On the Gospel of John

J. N. Darby.

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John 4

After the introductory chapters, the Gospel of John begins by shewing us Jesus leaving Judea, and quitting the Jewish capital, the centre of the throne of God on the earth, the ancient seat of Him who, now come down in grace, could not find where to lay His head in an adverse world. The jealousy of the Pharisees gave occasion to the departure of Jesus. But here already we can perceive that the Lord, having the consciousness of an origin and of a purpose which went beyond all the thoughts even of those who had received Him, does not act to gather together those who received His word, according to the thoughts of the disciples who surrounded Him with affection: Jesus Himself baptised not, but His disciples. The Word made flesh, Son of God, Saviour of the world, Redeemer, Son of man, He could not baptise in order to attach them to Himself as Messiah, although He was the Messiah; for He knew too well His rejection, and, as Peter expresses it, the sufferings which were to be the portion of Christ, and the glories that should follow. As to what was outside His position, Jesus could but allow His disciples to baptise thus; for them it was the truth, even the whole truth, although they had learned to add "living" to His title of Son of God. But if He Himself had baptised, He would have been entirely below the consciousness which He had of the object of His coming, and of that which was going to happen: it was not the truth for Him; although He was truly the Messiah, He came not to take this place then, but to give His life a ransom for many. That which drove Him away from Jerusalem, hindered Him also from baptising. The city where formerly He had been seated between the cherubim, and whose children He had often desired to gather together, drove Him from its neighbourhood; He went away, the despised and rejected of men, without having where to lay His head, to carry the testimony of God's love elsewhere, and to display it in His Person. This supposed that He was rejected as Messiah; but more, God manifested in grace, and coming, according to the promises made to the Jewish people, He was the last test of the human heart, which was thus found to be enmity against God, and against God come in grace. It was a question, then, of God's sovereign grace when man would not have Him; it was necessary then that He should be found quite apart, that He should have nothing down here - He who, coming amongst men to bring them love, a love which answered to all their necessities, was at the same time light for their consciences, put Himself within the reach of all, used their very necessities to gain them in love, but called them to the enjoyment of heavenly things, which He, and He alone, was able to reveal to them.

164 We shall see that the fourth chapter answers perfectly to this position. But what a precious and deep truth to see the Son of God, God manifest in flesh, rejected; He who had come according to the promises, giving up everything down here, made nothing of, and abased, and shewing in this very thing the fulness of the Godhead in love and light - always hidden in lowliness, so as to be near all, and taking nothing of that which was His own, so as to be Himself alone everywhere, as God must be, and always manifested, if any one had eyes to see - all the more manifested because He was hidden, that the love might come nigh unto all, this infinite love of God manifested in His humiliation, in order to reach those who lay low, in alienation and hatred - infinite love, love which was above everything, in its exercise towards those who hated it - Master of Himself, in order to be the Servant of all, from His Father down to the most; wretched of sinners, and that even unto death! Shall we not love Him? We cannot fathom these things; but that which He has been manifestly, can take possession of our whole heart, and form, or rather create, its affections by the object presented to them. He has sanctified Himself for us, that we might be sanctified by the truth. Looked at in this way, this chapter has an immense bearing; but we will follow out the facts historically as they are presented to us.

165 In going from Judea into Galilee, the Lord, unless He made a circuitous journey, must pass through Samaria. Now Samaria, whilst seeking to appropriate the promises, was outside the circle of them: they belonged to the Jews. But the pretensions of the Samaritan to have part in them excessively irritated the Jews. Indeed, though mixed, the population of Samaria was, in great part, of heathen origin. "Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil," said the Jews to Jesus. The Samaritans were in fact outside the promises and people of God. The Lord recognised these promises and that people, but He introduced that which was above both, and set them aside (v. 21-24, and already v. 5, 6). If Jacob's well was there, the Son of man was there too, the Son of man, weary with His journey, thirsty, and without water, in the heat of the day, with no resting-place but the side of the well where He might sit, and dependent for a little water and to quench His thirst, upon any one who might come - upon a poor Samaritan woman, abandoned, and the offscouring of the world. This woman, tired of life, comes to draw water. Isolated in fact, isolated in her heart, she did not come at the time when women draw water. She had followed after pleasure in doing her own will; she had had five husbands, to whom, probably, she had been devoted, and the one she had was not her husband. She was weary of life; her will and her sin had left her heart void; she was isolated and abandoned by the world: her sin had isolated her; respectable people did not want her; nor was this astonishing. But there was One who was more isolated than she, who was alone in this world, whom no one understood, not even His disciples! What man, in the midst of this perverse world, understood the heart of Him who brought the thoughts of God into a world of sin, His love into a world of selfishness, His light into a world of darkness, heavenly things into the midst of a world which grovelled in material interests? This was good in the midst of evil, perfect good there where there was none. There was a point of contact between these two, love on the one hand, and need on the other: but grace was necessary to produce the consciousness of the need.

166 The manner of Jesus had attracted the woman's attention: a Jew speaking kindly to a Samaritan woman, content to be beholden to her! The Lord begins from on high, by divine grace, joined to the perfect humiliation and lowliness which set the goodness of God within the reach of man, grace which shews itself, which is measured, in going down so far as to meet with sin, and the misery to which sin has reduced us. The Lord indicates the two things. "If thou knewest the gift of God." In Jesus, God does not demand anything. He produces every kind of good, but He makes no demand. There was here no right to anything, no promise; there was no morality, no link with God existed; but grace existed in God for those who were in this state. The woman's attention was arrested; she saw something extraordinary, without rising above the circumstances in which her spirit moved. But the Lord goes to the source of all, or rather He came from it in His spirit. Two things are seen here, as I have just said; God giving in grace, and the perfect humiliation of Him who was speaking. Next, what this gift of God was is revealed, that is, the present enjoyment, by the power of the Holy Ghost, of eternal life in heaven.

How many new things these few words contained! God was giving, in grace and in goodness; He was making no demands, He was not turning back to man's responsibility, which is the basis of eternal judgment, but was acting in the freedom and power of His holy grace. Then, He who had created the water was there, weary and dependent, in order to be able to drink of it from such a woman, who did not know what she was. He does not say, "If thou knewest me," but, "If thou knewest who it is that saith unto thee, Give me to drink," who He is who has come down so low, surmounting all the barriers which kept Him from thee, "thou wouldest have asked of him." Confidence would have been established: as to goodness and as to power, He could, and would, give that which brought into relationship with God. There was the answer: "He would have given thee living water"; words clear enough, it would seem; but the poor woman cannot get further than the circumstances of her daily labour. It is not now with her, astonishment in seeing Him who spoke with her, passing over religious barriers, but the impossibility, as He was, of having water; for she goes no further than her daily toil, though seeing plainly that she has to do with an extraordinary Person; the Lord was leading her on, she knew not yet where. Was He, then, who spoke to her greater than Jacob, the stock of Israel, who had given them the well? The Lord now expresses more clearly what was in question: "Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again, but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water, springing up into everlasting life."

167 But to arrest the attention of a soul, however useful this may be, is not to convert it: the moral communication between the soul and God is not yet established by the knowledge of oneself and of Him; the eyes are not yet opened. Thus the heart remains in its natural surroundings, absorbed, or at least governed, by the circle in which it lives. The poor woman, attracted by the Lord's manner, which had gained ascendency over her, asks Him to give her of this water, so that she need no longer come there to draw laboriously. All true intelligence was wanting to her: she was absorbed by her weariness and labour, and the circle of her thoughts went no further than her waterpot, that is to say, than herself, but herself possessed by her circumstances. This is human life, and people judge of revealed things by their relation to these circumstances; sometimes we find moral truth, as here; sometimes open unbelief. How can an entrance be found into the heart of man? This is easy for God, and for man this entrance is found when God is there, and reveals Himself, and man's conscience is touched. "Adam, where art thou?" He hid himself, because he was naked. All was out. The fig-leaves that could set him at ease in hiding him from himself were simply nothing when God was there. The first manifestation of this new faculty in man, conscience, this sad but useful companion that always goes with him now through his career, as a part of his being is, for God, the only door of entrance to the heart, and for man, of intelligence. Only here it is love, never weary, that acts. God and the sinner are found each in his true place; man, responsible entirely known of God, but feeling that all is known, and that He who knows him is there.

I dwell a little on this point, because it is the opposite of the entrance of paradise; it is not paradise regained, or even that which is much better, but the soul receiving subjectively truth and grace in the Person of Jesus, who gives it the capacity for this. In either case its state of sin is revealed to the soul; but in paradise it was to judge, and begin a world where God was not, but where Satan reigned; here sin also is manifested, but God is manifested in this same world in love; formerly light and judgment; now, light and grace. All understanding as to the gift of God, of the Person of Christ, of eternal life, was wanting, and had no place in the woman's heart. "There is none that hath understanding." But whilst, formerly, God had driven out man, here love remains perseveringly near the sinner; when it is God, love is persevering and patient. Only all must be real: "Go, call thy husband, and come hither." "I have no husband," replies the woman. It is shame which, though speaking the truth, hides the evil; not an upright conscience before God. But patient love still carries on its work; it pursues it there, where entrance is found into the understanding - or rather into the soul of man, which is thoroughly wanting in understanding as to divine things - conscience. "Go, call thy husband." Then, upon her answer, the Lord tells the woman enough of her history to make her know that she has to do with Him before whom all is naked and laid bare.

168 The work was going on in this soul; her attention, we have said, had been arrested. The effect deserves to be well considered; the woman neither excuses herself, nor is astonished, nor asks, How dost thou know this? The word of God is for her the word of God. "Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet." She does not only say, That which thou sayest is true; no, the authority and source of the word of Jesus were for her divine. All He says comes from God, who reveals Himself by this means among men. This is a deep change in the soul's condition. God has spoken to her, and she has recognised that it is He; but more, that His word, as a whole, as a source, is of Him. What she thought was, not only that Jesus, in this particular case, spoke the truth, although that was the means by which her conscience was reached, but God was speaking to her conscience, and that always produces the effect we see here: He who was speaking was a true and sure source of divine communications. It was faith in the word of God, the soul brought into communication with Him: all that He said had for her a divine authority. Divine intelligence was there with regard to the things in which God was drawing near to man.

169 Nevertheless the woman was still pre-occupied with that which filled her mind: Ought we to worship at Jerusalem, or on Mount Gerizim? It was the external aspect of what existed, and her mind had been exercised about these things: Where was God to be found? - but in a way which did not go beyond what was in man. God takes the opportunity of revealing the true, the new worship, the worship of the Father, of God, in spirit and in truth. This change characterises the whole of the chapter, that is, the introduction of heavenly relationships in the place of the earthly Jewish system, a change which depended upon the revelation of the Father in the Son, a change but little known as yet, but which was necessarily connected with His Person, and of which consequently, He could say, "the hour now is" (v. 23).

Two things, based upon the revelation which was being made, characterised this worship; the nature of God, and the Father's grace. The worship of the true God must be a worship "in spirit and in truth." God's nature required this; God is a Spirit; and the worship would not be according to what God is, if it were not "in truth," for what is false is not according to what He is, and the revelation of that which He is has come in Christ, who is Himself the truth, for "grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." The law given by Moses told what man ought not to do, and the Lord knew well how to find in this law that which man ought to feel; to love God and his neighbour. But the law does not reveal what God is, it reveals what man ought to be. Now here was God fully revealed in the world, who, rejected as Messiah, object of promise, leaves His special connection with the Jewish people, although it had been (outside that which was earthly and legal) established by Himself, and comes to reveal Himself in the Person of the Son, substituting God amongst men, in grace, for all the forms in the midst of which, hidden behind the veil, He forbade all men to come near Him - to reveal Himself I say, to all this ignorance, which worshipped she knew not what, and where there was no answer whatever to the needs of the heart. It was the Father seeking true worshippers in spirit and in truth, according to His own nature fully revealed; for "God is a Spirit, and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth." But grace precedes; the initiative is with God; He comes Himself to seek such worshippers. We have seen that it was the gift of God; but God is Light, and He reveals Himself. It is, we have also seen, God revealed in goodness, but the conscience reached by the light, and God giving that which springs up unto everlasting life.

170 Thus it is the grace of the Father which seeks, the light of God that acts on the conscience, grace which gives divine life, according to the presence in power of the Holy Ghost, and all the truth which unfolds itself in this: this is what produces true worship in spirit and in truth. All that belongs to Jerusalem and Samaria is necessarily left behind by the presence of God Himself, the Son revealing the Father, and communicating eternal life in connection with heavenly things; the Messiah being rejected, and the Father's heart being the source of all, which places us necessarily in connection with heaven, by Him who can reveal these things, Himself the Son of the Father.

We may remark here that our Gospel speaks of the revelation of the Father in the Son; of what God is, who is the object of worship; of that which reaches the conscience; of eternal life; but not of that which purifies the conscience. This last subject is not that which John treats of in his Gospel, but John speaks of the revelation of God the Father in the Son; of this revelation for judgment, as to its result, and according to grace, as to its object; it is the Son in the world, to reveal His God and Father, and as eternal life. At the end of the Gospel, the Holy Ghost is introduced in place of the Son, that we may know Him as Man in heaven at the right hand of God.

We find an example of the isolation of the Lord in the total want of intelligence in the disciples, when the Lord opens His heart, in the joy that the prospect of the conversion of sinners gave Him - of the fruit of His ministry. Except communion with His Father, which He always enjoyed, the Lord had no joy upon earth but in the exercise of His love in the good that He did. that was worthy of God. Perfect whilst being truly Man in His communion on high, and exercising His love down here, He went about doing good. Such was His whole life, except the sufferings He endured at the hands of men, He, a Man of sorrows, and knowing well what languor was. Not that He was without human affection: He loved Martha, and Mary, and Lazarus; He loved him whose Gospel we are reading; but this does not appear till His hour had come. He defers all expression of it until then, explicitly as to His mother, and, as we see in the history, as to what concerns John and the family at Bethany. In His ministry He was wholly for His Father, and for the sinners of the world; His meat was to do the will of Him that sent Him, and to finish His work (v. 34).

171 The result for the woman, who received a flood of fresh light in her soul, and who, even while being enlightened, had suddenly too much light to see distinctly, is, that she refers it to Christ. God had brought it about by a real work in her conscience. She thought that if only she had the Christ (for Him she believed in, and knew He was to come), He would tell her all clearly, and make her know all things. It is there that the woman was brought; and Christ was there before her. It is always thus. Many questions arise in an awakened and sincere soul, but when Christ is found, all comes out clearly, there is a full answer to all the soul's needs: all is found. But who was He who had acted upon the heart and conscience of this poor woman, and who had been good to her, when He knew all that she had done? When the word of God reaches the conscience, it is not the flesh that acts, it is the Saviour-God, who has been there all along.

There is another interesting little circumstance to be remarked here. We have seen the isolated woman bowed down under the burden of life, whose ill-requited labour was represented by the pitcher: she was absorbed by it, her heart could not throw it off: now (and it is not for nothing that the Holy Ghost presents to us these little touches) the pitcher is entirely forgotten. The woman does not seek isolation any longer; she goes to announce to everyone what she has found; this Man was surely the Christ (v. 28, 29). No doubt she had to draw water again, but the burden that weighed upon her soul was taken off, the energy of a new life was there. What she said touched very nearly on her shame; but Jesus filled her heart, and she can talk of these things, in finding Christ there - Christ who preoccupied her by the light of His grace: "Come, see a man who hath told me all things that ever I did; is not he the Christ?" When she got home, she could think of the gift of God, and of Him who had said to her, "Give me to drink"; but all her further life is lost in the splendour of the revelation of God in Christ.

We may remark that the reapers gathered fruit unto life eternal, and also received their hire. The prophets had laboured (the woman was expecting the Christ), also John the Baptist. The disciples were only reaping, but the fields were white unto harvest. In the very worst times, when judgment even is close at hand, God has His good part, and faith sees it, and is consoled by it.

172 Notice, too, that the Samaritans call Jesus "the Saviour." They knew very well, at bottom, that their Gerizim was nothing, but under the influence of grace, that opened their hearts to a wider conception of the Saviour's work. No Jew would have said, "the Saviour of the world."

As His field of work, Jesus does not take again the road to Jerusalem - He goes away into Galilee. His own country had rejected the Prophet, and lost the Saviour. This expression, which embraces all the extent of the scene of His redeeming work as Saviour, closes this account, where His departure from Judea to introduce it into the sphere of sovereign grace is given to us, while presenting the principles of eternal life, and of the worship to be rendered to the Father.

The following episode, in which the illness of the courtier's son is related to us, begins, I think, to unfold to us the great elements of the revelation of God in the Person of the Son, first of all in healing that which remained in Israel, but ready to perish. Further on He shews that man is dead spiritually; but there were in Israel quickened souls, as we see indeed in the beginning of Luke. But all was going to perish; the nation was going to be judged, was going to terminate its existence under the old covenant, no longer to subsist in relationship with God as a vessel of blessing. But He who is the Resurrection and the Life was there, to awaken and sustain life individually, to be its bread, there, where faith received Him. He shewed this, too, at Jerusalem, but it began naturally in Galilee, in the midst of the poor of the flock, where He went when He was driven out of Judea. Faith receives the word of Christ, and He who is the Life and who brings it, re-animates it taking away weakness, and communicates life. This application that we make of physical restoration is fully sanctioned by the use the Lord makes of it in the following chapter. The principle and faith are equally simple here; the father believed in the power of Jesus, but his faith was like that of Martha, Mary, and the Jews; he believed that Jesus could heal* - nothing more. He prays the Lord to come down before his son dies. Jesus would have men believe on a word, and not only in seeing signs; however He does not raise the question of the power to quicken, but He has compassion on the poor father, making everything depend, nevertheless, on faith in His word, when He says to the father, "Thy son liveth." The father believes the word of Jesus, and goes away; on the way he meets his servants, and they announce to him that his son is healed, and that this was so at the very moment when Jesus said the word. "And he believed, both he and all his house." The power of death had been arrested by the power of life come from above, and the man that had profited by it believed in Him who had brought it, and who was it; for in Him was life. (Compare 1 John 1:1-3 and ch. 5:11-12.)

{*This doctrine is fully developed in chapter 5.}

173 John 5

There still remained amongst the Jews some fragments of the ancient blessing: "I am Jehovah that healeth thee"; and by the administration of angels, a general principle of the ways of God among this people. It was but little, but a sign that God had not entirely abandoned His people; there were still cures in the pool of Bethesda; he who was the first to throw himself into it, when the angel troubled the water, was healed. The man who thus went into the water shewed faith in the intervention of God, and the desire to profit by it. But the history recorded for us in chapter 5 leads us to a far greater power, and to far more important principles.

A poor paralytic man was there, in the midst of all these infirm people who were lying in the porches of the pool; Jesus comes there. What is presented in Him has a double character; He is the answer in power to all need, and He also gives life.

There were needs in Israel at that time, needs of the soul, as well as of the body, and a consciousness of these needs. The Lord could say, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." The poor paralytic man is the type and figure of this. In order that the object of the blessings which were enjoyed under the law should be able to profit by them, he must have power in himself. Whether it be to have righteousness according to the law, or whether to enjoy other blessings, there must be, in the man who wished to possess them, a subjective state fitted for this; there must be power in man. The paralytic man's disease had deprived him of that power which was necessary in order to profit by the means of healing. It is the same thing as to sin. The blessings and means which the law offers, demand strength in man. The desire to be healed is supposed - "Wilt thou be made whole?" The Lord puts the question thus. Power was wanting, as in Romans 7, to will was present. Jesus brings with Him the power that heals; the good which He does, does not demand power in us. It was when we were deprived of all strength that His grace acted. (See Romans 5:6.) In John, we must remember, it is a question of life; even when he speaks of the cross, it is for eternal life, not for pardon.

174 Jesus then comes: power is in what He says; it accompanies His word - and the man is healed. Now that day was the sabbath. God's rest is the portion of His people; the sabbath was thus the sign of the covenant made with Israel; Exodus 31:13; Ezek. 20:12. The sabbath was the rest of the first creation, and of the first covenant, which depended upon the responsibility of man, and upon his strength to accomplish that which it demanded of him: "Do this, and thou shalt live." It was for man to act in order to get blessing. Here all is changed. God could not rest where sin was, where misery was; His holiness and His love made the thing equally impossible. Corruption, depravity, the horrors that sin produced, did not make of such a scene the scene of God's rest, of which the sabbath was the expression and the figure, but upon the principle of obligation and law. But before the law even, the sabbath had been instituted as the rest of the old creation. The law imposed it, but man never entered into it, and a ruined creation was not God's rest, and did not give rest to man's troubled spirit. But God, if He could not rest, could work in grace: and this is the answer, infinitely beautiful, and beautiful because it is true, that the Saviour makes to the accusation of the Jews. It was the judgment of the entire old creation, but it said that since the fall, the grace of Him who was now fully revealed, the Father, in the coming of the Son, was working, to quicken and bless, at the work of the new creation (viewed in its moral aspect); for everywhere here it is this side, not the outward manifestation in result that we find. "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." Unless it be in His infinite essence, God has no rest: infinite blessing! grace without measure! God acts, He works now. When He shall have rest as to His operations, we shall have it with Him, and in the knowledge of the Father and the Son. God will rest in His love, in the blessing which surrounds Him in the glory of the Son, in the accomplishment of His counsels, in the eternal blessedness of which He is the centre and source.

175 We shall now see what this work is which the Father and the Son are doing, for it is of them that he speaks, of these names which John always uses in speaking of the operations of grace. He says, indeed, that God so loved - which is the source and foundation of all; there the Son of man and the Son of God, and God Himself, are introduced as source and foundation of all blessing; but when the subject is the operations of grace, in John, we always find the Father and the Son.

The Jews understood perfectly the position which Jesus took, and sought to kill Him. The Lord does not refuse this position which the apostle John recognises as His (for in verse 18 it is John who speaks); but He puts everything in its place. All that the Father does, He does it; but it is not as another, a second and independent authority, that He acts. He does that which the Father does, and He does nothing else: He acts in agreement with the Father, and moved by the same thought as He, and He does an things that the Father does. But having taken the form of a servant, He does not leave it, and whilst declaring Himself one with the Father (for before Abraham was He was the "I AM"), He receives all, in the position He has taken, in these operations of grace, and in their fruits in glory, from the Father's hand. This is striking in this Gospel, where the divine side of His Person is more fully brought out than in the others, although it be not more definitely affirmed. We find constantly that when He speaks of being on the same footing as His Father, He places Himself, nevertheless, ever upon the ground of receiving all from Him.

Jesus then goes on here to the work which, in fact, was being accomplished, and is being still accomplished, whether by the Father, or by the Son only, and He does all that the Father does. There is one work which He does as Son of man, and which the Father does not. "Father" is the name of grace and relationship; "Son of man," that of conferred authority. If the Father and the Son work, it is a work of grace that is in question. But the Father has not been humbled; He remains in the unchangeable glory of the Godhead. All judgment is committed to the Son, so that those who shall have despised Him, will be compelled to recognise Him by this means.

176 But let us take the instructions of the passage in their order. The Son does more than heal; "for as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: that all men should honour the Son even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father which hath sent him" (v. 21-23). Thus the Son's glory is maintained in a twofold manner, in that like the Father He quickens, and this we can understand, for we are in relation with the Father and the Son, as partaking of the divine life; then by judgment, for the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the San, that all may honour Him. Those who are quickened, honour Him with all their heart, and with goodwill; those who do not believe, judgment will compel to honour Him, in spite of themselves.

To which of these two classes do I belong? The 24th verse furnishes us with the answer to this question - a simple, complete answer, and full of precious light. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but is passed from death unto life." The word of Christ is that which is presented to the soul, to bring the glad tidings of grace: the effect produced, where this word is received, is faith in the Father as having sent His Son. But He who thus believes in the Father as sending His Son, grace and truth thus come in Him, has eternal life. That is one side of the answer; he who believes is quickened. We have seen that this is one means of ensuring the Son's glory: the other means is not mixed up with this one. If Christ has quickened, it is not to put His work to the test of judgment; that is impossible: Christ would judge His own work, and would call in question its efficacy; and who is the judge? The consequence is evident: the other means of ensuring Christ's glory is not employed; he who has received life does not come into judgment. I limit myself to what the passage before us says; otherwise we should remember that He who sits as Judge is the same One who bore the sins of all those who believe. But John does not treat this side of the subject: to judge him who believes, would be to call in question the quickening work of Christ, and that of the Father also.

177 Here is what is precise and formal as to the two things by which the Son is glorified; that is, the quickening of souls, and judgment; the first which He accomplishes, in common with the Father; the second, which is entrusted to Him alone, because He is the Son of man.

This is not all that is said here. He who has eternal life is "passed from death unto life." It was not a cure: the soul had been spiritually dead, separated from God, dead in its trespasses and sins, and it has come out of that state of death by the quickening power of the Saviour. It is not merely that, being quickened, it escapes the consequences of its responsibility when the day of judgment shall come: the Lord has taken the other means, in grace, of glorifying Himself with regard to it. The soul was already dead: it is the teaching of the Epistle to the Ephesians: a new creation. The unrepentant sinner will come into judgment, if he who is under grace escapes it. But we are all dead now; it is the state of us all already: we are dead as regards God, without a single sentiment which answers to what He is, or to His call, and if it were a question merely of that which is found in man, it would be impossible to awaken any. But God communicates life, and the soul passes from death unto life. It is a new creation; we become partakers of the divine nature. At the same time it ever remains true that we shall give account of ourselves to God, that we shall all be manifested before the judgment-seat of Christ; but it is not a question there, for us who believe, of any judgment as to our acceptance. We are in the glory, like Christ, when we get there; Christ Himself will have come in person to seek us, that we may be there, and He will have changed the body of our humiliation into conformity to His body of glory.

Let us continue to study our chapter. The Father quickens; the Son also quickens and judges. The hour was coming, and had then already come, when it would not only be the Messiah, Jehovah Himself, who would heal the sick in Israel, in keeping with the promises and prophecies given to Israel according to the government and discipline of God in the midst of His people, working a cure which might give place to a more severe discipline; but from this time quickening power and eternal life in the Person of the Son, who revealed the Father in grace, were come, so that the dead should hear the voice of the Son of God, and those that should hear it should live (v. 25). This was the great proclamation as to life: it was there, and as the Father had life in Himself, He had given to His Son, a Man upon earth, to have life in Himself - a divine prerogative, but here found in a Man, come in grace upon earth.

178 I have already noticed that, while shewing us in Christ things which belong to God only, and that absolutely, in the Gospel of John, the Son, having become Man and Servant, never leaves the position of receiving everything. He has received authority also to execute judgment, because He was the Son of man. But one might be judged upon earth, and in fact the living will be judged there.

There still remains an important part of His power which belongs to the teaching of this chapter: the dead shall rise again, and, according to that which has already been declared in verse 24, life and judgment are not mingled here. Men were not to marvel that the souls who should hear His voice would live by the spiritual life which He could communicate: the hour was coming (and that hour was not yet come, and is not yet come) when all those who are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth … It is no longer here, "those who shall hear shall live," but all shall hear, and shall come forth; those who have done well to the resurrection of life, those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

Notice carefully, that, although the judgment assigns to each one his place according to his works, it is not the judgment that separates the risen; the resurrection itself makes the separation. Those who have done well have not part in the same resurrection as those who have done evil. He does not here speak of the interval of time which separates the resurrection of the one from the resurrection of the other; that must be sought in the revelation that God gives of the dispensations. Here it is a question of the essence of things: there is a resurrection, which is that of the just, called thus; and another resurrection, distinct from the former, a resurrection of judgment, in which the living, glorified in the first, do not participate. Sometimes, indeed, a difficulty has been raised as to the word, "hour," which is employed here, but it is a poor argument, for the same expression is found again in verse 25, which presents to us as an "hour," a space of time which has lasted nearly two thousand years, and which comprises two distinct states of things - one in which Christ upon earth acts personally, and the other, in which Christ glorified acts by the Spirit. These two epochs, nevertheless, make up but one "hour," from the point of view in the passage; it is the same thing here. The first hour is the period during which Christ quickens souls; the other hour, the period of verse 28, is that during which Christ raises bodies. This is quite simple; one of these hours, as I have said, has already lasted more than eighteen centuries.

179 Having declared these great truths, which reach to the end of God's ways with men, in His Person, as to life, and as to judgment, Christ goes back to the great principle which was at the very beginning of His discourse; that is, that He could do nothing as an independent Person from the Father. If it had been otherwise, it would have been, indeed, the denial of that bond between Him and the Father in which they were one, and which was found in everything, with this additional fact, that He had the form of a servant, of One sent by the Father. He did nothing of His own will: according as He heard, He judged, and His judgment was just, for He sought not His own will in anything, but that of the Father who had sent Him (v. 30). No selfish motive whatever was to be found in His manner of viewing things, but the judgment which He formed, whatever it might be, flowed from the communications that the Father made to Him: this was divine perfection. He acted as Man, and as sent, but He did so according to the immutable perfection of God, not of Himself as a Man, which would not even have been human perfection, but forgetfulness of Him whose Servant He had become. Still, it was as Son of man, in this title of glory as of grace, of Him who had been humbled, that He executed judgment with authority.

The rest of the chapter treats of the question of man's responsibility as to life, as that which precedes presented to us the sovereign grace that gives life. Divine life was present in the Person of Jesus, and God had vouchsafed four testimonies to men that it was there: the testimony of John Baptist; the works which the Father had given Him to do; the Father Himself; and the Scriptures. They had been glad to rejoice in John the Baptist for a time, for the people held him to be a prophet. Now John had borne a clear testimony to the Lord on the part of God. Then the works of Jesus were an unexceptionable testimony that the Father had sent Him: the Father had given Him these works to do, and He did them. The Father Himself also had borne witness to Him: the multitude had thought they heard thunder; but His word did not dwell in them, for they believed not Him whom He had sent Finally, they had got the Scriptures; they boasted of this, they thought to find eternal life in them; and what they did was to bear witness to Christ, to Jesus, who was there before their eyes. The Life was there, living before them; they had these testimonies, but they would not come to Him, that they might have life. The life was there, but they would not profit by it (v. 40). It was not that the Lord sought glory from men; but He knew them, and knew that they had not the love of God in them. He was come in His Father's name, revealing what He was; they would not receive Him, alas! because He revealed Him perfectly. Another should come in his own name, with human pretensions, and adapted to man's heart, not to God's heart, him they would receive (v. 43). Terrible prophecy of that which shall happen to the people, as a consequence of their rejection of Jesus, and of the motives which impelled them to reject Him. The Antichrist will deceive them in the last days, because he will come with pretensions and motives adapted to the heart and desires of carnal men; the Jews will give themselves up to his deceptions and pretensions. The state of their souls hindered them from receiving the truth; they sought to receive honour and esteem from men, not the honour which comes from God alone. They were not following the path of faith, but quite the contrary; not that the Lord would accuse them before the Father: Moses, in whom they boasted, sufficed for that. He, in whom they placed their confidence, bore the most explicit testimony to the Lord. If they had believed Moses, they would have believed Jesus also: Moses had written of Him.

180 It is important to remark one or two things here: first of all, the clear testimony which the Lord bears to the writings of Moses; the writings were the writings of Moses; he had written concerning Christ. That which he had written was the word of God; one must believe what he said. More, that which is written is authority pre-eminently, as Peter says: "No prophecy of scripture"; and Paul, "Every scripture is inspired of God." Besides, it is evident that if men ought to believe in what Moses had written of Christ so many centuries before His coming, that which Moses wrote was divinely inspired. It is evident that what Jesus said had divine authority; but as to the form of communication, the Lord attaches more importance to that which was written, than to that which was communicated by the living voice: God had deposited it there for all times - a very important testimony for these days of infidelity.

181 John 6

The fifth chapter presented to us Christ quickening whom He will in common with the Father, then judging as the Son of man. It is Christ acting in His divine power. In the sixth chapter He is the food of His people, as Son of man come down from heaven, and dying. It is not His quickening power in contrast with the obligation of the law, but who He was, the history of His Person, if I may dare to say so - that which He is essentially, that which He became - a history which terminates by His entering again as Son of man there where He was before: it is essentially the humiliation of Jesus in grace, in contrast with that which He was in right of enjoyment, with that which was promised in the Messiah when He should be upon earth. The teaching of this chapter embraces all, from His coming down from heaven, until He enters it again, so that in descending and ascending, He fills all things; but this teaching rests especially on the Lord's incarnation and death, in connection with which He gives eternal life, and introduces His own into the glory of the new creation, far above and beyond all that an earthly Messiah could give.

Jesus went away beyond the sea of Galilee, and sat there upon a mountain with His disciples. Now the passover was near; and this fact gives the tone to all the discourse we have here. Lifting up His eyes, Jesus sees the multitude that had followed Him, and asks Philip where they should buy bread for all this people, knowing well what He would do. The disciples think, not according to the thoughts of faith, but considering the resources upon which man can calculate; one thinks of what would be needed, the other, of what there was. There was indeed an immense disparity between the five loaves of bread and the five thousand men. Now one of the promises made for the time of the Messiah, was, that Jehovah would satisfy His poor with bread (Psalm 132); and Jesus accomplished this promise, working a miracle, which had its effect on the crowds which surrounded Him; there was abundance, and there remained over and above.

182 This gives occasion (v. 14-21) to a kind of framework of the Lord's whole history, a history in which He replaces the Messianic blessings by spiritual and heavenly blessings which should be consummated in resurrection, upon which He insists four times in the course of the chapter. He is recognised as the Prophet who was to come; they wish to make Him a king; but He avoids that by going up to pray alone, and the disciples cross the sea without Him. They are looked upon here in the character of the Jewish remnant; still, it is this that has become the Christian assembly. But these few verses give us, as I have said, the framework of Christ's history, recognised as Prophet, and refusing royalty, to exercise priesthood on high, whilst His people cross the waves of a troubled world with difficulty. As soon as Jesus rejoins them, they arrive at the place where they were going; difficulties are over, their goal reached: here the disciples represent entirely the Jewish remnant.

The multitude rejoin the Lord on the other side of the sea, astonished to find Him there, knowing that there was not, where He had been, any other boat but that of His disciples. The Lord accuses them of seeking Him, not because they had seen the miracle, but because they had eaten the loaves, and had been filled, and He invites them to seek that food which abides unto life eternal, which the Son of man would give them; for Him had God the Father sealed (v. 26, 27).

In the fifth chapter Jesus is Son of God; here, Son of man, and we shall see what faith in Him as such works. The legal question of the crowd (v. 28), rather vague and trivial, introduces this development. What shall we do (they say), that we may work the works of God? This is the work of God (the Lord replies), that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent. Thereupon they ask of Him a sign, led of God in their question, remembering the gift of the manna in the desert, as it was written: "He gave them bread out of heaven to eat."

This quotation introduces directly the doctrine of the chapter. Christ was the bread. It was not a question of shewing a sign to men; He was Himself the sign of God's intervention in grace, in His Person as Son of man come down here upon earth, and not as Prophet, or Messiah, or King. My father gives you the true bread which comes from heaven. The Father - it is always He when it is a question of active grace - gave them the bread of God. The true bread, in its nature, is He who cometh down from heaven, and giveth life to the world. This goes entirely outside Judaism: it is the Father, the Son of man, He who comes down from heaven, and whom God gives for the life of the world; not Jehovah fulfilling the promises made to Israel by the coming of the Son of David, although Jesus was this indeed. Like the poor Samaritan woman - but impelled here by a vague need of the soul, they ask that the Lord would give them part in this bread of God which gives life. This furnishes the occasion for the full development of the teaching of Jesus. "I am the bread of life. He who cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth in me shall never thirst" (v. 35). If you would have bread for ever which is food indeed, come to Me; you shall never hunger. But, adds the Lord (for such was Israel's state, always thus looked upon in John), ye have seen Me, and ye believe not. If it be a question of you, and of your responsibility, all is lost: the bread of life has been presented to you, and ye would not eat of it, ye would not come to Me to have life; but the Father has counsels of grace, He will not allow you all to perish. "All that the Father has given me shall come to me"; for grace, sovereign and certain in its effects, is clearly taught in this Gospel: since it is the Father who has given him to Me, I will never cast out the one that comes to Me, however wicked he may have been, or insolent enemy of Myself. The Father has given him to Me, and I am not come to do My will, but the will of Him that hath sent Me. What a humble place the Lord takes here, although all was fulfilled at His expense! He had made Himself a Servant, and He accomplishes the will of another only, the will of Him who sent Him (v. 38).

183 This will is now presented to us in a double aspect, and in a very striking manner: "This is the will of him that sent me, that of all that he hath given me, I should lose nothing." Their salvation is assured by the Father's will, the fulfilment of which nothing can hinder. But it is in another world that the blessing will take place. It is no longer here a question of Israel and of the Messiah, but of the resurrection at the last day. The expression, "the last day," which we find four times in this part of the chapter, designates the last day of the legal dispensation in which the Messiah was to come, and will come.

The course of these dispensations has been interrupted by the rejection of the Messiah when He came, which has given place to the introduction of heavenly things, which are brought in parenthetically between the death of the Messiah and the end of the weeks of Daniel. Those whom the Father gives to Jesus will enjoy as raised, the heavenly blessing which the Father's love keeps for them, and which the Son's work assures to them. Not one of them will be lost: all will be raised by the power of the Lord. Such are the unfailing counsels of God.

184 It is also the Father's will that whosoever sees the Son, and believes in Him, has eternal life: and the Lord will raise him up at the last day (v. 40). The Son is presented to all, that they may believe in Him, and whosoever believes has everlasting life. Here, again, it is not a question of the Messiah and of promises, but of seeing the Son, and believing on Him, of eternal life and resurrection. Before, it was the Father's counsels that could not fail; here, it is the presentation of the Son of God as the object of faith; if, through the humiliation of the Lord, one saw the Son, and believed upon Him, one would have everlasting life, and the result would be the same. In the first case it is a question of the Father's counsels and of His acts, as well as of those of Jesus in raising them: the Father gives them, Jesus raises them, not one of them is lost Next, we have the presentation of the Son in connection with man's responsibility: if a man believed, he would have eternal life, and would rise again. These are the two aspects, brought together, in which these great truths are presented.

The Jews murmur because the Lord said that He had come down from heaven. They saw the Son, and did not believe in Him: they knew Him after the flesh; He was, for them, Joseph's son. The Lord then insists upon the fact, that no one can come unto Him unless the Father draw him; He insists upon the necessity of grace to be able to come, not that every one was not free, as people say, to come, for whosoever should see the Son, and believe on Him, would have eternal life; but He shews that the mind of the flesh is enmity against God. There is the blinding of sin, of the flesh, and hatred of God, as far as He reveals Himself; there is none that understandeth, none that seeketh after God; so that the power of grace is needed to dispose the heart to receive Christ. Now when the Father draws to Jesus, it is by efficacious grace in the heart: the eyes are opened, one passes from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God; one passes into a salvation assured by Christ, who will raise up such a soul at the last day. It is the revelation of Jesus to the soul by the grace of the Father: the soul sees the Son, it receives eternal life, it shall never be lost, but raised up at the last day. It is important to observe, that he who is drawn by the Father will never be lost, and that at the last day he will have his part with the redeemed in an entirely new world, in an entirely new state. Such a soul is taught of God to recognise the Son; the Father has spoken to it; it has learned of Him; it comes to Christ, and is saved; not that any one hath seen the Father, save Christ Himself. Christ had revealed Him, and he who believed in Christ had everlasting life (v. 47). Solemn but precious assurance! Eternal life has come down from heaven in the Person of the Son, and he who believes in Him, possesses it, according to the efficacious grace of the Father, who draws him to Christ, and according to the perfect salvation that Christ has accomplished: his faith lays hold, as to life, of this Son of God, who will manifest His power later on, in raising the redeemed one from among the dead.

185 We see that, as in chapter 5, Christ is presented to us as a quickening power, He is here set before us as the object of faith, and that in His humiliation, as come down from heaven, and put to death. It is not the promised Messiah. It is Christ come down from heaven to save those that believe. His re-entrance into heaven is mentioned at the end of the chapter as testimony, with the title, "There, where he was before."

As we have seen, the multitude, under the hidden direction of God, had alluded to the manna, asking some similar sign of the Lord. Jesus had said to them (a touching reply!): I am the sign of God's salvation, and of eternal life sent into the world; I am the manna, the true bread, which the Father, God acting in grace, gives to you: "He that comes to me shall never hunger, and he that believes on me shall never thirst." I recall all this, although we have already spoken of the verses which follow, in order to bring together what is said about the bread, and I pass now directly also to verse 48. "I am the bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die … If any one shall have eaten of this bread, he shall live for ever." Here it is Christ come down from heaven, the incarnation, setting aside all idea of promise; it is the great and mighty fact, that, in the Person of Jesus, people saw Him who was come down from heaven, the Son of God become Man, as we see in the first chapter of the First Epistle of John: "that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have contemplated, and our hands handled, concerning the word of life … the eternal life which was with the Father, and has been manifested to us." It was as to His Person, not yet as to our entrance into it, the beginning of the new order of things. Come of a woman, so that, according to the flesh, He was connected with the human race, Son of man, but still come down from heaven, one with the Father, in order that we might have part in this life, that we might be of this new order of things, He must needs die; otherwise He remained alone. But He had taken this flesh; He had been made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, having taken this flesh, which He was going to give for the life of the world.

186 The first great point, then, was the incarnation, Christ come down from heaven, the Word made flesh - life in Him - and to give eternal life to him who should eat Him. The second point is, that Christ gave this flesh for the life of the world. He must die, close all relationship with the world, and the lost human race, by death; and begin a new seed, that He would not be ashamed to call His brethren, because He that sanctifieth, and they that are sanctified, are all of one; then, redemption* being accomplished, He would introduce them, risen, into the glory of the Father's family, according to the counsels of that Father who had given them to Him. This arrests the Jews: How could this Man's flesh be eaten? But Jesus does not spare them. He is, thus known, eternal life. It was no longer a question of conciliating the Jews, but of giving salvation and eternal life to the world by faith in Him, who had come from heaven for this, and of presenting to the Father those whom the Father had given to Him, such as the Father would have them in His love, and in His counsels, according to His nature, if they were to be in His presence. If they did not eat His flesh, and drink His blood, they had not life. In themselves there was none for that new world of glory, that blessed race. For that, it was necessary that a divine and heavenly life should come down from heaven, and be communicated to souls, and that in a Man; it was necessary that this Man should die, and terminate all relation with the fallen race, and risen, should begin a new race,** possessing the divine life (inasmuch as they had appropriated Christ to themselves by grace), and which should be raised again by the Saviour's power, when the moment should come, "at the last day."

{*This is not our subject here.}

{**I have no doubt that the Old Testament saints were quickened; but we are speaking here of the work upon which their blessing, as ours also, was founded.}

187 This work is accomplished. Now it is not of its efficacy to redeem our souls that we are speaking at this moment, nor of the pardon which we enjoy in virtue of its accomplishment, precious as these truths may be, but of the connection which there is between these divine events and the possession of life, in virtue of which we have part in this redemption and in this pardon, with all the consequences which flow from them. Christ is received in His incarnation; but, though the incarnation preceded necessarily, historically, the Saviour's death, I do not think that one can really seize the bearing of this life of humiliation, unless one first enters into that of His death. Personally, the new thing, as we have already said, was presented in His Person - a Man, God manifested in flesh, but He in whom was life, He who was this eternal life which had been with the Father, and which was now manifested to the disciples. But, in this state, the corn of wheat remained alone, however productive it should be; in order to introduce those whom God gave to Him into the position of the last Adam, of the second Man, it was necessary that He should die, that He should give up His life in this world, to take it again in the state of resurrection, beyond sin, death, the power of Satan, and the judgment of God, after having passed through all these things, and having taken again His life of Man, but in a spiritual and glorified body. Now His death was, morally, the end of man driven out of paradise; His resurrection, the beginning of the new state of man, according to the counsels of God. Now man in Adam had no life in himself; he had not the life of God, and, in order to have it, he must understand and receive not only the incarnation, or a promised Messiah, but the judgment on the first man, borne by Christ's death; he must enter, as to himself, into the conviction, the realisation of this state thus shewn forth, although in grace, in the Saviour's death. He who appropriated to himself the death of Christ, accepted this judgment with regard to himself, when sin (not sins) was condemned in another. Sin in the flesh, which is enmity against God, has been condemned for us. In receiving by faith Christ's death as the absolute condemnation of that which I am, I have part in the efficacy of that which He has done: sin has been before God, and has disappeared from before His eyes in the death of Christ, who, however, had not known it. I say to myself, That is I. I eat it; I place myself there by the operation of the Spirit of God, not that I believe that it is for me personally, but I recognise what His death signified, and I place myself in it by faith in Him. There, where I was, in death spiritually, by sin and disobedience, Christ entered in grace and by obedience, for the glory of His Father, in order that God might be glorified. I recognise my state in His death, but according to the perfect grace of God, according to which He took my place there; for it is in this that we know love, that He laid down His life for us. Now, if one died for all, then were all dead. By faith and repentance I recognise myself there, and I have eternal life. Now I can follow Jesus through the whole of His life, even the fact of His having been a Man down here, and I can feed upon this bread of life, upon all His patience, His grace, His gentleness, His love, His purity, His obedience, His humility - upon all that perfection of every day, and all the day long, which ended only at the cross, where all was consummated. "He who eateth me shall live for ever." I have everlasting life, and Jesus will raise me up at the last day.

188 We have still some points to notice in this chapter.

The verb, "to eat," is employed in it in two different tenses. He who has eaten, has eternal life; he who, by grace, has taken his place in the death of Christ, outside of all promise, of all title of any kind whatsoever, feels that he depends upon the sovereign grace that has placed Christ there, and believes in it. He who shall have eaten of this bread, shall live for ever. But in verses 54 and 56 we have the character of the man, and his eating is a present thing. Two things are the consequence of it: first, he has eternal life, and shall be raised up; secondly, he who feeds upon this bread, dwells in Jesus, and Jesus in him: first of all, general blessing, with salvation present and to come; then communion, and the permanent presence of Jesus with us, and even in us. For as the Father, who has life in Himself, sent Jesus, and Jesus lived because of Him, as inseparable from Him, so he that eateth Christ shall live, because of the life that is in Christ. "Because I live, ye shall live also." It is a union in life, by grace, with Jesus: life in us is inseparable from Him; we live because He lives. He is our life. As He is inseparable from the Father, and even as Man down here, living because of the life that was in the Father, this life in Him could not be separated from the Father, and our life should not be separated from Jesus. That is the bread which came down from heaven, that one may eat of it, and not die.

189 We may also notice that the passage before us comprehends more than a single discourse. The beginning refers to the moment when the crowds met the Lord again after He had crossed the sea, whilst the last part was spoken in the synagogue at Capernaum (v. 59). The Jews were scandalised at it, taking what He said literally, and thinking that Jesus wanted them to eat His flesh; many of His disciples even said, "This is a hard saying, who can hear it?" The Lord appeals to the fact, that He was going to ascend up where He was before. He was not an earthly Messiah, but a heavenly Saviour, come from heaven into this world, come down into this world, in order to accomplish that which was necessary to make us ascend up there, to give eternal life to man, and to raise him up when the moment should come, to give him a part in the second Man, in the Man and in the world of God's counsels and grace, an eternal part in His favour, by redemption, according to His counsels in grace. It was not a succession of dispensations, a Messiah come in glory to terminate them, a Son of David according to the promises; but it is He (and that as a present thing) who came down from heaven to communicate eternal life, and to place the believer in heaven, as to the state of his soul, and finally, as to his body, fit for the light and the divine glory. But to have part in this, one must see Him who came down, not only in humiliation, as the bread come down from heaven, but who has been rejected, such as He was, by man, in order to enter into the presence of God, according to the true state of humanity which was enmity against God - passing through death and judgment, when He was made sin for us - and recommencing His life of Man in an entirely new state, beyond death and judgment. All relationship of God with the first man being impossible, save by the cross, where Christ in grace made a Substitute for the believing sinner met with God; man, dead in trespasses and sins, must know Him in this character, recognising there his own state; that is to say, in Christ dead, made sin, and sin condemned in Him. But the believer, in the fact that he died in thus identifying himself with Christ, as with Him who was made that which man is really himself, and who endured the penalty of it - in this fact, the believer, I say, is dead unto sin, he who before was dead in his trespasses and sins, for he has known himself there where Christ died to sin. Christ died there in grace, as sin condemned before God; and the sinner says to himself, That is really myself; I am that in the flesh; and now, Christ having offered Himself for that, God has made Him sin for us; but Christ, in dying, has done with sin, and therefore I have done with it too. There is, then, no existing relationship between God and the race of the first Adam: the death of Jesus has made evident this fact, when God had tried everything, even to the gift of His Son. God has done with all this race of the first man upon the cross; and as for me, I have done with sin, which was the basis of all this. Oh, how marvellous and perfect are God's ways, full of infinite grace!

190 I recall also that it is not here a question of our present heavenly position; John, as we have said elsewhere, hardly ever speaks of it. Christ will raise up the believer at the last day. He speaks of His own ascension to complete the truth: come from heaven, He will go back there; but He does not associate us with Himself in heaven as a present fruit of His work. For us, He passes from His ascension to the resurrection of our bodies.

One remark more. I have spoken of the incarnation and of the death; and, as to that which is reached here, it is the knowledge of these things that sets us clear, and that delivers us. But the Lord says, in verses 40, 47, that He is come, that whosoever believeth in Him may have everlasting life, and that he that believeth on Him hath everlasting life; so that whosoever really sees the Son of God in the despised Man of Nazareth, has everlasting life. The Lord, however, does not hide the bearing of this fact; His rejection, His death, could but be the consequence of His presentation to a world such as the one in which we live, and of which we are according to the flesh; it is important we should know it.

191 In answering the Jews, offended at the fact of His ascension, Jesus adds, that it is the Holy Ghost that quickeneth - the flesh profiteth nothing - that He did not speak as though they were to eat of His flesh in a material sense. The words He spoke to them were "spirit and life." It was by the word that spiritual things were communicated; and by the power and by the action of the Spirit they become realities, and living realities, in the soul, a real part of our being. But the Lord knew well that there were, even amongst those who followed Him as His disciples, persons who believed not, and He told them so; He well knew, too, who it was who should betray Him. These were the branches that were to be cut off, and that have been. Jesus must walk in the midst of those whom He knew to have no root, of whom He knew even that they would betray Him, and He adds: "It is for this that I said unto you, that no man can come unto me, unless it be given unto him of the Father" (v. 65). From that time many of His disciples left Him, and walked no more with Him.

It is striking to see how the Lord would have that which was true, divine, permanent, and nothing else. That which had led many to follow Him was not hypocrisy; there were, no doubt, hypocrites, but many had come under the influence of a passing impression, which wore off in presence of the difficulties of the way, and before the stumbling-block which was found in the truth, or rather in the prejudices which the truth offended. Jesus therefore said to the twelve, "Will ye also go away?" Simon Peter, always ready to put himself forward, prompted by a warm affection, but full of an ardour which sometimes betrayed him, and involved him in a path, out of which it could not take him with an undefiled conscience, this time becomes, happily, the mouthpiece of all to express true faith. There was with him - with all of them - (not to speak of Judas) a real need, to which Jesus alone answered. This is very important. It does not at all appear that Peter had understood what Jesus had said: he knew not how to accept the sufferings of his Master, who called him Satan on that occasion when the flesh shewed the supremacy it exercised over him. Still, the root was there with Peter; the need of possessing eternal life was awakened in him; he was conscious that this life was only to be found in Jesus, and that He was the sent One of God, come from God; Jesus possessed the words of eternal life. Whatever want of clearness might be in Peter's views, Peter thought of eternal life, with the need of possessing it himself; he believed and knew that Christ had the words which revealed it, and, by grace, communicated it, and that He was the Holy One of God, the One whom the Father had sanctified, and sent into the world. True faith was there, as well as the needs which God produces. There was not knowledge either of the deep truths which Christ was teaching, or of the persons for whom Peter answered, when he said, "we"; but the needs of the soul were there, as well as faith in the words and in the Person of Christ. Thus, through many falls, Peter was kept to prove himself to be faithful to the Saviour to the end, and the Lord confided to him the sheep and lambs He loved - the apostle's ministry amongst the Jews - and also gave him to be the first who should bring in a Gentile. It is interesting to see that if the knowledge of the truths taught in this chapter was wanting, if there was true faith in the words and in the Person of Jesus, as sent of God (not merely as a prophet who spoke that which God gave him to say, but as being personally the Holy One of God, who had the words of eternal life), one possessed this eternal life, one possessed all.

192 John 7

The fifth and sixth chapters, which we have just been through, contain the doctrine of the Person of Christ: the fifth chapter presents Him as the life-giving Son of God, the sixth chapter, as Son of man come down from heaven, dying for men, and thus an object of faith.

In the fourth chapter Jesus had left Judea, to go into Galilee: it was there that He stayed, and presented Himself to the people; He would not walk in Judea any more, for the Jews sought to kill Him. The occasion of this special hatred was His having healed the paralytic on the sabbath-day, and that He presented Himself as Son of God, making Himself equal with God. The first of these acts set aside the Jewish system - not only according to the law, but in that which was the seal of the covenant, and the sign of the part which the Jews had in the rest of God; the second was the introduction, in His Person, of an entirely new system: later on, the healing of the man born blind excited their anger, as we shall see, God willing. A little remnant only attaches itself to Him, with a true, though ignorant, faith, receiving only that which was necessary to have salvation, namely, Christ and His words, as He presented Himself to them; but, I repeat, by a true faith given by God.

193 We find therefore now, in the seventh chapter, the Lord's refusal to present Himself to the world, His brethren's unbelief, and the declaration that the time was not come for Him to celebrate the feast of tabernacles. But this needs some development.

There were three great feasts of the Jews: every male who was a grown up man had to go to Jerusalem to celebrate them; these were, the Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles. The antitype of the Passover is found in the cross; that of Pentecost, in the descent of the Holy Ghost; but the antitype of the Feast of Tabernacles is still wanting: no event answers to it. Nevertheless, the ordinances established for this feast throw light upon that which should be its antitype. The Feast of Tabernacles derives its name from the fact, that the Israelites, once entered into the land of Canaan, ought, according to the law, to live during eight days in huts, made of branches of trees, bearing witness thus that they had been pilgrims in the desert, but that God, in His faithfulness, had brought them into the promised land. Moreover, this feast was celebrated after the harvest, and after the vintage, two events employed everywhere in Scripture as figures of the judgment: the harvest, of the judgment, which separates the good and the bad upon earth; the vintage, of the extent of vengeance on enemies, when Christ shall tread the wine-press. The fulfilment of this feast will take place when Israel shall no longer be dispersed, but shall enjoy the effect of the promises which God has made to them, after the judgment which will separate the tares from the good grain, and after that vengeance has been executed, the wine-press of God trodden, according to Isaiah 63, by the Lord Himself.

Now the time for these things was not yet come when Christ was upon the earth; it was needful for their accomplishment that He should be manifested in glory. To give life as Son of God He could; to suffer as Son of man, it was what He had before Him; but to shew Himself to the world, to fulfil in power all the promises made to Israel, after having judged and destroyed His enemies; for that the moment was not yet come. What He was going to do, but after His rejection and death down here, was, being glorified, to give His Spirit to believers (v. 37-39). The bread come down from heaven He was; as to dying and shedding His blood, that was soon to happen to Him; but if it were a question of judging, of accomplishing the promises down here, and of shewing Himself to the world, it could only take place later on, when He would take His great power, and act as a King. In the meantime, having ascended on high, He was going to give His Spirit, until He returned.

194 Such is the teaching of this chapter: we are going to consider some details of its contents. Times are of God, as well as facts. It was not then for Jesus the time to shew Himself to the world, nor to observe the feast of Tabernacles. All times suit those who are of the world to profit by that which is worldly They are of the world, and float with its current. The world does not hate them: there, where God's testimony is, is the object of its hatred. An upright mind may be struck by the testimony that God bears to the truth, but there is not in this, sufficient motive to break with those who desire opposition, and it is this that the intelligent leaders of evil always desire. Besides, in the world there are opinions for or against a thing, not a conviction of heart and conscience, and thus a need for oneself: it is there that the soul meets with God, and braves the world (chap. 6:68).

The Lord does not go up to the feast, but when His brethren had gone up, then He also went up, and He taught in the temple (v. 9, 10)

Let us notice, in passing, that we must not confound the people and the Jews. The people were composed of Galileans and others, who had come to take part in the feast; the Jews were those of Jerusalem itself, or at least of its environs. Thus, in verse 20, the people did not know that they wanted to kill Jesus; those of Jerusalem, on the contrary, well knew what they were plotting there against Him (v. 25).

The Jews, accustomed to listen to the rabbis, were astonished that Jesus, an illiterate Man from their point of view, could teach as He did. His doctrine was of the Father, not human. The means of understanding it was a state of soul answering to such a mission; the desire to do the Father's will would recognise the word which came from Him (v. 14-17). The moral state of the soul, the single eye, is the means of receiving, of intelligently discerning, the doctrine that comes from the Father; the conscience is open, the heart quite ready to receive the truth. Many things in the teaching may go beyond the knowledge possessed by such a soul; but the teaching answers to its needs; it bears to it the impress of truth, of holiness; it suits God; there is not self-seeking; the good of souls is sought, the conscience is sounded, however dealing in grace. Now there is a conscience in all men; and here the desire to obey is supposed. Such a man discerns that which is of God, when God speaks. It is not reasoning which convinces the mind: reasoning never convinces the will; but the desire being there, it is God who adapts Himself in His teaching to the wants and to the heart of man. It is the truth here, the words of God Himself. But amongst the Jews, and in the mass of the people, all was in confusion. Without scruple as to circumcising, and thus as to violating the sabbath by working, the divine power which healed by a word exercised no influence over them, unless that of producing in them the desire to put to death Him who had given this proof of the goodness and of the power of God, whose rights were beyond even the sabbath. This confusion amongst the unbelievers is striking. Those who came from a distance jeered at the thought that some wished to kill Jesus: those of Jerusalem, who wished to kill Him, on account of the miracle He had done, were astonished that He spoke thus freely, and asked themselves if the rulers had then recognised Him as the true Christ; nevertheless, said they, "when Christ cometh, no one will know whence he is" (v. 27). Further, they wished to take Him; but, says the evangelist, no one laid hands upon Him, because His hour was not yet come. God's ways are sure.

195 Nevertheless many believed on Him (v. 31). The Pharisees heard the people murmuring these things of Him, and sent officers to take Him. These found Jesus occupied in teaching the crowd. There, too, was the same uncertainty: some said that He was the prophet, others that He was the Christ; but others objected that the Christ could not come from Galilee, but that He should come of the seed of David, and from the town of Bethlehem, without giving themselves the trouble to ascertain the fact. Some would have wished to take Him, but no one laid hands on Him, and the officers return under the influence of His words: "Never man spake like this man!" The Pharisees and rulers did not hesitate: they sought to put Him to death. They disperse, disgusted. This is the picture of the heart of man, in presence of the truth; the mind made up of the religious leaders, confusion and uncertainty in the mind of the masses, who waver between prejudices and the power of the word of God. Faith was neither in the one, nor in the other. As to Jesus, "his hour was not yet come"; His hour, remark, is the hour when He gave Himself on the cross for our offences.

196 Let us now go back to the teaching of the Lord, and to His position relatively to the people, from whom He was in a certain sense already separated, by refusing to go up to the feast, whilst continuing to teach them in grace.

Some details of the Saviour's teaching mark out His position, before He speaks of the promise of the Holy Ghost, and after the discussion which took place about the desire to kill Him, when they made the remark, that they knew not whence the Christ would come. Jesus formally declares that they knew whence He came, but that they did not know the Father who had sent Him (v. 28). Terrible accusation! The proof was there in their conscience: they would not have wished, as they did, to get rid of Him, if they had not had the inward consciousness that He came from God. The proofs were there: the testimony in their conscience. The multitude (v. 25-27) seem to have had the same conviction in the main, although they excused themselves by the fact that they knew whence He came; to which the Lord replies, but in words the bearing of which went far beyond the application that the crowd, taught by tradition, could make of them to the Messiah's character. "Ye know me, and ye know whence I am." Terrible testimony, the truth of which we see in the words of Nicodemus that are related to us, and which, although they do not go so far, attest the conviction that the miracles of Jesus were producing in hearts. It was their will that opposed itself to this condition, and if Pilate was able to discern the surface of their motives (they had delivered Him up through envy), he was not able to understand a hatred against God which decided to kill Lazarus, rather than allow the people to believe the coming in grace of the God, who had so often wished to gather them under His wings. They were disputing confusedly about the Messiah, and their God was there in grace, the Son sent by the Father. Their leaders knew very well, at bottom, that He who was doing these miracles, did them not by human power; they might attribute them to Beelzebub, but certainly not to man. The character of the miracles of Jesus, and the power that was manifested in them, confirmed His words: these shewed the source from which they came, and words and miracles shewed who He was, and whence He came. But they had no knowledge of the Father, of Him from whom Jesus came; they were not of those who desired to do His will, and they sought to blind others. The ignorant people strove, in the confusion, with some passing convictions; their leaders resisted, with an intelligent conviction that He who came from God was there, but decided not to receive Him. All this is developed further on, and affirmed by the Lord Himself (chap. 15:22-24).

197 It is important, painful though it be, to bring out clearly the state of this poor people, whether as to the leaders, or as to the mass: the mind of the former made up to reject Jesus; the moral, and, alas! wilful, blindness of the multitude. Jesus had no longer any place amongst them as Messiah; He must take a place far otherwise important and excellent - that of Man at the right hand of God. Still, He was the Good Shepherd, and the porter opened to Him; and, accomplishing His will, He went through the dangers, and His sheep heard His voice. So it was at this moment; a great number, "many amongst the multitude," believed on Him, saying, "When Christ cometh, will He do more miracles than this man hath done?" (v. 31). Then the Pharisees send officers to seize Him, which becomes the occasion of a touching answer of Jesus, an answer which clearly sets forth the situation, "Yet a little while I am with you," says He, "and I go to him that sent me. Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me; and where I am ye cannot come." You have no need to be in a hurry to seek Me, to get rid of Me; you will have Me for a little time longer, and then all will be over; it will no longer be a question of the Messiah; you will seek Me then, but you will not find Me. I go unto My Father; there you have no access. All will be changed; it will be all over as to the Messiah; the Son, as Man, will go to sit at the Father's right hand - there you will not be able to come.

This was indeed where things were with regard to the Jews, and with regard to Jesus. The blindness of the Jews, and their religious pride, were as great as their hatred of the true God. They understood nothing of what the Saviour said, only suggesting among themselves that perhaps He would go to the dispersed amongst the Gentiles, to teach the Gentiles. The position was clearly defined.

198 Now the Lord shews who should come to take His place, since the hour was not yet come for Him to celebrate the feast of Tabernacles, and to shew Himself to the world. It was the great day of the feast, the last day, for the feast of Tabernacles had one day more than the two other great feasts, an eighth day, which was the great day of the feast. This day began a new week; the earthly testimony was complete, but with this eighth day we go beyond that which was complete down here. The two other feasts had their sabbath on the seventh day; this one had its great day, its solemn feast, afterwards. I do not doubt but that this was, as a type, the beginning of the new week of God, that which is heavenly and eternal, as the resurrection of Jesus was the first day of the week. Now the Lord gives to that day its true significance. It was no longer a question of the effect of the Messiah's presence, but of Him who should be the representative of a glorified Saviour, rejected in His humiliation. The manifestation of Jesus in glory down here could not take place now; but He could give to those who should believe upon Him, thus rejected upon earth, the earnest of the heavenly glory, and by this means a present joy which overflowed in blessing, as testimony of salvation and of the glory. On the great day of the feast, a day specially called "solemn," or "a day of obligation," in the Old Testament, Jesus stood there, and cried: "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth in me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake he of the Spirit which they who believed on him should receive" (v. 37-39).

That is the great teaching of chapter 7: The Holy Ghost here below in believers, following upon the glorifying of Jesus as Man, instead of an earthly Messiah, according to the promises of God. Rejected as Messiah He takes His place as Man, according to the eternal counsels of God, in the heavenly glory, at God's right hand, and that according to the righteousness of God, who has glorified Him with Himself. After having established all God's glory at the cross, and taken this place in the glory as having accomplished redemption, He sent the Holy Ghost, witness of the glory into which He had entered, and of the redemption He had accomplished. To possess the Holy Ghost is the Christian position; not merely new desires, but the full answer of grace to these desires in the revelation of Christ glorified. We await participation in that glory, but we know that it is our portion, and the accomplishment of redemption gives us the right to be there. We wait for the return of Jesus to enter into it, that our body may be transformed into the likeness of His glorious body; and the love which has given us all this which has thought of giving it to us, is shed abroad in our hearts.

199 There are some details to be noticed here. The Lord invites those who thirst to come unto Him, and drink. This principle is to be found in John, although sovereign grace, which quickens, is very clearly and positively announced in chapter 5, as also the fact, that those alone whom the Father draws come in reality. In calling the reader's attention to this point, I would wish to bring out the important difference that there is, between the work which disposes the heart, and produces needs in the heart or in the conscience, or, as it always happens, at the same time, in one and the other, and the answer to these needs in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus. This desire can produce a true kind of piety, but never peace, nor a state of soul distinctly Christian; for this, the knowledge of the Person and of the work of Jesus, and the presence of the Holy Ghost, are necessary. One may feel that he has need of Him, and even love Him, but he is not yet, in the true sense, "of him." See the prodigal son, before and after he had met his father; and the poor woman that was a sinner. Everything belongs to such a soul, but it does not possess it. The prodigal had not yet the best robe, and the poor woman had not yet heard the voice of Jesus saying to her, "Thy sins be forgiven thee, go in peace"; but she loved much. So, again, the thief on the cross shews a remarkable faith, but it is the answer of the Saviour that gives him the certainty of his present happiness, founded on the work of Christ. I notice these cases, that the reader may distinguish between the word that attracts and awakens the conscience, and the answer, founded upon the work, which gives one to enjoy pardon and salvation.

It is well that we should also call attention to the three operations of the Spirit of God. In chapter 3 we are born of the Spirit; in chapter 4 it is a fountain springing up to everlasting life. Here the new man enters into the enjoyment of things not seen, of things heavenly and eternal; when they fill the heart - when the heart, drinking of that which is in Jesus, is satisfied, then these things overflow, and refresh thirsty souls; heavenly affections meet souls, shewing what it is that revives a soul without God, which groans, without knowing, perhaps, what is wanting. The words of Jesus were truly some of those waters.

200 The people who were not armed with a breastplate of ill-will, and determination already come to, felt this; and, without any miracle, under the influence of the words of Jesus, cried out, "Of a truth this is the prophet." Others said, thinking that Jesus was the Christ, "Shall Christ come out of Galilee?" But the reasoning of the human mind raises difficulties, and closes other hearts to the power of the word in His mouth. The people are divided, and the officers return, under the impression which the words of Jesus had produced, to throw into the same confusion the minds of those who, pretending to guide Israel, were the blindest of all. Nicodemus expresses a thought of equity according to their own law. They attack him, he also must be of Galilee. The theologians of the Sanhedrim shew their contempt for those who, according to the prophets, were the sphere of the light which God sent in Israel, the poor of the flock; claiming for Jerusalem and for themselves the glory of all that God had given, they affirm that no prophet had arisen out of Galilee (v. 52). As a matter of fact it was false; and then, again, how had they treated the prophets, of whatever country they might have been? Where was the city who had slain the prophets, and was going to slay Him of whom all the prophets had spoken? Irritated at their powerlessness, being able to do nothing to hinder the testimony of Jesus, they disperse, and every one goes to his own house. His hour was not yet come.