J. N. Darby.
(Notes and Comments Vol. 6.)
In the close of the former chapter the law had been bandied about in a vague and desultory way as the occasion of pride or the means of (perhaps just) excuse. But here it is taken up in its full moral character, and Christ proposed in lieu thereof, yet not as disannulling but indeed confirming it, and that as the Light, so that, etc., and so as declaring the truth and exhibiting the Father, and the effects of receiving Him. So this was a most important development as regards the Jews, and shows to what a length the progressive contrast of His light and their darkness had gone; for in proportion as Christ reveals truth to us so does the light of Him, and consequently the darkness that opposed Him, and its character as discovered and brought to light by that light, come forth into distinctness of relief; that is, Himself as the Truth, and it must be also the only chance, to speak after the manner of men.
After the rejection of one truth is the bringing out some further light of truth; but when the eyes are indeed closed this only shows more clearly the deadly and now hopeless state of the alienation and evil. None but must remark how much more brought into opposition, how much more distinctly denunciatory, how progressively characteristic of light and darkness, and their full characters, the conversation of our Lord; because, as here brought before us, our Lord begins with the silent and unobtrusive but fully gracious character of His mission; and here, with continual developments of opposition, He comes to speak of them in the full terms of denouncement which the character of that opposition called for in faithfulness, the solemn and awful denouncement of the Lord of glory: "Ye are of your father the devil." The full development of the character in which our Lord stood is equally clear, and progressively, of course, inapprehensible by them on the feasts; that of our Lord which answered in His glory or humiliation, the spiritual sustenance of communion, or the outflowing operations of the Holy Spirit, which were meanwhile and until (even in His absence) the return of the Lord, and in view of the present continuance of His bodily presence, or the Jews' reception of Him therein; and by the circumstances more especially, and the part of the position in which He stood as regarded the law, on the question of life-giving (as before), and so of judgment, and is inapplicable to those already sick through sin. Here the law is brought forward in a fuller light as standing far above that (practically that) in which they made their boast, but in and by which, spiritually and morally looked at, they could not stand a moment.
109 The opening is simply affecting: "Every man went to his own house"; none of them wanted one; "but Jesus," for in glory even now, as He was in conduct, above them, "went to the Mount of Olives."
In the morning the houseless Saviour resumed the place of real if not human glory, that which He should make to Himself for a house in due time. And all the people came, and He sat down, as He was entitled and wont, and taught them. Again we have the scribes and Pharisees brought before us; not, observe however, merely the Jews, but those who in claim and office sat in Moses' seat. This, unable as they were to fulfil it themselves, they sought to turn against the Lord. It appears to me also that this chapter is supplementary to the former. As that gave the rivers of living water, which were till the glory, abounding over the law (compare 2 Corinthians 3) so this the light of the knowledge of the glory of the Lord in the face of Jesus Christ, as transcending the law, and passing by judgment, not requiring a veil lest we perish, while yet it revealed the glory all the more perfectly and blessedly. Compare still 2 Corinthians 3 and the following chapter, and the fifth previous, and this (the two characters of the law and contrastedly of Christ) with them.
These scribes and Pharisees brought forward a woman taken in adultery (sin abhorred by God and man); a very flagrant case, but one [with] the spirit of which we have seen elsewhere these Pharisees to have been deeply infected. They propose the law which Moses had commanded them, still in the very expression showing no hatred of the crime or sin nor love of the sinner; but, while proud of the law to them, using it merely to bring Jesus into collision with it, and so annul His own character, or else doubtless collision with the authorities (it was not lawful to put any man to death), and probably the benignity of His own character; while Satan doubtless meant to bring the law and mercy into collision, and make the Lord upset the essence of His mission, or else defeat His pretensions with the Jews by upsetting their law.
The object of the men was manifest: Moses commanded, but what sayest Thou? (while it seemed to set Him up on high). True, says our Lord, I will give the law its full way. Let any of you that has not broken it act upon it. He individualises them, and subjects them to it, allowing no haughty common taking up of its principles. There was in this a scornful rejection of their known wickedness, but, observe, a passing by even of the law as against them, no accusation of them, but a leaving them, as the madness of self-righteousness ever will, fully to commit themselves; that is, as insisting on the law He would have let it pass; He would not carry the law into effect as against them, nor did not. He fulfilled, but did not condemn by, the law, blessed be His name! But the law leaves men silent and confounded. Let him that is without sin bring it against his neighbour. Yet so would not Jesus. He loved His neighbour with the perfect love of the errand on which He came.
110 Whenever the calmness of the divine presence leaves, or rather gives, place to conscience there is necessarily and universally the full self-condemnation, not necessarily in righteousness approving it, but in necessity of reflex of the law let in. Accordingly, individually they went out one by one, instead of any first casting the stone. It was, "beginning at the eldest." Shame covered them; therefore went out the eldest first, thinking to be hid, because the more the accusation of self-righteousness the more the utter shame of the opened heart, the hard veil of pride being taken off; and this the Lord's presence will soon do. They would have applied the law, but they could not for a moment stand the light of God let in upon their consciences; for it was not merely this sin: it was "he that is without sin." No sin is allowed or can stand in that light. It is not merely the law good and just, though it be, but light is come into the world, and all that is reproved is made manifest by the light, for, etc. Our Lord, therefore, while He leaves the law (if they can use it) standing; that is, as a ground of condemnation, does not bring it against them. Neither shall they be condemned (though condemnable) for breaking the law (they had before forfeited the land thus, as originally by disobedience); for, "If I had not come" among them, "they had not had sin"; yea, "If I had not done among them," etc. (chap. 15:22, 24.).
Nothing can be more marked, thus accurate or definite, than the position in which Christ is here towards the law and those taking it up. He sets it aside, not by disannulling it, but by disabling all from taking it up as against any; that is, by conviction, while yet He does not condemn them, nor can they condemn others. Jesus is left alone with the woman. Then He lifts up Himself. Hitherto He had turned His face, or spoken only to leave them more effectually to themselves. Now He lifts up Himself, and when He sees Himself at liberty from them He addresses the woman, asking where were her accusers. He could not be blamed for acting as they had done, but He might have condemned her; for He was "without sin"; and if He had judged His judgment was just. But He did not come for that errand, but that indeed by "no condemnation" men might sin no more.
111 Thus He dismisses her therefore, but oh! with how much more value from Him, who might have condemned her were He so minded or so come! It was non-condemnation from Him from whom condemnation could come, who alone had the title to condemn.
- 12. Our Lord proceeds to expound the great principles as regarded Himself. He declares Himself the Light of the world, and this now connected still with His testimony as from the Father. We have seen elsewhere the force of the life being the light, Jesus being in life the embodier of the full character of the glory (as of the Only Begotten) of the Father, in the circumstances in which it was to be exhibited as Man. It was the perfect idea of God in Man. He that followeth Him, then, shall not walk in darkness. The light will be there before him. All else are in darkness, no matter what they are following. But these shall "walk," have their conversation, "in the light." Observe, it is following, for it regards practice and conversation; but it is the light of life, the living exemplification in the power of life (the will to walk in it marked in the following) in all the practice in which life is exhibited. But the point here is that he has the light of life. We have said that it is in contrast with the law. Now, we have seen that this is positive. If the law shone it was death. But indeed man could not bear it, and the Lord simply, as we have seen, showing Himself abstractedly, would leave us silent and hiding ourselves as sinners. But He is something real and positive in Himself, the light of life; but it involves the life in one to walk in the light of this life; therefore "he that followeth," etc.
This then is the great thesis; one cannot say substitutory of the law, for then it would seem to be confined to those to whom the law was confined, and as limited, but it is full and perfect (the law made nothing perfect); it is simply but altogether the light of the world. Then comes the fact, "He that followeth me shall not," etc. (we have the individual as blessed in it), "but shall have the light of life"; not of law, but of life, for he hath also life to enjoy it. The law was to some, and imperfect; Christ was to all, that is, the world, and perfect. He presented Himself in this character (compare chapter I), and that also; for this is a very broad principle ([see] chapter I of the first epistle of John); but this of the light He speaks now, even while in the world; for He was the light. Hence we have what is walking "in the light," and "as he is in the light"; in which none in themselves can stand; but also now, "if we confess," etc.
112 But this truth is very blessed, for it is indeed the full outshining of God the Father's essence and character into man in Jesus, nothing wanting; and of this we are made inherently possessors, that we might have communion with Him, even the Father, as in His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
This is the thesis. The manner of it is opened, and in this much of its real character. "Thou bearest witness of thyself; thy witness is not true" (v. 13). This regarded Jesus as a Man merely giving Himself a name or character in which He could not have been what He pretended to be. The assumption would have been the denial of it. Our Lord then shows that the very character of His testimony gave credence to the thing which He stated He was. He came to bear witness to the truth. In this He was the light, for His being sent was essential to the light, for it was of and from the Father; yet so as that He was the competent witness, and that Himself (though the Father also bore witness to Him by works and Himself). But though He bore witness of Himself His witness was true, for He knew. And here we have the mystical union of our Lord. Speaking of Himself from knowledge which He had, though through His intelligence as Man, yet flowed from His union and Person; altogether a higher source; and in which therefore He could speak abstractly about Himself: "I know whence I came." He who came down from heaven, "even the Son of Man which is in heaven," He knew whence He came, even from heaven. He came down and He, Jesus, would go (for He who came down was now Jesus) to heaven; yea, indeed, far above all heavens. Here it is the great secret of all. "But ye do not know." They saw Jesus merely as any other man. They judged merely as natural men, and what the flesh could perceive, and that as to everything; but He (who might), bringing out the truth exhibited in the circumstances, judged no man.
113 We may observe here that our Lord does not rest here on His divine authority or nature, but on His witness; because He was able, from His association with God, even the Father, whence He came, even from the Father, and whither He went, even to Him. He spoke as a faithful witness, a witness of the truth, and the Truth. He knew, and they did not know; yet they judged, and He did not. But that was love, and because He came as a witness, a Saviour, not a judge. Yet, if He had judged, His judgment was true. Not (observe again) simply because He was God; that is not what is brought forward here; but because He, the Son, Jesus, was not alone; but nevertheless that He had capability to judge: "I and the Father that sent me."
This then is the great secret of this matter: He could say, "I." But He was now honouring the Father as a Man; and He saith, "I and the Father that sent me." But that also testified His unity with the Father. It was testimony from the Father, which was now the glory of His name Jesus, and He therefore bore witness to the Father, His bounden duty and service as sent, and as Man; for He was "the brightness" (compare chap. 17:4, 5). All this will be vindicated, His Sonship, His own glory and the Father's, when He does judge, and this He might have done now; for, though in the weakness of the flesh, He knew, He was quite conscious, whence He came, and whither He went. But this humiliation was most glorious, that in which His saints see the full beams of the Sun of righteousness and glory of God, and the brighter because they shone and shine through the veil which did not, though it did, hide them; to them the veil of love. The glory of that Sun of righteousness was seen most sweetly when it was thus veiled and hidden. It could not have, nor has had, such reality as it had there; for with the very essence of humiliation it was the very embodying of the love and holiness and the bright and full glory of God. "It pleased that in him should all fulness dwell."
In the deep consciousness of the competency of His testimony (of which the knowledge of His Person gave in faith the warrant, yet which was true from Him as Man, yet had not of course been had He not been what He testified), He rests it on their law, appealing to that on which they rested, though paramount to it; that is, in testimony. There was the testimony of the Father to Him, but there was the independent (or it would have been useless), yet not distinct, of Himself. Here we have Him wonderfully equalised in competency of testimony with the Father, yet not wonderful to those who know Him; nor am I sure but that "men" might convey meaning. We have then the testimony by the union and His knowledge, we have it also in competency of testimony about Himself. The knowledge implied consciousness of this as the Christ, the Sent One. This gives independent though joint testimony, and His testimony must be true if so be that He were what He testified. Nor could He give testimony of what He was save being what He was, so as that the being it and the testimony are essentially and inseparably knit up together. He not only spoke and told them the truth, but He was the Truth, the reality of the things that He testified of. Nor was this less than that He was one with the Father, and came from Him. Hence, though the testimony was full and the responsibility complete, His testimony could be received only by revelation. "He that hath received his testimony, hath set to his seal that God is true." And, "Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in heaven." But this, while it was the truth, was the subject of the testimony that Jesus was the Son of God. They at once believed Him and what He was, and Him because He was that; and yet that by His testimony, as also the Father's by Him. Hence the Lord says (for the knowledge of the Person is the truth of the testimony), "Ye neither know me nor my Father." Yet though this were the substance yet was it by testimony, and so the Spirit brought in. It is the Word made flesh, and glorified, and now speaking by the Spirit, that is to be believed. Also, "If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also." For this also is essential in the truth that He was the revelation of the Father. But He, and He alone, is the point in which He must be met. If they had known Him (this was the point of trial and faith), they should have seen all through to the Father; they would have known the Father at once. The full glory of the Godhead within itself, manifested to us, unveiled, revealed, and we brought into perception of it and communion also with it in office. Wonderful thought, vast and boundless and divine! My weary spirit finds its rest and strength and health and itself; by exceeding great and precious promises made partakers of the divine nature.
115 But our Lord revealing or stating and showing what He was, the world must needs kill Him. He was conscious of it. It was merely His hour was not yet come. Such was the enmity of man's mind against God. But the real history of this before God our Lord opens out, with the result as regards them, the resulting climax of what He was, and of their not receiving Him so in the time of His humiliation. "I go my way, and ye shall seek me"; that is, Messiah, the Son of God, "and shall die in your sins," for ye would not, and did not, see and receive Me, who was the Messiah, the very true Son of God; your state of sin characterised in your unbelief in Me and non-subjection, which consisted in not seeing the true God in Him, though He was manifested in the flesh, nor knowing Him, nor therefore His Father. "Where I go, there ye cannot come."
Our Lord does not mention His death, because He was speaking of Himself in His office, though introduced collaterally as that which took place in His Manhood, wherein also He so went, for it is the shining of His Person through all these circumstances which is now in hand, and discussed upon. The Jews felt here that the Lord had got out of the reach of their thoughts, but exhibited plainly at the same time that they were entirely confined to the present scene, and that they saw and could see nothing in Him beyond the Man that was before them. But our Lord could as to them. He opens another and a darker view; for they, while they sought to kill, were so overpassed by our Lord's statements as to reason upon their accomplishment by His killing Himself. There is a full opening out of the contrasted light and darkness in Himself and them: "Ye are from beneath; I am from above." "Ye are of this world" (it is the same thing); "I am not of this world." This was a very distinct assertion. It was of Himself, not His mission merely, but of Himself; it related to His Person; it was the point in question: "I am not of this world." Their thoughts therefore were distanced. He unfolds it: "Ye are from beneath; I am from above." The exhibition of this character was that in the presence and exhibition of Him who was from above they remained of this world; it was this non-perception of the light which left them in this hopeless state. "Therefore said I, that ye shall die in your sins," the non-perception of who He was, the non-reception of Him where He was. He would leave them in the accumulated sins of their unregenerate state. Had they believed, all would have been left where their unregenerate nature was left, gone.
116 The reality, truth, of our Lord's Person, the great point brought out in this chapter, and connected with the sureness and weight of His testimony, is brought out with great power and perspicuity in this expression of our Lord's: "that I am," that it is I; the consciousness of the essentiality of His Person, in which He gave witness not perceived by them, but adequately witnessed in and of and by Him; above all, in Him; but on the perception of which hung eternal life, and was eternal life; and not to perceive its blindness and sin, the sin of blindness. The Jews therefore ask, "Who art thou?" They announce their non-perception of this. Our Lord identifies it with His testimony: I am what I have spoken of; I do declare it; I speak it; My speech is it; that is, It is it speaketh; that is, I speak it to you; I speak from the beginning and am from the beginning the same thing; I am that original of truth which also I declare to you, and have at all times; the same that I have spoken to you from the beginning; I have just declared the same thing.
But you will observe it is the present tense, it is the identity of His Person in testimony He (the Lord) still speaketh of: I do speak forth My Person from the beginning, in its original essentiality of Person, effectuating the counsel which was the primary and constant end of the Trinity: "For it pleased that in him should all fulness dwell"; and here He was, and so speaking; therefore He had title to speak and to judge, for He now speaks from His Person, which entitled Him so to speak.
They were striving to judge because they could not discern Him. But He had many things to speak and to judge. But indeed, though He was this, He had now another office, testimony, and He must have Himself (and willingly in service to His Father in that work of love), not judging, but to be judged by the world outwardly. But He had not to speak of Himself, or bear witness indeed; be it that He spake not truth (that is, in character); but He that sent Him was true. This He must do, and what things He had heard of Him He spake to the world. He must leave them to exercise their own judgment. They might exercise it, but He had a commission to the world. This also He spake in the consciousness of His Person. He spake (as we have seen, in this character, and all through this gospel) in a wider scope (though being so sent in dispensation to them), to the world. He spake, as we have seen, in the consciousness of His Person (which we have seen also the point of this gospel) from Him that sent Him. This vagueness, so to speak (for it is most precise), is purposed. It was not from the Father to the world, for He could not speak as from the world's Father; but He was the Son, and He spoke from Him that sent Him; and He knew Him as the Father; so it is said, "God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world." But He spake not merely from God; He was God, but He spake from Him who was the Father; and believers can so speak fully, for they know it, because they know the Son, whereby they know the Father; also they use full pangeesia, compare 1 John 4:14.
117 They knew not (therefore they "crucified the Lord of glory") that He spoke to them of the Father. John knew, and so spake, therefore interpreting it by the Spirit to us. The Sonship, the Person, and the office as such (that is, as Son), that is, to the world (compare Isaiah 49:5) are here all brought out in their connection (in mystery) very fully and plainly, with the understanding to the believer of that of which they (the Jews) to whom He was sent were ignorant, that it was the Father. But the point of testimony, the office of the Son so sent (we speak not of His death), is brought out in connection with His Person, which gave it its validity, which therefore became the point of perception, which they did not see, and which revealed of necessity also the Father. The manner in which this would be (the strange manner) opened out; the Lord now there, on their ignorance, to declare. But He begins with the first point, "that I am." The manner in which this would be shown was lifting up the Son of Man. Here we have the distinctness of the position in which He stood and was, and stood amongst them, but in the nature; that is, generically, the Son of Man. In this He was abstractly liable, and submitted, to their power. But when they (the Jews) had lifted up the Son of Man (this should be their office in it, the end doubly of their blindness, that is, in principle) they should know (this is a very deep and wondrous point, the development of His Person in His death) His Person, and that it was He. And nevertheless also nothing was done from Himself (if it had as Man before them they might have called it in question), it would not have been the witness of the "I am," He the Son so there. For the difference of the personality in the two natures is wonderfully, speaking after the manner of men, elaborately (for it is simple and clear in the Spirit) marked and brought before us in this chapter.
118 While as Son He had all title, yet all His title with man was His doing nothing from Himself, and in testimony to them speaking nothing but what the Father taught Him, nothing. But this was marvellous (to us), yet most true in Him. Oh, how silent should we be if we so spake! Yet He did it because He was Son, for otherwise He could not have revealed the Father, nay, nor spoken from Him.
How does this wonderful chapter, while in the perfect simplicity which it has in God, but incomprehensible in itself to man, yet while it tells all the truth, leaving it impossible to see it altogether in one view, because none could know it but One, yet meet, by the very necessity of the case, so that all the truth of it being in what might seem to man contradiction, meet every difficulty and every attempt of man to go beyond the truth, falling into the heresy of his own thoughts! For the point of His doing nothing alone, or from Himself, is the point that proves our Lord's Sonship, thus hanging His glory on His apparent humiliation. Had He done it from Himself it would have been merely a judgable man, or there could have been no Father. So surely does the truth, when known, prove itself, as it is incomprehensible to them that know it not.
We have the Son of Man, the Son sent of the Father, the "from myself," speaking in personality, yet having its truth in His Manhood, yet including also "taught me," again in Person, but also speaking in His Manhood, and "who sent me," again His Person, yet as Son. But we do but weaken it in attempting to evolve it, clearly expressed in the text and that in its relationship; that is, towards the world, and position towards the Jews. But the point is the Sonship: the manner of its display proved the humanity (the nature, the Son of Man) as it did also the riches of the love. His testimony also (for this He came) was perfect; this also was given as Man, though He learnt it as Son. "I speak the things which I have seen with my Father."
119 Further, though sent, and though the Son, He did not act in the energy of that power; for so He could not, properly speaking, have obeyed. That He learned in Man. But He that sent Him was with Him. He avowed this as the incontrovertible sanction to the world, to be proved in the day of His glory, as it was to the believer by His resurrection, seen perhaps indeed before, though not distinctly known, "marked out." He avowed His dependence, Jesus did, for now He declareth His Manhood: also, "He hath not left me alone." He, the Son, avoweth it, though He avoweth it of Himself as Man. Compare just in the Garden of Gethsemane. "He that sent me," saith He, the Son, "is with me; the Father hath not left me" (here conversant, putting My trust in Him, but yet Son in this world), "alone; because I do always the things that please him." A reward for His faithfulness as Man was His not being left by the Father.
How incomparably does it unite (affirm together, that is) and separate all the truth concerning our Lord! He spoke as the Son, or His testimony was worthless, and therefore "that I am"; yet as Man, or there could have been no question. He acted as Man, yet doing all things to please His Father, who left Him not alone, therefore, but was with Him as the Son, and the lowest humiliation of the Man making the greatest exaltation of the Son, and proving to the blind the very essentiality of His Sonship, as we have seen; the testimony made available as the Son's because He gave it not from Himself but from the Father. Men would set aside one of the two stated in these last verses. They are our Lord's summary of both, and His office and position as well, from "Who art thou?" We have it drawn out from the "They knew not," etc., "when ye shall have lifted up"; we have it definitely and explicitly stated, and incorporated with the manner of manifestation and the founding of recognition of Him as manifesting it in His Manhood. It is sure and intelligible and most blessed to faith. The point of all is seeing the Son. Some have erred in this, yea, and on either side. It is not His divinity but His Sonship that reveals it. Neither is it His not doing anything of Himself, unless also His Sonship be seen. This is the key to both. This He speaks of Himself as presented to the world (then to the Jews).
We have then hitherto (the Light of the world) the mission in Man, the Son of Man, and the order and scope of this as flowing from the Person here perfectly brought before us. But the specific character of that which we have seen is the Person of the Son in the Manhood, without marking (though intimately connected with and essential to it) His divinity. Also, on the other hand, the character of the darkness, that as it was of this world. Jesus was not of this world. So more definitely that was not merely character, though it was so, but more originally it was from beneath. He was from above. But our Lord pursues it now on their insolent rejection (as humbling them) of the boon, consequent on the maintenance of their convictions, much further, yea into its full recesses, the truth of what was manifested in Him and them; the humbleness, that is, the disinterestedness, of His assertion, disdaining all glory to Himself, and giving it to God; the simple evidence of that truth, that is, His association with God, even the Father, evinced in the ostensible truth of His always doing such things as pleased Him, as making Himself only a Servant, yet herein vindicating His connection with the Father. These things, thus stamped with truth in the character of their utterance, brought rational conviction to the minds of many who heard Him; for His word, we have seen, was the witness of His truth; and it was indeed His character, we know, in divinity, and so developed in Man; that is, it was a spoken as also a substituting and therefore acted word. But this was the effect of the manifestation by word: "Many believed on him."
120 Then the subsequent address takes up this character; it takes the word as the vital point of continuance. No other association would do. It was thus there was life, and they were His disciples, and they should be free, knowing the truth. They thought, though they might recognise Him, this was rather doing Him an honour, being recognised by Jews, that their association of Him to them, in whatever character it was, was the point of establishment and honour to Him. But the truth of His deity, and that alone, prevented this. Had He been anything else it would have been so. He in the consciousness of His Person and truth tells them that adherence to Him is the way of freedom; and the utmost honour of association He proposes is that they should be His disciples indeed. But His word implied His character and truth, involving also the moral necessity on their part; and this therefore He sets first. I say "consciousness of His Person and truth," and this rather in it simply, not addressively, save to them as men, but as embracing the scope of His thoughts, but as before manifested in His Manhood, so now formatively acquiring its title from His being God, antecedent, as we shall see (and in the power of this acting), to all their divinely instituted incorporation and root on which they rested: "Before Abraham was, I AM" (blessed be His name!).
121 There is another point of view in which we may look at this chapter. As Son of Man our Lord was to the world. They took on them the character of seed of Abraham. This therefore now came in to be solved, though indeed our Lord [was], as the apostle proves in Galatians, and we are, the seed of Abraham; though also "He takes hold of the seed of Abraham." Nevertheless here it is concerned in the question of Light of the world. Thus He was as Son of Man (speaking the glory of the Person of the Son), in this character, He claims affiance in Him for the truth which should make them free. They allege the seed of Abraham. Our Lord meets it, not by coincident claim, for indeed it was in rejection of Him that He became alone the Seed of Abraham before God, but in that in which they rejected Him, that which validated His claim to their incorporation into His word, His claim over them, that which made His word, His assumption, true and necessary: "Before Abraham was, I AM." Not simply "I AM," but validating the claiming word against their seedship: "Before Abraham was, I AM."
The assumption of our Lord was high, very high. "If ye continue in my word, then," what? "then are ye my disciples indeed," to take His word as all; and then the great consequent privilege to be, they should be His disciples indeed. But this was a great point indeed, for it supposed apprehension of the moral character of His mission, the witness, the substance, of God's truth; the truth; what God was. Indeed, in Him, by His word, God expressed the truth, the verification of the word, which the coming of the Son of Man, being Son of God, was, and went beyond dispensation, as entitled, being "I AM" before it. For Abraham is the root of all dispensation properly; that is, in connection with redemption, with the glory of the manhood which the Lord here shows. He was before, and thus gives the crowning truth on which it all hung: "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
Let us pursue this; that is, these verses in order. And first we may remark that we have here the announcement from this very Person of Christ, the great moral principle of association, affranchisement with God. For affranchisement and association are one, and only perfect with God; and this associated with the primary root of God's character, of which the word of Christ was the expression. And therefore, "If ye abide in my word, then are ye truly my disciples; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." Independence was rebellion, and not liberty, but servitude to sin. They separated Abraham from God, and attached him to themselves (they therefore were in this state); He, the Lord, to Himself, but righteously, for before Abraham was He was "I AM," and as to them, because as Son He appeared rightfully associating in power with the liberty of the house. The Sonship is still the point to see as regards the association with Deity; that is, in exercise, as well as with the Manhood, and none can see why who do not see it. It is the point of communion, and also of exercitial [exercisable?] authority.
122 This great and high assumption (for He addressed it to the Jews that believed on Him) of associating them with Him in order to their having freedom, resting it, as we have seen, on His word, they meet by the assertion that they were Abraham's seed, and never in bondage to any man. This, though an out-of-the-way assertion, taken in its broad character, yet associated with the liberty of their law, and their assumption of personal freedom, brought it just to that moral point, setting their association up against that moral freedom which the Lord presented, and which reached the world in the paramountness of God's character and purpose. How do you say, therefore they ask, ye shall be or become free? For they claimed liberty as Abraham's seed. Our Lord still followed the bearing of the great truth which He had set out with from the beginning, and which closed in affranchisement, association with God, the dispensation of that large association with Him which flowed from His moral character: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that committeth sin is the servant of sin." This is a broad, abstract, universal principle; he is not the free man of God. God's nature was the opposite, the estimate as light of what sin was (this the Lord manifested).
The law did not deliver them from this, and could not do it. Their association with Abraham was fleshly, and so suited to, had its scope through, the law. But this left them, as to association with God, still servants, and faulty servants, having no living place in the house, and indeed failing wholly upon the principle of association with Him in His moral character. As such, their tenure was mere matter of allowance, sufferance, to say it in the true but gentlest shape, and "for ever" was the only time when association was really shown: "The servant abideth not in the house" (here was question of God's house) "for ever; but the Son abideth ever." He still speaks ambiguously, that is; which was unintelligible to one who did not receive the train of thought, but revealing here to us. It is too direct to call it a parable, for the terms are identical, a direct new point in the progressive view which this is giving us of Him as the Light of the world, the Son, the Son as to the house, as in Hebrews, which shows its strong Jewish connection. Hence, "I have brought my son out of Egypt; for Israel is my son," etc. The Israel character of Christ is not sufficiently attended to. It was a most essential point, abstract indeed, but announcing most distinctly the Person when the force of the passage was received, a great advance upon what we have received before. We have had (as Man) the Father spoken of, and also "that I am," as Son of Man; but now we have it concentrated into the great truth, the Son; this established as a principle, and stated, but also indeed a truth concentrated in Person, which is the truth, because it was of God in Him. Hence Pilate: "What is truth?" and He, "I am the truth," etc.
123 From the detail in which He had been speaking of Himself we shall see the Lord again, as realising this to Himself thus announced, speaking in this character in further detail, and leading up as from the Manhood hither; from this to the essentiality of that nature in which He saith, "Before Abraham was, I AM." But this is concentrating in principle (if they could understand) all the elements of His character manifested as the Light into this great leading truth, the Son; and it was this Light in power, for "He shall make you free." First His intrinsic title (which they had not) in the house as abiding there ("the Son abideth ever"), but manifested in association with them; for here He speaketh to them, but so as to maintain His necessary place as such, for so only could God. As developed therefore He states it in principle, because they must submit to this; then the consequence of His freeing them therefore. He only had the inheritance-title from God; for they were servants, slaves. Before, "the truth shall make you free," but now He must assert further it was thus the light of the truth, came in it, was as in the moral character of God. They were made free in the truth, but this was concentrated, all concentrated in Him, and that in necessary administrative power from God: "The Son shall make you free." I say "necessary," not as we could judge it from deduction, but as He was the Word, and therefore the necessary witness of the truth of God in His Person, willingly so to us, so necessary in the glory; willingly in grace, that is, to us, and thus made known as the Son, and so having in God's house (though administratively, therefore He says, "My Father is greater than I") the necessary title of Son. So if the Son made them free they should be free indeed (in truth), for He was the truth of God, and also the Son. They knew it in Him, and were made necessarily (that is, morally and graciously, in the full honour of authority, necessary authority), free, brought into freedom with the Son abiding in the house for ever. It was boon to them.
124 The Lord yearns over them characteristically; nay, His ministry, His service, was to them (see Isaiah 49). But we shall see what they were; so the Lord states it. He had said "the Son"; now He begins to develop it in its action (when manifested in the flesh), "My Father." "I know that ye are Abraham's seed." The Lord recognises the dispensation, as always. But this did not alter the truth of moral character on which the whole depended, distinctly brought out in its cause, principle, and manifestation. "But ye seek to kill me," Me the Light, the Truth, because "my word" does not dwell in you. There was the great thing. The contrast was complete. He in testimony, His service; they in act, exercising their will in murder ("for the," etc.). "I speak the things which I have seen with my Father, and ye do the things which ye have seen with your father." Sad, as glorious, intimacy of association. But the Jews saw nothing beyond their present false associations. The devil, Satan, works (observe) by deceit, by unconsciousness. The power of present things is of the devil; the perception of them, of God. God is the revealer; Christ the instrument in Person, but that in testimony, and as the Word; the understanding, of His Spirit (being equal matter of revelation of the sense of it); for present things, as named, are known by known words; but in truth, by the knowledge of the things, of God's teaching, the understanding, if God's Spirit comes. (Note, this I think is marked in the Hebrew language.)
125 But there the Jews rested: Our father is Abraham. This was defensive. It was not, We are Abraham's seed. There was some pressure in their minds; their conscience as to pressure was affected so far as to be silenced a little, and set on defensive; for our Lord had brought out the fact of moral alienation, yet as so defensive it was a higher assumption. It was not Abraham's association with their assumed dignity before the Lord, but their association, correspondent association, with him as affecting the assertion, "Ye do that which ye have seen with your father." But it was defensive, and for themselves gave the inference (though hesitatingly) of their righteousness, still on the same ground generally.
Our Lord still holds to the moral, the divine, character of the association. He knew they were Abraham's seed; yea, He had spent His life towards them because they were. But if they had been Abraham's children they would have acted in Abraham's character, done Abraham's works. But now, instead of this, "Ye seek to kill me" (that is, there was the spirit of essential hostility, of murder, against the truth from God); "a man who have spoken to you the truth, which I have heard with God": "this did not Abraham." The essentiality of their opposing characters is very distinctly, with the power of nakedness of truth, brought out; that is, in giving the facts, the essentially characteristic facts.
But our Lord adds more: "Ye do the works of your father." He approacheth here on sadder and yet plainer grounds. The conversation of our Lord here is remarkable; guarded, that is, restrained, in expression, yet containing in terms of the utmost moral force, excluding all mixture of extraneous matter, the whole, real truth as regards them. Yet till they in blindness of moral apprehension in their now conscious weakness in justifying defence, pleading their dispensed privilege, as implying, in credit to themselves, moral title as against moral truth, allege it even up to their association with God, does our Lord bring out the real depth in open charge against them, because the contrary exposing truth must be revealed.
Let us learn a lesson from this; for the assertion of the force of evil, before the position of the evil is therein exposed in the light, may shock but cannot operate on the conscience, nor justify God against that soul. Yet all evil is really so. There was evil in the young man that Jesus loved, but He did not speak as here. Yet we are not less to qualify the evil, nor call it good. I speak here merely [of] how consciences are to be actually reached. They said unto Him, "We were not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God." How far can man deceive himself by dispensed privileges, and the legitimate succession of them, when the moral character of God is not brought before them! Yea, how, when morally corrupt, do these hide it from them, prevent their seeing its necessity!
126 The Lord brings them here (such is always the office of Christ in, as here often stated, His word) into full contrast, for He holds them both united, and therefore can. Man can use one against the other. Christ, then in testimony, once yet in power, shall bring them both together; always in Person, for He is the Word, and being made flesh has, the Son, the rightful inheritance in His own name, therein glorifying the Father. How strange the word, "I know that ye are Abraham's seed": "Ye are of your father the devil"! Power and civil establishment, civil and religious phases of the same thing, cannot be properly united with truth, save in Jesus. While this is not so, we are subject in testimony, yea, in testimony to both in this sense. The Spirit is given, it is given from the power in testimony of the truth, and in its power bears witness to both. This is the great thing which the world (and the Church, forgetful of its place) has in vain sought to solve. Christianity solves it perfectly. It can only solve it actually (till Jesus assume the power) by consenting to suffer; for till then both are not simply united, and may be all averse. Then Jesus will judge as well say, "When God arises." But Jesus united in Himself all rightful title (in that, concentrated in His Person, and as in the purpose of God, He was Abraham's Seed), and also did the truth. He was that One He came as, and He was Son of God, Heir in yet higher title; could say, "Before Abraham was, I AM."
Jesus yet puts it not on His title, but on God's; if they were children of God. "If God were your Father" (He speaks from the consciousness of what He was, for He, as well as it, was the truth), "ye would love me." He tests the moral connection of their hearts with God by the truth, that is, by Himself; yet taking no honour to Himself, but bringing them into the juxtaposition they had put themselves in: children of God if - then so, "for I came forth, and came from God" (this was one point); "for I have not come of myself"; no more than as a Man He spoke of Himself, but as He heard of the Father, as the Father gave Him commandment; so, "but he sent me." But the Jews had closed the evidence of what they were. The full contrast of their state had been brought out, fully brought out, and their blindness in capability of apprehension of the things. Our Lord therefore adds, "Why do ye not understand my speech," My expressions? "Even because ye cannot hear my word," the thing I speak.
127 Our Lord's words were but the echo of what He expressed and was as Word. His word was very plain; gently, but fully, morally, brought things into contrast. But they had no moral discernment. He therefore tells the broad truth. Satan blinds the minds of them that believe not, the god of this world. But they did not know what really "beneath" and "above" were, or they would not have misunderstood His meaning, and talking about His Father, and their father. For God had not yet been spoken of, till they asserted they were born of Him. "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye are willing to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because the truth was not in him."
This was a precise picture, and they "children," and in contrast with what He was who was the Truth. All the developed points of this reasoning are concentrated here; for as seed of Abraham and of God they had not abode in the truth, and because the point our Lord urges, and they sought to kill Him. When Christ spake He spake the truth, that which was indeed His own, but was also of the Father. But he, when he would speak a lie (abstractly, as we say the truth), he speaketh out of that which is his properly, out of his own goods or household. For He (our Lord) had right so to speak of him: he [the devil] is a liar, and from him it proceeds; he is the father of it.
A lie has no existence; it is the product of some storehouse, the proper fruit and vain progeny of someone so in character. The truth has, or it would not be truth; and Christ was it. They were a lie, not Abraham's seed, but the lie of it, not the truth. Christ was the Truth, therefore they were children of the devil; for this lie had no existence but as the progeny of him that was the father of lies, who spoke it; for when he would speak it he must speak it, and did, out of his own; he was the father (no word so correct) of it, being a liar. A liar is always the father of the lie. The argument is then strictly moral, as from the nature of a lie to their necessary childhood of Satan, which our Lord spoke in consciousness of truth. For indeed He was that in truth of which they assumed the place, denying Him while yet they had the responsibility, but abode not in the truth; for they were Abraham's seed. Nothing can be more complete than the depth of this moral conviction, while He spake it as the Truth, for He was the Truth; and His word and He, and therefore the truth of it, were one. The authority and the moral evidence went together. The to pseudos (falsehood) is abstract; the autou (of it) is necessary to the sense when the lie is spoken of as the born progeny of the lying person. So that the construction, though it seem obscure in general, is necessary to the sense. "But I, because I speak the truth, ye will not believe me." They did not believe it or Him, because it was, and He spoke, the truth; for the truth was not in them; it was the thing opposite to their judgment, to the truth of the lie which they were assuming themselves to be, and Him because He said He was of God, which was the only and saving truth. But therefore they did not believe Him. It was the cause why they should. Yet they could prove no sin against Him; and, if not, why not believe Him? Was He not speaking the truth? And therefore the truth, the connection of His being what He spoke, the Word of God, is the great force of all this argument as to the truth, etc.
128 The two great evidences of affiance and affinity to Satan were in these great essential points of moral evil in his character, points which uniformly run through Scripture, violence and deceit (or want of truth). He was a murderer, and abode not in the truth. They sought to kill Him; and because He told them the truth they would not believe Him. I say uniform character: "The earth was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence." "He did no violence, neither was guile found in his mouth." And so elsewhere. But our Lord now dwells upon the truth in their hearing, not merely the truth (which is one point, and they could not convince Him, Jesus, of sin, and therefore ought to believe Him), but as alleging themselves children of God also. "He that is of God heareth God's words," recognises and receives, attends to [them], as such. "Ye therefore hear not, because ye are not of God." Our Lord knew this, for He knew His words were of God, or He would not be true at all. The authority and the truth were mixed (compare chapter 3:33), and yet see how it is identified with His humanity: "For God giveth not the Spirit by measure," in the following verse.
129 Till we see the Son speaking by the Spirit in and through Jesus we can never understand this chapter, nor indeed that which is revealed of the Person and manifestation and revelation of our Lord; while indeed we shall never know Him fully, for "no man knoweth who the Son is but the Father"; it is His prerogative, and also the prerogative of the Son as such. He requires as real a manifestation to reveal Him as the Father, and who shall do that? The Spirit comes, given of Jesus to reveal what Jesus is; but the Godhead of the Son stands behind the glory of the Person of Immanuel. This, that is, Immanuel, it imports us to know, and this therefore is it that is revealed. This is all to us. We know the Man, the Son, standing there. This is the link to our souls. If we knew Him simply as the Son we should be as far off as ever. Not so of the Father, for we know Him as such, which is what we want, adequately, yea blessedly, revealed by the Son, even the Lord Jesus. But if we so knew the Son we should return back, so to speak, into the simple Godhead (which is impossible for us to do), and not in relationship of love, even as the Father to us. That we know in His becoming Man. Here then it is we know the Son, we know Jesus; here is His relationship of love to us, in His becoming a Man, to know. My point is to know that Jesus is the Son; yea, that Jesus died for me; not who the Son is. Here I have the Father's love, and Jesus' love, and the mystery of God, even, etc.
Now, in agency God always acts communicatively by the Spirit. It is the way of the Spirit's glory, in which He is known as God, and in which God is glorified. Therefore I do not doubt, nay, we are told so, that the Spirit spoke in Jesus; that is, God spake in the Man by the Spirit. But it was the Godhead of the Son that dwelt personally in Jesus, or He would not have spoken the Father's words by the Spirit as a Man. If we do not see these things (always darkly, through our weakness and imbecility) we separate what cannot be separated, the Trinity. That Jesus was the Son of God, that the Father dwelt in Him did the works, and that Jesus spake by the Spirit without measure, are alike necessary truth; and one part would not be true without the other, cannot be separated, and one proves all, rightly understood (compare, too, chapter 3:13).
130 Our Lord's reason was prompt and conclusive: "Therefore ye hear not, because ye are not of God." This being what is spoken, it is the consciousness of God; that is, the truth of and from God against apparent authority. This was His honour, but it was not apparent. Theirs was; it was the character and ostentation of the thing from men; His the truth from God. Our Lord therefore is distinct in His moral charge, alleging on the other hand that they could not convince Him of sin, and that they were not of God for not hearing Him. The Jews take the external charge or reproach: "Say we not well" (when Thou sayest we are not of God, we Jews), "that thou art a Samaritan" (it proves that can be the only ground they argue from, the external title, He from the moral, internal one from God, the truth), "and hast a devil?" To say we are not of God, it was the part of a Samaritan as regarded their external dispensation; of a devil, they alleged, as regarded their relationship to God; to deny indeed all the Jewish privileges of old, sealed of God, and confessedly so, because while He owned them as such they would not hear Him. Yet so it was. Such is the question between the Church, so called, and those who in the Spirit hold the truth as it is in Jesus: in the saints imperfect; in Him most (yet not most, for there could be no degree) perfect. The Lord denied it simply as related to the point, any real point: "But I honour my Father," I vindicate Him from the false association to which you would bring Him, and manifest and declare and vindicate His true character; and ye do not see all this in Me, but "ye dishonour me." Ye falsely accuse Me, ye are lying against My honour and truth and glory, what I am. But this is no matter; I seek not Mine own glory (this could be forgiven); and if ye dishonour Me, and I do not seek Mine own glory, so that I must leave it there, there is One that seeketh and judgeth My glory and your falsehood against it.
Our Lord now approaches nearer to the source of that in which He thus stood as the Light of the world. As the Father had life in Himself, so had He given to the Son to have life in Himself; given because He had it in Him, as Jesus, as Man; and as such He spake it. The words that He spake were spirit and they were life. He spake (though as Man that He might suffer) fresh from God.
131 Now, in this He was directly associated with the Father. As the Word He had become Man, and therefore attributed nothing to Himself, but to the Father. But it was truth, truth of fidelity, which could come only from an equal to do so. It is the King's Majesty which alone can assume the subject title. It was "the life was the light of men," and the words that He spake (for He came in word), were spirit and life. In this He was associated with the Father in the power of eternal life.
Here therefore He saith, "If a man keep my saying," for He was leading them up to God, "he shall never see death." This word was the power of life to men. If kept, it was eternal life. The power of death was in the lie and in the power of Satan. But life was in Jesus. If we die we simply lose death in dying. There are deep enquiries into truth connected with this, which we do not follow here. But the assertion, though proposal of blessing to them, directly involved what Jesus was. They saw the Word merely externally, and the Man, and therefore the word was madness. No Abraham or prophet was on such ground. Beyond them they could not go; and in them merely what they were externally, and so saw nothing of God.
They thought they were now clearly justified in rejecting such a Man, however He might have troubled them. "Abraham is dead, and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself?" Jesus answered, "If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing." This was just, as being Man; but it was true as God, for it would have disowned the Deity were it so. The Father glorifies the Son; the Son glorifies the Father; the Spirit both; while yet it is in it alone we know the Godhead or God.
"It is my Father that glorifieth me; of whom ye say that he is your God: and ye have not known him." Here was the real truth of all, the solution of the great question. "But I have known him; and if I said, I know him not," if I should not own these great truths, then "I should be like you, a liar." All they were was a lie, from their father, the devil; assuming what they were not, and implying their association with God, which, while it was their false boast, was their lie. They said they knew Him. This was their lie. Their assertion of their association with God w the proof of their being of their father, the devil, being what they were. Jesus' saying He was of the Father was the truth of His Person and of His word. Their saying they were of Him as their God was the lie; and the character of the lie we have had before.
132 Our Lord must have owned it, or He could not be what He was, and stated Himself to be: "But I know him, and I keep his word"; true in Him, false in them. They belied their alleged origin. He did keep His Father's word; He was true. The keeping of His was eternal life. But He kept His Father's word; He was true: I am the very object of all the hopes of those you speak of, the truth, plan, in cause and effect, of all the system you falsify. It was "My day" that made the very Abraham you boast in glad, and he had faith in that which you are rejecting; he was the opposite of you. I was his glory; he delighted in it; his triumph was that he should see my day; and he saw it, and rejoiced; Messiah's day, the object of all the types, the very Israel of the Israel of God.
But the Jews were immersed, not in the truth of their system, but in the mere ignorance of acting on present appearances. This is a most deep, essential principle of error which one has to watch; not seeing God, and things according to the mind of God (which was exactly the thing in question), but the mind of man, and that in the things of God; and hence precisely the present state of the Church. It was the grand question between Jesus and the Jews, and the point in which Jesus has to be recognised, and in which faithfulness to Him rests, as in Him to His Father, to this extent.
"The Jews therefore said to Him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?" They thought the sense of this the same, because they looked not beyond the outside; but, on man's ground, the Jews' reasoning was generally correct, but it was utterly, morally wrong, without conscience, therefore without God and that which God alone could teach. They now brought it to the point of the mere Manhood of Christ, the point of their darkness. Our Lord, as the Truth, could but give the light: "Before Abraham was"; ye see not who I am, ye know not My existence, My Being, know ye not Me: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I AM."
133 The great truth was told, the essential, the vital, eternal truth, on which all hung, without which there could be no truth, nor any coming unto man, nor bringing man back in redemption to God. For how could he be restored by that which was not? And that was true of everything, save One. Should dust be a redeemer? Yet out of dust he was to be redeemed.
The great truth was declared. Lie there could be none against it. The necessity of the existence of the Saviour assumed the nothingness of all else, could be denied only by violence, not falsified. That a man should say this was blasphemy; and they took up, in their zeal for God, rejecting Him manifested, they took up stones to stone Him. But the time of their iniquity was not yet come, and Jesus was hid. His time was not come, and He went out of the temple.
But what circumstances! and with whom discussed! and what a truth! Do we believe it? Do we, I say, believe it, that Jesus (a Man even as we are, save sin) was I AM? All is told, if we believe Him thus dead and alive again; for therein is the redemption. Through this must He pass.
Is it true? Most simply true, the centre (wondrous! wondrous! to us) of all the manifestation of God, and rightly in its glory, to chosen sinners; lovely in its blessing to all sinners; deep, therefore essential; necessary, in its condemnation, to blind rejecting sinners: God manifest in the flesh! "Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness; God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached to the Gentiles" (so here), "believed on in the world," yet more wondrous still, "received up into glory." Marvellous in its character! This, as to the essential truth, He was; I AM.
Then, as to the dispensation, the thing thus revealed, or rather discussed with the Jews, the subject of the chapter which we have been reading, this deep, most deep chapter, we have seen how the Lord is traced as Light of the world; as Son of Man lifted up; all through as the Son in the power of life, in Person as Son, to this great revelation of I AM; Son of Man to the world, and yet Son of God; and as Son of God the real truth and fulfiller of all Jewish hopes, as the basis of all common promises; and this as, and by, the Word. This is the essential characteristic. I know of nothing that has ever astounded my mind as this revelation of I AM, or the real thought that Jesus could say, "I AM"; the connection of these (to man) inconnectible possibilities, and the wonderful concatenation in which all the dispensations of God are wrought out or fulfilled in it, while yet He remains truly God; and yet could say therein, "the Son of Man who is in heaven."
134 And how manifest it is that nothing but the gift of faith could ever in a single tittle understand or know the truth in the Person of Jesus! while yet, by the perfection of its manifestation in the flesh, every soul was put under utter responsibility of rejecting it as the true word of God, even God in love. But the broad and penetrating fact, "I AM," the all-embracing word, the everything in it, it must at once close all controversy. We must be opposers, or bow before the throne of God. We must stand in awe of Jesus. Well may He say, "Kiss the Son."
Oh! Jesus, Jesus, what sort of subjection is this we ought to have to Thee? We have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now our eye seeth Thee, we abhor ourselves indeed. Oh! can it be true? Can we see this in Jesus? Have we seen it? None can see it out of Him. It is the truth only in Him. Surely we should move mountains if we believed this. Yet is it simple truth. Dwell on it, my soul! Jesus, that thou knowest, that Stranger in the world among His own, was "I AM." Hast thou believed it? Yet thou now wilt believe it. But thou knowest Jesus. Henceforth let me be dead to all but this. I do indeed stand incapable of utterance; I do read with Jesus, talk [with], and watch Jesus in His ways, a Servant, and behold He, even He, is "I AM," with whom I am, whose ways I judge, whose grace I adore. Oh! it is the union of these two things, the Man, the rejected Man by the world, Him whom I look at now with perfect sympathy. Behold! it is the presence of God. Oh! how low it lays men's thoughts, experiences, judgments, notions! The perfection of God stood there, God rejected of men. What can meet or have a place along with this? Let this be my experience. Glory be to God Most High. Amen.
Yet to me it is Jesus. In truth it is "I AM." Here I rest; here I dwell; to this I return; this is all in all. I can only be silent, yet would speak what no tongue can utter, and no thought can think, before it. This we shall learn for ever, grow in for ever [yet shall it] grow more beyond us for ever; for here is God revealed in His essential name, His name of existence, His own name, God revealed in Man, in Jesus. I know Him, I am familiar with Jesus, at home with God, honouring the Father in Him, and Him as one with, and with, the Father; delighting to do it. But I say, Do we believe it?
I do believe it all; yet I believe nothing; I am as nothing in the thought of it, yet alive for evermore by it. Blessed be God and His name! And all shall praise Him so. Yea, Jesus! Jesus! God Most High, so shall it be. Oh, Jesus! Jesus! Thou art "I AM," Thou art "I AM." Yet didst Thou, did "I AM," take little children in His arms! Yea, didst Thou suffer, die, and be in the horrible pit; yea, for our sins! Thus I know the mercy-seat. I know that there is no imputing sins here; yea, that it is God not imputing, that I am reconciled to God; yea, rather, that God is the reconciling One. I am therefore at home with God; and all that is in Jesus is God's manner to us.
135 I know not that I have at all drawn out the things which are opened to us in this chapter. It is the word of testimony to what Jesus is, the Son, to what they that oppose Him are; reluctantly drawn out from the lips of Jesus as necessary to the truth; the restrainedness, yet therefore perfect faithfulness, of testimony, the power of the real Sonship, and mind of God (contrasted with the form) in power in this world; the witness in sackcloth; the word as the word of testimony, the truth of God; not in judgment; and meeting the world in its glory, with the form most subtle to reject the truth, even the dispensations in which it had been externally administered without the power. Simplicity alone hath wisdom. Remember this. It is the truth now. The word of God is our duty, the acting on the word; the belief of the word is our distinctive salvation. The world shall know its truth when it comes to pass. Yet, saith He, I will make thee dumb before them; and we must be content with this often; yea, see the good of it; yet be faithful, and if faithful the Lord shall open our mouth before them, and they shall know the truth of it, though they know it not as truth, that the Lord hath spoken.
There is further to remark on John 8, although the Lord refers to whence He came, and whither He went, to characterise fully the position and place of which He was witness on earth (and both were necessary to this, for He took man's place in it as going back). Yet after this, when speaking of His witness, He only refers to His coming from heaven, because He is the Word, and speaks the word of truth, and as such He comes from heaven. His connection with the Father is orderly brought out (vv. 16-18): "The Father that sent me." If He judged (which He did not, but only witnessed, though His words were the same as the judgment), He judged just because He and His Father were there; but then as witness He is sent (His Father's was distinct); His words ever the expression of His very nature (that is the true sense of verse 25). He had heard them from His Father (vv. 26, 28) that the Father was with Him here; for He always did what pleased Him. But it was not only what He had heard of the Father, but what He had seen with Him. Thus He passes plainly to their true nature and paternity, while He honours the Father, and the Father honours Him; and He is "I AM." This blessed truth could be met only by enmity by those who there spoke with Him.
136 Further, remark that legalised men, even natural conscience, can judge the outward sin. This is what is brought before us here, but as the divine life in man would always feel what the world was, so Christ, in whom that divine life was, made the opposite clearly manifest. He gives first by the divine presence what is called its spirituality to the law. As an outward system it was an arrangement to bring to light if flesh could be associated with God. But it contained the germ of what creation ought to be. The divine presence gives power to this in the conscience, sanctions the judgment of evil, but makes all evil to be judged in the conscience, but judges now no man.
But then, if God be thus manifested, He is not to set up the mere claim of His law on conscience. Being love, and the source of blessing, He could not merely do this; but He is the light of life. This, as we have seen, begins verse 12, and the word and witness of Christ as divine and heavenly comes out, giving the light of life, according to the place He came from and went to. Then we have, as accessories, slavery to sin and slavery to the law; the same thing, man being in flesh. This could not stay in the house; that is, in relationship with God. But truth and the Son would make free. The other point is that, though Abraham's seed according to the flesh, they were not Abraham's children. These accessory points bring the Lord, as He had first spoken of the direct source of blessing, to tell them plainly what they were.