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B. W. Johnson
The New Testament Commentary: Vol. III--John (1886)


      John shows a logical order in developing the causes of the hostility of the Jewish authorities to Christ, which is not found in the other Gospels. From the time when, at his first passover, the Lord drove the money changers out of the temple, their hatred had grown deeper at every fresh visit to Jerusalem, until, just before his retirement to Ephraim, the Sanhedrim had officially resolved upon his death as soon as it could be brought about on some charge that would be plausible in the eyes of the Roman rulers. The Lord knew full well that his "hour was at hand" and went into retirement before the storm, not to escape his fate, but to defer it until the appointed time at the passover. As that time approached he left Ephraim and, it seems, crossed over to the east of the Jordan, joined the crowds that were hastening to the feast, and crossing the Jordan near Jericho, passed through that city, where he healed the blind men, converted Zaccheus and abode at his house. From thence he went with his disciples and the crowds of pilgrims, who then thronged the thoroughfares, along the winding route that led through the mountain passes from the plain of Jericho up to Jerusalem. Reaching Bethany he parted from the throngs and stopped to rest in the home of friends who were among the truest he had on earth. There is a difference of opinion among scholars whether he arrived at Bethany on the evening of the Sabbath day or the day before. It is well to admit that there is much disagreement concerning the exact date of several of the momentous events of the week, extending from the arrival of the Lord in Bethany until his resurrection. Even the "six days before the passover" has been variously interpreted by the commentators. Andrews, whose chronology I have usually followed, and who is one of the best of authorities on chronological questions, adopts Friday as the date of the arrival at Bethany, and supposes that the Lord left Jericho, eighteen miles from Jerusalem, in the morning, reaching Bethany about sunset, and stopped with his apostles over the Sabbath. In the evening of the next day, the Sabbath, the feast was made at the house of Simon the leper. The events of this most wonderful week in the history of the world are tabulated as follows:

Saturday. Nisan 9. March 31. Supper at Bethany.
Sunday. Nisan 10. April 1. Entry into Jerusalem.
Monday. Nisan 11. April 2. Second cleansing of the temple.
Tuesday. Nisan 12. April 3. Last visit to the temple. The prophecy of Matthew, chapter XXIV.
Wednesday. Nisan 13. April 4. Savior resting at Bethany.
Thursday. Nisan 14. April 6. The Savior eats the passover; the Lord's Supper instituted.
Friday. Nisan 15. April 6. The Lord crucified. The Jews eat the passover.
Saturday. Nisan 16. April 7. The Lord in the tomb.
Sunday. Nisan 17. April 8. The Resurrection.

      While I am sensible that there are certain difficulties in this arrangement [184] I believe that there are fewer than are presented by any other scheme and I shall follow it, not as certain, but as supported by the best authorities and most probable. Reasons will be given, under different heads, for the date assigned to the events considered.


      One cannot enter upon the study of the portion of the Gospel that now opens before us without feeling that he is entering upon the most tender, solemn and sacred portion of the sacred story. This journey to Jerusalem is the last journey, is the Lord's last appeal to that untoward generation, is the history of the Lamb consciously going to the altar of sacrifice, the innocent and holy condemned one seeking his doom. A little later Paul went to Jerusalem "knowing that bonds and imprisonment awaited him;" but now the Lord goes knowing that he is certainly going the cross.

      The account of the feast at Bethany is given by @Matthew, chapter XXVI and @Mark, chapter XIV. These accounts, although differing somewhat in details, no doubt describe the same occurrence that John narrates in the present passage. The anointing described by @Luke in chapter VII, is regarded by all the commentators as a different affair which occurred in Galilee at the house of a Pharisee named Simon. The only serious apparent discrepancy between the accounts of John and the earlier writers is that they seem to locate the feast at Bethany two days before the passover. It should be kept in mind, however, that neither Matthew nor Luke adhere to the chronological order of Christ's ministry, nor do they assert that the feast took place two days before the passover. That date is assigned to a meeting of the Sanhedrim held to devise means to seize the Savior by craft, and at this meeting an opportunity presents itself in the offer of one of the apostles to betray his Master by leading a band of armed men to his resting place at night. Then these evangelists naturally go back to give an account of the feast at Bethany where the disappointment of Judas developed his purpose to sell his Lord. This account they throw in as an episode, and then return to the plot of the Sanhedrim and the treachery of Judas. It is but just to admit that some judicious scholars hold that Matthew and Mark give the real date of the feast, and insist that John declares the time when Christ came to Bethany, but not the time of the feast. The attention John usually gives to the order of events, his language, and the probabilities are opposed to this view.

      1. Then Jesus six days before the passover. The passover meal was the beginning of the feast of unleavened bread, which lasted for seven days. The whole paschal week was termed the feast of unleavened bread; the passover was, strictly speaking, the 15th of Nisan, "the great day of the feast." Jesus reached Bethany on Friday, rested the Sabbath day or Saturday, and the feast took place on Saturday evening, after the Sabbath ended. Bethany. A village about two miles east of Jerusalem (@John 11:18), being on the other [185] side of the Mount of Olives. It was the home of Mary and Martha, where Christ was wont to visit when in Jerusalem (@Luke 10:38-41; Matt. 21:17; Mark 11:11, 12). It was the scene of the resurrection of Lazarus (@John, chap. 11), and of Christ's own ascension (@Luke 24:50). It is not mentioned in the Old Testament.--Abbott.

      Then is rendered by the Revision more correctly "therefore." It marks a close connection with what precedes, and especially with @11:55, which speaks of the approaching passover and the gathering multitudes. We have seen the Lord retiring for a season from the vicinity of Jerusalem, out of the immediate presence of the rulers who had now officially decided upon his death, and secluding himself in the quiet retreat of Ephraim in order to wait for this very passover. As he had been present at two preceding feasts, and as Jerusalem has been the principal seat of his ministry for about six months, it is not strange that the great topic of conversation among the pilgrims was whether he would come to the passover. Would the well-known purpose of the Sanhedrim keep him away? "Therefore, he came six days before the passover," though fully apprised of their designs, and conscious that they would be carried out at that very time. Nor was there any concealment about his coming. As we learn from the other Gospels, he crossed the Jordan from Ephraim and joined in Perea, the immense crowds who were hastening to Jerusalem, moved through Jericho in a kind of triumphal procession, with vast multitudes thronging his steps, and moving with them to Bethany, parted from them, not to seek seclusion, but to attend a public feast. The time for all concealment was now past, and in the scenes at Jericho, the feast at Bethany, the kingly march into Jerusalem, the second cleansing of the temple and the final appeal to Jerusalem recorded in @Matthew XXI., he not only seemed to seek publicity, but to invite the malice of his enemies to do its worst.

      2. There they made him a supper; and Martha served. It is not said at whose house the feast took place, only that it was at Bethany, that Martha served, that Lazarus was one of those at the table, and that Mary was there. @ Matthew and Mark say that it took place at the house of "Simon the leper." Of him we know nothing and all is conjecture. He may have been the father of the three, or the husband of Martha, or some other relative. He may have been dead and Martha his widow. Christ may have healed him of his leprosy. The only thing certain is that the feast was at his house; the Bethany family were there, and Martha was active in providing the feast. The feast may have been made by the citizens of Bethany in his honor, in gratitude for the wonderful miracle that he had restored one of their townsmen to life. "They" has no antecedent expressed and is as likely to refer to the people as any one else. In that case there is no need for supposing any relationship to the Bethany family. Martha, in accordance with all that we have learned of her active, practical nature, would be busy "serving;" Mary would naturally be forgetful of all else but her beloved Lord. We are told that a favorite time with the Jews for a feast was the evening after the Sabbath day had passed. [186]

      3. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly. Spikenard, from which the ointment was, made, was an aromatic herb of the valerian family. It was imported from an early age from Arabia, India, and the Far East. It was the costliest anointing oil of antiquity, and was sold throughout the Roman Empire, where it fetched a price that put it beyond any but the wealthy. Mary had bought a vase or flask of it containing twelve ounces. And anointed the feet of Jesus. We learn from the other accounts some additional facts. The ointment was contained in an alabaster vase which she broke. It was all for Christ. Nothing was kept back. She anointed first his head, and then his feet. She came up behind as he reclined at table and poured it on his head, and then stooped down to his feet. It must be borne in mind that the Jews did not sit but reclined at table with their feet extended behind. The anointing of the head was also a distinction which was conferred upon the guest of honor (@Luke 7:46),--not only among the Jews, but generally in the East, and among the ancients. In connection with the anointing of the head, was the washing of the feet with water. Thus it was an elevation of the custom to the highest point of honor when the head and the feet were alike anointed with oil. Wiped his feet with her hair. The same is said of "a woman that was a sinner" (@Luke 7:37). That occurrence took place in Galilee and is a different incident. That woman washed his feet with her tears of sorrow; those of Mary were tears of gratitude. The house was filled with the odor. The ointments were very fragrant. Perhaps the rich perfume was the first intimation to many of what had been done. Service to Christ is full of fragrance to all within reach of its influence.

      4. Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot. Matthew (@26:8) states that "the disciples" had indignation; @Mark reports that "some had indignation;" John (@12:4), as knowing who had whispered the first word of blame, fixes the uncharitable judgment on "Judas Iscariot, Simon's son." The narrow, covetous soul of the traitor could see nothing in the lavish gift but a "waste." His indignation, partly real, partly affected, was perhaps honestly shared by some of his fellow-disciples. His own soul was too narrow and sordid to rejoice over the honor done the Savior.

      5. Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence? About $45. A penny here is the denarius, a Roman silver coin worth 15 to 17 cents. The wretch, who is just going to sell the only Son of God for 30 pence (pieces of silver), values at 300 a little ointment, perfume, and vapor.--Quesnel. As the penny, or denarius, was the price of a day's labor then, and would buy as much as a dollar now, the whole sum would be equivalent to $300 now, a sum large enough to arouse the greed of Judas. So costly a treasure shows that the Bethany family possessed [187] considerable wealth. Given to the poor. He cared nothing for the poor. This was only a pretext. Those who are the best friends of Christ will do most for the poor.

      6. Because he had the bag. Judas was treasurer of the little company. They must have had a meagre purse; and it was too much for him to see all this money thrown away on the mere sentiment of love, when it might have gone into their treasury, from which he could steal it, for he was a thief. But he concealed his true motive, and gained the really good disciples over to his side by pleading the love of the poor. He was the type of all those treasurers, cashiers, etc., who steal trust funds.

      7. Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. Their indignation was roused against the poor, shrinking Mary as if she had robbed them. No doubt Judas felt as if he had been robbed. Then Christ interposed with authority and silenced them, adding a commendation, saying, "She has anticipated the hour of my decease; anointing my body before death, and thus preparing it for burial." It is worthy of note that this was all the anointing which our Lord's body received from the hand of Mary or her female friends, inasmuch as he had risen before they reached the sepulchre with their spices. It was, therefore, in verity, an anointing beforehand, although she was not aware of the full import of her act of love.

      8. For the poor always ye have with you. You will have plenty of opportunities to aid them; and the more they did for their Master, the more they would do for the poor, for the poor are left in his stead, and through them will be expressed the increased love of the Master. It is the want of love, not of money, that allows any poor to suffer; so that all gifts to Christ which increase our love will increase the gifts to the poor.

      9. Much people of the Jews therefore know that he was there. The language indicates that he tarried there for several days, from Friday till Sunday, and throngs came to see him. He was not seeking privacy now.

      10, 11. The chief priests consulted . . . . . put Lazarus to death. Lazarus was [188] a living testimonial to the divine power of Christ and they desired to get him out of the way.

      12. On the next day. This was Sunday, often called Palm Sunday, because on this day the multitude took the branches of palm trees. Much people that were come to the feast. Josephus says that from two to three millions attended a passover. All the Gospels give an account of this entry into Jerusalem and all ought to be read. See @Matt. 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11, and Luke 19:29-44.

      13. Took branches of palm trees, and went out to meet him. They carpeted the Savior's pathway with their garments and the gigantic leaves of the palm tree. The "branches of palm trees" are not strictly, branches at all, but the enormous leaves, twelve to sixteen feet long, which spring from the top of the tall, straight trunk. A few palm trees are still to be seen in Jerusalem. Combining the four accounts, we get the following features: Some took off their outer garments, the burnoose, and bound it on the colt as a kind of saddle; others cast their garments in the way, a mark of honor to a king (@2 Kings 9:13); others climbed the trees, cut down the branches, and strewed them in the way (@Matt. 21:8); others gathered leaves and twigs and rushes. This procession was made up largely of Galileans; but the reputation of Christ, increased by the resurrection of Lazarus, had preceded him, and many came out from the city to swell the acclamations and increase the enthusiasm. Hosanna. A Greek modification of the Hebrew words, "Save now, I beseech thee," in @Ps. 118:25, the next verse of which formed part of their song, "Blessed," etc. It is used as an expression of praise, like hallelujah. That cometh in the name of the Lord. The words are taken in part from @Ps. 118:25, 26, a hymn which belonged to the great hallelujah chanted at the end of the Paschal Supper and the Feast of Tabernacles. The people were accustomed to apply it to the Messiah.--Godet. Christ came in the name of the Lord, because sent and appointed by the Lord,--his ambassador, proclaiming the message of the Lord.

      14. And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon. This was Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the people expected him to become king at once. The outside of this triumph was very mean. He rode upon an ass's colt, which made no figure. This colt was borrowed. Christ went upon the water in a borrowed boat, ate the Passover in a borrowed chamber, was buried in a borrowed sepulchre, and here rode on a borrowed ass. He had no rich trappings, but only the garments of others.--Matthew Henry.

      15. Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh. @Each of the four evangelists [189] goes back to the prophecy (@Zech. 9:9) as fulfilled in this remarkable event,--the only known instance in which Jesus ever rode upon any animal.--Cowles. Hitherto he had entered the holy city on foot: this day he would enter as David and judges of Israel were wont,--riding on the specially Jewish ass.--Geikie.

      16. These things understood not his disciples at first. There was much connected with his ministry that never became clear until he had suffered and risen. Then in the clear light of the Holy Spirit all was like a sunbeam.


      1. Affection desires to express itself in costly sacrifices for the loved.

      2. The motive, the love, gives value to the deed; as Hermon and Pisgah were but common mountains till Christ was transfigured on the one, and Moses saw the promised land from the other.

      3. The worldly heart can never understand the blessedness and power of enthusiasm, and gifts of love.

      4. Bad men always put forward good motives for their bad deeds.

      5. Expressions of affection are of great value. We all need sympathy, and that it be expressed, especially the poor, the sick, the sorrowing.

      6. God does not need our gifts; he is rich enough without: but he wants the giving, the spirit of sacrifice.

      7. The gifts for the gospel, for the church, for Christ's sake, always increase the gifts to the poor.

      8. Reasons for Triumphal Procession. Till then he had withdrawn from popular expressions of homage; but once, at least, he wished to show himself as King Messiah of his people. It was a last call addressed by him to the population of Jerusalem. This course, besides, could no longer compromise his work. He knew that in any case death awaited him in the capital.--Godet. He would have a public testimony to the fact that it was their King the Jews crucified. It is not merely the Messiah that saves, nor the crucified One that saves, but the Messiah crucified (@1 Cor. 1:23). An analogous commission to prepare the Passover was given to Peter and John (@Luke 22:8). They may have been the two sent forth.--Abbott.

      9. Celebration of Triumph. In September, A. D. 61, about 30 years after Christ's triumphal entry, the most magnificent triumph ever seen in Rome was given to Pompey. For two days the grand procession of trophies from every land, and a long retinue of captives, moved into the city along the Via Sacra. Brazen tablets were carried, on which were engraved the names of the conquered nations, including 1,000 castles and 900 cities. The remarkable circumstance of the celebration was, that it declared him conqueror of the whole world. So the triumphant procession of Christ into Jerusalem was but a faint shadow of the coming of the Prince of peace, when all nations and the wealth and glory of them shall take part in his glorious triumph. And the day is fast approaching.--After Foster's Cyclopædia. [190]


      17. The people . . . bare record. John has just narrated a wonderful passage in the life of the Redeemer, his entry into the city of his enemies, who had resolved to slay him, in triumphal procession with vast crowds raising acclamations and shouting his kingly glory. He now pauses to observe that the miracle at Bethany had its effect on this demonstration. The people who had seen the miracle bore record.

      18. For this came also the people met him. Thousands who had not seen the miracle were moved by the story of the eye-witnesses, and eagerly went out to meet him and joined in the acclamations. They could not be regarded as believers but belonged to the fickle throng who went with the tide; who would one day shout, "Hosannah to the son of David," and a few days later, would swell the cry, "Crucify him; crucify him!"

      19. The Pharisees therefore said among themselves. These subtle opposers, were astounded and frightened by the proofs of the popularity of Jesus. They had joined with the Sanhedrim in a determination to put Christ to death; he had retired from the city and disappeared for a time from sight; an order had been issued that any one who knew his hiding place should point it out that he might be seized; yet now he had returned, entered Jerusalem as the old kings were wont to enter, with shouting crowds around him doing him homage. Hence these baffled sectarians exclaim: "Behold how ye prevail nothing; the world is gone after him." Matthew describes the commotion in the city that so stirred up the Pharisees: "And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee" (@Matt. 21:10, 11). When the Lord came into the city he entered into the temple. @Mark 11:11, declares: "Jesus entered Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about on all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve." The interview sought by the Greeks, of which we next have an account, either occurred this afternoon, while the Savior was in the temple, or on Monday. John does not say when it occurred, and most scholars have referred it to the next day, when the Savior cleansed the temple a second time, made his final appeal to the Jewish nation, and retired from the temple forever, speaking his farewell in the wonderfully pathetic words recorded in @Matt. 23:34-39. This discourse recorded by John seems to have contained his last words to the people, and after his words were uttered "he was hidden from them," to appear no more in person with the offer of [191] salvation until they should say, "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord."

      20. And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast. A remarkable circumstance is related. The passover feast was for the Jews, and those who came there to worship were of the seed of Abraham, but on this occasion, "among those who came to worship" were Greeks, members of the great Gentile division of the race which embraced all that were not Jews. These were not Jews who spoke the Grecian language and lived in Greek countries; those are called in the original Greek, Hellenistoi. We find them in the Jerusalem church in large numbers. See @Acts 6:1. These who seek to visit Jesus were Hellenes, a term only used of the Greek race. Where they came from we do not know. The Greek race was scattered all over the East from the time of Alexander's conquests. Eusebius mentions a tradition that they were an embassy from the king of Edessa who thus sought to invite Jesus to visit his kingdom. It is probable rather that they belonged to the large class of "devout Greeks," met everywhere by Paul, who were sick of heathenism and were attracted by the grand Hebrew revelation of the unity of God. On this great national occasion they had accompanied Jews settled abroad as they returned to worship in the city of David.

      The visit of these Greeks to Jerusalem indicates an unusual hunger for the truth which they had failed to find in heathenism. The aversion shown by a high caste Brahmin for an outcast is not greater than the Jews, in the age of the Savior, exhibited for Gentiles. Beyond the court of the Gentiles in the temple grounds was an inscription over the gateway: "Let no Gentile go farther under pain of death." No pious Jew could sit down to eat at the table of a Gentile (@Acts 11:3; Gal. 2:12). If a heathen were invited to a Jewish house, we learn from the Mishna, that he could not be left alone in the room, else every article of food or drink on the table was to be regarded, henceforth, as unclean. Milk drawn from a cow by heathen hands could not be used. It was not lawful to let either house or field, or to sell cattle, to a heathen, and any article, however distantly connected with heathenism, was to be destroyed. In distant lands, or districts of Palestine where the Gentiles were numerous, the Jews became less intolerant, but in Jerusalem the aversion was most intense. An illustration of this is afforded in the address that Paul delivered from the steps, after he was rescued from the temple mob, which listened to him patiently until he spoke of the Lord sending him to the Gentiles, on which his listeners were at once transported into fury.

      21. The same came to Philip. In the court of the Gentiles where the Lord then was waiting and "looking around." He observed much that required correction and on the next day, Monday, he again drove out the stock traders and the money changers. The name Philip is Grecian, as well as Andrew, and those of the seven deacons of @Acts, chapter 6. It is not unlikely [192] from this fact that Philip had been thrown under Greek influences and spoke the Greek language, as did Peter, John, Paul, and other apostles. This, probably, explains why they came to Philip. He had a Greek name and was acquainted with their race. We would see Jesus. They ask an interview. They had probably seen him as he came into Jerusalem in triumphal procession; they could see him every day as he taught publicly, but Jerusalem was ringing with the fame of the resurrection of Lazarus, his other miracles and the wonders of his teaching. They were seeking a better faith than that of their fathers and they wished to talk personally with the great Teacher. Possibly curiosity had something to do with their desire.

      22. Philip cometh and telleth Andrew. Andrew was also of Bethsaida and he and Philip seem to have been inseparable friends. The fact that Philip wanted some one to go with him to Christ shows how his character had inspired with awe even those who were nearest to him. Perhaps the Greeks followed the two apostles to the presence of Christ. It is not said whether he granted the interview or not. He probably did. John reports the address of the Savior to which the application gave rise. That Philip should hesitate to make this request is not strange in view of the fact that Christ had told his disciples when they were sent forth to preach, to go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. It has been noticed that Gentiles, the Wise men, came to honor his birth, and now Gentiles, the Greeks, do him homage as he is about to ascend the cross.

      23. The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. The answer of Christ may have been to Philip and Andrew, and the Greeks may have heard and understood it. The substance is that the time for his glorification had come and that glorification would draw all men, Greek, Gentiles as well as Jews, to him. After his glorification, accomplished by his death, there would be no wall of partition, but to him the Gentiles should seek, and there should be neither bond nor free, male nor female, Jew nor Greek, but all one in Christ Jesus.

      24. Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone. This statement, prefaced by the verily, verily, that gives solemn emphasis, enforces a great truth. The grain of wheat may remain in the granary for a thousand years and be preserved, but it is useless there. It neither reproduces, nor is food. Grains were found in the wrappings of Egyptian mummies that were 4,000 years old, but they had never produced another grain. It is when it falls into the ground and undergoes dissolution, that it brings forth fruit. It is fruitful by giving itself up. So, too, Christ must give himself up. Must die, be placed in the ground, before he can be glorified and draw all men to him. His death was needful in order that he might impart life to the nations. [193]

      25. He that loveth his life shall lose it. Then he announces a principle that underlies all exaltation. He gave his life and found eternal exaltation; the grain gives its life and lives a hundred fold; those who consecrate their lives, give them up for others, dedicate them to their holy work, will live eternally. Those who seek to save their lives, live for this present life, live for pleasures and gains and honors, shall lose their lives. The man who says he will get as much out of life as possible, the worldling, is the one who "loveth his life." The one who disregards present pleasures, or worldly interests, but dedicates his life to Christ, is the one who hateth his life.

      26. If any man serve me, let him follow me. This is Christ's direct answer to the Greeks. His service is to be rendered, not by secret interviews, but by obeying him, for so the word "follow." is to be understood. If any man serve me, him will my Father honor. God demands that "every knee should bow and every tongue confess that he is Christ." The Christian's ambition should be to follow Christ, to be Christlike, to serve him well, and leave all else to the will of the Father.

      27. Now is my soul troubled. "Now a sudden change comes over the spirit of the Redeemer. His eye closes on the crowd without; he ceases to think of, or to speak with man; he is alone with the Father. A dark cloud descends and wraps him in its folds."--Hanna. It is the shadow of the cross and the tomb. The horror just before him falls upon his soul with terrific power. It is a foreshadowing of the struggle of Gethsemane. The best comment on this verse is to compare it with the @account of the agony in the garden. Here he exclaims: Father, save me from this hour. There, "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me." Here he adds: But for this cause came I unto this hour. There "Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done." Here the perfect resignation that follows the struggle in his soul is in the prayer, Father, glorify thy name. It required a fearful struggle, but he "had hated his life" and given it for his work's sake.

      28. Then came a voice from heaven, saying, I have glorified it, etc. At Gethsemane the angel came to strengthen him; here the Father's voice speaks in approval. Three times the Father's voice was heard from the sky; first, when Christ was buried in Jordan, a type of his own burial; second, when Moses and Elias talked with him on the holy mount about his death; third, when he had his struggle of soul in view of death portrayed here and triumphed. These facts show the tender, agonizing interest the Father felt in the suffering of the Son. Will glorify it again. God had glorified his name by the wonders wrought by Jesus; [194] he would glorify it by his resurrection, his exaltation, the scenes of Pentecost, and the triumphs of the church.

      29. An angel spake to him. All heard the sound of the divine voice, but it was not clear to all what it was. Like those who were with Saul of Tarsus when on the way to Damascus, they heard, but did not comprehend.

      30. This voice came not because of me. He had already won the victory before the voice came. It was rather to confirm the faith of his disciples who still stumbled over the prospect of his death.

      31. Now is the judgment of this world. Now, "this hour," the "hour" referred to in @verses 23d and 27th, the hour for which he had come into the world, the hour of the cross; that was to be the hour of judgment, the crisis, which should determine who should rule the world. The cross became a throne. It gave him the crown. Because he suffered he was exalted to majesty and "all power in heaven and earth was given to him." The prince of this world is cast out. The great opposer, the worldly power, Satan as manifested in the pomp, power, and majesty of the earth. The cross cast him out, dethroned him; he is now a usurper and shall finally be cast into the lake of fire.

      32. If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto me. Lifted up, first, to the cross; second, from the grave; third, to heaven and the eternal throne. The crucified, risen and exalted Savior becomes a power to draw all men, Jews and Gentiles, all nations. Christ does not declare that he will draw every individual, but all races. The great thought is the power of his death and resurrection.

      33. Signifying what death he should die. And the great events that followed it as a regular sequence.

      34. We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth forever. The multitude were perplexed. They had cried, "Hosanna to the King of Israel who cometh in the name of the Lord." They believed Christ to be the king. Their idea of the Messiah was an eternal king. Now he spoke of death. They ask two questions: first, about the lifting up, and second, Who is the Son of man? [195]

      35. Yet a little while the light is with you. He refuses to answer their questions directly, but imparts to them needed truths. The light was then present with them. He was shining, teaching. Let them seek the light and walk in it while they had opportunity. The opportunity might soon pass away and the darkness come.

      36. Believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. That they might receive the light of the light of the world they must believe on him. Unbelief closed their spiritual eyes to his words. Unless there was belief and a reception of the light they could not become children of the light. With these words he retired from their midst.


      1. Christ is the "Desire of all nations."

      2. Though Christ came in person only to the "lost sheep" of the house of Israel, his mission was to all the world.

      3. The "wall of partition" between Jew and Gentile, was broken down when "the handwriting of ordinances was nailed to the cross." The risen Savior said to his disciples, "Go and preach the gospel to every creature."

      4. Self-dedication is a life-giving power. The old Romans told the story of Rome saved by Quintus Curtius and the Decii giving up their lives. The soldier often consecrates himself to save others. So Christ gave him elf to save a world.

      5. The life that is given up is the life that is saved and becomes glorious. Judson gave up his and lives as the prince of missionaries; Howard, Florence Nightingale, Miss Dix, Oberlin, Clarkson, and a host of others gave up theirs and have an immortal fame. All who give up their lives by dedicating them to holy work will gain life eternal.

      6. Christ himself had struggle of soul. He was tempted in all points as we are. The cross was as hard for him to endure as it would be for us. He fought the conflict in soul, he gave up his life, and the Father spoke his approbation. He gave up but he gained. First the cross and then the crown.

7. "With all his sufferings full in view,
      And woes to us unknown,
      Forth to the task his spirit flew;
      'Twas love that urged him on.

      Lord we return to thee what we can;
      Our hearts shall sound abroad--
      Salvation to the dying man,
      And to the rising God."--Cowper. [196]


      If that view is correct which assigns the last discourse to the temple on Monday it belongs to Christ's farewell words to Israel. From thenceforth he entered the temple no more. In the conflicts recorded in @Matthew, chapters XXII and XXIII, he had been finally rejected by Israel, and henceforth only awaited for the "Son of Man to be lifted up" that he might draw all races, the races whom Israel despised, unto him. In the closing words to the people, not to "the Jews," recorded by John, his last admonition was to seek the light and to walk in it. All the woes of Israel arose from the fact that they were averse to the light and preferred the darkness, rather than the true light. John, with this admonition in mind, next shows how they had turned away from the light.

      37. Though he had done so many miracles before them. John only records seven of these miracles as types but often refers to the great number of them. See @2:23; 4:45; 7:31; 20:30. Believed not. Many of them had a kind of intellectual faith in him as a man of God, or as the "prophet of Galilee," but they did not have that faith which believes, trusts and devotes one's life.

      38. That the saying of Esaias the prophet. The saying here recorded is found in @Isaiah 53:1. John means to say that God had by Isaiah predicted the very state of things in Israel and the Jews so acted that it might be fulfilled.

      39. Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said. @Isaiah 6:10. The Revision is clearer, which reads: "For this cause they could not believe, for that Isaiah has said again." The cause of their unbelief is not that Isaiah said thus and thus, but he points out the cause of their unbelief in what he said. The reason why they could not believe was not that God had decreed their unbelief and destroyed their free agency, but that, in the exercise of their free agency, they had made themselves, by the operation of God's moral laws, incapable of belief.

      40. He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart. This explains why they could not believe. Whether they were morally responsible for their unbelief [197] depends on how God blinded their eyes and hardened their heart. If he did it by a direct act, regardless of their moral condition, then they were not responsible. If, however, he did it by a law of the universe that whoever turns from the light shall become blind, and whoever steels his heart against the truth shall find his heart hardened, then they were morally responsible if they had turned from the light and hardened their hearts. It is a physical as well as a moral law that he who turns from the light and seeks to abide in darkness will become blinded until he will "believe a lie and be damned." The men who are the champions of unbelief, such men as Voltaire, Paine and Ingersoll, are unbelievers because they did not wish to believe. Their moral condition was such that they could justify their course of life only by refusing to believe on Christ. They sought the darkness, and as a result, finally they became so blinded that they could not believe. They blinded their own eyes because they brought upon themselves the penalty. God blinded their eyes, because their blindness resulted from the action of his universal law. Thus it is said of Pharaoh that "God hardened his heart," but it is also said that "Pharaoh hardened his heart." He chose, in the exercise of his voluntary agency, to harden his heart, but it is God's law that those who harden their hearts shall be hardened, and hence God, by this law, hardened his heart. By reference to @Matt. 13:14 the reader will find this passage from Isaiah quoted and applied by the Savior to the Jews. In the application he shows how they were blinded: "Their eyes have they closed." The Savior's words settle how God blinded their eyes. It was by the application of his invariable law to their own acts. Trench says: "The Lord, having constituted as the righteous law of moral government, that sin should produce darkness of heart and moral insensibility, declared that he would allow the law to take its course."

      42. Nevertheless among the chief rulers many believed on him. These were members of the Sanhedrim. They had an intellectual faith, but it was not a power over their hearts. "With the heart man believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (@Romans 10:10). These rulers, not believing with the heart, did not make open confession, because they feared the Pharisees. The fact that they did not confess him from fear, only added to their sin. They declined openly to take his side when they believed him to be the Christ. They were dishonest. Nor does the New Testament anywhere give a shadow of a hope to anyone who refuses to confess Christ openly. Put out of the synagogue. See @9:22 for the determination of the Pharisees, and the consequences of being put out of the synagogue. The Pharisees were the leaders in inflicting the religious penalties. [198]

      44. Jesus cried a said. John does not say when, or where, but I think, gives a sort of summary of what he had said, now that his appeal to the Jewish nation was closed. In @verses 44 and 46 he declares his oneness with him who sent him.

      46. I am come a light into the world. It was the office of Christ to make all things clear. His mission and person illuminate the mysteries of our being and destiny when they are seen in their fulness. In many respects he is a Sun. Those who abide in his light will have their doubts solved, mysteries cleared up, and the clouds rolled away from the future. It is interesting and instructive to compare the various titles and symbols that the Savior applies to himself in this Gospel. In addition to the Son of Man, the Christ, and the Son of God, which are common to all the Gospels, he used the following designations: I am the Bread of Life (@6:35); I am the Light of the world (@8:12 and in this passage); I am the Door of the sheep (@10:7); I am the Good Shepherd (@10:11); I am the Resurrection and the Life (@11:25); I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life (@14:6); I am the True Vine (@15:1). Each of these symbols conveys a different and vital truth concerning his nature or mission. Besides these he describes himself seven times, five in his public discourses, and twice to his disciples, by the profound and lofty phrase "I am," the significance of which I have discussed in another place. See note on 8:58.

      47, 48. I judge him not. In declaring that he judges not those who hear his words and believe not, he is not inconsistent. In the day of judgment he shall sit upon the throne, not to condemn the world that he came to save. It will always be either saved or condemned. The words that he left in it as his will shall decide the destiny of every man. "He that rejecteth me . . the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day."

      49. I have not spoken of myself. Of my own mind and will, but it was the Father who had spoken in him. He gave a commandment what the Son should say. It will be seen that this summary repeats ideas that have been made prominent in discourses of the Savior that John has already reported. [199]

      50. I know that his commandment is life everlasting. The commandment of the the Father is not only directed to the bestowment of life on men, but it is life. There is life in the truth of God when it is received into the heart and becomes the law of life. His commandment is truth. Christ says: "My words are spirit and they are life." Thus closes John's record of the Revelation of Christ to the world. In the discourses of the next five chapters there is a fuller revelation of himself to his disciples.

[NTC3 184-200]

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B. W. Johnson
The New Testament Commentary: Vol. III--John (1886)

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