Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
Jesus sups at the house of Lazarus, and Mary anoints his feet, Joh 12:1-3. Judas Iscariot finds fault, and reproves her, Joh 12:4-6. Jesus vindicates Mary and reproves Judas, Joh 12:7, Joh 12:8. The chief priests consult to put Lazarus to death, because that through him many believed on Jesus, Joh 12:9-11. He enters Jerusalem in triumph; the people meet him, and the Pharisees are troubled, Joh 12:12-19. Greeks inquire after Jesus, Joh 12:20-22. Our Lord's discourse on the subject, Joh 12:23-26. Speaks of his passion, and is answered by a voice from heaven, Joh 12:27, Joh 12:28. The people are astonished at the voice, and Jesus explains it to them, and foretells his death, Joh 12:29-33. They question him concerning the perpetuity of the Messiah, and he instructs them, Joh 12:34-36. Many believe not; and in them the saying of Isaiah is fulfilled, Joh 12:37-41. Some of the chief rulers believe, but are afraid to confess him, Joh 12:42, Joh 12:43. He proclaims himself the light of the world, and shows the danger of rejecting his words, Joh 12:44-50.
Six days before the Passover - Reckoning the day of the Passover to be the last of the six. Our Lord came on our Sabbath, the first day of the Jewish week, to Bethany, where he supped; and on the next day he made his public entry into Jerusalem: Joh 12:12. Calmet thinks that this was about two months after the resurrection of Lazarus, on the 9th of Nisan, (March 29), in the thirty-sixth year of our Lord's age. It has been observed before - that Calmet adds three years to the common account.
Then took Mary a pound of ointment - See the note on Mat 26:7; see also Mar 14:3. It does not seem the most likely that this was the same transaction with that mentioned above. Some think that this was, notwithstanding that before is said to have been at the house of Simon the leper. The arguments, pro and con, are largely stated in the notes at the end of Matthew 26 (note), to which I beg leave to refer the reader.
Three hundred pence - Or denarii: about 9. 13s. 9d. of our money; reckoning the denarius at 7 3/4d. One of my MSS. of the Vulgate (a MS. of the 14th century) reads, cccc denarii.
Not that He cared for the poor - There should be a particular emphasis laid on the word he, as the evangelist studies to show the most determined detestation to his conduct.
And bare what was put therein - Or rather, as some eminent critics contend, And stole what was put in it. This seems the proper meaning of εβαϚαζεν; and in this sense it is used, Joh 20:15 : If thou hast Stolen him away - ει συ εβαϚασας αυτον. In the same sense the word is used by Josephus, Ant. b. xii. c. 5, s 4; where speaking of the pillage of the temple by Antiochus, he says, Τα σκευη του Θεου βαϚασαι, He carried off, or Stole, also the vessels of the Lord. See also Ant. b. viii. c. 2, s. 2, where the harlot says before Solomon, concerning her child, βαϚασασα δε τουμον εκ των γονατων προς αὑτην μεταφερει - She Stole away my child out of my bosom, and removed it to herself. And Ibid. b. ix. c. 4, s. 5, speaking of the ten lepers that went into the Syrian camp, he says, finding the Syrians fled, They entered into the camp, and ate, and drank; and, having Stolen away (εβαϚασαν) garments, and much gold, they hid them without the camp. See the objections to this translation answered by Kypke, and the translation itself vindicated. See also Pearce in loc., Wakefield, Toup. Em. ad Suid. p. iii. p. 203. If stealing were not intended by the evangelist, the word itself must be considered as superfluous; for, when we are told that he had the bag, we need not be informed that he had what was in it. But the apostle says he was a thief; and because he was a thief, and had the common purse in his power, therefore he stole as much as he conveniently could, without subjecting himself to detection. And, as he saw that the death of Christ was at hand, he wished to secure a provision for himself, before he left the company of the apostles. I see that several copies of the old Itala version understood the word in this sense, and therefore have translated the word by auferebat, exportabat - took away, carried away. Jerome, who professed to mend this version, has in this place (as well as in many others) marred is, by rendering εβαϚαζεν, by portabat.
The γλωσσοκομον, which we translate bag, meant originally the little box, or sheath, in which the tongues or reeds used for pipes were carried; and thus it is interpreted by Pollux in his Onomasticon; and this is agreeable to the etymology of the word. The Greek word is used in Hebrew letters by the Talmudists to signify a purse, scrip, chest, coffer, etc. As our Lord and his disciples lived on charity, a bag or scrip was provided to carry those pious donations by which they were supported. And Judas was steward and treasurer to this holy company.
Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this - Several MSS. and versions read thus: - Αφες αυτην, ἱνα εις την ἡμεραντου ενταφιασμου μου τηρησῃ - Let her alone, That she may keep it to the day of my embalming. This is the reading of BDLQ, four others, Arabic, Coptic, Ethiopic, Armenian, later Syriac in the margin, Slavonic, Vulgate, all the Itala but one; Nonnus, Ambrosius, Gaudentius, and Augustin. This reading, which has the approbation of Mill, Bengel, Griesbach, Pearce, and others, intimates that only a part of the ointment was then used, and that the rest was kept till the time that the women came to embalm the body of Jesus: Luk 24:1. See the notes on Mat 26:12, Mat 26:13.
Much people of the Jews - John, who was a Galilean, often gives the title of Jews to those who were inhabitants of Jerusalem.
Consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death - As long as he lived they saw an incontestable proof of the Divine power of Christ; therefore they wished to put him to death, because many of the Jews, who came to see him through curiosity, became converts to Christ through his testimony. How blind were these men not to perceive that he who had raised him, after he had been dead four days, could raise him again though they had slain him a thousand times?
On the next day - On what we call Monday.
Took branches - See on Mat 21:1 (note), etc., and Mar 11:1-6 (note), where this transaction is largely explained.
Then remembered they, etc. - After the ascension of Christ, the disciples saw the meaning of many prophecies which referred to Christ, and applied them to him, which they had not fully comprehended before. Indeed it is only in the light of the new covenant, that the old is to be fully understood.
When he called - It appears that these people, who had seen him raise Lazarus from the dead, were publishing abroad the miracle, which increased the popularity of Christ, and the envy of the Pharisees.
Ye prevail nothing - Either by your threatening or excommunications.
The world is gone after him - The whole mass of the people are becoming his disciples. This is a very common form of expression among the Jews, and simply answers to the French, tout le monde, and to the English, every body - the bulk of the people. Many MSS., versions, and fathers, add ὁλος, the Whole world. As our Lord's converts were rapidly increasing, the Pharisees thought it necessary to execute without delay what they had purposed at their first council. See Joh 11:53.
Certain Greeks - There are three opinions concerning these:
1. That they were proselytes of the gate or covenant, who came up to worship the true God at this feast.
2. That they were real Jews, who lived in Grecian provinces, and spoke the Greek language.
3. That they were mere Gentiles, who never knew the true God: and hearing of the fame of the temple, or the miracles of our Lord, came to offer sacrifices to Jehovah, and to worship him according to the manner of the people of that land. This was not an unfrequent case: many of the Gentiles, Romans, and others, were in the habit of sending sacrifices to the temple at Jerusalem. Of these opinions the reader may choose; but the first seems best founded.
The same came therefore to Philip - Some suppose that these Gentiles were of Phoenicia or Syria, or perhaps inhabitants of Decapolis, near to the lake of Gennesareth and Bethsaida; and therefore they addressed themselves to Philip, who was of the latter city, and probably known to them. The later Syriac calls them Arameans or Syrians. The Vulgate, and several copies of the Itala, call them Gentiles.
Sir, we would see Jesus - We have heard much concerning him, and we wish to see the person of whom we have heard such strange things. The final salvation of the soul often originates, under God, in a principle of simple curiosity. Many have only wished to se or hear a man who speaks much of Jesus, his miracles, and his mercies; and in hearing have felt the powers of the world to come, and have become genuine converts to the truths of the Gospel.
Andrew and Philip tell Jesus - How pleasing to God is this union, when the ministers of his Gospel agree and unite together to bring souls to Christ. But where self-love prevails, and the honor that comes from God is not sought, this union never exists. Bigotry often ruins every generous sentiment among the different denominations of the people of God.
The hour is come, that the Son of man, etc. - The time is just at hand in which the Gospel shall be preached to all nations, the middle wall of partition broken down, and Jews and Gentiles united in one fold. But this could not be till after his death and resurrection, as the succeeding verse teaches. The disciples were the first fruits of the Jews; these Greeks, the first fruits of the Gentiles.
Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die - Our Lord compares himself to a grain of wheat; his death, to a grain sown and decomposed in the ground; his resurrection, to the blade which springs up from the dead grain; which grain, thus dying, brings forth an abundance of fruit. I must die to be glorified; and, unless I am glorified, I can not establish a glorious Church of Jews and Gentiles upon earth. In comparing himself thus to a grain of wheat, our Lord shows us: -
1. The cause of his death - the order of God, who had rated the redemption of the world at this price; as in nature he had attached the multiplication of the corn to the death or decomposition of the grain.
2. The end of his death - the redemption of a lost world; the justification, sanctification, and glorification of men: as the multiplication of the corn is the end for which the grain is sown and dies.
3. The mystery of his death, which we must credit without being able fully to comprehend, as we believe the dead grain multiplies itself, and we are nourished by that multiplication, without being able to comprehend how it is done.
The greatest philosopher that ever existed could not tell how one grain became thirty, sixty, a hundred, or a thousand - how it vegetated in the earth - how earth, air, and water, its component parts, could assume such a form and consistence, emit such odours, or produce such tastes. Nor can the wisest man on earth tell how the bodies of animals are nourished by this produce of the ground; how wheat, for instance, is assimilated to the very nature of the bodies that receive it, and how it becomes flesh and blood, nerves, sinews, bones, etc. All we can say is, the thing is so; and it has pleased God that is should be so, and not otherwise. So there are many things in the person, death, and sacrifice of Christ, which we can neither explain nor comprehend. All we should say here is, It is by this means that the world was redeemed - through this sacrifice men are saved: it has pleased God that it should be so, and not otherwise. Some say: "Our Lord spoke this according to the philosophy of those days, which was by no means correct." But, I would ask, has ever a more correct philosophy on this point appeared? Is it not a physical truth that the whole body of the grain dies, is converted into fine earth, which forms the first nourishment of the embryo plant, and prepares it to receive a grosser support from the surrounding soil; and that nothing lives but the germ, which was included in this body, and which must die also, if it did not receive, from the death or putrefaction of the body of the grain, nourishment, so as to enable it to unfold itself? Though the body of our Lord died, there was still the germ, the quickening power of the Divinity, which re-animated that body, and stamped the atonement with infinite merit. Thus the merit was multiplied; and, through the death of that one person, the man Christ Jesus united to the eternal Word, salvation was procured for the whole world. Never was a simile more appropriate, nor an illustration more happy or successful.
He that loveth his life - See on Mat 10:39 (note); Luk 14:26 (note). I am about to give up my life for the salvation of men; but I shall speedily receive it back with everlasting honor, by my resurrection from the dead. In this I should be imitated by my disciples, who should, when called to it, lay down their lives for the truth; and, if they do, they shall receive them again with everlasting honor.
If any man serve me - Christ is a master in a twofold sense:
1. To instruct men.
2. To employ and appoint them their work. He who wishes to serve Christ must become:
1. His disciple or scholar, that he may be taught:
2. His servant, that he may be employed by and obey his master. To such a person a twofold promise is given:
1. He shall be with Christ, in eternal fellowship with him; and
2. He shall be honored by the Lord: he shall have an abundant recompense in glory; but how great, eye hath not seen, ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive.
How similar to this is the saying of Creeshna (an incarnation of the supreme God, according to the Hindoo theology) to his disciple Arjoon! "If one whose ways were ever so evil serve me alone, he soon becometh of a virtuous spirit, is as respectable as the just man, and obtaineth eternal happiness. Consider this world as a finite and joyless place, and serve me. Be of my mind, my servant, my adorer, and bow down before me. Unite thy soul unto me, make me thy asylum, and thou shalt go unto me." And again: "I am extremely dear to the wise man, and he is dear to me-I esteem the wise man even as myself, because his devout spirit dependeth upon me alone as his ultimate resource." Bhagvat Geeta, pp. 71 and 82.
The rabbins have an extravagant saying, viz. "God is more concerned for the honor of the just man than for his own."
Now is my soul troubled - Our blessed Lord took upon him our weaknesses, that he might sanctify them to us. As a man he was troubled at the prospect of a violent death. Nature abhors death: God has implanted that abhorrence in nature, that it might become a principle of self preservation; and it is to this that we owe all that prudence and caution by which we avoid danger. When we see Jesus working miracles which demonstrate his omnipotence, we should be led to conclude that he was not man were it not for such passages as these. The reader must ever remember that it was essentially necessary that he should be man; for, without being such, he could hot have died for the sin of the world.
And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour - Και τι ειπω; πατερ, σωσον με εκ της ὡρας ταυτης· which may be paraphrased thus: And why should I say, Father, save me from this hour? when for this cause I am come to this hour. The common version makes our blessed Lord contradict himself here, by not attending to the proper punctuation of the passage, and by translating the particle τι what, instead of why or how. The sense of our Lord's words is this: "When a man feels a fear of a sudden or violent death, it is natural to him to cry out, Father, save me from this death! for he hopes that the glory of God and his welfare may be accomplished some other way, less dreadful to his nature: but why should I say so, seeing for this very purpose, that I might die this violent death for the sins of mankind, I am come into the world, and have almost arrived at the hour of my crucifixion."
Father, glorify thy name - By the name of God is to be understood himself, in all his attributes: his wisdom, truth, mercy, justice, holiness, etc., which were all more abundantly glorified by Christ's death and resurrection, (i.e. shown forth in their own excellence), than they had ever been before. Christ teaches here a lesson of submission to the Divine will. Do with me what thou wilt, so that glory may redound to thy name. Some MSS. read, Father, glorify my name: others, glorify thy Son.
Then came there a voice from heaven, etc. - The following is a literal translation of Calmet's note on this passage, which he has taken from Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact, and others: "I have accomplished my eternal designs on thee. I have sent thee into the world to make an atonement for the sin of the world, and to satisfy my offended justice. I will finish my work. Thou shalt shed thy blood upon the cross. My glory is interested in the consummation of thy sacrifice. But, in procuring my own glory, I shall procure thine. Thy life and thy death glorify me: I have glorified thee by the miracles which have accompanied thy mission; and I will continue to glorify thee at thy death, by unexampled prodigies, and thy resurrection shall be the completion of thy glory and of thy elevation."
Christ was glorified:
1. By the prodigies which happened at his death.
2. In his resurrection.
3. In his ascension, and sitting at the right hand of God.
4. In the descent of the Holy Ghost on the apostles. and
5. In the astonishing success with which the Gospel was accompanied, and by which the kingdom of Christ has been established in the world. Co2 2:14.
The people - said that it thundered: others - an angel spake to him - Bishop Pearce says, Probably there was thunder as well as a voice, as in Exo 19:16, Exo 19:17, and some persons, who were at a small distance, might hear the thunder without hearing the voice; while others heard the voice too; and these last said, "An angel hath spoken to him."
Wetstein supposes that the voice was in the language then in use among the Jews; which the Greeks, not understanding, took for thunder; the others, the Jews, who did understand it, said it was the voice of an angel. In Rev 6:1, the voice of one of the living creatures is compared to thunder; and in Rev 10:3, the voice of an angel is compared to seven thunders. The voice mentioned was probably very loud, which some heard distinctly, others indistinctly; hence the variety of opinion.
This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes - Probably meaning those Greeks who had been brought to him by Philip and Andrew. The Jews had frequent opportunities of seeing his miracles, and of being convinced that he was the Messiah; but these Greeks, who were to be a first fruits of the Gentiles, had never any such opportunity. For their sakes, therefore, to confirm them in the faith, this miraculous voice appears to have come from heaven.
Now is the judgment of this world - The judgment spoken of in this place is applied by some to the punishment which was about to fall on the Jewish people for rejecting Christ. And the ruler or prince, ὁ αρχων, of this world, is understood to be Satan, who had blinded the eyes of the Jews, and hardened their hearts, that they might not believe on the Son of God; but his kingdom, not only among the Jews, but in all the world, was about to be destroyed by the abolition of idolatry and the vocation of the Gentiles.
The epithet סר העולם sar ha-olam, prince of this world, is repeatedly applied to the devil, or to Samael, who is termed the angel of death. The Jews fabled that, into the hands of this chief, God had delivered all the nations of the earth, except the Israelites. See Lightfoot. The words are understood by others as addressed to these believing Greeks, and to have the following meaning, which is extremely different from the other. "In a short time (four or five days afterwards) ye shall see what sort of a judgment this world passes. I, who am its ruler and prince, shall be cast out, shall be condemned by my own creatures, as an impious and wicked person. But do not be discouraged: though I be lifted up on the cross, and die like a malefactor, nevertheless I will draw all men unto myself. The Gospel of Christ crucified shall be the grand agent, in the hand of the Most High, of the conversion and salvation of a ruined world." But see on Joh 14:30 (note); Joh 16:11 (note).
I - will draw all men unto me - After I shall have died and risen again, by the preaching of my word and the influence of my Spirit, I shall attract and illuminate both Jews and Gentiles. It was one of the peculiar characteristics of the Messiah, that unto him should the gathering of the people be, Gen 49:10. And probably our Lord refers to the prophecy, Isa 11:10, which peculiarly belonged to the Gentiles: "There shall be a root of Jesse which shall stand for an Ensign of the people, to it shall the Gentiles seek, and his rest shall be glorious." There is an allusion here to the ensigns or colors of commanders of regiments, elevated on high places, on long poles, that the people might see where the pavilion of their general was, and so flock to his standard.
Instead of παντας, the Codex Bezae, another, several versions, and many of the fathers, read παντα, all men, or all things: so the Anglo-Saxon, I will draw all things to myself. But παντα may be here the accusative singular, and signify all men.
The ancients fabled that Jupiter had a chain of gold, which he could at any time let down from heaven, and by it draw the earth and all its inhabitants to himself. See a fine passage to this effect in Homer, Iliad viii. ver. 18-27.
Ειδ' αγε, πειρησασθε θεοι, ἱνα ειδετε παντες,
Σειρην χρυσειην εξ ουρανοθεν κρεμασαντες·
Παντες δ' εξαπτεσθε θεοι, πασαι τε θεαιναι. κ. τ. λ.
"Now prove me: let ye down the golden chain
From heaven, and pull at its inferior links,
Both goddesses and gods: but me your king,
Supreme in wisdom, ye shall never draw
To earth from heaven, strive with me as ye may.
But I, if willing to exert my power,
The earth itself, itself the sea, and you,
Will lift with ease together, and will wind
The chain around the spiry summit sharp
Of the Olympian, that all things upheaved
Shall hang in the mid heaven. So much am I,
Alone, superior both to gods and men.
By this chain the poets pointed out the union between heaven and earth; or, in other words, the government of the universe by the extensive chain of causes and effects. It was termed golden, to point out, not only the beneficence of the Divine Providence, but also that infinite philanthropy of God by which he influences and by which he attracts all mankind to himself. It was possibly in allusion to this that our Lord spoke the above words. Should it be objected that it is inconsistent with the gravity of the subject, and the dignity of our Lord, to allude to the fable of a heathen poet, I answer:
1. The moral is excellent, and, applied to this purpose, expresses beautifully our Lord's gracious design in dying for the world, viz. That men might be united to himself, and drawn up into heaven.
2. It is no more inconsistent with the gravity of the subject, and his dignity, for our blessed Lord to allude to Homer, than it was for St. Paul to quote Aratus and Cleanthes, Act 17:28, and Epimenides, Tit 1:12; for he spoke by the same Spirit.
So justice was sometimes represented under the emblem of a golden chain, and in some cases such a chain was constructed, one end attached to the emperor's apartment, and the other hanging within reach; that if any person were oppressed he might come and lay hold on the chain, and by shaking it give the king notice that he was oppressed, and thus claim protection from the fountain of justice and power. In the Jehangeer Nameh, a curious account of this kind is given, which is as follows. The first order which Jehangeer issued on his accession to the throne (which was A.H. 1014, answering to a.d. 1605) was for the construction of the Golden Chain of Justice. It was made of pure gold, and measured thirty yards in length, consisting of sixty links, and weighing, in the whole, four Hindostany maunds (about four hundred pounds avoirdupois.) One end of the chain was suspended from the royal bastion of the fortress of Agra, and the other fastened in the ground near the side of the river. The intention of this was, that if the officers of the courts of law were partial in their decisions, or dilatory in the administration of justice, the injured parties might come themselves to this chain, and, making a noise by shaking the links of it, give notice that they were waiting to represent their grievances to his majesty. Hist. of Hindostan, p. 96, Calcutta, 1788. Such a communication, prayer and faith establish between the most just and most merciful God, and the wretched and oppressed children of men. "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come! Psa 65:2.
We have heard out of the law - That is, out of the sacred writings. The words here are quoted from Psa 110:4; but the Jews called every part of the sacred writings by the name, The Law, in opposition to the words or sayings of the scribes. See on Joh 10:34 (note).
That Christ abideth for ever - There was no part of the law nor of the Scripture that said the Messiah should not die; but there are several passages that say as expressly as they can that Christ must die, and die for the sin of the world too. See especially Isa 53:1, etc.; Dan 9:24, Dan 9:27. But as there were several passages that spoke of the perpetuity of his reign, as Isa 9:7; Eze 37:25; Dan 7:14, they probably confounded the one with the other, and thus drew the conclusion, The Messiah cannot die; for the Scripture hath said, his throne, kingdom, and reign shall be eternal. The prophets, as well as the evangelists and apostles, speak sometimes of the Divine, sometimes of the human nature of Christ: when they speak of the former, they show forth its glory, excellence, omnipotence, omniscience, and eternity; when they speak of the latter, they show forth its humiliations, afflictions, sufferings, and death. And those who do not make the proper distinction between the two natures of Christ, the human and the Divine, will ever make blunders as well as the Jews. It is only on the ground of two natures in Christ that the Scriptures which speak of him, either in the Old or New Testament, can be possibly understood. No position in the Gospel is plainer than this, God was manifest in the flesh.
Yet a little while is the light with you - In answer to their objection, our Lord compares himself to a light, which was about to disappear for a short time, and afterwards to shine forth with more abundant lustre; but not to their comfort, if they continued to reject its present beamings. He exhorts them to follow this light while it was among them. The Christ shall abide for ever, it is true; but he will not always be visible. When he shall depart from you, ye shall be left in the thickest darkness; in impenitence and hardness of heart. Then shall ye wish to see one of the days of the Son of man, and shall not see it, Luk 17:22. Then shall ye seek me, but shall not find me, Joh 7:34. For the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to the Gentiles, Mat 21:43. If ye believe not in me now, ye shall then wish ye had done it, when wishing shall be for ever fruitless.
Instead of μεθ' ὑμων, with you, εν ὑμιν, among you, is the reading of BDL, seventeen others; Coptic, Gothic, Slavonic, Vulgate, Itala; Cyril, Nonnus, and Victorinus. Griesbach has received it into the text. The meaning of both is nearly the same.
Lest darkness come upon you - Ye have a good part of your journey yet to go: ye cannot travel safely but in the daylight - that light is almost gone - run, that the darkness overtake you not, or in it ye shall stumble, fall, and perish!
Reader, is thy journey near an end? There may be but a very little time remaining to thee. O, run, fly to Christ, lest the darkness of death overtake thee, before thy soul have found redemption in his blood!
Children of light - Let the light, the truth of Christ, so dwell in and work by you that ye may be all light in the Lord: that as truly as a child is the produce of his own parent, and partakes of his nature, so ye may be children of the light, having nothing in you but truth and righteousness.
Did hide himself from them - Either by rendering himself invisible, or by suddenly mingling with the crowd, so that they could not perceive him. See Joh 8:59. Probably it means no more than that he withdrew from them, and went to Bethany, as was his custom a little before his crucifixion; and concealed himself there during the night, and taught publicly every day in the temple. It was in the night season that they endeavored to seize upon him, in the absence of the multitude.
Yet they believed not on him - Though the miracles were wrought for this very purpose, that they might believe in Christ, and escape the coming wrath, and every evidence given that Jesus was the Messiah, yet they did not believe; but they were blinded by their passions, and obstinately hardened their hearts against the truth.
That the saying of Esaias - Or, Thus the word of Isaiah was fulfilled. So I think ἱνα (commonly rendered that) should be translated. For it certainly does not mean the end the Pharisees had in view by not believing; nor the end which the prophet had in view in predicting the incredulity of the Jews; but simply, such a thing was spoken by the prophet, concerning the Jews of his own time, and it had its literal fulfillment in those of our Lord's time.
Our report - The testimony of the prophets, concerning the person, office, sufferings, death, and sacrifice of the Messiah. See Isa 53:1, etc.
The arm of the Lord - The power, strength, and miracles of Christ.
Therefore they could not believe - Why? Because they did not believe the report of the prophets concerning Christ; therefore they credited not the miracles which he wrought as a proof that he was the person foretold by the prophets, and promised to their fathers. Having thus resisted the report of the prophets, and the evidence of Christ's own miracles, God gave them up to the darkness and hardness of their own hearts, so that they continued to reject every overture of Divine mercy; and God refused to heal their national wound, but, on the contrary, commissioned the Romans against them, so that their political existence was totally destroyed.
The prophecy of Isaiah was neither the cause nor the motive of their unbelief: it was a simple prediction, which imposed no necessity on them to resist the offers of mercy. They might have believed, notwithstanding the prediction, for such kinds of prophecies always include a tacit condition; they may believe, if they properly use the light and power which God has given them. Such prophecies also are of a general application - they will always suit somebody, for in every age persons will be found who resist the grace and Spirit of God like these disobedient Jews. However, it appears that this prediction belonged especially to these rejecters and crucifiers of Christ; and if the prophecy was infallible in its execution, with respect to them, it was not because of the prediction that they continued in unbelief, but because of their own voluntary obstinacy; and God foreseeing this, foretold it by the prophet. Should I say that, they could not believe, means, they would not believe, I should perhaps offend a generation of his children; and yet I am pretty certain the words should be so understood. However, that I may put myself under cover from all suspicion of perverting the meaning of a text which seems to some to be spoken in favor of that awful doctrine of unconditional reprobation, the very father of it shall interpret the text for me. Thus then saith St. Augustin: Quare autem non Poterant, si a me quaeratur, cito respondeo; Quia Nolebant: Malam quippe eorum Voluntatem praevidit Deus, et per prophetam praenunciavit. "If I be asked why they Could not believe? I immediately answer, Because They Would Not. And God, having foreseen their Bad Will, foretold it by the prophet." Aug. Tract. 53, in Joan.
And I should heal them - This verse is taken from Isa 6:9, and, perhaps, refers more to the judgments that should fall upon them as a nation, which God was determined should not be averted, than it does to their eternal state. To suppose that the text meant that God was unwilling that they should turn unto him, lest he should be obliged to save them, is an insupportable blasphemy.
When he saw his glory - Isa 6:1, etc. I saw Jehovah, said the prophet, sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphim; and one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is Jehovah, God of hosts; the whole earth shall be full of his glory! It appears evident, from this passage, that the glory which the prophet saw was the glory of Jehovah: John, therefore, saying here that it was the glory of Jesus, shows that he considered Jesus to be Jehovah. See Bishop Pearce. Two MSS. and a few versions have Θεου, and του Θεου αὑτου, the glory of God, or of his God.
Among the chief rulers - many believed on him - We only know the names of two of them, Nicodemus, and Joseph of Arimathea.
But - they did not confess him - Or it: they were as yet weak in the faith, and could not bear the reproach of the cross of Christ. Besides, the principal rulers had determined to excommunicate every person who acknowledged Christ for the Messiah; see Joh 9:22.
They loved the praise of men - Δοξαν, the glory or honor that cometh from men.
How common are these four obstacles of faith! says Quesnel:
1. Too great a regard to men.
2. Riches and temporal advantages.
3. The fear of disgrace.
4. The love of the praise of men.
Abundance of persons persuade themselves that they love God more than the world, till some trying occasion fully convinces them of their mistake. It is a very great misfortune for a person not to know himself but by his falls; but it is the greatest of all not to rise again after he has fallen. This is generally occasioned by the love of the praise of men, because in their account it is more shameful to rise again than it was to fall at first.
Jesus cried and said - This is our Lord's concluding discourse to this wicked people: probably this and the following verses should be understood as a part of the discourse which was left off at the 36th verse.
Jesus cried - he spoke these words aloud, and showed his earnest desire for their salvation.
Believeth not on me, (only), but on him that sent me - Here he asserts again his indivisible unity with the Father: - he who believes on the Son believes on the Father: he who hath seen the Son hath seen the Father: he who honors the Son honors the Father. Though it was for asserting this (his oneness with God) that they were going to crucify him, yet he retracts nothing of what he had spoken, but strongly reasserts it, in the very jaws of death!
I am come a light into the world - Probably referring to what his forerunner had said, Joh 1:5. Before the coming of this Savior, this sun of righteousness, into the world, all was darkness: at his rising the darkness is dispersed; but it only profits those whose eyes are open to receive the rays of this sun of righteousness. See on Joh 1:5 (note); Joh 3:19 (note); Joh 8:12 (note); Joh 9:5 (note).
And believe not - Και μη φυλαξῃ, And keep them not, is the reading of ABL, seven others; Syriac, Wheelock's Persian, two of the Arabic, Coptic, Sahidic, Ethiopic, Armenian, later Syriac, Vulgate, six of the Itala, and some of the fathers.
A man must hear the words of Christ in order to believe them; and he must believe, in order to keep them; and he must keep them in order to his salvation.
I judge him not - I need not do it: the words of Moses and the prophets judge and condemn him. See the notes on Joh 3:17; Joh 5:45.
The word that I have spoken - shall judge him - Ye shall be judged according to my doctrine: the maxims which ye have heard from my mouth shall be those on which ye shall be tried in the great day; and ye shall be condemned or acquitted according as ye have believed or obeyed them, or according as ye have despised and violated them, See this proved, Mat 25:35 (note), etc.
For I have not spoken of myself - I have not spoken for my secular interest: I have not aimed at making any gain of you: I have not set up myself as your teachers in general do, to be supported by my disciples, and to be credited on my own testimony. I have taught you, not the things of men, but the deep, everlasting truths of God. As his envoy, I came to you; and his truth only I proclaim.
Gave me a commandment - Or, commission. So I understand the original word, εντολη. Christ, as the Messiah, received his commission from God; what he should command - every thing that related to the formation and establishment of the Christian institution: and what he should speak - all his private conversations with his disciples or others, he, as man, commanded and spoke through the constant inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
I know that this commandment is life everlasting - These words of our Lord are similar to that saying in St. John's first epistle, Jo1 5:11, Jo1 5:12. This is the record, that God hath given unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life. God's commandment or commission is, Preach salvation to a lost world, and give thyself a ransom for all; and whosoever believeth on thee shall not perish, but have everlasting life. Every word of Christ, properly credited, and carefully applied, leads to peace and happiness here, and to glory hereafter. What an amiable view of the Gospel of the grace of God does this give us? It is a system of eternal life, Divinely calculated to answer every important purpose to dying, miserable man. This sacred truth Jesus witnessed with his last breath. He began his public ministry proclaiming the kingdom of God; and he now finishes it by asserting that the whole commission is eternal life; and, having attested this, he went out of the temple, and retired to Bethany.
The public work of our Lord was now done; and the remnant of his time, previously to his crucifixion, he spent in teaching his disciples - instructing them in the nature of his kingdom, his intercession, and the mission of the Holy Spirit; and in that heavenly life which all true believers live with the Father, through faith in the Son, by the operation of the Holy Ghost.
Many persons are liberal in their condemnation of the Jews, because they did not believe on the Son of God; and doubtless their unbelief has merited and received the most signal punishment. But those who condemn them do not reflect that they are probably committing the same sort of transgression, in circumstances which heighten the iniquity of their sin. Will it avail any man, that he has believed that Christ has come in the flesh to destroy the works of the devil, who does not come unto him that he may have life, but continues to live under the power and guilt of sin? Paradoxical as it may seem, it is nevertheless possible, for a man to credit the four evangelists, and yet live and die an infidel, as far as his own salvation is concerned. Reader, it is possible to hold the truth in unrighteousness. Pray to God that this may not be thy condemnation. For a farther improvement of the principal subjects of this chapter, see the notes on Joh 12:24 (note), Joh 12:32 (note) and Joh 12:39 (note).