Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
OCCASIONED BY THE
1. a feast of the Jews--What feast? No question has more divided
the Harmonists of the Gospels, and the duration of our Lord's ministry
may be said to hinge on it. For if, as the majority have thought (until
of late years) it was a Passover, His ministry lasted three and a
half years; if not, probably a year less. Those who are dissatisfied
with the Passover-view all differ among themselves what other feast it
was, and some of the most acute think there are no grounds for deciding.
In our judgment the evidence is in favor of its being a Passover,
but the reasons cannot be stated here.
2, 3. sheep market--The supplement should be (as in Margin)
"sheep [gate]," mentioned in
Ne 3:1, 32.
Bethesda--that is, "house (place) of mercy," from the cures wrought
five porches--for shelter to the patients.
4. an angel, &c.--This miracle differed in two points from all
other miracles recorded in Scripture: (1) It was not one, but a
succession of miracles periodically wrought: (2) As it was only wrought
"when the waters were troubled," so only upon one patient at a time, and
that the patient "who first stepped in after the troubling of the
waters." But this only the more undeniably fixed its miraculous
character. We have heard of many waters having a medicinal virtue; but
what water was ever known to cure instantaneously a single disease?
And who ever heard of any water curing all, even the most diverse
diseases--"blind, halt, withered"--alike? Above all, who ever heard of
such a thing being done "only at a certain season," and most singularly
of all, doing it only to the first person who stepped in after the
moving of the waters? Any of these peculiarities--much more all taken
together--must have proclaimed the supernatural character of the cures
wrought. (If the text here be genuine, there can be no doubt of the
miracle, as there were multitudes living when this Gospel was published
who, from their own knowledge of Jerusalem, could have exposed the
falsehood of the Evangelist, if no such cure had been known there. The
and part of
in some good manuscripts, and the use of some unusual words in the
passage, are more easily accounted for than the evidence in their favor
if they were not originally in the text. Indeed
is unintelligible without
The internal evidence brought against it is merely the
unlikelihood of such a miracle--a principle which will carry us
a great deal farther if we allow it to weigh against positive
5-9. thirty and eight years--but not all that time at the pool. This
was probably the most pitiable of all the cases, and
6. saw him lie, and knew, &c.--As He doubtless visited the spot just
to perform this cure, so He knows where to find His patient, and the
whole previous history of his case
Wilt thou be made whole?--Could anyone doubt that a sick man would
like to be made whole, or that the patients came thither, and this man
had returned again and again, just in hope of a cure? But our Lord asked
the question. (1) To fasten attention upon Himself; (2) By making him
detail his case to deepen in him the feeling of entire helplessness; (3)
By so singular a question to beget in his desponding heart the hope of a
7. Sir, I have no man, &c.--Instead of saying he wished to be
cured, he just tells with piteous simplicity how fruitless had been all
his efforts to obtain it, and how helpless and all but hopeless
he was. Yet not quite. For here he is at the pool, waiting on. It seemed
of no use; nay, only tantalizing,
while I am coming, another steppeth down before me--the fruit was
snatched from his lips. Yet he will not go away. He may get nothing by
staying, he may drop into his grave ere he get into the pool; but by
going from the appointed, divine way of healing, he can get nothing.
Wait therefore he will, wait he does, and when Christ comes to heal him,
lo! he is waiting his turn. What an attitude for a sinner at Mercy's
gate! The man's hopes seemed low enough ere Christ came to him. He
might have said, just before "Jesus passed by that way," "This is no
use; I shall never get in; let me die at home." Then all had been lost.
But he held on, and his perseverance was rewarded with a glorious
cure. Probably some rays of hope darted into his heart as he told his
tale before those Eyes whose glance measured his whole case. But the
word of command consummates his preparation to receive the cure, and
instantaneously works it.
8. Rise, take up thy bed, &c.--"Immediately" he did so. "He spake
and it was done." The slinging of his portable couch over his
shoulders was designed to show the perfection of the cure.
9. the same day was the sabbath--Beyond all doubt this was intentional,
as in so many other healings, in order that when opposition arose on
this account men might be compelled to listen to His claims and His
10-16. The Jews--that is, those in authority. (See on
it is not lawful to carry thy bed--a glorious testimony to the cure,
as instantaneous and complete, from the lips of the most
prejudiced! (And what a contrast does it, as all our Lord's miracles,
present to the bungling miracles of the Church of Rome!) In ordinary circumstances, the rulers had the law on their side
But when the man referred them to "Him that had made him whole"
as his authority, the argument was resistless. Yet they ingeniously
parried the thrust, asking him, not who had "made him whole"--that
would have condemned themselves and defeated their purpose--but who had
bidden him "take up his bed and walk," in other words, who had dared to
order a breach of the sabbath? It is time we were looking after
Him--thus hoping to shake the man's faith in his Healer.
13. he that was healed wist not, &c.--That some one, with unparalleled
generosity, tenderness and power, had done it, the man knew well enough:
but as he had never heard of Him before, so he disappeared too quickly
for any inquiries.
conveyed himself away--slipped out of the crowd that had gathered,
to avoid both hasty popularity and precipitate hatred
14. findeth him in the temple--saying, perhaps, "I will go into Thy
house with burnt offerings, I will pay my vows which my lips have
uttered and my mouth hath spoken when I was in trouble"
(Ps 66:13, 14).
Jesus, there Himself for His own ends, "findeth him there"--not all
accidentally, be assured.
sin no more, &c.--a glimpse this of the reckless life he had probably
led before his thirty-eight years' infirmity had come upon him, and
which not improbably had brought on, in the just judgment of God, his
chronic complaint. Fearful illustration this of "the severity of God,"
but glorious manifestation of our Lord's insight into "what was in man."
15. The man departed, and told, &c.--little thinking how unwelcome
his grateful and eager testimony would be. "The darkness received not
the light which was pouring its rays upon it"
(Joh 1:5, 11)
16. because he had done these things on the sabbath day--What to these
hypocritical religionists was the doing of the most glorious and
beneficent miracles, compared with the atrocity of doing them on the
sabbath day! Having given them this handle, on purpose to raise the
first public controversy with them, and thus open a fitting opportunity
of laying His claims before them, He rises at once to the whole height
of them, in a statement which for grandeur and terseness exceeds almost
anything that ever afterwards fell from Him, at least to His enemies.
17, 18. My Father worketh hitherto and I work--The "I" is emphatic;
"The creative and conservative activity of My Father has known no
sabbath-cessation from the beginning until now,
and that is the law of My working."
18. God was his Father--literally, "His own [or peculiar]
Father," (as in
The addition is their own, but a very proper one.
making himself equal with God--rightly gathering this to be His
meaning, not from the mere words "My Father," but from His claim of
right to act as His Father did in the like high sphere, and by the same
law of ceaseless activity in that sphere. And as, instead of instantly
disclaiming any such meaning--as He must have done if it was false--He
positively sets His seal to it in the following verses, merely
explaining how consistent such claim was with the prerogatives of His
Father, it is beyond all doubt that we have here an assumption of
peculiar personal Sonship, or participation in the Father's
19, 20. the Son can do nothing of himself--that is, apart from
and in rivalry of the Father, as they supposed. The meaning is, "The
Son can have no separate interest or action from the Father."
for what things, &c.--On the contrary, "whatever the Father doeth
that same doeth the Son,"
likewise--"in the like manner." What claim to absolute equality with
the Father could exceed this: not only to do "the same things," but to
do them as the Father does them?
20. Father loveth . . . and showeth him all, &c.--As
love has no concealments, so it results from the perfect fellowship and
mutual endearment of the Father and the Son (see on
whose interests are one, even as their nature, that the Father
communicates to the Son all His counsels, and what has been thus shown
to the Son is by Him executed in His mediatorial character. "With the
Father, doing is willing; it is only the Son who acts
in Time" [ALFORD]. Three things here are
clear: (1) The personal distinctions in the Godhead. (2) Unity
of action among the Persons results from unity of nature.
(3) Their oneness of interest is no unconscious or involuntary thing,
but a thing of glorious consciousness, will, and love, of
which the Persons themselves are the proper Objects.
show him greater things, &c.--referring to what He goes on to mention
comprised in two great words,
beautifully calls God's Regalia. Yet these, Christ says, the
Father and He do in common.
21-23. raiseth the dead and quickeneth them--one act in two stages.
This is His absolute prerogative as God.
so the Son quickeneth them--that is, raiseth up and quickeneth.
whom he will--not only doing the same divine act, but doing it
as the result of His own will, even as the Father does it. This
statement is of immense importance in relation to the miracles of
Christ, distinguishing them from similar miracles of prophets and
apostles, who as human instruments were employed to perform
super-natural actions, while Christ did all as the Father's
commissioned Servant indeed, but
in the exercise of His own absolute right of action.
22. For the Father judgeth no man, &c.--rather, "For neither doth the
Father judge any man," implying that the same "thing was meant in the
former verse of the quickening of the dead"--both acts being done, not
by the Father and the Son, as though twice done, but by the Father
through the Son as His voluntary Agent.
all judgment--judgment in its most comprehensive sense, or as we should
say, all administration.
23. honour the Son as . . . the Father--As he who believes that Christ
in the foregoing verses has given a true account of His relation to the
Father must of necessity hold Him entitled to the same honor as the
Father, so He here adds that it was the Father's express intention in
making over all judgment to the Son, that men should thus honor Him.
honoureth not the Father--does not do it in fact, whatever he may
imagine, and will be held as not doing it by the Father Himself, who
will accept no homage which is not accorded to His own Son.
24. believeth on him that sent me--that is, believeth in Him as
having sent Me. I have spoken of the Son's right not only to heal the
sick but to raise from the dead, and quicken whom He will: And now I
say unto you, That life-giving operation has already passed upon all
who receive My words as the Sent of the Father on the great errand
hath everlasting life--immediately on his believing (compare
1Jo 5:12, 13).
is passed--"hath passed over"
from death unto life--What a transition!
25-29. The hour cometh--in its whole fulness, at Pentecost.
and now is--in its beginnings.
the dead--the spiritually dead, as is clear from
Here He rises from the calmer phrase "hearing his word"
to the grander expression, "hearing the voice of the Son of
God," to signify that as it finds men in a dead condition,
so it carries with it a resurrection-power.
shall live--in the sense of
26. given to the Son, &c.--Does this refer to the essential life of
the Son before all time
(as most of the Fathers, and OLSHAUSEN,
ALFORD, &c., among the moderns), or to the purpose of
God that this essential life should reside in the Person of the
Incarnate Son, and be manifested thus to the world?
LUTHARDT, &c.] The question is as difficult as the
subject is high. But as all that Christ says of His essential relation
to the Father is intended to explain and exalt His mediatorial
functions, so the one seems in our Lord's own mind and language mainly
the starting-point of the other.
27. because he is the Son of man--This seems to confirm the last
remark, that what Christ had properly in view was the indwelling of the
Son's essential life in humanity as the great theater and
medium of divine display, in both the great departments of His
work--life-giving and judgment. The appointment of a Judge in our
own nature is one of the most beautiful arrangements of divine
wisdom in redemption.
28. Marvel not at this--this committal of all judgment to
the Son of man.
for the hour is coming--He adds not in this case (as in
"and now is," because this was not to be till the close of the whole
dispensation of mercy.
29. resurrection of life--that is, to life everlasting
of damnation--It would have been harsh to say "the resurrection
of death," though that is meant, for sinners rise from death to
death [BENGEL]. The resurrection of both
classes is an exercise of sovereign authority; but in the one
case it is an act of grace, in the other of justice.
from which the language is taken). How awfully grand are these
unfoldings of His dignity and authority from the mouth of Christ
Himself! And they are all in the third person; in what follows
He resumes the first person.
30-32. of mine own self do nothing--that is, apart from the
Father, or in any interest than My own. (See on
as I hear--that is, "My judgments are all anticipated in the bosom
of My Father, to which I have immediate access, and by Me only
responded to and reflected. They cannot therefore err, as I live
for one end only, to carry into effect the will of Him that sent Me."
31. If I . . . witness of myself--standing alone, and setting up any
32. There is another--that is, the Father, as is plain from the
connection. How brightly the distinction of the Persons shines out
and I know that the witness, &c.--"This is the Son's testimony to
the Father's truth (see
Joh 7:28; 8:26, 55).
It testifies to the full consciousness on the part of the Son, even in
the days of His humiliation, of the righteousness of the Father"
[ALFORD]. And thus He cheered His spirit under the
cloud of human opposition which was already gathering over His
33-35. Ye sent unto John--(See
receive not testimony . . . from man--that is, depend not on human
but . . . that ye might be saved--"I refer to him merely to aid your
35. He was a burning and a shining light--literally, "the
burning and shining lamp" (or torch):--that is, "the great light of his
day." Christ is never called by the humble word here applied to John--a
light-bearer--studiously used to distinguish him from his
Master, but ever the Light in the most absolute sense. (See on
willing for a season--that is, till they saw that it pointed whither
they were not prepared to go.
to rejoice in his light--There is a play of irony here, referring to
the hollow delight with which his testimony tickled them.
36-38. I have greater witness--rather, "The witness which I have is
the works . . . bear witness of me--not simply as miracles nor even
as a miracle of mercy, but these miracles, as He did them, with
a will and a power, a majesty and a grace manifestly
37. the Father himself . . . hath borne witness of me--not referring,
probably, to the voice of His baptism, but (as seems from what follows)
to the testimony of the Old Testament Scripture [CALVIN,
neither heard his voice, &c.--never recognized Him in this character.
The words are "designedly mysterious, like many others which our Lord
38. not his word abiding in you--passing now from the
Witness to the testimony borne by Him in "the lively
both were alike strangers to their breasts, as was evidenced by their
rejecting Him to whom all that witness was borne.
39-42. Search the scriptures, &c.--"In the Scriptures ye find your
charter of eternal life; go search them then, and you will find that I
am the Great Burden of their testimony; yet ye will not come to Me for
that life eternal which you profess to find there, and of which they
tell you I am the appointed Dispenser." (Compare
Ac 17:11, 12).
How touching and gracious are these last words! Observe here (1) The
honor which Christ gives to the Scriptures, as a record which all
have a right and are bound to search--the reverse of
which the Church of Rome teaches; (2) The opposite extreme is, resting
in the mere Book without the living Christ, to direct the
soul to whom is its main use and chiefest glory.
41. I receive not honour from men--contrasting His own end with theirs,
which was to obtain human applause.
42. not the love of God in you--which would inspire you with a single
desire to know His mind and will, and yield yourselves to it, in spite
of prejudice and regardless of consequences.
43-47. if another shall come, &c.--How strikingly has this been
verified in the history of the Jews! "From the time of the true Christ
to our time, sixty-four false Christs have been reckoned by whom they
have been deceived" [BENGEL].
44. How can ye believe, &c.--(See on
The "will not" of
and "cannot" here are just different features of the same awful
state of the human heart.
45. Do not think I will accuse you to the Father--"My errand hither
is not to collect evidence to condemn you at God's bar."
one that accuseth you, even Moses, &c.--"Alas! that will be
too well done by another, and him the object of all your religious
boastings--Moses," here put for "the Law," the basis of the Old
46. he wrote of me--"an important testimony to the subject of the
whole Pentateuch--'of Me'" [ALFORD].
47. If ye believe not--(See
his writings . . . my words--a remarkable contrast, not
absolutely exalting Old Testament Scripture above His own words,
but pointing to
the office of those venerable documents to prepare Christ's way, to
the necessity universally felt for documentary testimony in revealed
religion, and perhaps (as STIER adds) to the relation which the
comparative "letter" of the Old Testament holds to the more flowing
"words" of "spirit and life" which characterize the New Testament.