We have in the gospels a faithful record of all that Jesus began both
to do and to teach,
These two are interwoven, because what he taught explained what he did,
and what he did confirmed what he taught. Accordingly, we have in this
chapter a miracle and a sermon.
I. The miracle was the cure of an impotent man that had been diseased
thirty-eight years, with the circumstances of that cure,
II. The sermon was Christ's vindication of himself before the
sanhedrim, when he was prosecuted as a criminal for healing the man on
the sabbath day, in which,
1. He asserts his authority as Messiah, and Mediator between God and
2. He proves it by the testimony of his Father, of John Baptist, of his
miracles, and of the scriptures of the Old Testament, and condemns the
Jews for their unbelief,
The Cure at the Pool of Bethesda.
1 After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up
2 Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which
is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.
3 In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind,
halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.
4 For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and
troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of
the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.
5 And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty
and eight years.
6 When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long
time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?
7 The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the
water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am
coming, another steppeth down before me.
8 Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.
9 And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed,
and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.
10 The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the
sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed.
11 He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto
me, Take up thy bed, and walk.
12 Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee,
Take up thy bed, and walk?
13 And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had
conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place.
14 Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto
him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing
come unto thee.
15 The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which
had made him whole.
16 And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to
slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.
This miraculous cure is not recorded by any other of the evangelists,
who confine themselves mostly to the miracles wrought in Galilee, but
John relates those wrought at Jerusalem. Concerning this observe,
I. The time when this cure was wrought: it was at a feast of
the Jews, that is, the passover, for that was the most celebrated
feast. Christ, though residing in Galilee, yet went up to
Jerusalem at the feast,
1. Because it was an ordinance of God, which, as a
subject, he would observe, being made under the law; though as a
Son he might have pleaded an exemption. Thus he would teach us
to attend religious assemblies.
2. Because it was an opportunity of good; for,
(1.) there were great numbers gathered together there at that time; it
was a general rendezvous, at least of all serious thinking people, from
all parts of the country, besides proselytes from other nations: and
Wisdom must cry in the places of concourse,
(2.) It was to be hoped that they were in a good frame, for they
came together to worship God and to spend their time in
religious exercises. Now a mind inclined to devotion, and
sequestering itself to the exercises of piety, lies very open to
the further discoveries of divine light and love, and to it Christ will
II. The place where this cure was wrought: at the pool of
Bethesda, which had a miraculous healing virtue in it, and is here
1. Where it was situated: At Jerusalem, by the sheep-market;
epi te probatike. It might as well be rendered the
sheep-cote, where the sheep were kept, or the sheep-gate,
which we read of,
through which the sheep were brought, as the
sheep-market, where they were sold. Some think it was
near the temple, and, if so, it yielded a melancholy but profitable
spectacle to those that went up to the temple to pray.
2. How it was called: It was a pool (a pond or bath), which
is called in Hebrew, Bethesda--the house of mercy; for therein
appeared much of the mercy of God to the sick and diseased. In a
world of so much misery as this is, it is well that there are some
Bethesdas--houses of mercy (remedies against those maladies),
that the scene is not all melancholy. An alms-house, so Dr.
Hammond. Dr. Lightfoot's conjecture is that this was the upper
and the old pool,
that it had been used for washing from ceremonial pollutions,
for convenience of which the porches were built to dress and undress
in, but it was lately become medicinal.
3. How it was fitted up: It had five porches, cloisters,
piazzas, or roofed walks, in which the sick lay. Thus the
charity of men concurred with the mercy of God for the relief of the
distressed. Nature has provided remedies, but men must provide
4. How it was frequented with sick and cripples
In these lay a great multitude of impotent folks. How many are
the afflictions of the afflicted in this world! How full of complaints
are all places, and what multitudes of impotent folks! It may do us
good to visit the hospitals sometimes, that we may take occasion, from
the calamities of others, to thank God for our comforts. The evangelist
specifies three sorts of diseased people that lay here, blind,
halt, and withered or sinew--shrunk, either in one
particular part, as the man with the withered hand, or all over
paralytic. These are mentioned because, being least able to help
themselves into the water, they lay longest waiting in the
porches. Those that were sick of these bodily diseases took the
pains to come far and had the patience to wait long for a
cure; any of us would have done the same, and we ought to do so: but O
that men were as wise for their souls, and as solicitous to get their
spiritual diseases healed! We are all by nature impotent folks
in spiritual things, blind, halt, and withered; but
effectual provision is made for our cure if we will but observe
5. What virtue it had for the cure of these impotent folks
An angel went down, and troubled the water; and whoso
first stepped in was made whole. That this strange virtue in the
pool was natural, or artificial rather, and was the
effect of the washing of the sacrifices, which impregnated the water
with I know not what healing virtue even for blind people, and
that the angel was a messenger, a common person, sent down to
stir the water, is altogether groundless; there was a room in the
temple on purpose to wash the sacrifices in. Expositors generally agree
that the virtue this pool had was supernatural. It is true the Jewish
writers, who are not sparing in recounting the praises of Jerusalem, do
none of them make the least mention of this healing pool, of
which silence in this matter perhaps this is the reason, that it was
taken for a presage of the near approach of the Messiah, and therefore
those who denied him to be come industriously concealed such an
indication of his coming; so that this is all the account we have of
(1.) The preparation of the medicine by an angel, who went
down into the pool, and stirred the water. Angels are God's
servants, and friends to mankind; and perhaps are more active in the
removing of diseases (as evil angels in the inflicting of them) than we
are aware of. Raphael, the apocryphal name of an angel, signifies
medicina Dei--God's physic, or physician rather. See what
mean offices the holy angels condescend to, for the good of men. If we
would do the will of God as the angels do it, we must think nothing
below us but sin. The troubling of the water was the signal
given of the descent of the angel, as the going upon the tops of the
mulberry trees was to David, and then they must bestir
themselves. The waters of the sanctuary are then healing
when they are put in motion. Ministers must stir up the
gift that is in them. When they are cold and dull in their
ministrations, the waters settle, and are not apt to
heal. The angel descended, to stir the water, not daily,
perhaps not frequently, but at a certain season; some think, at
the three solemn feasts, to grace those solemnities; or, now and
then, as Infinite Wisdom saw fit. God is a free agent in dispensing
(2.) The operation of the medicine: Whoever first stepped in
was made whole. here is,
[1.] miraculous extent of the virtue as to the diseases cured;
what disease soever it was, this water cured it. Natural and artificial
baths are as hurtful in some cases as they are useful in others,
but this was a remedy for every malady, even for those that came from
contrary causes. The power of miracles succeeds where the power
of nature succumbs.
[2.] A miraculous limitation of the virtue as to the persons
cured: He that first stepped in had the benefit; that is, he or they
that stepped in immediately were cured, not those that lingered and
came in afterwards. This teaches us to observe and improve our
opportunities, and to look about us, that we slip not a season
which may never return. The angel stirred the waters, but left
the diseased to themselves to get in. God has put virtue into
the scriptures and ordinances, for he would have healed us; but, if we
do not make a due improvement of them, it is our own fault, we would
not be healed.
Now this is all the account we have of this standing miracle; it
is uncertain when it began and when it ceased. Some conjecture it began
when Eliashib the high priest began the building of the wall about
Jerusalem, and sanctified it with prayer; and that God testified his
acceptance by putting this virtue into the adjoining pool. Some think
it began now lately at Christ's birth; nay, others at his baptism. Dr.
Lightfoot, finding in Josephus, Antiq. 15. 121-122, mention of a
great earthquake in the seventh year of Herod, thirty years before
Christ's birth, supposed, since there used to be earthquakes at the
descent of angels, that then the angel first descended to stir this
water. Some think it ceased with this miracle, others at Christ's
death; however, it is certain it had a gracious signification.
First, it was a token of God's good will to that people,
and an indication that, though they had been long without prophets and
miracles, yet God had not cast them off; though they were now an
oppressed despised people, and many were ready to say, Where are all
the wonders that our fathers told us of? God did hereby let them
know that he had still a kindness for the city of their
solemnities. We may hence take occasion to acknowledge with
thankfulness God's power and goodness in the mineral waters, that
contribute so much to the health of mankind; for God made the
fountains of water,
Secondly, It was a type of the Messiah, who is the fountain
opened; and was intended to raise people's expectations of him who
is the Sun of righteousness, that arises with healing under
his wings. These waters had formerly been used for purifying, now
for healing, to signify both the cleansing and curing
virtue of the blood of Christ, that incomparable bath, which heals
all our diseases. The waters of Siloam, which filled this pool,
signified the kingdom of David, and of Christ the Son of David
fitly therefore have they now this sovereign virtue put into
them. The laver of regeneration is to us as Bethesda's pool, healing
our spiritual diseases; not at certain seasons, but at all times.
Whoever will, let him come.
III. The patient on whom this cure was wrought
one that had been infirm thirty-eight years.
1. His disease was grievous: He had an infirmity,
a weakness; he had lost the use of his limbs, at least on one side, as
is usual in palsies. It is sad to have the body so disabled that,
instead of being the soul's instrument, it is become, even in the
affairs of this life, its burden. What reason have we to thank God for
bodily strength, to use it for him, and to pity those who are his
2. The duration of it was tedious: Thirty-eight years. He was
lame longer than most live. Many are so long disabled for the offices
of life that, as the psalmist complains, they seem to be made in
vain; for suffering, not for service; born to be always dying.
Shall we complain of one wearisome night, or one fit of illness, who
perhaps for many years have scarcely known what it has been to be a day
sick, when many others, better than we, have scarcely known what it has
been to be a day well? Mr. Baxter's note on this passage is very
affecting: "How great a mercy was it to live thirty-eight years under
God's wholesome discipline! O my God," saith he, "I thank thee for the
like discipline of fifty-eight years; how safe a life is this, in
comparison of full prosperity and pleasure!"
IV. The cure and the circumstances of it briefly related,
1. Jesus saw him lie. Observe, When Christ came up to Jerusalem
he visited not the palaces, but the hospitals, which is an instance of
his humility, and condescension, and tender compassion, and an
indication of his great design in coming into the world, which
was to seek and save the sick and wounded. There was a great multitude
of poor cripples here at Bethesda, but Christ fastened his eye upon
this one, and singled him out from the rest, because he was
senior of the house, and in a more deplorable condition than any
of the rest; and Christ delights to help the helpless, and hath mercy
on whom he will have mercy. Perhaps his companions in
tribulation insulted over him, because he had often been disappointed
of a cure; therefore Christ took him for his patient: it is his honour
to side with the weakest, and bear up those whom he sees run
2. He knew and considered how long he had lain in this
condition. Those that have been long in affliction may comfort
themselves with this, that God keeps account how long, and knows
3. He asked him, Wilt thou be made whole? A strange question to
be asked one that had been so long ill. Some indeed would not be made
whole, because their sores serve them to beg by and serve them for an
excuse for idleness; but this poor man was as unable to go a
begging as to work, yet Christ put it to him,
(1.) To express his own pity and concern for him. Christ is
tenderly inquisitive concerning the desires of those that are in
affliction, and is willing to know what is their petition: "What
shall I do for you?"
(2.) To try him whether he would be beholden for a cure to him against
whom the great people were so prejudiced and sought to prejudice
(3.) To teach him to value the mercy, and to excite in him desires
after it. In spiritual cases, people are not willing to be cured of
their sins, are loth to part with them. If this point therefore were
but gained, if people were willing to be made whole, the work
were half done, for Christ is willing to heal, if we be but willing to
4. The poor impotent man takes this opportunity to renew his complaint,
and to set forth the misery of his case, which makes his cure the more
illustrious: Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool,
He seems to take Christ's question as an imputation of carelessness and
neglect: "If thou hadst had a mind to be healed, thou wouldest have
looked better to thy hits, and have got into the healing waters long
before now." "No, Master," saith the poor man, "It is not for want of a
good will, but of a good friend, that I am unhealed. I
have done what I could to help myself, but in vain, for no one else
will help me."
(1.) He does not think of any other way of being cured than by these
waters, and desires no other friendship than to be helped into
them; therefore, when Christ cured him, his imagination or
expectation could not contribute to it, for he thought of no such
(2.) He complains for want of friends to help him in: "I have no
man, no friend to do me that kindness." One would think that some
of those who had been themselves healed should have lent him a hand;
but it is common for the poor to be destitute of friends; no man
careth for their soul. To the sick and impotent it is as true a
piece of charity to work for them as to relieve them; and thus the poor
are capable of being charitable to one another, and ought to be so,
though we seldom find that they are so; I speak it to their shame.
(3.) He bewails his infelicity, that very often when he was
coming another stepped in before him. But a step between him and
a cure, and yet he continues impotent. None had the charity to say,
"Your case is worse than mine, do you go in now, and I will stay till
the next time;" for there is no getting over the old maxim, Every
one for himself. Having been so often disappointed, he begins to
despair, and now is Christ's time to come to his relief; he delights to
help in desperate cases. Observe, How mildly this man speaks of the
unkindness of those about him, without any peevish reflections. As we
should be thankful for the least kindness, so we should be patient
under the greatest contempts; and, let our resentments be ever so
just, yet our expressions should ever be calm. And
observe further, to his praise, that, though he had waited so long in
vain, yet still he continued lying by the pool side, hoping that some
time or other help would come,
5. Our Lord Jesus hereupon cures him with a word speaking, though he
neither asked it nor thought of it. Here is,
(1.) The word he said: Rise, take up thy bed,
[1.] He is bidden to rise and walk; a strange command to be
given to an impotent man, that had been long disabled; but this
divine word was to be the vehicle of a divine power; it was a command
to the disease to be gone, to nature to be strong, but it
is expressed as a command to him to bestir himself. He must
rise and walk, that is, attempt to do it, and in the
essay he should receive strength to do it. The conversion of a
sinner is the cure of a chronic disease; this is ordinarily done by the
word, a word of command: Arise, and walk; turn, and live; make ye a
new heart; which no more supposes a power in us to do it, without
the grace of God, distinguishing grace, than this supposed such
a power in the impotent man. But, if he had not attempted to help
himself, he had not been cured, and he must have borne the
blame; yet it does not therefore follow that, when he did rise and
walk, it was by his own strength; no, it was by the power of Christ,
and he must have all the glory. Observe, Christ did not bid him rise
and go into the waters, but rise and walk. Christ did that for
us which the law could not do, and set that aside.
[2.] He is bidden to take up his bed. First, To make it to
appear that it was a perfect cure, and purely miraculous; for he
did not recover strength by degrees, but from the extremity of weakness
and impotency he suddenly stepped into the highest degree of bodily
strength; so that he was able to carry as great a load as any porter
that had been as long used to it as he had been disused.
He, who this minute was not able to turn himself in his bed, the next
minute was able to carry his bed. The man sick of the palsy
was bidden to go to his house, but probably this man had no
house to go to, the hospital was his home; therefore he is bidden to
rise and walk. Secondly, It was to proclaim the cure,
and make it public; for, being the sabbath day, whoever carried a
burden through the streets made himself very remarkable, and every one
would enquire what was the meaning of it; thereby notice of the miracle
would spread, to the honour of God. Thirdly, Christ would thus
witness against the tradition of the elders, which had stretched the
law of the sabbath beyond its intention; and would likewise show that
he was Lord of the sabbath, and had power to make what
alterations he pleased about it, and to over-rule the law. Joshua, and
the host of Israel, marched about Jericho on the sabbath day, when God
commanded them, so did this man carry his bed, in obedience to a
command. The case may be such that it may become a work of
necessity, or mercy, to carry a bed on the sabbath day;
but here it was more, it was a work of piety, being designed
purely for the glory of God. Fourthly, He would hereby try the
faith and obedience of his patient. By carrying his bed publicly, he
exposed himself to the censure of the ecclesiastical court, and was
liable, at least, to be scourged in the synagogue. Now, will he
run the hazard of this, in obedience to Christ? Yes, he will. Those
that have been healed by Christ's word should be ruled by his
word, whatever it cost them.
(2.) The efficacy of this word
a divine power went alone with it, and immediately he was made
whole, took up his bed, and walked.
[1.] He felt the power of Christ's word healing him: Immediately he
was made whole. What a joyful surprise was this to the poor
cripple, to find himself all of a sudden so easy, so strong, so able to
help himself! What a new world was he in, in an instant! Nothing is too
hard for Christ to do.
[2.] He obeyed the power of Christ's word commanding him. He took
up his bed and walked, and did not care who blamed him or
threatened him for it. The proof of our spiritual cure is our rising
and walking. Hath Christ healed our spiritual diseases? Let us go
whithersoever he sends us, and take up whatever he is pleased to
lay upon us, and walk before him.
V. What became of the poor man after he was cured. We are here
1. What passed between him and the Jews who saw him carry his bed on
the sabbath day; for on that day this cure was wrought, and it was the
sabbath that fell within the passover week, and therefore a high
Christ's work was such that he needed not make any difference between
sabbath days and other days, for he was always about his Father's
business; but he wrought many remarkable cures on that day, perhaps to
encourage his church to expect those spiritual favours from him, in
their observance of the Christian sabbath, which were typified by his
miraculous cures. Now here,
(1.) The Jews quarrelled with the man for carrying his bed on the
sabbath day, telling him that it was not lawful,
It does not appear whether they were magistrates, who had power to
punish him, or common people, who could only inform
against him; but thus far was commendable, that, while they knew not by
what authority he did it, they were jealous for the honour of
the sabbath, and could not unconcernedly see it profaned; like
(2.) The man justified himself in what he did by a warrant that would
bear him out,
"I do not do it in contempt of the law and the sabbath, but in
obedience to one who, by making me whole, has given me an
undeniable proof that he is greater than either. He that could work
such a miracle as to make me whole no doubt might give me such a
command as to carry my bed; he that could overrule the powers of
nature no doubt might overrule a positive law, especially in an
instance not of the essence of the law. He that was so kind as to make
me whole would not be so unkind as to bid me do what is sinful."
Christ, by curing another paralytic, proved his power to forgive
sin, here to give law; if his pardons are valid, his edicts
are so, and his miracles prove both.
(3.) The Jews enquired further who it was that gave him this warrant
What man is that? Observe, How industriously they
overlooked that which might be a ground of their faith in
Christ. They enquire not, no, not for curiosity, "Who is it that
made thee whole?" While they industriously caught at that which
might be a ground of reflection upon Christ (What man is it who
said unto thee, Take up thy bed?) they would fain
subpoena the patient to be witness against his physician, and to
be his betrayer. In their question, observe,
[1.] They resolve to look upon Christ as a mere man: What man is
that? For, though he gave ever such convincing proofs of it, they
were resolved that they would never own him to be the Son of
[2.] They resolve to look upon him as a bad man, and take it for
granted that he who bade this man carry his bed, whatever divine
commission he might produce, was certainly a delinquent, and as
such they resolve to prosecute him. What man is that who durst
give such orders?
(4.) The poor man was unable to give them any account of him: He
wist not who he was,
[1.] Christ was unknown to him when he healed him. Probably he
had heard of the name of Jesus, but had never seen him, and therefore
could not tell that this was he. Note, Christ does many a good turn for
those that know him not,
He enlightens, strengthens, quickens, comforts us, and we wist not
who he is; nor are aware how much we receive daily by his
mediation. This man, being unacquainted with Christ, could not actually
believe in him for a cure; but Christ knew the dispositions of his
soul, and suited his favours to them, as to the blind man in a like
Our covenant and communion with God take rise, not so much from our
knowledge of him, as from his knowledge of us. We know God, or,
rather, are known of him,
[2.] For the present he kept himself unknown; for as soon as he
had wrought the cure he conveyed himself away, he made
himself unknown (so some read it), a multitude being in that
place. This is mentioned to show, either, First, How Christ
conveyed himself away--by retiring into the crowd, so as not to be
distinguished from a common person. He that was the chief of ten
thousand often made himself one of the throng. It is sometimes the lot
of those who have by their services signalized themselves to be
levelled with the multitude, and overlooked. Or Secondly, Why he
conveyed himself away, because there was a multitude there, and
he industriously avoided both the applause of those who would
admire the miracle and cry that up, and the censure of those who
would censure him as a sabbath-breaker, and run him down. Those
that are active for God in their generation must expect to pass through
evil report and good report; and it is wisdom as much as
may be to keep out of the hearing of both; lest by the one we be
exalted, and by the other depressed, above measure.
Christ left the miracle to commend itself, and the man on whom it was
wrought to justify it.
2. What passed between him and our Lord Jesus at their next interview,
(1.) Where Christ found him: in the temple, the place of public
worship. In our attendance on public worship we may expect to meet with
Christ, and improve our acquaintance with him. Observe,
[1.] Christ went to the temple. Though he had many enemies, yet
he appeared in public, because there he bore his testimony to divine
institutions, and had opportunity of doing good.
[2.] The man that was cured went to the temple. There Christ
found him the same day, as it should seem, that he was healed; thither
he straightway went, First, Because he had, by his
infirmity, been so long detained thence. Perhaps he had not
been there for thirty-eight years, and therefore, as soon as ever the
embargo is taken off, his first visit shall be to the temple, as
Hezekiah intimates his shall be
What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the Lord?
Secondly, Because he had by his recovery a good errand
thither; he went up to the temple to return thanks to God for his
recovery. When God has at any time restored us our health we ought to
attend him with solemn praises
and the sooner the better, while the sense of the mercy is fresh.
Thirdly, Because he had, by carrying his bed, seemed to
put a contempt on the sabbath, he would thus show that he had an honour
for it, and made conscience of sabbath-sanctification, in that on which
the chief stress of it is laid, which is the public worship of
God. Works of necessity and mercy are allowed; but when they are over
we must go to the temple.
(2.) What he said to him. When Christ has cured us, he has not done
with us; he now applies himself to the healing of his soul, and this
by the word too.
[1.] He gives him a memento of his cure: Behold thou art made
whole. He found himself made whole, yet Christ calls his attention
to it. Behold, consider it seriously, how sudden, how strange,
how cheap, how easy, the cure was: admire it; behold, and
wonder: Remember it; let the impressions of it abide, and never
[2.] He gives him a caution against sin, in consideration hereof,
Being made whole, sin no more. This implies that his disease was
the punishment of sin; whether of some remarkably flagrant sin, or only
of sin in general, we cannot tell, but we know that sin is the
procuring cause of sickness,
Some observe that Christ did not make mention of sin to any of his
patients, except to this impotent man, and another who was in
like manner diseased,
While those chronical diseases lasted, they prevented the outward acts
of many sins, and therefore watchfulness was the more necessary when
the disability was removed. Christ intimates that those who are
made whole, who are eased of the present sensible punishment of
sin, are in danger of returning to sin when the terror and
restraint are over, unless divine grace dry up the fountain. When the
trouble which only dammed up the current is over, the waters will
return to their old course; and therefore there is great need of
watchfulness, lest after healing mercy we return again to folly. The
misery we were made whole from warns us to sin no more,
having felt the smart of sin; the mercy we were made whole
by is an engagement upon us not to offend him who healed us. This
is the voice of every providence, Go and sin no more. This man
began his new life very hopefully in the temple, yet Christ saw
it necessary to give him this caution; for it is common for people,
when they are sick, to promise much, when newly recovered to
perform something, but after awhile to forget all.
[3.] He gives him warning of his danger, in case he should return to
his former sinful course: Lest a worse thing come to thee.
Christ, who knows all men's hearts, knew that he was one of those that
must be frightened from sin. Thirty-eight years' lameness, one
would think, was a thing bad enough; yet there is something
worse that will come to him if he relapse into sin after God has
given him such a deliverance as this,
The hospital where he lay was a melancholy place, but hell is much more
so: the doom of apostates is a worse thing than thirty-eight years'
VI. Now, after this interview between Christ and his patient, observe
1. The notice which the poor simple man gave to the Jews concerning
He told them it was Jesus that had made him whole. We have
reason to think that he intended this for the honour of Christ and the
benefit of the Jews, little thinking that he who had so much power and
goodness could have any enemies; but those who wish well to
Christ's kingdom must have the wisdom of the serpent, lest they
do more hurt than good with their zeal, and must not cast pearls before
2. The rage and enmity of the Jews against him: Therefore did
the rulers of the Jews persecute Jesus. See,
(1.) How absurd and unreasonable their enmity to Christ was.
Therefore, because he had made a poor sick man well, and so
eased the public charge, upon which, it is likely, he had subsisted;
therefore they persecuted him, because he did good in Israel.
(2.) How bloody and cruel it was: They sought to slay him;
nothing less than his blood, his life, would satisfy them.
(3.) How it was varnished over with a colour of zeal for the honour of
the sabbath; for this was the pretended crime, Because he had done
these things on the sabbath day, as if that circumstance were
enough to vitiate the best and most divine actions, and to render
him obnoxious whose deeds were otherwise most meritorious. Thus
hypocrites often cover their real enmity against the power of
godliness with a pretended zeal for the form of it.
Christ's Discourse with the Jews; All Judgment Committed to Christ; The Christian Charter.
17 But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I
18 Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he
not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his
Father, making himself equal with God.
19 Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I
say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he
seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also
doeth the Son likewise.
20 For the Father loveth the Son, and showeth him all things
that himself doeth: and he will show him greater works than
these, that ye may marvel.
21 For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth
them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.
22 For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all
judgment unto the Son:
23 That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour
the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the
Father which hath sent him.
24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and
believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall
not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.
25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, 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.
26 For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to
the Son to have life in himself;
27 And hath given him authority to execute judgment also,
because he is the Son of man.
28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all
that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the
resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the
resurrection of damnation.
30 I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and
my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the
will of the Father which hath sent me.
We have here Christ's discourse upon occasion of his being accused as a
sabbath-breaker, and it seems to be his vindication of himself before
the sanhedrim, when he was arraigned before them: whether on the same
day, or two or three days after, does not appear; probably the same
I. The doctrine laid down, by which he justified what he did on the
He answered them. This supposes that he had something laid to
his charge: or what they suggested one to another, when they sought to
he knew, and gave this reply to, My Father worketh hitherto,
and I work. At other times, in answer to the like charge, he had
pleaded the example of David's eating the show-bread, of the priests'
slaying the sacrifices, and of the people's watering their cattle on
the sabbath day; but here he goes higher and alleges the example of his
Father and his divine authority; waiving all other pleas, he insists
upon that which was instar omnium--equivalent to the whole, and
abides by it, which he had mentioned,
The Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day; but he here
enlarges on it.
1. He pleads that he was the Son of God, plainly intimated in his
calling God his Father; and, if so, his holiness was
unquestionable and his sovereignty incontestable; and he
might make what alterations he pleased of the divine law. Surely
they will reverence the Son, the heir of all things.
2. That he was a worker together with God.
(1.) My Father worketh hitherto. The example of God's resting on
the seventh day from all his work is, in the fourth commandment, made
the ground of our observing it as a sabbath or day of
rest. Now God rested only from such work as he had done the six
days before; otherwise he worketh hitherto, he is every day
working, sabbath days and week-days, upholding and governing all the
creatures, and concurring by his common providence to all the motions
and operations of nature, to his own glory; therefore, when we
are appointed to rest on the sabbath day, yet we are not restrained
from doing that which has a direct tendency to the glory of God,
as the man's carrying his bed had.
(2.) I work; not only therefore I may work, like
him, in doing good on sabbath days as well as other days, but I
also work with him. As God created all things by Christ, so he
supports and governs all by him,
This sets what he does above all exception; he that is so great a
worker must needs be an uncontrollable governor; he that does all is
Lord of all, and therefore Lord of the sabbath, which particular
branch of his authority he would now assert, because he was shortly to
show it further, in the change of the day from the seventh to the
II. The offence that was taken at his doctrine
The Jews sought the more to kill him. His defence was made his
offence, as if by justifying himself he had made bad worse. Note, Those
that will not be enlightened by the word of Christ will be enraged and
exasperated by it, and nothing more vexes the enemies of Christ than
his asserting his authority; see
They sought to kill him,
1. Because he had broken the sabbath; for, let him say what he would in
his own justification, they are resolved, right or wrong, to find
him guilty of sabbath breaking. When malice and envy sit upon the
bench, reason and justice may even be silent at the bar, for whatever
they can say will undoubtedly be over-ruled.
2. Not only so, but he had said also that God was his Father.
Now they pretend a jealousy for God's honour, as before for the
sabbath day, and charge Christ with it as a heinous crime that he made
himself equal with God; and a heinous crime it had been if he had not
really been so. It was the sin of Lucifer, I will be like the Most
(1.) This was justly inferred from what he said, that he was the Son
of God, and that God was his Father, patera
idion--his own Father; his, so as he was no one's else.
He had said that he worked with his Father, by the same authority and
power, and hereby he made himself equal with God. Ecce intelligunt
Judæi, quod non intelligunt Ariani--Behold, the Jews understand
what the Arians do not.
(2.) Yet it was unjustly imputed to him as an offence that he equalled
himself with God, for he was and is God, equal with the Father
and therefore Christ, in answer to this charge, does not except against
the innuendo as strained or forced, makes out his claim and proves that
he is equal with God in power and glory.
III. Christ's discourse upon this occasion, which continues without
interruption to the end of the chapter. In
and afterwards confirms, his commission, as Mediator and
plenipotentiary in the treaty between God and man. And, as the honours
he is hereby entitled to are such as it is not fit for any
creature to receive, so the work he is hereby entrusted with is such as
it is not possible for any creature to go through with, and therefore
he is God, equal with the Father.
1. In general. He is one with the Father in all he does as
Mediator, and there was a perfectly good understanding between them in
the whole matter. It is ushered in with a solemn preface
Verily, verily, I say unto you; I the Amen, the Amen, say it.
This intimates that the things declared are,
(1.) Very awful and great, and such as should command the most serious
(2.) Very sure, and such as should command an unfeigned assent.
(3.) That they are matters purely of divine revelation; things which
Christ has told us, and which we could not otherwise have come to the
knowledge of. Two things he saith in general concerning the Son's
oneness with the Father in working:--
[1.] That the Son conforms to the Father
The Son can do nothing of himself but what he sees the Father
do; for these things does the Son. The Lord Jesus, as
Mediator, is First, Obedient to his Father's will; so entirely
obedient that he can do nothing of himself, in the same sense as
it is said, God cannot lie, cannot deny himself, which
expresses the perfection of his truth, not any imperfection in his
strength; so here, Christ was so entirely devoted to his Father's will
that it was impossible for him in any thing to act separately.
Secondly, He is observant of his Father's counsel; he
can, he will, do nothing but what he sees the Father do. No man
can find out the work of God, but the only-begotten Son, who lay
in his bosom, sees what he does, is intimately acquainted with his
purposes, and has the plan of them ever before him. What he did as
Mediator, throughout his whole undertaking, was the exact transcript or
counterpart of what the Father did; that is, what he designed, when he
formed the plan of our redemption in his eternal counsels, and settled
those measures in every thing which never could be broken, nor
ever needed to be altered. It was the copy of that great
original; it was Christ's faithfulness, as it was Moses's, that he
did all according to the pattern shown him in the mount. This is
expressed in the present tense, what he sees the Father do, for
the same reason that, when he was here upon earth, it was said, He
is in heaven
and is in the bosom of the Father
as he was even then by his divine nature present in heaven, so the
things done in heaven were present to his knowledge. What the
Father did in his counsels, the Son had ever in his view, and still he
had his eye upon it, as David in spirit spoke of him, I have set the
Lord always before me,
Thirdly, Yet he is equal with the Father in
working; for what things soever the Father does these
also does the Son likewise; he did the same things, not
such things, but tauta, the same things;
and he did them in the same manner, homoios,
likewise, with the same authority, and liberty, and wisdom, the
same energy and efficacy. Does the Father enact, repeal, and alter,
positive laws? Does he over-rule the course of nature, know men's
hearts? So does the Son. The power of the Mediator is a divine
[2.] That the Father communicates to the Son,
First, The inducement to it: The Father loveth the Son;
he declared, This is my beloved Son. He had not only a good will
to the undertaking, but an infinite complacency in the undertaker.
Christ was now hated of men, one whom the nation abhorred
but he comforted himself with this, that his Father loved him.
Secondly, The instances of it. He shows it,
1. In what he does communicate to him: He shows him all
things that himself doth. The Father's measures in making and
ruling the world are shown to the Son, that he may take the same
measures in framing and governing the church, which work was to be a
duplicate of the work of creation and providence, and it is therefore
called the world to come. He shows him all things ha autos
poiei--which he does, that is, which the Son
does, so it might be construed; all that the Son does is by direction
from the Father; he shows him.
2. In what he will communicate; he will show him, that
is, will appoint and direct him to do greater works than these.
(1.) Works of greater power than the curing of the impotent
man; for he should raise the dead, and should himself rise from the
dead. By the power of nature, with the use of means, a disease may
possibly in time be cured; but nature can never, by the use of any
means, in any time raise the dead.
(2.) Works of greater authority than warranting the man to
carry his bed on the sabbath day. They thought this a daring
attempt; but what was this to his abrogating the whole ceremonial law,
and instituting new ordinances, which he would shortly do, "that you
may marvel!" Now they looked upon his works with contempt and
indignation, but he will shortly do that which they will look upon with
Many are brought to marvel at Christ's works, whereby he has the honour
of them, who are not brought to believe, by which they would have the
benefit of them.
2. In particular. He proves his equality with the Father, by
specifying some of those works which he does that are the peculiar
works of God. This is enlarged upon,
He does, and shall do, that which is the peculiar work of God's
sovereign dominion and jurisdiction--judging and executing
These two are interwoven, as being nearly connected; and what is said
once is repeated and inculcated; put both together, and they will prove
that Christ said not amiss when he made himself equal with
(1.) Observe what is here said concerning the Mediator's power to
raise the dead and give life. See
[1.] His authority to do it
As the Father raiseth up the dead, so the Son quickeneth whom
he will. First, It is God's prerogative to raise the dead, and give
life, even his who first breathed into man the breath of
life, and so made him a living soul; see
1 Sam. ii. 6; Ps. lxviii. 20; Rom. iv. 17.
This God had done by the prophets Elijah and Elisha, and it was a
confirmation of their mission. A resurrection from the dead
never lay in the common road of nature, nor ever fell within the
thought of those that studied only the compass of nature's power, one
of whose received axioms was point blank against it: A privatione ad
habitum non datur regressus--Existence, when once extinguished, cannot
be rekindled. It was therefore ridiculed at Athens as an
It is purely the work of a divine power, and the knowledge of it purely
by divine revelation. This the Jews would own. Secondly, The
Mediator is invested with this prerogative: He quickens whom he
will; raises to life whom he pleases, and when he pleases. He does
not enliven things by natural necessity, as the sun does, whose beams
revive of course; but he acts as a free agent, has the dispensing of
his power in his own hand, and is never either constrained, or
restrained, in the use of it. As he has the power, so he has the
wisdom and sovereignty, of a God; has the key of the grave and of
not as a servant, to open and shut as he is bidden, for he has it as
the key of David, which he is master of,
An absolute prince is described by this
Whom he would he slew or kept alive; it is true of Christ
[2.] His ability to do it. Therefore he has power to
quicken whom he will as the Father does, because he has life in
himself, as the Father has,
First, It is certain that the Father has life in himself.
Not only he is a self-existent Being, who does not derive from,
or depend upon, any other
but he is a sovereign giver of life; he has the disposal of life in
himself; and of all good (for so life sometimes signifies); it
is all derived from him, and dependent on him. He is to his creatures
the fountain of life, and all good; author of their being and
well-being; the living God, and the God of all living.
Secondly, It is as certain that he has given to the Son to
have life in himself. As the Father is the original of all natural
life and good, being the great Creator, so the Son, as Redeemer, is the
original of all spiritual life and good; is that to the church which
the Father is to the world; see
1 Corinthians 8:6,Col+1:19.
The kingdom of grace, and all the life in that kingdom, are as fully
and absolutely in the hand of the Redeemer as the kingdom of providence
is in the hand of the Creator; and as God, who gives being to all
things, has his being of himself, so Christ, who gives life, raised
himself to life by his own power,
[3.] His acting according to this authority and ability. Having
life in himself, and being authorized to quicken whom he
will, by virtue hereof there are, accordingly, two resurrections
performed by his powerful word, both which are here spoken of:--
First, A resurrection that now is
a resurrection from the death of sin to the life of righteousness, by
the power of Christ's grace. The hour is coming, and now is. It
is a resurrection begun already, and further to be carried on, when
the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God. This is plainly
distinguished from that in
which speaks of the resurrection at the end of time. This says nothing,
as that does, of the dead in their graces, and of all of them, and
their coming forth. Now,
1. Some think this was fulfilled in those whom he miraculously raised
to life, Jairus's daughter, the widow's son, and Lazarus; and it is
observable that all whom Christ raised were spoken to, as,
Damsel, arise; Young man, arise; Lazarus, come forth; whereas
those raised under the Old Testament were raised, not by a word, but
2 Kings iv. 34; xiii. 21.
Some understand it of those saints that rose with Christ; but we do not
read of the voice of the Son of God calling them. But,
2. I rather understand it of the power of the doctrine of Christ, for
the recovering and quickening of those that were dead in trespasses
The hour was coming when dead souls should be made alive
by the preaching of the gospel, and a spirit of life from God
accompanying it: nay, it then was, while Christ was upon earth.
It may refer especially to the calling of the Gentiles, which is
said to be as life from the dead, and, some think, was prefigured by
Thy dead men shall live. But it is to be applied to all the
wonderful success of the gospel, among both Jews and Gentiles; an hour
which still is, and is still coming, till all the elect
be effectually called. Note,
(1.) Sinners are spiritually dead, destitute of spiritual life,
sense, strength, and motion, dead to God, miserable, but neither
sensible of their misery nor able to help themselves out of it.
(2.) The conversion of a soul to God is its resurrection from death to
life; then it begins to live when it begins to live to God, to
breathe after him, and move towards him.
(3.) It is by the voice of the Son of God that souls are raised
to spiritual life; it is wrought by his power, and that power conveyed
and communicated by his word: The dead shall hear, shall be made
to hear, to understand, receive, and believe, the voice of the Son
of God, to hear it as his voice; then the Spirit by it gives life,
otherwise the letter kills.
(4.) The voice of Christ must be heard by us, that we may live by it.
They that hear, and attend to what they hear, shall live. Hear and
your soul shall live,
Secondly, A resurrection yet to come; this is spoken of,
introduced with, "Marvel not at this, which I have said of the
first resurrection, do not reject it as incredible and absurd,
for at the end of time you shall all see a more sensible and amazing
proof of the power and authority of the Son of man." As his own
resurrection was reserved to be the final and concluding proof of his
personal commission, so the resurrection of all men is reserved
to be a like proof of his commission to be executed by his spirit. Now
a. When this resurrection shall be: The hour is coming;
it is fixed to an hour, so very punctual is this great
appointment. The judgment is not adjourned sine die--to some time not
yet pitched upon; no, he hath appointed a day. The hour is
(a.) It is not yet come, it is not the hour spoken of at
that is coming, and now is. Those erred dangerously who said
that the resurrection was past already,
2 Timothy 2:18,
(b.) It will certainly come, it is coming on, nearer
every day than other; it is at the door. How far off it is we know not;
but we know that it is infallibly designed and unalterably
b. Who shall be raised: All that are in the graves, all
that have died from the beginning of time, and all that shall die to
the end of time. It was said
Many shall arise; Christ here tells us that those many
shall be all; all must appear before the Judge, and therefore
all must be raised; every person, and the whole of every person;
every soul shall return to its body, and every bone to its bone.
The grave is the prison of dead bodies, where they are detained;
their furnace, where they are consumed
yet, in prospect of their resurrection, we may call it their
bed, where they sleep to be awaked again; their treasury,
where they are laid up to be used again. Even those that are not put
into graves shall arise; but, because most are put into graves,
Christ uses this expression, all that are in the graves. The
Jews used the word sheol for the grave, which signifies
the state of the dead; all that are in that state shall
c. How they shall be raised. Two things are here told us:--
(a.) The efficient of this resurrection: They shall hear his
voice; that is, he shall cause them to hear it, as Lazarus was made
to hear that word, Come forth; a divine power shall go along
with the voice, to put life into them, and enable them to obey it. When
Christ rose, there was no voice heard, not a word spoken, because he
rose by his own power; but at the resurrection of the children of men
we find three voices spoken of,
1 Thessalonians 4:16.
The Lord shall descend with a shout, the shout of a king, with
the voice of the archangel; either Christ himself, the prince of
the angels, or the commander-in-chief, under him, of the heavenly
hosts; and with the trumpet of God: the soldier's trumpet
sounding the alarm of war, the judge's trumpet publishing the summons
to the court.
(b.) The effect of it: They shall come forth out of their
graves, as prisoners out of their prison-house; they shall arise
out of the dust, and shake themselves from it; see
But this is not all; they shall appear before Christ's tribunal,
shall come forth as those that are to be tried, come
forth to the bar, publicly to receive their doom.
d. To what they shall be raised; to a different state of
happiness or misery, according to their different character; to a state
of retribution, according to what they did in the state of
(a.) They that have done good shall come forth to the
resurrection of life; they shall live again, to live for ever.
[a.] Whatever name men are called by, or whatever plausible
profession they make, it will be well in the great day with those only
that have done good, have done that which is pleasing to God and
profitable to others.
[b.] The resurrection of the body will be a resurrection of life
to all those, and those only, that have been sincere and constant in
doing good. They shall not only be publicly acquitted, as
a pardoned criminal, we say, has his life, but they shall be
admitted into the presence of God, and that is life, it is
better than life; they shall be attended with comforts in
perfection. To live is to be happy, and they shall be
advanced above the fear of death; that is life indeed in
which mortality is for ever swallowed up.
(b.) They that have done evil to the resurrection of
damnation; they shall live again, to be for ever dying. The
Pharisees thought that the resurrection pertained only to the just, but
Christ here rectifies that mistake. Note,
[a.] Evil doers, whatever they pretend, will be treated
in the day of judgment as evil men.
[b.] The resurrection will be to evil doers, who did not by
repentance undo what they had done amiss, a resurrection of
damnation. They shall come forth to be publicly convicted of rebellion
against God, and publicly condemned to everlasting punishment;
to be sentenced to it, and immediately sent to it without
reprieve. Such will the resurrection be.
(2.) Observe what is here said concerning the Mediator's authority
to execute judgment,
As he has an almighty power, so he has a sovereign jurisdiction; and
who so fit to preside in the great affairs of the other life as he who
is the Father and fountain of life? Here is,
[1.] Christ's commission or delegation to the office of a judge, which
is twice spoken of here
He hath committed all judgment to the Son; and again
he hath given him authority.
First, The Father judges no man; not that the Father hath
resigned the government, but he is pleased to govern by Jesus Christ;
so that man is not under the terror of dealing with God immediately,
but has the comfort of access to him by a Mediator. Having made us, he
may do what he pleases with us, as the potter with the
clay; yet he does not take advantage of this, but draws us with the
cords of a man.
2. He does not determine our everlasting condition by the covenant
of innocency, nor take the advantage he has against us for the
violation of that covenant. The Mediator having undertaken to make a
vicarious satisfaction, the matter is referred to him, and God
is willing to enter upon a new treaty; not under the law of the
Creator, but the grace of the Redeemer.
Secondly, He has committed all judgment to the Son, has
constituted him Lord of all
as Joseph in Egypt,
This was prophesied of,
Isa. xii. 3, 4; Jer. xxiii. 5; Mic. v. 1-4; Ps. lxvii. 4; xcvi. 13; xcviii. 9.
All judgment is committed to our Lord Jesus; for
1. He is entrusted with the administration of the
providential kingdom, is head over all things
head of every man,
1 Corinthians 11:3.
All things consist by him,
2. He is empowered to make laws immediately to bind conscience. I
say unto you is now the form in which the statues of the kingdom of
heaven run. Be it enacted by the Lord Jesus, and by his
authority. All the acts now in force are touched with his sceptre.
3. He is authorized to appoint and settle the terms of the new
covenant, and to draw up the articles of peace between God and man; it
is God in Christ that reconciles the world, and to him he has given
power to confer eternal life. The book of life is the Lamb's book; by
his award we must stand or fall.
4. He is commissioned to carry on and complete the war with the powers
of darkness; to cast out and give judgment against the prince of
He is commissioned not only to judge, but to make war,
All that will fight for God against Satan must enlist themselves
under his banner.
5. He is constituted sole manager of the judgment of the great day. The
ancients generally understood these words of that crowning act
of his judicial power. The final and universal judgment is committed to
the Son of man; the tribunal is his, it is the judgment-seat of
Christ; the retinue is his, his mighty angels; he will try the
causes, and pass the sentence.
Thirdly, He has given him authority to execute judgment
1. What the authority is which our Redeemer is invested with: An
authority to execute judgment; he has not only a legislative and
judicial power, but an executive power too. The phrase here is
used particularly for the judgment of condemnation,
poiesai krisin--to execute judgment upon all; the
same with his taking vengeance,
2 Thessalonians 1:8.
The ruin of impenitent sinners comes from the hand of Christ; he that
executes judgment upon them is the same that would have
wrought salvation for them, which makes the sentence
unexceptionable; and there is no relief against the sentence of the
Redeemer; salvation itself cannot save those whom the Saviour
condemns, which makes the ruin remediless.
2. Whence he has that authority: the Father gave it to him.
Christ's authority as Mediator is delegated and derived; he acts as the
Father's Viceregent, as the Lord's Anointed, the Lord's Christ. Now all
this redounds very much to the honour of Christ, acquitting him from
the guilt of blasphemy, in making himself equal with God; and
very much to the comfort of all believers, who may with the greatest
assurance venture their all in such hands.
[2.] Here are the reasons (reasons of state) for which this commission
was given him. He has all judgment committed to him for two
First, Because he is the Son of man; which denotes these
1. His humiliation and gracious condescension. Man is a worm, the son
of man a worm; yet this was the nature, this the character, which the
Redeemer assumed, in pursuance of the counsels of love; to this low
estate he stooped, and submitted to all the mortifications attending
it, because it was his Father's will; in recompence therefore of
this wonderful obedience, God did thus dignify him. Because he
condescended to be the Son of man, his Father made him Lord
2. His affinity and alliance to us. The Father has committed the
government of the children of men to him, because, being the Son of
man, he is of the same nature with those whom he is set
over, and therefore the more unexceptionable, and the more
acceptable, as a Judge. Their governor shall proceed from the midst
Of this that law was typical; One of thy brethren shalt thou set
king over thee,
3. His being the Messiah promised. In that famous vision of his kingdom
he is called the Son of man; and
Thou has made the Son of man have dominion over the works of thy
hands. He is the Messiah, and therefore is invested with all this
power. The Jews usually called the Christ the Son of David; but
Christ usually called himself the Son of man, which was the more
humble title, and bespeaks him a prince and Saviour, not the Jewish
nation only, but to the whole race of mankind.
Secondly, That all men should honour the Son,
The honouring of Jesus Christ is here spoken of as God's great design
(the Son intended to glorify the Father, and therefore the Father
intended to glorify the Son,
and as man's great duty, in compliance with that design. If God will
have the Son honoured, it is the duty of all to whom he is made known
to honour him. Observe here,
1. The respect that is to be paid to our Lord Jesus: We must
honour the Son, must look upon him as one that is to be
honoured, both on account of his transcendent excellences and
perfections in himself, and of the relations he stands in to us, and
must study to give him honour accordingly; must confess that he is
Lord, and worship him; must honour him who was dishonoured for us.
2. The degree of it: Even as they honour the Father. This
supposes it to be our duty to honour the Father; for
revealed religion is founded on natural religion, and directs us
to honour the Son, to honour him with divine honour; we
must honour the Redeemer with the same honour with which we honour the
Creator. So far was it from blasphemy for him to make himself equal
with God that it is the highest injury that can be for us to make
him otherwise. The truths and laws of the Christian religion, so far
as they are revealed, are as sacred and honourable as those of natural
religion, and to be equally had in estimation; for we lie under the
same obligations to Christ, the Author of our being; and have as
necessary a dependence upon the Redeemer's grace as upon the Creator's
providence, which is a sufficient ground for this law--to honour the
Son as we honour the Father. To enforce this law, it is added,
He that honours not the Son honours not the Father who has sent
him. Some pretend a reverence for the Creator, and speak
honourably of him, who make light of the Redeemer, and speak
contemptibly of him; but let such know that the honours and
interests of the Father and Son are so inseparably twisted and
interwoven that the Father never reckons himself honoured by any
that dishonour the Son. Note,
(1.) Indignities done to the Lord Jesus reflect upon God himself, and
will so be construed and reckoned for in the court of heaven. The Son
having so far espoused the Father's honour as to take to himself
the reproaches cast on him
the Father does no less espouse the Son's honour, and counts himself
struck at through him.
(2.) The reason of this is because the Son is sent and commissioned by
the Father; it is the Father who hath sent him. Affronts to an
ambassador are justly resented by the prince that sends him. And by
this rule those who truly honour the Son honour the Father also;
[3.] Here is the rule by which the Son goes in executing this
commission, so those words seem to come in
He that heareth and believeth hath everlasting life. Here
we have the substance of the whole gospel; the preface commands
attention to a thing most weighty, and assent to a thing
most certain: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, I, to whom you
hear all judgment is committed, I, in whose lips is a divine
sentence; take from me the Christian's character and
First, The character of a Christian: He that heareth
my word, and believeth on him that sent me. To be a Christian
1. To hear the word of Christ. It is not enough to be within
hearing of it, but we must attend on it, as scholars on the
instructions of their teachers; and attend to it, as servants to
the commands of their masters; we must hear and obey it, must abide by
the gospel of Christ as the fixed rule of our faith and practice.
2. To believe on him that sent him; for Christ's design is to
bring us to God; and, as he is the first original of all grace,
so is he the last object of all faith. Christ is our way; God is
our rest. We must believe on God as having sent Jesus Christ,
and recommended himself to our faith and love, by manifesting his glory
in the face of Jesus Christ
(2 Corinthians 4:6),
as his Father and our Father.
Secondly, The charter of a Christian, in which all that
are Christians indeed are interested. See what we get by Christ.
1. A charter of pardon: He shall not come into condemnation. The
grace of the gospel is a full discharge from the curse of the law. A
believer shall not only not lie under condemnation eternally,
but shall not come into condemnation now, not come into the
danger of it
not come into judgment, not be so much as arraigned.
2. A charter of privileges: He is passed out of death to life,
is invested in a present happiness in spiritual life and entitled to a
future happiness in eternal life. The tenour of the first covenant was,
Do this and live; the man that doeth them shall live in them.
Now this proves Christ equal with the Father that he has power to
propose the same benefit to the hearers of his word that
had been proposed to the keepers of the old law, that is, life:
Hear and live, believe and live, is what we may venture our
souls upon, when we are disabled to do and live; see
[4.] Here is the righteousness of his proceedings pursuant to this
All judgment being committed to him, we cannot but ask how he
manages it. And here he answers, My judgment is just. All
Christ's acts of government, both legislative and
judicial, are exactly agreeable to the rules of equity; see
There can lie no exceptions against any of the determinations of the
Redeemer; and therefore, as there shall be no repeal of any of his
statutes, so there shall be no appeal from any of his sentences. His
judgments are certainly just, for they are directed,
First, By the Father's wisdom: I can of my ownself do
nothing, nothing without the Father, but as I hear I judge, as
he had said before
The Son can do nothing but what he sees the Father do; so here,
nothing but what he hears the Father say: As I hear,
1. From the secret eternal counsels of the Father, so I judge.
Would we know what we may depend upon in our dealing with God? Hear
the word of Christ. We need not dive into the divine counsels,
those secret things which belong not to us, but attend to the
revealed dictates of Christ's government and judgment, which will
furnish us with an unerring guide; for what Christ has adjudged is an
exact copy or counterpart of what the Father has decreed.
2. From the published records of the Old Testament. Christ, in all the
execution of his undertaking, had an eye to the scripture, and made it
his business to conform to this, and fulfil it: As it was
written in the volume of the book. Thus he taught us to do
nothing of ourselves, but, as we hear from the word of
God, so to judge of things, and act accordingly.
Secondly, By the Father's will: My judgment is just, and
cannot be otherwise, because I seek not my own will, but his
who sent me. Not as if the will of Christ were contrary to the will
of the Father, as the flesh is contrary to the spirit in us; but,
1. Christ had, as man, the natural and innocent affections of the
human nature, sense of pain and pleasure, an inclination
to life, an aversion to death: yet he pleased not himself, did
not confer with these, nor consult these, when he was to go on his
undertaking, but acquiesced entirely in the will of his Father.
2. What he did as Mediator was not the result of any peculiar or
particular purpose and design of his own; what he did
seek to do was not for his own mind's sake, but he was therein
guided by his Father's will, and the purpose which he had purposed
to himself. This our Saviour did upon all occasions refer
himself to and govern himself by.
Christ Proves His Divine Mission; Infidelity of the Jews Reproved.
31 If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.
32 There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that
the witness which he witnesseth of me is true.
33 Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth.
34 But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I
say, that ye might be saved.
35 He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing
for a season to rejoice in his light.
36 But I have greater witness than that of John: for the
works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works
that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.
37 And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne
witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor
seen his shape.
38 And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath
sent, him ye believe not.
39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal
life: and they are they which testify of me.
40 And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.
41 I receive not honour from men.
42 But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you.
43 I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if
another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.
44 How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and
seek not the honour that cometh from God only?
45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is
one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust.
46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he
wrote of me.
47 But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my
In these verses our Lord Jesus proves and confirms the commission he
had produced, and makes it out that he was sent of God to be the
I. He sets aside his own testimony of himself
"If I bear witness of myself, though it is infallibly true
yet, according to the common rule of judgment among men, you will not
admit it as legal proof, nor allow it to be given in
1. This reflects reproach upon the sons of men, and their veracity and
integrity. Surely we may say deliberately, what David said in haste,
All men are liars, else it would never have been such a received
maxim that a man's testimony of himself is suspicious, and not to be
relied on; it is a sign that self-love is stronger than the love of
truth. And yet,
2. It reflects honour on the Son of God, and bespeaks his wonderful
condescension, that, though he is the faithful witness, the
truth itself, who may challenge to be credited upon his honour,
and his own single testimony, yet he is pleased to waive his
privilege, and, for the confirmation of our faith, refers himself
to his vouchers, that we may have full satisfaction.
II. He produces other witnesses that bear testimony to him that he was
sent of God.
1. The Father himself bore testimony to him
There is another that beareth witness. I take this to be meant
of God the Father, for Christ mentions his testimony with his
I bear witness of myself, and the Father beareth witness of me.
(1.) The seal which the Father put to his commission: He beareth
witness of me, not only has done so by a voice from heaven, but
still does so by the tokens of his presence with me. See who they are
to whom God will bear witness.
[1.] Those whom he sends and employs; where he gives
commissions he give credentials.
[2.] Those who bear witness to him; so Christ did. God will own
and honour those that own and honour him.
[3.] Those who decline bearing witness of themselves; so Christ
did. God will take care that those who humble and abase themselves, and
seek not their own glory, shall not lose by it.
(2.) The satisfaction Christ had in this testimony: "I know that the
witness which he witnesseth of me is true. I am very well assured
that I have a divine mission, and do not in the least hesitate
concerning it; thus he had the witness in himself." The devil
tempted him to question his being the Son of God, but he never
2. John Baptist witnessed to Christ,
&c. John came to bear witness of the light
his business was to prepare his way, and direct people to him:
Behold the Lamb of God.
(1.) Now the testimony of John was,
[1.] A solemn and public testimony: "You sent an embassy of
priests and Levites to John, which gave him an opportunity of
publishing what he had to say; it was not a popular, but a judicial
[2.] It was a true testimony: He bore witness to the
truth, as a witness ought to do, the whole truth, and
nothing but the truth. Christ does not say, He bore witness
to me (though every one knew he did), but, like an honest man,
He bore witness to the truth. Now John was confessedly such a
holy, good man, so mortified to the world, and so conversant with
divine things, that it could not be imagined he should be guilty of
such a forgery and imposture as to say what he did concerning Christ if
it had not been so, and if he had not been sure of it.
(2.) Two things are added concerning John's testimony:--
[1.] That it was a testimony ex abundanti--more than he needed
I receive not testimony from man. Though Christ saw fit to quote
John's testimony, it was with a protestation that it shall not be
deemed or construed so as to prejudice the prerogative of his
self-sufficiency. Christ needs no letters or commendation, no
testimonials or certificates, but what his own worth and excellency
bring with him; why then did Christ here urge the testimony of John?
Why, these things I say, that you may be saved. This he aimed at
in all this discourse, to save not his own life, but the souls of
others; he produced John's testimony because, being one of
themselves, it was to be hoped that they would hearken to it.
Note, First, Christ desires and designs the salvation even of
his enemies and persecutors. Secondly, The word of Christ is the
ordinary means of salvation. Thirdly, Christ in his word
considers our infirmities and condescends to our capacities, consulting
not so much what it befits so great a prince to say as what we can
bear, and what will be most likely to do us good.
[2.] That it was a testimony ad hominem--to the man,
because John Baptist was one whom they had a respect for
He was a light among you.
First, The character of John Baptist: He was a burning and a
shining light. Christ often spoke honourably of John; he was now in
prison under a cloud, yet Christ gives him his due praise, which
we must be ready to do to all that faithfully serve God.
1. He was a light, not phos--lux, light (so
Christ was the light), but lyknos--lucerna, a
luminary, a derived subordinate light. His office was to enlighten
a dark world with notices of the Messiah's approach, to whom he was as
the morning star.
2. He was a burning light, which denotes sincerity;
painted fire may be made to shine, but that which burns is true fire.
It denotes also his activity, zeal, and fervency, burning in
love to God and the souls of men; fire is always working on itself or
something else, so is a good minister.
3. He was a shining light, which denotes either his
exemplary conversation, in which our light should shine
or an eminent diffusive influence. He was illustrious in the
sight of others; though he affected obscurity and retirement, and was
in the deserts, yet such were his doctrine, his baptism, his
life, that he became very remarkable, and attracted the eyes of
Secondly, The affections of the people to him: you were
willing for a season to rejoice in his light.
1. It was a transport that they were in, upon the
appearing of John: "You were willing-- ethelesate,
you delighted to rejoice in his light; you were very proud that
you had such a man among you, who was the honour of your country; you
were willing agalliasthenai--willing to dance, and
make a noise about this light, as boys about a bonfire."
2. It was but transient, and soon over: "You were fond of him,
pros horan--for an hour, for a season, as
little children are fond of a new thing, you were pleased with John
awhile, but soon grew weary of him and his ministry, and said that
he had a devil, and now you have him in prison." Note, Many,
that seem to be affected and pleased with the gospel at first,
afterwards despise and reject it; it is common for forward and noisy
professors to cool and fall off. These here rejoiced in John's light,
but never walked in it, and therefore did not keep to it; they were
like the stony ground. While Herod was a friend to John Baptist, the
people caressed him; but when he fell under Herod's frowns he lost
their favours: "You were willing to countenance John, pros
horan that is, for temporal ends" (so some take it);
"you were glad of him, in hopes to make a tool of him, by his interest
and under the shelter of his name to have shaken off the Roman yoke,
and recovered the civil liberty and honour of your country." Now,
(1.) Christ mentions their respect to John, to condemn them for
their present opposition to himself, to whom John bore witness. If they
had continued their veneration for John, as they ought to have done,
they would have embraced Christ.
(2.) He mentions the passing away of their respect, to justify God in
depriving them, as he had now done, of John's ministry, and putting
that light under a bushel.
3. Christ's own works witnessed to him
I have a testimony greater than that of John; for if we
believe the witness of men sent of God, as John was, the witness
of God immediately, and not by the ministry of men, is
1 John 5:9.
Observe, Though the witness of John was a less cogent and less
considerable witness, yet our Lord was pleased to make use of
it. We must be glad of all the supports that offer themselves for the
confirmation of our faith, though they may not amount to a
demonstration, and we must not invalidate any, under pretence
that there are others more conclusive; we have occasion for them
all. Now this greater testimony was that of the works which
his Father had given him to finish. That is,
(1.) In general the whole course of his life and ministry--his
revealing God and his will to us, setting up his kingdom among men,
reforming the world, destroying Satan's kingdom, restoring fallen man
to his primitive purity and felicity, and shedding abroad in men's
hearts the love of God and of one another--all that work of which he
said when he died, It is finished, it was all, from first to
last, opus Deo dignum--a work worthy of God; all he said and did
was holy and heavenly, and a divine purity, power, and
grace shone in it, proving abundantly that he was sent of God.
(2.) In particular. The miracles he wrought for the proof of his
divine mission witnessed of him. Now it is here said,
[1.] That these works were given him by the Father, that is, he
was both appointed and empowered to work them; for, as
Mediator, he derived both commission and strength from his
[2.] They were given to him to finish; he must do all those
works of wonder which the counsel and foreknowledge of God had before
determined to be done; and his finishing them proves a divine power;
for as for God his work is perfect.
[3.] These works did bear witness of him, did prove that he was
sent of God, and that what he said concerning himself was true; see
That the Father had sent him as a Father, not as a master sends
his servant on an errand, but as a father sends his son to take
possession for himself; if God had not sent him, he would not have
seconded him, would not have sealed him, as he did by the
works he gave him to do; for the world's Creator will never be its
4. He produces, more fully than before, his Father's testimony
The Father that sent me hath borne witness of me. The prince is
not accustomed to follow his ambassador himself, to confirm his
commission viva voce--by speaking; but God was pleased to bear
witness of his Son himself by a voice from heaven at his baptism
This is my ambassador, This is my beloved Son. The Jews reckoned
Bath-kol;--the daughter of a voice, a voice from heaven, one of
the ways by which God made known his mind; and in that way he had owned
Christ publicly and solemnly, and repeated it,
(1.) Those whom God sends he will bear witness of; where
he gives a commission, he will not fail to seal it; he that never
left himself without witness
will never leave any of his servants so, who go upon his errand.
(2.) Where God demands belief, he will not fail to give sufficient
evidence, as he has done concerning Christ. That which was to
be witnessed concerning Christ was chiefly this, that the God we had
offended was willing to accept of him as a Mediator. Now concerning
this he has himself given us full satisfaction (and he was
fittest to do it), declaring himself well-pleased in him; if we be so,
the work is done. Now, it might be suggested, if God himself thus bore
witness of Christ, how came it to pass that he was not universally
received by the Jewish nation and their rulers? To this Christ here
answers that it was not to be thought strange, nor could their
infidelity weaken his credibility, for two reasons:--
[1.] Because they were not acquainted with such extraordinary
revelations of God and his will: You have neither heard his voice at
any time, nor seen his shape, or appearance. They showed
themselves to be as ignorant of God, though they professed relation to
him, as we are of a man we never either saw or heard. "But why do I
talk to you of God's bearing witness of me? He is one you know nothing
of, nor have any acquaintance or communion with." Note, Ignorance of
God is the true reason of men's rejecting the record he has given
concerning his Son. A right understanding of natural religion
would discover to us such admirable congruities in the Christian
religion as would greatly dispose our minds to the entertainment of it.
Some give this sense of it: "The Father bore witness of me by a
voice, and the descent of a dove, which is such an
extraordinary thing that you never saw or heard the like; and yet for
my sake there was such a voice and appearance; yea, and you might have
heard that voice, you might have seen that appearance, as
others did, if you had closely attended the ministry of John, but by
slighting it you missed of that testimony."
[2.] Because they were not affected, no, not with the ordinary ways by
which God had revealed himself to them: You have not his word
abiding in you,
They had the scriptures of the Old Testament; might they not by them be
disposed to receive Christ? Yes, if they had had their due influence
upon them. But, First, The word of God was not in them; it was
among them, in their country, in their hands, but not in
them, in their hearts; not ruling in their souls, but only shining
in their eyes and sounding in their ears. What did it avail them that
they had the oracles of God committed to them
when they had not these oracles commanding in them? If they had,
they would readily have embraced Christ. Secondly, It did not
abide. Many have the word of God coming into them, and making
some impressions for awhile, but it does not abide with them; it
is not constantly in them, as a man at home, but only now and then, as
a wayfaring man. If the word abide in us, if we converse
with it by frequent meditation, consult with it upon every occasion,
and conform to it in our conversation, we shall then readily receive
the witness of the Father concerning Christ; see
But how did it appear that they had not the word of God abiding in
them? It appeared by this, Whom he hath sent, him ye believe
not. There was so much said in the Old Testament concerning Christ,
to direct people when and where to look for him, and so to facilitate
the discovery of him, that, if they had duly considered these things,
they could not have avoided the conviction of Christ's being sent of
God; so that their not believing in Christ was a certain sign that the
word of God did not abide in them. Note, The in-dwelling of the word,
and Spirit, and grace of God in us, is best tried by its effects,
particularly by our receiving what he sends, the commands, the
messengers, the providences he sends, especially Christ whom he hath
5. The last witness he calls is the Old Testament, which witnessed of
him, and to it he appeals
&c.): Search the scriptures, ereunate.
(1.) This may be read, either,
[1.] "You search the scriptures, and you do well to do so; you
read them daily in your synagogues, you have rabbies, and doctors, and
scribes, that make it their business to study them, and criticize upon
them." The Jews boasted of the flourishing of scripture-learning in the
days of Hillel, who died about twelve years after Christ's birth, and
reckoned some of those who were then members of the sanhedrim the
beauties of their wisdom and the glories of their law;
and Christ owns that they did indeed search the scriptures, but it was
in search of their own glory: "You search the scriptures, and
therefore, if you were not wilfully blind, you would believe
in me." Note, It is possible for men to be very studious in the
letter of the scripture, and yet to be strangers to the power and
influence of it. Or,
[2.] As we read it: Search the scriptures; and so, First,
It was spoken to them in the nature of an appeal: "You
profess to receive and believe the scripture; here I will join
issue with you, let this be the judge, provided you will not
rest in the letter" (hærere in cortice), "but will
search into it." Note, when appeals are made to the scriptures,
they must be searched. Search the whole book of scripture
throughout, compare one passage with another, and explain one by
another. We must likewise search particular passages to the
bottom, and see not what they seem to say prima facie--at
the first appearance, but what they say indeed. Secondly, It
is spoken to us in the nature of an advice, or a command
to all Christians to search the scriptures. Note, All those who would
find Christ must search the scriptures; not only read
them, and hear them, but search them, which denotes,
1. Diligence in seeking, labour, and study, and close
application of mind.
2. Desire and design of finding. We must aim at some
spiritual benefit and advantage in reading and studying the scripture,
and often ask, "What am I now searching for?" We must search as for
as those that sink for gold or silver, or that dive for
This ennobled the Bereans,
(2.) Now there are two things which we are here directed to have in our
eye, in our searching the scripture: heaven our end, and
Christ our way.
[1.] We must search the scriptures for heaven as our great
end: For in them you think you have eternal life. The scripture
assures us of an eternal state set before us, and offers to us an
eternal life in that state: it contains the chart that
describes it, the charter that conveys it, the
direction in the way that leads to it, and the foundation
upon which the hope of it is built; and this is worth searching for
where we are sure to find it. But to the Jews Christ saith only, You
think you have eternal life in the scriptures, because,
though they did retain the belief and hope of eternal life, and
grounded their expectations of it upon the scriptures, yet herein they
missed it, that they looked for it by the bare reading and studying of
the scripture. It was a common but corrupt saying among them, He
that has the words of the law has eternal life; they thought they
were sure of heaven if they could say by heart, or rather by
rote, such and such passages of scripture as they were directed
to by the tradition of the elders; as they thought all the
vulgar cursed because they did not thus know the law
so they concluded all the learned undoubtedly blessed.
[2.] We must search the scriptures for Christ, as the new
and living way that leads to this end. These are
they, the great and principal witnesses, that testify of
me. Note, First, The scriptures, even those of the Old
Testament, testify of Christ, and by them God bears
witness to him. The Spirit of Christ in the prophets testified
beforehand of him
(1 Peter 1:11),
the purposes and promises of God concerning him, and the previous
notices of him. The Jews knew very well that the Old Testament
testified of the Messiah, and were critical in their remarks upon the
passages that looked that way; and yet were careless, and wretchedly
overseen, in the application of them. Secondly, Therefore we
must search the scriptures, and may hope to find eternal life in
that search, because they testify of Christ; for this is life
eternal, to know him; see
1 John 5:11.
Christ is the treasure hid in the field of the scriptures, the water in
those wells, the milk in those breasts.
(3.) To this testimony he annexes a reproof of their infidelity and
wickedness in four instances; particularly,
[1.] Their neglect of him and his doctrine: "You will not
come tome, that you might have life,
You search the scriptures, you believe the prophets, who you cannot but
see testify of me; and yet you will not come to me, to whom they
direct you." Their estrangement from Christ was the fault not so much
of their understandings as of their wills. This is
expressed as a complaint; Christ offered life, and it was not accepted.
Note, First, There is life to be had with Jesus Christ
for poor souls; we may have life, the life of pardon and
grace, and comfort and glory: life is the
perfection of our being, and inclusive of all happiness; and Christ is
our life. Secondly, Those that would have this life must
come to Jesus Christ for it; we may have it for the coming for.
It supposes an assent of the understanding to the doctrine of
Christ and the record given concerning him; it lies in the
consent of the will to his government and grace, and it produces
an answerable compliance in the affections and actions. Thirdly,
The only reason why sinners die is because they will not come to
Christ for life and happiness; it is not because they cannot,
but because they will not. They will neither accept the
life offered, because spiritual and divine, nor will they
agree to the terms on which it is offered, nor apply
themselves to the use of the appointed means: they will not be cured,
for they will not observe the methods of cure. Fourthly, The
wilfulness and obstinacy of sinners in rejecting the tenders of grace
are a great grief to the Lord Jesus, and what he complains of. Those
I receive not honour from men, come in a parenthesis, to obviate
an objection against him, as if he sought his own glory, and made
himself the head of a party, in obliging all to come to him, and
applaud him. Note,
1. He did not covet nor court the applause of men, did
not in the least affect that worldly pomp and splendour in which the
carnal Jews expected their Messiah to appear. He charged those whom he
cured not to make him known, and withdrew from those that would have
made him king.
2. He had not the applause of men. Instead of receiving
honour from men, he received a great deal of dishonour and
disgrace from men, for he made himself of no reputation.
3. He needed not the applause of men; it was no addition to his
glory whom all the angels of God worship, nor was he any otherwise
pleased with it than as it was according to his Father's will, and for
the happiness of those who, in giving honour to him, received
much greater honour from him.
[2.] Their want of the love of God
"I know you very well, that you have not the love of God in
you. Why should I wonder that you do not come to me, when you want
even the first principle of natural religion, which is the
love of God?" Note, The reason why people slight Christ
is because they do not love God; for, if we did indeed love God,
we should love him who is his express image, and hasten to him by whom
only we may be restored to the favour of God. He charged them
with ignorance of God, and here with want of love to him;
therefore men have not the love of God because they desire not
the knowledge of him. Observe, First, The crime charged upon
them: You have not the love of God in you. They pretended a
great love to God, and thought they proved it by their zeal for the
law, the temple, and the sabbath; and yet they were really without the
love of God. Note, There are many who make a great profession of
religion who yet show they want the love of God by their neglect of
Christ and their contempt of his commandments; they hate his holiness
and undervalue his goodness. Observe, It is the love of God in
us, that love seated in the heart, a living active principle
there, that God will accept; the love shed abroad there,
Secondly, The proof of this charge, by the personal knowledge of
Christ, who searches the heart
and knows what is in man: I know you. Christ sees through all
our disguises, and can say to each of us, I know thee.
1. Christ knows men better than their neighbours know them. The
people thought that the scribes and Pharisees were very devout and good
men, but Christ knew that they had not the love of God in them.
2. Christ knows men better than they know themselves. These
Jews had a very good opinion of themselves, but Christ knew how corrupt
their inside was, notwithstanding the speciousness of their outside; we
may deceive ourselves, but we cannot deceive him.
3. Christ knows men who do not, and will not, know him; he looks
on those who industriously look off from him, and calls
by their own name, their true name, those who have not known him.
[3.] Another crime charged upon them is their readiness to entertain
false Christs and false prophets, while they obstinately opposed him
who was the true Messias
I am come in my Father's name, and you receive me not. If another
shall come in his own name, him you will receive. Be astonished, O
heavens, at this
for my people have committed two evils, great evils indeed.
First, They have forsaken the fountain of living waters,
for they would not receive Christ, who came in his Father's name, had
his commission from his Father, and did all for his glory.
Secondly, They have hewn out broken cisterns, they
hearken to every one that will set up in his own name. They forsake
their own mercies, which is bad enough; and it is for lying
vanities, which is worse. Observe here,
1. Those are false prophets who come in their own name, who run without
being sent, and set up for themselves only.
2. It is just with God to suffer those to be deceived with false
prophets who receive not the truth in the love of it.
2 Thessalonians 2:10,11.
The errors of antichrist are the just punishment of those who obey not
the doctrine of Christ. They that shut their eyes against the true
light are by the judgment of God given up to wander endlessly after
false lights, and to be led aside after every ignis
3. It is the gross folly of many that, while they nauseate
ancient truths, they are fond of upstart errors; they loathe
manna, and at the same time feed upon ashes. After the Jews had
rejected Christ and his gospel, they were continually haunted with
spectres, with false Christs and false prophets
and their proneness to follow such occasioned those distractions and
seditions that hastened their ruin.
[4.] They are here charged with pride and vain-glory, and unbelief, the
effect of them,
Having sharply reproved their unbelief, like a wise physician, he here
searches into the cause, lays the axe to the root. They
therefore slighted and undervalued Christ because they
admired and overvalued themselves. Here is,
First, Their ambition of worldly honour. Christ despised it,
They set their hearts upon it: You receive honour one of
another; that is, "You look for a Messiah in outward pomp, and
promise yourselves worldly honour by him." You receive
1. "You desire to receive it, and aim at this in all you do."
2. "You give honour to others, and applaud them, only that they may
return it, and may applaud you." Petimus dabimusque vicissim--We ask
and we bestow. It is the proud man's art to throw honour upon
others only that it may rebound upon himself.
3. "You are very careful to keep all the honours to yourselves, and
confine them to your own party, as if you had the monopoly of that
which is honourable."
4. "What respect is shown to you you receive yourselves, and do
not transmit to God, as Herod." Idolizing men and their sentiments, and
affecting to be idolized by them and their applauses, are pieces of
idolatry as directly contrary to Christianity as any other.
Secondly, Their neglect of spiritual honour, called here the
honour that comes from God only; this they sought not, nor minded.
1. True honour is that which comes from God only, that is real
and lasting honour; those are honourable indeed whom he takes into
covenant and communion with himself.
2. This honour have all the saints. All that believe in Christ,
through him receive the honour that comes from God. He is not partial,
but will give glory wherever he gives grace.
3. This honour that comes from God we must seek, must aim at it,
and act for it, and take up with nothing short of it
we must account it our reward, as the Pharisees accounted the
praise of men.
4. Those that will not come to Christ, and those that are ambitious of
worldly honour, make it appear that they seek not the honour that comes
from God, and it is their folly and ruin.
Thirdly, The influence this had upon their infidelity. How
can you believe who are thus affected? Observe here,
1. The difficulty of believing arises from ourselves and our own
corruption; we make our work hard to ourselves, and then complain it is
2. The ambition and affectation of worldly honour are a great hindrance
to faith in Christ. How can they believe who make the praise and
applause of men their idol? When the profession and practice of serious
godliness are unfashionable, are every where spoken
against,--when Christ and his followers are men wondered at, and to
be a Christian is to be like a speckled bird (and this is the
common case),--how can they believe the summit of whose ambition is to
make a fair show in the flesh?
6. The last witness here called is Moses,
&c. The Jews had a great veneration for Moses, and valued themselves
upon their being the disciples of Moses, and pretended to adhere
to Moses, in their opposition to Christ; but Christ here shows
(1.) That Moses was a witness against the unbelieving Jews, and
accused them to the Father: There is one that accuses you, even
Moses. This may be understood either,
[1.] As showing the difference between the law and the gospel. Moses,
that is, the law, accuses you, for by the law is the knowledge
of sin; it condemns you, it is to those that trust to it a
ministration of death and condemnation. But it is not the design of
Christ's gospel to accuse us: Think not that I will accuse
you. Christ did not come into the world as a Momus, to find
fault and pick quarrels with every body, or as a spy upon the
actions of men, or a promoter, to fish for crimes; no, he came
to be an advocate, not an accuser; to reconcile God and man, and not to
set them more at variance. What fools were they then that adhered to
Moses against Christ, and desired to be under the law!
[2.] As showing the manifest unreasonableness of their infidelity:
"Think not that I will appeal from your bar to God's and challenge you
to answer there for what you do against me, as injured innocency
usually does; no, I do not need; you are already accused, and cast, in
the court of heaven; Moses himself says enough to convict you of, and
condemn you for, your unbelief." Let them not mistake concerning
Christ; though he was a prophet, he did not improve his interest in
heaven against those that persecuted him, did not, as Elias, make
intercession against Israel
nor as Jeremiah desire to see God's vengeance on them. Nor let
them mistake concerning Moses, as if he would stand by them in
rejecting Christ; no, There is one that accuses you, even Moses in
whom you trust. Note, First, External privileges and
advantages are commonly the vain confidence of those who reject Christ
and his grace. The Jews trusted in Moses, and thought their
having his laws and ordinances would save them. Secondly, Those
that confide in their privileges, and do not improve them, will find
not only that their confidence is disappointed, but that those very
privileges will be witnesses against them.
(2.) That Moses was a witness for Christ and to his doctrine
He wrote of me. Moses did particularly prophesy of Christ, as
the Seed of the woman, the Seed of Abraham, the Shiloh, the great
Prophet; the ceremonies of the law of Moses were figures of him that
was to come. The Jews made Moses the patron of their opposition to
Christ; but Christ here shows them their error, that Moses was so far
from writing against Christ that he wrote for him, and of
[1.] Christ here charges it on the Jews that they did not believe
Moses. He had said
that they trusted in Moses, and yet here he undertakes to make
out that they did not believe Moses; they trusted to his name, but they
did not receive his doctrine in its true sense and meaning; they did
not rightly understand, nor give credit to, what there was in the
writings of Moses concerning the Messiah.
[2.] He proves this charge from their disbelief of him: Had you
believed Moses, you would have believed me. Note, First, The
surest trial of faith is by the effects it produces. Many say that they
believe whose actions give their words the lie; for had they believed
the scriptures they would have done otherwise than they did.
Secondly, Those who rightly believe one part of scripture will
receive every part. The prophecies of the old Testament were so fully
accomplished in Christ that those who rejected Christ did in effect
deny those prophecies, and set them aside.
[3.] From their disbelief of Moses he infers that it was not strange
that they rejected him: If you believe not his writings, how shall
you believe my words? How can it be thought that you should?
First, "If you do not believe sacred writings, those
oracles which are in black and white, which is the most certain way of
conveyance, how shall you believe my words, words being usually
less regarded?" Secondly, "If you do not believe Moses, for whom
you have such a profound veneration, how is it likely that you should
believe me, whom you look upon with so much contempt?" See
Thirdly, "If you believe not what Moses spoke and wrote of me,
which is a strong and cogent testimony for me, how shall you believe me
and my mission?" If we admit not the premises, how shall we admit the
conclusion? The truth of the Christian religion, it being a matter
purely of divine revelation, depends upon the divine authority of the
scripture; if therefore we believe not the divine inspiration of those
writings, how shall be receive the doctrine of Christ?
Matthew Henry "Verse by Verse Commentary for 'John' Matthew Henry Bible Commentary".