Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
CHRIST AT THE
1, 2. After these things--that is, all that is recorded after
walked in Galilee--continuing His labors there, instead of going to
Judea, as might have been expected.
sought to kill him--referring back to
Hence it appears that our Lord did not attend the Passover mentioned
--being the third since His ministry began, if the feast
was a Passover.
2. feast of tabernacles . . . at hand--This was the
last of the three annual festivals, celebrated on the fifteenth of the
seventh month (September). (See
&c.; De 16:13,
&c.; Ne 8:14-18).
3-5. His brethren said--(See on
Depart . . . into Judea, &c.--In
this speech is ascribed to their unbelief. But as they were in
the "upper room" among the one hundred and twenty disciples who waited
for the descent of the Spirit after the Lord's ascension
they seem to have had their prejudices removed, perhaps after His
resurrection. Indeed here their language is more that of strong
prejudice and suspicion (such as near relatives, even the best, too
frequently show in such cases), than from unbelief. There was also,
probably, a tincture of vanity in it. "Thou hast many disciples
in Judea; here in Galilee they are fast dropping off; it is not like
one who advances the claims Thou dost to linger so long here, away from
the city of our solemnities, where surely 'the kingdom of our father
David' is to be set up: 'seeking,' as Thou dost, 'to be known openly,'
those miracles of Thine ought not to be confined to this distant
corner, but submitted at headquarters to the inspection of 'the
"I am become a stranger to my brethren, an alien unto my
6-10. My time is not yet come--that is, for showing Himself to the
your time is always ready--that is "It matters little when we go up,
for ye have no great plans in life, and nothing hangs upon your
movements. With Me it is otherwise; on every movement of Mine there
hangs what ye know not. The world has no quarrel with you, for ye bear
no testimony against it, and so draw down upon yourselves none of its
wrath; but I am here to lift up My voice against its hypocrisy, and
denounce its abominations; therefore it cannot endure Me, and one false
step might precipitate its fury on its Victim's head before the time.
Away, therefore, to the feast as soon as it suits you; I follow at the
fitting moment, but 'My time is not yet full come.'"
10. then went he . . . not openly--not "in the
(caravan) company" [MEYER]. See on
as it were in secret--rather, "in a manner secretly"; perhaps by
some other route, and in a way not to attract notice.
11-13. Jews--the rulers.
sought him--for no good end.
Where is He?--He had not been at Jerusalem for probably
a year and a half.
12. much murmuring--buzzing.
among the people--the multitudes; the natural expression of a Jewish
writer, indicating without design the crowded state of Jerusalem at this
festival [WEBSTER and
a good man . . . Nay . . . deceiveth the people--the two opposite views
of His claims, that they were honest, and that they were an
13. none spake openly of him--that is, in His favor, "for fear of the
14, 15. about the midst of the feast--the fourth or fifth day of the
eight, during which it lasted.
went up into the temple and taught--The word denotes formal and
continuous teaching, as distinguished from mere casual sayings.
This was probably the first time that He did so thus openly in
Jerusalem. He had kept back till the feast was half through, to let the
stir about Him subside, and entering the city unexpectedly, had begun
His "teaching" at the temple, and created a certain awe, before the
wrath of the rulers had time to break it.
15. How knoweth . . . letters--learning
having never learned--at any rabbinical school, as Paul under Gamaliel.
These rulers knew well enough that He had not studied under any
human teacher--an important admission against ancient and modern
attempts to trace our Lord's wisdom to human sources [MEYER]. Probably
His teaching on this occasion was expository, manifesting that
unrivalled faculty and depth which in the Sermon on the Mount had
excited the astonishment of all.
16-18. doctrine . . . not mine, &c.--that is, from Myself
unauthorized; I am here by commission.
17. If any man will do his will, &c.--"is willing," or "wishes to
whether . . . of God, or . . . of myself--from above or from beneath;
is divine or an imposture of Mine. A principle of immense importance,
showing, on the one hand, that
singleness of desire to please God is the grand inlet to light on all
questions vitally affecting one's eternal interests, and on the other,
that the want of his, whether perceived or not,
is the chief cause of infidelity amidst the light of revealed religion.
18. seeketh his own glory--(See on
19, 20. Did not Moses, &c.--that is, In opposing Me ye pretend zeal
for Moses, but to the spirit and end of that law which he gave ye are
total strangers, and in "going about to kill Me" ye are its greatest
20. The people answered, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill
thee?--This was said by the multitude, who as yet had no bad
feeling to Jesus, and were not in the secret of the plot hatching, as
our Lord knew, against Him.
21-24. I have done one work, &c.--Taking no notice of the popular
appeal, as there were those there who knew well enough what He meant, He
recalls His cure of the impotent man, and the murderous rage it had
(Joh 5:9, 16, 18).
It may seem strange that He should refer to an event a year and a half
old, as if but newly done. But their present attempt "to kill Him"
brought up the past scene vividly, not only to Him, but without doubt
to them, too, if indeed they had ever forgotten it; and by this
fearless reference to it, exposing their hypocrisy and dark designs, He
gave His position great moral strength.
22. Moses . . . gave unto you circumcision, &c.--Though servile work
was forbidden on the sabbath, the circumcision of males on that day
(which certainly was a servile work) was counted no infringement of the
Law. How much less ought fault to be found with One who had made a man
"every whit whole"--or rather, "a man's entire body whole"--on the
sabbath-day? What a testimony to the reality of the miracle, none daring
to meet the bold appeal.
24. Judge not, &c.--that is, Rise above the letter into the
spirit of the law.
25-27. some of them of Jerusalem--the citizens, who, knowing the
long-formed purpose of the rulers to put Jesus to death, wondered that
they were now letting Him teach openly.
26. Do the rulers know, &c.--Have they got some new light in favor
of His claims?
27. Howbeit we know this man, &c.--This seems to refer to some
current opinion that Messiah's origin would be mysterious (not
altogether wrong), from which they concluded that Jesus could not be
He, since they knew all about His family at Nazareth.
28, 29. cried Jesus--in a louder tone, and more solemn, witnessing
style than usual.
Ye both, &c.--that is, "Yes, ye know both Myself and My local
parentage, and (yet) I am not come of Myself."
but he that sent me is true, &c.--Probably the meaning is, "He that
sent Me is the only real Sender of any one."
30-32. sought to take . . . none laid hands--their impotence being
equal to their malignity.
31. When Christ cometh, will he, &c.--that is, If this be not the
Christ, what can the Christ do, when He does come, which has not been
anticipated and eclipsed by this man? This was evidently the language of
friendly persons, overborne by their spiteful superiors, but unable to
keep quite silent.
32. heard that the people murmured--that mutterings to this effect
were going about, and thought it high time to stop Him if He was not to
be allowed to carry away the people.
33, 34. Yet a little while, &c.--that is, "Your desire to be rid of
Me will be for you all too soon fulfilled. Yet a little while and we
part company--for ever; for I go whither ye cannot come: nor, even when
ye at length seek Him whom ye now despise, shall ye be able to find
Him"--referring not to any penitential, but to purely selfish cries in
their time of desperation.
35, 36. Whither will he go, &c.--They cannot comprehend Him, but
seem awed by the solemn grandeur of His warning. He takes no notice,
however, of their questions.
37-39. the last day, that great day of the feast--the eighth
It was a sabbath, the last feast day of the year, and distinguished by
very remarkable ceremonies. "The generally joyous character of this
feast broke out on this day into loud jubilation, particularly at the
solemn moment when the priest, as was done on every day of this
festival, brought forth, in golden vessels, water from the stream of
Siloah, which flowed under the temple-mountain, and solemnly poured it
upon the altar. Then the words of
were sung, With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of
Salvation, and thus the symbolical reference of this act, intimated
was expressed" [OLSHAUSEN]. So ecstatic was the
joy with which this ceremony was performed--accompanied with sound of
trumpets--that it used to be said, "Whoever had not witnessed it had
never seen rejoicing at all" [LIGHTFOOT].
Jesus stood--On this high occasion, then, He who had already drawn all
eyes upon Him by His supernatural power and unrivalled teaching--"JESUS
stood," probably in some elevated position.
and cried--as if making proclamation in the audience of all the
If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink!--What an offer!
The deepest cravings of the human spirit are here, as in the Old
Testament, expressed by the figure of "thirst," and the eternal
satisfaction of them by "drinking." To the woman of Samaria He had
said almost the same thing, and in the same terms
(Joh 4:13, 14).
But what to her was simply affirmed to her as a fact, is here
turned into a world-wide proclamation; and whereas there, the
gift by Him of the living water is the most prominent idea--in
contrast with her hesitation to give Him the perishable water of
Jacob's well--here, the prominence is given to Himself as the
Well spring of all satisfaction. He had in Galilee invited all the
WEARY AND HEAVY-LADEN of the human family to come
under His wing and they should find REST
which is just the same deep want, and the same profound relief of it,
under another and equally grateful figure. He had in the synagogue of
announced Himself, in every variety of form, as "the BREAD of Life," and as both able and authorized to
appease the "HUNGER," and quench the "THIRST," of all that apply to Him. There is, and there
can be, nothing beyond that here. But what was on all those occasions
uttered in private, or addressed to a provincial audience, is here
sounded forth in the streets of the great religious metropolis, and in
language of surpassing majesty, simplicity, and grace. It is just
Jehovah's ancient proclamation now sounding forth through human
flesh, "HO, EVERY ONE THAT THIRSTETH, COME YE TO THE
WATERS, AND HE THAT HATH NO MONEY!" &c.
In this light we have but two alternatives; either to say with Caiaphas
of Him that uttered such words, "He is guilty of death," or
falling down before Him to exclaim with Thomas, " MY LORD AND MY GOD!"
38. as the scripture hath said--These words belong to what follows,
"Out of his belly, as the scripture hath said, shall flow," &c.
referring not to any particular passage, but to such as
in most of which the idea is that of waters issuing from beneath the
temple, to which our Lord compares Himself and those who believe in
out of his belly--that is, his inner man, his soul, as in
rivers of living water--(See on
It refers primarily to the copiousness, but indirectly also to
the diffusiveness, of this living water to the good of
39. this spake he of the Spirit--who, by His direct personal agency,
opens up this spring of living waters in the human spirit
and by His indwelling in the renewed soul ensures their unfailing
they that believe, &c.--As the Holy Ghost is, in the redemption of
man, entirely at the service of Christ, as His Agent, so it is
only in believing connection with Christ that any one "receives" the
for the Holy Ghost was not yet given--Beyond all doubt the word
"given," or some similar word, is the right supplement. In
the Holy Ghost is represented not only as the gift of Christ,
but a gift the communication of which was dependent upon His own
departure to the Father. Now as Christ was not yet gone, so
the Holy Ghost was not yet given.
Jesus not yet glorified--The word "glorified" is here used
advisedly, to teach the reader not only that the departure of Christ
to the Father was indispensable to the giving of the Spirit, but
that this illustrious Gift, direct from the hands of the ascended
Saviour, was God's intimation to the world that He whom it had cast out,
crucified, and slain, was "His Elect, in whom His soul delighted," and
that it was through the smiting of that Rock that the waters of the
Spirit--for which the Church was waiting, and with pomp at the feast of
tabernacles proclaiming its expectation--had gushed forth upon a thirsty
40-43. Many . . . when they heard this . . . said,
Of a truth,
&c.--The only wonder is they did not all say it. "But their minds were
41. Others said, This is the Christ--(See on
Shall Christ come out of Galilee?
42. scripture said . . . of the seed of David, and out of . . .
Bethlehem, &c.--We accept this spontaneous testimony to our
David-descended, Bethlehem-born Saviour. Had those who gave it made the
inquiry which the case demanded, they would have found that Jesus "came
out of Galilee"
and "out of Bethlehem" both, alike in fulfilment of prophecy as in
point of fact.
(Mt 2:23; 4:13-16).
44-49. would have taken him; but, &c.--(See on
45. Then came the officers--"sent to take him"
Why . . . not brought him?--already thirsting for their Victim, and
thinking it an easy matter to seize and bring Him.
46. Never man spake like this man--Noble testimony of unsophisticated
men! Doubtless they were strangers to the profound intent of Christ's
teaching, but there was that in it which by its mysterious grandeur and
transparent purity and grace, held them spellbound. No doubt it was of
God that they should so feel, that their arm might be paralyzed, as
Christ's hour was not yet come; but even in human teaching there has
sometimes been felt such a divine power, that men who came to kill them
(for example, ROWLAND
HISS) have confessed to all that they were
47. ye also deceived--In their own servants this seemed intolerable.
48. any of the rulers or . . . Pharisees
believed--"Many of them" did, including Nicodemus and Joseph, but
not one of these had openly "confessed Him"
and this appeal must have stung such of them as heard it to the
49. But this people--literally, "multitude," meaning the
ignorant rabble. (Pity these important distinctions, so marked
in the original of this Gospel, should not be also in our version.)
knoweth not the law--that is, by school learning, which only subverted
it by human traditions.
are cursed--a cursed set (a kind of swearing at them, out of mingled
rage and scorn).
50-53. Nicodemus--reappearing to us after nearly three years' absence
from the history, as a member of the council, probably then sitting.
51. Doth our law, &c.--a very proper, but all too tame rejoinder,
and evidently more from pressure of conscience than any design to
pronounce positively in the case. "The feebleness of his defense of
Jesus has a strong contrast in the fierceness of the rejoinders of the
Pharisees" [WEBSTER and
52. thou of Galilee--in this taunt expressing their scorn of the
party. Even a word of caution, or the gentlest proposal to inquire
before condemning, was with them equivalent to an espousal of the hated
Search . . . out of Galilee . . . no prophet--Strange! For had not
Jonah (of Gath-hepher) and even Elijah (of Thisbe) arisen out of
Galilee? And there it may be more, of whom we have no record. But rage
is blind, and deep prejudice distorts all facts. Yet it looks as if they
were afraid of losing Nicodemus, when they take the trouble to reason
the point at all. It was just because he had "searched," as they
advised him, that he went the length even that he did.
53. every man went unto his own home--finding their plot
could not at that time be carried into effect. Is your rage thus
impotent, ye chief priests?