The Gospel of John

An Expository Outline by Hamilton Smith.

(This edition is taken directly from the manuscript with the permission of the holder of the rights.
The exposition, slightly edited and complete with chapters 13 - 17, is available in print, nicely presented and modestly priced from

  1 The Eternal Word — John 1:1-18
  2 The Threefold Witness of — John the Baptist — John 1:19-37
  3 The Threefold Ministry of Christ — John 2
  4 The Ruin of Man and the Glory of Christ — John 2
  5 The Sovereignty of God and the Responsibility of Man — John 3
  6 The Ways of Grace in the Blessing of Sinners — John 4
  7 The Ways of Grace in Deliverance from the Law — John 5
  8 The Ways of Grace in Deliverance from Want — John 6
  9 Christ Glorified and the Spirit Given — John 7
10 The Rejection of the Words of Christ — John 8
11 The Rejection of the Works of Christ — John 9
12 The Shepherd and the Sheep — John 10
13 The Witness to the Son of God — John 11
14 The Witness to the Son of David and the Son of Man — John 12
15 Introductory to the Lord's Last Discourse — John 13
16 Let not your Heart be troubled — John 14
17 The Disciples in the World, Bearing Fruit — John 15
18 The Mind of Christ — John 16
19 The Great Prayer to the Father — John 17
20 Jesus' Betrayal, Arrest and Trial — John 18
21 The Trial Concludes, and the Crucifixion — John 19
22 The Resurrection — John 20
23 Closing Scenes — John 21

{The section: John 13 - 17 may also be found here: The Last Words.}


The Gospel of John is pre-eminently the gospel of the revelation of the glory of the Son. Other gospels present other glories of our Lord: Matthew unfolds His official glory as the Messiah; Mark presents the glory of His humiliation as the Servant; Luke presents His moral glory as the Son of Man; but John's high privilege is to present His personal glory as the Son.

Moreover, the presentation of Christ as a divine Person involves the revelation of every divine Person. The gospel opens with the presentation of the glories of the Son. As it proceeds, we have the revelation of the Father's heart (John 1:18), the Father's hand (John 5:17), and the Father's house (John 14:1-3). As it draws to its close there is a very full presentation of the Holy Spirit.

Furthermore, in this gospel there is the introduction of an entirely new Man after a new order. The Lord speaks of Himself as "the Son of Man which is in heaven" (John 3:13); as the Son of Man "which comes down from heaven" (John 6:33, 50); and as the Son of Man Who is about to "ascend up where He was before" (John 6:62). Thus in the gospel there is the twofold presentation of Christ: first, as the only-begotten Son revealing the Father; and then as the Son of Man presenting a new order of man — a Man Who walked on earth, and lived in heaven.

To bring out these varied glories of Christ, different figures are used. In John 2 He is the temple wherein dwells the glory of God. In John 6 He is the true bread given from heaven to satisfy the need of man. In John 8 and 9 He is the Light of the world to bring men out of darkness. In John 10 He is the Shepherd to lead His sheep out of the old Jewish fold into the new Christian flock. In John 11 He is the Resurrection and the Life to deliver men from death. In John 12 He is the Corn of Wheat that dies to secure a seed His like. In John 15 He is the true Vine to enable His disciples to bear fruit for the Father.

Seeing that the great purpose of the gospel is to present the glory of the Son of God as a divine Person, it will be readily understood why there is no genealogy in this gospel, and no account of the birth and early years of the Lord. These details, so precious to faith, and beautiful and necessary in their place, would be entirely out of keeping with a gospel that presents the glory of His Person as the Son. As a divine Person He is above all genealogies, even as the Servant, in the Gospel of Mark, He takes a place below the need of a genealogy.

Furthermore, in the presentation of the Word become flesh, no details are given that connect Christ with earth and the nation of Israel. It forms no part of the purpose of this gospel to show the fulfilment of promises made in the past, to foretell the setting up of the kingdom in the future, or to instruct us as to the form the kingdom takes in the present. Again, let us remember, these truths are needed and precious in their place, though falling far short of the great purpose of John in presenting the glory of the Son of God. With the coming of the Son of God, and the consequent revelation of divine Persons and a new order of man, there is the setting aside of the old Jewish order and the introduction of Christianity. From the outset of the gospel both the nation of Israel and the world at large are viewed as having entirely broken down in responsibility, and as set aside in judgment to bring in Christianity. Further, the gospel sets forth Christianity according to the thought of God, and not according to the corruptions of Christendom; for, be it remembered, the gospel was probably written at a late date when the ruin, foretold by the apostle Paul, had already overtaken the Christian profession. Thus, in this gospel, we are lifted above the world, and carried outside Judaism and corrupt Christendom, to learn the blessedness of Christianity according to God's thought, founded upon the Person of the Son of God.

Christianity, being founded upon the Person of Christ, must of necessity take its character from Christ — "as the heavenly (One), such also the heavenly (ones)." In chapter after chapter we see this setting aside of the old order, and the introduction of that which is entirely new. In John 1 the law given by Moses gives way to "grace and truth" which came by Jesus Christ. In John 2 the temple at Jerusalem is set aside by the temple of His body. In John 3 "earthly things" give place to "heavenly things". In John 4 the natural water of the well is superseded by the fountain of the water of life. In John 5 the pool and the providential activity of the angel are set aside by the all-powerful voice of the Son of God. In John 6 the natural bread gives place to the true bread that comes down from heaven. In John 8 and 9 darkness is dispelled by light. In John 10 the Jewish fold is set aside by the Christian flock. In John 11 death is set aside by life.

We are thus permitted to see old things pass away, and all things become new. Time gives place to eternity, things earthly to things heavenly. In thought we are carried back into an eternity when time was not; in spirit we are taken beyond the bounds of earth to taste the joys of the Father's house.

How blessed, when all has broken down in the hands of men, to come to this gospel and have our souls engaged with divine Persons in Whom there can be no break down, to be led into the purpose of God which no ruin can touch, and to be transported into scenes where no failure of man will ever enter.

As we read this gospel we are, from the outset, in touch with eternal things and heavenly scenes, and find ourselves in company with divine Persons. And yet we can move easily in such high company without fear, for this glorious Person, the eternal Son, has drawn so near to us that He can sit beside a lonely sinner at the well, and bring a disciple to rest upon His bosom. So truly has He dwelt among us that to one He can make Himself beholden for a drink of water; to others He can stoop to wash their feet; while yet for others He can prepare a fire to warm them and a meal to feed them.

1. The Eternal Word
John 1:1-18

The great theme of the introductory verses of the Gospel of John is the glory of the Person of Christ as the eternal Word. We are first carried back in thought into eternity to learn His glory as a divine Person; coming into time, there is displayed before us His glory as the Creator; finally, the Word is presented as becoming flesh, revealing to us His glory as the eternal Son in relationship with the Father.

John 1:1-2. The gospel opens with the sublime statement, "In the beginning was the Word." At once our thoughts are carried back into eternity, before time commenced or creation existed, to learn that the glorious Person Who is called "the Word" had no beginning. In the beginning of everything that had a beginning, the Word was, not "began". "'In the beginning was the Word' is the formal expression that the Word had no beginning" (N.Tn.).

At once we are told that the Word is an eternal Person. As the Word, this blessed Person is the revealer of God — the Person in the Godhead Who is in Himself, as well as by His acts and what He became, the expression of God and His thoughts.

Further, we are told that the Word was "with God". Not only is the Word an eternal Person, He is also a distinct Person in the Godhead. The "with" denotes, moreover, not only distinctness of Person, but also intercommunion between the Persons in the Godhead. Then we are told that "the Word was God." The opening statement, telling us that the Word is an eternal Person, would imply that He must be a divine Person. But we are not left, in a matter that touches the glory of His Person, to an inference, however correct. We are definitely told that "the Word was God" — a divine Person.

Finally, we learn, "The same was in the beginning with God." This is no mere repetition of the fact already stated that He was a distinct Person with God. Here we learn the additional truth that He was eternally a distinct Person. Thus carefully does the Spirit of God guard the glory of His Person against those who might admit the distinctness of His Person and yet assert that there was a time when He commenced to have a distinct Personal existence.

Both the Lord, referring to the commencement of His ministry, and John, speaking of the commencement of Christianity, use the expression "from the beginning". Here in reference to that which has no commencement we twice have the expression, "in the beginning". Further, it is to be noted that it is said that "the Word was with God" — not the Father. As the Word and God, so the Son and the Father are correlative. The designation God comprehends not only the Father but also the Holy Ghost and the Son. The Word and God speak of the nature of divine Persons: the Father and the Son tell of relationships between divine Persons. The great object of these verses is to establish the glory of Christ as in nature a divine Person.

In the fewest and plainest words the Spirit of God in these opening verses has presented the Godhead glory of our Lord. The Word is an eternal Person, a distinct Person in the Godhead, a divine Person, and an eternally distinct Person.

All the bright array of "heavenly things" that pass before us in this gospel are founded upon the glory of the Person of Christ. To call in question the Deity of the Son is to undermine the foundation on which all blessing for man is based. It matters not what elaborate religious systems men may build or how much they may profess to honour the Name of Christ, if they are not building on this foundation all will come to ruin.

John 1:2 The glory of the Word as a divine Person having been stated, we pass from eternity into time to learn the two great ways in which God has been expressed through the Word: first, in creation (verse 3), and secondly, by incarnation (verse 14). Here, then, we learn that "all things were made by Him" — the Word. This positive affirmation is emphasised by the negative statement that "without Him was not anything made that was made." All things, great and small, animate and inanimate, spiritual and material — everything that has "received being" (N. Tn.) received it through the Word. The very form of words necessarily exclude divine Persons, of Whom it can be said that They have being, but not that They "received being". If creation comes into being, it is not only to prove there is a Creator, but in order, in its measure, to express the Creator. "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handy-work. Day to day utters speech, and night to night shows knowledge" (Psalm 19:1-2; Romans 1:20).

John 1:3. If verse 3 speaks of that which received being through the Word, verse 4 tells us of that which is in the Word. "In Him was life." With this statement we pass from the relation of the Word to the whole created universe to consider His relation to mankind. Thus the "life" spoken of can hardly be the natural life of creation. Truly, as the Creator, the Word is the source of the natural life, which, when given, whether in plants or animals, can propagate itself. This life is rather the spiritual life which becomes the light of men who already have the natural life. Life may be communicated to others, but life was never communicated to the Word — "In Him was life. "

This life was the light of men. The Lord can say, "He that follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12). The life in the Word was the perfect revelation to man of the invisible God. The light of nature will not reveal the heart of God.

The light of reason cannot find out God by searching. It is only the light of the life in the Word become flesh that can declare God.

John 1:5. Man is fallen; if, therefore, the light shines before men, it is in a scene of darkness or ignorance of God. Further, we learn that "the darkness comprehended it not." This tells us that spiritual darkness is not only ignorance or absence of light; it is opposition to the light. Natural light would banish actual darkness; but, if man is left to himself, spiritual light will not banish his spiritual darkness. The light of the life of the Word brings out the moral incapacity of man, as later the love of His life calls forth the hatred of man.

John 1:6-9. In the opening verses there is passed before us the glory of the Word in relation to God, then to creation, and lastly to mankind. In the verses that follow we learn the way God has taken to present the light to man in this world. Not only does God give the light, but He sends a forerunner to call man's attention to the light. No details are given of John the Baptist's connection with the Jew or things earthly. Here he is viewed as "sent from God," and as a witness to that which is entirely new — the Light. In other gospels he witnesses to the King and His kingdom for repentant Israel: here he witnesses to the Light for "all men".

If, however, God sends the forerunner, He carefully guards the glory of Christ. Great as John may be, there is only One Who is the Light. John, indeed, was "the burning and shining lamp" (John 5:35, N.Tn.), but the Word was the Light that coming into the world lightens every man. The Light had a twofold effect: it exposed man, but revealed God. Truly the Lord "went about doing good," but the motive in all that He did was to make God known. He did not simply open blind eyes to relieve blindness, but to make known the love of God in relation to man's need. Light is the revelation of God in love according to the full truth of man's condition and God's holiness.

John 1:10-11. Then we are told the effect of the Light upon man when left to himself. The world did not know Him, and His own, the Jews, would not receive Him. The Light reveals that man is not only utterly insensible to what is good and perfect, but absolutely opposed to the One in Whom all this goodness is displayed. Left to himself the condition of man is hopeless.

John 1:12-13. God, in His sovereign grace, does not leave man entirely to himself. He works in grace in man, with the result that some receive Christ — they believe on His Name — and to such are given the right to become the children of God. They form a new race, not by natural generation — of blood; nor by their own efforts — the will of the flesh; nor by the will of others — the will of man; but as deriving a new life from God.

(John 1:14-18) Incarnation.
The first thirteen verses unfold the glories of the Person of the Christ. He is the Word, an eternal, distinct, and divine Person in the Godhead; He is the Creator of all things, the One in Whom is life, and the Light of every man.

John 1:14. Now we are told how this glorious Person came into this world to bring the light of life to men. The One Who in the beginning was the Word becomes flesh. We have learnt Who He is in Person, Who He was in eternity; now we are told what He becomes in time. It is not said that He became the Word by incarnation, but that the Word became flesh.

This immense event — the incarnation of the everlasting Word — would lead us to expect great and blessed results. Three of the outstanding effects of incarnation are brought before us in these verses: first, the revelation of the eternal relationships between divine Persons; secondly, the attitude of God toward man; thirdly, the declaration of God in His fulness.

The eternal relationships between divine Persons.
The Word having become flesh, the apostle can say, "We have contemplated His glory, a glory as of an only-begotten with a Father". The glory they beheld was not derived from the Manhood He assumed but from His relationship in the Godhead. His glory was a unique glory, the glory of an only-begotten Son, a relationship enjoyed in communion with God as a Father. Thus, while the reality of His Manhood is stated, the glory of His Person is carefully guarded.

The attitude of God toward man.
The Word having become flesh, we at once learn what is in the heart of God toward man. The One Who became flesh dwelt among us "full of grace and truth". He came in a character that exactly suited man. He did not come making demands from man, as in the law, but as a Giver bringing blessing in grace to the unworthy. Moreover, the full truth came with Christ. All that Moses and the prophets stated was true, but not the full truth. The law tells me what I ought to be; it does not tell me what I am. "Christ shewed not what things ought to be, but what they are … Christ tells me the truth about everything, evil and good alike" (N.Tn.).

John 1:15. The witness of John the Baptist to this glorious Person come in flesh is again given. The One Who is full of grace and truth takes a far greater place in time, even as He existed before John in eternity.

John 1:16-17. Moreover, the Word become flesh, and dwelling among us, not only set forth the fulness of grace that was in Christ, but, says the apostle, "Of His fulness we all have received, and grace upon grace" (N.Tn.). He was here not only to display grace in Himself, but to communicate grace to others, and that in abundance — grace upon grace. The law given by Moses was an exactor, demanding from man what he ought to be in relation to God and his neighbour. Grace, coming by Jesus Christ, brings blessing to man according to what he is in all his need, while fully maintaining the truth of all that God is in all His infinite holiness.

John 1:18. The declaration of God.
The Word having become flesh, there is at once the full declaration of God. In Old Testament days there were partial declarations of God in His attributes — as the Almighty and as the unchanging Jehovah — but there was no revelation of the heart of God until the Son came. No man was great enough to declare God. None but a divine Person could reveal a divine Person. "No one has seen God at any time." The Son, as the only-begotten in the bosom of the Father, revealed the Father as He knew Him. As one has said, this not only describes "the character of His glory here below; it is what He was (what He had been, what He ever is) in the Father's own bosom in the Godhead: and it is thus He declared Him."

2. The Threefold Witness of John the Baptist.
John 1:19-37

Following the introductory verses, this gospel presents a striking testimony to Christ rendered by John the Baptist on three successive days. This witness is followed by a further presentation of the Lord, rendered by Himself, also on three successive days.

The first day's witness, rendered by John, is recorded in verses 19-28. The second day's witness is given in verses 29-34, commencing with the words, "The next day". The last day's witness is found in verses 35-37, introduced by the words, "Again the next day".

The witness of John the Baptist, as presented in the Gospel of John, is in striking contrast with his witness as recorded by Matthew and Luke. In the earlier Gospels, John renders a witness in the presence of sinners; here he bears witness as in the presence of the Son of God. With the crowds before him, he speaks as a prophet who searches the conscience, seeking to convict men of their sins. In the presence of a divine Person he speaks as a worshipper, in tender and lowly terms of One Whose shoe's lachet he is not worthy to unloose. There the guilt of the nation burdens his soul; here the glory of Christ absorbs his spirit. Christ has become all in all to John; he, himself, is only a voice that will soon be silent.

On the first day of John's ministry his great aim is to hide himself in order to magnify Christ. On the second day the theme of his ministry is the glory of Christ's Person and the greatness of His work as meeting the need of the world. On the last day of his ministry he presents the Person of Christ for the satisfaction of the heart of the believer.

The first day's witness of John the Baptist (verses 19-28).
If on this day John hides himself it is, first, that he may present Christ as the new gathering centre for His people. Then, in order to gather to Christ, he baptises to separate believers from the corrupt religious system of the day. Finally, he makes it clear that the Christ to Whom believers gather is in reproach with the religious world.

John 1:19-21. These truths are brought to light by the interview between John and the representatives of the Jews. The priests and Levites, sent from Jerusalem, enquire of John "Who art thou?" With his heart full of Christ, John very blessedly replies, "I am not the Christ." This seems a remarkable answer, seeing nothing had been said, or asked, concerning Christ. It is as if John said, "You have come to me, but I am not the One you need, I am not the Christ". As a true witness he presents Christ and hides himself. The more he is pressed to speak of himself, the shorter his answers become. They say, "Art thou Elias?" He replies, "I am not". They ask "Art thou that prophet?" He answers with a single word, "No". John is decreasing that Christ may increase.

John 1:22-23. "Then said they to him, Who art thou?" He replies that he is only a "voice". He is not Elias, foretold by Malachi; he is not the prophet promised by Moses; he is only the voice of whom Esaias had spoken. He refuses to take a place as a gathering centre for the people of God; he refuses to take a name, to exalt himself among the people of God. He is simply a voice to speak of Jesus in obedience to the Word of God. More-over, he speaks of Jesus in a wilderness world where there is nothing for God, and in the midst of a people who are without the fear of God.

John 1:24-25. If, however, John refuses to become a new gathering centre, why does he baptize? The Pharisees were well aware that baptism signified death, and therefore separation, for death is the great separator. If John baptized, it signified separation from the old order of things in order to have part in something entirely new. What, then, the Pharisees enquire, is the new centre of gathering, seeing that John refused to become a leader or centre?

John 1:26-28. In his reply John admits that he baptises with water, implying that in order to gather round Christ it is necessary to separate from the corrupt religious system of that day. Further, he clearly indicates the necessity for this separation. The religious Jew had no appreciation of Christ. He was standing among them, but as One unknown. Not only was He unknown by the world, but unknown by the priests and Levites of Jerusalem. Yet, so great is this unknown One that John can say His "shoe's lachet I am not worthy to unloose".

Moreover, He is not only unknown, but He is in the outside place, "beyond Jordan". Thus from the outset of this gospel, Christ is presented as rejected by the nation, and in the outside place of reproach.

Nor is it otherwise today. As Christ was treated by the religious mass in the closing days of Judaism, so is He treated by the religious profession in the closing days of Christendom. However precious to individuals, He is still unknown by the easy-going religious profession; He is still outside the corrupt religious systems of the day; He is still in the place of reproach. Sorrowful as this surely is, it need not occasion surprise, for we are forewarned that the last phase of Christendom will find Christ outside the door of the easy-going Christian profession. (Revelation 3:20).

The second day's witness of John the Baptist (verses 29-34).
On the first day John prepares the way of the Lord by hiding himself, in order that Christ may fill the vision of men. On this second day he presents a more positive witness to the glory of the Person, and work of Christ. He is the Lamb of God and the Son of God. As the Lamb of God He takes away the sin of the world; as the Son of God He baptizes with the Holy Ghost.

John 1:29. John commences his witness on this day by saying, "Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world". This brings before us two parts of Christ's work: first, the dealing with sin sacrificially as the Lamb of God, by being made sin at the Cross; secondly, the taking away of the principle of sin from the world in a day to come.

The title Lamb is in view of the sacrifice of the Cross. "The Lamb of God" tells us of a sacrifice provided by God, in contrast with sacrifices brought by men in days of old. Being of God, the sacrifice is one that is entirely acceptable to God. The ultimate result of this great sacrifice will be the absolute removal of all trace of sin from the world. The words "takes away the sin of the world" tell us what the Lord Jesus will do in the future as the result of the work that He has done, as the Lamb of God, in the past.

Sin is lawlessness; that is, man doing his own will without any thought or fear of God. All the misery of the world is the outcome of man doing his own will in a world of sin. The Lord will take away every trace of sin by bringing all into subjection to God. It is thus that the believer is today delivered from the power of sin by being brought into subjection to God. Based upon the fact that our old man has been crucified with Christ, we reckon ourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Man, dominated by sin, has no thought of God. The believer has God before him; he seeks to live for the will and pleasure of God, and so doing is delivered from the power of sin. What is true for the believer now, who reckons himself dead to sin and alive to God, will in measure be true of the world in the Millennial day, when men will have to submit to God under the reign of righteousness. It will be absolutely true in the new heavens and the new earth, where righteousness will dwell. Then God will dwell with men in a scene where God's will is carried out by all, and in everything. No trace of sin will mar that scene; God will be all in all. At last the prayer will be answered, "Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven".

John 1:30. Then John witnesses to the greatness of the One Who, as the Lamb of God, will do this work. He says, "He it is of Whom I said, A Man comes after me Who takes a place before me, because He was before me" (N. Tn. ). In time Christ came after John; in position He takes a place of pre-eminence far above John, for He existed in eternity before John.

John 1:31. John is careful to show that his knowledge of the glory of the Person of the Christ was completely outside the flesh. It was not acquired by any natural knowledge of the Lord as being connected with the Lord by the ties of kindred. Twice, he says, "I knew Him not". Further, he answers the question of the Pharisees, "Why baptizest thou?" He explains that he was closing up the old order by baptism, in order to make Christ manifest to Israel as the great Centre of the new order of blessing. It was not to make himself manifest; he hid himself in order that Christ "should be made manifest".

John 1:32. Further, John exalts Christ by showing that He was marked out from all others by the great fact of the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove and abiding upon Him. It was no new thing for the Spirit to descend upon a man for a certain purpose; it was an entirely new thing for the Spirit to "abide". Jesus receives the Holy Spirit as Man in virtue of His own perfection, and as being in relationship with the Father as the Son. "We are sealed, being sons by faith in Him in virtue of the redemption that He has accomplished."

John 1:33-34. The Spirit comes upon Christ "like a dove", not like tongues of fire as at Pentecost. The fire speaks of testing, and involves self-judgment. If the Spirit comes upon us, He tests all that is of the flesh, and demands its self-judgment. This leads John to speak of the second part of Christ's work: He "baptizes with the Holy Ghost". It is not only as the Lamb of God He accomplishes redemption but, as the Son of God, He imparts the Holy Spirit in order that the redeemed may be led into the blessedness of their place as sons. John bears record that the One Who gives the Holy Spirit is the Son of God. Who but a divine Person could give a divine Person? These titles given to the Lord by John go far beyond what Christ is in relation to Israel. As the Lamb of God He does a work available for all the world, having a world-wide effect. As the Lamb, in Revelation, He is the Centre of all the redeemed. Then the baptism of the Spirit cannot be confined to Israel. The Word is, "I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh" (Acts 2:17). As Son of God, too, Christ has authority over the nations (Psalm 2).

The third day's witness of John the Baptist (verses 35-37).
John 1:35-37. On the first day of his ministry John, the greatest born of women, retires into the background in the presence of Jesus. On the second day he witnesses to the glory of Christ's Person and the greatness of His work. Finally, on this, the last day of his ministry he says nothing as to the work of Christ or the gift of Christ, but speaks only of the Person of Christ. "He says, Behold the Lamb of God." This was not, perhaps, so much a witness to others but rather the adoration of a heart engrossed with the beauty of Christ. For what John says of Jesus on this day is the result of looking upon Jesus. It was not the result of reading about Him in the prophets, or hearing about Him from others, but of looking upon Him; as we read, "John stood … and looking upon Jesus as He walked, he says, Behold the Lamb of God".

Well for us if, amidst the hurry and rush of life, we too stood still for a little, and as it were made time to look upon "Jesus as He walked" — to drink into our souls of the graces and excellencies, the gentleness and kindness, the loveliness and meekness, the holiness and love, of Jesus that marked every step of His life through this dark world of sin and woe; and then, with full hearts, call the attention of others to the loveliness of the One Who is "altogether lovely" — to say, like John of old, "Behold the Lamb of God".

The effect of such a ministry is seen in the two disciples who heard John speak. They heard John, but they followed Jesus. Apparently they had listened unmoved to the ministry of John on the former days, but the ministry of the third day that flowed from a heart that was full of Christ reached hearts that needed Him.

The effect of beholding Jesus as He walked must be the realisation that He loves us; and His love, drawing out our love, attracts us to Him in such fashion that we are drawn after Him and we become followers of Christ. Are we not often content to know that we are under the shelter of the work of Christ, and sealed with the Spirit, without definitely following Christ? Following Christ must mean more than believing in Christ. It surely involves believing, for a follower must be a believer, and yet a believer is not always a follower. To follow implies that He has become the great Object before the soul — the One Who governs and controls the life. Is not the lack of this definite following the secret of the little progress that we make in our spiritual history; and does not this lack mark the difference between devotedness and half-heartedness?

3. The Threefold Ministry of Christ.
John 1:38 — 2:11.

Christ is the theme of all true ministry: its end is reached when those who listen are firmly attached to Christ. When, therefore, the two disciples are attracted to Christ in such true affection that they are constrained to follow Him, the purpose of John's ministry is accomplished.

The close of John's witness leads to the opening of the ministry of Christ. What was historically true at that time is still true in the spiritual history of the believer. If, through the ministry of a servant of the Lord, we are attracted to Christ, it is that we may come under His own gracious service of love.

As with John, so with the Lord, His ministry is presented on three successive days. The first day's ministry comes before us in verses 38 to 42. The second day's ministry commences with the words, "The day following" in verse 43, and continues to the end of the chapter. The third day's ministry is recorded in the first eleven verses of chapter 2 and is introduced with the words, "And the third day".

The first day of Christ's ministry (verses 38-42).
Very blessedly this first day's ministry presents, in picture, the service of Christ in gathering His people around Himself during this Christian period. That a living Person should be the gathering centre for God's people was something entirely new on the earth. To appreciate this service of love, we must remember that this glorious Person Who has engaged the affections of these two disciples — the Christ that they follow — is One Who is unknown by the world, rejected by religious flesh, and in the outside place (verses 10, 11, 26 and 28). Hitherto, Jerusalem with its temple had been the centre of religious activity for the professing people of God. In Judaism the rallying centre was a place: in Christianity the gathering centre is a Person, and that Person a rejected Man in the place of reproach. If we would gather to Him, we must, like the two disciples, be prepared to go forth to Him without the camp, bearing His reproach (Hebrews 13:13).

Alas! professing Christendom has largely reverted to the Jewish system, and once again erected magnificent buildings as the centre of its religious life. Moreover, ignoring the fact of the rejection of Christ, Christendom has sought, as it were, to bring Christ back to the world, instead of leaving the world to go to Christ. Men have sought to honour themselves by attaching His blessed Name to their systems, their schemes, and their countries. Christ, however, is outside the whole system of this world and its religion, and those who are personally attracted to Him in affection of heart must accept the outside place of reproach if they would reach Christ as their all-sufficient resource.

Thus this fine scene "beyond Jordan" presents a very beautiful picture of what Christianity is according to God — a company of believers drawn out of Judaism, and the world, whether social, political or religious, to gather round a Person Who becomes everything to them. It is not simply that His people are gathered together as those who have a common interest in His work; they are gathered to a living Person Who exercises an attractive power over their hearts. Having come under the efficacy of the work of Christ, and having received the gift of the Spirit, with the future made secure, we may well ask, "How are we going to be kept amid the trials and temptations of this world while on our way to heaven?" There is only one answer: we can only be kept as we gather to a living Person Who has all love in His heart, all power in His hand and all wisdom for His people. The living Christ is the solution to all our difficulties. We shall only find our way through this dark world as we follow Him and abide with Him. Without Him we can do nothing. Thus of these two disciples we read, "They followed Jesus" and "abode with Him" (verses 37, 39). Later the Lord gives a spiritual significance to these words as He says to His disciples, "Abide in Me," and with the final words of the gospel, "Follow thou Me" (John 15:4; John 21:22).

John 1:38-39. Already they had heard of Christ, they had looked upon Christ as He walked, they had been attracted to Christ, and they followed Christ. Now we learn the deep interest the Lord takes in these disciples who follow Him. We read, "Jesus turned, and saw them following". As then, so surely now, He takes note of those who follow Him.

Further, the Lord tests these two disciples with His question, "What seek ye?" If, like the disciples, we have taken a place outside the worldly religious systems of the day, we shall, in like manner, be challenged and tested as to our motives. Are not the difficulties that arise amongst the saints often allowed to search us and raise the question, "Why are we where we are?" Have we taken this place just to escape the evils of the religious world or to acquire light and better teaching or because our parents were in the path before us? If so, we shall surely be tested as to our motives lest by reason of having acted on some false or mixed motive we grow weary of the path and abandon the place of reproach.

In the case of the two disciples the Lord's testing question brings out the true motive as disclosed in their question, "Master, where dwellest Thou?" It becomes plain that they were not taking the outside place simply to escape the corruptions of Judaism, nor to receive some benefit for themselves, but because they longed to be with One to Whom they had been attracted in affection. The motive was not self, but Himself. They wanted to know the One to Whom they had been attracted, and therefore they say, "Where dwellest Thou?" We do not really know people by a casual meeting or an occasional interview; to know them we must be with them in their own home. Would we have a deeper acquaintance with Christ we must seek to know Him in His own home — the Father's home. Hence the word is, "Seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God". And where shall we get a deeper sense of things above than when found with two or three gathered together to His Name with Himself in the midst?

To such desires the Lord delights to respond. As it has been said, we can have as much of Christ as we want. At once the Lord replies to these disciples, "Come and see"; and we read, "They came and saw where He dwelt". There is nothing in this world that speaks of Christ; and we may be sure that, whatever there is in our homes, there was nothing in His home to divert from Himself. Having seen where He dwelt, they came to know Him in His own home, and knowing Him they were delighted to abide with Him that day. The Person Who had drawn them into the outside place was the One Who held them there.

John 1:40-42. There follows the proper outcome of abiding with Christ — the finding others for Christ. Thus we read that one goes forth from that hallowed place to find his own brother Simon, and having found him "he brought him to Jesus". He did not bring him merely to an outside place, nor to a company in the outside place, but to a Person, to Jesus. And how beautiful is the reception that Simon has. He finds himself in the presence of One Who knows his name, and his father's name, and Who gives him a new name. In telling Simon his name, and his father's name, the Lord lets him know that he is in the presence of One Who knows his whole history from the moment of his birth. In changing his name, Christ claims him for his own, for the right to change a name implies ownership and authority. Thus at the commencement of his spiritual history Peter learns that the Lord knows the whole of his history as a sinner, and yet claims him as His own for ever.

How beautiful is the path of these disciples in connection with Christ on this first day of His ministry, and how rich with instruction for ourselves. They are marked by:
Looking upon Jesus as He walked;
Hearing of Jesus, as one speaks of Him;
Following Jesus in the outside place;
Seeing where Jesus dwelt;
Abiding with Jesus;
Finding others for Jesus; and
Bringing them to Jesus.

The second day of Christ's ministry (verses 43-51).
Here the picture changes, and Christ is seen as the gathering centre of His earthly saints, the Jewish remnant; before He had been presented as the gathering centre of His heavenly saints — the Church.

John 1:43-45. We hear nothing, on this day of the dwelling place of Christ, the portion of the heavenly saints. On the previous day, two disciples left the world to gather to Christ to dwell with Him in His home. On this day Christ goes forth into the world and draws two saints to Himself to reign with Him in His Kingdom. This is in accord with all that is written in Moses and the prophets, who say nothing of His heavenly glories, but very much of His earthly reign. As the future King, Philip witnesses to Him as the legal Son of Joseph, and therefore heir to the throne.

John 1:46-48. Nathanael shows at first the characteristic Jewish unbelief, for he says, "Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Furthermore, he represents the godly Jewish remnant who will be called out of the unbelieving nation, after the Church has been removed, and in whom repentance will be wrought for the nation's rejection of Christ. The Lord recognises Nathanael as one in whom there was no guile, for had not the Lord seen him in all his exercises under the fig tree? Doubtless he had been there confessing his sins, for only by confession to God can a soul be delivered from guile.

John 1:49. As the result of guile being removed from his soul, he sees all things clearly, and confesses Christ as the Son of God and the King of Israel. These are the two titles under which, according to Psalm 2, the Jewish nation rejected Christ. In the court of the high priest, the nation denied that Christ was the Son of God: in the court of Pilate, they rejected His claim to be the King of Israel.

John 1:50-51. The Lord recognises the faith of Nathanael drawn forth by the Lord's own words. After Nathanael confesses Christ, according to Psalm 2, the Lord now announces to him His further glory, according to Psalm 8, as the Son of Man. As the Son of Man He will be set over all the works of God's hands, with all things put in subjection under Him. If earth beneath will be in subjection under Him, the heavens above will be opened over Him, and the angels, finding their glorious object of service in Christ on earth, will establish relations between heaven and earth.

The third day of Christ's ministry (John 2:1-11).
The opening words of this chapter clearly connect the marriage in Cana with the last chapter. The marriage takes place on "the third day". If the first day sets forth in picture the gathering of believers to the Lord during the Church period, and the second day the gathering of the godly remnant of the Jews to the Lord after the Church has been caught up to heaven, may we not rightly conclude that the third day speaks of the restoration of Israel in the Millennial day? The whole incident is spoken of as a "sign" (verse 11, N.Tn.) and a sign is a natural or material fact with a spiritual significance. In its typical signification the marriage scene may well set forth the renewal of relationships between Jehovah and Israel. Hosea presents Jehovah as saying of Israel in the future, "I will betroth thee to Me for ever; yea I will betroth thee to Me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness and in mercies. I will even betroth thee to Me in faithfulness" (Hosea 2:19-20).

Very significantly Hosea adds "After two days will He revive us: in the third day He will raise us up" (Hosea 6:2). This may set forth the repentance of the nation that leads to their restoration in righteousness. This restoration will be the result of a moral cleansing brought about by repentance, set forth in picture by the filling of the empty water pots of purification. Then, when holiness is met, the wine of joy will flow forth for Israel.

4. The Ruin of Man and the Glory of Christ
John 2.

In reading the Gospel of John we must remember that it presents the setting aside of the Jewish and earthly order of blessing to introduce that which is entirely new, heaven, and eternal in its character. This new order of blessing — Christianity, involving the revelation of divine Persons — awaited the Incarnation of the Word. None but a divine Person is great enough to reveal divine Persons and disclose the purposes of the heart of God.

Everything in Christianity being founded on the Person of the Son, we can understand that the Gospel opens by unfolding the glory of His Person, thus laying the foundation of all lasting blessing for man and glory for God. Before, however, we are prepared to profit by the revelation of heavenly things we must be convinced of the hopeless condition, and utter ruin of fallen man.

This necessary exposure of man is brought before us in the second chapter. Here we learn, first, that man cannot secure his own happiness in natural and right things — the wine runs out (John 2:1-11); secondly, man cannot avail himself of the religion that God has given him to secure blessing on earth — the Temple is corrupted (John 2:13-17); thirdly, man cannot appreciate the goodness of God when He condescends to dwell amongst men full of grace and truth — Christ is rejected (John 2:18-22); finally man cannot by natural reason appreciate Christ, for even though he reaches a right conclusion as to Christ it leaves man far from God. There is nothing in fallen man that God can trust (John 2:23-25).

Further, if this chapter tells us of the ruin of man, it also discloses the glory of Christ, bringing true happiness, dealing with all the evil, overcoming the power of death, and attracting to Himself.

The marriage feast (verses 1-11).
Apart from the dispensational teaching of the marriage in Cana, telling us of the renewal of God's relations with Israel in a future day, there is the great moral lesson teaching us that all things earthly fail to minister lasting joy. Marriage is the greatest occasion in the life of a natural man, and rightly he seeks to make it a season of festivity and joy. Alas! the wine of human joy runs out. Man is incapable of securing his own happiness. Under exceptionally favourable circumstances man might have every opportunity to secure happiness if it were possible to do so by natural means. Youth, riches and health might be at his disposal, and used to the best advantage in lawful ways, such as marriage. None the less, the happiness will not last — the wine runs out. In the brightest moment of life there will be something to mar complete happiness, and over the joy of the passing day there hangs the dread of what the morrow may bring. Circumstances may change, health may fail, and death may break up the happiest home and end the closest relationships.

If, however, the marriage scene exposes the failure of man at his best, it also manifests the glory of Christ rising superior to every man, and everything, and securing a happiness for man that he cannot secure for himself. We are brought to learn that apart from Christ there is no lasting joy.

Moreover, if Christ secures true happiness, He does so as One Who is wholly apart from Israel and the world. In verse 1 we see a social occasion with which the mother of Jesus is connected. In verse 2 we see Jesus and His disciples forming a distinct circle apart from the world. They are called to the marriage; and in response, the Lord graces the occasion with His presence, thus putting His sanction upon a relationship instituted by God.

Nevertheless, when the wine runs short, He will not intervene at the instigation of His mother. He says, "Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come". Through His mother the Lord was connected with Israel and the law. By refusing to act in connection with the mother, He shows that all that He did, as presented in this Gospel, flowed from His relationship as the Son with the Father, and not from natural relationships with the mother or legal relationships with Israel. In this gospel the Lord is ever viewed as outside all earthly relationships, as a heavenly Man bringing in "heavenly things" (John 3:12). He thus manifested forth His glory as being in relationship with the Father, as carrying out His will and finally securing joy for man.

The way the Lord takes to supply the good wine is surely significant. He causes the empty waterpots of purification to be filled and from these waterpots the wine is drawn forth. Does this not tell us, in a symbol, that the happiness of men will only be secured when holiness is maintained?

The cleansing of the Temple (verses 13-17).
If the marriage at Cana tells us that man cannot secure his own happiness by the natural means that God has instituted, the second scene, at Jerusalem, demonstrates that man cannot avail himself of the religion that God has given. If God provides a religion suited to man in the flesh, to regulate his conduct and secure his earthly blessing, man immediately corrupts it into a means of making gain. The House of prayer for all nations becomes the resort of changers of money, who turn the Father's House into a house of merchandise. The Lord deals with this great evil, and justifies His judicial act by claiming His relationship with God as His Father, and asserting that the Temple is His Father's house. Thus, once again, He manifests forth His glory before His disciples as the Son acting in zeal for the glory of His Father's house, according to the Scripture, "The zeal of thine house has eaten me up" (Psalm. 69:9). This psalm, now that the Son has come, receives a fuller and deeper meaning, disclosing to us that the rejected Man, of whom the Psalmist speaks, is none less than the Son.

"The Temple of His body" (verses 18-22).
The Jews ask for a sign, giving fresh occasion to show what is in the heart of man. The Lord, in His reply, indicates that as having become incarnate His body was now the true Temple or dwelling place of God. The Temple at Jerusalem was empty, and very soon would be pronounced to be their house and given over to destruction. (Matthew 23:38; 24:2). The temple at Jerusalem could be corrupted; with the Temple of the Lord's body no corruption was possible, though men could with violence seek to destroy His body. Again, and again, they sought to stone the Lord, and at last, when the hour was come, they were permitted to "destroy" the temple of His body. Man's wickedness becomes a further occasion for the manifestation of His glory as the Son, as well as His superiority over all others. Man may destroy, but he cannot raise the dead. Christ says, as it were, "When you have done your worst, when you have destroyed the temple of My body, I will raise it up". His resurrection will be the declaration in power that He is the Son of God.

The natural mind of man (verses 23-25).
The closing verses demonstrate the further important truth that, though man by his natural reason can reach certain correct conclusions by evidence that is brought before him, yet the conclusions of natural reason will leave him at a distance from God. Thus we read that many at Jerusalem "believed in His Name, when they saw the miracles which He did". On the evidence of sight their natural reason led them to the conclusion that Christ was all that He said He was, but there the matter ended. They had no sense of their need of Christ, no conscience work that brought them to Christ. It was belief about Christ founded on sight; not faith in Christ that drew them to Himself.

To such Christ did not commit Himself. This again manifests the glory of Christ. He is One Who "knew all men"; "He knew what was in man", and needed not, as others, that any should testify to Him of man. He is the Omniscient God.

What an exact picture of man and the world is presented in this chapter: natural things failing to bring lasting happiness; God's things corrupted; the One Who brings the grace of God rejected; and man's natural reason, even when correct, leaving him at a distance from God. Yet the exposure of man makes way for the revelation of the glory of Christ; hence, very blessedly, the chapter presents Christ as the resource of the believer. If we learn the failure of all things earthly, if we are burdened with the sense of all the evil that has come into the things of God, if we see death upon all, and our natural minds incapable of reaching God, in the midst of all the failure and ruin of man we find Christ, the One Who can fill the heart with joy, can deal with all the evil, break the power of death, and attract to Himself.

5. The Sovereignty of God and the Responsibility of Man
John 3.

If the second chapter of John proves the ruin of man, the third chapter presents the complete setting aside of the man that is ruined in order to bring in a new race by the sovereign action of God in new birth, and the work of Christ upon the cross. Man must be born anew, and the Son of Man must be lifted up (John 3:1-17).

Nevertheless, the sovereignty of God does not set aside the responsibility of man. Hence man's responsibility to come to the light and believe in the Son is fully set forth (John 3:17-21).

The chapter closes with the final witness of John the Baptist to the glory of Christ (John 3:22-36). John must decrease and Christ must increase. Thus the way is cleared for the full display of the splendour of God in Christ — the Son, in the remaining chapters of the Gospel.

The sovereignty of God (John 3:1-16).
The deeply important truths connected with God's sovereign work in man are developed in the story of Nicodemus, one who presents man at his best. Nicodemus is highly religious, eminently respectable, and thoroughly intellectual. He is a man of the Pharisees, a ruler of the Jews, and a teacher in Israel. Yet we learn that all these human excellencies will not enable a man to enter the kingdom of God. That which is flesh is flesh. It may be highly cultivated and refined flesh, as in the case of Nicodemus, or utterly degraded flesh as in the case of the woman in the fourth chapter, but, in either case, there is no appreciation of God revealed in grace. Apart from the sovereign grace of God working in us, none would come to Christ.

John 3:1-3. Nicodemus, like those referred to in the end of the last chapter, had reached a right conclusion about Christ, based upon the external evidence of miracles. He says to the Lord, "We know that Thou art come a teacher from God, for none can do these signs that Thou doest unless God be with him". It was so far a just conclusion which the human mind is capable of reaching, but, if nothing more than the result of human reason, leaves the soul at a distance from God and without any sense of the need of Christ.

In contrast, however, to those who simply believed on the evidence of sight, there was in Nicodemus a sense of need. This contrast is emphasised by the better translation which opens chapter 3, by saying, "But there was a man … his name Nicodemus … he came to Him" (N.Tn.). Others reasoned and stopped (?) away; Nicodemus also reasoned but came, proving that behind his reasoning, and unknown to himself, there was a work of God in his soul, producing a sense of need and drawing him to Jesus.

The moment a sense of need is produced in the soul there is the consciousness that the religion of the flesh, official position as a ruler, and reputation as a teacher, are not enough. When this sense of need is produced by the Spirit there will be at the same time the consciousness that only Christ can meet it. Hence the soul is drawn to Christ.

At the same time Nicodemus comes by night. With the awakening of the sense of need of Christ, there is the consciousness that the world — and especially the religious world — will be opposed. Hence the first drawing to Christ is often secret.

Nicodemus calls the Lord, Rabbi (Master), and tells the Lord what he knows, and gives the Lord the place of Teacher, while taking the place of the learner. With no real knowledge of himself, he imagines that he is quite capable of learning if only he has someone to teach him. The Lord's reply, "Except any one be born anew he cannot see the kingdom of God", at once sweeps away Nicodemus' deferential recognition of the Lord as Rabbi, his knowledge acquired by human reason, and his natural aptitude to learn. It is all of the old nature and worthless when it is a question of being taught in the things of God. By human reason, and natural abilities, we can see a great many things in nature; but unless a man is "born anew" he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Here, then, the Lord connects the new birth and the kingdom; later He will speak of heavenly things, His own work, and eternal life. The kingdom was not presented, at that time, in its material and outward form which nature could recognise; it was presented in Christ in its moral characteristics. The King was present, but rejected; and its moral features were seen in Him, "righteousness, peace and joy". These are the blessings that will indeed characterise His Kingdom in the day of His reign, and are known now in the power of the spirit by those who believe in Christ in the day of His rejection. To see the kingdom in this moral way, in the King, was impossible to nature. For this there must be a work of God in the soul, here spoken of as new birth.

John 3:4. Nicodemus, reasoning as a natural man, shows that the thoughts of the human mind are limited to man's experience. Man cannot, if left to himself, apprehend spiritual and heavenly things.

John 3:5-6. The Lord in His reply carries us beyond the bounds of man's experience and tells us what God is doing. This work of God, we learn, is not only necessary to see the kingdom but also to enter it. To have part on (in?) the kingdom in any form, whether morally, or in its outward glory, there must be a nature suited to the kingdom.

The Lord speaks of being born of water and of the Spirit; then He adds, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit". "That which" — that is the nature which — is born of the Spirit is spirit; it partakes of the nature of the One by Whom it is born; it is therefore an entirely new nature. The water is a figure of the Word applied by the Spirit, effecting the practical purification of our thoughts and hearts from the old nature and its desires.

"That which is born of the flesh is flesh" is a far-reaching statement. It shows that nothing after the flesh will do for the kingdom of God. Israel after the flesh cannot inherit the kingdom of God; but anyone that has this new nature — Jew or Gentile — is fit for the kingdom of God. The Lord is carrying us outside the Jewish nation and throwing open the kingdom to all that are born anew.

John 3:7-8. We have then the necessity of this new birth; but we learn, further, that this new birth is entirely of God. It is the sovereign action of the Spirit of God, likened to the wind which does not blow at the direction of man. We cannot say whence the wind is to come or where it is to blow: even so the sovereign action of the Spirit cannot be confined to the Jew or to any particular individual. We cannot control the action of the Spirit; it is not for us to say where or in whom He can work.

John 3:9-10. Nicodemus still marvels at truths so entirely contrary to his natural reason. He enquires, "How can these things be?" The Lord suggests that, as a teacher, he should have been acquainted with these things. Had not the prophet Ezekiel spoken of the "water" and the "spirit" working in men in order that they might be cleansed from their filthiness and have a new heart (Ezekiel 36:25-27).

John 3:11. In contrast with Nicodemus, and the leaders of Israel who took the place of teachers and yet were ignorant of their own Scriptures, the Lord spoke of truths of which He had perfect knowledge, and testified of things that He had seen. He not only knows what is in man (John 2:25), but He knows all that is in the heart of God. He knows the extent of our need, and He knows the greatness of God's grace to meet that need.

Nevertheless, the Lord has to add, "Ye receive not Our witness". We may indeed question the witness of men, knowing full well it is only according to their limited knowledge: but when One testifies Who has perfect knowledge, and that witness is rejected, it proves the utter hopelessness of man when left to himself.

Thus we have a complete exposure and setting aside of the natural man at his best. First he may arrive at certain conclusions about God and Scripture which are right, but which leave him at a distance from God: secondly, when One Who has perfect knowledge bears witness to the truth man rejects the witness.

All proves the necessity of the great truth that man "must be born anew". The better translation is "anew" rather than "again", as in the Authorised Version. The word does not imply a modification or change of the old nature, but the impartation of a nature that is entirely new from its beginning. The word "again" is translated "from the very first", in Luke 1:3, and "from the beginning" Acts 26:5. Born anew does not mean that the Holy Spirit works on the natural man, as if He were turning a bad state into a good state; but that there is wrought in the man that which is entirely new.

John 3:12-13. In the first part of the chapter the Lord has been speaking of earthly things — the kingdom of God, and the necessity of new birth to see, and enter, the kingdom. At this point the Lord passes on to speak of heavenly things and eternal life, and the necessity of the Cross. If man would not believe when Christ spoke of earthly things, much less would he be able to believe in heavenly things. Hence if new birth is needed in order to see earthly things, much more is it needed to apprehend heavenly things. Of earthly things the Baptist has spoken, and the prophets had spoken, but no man had been to heaven to report the things that are there. But if no one was capable of ascending up to bring a report of heavenly things, there is One Who in grace came down from heaven — the Son of Man, which is in heaven. This is an expression of the deepest meaning. It shows that though the Lord is truly Man, yet He belongs to heaven, and is heavenly in character. We connect the thought of man with earth: but in the Son of Man we see a Man connected with heaven. He is the object of heaven's delight, the centre of heaven's praise. He may visit earth, but His home is in heaven. Though He walks on earth, He lives in heaven all the days of His sojourn here. The expression "heavenly things" only occurs in two other passages — Hebrews 8:5, and 9:23. It refers to Christianity.

John 3:14. It is not, however, the thought of God that Christ should be the only Man in that bright scene. But if the counsels of God, that others are to be there after His order, are to be carried out, then the Son of Man must be lifted up. This at once brings us to the Cross, as meeting not simply our sins, deeply important as that is, but as meeting our state.

John 3:15. The Son of Man being lifted up, the good news can now be proclaimed, "Whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life". We, as fallen men, were in a sinful state, and our lot was to perish. The effect of Christ's work — of His being lifted up — for all that believe is eternal life. The believer enters into the new and heavenly relationships of the Son of Man.

In this passage the Gospel is presented from God's side. It is the good news of the love and purpose of God's heart, rather than the good news of that which meets our need. In the commission given to the disciples, as recorded in Luke 24, they were told to preach repentance and remission of sins in the Name of Christ among all nations. This is the proclamation of that which meets the first need of one that repents, namely the remission of sins. In the Acts this is the burden of all the recorded preachings (see Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19; Acts 5:31; Acts 10:42-43; Acts 13:38; Acts 17:30; Acts 26:18). New birth, apparently, was not preached, nor indeed eternal life; though wherever the preaching was received, new birth was surely involved, and eternal life the result (see Acts 13:47-48).

In this portion of the chapter the sovereignty of God is prominent, and the Gospel is presented in all its greatness from God's side. Man's first concern is the fact that he has sinned, and God graciously meets this need by proclaiming the forgiveness of sins through the death and resurrection of Christ. But behind the sins committed there is the man that committed the sins. There is absolutely no good in this man, and therefore the holiness of God demands that this man should be utterly brought to an end in judgment. Furthermore, the judgment of death that rests upon this man has been carried out at the Cross only. Hence, the aspect of the Cross presented here is that prefigured by the brazen serpent. The children of Israel looking to the brazen serpent saw the likeness of that which, in them, caused all the trouble. So we are privileged to look back to the Cross, and see Christ made in the likeness of sinful flesh, and a sacrifice for sin (Romans 8:3). There He was made what we are, in order to bear the judgment that rested upon us. That which is born of flesh is flesh, and is under judgment; and the judgment of all that we are according to the flesh has been carried out for the believer at the Cross. Even as this aspect of the Cross goes farther than bearing sins, so the blessing for the believer goes much farther than the forgiveness of sins. It is not only the end of the life that is under judgment, but the bringing in of a new life — eternal life — a life that consists in the enjoyment of relationships with divine Persons. How we enter into the practical enjoyment of this life comes out in John 4. It is by the Spirit within, as the living water springing up into everlasting life. Moreover, this great blessing cannot be confined to the Jew; it is also for the Gentile. Thus the word is "whosoever believes in Him".

John 3:16-17. Moreover, behind all the dealing of God with the man under judgment, there is the love of God. This is of the deepest importance to our souls. Apart from this great truth, verse 14 might leave us with the sense that God is only a Judge — it may be a Judge that has been met to the full, but still a Judge. Here we learn that the God that has dealt in judgment is a God of love. The same Cross that reveals God as a righteous Judge demonstrates the greatness of His love. He so loved that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. While judgment has been met, and eternal life given to those who believe, in perfect righteousness according to verses 14 and 15, at the same time the blessing has its source in divine love according to verse 16.

Further, if it is a question of meeting righteousness, Christ is presented as the Son of Man; when it is a question of making known the love of God, Christ is presented as the only begotten Son of God. The One Who stands in man's place and bears his judgment must of necessity be a Man — the Son of man. The One Who makes manifest the heart of God must be a living Person — the only begotten Son.

In these verses everything is traced back to its source, whether in God or man, and all looks on to the final end, whether on God's side or man's. In God, the source of all His actions is found in His love; in man, the source of all the trouble is found in what he is, and not simply what he has done. The end, in God's purpose, is eternal life in a heavenly sphere for those who believe. For those who do not believe the wrath of God abides on them for ever.

The responsibility of man (verses 18-21).
John 3:18. If the first part of the chapter presents the sovereignty of God, the verses that follow bring before us the responsibility of man. God, in His love, has sent His Son into the world, not to condemn, but that the world through Him might be saved. If verse 17 tells us we can be saved only "through Him", the following verses tell us that those who reject Him are "condemned already". Men have not to wait until the judgment day to hear their condemnation on account of their evil deeds. If they reject Christ, whatever else they may have done, they are condemned already.

The passage makes it clear that there can be no judgment for the believer in Christ; otherwise it would deny the efficacy of the work of Christ when lifted up on the Cross. It makes it equally clear that the one who rejects Christ is condemned already. The blessing or the judgment turns upon the attitude of men to Christ, and not simply on the evil they have done.

John 3:19-21. Man's responsibility is based upon the fact that "light is come into the world", and shone in full splendour in the Person of the Son, revealing the heart of God. Man is responsible to avail himself of the light. The fact that he has made himself incapable of doing so does not affect his responsibility. Men love darkness rather than light. But why is this? Because their deeds are evil. Thus, by his evil deeds man has made himself incapable of profiting by the light. A drunkard may drink himself into a condition in which he is unconscious and incapable of fulfilling his duties. Nonetheless he is responsible. Incapacity does not relieve from responsibility.

The evil deeds that men do lead them to hate the light that exposes their deeds and disturbs their conscience. An uneasy conscience makes the light insupportable. He that puts the truth into practice will not fear the light.

The final testimony of John the Baptist to the glory of Christ (verses 22-34).
In these closing verses John contrasts his own ministry with that of Christ, and, so doing, bears witness to the glory of Christ and the heavenly character of His ministry, before which he must decrease that Christ may increase.

John 3:22-27. A question having arisen as to purifying, the Jews take occasion to call John's attention to the fact that all men were coming to Christ. John willingly admits that the crowds that once came to him are now gathering round Christ. He recognises that this is a work from heaven drawing to Christ, and is satisfied that it should be so.

John 3:28-30. John then clearly sets forth the position in which he stood to Christ. He is the forerunner and, according to the illustration he uses, he is the friend of the Bridegroom. Christ is the true Bridegroom that will receive His bride, and John rejoices because he has seen the Bridegroom and heard His voice. John forms no part of the bride, nor does he see the bride; but, as the friend, he hears the Bridegroom's voice and his joy is full, and his mission accomplished. Therefore, he adds, "He must increase, but I must decrease". Love delights to see Christ exalted, even though the one that delights in Christ passes from the thoughts and vision of men. Would that every believer could catch this happy spirit of John that shrinks from publicity and prominence before men in order that Christ may be exalted, that makes nothing of self that Christ may be all in all.

John 3:31-33. Finally, John bears witness to the glory of Christ as coming from above — from heaven, and thus of necessity taking a place above all who come from earth. John, whose origin was of earth, was earthly in character, and spake only of earthly things — the Messiah and His earthly kingdom. The One Who comes from heaven speaks of heavenly things which He has seen and heard. A prophet like John is not only[?] limited to earthly things; but, even so, they are things to come which do not yet exist on earth. Christ, on the contrary, speaks of actual things which exist in heaven.

John has to add the solemn fact that "No man receives His testimony". This testimony of heavenly things — things which exist in the presence of God — has no interest for men who neither understand nor desire the things of heaven. No man, if left to himself, receives the testimony of Christ. It can only be received by faith. The one who receives the testimony does so on the authority of God; he sets to his seal that God is true.

John 3:34. The believer has good ground for receiving this testimony on the authority of God, for a divinely sent Person brings a divine message in the power of a divine Person. Christ was sent of God, to speak God's word, in the power of the Spirit of God. Moreover, the Spirit was not given by measure to Christ. It is no longer, as in the days of the prophets, a message containing a particular truth; but, seeing it is the Son that speaks, it is the presentation of the full truth.

John 3:35-36. It is generally thought that the last two verses express the testimony of John the Evangelist to Christ, as they speak of eternal life as a present and known possession, rather than presenting a prophetic testimony to what Christ gives, as in the testimony of John the Baptist. Thus it would seem that the Evangelist adds his witness to the glory of the Son. He says, as it were, "What the Baptist says — that 'God gives not the Spirit by measure' to Christ — must be true, for 'the Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand'". The fulness of truth presented by such a glorious Person leads, if received, into the fulness of blessing — everlasting life; but if rejected will finally leave the rejecter under the abiding wrath of God.

6. The Ways of Grace in the Blessing of Sinners
John 4.

The events recorded in the second chapter having proved the total ruin of man, the way is prepared in the third chapter to present the sovereignty of God working on behalf of man. Having irretrievably ruined himself, all blessing for man must depend upon God. Hence, in chapter 3, the truth is presented from God's side. The entrance into blessing depends upon the sovereign work of the Spirit in man; the foundation of our blessing rests upon the work of Christ on the Cross; and the source of our blessing is traced to the love of God for man.

In chapter 4 the truth is presented from our side, showing how a sinner is led into blessing. This is illustrated in the story of the woman at the well, who is brought from the lowest depths of misery and degradation to the highest heights of blessing. A woman, who is corrupt by birth and degraded by practice, is offered the very highest heavenly blessing — the living water, springing up into everlasting life — so that she may become a satisfied worshipper.

The truth of the chapter stands in striking contrast to that in John 2, There, in connection with respectable and religious man, the earthly joy runs out, and the temple worship is corrupted. Here, in connection with the story of a degraded woman, we have heavenly joys that never fail, and the worship of the Father in spirit and truth. The earthly joy is surpassed by the heavenly, and the temple worship set aside by the worship of the Father.

The chapter displays before us the splendour of God revealed in Christ Jesus, showing that such is the love of God, the efficacy of the work of Christ, and the sovereign action of the Spirit, as revealed in chapter 3, that earth's worst sinners can be led into heaven's best blessings. The heart of man can be satisfied with the living water, and the heart of the Father gratified with worship in spirit and truth.

The story of the woman at the well (verses 1-30).
Here we learn the way God takes to win our confidence so that the sinner is brought to believe in the love of God that gives the greatest of blessings to the worst of sinners.

John 4:1-3. From the opening verses we learn that the Lord takes a place outside the Jewish sphere, indicating that the heavenly blessings that God has for man cannot be confined to the Jew. The Pharisees, having rejected Christ, were apparently displeased that the Lord attracted to Himself more disciples than John.

As to fact, we are told that "Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples". Christ, who had before Him the counsels of God to bring sinners into heavenly blessings, could not carry out a rite which, though it separated souls from the guilty nation, only linked them with Himself on earth. For the disciples, at the moment it was right to baptize; for in the faith of their souls they knew Christ only on earth. Christ knew that, for the time, His earthly Kingdom was set aside. Thus He leaves Judaea to go into Galilee of the Gentiles (Matthew 4:15), to teach us truths that are for all the world.

John 4:4. In order to reach Galilee, "He must needs go through Samaria". Why must He needs pass through Samaria? It is true the direct route to Galilee was through Samaria, but there were other routes taken by strict Jews in order to avoid a people that they despised. The need, therefore, was not a question of roads and countries. May we not say, rather, that the need was in the heart of God? Before the foundation of the world God had purposed for blessing a poor sinful woman in Samaria and, to win that soul and gratify the heart of God, Jesus must needs go through Samaria.

The Samaritans of the Lord's day were justly looked upon as a corrupt race. The commencement of their history is recorded in 2 Kings 17:24-41. Following the captivity of the ten tribes, the Assyrian king repeopled the land with men from Babylon and other heathen cities. Dwelling in the land of Jehovah, and yet not fearing the LORD, they were troubled by the LORD. In attempting to meet this trouble, the Assyrian king sent a priest of Jehovah to teach them the ways of Jehovah. In result they became a corrupt people who "feared the LORD, and served their own gods". Thus they had some dim knowledge of the Lord, and of the fact that the Messiah was coming.

John 4:5-8. Into this corrupt country the Lord takes His journey to bless one needy soul. Coming to Jacob's well, and being "wearied with His journey", He sat on the well-side. Not only is He weary, but thirsty; for He asks the woman, who at this moment comes to the well, to give Him water to drink. Moreover, the disciples having gone into the neighbouring city to buy food, the Lord is alone.

How wonderful is this scene! The everlasting Word, the Creator of the worlds, the eternal Son, who dwells in the bosom of the Father, has become flesh and, having become flesh, He dwells among us full of grace and truth. He lays aside His royal estate and majesty to tread a pathway of humiliation as a stranger on earth. He does not pass through the land in kingly state, with a royal retinue, but He becomes a poor Man that we through His poverty might be rich. Thus with adoring wonder we find Him sitting by the well-side, a weary, thirsty, and lonely Man.

The everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, the One Who "faints not neither is weary" is found as a Stranger in the land, and wearied with His journey. The One Who made every drop of water in the universe is Himself a thirsty Man in the world His hands had made. The One Who in heavenly glory had been ever surrounded by angelic hosts is seen on earth a lonely Man.

Why had He become a weary, thirsty, lonely Man? Because there was no other way in which He could get near to a poor degraded sinner, and so win that sinner's confidence, that all her guilty fears were removed and she brought to believe that, in spite of all her sins, God loved her. To make known the heart of God, He will face weariness, thirst and loneliness. There was everything around Him to make Him weary. Sin and sorrow, ignorance and ingratitude, hatred and opposition, met Him on every side, but He never wearied in His testimony to the love of God, or in His service of love to poor sinners, or in His tender care for His failing disciples.

What of the woman He had come to meet? Not only did she belong to a corrupt and despised race, but she was one who had drunk the cup of sin to its dregs. In the pursuit of pleasure and the gratification of lust, she had thrown off all restraint, and flung away her reputation and all that a woman holds dear. She had broken through the laws of God and man, and had sunk to the lowest depths of sin and shame. In result she had found, as ever, only bitterness and dissatisfaction, weariness and shame. Shrinking from contact with her fellow-women, she comes to draw water at an hour when other women would not be present. As ever, her sin made her a lonely woman.

In the ways of God, this weary, thirsty, lonely sinner finds herself in the presence of the weary, thirsty, lonely Saviour. She was wearied in the service of sin: He was wearied by His journey in the service of love. Her sins made her a lonely woman: His love made Him a lonely Man. Love brought Him where sin put her. Even so, a little later, His love takes Him into the place that sin brings us — the unutterable loneliness of the Cross, when lover and friend forsook Him; when He looked for some to take pity and found none, and for comforters but there were none. Betrayed by a false disciple, denied by a true disciple, forsaken by all the disciples; lifted up between heaven and earth; cast out by man, and forsaken by God, He had to face the awful loneliness of the Cross. What took Him into that loneliness? It was love — love that the waters could not quench, and the floods could not drown. The love that made Him a lonely Man at Sychar's well took Him into the yet greater loneliness of Calvary's Cross. If men reject such love, little wonder that they will find themselves at last in the loneliness of a lost eternity.

Good for us if, like the woman, we find ourselves alone with Jesus in a day of grace. If any fear to be alone with Him, let them drink in the blessedness of this wonderful scene, and mark the way He takes with this sinful woman. No harsh or unkind word escapes His lips; no word of bitterness or reproach is uttered. He simply says, "Give me to drink". Why did He ask for a drink of water? Truly the well was deep, and He had no means of drawing the water; but could He not have wrought a miracle to quench His thirst? For others, indeed, He works miracles of grace; but never do we read that He wrought a miracle to meet His own needs. There is but one answer: the eternal Son, sent by the Father to be the Saviour of the world, in the greatness of His way, condescends to be beholden to a fallen woman for a cup of cold water in order to win the confidence of her desolate heart.

John 4:9. The woman is arrested by the fact that One, whom she perceives to be a Jew, should make a request to a Samaritan.

John 4:10. The Lord's reply discloses that the woman knew neither her own need, nor the love of God, nor the glory of the One in whose presence she was. Had she known, she would have asked, and He would have given. She had yet to learn that God is a Giver in love, and that such is her need that she can only be a receiver in grace.

John 4:11-12. The Lord may speak of the gift of God, and His delight in giving the living water, but the woman, wholly engrossed with her cares and material things, pursues her own thoughts and speaks of the well, the natural water, and Jacob who had given them the well.

John 4:13-14. The Lord, in His reply, contrasts the water which occupied the woman's thoughts, with the living water of which He was speaking. The water of the well, like all earthly joys, of which it is the symbol, can never satisfy. There is no source of lasting satisfaction in things earthly. Money, pleasure, ambition, duties and earthly relationships, if pursued, may provide a moment's distraction or provide a passing gratification, but no lasting satisfaction. "Every one who does not know Christ has either a disappointed heart, or a heart seeking what will disappoint it" (N.Tn.).

In contrast the Lord proposes to give a poor sinner the living water — or life in the power of the Spirit, that will spring up into everlasting life. Not only can Christ meet our need as sinners, but beyond all our need, He gives a life that brings eternal satisfaction and leads the soul outside this world of need into another world — a world of satisfied desire.
To "live with Christ in life's eternal home,
 Where sin, nor want, nor woe, nor death can come".

John 4:15. Alas! Heavenly things are outside the range of her thoughts. Thinking only of her daily needs, she gives the Lord's words a material significance. In common with mankind she would fain have the daily needs to be met without the daily toil the fall has involved. Men would be very content with earthly blessings if only the curse could be removed. "The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness upon him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned". Apart from the Spirit, human intelligence cannot comprehend divine things.

John 4:16. It therefore follows that in His reply the Lord entirely ignores the woman's words. It is useless to speak further of things that are too great to a mind too small to apprehend them. Thus the Lord takes another way, and the only way whereby the darkness of our minds can be dispelled. He speaks to the conscience, and wins the heart. Intelligence in divine things comes by the conscience, and not by the intellect.

And how marvellous is the tender way He takes. He sits alone by the well side in company with a wicked woman to shew her herself and to make known Himself. He is going to expose her life to win her heart, but He does it alone. Thus He puts His finger on the dark blot in her life, and appeals to her conscience by saying, "Go call thy husband and come hither".

How full of meaning are the "go" and the "come" of this short sentence. "Go call thy husband" speaks of the sin of her life; "Come hither" tells of the grace of His heart. The "go" seems to say, "Your sins put you at an infinite distance from Me": the "come" seems to say, "My love draws you near to Me". Oh precious Saviour, who knows the worst about us, yet bids us come to Him! Where, indeed, shall we find a friend like Jesus? Where is there another in all the universe who knows all that we have ever done, and yet loves us, and, loving us bids us come to Him? What a revelation is this of divine love!

John 4:17-18. The woman feels the conscience-reaching power of the Lord's words and, shrinking from the light, seeks to evade the truth. She tells the truth to hide the truth, for she says, "I have no husband". But love presses home the truth more plainly. Her white lie is exposed. It is true she had no husband, for she had had five, and at the moment she was living in sin.

John 4:19. At once the woman realises that she is in the presence of One to whom all secrets are known. She knows that none but God knows all the secrets of her heart; so without any excuse or further attempt to hide the truth, she exclaims, "Sir, I perceive that Thou art a prophet". She did not need anyone to tell her that Jesus was a prophet. Her conscience being reached, her understanding begins to be opened, and she can say, "I perceive". She has much to learn, but the light is getting into her dark soul. Why is it that they do not "perceive" that the Bible is the Word of God? There is one reason, and one only — the conscience has never been reached. "When", said the late J. N. Darby, "I find a book that tells me all things that ever I did, I know what it is. It does not require to be proved by man. The only thing that brings authority with it is the Word of God coming to the conscience."

John 4:20. The woman is still preoccupied with her own thoughts; nevertheless her confidence is so far won that she can bring her religious difficulties to the Lord.

John 4:21-24. The Lord in His reply takes occasion by the woman's remark to speak of the change in worship about to take place with the introduction of Christianity. On the authority of the Lord she is asked to believe that the hour was at hand when worship would no longer be a question of worshipping in a place, such as the mountain at Samaria or the temple at Jerusalem, but it would be the worship of a Person. Moreover it would no longer be the worship of a Person who is unrevealed, but of God revealed and known in grace as the Father. Further it would no longer be an outward worship by forms and ceremonies, but worship in spirit and truth. Again God will no longer be demanding worshippers, but as the Father He will seek worshippers. Finally, Christian worship is according to the true nature of God. "God is a spirit: and they that worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth."

John 4:25-26. The deep meaning of the Lord's words may be entirely beyond the comprehension of the woman, but at least they convince her that she cannot do without Christ; for this, surely, is the meaning of her words, "I know that Messias comes, which is called Christ: when He is come, He will tell us all things". Christ, as the Prophet, has spoken to her conscience, and brought her face to face with her sins. In the presence of her sins she feels that earthly religion, whether in this place or that, will be of no avail. Her sins exposed and her religion withered up, she knows that none but the coming Christ can meet her case. Christ as the Prophet has convinced her of her need of Christ as a Saviour. Her language is really the expression of the desire, "Oh that Christ were come!"

Thus the way is prepared for the One Who has reached her conscience, to reveal Himself to her heart. "I that speak to thee am He." She finds herself exposed as a sinner in the presence of the Saviour who has all grace to deal with her sins, and all love to win her heart.

John 4:27. The disciples, returning from the city, "marvelled that He talked with the woman". Slow to appreciate the greatness of the grace of God, they marvelled, even as we still marvel, at such a scene. Alas! as so often, ignorance of grace is accompanied with moral distance from the Lord; so they fear to tell the Lord the thoughts that were passing through their minds. "No man said, What seekest Thou? or, Why talkest Thou with her?" They did not see that God, in the greatness of His grace, had come down into this world in the Person of the Son to seek worshippers. How wonderful, and Godlike, is the way He takes to find a worshipper! It is as if God said, "I want to find in that ruined world some heart which shall be so enraptured with a view of Myself that, lost in wonder, it will be compelled to worship". To find that soul the Everlasting Word becomes flesh and, as a lowly Man, passing by the great city of Jerusalem, the magnificent temple, the religious Pharisees, the learned scribes, and the ceremonial priests, He takes a journey into a corrupt and despised country where, at a well, weary and thirsty, He sits beside a poor sinful woman, dulled and degraded by sin; in order to win her confidence He makes Himself beholden to her for a drink of water: then, gently letting the light into her dark soul, He discovers to her the sin of her heart, that He may disclose to her the love of His heart, until at last there is no more spirit left in her, and there is nothing left but to worship and adore in the presence of the splendour of God revealed in Jesus.

John 4:28-30. If the disciples are slow to be moved by the blessedness of the Lord's grace, on the woman it has an immediate and practical effect. Hitherto she has been absorbed in her daily toil of which the water pot was but a symbol. Now she has found a new Object in life — Christ fills her soul; thus she leaves her water pot and returns to the city to become a witness, in the very place of her sin, to the One Who has set her free.

How beautiful is the testimony that she renders. The Lord has said to her, "Come hither", and now she takes up the Lord's word and can say to the men of the city, "Come see a Man". She does not invite them to a place or even to a company of people, but to a Person. John pointed his disciples to Jesus — the Lamb of God: Andrew "brought Simon to Jesus": Philip says, "We have found Him … come and see": and the woman says, "Come see a man".

And Who is this blessed Man? One, she says, "who told me all things I had ever done". He told me, but He did not tell anyone else. Then she adds, "Is not this the Christ?" Yes, indeed, she was right; this must be the Christ; for who but Christ would tell me all things that ever I did, and yet love me and draw me to Himself?

The word that comes from the heart reaches the heart; and so we read, "They went out of the city and came to Him".

The Father's will in the service of sinners (verses 31-38).
John 4:31-34. The disciples were occupied with material wants, rather than spiritual needs: yet their words show how truly they loved the Lord, for we read, they "prayed Him, saying, Master, eat". In His reply the Lord, while not denying the needs of the body, indicates that He had a source of sustenance and joy of which they knew little or nothing. "I have meat to eat that ye know not of."

Still thinking of natural need they said "one to another, Has any man brought Him aught to eat?"

The Lord, in reply to their exercises, discloses to us the blessedness of the path He trod. He says, "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work". Here was One Who, amidst all the sorrows of earth and the trials of the way, was sustained by the one object of doing the will of the Father. In the presence of the perfection of His way we may well challenge our hearts as to the motives that sustain us as we pursue our daily path. If honest with ourselves, shall we not have to admit that, at best, our motives are very mixed; and yet, how much more simple our lives would be if, in our little measure, realising that the Father has a will about us and a plan for us, our one desire was to do the Father's will and finish the work He has given us to do (2 Timothy 2:4; Acts 20:24; 2 Timothy 4:7).

John 4:35-38. For the instruction of the disciples, and ourselves, the Lord sets before us the blessedness of treading the path of the Father's will in the service of love for others, and thus encourages us to take the same path, in this respect, that He Himself was treading.

First, the Lord would engage us with the spiritual harvest, and not the natural. If the disciples were to reap the natural harvest they would have to wait four months; the spiritual need is ever present. The spiritual fields "are white already to harvest".

Secondly, the Lord reminds us that the one who is engaged in this service of love "receives wages". He does not necessarily "earn" them, as if he merely secured the just equivalent of his labours, but he "receives" wages; it may, indeed, be more than he has earned. The Lord will not be a debtor to any man, and retains His sovereignty in rewarding His servants.

Thirdly, the fruit of this service is lasting. For his natural labour, man only secures the things that perish in the using. In this spiritual service the labourer "gathers fruit to eternal life" (1 Thessalonians 2:19).

Fourthly, it is service that leads to joy, and a joy that is shared with others. "Both he that sows, and he that reaps may rejoice together". The prophets and godly men of old had laboured, and the disciples were reaping the fruit of their labours. Was this not true in one sense of the Lord, Himself? The Father had been working hitherto (5:17) by prophets and others from the beginning of the world, and the Lord could say that He was sent to finish His work (verse 34). In another sense the Lord, as the Sower, had commenced an entirely new work (Matthew 13); as a result, the Lord's servants, dispensationally are "reaping" rather than "sowing", and thus are instructed to reap rather than sow. Nevertheless, as a general principle, it surely remains true that, "One sows, and another reaps".

The Saviour of the world (verses 39-42).
John 4:39-42. In the city of the corrupt Samaritans, the Lord is owned as the Saviour of the world. To the woman the Lord had said that salvation is of the Jews: now, He delights to show it is for the Samaritans. As one has said, "Without sign, prodigy or miracle, in this village of Samaria, Jesus was heard, known, and confessed as truly the Saviour of the world" (W.K.). The testimony of the woman to the grace of Christ had drawn their hearts to Him, and they besought Him to tarry with them. No Jew, clinging to his own righteousness and religious importance, would ever have confessed Christ to be the Saviour of the world. But he who has found himself as a sinner in the presence of One Who knows all his sins, and yet is full of grace for the sinner, can at once see that a door of blessing is opened to any and every sinner: and, though one cannot measure the depths of a love that passes knowing yet, such can say,
But this I know, He heals the broken-hearted,
And stays our sins and calms our lurking fear,
And lifts the burden from the heavy laden,
For yet the Saviour, Saviour of the world, is here.

The story of the nobleman (verses 43-54).
John 4:43-54. From the story of the woman we have learnt there is grace for the worst of sinners. In the instruction to the disciples we learn there is on every hand a world of needy sinners. In the city of Samaria, we learn that Christ is "the Saviour of the world". Now we are to learn that the blessing can only be received by faith.

Having spent two days in the city of Samaria, the Lord takes His way into Galilee. The men of Sychar had received the Lord on the ground of testimony: they said, "We have heard Him ourselves". In contrast, the Galileans received Him "having seen all the things that He did at Jerusalem". The Lord takes occasion by the nobleman coming to him with his need to rebuke the Jewish nation for looking for "signs and wonders" as a ground of faith.

The nobleman beseeches the Lord to come down and heal his son, who was at the point of death. From the Lord's words we may perhaps gather that the nobleman was putting the Lord to the test: if he could see Christ miraculously raise up his son, he would believe. The Lord rebukes this thought. Faith rests not upon external signs that appeal to sight but upon the word of God. Thus the Lord makes the blessing turn upon faith in His word, "Go thy way, thy son lives". Thus the nobleman is tested: will he believe the word of Jesus apart from seeing signs and wonders? Very blessedly he answers to the test, for we read, "The man believed the word that Jesus had spoken".

Then having believed, he gets the sign as a confirmation of his faith. No signs can give faith; but miracles will confirm the faith that exists.

This was the second sign that Jesus did — a sign that showed the Lord had a power of arresting death in the case of one at the point of death. Israel as a nation, like the nobleman's son, was at the point of death, and Christ was present with power to arrest death and heal the nation, but to receive the blessing called for faith in His word. Alas! the nation proved their lack of faith by looking for signs.

7. The Ways of Grace in Deliverance from the Law
John 5.

John 2 presents the setting aside of the flesh by the work of the Spirit in us, and the condemnation of sin by the work of Christ for us (John 3:6-7, 14).

In the fourth chapter, in the story of the woman at the well, we learn the way of practical deliverance from the power of sin by a new life lived in the power of the Spirit, so that, in result, the believer should no longer serve sin. As the apostle can say, "The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:2).

Chapter 5 presents the way of practical deliverance from the principle of law, and the weakness of the flesh. Man is raised up from the weakness which sin has brought upon him, and delivered from the law which cannot help him, by the power of the Son of God. The chapter has four main divisions: first, at the pool (John 5:1-9); secondly, the rest of God reached through the deliverance of man (John 5:9-16); thirdly, the glory of the Person who secures the deliverance of man and the rest of God (John 5:17-29); lastly, the different witnesses to the glory of Christ (John 5:30-47).

The story of the man at the pool, or deliverance from law (verses 1-9).
The scene by the well of Sychar had been used to show us God's way of deliverance from the power of sin. The pool of Bethesda is now used to present God's way of deliverance from law. Samaria and its corrupt people set forth the need of deliverance from sin: Jerusalem and the religious Jew are used to set forth the need of freedom from the law.

In the five porches of the pool were a great multitude of sick folk. Some were blind, some were lame, others had withered and helpless limbs; but all needed healing. These sick people were waiting round a pool in which the blessing they so sorely needed could be obtained. At a certain season, in the providence of God, an angel troubled the water, and the sick person who first stepped into the pool after the troubling of the water obtained the blessing.

Two things then become manifest: first, there was blessing to be obtained from the pool; secondly, the blessing could be obtained only by the efforts of the sick person.

Thus the pool becomes a striking picture of man under law. In the legal system of the Jews, as well as in the providence of God, there is blessing for man; but the blessing under law, or in the providence of God, can only be secured by man's own efforts, and to put forth these efforts calls for power in man. It follows that under law, the man who is in the worst plight, and therefore who most needs the blessing, is the least able to obtain the blessing. The disease from which he needs to be healed deprives him of the power to avail himself of the means of healing. This was the sad condition of the man who had been suffering from an infirmity for thirty-eight years.

As with the man in connection with his bodily needs, so with ourselves in connection with our spiritual needs. The power of sin from which we need deliverance has deprived us of the power of obtaining deliverance by our own efforts. The impotent man, for long weary years, had been struggling to obtain the blessing, but all in vain. At last he is brought to the point when he confesses that he is in need of a deliverer. He needed deliverance from his legal struggles to secure the blessing, and he needed strength over that which had hitherto carried him. In answer to the Lord's question he says, "Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool". He owns his utter weakness and the futility of all his efforts and therefore the need of another if he is to be delivered from his sad condition. Directly he ceases from his struggles and looks for a deliverer, he finds that a Deliverer is at hand. The Lord's word is, "Rise, take up thy bed, and walk". The man is delivered from his own efforts to get the desired blessing, with the result that, by the power of Another, he is made whole, and enabled to carry the thing which had carried him.

The impotent man is thus a striking picture of the man described in Romans 7, with whom the will to do right was present, but the power was wanting. When, however, all legal efforts to deliver himself from lusts are found to be in vain and the soul cries out, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me … ?", at once he finds there is a Deliverer at hand, and he can say, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord". Thus we find in Christ One Who delivers us from our own legal efforts and enables us to overcome the very thing by which we have been overcome.

We have, however, carefully to note what we mean by deliverance from law. The principle of the law is that we overcome by what we do. The man in the seventh of Romans was seeking to act on this principle; he was struggling to overcome his lusts by his own efforts. Deliverance from law in a practical way, means that we are delivered from our own efforts. We are delivered from the weary struggle to overcome the flesh and the power of sin. It is not simply deliverance from our evil tempers and lusts that we need, but deliverance from our own efforts to overcome them, and in place of struggling with our tempers and lusts, and continually suffering defeat, to look to the Lord, and find in Him a Deliverer.

The principle of the pool is that "God helps those who help themselves". But Christ shows that He helps a man who owns that he is utterly helpless. The power is in Christ; deliverance depends upon the Deliverer.

The rest of God reached through the deliverance of man (verses 9-15).
The man having been healed, we read, "The same day was the sabbath". The significance of the sabbath is "rest from labour", as when in creation God "rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made" (Genesis 2:2; Exodus 20:11). The creation rest was broken by sin, and now there can be no rest for God or man as long as man is under the power of sin and death. When, through the work and power of Christ, man is delivered from sin, and healed, "the same day" will be the true Sabbath.

This rest cannot be reached by man's own efforts under law. The law said, "Do this and thou shalt live"; but man did not, and could not, keep the law. His attempt to do so only made the evil of sin manifest, as well as his own utter weakness, and therefore his inability to obtain the rest of God by his own doings.

Nevertheless, man, ignorant of the true meaning of the sabbath, insists on the outward observance of the sabbath in order to acquire a religious reputation. But while insisting on its outward observance, man is wholly indifferent to the sin that broke into the rest. The blessing of the sabbath rest is for a people who keep the law, not for a people who break the law. Man may be content to rest in the presence of sin and the misery it entails. God cannot rest where sin and misery exist. His holiness demands that He should deal with sin; His love impels Him to work for the relief of the sinner.

The man's answer to these Jewish opponents is convincing to anyone not filled with enmity to Christ. "He that made me whole, the same said to me, Take up thy bed, and walk.". The One Who had the mighty power to relieve his need gave him authority to carry his bed on the Sabbath. Who but those moved by malice would question the authority of One with such power?

Immediately these opposers ask, with seeming contempt, "What man is that which said to thee, Take up thy bed and walk?" Whatever their thoughts, it is true that all turns upon the question, "Who is this Man?" This is still the question, Who is this glorious Person, full of grace and truth, who has come to dwell amongst men? All blessing for man hangs upon the glory of His Person, so blessedly brought before us in the verses that follow.

The man himself wist not who it was; for Jesus, passing through the land as a Stranger, had conveyed Himself away, a multitude being in that place. He was not here to bless the nation as such, for already it had rejected and opposed Him. He was seeking and saving His sheep, and calling them out of the nation. Thus the Lord goes after the man that is healed, and finds him in the temple. It would seem that his heart was touched by the blessing he had received, for at once he resorts to the temple to praise God. The Lord warns him that behind the sickness of the body there had been the indulgence of sin, and that sin brings its governmental consequences.

The man at once departs, and tells the Jews that it was Jesus that had healed him. Probably the man acted in simplicity, ignorant of their malice, and thinking that they too desired to know this wonderful Person. He evidently was filled with the mighty deed that had been wrought, as he twice refers to it (verses 11, 15). They are occupied with the fact that contempt had been poured upon their Sabbath-keeping pride. "Therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath day."

The glory of the Person who delivers man, and secures the rest of God (verses 17-31).
The Jews had asked, "What man is that which said to thee, Take up thy bed and walk?" We are now to see the glory of this Man who can deliver from the power of sin and the bondage of the law, and bring in the rest of God. If His glory is manifested, it is that all may honour the Son.

John 5:17-19. The Lord opens this discourse by saying, "My Father works hitherto, and I work," words of the deepest meaning that we may well ponder, for they reveal the glory of Christ as the Son, and thus answer the objection of the Jews that "He had done these things on the sabbath day". What, we may ask, is the character of the works of the Father and the Son? Throughout the history of the world the works of men have been characterised by violence and corruption. The greatest power of man is displayed in devising means for the destruction of life. This scene at Jerusalem proves the character of the works of men, for at that moment the Jews were seeking to slay the One Who had just raised a man from a dying bed. In contrast to man's works, the works of the Father and the Son raise men from the dead and bring men into life and blessing.

Moreover, the Father had worked "hitherto". It is true the Father is only revealed as such when the Son comes into the world, but behind all that God has done in the world from the beginning of time we can now see the hand of the Father working in accord with the purpose and grace of His heart to relieve man from the presence of sin and death. We can thus trace the Father's work in the promise in the Garden of Eden; in His dealings with Abel and Enoch; at the flood; in the promises to the Patriarchs, as well as in the utterances of the prophets.

Then the Lord adds, "and I work". This brings into display the glory of His Person. Very rightly the Jews interpret this word of the Lord as meaning He was "equal with God". It was the assertion of His deity, and thus the revelation of the glory of His Person. It shows the equality of the Son with the Father, inasmuch as all that the Father does the Son does likewise. Moreover the Son does not work independently of the Father. All is done in perfect agreement as moved by the same thought and affection, for "the Father loves the Son and shows him all things that himself does".

Nevertheless, having become Man, the Lord is careful to maintain all that is right and perfect in this condition. Thus, while asserting His glory as equal with the Father, He can say, "The Son can do nothing of Himself". Though equal with the Father, He receives all from the Father. Equality of divine Persons does not mean independence between divine Persons, as if there were two Gods. Two supreme and omnipotent beings would be an impossibility. Thus the Lord can say, "What things soever He (the Father) does, these also does the Son likewise".

The fact, however, that the Son does nothing of Himself, but only those things that the Father shows Him, plainly tells us that all the Son does is the manifestation of the Father. If the Jews saw the Son, they saw the Father; if they rejected the Son, they rejected the Father. The passage not only presents the glory of the Son, but tells us that in all that He was doing He was presenting the Father. In John 4 we are brought to the Father by the fountain of living water springing up to eternal life, and we worship. Here the Father is brought to us in the Person of the Son.

John 5:20. "The Father loves the Son." This statement shows that there was One present on earth who was adequate for the display of the Father's love. To say that the Father loved a saint — even the greatest of saints — however true, would not adequately set forth the greatness of the Father's love. Men prove the poverty of their love by the smallness of the objects on which they oftentimes set their affections. The greater the object of the love, the greater the character of the love. In the Son every moral quality is found in perfection. The Father's love is so great it can be satisfied with no less an object than the Son.

Then the glory of the Son is shewn in another form. His works declare His glory. Already He had turned the water into wine, healed the nobleman's son, and raised up the man at the pool. These were works connected with the blessing of man on earth. There are, however, greater works that the Father has for the Son, which pass beyond the bounds of death and are connected with eternal life.

John 5:21-23. The Lord proceeds to shew that the greater works are the work of resurrection, the work of quickening, and the work of judgment. These greater works will affect all men, believers and unbelievers. Believers will be raised and quickened: unbelievers and opposers, like the Jews to whom the Lord was speaking, will come under His strange work of judgment.

Quickening is giving life — a life that lives to God. In a spiritual sense the believer is quickened now; he is made consciously alive to God out of a state in which he was spiritually dead to God (Colossians 2:13). Moreover, quickening not only refers to the soul of the believer but also to the mortal body, which at the coming of Christ will be entirely delivered from death, to put on immortality (Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 15:53). Unbelievers will be raised from the dead; they are not said to be quickened.

If, like the Jews, men refuse to honour the Son as equal with the Father, they will have to honour Him by meeting Him as the Judge. To refuse Him as the Son is to miss the blessing: to meet Him as the Judge will seal their doom. But the Father will have His Son honoured either as the Son or as the Judge. It is decreed that "all men" shall honour the Son. Quickened souls, in the power of a new life, delight to own Him as the Son. The wicked will be compelled to own Him as the Son in judgment. Moreover, the judgment will be not only that they have rejected the Son, but that, in doing so, they have also refused the Father. "He that honours not the Son honours not the Father which has sent Him".

John 5:24. In the verses that follow, the Lord distinguishes between death morally and death physically. The great fact in death is separation; it may be separation of soul and body as in physical death, or separation between God and the soul in moral death. It is of the latter that the Lord first speaks in verses 24-27. He shows how those who are dead to God in trespasses and sins can be quickened, and that such hear His word, and believe in the Father who sent Him. They not only escape judgment but they have life, and, in living the life, they pass out of the condition in which they were dead to God into one in which they live to God. They pass "out of death into life" (N.Tn.).

John 5:25-26. There is the responsibility of the sinner to hear and believe, but these verses present, rather, the sovereign act of the Son in quickening the morally dead. In result they hear the voice of the Son of God and live.

Hearing the voice of the Son of God is not simply hearing certain words that were spoken by the Lord. In Acts 13:27 we learn that the people of Jerusalem heard the actual words of the prophets every Sabbath day and yet they knew not "the voice of the prophets". It is evident, then, we may hear the words and miss the voice. Again, in 1 Corinthians 14:10, we read there are "so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification". The voice, then, is the true signification of the words — the message that the words contain. The signification of the voice of the Son of God is the revelation of God in love acting in sovereign grace toward man.

Thus the voice is that which is special and peculiar to the testimony rendered by a Person. The prophets had a voice — that which was peculiar to their testimony. John the Baptist speaks of himself as a voice; there was that which had peculiar significance in his testimony. There is that which is altogether unique and peculiar to the voice of the Son of God — and His sheep hear His voice (John 10:3).

When the peculiar significance of the voice of the Son of God is heard, the soul lives. "They that hear shall live." Such pass out of the region of death into the region of life where God is known.

Furthermore, the Son of Man has authority to execute judgment. Men reject Christ as the Son of God, and seek to kill him as the Son of Man. God will have Him honoured both as Son of God and Son of Man by those who have rejected Him. This can only be in judgment, seeing they have rejected Him. Therefore He exercises judgment both as Son of God and as Son of Man (verses 22, 27).

John 5:28-29. In verses 24 to 27 we have the present effect of hearing the voice of the Son of God. It leads to life. In verses 28 and 29 the character of the voice, and the effect, is different. It will have an actual physical effect in raising the dead from their graves. It has been said the moral always comes first with God, and what is physical follows. In verse 25, when speaking of believers, it is said, "They that hear shall live". Here, in verse 29, which includes believers and unbelievers, nothing is said about life, but simply that those who "hear His voice … shall come forth".

There are two resurrections, the resurrection of life and the resurrection of judgment. The question as to which resurrection we have part in is here made to depend on moral grounds — doing good or doing evil. It is not put on the ground of faith or unbelief. It is true that no man can do good apart from faith in God; and also what God calls "doing good" may be very different to what man considers "doing good". Where there is life, it shows itself practically by doing good.

Both "life" and "judgment" require resurrection. If life is to be seen and enjoyed in its own proper sphere then the body must be raised from the dead. If man is to be judged, he too must be raised from the dead. Resurrection is a necessity to declare the glory of Christ.

The different witnesses to the glory of Christ (verses 30-47).
John 5:30-31. From this point in the chapter we have the Lord's presentation of the various witnesses to the glory of His Person — testimonies that leave the rejecters of Christ without excuse. There was, indeed, the Lord's own testimony to Himself. This was not merely the testimony of a man who spoke and acted according to the thoughts of his own mind, or of one who was seeking to enforce his own will. It was the testimony of One Who had taken the place of the perfectly dependent Man. In consistency with this place He could do nothing of Himself. Behind His testimony there was the hidden life of communion with the Father and dependence upon the Father. Therefore He can say, "As I hear, I judge: and My judgment is just; because I seek not Mine own will, but the will of the Father which has sent Me". His judgment was not formed from what He heard from men, nor warped by seeking His own will. Too often our judgments are defective because our minds are influenced by men, and affected by the working of our own wills.

Nevertheless, however perfect His own witness, it would not by itself be valid according to the law, which says, "The testimony of two is true". One has said, "The testimony of one man might be true — absolutely; just as true in itself as that of two. But it would not be true in the same way to others; it would need confirmation". For this reason, though His judgment was just and His motives pure, He does not ask men to believe in Him simply on His own witness. There are four other witnesses which the Lord proceeds to give us:
First, the testimony of John the Baptist (verses 32-35);
Secondly, the testimony of His works (verse 36);
Thirdly, the testimony of the Father Himself (verses 37, 38);
Fourthly, the testimony of the Scriptures (verses 39-47).

John 5:32-35. John the Baptist bore witness to Christ and the truth, and his witness was true. The Lord needed no witness from men, but to meet the Jews in grace, in order that they might be saved, the Lord brings forward John's witness. In his time, John was "a burning and a shining lamp" in the midst of the darkness that preceded the coming of Christ; and in his light men, for a season, were willing to rejoice, for they counted him to be a prophet (Luke 20:6).

John 5:36. There was, however, a greater witness than that of John. The works that the Father had given Him to finish — the great signs of John's gospel — which were the completion of the Father's works (verse 17), bore witness to the glory of His Person as the sent One of the Father.

John 5:37-38. Further, the Father Himself had directly borne witness to the glory of His Person. At the baptism, the voice from heaven had said, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased". As far as the opposers were concerned, this witness was all in vain. Though the Father had spoken, they had never heard His voice; to them, when He spake, it was only thunder. Evidently His word had no lodging-place in their hearts; for the One Whom He had sent they believed not.

John 5:39-40. Finally, there is the testimony of Scripture, in which the Jews boasted, thinking to find therein life and blessing. They would indeed do well to search the Scriptures, for they testify of Christ. Alas! while boasting in the Scriptures, they would not come to the One of whom the Scriptures spoke, and in whom alone life and blessing is to be found. The Lord does not say, "Ye cannot come", but "Ye will not come". It is true that man is dead in trespasses and sins and cannot come; it is equally true that he is alive in sins and will not come.

John 5:41-42. The Lord's motive in inviting men to come to Him was not that He might acquire honour from man, but that man might obtain blessing from God. The fact that they would not come to Christ exposed their condition and proved that the love of God was nothing to them; it had no place in their hearts.

John 5:43. The Lord had come in the Father's name, presenting the love of the Father's heart. In their refusal to receive Christ they rejected a testimony that, while it revealed the love of the Father's heart, utterly condemned the evil and selfishness of their own hearts. This rejection of Christ would expose them to the terrible influence of the coming antichrist who will come in his own name. He will appeal to man's desire for greatness and power and glory. He will raise no question as to their sinful condition. He will require no moral change in man, but only that men shall yield him power and glory. This man, so thoroughly after their own hearts, they will receive.

John 5:44. Their own low moral condition made it impossible for them to believe in Christ and receive the truth. Seeking honour and esteem from men hindered them from taking the lowly place, and owning their true condition as sinners, to receive blessing and honour from God.

John 5:45-47. Moses, in whom they professed to trust, was their accuser. Had they truly believed in Moses, they would have believed in Christ, for he wrote of Christ.

The Lord closes the discourse by bearing a striking witness to the importance and value of the writings of Moses. He attaches greater value to the form in which the communications of Moses are given, than to the form of His own communications. The communications of Moses were written; His were oral. The writings of Moses and the Lord's words had equally divine authority, but the permanent value of what is written by inspiration is greater than inspired communications by the living voice.

8. The Ways of Grace in Deliverance from Want.
John 6.

Chapter 5 presents Christ as the Son of God giving life to whom He will. Chapter 6 presents Christ as the Son of Man giving life to those who receive Him, and the Sustainer of the life that He gives.

Two incidents are recorded in the first part of the chapter (John 6:1-21), which present in picture the great theme of the Lord's discourse in the latter part. In the first scene, Christ acts as a King providing bread from His royal bounty to sustain natural life. In the second scene, Christ is presented in picture as Priest on high, supporting His own, and sustaining their spiritual life as they pass through a world where all is against them. In the discourse that follows, the Lord presents great truths which involve His Incarnation (John 6:32-51); His work (John 6:51-56); His resurrection (John 6:57); and His ascension (John 6:62). He is thus presented that all that believe in Him might live, and have this new life sustained, so that every spiritual want is satisfied.

The Feeding of the Five Thousand (verses 1-14).
This fresh sign is a witness to the intervention of God on behalf of man according to Psalm 132:15, "I will abundantly bless her provision: I will satisfy her poor with bread". The great theme of the chapter — Christ for the satisfaction of the hearts of His people — is thus set forth in this sign. In chapter 4 Christ delivers from the power of sin; in chapter 5 He delivers from the bondage of law; and in chapter 6 He delivers from want.

John 6:1-9. A great multitude is found on a barren mountain in need of food. As far as human power was concerned it was impossible to meet this need. But the Lord is present and He will meet the need; but before doing so, He uses the difficulty to test the faith of His own disciples. Have they faith to use the resources of the Lord when, on their side, all hope is gone? Thus the Lord says to Philip, "Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?" Then we are told, "This he said to prove him: for He himself knew what He would do".

Can we doubt that as it was then so it is now? Difficulties are allowed to arise among the people of God that are wholly insurmountable by man, in order to prove us. We profess to follow Him, confessing that without Him we can do nothing, but that His grace is sufficient. Then our profession is put to the test by a difficulty that we cannot overcome. However, we are told that "He himself knew what He would do" — words that assure us no difficulty will ever arise in our individual paths or amongst the people of God that He cannot solve. In the last and difficult days, teachers and leaders may fail us, but there is One to Whom we can turn in the darkest day, and in the presence of the greatest difficulty, with the certainty that He knows what to do.

Too often the root of the trouble is that we, on our side, are slow to own the humbling fact that we do not know what to do. We each think we do know, and all would be right if only others would do what we suggest. And thus we fail to turn to the One Who does know. As with the disciples, difficulties expose the poverty of our faith; while at the same time they reveal the greatness of the resources in the Lord. Philip can only think of the power of money to meet the case; though he has to admit that his plan would only provide the crowd with "a little". How different the Lord, Who, when He acts, gives "as much as they would".

While Philip talks of what a great deal they require, Andrew bemoans what a very little they have. Neither of these disciples think of the Lord and the vast resources in Him that are at the disposal of faith.

John 6:10-14. The disciples having been proved to be lacking in faith, the Lord Himself reveals the grace of His heart, and the power of His hand, to meet the difficulty. Blessed for them, as for ourselves, that the breakdown of His people does not stay the hand of the Lord in acting on their behalf.

The scene that follows is surely a foretaste of Millennial blessing, setting forth the perfect administration of the Lord, and the power of One Person to calm the world's unrest and meet its desperate hunger. At His word five thousand men are in a moment set in perfect rest. He speaks the word, and at once we read, "The men sat down". So will it be in the day of the Lord when He "will break the bow and the sword and the battle out of the earth, and will make them to lie down safely" (Hosea 2:18).

Moreover, the scene not only reveals the glory of His Person, but the perfection of the way He takes. We read, "Jesus took the loaves" — the five barley loaves — and having "given thanks", He fed the multitude. He uses the natural resources of earth in connection with the God Who had given them, owning that heaven is the real source of all blessing for man.

When the resources of earth, however small, are brought by the power of Christ into connection with heaven's inexhaustible supply, a very little will go a long way. In the day of the prophet, God can use a "widow woman" with a "handful of meal" and "a little oil in a cruise" to sustain a household for a full year (1 Kings 17:15-16). So Christ can use a lad with five loaves and two small fishes to feed five thousand men.

Moreover, so perfectly does the Lord "distribute" the necessities of life that every need is met. Idle luxury and extreme poverty, extravagant waste and desperate need, will no longer exist when the Lord has His rightful place as the Judge of all the earth. Men attempt to equalise the wealth of the world by attacking the rich, only to show that man's power is destructive and not administrative. Man can make the rich poor, though he cannot make the poor rich. Man can destroy the present order; he cannot bring in Millennial blessing.

When Christ dispenses the blessing, men receive as much as they will, and even so, when all are filled, there will remain "over and above". Now the demand exceeds the supply; then God's grace will fully meet man's need; but man's need will never exhaust God's grace.

Christ on the Mount and the Disciples on the Sea (verses 15-21).
John 6:15-21. Arrested by the miracle of feeding the five thousand, the people confess Christ as the Prophet foretold by Moses, Who would, like Moses, come to the people from God to meet their needs and lead them into the promised blessing (Deuteronomy 18:15-19). They would gladly make One Who exercised such mighty power their King, and thus their deliverer from the hated Roman. The reigning time had not yet come; so, refusing to be made a King, Christ departs into "a mountain Himself alone", there, in picture, to exercise His present work as the Priest.

The disciples, left behind, entered a ship to pass over the sea agitated by "a great wind that blew" amidst the gathering darkness — a true picture of Christ's people left in a dark world during His absence, opposed by the wicked, who, like the sea, cannot rest. Nevertheless, the disciples are supported by Christ Who comes to them in their dire distress.

This priestly work of Christ is now exercised on behalf of the Church, and will continue to be exercised on behalf of the godly remnant of the Jews when passing through the great tribulation. It is probably to these Jewish saints that the scene more particularly refers; thus completing the teaching of the first incident by showing that the blessing of the Kingdom will only be reached through the great tribulation.

When exposed to the awful activities of Satan in the time of their trial, the Jewish remnant will experience the sustaining grace of the Lord as High Priest after the order of Melchizidek. At length, when the storm of persecution rises to its height, and their condition is well nigh hopeless, the Lord will appear on their behalf and manifest a power above the power of the enemy, set forth in picture by Jesus walking on the sea.

In the presence of this display of power the disciples "willingly received Him into the ship". So we read, of the yet future day, "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power" (Psalm 110:3-4). When humbled by their trials, they will receive in faith the One Who, in the day of their pride, was rejected in unbelief When Christ was received into the ship, the disciples reached "the land whither they went": so will Israel reach their blessing under the reign of Christ.

The Discourse of the Lord at Capernaum (verses 22-71).
John 6:22-25. From the introductory verses of the Lord's discourse we learn that, the day following the feeding of the five thousand, the people who had been fed crossed the lake to Capernaum seeking for Jesus.

John 6:26-27. The Lord opens His discourse by exposing the motives of the people in seeking Him. It was not because of any sense of spiritual need or because they saw the glory of His Person as manifested in the sign, but because they ate of the loaves and were filled. If Christ would have met the temporal needs of men without raising any moral question as to their condition before God, they would gladly have followed Him. Alas! amidst the corruptions of Christendom the same motives govern men as in the day of corrupt Judaism. It is still true that men seek Christ, not because of the signs, but because of "the loaves and fishes". Men do not mind listening to sermons and hearing about Christ, so long as Christ is presented merely as One Who can improve the condition of the world, and meet the world's temporal needs. If, however, Christ is presented as the sign of God's intervention for man's eternal blessing, then the mass has no interest in Christ.

So, too, men will labour to obtain that which perishes with the using, while remaining indifferent to that food which endures to everlasting life. The Son of Man came to give everlasting life, and fill the soul with satisfaction by delivering from spiritual want (verse 35).

Furthermore we are permitted to see in this discourse the glory of the Son of Man, as in the previous chapter there is disclosed to us His glory as the Son of God. Here His distinguishing glory in seen in the great fact that, as the Son of Man, He is sealed by God the Father with the Holy Spirit. Thus He is marked out from the whole race of mankind as God's possession, and One Who as Man is the Object of the Father's perfect approval and infinite delight.

John 6:28. The Lord's word had clearly shown that these men had no sense of the glory of His Person, nor of the need of their souls. Their own words now tell us that they had no sense of their utter weakness. With great lightness they ask, "What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?" They take the ground that they are quite capable of doing anything that God requires if only they are instructed as to His wishes.

John 6:29. How great was their darkness! Knowing neither their own helplessness nor God's grace, they thought of God as One demanding from man. They had yet to learn that the grace of God is not demanding works to obtain the blessing, but only asks that man should believe in the One Whom He has sent. Works would follow faith.

John 6:30-31. The people at once manifest their unbelief by asking for a sign. They fully understood that a sign was a proof of God's intervention in the affairs of men. Truly they had seen the Lord feed the five thousand, but, they argue, what is this compared with Moses feeding the great host of Israel for forty years in the wilderness.

Christ Himself was the sign of God's intervention in grace, and the signs that He did made it abundantly clear that a divine Person was present in grace in a lowly Man. Having no sense of their need, ignorant of Scripture, and filled with their own self-importance, they could not see the sign. They looked for a Christ to come with outward display in power over their enemies, and in a way that would put honour upon Israel. Instead, Christ came in lowliness, and they stumbled at His humiliation. Had they been sensible of their need they would have looked for redemption, and they would have seen the sign. It is manifest that the One Who came to accomplish redemption by sacrifice could have no part in the glory and honour of this world. Simeon and Anna looked for redemption in Israel, and they saw the sign (Luke 2:34, 38).

John 6:32-33. The Lord answers that it was not Moses that gave them bread from heaven: in common with the people, he was only a receiver. The Lord then presents three great truths which distinguish Him as Man from Moses and all other men.

First, the presence of the Son of Man was the sign of the Father's intervention in love on behalf of man. No longer was God demanding from man in righteousness under law; but the Father was giving to man in love under sovereign grace.

Secondly, the Lord presents the great truth of His Incarnation. He is not simply a Man raised up on earth, as in the case of Moses and others; He is One "which comes down from heaven". He is truly a divine Person, yet present as a Man on earth, a Man after an entirely new order — a heavenly Man.

Thirdly, He is the bread of God, that "gives life to the world". It is no longer giving life to Israel on their journey through the desert: Christ, the bread of God, is for every one that needs Him.

John 6:34. Thinking only of the natural life, the people say, "Lord, evermore give us this bread". With no sense of their spiritual needs they had no discernment of His glory or the meaning of His words.

John 6:35. In answer to their request, the Lord presents Himself as the true bread, and speaks of the blessed result of coming to Him. If they would have bread that would satisfy their needs for "evermore", they are welcome to come to Him, the One Who is the bread of life. As the bread of God, He gives "life" and "satisfaction", and this life is available for the world. Those that avail themselves of the gift of life, by coming to Him, will find that it is a life that meets the need of the soul: they "shall never hunger", and "never thirst".

John 6:36. Alas! man left to himself rejects Christ when presented in Incarnation, even as later he rejects Him in death (verse 52) and as ascended (verse 66). The Lord has to say "Ye also have seen Me, and believe not".

John 6:37. If, then, blessing depends upon man's responsibility, all is over; none will be blessed. But, as ever, when man is thoroughly exposed, God falls back on the counsels of His own heart. He will not allow all to perish; nor will He allow that the coming of the Son of Man shall be all in vain. There are those whom the Father has purposed to give to the Son; and, as the Lord can say, "All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me". Seeing that the Father gives them, the Son will receive them; "Him that comes to Me I will in no wise cast out". Whatever their nationality or their character, be they Jews or Gentiles, fallen women or hardened thieves, Pharisees or publicans, if they but come to Christ they will be received, for their coming is the proof that they are the gift of the Father to the Son.

John 6:38-40. Moreover, the fact that the Lord received all that the Father sent was a proof that He was here to do the Father's will. Very blessedly the Lord presents Himself as come down from heaven, not to do His own will, but to be the Servant to accomplish the will of the One Who sent Him. The Father's will is committed to One Who is able to carry it out. The will of a divine Person can only be carried out fully by a divine Person; hence in these verses we have the Father and the Son. The Father wills His counsels of grace; the Son gives effect to these counsels.

The Father's will is presented in a double aspect. First, His will is seen concerning the Son. It is the Father's will that those given to the Son should be in the safe keeping of the Son, and that all such should be raised up by the Son in the last day. How blessedly the Father's will carried out by the Son assures all that come to Christ of their full salvation from every power of evil, and their final entrance into full blessing at the last day. Christ will "lose nothing". At that day all that has been known to faith will be brought into display. It might seem that as generation after generation of God's people pass away, and are forgotten by men, that they are forgotten by God. The Lord's words assure us that it is not so. Not one is lost or forgotten. They will appear again at the last day. The resurrection power exercised by the Lord will be the final proof that He has lost nothing. The "last day" refers to the end of the present age, when Christ comes to reign and will raise those given to Him by the Father to share with Him the heavenly joy and satisfaction of the Kingdom. Then will be realised in all their fulness the Lord's words that the one who comes to Him "shall never hunger" and "shall never thirst".

Secondly, the Father's will is presented in connection with man's responsibility. It is the Father's will that the Son is presented to all, that every one which sees the Son and believes on Him may have everlasting life — a life that will be entered upon in its fulness through resurrection at the last day.

John 6:41-42. The Jews, judging by appearances and reasoning according to nature, cannot accept the fact that anyone has come down from heaven. This is still the difficulty: the natural man can understand the genealogy of Christ according to the flesh, but he rejects the great truth that He is a divine Person, come in flesh, and hence a great deal more than the legal son of Joseph or the actual son of Mary.

John 6:43-45. The blindness and unbelief of man only proves the necessity for a work of grace if any are to come to Christ. All are free to come, but, left to himself, man will not come. There is none that understands, none that seeks after God. Thus the Lord clearly shows that if men are to be blessed, it can only be by sovereign grace. "No man can come to Me, except the Father which has sent Me draw him. "

Moreover, the way the Father draws is by divine teaching, according to the word, "They shall be all taught of God". The Father enlightens the soul, convicting of the need of Christ on the one hand, and revealing the glory of Christ on the other. Thus the soul is driven by need and drawn by grace to Christ.

John 6:46. The Lord guards the truth from any material thought. Being taught of God does not imply that any man has seen the Father. The teaching is of a spiritual character.

John 6:47-50. The Lord proceeds to sum up the truth in connection with His Incarnation. The one drawn of the Father believes on Christ as come down from heaven, and has eternal life. The manna in the wilderness sustained the natural life. The life that Christ gives is beyond the reach of death.

John 6:51-55. From this point in the discourse the Lord passes on to speak of His death. Thus He says, "The bread that I will give is my flesh". The Lord not only speaks of eating His flesh but also drinking His blood. He must die in order to secure His seed.

Already the Jews had murmured among themselves as to His Incarnation; now they reason as to His death. Each fresh truth increasingly shows the utter incapacity of the natural mind to comprehend divine things. They say, "How can this man give us His flesh to eat?" They reject the Lord's words because they do not appeal to man's reason.

Divine truths can only be received through grace working by faith. The Lord therefore leaves their reasoning "How?" unanswered, and asserts the truth in yet stronger terms: "Unless ye shall have eaten the flesh of the Son of Man, and drunk His blood, ye have no life in yourselves" (N.Tn.). Both the Incarnation and death of Christ are presented as the objects and tests of faith. As one has said, "Those who receive the Incarnation in faith do also with like faith receive His death; and those only have eternal life". Men may indeed profess to admire and follow His perfect life, after a human fashion, but such do not believe in His Incarnation — that He came down from heaven; and such will equally reject His atoning death.

There is no life in fallen man Godward. He is alive in sin but dead to God. His evil nature separates him from God. For the believer, Christ's death ends the reign of sin. He appropriates Christ's death as his death, and thus is freed from the power of sin to live to God.

There are two distinct truths presented in verses 53 and 54. First, the eating for the reception of life in verse 53, where the better translation is "shall have eaten", conveying the thought of a completed act: secondly, the eating for the maintenance of life in verse 54, where the act of eating is presented as continuous.

John 6:56-58. In the verses that follow, the Lord develops the blessedness of this new life. First, it is a life in which the believer is identified with Christ. The Lord can say that the one who feeds on His death, "dwells in Me, and I in him". The believer is identified with Christ before God, and the life of Christ is represented in the believer before men.

Secondly, it is a life which has Christ for its Object. The Lord can say, "As the living Father has sent Me and I live on account of the Father, he also who eats Me shall live also on account of Me" (N.Tn.). This carries us beyond death and implies a living Christ in resurrection the Object of the believer's life. The Lord's life on earth was one in which He sought not His own will, nor His own glory, but the will and glory of the One that sent Him; a life in which He did always those things which pleased the Father (John 5:30; John 7:18; John 8:29). He lived every moment of that perfect life wholly on account of the Father. So the Christian living in the power of this new life will live for the glory, and will, and pleasure, of Christ.

Thirdly, this life is one on which there lies no shadow of death. The natural life sustained by natural food comes to its end by death. Death cannot end the life that is sustained by Christ and has Christ for its Object.

John 6:59-62. The Lord's discourse had made manifest the unbelief of the people (verse 36); the unbelief of the Jews ( verses 41, 42, 52); and at length the unbelief of the disciples. If, however, they find it hard to believe in the Incarnation and the death of Christ, how much more will they be offended if the One Who is going into death ascends into glory? The natural man, and even the flesh in disciples, cannot rise above earth and material blessings. Christ coming down from heaven, and becoming incarnate, man cannot accept; Christ going in to death offends his pride; Christ ascending into heaven is utterly beyond his comprehension. All these great truths are bound together; refuse one, and all are lost; faith in one will prepare the soul to believe in all.

John 6:63. The unbelief of the flesh only proves that it profits nothing. It may be highly cultivated as in the case of Nicodemus or a Saul of Tarsus, but even so it is utterly incapable of taking in the things of God. It is the Spirit that quickens, through Christ and His words, which partake of the character of the Spirit. They are spiritual, and where the Spirit works they are life.

John 6:64-65. There were some who professed to be His disciples, but they believed not. Men might indeed follow Him in the crowd, for the sake of material benefits, but no man truly came to Christ except it were given him of the Father. The Father draws (verse 44); The Son speaks (verse 63); and the Spirit quickens by applying His words in power to the soul.

John 6:66-71. With the exposure of the flesh in its unbelief, many of His disciples went back and walked no more with Him. The people, the Jews, and the disciples have all made manifest the truth of the Lord's words, "The flesh profits nothing". There remains one circle — the twelve; and the Lord asks, "Will ye also go away?"

Very blessedly Peter answers, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast words of life eternal, and we have believed and known that Thou art the Holy One of God" (N.Tn.). If the Lord's discourse has exposed the unbelief of the flesh, it has also confirmed the faith of true believers. If such leave him they might still find religious profession, present ease and honour in this world, but for evermore they would leave behind life — eternal life — and all the heavenly and eternal blessing to which eternal life must lead.

Yet, even so, to be of the twelve would be no sure ground on which to build, for in that circle — the nearest to the Lord, and therefore the most privileged — the evil of the flesh would rise to its height; one of them was so completely under the power of the devil that the Lord can say of him he "is a devil". In due time he would be manifest as such by his betrayal of the Lord.

9. Christ Glorified and the Spirit Given
John 7.

Chapter 5 presented the Son of God giving life to whom He will. Chapter 6 has presented the Son of Man, come down from heaven, giving His life for the world, that he that believes in Him should have eternal life.

Chapter 7 presents the Lord Jesus as rejected on earth and about to take His place on high that, from His place in the glory, He may give the Holy Spirit to be His Witness in believers on earth until the day of His manifestation. Thus, while the truths of the sixth chapter are based upon the incarnation and death of Christ, in this chapter they flow from His ascension. The ascension of necessity involves a complete break with the world. The chapter, therefore, opens with the Lord's refusal to take any public part in the affairs of the world.

John 7:1-2. The teaching of the chapter is introduced with the statement that the Jew's Feast of Tabernacles was at hand. There were three great feasts in Israel — the Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles. The Passover, typical of the Cross, has been fulfilled. The Feast of Pentecost, typical of the descent of the Holy Spirit, has also had its fulfilment. The Feast of Tabernacles was the last feast in the Jewish year, when, for seven days, the children of Israel were to dwell in tents in remembrance of the fact that they had once been pilgrims in a wilderness, but also witness to the fact that the promises were fulfilled, and that the nation was established in peace and safety in the land (Leviticus 23:33-43). The feast was celebrated after the harvest and vintage, which are both used in Scripture as figures of judgment (Revelation 14:14-20). Thus the earthly blessing, which the Feast of Tabernacles signifies, will only be reached through the judgment of Israel and the nations. It is evident then that the typical meaning of this feast yet awaits it fulfilment.

John 7:3-5. The occasion of the feast of Tabernacles forms a fitting introduction to the great truths of the chapter. For the mention of the feast raises the question, "Why has this feast not yet received its fulfilment?" The answer is clear; the One Who alone can bring in the blessing typified by the feast has been rejected by Israel and the world. In the course of the chapter this rejection of Christ, by every class, becomes increasingly plain and definite. His brethren do not believe in Him (verse 5); the people charge Him with having a devil (verse 20); the Jews marvel at Him, and seek to lay hands on Him (verses 15, 25, 30); and the leaders of the nation send officers to take Him (verse 32). Already, in chapter 6, it has been seen that every fresh unfolding of truth had led to a fresh falling off of His followers. The people had rejected Him (John 6:36); then, in the smaller circle of the Jews, He is rejected (John 6:41-42); in the yet smaller circle of the disciples there are those who walk no more with Him (John 6:61-66); and even amongst the twelve, one is exposed as a devil (John 6:70-71). In this chapter, as we have seen, His own brethren according to the flesh did not believe in Him. Naturally, we might think it must have been a great advantage to be connected with the Lord by the ties of nature. Alas! this passage shows that His own kindred were as unbelieving as others. If they were unbelieving, we know it was not from any cause in Him; it was the proof of the Lord's own words, "It is the Spirit that quickens; the flesh profits nothing".

Thus the higher the truths that the Lord unfolds, the greater His rejection by the world, the fewer His followers, and the more solitary His path, until at last we read, "Every man went to his own house", and Jesus is left alone to go to the Mount of Olives (verse 53).

As it was then, so has it ever been; the deeper the truth, the greater the call for spirituality to appreciate it, the fewer there will be to walk in the light of it, and the more solitary the path of those who value the truth will become. The teaching of the Spirit leaves no room for the flesh; the path of Christ is a narrow one.

His brethren after the flesh argue that, if a man has been granted extraordinary powers, it is perfectly legitimate to use them to gain a place in the world for His own advantage and the profit of others. Behind their natural reasoning there was the unbelief of the heart. They did not believe in Him.

John 7:6-9. The Lord's reply shows that, if He has been rejected, the time for his public manifestation to the world or taking public part in its affairs had not come. When the Lord publicly intervenes it will be by judgment. Had He at that moment taken any public part in the nation, as His brethren wished, it would have meant judgment for the nation.

We still, during the time of Christ's rejection, have to be on our guard lest we use our natural abilities or spiritual gifts to exalt ourselves before man or in the religious world. The Corinthian believers fell into this snare. They were using their spiritual gifts to exalt themselves before the world. Paul has to say to them, "Ye are full … ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings" (1 Corinthians 4:8), and he condemns them for so doing. If the time has not come for Christ to take part in this world's public affairs, we may be sure it is no time for His disciples to do so. If we have the consciousness of the Lord's approval we shall not seek or desire the approval of the world, religious, social or political.

But for those who are of the world, their "time is always ready". If we love the world and the things of the world, the world will love us. If we speak as of the world, and about the world, the world will always be ready to hear us. A testimony to its evil, on the part of one who remains in separation from it, will call down its hatred. It was so in the most pronounced and absolute way in the case of our Lord. Moreover, it is Christ that the world hates; the more the believer exhibits Christ, the more it will call down the world's hatred. (John 15:18-19).

John 7:10-13. Having borne witness to His break with the world, the Lord goes up to the feast, "not openly, but as it were in secret". He goes up to Jerusalem, not to take a public place in the world, but to attract individuals out of the world. This attitude of the Lord, as being in the world but not of it, raises "much murmuring among the people". Some recognise that, at least, He is "a good man"; others treat Him with contempt as a deceiver.

John 7:14-16. Though the Lord refused to use His mighty power to gain the approval of the world, and refused to interfere in the affairs of the world because His time was not yet come, He, nevertheless, continued His teaching, as we read, He "went up into the temple and taught". In the verses that follow we have important instruction as to His teaching, and, indeed, all teaching.

It was a cause of wonder to the Jews that One, Who had never been instructed in their schools, should have such a knowledge of letters. This leads the Lord to give a test for all true teaching. What is its source? Is it human or divine? The Lord's teaching came from the Father Who had sent Him. Nothing moves the Lord from the position He had taken up as the "Sent One". If He goes up to the feast it is not to create astonishment by a display of learning, but to witness to the One by Whom He had been sent.

John 7:17-18. Moreover, true teaching imposes a test upon the hearer. If, then, the doctrine of the Lord is heaven-sent, it will require a right condition of soul for its reception. Readiness to practise the Father's will, prepares the soul to recognise what is of God. If we want to know we must be prepared to do. Nothing so effectually blinds to the truth as the working of our wills. How simple the truth would be to us, and how clear our path, had we no other desire than to do His will.

Furthermore, true teaching imposes a test upon the Speaker. Does he seek to glorify himself or the one from whom he is sent? In one seeking his own glory, even if he speaks the truth, the motive is not pure. He who seeks only the glory of God in His teaching "is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him".

Thus we have a test for the teaching (verse 16); for the hearer (verse 17); and for the speaker (verse 18). In the case of the Lord the teaching was perfect, the Teacher was perfect; the failure was with the hearers.

John 7:19-20. The verses that follow expose the terrible condition of the nation that left them incapable of receiving the truth. The people boasted in the law that none of them kept. Nothing so demonstrated their flagrant disregard of the law as the fact that they went about seeking to kill the One of Whom Moses wrote. They are thus convicted of having no desire to do God's will, and hence their ignorance of the Lord's teaching. The people who had come up to Jerusalem to the feast were apparently ignorant that the leaders were seeking to kill the Lord. Nevertheless, they charge the One Who refused to take any public place, and sought only the glory of God, with having a devil.

Such is the world. To refuse to take part in its affairs, to refuse to seek one's own glory but only the glory of God, is in the world's eyes not only unnatural and inhuman but devilish.

John 7:21-24. The Lord is silent in the presence of this violent and wicked charge. Nevertheless, He condemns them for their folly and hypocrisy. In condemning Him for doing a good work, in making a man every whit whole on the Sabbath day, they condemned themselves for doing the work of circumcision on the Sabbath. Then the Lord exposes the rest of their false judgment. They had judged according to appearances and without divine guidance. Righteous judgment can only be arrived at by seeking the will of God.

John 7:25-27. The plain speaking of the Lord arouses the surprise of the men of Jerusalem, who knew that the leaders were seeking to kill Him. Could it be that the rulers were beginning to believe that He was indeed "the very Christ"? Whatever the conclusion of the rulers, the Jews themselves plainly say "We know this Man whence He is". They looked upon Him merely as a Galilean from despised Nazareth, whereas, according to their traditional thoughts, "when Christ comes, no man knows whence He is".

John 7:28-29. The Lord, in His reply, does not pause to expose the error of their traditional views, nor to remind them that He had been born of the virgin at Bethlehem, according to the Scripture. Such truths, however convincing, would not have altered their wills or removed their unbelief. Sufficient signs had been given to prove that He was a divine Person, and sent by One Who is true. That One, the Lord significantly adds, "Ye know not". Here was the secret of all their opposition to Christ; they did not know God. The pursuit of their own wills, and their own glory, had plunged them into darkness which left them in ignorance of God. So has it ever been from the Fall onwards. Even the Christian, who seeks to exalt himself and do his own will, invariably misses the mind of God. The Lord, Who sought not His own glory, but only the glory and the will of the One Who sent Him, can say in the most absolute way, "I know Him: for I am from Him, and He has sent Me".

John 7:30-31. The words of the Lord had a twofold effect upon His hearers. In some they drew out the hatred of their hearts, so that "they sought to take Him". In others the enquiry was raised, "When Christ comes, will He do more miracles then these which this Man has done?"

John 7:32. The Pharisees, hearing what the people say concerning Christ, are convinced that it is necessary to take some public action against Christ. They send officers, therefore, to take Him.

John 7:33. 34. Their activity to seek to get rid of Christ was needless, for the Lord says, "Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go to Him that sent Me". The result would be terrible for the nation; for, speaking of His new place with the Father, the Lord says, "Where I am ye cannot come". Those who would not have Christ when He came to their place on earth will never be with Christ in His new place with the Father in heaven.

John 7:35-36. The Jews, having rejected Christ as come from heaven, naturally will not believe that He is going back to heaven. They argue therefore that He must be going to the dispersed among the Gentiles to teach the Gentiles. This, however, is so foreign to their thoughts that they admit they cannot understand His words.

John 7:37-39. The Lord does not enter into further discourse with those rejectors of Himself who had thoroughly exposed their ignorance of God. Nevertheless He takes occasion by their rejection of His claim to speak of the new character of blessing about to be introduced through His ascension.

The last day of the feast is significant of new and heavenly things. It was, as we know from Leviticus, the eighth day. The seven days of the feast spoke typically of complete earthly blessing under the reign of Christ. The eighth day seems to refer in type to an order of blessing that lies outside the earth and beyond time. This new and heavenly blessing would be brought in by Jesus being glorified, and the Holy Spirit being received on earth. This new blessing cannot be confined to the Jew: it is open to "any man" who has a sense of need to come to Christ. The one so coming would not immediately come into the Millennial blessing of the earth, but would be led into higher and heavenly blessings through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Further, such would become a source of blessing to others, for the Lord says of the believer, that not only his own individual need would be met, but "out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water" to refresh others in this barren world.

This is the central teaching of the chapter: the glorifying of Jesus as a Man in heaven; and the Holy Spirit given to believers on earth. This means that, the Messiah being rejected, His world-wide reign and the fulfilment of the earthly promises are deferred to a yet future day; in the meantime, Christianity is introduced.

Here, however, it is the blessing of the individual Christian that is in view. The Lord's words convey a striking illustration of what is possible for a believer in the power of the Spirit. Our experimental knowledge of the blessing must largely depend upon our subjection to the Spirit. It is, however, possible for the one filled with the Spirit to be a vessel of blessing in a needy world, like floods upon the dry ground (Isaiah 44:3).

John 7:40-44. Alas! these wonderful words did not, apparently, reach the consciences of the hearers, though an impression is made that leads to speculation among the people. Many said, "This is the Prophet". Others said, "This is the Christ". Some said "Shall Christ come out of Galilee?" Human speculation in divine things is ever at fault: so it came to pass they separated truths which God has joined, and imagine that the Prophet and Christ are different Persons. Moreover, idle speculation is easily deceived by appearances: so they imagine because our Lord had come from Galilee, that He was not of the seed of David, nor born at Bethlehem.

An exercised conscience would have awakened a sense of need and brought the soul to Christ in answer to His gracious invitation, "If any man thirst, let him come to Me, and drink". Speculations about Christ led at that time, as so often since that day, even among true believers, to "a division … because of Him".

Moreover, not only was speculation aroused, but in some there was hostility which would have taken Him. His time was not yet come, so "no man laid hands on Him". In the beginning of the chapter His time had not yet come for any public part in the world; here His time had not yet come to be delivered into the hands of men to be crucified.

John 7:45-53. In the closing verses we learn that both the officers, and Nicodemus, show some working of conscience. With the officers it may not be more than the natural conscience that feels the weight of the Lord's words, so unlike the words of their own teachers. Their testimony to the power of His words is met with a contemptuous retort. Nicodemus, though at this time making no confession of Christ, ventures to raise a word on behalf of law and order. The law forbad the condemnation of a man before evidence is produced as to what he has said and done. At once Nicodemus exposes himself to the sneer that he also is one of His followers from Galilee. It is implied that there is no need to hear Him or enquire what He has done. He has come from Galilee, and that is held to be enough to dispel all pretension to being the Prophet, for, they say, "Out of Galilee arises no prophet". The feeble protests of men are of no avail against the rising tide of enmity, though, until His time is come, man can do nothing. So we read, "Every man went to his own house," while the Lord is left to pursue His solitary way — "Jesus went to the Mount of Olives".

10. The Rejection of the Words of Christ
John 8.

The sixth and seventh chapters have presented the great truths of the Lord's Incarnation and death, ascension and glory. In connection with these truths we learn that the time for His public manifestation as the Messiah had not yet come. In the meantime, while Christ is absent in the glory, the Holy Spirit is given to dwell in believers that they may be a source of blessing in a barren world from which Christ is absent.

In the chapters that follow, Christ is presented as the light of the world (John 8:12; John 9:5). The Light was expressed in His words and His works. Alas! the Light is refused, inasmuch as the nation entirely rejects both the words and the works of Christ. In the later instruction of the Upper Room, the Lord definitely tells His disciples that these are the two testimonies to the glory of His Person that, if rejected, leave the world without excuse. He says, "If I had not come and spoken to them, they had not had sin"; and, He adds, "If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin" (John 15:22, 24). To reject His words and His works is not only to refuse the truths He taught but to reject Himself, for the words and works declare His glory as a divine Person, and His origin as sent from the Father. In chapter 8, His words are rejected; in chapter 9, His works are rejected.

The great theme of chapter 8 is the divine character of Jesus as the Light of the world, demonstrated by His words; and the diabolical character of the Jews is manifested by the way in which they shrink from the light, reject His words, and take up stones to stone Him.

John 8:1-2. After the wonderful testimony of the seventh chapter, every man, whatever his attitude to Christ, went to his own home: Jesus, left alone, retires to the Mount of Olives. From thence, early in the morning, He returns to the temple. The people gather round, and He sits in their midst as the Teacher. The time had not yet come for Christ to sit on His throne as the Judge.

John 8:3-6. Immediately there follows the story of the woman taken in adultery. In chapter after chapter, in the Gospel of John, the Spirit of God uses an incident to introduce some fresh truth. So in this chapter the great truth that Christ is the Light of the world is introduced by the story of the woman and her accusers, illustrating the effect of the Light on all men. The scribes and Pharisees bring the poor sinful woman to the Lord and "set her in the midst". They state to the Lord what Moses says in regard to such, but they ask, "What sayest Thou?" We are then told the true motive for their action and words — "This they said tempting Him, that they might have to accuse Him".

They professed to be shocked by such a flagrant sin, and very desirous of doing what is right according to Moses. At the same time they profess to set great weight upon the Lord's words, for they ask, "What sayest Thou?"

In reality, they were moved neither by hatred of the sin nor love to the sinner. They had very little respect for Moses and still less regard for the Lord's words. Their real motive was to seek some cause of accusation against the Lord. With this evil purpose in view they set this guilty woman in the midst, and shamefully expose her before "all the people" (verse 2), and invite the Lord to pass judgment upon the woman.

Nothing could exceed the wickedness of these men, who hoped to involve the Lord in a dilemma from which there was no escape. They imagined that He must either deny the authority of the law that condemns the sinner; or deny Himself as the Saviour who had come to show grace to the sinner. If He refused to condemn the woman, would He not be denying the authority of Moses and setting Himself in opposition to the Law? If He condemned her, would He not be denying His grace as the Saviour and be setting the law in opposition to Himself? In either case they hoped to find ground for condemning the Lord.

These religious men stand before the Lord as the instruments of Satan's enmity against Christ. Without horror of sin, and with no love for God's holy law, they are quite ready to use the woman's sin, and God's law, in an attempt to condemn Christ.

The Lord does not directly answer the question of these wicked men. He stoops down and writes on the ground as if in disregard of their question. Time is thus given them to weigh their question and motives. Heedless of the warning delay (if this be the significance of the Lord's action) they continue questioning Him, with the result that the Lord, refusing to be the Judge, maintains His place as the Teacher (verse 2), and acts as the Light of the world by which man is exposed and God is revealed.

John 8:7-9. First, the Lord maintains the authority of the law to which these men have appealed. Let it be carried out; only let those who execute the law see that they themselves are not condemned by the law. "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." Again the Lord stoops down and writes upon the ground. His action may indicate that He would record His words in writing, that those who hear Him may have the testimony of the written word as well as the spoken word.

Secondly, we see the effect of the word of God on these opposers of Christ. They are thoroughly exposed and condemned as sinners. They might indeed have executed the law in regard to the particular sin of the woman; but, in the presence of Christ — the Light — they discover that the law is a sword that cuts those who use it. The very law by which they sought to condemn the woman condemns themselves. It proves that all are sinners, and by it every mouth is stopped. Thus the Lord's words reach each conscience, convict each one of being a sinner, and silence every mouth.

Alas! in this case, though conscience is reached, the will remains unchanged, with the result they "went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even to the last". The one with the most sins to his account goes out first; the others follow. They cannot endure the light that exposes their sin; they will not have the grace that could meet their sin. They leave the light of His presence to walk in the darkness of the world.

John 8:10-11. Thirdly, the woman is left alone, a silenced and convicted sinner, in the presence of the Saviour, who refuses to condemn. Whether, by faith, she availed herself of the grace that was in Christ, the story does not say. This only we know that she is in the presence of One Who came not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

John 8:12. The active opposers of Christ having left the temple, the Lord continues His teaching to the people. The incident of the woman becomes the occasion of manifesting the Lord as the Light which exposes every one that comes into His presence. Now He formally declares that He is the Light of the world. The presence of Christ amidst the darkness of the world was the complete exposure of man and the full revelation of God.

The mass of men, like those who have just left the presence of the Lord, find the light intolerable, and prefer to hide themselves under the cover of darkness, because their deeds are evil. Nevertheless, the Lord can say, "He that follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life". The perfect life of the Lord was in itself the light that declared the Father (John 1:14, 18). But the Lord's words would further indicate that the one who, in practice, followed the Lord would in himself possess the life, with the light in his soul that is the outcome of the life. To reject Christ was to remain in darkness; to follow Christ was to have the light of life.

John 8:13-14. The Lord has presented the great doctrine that has been illustrated in the case of the woman. He, in the glory of His Person, is the Light of the world. At once the Pharisees challenge His claim. In darkness as to the glory of His Person as the Son, and viewing Him only as a Man, according to man's standards, they conclude that His witness is not true because He bears record of Himself. As one has said, "They stand in the light of day and demand a formal proof that the Sun has risen". Speaking from the consciousness of His own glory as a divine Person, the Lord replies, "Though I bear record of Myself, yet My record is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go". He speaks from knowledge of the glory of His Person; they speak from their ignorance of God and the One He has sent.

John 8:15-16. In the ignorance and self-confidence of the flesh they assume to judge, as in the case of the woman: He, in the glory of His Person, revealing the Father in grace, refuses to judge. Yet, indeed, He was competent to judge, for He was not acting alone, but as the One Who ever had the mind of the Father from Whom He had been sent.

John 8:17-18. They would admit, according to their law, that the testimony of two men is true. His witness, therefore, was valid, for it was supported by the Father Who had sent Him and Who was bearing witness to Him in the words and works of the Lord.

John 8:19-20. The Pharisees expose the darkness of their souls by asking, "Where is thy Father?" Had they known the Lord they would have known the Father. Alas! they knew neither the Son nor the Father. The light has made manifest the utter darkness of man; an exposure which called forth such hostility that they would have laid hands on Him; but His hour was not yet come.

John 8:21-22. A second discourse follows in which the Lord pronounces the doom of His opposers. They had refused the light and chosen the darkness; now the light will be withdrawn. He was going away and they would be left to die in their sins, making it impossible for them to come where He was going. The Jews, with no belief in His ascension, can only conclude that the Lord is going to kill Himself for, apparently, they argue, who can definitely set a limit to his life and say he is going away except one who is about to take his own life.

John 8:23-24. The Lord replies by drawing a solemn contrast between Himself, the Light of the world, and those who have refused the light. By their rejection of Christ they proved themselves to be morally from beneath, under the power of Satan. Jesus was morally from heaven; they were of the world in its distance and darkness from God. He was in it, as the Light, but not of it morally. To be under the power of Satan, and of the world, is to be living in sins. To refuse, as they were doing, to believe in Christ was to die in their sins.

John 8:25-26. The Lord has claimed to be the Light of the world, sent by the Father, the One Who is from above and not of the world. Who then is this wonderful Person? They ask, "Who art Thou?" In His reply the Lord brings forward His words as the witness to Himself, for His words are the perfect expression of Himself. He can say, "Altogether that which I also say to you" (N.Tn.). Men often use words to hide the truth as to themselves. Who but Christ could say that His words were altogether the expression of Himself. Not only He does what He says, but He is what He says.

Moreover, His words not only express the truth concerning Himself, they also expose the true character of men. So the Lord can add, "I have many things to say and to judge of you". Further, His words were the expression of the Father's mind, for He spoke to the world those things which He had heard of the Father. His words express Himself, expose the world, and reveal the Father.

John 8:27-29. Blinded by the darkness of their minds, these men understood not that He spake of the Father. Later, when they had crucified the Son of Man, when all the solemn results of His rejection, foretold by the Lord's words, came true, they would "know" that He is the Son, though refusing to believe in Him, and that He had spoken as taught by the Father, and that His acts were perfectly in accord with His words. He uttered the Father's words, and ever did the things that were pleasing to the Father.

John 8:30-32. Though the mass of the Jews utterly reject the light, there were some to whom the Lord's words carried conviction. Thus we read, "As He spake these words, many believed on Him". At once the Lord instructs those who believe, that continuance in His word is the test of true discipleship. Abiding in subjection to His word will alone keep us in the reality of our position as disciples and we learn the truth and the truth sets free from the bondage of sin.

John 8:33. If the preceding verses show the effect of the words of Christ on those who believe, the following verses expose the condition of those in whom His words have no place. The Jews, who reject His words, resent the implication that they are in bondage. They claim a position of privilege as Abraham's seed and state they have never been in bondage to any man, forgetting that at that moment they were in bondage to the Roman.

John 8:34-36. The Lord, in His reply, passes over their history in connection with man, and exposes their state before God. By their sins they proved themselves to be the slaves of the evil principle of sin. Being slaves they could have no continuance in the house of God, a figure here of the place of privilege which they had just claimed. The slave can be dismissed; the Son abides for ever. The Son, Whom they were rejecting, could indeed make them free.

John 8:37. Outwardly they were the children of Abraham; actually they were in deadly hostility to the Son because His word had no lodging place in their hearts.

John 8:38-41. The Lord then draws a formal contrast between Himself and those who reject His words. He was the Son revealing the Father, as speaking of that which He had seen in His eternal existence with the Father. In spite of their claim that they had no father but Abraham, they, as indeed all men, prove their true origin by their works. On the one hand, they sought to kill the Lord; on the other they oppose the truth. These are the two great characteristics of Satan, murder and absence of the truth, and prove that the Jews, whilst children of Abraham according to the flesh, were morally children of the devil.

John 8:41. Their only reply is to make a yet higher claim. Not only are they the children of Abraham, but One is their Father, even God.

John 8:42-44. The Lord meets this claim by showing that they had none of the marks of the children of God, but manifested the two great marks of the children of the devil. Had they been the children of God they would have been marked by love to Christ, and reception of the truth that He came to declare. Utter strangers to the mind of the Lord, they could not understand the speech by which the thoughts were conveyed. Not only were they ignorant of the mind of the Lord, but they exhibited the two outstanding marks of the children of the devil — murder and lying.

John 8:45-47. They refuse to believe the Lord who had told them the truth; why then, if they could not convince Him of error, did they not believe on Him? There can only be one answer: the one that refuses to believe in Jesus is not of God, for he that is of God hears His words.

John 8:48. In answer to the Lord's charge that they were not the true children of Abraham (verse 39), they retort that the Lord Himself is no true Jew but a Samaritan. In answer to the charge that they were the children of the devil (verse 44), they say that the Lord Himself has a devil.

John 8:49-50. The Lord denies the charge and warns them that they were dishonouring One Who sought the honour of the Father and not His own glory. Moreover, let them beware, for there is One — the Father — Who will vindicate the honour of the Son and judge all that dishonour Him.

John 8:51. Then, apparently, turning to those who had believed, the Lord encourages such by saying, "If a man keep My saying, he shall never see death". Not only would such be delivered from the bondage of sin, but also from death, the wages of sin.

John 8:52-53. The unbelief of the Jews at once seizes upon the Lord's words as conclusive evidence to them that He had a devil. They argue, if a man that keeps the words of Christ never sees death, how is it that Abraham and the prophets are dead? Does the Lord claim to be greater than Abraham? Whom does He make Himself to be?

John 8:54-56. The Lord refuses the insinuation that He is seeking to put honour upon Himself; it is the Father that is honouring the Son. They claim the Father as their God, but give the lie to their profession by refusing to hear or keep "His saying".

Then, forced by their unbelief to declare His glory, He asserts that He is indeed far greater than Abraham. Abraham rejoiced to see His day, and was glad.

John 8:57. With scorn the Jews assert that Christ is not yet fifty years old, and yet claims to have seen Abraham.

John 8:58. The Lord's answer fully discloses His glory as a divine Person. Before Abraham He ever existed as God — the I AM.

John 8:59. Fully, and rightly, understanding the Lord's words to be a claim to Deity, they reject His claim and take up stones to stone Him. In the calm dignity of His way, He "went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by". A proof indeed of the truth of His claim, for Who but a divine Person could thus act?

11. The Rejection of the Works of Christ
John 9.

The eighth chapter has presented the testimony of the Lord's words. He spoke to the world those things which He had heard of the Father (John 8:25-28). The ninth chapter presents the testimony of His works: as before He had spoken the words of the Father, so now, He says, "I must work the works of Him that sent Me" (verse 4). Not only does the Lord bring the light into the world, making known the heart of God, but He also works in grace to open blind eyes to see the truth. Thus the blind man not only receives natural sight, but spiritual vision is given that he may see the glory of the Son as sent by the Father.

Moreover, the chapter presents the way the Lord was taking in delivering His sheep from the Jewish fold in order to bring them into the salvation and freedom of Christianity. Finally, we see in the chapter that the Jewish system is set aside as sunk in spiritual blindness.

The great theme, then, of the ninth chapter is the work of the Lord in opening blind eyes to see the glory of His Person, thus leading souls out of the darkness of Judaism to prepare them for the Christian position as set forth, in the following chapter, by the One Shepherd and the one flock.

In the last chapter, the religious Jews had entirely rejected the words of Christ. They had charged Him with having a devil and had taken up stones to cast at Him. In result He leaves their temple, going through their midst, "and so passed by". In this chapter we see that, as He passed by the nation in judgment, He calls His own sheep in grace.

John 9:1. So it came to pass as Jesus leaves the nation He blesses a poor man, bringing him from blindness to faith, and from beggary to worship. As ever in this Gospel, the sovereignty of grace is prominent. In the Gospel of Luke the woman comes to Christ in the house of Simon; in this Gospel the Lord approaches the woman by the well. In Luke, the palsied man is brought to Christ; in John, the Lord comes to the impotent man at the pool. So the blind man of Luke cries to the Lord; here the Lord comes to the blind man. We learn from the Gospel of Luke that any needy sinner is welcome to come to Christ. In John we learn the yet greater truth, that God has drawn nigh to sinners in the Person of His Son to tell us that He loves us.

John 9:2-3. The disciples, with their Jewish prejudices, thought that the blindness might have been inflicted anticipatively for some sin foreseen by God or as the result of the sin of his parents. In His reply the Lord shows that God can use affliction to make manifest the works of God. A life-long sickness is not necessarily the outcome of a specific sin, but may be allowed for the display of the grace of God.

John 9:4-5. If the man's condition was an occasion to manifest the works of God, the Lord was here to work the works of God. It was the day of His presence in the world in active grace: the night of His absence was coming when no man can work. As long as Christ was in the world, He was the Light of the world, and while here He must work, for love could not rest where sorrow was; light could not rest in the presence of sin. When Christ departs, all is over with the world, until His return. This does not set aside the fact that, in consequence of His death and ascension, a testimony goes out to the world declaring the grace of God. This testimony, however, calls a people out of the world for heavenly blessing and by no means relieves the world of its sorrows. This will be a millennial work; "no man can work" during the night of Christ's rejection.

John 9:6-7. Having made clear the true character of the moment, and His own position and work in the world, the Lord proceeds to open the eyes of the blind man. This He accomplishes in a way that sets forth the glory of His Person. The spittle speaks of the efficacy which comes from Himself; the clay tells in a figure of the humanity which He has taken. Anointing the man's eyes with the clay and spittle would naturally destroy sight. So the humanity the Lord had assumed was used by fallen man to deny His Deity as the Son of God. They stumbled at the lowly grace of His Manhood. This difficulty was overcome by faith discerning that this lowly Man was the Sent One of the Father. The moment this truth is connected with His Person all is clear. For this reason the man is told, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent)". Believing in the Lord's words, he went his way and washed, "and came seeing". Actually, the man received his natural sight, but in a way that reveals the work of the Lord as the Son sent by the Father to give spiritual sight. When as needy sinners we see by faith that this blessed lowly Man is a Divine Person sent by the Father to save and bless a guilty sinner, all becomes clear. The eyes are opened, and we see the grace that has come to us to meet our need (Galatians 4:4).

The following verses present, on the one hand, the result of confessing Christ as the Sent One of God, and on the other hand the solemn result of rejecting His works. The man whose eyes have been opened boldly confesses Christ with the twofold result that the more he confesses the truth that he knows, the more he grows in the knowledge of Christ; and the more he lives up to the light he acquires, the less he is wanted in the religious world. While the man increasingly comes into the light, those who reject Christ sink into deeper darkness.

There is thus a conflict between light and darkness. The brighter the man's witness to Christ, the greater the opposition he has to meet from those to whom the light is intolerable. If the man with the opened eyes speaks of the One by Whom he has received the blessing he finds himself opposed by the world in every form — socially, religiously, and domestically.

John 9:8-12. First, he has to meet the social circle — the neighbours. They see the change in the man and enquire how it has come about. His simple and beautiful answer is, "A Man that is called Jesus" has opened his eyes. The result of this confession is that he is no longer wanted in the social circle. They bring him to the Pharisees as a person more fitted for the religious circle.

John 9:13-17. The religious Pharisees, unable to deny the fact that the man's eyes are opened by Jesus, raise objections because the miracle was wrought on the Sabbath day. The sign was an unmistakable proof that Jesus was of God; the Pharisees, with no sense of their own need, and judging of Christ by their religious prejudices, argue that He cannot be of God because "He keeps not the Sabbath day". Some, indeed, venture to raise a mild protest, for they truly say, "How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles?" The man, himself, having already confessed that Christ is "a Man that is called Jesus", now, with further light and greater boldness, asserts that He is a Prophet, One Who comes from God with the mind of God and the power of God.

John 9:18-23. The Jews, unconvinced and unbelieving, now turn to the parents, hoping to learn from them some means of evading the truth. Every circle is determined to reject Christ, yet none can deny the fact that the man's eyes are opened. Each circle, therefore, raises the question, How did the man receive his sight? (verses 10, 15, 19, 26). Everyone is seeking to account for the man's sight by some other agency than the work of Christ.

The parents have to bear witness that the man is their son, that he was born blind and that he now sees. They refuse to give any opinion as to the means by which his sight has been recovered. They decline all responsibility for their son; he is of age. They do not propose to endanger their religious reputation in the synagogue by being identified with a man that confesses Jesus, even if that man is their son.

John 9:24-29. Failing to gain any help from the parents, the Jews, for the second time, approach the man. They cannot deny the miracle; they will not recognise Jesus. They therefore fall back upon their religious authority and demand that the man should "give God the praise", and entirely ignore Christ; for, they dare to say, "We know that this Man is a sinner".

The man refuses to be drawn into discussions as to the character of the blessed Lord, but he re-affirms what he does know, and what they could not deny, that whereas he was blind, now he sees. Unable to deny the simple statement of fact by the man, they fall back on abuse. They revile the man with being the disciple of Christ, avowing that they themselves were Moses' disciples. Jesus they despise as One of Whom they know nothing.

John 9:30-34. The beggar man with his eyes opened can see further into the truth concerning the Person of Christ than these professed followers of Moses. He expresses his wonder at the ignorance and stupidity of their unbelief. Never before since the beginning of the world had such a miracle been performed, and yet they affirmed that He Who had wrought this great work was a sinner. "God does not hear sinners … if this Man were not of God, He could do nothing." Thus the man is led by simple faith to confess that Jesus is "of God".

With every confession, the hatred of the official religious class has increased. Now, at length, unable to meet the man's straightforward confession of the facts, they revile him as having from birth carried in his face the brand of sin, the very thing the Lord had condemned as untrue (verse 3).

The facts of the miracle the Jews cannot deny, though their hatred of Christ leads them to put forth every effort to belittle His work. The arguments of the man are unanswerable, but through their religious pride they refuse to be taught the truth from a simple and unlearned man. They fall back on abuse, and finally "cast him out".

John 9:35-38. To be cast out of corrupt religious Judaism for the confession of Christ was to be thrown into the company of the Son of God. The Lord had found him in his blindness to give him sight; now He finds him in his loneliness to give him the glorious company of the Son of God. The Lord draws out the man's confidence, and then reveals Himself, not only as a Prophet, but as the Son of God. If only a Man or a Prophet, He would not be an Object of worship. As the Son of God, He is a divine Person, the just Object of faith and worship. So we read of the man with the opened eyes, "He worshipped Him".

How blessedly and gently the man has been led into the light by confessing Christ. First, he owns that Christ is "a Man that is called Jesus" (John 9:11); then, with further light, he asserts He is "a Prophet" (John 9:17); afterwards, in the presence of the Jew's condemnation of Christ, he boldly avows the Christ is "of God" (John 9:33); finally, in the presence of Jesus, he comes fully into the light and owns Christ as Lord, and worships Him as the Son of God (John 9:36-38). Thus the man is brought from blindness and beggary to faith and worship. He passes from the darkness of a corrupted religion into the light and blessing of the company of the Son of God. The man is delivered from the false shepherds of Israel, and the true Shepherd finds His sheep.

John 9:39-41. In the closing verses the solemn condition of those who reject the light is contrasted with the blessedness of the man in whose dark soul the light had shone. Through the perversity of man, the effect of the coming of Christ into the world is to bring judgment upon those who reject Him. Nevertheless, He comes in grace that those who see not — who own their blindness — might see; but for those who profess to have light, and yet reject Him, His coming would blind them. Satisfied with their own religion, and without sense of their need as sinners, they stumbled and fell at the lowly grace of His humanity, and failed to see His Deity, that He was the Son of God sent by the Father.

The Pharisees, cut by the Lord's words, ask, "Are we blind also?" In His reply the Lord warns them that they condemned themselves by professing to see; for, while professing to see, they deliberately reject the Sent One of the Father. They will neither hear His words nor learn by His works. To reject deliberately Christ, while professing to see, is a sin that remains upon them, and has plunged the nation into darkness from which they will not emerge until, through the great tribulation, a remnant are brought into the light. Even so corrupt Christendom is passing into darkness, for, while boasting in light and riches, it puts Christ outside its door.

12. The Shepherd and the Sheep.
John 10.

The ministry of the Lord, in the midst of Israel, had a twofold effect. First, it tested the nation, proving their moral condition to be one of enmity to God and spiritual blindness. Secondly, the Lord's ministry brought to light a godly remnant in the nation — "His own sheep" — whom He attached to Himself, and publicly separated from the guilty nation.

The first effect of the Lord's ministry is developed in the preceding chapters. In the fifth chapter, the glory of His Person as the Son is declared before the Jews: in the sixth chapter, His incarnation and death is presented as that which alone can meet the need of the world: in the seventh chapter, the ministry anticipates the Lord's new position as a Man in glory, and the coming of the Spirit that would follow. In the eighth and ninth chapters, we learn how the nation seals its doom by utterly rejecting these communications. They refuse both the testimony of His words (John 8), and the testimony of His works (John 9). Having completely failed in responsibility, the nation is left in its blindness to pass on to judgment.

The failure of man in responsibility becomes the occasion for God to disclose His sovereignty which, in spite of all man's sin and failure, is working for the blessing of man and the fulfilment of His own purposes of love. Thus, in this deeply important tenth chapter of the Gospel, we are permitted to see the Lord's true position and work in the Jewish nation in view of the new blessings which God has purposed for His sheep. He was not present to restore again the kingdom; the time for the Millennial blessing had not yet come. He had come to attract His own sheep to Himself and lead them out of the Jewish fold, in order to bring them into the new blessings of the Christian flock.

John 10:1. In the first five verses the great truths of the chapter are presented in the form of an allegory, setting forth the historical changes that were taking place, by using the figures of a shepherd and his sheep. Men had arisen before the coming of Christ who claimed to lead God's people, yet only to exalt themselves, like Theudas who boasted himself to be somebody; or like Judas of Galilee who "drew away much people after him" (Acts 5:36-37). Such men had no authority from God, and did not enter by God's appointed door. Like a thief, they entered by stealth, and, as a robber, enriched themselves at the expense of the fold.

John 10:2. In contrast, Christ, "the Shepherd of the sheep", came into the midst of Israel by the way that God had marked out. Promise and prophecy had foretold that the Christ would be the woman's seed, the virgin's son, would come forth from Bethlehem, and be the One "whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting," the mighty God. These and many other prophecies in reference to His first coming had their complete fulfilment in Christ, proving Him to be the divinely sanctioned Shepherd of Israel Who entered by God's appointed door.

John 10:3. "To Him the porter opens." The providence of God overruled every circumstance, and the Spirit wrought in hearts so that, in spite of opposition and prejudice, the Shepherd had access to the sheep.

Then we learn the fourfold work of the Shepherd in the midst of Israel: first, in rendering a testimony that should reach the ears and touch the hearts of His sheep: secondly, in attaching the sheep to Himself, calling them by name: thirdly, in leading them out of the Jewish fold; and lastly, having put forth "His own sheep", in going before them as the Shepherd followed by His flock.

How blessedly, as we trace the Lord's footsteps in this Gospel, we see Him fulfilling this mission. In scene after scene — in Bethabara, Galilee, Samaria, Judaea, at the well of Sychar, and at the pool of Bethesda — we hear the Lord rendering a testimony that reached the ears of the sheep. Again we hear of one after another being called by name: Andrew and Simon, Philip, Nathanael, and Nicodemus, pass before us. Simple fishermen, learned Pharisees, degraded women, noblemen and beggars, are attracted to the Shepherd to have their needs met, and to be led outside the corrupt Jewish system.

John 10:4-5. Having put forth His own sheep, "He goes before them, and the sheep follow Him," henceforth to find their all in the Shepherd. In a fold the sheep are held together by the surrounding walls; in a flock they are held together by the care of the Shepherd. The blessing, guidance, and protection of the flock, entirely depends upon the Shepherd. Do they need food, the Shepherd is there to lead them into the green pastures; does the enemy oppose, the Shepherd is in the forefront of the flock to protect; have they, at times, to pass by a rough and dangerous road, the Shepherd goes before to guide them in the way.

Moreover, in a flock, the sheep follow the Shepherd because they know his voice. If the stranger would seek to draw the sheep from the Shepherd, they escape, not by contending with the stranger, but by fleeing from him. They flee from the stranger, not because they know his voice, but because they know not the voice of strangers.

How perfectly the allegory sets forth the true Christian position according to the mind of God. It brings before us a company of believers — Christ's own sheep — that belong entirely to Him; and He, the Shepherd, exclusively occupied with His sheep, leading them outside a worldly religious system. In this outside place they are viewed as wholly under His direction that He may conduct them through a wilderness world, provide for all their needs, and shelter them from every evil. On their side, the sheep know the voice of Christ, and realise their dependence upon Him. Conscious of their weakness, they flee from the stranger: it is enough for them that they know not the voice of the stranger.

Alas! where in Christendom can we see a true answer to the perfect picture? To be wholly dependent upon an unseen Leader demands the constant exercise of faith, and the confidence of love. How, then, can the vast mass of mere professors, who form the bulk of Christendom, and who are devoid of faith and love, accept the outside place of reproach in company with a rejected and unseen Christ? Knowing not the voice of the Shepherd, they have fallen an easy prey to the voices of strangers. Thus it has come to pass that Christendom has once again constructed a variety of folds after the Jewish pattern, wherein men are held together by creeds and humanly appointed leaders who, in different measures, set aside Christ, the alone Shepherd of the sheep. Nevertheless, the picture remains in all its beauty, holding up before us God's standard for His people. In spite of the corruption of Christendom, it is still the believer's privilege, in affection to Christ and obedience to the word, to go forth to Him without the camp bearing His reproach (Hebrews 13:13).

John 10:6. Those to whom this allegory was addressed understood none of these things. As it was with the mass in corrupt Judaism, so it is still with the greater number in corrupt Christendom. To follow Christ in the outside place of reproach is incomprehensible and impossible to the natural man, and costs too much for many a true Christian.

John 10:7. Men may not understand His words; nevertheless, they are left without excuse, for the Lord proceeds to apply His allegory, and enlarge upon the blessings of those who follow Him. Christ Himself now becomes the door of the sheep, The Jewish fold, though corrupted by man, had been established and sanctioned by God. What right, then, had the sheep to leave the judgment-doomed nation, unless God Himself opened a way of escape? Christ was God's door, and in following the Shepherd the sheep could, without fear, take a place outside the nation. So, indeed, in this our day, believers can safely follow the Shepherd outside every imitation Jewish camp devised by man.

John 10:8. Others had presented themselves as leaders and healers of Israel, even as today many deceivers and false prophets appear professing to guide the people of God through the confusions of Christendom. Such have no authority from God and only serve their own interests at the expense of their dupes. The mere professor, and the careless believer, may be caught by such, but those who listen to the Shepherd's voice will not heed the voice of these deceivers.

John 10:9-10. Furthermore, Christ is not only a door of escape from that which is corrupt: He is also the door into the blessings that God has purposed for the sheep. Here the Lord passes beyond the teaching of His allegory to enlarge upon the positive blessings into which He leads His sheep. These blessings cannot be confined to His own sheep from the Jewish fold; therefore we read that "any man" (or "any one") is welcome.

The first great blessing that Christ secures for His sheep is salvation. Being open to "any one" would imply that the salvation is primarily that of the soul, and the salvation from sins and judgment that every sinner needs. Yet, in a wider sense, the flock under the leadership of Christ would be saved from every opposing power throughout the wilderness journey.

A second blessing is that the sheep, under the direction of the Shepherd, are brought into liberty and they "shall go in and out". The Jewish fold excluded the sheep from immediate access to God, and forbad them to go out to the Gentile. The Christian flock, under the leadership of Christ, has the liberty and privilege of access to God in worship and can go out to the world with the good news of the grace of God.

A third blessing, connected with the flock under the leadership of Christ, is pasture. The Jewish fold was, at best, little more than a place of protection from dangers; the Christian flock is indeed protected from opposition and danger, but, more than this, it is a place of spiritual food.

Lastly, all these blessings lead the sheep into the enjoyment of life, that life of communion with divine Persons that leads to fulness of joy (1 John 1:4). This indeed is the life abundant in contrast with the natural life which even at its best is the life deficient, the life in which the joy fails (John 2:3).

All these blessings are secured by the Shepherd Who came, not like the thief to prey upon the sheep, but to impart blessings to them. The blessings that the Shepherd imparts can nevertheless only be rightly enjoyed by the sheep as they submit to His care and follow Him. Every blessing that Christ gives is livingly set forth in Him, and can only be enjoyed with Him.

In the course of the Gospel we see how the Shepherd is bringing salvation to the sheep (John 3:17 and John 4:42), leading them into liberty (John 8:33-36), and providing them with rich spiritual food (13 — 17). Later, in John's Epistle, we have a rich unfolding of the life abundant.

Thus, in the early part of the chapter, we have a clear presentation of the Shepherd of the sheep leading His sheep into complete separation from a worldly religious system, in order that they may come exclusively under the care and direction of the Shepherd, and thus be led into all the blessings He secures for His sheep.

John 10:11-13. In the verses that follow we learn that Christ is not only "the Shepherd", He is also "the good Shepherd", expressing a love and devotedness so perfect that He gives His life for the sheep. The hireling may in measure serve the sheep, but, even so, it is for wages, and hence the ultimate motive is self and not the sheep. It follows that in the presence of the wolf, instead of giving his life to save the sheep, the hireling thinks only of his own safety and flees, leaving the sheep to be scattered. The hireling "cares not for the sheep". Alas! Christendom has largely forsaken the Good Shepherd and set up leaders after the hireling order, who make merchandise out of the service of God. Little wonder that the wolf has wrought such havoc in scattering the sheep.

It is well to notice the three figures used by the Lord to set forth the three different characters of evil by which the flock will be opposed: the thief, the hireling, and the wolf.

The thief represents any person or false system that robs the flock of the truth by introducing that which is fatal to Christianity, and thus destructive to the soul. Unitarianism, Christian Science, Spiritualism, Russellism and kindred movements, have thus the character of the thief.

The hireling does not necessarily set forth that which is destructive to Christianity, but rather the false principle of serving for hire, and making merchandise out of the sheep. Hence the door is opened to a large class whose first motive is self and not the sheep, so that, in the presence of a difficulty, they think only of their own safety and convenience and flee, leaving the sheep at the very moment when the sheep are most in need of care. Let us beware, when difficulties arise among the people of God, lest acting on the principle of the hireling, we think only of our own safety and comfort in our own path, and so desert the sheep in the time of danger and distress. The wolf sets forth those who, under false pretensions, enter the flock and scatter the sheep.

John 10:14-15. In contrast with the hireling, the Good Shepherd cares for His sheep. He knows His sheep with a perfect knowledge. Their weakness, their ignorance, their tendency to wander, and their many needs, are all known to Him, and knowing them He loves them with a love that led Him to lay down His life for the sheep. The sheep in their measure know the Shepherd — His perfection, His wisdom, His power and His love.

One has said, "Jesus had been the Object of His Father's heart; in the same way His sheep were the objects of His heart. Taught of God, His sheep knew Him, and trusted in Him as He trusted in the Father" (N.Tn.).

John 10:16. The Shepherd of the sheep has led His sheep outside the Jewish fold and opened the door to "any man" to enter into the new blessings of the flock. Manifestly, then, the flock cannot be limited to sheep from among the Jews. There are other sheep that the Shepherd must bring from amongst the Gentiles. They too shall hear His voice (cf John 17:20; Acts 13:46-48; Acts 15:7). His sheep thus separated from the Jewish fold and the Gentile nations would form one flock under one Shepherd.

John 10:17-18. Such is the purpose of the heart of the Father. To effect this purpose and gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad, the One Shepherd must die. This great act of self-sacrifice He willingly undertakes and, in laying down His life, not only secures the blessing of His sheep, but gives the Father a fresh motive for the love wherewith He loved His only-begotten Son. Only a divine Person could give the Father a motive for love; with all others the spring of love is in the Father's heart.

In dying He secured the blessing of the sheep and carried out the Father's will, and withal it was His own voluntary act of devotedness. Here at last was One Who had come into the domain of death with power to lay down His life and take it again; and in devotedness He exercises this power in His service for God and man. If He lays down His life, it is to take it again in a changed condition that still He may serve His sheep. Another has said, "His death is neither the exhaustion of His love nor the limit of His work for men. He has served in the lowest depth of suffering on earth; He serves on the throne of glory still" (F. W. Grant.).

We have seen in this portion of the chapter "the Shepherd of the sheep" separating His sheep from an earthly religious system (John 10:1-10), "the Good Shepherd" in His devoted love giving His life for the sheep to preserve them from the enemy (John 10:11-15), and finally the "One Shepherd" laying down His life to unite the sheep into one flock (John 10:16-18).

John 10:19-21. These verses describe the effect of the Lord's discourse upon those who, not being His sheep, "understood not what things they were which He spoke to them" (verse 6). On the one hand, His words aroused a violent hatred which could but see in His utterances the ravings of one possessed with a demon. On the other hand, some were perplexed, as common sense knew that neither His words nor His works could be those of a demon. A later Scripture will warn us that, if we follow the Lord's teaching and go outside the camp to Him, we may have to bear His reproach. To take such a path will be viewed by the religious world as madness or worse.

John 10:22-24. A second discourse, probably two months later, is introduced by the Jews surrounding the Lord as He walked in the porch of the temple. They charge the Lord with keeping them in suspense as to whether He is the Christ.

John 10:25-26. The Lord's answer shows that the root of their perplexity was in their own unbelief that had refused the testimony of His words and His works. Moreover, their unbelief proved that they were not of His sheep.

John 10:27. This leads the Lord to give the marks of His sheep. The first great mark is that the sheep hear the Shepherd's voice (cf. verses 3, 4, 5, 16). All heard His actual words, but hearing His voice implies that the sheep received in faith the message that the words contained, a message that disclosed to the sheep their sinfulness and need, but revealed the love and grace that meets the need. The woman at the well is a striking example of one who heard the Shepherd's voice. (Compare Acts 13:27, for the distinction between the words of Scripture and the voices of the prophets.)

The second mark is that the sheep are known of the Lord. As we have seen, the Lord calls them individually by name, implying His perfect knowledge of the sheep, and that the Shepherd has individual dealings with them (cf. verses 3, 14).

The third mark is that the sheep follow the Shepherd. They are not only called to Him individually, but as a result they follow Him; haltingly it may be at times, and with many a stumble, yet they follow Him.

John 10:28-30. Not only does the Lord give us the marks of His sheep but He also declares His loving care for His sheep. He gives them eternal life, eternal security, and assures them of divine care. Already the Lord has said that He came to give life to the sheep, and that abundantly; now we learn that the life that He gives is "eternal life", the life that was with the Father and manifested in the Person of the Son on earth; a life that the sheep possess in Christ, to be manifested in the sheep and enjoyed now, if only entered upon in its fulness when with Christ in life's eternal home (cf. 1 John 1:1-2; 1 John 5:11-12; Galatians 2:20; 2 Corinthians 4:10-18; Romans 6:22).

Moreover, eternal life involves eternal security. Therefore the Lord adds, for the comfort of His sheep, "They shall never perish".

Finally, we learn that the sheep are the objects of the common care of the Father and the Son. They are held by the Son from Whose hand none can seize them; held, too, by the Father Who has given the sheep to Christ, and is manifestly greater than all others. If the Father and the Son are one in their love for the sheep, so too they are one in divine nature or essence. Thus the Lord can say, "I and the Father are one". Here the glory of His Person again shines forth, and we learn that the lowly Shepherd of the sheep, Who came to serve the sheep and carry out the will of the Father, is none other than the Eternal Son, a divine Person Who is One with the Father.

John 10:31. The Jews rightly interpret the Lord's words as the assertion of His Deity; but being infuriated that One Who was truly and manifestly a Man should claim to be God, they "took up stones again to stone Him".

John 10:32. In perfect calmness the Lord appeals to the many good works that He had shewed them from the Father. He thus connects His works with the Father as a proof that He had come from the Father. Had they then any fault to find with those works that manifest the goodness of the Father and the glory of Christ as the Son?

John 10:33. In their reply the Jews show that they had so far rightly interpreted the Lord's words, inasmuch as they expressed the Lord's claim to Deity. Nevertheless, what the Jews said fell short of the exact truth, for they said, "Thou being a man, makest thyself God". The truth was that He, being God, became Man.

John 10:34-36. Had their interpretation been wrong, the Lord would surely have at once corrected such a terrible mistake and repudiated the claim to Deity. He does neither; on the contrary the Lord confirms His claim by an appeal to their own Scriptures, thus condemning them out of their own mouth for refusing His claim to Deity. Quoting from Psalm 82:6, the Lord asks, "Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?" If, then, men, who were set apart to be judges in Israel, as God's representatives, and to whom the word of God came, are called gods, can it be blasphemy for the Son, Whom the Father has set apart and sent into the world, to claim to be a divine Person?

John 10:37-38. In a former chapter the Lord had stated that the evidence of being Abraham's children would be in doing the works of Abraham (John 8:39). The Lord now applies this convincing argument to Himself. If He does not do the works of His Father, they would be right in refusing to believe that He was the Son. If He does the Father's works, they may be sure that not only was He the Son, but that the Father was in Him, and He in the Father. The works that He did were an unmistakeable proof that a divine Person was present working in power and love. The Father was manifested to be in Him, as He was manifest to be one in the Father's nature and in the secret of the Father's thoughts and counsels of love.

John 10:39-42. The closing verses sum up the effect of this second discourse. The unbelieving Jews, rejecting the words and works of the Lord, sought to take Him. Their unbelief was complete, but His time had not yet come. Thus He went away beyond Jordan. Already they had cast out the man who had confessed Christ; now the Shepherd, utterly rejected by the nation, takes the outside place of reproach. In that outside place "many resorted to Him" and "many believed on Him there". The Shepherd thus becomes the Leader of His flock outside the Jewish fold.

13. The Witness to the Son of God.
John 11.

The three preceding chapters record the complete rejection of Christ by the Jewish nation. This rejection becomes the occasion of manifesting that the immediate work of Christ in the midst of Israel was to fulfil the Father's counsel by calling His own sheep out of the Jewish fold in order to lead them into the new Christian company about to be formed upon the earth.

In chapters 11 and 12 we see the gracious way in which those who form the new company are used to display the glories of Christ as the Son of God, the Son of David, and the Son of Man. This final threefold witness to the glories of Christ leaves the world that rejects Christ without excuse.

In chapter 11 the Spirit of God has recorded the touching story of Lazarus and the two sisters to witness to the glory of Jesus as the Son of God. In the perfect ways of God the sorrows of His people are made the occasion of adding lustre to the Person of the Son, and of bringing blessing to themselves.

John 11:1-5. The scene opens in the home at Bethany where a certain man named Lazarus is sick. The town is referred to as "the town of Mary and her sister Martha". In God's sight a town is distinguished by the saints who dwell there. Then we are assured of the love and spiritual intelligence of Mary, for we are reminded that she is the Mary "which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair". Into this home where Christ is appreciated, sickness has come: Lazarus, the brother of Mary, is stricken down. The family at Bethany had so learned the love of Jesus that, with the confidence that love begets, they draw upon His love in the day of their trial. Very beautiful is the message they send, "Lord, behold, he whom Thou lovest is sick". The sisters do not ask the Lord to come, nor do they suggest that He should heal their brother. With simple confidence in the love of the Lord, they spread their sorrow before Him. Neither do they plead their love nor the love of Lazarus to the Lord, but they plead the Lord's love to Lazarus. Such is their confidence in the Lord and His love that they are conscious that, having made known their trial and pleaded His love, they can safely leave themselves in His hands.

Such confidence the Lord delights to own. At once it gives Him the occasion to say that this sickness is for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. The devil would seek to use our trials to raise murmuring and dishonouring thoughts of God: the Lord would use them to draw out our confidence in Himself, and as an occasion for manifesting His love in such tender fashion that He is glorified, while we are blessed.

The confidence of the sisters was well placed, for at once we read, "Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus." Moreover, there is rich comfort for our hearts in this statement. Time was when the Lord approved of Mary's choice, and corrected Martha's care. Again in this scene it is to Mary and her self-sacrificing love that the Spirit calls special attention. Are we then to judge that the Lord loved Mary more than Martha? The thought is rebuked by this passage which, in connection with the Lord's love, places Martha first and specially mentions her by name. Thus we are allowed to see that if there is a difference in the approval of the Lord, there is no difference in His love for the two sisters. His approval flows from our ways; His love flows from Himself. Full well we know that He is not indifferent to our love; but no defect in our love or in our ways will weaken His love.

In the following verses, 6 to 16, we see the perfect way of divine love.

John 11:6-7. Love delights to be drawn upon, and will not disappoint the confident appeal of faith. At the same time, divine love acts according to divine wisdom. It acts, at times, in a way that seems so strange and contrary to the way of human love and human prudence. Thus we read, "When He had heard therefore that he was sick, He abode two days still in the same place where He was". Human love would have gone at once; human prudence would never have gone at all. Whether in His tarrying or in His going, Jesus acts, not according to the thoughts of nature, but in dependence upon and according to the will of the Father. His tender heart cannot be indifferent to the sorrows of His people; but, while blessing His people and responding to their appeals, He ever remembers the glory of the Father and walks in the light of His will. Thus we see the Lord acting in that perfect wisdom which blesses His own, and yet maintains the glory of the Father.

Nor is it otherwise today; for if the Lord glorified the Father in His pathway and on the Cross, so now, from His place of exaltation, He still glorifies the Father in answer to His own prayer, "Glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son may glorify Thee." He still blesses His people; He still responds to their appeals to His love; but He does so in such wise that, while we are blessed, the Father is glorified. Herein will be found the solution of many a strange passage in our lives. We, it may be, thinking only of our present comfort, wonder at some strange combination of circumstances, or question why an illness overtakes us, or why a trial is allowed to continue. Had we the glory of the Father more distinctly before us, we might better understand these apparently strange providences.

John 11:8-10. Failing to appreciate the motives that governed the Lord, the disciples wonder, not so much at His tarrying, but at His decision to return to the land where, so recently, the Jews had sought to stone Him. They were looking at circumstances and speaking according to the light of natural prudence. The Lord was walking in the light of the Father's will, and hence there were no stumbling steps in His path. We, at times. looking only at circumstances, stumble and stray: our way is uncertain and dark. It is only as we spread all our difficulties before the Lord, looking only to Him, and seeking to walk according to His will, that we shall walk in the light.

John 11:11-15. Walking in the light of the Father's will, the Lord had no fear of the Jews and the evil they might do. He thought not of Himself but only of serving others in love according to the will of the Father. Thus He can say to the disciples, "I go, that I may awake him out of sleep".

The Lord meets the disciples' confusion of thought by plainly stating, "Lazarus is dead". Then we learn that His tarrying the two days was for the blessing of His disciples, for the Lord says, "I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent that ye may believe". This crushing sorrow that had overtaken the two sisters would not only become the occasion of glory to the Father, and blessing for the two bereaved sisters, but would lead to the blessing of others.

John 11:16. Thomas, as with ourselves oftentimes, cannot rise above the circumstances. He says, "Let us also go, that we may die with Him". The Lord has life before Him; Thomas can only see death. Walking in the light of the Father, the Lord sees life beyond death: walking under the power of circumstances, Thomas can only see death as the end of life. Nevertheless, his words show that, even in the darkness of his way, his love clings to Christ, for he says, "Let us also go, that we may die with Him". The love of Thomas would rather die with Him than live without Him. It is possible to be more intelligent that Thomas, but with less affection.

Having seen the way of divine love, we are now to learn the perfect way of divine compassion in verses 17 to 37.

John 11:17-20. When at length Jesus came to Bethany, He found that death had done its work: Lazarus had been in the grave four days. Sorrow filled the home of Martha and Mary; and many Jews had come to comfort the sisters in their loss. Martha, who had been over-active and troubled on the occasion of the Lord's former visit, is restless and distracted in the presence of this great sorrow. Mary, who had sat at His feet to hear His word, can now sit still in the house to wait His coming.

John 11:21-22. Having gone forth to meet the Lord, Martha acknowledges to Him that had He been present her brother had not died. Her faith knew He could have restored Lazarus to health, but hardly dared to believe that the Lord could restore her brother to life. Yet she acknowledges that the Lord stood in such favour with God that she can say, "Even now, whatsoever Thou wilt ask of God, God will give it Thee".

John 11:23-24. The Lord gives her a definite word to encourage her faith to draw upon the resources in Himself: He says, "Thy brother shall rise again". Martha's faith acknowledges that there will be a final resurrection, and at that day her brother will rise again. Like ourselves, she finds it easier to believe what God will do at some distant date than to believe in what God can do at the present moment.

John 11:25-27. The Lord graciously gives her a further word to turn her faith to Himself as a present resource. He says, "I am the resurrection and the life". The One Who has the power of resurrection and Who is "the life" is before her. Not only will He raise the dead, but He communicates life to the believer — eternal life. All will be raised, but only the believer will be raised to the resurrection of life. Unbelievers will come forth from the grave to the resurrection of judgment (John 5:29). The resurrection life is a life beyond the power of death, and sin, and judgment. Here the Lord speaks only of believers. The power of resurrection was present in the Person of the Son. When He puts forth that power, the believer in Jesus, though he have died, will live; and the believer who is living at that time will not die. The Lord was about to give a present proof of this power in raising Lazarus from the dead. The Lord challenges Martha with His question, "Believest thou this?"

In reply, Martha gives a general confession of faith which was so far true, and warranted by Scripture (Psalm 2), but falls far short of the fresh revelation of the Lord which revealed that, in His Person as the Son, the resurrection and the life were there.

John 11:28. At this point in the interview Martha seems to realise that the Lord was speaking of things beyond her spiritual intelligence — things that were more suited to Mary who had already sat at His feet and heard His word. She therefore went her way and secretly told Mary that the Master had come and was calling for her.

John 11:29-32. Mary, hearing that the Lord had called for her, hastens to meet Him. She knew how to sit still and wait for the Lord, and she knew how to act at His word. The Jews, mistaking her action, say, "She goes to the grave to weep there". She was doing that which was far better, that which faith alone can do; she was going to the feet of Jesus to weep there. To weep at the grave of loved ones even the world can do, but it brings no comfort: tears will not bring back our dead. To weep at the feet of Jesus is to find the comfort of His love, for we weep at the feet of One Who, in His own time, can raise our dead, and, in the meantime, can comfort our hearts. So it came to pass, "When Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet". In other days she had sat at His feet as a learner, and thus, in her days of sorrow, she is able to be at His feet as a mourner, and as a result, in yet a little while, she will be found at His feet as a worshipper (John 12:3). As a listener to His words at His feet, she had learned to know His love and grace, and now, as a mourner, she will draw upon that love and grace. Emboldened by what she had learnt of Himself, she spreads out her grief at His feet.

Like Martha she knew little of the power of resurrection life, but she knows the heart of Jesus. She knows the sorrow of her own heart, and she spreads that sorrow out before the Lord. Martha may talk with the Lord; but Mary weeps with the Lord.

John 11:33-35. Martha's conversation with the Lord becomes the occasion of revealing the mind of the Lord as to His people, whether sleeping or living. Mary's tears become the occasion of disclosing the heart of the Lord, as we read, "When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, He groaned in (the) spirit, and was troubled". Yet more, He mingled His tears with theirs, for we read, "Jesus wept". Was it for Lazarus that He wept? Surely not, for was He not about to raise Lazarus from the dead? It was not the loss of the dead that drew forth His tears, but the sorrow of the living.

The Creator stands in the midst of His poor fallen creatures who have ruined themselves by sin: and death — the wages of sin — has invaded the home, sundered the dearest ties, and broken their hearts. The weight of death lies heavily upon their spirits and the Creator draws near to them in love, and perfect sympathy, to weep with them.

John 11:36-37. Yet how little did those sorrowing people understand the cause of His tears. The Jews say, "Behold how He loved him". Truly the Lord loved Lazarus; nevertheless, it was not love for the dead but, rather, love for the living that drew forth His tears. If His spirit was deeply moved, if His tears flowed, it was the expression of His sorrow over the human race crushed under the weight of death, with no power to relieve its sorrow, and without faith to use the power that was present in the Person of the Son of God. All were under the weight of death: Lazarus was in the grave, death already doing its corrupting work; Martha and Mary both say, "If thou hadst been here, my brother had not died"; and the Jews say, "Could not this man … have caused that even this man should not have died?" None realised that the One Who is the resurrection and the life was in their midst.

The Lord, having expressed the way of divine compassion, now acts according to the way of divine power (verses 38-44).

John 11:38-40. The command of the Lord to take away the stone from the grave only becomes a fresh occasion to reveal the unbelief of Martha. She realises that the body has gone to corruption, thus adding to the hopelessness of the case in the eyes of nature and reason. But all this weight of death upon man, and the natural unbelief of the heart, only adds to the display of the glory of God. When all is utterly hopeless on man's side, God acts for His own glory.

John 11:41-42. Before raising Lazarus, the Lord publicly acknowledges the Father. He will not exercise this mighty power of resurrection to glorify Himself. He is careful to let the world know that all that He does is in submission to and dependence upon the Father, as the sent One of the Father, and for the glory of the Father.

John 11:43-44. Then with a loud voice He bids Lazarus come forth, and the dead came forth bound hand and foot. "Jesus says to them, Loose him, and let him go." Only the Lord could raise a man from the dead, though others may be used to free from the bands that Judaism has wrapped around men.

From the sorrow that came upon the home at Bethany we can plainly discern, for our encouragement, three leading truths. First, the trials that overtake God's people become an occasion for the display of the glory of God. The death of Lazarus became, in a special sense, an occasion for the splendour of God to shine out in the power of resurrection life. Throughout the ages, man's power has often been displayed in devising marvelous instruments for putting men to death; never once has a man been brought back from death. God's glory is seen in raising from the dead. Already the Lord had raised the daughter of Jairus, immediately following her death. Again He had put forth more signal power in raising the son of the widow of Nain, who was on his bier about to be buried. But the highest display of divine power is seen in raising Lazarus from the grave when the body had already gone to corruption.

Secondly, sorrow is not only an occasion of bringing glory to God, but also of bringing blessing to saints. The two sisters gain a deeper acquaintance with the Lord. They might well have said, "We knew that the Lord loved us, but until this sorrow came we never knew that He loved us with such a deep personal love as to bring Him to us, to talk with us, to walk with us, and to weep with us in the day of our great trouble".

Thirdly, God's glory having been displayed, and the saint's blessing secured, we see the power and mercy that comes in to meet the need and remove the sorrow. And though in our days the special sorrow of bereavement is not removed by restoring our dead, yet grace is given to sustain the bereaved until the day of glory.

The closing verses of the chapter, 45 to 57, present the effect upon the world of this marvellous display of the glory of the Son of God.

John 11:45. First, "Many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on Him". It may not be without significance that only Mary's name is mentioned in connection with the Jews that believed, while in connection with the Jews that came to comfort the sisters, we read, they "came to Martha and Mary" (verse 19). It may suggest that it was the testimony of Mary's life and ways that impressed those Jews and led them to contemplate "the things which Jesus did", and thus to believe in Him.

John 11:46. Though many believed, the hatred of others was so increased that they report "what things Jesus had done" to those who were seeking to kill Him.

John 11:47-48. This report brings the chief priests and Pharisees together in council seeking what they can do to nullify the testimony of these undoubted miracles. With consciences unexercised by their sins, and hearts untouched by the love of Christ, they dread the effect of these great signs upon others. They bear unwilling testimony to the power of Jesus by saying, "If we let Him thus alone, all men will believe on Him". Thinking only of their own position and national importance, they dread lest souls being drawn to follow Christ may arouse the hostility of the Romans.

John 11:49-52. In what follows we are permitted to see that, above all the deliberations of wicked men, God carries out His counsels; and to effect these counsels, Jesus was about to die. God uses this wicked high priest to announce prophetically the death of Christ. Caiaphas, flinging aside all pretension to righteousness, and acting only on expediency, pleads that whatever Jesus might have done, or what ever people might think of Him, it is better that He should die than that the whole nation should perish. With Caiaphas, as too often with the politicians of this world, it is no question of what is right, but of what is expedient (or "profitable", N. Tn.). This man is ready to crucify a just Man to preserve if possible the position of a guilty nation.

Such is the counsel of a wicked man: Jesus must die for the nation. But it was also according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God that Jesus should die, though for very different reasons to those advanced by the selfishness of man. If Jesus must die, it is not to preserve a wicked nation from being scattered, but that "He should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad".

It was true, then, that Jesus was going to die; but not for the "nation only", but for every child in the family of God. As Christ's sheep were not confined to sheep drawn from the Jewish fold, so God's children are not to be found only in the family of Israel. Through the death of Christ there would be a great company of sinners from Jews and Gentiles, converted and made children of God by faith in Christ Jesus; and not left as isolated units, but gathered together to form the one family of God. As ever, John views Christians as a flock dependent upon the Shepherd, and as a family under one Father. Paul views the Christians as composing one body of which Christ is the Head, and one fellowship of which the Lord is the bond.

John 11:53. The wicked policy of Caiaphas is approved by the leaders of the nation, who "from that day forth" plot to put Jesus to death. They become the wicked instruments to carry out the counsel of God.

John 11:54-57. Until His hour was come, Jesus withdrew to a country near to the wilderness, and there continued with His disciples. Again and again in the course of this Gospel we see the Lord taking the outside place. He does indeed come forward to render a testimony, but ever as the separate Man Who is apart from the corruption of Judaism. (See John 1:28; John 6:15; John 7:1; John 10:39-42; John 11:54). Though Christ is outside, the world complacently goes on with its religious feasts, speculating as to Jesus, while its leaders in their hostility issue their futile commands concerning Jesus. The world of today has not altered. Christ is still in the outside place of reproach: corrupt Christendom increasingly shuts its door upon Christ, while clinging to its religious feasts and ceremonies, and speculating about the Person of Christ. Meanwhile, the political world is either wholly indifferent to Christ, or openly hostile and attempting, by vain commands, to stamp out the Name of Jesus.

14. The Witness to the Son of David and the Son of Man
John 12.

The resurrection of Lazarus had witnessed to the glory of Jesus as the Son of God; we are now privileged to hear a further witness to His glory as the Son of David (John 12:12-19) and as the Son of Man (John 12:20-36). The result of this threefold witness to the glory of Christ, so far as the nation is concerned, is presented in the closing part of the chapter (John 12:37-50).

Clearly the witness to the glory of Christ as the Son of God is rejected by the nation; but before unfolding to us the further witnesses to His glory, the Spirit of God has introduced this touching scene at Bethany in order that we might learn that there were those — His own sheep — by whom He was loved and appreciated.

John 12:1-3. Six days before the passover, Jesus came to Bethany. It was, may we not say, the one place on earth that was specially dear to the heart of Christ. It was "the town of Mary", a saint greatly approved of Christ. It was the scene of the display of His glory in raising Lazarus. It was "there they made Him a supper" and, as we learn from Luke, it was there "He lifted up His hands and blessed them" at His ascension (Luke 24:50).

It was not often that anyone made a feast for Christ in this world. Men were, on occasions, glad enough to receive blessing from Him; how seldom they thought of offering anything to the Blesser. In the early days of His ministry, Levi had, indeed, "made Him a great feast in his own house" and invited "a great company" of sinners to sit down with Him (Luke 5:29). Now, at length, in the closing days of His path on earth, a feast is spread for Him at which He sits down in the midst of His saints.

How great was the feast that Christ had come to spread in this needy world. He had come to make known the Father (John 1:18); to bring in joy (John 2:10-11); to tell us of heavenly things (John 3:12); to lead our hearts into scenes of eternal satisfaction (John 4:14); to lead us out of death into life (John 5:21, 24); to deliver us from want (John 6:35); to give us the Holy Spirit (John 7:39); and to lead us into the blessings of Christianity (John 10). In all these blessed ways He was a Giver; but now at last in the home of Bethany He is a Receiver. At last the moment had come when a few devoted hearts make a feast for the One Who made a feast for all the world — "There they made Him a supper".

In the midst of the world's rising tide of hatred to Christ, there is a little company who gather to make "Him a supper". The leaders of this world may hold their councils to put Christ to death, and issue their commands for Christ to be delivered into their hands; but, unmoved by their evil plottings and their futile commands, and in the face of all opposition, this little company make "Him a supper". Surely that supper was very acceptable to Him, and the love that prepared it very precious in His sight.

As in the closing day of corrupt Judaism, it was still possible for a few, who had heard His voice and been moved by His love, to make a supper for Him; so now, in the closing days of corrupt Christendom, amidst the rising tide of apostasy, wherein His Name is denied and His work despised, it is still possible for individuals to make a feast for Him; for He can say, "If any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with Me" (Revelation 3:20).

In this happy company at Bethany we are permitted to see that service, communion and worship have their representatives, but all combining to make "Him a supper". Martha still serves, but no longer is she cumbered with her service. In other days her service had a larger place in her thoughts than Christ; now Christ has a larger place than her service. She is serving to make "Him a supper".

Of Lazarus, who had been through sickness and death, and had been miraculously raised from the dead, we read that he "sat at the table with Him". He is at rest enjoying communion with Christ.

Mary, who before had been at His feet as a learner (Luke 10:39), and but recently had wept at His feet as a mourner (John 11:32), is now found at His feet as a worshipper. She anoints His feet with the very costly ointment and wipes His feet with her hair. Her act proclaims that in her estimation nothing that she possesses is good enough for Christ. She expends upon Him the costly ointment, and puts at His disposal that which is the glory of a woman — her hair. She was not at that moment thinking of the poor or the blessing of others; she was wholly engrossed with Christ. This, indeed, is worship: but, even so, the one that is absorbed with Christ will bring blessing to others; so we read, "The house was filled with the odour of the ointment".

John 12:4-6. Alas! amidst the fragrance of love there lurks the guile of the traitor. Jesus is the Light, and in His presence all are manifested in their true colours. That which was the expression of the love of a devoted saint becomes the occasion of exposing the lust of a heartless sinner. While Mary is delighted to expend that which is "very costly" on the One Who is of infinite worth, Judas is coolly calculating the price of the ointment — three hundred pence was the yearly wage of a working man, a sum which would provide for the necessities of a poor man's household for a year — regretting only that, under the profession of giving to the poor, he has not been able to add this sum to his unlawful gains. This man, who cares neither for Jesus nor the poor, is governed by the love of money to obtain which he is ready to steal from the bag and betray Christ.

John 12:7-8. The Lord protects His sheep from the thief who comes to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. If, in love, the Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep, He will not permit His sheep to be touched. The Lord's word is, "Let her alone". Mary probably had little clear appreciation of the death and resurrection of Christ, but her spiritual instincts, moved by affection, lead her to do the right act at the right moment; and the Lord, as it has been said, "gives a voice of intelligence to her act".

She might indeed have had many an opportunity to sell the ointment for the benefit of the poor, or ere this to pour it upon Christ. But, says the Lord, "She (has) kept this" for this supreme moment. The Lord lets every one know that the ointment was kept for the day of His preparation for burial. It was an expression of love for Christ which becomes a witness to the fact that the One Who had just raised a man from the dead was Himself going into death. The Lord, indeed, is not unmindful of the poor, for, He says, the poor are always with us: but, with touching tenderness, He adds, "Me ye have not always". He is conscious of His approaching departure, and the spiritual instincts of Mary tell her that the shadow of death is closing round her Lord. Lazarus was a witness to the resurrection power of Christ, but Mary's act witnessed that the One Who had the power of resurrection life was going into death. As so often, devoted love gives divine intelligence. Thus she seemed to be the only one that entered into the mind of the Lord, and realised that death was before Him.

John 12:9. Judas was marked by a spirit of lying, treachery and hypocrisy. There were, however, others present — much people of the Jews — who were moved by no such sordid motives, and yet came, not with faith in Christ, but, rather, drawn by curiosity to see a man who had been raised from the dead.

John 12:10-11. If in Bethany there was a home filled with the fragrance of the love that made a supper for the Lord, outside there were those, moved by hatred and malice, who consulted to put Lazarus to death, as well as the One Who had raised him from the dead. They would fain get rid not only of Jesus but of every one who is a living witness to the grace and power of Jesus. At heart the world is still the same; it neither wants Christ nor those who are faithful witnesses to Christ. They that live godly shall suffer persecution. And behind the hostility of religious leaders there is ever the envy that cannot endure that their disciples should leave them to follow Jesus.

John 12:12-19. God, however, determines that there shall be an adequate witness to the glory of the One Whom man has rejected. Already a witness has been borne to His glory as the Son of God; now a further witness is raised up to His glory as the Son of David. Much people, when they hear that the One Who has raised Lazarus from the dead is coming to Jerusalem, go forth with palm branches to hail Him as the Son of David, the promised King of Israel that comes in the Name of the Lord, according to their own Psalm (Psalm 118:26), and riding on an ass's colt, as it is written in the Prophets (Zechariah 9:9).

The disciples were slow to realise the deep import of these things until after Jesus was glorified. Nevertheless, the crowd, impressed by the raising of Lazarus, rightly conclude that this glorious Person was the long promised Son of David. In the presence of this witness to the glory of Christ, the Pharisees have to admit "among themselves" that their opposition is of no avail. Good too for the believer ever to realise that in spite of all appearances to the contrary, no opposition against Christ or the truth can finally prevail.

John 12:20-23. The coming of the Greeks (They were not Hellenists, that is Greek Jews, but Hellenes, that is Gentiles) — really the Gentiles — with their desire to see Jesus, becomes the occasion of introducing the third great testimony to the glory of Christ as the Son of Man. The Gentile had no claim upon Christ as the Messiah, so these Greeks rightly approach the Lord through the Jewish disciples, as before the Gentile centurion had sent to the Lord through the Jewish elders. The Lord immediately speaks of Himself as the Son of Man, a title under which He becomes the way of blessing for "all men" (verse 32). Thus the desire of the Gentiles to see Jesus leads the Lord to open up before His disciples the vision of an entirely new order of blessing, going far beyond the bounds of Israel. He can say, "The hour is come, that the Son of Man should be glorified".

We know that Christ, having been rejected as the Son of God and the King of Israel, according to Psalm 2, will have dominion over the whole earth as the Son of Man, according to Psalm 8. Again, we learn from the prophet Daniel that, as the Son of Man, He will receive "dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him (Daniel 7:13-14). Thus the Old Testament abundantly sets forth the universal dominion by which Christ will be glorified. The time for this glory is not yet come; when, therefore, the Lord says, "The hour is come, that the Son of Man should be glorified," He surely has in view not the kingdom but the Cross, where the Son of Man is about to be glorified in glorifying the Father, in accord with His further teaching in the Upper Room (John 13:31).

John 12:24. The Lord, therefore, immediately speaks of His death which opens the way of blessing for "all men". Christ must die, a truth of such immense importance that the Lord introduces it with a "Verily, verily". Unless Christ, the precious grain of wheat, fall into the ground and die, He must for ever abide alone. The grain of wheat, unless it is sown, remains only a solitary grain: if sown, it not only brings forth much fruit, but fruit of the same kind. So the Lord goes into death to secure a seed after His own order. Centuries before, Isaiah, looking on to the Cross, could say, "When Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed" (Isaiah 53:10).

John 12:25. Thus the way of blessing for man lies through death. But the blessing into which the death of Christ brings the believer is of an entirely new order beyond the power of death. Thus the Lord contrasts the two spheres of life, the "life in this world", and the life of joy and blessing which is spoken of as "eternal life". The life in this world is, at best, a passing life; the life that the Lord gives is "eternal". To love the life here is to cling to a life that we must lose, and lose even in its pursuit. To hate the life in this world, in view of eternal life, is to enter into the enjoyment of eternal life even now. Well for us to ponder the deep meaning of the Lord's words. To turn aside to the world, seeking to find our pleasure in all that in which the world finds its life, will only prove bitterness and sorrow to the believer as he discovers that he is pursuing that which not only fails to bring any lasting satisfaction, but, even at its best, is increasingly slipping from his grasp, for it is a life that ends in death.

John 12:26. Moreover, there is not only the new life with its lasting joys, in contrast with the old life that is passing, but there is the privilege of living a life of service to the Lord. To take this path of service, we must follow the Lord. So, a little later, the Lord's injunction to Peter to feed His sheep is followed by the exhortation, "Follow Me" (John 21:17, 19). This gives us a further motive for accepting death to the present life; for in principle "following" Christ is through death to sin and the world. Such a path will have its bright reward. Following Christ will lead where Christ is gone, to be with Christ in life's eternal home. It may meet with opposition and persecution from man; it will certainly meet with honour from the Father.

John 12:27-28. The Lord has exhorted us to take the path of death to this world, leading to life and honour. But before the believer can take this path, Christ had to face death as the judgment of God against sin. Realising the solemnity of the forsaking of God at the Cross, the Lord has to say, "Now is my soul troubled". Even so, will He say, "Father save Me from this hour"? Was it not for this very cause — to be forsaken that His people might never be forsaken — that He had come to this hour? Therefore, whatever the cost to Himself, He will say, "Father, glorify Thy Name".

Immediately there comes the Father's answer from heaven, saying, "I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again". Already the Father had glorified His Name in raising Lazarus; now He is about to glorify it in raising Christ to a better resurrection beyond the power of death. The answer to the soul trouble of the Lord in view of death under judgment is life in all its fulness beyond death for Himself and His people.

John 12:29-30. The Father had given a public witness that the Son was the One through Whom He was glorifying His Name. The people, unused to voices from heaven, speculated as to this public witness. Some said it was thunder, others the voice of an angel. The Lord plainly tells them that it was for their sakes: He Himself, walking ever in communion with the Father, needed no such public witness.

John 12:31-33. The voice was, moreover, a warning that the death and resurrection of Christ, which brings glory to the Father, will bring judgment to the world as such. If the hour had come to glorify the Son and glorify the Name of the Father, so, too, had come the hour of the judgment of this world and the casting out of its prince. The world that rejected Christ is condemned by the Cross, while the power of its prince is broken. On the other hand, the Cross is the manifestation of the Saviour Who becomes the Centre of attraction for "all men". On earth He was here in connection with Israel as their Messiah, as He could say, "I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel"; but, "lifted up from the earth", the efficacy of His Person and work is open to Jew and Gentile alike. "He gave Himself a ransom for all." Nor are we left to draw our own conclusions that the Cross is in view, for we are definitely told that, in so speaking, the Lord was "signifying what death He should die". Thus the Cross was suffering for the Lord (John 12:27), glory for the Father (John 12:28), judgment for the world (John 12:31), destruction of the devil's power (John 12:31), and salvation for all (John 12:32).

John 12:34. In the verses that follow we see the darkness of the people in contrast with the light in the Person of Christ, making manifest the conflict between unbelief and the truth. The people rightly interpret the lifting up to refer to the Cross but, in their unbelief, they use the Scriptures that speak of Christ's everlasting kingdom to oppose the Lord's words. Overlooking other Scriptures that speak of the sufferings of Christ that lead to the glory, they ask, "How sayest Thou that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this, the Son of Man?" (N.Tn.).

John 12:35-36. Their questions betrayed the darkness of their souls. The Lord, without giving a formal reply to their questions, answers the condition of soul that prompted them. He was the light of the world; yet a little while and the light would be withdrawn. Their wisdom would be to avail themselves of the light lest, when too late, darkness would overtake them. The light was there in the Person of Christ, but only those who believed in the light would have the intelligence that the light gives and thus be characterised by the light, as children of light. The one who rejected the light of Christ would fall into the darkness of his own mind and lose his way, not knowing whither he goes. So has it been with the nation of the Jews who rejected Christ; and so will it be with apostate Christendom that again is rejecting the light and losing its way in the darkness of modernism and infidelity. Once again, in our day, the Lord from the outside place appeals to the spiritually blind in the Christian profession, as He says, "Anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see" (Revelation 3:18).

Having uttered these solemn warnings, the Lord departed and hid Himself from those who rejected every testimony to His Person, and despised all His warnings.

John 12:37-38. The closing verses of the chapter present the solemn position of the nation that refuses to believe in Christ in spite of the many signs that had been done before them.

First, according to the prophet Isaiah, they had rejected both the "report" of the Lord, and the "arm of the Lord". In the wonderful words of the Lord they had heard the report; in the many signs they had seen the arm of the Lord. They had utterly rejected the report as coming from God by imputing the Lord's words to the devil (John 8:49, 52). They had rejected the arm of the Lord by imputing His works to the power of the devil (John 10:20-21).

John 12:39-41. Secondly, seeing they would not believe, the time came when "they could not believe". They became judicially hardened. Isaiah, who prophesied of their deliberate rejection, also foretells the judicial judgment that is the outcome of the rejection of Christ. They had steeled their hearts against His words and closed their eyes to His works of power. As a result God gave them up to the blindness and hardness that they themselves had chosen.

These things Isaiah had uttered when he had seen the glory of the Lord. Viewing them apart from that glory he might have had some hope for the people. In the presence of the glory he saw their solemn and hopeless condition.

John 12:42-43. There were indeed those who were convinced by the overwhelming evidence of the Lord's works that He was indeed the Christ. Apparently it was only reason that was convinced; their hearts remained untouched and unchanged. Having men before them rather than God, and desiring to stand well in the religious world, they were not prepared to face the reproach of Christ, so would not confess Him lest they should be cast out by men.

John 12:44-50. The verses that follow give the final public testimony of the Lord. First, we are told of the positive blessing of believing in Himself. Faith in Him brings to the believer the full revelation of the heart of God. To see the Son is to see the Father revealed in the Son. The Father and the Son are one.

Secondly, we are told that this "light" — the truth as to God — is for all. He had come a light into the world that whosoever, Jew or Gentile, believes in Him should not abide in darkness or ignorance of God.

Thirdly, we are warned of the judgment that must overtake the one who hears and believes not. It is true that the Lord came not to judge but to save the world. Nevertheless, His words, if rejected, would be a witness against the Christ-rejector in the last day, and so much the more that they were the words that the Father had given Him to speak — words, indeed, which were given for life and blessing, but, if rejected, would become words of condemnation.

{The section: John 13-17 may be found here: The Last Words.}

John 18.

In the account of the closing events of the life of Christ as given in the Gospel of John, prominence is given to the presentation of the glory of Christ as a divine Person — the great end of the Gospel. Thus, again and again, we have details in which a direct testimony is borne to His Deity, while ever presenting His perfect obedience as become flesh. It is thus our privilege to have our hearts drawn out to Him in worship as the only begotten Son of the Father, and as the One Who became flesh full of grace and truth.

John 18:1. How blessedly these truths are set forth in the solemn betrayal scene, described in the first eleven verses. In the opening verse we read, "Jesus … went forth with His disciples". Thus we see the Good Shepherd going before and the sheep following.

John 18:2-9. In the following verses we see the wolf coming; but if Judas "knew the place" where Jesus had oftentimes resorted with His disciples, he had never known Jesus. He knew nothing of the glory of His Person, His mighty power over all His foes, His infinite love to His poor sheep; or His perfect obedience to the Father. The wickedness of Judas becomes the occasion, on the one hand, of displaying the perfection of Jesus and, on the other hand, of manifesting the weakness and evil of the flesh even in a devoted disciple. Alas! with ourselves, too often, opposition, insult and treachery, call forth some sad exhibition of the flesh. Good for us, then, as Peter, himself, can in after years exhort us, to look well into this touching scene taking Christ for our example that we may follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21-23).

First, then, we see shining out the glory of His Deity and the perfection of His humanity, for we read, "Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon Him, went forth". A mere man, with the slightest knowledge of what was coming, would surely have turned back. Only of a divine Person could it be said, in an absolute way, that He knew all things; and only of a perfect Man, Who knew all things, could it be said He "went forth". He submits to man, but in obedience to the Father. He was "not rebellious, neither turned away back" (Isa. 50:5).

Secondly, we see His mighty power as a divine Person, for having said "I AM", His enemies "went backward, and fell to the ground". They were in the presence of the great I AM, the One with all power, and against Whom the world can do nothing, in spite of its combined forces with their lanterns and torches and weapons. When the Lord of glory "went forth", His enemies "went backward". Thus the Psalmist, speaking prophetically of Christ, can say, "Let them be driven backward and put to shame that wish me evil" (Ps. 60:14; Ps. 70:2-3).

Thirdly, we see the infinite love of the Good Shepherd for the sheep. When the wolf comes, instead of leaving the sheep and fleeing, as a mere hireling would do, He "gives His life for the sheep" (John 10:11-12). But, if He gives Himself up, He will not allow the sheep to be touched. Thus He can say, "If therefore ye seek Me, let these go their way". His own words are thus fulfilled, "As to those whom thou hast given me, I have not lost one of them" (N.Tn.). His poor sheep may fail, even as Peter denied Him and all forsook Him: but on the Lord's side all is perfection, and therefore not one of His own will be lost. Thus it is blessedly true that, however great our failure may have been, and though grievous wolves may have entered in amongst the Lord's people, not sparing the flock (Acts 20:29); yet at last all His sheep will be brought home, not one will be lost, and not one missing on that great day.

John 18:10-11. Fourthly, we see the perfect obedience of Christ to the Father's will, in contrast with the weakness of the flesh in one of the most devoted of the Lord's disciples. When the Lord was watching in the garden, Peter was sleeping; when the Lord is submitting to His enemies in obedience to the Father's will, Peter is resisting in fleshly zeal. Peter was in earnest, but the very sincerity of a saint only adds to the harm he does if he acts in the flesh. As one has said, "Even His most honoured servants fail, and are apt to fail most when they push forward in natural zeal and their own wisdom, too self-confident to watch His ways, and heed His word, and thus learn of Him" (W.K.). Little as Peter might have thought, his act in smiting the high priest's servant with a sword was in direct opposition to the Father's will. The Lord can say, in rebuking Peter, "The cup which My Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?" Amiable and zealous nature would have taken that cup from His lips, and unwittingly would have frustrated the fulfilment of all the deep eternal counsels of the Father's heart for the glory of Christ and the blessing of man.

John 18:12-14. Had it been the Father's will for the Lord to free Himself from His enemies, there would have been no need to use the sword. He could quietly have walked away when His enemies fell to the ground; even, as at the beginning of His ministry, when wicked men would have cast Him from the brow of the hill, He quietly passed through their midst and went His way. But now He has reached the end of His path, and the hour is come for the great work of the cross. So, in submission to the Father's will He allows Himself to be bound and led away by those who, though the tools of Satan, are used to carry out the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. So, too, Caiaphas, a wicked man, is used by the Spirit of God to foretell a great truth that "one Man should die for the people".

John 18:15-18. We have seen the fleshly energy of Peter; now we are to see the weakness of the flesh. Peter, indeed, followed Jesus, but he does so in self-confidence, only to learn his own weakness. Another disciple enters the palace, not as a disciple of Jesus, but as an acquaintance of the high priest, and becomes the means of leading Peter into a false position, with the result that he breaks down through the simple question of a serving maid. Scenting danger, in confessing that he is the disciple of One of Whom it is foretold by the high priest that He shall die, Peter tells a deliberate lie. Thus a naturally bold and courageous man breaks down when in a false position. To follow the Lord we shall need a power that is beyond nature to sustain us. The Lord had just prayed to the Father to keep His disciples from evil. As with ourselves, so often, Peter thinks he can keep himself, and is allowed to fall that he may learn his own weakness. Thus he denies that he is a disciple and, having done so, can associate with the Lord's enemies, and warm himself at the world's fire.

John 18:19-24. The scene now changes from the failure of the disciple in association with the world to the perfection of Jesus in the presence of the opposition of the world. The high priest asks Him of His disciples and of His doctrine. Such questions implied that the Lord was a secret plotter against the authorities. The blessed Lord refuses the implication by reminding the high priest that He spake openly to the world, and taught openly in places of public resort. In secret He had said nothing. The high priest has only to ask those who had heard Him, and they would bear witness to His teaching. The Lord's reply is unanswerable; but, as so often when there is no answer to an argument, the opposer falls back on insult and abuse. Thus the officers, whose business was to maintain order, strike the Lord. These insults are met by the Lord in righteous and fearless dignity.

John 18:25-27. Again the scene changes and, in striking contrast to the Master, we see how the poor servant fares when put to the test. The Lord is bound, standing before His enemies; Peter is free, standing among the enemies of the Lord, warming himself. Again the question is put to him, "Art not thou also one of His disciples?" And again, under the fear of man, Peter denies his discipleship. For the third time, one who can witness to having seen Peter in the garden with Christ enquires as to his association with the Lord, only to draw out the third denial. Like Peter, we have the flesh in us and the devil against us, and we have to learn that no love to the Lord however real, no knowledge of Scripture however great, no good intentions however honest, no experiences however deep, no gift however great, no divine life that we possess, will keep us from denying the Lord under the stress of fear, or giving way to the grossest of lusts in the presence of temptation, or showing anger and taking revenge in the presence of insult, unless we are kept near to the Lord, and strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Peter had to learn, as we have to learn, it may be by bitter experience, the truth of the Lord's words, "Without Me ye can do nothing" (John 14:5).

John 18:28. The religious leaders of the Jewish nation having rejected Christ, the political leaders of the Gentiles are now put to the test. The blessed Lord is led before Pilate, with the result that government, which had been given to the Gentiles for the praise of that which is good, and the execution of judgment upon him that does evil (Romans 13:4), is used to condemn One in Whom, it is confessed, no fault can be found.

John 18:29-30. Pilate may be a hard-hearted man of the world, but at least he shows some semblance of justice by enquiring what is the accusation against Christ. The Jews, in their answer, assume to be such upright men that it is an insult to suggest that they would bring the Lord before the judge were He not a malefactor.

John 18:31-32. Pilate seeks to put the responsibility of judging the Lord upon the Jews. In reply, they betray their settled purpose that, whatever Pilate's verdict may be, they have already concluded that the Lord must die. But the Romans having taken from the Jew the power to execute a death sentence, they have to leave the matter in the hands of Pilate. Thus Jew and Gentile become the instruments for fulfilling the Lord's own words as to the death He was about to die (Acts 4:27-28).

John 18:33-37. Having consulted with the Jews, Pilate again enters the judgment hall, and asks the Lord two questions: "Art Thou the King of the Jews?" and "What hast Thou done?" The Lord replies, "Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of Me?" Thus the Lord lets Pilate know that, contrary to all justice, He had been slandered to the judge. Had He made Himself a King in opposition to Caesar, His servants would have fought. Nevertheless, He had a kingdom and He was a King, but His kingdom is not of this world. His kingdom is of God, and from heaven, and when He comes forth as the King of kings, the armies of heaven will follow Him, and out of His mouth will go a sharp sword to smite the nations. He was, indeed, born a King, but He came to bear witness to the truth. Here we see the glory of His Person shining out as the Only begotten Son Who became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. The Lord appeals to the conscience of Pilate. Was he one who had come under the convicting power of the truth? All such hear the voice of the Lord. Alas! Pilate shows that the voice of Jesus had never reached his conscience or touched his heart, for he flippantly asks, "What is truth?" Had the truth convicted him of his sin, it would also have revealed to him the grace of God, and he would have said with the woman of John 4, He "told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?"

John 18:38-40. Nevertheless, if Pilate's conscience is not reached, his natural intelligence tells him that there is no fault in Jesus, and that it was only malice that led the Jews to bring Christ before the judgment seat. He therefore seeks to escape condemning an innocent Person to death by falling back on a Jewish custom, only to make manifest the intense hatred of the human heart to Jesus that prefers a robber and a murderer, for the Jews say, "Not this Man, but Barabbas."

John 19.

In these solemn closing scenes we see, on the one hand, how the presence of Jesus makes manifest the evil of the flesh, and, on the other hand, the wickedness of man brings into display the perfection of His heart. In the presence of the murderous hatred of the Jew, the callous injustice of the Gentile judge, and the insults of the soldiers, we find on the part of Christ perfect submission, infinite patience, and quiet dignity. He utters no word of resentment, and He does not fall back on His almighty power to crush his foes. The hour had come to glorify God by the work on the cross, and He is obedient to death.

Nevertheless, we know that God is not indifferent to the insults heaped upon His Son. The day will come when the One Whom men crowned with a crown of thorns, and mocked as the King of the Jews, will come forth wearing many crowns as the King of kings. The One Whom men clothed with a purple robe will come to earth "clothed with a vesture dipped in blood" and the One Whom men smote with their wicked hands will smite the nations with a rod of iron.

The Psalms and the Prophets foretell both the patient suffering in the presence of His enemies and His future glories when His enemies will be made His footstool. Thus, in Psalm 109, we see Christ in His humiliation when wicked men spoke against Him with a lying tongue, fought against Him without a cause, rewarded Him evil for good, hatred for His love, and persecuted Him that they might "even slay the broken in heart". In the presence of this wickedness the Lord can say, "I give Myself to prayer". Psalm 110 gives the answer to His prayer. The One Whom men rejected is exalted to the right hand of God, to await the time when His enemies will be made His footstool, and He will reign from Zion — the city where He was crucified — for the judgment of the nations and the blessing of His willing people.

We have seen that Pilate made his first attempt to escape having anything to do with Christ by suggesting that the Jews should judge Him according to their own law (John 18:31). This, however, fails, and Pilate is compelled to take up the case, with the result that he has to admit that he finds no fault with the Lord. His duty, therefore, is plain. Justice demands that an innocent man should be released. But personal interest urged Pilate to seek to keep on good terms with the Jews. He therefore makes a second attempt to avoid condemning an innocent man, and at the same time to appease the Jews, by falling back on a custom by which a prisoner was released at the Passover. But, custom or no custom, Pilate's plain duty as a judge is to release One in Whom he finds no fault. This compromise, however, not only fails but becomes the occasion to show the depths of evil to which the Jewish nation had sunk. To carry out the custom they prefer that Barabbas, one who was a prisoner for murder and robbery, should be released. Such is the evil of our hearts that, however much we may dislike a murderer and a thief, if it is a question of Christ or the murderer, but for the grace of God we shall choose the murderer, the one who takes life rather than the One Who gives life.

John 19:1-5. Evidently it never occurred to Pilate that the Jews would choose Barabbas. But by this attempted compromise he falls into the hands of the people and sinks yet deeper into wickedness as an unjust judge. Thus he makes a third attempt to appease the Jews and escape passing the extreme sentence upon Jesus by scourging Jesus, and permitting the soldiers to mock Him with a crown of thorns, and the purple robe, and to smite Him with their hands. Then he brings the Lord forth with the crown of thorns and the purple robe, the evidence that he has sought to meet the people by putting contempt upon One Whom they hated. He suggests that it is unnecessary to take further action as he finds no fault in Him. Alas! Pilate as little knew the depth of enmity in the heart of the Jews as the utter depravity of his own heart and that of the Gentiles.

John 19:6. The malice of the Jews is not content with the scourging and insults to which the Lord has been subjected. Murder is in their hearts, so at once they cry, "Crucify Him, crucify Him". They insist not only on His death, but on the most ignominious of deaths — the death of a malefactor on a cross. At first Pilate draws back from going to this length, and for the fourth time he seeks to escape from this wickedness by saying, "Take ye Him, and crucify Him: for I find no fault in Him". This is the third time he has used these words; he thus gives a threefold witness to the perfection of Jesus and the breakdown of government in the hands of the Gentiles.

John 19:7. The charge that the Lord was setting Himself against the Roman authorities, by taking the place of the King of the Jews, having entirely failed to impress Pilate, the Jews now fall back on a more solemn charge. They say, "He made Himself the Son of God". The truth is that He is the Son of God, but was made flesh, as we read, "God sent forth His Son, made of a woman" (Galatians 4:4).

John 19:8-9. This further charge makes Pilate the more afraid, for, doubtless, he could see in the Lord a majesty and dignity that would appear to Pilate to be far above that of an ordinary man and that would approach the divine. Thus with fear in his heart, Pilate enters the judgment hall and asks the Lord, "Whence art Thou?" The question is prompted by fear, but his fear was neither faith nor the outcome of a sense of need; so the Lord gave Pilate no answer.

John 19:10-11. Mortified by the Lord's silence, Pilate boasts of his power to crucify or release the Lord at his own will, only to learn from the Lord that he has no power at all against Him except it be given from above. The Lord was about to do the great work whereby God is glorified and sinners that believe are blessed, and so man is allowed to use his power to carry out the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. Nevertheless, God will be righteous in dealing with the sin of man in crucifying the Lord of glory. Jew and Gentile are guilty of this, the greatest crime ever committed, but the Jews that delivered their Messiah to the Roman power are guilty of the greater sin.

John 19:12. Pilate, instead of being enraged by this reply, as surely he would have been had such words fallen from the lips of an ordinary person, is evidently more deeply impressed and puzzled. He therefore makes a final attempt to release the Lord, only to bring out the greater sin of the Jews who raise fresh opposition by appealing to the worldly interests of Pilate. They suggest, if he would remain the friend of Caesar, he cannot "let this Man go".

John 19:13-16. Pilate, loving this world, and with no sense of his need as a sinner, or appreciation of the grace of Christ, is swayed by the argument of the Jews as to his personal interests and worldly advantages. He takes his place on the judgment seat, and having made one more feeble attempt to escape the condemnation of One in Whom he had thrice stated that he could find no fault, he yields to their clamour, as they say, "Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him". The Jews see no beauty in Him that they should desire Him; and Pilate, though convinced of His innocence and impressed by His majesty and dignity, prefers the friendship of the world to the Son of God. Thus, Jew and Gentile join in crucifying the Lord of glory. As it has been said, "Pilate and the Jews were wholly opposed in their thoughts and wishes; but God was not in the thoughts of one more than the others". Thus, in these two verses, we have the summing up of the wickedness of Jew and Gentile. The Jews seal their doom by the total rejection of their Messiah, for they say, "We have no king but Caesar". This is the public apostasy of the Jews. The Gentile utterly breaks down in government by delivering One to be crucified in Whom, it has three times been confessed, there is no fault.

Thus ends the trial before Pilate, which is given in greater detail in this gospel than in the others. All that takes place increasingly brings out the glory of Christ's Person, to the increasing condemnation of Jew and Gentile. Witness is first borne to the fact that Christ is the King of the Jews (John 18:33); then that His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36); then that He came into the world to bear witness to the truth (John 18:37); that He is the Son of God (John 19:7); and finally that, as the Son of God, He is One against Whom Pilate has no power except it be given him from above (John 19:11).

John 19:17-18. The blessed Lord submits to the judgment of man and, bearing the cross on which He is about to bear the forsaking of God, He goes forth to "a place called the place of a skull". He is obedient to death, even the death of a cross, and that in the lowest of company — two thieves.

John 19:19-22. Nevertheless, God maintains a testimony to Jesus, which also becomes a witness to the wickedness of the Jews, for over the cross Pilate writes, "Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews". Moreover, the testimony shall go out to all the world, for it is written in Hebrew and Greek and Latin. The Jews at once realise that this writing casts upon them the awful slur of allowing their King to be crucified. They fain would have the writing altered. But Pilate, out of temper with himself and the people, is obdurate. He curtly tells the Jews, "What I have written I have written".

John 19:23-24. Furthermore, the soldiers, in parting His garments amongst themselves, become the unconscious witnesses to the glory of His Person. For He is the One of Whom, a thousand years before, it is foretold, "They part My garments among them, and cast lots upon My vesture" (Psalm 22:18). "These things therefore the soldiers did" and fulfilled the word of God.

John 19:25-27. Amidst all the sorrows of the cross, the human tenderness of the Lord shines out. The fact that, at the beginning of His pathway, He would brook no interference from His mother in His heavenly mission (John 2:3-4) does not stop the Lord from caring for her earthly needs. So now He commends her to the care of one who, above all others, was trusting in the love of Jesus — the disciple who could lean on Jesus' bosom and who five times describes himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. From that hour John took her to his own home.

John 19:28-30. It has been remarked that in the Gospel of John there is no record of either the sufferings in the garden of Gethsemane or the sufferings on the cross. In keeping with the purpose of the gospel all is presented from the divine side. With divine knowledge Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, fulfilled the Scripture by saying, "I thirst". Then He can say with divine certainty, "It is finished". Then we read, "He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost". In the Gospels of Mark and Luke the same statement is made, but we are told a different word, meaning He "expired", is used (Mark 15:37; Luke 23:46, (N. Tn.). This could be said of anyone, but here it is His own divine act; it is He, Himself, Who "delivered up His spirit". A man can take his life, but no mere man can, by an act of will, separate his spirit from his body. This the Lord does as the Son, as He has already said in this Gospel, "Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again. No man takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again" (John 10:17-18).

John 19:31-37. The scruples of the Jews and the brutality of the soldiers broke the legs of the two thieves, and pierced the side of the Saviour. How little they realised that they were sending a believer to paradise, and drawing forth the witness to the purifying and saving grace of the work of Christ, while fulfilling the Scriptures that say not a bone of Him shall be broken, and "They shall look on Me whom they pierced" (Ex. 12:46; Num. 9:12; Ps. 34:20; Ps. 22:16-17; Zech. 12:10).

John 19:38-42. Moreover, Isaiah's prophecy is fulfilled. He had said that "Men appointed His grave with the wicked, but He was with the rich in His death, because He had done no violence, neither was there guile in His mouth" (Isaiah 53:9, N.Tn.). Thus rich men of social standing come to the front, when all others have fled, and obtain the Saviour's body to place it with aromatic spices in a new grave. It has been truly remarked that, "Iniquity carried out to its full height leads the weak to show themselves faithful" (N.Tn.). How often has this been proved in the history of God's people. These two believers, who hitherto had been hindered by their wealth and social position from identifying themselves with Christ in His lowly path, now come out boldly on His side.

John 20.

In each Gospel the resurrection, as all else, is presented in keeping with the special object of the Gospel. Thus, in the Gospel of Luke, which presents the Lord Jesus in all His perfection as the Son of Man, details are given as to His eating the fish and the honey-comb, the evidence that in resurrection He was still truly a Man. John, in keeping with the purpose of his Gospel to present "the Only begotten Son", alone records the words of the Lord in resurrection that He was about to ascend to the Father.

In the course of the chapter, three scenes pass before us. First, in verses 1 to 18, we have the incidents that take place early on the resurrection morning, in which Mary Magdalene has a prominent place, as setting forth the condition of the disciples at that moment, and as one the Lord was using to lead His own on to the new Christian ground. Secondly, in verses 19 to 23, we have the record of the Lord's appearing to His disciples on the same day at evening, when He gave them a foretaste of His presence and administration in the midst of the assembly. Thirdly, in verses 24 to 31, we have the account of the Lord's appearing to His own eight days later, which would seem to anticipate in picture the godly remnant of the Jews who will be brought into blessing in a future day and form the beginning of the restoration of Israel.

John 20:1-2. If others were with Mary Magdalene, as the synoptic gospels would seem to indicate, she alone of all the women is brought into prominence in the account given by John. In the past, Mary had been under the power of demon possession; but the Lord had delivered her from this terrible condition. With a heart attached to the One Who had set her free, she had, in association with some other women, accompanied the Lord, waiting upon Him in devoted service (Luke 8:2-3; Luke 23:55; Luke 24:10). It would seem, however, that her love surpassed that of the others and brings her into prominence in this beautiful scene. We may thus learn that what Christ appreciates above all else is affection for Himself. In His esteem love comes before service. The assembly at Ephesus was outstanding in labour and toil in service, but the Lord has to say, "Thou hast left thy first love". There may be much service with a lack of love; but there can hardly be devoted love for the Lord without being used in His service. So we shall see that the Lord uses this devoted woman as a link between Himself and His disciples.

Without any thought of the resurrection of the Lord, for apparently not one of the disciples looked for His rising again, Mary is irresistibly drawn by love to the spot where she had seen the body of the Lord laid in the tomb. She found no rest in a world from which Christ was absent. She came "early, when it was yet dark, to the sepulchre", only to find the stone taken away and the tomb empty. In her distress she hurries to the two leading apostles to tell them, "They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid Him". It is evident that the empty tomb was no evidence to Mary that the Lord was risen; all she can imagine is the unworthy thought that men of the world have been allowed to carry away the body of the Lord.

John 20:3-4. The two disciples immediately run to the tomb, but the Spirit of God has specially recorded that, though Peter appears to take the lead, yet the disciple who, on five occasions, describes himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved, outruns the disciple who had boasted in his love to Jesus. This apparently small incident is surely recorded for our instruction, and may it not be to remind us that the one who rests in Christ's love will outstrip in Christian progress those who are making overmuch of their love to Christ. This, too, is all the more significant in a passage that brings into prominence the devoted love of Mary to Christ. We may well covet Mary's love to Christ, but let us ever rest on Christ's love to us.

John 20:5-10. At the tomb these two disciples take account of the linen clothes, and the napkin "wrapped together in a place by itself' — details only given in John's Gospel. Evidently the body had not been taken away from the tomb, for why, in that case, should the grave clothes be left behind? Yet stronger is the witness to the mighty power of this glorious Person Who, having risen from the sleep of death, can lay aside the grave clothes in calm and orderly fashion. Lazarus came forth from the tomb with the grave clothes bound upon him, whereas the Lord left them behind. With such evidences before their eyes the two disciples are convinced that the Lord is no longer in the tomb. This, however, is belief founded on sight, as we read of John that, "he saw and believed". They perceived He was gone, but "as yet they knew not the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead". And so the two disciples return to their own home.

John 20:11-16. The disciples lack not only the divine intelligence that the word gives, but the wholehearted affection for Christ that makes Him the supreme Object of the soul. With Mary it is far otherwise. She, too, may lack intelligence, but her love for Christ is an absorbing love that thinks only of Christ. She can find no rest and no home in a world from which He is absent. Thus we read, "Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping". Love makes her a lonely and broken-hearted woman. If Christ is gone, then everything is gone for Mary. But let us mark that in this outside place she finds Christ and, by Christ, is led into new and heavenly relationships. Her love to Christ detaches her from this world, and His company leads her into another world.

In her loneliness she looks into the sepulchre to see two angels, who say to her, "Woman, why weepest thou?" Absorbed with the thought of Christ, she expresses no surprise at seeing these angelic beings, but states, not as she had said to the disciples, "They have taken away the Lord", but "They have taken away my Lord". Whatever others may think of Jesus, Mary can say with all the confidence of love, "He is mine".

To such an one the Lord delights to reveal Himself. Turning round she sees One Whom she supposes to be the gardener, Who asks her, "Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou?" Without mentioning the name of the One she seeks, she replies, "Sir, if thou have borne Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away". With her heart full of Christ, she concludes that all will know to whom she refers. At once the Lord reveals Himself with one word — "Mary". As so often in this gospel, the Shepherd calls His sheep by name, and the sheep hears His voice and with great delight owns Him as her Master.

John 20:17-18. The Lord not only delights to reveal Himself to a heart that is attached to Him, but He also leads such into the secrets of His heart, and further can use her in His service by giving her the high honour of being the messenger of these divine secrets to the disciples. Ignorant Mary may be, as indeed were the other disciples at that moment, but her love is real, and it is by love that we enter into the truth. Thus, in after years, the apostle can pray that we may be "rooted and grounded in love", that we "may be able to comprehend" (Ephesians 3:17-18). So it would seem that Mary was the first to comprehend the results of the resurrection. Representing the feelings of the godly Jewish remnant, she would cling to her risen Lord, with the thought that now that He has come back, no longer in humiliation but in resurrection glory, He will take His place on earth as the rightful Heir of all things. But Mary and the remnant are to learn that before the kingdom glories, God has yet greater glories for Christ, and far deeper blessings for His people. Thus the Lord can say, "Touch Me not; for I am not yet ascended to My Father: but go My brethren, and say to them, I ascend to My Father, and your Father; and to My God and your God".

Thus the Lord indicates, first, that He is no longer to be "touched", or known, after the flesh, in connection with earth, and an earthly kingdom, but in new and heavenly relationships.

Secondly, the Lord can speak of His disciples as "My brethren". Never before had He spoken of His disciples as His brethren, but through His death, having sanctified them, He is not ashamed to call them brethren (Hebrews 2:11). Even as the bride, in the Song of Songs, can say, "I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine", so Mary, in the love of her heart, says, "My Lord", and Jesus, in the greatness of His love, can respond by calling His own "My brethren".

Thirdly, we learn that His own are brought into new and heavenly relationships, for the Lord speaks, not only of ascending and thus leaving earth for heaven, but of going back to a Person — the Father, with Whom, by His work, He brings us into relationship, even His own relationship, and can say, "My Father, and your Father", "My God, and your God". He goes up to represent us before the Father, and we are left down here to represent Him before the world.

It is the high privilege of Mary to be used to communicate these new and heavenly blessings to the disciples, once again bringing before us a truth we are oftimes slow to learn and quick to forget, that the Lord delights to take up the weak and the lowly through whom to carry out the highest service. How often, too, a great work of God has commenced with that which is small and weak in the eyes of man. Christianity is introduced with a Babe in the manger; the Kingdom commences with a grain of mustard seed, and the new, heavenly relationships are made known through a weeping woman.

We see in Mary that which is so precious to Christ, a heart filled with an absorbing love to Himself. To such an one He can reveal Himself, lead into the intelligence of divine things, and use in His service. The ruin of the church in responsibility, as set forth in the seven addresses in Revelation, commenced in Ephesus with service without pure love, and ends in Laodicea with intelligence without heart. Mere intelligence will never give heart; though heart will surely gain intelligence, for the Lord loves to communicate to the one that is drawn to Him in love. We may acquire a great deal of intelligence in divine things, but if it does not draw our hearts to Christ, and form Christ in us, it will only pander to the vanity of the flesh. "Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies" (1 Corinthians 8:1, N.Tn.). If that which had the Lord's approval above all else, at the beginning of the Church period, was personal love to Himself, so at the end, when all has been ruined in our hands through the loss of first love, that which the Lord looks for is individual love to Himself. His last appeal to His own, in the midst of the ruin, is to remind us of His love, and seek the response of our love. Thus we hear Him say, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me" (Revelation 3:19-20). He is not demanding some great sacrifice or service that will make a display before the world, or exalt us in the eyes of men, but He looks for a heart that will respond to His love, and thus be led into communion with Himself. To such an one He may indeed open a door of service, but it will be service flowing from love.

John 20:19-23. Passing on to the second division of the chapter, we have the record of events that took place on the same day at evening, when the Lord comes into the midst of His own, and, in anticipation of the new order of blessing, we have a picture of the assembly and its privileges. The assembling together of the disciples took place on "the first day of the week", afterwards spoken of as "the Lord's Day" (Revelation 1:10), and in contrast with the Sabbath of the Jews. It was the day when the disciples in the early church came together "to break bread" (Acts 20:7).

Further, when these disciples came together, the doors were shut for fear of the Jews. It is evident that these disciples were wholly apart from the religious corruption of that day. They were a separate company.

To these assembled disciples Jesus came and stood in the midst. He became their gathering centre. Though, since His ascension, He no longer appears to sight in the midst of His people, yet His words are still true, "Where two or three are gathered together to My name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:20, N.Tn.). That little company of poor men, probably unknown by the world around, or if known despised and of no account, was surely the most august company in Jerusalem on that day, if the Lord was in their midst. Let us note that the Lord comes into their midst in His glorified body, "when the doors were shut", and again, eight days after, we read, "Then came Jesus, the doors being shut". It has been pointed out that there is no word to say the doors opened to admit the Lord, as they opened to let Peter out of the prison (Acts 12:10; Acts 5:19). Nor are we to view this as anything miraculous, as it would be with our present bodies. It was a normal act for the glorified body, little as we can comprehend it.

Having come into the midst of His own, the Lord proclaims peace to His disciples and then shows them His hands and His side, bringing to their remembrance, by these wound marks, the great work by which peace has been made. Peace cannot be obtained by tears or groans or prayers; by self-judgment or self-denial; by confessions or restitution; but only by the blood shed on the cross, received by faith in His word.

Having revealed Himself and pronounced peace, He fills their hearts with joy. "Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord." And still it is only as we get our eyes off ourselves and one another, and see the Lord in His beauty, that our hearts will be made glad.

Thus the disciples are fitted to go forth in the service of the Lord, as He can say, "As My Father has sent Me, even so send I you". They are to go forth to proclaim the grace of God to sinners, but they are sent forth from the assembly of the saints with the Lord in the midst. To carry out their mission, the Lord breathes on them, "and says to them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost". We know that actually the Holy Ghost did not come until Pentecost. Would this not rather be the new resurrection life lived in the power of the Holy Spirit? It would seem to be in contrast with the order in the first creation when God breathed into the nostrils of Adam the breath of life, and man became a living soul (Genesis 2:7). Now in resurrection, in view of the new creation order, the Lord breathes into the disciples a new life to be lived in the power of the Spirit — the life of which we read in Romans 8:2, "the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus".

Further, in connection with this new mission, the Lord gives His disciples administrative power governmentally to forgive sins. Thus later we find repentant souls were baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 22:16), while those like Simon Magus and Elymas had their sins bound upon them (Acts 8:20; Acts 13:11). This has no reference to eternal forgiveness, which man cannot give or baptism secure. God alone, on the ground of the precious blood, can grant eternal forgiveness of sins. Here it is in connection with God's governmental ways on earth. Paul, submitting to baptism, was entirely separated from his former life with all its sins, and was thus received amongst God's people as one forgiven.

Thus we have the assembly in picture, composed of a company of believers attached to Christ in love, recognised as the children of God, represented by the ascended Christ before God, separated from the religious corruption around them, with Christ in their midst as the gathering centre, in the enjoyment of the peace He has made, and sent forth in His service.

John 20:24-29. In the last scene, which takes place eight days later, Thomas has a prominent place. He had not been present "when Jesus came". What gave such value and preciousness to that first gathering was the fact that "Jesus came"; and Thomas missed it — missed the first assembly gathering around the Person of Jesus. On this second appearance of the Lord in the midst of His own, we are surely carried in picture beyond the church period to the last days, when again a godly remnant will be found amongst the Jews, as set forth in Thomas. Like the Jews, Thomas finds it hard to believe apart from sight and touch. Of the Jews in the latter day, we read, that when the spirit of grace is poured upon them, "They shall look upon Me Whom they have pierced" (Zechariah 12:10), and they will say. "Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the LORD … God is the LORD … Thou art my God" (Psalm 118:26-28; Matthew 23:39). So Thomas, looking upon the Lord, can say, "My Lord and my God".

The Lord, indeed, owns the faith of Thomas; but He adds, "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed". This, indeed, is the blessed portion of those who form Christ's assembly during the time of His absence, as the apostle Peter can say, "Whom having not seen, ye love; in Whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory" (1 Peter 1:8).

John 20:30-31. The two closing verses of the chapter tell us that there were indeed other signs which Jesus did, but that enough have been recorded to fulfil the great purpose of this gospel to present Jesus, the Son of God, in order that, believing, we might have life in His Name.

John 21.

From the 14th verse of this chapter we learn that the opening scene gives us the account of the Lord's third appearing to His disciples after that He was risen from among the dead.

The gospel opens with the presentation of three scenes that take place on three successive days in connection with the manifestation of the Lord to His disciples (John 1:35, 43; John 2:1). Again at the close, in resurrection, the Spirit emphasises three appearings. Both at the beginning and end of the gospel these three appearings would seem to present, in picture, the assembly of God at the present time; the recognition of a godly remnant from among the Jews in the day to come; and the future millennial blessing of Israel. There is, however, this difference: in the opening of the gospel these pictures are presented more especially to unfold the glories of Christ. They are introduced by Christ and what He says and does. Thus in the opening of the first scene we read, "Jesus turned, and saw them following" (John 1:38). The second day is opened with the statement, "The day following Jesus would go forth" (John 1:43); while the third day, recording the marriage in Cana, opens by telling us that "Jesus was there" (John 2:1). Coming to the end of the gospel we find the first scene is introduced by the disciples coming together (John 20:19); the second occurs when "His disciples were within" (John 20:26); finally, in the last scene, it is the disciples who go a fishing. Thus, we may say, the first three scenes bring into prominence Christ and His glory in connection with the disciples, while the last three bring before us more especially the disciples and their blessing in connection with Christ.

We have already seen that the first occasion of the Lord's appearing presents in picture the blessings enjoyed by the assembly as gathered with the Lord in the midst (John 20:19-25). The second appearing, eight days afterwards, presents in picture the godly Jewish remnant who, in the last days, will confess Christ as their Lord and God. The third appearing, in this chapter, gives us a picture of the millennial blessing of Israel when Christ returns. It opens with a night scene and the vain efforts of man. Seven men are together — the excellent of the earth — but their efforts are all in vain. Throughout the night they toil in fishing, but they catch nothing. The picture assuredly tells us that, during the long dark night of Christ's absence, all the efforts of man to deal with the evils of the world, and bring in blessing for Israel and the nations, will be in vain. It matters not how excellent those who engage in such work may be, or how pure their motives, their efforts are foredoomed to failure. They may enter into a ship of their own construction — a human device to keep men afloat in an adverse scene — they may toil through the long dark night to rescue this world from its sorrows, but there is no deliverance for this world until Jesus comes.

At last, however, the day dawns, the morning breaks, and Jesus comes — the Sun of righteousness arises with healing in His wings. Long since, kings and prophets had foretold that with the coming of Christ to reign the long night of this world's sorrow will be ended and Christ will be as the light of the morning when the sun rises, even a morning without clouds (2 Samuel 23:4).

Under the direction of the Lord, the disciples cast the net into the sea and catch such a multitude of fishes that they are not able to draw the net into the ship. Thus will it be when the Lord comes. He will use the godly remnant of the Jews to gather Israel from the sea of nations and bring them back to their land and meet their every need.

John 21:1-2. This surely is the dispensational teaching of this fine scene. But the whole incident and the Lord's dealings with Peter are rich with moral and spiritual instruction for the believer. Viewing the passage in this light we note that the story opens with seven disciples at the sea of Tiberias. We know that at this spot the disciples had been called from their trade as fishermen to follow the Lord and become fishers of men. For three and a half years they had companied with the Lord in His lowly path, preaching the glad tidings, healing the sick, and casting out demons. In all these years their needs had been met; they had lacked nothing. Then the time came for the Lord to return to the Father, and apparently they thought that His direct care had ended with His departure, and that the time had come when once again they must resume their earthly calling, in the old place, to meet their daily needs.

John 21:3. Peter, with his active mind, takes the lead. He says, "I go a fishing". The others, apparently with little thought, say, "We also go with thee". Accordingly they went forth, and "that night they caught nothing". Why this lack of success? Was it not that they had gone forth at their own charges? Is not this, too, the reason why we often expend much labour with little return? We toil all night; we take nothing. We act, sincerely it may be, but, according to our own will, and not under the direction of the Lord.

John 21:4-5. With the morning all is changed. When the light breaks, Jesus is seen standing on the shore. The disciples had gone back to the old life, but the Lord, far from rebuking them, addresses them by a term of tender endearment. He calls them "children". Nevertheless, He exposes the futility of toil without His direction by asking, "Have ye any meat?" Have they gained anything by their labour in the dark? They are compelled to admit that they have nothing.

John 21:6. Now He gives them directions. They do what indeed they have been doing all night: but, this time, they cast the net at His direction. What a difference this makes! Now they find such a multitude of fishes that they are not able to draw the net. One has said, "Let us never forget that success depends entirely on our being in the current of God's workings. It is only in proportion as we individually walk with God, depending entirely upon Christ, and guided by Him, that blessing will attend our labours. It is not in the amount of labour that success depends, but on our being near enough to Christ to have His direction in casting the net on the right side of the ship. "

John 21:7-8. Then we see the characteristic difference between the apostles John and Peter. John with his deeper acquaintance of the heart of Jesus — the man who can describe himself as "that disciple whom Jesus loved" — perceives it is the Lord. Peter, with his characteristic energy, casts himself into the sea to reach the Lord. Spiritual perception marks one disciple: promptitude in action the other. Both are right, and both are needed in their time and season.

John 21:9-14. The touching scene that follows is as beautiful as it is instructive. Already the disciples have discovered that their own efforts to supply their wants are fruitless; now, having come to land, they find they are needless. For, behold there is a fire ready kindled to warm them, and fish and bread to feed them. Moreover, not only is there food provided, but there is an invitation to partake of the meal. They meet no word of rebuke for turning back, but a word of love that says, "Come and dine".

And yet more, the risen Lord of glory waits upon His weary, disheartened disciples. As in the days of His flesh, He was among them as One Who served; so, in the days of His resurrection glory, He still serves His poor failing disciples. Thus we read, "Jesus then comes, and takes bread, and gives them, and fish likewise". Nothing that concerns His own is beneath His tender care and consideration.

Wonderful Saviour! He washed our feet in the days of His flesh. He washed away our sins in His precious blood on that day of days at the Cross. He provides for our needs in this the day of His absence; and when the day of glory dawns, He will make us to sit down and He will come forth to serve (Luke 12:37).

John 21:15-22. If, then, in this fine scene, there is no word of rebuke, are we to conclude that the Lord is indifferent to our wanderings? The fire of coals, the fishes and the bread, are a most touching witness that He is not indifferent to our smallest needs: the scene that follows will for ever show that He is not indifferent to our failure and backsliding.

In providing the fire and the fish we see the Lord's tender care for our bodies: in His dealings with His beloved servant Peter, we learn His yet deeper love for our souls. Three things come prominently before us: first, the way the Lord searches our hearts to discover to us the root of our backslidings; secondly, the touching way He takes to restore our hearts to communion with Himself; and thirdly, having restored us, the wonderful grace that can use us again in His blessed service in spite of all our past backslidings and failures.

Further, we see the grace and perfection of the Lord in the moment that He chooses for this restoring work. It was "when they had dined". By providing for their needs, inviting them to come and dine, and waiting upon them in His lowly grace, the Lord had set them at rest in His presence and won the confidence of their hearts, and clearly showed there was no resentment in His heart. Then, and not till then, He commenced to probe the heart of Peter to discover to him, and to us all, the hidden root of all our many failures.

At the Cross all the disciples had forsaken the Lord and fled. In this resurrection scene many had turned back to the old life. But, on each occasion, Peter had gone further than others. At the Cross he had three times denied the Lord: in this resurrection day he takes the lead in turning back to their ships and nets. Therefore it is that the Lord addresses Himself in a special way to Peter; but, if to Peter, for the profit of us all. For here, be it noted, the Lord is not dealing with the particular sin of the denial, but with the unjudged evil of the flesh which exposes us all to similar or more grievous falls.

Let us also remember that it is not necessary to break down publicly in order to be a backslider. We can be backsliders without denying the Lord with oaths and cursing, for Scripture speaks of the backslider in heart (Proverbs 14:14).

Nevertheless, for our encouragement let us remember that, whether we have backslidden openly or in heart, every backslider will be restored, though it may not be until a deathbed. Then again all restoration commences with the Lord. The wandering sheep would never return if the Lord in His grace did not go after His sheep. David says, "He restores my soul". Naomi says, "The Lord has brought me home again". Blessed be His Name, He will bring us all home at last.

Here we see the last step in the restoration of this devoted servant. It is, however, deeply instructive to trace all the steps which led to his final restoration.

The first step was the Lord's prayer for Peter. Before ever Peter had failed, the Lord had said in view of his denial, "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for thee" (Luke 22:31-32). We do well to mark that for which the Lord prayed. He did not pray that Peter might not enter into temptation, that Satan might not sift him, nor even that he might not fail. The sifting, the temptation, the fall, were all necessary to bring to light the natural self-confidence of Peter. But the Lord prays that, when Peter fails, his faith may not fail. The effect of sin is to destroy confidence in God: but if confidence in God's grace is gone, how can the soul ever be brought back to the Lord? The devil would fain lure us into sin in the hope of destroying our faith, and driving us to despair. This the Lord will not allow. The devil's sifting was behind Peter's failure; but the Lord's prayer was behind Peter's faith, and the devil could not get behind the Lord's prayer. The devil hounds Judas on to betray the Lord but, having no faith, Judas is driven to despair and destruction. Peter denies the Lord, but his faith remains and he is drawn to repentance and restoration.

The second step in Peter's restoration was the Lord's warning (Luke 22:34). Will it not be found that no saint ever fell without having been first warned? Filled with self-confidence we may pay little or no heed to the warning; but in some form or another there will be a warning. How direct it was in the case of Peter; for the Lord said, "I tell thee … that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest Me".

The third step is the Lord's look (Luke 22:61). When Peter had denied the Lord for the third time, we read, "The Lord turned, and looked upon Peter". A look we may be sure of infinite love. Peter had just turned his back on the Lord by saying, "I know not the man" (Matthew 26:74). Immediately the Lord turned to Peter and gave him a look which must have said to his heart, "You profess not to know Me, but I know you and love you". "Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them to the end." Oh the love, the wonderful love, that will not let us go! Again let us note that the heartless denial of Peter aroused no resentment or anger in the heart of the Lord. Alas! a very little expression of ingratitude or desertion or malice by our brethren may arouse bitter thoughts in our hearts, and call forth bitter words. It was not so with our Lord.

The fourth step in his restoration was the word of the Lord (Luke 22:61). The look of the Lord recalled the word of the Lord, for we read, "Peter remembered the word of the Lord". The look of the Lord broke his heart; the word of the Lord reached his conscience with the result that he "went out, and wept bitterly". Judas "went out into the night — the eternal night of blank despair. Peter "went out" in deep repentance on the way to restoration. He "went out" because his awakened conscience would no longer allow him to continue in false associations. He wept bitterly because the unchanging love of the Lord had reached his heart.

The fifth step was the Lord's message (Mark 16:7). How tender the care that the Lord expends upon one wandering sheep. The look of the Lord had broken Peter's heart; the word of the Lord had reached his conscience; now the message of the Lord will confirm his faith. Thus it comes to pass on the resurrection morning that the Lord singles out Peter for a special message. The angel's word to the women is, "Go your way, tell His disciples and Peter that He goes before you into Galilee: there shall ye see Him". Had the angel said, "Go tell His disciples" only, Peter might have thought, "That does not include me, for never more can I be numbered with His disciples". But Peter's name is specially mentioned to assure his trembling heart that, though he had once followed afar off and denied the Lord, yet once again the Lord will lead the way, and Peter will follow, and see the Lord, even as the Lord had said. Peter had broken down, but the Lord's word will never break down; so all will come to pass even "as He said". How it must have touched the heart of Peter, even as it should still touch our hearts, that not one of His words will ever fall to the ground, however much our self-confident words may lead us into failure.

The sixth step was the Lord's private interview (Luke 24:34; 1 Cor. 15:5). The resurrection message was the preparation for the resurrection meeting. The Master's message prepared Peter for the Master Himself. The servant that denied the Lord will have a private meeting with the Lord Whom he denied, for we read, "The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon". How wonderful this grace. We should have thought that He would have appeared to the disciple that Jesus loved or to the devoted woman that anointed His feet. But grace takes a more wonderful way and first appears to the disciple who had denied Him. As the apostle Paul tells us, "He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve".

Poor failing Peter was the special object of His love and care. John and the other disciples may wait, but Peter shall not be kept waiting. The Lord will first bind the broken heart of Peter before He makes glad the hearts of the twelve. And with that secret interview no stranger shall intermeddle. The Lord will have all the failure confessed and brought to light, but it will be alone with Himself, and none shall ever know what passed between the Master and the servant in that solemn moment.

The seventh step was the Lord's public dealing. This brings us back to the last chapter of the Gospel of John. Here we have the last step in the restoration of Peter. The actual sin had been dealt with at the private interview. The evil fruit of the old tree had been judged and confessed to the Lord, and Peter's conscience had thus been relieved; but the evil root that produced the bad fruit had yet to be exposed and judged in order that his heart may be fully restored to communion with the Lord. For our profit this work is done in public, for we all have the root of evil in us, even if we have not fallen into particular sins. This root came from the natural man. Thus the Lord addresses Peter not by his new name according to grace, but by his natural name, "Simon, son of Jonas".

Three times Peter had denied the Lord, and now by three questions the Lord will probe his heart. Peter had judged his sin; now he will be led to judge himself. We read, "If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged" (1 Corinthians 11:31). Behind all our outward failures there is unjudged flesh.

The first of the Lord's searching questions is, "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me more than these?" Peter had publicly professed to love the Lord beyond all others, for had he not said, "Although all shall be offended, yet will not I" (Mark 14:29). Now the Lord seems to say to Peter, "Do you still profess to love Me more than these other disciples?" Here, then, we learn that the root of Peter's failure, as of so much of our own failure, is the unjudged self-confidence of the flesh. As with Peter, this self-confidence betrays us into thinking we are better than others, stronger than others, and more devoted than others. And the more active in service we are, the more we are prone to think highly of ourselves. We may not, like Peter, express our self-confidence in words, but the thought may linger in the heart that we are better than others, more gifted than others and, however much they may fail, we shall not break down. It is this self-confidence and fleshly vanity that the Lord would lead us to detect and judge.

Very blessedly Peter, in his answer, declining to contrast himself any more with others, casts himself upon the Lord, saying, "Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love Thee". It is as if he said, "After my terrible denial it does not look as if I have any love for Thee, and no one else may believe that I love Thee, but Thou knowest that, in spite of all, I am attached to Thee".

In His second question the Lord probes Peter's heart a little deeper. He does not ask him if he loves more than others, but does he love the Lord at all. He says, "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?" Again Peter casts himself upon the knowledge of the Lord. Peter will not boast of his own knowledge, or trust in his own feelings; he will rest on what the Lord knows.

With the third question the Lord uses Peter's word for "love", which in each case is a different word to that used by the Lord in His first two questions. The Lord had used a word that implies an intelligent and discriminating love. Peter uses a word which implies a real but emotional love that attaches one to a person without much intelligence or appreciation of the glory of the person loved. Thus in this third question the Lord asks, "Art thou attached to Me?" Peter, thoroughly moved by the Lord's third question, casts himself wholly upon the Lord. He says, "Lord, thou knowest all things". After his denial others may not know what to think of Peter's love to the Lord. But he can say to the Lord, "Thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love Thee". Peter seems to say, "I dare not say anything more about myself, or my love, or my devotedness, but I cast myself upon the Lord's omniscient knowledge. He knows all that is in my heart; He knows the love that others cannot see; and He knows the self-confidence that I have so feebly seen. He knows all, and henceforth I cannot trust my zeal, my devotedness, or my love, but I can trust the Lord, Who knows all, to keep me."

He does not say, "My fall has cost me so much misery and shame that I have learnt my lesson and will never deny the Lord again". To speak thus would have been to take the first step on the road to a further fall. He says rather, "I have so learned my utter weakness, that I shall fall again, unless the Lord, Who knows all, undertakes for me".

So perfect is Christ, so complete His knowledge, so unchanging His love, that Peter is made conscious that the very One against Whom he has sinned is the only One he can trust to uphold him in the future.

One has said, "We are taught both historically and doctrinally (it may be experimentally) that such is the deceitfulness of the heart, that no gifts of the highest order, no graces received out of the fulness of Jesus, no honest zeal for His Name, no devotedness of past service, no activity of present service, is a safeguard against it. … While watchfulness and prayer are ever needed, he only will be blameless, and shameless, and without offence, and walks in the solemn conviction that he has to fear the outbreak of the foulest sins, unless his soul be occupied with Jesus." He only is able to keep us from falling and present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.

The work of restoring grace is done. Peter has been brought not only to judge his sin, but to judge himself, and the self-confidence that betrayed him into the hands of Satan. He has owned his own nothingness and the Lord's omniscience. The Lord, having broken down Peter's self-confidence, gives him a token of His own confidence in him. He takes up the once self-confident but now humbled and restored saint for His own service. He confides to Peter not only His sheep but His lambs. He is to feed the lambs and "shepherd" the sheep. And yet more, the two things in which Peter so disastrously failed to carry out in his own power are the two things that he shall have the high privilege of carrying out in dependence upon the Lord. He had said, "I am ready to go with Thee, both into prison, and to death". Now says the Lord, as it were, "You shall have this high privilege. I have taken away the self-confidence that said 'I will', now I will reward the love that I know was in your heart. You shall indeed go to prison and to death; for 'when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.'" But when at last he goes to prison and to death it will not be as the self-confident man boasting in his own love, but as the humbled and dependent follower of a Master Who knows all things. Hence, when the Lord had spoken these words, "He says to him, Follow Me". Thus this restored saint is told: First, to feed Christ's sheep (verse 17); Secondly, to glorify God (verse 19); Thirdly, to follow Christ (verse 19).

Very blessedly in the years to come, before Peter leaves this world, he passes on these three exhortations to all believers. He tells us that "Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps". Then he says, so speak and act, "that God in all things may be glorified". Finally he says, "Feed the flock of God" (1 Peter 2:21; 1 Peter 4:11; 1 Peter 5:2).