JESUS CHRIST, 4C2
Second Period--After the Mission of the Twelve till the Departure from Galilee
I. From the Death of the Baptist till the Discourse on Bread of Life.
1. The Murder of the Baptist and Herod's Alarms:
(Matthew 14:1-12; Mark 6:14-29; Luke 9:7-9; compare 3:18-20)
Shortly before the events now to be narrated, John the Baptist had been foully murdered in his prison by Herod Antipas at the instigation of Herodias, whose unlawful marriage with Herod John had unsparingly condemned. Josephus gives as the place of the Baptist's imprisonment the fortress of Macherus, near the Dead Sea (Ant., XVIII, v, 2); or John may have been removed to Galilee. Herod would ere this have killed John, but was restrained by fear of the people (Matthew 14:5). The hate of Herodias, however, did not slumber. Her relentless will contrasts with the vacillation of Herod, as Lady Macbeth in Shakspeare contrasts with Macbeth. A birthday feast gave her the opening she sought for. Her daughter Saleme, pleasing Herod by her dancing, obtained from him a promise on oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted by Herodias, she boldly demanded John the Baptist's head. The weak king was shocked, but, for his oath's sake, granted her what she craved. The story tells how the Baptist's disciples reverently buried the remains of their master, and went and told Jesus. Herod's conscience did not let him rest. When rumors reached him of a wonderful teacher and miracle-worker in Galilee, he leaped at once to the conclusion that it was John risen from the dead. Herod cannot have heard much of Jesus before. An evil conscience makes men cowards.
Another Passover drew near (John 6:4), but Jesus did not on this occasion go up to the feast.
Returning from their mission, the apostles reported to Jesus what they had said and done (Luke 9:10); Jesus had also heard of the Baptist's fate, and of Herod's fears, and now proposed to His disciples a retirement to a desert place across the lake, near Bethsaida (on the topography, compare Stanley, op. cit., 375, 381).
2. The Feeding of the Five Thousand:
(Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-14)
As it proved, however, the multitudes had observed their departure, and, running round the shore, were at the place before them (Mark 6:33). The purpose of rest was frustrated, but Jesus did not complain. He pitied the shepherdless state of the people, and went out to teach and heal them. The day wore on, and the disciples suggested that the fasting multitude should disperse, and seek victuals in the nearest towns and villages. This Jesus, who had already proved Philip by asking how the people should be fed (John 6:5), would not permit. With the scanty provision at command--5 loaves and 2 fishes--He fed the whole multitude. By His blessing the food was multiplied till all were satisfied, and 12 baskets of fragments, carefully collected, remained over. It was astupendous act of creative power, no rationalizing of which can reduce it to natural dimensions.
3. Walking on the Sea:
(Matthew 14:22-33; Mark 6:45-52; John 6:15-21)
The enthusiasm created by this miracle was intense (John 6:14). Matthew and Mark relate (Luke here falls for a time out of the Synopsis) that Jesus hurriedly constrained His disciples to enter into their boat and recross the lake--this though a storm was gathering--while He Himself remained in the mountain alone in prayer. John gives the key to this action in the statement that the people were about to take Him by force and make Him a king (6:15). Three hours after midnight found the disciples still in the midst of the lake, "distressed in rowing" (Mark 6:48), deeply anxious because Jesus was not, as on a former occasion, with them. At last, at the darkest hour of their extremity, Jesus was seen approaching in a way unlooked-for--walking on the water. Every new experience of Jesus was a surprise to the disciples. They were at first terrified, thinking they saw a spirit, but straightway the well-known voice was heard, "Be of good cheer:
it is I; be not afraid." In the rebound of his feelings the impulsive Peter asked Jesus to permit him to come to Him on the water (Matthew). Jesus said "Come," and for the first moment or two Peter did walk on the water; then, as he realized his unwonted situation, his faith failed, and he began to sink. Jesus, with gentle chiding, caught him, and assisted him back into the boat. Once again the sea was calmed, and the disciples watch found themselves safely at land. To their adoring minds the miracle of the loaves was eclipsed by this new marvel (Mark 6:52).
4. Gennesaret--Discourse on the Bread of Life:
(Matthew 14:34-36; Mark 6:53-56; John 6:22-71)
On the return to Gennesaret the sick from all quarters were brought to Jesus--the commencement apparently of a new, more general ministry of healing (Mark 6:56). Meanwhile--here we depend on John--the people on the other side of the lake, when they found that Jesus was gone, took boats hastily, and came over to Capernaum. They found Jesus apparently in the synagogue (6:59). In reply to their query, "Rabbi, when camest thou hither?" Jesus first rebuked the motive which led them to follow Him--not because they had seen in His miracles "signs" of higher blessings, but because they had eaten of the loaves and were filled (6:26)--then spoke to them His great discourse on the bread from heaven. "Work," He said, "for the food which abideth unto eternal life, which the Son of man shall give unto you" (6:27). When asked to authenticate His claims by a sign from heaven like the manna, He replied that the manna also (given not by Moses but by God) was but typical bread, and surprised them by declaring that He Himself was the true bread of life from heaven (6:35,51). The bread was Christ's flesh, given for the life of the world; His flesh and blood must be eaten and drunk (a spiritual appropriation through faith, 6:63), if men were to have eternal life. Jesus of set purpose had put His doctrine in a strong, testing manner. The time had come when His hearers must make their choice between a spiritual acceptance of Him and a break with Him altogether. What He had said strongly offended them, both on account of the claims implied (6:42), and on account of the doctrine taught, which, they were plainly told, they could not receive because of their carnality of heart (6:43,44,61-64). Many, therefore, went back and walked no more with Him (6:60,61,66); but their defection only evoked from the chosen Twelve a yet more confident confession of their faith. "Would ye also go away?"
Peter's First Confession.
Peter, as usual, spoke for the rest:
"Lord, to whom shall we go? .... We have believed and know that thou art the Holy One of God" (John 6:69). Here, and not first at Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:16), is Peter's brave confession of his Master's Messiahship. Twelve thus confessed Him, but even of this select circle Jesus was compelled to say, "One of you (Judas) is a devil" (John 6:70,71).
II. From Disputes with the Pharisees till the Transfiguration.
The discourse in Capernaum seems to mark a turning-point in the Lord's ministry in Galilee. Soon after we find Him ceasing from public teaching, and devoting Himself to the instruction of His apostles (Matthew 15:21; Mark 7:24, etc.).
1. Jesus and Tradition--Outward and Inward Purity:
(Matthew 15:1-20; Mark 7:1-23)
Meanwhile, that Christ's work in Galilee was attracting the attention of the central authorities, is shown by the fact that scribes and Pharisees came up from Jerusalem to watch Him. They speedily found ground of complaint against Him in His unconventional ways and His total disregard of the traditions of the elders. They specially blamed Him for allowing His disciples to eat bread with "common," i.e. unwashen hands. Here was a point on which the Pharisees laid great stress (Mark 7:3,4). Ceremonial ablutions (washing "diligently," Greek "with the fist"; "baptizings" of person and things) formed a large part of their religion. These washings were part of the "oral tradition" said to have been delivered to Moses, and transmitted by a succession of elders. Jesus set all this ceremonialism aside. It was part of the "hypocrisy" of the Pharisees (Mark 7:6). When questioned regarding it, He drew a sharp distinction between God's commandment in the Scriptures and man's tradition, and accused the Pharisees (instancing "Corban" (which see), in support, Mark 7:10-12) of making "void" the former through the latter. This led to the wider question of wherein real defilement consisted. Christ's rational position here is that it did not consist in anything outward, as in meats, but consisted in what came from within the man:
as Jesus explained afterward, in the outcome of his heart or moral life: "Out of the heart of men evil thoughts proceed," etc. (Mark 7:20-23). Christ's saying was in effect the abrogation of the old ceremonial distinctions, as Mark notes: "making all meats clean" (Mark 7:19). The Pharisees, naturally, were deeply offended at His sayings, but Jesus was unmoved. Every plant not of the Father's planting must be rooted up (Mark 7:13).
2. Retirement to Tyre and Sidon--the Syrophoenician Woman:
(Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30)
From this point Jesus appears, in order to escape notice, to have made journeys privately from place to place. His first retreat was to the borders, or neighborhood, of Tyre and Sidon. From Mark 7:31 it is to be inferred that He entered the heathen territory. He could not, however, be hid (Mark 7:24). It was not long ere, in the house into which He had entered, there reached Him the cry of human distress. A woman came to Him, a Greek (or Gentile, Greek-speaking), but Syrophoenician by race. Her "little daughter" was grievously afflicted with an evil spirit. Flinging herself at His feet, and addressing Him as "Son of David," she besought His mercy for her child. At first Jesus seemed--yet only seemed--to repel her, speaking of Himself as sent only to the lost sheep of Israel, and of the unmeetness of giving the children's loaf to the dogs (the Greek softens the expression, "the little dogs"). With a beautiful urgency which won for her the boon she sought, the woman seized on the word as an argument in her favor. "Even the dogs under the table eat of the children's crumbs." The child at Jesus' word was restored.
3. At Decapolis--New Miracles:
(Matthew 15:29-39; Mark 7:31-37; 8:1-10)
Christ's second retreat was to Decapolis--the district of the ten cities--East of the Jordan. Here also He was soon discovered, and followed by the multitude. Sufferers were brought to Him, whom He cured (Matthew 15:30). Later, He fed the crowds.
The miracle of the deaf man is attested only by Mk. The patient was doubly afflicted, being deaf, and having an impediment in his speech. The cure presents several peculiarities--its privacy (Matthew 15:33); the actions of Jesus in putting his fingers into his ears, etc. (a mode of speech by signs to the deaf man); His "sign," accompanied with prayer, doubtless accasioned by something in the man's look; the word Ephphatha (Matthew 15:34)--"Be opened."
a) The Deaf Man:
The charge to those present not to blazon the deed abroad was disregarded. Jesus desired no cheap popularity.
b) Feeding of Four Thousand:
(Matthew 15:32-39; Mark 8:1-9)
The next miracle closely resembles the feeding of the Five Thousand at Bethsaida, but the place and numbers are different; 4,000 instead of 5,000; 7 loaves and a few fishes, instead of 5 loaves and 2 fishes; 7 baskets of fragments instead of 12 (Mark's term denotes a larger basket). There is no reason for doubting the distinction of the incidents (compare Matthew 16:9,10; Mark 8:19,20).
4. Leaven of the Pharisees, etc.--Cure of Blind Man:
(Matthew 16:1-12; Mark 8:11-26)
Returning to the plain of Gennesaret (Magdala, Matthew 15:39 the King James Version; parts of Dalmanutha, Mark 8:10), Jesus soon found Himself assailed by His old adversaries. Pharisees and Sadducees were now united. They came "trying" Jesus, and asking from Him a "sign from heaven"--some signal Divine manifestation. "Sighing deeply" (Mark) at their caviling spirit, Jesus repeated His word about the sign of Jonah. The times in which they lived were full of signs, if they, so proficient in weather signs, could only see them. To be rid of such questioners, Jesus anew took boat to Bethsaida. On the way He warned His disciples against the leaven of the spirit they had just encountered. The disciples misunderstood, thinking that Jesus referred to their forgetfulness in not taking bread (Mark states in his graphic way that they had only one loaf). The leaven Christ referred to, in fact, represented three spirits:
(1) the Pharisaic leaven--formalism and hypocrisy;
(2) the Sadducean leaven--rationalistic skepticism;
(3) the Herodian leaven (Mark 8:15)--political expediency and temporizing.
Arrived at Bethsaida, a miracle was wrought on a blind man resembling in some of its features the cure of the deaf man at Decapolis. In both cases Jesus took the patients apart; in both physical means were used--the spittle ("spit on his eyes," Mark 8:23); in both there was strict injunction not to noise the cure abroad. Another peculiarity was the gradualness of the cure. It is probable that the man had not been blind from his birth, else he could hardly have recognized men or trees at the first opening. It needed that Jesus should lay His hands on Him before he saw all things clearly.
5. At Caesarea Philippi--The Great Confession--First Announcement of Passion:
(Matthew 16:13-28; Mark 8:27-30; Luke 9:18-27)
The next retirement of Jesus with His disciples was to the neighborhood of Caesarea Philippi, near the source of the Jordan. This was the northernmost point of His journeyings. Here, "on the geographical frontier between Judaism and heathenism" (Liddon), our Lord put the momentous question which called forth Peter's historical confession.
(1) The Voices of the Age and the External Truth.
The question put to the Twelve in this remote region was:
"Who do men say that the Son of man is?" "Son of man," as already said, was the familiar name given by Jesus to Himself, to which a Messianic significance might or might not be attached, according to the prepossessions of His hearers. First the changeful voices of the age were recited to Jesus: "Some say John the Baptist; some, Elijah," etc. Next, in answer to the further question: "But who say ye that I am ?" there rang out from Peter, in the name of all, the unchanging truth about Jesus: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." In clearness, boldness, decision, Peter's faith had attained a height not reached before. The confession embodies two truths:
(1) the Divinity,
(2) the Messiahship, of the Son of man.
Jesus did honor to the confession of His apostle. Not flesh and blood, but the Father, had revealed the truth to him. Here at length was "rock" on which He could build a church. Reverting to Peter's original name, Simon Bar-Jonah, Jesus declared, with a play on the name "Peter" (petros, "rock," "piece of rock") He had before given him (John 1:42), that on this "rock" (petra), He would build His church, and the gates of Hades (hostile evil powers) would not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). The papacy has reared an unwarrantable structure of pretensions on this passage in supposing the "rock" to be Peter personally and his successors in the see of Rome (none such existed; Peter was not bishop of Rome). It is not Peter the individual, but Peter the confessing apostle--Peter as representative of all--that Christ names "rock"; that which constituted him a foundation was the truth he had confessed (compare Ephesians 2:20). This is the first New Testament mention of a "church" (ekklesia). The Christian church, therefore, is founded
(1) on the truth of Christ's Divine Sonship;
(2) on the truth of His Messiah-ship, or of His being the anointed prophet, priest and king of the new age.
A society of believers confessing these truths is a church; no society which denies these truths deserves the name. To this confessing community Jesus, still addressing Peter as representing the apostolate (compare Matthew 18:18),gives authority to bind and loose--to admit and to exclude. Jesus, it is noted, bade His disciples tell no man of these things (Matthew 16:20; Mark 8:30; Luke 9:21).
(2) The Cross and the Disciple.
The confession of Peter prepared the way for an advance in Christ's teaching. From that time, Matthew notes, Jesus began to speak plainly of His approaching sufferings and death (16:21). There are in all three solemn announcements of the Passion (Matthew 16:21-23; 17:22,23; 20:17-19 parallel). Jesus foresaw, and clearly foretold, what would befall Him at Jerusalem. He would be killed by the authorities, but on the third day would rise again. On the first announcement, following His confession, Peter took it upon him to expostulate with Jesus:
"Be it far from thee, Lord," etc. (Matthew 16:22), an action which brought upon him the stern rebuke of Jesus: "Get thee behind me, Satan," etc. (Matthew 16:23). The Rock-man, in his fall to the maxims of a worldly expediency, is now identified with Satan, the tempter. This principle, that duty is only to be done when personal risk is not entailed, Jesus not only repudiates for Himself, but bids His disciples repudiate it also. The disciple, Jesus says, must be prepared to deny himself, and take up his cross. The cross is the symbol of anything distressing or painful to bear. There is a saving of life which is a losing of it, and what shall a man be profited if he gain the whole world, and forfeit his (true, higher) life? As, however, Jesus had spoken, not only of dying, but of rising again, so now He encourages His disciples by announcing His future coming in glory to render to every man according to His deeds. That final coming might be distant (compare Matthew 24:36); but (so it seems most natural to interpret the saying Matthew 16:28 parallel) there were those living who would see the nearer pledge of that, in Christ's coming in the triumphs and successes of His kingdom (compare Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27; Matthew 26:64).
6. The Transfiguration--the Epileptic Boy:
(Matthew 17:1-20; Mark 9:2-29; Luke 9:28-43)
About eight days after the announcement of His passion by Jesus, took place the glorious event of the transfiguration. Jesus had spoken of His future glory, and here was pledge of it. In strange contrast with the scene of glory on the summit of the mountain was the painful sight which met Jesus and His three companions when they descended again to to the plain.
a) The Glory of the Only Begotten:
Tradition connects the scene of the transfiguration with Mount Tabor, but it more probably took place on one of the spurs of Mount Hermon. Jesus had ascended the mountain with Peter, James and John, for prayer. It was while He was praying the wonderful change happened. For once the veiled glory of the only begotten from the Father (John 1:14) was permitted to burst forth, suffusing His person and garments, and changing them into a dazzling brightness. His face did shine as the sun; His raiment became white as light ("as snow," the King James Version, Mark). Heavenly visitants, recognized from their converse as Moses and Elijah, appeared with Him and spoke of His decease (Luke). A voice from an enveloping cloud attested:
"This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Little wonder the disciples were afraid, or that Peter in his confusion should stammer out: "It is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, I will make here three tabernacles (booths)." This, however, was not permitted. Earth is not heaven. Glimpses of heavenly glory are given, not to wean from duty on earth, but to prepare for the trials connected therewith.
b) Faith's Entreaty and Its Answer:
The spectacle that met the eyes of Jesus and the chosen three as they descended was distressing in the extreme. A man had brought his epileptic boy--a sore sufferer and dumb--to the disciples to see if they could cast out the evil spirit that possessed him, but they were not able. Their failure, as Jesus showed, was failure of faith; none the less did their discomfiture afford a handle to the gainsayers, who were not slow to take advantage of it (Mark 9:14). The man's appeal was now to Jesus, "If thou canst do anything," etc. (Mark 9:22). The reply of Jesus shifted the "canst" to the right quarter, "If thou canst (believe)" (Mark 9:). Such little faith as the man had revived under Christ's word:
"I believe; help thou mine unbelief." The multitude pressing around, there was no call for further delay. With one energetic word Jesus expelled the unclean spirit (Mark 9:25). The first effect of Christ's approach had been to induce a violent paroxysm (Mark 9:20); now the spirit terribly convulsed the frame it was compelled to relinquish. Jesus, taking the boy's hand, raised him up, and he was found well. The lesson drawn to the disciples was the omnipotence of faith (Matthew 17:19,20) and power of prayer (Mark 9:28,29).
III. From Private Journey through Galilee till Return from the Feast of Tabernacles.
1. Galilee and Capernaum:
Soon after the last-mentioned events Jesus passed privately through Galilee (Mark 9:30), returning later to Capernaum. During the Galilean journey Jesus made to His disciples His 2nd announcement of His approaching sufferings and death, accompanied as before by the assurance of His resurrection. The disciples still could not take in the meaning of His words, though what He said made them "exceeding sorry" (Matthew 17:23).
a) Second Announcement of Passion:
(Matthew 17:22,23; Mark 9:30-33; Luke 9:44,45)
The return to Capernaum was marked by an incident which raised the question of Christ's relation to temple institutions. The collectors of tribute for the temple inquired of Peter:
"Doth not your teacher pay the half-shekel?" (Greek didrachma, or double drachm, worth about 32 cents or is. 4d.).
b) The Temple Tax:
The origin of this tax was in the half-shekel of atonement-money of Exodus 30:11-16, which, though a special contribution, was made the basis of later assessment (2 Chronicles 24:4-10; in Nehemiah's time the amount was one-third of a shekel, Nehemiah 10:32), and its object was the upkeep of the temple worship (Schurer). The usual time of payment was March, but Jesus had probably been absent and the inquiry was not made for some months later. Peter, hasty as usual, probably reasoning from Christ's ordinary respect for temple ordinances, answered at once that He did pay the tax. It had not occurred to him that Jesus might have something to say on it, if formally challenged. Occasion therefore was taken by Jesus gently to reprove Peter. Peter had but recently acknowledged Jesus to be the Son of God. Do kings of the earth take tribute of their own sons? The half-shekel was suitable to the subject-relation, but not to the relation of a son. Nevertheless, lest occasion of stumbling be given, Jesus could well waive this right, as, in His humbled condition, He had waived so many more. Peter was ordered to cast his hook into the sea, and Jesus foretold that the fish he would bring up would have in its mouth the necessary coin (Greek, stater, about 64 cents or 2s. 8d.). The tax was paid, yet in such a way as to show that the payment of it was an act of condescension of the king's Son.
c) Discourse on Greatness and Forgiveness:
(Matthew 18:1-35; Mark 9:33-50; Luke 9:46-50)
On the way to Capernaum a dispute had arisen among the disciples as to who should be greatest in the Messianic kingdom about to be set up. The fact of such disputing showed how largely even their minds were yet dominated by worldly, sensuous ideas of the kingdom. Now, in the house (Mark 9:33), Jesus takes occasion to check their spirit of ambitious rivalry, and to inculcate much-needed lessons on greatness and kindred matters.
(1) Greatness in Humility.
First, by the example of a little child, Jesus teaches that humility is the root-disposition of His kingdom. It alone admits to the kingdom, and conducts to honor in it. He is greatest who humbles himself most (Matthew 18:4), and is the servant of all (Mark 9:35). He warns against slighting the "little ones," or causing them to stumble, and uses language of terrible severity against those guilty of this sin.
The mention of receiving little ones in Christ's name led John to remark that he had seen one casting out demons in Christ's name, and had forbidden him, because he was not of their company. "Forbid him not," Jesus said, "for there is no man who shall do a mighty work in my name, and be able quickly to speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is for us" (Mark 9:39,40).
(3) The Erring Brother.
The subject of offenses leads to the question of sins committed by one Christian brother against another. Here Christ inculcates kindness and forbearance; only if private representations and the good offices of brethren fail, is the matter to be brought before the church; if the brother repents he is to be unstintedly forgiven ("seventy times seven," Matthew 18:22). If the church is compelled to interpose, its decisions are valid (under condition, however, of prayer and Christ's presence, Matthew 18:18-20).
(4) Parable of the Unmerciful Servant.
To enforce the lesson of forgiveness Jesus speaks the parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matthew 18:23-35). Himself forgiven much, this servant refuses to forgive his fellow a much smaller debt. His lord visits him with severest punishment. Only as we forgive others can we look for forgiveness.
2. The Feast of Tabernacles--Discourses, etc.:
The Gospel of John leaves a blank of many months between chapters 6 and 7, covered only by the statement, "After these things, Jesus walked in Galilee" (7:1). In this year of His ministry Jesus had gone neither to the feast of the Passover nor to Pentecost. The Feast of Tabernacles was now at hand (October). To this Jesus went up, and Joh preserves for us a full record of His appearance, discourses and doings there.
a) The Private Journey--Divided Opinions:
The brethren of Jesus, still unpersuaded of His claims (John 7:5), had urged Jesus to go up with them to the feast. "Go up," in their sense, included a public manifestation of Himself as the Messiah. Jesus replied that His time for this had not yet come. Afterward He went up quietly, and in the midst of the feast appeared in the temple as a teacher. The comments made about Jesus at the feast before His arrival vividly reflect the divided state of opinion regarding Him. "He is a good man," thought some. "Not so," said others, "but He leadeth the multitude astray." His teaching evoked yet keener division. While some said, "Thou hast a demon" (John 7:20), others argued, "When the Christ shall come, will he do more signs?" etc. (John 7:31). Some declared, "This is of a truth the prophet," or "This is the Christ"; others objected that the Christ was to come out of Bethlehem, not Galilee (John 7:40-42). Yet no one dared to take the step of molesting Him.
b) Christ's Self-Witness:
Christ's wisdom and use of the Scriptures excited surprise. Jesus met this surprise by stating that His knowledge was from the Father, and with reference to the division of opinion about Him laid down the principle that knowledge of the truth was the result of the obedient will:
"If any man willeth to do his will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God" (John 7:17). It was objected that they knew who Jesus was, and whence He came. In a sense, Jesus replied, this was true; in a deeper sense, it was not. He came from the Father, whom they knew not (John 7:28,29). The last and great day of the feast--the eighth (Numbers 29:35)--brought with it a new self-attestation. Jesus stood and cried, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me .... from within him shall flow rivers of living water" (John 7:37,38). The words are understood to have reference to the ceremony of pouring out a libation of water at this feast--the libation, in turn, commemorating the gift of water at the striking of the rock. The evangelist interprets the saying of the Spirit which believers should receive. Meanwhile, the chief priests and Pharisees had sent officers to apprehend Jesus (John 7:32), but they returned without Him. "Why did ye not bring him?" The reply was confounding, "Never man so spake" (John 7:45,46). The retort was the poor one, "Are ye also led astray?" In vain did Nicodemus, who was present, try to put in a moderating word (John 7:50,51). It was clear to what issue hate like this was tending.
c) The Woman Taken in Adultery:
The discourses at the feast are at this point interrupted by the episode of the woman taken in adultery (John 8:1-11), which, by general consent, does not belong to the original text of the Gospel. It is probably, however, an authentic incident, and illustrates, on the one hand, the eagerness of the official classes to find an accusation against Jesus, and, on the other, the Saviour's dignity and wisdom in foiling such attempts, His spirit of mercy and the action of conscience in the accusers. In His continued teaching, Jesus put forth even higher claims than in the foregoing discourse. As He had applied to Himself the water from the rock, so now He applied to Himself the symbolic meaning of the two great candelabra, which were lighted in the temple court during the feast and bore reference to the pillar of cloud and fire. "I am the light of the world," said Jesus (John 8:12). Only a Divine being could put forth such a claim as that. The Jews objected that they had only His witness to Himself. Jesus replied that no other could bear adequate witness of Him, for He alone knew whence He came and whither He went (John 8:14). But the Father also had borne witness of Him (John 8:18). This discourse, delivered in the "treasury" of the temple (John 8:20), was soon followed by another, no man yet daring to touch Him. This time Jesus warns the Jews of the fate their unbelief would entail upon them:
"Ye shall die in your sins" (John 8:24). Addressing Himself next specially to the Jews who believed in Him, He urged them to continuance in His word as the condition of true freedom. Resentment was again aroused at the suggestion that the Jews, Abraham's seed, were not free. Jesus made clear that the real bondage was that of sin; only the Son could make spiritually free (John 8:34-36). Descent from Abraham meant nothing, if the spirit was of the devil (John 8:39-41). A new conflict was provoked by the saying, "If a man keep my word, he shall never see death" (John 8:51). Did Jesus make Himself greater than Abraham? The controversy that ensued resulted in the sublime utterance, "Before Abraham was born, I am" (John 8:58). The Jews would have stoned Him, but Jesus eluded them, and departed.
d) The Cure of the Blind Man:
The Feast of Tabernacles was past, but Jesus was still in Jerusalem. Passing by on a Sabbath (John 9:14), He saw a blind man, a beggar (John 9:8), well known to have been blind from his birth. The narrative of the cure and examination of this blind man is adduced by Paley as bearing in its inimitable circumstantiality every mark of personal knowledge on the part of the historian. The man, cured in strange but symbolic fashion by the anointing of his eyes with clay (thereby apparently sealing them more firmly), then washing in the Pool of Siloam, became an object of immediate interest, and every effort was made by the Pharisees to shake his testimony as to the miracle that had been wrought. The man, however, held to his story, and his parents could only corroborate the fact that their son had been born blind, and now saw. The Pharisees themselves were divided, some reasoning that Jesus could not be of God because He had broken the Sabbath--the old charge; others, Nicodemus-like, standing on the fact that a man who was a sinner could not do such signs (John 9:15,16). The healed man applied the logic of common-sense:
"If this man were not from God, he could do nothing" (John 9:33). The Pharisees, impotent to deny the wonder, could only cast him out of the synagogue. Jesus found him, and brought him to full confession of faith in Himself (John 9:35-38).
e) The Good Shepherd:
Yet another address of Jesus is on record arising out of this incident. In continuation of His reply to the question of the Pharisees in John (9:40), "Are we also blind?" Jesus spoke to them His discourse on the Good Shepherd. Flocks in eastern countries are gathered at night into an enclosure surrounded by a wall or palisade. This is the "fold," which is under the care of a "porter," who opens the closely barred door to the shepherds in the morning. As contrasted with the legitimate shepherds, the false shepherds "enter not by the door," but climb over some other way. The allusion is to priests, scribes, Pharisees and generally to all, in any age, who claim an authority within the church unsanctioned by God (Godet). Jesus now gathers up the truth in its relation to Himself as the Supreme Shepherd. From His fundamental relation to the church, He is not only the Shepherd, but the Door (10:7-14). To those who enter by Him there is given security, liberty, provision (10:9). In his capacity as Shepherd Christ is preeminently all that a faithful shepherd ought to be. The highest proof of His love is that, as the Good Shepherd, He lays down His life for the sheep (10:11,15,17). This laying down of His life is not an accident, but is His free, voluntary act (10:17,18). Again there was division among the Jews because of these remarkable sayings (10:19-21).
Though John does not mention the fact, there is little doubt that, after this visit to Jerusalem, Jesus returned to Galilee, and at no long interval from His return, took His final departure southward. The chronology of this closing period in Galilee is somewhat uncertain. Some would place the visit to the Feast of Tabernacles before the withdrawal to Caesarea Philippi, or even earlier (compare Andrews, Life of our Lord, etc.); but the order adopted above appears preferable.
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