"My Father worketh hitherto, and I work."

1874 101 etc. It has struck me whether our Lord does not begin another action in John 8, by sovereign power and effectual grace (which is continued in the four following chapters); and that this new action is consequent upon His return from "the Mount of Olives," with which the first seven had ended.

If so, it is dispensationally in keeping (and will be morally so too in His future dealings with Israel) to find Him "early in the morning in the temple," sitting down to teach again the people. Equally in character with this position on His part was the act of the Scribes and Pharisees, who brought before Him the "woman taken in adultery," that He who alone could pass judgment on the sin should take this place, and in righteousness condemn her. This scene not merely opens out the trespass to which their thoughts and intentions were limited, but has a far wider and more serious application to the nation and its rulers, under the guilt of whoredom and adultery, which should have lain heavily upon their consciences, in the presence of their Jehovah-Jesus! Is not this the iniquity which has first to be judged and tried by the bitter water of jealousy, according to "the law of jealousies when a wife goeth aside to another, instead of her husband, and is defiled?" Prophet after prophet had been sent unto them, saying, "surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the Lord."

The Scribes and Pharisees, who brought the woman and accused her, declared that "Moses in the law commanded that such should be stoned;" but they are not in the current of His own thoughts about the deeper trespass which had been brought to light by His own presence in their midst. How could He judge or condemn the woman, and not in righteous jealousy curse them? They had set her "in the midst," and demanded "what sayest thou?" To His eye they had by their own act set themselves in the midst with her, and passing beyond the statute laws of Moses (see Num. 5:17) into the depths of His own feelings about them, He refused to take their accusation. Long ago He had sent Jeremiah, saying, "Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, thus saith the Lord, I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown;" and now one greater than a prophet is come to win her heart back to Himself by His own grace. If He applied the law of Moses to the nation, as the accusers wished Him to do towards the adulteress, He must have taken "holy water in an earthen vessel, and of the dust that is in the floor, and put it into the water, and as a priest of the tabernacle bring up the question before the Lord." This He refuses to do, and now mark how He passes into His own heights and depths of love (cost what it may in the end) to justify Himself in not condemning either the woman in her sin, or the nation in its greater trespass. "Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground [as though he heard them not];" for in the love which had brought Him amongst them, and in which He was come to work, the sin of her who was taken in the act, and the sin of Israel, though equally under "the eye of the sun" for righteous judgment, was written on His heart in grace. He who came out from God came not to put her away, but to put away her sin, and to cleanse her and make her whiter than snow. Viewed in this light, how significant of their state, and of His own purpose in love, are the words which He spake unto them, "he that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her; and again he stooped down and wrote on the ground!" He rolls the sin and the accusers away from the floor, and thus purges it; nor will He gather up the dust thereof in any earthen vessel or prepare "the bitter water of jealousy" between Him and them. He walks in a higher path of His own, which none but He could make; and so goes out of the midst, and away from all their accusations and questionings, saying to them, "I am the light of the world, he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." He was left alone and the woman standing in the midst. "When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?" She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, "Neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more."

As "the light of life," He has thus purged His floor cleaner than by the law of stoning! Blessed Jesus, He has made all the sin His own, and will eventually pass into the ground and take the curse Himself, and die the death, that what He wrote upon it in the day of His grace, may (whenever gathered up in jealousy) be pardoned and obliterated by the blood of atonement and reconciliation, through the depths of His own sufferings.

If John viii. has introduced the national charge of Israel's departure and estrangement from Him who had espoused her to Himself, and come after her as we have supposed, John ix. is equally significant as showing their individual state and national blindness. As the former could only be portrayed by the woman taken in adultery, so in this it is by "a man which was blind from his birth." The state of the nation was not in either case beyond the typical virtue of the balm of Gilead, or the skill of the great Physician; and this instance only calls forth the power and grace of Him whose prerogative it is to give sight to the blind. It is remarkable that Jesus refuses to take up this case, in the form in which the disciples view it, when they asked, "Master, who did sin; this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" He will not look at it in this light any more than judge the treacherousness of the nation by the woman. In the governmental ways and dealings of God with men upon the earth such a question might fairly arise as this, for He did "visit the sins of the fathers upon the children, to the third and fourth generation;" but taken outside the responsibility of man, and viewed in connection with the counsels of the Father and the Son, "Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents; but that the works of God should be made manifest in him."

In the pathway of the Word made flesh we follow Jesus thus "showing forth his glory;" and so the man that was born blind serves as exactly as the woman did for its display; yea to the condemnation of those who stood around in unbelief and said they saw. As "the light of the world" He passed out from the temple, and from the midst of the woman and her accusers. In His true greatness, He refused to use that light in which He walked for condemnation, though He commanded it to shine in upon the consciences of each, so that all were convicted and made their escape from its searching power, "beginning from the eldest even unto the last." There was yet another use of the light, and that is what we are now considering, in the case of the man born blind; "he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."

It is a great action therefore that occupies Jesus at this time; not merely opening the eyes of the blind by sovereign power, but giving Himself as the object of sight in effectual grace to the man and to the nation if they will accept Him — being likewise the light without which the eye, though opened, could not behold Him! In view of this Jesus said, "I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh when no man can work." Observe, day and night get a new meaning, when they are looked at in reference to Christ's continuance and work upon this earth. "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay." The dust of the floor, and the water, and the earthen vessel which would have made up the compound in "the hand of the priest" for the infliction of the curse and the rot, upon the trial of jealousy and unfaithfulness, had been refused. He who alone can "bring meat out of the eater" gives us now to learn instead the virtues of the spittle, and the ground, and the mystic clay in the hand of Him that is come to work the works of God. Jesus said to the man "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam (which is by interpretation Sent). He went his way therefore, and washed and came seeing." The dust of the ground, out of which the first man was "made in the image of God," had been cursed because of transgression and Satan; but now, under the power of Christ it is reclaimed and made available by the "sent" One through His spittle for bestowing an eye of faith to behold Him who came to bear away every curse, let it lie on whatsoever floor it may; and turn "the curse into a blessing!" The Light which had filled the temple just now and emptied it of every accuser, (how could they abide in its searching power?) leaving the woman alone with Jesus, does the same thing among the Scribes and Pharisees, now that the man who "was born blind" is brought into their midst. How well has the compound of the Apothecary done its work in connection with the sent One? "If this man were not of God [he says to them], he could do nothing. They answered, and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? and they cast him out."

Jesus and the woman were left alone. And now the man who had walked in darkness all his days, but who has got "the light of life from Christ and confesses His sovereign power is turned out of the synagogue to follow Him. "Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him [as in grace He would], he saith unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? he answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?" Two precious assurances flow from the lips of Jesus upon this inquiry, as He unveils Himself to the outcast one; "Thou hast both seen him [the new object to the opened eye] and it is he that talketh with thee; and he said, Lord, I believe, and he worshipped him." New relations are thus formed which lead the Lord to take (in John 10) "the place of Shepherd" to this cast out sheep, and to declare His love for the flock as well as His protecting care against every foe. He also reveals the secret of the double title and interest which the Father's love as well as His own have over the sheep. "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand. My Father which gave them me is greater than all; and none is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one."

We cannot fail to notice in these narratives how Jesus comes into the world, and accepts it just as it was by Adam's sin and Satan's power in death, to show Himself equal to every claim which the misery and wants of those in it daily and hourly brought across His path. More than this: for He passes through the world with the Father, in another and higher character than that by which as Creator-God, the heavens and the earth were made by Him and all that they contain. Earlier in this Gospel Jesus said to the Jews, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work," introducing thus a power which could turn everything round to His own glory and the development of the hidden purposes of divine love. "The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise." In this equality with God, there cannot be any uncertainty as to the nature of this new power, or its exercise; "for as the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth, even so the Son quickeneth whom he will" is its scope; and we are the blessed objects in whom it is made good.

John xi. gives occasion to our Lord to pass into a yet further glory, upon the death of Lazarus; and to act by sovereign power in His higher titles, as "the Resurrection and the Life." Here also Jesus refuses to hold His intercourse with them about death, as they viewed it in relation to Lazarus; but teaches the disciples to look at it in the presence of Himself and His Father; that they may understand Him, and the new doctrine which He declares. "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby." How else could He act in character as "the Resurrection and the Life," without a Lazarus who was dead (in the twelve hours of man's day) and buried, and had been in the grave four days already, so that those who loved him said "by this time he stinketh!" Death and the grave and corruption looked at in their condemning and separating powers in relation to God in His righteousness, and man upon whom death was inflicted on account of sin, are indeed fearful; all men are guilty under the weight of this penalty, and every mouth is stopped at the grave of Lazarus. Jesus is alone here with God, in the presence of Satan and his greatest power! The blindness of the man who was born so, whether through his own sin, or the sin of his parents, left him yet alive in this world; and the transgression of the woman who was taken in adultery, and whom Moses commanded to be stoned, forfeited her own life to the curse of the law she had broken; but "God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved."

Jesus took this place in the temple and passed before the Scribes and Pharisees as the light of it; but they left Him alone with the convicted woman as "the light" to her, who under the law which they used was appointed to death. He had also come to the man who was born blind and had so filled his vessel with "the light" from Himself, that the man needed only to learn further the Person who had brought to him "life," in the confession of "the Son of God," whom he worshipped.

Happy deliverances and trophies were these for themselves and for Him who was passing thus through the world in a power that was able to tarn the very causes of human misery out of it; or in the meanwhile to find a new use for them for "the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby." This is what the Lord is doing as "the potter with the clay," and under His skill everything is seen to suit Him and serve His purpose very well for glory or beauty, and just as it is! The language and actings of Him, who now comes into Bethany as "the Resurrection and the Life," are all in correspondence with such a title. "He saith unto them, our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go that I may awake him out of sleep." In the hands of Him that quickeneth and raiseth, "this sickness is not unto death," though, speaking as those about Him do (after the manner of men), Lazarus was dead and buried, and in corruption.

Passing this however, we see that even the faith of Martha and Mary, which recognized a "resurrection at the last day" (for this was their hope) must open itself out to take in Jesus in the light of His own perfections "while it is called today," and learn all these lessons afresh in this connection with the Son of God. "The last day" therefore is out of place when Jesus is in their midst, to act as the Resurrection and the Life.

Here we may well challenge our hearts upon the importance of such a revelation as we are considering in all its parts. "Now that Christ is come," He calls us out to learn our new lessons as "the truth is in Jesus" in His company, and as He teaches us, by act and deed. Old things are passed away in His creation, so that "sickness unto death" and almost everything besides, which is the natural order and relation in Adam, have given place to another order in the Son of God, who was dead but is alive again and "liveth for evermore, and has the keys of death and of hell." How slowly we make room, like the two sisters and the group at Bethany, for the display of "the glory of God," above and beyond all that sin and Satan brought into the world and put us under in the cruel bondage of death and corruption; not seeing that the Son of God has laid hold of it all for Himself, to be glorified thereby, down to the grave by means of death; and up to the right hand of the throne of God in glory, by means of resurrection! What a pathway of trespass and guilt — sin and blindness — sickness and death — have these chapters opened up; and what misery would they still record, if Jesus had not passed through the midst as "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world," and made all its stumbling-blocks His own stepping-stones, up to the right hand of the Father, and the crown of glory which adorns the victor's brow. "When Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet saying unto him, Lord; if thou hadst been here my brother had not died." But in this confidence of her love, she is not near enough to His own heart, in the secret that all He is, as the Son of God, He is for the objects of His affection, for "Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus." He did not come to reach His glory by preventing death, as Mary supposed (for He abode two days in the same place where he was) but came to win His spoils by means of death; and to bring in "the Father of glory" in due season to His own sepulchre, that He might raise and glorify His Son with other glories, besides those which He had with Him "before the world was."

We may remark here that this visit of Jesus as the Son of God to Bethany, and the rolling away the stone from the mouth of the cave, to bring out man who lay therein "with the napkin about his face and hound hand and foot with grave clothes," is a companion picture to "the exceeding high mountain" in the other Gospels, upon which Jesus stood and was transfigured before His disciples. His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light, "when he received from God the Father honour and glory, and there came forth the voice to him from the excellent glory: This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." The Son of man in righteousness, thus accredited to us by His transfiguration upon "the holy mount," was at His height in majesty and glory upon the earth — further He cannot rise that way, unless He goes up alone to God, in the title of His own worthiness. On the other hand, Lazarus in his cave "bound hand and foot with grave clothes" under the power of death, was sunk down into the depths of corruption! These two extremes are met in the Person of the Son, who passes through John's Gospel (not so much in "the coming and majesty and glory of his earthly kingdom") as in the veiled power and title of "the only begotten of the Father;" to work the works of God out upon the new platform and footing, that "neither hath this man sinned nor his parents," that he was born blind; or as to Lazarus, "this sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby."

Such an one in our midst makes the depths of this ruin and disgrace to man His own, and it is to be rolled away out of the floor in the title of Him who has written it upon His own heart, as before and with His Father, in the fire of His jealousy, and "the zeal for His house which had eaten Him up." How will He and the ground and the dust thereof (out of which Adam was originally taken) settle this new and last question, now that man has been driven back "unto dust," by that death which his Creator inflicted upon him as a sinner? The work, the sad work of Satan, is before the Son of God at the grave — where man who "was made in the image of God" has been laid in the separating power of death, the keys of which the usurper held upon the cave and over the captive dead; buried out of sight from those who were in tears at the felt desolation of that hour. "A groan" goes up to God from the heart of Jesus, who has come into such a scene of helplessness and misery to "work the works of God" in the face of Satan's power and title at the grave's mouth. The groan found its answer between the Father and the Son, "and Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, Father I thank Thee that Thou hast heard me, and I know that Thou hearest me always." Nor is this new work of Jesus as "the Resurrection and the Life" to be only for the glory of God (as the first object, ever before His soul) but in truest sympathy and love for the oppressed and bereaved, He adds "because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that Thou hast sent me." In whatever way this grace could associate others with itself in such an act, it is ever the delight of His unjealous love to do! How like Himself is it, when Jesus bids them begin this mighty action, saying, "take ye away the stone;" an act only to be rivalled when all was over, by the same love which bade them "loose him and let him go;" what a moment for them, for they did it! The groan to God brought its answer from above to the opened ears of Jesus. Perfect in the expression of His sympathy, to the sorrowing and helpless ones with whom Jesus wept, they looked that these tears should be wiped away by power from Him, as the Son of God. Jesus is left in possession of the entire scene, and "cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth, and he that was dead came forth," bound hand and foot! "A new thing" had been wrought already in the man who walked about upon the earth, with his eyes opened by means of the clay, which Jesus made out of it; but now a greater wonder is to be wrought in reply to the groan and the tears and the loud cry; for Lazarus comes forth from the depths of the grave, at the bidding of Jesus the Son of God passing through the ruins, as "the Resurrection and the Life." Blessed Jesus, Thou hast won back all that the enemy had plucked from the hands of men, from Adam in Paradise to Solomon in his kingdom and majesty in Jerusalem, as declared when Thou wast transfigured upon the holy mount. In this Gospel Thou art come down from that height, that Thou mightest be seen also to enter into the palace of the strong man and spoil his goods, and take from him all his armour wherein he trusted.

John xii. opens after these triumphs, and presents Bethany under quite another aspect. It is no longer the house of weeping, for "there they made Jesus a supper, and Martha served and Lazarus (whom the grave and corruption had given hack out of the womb of death) was one of them that sat at meat with him." One crowning act only remains to be done for "the glory of God, and that the Son of God may be glorified thereby," in order that the counsels of the Father and our eternal blessing may be established beyond the reach of Satan's power, and outside the range of sin, and the judgment of God. Who could take up this work, and by what new paths in life or death, incarnation or ascension, could such an end be reached; but by the Son of God come down from above, in the mystery of "the Word made, flesh," that He might accomplish it? In this spirit, Mary took "a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment." Elias and Moses, the two men who appeared in glory, on the top of the exceeding high mountain, spake with Jesus of "His decease, which he should accomplish at Jerusalem;" and He carried this secret down with Him into the house of Bethany, that He might declare it to those whom He loved, and in connection with this anointing. To the natural thoughts of Judas (like the inquiry respecting the man who was blind from his birth, and its causes) this use of the ointment is but waste, and should have been sold for three hundred pence and given to the poor; but Mary is in the current of her Lord's thoughts, and He said, "let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this." The act of Mary had this significance to the heart of Jesus, and He prepares Himself for the path by which the causes of human misery, and God's dishonour, and the world's bondage should be met and overcome. Long ago the Spirit of prophecy had cried, "O death, I will be thy plagues, O grave, I will be thy destruction;" and now He is come to whom that finger pointed. Jesus knowing that His hour was come speaks to His Father about it, and says for Himself, "except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." He who proved Himself as "the Resurrection and the Life" at the cave of Lazarus, has in view His last and greatest work of expiation for the guilty. He sets Himself to descend into the belly of the earth, that the dust of the tabernacle-floor — the writing of the finger — and the original curse upon the ground — may get their answer, and be set aside in His own death, as "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world." God, the Father of glory, may thou take His new place, and raise up Jesus out of His grave on the third day, as the proof of His own glory over sin by death, and of our redemption; for "God hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." A deeper path than all these groans and tears at the grave of Lazarus, opened itself to our Lord and Jesus said, "now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify Thy name."

It is no longer merely Adam's sin that is in question, or the transgressions of his posterity, multiplied as they may be; for "God manifest in flesh" has come into the midst of the family as a man and brought every adverse power into crisis in His own person at His cross. Satan's usurped rights over man were challenged and set aside by the perfect obedience in life and death of the Second Adam. Tempted by the devil in the wilderness (when the temptations were ended) Jesus said, "get thee hence, Satan." So again in Gethsemane, when "his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground," in the knowledge that this was Satan's hour, and the power of darkness; still He accepted it in the confidence that it was the path of "the predeterminate counsel" that led to the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby in life and in death, and at the right hand of the Father!

Obedience unto death was the only measure of His perfectness as the faithful servant who loved his master, his wife, and his children, and would not go out free. The sin and the iniquity of His own, the flesh, the world and Satan; the majesty and righteousness of God in their own nature, as well as in holy judgment against all evil, were gathered up by Christ at that hour, and made His own care at the cross. He not only vindicated the rights of God in His ways with men in government, but glorified the Father according to His own essential being and Godhead; and in doing this, proved at the same time who this Son of man must be, who did it. He who in grace to us, and in infinite love to the Father, made all these His own care, wrought them out in His atoning sufferings and death, when "he said, it is finished: and he bowed his head and gave up the ghost."

In the righteous judgment which He bore, as the Just One for the unjust, it follows that the prince of this world must be cast out. In the same judgment which He took and because of it, He further said "now is the judgment of this world." Unrighteousness must in due time be as publicly judged by God from heaven, because righteousness in the suffering victim was cast out by the world and its prince; and Jesus was with the Father. As to Himself in grace to us, Jesus said, "and I, if I be lifted up from the earth will draw all men unto me. This he said signifying what death he should die."

Precious Jesus, what Thy people owe Thee; who hast broken through every yoke — borne the curse — put away sin by the sacrifice of Thyself — destroyed him that had the power of death, that is the devil — brought life and incorruptibility to light — and set us in relationship with Thyself, and Thy Father as our Father, and with Thy God our God!

John 12 closes however "in darkness" as regards those in whose midst He was thus shining forth, as "the light of life," and lighting up the darkest places of the earth by taking possession of them in His own glory, and so drawing out "the sting of death" itself, if they would only let Him, because He could not be holden of it. But they listened to the law, instead of beholding the glory of the Son and said, "we have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest Thou, the Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?" and they too are offended at Him. Nevertheless Jesus presents Himself once more to them in this group of chapters, as the light of life saying, "while ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light," lest darkness come upon you.

Like the accusers of John 8 who went out one by one, and left Jesus alone with the woman; or like the Scribes and Pharisees who cast out of the synagogue the man blind from his birth, who confessed Jesus and worshipped Him; so these in their turn compel Jesus to take an action for Himself (a last and final one) but in judgment against them; "these things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them!" The sun which had risen in such brightness upon them, and shed its beams across their path, has gone down in obscurity — and set, till another day, because of their unbelief. They have lost Jesus, and the light of the world has left it!

The first seven chapters of this Gospel ended by every man going to his own house, and "Jesus to the mount of Olives;" they then parted company till his feet shall stand thereon another day. These five chapters finish, as we have seen, by Jesus hiding Himself from them and the world. John 13 and onward open the new and blessed subject of the Father's house, and of our union there by grace in all the counsels of the Father, to the glory of "the departed One" who is the Son of His own love. J. E. Batten.