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Ver. 1. After this there was a feast of the Jews , etc.] After Christ had been in Samaria, which was four months ago, ( John 4:35), and had been in Galilee for that time, and had cured the nobleman’s son, and had done other mighty works, the time came on for one of the three festivals of the Jews; either the feast of Pentecost, as some think; or as others, the feast of tabernacles; or rather, the feast of the passover, so called, in ( John 4:45) since John is very particular, in giving an account of the several passovers, in Christ’s ministry: and Jesus went up to Jerusalem ; according to the law of God, which obliged all the males to appear there at that time; and to show his compliance with it, and obedience to it, whom it became to fulfil all righteousness; and this he did also, that he might have an opportunity of discoursing, and doing his miracles before all the people, which came at this time, from the several parts of the land.
Ver. 2. Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep [market] , etc.] The word “market” is not in the text, and of such a market, no account is given in the Scripture, nor in the Jewish writings; and besides, in our Lord’s time, sheep and oxen were sold in the temple; rather therefore this signifies, the sheep gate, of which mention is made, in ( Nehemiah 3:1,32 12:39), through which the sheep were brought into the city, to the temple. A pool . The Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions read, “there is at Jerusalem a sheep pool”; and so it is interpreted in the Arabic version, and Jerom calls it the “cattle pool” f220 . The Targumist on ( Jeremiah 31:39) speaks of a pool called hlg[ hkyrb , “the calf”, or “heifer pool”, as Dr.
Lightfoot renders it; though the translations of it, both in the London Polyglott, and in the king of Spain’s Bible, interpret it “the round pool”.
This pool of Bethesda, is thought by some, to be the same which the Jews call the great pool in Jerusalem; they say f221 , “between Hebron and Jerusalem, is the fountain Etham, from whence the waters come by way of pipes, unto the great pool, which is in Jerusalem.”
And R. Benjamin speaks of a pool, which is to be seen to this day, where the ancients slew their sacrifices, and all the Jews write their names on the wall: and some think it was so called, because the sheep that were offered in sacrifice, were there washed; which must be either before, or after they were slain; not before, for it was not required that what was to be slain for sacrifice should be washed first; and afterwards, only the entrails of a beast were washed; and for this there was a particular place in the temple, called ˆyjydmh tkçl “the washing room”; where, they say f223 , they washed the inwards of the holy sacrifices. This pool here, therefore, seems rather, as Dr. Lightfoot observes, to have been a bath for unclean persons; and having this miraculous virtue hereafter spoken of, diseased persons only, at certain times, had recourse to it. The Syriac and Persic versions call it, “a place of a baptistery”; and both leave out the clause, “by the sheep market”, or “gate”: it is not easy to say where and what it was: which is called in the Hebrew tongue, Bethesda ; which signifies, according to the Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions, “an house of mercy”, or “grace”, or “goodness”; because many miserable objects here received mercy, and a cure. Hegesippus speaks of a Bethesda, which Cestius the Roman general entered into, and burnt; and which, according to him, seems to be without Jerusalem, and so not the place here spoken of; and besides, this is called a pool, though the buildings about it doubtless went by the same name. The Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions read Bethsaida, very wrongly; and it is called by Tertullian the pool of Bethsaida. The Hebrew tongue here mentioned is rhnh rb[ lç btk , “the language of those beyond the river” f226 , i.e. the river Euphrates; which is the Chaldee language, as distinct from the Assyrian language, which is called the holy and blessed language; the former is what the Cuthites, or Samaritans used; the latter, that in which the book of the law was written f227 . Having five porches ; or cloistered walks, which were very convenient for the diseased, which lay here for a cure, so Nonnus: Athanasius speaks of the pool itself, as in being, though the buildings round about lay in ruins in his time; and Daviler observes, there are still remaining five arches of the “portico”, and part of the basin. Now this place may be an emblem of the means of grace, the ministry of the word, and ordinances: the house of God, where the Gospel is preached, may be called a Bethesda, an house of mercy; since here the free, sovereign, rich, and abundant grace and mercy of God, through Christ, is proclaimed, as the ground and foundation of a sinner’s hope; the mercy of God, as it is displayed in the covenant of grace, in the mission of Christ, and redemption by him, in regeneration, and in the forgiveness of sin, and indeed, in the whole of salvation, from first to last, is here held forth for the relief of distressed minds: and this Bethesda being a pool, some of the ancients have thought, it was an emblem of, and prefigured the ordinance of baptism; and that the miraculous virtue in it, was put into it, to give honour and credit to that ordinance, shortly to be administered: but as that is not the means of regeneration and conversion, or of a cure or cleansing, but pre-requires them; rather it might be a symbol of the fountain of Christ’s blood, opened for polluted sinners to wash in, and which cleanses from all sin, and cures all diseases; and this is opened in the house of mercy, and by the ministry of the word: or rather, best of all, the Gospel itself, and the ministration of it, mass be signified; which is sometimes compared to waters, and a fountain of them; (see Isaiah 4:1 Zechariah 14:8) ( Joel 3:18); and whereas this pool was in Jerusalem, and that so often designs the church of Christ under the Gospel dispensation, it may fitly represent the ministry of the word there: and it being near the sheep-market, or gate, or a sheep-pool, may not be without its significancy; and may lead us to observe, that near where Christ’s sheep are, which the Father has given him, and he has died for, and must bring in, he fixes his word and ordinances, in order to gather them in: and inasmuch as there were five porches, or cloistered walks, leading unto, or adjoining to this place, it has been thought by some of the ancients, that the law, as lying in the five books of Moses, may be intended by them; for under the law, and under a work of it, men are, before they come into the light and liberty, and comfort of the Gospel; and as the people which lay in these porches, received no cure there, so there are no relief, peace, joy, life, and salvation, by the law of works.
Ver. 3. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk , etc.] Sick and weak persons; who were an emblem of men under the law of works, and in a state of unregeneracy; who are enfeebled by sin, and are impotent and unable to do anything of themselves; as to keep the law of God, to which they have neither will nor power, and to atone for the transgressions of it; nor to redeem themselves from the curse of the law or to begin and carry on a work of grace upon their souls; or to do anything that is spiritually good; no, not to think a good thought, or to do a good action, as is required: of blind ; these also may represent men a state of nature, who are ignorant of, and blind to everything that is spiritual; as to the true knowledge of God in Christ, the way of salvation by him, the plague of their own hearts, and the exceeding sinfulness of sin; to the Spirit of God, and his work upon the soul; and to the truths of the Gospel, in the power of them: halt , or “lame”; this word sometimes is used of persons in suspense about religious things, hesitating concerning them, halting between two opinions; and sometimes designs the infirmities of the saints, and their faulterings in religious exercises; and here maybe expressive in a figurative way, of the incapacity natural men, to go or walk of themselves; as to come to Christ for grace and life, which no man can do, except the Father draw him; or to walk by faith in him: it is added, withered ; one limb or another of them dried up: their arms or legs were withered, and their sinews shrunk, and were without radical moisture, or the free use of the animal spirits; and may point out carnal persons, such as are sensual, not having the Spirit, destitute of the grace of God, without faith, hope, love, knowledge, and the fear of God; without God, Christ, and the Spirit; and in a lifeless, helpless, hopeless, and perishing condition: waiting for the moving of the water ; hereafter mentioned: and so it is in providence, and a wonderful thing it is, that the hearts of so many unregenerate persons should be inclined to attend upon the outward means of grace, and should be waiting at Wisdom’s gates, and watching at the posts of her door.
Ver. 4. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool , etc.] This angel is not to be understood of a messenger sent from the sanhedrim, or by the priests, as Dr. Hammond thinks; who has a strange conceit, that this pool was used for the washing of the entrails of the sacrifices; and which at the passover being very numerous, the water in it mixed with the blood of the entrails, was possessed of an healing virtue; and which being stirred by a messenger sent from the sanhedrim for that purpose, whoever went in directly received a cure: but this angel was “an angel of the Lord”, as the Vulgate Latin, and two of Beza’s copies read; and so the Ethiopic version reads, “an angel of God”; who either in a visible form came down from heaven, and went into the pool, the Ethiopic version very wrongly renders it, “was washed in the pool”; or it was concluded by the people, from the unusual agitation of the water, and the miraculous virtue which ensued upon it, that an angel did descend into it; and this was not at all times, but at a certain time; either once a year, as Tertullian thought, at the time of the feast of the passover, or every sabbath, as this was now the sabbath day; or it may be there was no fixed period for it, but at some times and seasons in the year so it was, which kept the people continually waiting for it: and troubled the water ; agitated and moved it to and fro, caused it to swell and rise, to bubble and boil up, and to roll about, and be as in a ferment.
The Jews have a notion of spirits troubling waters; they speak of a certain fountain where a spirit resided, and an evil spirit attempted to come in his room; upon which a contest arose, and they saw ayymd ayybwbr[ , “the waters troubled”, and think drops of blood upon them f230 : the Syriac f231 writers have a tradition, that “because the body of Isaiah the prophet was hid in Siloah, therefore an angel descended and moved the waters.” Whosoever then first after the troubling of the waters stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had ; from whence it seems, that only one person at a season received a cure, by going in first into the water, so Tertullian thought f232 : the Jews ascribe an healing virtue to the well of Miriam; they say, “a certain ulcerous person went to dip himself in the sea of Tiberias, and it happened at that time, that the well of Miriam flowed, and he washed, ystyaw , and was healed f233 .”
Now this angel may represent a minister of the Gospel, for such are called angels, ( Revelation 1:20); being called of God, and sent by him, with messages of grace to the sons of men; and the preaching of the Gospel by such, may be aptly signified by the troubling of the waters, as it is by the shaking of heaven, earth, and sea; (see Haggai 2:6,7), compared with ( Hebrews 12:25,26); especially when attended with the Spirit of God, who moved upon the face of the waters in the first creation; and who, in and by the ministry of the word, troubles the minds of men, and whilst the prophet prophesies, causes a shaking among the dry bones, which is done at certain seasons; for as there are certain seasons for the preaching of the Gospel, so there is more especially a fixed, settled, and appointed one, for the conversion of God’s elect; who are called according to purpose, and at the time the Lord has appointed: and whoever now, upon the preaching of the Gospel, are enabled to step forth and come to Christ, and believe in him, are cured of all their soul maladies and diseases, be they what they will; all their inquiries are pardoned, their persons justified, and they are saved in Christ, with an everlasting salvation: and as this cure was not owing to any natural virtue in the water, nor even to the angels troubling it, but to a supernatural power; so the conversion of a sinner is owing to ministers, and to the word and ordinances as administered by them, but to the superior power of the grace of God; and which is exerted in his time, and on whom he pleases.
Ver. 5. And a certain man was there , etc.] At Bethesda’s pool, in one of the five porches, or cloisters, that belonged to it: which had an infirmity thirty and eight years ; what his infirmity was, is not said; he was one of the weak, or impotent folk, for so he is called, ( John 5:7). Some think his distemper was the palsy, and though he had had this infirmity so many years, it is not certain that he had waited so long in this place for a cure; though it may be, for that he had attended some time, is clear from ( John 5:7). Nor indeed can it be known how long there had been such a preternatural motion in this pool, and such a miraculous virtue in the water; some have thought, that it began at the repairing of the sheep gate by Eliashib, in Nehemiah’s time; so Tremellius and Junius, on ( Nehemiah 3:1); and others have thought, that it had been some few years before the birth of Christ, and about the time that this man was first taken with his disorder. Tertullian says f234 , that there was in Judea a medicinal lake, before Christ’s time; and that the pool of Bethsaida (it should be Bethesda) was useful in curing the diseases of the Israelites; but ceased from yielding any benefit, when the name of the Lord was blasphemed by them, through their rage and fury, and continuance in it f235 ; but in what year it began, and the precise time it ceased, he says not. The Persic version here adds, “and was reduced to such a state that he could not move”.
Ver. 6. When Jesus saw him lie , etc.] In such a helpless condition: and knew that he had been now a long time, [in that case] , or “in his disease”, as the Ethiopic version supplies; even seven years before Christ was born; which is a proof of his omniscience: the words may be literally rendered, as they are in the Vulgate Latin and Syriac versions, “that he had had much time”; or as the Arabic version, “that he had had many years”; that is had lived many years, and was now an old man; he had his disorder eight and thirty years, and which seems from ( John 5:14) to have arisen from some sin of his, from a vicious course of living, perhaps intemperance; so that he might be a middle aged man, when this distemper first seized him, and therefore must be now stricken in years: he saith unto him, wilt thou be made whole ? which question is put, not as if it was a doubt, whether he was desirous of it, or not; for to what purpose did he lie and wait there else? but partly to raise in the man an expectation of a cure, and attention in the people to it: and it may be his sense and meaning is, wilt thou be made whole on this day, which was the sabbath; or hast thou faith that thou shall be made whole in this way, or by me?
Ver. 7. The impotent man answered him, Sir , etc.] Which was a common and courteous way of speaking, much in use with the Jews, especially to strangers. The Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions read, “yea Lord”, which is a direct answer to the question: I have no man ; the Ethiopic version reads, “men”; he had no servant, so Nonnus, or servants, to wait upon him, and take him up in their arms, and carry him into the pool; he was a poor man, and such God is pleased to choose and call by his grace: when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool ; that is, as soon as it is troubled by the angel, to put him in first before any other; for it was the first man only that had a cure this way: but while I am coming ; in a slow way, by the help of his crutches, or in the best manner he could: another steppeth down before me ; not so much disordered, or more active and nimble: so among those that wait on the ministry of the word, some are sooner in Christ, or earlier called by his grace, than others; some lie here a long time, and see one and another come to Christ, believe in him, profess his name, and are received into the church; and they still left, in an uncalled and unconverted estate.
Ver. 8. Jesus saith to him, rise , etc.] From thy bed, or couch, on which he lay in one of the porches: and take up thy bed and walk ; these words were spoken by the same power, as those to Lazarus, which called him out of his grave; as appears from the effect they had upon the man, who was in himself impotent, weak, and helpless.
Ver. 9. And immediately the man was made whole , etc.] As soon as ever the words were spoken by Christ, such power went with them, as restored the man to perfect health; and he finding himself to be quite well, rose up directly: and took up his bed and walked ; which may be expressive of a sinner’s rising from the bed of sin, and taking up the cross, or carrying the body of sin and death with him; and walking by faith in Christ, as he has received him: and on the same day was the sabbath ; which is remarked, for the sake of what follows.
Ver. 10. The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured , etc.] When they saw him, either at the place, or as he walked through the streets, with his bed on his back: it is the sabbath day : do not you know it? surely you forget yourself, or you would never be guilty of such an action as this; it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed . It was forbid by the law, to carry any burden on the sabbath day; (see Nehemiah 13:15,19) ( Jeremiah 17:22); for “carrying out and bringing in anything, from one place to another, is said to be work, and one of the principal works;” and therefore forbid by the law, which says, “thou shall not do any work”; and one of the traditions of the elders is this f237 , “whoever carries anything out (i.e. on the sabbath day), whether in his right hand, or in his left, in his bosom, or wpytk l[ , “on his shoulder”, is guilty; for so carried the Kohathites.”
Which was a fold up bed, such as tinkers, and those that went from city to city to work, had; and who carried their beds with them, as the gloss observes; and were so far from being lawful to be carried by them, on the sabbath, that they might not fold them up.
Ver. 11. He answered them , etc.] That is, the impotent man, who was now made whole, replied to the Jews: he that made me whole, the same said unto me, take up thy bed and walk ; intimating, that he that had such divine power, as to make him whole, had power to dispense with the sabbath, and such an action on it; and that his word was warrant and authority sufficient, to support him in what he did; for he that had wrought this cure for him, he concluded must be from God; was at least a great prophet, and to be hearkened to and obeyed, in one thing as well as another.
Ver. 12. Then asked they him , etc.] Suspecting who had made him whole, and gave him this order: what man is that which said unto thee, take up thy bed and walk ? they take no notice of the cure, being unwilling to give any glory to Christ, and still less to spread it; but chose rather that it should be obscured, hid, and unobserved; but they laid hold on that, which they thought might be improved to his reproach and scandal; and they call him a man, as supposing him to be a mere man, and a wicked man too, for giving orders to transgress a tradition of the elders, though no mere man could work such a cure as this was. And so the Jews since, though they cannot find fault with the cure, which they put an “if” upon, yet are highly displeased with the order, to take up his bed and carry it: “if (say they f239 ) he wrought a cure, lo, that is good, but why did he bid him take up his bed?” the answer may be, to show that he was cured.
Ver. 13. And he that was healed, wist not who he was , etc.] He had never seen, and perhaps had never heard of Christ before, and so knew him not; and besides, Christ gave him no opportunity of conversing with him, or so much as to ask him who he was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away ; had slipped away, as soon as ever he had wrought the miracle: a multitude being in [that] place ; or “from the multitude that were in [that] place”; not that he hid himself among them, and there remained undiscovered; but he passed through them, and went his way to the temple, where he found the man he had healed, as in the following verse.
Ver. 14. Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple , etc.] Perhaps on the same day; for as soon as he had been at home, and laid down his bed, it is very likely he went directly to the temple, there to show himself, attend the worship of the place, and return thanks to God for the great mercy bestowed on him: and said unto him, behold thou art made whole ; cured of the disease that had attended him so many years; and a wonderful cure it was; well may a “behold” be prefixed; though this is here not only a note of admiration, but of attention, to what he was about to say to him: sin is a disease, which is original, natural, and hereditary to men; it is an epidemical one, all are affected with it, and all the powers and faculties of the soul; and it is a nauseous and loathsome one; and what is mortal and incurable in itself, and only to be cured by the great physician, Jesus Christ: God’s elect are attended with it as others, and being made sensible thereof, they come to Christ for a cure, and receive one, as this man did, to whom he said, sin no more ; intimating, that as all diseases of the body spring from sin, so had his; and that the time past of his life should suffice, for a course of sinning; and that the mercy he had received, laid him under an obligation to guard against it, to which there would still be a proneness in him; nor did our Lord imagine, that he could hereafter live without sin, but that he should not indulge himself in it, and give up himself unto it, and live in it: so all the diseases of the soul arise from sin; and when a person is converted, he ought not to walk as others do, or he himself has done; and though there is a propensity to sin and backslide from God after conversion, yet the grace of God teaches men to deny sin, and to live righteously; and though it cannot be thought that they should be, and act without sin, yet it becomes them not to live in sin, or go on in a course of it, as heretofore: lest a worse thing come unto thee ; for God could send a worse disease, or a sorer affliction, than he had yet done; an heavier punishment, either in this world, or that to come: and apply this to a good man, a converted man, one called by grace and cured by Christ, and a worse thing through sin may come unto him than a bodily disorder, namely, the hidings of God’s face; for as his presence is life, his absence is death, to such persons; and as for such who only make a profession of religion, and are externally reformed only, such, if they sin and fall away, their latter end is worse than the beginning.
Ver. 15. The man departed , etc.] From Christ, and from the temple, not through displeasure, or as resenting what was said to him, but as highly delighted that he had found his kind benefactor and physician; and went either to Bethesda, where the miracle was wrought, and where a multitude of people were, and where he might expect to find some of the persons that had questioned him about carrying his bed, and who it was that bid him do it; or rather to the sanhedrim; (see John 5:33) compared with ( John 1:19); and told the Jews ; the members of that great council, the chief priests, “scribes”, and elders, whose business it was to judge of a prophet, and of anyone that should set up for the Messiah: that it was Jesus ; of Nazareth, of whom so much talk was about his doctrines and miracles, and who was thought to be the Messiah: which had made him whole ; this he did, not out of any ill will to Christ, with any bad design upon him, to impeach and accuse him as a violator of the sabbath, for what he had said and done to him; for this would have been most ungrateful, and even barbarous, brutish, and diabolical; but with a good intention, that Jesus might have the glory of the cure, and that others of his fellow creatures in distress might know where, and from whom to have relief; and chiefly that the sanhedrim might be induced hereby to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, and to declare and patronize him as such: and that his end was good, is clear from this, that he does not say it was Jesus that bid him take up his bed and walk, which was what the Jews cavilled at, not caring to hear of the cure; but that made him whole: he observes the miracle to them with a grateful spirit, to the honour of his physician, and that he might be thought to be what he really was.
Ver. 16. And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus , etc.] With their tongues, reproaching and reviling him, as a sabbath breaker, a destroyer of the law, and a sinful wicked man: and sought to slay him ; either in a violent way, by setting the zealots, a sort of ruffians under the pretence of religion, upon him; or rather in a judicial way, summoning him before the sanhedrim, in order to condemn him to death for the breach of the sabbath, which by the law of Moses was punishable with death: because he had done these things on the sabbath day ; because he had cured the man of his disease, under which he had laboured eight and thirty years, and had ordered him to take up his bed, and walk home with it on his back on the sabbath day. This drew upon him their resentment to such a degree, that they not only persecuted him with their tongues, but sought to take away his life. Nothing would satisfy them but his blood.
Ver. 17. But Jesus answered them , etc.] Being convened before them, and charged by them with the violation of the sabbath, he vindicated himself in the following manner, saying; my Father worketh hitherto : he who is my Father, not by creation, or adoption, but by nature, though he ended all his work on the seventh day, and rested from what he had done; yet he did not cease from working at all, but has continued to work ever since, on sabbath days, as well as on other days; in upholding and governing the world, in continuing the species of beings, and all creatures in their being; in providing for them, and in dispensing the bounties of his providence to them; in causing his sun to shine, and showers of rain to descend on the earth; and in taking care of, and protecting even the meanest of his creatures: and much more men; and still more his own people: and I work ; or “also I work”; as the Syriac and Arabic version reads; i.e. in conjunction with him, as a co-efficient cause in the works of providence, in the government of the world, in upholding all things in it, in bearing up the pillars of the earth, in holding things together, and sustaining all creatures: or I also work in imitation of him, in doing good both to the bodies and souls of men on the sabbath day, being the Lord of it: I do but what my Father does, and therefore, as he is not to be blamed for his works on that day, as none will say he is, no more am I. So Philo the Jew says f240 , “God never ceases to work; but as it is the property of fire to burn, and of snow to cool, so of God to work.”
And what most men call fortune, he calls the divine Logos, or word, to whom he ascribes all the affairs of providence f241 .
Ver. 18. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him , etc.] They were the more desirous to take away his life, and were more bent and resolute upon it, and studied all ways and means how to bring it about; because he had not only broken the sabbath ; as they imagined; for he had not really broken it: and if they had known what that means, that God will have mercy, and not sacrifice, they would have been convinced that he had not broke it by this act of mercy to a poor distressed object: but said also that God was his Father ; his own Father, his proper Father, his Father by nature, and that he was his own Son by nature; and this they gathered from his calling him “my Father”, and assuming a co-operation with him in his divine works: making himself to be equal with God ; to be of the same nature, and have the same perfections, and do the same works; for by saying that God was his Father, and so that he was the Son of God, a phrase, which, with them, signified a divine person, as they might learn from ( Psalm 2:7,12), and by ascribing the same operations to himself, as to his Father, they rightly understood him, that he asserted his equality with him; for had he intended no more, and had they imagined that he intended no more by calling God his Father, than that he was so by creation, as he is to all men, or by adoption, as he was to the Jews, they would not have been so angry with him; for the phrase, in this sense, they used themselves: but they understood him otherwise, as asserting his proper deity, and perfect equality with the Father; and therefore to the charge of sabbath breaking, add that of blasphemy, and on account of both, sought to put him to death; for according to their canons, both the sabbath breaker, and the blasphemer, were to be stoned f242 .
Ver. 19. Then answered Jesus, and said unto them , etc.] They charged him with blasphemy for calling God his Father, and making himself equal to him: and his answer is so far from denying the thing, or observing any mistake, or misrepresentation of his words, that he allows the whole, and vindicates himself in so saying: verily verily, I say unto you ; nothing is more certain; it may be depended on as truth; I who am truth itself, the “Amen”, and faithful witness, aver it with the greatest assurance: the Son can do nothing of himself ; or he does do nothing of himself, nor will he do anything of himself; that is, he neither does, nor will, nor can do anything alone or separate from his Father, or in which he is not concerned; not anything without his knowledge and consent, or contrary to his will: he does everything in conjunction with him; with the same power, having the same will, being of the same nature, and equal to each other: for these words do not design any weakness in the Son, or want of power in him to do anything of himself; that is, by his own power: for he has by his word of power spoke all things out of nothing, and by the same upholds all things; he has himself bore the sins of his people, and by himself purged them away, and has raised himself from the dead; but they express his perfection; that he does nothing, and can do nothing of himself, in opposition to his Father, and in contradiction to his will: as Satan speaks of his own, and evil men alienated from God, act of themselves, and do that which is contrary to the nature and will of God; but the Son cannot do so, being of the same nature with God, and therefore never acts separate from him, or contrary to him, but always co-operates and acts with him, and therefore never to be blamed for what he does. The Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions render it, “the Son cannot do anything of his own will”; so Nonnus; as separate from, or contrary to his Father’s will, but always in agreement with it, they being one in nature, and so in will and work. He does nothing therefore but what he seeth the Father do ; not that he sees the Father actually do a work, and then he does one after him, as the creation of the world, the assumption of human nature, and redemption of man, or any particular miracle, as if upon observing one done, he did the like; but that he being brought up with him, and lying in his bosom, was privy to the whole plan of his works, and saw in his nature and infinite mind, and in his vast counsels, purposes, and designs, all that he was doing, or would do, and so did the same, or acted agreeably to them; and which still shows and proves their unity of nature, and perfect equality, since there was nothing in the Father’s mind but was known to the Son, seen, and observed, and acted up to by him: so Philo the Jew says of the “Father’s most ancient Son, whom he otherwise calls the firstborn; that being begotten, he imitates the Father, and seeing, or looking to his exemplars and archetypes, forms species;” that is, being conversant with the original and eternal ideas of things in the divine mind, acts according to them, which he could not do if he was not of the same nature with, and equal to his Father. Moreover, the Son sees what the Father does by co-operating with him, and so does no other than what he sees the Father do, in conjunction with him: to which may be added, that the phrase shows, that the Son does nothing but in wisdom, and with knowledge; and that as the Father, so he does all things after the counsel of his will: for whatsoever things he doth, these also doth the Son likewise ; the Son does the selfsame works as the Father does, such as the works of creation and providence, the government both of the church, and of the world; and he does these things in like manner, with the same power, and by the same authority, his Father does, and which proves him to be equal with him; the very thing the Jews understood him to have asserted, and which they charged him with: and this he strongly maintained. The Syriac version reads, “for the things which the Father does, the same also does the Son”; and the Persic version, “whatsoever God has done, the Son also does like unto it”.
Ver. 20. For the Father loveth the Son , etc.] As being his Son, his image, the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person; as being of the same nature, and having the same perfections, and so equal to him; (see Gill on “ John 3:35”); and showeth him all things that himself doth ; not as if he was ignorant of them, since he lies in the bosom of his Father, is the wisdom of God, is the omniscient God, that knows all things; not only all things in men, but all things in God, even the deep things of God: but this is said of the Father, as consulting with him, communicating his designs to him, as his equal; doing nothing without him, as he never did in the works of nature, or of grace: he drew the plan of peace, reconciliation, and salvation in him; he made the worlds by him; and he does nothing in the government of the world without him; and indeed he shows him all things he does, by doing all things; and by him he shows himself, and his works, to men: and he will show him greater works than these , or he will do greater works by him than these: either than the works of creation; namely, the redemption of the elect, the justification of their persons by his righteousness, and pardon of their sins through his blood, and the regeneration and conversion of them by his Spirit and grace; either of which is a greater work than the making of the world: or greater than he has done under the Old Testament dispensation; than the redeeming of Israel out of Egypt, leading them through the wilderness, and settling them in the land of Canaan; giving them the law, the statutes, and ordinances of God, and working miracles among them: for the redemption of God’s people, by Christ, from sin, Satan, the world, the law, death, and hell, the publishing of the Gospel, the effusion of the Spirit, and setting up of the Gospel dispensation, are greater works than these; and more and greater miracles were wrought by Christ than by Moses, or any prophet under the former dispensation. Though rather the sense is, that greater miracles would be shown, and done by Christ, than these he had now done, in curing a man of his disorder, who had had it eight and thirty years, and bidding him take up his bed and walk; such as raising Jairus’s daughter to life, when dead, and the widow of Naim’s son, when he was carrying to the grave, and Lazarus, when he had been dead four days: that ye may marvel ; this was not properly the end of these greater works shown to, and done by Christ, which were to prove his divine sonship, his proper deity, his true Messiahship, to confirm the faith of his followers in him, and for the glory of God; but this eventually followed upon them: some wondered at them, and believed in him; and others were amazed at them, and confounded by them.
Ver. 21. For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them , etc.] Which may be understood either spiritually of raising dead sinners from the death of sin, to a life of grace and holiness; and the rather, because it is expressed in the present tense “raiseth”, and not “hath raised”; or naturally of raising those that are dead in a corporeal sense, and quickening them, as the widow of Sarepta’s son by Elijah, and the Shunamite’s son by Elisha: even so the Son quickeneth whom he will ; both in a spiritual sense, being the resurrection and the life, or the author of the resurrection from a moral death to a spiritual life, whose voice, in the Gospel, the dead in sin hear, and live; and in a natural sense, as in the above instances of Jairus’s daughter, the widow of Naim’s son, and Lazarus; and in the general resurrection, when at his voice, and word of power, all that are in their graves shall come forth, some to everlasting life, and some to everlasting damnation; and all this as he wills: he quickens, in a spiritual sense, whom he pleases, even as many as the Father has given him; and he will raise up to everlasting life, at the last day, whom he pleases, even as many as were made his care and charge, whom he has redeemed by his blood; and called by his grace. Now as the quickening of the dead is an act of almighty power, and this being exercised by the Son in a sovereign way, as is by his Father, it shows his proper deity, and full equality with the Father. The resurrection of the dead is here expressed by “quickening”, as it frequently is by the Jews, who often speak of µytmh tyyht , “the quickening the dead”, for the resurrection; so the Targumist on ( Zechariah 3:8), “in the quickening of the dead”, Ænyja , “I will quicken thee”; see the Jerusalem Targum on ( Genesis 29:26 25:34).
Ver. 22. For the Father judgeth no man , etc.] That is, without the Son; which is another proof of their equality: for that he does judge is certain; he is the Judge of the whole earth; he is God that judgeth in the earth, or governs the world with his Son, who works together in the affairs of providence: he judged and condemned the old world, but not without his Son, who by his Spirit, or in his divine nature, went and preached to the spirits now in prison, then disobedient in the times of Noah; he judged and condemned Sodom and Gomorrah, but not without the Son; for Jehovah the Son rained, from Jehovah the Father, fire and brimstone upon those cities, and consumed them; he judged the people of Israel, and often chastised them for their sins, but not without his Son; the angel of his presence that went before them; he judges all men, and justifies and acquits whom he pleases, but not without his Son; but through his justifying righteousness, which he imputes to them; in doing which he appears to he a just judge, and to do right; and he will judge the world in righteousness at the last day by his Son, whom he has ordained; so as the Son does nothing without the Father, the Father does nothing without the Son, which shows perfect equality. The Jews had an officer in their sanhedrim, whom they called Ab Beth Din, or “the father of the house of judgment”, to whom belonged the trying of causes, and of judging and determining them. Hence the Targumist on ( Song of Solomon 7:4) says, “ anyd tyb baw , “and the father of the house of judgment”, who judgeth thy judgments, or determines thy causes, is mighty over thy people, etc.”
Whether there may not be some allusion here to this officer, I leave to be considered: but hath committed all judgment to the Son ; as the judgment, or government of his church and people, especially under the Gospel dispensation; and which he exercises by giving ordinances peculiar to it, such as baptism and the Lord’s supper; and by enacting laws, and prescribing rules for the discipline of his house, over which he is as a Son; and by appointing proper officers under him, over his churches, to administer these ordinances, and see that these laws are put in execution, which he qualifies them for, by bestowing proper gifts upon them: and he exercises this judgment, by protecting and defending his people from all their enemies, so that they well safely under his government: as also the general judgment of the world at the last day, is committed to him; which affair will be managed by Christ, the Son of God, when he comes a second time; he will then raise the dead, that everyone may receive for the things done in his body, whether good or evil; he will gather all nations before him, and all shall stand before his judgment seat, both great and small; he will separate one from another, the sheep from the goats, and set the one on his right hand, and the other on his left; he will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, and show himself to be the searcher of the hearts, and the trier of the reins of the children of men, and will pass a most righteous and decisive sentence upon all: now for such a trust, and such a work as this, whether the particular government of the church, or the general judgment of the world, he would not be fit, was he not God equal with the Father; the thing he had suggested, and which he supports and maintains in this vindication of himself.
Ver. 23. That all men should honour the Son , etc.] This is the end of all judgment, and the exercise of all authority, and power being committed to him; namely, that he might have the honour given him by men that is due unto him: even as they honour the Father ; that the same honour and glory may be given to the one, as to the other, which must never have been done was he not equal with him, since he gives not his glory to another, ( Isaiah 42:8 48:11). Indeed, all men do not honour the Father as they should; the Gentiles, who had some knowledge of God, glorified him not as God; and the Jews, who had an external revelation of the one, true, and living God, which other nations had not, yet were greatly deficient in honouring him, which made him complaining say, “if then I be a father, where is mine honour?” ( Malachi 1:6). And Christians, who are favoured with a clearer revelation still of the Father of Christ, are much wanting in giving him his due glory; but in common he is honoured, though in an imperfect manner; nor is there so much danger of his losing his honour, as of the Son’s losing his; the reason is this, though the Son is in the form of God, and equal with him, yet by taking upon him the form of a servant, by becoming man, he has veiled the glory of his divine person, and made himself of no reputation; and by reason of this was reckoned by many, or most, as a mere man: wherefore, by agreement, that judgment, power, and authority, which equally belonged to the Father, and the Son, the exercise of it is put visibly and openly into the Son’s hands, that he might have his due honour and glory from all men, whether they will or not: from true believers in him he has it willingly, by their ascribing deity to him, by putting their trust in him, by attributing the whole of their salvation to him, and the glory of it, and by worshipping him: and he will be honoured by all men at the last day; they will be obliged to do it; for all judgment being committed to him, and he being Judge of all, every knee shall bow to him, and every tongue shall confess that he is Lord, to his own glory, and to the glory of God the Father; (see Isaiah 45:23 Philippians 2:10,11). He that honoureth not the Son ; that denies his divine sonship, or his proper deity; that detracts from the dignity of his person or office; that shows no regard to him in point of salvation, or of obedience: honoureth not the Father which hath sent him ; they are so the same in nature and perfections, in power, will, affections, and operations; and their interests and honours are so involved together, that whatever dishonour is done to one, reflects on the other: and indeed, whatever is done in a way of disrespect to the Son, as incarnate, and in his office capacity, highly reflects on his Father, that sent him in the fulness of time, in human nature, to obtain eternal redemption for his people, according to a rule often expressed by the Jews, “a man’s messenger is as himself”; (see Gill on “ Matthew 10:40”).
Ver. 24. Verily verily, I say unto you , etc.] Who am the Amen, the true and faithful witness: he that heareth my word ; by which is meant the Gospel, and is so called, both because it is spoken by Christ, and first began to be spoken by him; and because he is spoken of in it; his person, office, and work, peace, pardon, righteousness, life, and salvation by him, being the sum and substance of it: and by “hearing” it is meant, not a bare external hearing it; for so it may be heard, and not understood; and it may be understood in a notional and speculative way, and yet the consequences hereafter mentioned may not follow: but an internal hearing it is here designed, so as to understand it spiritually, or to have an experimental knowledge of it; so as to approve of it, love, and like it; to distinguish it from that which is not his doctrine, and to feel the power of it on the heart, and yield the obedience of faith unto it: for faith in Christ himself, the sum and substance of the word of the Gospel, is hereby expressed; to which is joined faith in God his Father, they being equally the object of it; and which is introduced as a further proof of the equality in nature which is between them; (see John 14:1); and believeth on him that sent me ; he does not say that believes on me, which might have been expected from him; but that believes on him that sent me, that is, on the Father; for as he that rejects Christ, and receives not his words, rejects and receives not him that sent him; so he that hears Christ’s words, and receives him, and believes in him, receives and believes in him that sent him; and the same effects and consequences follow upon the one as on the other, upon hearing the word of Christ, as upon believing on the Father of Christ; and which is no inconsiderable proof of their perfect equality: for such a person that hears the one, and believes on the other, hath everlasting life ; not only in the purpose of God, and in the covenant of his grace, and in the hands of Christ, and in faith and hope; but he has a right unto it, and a claim of it, according to the declaration of the Gospel; and besides, has the principle of it in himself, the grace of God, which springs up into, is the beginning of, and issues in eternal life; he has also a meetness for it, and has the pledge and earnest of it, the Spirit of God, and shall certainly enjoy it: and shall not come into condemnation ; neither for original sin, though judgment has passed upon all men unto condemnation for it; nor for actual sins and transgressions: for though everyone deserves condemnation, yet were there as many sentences of condemnation issued out as sins committed, not one of them could be executed on such who are in Christ Jesus, as he that believes in him is openly and manifestatively in him: the reason is, because the death of Christ is a security against all condemnation; and whoever believes in him shall not be condemned, but saved; and though he may come into judgment, yet not into condemnation: he shall stand in judgment, and be acquitted by the righteousness of Christ, which he, by faith, receives as his justifying righteousness. But is passed from death unto life ; both from a moral death to a spiritual life, being quickened, who before was dead in trespasses and sins; and from under a sentence of condemnation, and eternal death, which as a descendant of Adam, and according to the tenor of the law of works, he was subject to, to an open state of justification, according to the tenor of the covenant of grace; the righteousness of Christ being revealed to him, and received by faith, and the sentence of justification passed upon his conscience by the Spirit; so that he who before, in his own apprehension, was a dead man in a law sense, is now alive to God, and secure from the second death, and being hurt by it.
Ver. 25. Verily, verily, I say unto you , etc.] With the same asseveration as before, and for the further illustration and confirmation of the same thing, occasioned by the last clause of the preceding verse, as well as improving upon the argument in ( John 5:21) for his equality with the Father, which he is still pursuing: the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live ; which may be understood either of a corporeal resurrection, and of some particular instances of it, which should shortly be; and of some persons who would be in the state of the dead, and to whom the voice of Christ would be attended with such power as to cause them to hear and live; as did Jairus’s daughter upon his saying “Talitha Cumi”, damsel arise, and the widow of Naim’s son upon his saying, young man arise, and Lazarus, upon his calling to him, Lazarus come forth; and which is a full proof of his being equal to God that quickens the dead: or rather this is to be understood of a spiritual resurrection, and the rather, because this sense best agrees with the foregoing verse; and a corporeal resurrection is expressed in somewhat different words, and seems to be distinguished from this in ( John 5:28,29). And besides, the hour, or time of the resurrection of the above particular persons, was not strictly come; nor could they, with propriety, be said to be dead; to which may be added, that the phrase, “they that hear shall live”, and none but them, best agrees with this sense: so then by the “dead” are meant such who are dead in trespasses and sins; who are separated from God, alienated from the life of God, and in whom the image of God is defaced; who are dead in all the powers and faculties of their souls, to that which is spiritually good; and are without spiritual breath, sense, feeling, and motion. And by “the voice” of Christ is intended his Gospel, which is a voice of love, grace, and mercy, of life and liberty, of peace, pardon, righteousness, and salvation by him; and which being attended with his power, is the means of quickening dead sinners; who may be said to hear it, when it comes not in word only, but in power, and works effectually in them; and is spirit and life, and the power of God unto salvation to them; when they receive it, understand, believe, and obey it: and such persons “shall live”; comfortably, pleasantly, and delightfully, a life of faith on Christ, a life of communion with him, and shall live eternally with him hereafter.
Ver. 26. For as the Father hath life in himself , etc.] Is the living God, the fountain of life, and is the author of life to all living creatures; or rather has eternal life in his mind, his heart, his counsel, and his covenant, and in his hands, for all his chosen ones, which seems to he the peculiar sense here: so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself ; he hath not only made the purpose of it in him, and given the promise of it to him; but even eternal life itself, he has put into his hands, and secured it in him for them, ( 1 John 5:11), to give it to as many as he has given him: and he does give it to all his sheep, so that not one of them shall perish; which shows that he and his Father are one, though not in person, yet as in affection, will and power, so in nature and essence. The Son has life in himself, essentially, originally, and inderivatively as the Father has, being equally the living God, the fountain of life, and donor of it, as he; and therefore this is not a life which he gives, or communicates to him; but eternal life is what the one gives, and the other receives, according to the economy of salvation settled between them: and hence it is, that all that hear Christ’s voice spiritually shall live eternally; for these words are a reason of the former, and confirm the truth of them, as well as show the equality of the Son with the Father, in that he is equal to such a trust, as to have eternal life committed to him.
Ver. 27. And hath given him authority to execute judgment also , etc.] Both in his church and kingdom, in the present state of things, and at the last day, when all shall stand before his judgment seat: and that because he is the son of man ; truly and properly man; because though he was in the form of God, and equal to him, yet became man, and was in the form of a servant: and so reads the Ethiopic version, “because the Son of God is the son of man”; and therefore the authority of executing judgment, according to the council and covenant of peace, is committed to him; or that men might have a visible judge, or be judged by one in their own nature: agreeably the Persic version renders it, “because the Son himself is he who judges the sons of men”; or rather because he is that son of man spoken of in prophecy, especially in ( Daniel 7:13); by whom is meant the Messiah, as the Jews themselves allow f244 , and who was not a mere man, but the man God’s fellow; and so being omniscient and omnipotent, was equal to such a work, which otherwise he would not have been; (see Gill on “ John 5:22”). The Syriac version joins this clause to the beginning of ( John 5:28), and reads it thus, “because he is the son of man, marvel not at this”; let this be no obstruction to your faith of his quickening the dead, and having authority to execute judgment on all; since, though the son of man, he is not a mere man, but God over all, as what is next ascribed to him manifestly shows.
Ver. 28. Marvel not at this , etc.] Either at the cure of the man that had been diseased thirty and eight years, as some think; or at the Son of God being also the son of man, as the Syriac version suggests; or rather at the dead hearing the voice of the Son of God, and living upon it; and at his having authority to execute judgment upon all, to govern and defend his own church and people, and in the last day acquit them, and to take vengeance on his and their enemies, both now and hereafter: for the hour is coming, in which all that are in their graves shall hear his voice . This respects the general resurrection; for there will be a resurrection both of the just and unjust, of all that are in their graves; and though all that are dead are not in graves, or interred in the earth, as some are in the sea; yet, because the greater part are in graves, this phrase is chosen to express the universality of the resurrection: and this is also a proof of the resurrection of the same body; for what else are in the graves but bodies? and what else can come forth from them but the same bodies? and the time is hastening on when these bodies shall be quickened, and hear the voice of the Son of God; which whether the same with the voice of the archangel in ( 1 Thessalonians 4:16); and whether an articulate voice, or a violent clap of thunder, which is the voice of God, or only the exertion of Christ’s mighty power is intended, is not easy to determine, and may be needless to inquire. Certain it is, that this voice of Christ will be attended with almighty power, as the effect following upon it will show. The Jews observe f245 , that “there are three things which do not come into the world but “by voices”; there is the voice of a living creature, as it is written, ( Genesis 3:16), “in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children”, and as it is written, ( Genesis 30:22), “and God hearkened to her”; and there is the voice of rains, as it is written, ( 1 Kings 18:41), “for there is a voice of abundance of rain”, and it is written, ( Psalm 29:3), “the voice of the Lord is upon the waters”; and µytmh tyyht lwq , “there is the voice of the resurrection of the dead”, as it is written, ( Isaiah 40:3), “the voice of him that crieth in the wilderness”;” but that was the voice of John the Baptist. It will be the voice of the Son of God that will quicken and raise the dead.
Ver. 29. And shall come forth , etc.] Out of their graves, as Lazarus came forth from his at the word of command, and as the bodies of the saints did after the resurrection of Christ, when their graves were opened: they that have done good ; which none of Adam’s posterity naturally do, or can do of themselves: such are designed here who believe in Christ, which to do is the work of God, and the greatest and best of worlds; and without which it is impossible to please God in any; and indeed, whatever is not of faith is sin, and cannot be a good work: a good work is that which is done according to the will of God, from love to him, in faith, and with a view to his glory; and those that do such works shall come forth unto the resurrection of life ; that is, unto everlasting life, glory, and happiness; this is the first and better resurrection; and those that have part in it, over them the second death shall have no power. All shall rise to life, to an immortal life, so as never to die more; yet only good men shall rise to enjoy an happy and glorious life; which will lie in communion with God, angels, and saints, and in conformity to Christ, and in the everlasting vision of him: and they that have done evil ; who give up themselves to work wickedness; whose continual employment, and the business, series, and course of whose lives it is to commit sin; who are slaves unto it, and vassals of it, and are properly workers of iniquity; otherwise there is no man but what does that which is evil, and that daily: these shall come forth unto the resurrection of damnation ; that is, to everlasting damnation, shame, and reproach; they shall be condemned by the Judge of the whole earth, and shall be pronounced cursed; and shall be ordered to go into everlasting fire, and shall go into everlasting punishment; which will be a punishment both of loss and sense: they will lose, or be deprived of, the presence of God, and feel his wrath in their consciences. All will rise, but with a difference; the dead in Christ will rise first, in the morning of the resurrection, in the beginning of the thousand years, and therefore are here mentioned first; the rest the wicked, will not rise until the evening of that day, till the thousand years are ended, and therefore are spoken of last. The former will rise by virtue of union to Christ, the other by his power, and both at hearing his voice; the saints will rise with bodies glorious, powerful, and spiritual; and wicked men, though with bodies immortal, yet vile, and dishonourable: the one will rise to a life of joy and happiness that will last for ever, and which will be properly life; the other, though they will rise and live for ever, yet in misery and woe, and which will be the second, or eternal death; see a like distinction in ( Daniel 12:2), to which there seems to be some, reference here. And he at whose voice all this shall be, must be equal to God.
Ver. 30. I can of mine own self do nothing , etc.] This is the conclusion of the matter, the winding up of the several arguments concerning the Son’s equality to the Father, and the application of the whole to Christ. He had before been chiefly speaking of the Son, in relation to the Father, as if he was a third person; but now he applies what he had said of the Son to himself: and it is as if he had said, I am the Son that can do nothing separate from the Father, and contrary to his will, but do all things in conjunction with him; who sees all that he does, by being in him, and cooperating with him, and do the selfsame. I am the Son to whom the Father shows, and by whom he does, all he does; and to whom he will show, and by whom he will do, as a co-efficient with him, greater works than what, as yet, he has done: I am the Son that quickens whom he pleases, and to whom all judgment is committed, and have the same honour the Father has: I am he that quickens dead sinners now, and will raise all the dead at the last day; and have authority to execute judgment on all mankind: and, as I hear, I judge ; not as he hears men, or, according to the evidence men will give one of another; for it is denied of him, that he will proceed in judgment in this manner, ( Isaiah 11:3), but as he hears his Father; for being in his bosom, and one with him, as he sees, and knows all he does, his whole plan of operations, and acts according to them; so he hears, knows, and is perfectly acquainted with all his counsels, purposes, and rules of judgment, and never deviates from them. Hearing here signifies perfect knowledge, and understanding of a cause; and so it is used in the Jewish writings, in matters of difficulty, that come before a court of judicature f246 : “there were three courts of judicature; one that sat at the gate of the mountain of the house; and one that sat at the gate of the court; and another that sat in the paved chamber: they go (first) to that which is at the gate of the mountain of the house, and say, so have I expounded, and so have the companions expounded; so have I taught, and so have the companions (or colleagues) taught: w[mç µa , “if they hear”, they say; (i.e. as one of their commentators explains it f247 , if they know the law, and hear, or understand the sense of the law; in such a case they declare what they know;) if not, they go to them that are at the gate of the court, and say (as before). — And, “if they hear”, they tell them; but if not, they go to the great sanhedrim in the paved chamber, from whence goes forth the law to all Israel.”
Christ was now before the great sanhedrim, and speaks to them in their own language, and as a superior judge to them: and my judgment is just ; in the administration of the affairs of his church, which are done in the strictest justice; just and true are all his ways, as King of saints; and in the execution of the last judgment, which will be in righteousness and truth; the judgment he passes must be right, since it is according to that perfect knowledge he has of his Father’s will, which is an infallible rule of judgment: because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me ; that is, he did not seek to gratify his own will, as distinct from his Father’s, or in opposition to it; for he had no private end to answer, or separate interest, or advantage to pursue; and seeing therefore he acted according to his Father’s will, and not his own, as contrary to that; his judgment must be just, and the sentence he passes right; since the will of God is indisputably such. The Vulgate Latin, and all the Oriental versions, the Alexandrian copy, and two of Beza’s copies, leave out the word “father”, without altering or hurting the sense at all.
Ver. 31. If I bear witness of myself , etc.] Which was not allowed any man to do; nor indeed is it proper that a man should be a witness in his own cause: and, according to the Jewish canons, a man might not be a witness for his wife, because she was reckoned as himself. “An husband is not to be believed in bearing witness for his wife, that had been carried captive, that she is not defiled, wmx[l dy[m µda ˆyaç , “for no man witness of himself” f248 .”
So likewise they say f249 , “a city that is subdued by an army, all the priestesses (or priests’ daughters) that are found in it are rejected (from the priesthood, as defiled); but if they have witnesses, whether a servant, or an handmaid, lo, they are to be believed; but no man is to be believed for himself: says R. Zechariah ben Hakatzah, by this habitation (swearing by the temple) her hand was not removed from my hand, from the time the Gentiles entered Jerusalem, till they went out: they replied to him, “no man bears witness of himself”.”
Christ reasons here upon their own principles, and according to their sense of things, that should he bear witness of himself; then, says he, my witness is not true , ˆman al , not to be believed, or admitted as an authentic testimony: and so the Ethiopic version renders it, “is not credible”; not valid in law, or in such a court of judicature in which Christ now was; for, as according to the Jewish law, no man was admitted a witness for himself, so neither was anything established by a single testimony, but by the mouth of two or three witnesses, ( Deuteronomy 19:15). Christ’s meaning is, that his testimony alone, his single witness, how true soever it was, would stand for nothing in their court; and therefore he would not insist upon it, but drop it; for “true” here, is not opposed to that which is “false”, but to that which is not valid in law.
Christ’s testimony was true in itself; nor could it be any other, it coming from him, who is truth itself, the “Amen”, and faithful witness; but being considered as an human testimony, and in his own cause, was not to be admitted as sufficient; and this he allows. From arguments, proving his equality with the Father, he passes to testimonies; and without ranking use of his own, he had enough to produce, and which were valid and authentic, and are as follow.
Ver. 32. There is another that beareth witness of me , etc.] Meaning not his Father, who is another, and a distinct person, from him, as the Spirit is another comforter; and both distinct testifiers from him, as well as of him.
This is indeed the sense of some interpreters; but the Father is particularly mentioned in ( John 5:37); and the thread of the discourse, and the climax, or gradation, here used, show, that it is to be understood of “another man”, as Nonnus paraphrases it; of John the Baptist, who is spoken of by name in the next verse, as a witness; and then a greater than he, the works of Christ, and then the Father: and I know that the witness, which he witnesseth of me, is true ; for John was now alive, though in prison, and continued to bear a testimony to Christ; and therefore he speaks of him as now bearing witness of him, and abiding by that which he had bore; and Christ knew not only that what he testified of him was true in itself, but that his testimony was a valid and authentic testimony, with the generality of the Jews; who held John to be a prophet, and looked upon him as a man of great probity and integrity, and whose word was to be taken: nor indeed could the sanhedrim, before whom Christ now was, object to his character, nor to him as a witness; nor ought they, since they themselves had so judged of him, as appears by their message to him, which Christ next fails not to take notice of.
Ver. 33. Ye sent unto John , etc.] The sanhedrim at Jerusalem made a deputation of priests and Levites to him, to know who he was, whether the Messiah, or Elias, or that prophet, ( John 1:19). Now had they not looked upon him, from what they knew of him, or from the character they had of him, as a faithful witness, they would never have shown him so much respect, and have been at so much pains, and charge, as to send such a body of men so far unto him, as from Jerusalem to beyond Jordan; which circumstance our Lord improves in favour of this evidence he produces: and he bare witness unto the truth ; to Christ, who is the truth itself; and to the truth of his person, and office; to his dignity, and eternity, as being before him, though coming after him; and to his divine sonship, the thing now in debate, declaring, that he was the Son of God; and to his office, as Mediator, pointing to him as the Lamb of God, who, by his blood, and sacrifice, takes away the sins of men. The Ethiopic version reads by way of interrogation, “did not you send unto John?” etc.
Ver. 34. But I receive not testimony from man , etc.] He stood in no need of an human testimony, nor did he rest the truth of his deity and divine sonship thereon: he had other and greater testimonies to produce; as he needed not that any man should testify of man to him, he had no need that any man should testify of him; and if the testimony of men was received, as this of John could not well be objected to, the testimony of God is greater, and which he had; and therefore should not have mentioned John’s for his own sake: but these things I say, that ye might be saved ; that is, he produced this testimony of John, who was a person of so great a character among them, that they might be induced by it to believe in him as the Messiah; and so be saved from that ruin and destruction, that would come upon their nation, city, and temple, for their rejection and disbelief of him.
Ver. 35. He was a burning and a shining light , etc.] He was not that light, the famous light, the Messiah, the sun of righteousness; yet he was the “phosphorus”, the forerunner of that light, and was himself a very great one: he had much light himself into the person and office of the Messiah; in the doctrines of faith in Christ, and repentance towards God; in the Gospel dispensation, and in the abolition of the Mosaic economy; and gave great light to others, in the business of salvation, and remission of sins, and was the means of guiding the feet of many in the way of peace. His light of pure doctrine, and of an holy and exemplary conversation, shone very visibly, and brightly before men; and he burned with strong love and affection for Christ, and the souls of men; and with flaming zeal for the honour of God, and true religion, and against all sin and profaneness, which he was a faithful reprover of, and for which he lost his life. It was common with the Jews to call their doctors, who were famous for their knowledge, and holiness of life, lights, burning lights, and shining lights; or in words which amount to the same. So R. Simeon ben Jochai is often called in the book of Zohar, açydq anyxwb , “the holy light”; and particularly it is said of him f250 , “R. Simeon, qyldad agrçd anyxwbk , is as “the lamp of light which burns above”, and “burns” below; and by the light which burns below all the children of the world are enlightened: woe to the world, when the light below ascends to the light above.”
So R. Abhu is called arwhnd anyxwb , “the lamp of light” f251 : and it is f252 said of Shuah, Judah’s father-in-law, that he was artad anyxwb , “the light of the place”; that is, where he lived. The gloss on the place says, he was a man of note in the city, and enlightened their eyes; and it is very frequent with them still, when they are praising any of their doctors, to say of him, he was lwdgh rwamh , “a great light”, who enlightened the eyes of Israel, and in whose light the people walked f253 ; so among the philosophers, Xenophon, and Plato, are called duo lumina f254 , “two lights”; (see Gill on “ Matthew 5:14”); and ye were willing for a season , or “for an hour”, to rejoice in his light ; or “to glory in it”, or “boast of” it, as the Syriac and Persic versions render it. When John first appeared among them, they were fond, and even proud of him; they gloried in him, that a man of such uncommon endowments, and of such exemplary holiness, was raised up among them; and hoped that he was the Messiah, or Elias, that was to come before him; and pleased themselves, that times of great outward honour and prosperity were hastening: wherefore they flocked about him, and many of the Pharisees and Sadducees attended his ministry, and would have been baptized by him; but when they found that he was not the Messiah, nor Elias, nor that prophet, but bore a testimony to Jesus of Nazareth, that he was the Messiah; and ran counter to their notions of a temporal kingdom, and of birth privileges, and their own righteousness; and threatened them with ruin, and destruction, both in this world, and that which is to come, in case of their impenitence and unbelief; they grew sick of him, and said he had a devil, and rejected the counsel of God he declared, and despised his baptism. Such was their fickleness and inconstancy, which Christ here tacitly charges them with. They were like the stony ground hearers, and like some of the Apostle Paul’s admirers among the Galatians, who at first could have plucked out their eyes for him, but afterwards became his enemies for telling them the truth.
Ver. 36. But I have greater witness than that of John , etc.] The Vulgate Latin, and Ethiopic versions read, “greater than John”, but wrongly; for the testimonies of Christ’s works, and of his Father, are not compared with John himself, but with his testimony; and the sense is, that Christ had a greater witness than the witness of John; and so it is expressed in the Persic version: and his meaning is, that he had no need to insist upon John’s testimony; he had other, and greater witnesses to produce: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish ; such as the preaching of the Gospel, the fulfilling of the law, and the redemption of his people; all which were appointed by his Father, and given him to do, and which he completely finished. The whole Gospel came, and was published by Jesus Christ, and the law was entirely fulfilled by him; and the work of man’s salvation was finished by him, and these bear witness to the truth of his deity, and divine sonship; for none but the Son of God could have done these things. The Ethiopic version reads in the singular number, “this work which my Father hath given me”, etc. and if it was a single work that is referred to, the work of redemption bids fair to be it. But, these works include not only what Christ did on earth, in his state of humiliation, but what he has done since, and will do; which his Father has given him to finish, and he has finished, or will finish them; such as the resurrection of himself from the dead, the effusion of the gifts and graces of the Spirit, the spreading and succeeding his Gospel in the world, the conversion of his redeemed ones, the gathering in the fulness of the Gentiles, and the conversion of the Jews, the destruction of antichrist, the resurrection of all the dead, and the judgment of the whole world. Though more especially his miracles are here intended, and which, and not his mediatorial works, were demonstrations and proofs to men of his divine sonship; (see Matthew 14:33 27:54); the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me ; and that he was in the Father, and the Father in him; or that they were one in nature, and equal in power and glory, ( John 10:30-37 14:11).
Ver. 37. And the Father himself, which hath sent me , etc.] Not only the works he gave him to do, and which he did, but he himself in person: hath borne witness of me ; not only in the writings of Moses, and the prophecies of the Old Testament, but by an audible articulate voice from heaven, at the time of Christ’s baptism, ( Matthew 3:17); which was a full testimony of the sonship of Christ, and of the Father’s well pleasure in him; and which was repeated at his transfiguration on the mount, ( Matthew 17:5); and the sonship of Christ is the grand thing which the three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, testify of, ( 1 John 5:7); ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape ; for the voices that were heard, and the forms that were seen under the Old Testament dispensation, from the first of this kind in Eden’s garden, to the incarnation of Christ, which are ascribed to God, or to a divine person, were either by the ministry of angels, or they were voices uttered by the Son of God, or forms assumed by him, who often appeared in an human form, as a prelude of his incarnation; so that it was unusual, and wonderful, and remarkable, that the Father should bear a testimony to the sonship of Christ by a voice from heaven; and which therefore ought to be attended to, and received as a sufficient and valid testimony.
Ver. 38. And ye have not his word abiding in you , etc.] Which some understand of Christ himself, the Logos, or word: who, though he was now with them, being made flesh, and dwelling among them, yet would not long continue with them: though rather this designs the written word, or the Scriptures of truth; and especially that part of them, which contains prophecies concerning the Messiah, which did not dwell in them richly, nor they dwell in their meditation on them, as was requisite. Or rather, it may intend that word of God expressed in the testimony he bore to the sonship of Christ at his baptism, by a voice from heaven, which made no lasting impression upon the minds and hearts of the Jews that heard it; as appears by what follows: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not ; meaning himself; for if they had had either a due regard to the sacred oracles, or to that voice from heaven at his baptism, they would have received and embraced him as the Messiah, and sent of God, and not have disbelieved and rejected him, as now they did.
Ver. 39. Search the Scriptures , etc.] The writings of Moses, and the prophets, which were of divine inspiration and authority, and are often appealed unto by Christ, and his apostles, for the truth of what they delivered; and were the standard of faith, and the test of doctrines; and therefore to be searched diligently into, for finding divine knowledge and improvement in it, and for the trial of doctrines. The words may be rendered in the indicative, as an assertion, “ye do search the Scriptures”: the Jews had the sacred oracles committed to them, and these they read, not only their kings, princes, and judges, but the common people, who brought up their children to the reading of them, and instructed them in them: and besides this, these writings were read, and expounded publicly in their synagogues every sabbath day; and at this time especially these records were examined, and particularly those of them which respected the Messiah, since there was now a general expectation of him: and certain it is, that the chief priests, Scribes, and elders, or the sanhedrim, were very much versed in the Scriptures, and could readily refer to those which concerned the Messiah; see an instance of this in ( Matthew 2:4-6); for in them ye think ye have eternal life ; not the doctrine of eternal life, nor the promises of it, nor the way to it; though all these are contained in them, and pointed out by them: for though life and immortality are brought to light by the Gospel, and the promise of eternal life belongs to the covenant of grace, and the way of life and righteousness by Christ is manifested without the law, and not by it; yet there is much of the Gospel, and an exhibition of the covenant of grace, and its promises, and Christ, the way of life, is directed to typically by the tree of life, and the brazen serpent, and other things in those writings. But the meaning here is, that they imagined, by having these writings in their hands, and by their reading them, and hearing them expounded every sabbath day, they should obtain and inherit everlasting life: hence they call the law eternal life, and say concerning the reading of it, that “he that begins to read in the book of the law is obliged to bless after this manner: blessed be he that has chosen us above all nations, and hath given us his law. — And he that finishes blesses after him in this manner: blessed is he who hath given us his law, the law of truth, and has planted “eternal life” in the midst of us.”
This was an opinion of theirs: so the Persic version reads, “for such is your opinion”; and though this was a very vain one, yet it shows what a very high opinion they had of the Scriptures: and now to these our Lord appeals as witnesses for him, and against which they could not object, upon their own principles: and they are they which testify of me ; as they do of his proper deity and divine sonship, calling him Jehovah, God, the mighty God, and the Son of God; and of his offices as prophet, priest, and King; and of his incarnation of a virgin; and of the tribe, family, and place of his birth; of the miracles which he should work; of the treatment he should meet with from men; of his sufferings and death; of the circumstances leading on to them, and attending them; as his riding on an ass into Jerusalem, the betraying him by one of his familiar acquaintance, the selling him for thirty pieces of silver, the spitting upon, and scourging him, giving him gall for his meat, and vinegar for his drink, and parting his garments, and casting lots for his vesture, and the crucifixion of him, and that between two thieves; and of his burial, resurrection from the dead, ascension to heaven, and session at the right hand of God, and of his future coming to judgment.
Ver. 40. And ye will not come to me , etc.] Which is to be understood, not of a corporeal coming to him; for many of the Jews did come to him in this sense; some for one thing, and some for another; some for the loaves, that they might eat and be filled; some to see his miracles, and others to partake of the benefit of them; some to hear him preach, and others to catch and cavil at what they could: nor is bare coming to hear Christ preached, or an outward attendance on, and submission to his ordinances, such a coming to him as is here designed; for with these eternal life is not connected: bodily exercise profiteth not in this way; but a spiritual coming to Christ, or a coming to him by faith is here meant; in which sense the phrase is frequently used in this Gospel, especially in the next chapter; (see John 6:35,37,44,45,65); and those who come aright to Christ, come to him as the alone, able, suitable, and sufficient Saviour; and in themselves as sinners, and ready to perish; and as such they are received by him with a welcome: but these men did not see themselves as such; nor did they see any need they had of coming to Christ; for they thought they had eternal life elsewhere: and such were their ignorance of themselves and Christ; and such their prejudices against him; and such the depravity, perverseness, and stubbornness of their wills, that they had no inclination, desire, and will to come to Christ, any more than power; which is an argument against, and not for the free will of man, unless it be to that which is evil: and this perverseness of their wills to come to Christ, when revealed in the external ministry of the word, was blameworthy in them, since this was not owing to any decree of God, but to the corruption and vitiosity of nature; which being blameworthy in them, that which follows upon it must be so too; and it was the greater aggravation of their sin, that they had the Scriptures which testified of Christ, and pointed at him as the way of life, and yet would not come to him for it: that ye might have life ; that is, eternal life, as is expressed in the foregoing verse, and is so read here in Beza’s old copy, in the Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions. This is in Christ, not only the purpose and promise of it, but that itself: he has the disposal of it, gives the right unto it, and a meetness for it, with all the comforts arising from it, and all the promises and blessings relating to it; and all that come to Christ by faith may, and shall have it: this is the will of the Father, the end of his giving of Christ, and of his mission and coming into the world, and is inseparably connected with believing in him.
Ver. 41. I receive not honour from men .] Not but that honour from men was due to Christ; and it becomes all men to honour him, as they do the Father; and he does receive honour and glory, and blessing from his saints, by their praying to him, praising him, believing in him, and serving him; but his sense is, that in asserting his equality with the Father, and in producing the testimonies he did, in proof of it, his view was not to obtain honour and applause among men, but to vindicate himself, and glorify his Father: nor did he say what he had just now said, about men’s coming to him, with any such intention, to gather a party to him, to set up himself as a temporal king, in great pomp and splendour, and receive worldly homage and honour from men, as his subjects; for his kingdom was not of this world, and coming and subjection to him were things of a spiritual nature.
Ver. 42. But I know you , etc.] Being the omniscient God, he knew not only their persons, but their hearts, the thoughts of their hearts; what was in them, and what was wanting in them: particularly, that ye have not the love of God in you ; and which is not in any man’s heart naturally; for the carnal mind is enmity to God; and men, by nature, are haters of him, and enemies in their minds to him, till this grace, which is a fruit of the Spirit, is implanted in them, in regeneration: love to God, is one of the weightier matters of the law, the Jews passed over; without which, all the actions of men signify nothing: this they made great pretensions to, and would have had it thought, that it was from love to God, that they sought to kill Jesus, for his violation of the sabbath, and making himself equal with God; but it was not from a delight in the sabbath, or from love to the Lord of it, but out of ill will to Christ, that they expressed such dissembled piety and false zeal: they were lovers of themselves, and not God; they were covetous men, and loved the world, and the things in it, which is inconsistent with the love of the Father; and besides, if they had loved him, they would have loved him that was begotten of him, and not sought to have killed him.
Ver. 43. I am come in my Father’s name , etc.] Power and authority; by his consent, with his will, and according to a covenant with him: Christ came not of himself, of his own accord, by a separate power and will of his own, but was called, and sent, and came by mutual agree meat; and brought his credentials with him, doing the works and miracles which his Father gave him to finish: and ye receive me not ; notwithstanding this they rejected him as the Messiah, and would not receive him as such; yea, traduced him as an impostor, and a deceiver: if another shall come in his own name ; which some understand of Simon Magus, others of antichrist; rather the false Christs are intended, of whom our Lord speaks, in ( Matthew 24:24), who would rise up of themselves, and not be able to give any proof of their mission; or do anything which might entitle them to the character of the Messiah, or Christ, a name they would take to themselves: and so the Ethiopic version reads, “if another shall come in my name”; saying he is Christ, or the Messiah: him ye will receive ; as thousands of them did receive Barchocab, the false Christ, who rose up some years after in Adrian’s time; and even some of their greatest Rabbins, as particularly the famous R. Akiba, who was his armour bearer: and it is easy to observe, that though they were so backward to receive, and so much prejudiced against the true Messiah, they were always forward enough to embrace a false one: and indeed to follow any, that set up himself for a temporal deliverer of them; as the instances of Theudas, and Judas of Galilee, with others, show; (see Acts 5:36,37). And the true reason why they rejected Christ was, because he did not appear in outward pomp and glory, nor set up a temporal kingdom, or give out that he would deliver them from the Roman yoke.
Ver. 44. How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another ? etc.] As the Scribes and Pharisees did, who were ambitious of honour and respect from one another, as well as from the common people; doing all they did to be seen of men, and to gain applause among them: choosing the uppermost rooms at feasts, and chief places in the synagogues, and delighting in the pompous title of Rabbi, Rabbi; and were in expectation of the temporal kingdom of the Messiah, when they hoped to be advanced to places of great honour and profit; and all this was an hinderance to them from believing in Christ, who appeared in such an abject form, and made so mean a figure; whose doctrine was so unsuitable to their carnal minds, and whose followers were so poor and contemptible; and besides it was made a law among them, that those who professed him to be the Messiah, should be cast out of the synagogue: hence many who were convinced that he was the Messiah, durst not confess him, lest they should lose their honour and respect among men, which they preferred to the praise of God: and seek not the honour that cometh from God only ; or “from the only God”, as the Vulgate Latin; or “from the one God”, as the Syriac, Arabic, and Persic versions render it: the honour that comes from him is, that of being born of him; of being a son or daughter of his, having that new name, which is better than that of sons and daughters of the greatest princes on earth; of being made all glorious within, and clothed with gold of Ophir, with raiment of needlework, with the robe of righteousness, and garments of salvation; of being translated into the spiritual kingdom of Christ, and made kings and priests unto God by him; of being set on the same throne with Christ, having on a crown of life and righteousness, and enjoying a kingdom and glory; being heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; which honour all the saints have, or shall have, and which these men cared not for.
Ver. 45. Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father , etc.] To God the Father, as the Ethiopic version reads. The Syriac and Persic versions read by way of interrogation, “do ye think that I will?” etc. Christ is no accuser of men; no, not of the worst of men; (see John 8:10,11); he came not into the world to bring charges against men and condemn them, but to save them; to be an accuser is not agreeable to his characters of a Surety, a Saviour, an Advocate, and Judge: there were enough to accuse these persons of; as their perverseness and stubbornness, in not coming to Christ for life; their want of love to God; their rejection of him, though he came in his Father’s name; their reception of another, that should come in his own name; their taking honour one of another, and not seeking the true spiritual and eternal honour, which God gives; but though he hints these things to them, he would not have them think that he accused them of them to the Father: the Jews have a notion, that when the Messiah comes, there will be accusations lodged against their doctors and wise men f257 . “R. Zeira says, that R. Jeremiah bar Aba said, that in the generation in which the son of David shall come, there will be µymkj ydymltb ayrwgwjq , “accusations against the disciples of the wise men”.”
And one of their writers thus interprets, ( Daniel 12:1): “and at that time “shall Michael stand up”; he shall be as silent as a dumb man, when he shall see the holy blessed God contending with him, and saying, how shall I destroy a nation so great as this, for the sake of Israel? “and there shall be a time of trouble” in the family above, and there shall be “accusations” against the disciples of the wise men.”
However, there was no need for Christ to accuse them; for as it follows, there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust ; by whom is meant, not Moses personally; for when on earth, he was a mediator between God and the people of Israel, and an intercessor for them; and since he has been in heaven, as the dead know not any thing, he knew nothing of their affairs; and when he was on the mount with Christ, his discourse with him turned upon another subject: but either the writings of Moses, as in ( Luke 16:29,31 24:27); or the doctrine of Moses, as ( Corinthians 10:2 John 9:28); or rather the law of Moses, ( Matthew 22:24 Mark 7:10 Acts 6:11 21:21). And in this the Jews trusted; they rested in it, and made their boast of it; and expected eternal life and salvation on account of their having it, and through their hearing it read every sabbath day, and by their obedience to it: and now sin being a transgression of the law, this same law brings charges against them, and accuses them of the breach of the several precepts of it, and pronounces them guilty before God; it curses and passes a sentence of condemnation on them, and according to it, will they perish eternally, without an interest in Christ; for their own righteousness by the law of works, will be of no avail to them; the law in which they trust for life, will rise up in judgment, and be a swift witness against them: so the Jews sometimes speak of the law, as witnessing against the people of Israel f259 .
Ver. 46. For had ye believed Moses , etc.] The doctrine of Moses, and what he says in his writings: ye would have believed me ; for there is an agreement between Moses and Christ; Christ is the end of the law of Moses, and in him is the accomplishment of his writings: for he wrote of me ; in the books written by him, Christ is spoken of, as the seed of the woman, that should bruise the serpent’s head; as the seed of Abraham, in whom all nations of the earth should be blessed; as the Shiloh, to whom the gathering of the people should be; and as that prophet, who should be like unto himself, to whom the people of Israel should hearken; and he wrote many things typically of Christ; and indeed, the whole Mosaic economy was typical of Christ, as the epistle to the Hebrews shows: and therefore disbelieving Christ, was disbelieving Moses; who therefore would be an accuser of them, and a witness against them.
Ver. 47. But if ye believe not his writings , etc.] They believed them to be his writings, and that they were the word of God, and yet did not believe the things contained in them, respecting Christ; or did not see, and could not believe that they belonged unto, and were applicable to Jesus of Nazareth; and therefore it could not be supposed they would give credit to him, or his words: how shall ye believe my words ? not that Moses was greater than Christ, or rather to be credited than he; Moses indeed was faithful, but Christ was worthy of more honour and credit than he was; Moses was but a servant, but Christ was a son in his own house: but this is said with respect to the Jews, with whom Moses was in great veneration and esteem; and it was more likely they should regard what he should say, than what Jesus of Nazareth should, whom they despised.