On the Gospel of John

J. N. Darby.

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John 8

The history which is given us of the Lord in this Gospel of John to replace the Jews, and their portion in the Messiah, according to the promises, ends with this chapter 7, which has just occupied us. In the fifth chapter Jesus is Son of God, who quickens; in the sixth, Son of man in incarnation and in death, His return to heaven being in view; then, in the seventh chapter, not being able yet to shew Himself to the world, but, being glorified, He gives the Holy Spirit to believers, that which could not take place till after He was glorified; He is rejected, but, as we have seen, His time was not yet come. In the two chapters upon which we are now entering, we find His word rejected in chapter 8, His works rejected in chapter 9. These are the two great personal testimonies which declare His origin. (See chapter 15:22-25.) In the tenth chapter He declares He will have His sheep for Himself nevertheless, notwithstanding the obstinacy of the leaders of the people. The eleventh and twelfth chapters shew us, in a very interesting way, the testimony which the Father bears to Him as being the Son of God, Son of David, Son of man, when man has rejected Him. Then, from the thirteenth chapter onwards, come heavenly things, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, that other Comforter, who should replace Him on earth.

201 At the beginning of our chapter 8, the law in man's hands, raised against outward immorality, but without uprightness, without life, and without grace, is put in a striking manner, in contrast with the word of God, that searches hearts, that turns the sword of the law against every one, and leaves room for grace, not quickening, or pardoning grace, but the grace which at least does not give its force to the law to condemn; that was not the Saviour's mission. The whole world was placed under condemnation by the law, if God were to apply it; God had not come for this; but in shewing them to be all condemned, without exception, on this ground, entire humanity disappears under the sentence of the law, at least the humanity which takes the law as a means of righteousness, and the ground is cleared to bring in the light of life, from God. The position of the adulteress is only negative; it is quite a different case from that of the woman that was a sinner, in Luke 7, where the full grace which saves is established. All were guilty, but the Lord was come to reach the conscience of all, not to apply the law to the guilty. He does not condemn - only every mouth is stopped. The conduct of these men was wretched; sinners, like the accused one without mercy, and without pity, they desired to expose this woman, so that the Saviour might find her guilty; for, if He condemned her, there was no advance upon the law, He was neither Messiah nor Saviour; if He did not condemn her, He put Himself into opposition with the law of Moses. The scribes and Pharisees did not know with whom they had to do. The penetrating voice of God needs only a word to reach the conscience: "Adam, where art thou?" or, "Let him that is without sin among you cast the first stone!" - suffice to lay bare the conscience, because the power of God is there, and man is found necessarily revealed to himself in the presence of Him who is light. But the will is not changed, and man avoids that presence; one takes refuge amongst the trees of the garden; others, rather with shame than with a sincere conscience which leads to confession, slink away, each one alone, to preserve his reputation; the eldest first, but fearing, even to the last, that presence which pierces them through, and ashamed of finding themselves in each other's presence. Then, having given the law its full force upon all, Jesus allows the poor woman to go away, according to divine mercy.

202 After this, we have the doctrine with regard to the Saviour, which is connected with the preceding fact: "I am the light of the world" (v. 12), not yet here the Messiah of the Jews, but the presentation, on the part of God, of light in the world, light which manifested everything, but which remained alone, for the whole world was darkness, far from God, and the heart of man himself darkness. This light manifested the effect of even the law, it shewed where man was, as placed under it. But it was far more; if man followed it, it was "the light of life" (compare chap. 1:4), that which made manifest as the revelation of the divine nature, but that which communicated life to those who received this light. It was an entirely new thing come into the world, God Himself, in the power of grace, become Man; rejected, all was morally judged; but, received by grace, it was the new life, the life eternal, for Christ is eternal life come down from heaven; 1 John 1:1-2. As light and life, it was for us, for it was communicated to us; the new man is created according to God in righteousness and holiness of truth, and there is also the renewing of knowledge according to the image of Him who created us. But it was the word of life, and it was a question of receiving that word; and here it is the light in conflict with darkness. All depends, as we shall see, on the Person of Him who speaks.

The question is put in verse 13: "Thou bearest witness of thyself; thy witness is not true." Now, they might have spoken in this way, if it had been a question of a man who bore witness of himself; but if God speaks, that which He says is necessarily the truth, and reveals Him. One question only arises: Do men know Him, and is the soul capable of receiving the truth even? The two things go together, as we shall see. Jesus came from heaven, from the Father; He was going back there, and had the consciousness of it; it is the lowest point of His testimony here; He is forced, by the opposition He meets, to go to the end and to say "I am" (v. 56); but here it is as Man in the world, who nevertheless had the consciousness of whence He came. (Compare chap. 3:11-13, 33, 34.) His words were the words of God, but by the Spirit, without measure, in a Man, who also could say of Himself: "The Son of man who is in heaven."He spoke with the consciousness of whence He came. They knew nothing about it; for them He was a carpenter of Galilee, who had not even learnt letters. But it was the divine nature in the presence of that of man. They judged according to the flesh; He, as He had just shewn, judged no one. He had not come for that, but to bear witness. Nevertheless, even if He judged, His judgment would be just, for not only He knew whence He came, but the Father was with Him - He was not only such a Son of man, but He was also Son of God. The law said that the testimony of two men was true; well then, He (the Son) bore witness of Himself, and the Father, who had sent Him bore witness of Him. Then they ask Him: "Where is thy Father?" for there was no divine light in them, not even a conscience sensible to the truth, unless when the eye of the Light penetrated it, in spite of them. No man, however, laid hands on Him; His hour was not yet come (v. 20). We cannot separate this divine testimony from that which is given at the end. He spoke the words of God; but the form is different, He did not speak directly in His divine nature, although that which He said implied it; but as Man upon earth on the part of God, and as Son, by the Holy Ghost.

203 The Lord begins again by telling them, that all was over, that He was going away (v. 21, etc.). They would seek Him, indeed, but they would not find Him: "I go away, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sin: where I go, ye cannot come." The separation, fruit of their unbelief, was complete and final; they, dead in their sins, He in heaven; but He did not say openly where He was going. The Jews only looked upon Him as a man, and remained in their self-righteousness, as heirs of the promises. "Will he kill himself?" and thus deprive Himself of them. The Lord's answer is decisive: "Ye are from beneath; I am from above." There was absolute opposition, moral and actual - with a terrible supplement for all that surrounds us: "Ye are of this world" - of this world, of which Satan is the prince, and those who are of it in heart are of him. Christ was not of it. He was, indeed in the world, but He was not of the world. He was essentially of heaven, the bread which had come down from heaven, personally and morally; but here He is speaking negatively, and this is the chief point for us. He was not of this world: He brought the divine light, God Himself, into this world; but He was not of it. This is why He had said to them, "Ye shall die in your sins"; for they were rejecting the Light which had come into this world, grace, the Son of God. "If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins."

204 But this introduces a principle of all-importance; that is, the identification of His word with Himself. He was God; His words expressed God; it is this that left the Jews without excuse; in rejecting Him, they despised God who was speaking to them. In answer to the words of Jesus, they say "Who art thou?" (v. 25). The answer of Jesus declares this identification: "Absolutely that which also I speak unto you": - perfectly, in principle and in reality, that which I speak unto you. The words of Jesus expressed what He was; and being thus the true expression of God manifested to man, they put man into the place of either receiving or rejecting God, and God as light of men. If God speaks, and expresses Himself, man accepts what He is, or rejects Him. The Saviour was in a position to say many things to them, and to judge them; but now He was communicating to them, as a faithful witness, that which He had heard from the Father. This was, indeed, the truth sent by the Father: He was telling the world that which He had received of the Father. This was now His service as the sent One. The Jews did not understand of whom He was speaking. Later on, when it would be too late to receive Him as come to them in grace, but when the thought of God should be accomplished, and their own hands should accomplish His counsels in crucifying the Son of man,* the consequences which would flow from this for the Jews, would cause them to know (Jesus does not say, to believe) that it was indeed He, that He did nothing of Himself, but that He spoke as the Father taught Him. His word was the demonstration of that which He was, and though He could say many things to them, and judge them, He only told them now that which He received of the Father. Once rejected as Son of man, and put to death, then, when He should no longer be there, they should know that it was He, the Messiah, and that He had spoken to them from the Father. But more, He who had sent Him was then with Him; He had not left Him alone, because all that He did was pleasing to the Father. Under the effect of His testimony, by the weight of His words, the expression of what He was and that all His conduct confirmed, many believed on Him (v. 30).

{*This title of Son of man, which Jesus always takes, goes a great way further than that of Messiah. It is taken from Psalm 8 and Daniel 7; Jesus always takes it in contrast with that of "Christ," which He only gives Himself once, that is, at Sychar, in chapter 4; but He constantly adds to it His death upon the cross. (See Luke 9:21-22.) It is the second Psalm that regards Jesus as Messiah, and shews Him to us rejected as such, but established in glory and authority later on by God.}

205 That which this chapter puts forward most distinctly, is, the divine character of Jesus, demonstrated by His words, and the diabolical character of the Jews manifested in the way in which they had received Him. Already, in verse 23, the Lord announced it, with the terrible testimony, that that which was of this world was from beneath, that is to say, of the devil, whilst He was from above, and not of this world. That which He said expressed His nature, His divine character. He reveals the Father: His words are the words of God; that which He said revealed Him to the world (v. 26, 27; ch. 1:10; ch. 3:32-33). That which follows, on the other hand, throws into relief the character of the Jews.

The Lord declares to those who had been brought to believe in Him, that, if they remained firmly attached to His word (for it is a question of His word), they should be His disciples indeed, they should know the truth, and the truth should set them free (v. 31, 32). The truth supposes the full revelation of that which is divine and heavenly, that which was revealed in His Person, and in His words, and would be fully made evident when He should be glorified, and the Holy Ghost should have come. I do not think that those of whom verse 23 speaks were those who believed in Jesus, but the Jews in general. They trust to their outward position according to the flesh: they had never been in bondage, they say, forgetting, however, all their history, and their position at that very moment. The Lord passes over all that, to present the ground of the truth as to the state of man before God, and the effect of the law; for He identifies these two things - being a slave of sin, and being under the law, as the man of Romans 7 "Every one that practises sin, is the slave of sin," captive of that terrible law of sin that is in his members; but being a slave, he may be sent away from the house, and sold. The Jews, sinners under the law, would be sent away from the house of God; but the Son belonged to the house, and dwelt there always, and necessarily; if He made them free, they should be free indeed, free from sin, and free from the law. The Son, the revelation of the Father, as object, and power of life in him who shall have received Him, acting by the word, takes the place of the principle of sin in man, and the law which in vain forbade man to commit it.

206 Outwardly the Jews were indeed the children of Abraham; but the word of Christ had no place nor entry into their hearts, and they sought to kill Him. Here the contrast becomes formal: Jesus spoke (for it is always His word) that which He had seen with His Father, Himself the Son who revealed Him, and announced that which was heavenly and divine; but this brought out of their hearts the Satanic hatred against God which fills the heart of man. Here, then, the two great principles of sin which characterise the adversary, manifested themselves in them - murder, and the absence of the truth (v. 44, 45). This opposition between the revelation from above, and that which is in the world and from below, characterises the chapter, and forms its basis. Their descent from Abraham is for the Lord but a circumstance of no value. If, in the moral sense, the Jews had been the sons of Abraham, as the believer is, they would have done the works of Abraham; but instead of that, they sought to kill a Man who had told them the truth He had received from God. The Jews take still higher ground: Abraham no longer suffices for them, it is God who is their Father (v. 41). They are conscious that the words of Jesus come more home to them and they retire into the stronghold of their privileges. The Lord follows up the side of moral and essential truth, whilst avoiding, so to speak, to declare everything openly at once; but He is obliged, as it were, to say it, both as to them, and as to Himself.

Until now we have had the revelation of the thing heavenly and divine, in itself, in a positive way, outside and above all that was Jewish; here we are come to the conflict between man's heart and this revelation, and there, where the privileges of a religion which was composed of the elements of the world (separated from Him who, all earthly as was this religion, was its centre), only blinded the more the hearts which made their boast in it. The divine word, in the Person of Jesus, the Father's word, which was in His mouth, pierced through all this religious drapery, and manifested man's heart. The Lord, in His answer to the assertion of the Jews that God was their Father, shews that the rejection of His Person gave the lie to such a pretension. The question was raised and decided by His presence and by His word: if they had had God as their Father, they would have loved Jesus, for He came from God; He did not come of His own will; God had sent Him. It was necessary to speak openly, for things were being fulfilled: truth, and hatred against the truth, against God, are found in presence of one another. The Jews did not understand the words, because they did not understand the things, a very important principle in divine things: in human things, words are explained, in order to learn what the things are; thus we but designate by a word things which come under the senses, or things of the intellect, for these things are within man's grasp; divine things are not so. If I say, "born again," to understand the words, I must know what it is to be born again. Let us remember this.

207 The Lord allows no uncertainty to remain here any longer: you have the devil for your father, and you will do his works; and "he is a liar, and the father of lies" (v. 44). As we have said before, the double character of Satan and of sin, is to be "a murderer" and "a liar"; man has added to it corruption. Such was the character of these poor Jews. They did not believe Jesus, because Jesus spoke the truth, and they were going to kill Him. They claimed, indeed, to be of God - sad and blinding effect of an official religion; but if they had really been, they would have listened to the words of God. There is a certain perception which belongs to the life of God, which recognises that which is of Him, and especially His words. It was, for a Jew, a monstrous thing, subversive of all his pretensions, of the whole divine history of the ages, to say to Jesus that He was not of God. Who, then, was He? A Pagan, a Samaritan? This was enough to shew whence Jesus was.

Jesus continues to shew the effect of His word where it is received into the heart. "If any one keep my word, he shall never see death." This put Jesus above Abraham and all the prophets. Who, then, was Jesus? For, with all their pretensions, the Jews were really in great embarrassment; they felt the force of His words; this can take place where the will is not at all changed; but they sought to justify themselves in their own eyes by interpreting His words according to human reasoning. The Lord does not spare them any longer, for they were enemies of the truth. He spoke in His Father's name, and He knew Him: He would have been a liar, like themselves, if He had denied it. The second character of the enemy was thus realised in them. "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it, and was glad" (v. 56); for it is He who was expected, according to the promises. The Jews, who only saw things according to the natural mind, cry out at the folly of it: then, as He had declared of whom they were, the Lord now openly declares who He is Himself: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am" (not, I was). The Jews were speaking with God, and they resisted His words: their hatred bursts forth, and they take up stones to stone Him.

208 Note here, that Jesus gave eternal life by His word; He was the accomplishment of the promises; but, again, He was God in this world; life and truth were on one side; murder and falsehood on the other. It is this that makes this chapter so solemn. That which, grace excepted, was the whole life of Jesus in the midst of this people, in this world - the truth, the life, the sent One of the Father, God manifest in flesh - in the presence of hatred of the truth and of God, are concentrated in this chapter, and are in presence of one another.

It is important also to remark, that it is a question, not of miracles, but entirely of the word of Jesus. The Jews do not ask for a sign, as they often did: it is not the ordinary current of incredulity that we have here before us; but the truth, the light, are in direct conflict with the darkness which does not understand them, but which, at the same time, is troubled by them; for the light shines even when it is not received. It is not in man's heart; and that makes itself felt in the heart: nothing can be imputed to the witness which weakens the testimony; no one could convince the Lord of sin; they did not believe, because He told them the truth. Here it is the pure opposition of man's heart to the truth, because it was the truth. Light may reach the conscience, and if the will is not changed, this only produces hatred, as in the case of Stephen; but here, I repeat, it is the truth itself and the light that are in conflict with the darkness, He who came from above, with whom the Father was, and then men, who alas! were from beneath. What could be more solemn than such a meeting? God, in the presence of men, to be rejected, and that for ever and ever!

209 It may be useful here to notice some details: the Lord begins by announcing Himself, personally and distinctly, as the light of the world. In John, it is always a question of the world; also, it is not a question of the Messiah according to the promises, but of what the Lord is in Himself, of what He is, He only, in the midst of the darkness. In following Him, one would have the light of life; for the life was the light of men. We see how this chapter reproduces that which is said in chapter 1; only here it brings out historically the contrast and the conflict between the light and the darkness, for the world was in it, and Satan was the prince of the world. The Lord having thus announced Himself as light (and light manifests itself, and manifests everything), His testimony is rejected, as being that of a Man who bore witness of Himself (v. 13). They do not see the light, they reject it; that which is divine is hidden, although it is light. He was the light, and His words were the expression of what He was; but He had not come to judge, as the case of the woman shewed, however just His judgment would have been, for the Father was with Him. But the law was their law; then Jesus was the revelation of God Himself in that which He was as light: it was Himself and the word of testimony, the Father being with Him. If that were rejected, it was not disobedience to a commandment, but the rejection of divine life and light, so that those who rendered themselves guilty of it should die in their sins.

All chapter 8 is the expression of the divine light by the testimony of the Lord; but the chapter treats of more than one subject, where this testimony is given in more than one aspect. The first part is to be found from verse 12 to 20, which present the position in itself: the Lord is the divine light; He is not come to judge, but the Father is with Him; God and the truth are presented to men; He is rejected by the darkness of man's heart, but His hour is not yet come. Then (v. 21-29) He goes away. In John His death is never what is spoken of, but He goes away, and the Jews would know when He had been lifted up as Son of man, that it was He; it would then be too late to find Him again. After that (v. 30), many having believed in Him, He announces to them what their position should be, if they persevered; the Son would make them free, and they would be free indeed; this in contrast with the Jews. There was a complete change of position. Man committed sin - he was the slave of it: the Jews, no doubt, were in God's house, but by the law as slaves; for to be under the law, and to commit sin, is the same thing. The Jews, therefore, had no sure place in the house; and they would even lose the one which they had: but Christ then would have His place as Son over God's house, and those who believed in Him, who persevered in His word, made free by Him, should possess true divine liberty. As to the promises, they were indeed, according to the flesh, the seed of Abraham; but they were not sons of Abraham according to God. Being come personally as light, the Lord would have what is true, not merely dispensations; they were, in reality, sons of him who was a murderer and a liar; they were rejecting the truth, they were going to put Christ to death, and did not believe Him, because He spoke the truth. Finally, for He was the life as well as the truth, he who should keep His word, would never taste death (v. 51); He was not only the light, but the light of life. Besides, not only was He the object of the promises which Abraham's faith had realised, but He existed with an eternal existence, God - "I am," before Abraham was. Then the hatred of unbelief burst out. Before, they had maliciously sought to turn away the truth, and to justify themselves before one another in rejecting Him, but as soon as what He was is fully revealed, their murderous hatred shews itself by violence.

210 John 9

In the eighth chapter we had the testimony given, the divine word of the Saviour: the ninth chapter relates to the testimony of His works. The Lord sets aside the entire governmental system of the Jews; He speaks, too, of Himself as being only a little longer of this world; but so long as He was, He must do the works of His Father who had sent Him, for although He was God present in this world, He always takes the place of a Man subject to God, and He does so specially in John's Gospel, where His Person is set in relief. It is this position Satan sought to get Him out of, in the temptation in the wilderness, a position in which He remained firm and perfect. He is always the sent One, although He be Son of God, and one with the Father.

211 Crossing this poor world, the Lord meets with one born blind, a picture of man, and specially of the Jews. Here He is truly the light of the world, while announcing, as I have just said, that He was going to leave the world. But there is more; He works in grace, He gives life. Not only is He the light of the world as long as He is in it, for this is only for a time; but He is powerful in grace to give the capacity of enjoying the light. Nevertheless, although it be divine power that communicates it, He must be received as the sent One of the Father; He never leaves His position. His presence, without His work, only blinds the more, at least presents an outward difficulty; He is a stone of stumbling. The spittle (v. 6) presents the efficacy which came from Himself; the earth, the humanity which He had taken. But that, in itself alone, only made the blind man doubly blind: a positive obstacle was added to natural blindness: but it was necessary that this object should be before his eyes. Jesus sends the poor man to the pool of Siloam. The text itself gives the meaning of this word: it signifies "Sent." The moment this truth is connected with the Person of Jesus, in the blind man, all is accomplished; the man sees clearly, with a clearness which is according to the power of God: "I washed, and I see" (v. 11).

In the eighth chapter it was a question of man's responsibility, a responsibility connected with the testimony of the word of God: here it is its powerful efficacy to give sight to the blind man, in revealing the Son sent by the Father. Man's folly, his religious blindness, are made manifest: for him, Jesus was not of God, because, although He did works of power and of divine goodness, He did not keep the sabbath. Now, the sabbath was the sign of God's covenant with Israel, the sign of the rest of God. But in Jesus, God was there, and the Son of man was Lord of the sabbath, and the rest of God was not for those who rejected Him. Further, this rest became heavenly at that moment.

What is striking in this passage is the perplexity of religious people, and they instructed in their religion, characterised by the elements of this world, when they are in the presence of divine power. "He does not keep the sabbath!" What a subterfuge! Others said, "How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles?" The evidence was too strong: there was a division among them. Then they would not believe that the man had been born blind, until they had called his parents. These feared to compromise themselves, but bear the only testimony that it was of consequence to hear from them, that is, that the man was really their son, and that he was born blind. The Jews call back the man himself for the second time, and seek to cover up the whole question by their religious authority. They are quite willing to recognise the fact that the man had been blind, and that now he saw, and they invite him to give glory to God for that; but, as to owning the truth and the Son of God, they will not do that; it is with them a foregone conclusion. The poor man is indignant at their blindness, wise as they were, and guardians of their religion, for he had personally experienced the powerful efficacy of the word of Jesus. His testimony is clear and simple: "he is a prophet," and taught of God, he does not understand how the Jews can hesitate to receive the brilliant proof of it, that was there before their eyes; for simple faith, that had experienced the power of God, does not understand the difficulties which religious learning opposes to it, when will does not want the truth and Jesus. This man did not know what governed the hearts of those who were questioning him; but, as for them, they well knew that they were resisting the light of divine power. Disgusted at his bold frankness, which wonders at their unbelief, they arrive exactly at the conclusion that the Lord had condemned; that is, that the man's blindness was the effect of his sin: and they cast him out.

212 Thus the Lord's sheep finds itself outside: the Lord rejected already, having heard of it, seeks it, but to bring it into the flock of grace, by the knowledge of His Person. All that belonged to those who found a place there, was not yet developed; but the Person of the Son of God was down here, and the Father's name was revealed, for he who had seen the Son, had seen the Father. Expiation was necessary, in order that all the privileges might be revealed, and that the door of heaven might be opened, for entrance into the most Holy place. Until Christ had been glorified, the Holy Ghost had not come down to reveal these things: but the Good Shepherd seeks His sheep, and puts the question to him: "Dost thou believe on the Son of God?" (v. 35, 36).

213 Remark here, that the man had received the Lord's word as the word of God; he had said, "he is a prophet."To speak thus was, like the woman of Sychar, to believe what Jesus said - not only to own the truth of something He had said, but the authority of what He said. Further, this man's heart was attracted; fully persuaded of the folly of his religious leaders, he sought that which the prophet of God would say to him. This reception of the word as having divine authority, and the desire of the heart to possess it, and to possess that which it reveals, is of all-importance; we have already seen it in the case of the Samaritan woman. Here, the fact that he had already personally made experience of the power of Jesus, grace acting in his heart with this work, disposes the man to believe what Jesus would say to him, and gives implicitly in his soul a divine force to that which the Lord says. Now Jesus says to him, "Thou hast seen him, and it is he that speaketh with thee!" Then the man owns him explicitly - "Lord, I believe"; and he worships Him. He believes in His Person by the means of the word, which he had believed already beforehand, when he said, "He is a prophet."

Thus the Lord had found His sheep; it was delivered from the fatal influence of false shepherds, who held the souls of the people in captivity. Come to save, and, in any case, not to judge, but to bring the word of life - through man's perversity, the effect of His coming would be judgment. Those who pretended to see, but who were blind leaders of the blind, would be blinded all the more that the light was there; but it was none the less true that He was there in the sovereignty of grace, to give sight to others who were blind (v. 39, 40). As light, the Lord put man to the test; as Son of God in power, He gave sight to those who saw not, but who had the consciousness, by His word, and by the knowledge of His Person, that they were blind; knowledge founded on faith in His word.

John 10

The tenth chapter, in John's Gospel, terminates the history of the Lord down here. The Good Shepherd, come from the Father, will find His sheep, notwithstanding the opposition of the enemies of the truth and of God, and will give eternal life to those who hear His voice.

This chapter, so precious to believers, gives us a picture of the entire work and position of the Lord. Nevertheless, we do not see Him driven away here, as He is however constantly in John, but we see Him putting forth His sheep Himself, according to the will of God; His sheep whom He knows, and of whom He is known. Then He is "the door of the sheep"; He lays down His life Himself, no one takes it from Him; lastly, He and the Father are one. A Servant sent and obedient, He is nevertheless one with the Father; the sheep, too, are His, although it be His Father who gave them to Him. Note here, and I repeat it, because of its importance, and as characterising the Gospel of John, that the Lord is a Servant, and receives everything, even the sheep, from His Father's hand; but He is, at the same time, one with Him; a Servant, as Man down here, but Son of God, God, one with His Father.

214 We must examine these details more carefully.

In the first place, all those who, before Him, had pretended to be the shepherds and leaders of Israel; all those, whoever they might be, who did not enter by the door, were thieves and robbers, climbing over the wall, forcing an entrance by violence or cunning; thus they betrayed their true character. The sheepfold was Israel. These men sought to get possession of the sheep for their own profit, for their own glory: they were neither Messiahs, nor servants of God, nor sent by Him, very far from being one with the Father. I say this in order to establish the Lord's position more distinctly. The second verse presents to us this position in its first features: "He who enters in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep." He entered in by the door; He came by the way chosen by Him who had established the sheepfold, there, where the porter was; he who could open the door, or keep it shut; thus He attracted the attention of him who was the keeper of the fold.

The door is always the place indicated and appointed by the architect to enter by it. This is why Jesus says lower down, "I am the door of the sheep," because, it is He that God has appointed as the door of exit for the Jewish remnant, and as the door of entrance for us all into the sanctuary, into His holy presence. Christ Himself had entered into the fold, following out what God had prescribed for the Shepherd. All that was laid down in the prophets, all that was fitting for Him who walked according to God's will, Jesus followed out, and accomplished at every point. He did not seek to arouse men by exciting their passions, like the false Messiahs, nor to draw in His footsteps an unconverted and stiff-necked people; meek and lowly in hearts, He followed the path Jehovah had traced for Him; He entered by the door. Providence and the Spirit of God opened the way for Him. All the efforts of the high priests and scribes could not prevent His voice from reaching the ears and hearts of the sheep. God opened the door to Him, and the sheep heard His voice. Here it is not a question of any other than they; they are the real object of His service, carried into effect, in spite of all the power of Satan. The Lord knows His sheep; they are His; He calls them each by his name, and leads them out of the fold.

215 It is interesting and touching to see how Jesus' own sheep are here the only object of His heart, and with what intimacy He knows them individually; He thinks only of them. He comes, and calls them, to the exclusion of all the other Jews. He does not fail either in His purpose. He does not leave them in the Jewish fold; He leads them out of the fold where the Jews abode, outside the enclosure where those who were "of their father, the devil," still remained. Moreover, He does not leave them when they are outside; He goes before them in the way of life and of faith. They are His own sheep, they belong entirely to Him, and in leading them out, He goes before them; He conducts them Himself; He is Himself at their head in the difficulties they should meet. His voice is known to them; they follow Him. If He is exclusively occupied here with the sheep, they recognise no other voice but His. In Him, and in Him alone, they have confidence; they trust in Him, and in Him alone. Every other voice is, for them, that of a stranger; it is enough that they do not know it, that it be not His. It is His voice that inspires them with confidence: weak in themselves, they flee when the voice is not His.

In that which we have gone over, up to the present, we find, at the same time, general principles, and the description of the Lord's work in the midst of the people. He makes use of the customs known in the country with regard to flocks, to describe that which He had been, and that which He had done in His life and in His service down here. But it was all over with the sheepfold. He leads the sheep out; the others were only reprobates, rejected in rejecting Him; all who recognised Him, Him and His voice, followed Him, and were led outside. This very fact sets forth the divine Person and authority of the Saviour. The law and the ordinances had been established by the authority of God Himself, and the law was the perfect rule for the children of Adam. But here we have to do with the law as a dispensation of God, not with what it is in its intrinsic nature. Who could take away men from the authority of Him who had established His ordinances, and had invested them with that authority? He alone, who Himself was invested with the authority which had established them and possessed it. (See chap. 15:22-25.)

216 Christ ends His discourses on this subject by the statement of His divinity, as He had done before, in chapter 8; but He begins here, as in chapter 8, in His character of a Servant who accomplishes the service confided to Him.

The men whom the Lord addresses do not understand the parable He spoke to them; He Himself, in grace, furnishes the application. Resuming His discourse, He says, "I am the door of the sheep" (v. 7). God has set Me as the One by whom My sheep can go out without fear, for it is there that God has placed the way out. In following Jesus, he who believed in Him could leave the fold that God had set up. Jesus was Himself the door. If a Pharisee were to ask, "Where are you going thus?" the sheep could answer, "I am going where the Shepherd sent by God will lead me." He is the door, not of Israel, but of the sheep. All who had come before, and who pretended to present themselves as divine leaders of Israel, were but thieves and robbers; the sheep had not listened to them. Now, to go out, although authorised by the voice and conduct of the divine Shepherd, was a small thing; the Shepherd's Person implied something positive; He was also the door by which to enter. He had said nothing of this in His parable; only shewing that He called His own sheep, and led them forth, going before them, a sure warrant that they did well in leaving the fold; His voice was enough. Now He reveals the effect.

Before pursuing this subject, I revert for a moment to verses 1-5, in order to fix the bearing of it more exactly. It is the life of Jesus that is presented to us, in connection with the Jews, who were God's fold. The true Shepherd, Jesus, entered by the way chosen and ordained of God. Born at Bethlehem, born of the Virgin, He had submitted to all the ordinances that God had established; this was the mark of the true Shepherd. God, by His Spirit and by His providence, opened for Him the way to the ears and heart of the sheep; the rest remained deaf to all His appeals. It was not a Messiah come to establish the glory in Israel, but the only true Shepherd, who would have His own sheep. They listened to His voice. He knew them, and called them by their names, and led them out of the Jewish fold, to put them in the possession of better things. Then, in putting forth His own sheep - the only ones He sought here - He had been before them, and they followed Him, for they knew His voice. This was the mark of the sheep. He did not leave them in the fold, but led them outside. The form of what is said is abstract, and in the present; it is that which is always true of a good Shepherd.

217 We must notice here, that, although the man born blind had been driven out, and also Jesus Himself, the Lord speaks here as having authority. The sheep are His, He puts them out; He goes before them; the sheep follow Him, they will not follow a stranger. It is the history of what Jesus was doing in Israel. Jesus says nothing, as yet, of the blessings towards which He was leading His own, nor of His death, the foundation of these blessings.

Now, having entered by the door, according to God's will and testimony, He was, for every other person, Himself "the door"; that which God had ordained as the means of having part in His blessings.

It is not (as I have already said in passing, and we should notice it well) the sheep's knowledge of the stranger that keeps it from the snares which he tries to set for it; but there is one voice which is known by the sheep, the voice of the Good Shepherd, and they know that what they hear is not that voice. It is thus the simple are kept; the wise wish to know everything, and are deceived. The voice and the Person being known, encourage and authorise the sheep to follow them. Israel remains there, in the hardness of its, heart: the Christ is the door of the sheep.

Now the happy results are given to us - the position of the sheep that follow this voice. If any one enter by that door, he shall be saved. Salvation was found in the Shepherd, that which the fold could not give. The sheep should be free; the fold afforded it a kind of security, but it was the security of a prison; it would find pasture, it would be fed in the rich pasturages of God: it is Christianity in contrast with Judaism. Christianity was salvation, liberty, and divine food. Security is no longer imprisonment, but the care of the Good Shepherd. Free under His care, the sheep feed in safety in the vast and rich pasturages of God.

218 This is the general position, but there is more (v. 10). Jesus, in contrast with all the false pretenders, who only came to steal and to kill, came that we might have life, and that we might have it in abundance. The first expression is the object of His coming in general, which characterises the Gospel, and also the Epistle, of John: it is the Son of God come down, that we might live through Him. He is the eternal life which was with the Father, and gives life, and becomes Himself our life. (Compare 1 John 4:9; ch. 1:2; ch. 5:11-12; John 3:15-16; one might multiply quotations.) The second part of the sentence shews the character and fulness of this life: this life is in the Son. Having the Son, we have life, and we have it according to the power of His resurrection. The faithful in old times were quickened; but here it is the Son Himself who becomes our life, and that as Man risen from amongst the dead. We have it "abundantly." This 10th verse gives us the great purpose of the coming of the Son of God; but His love must unfold itself fully; He is not only the Shepherd, but the "Good Shepherd," and the Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. His death has done everything for them; it has redeemed them, washed them from their sins, justified them, purchased them for heaven; however, I think the object of the passage is the love and devotedness of the Good Shepherd; rather than lose His sheep, He lays down His life. The hireling thinks of himself, and runs away; and the wolf comes and seizes* the sheep, and scatters them. In Gethsemane, Jesus said: "If ye seek me, let these go their way." Those who have the place of shepherds, abandon the sheep when the enemy comes; He lays down His life, rather than leave them a prey to the wolf. But there is yet more: the Good Shepherd knows His own, and His own know Him, as the Father had known Him, and He had known the Father. Wonderful position! Wonderful relationship! Jesus had been the object of His Father's heart; in the same way His sheep were the objects of His heart. Taught of God, His sheep knew Him, and trusted in Him, as He trusted in the Father; and He lays down His life for them. But in laying down His life, He opens the door to the sheep from amongst the Gentiles, which He must also bring, and they should hear His voice. With both one and the other, all should be the fruit of His heart and of His mouth, and there should be but one flock, and one Shepherd. As to man, this completes the fruit of the Lord's work, at least down here.

{*The word, "seizes," in the sentence, "the wolf seizes them," is the same word as that used by the Lord, when He says: "No one shall seize them out of my hand." The wolf scatters the sheep, but does not pluck them out of Christ's hand, nor deprive them of everlasting life.}

219 It is important to remark that, whilst submitting in everything to the will of His Father, it is He Himself who acts here: it is not a rejected Messiah. In the activity which belonged to Him, He puts forth His own sheep. He was rejected: He had sought one of His sheep that had been rejected (chap. 9), to reveal Himself to it. But here it is the divine side. The Lord enters according to the will of His Father, proof that He was the Good Shepherd; but once entered in, the action is His own. He is recognised by the porter, His voice is recognised by the sheep; He calls them by their names, and Himself leads them out. It is not, I again repeat, a rejected Messiah, but the divine Shepherd, who knows, and who leads His own sheep, for the sheep are His; when once they are outside, He goes before them, and they follow Him, for they know His voice. He gives His life, no one takes it from Him. He brings other sheep who were not of the Jewish fold.

In this act of devotedness, the gift of His life, the point is not only the feelings of the sheep, but of the Father. Jesus could give a motive to the Father that He should love Him: it is only a divine Person who could do this. The Father takes pleasure in the faithfulness of His children; but to lay down His life, to give Himself even unto death, and to take His life again in resurrection, whilst re-establishing the Father's glory, tarnished by the entrance of sin and of death, was a motive for the Father's affection. Glorious and devoted Saviour! Although He felt everything, He never thought of Himself, but of His Father, and, blessed be His name, of His sheep. To give Himself thus was His own act, an act of voluntary devotedness on His part; but, having become Man and Servant, an act, nevertheless, according to His Father's will. The act about which we are now occupied, is not the gift of His life for the sheep, but the fact that there, where death had entered, and where man was subjected by sin to death, He who had life in Himself gives His life, to take it again beyond death, and all that was its cause and power, and to place man, the being in whom was God's good pleasure, in an entirely new position, according to the divine glory, and that by an act of voluntary devotedness, but of obedience. (Compare chap. 14:30-31.)

220 The Lord now, in a second discourse, still speaking with the Jews, develops the blessings which His sheep should enjoy, blessings eternal and immutable. The Jews were in the moral embarrassment in which we have already seen them. Good sense said: "These words are not those of one possessed by a demon; can a demon open the eyes of one born blind?" (v. 21). But the prejudices of many of them got the better of all their convictions. They surround the Saviour, for they could not free themselves from the influence of His life, and of what He said and did: "If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly." Jesus had already told them, and they did not believe; He appeals to His works, that bore witness of Him; but they did not believe, because they were not of His sheep. It is only a question of His sheep, of those that belonged to Him, outside the external election of the people of Israel; but the Lord finds here the occasion to bring out the blessedness of His sheep.

The first mark that characterises the sheep of Jesus, and that we so often find here, is, that they listen to His voice (v. 27, see v. 3, 4, 5, 16); then come two other marks which belong to them: the Good Shepherd knows them (compare verse 14, and for the sense, verse 3), and they follow Him. (Compare verse 4.) Then the Lord declares plainly to us what He gives them; that is, eternal life, in the full assurance of the faithfulness of Christ, and of the power of the Father Himself. Already had He declared that His object in coming was, in grace, to give life, and life in abundance; not to seek booty, like a robber, but to give life from above, in grace. We have here the nature and character of this life, in grace: it was eternal life, that life of which Christ was the source and representative in humanity (compare 1 John 1:2, and also John 1:4), that life which was essentially in the Father Himself, which was in the Person of the Son down here, the life that God gives us in Him (1 John 5:11-12), and by Him, which we possess in Him; for He is our life (Col. 3:4; Gal. 2:20); which bears the impress of Christ, new position of man, according to the counsels of God. For us - first character of this life, for we were dead in our trespasses and sins, and under the power of death - down here - Christ is, then, the resurrection and the life, a life which ought to manifest itself in us now, and which breathes, so to speak, by faith in Him (Gal. 2:20; 2 Cor. 4:10-18), and will be fully developed when we shall be with Him, and glorified (Rom. 6:22), but which subsists in the knowledge of the Father, the only true God, and of Jesus Christ whom He has sent. (John 17:2-3; see 1 John 5:20.) It is the gift of God, but it is real and moral: we are born of water and of the Spirit. (John 3:5-6.) Of His own will He hath begotten us by the word of truth (James 1:18). Thus it is that that which was in Christ reproduces itself in us, according to the word which is the expression of it. (1 John 2:5-8; ch. 1:1; 1 Peter 1:21 - 25.) This word nourishes the life (1 Peter 2:2), and thus we can say of this life, or rather the Lord says it: "Because I live, ye shall live also" (John 14:19). Here it is the life itself; but to complete the character of this life in the Christian, we must add, "the "Spirit of life": then that becomes "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:2); then, according to John 4, with heavenly objects before it, it is a source of living water springing up into everlasting life.

221 But if Christ is thus our life, then life in Him does not perish, nor fail in us: because He lives, we shall live also. Can He die, or can the divine life in us come to decay? Assuredly not. We shall not perish; the life of which we live is divine and eternal life. But the wolf is there that ravishes and scatters the sheep. The sheep would not be able to defend themselves from this ravenous wolf, but the Good Shepherd is there, the Son of God, and no one can pluck them out of His hand; there is no greater force that can do anything against Him who keeps us.

There is more: the sheep are the object of the common care of the Father and the Son. Precious thought! The Father, who gave them to the Son, is evidently greater than all other: who should pluck them out of His hands? And the Son, that Good Shepherd, who humbled Himself, to have them and to save them, and to keep them, is one with the Father. The Shepherd entered, doubtless, by the prescribed door, but He is God, one with Him who had prescribed it; He is the Son of the Father, one with the Father; such is the security of the sheep.

The Jews take up stones to stone Jesus. The Lord, calm in faithfulness to His Father, shews them that according to the language of their own scriptures they were wrong, but appeals, at the same time, to His works, as proof of the truth of His testimony, and that He was Son of God, and the Father in Him, and He in the Father. Then they seek to take Him, but He escapes from their hands, and goes away beyond Jordan, where many come to Him, and own that all that John the Baptist had said of Him was true.

222 Before going further, I think that it will be useful to recapitulate what we have gone through in detail, so as to give the whole together. Chapters 8 and 9 give us the side of the responsibility of the people, in that they reject the testimony of the word, and of the works of Jesus; chapter 9, in particular, presents to us the Jews driving out of the synagogue the man who had believed that Jesus was a prophet, after having learnt in his own person, by experience, the power of Jesus that had miraculously cured him; but there Jesus and those that believe were rejected, and put outside. Now in the tenth chapter it is the divine thought and operation that are presented to us. Christ, without doubt, enters in by the door, in obedience; but it is to accomplish the work and the will of God with regard to His own. The sheep belong to Him; He calls them by their name; He leads them out; He goes before them, and they follow Him: it is the true work of the Lord. No doubt the responsibility of the Jews in rejecting Him subsisted all the same, but did not frustrate the counsels of God: the Shepherd did not intend to leave the sheep in the fold. The Jews were guilty of the crucifixion of the Lord, but His death was according to the counsels and foreknowledge of the Saviour-God: it was the same here as to the Jews; they drove out this sheep, the man who was born blind, who had been healed; but in fact it was God who freed this man from the prison of the sheepfold, to place him under the care of the Good Shepherd (v. 2-4). After that, the Lord gives life, life abundantly, to His sheep, who enter by the door, by faith in Him - who enter into the enjoyment of heavenly things: they have a life which belongs to heaven; they are saved, free, fed in God's pastures. Next, the Good Shepherd does not spare His own life, but lays it down for them, that they may enjoy salvation, and the privileges prepared by God; then it is a question of the value of the death of Jesus for the Father's heart; also it is He Himself who gives His life, it is not taken from Him. Finally, in another discourse, the Lord presents to us the blessedness of the sheep, in all the fulness of grace and of security which is bestowed on them under His and the Father's protection.

223 John 11

Chapter 10 ends the historical part, properly so called, of John's Gospel. The Lord had left Judea in chapter 4; but the history of His habitual ministry in Galilee is not recorded for us in this Gospel; the Lord, on the contrary, is with the Jews at Jerusalem, presenting to them the new things which are connected with His Person, His death, and His being glorified, in chapters 5 to 7. These communications are terminated by the rejection of His Person, of His testimony, and of His works, which closes the question of their responsibility. Then we have His actual work in Israel, and that which would follow, according to the counsels of God, and by His power in His Person, in chapter 10. Chapters 11 and 12 contain the testimony that God bears to Jesus, and that in every respect, when man rejects Him; then the Lord's declaration, that death is necessary, that He may take His title of Son of man; chapter 13 looks at Him as going back to God again.

Chapter 11 presents Jesus as Son of God: the raising and giving of life to a dead man is the witness of it.

Lazarus, a member of a family beloved of Jesus, was sick. Jesus Himself, away from Jerusalem, had withdrawn to the side of Jordan. The sisters of Lazarus, one of whom, when He frequented the house, had remained sitting at His feet to hear Him, whilst the other was preoccupied with household service, and had complained that she was left alone, sent to tell the Lord that their brother was sick. Jesus answered: "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified thereby" (v. 4); after this, He remained two days in the place where He was; then He said to His disciples, "Let us go into Judea again." The disciples raise the objection that the Jews, a little before, had sought to kill Him. The answer of the Lord reveals to us the principle which governed all His conduct. During these two days He had received no direction from His Father to go to Bethany, and, in spite of the affection He had for this family, of which He was reminded by the two sisters, He remains there where He was, without stirring. Then, His Father's will being revealed to Him, He goes away without hesitation to the place of danger He had left. The light of day was on His path, the light of His Father's will. There He always walked.

224 After this, Jesus said to His disciples, "Lazarus, our friend, is fallen asleep; but I go that I may awake him out of sleep" (v. 11). Jesus spoke thus, because death took this character in His eyes, the power of resurrection and of life being in Him. The apostles apply His words literally to natural sleep, upon which He explains them to them. How many things passed in the heart of Jesus which did not come out! For His walk, the will of His Father was enough, and He had the discernment of that will. But His own death was before His eyes, the dominion of death over man, the power of life in Himself, the glory of God manifested in the exercise of this, the fact that He was the Son of God in whom the resurrection and the life had come, the ways of God that brought Him back there, where, in effect, death awaited Him, the affection of the family of the deceased man, which, real as it was, did not for a moment set aside His waiting upon the will of God, His isolation - for His disciples did not understand Him - all the immense consequences of this journey, where the dominion of death over man, the presence of the Resurrection and the Life, the subjection to death of Him who was both one and the other, and that for man - all this weighed upon the Saviour's spirit, His spirit alone in the midst of the world! But for Him, I repeat, His Father's will was sufficient to light His path; He needed but this. Invaluable teaching for us, and for our feeble hearts, but which have divine power with them in that path. One does not stumble there. The precious Saviour never failed in it, either in life or in death; He led a hidden life with His Father, a life which shewed itself in obedience and perfect love for Him, but which made up His life where hatred and death reigned, these, however, only leading Him to the end He was pursuing, namely, perfect obedience to, and the absolute glory of, His Father. Oh! may we be able to follow Him; and, if it be afar off, at least may it be Him that we follow while walking in His footsteps, in the inner life which looks to Him, and in obedience, and seeking what He wills!

"Let us go to him," said Jesus (v. 15). He goes to meet death as a power that exercises its dominion over man; and to undergo it Himself, He who was the Resurrection and the Life, in view of our salvation, and for the glory of God. In His walk of obedience down here, the Father always hears Him, and He exercises thus divine power, even to raising a dead man; but He walks in this path of obedience to obey to the end, finding that He could not be heard until the cup, of which He had a holy fear, had been drunk; that cup that He was going to drink, in being abandoned of God in His soul, then heard, doubtless, and glorified, but after having experienced to the end what it was not to be heard.

225 But whatever may have been the Saviour's thoughts and the pressure of circumstances upon His soul, they never overcame Him, nor hindered the exercise of the most perfect love. "I rejoice, on your account, that I was not there" (v. 15). If He was tried by seeming to be wanting in affection for these poor women, not only was He perfectly obeying His Father's will, which is confirmed here, but, in the midst of the deep exercises of His heart, the power of life and all the weight of death meeting in His mind, He rejoiced at the profit that the disciples were about to have from it.

Another testimony of the grace of God is found here, in the fact that the devotedness of Thomas, who, later on, was wanting in faith, is recorded, so that we cannot doubt of his loyalty to Jesus. But let us follow this important history of the resurrection of Lazarus.

The fact of the death of Lazarus was clearly established, by the delay, that God's wisdom had caused in the intervention of the Lord; Lazarus had been four days in the tomb. That which is but obedience to God's will at the moment when it is a question of submitting to it, later on displays the wisdom of God. Jesus had healed many other persons; but here, close to Jerusalem, in the sight of the Jews, the power of life, divine power in Jesus was manifested at the moment when He was about to die, and that in a very striking manner. It was a power unknown to all, although He who exercised it, and who was it, had already restored life to the dead. Jesus, then, being come, found that Lazarus had already been four days in the tomb (v. 17). Bethany being near to Jerusalem, many Jews had gone there, to testify their sympathy with the dead man's sisters, and to comfort them, a crowd of witnesses were thus brought upon the spot, to verify the Lord's wonderful work, to spread the report of it in the holy city, and establish the authenticity of it without possible contradiction, and thus bring on the crisis, which was soon to have a solemn result in the death of the Saviour, according to the counsels and determinate purpose of God.

226 The news of the arrival of Jesus reached Bethany, and Martha heard of it, and arose immediately and went to meet the Lord (v. 19, 20). Martha's heart was governed by circumstances, and the tardy arrival of the Lord sets her at once in action. What would Jesus say? What would He do? There was with Martha confidence in Him, but nothing was weighed. Mary was more serious; she was accustomed to sit at the feet of Jesus, to listen to the divine testimony that issued from His mouth; there was, perhaps, more perplexity in her heart as to why the Lord had not come earlier, but with more reverence for His Person, she was more influenced by the sense of His divine character; she remains quietly in the house waiting until God ordered for her that she should be found with Jesus; her heart full, ready to burst forth, still counted upon Jesus and relied on Him, cast down I have no doubt, but knowing that there was in the Lord a heart more deep, more full of love than her own. Martha, having come to Jesus, is quite ready with a word; she recognises Him truly as Lord, she believes in Him truly, but with a faith that knows little what He is. "Lord, if thou hadst been here," she says, "my brother would not have died," but still she knew that as Messiah, what Jesus asked of God, God would give Him. It is not here a question of the Father, of the Son who had life in Himself; but Martha had known too well what Jesus had done to suppose that God would not hear Him. All this passage is interesting, for it shews us a soul that believed in Jesus, a soul that loved Him, but a faith - one sees many thus - where all was vague, a faith that recognised in Jesus a Mediator, whom God would hear, but that knew nothing of His Person as come into this world, nor of the quickening power which was found in the Son of God, come into the midst of the scene where death reigned. The Lord's answer raises this question and gives room for the public testimony of God on this subject. "Thy brother shall rise again," said Jesus. Martha, an orthodox Pharisee, answers, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day"; she might have said as much of the greatest enemies of Christ. These will certainly rise again, the power of God will effect it. Martha's answer did not say more of it, did not say one word of what the Saviour was. Jesus says, "I am the resurrection and the life" (v. 25). As in the whole Gospel, we have here what Jesus is as light and life, in His Person, as come into the world, in contrast with all the promises made to the Jews, even though they had been justly appreciated. They were scarcely so here, they were at least in a very vague manner.

227 The Lord speaks here (v. 25, 26) as already present to accomplish the great result of His power, still hidden in His Person, but of which He was going to give the proof in the resurrection of Lazarus. When He shall exercise this power, he that believeth* in Him, even though he be dead, shall live; and whosoever liveth, and believeth in Him, shall never die. Power is in His Person; the present proof of it was found in the resurrection of Lazarus; the accomplishment of it will be when He shall come back to exercise this power in its fulness. In the meantime the thing is realised according to the place that Christ has taken; He raised up Lazarus for life in this world where He was. Now that He is absent, the soul that is quickened by His power goes to Him where He is; when He comes back, He will raise the believing dead in glory; believers who are alive will not die. Evidently we find in this the power of life that is in the Person of the Saviour, in contrast with Martha's vague thought, so common among Christians, too, that God will raise up all men at the end of time. The words of the Lord apply only to believers.

{*Literally "the believer," it is his character.}

Note, that the resurrection here precedes life, for death was before the eyes of Jesus, and weighed upon all hearts. But also Jesus had the power of life to raise from the dead, when death had already exercised its power, and this is what was needed for man over whom death reigned.

The Lord puts the question formally to Martha: "Believest thou this?" Indeed this was the great crucial question, for death reigned over man, and Christ Himself was about to undergo it. Was there anything more powerful in the world, on the part of God? Martha had not been sitting at the feet of Jesus; she does not know how to answer, nor Mary herself: Martha's precipitation, however, had served to bring to light the question which she knew not how to answer, and the state of ignorance in which all hearts were. But the glorious Person of Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life, was there. Martha, feeling that the Lord went beyond her spiritual intelligence, makes a correct confession of faith, according to Psalm 2, but altogether general; and feeling that Mary knew the Lord's mind better, she goes to call her, saying, "The Master calleth for thee"; which, though not formally true, expressed that which she felt morally, that which the Saviour's question implied; for the "Believest thou this?" was addressed, she felt, not so much to her, as to Mary.

228 Mary rises at once, and goes to Jesus. Her heart was, the needs of her heart were, there already; her respect for the Lord, and the perplexity of her soul, agitated by the power of death, had kept her in the house until then: but that shewed that death weighed upon Mary's soul also; all was subjected to it. Jesus could heal; but death ruled over the living as well as over the deceased. Mary, with a subject heart, though exercised and perplexed, for the Deliverer in whom she trusted had not arrested the evil, comes near to Jesus. Attached to the Lord, who possessed her heart's confidence, a confidence which Martha's words had revived, but having still the weight of death upon her soul, Mary falls down before Him as soon as she sees Him, for her devotedness was connected with deep reverence for the Person of Jesus, a reverence engendered by His word. But Mary, too, was under the weight of death; in that respect she did not go beyond Martha, but sure of the goodness of Jesus, as indeed Martha also had been, she said, "If thou hadst been here, my brother had not died." Death was between her hope and Jesus, since Jesus had not been between Lazarus and death. Death, for her, had shut the door to all hope; Lazarus was no more in the land of the living, there was no longer any one to be healed.

The Jews, seeing that Mary had got up and gone out, followed her, thinking that she was going to the grave to weep there; they but thus add their voice to the testimony rendered to the power of death over the body and the soul, "Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?" (v. 37). Jesus feels it; He groans and is deeply moved* in His spirit, but the love which animates Him and the testimony which He had come to render to the truth, press Him on towards the grave where the body of Lazarus lies. He asks, "Where have ye laid him?" They conduct Him to the sepulchre. There Jesus relieves Himself by tears, which are the witness to His estate as man, and to His sympathy for men and as a man, but also the expression of a heart moved by divine love. It was not however the loss of Lazarus, nor His love for the dead man's sisters that was the cause of those tears, for Jesus was going at that very moment to raise Lazarus. In thinking of the latter, that which He was going to do would have made joy spring up in His heart. No, these tears of the Saviour were profound sympathy for the human race crushed under the weight of death, from which it could not raise itself, as also for these tried souls. The Jews thought that the tears of Jesus had their source in His affection for Lazarus: "See how he loved him!" they say. This was very natural, but that which He was about to do forbids us to entertain the like thought. The remark, already quoted, of some amongst them (v. 37) only renews the groans of Jesus, in recalling the thought of the subjection of men, not only to death, but to the dominion of death over their spirits.

{*The expression here used is a very strong one.}

229 This is what caused the Saviour's tears to flow. Poor Martha cannot conceal her unbelief, that is to say, the influence that external circumstances exercised over her soul. Lazarus had been in the grave four days already! Corruption must have already begun, she says. God permits that there should not be the slightest doubt, and that the proof of the reality of Lazarus's death should be given; but the glory of God did not depend on the facility of the work, it shewed itself in its impossibility. Then they took away the stone which closed the sepulchre where the dead body of Lazarus lay.

Jesus here, as always in this Gospel, attributes the work to the Father's will, and accomplishes the work as heard by Him: His hearing Him being the proof that the Father had sent Him, and bearing witness to it. This is the position that Jesus places Himself in; He does not leave the character of Servant that He had taken; He could do, and did, all that His Father did: but it was as sent of Him to accomplish it, as having made Himself a Servant, whilst being one with the Father. He never glorifies Himself, nor departs from this dependence on His Father, in His course down here. He would have failed in His perfection in doing so; He could not. Also, His mission from heaven, on the part of God, was the chief point for the multitude.

Then with the powerful voice that raises the dead, the voice of the Son of God, He cries, "Lazarus, come forth!" (v. 43) and the dead man came forth, bound with the sheet in which he had been buried, and with his face bound about with a napkin. Jesus commanded those standing by to loose him and let him go.

230 The effect of this miracle was, that many of the Jews believed in Him; but others, hardened by their prejudices, went away to the Pharisees, and told them what Jesus had done. Israel was laid under the necessity of believing or of shewing an incurable hatred against God, and against His will: for, let us remember it, almost under the walls of Jerusalem, and known of all, the God of light and truth shewed Himself as the resurrection and the life, and raised from amongst the dead a man whose body was going to corruption. At the powerful word of Him who, nevertheless, owned His being sent from the Father, the dead man buried already four days, comes out alive from the tomb. The power of God entered, even as to the body, into the domain of death, from whose dominion no human being could free himself, that no living being could avoid, that all were condemned to undergo by the power of Satan and by the judgment of God. Here was a Man, who, insisting that He was sent of the Father in grace, calls a dead man from the tomb with authority, and in fact quickens him and raises him. The Son of God was there, overturning the power of Satan, destroying the dominion of death, and setting man free from the state to which he had been subjected by sin: He was there the Son of God, the Resurrection and the Life, presented to man, declared Son of God with power. Would man receive Him?

The news of the wonderful event of the resurrection of Lazarus having reached the ears of the Pharisees, they gathered together to take counsel as to what was to be done. Avowed adversaries of Christ, whatever might happen, only thinking of their national importance, their consciences and hearts remaining alike insensible, they were afraid that the manifestation of such power would awaken the jealousy of the Romans; their hatred against the divine light being greater, however, and having more effect on them than the fear of the Romans, for when occasion arose it did not cost them much to excite disturbances and rebellions. Caiaphas, for the counsels of God are about to be accomplished, declares that it is better that one man should die for the nation, than that it should entirely perish. "Ye know nothing, nor consider that it is profitable for us that one man die for the nation, and that the whole nation perish not" (v. 50). God put these words in his mouth; the evangelist adding that Jesus was going to die, not for the nation only, but that He should gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad. Enmity against the light come and manifested in grace, and against divine power, which did not now seek to shelter itself, but accomplished the will of God - absolute enmity against the Son of God, in whom these things were realised, and who was manifested by these things - was indeed determined on, and without scruple. From that day, therefore, they consulted together that they might put Him to death (v. 53). It was a diabolical will to put to death Him in whom was life, and in whom God Himself had visited this poor world in grace - a will without any scruple whatever, for they wanted to put Lazarus also to death, a witness too irrefragable of the power that had raised him. Nothing is more frightful, but it is man laid bare.

231 Jesus therefore walked no longer openly among the Jews; He went away until His hour should be come. They asked each other if He would come to the feast, for the passover of the Jews was near; and the chief priests and the Pharisees had given commandment that if anyone knew where Jesus was, they should make it known, that they might take Him.

What a testimony we have here to the entrance of the power of life into this world of death, of its entrance in grace, and victorious over death, however real this might be! Let us remember that resurrection comes first, for in reality we are all dead. Yet another thing was needed, the death of Him who possessed this life; for we are sinners, and the mind of the flesh in all is enmity against God: redemption was needed as life was needed where death reigned, and reigned through sin. (Compare 1 John 4:9-10.) But we possess the testimony of divine power come into the domain of death - how God glorifies Himself - and the Son of God revealed as the one in whom that life is for us; we see, too, who He is who was going to give Himself for us on the cross.

John 12

But the solemn hour of the Lord's death was approaching, and six days before the Passover of which He was to be the real lamb, Jesus comes back to Bethany (chap. 12:1), and what a wonderful scene unfolds itself there! Seated at the same table, there was Lazarus risen, come back from hades, and He who had brought him back, the Son of God. Martha, according to her ordinary practice, is occupied with service; Mary, completing the moral picture, is occupied with Jesus. Mary had tasted the word of the Lord: that word, full of love and of light, had penetrated her heart. Jesus had given her back her beloved brother. She saw the hatred of the Jews rise against Him whom she loved, and who had introduced into her heart the feeling of divine love; in proportion as the hatred rose, her affection for the Saviour rose too, and gave it courage to shew itself. It was the instinct of affection which felt that death was casting its shadow over Him who was the life, as Jesus felt it also; - the only case in which Jesus found sympathy on earth. The Lord gives to Mary's act, instinctive fruit of affection and of devotedness, a voice that came from His divine intelligence: what she had done she had done for His burial. He knew that He was going away; Mary had spent all for Him; Jesus was worthy of it, for her heart. As I have said, her affection rose in the measure in which the hatred of the Jews increased. The shadow of His approaching rejection reached her already. Indeed, everything was centred, everything assumed its form, in Him and around Him; in Him, the power of life, and devotedness unto death; in Mary, affection which made of Jesus everything for her heart; in Judas, the spirit of lying and of treachery; in the Jews, hatred against that which was divine, even to wishing to put Lazarus himself to death - inconceivable malice and hardness that would not have the light! On the occasion of the remark of Judas, the Lord expresses the consciousness He had of His approaching departure from this world, but with striking patience and gentleness.

232 This brief history contained in the first verses of this chapter, has a special character, introduced, as it is, in the midst of the testimony that God caused to be borne to the personal glory of His Son, at the moment of His rejection. But, at this very moment, and in the midst of the increasing hatred of the heads of the nation, this little flock gathers together, a witness to the divine power of which one amongst them had been the object, a power which led many of the Jews to believe in Jesus v. 11). Jesus must go away, He must die; but before He dies, there are men who are witnesses of the quickening power of the Son of God, and see in it the glory of God, witnesses of what He was already, of what He was in His Person. The verses which follow shew what He was going to be in His position - that which belonged to Him, but which He did not appropriate to Himself, and which, in one way, He could not so appropriate before He died.

233 The first two titles to which testimony is borne here, belonged to the Lord while He was alive, but the first was connected with His Person, was inherent in Him; He was Son of God, He was the Resurrection and the Life, so that the little assembly that surrounded Him, was gathered about Him on a principle with which eternal life was connected, and upon which the Christian position (not yet developed nor known, it is true, either as a principle or as a fact) was founded by anticipation - Christ, Son of God, Resurrection and Life, going away to the Father, by the way of the shadow of death, and His rejection down here. In fine, the three characters of Christ, of which the two first are found in the second Psalm, and are recognised by Nathanael at the beginning of our Gospel, and of which the third, contained in Psalm 8, is reproduced in the answer of the Saviour to Nathanael, are found again here; only there is this difference with Psalm 2, that the first of these names is presented here not only as by right of birth in this world, but as the exercise of divine power that raises and quickens. As to the two others, we are about to pursue the manifestation of them as it is given us in our chapter.

Before going further, I wish to draw attention once more to this solemn bringing together of the power of death over man's heart, over the first Adam, and the power of divine life in the Son of God, present in a man in the very heart of the dominion of death, destroying this dominion, and He who possessed it in His Person, giving Himself up to death, in order to deliver from it those that were subject to it. That Jesus had this in view is apparent: (See chap. 10:31, 40; ch. 11:16, 53, 54; ch. 12:7.) He had it on His spirit when He came back to Jerusalem, and when He spoke with Martha and Mary; He must Himself undergo death for us.

The next day (ver. 12, etc.) the people, having learned that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, struck by this great miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus, go forth to meet Him with branches of palm-trees, and salute Him as the King of Israel that cometh in the name of Jehovah, according to Psalm 118. It is the second character in which God would have Jesus recognised, notwithstanding His rejection. The resurrection of Lazarus had shewn Him as Son of God; now He is owned Son of David. Here the event is in direct connection with the resurrection of Lazarus, and the title of Son of God; in Luke, and even in Matthew and Mark, this circumstance is connected rather with the title of Lord, and we find there the details of the manner in which Jesus found the ass's colt. In these three Gospels too, although this difference is less striking in Matthew, the disciples are put forward, whilst here it is more the people, moved by the noise which the resurrection of Lazarus had caused. It is the prophecy of Zechariah, but leaving out that which, in the prophet, refers to the deliverance of Israel. John and Matthew mention it, for it was only after that Jesus was glorified, that the disciples could connect the prophecy with that which they had themselves done to honour Him, and to cause Him to enter in triumph into Jerusalem, Jesus, however, having given the order about the ass's colt.

234 Such are, beside the divine power that quickens, the two titles that belonged to Jesus, as the Christ manifested upon earth, the titles of Psalm 2.

After this the Greeks, from amongst those who had gone up to worship during the feast, arrive and desire to see Jesus. They come to Philip, who tells Andrew, and then Andrew and Philip tell Jesus. Although coming to worship at Jerusalem, they were strangers to the covenants of promise; an entirely new order of things was needed to introduce them into it. They had no right to the promises; Jesus must die to lay the foundation for this new order of things. Jesus is here, not the promised Messiah, but the second Man, head of all things that God had created, that He had Himself created: but He must receive them by redemption, and especially His co-heirs. "Except a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it remains alone; but if it die, it bears much fruit" (v. 24). He must redeem the co-heirs in order to have them with Himself. If He were King of Israel and Son of God according to Psalm 2, He was, as Son of man, Lord of the whole creation; only He must die that His co-heirs should have part in the inheritance that He had acquired. "The hour is come," said He, "that the Son of man should be glorified" (v. 23).

It is well to remember the testimonies that the Old and New Testament furnish on the bearing of this title of Son of Man. The Psalms and Daniel speak of it. We find it in Psalm 80:17, where the point is, the blessing of the Jews, when they will return to Jehovah; in Psalm 8, after having been rejected in Psalm 2 as Son of God and King of Israel, the Son of man appears as Lord of all; it is still here, when the name of Jehovah, the God of the Jews, is "excellent in all the earth," but His glory exalted also above the heavens, that Man, at the same time the Son of man, is set over all the works of God. This Psalm 8 is quoted by the Lord to justify the cries of the children when He entered into Jerusalem (v. 2); and by the apostle Paul (Eph. 1:21-22; 1 Cor. 15:27), in view of Christ's position as Head over all after His resurrection; and in Hebrews 2, to shew His glory in this position above angels (chap. 1 of this epistle having presented this position as a consequence of His divinity), but when this human supremacy had not yet taken place, although He was crowned with glory and honour. These three passages develop clearly the position of Jesus as Son of man; one other (Dan. 7:13-14) completes the picture of the place of the Son of man in the government of God. In this passage the Son of man is brought to the Ancient of Days in order to take up the government, not of the Jews only, but of all kingdoms, exercising from on high, from heaven, the universal dominion of which He holds the reins, by it replacing all the powers that have held a more or less universal sway after that the throne of God had left Jerusalem on the Babylonish captivity.

235 Now to take this position of dominion not only over Israel and over the nations, but over all the works of God, over all that He Himself had created, Jesus must die, not to have right to everything, but to possess on the ground of redemption, all things reconciled to God, and then to have co-heirs, according to the counsels of God, He being the Firstborn among many brethren. This death is the first thought that comes to the mind of the Lord when the arrival of the Greeks brings forward His dignity as Son of man. Death and the curse were man's inheritance; Jesus must undergo them, to raise man from the state in which he was found, and to place him in the lordship which had been destined for him according to the counsels of God. He was the second Man, the last Adam; but sin having entered into the world, He must redeem the co-heirs, purify them, that they might have a place with Him; He must take away all right from the enemy, so as to deprive him later on of his power over the heritage that he had acquired by man's sin, and even by the judgment of God, and to reconcile all things to God having made peace by the blood of the cross. In this path of death, for it was indeed the death of the cross, if any one serve Him, he must follow Him. Whosoever loves his life shall lose it, and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. Solemn word! But we have already seen that His rejection must, according to Psalm 2, be associated with His character of Messiah and Son of God: He should be no more of this world. His position as Son of man, Head over all things, only comes afterwards in Psalm 8.

236 From the tenth chapter, we find ourselves historically in the shadow of His death, which made thus an absolute breach between Him and the world, and was also death in all its terror as the judgment of God. He has borne the judgment in our place; but it was there the judgment of a world that should see Him no more. The friendship of the world henceforth would be enmity against God; it had been always so in reality, but now the fact was publicly manifested; it is the rejected Lord who is the Saviour. It is He whom man has crucified, that God has raised to His right hand. He had fully revealed the Father, and they had seen and hated both Him and the Father, as He says (chap. 15:24), and in appealing to the judgment of God, "Righteous Father, the world hath not known thee." To be a Saviour, He had to be lifted up from the earth; the Son of man had to suffer and die; a living Christ was for the Jews. The shadow of death only grew thicker up to Gethsemane, where its deepest shades enveloped the soul of Jesus, and where He took in His hand the cup which contained that which had thrown its shadow on His soul all along the way, but which now penetrated it with its most profound darkness. One only thing remained to Him up to the cross, and even in the sufferings of perfect obedience - communion with His Father; at the cross, obedience was accomplished, and the communion was lost, to make His obedience and His perfection shine the more. It was man's hour and the power of darkness which only drove Him on towards the judgment of God, more terrible than the subordinate instruments that darkened the path of obedience and of sufferings, in which He perfectly glorified God, there where He has been made sin for us, and has blotted out our sins for ever.

237 The Lord speaks in an abstract way, as of a rule or principle, the ground of which He Himself was going to lay for all; only He was giving Himself that others might have eternal life; and He could have delivered Himself, or have obtained twelve legions of angels; but then, how would the scriptures have been fulfilled? The thing could not be; He had not come to deliver Himself. He would have remained in heaven, and have left us exposed to God's righteous judgment; but that could not be either: His love did not allow Him to do this. He had also too much at heart the accomplishment of the counsels of God, and the glory of God His Father, which should thus be made evident in a remarkable and perfect manner. The Saviour's rejection on the part of the world has been the rejection of the world on the part of God. The last effort to find or arouse good in man's heart had been made, and they had "seen and hated both me and my Father." God could save out of this world, in grace; but the world was lost, it was in a state of enmity against God. He therefore who attaches himself to this world, who seeks his life in it, or who keeps it as a life to which he clings, in contrast with the rejected Christ, loses it. We are not always called upon to sacrifice our lives outwardly, although this might take place, and has often happened; but morally this applies always: he who loves his life, who cleaves to it as if it belonged to this world, loses it. It is a life of vanity, alienated from God as the world itself to which it attaches itself, a life which ends only in death; for here Jesus does not speak of judgment.

The Lord adds, to that which precedes, a most important principle of conduct: "If any man serve me, let him follow me" (v. 26). It will be in principle, through death, that we must follow Him - death to sin and to the world; but the consequence of such a path is simple; where the Saviour is, there shall His servant be. Such an one follows Him through death into the heavenly glory where He has entered, and "If any man serve me, him will my Father honour."

But the heart of the Lord, if He exhorted others to take the narrow road in which one was to deny oneself, and the world that was enmity against God, whilst losing a life identified with the world which rejected the light when it had come into it in grace - His heart, I say, realised what was before Himself, for He was going to meet death, death armed with its sting - the judgment of God against sin, and the power of Satan - but a death in which we find all the more the perfection of Jesus. "Now," He says, "is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour; but for this cause came I unto this hour"; it was for this that I came into the world. Then the Saviour goes back to the true motive of everything, a motive always present to His heart: "Father, glorify thy name!" Cost what it might, this was what He desired always. There was no delay in the answer of the Father: "I have both glorified it, and I will glorify it again." I have no doubt that this "I will glorify it again" was to be accomplished in resurrection. The Father had glorified His name in the resurrection of Lazarus, a resurrection in this world; He was going to do it again in Christ Himself, in a better resurrection, a true answer to death, where the sovereign power of God in grace, and towards Christ in righteousness, has been manifested; a new state in which man had never been, but which was, according to God's counsels, the expression of what He is in Himself, and perfect blessing for man: "Christ (says the apostle) was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father."

238 The multitude did not know what to think of this voice that it had heard; they said it was a clap of thunder; others, that an angel had spoken to Him. Jesus answers: "This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes"; the Father's voice was in His heart; for the people, it was necessary to have that which was sensible; grace gave it to them. But the Lord explains this solemn sign, by that which was in His heart, and that He knew to be taking place at that moment: "Now is the judgment of this world." Then, indeed, took place the judgment of the world, which is condemned absolutely and finally in rejecting the Lord; but in this also is accomplished the work that has broken for ever the power of Satan, prince of this world; and, on the other hand, a Saviour has been manifested, point of attraction for all men, instead and in place of a Messiah of the Jews, for these things He said to signify by what death He should die. The multitude (ver. 34) oppose to Him that which was written of the Messiah, and ask: "How sayest thou that the Son of man must be lifted up [from the earth]? Who is this Son of man?" The Lord answers by warning them that the moment was approaching when the light, He Himself, would be put out for them, and when they would lose it for ever: they would walk in darkness, not knowing whither they went; for them, wisdom was to believe in the light before it went away, that they might be sons of light; then He went away.

239 Remark also here, a very important expression. The Lord says, "And I, if I be lifted up out of the earth, will draw all men unto me" (v. 32). He is no longer at all of this world, nor in heaven either. It is a Saviour rejected, suffering, dying, who has left the world for ever, a Saviour ignominiously rejected, driven away, cast out by the world; it is He who, being no longer on the earth, nor in heaven either, I repeat, exposed to the gaze of men, lifted up from the earth and not yet in heaven, but alone between the one and the other with God, like the altar that was neither in the camp nor in the tabernacle - it is He who is the attractive refuge of those who would flee from the world that has rejected Him to enter heaven, to which He thus opens the way for us.

The rest of the chapter is a summing up of the position. In the first part, it is the evangelist who records the obstinate incredulity of the people, and the sad motives that governed their minds, preoccupied with the approbation of men, rather than looking to God. In the second part, Jesus Himself shews two things; first of all, that in rejecting Him thus, those that did it, rejected the light itself, come into the world, that those who believed on God should not remain in darkness; then, that in rejecting Him, they rejected the Father, for what He said were the Father's words. Thus He did not judge him that heard His word, but did not keep it, for He was not come to judge the world, but to save it; His words would judge them at the last day. Now, that which He said was the Father's commandment, and this commandment (He knew it, He had faith in it, the certain consciousness in Himself) was eternal life. All that He said then, He "spoke" it, as the Father had spoken to Him.

This summing up of the rejection of Him of whom the prophets had spoken, of the light, and of the words of the Father, closes the history, properly so called, of the Saviour's life. That which follows refers to His departure, to the gift of the Holy Ghost, as well as to the ministry of those whom He left down here as witnesses in His place. But before entering into this new portion of our Gospel, I would remind you that the 41st verse, quoting Isaiah 6, and applying it to Christ, shews that Jesus was the Jehovah of the Old Testament. I would point out too, how the fear of man and the pursuit of his approbation, obscures the testimony of God in the heart, and stifles the conscience. If the eye be single, the whole body is full of light.