On the Gospel According to John
John; Exodus 21:5-6; Isaiah 53:11; Matthew 12:30; Matthew 16:19; Matthew 18:18-20; Matthew 28:19; Romans 4:25; Hebrews 10:19-22; 1 John 5:6
(* Notes of remarks made partly in reply to questions at a conference.)
There is a general remark as to John's Gospel which will astonish some perhaps; that, except in three cases, John has nothing to do with heaven. In these alone you have heaven. “What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?” (John 6:62). “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2), and “Those whom thou hast given me be with me where I am,” in chapters 6, 14 and 17; and in these it is only thrown out in a way. John's Gospel is really the manifestation of God to men down here in the person of Christ, and the coming of the Holy Spirit, with the declaration of Christ's coming again. I merely indicate the character of the Gospel in saying so: you do not get any ascension either at the end of it. Let me first give you a summary of it.
In John 1 you get Christ's person, and incarnation and work, or rather, perhaps, what He does than His work. All His essential names are there, not His relative ones. You do not get Him as Head of the church, or as High Priest, nor as the Christ, which are His relationships; for He is not revealed as Christ in verse 41.
In John 2, having His title as Son of man at the close of the first, we hear of His millennial work in the marriage, and the clearing of the temple, up to the end of verse 22. Verses 23 and 24 are connected with John 3, where we see not only Christ's total rejection by man, but the setting aside of the natural man, the newbirth and the cross.
These three chapters are before His entry on His public ministry. We know this, because John was not yet cast into prison, and from the other Gospels we learn it was after John was cast into prison, that He went out into His public ministry. In John 4 He leaves Judaea, the place of promise, of the temple, and all that, and sets aside Jerusalem and Samaria, bringing the gift of God down to the earth ingrace. He sets up spiritual worship, and the old thing is set aside altogether. Then, in Galilee, He brings the power of life to man where he is, and heals the nobleman's son. In John 5 He is the quickening Son of God along with the Father, and the judging Son of man alone. He is Son of God in judging too. In John 6, He is the humbled Son of man incarnate and dying, and the food of the saints while He is away.
In John 7 the Holy Spirit is substituted for His manifestation to the world. Of course it is only the main idea I am giving you now. In John 8 His word is rejected. In John 9 His work is rejected. In John 10 He has His sheep in spite of all. In John 11 being rejected and having His sheep, God bears testimony to Him as Son of God in the power of resurrection. In John 12 He is owned by spiritual intelligence as the dying one (which comes in most beautifully in a little parenthesis), and then as Son of David, King of Israel, and Son of man; you get the three here, Son of God, Son of David, and Son of man. In John 13 He still remains the servant. As He cannot remain with His disciples here, He abides a servant, though gone to God, to fit them to be with Him there. At the end you have the last supper, and Judas, and then the cross, but in the character of His glorifying God there. In John 14 He is telling them that He would come again to receive them, and He gives them what would be their comfort, while He was away; having revealed the Father in His own person, and then they in Him and He in them, known by them through the presence of the Holy Spirit.
In John 15 He is Himself the true vine on the earth, Israel is not; and He sends the Comforter to reveal His heavenly glory while His disciples bear witness, through the Comforter, of what He had been on earth. In John 16 we have the action of the Comforter on earth towards the world and in the church; they were to ask in His name which they had not done yet. In John 17 to the end of verse 23 He puts them completely into His own place on earth toward the Father, and towards the world, He being glorified; and in the last verses He wills that they should be brought into the same place with Him in heaven. In John 18 you begin the last history of Gethsemane, and so on. In John 19 remark that you have no human suffering, but divine power in it all; they scourge Him and you get all the facts about it, not that He did not suffer, but it is not that part that is brought out: people fall back to the ground instead of His sweating great drops of blood; you have the divine side, I mean. In John 20 you have the whole condition of believers from the first revelation of the fact of His resurrection and ascension until the remnant believe by seeing. In John 21 you get Christ ministerially represented as come again in the millennial times and the services of Peter and John until then, Peter to be cut off, but John to go on. It is the beginning of themillennium and of the history of Peter and John in the interval from Christ'sdeath. Paul's ministry is not found there. Now let us go back.
In the very outset Christ came to the world, and the world knew him not, and He came to His own and His own received Him not; consequently the Jews are treated as reprobates; but He has come from the Father into the world. It is what some might call a Calvinistic gospel; consequently it shows the sovereign grace which leads anybody to receive Christ or own Him at all. They are born of God, not of the will of man. Therefore, too, He has His sheep; and this characterizes the Gospel.
The truth is entirely abstract in the first five verses except five words. The Gospel itself begins before Genesis. In Genesis you have the responsible creation; but here “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” a very distinct statement of the eternity of Christ. There is the being of the Word, He is the Word, the Logos, the expression of God's mind, for Word is both—it is what we were speaking of once before as the intelligent and the intelligible. Christ is the expression, and the Logos too, because He is God. When the expression only is meant it is rheema, not logos. But logos takes up what the mind is as having a thought, or it expresses the mind. All the wisdom of God is in Christ, He is it, and besides He is the expression of it. Then you get another thing, and that is, personal distinction—“the Word was with God”—something in a personal sense distinct. And then “the Word was God,” and that is the nature. It is very full, though brief.
John 1:2 meets what was a common difficulty that He only became into personal distinctness when God began to act. Of course it is a mere notion, but it is met here: “The same was in the beginning with God.” Then in verse 3, I come to the beginning of Genesis. “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” He is Creator as to things outside Himself. And then I get what is inside Himself, “in him was life.” Very full all this, as to the divine person and glory of the Lord. And another thing, “and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). God is light in His nature, but here is specific appropriation in the second person.
It is in form too a reciprocal expression. Wisdom always had man in its thoughts; the angels come into creation, but the life was the light of men, and therefore He became a man.
Then I get the judgment of the world, and of “his own,” “the light shineth indarkness”—a thing impossible in nature, for if the light there shone in darkness, there would be no darkness for it to shine in. The judgment of the world is the consequence, for “the darkness comprehended it not.” “The light shineth in darkness” is abstract too; He does not say “shone.”
Then comes another truth of immense import. “There was a man sent from God,” that is, God took pains with men to bring them to apprehend this light. He sends this messenger to draw people's attention; “the same came for a witness to bear witness of the light, that all men through him might believe” (John 1:7). All to no purpose it might be, but still there was the painstaking of God. “He was not that light, but was sent to bear witness of that light.” Here we get this name of light (we have nothing of love yet), the purest thing we have any idea of, and which manifests everything else. It is light that makes all things manifest; but it is a thing too which is perfect purity. That is the true light which, on coming into the world, lights every man. It was not a mere Jewish thing: we have got far away out of that now, but it comes into the world; it is not a question of promises here, but of nature and counsels. God in His counsels had to say to men, and light comes into the world; He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. Man had not the sense to see that the person who made him was in the world, and its light. And He came to the Jews, and they would not receive Him either. So there was the judgment of everything. You have got the world, and its pitch-darkness; and the Jews—His own—will not have Him: “there is none that understandeth” or “that seeketh after God.” (Rom. 3:11). Job 38:1-7 refers to the same: only that these very singers were created too; so that Job does not go quite so wide. John 1:3 is before the beginning of Genesis when you think of the angels.
We have got what Christ was, abstractly, and the result was that nobody received Him. They had no understanding, and no will; and now, consequently, we get grace working, “but as many as received Him, to them gave He power* to become children of God.” It is not merely that they got light and blessing, but He gave them a place, “children of God,” “born, not of blood, nor of the will of theflesh, nor the will of man, but of God.” I have the action of grace, and, where the action of grace is, they do receive Him.
(* Authority to take that place which the saints had not before.)
If we are to distinguish the phrases in verse 13, “of flesh,” is the nature more; “of man” is the being; “flesh” is the characteristic, “man” is general. “Not of blood.” AJew was born of blood and thought himself a son of the kingdom; but it was not of the will of the flesh either—Gentile, if you please. This closes on God's part what He was; and it closes on man's part too; and then there is the grace that comes in.
Now the Word is looked at as become flesh. In verse 14 a new part commences. Before, it was what He was; now, what He became (what He began to be). The Word became flesh and dwelt among us; it was a real thing, not like God visitingAbraham; but He dwelt among us, tabernacled there “and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, and of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.” His own incarnate character and our connection with it. The part about John the Baptist comes in, in the middle. But there is the statement, “the Word was made flesh”; and then you get the aspect He had. We beheld His glory, not of the Son as such, but as of an only-begotten with a Father. He had all the title of that excellency and value in everything. All that that was to the Father was with Him. It is His personal glory made visible in flesh. When He was made flesh, we get a witness of John (vs. 15), just as before, saying, “This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me, for he was before me.”
The difference between only-begotten (monogenes) and first-born (prototokos), is that the first is His relationship to God eternally; the second is His relationship to other things. Thus, “I will make him my first-born, higher than the kings of the earth,” in Psalm 89:27: This is not what He is essentially. He was light—the revealer of the Father. “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” “The light shineth in darkness” is real, and it is by incarnation; but John is not taking it up in an historical way, only the fact of light and life. “The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth,” he does not say were given, but “came by Jesus Christ”—they were in His person.
He was the truth. The truth never was in the world till then. Bits of truth there were; prophecy was true, and people tell the truth to one another; but the truth was only now. Christ alone is the truth. The truth itself had never come. The law is not the truth; it is not its object. The law tells me what I ought to be; truth tells a fact that is. The law never told anything about truth, but gave a perfect rule, and showed what man ought to be—“Thou shalt not do this and that.” I might draw conclusions from it and say, I am not this or that; whereas, Christ was this and that; He was God and was man, a holy being, and love itself; and all that man without sin was; and the effect was, that He showed not what things ought to be, but what they were. This world is all very fine, but it is the mere tool and instrument of the devil. Christ tells the truth about everything, evil and good alike—just as light manifests everything; and, more, grace came by Him too; and I know not only what I am, but what God is, and, whatever I am, He is grace to me. Of course Christ had to die to fit us to be with God, but as regards testimony, everything is told out by Christ's coming—what we are, what God is, what the devil is, and what the world is, and everything. The light shines in it, that is Christ's nature; and then he comes down to the fact, that the “darkness comprehended it not” (John 1:5). That is the moral statement as to it.
As to the force of the use of the names “God” and “Father” in the Gospel of John, and pretty much in his Epistle, as a general rule, when you speak of our responsibility or the nature of things, you get “God.” But when the ways of grace are unfolded, you get the Father and the Son; there are certain exceptions which only confirm it. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). It was essential to put “God” in there, because it was as God He did it. “The Father sent the Son to be Savior of the world” (1 John 4:17). “And this is life eternal that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). “No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” That is a most blessed sentence; though the word “love” is not there, it is the perfection of it. We cannot know God by seeing Him; but the only-begotten Son, in whom is concentrated all the Father's delight, and who is in the bosom of the Father, hath declared Him. The Son comes and declares the Father as He knows Him in His bosom, just as the Father enjoys the Son as the object of His delight and love. If I were to tell you what my father was in his love, I should tell you what he was to me; and Christ comes and tells us all this Himself, and therefore He could say, “He hath that seen me hath seen the Father.” In another sense He came forth from the Father and came into the world.
There never was a time when the Son was so dear to the Father as on the cross. “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again” (John 10:17). That is, if you look at Him as a Son with His Father. If you take Him as actually suffering being made sin, He could as such have no joy in God. He was forsaken in His soul of God. That is quite true, if you are looking at judicial action in respect of sin. He could not then have any enjoyment ofcommunion with God. The principal part of the cross was the interruption of the communion, but the complacency of the Father in the Son was never so great. It is a misapprehension of relationships which has made confusion here. My father is a man; but suppose I were to go and say to him “my man, so-and-so,” it would deny the relationship between us; but if he says to me “my boy,” it is very natural, because it is the expression of the relationship. You will never get the value of such things by putting them into a cut-and-dry form. Suppose I were to try to act the son to somebody, I should in that case slip out something all wrong as sure as possible. If the judge were my father, and I go into court, there I should say to him, “my lord”; but this would not be to deny him as my father.
Verse 18 is the revelation of the Father in the world, and it is striking, if we compare it with John's first epistle. In that he says, “No man hath seen God at any time; if we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us!” (1 John 4:12). We know that by the Holy Spirit. Here the only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father He hath declared Him.
But I think that very often there is defect among Christians as to relationship, and their apprehension of it; that is, they do not live in the present consciousness of it; they come even in worship in a certain sense through Christ—no man ever came in any other way—but there is not the sense of what the Lord means when He says the “Father himself loveth you” (John 16:27). There is no consciousness of that; it is rather persons outside, conscious they can get in. Of course they never could get in but by Christ.
Then comes John's mission, preparing the way before Him. He says, “I baptize you with water, but there standeth one among you whom ye know not; he it is who coming after me is preferred before me.” John gives the divine person of Christ and bears testimony to Him. So that we now have had three things: the abstract nature of Christ; then Christ incarnate; then as the revealer of the Father. And we have John's testimony to these; and He who was divine and incarnate, and the revealer of the Father, dwelt among us “full of grace and truth.”
Then in John 1:29 we come to His work. He is “the Lamb of God,” and He “baptizes with the Holy Ghost” (John 1:33). Those are the two parts of His work; He is not only a Lamb, who takes away the sin of the world, but He gathers apeculiar people by the Holy Spirit too. You notice it is not “taketh away the sins,” nor “has taken” away the sin; you never get either. Often people say Christ has taken away original sin and so on; here it simply says He is the doer of it. It points Him out as such. He is in every sense God's Lamb, He is of God and suited to God, and the effect of the work of this Lamb is the removal of all sin totally out of the world, away from God's sight; He takes it clean away. The first Adam was set up an innocent man; but the moment he became a sinful man, all that God did and does now as to the world He does in respect of sin. If He judges, it is for sins; if He forgives and shows grace it refers to sin, whatever He does in government must have reference to that. There is sin, and God must act in respect of it now; when the new heavens come and the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness, then the ground of relationship between God and the world will be righteousness instead of sin, or indeed instead of innocence either. It is based upon accomplished redemption which never can lose its value, and therefore the ground of relationship is immutable in the nature of things. And that ground is already laid, though the thing itself has not yet come. We havejustification and peace and reconciliation. This is however only one particular part of the result; in the new heavens and new earth the whole result will be completely fulfilled. The result is not produced in manifestation at all as yet.
Thus John 1:29 has no reference to time. Christ is the taker away of sin. It is just the same as in Hebrews 2, “He that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one.” It is not there that they are going to be sanctified, or that they have been sanctified, but simply those are the people.
Thus we have His work as the Lamb of God, and the next thing is John bearing record, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.” And then follows the great fact that, besides accomplishing redemption, He is the baptizer with the Holy Spirit. The first thing is, He is the one who takes sin clean out of the world, and then His work being accomplished brings the redeemed into the full blessing of sons. He first, note, takes His place among men and receives the Holy Spirit before He becomes the giver of it to others. And He is marked as Son of God in that place. It is a beautiful expression of the way in which Christ found Himself among us. And then heaven was opened the moment He took His place with the remnant and was baptized—the Holy Spirit comes down on Him, and the Father says, That is My Son.
It was the Son that created in Hebrews 1 and in Colossians 1; and as to being Son in the eternal state, He says, “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world”; again, “I leave the world and go to the Father”; and you have no Father if you have no Son. If I do not know Him as Son when He came into the world, I have no mission from God at all. And you get too the Father sent the Son.
“Son of the Father” and “Son of God” are the same essentially, only one is personal relationship, the other nature. But there are persons who take it that Christ was only Son as come into the world. The positive answer is given to this in Hebrews and Colossians, that by Him, the Son, the world was made. He is also called Son as born into this world. There is “This day have I begotten thee” (Psa. 2:7). That is not quite the same thing, though the same person, of course. He was begotten in time, which is true as to His human estate.
But Hebrews and Colossians are conclusive. It is of immense import, because I have not the Father's love sending the Son out of heaven, if I have not Him as Son before born into the world. The Son gives up the kingdom to the Father in 1 Corinthians 15. I lose all that the Son is, if He is only so as incarnate, and you have lost all the love of the Father in sending the Son as well. “I have declared unto them thy name and will declare it,” will declare it is now. He did it on earth, and does still, and I believe will do it to all eternity if you take the general statement of Scripture.
In Acts 13 you will find Paul, after speaking of other things, says in verse 33, “God hath raised up Jesus” (not “again”; which ought not to be there), and so inActs 3:26, “God having raised up his Servant Jesus” (not Son; Peter never states that Jesus is the Son of God); so in John 13, “he hath raised him up,” as it is written in Psalm 2:7, “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee”; and then he goes on to prove resurrection by quoting another text: “I will give you the sure mercies of David” (Acts 13:34). The sureness of them is the proof they were in resurrection not dependent on failing man, and then by resurrection He was declared to be the Son of God with power.
Then in John 1:35-36 you get again, “The next day after John stood and two of his disciples, and looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God.” In this we have not John's public ministry that had not produced the effect; but the going out of his own heart at the sight of the Lamb of God.” And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.” And then Christ—which to me is most important—Christ accepts the being a center. He “saith unto them, What seek ye? “They said unto Him, “Where dwellest thou?” “He saith unto them, Come and see.” Christ becomes a center.
Again in John 1:43 Christ says to Philip, “Follow me”; and this intimates another thing to me, which is, the only right path through the world where there is no path and nothing right. We are accustomed to think we have a way to trace; but a way to trace proves the world is in ruin and nothing right with us. If a man is in a right place, he has no way to find out; but if I am in a wrong place, there is no right way there. Suppose my son scampers off away from me to Brazil, there is no right way for him until he comes back; for all he is doing does but carry on his error of being away from his father. In Eden and in heaven there is no way to find. If I have got to find a way, it is because I am in a wrong place; but here I find Christ is the way, and Christ is the center, and He accepts it too. The days are numbered from verse 34 when the gathering of the godly remnant around Jesus begins. First through John the Baptist's ministry, and the day following Jesus Himself gathers; and this takes up all the time right on to the remnant at the end represented by Nathanael, a remnant then and a remnant to the end. Philip found Nathanael and said unto him,” We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth the son of Joseph.” There is the greatest prejudice in Nathanael, but there is uprightness. “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” “Come and see.” Nathanael asks, “Whence knowest thou me?” “Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the figtree; I saw thee.” Nathanael answers, “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.” This is the confession of Psalm 2; that is Christ's Jewish place. Jesus answered and said, “Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? Thou shalt see greater things than these.” And He said unto him, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Thou shalt see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.” This is Psalm 8. I get Nathanael as a remnant owning Christ in His place there, and then comes “Ye shall see greater things than these”—ye shall see all creation—the angels—subject to the Son of man. “Under the fig tree” was really the Jew, and God knew him there. The fig tree is symbolic of Judaism. That gives us the whole, the abstract nature of Christ, His incarnation, His work, gathering others, and calling by John the Baptist and by Christ; then the owning of Him as in Psalm 2, and finally His place in Psalm 8.
Then in John 2 you get the third day. John's ministry is one day, Christ's ministry is a second day, and then “the third day” in John 2 is the millennium, the marriage, and water of purification of the Jews. All among the Jews.
Thus John 1: 35 is the first day. The third day is when the remnant is all called in. You get no church here at all. John the Baptist's ministry was preparatory; then Christ gathers by His own ministry, and gathers to the kingdom, and revealing of the Son of man; and then the millennium. It is in Psalm 2 we hear of Christ set King of Zion; then the trials of the remnant, and in Psalm 8 everything is put under Him. Here it is the highest creature that is put under Him. When I get Him Son of man, He is Lord of all. There is nothing of the church, unless it would be in baptizing with the Holy Spirit.
The marriage in John 2 is all a picture of millennial joy. The time of the second day would have commenced when the Lord was on earth, and it will be resumed again; but it is in abeyance now. What was to go on till the destruction of Jerusalem you get in Matthew 10:10 the end of verse 15. The baptism of the Holy Spirit was at Pentecost. There will be a latter rain when the Holy Spirit will come down, though you do not get exactly a baptism of the Holy Spirit in the millennium.
John 3 is immensely important; for you get in it a complete judgment of human nature, the absolute testimony to what man is, but the bringing in of the complete grace that meets it too. The last three verses of John 2 belong really to John 3; and there you get that men could believe in Christ in a certain kind of way, and yet it is good for nothing. It was not insincerity, nor is it so now, often; but it is a human conviction there justly drawn from His miracles now. That has arisen perhaps from education or human causes, but it was all in man and of man. The moment other motives and stronger came before them, they cry out, “Crucify him.”
In Nicodemus we find a want that is something more than that. The moment a want is thus felt, there is a consciousness that the world will be against you; and so he goes by night. There is a real want in his soul. He goes to Christ and follows up the impression. What the Holy Spirit produces is always a want, though the want is met. Nicodemus owns Christ to be a teacher that comes from God; but he did not know that the old nature was good for nothing, and that he must be born again. Thus it is the Lord meets him: “I am not going to teach flesh: you must have a new nature; the old cannot be taught at all, except outwardly, and this is worthless.” The special case for a Jew is that he could not enter the earthly kingdom, except he were born again. Therefore the Lord says, “Marvel not that I said unto you, Ye must be born again.”
Then you come to the principle of sovereign grace, “the wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh nor whither it goeth; so is everyone that is born of the Spirit.” This can reach a Gentile; and that is grace. Do not be astonished that I say, you Jews must be born again, flesh is but flesh, and then the Holy Spirit goes where it lists. The Spirit of God goes where He pleases; God is sovereign.
Nicodemus ought to have known it from the Old Testament prophecies, say Ezekiel 36 That was for the Jews, and in the millennium they must be born again, and they must be so even to get into the kingdom on earth. But the moment you get the cross, the whole thing is carried farther; if you look at it, you will see the Lord's own statement. The water of Ezekiel refers not to baptism, but to the word of God exclusively. Baptism refers to it; and so here. Puseyites and others refer these words to sacraments, but it is the word. Baptism may be its symbol; the symbol refers to the truth, of course. It is not that such words misplace the symbol; people do that; but the symbol is one way of teaching the truth. You have a similar thing in John 6: we must eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of man, or else we have no life in us. People apply that to the Lord's supper, and there we have a symbol again; for it is a symbolic statement of these truths; and we have the written statement of them too in the word; and both these refer to death, Christ's death, and that brought home to us when you come to look into them.
It does not say in terms, you cannot enter heaven except you are born again, though it would be perfectly true; but you cannot enter the kingdom of God. These chapters and the sacraments refer to the same thing, but these chapters do not refer to the sacraments.
Then the Lord says, “we speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.” In John 3:32 John says the same thing, “and what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony.” If you get man as man in the presence of Christ Himself telling these heavenly things, man's heart will not have one of them. A man would have nothing to do with them; if you were to put a natural man in heaven, he would get out as fast as ever he could, he would not find a single thing there that he likes.
We have had the rejection of the Lord's testimony, and also the fact that an entirely new nature is brought in, “that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” The cross must be there, but it goes on to the millennium on the earth, and there you must get men born again to have part in the kingdom.
“Again” means “anew, completely, from the beginning,” not a modification of the old thing. In Luke 1:3 it is “from the very first.” It is the same word. I know many think the new birth is an action of the Holy Spirit on man as he is, especially where there are no decided views of truth; as if the Spirit of God found a man, body, soul, and spirit, in a bad state, and then put him, body, soul, and spirit, in a good state. But the testimony as brought here is received of nobody: “wherefore, when I came, was there no man? when I called, was there none to answer” (Isa. 50:2); that is the condition, and then what is done is that they are born of God. Then we come to the second great truth, the Lord comes revealing things from heaven, and also doing that which was needed to take us up there. We see the two sides of the cross, the Son of man must be lifted up (and that carries a great deal with it), and then the source of it is that “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” This same person comes on man's behalf, and on God's side God gave Him. On the one side, it is Son of man; and on the other side, it is Son of God. Then the lifting up of the Son of man you will see in two connections, as the rejected of man, and as “made sin.” A living Messiah is for the Jews according to promise, but He must be lifted up, rejected by the world, cast out of it, and made sin before He could draw all men.
But God gave His only-begotten Son, and that brings everything to a test. He was not sent to judge, but save, and he that believeth not is judged already because he has not believed. “And this is the judgment that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil.” He came into the world to die, and verses 16-17 refer to Him as the lifted-up Son of man. I should not say in the same absolute way now, that God loves the world. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. But this has not stopped His grace, but laid the ground for the testimony of it in the whole creation under heaven by His ambassadors. I suppose it is the characteristic of God, and no time is in the statement. Still there is the accepted time and the day of salvation, though that depends on resurrection. It is in full view of the cross that the Lord said, “God so loved the world.” God is now beseeching men to be reconciled, He is acting on that ground now. He gave His Son, and that is done and finished; but it is on that He is now acting.
The casting away of the Jews did put the world in a different position before God; and the cross put the world in a different position of responsibility as to grace and the saint as delivered from it. “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32). The cross gave a righteous outlet to God's love. The strongest scripture as to this change is, “for if the casting away of them,” the Jews, “be the reconciling of the world” (Rom 11:15).
We get a very distinct character given to Christ's testimony, and one that made a total breach with the world; “he that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthy, and speaketh of the earth,” that is John the Baptist's testimony; the setting up of the kingdom on earth has its place and character, but all that is gone now, and it is the setting up of the kingdom of heaven. “He that hath received his [Christ's] testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.” That is the true reception of the word.
It may be John the Baptist's testimony to the end of verse 32, and John theEvangelist's in verse 33. There may be some doubt about it. The last verse certainly looks like John the Evangelist's line of things more than John the Baptist's.
The force of “the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36) is that he has deserved it; and that if he rejects Christ, he lies under it still. But we must not forget that this wrath applies to all sins and uncleanness, not merely to unbelief: “for which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience” (Col. 3:6). In this last verse of the chapter “the wrath of God abideth” if they do not bow to Christ's authority; it is not, disobey Him in the details of precept, or anything of that sort; the “believeth not” means “is not subject to” Him. In “He that believeth not is judged already,” it takes him as not believing. If he has been inattentive, it is not condemnation that he cannot escape from as yet. John is not speaking about attention or inattention, but about not believing or being subject to Christ.
What is so striking is the entire setting aside of man. The Son of God comes with His testimony, and nobody receives it. God sent His Son that the world through Him might be saved, and that is what the world will not receive. In a sense the object of the gospel now is that men through Him may be saved, though it is also to gather out a people. It is a different thing—God's mind and the absolute state of things. You read in 1 Timothy 2:4, “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth”; it is not “will” in the sense of purpose and desire, but it is good will as to His own nature and love. It is the character of God, not His purpose; and the two are very distinct, what God is, and the way He deals. But there is the activity of His love, “As though God did beseech you by us” (2 Cor. 5:20); and, as one result of that, even the condemnation becomes more terrible if the riches of His goodness are despised, “not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Rom. 2:4-5); that increases the condemnation.
When grace had been offered to man and rejected, man was set aside, and a new thing altogether brought in. And so in John 4, Christ being set aside by the Jews, He leaves Judea and goes to Galilee. In John 4:4, “He must needs go through Samaria,” and then follows the character of His ministry. Wearied with His journey He sits on the well. A woman comes to draw water, and He says to her, “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith unto thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water” (John 4:10). If you did but know that God was giving, and had come down so low as to ask a drink of water of you, if you but knew that, who it is, and in what character He has come down, you would have asked and He would have given, and what He would have given would have been in you a well of water springing up into everlasting life. Then you find all that is to no purpose directly, and the way the Lord gets at the woman is by her conscience; and understanding comes in by conscience. She is a poor wretched soul, but a very interesting woman, and a great deal going on in her heart though a vile creature. It is a beautiful picture, wonderfully distinct and definite, of how the Lord deals with her heart. The woman is astonished that He has anything to say to her, and the disciples that he had to say to a woman. But the Lord's action towards her is very distinct, getting intelligence in by the conscience. “Go, call thy husband and come hither.” “I have no husband.” “Thou hast had five husbands, and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband.” “Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.” She had got totally alone through her restless search for happiness and willful ways, she does not go to the well at the time when the women usually went to draw water; she was tired of her life, for she says, “That I thirst not, neither come hither to draw” (John 4:15). The Lord was weary too in His lonely path of grace, and more isolated than she, and sat at the well, and the woman was weary and utterly isolated by sin, but her conscience is reached, and note here the effect. She recognizes the word of God that had reached her, its authority not merely the truth of what was said: “I perceive that thou art a prophet”; and then the Lord points out to her that God must be worshipped in spirit because He is a Spirit, and that the Father seeketh worshippers in spirit and in truth. His nature required it, His grace sought it. She says she knows that, when Messias comes, He will tell us all things. But He replies, You have got Him already. Where the heart has been visited really, there Christ has already come. Then you see the effect; she is entirely delivered from care; she leaves her water-pot and goes after other people. “He that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal.” We do not get the kingdom here exactly, though it was here I have no doubt.
The “needs,” in John 4:4, is a material one. The straight way was through Samaria; the Jews went that way generally, though they did not stop at Samaria on the way. I would not say it was on purpose to meet this woman, though God's purpose that He should. The sixth hour was our noon—at least so I have always reckoned it here. At the end of the chapter we see the character of the ministry of Christ in anticipating death, symbolical of the death that was coming on Israel. In point of fact, He had to make him alive: “Come down ere my child die,” said the man.
The Samaritans were a mixed people. After Israel was carried captive, the king ofAssyria sent people to live in the land who did not fear the Lord; and the Lord sent lions and slew some of them. So one of the priests was sent back to teach them the manner of the God of the land, and then when Nehemiah came back,Sanballat and these people wanted to join him, and he would not let them. Mount Gerizim was the place where Joshua pronounced the blessings, and so they said that would be the proper place for worship, and a temple was built at Gerizim by them. The high priest's daughter was married to a prince of these people; and they built a temple for themselves.
As to the temple in the millennium, there is a square in the midst of the land, and the city is one side of the square, and the temple is on the other. The portion allotted to the temple seems to be separated from Jerusalem by some distance.
In John 3 Christ takes them out of flesh; and in John 4 He tells what worship is outside of flesh. In John 5 we get the great principle of life, but He does not begin with life. There is instruction connected with it that carries us farther in it as to the character of sin when He comes to the doctrine that men are dead. A man lay at Bethesda, where there were some remains of Jewish blessing. Jehovah had said, “I am Jehovah that healeth thee” (Ex. 15:26); and the Jehovah that healeth was yet there. In the case of this man, the means were there; but the disease he had had taken away the power of using the means; the effect of sin is to make us incapable of using the means afforded to flesh under the old covenant. To use the pool, he must have the power to get in, and it was just what the disease he had to be healed of had taken away, and such even if willing, as this man was, is man's state under the law. The Lord brings power with Him. The Jews reproach Him when the man is healed, with breaking the sabbath, and then He gives that beautiful answer (“Father” being the name of grace), “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (John 5:17). God could not have His rest where sin and misery are. The law tested man and said, “Do your duty and enjoy my sabbath of rest here below”; but the fact was, they did not do the duty; they were all sinners, and, instead of there being the rest of God, the Father works and the Son works, and brings in divine life where sin and death are; but in this world as such one can have no rest. God at least can have none.
I do not believe a word of what they say about leaving out verse 4 of this chapter. These learned Germans leave anything out. It is just the same with the opening of John 8. You get Augustine in the fourth century, saying some had left that out because it was contrary to morality; and the same language is used by others. In one of the manuscripts of the old Latin translation it was there, and they have deliberately torn in out. But some men take this and that out without the least moral discernment; it is very easy to take it out so, but how did it get in? what should people have put it in for? In other places, as in Acts 8:37, you can account for it in the plainest way. There was a reason for putting in this verse. As for the manuscripts, if not versed in them it is very easy to be entirely misled about them. L is almost always the same as B, and so L is no good as a separate witness. The manuscript E omits the verse, and the corrector has put it in again. These people did not like the angels, and so they left them out. After all the only question is whether an angel did it—God did it, anyway.
Then you have “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (John 5:17). The Lord often did miracles on the sabbath day, taking pains as it were to upset it. You do not find any one institution in the wilderness to which the sabbath is not added. You find the sabbath brought in wherever there was some new expression of God's will and ways, as obligatory; while you never have the sabbath mentioned in connection with Christ's working in the New Testament, except to cast a slur upon it; it was a sign of the old covenant and the dispensation was passing away. Now the Lord's day is a testimony to resurrection, the essential basis of the new creation for man; the sabbath of the rest of God for man on the earth; while in connection with that rest it serves to give man a day's rest as of God and it will be fulfilled in the millennium: whatever man has a title to in purpose and peace Christ takes the right of it and will make it good. Then when you come to the typical import of it, the seventh day was type or sign of the earth's rest, and the Lord's day of heavenly rest. The Lord by His action shows that a power was come in that was paramount to law. It is strikingly significant that Christ lay in His graveon the sabbath day.
Adam takes no share in the sabbath before he fell; he never entered into it according to Hebrews. The Lord took up flesh and its responsibilities, and without slighting what God instituted, man having failed, He died out from under the whole. This is the thing that made such a hubbub in Scotland—this sabbath question. A well-known minister said he found Moses dead and threw him out of the pulpit. I say no man has died in Christ away from under the law, which has power over a man as long as he lives. I believe it is a very bad sign indeed if a man slights the Lord's day. God has given you a day free to use for Him, and you make light of it or turn it to mere pleasure. I ask, what use do you make of it, for yourself or for Him? It is all connected with the question, Is the law the thing we are still under? It is perfectly true that the Christian by love fulfills the law, but if I have to do with the law as such, I have not died to sin; because the law has power over a man so long as he lives. I remember one, a most blessed man too, who would not wash his hands on the Lord's day; he was acting up to the light he had, I do not doubt.
The “greater works than these, that ye may marvel,” are His raising the dead, and many works that He did; He raised Lazarus when he was stinking. They all knew that if the Lord had been there Lazarus would not have died, but He did not go purposely before his death; raising him was more than healing.
Now in the doctrine that follows, Christ does not take up mere weakness, but He goes on to death. We are dead in sin, and He says, “As the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will”; and judgment too is committed to the Son alone, “that all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father.” Both Father and Son quicken, but judgment against the wicked is committed by the Father to the Son because He is the Son of man. The Father chastens: that is another thing.
I get these two ways in which the Son is honored, quickened souls own Him, and the wicked must, for they are judged by Him. There is no confounding of the two things, or rather destroying the certain truth of the first by bringing it into question in the second; by bringing all up into a common judgment, as if the thing was not settled already; but you have the two ways through which the Son is honored. Then the heart will ask: which place am I in? “He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment [“condemnation” is not the same word], but is passed from death unto life” I see in that verse the whole system of Romans and Ephesians brought out. He that is under the quickening power will not come into judgment, that is Romans; but, not merely his responsibility is met, he is passed from death unto life and gone over into the new creation; that is Ephesians.
As I said, when you come to the doctrine He goes on beyond the case of the paralytic. Doctrinally, a man is dead in sins, and by grace passes out of death into life, and does not go into judgment at all, so as to raise any question as to hisacceptance; though he gives an account of himself. The bringing all men into judgment upsets all the truth of Scripture about it, because saints are raised in glory. What an odd thing it is to talk about raising a man in glory, and then judging him! It is upsetting the whole of grace right on to the glory. Then people say it is done only to declare a man just. But he is declared just already; all that believe are justified from all things, and glorifying declares him just, surely. Take for example; there is Paul who has been these eighteen hundred years in heaven, and you are going to take him out and judge him as to whether he is fit to go there! It is striking folly.
The Son quickeneth whom He will, but when you come to the end of the chapter, you get the responsible side. You have the testimony of John the Baptist, the testimony of My Father, the testimony of My works, and the testimony of your own scriptures (where you think you have eternal life) which testify of Me, and yet you will not come unto Me that you might have life. I have four witnesses that there is eternal life here for you, and you will not have it. It was the rejection of the One in whom life was present from God.
Now as to responsibility; power is not the question at all. If my will were right, there would soon be power from God. Here is my child tied under the table by the leg, and I say to him, “Come with me”; and he says, “I won't.” I say, “You must”; but he will not, and I go to flog him. But then he says, “I was tied by the leg to the table”; but I say, “that makes no difference, I have a knife to cut the cord, for you would not come. It is the will that is the difficulty. I have lent ten thousand pounds to a man; he comes and tells me he is not responsible to me for his debt, for he has not a penny left—all is squandered. He has no power to pay but that does not destroy my claim.
In John 6 we see a beautiful picture of the Son of man in lowliness. In John 5 we have the Jewish means of healing, and here follows the Jewish passover, for which His own sacrifice is substituted. He shows Himself as Jehovah in Psalm 132:15, “I will satisfy her poor with bread,” He shows that here, and they own Him for a prophet, and then they are going to take Him by force and make Him a king. That gives two of Christ's titles. But He will not be king in this carnal way, and goes up into the mountain, and takes the place of priest. Here is Christ, who would not be king, was a prophet, and intercedes on high, His people toiling below. Then you get Christ, the food of His people now while He is away, in a double character; He is the bread that came down from heaven—the incarnation; they reject that, and then He goes farther and says, you must eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood. They say, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” I get the revelation that, if you do not take a dead Christ, you cannot enjoy a living one come down from heaven. You cannot enjoy Christ as bread come down from heaven, unless you come in by atonement. You must come in as a mere sinner, or else you cannot take Him to eat for the maintenance and food of life.
John 6:57 says the living Father had sent Him, and He lived on account of the Father, so we live by reason of Him by eating Him. We have the two things, it is eating both for reception of and for maintenance of life. I remember a person once saying he ate Christ once for all, but it is not so here. In verses 54-56 you have in the Greek, the present participle for “eating,” in the others the aorist tense. I come in by Christ's death, eat His flesh and drink His blood—that is eating to have life; but I go on eating Him after, though my life is the consequence of eating. Verse 56, “dwelleth in me and in I him,” goes farther than the first statement.
“I will raise him up at the last day” shows perpetual security on into another world. “I bring in death, as the true way and you must come in by death; you cannot have the old thing; nor can you have a living Christ to be your Savior, it is only by death, and then it will be in resurrection, that you get the blessing”; and then you get the statement that it goes right on to the end, and then when the present period is closed “I will have them all up in resurrection.”
There is a distinction between the eatings. It is the aorist tense in verse 51, and in verse 53, “have eaten,” which having no present participle, borrows another word in the next verses, 54, 56, 57 and 58; the first (aorist) is the one act eating for life, and the other is now eating for maintenance of life. “The last day” is the last of this period when Christ comes of course. Really this is not a dispensation. The Jews had a “this world” and “a world to come,” “this age” and an “age to come.” Messiah was to bring in the “age to come.” The age of the law went on and Messiah did come, but they would not have Him, and the whole thing stopped; then comes the church between that and His second coming; and this is why I said this is not strictly a dispensation, but when Messiah comes again, it will close this time, and then will be the last day of this age.
The times of the Gentiles in Daniel, and the parenthesis of the church, are not at all contemporaneous; for the times of the Gentiles began in Babylon, being the times of the four Gentiles beasts in Daniel. The times of the Gentiles will not end at the same time with the church, but go on a little after we are caught up. The temple of Jehovah on earth was set aside when the people were carried to Babylon, and they never got the ark again, but a remnant of them was spared to present to them Messiah.
I know what a person means by “the dispensation of the kingdom of heaven,” but we belong to a heavenly thing in an interval, and there are no dispensations in heaven. The kingdom of heaven is a dispensation, the dispensation of the gospel is an administration. The “I live by the Father” in verse 57 is the sense of dependence: (dia with a genitive is the instrument); with the accusative as this is, it is the reason. It is not “by,” “through,” or “for the sake of”; but by “reason of,” “on account of,” is right.
We have had that Christ was a prophet, and was not King, and had taken a place on high. He had left the disciples, and while absent they toiled against the sea, and when He rejoined them, they were at the land. He was their food, and in our coming to Him we must come by eating His flesh and drinking His blood; and then we saw that it was completed in resurrection, “I will raise him up at the last day.” You have proof there that it cannot be the Lord's supper, for whosoever eats Christ will live forever, be raised at the last day according to the life he has received. The aorist, in verses 51 and 53, “has eaten,” is the thing done; where it is “eats,” the participle is used, verses 54, 56, 57 and 58. I am an eater of Christ, I go on eating, I feed on Him. It is first feeding on His death, and then feeding on Him continually. This shows what poor Romanists do in transubstantiation; they deny the whole truth in their doctrine of concomitancy. If the blood be in the body, it is no atonement at all, and therefore you eat the flesh and drink the blood separately. Theirs is a sacrament of non-redemption, instead of a sacrament of redemption.
It was not “old corn” here. It is the Father sending the Son to be the Savior. In the end of Galatians 2 it is faith on Him in heaven, it is not a question of eating there. I prefer “on him” to “in him,” because it is on Him as an object there. “The faith of Christ” is simply that He is the object. “Have faith in God” in Mark 11:22 is in Greek “the faith of God”; that is, has God for its object. What is in Galatians is this, I am dead, and then I get two things, “nevertheless I live,” and “I live by the faith of the Son of God.” But whenever I have Christ as life in me, it is by faith of Christ as an object; He is my life and makes me live on Him, my eye rests on Him and I live by that. “By faith of Jesus Christ,” in Romans 3:22 is the faith which is characterized by that name, so to speak, and the owning of what is in Him.
John 6 refers to communion and feeding. Then the Lord adds “the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life,” the mere carnal eating is nothing. Flesh profits nothing—I am speaking in a spiritual sense, that is, not literal—a guard against that, though we eat Him as incarnate. Flesh may take it up in a way, and then it becomes a mere awakening of a sentiment or feeling, just as the daughters of Jerusalem wept for Him at seeing a man carried off to the cross, but there is no conscience in that. But when I go to Him and am cleansed by Him, this is a different thing.
I must “have eaten” in the first instance; verses 51 and 53 are aorists as I was saying; and in some cases of exhortation. It is “He that has eaten”; in verse 53; “Except ye have eaten,” etc., and in verse 57; “So he that eateth me [goes on eating] shall live on account of me.” In verse 54 the real force of it is, “the eater of my flesh and the drinker of my blood.” In the Jewish services the passover in the beginning of the chapter would answer to this. And “Christ our passover was sacrificed for us.”
It is striking how the Jews are always viewed as rejected, and uniformly oppose Him in this Gospel. Nor does He say a word to make His words intelligible to them. And the disciples many of them went away, and the branches of the vine were broken off. These were simply professors. Thus a man might be a disciple without being quickened, so far as following after Him goes.
The great thing is death first. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10), and when I come to talk of feeding on Christ, I must first feed on His death. The Lord's supper is a symbol of the same truth of which this chapter speaks; but these words are positively untrue of the Lord's supper. I would not connect the eating of the Supper with this chapter at all, but with the Christ who is spoken of in this chapter. The Supper and the chapter refer to the same thing, but not to one another. This chapter is the word of God about it, and the Lord's supper is the symbol of the same.
In Luke 24, I doubt not, it is the Lord's supper; not actually sitting down for that purpose, but they sat down to a meal, and the Lord took the bread and brake it. The “did eat” in John 6:58 is the aorist tense; “not as your fathers did eat,” because they were not eating it now; and He adds, “he that eateth [or the eater—present participle] of this bread shall live forever.”
Then He asks, “Doth this offend you, What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before,” You have in this chapter the incarnation, the death, and then the ascension suggested, but you do not get the resurrection referred to here. An incarnate and dead Christ are looked at as food of life. Death and resurrection is not the point of view in John; but simply departing out of this world to the Father.
I do not know what is the best reading of verse 69, as I trouble myself little about readings, unless there is something positive in them. Tischendorf's English Testament gives the English text all thrown into doubt, adding readings from three manuscripts for people to decide which is which, as if they could. The effect on my mind was very unsatisfactory. It is very difficult for people to enter into the merits of these manuscripts. These gentlemen turn up their noses at Alexandrian when they get others on their side; but the Syriac is older still, and it is said more often agrees with Alexandrian. As for leading people to any conclusion by quoting letters, it is no guide whatever unless to those who know the place and character of the various texts. The Alexandrian is of two distinct families in the Gospels andEpistles; and it is perfectly impossible for ninety-nine out of a hundred to know anything about them. Tregelles is very accurate and diligent, but he is one-sided so that you cannot trust him. As for any truth, whether “Son of the living God” be there or not, it makes little difference; no particular truth, I mean, is involved in it here.
To return, many of the disciples go back, but Peter had the consciousness of Christ's person; whatever the degree of his knowledge, he had what held him fast when other people went away, though he knew no better than they did what the eating and drinking was. You cannot take a lower condition of faith than this expresses: “thou hast the words of eternal life, to whom shall we go?” “But Peter had got the person in whom the life was. In point of fact, the less the confession, the more strong would be the instruction of the passage. If I had got hold of Christ at all, I had got what was not to be shaken. Peter was negatively kept; “there is nowhere else to go but to you”; after all it is a great thing to say so; simple souls are often kept when wiseacres fall. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28). But “a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him, for they know not the voice of strangers.” It is just like a child; a stranger may come, kindness itself, but it is not the voice of its mother; it will not do.
Quickening is the power of the Spirit by the word, of course. The Thomasites take up verse 63, and say it is in the “word” the Spirit is; and Campbellites too. One of them told me they were just as much begotten of Paul, as they were of the Holy Spirit, because they were begotten of him by the gospel. But I get the personality of the Holy Spirit in Scripture very clearly; He wills, distributes, is sent, comes, speaks, works, and so on; and this is somebody.
The business of the Old Testament is to reveal the unity of the Godhead; the business of the New Testament is to reveal the Trinity; and therefore, though you have got at the beginning “the Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters” (Gen. 1:2) and elsewhere, it is not so clear in the Old Testament; there is no personal coming. As to the word “person,” use what word may be best, but the testimony of scripture is plain enough that what we mean by a person is said both of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
I do not think the remnant will see anything like so clearly as we do. They will be an earthly people, not a heavenly; they will never get the place we have. But you see we never say a prayer without the Trinity (Eph. 2:18). As far as the remnant take up promise and prophecy as to the church in the then past, they will see it is all over and gone. They will look for Christ, and the strongest expression of their intelligence that I know of is, “Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, upon the Son of man whom thou madest strong for thyself,” Psalm 80:17. They will say, “Here is forgiveness, but the people are all gone that it was for; and I do not know whether it is for me.”
The Spirit of God will not be confined to the remnant, for there will be the everlasting gospel. But the thing now is, the Holy Spirit being come it is the firstfruits that we have got, and we become a kind of firstfruits of His creatures, and that is sanctification to God in a special manner, but it will not be the case with the remnant. And so now we get a far fuller insight into the heavenly things than they will then. God has reserved some better thing for us, than even for the Old Testament saints.
In John 7 comes the feast of tabernacles, and the Spirit instead of it. Of the feast of tabernacles there has been no fulfillment at all. None had then been fulfilled, but we had the passover in the last chapter and the truth connected with it; but the tabernacles Christ could not then have to say to, and He substitutes the gift of the Holy Spirit for the revelation of Christ to the world. That is the grand truth that is in this chapter. The tabernacles came after the harvest and vintage (that is, the double judgment of God) is fulfilled, the separative judgment and the execution of vengeance. Pentecost and passover are over. We have the fulfillment of them in Christ's sacrifice and Pentecost; but at the tabernacles they dwelt inbooths, as a sign that they had been strangers, but are so no more. His brethrensay to Him, “go and show thyself to the world,” but He says, “I do not go to this feast: your time is always ready.” And, having gone up as it were secretly, on the last day, the eighth day—it was only this feast that had an eighth day to it—He then “stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.” He could not show Himself to the world, for His time was not yet come, but He does go up in the middle of the feast, though He could take no part in it; but instead of that, there was this eighth day—not one of the seven days of the complete feast—and on it He speaks of the “Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive” (John 7:39). He could not show Himself in the glory then.
The word “yet” in verse 6 is right, but in verse 8 it is doubtful the first time it is used. When you say, “I go not up,” it is different from “I go not yet.” He did go up afterward. The time referred to in verse 6 is the millennium. I believe the VirginMary had a family afterward, but “brethren” is used in a large way including relatives.
Christ cannot show Himself to the world, but says, If any man thirst for himself—wants to drink for himself; it is not looking for gifts for others, but if any man is thirsty, let him come unto Me and drink. If he fill his own soul in the power of the Holy Spirit from Christ, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
We had a passover in John 2; in John 5 it was not one of the great feasts. I do not know what feast it was. But now the feasts give a distinctive character to everything.
The aspect of the Holy Spirit in John 4 is communion, as in John 3 life giving; in John 4 springing up into everlasting life and communion; and here, in John 7, it flows out to others, but I get a drink for myself first. In John 20 it is the power of life in resurrection. It is not sending it from heaven, but just as God breathed into Adam's nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul, so Christ breathes into His disciples the breath of life. It is an immense advance on the Old Testament, but here in John 7 the waters flow forth again from them; it is far more than they had in the wilderness. There they “drank of that spiritual rockthat followed” (1 Cor. 10:4). Here the rivers flow forth from them. This John 7 is immensely important, but not so objective, and therefore simpler.
He could not show Himself, for the feast of Tabernacles will be kept in the millennium, and His time was not yet come. But the seventh day completed the week of the feast properly speaking, and as when Christ rose it was the beginning of a wholly new state, the eighth day was the first day of another week, the beginning of another world for man. The seven days are the figure of the millennium, the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles; the first of the seven was a holy convocation. Only here Christ does not show Himself to the world for the seven days, but at the last He announces the gift of the Holy Spirit to connect us with Himself in heaven. It will be an immense relief to see the world delivered from evil, no doubt; but what you get here is for the meanwhile the Holy Spirit till Christ returns.
Just a word or two back. In verse 17, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” The first “will” is emphatic—if he wills to do it; if he wills, he shall know if the word is right. There is a difference between the people and the Jews. The people in verse 20 ask, “Who goeth about to kill thee?” But in verse 25, “Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill? “He had gone to Galilee to the poor of the flock, and they did not understand that any were going about to kill Him; but the Jews from Jerusalem knew very well; and the controversy between them and Christ constantly comes out in John. All Christ's work was in Galilee except a very occasional thing, the beginning of Matthew tells you so; but in John it is nearly all in Jerusalem bringing out His controversy with the Jews. It is very striking that in Matthew in the end of John 4 you get all Christ's ministry in about four verses. “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, andpreaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness, and all manner of disease among the people, and his fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseasesand torments, and those which were possessed with demons, and those which were lunatic, those that had the palsy, and he healed them; and there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan” (John 7:23-25); three verses; and then He goes on to tell them in John 5-7 what kind of people were fit for the kingdom. The rest unfolds His person and dispensational ministry as come among the Jews and what took its place.
In the close of the chapter, John 7, poor Nicodemus shows himself, and says a word for Christ, just what he dared. Then in John 8, with other things, you will find His word rejected. Instead of the millennium we have had the Holy Spirit given; the Bread of life had before come down from heaven; and now it is the word in John 8. They bring Him a woman taken in adultery.
The first verse of John 8 should go with John 7. The divisions are of no authority at all. The chapters had been arranged, and verses put in the New Testament in 1551. The first divisions were in 1200 and something for the New Testament. Stephens was the first to issue the text so divided. There were Dutch printers who in 1624 published an emendation of Stephens, calling it the text received by all, and then people got afraid to change anything. Here and there a word was taken from Beza, but at large the text was from Stephens. In the ApocalypseErasmus had but one manuscript, and that mingled up with a commentary. Stephens had some thirteen second-rate manuscripts. Erasmus employed a man to cull out the text from the commentary. The last verse he translated into Greek from the Vulgate. We have now a hundred manuscripts of the Apocalypse, with five uncial ones; but the first translations having been all made from the one text, we may say that of Stephens, it looks now as if we were changing what we were all used to. This narrative in John 8 was left out where it was found avowedly for the sake of morality, and this was so stated near as early as we have any copy at all.
The Lord here takes up the law in this way; they bring the letter of it to Him that He may condemn the woman. They thought they had a great advantage against the Lord, for by the law He must say, “Stone her”; but if so, then He was no Savior; and if He said, “You must not stone her,” then clearly He had broken the law. Really in them it was no respect for the law, nor compassion for the woman either; but the Lord takes it up and says: Quite right, The law condemns, but I must apply it to all of you: whosoever “is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” And the oldest went out first, because he had the most character to save. So the Lord gives the law all its power, and the woman is spared too. “Hath no man condemned thee?” “No man, Lord.” “Neither do I condemn thee; go and sin no more.” The law is not set aside, for if you give it its proper authority, all are condemned together; and that is just where we all are, all gone in the light of the law for Christ to come in. Like a man attempting to conduct a business; I say to him, You ought to do so-and-so; but he replies, “What is the good of telling me that? for my money is gone already.” We have got debts and no capital, counsels for righteousness are of no avail; and what are we to do? Then the Lord says, “I am the light of life.” “I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” That is not the law which was death, righteous death to everybody, but it is the person of Christ who is the light of the world, “and the life was the light of men.” The writing on the ground was just giving them time for conscience to work.
You have no forgiveness of sins in this gospel unless administrative forgiveness by man. I think this is characteristic. Christ does not here forgive or condemn. It is characteristic, for instead of that He is in constant conflict with these Jews in respect of who He was.
And now follows that which declares this testimony: “I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me.” And so He taught in the temple, but “no man laid hands on him, for his hour was not yet come.” He tells them, “If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” “He that sent me is true, and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him.” Some of them believed on Him, and He says to them, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed, and ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” They say they are Abraham's seed; but if you commit sin, you are the slaves of sin. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.” This shows that being under law and being under sin are tantamount. The Jews—people under law—are slaves of sin. The slave does not abide in the house always, but the Son abides ever and He could make free.
There is a mistranslation in verse 25. It should be “Who art thou? Altogether that which I said unto you.” It is His word still. It is the same in verses 32 and 36: the word sets free. But it is the living Son's act. The passage is important to show how the word and the living person go together. It is not “from the beginning” in verse 25; it is “altogether what I also say to you.” That is true of every honestman in a certain sense; it is not “from the beginning,” but in principle or absolutely. The word that Christ spake was the absolute expression of what He was. I am what I speak, that is the thought expressed.
Then the truth sets free and the Son sets free. There may be this much difference, that you do not connect grace so much with the word as with the Son. When I say the truth, I think of God as coming and judging everything in men by the revelation of truth by the word, bringing what is good and divine by that word. When I say the Son I speak of living power and authority working in love. It does not appear that it was divine faith the Jews had who believed on Him; but it might be in some.
Then comes another principle; our Lord says, “Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word” (John 8:43). They did not understand what He said because they did not take in His thought. In human things you must understand the language, the technical terms, before you understand the thing; but in divine things you must understand the propositions in order to understand the words. If I say, “Ye must be born again,” the words do not give an understanding of what it is. Until I know the liberty of Christ, until I have the thing in freedom, no words make my understand what “free” really is. Christ has to say to them, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do; he was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth because there is no truth in him; when he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own, for he is a liar and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. Which of you convinceth me of sin; and if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God, heareth God's words” (John 8:44-47). And in verse 51 He says, “If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.” The Lord's words expressed Himself, and these words are the Father's testimony to Him, and they would not have him. Later on He says “Believe me ... or else believe me for the very works' sake.”
Then they drive Him to say that He is God Himself.
It is the day of His glory, I have no doubt in verse 56. But now, instead of executing judgment on His enemies, He allowed Himself to be executed to save sinners. Abraham in a figure may have seen that day in Isaac. And then He says, “Before Abraham was, I am”—He is God. People may quibble now and again, but the Jews understood it very well, and took up stones to stone Him for it, but He passed away. This is His word rejected.
In John 9 it is Christ's work. “And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth; and his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned nor his parents, but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.” It is not the word now, but the works. I suppose they thought Exosus 34 was being carried out in the man because his parents had sinned; though that had been abrogated in Jeremiah and Ezekiel really, and it became, “the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Eze. 18:20), that is, the death of the person himself who had sinned. It is not spiritual death either; it has done a great deal of mischief, using that as spiritual death, it was temporal only. God's governmental dealings with the Jews.
The word “soul,” though often used for living person simply, as it is in English yet, in the Old Testament is for soul contrasted with the body. Still “life and incorruptibility are brought to light by the gospel.” Life was intimated in a way, “Thou will not leave my soul in hell [hades], neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption” (Psa. 16:10). Suffering and disease are the common lot of a poor world, lying in sin and ruin; though they may be special chastisement. But the Lord displays His grace to the man. He spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle; you get what comes from the earth, and what comes from Christ's person. The Lord typified in this clay that the only effect of His presence was, that, if it were possible to make a blind man more blind, it did. The man was blind already, just as the Jews were; but the effect of the presence of Christ was to make them more blind still. Only He goes to the pool of Siloam which is by interpretation “sent”; and the moment anyone saw Him as the sent One of God, they got their sight. You have got Christ there present as a Man before the eyesof the people, and that is not giving them sight at all, but the contrary; but the moment the word in the power of the Spirit of God opened their eyes, it was healing and sight at once.
You have a very distinct principle here, as to the way of the operation of divine grace. When the man is questioned, he says, “Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not; one thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see.” And that is the only way of knowing that is worth anything, while the external knowledge of Christ is only double blindness. But the moment there is the power of the Spirit of God giving the knowledge of Christ as the sent One of God, you get eyes then, spiritual eyes of course. The Jews do what they can to confound the man; they bring his parents who are afraid to say a word of who did it, because “if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue”; but the only thing their testimony is worth anything for is, that he was their son, and was born blind—just what the Pharisees did not want. And then the man begins to reason with them, that He has opened my eyes, and you cannot tell whence He is. Himself the subject of divine power He knew it was such. “Oh,” say they, “but he does not keep the sabbath,” and there was a division among them. Then they tell the man, “Thou wast altogether born in sins,” the very thing he was not; it was their blindness that said so.
And now Christ has got a sheep, and He goes before him. The man had said that He was a prophet, and when he was cast out and Jesus found him, He asks him, “Dost thou believe on the Son of God,” and he said, “Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?” The word of Christ had already power in his soul, and this leads him directly to the knowledge of Himself as Son of God, as with the Samaritan the reception of the word is really, though only implicitly, the reception of Christ. “And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee.” The man gets to know Him as Son of God, and he worships Him; and then Christ has got His sheep with Him. The sign in itself had no effect on the Jews though the sign was there; there was power in the word spoken which gives the knowledge of the sent One. The clay on his eyes was Christ, and the Jews had the clay, but nothing else morally. The pool, morally, is the word of God in the power of the Spirit of God, and thus Christ known as sent of God.
How these poor Pharisees are baffled! We see again, wherever Christ has visited the soul bringing the word of God, He is owned a prophet; and when the soul owns the prophet, the word of God presents Christ as the Son, and you have the Son too. You cannot separate the word from the person of Christ. If we receive what He says, we receive Himself. We have done with that history now. We have the Lord, His word, and His works rejected, and now therefore He says, “No matter what the opposition, I will have my sheep,” and the porter opens thedoor.
John 9:39 shows the blindness of their judgment, and that looked at as to the effect the Lord came to judge. “When he putteth forth his own sheep”; the blind man was one of them. “I am the door of the sheep.” “I am the good shepherd.”John 10:14-15 reads, “I am the good shepherd, and I know my sheep and am known of mine, as the Father knoweth me and I know the Father,” that is, “As the Father knows me and I know the Father, so I know my sheep and am known of them.” He puts His sheep and Himself in the place which He and the Father had been in relatively. The relationship between Himself and the sheep was the same as between Himself and the Father. It is a beautiful expression of Christ in connection with the sheep. He is taking them out of the Jewish fold. You get Christ from the time of His lowest subjection to the will of the Father entering by the door until He says, I am one with the Father.
The “porter” signifies the power of God by the Spirit of God opening the door to Christ, in spite of the Pharisees and everybody else who would shut Him out. They would have shut Him out if they could, but they could not succeed, and the sheep hear His voice. There had been thieves and robbers who had set up to be Christ before, but “he that cometh in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.”
The door is made for people to come in at, and Christ did not climb over the wall, but came in by the door. Whatever had been appointed to Him, He came in by that, a lowly man. Then we read He “leadeth them out,” that is a new thing; He is taking them out from Judaism. And then He is the door, the appointed way.
“And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice” (John 10:4). It has often been noticed that this is one of the most familiar images in the world, because they never drive sheep except in England, and perhaps in Ireland, but go before them, and the flock follows. And “a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him, for they know not the voice of strangers” (John 10:5).
“I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:7). As He came in by God's appointed way, He is God's appointed way for everybody else, and so He is the door. “By me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved”—now He is not taking them out—“and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” What you call, folds are hardly intelligible here; there were wild beasts there, and the fold was many feet high, that animals should not jump over. Now He takes His sheep out of Judaism, and they are saved, and they are free, and they find pasture; before they were neither safe nor free, nor had they pasture. But if a soul go in by Christ, he gets salvation, liberty, and food. If I am entering, and they say, Where are you going? I do not know, but I am sure it is all right if Christ is the door; like Abraham going forth, not knowing whither he went; it is all right if Christ leads. Further, our safety comes from the personal care of the shepherd, and not from the prison of a fold. With Christ, we have salvation, liberty and pasture.
Then “the thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy; I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” He was going to give it them in all the power of resurrection and ascension. That was the Good Shepherd that gives His life for His sheep. I do not think the object here is so much atonement as devotedness, when He speaks of laying down His life for the sheep, though atonement of course was in laying down His life. At any cost the sheep must be kept. The hireling fleeth and the wolf catcheth and scattereth the sheep. There is an important word there to notice: “catcheth” is the same word as in verse 28 is rendered “pluck.” The wolf can lay hold of them so as to scatter them in this world, but he cannot lay hold of them so as to pluck them out of Christ's hand.
John 10:15 involves atonement, but it is especially the devotedness with which Christ loves His sheep. The “again” in verse 17 is not connected with “much more ... by his life” in Romans 5:10. That is the life that comes after death; here it is the life He lays down in death, and so lives again.
The “other sheep” are Gentiles which are not of this fold. “Them also I must bring and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one flock, and one shepherd.” It was ecclesiastical feeling put in “one fold,” because they understood not one flock. “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it up again” (John 10:8). To me that is a most astonishing testimony to the person of Christ. We love God because He first loved us; but here I find one that would give a motive to the Father for loving Him; it is not merely that the Father is pleased to delight in Him, as in us. We cannot give motives to the Father to love us, but Christ could. In that sense of the word the Father was debtor to Christ for all His own glory. It is the burnt-offering character of Christ in sacrifice. What is tantamount to the meat-offering is found in “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” At the same time the Lord absolutely refuses to go out of the place of obedience, as He says later, “That the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do.” He was a divine Person who could give a motive to His Father for loving Him; and at the same time He was a man that was doing all in obedience.
John 10:24. “Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? if thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.” Here again you have the distinct election principle of John “because ye are not of my sheep.” I do not know why it is said here “it waswinter,” except because it was another occasion. The verse shows He had gone up for that feast as He never stayed in Jerusalem.
As to the “more abundantly” of verse 10 it is not only that they should have life as every believer from Adam had life, but the liberty that redemption brought them into, and life in resurrection power and character. Of old, they had differed nothing from a servant, though lords of all.
You never find the Lord saying He is the Christ, except to the woman of Samaria, “I that speak unto thee am he” (John 4:26), and that was to a person who had no right to Christ. He delights to call Himself Son of man. We learn from this that He knew He was come to give His life a ransom for many, and so could not speak of Himself as the Christ. The Gospels are really the history of His rejection. In Samaria it was out of the way to do it, in one sense, because salvation is of the Jews. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one.” You get this principle of election; then the character of the elected, they “hear my voice”; what He does for them—gives them eternal life; and then they will not perish, that is, inwardly so to speak; and no man plucks them out of His hand: no inward perishing, and no outward force can destroy.
Then He takes the low place, My Father gave them, and He keeps. And then you come to His glory, “I and my Father are one.” The Jews felt that and took up stones to stone Him. And you see He does not reason with the Jews to convince them, but to silence them. “Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?” In the Pentateuch “then his master shall bring him unto the judges” is Elohim, that is, to God, so that this is literally true in its very letter—“if he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came (and the scripture cannot be broken) ... say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest, because I said, I am the Son of God?” (John 10:35-36). And He left them.
In John 5-7, you have Christ revealed and bringing in what grace is, in John 8 and 9 you have the rejection of His word and of His work, but in chapter 10 He will have His sheep and that closes the whole thing. John 1, 2, and 3 are before His public ministry, what you may call introductory. John 4 is a transitional scene. John 5 is the Son of God; John 6 is the crucified Son of man; John 7 the giving of the Holy Spirit instead of the glory. And now what we get is the testimony borne to Christ by God in all His characters. God would not allow Him to be rejected, without giving Him a full testimony to what He is. Then there is the episode of a heart that owned Him in His rejection and death, and His character of Son of David and Son of man; that is in John 12.
John 11 is what He is as Son of God, a testimony to Him as the perfectly obedient One as servant, but still the Son of God with power while death is allowed to come in. That is the character of it here. He was the rejected One, then death is allowed to come in, and He is manifested as having power over all thatSatan and death can do; and this shows that He is Son of God. Therefore He says: “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.” You get nature expecting Him to do the old work, that is, to come and heal the sick man, but that could not be here. Of course the miracle came from His divine power, but in that way merely it was what many a one might have done, and He had done often before, but you find no act of His will merely, nor of human kindness even. We read that He loved Mary and her sister and Lazarus, and they sent unto Him to say, “Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.” One might have expected that He so full of tenderness would have gone directly; but He said it was not unto death, and abode two days still in the place where He was. He does not stir; He had no expression of His Father's will for Him to go, and so He stayed.
John 11:9 has reference to the Jews seeking to stone Him. He says “it is a question of my Father's will, and so it is all light before me.” In the light of God all was plain. He does not go when natural feelings would lead Him, but He does go when it is His Father's will even if death were before Him. And we get the divine object of it—“that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.” It is not the Son of David, but the Son of God declared with power by resurrection. He knew that Lazarus was fallen asleep, and says, “I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.” The disciples did not understand Him and He says plainly, “Lazarus is dead.” Some people talk of the sleep of the soul, whereas the sleep here is simply death itself, the death of the body. A man here goes to sleep—dies; but there is no such thing as a hint of the soul sleeping afterward. He says, “I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe” (John 11:15), because He was going to raise him up from the dead. Healing would have been no such proof of His divine sonship. It is just what they all say, “Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?” (John 11:37). But there Lazarus was dead, and the question was, the power of the Son of God who raises the dead. It is beautiful to see Thomasbrought in here (vs. 16), because Thomas was the doubting one after Christ was risen, and his character is given beforehand so far as it shows his attachment to Christ at any rate.
Well, there was to be no mistake about Lazarus being dead. Many of the Jews came there; it became a great public testimony. Then we get the character ofMartha and Mary, both in a state of partial unbelief, they could only look for healing; that is, if Christ had only come in time, Lazarus would not have died at all. You have Martha running out uncalled, and Mary sitting in the house till Martha called her; as Jesus Himself did not go until God called Him. It was no harm, as men say, in a certain sense in Martha—no evil intended of course; but she rushes out from her own feelings instead of waiting for the Lord's call.
In John 11:26 the Lord had gone beyond all Martha's faith. Christ begins by resurrection, taking people out of death, and He was there with that power, but she has no idea of that; what the Lord was bringing out she did not understand one bit, and that makes her go and call Mary. Mary had been sitting at Jesus' feet and heard His word. Martha tells her, “The Master is come, and calleth for thee”—like saying, “He is talking about what I do not understand, and you must come.” The Lord says to Martha, “thy brother shall rise again.” She has the general truth like evangelical Christendom in the present day, but of a special resurrection in power, He being the resurrection and the life, she has no idea at all. But you find the Lord Himself moved and exercised when Mary goes out; she is sent for in a way, and went as called, and she falls at Christ's feet. There is a great deal more feeling as to Christ, than is in Martha, but she is in much the same state, and has no idea of present power over death; so she says, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died”; no thought of His present power in resurrection; they were all alike as to that. There was no sense of a power that could take away the power of death; and that is what makes the Lord weep—the power of death that He saw lying on all their spirits. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, He groaned in spirit and was troubled and said, “Where have ye laid him?” There was sympathy there, but it was the full character of the Lord's sympathy that strikes one, that is, His understanding the power of death that lay upon them. It lay on their spirits, but not on His. There was no weeping for Lazarus on His part. It was His full sense of the power of death resting on their hearts, no matter how advanced they were. The groaning was for others—something like the groaning in Romans 8. Then you have Martha's unbelief coming definitely out, “Lord, by this time he stinketh, for he hath been dead four days.” The Jews said nothing more, but “behold how he loved him” Again groaning in Himself, “He cometh to the grave: it was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.” That groaning is a very strong word; He troubled Himself withal, stirred up His heart in its depths in His sense of man's state under death; His soul went into the power of the death lying on others.
All through this, at the same time, you see the Lord taking distinctly the place of subjection and service both, and so here He says, “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me; and I know that thou hearest me always.” Then He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” There was the power of the Son of God. Poor Martha! hers was a positive unbelief, or belief in the power of death, “Lord, by this time he stinketh,” instead of the power of resurrection. Jesus said unto her, full of patience, “Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldst believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” “They took away the stone, and when He cried, “Lazarus, come forth,” “he that was dead came forth.” It was the testimony to the Son of God come amongst us, and His power over death—He is the resurrection and the life—and of His thorough entering into what the power of death was.
He never healed a sick person, I believe, without His heart entering into the power of the evil that was there as distress and sorrow on man. There is another thing to note—what you find in James about Elias. He had said, “As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word” (1 Kings 17:1). It seemed simple authority and power. But James teaches us how the power of the Lord was in the prophet, for he says, he “prayed earnestly that it might not rain” (James 5:17); that is, where a person acts really in the will and power of God, you constantly find his intercourse with God clear and simple. Paul went up to Jerusalem at the wish of the church, but he tells us in Galatians he went up by revelation. And here Christ had the power in Himself, because He was Son of God, but still He says, “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.” He never swerved from His place of subjection. The great thing is that He was really Son of God, though rejected. And then He must die; it is desperate, the dreadful hardness of the Jews. Afterward they wanted to kill Lazarus again because he was such a testimony. And we have the utter unbelief of the people—not only unbelief, but positive hostility; we must get rid of Him [Christ]. “If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him, and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.” But at Christ's death the temple and all connected with it was disowned, high priest and everything. Then Jesus walked no more openly among them, but went to Ephraim and waited for the passover.
The “high priest that same year” is named because the Jewish things continued till Christ died. There were two high priests. The Romans meddled with everything. Large sums of money were given to get to be high priest, and they were changing constantly. As yet things were not altogether gone from the Jews; there was the pool of Bethesda and remnants of blessing one way or another. The opening of Luke gives us a remnant in the midst of the iniquity, Simeon,Anna, Zechariah, and so on; a most lovely picture of how grace was ripening in these poor things whilst the Pharisees were ripening in iniquity.
Now we come to Bethany. There they made Him a supper; Lazarus was there as a man alive through the power of resurrection, but death had come in first. Here we see Mary goes to Christ in the consciousness of the other side of the truth—that He must die. She was not a prophetess at all; but at the hostility of the Jews her heart rises up in love with the instinct of what that hostility sought and meant. She was the opposite of the Jews; it was the fullness of affection that moved her though she was no prophetess.
You may see continually the way in which personal attachment to Christ gets His secret by some means or other. Mary Magdalene was all wrong, seeking the living among the dead, but still her heart was entirely on Christ, and if she did not get Him she got nothing, and she is the messenger to the apostles themselves of the highest privileges we have. “I ascend unto my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17); she is sent with it to the apostles, who learn it through her.
It is the same in other things: the poor woman that was a sinner did not know forgiveness, but she clings to Christ, and there comes out the forgiveness of her sins, “thy faith hath saved thee, go in peace” (Luke 7:50), the fullness of the gospel. So with Mary; she did not understand resurrection and life as she ought to have done, but the thing she does is the thing she ought to have done, and it is what she felt was right. It was from attachment to His person that she comes and anoints Him with her ointment. She might have put it in a bag, and given it to Him, but that would not do. Judas shows how the wrong thing leads people away. It was Judas said, “Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?” and they were all led away by it (Matt. 26:8). The disciples did not shine at this time at all. They all ran away too from Him later on, but her heart enters into it all. The Lord gives a voice of intelligence to her act, the wickedness of the Jews was rising up to the point of putting Him to death, and her heart had the sense of it, the Lord leading her no doubt.
“Let her alone,” He says: “against the day of my burying hath she kept this; for the poor always ye have with you, but me ye have not always.” It was His person He meant there of course. This is a beautiful expression of Mary's heart, and it shows how a heart fixed on Christ gives the right thing; though there may be a want of intelligence, it does the right act. The poor woman in the city acted rightly and confides in Him; though as yet unforgiven, the light and love of God are both in her heart. There was the confidence that love produces, and the sense of sins that light and love both produced. So with Mary Magdalene; it was the right thing to seek Him among the dead in a sense. And here Mary anoints His feet—His feet were worth it—that is the thought, I think; but generally they would have put ointment on the head.
Mary is a figure of the heavenly remnant in that sense of the word. Martha was one of the heavenly remnant, I suppose, but we do not see much of it in what she did, she had been busied with care. The heavenly remnant belong to heaven, whereas the earthly remnant get their portion on earth. Mary was on the heavenly road, she was entering into the spirit of Christ's death. She anointed Him for His burial, though nobody could die with Him; and her heart went with Him. She could not weep and raise from the dead, but she could weep and anoint. Her heart went with the sense of what was coming; she saw the way in which He was being treated. They had plotted the death already. That is just what we get here, not intelligence, but the heart right, and it does the right thing, that which is intelligent, so to speak. It is, very largely, want of attachment to the person of Christ that keeps people in the systems around us if they have not any particular motive.
Now we get the Son of David sitting on an ass's colt; afterward in verse 12 the Son of man comes out. They go to meet Him and cry, “Hosanna, blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord,” taken from Psalm 118:13, which is the introduction of the millennial day. “Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord,” and so on.
The Greeks are the nations coming up, or individuals of them. They are Hellenes; Grecian Jews are Hellenists. “Jesus answered them saying, The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified.” He was Son of God in raising Lazarus; He was Son of God in the world without dying; He was Son of David too, and ought to have been received as such according to Psalm 2, but when He takes His place as Son of man, according to Psalm 8, He must die. He cannot take the heavenly place of glory and be over all the works of God's hand without dying. And then we must follow in that, “he that loveth his life shall lose it, and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me.” A very important word; if you want to serve Christ, you must follow Him. It is not as if you could do so much service in a kind of independent way, but if I serve Him I must follow Him where He is. And then His own soul enters into this death. “Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour, but for this cause came I unto this hour.” Not so deep, but like Gethsemane. And then you get His perfectness brought out, seeking only His Father's glory, at all cost. He cannot be glorified without thus dying, and on the perfect submission the sense of the glory comes into His own soul. This is very instructive to us. And then comes a voice from heaven, “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” You have had the Father's name glorified in the Lord in raising back Lazarus to this world, and He is going to glorify it again in raising Christ from the dead. He was declared the Son of God with power here as given in Romans 1, and raised from the dead by the glory of the Father in Romans 6. Then in verses John 12:31-32 He says, “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out; and I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” Having submitted Himself entirely, and having looked only for His Father's glory, He says that the thing where He glorifies God is the way to His own glory. Wherever we bow to a dealing of God that brings us down, we find that it is the path of more glory.
As a living Messiah He had to say to the Jews, but as Savior of everybody, He must die—“Will draw all men unto me.” It is not the Father drawing to Him here, but the attractive point to which men are drawn.
John 12:32 is the cross, and the effect of it goes on; every soul that is brought in is the effect of it. The drawing goes on, but it is to a crucified Christ they are drawn. A living Christ was for a Jew, but it is by a dying Christ salvation comes to the world. When living, He says, “I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 15:24).
When it says, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live,” He is quickening; it is then, and goes on still. It is the Son of God in power; here it is the Son of man dying. The “lifting up” is lifted out of the world, though not gone to heaven. Here it is the mere fact stated, but it is the atoning Savior.
The character of resurrection answers to the condition in which Christ is. At the grave of Lazarus He raises back to this world; but now He is at the right hand of God, He quickens us into the character of His own place. We have Him only spiritually now, and we only live spiritually. But when He comes back into the world, those who are quickened then will receive a life accordingly. The power of resurrection or of life answers to Christ's position. He raised back Lazarus to the place where He Himself was alive; and so too it is now, to where He is now alive, and when He comes again He will raise up the body or change it to His ownlikeness then. Lazarus was merely a restored man.
“Now is the judgment of this world.” That is the consequence of the Lord being lifted up; and the prince of the world is cast out. By death He has destroyed “him that had the power of death”—that is, annulled his power (heb. 2:14). Though it says, “shall be,” his power is now destroyed. The sentence is passed, but not carried out. It is the cross that is referred to. The world is a judged world. Satan has led it to crucify the Lord. He is its prince, but by that in which this was fully shown his power was broken. I quite admit that, until Christ comes again, he is not cast into the bottomless pit, but through Christ's death Satan's power is annulled, and therefore “now is the prince of this world”; it was “shall be,” but that was then. And he is only called the prince of the power of this world when we come to the cross. To faith his power is annulled now. And so it is as to everything; you will find it is “yes” for faith, and not yet for full accomplishment fact. I have eternal life and yet the end is everlasting life. I am looking for salvation ready to be revealed, yet He has saved us and called us. We are really quickened, and have the Holy Spirit in our souls, we receive the end of our faith, salvation of soul, but not the result. I think it is a great thing to see that Christ is lifted up, and has nothing more to do with this world. That the breach was total and final: “O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee” (John 17:25). Then we get the unbelief: “Who is this Son of man?” and the Lord says, “Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you.”
John 12:34 gives the meaning of “lifting up.” It is contrary to abiding here. Then you have two references to Isaiah, verse 38, (quoting Isa. 53) which is His rejection, and goes on to death; and verse 40 (quoting Isa. 6), which we are told Isaiah said when he saw His glory.
Then you have another terrible warning. “Many believed on him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue.” Such would be lost. They were convinced, yet would not own Him. The principle is in Romans 10:10, “With the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” That applies now. I do not believe there are many of whom it is true now or ever—that many are ashamed to confess Christ, and yet are truly saved. I could not say they are saved. God knows what is at the bottom of their hearts. Some are afraid, it may be, of acting in certain ways, and yet they confess Christ in a more open manner than we do. We must leave such to God, like Nicodemus who goes secretly by night for fear of the Jews. And the counselor Joseph, who had been hidden, comes out when the disciples have all run away. These two confessed at last, when they said as it were, We cannot go on with all this wickedness, this is too much for us.
By “He that is not with me is against me” (Matt. 12:30) is meant taking the path of faith, you must take your place for Christ, or else you are against Him. The world has manifested itself as entirely against Him. The open breach is come, you must take your place either one way or other. We have Christ practically rejected—“lifted up”—and in John 13 we pass on to His going out of the world altogether.
The Epistle to the Hebrews says He could not be a priest on earth, because there were priests here already. Christ offered Himself; He was kept up three days—three years if you like better—as a pure victim. He offered Himself up on the cross. It is on the cross the Lord lays on Him the iniquity of us all, when He gave Himself a voluntary offering. But the offering Himself was not a priest's office: the priest only began when He took the blood, he had nothing to say to the offering until he accepted the blood. On the day of atonement the priest put his hand on the head of the scape-goat and confessed the people's sins, but there the whole nation was looked at as separate from God, and for them he confesses, though that was not exactly a priestly thing, though done by the high priest as representing the people. Christ offered Himself through the eternal Spirit without spot to God, but then He so far answered to the priest that He confessed our sins on the cross, and then after that He is properly a priest. Christ as now on high is not a priest for sins, He is an advocate with the Father if we sin. When I look at Him as suffering for sins, His work is done once for all, as in Hebrews 9:12when we fail, we have an advocate with the Father, for then it is a question of communion with the Father; but His sacrifice was for sins. He was a priest, He stood as priest, but He is not priest for sins now, but for grace to help that we may not sin and ever in God's presence for us the witness that our sins are put away, the reconciliation is made, and this was once done for us, where He stood as our suffering representative.
Christ did not, as the high priest in Israel, confess His own sins, for He had none (I need hardly say that), but the high priest on the day of atonement had his own to confess too, but Christ did only stand there as His people's representative. If He were on earth, He should not be a priest at all, and in the Hebrews you get the exercise of His priesthood now, which does not refer to sins because He has done with that question forever. You get Him as an advocate in John, but there it is dealing with communion, and hence the question of imputation never comes up, but communion is destroyed for the time.
Looked at as an instrument used, this chapter applies to ministry. The word, in Hebrews 4, detects, and is the means of washing in that way. The word detects that which leads to falling away; the constant tendency to apostasy runs all through Hebrews 1 would not include advocacy in priesthood. Intercession is a general word. He ever lives to make intercession for us. Intercession is commonly used for priesthood; but it is more a question of what is meant by words. Advocacy much more corresponds with Numbers 19.
What we come to in John 13 is that Christ's hour was come to depart out of this world unto the Father; up to this it had been His place and rejection on earth. Only when testimony was given to Him, He had declared He could only take that of Son of man, unless alone by dying. As to Himself there was now an end to all His sorrow and trouble, but His service He now shows us is not over; He goes up into the glory, and is there going to be our servant: “I have loved my own, and I love them through and through,” that is the meaning of “to the end.” He could not stay with them down here, but did not give them up; but He was now going to God perfect as He came from God, and the Father had given all things into His hand. He was returning spotless to God Himself, the glory being His. He could not stay with them, could they be with Him there? This is the solemn problem in this chapter. He solves it in ineffable grace. He rose up from supper, “and laid aside his garments, and took a towel and girded himself, after that he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded” (John 13:4-5). Peter objects, but the Lord says, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.”
Peter says then, “Not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.” “Jesus saith to him, He that is washed, needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit.” The two words “wash” in verse 10 are different; the first is washing the whole body, “bathed,” and the second is washing hands or small objects. And you notice the “hands” are left out, for it does not apply to our works, but to our walk. It is bringing the light of the word to judge inwardly when a man has done wrong. Those who have received the word have been bathed, they are clean asJohn 15:3. Here not all because Judas was still there. The statement alludes to the priests, who were washed bodily once for all, and afterward whenever they went to any service, washed their hands and feet. The consecrating with water was done once for all. So with us; but we are set to walk through this world, and in danger of defiling our feet as we go.
The words in Hebrews 10:22, “bodies washed with pure water,” refer to the first bathing, and not to this action of Christ or what it signifies. It is “bathed” there. And then Christ comes in as an advocate, and cleanses me when defiled in walk, and restores me to communion. It is like the red heifer when a person touched death; there was no fresh death appointed for that, but the application of the word, moral cleansing based on the death already accomplished.
As to the washing of regeneration, the priests were not washed at the laver at their first consecration; but they had to wash their hands and their feet at the laver every time when they came to serve. “Regeneration” in Titus is the same word as in Matthew 19, and not used elsewhere. It is the millennium in Matthew, instead of the present state of things. It is a change of state in both places. It is connected with what you are brought into, and what you are brought out of; for you are brought out of one, and into the other.
The action is very beautiful as to the Lord's loving and lowly service, and is really the glory of grace in providing for, and meeting moral evil in every shape for us that we might have communion with that which is on high. It is the fruit of the perfect love of Christ whatever is needed, the Lord sets Himself to do it, for love likes to serve: “having loved His own which were in the world He loved them unto the end.” “Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into His hand, and that He was come from God and went to God, He riseth from supper, and laid aside His garments, and took a towel and girded Himself.” It was with this glory present in spirit though actually future. In all the glory to which I am going, I shall be a servant as much as down here: such is its meaning.
It is “to God” in verse 3, because Christ's returning in the spotless divine perfectness in which He left God is thus affirmed; He is just as perfect as ever, and is going back as such to God—goes back just as He came from. He did not go half way, but came from God and went back to God. And then He must bring us into the same place too; either He must give us up, as He could not stay here where we are, or He must do all for us to fit us to be there where He is. And He will have us have part with Him in everything the Father gives, and be with the Father as He Himself is. So He has washed us and made us partakers of the divine nature.
It is the new birth, only it is looked at in its moral character rather than in the life-giving power of the Spirit's work; though they cannot be separated. In His love He takes up a slave's work; Peter objects, and the point He insists on is, our having a part with Himself. “Ye are clean, but not all,” is because Judas was there. And then He tells us to walk in the same spirit of serving.
Next, He puts the reception of an apostle on the same footing as the reception of Himself. “He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.” It had been already true, even of Judas, but still it is true always practically, and we know it—he that receives Christ's servant receives Him.
Then you find the Lord coming to the time of His betrayal. He is troubled in spirit. It is remarkable to see how the Lord feels everything thoroughly and personally; you never find in Him any failure as to that; but He is always Himself in it, the very opposite of insensibility; circumstances draw out His feelings, but it is what is divinely perfect, which is there to be drawn out. He says He knew who was going to betray Him from the beginning. And who is it? He is to have every sorrow. One of His intimate companions who had been with Him all the time. Through the devoted affection of women, you generally find them clinging to Him and so in the place of confidence, but here you have the one instance where a man comes into that good place. John was sitting close to Christ not from his seeking it then but from habitual nearness to Him, and Peter is obliged to ask John to inquire of Christ, who it was that should betray Him. It is an instance of what I mean; John was not there in order to get the information, but he was in the place to get it, the disciple whom Jesus loved and close to Him in order to be there, but there in the place to know His mind. That is the point; it is of all importance to be in a position so to learn of Him.
Now we get an important statement; after the sop, Satan entered into Judas. There is much in that; there is a familiarity with Christ in an outward way, which where the heart is wrong is a deadly inlet to Satan's power. Satan had already gained Judas's lusts, and suggested the evil; but here he takes possession of him in a personal way, Satan enters into him. He hardens his heart against every natural feeling.
If you take Luke as giving the order of the thing, Judas broke bread; having received the sop, he went immediately out. Luke says, after He had given both the bread and the cup, “the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table” (Luke 22:21). But here in John we have nothing to do with the Lord's supper; I merely get the fact that the sop was given to Judas. I think it has nothing to do with the Supper, whether Judas was there or not. Christ washed his feet, and there was intimacy at the table. It is important to notice that, because of the guilt resulting from it. If anybody quotes it as to fellowship now, then you would have betrayers at the table. Further there was no evil manifested, and you cannot of course put a man out where no evil is manifested. Besides, after all, people do not mean that they would have a table of Judases, and if you put it so to them, they will reject it. The Lord knew it Himself of course divinely, but that is no ground for us to act on and the disciples knew nothing of it, nor was their conscience exercised as to it; nor was the church founded till the Holy Spirit came.
As to Judas you first get the lust, and then the acting on it; he was a thief and had the bag; and then comes an occasion suggested by Satan to gratify the lust, who thereon enters in and hardens the person's heart against even his natural feelings, for many an unconverted man would not betray a friend with a kiss. It is at this point when all this has come completely forward that you get “Now is the Son of man glorified,” that is, in the cross the perfectness of His work was His glory, perfect devotedness and love were in it, and obedience at all cost to His Father, suffering all things where His glory called for it and it was a man's glory to make God's glory good and in such a place, “and God is glorified in him.” All that God is in His character is there made good by a man much more than a man, no doubt, but one who was a man” God is glorified in him; if God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and will straightway glorify him” (John 13:21-32). He does not wait for the glory of the kingdom, but goes straight up to God's right hand. God thus is perfectly glorified by man, so that man goes into the glory of God. And that is an immense truth, for the fact of our sins being put away, if it stood alone, would not entitle us to the glory of God. But that which has done it has. But Christ has gone into the glory of God: so Stephen saw and said. But man could not follow before this was all done; you must have the ark in the bottom of Jordan, or the people could not come over. Peter had confidence in himself, and so he denies Christ. If we come in flesh into the place of Christ, it will only be to deny Him there.
The “in himself” in verse 32 is in God, and Christ went straight into the glory of God. It is an immense part of the cross that, the ending of self and all confidence in self. The Lord told Peter he could not follow Him. And now the Lord in a certain sense assumes that He has gone out of the world, and He looks at things in that aspect, but their heart is not to be troubled at it; and in John 14 He gives them the ground on which it is not to be troubled. In the first place they get the comfort from God by believing in Him; and so would it be with Christ; and the next point is, in Christ's going away: it was not to leave them behind and He go alone, but He is going to prepare a place for them. It is not only a place for me, but there are a number of places, and I am going to prepare one for you, and “I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am there ye may be also.” Now that part of the chapter is complete in itself; they believe in Him instead of seeing Him; there are places in the Father's house and He is going to prepare us for them; He cannot stay with them where they are, but He will have them there with Himself.
Now comes, in the body of the chapter, what the comfort is while He has not come back. That is divided into two parts; what they had in His person, and what they would get on having the Comforter. The first part extends to about the end of verse 12. The three or four verses about their doing greater works come in by the bye.
The first part of the chapter is exceedingly beautiful and simple, when once you get at what the Lord is at. The point was “Whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.” Thomas answers, “Lord, we know not whither thou goest, and how can we know the way?” There was a good bit of unbelief in Thomas, his mind made difficulties, but he loved the Lord; and the Spirit delights to show it (John 11:16); and the answer is this, “I am going to the Father, and you know what He is, because you have seen the Father in me, and therefore you do know where I am going; and you know the way, because having come to Me, you have found Him.” Such is what the Lord says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If he had known me, ye should have known my Father also, and from henceforth ye know him and have seen him. Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father, and how sayest thou then, show us the Father?” (John 14:6-9), and so on. If they had seen the Father (in seeing Christ) and Christ was going to the Father, they both knew where He was going, and they knew that He was the way, because in Him they had found the Father. They had had this upon earth, and they ought to have known where they were.
It is “from henceforth” in verse 7, because He had revealed Himself and told them plainly now; but they did not understand. But they said, “now speakest thou plainly”; but they deceive themselves. He says, “I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world, again, I leave the world and go to the Father”; they say, “by this we believe that thou camest forth from God.” They had no idea of the Father after all. Still there it was: they had it, though they did not realize it. Then you get the two things He has once or twice insisted upon, as in John 8 and 9, His word and His work, “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me, or else believe me for the very works' sake.”
Then in the second part (you may connect verse is with it if you like) “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter that he may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not neither knoweth him, but ye know him for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:16-17). Now I get a second element, not the Father and the Son, but the Spirit. The Father had been revealed in the Son, and He had declared the Father's name on earth; but now comes another thing, He was going away, as we know, and the second Comforter was to come. He was not to be sent into the world, the world cannot receive Him. Christ had been presented to the world, and the world would not have Him; but the Spirit is not for the world, the way that He is known shows that the world cannot know Him. He abides with you and shall be in you. The first Comforter, Christ, was neither to abide, nor to be “in.” But the second would not go away, He would abide, Christ could not abide. As to whether it should be “dwelleth” or “will dwell,” in verse 17, for the Greek, or indeed for the sense, it is just as good in one case as the other; it is a mere question of a Greek accent. The “Comforter” is the character He would have in coming to them, He is the Spirit of truth as well. It is to me evidently the point, the difference of the first Comforter, that is, Christ, that He could not stay with them, and the second could. Christ was not in them either, but with them; the second should dwell in them, and abide forever (“ abide” is the same word as “dwell”) not be merely with them. In the power of the Spirit of God they should do “greater works,” and a glorified Christ should be the source of them. The very shadow of Peter would do; a handkerchief or apron from Paul, and so on; three thousand be converted in one day. But Christ had come in the character of humiliation.
The “I will come to you” is Christ in Spirit now, I believe; Himself in Spirit. It is not merely the Holy Spirit, but what the believer can always count on. There is a particular promise in the case of two or three gathered in Christ's name. There is not only individually dwelling in our hearts by faith, but the particular way in which He comes to two or three gathered.
The “manifest myself to him,” is where a person walks right; he gets Christ specially revealed to his heart. You have a very great additional fact in this second part of the chapter which you could not have in the first. What is in verse 20 that they could not have known then: “in that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you,” it was only when the Holy Spirit came that they knew that. The person of Christ was in the Father, that they knew; at any rate it was there to be known; but also they were in Christ and He in them: this they could know only by the Holy Spirit. Now you come to Judas—not Iscariot—and the realization of all this. We may look at verse 15 here; “if ye love me, keep my commandments,” if you love me, do not be thinking of keeping Me down here, but do you obey Me. They were sorrowing about His going, and His words are; then, “keep my commandments.” There is a connection here (He is looking at them in the character of obedience, though it is not the motive of His praying in next verse) with Acts 5:32, “and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.”
The difference between “commandments” and “words” is that words go farther rather. In Acts 13:47 you have a quotation from Isaiah, “for so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.” He calls that a commandment, though it was a word of prophecy, but the moment they understood it, it was a commandment. The whole thing is comprised in obedience whether words or commandments, we are “sanctified to obedience.” If they had words which gave them the knowledge of God's will, they are commandments really.
You will find in all this part of John the responsibility of the disciples in the first place, and that, in the verse we have just come to. “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” It is the Father loves us because we love Christ, it is not here, “we love him because he first loved us,” but with disciples, it is “he that loveth me, shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him” (John 16:21).
It is no question here whether he is a child of the Father, but what he is to the Father as a child; there is more expression of love and kindness to an obedient child, than to a disobedient one. And He adds “if a man love me, he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him and make our abode in him.” That goes farther, the “abode” will be more constant than the “manifestation.” “He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me.” Notice before in verse 21, it is not he that keepeth my commandments when he hath them; but knowing what the commandments of Christ are when we love Him so as to give heed to what He says. This is an important principle. A loving child enters into its father's mind, and knows what he would like and does it; a careless child will not know a bit what his father's wishes are.
In John 10:17, “therefore doth my Father love me,” it is not here so much for those for whom He is laying down His life, the motive is rather the immense value of glorifying His Father. Children that are living in their father's house, might all hear their father's voice and words, but there is instructive perception of what he intends on the part of the children that love him best. Which of us would settle quite clearly from Isaiah 49:6, “I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth,” that we were to go and preach the grace of God? Paul did in Acts 13:47. It is quite clear we must have the commandments if we are to use them, but the loving attentive person will have ten times more knowledge of them than a careless one. Mary and Martha are a kind of illustration; you get the example of the listening there or the lack of it.
In this chapter the Father sends the Comforter, not Christ; Christ sends Him in the close of the next chapter, and in John 16:7. It is in Christ's name here, but the Father sends Him, and “he shall ... bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” The value of sending in His name is seen in this. If you come to me in a person's name now, I should receive according to the value to me of the person in whose name you come. Then He says, “Peace I leave with you,” and then it is “his own peace.” You will find that as to everything. He puts us into His own place. It is His own peace, the peace He had in walking through this world with the Father, as a man with God. Christ says it of “joy,” “glory,” “peace,” “words,” “love.” The world may give liberally sometimes, but it has another kind and way of giving. It has no longer what it has given. The emphasis is on the word “my,” “my joy,” “the glory thou gavest me,” “the words which thou gavest me.” But we find another thing here which I have often referred to, but it is one of the most wonderful things in Scripture as to Christ. He expects us to be interested in His happiness, not merely to trust Him as interested in ourselves; but “if ye loved me, ye would rejoice because I said, I go unto the Father, for my Father is greater than I.” That is, if you love Me, you will rejoice because I am going out of this world into happiness. He expects that His disciples should be really interested in His happiness and glory.
Then we come to verse 30, “hereafter I will not talk much with you, for the prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in me.” “Prince of this world” is an important expression; it was then that the devil was proved to be the prince of this world, and he is never called so until Christ was rejected, so long as there was a possibility remaining of the world receiving the Son and owning Him; but in the rejection of Christ, the devil was able to raise both Jews and Gentiles against Christ Himself, and even the disciples ran away. His full power was shown. And therefore too now, the devil is a judged being “the prince of this world is judged”—and the world shown to be under Satan's power. He its god and its prince. The opposite is in Christ, “hath nothing in me.” And Christ loves the Father, and is obedient (vs. 31).
Satan finds plenty in us. He had the power of death in us, but he had nothing at all in Christ. It is a beautiful expression of Christ's perfectness. He was divine, but He was also man, and perfection as to both comes out so wonderfully. He would not talk much with His disciples, for the time was over. The devil is coming, and I cannot talk with you much more. The thing is all finished. In John 14 we get Christ's person and the Comforter; and now we go on to find the connection of people with Him upon earth, not with the Father.
In John 15 it is His relationship with the disciples on earth, and in the end of the chapter He has gone up on high, and sends the Comforter Himself, and it closes with the testimony. In John 16 it is the Comforter down here; He is not sent but come, He has been sent. In John 15 you get Christ in the earth, and His people on the earth. There is an analogy to this now, but what He is looking at is His being the real vine Himself in contrast with Israel on earth.
“Now ye are clean” is “already ye are clean.” The “ye are not all clean” in John 13 refers to Judas, here there is no exception for it, Judas had gone out. The point is, Israel was the old vine, and Christ takes the place of Israel, and is the true vine. If you look at Isaiah 49, you will see distinctly how he replaces the nation: “Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” “And now, saith Jehovah that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, though Israel be not gathered,” and so on. Thus it is Christ is the real servant—Israel a vine, but Christ the true vine. So you get in Matthew, “Out ofEgypt have I called my Son.” Hence Christ is the true Man for God—the true Servant—the true Vine. The true Man, God's Son, has taken up all that in which the first man had failed. Then, when Christ was upon earth, there was no church union; there is no question of planting vines in heaven nor of pruning to get fruit. He says, “Every branch in me that beareth fruit, he purgeth it”; and in John 15:3, “Now ye are already purged”; it is the same word. They were clean in the sense of “purged,” only that the purging continues; like “He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet”; this is the first of these washings. “Ye are already clean”; you are “already.” And then comes, “abide in me.” It is all responsibility here. The person's conduct is put first, but there is this difference made, when He speaks of ruin and destruction; He turns from “you” and says “a man.” In the middle of His exhortation He drops the “ye” and says, “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them and cast them into thefire, and they are burned”; there it is positive destruction.
In “if ye abide in me,” the “abide” is to “hold fast in dependence and communion.” “Without me [that is the opposite], ye can do nothing.” He does not say, “I will abide in you, and so ye will abide in me.” He puts His people first all through, for it all rests on responsibility. Only in verse 6 it changes to “a man,” and speaks of destruction, which could not be of a true disciple in Christ. Judas was taken away. There they were, all branches in the vine; for I do not think anything of the expression, “men gather them,” because He is speaking of the figure. There is another point in verse 7: “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you” I can dispose of all power, when the words of Christ govern my mind and will. “Ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”
In verse 2 taking away is utter destruction; for He is taking in all there who were associated with Him; they are all branches there till they are broken off. “If ye continue in my word,” He says to the Jews, “then are ye my disciples indeed” (John 8:31); they were His disciples, but did not continue. Hebrews 6 is in analogy with it.
Then I have another point still. I have the service and fruit-bearing, and then, “Herein is my Father glorified that ye bear much fruit.” But then, further “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love”—the divine favor of Christ. “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love, even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.” There I get a plain proof that it is no question of divine delight in the person only, but of the path in which the Son enjoyed the Father's love, and the path in which we shall enjoy it too. Now we have the “joy”; we had the “peace” before; now it is joy walking in His words, and abiding in His love. The love of grace seeks a sinner, but “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” That is not grace for a sinner; here it is for His friends. It applies to the disciples only, and is not here grace for sinners. “Henceforth I call you not servants, for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth, but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard of my Father, I have made known unto you.” A friend is a person with whom I communicate, not because I have business with him, but I tell him my thoughts and feelings as to that with which he himself has nothing to do. He puts them into the place of fruit-bearing, and tell them to ask of the Father whatsoever they would, and He would give it them.
Fruit that “may remain” is fruit to this day, you are it, if you please. We are here part of the fruit, and shall be to eternity, though the fruit is more down in the world in this passage. Now comes a third principle. Abiding in Christ and His word, and abiding in His love; and then “love one another.” But now the converse: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you; if ye were of the world, the world would love its own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:18-19). The world never can stand being outside; they will stand your having areligion, but they cannot stand a peculiar people “purified to himself.” This puts the disciples in a very blessed place, for it puts them in His place—“If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”
And then the history of Israel on the ground of their responsibility closes. He being the true vine, the old vine is judged. As long as anything was not done to Him, all was forgivable, as it were; but now “they have both seen and hated both me and my Father.” In verses 22, 24 it is again His word and His works; and then the Son had been manifested, and the Father in Him, so that their conduct had been really hatred of the Son and of the Father, and what was to be done? We have fellowship with the Father, and with the Son, but they had hated both—and that without a cause. It was all gone now, and then you get the Comforter and the disciples in the world. He says now, “The Comforter is come whom I will send unto you,” because He has gone away. The difference is clear; before the Holy Spirit came, they could not tell of Christ's glory in heaven, but they were to testify what Christ was upon earth. Still it was by the Holy Spirit. He shall “bring all things to your remembrance” (John 14:26), when the Father is spoken of as sending the Comforter; but in this place Christ sends the Comforter, and He is the witness of the glory in which Christ is sitting. You have a humbled Christ, and a glorified Christ, and the disciples bearing witness through the Comforter. But the Comforter Himself brings down the heavenly glory. Then you get in John 16 the Comforter on the earth. Read verses 1-3.
A person may be perfectly sincere, just as Saul was, in trying to blot out the name of Christ from the earth, but it is only proof that they have hated “both me and my Father.” Where there are truths held that go to make part of my religiouscredit, there I can go on; but the truth that comes to test my heart, to that I object. A person might be a Protestant boasting of justification by faith, and do it to trample on a Romanist; but if you talk to him of the living presence of the Holy Spirit down here, and of the Lord's coming, he will persecute you from the bottom of his heart. A Jew could boast in the unity of the Godhead, for it was part of his own credit religiously; but the moment he was asked to own the Father and the Son, he would stone you for it. It was the thing that was then testing a man whether he was right or not. The Jews were blind in the darkness of unbelief, yet they held what was very true all the while. Romanists hold the divinity of Christ, and His manhood, and the Trinity, and atonement; they would burn a man if he did not hold them, if they had their way; but if you come and say, A man is not justified by sacraments, they will burn you too, if they can.
Then another thing. He says, “I go my way to him that sent me, and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? but because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart” (John 16:5-6). In one sense it was very natural. God deals with the thing we are resting in; and takes it away, as now His Son from the disciples, it is not a thing that springs from the dust. God must have some intention in it. Christ is going, and they do not ask where; they felt the trouble of their loss and that pressed on them. He was not going to die like an ordinary person put in the grave, but they never asked Him where He was going. God has an intuition of love in our sorrows, our hearts should look beyond our sorrow to His hand and ways in it.
Peter did ask Him at the end of John 13, “Why cannot I follow thee now?” But it was the general state the Lord refers to here. Peter did not think of going through death and up to heaven with Him. He was not thinking of God's mind in Christ's going away, but of some place where he could follow Him. It is a glorified Christ who has gone on high, and who sends the Holy Spirit to build up the disciples while He is there. Sometimes one is afraid of getting truth through mere feelings. I say merely, that is not power. I do not believe that anybody before, ever got the knowledge of divine truth that the church has now; but if you look at power, it is like none at all. It is right according to God, as God's way with us; but it is only a “little strength” indeed, incomparably less power, though so much truth. The Thessalonians were waiting for God's Son from heaven, which is a very superior state; but they had not the word, as we have it, to study. Certainly they had not got this Gospel, they might have had Matthew's perhaps. I think there is always a danger of awakening and decaying, and that you have to watch. I speak merely of the whole character of the thing; not that I do not believe it is God's mind, for all the evil is seen by Him, but we have to recognize in a certain sense where we are. And even as to truth, we must get it really. I feel the word of God is an immense thing, thou “hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name”—Christ's—the word of His patience too; and there was then the confession of Christ in the midst of a people that would not receive Him, just as in not denying His name when professing Christianity are apostatizing.
Then remark, the coming of the Holy Spirit is a distinct definite thing consequent upon Christ's exaltation. There was no coming of the Son until the incarnation, though He created everything; and the Holy Spirit in the same way, though working, did not come until Pentecost. We were looking a little at that before. All direct action as to the creature was by the Holy Spirit, but He did not come before Pentecost, unless you except His coming as a dove on Christ. And there it was personally on Him alone. You get Him acting, as at the beginning of creation, but Christ says, “if I go not away, the Comforter will not come.” That is of immense import as to the character of His presence. The world is judged, and the Holy Spirit is not sent to the world, “whom the world cannot receive because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him. But ye know him; for he abideth with you and shall be in you.” The world ought to have received Christ, the Holy Spirit it cannot; and He comes consequent upon a rejected Christ and a glorified Christ, and it is a Man who sends the Holy Spirit, sends Him from the Father. You get His action when down here. He demonstrates to the world, sin, righteousness and judgment. If He convinces a man, he is a believer; that is not the power of “reprove” here in John 16:8; it is used much to that effect, but it does not suit this place, and there is no English word that has so wide an application as the Greek word has. He does not reprove the world of righteousness. His presence is the demonstration to the world that the whole world is guilty of the death of Christ, just as if God were saying to Cain, “Where is Abel thy brother?” That is to the whole world; this world is a world that has rejected the Son of God. So that it is a very solemn thing to the world that the Holy Spirit is here.
It is the “world,” just as “he came into the world” (1 Tim. 1:15). What I see in the history is that God takes out of the nations one man and his family to be a nation for Himself, and He tests them and tries to find any good thing at all in them, as a specimen of the whole, to tell what the mass is, and they are shown by it to be bad altogether. Suppose I find a “slob,” as you call it, in Lough Foyle, and I take out twenty acres, and spend an immense amount of labor upon it, but all to no good; well then, I do not try the rest. So Israel was but a sample of what all were, children of wrath. In saying the Gentiles, which “do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves” (Rom. 2:19), the apostle is reasoning in the first place thus: “if you have the law and do not keep it, the Gentiles who have not the law but keep it, are better than you.” But as Gentiles also they are without excuse upon the ground of the testimony of creation, and the fact that when they had the knowledge of God, they would not retain it. I will tell you the result of a pagan acting up to his conscience, if you first show me such a one. Cornelius was a converted man before Peter saw him. We have the sample of what man is in the Jews.
Let us go back. God calls Abraham when the world would have the devil and idols instead of the one true God. Then comes law, and that was all broken; then Christ and then the testimony of the Holy Spirit as we read in Stephen's case, and they resisted that. I do not believe a thing about Gentiles, that I do not believe about myself: my flesh would go and do lawlessness. But they are not condemned for not having received Christ when they have not heard of Him. But the Holy Spirit not having been presented to the world, they have not so rejected Him, but the world is convicted and judged because it killed Christ, and in the testimony to Him where that is it now resists the Holy Spirit. The Jews had the law, and the prophets, and the Just one, and Stephen charges them, “ye do always resist the Holy Ghost, as your fathers did, so do ye” (Acts 7:51). That is the demonstration of sin. Then “of righteousness.” If all the world is under sin, where am I to find righteousness? You will find it in two things, which are, “I go to my Father,” and the other ye will “see me no more.” Christ's going to the Father is proof of righteousness, for He is the one that deserved to go; and I see Him no more, is proof of righteousness against those who have rejected Him.
In “and ye see me no more,” it is you see Me no more in that character of mercycome as a Savior; every eye shall see Him in His new character as Judge. If I receive the demonstration of the Holy Spirit convincing of righteousness because Christ has gone, I have ceased then to belong to the world, and have become a believer. The demonstration of sin may come fully to the conscience, in a certain sense of the word, but if the will is not changed, I gnash my teeth on the man who brings it to my conscience as they did to Stephen. Then there was conscience with a bad will. The sin of Christendom is the practical denial of the Holy Spirit; I say “practical,” because orthodox people own Him as to statement. The root of the gospel is here, “righteousness, because I go to my Father.” I do not get a man's sins dealt with in this demonstration, that is not the point; but it is the broad general truth of the general standing of the world. The One righteous man having gone to the Father, the world will never have Him here again as such, though believers may go to Him there. The world was judged in John 12, and the prince of the world is judged in this chapter. You do not see righteousness fully displayed anywhere save in the glory. The cross is the declaration, not of righteousness, but of the contrary. It is the ground of righteousness. But if I look no farther than the cross I see the only righteous man that ever lived forsaken of God. The “judgment” is not come. It is not merely Satan is judged but the world; the whole world, having come up against Christ whom God put at His right hand. But I see Satan the prince of it all, and the whole thing is bad from beginning to end, and the whole is judged.
The judgment was not actually come; there was a demonstration of judgment because the one who had the power of the world had committed himself fatally against Christ; but the presence of the Holy Spirit showed it was against One who had broken his power and gone up to heaven. The presence of the Holy Spirit shows that Christ is in heaven, and righteousness is shown in setting Christ there. The same thing demonstrated that judgment was there; for the one who had allowed it was in direct opposition to the one God had set at His right hand. But it was not the execution of this judgment yet. The prince of the world was cast out, for the world had fatally committed itself against the One whom God had set at His right hand. All this demonstration is in the world; what follows is among the saints. “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now; howbeit, when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth, for he shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak, and he will show you things to come; he shall glorify me, for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you” (John 16:12-14). We have had the testimony borne by His presence in the world and now His work among the saints. First He guides into all the truth. That is a present thing. Then things to come are shown. In all He glorifies Christ, taking His things, all the Father has, and securing them to them. It is for the world from verse 8. I take it that the expression “because I go to the Father,” which He employs everywhere in John, flows from His speaking everywhere as the divine person who was come and went back, not as the dying man, though going through death, when all was over. He says, I am going away, and to the Father. No man takes My life away, Satan has nothing in Me. I am a divine person going to My Father; and when the proper time has come you will see Me again. They did not understand, and He says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice, and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.” It is not thus death and going to Him that He sets before them, but seeing Him again, which is a totally different thing.
In John 16:13 “of himself,” is “from himself.” He will speak from the Father and the Son. The distinction between verses 13 and 14 is that the one is what He does, and the other is the object of it. He does two things—gives you all present truth, and shows you things to come, that is prophecy, of which there is plenty in the epistles and the Revelation, to say nothing of what He explains of earlier writings, and of Christ's teachings, which was more bringing to remembrance, but all part of the truth of course. Verse 14 is what He does: He “shall show it unto you.” But it is Christ He glorifies. The Holy Spirit reveals all that the Father has, and that can be, revealed, and all these things are part of Christ's glory. He specially speaks of Christ as gone. “He shall receive of mine,” is not Christ's history as on the earth, so much, but all this new scene, though He does the other also. Here it is the new. They were wrought on by the Spirit to remember themselves what had passed on earth. They had seen it all; but here the Holy Spirit comes down, and, coming down brings the things they had not seen, that is, everything which the Father has and which belongs to Christ.
The point in the “little while” is that the Lord is not going to be lost, but as soon as God's purposes are accomplished He will come again. It is a great thing to take what is in a passage. And it was accomplished as far as resurrection went. The statement is that they would see Him again, for He was not gone and lost. The world rejoiced when He went away, as gone and done with. As far as it went, it was verified when He rose again, His disciples did rejoice greatly then; but it was not confined to that. It says, “your sorrow shall be turned into joy.” And it was. In the sense of verse 16 we have seen Him. It does not say, we are sorrowing at His being lost; but they did sorrow, and it speaks of the condition of the disciples in their place. The world was delighted to get rid of Him, but He comes up again, and His disciples see Him and rejoice. We have not got into the one or the other case entirely. Christ is gone in a certain sense, and yet we have seen Him so that we are always rejoicing. The entire fulfillment will not be until Christ returns.
I was referring to verse 22. As to the present they have lost Him again, after they had been glad when they saw the Lord, but they never got back into the sorrow they had had. I think the passage refers mainly to the resurrection, the then present thing, though it is not entirely fulfilled until we see Him. As we were saying before, I have eternal life, and am looking for it, and even for justification in one sense as in Philippians 3:9 that I may “be found in him, not having mine own righteousness.” The disciples then were wonderfully dull of heart about it, and they had no understanding because the Holy Spirit was not given. The point to me is, they would see Him again which they did when He arose. The world would see Him no more, but they see Him again, and have a consciousness that, instead of a lost Savior of Israel, they had got a complete one for the eternal purposes of God.
He is putting them here, as being Himself with the Father and having everything in His hands, in contrast with being a mere rejected dying man on earth as in the other Gospels, and puts them in the presence of the Father in grace, saying, “the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me and have believed that I came out from God. I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world; again, I leave the world, and go to the Father” (John 16:27-28). He is not here a dying man but a divine Person; I come from the Father and go back to the Father, and shall come again. The disciples got that, or part of it, when they saw Him raised from the dead, although the full result will not be until He comes again. They did not understand it then though they professed to do so, for they say, “by this we believe that thou camest forth from God.” From the Father they have not entered into. The Father is looked at as giving Him all things, not merely is it that Christ came from God and went to God—that was the moral connection, He was going back to God in all His perfectness, but now He takes His headship over everything. “Whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name”; we ask the Father as brought into immediate relationship with Him, and in His name, as the one in and through whom we are thus in relationship with the Father. What title else have I to go to God? As to the Lord's prayer, here is one reason why it should not be used now: it would not be asking in Christ's name.
There is often great failure in going directly to the Father; it is in Christ's name, but people go not in Christ's name, in the Spirit of adoption, but to Christ if they could not go to the Father, like Martha: “whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, He will give it thee.” They go as sinners, but inasmuch as Christ is there, they can go. Now that is not at all where Christ puts them here; “the Father himself loveth you”; all for Christ's sake, it is true.
Then the passage has been used for a very bad purpose indeed, “ye shall ask me nothing,” as if you are not to look or pray to Christ Himself, a mere abuse of the words. They were not to come to Him like Martha and say, “I know that, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it Thee.” The Lord says, “do you come yourselves to the Father and do not be asking Me that I should go for you.” But in all that concerns the administration, of what concerns His lordship on earth, the Christian prays to the Lord, not to the Son in that character. As a child and son I go to the Father, but it is to Christ I go, not to the Father, in matters that relate to His service. If I am a child, I go to the Father, but if I have something of administration in the church, I go to the Lord. It is a definition of a Christian that he calls on the name of the Lord Jesus; and you have Stephen's example, and Paul besought the Lord thrice. You cannot properly address the Spirit, but this is for another reason, the Holy Spirit being the One who is in me, and so He cannot address Himself. It is the different place the Holy Spirit takes in the economy of grace that is the reason of this. He is the agent in us to sustain us in prayer, for by one Spirit we have access unto the Father.
It is not intelligent to use that hymn, “Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly dove.” God does not make a man an offender for a word, but it is not intelligent. “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:35). “In me” not merely, not apart from me, but “in me.” Godly persons haveprayed for an outpouring of the Spirit. It was a mistake in divine knowledge. That was done on the day of Pentecost. But they meant well and earnestly desired really the more abundant action of the Holy Spirit. I have no feeling of attacking what is merely a want of apprehension, though I have no doubt such lose greatly by it. I believe too, it is necessary for the church of God that there should be the clear truth seen.
John 17 is different from all other chapters in Scripture. It is not all a prayer of intercession but the thing that is peculiar, and which there is nothing else like is, that Christ is not speaking to His disciples but to His Father in their hearing. So He opens out all His mind to His Father while they are there to hear it, or, if you please, we are there to hear it. Of course this is a wonderful thing to be admitted to listen while He is unfolding to His Father all He has to say to Him about His disciples. And firstly He lays down the position. “These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come, glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee.” Christ always has His Father's glory in view. And when He says, “glorify thy Son,” we may remark these two points: He never, though Son of God having become a man, goes out of the place of receiving all from the Father. He does not say, Now I will glorify Myself; but glorify Thou Me. When glorified His object as such is to glorify the Father in that higher place and way though all was perfect here. Then he continues, “as thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.” He has title over all flesh, but with a special object too in that. He has power over all flesh; but the special intent is that He may give eternal life to as many as have been given to Him of the Father. “And this is life eternal that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” That is, as I was saying, when you come to grace, it is Father and Son; it is the name that eternal life and blessing come in; it is the only full revelation of God Himself.
You get the three names we were speaking of brought together in Corinthians: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord [that is, Jehovah]—Almighty.” Almighty, Jehovah, and Father. Abraham's God Almighty, Israel's Jehovah, Father is God's name with us. Most High will be millennial. Father comes out in John 17. Almighty did not give eternal life, but kept Abraham from one people to another; and Jehovah was faithful to His promises, making them all good to His people. But this did not give eternal life, nor is it eternal life; but the moment the Father sends the Son, here is the grace that gives eternal life. God sent His only-begotten Son that we might live through Him. We do not live through the first Adam. The Almighty watched over Abraham, but that did not give life, nor yet the government of Jehovah, but the name of the Father sending the Son does, and, receiving Him, we get it; that is eternal life. The Most High goes on to the millennium, and we have not come to that yet. “Father” is the special name that we have; it was revealed while Christ was upon earth, but not understood, because they had not yet the Spirit of adoption. Then comes the position we get this in; that the Father glorifies the Son, all power being given to Him to give eternal life to as many as God gave Him; and that eternal life was in the knowledge of the Father, the true God, and of Jesus Christ as sent.
Then comes another point. His work: “I have glorified thee on earth; I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do, and now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (John 17:4-5). He had glorified God down here, and finished the work given Him to do. It is wonderful how the work itself is all passed over, but it is finished and He is looking at the one passing out of the world to the Father; and that is what has made the difficulty of understanding the seeing Him again, for He did not actually go to the Father till the forty days were ended: the work is finished, and then He goes back as Man into the glory of the Father. And then it is He makes us sons, glorifying God by His work, and we have part in the effect of it as sons. So you get the whole framework of grace in this chapter. He takes the glory as man having accomplished the work. “Glorify thou me with thine own self.” “With” means “with Himself, along with Himself.” He has just the same glory as the Father, but He never goes of Himself out of the place of humiliation. He was with the Father before the world was—one with the Father. You get that equality all through the Gospel. So here, “I have glorified thee,” now “glorify thou me”; but He never says, “I have glorified thee, and now I will glorify myself.” He receives everything, and will take everything as receiving it from the Father.
As to Isaiah 53:11, “By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many,” the meaning is very different. Christ does not justify us by His knowledge. TheHebrew word has two meanings. It is to justify; but it is also to “instruct in righteousness,” though it goes farther, for He might instruct, and they not learn. But the meaning is they are really instructed. To justify by knowledge is very crooked. “It pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief; when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied; by his knowledge shall my righteous servant instruct the many in righteousness, and he shall bear their iniquities.” It is “instruct the many,” but in the last verse it is “bare the sin of many,” without “the”; there is a “the,” or article, when it says, instruct the many in righteousness. (Compare Dan. 11:33; 9:27; and the end of Rom. 5).
Notice now verses 4-5. Christ receives as Man, what He had been in as a divine Person before ever the world was at all, and then you come to the next step, to bring out the part of those who were given Him. “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world.” It is the Father giving to Him as Son of man, and He gets the whole place as receiving it of the Father, and having finished the work, He brings us into it, and then He manifests the Father's name to bring us into relationship in which He is as Son. He has communicated to them all the communications of the Father to Him as Man down here, so that they should enjoy the relationship as exercised in these communications. “I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me, and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.” Thus we get their place settled. First, He manifests the name; and next, whatever the Father had given Him He passes on to them that they may have the full enjoyment of it.
In verse 26 “thy name” is the Father. “I have declared, and will declare it.” If I think of God as thus revealed, I think of the Father; because that is the name He has taken with me. Christ having become a man, has “emptied himself,” and He looks up to the Father. To deny His deity is to take the opportunity of His having humbled Himself for our sakes and sins to deny the glory due to Him because He laid aside the form of it in love to us. He made Himself of no reputation and then as Man humbled Himself. Still, though He said, Freely do I come; when a body was prepared Him, yet He therein took the place of the sent One. But His moral glory was the greater; therefore doth my Father love me because I lay down My life that I may take it again. Now, He could say, is the Son of man glorified. When I get the perfectness of the love, I find the Father sent the Son forth into the world. If I get a man sent from God, whose name was John, he has a mission; but when I see the Father sent the Son, I get the infiniteness of the Son in love, become a servant. If you go back, you will see the thing the devil sought was to get Christ out of the place of servant, and lead Him to command—“Command that these stones be made bread.” “No”; as it were, He says, “I have taken the place of service, and I will keep it.”
The sent One, as such, is not equal to the one who sends Him. But then you get Him, the Jehovah, and Jehovah says, “I am the first, and I am the last, and beside me there is no God” (Isa. 44:6). Isaiah saw also Jehovah in John 6; and in John 12, referring to that passage it says, “These things said Esaias when he saw his glory, and spake of him.” What he saw was, “Jehovah sitting on the throne, high and lifted up” (Isa. 6:1).
But again, I do not admit that He came merely as man. He undertook to come and do this will of God, a place of distinct service. “Mine ears hast thou opened” (“digged” in margin; Psa. 40:6). He undertook the service freely, and God prepared a body for Him. “He wakeneth mine ear to hear” as the learned, “the Lord God hath opened mine ear,” that is, to learn down here (Isaiah 50:4-5). God formed the place of service, and prepared a body, and Christ says, “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God.” We hear of the undertaking to come when the body was only prepared; He comes to take it and became flesh. Then His ears were opened morning by morning, and finally according to Exodus 21:6, as He who had completed His full service, loving the One whose due service He had performed, His wife, His children, in death He became a servant forever. Compare John 13. His present place, and Luke 12 when He comes and takes those who watch for Him to Himself. I came forth from the Father, and came into the world.
There is no such thing in Scripture as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. It is in Revelation 13, “Whose names are not written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb slain.” If people merely mean that the Lamb was slain before the world in the counsels of God, that is all very well, but in no other way.
Then He prays and first for the eleven; further on He says, “I pray not for these only”—all Christians are the gift of the Father to Christ; though the immediate application is to those brought in by the apostles. “I pray not for the world” stands in a way contrasted with Psalm 2. He leaves the world and does not pray for it. Intercession is only for those who actually believe. “I pray for them; I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me.” He will ask for the world hereafter, but He does not occupy Himself with it here. It is in this verse that He begins to pray. “Glorify thou me” in verse 5 is not prayer. “And all mine are thine and thine are mine.” It is precious to see these two motives given to the Father to keep us. If thou carest for Thine own thou must keep them, and if thou carest for My glory thou must keep them, for He adds, “and I am glorified in them.” This gives two motives for keeping them, they belong to the Father and Christ is glorified in them. “And now I am no more in the world; but these are in the world, and I come to thee.” There is His position taken. “Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are” (John 17:11). As yet we have only got the disciples—the apostles. “While I was with them in the world I kept them in thy name, those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost.” We get the name withal in which they are kept. Kept as by a Father, but as a holy Father, there is all the love and care of their being His own children, but the holiness of God's nature is the character in which He keeps them.
And now I have another thing to mark, and that is the three unities. First, it is the apostles “that they may be one, even as we are,” and then the next is “that they all may be one, as thou Father art in me and I in thee, that they also may be one in us that the world may believe that thou hast sent me,” and that is for the others who believe through their words—communion as 1 John 1. And then there is a third, “And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them, that they may be one even as we are one. I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me” (John 17:22-23). That is the glory. Display of the Father in the Son and of the Son in the saints.
The unity of the apostles was unity by the power of thought and work of the Holy Spirit. They were identical in counsels and purposes, being entirely under the Holy Spirit, they were all of one mind, and it was one thing. Then when the persons who had believed were brought in, they are brought into communion with the Father and the Son which the apostles enjoyed that they might be “one in us” as is said, may have communion with us, and our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. The apostles brought such into fellowship with them, and they then had communion with “us.” Those who believed were brought into unity and communion, though they did not go out in action and counsel; but they are brought in to enjoy it in the Father and Son, and have fellowship with them. That would be the same as in John's first Epistle. It is unity of communion, not of divine action and counsel, and work. The third unity is simple; for there you have the glory, and you get what is descendible, so to speak, “I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that thou hast sent me” (John 17:23).
The first is divine action and counsel and everything, referring to the twelve; the second refers to those who believe through their word, the Holy Spirit working by them, and these brought into communion, and all one that the world may believe; and then the unity in the glory, the glory given that they may be one even as we are one. The Father, glorified in Christ, and Christ glorified in us, and this glory He gives us that the world may know; for when they come out in glory the world will not “believe,” but will “know” that God sent Christ, and, wondrous word! loved us as He loved Him, for they will see them in the same glory together. It is three steps, the giving out of the testimony by the apostles; the reception of the testimony through their means in the beginning; and the glory. The last is the same as in Thessalonians. “I am glorified in them” is also now, but He will be perfectly glorified in His saints. You get a picture of it in the Acts too. Well these are the three unities. “And now come I to thee, and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” There you have them put in His own place with the Father “my joy”; nothing less.
“I have manifested thy (the Father's) name.” I have brought them in here, and I am glorified in them, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. Even then, all the words His Father had given Him, He had given them. He had put them completely in His own place before the Father.
And now He puts them in His own place, not with the Father, but in respect of the world; “I have given them thy word, and the world hath hated them.” It is in the same place of testimony that He had been in. They are in the same place as Himself with the Father to the end of verse 13; and then He begins to put them in the same place as to the world, and He prays, “not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” There I learn that He has made their place that which His was, giving them His testimony, the Father's word, not words here, and the world will not bear it; if you get into this place the world will not stand it. The world will bear a deal of religion, but not the Father. The Father dwells with the Christian; you are all outside, if you belong to the world and not to the Father. The Father has taken His Son up to Himself out of the world; and the Son says, “O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee, but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.” “I have manifested thy name” and the effect is that I am rejected. The world has not known the Father, but the Father takes up the Son to His right hand, and the world is all left behind; but Christians are put in His place before the Father and before the world.
“Holy Father” is the name He uses in verse 11, where He asks for them to be kept; here it is “righteous Father” in speaking of the world. It is God, of course, but the friendship of the world is enmity against God, and God is righteous in reference to it. In verse 16 He says, “they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world,” and then goes on to how they are practically made not of the world as Christ was not of it. The Father's truth, and the Son at the right hand of God, these are the two great elements. “Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth.” I want them apart from the evil, they are not of it, as I am not of it; thy word, the divine word, is truth, truth to separate them from it. And then “for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.” It is not only the Father's truth brought down by the Spirit so as to bring what is in His mind into ours and form us by it judging the evil; but Christ has set Himself apart as the One in whom all this truth is realized in glory, and as the object of their affections, so that they should be sanctified through the truth. Just as He had said before, “the truth shall make you free,” and “the Son shall make you free” (John 8:36). This is an important sentence; it is the way in which you are morally put in the place in which we are detached from the world. The truth shows us the divine nature, Christ, His death; it is the Father's word that comes from Christ who is gone on high, and it is with the additional fact that in Christ Himself it is all realized in glory. We have had now their place with the Father, their place in the world.
Then He prays “for them also which shall believe on me through their word, that they all may be one, as thou Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” And then comes the third position—the glory—“that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them as thou hast loved me.” The difference between believing and knowing is not sufficiently noticed. When the glory comes the world will know that we have been loved as Christ was, for we appear with Him in the same glory. What a wonderful sentence it is! The Lord delights to show that we are in the same glory with Himself. Like Moses and Elias in the same glory with Him on the mount. In one sense this closes the teaching of the chapter.
The last three verses of the chapter alone refer to heaven. “Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me, for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee, but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.” He will have His disciples up there in the glory where He is; but this involves the question between Him and the world. And He appears to His Father to judge between the world and Himself. It is His direct desire for having them in the glory in verse 24, and then the decision as to the world comes in verse 25, and in verse 26 He says, “I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it, that the love wherewith thou hast loved me, may be in them and I in them.” That is a present thing. It is not “declaring,” as before, that the world should know, but to the disciples; when the glory comes, the world will know that we have been loved as Jesus is loved. But we are to know it now, and for this purpose He has declared it, “that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them and I in them.” He has made the Father's name known to us that the love wherewith He was loved may be in us, and He dwells in us as a kind of conductor of this love down to our hearts. There are two kinds of love known in the heart: God's love shed abroad there and the love of relationship in the Father; and different measures of it, according to our spirituality; but the living in it is the place we are in rightly, one child may feel its father's love better and deeper than another, but each is always in it. As a child, he has the Spirit of adoption and cries, Abba, Father; as to righteousness, he has it; and if I speak of a son, he is one. And he is all this through Christ. He has brought us into the same place with Himself. Such is the subject of the chapter. But you never find Christ taking us into the same place with Himself without His divine glory shining out and marking a difference in Him all the while. Still as to us and the ground of the relationship we are all in the same place. It is another thing whether the heart of the Christian in looking up has the consciousness of the same favor resting on him as rests on Christ; that may vary and in the same person too, but the settled consciousness of the favor is there.
In “He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one” (Heb. 2:11), we have the same thing. Before God we are of one, but He sanctifies, we are sanctified. And the nearer we are to Him the more we shall know it. You always get the difference kept up of the “sanctifier” and they “sanctified”; but He does bring us into His own place, the same place in righteousness and life, and love. It is not merely that my sins are put away, through the work of the cross; that is not relationship, my debts are paid, and I have to be very thankful for it, but it puts me into no relationship with anybody. But Christ bring us into the same place as Himself, and then we come not only into relationship with Him, but also into His relationships.
Then just look a little at this expression—I feel it often in our worship meetings—“in the midst of the assembly will I sing praise unto thee.” Christ is singing the praises, but He raises the song of praise as the consequence of His own place and ours being the same. He comes and brings us into this place and says, I will sing in the midst of the assembly He went down into the place of death and drank the cup of wrath, and comes out into all the blessedness of His Father's delight, not only as His eternal delight, but as having done the work for God—comes out and tells us His name, and then says, “you must come and sing with me.” It shows how wonderfully He puts us into the place of relationship. And we cannot sing with Him unless we have found that deliverance which put the new song in His mouth. Even the bearing of sins and putting them away, though an everlasting ground of thanksgiving, is not a new relationship. What we are brought into is what the Father is to Him when He has accomplished the work: “thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns. I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee” (Psa. 22:21-22).
“That the love wherewith thou hast loved me, may be in them, and I in them.” It is a very wonderful scheme of God, to be sure, to bring poor worms, sinners, into the place of His Son; and all His glory is in it, His love, His righteousness, His holiness, His majesty, all are made good in that by which we were; that is what we have here, Christ glorified His Father—things for the angels to look into. “Herein is love with us made perfect that we may have boldness in the day of judgment” (1 John 4:17) is different, in this, that there I have judgment before me, and you cannot have this here. That is the thing as I look at myself as a responsible being: responsibility leads me to judgment, but Christ has come in and cleared me from it all, and I am accepted in Him. But here I have another thing; what is He going to do with these redeemed people? He makes us “sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” “and show the exceeding riches of his grace in us” (Eph. 2:7). He must clear them from sins first, that is true, but He had this thought in His counsels to set us before Himself in love, “having predestinated us into the adoption of children (sons) by Jesus Christ to himself” (Eph. 1:5).
John's epistle is the other aspect of this, from the judgment side of it; it is not the union and relationship side but the other side so that, when I think of judgment, it is no judgment for me. “Boldness in the day of judgment,” is a strong word, but that is what the epistle gives; it is in the aspect of judgment. If I am the same thing as my judge, I need have no fear of judgment if the judge acts according to what He Himself is, because I am the same thing as Himself. What I feel so important is, that consciousness of relationship should be insisted upon. It is more than that question of judgment, only here it is all the same position as Christ, as well as in the epistle. I find so many brethren who linger round the fact of clearing us from our sins, and do not enter into the consciousness of our relationship in Christ with the Father. Every Christian ought to have a sense of relationship, just as a child has on earth. The moment I take my place in Christ by faith, I say “I am loved as he is loved,” and I understand the aspect of the Father's love towards me.
I do not say if we are sealed, that we should not say, “Abba Father,” but such an one may not enter into what it is to be loved as Jesus is loved, and that Jesus would have it so, and dwells in him that he might. You will find many brethren who really know they are forgiven, and yet have never thought of being loved as Christ is loved. It is to be known by faith, in the power of the Holy Spirit looking up and being there—through the word of course.
The Lord says at the end, “O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee” (John 1:25). These have come unto Me, they have received the message. There is “the world” on one side, and “these” on the other. “I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.” And then comes what these souls get: “I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it, that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.” Before, it was the righteous Father, and He decides between the world, and Christ, and His disciples; and the love comes in and puts them in His place. He does so now, just as the Father had said, “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again”—as He had done in Lazarus, and would do again in Christ. As to the same glory: there is the divine end of it so to speak, and the other end of it. We are one with Him and He is one with the Father. Christ and His disciples go together, and the Father is to decide between them and the world, “O, righteous Father.”
He goes over the brook Cedron, and still you get the same divine character. You have nothing at all, not a word, of what is called Gethsemane, or of the praying and crying to His Father; it is not that side that we get here. They came to take Him, and He puts Himself forward. You get a divine Person who is giving His life, and He says, “Whom seek ye? They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also which betrayed him stood with them. As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward and fell to the ground” (John 18:4-6).
It is all power. He had only to walk away then. As soon as divine power was manifested, they all fell to the ground. Then He asks again, “Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus answered, I have told you that I am he; if therefore ye seek me, let these go their way” (John 18:7-8). He puts Himself forward, and all the disciples escaped, not in a very grand way, but still they are safe—the Good Shepherd puts Himself in the gap, and the sheep escape.
Now Simon Peter, who had been sleeping when he ought to have been praying, comes forward and resists. He cuts off the right ear of the high priest's servant, but Jesus says, “Put up thy sword into the sheath; the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it” (John 18:11). This is not resisting; and it is all the Gethsemane you get here—a divine person as man, bowing to whatever is done as the Father's will. The Father has given Him the cup to drink, and He will drink it. He was a divine person, but a servant. Simon Peter denies Him; the high priest asks of His doctrine, and He answers He had ever openly taught in the temple; those who heard knew what He said. There is no recognition of authority anywhere though He submits to all. It is the Son of God who gives Himself. They lead Him to Pilate, and then what this Gospel so brings out is here again shown, and that is perfect contempt for a Jew. Pilate asks, “Am I a Jew?” All through this is so. Our Lord says to the Jews, “Ye are of your father, the devil; ye have not the love of God in you.” Pilate had the feeling of utter contempt. When the chief priest wanted to change the title on the cross, he says, utterly despising them, “What I have written I have written.”
They claim that He should die. Pilate goes again, and asks, “Whence art thou”; and when He did not answer, he says, “Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above; therefore he that delivereth me unto thee hath the greater sin. And from henceforth Pilate sought to release him” (John 18:10-12). The Jews cry, to work on his fears, “Thou art not Caesar's friend.” “Therefore he that delivereth me unto thee hath the greater sin.” Pilate had no power against Him really at all. If he believed that He was the Son of God, and there was at any rate fear in his conscience, he was helping on the devil's work against the Son of God, and any way he saw that in the Jews it was hypocrisy and envy.
Pilate's saying, “What is truth?” showed he did not know what truth was. It is just what infidels say now. Their minds are always “open to truth,” as they say, and this shows one clear thing—they have not got any. It is an old saying, “A fool can ask a question that nine wise men cannot answer.” You will never find them state a truth; at best, everything is hypothetical. One said to me, “How can I get any good from anything I do not understand?” “Do you know how your heart beats?” I asked, “and do you not get any good by it?” He was confounded, but he got some good by it. And if I have truth, my love of truth is shown by keeping it.
We find a complete apostasy of the Jews here. “It was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour; and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your king! But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your king? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.” This was apostasy. It was denial of Messiah, their hope and everything else. That stamps their character.
They had a double council—one at night when He was taken, and then they came to a formal sentence in the morning. The narrative leaves much out here, as the interview with Herod, and many details. But it is all Christ in peace, who delivers His mother to the disciple, and then, knowing that all things were accomplished, He received the vinegar, and said, “It is finished.” He was crucified at our nine, I suppose, and the darkness was from twelve till three, and then He died. There were six hours from the time when He was crucified, and the darkness was for three of them. Neither in Gethsemane, nor on the cross, have you a word of suffering in this Gospel. He bows His head, and gives up His own spirit.
He says “I thirst,” that the scripture might be fulfilled. The suffering was all there of course, only this Gospel does not bring it out. In Matthew you get it all fully. In Luke you see a great deal more suffering in Gethsemane, and none on the cross. “Being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). There, and all through Luke, we get the Son of man, and not so much His divine person. As Son of man He goes through all sorrow, looked at as a matter of faith, in Gethsemane, and in spirit and heart He drinks the cup, so that, when He comes to die, the whole thing is perfectly calm. You get that side of it in Luke. And that is just what we ought to do—I mean, to go through all the sorrow and trial that is before us with the Father first, and when the sorrow itself comes, go through it in calm. Jordan overflows all its banks, it may be, but it is dry to us. Then in Luke it is simply said He expired.
Matthew gives us the sufferings on the cross fully: there I see the victim and the drinking of the cup. Is it not a wonderful thing to have the Lord brought down to us in this way—as Son of God and Son of man especially, all divinely developed for our souls to see what was going on? The vinegar was a kind of drink the soldiers had. Some have thought it mockery, but this is not the way in which it is presented here.
Certainly this is that death, where God and sin met in the sinless one, and death was what it could be to none but God, and yet He must be a man to die. He looked at it as the cup of the judgment of sin, God hiding His face, and yet there was perfect obedience manifest in man, besides the perfect love of God in it. There is no place like this; even the new heavens and new earth depended upon the cross, because God was perfectly glorified here as to the whole question of sin, and nowhere else; good and evil met perfectly; hatred against God and the devil's power and all possible evil in man to the highest degree. Christ, man perfect in obedience and love to His Father, having no sin, but made sin for us, while the judgment of God in righteousness against sin, yet in perfect love to the sinner; so that the question of good and evil might be settled and settled forever, and by God Himself, the Son of God giving Himself as man for it.
Unrepentant sinners will be judged of course; will be judged, and justly, according to their works; but the cross has settled a great deal more than that; it has settled all that is in God's character as to evil and as to good. Christ says, “I have overcome the world,” but also, “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (John 17:4). And that work can never lose its value, and therefore I get the everlasting value of it when I get it at all. It was dealing with sin; but so as to put it away, and thus I get the new heavens and the new earth founded on it. Innocence was in the first earth, or garden of Eden, sin is in this, and righteousness will be in the next. The cross was to put away sin for God, and you get the new heavens and the new earth founded on sin being put away before God; righteousness then comes in. “He appeared once in the end of the world to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” The result is not produced yet at large, though it is in respect of our consciences. Heaven and earth shall bow to Christ, but that is things in heaven and things on earth, and things under the earth too, and that is final. Now God has been glorified finally, and this cannot change; and everything new is based on it.
The Lord's making John the guardian of His mother explains, “what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.” But when His hour was come, and He had done the work, He could turn to recognize the relationship, seeing He was now no longer engaged in serving His Father on earth.
It was the scene that stands by itself. Pilate was alarmed and uneasy all through; his wife came and told him she had suffered many things in a dream because of Him, and he was to have nothing to do with that just man, but the Jews press Him on, though Pilate did it himself. Everything was exactly opposite to God; the disciples that ought to have been faithful to Him, run away, another betrays Him, another denies Him; the chief priests, who ought to have interceded for the guilty, plead against the innocent; Pilate, who ought to have justly acquitted Him and set Him free, condemns Him. Everything was exactly opposite to what ought to have been. The cross being there brought everything to the test.
Pilate represents the power of the world committed against Christ, and that has been fatally compromised there: it was the abuse of the power committed to the Gentiles by God. The Jews were the agents in it all, but Pilate was the government of the world recklessly rejecting Christ at the instigation of wicked men.
When the Lord returns, He will find the beast in power, and the Antichrist there. Evil will have all ripened into some positive shape, but otherwise it will be exactly the same. That is the reason why the Lord, as to circumstances, took the sorrows of the remnant upon Him. He had to do with the apostate nation, with the king Cesar; He had to do with them all, but did he find faith on the earth? The remnant will have to do both with apostasy and Gentile power, with this immense difference—that Christ went through judgment for them, and they will not have to do it.
The Jews have a tradition that Antichrist is to be of the tribe of Dan; and they look for Messiah Son of Joseph to suffer, and for Messiah Son of David to reign. Many now look for nothing at all. There is a rationalistic movement among them, and an attempt on the part of some to join the Socinians. Some will tell you that Christians have done a great deal of good, and many have read the New Testament, but many are infidels, and this is growing among them—on the one side the Talmudists, and the rationalists on the other, and some few in between these; but they are all uneasy.
In Revelations 13 we have Antichrist with two horns like a lamb, that is his royal character. In the first part of that chapter, the Roman power comes first, and they will both go on together, and play into each other's hands; but then the beast has not as yet actually come into Palestine; when he has, the second beast has truly his prophet character.
John alone of the evangelists mentions the flowing of the blood and water from Christ's side; he alludes to it in his epistle too. It is a beautiful testimony of divine grace, answering the last insult man could heap upon Him. They drove Him outside the camp, put Him to death on a cross, and then, to make assurancedoubly sure, the soldier gives Him a blow with his spear. Salvation was God's answer to man's insult, sin in his rejection of Him, for the blood and water were the signs of it.
In John's epistle the water is named first, because, looked at on God's side, water comes first; in the history it cannot: “Forthwith came there out blood and water,” in the epistle; “not by water only, but by water and blood” (1 John 5:6). The point is that eternal life is not found in the first Adam but in the last; the witnesses to this are the water, the blood, and the Spirit. You want purifying to have eternal life; you will get it nowhere but in death, and in that of Christ in grace. You want expiation, and the blood of Christ makes that; you want the Holy Spirit. Christ is not only dead, but glorified, and the Spirit is given, the witness that there is no life in the first Adam but in the Son. Its power is found in that which marks the total breach of the first man with God and of God with him, save in sovereign mercy. In the epistle John is showing that moral cleansing will not be enough. The Spirit is named first when God applies it. The word is the instrument, but it is by death itself: you must have cleansing, but the cleansing is death. The water, coming forth from the side, is purity; and you can have purity by death only, and by His death. Then Joseph comes before us, and Nicodemus too, when the thing comes to a point.
But in John 20 we get the whole picture of the dispensation, from the remnant of Israel that first received Him risen, to the remnant that will know Him when they see Him again, represented by Thomas. Mary comes early to the sepulcher, while it is yet dark; her heart is there, and she has no rest without Him. The others came when it was light—the natural hour to come. When they had been buyingspices for the body and what they were going to do next morning, they come at the light. But Mary Magdalene has no heart to be without Him, and, before the light, she is there. The church began by a remnant, but John never gives us the church, but the remnant at the end, and in verse 17, “My Father and your Father, and to my God and your God”—two dispensations if you call them so.
First, Mary goes to the sepulcher and finds the stone rolled away. She runs and tells Peter and John, and they go to the sepulcher. Peter goes in first as usual; those two constantly go together, they both loved the Lord, but in very different characters. They do not shine in this history. They come and see and believe, and go away to eat their breakfasts, or for something at home. They did not know the scriptures, nor did they stay to be anxious about it at all. They saw and believed, for they knew not the scriptures. It was not faith in God's word but sight convinced them. The clothes all lay quietly there; there had been no stealing away, and they said He must be risen. Afterward Christ reproaches them for their unbelief. At any rate like Mary, they might have inquired. Mary stays when they have gone off; and there she is weeping, and thinks when she sees Him He is thegardener, and says, “If thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.” She feels she has a right to dispose of His body, and talks to the gardener as if he knows all about it—“Tell me where thou hast laid him”—just as I might go to a house where one is ill, and say, “How is he?” without stating a name, because all hearts are full of the sick one. Then Christ brings out (the angel had done so too) where her heart was; and, when that is done, He calls His own sheep by name, and she turns and says to Him, Rabboni, that is, Master. Then she would have taken Him by the feet, but He anticipates her, for she thought she had got Him back again for the kingdom. You must not touch Me, “but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and my God and your God.” It is the highest expression of personal relationship, and she is the messenger of it to the apostles themselves. He has accomplished redemption, and they are His brethren, for He has put them into the same place as Himself. The women in Matthew touch Him, but they were no messengers of a higher calling in contrast with the kingdom. They thought nothing about the act save as a mere token of respect and attention, and He let them do it.
The Lord was not seen by Peter first. The women are not named in 1 Corinthians 15, because Paul is speaking of witnesses there; he speaks of Peter, and the twelve, and five hundred, and James, and that was all he wanted. “Then of the twelve”; that marks it.
“It was written in the Book of Psalms ... and his bishoprick let another take” (Acts 1:20). That was both reason and authority for choosing another. He has another to witness of His resurrection, because the Psalms said it was to be done. The number “twelve” is the perfection of human things in government; the foundations of the city, new Jerusalem, are twelve; so twelve apostles of the Lord. “Ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:28). There must be twelve.
Luke takes them all in a lump—Mary Magdalene and the other women, and puts them together; this is Luke's way—all in a lump together, and then he picks out perhaps a single circumstance in which deep and interesting moral traits are developed and that he gives at length. In verse 18 we get Mary Magdalene's testimony. The seeing and believing left the disciples at home, individually, but through her they receive testimony. Mary Magdalene is the figure of the remnant.
Then another point. We see them gathered, and Christ pronounces peace upon them. He had said before, “Peace I leave with you”—His own peace in the world, but here there is not only resurrection brought in, but the relationship. “My Father and your Father, my God and your God.” And then He comes in a sense into the midst of the church gathered together, and, instead of saying, “Fear not,” as He was wont while here below, the door was shut for fear of the Jews, and He says now, “Peace be unto you,” for He had now made peace by the blood of His cross. As though to say, “I cannot stay with you, but I leave peace with you”; and He breathes on them too, and says, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost.” “As I cannot stay, here is a provision for you if I go”; such is the force of it. It is the Holy Spirit in the power of life in resurrection, not sent down from heaven. There is nothing special in the “eight” days, in verse 26. In one place you will find “after six days,” and in another, eight. John never gives us the church as a doctrine, but we have historically their gathering together and He in their midst.
As to peace He says, “Peace be unto you; as my Father has sent me, even so send I you” (John 20:21). It is characteristic now to be so. The word “peace” is an amazing word in scripture. “The God of peace shall be with you” (Phil. 4:9). He is never called the God of joy; it is never given as His character. He is, as God, always in peace, and never up and down as we are. Joy is a feeling that a man has when he is up, and presently it subsides, and he goes down again. Christ now brings peace—He has made absolute peace, perfect peace, and He brings it.
Then comes the breathing on them. It was the figure of the Holy Spirit coming after He had made peace; but as a fact it was the power of resurrection life. Just as God breathed into Adam's nostrils, so the resurrection Son of God breathes into them the power of the life He gives them as risen. In Acts 1 you get the sending of the Holy Spirit, not the breathing on them, not the power of life, but the Holy Spirit Himself received anew for others from the Father by the Son, and then by Him shed forth.
As to “Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them” (John 20:23). They were the administrators of it in the world; first in the preaching of the gospel if you like; but afterward, in the proper administrative sense. Here it is the apostles. But Peter in a sense remitted Cornelius' sins. Paul says, “To whom ye forgive anything, I forgive also” (2 Cor. 2:10). And yet, if such an one is a believer, he has eternal life and forgiveness all the while. That is what I mean by administrative. Not the forgiveness in which the soul is justified, but the present conferring the forgiveness in the ways and government of God. James says, “And if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him” (James 5:15). If discipline is carried out, there the sin is bound upon the person. It is spoken here of the disciples, that is the eleven. The question has been raised, I know, whether there were one hundred and twenty that obtained this power, or only eleven. The great thing is to get what the Spirit of God is at in the passage, and afterward the context as much as you like. Thomas is not there the first time. There might have been more than the eleven present.
As to binding and loosing the only thing that I see it conferred upon, after Peter, is in Matthew 18, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name”; forgiveness of sins is not named here, though this is part of it. The thing He is here speaking of is their administrative capacity. In those early days there was no such thought as receiving in anyone, and he not having his sins forgiven. It is the very thing, they, the disciples, were “sent” out for—to announce the remission of sins to give knowledge of the salvation of His people by the forgiveness of sins: only He gives the administration of it to them. I believe that any assembly of two or three in Christ's name (provided they look to Him, and do it in His name) have the power to bind and loose, and forgive sins; only this is not eternal forgiveness.
As to John 18:28, it is a question of whether Christ anticipated the Passover, for they began it in the evening, and among the Jews the evening began the next day, and was reckoned with it. It was dark when they went out. I did look into the thing once, but those things do not occupy me much. “That they might eat the passover,” falls in completely with Christ being sacrificed on the paschal day; it is merely a question of why He ate the supper previously, and still it was on the same day. As to the title on the cross, here we get the whole—“Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews.” One Gospel gives one part, and another, another; but here you get it in full.
To return to the forgiveness of sins in John 20. He says “Peace [be] to you”; first by itself, and next, both on the Lord's day, says, “Peace [be] to you; as the Father sent me forth, I also send you.” He brought the peace to them, and then He sent them out with the peace. Then He breathes the Holy Spirit into them, which, looked at as figurative teaching, in the dispensational teaching here given, is the same as sending it from heaven; but historically it was the power of life, and not the giving of a person.
When they brought the message of this peace and preached the gospel, that was the character of their mission; then there was restoring souls in details. The offering once offered, we have absolute remission, when it is a question of our acceptance with God; and then the administrative thing, as “Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins” (Acts 22:16), to Paul. It is well to see that, as to forgiveness, it is not a mere perfect work by which I am to be forgiven, but Iam forgiven. It is more than mere declaration. The woman in Luke 7 was forgiven in the mind of God, but she herself had it not until the Lord said to her, “Thy faith hath saved thee, go in peace.” I could not say that a person is sealed in the mind of God, because sealing is not a thing in a person's mind at all, and forgiveness is. I may have forgiven you an offense, but you are not easy until I tell you so; whilst sealing is a different thing in its nature. The woman did not get the forgiveness until He said so, though she saw the grace in Christ that drew her to Him. You find that constantly; you get it in pious souls, the sense of the grace that forgives without the sense of forgiveness. They love the Lord, but if I say, “Are your sins forgiven?” the reply at once is, “Oh, I could not say that.” You find hundreds such. You see it as to salvation in Cornelius. He was to call Peter and hear words, whereby he and his house should be saved. He was safe really already. Justification is in the same way. People talk about eternal justification; but justification is not only what is in the mind of God, but in the man's receiving it, and therefore you get justification by faith. A person really is accepted, and there is the sense of the forgiving grace in the person of Christ, but the word of known forgiveness is not in the mind of the person himself. The same of justification. That is the force of the word, He “was raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4:24), because justification there is an active word in Greek—for our justifying—and then it adds, “Having been justified by faith,” and so on. Faith must come in in order to our actually having it, and the man has not got it until faith. Suppose a thousand pounds given to me, I must sign my name for it. Actually I do not get it until I sign my name.
In Matthew 18:15-18, the inheritance of binding and loosing is given to the two or three. Thus the binding and loosing power which is claimed by clergymen and others, and which was given first to Peter, has its succession in the two or three gathered together, and not in clerical successors. And that has its importance in these days. In Matthew it is not absolutely the same as in John 20:23, for it may apply to other things. The main point is the same no doubt, and has always been considered so, though not exclusively that. It is almost always “heavens,” not “heaven.” The place is lost sight of when we say “heaven,” because we talk loosely of going to heaven. It is the “kingdom of the heavens”; that is, belongs to the heavens and not to the earth. “Heavens” is the place more, but “heaven” is characteristic. You may use both so, but I should say, “The heavens are higher than the earth.” We use the heavens more materially in a way. There are habits of that kind in language which are not absolute.
Peter is represented as having “keys,” but it is an important point to notice that there are no keys of the church; that is a mere blunder. “I will build,” says Christ; and Peter had nothing to say to it except the privilege of getting the name “Peter.” The administration of the church was not committed to Peter, but of the kingdom. The church in this sense is not even built yet; whereas the keys of the administration of the kingdom of heaven upon earth were committed to him; and he lets in the Jews and the Gentiles. That is the force of “keys.” “The key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder,” Isaiah 22:22, has the same meaning. It is the charge of administering the kingdom of heaven down here. That is where popery has made an immense blunder, though very natural to the state of that church. It has taken Peter instead of Paul; there is no successor to Paul, and they do not attempt it. Peter had to follow Christ, and Judaism came to nothing, and the circumcision church died away at Jerusalem. They take up with Peter because the church dropped into a Judaical state. You never hear of a pope as the successor of Paul. The entire thing is ridiculous, because after all you have no succession of Peter. As to successors to Timothy, whom Paul appointed in a way (but not to be his successor), nobody has thought of that, except in some general idea.
It is curious how and where things come out. There are those now and doctors of divinity too; one of them goes through all this, and declares there is no ordination to the ministry in scripture, and no sacraments in scripture, and that one person is as competent to administer as another, that certain things must be done, but there is no authority in any clergy from scripture. He says there was no such thing in the early church at all. And it is so—there was not. He admits that the apostles appointed elders, as indeed is plain, but it must be taken for granted that they did it with the concurrence of the people, because Clement says so. Clement owns no bishop. Vigilantius was cursed by Jerome in an awful way; but he stopped on his way back and stayed among the Vaudois. Tillemont says of Jerome, “we may learn from this what a church saint is.” He is as abusive and vengeful as possible, only he praises celibacy. Chrysostom and Augustine fell under his lash.
But we were at forgiveness: and now we get the remnant in the last days, and the three times that Christ reveals Himself to them, as it says in John 21:14: “This is now the third time.” He had seen them ever so many times, but as to this kind of definite public and positive showing Himself, the first time was on the Lord's day (John 20:19); then when Thomas was there eight days after in verse 26; and then in the last chapter picturing the remnant at the end. Calling this the “third time” is a proof that the third time is used with a kind of specific figurative character. Thomas being absent the first time, had no part in this Christian mission, but he comes in afterward, and believes when he sees.
Let us look now at the different missions in the different Gospels. In Matthew you have no ascension, and you get the mission from Galilee. The angels tell the women to “go quickly, and tell his disciples,” not “I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God,” but “that he is risen from the dead, and behold he goeth before you into Galilee, there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you” (Matt. 28:7). And then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee unto a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him they worshipped, but some doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth; go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:18-20). There you get the mission in resurrection from Galilee, and from the remnant of Israel looked at as thus gathered, and going out to disciple the nations or Gentiles. And that never was carried out in scripture, except it be a hint in Mark at the utmost. And not only you do not get it carried out negatively, but you also get positively the going to the Gentiles given up to Paul. The apostles gave it up, and agreed that they should go to the Jews, and “that we should go unto the heathen.” You find it in Galatians 2. And then you get the church an entirely new kind of thing. As Matthew's mission, everything was provisional, not carried out.
But there is another thing which gives an intimation about it, and that is, when the Lord sends them forth, He tells them (Matthew 10) “If they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another; for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.” But in Acts you find that, on persecution arising, they all fled, except the apostles, and that must be taken into account as to the way in which the instruction was practically carried out. For the Gentiles there is an entirely fresh start from Antioch when Paul is sent out by the Holy Spirit. There was then very nearly a split between Jerusalem and Antioch, but they were united and kept together as you find in Acts 15.
Well, the mission in Matthew starts from Christ's connection with the remnant in Israel. In Mark, it is more general. You get more the service of Christ there; and in Mark 16:15, He said unto them, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature”; that is the largest and most general commission you have, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned.” It is the more remarkable because that is the part of Mark which the learned Germans reject from verse 9 to the end. In what precedes you get this Galilee revelation of Himself, but no heavenly revelation, no Bethany revelation at all. In what they consider genuine in Mark you do not get the ascension; they only go to the instruction in verse 7, and stop with “They were afraid” (vs. 8). But in Mark they are sent to Galilee, and the history is pursued regularly on that basis up to the end of verse 8, but if you stop at verse 8, it stops all of a heap, and you get no mission at all. In these last verses you get His appearings to them, and the facts are what are recounted in Luke and John, and the mission is added in verse 15; it is not said in what connection, and then He is received up into heaven. They go forth, the Lord working with them, so that there you get the mission from heaven with power. It is the Luke commission from verse 9. In Luke you only get the last part of Mark, who gives Matthew up to the sepulcher, and parts of Luke and John. In Luke 24, “It behooved Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47). He, taking the mission from heaven as Paul did, takes in Jerusalem as much as the nations, “the Jew first, and also the Greek.” Then “He led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lift up his hands and blessed them; and it came to pass while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.” So Luke's mission practically comes from heaven, it is in Bethany and not in Galilee. Galilee is the mission to Gentiles only from a risen Savior in the place where He had the poor of the flock; Luke's commission is from heaven, and is Pauline in character. In Mark you have “Go to Galilee,” but you have no Galilee mission at all. In John you get no going to heaven, but you get them sent out for the remission of sins: “As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” It is a mission from the divine person, not from a place at all. And then it is by the Holy Spirit: He gives them the Holy Spirit and the forgiveness of sins; and so there is no ascension in John, for this would give a place, though a heavenly one.
And now it is all purposely mysterious in the end of John. It is remarkable—all the puzzling of men's minds about these things, when it is just an inlet into the fullness of truth. “After these things” (Luke 21:1), it is all mysterious. Peter was going back to the old work from which he had been called. Peter might have wanted his dinner. But it was ordered of God for His own purposes. And they went forth, but that night they caught nothing. When the morning came, Jesus stood on the shore, and asks, “Have ye any meat?” They answer “No.” He says, “Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find.” And they were not able to draw the net for the multitude of fishes. “Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved [the secret of the Lord was still with him who loved and kept close to Him], saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher's coat unto him (for he was naked), and did cast himself into the sea, and the other disciples came in a little ship (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fishes.”
But the Lord had fish already; He had got the remnant with Him on shore, and then you get the millennial haul. It is all purposely mysterious. Where did He get the fish He had? It does not say. But “Simon Peter went up and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three; and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken.” Now when the gospel haul was depicted (Luke 5:6), the net was broken; but here, the Lord being there, the net did not break. The gospel net gathered fishes, and does now; but as a whole, the net broke, and they began to sink. Here they haul them in, and the Spirit of God notices that the thing is complete. The fishes gathered out of the sea are the nations; but the Jewish remnant is on the shore already.
We may here remark how Augustine makes a mess when he gets on the unity of the church. It was settled at that time that they should not re-baptize heretics, and so the Donatists say to him, “You do not re-baptize those you call heretics because they have already received the Holy Spirit by our baptism, but how could we give the Holy Ghost if we have not got it?” And Augustine could say nothing, for it was a decided thing already. They confounded the outward thing with the inward. Augustine felt the reality of divine things, and was trying to unite the two—the outward and the inward He took the outward thing as the union with Christ, and said there was no salvation out of it.
“Jesus then cometh and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise. This is now the third time that Jesus showed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead” (John 21:13-14). And now He begins with Simon Peter and the mission He has for him. There is a mission that goes before Christ's coming—a kind of John the Baptist mission; and after that they go out and bring the nations in. The disciples had not yet the Holy Spirit, and understood nothing. Israel will be the head of nations, and the nations will take hold of the skirts of a Jew, saying, “We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you” (Zech. 8:23).
The unbelieving Jews before that will join the Gentiles in total unbelief. Any who are converted will be persecuted horribly, and their blood will be shed like water. The Gentile haul will be for the millennium. Compare Revelation 7. The Jews will understand it, as everybody will then.
The net full is the millennium all through; it is merely a general idea of a whole body of people, but these passages refer to the beginning of it all. In the last of Isaiah you find the Gentiles will bring the Jews all in. Matthew 25 is the judgment on the nations. But the remnant, you remember, is distinct from the haul. Matthew 25 is at the beginning, and so is Revelation 7, where they come out of the great tribulation; both these speak of the beginning, but in the haul, the net not being broken the effect goes on. The gospel net is going on now. The net breaking is simply that the system gave way. Then we see the Lord and the disciples eating together. This completes the picture.
Then Simon Peter comes, and the Lord takes him and tests him as to his fall. “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?” (John 21:15). That is what he pretended to do. “He saith unto him, Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love [am attached to] thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.” He asks a second time, and Simon replies the same, but the Lord changes the words then into “Feed my sheep,” or properly, “Shepherd my sheep,” not “feed.” It is one of the defects of the English translation, that they have put the same word where the original has different ones, and different words where the original has the same. Then the third time, instead of using the same Greek word for “lovest,” as in the first two questions, the Lord changes the word, and uses the same word [phileo]that Peter had used in his two answers. He took Peter up as it were on his own expression, and asks him, “Art thou attached to me”; Peter answers, “Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love [am attached to] thee.”
The Lord never reproaches Peter for the fault, but He probes him—probes the root that produced it; and when He has thoroughly humbled him so that he is obliged to appeal to divine knowledge that he did love, then He commits all that is dearest to Himself to Peter. He had said to him before (Luke 22) that He had prayed for him, “that thy faith fail not, and when thou art converted [brought back], strengthen thy brethren. And he saith unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison and to death. And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cockshall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me”; and now, when Peter is broken down and the flesh proved, can He say, as it were, “you are fit to serve.” You see how He takes that up, “when thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest,” there is human will; “but when thou shalt be old thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.” That is exactly what Peter had pretended to do; he had said, “I will follow thee to prison and death.” Now He says, Of your own will you cannot. It is a beautiful expression of the Lord's love and a pattern of the Lord's restoring grace.
Everyone has to go through that, though you see many a person serving sincerely who has not been broken down yet. Yet I believe it must be got; if one does go and make messes, he gets it afterward. There is a positive breaking down of flesh, and then when you know it can do nothing but mischief, which is all it can do, there is still the watching of it after its back is broken, so to speak. Peter's mission to the circumcision comes to nothing in the outward sense, and he follows Christ. As to outward work for the Jews, Christ's mission had come to nothing, and so had Peter's: Jerusalem was taken, the Jews were rejected, and the church as Peter had it was altogether nothing, being supplanted, as you may say, by Paul's. So with Paul himself, when Jesus spoke to him, and he fell to the earth, he asks; “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6). Before, in his own energy, he had had no hesitation what to do, and went very vigorously about it. And afterward he was away for three years to learn, though he was first allowed to give a full testimony at Damascus; “And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.” In that way Moses needed to have forty years in the desert before leading out the people.
Then Peter asks about John, “Lord, and what shall this man do?” and Jesus says, “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou me” (John 21:22). John does not come under “Follow thou me,” but has to continue until Christ comes, and not be cut off as it were. John always speaks so of himself; there is a fitness for John's ministry in it. It shows a complete attachment to Christ personally. You never get the church in John's ministry; it is always the individual; and, Christ being personally the thing he clings to, all that is vital and essential to souls (supposing the church goes to the winds) is there still. And John was just the one to hang over the ruin of the church and carry out the essential of Christianity. John's ministry did tarry till Christ came, next the Antichrist in his epistle, and then the church spued out of Christ's mouth, and so on. The other disciples took the words as if John would not die, but this was not said. Then you have no Paul, no founding of the church, as a distinct thing, no ascension here: we are in Galilee with a mysterious intimation of what was going to happen, and Christ is in Galilee, not in Bethany when it ends, but He here gives no mission from Galilee; we have Peter following Him, and John tarrying till He came again, mysteriously, and meant to be so.
But Peter in his second epistle gets beyond this into new heavens and new earth. And you have the day of the Lord in which “the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat” (2 Peter 3:10). Peter's epistles are the government of the Lord, the first being the government of the saints in the world, and the second more the government of the world—its judgment. And therefore he carries this on to the new heavens and new earth. But you have nothing of the Lord's coming except that the wicked despise it.
The first epistle is government for, and the second is government against; the first is taking care of the saints, the second is power over, and judgment on, the wicked. Peter forms in that way a connecting link. We are not of the world at all, but there is an application of the government of God while we are passing through it. We find the saints suffering for righteousness' sake, and suffering for Christ's sake, and God's care of them in it all. That is in the first epistle. The second is government in respect of evil. John's ministry was different; his life hung as it were over the seven churches.
“Whither thou wouldest not” means against Peter's will. With his flesh unbroken he could not follow Christ at all, but afterward he would. It is in the fullest contrast with Paul in Philippians, a totally different kind of thing. It is just the opposite to Mark 10. The young man is righteous according to law, and, instead of counting all dross and dung, he goes away sorrowful because he has great possessions. Instead of the righteousness of faith, the young man was looking how he was to be righteous in his own way. It is a wonderful thing—God's mind being all brought before us in this way. The leaving out of Paul and all that belongs to his ministry strictly is very striking here. His was an extra mission, being “one born out of due time”; and even Peter speaks of him as writing “things hard to be understood” (2 Peter 3:16) in his epistles. There is nothing about demons in John's Gospel: “ye are of your father the devil” (John 8:44) you get, but no demons possessing men. You have the Lord in His own divine person, and the devil is the adversary.