The Feast of Dedication

From Perea He goes up to Jerusalem, to be present John X. 22-24. at the feast of Dedication. Upon the way He passes through the village of Bethany, and visits Mary and Mar- Luke X. 38-42. tha. Reaching Jerusalem, the Jews demand that He declare plainly whether He is, or is not, the Messiah.

He answers them by referring to His past words and John X. 25-42. works. The Jews, thinking His answer blasphemous, take up stones to stone Him. He continues His discourse to them, but as they seek to arrest Him, He escapes from them, and goes beyond Jordan to Bethany, (Bethabara,) and abides there. Many resort ty Him, and believe on Him.

It is at this point that we would insert the narrative of John, (x. 22-42,) embracing the visit to the feast of Dedication, and the return to Perea. These events are omitted by the Synoptists, as not falling into the scope of their narratives, which leads them to mention no visit at Jerusalem but the last.

That the visit at Bethany, mentioned by Luke only, took place at this time, cannot be positively affirmed, but it cannot well be put earlier. Not improbably it is placed by the Evangelist in. its present position in the narrative upon other than chronological grounds.

The journey, as it has been traced, brings Him into the neighborhood of Jerusalem. His presence at the feast of Dedication is often ascribed to the fact of His proximity to the city, rather than to any design, on leaving Galilee, to be present.1 It is not indeed probable that He would go up simply because of the feast, which He might have observed elsewhere. The three great feasts, says Lightfoot, "might not be celebrated in any other place; but the Encenia was kept everywhere throughout the whole land." As one of the minor feasts, His presence implies some special motive. May we not find this in the character of the Lord's last journey ? For a considerable period He had avoided Jerusalem; at the feast of Tabernacles, He went up secretly. Now He seeks publicity. Wherever the Seventy go they proclaim Him, and all understand that He appears as the Messiah. Perhaps, as has been already intimated, He may have designed to send His messengers into Judea ; and if they found a favorable reception, to follow them.

1 Lichtenstein.

There is then no reason why He should longer avoid Jerusalem. He will present Himself before the priests and scribes and rulers, that they may show forth what is in their hearts ; show whether they can yet recognize in Him the Messiah. And the feast of Dedication had special significance as the time of such a visit. It was appointed in commemoration of the national deliverance by the Maccabees from the oppression of the Syrians, (b. C. 164,) and of the cleansing of the temple and restoration of the appointed worship.1 It should not only have reminded the Jews of the sins that brought them under the tyranny of Antiochus and of the goodness of God in their deliverance, but have taught them the true cause of their present bondage, and awakened in them hopes of a more glorious deliverance through the Son of David. Had the Lord found them conscious of sin, and humbling themselves under the punishments of God, the way would have been opened for a new cleansing of the temple, and the bringing in of a new and nobler worship. But the feast served only to feed their pride, to foster their hate of Roman rule, and to turn their hearts away from the true deliverer. A Judas Maccabeus they would have welcomed; but Jesus, whose first work must be to deliver them from sin, found no favor in their eyes.

It is possible that some of the Seventy may have preceded Jesus at Jerusalem, announcing His coming. The manner in which the Jews gather around Him, and the character of their question, "How long dost thou make us to doubt? If Thou be the Christ, tell us plainly," clearly indicate that in some way their attention had been especially drawn to Him as something more than a prophet, as indeed the Christ.

» 1 Mace. iv. 52-59.

If we compare this language with that uttered but two months earlier at the feast of Tabernacles, it appears evident that His Messianic claims had now become prominent. That the Jews asked the question with the intent to make an affirmative answer the basis of accusation,1 is not improbable; but it may also have been an honest expression of doubt. It is to be noticed that no mention is made of any preliminary teaching or healing, nothing to call forth the question. He is silent till it is addressed Him by the people, and this was as soon as He appeared in the temple.

The Lord's reply, "I told you, and ye believed not," must refer to the general sentiment and scope of His teachings ; for we nowhere have on record any express avowal to the Jews that He was the Messiah. Such an avowal He seems purposely to have avoided. His own words were: " If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. There is another that beareth witness of me," (John v. 31, 32.) In conformity to this general rule, He here refers the Jews to His works. " The works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me;" and that this evidence was not sufficient He ascribes to their unbelief. This was not what they wanted, and they must have thought it very remarkable, that if He were the Christ, He did not explicitly and openly affirm it. They did not consider that " with the heart man believeth unto righteousness," and that the evidence that was convincing to a Nathanael, was wholly unsatisfactory to a Caiaphas. That in their question they had no other than the current conceptions of the Messiah, appears from the effect of His reply upon them. So soon as He began to speak of His relations to God as His Father, and said, " I and my Father are one," they sought to stone Him. This was open blasphemy, and the blasphemer must be stoned.

* So Meyer after Luther.

His reference to the figure of the sheep, (v. 26,) as it had been used by Him at the feast of Tabernacles, (x. 1-18,) Is not strange, for probably most of those now present, priests, scribes, and Pharisees, were residents in Jerusalem, and had heard His words at that time. The interval was but two months, not so long that they could have forgotten what He then said, especially if they had not heard Him since.

This attempt to take His life, compared with that at the feast of Tabernacles, (viii. 59,) may perhaps show less of hasty passion, but indicates a fixed purpose to destroy Him.1 The attempt to take Him (v. 39) may have been with design to keep Him in custody till He could be formally tried; or that removing Him from the Temple, they might immediately stone Him. That His escape was miraculous, is not said, though so regarded by many.2 If He had designed to send His messengers into Judea, this new manifestation of hostility may have prevented it; for if His life was in danger at Jerusalem, He could not have journeyed safely into other parts of the province. No other place of refuge was open to Him than Perea. Thus the Seventy may but partially have completed their intended circuit, Judea being shut against them; and this will explain why their labors are so briefly noticed by the Evangelist.

The Lord, now leaving Judea, goes beyond Jordan, " into the place where John at first baptized." There is no doubt that this was Bethabara or Bethany, (i. 28.) Its position has already been considered. The motives that led to its selection are wholly conjectural. That He sought it merely as a place of safety from the Jews, is possible; but here, on the other hand, He was exposed to the anger of Herod, (Luke xiii. 31, 32.) Aside from considerations of His personal safety, there is much significance in this return to the place of His baptism.

i Luthardt, ii. 190. 2 So Luthardt; contra, Meyer.

He might expect to find there, as He did, many whose hearts had been prepared by the teachings and baptism of John for the reception of His own words. It is said that " there He abode." This implies that He made no more circuits through the surrounding towns. He abode in the town or district of Bethany, where many resorted unto Him, and where Mary and Martha sent to Him during the sickness of Lazarus.1 How long He sojourned here ere He went up to Bethany, near Jerusalem, to raise Lazarus, does not clearly appear. It is inferred by some, from the language of His disciples, after He had proposed to return to Judea, (xi. 7, 8,) " The Jews of late sought to stone Thee "—vw e&jrow, <fcc, that He had but just come from Jerusalem.* Much stress, however, cannot be laid on this. (See Acts vii. 52.) From the feast of Dedication to the Passover was about four months, and it is not improbable that half of this, or more, was spent " beyond Jordan," in the neighborhood of Bethany. Many would place during this time much that Luke relates. Upon grounds already stated, we shall assign to this period all from chap. xiv. to xvii. 10.

» As to the use of " abode," jtiemj/, gee John ii. 12; iv. 40 j vii. 9 ', xi. 6. 2 Meyer.