The Fourfold Gospel
5:1 After these things there was a feast of the Jews1; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
JESUS HEALS ON THE SABBATH DAY AND DEFENDS HIS ACT.
(At Feast-time at Jerusalem, probably the Passover.)
- After these things there was a feast of the Jews. Though every feast in the Jewish calendar has found some one to advocate its claim
to be this unnamed feast, yet the vast majority of commentators choose
either the feast of Purim, which came in March, or the Passover, which
came in April. Older commentators pretty unanimously regarded it as the
Passover, while the later school favor the feast of Purim (John 4:35)
locates Jesus in Samaria in December, and John 6:4 finds him on the
shores of Galilee just before a Passover. If, then, this was the feast
of Purim, the Passover of John 6:4 was the "second" in Jesus' ministry,
and that ministry lasted but two years and a fraction. But if the feast
here mentioned was a Passover, then the one at John 6:4 would be the
"third" Passover, and the ministry of Jesus lasted three years and a
fraction. Since, then, the length of Jesus' ministry is largely to be
determined by what the feast was, it becomes important for us to fix
the feast, if possible.
That it was "not" Purim the following arguments may be urged. (1)
Purim was not a Mosaic feast, but one established by human laws; hence
Jesus would not be "likely" to observe it. True, we find him at the
feast of Dedication which was also of human origin, but he did not "go
up" to attend it; he appears to have attended because he was already in
Jerusalem (John 10:22).; John (2); John Here; John the; John pregnant; John juxtapositionof "feast"
and "went up" indicates that Jesus was "drawn" to Jerusalem by this
feast, but Purim was celebrated by the Jews everywhere, and did not
require that any one should go to Jerusalem, as did the three great
festivals--Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. (3) It was kept in a
boisterous, riotous manner, and was therefore not such a feast as Jesus
would honor. (4) It came early in the year, when the weather was too
rigorous and inclement for sick people to frequent porticoes. (5) It
did not include a Sabbath Day. (6) As Purim was just a month before the
Passover, Jesus would hardly have returned to Galilee before the
Passover (John 6:4) unless he intended to miss the Passover, which
he would hardly do for the sake of attending Purim in Jerusalem.
Those contending that it was "not" the Passover, present several
arguments, which we note and answer as follows: (1) Since John gives
the name of other Passovers, he would have named this also, had it been
one. But the conclusion is inferential, and not logical; and the answer
is to be twofold: First, perhaps John did give the name by prefixing
the article to it, and calling it "the feast", for being the oldest--
older than the law and the Sabbath--and most important of all feasts,
it was rightly called by pre-eminence "the feast". Since the Sinaitic
manuscript gives the article, and calls it "the feast", the manuscript
authority for and against this reading is pretty evenly balanced.
Second, if John did not name it, there is probably this reason for his
silence. Where he names the feast elsewhere it is thought that the
incidents narrated take color from, or have some references to, the
particular festal occasion which is named; but here there is no such
local color, and failure to name the feast prevents mistaken attempts
to find such local color. (2) Again it is objected that if this is a
different Passover from John 6:4; then John skips a year in the
life of Jesus. He probably does so skip, and this is not strange when
the supplemental nature of his Gospel is considered.
In favor of its being the Passover we submit two points: (1) Daniel
seems to forecast the ministry of the Messiah as lasting one-half week
of years (Daniel 9:27). (2) It fits better in the chronological
arrangement, for in the next scene we find the disciples plucking
grain, and the Sabbath question is still at full heat. But the harvest
season opens with the Passover.
5:2 Now there is1 in Jerusalem by the sheep [gate] a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porches2.
- Now there is. The present tense is used, for while the city was destroyed, the pool evidently still existed.
- In Jerusalem by the sheep [gate] a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porches. "In Hebrew", that is, in Aramaic, a
dialect of the classic Hebrew, in which the Old Testament was written,
and the language then in use in Palestine The pool had five covered
porticoes, probably erected for the accommodation of the sick, whence
it is called Bethesda, that is, "house of mercy". Dr. Barclay thinks
that this pool is buried in the rubbish of the Kedron valley. Dr.
Robinson suggested that it might be the Fountain of the Virgin, which
is found in a cavern under the east side of Ophel, a little north of
midway between the southeast corner of the temple wall and the Pool of
Siloam. Though this pool's claim has been objected to because of its
inaccessibility--for it lies thirty feet below the surface of the
valley and forty feet back under the mountain, and is approached by two
flights of steps numbering in all twenty-six--yet it has three distinct
features which make its claim exceed those of any other known pool in
the temple neighborhood: (1) It is fed by an intermittent spring, whose
ebbing and flowing at intervals of several hours, would cause the
troubled waters called for in John 5:7. (2) It has a superstition
connected with it kindred to that which crept into the text at
when the dragon is awake he swallows or stops the water, but when he
sleeps the water flows! (3) The modern Jerusalem Jews believe in the
special healing properties of this fountain. Says Conder,
"Every day crowds of both sexes go down to the spring, and,
entering the dark archway, descend the steps, and await
the fitful troubling of the waters, which rise suddenly
and immerse them, fully clothed, nearly up to the neck."
But Nehemiah's description of the walls seems to locate the sheep
gate near the middle or northern portion of the temple area, and too
far north for the Virgin's fountain to be described as near it, unless
John's sheep gate differs from that of Nehemiah.
5:3 In these lay a multitude of them that were sick, blind, halt, withered, [waiting for the moving of the water.]
- [Waiting for the moving of the water], etc. The end of this verse and all of John 5:4, as given in the Authorized Version, were probably
added as a marginal explanatory gloss early in the second century, and
from thence gradually became incorporated in the text. John's failure
to mention that the pool was thought to have medicinal qualities
tempted transcribers to add a few marginal words in the nature of
5:5 And a certain man was there, who had been thirty and eight years in his infirmity1.
- And a certain man was there, who had been thirty and eight years in his infirmity. It is not said that he had spent all these years beside
the pool, nor is it likely that he had. The time is given to mark the
inveteracy of the disease, and to show the pathos of his situation. The
facts that he had a bed, and that his healing was demonstrated by his
walking, argue that his disease was either rheumatism, or some form of
5:6 When Jesus saw him lying, and knew that he had been now a long time1 [in that case], he saith unto him, Wouldest thou be made whole2?
- When Jesus saw him lying, and knew that he had been now a long time. By divine intuition, just as he also knew the lives of Nathanael and
the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well.
- He saith unto him, Wouldest thou be made whole? By this question Jesus aroused the man from the apathy of despair, awakening him to hope
and effort. Moreover, Jesus only healed as men consented to his
5:7 The sick man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool1: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me2.
- The sick man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool. The man's lack of healing was not
due to want of interest, but to want of means.
- But while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. The lower flight of ten steps leading to the Virgin's pool is only four and half
feet wide, and the pool itself is but twenty-one feet and nine inches
by nine feet in breadth at its widest part. A half-dozen selfish men
rushing down this narrow passage, and filling the small space in the
pool, would easily crowd out one who was friendless and more than
5:8 Jesus saith unto him, Arise, take up thy bed, and walk1.
- Arise, take up thy bed, and walk. The bed was the light mattress or pallet of the poor elsewhere noted (see Mark 2:3) which could
be easily rolled up and carried under the arm.
5:9 And straightway the man was made whole, and took up his bed and walked1. Now it was the sabbath on that day2.
- And straightway the man was made whole, and took up his bed and walked. Christ spoke, the man obeyed, and by the obedience of faith
was made whole.
- Now it was the sabbath on that day. There was apparently nothing urgent in the sick man's condition which made an immediate cure
necessary; but Jesus healed on the Sabbath, that he might thereby draw
such an issue between himself and the Jewish rulers as would afford
opportunity for him to present his divine claims to them in the
clearest and most forceful manner. He healed on the sabbath, that he
might assert divine relations to the Sabbath, and by so doing bring
about a disputation which would enable him to develop before them his
divine relations to the Father.
5:10 So the Jews1 said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath, and it is not lawful for thee to take up thy bed2.
- So the Jews. That is, the Jewish rulers. John frequently uses the term with this restricted meaning (John 1:19; John 7:13; John 9:22; John 18:12,14). The
man was officially stopped and questioned.
- Said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath, and it is not lawful for thee to take up thy bed. They would have cited in proof of
their assertion Exodus 31:13; Numbers 15:35; Jeremiah 17:21-23; Nehemiah 13:19. Alford and
Schaff both assert that the man broke the Mosaic law; but this position
is not well taken. Jesus would not have ordered the sabbath to be
broken, for he came to fulfill and not to break the law (Matthew 5:17).
At no time did he break the sabbath or countenance its violation, as
some able thinkers are erroneously led to suppose. In this case a man
lying on his bed, away from home, is suddenly healed. Under such
circumstances "Jewish tradition" said that he must either spend the
rest of the day watching his bed, or else he must go off and leave it
to be stolen. But He who rightfully interpreted the law of his own
devising, and who knew that "the sabbath was made for man, and not man
for the sabbath" (Mark 2:27), ordered the healed one to carry his bed
along home with him. The modern notions that this constituted a breach
of the Mosaic sabbath doubtless arose from the nature of the
accompanying justification given by Jesus, which fails to assert that
the law has not been broken, but seems almost to admit that it has.
Nothing, however, can be argued against Jesus on this score. A man may
be able to justify an act in a dozen different ways, and may choose to
rest content in justifying himself in only one way. Such is the case
here. Elsewhere we shall find that Jesus was careful to show that his
sabbatic actions were strictly legal; but in this case, that he might
bring his divine claims plainly before the rulers, he ignored the
question as to the human legality of his act that he might present
without confusion its divine legality. Hence he used only one order or
method of justification; viz.: an appeal to his divine rights as
exhibited in the habits of his Father. It was the divine and not the
human in Jesus which wrought this miracle, so Jesus causes the whole
controversy to turn on the divine rights, that he may use the occasion
for an elaborate discussion of his divine claims and the proofs by
which they are sustained. Also see John 5:17.
5:11 But he answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk1.
- He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. The man very naturally shifts the burden of responsibility. If
he was violating the sabbath, he had been ordered to do it by one who
had alone empowered him to do it. Of himself he would not and could not
have done it.
5:12 They asked him, Who is the man that said unto thee, Take up [thy bed], and walk1?
- They asked him, Who is the man that said unto thee, Take up [thy bed], and walk? By using the word "man" they suggest the contrast
between human authority and divine law. They were more concerned about
the law than about mercy.
5:13 But he that was healed knew not who it was; for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in the place1.
- For Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in the place. Jesus, not wishing to unduly excite the multitude by his presence, had
5:14 Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple1, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing befall thee2.
- Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple. Possibly he was there offering sacrifices in thanksgiving for his recovery, in the spirit of
Psalms 66:13,14, but it is as likely that he was there merely enjoying
the sights and privileges from which he had so long been excluded.
- Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing befall thee. Many human ills are directly traceable to sin, and this one
appears to have been so; for death is the wages of sin (Romans 6:23),
and sickness is partial payment. It is a solemn thought that sin can
produce worse conditions than even this case, where it found its victim
in youth, and left him a withered old man, bed- ridden, helpless, and
5:15 The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him whole1.
- The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him whole. There was evidently no unworthy motive in his action; for,
as Chrysostom observes, he did not report it that it was Jesus who made
him break the sabbath to condemn Jesus; on the contrary, he said it was
Jesus who made him whole, so honoring Christ. Feeling (as any Jew would
have felt) that he ought to clear himself before the rulers of his
people, the man, no doubt, honestly thought that the name and authority
of the great Prophet of Nazareth would end all question as to the
conduct of both Healer and healed. If so, he was sadly mistaken.
5:16 And for this cause the Jews persecuted Jesus, because he did these things on the sabbath1.
- And for this cause the Jews persecuted Jesus, because he did these things on the sabbath. Literally, pursued, or hunted Jesus. This is
John's first plain declaration of open hostility to Jesus, though he
has already implied it. From this point the blood-red line of
conspiracy against the life of Jesus runs through this Gospel.
5:17 But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh even until now, and I work1.
- My Father worketh even until now, and I work. The dual nature of Jesus permitted both a divine and human attitude toward the sabbath. We
have shown that Jesus chose to assert his divine attitude, for in no
other matter did these Jews have clearer distinction as to the
difference between divine and human right than in this matter of
sabbath observance. See John 5:10. If Jesus were a mere man,
their ideas of law clearly condemned him; but if Jesus were indeed God,
their knowledge of divine conduct in the whole realm of nature clearly
justified him, and the miracle asserted his divine control in nature's
realm. While God rested from creation on the sabbath, nothing can be
clearer than that in works of sustenance, reproduction, healing, and
providence. God has never rested, and never made distinctions between
the days of our week. In the light of the gospel we find also that his
redemptive work has never ceased and, considering the part which Jesus
was even then accomplishing in this field of labor, his words, "and I
work", are full of meaning.
5:18 For this cause therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him1, because he not only brake the sabbath2, but also called God his own Father3, making himself equal with God4.
- For this cause therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him. See John 5:16.
- Because he not only brake the sabbath. Not only violated, but denied its authority over his divine nature.
- But also called God his own Father. They rightly interpreted Jesus as asserting relationship to God differing from that sustained by
others, as expressed in some few passages in the Old Testament, where
God is spoken of as a Father to the people generally; that is, their
- Making himself equal with God. No main could claim such unity of nature as would exempt him from the obligation of the fourth
commandment. Had they misunderstood Jesus in this all-important point,
how quickly would he have corrected them, for he could not have been
less righteous than Paul and Barnabas (Acts 14:11-15).
35:19 Jesus therefore answered and said unto them1, Verily, verily2, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father doing: for what things soever he doeth, these the Son also doeth in like manner.
- Jesus therefore answered and said unto them. His answer is a connected address, the theme being his own character, mission,
authority, and credentials as the Son of God. It is the Christology of
Jesus, and instead of being a retraction of the claim to divinity which
the Jews accused him of making, it is a complete and amplified
reassertion of it, so that Luther fitly called it
"a sublime apology, which makes the matter worse."
Jesus first declares his relations to the Father (John 5:19-23), which
are set forth in four divisions, each of which is introduced by the
word "for"; viz.: (1) Unity of action (John 5:19). (2) Unity of
love, counsel, and plan (John 5:20). (3) Unity of life-impartation
(John 5:21). (4) Unity in judgment, resulting in unity of honor.
(John 5:22,23). This last division formed a turning-point in the
discourse. Since there is there unity of honor, it is important that
men should honor Jesus, and also otherwise sustain right relationships
to him, and Jesus therefore, to enlighten the Jews as to their duty
toward him, proceeds to set forth his relations to men (John 5:23-30),
which he also gives in four divisions, closely correlative to his four
statements as to the Father, thus: (1) Right to receive divine honor
from men (John 5:23). (2) Authority to execute life and death judgment
over men (John 5:24). (3) Power of life-impartation as to men, and
that both spiritually and literally (John 5:25-29). (4) All Jesus'
relationships to man to be sustained and executed according to the will
and plan or mission of God (John 5:30). But since all these various
relationships grow out of his divine nature, Jesus next submits the
credentials which establish his claim to such a nature (John 5:31-39).
There also are given in four divisions; namely: (1) Testimony of the
Baptist (John 5:31-35). (2) Jesus' own works and ministry
(John 5:36). (3) Testimony of the Father (John 5:37). (4)
Testimony of Scripture (John 5:38,39). Or we may regard Jesus as
asserting that the Father testifies to the Son's divinity in four
different ways; that is,
"God is properly the sole and original testifier, and all
others are his signature and seals."
The discourse then closes with an application of its truth to the
Jewish auditors (John 5:40-47). They are told that all this truth is
lost on them because of their own fourfold sinful condition, which is
thus stated: (1) Want of will to come to Christ (John 5:40). (2) Want
of real love toward God, or desire for his honor (John 5:41-43). (3)
Love for the honor of men, rather than the honor of God (John 5:44).
(4) Want of real faith in the Mosaic writings (John 5:45-47).
- Verily, verily. See John 1:51.
- The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father doing: for what things soever he doeth, these the Son also doeth in
like manner. The Jews regarded Jesus as claiming equality with God in
a vain-glorious, honor-seeking spirit; but Jesus restates himself, so
as to show that the claim is really a renunciation or abdication of all
independent greatness--as having an equality exercised in absolute
subservience (Isaiah 42:1; Philippians 3:5-9). They had accused him as a human
being acting contrary to the law of the Father. But he declares himself
to be a divine being, so united to the Father as to have no will or
action apart from the Father, a condition the resultant of which is not
weakness and insufficiency, but the strength and perfection arising
from an absolute and indissoluble union with the Father--the glory of
divinity. Chrysostom remarks,
"Just as when we say, it is impossible for God to do wrong,
we do not impute to him any weakness, but confess in him an
unutterable power, so also when Christ saith, "I can of
mine own self do nothing", the meaning is that it is
impossible--my nature admits not--that I should do anything
contrary to the Father."
Jesus asserts his equality with the Father in such a way as not to
depreciate the dignity and glory of the Father.
5:20 For the Father loveth the Son1, and showeth him all things that himself doeth2: and greater works than these will he show him3, that ye may marvel4.
- For the Father loveth the Son. The words here indicate that the love of the Father toward the Son was source of revelation, and that
the revelation was progressive. Love constrained the Father to reveal,
and love in turn constrained the son to act according to the
- And showeth him all things that himself doeth. Putting the statements of John 5:19,20 together, we find that the Son knows all
that the Father does, and likewise does all that the Father does, and
in like manner. There could be no higher assertion or equality than
this; in fact, it asserts identity rather than equality. But the
equality is not the result of conquest, nor was it one of power opposed
to power, but is freely given and accorded by reason of love.
- And greater works than these will he show him. Moreover, this unity of love would be evidence by greater works in the future, of which two
are enumerated; namely, resurrection and judgment, the former being at
first spiritually and afterwards literally outlined. The Father would
show these works to the Son by causing him to do them; there would be
no separate act of the Father so that the works would be twice
- That ye may marvel. These works would produce faith in those of right spirit. But among such hardened hearts as those whom Jesus
addressed they would only produce wonder and consternation. Those who
withheld the tribute of faith should pay that of amazement.
5:21 For as the Father raiseth the dead and giveth them life1, even so the Son also giveth life to whom he will2.
- For as the Father raiseth the dead and giveth them life. Since the verbs in this verse are in the present tense, and since Jesus is not
known to have raised the physically dead before this time, it is
rightly taken that he her speaks only of raising the spiritually dead,
our miserable existence in sin being often spoken of in Scripture as a
death from which we must be revived (Ephesians 2:1,5; Colossians 2:13; Revelation 3:1).
- Even so the Son also giveth life to whom he will. The use of the word "will" likewise indicates a spiritual resurrection, for Christ
exercised a discrimination in such resurrections; but the final,
literal resurrection is without discrimination. See the word "all" in
physical resurrections, so the Son (for the present) performs spiritual
resurrections (to be followed by physical resurrections). Jesus later
gave those at Jerusalem a sign of his power to literally raise the dead
by the resurrection of Lazarus. Resurrection is bestowed or withheld
according to Jesus' will, but his will is not arbitrarily exercised. He
visits those who receive him, and revives those who believe him. If the
Son possessed right of concurrent action on these lofty planes,
concurrent use of the sabbath was a small matter indeed.
5:22 For neither doth the Father judge any man, but he hath given all judgment unto the Son1;
- For neither doth the Father judge any man, but he hath given all judgment unto the Son. That is to say, the Father does not act in
judgment without the Son, nor the Son without the Father, for in no
work is either isolated from the other. Resurrection is nearly always
associated with judgment, and in this instance it is in reviving that
the judgment is manifested or executed. See also John 5:29. Note that
judgment begins in this world (John 9:39).
5:23 that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father1. He that honoreth not the Son honoreth not the Father that sent him2.
- That all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. "Even as" means in the same manner and in equal degree. The prerogative of
judgment was committed unto Jesus that men might behold his true
majesty. If this verse does not teach us to worship Jesus as God,
language cannot teach it, for God gives not his glory unto another
(Isaiah 42:8,11), nor could he, by reason of his very nature, arbitrarily
will such honor to one whose character and nature were unworthy of it.
In these words Jesus exposed the ruinous attitude assumed by the Jews
in seeking to slay him.
- He that honoreth not the Son honoreth not the Father that sent him. Honor paid to the Father pertains or belongs to his nature and
character. But the Son is the manifestation of that nature and
character (John 14:7-11; Hebrews 1:3). Therefore to fail to honor the
Son is to fail to honor the Father. Experience shows it to be the rule
that only those who honor Jesus take pains to honor the Father.
5:24 Verily, verily1, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal life2, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life3.
- Verily, verily. See John 1:51.
- He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal life. To "hear" means in this case to receive and obey, so
that eternal life is conditioned upon a knowledge of the revelation of
the Father and Son, and a right use of that knowledge. Eternal life is
a present gift, just as condemnation is a present condition
- And cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life. Those who have learned of and obey Jesus have already escaped
or avoided the judgment (Romans 8:1).
5:25 Verily, verily1, I say unto you, The hour cometh, and now is2, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live.
- Verily, verily. See John 1:51.
- The hour cometh, and now is. The "hath passed" of John 5:24 and the "now is" of this verse show that Jesus is, thus far, primarily
speaking of a present and hence a spiritual resurrection, or
- When the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live. Christianity, or the dispensation of regeneration,
was to begin formally at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4), but it was already
present in a preliminary form in the teaching of Jesus, for those who
hearkened to it were counted as already redeemed. Yet the spiritual
condition of even the apostles was at that time such that the hour of
grace is spoken of as more future than present--more "coming" than at
5:26 For as the Father hath life in himself, even so gave he to the Son also to have life in himself1:
- For as the Father hath life in himself, even so gave he to the Son also to have life in himself. Not only an independent life, such as
man does not possess (Acts 2:27,28), but a life which is a source of
life to others. This regenerating power completed Jesus' official
status as judge, so that wherever he awarded life, he could at the same
time bestow it.
5:27 and he gave him authority to execute judgment, because he is a son of man1.
- And he gave him authority to execute judgment, because he is a son of man. We can see several reasons, humanly speaking, why the humanity
of Jesus should be made a ground for committing the judgment of the
races of men to him: (1) Jesus having experienced our infirmities and
temptations, we can feel sure of his sympathy (Hebrews 4:15,16). (2)
Jesus, partaking of the nature of both God and man, is, because of his
unique nature, the only fit daysman or umpire between them (Job 9:33).
Possibly we may regard it as a reward of humility (Philippians 2:8,9).
5:28 Marvel not at this1: for the hour cometh, in which all that are in the tombs shall hear his voice,
- Marvel not at this. Jesus seems to here answer the surprised expression of their faces by enlarging his statements.
5:29 and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment.
- And shall come forth . . . unto the resurrection of life; and . . . unto the resurrection of judgment. We have here the future, literal, and
final resurrection (Daniel 12:2); a scene of such stupendous grandeur
as to overshadow all the marvelous in all that Christ shall have
5:30 I can of myself do nothing1: as I hear, I judge2: and my judgment is righteous; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of him that sent me3.
- I can of myself do nothing. Jesus here reasserts his dependence upon the Father, not as a bare repetition of his relationship to the
Father, but for the purpose of developing his relationship to men as
based on or growing out of this relationship to the Father.
- As I hear, I judge. The Jews, as they listened to him, were conscious that he was even then judging and passing sentence of
condemnation upon them.
- And my judgment is righteous; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. Jesus does not deny the correctness of
this view, but shows that, because of his relationship or dependence
upon the Father, they are getting perfect justice, for: (1) His
judgment was free from all personal bias and selfish retaliation, and
was (2) positively perfect, being wholly inspired by the Father's will.
5:31 If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true1.
- If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. This verse and Jesus passes from discussing himself and the divine and human phases of
his nature and office to take up the evidences which attest him, first
asserting that the truth of what he has said does not rest solely on
his own veracity. There is here an indirect reference to that clause of
the Jewish law which required two witnesses. See John 8:14-18. But the
saying is deeply spiritual.
see John 5:19
5:32 It is another that beareth witness of me1; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true2.
- It is another that beareth witness of me. That is, the Father; for similar reference, see John 8:50-54.
- And I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true. Since Jesus did nothing of himself, his very testimony was not his own, but
was the Father's who sent him, and was therefore absolutely true in the
consciousness of Jesus. If Jesus had testified independently of the
Father--had it been possible--it would have been in the nature of the
case contrary to that consensus of the divine will which forms the
5:33 Ye have sent unto John1, and he hath borne witness unto the truth2.
- Ye have sent unto John. This shows that Jesus was addressing the rulers (John 1:19).
- And he hath borne witness unto the truth. John had witnessed the truth concerning the Messiahship of Jesus. Some think that the pronoun
"another" in John 5:32 refers to John also, but by the present tense
"witnesseth" of that verse, and the past tense "hath borne witness" of
this verse, the ever-abiding testimony of the Father is contrasted with
the finished testimony of John, who is now silenced by imprisonment.
5:34 But the witness which I receive is not from man1: howbeit I say these things, that ye may be saved2.
- But the witness which I receive is not from man. In the light of John 1:6,7, it sounds strange to hear Jesus thus renounce the
testimony of the Baptist. But the phrase, "not from man", is the Hebrew
negative, meaning "not from man alone". Jesus therefore meant to accept
it, as he in the next breath did that of Moses, as prophetic--as the
testimony of the Father spoken through a human medium; but meant to
reject it as a merely human testimony, such as it was in the view of
these Jews who denied in their hearts that John was a prophet. This
mission of Jesus was not to be proved by uninspired testimony, for
uninspired man cannot testify of God from lack of full and adequate
knowledge (Matthew 9:27; Matthew 16:17).
- Howbeit I say these things, that ye may be saved. And yet if the Jews were willing to accept such testimony, Jesus in kindness would
permit it, that by any fair means they might believe and be saved.
5:35 He was the lamp that burneth and shineth; and ye were willing to rejoice for a season in his light1.
- And ye were willing to rejoice for a season in his light. They were willing, like children, to play in John's light without stopping to
seriously consider its meaning, but when he bore testimony to Christ
they blasphemed him (Luke 7:33).
5:36 But the witness which I have is greater than [that of] John1; for the works which the Father hath given me to accomplish2, the very works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me3.
- But the witness which I have is greater than [that of] John. By "greater testimony" Jesus means testimony which is more convincing. All
divine testimony is of equal veracity, but some it is more obviously
convincing. The less the testimony savors of humanity, and the more
purely divine it appears, the more convincing it is (1 John 5:9).
- For the works which the Father hath given me to accomplish. The term "works" is not to be confined to miracles, for the word "finish"
indicates a wider meaning. The entire Messianic mission or redemptive
work which ended with our Lord's words, "It is finished" (John 17:4
(John 5:20), and outlined by referring to spiritual judgment and
regeneration, should be included.
- The very works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me. Christ's transforming grace still witnesses to Jew and
Gentile that the Father sent him, for it it manifests the love of God
(John 3:16). The Father did not send the Son to merely work miracles,
but to redeem the world.
5:37 And the Father that sent me, he hath borne witness of me1. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his form2.
- And the Father that sent me, he hath borne witness of me. The testimony of the Father was given in three forms: (1) By direct or
audible voice and the visible sending of the Spirit--as at Jesus'
baptism. (2) By revelations, through the medium of prophets and angels
gathered and preserved in the Old Testament Scriptures. (3) Through the
Son and his works.
- Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his form. Jesus here asserts that all testimony of the first kind had failed to
reach the Jewish rulers; the testimony of the second kind has been
utterly lost upon them, for they failed to see its accordance with the
testimony of the third kind which he was even then exhibiting to them,
neither had it taught them to expect a personal Savior.
5:39 Ye search the scriptures, because ye think that in them ye have eternal life; and these are they which bear witness of me1;
- Ye search the scriptures, because ye think that in them ye have eternal life; and these are they which bear witness of me. According
to the Talmud,
"Hillel used to say, More law, more life. . . . He who has
gotten himself words of law has gotten himself the life of
the world to come."
In their zeal for the Scriptures the Jews had counted every letter of
them, expecting to find life in the laws and precepts, but failed to
find Him of whom the Scriptures spoke in figure, type, and prophecy. In
their reverence for the Book they failed to see that it was a mere
means intended to acquaint them with him through whom life was to come.
Hence, as Canon Cook suggests, there is deep pathos in the coordination
5:40 and ye will not come to me, that ye may have life1.
- And ye will not come to me, that ye may have life. John 5:39,40 give us three points worthy of deepest reflection: (1) Protestantism
may love the Book and show a martyr's loyalty to it, and yet fail
utterly to render any acceptable love or loyalty toward the Being
revealed in the Book. (2) Criticism, both higher and lower, may submit
every text to microscopic investigation, and yet be as blind as the
ancient Pharisees to its true meaning. It is profoundly true that the
things of the Spirit are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:14), and
that pride of literary culture, and the self-worship of intellectualism
tend to spiritual blindness (Matthew 11:25; Matthew 15:14; Luke 8:10; Ephesians 4:17,18
Isaiah 5:21). It seems to come upon such a visitation from God, as in
the case of Elymas (Acts 13:8-12). (3) Though free will is meant to
be man's crowning glory, yet it may result in his shame and ruin.
5:41 I receive not glory from men1.
- I receive not glory from men. Jesus here shows that his rebuke of their disbelief does not spring from personal pique or disappointed
ambition. He came seeking faith that he might save, not honor that he
might be glorified, and honor paid to him is by him transferred to God
(Philippians 2:10,11), just as honor paid to the true Christian is transferred
5:42 But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in yourselves1.
- But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in yourselves. He speaks as the Searcher of hearts (John 1:47-50; John 2:24,25). Knowing them
absolutely, he found them to be self-worshipers, devoid of that love
Godward which begets belief, and lacking in their natures that which
would enable them to understand him and his spirit, no matter what
evidence was submitted to them.
5:43 I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive1.
- If another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. Some think that this is spoken primarily of a pre-eminently great antichrist
who is yet to come and deceive many of the Jews, and who, as Stier
thinks, shall be such an incarnation of Satan as Jesus was of God
(Revelation 13:1-9). But they have already received many false christs with
joy. According to Schudt, as quoted by Bengel, there have been
sixty-four antichrists who have misled the Jews. Among them Bar Cocheba
led twenty-four thousand to ruin, including Akiba, the President of the
Sanhedrin. False christs come in their own name--for their own honor--
and make no war on bosom sins, but upon earthly enemies; but Jesus came
not to manifest himself, but his Father.
5:44 How can ye believe, who receive glory one of another, and the glory that [cometh] from the only God ye seek not1?
- How can ye believe, who receive glory one of another, and the glory that [cometh] from the only God ye seek not? The question was as to
their believing Jesus to be the Messiah. Expecting one who would bring
great honor to themselves by his triumphs over his foes, and seeing
nothing of this kind to be expected from Jesus, they could not believe
him to be the Messiah.
5:45 Think not that I will accuse you to the Father1: there is one that accuseth you, [even] Moses, on whom ye have set your hope.
- Think not that I will accuse you to the Father. Jesus here assumes that the Jews gave enough credence to his words to fear that he might
hereafter appear as their accuser. But Jesus designs to appear rather
as Advocate than as Prosecutor (1 John 2:1). It was their fault that he
was not their Advocate.
5:46 For if ye believed Moses, ye would believe me1; for he wrote of me2.
- For if ye believed Moses, ye would believe me. In this verse and authenticity of the Pentateuch, and sets forth one purpose for which
Moses wrote it.
- For he wrote of me. Jesus was the essential subject of the law and prophets (Luke 24:27,44-46; Romans 16:25,26). The phrase "wrote concerning
me" is not to be restricted to (Deuteronomy 18:15-18). Moses wrote symbolically
of Jesus through his entire work, as Bengel tersely puts it,
The Epistle to the Hebrews is a partial elaboration of the Christology
of Moses. But there is doubtless a depth of meaning in the Pentateuch
which has never yet been fully fathomed, for there is a fullness of
Scripture greatly exceeding the popular conception. Moreover, the Old
and New Testaments are so linked together that to reject one is
eventually to reject the other, or to read it with veiled eyes
(2 Corinthians 3:15).
5:47 But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words1?
- But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words? The emphasis is on "his writings" and "my words". They professed to
reverence Moses and to receive his writings, while they openly despised
Jesus and repudiated his words as fast as he spoke them.