The Gospel of John

J. N. Darby.

<47007E> 95

(Notes and Comments Vol. 6.)

John 7

After this conversation or doctrine in Capernaum Jesus went about Galilee, for He would not Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him. This goes on from chapter 5, the last time He was in Jerusalem (which compare); but the Feast of Tabernacles was near. The note below* gives the general view of this; but there are many things else we must note. There are three divisions in this subject or chapter:

First, the typical facts as to His going up to the Feast of Tabernacles;

Secondly, our Lord's instruction during the feast, and,

Thirdly, His proclamation on the last day of the feast.

{*This refers to the remarks in the last paragraph on this page - (Ed.)[see next major paragraph - "The tabernacles … ."]}

The point of the chapter here proposed by His brethren after the flesh was the publicity of our Lord's manifestation: "himself seeks to be known in public … Manifest thyself to the world."

The tabernacles was the type of the manifestation of the Lord to the world, the gathering in of the saints to His resurrection glory, and the Jewish rest. Hence the force of this passage. Jesus went not up to it, therefore, to keep it in its fulness, though in duty afterwards He went up. His time was not yet full come. He states afterwards what was to be expected, as now in respect of this; that is, the Spirit who was to show the things to come. Now, I look on that eighth day, the day of solemn assembly, as typical of the first day, the glory of the Lord's resurrection; as the seventh of the Jewish millennial rest. The Spirit was to be sent from the risen (and glorified) Saviour, the witness of this state of the saints, their portion in that day. He manifests Himself to us now as He does not to the world.

96 In this there are two points: His going to Judaea, the manifestation of His presence, then "in public," that His disciples might see His works; the other, if He did these things, to show Himself to the world, and the expectation of this as showing the unbelief of His natural brethren (the Jews). Our Lord's answer to this was not that He would not do so, but that His time (for manifestation to the world) was not yet full come. Their time for passing through and putting themselves forward in it was always ready. The world could not hate them, for they were of it. It hated Him because He testified of it that its works were evil. "Go ye up." He would not go up to the feast, for His time was not yet fulfilled, and He abode in Galilee.

- 10. I am not sure also whether it does not imply also the expectation of the Jews of the ingathering, and their going up, as if it was come, to the feast (and being, but not Christ's, in it), before Christ joined them there, and the worldly and unbelieving character in which they will go up in this expectation, He waiting His Father's full time. The expectation of Him, however, was fully raised among them, and they sought Him at the feast, but with the usual uncertainty and doubtings of unbelief. But this was in the not determined multitude; the Jews, properly, were determined in their opposition to owning Him as the Messiah. Such, I believe, will be the result also in that day, but a bringing into its full, final development what there was at work with Jesus amongst them.

There is also a marked distinction, I think, between the multitude and the Jews, though involved in the ruin of the latter by not coming out from them to Christ. What our Lord was blamed for not doing was making Himself known openly. But He could not do this. He spoke openly, but He could not make Himself known openly, for He was a moral Saviour. He spoke so, and therefore the world hated Him. If He had manifested Himself, it must have been in judgment. But He did speak quite openly, and thus manifested Himself, being content to glorify the Father, let His own glory be hidden, give effectual testimony, saving, or condemning by the responsibility of man, in the full witness of the Father's glory. They indeed, that is, the multitude, did not dare speak openly; but Jesus did. He did not conceal His righteousness and truth in the great congregation. He had not refrained His lips, and that God, even His Father, knew. The great congregation is always the nation, as such, of the Jews.

97 This was the way in which He had manifested, not Himself, but His Father and the truth. Nevertheless, He did not fail here to declare Himself, showing also that, when He did, only the full hatred of the world, of Satan, was brought out against Him. He came to bear witness to the truth, and avowed Himself to be the Son of God; whereupon, because He told them the truth, they would not believe. He must be received by faith, and morally, or the whole nature and order of the kingdom would be set aside, which was founded upon the necessity of God. Therefore He showed not Himself to gratify the flesh, but glorified His Father, and presented the truth, which could be received by the Spirit.

The next division which we have, therefore, of this subject is the then teaching of Jesus, instead of His showing Himself at the feast (as future); for His time was not yet full come. Our Lord accordingly rests it on the principles we have been stating. Jesus taught; the Jews wondered, as it is written. These wilful, blind ones yet recognised the guilt of their unbelief in seeing that He had instruction which He could never have learned (so of the disciples before the council). Our Lord at once assists them, and confesses the source of His teaching: "My doctrine is not mine," therefore has nothing to do with My learning, "but his that sent me" (My teaching therefore must have been divine in its nature). But the critical point lies here: If there be willingness to do the will of God, as such, such shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God or I speak from Myself. Here also He affirmed His mission. But their moral state was the real thing in question. Hence the importance of so sending Messiah.

But there was a distinct and sure moral evidence on this point: he that spoke from himself sought his own glory. This point in our Lord was illustriously brought up to us here in this very teaching, as we have seen, refusing (though indeed He was all that could be claimed) to go up to the feast, and show Himself to the world. Yet so indeed He obtained and showed far higher moral glory for the truth of God and His own glory. On the other hand, if He sought only His glory that sent Him, as it was plain He did, and did now, ascribing to Him all the glory even of His words, in which He was faithful (in which yet again He had yet more and divine glory around Him even as a Teacher) then it was plain that He was true, and there was no unrighteousness in Him. Why not receive His instructions? Here, I say, was the full, condemning (though unwillingly so) moral test.

98 But indeed He could go yet further. It was not merely their rejection of His words, which were manifestly the teaching of God: "Did not Moses give you the law, and not one of all of you keeps the law?" And this was shown in their dealings with Him: "Why go ye about to kill me?"

This was addressed to the Jews. The multitude, not privy to their evil, said, "Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee?" Where the truth is not received the very ignorance of the multitude of the wickedness of their rulers plunges them only deeper in their rejection and distraction as to Him who charges this wickedness upon them. How large is the labyrinth turned round the unbeliever! how simple the clue, when once it is had, by which we pass through it! Note the fact in many ways, also the careful distinction the Scripture keeps up all through between the wilfully blind Jews and the multitude, who yet as so walking perished in their unbelief.

- 21. I refer this to the pool of Bethesda. It is manifest that our Lord did rarely, or not at all, miracles at Jerusalem, and these bringing their judgment of Himself to a crisis. Hence also the words of His brethren.

"Jesus answered, and said to them"; generally now, and explanatory, so as, continuing the general bearing of His discourse, He should bring them all in, they not having wished to kill Him: "I have done one work, and ye all marvel." In this state they perished, as it is written, as before, now including all, and His works as well as words: "Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish; for I work a work in your days," etc. "Moses" (to him they looked) "gave you circumcision, not from himself but from the fathers; and ye circumcise a man on the Sabbath. If therefore a man receive circumcision on the Sabbath, that Moses' law" (on this they rested, not the promises or covenant in it), "be not broken, are ye angry with me because I have made the whole man sound on the Sabbath? Judge not according to sight, but judge righteously," about these things.

99 This, observe, is to the multitude, consequent on their remark as to seeking His death, from which the Jews seemed to have shrunk back, knowing its truth, but having the ignorance of the multitude as their defence with them, Satan willingly using this with them; to which our Lord therefore applies Himself in this way to meet their thoughts and reach their consciences. I know not that to the Jews He says, "Judge righteous judgment."

Upon His thus addressing the multitude some of the Jerusalemites, not of the body of the Jews as rulers, but who being such knew what they were about, said, "Is not this he whom they seek to kill?" (verifying and justifying all our Lord's knowledge of their thoughts and conscience against Him), "and, lo, he speaketh boldly."

To this, His special part, they also bear witness, and they say nothing to Him. It is evident, I think, from this, they (the Jews) had shrunk from the former charge. "Have the rulers really recognised him to be the Christ?"

The position into which the first charge of our Lord had thrown the Jews gave occasion to this. How various are the shades and forms of unbelief! This drew out the action of the Jews in the authority they possessed, though they could not meet His charges. It drew out the full testimony of our Lord in connection with those, and their state of mind who made the enquiry. The point of their difficulty upon His speaking boldly without the rulers venturing to speak to Him was that they knew whence He was, though they discussed the point afterwards. Our Lord takes it up, and proposes hereon in all boldness to them, thus led to enquiry, the great, eternal and all-important truth to which His testimony was required and all its truth hung. These remarks, however, were not addressed to Him, and His testimony was a public announcement, and not an answer to them, but it was as it regards us therefore.

Our Lord, in this portion of this chapter (where He places testimony in the place of His manifestation, as at the Feast of Tabernacles; that is, making it matter of faith, so as that they should know the Father, by which, being critical and so separative, yet of the full blessing to those who received it, as see before, chapter 1; in truth, that portion contains the subject of John's gospel), has given us two important but closely identified testimonies: whence His testimony was, and whence He was; the import of which, as bringing it to the crisis, we have noticed is manifest; that is, receiving Him so as to receive the Father in a way which included moral apprehension, and so indeed gave, or was the order of, everlasting fellowship with the Father and the Son; for so receiving Him by faith they received Him (compare again John 1), and were born (again), and children of God.

100 Our Lord here charges them with indeed knowing Him, and whence He was; for indeed our unbelief is always of that which we know, and of which the evidence is before us. The veil is not on the glory, but on the heart, as elsewhere: "If, etc.; but now have they both seen and hated," etc. (chap. 15:24); and so they proved immediately after (v. 30). But there was no reception of the Father in this knowledge. They had full evidence of who He was, but they knew Him only after the flesh; and indeed He had not come of Himself. But He that sent Him (for now He came in mission and testimony) is true in testimony in the words which He declared by Jesus, and in the judgment which necessarily followed, for the words were the revelation of Himself in and by Jesus to men.

It is knowing the Father by Jesus which is alone the full evidence of saving faith, and the resting-place of the soul. Men may know Him, and whence He is; but unless they know Him as sent, unless by Him they know the true Father, they are strangers to eternal life, and come under judgment. It is not knowing what Jesus is intrinsically, but knowing Him as sent of the Father, knowing Him as Man, and so knowing Him as the Son, that saves: "Who by him do believe in God, who," etc. (1 Peter 1:21). It was in this character that Jesus acted, that Jesus presented Himself. "I know him, that I am from him, and he hath sent me" (v. 29). How the unbelief was drawn out into light and action! The believers may believe that Jesus is a Man, or rather know it. Men may recognise that this Jesus came from heaven; nay, they may believe in the Trinity, that is, own it; but unless they know Jesus as the Son of the Father, as God indeed from everlasting, and one with the Father, but also as Son, they are set in no position, no saving fellowship, which is only with the Father and the Son. "This is the record," "and he that hath the Son hath life." "The Father sent the Son," and Jesus was the Son, and we believe in Jesus by the Spirit, even in the Son of God, and therefore have fellowship with the Father and the Son, knowing whom is eternal life; that is, the Father, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.

101 Hence as a Man His very faithfulness, His truth, was in this that which was vital to us. "I know him, that I am from him, and he hath sent me"; and as this was truth in Him; the knowledge of this is eternal life with us. The acknowledgment of this truth was faithfulness, was the truth in Him. It is eternal life in us, knowing the Father and Him.

It is in all this fully recognised that Jesus will be manifested at the great feast, even the Feast of Tabernacles. It was in the confession of this His faithfulness was shown, when He was seeking, not His own glory, as He could not justly as a Man, but His Father's; but He will then come in His Father's glory and His own, which was now hidden, being come as a Servant. But the point at present was the truth, whether of the Father or Himself, but now as the great point to which indeed His truth was affixed. That He did not speak of Himself the truth of the Father, verse 29 is, we have said, the great confession, which constituted the truth in Him, as the Father was the crown of all. It was felt they sought to kill, for he [the devil] was a murderer from the beginning. Because He told them the truth, this was the great secret. And this was the truth, the victorious truth, which through grace overcame; for truth alone, without grace, would have been no salvation, but rather brought us more entirely under the power of Satan, or made us as enemies. Grace with truth overcomes, and is salvation.

Some, probably Jerusalemites, sought to take Him, but no one laid hands on Him, for His hour was not yet come. They showed their mind, but God also showed His. He was true. How marvellous to behold the Lord thus confessing the truth, the Slave of all evil, but waiting upon God who delivered Him from all; as He saith also: "I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, thou knowest: I have not hid," etc. So was He doing here. But many of the multitude (still thus distinguished, nor was our Lord's reproach thus without fruit, though He might, seemed to, have laboured in vain, and spent His strength for nought and in vain), many of the multitude believed with this stunning rebuke to the Pharisees, though of doubting faith in them: "Will Christ do more works?" in a word, on the works which His Father had given Him to do; as He says, "If I had not done among them the works which no other man did," etc.

102 But there were those whose character now developed itself, who dreaded to lose their influence, if Christ were received. The Pharisees sent officers to take Him. It was but the occasion to our Lord to bring out another great truth of His doctrine: His being hidden, being rejected as what He was; until the great feast really came; thus completing as to Himself the mystery which was involved in His not as yet being manifested to the world. He had come to them, manifested and taught who He was, and they would not receive Him. But they should seek Him in earnest soon, and find Him not; nor could they come where He was. Nothing could savour more, on the one hand, of rest to the Lord, but, on the other, of deep and solemn judgment to them, than this solemn word of the Lord's. All the bearings of its deep, judicial truth-telling are perfect and consummate. Christ was to be hid, hid in God (see Col. 3) till the time of the restoration, the true Feast of Tabernacles; He was to be with the Father, sitting there till, etc.

Strange the pride and confidence of man! Where shall He go, that we shall not find Him? Will He go and teach? etc. But their thoughts in vain sought to reach this, for they knew Him no otherwise than as One teaching the people, and thus they had listened. It is remarkable, this reference to the Greeks (in this as hiding Him, as it was indeed associated with His being hid), these distant, despised, worthless Gentiles. The truth is, pride is destitute of grace. They were silenced here. It was evidently something beyond them.

Here closed the doctrine in connection with our Lord's Person on this subject, and He proceeds to teach that which would be the substituted Comforter, but the Earnest during this His absence, and hiding of His glory, and of it as in that last great day; that is, in the heavenly glory.

We must remark here that to the Feast of Tabernacles alone there was an eighth day, the day of restraint or solemn assembly, including typically (as it appears to me) the great celebration of the universal ingathering; and as the seven days showed the completion of God's temporal purposes, so the eighth or first showed the inlet to the eternal purposes, the bringing into, while it passed beyond, the temporal estate, the glory of that which was without it, the gathering into one in Christ risen and ascended, the resurrection glory herein in faith. It was upon the resurrection day, and the Lord's day is the resurrection day; for indeed the resurrection is the great link between both; that is, the heavenly and the temporal or earthly. The last day of the feast was then the great and distinctive type of that which is to be gathered together on the appearing of the Lord Jesus, then no longer hid in God, but manifested in all glory and that in a way specifically breaking forth and having its place in, and character from, the heavenly glory; for it was without the week.

103 Hence in the meantime the Spirit was the witness of all this, coming (though obtained by Jesus as having fulfilled all righteousness and been humbled, which it therefore marks as the way to glory also, that He might fill all things) from Him ascended; or as here, referring to the earthly estate, hid. Hence our Lord (who could not now be manifested as at the Feast of Tabernacles, which He had developed as to all the other, the working, days, the perfect doing of the Father's will, and as to the rest that He was hid in it, and it from them), on the last day, that great day of the feast, promulgates the intermediate and substituting power of the Spirit, Witness and Earnest of His re-appearance.

Our Lord, however, uses language which, while it admits present coming to Him for the purpose (it is to be observed, however, that in speaking of drinking He refers only to the Spirit; He was now rejected as presenting the truth generally), yet in its full application goes forth into the general estate, truth, of faith in Him. He "stood and cried." This was His now great proclamation, this was the great thing for the world, the position in which it was to be set, and to which He now invited those that thirsted then: "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink, he" (then He gives the great proposition) "that believeth on me, … out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water."

The quotation from the Scripture here does not, it appears to me, refer to any one specific text so apparently stated, but shows the Christian meaning and power of that which we might otherwise pass over. There is a mind of God all through the Scriptures, of which the dispensations of God themselves are but the expression. This is true of this sentence also, and of chapter 4 before. I believe such scriptures as Proverbs 18:4, Proverbs 10:11, are moral truths, which find their real fulfilment here, just as the waters of Ezekiel's temple are exact illustrations according to their own character. Our Lord means, I am the fulfilment of that of God's mind which the Scripture reveals as a general moral truth, according to the order which God has constituted; which is moral, and to us essential truth. I the rather refer to the Proverbs, though not exclusively, in this, as the statements more distinctively of the logos and wisdom are there brought forward, and the depth of purpose in this is exhibited in chapter 8; and of this John is the great Evangelist, in our Lord, that is, as in Person and its direct connection, not merely in its practical showing forth to the world.

104 Though proposed, therefore, as coming to Him, it is developed there as in His absence in the power of the Spirit in him, but in blessing. There is a difference, too, I conceive, between the well of water springing up into everlasting life and these rivers flowing out. There it was the indwelling power simply as the power of life, everlasting life, and associated of course with the full blessing there, that is, in everlasting things, in which that life would find its development and scope. But here it is as flowing forth from the man who believes in Jesus. That was in him a well of water. Nevertheless it is not unassociated with the man; it shall be a fountain of fulness in him.

I think also, as we have seen our Lord here presenting His doctrine (which was however spirit and life) instead of His Person, and now giving this, drank in from Him, instead of His presence, until or as not yet manifested in the feast, the great day of the Feast of Tabernacles. It is as the witness of the heavenly glory cognisant in His fulness; at least of the glory of that day, the streams of that in the Spirit which go forth from him who believes in Jesus, now the exalted Heir of that glory, and has his belly filled with that by faith; that is, in spirit it is as the receptacle of the heavenly food when it was digested and understood, and brought into the communicating, intelligent supply of the whole man. So the roll was bitter in his belly; and this confirms the view elsewhere taken of the river out of the dragon's mouth to be the heresies, false doctrine, not from his belly (for it [had] nothing to do with his own reception of it), but from his mouth, that others might be carried away by it (potamophoreetoi).

Hence, then, I think that this is the full development of all that full reception of Christ (embracing all He is shown to be by the resurrection and ascension) which is by faith, its going forth out of the belly; but it was in the personal power of the indwelling Spirit, the Spirit received; but specially, as we have said, in apprehension of the heavenly (or rather epouranial) glory, and future but true state. Yet having the Spirit Himself ever fresh and flowing, the full connection of these things is manifest from the comment given us by the apostle: "But this spake he concerning the Spirit, which they were about" (it was after His resurrection and ascension, though allowing of coming to Him then, and it was as believing on Him so gone, risen and ascended) "to receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet, because Jesus was not yet glorified."

105 It was then the effectual witness, and had its existence only in the world, in respect of the glory into which Jesus was ascended, which is the truth and source of that in the which He will be revealed; for it was not as in chapter 4 (here as looking up from us to eternal life given so), but come the witness of the glory which belonged to the body in Jesus now ascended as their Forerunner. It was not so much as given (as in the man for his eternal life), but as sent into the world, because of and for Jesus and the Church's glory, and because the glory was accomplished; and flowing forth the witness of this. We say these things that they may be understood; for surely it is the same Spirit, but it is rather as acting than as existing that is here spoken of as in the Church than in the man, though by men perhaps as depositaries of it; but so mainly as vessels of occasion and use, though yet with understanding withal; for it is "out of his belly shall flow." When I say "understanding," the things of the Spirit can be understood by the Spirit. But such is the force of this passage in the main. There are many deep and blessed doctrines too connected with it, but they are not directly stated.

There cannot be a more important statement than "the Holy Spirit was not yet," and the reason given more inductive to the apprehension of the dispensation to which we are here introduced. There is a point unnoticed here, much confirming the tenor of this note: as until the entry into Canaan they drank of the stream which flowed out of the rock, so now, until that day, out of their belly who believe in Him should flow rivers of living water. The force of the expression is exceedingly enhanced, too, by this connection or consideration, the application of which is easy if the foregoing be understood.

106 Also, note, the sixth chapter is the manner in which, during the absence of Christ, till He feeds with present blessing as towards the Jew and the earth, He feeds by death; the soul, as conscious of sin here, even eating His flesh and drinking His blood; knowing that in death He has met the evil, and therefore through faith baptised with Him into it. This seventh shows the manner in which (during the absence of Christ, till He appears in the fulness of first or eighth day glory), the Spirit is given as towards that glory. The realisation of the glory is beyond death, and necessitates death here. But as one respects death to what Christ has left behind, so the other the realisation of glory beyond death in which Jesus lives, or rather will be manifested, for He is now individually on His Father's throne. One is death in the flesh, the other life in the Spirit, prospective of glory. One refers to Christ dying as regards the one, the other as living as the Communicator of the Spirit, the Witness of His glory. Also in verse 37 we have the confirmation of the difference of coming to Jesus present and believing on Him absent: "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink." He could drink then from Jesus, in whom and [in] whose words were the fulness of the Spirit. Then comes absolutely the dispensation of faith: "He that believeth on me, out of his belly shall flow." It was not merely drinking of Jesus, but the rivers shall flow from himself, he believing or receiving from Jesus glorified. It was true it required the same teaching of God really to believe who Jesus was then as when in glory; and therefore he who believed then would be filled with the Spirit when Jesus was in glory. So that there was moral identity. Still it belonged properly to the dispensation of faith, which is systematically in a glorified Jesus, as it is the witness of that glory from which Jesus sends the Spirit. The passage therefore [in v. 39] is strictly accurate, hou emellon lambanein hoi pisteuontes, not hou hoi mellontes pisteuein. Yet it was given in the dispensation of faith as belonging to that, Jesus glorified being the object of faith, and therefore believers in that dispensation.

- 40. We have then, as the full, and clear, and sure declaration and development of the dispensation and order of God, with some conviction of the truth of His character, all the various uncertainty, reasonings, and imbecility of unbelief. Verse 42 is [as] remarkable as inconsistent; that is, as negativing the pride of the unbelief before. But through all this we may remark, though He seemed to labour in vain, in the distinctness of His statements of the truth the heirs of glory were called out (now perhaps unseen) to be His companions in the truth of that glory which they had received, and by which they had been regenerated in the truth of His unbelieved word. Now He should see of the travail of His soul, when in love He had suffered in the flesh. But for the full accomplishment of His glory He must make His soul an offering for sin. But the effect of the power of Satan in governing by the heads of religious institutions is very marked. On all else there was influence, not on them; yet the Lord provides, in the midst of all this, the instruments of His hand, not by the power, the arrangements, of man, but His own; in the right place, in the right time, baffling the very malice and consultations of the enemy. Oh! if we had faith to walk simply in the way of faith, the way of His will.

107 Observe, too, the character of the frustration of their thoughts. "This people, that knoweth not the law, are accursed." But what arrests them? "Does our law judge any man before it hear him?" etc. And what is this timidity of Nicodemus? Sheltering himself under the plea of their law, thus taking out of their mouth their complaint of the people as ignorant of the law, and throwing the breach of it on them if they pursued their purpose. Oh! if we had faith to trust God; but if we are not willing to suffer in the flesh we never shall.

We have also to remark the reference to authority, as contrasted with the influence and reception of truth. It was not simply this, however, for they were found guilty against the authority of their own system, as it proceeded from God, and thus a full test was afforded. One Nicodemus (nor many) does not alter the character of the body in act, nor of course of the truth of the principle. But why do I proceed? It was over these things Jesus wept. What ought our thoughts to be? Yet the Lord was not undecided. Where was He not perfect? Though the perfectness of goodness in the midst of evil and in the weakness of man, yet the unfailing Witness for and of God in every circumstance, and in no weakness of conduct of circumstances or of defect.

- 52. Again the wanton ignorance of facts disgraced the sincerity of their enquiry.