The Lord proceeds to set forth the consequences of His rejection, spite of His dignity, under a variety of forms. It is the disclosure of His grace to and for the sheep (from His humiliation as man and servant, even to the laying down His life in all its intrinsic excellency), and of His glory as one with the Father. The bright side of the truth comes to view.186
“Verily, verily, I say to you, He that entereth not through the door into the fold of the sheep but climbeth up otherwise, he is a thief and a robber; but he that entereth through the door is shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calleth201 his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.187 202When he hath put forth all203 his own, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice; but a stranger they will in no wise follow, but will flee from him, because they know not the voice of strangers. This proverb said Jesus to them; but they knew not what things they were which He was speaking to them” (verses 1-6).
The mode of speech is allegorical, departing so far from ordinary language, but adopting a figure very familiar to the law, the psalms, and the prophets (Gen. 49; Ps. 80; Isa. 40; Ezek. 34; Zech. 11, 13). The application to pastors of the church is ridiculously out of place and time. It is the Shepherd of Israel in contrast with those who claimed to guide the ancient people of God. Even He, albeit a Divine Person, entered in the appointed way. Others who had no competency were no less destitute of title or commission. The woman’s Seed, the Virgin’s Son, the Seed of Abraham, the Son of David, the mighty God, the Father of the age to come, coming forth out of Bethlehem, from of old, from everlasting, yet to be cut off after sixty-nine of Daniel’s seventy weeks, the righteous Servant abased beyond all, yet to be exalted above all, what did not meet to point Him out and exclude every rival? Yes, the rejected Christ is He that entered through the door, Shepherd of the sheep — none but He.
All others sought to mount some other way. Theudas might boast to be somebody, Judas of Galilee draw away people after him, Pharisees love the first seats, scribes and doctors of law lay heavy burdens on men. But the sheep, taught of God, hear His voice, not theirs; even as the Spirit, in His care for God’s glory, was pleased to do the porter’s work, opening the door to Him only, as we see from the beginning in the Simeons and Annas and all who waited for redemption in Jerusalem. The others, small or great, orderly or revolutionary, had no right to the sheep; they were nothing better than thieves or robbers, if they claimed as they did the sheep that were His. He only is Shepherd, and the Sheep hear His voice. They are His own, and He calls them as such by name. Who could, who would, but Himself? He knows and loves them, making them feel that He has an interest in them, such as God alone could feel, and such a right to them as God alone had and gave.
Again, Christ entered in, but He leads out. Judaism is doomed. The Israel of God follow Him outside. It was no question now of gathering back into the land the outcasts of Israel, or the dispersed of Judah; this must await another day. Now He calleth His own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. “When He shall have put forth all His own”- for if such were the principle of His action now, still it was to be the necessary effect of His death on the cross-He goes before them, and the sheep follow Him because they know His voice. It is the wisdom of God for the simple.188
Precious word of God, the hearing of His voice! It is due to His Person, it is the fruit of His grace, it is their true and best safeguard. “And a stranger will they in no wise follow, but will flee from him, because they know not the voice of strangers.” The “stranger,” or alien, has nothing to do with them; however he might seek it, what have they to do with him? Their wisdom is to follow Jesus, Whose they are, Whose voice they hear and know. How simple, were we but simple! How honouring to the Son! This, too, best pleases the Father. It is through faith we are kept, not by discerning shades of scepticism or superstition, though this may be for some a duty or call of love for others, but by adhering to the truth.
Yet such words are powerless to the men of either reason or tradition. For they seek their own honour, they give or receive it one of another. Jesus came in the Father’s name, and Him they receive not. They avow themselves strangers to Him; they deny that any can know His voice. Had they heard it themselves, they would not doubt it could be known. They prefer and follow a stranger. The superstitious exalt their church; were it God’s church, it would repudiate such exaltation at the expense of Christ. The sceptical exalt man as he is. But both agree in ignoring the Shepherd’s voice. So it is now, and so it was then.
“This proverb204 said Jesus to them, but they knew not what things they were which He was speaking to them.” His sayings are as Himself: if He is valued, so are they; if He is not believed on, neither are they understood.188a He is the light and the truth. All that He says depends on faith in Him for its apprehension. And therefore it is that in 1 John 2 the very babes of the family of God are said to know all things. Knowing Christ, they have an unction from the Holy One. It is not by learning or by logic, any more than by sentiment, enthusiasm, or bigotry, but by the possession of Christ, that they refuse errors which have ensnared unnumbered doctors of divinity. They are thus kept bright and fresh, simple and secure, because dependent on Him. Those who count themselves wise venture to judge for themselves, and perish in their unbelieving presumption. To hear His voice is the humblest place in the world, yet has it the power and wisdom of God with it. What they heard from the beginning abides in them, but for the stranger they have no ear or heart. They are satisfied with Christ’s voice. They know the truth in Him, and that no lie is of the truth. They are glad of every help which reminds them of His words, and brings them home to their souls. A stranger’s voice they distrust, and flee from him. They are right: God would have us value no other voice.
“Therefore said Jesus again to them,205 Verily, verily, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All as many as came (before Me)206 are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; through Me if anyone have entered, he shall be saved, and shall go in and shall go out, and shall find pasture. The thief cometh not unless that he may steal and slaughter and destroy; I came that they might have life, and have abundantly” (verses 7-10).
In the former allegory the Lord speaks of Himself generally as Shepherd of the sheep, and this to put them forth, going at the head of them as they follow Him. Now He employs a different figure of Himself in direct terms, and with no less solemnity, “Verily, verily, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.” There is no confusion with the former relation. It is not a question now of the sheepfold. This He had entered with every proof suited to man by God-proofs personal, moral, ministerial, miraculous, and prophetic; but the carnal mind is invincible in its unbelief, and withal being enmity against God, it is, if possible, less subject to His grace (which it understands not, but suspects) than to His law, which conscience feels to be just and right. When bowed or broken in the sense of sin against God, how sweet to hear the voice of Jesus! “I am the door of the sheep,” not of the fold, but of such as are of God, who yearn after the knowledge of Him and deliverance from self. “All, as many as came . . . are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.” They were not sent, but came without warrant; they sought their own things, not those of Jesus Christ, not of others, therefore. Corrupt or violent, how could they avail, either for the sheep, or for God’s glory? To them the porter did not open, and if the adversary deceived, the sheep listened not; these were guarded, however tried.
But quite another was here. “I am the door; through Me, if any shall have entered, he shall be saved, and shall go in and shall go out, and shall find pasture.” How striking, yet perfectly simple, the fulness of grace touched in His words! It is no longer the narrow enclosure, but in principle for “anyone” to enter; and if one shall have entered through Christ, there is salvation, liberty, and food190-the sure, free, and rich blessing of Christianity. All turns on His glorious Person. Grace bringing salvation to any, to all, has appeared. When law shut up a people from the depravities of a rebellious and idolatrous race, when it schooled those who heeded it, we can see why the wisdom of God chose a single nation for this great moral experiment. But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, come of woman, come under law, to redeem those under law, that we (the sheep of the fold) might receive sonship. But because ye are sons (the Gentiles that believe the Gospel) God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying Abba, Father (Gal. 4). The gift was too precious, the boon too efficacious, to be pent up in the strait limits of Israel, especially as the Light manifested the darkness universal around.
Whoever, then, has entered through Christ shall be saved, shall go in and shall go out, and shall find all he lacks. God “that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not also with Him freely give us all things”? (Rom. 8:32.) The law condemned the sinner, placed him in bondage, and sentenced him to die. The unchanging One changes all for the believer, be he who he may. This is grace as well as truth, and both came through and in Christ the Lord. What a Saviour! How worthy of the God Who gave and sent Him, His Only-begotten Son, into the world, that we might live through Him!
Outside Christ is sin and misery. Such is the world; and of all the world no part so delusive, so selfish, so fatal to itself and all governed by it, as the religious world and its leaders, the leaders now of infidelity as well as of superstition. Here is the testimony of Christ, of Him Who is the truth; “the thief cometh not unless that he may steal, and slaughter, and destroy.” No creature can rise above his level; what, then, can the creature do that is steeped in unremoved evil and selfishness? It may sink indefinitely; it cannot possibly rise above itself. The world’s hatred may become more deadly, its darkness more dense; yet no ideas nor feelings, no helps nor ordinances, can change its nature. But the pretension to be of God, when one is not, may and does precipitate into the depths of avarice and cruelty. It is the more destructive because the false claim of His name shuts up every avenue of ordinary human pity; and the reality of what is of God provokes in the unreal the determination to get rid of what condemns itself.
How blessed the contrast of Christ! “I came that they might have life, and have abundantly.” He was the life, and life was in Him-not light only, but life. All outside Him lay in darkness and death. He not only was sent of the Father, but came, and came that the sheep might have life; and He would give it abundantly,191 as was most due to His personal glory and His work-a work ever before Him here. Hence it was only in resurrection that He breathed into the disciples. As Jehovah God breathed on Adam, and the man became a living soul, after a different sort from every other living thing on earth; so did He, Who was alike the risen Man and true God, breathe a better life into those who believed on Him. It is life eternal, and this, after all question of sin and law, was settled for faith by His death.
The Lord next presents Himself in the beautiful character of the good Shepherd; a most affecting and expressive proof of His lowly love, when we think Who He is, and what we are.
“I am the good Shepherd. The good Shepherd layeth down his life [soul]192 for the sheep. (But)207 he that is a hireling, and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are208 not, beholdeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth, and the wolf snatcheth them, and scattereth; and the hireling fleeth209 because he is a hireling, and no care hath he for the sheep” (verses 11-13).
This indeed is love; not that we loved Him, but that He loved us, and died as propitiation for our sins. The giving up of life, in any case, for others would have been the fullest manifestation of love: how much more in His, to Whom the sheep belonged, Who had been from of old promised to stand and feed in the strength of Jehovah, in the majesty of the name of Jehovah His God! Greatness to the ends of the earth is a little thing compared with the good Shepherd’s laying down His life for the sheep. It is the same Messiah; but how incalculably greater the testimony to His love in thus dying than in reigning ever so gloriously, however suitable and due to Himself, as well as to God’s glory, and blessed for man when the kingdom comes!193
Another phase of human pretension in Divine things next appears, not thieves and robbers as before, but the “hireling,” the man who meddles with the sheep, without higher motive than his own wealth or greed. “The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed,” as sung one of our own poets,193a and not untruly. Here, then, the Lord first describes not their trials, but his character who claims what is not his own, but Christ’s, and so deserts them openly in the hour of danger. He “beholdeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth.” It is the adversary, by whatever means or instruments he may work. Then follows the peril they incur, and the actual injury done. “And the wolf snatcheth them, and scattereth; because he is a hireling, and no care hath he for the sheep.” As Divine love wrought in God’s purpose and will, so in Christ’s death; nor is there anything good or acceptable where love is not the motive. It is the true and only right spring of service; even as the Lord intimated to the servant, now fully restored and reinstated, after his denial of Himself, “Feed My lambs-My sheep.” Not that He does not propose rewards the most glorious to encourage the servant who is already in the path of Christ and apt to be cast down by its difficulties; but love alone is recognised as that which constrains him to serve. Christ was the perfection of self-sacrificing love; and it is Satan who, as the wolf, seizes and scatters what is so precious to Him, through the selfishness of such as abandon the sheep in their greatest peril, the mercenary having no care for the sheep. The character of man and Satan is as plain as that of Christ, which last comes out for other traits in the next verses. From Him self-seeking was wholly absent; love only was there.
“I am the good Shepherd, and know Mine, and Mine know Me,210 even as the Father knoweth Me, and I know the Father, and My life I lay down for the sheep” (verses 14, 15).
Here it is in the mutual knowledge of the Shepherd and the sheep that His goodness is shown; and this, wondrous to say, after the pattern of the Father’s knowledge of the Son, and the Son’s of the Father. It is a knowledge after a Divine sort, and as true in His absence as in His presence. It was not such sheltering care as the Messiah might and will extend to His people, however tender; for “He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arms, and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead those that give suck.” (Isa. 40:11.) But there had never been such transparent intimacy as between Him while on earth and His Father; and after this pattern, and none other, was it to be between Him on high and the sheep here below. This mutuality of knowledge disappears almost entirely in the Authorised Version through the unhappy full stop between verses 14, 15, and the consequent mistranslation of the earlier clause of verse 15.
The Lord returns to His laying down His life for the sheep. Nor can we wonder; for as He could give no greater proof of love, so there is nothing which is so strengthening, as well as humbling, to our souls, nothing that so glorifies God, and no other turning-point for the blessing of the universe. At this point, however, it is the good Shepherd’s love for the sheep.
Here the Lord can speak distinctly for the first time of other objects of His love. He might come minister of the circumcision for the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (Matt. 15:24.) But His love could not be so circumscribed, when His death opens the floodgates. The mention of His death leads Him to speak of what was quite outside Israel. “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold”-not of the Jewish people within their enclosure of law and ordinance; “them also I must lead, and they shall hear My voice; and there shall be211 one flock, one shepherd” (verse 16).
It is not, as in the English Bible and others, following the Vulgate, “one fold,” but “one flock.” God owns no such thing now as a fold. It is exclusively Jewish; and the idea came in among Christians through the Judaizing of the Church, while the truth of the Church, when seen, makes such a thought or word, as applied to itself, intolerable. The truth is, as we have heard, that the Lord was to put forth all His own, He going before them, and the sheep following. So it was out of the Jewish fold. But other sheep He had which were not of it. “Them also I must lead, and they shall hear My voice.” It was to be from among the Gentiles; and the believers there hear His voice, believing the Gospel. But they form no new enclosure, fenced in by law, like the fold of Israel. The liberty of Christ is of the essence of Christianity, not only life and pardon, but freedom as well as food. For if Christ be all, what lack can there be? The Jewish sheep have been led out, the Gentile sheep are gathered, and both compose one flock, as truly as there is one Shepherd.194
One cause that has done as much as anything to dull the saints to the perception of the truth here is the fact of so many denominational enclosures in which they find themselves. Does it seem harsh to say that such a state of things, built up by Reformers and others of peculiar energy since the Reformation, is unauthorised? But what saith the Scripture, our only standard? “One flock, one Shepherd.” How painful to find persons so prejudiced as to teach, “Many folds, but one flock”! But this is to pervert rather than to expound the word of God, which admits of no fold now that spirit and letter refuse the plea.
Another element which has wrought powerfully in favour of “one fold” is the mischievous confusion of the Church with Israel, Zion, etc., which runs through not only common theology, but even the headings of the Authorised Version, and constantly, therefore, is before all eyes. Hence, if we are now so identified with the ancient people of God that we are warranted to interpret all that is said of them in the Old Testament as our present portion, one cannot be surprised that this should tend to a similar result in the New.
But Christ’s death has an aspect towards His Father of the deepest delight and complacency, besides being the basis of redemption and of Christianity. “On this account the Father loveth Me, because I lay down My life (soul) that I may take it again. No one taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it again: this commandment I received from My Father” (verses 17, 18). The Lord does not add here “for the sheep,” nor should we limit His death to ourselves. He lets us see the value His own laying down His life had in itself. It was a fresh motive for the Father’s love; and no wonder, if it were only as the unfathomable depth to which His own devotedness could go down. But, indeed, none but the Father knows what He found in it of love, confidence in Him, self-abandonment, and moral excellence in every way, crowned by the personal dignity of Him Who, standing in ineffably near relationship to the Father Himself, was thus pleased to die. Hence it could not but be that the Son would take His life again, not now in connection with the earth and man living on it, but risen from the dead, and so the power and pattern of Christianity.195
In this profound humiliation, to which the Lord submitted in grace, there is the utmost care to guard against the least suspicion that could lower His glory as the Son and God. It is not, as in Matthew (where He is viewed as the rejected Messiah, the Son of man, not merely the destined head of all nations and tribes and tongues, but in command of the holy angels-His angels): He had only to call on His Father, Who would furnish Him more than twelve legions of angels. And what would have availed all Rome’s legions against those heavenly beings, mighty in strength, that do His word? But how, then, He blessedly adds, could the Scriptures be fulfilled that thus it must be?
Divine Person though He was, He had come to die; the Life Eternal which was with the Father before there was either man or earth, He had deigned to become man, that He might thus lay down His life and take it again. But here He speaks not more in lowly love than as consciously God, “No one taketh it [away]195a from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have authority to lay it down and I have authority to take it again: this commandment I received from My Father.” On the one hand there is the calm assertion of the right as well as power to lay down His life and to take it again. As none but the Creator could do the latter, so no creature is entitled to do the former. None but God has power and title to do both; and the Word, without, of course, ceasing to be Divine (which, indeed, could not be), became flesh that He might thus die and rise. On the other hand, even in this, which might have been justly deemed the most strictly personal of all acts, He abides the obedient man, and would do only the will of His Father. He was come to do the will of God. This is perfection, and found in Jesus alone.195b Well may we adore Him with the Father Who gave Him. He is worthy.
These wondrous words were not without effect even then among the Jews. Love unknown before, the lowliness of a servant, the dignity of One consciously Divine, wrought in some consciences, while they roused others to a deeper hatred. So it is, and must be, in a world of sinful men, where God and Satan are both at work in the momentous conflict of good and evil.
“There was a division212 again among the Jews because of these words; butt many of them said, He hath a demon and is mad: why hear ye Him? Others said, These are not the sayings of one possessed by a demon: can a demon open blind (men’s) eyes?” (verses 19-21). The greater the grace, and the deeper the truth, the less does the natural mind appreciate Christ. He is, indeed, the test of every soul that hears His word. But if some imputed what was infinitely above man to a demon, and to the raving consequent on such a possession, others there were who felt how far the words were from those of a demoniac, and who bowed to the Divine power which sealed them. The words and the works to their consciences had another character and import.196
† Here, again, some give “therefore” instead of “but.”
“Now213 it was the feast of the dedication at Jerusalem, (and) it was winter; and Jesus was walking in the temple in the porch of Solomon. The Jews, therefore, surrounded Him, and said to Him, How long cost Thou hold our soul in suspense? If Thou art the Christ, tell us openly. Jesus answered, I told you, and ye believe not. The works which I do in the name of My Father, these bear witness of Me; but ye believe not, because ye are not of My sheep.214 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give them life eternal, and they shall in no wise ever perish, and no one shall seize them out of My hand. My Father215 Who216 hath given Me (them) is greater than all; and no one is able to seize out of the hand of My217 Father. I and the Father are one” (verses 22-30).
We are many of us familiar with the effort to sustain tradition and human authority in Divine things by such a passage as the opening of verse 22. But it is really futile. For here we learn nothing of our Lord’s participation in any observances of men,197 whatever they may have been, but of His being then in Jerusalem, winter as it was, and walking in Solomon’s porch, when the Jews came round, and kept saying to Him, “Till when (or, How long) cost Thou excite our soul (or keep it in suspense)?” Wretched and guilty as their unbelief was, the Jews drew no such inference from His presence then and there. They were uneasy, spite of their opposition to Him. “If Thou art the Christ, tell us openly.’’198 But the fatal hour was at hand, and the power of darkness; and the light was about to pass away from them after its full manifestation in their midst. “Jesus answered, I told you, and ye believe not.” Take only His words recorded in John 5, 6, and 8. A plainer and richer testimony could not be. But testimony does not always last. It is given freely, fully, patiently, and may then be turned aside from those who reject to such as hear. Thus is God wont to act, and so does the Lord answer on this occasion. “I told you, and ye believe not.”
But there was more than words, however truly Divine-words of grace and truth according to His Person. There were works of similar character; and the Jews were accustomed to look for a sign. If they sought honestly, they might see signs beyond man’s numbering or estimate. “The works which I do in the name of My Father, they bear witness of Me.” What could account for such hardness in any heart?” But ye believe not, because ye are not of My sheep.” Solemn solution of a difficulty, of a resistance to truth, of a rejection of Christ, as true now as ever!
Men trust to themselves, to their own feelings, to their own judgments. Have these never played them false? Have they ever been true before God? What suicidal folly not to distrust themselves, and look to God, cry to God, ask of God, what is His way, His truth, His Son! But no: this were to believe and be saved; and they will not. They are too proud. They will not bow to the Word that arraigns them as sinners, even though it sends them the message of remission of sins on their faith. They feel that such grace on God’s part supposes utter guilt and ruin on theirs, and this they are too hard, too proud, to own. They believe not; they are not of the Saviour’s sheep. Criminals, heathen, perhaps, may need a Saviour; not decent, more, religious men like themselves! They do not, will not, believe, and are lost, not because they are too great sinners for Christ, but because they refuse Christ as the Saviour, and deny their ruin as sinners. They prefer to go on as they are, like the great mass of men: God, they think, is too merciful; and they hope to improve some day if they feel not quite right to-day. Thus are they lost. Such is the way and end of many an unbeliever now, as of the Jews then.
How, then, are Christ’s sheep characterised? We need not hesitate to receive the answer, for here is His own account of them. “My sheep hear My voice”: a quality incomparably better than doing this, or that, or all things without it. It is the obedience of faith, the holy parent of all holy issues. Without faith it is impossible to please God; and this is the present characteristic of those who are of faith: they hear the voice of Christ, and are truly humble, yet firm. It is not self-assertion, nor the forgetfulness of their own sinfulness and of His glory. It is the simple owning of His grace, and of their own need; and thus only are souls blessed through Christ to God’s glory.
This, however, is not their only privilege. “And I know them,” says the Saviour. It is not here said that they know Christ, however true by grace. But He knows them, all their thoughts and feelings, their words and ways, their dangers and difficulties, their past, present, and future. He knows themselves, in short, perfectly, and in perfect love. How infinite the favour and the blessing! What a resource and a joy!
But there is more. The sheep not only hear Christ’s voice, but, says He, “They follow Me.” For faith is divine and practical, or worse than useless. And as it is due to Christ that His own should follow Him, so they need it, exposed as they are to countless foes, seen and unseen. It is their security, whatever the circumstances they pass through: Christ Who leads the sheep cannot fail, and, as He knows them, so they follow Him. Thus He keeps them by the way, which He is.
“And I give them life eternal, and they shall never perish, and no one shall seize them out of my hand.” Thus the Lord guarantees His own life to them, not the life of Adam, who brought in death, and died, and left the sad inheritance to all his offspring; whereas the Second Man and last Adam, being Son of God, quickens whom He will, and quickens with and to life everlasting. Is it said, however, that the sheep are weak? Unquestionably; but here He excludes fear and anxiety for all who believe in Him, for He immediately adds that “they shall in no wise ever be lost.” No intrinsic weakness, therefore, shall compromise their safety for a moment; nor shall hostile force or wiles jeopard them; for “no one shall seize them out of My hand.”199
Could love assure its objects of more? His love would impart to them the certainty of His own deepest joy, His Father’s love as sure as His own; and so He closes His communication with it. “My Father Who hath given to Me is greater than all, and no one is able to seize out of the hand of My Father. I and the Father are one.” Here we rise into that height of holy love and infinite power of which none could speak but the Son; and He speaks of the secrets of Godhead with the intimate familiarity proper to the Only-begotten Who is in the Father’s bosom. He needed none to testify of man, for He knew what was in man, being Himself God; and He knew what was in God for the self-same reason. Heaven or earth made no difference, time or eternity. Not a creature is unapparent before Him, but all things are naked and laid bare in His eyes with Whom we have to do. And He declares that the Father Who had made the gift resists all that can threaten harm, and as He has given to Christ, so He is greater than all, and none can seize out of His hand. Indeed, the Son and the Father are one, not one Person (which
ἐσμεν with every other Scripture bearing on it, refutes), but one thing,
ἓν, one Divine nature or essence (as other Scriptures equally prove). The lowliest of men, the Shepherd of the sheep, He is the Son of the Father, true God and eternal life. And He and the Father are not more truly one in Divine essence than in the fellowship of Divine love for the sheep.
Thus did the Lord assume and imply Divine glory as His, no less than the Father’s, spite of the place of man He had taken in the humiliation of love, in order to undo the works of the devil, and deliver guilty sinners who hear His voice from the bondage of sin and God’s most righteous judgment. This roused again the murderous hatred of His hearers.
“The Jews (therefore)218 again took up stones, that they might stone Him. Jesus answered them, Many good works I showed you from the (or, my)219 Father: on account of which work of them do ye stone Me? The Jews answered Him,220 For a good work we stone Thee not, but for blasphemy, and because Thou, being a man, makest Thyself God” (verses 31-33).
Alas for the will and self-confidence of man! They were right in saying that Jesus was a man; they were not wrong in understanding that He claimed to be God. But it was the insinuation of Satan working on man’s unbelief of all beyond his senses and mind, that He Who was God would not deign, in love to men and for the Divine glory, to become man in order to accomplish redemption. Was it incredible that God should stoop so low for these most worthy ends? And had not Jesus given adequate evidence of His glory and relation to the Father, in power and goodness, as well as truth? A life of purity unknown, of dependence on God beyond parallel, of active goodness untiring, of humility and of suffering the more surprising, because in evident command of power unlimited in testimony to the Father, and this in accomplishment of the entire chain of Scripture types and prophecy, combine to hurl back the imputation of imposture on the old serpent, the liar and father of it; whose great lie is to oust God from being the object of man’s faith and service and worship for false objects, or no object but self, which, however little suspected, is really Satan’s service.
Nothing, therefore, so rouses Satan as God thus presented in and by the Lord Jesus, Who displays His own perfect meekness and man’s enmity by no intervention of power to save Him from insult and injury. “First He must suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation” (Luke 17:25.) — a generation which goes on still morally, and will, till He returns in glory to judge. They therefore took up stones to stone Him; for Satan is a murderer as well as a liar, and nothing so awakens violence, even to death, as the truth which condemns men pretending to religion. To their blinded and infuriated minds it was blasphemy200 for Him to say that He gave His followers eternal life beyond the weakness or the power of the creature-blasphemy to assert that He and the Father were one; whereas it is the truth, so vital and necessary that none who reject it can be saved. His words were as good as His works, and even more momentous to man; while both were of the Father.201 He Whom God sent, as John testified, spoke the words of God. It was they who blasphemed, denying Him to be God Who, in grace to them, condescended to become man.
But He meets them on their own ground by an à fortiori argument, which left His personal glory untouched. “Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If He called them gods to whom the Word of God came202 (and the Scripture cannot be broken), say ye of Him Whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, Thou blasphemes”, because I said, I am Son of God?” (verses 34-36).203 Thus does He reason most conclusively from the less to the greater; for every Jew knew that their inspired books, as for instance, Ps. 82, calls judges elohim, (gods), as commissioned by God and responsible to judge in His name. If such a title could be used of a mere magistrate in Scripture (and its authority is indissoluble), how unreasonable to tax with blasphemy Him Whom the Father set apart,221 and sent into the world, because He said He was God’s Son! He is not affirming or demonstrating what He is in this, but simply convicting them of their perverseness on the ground of their law. They had not the least excuse whilst they claimed adherence to their law of Divine authority. If God called the judges by His name as being His representatives, how much more was it due to Him Who had a place so unique?
“If I do not the works of My Father, believe Me not; but if I do, even if ye believe not Me, believe222 the works, that ye may perceive and know [or, believe]223 that the Father (is) in Me, and I in the Father”224 (verses 37, 38). There was no denying the irresistible force of this appeal. The character of the works bore testimony, not only to Divine power, but to this in the fulness of love. Think as they might of Him, the works were unmistakable, that they might learn and come to know the unity of the Father and the Son. It is not that He enfeebles the dignity of His Person, or the truth of His words; but He was pleading with them, and dealing with their consciences, by those works which attested not more the power than the grace of God, and consequently His glory Who wrote them. But self-will holds out against all proofs.
“They sought, therefore, again to seize Him, and He departed out of their hand. And He went away again beyond the Jordan204 to the place where John was at first baptizing, and abode there. And many came unto Him and said, John did no sign, but all things whatsoever John said about Him were true. And many believed on Him there” (verses 39-42). Thus it was not that their unbelief was incomplete, but that His time was not yet come. The Lord therefore retires till the moment appointed of God, and meanwhile goes to the scene of John’s work at the first, and there abode, where grace wins many a soul that recognised in Him the truth of John’s testimony.
200 [Cf. “Introductory Lectures,” pp. 485-495.]
καλεῖ Text. Rec. with eleven uncials and most cursives, etc.;
φωνεῖ BDLX, some cursives, etc. Either means “calleth.”
202 Most [as Syrsin] insert
καὶ (as Text. Rec.), or
δὲ; but the most ancient omit.
203 Most uncials, etc., read
πρόβατα, “sheep,” as Text. Rec., but very ancient ones have either
πάντα, “all,” or [as Blass] nothing more than
τὰ ἴδια “his own.”
204 The Gospel of John does not use the ordinary word “parable,” as the Synoptics do frequently, and no other, for our Lord’s narrative likenesses in illustration of truth. John was led to employ the word [
παροιμία] given in the Septuagint [Prov. 1:1] for a “proverb,” in the sense of an “allegory,” or a divergence from the common way of speech, as parable means a comparison.187a
205 Some omit
πάλιν and others
206 Authorities are about equally for and against [Syrsin, BIUSB]
πρὸ ἐμοῦ, as in Text. Rec.189
207 The copulative particle
δὲ is not in BGL and a few other good witnesses.
ἐστὶν ABLX. etc.
εἰσὶν most uncials and cursives.
209 This clause
ὁ δὲ μισθωτὸς φεύγει, “and the hireling fleeth,” is not given in (A is somewhat uncertain) BDL, some cursives, ancient versions [as Syrsin], etc., but a dozen uncials of inferior age and weight, with most cursives and some of the old versions, insert as in Text. Rec.
210 The Text. Rec., with thirteen uncials and perhaps all cursives, etc., has
γινώσκομαι ὑπὸ τῶν ἐμῶν, “I am known of Mine”; BDL, with the oldest versions [as Syrsin, Weiss, Blass],
γινώσκουσί με τὰ ἐμά.
211 corr BDLX, etc., support the plural form,
γενήσονται, “they shall be,” the rest have the sing.,
γενήσεται [Weiss, Blass], which might bear the same meaning.
212 “Therefore” in the Text. Rec. has considerable support of MSS., but the older omit it.
213 BL, 33, Memph. have “then,” as they and more omit “and.” [Text as ADX-adopted by Blass-Latt., Syrr., Chrys.]
214 The weightiest authorities omit “as I told you.”
215 Some MSS. say “the” for “My” [Blass]; others, not “Who,” but “as to what He.” — BL [Syrsin] omit last
μου, “My” [Weiss, Blass].
218 BL, 33, etc., omit, the rest add.
219 pmBD omit
220 The bulk of witnesses omits, “saying.”
221 It is well to note that the Lord predicates sanctification of Himself in John 17:19 as set apart now in heaven, the model Man in glory, and here by the Father for His mission into the world, quite distinct from the application of the word to us who were sinners, and even dead in sins. Sanctification, in the case of the Holy One, resolves itself into its pure and abstract sense of setting apart.
222 The weight of testimony is for
πιστεύετε [A, etc., so Weiss] rather than
πιστεύσατε [Blass]. Then, as
γινώσκητε [know, come to know] seemed difficult after
γνῶτε [perceive, learn], many read
πιστεύσητε [believe] as the Text. Rec. has it.
224 “The Father” is in BDLX, two cursives, several It. Vulg. Syrr. Sah. Arm. Arab. Anglo-Sax. Pers. (Memph. Aeth. reversing order-as Weiss); “Him,” as in Text. Rec., A
ΓΔ, and nine uncials more, mass of cursives, some It. Gothic, Syrrtxt Slav [Blass].