, the fact that he had already personally made experience of the power of Jesus, grace acting in his heart with this work, disposes the man to believe what Jesus would say to him, and gives implicitly in his soul a divine force to that which the Lord says. Now Jesus says to him, “Thou hast seen him, and it is he that speaketh with thee!” Then the man owns him explicitly— “Lord, I believe”; and he worships Him. He believes in His Person by the means of the word, which he had believed already beforehand, when he said, “He is a prophet.”

Thus the Lord had found His sheep; it was delivered from the fatal influence of false shepherds, who held the souls of the people in captivity. Come to save, and, in any case, not to judge, but to bring the word of life—through man’s perversity, the effect of His coming would be judgment. Those who pretended to see, but who were blind leaders of the blind, would be blinded all the more that the light was there; but it was none the less true that He was there in the sovereignty of grace, to give sight to others who were blind (v. 39, 40). As light, the Lord put man to the test; as Son of God in power, He gave sight to those who saw not, but who had the consciousness, by His word, and by the knowledge of His Person, that they were blind; knowledge founded on faith in His word.

Chapter 10

The tenth chapter, in John’s Gospel, terminates the history of the Lord down here. The Good Shepherd, come from the Father, will find His sheep, notwithstanding the opposition of the enemies of the truth and of God, and will give eternal life to those who hear His voice.

This chapter, so precious to believers, gives us a picture of the entire work and position of the Lord. Nevertheless, we do not see Him driven away here, as He is however constantly in John, but we see Him putting forth His sheep Himself, according to the will of God; His sheep whom He knows, and of whom He is known. Then He is “the door of the sheep”; He lays down His life Himself, no one takes it from Him; lastly, He and the Father are one. A Servant sent and obedient, He is nevertheless one with the Father; the sheep, too, are His, although it be His Father who gave them to Him. Note here, and I repeat it, because of its importance, and as characterising the Gospel of John, that the Lord is a Servant, and receives everything, even the sheep, from His Father’s hand; but He is, at the same time, one with Him; a Servant, as Man down here, but Son of God, God, one with His Father.

We must examine these details more carefully.

In the first place, all those who, before Him, had pretended to be the shepherds and leaders of Israel; all those, whoever they might be, who did not enter by the door, were thieves and robbers, climbing over the wall, forcing an entrance by violence or cunning; thus they betrayed their true character. The sheepfold was Israel. These men sought to get possession of the sheep for their own profit, for their own glory: they were neither Messiahs, nor servants of God, nor sent by Him, very far from being one with the Father. I say this in order to establish the Lord’s position more distinctly. The second verse presents to us this position in its first features: “He who enters in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.” He entered in by the door; He came by the way chosen by Him who had established the sheepfold, there, where the porter was; he who could open the door, or keep it shut; thus He attracted the attention of him who was the keeper of the fold.

The door is always the place indicated and appointed by the architect to enter by it. This is why Jesus says lower down, “I am the door of the sheep,” because, it is He that God has appointed as the door of exit for the Jewish remnant, and as the door of entrance for us all into the sanctuary, into His holy presence. Christ Himself had entered into the fold, following out what God had prescribed for the Shepherd. All that was laid down in the prophets, all that was fitting for Him who walked according to God’s will, Jesus followed out, and accomplished at every point. He did not seek to arouse men by exciting their passions, like the false Messiahs, nor to draw in His footsteps an unconverted and stiffnecked people; meek and lowly in hearts, He followed the path Jehovah had traced for Him; He entered by the door. Providence and the Spirit of God opened the way for Him. All the efforts of the high priests and scribes could not prevent His voice from reaching the ears and hearts of the sheep. God opened the door to Him, and the sheep heard His voice. Here it is not a question of any other than they; they are the real object of His service, carried into effect, in spite of all the power of Satan. The Lord knows His sheep; they are His; He calls them each by his name, and leads them out of the fold.

It is interesting and touching to see how Jesus’ own sheep are here the only object of His heart, and with what intimacy He knows them individually; He thinks only of them. He comes, and calls them, to the exclusion of all the other Jews. He does not fail either in His purpose. He does not leave them in the Jewish fold; He leads them out of the fold where the Jews abode, outside the enclosure where those who were “of their father, the devil,” still remained. Moreover, He does not leave them when they are outside; He goes before them in the way of life and of faith. They are His own sheep, they belong entirely to Him, and in leading them out, He goes before them; He conducts them Himself; He is Himself at their head in the difficulties they should meet. His voice is known to them; they follow Him. If He is exclusively occupied here with the sheep, they recognise no other voice but His. In Him, and in Him alone, they have confidence; they trust in Him, and in Him alone. Every other voice is, for them, that of a stranger; it is enough that they do not know it, that it be not His. It is His voice that inspires them with confidence: weak in themselves, they flee when the voice is not His.

In that which we have gone over, up to the present, we find, at the same time, general principles, and the description of the Lord’s work in the midst of the people. He makes use of the customs known in the country with regard to flocks, to describe that which He had been, and that which He had done in His life and in His service down here. But it was all over with the sheepfold. He leads the sheep out; the others were only reprobates, rejected in rejecting Him; all who recognised Him, Him and His voice, followed Him, and were led outside. This very fact sets forth the divine Person and authority of the Saviour. The law and the ordinances had been established by the authority of God Himself, and the law was the perfect rule for the children of Adam. But here we have to do with the law as a dispensation of God, not with what it is in its intrinsic nature. Who could take away men from the authority of Him who had established His ordinances, and had invested them with that authority? He alone, who Himself was invested with the authority which had established them and possessed it. (See chap. 15:22-25.)

Christ ends His discourses on this subject by the statement of His divinity, as He had done before, in chapter 8; but He begins here, as in chapter 8, in His character of a Servant who accomplishes the service confided to Him.

The men whom the Lord addresses do not understand the parable He spoke to them; He Himself, in grace, furnishes the application. Resuming His discourse, He says, “I am the door of the sheep” (v. 7). God has set Me as the One by whom My sheep can go out without fear, for it is there that God has placed the way out. In following Jesus, he who believed in Him could leave the fold that God had set up. Jesus was Himself the door. If a Pharisee were to ask, “Where are you going thus? “the sheep could answer, “I am going where the Shepherd sent by God will lead me.” He is the door, not of Israel, but of the sheep. All who had come before, and who pretended to present themselves as divine leaders of Israel, were but thieves and robbers; the sheep had not listened to them. Now, to go out, although authorised by the voice and conduct of the divine Shepherd, was a small thing; the Shepherd’s Person implied something positive; He was also the door by which to enter. He had said nothing of this in His parable; only shewing that He called His own sheep, and led them forth, going before them, a sure warrant that they did well in leaving the fold; His voice was enough. Now He reveals the effect.

Before pursuing this subject, I revert for a moment to verses 1-5, in order to fix the bearing of it more exactly. It is the life of Jesus that is presented to us, in connection with the Jews, who were God’s fold. The true Shepherd, Jesus, entered by the way chosen and ordained of God. Born at Bethlehem, born of” the Virgin, He had submitted to all the ordinances that God had established; this was the mark of the true Shepherd. God, by His Spirit and by His providence, opened for Him the way to the ears and heart of the sheep; the rest remained deaf to all His appeals. It was not a Messiah come to establish the glory in Israel, but the only true Shepherd, who would have His own sheep. They listened to His voice. He knew them, and called them by their names, and led them out of the Jewish fold, to put them in the possession of better things. Then, in putting forth His own sheep—the only ones He sought here—He had been before them, and they followed Him, for they knew His voice. This was the mark of the sheep. He did not leave them in the fold, but led them outside. The form of what is said is abstract, and in the present; it is that which is always true of a good Shepherd.

We must notice here, that, although the man born blind had been driven out, and also Jesus Himself, the Lord speaks here as having authority. The sheep are His, He puts them out; He goes before them; the sheep follow Him, they will not follow a stranger. It is the history of what Jesus was doing in Israel. Jesus says nothing, as yet, of the blessings towards which He was leading His own, nor of His death, the foundation of these blessings.

Now, having entered by the door, according to God’s will and testimony, He was, for every other person, Himself “the door”; that which God had ordained as the means of having part in His blessings.

It is not (as I have already said in passing, and we should notice it well) the sheep’s knowledge of the stranger that keeps it from the snares which he tries to set for it; but there is one voice which is known by the sheep, the voice of the Good Shepherd, and they know that what they hear is not that voice. It is thus the simple are kept; the wise wish to know everything, and are deceived. The voice and the Person being known, encourage and authorise the sheep to follow them. Israel remains there, in the hardness of its heart: the Christ is the door of the sheep.

Now the happy results are given to us—the position of the sheep that follow this voice. If any one enter by that door, he shall be saved. Salvation was found in the Shepherd, that which the fold could not give. The sheep should be free; the fold afforded it a kind of security, but it was the security of a prison; it would find pasture, it would be fed in the rich pasturages of God: it is Christianity in contrast with Judaism. Christianity was salvation, liberty, and divine food. Security is no longer imprisonment, but the care of the Good Shepherd. Free under His care, the sheep feed in safety in the vast and rich pasturages of God.

This is the general position, but there is more (v. 10). Jesus, in contrast with all the false pretenders, who only came to steal and to kill, came that we might have life, and that we might have it in abundance. The first expression is the object of His coming in general, which characterises the Gospel, and also the Epistle, of John: it is the Son of God come down, that we might live through Him. He is the eternal life which was with the Father, and gives life, and becomes Himself our Life. (Compare 1 John 4:9; ch. 1:2; ch. 5:11, 12; John 3:15, 16; one might multiply quotations.) The second part of the sentence shews the character and fulness of this life: this life is in the Son. Having the Son, we have life, and we have it according to the power of His resurrection. The faithful in old times were quickened; but here it is the Son Himself who becomes our life, and that as Man risen from amongst the dead. We have it “abundantly.” This 10th verse gives us the great purpose of the coming of the Son of God; but His love must unfold itself fully; He is not only the Shepherd, but the “Good Shepherd,” and the Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. His death has done everything for them; it has redeemed them, washed them from their sins, justified them, purchased them for heaven; however, I think the object of the passage is the love and devotedness of the Good Shepherd; rather than lose His sheep, He lays down His life. The hireling thinks of himself, and runs away; and the wolf comes and seizes41 the sheep, and scatters them. In Gethsemane, Jesus said: “If ye seek me, let these go their way.” Those who have the place of shepherds, abandon the sheep when the enemy comes; He lays down His life, rather than leave them a prey to the wolf. But there is yet more: the Good Shepherd knows His own, and His own know Him, as the Father had known Him, and He had known the Father. Wonderful position! Wonderful relationship! Jesus had been the object of His Father’s heart; in the same way His sheep were the objects of His heart. Taught of God, His sheep knew Him, and trusted in Him, as He trusted in the Father; and He lays down His life for them. But in laying down His life, He opens the door to the sheep from amongst the Gentiles, which He must also bring, and they should hear His voice. With both one and the other, all should be the fruit of His heart and of His mouth, and there should be but one flock, and one Shepherd. As to man, this completes the fruit of the Lord’s work, at least down here.

It is important to remark that, whilst submitting in everything to the will of His Father, it is He Himself who acts here: it is not a rejected Messiah. In the activity which belonged to Him, He puts forth His own sheep. He was rejected: He had sought one of His sheep that had been rejected (chap. 9), to reveal Himself to it. But here it is the divine side. The Lord enters according to the will of His Father, proof that He was the Good Shepherd; but once entered in, the action is His own. He is recognised by the porter, His voice is recognised by the sheep; He calls them by their names, and Himself leads them out. It is not, I again repeat, a rejected Messiah, but the divine Shepherd, who knows, and who leads His own sheep, for the sheep are His; when once they are outside, He goes before them, and they follow Him, for they know His voice. He gives His life, no one takes it from Him. He brings other sheep who were not of the Jewish fold.

In this act of devotedness, the gift of His life, the point is not only the feelings of the sheep, but of the Father. Jesus could give a motive to the Father that He should love Him: it is only a divine Person who could do this. The Father takes pleasure in the faithfulness of His children; but to lay down His life, to give Himself even unto death, and to take His life again in resurrection, whilst re-establishing the Father’s glory, tarnished by the entrance of sin and of death, was a motive for the Father’s affection. Glorious and devoted Saviour! Although He felt everything, He never thought of Himself, but of His Father, and, blessed be His name, of His sheep. To give Himself thus was His own act, an act of voluntary devotedness on His part; but, having become Man and Servant, an act, nevertheless, according to His Father’s will. The act about which we are now occupied, is not the gift of His life for the sheep, but the fact that there, where death had entered, and where man was subjected by sin to death, He who had life in Himself gives His life, to take it again beyond death, and all that was its cause and power, and to place man, the being in whom was God’s good pleasure, in an entirely new position, according to the divine glory, and that by an act of voluntary devotedness, but of obedience. (Compare chap. 14:30, 31.)

The Lord now, in a second discourse, still speaking with the Jews, develops the blessings which His sheep should enjoy, blessings eternal and immutable. The Jews were in the moral embarrassment in which we have already seen them. Good sense said: “These words are not those of one possessed by a demon; can a demon open the eyes of one born blind?” (v. 21). But the prejudices of many of them got the better of all their convictions. They surround the Saviour, for they could not free themselves from the influence of His life, and of what He said and did: “If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus had already told them, and they did not believe; He appeals to His works, that bore witness of Him; but they did not believe, because they were not of His sheep. It is only a question of His sheep, of those that belonged to Him, outside the external election of the people of Israel; but the Lord finds here the occasion to bring out the blessedness of His sheep.

The first mark that characterises the sheep of Jesus, and that we so often find here, is, that they listen to His voice (v. 27, see v. 3, 4, 5, 16); then come two other marks which belong to them: the Good Shepherd knows them (compare verse 14, and for the sense, verse 3), and they follow Him. (Compare verse 4.) Then the Lord declares plainly to us what He gives them; that is, eternal life, in the full assurance of the faithfulness of Christ, and of the power of the Father Himself. Already had He declared that His object in coming was, in grace, to give life, and life in abundance; not to seek booty, like a robber, but to give life from above, in grace. We have here the nature and character of this life, in grace: it was eternal life, that life of which Christ was the source and representative in humanity (compare 1 John 1:2, and also John 1:4), that fife which was essentially in the Father Himself, which was in the Person of the Son down here, the life that God gives us in Him (1 John 5:11, 12), and by Him, which we possess in Him; for He is our life (Col. 3:4; Gal. 2:20); which bears the impress of Christ, new position of man, according to the counsels of God. For us—first character of this life, for we were dead in our trespasses and sins, and under the power of death down here—Christ is, then, the resurrection and the life, a life which ought to manifest itself in us now, and which breathes, so to speak, by faith in Him (Gal. 2:20; 2 Cor. 4:10-18), and will be fully developed when we shall be with Him, and glorified (Rom. 6:22), but which subsists in the knowledge of the Father, the only true God, and of Jesus Christ whom He has sent. (John 17:2, 3; see 1 John 5:20.) It is the gift of God, but it is real and moral: we are born of water and of the Spirit. (John 3:5, 6.) Of His own will He hath begotten us by the word of truth (James 1:18). Thus it is that that which was in Christ reproduces itself in us, according to the word which is the expression of it. (1 John 2:5-8; ch. 1:1; 1 Peter 1:21-25.) This word nourishes the life (1 Peter 2:2), and thus we can say of this life, or rather the Lord says it: “Because I live, ye shall live also “(John 14:19). Here it is the life itself; but to complete the character of this life in the Christian, we must add, “the Spirit of life”: then that becomes “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:2); then, according to John 4, with heavenly objects before it, it is a source of living water springing up into everlasting life.

But if Christ is thus our life, then life in Him does not perish, nor fail in us: because He lives, we shall live also. Can He die, or can the divine life in us come to decay? Assuredly not. We shall not perish; the life of which we live is divine and eternal life. But the wolf is there that ravishes and scatters the sheep. The sheep would not be able to defend themselves from this ravenous wolf, but the Good Shepherd is there, the Son of God, and no one can pluck them out of His hand; there is no greater force that can do anything against Him who keeps us.

There is more: the sheep are the object of the common care of the Father and the Son. Precious thought! The Father, who gave them to the Son, is evidently greater than all other: who should pluck them out of His hands? And the Son, that Good Shepherd, who humbled Himself, to have them and to save them, and to keep them, is one with the Father. The Shepherd entered, doubtless, by the prescribed door, but He is God, one with Him who had prescribed it; He is the Son of the Father, one with the Father; such is the security of the sheep.

The Jews take up stones to stone Jesus. The Lord, calm in faithfulness to His Father, shews them that according to the language of their own scriptures they were wrong, but appeals, at the same time, to His works, as proof of the truth of His testimony, and that He was Son of God, and the Father in Him, and He in the Father. Then they seek to take Him, but He escapes from their hands, and goes away beyond Jordan, where many come to Him, and own that all that John the Baptist had said of Him was true.

Before going further, I think that it will be useful to recapitulate what we have gone through in detail, so as to give the whole together. Chapters 8 and 9 give us the side of the responsibility of the people, in that they reject the testimony of the word, and of the works of Jesus; chapter 9, in particular, presents to us the Jews driving out of the synagogue the man who had believed that Jesus was a prophet, after having learnt in his own person, by experience, the power of Jesus that had miraculously cured him; but there Jesus and those that believe were rejected, and put outside. Now in the tenth chapter it is the divine thought and operation that are presented to us. Christ, without doubt, enters in by the door, in obedience; but it is to accomplish the work and the will of God with regard to His own. The sheep belong to Him; He calls them by their name; He leads them out; He goes before them, and they follow Him: it is the true work of the Lord. No doubt the responsibility of the Jews in rejecting Him subsisted all the same, but did not frustrate the counsels of God: the Shepherd did not intend to leave the sheep in the fold. The Jews were guilty of the crucifixion of the Lord, but His death was according to the counsels and foreknowledge of the Saviour-God: it was the same here as to the Jews; they drove out this sheep, the man who was born blind, who had been healed; but in fact it was God who freed this man from the prison of the sheepfold, to place him under the care of the Good Shepherd (v. 2-4). After that, the Lord gives life, life abundantly, to His sheep, who enter by the door, by faith in Him—who enter into the enjoyment of heavenly things: they have a life which belongs to heaven; they are saved, free, fed in God’s pastures. Next, the Good Shepherd does not spare His own life, but lays it down for them, that they may enjoy salvation, and the privileges prepared by God; then it is a question of the value of the death of Jesus for the Father’s heart; also it is He Himself who gives His life, it is not taken from Him. Finally, in another discourse, the Lord presents to us the blessedness of the sheep, in all the fulness of grace and of security which is bestowed on them under His and the Father’s protection.

Chapter 11

Chapter 10 ends the historical part, properly so called, of John’s Gospel. The Lord had left Judea in chapter 4; but the history of His habitual ministry in Galilee is not recorded for us in this Gospel; the Lord, on the contrary, is with the Jews at Jerusalem, presenting to them the new things which are connected with His Person, His death, and His being glorified, in chapters 5 to 7. These communications are terminated by the rejection of His Person, of His testimony, and of His works, which closes the question of their responsibility. Then we have His actual work in Israel, and that which would follow, according to the counsels of God, and by His power in His Person, in chapter 10. Chapters 11 and 12 contain the testimony that God bears to Jesus, and that in every respect, when man rejects Him; then the Lord’s declaration, that death is necessary, that He may take His title of Son of man; chapter 13 looks at Him as going back to God again.

Chapter 11 presents Jesus as Son of God: the raising and giving of life to a dead man is the witness of it.

Lazarus, a member of a family beloved of Jesus, was sick. Jesus Himself, away from Jerusalem, had withdrawn to the side of Jordan. The sisters of Lazarus, one of whom, when He frequented the house, had remained sitting at His feet to hear Him, whilst the other was preoccupied with household service, and had complained that she was left alone, sent to tell the Lord that their brother was sick. Jesus answered: “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified thereby” (v. 4); after this, He remained two days in the place where He was; then He said to His disciples, “Let us go into Judea again.” The disciples raise the objection that the Jews, a little before, had sought to kill Him. The answer of the Lord reveals to us the principle which governed all His conduct. During these two days He had received no direction from His Father to go to Bethany, and, in spite of the affection He had for this family, of which He was reminded by the two sisters, He remains there where He was, without stirring. Then, His Father’s will being revealed to Him, He goes away without hesitation to the place of danger He had left. The light of day was on His path, the light of His Father’s will. There He always walked.

After this, Jesus said to His disciples, “Lazarus, our friend, is fallen asleep; but I go that I may awake him out of sleep” (v. n). Jesus spoke thus, because death took this character in His eyes, the power of resurrection and of life being in Him. The apostles apply His words literally to natural sleep, upon which He explains them to them. How many things passed in the heart of Jesus which did not come out! For His walk, the will of His Father was enough, and He had the discernment of that will. But His own death was before His eyes, the dominion of death over man, the power of life in Himself, the glory of God manifested in the exercise of this, the fact that He was the Son of God in whom the resurrection and the life had come, the ways of God that brought Him back there, where, in effect, death awaited Him, the affection of the family of the deceased man, which, real as it was, did not for a moment set aside His waiting upon the will of God, His isolation—for His disciples did not understand Him—all the immense consequences of this journey, where the dominion of death over man, the presence of the Resurrection and the Life, the subjection to death of Him who was both one and the other, and that for man—all this weighed upon the Saviour’s spirit, His spirit alone in the midst of the world! But for Him, I repeat, His Father’s will was sufficient to light His path; He needed but this. Invaluable teaching for us, and for our feeble hearts, but which have divine power with them in that path. One does not stumble there. The precious Saviour never failed in it, either in life or in death; He led a hidden life with His Father, a life which shewed itself in obedience and perfect love for Him, but which made up His life where hatred and death reigned, these, however, only leading Him to the end He was pursuing, namely, perfect obedience to, and the absolute glory of, His Father. Oh! may we be able to follow Him; and, if it be afar off, at least may it be Him that we follow while walking in His footsteps, in the inner life which looks to Him, and in obedience, and seeking what He wills!

“Let us go to him,” said Jesus (v. 15). He goes to meet death as a power that exercises its dominion over man; and to undergo it Himself, He who was the Resurrection and the Life, in view of our salvation, and for the glory of God. In His walk of obedience down here, the Father always hears Him, and He exercises thus divine power, even to raising a dead man; but He walks in this path of obedience to obey to the end, finding that He could not be heard until the cup, of which He had a holy fear, had been drunk; that cup that He was going to drink, in being abandoned of God in His soul, then heard, doubtless, and glorified, but after having experienced to the end what it was not to be heard.

But whatever may have been the Saviour’s thoughts and the pressure of circumstances upon His soul, they never overcame Him, nor hindered the exercise of the most perfect love. “I rejoice, on your account, that I was not there” (v. 15). If He was tried by seeming to be wanting in affection for these poor women, not only was He perfectly obeying His Father’s will, which is confirmed here, but, in the midst of the deep exercises of His heart, the power of life and all the weight of death meeting in His mind, He rejoiced at the profit that the disciples were about to have from it.

Another testimony of the grace of God is found here, in the fact that the devotedness of Thomas, who, later on, was wanting in faith, is recorded, so that we cannot doubt of his loyalty to Jesus. But let us follow this important history of the resurrection of Lazarus.

The fact of the death of Lazarus was clearly established, by the delay, that God’s wisdom had caused in the intervention of the Lord; Lazarus had been four days in the tomb. That which is but obedience to God’s will at the moment when it is a question of submitting to it, later on displays the wisdom of God. Jesus had healed many other persons; but here, close to Jerusalem, in the sight of the Jews, the power of life, divine power in Jesus was manifested at the moment when He was about to die, and that in a very striking manner. It was a power unknown to all, although He who exercised it, and who was it, had already restored life to the dead. Jesus, then, being come, found that Lazarus had already been four days in the tomb (v. 17). Bethany being near to Jerusalem, many Jews had gone there, to testify their sympathy with the dead man’s sisters, and to comfort them; a crowd of witnesses were thus brought upon the spot, to verify the Lord’s wonderful work, to spread the report of it in the holy city, and establish the authenticity of it without possible contradiction, and thus bring on the crisis, which was soon to have a solemn result in the death of the Saviour, according to the counsels and determinate purpose of God.

The news of the arrival of Jesus reached Bethany, and Martha heard of it, and arose immediately and went to meet the Lord (v. 19, 20). Martha’s heart was governed by circumstances, and the tardy arrival of the Lord sets her at once in action. What would Jesus say? What would He do? There was with Martha confidence in Him, but nothing was weighed. Mary was more serious; she was accustomed to sit at the feet of Jesus, to listen to the divine testimony that issued from His mouth; there was, perhaps, more perplexity in her heart as to why the Lord had not come earlier, but with more reverence for His Person, she was more influenced by the sense of His divine character; she remains quietly in the house waiting until God ordered for her that she should be found with Jesus; her heart full, ready to burst forth, still counted upon Jesus and relied on Him, cast down I have no doubt, but knowing that there was in the Lord a heart more deep, more full of love than her own. Martha, having come to Jesus, is quite ready with a word; she recognises Him truly as Lord, she believes in Him truly, but with a faith that knows little what He is. “Lord, if thou hadst been here,” she says, “my brother would not have died,” but still she knew that as Messiah, what Jesus asked of God, God would give Him. It is not here a question of the Father, of the Son who had life in Himself; but Martha had known too well what Jesus had done to suppose that God would not hear Him. All this passage is interesting, for it shews us a soul that believed in Jesus, a soul that loved Him, but a faith—one sees many thus—where all was vague, a faith that recognised in Jesus a Mediator, whom God would hear, but that knew nothing of His Person as come into this world, nor of the quickening power which was found in the Son of God, come into the midst of the scene where death reigned. The Lord’s answer raises this question and gives room for the public testimony of God on this subject. “Thy brother shall rise again,” said Jesus. Martha, an orthodox Pharisee, answers, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day”; she might have said as much of the greatest enemies of Christ. These will certainly rise again, the power of God will effect it. Martha’s answer did not say more of it, did not say one word of what the Saviour was. Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life” (v. 25). As in the whole Gospel, we have here what Jesus is as light and life, in His Person, as come into the world, in contrast with all the promises made to the Jews, even though they had been justly appreciated. They were scarcely so here, they were at least in a very vague manner.

The Lord speaks here (v. 25, 26) as already present to accomplish the great result of His power, still hidden in His Person, but of which He was going to give the proof in the resurrection of Lazarus. When He shall exercise this power, he that believeth42 in Him, even though he be dead, shall live; and whosoever liveth, and believeth in Him, shall never die. Power is in His Person; the present proof of it was found in the resurrection of Lazarus; the accomplishment of it will be when He shall come back to exercise this power in its fulness. In the meantime the thing is realised according to the place that Christ has taken; He raised up Lazarus for life in this world where He was. Now that He is absent, the soul that is quickened by His power goes to Him where He is; when He comes back, He will raise the believing dead in glory; believers who are alive will not die. Evidently we find in this the power of life that is in the Person of the Saviour, in contrast with Martha’s vague thought, so common among Christians, too, that God will raise up all men at the end of time. The words of the Lord apply only to believers.

Note, that the resurrection here precedes life, for death was before the eyes of Jesus, and weighed upon all hearts. But also Jesus had the power of life to raise from the dead, when death had already exercised its power, and this is what was needed for man over whom death reigned.

The Lord puts the question formally to Martha: “Believest thou this?” Indeed this was the great crucial question, for death reigned over man, and Christ Himself was about to undergo it. Was there anything more powerful in the world, on the part of God? Martha had not been sitting at the feet of Jesus; she does not know how to answer, nor Mary herself: Martha’s precipitation, however, had served to bring to light the question which she knew not how to answer, and the state of ignorance in which all hearts were. But the glorious Person of Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life, was there. Martha, feeling that the Lord went beyond her spiritual intelligence, makes a correct confession of faith, according to Psalm 2, but altogether general; and feeling that Mary knew the Lord’s mind better, she goes to call her, saying, “The Master calleth for thee”; which, though not formally true, expressed that which she felt morally, that which the Saviour’s question implied; for the “Believest thou this?” was addressed, she felt, not so much to her, as to Mary.

Mary rises at once, and goes to Jesus. Her heart was, the needs of her heart were, there already; her respect for the Lord, and the perplexity of her soul, agitated by the power of death, had kept her in the house until then: but that shewed that death weighed upon Mary’s soul also; all was subjected to it. Jesus could heal; but death ruled over the living as well as over the deceased. Mary, with a subject heart, though exercised and perplexed, for the Deliverer in whom she trusted had not arrested the evil, comes near to Jesus. Attached to the Lord, who possessed her heart’s confidence, a confidence which Martha’s words had revived, but having still the weight of death upon her soul, Mary falls down before Him as soon as she sees Him, for her devotedness was connected with deep reverence for the Person of Jesus, a reverence engendered by His word. But Mary, too, was under the weight of death; in that respect she did not go beyond Martha, but sure of the goodness of jesus, as indeed Martha also had been, she said, “If thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” Death was between her hope and Jesus, since Jesus had not been between Lazarus and death. Death, for her, had shut the door to all hope; Lazarus was no more in the land of the living, there was no longer any one to be healed.

The Jews, seeing that Mary had got up and gone out, followed her, thinking that she was going to the grave to weep there; they but thus add their voice to the testimony rendered to the power of death over the body and the soul, “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?” (v. 37). Jesus feels it; He groans and is deeply moved43 in His spirit, but the love which animates Him and the testimony which He had come to render to the truth, press Him on towards the grave where the body of Lazarus lies. He asks, “Where have ye laid him? “They conduct Him to the sepulchre. There Jesus relieves Himself by tears, which are the witness to His estate as man, and to His sympathy for men and as a man, but also the expression of a heart moved by divine love. It was not however the loss of Lazarus, nor His love for the dead man’s sisters that was the cause of those tears, for Jesus was going at that very moment to raise Lazarus. In thinking of the latter, that which He was going to do would have made joy spring up in His heart. No, these tears of the Saviour were profound sympathy for the human race crushed under the weight of death, from which it could not raise itself, as also for these tried souls. The Jews thought that the tears of Jesus had their source in His affection for Lazarus: “See how he loved him!” they say. This was very natural, but that which He was about to do forbids us to entertain the like thought. The remark, already quoted, of some amongst them (v. 37) only renews the groans of Jesus, in recalling the thought of the subjection of men, not only to death, but to the dominion of death over their spirits.

This is what caused the Saviour’s tears to flow. Poor Martha cannot conceal her unbelief, that is to say, the influence that external circumstances exercised over her soul. Lazarus had been in the grave four days already! Corruption must have already begun, she says. God permits that there should not be the slightest doubt, and that the proof of the reality of Lazarus’s death should be given; but the glory of God did not depend on the facility of the work, it shewed itself in its impossibility. Then they took away the stone which closed the sepulchre where the dead body of Lazarus lay.

Jesus here, as always in this Gospel, attributes the work to the Father’s will, and accomplishes the work as heard by Him: His hearing Him being the proof that the Father had sent Him, and bearing witness to it. This is the position that Jesus places Himself in; He does not leave the character of Servant that He had taken; He could do, and did, all that His Father did: but it was as sent of Him to accomplish it, as having made Himself a Servant, whilst being one with the Father. He never glorifies Himself, nor departs from this dependence on His Father, in His course down here. He would have failed in His perfection in doing so; He could not. Also, His mission from heaven, on the part of God, was the chief point for the multitude.

Then with the powerful voice that raises the dead, the voice of the Son of God, He cries, “Lazarus, come forth!” (v. 43) and the dead man came forth, bound with the sheet in which he had been buried, and with his face bound about with a napkin. Jesus commanded those standing by to loose him and let him go.

The effect of this miracle was, that many of the Jews believed in Him; but others, hardened by their prejudices, went away to the Pharisees, and told them what Jesus had done. Israel was laid under the necessity of believing or of shewing an incurable hatred against God, and against His will: for, let us remember it, almost under the walls of Jerusalem, and known of all, the God of light and truth shewed Himself as the resurrection and the life, and raised from amongst the dead a man whose body was going to corruption. At the powerful word of Him who, nevertheless, owned His being sent from the Father, the dead man buried already four days, comes out alive from the tomb. The power of God entered, even as to the body, into the domain of death, from whose dominion no human being could free himself, that no living being could avoid, that all were condemned to undergo by the power of Satan and by the judgment of God. Here was a Man, who, insisting that He was sent of the Father in grace, calls a dead man from the tomb with authority, and in fact quickens him and raises him. The Son of God was there, overturning the power of Satan, destroying the dominion of death, and setting man free from the state to which he had been subjected by sin: He was there the Son of God, the Resurrection and the Life, presented to man, declared Son of God with power. Would man receive Him?

The news of the wonderful event of the resurrection of Lazarus having reached the ears of the Pharisees, they gathered together to take counsel as to what was to be done. Avowed adversaries of Christ, whatever might happen, only thinking of their national importance, their consciences and hearts remaining alike insensible, they were afraid that the manifestation of such power would awaken the jealousy of the Romans; their hatred against the divine light being greater, however, and having more effect on them than the fear of the Romans, for when occasion arose it did not cost them much to excite disturbances and rebellions. Caiaphas, for the counsels of God are about to be accomplished, declares that it is better that one man should die for the nation, than that it should entirely perish. “Ye know nothing, nor consider that it is profitable for us that one man die for the nation, and that the whole nation perish not” (v. 50). God put these words in his mouth; the evangelist adding that Jesus was going to die, not for the nation only, but that He should gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad. Enmity against the light come and manifested in grace, and against divine power, which did not now seek to shelter itself, but accomplished the will of God—absolute enmity against the Son of God, in whom these things were realised, and who was manifested by these things—was indeed determined on, and without scruple. From that day, therefore, they consulted together that they might put Him to death (v. 53). It was a diabolical will to put to death Him in whom was life, and in whom God Himself had visited this poor world in grace—a will without any scruple whatever, for they wanted to put Lazarus also to death, a witness too irrefragable of the power that had raised him. Nothing is more frightful, but it is man laid bare.

Jesus therefore walked no longer openly among the Jews; He went away until His hour should be come. They asked each other if He would come to the feast, for the passover of the Jews was near; and the chief priests and the Pharisees had given commandment that if anyone knew where Jesus was, they should make it known, that they might take Him.

What a testimony we have here to the entrance of the power of life into this world of death, of its entrance in grace, and victorious over death, however real this might be! Let us remember that resurrection comes first, for in reality we are all dead. Yet another thing was needed, the death of Him who possessed this life; for we are sinners, and the mind of the flesh in all is enmity against God: redemption was needed as life was needed where death reigned, and reigned through sin. (Compare 1 John 4:9, 10.) But we possess the testimony of divine power come into the domain of death—how God glorifies Himself—and the Son of God revealed as the one in whom that life is for us; we see, too, who He is who was going to give Himself for us on the cross.

Chapter 12

But the solemn hour of the Lord’s death was approaching, and six days before the Passover of which He was to be the real Lamb, Jesus comes back to Bethany (chap. 12:1), and what a wonderful scene unfolds itself there! Seated at the same table, there was Lazarus risen, come back from hades, and He who had brought him back, the Son of God. Martha, according to her ordinary practice, is occupied with service; Mary, completing the moral picture, is occupied with Jesus. Mary had tasted the word of the Lord: that word, full of love and of light, had penetrated her heart. Jesus had given her back her beloved brother. She saw the hatred of the Jews rise against Him whom she loved, and who had introduced into her heart the feeling of divine love; in proportion as the hatred rose, her affection for the Saviour rose too, and gave it courage to shew itself. It was the instinct of affection which felt that death was casting its shadow over Him who was the life, as Jesus felt it also;—the only case in which Jesus found sympathy on earth. The Lord gives to Mary’s act, instinctive fruit of affection and of devotedness, a voice that came from His divine intelligence: what she had done she had done for His burial. He knew that He was going away; Mary had spent all for Him; Jesus was worthy of it, for her heart. As I have said, her affection rose in the measure in which the hatred of the Jews increased. The shadow of His approaching rejection reached her already. Indeed, everything was centred, everything assumed its form, in Him and around Him; in Him, the power of life, and devotedness unto death; in Mary, affection which made of Jesus everything for her heart; in Judas, the spirit of lying and of treachery; in the Jews, hatred against that which was divine, even to wishing to put Lazarus himself to death— inconceivable malice and hardness that would not have the light! On the occasion of the remark of Judas, the Lord expresses the consciousness He had of His approaching departure from this world, but with striking patience and gentleness.

This brief history contained in the first verses of this chapter, has a special character, introduced, as it is, in the midst of the testimony that God caused to be borne to the personal glory of His Son, at the moment of His rejection. But, at this very moment, and in the midst of the increasing hatred of the heads of the nation, this little flock gathers together, a witness to the divine power of which one amongst them had been the object, a power which led many of the Jews to believe in Jesus (v. u). Jesus must go away, He must die; but before He dies, there are men who are witnesses of the quickening power of the Son of God, and see in it the glory of God, witnesses of what He was already, of what He was in His Person. The verses which follow shew what He was going to be in His position—that which belonged to Him, but which He did not appropriate to Himself, and which, in one way, He could not so appropriate before He died.

The first two titles to which testimony is borne here, belonged to the Lord while He was alive, but the first was connected with His Person, was inherent in Him; He was Son of God, He was the Resurrection and the Life, so that the little assembly that surrounded Him, was gathered about Him on a principle with which eternal life was connected, and upon which the Christian position (not yet developed nor known, it is true, either as a principle or as a fact) was founded by anticipation—Christ, Son of God, Resurrection and Life, going away to the Father, by the way of the shadow of death, and His rejection down here. In fine, the three characters of Christ, of which the two first are found in the second Psalm, and are recognised by Nathanael at the beginning of our Gospel, and of which the third, contained in Psalm 8, is reproduced in the answer of the Saviour to Nathanael, are found again here; only there is this difference with Psalm 2, that the first of these names is presented here not only as by right of birth in this world, but as the exercise of divine power that raises and quickens. As to the two others, we are about to pursue the manifestation of them as it is given us in our chapter.

Before going further, I wish to draw attention once more to this solemn bringing together of the power of death over man’s heart, over the first Adam, and the power of divine life in the Son of God, present in a man in the very heart of the dominion of death, destroying this dominion, and He who possessed it in His Person, giving Himself up to death, in order to deliver from it those that were subject to it. That Jesus had this in view is apparent. (See chap. 10:31, 40; ch. 11:16, 53, 54; ch. 12:7.) He had it on His spirit when He came back to Jerusalem, and when He spoke with Martha and Mary; He must Himself undergo death for us.

The next day (ver. 12, etc.) the people, having learned that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, struck by this great miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus, go forth to meet Him with branches of palm-trees, and salute Him as the King of Israel that cometh in the name of Jehovah, according to Psalm 118. It is the second character in which God would have Jesus recognised, notwithstanding His rejection. The resurrection of Lazarus had shewn Him as Son of God; now He is owned Son of David. Here the event is in direct connection with the resurrection of Lazarus, and the title of Son of God; in Luke, and even in Matthew and Mark, this circumstance is connected rather with the title of Lord, and we find there the details of the manner in which Jesus found the ass’s colt. In these three Gospels too, although this difference is less striking in Matthew, the disciples are put forward, whilst here it is more the people, moved by the noise which the resurrection of Lazarus had caused. It is the prophecy of Zechariah, but leaving out that which, in the prophet, refers to the deliverance of Israel. John and Matthew mention it, for it was only after that Jesus was glorified, that the disciples could connect the prophecy with that which they had themselves done to honour Him, and to cause Him to enter in triumph into Jerusalem, Jesus, however, having given the order about the ass’s colt.

Such are, beside the divine power that quickens, the two titles that belonged to Jesus, as the Christ manifested upon earth, the titles of Psalm 2.

After this the Greeks, from amongst those who had gone up to worship during the feast, arrive and desire to see Jesus. They come to Philip, who tells Andrew, and then Andrew and Philip tell Jesus. Although coming to worship at Jerusalem, they were strangers to the covenants of*promise; an entirely new order of things was needed to introduce them into it. They had no right to the promises; Jesus must die to lay the foundation for this new order of things. Jesus is here, not the promised Messiah, but the second Man, head of all things that God had created, that He had Himself created: but He must receive them by redemption, and especially His co-heirs. “Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it remains alone; but if it die, it bears much fruit” (v. 24). He must redeem the co-heirs in order to have them with Himself. If He were King of Israel and Son of God according to Psalm 2, He was, as Son of man, Lord of the whole creation; only He must die that His co-heirs should have part in the inheritance that He had acquired. “The hour is come,” said He, “that the Son of man should be glorified” (v. 23).

It is well to remember the testimonies that the Old and New Testament furnish on the bearing of this title of Son of Man. The Psalms and Daniel speak of it. We find it in Psalm 80:17, where the point is, the blessing of the Jews, when they will return to Jehovah; in Psalm 8, after having been rejected in Psalm 2 as Son of God and King of Israel, the Son of man appears as Lord of all; it is still here, when the name of Jehovah, the God of the Jews, is “excellent in all the earth,” but His glory exalted also above the heavens, that Man, at the same time the Son of man, is set over all the works of God. This Psalm 8 is quoted by the Lord to justify the cries of the children when He entered into Jerusalem (v. 2); and by the apostle Paul (Eph. 1:21, 22; 1 Cor. 15:27), in view of Christ’s position as Head over all after His resurrection; and in Hebrews 2, to shew His glory in this position above angels (chap. 1 of this epistle having presented this position as a consequence of His divinity), but when this human supremacy had not yet taken place, although He was crowned with glory and honour. These three passages develop clearly the position of Jesus as Son of man; one other (Dan. 7:13, 14) completes the picture of the place of the Son of man in the government of God. In this passage the Son of man is brought to the Ancient of Days in order to take up the government, not of the Jews only, but of all kingdoms, exercising from on high, from heaven, the universal dominion of which He holds the reins, by it replacing all the powers that have held a more or less universal sway after that the throne of God had left Jerusalem on the Babylonish captivity.

Now to take this position of dominion not only over Israel and over the nations, but over all the works of God, over all that He Himself had created, Jesus must die, not to have right to everything, but to possess on the ground of redemption, all things reconciled to God, and then to have co-heirs, according to the counsels of God, He being the Firstborn among many brethren. This death is the first thought that comes to the mind of the Lord when the arrival of the Greeks brings forward His dignity as Son of man. Death and the curse were man’s inheritance; Jesus must undergo them, to raise man from the state in which he was found, and to place him in the lordship which had been destined for him according to the counsels of God. He was the second Man, the last Adam; but sin having entered into the world, He must redeem the co-heirs, purify them, that they might have a place with Him; He must take away all right from the enemy, so as to deprive him later on of his power over the heritage that he had acquired by man’s sin, and even by the judgment of God, and to reconcile all things to God having made peace by the blood of the cross. In this path of death, for it was indeed the death of the cross, if any one serve Him, he must follow Him. Whosoever loves his life shall lose it, and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. Solemn word! But we have already seen that His rejection must, according to Psalm 2, be associated with His character of Messiah and Son of God: He should be no more of this world. His position as Son of man, Head over all things, only comes afterwards in Psalm 8. From the tenth chapter, we find ourselves historically in the shadow of His death, which made thus an absolute breach between Him and the world, and was also death in all its terror as the judgment of God. He has borne the judgment in our place; but it was there the judgment of a world that should see Him no more. The friendship of the world henceforth would be enmity against God; it had been always so in reality, but now the fact was publicly manifested; it is the rejected Lord who is the Saviour. It is He whom man has crucified, that God has raised to His right hand. He had fully revealed the Father, and they had seen and hated both Him and the Father, as He says (chap. 15:24), and in appealing to the judgment of God, “Righteous Father, the world hath not known thee.” To be a Saviour, He had to be lifted up from the earth; the Son of man had to suffer and die; a living Christ was for the Jews. The shadow of death only grew thicker up to Gethsemane, where its deepest shades enveloped the soul of Jesus, and where He took in His hand the cup which contained that which had thrown its shadow on His soul all along the way, but which now penetrated it with its most profound darkness. One only thing remained to Him up to the cross, and even in the sufferings of perfect obedience— communion with His Father; at the cross, obedience was accomplished, and the communion was lost, to make His obedience and His perfection shine the more. It was man’s hour and the power of darkness which only drove Him on towards the judgment of God, more terrible than the subordinate instruments that darkened the path of obedience and of sufferings, in which He perfectly glorified God, there where He has been made sin for us, and has blotted out our sins for ever.

The Lord speaks in an abstract way, as of a rule or principle, the ground of which He Himself was going to lay for all; only He was giving Himself that others might have eternal life; and He could have delivered Himself, or have obtained twelve legions of angels; but then, how would the scriptures have been fulfilled? The thing could not be; He had not come to deliver Himself. He would have remained in heaven, and have left us exposed to God’s righteous judgment; but that could not be either: His love did not allow Him to do this. He had also too much at heart the accomplishment of the counsels of God, and the glory of God His Father, which should thus be made evident in a remarkable and perfect manner. The Saviour’s rejection on the part of the world has been the rejection of the world on the part of God. The last effort to find or arouse good in man’s heart had been made, and they had “seen and hated both me and my Father.” God could save out of this world, in grace; but the world was lost, it was in a state of enmity against God. He therefore who attaches himself to this world, who seeks his life in it, or who keeps it as a life to which he clings, in contrast with the rejected Christ, loses it. We are not always called upon to sacrifice our lives outwardly, although this might take place, and has often happened; but morally this applies always: he who loves his life, who cleaves to it as if it belonged to this world, loses it. It is a life of vanity, alienated from God as the world itself to which it attaches itself, a life which ends only in death; for here Jesus does not speak of judgment.

The Lord adds, to that which precedes, a most important principle of conduct: “If any man serve me, let him follow me” (v. 26). It will be in principle, through death, that we must follow Him—death to sin and to the world; but the consequence of such a path is simple; where the Saviour is, there shall His servant be. Such an one follows Him through death into the heavenly glory where He has entered, and “If any man serve me, him will my Father honour.”

But the heart of the Lord, if He exhorted others to take the narrow road in which one was to deny oneself, and the world that was enmity against God, whilst losing a life identified with the world which rejected the light when it had come into it in grace—His heart, I say, realised what was before Himself, for He was going to meet death, death armed with its sting— the judgment of God against sin, and the power of Satan—but a death in which we find all the more the perfection of Jesus. “Now,” He says, “is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour; but for this cause came I unto this hour”; it was for this that I came into the world. Then the Saviour goes back to the true motive of everything, a motive always present to His heart: “Father, glorify thy name!” Cost what it might, this was what He desired always. There was no delay in the answer of the Father: “I have both glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” I have no doubt that this “I will glorify it again” was to be accomplished in resurrection. The Father had glorified His name in the resurrection of Lazarus, a resurrection in this world; He was going to do it again in Christ Himself, in a better resurrection, a true answer to death, where the sovereign power of God in grace, and towards Christ in righteousness, has been manifested; a new state in which man had never been, but which was, according to God’s counsels, the expression of what He is in Himself, and perfect blessing for man: “Christ (says the apostle) was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father.” The multitude did not know what to think of this voice that it had heard; they said it was a clap of thunder; others, that an angel had spoken to Him. Jesus answers: “This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes”; the Father’s voice was in His heart; for the people, it was necessary to have that which was sensible; grace gave it to them. But the Lord explains this solemn sign, by that which was in His heart, and that He knew to be taking place at that moment: “Now is the judgment of this world.” Then, indeed, took place the judgment of the world, which is condemned absolutely and finally in rejecting the Lord; but in this also is accomplished the work that has broken for ever the power of Satan, prince of this world; and, on the other hand, a Saviour has been manifested, point of attraction for all men, instead and in place of a Messiah of the Jews, for these things He said to signify by what death He should die. The multitude (ver. 34) oppose to Him that which was written of the Messiah, and ask: “How sayest thou that the Son of man must be lifted up [from the earth]? Who is this Son of man?” The Lord answers by warning them that the moment was approaching when the light, He Himself, would be put out for them, and when they would lose it for ever: they would walk in darkness, not knowing whither they went; for them, wisdom was to believe in the light before it went away, that they might be sons of light; then He went away.

Remark also here, a very important expression. The Lord says, “And I, if I be lifted up out of the earth, will draw all men unto me” (v. 32). He is no longer at all of this world, nor in heaven either. It is a Saviour rejected, suffering, dying, who has left the world for ever, a Saviour ignominiously rejected, driven away, cast out by the world; it is He who, being no longer on the earth, nor in heaven either, I repeat, exposed to the gaze of men, lifted up from the earth and not yet in heaven, but alone between the one and the other with God, like the altar that was neither in the camp nor in the tabernacle—it is He who is the attractive refuge of those who would flee from the world that has rejected Him to enter heaven, to which He thus opens the way for us.

The rest of the chapter is a summing up of the position. In the first part, it is the evangelist who records the obstinate incredulity of the people, and the sad motives that governed their minds, preoccupied with the approbation of men, rather than looking to God. In the second part, Jesus Himself shews two things; first of all, that in rejecting Him thus, those that did it, rejected the light itself, come into the world, that those who believed on God should not remain in darkness; then, that in rejecting Him, they rejected the Father, for what He said were the Father’s words. Thus He did not judge him that heard His word, but did not keep it, for He was not come to judge the world, but to save it; His words would judge them at the last day. Now, that which He said was the Father’s commandment, and this commandment (He knew it, He had faith in it, the certain consciousness in Himself) was eternal life. All that He said then, He “spoke” it, as the Father had spoken to Him.

This summing up of the rejection of Him of whom the prophets had spoken, of the light, and of the words of the Father, closes the history, properly so called, of the Saviour’s life. That which follows refers to His departure, to the gift of the Holy Ghost, as well as to the ministry of those whom He left down here as witnesses in His place. But before entering into this new portion of our Gospel, I would remind you that the 41st verse, quoting Isaiah 6, and applying it to Christ, shews that Jesus was the Jehovah of the Old Testament. I would point out too, how the fear of man and the pursuit of his approbation, obscures the testimony of God in the heart, and stifles the conscience. If the eye be single, the whole body is full of light.

Chapter 13

In chapter 13 the instructions begin that relate to a heavenly Saviour. Although He was upon earth, He was the Light come from heaven, the eternal life that was from heaven; but, rejected upon earth, He now takes His place in heaven—not God manifested in human humiliation down here, but Man glorified in the glory of God above; and He exhibits and develops what He is for us in this position, before entering into it.

From this thirteenth chapter, then, the Saviour presents Himself as having finished His testimony upon earth, and going to the Father. This leads Him to speak of His position and of His service on high in heaven, of the position of the disciples, and of the other Comforter, that He—and the Father in His name—would send from on high. He was seated at supper with His disciples, their friend and companion at table down here, one of them, whatever might be His glory, and their servant in grace. But He must leave them and go to His Father; solemn moment for them: what would become of them, and what would be their relationship with Him? Their thoughts hardly went further than this with regard to Him; they thought that they had found the Messiah who was going to set up the kingdom of God in Israel, although the Holy Ghost had attached them to His Person by a divine power. They knew that He was the Son of the living God, He who had the words of eternal life. But He was going to leave them: He had been among them as one who serves; must His service of love come to an end? The Father had given all things into His hands, He knew it; He was come from God, and was going to God; could the link of His service of love with His own continue? If it should, it was necessary that they should be fit for the presence of God Himself, and for association with the One to whom all things were committed.

Now Jesus had loved His own that were in the world: it is the precious source of all His relations with us, and He does not change. He had loved His own, He loved them to the end; His heart did not give them up, but He knew that He must leave them. Would He cease to be their servant in love? No, He would be it for ever. Everything was ready for His departure, even the heart of Judas. But neither the iniquitous treachery of Judas below, nor the glory into which He was about to enter above, separated His heart from His disciples. He ceases to be their companion; He remains their Servant; it is what we read in Exodus 21:2-6.

Jesus rises from supper and lays aside His garments; He takes a napkin and girds Himself with it: then, pouring water into a basin, He begins to wash the feet of the disciples, and to wipe them with the napkin with which He was girded. He is ever a Servant, and does the service of a slave. Wonderful truth and infinite grace, that the Son of the Most High, humbling Himself even to us, is pleased in His love to make us fit to enjoy the presence and the glory of God. He took the place of a Servant to accomplish this work of love, and His love never gives it up. (See in the glory, Luke 12:37.) He is a Servant for ever, for love delights to serve.

Peter, who in giving way to his own feelings, though very natural, gives occasion so often to the words of the Lord that reveal to us the thoughts of God, objects strongly to the Lord’s washing his feet. The answer of Jesus discloses the spiritual meaning of what He was doing, a meaning which Peter could not then understand, but which he should understand later on, for the Holy Ghost would make them understand all these things. One must be washed by the Lord in order to have part with Him: this is the key of all that was being done. Jesus could no longer have part with His disciples down here, and the disciples could not have part with Him, and before God Himself, to whom He was going, unless He washed them. There must be a cleanness such as could suit the presence and the house of God. Then, with his ardent spirit, Peter desires that the Lord should wash his hands and head, and Jesus explains to him the import of what He was doing.

We must remember that here it is a question of water, not of blood, however necessary the blood of the Saviour be. It is a question of purity, not of expiation. Note, in the next place, that the scripture uses two words here which must not be confounded; one means to wash the whole body, to bathe; the other to wash the hands, the feet, or anything small. The water itself, employed here or elsewhere as a figure, signifies purification by the word, applied according to the power of the Spirit. One is born “of water”;—then the whole body is washed: there is a purification of the thoughts and actions by means of an object which forms and governs the heart. These are the divine thoughts in Christ, the life and character of the new man, the reception of Christ by the word. Christ had the words of eternal life: this was expressed and communicated in His words, where grace acted, for they were spirit and life. The disciples had received these words, except the one who should betray Him; but although they were thus washed, converted, purified in reality, by the Lord’s words, yet they were going to walk in a defiled world, where they could indeed defile their feet. Now this defilement does not suit God’s house, and the love of the Lord does what is needed that the remedy should be soon applied, if they contracted defilement which shut them out. Ready to do everything that they might be blessed, Jesus washes their feet. This action was the service of a slave in those countries, where it was the first and constant expression of hospitality, and of the attentive care it claimed. (See Gen. 18:4; Luke 7:44.)

With this washing of the feet is connected the truth that conversion is not repeated. Once the word has been applied by the power of the Holy Ghost, this work is done, and it can never be undone, any more than the sprinkling of blood can be repeated or renewed. But if I sin, I defile my feet; my communion with God is interrupted. Then the Saviour occupies Himself with me, in His love.

It will be well to notice here the difference that there is between the Priest and the Advocate. In practice the difference is important. Both offices have to do with intercession; but the Advocate is for sins that have been committed; the Priest is there that we may not sin, and that goodness may be in exercise in respect of our weakness; I speak of the Priesthood in heaven. Upon the cross Jesus was Priest and Victim (the goat Hazazel); but there the priest represented all the people, confessing their sins on the goat’s head. This was indeed the work of the priest, but not properly a priestly act; and, as I have just said, the priest acted there as the representative of all the people, these latter being looked upon as guilty. This work is accomplished by the offering of the body of Jesus Christ, made once for all: by His one offering He has perfected for ever those that are sanctified, so that we have no more conscience of sins. But Christ intercedes for us, in order that we may obtain mercy, and that we may find grace in time of need; so that, in our weakness, we may be the objects of the care of God’s goodness, and that we may not sin. The Advocate intercedes, when we have sinned, to re-establish the interrupted communion, for it is a question of communion in 1 John 1. Righteousness and propitiation remain always perfect, and form the basis of that which is done for us when we have failed; 1 John 2:1, 2. The effect of this grace in Christ is, that the Spirit applies the word (the water in figure), humbles us in convincing us of sin, and brings us near to God. The red heifer (Numbers 19) is a very instructive development of this renewing of communion. Notice here, that the Advocate does His work in order that we may be cleansed, not when we have been: also, we do not go to Him that He may do it; it is He who takes the initiative in grace, as He did for Peter, that His disciple’s faith might not fail, when He should be obliged to leave him to himself for a moment, that he should make experience of his weakness.

The washing of the feet is therefore a service with which Christ is now occupied for us. When by our negligence (for there never is a necessity that we should do it) we have defiled our feet, and we have made ourselves unfit to enter spiritually into the presence of God, Christ purifies us by the word, so that communion may be re-established between our souls and God. It is a question of our walk down here essentially. When the priest amongst the Jews was consecrated, his body was washed, then he washed his feet and hands at the time of the accomplishment of each service. Here it is only the feet that had to be washed; it is no longer a service of work that is in question, but our walk down here.

The Lord gives what He had just been doing as an example of humility; but the spiritual intelligence of what He had done would only come when the Holy Ghost had been given. Still, we are called, in this sense also, to wash one another’s feet, to apply the word in grace to the conscience of a brother who needs it, and in the humility, of which Christ has given the example. But the teaching refers to what Christ is doing for us on high, remaining ever our Servant in grace.

The Lord, in speaking here to His disciples, makes an exception of Judas, for He knew that Judas should betray Him, and He warns the disciples of it, that it might not be a stumbling-block. Still, in receiving one sent of the Lord, as sent of Him, they received Him; and in receiving Him, they received the Father Himself that sent Him. But although the Lord knew who should betray Him, the feeling that it was one of His own companions grieved Him; He even opens His heart before them: “One of you shall betray me.” (v. 21). Sure at least of the truth of His words, of the certainty of them, they look at one another with the sincerity of innocence. Now John was near the Lord; Peter, always ardent, wishes to know who it is, and makes a sign to John to ask Jesus, for he was not himself near enough to Him to ask the question. Peter loved the Lord, a sincere faith attached him to Him, but he lacked that concentration of spirit that would have kept him near the Lord, as Mary, the sister of Martha, was kept there. John had not placed himself near Jesus to receive this communication; he received it because, according to the habit of his heart, he kept near Him, glorying in the title, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Thus John was there where he could receive the Lord’s communication. This is our secret, too, in order to have the intimate communications of the Lord. Blessed place, where the heart enjoys the affections of the Saviour, and where He communicates to us what His heart contains for those whom He loves.

But nearness to Jesus, without faith in Him, if the heart overcomes the influence of His presence, hardens in a terrible manner; the morsel which shewed that one was eating of the same dish, the morsel which Judas received, dipped by His hand, is but the sign of Satan’s entering into his heart. Satan enters into this heart to harden it, even against every amiable sentiment of nature, against every remembrance of that which could act upon the conscience. There are many unconverted persons, who would not betray an intimate companion by covering him with kisses; many wicked people that would have remembered the miracles they had seen—perhaps done themselves. Covetousness had been there, it had never been repressed; then Satan suggests to Judas the means of satisfying it. For myself I have no doubt that Iscariot thought that the Lord would escape out of the hands of men, as He had done, when His hour was not yet come: his remorse, when he knew that Jesus was condemned, makes me think it—a remorse which only found other hearts as hard as his own, and indifferent to his misery; an appalling picture of man’s heart under the influence of Satan. Then, almost the final phase of this influence, Satan hardens Judas against all feeling of humanity, and of man towards the man of his acquaintance, and finishes all by abandoning him, giving him up to despair in the presence of God.

Morally all was over when Judas had taken the morsel that had been dipped: and Jesus charges him to do quickly that which he was doing. The disciples did not know why the Lord said this; they thought of the feast, or of the use which might be made of what was in the purse; but in the heart of the Lord, all the import of this solemn moment is realised. As soon as Judas had gone out, He declares it: “Now is the Son of man glorified.” It is no longer affection, wounded by the treachery of one of His own, that expresses itself in the anguish of His heart; His soul rises, when the fact is there, to the height of the thoughts of God in this solemn event, which stands alone in the history of eternity, and on which all blessing depends, from the beginning, to the new heavens and the new earth. It rises even above the blessings, to the nature of God, and to the relations of God and of Christ, founded on His glorious work. This passage is thus of great importance; the cross makes the glory of the Son of man. He will appear in glory, the Father will subject all things to Him; but it is not this glory that is here in view; it is the Saviour’s moral and personal glory. He who is man, who (although in a miraculous way, so that He was without sin) was, on His mother’s side, of the nature of Adam, has been in suffering, the means of establishing and bringing to light all that is found in God, His glory. God is righteous, holy, and hates sin; God is love: it is impossible to reconcile these characters in any other way, than by the cross. There, where the righteous judgment of God is in exercise against sin, infinite love is manifested towards the sinner. Without the cross, it is impossible to reconcile these two things, impossible to manifest God such as He is: in it, holiness, righteousness, love, are manifested as a whole; then obedience and love towards the Father were accomplished in man, in circumstances that put them to the test in an absolute manner. Nothing was wanting in this test, either on the part of man, of Satan, or of God Himself. It is in Christ, made sin, that obedience has been perfect; it is in Him, forsaken of God, that His love for God was at its height. The forsaking of man and his hatred, the power of Satan, had been fully realised, so that when He appealed to God, He found no answer, but that in the solitude of His sufferings, He had the occasion of shewing perfection in man, and of bringing out the glory of God Himself in all that God is, the foundation in righteousness, of the blessing of the new heavens and new earth, in which righteousness dwells—a righteousness that has already placed the Son of man, in the glory, divine righteousness that cannot but recognise the value of this work, by setting already at His right hand, the Man who has accomplished it, until all shall be manifested in the ages to come.

Thus the Son of man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in Him; and God, having been glorified in Him, has glorified Him in Himself, and has not waited for the display of all His glory in the future, but has glorified Him straightway at His right hand (v. 31, 32).

There is found the demonstration of God’s righteousness; that is, in the exaltation of the Lord Jesus as man to the right hand of God, God having withdrawn Him from the world, so that the world should see Him no more, as the way of the tree of life was closed, when man forsook God for sin. But the second Man, the last Adam, having passed through death, having been made sin, having passed out of the power of the devil and the judgment of God, takes His place in heaven, in the divine glory in righteousness, when the first Adam had gone out of the garden of Eden in sin.

For the moment no one could follow Him. Who could pass through death, Satan’s power, and the judgment of God, being made sin before God, and enter beyond it all into glory? It was thus for them as well as for the Jews. For the Jews, it was an outward thing, but looked upon in connection with God’s glory and the power of evil; but a thing as impossible for the disciples as for them. The Lord shews His disciples that their strength would be in the love they would have to each other, loving one another as He loved them: this was the new commandment He gave them (v. 34). He was love; He had loved them; His love had been like a strong central stake, which held up all the poles that met around it. He had been the bond of their union; now, this same love in their hearts should bind them together, as poles that supported each other, when the central support should be taken away. In reality, this would be the power of the Holy Ghost who would fill their heart with this divine love of Christ Himself, and would thus make them all one. Their love for one another would be the characteristic proof that they were disciples of Jesus, for He had loved them, and He was shewn out by love in them.

Peter, always ardent, asks Jesus where He was going (v. 36). The Lord answers him that he could not follow Him now, but that he should afterwards, announcing to him his martyrdom. Peter insists: “I will go with thee to prison and to death,” “I will lay down my life for thee”; but Jesus said: “The cock shall not crow till thou hast denied me thrice.”

Chapter 14

In chapter 14 the Lord presents to His disciples the consolations which were suited to make them accept the revelation He had made to them of His approaching departure.

The first thing that He declares to them, in His grace, is, that if He was going away, it is not to abandon them, but to prepare them a place elsewhere, that is, in His Father’s house. There, there was not room for Him alone (perhaps He alluded to the temple?) but abodes for them also; and then He Himself would come for them, so as to have them with Him where He was Himself. He could not dwell with them down here, but they should be with Him; and He would not send to seek them, but He would come Himself to take them to Himself. Precious and tender love that associated His own with Himself, according to the place they had in His heart, and according to the eternal counsels of the love of God. Instead of the kingdom of an earthly Messiah, they would have the eternal and divine glory of the Son of man in heaven, to be like Him, and with Him. Man having entered there, consequent upon redemption, the place was prepared for them. It was not a question of preparing them for the place (that is the subject of chapter 13), but of preparing the place for them. The presence of their Forerunner, where He was going, accomplished it. The blood made peace according to divine righteousness, the water prepared them to enjoy it. The entrance of Christ left nothing to be done that they might enter; only the co-heirs must be gathered, and till then, the Lord remains seated on His Father’s throne.

The return of the Saviour is therefore the first consolation given them, and it would introduce them, where Jesus was, into the Father’s house, being themselves made like Him in glory, instead of His remaining with them down here—which, moreover, was not possible, since all was defiled, and unfit for the Lord’s continuance with His own. Jesus will come again, and take us to Himself, that where He is, we may be also (v. 1-3). But there was more. The Lord says, “And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know” (v. 4). Thomas objects that they did not know where He was going, how therefore could they know the way? In His answer, Jesus shews them that what they had possessed during His stay upon earth, would furnish an immense blessing when He should have left them. He was going to the Father, and the Father had been revealed in His Person down here. Thus, having seen the Father in Him, they had seen Him to whom He was going, and they knew the way, for in coming to Him, they had found the Father. He was the Way, and, at the same time, the Truth of the thing, and the Life in which it was enjoyed. No one came to the Father but by Him; if the disciples had known Him, they would have known the Father, and from henceforth said He, “Ye know him, and have seen him” (v. 7). Philip says, “Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us”; for the disciples, although they were attached to Jesus, always had in themselves a reserve of uncertainty. The Lord blames Philip for his want of spiritual perception, after His having been so long with them; for they had not really known Him in His true character of Son, come from the Father, and revealing the Father. The words that He spoke were not as coming from Himself as man; and the Father, who dwelt in Him, was He who did the works; that which He said, that which He did, revealed the Father. They ought to trust His word, if not, on account of His works; and not only so, but glorified on high He would be the source of greater works than those which He did Himself in His humiliation, for He was going to ascend to His Father. All that they should ask in His name, He would do it, that the Father might be glorified in the Son. He was the Son of the Father; His name should avail for all that they could desire in their service; and the Father, to whom He referred everything, would be glorified in the Son, who would do all that they should ask in His name. His power had no limit: “and whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, I will do it.” In fact, the apostles gave proof of a greater power than the Lord when He was down here. Peter’s shadow healed the sick; one single discourse of his was the means of converting three thousand men, and the napkins, carried to the sick from Paul’s body, drove away the sickness from them, and cast out the evil spirits.

It is well to remark here, that the disciples never did any miracles to save themselves from suffering, or to heal their friends when they were ill. Paul left Trophimus sick at Miletus; it was only God’s mercy that healed Epaphroditus. The miracles performed by the apostles were the confirmation of the testimony, of which Christ glorified with the Father was the object and source.

In the next place, obedience would be the proof of love when the Lord should be gone away. This introduces the second principal revelation of this chapter; that is, the effect for them of the presence of the Holy Ghost, the other Comforter.

Verses 4-11 had given the revelation of that which Jesus had been for the disciples during His stay upon earth; but the Holy Ghost would teach them more still, and would procure advantages for them that they could not have during the stay of Jesus down here; whilst, at the same time, that which they had possessed by this means, would remain always true, and be understood in quite another manner.

But there is a difference between these two Comforters. To begin with, there was no incarnation in connection with the second; the spiritual power of God was in Him, and the power of the truth, but not an object for the soul. He was characterised as the source of truth and revelation, there where He acted; but He was not presented to the world as an object to be received by it. The world cannot receive Him. The world would not receive the Lord, but He had been presented to it to be received, and He had manifested the Father; He could say of those amongst whom He came, “They have both seen and hated both me and my Father.” As to the Holy Ghost, the world could not receive Him; it did not see Him, neither know Him; He presented the truth, and acted by this means. But He should be given to believers; they should know Him, for He would dwell with them, and not leave them, as He [Jesus] was doing, and He should be in them.

Here also we find the other Comforter, in contrast with the Lord. Jesus was going away at that moment, then He had been with them; but the other Comforter should be in them.

The presence of the Comforter is the grand present fact of Christianity: its basis is the revelation of the Father in the Son, then the accomplishment of the work of redemption by the Son; but the fact that man in His Person has entered into the divine glory, has given occasion to the descent of the Holy Ghost down here, given to believers to dwell with them and in them, that they may realise the fulness of this redemption, their relationship with the Father, the fact that they are in Christ, and Christ in them, and the heavenly glory where they will be like Him; and that He may lead them across the desert, with spiritual intelligence, and having their conversation in heaven, till they arrive there. The Spirit also gives us to realise the presence of Jesus with us here below. Jesus does not leave us orphans; He comes to us, and manifests Himself to us. Strengthened in our hearts by faith, the joy of His presence makes itself felt to our souls during our pilgrimage below.

Soon the world would see Him no more (ver. 19); His relations with the world were ended, save as Lord of all, but they were not with His own; they would see Him, not yet with their natural eyes, but by faith, and revealed by the Spirit—sight far clearer and more excellent than that which their natural eyes had given them. It was a sight that became identified with the possession of eternal life. Their eyes had seen Him bodily here, but they would have the sight of Jesus glorified, and who had accomplished the work of redemption, and that by the power of the Holy Ghost, that other Comforter. The sight of the life of faith identified itself with a real union with Him, so that if He lived, they should live also; He Himself would be their life. Rather than that they should die, it was necessary that He Himself, such as He is in the glory, should die, and they would have by the presence of the Comforter, the consciousness of being thus in Him. “In that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.” The disciples ought to have seen the Father in Him, and to have recognised that He was in the Father during His sojourn upon earth, however little intelligent they might have been. Now, in that day, when the Holy Spirit should have come, they would know Jesus as being in the Father (the Father in Him is omitted, because it was no longer a question of His manifestation in Him down here). Thus Jesus would be in the Father in His own deity; but, more, the disciples should know that they themselves were in Him, Jesus, and He in them. After that, the Lord establishes, as in all this part of the Gospel, man’s responsibility, here that of the Christian, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me” (v. 21). This supposes that we pay attention to what the Lord says: one listens to the voice of divine wisdom, as a child who seeks to please its parents, or a wife her husband, observing the words of the parents or the husband, without even their having the form of a commandment, and knowing what they wish. Thus the Christian attends to the words of Jesus; he is familiar with that which the Lord wills, and desires to do His will. This is the proof of true affection. Now, he who is thus attached in heart to Christ, and obeys Him, shall be loved of the Father, and Christ will come, and will manifest Himself to him. The manifestation of which He speaks here is a manifestation of Himself, and from Him, to the soul which He causes to realise His presence and makes him sensible of it. This is what Jude does not understand; he does not perceive how Jesus could be manifested to His own, without being manifested to the world (v. 22). Alas! it is just what too many Christians do not understand. Jude, too, was only thinking of some outward manifestation, of which the world could necessarily take knowledge; but the Lord was speaking of a manifestation such as we have just shewn, adding still something more permanent; that is, that if any one loved Jesus, he would keep, not only His commandments, but His words, so that the Father would love him, and that the Father and Son would come, and make their abode in him (v. 24).

We see everywhere here responsibility. It is not sovereign grace which first loves the poor sinner: here the Father loves the soul which shews its affection for the Saviour in keeping His words. It is fatherly government, the satisfaction of the Father’s heart because the Son is honoured and obeyed. “If a man love me, he will keep my word,” and then—precious words—“my Father will love him, and we will make our abode with him.” The Father and the Son come to dwell in the loved person; and this does not take place merely by the Holy Ghost, as every divine activity; but by the Spirit we enjoy the presence of the Father, and of the Son, their dwelling with us; and the Spirit does not leave us, so that we enjoy constantly in our hearts the presence of the Father and the Son. The kind of communion, of the realisation of the presence of the Father and the Son, is of all-importance, and gives an ineffable repose and joy. We shall dwell in the Father’s house, and we shall find there the Son in glory; but, till then, the Father and the Son come, and reveal themselves in us, and make their abode in us. All is done by the Spirit, but it is the presence of the Father and the Son that makes their presence felt in this character of Father and of Son; and the Son is Jesus, who loved us, and gave Himself for us. The Son had revealed the Father, for him who had eyes to see; and now the Holy Ghost makes us enjoy the presence of the Father and Son, but “in us,” if we keep the Saviour’s words.

We may remark that the scripture employs two different words here: “commandments” and “word.” Both have their importance, in that the first speaks of authority and obedience, the second of attention to what the Lord says, each having thus a special bearing. To the soul that has the commandments and keeps them, the Lord manifests Himself, and it is the fruit of obedience; but the blessedness of the abiding of the Father and Son in the heart, is the fruit of the word of Jesus, exercising its rightful influence in the heart. Now he that does not love Him, he, whose heart is not governed by this personal affection, does not keep the words of Jesus; and the word that they heard was not their Master’s word, as of a man, of a teacher who spoke on his own account, but the word of the Father who had sent Jesus. All the work of grace is indeed the Father’s work, but the Son’s work also, the Spirit having His place in it in immediate operation in the soul. Thus the miracles of Jesus were really His own works, but it was by the Spirit of God He cast out demons; the Father also, who dwelt in Him, did the works. Here the Spirit would teach the disciples and would call to their remembrance that which Jesus had said to them; but that which Jesus had said to them was from the Father; He spoke the words of God, for the Spirit was not given by measure. Here again we find the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.

We have seen that the Father and Son make their abode in those who keep Christ’s word; but also it is by the Holy Ghost that this abiding is realised, not that we should not feel the presence of the Father and Son, but to make us feel it. It is a lasting thing, not that our thoughts are always there, that cannot be, but the consciousness and influence of their presence are always there. I think of working at something which my father, according to the flesh, wishes; but if he is there, in thinking of the thing, the consciousness and influence of his presence will always make themselves felt.

To the things which He had just said to them, and which terminate this part of His discourse, the Lord adds the precious revelation, that the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, whom the Father would send in His name, should teach the disciples all things, and should bring to their remembrance that which He had said to them. We enjoy every day the effect of this precious promise.

There are here other points of great value which is it important to notice.

The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are not separated in this work of blessing. The Holy Ghost comes to communicate all, but it is the Father that in His love, sends Him: but He sends Him in the Son’s name, for His glory, and as Mediator in grace, in virtue of the redemption He has accomplished. The Holy Ghost should make the disciples realise according to the thoughts of the Father, all that had happened, all that manifested God’s ways in grace during the Son’s stay here below. This is what we find in the Gospels, which give us, not a human recital of things that come to the mind, but the communication (according to divine intelligence, and according to God’s intention in the facts) of that which happened in the life of Jesus; for there is a divine intention in the Gospel recitals.

Finally, if the Lord leaves His own, He leaves them peace, which He could not have done had He remained with them, for peace would not have been made; but He defines this peace in a way that gives it a perfection which the fact of the purifying of the conscience would not have procured for them. That indeed took place by His blood: the disciples would be perfect as to the conscience. His conscience was always perfect; ours is made perfect by His blood. But, with the exception of the cross, and the anticipation of the cross, the heart of Jesus was ever with God. Feeling everything in love, nothing distracted Him, nor weakened His communion with His Father. Perfect obedience and confidence maintained in Him a peace which flowed from a walk with God, and from communion with His Father that never belied itself. The current of the life that He lived on the part of the Father was uninterrupted: there were no breakers in the life of Jesus. The difficulties He met with were but the occasion of the shewing forth of divine life in the heart of a man, of the peace which the consciousness of being always with God gave Him. Thus His words and actions were words and actions that came directly from God, in the circumstances in which He found Himself as man. A perfect sensibility, a perfect measure and characterising in His mind of all that acted upon Him, gave occasion to the answer, to that which the presence of God and the divine impulse produced in man. What could trouble the peace of Jesus? When it was a question of being made sin, and of bearing our sins before God, it was another thing; because that was taking place, the answer of God in His soul was not the effect of His perfect and blessed presence, but the being forsaken, according to the perfect opposition of His nature to sin. But here we approach sufferings that no one can fathom.

The Lord does not give as we give anything which consequently we do not possess any longer; He brings us into the enjoyment of all that He Himself enjoys: the glory, the Father’s love, His joy. He keeps back nothing for Himself, which is reserved to Himself, and in which we have not part.

The verses that close the chapter contain a touching expression of the manner in which the heart of Jesus expects the affection of His own. “If ye had loved me, ye would have rejoiced that I go to the Father” (v. 28). If you think of yourselves, it is quite natural that you should be troubled; but if you could think of Me, it would have been your joy to think that I leave this world of sorrow and suffering to go to the Father, in taking again My glory and entering again into the land of holiness and peace, where all My rights are recognised. Thus the Lord places Himself near us, and desires that we should think of His happiness. What Christian is there that does not rejoice at the thought of His glory?

Jesus can still speak, while making His way towards Gethsemane, of what His own had had in Him, and of the gift of the Holy Ghost, but in reality, His communications in their midst were at an end. The prince of this world was coming: it is this character that Jesus now gives to Satan. The disciples were fled in fear; all the rest of the world united together cheerfully to drive out of it the Son of God, come in grace; they had seen and hated both Him and His Father.

It is not all that man has sinned. After the sin, God came in; God worked in a world too evil to be any longer borne with. The promise had been given to Abraham, called from the midst of the idolatry which overran all; the law was given; the prophets were sent; last of all the Son came, healing all those who were under the yoke of Satan (the strong man having been bound, his victims were delivered)—the Son, God’s last resource for putting man’s heart to the proof, to see if that even could produce in him any return towards God, and discover any good that might have remained there hidden in the midst of the evil. But God was manifested there; and if the effects of sin disappeared by His means, the presence of Jesus awakened the enmity of the flesh, and Satan’s power took possession of the world, or rather shewed that Satan was its prince. Up to that time—that is, until all the means that God could employ to reclaim men had been exhausted, this title of “Prince of the world “had not been given him; but when He of whom God had said, I have yet My Son, had been rejected, Satan was called by this terrible title. There was One, One only, in the world who was not under this power of Satan, One only in whom the prince of this world had nothing, One only who was not of the world, One only, who though truly a man in the world, and who passed through all its temptations, sin apart, had nothing whatever in Him, either before or after, that gave Satan a right over Him, even in death which now He was going to meet. Neither in His walk, nor in His Person was there anything whatever that exposed Him to the enemy. Satan had tried, he had used the power of death to hinder Jesus from obeying unto the end, but his efforts had been vain. The death of Jesus was the effect of obedience, and of His love for the Father. “The prince of this world cometh: and hath nothing in me: but that the world, may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do” (v. 30, 31). That which brought death for Him, was not sin in Him, or by Him, but it was His perfect obedience and His love for His Father. Jesus warns His own of it beforehand, so that, knowing it, their faith should not be shaken by it.

Chapter 15

The Lord had then spoken to His disciples of His Person, above all dispensations, and of their place in Him when the Holy Ghost should have come down, and He had told them how He would make Himself known to them when afar, adding that He left them peace, even the peace He Himself possessed. Now, in chapter 15, He comes to the truth of His position down here in contrast with Judaism, of their position in relation to His, of their service following upon this position; then of the testimony rendered by the Holy Spirit of promise to the glory into which He was entering on high; and of their testimony as eye witnesses of that which He had been down here.

Judaism is thus entirely set aside, and its place taken by Christ Himself. This is what has happened with regard to all that God had established: the first man himself has been replaced before God by the second; the priesthood of Aaron by that of Christ; the king, son of David; Israel the servant (Isaiah 49:1), by the Christ (v. 5); even the earthly tabernacle by the true heavenly tabernacle, as well as all its service. Thus here, Israel was not the true vine, although it had been transplanted as God’s vine out of Egypt into Canaan; Psa. 80:8-16. Christ was upon earth the true vine of God, the disciples were the branches. They still thought that Israel was God’s vine, and Christ the long-expected Messiah, the principal branch. But it was not so; Jesus was the vine, they were the branches; His Father, the husbandman. And they were already clean through the word He had spoken to them. The passage has occasioned difficulties to many souls, because they have applied these words to the church,44 but the union of the church with Christ takes place when He is glorified on high, and then we are complete in Him. There it is no question of bearing fruit, nor of being pruned, but as it is said in 1 John 4:17: “As he is, so are we in this world.” In our chapter, Jesus is the true vine upon earth; and there, although Christ could declare them to be clean, their responsibility is developed, in order that they may bear fruit. They were already clean by the word He had spoken to them.

The union which is in question here is association with Him as disciples. He no doubt knew them, but they are looked at as being in a position of responsibility. It is a question of fruit-bearing; if a branch did not bear any, the Father removed it entirely; if it bore fruit, He purified it, that it should bear more. Not that it was Judaism, far from that; it is Christ, on the contrary, who takes its place. We see this more than once in the word. Thus in Isaiah 49, Christ is the true servant in place of Israel. He is the Son called out of Egypt, a position that Israel occupied: “Let my son go”; Jehovah said by Moses. In the same way, He is the true vine. Consequently, the Father is introduced: He is the husbandman. Thus we find the true moral position that the disciples occupy, as well as the important principles upon which it is founded, but which are connected with that which we have already found as characterising this Gospel. That which had cleansed the disciples was the word that Jesus had spoken to them; but this cleansing is the same as the Father’s. The Father can use the pruning knife. He does so evidently as to the branches that do not bear fruit; He does so as to those that bear it.

Now, all this is in connection with the revelation of the Father by the Son. The word that He had spoken to His disciples, was not the revelation of the Son glorified, by the Holy Ghost, but of the Father by the Son. It was this entirely new things; not what man ought to be according to the law, but what Christ was: grace and truth come by Jesus Christ. It was the communication of that which was divine, the words of God realised in the life of a man. The words of Christ were Himself (chap. 8:25); but they were the words of God (chap. 3:34), although of a man, by the Spirit without measure; they were of God, revealing the Father in sovereign grace by the Son, sent according to that grace. (Compare chap. 14:11.) It was in the name of holy Father that the Lord kept them during His stay down here: now the Father Himself becomes the husbandman.

Now this chapter (except the last verses) does not speak of the testimony of the Holy Ghost, but of that of the disciples (with the help of the Holy Ghost, chap. 14:25); and it is a testimony, not to His glory on high and the consequences which follow from it, but to that which He had been, and to what He had revealed being down here, to the subjective state of the divine life in a man in this world. This is what the Gospels essentially present to us; the epistles, in general, have the glory as a starting-point.

Thus the first three verses give the position as to detail: then come the exhortations founded upon this. The first, is to abide in Him. Let us remark here that it is always the side of man’s responsibility that comes first. It is not: “I will abide in you, and you will be able thus to abide in me”; but “Abide in me, and I in you.” The second thing is the effect of the first: there is no verb in the second part of the phrase; it is not that which He would do, but the consequence, the effect stated. If a soul dwells in Christ, Christ dwells in that soul. Now a soul dwells in Christ, when it lives in uninterrupted dependence upon Him, and assiduously seeks to realise that which is in Him, that which His presence gives to us, for He is the truth of all that is come to us from the Father, and one lives in it in dwelling in Him. That which is in Him is communicated to us, as the sap flows from the vine into the branches. All comes from Him, but there is activity in the soul to cleave to Him, and it is thus that fruit is produced in the branch. Now we do not dwell in Christ that there may be fruit, but fruit is produced because we dwell in Christ. We dwell in Christ in the consciousness that we can do nothing without Him, but it is for the love of Christ. This is the first exhortation, and the first statement of that which we have to do.

In the sixth verse, He says no longer “you”; but “If a man,” for He knew them, although this be not the subject treated in the passage, yet once one is really in Christ, one is there for ever. Here, also, it is as in chapter 13, “Ye are clean”; then He adds: “but not all”; for Judas was still there. If a man did not cleave to Christ, even though associated with Him by profession, he was cut off as a branch to wither and be thrown into the fire. There is another very important principle found in verse 7. If the disciples dwelt in Him, and His words dwelt in them, they should have at command the power of the Lord without limit. Always in the spirit of dependence, it is true, they should ask what they would. This is the true limit of answers to prayer. The request is produced in a heart formed by the Saviour’s words, and according to the desires created by these words, that is to say, of God Himself who should dwell in the heart. We never find that the apostles healed, or prayed for the healing of persons who were dear to them, although it be perfectly lawful in such a case to present our requests to God. But Paul says: “I have left Trophimus sick at Miletus.” And again: “Epaphroditus was sick, very near to death, but God had mercy on him.” The works of power they accomplished, had the confirmation of the word as their aim; but it was an immense privilege, in their work of faith, to be assured of the intervention of God when they should ask for it, and that, when the wisdom of God had formed their thoughts, His power should add [to it] His efficacious working. Christ is the wisdom of God, and the power of God.

It will be asked how far we can apply this now. I do not expect miracles, I do not think that we ought to have them, except lying miracles from Satan; but I believe that if we dwell in Christ, and His words form the heart, if we live by every word that comes from the mouth of God, then when we find ourselves in the conflicts of faith, God gives faith for the circumstances of the service. He will answer to the faith given, and will hear us, He who disposes of all by means unknown to us, of all hearts—of the unrighteous as well as of those of the righteous. But it is important for us (first, so as not to make mistakes; and secondly, to seize the thoughts of God in all their import) to understand the true limits of this promise. God will never fail of His promise. The fulfilment of the promise is sure for faith, but the words of the Saviour form the thought of faith to which the promise answers. It is thus the Father should be glorified, in that they should bear much fruit—fruit of souls saved by their means, by the revelation of the Father in the Son, that the words of Jesus, words of God in grace, should communicate to them.

Then there comes another precious side of these exhortations: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love.” This is in connection with obedience: but the declaration is one of infinite grace. The Father had loved the Son, Jesus, in His course down here; He had loved Him according to the perfection of divine love, but as man in this world. So Christ had loved them: it was the love of a divine Person, for a man who perfectly accomplished all His will with an absolute devotedness, but it was also a love of communion, and that when He was in antagonism with evil. In the same manner Christ had loved them also. They were to dwell in this love. It is constancy in their relations with Christ, that is the great point in all the chapter. They were to continue in the realisation of this love, truly divine but which yet adapted itself to their human state, and thus it should be if they walked in the path where Christ had walked. “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.”

It is not here a question of the Father’s eternal love for the Son, nor of the unchangeable love that God bears to His children, but of the path in which these should enjoy divine love. Jesus, as man here below, never got out of the enjoyment of that love of the Father. His obedience had been absolute and perfect, and no cloud had ever found place between His soul and His Father. His life was a life of perfect obedience and of communion. They should keep His commandments, and thus they should dwell in His love, even as He dwelt in the Father’s love. He told it them in order that His joy, the joy He had possessed down here, might abide in them, and that their joy should be full. Here it is Christ’s love in a direct way; we are in contact with the Vine, not with the Mediator; with Him in whom we are, not with the Father. It is a human love, although divine, a love consequently full of sympathy, which comes in in all the details of human life, and of the service of ministry. This is what took place at the time of His sojourn here below. It was impossible for the Father to forget Christ one moment in His service down here. He took knowledge of it; He was there. It is the same thing with Christ towards us, as far as we keep His commandments.

But His first commandment is that this kind of love should be realised amongst themselves also. Perfect communion of love with one another; but superior (in that this love was divine) to all the infirmities that might weaken it, so that they were but the occasion for the exercise of this love; still that which should characterise it was the bond which made them all one by its means; the love was mutual, in that Christ was all for each, and that, each one living in dependence and obedience, self-love disappeared. As being the branches, each one drew everything from the vine; Christ’s words were the source of all the thoughts of the heart, in the consciousness of His perfect love.

Now if His life had been the continual expression of this love, His death was still more so. He could not have greater love than to die for them. We must notice here that it is not the love of God to poor sinners, a love purely divine and sovereign, but the love of Christ for His friends. Neither is it Christ, who is here the Friend, but the disciples who are His friends, those in whom He has confidence: “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” We communicate to a friend all that we have upon the heart, because we count upon the interest he bears to us. Christ had communicated to the disciples all that He had heard from the Father. There is the action of the human mediator, the vine with the branches. It is important to remark that He does not here place His disciples in His own relationship with the Father— that will be developed later on—but He communicated to them as from Himself all that He enjoyed. The relationship was with Himself, as He personally had been in it with the Father down here. It is in this relationship of intimacy in which He was with them, faithful in keeping His words, that He looks upon them when He lays down His life for them.

Their relationship with Christ was that of those sent by Him, as He had been by His Father. Jesus had chosen and sent them, in order that they might bear fruit in their work, and that this fruit might be lasting—of which we are the blessed result today; but being sent thus by Christ, the Father, so to speak, was pledged to give all that was necessary for the work, so that all that they should ask the Father in the Saviour’s name, the Father would give them. This places the twelve in their position as apostles, sent by the Lord, the Mediator, in the great work of salvation—the vine from which the branches drew all their strength—under the faithful care of the Sovereign Husbandman. Such is the moral position in which the Lord places them; it is union in love. They form a body of workmen apart, united to Him as to the vine, in order to bear fruit; but now the fruit is borne by the branches, and not by the vine.

The bond between them should be love; but what should characterise the relationship in which they should find themselves with the world? The world would hate them. The world had hated their Master; they had seen and known Him. Christ was not of the world, but He had been in the world, bearing witness, in His life and by His words, to that which the world was as seen in the light of God. If the disciples had been of the world, the world would have loved them, but because they were not of it, although they were in it, the world would hate them. All their ways, their walk, their motives were different from those of the world. It was a company of men apart: the world is very susceptible; its happiness is not real; its glory is false and transitory: all there is hollow, and will not bear a little reflection. The world will allow you to say this in maxims and proverbs, but that there should be men whose lives tell constantly the truth with regard to the state of the world that surrounds us, that is what is insupportable. The relationship and connections of the disciples with the world were to be the same as those of the Saviour; the branches would be treated as the vine had been. But it is on account of the name of Christ that these things would happen, fruit of this hatred, because they had not known Him who had sent Him. It was always the manifestation of God in Christ, of the Father in grace, in Jesus, that had awakened this hatred and had given it its true character.

This is the grave and terrible question that has been raised. God the Father presented in grace to men, and especially to Israel, where all His promises and oracles had been deposited, but God presented to men in Jesus, the word of God in grace; otherwise their state would not have been manifested as being a state of sin, and nothing else, a state of hatred against God, come into their midst full of goodness. If there had been any good in man that the presence of Jesus could have awakened, faults and grave sins might have been committed, but there would have been also remedy and forgiveness, for the bottom once reached would have been good. But now there was no longer any cloak for their sin. Their state was that of absolute sin in the will. In hating Jesus they had hated the Father, for Jesus manifested Him. His words were the words of God, of the Father; and more than this, He had given the clearest proofs of the revelation of the Father in Him. There never had been any like them; for not only was divine power shewn even in raising the dead, and in giving power to others to perform the same works, but His miracles were acts of goodness. Divine love was displayed in them, and united itself with the power whilst directing it. Thus they had seen and hated both the Father and the Son.

But terrible as that was, and it was fatal and final for man (save sovereign grace that created him anew), it was but that which was written in their law: “They hated me without a cause”; terrible judgment given upon man, such as he is. But it is sweet and beautiful to see that the sin of man does not stop the current of the grace of God. The Lord continues thus: “But when the Comforter shall come whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceedeth from the Father, he shall bear witness of me. And ye also shall bear witness; because ye are with me from the beginning.” Another order of things was necessary; man dead and risen, man in heaven even, redemption accomplished, the Holy Ghost come. This hatred of man would only accomplish that. Then the Holy Ghost would communicate to them the heavenly glory of the Son of man, the result of His rejection. Proceeding from the Father, sent by the glorified Son of man, the Spirit of truth, the Comforter come down here, would bear witness to this Son of man, to Him who had been rejected, perfect here below, but now in heavenly glory. They also should bear witness, having been with Him from the beginning of His public ministry down here. The same Comforter should be their power, to make them competent for this (chap. 14:26), but they would bear testimony as eye-witnesses of His life of suffering.

Chapter 16

Now the Lord goes on to speak with them, not of the position they had enjoyed with Him upon earth, adding promises with regard to the Holy Ghost, but of what was about to take place, of the presence of the Comforter, and of the testimony He would bear. He had spoken of Him indeed in connection with the relations in which they should be with the Father: there this Comforter replaces Him, and it is the Father that sends Him.

Although the Lord comes spiritually to reveal Himself to them, and, with the Father, to comfort and strengthen them in making their abode with them in chapter 14, the Holy Ghost rather takes the place of the Lord. In chapter 15 the Saviour speaks of the testimony that the Comforter would bear. The apostles, with His help, should bear testimony to what Jesus had been down here. They could not be eye-witnesses of what He is above. The testimony they would have to bear to His life down here, should be of a much more living character, more rich than a pure revelation from on high would have been, on account of the relations they had found themselves in with Him, all unintelligent as they had been. But it was a part of His life down here not to be understood by any one.

The testimony they have given to us is indeed that of the Holy Ghost (chap. 14:26), who has chosen the incidents suitable to communicate the true character of the Saviour, the divine life in Him. But the grace which manifested itself in Him was exercised every day towards them, or at least in the midst of them. Always Himself, in a life that He lived on account of the Father, He adapted Himself nevertheless (and could do it because His life was inseparable from the Father) to all the weakness of the disciples, to all that grace required from Him. It was not purely and simply a divine testimony, but as His own Person, never losing its divine perfection. His unalterable purity took all the colours that the circumstances which surrounded Him gave to this life in His grace. The account is a wholly divine account, but which, in that which it relates, expresses itself, by human hearts who have passed through it. That which Christ is on high would not be expressed thus. There all is perfect, His personal glory is accomplished. Patient gentleness, unshaken firmness, divine wisdom in the midst of evil, and of adversaries, are no longer in place; it is the glory that is revealed. And who shall reveal it, if not He who came from it, and who is in it?

In chapter 14 the Father sends the Holy Ghost in the name of Jesus, and gives us the consciousness of our place before Himself, as sons with the Son. Here, it is Christ, the Son of man, who sends Him from the Father, from whom the Holy Ghost proceeds, and He bears witness to Christ Himself. He is the “Spirit of truth,” a purely divine testimony of the things that are above; the Spirit that is of God, that we may know the things that are freely given to us of God. The testimony borne to the life of Christ down here, is a testimony fully divine, but that is borne through the circumstances through which Jesus passed, and by persons who were themselves in them, so that we may know what God was in the midst of fallen humanity; immense grace that awakens all the affections of a heart taught by the Holy Ghost, and engrosses it.45

But whatever might be the privileges of which they were going to partake by the Holy Ghost’s presence, they would have to undergo at the same time the consequences of their Master’s rejection, a rejection which was not merely that of an enlightened reformer who was not liked, but the expression of the enmity of man’s heart against God, and against God manifested in goodness. He was going on high, and was going to make them partakers of the Spirit; they remained down here, furnished no doubt, with that spiritual power up to the point of doing miracles, which would bear testimony to the source whence they came; but the continuance of the testimony and of the power, would bring against them the same hostility which had been manifested against Jesus. If they had called the Master of the house Beelzebub, much more would they treat those of the household in the same way.

And more, it was a religious hatred. If a religion adapts itself to the world, and costs the selfish principle nothing, it is held to; one prides oneself upon it still more if, by the truth that is recognised, one can raise oneself above others. Now this hatred, whilst recognising indeed its object—that is, the revelation of God in this world—was an ignorant hatred, especially for the multitudes. The hatred of the leaders was more moral, more positively diabolical, as the Lord had said to them. (chap. 8). The masses were jealous for their religion, as Paul acknowledged (Acts 22:3); the leaders detested that which was manifested, because it was the light. Terrible state! But what can a state be that opposes itself with a resolute will, with animosity, to such a Saviour? The Lord says that he who should kill His disciples would think to do God service. It is what Saul of Tarsus was doing. But the leaders, the Lord said, “had both seen and hated both me and my Father.”

But here some practical truths come out of what is said. It is by the revelation of a new truth that the heart is exercised and tested; I say new, at least for the heart that finds it. One gains credit by an old truth; the Jews believed in one only true God, and they were quite right. It was a privilege, a moral advantage of immense bearing. In truth, there was but that God; as far as there was reality in Paganism, the gods of the pagans were demons. But, although the pious Jew acknowledged this true God, obeyed Him and trusted in Him, it was the glory of the nation to have this God for God, and the Jew without piety boasted also in Him. But alas! he saw the power that bore witness to God’s presence, elsewhere than in the temple, its earthly abode. The house, fine as it was, was empty; and a double hatred broke out against that which was the proof of it. God had brought in quite a new thing; the Father had sent the Son in grace, and had manifested Himself in Him, and this grace could not be limited to a Jew alone. It penetrated as light to the bottom of the heart of man, whether Jew or Gentile. The one and the other were sinners. The Jew had manifested it in the rejection of this Son, and sovereign grace extended itself to the Gentiles. The Jewish sinner had just as much need of it; the partition wall had fallen down at the cross. It was God and man now, not Jew and Gentile. In vain God had recognised the privileges of the Jews; in vain had He sent His Son, according to the promises, to the lost sheep of the house of Israel; Israel would have none of it; they desired their own glory. From this comes that for them, the Jews, he who would destroy such a testimony, the testimony of an infinite grace, of the Father sending the Son into the world, of grace exercised in salvation towards sinners, Jews or Gentiles—he who would destroy it, I say, would do God service. He would think to render service to God, to his own God, the God who made his glory. As to the Father and Son, he did not know them; this was the new truth that put to the proof the state of his heart. A good Protestant can boast in rejecting the deification of the host, and in believing in justification by faith as a dogma: that is his glory as a Protestant. But where is his soul as to the presence of the Holy Ghost, and the expectation of the Saviour? New truths always confirm the old, judging at the same time superstitions; but faith in the old, which make our own glory, is not a touchstone for the state of soul, although we are to maintain them carefully.

There is another remark of the Saviour which merits our particular attention. It is simple, but exposes the state of our souls. “Now,” He says, “I go unto him that hath sent me, and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? “Sorrow had filled their heart. It was very natural, and in a certain sense very right. They felt the present and actual effect of the departure of Jesus. This touched them very closely, but they judged of the circumstances entirely in connection with themselves. They had given up all for the Lord, and they were going to lose Him; and not only that, but they must give up all, that for them was connected with His presence down here; all their Jewish hopes were fading away. They felt the effect of the circumstances upon themselves, but did not think of the purposes of God which were being accomplished in those circumstances, for the Son of God was not going out of this world by an accident. It is the same thing in our most minute circumstances: not a sparrow falls to the ground without our Father. That which troubled them was in reality the work of redemption. Moreover, that which constitutes our cross in this world answers to glory and happiness in the other. Preoccupation with the circumstances, hid from them heavenly things, and the glory into which the Lamb was entering.

But this remark introduces, not the heavenly glory of the Lord—though what He says depends on it—but the consequence for them down here, which is what should occupy us now. It is the coming down here of the Comforter, of the Paraclete. His presence in this world should have for its object to convince of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. It is not the question here of demonstrating to a man’s conscience the sins of which he is guilty, but of a testimony as to the state of the world, and that by the very presence of the Holy Spirit, though He bore it also to men. Sin had been manifested for a long time in the world; the law had been transgressed; but now God Himself was come in grace. All His perfections, His goodness, and His power, which were in exercise to deliver from the effects of sin, had been manifested in this world, and all in grace towards men, with a patience which remained perfect to the end; and man would not have God. God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them; but man would none of it. This is sin: not the conviction of disorderly lusts, nor of transgressions against God’s law, but the final and formal rejection of God Himself. The Holy Ghost would not have been there if that had not taken place. Moreover, we have the solemn spectacle of the only righteous One, who had glorified God in everything, and had been obedient to Him in every trial, abandoned by God, when, persecuted by men, He appealed to Him, and all is over for the world. No righteousness is seen, except in the judgment of sin in the Person of Him who had not known sin, but who had been made sin before God, having offered Himself to God for that, that God might be glorified in it.

Where can we seek for righteousness down here? Not in the rejection of God by man, not in the forsaking of the righteous One by God. Where then look for it? On high. The Man Christ, in suffering thus, had perfectly glorified God in all that He is—righteousness against sin, love, majesty, truth. He gave Himself up for that. And righteousness is found in that He who gave Himself to glorify God is upon the Father’s throne, seated at the right hand of God;46 of which the presence of the Holy Ghost was the witness, with this terrible consequence, that as Saviour in goodness and in grace, the world would see Him no more. Thus He said: “Henceforth ye shall see the Son of man seated at the right hand of God, and coming in the clouds of heaven”: but this will be in judgment. Supreme and terrible moment for this world truly, although grace gathers many out of it for the heavenly glory, and though a remnant of the Jews should enjoy, by the same grace and in virtue of the same sacrifice, the effect of the promises to which the nation has lost all right, in rejecting the Person of Him in whom the promises are accomplished.

But although the will and lusts of men, their hatred against the light, and enmity against God, made them responsible for this crime, who was it that directed them, and concentrated their animosity on one single point? Who was it that induced the haughty indifference and the cruelty of a Pilate, warned and alarmed as he was, to connect himself, for the rejection of the Son of God, with the inconceivable hatred of the leaders of the people filled with jealousy, and the empty prejudices of the multitude? Who was it that united them to be co-partners in this crime? It was the devil. He is the prince of this world, shewn and declared to be such in the death of the Saviour by the hand of man, but judged by that very fact. He who ruled the world, its prince, shewed himself such in the death of Him who was the Son of God come in grace. Before and after, he could excite passions, entice men’s lusts, produce wars, stir up the wrongs of one against another, provide for the corrupt desires of the heart; but all this was selfish and partial. But when the Son was there, he could join all together, those who hated and despised each other, against this one object—God manifested in goodness.

The prince of this world is the adversary of God. The moment had not yet come for the judgment of this world, but its judgment was certain, for its prince, he who ruled it entirely, was Satan, the adversary of God, as the cross of Jesus shewed it. Now the presence of the Holy Ghost was the proof, not only that this Jesus was recognised of God as His Son, but that, as Son of man, He was glorified at God’s right hand. In fact this is the testimony of Peter, that is, of the Spirit, in Acts 2. The Holy Ghost would not have been in the world, if that had not been the case. The rupture between the world and God was complete and final: a solemn truth not sufficiently considered. The question that God puts to the world is: “Where is My Son; what hast thou done with Him?”

But is not this presence of the Spirit an advantage, a better thing for the world? Is it not a more blessed relationship than all that has preceded? Blessed be God! sovereign grace is in exercise toward the world in virtue of the death of Christ; but, except His sovereign rights, God has no relationship with the world. The Holy Ghost is amongst the saints and in the saints, but as we have read, the world cannot receive Him: He is given to believers. Between the rejection and the return of Christ, He bears witness to the grace manifested in the death of Jesus, and to the glory in which Christ is, to bring those who believe in Him into a heavenly association with the last Adam, delivering them from this present evil world. And it remains ever true, that “if any one love the world, the love of the Father is not in him”; and that “the friendship of the world is enmity against God.” Now these new relationships are maintained by the Spirit in these earthen vessels; later on, those who possess this Spirit shall be glorified with the Lord Himself. Later still, when the judgment shall have been executed, this same grace towards man will establish the Lord, according to what is due to Him, and according to the eternal counsels of God, over a blessed world, where the enemy’s power will not be exercised. But this is not our subject here.

Now it is with the last Adam who is from heaven, with the glorified Son of man, we have to do. That which exists is a complete rupture between the world and God, and a heavenly Christ who has accomplished redemption. But the testimony that the Holy Ghost bears, the truth of which He is the proof, is twofold, and divides itself here. What we have gone through is the testimony that His presence down here bears with regard to the world; that which follows is what He should do for the disciples amongst whom He was found.

What a solemn judgment is that that has just been before us, coming from the mouth of the Lord Himself! The whole world lying in sin by its refusal to receive the Saviour come in grace; righteousness according to God not to be found save on the throne on high, where it had placed Him whom the world had rejected, and in that the world would see Him no more as such; finally, if the execution of judgment was still deferred, this last was not the less certain, for he who was in possession of the world, had shewn that he was the adversary of God, in leading on the world that he had subjected to himself, to crucify the Lord.

But with regard to the disciples, the Spirit would reveal the truth fully to them, and lead their minds into the knowledge of all the truth. The truth is the manner in which God regards all things, and what He reveals of Himself, of His own thoughts, and of His own counsels. Now Christ is the expression of it on the positive side, as being God manifested to man, and Man perfect before God. Being the light, He manifests all that is not according to God’s thoughts. The veil too, being rent, and Christ having entered into heaven as Man, and seated at God’s right hand, that which was not within the province of human knowledge, “that which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard,” the Spirit reveals, and He reveals even the deepest things of God. All, from God’s eternal throne down to hades, and from hades up to the throne of God, and redemption which is connected with it, all is disclosed. And it is in Christ that all this revelation is made to us; but also, all that is revealed on God’s part belongs to Him. “All that the Father hath is mine,” He says; and it is not only that which is of God, as God, as creation for example, but all that which, in the counsels of grace, forms the new creation in relationship with the Father; that belongs to Him.

Thus the Holy Spirit would take of what was of Christ and shew it to the disciples, and this was all that the Father possessed. Grace and truth were come in Christ into the midst of the old creation. Man refused this grace, and rejected this truth, but now God would communicate to those who should believe in Christ the new things that were in His counsels, of which Christ was the centre and the fulness.

Into what a glorious scene we are here introduced, a scene which replaces that which the disciples were losing by the death of the Messiah! All the glory which belongs to the Person of the Son, whether as the One in whom all the counsels of God are concentrated, or as to what He is in Himself, is fully revealed. If, in that which we have first gone through, we have found the terrible but just judgment of the world, what a glorious scene, I repeat, opens itself here in the revelations which the Holy Ghost communicates relative to this new creation, of which the second Man is the centre, He, the Son of God who reveals the Father—another world, where all that is in the Father and of the Father is revealed.

But this involved the death and resurrection of Christ, the end of all connection with the old creation, and a new state of man for the new. Now the glory of this new creation was not yet revealed, nor even established objectively; but the state of man subjectively, a state immortal, pure, spiritual even as to the body, was realised in the resurrection, even while the external glory was still wanting. The new and eternal thing existed in the Person of Christ, and as to Him personally, it was realised in that He was going to His Father, the source of all, “the Father of glory”—as it is said.

Now this new state of man was familiarly manifested to the disciples, during the forty days that the Lord passed upon earth after His resurrection, before He ascended to heaven. The return of the Saviour, when He shall come back in His glory, will be the moment when His dominion will be established over all things, when God will put them all under His feet, with an authority and power that He will make use of to subject them to Himself. Now that of which we speak, whether with regard to the state of man, or relative to the glory, is evidently something more than the presence of the Holy Ghost, precious as that is, and it is that which now occupies the Lord. The Holy Ghost was to be given to the disciples, but more than this, He should see them again. No doubt they would see Him, when He will return in glory, but then it will be no longer a question of a testimony to render. Before that time they should see Him for a little while, for He would then go to His Father. This was the introduction of the disciples into the realisation of that new state which Christ inaugurated by His resurrection, Son of God in power. They should see the second Man beyond death, and be in living communication with Him. It was not the revelation of the glorious things of the new creation by the Holy Ghost; this revelation was going to be given to them: it was Christ Himself, the Christ they had known during the days of His flesh. “Handle me,” He said, “and see that it is I myself.” Touching and precious word! It was He whom they had known and accompanied every day and all day, who had borne with their infirmities, sustained their faith and encouraged their hearts; it was the same Jesus who shewed Himself as familiarly with them as before, though in quite another state. He shewed Himself, said Peter, “not to all the people, but to us, who did eat and drink with him, after that he was raised from the dead.” It was the same Christ, but what is of all importance, the basis of all for us, it was Christ beyond death, the power of Satan, the judgment of God, and sin; He who had been made sin for us, by whom our sins had been borne and put away, that God might remember them no more. We see here the hnk between Jesus, known in His humiliation in our midst in grace, and man in his new state, according to the counsels of God, a state in which He could no more be subjected to death, nor put to the proof.

The Holy Ghost is the blessed source of our right affections, but He cannot, like Jesus, be the object of them. As God, we love Him; but, we know, He was not made flesh for us, He did not die for us, we cannot be united to Him. We cannot say of Him as of the precious Saviour: “He that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified are all of one; wherefore He is not ashamed to call them brethren.” It is no question of preference or of comparison; it would be folly to speak thus of the divine Persons; but the Holy Ghost, as to His Person, has not placed Himself in the intimacy into which Jesus has entered with us; a Man who calls His own His “friends,” who is indeed the Son of God and with power, but who is a Man and a Man for ever; the same who has been in our midst as He who served.

These words then (ver. 16, etc.), although their full and entire accomplishment should only take place when Christ returns, refer to events of all importance, which, in His death and resurrection, shewed, in a characteristic way, what He was doing and who He was. First of all, He was going to leave His own, and to put an end by His death, to all the relations of God with Israel and with man: “A little while and ye shall not see me”—He was going to die. “And again a little while and ye shall see me.” He was not going to stay like other men in the dust of the tomb; He would be with them again. But once more they should not see Him, for He came not to be a Messiah upon earth, but He was going to His Father who ruled over death, and who, after having raised Him, according to His glory, would take Him to Himself in the glory that was His. It was a series of events, which, while they constituted the disciples eye-witnesses of the fact of His resurrection, belonged to His personal glory and to redemption, to the setting aside of all that is connected with the first man, to the glory that He, the Son of God, had had with the Father before the foundation of the world, and into which He was about to enter again as Man to order all things at the suitable time, according to the glory of God and His counsels with regard to the Man in whom He would glorify Himself.

The Lord answers the hidden desire of the heart of His disciples, who sought in vain to solve the enigma lying in His words, and who feared to ask Him anything; but it is by shewing them first of all, the feelings that would possess their hearts, and then the true character of His coming and of His departure. Their hearts would be deeply afflicted; they were going to lose Him for whom they had left everything: hope founded upon Him was fading away. The world, on the contrary, would be quite happy to be rid of Him who troubled it by the testimony of the truth. But Jesus tells His own that He would see them again, and that their sorrow should be turned into joy, as when a woman brings forth. And in fact it was the child-birth of the new creation. Thus the joy with which they should be filled in seeing Him again would be an eternal joy—a joy that nothing could take from them.

Thus far for the human details; but the ground of the truth is that the Son had come forth from the Father and come into the world, and that He left the world and went to the Father. This was a declaration of incalculable importance, and before which both the disciples’ sorrow at the loss of their Messiah, Son of David, and their joy at seeing Him risen again, faded entirely, real and important as they were. Indeed, it was the revelation of God Himself in grace, and in the accomplishment of all His ways; Man in Christ was the object of them, and the heavenly glory into which He was now entering was the result, the real fact that was taking place. The Son, Man in this world; the Father, perfectly and fully revealed; those who had received Him set in the place of sons with the Father, co-heirs with the Son; and the Father’s house the place of their dwelling and blessing: this is what the presence and departure of Jesus meant. It was laying the foundation of the whole of eternity; the full revelation of the Father and of the Son.

Indeed, it was not speaking in proverbs; but the disciples did not understand it. They fully admitted that He had spoken to them plainly, but their mind did not enter into the force of His words. “By this,” they said, “we believe that thou art come from God.” He had known what was passing in their minds, and that had produced its effect; besides, His words were simple. But to come from God, true as that was, was not saying that He had come from the Father, and was going back to Him. “Do ye now believe? “said the Lord; “all ye shall be offended because of me this night,” “and shall leave me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.”

We may remark here that which characterises this Gospel all through, that is, that though the Lord must pass through death, He does not speak of it. He was come from the Father, and proceeded thither again. We see this at the beginning of chapter 13, and elsewhere.

This terminates the Lord’s discourses addressed to His disciples. He, in presence of that which His soul experienced, could think of them and tell them that which was suited to comfort them and to strengthen them in the time of His absence; it was the spiritual knowledge of Himself; the seeing Him after His resurrection, which would strengthen their faith powerfully; the presence of the Holy Ghost; and finally, that in going to the Father, it was not to abandon them, but that He was going there to prepare for them a dwelling-place on high. Spiritually He would be with them. If they confessed His name, this would bring upon them persecutions. In this world they should have tribulation, but in Him they had peace. Blessed thought! In the circumstances and in the things that were passing, they would have testing, painful no doubt, but which would detach them from the world, and make them feel the contrast between what was such and their position. Inwardly they should have peace, divine peace in Him who appeared to them spiritually, yea, who should dwell in them.

Besides, He had overcome the world. This, indeed, gives courage, to think that what we have to overcome is an enemy already overcome; it is a blessed word for our souls. He went before us in the battle, and He has gained the victory. Thus, as I have said, the Lord’s discourses to His disciples terminate here; but this brings us into a still more blessed position. It is given to us not only to hear the divine words of Jesus, who was thinking of us with a love that knew no bounds, with a devotedness which makes us know what love is (1 John 3:16); words of grace, words of truth, words of God Himself, but which were adapted to man (John 3); words whence we derive the knowledge of what God is for us—it is given to us, I say, not only to hear and to meditate on these words, but we are admitted now to hear Jesus pour out His heart into the Father’s bosom, and to understand that we are an object of common interest to the Father and the Son: this is the subject of chapter 17.

Chapter 17

The key to this chapter is the word “Father.” At the commencement, the Lord lays the great foundations of the position that He was taking at that moment, and then those of the position of the disciples. After that, He states what is their relationship with the Father, and their place before the world, and He closes by making known their place with Him in heaven, and the power of the Father’s love during their stay here below.

The Lord, here, as in the whole of John’s Gospel, is regarded from the point of view of His divine nature, the Son of the Father, but at the same time never leaving the place of service. He receives everything, and appropriates nothing to Himself. Once only, in contrast with an empty temple, He presents Himself to the Jews—at least He presents His body—as the true temple which, as God, He would rebuild in three days. But in His teaching, in the personal expression of relationship with the Father, He never leaves the subordinate place that He had taken in His service. Satan, in the desert, had tried, but in vain, to make Him leave it. He would obey, and He was obedient unto death. Here also, He does not appropriate to Himself the glory, but the hour being come, He asks His Father to glorify Him. It is the Son of the Father who is glorified, it is His personal glory; it is not the Son of man glorified according to the counsels of God. It is the Father who does it. In chapter 13, Jesus speaks of Himself as the Son of man who has glorified God, and that in His work on the cross. Then God, as God, having been glorified, the Son of man enters, according to the value of His work, into the glory of God, which He has established on earth where sin reigned. There, man made sin, and the power of Satan, the judgment and love of God met together, and God has been fully glorified; what He is has been manifested and made good in the obedience of man. Here, it is the Son, who, having perfectly manifested the Father and glorified Him, re-enters, being Man, into the glory that He had had with Him before the world was, in order to glorify Him in this new position also.

His position as Son, and what belongs to Him being Man, is then stated. His rights are twofold: He has power over all flesh, but with the object of giving eternal life to those whom the Father has given Him. His title to power with regard to man is universal.47 If the first man should have power according to nature, the Son, become man, has it in a supernatural manner. But here, in the words of the Saviour, one of the most precious truths for us comes to light. There are those whom the Father has given to the Son. It is the thought and settled purpose of the Father. They are given to the Son; the Father has committed them to His hands, in order that He may bring them into the glory, in order that He may fit them for the presence, the nature, and the glory of God, for all that was in this settled purpose; and that He may place them, according to God’s infinite love, in a position which should satisfy this love, and which is that of the Son, become Man to this effect. We can add that it is a position that answers to the value and efficacy of the work of the Son to place them there, not only externally (which, however, would be impossible), but in endowing them with a nature fit for such a position. Marvellous grace, of which we are the objects! This position is eternal life, a word of which we must examine a little the meaning. It is spiritual and divine life— a life capable of knowing God and of enjoying Him, as answering morally to His nature, “holy and without blame before him in love.” Eternal fife, that is to say, a life not merely immortal, but which belongs to a world that is outside the senses; for “the things that are not seen are eternal.”

But there is something more precise than that. In 1 John 1 we see definitely what eternal life is: it is Christ. That which they had seen, contemplated, and handled from the beginning, it was Christ, the eternal life which was with the Father and had been manifested to them. Thus again, in chapter 5:11, 12: “This is the testimony, that God has given unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son, hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life.” Paul, in the Epistle to the Ephesians (chap. 1:3, 4) presents to us this life in its double character. In the first place, that which answers to His nature, that which Christ was and is personally; and secondly, our relationship with the Father; that is to say, sons, and that in His presence. We participate in the divine nature, and we are in the position of Christ: sons according to the good pleasure of the Father’s will. That is the nature of this life.

Here it is presented objectively. In fact, in our relations with God, that which is the object of faith is the power of life in us. Thus Paul says; “When it pleased God to reveal his Son in me”; but in receiving, by grace, by faith, the Saviour that he was to preach to others, he received life, for Christ is our life. But, as I have already said, it is the name of the Father that is the key to this chapter. God is always the same; but neither the name of Almighty, nor that of Jehovah, nor that of Most High, carries life in itself. We must have it to know God thus, but the Father sent the Son that we might live through Him, and he that has the Son, has life, and he only. But the Son has fully manifested the Father; so that the Son being received, the Father was also; and the life displayed itself in this knowledge, faith in the mission of the Son, and by Him, faith in the Father in sending the Son, in love, as Saviour. The glory of Christ Himself will be the full manifestation of this life, and we shall participate in it, we shall be like Him. Still it is an inward life, real and divine, by which we live, although we possess it in these poor earthen vessels. It is no longer we that live, but Christ that lives in us. Infinite and eternal blessedness which belongs to us already as life, according to these words: “he that hath the Son, hath life.” But this places us also in the position of sons now, and brings us, later on, to bear the image of Christ.

Note also that all the fulness of the Godhead dwells in Christ bodily. However, this is not what is presented to us here, but the ways of God as Father in grace, and source of all in blessing; it is the Father who sends the Son. (Compare 1 John 4:14.) No doubt, it is the Holy Ghost that makes us to know the Father thus, and who renders us capable of having communion with Him, and with His Son Jesus Christ. In this development of grace, He is the power that works in us. The Father, who had in His grace the thought of sending, and who in fact has sent, His Son into the world; then the Son thus sent, in whom this grace is known; such are the effects that we know. The Father, in His divine and eternal thoughts, is the source of all this infinite grace, and the Son is the One in whom these thoughts are realised, who gave Himself to accomplish all, and that we might have part in all. He gave Himself, in order to accomplish all that was needed to bring us to the Father according to these thoughts; fit for God’s presence, like unto Him who has brought us there. “A body hast thou prepared me; lo, I come to do thy will, O God!”

Observe also, that it is not the essence of His nature that is presented here, but the development of grace. Although He had had, with the Father, before the world was, the glory into which He was going to enter again, nevertheless, as we have seen everywhere, He is the sent One of the Father; He receives all from Him, and takes the initiative in nothing of His own will, except in undertaking the work that He should accomplish; but comes to do the Father’s will. He empties Himself of this part of the divine rights, free then to undertake all, having the same will with the Father. But the work that He undertook was, from one end to the other, a work of pure obedience. It was at His expense that the work was done, but according to the thoughts and will of the Father. He never left this position. He could say “I am” (John 8:58); but He lived by every word that came out of the mouth of God. The perfection of the work was obedience in love. Adonai (the Lord) whom we see in Isaiah 6:1, this Jehovah whose glory fills the earth, it is Christ; John 12:39-41. He is Adonai, at Jehovah’s right hand, Adonai who smites the kings in the day of wrath; Psalm no:5.

Such then are the relationships in which we know God now. It is not simply a supreme God, the Most High; it is not only He “who is, who was, and who is to come,” He who, always the same, accomplishes His promises; nor any more the mighty God, the all-powerful who keeps His own. All this is true; but these titles are connected with God governing the world, accomplishing His promises, and keeping His own down here. Here it is God Himself who reveals Himself, as the Father who has sent the Son, to bring us to Him according to the full manifestation of what He is in Himself, partaking morally of His nature, His own sons, and destined to be like Christ.

Now the Son had fully glorified the Father down here; He had finished the work that the Father had entrusted to Him, and He asks to be re-admitted into the glory that He had had with the Father before the world was. The Father had sent Him, He had glorified the Father and finished the work He had to do, and now He was going to return into His former glory, the glory of the Son, but He re-entered it as man.

Up to this the foundations are laid; Christ ever seeking to glorify the Father, even when He should have re-entered into the glory that belonged to Him. All was accomplished with regard to His mission. Sent on the part of God, and from Him, become man to glorify Him down here, He had done it; for he who had seen the Son had seen the Father. Then He receives the glory from the Father, and sits on His throne, a glorified Man, but Son, in the eternal glory He had had. But the object of His mission was also to give eternal life to those whom the Father had given Him. Now, those who knew God thus, the Father, and Jesus, the Christ whom He had sent, possessed this life.

The basis of the whole position of His own being thus laid in Jesus, the Son of the Father, and in His work, Jesus continues, still addressing the Father. He shews how He had revealed Him to His own,48 and created thus in their hearts the consciousness of the ineffably blessed position in which, in virtue of His manifestation and of His work, they were now placed; and first of all in relationship with the Father. The Father’s love was the source of it: “those,” says the Saviour, “whom thou hast given me.” The Father had confided them to the Son’s faithfulness; first of all, faithfulness towards the Father, to bring His beloved ones to Him, according to His thoughts of blessing and of glory, as sons, that is to say, as Christ Himself; then consequently, according to His own heart of love, unfailing faithfulness towards us—blessed be His name! Without it, we never should have been in the enjoyment which has been destined for us; it is exercised through all the sufferings that sin, in which we were, rendered necessary; it is exercised as to the burden of care that our weakness, the presence of the flesh in us, and the wiles of Satan required, and require from Him.

In order to place us in the consciousness of the position which the Father’s grace had given us, and that His faithfulness assured to us, He has revealed the Father’s name. The only Son who enjoyed ineffably the Father’s affection (John 1:18), which was visible as a fact in this world,49 if the world had eyes to see it (John 1:5, 10, 11); He, the Son, who knew the Father as such, has revealed Him to the disciples. He was ever a revelation of the Father before their eyes (John 14:9), but, more, He had spoken to them of Him: this is one of the things that characterise His communications. It is true that before having received the Holy Ghost, they scarcely profited by them, but that by which they might have profited was there before them. Alas! never once did they understand what the Lord said to them. But He does not speak here of their want of intelligence, He speaks of the revelation itself that had been made to them, attributing to them the possession of all its value. Moreover, it is what He always did, even when they declared that they did not understand it (John 14:4, 5), for they had a true faith in Him, in whom all was found.

He says also: “They have kept thy word”; and, in fact, whatever their ignorance might have been, they had, by grace, walked faithfully with Jesus. “To whom should we go?” said Peter; “Thou hast the words of eternal life.” They had also recognised Him as Son of God; He had communicated to them therefore the relationship in which He was with the Father in this world, and whatever their degree of intelligence, He placed them in the same relationship.

But He did more; He communicated to them all the privileges, which on the part of the Father, belonged to Himself on earth; the privileges inherent to His position of Son down here. It was no longer the glory and royal honour that the Messiah should receive from Jehovah; they had understood that what He had, belonged to the Son, to the Son who had emptied Himself, and come down to a state of abasement and humiliation here below, to shew forth all the glory of the power of God in goodness, taking away not yet the sin, but all the miseries that were the fruit of it. They had understood that that which Jesus had received from the Father was all that belonged to the Son of God, as Son of man on earth.

But this privilege that had been accorded to them, depended upon another, or was realised in another, which was still greater. He had shared with them all the intimate communications that the Father had made to Him as Son down here. It was all that belonged to this position which occupies us here— that of the Son upon earth. “I have given them the words that thou hast given me.” Immense grace! It was in effect placing them in the same position as Himself with the Father. He had revealed to them the name of Father. It was placing them, in title and in fact, in His own relationship of Son with with Father. But Christ, having been Son here upon earth, and having come to accomplish the work the Father had given Him to do, had of right received intimate communications from Him, in order that all might be done in a perfect and unfailing unity with the Father. This was, for the Saviour, the blessed side of His life. Now, having placed the disciples (for He speaks here of the eleven) in the same relationship with the Father, as that in which He was by nature and by right, their position was not to be barren and dry, but furnished with all the communications which belonged to Him, and which Jesus enjoyed. And this is the grace which has been made theirs. It would be well, before going further, to make one or two remarks here.

This part of the Saviour’s words (verses 6-10, and even up to verse 19, although this last portion treats of the disciples from another point of view) applies to the eleven, as companions of Christ upon earth. He had revealed the Father’s name to them; He was placing them in the relationship in which He was Himself with the Father, as Son, but dwelling upon earth. The communications which He received were made to Him as being there, and were those that He communicated to them. I have no doubt whatever that Jesus spoke of what He knew, and bore witness to what He had seen; nor that the fact that He could say of Himself, “the Son of man that is in heaven” (John 3:13), had an essential influence upon His ministry. But He was the manifestation of grace and truth down here, and up to the time that He was speaking, it was not a question of giving the disciples the consciousness that they were in Him in heaven; that was about to take place. In verse 24, this thought, not yet of union, but at least of association with Him in heaven, begins to dawn. His object assuredly was not to maintain Judaism, but to present that which manifested the Father, grace and truth come in Him, the character of God in a Man down here shewn out fully. It was not, either, to develop the counsels of God and the mysteries of grace, as Paul teaches them to us; that is a fruit of Jesus being glorified. The sun had shone behind the clouds in the previous dispensations; even now it is faith that lays hold of it; at the end, its manifestation will have an earthly character; but here the clouds disperse, and the sun itself appears. The Father in the fulness of grace, sends the Son; the Son manifests the Father perfectly, and glorifies Him, and the disciples understand that all that the Father had given to Jesus was the gift of the Father to the Son down here (not, as I have said, of Jehovah to the Messiah), that the Father had sent Him in sovereign grace, and that He had come from the Father.

Such is the basis of the prayer of Jesus. It was for them that He prayed, not for the world. The world was judged, but the Father had given Him His disciples; most precious truth, source of all our blessings and that which characterises them. Now the Lord, in leaving His disciples, prays for them, and with infinitely touching motives, which open also to our view the sphere into which we are introduced. All belongs to this revelation of the Father in the Son—the Object, and at the same time the Revealer, of His most tender love, and to the introduction of the disciples into the same relationship.

The first motive is found in these words: “I pray for them, because they are thine.” For the beloved Son, the Father was everything; He lived to glorify Him, and He prays that the Father may be for those who are His, such a Father as He Himself knew Him.

The second motive is the Son. The Father cared for the Son’s glory; because of this, He was to take care of His disciples, for now that Jesus was going back to the Father, it is in them that He was to be glorified. The Father would keep them because they belonged to Him, and that in them the Son should be glorified. It was necessary that they should be kept if the Father cared for the glory of the Son. Now there was no separation between the interests and glory of the Father and the interests and glory of the Son. All that belonged to the Father belonged to the Son, and all that belonged to the Son belonged to the Father. What a bond between the Father, the Son, and the disciples? They belonged to the Father, the Father had given them to the Son, and it was in them that the Son was to be glorified. Their present position, which gave occasion to the request, was that Jesus was going away from the world to the Father, and that He was leaving His disciples down here.

Then Jesus indicates the name according to which the Father was to keep them: “Holy Father,” to keep them with the affection of a Father, and according to the holiness of His nature. He had kept them Himself in this name during His sojourn here below, and now He gives them over to the immediate care of the Father, according to the love towards them common to the Father and to the Son, and always under the name of “Holy Father.” “Holy Father, keep them in thy name that thou hast given me.”50 Christ was down here the Son of the Father, and as such He answered also to the Father’s holiness in all His ways and His thoughts. The Father’s will was exemplified in His life; He manifested in Himself the Holy Father. Now He prayed that the disciples might be kept by what the Father was in this relationship with Jesus. The Lord was in it, lived in it; he who had seen Him had seen the Father. As with Israel, He could have said: “Obey his voice, provoke him not; for my name is in him,” Exod. 23:21. Thus the Father and He were one, not only in nature, but in thoughts, acts, motions of the will. Christ, in His life, was one with the Holy Father.

Christ prayed for His own, that they might be kept by the Father in that name. He was there by nature; it was His place upon earth; they needed to be kept there. He had kept them thus as long as He had been in this world; now He gave them over to the Father, that He should keep them thus, that there might be the same thought, the same purpose, and that all their words and actions might answer to it; that the expression of the life of each of them and of all together, might be that of the Lord in His relationship with the Father, according to the import and value of this name. Presently the Lord will speak of the mediatorial means; here, it is the fact that He presents. The disciples were to be one—a single vessel of the life, of the thoughts, of the revelation of the Father Himself, as Christ had been. “Father,” the name of grace, of God sending the Son, the Son revealing Him as such; and “holiness” according to that which the Father is—this is what was to characterise them, and by the power of the Holy Ghost,51 all, as a single existence, were to be only this in the midst of the world; they should represent Christ in this relationship with the Father. It is evident that if there were amongst them different thoughts or purposes, they would fail as to this position. The Father and the Son were thus one when the Son was down here; this is what they were to be amongst themselves according to the relationship in which Christ had been. It is the name of “Father” that had been given to Him, in order that He might manifest it in this world; and, according to His holiness, there was nothing of this world in Him to obscure the revelation of what the Father was.

Such was their position; it was not yet their mission. Being such, it was to have the joy of Christ fulfilled in them. Indeed, it was the joy of the Saviour, man here below. Infinite grace for them, and in a certain sense for us all. (Compare 1 John 1:1-4.) The sum of all is, that the relationship of the Son down here with the Holy Father, the name in which He had kept His disciples when He was here below, was to be their safeguard directly on the Father’s part.

He sends them into this world, having confided to them the Father’s word—this revelation, not of the dispensations of God in His government of the world, but the revelation of the Father in grace—a revelation, not of the counsels of God for the future in Christ, but a revelation which made known the Father Himself, as having sent the Son, and putting in relationship with God according to His nature, that which will be the eternal blessing when there will no longer be any dispensation.

Now this is what drew upon them the hatred of the world. Their presence, representing the Father in testimony, told the world that everything did not belong to it; that that which was of God did not. There were men who were in relationship with the Father; but the consequence of this was that they were not of the world. Judgment was not executed, but the separation was made.

Christ did not pray that they might be taken out of the world, although they did not belong to it, as He Himself did not belong to it, but that they might be kept from the evil, negatively from the influence of the world that surrounded them. Not only so, but that they might be sanctified, set apart in heart and in fact by the Father’s word; it was not prophecy, nor the government of the world, but the revelation of the Father in His grace in Christ: the eternal joy of His communion. It was the immutable, eternal truth: Christ had been and always is it, but they were to be witnesses of it, being sent by the Son into the world, as the Son had been sent into it by the Father.

Now for the accomplishment of this sanctification in them, an object is introduced in the Person of Christ Himself—Christ, I believe, glorified; however, His Person remains the same. One might have supposed that the Son, eternally One with the Father in His divine nature, and who had been Son down here, introducing this relationship into human nature, but always able to say: “I and my Father are one”; one might have supposed, I say, that He would have laid aside this human garb in leaving this world, in order to enter again into His simply divine position. But no! He keeps it in the glory. He sets Himself apart in the glory as Man; always Son, but in the glory that He had with the Father before the world was, in order that this relationship with the Father, in which man is placed in His Person, might be effectively revealed in its perfection and in its fulness to the hearts of the disciples, that these hearts filled with what He was, might be at the same time sanctified according to this perfection, and thus made fit to be the vessels of it in their testimony. Thus the truth of what the Father is—the truth that sanctified them—was not, so to speak, a dry doctrine, applied to their souls to form them, judging evil and communicating that which was suitable, but a living reality which placed them in this position, with all the affections which were connected with a Person, in whom they were and who was in them, a Saviour known and beloved, who had been bound up with them in grace. All the fulness of the result of this relationship, established in its perfection in heaven, formed their heart according to this perfection.

This is what completes that which Jesus asks for the disciples before the Father, and in testimony before the world: the revelation of the name of the Father known in the Person of the Son, Man in this world and in the glory. But His prayer does not stop there; blessed be His name for ever!

Jesus prays also for those who were to believe through their means; but the request is not the same as that which He made for the disciples, although it depends upon it. For them He asked a unity analogous to that which existed between the Father and the Son in the work of redemption; the same thoughts, the same counsels, the same truth. The Son accomplished the Father’s thoughts in the unity of the same nature. They were, by the absorbing power of the Holy Ghost, to act in the work of testimony, as being absolutely and entirely one. No divergence existed between the thoughts, the counsels, the will of the Father, and the testimony and obedience of the Son; and, by grace, the disciples became the depositary, one and all together, of the testimony of the revelation of the Father in the Son. Also, the Father’s word having been confided to them, their function was to communicate it to others. They were communicators of these truths; the others, for whom the Saviour now prays, received this testimony, and thus entered into communion with those who were in the unity of this grace. (Compare i John i:1-4.) They enjoyed all that of which the disciples were the depositaries. The Lord prays that they may be one with them, the Father and the Son. It is always the Father revealed in the Son that is the basis of their union. Now this revelation gave them a heavenly object, one only and the same object that absorbed the heart’s affections, and thus destroyed the influence of the earthly objects that would have tended to divide them, such as their social or national position, and even what was still more difficult, their religious position. They were Christians, sons of the Father, associated with Christ; their fatherland was heaven. Pilgrims and strangers down here, they declared plainly that they sought their native country. Now, in this, they were necessarily one; one in their origin, one in their object, and that with Christ Himself, the Son of the Father. He that sanctified and they who were sanctified were all of one. (See Heb. 2:11.) They formed part of the company of those to whom the Saviour had said: “I ascend unto my Father and your Father, unto my God and your God.” In this spiritual position, they were one in the Father and in the Son, who were one in themselves, and all together lived in this communion. Thus in 1 John 1, we read: “that ye may have fellowship with us: and our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ,” and then we have fellowship “one with another.”

Thus, inasmuch as Christians, brought to the knowledge of the Father in the Son, the motives that animate and govern the world, had disappeared: “As is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.” In this case John never speaks of the inconsistencies that may be shewn in the walk, nor the Saviour either, but He speaks of the thing in itself. Now the world was to see this unity (compare Acts 2 and 4), and the disappearance of all the motives that govern this world, a clear testimony to the revelation of the Father in the Son. It was the testimony that the Father had sent the Son into the world; for there is seen a people there formed by a power that was not at all of the world, and which, in overturning all human barriers, would give them but one heart and one soul, so that they were irrefragable witnesses of the reality of that which governed them. Such are Christians, led by the word of the Father, subject to the influence of this word, and living by it.

Note, that the subject here is not of the unity of the church— John never speaks of it—but of the family of God. It is not the counsels of God, but the effect and realisation of the revelation of the Father in the Son sent from Him; but in everything they are identified with Christ.

The third unity is in glory. The first was expressed by these words, “as we” (ver. 11); the second, by “one in us” (ver. 21); and this one, by “as we are one” (ver. 22), and by “I in them, and thou in me”; thus accomplished, brought to perfection in one. It is here the result in glory.

We have seen that the doctrine of the chapter, even eternal life, is the knowledge of the Father, and Christ sent by Him. Now this is accomplished in the glory. First of all, Christ a man, Son of God, in glory, is the source of the sanctification of His own according to that knowledge, the disciples and those that believed, being introduced by their means in spirit into the position where Christ was. In the second place, this relationship of association with Christ is transferred into the glory before the Father; not as now, realised by faith, but they themselves are transformed in this glory. It is union, perfect in nature, thoughts, and state—“as we are one”; Christ in them, so that their position was fully realised, and the Father in Christ, so that the spiritual connection that we have seen all through the chapter—the Father revealed in the Son, and Christ revealed in the disciples and believers—was now not only spiritually known, but gloriously realised.

But let us here notice what is striking and important. The three unities relate to the world. First, the word of God had been confided to the disciples, conjointly depositaries of the truth, so that the world hated them (vers. 11-14); then, secondly, we have the unity of communion, that the world might believe (ver. 24) in seeing the effect and the power of the present testimony; then, thirdly, the disciples and believers are made partakers of the glory given to the Son as Man; He in them, and the Father in Him, so that the whole of these thoughts, of grace so infinite which unites the Father, the Son as Man, and believers, being manifested in glory, the world will know (and not believe) that the Son had been sent from the Father, and that believers were loved by the Father as the Son Himself. The proof of it will be there: the Son manifested in glory, and believers in the same glory as He. This will be the visible accomplishment of the doctrine, of the marvellous truth with which the chapter is taken up: the Father in the Son as Man, and believers glorified with Him. But whether it be a scene of testimony or of glory, it is the world that is before our eyes. In what follows, this is not the case, and it is this that gives quite another character to these last verses. “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 lovedst me before the foundation of the world.” We see here, as we have seen throughout, that Christ speaks of Himself as man, though also as Son of the Father; as man, divested outwardly of the divine glory in which He had been— “the form of God” as we read in Philippians 2—and having taken “the form of a servant” in humanity. The Father has given the glory on high to the Man Christ. He had had, He says in this same chapter, this glory with the Father before the foundation of the world, but He was going back into it as man, for as man it is clear that He had never had it. He was not yet glorified. Never, down here, though He said and shewed that He was one with the Father, and “I am” (John 8:59), and said to the Jews: “Destroy this temple [His body where God was], and in three days I will raise it up”; never would He go outside this position of servant: He took a body in order to be obedient to His Father; Psalm 40. Moreover, a man who had not been so, would have been by the very fact, in evil: it was this that Satan sought to lead Him into; Matt. 4. The Father had proclaimed: “This is my beloved Son”; and in the first temptation, Satan says to Him: “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones become bread”; but the Lord withstood his wiles, refusing to leave the place of obedience: “Man,” He says, “shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Thus, in speaking as Man in the midst of His own, He speaks of the glory into which He was going to enter, as being given Him of God. Nevertheless He presents it here objectively as His personal glory.

He had been loved before the foundation of the world. We have learned, at the beginning of the chapter, that He had had with the Father, before the foundation of the world, the glory into which He was going to enter as Man. It is not that there are two glories; but I do not believe that human eyes down here can bear the glory as it is seen in heaven. The glory seen upon earth will be like that in which Moses and Elijah appeared upon the mountain—the glory of the kingdom. But we read in Luke 9 that the disciples entered into the cloud, the shekinah. Moses had spoken to God, when God came down in the cloud, but he did not enter into it. But we shall see Him such as He is there, in the Father’s house. The disciples had suffered upon earth, and had seen Him suffer. He was going to be crucified, and He asked therefore that they should see His glory on high, with the Father. It was the answer to the ignominy to which He had been exposed for His love for us, and for the glory of His Father.

But this request relates also to another solemn truth. He was going to suffer; the history of His sufferings begins with the next chapter. The world had rejected Him; the Father must decide between Him and the world. He had fully revealed the Father, and the world had not known Him who had manifested Himself in Christ. It was moral blindness that only saw the carpenter’s son there, where the Father had been manifested in all His grace and all His goodness. But Jesus, as man in the world, had known the Father, and the disciples had known that it was the Father, who had sent Him. Now the end had come, the close of His earthly career; the result was to declare itself. The Father’s righteousness was about to place Him in His house, and the world was left without God, who had been there in grace, and without the Saviour.

Notice that when He prays for His own, Jesus says, “Holy Father.” He desired that they should be kept according to this name—sons with Him, and sanctified according to this revelation of the Father that Christ enjoyed, and of which He was the vessel for the others. Now He says “Righteous Father.” The Father was to decide between Him and those who had received Him on the one hand, and the world that had rejected Him on the other. A solemn moment for the world, when He who had come in pure grace (2 Cor. 5:19) prayed, after having faithfully manifested and glorified the Father, that the Father Himself should decide in righteousness between Him and the world. The answer very soon followed, when Jesus sat down on the Father’s throne.

But we have something else to remark here. First the union of the divine Person of the Son, and of the humanity of the Saviour. The Father had loved Him before the foundation of the world; Himself, Son of the Father, before there had been a world. But in contrast with the world, He had known the Father, that is to say, as Man down here, and He associates the disciples with Himself, demanding that they should be there where He was going to be, at the same time owning His personal glory. He demanded that they should see His glory, the glory that He had as loved of the Father before the world existed. It is the precious truth, which is like a thread uniting all the chapter; but here, that which is put more forward, is His Person as Son of the Father, and Man, and the association of the disciples with Him. But what grace is presented to us here! We shall be with Christ, like Christ; we shall see His glory, the glory of Him who has been humbled for us; a glory that He had with the Father before the foundation of the world— but Man for ever and ever.

This is not yet all. There is our relationship with the Father, the same as that of Christ: “I go to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”; that is to say, where Christ is still as Son, and as Man. We enjoy this relationship already. When Christ shall come again, the world will know that we have been loved, as Christ has been loved; but we have the enjoyment of it already, down here. The Father’s name has been already declared to us when Christ was upon earth, although little understood by the disciples. But from the descent of the Holy Ghost, come down in virtue of the presence of the Man Christ in heaven, this name is declared again, and the Spirit is the Spirit of adoption.

What immense, perfect, and intimate grace! Love, which is the love with which God loves, infinite, perfect, in its nature shutting out all that is not itself; intimate, it is the Father’s love for the Son Himself, and Christ in us to draw it into our hearts, and make us capable of enjoying it, and that in its perfect intimacy, for it is Christ in us, to give it its proper character in us.

The world will know objectively the love wherewith we have been loved, when we shall appear in the same glory as Christ; we ourselves know it, as being the conscious objects of it; knowing this love in the Father, in the Son as being its worthy and infinite object, and we—He being in us—participating in it in the manner in which He enjoys it as Man. God alone could have such thoughts.

Chapter 18

We have been through the wonderful chapter, in which is presented to us the touching development of the communion of the Son with the Father with regard to the object of their common interest, the children, believers put into relationship with the Father by His revelation in the Son. The more we think of it, the more we feel how marvellous it is to be admitted to hear such communications.

But let us continue our study of the Gospel. That which follows, is the account of the last events of the life of Christ, as also of His death, of His resurrection and all that belongs to them. The sufferings of Christ are not the subject of John’s Gospel, but His divine Person, and this character is found again here. We do not find suffering either in Gethsemane or upon the cross, but a direct testimony borne to His divinity, as to His perfect human obedience. There is another element less important, but which comes out in a clear light; it is, the moral setting aside of the Jews, a subject of sorrow for the Saviour Himself and for us, for which the sovereign grace of God will provide a remedy; but here they fall into marked contempt, even from the Gentiles.

The sufferings of Christ not being related, there is far less detail. It is great principles, great facts, that are put in the foreground in the account, or at least spring out of it. I hope it will not be hazarding too much for souls, to pass in review the different accounts found in the Gospels of what took place in Gethsemane and upon the cross.

In Matthew, Christ is the Victim; there is neither comforter nor consolation, but the sleep of His own, and betrayal with kisses in Gethsemane; and upon the cross: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Mark gives very much the same facts in this respect. In John, we shall soon see, it is not a question of sufferings, either in Gethsemane, or upon the cross; it is the Son of God who gives Himself. In Luke we have more human anguish in Gethsemane, but none upon the cross. We will speak further on of what is related in John’s Gospel. In Matthew’s Gospel it is simple: it is the Lamb led to the slaughter, the Lamb that opened not His mouth, except to own Himself such, and forsaken of God for us. In Luke, I see the Son of man, and each circumstance answers to the character of the Gospel. Thus, as Man, His genealogy goes up to Adam; He is the Man who is always praying; in Gethsemane, in sight of the terrible cup that He had to drink, He is the Man realising beforehand that which He would have to suffer, as being made sin. He was in an agony (which is in Luke alone) but that only served to shew His perfection; He prayed the more earnestly; He was as a man with God; He went through all the anguish in His soul. Upon the cross, no sufferings at all. All the rest (that which we see in the other Gospels) remains true, but it is seen from another side; it is in another aspect that the precious Saviour is presented. The sufferings are past; He asks forgiveness for the Jews; He promises paradise to the thief; then, when all is finished, He gives up His spirit to His Father. It is grace and peace in His soul, when He has realised all. The forsaking of God had taken place, but this is not the side of the history that Luke presents.

It is well to remark too, that the three other Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) relate His controversy with the different classes of the Jews at His last entrance into Jerusalem, the unbelief of whom is set in clear light. In John, when this unbelief as to His word (chap. 8), as to His works (chap. 9), has been made manifest, and He has declared that He is come to seek His sheep, Jews or Gentiles, and God has borne witness to Him as being Son of God, Son of David, and Son of man (but as such He must die), then it is not controversy with the Jews, a matter already settled, but communications to His disciples about the privileges and the position they should enjoy when He would be away. This brings us back to the history.

The few verses that tell us of Gethsemane, present to us the Saviour in His divine power, then giving Himself for His own, and finally perfect in obedience as man. Nothing is said of what passed before the arrival of Judas, but then the whole band, upon His voluntary avowal that He was Jesus of Nazareth, fall to the earth, confounded by the divine power which was revealed in Him. He could go away, to escape from them; but He was not come for that, and declaring again that He was the One whom they sought, He adds: “If therefore ye seek me, let these go their way”; that that word, so precious for us also, might be fulfilled; “Of those whom thou hast given me, I have lost none.” He puts Himself in the breach, that His own may be sheltered from harm.

Peter draws his sword, strikes the servant of the high priest, and cuts off his ear. Jesus heals him, but saying these words: “The cup which my Father hath given me to drink, shall I not drink it?” Perfect submission to His Father’s will, while shewing that by a word from Him they were rendered powerless, and He free.

In that which follows, we find, it seems to me, that Jesus hardly takes account of the high priest. He does not give account of His teaching to him, but refers him to those who had heard Him: what He had spoken was in public. In the other Gospels, we see indeed that Jesus replied, when He was asked who He was. But here the high priest’s authority disappeared.

Peter’s fall is stated carefully, then left. In the examination that he makes Him undergo, Pilate receives a fuller answer from Him. His reticence before the high priest is not found here, which is striking. With Caiaphas, He refers to what he could have known from the multitude who had heard Him. With Pilate, He enters into conversation; He recognises the governor’s authority, but the Jews are set aside, placed in the position of false accusers, and, when their enmity is rendered evident, He explains to Pilate, that, King though He was, His kingdom was not of this world, and never will be, even when it shall be established here below. The heavens shall reign; the world will acknowledge it; Dan. 4:26.

Pilate would have liked to have left the matter to the Jews; he saw well that it was only envy and hatred without cause; but the Jews were to be the instrument of Christ’s being treated as a malefactor, and not even stoned as a blasphemer, as Stephen was. In God’s wonderful counsels, His Son was to be put to death as a malefactor among the Gentiles—cast out of the vineyard, but the guilty ones, those who were the authors of it, were the Jews (v. 29-32, 35). What terrible blindness was theirs! They did not want to defile themselves that they might eat the passover (ver. 28), at the very moment that they were giving up the true Passover Lamb to be sacrificed. Scruples are not conscience. We must not violate scruples, if we have them, but conscience looks to God and to His word. Conscience did not prevent the Jews buying the blood of Jesus for thirty pieces of silver; but a scruple forbade their putting into the treasury of God in the temple, the money rejected by Judas, because it was the price of blood. (Compare Rom. 14.)

Pilate asks Jesus if He was the King of the Jews. The Lord explains that His kingdom is not of this world, otherwise He would have made good His claims as the world does. But in every sense, His kingdom, at this moment, was not established in this world as a kingdom of the world. His presence as accused before Pilate was the proof of it. Jesus does not fail to confess openly that He is King, when Pilate asks Him. He will establish, later ori, a power which nothing will be able to resist, but the time was not yet come. According to the truth, He was King, and He bears witness to the truth. According to the work of God in that moment, He was numbered amongst the transgressors. For Pilate, an infidel and a rationalist, what was truth? He was very guilty in yielding to the urgent demands of the Jews, but it was the Jews who were the instigators of the death of Jesus. They were accomplishing, without knowing it, the counsels of God, and Jesus was there in His perfect obedience. We have before us the truth, the King, the propitiatory Victim, accomplishing a work far deeper and more important than even royalty; we see there also the head of the Gentiles, representing the emperor, then the furious hatred of this poor people against God manifested in goodness, their Saviour. Everything assumes its true character, God’s counsels are accomplished, and every actor in this scene takes his true place. But the actors, Jews and Gentiles, are to disappear condemned, but for grace; and the condemned malefactor, who, humanly speaking, disappears, leaves the scene to be Lord over all, to sit upon the Father’s throne.

Thus things go on even on a small scale, in this world. It is striking to see these poor Jews make use of, at the cross, the very words that, in their own scriptures, are put into the mouths of atheists and of the enemies of God. (Compare Psalm 22 and Matthew 27.) But wisdom is justified of her children.

Every one’s position is clearly established. Pilate, the judge, convinced of the Lord’s innocence, wished to rid himself of the Jews’ importunity, and to avoid enmity without profit. The Jews are enraged against the Son of God come in grace into this world, and prefer to Him a robber guilty of murder. Jesus submits to everything: condemned on His own testimony, He was to be cast out of the camp, and undergo the kind of death of which He had spoken, and the Gentiles were to be guilty of it. But the acts of Pilate and of the Jews were to bring out still more in relief the spirit that animated them. Pilate without conscience; the Jews full of hatred—they wished, at all cost, to put Him to death. This is what follows, and that we find at the beginning of chapter 19.

Chapter 19

In reality the judgment of the Saviour has been pronounced. He had been give up to the outrages of the Roman soldiers. The details of this part of the history are found in Matthew

26:24-31. The Jews, notwithstanding Pilate’s timid resistance, had chosen Barabbas the robber and rejected the Son of God; and Pilate, yielding to their solicitation, had given up in an unprecedented way his position as judge, to please a turbulent people.

But he was not easy. The majesty of the ways of Jesus gave the accused ascendency over the judge. There was in Christ something superhuman that made Pilate afraid; besides, we know that he had received warnings that God had sent to him in a way such as a Gentile could receive them; Matt.

27:19. But the relations of the Jews, not with Christ—that is found more clearly and in a more terrible manner in Matthew —but with Gentiles, and those of the Gentiles with God, were to be manifested with more evidence. Pilate brings Jesus back, and He is presented to us hated and rejected of the Jews, and condemned solely by Pilate upon words known to all: “Behold the Man.”

It is God who presents Him to us thus. There was the Son of God as He was in this world. The world did not know Him, although it had seen Him, and His own received Him not. He was the despised and the rejected of men.

Pilate, ill at ease from a mingling of fear and of a bad conscience, and at the same time full of a feverish anxiety to maintain his authority, and to throw upon the Jews the guilt of the condemnation of Jesus, presents Him again to the Jews to tell them that he finds no fault in Him. This excites the Jews to demand with loud cries His crucifixion. Pilate wishes them to do it, as he finds no fault in Him. Then the Jews, to whom the Romans had left their own laws (except the right of putting to death), insist that Jesus deserved death because He made Himself the Son of God, which increases Pilate’s uneasiness.

He goes again into the judgment-hall and asks Jesus whence He was. Where was now the judge? Jesus does not answer him, Pilate having publicly owned that Jesus was not guilty. It was not a question of instructing Pilate; who, moreover, did not seek instruction, and who, in presence of the silence of Jesus, appeals to his authority and to his power over Him. Jesus declares to Pilate that he would have none if it had not been given him from above—for the crucifixion of the Saviour was in the counsels of God, and Jesus was now giving Himself to accomplish them; but that only increased the sin of Judas, who, witness of the divine power of Christ, had delivered Him up, as though there were none.

From that moment, Pilate seeks to deliver Jesus; but to avoid a tumult amongst the Jews who reproach him with being unfaithful to Caesar, since Jesus called Himself King, he resists no longer, but irritated, he derides the Jews whom he despised, and not concerning himself as to either the truth or as to Jesus, says, “Shall I crucify your King?” —hiding thus his uneasiness, his vexation, his weakness, and want of conscience. This is the occasion of the public apostasy of the Jews, who declare, “We have no king but Caesar! “The counsels of God are being fulfilled; Pilate’s hands are stained with the blood of the Son of God; the Gentiles who had the authority, are guilty of His death; the Jews abandon all the privileges that they had from God, and Jesus, with His innocence judicially owned, occupies alone the place of truth and faithfulness, and gives Himself up (for He might have escaped as in the garden, or indeed at any moment) to fulfil the counsels of grace. The Gentiles are compromised without resource, the Jews lost for ever upon the ground of their own responsibility, and that not only as to the law, but as having renounced all right to the enjoyment of the promises; and if God fulfil them later on for His own glory, they will be compelled to receive the enjoyment of them as poor lost sinners from among the Gentiles. Jesus, condemned purely and simply for the testimony that He bore to the truth, as had also been the case before the high priest, stands alone in His dignity and integrity in the midst of a world that ruined itself in running counter to Him, to the grace and truth come from God by Him who was in His bosom.

Here, Jesus recognises no authority among the Jews—they were adversaries—nor in the head of the Gentiles, except for the accomplishment of God’s counsels. He explains to him first the position, but denies his power, if it is not for that. To see His condemnation by the Jews we must go to the other evangelists, as Matthew 26:63-66, where we see Him condemned for the witness He had borne that He was the Son of God; and Luke 22 where they take upon themselves the terrible responsibility of His blood. Here, in the Gospel of John, it is only the adversaries that the Lord does not recognise. Jews and Gentiles, they disappear in the darkness of hatred, and of an act of injustice proceeding from feebleness of soul and want of conscience, and Jesus is there, having borne witness to the truth, alone, accepting the consequences from God, in order to accomplish the unspeakable work of divine love for the one and the other. Oh! that we may know better how to meditate on and realise these things!

In the history of the crucifixion of Jesus, as we have seen in Gethsemane, the sufferings are not found. If He is placed between the malefactors, it is to throw contempt on the poor Jews. But if Pilate had yielded without conscience to their violence, he by no means concerned himself with the honour of their nation, and he insolently maintains what he has written. The will of God was, that this testimony should be borne to the state of the Jews and to the rights of His Son, rejected of the people, but King of the Jews. Prophecy is accomplished with regard to them in the smallest details.

After that, we find One who has completed His blessed course; it is the Son of God. During His service here below, He did not recognise His mother. In reality His human relationships were not in question; He was the bearer of the divine word in this world, the expression of this word in His Person, and nothing else; separated from everything for this. Now that His divine ministry is ended, He recognises this relationship, not as a link with the Jews, this was over, but as human affection. He commits her to John, the disciple He loved. To have always repelled her was not a lack of natural affection, but faithfulness, whether in His position outside the Jews (Matt. 12:46), or in absolute devotedness. Now that His service is finished, His affection is free, and He shews it.

Then, the last little circumstance which was to be found in His death, according to the Scriptures, being accomplished, in perfect peace declaring that all was finished, He gives up His spirit Himself. No one takes it from Him; it is He Himself who gives it up. A divine act: after having suffered everything in His soul by the forsaking of God, in perfect calmness He owns that all is accomplished; He Himself separates His spirit from His body, and gives it up to God, His Father; a divine act that He had the power to accomplish. In Luke’s Gospel, we have the human side of man’s faith: “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” Here it is the divine side, where He lays down His human life.

The Jews, full of zeal for the ordinances, whilst neglecting the mercy, righteousness, and love of God, desire that the bodies may not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, and a centurion is sent to put the crucified ones to death. He breaks the legs of the two malefactors; but Jesus was dead already; not one of His bones was to be broken; but to assure himself that he was not mistaken, and that (although he understood nothing of it) the world had got rid of the Son of God, he pierces His side with a spear. It was the last outrage the world inflicted upon Him, to make sure that they had done with the Son of God. The answer of grace was the water and the blood that purifies and saves. Man and God met; the insolence and indifference of hatred, and sovereign grace that rises above all the sin of man. Wonderful scene, wonderful testimony! There, where sin abounded, grace has much more abounded. The thrust of the soldier’s spear brought out the divine testimony of salvation and of life.

Notice also how opportune this circumstance was. If they had pierced Jesus before His death, and had killed Him, He would not Himself have given up His spirit: if they had pierced Him without putting Him to death, His blood shed thus would not have had the value of His death. But He gives His life Himself; He is dead, and all the value of His death, in its two aspects of purification and expiation, was manifested, when His side was pierced and the water and the blood came forth; 1 John 5.

How little the outside of what goes on in the world corresponds with the reality! Scruples and brutality hasten to take away the life of the thieves: they little thought that thus they were sending the poor believer straight into paradise! The Scriptures were being accomplished on every point. Not one of the bones of Jesus was broken, but His side had been pierced, and now God provides the rich man with whom Jesus was to be in His death. Joseph of Arimathsea has obtained the Saviour’s body from Pilate, and he and Nicodemus place it with aromatic spices in a new sepulchre that had never been used for an interment. The sabbath being about to begin (at six o’clock in the evening), they placed the body there, so as to arrange everything becomingly when the sabbath should be passed. What a solemn moment when the earth received the dead body of the Son of God, and the world had no more of Him down here!

Remark here, in passing, how iniquity carried out to its full height, leads the weak to shew themselves faithful. These two men who believed in Jesus, but whose position and riches hindered them from shewing themselves openly, or only allowed one of them to do so, but in a timid and indirect way— now that all are afraid, except a few women—come out boldly. This evil in the midst of the Jews had become intolerable to them, and their position was of real service to them in their devotedness. It was the patient grace of God and His providence that brought out the rich at this moment for this service.

In the invisible world, Jesus was in paradise; as to this world, an interrupted funeral, that was all He had. Sin, death, Satan, the judgment of God, had done all that they severally could do: His earthly life was ended, and with it all His relations with this world, and with man as belonging to this world. Death reigned outwardly, even over the Son of God; serious souls who were aware of it were perplexed. But the world went on just the same; the Passover was celebrated with its usual ceremonies; Jerusalem was what it had been before. They had got rid of the two thieves; what had become of them, one or the other, did not concern society. Its selfishness was delivered from them, and from Another that troubled it by telling too much about it. But it is not the outside of things that is the truth. One of the thieves was in paradise with Christ; the other, far away from all hope; the soul at least of the Third was in the repose of perfect blessing, in the bosom of the Deity. And as to the world, it had lost its Saviour, and was to see Him again no more.

But it was impossible, on account of His Person, that Jesus could remain under the power of death, although He submitted to it for us. On account of divine righteousness He was not to remain there. True Son of God, the Father’s glory was concerned in His not being holden by it; He could not suffer His Holy One to see corruption. The absolute darkness that had come down upon the world, spoke on God’s part of the dawn of a new and eternal day that was going to rise beyond death, for God’s glory, upon those who, attached to Jesus, saw in Him the Sun of Righteousness. Sorrow, where there is faith, may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. For the righteous, light arises in the midst of darkness. Man has to be condemned, but God is sovereign in grace, glorious in righteousness. Christ, a man, had to die, according to that grace, and according to righteousness against sin; but He had to be raised according to the unfailing righteousness of God. It is the basis of the truth as regards Christ’s work, but it is the principle of all God’s ways with us. We must die with Him and rise with Him. If we always appropriate to ourselves this truth, for it is our privilege (Col. 2, 3) we enjoy a life that is not in this world, bearing about always in our body the dying of the Lord Jesus. If, in anything, this life of the flesh is not mortified, death must be applied to it: we experience this in the ways of God. It is the history of our Christian life down here. As to the efficacious accomplishment of the thing, it was done, once for all, on the cross.

Chapter 20

In this chapter, the history of the resurrection, or rather of the manifestations of the Lord to His own, is full of interest and of important principles. The first person who is presented to us is not even the Christ: it is those who were to surround Him spiritually, and who had in fact surrounded Him down here. It was good and suitable that the state of their affections— and affections nourish faith—that this state, I say, as confidence in Him and attachment to His Person should be manifested, and that then He, revealed in resurrection, should be the answer to this state, and should lead them on further.

The first person that presents herself, and whose history is of profound and touching interest, is Mary Magdalene. Her name has become the expression of a bad life, or at least that of a woman come out of licentiousness, but there is nothing to justify the tradition. But that she had been completely under the power of the demon is no tradition; the Lord had cast seven demons out of her. Her state therefore had been most miserable, and she loved much. We find her with a woman constantly called “the other Mary” (Matt. 23:1), accompanying the Lord with others, and rendering Him the assiduous services of a devoted affection. But sincere as the affection of these women was for the Saviour, it was more so for the heart of Mary Magdalene than for all the others. They were fully prepared, buying aromatic spices and perfumes to embalm Him, to do all that was necessary to honour their Master; but Mary Magdalene thought of Him. They waited therefore the suitable time, and arrived at the sepulchre at sunrise. But Mary Magdalene’s heart was devoid of everything save the grief of having lost Him whom she loved so much, and she was at the sepulchre whilst it was still night.

The Lord was already risen, and the great stone rolled away from before the entrance into the sepulchre. She did not seize the import of what she saw, but went to Peter and John. These, to see what had happened, ran to the sepulchre that was supposed to be carefully guarded. John looks into the sepulchre and sees the linen clothes in which Jesus had been wrapped, left there upon the ground. Peter, arriving directly after, enters in and sees the linen clothes also, and the napkin in which the Lord’s head had been wrapped, folded apart. All bespoke tranquillity; nothing indicated haste or precipitation. It seems that Peter was astonished at what he saw (Luke 24:12), and hardly knew what to think of it. Then John, in his turn, entered; he saw and believed, but his faith rested upon what he saw, and not upon the word. They knew not the scriptures which declared that thus it must be. Alas! Jesus did not possess their heart, nor the word their understanding. They go to their own home; they look no further; they are astonished, John at least convinced; divine intelligence did not enlighten them, affection for Christ did not move them; they went to their own home.

It is not thus with Mary Magdalene. For her without Jesus the whole world was nothing but an empty sepulchre; her heart was more empty still. She stays there at the sepulchre, where the Lord whom she loved had been. As it is said of Rachel; she could not be comforted, because He was no more. Stooping down into the sepulchre hewn in the rock, she sees two angels, who ask her: “Why weepest thou?” God allows the full expression of this strong affection. It is no longer, “They have taken away the Lord,” as she said to the apostles, but, “They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.” But Jesus was not far from a heart thus attached to His Person. Mary hears someone moving behind her. She turns and sees a man whom she takes for the gardener. He asks again: “Why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?” Then we see the affection that appropriates to itself the lost Saviour, as if He belonged to her, and that does not imagine that the gardener can think of any other object than that which occupies it. “Lord,” she says, “if thou hast borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.” If I had a sick friend, I should ask at his house, “How is he?” and all would understand what I meant, of whom I was speaking. Mary supposes that everybody thinks of the Lord, as she does herself, and that her affection gives her full right to dispose of Him. It was not intelligence; He had said that He would rise again, and she sought among the dead Him who was living. But the Lord was everything for her heart. It is what Jesus seeks, and He makes Himself found as living. He acts in His divine and human affection, and calls His sheep by her name; “Mary,” He says. This was enough, and a single word from a satisfied heart answers to the call. His sheep hears His voice, and mistakes it not. “Rabboni!” she says. That was all; Mary had found Him, and found Him living, and He had brought out in Mary’s heart all the affection which His love would satisfy.

Now intelligence comes, and it is Mary, she who sought the living among the dead, but with a heart that belonged to Him, a heart attached to His Person, she it is whom the Lord employs to communicate to the apostles themselves the knowledge of the highest privileges that belong to Christians. We see clearly the importance of this devotedness. It was not knowledge that characterised Mary, but her affection brought her spiritually near to the Lord, and made her the fitting vessel for communicating what He Himself had in His heart. She possessed, as a vessel, this knowledge, but better still, she possessed the Lord.

As to her position, Mary Magdalene represented the Jewish remnant attached to the Person of the Lord, but ignorant of the glorious counsels of God. She thought to have found Jesus again, risen no doubt, but come again into this world to take the place that was due to Him, and satisfy the affections of those who had left everything for Him in the days of His humiliation, despised of the world, and denied by His people. But she could not have Him thus now. A glory far more excellent, of far greater extent, was in the thoughts of God, and blessing for us far more precious. In receiving Christ, she could not rightly receive Him, but according to the thoughts of God with regard to the Saviour. Only her attachment to the Lord opened this blessed path to her. “Touch me not,” the Lord says, “for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren and say to them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God.” She could not have the Lord, even when risen, as come again as Messiah upon earth. He must first of all ascend to His Father and receive the kingdom, then return: but there was much more. A work had been accomplished that placed Him, as Man and Son always, with the Father in glory, Man in this blessed relationship; but it was a work of redemption that set His own, redeemed according to the value of that work, in the same glory and in the same relationships as Himself. And this was based upon the sure foundation of that work, in which God Himself and the Father had been fully glorified, and had made themselves known according to all their perfections. (Compare John 13:31, 32 and chap. 17:4, 5.) According to these perfections, the disciples are introduced into the position and according to the relationship of Jesus Himself with God. This was the necessary fruit of the work of Jesus; without this, He would not have seen of the travail of His soul.

For the first time Christ calls His disciples His brethren, and places them thus in His own relationships with God His Father. Judaism has disappeared for the moment, and as far as the old covenant is concerned; and the full effect of Christ’s work, according to the settled purpose of grace, is revealed; believers are placed there by faith, and we possess the knowledge and power of it by the Holy Ghost which has been given to us, consequent upon Jesus having entered personally, as Son of Man, into the glory that resulted from His work.

The resurrection of Jesus has left behind man, death, sin, the power of Satan, and the judgment of God, and has brought heavenly glory into view; although, in order to bear witness to the reality of His resurrection, Jesus did not yet Himself enter into this glory. But as far as concerns the basis of the thing, that is to say, the relationship, it was established and revealed. The Jewish remnant, attached to Christ, becomes the company of the Son associated with Him in the power of the privileges into which He has entered, as risen from amongst the dead.

Mary having communicated these things to the apostles, the course of the outward development founded upon this revelation, is related. The disciples met that same day in the evening, and Jesus, the doors being shut because of their fear of the Jews, appeared personally, but in a spiritual body, in their midst, bringing them the peace that He had made by His blood. Divine peace, the gathering together, and the presence of the Lord, characterised their meeting. The apostles were to be eye-witnesses, and He shews them His hands and His side, irrefutable evidence that it was truly the same Jesus they had known, and they rejoice when they see Him. Then they were to be His missionaries or apostles (sent ones), and He lays down divine peace as the point of departure: “Peace be to you,” He says to them; “as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” Then, as God breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life, the divine Son, the same God—here a risen Man—breathes upon them, communicating to them the Holy Ghost. Although symbolising the gift of the Holy Ghost, He was not yet sent, for Jesus was not yet ascended on high; but He was communicated as power of life by the risen Saviour, divine life—life according to the position in which He was, and which was its power. They lived by the divine life of the Saviour, and according to the state He had taken in rising. The Holy Ghost, descended from heaven, was to reveal to them the objects of faith, and lead them. Here, that which they receive is the spiritual and subjective capacity to enjoy them, making them personally capable of running the race in which the Holy Ghost was to lead them. They were fit for the service of their mission: He who should guide them was the Holy Ghost, who was going to descend from heaven.

This difference is found in Romans 8. Up to verse 11, the Holy Ghost in the believer, is the. spirit of life and of liberty, of moral power in Christ. After that (from verse 11) it is the Holy Ghost personally, acting as a divine Person. This goes on to verse 27.

Nevertheless, in this picture, which is the summing-up of the whole position, this fact (the Lord breathing on them) points to the gift of the Holy Ghost. Now their mission, the salvation that Jesus had just accomplished, was characterised in its first application by the remission of sins, the first need of the sinner, if he is to be reconciled with God; Luke 1:77; Matt. 9:2. It is not here the eternal efficacy of Christ’s work in itself, but the application of its efficacy here below, as a present, actual thing. In examining the bearing of this work, we find that the worshippers, once purged, have no more conscience of sins; but here it is the present application in this purification. The eternal efficacy of the work is not the subject of John’s Gospel, which does not speak of it; but it is its administrative application.

Verses 19-23 of our chapter resume the position of service, in which the Lord places His disciples, as well as the gathering together of the children of God. Notice here that He said, in His life upon earth before resurrection, “Fear not”: and if, as Immanuel, the Messiah, He disposed of everything in favour of His own when He sent out His disciples, here, on the contrary, they fear the Jews, and the Lord does not take away that fear, but replaces the power of His presence as Emmanuel the Messiah, by His presence in their midst, and by the peace He had made and that He conferred.

Thomas was not there. Eight days after, that is to say, on the following Lord’s day, Thomas was with the others, and Jesus came into their midst. Responding to the doubts that Thomas had expressed before Jesus came, the Lord convinced him, by shewing him and making him touch His hands and His side. Thomas’s doubts disappear. It is the expression, in this remarkable resume or sketch of the dispensations of God, of the position of the Jewish remnant in the last days. They will believe when they see Him, and Jesus makes the difference between believers who have not seen Him—our position—and those who will believe when they see Him. The blessing rests upon us. Thomas’s confession, true and just as it was, shews, it seems to me, the Jewish position. It is not the glorified Son of man, Jesus on high, but it is what the Jews will own when He returns; that is to say, that the Jesus whom they had rejected was their Lord and their God, their Deliverer and Saviour, the Jehovah who was to deliver them. The testimony of the others will not have convinced them. They will see and look upon Him whom they have pierced. Thus we find, in this chapter, besides the resurrection of Jesus, the epitome of the dispensation of grace from that event up to the Saviour’s return: first of all the Jewish remnant, represented by Mary Magdalene, but introduced by a risen Christ into the knowledge of the Christian position and privileges—privileges that she announces to the disciples. Following upon this communication, the assembled disciples find the Lord Jesus in their midst, pronouncing upon them the peace that He had just made: then He sends them forth, founding their mission on the peace given, and putting in their hands the administration of the forgiveness of sins, communicating the Holy Ghost to them. Finally, the Jewish remnant at the end, which believes when it sees, but which does not enjoy the same privileges as those who believe during His absence, at a time when we do not see. Thomas (the remnant) would not receive the testimony that had been borne to him of the resurrection of Jesus.

Chapter 21

This last chapter is purposely mysterious, and it presents to us what will take place when Jesus returns; but besides, the restoration of Peter’s soul after his fall. Verses 1-14 shew what follows the return of Jesus, the third time He shews Himself. The first time is the day of His resurrection; the second time, a week after, when Thomas was there; these two occasions present the remnant become the church, and the remnant at the end. Here, in this chapter, it is what is called the millennium. It is the third time that Jesus shews Himself to them, when they are together; in figure it was first of all for Christians, then for the Jewish remnant, and finally for the Gentile world. This is why Jesus had already here some fish on the fire, that is to say, the Jewish remnant. But, throwing the net into the sea of nations, the disciples gather together a mass of fish, without however, the net breaking. In the beginning (Luke 5) they had taken a mass of people, but then the net gets broken. The administrative order that contained the fish could not keep them according to that order, but here the presence of the risen Saviour changes everything. Nothing breaks, and He is again associated with His own, and in the power of the fruit of His work.

After this mysterious scene, He restores Peter, but it is by probing his heart, in making him known to himself. This is what the Lord always does. Peter had said, that if all denied Him, he would not. The Saviour asks him if he loved Him more than the others loved Him. Peter appeals to the knowledge that the Saviour had; Jesus confides His lambs to him. Once humbled, and having lost all confidence in ourselves, the Lord can confide to us that which is most dear to His heart: “Feed my lambs,” He says to him. Note well that Jesus does not reproach Peter with anything that he had done, but that He goes, for his good, to the very bottom of his soul, even to that false confidence in himself that had brought about his fall. Then, repeating His question even to the third time, which should have recalled to Peter his denial, three times repeated, He widens the sphere of His confidence, and says to him, “Take care of my sheep.” Peter had strengthened the expression of his affection,52 saying, “Thou knowest that thou art dear to me.” The Lord takes up the word, and says, “Am I dear to thee?” Peter was troubled because the Lord again called in question his affection, and said to Him: “Thou knowest all things, thou knowest that thou art dear to me.” He appeals to that knowledge that sounds all hearts, but this was to confess that it needed that in order to know it; for, according to all appearances, when put to the proof, he shewed himself unfaithful at the moment that demanded devotedness on his part, and men might have said that Peter had proved a hypocrite. But, thank God, notwithstanding all our weaknesses, there is One who knows what He Himself has put at the bottom of our hearts, and if He searches us and compels us to know both ourselves, and the root of evil in us, He recognises still deeper down that which He has created there; blessed be His name; and He overwhelms with grace that which His grace has put there, and trusts, once we are humbled enough, this grace in us, maintained, however, by the continual flow of His grace.

We see further in this passage, how dear His sheep are to Jesus. It is of them He thinks in going away, to provide their food and the care they need. But there is more in His grace towards poor Peter. He had lost the fine opportunity he had had. To save his life he had denied the Saviour, and that which the want of faith had lost is not always given back, even if something better be given us. If we cross the Jordan,53 we cannot go up the mountain of the Amorites any more, we wander in the barren desert. Only, God accomplishes His counsels. But here, the strength of Peter’s will having been proved to be weakness before the power of the enemy, the immense blessing of suffering and even of dying for the Lord is granted to him; and that should take place, when it should no longer be a question of his will, but of submission to the power of others, where his faithfulness should be set in a clear light. Another should bind him, and carry him whither he would not. He should die, after all, for the Lord. It is then, when there is no more will of our own, no more strength, that we can follow the Lord.

Afterwards, in terms purposely mysterious, John’s ministry and work are stated. The lambs and sheep of Jesus were the Jewish believers confided thus to Peter. The testimony was to be rejected by the nation, and terminated by Peter’s death. But it should be otherwise with that of John. Peter, who sees him also following Jesus, asks the Lord what would happen to him. “If I will,” says the Saviour, “that he remain till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou me!” He did not say, as was supposed, that he would not die; but in fact his ministry makes known the ways of God to the end. All is left in suspense after him, until Jesus come, whilst the sphere of Peter’s ministry has disappeared from off the earth.

Remark, too, that it is no question here of Paul’s ministry. Peter had the ministry of the circumcision; the earth was the scene of it, and the promises its object, leading at the same time individually to heaven. John, whilst revealing the Person of the Son and eternal life come down from heaven, occupies himself also with that which is upon earth, then with the government and the judgment of God at the Saviour’s manifestation down here. Paul treats of God’s counsels in Christ, and of His work, to introduce us into the same heavenly glory, like Him before the Father, His brethren already down here. This is not the subject of our Gospel.

32 Having come as a Man, Jesus never leaves the place of obedience, and receives everything from His Father’s hand.

33 Compare 1 John 4:12, where the difficulty, that “No one hath seen God at any time,” is resolved in another way; this comparison furnishes the most profound instruction as to the Christian state.

34 As to the earth, see Psalm 80:17, where it is in relation with Israel.

35 The final result is, that sin will be taken away from heaven and earth, as we have already remarked. Three other motives are given in Hebrews 2 for the sufferings of Christ. (See verse 9.) The destruction of Satan’s power; the expiation of sins; the ability to sympathise with us.

36 We may except the first four verses of the first chapter. Compare for what is said in the text, 1 John 1; there, too, we find again the difference between the names of God and of Father.

37 This doctrine is fully developed in chapter 5.

38 This is not our subject here.

39 I have no doubt that the Old Testament saints were quickened; but we are speaking here of the work upon which their blessing, as ours also, was founded.

40 This title of Son of man, which Jesus always takes, goes a great way further than that of Messiah. It is taken from Psalm 8 and Daniel 7; Jesus always takes it in contrast with that of “Christ,” which He only gives Himself once, that is, at Sychar, in chapter 4; but He constantly adds to it His death upon the cross. (See Luke 9:21, 22.) It is the second Psalm that regards Jesus as Messiah, and shews Him to us rejected as suoh, but established in glory and authority later on by God.

41 The word, “seizes,” in the sentence, “the wolf seizes them,” is the same word as that used by the Lord, when He says: “No one shall seize them out of my hand.” The wolf scatters the sheep, but does not pluck them out of Christ’s hand, nor deprive them of everlasting life.

42 Literally “the believer,” it is his character.

43 The expression here used is a very strong one.

44 John does not speak of the church, either in his gospel or in his epistles; but that which is said in the text is as true of our individual place in Christ, as of the church.

45 If we examine with spiritual intelligence the different accounts of the gospels, we perceive at once a purpose that is not expressed in so many words, but by means of the circumstances themselves, although in relation with men. For instance, John does not speak of the agony of Jesus in Gethsemane, although he was nearer to Him, and of the number of those that Jesus awakened from their sleep. It is, that in John, the Holy Ghost gives the divine side of this touching history. Thus here also the band of men is spoken of, who, coming to take Jesus, were thrown down at His presence. Matthew, who, nevertheless, saw it, does not speak of it. For him, Christ is the Victim, suffering and put to death; for John, He is the One who offers Himself without spot to God. It is the same everywhere.

46 See John 13:31, 32; ch. 17:4, 5.

47 It is universal, that is, it extends to everything; but here man only is in question.

48 “I have manifested thy name to the men whom thou hast given me out of the world.”

49 For indeed, the world has both seen, and hated both Him and His Father.

50 This is the best reading: the Received Text has, “those whom thou hast given me.”

51 The Holy Ghost is not the subject here, but He is nevertheless the power that was to produce this life in the disciples.

52 The two first times, Jesus says to Peter: “Lovest thou me?” using the Greek word agapao. Peter answers always, using the word Phileo: “Thou art dear to me”; and the latter is the word that Jesus employs the third time.

53 Read and compare Numbers 13 and Deuteronomy 1.