Christ goes to the feast of tabernacles. (1-13) His discourse at the feast. (14-39) The people dispute concerning Christ. (40-53)
Verses 1-13 The brethren or kinsmen of Jesus were disgusted, when they found there was no prospect of worldly advantages from him. Ungodly men sometimes undertake to counsel those employed in the work of God; but they only advise what appears likely to promote present advantages. The people differed about his doctrine and miracles, while those who favoured him, dared not openly to avow their sentiments. Those who count the preachers of the gospel to be deceivers, speak out, while many who favour them, fear to get reproach by avowing regard for them.
Verses 14-24 Every faithful minister may humbly adopt Christ's words. His doctrine is not his own finding out, but is from God's word, through the teaching of his Spirit. And amidst the disputes which disturb the world, if any man, of any nation, seeks to do the will of God, he shall know whether the doctrine is of God, or whether men speak of themselves. Only those who hate the truth shall be given up to errors which will be fatal. Surely it was as agreeable to the design of the sabbath to restore health to the afflicted, as to administer an outward rite. Jesus told them to decide on his conduct according to the spiritual import of the Divine law. We must not judge concerning any by their outward appearance, but by their worth, and by the gifts and graces of God's Spirit in them.
Verses 25-30 Christ proclaimed aloud, that they were in error in their thoughts about his origin. He was sent of God, who showed himself true to his promises. This declaration, that they knew not God, with his claim to peculiar knowledge, provoked the hearers; and they sought to take him, but God can tie men's hands, though he does not turn their hearts.
Verses 31-36 The discourses of Jesus convinced many that he was the Messiah; but they had not courage to own it. It is comfort to those who are in the world, but not of it, and therefore are hated by it and weary of it, that they shall not be in it always, that they shall not be in it long. Our days being evil, it is well they are few. The days of life and of grace do not last long; and sinners, when in misery, will be glad of the help they now despise. Men dispute about such sayings, but the event will explain them.
Verses 37-39 On the last day of the feast of tabernacles, the Jews drew water and poured it out before the Lord. It is supposed that Christ alluded to this. If any man desires to be truly and for ever happy, let him apply to Christ, and be ruled by him. This thirst means strong desires after spiritual blessings, which nothing else can satisfy; so the sanctifying and comforting influences of the Holy Spirit, were intended by the waters which Jesus called on them to come to Him and drink. The comfort flows plentifully and constantly as a river; strong as a stream to bear down the opposition of doubts and fears. There is a fulness in Christ, of grace for grace. The Spirit dwelling and working in believers, is as a fountain of living, running water, out of which plentiful streams flow, cooling and cleansing as water. The miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit we do not expect, but for his more common and more valuable influences we may apply. These streams have flowed from our glorified Redeemer, down to this age, and to the remote corners of the earth. May we be anxious to make them known to others.
Verses 40-53 The malice of Christ's enemies is always against reason, and sometimes the staying of it cannot be accounted for. Never any man spake with that wisdom, and power, and grace, that convincing clearness, and that sweetness, wherewith Christ spake. Alas, that many, who are for a time restrained, and who speak highly of the word of Jesus, speedily lose their convictions, and go on in their sins! People are foolishly swayed by outward motives in matters of eternal moment, are willing even to be damned for fashion's sake. As the wisdom of God often chooses things which men despise, so the folly of men commonly despises those whom God has chosen. The Lord brings forward his weak and timid disciples, and sometimes uses them to defeat the designs of his enemies.
John 7:1-53 . CHRIST AT THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES.
1, 2. After these things--that is, all that is recorded after John 5:18 .
walked in Galilee--continuing His labors there, instead of going to Judea, as might have been expected.
sought to kill him--referring back to John 5:18 . Hence it appears that our Lord did not attend the Passover mentioned in John 6:4 --being the third since His ministry began, if the feast mentioned in John 5:1 was a Passover.
2. feast of tabernacles . . . at hand--This was the last of the three annual festivals, celebrated on the fifteenth of the seventh month (September). (See Leviticus 23:33 , &c. Deuteronomy 16:13 , &c. Nehemiah 8:14-18 ).
3-5. His brethren
Depart . . . into Judea, &c.--In John 7:5 this speech is ascribed to their unbelief. But as they were in the "upper room" among the one hundred and twenty disciples who waited for the descent of the Spirit after the Lord's ascension ( Acts 1:14 ), they seem to have had their prejudices removed, perhaps after His resurrection. Indeed here their language is more that of strong prejudice and suspicion (such as near relatives, even the best, too frequently show in such cases), than from unbelief. There was also, probably, a tincture of vanity in it. "Thou hast many disciples in Judea; here in Galilee they are fast dropping off; it is not like one who advances the claims Thou dost to linger so long here, away from the city of our solemnities, where surely 'the kingdom of our father David' is to be set up: 'seeking,' as Thou dost, 'to be known openly,' those miracles of Thine ought not to be confined to this distant corner, but submitted at headquarters to the inspection of 'the world.'" (See Psalms 69:8 , "I am become a stranger to my brethren, an alien unto my mother's children!")
6-10. My time is not yet come--that is, for showing Himself to the world.
your time is always ready--that is "It matters little when we go up, for ye have no great plans in life, and nothing hangs upon your movements. With Me it is otherwise; on every movement of Mine there hangs what ye know not. The world has no quarrel with you, for ye bear no testimony against it, and so draw down upon yourselves none of its wrath; but I am here to lift up My voice against its hypocrisy, and denounce its abominations; therefore it cannot endure Me, and one false step might precipitate its fury on its Victim's head before the time. Away, therefore, to the feast as soon as it suits you; I follow at the fitting moment, but 'My time is not yet full come.'"
10. then went he . . . not openly--not "in the (caravan) company" [MEYER].
as it were in secret--rather, "in a manner secretly"; perhaps by some other route, and in a way not to attract notice.
11-13. Jews--the rulers.
sought him--for no good end.
Where is He?--He had not been at Jerusalem for probably a year and a half.
12. much murmuring--buzzing.
among the people--the multitudes; the natural expression of a Jewish writer, indicating without design the crowded state of Jerusalem at this festival [WEBSTER and WILKINSON].
a good man . . . Nay . . . deceiveth the people--the two opposite views of His claims, that they were honest, and that they were an imposture.
13. none spake openly of him--that is, in His favor, "for fear of the [ruling] Jews."
14, 15. about the midst of the feast--the fourth or fifth day of the eight, during which it lasted.
went up into the temple and taught--The word denotes formal and continuous teaching, as distinguished from mere casual sayings. This was probably the first time that He did so thus openly in Jerusalem. He had kept back till the feast was half through, to let the stir about Him subside, and entering the city unexpectedly, had begun His "teaching" at the temple, and created a certain awe, before the wrath of the rulers had time to break it.
15. How knoweth . . . letters--learning ( Acts 26:24 ).
having never learned--at any rabbinical school, as Paul under Gamaliel. These rulers knew well enough that He had not studied under any human teacher--an important admission against ancient and modern attempts to trace our Lord's wisdom to human sources [MEYER]. Probably His teaching on this occasion was expository, manifesting that unrivalled faculty and depth which in the Sermon on the Mount had excited the astonishment of all.
16-18. doctrine . . . not mine, &c.--that is, from Myself unauthorized; I am here by commission.
17. If any man will do his will, &c.--"is willing," or "wishes to do."
whether . . . of God, or . . . of myself--from above or from beneath; is divine or an imposture of Mine. A principle of immense importance, showing, on the one hand, that singleness of desire to please God is the grand inlet to light on all questions vitally affecting one's eternal interests, and on the other, that the want of his, whether perceived or not, is the chief cause of infidelity amidst the light of revealed religion.
18. seeketh his own
19, 20. Did not Moses, &c.--that is, In opposing Me ye pretend zeal for Moses, but to the spirit and end of that law which he gave ye are total strangers, and in "going about to kill Me" ye are its greatest enemies.
20. The people answered, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee?--This was said by the multitude, who as yet had no bad feeling to Jesus, and were not in the secret of the plot hatching, as our Lord knew, against Him.
21-24. I have done one work, &c.--Taking no notice of the popular appeal, as there were those there who knew well enough what He meant, He recalls His cure of the impotent man, and the murderous rage it had kindled ( John 5:9 John 5:16 John 5:18 ). It may seem strange that He should refer to an event a year and a half old, as if but newly done. But their present attempt "to kill Him" brought up the past scene vividly, not only to Him, but without doubt to them, too, if indeed they had ever forgotten it; and by this fearless reference to it, exposing their hypocrisy and dark designs, He gave His position great moral strength.
22. Moses . . . gave unto you circumcision, &c.--Though servile work was forbidden on the sabbath, the circumcision of males on that day (which certainly was a servile work) was counted no infringement of the Law. How much less ought fault to be found with One who had made a man "every whit whole"--or rather, "a man's entire body whole"--on the sabbath-day? What a testimony to the reality of the miracle, none daring to meet the bold appeal.
24. Judge not, &c.--that is, Rise above the letter into the spirit of the law.
25-27. some of them of Jerusalem--the citizens, who, knowing the long-formed purpose of the rulers to put Jesus to death, wondered that they were now letting Him teach openly.
26. Do the rulers know, &c.--Have they got some new light in favor of His claims?
27. Howbeit we know this man, &c.--This seems to refer to some current opinion that Messiah's origin would be mysterious (not altogether wrong), from which they concluded that Jesus could not be He, since they knew all about His family at Nazareth.
28, 29. cried Jesus--in a louder tone, and more solemn, witnessing style than usual.
Ye both, &c.--that is, "Yes, ye know both Myself and My local parentage, and (yet) I am not come of Myself."
but he that sent me is true, &c.--Probably the meaning is, "He that sent Me is the only real Sender of any one."
30-32. sought to take . . . none laid hands--their impotence being equal to their malignity.
31. When Christ cometh, will he, &c.--that is, If this be not the Christ, what can the Christ do, when He does come, which has not been anticipated and eclipsed by this man? This was evidently the language of friendly persons, overborne by their spiteful superiors, but unable to keep quite silent.
32. heard that the people murmured--that mutterings to this effect were going about, and thought it high time to stop Him if He was not to be allowed to carry away the people.
33, 34. Yet a little while, &c.--that is, "Your desire to be rid of Me will be for you all too soon fulfilled. Yet a little while and we part company--for ever; for I go whither ye cannot come: nor, even when ye at length seek Him whom ye now despise, shall ye be able to find Him"--referring not to any penitential, but to purely selfish cries in their time of desperation.
35, 36. Whither will he go, &c.--They cannot comprehend Him, but seem awed by the solemn grandeur of His warning. He takes no notice, however, of their questions.
37-39. the last day, that great day of the feast--the eighth ( Leviticus 23:39 ). It was a sabbath, the last feast day of the year, and distinguished by very remarkable ceremonies. "The generally joyous character of this feast broke out on this day into loud jubilation, particularly at the solemn moment when the priest, as was done on every day of this festival, brought forth, in golden vessels, water from the stream of Siloah, which flowed under the temple-mountain, and solemnly poured it upon the altar. Then the words of Isaiah 12:3 were sung, With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of Salvation, and thus the symbolical reference of this act, intimated in John 7:39 , was expressed" [OLSHAUSEN]. So ecstatic was the joy with which this ceremony was performed--accompanied with sound of trumpets--that it used to be said, "Whoever had not witnessed it had never seen rejoicing at all" [LIGHTFOOT].
Jesus stood--On this high occasion, then, He who had already drawn all eyes upon Him by His supernatural power and unrivalled teaching--"JESUS stood," probably in some elevated position.
and cried--as if making proclamation in the audience of all the people.
If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink!--What an offer! The deepest cravings of the human spirit are here, as in the Old Testament, expressed by the figure of "thirst," and the eternal satisfaction of them by "drinking." To the woman of Samaria He had said almost the same thing, and in the same terms ( John 4:13 John 4:14 ). But what to her was simply affirmed to her as a fact, is here turned into a world-wide proclamation; and whereas there, the gift by Him of the living water is the most prominent idea--in contrast with her hesitation to give Him the perishable water of Jacob's well--here, the prominence is given to Himself as the Well spring of all satisfaction. He had in Galilee invited all the WEARY AND HEAVY-LADEN of the human family to come under His wing and they should find REST ( Matthew 11:28 ), which is just the same deep want, and the same profound relief of it, under another and equally grateful figure. He had in the synagogue of Capernaum ( John 6:36 ) announced Himself, in every variety of form, as "the BREAD of Life," and as both able and authorized to appease the "HUNGER," and quench the "THIRST," of all that apply to Him. There is, and there can be, nothing beyond that here. But what was on all those occasions uttered in private, or addressed to a provincial audience, is here sounded forth in the streets of the great religious metropolis, and in language of surpassing majesty, simplicity, and grace. It is just Jehovah's ancient proclamation now sounding forth through human flesh, "HO, EVERY ONE THAT THIRSTETH, COME YE TO THE WATERS, AND HE THAT HATH NO MONEY!" &c. ( Isaiah 55:1 ). In this light we have but two alternatives; either to say with Caiaphas of Him that uttered such words, "He is guilty of death," or falling down before Him to exclaim with Thomas, " MY LORD AND MY GOD!"
38. as the scripture hath said--These words belong to what follows, "Out of his belly, as the scripture hath said, shall flow," &c. referring not to any particular passage, but to such as Isaiah 58:11 , Joel 3:18 , Zechariah 14:8 , Ezekiel 47:1-12 ; in most of which the idea is that of waters issuing from beneath the temple, to which our Lord compares Himself and those who believe in Him.
out of his belly--that is, his inner man, his soul, as in Proverbs 20:27 .
rivers of living primarily to the copiousness, but indirectly also to the diffusiveness, of this living water to the good of others.
39. this spake he of the Spirit--who, by His direct personal agency, opens up this spring of living waters in the human spirit ( John 3:6 ), and by His indwelling in the renewed soul ensures their unfailing flow.
they that believe, &c.--As the Holy Ghost is, in the redemption of man, entirely at the service of Christ, as His Agent, so it is only in believing connection with Christ that any one "receives" the Spirit.
for the Holy Ghost was not yet given--Beyond all doubt the word "given," or some similar word, is the right supplement. In John 16:7 the Holy Ghost is represented not only as the gift of Christ, but a gift the communication of which was dependent upon His own departure to the Father. Now as Christ was not yet gone, so the Holy Ghost was not yet given.
Jesus not yet glorified--The word "glorified" is here used advisedly, to teach the reader not only that the departure of Christ to the Father was indispensable to the giving of the Spirit, but that this illustrious Gift, direct from the hands of the ascended Saviour, was God's intimation to the world that He whom it had cast out, crucified, and slain, was "His Elect, in whom His soul delighted," and that it was through the smiting of that Rock that the waters of the Spirit--for which the Church was waiting, and with pomp at the feast of tabernacles proclaiming its expectation--had gushed forth upon a thirsty world.
40-43. Many . . . when they heard this . . . said, Of a truth, &c.--The only wonder is they did not all say it. "But their minds were blinded."
41. Others said, This is the
Shall Christ come out of Galilee?
42. scripture said . . . of the seed of David, and out of . . . Bethlehem, &c.--We accept this spontaneous testimony to our David-descended, Bethlehem-born Saviour. Had those who gave it made the inquiry which the case demanded, they would have found that Jesus "came out of Galilee" ( John 7:41 ) and "out of Bethlehem" both, alike in fulfilment of prophecy as in point of fact. ( Matthew 2:23 , 4:13-16 ).
44-49. would have taken him; but,
45. Then came the officers--"sent to take him" ( John 7:32 ).
Why . . . not brought him?--already thirsting for their Victim, and thinking it an easy matter to seize and bring Him.
46. Never man spake like this man--Noble testimony of unsophisticated men! Doubtless they were strangers to the profound intent of Christ's teaching, but there was that in it which by its mysterious grandeur and transparent purity and grace, held them spellbound. No doubt it was of God that they should so feel, that their arm might be paralyzed, as Christ's hour was not yet come; but even in human teaching there has sometimes been felt such a divine power, that men who came to kill them (for example, ROWLAND HISS) have confessed to all that they were unmanned.
47. ye also deceived--In their own servants this seemed intolerable.
48. any of the rulers or . . . Pharisees believed--"Many of them" did, including Nicodemus and Joseph, but not one of these had openly "confessed Him" ( John 12:42 ), and this appeal must have stung such of them as heard it to the quick.
49. But this people--literally, "multitude," meaning the ignorant rabble. (Pity these important distinctions, so marked in the original of this Gospel, should not be also in our version.)
knoweth not the law--that is, by school learning, which only subverted it by human traditions.
are cursed--a cursed set (a kind of swearing at them, out of mingled rage and scorn).
50-53. Nicodemus--reappearing to us after nearly three years' absence from the history, as a member of the council, probably then sitting.
51. Doth our law, &c.--a very proper, but all too tame rejoinder, and evidently more from pressure of conscience than any design to pronounce positively in the case. "The feebleness of his defense of Jesus has a strong contrast in the fierceness of the rejoinders of the Pharisees" [WEBSTER and WILKINSON].
52. thou of Galilee--in this taunt expressing their scorn of the party. Even a word of caution, or the gentlest proposal to inquire before condemning, was with them equivalent to an espousal of the hated One.
Search . . . out of Galilee . . . no prophet--Strange! For had not Jonah (of Gath-hepher) and even Elijah (of Thisbe) arisen out of Galilee? And there it may be more, of whom we have no record. But rage is blind, and deep prejudice distorts all facts. Yet it looks as if they were afraid of losing Nicodemus, when they take the trouble to reason the point at all. It was just because he had "searched," as they advised him, that he went the length even that he did.
53. every man went unto his own home--finding their plot could not at that time be carried into effect. Is your rage thus impotent, ye chief priests?