The Baptism of Jesus
Gustave Doré


John (Apostle)


90 A.D.

Introduction by Kretzmann

The Gospel according to Saint John

Although the author of the last Gospel does not mention his name, he describes himself with sufficient exactness to make it clear that he was none other than John, the “beloved disciple.” He was the son of a Galilean fisherman, by the name of Zebedee, and of Salome, a very faithful and devoted follower of Jesus, who did not even forsake her Master when He was hanging on the cross, Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40. John, together with his older brother James, followed his father’s occupation on the Sea of Galilee at the time Jesus called him to the apostleship, Matthew 4:21-22; Mark 1:19-20; Luke 5:1-10. There are some indications that John was well acquainted in Jerusalem and in Judea, where he had become a disciple of John the Baptist, John 1:35-40. He was known to the high priest, John 18:15. He had an intimate knowledge of the Temple, the Temple equipment, and the Temple worship, as the entire Apocalypse shows, and may therefore have been of priestly descent. He seems to have owned a house in Jerusalem, John 19:27. He returned with Jesus to Galilee, John 2:2,12, and therefore could hardly have been the bridegroom at the marriage of Cana, as tradition has it. When Jesus, soon after, publicly entered on His Messianic ministry in Galilee, John and James were among the first to be called by Him, Matthew 4:21-22. These two brothers, together with Peter, were the most confidential disciples of Christ. They alone were chosen by Him to be present at the raising of the daughter of Jairus, Luke 8:51, at the transfiguration, Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2; Luke 9:28; during His agony in the garden, Matthew 26:37; Mark 14:33. And John was present also under the cross, John 19:26. He was a witness of the Lord’s death and saw the soldier pierce His side with a spear, John 19:34-35. He was one of the first of the disciples to visit the sepulcher after the resurrection of Christ, and was present with the other disciples when Jesus showed Himself to them on the evening of the first Easter Day, and likewise eight days after, John 20:19-29. Together with Peter, John cured a man who had been lame from his mother’s womb, for which act he was cast into prison, Acts 3:1-10. He was afterwards sent to Samaria, to invoke the Holy Ghost on those that had been converted by Philip the Deacon, Acts 8:5-25. The Apostle Paul informs us, Galatians 2, that John was present at the council of Jerusalem, of which an account is given Acts 15. There can be no doubt that John was present at most of the happenings related by him in his gospel, that he was an eye- and ear-witness of the Lord’s labors, journeyings, discourses, miracles, Passion, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.

A Son of Thunder

So far as the character of John is concerned, he, with James, was in his younger days of an excitable temperament, for which reason Jesus surnamed them Boanerges, or Sons of Thunder, Mark 3:17. This part of their nature came out when they asked the Lord for permission to “bid fire to come down from heaven and consume” the people of a certain village in Samaria who would not entertain their Master, Luke 9:51-55, and when they forbade a certain man to cast out devils in the name of Jesus, since he was not one of His followers, Luke 9:49. But when the fires of youth had burned down to a steady glow, John’s nature became quiet, receptive, without, however, losing its zeal for the Master.

The later years of John

Of the later life of John, history reports that he went to Asia Minor about the end of the seventh decade, probably after the death of Paul. He was exiled to the island of Patmos, probably under the reign of Domitian (81-96), and there wrote the Apocalypse. Under Nerva (96-98) he seems to have regained his liberty, returning to Ephesus, where he may have spent a decade or more before. By the unanimous consent of the early church historians he reached an advanced age, for Polycarp, who died in 167, at the age of eighty-six, had seen him, Irenaeus relates that he died under Trajan (98-117), and Polycrates states that he died at Ephesus, where his grave was later shown.


The purpose of the gospel is expressly stated by the author. It is to bear witness of the fact “that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that, believing, ye might have life through His name,” John 20:30-31. This is the chief aim of the gospel, and the reader cannot escape its compelling force. “On the other hand, however, the fourth gospel is so unlike the other gospels and so unique in its character that the attentive reader will involuntarily seek for some special reason why this book should have been written. We find it in the fact that in the latter years of John’s life the Church began to be threatened by a dangerous heresy, which made it necessary to describe the life of Christ precisely from the point of view which John chose. Under the eyes of the aged apostle a certain Jewish agitator by the name of Cerinthus is said to have denied the essential and true divinity of Jesus Christ, rejecting the statement that the Son of God suffered death for us. That must have been the beginning of the heresy which later became known as Gnosticism, the adherents of which essayed to amalgamate the Word of God with heathen philosophy, and necessarily fell into blasphemous error. It is well within the limits of possibility that John, recognizing the danger in its beginnings, wrote his gospel against the errors of Cerinthus, since he actually makes it his point to demonstrate the divinity of Christ.” [Schaller, Book of Books, pp. 183. 184]. Incidentally, the purpose of John to supplement the narrative of the first three gospels is evident throughout. Acquaintance with these gospels is presupposed by John. They had pictured principally the Galilean ministry of Jesus; John confines himself almost exclusively to that in Judea. And even in the parrallel passages there are many additional features that tend to make the aims of Jesus clearer in a number of instances.

Writing style

The gospel was written chiefly for readers of Greek descent. Hebrew words and Jewish customs are explained, cities of Palestine are located. John uses the Roman division of time, and speaks of the Jews from the standpoint of an outsider. But his gospel was not written under the influence of Greek philosophy, nor was there any connection between his doctrinal exposition and that of the Jewish school of Alexandria. John wrote by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and his gospel is a part of the message of God for the salvation of men.


There are a number of peculiarities or distinguishing features in the gospel which should be noted. The book is remarkable for its vivid dialog, in such a natural tone that there can be no doubt as to its correctness. The intimate addresses of Christ in chapters 15 and 16 are especially noticeable. Chapter 17 ranks with the most beautiful passages in the entire Bible. The person and the work of the Holy Ghost are treated in detail, chapters 14-16. Only eight miracles are recorded in this gospel, but a number of them are treated at some length and become the basis for extended discussions addressed to the people.

Date and authenticity

The Gospel according to St. John was, by the unanimous testimony of the early teachers of the Church, written at Ephesus, during the last years of John’s residence in that city. Its style, content, and language place it into the last decade of the first century, after the Apocalypse had been written.


The outline of the gospel is very simple. Opening with the beautiful prolog, which contains the key for the understanding of the entire gospel, it offers a brief historical introduction. Then comes a detailed discussion of the work of Jesus in the world, His introduction, His revelation in Galilee, in Jerusalem, in Samaria, His battle with the world, with the unbelief of His fellow-citizens, by whom He is finally rejected. The second part of the gospel pictures the Savior in His characteristic work of active and passive obedience, the way through suffering to glory, His last discourses, His high-priestly prayer, the story of the Passion, the story of the resurrection and glorification.


Chapter 1

  • The prolog of the Gospel (1-18)
  • The testimony of John the Baptist (19-34)
  • The first disciples of Jesus (35-51)

After a prolog, giving a summary of the aims of the Gospel, the evangelist relates the story of the testimony of John the Baptist regarding Jesus, and tells of the gaining of the first disciples by this testimony: Andrew, John, Peter, Philip, and Nathanael.

Chapter 2

  • The marriage at Cana (1-11)
  • The first purging of the temple and its results (12-25)

Jesus performs His first miracle at the marriage-feast of Cana, establishes His headquarters at Capernaum, goes to Jerusalem for the Passover, purges the Temple for the first time, and answers the challenge of the Jews.

Chapter 3

  • The visit of Nicodemus (1-21)
  • John’s second testimony of Christ (22-36)

Jesus preaches the doctrine of regeneration by the water and the Spirit to Nicodemus, teaches His disciples, and has them baptize, and thus gives John the opportunity for a last great testimony concerning His mission.

Chapter 4

  • Christ and the woman of Samaria (1-42)
  • The healing of the nobleman’s son (43-54)

Jesus has a long conversation with the woman of Samaria, through which He works faith in her heart and willingness to do missionary work for Him; He then passes on into Galilee and heals the son of the nobleman of Capernaum.

Chapter 5

  • The sick man of Bethesda (1-16)
  • The relation between the Father and the Son (17-30)
  • The witness of John, of the Father, and of Scriptures (31-47)

Jesus heals the sick man of Bethesda, answers the objection of the Jews to this Sabbath healing, shows the relation between Him and His Father, and proves that He has the witness both of the works and of the Word of the Father for His divine mission.

Chapter 6

  • The feeding of the five thousand (1-14)
  • Christ walks on the sea (15-21)
  • Christ the Bread of Life (22-59)
  • The offense of many disciples (60-71)

Jesus feeds five thousand men, walks on the Sea of Galilee, proclaims Himself as the Bread of Life in the school of Capernaum, corrects the false offense of many of His followers, and hears the confession of loyalty from Peter.

Chapter 7

  • The unbelief of Christ’s relatives (1-9)
  • Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles (10-53)

Jesus reproves the unbelief of His brothers, journeys to the Feast of Tabernacles at Jerusalem, and testifies concerning His person and office, gaining some adherents and confounding even the servants of the Sanhedrin.

Chapter 8

  • The woman taken in adultery (1-11)
  • Jesus the Light of the world (12-30)
  • The true liberty of the gospel (31-59)

Jesus gives an evidence of His redeeming love in the case of the woman taken in adultery, proclaims Himself as the Light of the world, tells of His going to the Father, gives a discourse of the true liberty of the Gospel, and escapes from the wrath of the Jews.

Chapter 9

  • Healing of the man that was born blind (1-41)

Christ heals a man that was born blind, and teaches the Jewish rulers, who try their best to spoil the effect of the miracle, that He, the Light of the blind, both internally and externally, has come to give sight to the blind and to take away the sight of those that boast their spiritual knowledge.

Chapter 10

  • Jesus the Good Shepherd (1-21)
  • Christ’s sermon at the Feast of Dedication (22-42)

Jesus tells the parable of the sheepfold, showing that He is both the Door to the sheep and the Good Shepherd; He gives the Jews the evidence of His divine Sonship and escapes their murderous intentions.

Chapter 11

  • The raising of Lazarus (1-46)
  • The council of the Jews concerning Christ’s removal (47-57)

Jesus raises His friend Lazarus from the grave, where he had lain for four days, whereupon His death is determined upon by the rulers of the Jews, orders being issued which aimed at His apprehension.

Chapter 12

  • The anointing of Jesus (1-11)
  • Christ’s entry into Jerusalem (12-19)
  • The first-fruits of the heathen (20-33)
  • Walking in the Light (34-41)
  • Of faith in Christ and God (42-50)

Christ enters Jerusalem amid the acclaim of the people, after having been anointed at Bethany by Mary, He preaches of His glorification through His suffering and death, and urges men to have faith in Him and His Father.

Chapter 13

  • Jesus washing the disciples’ feet (1-20)
  • The traitor at the table (21-30)
  • Concerning Christ’s glorification (31-38)

Jesus washes the feet of His disciples at the Passover meal, makes the application of His action to them and to their circumstances, speaks words of warning concerning the traitor at the table, rejoices in His glorification, and rebukes the self-confidence of Peter.

Chapter 14

  • Of Christ’s going to the Father (1-14)
  • Of love and life (15-24)
  • Of the work of the Spirit (24-31)

Jesus speaks to His disciples of His going to the Father, of the evidences of love toward Him in the believers, and of the work of the Holy Spirit.

Chapter 15

  • Christ the true Vine (1-10)
  • The new status of Christ’s disciples (11-27)

Jesus tells His disciples the Parable of the Vine and the Branches with its application, explains and urges the commandment of brotherly love, and speaks of the hatred of the world against the disciples of Christ.

Chapter 16

  • Comfort against the world’s hatred (1-15)
  • The comfort of Christ’s second advent (16-33)

Jesus teaches concerning the office of the Holy Spirit, both in rebuking and in comforting, and of His own going to the Father, and the blessed results which would thereby come to the believers.

Chapter 17

  • Christ’s great sacerdotal prayer (1-26)

Christ, in His sacerdotal prayer, prays first of all for His own glorification, then for His present disciples, and finally for the future believers, asking that the gracious power of God may be manifested for their union here on earth and in the final consummation of glory and bliss in heaven.

Chapter 18

  • The arrest of Jesus (1-14)
  • Jesus arraigned, and the denial of Peter (15-27)
  • The trial before Pilate (28-40)

Jesus is captured in Gethsemane and taken, first before Hannas, then, before the Sanhedrin, under the chairmanship of Caiaphas, while Peter denies Him three times; in the morning He is taken to the judgment-hall of Pilate, where He testifies concerning His kingdom.

Chapter 19

  • The condemnation of Jesus (1-16a)
  • The crucifixion (16b-30)
  • The burial of Jesus (31-42)

Jesus, after further mockery, is condemned to death by Pilate, is crucified on Calvary, gives up His life into the hands of His heavenly Father, and is buried by Joseph and Nicodemus, who had been His secret disciples for some time.

Chapter 20

  • Easter morning (1-18)
  • Two appearances to the assembled disciples (19-31)

After Mary Magdalene and then Peter and John have inspected the empty grave, Jesus appears to Mary, on the evening of Easter Day to the disciples without Thomas, and eight days later to them all, with the comforting evidence and message of the resurrection.

Chapter 21

  • The appearance of Christ at the Sea of Tiberias (1-14)
  • The test of Peter’s love (15-25)

Jesus appears to seven disciples at the Sea of Galilee, gives them another miraculous draught of fishes, and, in a searching interview, reinstates Peter into his discipleship.

Chapter 1

Verses 1-18

The prolog of the Gospel

The introduction:

John 1:1-5

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.


Genesis 1:1; 1 John 1:1-3; Revelation 19:11-16; John 8:57-58; Joel 2:32; Romans 10:9-13; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:15-20; Hebrews 1:1-2; John 5:25-29; John 11:25-27; 1 John 5:11-12; Revelation 22:1; John 8:12; John 9:5; John 12:46; John 3:16-21; Isaiah 9:2; Luke 2:25-32

In the beginning, when time began, before anything was formed, when God made ready to create heaven and earth, Genesis 1:1, when God first called things into existence. It is necessary that the evangelist use some expression which will, at least in a way, come within the ideas of men, for eternity itself is beyond the understanding of man. In the beginning was the Word, not: came the Word, or: was brought into existence, but: existed, had been in existence since the timeless reaches of eternity. The Word was in the beginning, 1 John 1:1; Revelation 1:2. The term Word, or Logos, is strictly a Biblical expression or designation for the second person of the Godhead, for Jesus Christ. He is no creature, no part of the creation, for He existed when no part of that existed. He is the Word which God spoke from eternity, begotten of God from eternity. And He existed, not as a dead substance or thing, but He was alive and active. — The relation between God and the Logos is next stated. The Word was with God, in inseparable nearness and closest intercommunion with God the Father. The Logos Himself is God, was God from the beginning and from eternity, was always connected most closely with the Father. He is distinct from God, in person, not in essence. The text implies intercourse, and therefore separate personality. But though the Word is distinguishable from God in this manner, yet the Word was God, in the absolute sense, not with a secondary or derived meaning. The Word is God in kind and essence: Jesus Christ is, according to His nature and essence, true God, 1 John 5:21. A god that would have some one over him as a superior could not be considered God. But the Word is coessential with God, is in full possession of the Godhead, with eternity and all the other attributes of the Godhead.

This same Word was in the beginning with God: an emphatic reassertion of the distinction between the persons of the Godhead, and yet not a mere repetition of the first verse. The first statement had characterized the Word alone; the second had declared the personal distinction of the Word from God the Father; the third had expressed the essential unity and identity of the divine essence. Here John states that the eternal existence of the Word and His distinct personality had their being contemporaneously. It was the same Logos that he had spoken of in the first statements, whose deity he was here so plainly establishing. Incidentally, there is some emphasis on “in the beginning.” “In the beginning He was with God; afterwards, in time, He came to be with man. His pristine condition must first be grasped, if the grace of what succeeds is to be understood.”

The next statement refers to the relation of the Logos to the world. All things were made through Him, through His almighty power, the entire creation. He was not the instrument of the creating God, being Himself without power; He was not a dead tool. He was Himself the almighty Creator of the universe; He called things into existence out of nothing; the world and everything in the world owes its existence to the creation of the Word. And there is nothing, not even one thing, not a single thing, which came into existence in the beginning, at the time of creation, that was made outside of Him, without His almighty power. Note: There is a great comfort in the idea that the Savior is interested in men not only from the standpoint of redemption, but also from that of creation. There is absolutely nothing in the wide world in which He is not personally interested, with the kindness of the great Creator that cares for all His creatures. The creatures of His hands are to become partakers of the atonement of His blood.

The relation of the Logos to mankind is brought out most beautifully. In Him is life, the true, divine, immortal life, John 3:15-16; Romans 2:7; Romans 5:10,17,18,21. He is the absolute Possessor of all that may be called life; He is the Fountainhead of life; all true life has its origin in Him. It is not physical life to which John has reference, — for that has a different name in the Greek language, — but spiritual and eternal life. Of all these He is the Author, the absolute Possessor. Outside of Him, as outside of the Father, there is no life. And the life in Him, which was the fountain of existence for all true, lasting life in the world, was, at the same time, the light of men, of all men. Life and light are synonymous: the two words characterize the work of Christ. The life which Christ gives to men, wants to give to all men, is that which incidentally illumines their dark hearts and minds. That is its glorious purpose, and that purpose is to be realized by the life-giving powers of the light, by the illuminating powers of the life. According to the usage of Scriptures, light is identical with salvation, Psalm 27:1; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 60:1-2. Christ, the Messiah, is the Light of the Gentiles, because He is the salvation, the Savior of all men.

The opposite of light is darkness, and the relation of the Logos to darkness is stated. And the Light, that wonderful, heavenly Light, shines in the darkness; it exerts its power, it sheds forth its light; it still shines, even now, through the Gospel. In the midst of the reign of darkness it shines, where misfortune, misery, wretchedness, condemnation are ruling, in this world, as it appears since the fall of man. The world is the kingdom of darkness, in the power of the Prince of Darkness. And the Logos has become the Light and Salvation of the world, just as soon as it had rejected God, just as soon as the darkness set in. In the Old Testament He was indeed preached only in prophecy and type, but none the less clearly for those that believed in the coming Messiah. But the true revelation of the Light took place with the incarnation of the Word. Then He, the Light, the Salvation, entered into the dark world, to give all men the benefit of His glorious illumination. He and His salvation were revealed to the world that all the people in the world might see Him and His redemption. But the darkness did not accept Him, would not understand Him; the darkness rejected the light. The darkened minds of the children of darkness, of all men by nature, do not, will not, receive the heavenly light in the Savior. That is their status, that is their character: opposition to Christ and His life- and light-giving Gospel. The great majority of the people in the world rejected the light absolutely, and they continue to do so, even when its glorious beams fall into their hearts. They prefer wretchedness and eternal death to light and life with Christ. Those that do accept His salvation have been filled with willingness by the power of the Light.

John the Baptist and the Logos:

John 1:6-9

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through Him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.


Malachi 3:1; Isaiah 40:3; Luke 1; Luke 3:1-9; Matthew 3:1-12; Mark 1:1-8; John 1:19-23; John 3:28; Luke 7:24-28; Matthew 11:7-15; Matthew 17:10-13; Matthew 21:23-27

There was, there came, there arose, there came into being, as the result of a special plan and purpose of God, a man, not differing from other men in any respect but in this material point: he was sent out by God. He was entrusted with a mission; he was sent out for a special, distinct purpose, as the forerunner of the Messiah. His name was John (“merciful is Jehovah”), and he had received his name by God’s order, Luke 1:13. This man came to fulfil, to carry out, his mission; he came for witness, for the purpose of witnessing. He was not to do a great work of his own, but to point to another. All his work, energy, and preaching were to be spent in testifying, in preaching as one sure of the truth of his declaration. His topic was simple, but comprehensive: he was to bear witness about, with regard to, concerning the Light. That one topic, that one subject, was to be the sum and substance of his witnessing. Every one that witnesses in the sense of John must make the topic of John’s testimony his own, speak and preach of Jesus, the Savior. By nature no one comes to Christ; only through the Word, by means of the testimony of the true witnesses, is Christ made known to men. Through the Word, by faith, Christ is received. John did not testify concerning himself, for he himself was not the Light, he was not the Savior. But his work and office, the purpose of his life, the end and aim of his preaching was to give testimony concerning the Light, the wonderful, life-giving Light. All should believe. The gracious will of God has as its object all men; He wants all to be saved; all should believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for their soul’s salvation. So John was in no way seeking his own light, his own glory and benefit, but only that of the Savior. And this was a great privilege. For the true Light, that lighteth every man, was even then coming, was on His way; He was shortly to begin His ministry for the salvation of men. That fact characterizes the true Light, that brings out His essential goodness, that the enlightenment of the world is due to Him, that He shines with His rays of beauty and glory for every person. As the Sun of grace and righteousness, His rays are intended for all without exception. Every person that is saved receives the light of salvation from Christ; for without Him there is no salvation.

The relation of Jesus to the world:

John 1:10-14

10 He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. 11 He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. 12 But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.


Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:15-20; Hebrews 1:1-2; John 5:39-43; John 8:48-59; Galatians 4:4-5; John 3:5-7; 1 John 5:1; 1 John 3:1-2; Matthew 6:7-15; Ephesians 2:1-9; John 14:6

At the time when John was bearing witness of Jesus, He was already in the world, He had become a part of the physical world as true man, He was subject to the usual laws governing man and his relation to the universe. And all this was true, though He had been the Creator of the world; the whole world, without reservation, with everything it contains, is His work, He made it, Colossians 1:16; Ephesians 3:9; Hebrews 1:2. But in spite of the fact that He was in the world and had created the world, the people of the world did not know Him, did not acknowledge Him. The people did not recognize their own Creator, so thoroughly is the world estranged from God. The entire world consists of people in need of redemption, and yet the majority insists upon being counted with those that are lost. The representative part of the world will not acknowledge and accept Him. Cp. 1 Corinthians 1:18-25. This is defined and explained more exactly in the next sentence. Into His own He came, to His own property, to the vineyard which His Father had planted, to the chosen people of the Old Testament. But those that belonged to Him, the men and women of His own race, that had received so many evidences of His grace and goodness, did not receive Him, were far from welcoming Him. The great mass of them rejected Him and His salvation. “The rulers in the children of Israel and the great multitude, since He did not come as they had imagined He should (for He came, simple and without ostentation, had no honor), would not acknowledge Him as the Messiah, much less accept Him, though St. John went before Him and testified of Him, and though He Himself very soon came forward, preached with power, and did miracles, that He truly should have been recognized by His miracles, Word, and preaching. But all that did not avail much. For the world nevertheless affixed Him to the cross; which would not have been done if they had held Him for what He was.” [Luther, 7, 1619].

But some there were, some few true Israelites, that received Him as the promised Messiah, and that therefore believed on His name, put their full trust for their salvation in Him. To receive Christ, to believe on Him, and to trust in His name, are expressions covering the same process; they are synonymous. To such as accepted the Word of the Cross He gives the great privilege or right to become the sons of God by adoption, Galatians 4:4-5. He works faith in their hearts. They enter into the right, the proper relation to Him, they accept Him as their Father. This process of becoming children of God is now contrasted with the corresponding process of physical birth. The children of God are produced in a wonderful way, unlike that of natural procreation and birth. In nature children are formed out of blood and body substances of human flesh and by an act of the will of man. But this birth does not make a person a child of God. The children of God are born out of God. He is their true Father; to Him alone and to no human, earthly agency, power, or will do they owe life and being, spiritual birth and existence. Regeneration is the work of God, and it is His work all alone. By their receiving this testimony concerning Christ, as it was proclaimed by John, into their heart, this marvelous change has been wrought in the Christians. God has thereby made them partakers of the divine nature. Faith, which receives the Word and Christ, is wrought by God through the Word. Thus the believers have the manner and nature of their heavenly Father: a new spiritual, divine life is found in them. And though they are not born out of the essence of the Father, like the only-begotten Son, yet by adoption they have all the rights of children. They are heirs, with Christ, of the bliss of eternal salvation, Romans 8:17.

Just how this was brought about, that God could gather children out of the midst of a world that did not accept His Son, is shown in that incomparably beautiful passage of the incarnation of the Word. The Word, the eternal Son of the eternal Father, became flesh, assumed the true human nature according to body and soul. And instead of appearing only at irregular intervals, He had His dwelling among us, He partook of all the joys and sorrows of a true human existence; there could be no doubt as to the reality of His humanity. While He is and remains the eternal Logos, He is yet true man, subject to time and space, in every way like unto us in all the natural needs of the flesh, only without sin. And while He did not make an open, triumphant show of the divine nature which was His even in the state of humiliation, yet, the evangelist writes, we viewed His glory. The disciples had a good and full opportunity to convince themselves by close and intimate scrutiny upon many occasions that He was truly the Son of God, the eternal Logos. He still possessed the glory, the supernatural glory, of the only-begotten Son of the Father, Psalm 2:7. The Father had begotten Him from eternity; He became flesh in the fulness of time, retaining, however, the full control of His divinity, lower than the Father only according to His humanity. His glory and majesty, His omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence, which mark Him as true God, became evident time and again in His miracles; rays of His glory penetrated the veil of His humanity as easily as the rays of the sun penetrate glass. Christ is therefore not only almighty God, but also almighty man; not only omniscient God, but also omniscient man; not only omnipresent God, but also omnipresent man. And this only-begotten Son, in His work as Savior, is full of grace and truth; grace and truth are concentrated in Him, they are the sum of His essence. The free and unmerited love and mercy of God is found in the person of Jesus, in whom the fulness of the Godhead dwells bodily. The manifestations of His glory are supplemented by that of His grace. There is nothing of the insincere human quality in this grace with which the Son of God accepts sinners, but He is full of truth; He is the truly good, the personification of all goodness. True grace, true mercy, the fulness of unmerited divine compassion is found in Christ, true God and man, Psalm 89:2; Psalm 98:2.

The closing testimony of the prolog:

John 1:15-18

15 John bare witness of Him, and cried, saying, This was He of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for He was before me. 16 And of His fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. 17 For the Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. 18 No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.


Matthew 3:1-2,11; John 1:29-30; John 3:25-30; John 7:19; Romans 2:12; Romans 3:9-31; Galatians 3:10-14; Ephesians 2:1-9; John 5:37; John 6:46; Genesis 3:8; Genesis 5:22; Genesis 11:1-9; Genesis 18; Genesis 32:22-30; Exodus 3:1-15; Exodus 13:17-22; Exodus 33:17-23; Exodus 40:34-38; Deuteronomy 31:15; Judges 13; 1 Timothy 3:16; Colossians 1:15-20; 1 Peter 1:17-21

The glory of the Messiah, of the Word Incarnate, had been testified to even by John the Baptist, and the evangelist was not the first one to call attention to this feature. He had called out loud, without fear and dread of the consequences. His witnessing and preaching had been in the nature of continual, earnest, impressive urging and pleading, in order to prepare the hearts for the reception of Christ. John had pointed forward to Jesus and His coming. Christ came after him in point of time, but He was before His herald in point of honor, authority, power, glory. In these things the Master had at once gained the ascendancy, leaving John far behind. He was prior to John, as the eternal Son of God, and His priority was evident in every respect. This testimony of John the Baptist agreed in substance exactly with that of the evangelist.

And the latter now continues his testimony. Out of the fulness of Jesus we all, all believers, have received, and grace for grace. The fount of mercy never dries up; ever and again fresh grace and mercy appears over and above that already received. Because sin abounds and ever again brings on transgressions, therefore grace and mercy must abound still more. Though we use up grace daily, there is always a new and rich supply on hand from the inexhaustible store of God, Romans 5:20. The river of grace flowing from the Savior is always full of water. Under the Old Covenant, indeed, the opposite of grace, merit and works, was prominent. The Law as given by Moses demanded full obedience and threatened the transgressor with temporal and eternal punishment. But Moses, though the keeper and preacher of the Law by God’s command, was a mere man, and therefore the Law itself could not have lasting value in the way in which it had been in use among the Jews. But Christ is the God-man, the Word of God Incarnate; He brings grace and truth which will have an abiding place in the world. Grace, the fulness of the assurance of free pardon, and truth, the Word of the Gospel which proclaims grace and mercy, and is the sum and substance of the truth and faithfulness of God, came through Jesus Christ, who came down in His own person, not only to preach the Gospel, but to be the exponent of the Gospel and make its proclamation possible. And another fact the Christians should remember. God is the essence of faithfulness and mercy toward all men. But His essence is hidden before the eyes of men. So far as the knowledge and the application of His beautiful attributes are therefore concerned, some one had to reveal them to men, otherwise the veil of Moses would have been before their eyes until the end of time. And so the only-begotten Son, He who was with the Father from eternity, and, as a matter of fact, is in eternity in the bosom of the Father, could and did reveal and proclaim the Father to us. He is of the same essence with the Father, He is one with the Father, He was intimately acquainted with the counsel of love for the salvation of mankind. And this He revealed to us, giving us thereby the correct picture of God, not one representing Him as the threatening, terrible Judge, but as the gracious Father for the sake of the Son that earned salvation for all men. Note: The proclaiming of the secrets of God was done by Christ at the same time that He was in God’s bosom. While He was on earth, He was yet in the bosom of the Father; for He is in the bosom of the Father from everlasting to everlasting. In coming to this earth to assume true human nature, He did not leave the bosom of His Father. The glorious intimacy of the Holy Trinity was never interrupted.

Verses 19-34

The testimony of John the Baptist

The embassy of the Jews:

John 1:19-23

19 And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? 20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. 21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. 22 Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? 23 He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.


John 1:6-8; Matthew 3; Mark 1:1-11; Luke 3:1-22; Isaiah 40:3; Luke 1:76-79; John 3:28; Luke 7:24-28; Matthew 11:7-15; Matthew 17:10-13; Matthew 21:23-27

The gospel-history begins with the testimony of John the Baptist, since his preaching concerned Him whose herald he was. Cp. Matthew 3; Mark 1; Luke 3. The evangelist does not relate in general what transactions took place between the representatives of the Jews and the Baptist, but has reference to a special, definite occasion, and notes the verbal testimony given at that time. The Jews, that is, the leaders of the Jews, the members of the Sanhedrin, composed of priests, presbyters, and scribes, among whom were also some very prominent Pharisees, sent this embassy. This delegation consisted of priests and Levites, and they had certain questions to lay before him for the sake of obtaining information. The coming of John, his manner of living, the features of his ministry, all these were of such an extraordinary nature as to provoke sensational comment. Hence the question, Who art thou? (Emphasis on “thou.”) There was a definite purpose connected with the question, for it was not an idle inquiry as to name and birth, but as to his official character. “What personage do you claim to be? What place in the community do you aspire to?” The implication was that John might be the Messiah. If so, the Jewish leaders wanted to know about it; for they deemed it their duty to keep peace in the Church. But John rejected the implication with the greatest seriousness. He expressly put from him even the suggestion of an honor to which he had no right or claim. Without the slightest equivocation or show of reluctant humility John made his confession that he was not the Christ. It would have been an easy matter for him to assume the honor, for the people would have supported him without question; but he put even the suggestion of the temptation away from him. He also rejected the honor of being called the second Elijah in the sense that his was the actual person of Elijah, returned to the world in his former flesh and blood. It had indeed been prophesied, Malachi 4:5, that Elijah the prophet should come as the forerunner of the Messiah, that is, that a prophet in the power and spirit of Elijah would prepare the way for Christ. And Jesus expressly states, Matthew 17:10-13, that John the Baptist was the Elijah who was to come. But because of the false understanding that the Jews had of this Elijah, John could not admit that identity without misleading them. He denied, in the third place, that he was that prophet. For the Jews understood the prophecy, Deuteronomy 18:15, not of the Messiah Himself, but of some special prophet, a faithful prophet, 1 Maccabees 14:41, who was to terminate the prophetic period and usher in the Messianic reign. Cp. John 6:14; John 7:40. With some impatience the members of the delegation now demanded a clear answer, a positive statement. They were under obligations to bring back an answer to the Sanhedrin, and could not go back without having accomplished the object of their mission. And John now did make a definite confession concerning himself, referring to the prophecy of Isaiah 40:3. He was the voice of one in the wilderness, calling loudly and urgently that people should make straight and level the way of the Lord. The Messiah was about to enter, to come to His people, and Israel was to prepare the way for Him by sincere repentance. Only those that sincerely acknowledge their sins and repent of them may obtain salvation in Christ. That was the chief, the prominent part of John’s ministry, to call Israel to repentance.

The question concerning John’s baptism:

John 1:24-28

24 And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. 25 And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? 26 John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth One among you, whom ye know not; 27 He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose. 28 These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.


Luke 1:76-79; John 3:28; Matthew 11:7-15; Matthew 17:10-13; Matthew 3:11-12; Mark 1:7-8; Luke 3:15-17; Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:32-39; Mark 16:16

The sect of the Pharisees was very strict in the observance of all rules and regulations concerning worship and the proprieties of service. The testimony of John relating to his specific work did not interest them, but the authority for his baptizing was a matter of much concern to them. The Jewish leaders of Jerusalem knew nothing of this man’s work; he had not asked their sanction. And so the delegates challenge his right to baptize, since by his own confession he is neither Christ, nor Elijah, nor that prophet. Since the answer to the question of the Pharisees was included in the passage from Isaiah, John was content with the opportunity of pointing to Jesus, and thus fulfilling his work. He puts himself and his baptism into deliberate contrast with Christ, and the baptism which Christ would employ in due time. John baptized with water. Through the water of baptism he confirmed and sealed his preaching unto repentance. He admonished the people of Israel that they were in need of a cleansing from sins. Those that were baptized by John confessed their sins. But still the baptism of John, though a means of grace, was of a preparatory nature; it pointed forward to the fulfilment of the redemption in Christ. And the Messiah was even then in the world, He was living in the midst of the Jewish people, though as yet unknown to them. He was the one that was after John in point of time, but in reality, and by virtue of His person and office, He surpassed His herald. And well John knew this, for he did not consider himself worthy of unlacing the straps of His sandals, and thus of performing the work of a slave for the Master. There was an unbridgeable abyss between divinity and humanity, between God and man. These things took place on the eastern side of the river Jordan, in a village or valley called Bethabara, at a ford which enabled travelers to cross over into Batanea. Note: John’s example in confessing Christ before the enemies of true salvation should encourage the Christians of all times to stand up courageously for Christ.

John points to the Lamb of God:

John 1:29-34

29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. 30 This is He of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for He was before me. 31 And I knew Him not: but that He should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. 32 And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon Him. 33 And I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. 34 And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.


Genesis 22:1-18; Exodus 12:1-28; Exodus 12:43-51; Leviticus 23:4-8; Numbers 9:1-14; 2 Chronicles 35:1-19; Isaiah 53:6-7; Matthew 26:1-2; John 19:14-19,28-30; 1 Corinthians 5:7; Revelation 5:6-14; Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 8:32-38; Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-32; Acts 2:42; Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; Luke 4:16-30

The very next day after the embassy of the Sanhedrin had been with John, he saw Jesus coming toward him. This incident probably took place after the temptation in the wilderness. John said, in the hearing of his disciples and such other people as may have been present at the time: Behold the Lamb of God that beareth the sin of the world. The herald proclaimed the coming of the King, undoubtedly with the passage Isaiah 53 in mind. Christ was the prophesied Lamb, the sacrificial Lamb, the Passover Lamb, the Lamb that was led to the slaughter. And He was the Lamb of God, He was provided by God, sent out by God, He came with God’s full consent and will. In His capacity as Lamb of God, He lifts up and carries away, He puts away entirely, without leaving a trace behind, He renders full satisfaction for the sin, all the sin without exception, all the transgression with all its guilt. This bearing and taking away was a continuous work and labor. The entire life of Jesus was a bearing and atoning for sin and the guilt of sin. The sin of the world, of the whole world, He bore and took away, without restriction or reservation. “This is preaching with exceptional beauty and consolation of Christ, our Savior; we can never reach it with our words, yea, not even with our thoughts. In yonder life we shall in all eternity have our joy and delight in that fact that the Son of God humiliates Himself thus far and takes my sins on His back; yea, not only my sins, but also those of the whole world, all that have been committed since Adam, down to the very last person, — all this He assumes as having been done by Him, and He wants to suffer and die for it, in order that I may be without sin and obtain eternal life and salvation. Who can adequately speak or think of that, namely, that the whole world with all her sanctity, righteousness, power, and glory is included in sin and has no value in the sight of God, and wherever some one wants to be saved and be rid of his sin, that he knows his sins are all laid upon the Lamb’s back? … This Lamb bears the sins, not mine or thine, or any other person’s alone, nor those of a single kingdom or country, but those of the whole world; and thou art also a part of the world.” [Luther, 7, 1717. 1719. 1725]. John identifies Christ more exactly by referring to his words of the day before. He whom I am pointing out to you, He who is here before you, He is the one that in point of human existence is later than I, but by reason of His divinity stands far in advance of me, surpasses me in every respect. Jesus was before John, had been in existence from eternity, and this attribute of eternity is confessed by John. When Jesus first came to John, the latter did not know Him personally, he was not sure as to His identity, he could not have recognized Him beyond the possibility of a mistake. Cp. Matthew 3:14. John had known of the existence of Jesus; he had probably been told by his parents or received other revelations concerning Him whose coming he proclaimed. But His person was not known to the Baptist. This fact had nothing to do with John’s ministry, which consisted in witnessing and preaching of Him, in order to make Him manifest before the people of Israel. Before Jesus could be revealed, the ministry of John should prepare the way. To Israel, as to the chosen people of God, Jesus was to be revealed first, and to that end the baptizing of John was to serve. The people, having confessed their sins and having received the assurance of pardon in baptism, would be eager for the full and complete revelation of the grace and mercy of God in the person and work of Jesus. And John had proof positive that the Man to whom he was pointing was the Messiah. For he had seen the heavens opened, and the Spirit of God descending upon Christ in visible form, Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22. That Spirit which Jesus had received upon that occasion had not left Him again, but had remained upon Him. Jesus had had the Holy Ghost from the moment of His conception, but this Spirit had been passive within Him. Now, however, by this open revelation, the formal beginning of the ministry of Christ was indicated. From that time on the Spirit of God proved Himself a living, active power in the human nature of Christ. He was anointed with the Holy Ghost and with power, Acts 10:38. Thus the visible communication of the Spirit at the time of Christ’s baptism was incidentally a preparation of Jesus for His prophetic office and work.

John now summarizes once more. He had not been personally acquainted with Christ, but when God had given him the command and sent him forth to baptize and perform all the works of his ministry, He had given him that revelation, that definite sign by which he should distinguish with unfailing certainty the person of the Messiah. John would see the Spirit descending upon Christ, and this same person would be He that would baptize with the Holy Ghost. This was one of the functions of Christ according to prophecy. The first work of the Savior is this, that He bears and takes away the sin of the world. The second is this, that He sanctifies the sinners that have accepted His salvation through the Holy Spirit. They must be cleansed and purified of sins and all uncleanness. Hence the importance of the sending of the Spirit. And John had been an eye-witness, he was absolutely sure of what he had seen. And therefore he could now bear witness with such certainty. He could preach and proclaim with absolute definiteness that this Jesus who had received the Holy Ghost without measure was the Son of God. Note: All truly Christian preaching must have the essential content of the proclamation and witness of John. A true Christian preacher will first prepare the way for the coming of the Lord through the preaching of repentance. He that is no sinner and does not want to acknowledge himself a sinner, has no need of a Savior. But then follows the preaching of Christ, of Jesus of Nazareth, of the Redeemer of the world. Only by and through such preaching is the eternal Light revealed to men.

Verses 35-51

The first disciples of Jesus

Some of John’s disciples heed his testimony:

John 1:35-39

35 Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; 36 And looking upon Jesus as He walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! 37 And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. 38 Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto Him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou? 39 He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where He dwelt, and abode with Him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.


John 1:29; Isaiah 53:6-7; Matthew 26:1-2; John 19:14-19,28-30; 1 Corinthians 5:7; Revelation 5:6-14; John 1:49

The Evangelist John, as an eyewitness of all these happenings, relates them in chronological order, with an attention to detail which would not have been possible for one whose knowledge was not first-hand. All these events made a very deep impression upon the future apostle. The day following the Baptist again stood, and with him two of his disciples. And again he looked upon, fixed his eyes upon, Jesus, who was walking about near by, crossing his field of vision with the object of reaching the place where He lodged. Again John sounded forth his Gospel-message of the Lamb of God. Note: We should never grow weary either in preaching or in hearing the precious news of salvation. John had testified of Jesus the day before, without results. Here he again sounds the same glorious truths, and his words make a deep impression. For this time the two disciples heard, and also gave heed to, what he was saying. The repetition probably aroused them out of their attitude of indifference; they followed Jesus. The testimony concerning Christ will always lead to Christ, the Savior of the world. Jesus knew, according to His omniscience, that they were there; He knew also what was going on in their hearts, that they had been touched by the testimony of John. He turned and saw them following Him, He let them understand that He had noticed them. And in order to help them overcome their timidity, He began a conversation with them. He asks them what they are looking for, in order to cause them to confess, to stimulate their faith. Jesus wants no idlers nor busy-bodies among His followers; He desires not heads, but hearts. He wants those that contemplate discipleship under His merciful care to consider in advance what they are doing. For that reason the catechetical preparation for confirmation is indispensable under ordinary circumstances. In extraordinary cases the very thief on the cross is accepted in his last hour, but normally a Christian should be fully persuaded as to the course he is choosing in following Jesus. Cp. Luke 14:26-33. The answer of the two men indicated the longing of their hearts. They addressed Jesus as Rabbi (which John finds it necessary to translate for the sake of his Greek readers), the name given to teachers of the Law in their synagogs, and asked Him where He was lodging. Their unspoken wish was that they might spend some time with Him. They were too self-conscious and diffident to ask Him about the matters agitating their hearts. But He understood their thoughts, the longing of their young faith. His kind invitation: Come and see, be My guests for to-day, opened the way to their hearts. They went with Him to His lodging-place. It was a memorable day for the two men, so important to John that he states the very hour when Andrew and he first approached Jesus, about four o’clock in the afternoon. They remained in conversation with Jesus during the remainder of the day and far into the night. They were His guests and had the best opportunity to become fully acquainted with Him and His message of salvation. The same eagerness to know Jesus and to hear the Word of redemption should characterize the believers of all times. The lukewarm, lazy Christianity which is becoming so prevalent in our days has nothing in common with actual, live, eager discipleship.

Missionary efforts:

John 1:40-42

40 One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. 42 And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, He said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.


Matthew 4:18-20; Mark 1:16-18; John 1:44; Matthew 10:1-4; John 6:1-9; John 12:20-26; Matthew 16:13-20; Luke 22:31-34; John 21:15-19; 1 Corinthians 15:3-5; Galatians 1:18-19; 1 Peter 1:1; Acts 1:12-26

The name of one of the former disciples is given. It was Andrew of Bethsaida, the brother of Peter. The name of the other man is not given, but any one that reads the gospel of John carefully may read between the lines that John himself was the other disciple who here found Jesus. Now the hearts of both men were full of the happiness of their salvation. They felt constrained to let others know of the faith that was in them and of Him that inspired it. Before doing anything else, Andrew therefore set out to find his brother Simon. His heart was full, and out of that fulness his mouth spoke. He tells him that they had found the promised Messiah, the Christ of the prophecies. They, Andrew and John, were convinced that Jesus was the Christ. That conviction was the result of their conversation with Jesus. If many persons that now stand aloof from the Gospel and its teaching would only hear and read the Bible with an open mind, letting the Lord Himself talk to them, the chances are that they would be brought to the same glorious certainty. And Andrew was not satisfied with the mere telling of the news. He must needs bring his brother Simon to Jesus. The same missionary zeal should fill the hearts of the Christians to-day. There is altogether too much aloofness from the actual work of the Gospel among the members of the Christian congregations. Belief in Christ as the Redeemer, missionary talk, and missionary deed must go hand in hand. Jesus looked up as Simon approached. He uttered a word by the working of His divine omniscience. He gave Simon his correct name; He told him the name of his father, Jona, of Bethsaida; he read his character and his future, and gave him an additional name to fit the future, the Aramaic name Cephas, which is the same as the Greek name Peter. He would have need of the nature and firmness of a rock, and had better lay the foundation of his faith in the great Rock Jesus, before the dangers and trials of the coming enmity of the world would overwhelm him.

Happenings of the fourth day:

John 1:43-46

43 The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow Me. 44 Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found Him, of whom Moses in the Law, and the Prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. 46 And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.


John 1:28; Isaiah 9:1-7; Matthew 21:1-11; Matthew 26:30-32; Matthew 28:16-20; John 21:1-2; Matthew 10:1-4; Matthew 5:17-18; John 5:39-40; Luke 16:16; Luke 18:31-34; Matthew 2:19-23; John 7:40-52; John 9:29-30; John 18:1-11; John 19:14-22; Acts 2:22-39

On the fourth day of the events which are here so carefully chronicled, Jesus had planned to begin His journey up to Galilee. But as He was about to leave, He finds, by design and intention, Philip of Bethsaida. In this case, the simple command: Follow Me, was sufficient. The call of Jesus determined Philip to become a disciple of Jesus. And the call of Christ in the Gospel has at all times the power to influence men in the same way. Only we must not grow weary in sounding it forth at all times. There were now three men of Bethsaida among the four followers of Jesus. And all of them had been decided by the call of Jesus. It is not man’s own free will that decides his fate with regard to Jesus, but the call of the Lord. And he that gives heed to that call, that makes his decision by the power of God in the Gospel, will ever after be in blessed communion with Jesus, in a wonderful discipleship. Philip, in turn, driven by the joy of his new discovery, of the faith of his heart, feels urged to tell his friend Nathanael (or Bartholomew) of his happiness. His words gush forth in a joyful stream: Of whom Moses wrote in the Law and the prophets, Him have we found. He had the right understanding, His faith was firmly based upon Jesus, known as the son of Joseph, of Nazareth, as the promised Messiah. Philip was well versed in the Old Testament prophecies. He referred to Moses and the prophets as having given a clear picture, in unmistakable prophecies, of Christ. And the antitype, the fulfilment of the prophecies, Philip found in Jesus of Nazareth. His knowledge was not yet perfect, but was fully sufficient for his purpose, that of bringing another man to his Master. Nathanael was skeptical. His Biblical knowledge told him that the Messiah was to hail from Bethlehem. Galilee was considered by the pure Jews as a half-heathen country, and Nazareth could not hope to produce anything good. But his dubious attitude and his slighting remark cannot overcome the faith of Philip. Instead of arguing the matter at great length, Philip simply issues his invitation: “Come and see!” Such a simple, repeated invitation and summons is often the best way of overcoming preconceived notions and opinions. If men are only led into the Scriptures and to the preaching of Christ, the rest will follow. The Word of Christ overcomes the weakness and objections of man. “He who candidly examines the evidences of the religion of Christ will infallibly become a believer. No history ever published among men has so many external and internal proofs of authenticity as this has. A man should judge of nothing by first appearances or human prejudices. Who are they who cry out, The Bible is a fable? Those who have never read it, or read it only with the fixed purpose to gainsay it. … God has mercy on those whose ignorance leads them to form prejudices against the truth; but He confounds those who take them up through envy and malice, and endeavor to communicate them to others.” [Clarke, Commentary, 5, 520].

The winning of Nathanael:

John 1:47-51

47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! 48 Nathanael saith unto Him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. 49 Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God; Thou art the King of Israel. 50 Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these. 51 And He saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.


John 2:23-25; Matthew 9:3-4; Colossians 2:2-3; Hebrews 4:12-13; Proverbs 15:3; Psalm 139; John 1:29-34; John 6:60-71; Matthew 16:13-20; John 10:22-39; John 11:25-27; John 12:12-15; Luke 22:66-71; John 20:26-29; 2 Peter 1:16-18; Colossians 1:9-14; Ephesians 1:2-14; Matthew 1:1; John 7:42; Luke 1:31-32; Revelation 22:16; 1 Timothy 6:13-16; Revelation 17:14; Revelation 19:11-16; Genesis 28:10-22; Matthew 3:13-17

Jesus wished to give Nathanael a practical demonstration of the truth of Philip’s words. As he was approaching, the Lord said to those that were standing near Him, but so that Nathanael could hear His words: Behold in truth an Israelite, in whom guile is not. This man belonged to the small number of those in Israel that were members of God’s people in truth, not merely by carnal descent, but by spiritual knowledge and faith. His hope was in the Messiah and His spiritual kingdom; he was free from guile and falsehood, the characteristic faults of the Jews. “Therefore Christ wants to say here also: There are true and false Israelites; the Israelites are of two kinds, which, indeed, are both descended from the patriarch Israel, but have not all kept the promise and the faith of Abraham. Just as there are now two kinds of Christians. We are indeed all called Christians who were baptized and regenerated through Baptism, but we do not all remain with our Baptism; many desert Christ and become false Christians, and the true Christians are few and far between. Thus there is also a true and a false Christian Church. And the false Christians boast that they are the true Church and true Christians; just as the Jews said they were the true Israelites; they boasted only of the title and name. … Thus there are two kinds of Christians; first, those that have the name and are Christians in their body; … however, they do not remain with their Baptism, forgiveness of sins, and the promise of Christ, but separate themselves through false doctrines, desert the faith and the Lord Jesus Christ. … But all true Christians, when they are baptized, hear the Gospel, read the Holy Scriptures, go to the Sacrament, love their neighbor. These make the right use of the Christian name and are truly Christians.” [Luther, 7, 1757. 1758].

Nathanael was struck at once by this evidence of omniscience on the part of Jesus, and with surprise in his voice asked Him whence He knew him. And Jesus gave him evidence not only of His omniscience, but also of His omnipresence. Before Philip had approached his friend, while the latter was sitting in the shadow of the fig-tree, Jesus saw him. And everything was known to Him. The eyes of Jesus could easily read the heart and mind of Nathanael, who may have been meditating about the strange message of the Baptist, praying meanwhile that the day of the Messiah might soon come. All this Jesus knew. The Prophet of Nazareth, who knows the counsel of men’s hearts, is an omniscient man. And Nathanael was obliged to acknowledge this, at the same time drawing the conclusion that Jesus is the Son of God, and that He is the true King of the spiritual Israel, of His Church. In Jesus all the prophecies of the Old Testament were fully realized; there could not be the slightest doubt as to His Messiahship. In Him God’s reign in the hearts of the believers is realized; He rules over them that are His in grace and truth forever.

The open and unequivocal confession of Nathanael pleased the Lord, but it was not yet based upon a sound enough foundation. A single demonstration of the divine power of Jesus is sufficient to work faith, but this faith must have the food from on high to feed upon, otherwise it will soon be starved. Jesus has greater things in store for His disciples, which He proceeds to tell them about with solemn emphasis. From now on, with the beginning of His public ministry, there would be a wonderful change for the believers. With His coming heaven itself is opened. The abyss of the Law has been removed, the enmity between God and man has been abolished, Ephesians 2:15-16. Instead of that, there is now direct communication between God and man, Jesus Himself being the Mediator. Something much more beautiful than the ladder of Jacob, Genesis 28, has now united earth and heaven — the full atonement through the blood of the Savior. The angels of God are delighted to serve Him who came down for the salvation of the world. There is constant communication between Christ and His heavenly Father, in prayer, in miracles, and in other proofs of divine intimacy. And every bit of this work will be of benefit to all men, to be accepted by those that place their faith in their Savior.


After a prolog, giving a summary of the aims of the Gospel, the evangelist relates the story of the testimony of John the Baptist regarding Jesus, and tells of the gaining of the first disciples by this testimony: Andrew, John, Peter, Philip, and Nathanael.

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Chapter 2

Verses 1-11

The marriage at Cana

The invitation:

John 2:1-2

1 And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and His disciples, to the marriage.


John 1:29-51; John 4:46; John 21:2; Luke 1:26-38; Luke 2:1-7

On the third day after the incidents which were narrated last; for so long it took for the journey from Judea, if this was made in a leisurely manner. There was a marriage with a wedding-feast, the only one of which the gospels tell us that Jesus attended. Marriage is a divine institution, and it is well-pleasing to the Lord; it is fully in agreement with His design and will that people enter into this holy estate in a proper way, and with a full understanding of its rights and privileges, as well as its duties. “Since, then, the estate of marriage has that basis and comfort, that it was instituted by God, and that God loves it and Christ Himself honors and consoles it, it should rightly be held dear and valued highly by every one, and the heart should be of good cheer in the certainty of this estate which God cherishes, and gladly suffer all that is hard to bear therein, though it were ten times as hard to bear. For that is the reason for so much trouble and displeasure in the wedded state according to the outward man, since all that is God’s Word and work must experience this, that it is sour, bitter, and difficult for the outward man, if it is to be blessed. Therefore it is also an estate which exercises faith in God and love toward our neighbor by manifold trouble and work, disinclination, cross, and various adversity, as must follow upon that which is God’s Word and work.” [Luther, 11, 646]. This marriage was celebrated at Cana, a little town a few miles north or northeast of Nazareth, on the road to the Sea of Galilee. It is distinguished from another Cana, situated in Judea. Only the mother of Jesus is mentioned as having been there, Joseph having probably died meanwhile. For the sake of the mother, out of deference to her, both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the marriage. There were at least five men in the company of Jesus at this time, and there may have been more. Jesus had been in Judea for some time after leaving His home to be baptized of John, and the exact date of His return was not known. When He came, therefore, in the company of these other men, the number of guests was considerably increased. “The presence of Christ, with His mother and disciples, at a wedding-feast, and His performing His first miracle there, is a silent condemnation of monkish asceticism, and a recognition of the marriage relation as honorable and holy. Christianity is no flight from the world, no annihilation of the order of nature, but the sanctification of it; no moroseness of spirit, but joy and gladness.” [Schaff, Commentary, John, 104].

The embarrassing situation:

John 2:3-5

And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto Him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it.


John 19:23-27; John 7:1-8; John 7:25-31; John 8:12-20; John 12:20-36; John 13:1; John 17

The wedding-feast seems to have been planned and carried out on a large scale, and yet not all contingencies had been provided for. Since the increased number of guests required more wine than had been furnished, the supply was shortly exhausted. There was not a bit left to take care of the wants of the festival. In this emergency, Mary, who seems to have been a very close friend of the family, if not indeed a relative, took it upon herself to provide help. She had not forgotten the sayings and prophecies concerning her Son. She believed that He was able to help, and trusted that His willingness would not be wanting. She went over to Jesus and simply stated that one fact to Him: There is no wine. Her words implied that she was looking to Him for counsel and practical aid. Her statement is a model prayer. If we but tell our Lord what we lack and are in need of, we may fitly leave everything else to His gracious helpfulness. We should learn to trust in His mercy without the slightest doubt and hesitation. “The example of faith is very strange in this gospel. There He lets things come to the last emergency, that the want is felt by all those present and there is neither counsel nor help; wherewith He proves the manner of divine grace, that no one can become partaker of it that has sufficient and does not feel his need. For mercy does not feed those that are full and satisfied, but the hungry, as we have often said. He that is wise, strong, and pious, and finds something good in himself, and is not yet poor, miserable, sick, a sinner and a fool, he cannot come to Christ the Lord nor receive grace.” [Luther, 11, 469].

The answer of Jesus seems unduly harsh. His address is that of respect, for the word “woman” was used in addressing queens and persons of distinction. But His words are those of a rebuke in form. They are a common Hebrew expression, which occurs often in the Old Testament, as Judges 11:12. The Lord means to say: What have we two in common in this matter? By what right do you assume that I must help? The performance of miracles was a matter of Christ’s Messianic office; Mary’s plea verged on the exceeding of parental authority, was tantamount, in fact, to an interference in the manner of Christ’s work. “Although there is no greater authority and power on earth than that of father and mother, yet it is at an end when God’s words and works begin.” (Luther.) The Lord’s hour for bringing relief, for revealing His glory, had not yet come. The manifestation of His might was entirely in His own hands, no matter what form, manner, and time He would choose to help. The authority of parents extends over, and governs, only the matters of this earthly life. Where divine matters are concerned, their interference is wrong. They should bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and in no wise hinder them from serving God, from going to church, and placing themselves at the Lord’s disposal. If parents transgress their authority in this respect, if they attempt to hinder their children in working for the Church, in following the call of the Lord for the performance of His work, it is quite right for children to resent the interference. The children, on their part, will be guided by love, and will not presume to create a want where none exists.

Mary understood her Son correctly; she found comfort in the word “not yet.” She did not resent the rebuke, but accepted it meekly. She was sure His reply was not all refusal. And therefore she went over to the servants near the entrance, who were now serving at the tables, and told them to do whatever the Lord chose to tell them, — they might otherwise not have obeyed an unimportant guest, — no matter what it may be that He says, no matter what form and manner He will choose to help. Mary trusted that He would help speedily, a trust even when it seemed that trust must be foolish; preparing for help when help seemed a vain expectation. “Here faith stands in the right battle; behold how His mother does here and teaches us. How harsh His words sound, how unpleasant His attitude is! Yet she does not interpret all that in her heart as a show of anger, against His goodness, … as those do that are without faith and fall back at the first rebuff, … but remains firm in her mind that He must be good. For if the mother had permitted herself to be frightened back by these hard words, she would have gone away quietly and full of discontent. But now that she commands the servants to do what He tells them, she proves that she has conquered the rebuff, and still expects nothing but pure goodness from Him.” [Luther, 11, 470].

The miracle and its effect:

John 2:6-11

And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And He saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, 10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. 11 This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth His glory; and His disciples believed on Him.


Mark 7:3-4; Exodus 30:17-21; Leviticus 22:1-9; John 4:46; John 1:14; John 20:30-31

The number of the water-pots would be immaterial but for the fact that the evangelist wants to bring out the greatness of the miracle and the largess of Christ in providing such a rich present for the bridal couple. The water-pots held two or three firkins apiece, for upon this occasion there was a great deal of water needed; each measure being equivalent to nine gallons, the combined capacity of the water-pots may well have been 120 gallons. The pots were standing there, they had their accustomed place near the door, after Oriental and Jewish custom, the guests either washing their feet themselves, or, if servants were present, having their feet washed upon entering, after their sandals were removed. Jesus now went over to the entrance-hall and told the servants to fill the pots with water. Either the water had all been used for the guests, or Jesus wanted clean, fresh water, the water being specified in view of what was to follow. Note: Jesus makes use of natural tools and vessels, does not command angels to bring wine from heaven. Christ wants to help and bless, but men should use the means which God has given them. The servants were careful to obey the order of Jesus literally. They filled the jars to the very brim; no room was left for adding anything to the water. Jesus then had the servants draw out some of the liquid contained in the jars, as a sample for the chief steward, caterer, or inn-keeper, the man that had charge of the physical needs of the guests in the line of eating and drinking. And here came the surprise. For when the chief steward tasted the wine in the vessel submitted for his approval, he supposed that the groom had sent him this sample of a fine wine which he had kept back as a surprise, for it was exceptionally good wine, Jeremiah 2:21. Only the servants were in the secret, and they did not tell. So the ruler of the feast sent for the bridegroom to instruct that man as to custom and propriety. He informed the astonished groom that it was the invariable rule to serve the finer grades of wine first, and after their inebriating effects were becoming evident, when the guests were in a condition in which they were unfit to discriminate between good wine and bad, then he might bring forth the less good. As one commentator has it: “The ignorance of the ruler of the feast commends the fine quality of the wine; the knowledge of the servants proves the truth of the miracle.” Note: The action of Jesus upon this occasion is absolutely at variance with the demands of a false temperance. The miracle of Jesus was evidence of His almighty power, but also incidentally of His love. It was not absolutely necessary for the guests to have wine, especially as some had been served. Nevertheless, it was a disagreeable situation, and Jesus was glad to help them out of the difficulty. That is His pleasure at all times, that not only the great and pressing needs of men engage His help, but also the small embarrassments of life. Our trust in His kindness and love should be unlimited. This beginning of miracles did Jesus; Jesus performed this as the first of His miracles. All those ascribed to Him in the apocryphal gospels, as having taken place in His childhood and youth, are mythical. His ministry had begun with His baptism, the revelation of His glory began at Cana, with this miracle. He revealed His glory, the glory peculiar to Him. Even as man, in the state of humiliation, He possessed the glory, the majesty which is God’s. It was the work of the almighty Creator to change the creature according to His will. And His disciples believed on Him. They realized that this was a revelation of His glory. They had known Him as the Messiah and had put their trust in Him. But now their faith received a solid foundation, it was strengthened mightily. They were now absolutely certain that this was the promised Savior. Note: That is one of the purposes of the miracles, of the signs of the divine glory, to strengthen faith. We should believe the Word of the Lord and permit this faith to be strengthened also by the recital of the miracles of Christ. Knowing that Jesus did so many wonders in the days of His earthly sojourn, we are sure that He is able to perform also that miracle of bringing us to faith and keeping us in the faith to the end, as well as having all the powers of earth serve us, whether by the laws of nature or not.

Verses 12-25

The first purging of the temple and its results

A brief stay at Capernaum:

John 2:12

12 After this He went down to Capernaum, He, and His mother, and His brethren, and His disciples: and they continued there not many days.


Matthew 4:12-17; Mark 2:1; Luke 4:16-30; Luke 10:13-16; Matthew 12:46-50; Matthew 13:53-58; John 7:1-5; 1 Corinthians 15:3-8; Galatians 1:18-19; Acts 15:1-29; James 1:1; Jude 1

John, in accordance with his purpose of supplementing the account of the first three gospels, has only brief references to the Galilean ministry of Jesus, narrating here only the important point that Jesus made Capernaum His second home. The location of this city on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, on the chief caravan road between Damascus and the Mediterranean Sea, made it a distributing center, a nucleus for all Galilee. The Apostle Paul followed Jesus in this, that he made the chief cities the centers of influence for his missionary work. Jesus was not alone on this trip. His mother Mary accompanied Him, as also the few disciples whom He had gained in Judea, who at this time, or shortly after, returned to their former occupation. His brothers are here mentioned with great definiteness. Cp. Matthew 12:46; Matthew 1:25. “Here people are concerned how Christ the Lord could have had brothers, since He was the only son of Mary, and the Virgin Mary was not the mother of any more children. Therefore some say that Joseph, before he married Mary, had a wife, of whom he begot children, who were afterwards called brothers of Christ the Lord; or that Joseph had another wife in addition to Mary, which was permitted to the Jews that they had two wives at the same time. … Since, then, these were begotten of Joseph and the other woman, they would be half-brothers of Jesus. This some have alleged; but I prefer to take the part of those that say that brothers here means cousins; for the Jews and the Scripture call cousins brothers. But let this be as it may be, not much depends upon it; it gives nothing to faith, nor does it take anything from faith, whether they were cousins or brothers, begotten of Joseph; they went down with Him to Capernaum.” [Luther, 7, 1776].

The first purging of the Temple:

John 2:13-17

13 And the Jews’ Passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: 15 And when He had made a scourge of small cords, He drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; 16 And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not My Father’s house an house of merchandise. 17 And His disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of Thine house hath eaten Me up.


Genesis 22:1-18; Exodus 12:1-28; Exodus 12:43-51; Leviticus 23:4-8; Isaiah 53:6-7; John 1:29-34; 1 Corinthians 5:7; Revelation 5:6-14; Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-18; Luke 19:45-48; Leviticus 5:5-7; Isaiah 56:6-7; Jeremiah 7:8-11; Psalm 69:9

Jesus was a circumcised member of the Jewish Church, and He was very strict in observing its rules and laws. Since the male members of the nation were required to be present three times a year in Jerusalem, at Passover, at Pentecost, and at the Feast of Tabernacles, He was probably present at each celebration. At the Passover festival the deliverance from the bondage of Egypt was commemorated. But when Jesus came to Jerusalem, He was deeply grieved by the evidences of contempt of all holy things which was paraded before the eyes of all visitors. Since it was impossible for many Jews to bring their sacrificial animals to Jerusalem from their distant homes, the practise had been sanctioned of permitting them to buy the sheep and lambs and bullocks and doves at Jerusalem. It was a profitable business, and one which brought the leaders of the Jews, who controlled the concessions, many a welcome piece of money. Instead, however, of keeping the market in the lower part of the city, it had been brought up to the gates of the Temple, and finally into the very courts of the sanctuary. There were the stalls of the oxen and sheep, there were the coops of the doves, there were also the tables of the bankers, where they made change. So a regular market was conducted in the courts and halls of the Temple, with all the accompanying noise, haggling of the venders and buyers, lowing of the cattle, bleating of the sheep, clinking of the coins, and shouting of children. Jesus was not satisfied with a mere protest, which might have been received with jeering and insults. He quickly braided a scourge out of reeds or cords that could easily be procured in such a busy mart, not to employ it as a whip, but to swing it as a symbol of power and to drive out the animals with it. Incidentally, He turned over the tables of the bankers, of the money-changers, causing the small change to roll in every direction. And to the sellers of doves, who were equally guilty with the rest, He gave the command to carry all the paraphernalia of their business away from there; for the house of His Father should not be made a market-house, where marketing, buying and selling, trading and bartering, was carried on. It was an exhibition of zeal for pure and uncontaminated service of God. Cp. Psalm 69:9. Christ was consumed with His zeal for the honor of His Father. And no man dared to withstand Him. They all gave way and went out of the court with their property. Some of the Lord’s divine glory and power must have been evident in His bearing, which caused them to shrink before the fire in His eye. Jesus wanted to show that He was the Messiah, the Lord, who must cleanse and purge His people of all abominations. And He showed also that such bartering and trading and marketing in the sanctuary is extremely distasteful to Him. In this He ought to be an example to all Christians, especially to pastors. “The more pious a pastor or preacher is, the more zealous he will be.” (Luther.) Every servant of Christ, every believer, should be zealous for the purity of the house of God, of the Christian congregation, in order that it may not be contaminated by great sins and offenses.

There are commentators who claim that John destroyed the chronology of the gospel-story altogether by inserting this story at this point, for they maintain that there was only one purging of the Temple. But the story of John follows chronological lines, and there is no reason for not assuming two cleansings of the Temple. “But they are questions and remain questions which I do not want to solve; and nothing much depends upon it, only that there are many people that are so keen and sharpwitted and bring forth so many questions, desiring exact speech and answer upon them. But if we have the right understanding of Scriptures and the right articles of our faith, that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, suffered and died for us, then we do not miss much, even if we cannot answer every question that is otherwise asked. The evangelists do not observe the same order; what one has at the beginning, the other occasionally has at the end. … It may very well be that the Lord did this more than once, and that John describes the first purging, Matthew the second. But be that as it may, whether it be first or last, whether it happened once or twice, it takes nothing away from our faith.” [Luther, 7, 1781].

The challenge of the Jews:

John 2:18-22

18 Then answered the Jews and said unto Him, What sign shewest Thou unto us, seeing that Thou doest these things? 19 Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. 20 Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt Thou rear it up in three days? 21 But He spake of the temple of His body. 22 When therefore He was risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this unto them; and they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.


Matthew 21:23-27; John 4:48; John 6:22-71; John 20:30-31; Matthew 12:38-42; Matthew 26:59-64; Mark 14:55-62; Matthew 27:35-40; Mark 15:25-30; Colossians 2:9; John 12:16; John 20:9; Psalm 16:10; Luke 24:44-47

The Jews resented the implication of authority; it meant that He claimed for Himself a supernatural origin or mission, either as a prophet or as still more. So they demanded some sign, some special manifestation, some extraordinary revelation, which would give evidence of His authority. “The blindness of the Jews is enough to put external evidence forever out of repute. They never will see the sign in the thing itself. The fact that Jesus by one blow accomplished a much-needed reform of an abuse over which devout men must often have sighed, and which perhaps ingenuous Levites had striven to keep within limits, the fact that this unknown youth had done what none of the constituted authorities had been able to do, was surely itself the greatest sign.” [Expositor’s Greek Testament, 1, 709]. Jesus therefore gave them an answer which fitted their foolish demand. His saying was meant to be puzzling. Jesus always spoke in parables when He wished to be understood by the spiritual and to baffle the hostile. “Those who cross-question Him and treat Him as a subject to be investigated find no satisfaction.” The sign which Jesus proposed to them was that they should destroy this temple, and in three days He would raise it up. Cp. John 10:18. It was the Lord’s first reference to His death and resurrection. The Jews in their blindness did not understand the statement in its true sense, but supposed that He was referring to their sanctuary, to the wonderful Herodian Temple. They point to the fact that this great structure, with all its buildings, approaches, porticoes, and chambers, had been in course of construction for a matter of forty-six years at that time. Herod began work on the Temple in the year 20-19 B. C. “The old Temple was taken down and the new one erected in the course of eighteen months. But much remained to be done, and the work dragged along until after Herod’s death. … It was finished only in 64 A. D., six years before it was finally destroyed.” [Barton, Archeology and the Bible, 208]. To tear down this building and erect it anew in the short space of three days was obviously beyond human conception. But Jesus had stated correctly the great sign of His authority, His death and resurrection for the atonement of the world’s sin. Although Jesus, therefore, spoke of the temple of His body, which was in truth the temple of the living God for all times, though He Himself is the great sanctuary of mankind for all times and. His body comprises the mercy-seat and all the other sacrificial appointments of the true temple for the believers of all times, the Jews did not understand Him. They attempted to use this prophecy against Him two years later, upon the occasion of His trial before the high priests. Even the disciples did not understand the saying at that time; in a way they were just as ignorant as the Jews. But they remembered it after the Lord’s resurrection, and at that time drew their conclusions correctly. Then they understood and believed also the corresponding Scripture-passages of the Old Testament. Mark: A Christian must never grow weary in comparing type and antitype, prophecy and fulfilment; for only in that way will he gain the full and firm conviction that Jesus Christ is truly the Messiah of promise, the Savior of the world.

The result of Christ’s manifestation in Jerusalem:

John 2:23-25

23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, in the feast day, many believed in His name, when they saw the miracles which He did. 24 But Jesus did not commit Himself unto them, because He knew all men, 25 And needed not that any should testify of man: for He knew what was in man.


John 2:13-17; John 20:30-31; John 1:43-48; John 5:39-42; John 6:61-64; Matthew 9:3-4; Colossians 2:2-3; Hebrews 4:12-13; Proverbs 15:3; Psalm 139

Since the Passover festival in the wider sense, including the days of Unleavened Bread, lasted for eight days, and since there were pilgrims in Jerusalem from all parts of the Jewish country at that time, Jesus had the best opportunity to reveal Himself by word and work. And the result was that many believed on His name. For the time being, at least, they had the firm conviction that He must be the promised Messiah. And they were strengthened in their conviction by the signs, by the miracles in and through which He revealed His glory. But faith resting on external, physical miracles alone has not the foundation it should have; it should have the basis of the Word alone. Therefore Jesus on His part did not commit Himself. He did not enter into such close relationship with these people as with His disciples, who were gained by His Word only. Christ will commit Himself to the man that commits himself unreservedly to Him. He put no faith and confidence in these people. He had a deeper knowledge of man. He knew that, for the most part, their faith was of a transitory character. There are always many such persons, in the very midst of the Church, as believe for a time only. Human beings cannot see into their hearts and foretell how long faith will last. But Christ knows. He had no need, it was not necessary, that any one should testify with regard to man, humanity in general, for human nature with all its foibles and weaknesses was very well known to Him. He knew the motives, governing ideas, and ways of man. He was the omniscient God; He knew their inmost thoughts and desires, He also had a knowledge of what would happen later. Note: This proof of the divine omniscience is a warning to the people that make their Christianity a desultory, haphazard manifestation, with only occasional attendance at church and a corresponding use of the Sacrament. The Lord knows the heart. And this same quality is a source of comfort to all sincere Christians. He knows the weakness of the human heart, and will surely come to the aid of those that firmly trust in Him alone.


Jesus performs His first miracle at the marriage-feast of Cana, establishes His headquarters at Capernaum, goes to Jerusalem for the Passover, purges the Temple for the first time, and answers the challenge of the Jews.

Chapter 3

Verses 1-21

The visit of Nicodemus

The call by night:

John 3:1-3

1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto Him, Rabbi, we know that Thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that Thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.


John 7:25-52; John 19:38-42; John 2:23; John 12:37-43; John 11:45-53; John 20:30-31; Acts 2:22-39; John 1:9-13; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 Peter 1:3-9

Here is an incident from the happenings of this Passover week which shows the Savior’s kind and searching love. There was a certain man in Jerusalem that belonged to the Pharisees, the sect of the Jews which was peculiarly zealous for the keeping of the traditions of the elders. The Pharisees were leaders of Jewish thought, many of them, if not all, teachers, but strongly imbued with the idea of self-righteousness. This man, Nicodemus, not only belonged to them, but he was even a member of the Sanhedrin, the highest council of the Jewish Church, John 7:50. He came to Jesus by night, partly because he feared his colleagues, whose enmity toward Jesus was evident from the first, and partly because he wanted to be undisturbed. He felt a growing dissatisfaction with the manner in which the Jewish leaders were condemning Jesus. He believed that this new Teacher had a wonderful message and should be heard; he had a desire to know more of His message. Addressing Jesus in a very respectful way, he frankly tells Him that he himself and the party he represented, probably a few earnest souls in the otherwise hostile council, knew, they had come to the conclusion, that Jesus was a Teacher come from God. They recognized in Him a divinely commissioned Teacher, which does not imply an understanding of Christ’s miraculous origin. These Jews to whom Nicodemus belonged had simply drawn their conclusions from the evidence before their eyes. God had confirmed the teaching of Jesus by miracles of a kind that brought conviction. They were no tricks or sleight-of-hand performances, but such wonders as indicated the power of God beyond all question. There could be no doubt of God’s being with the man that could perform such miracles. The knowledge of Nicodemus went so far as to recognize in Jesus a prophet on a level with those of the Old Testament, but it did not go so far as to accept Him as the Messiah. The position of Nicodemus is shared by many so-called Christians of our day. Their confession of Jesus is entirely in conformity with reason. They believe Him to be a great Teacher, they praise His doctrine. But they do not want to acknowledge Him as the Savior of the world. The statement of Nicodemus was a feeler. He indicated that he and his party were inclined to go still farther in their belief; he suggested that Jesus should express Himself as to His actual position and intentions. The idea of a temporal Messianic kingdom was always foremost in the minds of the Jews. But Jesus solemnly declares that an inquiry of this nature, and with that probable end in view, was useless without an understanding of the manner of the entering into the kingdom of God. Unless a person comes into being, is born, anew, again, is made over entirely into a new creature, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God which Jesus is preaching so earnestly. Without such complete regeneration a participation in the joys of the true kingdom of God is impossible. No one can be saved unless he is regenerated. Nicodemus, like all the Pharisees, believed that he could be saved by the works of the Law. His view is shared by millions of misguided people to-day. To be worthy of heaven by one’s own merits, that is the aim of all modern Pharisees. But the demand of Christ differs radically from that assumption. It overthrows all self-righteousness and pride completely. It insists upon a complete change in the moral condition of a man, a thorough and all-including transformation of the heart, of the mind, of the will of a person, which also must become evident in a new manner of living, so that such a person, in his thinking, willing, feeling, in words and in works, is a new man. Without such regeneration no one can enter into the kingdom of God.

The mode of regeneration:

John 3:4-8

Nicodemus saith unto Him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.


John 1:25-34; Matthew 28:18-20; Ephesians 4:5; Mark 16:16; John 3:18; Psalm 51; Ezekiel 36:25-27; Hebrews 10:19-25; Genesis 17:1-14; Deuteronomy 30:1-6; Acts 7:51; Romans 2:25-29; Colossians 2:11-12; Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27; 1 Peter 3:21; Acts 2:38-39; Acts 8:26-39; Acts 10:44-48; Acts 22:16; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Titus 3:4-8; Romans 5:1-11; Ephesians 1:3-14; Ephesians 2

The statement of Jesus, simple as it was, was at the same time so thoroughly at variance with the commonly accepted idea as to the way of getting to heaven that it almost took the Pharisee’s breath. His question reveals his utter inability to grasp the idea of the Lord to its full extent. He knew, of course, that a physical rebirth was impossible. He understood that Christ’s reference was to a spiritual transformation. But just such a change in the field of morality seemed to him impossible, verging on the ridiculous, preposterous. How can a person, especially one of advanced years, deny the habits and customs of years? If that is to be done, then every person must really begin his life all over again, just as he came into the world. The very suggestion is unthinkable from the standpoint of reason, just as the idea of conversion, of regeneration, is preposterous in the opinion of the average self-righteous person. And therefore Jesus explains, once more with solemn emphasis, that the rebirth out of water and Spirit is absolutely essential, it is a prime prerequisite, for the entering into the kingdom of heaven. Spiritual regeneration by Baptism, through which the Spirit of God is given, is unavoidably necessary. Baptism is the means by which the Holy Spirit works regeneration, the new birth. Conversion is therefore in no way the work of man, but it is the work of God the Holy Ghost. To be born again or anew is to be born out of the Spirit, to receive from Him a new heart, a new mind, a new will. To gain this object, God uses Baptism as one of His instruments. This Sacrament actually works and gives new life; the water is not merely a symbol, but an actual means, through the power of the Word, in working salvation. But one that has been converted in this way, and has thus become a partaker of the grace of God, thereby enters into the kingdom of heaven, into the invisible Church; for the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven are identical. That this demand of an absolute regeneration is well founded is proved by the fact that all men, as they are born into the world, are flesh; theirs is a sinful, corrupted nature, alienated from God, hostile to God. The carnal-mindedness of natural man is enmity toward God. It is an irreconcilable contrast: all men carnally born, from carnal parents, by nature flesh and filled with the same sinful affections as the parents in their nature, and, on the other hand, that which comes into existence by the creative work of the Spirit in conversion, the new man, filled with divine life, with divine power from above, through the working of the Spirit. He that is born of the Spirit has the Spirit’s manner; his heart, mind, and will are directed to God and to that which pertains to God; such a one, and he only, is fit for the kingdom of God; he alone can receive the kingdom of God with its heavenly gifts and blessings. It should therefore not be a cause for wonder that a new birth is required for entrance into the spiritual kingdom. To natural man, indeed, it is a marvel, something that he can never fathom and understand, in just what way the Spirit of God works. But this indispensable requirement stands for all those that are born of the flesh: they must be born anew. No amount of quibbling and arguing will change that fact. The Lord tries to make His meaning clear by an example, by a phenomenon in nature. There is the wind: it blows where it chooses; it comes, it goes, — and sound as a physical concept is well known, — but the beginning and end, the why and wherefore of the laws of nature are unknown, just as it is impossible for mere man to understand creative power. The blowing of the wind is done in absolute independence of any man’s will; no one can govern and fix its direction. And just so it is with the working of the Spirit of God: the process of regeneration cannot be ascertained by the application of the senses; that is a mystery of God. Only the results are apparent, and they are often of a nature to make us marvel. The regenerated person shows an entirely different manner than before his conversion. What he shunned before he now seeks; and what he sought and loved before he now hates. He is a new, a different person, all by the power of the Spirit. “As the wind is free, not bound to any place, person, or time, so also the Holy Ghost. Just as the wind moves, drives, comforts, and penetrates everything, so it is also with the working of the Holy Ghost.” [Luther, 12, 1907]. Note: The Holy Ghost does His work how and when He wishes to; He does His work in His own peculiar way. But we men are bound by the external means which He has given us: we must use His Word and Sacrament to obtain the gifts of His grace.

The witness from above:

John 3:9-13

Nicodemus answered and said unto Him, How can these things be? 10 Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? 11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? 13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.


John 3:1; Mark 9:24; John 5:30-47; Ephesians 4:4-10; John 1:1-18; John 3:25-36; John 8:23-24

Nicodemus could not understand yet, and so proceeded to ask a human explanation of a divine phenomenon. He wanted to know how these things could be; he wanted a plausible exposition. His personal conviction was that it was impossible for God and His Spirit to accomplish such results, to make a man entirely different from what he was before, actually to regenerate him. Jesus begins His explanation with an exclamation of surprise at the bewilderment of the Pharisee. For Nicodemus was a teacher in Israel, he held the position of a scribe, who was supposed to be well versed in the Law. The subject of regeneration is treated so often in the Psalms and in the visions of the prophets that a teacher of the people should have been thoroughly familiar with its full import. Bad enough for the pupil, for the ordinary Israelite, to be so blind; what, then, shall be said of a master that shows such obtuseness! Cp. Psalm 51:12; Ezekiel 11:19. The scribes and Pharisees of the time of Jesus no longer understood the Scriptures. They clung to the outward letter, while the true sense was hidden from them. Most emphatically, therefore, the Lord declares that His case is not one of ignorance and denseness. He has a first-hand, thorough knowledge. He speaks such things as He knows; and what He has seen and is continually seeing as the eternal, omniscient Son of God, that He bears witness of. He speaks with divine authority of the miracle of regeneration as well as of the inner mysteries of the Triune God. And Jesus knows in advance that His word will not be accepted, His witness will not be believed. Not only Nicodemus, but all men that are like him in their position toward divine revelation are so blinded by their reason that they cannot understand. Of things pertaining to this life challenging their attention Jesus had spoken, of regeneration and sanctification; and not even those did they credit, much less have faith in His words. But if they could not understand the easier, the more tangible, that which ought to engage their attention at once, what would be the result if Christ should begin to teach of matters not open to human observation and experience, things wholly in the unseen, the essence and purposes of God? Of those things He could speak and testify of His own personal experience. No human being has ever dwelt in heaven and thus gained a knowledge of heavenly things. One only has dwelt there and is able to communicate the true knowledge concerning God and all divine matters. The Son of Man, the God-man, in His great work of atonement, has come down from heaven to be a witness of heavenly things. And for this He is fully qualified, for He is still in heaven; He is in the closest, the most intimate connection with the two other persons of the Godhead, even though His body is walking the earth in weakness and humility. Christ here states expressly that He was in heaven from the beginning, for else He could not have come down; that He has now come down for the purpose of testifying of heavenly things; that He is still in heaven, also according to His human nature, as the Son of Man. Cp. John 1:18. And finally, the time is coming when He will return to heaven, when His human nature will be finally and fully translated into the heavenly glory and majesty. “Flesh and blood cannot get to heaven; only He ascends up to heaven that came down from heaven, in order that the government over all may be in His hand. Whatever lives He can kill; and what is dead He can make alive; what is rich He can make poor. Thus it is here resolved, whatsoever is born of flesh does not belong into heaven. But this ascending into heaven and the coming down was done for our benefit, in order that we, who are carnal, might also get to heaven, but with this form, that the mortal body first be killed.” [Luther, 11, 1160].

The purpose of Christ’s coming:

John 3:14-17

14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.


Numbers 21:4-9; John 8:21-30; John 12:27-36; John 19:16-19,28-30; Genesis 3:13-15; Isaiah 53:4-6; 1 Corinthians 2:2; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 1:3-14; Ephesians 2:8-9; Mark 16:16; John 3:18

The act of Moses in the wilderness, in erecting the brazen serpent before the eyes of the stricken people, was typical, symbolical, Numbers 21:1-9. The people that had been bitten by the fiery serpents and then looked upon this symbol in faith were healed, and the poison had no effect upon them. Jesus is the antitype of the brazen serpent. In accordance with the divine counsel of love, in which He Himself had taken part, the Lord took upon Himself the obligation that He also should be elevated upon a tree before the eyes of the whole world. There are three points of similarity between type and antitype in this story. The brazen serpent of Moses had the form and appearance of the poisonous reptiles after which it was modeled, just as Jesus was revealed in the form of our sinful flesh, had the needs and ways of an ordinary human being, was finally punished as a criminal. Just as the brazen serpent, however, had no poison, was altogether harmless, so Jesus, though in appearance like unto sinful men, was without sin, holy, harmless, undefiled. A strange curse was resting upon Him, and for the sins of others, imputed to Him, He hung upon the cross. And finally, just as he that looked at the brazen serpent in faith remained alive, so also every sinner that has been poisoned by sin in its various forms, but now looks up to Jesus, the Savior, in simple, trusting faith, shall not perish, shall not be punished with everlasting destruction, but have eternal life. For in Christ all sin has been conquered, all guilt has been taken away: there is complete redemption in Him. This thought Jesus now repeats in a burst of Gospel-preaching which is without equal in the world’s literature, which, in fact, summarizes the entire Gospel in one short sentence. With the full emphasis of adoring wonder Jesus exclaims: For so God loved the world, so much, so greatly, so beyond all human understanding. The greatness of God’s love is such as to call forth this cry of astonishment even from the Son of God, the Savior Himself. God loved the world, God is the Author of salvation, 1 Timothy 2:3. He loved the world, all the people living in the world, all that make up the human element in the world; there is none excepted. He proved this love with a deed so wonderful, so surpassingly beautiful, that it cannot be brought out strongly enough in words of human speech. God gave His only-begotten Son as a free gift and present for the whole world. And such is His will and intention that He makes no exception: Every one that believes in Him shall not perish, shall not see destruction, but have everlasting life, the life in and with Jesus that shall have no end, but consists of bliss and joy through countless ages. What a contrast: the holy, eternal God and His equally holy and eternal Son giving the highest and best for the world, for the fallen, corrupt humanity, for the bitter enemy of God! The death of the Son of God is the punishment for the sins of the world; the Son of God dies that the world, all the people in the world, might live in all eternity. God’s death, God’s blood, was thrown into the scales in payment for the sins of the world. And there is nothing to be done on the part of sinners but to accept this atonement in faith; for faith accepts and appropriates the redemption of Christ. And the believer has eternal life even now, even here in time. He is sure of his salvation, because it is based upon the work of Jesus the Savior. “What shall, what can He do and give more? For since He gives His Son, what does He hold back that He does not give? Yea, He gives Himself altogether, as Paul says, Romans 8:32: Who spared not His own Son, how shall He not with Him freely give us all things? Surely all must be given with Him who is an only-begotten, dearest Son, the Heir and Lord of all creatures; and all creatures must be made subject to us, angels, devils, death, life, heaven and earth, sin, righteousness, things present and things to come, as St. Paul again says, 1 Corinthians 3:22-23: All things are yours; and ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” [Luther, 11, 1098]. Jesus emphasizes the glorious fact of salvation also by bringing out the same truth in a negative statement. The mission of Jesus as the gift of God to the world was not to condemn the world, though the latter had richly deserved such condemnation. Though He Himself is the Holy One of God, yet He would not, in His capacity as Savior of sinners, judge and condemn them. The sole purpose of His coming was the salvation of the world. Thus Nicodemus heard from the mouth of Jesus the complete account of the way of salvation, a salvation which is absolutely all-encompassing.

The contrast between light and darkness:

John 3:18-21

18 He that believeth on Him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. 21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.


Mark 16:16; John 1:1-13; John 5:19-29; Daniel 12:1-4; Matthew 25; Revelation 20:11-15; Revelation 21:1-8

Jesus did not come to condemn the world, and yet the bulk of the world is condemned. This is neither the will nor the fault of Jesus, however, but that of the unbelievers themselves. The believer accepts the redemption of Christ, and thereby is saved from the judgment of damnation. Just as gaining mercy is a matter of God’s grace, so believing is a free gift of His hands. But though the same gift was gained for, and is offered to, the unbeliever, he refuses to believe in the name of the only-begotten Son of God. And therefore this unbelief condemns him. By his unbelief he deliberately excludes himself from salvation, from eternal life. All men whom the judgment of condemnation strikes have only themselves to blame, since they refuse to accept the Redeemer and His atonement. Unbelief is thus the sin of sins, for it rejects the salvation which has been gained and is offered for all sins. There is a distinguishing mark, a touchstone, for all men in the fact that the true Light, Jesus the Savior, has come into the world, is now present before the eyes of men. Jesus was sitting before Nicodemus at that time, and He is present just as truly now, in His Gospel. But the majority of men did not, and still does not, pass the test. They find no pleasure in the Light nor in the illumination of His Gospel. They prefer the darkness of sin and unbelief. They have no love for the light and for the Author of light. They want nothing of Jesus the Savior. Their sin is no longer the result of ignorance, but of deliberate choice and preference. Their whole life and their works are evil, are the results of their love of darkness and its deeds. They are offered light, but they prefer to remain in darkness; they are offered salvation, but they prefer damnation. The unbelievers hate the light because their works are morally rotten, they will not bear exposure. Such is their dull, senseless, sullen objection to light that they shun it with all their might. They fear the revelation of their sinful, shameful, paltry, ugly, vulgar deeds and the subsequent reproof. They want to continue their base activity in murky darkness, where nothing of the radiance from above can reach them, as they think. It is a pity that men prefer their sin and its deeds even now, when Jesus has come to bring them deliverance from its bondage. This is a most impressive warning not to submit to the tyranny of sin, not to serve sin in any form. On the other hand, he that does the truth, that performs the deeds of truth, lives in accordance with the demands of purity, honesty, integrity, does the works that flow from a regenerated heart, such a one comes to the light. He is glad to have his works revealed in order that they may speak for him. For they are in reality not his own, nor are they done for his own glorification, but they are done and performed in God, who giveth both to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Those are truly good works that are done in communion with God. The strength, the ability to do them must be found in God and come from God. They bear the divine character. It is impossible for an unregenerate person, for an unbeliever, to perform good works. Truly good works can be done only by him in whom the Lord has kindled faith, who lives in and with God. Note: This statement of Jesus is a strong argument for the performing of good works. God works faith, God gives strength to do truly good works, God has the glory for them, and this he shares with us by giving us an ever greater amount of light of understanding. “Now we, in our turn, may not remain without works, as the impudent heads say: Why, then I shall do no good work any more that I may be saved. Yea, thou darest not do any more that serves for salvation; for forgiveness of sins, for the redemption of the conscience, thou hast enough in thy faith; but thy neighbor has not enough, him thou must also help. Therefore God also lets thee live, otherwise people would soon be compelled to take off thy head. But therefore livest thou that thou with life servest not thyself, but thy neighbor.” [Luther, 11, 1092].

Verses 22-36

John’s second testimony of Christ

Christ’s ministry and John’s baptism:

John 3:22-24

22 After these things came Jesus and His disciples into the land of Judaea; and there He tarried with them, and baptized. 23 And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. 24 For John was not yet cast into prison.


John 4:1-3; John 1:19-33; Matthew 3:1-12; Luke 3:19-20; Matthew 14:1-4; Matthew 4:12; Matthew 11:2-15

After the conversation with Nicodemus and after the days of the Passover Jesus left Jerusalem, but not Judea. He went out into the rural districts with His disciples, and there He spent some time with them. He had an opportunity at this time, when He was not yet so well known, to begin His special instruction of His disciples. Incidentally, His disciples performed the rite of Baptism in His name. The ministry of Jesus was not carried out on a large scale as yet, but the work of the Baptist had yielded some fruit. And John also continued his work, for men could still be prepared for the reception of the Messiah by his preaching and baptizing. He had at this time moved up the river into Samaria, almost to the boundary of Galilee. Here was the town of Salim, Genesis 33:18 [Luco note: “Shalem, a city of Shechem” in the KVJ], and some seven miles north of it Aenon, the place abounding in springs. And the people continued coming; his ministry was still very successful, they still desired to be baptized by the prophet of the wilderness. This work John continued till he was thrown into prison by Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee. Then only did the public ministry of Christ in the full sense of the term begin. The Lord indeed had shown Himself to the people, in Cana as well as in Jerusalem. But it was only after John’s removal that He began His work as the Prophet of Israel on a large scale. In the mean time, His Baptism was also one of repentance unto the remission of sins. The members of the Jewish Church should repent; they were in need of a purging from sins, which they could find in Christ the Savior only.

The dispute concerning purifying:

John 3:25-29

25 Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying. 26 And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, He that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to Him. 27 John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. 28 Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before Him. 29 He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth Him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.


Luke 1:57-80; John 1:19-33; Matthew 3:1-12; Mark 1:1-8; Luke 3:1-18; Matthew 9:14-17

“Then,” at that time, in consequence of the proximity of the two great teachers, there arose a searching questioning, a dispute. On the one side were John’s disciples, of whom many still clung to him in spite of his first testimony concerning Jesus, and on the other were one or more Jews, probably some that had received instruction and had been baptized by the disciples of Jesus in His presence. The question concerned the significance of Baptism, the relation of the two baptisms to each other and to the Jewish washings, and whether the true baptizing and cleansing from sins was to be found with John or with Jesus. The disciples of John brought the matter to the attention of their master, not without some show of jealous resentment against Jesus. They do not mention His name, but describe Him as the one that had been with John on the other side of Jordan, concerning whom John had given a testimony. They were much wrought up over the fact that this man was baptizing, and that all the people were showing a strong inclination to go to Him. They could not understand that Jesus should baptize as well as John. As a matter of fact they should have been surprised that John continued his baptizing after Jesus had made His public appearance. John continued his work only because he believed that by his preaching and testifying he could serve Christ better than by following Him as His disciple. And he here took the opportunity of bearing witness of Christ once more. A man can take nothing, cannot assume rights, powers, privileges, and can have no success, no abiding success in his labors, unless it come to him from heaven. This is a general truth which finds its application in the case of Christ as well as in that of John. God has given to each one his special work to do. And it is therefore God’s doing that so many people are now turning to Jesus. Note: If any man does anything in the kingdom of God, that is the blessing of God. It is not like in the field of human endeavor, where each person selects the work that suits him best, and then expects results in proportion to the labor and ability expended. In the work of the Kingdom God alone gives the increase.

John therefore calls upon his disciples to bear witness to the fact that he has not presumed upon the rights of Christ. He had given a plain and unequivocal answer that he was not the Christ, the promised Messiah, but merely His forerunner. They should have been prepared for that which was now happening before them. John emphasizes this in a parabolic saying. Christ is the Groom; to Him the Church, the bride, belongs; to Him all the believers will turn and cling by faith. It should not occasion surprise, but should be deemed self-evident, that poor sinners that are seeking help and salvation turn to Christ. To Him the souls belong. He has come to gain, to win, the souls of the sinners for Himself. John, as the friend of the Groom, stands by; he is satisfied with a secondary position; he is glad to be a mere listener. He rejoices greatly, with great joy, because the voice of the Groom is now heard in His invitation to all sinners to come to Him, the Redeemer. He has the fulness of this joy present with him, since Christ has come. The fact that men were turning to Jesus proved to John that his difficult task of preparing the way for the Messiah had not been performed in vain. There was not even the hint of a feeling of rivalry or jealousy in the words of John. It was all pure, unmixed joy and happiness at the success which was attending the ministry of Christ.

The value of Christ’s testimony:

John 3:30-36

30 He must increase, but I must decrease. 31 He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: He that cometh from heaven is above all. 32 And what He hath seen and heard, that He testifieth; and no man receiveth His testimony. 33 He that hath received His testimony hath set to his seal that God is true. 34 For He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him. 35 The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand. 36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.


John 1:6-13; John 1:32-34; John 8:23-24; Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:16; John 3:18

The conclusion which John draws from the facts as stated by him is simple: Jesus must grow; that is a necessity connected with His work. And in the same proportion John must become less and smaller. John, the friend of the Bridegroom, points to Jesus, and urges all sinners to cling to Him alone. This is the motto of all true servants of the Lord. They see the fulfilment of all their hopes and expectations in the fact that the people in the congregations do not cling to the pastor’s person, but accept the Word that is preached to them and put their trust in that alone.

So far as the content of the statement is concerned, it makes no difference whether the last words of the chapter are spoken by John the Baptist or written by John the Evangelist. Jesus, who is characterized by the fact that He came down from above, from heaven, stands not only over John the Baptist, but is superior to all. He is above everything, omnipotent; everything is put into His power, under His feet. John and all earth-born preachers, in spite of their high calling, are still only of the earth, can only speak in the humility of earthly ability. What John preached and testified, though a testimony of Christ and heavenly truth, yet was something which he had not gotten out of himself, but by revelation of God. But Christ’s origin must be referred to a higher, to a unique source. Though found in the likeness of a mere man, yet He is come down from above; He has a supernatural, a divine origin, as a result of which His supremacy is universal. And what Jesus speaks He does not declare as the mouthpiece of some one else, but as heavenly truth out of His own essence. His testimony is concerning things which He has seen and heard from eternity, which He knows to be true as the counsel of God for the salvation of men. But in spite of this fact the testimony of Christ shares the fate of Gospel-preaching in general. So universal is the disregard of His testimony that till now practically no one wants to accept it; a relative statement. But the fact that any one receives the message of Jesus is to such a one a seal, and causes him to confirm with absolute certainty that God is Truth. The inherent power of God in the Word has a strength of conviction above and beyond any mere human persuasion. He that receives the testimony of Jesus thereby believes in God. And for this he has good reasons, for that Christ whom God has sent speaks the very words of God; the fact of His speaking in itself contains the assurance that God’s words are being spoken. For God has not given the Spirit to Jesus only in a measure, but He has poured out upon Him the fulness of His Spirit, Psalm 45:7. The Spirit of God, which lives in Christ, speaks out of Him, and therefore there is no measure, no limit to the heavenly wisdom which issues forth from His mouth. And the love of the Father for the Son has prompted Him to give Him not only the Spirit, but to commit all things into His hand. There is a measureless communication of all the fulness of divine power and authority from the Father to the Son. We have here a glimpse into the secret of the Trinity. The Father from eternity gives to the Son His Spirit, and the Son receives all things from His Father in His human nature, also the Spirit. And therefore the Spirit is that of the Son as well as that of the Father; He proceeds from both the Father and the Son. And thus, by the working of the Triune God, faith is given, by which, in turn, eternal life is a definite possession and in no wise doubtful. It is faith in the Son that assures eternal life. By faith in the Son every believer appropriates to himself all the gifts and possessions of the Son. But he that refuses to believe the Son, that will not accept the Gospel-message for his salvation, will not see the life which is earned and prepared also for him, will not become a partaker of that life in any form. He will remain in spiritual death, and the wrath of God, which is upon all the children of unbelief, will continue upon him. To be under the wrath of God without ceasing, that is the death which will plunge all unbelievers into eternal damnation on the Day of Judgment. That is the curse which unbelief brings upon itself.


Jesus preaches the doctrine of regeneration by the water and the Spirit to Nicodemus, teaches His disciples, and has them baptize, and thus gives John the opportunity for a last great testimony concerning His mission.

Chapter 4

Verses 1-42

Christ and the woman of Samaria

On the way to Galilee:

John 4:1-6

1 When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus Himself baptized not, but His disciples,) He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee. And He must needs go through Samaria. Then cometh He to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with His journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour.


John 3:22-36; John 4:12; Genesis 33:18-20; Genesis 48:21-22; Joshua 24:32; 1 Kings 16:21-28; 2 Kings 17:24-41; John 1:14; 1 John 4:2-3; Hebrews 2:17; Matthew 4:1-2; Matthew 8:23-24; Matthew 21:18-19

Even at this early day the Pharisees were watching the activities of the Lord with jealous eyes. His growing popularity gave them much uneasiness. And there was a disquieting factor also for Jesus in the situation. The testimony of John and His own teaching had their effect in bringing an ever-increasing multitude to His baptism, which He, however, did not administer in person, but through His disciples. While there was not the slightest intimation of unpleasantness on the part of John the Baptist, there was still the danger of invidious comparisons, and Jesus apparently had no intention of interfering with the ministry of John at this time or ever. But the Pharisees, as Jesus found out, had heard the news that He was making more converts than John. These self-righteous hypocrites were declared opponents of the truth and therefore also of John, the teacher of truth. Should they therefore hear that the baptizing of Jesus was having such extraordinary success, they might be constrained to assume that Jesus was acting in opposition to John. This result Jesus wanted to avoid, and therefore, with a fine tact, which deserves wide imitation, He left Judea and set out for Galilee. He was not so sensitive about contamination from contact with Samaritans as many Jews were, who, for that reason, usually took the road on the other side of the Jordan when traveling to Galilee. Jesus took the shortest route, and thus was obliged to travel through Samaria, the country between Judea and Galilee. Samaria took its name from the city Samaria, or Shomron, 1 Kings 16:24. When Shalmaneser, in 722 B. C., carried Israel away into Assyria, a small number of the inhabitants remained in the country. To these were added heathen from Mesopotamia, and the result was a mixed population, in whose midst Jehovah was still nominally adored, but who also worshiped the gods of the heathen. When the Jews returned from their captivity, the Samaritans made an attempt to join them, and when this effort proved unsuccessful, they built a temple on Mount Gerizim. Their religion, in which they accepted only the Pentateuch as the inspired Word of God, was a strange mixture of Judaism and paganism. The territory of Samaria at the time of Christ was included in the tetrarchy of Archelaus and was under the procurator Pontius Pilate. On the north and east was the country of Herod Antipas, Galilee and Perea.

On His journey north with His disciples, Jesus came to the little city of Sychar, which was located almost in the center of Samaria. Near this town there was a piece of land which the patriarch Jacob had given to his son Joseph in addition to his share of the country, Genesis 48:22. It was on this piece of land that Joseph was buried. And here was also a well or cistern which Jacob had dug after his return from Mesopotamia. The well, which is now known as Jacob’s Well, is within ten minutes’ walk of the present village of Askar. It is about a hundred feet deep and is protected by a wall and a coping. Jesus, being a true man, had become very tired — literally, tired out — by the long journey of the morning; for it was now high noon. So He sat down at the well, either on the low wall which served as a railing, or on one of the steps leading to the water’s edge.

The beginning of the conversation:

John 4:7-10

There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give Me to drink. (For His disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.) Then saith the woman of Samaria unto Him, How is it that Thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. 10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give Me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water.


2 Kings 17:24-41; John 8:48; Matthew 10:5-6; Luke 9:51-56; Luke 10:25-37; John 7:37-39

While Jesus was sitting there, exhausted, hungry, and thirsty, there came a Samaritan woman out of the city to draw water from the well, the work of the Oriental women to this day. Here was an opportunity to do work in the interest of saving a soul, and Jesus took good care to make use of the chance. He deliberately began a conversation with the woman, by asking her for a drink of water. Time and occasion were auspicious, since they were undisturbed, the disciples, as the evangelist notes, having gone to the city to buy food for the little company. The woman was surprised at the request of Jesus. In her astonishment she asks how it came about that He, of whom she could tell that He was a Jew, yet asked this favor of her who was a Samaritan. The evangelist explains this by saying that there was no communication between Jews and Samaritans, the hostility going so far as to exclude even all courtesies by the way. Cp. Luke 9:53. But Jesus has no time for racial prejudices when there is a chance to speak of the heavenly wisdom. Instead of being surprised at the question, the woman should have turned right around and, on her own part, made a request. If she had any idea of the fact that the gift of God in the person and work of Jesus is free for all men; if she had an inkling of the beauty and glory of that gift; if she were aware of the identity of Him that had spoken to her, she would waste no time in idle questions as to proprieties. She would have begged Him at once most urgently and eagerly, and He could and would have given her living water. Jesus here testifies of Himself, of His own person. Living water, in the spiritual sense, from Him, the fountain of life, a water to refresh the soul, a water that gives life. Christ’s Word and His salvation, which are given freely according to the grace and mercy of God, were here offered to the woman of Samaria. Incidentally, Jesus challenged the curiosity of the woman by emphasizing living water. The pool before them was probably rainwater, gathered here from the surrounding hills. But the water which He had in mind was far from being stagnant: it had life and strength in fullness.

The explanation of the living water:

John 4:11-15

11 The woman saith unto Him, Sir, Thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast Thou that living water? 12 Art Thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? 13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: 14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. 15 The woman saith unto Him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.


John 8:53-59; Matthew 12:38-42; Hebrews 3:3; John 7:37-39; John 1:29-34; John 3:5-6; Acts 2:36-39; Isaiah 44:3-4; Isaiah 58:11; John 6:22-58; Revelation 21:1-6; Revelation 22:1-5

The Lord had gained His first object; He had awakened the curiosity of the woman; He could now expect to draw her out. The dignity of His speech and bearing caused her to address Him as Lord, but her answer showed that she was very skeptical about His ability to perform what He had promised. He had no vessel to draw water with, and the cistern or well was too deep for Him to get water without the aid of such a vessel; how could He, then, produce water, and living water, that is, water from a spring, at that? In this way, the woman understood His words as referring to physical, earthly water only. If Jesus could give her living water at this place, that is her argument, then He must be greater and mightier than Jacob, whom the Samaritans also, having Israelitish blood in them, regarded as their forefather. Jacob had done much for them in providing this well, out of which he himself had drunk, and his children, and his cattle. If Jesus could give the Samaritans better water than that of this well, then He must be a greater, mightier man. The understanding of the woman was altogether carnal. Jesus therefore tries to open her understanding by an explanation. Every person that drank of the water of that well would become thirsty again. The physical thirst of a person may be quenched for a little while by a drink of water. But the water to which He is referring is not that which is drunk with the mouth. It is of a nature that it quenches one peculiar thirst forever. In all eternity such a person will never be bothered by thirst again; for the water which He proposes to give will become in him that drinks of it a fountain of water bubbling up into eternal life. His gift is living water with the power to produce life and to keep bubbling with life and strength, and thus daily producing new power, enabling the possessor to gain eternal life. All the thirst, all desire and longing of people, is satisfied forever by this water; for that is His salvation, which He has brought and proclaimed. That alone can fully satisfy the heart. The salvation which Christ gives works a new, a spiritual life, and this life is fully realized and completed in eternity. The Lord’s purpose to arouse interest, to stimulate desire for this wonderful water, was successful, though the woman did not yet understand what He was referring to. Her one concern is that she may be saved the trouble of coming out here every day to draw water and then to carry it home the long distance. The two qualities of the Lord’s water have attracted her: the fact that it quenches thirst forever; the fact that it bubbles up ever anew and needs no drawing.

A disconcerting request:

John 4:16-18

16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. 17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: 18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly.


John 1:43-48; John 2:23-25; John 5:39-42; John 6:61-64; Matthew 9:3-4; Colossians 2:2-3; Hebrews 4:12-13; Proverbs 15:3; Psalm 139

Jesus, throughout the conversation, showed the true missionary’s skill. He had properly prepared the woman’s mind to listen to Him as to one that might have a message worth listening to, and not mere idle talk to dispense. The next step is to bring her to an understanding of her sin, to a realization of its guilt. To this end Jesus tells the woman to call her husband, her legal spouse. He knew her heart, mind, and circumstances as well as she did, and better. The woman was struck by the question, but answered quite frankly: A husband I have not. This was a truthful answer, but did not go far enough. And therefore Jesus disposes of her doubtful meaning by emphasizing: Well hast thou said, A husband I have not. She had had five husbands, and had left them all in quick succession. The matter of divorces in Palestine at the time of the Lord was fast approaching the condition in which momentary likes or dislikes decided a woman’s choice. This woman was now living with a man without the formality of a marriage ceremony, or at best in a common-law marriage. The Lord told her all this, by His omniscience, for the purpose of making her realize her sinfulness, of making her see the depth to which she had fallen. She must become fully conscious of her guilt against the Sixth Commandment and the entire Law before she would have the proper desire and longing for the riches of Christ’s salvation. Note: It is always thus when the Lord converts a sinner. At first there are only a few faint sparks of penitence, which would be extinguished without the aid of the Holy Ghost. But then He deepens the consciousness of transgression and guilt, in order that the longing for salvation may be instilled by the sweet message of salvation, by the Gospel. Very often the real battle in the heart of a person begins only after the desire for salvation has been felt. Then Satan tries to drive the sinner into despair. It is then that grace must much more abound.

A question as to true worship:

John 4:19-24

19 The woman saith unto Him, Sir, I perceive that Thou art a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. 21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.


Luke 7:11-17; Matthew 21:1-11; John 2:1-22; Luke 2:1-38; Acts 1:1-8; Romans 1:16-17; Psalm 117; Ephesians 2:11-22; John 1:9-14; John 14:6

The revelation which Jesus had just made astonished and disconcerted the woman. She had probably never given the matter of her loose living a serious thought, since the marriage-tie at that time was considered anything but binding. Yet Christ’s way of putting it in such a naked, unvarnished way struck her conscience with peculiar force. Her words were therefore a confession of guilt, though veiled to some extent. She states, first of all, that she now understood and had the conviction: I see that a prophet Thou art. His knowledge of her sins compelled this admission. But she is sensitive upon the subject and would rather not go into details. Not that she was not conscious of guilt, for she had already shown some degree of longing for salvation. Her question rather showed how deeply she was moved. Since this man was a prophet with the Spirit of omniscience, he would surely be able to give the solution of the standing problem of Samaritan religion, one which had now been bothering them for almost six centuries. She wanted to know where the living God was to be found and which was the true worship. She knew that forgiveness was to be found only with the living God. It was the question of a serious seeker after truth. The Samaritans had for centuries worshiped their god, whom they also called Jehovah, on Mount Gerizim, which was situated near Shechem and Sychar. There had formerly been a fine temple on this mountain, which, however, the Jewish ruler Hyrcanus had destroyed in the year 125 B. C. Since that time the temple had not been completely restored, the Samaritans being satisfied to worship in the ruins. But, on the other hand, as the woman correctly states, the Jews claimed that Jerusalem was the only place where people should worship, Exodus 20:24; Deuteronomy 12:5; Numbers 9:5; Deuteronomy 16:3,6. Now she wanted to know who was right, the Samaritans or the Jews. The Lord answers with one of the greatest and most far-reaching announcements of all times, earnestly inviting the woman, at the same time, to give full credence to His weighty words. The time was coming, was even now dawning, when the old earthly, outwardly visible forms of worship would no longer be reckoned as essential. Both places of the Old Testament cultus, that of Mount Gerizim and that of Jerusalem, would then be forsaken. This took place shortly after Christ’s ascension. Then the apostles went out and founded a great many congregations, not only in Judea, but also in Samaria. Then the Samaritans that came to faith deserted Mount Gerizim and worshiped the true God in Jesus Christ the Savior. Incidentally, however, Jesus states that there is a difference, even now, though this difference lay not in the place, but in the object of worship. The Samaritan religion had received so many additions through the influence of the heathen religions that the God whom they still designated as Jehovah was in reality a figment of their imagination, just as the gods are which are worshiped by the lodges of the present day. He that rejects any part of the revelation of God will very shortly lose all light, all understanding. With the Jews it was different. They knew the true, living God. To the Jews God had revealed Himself not only in the Law, in the five Books of Moses, but also in the prophecies. All the books of the Old Testament were read and explained in the synagogs, and the true Israelites, accordingly, worshiped the true God. The services in Jerusalem were still the right services, as commanded by God. And the reason for this mercy of God, the reason why He had permitted them to keep the right form of worship in Jerusalem, was because by His will and intention salvation was to come from the Jews. The Messiah Himself was a Jew according to the flesh. When salvation had come, when Christ had fully earned the salvation through suffering, death, and resurrection, then the special time of grace for Israel alone was at an end, then salvation was preached throughout the world. With the coming of Christ the hour of God had come in which the external worship of God at Jerusalem must give way to the true service of God. Then those that worship and pray in truth would pray to the Father in spirit and in truth. Jesus purposely calls the true God Father, for He is now the Father of all believers through the merits of the Savior, His Son. All true believers call upon that God whom they know as their merciful Father, who is reconciled to them through the blood of Christ. The New Testament worship is not dependent upon external forms, sacrifices of animals, prescribed forms of altars and appointments, etc., but is done in the spirit; it depends upon the condition of heart and mind. And it is done in truth, it is the only true, stable, sound method of worshiping. The Father is anxious to have such people as worship and serve Him in this manner, as give Him evidence of the religion of Christ in their hearts, for He Himself is a spirit. God is an invisible being, with reason and will, with self-consciousness and power; He is a personal God. And in accordance with His person He wants to be worshiped in spirit and in truth. He that will worship God properly must direct his spirit, heart, mind, thoughts to Him, must deal with Him and speak with Him as one person with another. That intimate personal intercourse, without any intervening priesthood, that direct dealing of the believer with his heavenly Father, is a characteristic of the New Testament worship. Only believers can therefore truly pray. Such as have no knowledge of, and no belief in, the reconciliation of mankind through the blood of Jesus have no communication with God. Note: We have in these words of Jesus a glorious revelation concerning the true God as the Father of the believers through the reconciliation made by His Son. Through such messages the Lord intends to awaken and strengthen faith in the hearts of all men and trust in God as their true Father.

Belief and missionary effort:

John 4:25-30

25 The woman saith unto Him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when He is come, He will tell us all things. 26 Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am He. 27 And upon this came His disciples, and marvelled that He talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest Thou? or, Why talkest Thou with her? 28 The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, 29 Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? 30 Then they went out of the city, and came unto Him.


Genesis 3:13-15; Deuteronomy 18:15-18; Matthew 1:1; Mark 1:1; John 1:35-41; John 7:25-31; John 7:40-44; John 10:22-42; Matthew 16:13-20; Matthew 22:41-46; John 17:1-3; Matthew 24; Matthew 26:57-68; Luke 24:13-27; John 20:30-31; Acts 2:36-39; Romans 5:1-11; Romans 6:23; Romans 8:31-39; 1 Corinthians 1:20-24; 1 Corinthians 5:7; Hebrews 10:12-14; 1 Peter 1:10-12; 1 Peter 5:6-11; 1 John 2:18-25; 1 John 5:1; John 3:18; Mark 16:16

The woman had listened to Jesus with increasing understanding, not unmixed, however, with some measure of bewilderment over the depth of wisdom which lay in the words of Jesus. But the drift of the Lord’s speech seemed to be that the time of Messianic glory was about to be revealed. Now the Samaritans had some dim and uncertain idea of the promised Messiah out of the Pentateuch. And the woman now voices her hope in this Messiah, who is called the Christ; with His coming, she knows, all type, symbol, and prophecy would be at an end, for He would bring them a full and complete message, clear and unmistakable to their understanding, without type and external worship. Jesus now revealed Himself to the woman in a few simple words: I am He, the man that is speaking with thee. Jesus is the one Savior that can and will give to all men the full Gospel of salvation; He is the Savior of the world. There was no danger in this announcement of the Lord in Samaria; for, unlike the Jews, the Samaritans did not regard the promised Messiah as a king who was to inaugurate political changes, but as a prophet and teacher who would give them the full revelation of God’s Word and will. But the plain words of Jesus had taught the woman the true meaning of the Messiah, and she, the sinner, believed Him to be the Savior of sinners. Just as Jesus had revealed Himself to the woman, His disciples returned from the city with the food that they had bought. The fact that Jesus was speaking with a Samaritan woman caused them to wonder as to the reason for this unconventional behavior. And yet none of them inquired as to His object in speaking with her or as to the subject of the conversation. They had learned so much that they must not interfere with His methods. But the woman, now that the interruption had taken place, forgot the object of her coming to the well. She was so excited over the revelation she had received and so anxious to tell her news in the city that she left her vessel standing at the well and hurried cityward. The faith which had just been kindled in her heart yearned for expression, it constrained her to become a missionary for the Lord. She went away to the city, where at this time of day there was an intermission in labor, and where groups of men could easily be found. Her missionary call was: Come and see! Cp. John 1:46. And she based her invitation upon the fact that Christ had uncovered her past to her. Her saying was not an unconscious declaration of her sin. It was a humble confession of sin, combined with a free confession of her belief in Jesus as the Messiah. The people of the city should come and see for themselves whether this was not the Christ. She is sure that they will gain the same conviction which she has gotten from her interview. Note: That is always the first fruit, the first result, of conversion, that a person acknowledges himself to be a poor sinner and confesses Jesus, his Savior. The woman’s announcement was not without results: the men left the city and came to Jesus. A missionary may not have the quick success which the woman here was pleased to see, but the word of confession concerning the Savior, the proclamation of the Gospel, is never without fruit; it will not return to the Lord void.

The harvest in the kingdom of God:

John 4:31-38

31 In the mean while His disciples prayed Him, saying, Master, eat. 32 But He said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. 33 Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought Him ought to eat? 34 Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work. 35 Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. 36 And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. 37 And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. 38 I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.


John 5:30-36; John 6:35-40; Luke 8:4-15; Matthew 9:35-38; Luke 10:1-3; 1 Corinthians 3

In the mean time, between the woman’s leaving the well and the men’s coming from the city, a little incident took place at the well which gave Jesus an opportunity to impart to His disciples some very necessary instruction. The disciples having brought food, they begged their Master to eat, and thus to renew His strength after the exertions of the morning. As true man, Jesus not only became tired and exhausted at times, but He ordinarily was obliged to partake of food to sustain His life. But here He had apparently forgotten all about His fatigue. He tells the disciples that He has food to eat of which they know nothing. The Lord made use of every possible chance to raise the minds of the apostles to heavenly things through the medium of earthly matters. But the disciples, with the usual carnal understanding which they exhibited, thought only of earthly food and of the possibility of some one’s having brought Him something to eat in their absence. In this sense they discussed the matter among themselves. Jesus, therefore, explains to them wherein His food consists. That is food and drink, complete sustenance to Him, if He does the will of His Father that sent Him, and completes His work. Jesus is sustained by the feeling which He has concerning the world’s need of salvation. It was the Father’s, the entire Godhead’s, will from eternity that this salvation should be gained for fallen mankind, and Jesus wanted to carry out the work imposed upon Him by that counsel of the God-head. Jesus tries to make His meaning clear to His disciples by an illustration taken from facts before their eyes. Jesus had gone to Judea in April for the festival of the Passover. About nine months He had spent in the southern province. It was now about December, four months before the beginning of harvest. The disciples should pay much closer attention to the spiritual harvest. Lifting up their eyes, they could see the men of the city coming to seek Jesus. Here was a field white for harvest. The Samaritans were ready for the message of the Gospel unto their salvation, the harvest of their souls could soon be gathered in. They were the firstlings out of the great mass of the heathen. That they turned to Jesus was a sign that the great harvest among the heathen of the world was at hand. And this fact was of great importance to the disciples, who were supposed to be reapers in this great harvest of souls for the kingdom of God. He that gathers the harvest, by doing so gets his reward; and in the spiritual kingdom the reaper, the messenger of salvation, gathers fruit unto life eternal. In the great harvest festival, therefore, which will be held in heaven, both the sower and the reaper will rejoice together. Cp. 1 Corinthians 3:6-8. In the case of the Samaritans, the disciples, as reapers, almost trod on the heels of the great Sower, Jesus. In general, it is a great truth that finds its application in the kingdom of Christ: One man has the joy of sowing, another that of reaping. Jesus Himself had done the work of a sower in Judea, and the disciples had had the joy of baptizing many that were convinced by the Word of the Master. It is a truth which always holds true in the preaching of the Gospel. One pastor sows the seed of the Word, the older generation of people work to bring the Gospel to others, and, as a rule, they see but little of the results. But in later years, after the preliminary work has achieved its object, the successors reap the results in wonderful measure.

Faith as personal conviction:

John 4:39-42

39 And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on Him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did. 40 So when the Samaritans were come unto Him, they besought Him that He would tarry with them: and He abode there two days. 41 And many more believed because of His own word; 42 And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.


John 4:25-30; 1 John 4:14-15; John 8:28-30; John 3:14-17; John 20:30-31; 1 John 5:1

The woman did her missionary work well. She spoke with such earnestness and conviction that she persuaded many of the people of the city. Their faith was the result of the woman’s testimony, even before they saw and heard Jesus Himself. If we only, individually and collectively, see to it that the Gospel is proclaimed throughout the world, we may rest assured in advance that the blessing of God will attend our efforts, and that there will always be some that will come to faith and acknowledge Jesus as their Redeemer. And the testimony of the woman caused also the petition of the Samaritans that the Lord should stay with them. For two days they were privileged to have the Savior in their midst. He taught these souls that were hungry for salvation; He gave them the information which they needed concerning His person and work. And the harvest was rich and plentiful. A great many more were gained through the preaching of Jesus, who frankly told the woman that they no longer believed on account of her narrative. They themselves had heard the words of eternal grace, they had the firm knowledge and conviction that this man was not a mere teacher or prophet, but that He was truly the Christ, the Savior of the world. That is the simple, but unshakable certainty of Christian faith. That is the right faith, that we do not only believe to be true what we hear in regard to the wonderful spiritual experiences of others, but that we have the personal conviction regarding Jesus that He is our Savior.

Verses 43-54

The healing of the nobleman’s son

The passing into Galilee:

John 4:43-45

43 Now after two days He departed thence, and went into Galilee. 44 For Jesus Himself testified, that a prophet hath no honour in his own country. 45 Then when He was come into Galilee, the Galilaeans received Him, having seen all the things that He did at Jerusalem at the feast: for they also went unto the feast.


Matthew 13:53-58; Matthew 4:23-25; Luke 8:40

Jesus was constrained by the earnest prayers of the Samaritans to spend two days in their midst. But after that He continued His interrupted journey. He wanted to reach Galilee as soon as possible, an intention which He supported with a proverb: A prophet in his own fatherland has no honor. It was either that He referred to Judea, where His birthplace was situated, and where He had done His first public work, but where the Pharisees were even then showing their hostile attitude more strongly every day; or He had Galilee in mind, for there was situated Nazareth, His home town, and there was little danger of His being too highly honored and of gaining a popularity which would result in a collision with the Pharisees. But His reception in Galilee left little to be desired. Many Galileans had been at the last Passover festival and had witnessed the wonderful things which Jesus had done at that time, and they were very glad to have this Prophet in their midst. As one commentator has it, they received Him on account of His fame in Jerusalem, the metropolis, which set them the fashion in their estimate of men and things. But it was not a longing for the Savior of sinners that actuated them at this time, but merely a curiosity to see and hear more of this great countryman of theirs that had dared to purge the Temple in the very presence of the mighty of the nation.

The nobleman’s plea:

John 4:46-50

46 So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where He made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47 When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto Him, and besought Him that He would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death. 48 Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe. 49 The nobleman saith unto Him, Sir, come down ere my child die. 50 Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way.


John 2:1-11; John 6:24-30; Matthew 8:5-13; Mark 10:52; Luke 17:19

The first stopping-place of Jesus in Galilee was Cana, where He had performed His first miracle, now almost a year ago. Undoubtedly, the young married couple whose wedding-feast He had honored by His presence and by His miraculous gift was delighted to have Him visit them once more. But while He was still in this little town, Jesus received a visitor from the lowlands, from Capernaum, an officer of Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee. This Herod was the son of Herod the Great, who had received the title of king from the Roman senate, an honor which the son likewise hoped to obtain. This officer had heard that Jesus had returned from Judea, and immediately set out for Cana, where he went to Jesus and begged Him to come down from the mountainous section, where Cana was situated, to the lowlands of the Sea of Galilee, where Capernaum was located. He considered the presence of Jesus absolutely necessary for the cure of his son, who was about to die, who lay at the point of death. The Lord gave the man an answer which purposely sounded harsh: If signs and wonders you do not see, you will not believe. Jesus had been performing miracles, deeds which were outside of the usual course of nature, which often contradicted and set aside the laws of nature. And these wonders were also signs, they indicated beyond doubt the divine power, the omnipotence of His person. If faith is based only upon evidence of external help, upon signs and wonders, it has no sound basis. Not as a Worker of miracles, but as the Prophet of truth Jesus wanted to be accepted. “How can this be made to agree? Thus, as I said before. For faith and firm confidence brings the nobleman to Christ; how, then, does He say: You believe not unless you see signs? But, as I have said, He wants to show the man that his faith is not yet strong enough; for he still clings to seeing and feeling the presence of Christ.” [Luther, 11, 1764]. Note: That cannot be accepted as true faith, if a person wants to believe only because of signs, and refuses to believe if no miracle is in evidence. If a Christian says: Unless God will help in my present trouble, I shall not believe, he proves that his so-called faith is a matter of imagination. The nobleman in this case received the reproof of Christ’s words meekly, but he was not deterred from his purpose. His faith was gaining strength, he was not so easily diverted and discouraged. He repeated his prayer for the Lord to come down lest his boy die meanwhile. But he is still wrong, inasmuch as he persists in the idea that it is necessary for Jesus to be present in person to perform the healing. He had as yet no knowledge of the omnipotent power of the Lord, which is not bound by place and time. But Jesus, in recognition of a faith which, though weak, was yet sound, bade the father return to Capernaum. His son lives, and will live. Christ did not go with him. His cures are independent of His bodily presence and of any material media. And now the man believed the word of Jesus. “His first immature faith has grown into something better. … On Christ’s word he departs home, believing he will find his son healed.” [Expositor’s Greek Testament, 1, 734]. Although he saw nothing of that which Jesus had told him, the officer was fully satisfied with what he had heard. That is always true advance in faith, when a person believes the simple Word of God, even if there is not the slightest evidence of fulfilment of the promises. “Therefore I have said that all else must be rejected, and one must cling to the Word alone; if we have taken hold of that, then let world, death, sin, hell, and all misfortune rage and storm. But if you give up the Word, then you are bound for destruction.” [Luther, 1767].

Faith vindicated:

John 4:51-54

51 And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth. 52 Then enquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. 53 So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house. 54 This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when He was come out of Judaea into Galilee.


Acts 16:32-34; John 2:6-11; John 20:30-31

The officer did not reach home that evening any more. But early the next morning he was met by some of his servants with the joyful news that his son was alive and doing well. It is a fine testimony for this master that his servants thought so much of him as to set out with their glad tidings at once. The careful official now insisted upon finding out the exact hour when the sickness had receded from his son and left him well. And when they told him that it had been on the day before, at one o’clock in the afternoon, he knew that it was at just that time that Jesus had spoken the words of reassurance. So he experienced the truth of Christ’s words, he found out that God keeps His promises. And therefore he himself was confirmed in his faith, greatly strengthened. And his family and servants, to whom he brought the glorious news of the manner of the cure, rejoiced and believed with him. Thus the nobleman’s faith progressed from weakness to strength, from trusting in external visible evidence to believing in the Word only, as is the manner of faith the world over. “Thus the Lord God deals also with us, in order to make us more perfect and place us into a higher station. If we pass through such experiences, then we gain knowledge and become sure of our faith.” [Luther, 11, 1769]. This miracle Jesus performed as the second in Galilee after He had come from Judea. The time of the full ministry of miracles in Galilee was still in the future.


Jesus has a long conversation with the woman of Samaria, through which He works faith in her heart and willingness to do missionary work for Him; He then passes on into Galilee and heals the son of the nobleman of Capernaum.

Chapter 5

Verses 1-16

The sick man of Bethesda

The health-giving waters:

John 5:1-3 (Verse 4 not in the ESV)

1 After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.


Matthew 15:30-31; Luke 7:18-23

“After this”; how long is not stated by the evangelist; he merely denotes an interval, in which a part of the Galilean ministry of Jesus took place. The feast of the Jews to which Jesus journeyed up from Galilee was probably the Feast of Purim, which was celebrated on the 14th and 15th of Adar (March). Cp. Esther 9:21. Now there was in the city of Jerusalem a gate which was known as the Sheep Gate, probably from the fact that the sacrificial animals were driven into the city through this gate. In this neighborhood was located, even as late as the end of the first century, a pool which bore the Hebrew name Bethesda, House of Grace, or Mercy. The Jews had built five colonnades, or porticoes, around this pool of water, to shelter the sick people from wind and rain. These constituted the hospital of the city, where a large number of sick people, of blind, of lame, of withered, was lying. All of them anxiously awaited the movement, the bubbling of the water in the pool, those that could see having their eyes anxiously fixed upon the surface of the water, and the blind waiting for the sound that told of the movement, or depending upon relatives or friends to lead them to the pool quickly. The phenomenon, which is now generally ascribed to the action of a siphon-like spring, is explained by the evangelist as having been due to the fact that an angel at a certain time came down to the pool and disturbed the water. And the first sick person that entered the water after the phenomenon had taken place became well, no matter what sickness he was bothered with. Many commentators are rather skeptical at this point, refusing to accept the words as the truth, and many critics have simply ruled out this verse. But we hold, according to Scriptures, that the beneficial effects of many so-called natural agencies are due to the work of God’s angels. The decrees of God’s providence are carried out by these servants of His. It is altogether probable that even to-day the angels of God are active in the waters of many health springs. “Those who feel little or none of the work of God in their own hearts are not willing to allow that He works in others. … This is to make any man’s experience the rule by which the whole Word of God is to be interpreted, and consequently to leave no more divinity in the Bible than is found in the heart of him who professes to explain it.” [Clarke, Commentary, 5, 548].

The healing:

John 5:5-9

And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years. When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, He saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? The impotent man answered Him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the Sabbath.


Matthew 9:1-8; Mark 3:1-6

Among all the sick people that were lying in the porticoes at the pool’s brink there was no case more pitiful than that of a man who had spent thirty-eight years there in the misery of his sickness, thirty-eight years of alternating hope and despair, of eager longing and painful disappointment. Note: Many a person that is inclined to become impatient at a cross lasting but a few weeks or months might well consider this case and learn patience from the example of the man of Bethesda. Jesus, in accordance with His desire to help all men in whatever trouble they might be, visited also this hospital. He saw the man lying there in his misery; He knew that the poor fellow had spent a long time in that place. It was not merely that Jesus drew conclusions, or that He learned from the man himself or from his friends of his long sickness; His knowledge was that of omniscience. With a view to awaken the man to the nearness of divine power, the Lord addressed him with the question whether he wanted to become well. Through this question the Lord aroused and incited the desire and the longing of the man for the long-lost gift of health. The desire for help and salvation is awakened by the Savior Himself through His Word. The sick man gave a sad answer. He addressed Jesus as the Lord, indicating the beginning of faith in his heart; but he complained in a hopeless tone that he had neither relative nor friend, not a person in the wide world to help him into the water at the appointed time; and when at last he had dragged his helpless limbs over to the pool, some other person had preceded him, and therefore all his efforts were futile. For at each bubbling up of the water apparently only one could be healed. Note: The mere statement of trouble and misfortune is in itself a prayer and well acceptable to the Lord. And Jesus heard the prayer of faith. He gave the sick man the command to arise, a command to be obeyed on the moment by faith in Him who gave it. And not only that, but he should also take up his couch, or pallet, and walk, having been restored to full health and strength. This was a miracle in the true sense of the word, a deed against the course of nature. A sickness of thirty-eight years’ standing was completely routed and replaced by the full vigor of complete health, with a perfect use of all organs and members. The man followed the words of Jesus to the letter; for faith accepts, and clings to, the help of Christ. He went away, carrying his pallet, though the day, not without design on the part of Jesus, was the Sabbath.

The objections of the Jews:

John 5:10-16

10 The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the Sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. 11 He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. 12 Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? 13 And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed Himself away, a multitude being in that place. 14 Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. 15 The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole. 16 And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath day.


Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:12-15; Jeremiah 17:19-22; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 14:1-6; John 9

The religion of the Jews at the time of Jesus had largely become a matter of dead form, without the true understanding of love and mercy. It was true, indeed, that the law prohibited the carrying of burdens on the Sabbath, Exodus 20:8; Jeremiah 17:21; Nehemiah 13:15; Exodus 23:12. But necessary works were not forbidden, such works as served the immediate needs of the person; for the Sabbath had been established for the sake of man. And in this case the Lord of the Sabbath had spoken. But the Jews took no possible extenuating circumstance into account; they reminded the man of the day and of its demands. The former sick man refused to assume the responsibility and blame for his action. He told the Jews that the man who had made him well had ordered him to take up his bed and walk. His implied argument was: He that could perform such a great miracle, that could heal me with a mere word, must have an authority for His command which transcends that of the ceremonial law. He that gives life is the proper authority for its use. But the Jews were not satisfied with that answer; they wanted to know the name of Him that had given this order. This the former invalid was unable to supply, and a searching look around the vicinity failed to discover Jesus, who had withdrawn or turned aside, an easy matter in such a large crowd. Jesus was not seeking external evidences of mouth adulation; a mere admiration on account of His miracles was an abomination to Him. Note: The purpose of the Jews in asking the invalid the question was not to seek the Lord in faith, but to accuse and condemn Him. Even so many people in our days that must acknowledge the miracles of Christianity study the Bible, not for the sake of knowing the great works of God, but for the sake of finding fault and discovering so-called contradictions. But Jesus did not lose sight of the former sick man. He deliberately arranged it so that He came upon the man in the Temple; for his body had been healed, but the soul still needed attention. Therefore the Lord told him: Behold, well thou hast become; sin no more, lest worse things come upon thee. The sin of man is the reason and cause for all manner of physical evils and ills, though individual sicknesses may not be due to specific sins, as in this case. The man’s long illness had not been brought about by some special sin. But this the Lord means to emphasize: Sickness and all physical evils would never have come into the world if sin had not come first. To realize the horror and heinousness of sin in general is a very important step in the work of justification and sanctification. He that has realized the abomination of sin in itself, and has then accepted Jesus as his Savior, will shun sin with all the might of his regenerated heart. Such a person will not make his members servants of sin, also for that reason that the greater punishment awaits such as do not heed the warning of the Savior, namely, the punishment of hell-fire. Note: Jesus has a personal interest in every sinner and will continue to work for the salvation and sanctification of every one with unabated, loving energy. The man now went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had performed the miracle of healing him. He did this, probably not with any evil intent, but in the joy of his knowledge as to the identity of his Benefactor. But the result was that the hypocritical Jews persecuted Jesus; they followed Him about at all times with hostile intention; they considered ways and means to put Him out of the way entirely. The fact that He had performed this healing on the Sabbath was in their eyes a deed that merited death. Note: That is characteristic of the Sabbath-fanatics, to make mountains out of mole-hills, as far as the outward observance of the day is concerned, while, at the same time, they have not the faintest idea of the true meaning of worship in spirit and in truth.

Verses 17-30

The relation between the Father and the Son

Jesus gives the Jews an answer:

John 5:17-20

17 But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. 18 Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill Him, because He not only had broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God. 19 Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do: for what things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. 20 For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth Him all things that Himself doeth: and He will shew Him greater works than these, that ye may marvel.


John 1:1-18; John 1:29-34; Matthew 3:16-17; John 10:22-39; John 14:1-14; John 17; Matthew 26:57-68

The hostile attitude of the Jews and their murderous thoughts were not unknown to Jesus, and He takes occasion to justify Himself, and incidentally to try to convince them of His authority and power. He tells them that His Father is at work, performing the work which He knows is neccesary; God never stops working. And even so He, Christ Himself, is working. Jesus here plainly affirms that He is the Son of God, He places Himself on the same level with God. The Son is just as great, just as divine as the Father. And the entire work of the Father is, at the same time, and in the same way, the work of the Son. In this work there is no Sabbath rest. Without ceasing, without rest, the Son preserves and rules the world. Even in the state of humiliation, He is tending to this work. The miracle of healing the sick man was an exhibition of this creative power, it was evidence of the fact that He, with the Father, has the entire world and all its laws in His power and can do and create whatever He desires. “How long would the sun, the moon, and the entire heaven have its course, which had its progress so definitely so many thousand years, also, that the sun at a certain time and in certain places annually rises and sets, if God who created them, would not daily preserve them? … God the Father, through His Word, has begun and perfected the creation of all beings, and preserves them to this day through the same, and continues so long in the work which He creates until He no longer wants it to be. Therefore Christ says, John 5:17: My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. For just as we, without our assistance and ability, are created by Him, even so we by ourselves cannot be preserved. Therefore, just as heaven, earth, sun, moon, stars, human beings, and everything that lives was created in the beginning through the Word, even so they all are ruled and preserved through it in a miraculous manner.” [Luther, 7, 1562]. The Jews caught the import of Christ’s statement at once: If He was the Son of God, He certainly must be equal to God. Here, in the opinion of the Jews, were two crimes that merited death: breaking the Sabbath and blasphemy. They refused to accept His testimony, though this had been substantiated by the miracle; they hated Him for this plain statement; they were all the more determined to kill Him. Note: The enemies of Christ at all times argue in the same way. The testimony concerning Jesus, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, strikes their conscience and makes them furious. They cannot gainsay the truth, and that is unbearable to them. Their own conscience condemns them. And to drown out these unpleasant influences, they become all the more rabid in their persecution of the Gospel, both in word and deed.

But Jesus, upon this occasion, continued His statement, His testimony concerning Himself. Solemnly He declares to the Jews that the Son can do nothing of Himself, except what He sees the Father doing. That is the result of the relation between Father and Son. The essence of the Son is out of the Father; His is not an independent essence. The persons of the God-head are not separate from each other, each doing His own individual work. In that which He does and performs, the Son is joined with the Father. And again: Whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise, at the same time, in the same manner. There is not only perfect sympathy, there is complete oneness between the two. And this relation is made still closer by the fact that the Father loves the Son and shows Him all that He Himself does. The power of either is absolute, and yet their work and will is one. This creative power finds its expression in the work of Jesus on earth. The Father, through the Son, will do greater works than those which have been done up to the present time, to the great surprise and wonder of the Jews. The mere healing of a sick man would seem insignificant in comparison with the miracles which are yet to be revealed.

The greater miracles:

John 5:21-27

21 For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom He will. 22 For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: 23 That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent Him. 24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. 25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, 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. 26 For as the Father hath life in Himself; so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself; 27 And hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man.


Deuteronomy 32:39; 1 Samuel 2:6; John 11:17-44; John 1:1-4; John 3:13-18; Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:16; Romans 6:3–11; 1 Timothy 5:6; Revelation 3:1-6; Ephesians 2:1–9; 1 Corinthians 15

Since the miracle and the words of Jesus had not yet convinced the Jews, He here points forward to two miracles which would put His claim to the Sonship of God beyond question. The Jews believed in the power of God to give life and to raise the dead, Deuteronomy 32:39; 1 Samuel 2:6; Isaiah 26:19. This work of the Father, to raise the dead and restore them to life, is the work of His independent will. And the same is true of the Son. He has absolute power over life and death; as the Author of life He has power to give life and being at will. His will is just as omnipotent as that of the Father. And the same holds true of another divine work. Since all sins are, in the last analysis, directed against God, it is He that judges and condemns; that is His function, His special work. But now He is not exercising the works of this power, but has given this authority, together with its execution, into the hands of the Son. He has thus openly affirmed the full equality, the unquestioned deity of the Son. The allotting of men to their eternal destinies is altogether in the hands of the Son. The statement is sweeping, it refers to all men, and without appeal. Truly, if such an unquestioned divine prerogative is given to the Son, then there can be no doubt as to His deity and as to the divine honor which is due Him. There is no difference between the honor given to the Father and that due to the Son. In honoring the Son, men honor the Father; in refusing to honor the Son, they incidentally take away the honor from the Father. For divine honor and glory belong to the Son.

With great solemnity and a double asseveration the Lord tries to drive home this truth. It is His purpose to give eternal life. That is the purpose and will of God with regard to all men in the world. And the conditions for the receiving of this gift are very simple. They are merely that a person hear His Word, the glorious, sweet message of the Gospel, and then believe in the Father, that sent Him into the world. It is not a question of obtaining eternal life at some later date, but of possessing it right now. The same thought is also expressed from the negative side, namely, that such a person does not come under condemnation. Cp. Romans 8:1,34. By accepting the Word of the Gospel, the believer goes from spiritual death, which would have resulted in eternal death, into life, into the full possession of the life which Jesus brought out of the grave. He has entered into the blessed, intimate communion with God, into the fulness of the glorious life which this union implies. This thought the Lord brings out with equally solemn emphasis. The time which the Triune God had selected had come with the incarnation of Jesus; the great hour of Jesus for calling the spiritually dead back into life had struck. Many a member of the Jewish nation, many a person that was a true Israelite, even if not a descendant of Abraham, was hearing and obeying the voice of the Son of God, as He was proclaiming it with His own mouth. And by such hearing, by the accepting of the Gospel, all such persons were getting the gift of life as their safe possession. The Father has life in Himself; in the same manner, in the same degree, the Son has life in Himself. Christ, even according to His human nature, has received life as His absolute possession. The Son can give life, for He Himself is the Possessor of life, He is Life and the Fountainhead of life. That is one of the mysteries of the Trinity. And the final proof for the Son’s divine power and majesty is His authority to exercise and execute judgment. This authority is His in His capacity as Jesus Christ the man, as the God-man, as the Word of God Incarnate. Those who will not accept the life which He proclaims and offers in the Gospel, will come under the judgment of condemnation by their own fault. Jesus Christ, the Judge, will be obliged to pronounce the judgment of condemnation upon them. And all of this proves beyond all question that Jesus is true God, with unabridged and full divine powers.

The coming of the Judgment:

John 5:28-30

28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. 30 I can of Mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and My judgment is just; because I seek not Mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent Me.


John 1:1-18; John 3:13-21; John 6:35-40; John 14:1-6; John 11:1-44; Luke 16:19-31; Luke 23:39-43; 1 Corinthians 15:50-57; Daniel 7:9-14; Daniel 12:1-4; Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 21:1-8

The fact that it is Jesus Christ, the God-man Jesus, to whose human nature such great powers are given and who, in this capacity, will judge all men on the last day, should not occasion surprise and wonder, neither on the part of the Jews nor on the part of any other men. The hour appointed in God’s counsel is surely coming, when all that are in their graves will hear and obey the voice of the Son of Man. For it is an almighty voice, it has the power to call men back from physical death into life. All men will hear that voice in that hour. Though their flesh be decayed and eaten by worms, though their bones be fallen into dust, ground to ashes, and scattered to the four winds, yet their bodies, at the omnipotent command of Christ, will rise from their resting-place. They must come forth to stand before Him. And the result of His judicial investigation will be either the one or the other. They in whom the righteousness of faith ripened into righteousness of life, that proved their faith in good works, will come forth out of their graves unto the resurrection of life. They will receive, as a reward of grace, the full, eternal enjoyment of life, in an everlasting resurrection. But the others, that have given evidence of their total lack of faith by evil deeds, by acts not in conformity with the will of God, will come forth from their graves, but only in a resurrection unto damnation, from temporal death to eternal death, a damnation which is essentially a casting away from the face of God, and which will continue throughout eternity, — what a horrible prospect for the unbelievers! That is the last great work of the Son of God, to judge the whole world on the last day. And the judgment is bound to be just, not only because Jesus is the Son of Man, with true flesh and blood, who surely will not condemn any of His brethren according to the flesh unjustly, but also because His judgment is not absolute, according to His ideas and prejudices. He speaks what He hears from the Father; His own personal, human opinion in no way comes into consideration, since He seeks to carry out only the will of the Father. While His will is perfect, divine, independent, it is still identical with that of the Father. It is for this reason that His judgment will be right beyond question. We have here another glimpse into the essence of the Triune God, into the relation between Father and Son. The Son is coordinate with the Father in all matters.

Verses 31-47

The witness of John, of the Father, and of Scriptures

A reference to John:

John 5:31-35

31 If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. 32 There is another that beareth witness of Me; and I know that the witness which He witnesseth of Me is true. 33 Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth. 34 But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved. 35 He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.


Deuteronomy 19:15; Matthew 18:15-16; 2 Corinthians 13:1; Luke 1:57-80; John 1:1-34; Luke 3:1-17; John 3:22-36; Matthew 11:2-15; Matthew 17:10–13; Luke 20:1-8

The Jews might have raised the objection at this point that Jesus was speaking and testifying of Himself, but that His own testimony had no value. Cp. Deuteronomy 19:15. Jesus concedes in advance that from their standpoint He stands alone, and that therefore His words will not stand without corroboration from other witnesses. He was trying to place Himself entirely on their level, in order that the points which He wanted to make would be all the stronger. At the same time it remains true that all His words are eternal truth and need no confirmation. But for the sake of the blind, hostile Jews He is perfectly willing to argue from their standpoint. And He refers to another Witness, one that is unimpeachable, whose testimony He is about to refer to and of which He knows and they must admit that there can be no question as to its certainty. Note: It is not the least of the evils attending unbelief that it acts not only in opposition to God, but acts also inconsistently with itself. In many cases it professes to receive Scriptures in bulk, even conceding them to have come through divine inspiration; and yet believes no part separately. Before going into detail concerning the testimony of the Father, Jesus refers them to a witness whom many of the Jews there present had seen and heard. They had sent a delegation to John, John 3:25-36, to get definite information about the new Teacher, and John had repeated his former testimony concerning the divinity of Christ and carried it out at length. He had borne witness to the truth. He had stated the facts in his testimony concerning Jesus. Now Jesus was not in need of testimony from any man, but John’s testimony concerning Him redounded to their salvation. If they had accepted that, it would have been to their own temporal and eternal advantage. They would have been saved by relying upon that message. They have a full chance at salvation now, if they will but heed His reference to that Gospel-message. Jesus sought no honor for Himself, His object was the salvation of men. John himself, during his lifetime, was a burning and a shining light. His testimony concerning Christ was plain, clear, unmistakable. If they had heeded it, they would have been shown the way to salvation. Note: Every minister of the Gospel should be a light, to shed forth not his own luster, but that of the Redeemer; not consuming, either others by a zeal without knowledge or himself by a foolish manner of working, but burning in holy love for the Savior and His Gospel; and shining, finding his greatest joy in leading the way to Jesus. The Jews of that time were willing enough for a season to rejoice greatly in the light of John. It was like the brief play of the moths about the arc lamp, a regular revival-type of religion, with much emotional reveling, but no sound basis of faith. Just so many people in our days may be struck for a while by some aspect of religious work and become most enthusiastic. But when the enthusiasm has burned out, the work palls on them, to their own damnation.

The witness of the Father:

John 5:36-38

36 But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given Me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of Me, that the Father hath sent Me. 37 And the Father Himself, which hath sent Me, hath borne witness of Me. Ye have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His shape. 38 And ye have not His Word abiding in you: for whom He hath sent, Him ye believe not.


John 1:1-18; John 3:1-21; John 8:12-30; John 10:37-38; John 14:1-14; John 20:30-31; Colossians 1:15-20; 1 John 5:10-12

The testimony of John was valuable for their sakes only; Jesus did not need the witness of men. He could appeal to testimony greater than John’s. For all the works which He was performing had been given Him by the Father to carry out in just that way; all the miracles of Jesus served a definite purpose. Through them God Himself bore witness to Him that He was the Son of God. If He had been a deceiver and cheat, God would not have given Him the power to perform such wonderful deeds. No one that saw His miracles and judged them with an unbiased, open mind, could deny His divine mission. All His works were evidence of greater weight than John’s. The entire appearance of Jesus and the manifestation of His glory called out loudly in testimony of His divine mission. And in addition to this testimony, undeniable, unassailable, there was the witness of the Father’s voice, through the writings of the prophets. God did not appear to the Jews in a visible manifestation; they did not hear His voice, they did not see His form. And yet, there was the evidence contained in the Word of the Old Testament, so clear and unmistakable that there could be no doubt as to its correctness. In spite of all that, however, His Word had found no abiding place in their hearts; they did not accept the testimony of God Himself. For the reception accorded to the delegate of God, to the Son of God Himself, is a proof of the fact that the Word of God does not abide in them. If they actually believed God in the witnesses of the Old Testament, as they professed to, they would receive His great Minister, the Prophet to whom Moses pointed. It is the essence of unbelief that people refuse the Word of God an abiding place in their heart, that they simulate religion in their lives, but have no true religion in their hearts.

The authority of the Scriptures:

John 5:39-47

39 Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me. 40 And ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life. 41 I receive not honour from men. 42 But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. 43 I am come in My Father’s name, and ye receive Me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. 44 How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. 46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me; for he wrote of Me. 47 But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe My words?


Matthew 5:17-18; Luke 24:25-27,44-47; Galatians 4:4-7; Genesis 3:13-15; Numbers 21:4-9; Deuteronomy 18:15; Matthew 3:13-17; Matthew 17:5; John 9:26–41; Matthew 23:37-39; Galatians 3:10-14

A most diligent perusal, a ceaseless searching of Scriptures is recommended by Jesus. The Scriptures, as the Jews had them in those days, as they were used by them in synagog and Temple, contained the historical books of the Old Testament, the books of the prophets, and the Psalms. This book was complete in the days of Jesus, it bore that collective title; the Jews knew exactly to what Jesus was referring. And to the Scriptures Jesus appeals as to an authority. He thereby acknowledges and confesses the inspiration and the inerrancy of the Old Testament. And this fact was accepted without question also by the Jewish teachers. For that reason their belief that they could find in it eternal life, that they had in it the revelation of the way to heaven, was well founded. But one thing they no longer knew, or else ignored most shamefully, namely this, that the Scriptures contain eternal life only because they testify of Jesus the Savior. Jesus Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end of the Old Testament revelation. The Jews should therefore have gotten a correct picture of the Messiah, and they should have applied the Old Testament prophecy to this great Teacher. But their evil will refused to come to Jesus; they rejected the life which He was offering to them. They deliberately spurned His offer of grace and mercy and chose rather the way of damnation than to accept the Holy One of God. And, incidentally, they had no reason for their rejection, so far as the behavior of Jesus was concerned. For He did not seek honor from men. His methods did not savor of the schemes of the modern evangelists that seek honor and get notoriety. Christ wanted no glory from men, would not receive it from them. So they cannot make that a reason for rejecting Him. Jesus has a full understanding of them and of their case, and His words are a merciless exposure of the thoughts of their mind. There was no real love of God in their hearts. They dissembled, they proved their hypocrisy at every turn. For if such love were truly in their hearts, they would have felt obliged to accept Christ, the Minister of God in a most peculiar sense. He did not come in His own name, seeking His own aggrandizement, any benefit from men; His motives were altogether unselfish. But such is the perversity of their hearts that they refused Him a decent hearing and were far from accepting Him, whereas they would be easily taken in by a deceiver who would come in his own name. This was shown in a number of instances in the history of the Jews. Again and again false Messiahs arose, among whom Bar Cochba and Shabbatai Sebi are notable, who found no difficulty in getting many adherents. The Jews were altogether insane in their eagerness to follow these deceivers. But Jesus, who came in His Father’s name, was rejected. That fact characterized the Jews of the time of Jesus, and also since: they sought their own honor, they were very much concerned about honor before men, and wanted flattery and received homage from one another. This spirit is diametrically opposed to the spirit of the Christ, who scorned all such flimsy subterfuge. Far better to seek the honor which God alone can give, and which comes only to the meek and lowly in heart! That is the real reason for unbelief, that men seek their own advantage and care nothing about God and about His opinion concerning their sinfulness and their need of regeneration. Therefore the final judgment of unbelief will be all the more severe.

Under these circumstances, it will not be necessary for Jesus to bring any accusation against the Jews at the court of God, for their own Moses, their lawgiver, of whom they boast, will condemn them in his own writings. They hoped to be saved by the works of the Law, not knowing that Moses himself in no way taught that they could be saved by such deeds, but that he pointed forward, in type and prophecy, to the Messiah and His salvation. Really to believe the message of Moses is to believe in Jesus the Savior. For Moses had prophesied of Jesus and had urged his people that they give Him honor and obedience. It would be Moses, therefore, that would condemn them. The writings of Moses they would not believe; how, then, would they believe the sayings of Christ? Things that had been written and codified and taught for centuries they refused to believe, although they pointed directly forward to only one Man. There was therefore little hope of their believing the words of this one Man, though all the circumstances of prophecy and fulfilment could be shown to agree. The same facts hold true to-day. Many people refuse to believe Scriptural sermons because they refuse to believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God.


Jesus heals the sick man of Bethesda, answers the objection of the Jews to this Sabbath healing, shows the relation between Him and His Father, and proves that He has the witness both of the works and of the Word of the Father for His divine mission.

Chapter 6

Verses 1-14

The feeding of the five thousand

Jesus back in Galilee:

John 6:1-4

1 After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias. And a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His miracles which He did on them that were diseased. And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there He sat with His disciples. And the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh.


Matthew 14:13-14; Mark 6:30-34; Luke 9:10-11; John 21:1; Isaiah 53:4-6; Matthew 8:14-17; Matthew 11:1-6; John 20:30-31

Cp. Matthew 14:15-21; Mark 6:35-44; Luke 9:10-17. After these things, without definite fixing of the time. The chances are that the journey to the Feast of Purim had taken only a few days, and that the Galilean ministry of Jesus was not influenced by the interruption. Jesus went from Capernaum or its vicinity across the Sea of Galilee or Tiberias to the northeastern shore, not far from the city of Bethsaida Julias. The intention of the Lord had been to have a few days of rest, but this purpose was not realized. For a great multitude, numbering thousands of people, went around the northern end of the lake, full of eager desire to witness the miracles which He was performing in the case of various sick and invalid persons. There is no word concerning any eagerness for the Word of salvation, but only of this curiosity, not unmixed with morbidness, which sought excitement and variety. With the multitude at His heels, Jesus ascended one of the hills in the neighborhood, and there sat down with His disciples. Though the people, on the whole, were not eager for the Word of Life, Jesus lost no chance to speak to them of the one thing needful. He also healed their sick. The evangelist notes that this incident happened shortly before the Passover of the Jews, which occurred a month after the Feast of Purim. It was, therefore, early in the spring.

Jesus tests the faith of the disciples:

John 6:5-9

When Jesus then lifted up His eyes, and saw a great company come unto Him, He saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this He said to prove him: for He Himself knew what He would do. Philip answered Him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto Him, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?


Matthew 14:15-18; Mark 6:35-38; Luke 9:12-13

Jesus was busy all day, teaching and healing the sick, and hardly had time to look around. In the mean time, however, the crowd increased in number continually; the people kept coming all day long. When Jesus, then, upon the urgent request of the disciples, halted in His work of mercy and raised His eyes, He saw the assembled multitudes all around Him in the plain at the foot of the hill. The emphatic suggestion of the disciples as to the dismissal of the people at once caused a plan to form in the mind of the Lord, whose principal part concerned the disciples themselves. He proposed both to feed the multitude and to test the faith of His followers. Addressing Himself to Philip, whose acquaintance with the country hereabout might be assumed to be reasonably good, Jesus asked where there was a place at which they might buy food. His speech presupposes it as a self-evident fact that the people should be treated as the guests of the apostles and Himself. He had fully decided what He would do, but He was anxious to try out the faith of Philip, as well as that of the rest. Philip, having ascertained the amount of money at hand, answered according to, His understanding that two hundred Denarii (almost thirty-four dollars) [Luco note: About $570 in 2023 according to US Inflation Calculator] would hardly buy a sufficient quantity of bread to give to each one at least a little. Philip’s anxiety had caused him to make a careful calculation. He had forgotten the first miracle at Cana as well as the many that had happened since. He figured in exactly the same way as the average person, even if he be a confessed Christian, who tends to forget that God has His own ways to figure in emergencies, if His Christians will but trust in Him. Andrew was no better than Philip, so far as his trust in the Lord was concerned. He had scouted around and found that there was a small boy present who had five barley loaves and two small fishes for his provisions, but he immediately added, in doleful helplessness, that there was no hope that this would reach with so many people present. The weakness of both disciples is repeated in numerous instances in our days. Christians are often worried with anxious care for the needs of the body. Then they sit and calculate and go through all possible cupboards and storing-places to find out whether they will have enough to sustain their lives. They forget the almighty power of their Lord.

The miracle:

John 6:10-14

10 And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 And Jesus took the loaves; and when He had given thanks, He distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. 12 When they were filled, He said unto His disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. 13 Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten. 14 Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.


Matthew 14:19-21; Mark 6:39-44; Luke 9:14-17; Deuteronomy 18:15; Mark 9:2-8; John 1:19-27; John 7:40-52; Exodus 16:4; Psalm 78:21-25; John 6:22-35; Isaiah 25

Jesus now assumed charge of affairs, He became master of ceremonies, governor of the feast. He ordered the disciples to have the people recline on the green grass, which grew in abundance at this place, in the lowlands near the mouth of the Jordan, and had attained its full growth at this time of year. Since the men reclined in groups, it was an easy matter to find their number, which was five thousand, without women and children. Before the entire vast assembly which was now seated in anxious expectation, Jesus next took the loaves and gave thanks; He dedicated them to God by His prayer. And He at the same time proved Himself the almighty God and Lord, for His blessing upon the bread caused the miracle. The few loaves did not grow into great stacks, but they multiplied under His almighty touch during the distribution. No matter how often the disciples returned to the Lord for further supplies, there was always enough on hand. They obtained not only of the bread all that they wished for, but they were also given of the fishes, as much as every one desired. All the people were fully satisfied, they had all that they could eat. Here was a powerful proof of the almighty power of Christ. The simple Nazarene is the Creator and Preserver of all things, who gives food and sustenance to all creatures. The hand of the Lord is not shortened even now, but is able and willing to help in all emergencies, if we but place our trust in Him. It is our duty to use the means He has given us, to do the work of our calling faithfully; then His blessing will never fail us. Incidentally, Jesus taught proper food conservation. He commanded that the disciples should pick up the small pieces that remained, the fragments, that nothing might go to waste. And when they did so, they filled twelve large wicker baskets or hampers, such as are used in the Orient and elsewhere by gardeners for carrying fruit and vegetables on the back. The evangelist emphasizes that these fragments remained over and above that which had been eaten by the multitude. There is a lesson for all times in this story, namely, that infinite resources do not justify waste. There is a far cry from being anxiously careful for the future and being careful of the gifts which God has given. But the people did not draw the right conclusion from the miracle. They merely thought that this was “the beginning of that reign of earthly abundance which the prophets were thought to have foretold.” Some of them may have believed that Jesus was truly the Messiah, but the majority voiced their opinion in the statement that this man was of a truth, beyond doubt, that prophet that should come into the world, for they understood the words of Moses, Deuteronomy 18:15, of a mere man, with the spirit and the power of Moses. Note: There are many people in the midst of Christendom whose ideas concerning Christ are just as hazy as were those of the Jews on this occasion. It is only by continual study of the Bible that a full and clear understanding of the person and office of Jesus may be gained.

Verses 15-21

Christ walks on the sea

John 6:15-21

15 When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take Him by force, to make Him a king, He departed again into a mountain Himself alone. 16 And when even was now come, His disciples went down unto the sea, 17 And entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them. 18 And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew. 19 So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid. 20 But He saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid. 21 Then they willingly received Him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.


Matthew 14:22-33; Mark 6:45-52; Matthew 17:5-7; Matthew 8:28-29; John 18:3-6; Luke 24:36-39; Isaiah 41:13-14; Exodus 3:14; John 4:26; John 6:20; John 6:35; John 6:41; John 6:48; John 6:51; John 8:12; John 8:24; John 8:28; John 8:58; John 9:9; John 10:7; John 10:9; John 10:11; John 10:14; John 11:25; John 13:19; John 14:6; John 15:1; John 15:5; John 18:5-6; John 18:8

Here was evidence that the Jews had no idea as to the real meaning of the Messiah and His work, even if some of them were inclined to accept Jesus as the Christ. The intention gained adherents in their midst to snatch Jesus away suddenly and carry Him off for the purpose of making Him king. But Jesus is not a mere Helper in physical needs; His aim is not to cater to the temporal, carnal desires of men; He is no “bread-king.” He knew the hearts and minds of the people; by His omniscience He was fully aware of the ideas and intentions of the people. And therefore Jesus fled from them, since the idea of an earthly kingdom was not included in His plan of salvation. This was a crisis, and He determined to lay the matter before His heavenly Father in prayer, as every one of His followers should do at all times. He went up into a mountain all alone. But first of all He insisted that His disciples should embark and return to the other side of the sea. By this time it was getting dark, and the disciples, having launched forth, set their course toward Capernaum, while Jesus stayed there alone. The voyage proved extremely unpleasant. A deep darkness fell upon them, and a heavy wind arose, causing the waves of the sea to roll in threatening billows. And still Jesus had not joined them, the evangelist remarks. They missed His presence sorely; there was a sense of impending disaster upon them. But handicapped as they were, the disciples nevertheless continued their efforts, rowing in the face of the storm, since it was out of the question to use the sails. It was long past midnight, and they had covered only about three miles (a Stadion being about 202 yards), when they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near to the boat. Since the belief in ghosts was almost universal, the poor disciples could not explain this phenomenon and were filled with fear. But Jesus reassured them with the calm statement: It is I, do not fear. Where Jesus is, there is no need of fear; He has effectually and eternally banished all fear. His voice and His presence filled their hearts with calmness and courage. Now they were eager and willing to take Him into the boat; and no sooner had they done so than they were at the land whither they were bound. The omnipresent power of Jesus annihilates distances. He here performed another miracle, for He has absolute power over all creatures, over the roaring sea as well as over time and distance. The insignificant man Jesus is the Lord of all creation; He may, at will, abrogate any law of nature. From the distant mountain peak to the midst of the sea and then to the western shore of the lake in but a few moments of time: that is the evidence of His omnipresent power. This fact redounds to the comfort of the believers at all times, Matthew 28:20. All Christians should know that their entire life with all its vicissitudes, their work, their eating and drinking, their entire mode of living is in the hands of Jesus. The care of Jesus will provide for them, will defend them against all dangers, and guard and protect them from all evil.

Verses 22-59

Christ the Bread of Life

The surprise of the people:

John 6:22-25

22 The day following, when the people which stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was none other boat there, save that one whereinto His disciples were entered, and that Jesus went not with His disciples into the boat, but that His disciples were gone away alone; 23 (Howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias nigh unto the place where they did eat bread, after that the Lord had given thanks:) 24 When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither His disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus. 25 And when they had found Him on the other side of the sea, they said unto Him, Rabbi, when camest Thou hither?


Matthew 14:34-36; Mark 6:53-56

On the morning after the miracle of the loaves there was great excitement and astonishment on the northeastern shore of the lake. The people that had remained in that neighborhood over night, expecting to take hold of Jesus in the morning, were deeply perplexed. Only one boat had been at the place of the miraculous feeding, and that was the one into which the disciples had gone. This boat had not had Jesus as a passenger, and it had not returned. The question therefore was: How had Jesus gotten away? They were at a loss to explain His absence. But meanwhile other boats from Tiberias landed in the neighborhood of the place where the miracle had been performed. So the people took advantage of the opportunity thus offered. They were determined to find Jesus at all costs, and therefore they took some of the boats and crossed the lake to Capernaum. When they had finally located the object of their quest on the other side of the lake, they opened on Him with the question as to His manner of getting there, for the when includes the how. They were always scenting the abnormal, the miraculous, in connection with this man; it was the only thing which made their quest worth while, in their estimation. But the purposes of Jesus do not agree with their curiosity, and therefore He did not give them a direct answer. His telling of the walking on the water would have precipitated a crisis then and there.

The work of God:

John 6:26-29

26 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek Me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. 27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for Him hath God the Father sealed. 28 Then said they unto Him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? 29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.


John 6:2,14-15; John 20:30-31; John 3:14-18

Jesus knew the reason for their insistence, for the great interest they were showing at this time. With solemn emphasis He tells them that the reason why they sought Him was a wrong one. They had indeed seen some of His signs with their bodily eyes, but they had not given them the proper attention; they were altogether lacking in the understanding that these signs were evidences, proofs, of His divinity, of the fact that He is the Son of God, the Redeemer and Savior of mankind. Thus the meaning of the great signs before their eyes escaped them entirely. They sought Him because their concern was for their bodies and stomachs. If these were but filled; their souls were not a matter of concern to them. But their efforts were worthy of a higher cause; they should work with equal diligence, not for the perishable food of the body, but for that food which will last into life everlasting. For there is such a food which nourishes the soul and preserves the soul unto eternal life. That food alone was worth acquiring, for its effects would never lose their power. “Ye should not seek Me for the sake of transitory things; for I (this He wishes to say) am a different teacher, who does not preach of perishable food, how sowing, baking, plowing should be done; for all this ye know well even before, and Moses has taught you how ye should work. My teaching has not that aim, neither should ye come to Me for that, but that I give you an eternal food.” [Luther, 7, 2199]. This spiritual food, which would strengthen unto eternal life, the Son of Man would give them, not because of special merit on their part, but freely, out of divine love and grace. For He had gone forth from the Father, as a proof of which He bore the seal of God. The miracle of the day before and other signs showed that God had commissioned Jesus as the Minister to give the food which nourishes unto everlasting life. They were a proof that the eternal Son of God could give eternal life to such as accepted Him in faith. “And that He says: The Son of Man, therewith He indicates clearly and publicly that God the Father has a Son whom they can see before their eyes, take hold of, hear, and feel; as St. John also says of Him: Which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, and our hands have handled; that same bodily person, born of the Virgin Mary, He will give you an eternal food.” [Luther, 7, 2203]. Some of the people in the multitude at least were impressed by this statement of Jesus that they should labor, that they should earnestly strive to acquire food with such wonderful power, and they wanted to know what they must do in order to make themselves fit to perform such works as would be acceptable before God, as would be well-pleasing to Him. They were caught in the idea that there must be some merit on their part, that they must perform something for their salvation. But Jesus corrects that notion. There is only one thing which they should do, and that is to believe on Him whom God has sent. Faith is here spoken of as a work of man which he does in order to obtain salvation. That side of faith, trust, full and complete reliance in Jesus and His salvation, that is brought out here: the fact that every believer must accept and hold Jesus and His salvation. That is actually a work of the believer, an act of reason and will. True, this faith must be wrought by God and cannot come into being without God’s power; also, faith is not a work which merits redemption, it is not that its moral excellence saves men. But when God has worked faith in the heart of man, when spiritual life has been engendered in the heart of man, then man is active in accepting that wonderful food which nourishes unto life eternal.

Bread from heaven:

John 6:30-34

30 They said therefore unto Him, What sign shewest Thou then, that we may see, and believe Thee? what dost Thou work? 31 Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. 32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but My Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is He which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. 34 Then said they unto Him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.


Exodus 16; Numbers 11:7-9; Psalm 78:24-25; John 4:7-15; Matthew 12:38-42; Matthew 16:1-4

That Jesus demanded faith in Himself as a condition of their obtaining salvation, this the Jews now understood. They therefore demanded proof of His ambassadorship and of His ministry, which, as He claimed, elevated Him to the divine rank. It is a most peculiar thing that they did not yet understand the relation between the miracles of Jesus and His divine mission, His deity. They challenge Him to produce some extraordinary sign which would convince them beyond question, which would oblige them to believe. They put the matter so as to make Him responsible for their faith or unbelief. They expect a sign from Him something like that of Moses, who produced manna for the Israelites in the wilderness. They refer to a passage from Scripture, Psalm 78:24-25, which speaks of this wonderful feeding with bread from heaven. In a way, the expression “bread from heaven” could stand, since the manna had fallen down from the sky with the dew, but at best this was merely a figurative expression. Jesus therefore declares, with great emphasis: Not Moses gave you bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true Bread from heaven. Even in the desert it was not Moses that gave the children of Israel the manna, and so, at best, Moses can be spoken of in this connection by courtesy only; he had nothing to do with the miracle. But here matters are different; here is the true Bread from heaven given to all men by the Father. He that comes down from heaven with the purpose of giving life to the world, He is the Bread of God, Jesus the Savior. He is the Bread from heaven in deed and in truth, and by His work of giving salvation He establishes that fact beyond doubt. This saying impressed the Jews very deeply; they had but a faint conception of what the Lord might mean in speaking of this wonderful Bread, something like the woman of Samaria. They begged Jesus that He would always, at all times, give them that bread. Their understanding was still not clear, but they have caught enough of His earnestness and enthusiasm, and desire plain information. Note: A great deal has been gained if we can get the unbelievers to ask questions concerning Jesus and His salvation, perhaps persuade them of the fact that Christianity in itself is worth while, invite them to come to church.

Jesus the Bread of Life:

John 6:35-40

35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to Me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst. 36 But I said unto you, That ye also have seen Me, and believe not. 37 All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out. 38 For I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me. 39 And this is the Father’s will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. 40 And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.


John 4:7-14; John 7:37-39; Revelation 7:9-17; Revelation 21:1-6; Revelation 22:1-5; Exodus 3:14; John 4:26; John 6:20; John 6:41; John 6:48; John 6:51; John 8:12; John 8:24; John 8:28; John 8:58; John 9:9; John 10:7; John 10:9; John 10:11; John 10:14; John 11:25; John 13:19; John 14:6; John 15:1; John 15:5; John 18:5-6; John 18:8

Jesus now makes a plain, frank statement. He had not said that He would give the wonderful bread that came down from heaven, but He had asserted that this miraculous Bread which came down from heaven had the power to give eternal life. He Himself is that Bread of Life. No matter who it is that comes to Him, he will no more suffer with hunger, just as he that drinks of the living water of His salvation will never again be bothered with thirst. To come to Jesus means to believe in Him as the Savior of the world. All the desires and longings of the soul find their complete gratification in Him and His mercy. But although the Son of God and such perfect satisfaction was brought so near to the Jews, yet they did not believe. They have seen Him in His ministry of miracles, and they have heard the words of life which issued from His mouth at such times, but they have refused to believe. They should know, therefore, that everything which the Father gives to the Son will come to Him. To come to Jesus is to believe; faith is a spiritual coming. The heart and the will of a person goes to Christ, is joined to Christ. All those people actually come to Jesus whom the Father has given to Him as His own. Faith is the result of God’s merciful selection. It is a call and selection of grace, and therefore none of those that come to Him in faith will the Lord cast out. God’s thoughts are thoughts of peace and mercy only; He has no desire for the death of any sinner. To fulfill this merciful, kind purpose of His heavenly Father Jesus has come into the world. It is the will of the Father that Jesus lose none of those whom the Father has given Him. They are all equally precious in His sight, far too dearly bought to be lost. Those, therefore, whom the Father has given to the Son as His own, the Son should raise from the dead on the last day to give them the full enjoyment of the blessings and the glory which are their heritage. For the sake of clearness and emphasis, Jesus repeats the same thought. It is the will of the Father who sent the Son into the world that every one that looks upon the Son in faith, that accepts Him as the Son of God and the Savior of the world, shall, without fail, have eternal life, shall become partaker of the glories of heaven by and in the resurrection. In Christ we have been chosen unto eternal life.

The murmuring Jews:

John 6:41-46

41 The Jews then murmured at Him, because He said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. 42 And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that He saith, I came down from heaven? 43 Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. 44 No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto Me. 46 Not that any man hath seen the Father, save He which is of God, He hath seen the Father.


Matthew 13:53-58; Luke 4:16-30; Isaiah 54:13; John 1:1-18; Ephesians 2:8-9; John 14:6-11; Colossians 1:15-20

At this point the Jews started to grumble, to murmur among themselves, to express their disapproval. The idea that this man should Himself be that wonderful Bread which had come down from heaven seemed preposterous to them. They could not merely not understand how this could be true, but they believed themselves to be in possession of evidence to the contrary. They were sure that they knew His antecedents, they were acquainted with His mother, they knew the name of His father. Note: It has always been an offense to the reason of man that God and man are united in the person of Jesus. But the Lord here advises against all murmuring, against all attempts to make the matter plausible to reason. For no man can come to Christ by His own reason and strength. All brooding and disputing will not work faith in the heart. There must be a drawing on the part of the Father, by whose strength faith is worked in the heart. Without this work on the part of the Father there can be no faith nor any rising to eternal life. That is the origin, the reason of belief in Jesus: the Father draws to the Son; He influences heart and will in such a way that a person accepts Jesus as His Savior and disregards entirely all difficulties which his reason may experience in the understanding of the person of the Savior. God not only gives the power to come to faith and to choose the good, but He works, creates all good in man and makes him willing. Faith is altogether a work of God. “What does ‘no man’ mean? Do you think it refers only to a cow or ass, or some other animal? Rather ‘no man’ here refers to the entire human race, the whole world, no man excepted, the most powerful, the most holy, the most prudent, the wisest. It is spoken briefly, but it is a powerful phrase, which thrusts down and throws to the ground all that is called human wisdom, reason, judgment, righteousness, and holiness, also religion and worship. For to come to this article and salvation in Christ no wisdom helps, no prudence, no shedding of blood and giving of alms, nor what the entire human generation is able to do with wisdom, with piety and sanctity. For it says: No man can come to Me, except the Father draw him. This should be taught.” [Luther, 7, 2286]. This fact Jesus substantiates by a passage from the prophets: They will all be taught by God, Isaiah 54:13. Those that are taught of God, that have learned the lesson of their own inability and lack of strength, and therefore both hear the Father and in all things learn of Him, only they can come to faith in Christ. The Father uses no compulsion, but makes use of teaching only. He appeals to the reason and understanding, to the heart and the will of men, teaches and persuades and makes them willing. And this is possible only because God incidentally illumines the heart. In that way the Father works the willingness, in that way man becomes eager to come to Jesus by faith in His atonement. This is not to be understood as though there were any physical contact between God and man; the knowledge of God was not communicated directly, by immediate vision of God. There is only one Man who has received His Being directly from God and who is also in immediate communication with God; He it is that has seen the Father. For that reason it is essential that a Christian believe the Word of Jesus without the slightest doubt, since His deity demands as much.

Living Bread to eat:

John 6:47-51

47 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life. 48 I am that bread of life. 49 Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.


John 1:10-13; John 3:14-18; Exodus 16; Exodus 3:14; John 4:26; John 6:20; John 6:35; John 6:41; John 8:12; John 8:24; John 8:28; John 8:58; John 9:9; John 10:7; John 10:9; John 10:11; John 10:14; John 11:25; John 13:19; John 14:6; John 15:1; John 15:5; John 18:5-6; John 18:8

Jesus changes neither text nor contents of His sermon in one particle. He repeats the main thoughts again to impress them upon His hearers. It is faith in Him which gives eternal life; that is the only way in which salvation may be obtained, by believing in Him. For He is that Bread of Life in which they must trust. The Jews themselves had referred to the manna in the wilderness and had called it bread from heaven. But what lasting value could be in food which did not sustain life beyond the few years of this earthly existence? Their fathers had died. But he that receives the Bread of Life by faith would have sustenance to carry him beyond this life into life eternal. Any one partaking of Him by faith will live forever. Jesus here gave a powerful testimony of His own person. By repeating the great facts which are the substance of His sermon, Jesus wants to work faith in the hearts of His hearers. The teaching concerning Jesus, His person and His office, the great facts of His salvation, is the means by which God draws hearts to the Savior, works willingness to believe. And in one short statement Jesus also tells the manner in which He will earn salvation. He will give Himself, His body, His flesh, into death, for the sake of the life of the world. The human nature of Christ was sacrificed, was given for the salvation of the whole world, for all men without exception. In this way Jesus becomes the Bread of Life, the Bread from Heaven.

Life through Christ’s sacrifice:

John 6:52-59

52 The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us His flesh to eat? 53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. 54 Whoso eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 56 He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me. 58 This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever. 59 These things said He in the synagogue, as He taught in Capernaum.


John 7:40-52; John 9:16; John 10:19-21; John 15:1-17; 1 John 4:7-21; Exodus 16

Although Jesus had been careful to explain His figure sufficiently that all might have understood Him, yet the understanding was lacking in the greater number of His hearers. There was a division, a dispute, among them. They differed in their judgment of Him. Some severely denounced Him as insane, others suggested that there might be some truth in His words. But they all thought of physical, sensual eating and partaking. Jesus therefore summarizes the lessons which He wishes to convey once more. He tells them that it is indeed essential for every one that wishes to have eternal life that he eat His flesh and drink His blood. It is necessary for every believer to receive Jesus altogether by faith, in His full work of atonement, active and passive obedience, shedding of blood, and all. By doing so, the believer has the assurance of eternal life and will rise on the last day to see the consummation of all glories. In this way the body of Christ is the true food, and His blood the true drink. In this way, also, the wonderful union of Christ and the believers in Him is brought about. They receive Christ spiritually and are most intimately and inseparably united with Him. They dwell in the Savior and the Savior in them. And this wonderful union extends still farther. The living Father has sent the Son; the Son, in that mysterious relationship which His eternal Sonship expresses, lives through the Father; and so both persons of the Godhead are the Fountainhead of life and give to the believer the fulness of perfect life, which will last throughout eternity. He that believes on the Son places his trust, first of all, in the human nature, in the man Jesus Christ that died for the sins of the whole world. But thereby he also accepts and clings to the divine nature, to the entire Godhead and all His gifts. Thus the human nature of Christ is like a bridge between God and man. He that believes in Jesus the Savior has the entire Christ in himself, according to both, divine and human natures, true God and man. That the Jews put their trust in the mere historical fact of the manna in the wilderness, believing that in some way they were partakers of the benefits that came upon their fathers at that time, was altogether foolish. Only by faith in Christ, the living Bread from heaven, can eternal life be obtained. — John remarks, with his usual exact specification of time and place, that this wonderful sermon was held in Capernaum, in the synagog. It is immaterial whether it was on a Sabbath or on one of the week-days when there were services, Monday or Thursday. Jesus gave a clear and unmistakable testimony concerning Himself, full of glorious comfort to the believer.

Verses 60-71

The offense of many disciples

The disciples murmur:

John 6:60-65

60 Many therefore of His disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? 61 When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples murmured at it, He said unto them, Doth this offend you? 62 What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where He was before? 63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray Him. 65 And He said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto Me, except it were given unto him of My Father.


Matthew 11:6; Luke 12:51-56; Mark 16:19; Hebrews 1:1-3

Jesus had gained a considerable number of followers in Galilee, people that were impressed by both His miracles and His preaching and therefore accompanied Him whenever they could. These people had just heard a wonderful sermon out of the mouth of the Master. They had learned that faith is a work which God desires of men, that Jesus is the Life-giver, that the grace of God in Jesus is universal, and that none is refused, that there is an election of grace by which those whom God has given to the Son become partakers of grace, that faith is the work of God, who draws to Christ, that the believers are sure of everlasting life, that there is a communication of attributes in the Godhead, between the divine and the human nature of Christ, that there is a mystical union between God the Father and the Son and the believers. And yet some of these disciples were offended; they found it a hard saying that the flesh and blood of this Man should give eternal life. Although this dissatisfied grumbling went on softly, the omniscience of Jesus was fully aware of it and reproved them for taking occasion to stumble here. When they would see Him ascending up into heaven, whence He came down, they would either be scandalized all the more, or they would have to be convinced. They would then also understand what He meant when He said that they must eat His flesh. For then His weak human nature would be forever imbued and united with the divine, with the heavenly manner of being. His flesh would then be spiritualized, His body glorified. That would be a visible proof of the fact that He came down from heaven. Knowing this in advance, they should remember that the spirit is life-giving, that the flesh has no value. All material, earthly things that are associated with the sinful derivation of man have no value for spiritual life. Only the words of Christ contain spirit and life, give spirit and life. The reason for their offense therefore lies not in Christ, but in themselves: they do not believe. They depend upon human, carnal understanding and interpretation of everything about them; they refuse to let the Spirit of Christ work in them and give them life. From the beginning Jesus knew that there were such among His disciples as were no true believers; from the beginning also He knew His betrayer. Once more His earnest warning goes out to them that coming to Christ is a gift of God, who draws men through faith. The fact that there are unbelievers even among the disciples is a proof of the statement that no one can believe unless he receives this faith from the Father, that no one can come to Christ by his own strength. Note: The result of freely preaching the Gospel of the unvarnished truth as to the way of salvation is ever this, that some are offended; their self-righteousness and pride rebels against the idea of free grace and mercy.

The loyalty of the Twelve:

John 6:66-71

66 From that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him. 67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? 68 Then Simon Peter answered Him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. 69 And we believe and are sure that Thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. 70 Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? 71 He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray Him, being one of the twelve.


John 1:10-13; John 5:19-29; John 15:18-19; Luke 8:9-15; John 13:21-30

In spite of the warning of Jesus, a great many of those that had followed Him for some time deliberately turned from Jesus and no longer accompanied Him on His preaching-trips. They gave up their adherence to Christ, they withdrew openly from His presence. They had not stood the test of faith. It is ever thus. In the midst of the true believers there are always some whose faith is not sound, because it is not based upon the words and works of Jesus only. Jesus now turned to the Twelve, to the apostles whom He had chosen with such great care. They were here weathering a crisis, and He put the question to them, as well that they might be confirmed in their faith, as that He might be gladdened by their confession of it. His words are partly a question, partly an affirmation: Surely you do not want to go away also! And impetuous Peter, deeply moved by the defection of the great number, answers in the name of the Twelve: Lord, to whom shall we go away? The words of eternal life Thou hast; and we have believed and are certain in our knowledge that Thou art the Christ, the Holy One, the living Son of God, the Messiah of the world. The apostles had not taken offense at the words of Christ. In the midst of apostasy and hostility the faith of the true believers is approved. It is at such times that they cling all the more closely to the Rock of their salvation, not in sentimental emotion, but in sound trust in His Word, the Gospel of eternal life. Every one that has truly learned and gotten the firm conviction that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the promised Redeemer of the world, has no intention, no desire to go away from Him. The truth and power of the Word has fully taken possession of his heart and mind. Note: Confession in Christ, the Savior, is confession in Christ, the Son of God, true God with the Father and the Holy Ghost. The answer of Jesus upon the glorious confession of Peter was charged with deep feeling and carried a warning, especially to one of the Twelve. For although Jesus had chosen them all in the same way and with the same seriousness, yet one of them was a devil at heart, and was merely hiding his denial and hostility under the hypocritical mask of loyalty. That was Judas Iscariot. In him the devil lived and had free play, he was Satan’s willing victim and tool. That is a truly devilish crime, if a disciple, a believer, such as Judas was, that actually acknowledges Jesus as the Christ and has had many an experience in his Christian life, finally gives up his belief in the Savior and becomes an apostate. The example of Judas serves as an earnest warning to watch and to pray, lest faith be taken away and we commit the sin of Judas, betray our Lord and Savior.


Jesus feeds five thousand men, walks on the Sea of Galilee, proclaims Himself as the Bread of Life in the school of Capernaum, corrects the false offense of many of His followers, and hears the confession of loyalty from Peter.

Related Kretzmann Article

Chapter 7

Verses 1-9

The unbelief of Christ’s relatives

The sneers of unbelief:

John 7:1-5

1 After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for He would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill Him. Now the Jew’s feast of tabernacles was at hand. His brethren therefore said unto Him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that Thy disciples also may see the works that Thou doest. For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If Thou do these things, shew Thyself to the world. For neither did His brethren believe in Him.


John 5:18; Leviticus 23:33-44; Matthew 12:46-50; Matthew 13:54-57; Mark 3:20-21; Mark 6:1-6; Galatians 1:19; Acts 15:13; James 1:1; Jude 1-2

The evangelist includes a space of about six months in one short sentence. Jesus had been at Jerusalem for the Feast of Purim, returning immediately to Galilee, where He delivered His great sermon on the Bread of Life, after the feeding of the five thousand. He remained in Galilee on account of the open hostility of the Jewish leaders in Judea, for it was an open secret that they were seeking to take His life. Meanwhile, however, the Feast of Tabernacles was approaching. This was the third great festival of the Jewish calendar, a great harvest festival, with special reference to the sojourn of the children of Israel in the wilderness. It was held on the 15th day of the seventh month, Tishri or Ethanim (October), and lasted seven days. The first day was a Sabbath with an holy convocation, and also the eighth day. Being the last harvest feast of thankfulness, it was the most joyous of all festive seasons in Israel. All the people erected booths made of boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm-trees, and the boughs of thick trees and willows of the brook, Leviticus 23:40. Christ’s brothers (half-brothers, cousins) took the opportunity to jeer at Him. A prophet of the Jews would be expected to perform his ministry, not in far-away Galilee, which was still known as the Galilee of the Gentiles, but in Jerusalem. Since Jesus therefore openly made the claim that He was a great Prophet, these brothers sneeringly urged Him to go to Judea and there publicly, before the whole world, reveal Himself as the King of Israel. His disciples would then also have a further chance to see miracles which He would perform in the capital to establish His position. The brothers of Jesus try to back up their challenge with a common saying, that no one does things in secret and then demands public recognition. Their argument was that He should not confine His activities to hidden and far-away corners, if He wanted to be accepted as the Messiah. He should show Himself and His miracles in public, before the whole world. The brothers of Jesus thus revealed their unbelief in Him and His work.

The refusal of Jesus:

John 7:6-9

Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready. The world cannot hate you; but Me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil. Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast: for My time is not yet full come. When He had said these words unto them, He abode still in Galilee.


John 15:18-19; John 17:14-17; 1 John 3:13; James 4:1-10; John 3:14-19; Exodus 23:14-17

Jesus refused to listen to the proposals of His brothers. His time for revealing Himself publicly, especially in the manner which their suggestion implied, had not yet come. In the sense of their words He never wanted to become King of Israel, a temporal, earthly ruler. In His own way and at His own time He wanted to reveal Himself as the Son of God and the Savior of the world. But for His brothers it was always time to show themselves before the world. In the disposition which they exhibited at that time, they fitted in very well with the other mockers and scoffers. They were in no danger, for they were among friends in Jerusalem. The world, the wicked, hostile Jewish leaders, could not hate the brothers, for they shared the same opinion, they adhered to the same idea. But the testimony of Jesus concerning the works of this same world branded Him in their eyes as an enemy, whom they therefore hated with all the intensity of the hatred of darkness for the light. If Jesus had merely referred to notorious sins, blasphemy, murder, robbery, adultery, the leaders of the Jews would have agreed with Him readily, holding up, at the same time, pious hands in sanctimonious horror over the depravity of the rabble. But since Jesus points a revealing finger at them and rebukes their hypocrisy and lack of true charity, they are scandalized at His insinuations, and all the more, since their own consciences could not gainsay His words. As long as a preacher speaks in general terms of depravity and sin, the assenting nods come from all directions, but when he makes the application to the individual, hidden sins and holds forth on the personal responsibility, the situation changes very quickly. But Jesus urged His brothers to go up to Jerusalem, to attend to their duty as members of the Jewish Church. His time for manifesting Himself publicly had not yet come, and He did not wish to go up for the display which they believed He should make in establishing His claims. For the time being, He stayed in Galilee.

Verses 10-53

Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles

The murmuring concerning Jesus:

John 7:10-13

10 But when His brethren were gone up, then went He also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. 11 Then the Jews sought Him at the feast, and said, Where is He? 12 And there was much murmuring among the people concerning Him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but He deceiveth the people. 13 Howbeit no man spake openly of Him for fear of the Jews.


John 6:22-71; John 7:40-52; John 9:16; John 10:19-21; John 11:55-56; John 12:37-43

Jesus let His brothers, with their peculiar ideas concerning Messianic revelations, go up to the capital alone. But after they were gone, He started out on His journey to the feast, with none of the publicity which they had recommended. It was for that reason that He had refused to go with them openly, because the attention which it would draw on the way and on His arrival in Jerusalem would not be beneficial to the cause. He went secretly, in order not to cause excitement and to irritate the Jews into such a mental condition that they would carry out their murderous design at once. The object of His journey was only to teach in Jerusalem once more, to preach the Gospel of redemption through His Word and work. But many of the Jews were expecting Him; they were making inquiries concerning Him and His whereabouts. But all this was done quietly, in order not to arouse attention. Even the disputatious murmuring and wrangling concerning Him and His work was done under cover. Some in the multitude took His part, considering Him a good man, whose intentions could not be bad; others just as vehemently denounced Him as a seducer and deceiver of the people. But all this had to be done in strict secrecy; their discussions had to be suppressed and be carried on in low tones. All waited for the authorities of the Church to give their decision. Note: The unbelievers of all times may be classified in much the same manner as in this passage. The one class believes Jesus to be a champion of virtue, the other holds the opinion that He is a deliberate liar and cheat.

The appearance of Jesus at the festival:

John 7:14-19

14 Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught. 15 And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned? 16 Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not Mine, but His that sent Me. 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. 18 He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but He that seeketh His glory that sent Him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him. 19 Did not Moses give you the Law, and yet none of you keepeth the Law? Why go ye about to kill Me?


John 7:43-46; Luke 2:41-47; Matthew 13:53-54; John 10:22-42

Since the atmosphere was now cleared of any danger of a carnal uprising, Jesus felt no hesitation about going up to the Temple about the middle of the festival-week and doing His work as Teacher, attending to the duties of His prophetic office. He did this in the face of Jewish hostility, because it was part of the labor of love which He had come to perform, though His human nature may have had scruples and fears. “St. John describes this for consolation, that no one should concern himself about it and worry, if God gives Himself the semblance of weakness and the world glories and boasts; you must get used to it; also, if the Christians, but especially the preachers, are weak and shy, and their adversaries, the great, powerful men, paw and threaten. That is nothing new, and it does not happen only to us, but the prophets and apostles had the same experience that they seemed weak before the tyrants, but in their weakness they were strongest; yea, it happened thus even to Christ the Lord, who is a Lord of all prophets and apostles. He feigns weakness, just as though He wanted to give up His office of preaching and not be obedient to God, and as though He were badly terrified; while He, in that same weakness, went directly forward.” [Luther, 8, 20]. Not only the fact that Jesus taught, but especially the content of His teaching surprised the Jews. They asked one another where this man had gotten His knowledge. He had not taken the course which was prescribed for the regular scribes and rabbis, and yet He could teach. “The Jewish learning consisted in the knowledge of their own Scriptures and the traditions of their elders. In this learning our blessed Lord excelled. No person ever spoke with more grace and dignity, or knew better how to make a more proper use, or a happier application, of Jewish allegories and parables; because none ever penetrated the sense of the Scriptures as He did; none ever cited them more successfully, or ever showed their accomplishment in so complete and satisfactory a manner. As these branches of learning were taught at the Jewish schools, and our Lord had never attended there, they were astonished to find Him excelling in that sort of learning, of which they themselves professed to be the sole teachers.” [Clarke, Commentary, 5, 568]. Jesus gave the Jews an explanation of this wonderful feat. The teaching which He delivered before them had its source not in His own knowledge, but in Him that sent Him. He was not giving them a summary of human ideas and philosophy, but the eternal truth of His heavenly Father. Note the careful way in which Christ expresses Himself: it is His doctrine, and yet it is not His doctrine. What He was teaching was the truth, and He delivered it with the firm conviction of its eternal truth; and incidentally it was the revelation of the innermost essence of God. This same conviction must live in the heart of every true preacher of the Gospel. “In the same manner I say also: The Gospel is mine, to distinguish it from the doctrine of all other preachers that otherwise do not hold my doctrine. Therefore I say: This is mine, Luther’s, doctrine; and yet I say also: It is not my doctrine, it is not in my hand, but it is the gift of God. For I did not invent it out of my head, it did not grow in my garden, nor bubble up out of my fountain, nor was it born out of me; but it is God’s gift, and not an invention of men. Thus both sayings are true: The doctrine is mine, and yet it is not mine, for it is God’s, the heavenly Father’s, and yet I preach and teach such doctrine.” [Luther, 8, 27].

Jesus now suggests to the Jews a test by which they may try out the truth of His doctrine. The Jews were always boasting of the Law, of the will of God. Here was a chance to put the claims of Jesus to a test. They should take the will of God and earnestly begin the practise of it, they should bend all their efforts toward fulfilling the Law. The first result of such endeavor would be that they must realize their utter inability to keep it properly. Every one that tries to merit salvation by keeping the will of God in the Law will soon come to the conclusion that it is beyond human ability. Only the doctrine of Jesus, the Gospel, will give strength to fulfil the will of God. And therefrom will follow the second conclusion, that the doctrine of Jesus must be from God, that He has divine authority for His teaching and does not present His own philosophy. Jesus here places Himself in direct contrast to preachers that preach their own wisdom. There are such that preach their own mind, teach their own ideas, and they have only one aim: they strive after their own glory. That is true of all the modern so-called preachers that feed the people the husks of their own religious systems, that have discourses on every question under the sun but that which has reference to the salvation of their hearers. There is no honor and glory before men in preaching the old-fashioned Gospel of the forgiveness of sins through the merits of Christ, and therefore these preachers select such topics as will give them opportunity to display their wit or their learning, or the absence of both. They want a great name before men, and cheap notoriety they usually achieve. But with Christ (and with all true Christian preachers) it is different. Christ is seeking the glory of God, therefore He is true, sure, faithful, dependable, and there is no unrighteousness in Him. Only one that leads a morally blameless life is properly a preacher of divine truth, only he will work in the right manner for the glory of God. But the Jews, far from practising the will of God and living up to its injunctions, did not keep the Law. Their leaders were even then making plans to remove Jesus, to put Him out of the way by murdering Him. The Jews are a picture of all self-righteous people in the world. They insist upon outward order, piety and right moral living, but they are opposed to the doctrine of Christ. But this attitude proves that they are not sincere in their pretensions. If they would make an honest effort to fulfil the entire Law in all its mandates and implications, they would find out how utterly helpless they are, and would turn to the Gospel as the one means of salvation. It is only he that accepts the Gospel and believes its glorious message that can hope in any way to fulfil the will of God.

A reference to the healing of the sick man:

John 7:20-24

20 The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill Thee? 21 Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel. 22 Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the Sabbath day circumcise a man. 23 If a man on the Sabbath day receive circumcision, that the Law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the Sabbath day? 24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.


John 5:18; John 7:1; John 8:48-59; John 10:19-21; Mark 3:22-30

The remarks of Jesus were directed principally to the leaders of the Jews, some of whom were always present whenever He taught. The fact that the Lord read their thoughts so easily and openly accused them of their heinous intention aroused the Jews. Their bad conscience prompted them to deny vociferously and vehemently that they had harbored such intention. They told Him that He must be possessed with an evil spirit even to insinuate such a thing. But Jesus refuses to be turned aside from His argument. He knows exactly when their hostility entered into this stage. A matter of six months ago He performed one single miracle, on account of which they were astonished and offended; it was His healing of the man on the Sabbath. But they were to take their own case. They had the rite of circumcision, an ordinance which went beyond Moses, to the patriarchs, but which Moses formally codified. This rite continued through all their generations and regularly set aside the Sabbath law. For circumcision involved an act, a work, and yet it was performed on the Sabbath, if the time so required. This was not considered a breaking of the Sabbath law, because the Jewish baby was thereby received into the congregation. In the case of circumcision it was only ceremonial purity which was effected, but Jesus had made the whole man well on the Sabbath. He therefore scored the sanctimoniousness of the Jews in emphasizing the outward observance of the Sabbath, while they actually transgressed the letter of the Law with every Sabbath circumcision, and then threw up their hands in horror at the great benefit which Christ had granted to the sick man on the Sabbath. Such sanctimonious exclusiveness is the very essence of hypocrisy and lacks altogether that mercy which the Lord demands rather than sacrifice. The Lord therefore tells them that they should consider and weigh the facts of the evidence properly. They should not judge according to appearances, as matters appear on the surface, at first glance. A righteous and true judgment depends upon careful consideration and weighing of all evidence. This same argument should be used against the fanatics of all kinds in our days. They have, in regard to many questions, lost all sense of proportion and must be reminded of the fundamental principles.

The origin of Jesus:

John 7:25-30

25 Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this He, whom they seek to kill? 26 But, lo, He speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto Him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ? 27 Howbeit we know this man whence He is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence He is. 28 Then cried Jesus in the temple as He taught, saying, Ye both know Me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of Myself, but He that sent Me is true, whom ye know not. 29 But I know Him: for I am from Him, and He hath sent Me. 30 Then they sought to take Him: but no man laid hands on Him, because His hour was not yet come.


John 5:18; Luke 22:52-53; John 18:19-20; John 7:40-52; John 8:23-30; John 8:42; John 8:54-55

A diversion was created at this point by the inquiry of some local people that may have come upon the scene at that moment. They were surprised at Christ’s teaching so openly. He was surely the man whom the chief men in the nation had sought to kill and were even then planning to put out of the way. The inference was that the rulers had been convinced as to the truth of Christ’s claims and were reconsidering their intention of putting Him to death. But this idea, in turn, is dismissed, as the babblers continue to express their conviction that they knew the origin of this man who was teaching before them; but concerning the Christ, the Messiah, the supposition had gained ground that no one would know whence He would come. This idea was due to a misunderstanding of some Old Testament passages referring to the eternity of the Messiah and to sections of apocryphal literature which were circulating among the Jews in those days. In this man Jesus they saw nothing miraculous. His powerful testimony of His heavenly origin they did not believe, and the miracles which He did in healing the sick were insignificant in their eyes. Their position is shared by a great many modern critics, the foolishness of whose reason renders them just as blind. Jesus, in the midst of this excited babel of voices, purposely cried out loudly at this point, to attract attention to Himself and to His words. For the sake of getting their interest, He places Himself on their side. They thought they knew whence He was; a bit of scornful irony. Their entire ideas concerning the Messiah were indistinct and hazy, and just as foolish were their conjectures as to His origin. They should know that Jesus did not presume upon the mission which He is now trying to fulfil. It is in truth and beyond all doubt God that sent Him. But of the essence of this God, the heavenly Father, they had not the faintest idea in spite of all their boasting. He that does not know the Son cannot understand the essence of the Father. Jesus is well acquainted with the Father, for He has His ministry, His ambassadorship, from Him. For the Jews to draw this conclusion from their knowledge of Christ’s origin that He was a self-constituted prophet and therefore not the Messiah, is to make the biggest mistake that is possible in the wide world. This frank statement again made the Jews angry; they sought to seize Him; their hands fairly itched to be laid upon Him in revenging fury. But they were held back by a power that lamed their hands, for the hour of Jesus had not yet come. The time when He should enter into the glory of His Father by the path of suffering and death was not yet at hand. The enemies of Christ can do nothing unless God gives them permission.

The anxiety of the Pharisees:

John 7:31-36

31 And many of the people believed on Him, and said, When Christ cometh, will He do more miracles than these which this man hath done? 32 The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning Him; and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take Him. 33 Then said Jesus unto them, Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto Him that sent Me. 34 Ye shall seek Me, and shall not find Me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come. 35 Then said the Jews among themselves, Whither will He go, that we shall not find Him? will He go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles? 36 What manner of saying is this that He said, Ye shall seek Me, and shall not find Me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come?


John 2:23-25; John 6:14; John 6:66-69; John 12:42-43; John 20:30-31; John 8:21-30

The immediate result of Christ’s testimony regarding Himself was that He gained believers, disciples, people who were sure that, should Christ come later, as the rulers were trying to make the Jews believe, He would not be able to do greater miracles than this man. The Word of God is never without fruit. There are always some that are converted by the power of its arguments, even if the majority of men in the world thrust their salvation from them. But now the word was passed to the Pharisees that many people were yielding to the persuasion of Christ’s preaching, that they were spreading their conviction in covert discussions and gaining new adherents. This state of affairs displeased them very highly, and they immediately brought the matter to the attention of the Sanhedrin for quick action. The result was that servants, very likely members of the Temple-guard, were dispatched to apprehend Jesus. The purpose of the Jewish rulers was actually to arrest Jesus and thus to put an end to His teaching. But Jesus, in the presence of these very men that came to arrest Him, continued His testimony. It would be only a short while, until His earthly work would be accomplished, until His work as Substitute for all mankind on earth would be finished. But when the salvation would have been gained, then He would return to His heavenly Father, who had sent and commissioned Him for His great work. It was an urgent invitation to all hearers to make use of the short time of grace still remaining. For the hour would come, as Jesus warningly calls out to them, that they would seek Him, incidentally reproaching themselves bitterly for their blindness. Cp. Luke 23:29-30. In the midst of the terrors preceding the final destruction of Jerusalem the Jews clung with the hope of despair to the promise of their foolish leaders that the Messiah would yet come to liberate them. But it was a delusion and a false hope. It was too late. They had rejected the true Messiah and could expect no salvation from one that was false. Every person that neglects the time and opportunity when salvation and mercy is offered to him will receive his punishment in this way, that he will realize his folly when it is too late, when Christ has withdrawn from him and he vainly curses his rejection of the salvation earned for him also. The Lord tells the Jews that it will be impossible for them to come to the place where He would be at that time. They cannot follow Him, cannot enter into heaven to seek Him. No unbeliever can expect to enter into heaven, if he consistently rejects Jesus and His mercy; the place of eternal bliss and glory will be altogether inaccessible to him. The Jews again did not understand the Savior. Their minds were so steeped in their carnal understanding of the teaching which they usually heard that they had lost the ability to penetrate into spiritual matters. They foolishly conjectured that His going away meant that He intended to visit the Jews that lived in the so-called Diaspora, in other countries outside of Palestine, in Egypt, Asia Minor, and elsewhere, and that He probably would try to have the Gentiles accept His doctrine, since He had such little success with His own countrymen. Their entire talk was intended as mockery, but it proved to contain a grain of truth, and was in a manner of speaking prophetical. It actually did happen as the Jews here jeeringly intimated. Since they rejected the Word of salvation, the Lord turned to the Gentiles and issued to them the full and free call to redemption in His blood. And as for these scoffers, they soon found out, they and their children, that God is not mocked.

Jesus the Living Water:

John 7:37-39

37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. 38 He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. 39 (But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)


Leviticus 23:33-36; Isaiah 44:3-4; Isaiah 58:11; John 4:1-15; Revelation 7:13-17; Revelation 21:1-6; Revelation 22:1-5; Acts 2:29-39

It was on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, the “day of the great Hosannah,” on which the leaves of the willows and the other branches that had been used for the building of the booths were shaken off and the palm branches were waved against the altar, when the priests went around the altar seven times in a procession of thankfulness, and when a priest was commissioned to get a pitcher of water from the pool of Siloam and then pour it out at the side of the altar. All these ceremonies had been introduced in the course of time, and the Jewish teachers had explained some of them, especially the last, as a symbol which would find its fulfilment in the days of the Messiah. The proclamation of Jesus at this point was therefore very important and significant. He not only applied the words Isaiah 12:3 to Himself, but indicated that all other prophecies which were connected with this festival had found their fulfilment in Him. The water of the pool of Siloam was considered living water, since it was replenished from time to time by means of a natural siphon from a spring in the rock. But, after all, it was only earthly water, which could quench the thirst for only a short while. But those whose soul thirsts for God, as the hart panteth after the waterbrooks, Psalm 42:1-2, must go to the Savior for their soul’s refreshment. For in the salvation earned through Christ’s Passion and death there is full satisfaction for the desire of all humble souls for mercy and forgiveness. Jesus is the fountain of living water, for in Him there is true, everlasting life. Every one that accepts Him and His salvation will never again be tortured with thirst, for he will possess the fulness of God’s mercy. And that is not all. The believer will himself become a fountain of living water, Isaiah 58:11; Isaiah 44:3. The Spirit, who has entered into his heart in regeneration, has worked spiritual life in him. This life daily gains in strength and willingness. It must manifest itself in deeds of the Spirit, in good works. There will daily be a new and full supply of knowledge and love, through the work of the Holy Spirit, given to all believers. At that time indeed the great revelation of the Spirit, the Pentecostal miracle, had not yet taken place; Jesus had not yet finished His earthly work, to enter into the glory of His Father. But the work of the Spirit in the Word is efficient at all times; sanctification is His peculiar office and ministry. The Spirit has now been revealed as He that glorified Christ. We have a greater measure of His manifestations in our days than the believers of the Old Testament had, Joel 2:28. “At the time when Jesus preached, He promised the Holy Spirit, and therefore the Holy Spirit was not yet there; not that He was not in existence in His nature, in heaven, but that He was not manifested in His revelation and in His work. For that is the special work and office of the Holy Spirit that He reveal and glorify Christ, that He preach and give testimony concerning Him. This office was then not yet in active working; the office of glorifying Christ the Lord was not yet in use, that is, the preaching of the forgiveness of sins, and how one may be delivered from death, have comfort and joy in Christ, that it concerns us: all this was at that time unheard of and not mentioned; that deliverance, salvation, righteousness, joy, and life should be given us through that man, Christ, whom people did not know at that time.” [Luther, 8, 29].

The effect of the sermon:

John 7:40-44

40 Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet. 41 Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee? 42 Hath not the Scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was? 43 So there was a division among the people because of Him. 44 And some of them would have taken Him; but no man laid hands on Him.


Deuteronomy 18:15; John 1:19-34; John 6:14-15; Matthew 21:1-11; John 4:19-26; John 7:25-26; Matthew 16:13-16; John 11:25-27; John 20:30-31; Matthew 1:1; Luke 1:31-32; Revelation 22:16

Both the words and the manner of Jesus upon this occasion made a profound impression, but the people were impressed in various ways. Some of them were ready to believe that He was that great prophet of whom Moses had prophesied, Deuteronomy 18:15, whom they did not identify with the Messiah. Others had gained the conviction that He must be the Christ Himself. That was a fine confession of faith. But others were present that ridiculed His Galilean ancestry, as they believed that Jesus had been born in Galilee. They were familiar with the prophecy according to which the Messiah was to be born at Bethlehem, and their assumption as to His Galilean derivation clashed with this prophecy. So public opinion was divided on this occasion. Note: Whenever there is a difference of opinion in regard to the person and office of Christ, or in regard to any doctrine of the Gospel, the reason is not to be sought on the part of Jesus, but in the perverse understanding of man. A careful searching of Scriptures and a diligent comparison of the various parts of Scriptures will always result in absolute clearness with regard to all the doctrines which are necessary for salvation. Where this is not done, the judgment pronounced upon unbelievers will strike such people, and their understanding will be darkened all the more with the passing of time. Some of the Jews in the multitude were so hardened to the proclamation of the Gospel that they wanted to arrest Him, but the intention died in its inception, and the uplifted hands sank down powerlessly. God Himself tied their hands, for the hour of Jesus was not yet come.

The report of the guard:

John 7:45-53

45 Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought Him? 46 The officers answered, Never man spake like this man. 47 Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived? 48 Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on Him? 49 But this people who knoweth not the Law are cursed. 50 Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,) 51 Doth our Law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth? 52 They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet. 53 And every man went unto his own house.


Matthew 7:28-29; Matthew 13:53-54; John 12:37-43; John 3:1-21; John 19:38-42; Matthew 2

The Temple-guards that had been commissioned with the arrest of the Lord had been willing enough to perform their task. They had kept a close watch upon Jesus these four days. But the very fact that they were in the neighborhood of Jesus and thus heard much of His teaching had a powerful effect upon them. They returned to their masters without having carried out their commission. They were received with the reproachful question: Why brought ye Him not? The guards gave no direct answer, but tried to evade the question with the excuse that no mere man had ever spoken like this man Jesus. It was, in a way, a confession of His divinity. They were not yet openly won for His cause, but they also could no longer take the part of His adversaries. The Word of God is mighty in the midst of its enemies. They had felt the force, the divine power of His words. But their apology only rouses the wrath of the Jewish rulers. Was it possible, they ask, that even these trusted henchmen were deluded and deceived? What right have these subordinates to have a mind of their own? They should simply accept what their leaders tell them and not be influenced by the opinion of the masses. For that low crowd, in the opinion of the Pharisees, that did not know the Law and all the traditions as they themselves did, were a cursed lot, an execrable rabble. Note: The arguments here advanced by the Jewish leaders sound exactly like those of the so-called fashionable Christians in our days that have thrown the Bible overboard as the inspired Word of God and have only pity for the poor deluded, unlearned Lutherans and their like that insist upon accepting Jesus as the Savior of the world, through the atonement made by His blood.

It was at this point that Nicodemus, who had gotten his information concerning heavenly things directly from Jesus and knew what he was talking about, interfered. Though he was a member of the Pharisees, he did not share their views in this matter. He demanded whether it was in accordance with the Law of which they were continually boasting to condemn a man without giving him a fair hearing. It is characteristic of the hypocrites in high places that they refuse to accept any opinion but their own. Their conceit is equaled only by their denseness. But the objection of Nicodemus took them aback somewhat. They had not expected opposition in their own midst. Angrily they tell him that he himself seems to be becoming a Galilean, a follower of this hated Nazarene. They meant to say that despised Galilee was not the true country of the prophets, that most of them were from Judea and Jerusalem. But their assertion was too strong. There were one or two exceptions to the rule which they state so arbitrarily. The Prophet Jonah came from Galilee. And there was a prophecy stating that the light of the Messiah would shine upon that northern country in a most marvelous manner, Isaiah 9:1-2. And so the meeting of the Sanhedrin ended in a deadlock; it broke up without further action against Jesus. The guiding hand of God is plainly seen in all the circumstances of this incident.


Jesus reproves the unbelief of His brothers, journeys to the Feast of Tabernacles at Jerusalem, and testifies concerning His person and office, gaining some adherents and confounding even the servants of the Sanhedrin.

Chapter 8

Verses 1-11

The woman taken in adultery

The arraignment of the guilty woman:

John 8:1-6

1 Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. And early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came unto Him; and He sat down, and taught them. And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto Him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto Him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the Law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest Thou? This they said, tempting Him, that they might have to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground, as though He heard them not.


Luke 21:37-38; Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22-24; Leviticus 21:9; Ezekiel 16:38,40; Matthew 16:1-4

The members of the Sanhedrin, after the excited discussion which broke up their meeting, went each one to his house. But Jesus, having no home or definite place of sojourn in Jerusalem, went to the Mount of Olives, very likely to the town of Bethany, where His friends Martha, Mary, and Lazarus lived, in whose house He was always a welcome guest. But very early the next morning, as soon as the Temple-gates were opened for the morning sacrifices, He was back again, to continue His work of teaching the people. The Lord was indefatigable in His labors for the salvation of mankind, a shining example to all His servants. Jesus had no trouble in getting an audience; all the people that came to the Temple went to Him, and He addressed the assembly, teaching them words of eternal life. As a teacher in the Temple-school, as a teacher in the house of God, He sat before the people and instructed them. But the scribes and Pharisees, whose vindictive hatred would hardly give them any rest, were planning some way of taking the Lord unawares and ruining His standing with the common people. They brought an adulteress and placed her before Him, indicating that they were arraigning her before Him as judge. This was an altogether irregular proceeding, for they had their church-courts, as well as their civil judges; but they were seeking occasion against Him. The woman was placed in the midst, to expose her shame before all, whereupon they stated their accusation, incidentally addressing Jesus, with mock courtesy, as “teacher.” There could be no doubt as to the guilt of the woman; it was a plain case of a flagrant transgression. But to the scribes and Pharisees the fate of the woman evidently was a secondary consideration, especially since the old church-laws were no longer carried out in all their stringency. They state the ordinance of Moses in a case of this kind, cp. Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22-24; Leviticus 21:9; Ezekiel 16:38,40, but in a way implying a contrast between the Old Testament teacher and Jesus, for their question is: What now sayest Thou? It was a malicious temptation, and in no way an innocent questioning; their object was to find some accusation against Him. “Where shall He now go, the poor man Christ, when every avenue of escape is shut off? If He should keep silence, that would not agree very well. If He says Yes, it is against His preaching; if He says No, it is against Moses.” [Luther, 8, 125]. But His enemies were disappointed, for Jesus, having stooped down, wrote on the ground with His finger, not for shame of the deed itself and the brazen hardness of the persecutors, as has been stated, but in order to convey to them, in a most emphatic way, that He wanted nothing to do with this matter, that it in no way concerned Him, but was a matter for their courts. The punishment of adultery was the business of the government. The idea of inveigling Him into an apparent opposition to the Law of Moses did not appeal to Him. It was a deliberate, an accusing silence. Note: If only all people to whose attention the shame and disgrace of a neighbor’s sin is brought would assume at once this reproachful silence! It would effectually stop malignant gossiping.

The Savior’s solution:

John 8:7-11

So when they continued asking Him, He lifted up Himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had lifted up Himself, and saw none but the woman, He said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? 11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.


Deuteronomy 17:6-7; Romans 2:1-5; John 3:14-18

The fact that the Lord so pointedly ignored their question nettled the scribes and Pharisees. They persisted in their questioning; their importunity bordered on impudence. And so the Lord finally straightened up and put a question to them, in the form of a permission to carry out their aim with respect to the accused woman. The sinless one of them should cast the first stone upon the woman. Christ did not shield, did not excuse the sinner; He did not utter one word in extenuation of her guilt. But His words were a most emphatic and cutting reproof for the self-sufficient Pharisees that were often guilty, in secret, of all the sins in the Decalog. Having made this statement, the Lord once more bent down and wrote on the ground. Whether He wrote actual words and connected sentences or merely traced figures in the sand, is an idle speculation. But His manner conveyed the reproof more loudly than if He had shouted it, condemning them and their self-righteous sanctimoniousness. And the effect was all that could be desired. For once, under the prodding of Christ’s words, the consciences of the scribes and Pharisees became active. Undoubtedly the dignity and majesty, the solemn, searching earnestness of the Lord did much to add to the weight of His rebuke. And so, one by one, they began to file out of the hall, the older ones leading, and the others following in due course. They might have brazened the matter out before others, before mere men, but they made a miserable failure of it before the majesty of Jesus. “This, then, is the difference between the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of the world, that Christ makes all men sinners. But He does not let that be the end, but it follows that He absolves her.” [Luther, 8, 131]. All the accusers having left, and the audience and the disciples having removed to a respectful distance, there was only Jesus and the woman left in the area, in the midst of the hall where this incident took place. And Jesus now purposely permitted the silence to continue, in order to prove effective. For He was most truly angry and provoked at the sin, but His Savior’s heart was overflowing with mercy and love for the sinner. But at last Jesus straightened up once more and addressed Himself to the woman, who was now standing there in the abject misery and shame of her repentance. He asked her: Where are they? Has no man condemned thee? And when she answered: None, Lord, thus voicing her humble pleading for mercy and her belief in Him as the Savior of sinners, He spoke the words of absolution. Neither would He condemn her, although He, the Sinless One, might well have done so; not the death, but the life of sinners, was the object of Christ’s work. But He adds an emphatic warning that she should go, and sin no more. He that sins after receiving the grace of the Savior, he that wilfully and deliberately persists in spurning the merciful love of the Redeemer of which He once became the partaker, has only himself to blame, if the time of grace is brought to a sudden close and his unbelief is punished in accordance with the magnitude of its guilt. Note: This story teaches, in a most effective manner, the necessity of practising merciful charity toward the fallen sinner and to win him back, if possible, to the way of righteousness. The uncharitable attitude which is often taken, by so-called Christians, toward those that have fallen, has, times without number, resulted in the final hardening of the sinner’s heart, while the willingness to help in a spirit of Christlike forgiveness has resulted in making a new person. “Therefore only those sinners belong into the kingdom of Christ that acknowledge and feel their sins, and then eagerly catch at the word of Christ which He here speaks and says: I do not condemn thee; they are the kingdom of Christ. He does not permit the saints to enter, He blows them all out, He thrusts everything out of the Church that wants to be holy in itself. But if sinners enter, they do not remain sinners, He places the mantle (of His righteousness) over them and says: Wherever thou hast sinned, I forgive thee thy sin, and cover it over.” [Luther, 8, 134].

Verses 12-30

Jesus the Light of the world

Christ’s statement and the Jews’ objection:

John 8:12-16

12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the Light of the world: he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. 13 The Pharisees therefore said unto Him, Thou bearest record of Thyself; Thy record is not true. 14 Jesus answered and said unto them, Though I bear record of Myself, yet My record is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go. 15 Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man. 16 And yet if I judge, My judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent Me.


John 1:1-18; Isaiah 42; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 60:3,19; Luke 2:22-32; John 12:35-36; 1 John 1:5-10; Exodus 3:14; John 4:26; John 6:20; John 6:35; John 6:41; John 6:48; John 6:51; John 8:24; John 8:28; John 8:58; John 9:9; John 10:7; John 10:9; John 10:11; John 10:14; John 11:25; John 13:19; John 14:6; John 15:1; John 15:5; John 18:5-6; John 18:8

After this incident of the woman and her accusers, Jesus was again at liberty to continue His teaching. The one company of Pharisees that had caused the interruption had left, but there were still some in the audience. In His discourse Jesus told His hearers: I am the Light of the world. He may have alluded to two ceremonies of the Jews. It was customary to light the four great candelabra in the Court of the Women on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, with appropriate ceremonies. Their light shone forth over the entire city and the vicinity and signified that salvation was to come from the Jews. But He may also have had reference to a ceremony on the day after the official close of the festival, the “feast of joy for the Law.” On that day all the sacred books were taken out of the chest where they were commonly kept, and a lighted candle was put in their place, in allusion to Proverbs 6:23 or Psalm 119:105. Jesus is the true Light of the world; from Him, as the Fountainhead and source of all spiritual enlightenment, the rays of salvation and glory have gone forth to illumine all men, John 1:7-9; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 60:3,19. Any follower, any believer in Jesus, has not merely a chart, but a Guide, an infallible Leader. He will never lead the way into darkness, but will scatter the darkness in the way of His followers. And He gives such light to the souls of men through faith in Him, that it will serve as a lodestar for them to the everlasting mansions of life above. All darkness of ignorance, infidelity, and sin is dispelled before the illumination of Christ in the Gospel, until finally the glorious light of heaven will definitely put an end to all hiding and obscuring veils and present the Savior in the everlasting glory of His work of redemption. The salvation of Christ therefore consists in this, that He gives the true, divine life. “To follow Christ means to obey His words, to preach that He has suffered and died for us; that is to obey His words in faith. He that believes on Him, clings to Him, trusts in Him, he will be saved, he follows Christ in faith, he holds on to the Light.” [Luther, 8, 142]. But this statement again offended the Pharisees in the audience. The fact itself they did not dare to assail, but they disputed its formal validity. A man’s testimony concerning himself has no value, it is no testimony, in fact. The answer of Jesus showed that He recognized the correctness of this axiom in general. But His case did not come under that rule, it was different on account of His divine origin. His testimony concerning Himself is true, because He knows whence He has come and where He is going. He has an existence, a being, which goes beyond birth and death. From another world He came down into this world, and, when His time is come, He will return to that other world whence He had His origin. Of these facts the Jews had no idea and understanding; their thoughts were chained to the conceptions of this life. And that was their own fault, since they refused to believe. Therefore it was impossible for them to do anything but to judge falsely with reference to Christ. They judge according to the flesh, according to appearances, without going into the essence of matters, though the latter was an absolute necessity in the case of Jesus. The Lord Himself, by contrast, condemns no man in His capacity as Savior. He confines Himself to witnessing, and does not sit in judgment, John 3:17. But if He does pronounce judgment, then His verdict is always correct and just. He did not come into the world for the purpose of judging, reproving, condemning the world, for He is the Light, the Salvation of the world. But He must sometimes set aside His original, His real purpose in and for this world, in order to condemn the children of unbelief. It is in such cases that His judgment is right and true, also for that reason since His Father, who sent Him, is in and with Him. The two are inseparably connected and united, even though Christ is now appearing in the lowliness and humility of His human nature.

An appeal to the Law of the Jews:

John 8:17-20

17 It is also written in your Law, that the testimony of two men is true. 18 I am one that bear witness of Myself, and the Father that sent Me beareth witness of Me. 19 Then said they unto Him, Where is Thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know Me, nor My Father: if ye had known Me, ye should have known My Father also. 20 These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as He taught in the temple: and no man laid hands on Him; for His hour was not yet come.


Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 17:6-7; Deuteronomy 19:15; John 1:10-11; John 7:25-31; John 14:1-14; John 16:1-4; 1 John 1

The Jews questioned the validity of Christ’s testimony concerning Himself. But Jesus would have them consider that their own Law, upon which they were always harping, came to His assistance. If the testimony of two witnesses to a certain matter agreed, the Law held the testimony to be valid, Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15. Now the Lord applies the passage to Himself. He Himself is His own first witness, and His second witness is the Father, of whom Jesus repeats that He has sent Him. Christ’s own consciousness and the power of God proclaiming itself in and through Him fully sufficed for the demands of the Law respecting exact testimony. But the Jews were still skeptical. They maintain that it is all very well for Him to allege that His Father is His second witness, and to hint at His supernatural existence, but the question is: Where is He? The Jews wanted some special manifestation and proof that God acknowledged Jesus as His Son, cp. John 12:28. Jesus does not give them a direct answer. They ought to have known whom He meant when He spoke of His Father and been reminded of the many miracles which established His relation to God beyond a doubt. Theirs was a wilful, malignant ignorance. The knowledge and acceptance of God and His whereabouts depends upon the knowledge and acceptance of Jesus. They professed to know this man Jesus who was bearing witness before them, but had they really known Him, they would necessarily have known the Father with whom He was inseparably connected. Belief in and knowledge of Jesus implies knowledge of and belief in the Father. When unbelievers speak of God, of the dispensations of Providence, etc., they do not understand and realize of what they are speaking. The words are hollow, meaningless phrases in their mouths. Only the true believers, that are united with Christ by the bonds of true faith, can have a true knowledge and idea of God. In Christ the Father is revealed. This saying of the Lord, which again seemed boastful to the Jews, so angered them that they were ready to apprehend Him, as He sat there in the Court of the Women, in the section where the treasury chests were placed. But no one could touch Him, since the hour which was set in the counsel of God was not yet come. Though all the enemies of Christ combine in a deliberate effort to harm the Gospel and to hinder its proclamation, they are powerless before His almighty will.

Christ’s going to the Father:

John 8:21-27

21 Then said Jesus again unto them, I go My way, and ye shall seek Me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come. 22 Then said the Jews, Will He kill Himself? because He saith, Whither I go, ye cannot come. 23 And He said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins. 25 Then said they unto Him, Who art Thou? And Jesus saith unto them, Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning. 26 I have many things to say and to judge of you: but He that sent Me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of Him. 27 They understood not that He spake to them of the Father.


John 7:25-36; John 16:4-11; John 3:18; John 3:31-36; Ephesians 2:1-3; 1 John 2:22-23; 1 John 4:1-3,15; Exodus 3:14; John 4:26; John 6:20; John 6:35; John 6:41; John 6:48; John 6:51; John 8:12; John 8:28; John 8:58; John 9:9; John 10:7; John 10:9; John 10:11; John 10:14; John 11:25; John 13:19; John 14:6; John 15:1; John 15:5; John 18:5-6; John 18:8

Jesus did not permit Himself to be disconcerted or in any way influenced by the enmity which was manifested in their bearing nor by the angry thoughts of their hearts, but continued His testimony, in the effort to make clear to them what the relation between Him and His Father implied. It was necessary for Him to speak with severity, because of the hardness of their hearts, but the Savior’s sympathy and mercy is evident in every sentence. Their time of grace was the present time, now, while He was in their midst. Now was the time to accept Him as the Messiah of the world. Later, when their time of grace will have come to an end, then they will search and look for Him, then they will frantically comb the country for the Messiah whom they have rejected. But it will be too late, and all their false Messiahs will not be able to bring them either temporal or spiritual salvation. They will therefore bring the judgment upon themselves that they will die in their sins. Their unbelief, the sin of sins, having rejected the Redeemer, all regrets would be too late; condemnation would come upon them entirely by their own fault. This fact finds its full application also to-day, when thousands and millions are fooling and frittering away their time of grace. The unbelievers cannot enter into heaven, the place of bliss, they cannot become partakers of eternal happiness. The only way, the only method, the only means of getting to heaven is Christ; he that does not accept Him is lost. The Jews were again hurt to the quick by this plain statement of the Lord. And they tried to vent their spite in mockery. Their insinuation that He contemplated suicide was a most malicious blasphemy, showing the meanness and carnal-mindedness of their hearts. Cp. John 7:35. The sustained loftiness of His thoughts contrasted all the more strongly with the sordidness of their usual line of contemplation. But Jesus disregarded the sneering interruption and pointed out to them what constituted the real cause of separation between Him and them. They were from beneath, from below, from this world, in the worst sense of the term. Their thoughts were wrapped up in the blind sinfulness of this world, wherefore they had no eyes for, and no understanding of, the matters which concerned heaven and eternity with Christ. Christ, being from above, with divine ideas and thoughts, was separated from them by a wide gulf. That the Jews did not believe in Christ could be explained only by their natural blindness and enmity toward God. Their origin and their associations were both brought out in their manner of thinking and acting. They are concerned with the matters of this world; Christ’s mind and thought is centered in the world to come. And now the Lord tells them why they would die in their sins, why their sins would prove the factor of their own condemnation. It is due to the fact that they do not and will not believe. For that is the one condition for obtaining salvation, to believe that it is Jesus, and Jesus only, in whom there is salvation. That is the object which brought Him down from heaven, and that is the great gift which He has earned for all men, the gift which can be secured by faith only. This statement of the Lord did not yet make things clear to the Jews; in a measure, it added to their bewilderment, since they could not associate this simple Nazarene with supernatural gifts. In their blindness they ask: Who art Thou? And Jesus told them: What I have told you from the beginning and always, that I am. He is above all, from the beginning, the Word which He is speaking to them; He is identified with that Word; that is His essence and the description of His person and office: the Word of God Incarnate. As such He still has many things to say to them; the revelations which He could give them concerning the Father and the Father’s will are so great and wonderful that the subject could never be exhausted. And He would also be obliged to judge, to condemn them because they refuse to believe on Him. They should know, however, in spite of their refusal to believe, that the Father who sent Him is true; there is no falseness, no deceitfulness in Him. There are certain matters which the Father, that sent Jesus, has given Him to say to the world, and this will He carries out. Even now the Jews did not understand the Lord; their understanding was darkened; they did not identify “Him that sent Me” with “the Father.” Note: By the reconciliation which Christ earned through His atonement the sins are no longer imputed to him that accepts this redemption; to him that refuses to believe, they remain imputed, not because the atonement has not been made, but because it is not accepted. Mark also, in the entire passage, the stately quiet of Jesus, while His words roll from His lips like the tolling of the bell of doom. The unbelievers load a terrible responsibility upon themselves in rejecting their Savior.

The distinguishing sign:

John 8:28-30

28 Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father hath taught Me, I speak these things. 29 And He that sent Me is with Me: the Father hath not left Me alone; for I do always those things that please Him. 30 As He spake these words, many believed on Him.


Numbers 21:4-9; John 3:14-17; John 12:27-36; John 19:16-19,28-30; John 7:14-18; Matthew 7:28-29; Exodus 3:14; John 4:26; John 6:20; John 6:35; John 6:41; John 6:48; John 6:51; John 8:12; John 8:24; John 8:58; John 9:9; John 10:7; John 10:9; John 10:11; John 10:14; John 11:25; John 13:19; John 14:6; John 15:1; John 15:5; John 18:5-6; John 18:8

In spite of all the enmity and the lack of understanding, the Lord continues to proclaim His message concerning Himself and His office in the world. He points forward to the great culmination of His labors in the world. The time would come that they would raise up the Son of Man, nail Him to the cross. Through this death He would enter into the glory of His Father. This fact would become a distinguishing mark. He that believes on the crucified Christ has the necessary spiritual understanding of the Gospel and its meaning. They that reject the crucified Christ will find that He will become their Judge. To them He will be revealed in the majesty of His divine power, and they will understand when it is too late that He did nothing in His labors on earth on His own initiative, by arrogant presumption, but that He had spoken only what the Father had taught Him to say. For the union between the two persons of the Godhead is so intimate that all their great undertakings for the salvation of mankind are done together. For although He has been sent out by the Father, yet the Father is with Him; there is a distinction of persons, but one divine essence. He is true to the purpose of the Father, to the divine will for the salvation of the world; and therefore His conduct pleases the Father at all times, there is perfect sympathy and correspondence between them. Now finally some of the divine truths penetrated into the hearts and minds of some of the hearers, and many were won for Christ. His Word, whenever and wherever it is preached, will always have some effect and success, on account of its inherent power.

Verses 31-59

The true liberty of the gospel

Bondage and liberty:

John 8:31-33

31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him, If ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. 33 They answered Him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest Thou, Ye shall be made free?


John 15:4-9; 2 John 9; 1 Timothy 4:16; John 1:14-17; Matthew 3:7-12; John 14:6; Romans 6:17-20; Romans 8:1-2; 2 Corinthians 3:12-18

Many of the Jews had indeed come to faith, but their minds were still held in the bondage of a carnal understanding. Their idea of discipleship was that of an external adherence to Christ, of professing allegiance to Him as their Leader. They were caught in the meshes of the same delusion which to this day holds the minds of so many so-called Christians captive. The continuing or remaining in the Word of Christ is the characteristic of the true disciples of Christ, the adhering strictly to the Word which He has left for our instruction in the gospels and epistles. There we find Jesus revealed, and through the understanding of Jesus as the Christ we have true knowledge, the knowledge of the truth; and that knowledge is the only factor which will give us true liberty. Without Christ, all men are servants, slaves of sin, Romans 6:17-20. But in Christ there is deliverance from sin, true freedom. Only those men are truly free that have accepted the salvation of Jesus; only they have a will which is interested in good works and able to perform them. That is the wonderful liberty of the Christian of which Luther wrote in such powerful words. But the Jews thought the Lord spoke of the liberty of the body from the tyranny of an earthly despot. They resented the inference as though they had ever been in bondage: Children of Abraham we are, and to no man have we ever been in bondage, in slavery. They forgot, for the moment, that they were subject to the Romans; they forgot also that their fathers had been in the power of the Egyptian, Babylonian, Syrian, and Roman conquerors. Since Abraham had received the promise of a descendant that should rule all nations, the Jews proudly called themselves children of kings. They resented even the idea as though they needed to be emancipated, to be set free. This answer of the Jews shows that they had quickly extinguished the small flame of faith which had been kindled in their hearts. Their Jewish pride would not accept such a statement from Jesus. The pride of the human heart has driven many a person away from the church to which he professed allegiance, because he resented the plain talk of the Bible regarding the depravity of the human heart.

True liberty:

John 8:34-38

34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. 35 And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. 36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. 37 I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill Me, because My word hath no place in you. 38 I speak that which I have seen with My Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.


Romans 6:16; Titus 3:3; 2 Peter 2:1-19; 1 John 1:5-2:1-2; John 1:10-13; John 3:31-36; John 5:18

In a very solemn manner, Jesus here proceeds to explain His statement regarding slavery or bondage. Every doer of sin is a slave of sin. He that commits a sin thereby places himself in its power, is bound and held captive absolutely. And therefore these Jews are servants, slaves, in the spiritual sense. But such a slave has no part and right in the house, he has only duties to perform; he is not his own master and cannot speak of freedom. The servants of sin may now be outward members of the Kingdom, of the Church, but they will in the end be obliged to leave, they will be thrust out from the place where they have usurped the rights of children. It is only the Son of God that is able to bring freedom, emancipation from sin and its service. He has earned freedom from sin for all men by paying the price, the redemption for their sin, His holy blood. That is the only true freedom, which the Son has thus earned and is offering to the whole world, which He wants also these Jews to accept. Jesus was very well aware that they were descendants of Abraham according to the flesh, that they could trace their ancestry back to the great patriarch. But they had little of their ancestor’s manner in them, for they were even now seeking to kill Him, because His Word would not enter into their hearts and minds. The unbelievers are filled with spiteful anger against the true believers, but incidentally shut up their hearts tightly against every form of Gospel influence. While Jesus was making it a practise to speak what He had seen in the bosom of His Father from eternity, all the wonderful things which pertained to the salvation of mankind, the Jews were getting ready and setting their hearts to do what they learned from him who was their father in truth, in a spiritual sense, the devil. They were acting in a perfectly consistent manner. It was a bit of impressive irony which should have opened the eyes of the Jews.

The difference between earthly and spiritual parenthood:

John 8:39-41

39 They answered and said unto Him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. 40 But now ye seek to kill Me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. 41 Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to Him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.


Genesis 15:6; Romans 4; Isaiah 63:15-19

Whether the Jews would not or could not understand the words of Jesus is not apparent. But they sullenly, doggedly repeat their statement that Abraham was their father, their ancestor, assuming that this fact must cover a multitude of defections. To this Jesus objects by saying that they must do the works of Abraham, if they are children of Abraham in truth, that is, in the spiritual sense. They have none of the characteristics, none of the spiritual nature of Abraham, else they would show this nature in such deeds as would be in conformity with the spirit of Abraham. In seeking to kill Jesus, against whom they could bring no real charge, they showed a decided difference from Abraham. The Jews now began to notice that He was ascribing a different parentage to them and became highly incensed. They were not born of an adulterous union, they protest; they were not guilty of idolatry and the practises that go with idolatry; they belonged to the people of Israel in truth; they believed in one Father, in God Himself, and had nothing in common with idols. Their zeal was commendable, but it did not strike the point under discussion.

The true ancestry of the Jews:

John 8:42-47

42 Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love Me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of Myself, but He sent Me. 43 Why do ye not understand My speech? even because ye cannot hear My word. 44 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. 45 And because I tell you the truth, ye believe Me not. 46 Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe Me? 47 He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.


John 1:1-18; John 8:23; Colossians 1:15-20; Matthew 12:22-37; Luke 11:13; Matthew 13:36-43; 1 John 3:1-10; Ephesians 6:10-20; James 4:7-8; 1 Peter 5:6-11; Revelation 12:10-12; Revelation 20

The Jews had vehemently repudiated the idea of their being idolaters and had just as emphatically insisted that they were children of God, that they belonged to God’s house as children. But Jesus now shows that God cannot be their Father. For if that relationship obtained, then it would follow without fail that they would love Him, since He proceeded forth from eternity from the Father. He did not come on a mission of His own scheming and devising, but God has sent Him. If they were really children of God, they would love Him, for brothers must feel brotherly love toward one another. He that does not love Christ has no part in God. And not only the fact that they refused to welcome Him was an unmistakable argument against their being God’s children, but also the fact that His speech was incomprehensible to them, that they could not understand the commonest things concerning the Father which He told them. The ears of their mind, of their understanding, were closed. Even the substance of His words was foreign to them; His language, His mode of speech, everything was strange and unfamiliar to them. For that reason they also refused to give ear to His preaching. Unbelief has its cause and reason in not wanting to accept Jesus and His doctrine. And having thus shown in two points that the Jews cannot possibly be children of God, Jesus no longer minces words, but tells them that according to their spiritual nature they are children of the devil and exhibit the devil’s characteristics. They have hardened their own hearts, and therefore the judgment of this hardening is upon them. They want to perform, they find their greatest delight in performing, the desires of their father, the devil. Note: The distinction should be observed between servants of the devil and children of the devil. All men, as the result of inherited sin, are servants of sin and of the devil, because they are in the power of the devil and are forced to do his bidding. But children of the devil are such people as deliberately invite the devil to take possession of their heart and mind. They are truly one with the devil, all their thinking and speaking is specifically devilish. He that rejects Christ, the Savior, and consistently refuses to accept His Word, is doubly a child of the devil. Wherein the devil delights, as things that are opposed to the good and gracious will of God, therein they also find their delight. They are not betrayed into this condition, but they have deliberately embraced that which is wrong. And the traits of their spiritual father the Jews now exhibit especially in two ways. The devil is a murderer and a liar from the beginning. His great delight is to destroy man, the image of God, according to body and soul. This idea has actuated him from the beginning; it has found its expression in every murder since the time of Cain. And he has no idea of the truth, he does not adhere to it nor live in it. The domain of lies, of deliberate, malignant, malicious falsehoods, is his special province. He himself is a liar and the father of all liars. Note: There is a splendidly consoling thought in the words of Christ that the devil is a liar. If he then tries to make a Christian believe that his sins cannot be forgiven, the latter has a weapon in this saying of Christ wherewith he can conquer the devil and quiet his doubting heart. Now the Jews partook of the nature of the devil, their spiritual father, in both these traits. In the first place, they would not believe Christ, although He told them the truth. And in the second place, they had a murderous hatred of Him in their hearts. Not one of them could substantiate a single charge against Him. But if they must confess their failure in this respect, they must thereby concede His infallibility. What He therefore speaks, is the truth. So utterly irrational and bigoted were the Jews that they might have believed Him had He spoken falsehood, for it was their nature to believe falsehood. The Lord plainly tells them that He has believers and always will have believers among such as have a different moral and spiritual descent. A person that is truly born of God, regenerated according to God’s loving counsel, has the manner and nature of God in himself, he understands the words of God as spoken by Jesus and accepts them. In open contrast to this the fact that they do not and will not hear God’s words proves that they are not His children, that they have nothing in common with Him. It is a truth which should be repeated in our days in the case of every person that refuses to hear and learn the Word of God according to the will of God.

The Jews take refuge in abuse:

John 8:48-51

48 Then answered the Jews, and said unto Him, Say we not well that Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? 49 Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honour My Father, and ye do dishonour Me. 50 And I seek not Mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth. 51 Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep My saying, he shall never see death.


John 5:19-29; John 7:14-24; Matthew 12:22-32; John 6:66-71; John 11:25-27; Revelation 21:1-8

The frank argument of Jesus struck deeply, it cut the proud Jews to the quick. And they could not gainsay His words, their conscience was forced to admit their truth. And so they took recourse to jeering and abuse. They called Him a Samaritan, an adherent of the people that had retained only a part of the truth, whose members were considered heretics by the Jews and therefore believed to be possessed of evil spirits. That is the manner and style of the unbelievers of all times; when they find that they have no arguments against the truth, then they resort to calumny and blasphemy. But Jesus does not permit the manner of the enemies to disturb Him. He most emphatically, but altogether quietly, spurns the charge, declaring that He was honoring His Father in all His works and words. In speaking as He did, He gave all honor to His Father. But the Jews, by their blasphemy, dishonored Him, and therefore also, by implication, His Father. Their foolish manner of acting does not stir Him to resentment, for the idea of seeking and furthering His own glory was absolutely foreign to Him. But from this they should not infer that their abuse of Him was a matter of indifference, which would not find its punishment. There is One above, who is very much concerned about His Son’s glory and honor; He seeks it, and He will pass judgment upon those that esteem the abuse of the Lord lightly. The sentence of condemnation which the blasphemers of Christ will bring down upon themselves is terrible beyond human comprehension. The Jews should therefore remember, as Jesus solemnly declares to them, that a man that keeps His saying, that diligently attends to His words, His Gospel, and accepts them for use in His life without remonstrance and unbelief, shall not see death unto all eternity. Temporal death will have no terrors for Him, being merely the gate and entrance to eternal life. Here was the sweetest, the most wonderful Gospel-news, calculated to strengthen and comfort all believers of that and the present time.

The attempt to kill the Lord:

John 8:52-59

52 Then said the Jews unto Him, Now we know that Thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and Thou sayest, If a man keep My saying, he shall never taste of death. 53 Art Thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest Thou Thyself? 54 Jesus answered, If I honour Myself, My honour is nothing: it is My Father that honoureth Me; of whom ye say, that He is your God: 55 Yet ye have not known Him; but I know Him: and if I should say, I know Him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know Him, and keep His saying. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day: and he saw it, and was glad. 57 Then said the Jews unto Him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast Thou seen Abraham? 58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. 59 Then took they up stones to cast at Him: but Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.


John 1:1-18; Matthew 12:1-8; Matthew 12:38-42; Joel 2:32; Romans 10:9-13; Exodus 3:14; John 4:26; John 6:20; John 6:35; John 6:41; John 6:48; John 6:51; John 8:12; John 8:24; John 8:28; John 9:9; John 10:7; John 10:9; John 10:11; John 10:14; John 11:25; John 13:19; John 14:6; John 15:1; John 15:5; John 18:5-6; John 18:8

The saying of Jesus that the believer in Him was sure of obtaining eternal life was beyond the comprehension of the Jews. And it increased their anger and resentment to note that Jesus ascribed such power to Himself. They concluded rightly that the Lord here claimed to possess supernatural attributes. And so they repeat their slander and blasphemy that He is possessed of an evil spirit. They understood the saying of temporal death, and since they supposed Jesus to be a mere man and surely of smaller importance than Abraham and the prophets, they felt that He was arrogating to Himself powers which were altogether out of His reach. If those men had died, He surely could not speak of granting safety and deliverance from death. Their conclusion was a bit of sound arguing. Jesus did indeed place Himself upon a much higher level than the prophets. But the question of the Jews was impudent in spite of all: What do You expect us to take You for? Their words plainly showed their contempt of Him and of the fact that they believed Him to be extolling Himself at the expense of truth. But Jesus insists that He has His honor from His Father. If He were guilty of exalting Himself at the expense of truth, His glory would suffer at once and come to naught. God never permits an unworthy person to arrogate to himself privileges which properly belong to Him alone. But in this case God Himself was giving evidence on every hand that He stood behind His Son, in His preaching and in His miracles. Now the Jews made the boastful statement that God was their Father. If that were true, then they must be conscious of the fact that God is zealous and jealous of the honor of the Son, whom He has sent. But their proud boast cannot be true, they cannot have a correct idea and knowledge of Him. Their entire life and manner of acting shows that. They have not acquired knowledge of the Father, either by observation or by teaching, but the knowledge of Christ is of such a nature as to exclude all possibility of a mistake as to the essence and qualities of God. He has a direct and essential knowledge of His Father. Were He to deny that He has such a direct knowledge of God, then He would be a liar and on a level with the Jews. But He is the possessor of the right knowledge, out of which grows and follows a glad and joyful keeping of His Word. Note: This close connection between the actual knowledge of God by faith and the doing of His will is indispensable in the Christian life; the keeping of God’s Word must follow the acceptance of this Word in faith. And with Jesus this keeping was of a peculiarly wonderful character, since He was carrying out the will of God for the salvation of the world. And now Jesus offers a bit of proof for the fact that He is greater than Abraham. For this patriarch, who was their ancestor according to the flesh, was filled with exultant joy over the fact that he should see the day of Christ. The wonderful promises which were given him with regard to the Messiah filled his heart with joy ineffable. In this way Abraham did see the Lord, His Savior, by faith, and died in happy trust in Him. But this last saying the Jews completely misunderstood. They had the idea that the life of Jesus and that of Abraham on earth had been contemporaneous. Full of indignation they cried out to Him: Fifty years Thou art not yet, and Abraham Thou hast seen! The very idea was preposterous. But Jesus repeats the thought with an unusually strong affirmation, that before Abraham came into being, He was, He is, thus asserting His eternity. Our Savior, the humble and despised Jesus of Nazareth, is the eternal God. That is our comfort, to know that in our redemption the suffering and death of the eternal God is lying in the balance. It is the eternal God that delivered us from eternal damnation. That the eternal God suffered for some hours on the cross, that has taken away the power of hell and damnation. But this was too much for the Jews. They could no longer contain themselves; they picked up stones to put Him to death for what they considered blasphemy. But their murderous intention was not carried out. Jesus did not merely hide Himself, to slip out unobserved, but He made Himself invisible by His almighty power. Through their very midst He went out, unhindered, while His enemies were struck with temporary blindness and vainly endeavored to harm Him. That same almighty Jesus is the Protector of His own at all times, and may well make use of His power in their interest, whenever He deems it necessary. There must be no lack of trust in Him.


Jesus gives an evidence of His redeeming love in the case of the woman taken in adultery, proclaims Himself as the Light of the world, tells of His going to the Father, gives a discourse of the true liberty of the Gospel, and escapes from the wrath of the Jews.

Chapter 9

Verses 1-41

Healing of the man that was born blind

The miracle:

John 9:1-7

1 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. I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the Light of the world. When He had thus spoken, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.


John 9:34; Exodus 20:1-6; Luke 13:1-5; Job 2:1-10; Acts 9:1-22; 1 Corinthians 11:23-30; Revelation 2:19-23; John 1:1-18; Isaiah 42; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 60:3,19; Luke 2:22-32; John 12:35-36; 1 John 1:5-10

This story is simply the continuation of the previous narrative, for the events here told occurred as Jesus passed along, probably out of the Temple, near whose gates many beggars were wont to assemble. It so happened that His eye rested upon a blind man. It is a peculiarity of God’s providence that He often manifests His power in little incidents which seem to us chance happenings. The man that drew the attention of Jesus had been blind from his birth. The disciples, who also noticed the poor unfortunate man, voiced the opinion of the general public when they asked Jesus whether his affliction was due to some sin which he himself had committed or to some fault of his parents. Their question gives Jesus an opportunity to repudiate the popular belief as though each particular sickness or sorrow is traceable to some particular sin. It is true in general, of course, that sin has been followed by all manner of physical ailments and weaknesses, which are in themselves only forerunners of death, the wages of sin. It is true, also, that certain sins, especially those of impurity, will bring direct punishment to the body. But to scent exceptional transgression whenever any severe misfortune or sickness strikes an individual or a family, is almost invariably an injustice and savors of the judging and condemning against which the Lord warns. Cp. Luke 13:1–5. Jesus therefore taught His disciples the truth with regard to this man and all other unfortunate sick people. In this special case, for instance, the work of God, His power and might, should become manifest. And the Lord added that He, or, according to some manuscripts, we, His followers, together with Him, are under obligation to work, to carry out the works of Him that sent Christ into the world. There is no false understanding as to the nature and scope of the work and office which He must perform in the world, nor is there the slightest hesitation as to attacking the work with all the willingness of a heart bound up in God’s will. The present time is the day of Christ; now is the time of grace; now He must be about His own and His Father’s business. That same spirit must live in the followers of Christ, that must characterize all their efforts for the spread of the Kingdom and all their work in the interest of the kingdom of God. Every bit of time, every ounce of strength should be thrown into this most important work. For soon the night of death will come, and that will definitely put a stop to all work with and for the Lord. As for Himself, Jesus states that His choice and its obligation were clear to Him; as long as He is in the world, His office of being the Light of the world must not cease. That work He had explained at length to the Jews, and the trend of the conversation here recalled the explanation. The reference would tend to increase the emphasis of His willingness to work for the benefit and salvation of the world. And now Jesus proceeded deliberately to perform the miracle of healing the blind man, who had undoubtedly heard every word of the conversation, with the sweetness of its Gospel-message. He formed a paste by moistening a little clay with spittle from His mouth, placed it upon the eyes of the blind man, and then sent him down to the pool Siloam to wash. The pool Siloah, or Siloam, was the one from which the water was taken on the day of the great Hosannah, the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, whose pouring out symbolized the sending of the Spirit. Jesus in this case arranged the circumstantial details at such unusual length in order to emphasize that the healing was performed by Him. The blind man, whose faith in Jesus had meanwhile been firmly grounded, did not hesitate for a moment to carry out the orders of Christ. He went away and washed himself and returned seeing.

The excitement caused by the miracle:

John 9:8-12

The neighbours therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged? Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he. 10 Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened? 11 He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight. 12 Then said they unto him, Where is He? He said, I know not.


Exodus 3:14; John 4:26; John 6:20; John 6:35; John 6:41; John 6:48; John 6:51; John 8:12; John 8:24; John 8:28; John 8:58; John 10:7; John 10:9; John 10:11; John 10:14; John 11:25; John 13:19; John 14:6; John 15:1; John 15:5; John 18:5-6; John 18:8

The blind man had returned to the city, to his home. Jesus meanwhile continued His way elsewhere. The people of the neighborhood, seeing the former blind man walking about with the manifest ability to use the sense of sight, were filled with the greatest surprise. Others there were that were ready to identify him as the man that had formerly plied his vocation as beggar. The miracle was so singular that they all were somewhat doubtful as to his identity, some saying that it was he, others, that he only resembled him. But the former blind man settled the discussion by frankly maintaining that he was one and the same. Note how minute, distinct, and true to life the narration flows along. The neighbors and all that had come together now eagerly pressed him with questions as to the manner in which he had received his sight. And he related it truthfully. He had never seen Jesus, but he had heard His name. He knew that Jesus put some kind of paste on his dead eyes, which he afterwards found to be clay; how this had been made he could not tell, because he had not seen. He knew that by following directions he had been given his sight, and he was still filled with the wonder of it all. Upon the further question as to the whereabouts of his benefactor, the former blind man can truthfully say only that he does not know. Though Jesus was well known in some parts of Palestine at that time, there were many people that did not yet know Him. They may have heard of Him in a vague way as the great Prophet and Healer, but His name and His person were not well known in Jerusalem.

The inquiry of the Pharisees:

John 9:13-17

13 They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind. 14 And it was the Sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes. 15 Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see. 16 Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because He keepeth not the Sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them. 17 They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of Him, that He hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet.


John 5:2-18; John 7:21-24; Matthew 12:1-8; John 4:16-19; John 6:1-15; John 7:40-52; Luke 9:18-20; Matthew 21:1-11

The matter was of such importance that the people deemed it their duty to bring the man to the rulers of the people, among whom the Pharisees were the most prominent. To these sticklers for external forms and observances the most important point was of course this, that the healing had been done on a Sabbath. The mixing of the clay, in their estimation, was the work of a mason, and the order to the man to go and wash himself an unnecessary piece of work. So the Pharisees promptly took the man and cross-questioned him as to how he had received his sight. The man’s testimony was not to be shaken. He gave them the same account which he had given the neighbors. And the hypocrites immediately pounced upon the fact that the healing had been done on the Sabbath; that was the charge against the Healer. Jesus had, as it seems, purposely performed the miracle on the Sabbath, in order to give offense to the Pharisees. He gave these malicious people, that refused to accept the truth, reasons to become ever more offended and thus to fulfil the measure of their transgressions. That is the terrible punishment of unbelief, the self-hardening of the heart. But some of the members of the Sanhedrin, whose spiritual insight had not been altogether lost, made the hesitating remark: How can a sinner do such signs? They felt that God would not permit an open transgressor of His holy Law to go unpunished, much less give to him such unusual powers to perform miracles. The result of the entire discussion was that there was a division in the council, they could not come to an agreement in their judgment of the case. For a digression, they asked the former blind man what he thought of his benefactor. He did not hesitate for a moment to confess Christ, whom he had never seen, as a great prophet sent by God, thus ascribing his healing to God. The enemies of Christ are always on the lookout for some way of discrediting the miracles of the Gospel, but they have no success; the Word of God stands too secure.

The consultation with the parents:

John 9:18-23

18 But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight. 19 And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see? 20 His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: 21 But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself. 22 These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that He was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. 23 Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him.


John 7:11-13; John 12:37-43; Acts 4:1-22; Acts 5:27-42; Romans 10:9-13

The Jewish rulers, having found the testimony of the former blind man too simple to permit any questioning, now tried to invalidate his statements by expressing doubts as to his former blindness. In an effort to discredit the whole matter, therefore, they called the parents before their tribunal. Mark the procedure of a typical hierarchical government. The parents were asked whether they were sure as to the identity of this man, and also whether they knew in what way he had received his sight. We can very well imagine the scene, the timid old people shrinking back before the overbearing manner of the inquisitors, hardly daring to open their mouth, for fear of saying something that would offend the mighty ones. They could testify as to their son’s having been born blind, but they were very careful to remain absolutely neutral, to retain a disinterested attitude as to any possible miracle, for the Jews had threatened all those that would confess Christ or speak in His favor with excommunication. They referred the examiners to the man himself. He was of age, and he was fully able to speak for himself. They did not want to risk excommunication, since that shut them out from practically all intercourse with any but the lowest class of people. And that was the understanding among the members of the Sanhedrin, to put the confessors of Christ out of the Church. “Of excommunication there were three degrees: the first lasted for thirty days; then followed a ‘second admonition,’ and if impenitent, the culprit was punished for thirty days more; and if still impenitent, he was laid under the cherem, or ban, which was of indefinite duration, and which entirely cut him off from intercourse with others. He was treated as if he were a leper. This, to persons as poor as the parents of this beggar, would mean ruin and death.” [Expositor’s Greek Testament, 1, 785]. Note: It is a terrible judgment upon unbelief that the unbelievers cannot see the plainest and surest facts which are held before their eyes. The resurrection of Christ, the inerrancy of the Bible, and scores of other facts which have the testimony of the best witnesses in the world on their side are still being questioned by people that claim for themselves fairness. But their blindness is so dense that they can no longer see the light.

A second interview with the former blind man:

John 9:24-29

24 Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner. 25 He answered and said, Whether He be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see. 26 Then said they to him again, What did He to thee? how opened He thine eyes? 27 He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be His disciples? 28 Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art His disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples. 29 We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence He is.


John 5:43-47; John 8:53-58; John 8:12-20

The Pharisees were in a quandary. If the facts concerning this miracle were spread abroad, the fame of Christ would grow and be carried out in all directions, and their prestige would receive a severe jolt. Therefore they made another attempt to shake the testimony of the man, but this time in such a way as to make him deny that a miracle had been performed. With a sanctimonious air they admonish him to give glory to God alone by telling the actual truth, and not a piece of fiction invented for the benefit of Jesus. There is almost a bit of threatening in the words: We know that this Man is a sinner. The deduction was that it must have been impossible to perform what the man claimed had been done. But the man doggedly stuck to the truth; he was not concerned about the sinfulness or sinlessness of his benefactor. One thing he knew: Having been blind, he could now see. This same simple faith and dogged perseverance should characterize a Christian’s confession of Jesus. If unbelievers try to shake the testimony concerning conversion or regeneration, the simple adhering to that one truth: I know the experience of my own heart and mind; it is not an illusion, but it is the firmest conviction in the world, will often repulse the enemies. In the effort to shake the firmness of this witness, the Jews again asked him about the manner in which his eyes had been opened. It is hardly to be wondered at that the matter was getting on the man’s nerves and that he answered them rather tartly. He had told them once, and they had evidently not listened very well; why should he repeat the same testimony over and over again? Their silly effort to inveigle him into some inconsistent statement was a despicable piece of strategy. But the man’s taunt as to their wishing to become disciples of Jesus struck them in a tender place. Angrily they reviled him, charging him with being a disciple of that Man. They placed Jesus in the class of outcasts with whom they wanted nothing to do. But so far as they were concerned, they were the disciples of Moses, they piously assert. They were sure, in the case of Moses, that God had spoken with him; but in the case of this Man they have nothing definite to base their opinion on, they do not even know His origin. That was partly wilful ignorance, partly blasphemous malice. They had had plenty of opportunity to get the information they desired, if they had only been willing to follow the directions of Jesus, John 7:17. Note: Unbelievers that attempt to be clever and sarcastic at the same time, throw aspersions upon the virgin birth of Christ, thus also questioning His origin, whereas a simple reading of Scripture would convince them, if they would not consistently resist the Holy Ghost.

The proper conclusion of the former blind man:

John 9:30-33

30 The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence He is, and yet He hath opened mine eyes. 31 Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth His will, him He heareth. 32 Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. 33 If this man were not of God, He could do nothing.


John 10:37-38; Luke 7:18-23; Isaiah 29:18-19; John 3:1-3; John 20:30-31

Far from making the man dubious and timid in his statements, the method chosen by the Pharisees rather made him firmer in his position toward the Man who had given him the great blessing of sight. The astonishment of the man was well founded. The leaders of the Jews should have known such a wonderful Healer. To hesitate about the origin of one that performed such wonderful cures and manifested such divine power was foolish in his opinion, and he did not hesitate about telling the Jewish leaders that very fact. Certain it was that a sinner could not perform such deeds; God could not be induced to give such power to a person that deliberately transgressed His will. But now the deed was an evidence of the power of God in the Healer. Therefore this man Jesus could not be a sinner, but must be from God. That a miracle of such magnitude should be performed in the world was unheard of. If Jesus, therefore, could perform such miracles, He must be from God. That was the right conclusion, one which completely vanquished the rulers of the Jews. This unlearned man could argue with much more exactness and power than they themselves, because he had the truth on his side. In the same way the simplest Christian, by adhering strictly to the truth of Scriptures, is able to confound the keenest and cleverest unbelievers that make the attempt to take away his faith in his Savior.

Jesus reveals Himself:

John 9:34-38

34 They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out. 35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, He said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? 36 He answered and said, Who is He, Lord, that I might believe on Him? 37 And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen Him, and it is He that talketh with thee. 38 And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped Him.


John 9:1-7; Exodus 20:1-6; Luke 13:1-5; Job 2:1-10; Acts 9:1-22; 1 Corinthians 11:23-30; Revelation 2:19-23; John 9:22; John 4:20-26; Matthew 14:22-33; John 20:24-29

The former blind man’s frankness enraged the Pharisees beyond measure. They now cast the popular belief into his face, telling him that his blindness was due to sin, and reproaching him with his calamity. That is the manner of unbelievers. When they are no longer able to contradict plain facts, they have recourse to vile insinuations and malicious blasphemies. And the Pharisees, in addition to their other insult, cast him out of the room where they had their sessions and took the first steps to put him out of the congregation as well. They wilfully, deliberately closed their eyes against the plain facts that were before their eyes; they denied their reality; they throttled their own conscience. All their actions were a product of hypocrisy of the rankest kind, blasphemy without parallel. Jesus, who had carefully watched the case of the former blind man, soon found out that the Jewish rulers had begun the process of excommunication against him. He therefore took occasion to look him up and reassure him in a most wonderful way. The question of Jesus, whether he believed in the Son of God, was intended to work this faith in the man’s heart, for such is the nature of the Word of God at all times. The healed man was a believing Israelite; his faith was placed in the coming Messiah, of whom he knew that He was the Son of God. When he was therefore assured of the identity of the Son of God with the great Healer who was speaking to him, he gladly confessed his faith and showed it by his outward act of devotion, by bending his knee in worshipful prayer; he worshiped Jesus as God. Note: Jesus never loses sight of those in whom He has taken a personal interest. The solicitude of His saving mercy ever attends those that have received His benefits.

The judgment upon wilful blindness:

John 9:39-41

39 And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind. 40 And some of the Pharisees which were with Him heard these words, and said unto Him, Are we blind also? 41 Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.


John 1:10-13; John 3:13-21; John 5:19-29; John 15:22-25; Matthew 15:14; Matthew 23:26-28

Jesus here makes the application, draws the moral of the events connected with the healing of the blind man. He announces that one function of His office is to carry out judgment, to put a certain separation into execution. Those that were spiritually blind and realized their pitiful condition should receive sight, while those that believed themselves endowed with spiritual and moral sight, while in reality they were hopelessly blind in spiritual matters, should become hopelessly darkened in their own conceit. Cp. Luke 2:34. Some of the Pharisees, who were, as usual, dogging His footsteps and watching His every word, felt the sting of the last word of the Lord. Sneeringly they ask: Very likely you consider us also blind! And Jesus lost no time in giving them their reply. If their blindness, their natural inability toward all that is good before God, were known to them, then there would be some chance of healing them of their blindness. But so long as they do not realize their pitiful condition, so long as they do not know and will not acknowledge their own perversity and darkness in spiritual matters, their sin remains, they are left in the condemnation of their blindness, with the future damnation which it involves. The Pharisees rejected the Word of Christ, which alone is able to give light to the blind. And therefore they, and all that follow their foolish example, are struck by the judgment of God, according to which His gracious search for them is finally abandoned, and they are left to the fate which they have deliberately preferred to the mercy of the Savior. So the unbelievers are left to their self-chosen fate, the grace of God is withdrawn from them, and the Word of mercy is still preached in their presence, in order that they may take still greater offense and become hardened to their own destruction. [Luther, 12, 1302-1313].


Christ heals a man that was born blind, and teaches the Jewish rulers, who try their best to spoil the effect of the miracle, that He, the Light of the blind, both internally and externally, has come to give sight to the blind and to take away the sight of those that boast their spiritual knowledge.

Chapter 10

Verses 1-21

Jesus the Good Shepherd

The parable of the sheepfold:

John 10:1-6

1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which He spake unto them.


Matthew 23:13; Matthew 9:35-38; Hebrews 13:20-21; Matthew 7:15-20

This parable was also spoken in the Temple, shortly after Jesus had found the man that had been blind and had uttered the ominous words to the Pharisees concerning spiritual blindness. He here refers to a sheepfold, to one of the Oriental pens, or corrals, for sheep. This was a yard with a high stone wall to keep out wild animals as well as other intruders. There was a gate or door which was guarded by a porter. Jesus now states that any person that did not choose the gate to enter into the corral, but sought some other way into the interior, by that very token became evident as a thief, whose intention is to steal quietly, or even a robber, who would not hesitate to use violence. The shepherd is not in need of such schemes and stratagems. He comes to the gate of the corral openly, and the door-guard will open the door for him, for he knows the shepherd and his intentions. And when the heavy gate has been unbarred, the shepherd need but raise his voice in the call which is so well known to the sheep, when they will respond at once. He has names for each one of the sheep entrusted to him, and they can distinguish the call. If there should be several herds in the corral over night, the sheep of each shepherd will still respond only to the voice of their own shepherd. And when all the sheep that belong to his own herd have been put out of the corral, they will follow their shepherd as he leads the way, the shepherd walking in front as is still the custom in the East. They follow his voice, not his clothes nor his dog, as has been ascertained by actual tests. The sheep have such a knowledge of the kind care of the shepherd, of his mild and gentle way of leading and guiding them, that they have full confidence in him. But the sheep fear and flee from a stranger, since his voice is not known to them; they have not learned to trust him as they do their own shepherd. This parable is one of Christ’s most beautiful stories in its completeness and in the detailed correctness of the picture, and the application of the parable was sufficiently obvious. But, as usual, the Jews had no idea of the meaning and of the lesson which the Lord intended to convey.

The sheepfold is the Church of God of all times. The sheep are the members of the kingdom of God, the believers of both the Old and New Testaments that put their trust in the Word of their redemption through the work of the Messiah. But the men that were to be their shepherds, their leaders, have from olden times been divided into two classes. There are such as come to the door openly, that have the call and the duty to take care of the souls entrusted to them, and that carry out their difficult calling in the proper manner, with all faithfulness. For they are assistants of the great Shepherd, Jesus Christ, and it is His voice that calls through them. The sheep thus hear the voice of Jesus in the voice of the true pastors, and this they recognize and know perfectly, this they heed gladly. And if they are truly His sheep, they will pay no attention to the call of such as try to imitate the voice of the true Shepherd, but will fear them and flee from them. “For as He has said of His office which He carries on through His Word, thus He also says of His sheep, how they behave in His kingdom, namely, when the door is opened to Him, they at once hear His voice and learn to know it well, for it is a truly comforting, cheering voice, by which they, delivered from terror and fear, come to the liberty that they may expect all mercy and comfort of God in Christ. And when they have once accepted this Shepherd, they adhere to Him alone with all confidence and hear the teaching of none other.” [Luther, 11, 1130]. The spiritual hearing of the true sheep of Christ, of the believers, soon becomes so keen that they will distinguish at once between true and false teaching, and they will fear and shun the voice of strangers. They will be enabled to judge doctrine correctly, without any arbitrary commands of a self-constituted hierarchy. “The other doctrine is that all Christians have power and right to judge all doctrine and to separate themselves from false teachers and bishops and not to obey them. For here hearest thou that Christ says of His sheep: … A stranger will they not follow. … For that they can judge such things, of that they have this rule which is stated in this word of Christ, that all who do not preach Christ are thieves and murderers. With this statement the judgment is established that there is need of no further knowledge but to be known of Christ, and that they owe it to Him to follow this judgment and therefore to flee and to shun all such, no matter who, how great, and how many they are.” [Luther, 11, 1134]. These false shepherds are characterized as such that climb into the corral some other way except through the door. False teachers, that have no call from Christ, whose false doctrine has no right to exist, will not come with the pure Gospel and with a call of which they can prove its divine origin, but will make use of schemes and stratagems to deceive the sheep and inveigle them into listening to them. “Now the Gospel is so tender and precious, it cannot endure any addition or extra doctrines. The spiritual doctrines of getting to heaven with fasting, prayer, and other similar works, they in themselves are side-paths which the Gospel will not suffer; but the opponents want them, therefore they are thieves and murderers, for they outrage consciences and slay and murder the sheep. … Thus such a path is murder and death.” [Luther, 11, 1118]. All false teachers are thieves and robbers in the sense of Scriptures, and their presence is a constant menace to the Church of God. “But they are called thieves for this reason, since they steal in secretly, and come with fair speeches, as St. Paul says, Romans 16:18, with a great show, and also with true sheep’s clothing, pretend to have special faithfulness and love for the souls, but incidentally have that mark, whereby Christ teaches to distinguish them, that they do not go in at the door, but climb up some other way, that is, as He Himself explains, come before Him and without Him, do not point and refer to Christ as the only Shepherd and Savior.” [Luther, 11, 1125. 1126].

Jesus the Door to the sheepfold:

John 10:7-10

Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the Door of the sheep. All that ever came before Me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. 10 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.


John 14:6; Romans 5:1-2; Ephesians 2:11-18; Hebrews 10:19-22; Mark 16:16; John 1:10-13; Acts 4:8-12; Psalm 118:19-29; John 3:14-17; John 20:30-31; Exodus 3:14; John 4:26; John 6:20; John 6:35; John 6:41; John 6:48; John 6:51; John 8:12; John 8:24; John 8:28; John 8:58; John 9:9; John 10:11; John 10:14; John 11:25; John 13:19; John 14:6; John 15:1; John 15:5; John 18:5-6; John 18:8

Jesus makes an application of His parable for the sake of His hearers. In the sheepfold of His Church He is the Door. Only through Him, by reference to Him and His work of salvation, shall any man have access to the sheep, only through Him can the sheep find access to the fold. By faith in Him admittance to the fold is gained; it is the only way in which this wonderful result may be obtained. All real pastors will preach only of this one Door, of this one Way to heaven, through faith in Jesus and the redemption through His blood. There were such among the ruling party of the Jews at that time, and had been even before this, as had arrogated to themselves the function of bringing people into communion with God and into heaven in a different manner, unlike the prophets of old that had always pointed forward to Jesus only. But all those that claimed to be what Christ was in truth, that promised to give to men the certainty of salvation, were thieves and robbers; they came without His authority. Luckily, the real sheep, the true people of God among the children of Israel, had given no heed to their words. For Christ is the Door; through Him if a person enter, and through none else, he will be rendered safe. The only way of salvation leads through Christ; He Himself is that Way, and every man that knows Jesus as such may enter into the fold of the Church and go out on the pasture of the Gospel, and always have fulness and plenty, the mercy and goodness of the Lord, Psalm 72:16. Three great blessings fall to the lot of those that accept Jesus as their Savior. They have deliverance from dangers, from all enemies; they are safe in the Master’s fold. They have liberty, the glorious liberty of the children of God, the right to go out and in; they are slaves neither of sin nor of the Law. And they have sustenance; the riches of God’s bounty are poured out upon them anew every day in the Gospel. That is the great contrast between Christ and all those that come as thieves. The thief, and especially the thief in spiritual matters, comes for the purpose of taking away, of destroying life. That is the only object he can have according to his nature. But Jesus has come for the purpose of giving life, true, lasting, eternal life, and not in small measure, but in a fulness far exceeding all needs. Every Christian receives the full measure of everlasting life with all the glories and satisfying beauties that are included therein. Here is an offering of sustaining comfort which is without equal in all religions without Christ, of which no unbeliever can have the faintest conception.

Jesus the Good Shepherd:

John 10:11-16

11 I am the Good Shepherd: the Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep. 12 But he that is an hireling, and not the Shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. 13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. 14 I am the Good Shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine. 15 As the Father knoweth Me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice; and there shall be one fold, and one Shepherd.


Matthew 9:35-38; Hebrews 13:20-21; 1 Peter 2:24-25; 1 Peter 5:1-5; Revelation 7:13-17; Matthew 25:31-34,41; Ezekiel 34:11-24; Isaiah 40:9-11; Revelation 22:12-13; Romans 11:11-24; Romans 12:4-5; Ephesians 4:4-6; Exodus 3:14; John 4:26; John 6:20; John 6:35; John 6:41; John 6:48; John 6:51; John 8:12; John 8:24; John 8:28; John 8:58; John 9:9; John 10:7; John 10:9; John 11:25; John 13:19; John 14:6; John 15:1; John 15:5; John 18:5-6; John 18:8

Jesus here applies the parable in still another way, from another view-point. He calls Himself the Good shepherd, with emphasis, as the only one that may bear this name with full justice. In this sense the name is applicable to Christ alone; He is the one most excellent Shepherd of the spiritual sheep. The first feature which distinguishes Him as the true Shepherd of souls is this, that He gives His life, His own soul, as a ransom, as the one complete sacrifice, for the guilt of all sinners, who have earned eternal damnation. He became their Substitute; He took upon Himself their transgressions and died in their stead. Thus the guilty, the sinners, were delivered from sin and destruction. In this respect Jesus incidentally is an example for all those that bear the name pastor as His assistants in the great work. For that purpose He also places Himself in deliberate contrast to the hirelings, the false teachers, the Pharisees. Such hirelings, whose sole concern is the money and the desire to take their ease in Zion, have no interest in the souls of men entrusted to their care. They are strictly mercenary and will work only so long as their lives and well-being seem to be safe. At the first sign of the wolf, at the first indication of real danger, of probable persecution, suffering, and even martyrdom, they turn in precipitate flight. The result is the dispersion and the murder of the sheep on the part of the enemies. But the hireling does not care; he has no worry, no anxiety for, no interest in, the sheep. “He that will be a preacher, let him love the work with all his heart, that he seek only God’s honor and the welfare of his neighbor. If he does not seek God’s glory and his neighbor’s salvation only, but thinks, in such office, of his benefit and detriment, there you need not think that he will last. Either he will flee shamefully and desert the sheep, or he will keep silence and let the sheep go without pasture, that is, without the Word. Those are hirelings that preach for their own benefit, are covetous, and do not want to be satisfied with that which God gives them daily as an alms. For we preachers should not desire more from our office than enough and to spare. Those that want more are hirelings that do not care for the herd; whereas a pious preacher will give up everything on that account, even his body and life.” [Luther, 13, 1969]. The second feature that distinguishes Jesus as the Good Shepherd, in contrast to all others, is the fact of the intimate acquaintance and knowledge between Him and His sheep. Just as Jesus knows them that are His, according to body, mind, and heart, so the believers know Jesus; their heart, their mind and will, is centered in Jesus, rests in Jesus. The expression fitly pictures the intimate, cordial relation and communion of love that obtains between Christ and His true disciples. This intimacy and communion is as close and embracing as that which exists between Father and Son. Their hearts and minds are open to each other; there is a mutual interchange of thoughts and ideas, all guided by a wonderful love. Thus it is between Christ and the believers. It is due to Christ’s knowledge of the Father and His will that Jesus declares that He will lay down His life for the sheep. The ransom is paid for the sins of the whole world, but the believers alone take advantage of the mercy of the Savior, they alone obtain the grace of the Father. And Christ has other sheep, which are not of this fold; He shall gain believers in Him also from the members of other nations outside of the Jewish. For the Father has given a great number to Him, out of every nation in the world; they are His by the Father’s design and gift. Christ here declares that His voice, in the Word of the Gospel, would go out unto the people of other descent and tongue than the Jews. It is the obligation of the divine will resting upon Him which is urging Him to gain also these for the Gospel. And they would listen, they would obey His voice in the Gospel, and the final result would be one flock, composed of all such as have accepted salvation through the blood of Christ, and one Shepherd, the Son of God Himself. “But nothing is said of unity of organization. There may be various folds, though one flock.” [Expositor’s Greek Testament, 1, 791]. The dreams of unionism find no support in this passage. The “holy Christian Church, the communion of saints,” has been gathered in the world ever since the first proclamation of the Gospel, and all the true believers in Christ form the great invisible Church. But there is not a word here of uniting visible church organizations into one great, powerful body.

The end of the discourse and its effect:

John 10:17-21

17 Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again. 18 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. This commandment have I received of My Father. 19 There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings. 20 And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye Him? 21 Others said, These are not the words of Him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?


John 3:14-18; John 3:35-36; Matthew 3:13-17; Matthew 17:1-8; 2 Peter 1:16-19; John 15:9-10; Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 2:9; John 7:14-31; John 7:40-44; John 8:48-59; Matthew 12:22-32; John 9:32-33; Luke 7:18-23; Isaiah 29:18-19

The chief proof and manifestation of the love of the Good Shepherd consists in this, that He lays down His life, His soul, as a ransom. The self-sacrifice of Jesus was altogether free and in no way forced upon Him. For that reason also did His Father love Him, because the Son was in such thorough accord with Him that He understood His will so completely and acted upon it so cheerfully. And in laying down His life, Jesus has a second object, namely, to take it again. To remain in death and so leave His sheep defenseless would render His entire ministry void. It was necessary for Christ to die, but just as necessary also for Him to arise again. As His sacrifice was free and voluntary, so His return to life must be a matter of His own power, of the deliberate use of His strength. The laying down of His life was not due to His yielding to His foes and their cunning; it was an act of His will. He had the power to give His life, to lay it down in death, but He had the power also to take it again. No other man could dream of having such power; every other person succumbs to death, but Jesus differs from all other men in this respect, because He is Himself true God. The fact of His voluntary death gave to His sacrifice its real worth and value; without such free will His sacrifice would have been in vain. And herein He agrees with His Father, whose command He has received and now carries out for the salvation of mankind.

The immediate effect of the entire discourse was that it caused a division among the Jews that were present. Many thought He was talking insane foolishness and that He was possessed of an evil spirit. That is the meanness, the devilish mind of the unbelievers, that they have nothing but mockery and blasphemy for the consoling, precious words of Christ concerning His shepherd’s love. But others took a more sensible view. The calm discourse of Jesus could hardly be put into the same category with the ravings of demoniacs. The devil is also able to perform seeming miracles, but never such as will benefit any person in body or soul. The miracle performed upon the blind man was of a nature to admit of only one explanation: divine interference. Thus there are always some people whose hearts accept the glorious truths of the Gospel and learn to trust in Jesus as their Savior.

Verses 22-42

Christ’s sermon at the Feast of Dedication

The testimony of Jesus concerning Himself:

John 10:22-30

22 And it was at Jerusalem the Feast of the Dedication, and it was winter. 23 And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch. 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. 25 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. 26 But ye believe not, because ye are not of My sheep, as I said unto you. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand. 29 My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one.


Genesis 3:13-15; Deuteronomy 18:15-18; Matthew 1:1; Mark 1:1; John 1:35-41; John 7:25-31; John 7:40-44; Matthew 16:13-20; Matthew 22:41-46; Matthew 24; Matthew 26:57-68; Luke 24:13-27; John 20:30-31; Acts 2:36-39; Romans 5:1-11; Romans 6:23; Romans 8:31-39; 1 Corinthians 1:20-24; 1 Corinthians 5:7; Hebrews 10:12-14; 1 Peter 1:10-12; 1 Peter 5:6-11; 1 John 2:18-25; 1 John 5:1; John 3:18; Mark 16:16; John 17

There is an interval of about two months between this story and the one just preceding it. The Festival of the Dedication had been celebrated since the time of the Maccabees in commemoration of the reconsecration of the Temple after its defilement by Antiochus Epiphanes. Its date was the 25th of Chisleu (December). Jesus had either remained at Jerusalem, or, what is more probable, had spent the intervening time in Perea, a favorite place for retirement. At this time He was in the Temple, walking about or up and down in the splendid portico or cloistered hall which bore Solomon’s name. He was soon recognized by the Jews, many of whom had been present at His last discourse and now took occasion to put a question to Him about which there had probably been much discussion since they had seen Him last. They surrounded Him, thus preventing His moving onward. With an almost menacing attitude they put their question: How long dost Thou keep our souls in uncertainty? Their meaning is that they have not yet received sufficient testimony one way or the other to enable them to judge properly. They demanded a plain, unequivocal statement. Jesus reminded them of the fact that He had given them the truth concerning Himself, that not only His words, but also His actions, His miracles, bore testimony of Him. All these things should have convinced them long ago that He was the Christ. It was their unbelief that stood in their way, and this unbelief, in turn, proved that they did not belong to His sheep. Their unbelief in the face of such overwhelming testimony was their own fault. For of His sheep, of the believers in Him, it was true that they heard His voice, as He had explained to them upon a former occasion. With His believers Jesus has entered into a close communion; He responds to their every need. And above all, He, as the Savior and powerful God, gives to them the life everlasting which He has earned for them by His atoning work. No enemy in the world or elsewhere can rob them, can tear them away from Christ by any force. He has them firmly by the hand, He holds them safely in His hand, and therefore they shall never be lost. The Lord here, as one commentator has it, gives us a guarantee against ourselves, against our own weakness and doubt. There are so many factors which tend to stifle faith in our hearts, to make us doubt the sincerity of God’s promises toward us, but this word of Christ must overcome all doubt most effectually and definitely. Unless the believers maliciously reject their Savior and trample upon the salvation earned for them, there can be no doubt of His holding them in His hand. If we but trust in His loving mercy and kindness, there shall nothing harm us or tear us away from His side. And this fact He emphasizes still more strongly by stating that the believers are given Him by His Father, who is greater and mightier than all; what enemy will tear them out of His Father’s hands? God has given these sheep, these believers, to His Son, in order that they should be saved, and so they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, 1 Peter 1:6. And Jesus and His Father are one. There are two different persons, but only one essence. The will of the Son will never oppose the will of the Father. The Son is God just like the Father, and in the same degree as the Father. And from this it follows that the Father and the Son work together in this great work of saving men, of keeping the believers safe until the end. Note: This glorious, comforting passage is of such beauty and power that it should be memorized by every Christian for use against the wily attacks of the devil and his allies. We are safe in the hands of our heavenly Father and of Jesus Christ. His Son, our Savior.

The Jews accuse Jesus of blasphemy:

John 10:31-38

31 Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. 32 Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from My Father; for which of those works do ye stone Me? 33 The Jews answered Him, saying, For a good work we stone Thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that Thou, being a man, makest Thyself God. 34 Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your Law, I said, Ye are gods? 35 If He called them gods, unto whom the Word of God came, and the Scripture cannot be broken; 36 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? 37 If I do not the works of My Father, believe Me not. 38 But if I do, though ye believe not Me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.


John 5:18; John 1:1-18; John 1:29-34; John 20:30-31; 1 John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:15-20; Joel 2:32; Romans 10:9-13; Revelation 22:12-17; Psalm 2

With growing indignation and resentment the Jews had listened to the statements which Jesus made concerning Himself, until He reached the climax in the declaration of the essential unity of Himself and the Father. Here they could no longer contain themselves. This seemed to them the essence of blasphemy that this man should say He was one with God. And so they took up stones in order to punish Him for His supposed blasphemy, Leviticus 24:14-16, as they had attempted to do once before, John 8:59. But a further word from Jesus arrested their murderous action. He reminded them of the fact that He had shown them many good works which gave evidence of the authority of the Father; which of these was it that deserved stoning? The Jews answered as they saw the situation. They had no objection to His works, to His miracles, as such. But their belief was that He was a mere man, and as such it was blasphemy for Him to arrogate to Himself the Sonship of God. From their blind standpoint they were right: it was blasphemy for a man to claim equality with God, or deity for Himself, Deuteronomy 18:20; Leviticus 14:10-17. The modern unbelieving teachers that deny the unity of essence of Father and Son on the ground that this is not taught in Scriptures are blinder than the Jews were in this instance. But Jesus here proves to the Jews that His claim was no blasphemy, by referring to Psalm 82:6. If the leaders of the people, through whom the Word of God was delivered to the Jews, were called gods, how much more does He deserve the designation who was separated, ordained, hallowed, and sent out by God for this work which He was now performing? In bringing this proof, the Lord states an axiom for the inerrancy of Scriptures which needs particular emphasis in our days: The Scripture cannot be dissolved, cannot be broken, cannot be put aside; it must ever stand unchallenged, word for word, as the eternal truth of God. In the case of the Old Testament teachers, the commission of God usually found them engaged in the works of their earthly calling, from which they were raised to their new dignity and received the honoring appellation, but Jesus was set apart by the Father from eternity for the work of salvation, and He was now performing the works of the Father, such works as in themselves are evidence that the Father is in Him and He in the Father. That is the eternal relation in the Trinity between Father and Son: the Son is in the Father and the Father in the Son. This relation has not been set aside by the incarnation of the Son, but was exhibited in the miracles and in all the works which Jesus did. If the Jews therefore chose not to believe His words, they could not deny the evidence of His works. The testimony of His deeds was overwhelmingly strong in establishing the fact of the intimate relationship between Him and the Father, just as He had stated. Note: There is no possibility of weakening the force of this argument but by asserting that the miracles of Jesus did not take place by the power of God. But that would place Jesus in the class of base deceivers and cheats, a conclusion which even the most liberal teachers hesitate to make.

Jesus leaves Jerusalem:

John 10:39-42

39 Therefore they sought again to take Him: but He escaped out of their hand, 40 And went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized; and there He abode. 41 And many resorted unto Him, and said, John did no miracle: but all things that John spake of this man were true. 42 And many believed on Him there.


Luke 1:57-80; John 1:26-34; John 3:22-36; John 7:31; John 20:30-31

The argument of Jesus at least made so much impression that the Jews dropped the stones, but they still had the intention of arresting Him; but Jesus, in the power of His divinity, went out of their hands, which sank back powerless. He had again proclaimed the Gospel to the Jews, He had again shown that He is truly the Messiah of Israel. He now went into the region of Perea where some of the early work of John the Baptist had been done, where He stayed for some time. And the effect of His preaching became evident at least in some cases. Many people, who had heard the testimony of John the Baptist concerning Jesus, had mulled over those sayings and had compared them with the evidence before their eyes in the person and works of Jesus. Though John had performed no miracles, yet they knew him to be a good and wise man and a great prophet. And now that they saw the truth of John’s prediction, they were convinced; they learned to believe in Jesus the Savior.


Jesus tells the parable of the sheepfold, showing that He is both the Door to the sheep and the Good Shepherd; He gives the Jews the evidence of His divine Sonship and escapes their murderous intentions.

Chapter 11

Verses 1-46

The raising of Lazarus

The death of Lazarus:

John 11:1-6

1 Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.) Therefore his sisters sent unto Him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom Thou lovest is sick. When Jesus heard that, He said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When He had heard therefore that he was sick, He abode two days still in the same place where He was.


Luke 10:38-42; John 12:1-8; John 9:1-3; Philippians 4:6; Isaiah 61:1-2

While Jesus was still in retirement in Perea, on the east side of the Jordan, events were transpiring near Jerusalem which were destined to have a great influence on the lives of many people. At Bethany, a little town about fifteen stadia, almost two miles, from Jerusalem, on the southeast slope of the Mount of Olives, the Lord had some friends. Mary and Martha, both of whom were known to the early Christians, Luke 16:20, with their brother Lazarus, lived there. In order to identify Lazarus and his sisters more exactly, the evangelist adds that it was Mary that anointed the Lord with spikenard and wiped His feet with her hair. Cp. John 12:3. Lazarus, the brother of this Mary and her sister Martha, was sick. In this emergency the friendship of the sisters, their intimacy with Jesus, suggests to them to send to Him first of all. Here was a whole family of disciples that had learned to place their trust in the Lord without reserve. The sickness of Lazarus was severe, as the repetition of the statement shows, and the notice which the sisters sent to the Lord showed all the anxiety of their hearts. It was really an urgent, pleading request: Lord, behold, he whom Thou lovest is sick. A remarkable, wonderful distinction to be the beloved of the Lord! But it belongs to all Christians of all times: Jesus loves them, has loved them from eternity, and loves them especially since they have accepted His salvation. It is really a model prayer which the sisters sent by their messenger. The mere announcement of trouble is all that is necessary where the Lord is concerned. The words of Jesus when He received the message are rather enigmatic. This sickness was not unto death, He told His disciples, although He knew that physical death had either taken place or was imminent. The Lord’s statement was true in a double sense. The illness was not unto eternal death: no sickness of any Christian will terminate in such a way that it will bring him to everlasting death. And the sickness was not unto physical death, because it would give Jesus an opportunity to show His glory and His power over the king of terrors. This sickness would yet have such results that the Son of God would be glorified, that the praise and honor due Him would be forthcoming in greater measure than ever. The evangelist again emphasizes that Jesus loved all three of His disciples in this little family circle. But He made no move to hasten to the bedside of His beloved friend. After the time when He received the message, He still purposely remained in the place where He had been sojourning for two days. The manner in which Jesus deals with those whom He loves may sometimes make the impression upon foolish human minds as though He were not earnestly concerned about their welfare. But an enduring, patient trust in His wisdom and love will never be brought to shame. “God’s delays in answering prayers offered to Him by persons in distress are often proofs of His purpose to confer some great kindness; and they are also proofs that His wisdom finds it necessary to permit an increase of the affliction, that His goodness may be more conspicuous in its removal.” [Clarke, Commentary, 5, 598].

The return to Judea:

John 11:7-10

Then after that saith He to His disciples, Let us go into Judaea again. His disciples say unto Him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone Thee; and goest Thou thither again? Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. 10 But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.


John 5:18; John 8:58-59; John 10:22-33; John 1:1-13; John 8:12; John 9:4-5

Jesus, after the deliberate delay, announced in a most casual way that He intended to return to Judea, by inviting His disciples to make the journey with Him. But the disciples were filled with apprehension at the prospect. It was probably just as much fear for their own safety as for that of the Lord which caused them to remind Him of the recent attempts of the Jews to stone Him, John 8:59; John 10:31. They believed that He should consider His safety first and not expose Himself to danger. Jesus answers their objections in a parable. A person that walks about in the day will not stumble and fall, for there is sufficient light to guide his footsteps and to show him obstructions. But if a person walks around in the darkness, harm may easily befall him, since there is no light to point out hindrances and pitfalls. The eye can be of service only during the day and in the light. The explanation which the Lord wished to convey to His disciples is evident. While His day, as appointed to Him by the Father, lasted, He must continue to walk and to work, and no one could hinder and hurt Him. The last hour, the end of His life, the time of dark suffering, anguish, and sorrow, had not yet come. The Jews would not be able to vent their spite until the time specified and fixed by His Father in the eternal council of love had come. This is true of all disciples of Jesus. So long as the day of their life and work lasts, so long they may carry on their labors without real hindrance. The Lord has fixed the length of each one’s labor, to the one a greater, to the other a smaller measure. During that time the believers, each in his own station, but in the service of the Lord, will do his share for the Master. At the Lord’s time, and not before, He will call His servants home.

The announcement of the death of Lazarus:

John 11:11-16

11 These things said He: and after that He saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. 12 Then said His disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. 13 Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that He had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. 14 Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. 15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him. 16 Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellowdisciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him.


Daniel 12:1-2; Matthew 27:50-53; Mark 5:35-43; Acts 7:59-60; 1 Corinthians 15:3-6; 1 Corinthians 15:20; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Mark 12:18-27; Luke 16:19-31; Luke 23:39-43

After quieting the fears of His disciples as to His own safety, Jesus thought the time fitting to make His important announcement. He told them that Lazarus, their friend, was lying asleep, was even now sound asleep. That is the Lord’s manner of speaking of death, as of a sleep. He knew of the death of Lazarus by His omniscience, and He wanted to impart this knowledge to the disciples in a form with which they should have been familiar from the Old Testament manner of speaking. It is a great comfort for the believers that the Lord Himself speaks of the death of His disciples as a falling asleep; it is a quiet and secure rest in the interval between this life and that of the Kingdom of Glory. Jesus also stated His intention of going to Bethany for the purpose of awaking Lazarus from his sleep, of bringing him back to this life for a season. But the disciples, with their usual denseness, did not understand the Lord’s speech, but thought only of physical sleep. Their immediate inference is that a quiet sleep in severe sickness usually points to a quick recovery, and that therefore they need not take the dangerous step of returning to Judea. Jesus therefore told them in plain, unmistakable words that Lazarus had died. He had permitted His friend to die. And Jesus was glad on their account that He had not been present in Bethany at the time of His friend’s dying. He had the purpose of strengthening their faith by a miracle which He intended to perform shortly, the greatest of all His miracles, in a manner of speaking. He wanted to start out for Bethany at once, in order to realize His object. It was at this point that Thomas, called Didymus (twin), showed His misunderstanding of the entire situation. He thought that Jesus was deliberately walking to His death, and he urged the other disciples to go along. He felt equal to the ordeal of going into death with his Master, for the love which he now felt for Him. The love of Christ puts divine courage into the heart of the most timid Christian.

The faith of Martha:

John 11:17-22

17 Then when Jesus came, He found that he had lain in the grave four days already. 18 Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off: 19 And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. 20 Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him: but Mary sat still in the house. 21 Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. 22 But I know, that even now, whatsoever Thou wilt ask of God, God will give it Thee.


Philippians 4:6; Isaiah 61:1-2; John 5:19-29; John 14:1-14; Matthew 7:7-11; Matthew 6:9-13; Matthew 28:18-20

The journey from that section of Perea where Jesus had been staying to Bethany took about two days, and when Jesus therefore reached the town, He was greeted with the intelligence that Lazarus had been in the grave four days. The burial of the dead in warmer countries must take place very quickly, lest decay set in. In the house of Martha and Mary there was a large assembly of mourners and sympathizers. Since the distance from Jerusalem was only fifteen stadia, a matter of a little more than 3,000 yards, many Jews from the capital city had come to the sisters to express their condolence in their bereavement. It seems that Mary and Martha had a host of acquaintances, if not of friends, in Jerusalem. The days of deep mourning lasted for seven days, during which it was forbidden to wash, to anoint oneself, to put on shoes, to study, or to engage in any business. Just as soon as the news of Christ’s coming had been conveyed to Martha, she left the house to meet Him. She was eager to hear words of comfort out of His mouth; for mere men cannot take away the sorrow of death. But the comfort and sympathy of Jesus is of a nature to drive away all the piercing pain or grief. If people, in every bereavement and sorrow, would only turn at once to the consolation of the Lord’s Word, there would never be the severe after-effects of unrestrained grief after the manner of this world, 1 Thessalonians 4:13. Mary remained at home, sitting on the ground or on a low stool, according to Jewish custom; for all chairs and couches are reversed at the time of the burial. It was not merely her sorrow and distress that caused her to remain at home, but the fact that she wanted to give her older sister, the mistress of the house, the first opportunity to talk to the Savior. No sooner had Martha come to Jesus than she called out to Him: Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother would not have died. There is just the slightest shade of reproach in the words, but also the firm trust and faith in the Lord’s ability to help in all vicissitudes of life. The mere presence of Christ in the house of sickness would have banished death and its terrors. And even now, she goes on to say, she knows and is firmly convinced that every petition of Christ is heard by His heavenly Father. Martha naturally used the same expressions which she had so often heard out of the mouth of Jesus. The Lord had always referred His works to the Father, and stated that He worked at the will of the Father. So Martha also expressed her strong faith in the terms with which she had become familiar. If only a Christian has such sound foundation for his faith, resting it upon the conviction gained from the Word of Christ, then he is able to conquer anything.

Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life:

John 11:23-27

23 Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. 24 Martha saith unto Him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. 25 Jesus said unto her, I am the Resurrection, and the Life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die. Believest thou this? 27 She saith unto Him, Yea, Lord: I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.


Ezekiel 37:12-14; Daniel 12:1-2; Isaiah 25:8; Isaiah 26:19; Hosea 13:14; Malachi 4:1-3; John 1:1-18; John 3:14-18; John 3:36; John 5:19-29; John 6:35-40; John 12:25; 1 John 1:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:12-28; Revelation 20:11-15; Revelation 21:1-6; Revelation 22:12-17; Exodus 3:14; John 4:26; John 6:20; John 6:35; John 6:41; John 6:48; John 6:51; John 8:12; John 8:24; John 8:28; John 8:58; John 9:9; John 10:7; John 10:9; John 10:11; John 10:14; John 13:19; John 14:6; John 15:1; John 15:5; John 18:5-6; John 18:8

Jesus answered Martha’s pleading with a beautiful word of comfort, which incidentally tests her faith. The words sounded as though Jesus were referring only to the final resurrection, on the last day. Here was the hope of faith to which she could always cling. And Martha proved equal to the test; she, with all the other true believers among the Jews, believed in the resurrection of the dead. If nothing more were forthcoming from the hand of Jesus, she would be fully satisfied with this gift of His grace. But her words: I know that he will rise in the resurrection on the last day, conveyed her hopes that the Lord would help also at the present time, at once. This proof of Martha’s humble, but firm trust in Him drew from Jesus that gem of sayings which is the glorious anchor of faith throughout the ages. Jesus, our Savior, is the Resurrection and the Life. All life, and the giving and returning of life to men, is centered in Him. Eternal life is in Him from eternity. And therefore He can give life, even when death had apparently claimed a person for his own. And with the resurrection the true life in and with Him will have its beginning. We Christians believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting, because our faith rests upon Him who died for us and rose again, in order that we might live with Him forever. The believers, therefore, though they seemingly succumb to temporal death, yet have life, are full possessors of life in the very midst of death, they are partakers and sharers with Christ in the full and complete life that had no beginning for Him and shall have no end for them that put their trust in His redemption alone. Death is only the gateway to the full and perfect life; it has no terrors for the Christian, since it has been swallowed up in victory by the resurrection of Jesus. Whatever experience believers have of death is all on this side of the grave; here the fear of death and the terrors of hell sometimes assail them very keenly. But they conquer all these horrors through faith in the words of Christ, and in the very moment of dying, death is overcome; they fall asleep in the wounds of Jesus, and in the next moment they awake in heaven. Since this trust must be found in the heart of every believer, Jesus puts the searching question to Martha: Believest thou this? And Martha joyfully assents and expresses her unwavering faith in her Lord as the promised Christ, the Son of God, as He was prophesied by all the patriarchs and sages of old, whose work should culminate in the overcoming of the last bitter enemy, death. Note: The certainty of the resurrection of the body, as based upon the work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, always inspires new hope in the hearts of the believers, even in the days of the greatest sorrow and misfortune, in the midst of sickness and death. This word: I believe in the resurrection of the body, is stronger than death. Though the dead may have rested in their graves for hundreds and even thousands of years, though their flesh has long since been consumed by worms and their bones have fallen into dust, yet they shall arise on the last day.

Mary’s coming to the Lord:

John 11:28-32

28 And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee. 29 As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto Him. 30 Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met Him. 31 The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there. 32 Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying unto Him, Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.


Luke 10:38-42; John 12:1-8

Martha had gone to the Lord for comfort, and she had received it in full measure. Instead of getting the customary cold sympathy and a stereotyped mumbling of condolence which leaves the heart empty, she had received such an assurance as filled her heart with joy and peace. And she wanted her sister to partake of the same comforting hope. So she hurried back home, and on account of the presence of the Jews, of whose enmity toward Christ she was fully aware, she called Mary aside and told her privately that the Master was near by and called her. Jesus had not expressed the wish to see Mary, but the intuition of Martha was not wrong in concluding that He would be only too glad to bring comfort to this sister also. Mary lost no time in hurrying to Jesus. Leaving the assembly of mourners without so much as a word of explanation, she went out of the town to meet Jesus along the way, for Jesus was tarrying at the place where Martha had spoken to Him. He had purposely delayed His coming, since He wanted to see and talk to the sisters alone. But when Mary hurried from the house, the Jews that were present thought that she had been overcome by a paroxysm of grief and intended to weep at the grave. So they followed her, probably with the intention of consoling her as best they could. But she left them far behind, came to Jesus, and fell down at His feet with the same words of firm faith in His power to help, not unmixed with gentle reproach, as those used by her sister. A similar lament is heard also in our days. There is a reminder connected with it that the Lord could and therefore should have prevented the misfortune. This in itself is not sinful, for a dead apathy is not a Christian virtue, but it must not go to that limit that it accuses or asks the reason for the chastising. That would be inexcusable.

The sorrow of Jesus:

John 11:33-37

33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, He groaned in the spirit, and was troubled. 34 And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto Him, Lord, come and see. 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then said the Jews, Behold how He loved him! 37 And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?


Luke 19:41-44; Hebrews 5:7-9; John 3:16; Romans 5:8; John 16:27; Romans 8:35-39; John 15:9; John 9

While Mary had poured out the sorrow of her heart to the Lord, the Jews that had been in the house with her also came up. Now Mary was weeping and wailing, and the Jews joined her, for such deep and unrestrained sorrow is infectious. All this moved Jesus very deeply; He was indignant in the spirit, deeply affected. The spectacle distressed Him so badly that He worked Himself up into a state of anxiety and emotion. He was strongly agitated over the power which the enemy of mankind, death, was here exhibiting over human beings. For death had certainly shown himself in this instance as the king of terrors, in taking from these sisters their brother and protector, one who was, besides, a friend to Himself. Death is a cruel enemy, for in a moment he destroys the happiness of families and friends, and rends the closest ties asunder. And behind death stands the hideous figure of him that has the power of death, the devil, the murderer from the beginning. Jesus inquired for the location of the grave, since He wanted those present to accompany Him there. He, the Source and Champion of life, here went forth to meet the enemy of life and to tear his prey from him. This He could do, for He was more than a mere human being; He possessed the power of Almighty God. But that He was also a true human being He here showed. For as the procession was coming near to the grave, the tears arose to the eyes of Jesus, and He wept. The feeling of grief was so strong as to draw these tears from His eyes. And with His tears He hallowed the tears, the grief, of the believers at the graves of those that are dear to them. This action of Jesus elicited various comments. Some of the Jews were deeply moved by this touching show of love and sympathy. But others were skeptical. They knew of His healing of the man that had been born blind, and in a half-puzzled, half-jeering way asked why He did not prevent death, with such power at His disposal. The fact that unbelievers sneer at the one or the other feature of Christianity should in no way discourage the Christians in their work, for if Christ had such experiences, His followers can expect no less.

The arrival at the grave:

John 11:38-42

38 Jesus therefore again groaning in Himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. 39 Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto Him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. 40 Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? 41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up His eyes, and said, Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me. 42 And I knew that Thou hearest Me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that Thou hast sent Me.


John 11:23-27; John 17

When Jesus was aware of the bitter mockery which His enemies were trying to heap upon Him even at this time, He was again strongly agitated, filled with indignation, but this time over their unreasonableness and blindness. That is the height of hypocrisy, when people assume a pious behavior, but incidentally are full of enmity and hatred toward Christ. Meanwhile they had come to the grave, which was an opening hewn into the rock, upon which a large stone had been laid. When Jesus told some of the men present to lift off the stone, Martha interposed. The body was now, literally, one of four days; it had lain in the grave for four days, and therefore she knew that decay had progressed to such an extent as to make the odor extremely unpleasant. In the greatness of her grief Martha was not using her spiritual mind. She probably thought that Jesus merely wanted to take a last look at the face of His friend. Thus the believers, in the bitter hour, when they see the evidences of death and decay before their eyes, are so absorbed in the contemplation of their terrors that they no longer lift up their minds to the King of Life. The Lord reproved Martha for the smallness of her faith, for He had held out to her the certainty of seeing the glory of God before her eyes. In the resurrection of the dead the glory of God is revealed. If we but believe with all our hearts in Christ, who is the Resurrection and the Life, we shall see the glory of God, when He raises the dead from their graves. When the stone had then been lifted off, Jesus raised His eyes to heaven and spoke a prayer of thanksgiving, indicating the intimacy of the union between the Father and Himself. The Lord had repeatedly said that He had been sent by the Father to perform certain works and miracles, and that He did nothing without the Father, and this prayer again gave evidence to that effect. He spoke with full confidence as though the soul of Lazarus had even then returned to his dead body. He thanked His Father for hearing Him; He expressed the certainty of His knowledge that He would always be heard in the same way; and He stated that He made His prayer for the sake of the people present, that they might see the intimacy obtaining between them, and that they might believe in His mission from the Father. Jesus here appears as true man, who, before undertaking a difficult task, looks up to God and pleads for His help. And the Lord’s prayer is a model also in this respect, that true faith thanks God for the receipt of His gifts and mercies even in advance, knowing that the granting of the petition is certain.

The miracle and its effect:

John 11:43-46

43 And when He thus had spoken, He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. 44 And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. 45 Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on Him. 46 But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done.


John 11:4,23; John 20:30-31; Romans 6:23; 1 Timothy 5:6; Ephesians 2:1-9; John 1:1-18; John 3:14-18; John 3:36; John 5:19-29; John 6:35-40; John 12:25; 1 John 1:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:12-28; Revelation 20:11-15; Revelation 21:1-6; Revelation 22:12-17

After Jesus had spoken His prayer to His heavenly Father, He did not delay. Addressing Himself to the corpse in the grave, He commanded the dead man with a loud voice: Lazarus, come forth; literally: Hither, out! And the almighty word caused the miracle to happen, brought the man upon whom the process of decay had begun back to life, and gave him the strength to leave the grave, though he was still bound with the customary grave-clothes and had his face covered with a sudary. Jesus merely told the bystanders to remove the confining bandages which hindered the man’s movements, and then to permit him to leave, as the curious glances of the multitude would be most embarrassing to him. There can be no doubt as to the reality of the miracle. The man Jesus Christ has power over death; He calls the dead back to life at will. The human nature was the means and instrument of Christ, of His almighty, divine power, it partakes of the divine majesty. This is the greatest miracle which Christ performed, so far as is recorded in Scripture, with the exception of His own resurrection. It is the guarantee of our hope and belief in the resurrection on the last day, when His almighty voice will call our bodies forth from the graves. The effect of such an exceptional miracle was twofold. Some of the Jews that had come to the sisters now were fully convinced as to the truth of Christ’s words and works; they believed in Him. But others there were whose hearts had even then been hardened beyond recall. They took occasion to report the miracle to the Pharisees, in order that these arch-enemies might make their plans accordingly. It was the fate of Christ, as it is that of His Gospel and its proclamation, to be to some a savor of death unto death, to others a savor of life unto life. Blessed are they that put their trust in Him!

Verses 47-57

The council of the Jews concerning Christ’s removal

The prophecy of Caiaphas:

John 11:47-52

47 Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. 48 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. 49 And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, 50 Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. 51 And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; 52 And not for that nation only, but that also He should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.


John 18:14; John 1:29; Matthew 20:17-19; Luke 24:25-27; Hebrews 10:12-14; John 10:22-39; Matthew 21:33-46

The matter of the raising of Lazarus was deemed so important that an immediate meeting of the Sanhedrin seemed advisable. Here the chief priests, who were Sadducees, and their enemies, the Pharisees, came together in perfect harmony, since the object was to remove the hated Nazarene. When the meeting had been assembled, they asked one another the frank question: Here this man is doing many signs and miracles, and what are we doing about it? They could not deny the fact that miracles were being performed by Jesus, but they hardened their hearts as to their meaning and purpose. Their one concern was as to the possible consequences to themselves and to the Jewish nation as a political unit. If they would take no steps to hinder this ministry of miracles, the result would be that all the common people would believe in Him as the Messiah. The chances were that they would then proclaim Him king of Judea, and this, in turn, would result in the Jews’ losing the last remnant of political power and standing. The Romans would simply come and destroy the city and lead the people away into captivity. The Jewish leaders did not know that they were thereby stating the fate of both city and nation which came upon them because of their rejection of the King of Grace. But while the members of the Sanhedrin were thus debating the question, Caiaphas, the high priest of that year, arose and made a statement amounting to a solution of the problem as it lay before them. He told them: Ye know nothing at all. They were talking nonsense and offering no sensible means for removing the difficulty. They did not consider the most obvious mode of procedure. The most expedient thing would obviously be to have this one man, who, in their opinion, was responsible for the agitation and unrest among the people, die. As Caiaphas put the matter: It is expedient for you that one man die for, in the stead of, the people, and the whole nation perish not. Here was cold-blooded craftiness; for the suggestion evidently was to have Jesus put to death as quickly as possible. By sacrificing Jesus, they would both rid themselves of a troublesome person and give to the Roman authorities an evidence of their loyalty. But aside from their meaning for the situation at that time, the words of Caiaphas, as the evangelist points out, were an unconscious, but none the less glorious prophecy. Jesus should die, not only for Israel, but for the whole world, and His death should result in a gathering and final uniting into one great spiritual communion of all that would believe on Him and thus receive the benefit of His death. In all nations of the earth are such as will become the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. They were at that time still scattered far and wide, but as the preaching of the Gospel has reached them, they have turned from their idols to the living God and have joined the communion of saints.

The result of the deliberations:

John 11:53-57

53 Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put Him to death. 54 Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; but went thence unto a country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim, and there continued with His disciples. 55 And the Jews’ Passover was nigh at hand: and many went out of the country up to Jerusalem before the Passover, to purify themselves. 56 Then sought they for Jesus, and spake among themselves, as they stood in the temple, What think ye, that He will not come to the feast? 57 Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a commandment, that, if any man knew where He were, he should shew it, that they might take Him.


John 5:18; John 7:1,19-20; John 8:58-59; John 10:22-33; John 12:9-11,17-19; Genesis 22:1-18; Exodus 12:1-28; Exodus 12:43-51; Leviticus 23:4-8; Numbers 9:1-14; 2 Chronicles 35:1-19; Isaiah 53:6-7; John 1:29-34; Matthew 26:1-2; Matthew 26:17-29; John 19:14-19,28-30; 1 Corinthians 5:7; Revelation 5:6-14

The members of the Sanhedrin acted upon the summary declaration of Caiaphas as they understood it, for it agreed with the inmost wishes of the majority of them. They formulated no definite plan on that day, but whenever they came together for their meetings in the Hall of Polished Stones, they reverted also to this important business, and considered ways and means for putting Christ to death with some show of right. Jesus was fully aware of their resolutions and intentions, and He therefore purposely avoided Jerusalem for a while, sojourning in a little town named Ephraim, northeast of Jerusalem, near the wilderness of Bethaven, until He should be ready for the last great Passion. Meanwhile the festival of the Passover was again drawing near, and the usual advance guard of pilgrims arrived at Jerusalem. Most of these came so early because they had to perform certain Levitical purifications before they could take part in the festival, Numbers 9:10; 2 Chronicles 30:17. Many of these people were anxious to see Jesus, and He was one of the chief topics of conversation wherever a group of people assembled in the Temple and elsewhere. There were all manner of guesses as to whether He would dare to come up for the feast, since the definite command had now been issued that He must be apprehended. The orders were that any one knowing the whereabouts of the Nazarene must give information. There was no need for them to anticipate: when Christ’s hour was come, He appeared in Jerusalem of His own free will.


Jesus raises His friend Lazarus from the grave, where he had lain for four days, whereupon His death is determined upon by the rulers of the Jews, orders being issued which aimed at His apprehension.

Chapter 12

Verses 1-11

The anointing of Jesus

Jesus at supper:

John 12:1-3

1 Then Jesus six days before the Passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, which had been dead, whom He raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with Him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.


Matthew 26:6-7; Mark 14:3; Luke 10:38-42; John 11

Cp. Mark 14:3-9. The evangelist marks the introduction to the great Passion of the Lord. It was six days before the festival of the Passover, which was celebrated by the Jews in commemoration of their deliverance out of Egypt. The Passover proper was celebrated on the evening of the 14th of Abib, or Nisan, the spring month, and was usually taken together with the Feast of Unleavened Bread, unless one wanted to differentiate for special reasons. Six days before this day, in this instance, was Saturday, the Sabbath of the Jews. Bethany was a favorite stopping-place of Jesus, since Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, His friends, were living there. The evangelist here notes especially that Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead, had his home in that town. The beloved Master, to whom the little family of disciples owed so much, was received also in this instance with every mark of loving respect. They made a supper for Him, an evening meal, after the close of the Sabbath. The busy Martha was hostess, she waited at table, the work in which she took the greatest pleasure, Luke 10:38-42. It is expressly stated that Lazarus was one of those that reclined at the table as one of the guests. There had been no illusion about his return to life. He was enjoying life and health as much as ever. While the meal was in progress, Mary, the other sister, came into the supper-room bearing a vessel containing one litra or libra (about eleven ounces avoirdupois) of genuine and very precious nard made from myrrh, the juice of the Arabian myrtle. This ointment was so costly and such a luxury that only the well-to-do could afford to use it for ordinary purposes. But Mary apparently paid no attention to this fact. As Jesus was reclining at the table, resting on His left arm, with His feet stretched somewhat to the rear, Mary not only anointed His head, as Mark and Matthew relate, but especially His feet. Profusely, lavishly, she used the precious ointment, and then wiped the Lord’s feet with her hair. It was an act of spontaneous devotion and loving loyalty. Naturally, the odor of the ointment, used in such profusion, filled not only the room, but the entire house, thus attracting attention at once, also to the costliness of the offering. It is altogether well-pleasing to the Lord if people, for love of Him, bring offerings for the adornment of churches, where the congregation comes together for worship. The factor of utility must not be emphasized to the exclusion of all other considerations when churches are built.

The objection of Judas:

John 12:4-8

Then saith one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray Him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of My burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but Me ye have not always.


Matthew 26:8-13; Mark 14:4-9; John 6:67-71; Matthew 26:14-16; John 13:21-30; John 18:1-3; Luke 22:47-48; Matthew 27:3-10; Acts 1:12-26; John 19:38-42; Deuteronomy 15:7-11; Proverbs 14:31; Matthew 6:1-4; Matthew 25:31-46; Luke 12:22-34; John 16:5-11,16; Revelation 22:12-17

When Mary gave the wonderful evidence of her devotion to the Lord, all the disciples were more or less taken aback, Matthew 26:8. Their frugal manner of living immediately scented useless extravagance. But there was one in their midst, Judas of Kerioth, the son of Simon, who afterwards betrayed the Lord, that voiced his objections in no uncertain terms. The value of the ointment was three hundred Denarii (fifty dollars or somewhat more) [Luco note: About $860 in 2023 according to US Inflation Calculator]. Devoid of all sentiment and real feeling as he was, Judas demanded why the ointment had not been sold for this sum, in order that the money might be given to the poor. But his apparent solicitude for the poor people was all sham, intended to mask the real interest which he felt, that of getting the money into his clutches. The poor were nothing to him; to them he did not devote one moment of anxious thought. Judas was a thief. As treasurer of the little band of disciples he carried the wallet for them all, had complete charge of all moneys. Since a system of auditing was hardly to be thought of, Judas could easily abstract small sums from time to time. And here he was obliged to see a splendid opportunity lost. Note: Judas is a warning example for all times. He undoubtedly had been a simple believer in Christ when first he was called to join the little band of disciples. But the temptations connected with the office which was entrusted to him proved too much for his endurance. His love of money, his covetousness, came to the front; he began to steal, and faith fled from his heart. But with faith gone and avarice reigning in the heart, it was an easy matter for the devil to take possession of Judas to such an extent that he betrayed his Savior. Jesus did not wish to expose Judas at this time, and therefore is satisfied with taking Mary’s part and defending her action. He explained that the action of the woman was a part of the preparation for His burial, which was destined soon to take place. Far from censuring her, therefore, they should rather have commended her highly. And so far as the point raised by Judas was concerned: the poor they always had with them. There was always opportunity to do good to these unfortunates that were in destitute circumstances. But the presence of Jesus would soon be removed from them; there was but little time left to give Him special evidences of love and devotion. Thus this apparent extravagance, being occasional only, is fully justified. And the saying of Christ finds its application even to-day. It is self-evident that a congregation will take care of the poor in its own midst; but after this has been provided for, a little luxury in the interest of beautifying the services of the Lord is by no means displeasing to Him.

People come for the sake of Lazarus:

John 12:9-11

Much people of the Jews therefore knew that He was there: and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom He had raised from the dead. 10 But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; 11 Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.


John 11:38-53; John 20:30-31

In the course of the same evening, while Jesus was still in Bethany, many Jews came out from Jerusalem. The news of His coming had traveled ahead of Him, after the usual manner of such reports. But it was not only the interest in Jesus that brought them out, the compelling motive rather being a morbid curiosity to see that man Lazarus, of whom it was definitely reported that Christ had raised him from the dead, many Jews having been present. Although some time had passed by since that event, the miracle was still the great sensation. Here was a matter which again caused great uneasiness to the rulers of the Jews, whose spies were everywhere. This living witness was a powerful testimony for the almighty power of Jesus, and might thus become the reason why many people might come to faith in Christ. This must be prevented at all costs. And so the chief priests consulted about the matter and made the monstrous proposal, the cold-blooded resolution, to commit murder; for to put the innocent Lazarus to death was nothing short of that. Here the devilish character of self-hardening unbelief is evident. Rather than have more Jews desert their false cause and believe in Jesus, their Savior, these leaders of the Jewish nation devise one murderous scheme after the other. Whenever the enemies of Christ seek to harm Him and the preaching of His Gospel, even in our days, they always manage to concoct a plausible reason to salve their own consciences. But their acts are murder and arson just the same, no matter what high-sounding names they invent to cover their crimes.

Verses 12-19

Christ’s entry into Jerusalem

John 12:12-16

12 On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet Him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord. 14 And Jesus, when He had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written, 15 Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt. 16 These things understood not His disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things unto Him.


Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-40; Zechariah 9:9; Revelation 7:9-10; 2 Kings 9:12-13; Leviticus 23:39-40; Ezekiel 41:18-20; Psalm 113; Psalm 114; Psalm 115; Psalm 116; Psalm 117; Psalm 118; Luke 1:31-32; Matthew 2:1-2; John 1:43-51; Matthew 1:1; John 7:42; John 19:16-22; 1 Timothy 6:13-16; Revelation 22:16; Revelation 1:4-8; Revelation 19:11-16; Revelation 17:14

That Jesus had come as far as Bethany was now generally known in Jerusalem, and when He therefore set out for the capital the next morning, Sunday, a peculiar enthusiasm took hold of the pilgrims. A great multitude of people started out from the city to meet Him. As they went along the road, they took the branches, or fronds, symbols of victory and rejoicing which were borne by the celebrants at the great festivals, and went out to meet the Lord. In joyful exultation they broke forth into the strains of the last Hallel Psalm, thus unwittingly giving to Christ the honor due Him as the Helper and Savior, Psalm 118:25-26. For these words are a prophecy of Christ: Help, Lord; hail to the King, the Messiah! The entire demonstration was indeed only a momentary exultation. It was inspired by God for the sake of showing His Son the eventual homage which men would have to give Him at the final revealing of His glory, Philippians 2:9-11. John does not relate the manner by which Jesus obtained the foal upon which He rode down to the city over the Mount of Olives, but calls attention to the prophecy which was thereby fulfilled, Zechariah 9:9. The daughter of Zion is the Church of Christ, the sum total of all believers in the salvation gained through His blood. The King is Jesus Himself, at that time still in poverty and humility, but still a King most mighty. His coming banishes all fear, for it means the subduing of all enemies. Only people must not get the idea that His kingdom is of this world, as a great many modern theological leaders are dreaming. “In His kingdom, in which He is King and Lord, He does not teach how we should till the soil, plow, sow, reap, attend to household matters, collect money, wage war, govern land and people, but places that in charge of worldly kings and lords. … For Christ in His kingdom teaches us through His Word that we are poor, lost sinners, condemned to death, subject to the devil; but that He, through His death and blood, has delivered us from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, in order that by faith in Him we should be justified and saved.” [Luther, 13b, 1746. 1747]. Though the disciples of Jesus joined in with the people, led them in the singing in fact, yet they did not understand the meaning of the demonstration at that time. It was only after Christ had entered into His glory, through His Passion and resurrection, that the minds of the disciples, having been illumined by the Spirit from on high, called all these things to remembrance and understood them in the light of the prophecy. Note: A Christian should never be discouraged if the sense of some passage in Scriptures seems to escape him, but should continue his eager quest for knowledge of God. The Spirit of God often opens up the meaning of a passage in a most remarkable way, and never without a resulting comforting and strengthening of faith.

Further results of the raising of Lazarus:

John 12:17-19

17 The people therefore that was with Him when He called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised him from the dead, bare record. 18 For this cause the people also met Him, for that they heard that He had done this miracle. 19 The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after Him.


John 12:9-11; John 11:32-45; Luke 19:37-38

The ovation given to Jesus on the day of His entry into Jerusalem would probably never have reached such proportions, if it had not been for the fact that the witnesses of the raising of Lazarus spread the news on all sides. They had been present upon that occasion; they had heard the call of Jesus while the man still lay in his grave; they had seen Jesus raise the dead man and bring him back to life. This miracle therefore made Jesus the object of such great interest at this time, the knowledge that it had been performed brought many people out with the multitude that would under other circumstances have probably stayed at home. For the moment the sentiment was strongly in favor of Christ. And the Pharisees, the rulers of the people, had to acknowledge their helplessness in the face of such popular acclaim. Neither threatenings nor excommunications had any effect upon the people; they all, with one accord, took the side of Jesus. So the Pharisees had to admit their failure. In spite of all their crafty plans they could not get Jesus into their power. When His time had come, He came of His own free will, He took the suffering and death upon Himself for the benefit of the world. He delivered Himself into the hands of His enemies, just as He had planned it and at His time.

Verses 20-33

The first-fruits of the heathen

The Greeks apply to the disciples:

John 12:20-22

20 And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast: 21 The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus. 22 Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus.


1 Kings 8:41-43; Psalm 117; Romans 1:16-17; John 1:44-45; John 1:40-41; Acts 8:26-40

Certain Greeks there were among the crowds that came up to worship at the feast. They may have been men living in the Decapolis or in Galilee, men of pure Greek extraction, perhaps not even proselytes of the gate; they were heathen. But they had heard of the true God who was adored among the Jews. And they now had ample opportunity to hear also of Jesus, for all men were talking of Him and the great miracle which He had performed. They were acquainted with Philip, since his home was in Bethsaida, and they may have met him often in the North. Their wish was soon stated. They told Philip that they wished to see Jesus. Here was the desire of awakening faith, for they were not so much concerned about seeing Jesus with the eyes of their body as about the consummation of their hope to find in Him the Savior. Philip did not dare to decide the matter of introducing these Greeks to Jesus alone, so he called upon his fellow-townsman Andrew to help him decide. What made them hesitate to lay the request of the Greeks before the Lord was probably the prejudice which they, as members of the Jewish Church, had against all Gentiles. The many passages of the Old Testament which speak of the conversion of the Gentiles were at that time hidden before their eyes. But after some consultation the two disciples decided to bring the matter to the attention of the Master. Note: To this day it is often a hard matter for race and language prejudices to be overcome in the work of the Kingdom. It is necessary to be fully and absolutely convinced of the fact that Jesus is the Savior of the whole world in order to carry out one’s missionary duty properly.

The hour of Christ’s glorification:

John 12:23-26

23 And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. 24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. 25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. 26 If any man serve Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve Me, him will My Father honour.


John 7:25-31; Matthew 20:17-19; John 17; Mark 14:32-49; Matthew 10:34-39; Matthew 16:24-28; Mark 8:31-38; Luke 9:18-27; Luke 17:20-37

Jesus was deeply moved by the request of the Greeks to become acquainted with Him, to know the Savior. It showed Him that the hour, the time, had come when He was to be taken from the world, the culmination of His life’s work, His glorification through His suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension. For the general reception of the Gentiles into the Kingdom of Grace, according to Scriptures, was to be the work of the glorified Christ; after His entrance into glory He was to gather the scattered sheep among the Gentiles. But the way to this glory lay through death. Most solemnly the Lord declares that the full worth of a grain of seed is accomplished only through its apparent death and decay in the ground. Like a grain sown into the ground and decomposed, so is the death of the Savior. But His resurrection is like the blade which springs up from the seemingly dead seed; and this blade brings forth an abundance of fruit. The head that was laid into the grave in deep sorrow has now been crowned with glory, and the glory of the exalted Son of Man will convert many Gentiles, Isaiah 11:1. But herein is an admonition also for the disciples, who are pledged to follow their Master. If any man love his soul, this present life, if he hopes to gain everything for himself in this world, he will lose the true life in and with Christ. It is one of the demands of Christian discipleship that all followers of Christ die unto this present life, with all it has to offer, daily. Only he that hateth his life in this present world, that is willing to give up and sacrifice everything for the sake of the Master, will guard and keep his soul unto life eternal. Cp. Matthew 10:39; Matthew 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; Luke 17:33. True service of Christ is shown in the following of Him, in emulating His example of unselfish ministry and devotion. And Jesus, in turn, will not permit such deeds of unselfish love to go unrewarded. His servants, those that are in continual attendance upon Him, shall share His place of everlasting bliss. And not only that; but the true servants of Christ, that serve Him in faith, in whatever way He suggests, will be regarded as precious, and be valued very highly in the eyes of God the Father Himself.

The manner of Christ’s glorification:

John 12:27-33

27 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. 28 Father, glorify Thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. 29 The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to Him. 30 Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of Me, but for your sakes. 31 Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. 32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me. 33 This He said, signifying what death he should die.


Matthew 26:36-39; Luke 22:44; Hebrews 5:7-9; Luke 3:21–22; Mark 9:7; 2 Peter 1:16-19; John 3:14-21; Luke 18:31-34; John 17

The thought of the coming ordeal, in a way, filled the soul of Christ with dread, He was deeply moved and agitated at the prospect. He felt something of the dread and fear of death. For Jesus was true man, whose flesh and blood shrank from the idea of death. Death is a judgment of God upon sins and sinners. To die in the stead of all men, as their substitute, and thus as the greatest sinner of all times, was a thought which filled the soul of Jesus with dread. He hardly knows what to say in this emergency. As though seeking counsel from His disciples, He asks: Shall I say, Father, deliver Me out of this hour? Should He plead to be saved the ordeal which His human nature dreaded? Every Christian may say a similar prayer when the hour of tribulation comes upon him; only he must never set his own will above the will of his heavenly Father. But even the thought of becoming unfaithful to His Father’s trust Jesus repudiates, since it is for this reason that He came into this hour. It is the goal and culmination of His life’s work. He cannot disappoint His Father at this time. Without His death His life would be fruitless. And so He corrects His prayer by asking that the work for which He came into the world continue: Father, glorify Thy name! Jesus had fully regained His assurance, the spiritual balance necessary for the carrying out of the plan for the salvation of men. His death would redound to the glory of the Father, as would the whole work of salvation. And so Christ was ready, even at the cost of the greatest agony. And no sooner had He finished His prayer than a voice from heaven came in answer that God both had glorified, and would again glorify, His name. His name had been glorified in countless instances, but especially at the incarnation of the Son, and it would be glorified in a still more wonderful manner by the great Passion. So the answer of the Father was both an assurance and a promise. But it was made principally for the sake of the people. They should understand that it was God giving testimony of His Son, on account of the essential intimacy that obtained between them. The ignorant Jews had heard the sound, but had not understood the words. And so they expressed their opinion, some thinking that there had been a clap of thunder, others, that an angel had spoken with Jesus. The Lord therefore explains to them that the voice came for their sakes, in order that, if possible, they might accept Him as their Savior even now yet, in the eleventh hour, and thus be saved. For in the events that were beginning now, and that would transpire in the next few days, they should know that a great judgment was taking place, that the universe was on trial. The time of Christ’s suffering and death was the hour of decision for the whole world, and especially in this, that the prince of the world, the devil, would be cast out, conquered, and subdued. Through His Passion and death Christ took from the devil the right which he had assumed on account of the sins of mankind, namely, of keeping all men in subjection to him. By bearing the sins of the world and by effecting a complete reconciliation for them all, Jesus has taken away from the devil the power to keep men in his service. In this way the hour of the world’s redemption is also the hour of decision, the hour of trial. In the end, the question will be whether men will stand by Christ, the Redeemer, or by Satan, the destroyer of their souls. To gain this great victory and eject the devil from his dominion, it was necessary that Jesus be lifted up from the earth, that He be elevated on the cross. But the accursed tree in this case was transformed into a throne of victory and grace. Through His death on the cross He would make it possible for all men to be drawn to Him; the redemption would be complete; the reconciliation would be assured to all men without exception. The cross of Christ is the ladder between earth and heaven. Here is glorious comfort for every person in all the great wide world.

Verses 34-41

Walking in the Light

The necessity of believing in the Light:

John 12:34-36

34 The people answered Him, We have heard out of the Law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest Thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man? 35 Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. 36 While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide Himself from them.


2 Samuel 7:1-16; Psalm 89; Psalm 110; Isaiah 9:2-7; Daniel 7:13-14; Luke 1:26-33; Luke 2:22-32; John 1:1-13; John 8:12; John 12:44-46; Matthew 5:14-16; 1 John 3:1-2; Ephesians 5:1-21

For once the people understood at least a part of the message which Jesus tried to convey to them; they comprehended that He was referring to His death. But now the Law, the Old Testament Scripture, contained some prophecies, Psalm 110:4; Isaiah 9:5; Daniel 7:13-14, which spoke of an eternal kingdom of the Messiah. The Jews could not make these statements agree with the words of Christ. And so they impatiently asked who this Son of Man was to whom He was always referring. It was true enough: Christ should abide forever, but not in an earthly, visible kingdom. Through His death He was to enter into this new life, in which He was to live and reign forever. Jesus did not answer their question directly, but gave them such instructions as would enable them to find out the truth for themselves. It would now be only a very short time that He, the Light of the World, would be with them. And therefore they should make the best use of this time. They should walk in this Light; they should give the rays from this wonderful Light an opportunity of shining into their hearts. If they would not receive light from this Light, then the darkness of their own heart and the destruction which follows it would remain for them. The man that travels in darkness is always in danger of losing his way and of landing in pitfalls. He that is without Christ, the true and only Light, is helpless in the midst of the thousands of spiritual dangers in these latter days. Therefore Jesus urges that the Jews believe in the Light, put their faith and trust in Him, their Savior. This faith would make them children of light, would give them the manner, the attributes of the true Light. They would then be filled with love toward God, with truth and righteousness, with all the virtues that characterize the true believer. This was the climax of Christ’s sermon; He had again sent forth His call of grace; He had again invited them to partake of the blessings which He offered to them all. He now went away from them, He hid Himself after He had given the people the explanation recorded at the end of the chapter.

The fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy:

John 12:37-41

37 But though He had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on Him: 38 That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which He spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? 39 Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, 40 He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. 41 These things said Esaias, when he saw His glory, and spake of Him.


Isaiah 53:1; Isaiah 6:9-10; Luke 24:25-27; James 1:13; 2 Peter 3:9

The results of Christ’s entire ministry, on the whole, had been very discouraging. Neither His words nor His miracles had had the desired result. And in this, as the evangelist here points out, the judgment of God upon unbelief was carried out. He refers to two Old Testament prophecies, both from the Book of Isaiah. In Isaiah 53:1 the Messiah complains of the fact that His teaching is not believed, and that the arm of the Lord, as revealed in the miracles, is hidden from the multitude. And since the Jews thus, by their unbelief, opposed the gracious will of God in both Gospel and signs, the second prophecy, Isaiah 6:9-10, found its application and fulfilment. Their eyes were finally blinded, making it impossible for them to see; their heart was rendered callous to every good impression, making it impossible for them to understand the wonderful message of their salvation. The judgment upon the unbelieving Jews, which had begun in the days of the great prophet, was now finally consummated in the days of Christ. Cp. Matthew 13:14; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; Acts 28:26; Romans 11:8. It was rejection and contempt of the grace of God which characterized the attitude of the Jews: contempt in the days of Isaiah, contempt in the days of Christ, contempt in the days of the apostles; and so the judgment finally struck them in full force. It is a terrible thing for a person to reject and despise the grace of God when it is offered to him, for the time of mercy may soon be ended, and then comes the time when the Gospel will be unto such a person a savor of death unto death.

Verses 42-50

Of faith in Christ and God

John 12:42-50

42 Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on Him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: 43 For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. 44 Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on Me, believeth not on Me, but on Him that sent Me. 45 And he that seeth Me seeth Him that sent Me. 46 I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on Me should not abide in darkness. 47 And if any man hear My words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 He that rejecteth Me, and receiveth not My words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. 49 For I have not spoken of Myself; but the Father which sent Me, He gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. 50 And I know that His commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto Me, so I speak.


John 3:1-21; John 7:40-52; John 9:22; John 19:38-42; John 1:1-18; John 5:19-47; John 6:37-40; John 13:20; John 14:1-11

In the form of a parenthesis the evangelist records a fact concerning some of the rulers of the Jews, members of the great council, the Sanhedrin. A few of these had gained the conviction that Jesus was the Messiah, for they could not deny the evidence of His words and works. But they had not yet reached that firmness of faith which manifests itself in open confession. They feared the Pharisees and their threats of excommunication; they loved the honor and glory from men more than that from God. And so the young plant of faith was almost immediately suffocated. Faith cannot grow or even be maintained in such a confined atmosphere. Note: This fate overtakes many a person in our days that fears the ridicule, the contempt, the persecution of the world. Faithfulness to Christ must not shrink from trials and persecutions, but stand firm and loyal on His side to the end.

The evangelist now records, in conclusion, the words which Jesus spoke to the people in leaving, a summary of all His discourses during the last days of His life, as they were addressed to the people in the Temple. He called out loudly, in order to call attention to His words and to strengthen the impression which He intended to make. Faith in Christ and faith in God is the same, for the two are one, and Jesus is His Father’s ambassador. He that sees Christ with the eyes of faith thereby has a knowledge and understanding of the Father. Only through Christ and in the light of His work of redemption can the Father be known. Without Christ, the picture of God can at best be a caricature, resembling the ideas of the Gentiles concerning their highest God. Jesus has come into the world as the true Light, and not in the last instance to throw light upon the Father and upon His relation to mankind. While He enlightens the darkened minds of men, He shows them God as their Father, and enables them to believe in this Father with all their hearts. As a light Jesus came, and He that believes on Him leaves the darkness of unbelief and is filled with divine light. It is a matter of foolishness for any one to be a mere hearer of the Word and not to preserve and keep His sayings in a true heart. Such a person Christ will not judge; he has his judgment in himself. So far as Christ is concerned, His object in coming into the world was not to judge and condemn the world, but to save the world; He has no interest in the condemnation of men, but only in their everlasting salvation. But he that spurns Christ and repudiates His sayings, His Gospel, thereby condemns himself. And on the last day that same Word will prove his undoing. He will be told that he rejected the message which offered salvation to him freely, out of pure grace and mercy. So again it is not zeal for Himself and His honor which makes Jesus so insistent, but the eagerness to fulfil the commandment of His Father. Both His public and His private utterances were governed by this consideration. There is perfect agreement, absolute unity, between Father and Son. His commandment and God’s commandment are identical; the one thing that God wants more than anything else for all men, and that He therefore wants all men to strive for, is eternal life. He has only one will, and that is His good and gracious will that all men should be saved. In this the will of the Son coincides exactly with the will of the Father. For that reason Jesus has been speaking and preaching and repeating His glorious message, because He wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of truth.


Christ enters Jerusalem amid the acclaim of the people, after having been anointed at Bethany by Mary, He preaches of His glorification through His suffering and death, and urges men to have faith in Him and His Father.

Chapter 13

Verses 1-20

Jesus washing the disciples’ feet

At the Passover meal:

John 13:1-5

1 Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end. And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him; Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, 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. After that He poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded.


Matthew 26:17-29; Mark 14:12-25; Luke 22:7-23; John 1:29-34; Matthew 26:1-2; John 19:14-19,28-30; 1 Corinthians 5:7; Revelation 5:6-14

John introduces the story of the last evening of Christ’s life in a very exact and impressive way. Jesus had spent the time since Tuesday evening at some place outside of the city, probably at Bethany. He had now returned to Jerusalem, where two of His disciples had prepared the Passover meal for Him and the apostles. The announcement or introduction to the feast had taken place. After the disciples had reclined about the table, Jesus, as the head of the household, had uttered the thanksgiving, or benediction, over the wine and the feast, Himself drinking the first cup. It was at this point, when the feast proper had not yet commenced, that the washing of hands (and feet) usually took place. The evangelist also characterizes the attitude of Jesus. The Lord knew, by virtue of His divine omniscience, that His hour had come, the last great hour of His life, the consummation of His destiny on earth. He must leave this world, in the state of His human nature, in which He had given His whole life as a sacrifice. His way of glorification would be through death, but away from this world to the Father, by resurrection and ascension. Love of those that were His own according to the will of His Father, that had been given Him as His peculiar and particular friends, had been the keynote of His entire bearing toward them all His life. And so He wanted to give these men, who were attached to Him as His friends in a most particular sense, evidence of His love to the very end. His love remained steadfast through all His suffering and in spite of all their lack of faith. Such is the Savior’s love at all times toward His weak and erring children, a seeking, searching, enduring love. “How do these words agree with the story? Very fine; if one only pays close attention. For in that he says: Jesus knew that the hour was there for Him to go out of this world to the Father, he wants to awaken a special diligence that we should mark this work and the preaching that He does concerning it with all diligence, since the Lord, almost in the last hour, when He was to depart out of this life, wanted to proclaim this to us. Now this is certainly true: what our dearest friends say and do shortly before their end moves us more and goes more deeply into the heart than other things which they may have spoken or done during the time of their life. For when it comes to that point, then both scolding and joking is past with the dying, and what they then say or do comes from their heart and is their true, serious opinion. … It was now the time that the Lord should go from the world, the disciples, however, should remain there still longer; they had need of such example and instruction, if otherwise they wanted to remain His true disciples and not allow the example of the world to seduce them.” [Luther, 13a, 317. 318]. When supper had been served, when the meal proper was about to begin, Jesus did a peculiar thing. By this time the devil had not only suggested the betrayal to the heart of Judas, but had fully taken possession of his heart. Jesus, at the same time, was fully conscious, even as a mere human being, that the Father had given all things into His hands, cp. John 3:35. Even in the state of humiliation God had given to Jesus the full measure of divine omnipotence. With His exaltation He then, as true man, entered upon the full and free use of His divine omnipotence and providence. But here the thought is most prominent that God had entrusted to Jesus the carrying out of the great counsel of love. In a way, the responsibility for the redemption of the whole world now rested upon Him alone. He had gone out from the Father with a full knowledge of the requirements governing the proposed atonement for the sins of the world, and He knew that He must bring His work to a successful close and, even as true man, go back into the bosom of the Father. It was not that Christ was looking forward into a hidden future; He was fully conscious and aware of all that would happen to Him. It is that fact which emphasizes the willingness of the Lord to enter upon the great Passion.

The evangelist, having thus brought out the dramatic intensity of the hour and its importance in the history of salvation, makes the action of Jesus under the circumstances stand out all the more prominently. He arose from the sofa upon which He was reclining for the meal, He took off His outer garments, since they would hinder Him in the work He intended to perform, He took a long linen cloth, or towel, and girded Himself with it, tying it around His waist after the manner of the servants performing the work. For His object was to perform the foot-washing. There being no slave present, the office would naturally fall to the lot of the humblest in the little circle. But these men, far from feeling humility at this time, started a quarrel as to who should be accounted the greatest, Luke 22:23-27. The lesson was to be impressive and have a lasting effect, and it had, by the account of John, who noted every detail most carefully. Jesus put water into the basin which was commonly used for that purpose, and then very deliberately began to wash the feet of His disciples and to dry them with the towel with which He was girded.

The objection of Peter:

John 13:6-11

Then cometh He to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto Him, Lord, dost Thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto Him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me. Simon Peter saith unto Him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. 10 Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. 11 For he knew who should betray Him; therefore said He, Ye are not all clean.


John 1:26-34; Matthew 3:11-17; John 15:3; Mark 16:16; Acts 22:16; Titus 3:4-7; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Hebrews 10:19-22; Revelation 7:13-17; Revelation 22:12-17

It is a most realistic picture which the evangelist here draws: the Lord in the rôle of the humblest of servants, performing the work of the house-slave; the disciples sitting around in silent stupefaction, really unable to make anything of the entire matter. But Jesus went right on down the line, omitting none. When He came to Peter, however, He met with opposition. With his usual impetuousness, Peter declared, half in the form of a question, half in that of an emphatic statement: Lord, surely Thou shalt not wash my feet! It was a mixture of reverence and selfwill which prompted Peter to make this declaration; he still lacked the true understanding of his Master in many respects. The Lord tells him, in return, that he did not know, did not understand at that time, what the real significance of Christ’s humble task was. But the time would come when the meaning should be brought to him and the full realization given him. A part of the meaning Jesus explained to His disciples that very evening, but the full enlightenment did not strike them until after Pentecost. Note: This word of Jesus finds its application to the many and various vicissitudes of a Christian’s life, when there is a tendency to stand in helpless confusion before some words and works of the Lord which are at the time beyond one’s understanding. But there is always the comfort: whatever is not revealed and made clear to us in this life will be fully explained in the great hereafter, 1 Corinthians 13:9-12.

Still Peter was not satisfied. He asserts: To all eternity nevermore shalt Thou wash my feet! His love for his Master was apt to show itself in peculiar ways. But Jesus sternly rejoins: If I do not wash Thee, thou hast no part with Me. The evidence is clearly pointing to some connection with Christ not conditioned by the mere external washing. The act of Jesus was symbolical and represented the close union and communion between Christ and those that are His. Only he whom Christ washes and cleanses from sins can have part with Christ. Cp. Psalm 51:4. This great benefit and blessing of the Lord, the cleansing from sins, the disciples did not realize and appreciate fully till after Pentecost. But Peter immediately became overenthusiastic and violently eager, desiring to have more than his share of the Lord’s service, thinking it depended upon the extent of the outward washing, how close and certain the inward union and communion with Christ would be. But Jesus curbs his eagerness about having also his hands and his head washed. Since the washing was symbolical only, it was not necessary that the whole body be washed with water. He whom the cleansing and sanctifying power of Jesus in His redemption has touched is altogether clean and holy in the sight of God. His disciples were clean; they had, by faith, accepted the redemption in His blood. They were justified from their sins. And the sanctification of their lives must continue, as the washing of feet indicated; they must ever wash away and remove the filth of the sins that would persist in clinging to them and in soiling their flesh and their conscience. All believers have daily need of this cleansing from sins, it is necessary for them all to lay aside the sin which does so continually beset them, Hebrews 12:1. That is the significance of the washing of feet. And in making the declaration, Jesus deliberately makes one exception. One there was, the man that would betray Him, who was not clean, who had spurned the redemption and sanctification of his Savior, who had denied the faith completely by planning to deliver his Master into the hands of the unbelievers.

The application of the washing of feet to the disciples:

John 13:12-17

12 So after He had washed their feet, and had taken His garments, and was set down again, He said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? 13 Ye call Me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. 16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. 17 If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.


Matthew 18:1-6; Matthew 23:8-12; Mark 9:33-37; Luke 6:40; Luke 22:24-27; Philippians 2:1-11; John 15:18-25; John 13:31-35

Jesus finished His self-imposed, deliberate task; He wanted it impressed upon the memories of the disciples. He then took His upper garments once more, He put them on, He reclined once more in His place as the head of the household. Then He broke the silence by asking them whether they had perceived the meaning of His action. The Lord’s own action had been symbolical, but incidentally it served as an example which they should emulate. They gave Him the honoring title of Master or Lord, and He did not repudiate the appellation, but rather asserted His full right to bear these names. He is the great Lord, come from heaven; He is the great Teacher of all men, at all times. If He, therefore, did not consider Himself too good or too dignified to perform this humble service for them, they, in turn, should not hesitate about following His example. They are to apply His example to the acts of love and service which they owe to their neighbor. The reference is to all acts of kindness and charity, and, under circumstances, the very act which Jesus performed for the disciples might well be included in that list, 1 Timothy 5:10. But Jesus refers in general to all kindly acts in the care of fellow-Christians. For the Christians are His disciples, and therefore His willing, loving servants. Therefore, as Jesus very solemnly emphasizes, they, as servants, cannot be above the Master, neither can the ambassador or minister be greater than he that sent him. The humblest work of love for one’s neighbor should be performed with all eagerness, for no disciple of Christ may presume to be above such works of merciful and kind service. If he does, he has none of the spirit of Christ living in him. Cp. Mark 10:24; Luke 6:40; Luke 22:27. Note: The application of these words to the spiritual field is unusually apt. The Christians are still living in the world, they are obliged to battle continually with their flesh and blood, and therefore sin will make its appearance. The greatest love and the spirit of Christ is shown in this, that one forgives his neighbor his daily trespasses, and endures his faults and frailties. And the Lord adds an earnest and searching word in the conclusion of this paragraph. Mere head knowledge of the wish and will of Jesus has no value in the kingdom of Christ. It is the application of knowledge expressed in actions which counts in the estimation of Jesus. The person that practises the love which has come into his heart by faith, in such deeds of mercy and charity and kindness as are shown in the Word of God, he will be truly happy, in the sense of being assured of the approbation of Christ.

Another allusion to Judas:

John 13:18-20

18 I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with Me hath lifted up his heel against Me. 19 Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am He. 20 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth Me; and he that receiveth Me receiveth Him that sent Me.


John 6:66-71; John 15:16-19; John 17:1-2,12; Luke 22:21-22; Luke 24:25-27; Psalm 41:9; Psalm 109:6-8; Acts 1:15-26; John 16:1-11; Matthew 10:40-42; Luke 10:16

All the words of kindly admonition, all the promises of future blessings, were directed only to the true disciples, only to those whose faith was firmly grounded in Jesus, their Master and Savior. And the Lord here expressly makes an exception in the case of one man. He knew very well whom He had chosen; He was altogether aware of the significance of His every action. But in their very midst was one in whom the words of the prophet would be fulfilled: He that eats with Me bread has lifted up against Me his heel, Psalm 41:9. It would be a man that had been in the utmost intimacy with the Savior, one that had been accepted into the inner circle of the apostles and intimates of the Lord, that would become guilty of the most fiendish and devilish crime that could be imagined, namely, of spurning the Lord that bought him with His holy blood. But herein would the Scripture be fulfilled. In that very fact, in the heinous crime of one member of the table-round, they would find confirmation of the fact that nothing was hidden from their Master. Thus they would be induced and encouraged to believe and trust in Him all the more firmly. That should strengthen them in their belief that Jesus was truly the Messiah that had been promised to the world. And so far as the true disciples were concerned, they should be perfectly assured in regard to their apostleship. He tells them that His messengers must be received with the deference and honor due Him, and that in a similar way those that receive Him and believe on Him thereby receive the Father. Every service rendered to any true servant of the Gospel is entered into the accounts of God as one rendered to Himself, and will receive its reward of mercy accordingly, on the last day. Cp. Matthew 10:40; Luke 10:16. There is an encouraging admonition here for the Christians of all times.

Verses 21-30

The traitor at the table

John 13:21-26

21 When Jesus had thus said, He was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray Me. 22 Then the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom He spake. 23 Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. 24 Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom He spake. 25 He then lying on Jesus’ breast saith unto Him, Lord, who is it? 26 Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when He had dipped the sop, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.


John 6:66-71; Matthew 26:20-25; Mark 14:17-21; Luke 22:21-23; Psalm 41:9; Psalm 109:6-8; Matthew 26:14-16; John 18:1-3; Luke 22:47-48; Matthew 27:3-10; Acts 1:12-26; John 21:20-25

The reference which Jesus had just made to His betrayer affected Him very deeply. He was deeply moved in the spirit, with sorrow over the ingratitude and baseness of the wretch that would use the familiarity and knowledge of intimacy to betray Him. Purposely the Lord does not mention the name of the traitor, since Peter and some of the rest would undoubtedly have taken measures to prevent the crime by dealing summarily with the man that contemplated such an atrocity, but merely says, with solemn deliberateness: One of you will betray Me. It was a tense moment. The sorrow of Jesus was transmitted to His faithful disciples. Involuntarily they became suspicious of one another; a feeling of uncertainty, of doubt took hold of them; they did not dare to question one another’s loyalty outright, and so the situation became very strained. Some of them began excitedly to whisper and to discuss the meaning of this revelation; others appealed to Jesus whether they were the guilty ones. But Peter wanted the satisfaction of finding out from Jesus. Since John, therefore, was reclining next to Jesus in such a way that his head almost touched the breast of Jesus, and since this man, John, had the enviable distinction of enjoying the love of Christ in a special measure, Peter beckoned to him, making himself understood to him by some form of the sign language that he should get the information from Jesus. John, therefore, without attracting any attention, leaned over or moved more closely to Christ so that his head actually touched the chest of Jesus, and then softly asked Him, Lord, who is it? The Lord even now did not give the name of the traitor, but answered John, in the same confidential way, that it was he to whom He would give a morsel (of bread) which He was just then dipping into the sauce (charoseth), which was one of the dishes of the Passover meal. And suiting His action to His word, Jesus took the sop which He was just then dipping and gave it to Judas Iscariot. This incident revealed the traitor to John, and probably also to Peter. But as for the rest, it is probable that most of them did not notice the incident at the time, or did not attach any importance to it. For the entire matter was taken care of so quietly, almost secretly, that it attracted no attention from the rest of the table-round. Then, also, Judas dipped into the sauce at the same time that Jesus did, Mark 14:20. He, of course, knew to whom Jesus had reference, but he was brazen-faced enough even to ask Jesus whether it was he that would perform the dastardly deed of betraying the Master, Matthew 26:25.

The betrayal definitely decided upon:

John 13:27-30

27 And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly. 28 Now no man at the table knew for what intent He spake this unto him. 29 For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor. 30 He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.


Psalm 109:6-8; Luke 22:3-6; Matthew 26:14-16; John 18:1-3; Luke 22:47-48; Matthew 27:3-10; Acts 1:12-26; Matthew 6:13; John 17:1-2,15; 1 Peter 5:6-11; James 4:7

In all His dealings with Judas, in all the warnings which the Lord sounded, He still had the object of winning him from his way of sin and damnation, if possible. But in this crisis Judas decided the wrong way, he rejected the admonition of the Lord. After he had received the sop, the devil entered into him, took complete possession of his heart and mind, hardened both against the influence of Jesus, and forced Judas to do his will. That is the final result of yielding to evil influence in the first place; the ability to turn to good is lost, and in the crisis the devil steps in and takes hold of such a person as his own property. Now Jesus distinctly, so that all the disciples could hear it, told Judas to do as quickly as possible what he had in mind, what he intended to do. The traitor was not directing the turn of events, for this was altogether in the hands of Jesus; he was the devil’s tool, but his devilish work resulted in the serving of God’s plans. The fate of Judas was hereby decided; his heart was hardened; he was deserted by God forever: forever given into the will and submission of the devil. That is the terrible judgment which finally strikes the backslider, the apostate that denies the accepted truth: he is the tool and instrument of the devil to work his will, to commit one sin after the other, and finally to end in everlasting damnation. Though the disciples heard the order of Jesus to Judas, there was none of them in the table-round, not even John himself, that understood to what Jesus had reference. Since Judas was the treasurer of the disciples, some thought that he was to buy provisions for the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which was connected with the Passover, or for the chagigah, or meal of thanksgiving, which was celebrated on the 15th of Nisan, or that he was to take care of some poor people. Note: It seems that Jesus, in the midst of His great poverty, still took occasion to do good to the poor. Ways and means may always be found to make the mammon of unrighteousness work for the Lord. Immediately after Judas had received the sop at the hand of Jesus and had heard the remark which accompanied the action, he left the room. It was now about the time of the evening when twilight gave way to complete darkness, when night fell, about seven o’clock or somewhat later at that time of the year. Judas belonged to those that hate the light, that prefer the cover of darkness for their deeds. For that purpose he had left the upper room. There was night in him, and there was night about him; he was a child of darkness and damnation.

Verses 31-38

Concerning Christ’s glorification

God glorified in the Son:

John 13:31-35

31 Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in Him. 32 If God be glorified in Him, God shall also glorify Him in Himself, and shall straightway glorify Him. 33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek Me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you. 34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another.


John 17; 1 John 2; 1 John 3:1-2,23; 1 John 4:7-21; Leviticus 19:18; Romans 13:8-10; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; Galatians 5:16-23

No sooner had Judas left the room than Jesus turned to His disciples with a series of beautiful, comforting sayings. They needed strength and consolation for the time of tribulation that would soon strike them. There is a note of triumph in the words of Jesus. In this crisis, by this decision of Jesus, the first step in His glorification has been accomplished. It is the Son of Man, the God-man, that has been glorified through all the miracles of His life, and who is now to be glorified through the greatest miracle of all, following His death and burial. And God is glorified in the Son. It is God’s salvation; God was in Christ; God would be the Cause and the Promoter of His glorification, which was thus bound to result in the Father’s glorification as well. The Son having accomplished the work of salvation, the Father would receive the honor and glory for the resultant benefit for the whole world. But so close is the union between the Father and the Son that there is a mutual exchange of honor and glory between the two. That Jesus was glorified according to His human nature, that His human nature was received into the full enjoyment of the divine essence and attributes, that is an event which transpires within the essence of God. This act of glorification happened quickly, had its inception, took place, that very night. The Lord shows His disciples what relation this fact would have to them and their faith. Affectionately He calls them little children. He would be with them only a little while; the time could be numbered by hours now rather than by days. Then He would be taken from them, be removed from the intimate relationship which they had now enjoyed a matter of some three years. He had told the Jews that they would seek Him after it was too late, after all their searching for false Messiahs had been fruitless. In a similar manner He here tells the disciples that they will seek Him. The parting from their Lord would be a severe blow for them. But instead of abandoning hope, they should take heart, though they cannot follow Him now, at once. There is work for them to do before they may follow Him into the Kingdom of Glory. The necessity of true, fervent brotherly love had become apparent that night. They had known before that they should love all men as their neighbors; but here they are given a new commandment, that they should love one another. It was a kind of love which had not been practised up to that time, and is practised all too seldom in our days. The manifestation of brotherly love should be a sign, a criterion, whereby the people in the world in general might at all times recognize them as His disciples. The standard of this love, unapproachable indeed, but one worth striving after, as the most beautiful ideal in all the world, is the love of Jesus to them, to His disciples of all times. The climax and consummation of His love came with His giving His life as a ransom for many. That is the ideal which should ever be present in the minds of all Christians, that every one deny himself in the interest of brotherly love. When the Christians love one another fervently, with pure hearts, even unto death, then shall it fully appear that they are disciples of the Son of Man who laid down His life for His sheep, and who became, by dying, a ransom for all.

Peter’s boast and the Lord’s correction:

John 13:36-38

36 Simon Peter said unto Him, Lord, whither goest Thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow Me now; but thou shalt follow Me afterwards. 37 Peter said unto Him, Lord, why cannot I follow Thee now? I will lay down my life for Thy sake. 38 Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for My sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied Me thrice.


Matthew 26:30-35; Mark 14:26-31; Luke 22:31-34; Matthew 26:69-75; John 21:1-19

Peter was not yet altogether clear in his mind as to the glorification of his Master. That one thought had struck Peter’s consciousness, that the Lord was going away, that He would be removed from them, and he wanted to know whither. Jesus patiently explained to Peter what He indicated to them all, that he could not accompany his Master now, but that he could and should follow later. It was necessary for Peter to learn many a lesson, to go through many an experience, to suffer and to labor for his Lord in many countries. He should therefore patiently wait until such a time as the Lord would call him to his eternal reward. But Peter was impetuous and impatient. Like a spoiled child he wanted to know the reason for being denied his desire. Right now he is willing, he proudly asserts, to lay down his life for his Master. That was no exhibition of strong faith, but a rash promise proceeding from the flesh. Let no man think he can do anything good without the assistance of Christ and God. The answering exclamation of Jesus sounds almost sarcastic: Thy life thou wouldst lay down for Me? The fact that without Christ he can do nothing had not yet been brought home to Peter. The prophecy of the Lord, accompanied as it was with the solemn words of emphasis, must have come to him as a distinct shock: The cock will not crow, the time of cock-crowing will not come this night, before thou hast denied Me thrice. These earnest words of Christ should have brought Peter to his senses; but he was too full of self-confidence and belief in his own powers to heed them earnestly, as he should have done. Every believer in Christ should earnestly examine himself in this respect, whether his love and faithfulness in Christianity depends merely upon his personal feeling or on the Word of the eternal God. Faithfulness unto death is possible only in the power of the Lord.


Jesus washes the feet of His disciples at the Passover meal, makes the application of His action to them and to their circumstances, speaks words of warning concerning the traitor at the table, rejoices in His glorification, and rebukes the self-confidence of Peter.

Chapter 14

Verses 1-14

Of Christ’s going to the Father

The comfort of Christ’s going:

John 14:1-4

1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.


John 3:14-17; John 6:35-40; John 12:44-46; John 14:27; 1 John 4:15-18; Matthew 17:5-7; 1 Peter 3:13-17; Luke 23:39-43; Revelation 2:7; Revelation 22:12-17

[The explanation of John 14-17, as given by Luther, 8, 264-843, is indispensable to any one that wants to make a thorough study of the Lord’s last discourses.]

The last speeches of Christ to His disciples, held partly in the upper room of the Passover feast, partly on the way to Gethsemane, are full of the most glorious cheer and comfort, whose value has in no wise suffered with the passing of time. There are few passages of Scriptures that are so replete with the merciful love of the Savior as these chapters. The very first words give the keynote of the entire discourse. Let not your hearts be troubled, excite themselves and you, fill you with anxiety and worry. The disciples, in that very night, would become witnesses of such agony and distress of soul as would make the stoutest heart quake and quail. And not only would their Master’s suffering agitate their hearts, but they would eventually have to follow in His steps, though not in the same degree. So they were in need of comfort and assurance from the mouth of their Lord. “But this is written not for their sakes, but for us, that we may learn to make use of this comfort for present and future trouble, and that every Christian, when he has been baptized and has placed himself in Christ’s care, may and should yield to it and certainly expect that he will also meet with terror and fear which will make his heart weak and despondent, whether it be through one or various enmities and oppositions.” [Luther, 8, 268]. But in this emergency the apostles and all disciples should trust God, yea, they should trust Christ as well, and in the same degree. They should put their trust in the almighty Father above, whose providence has ever watched over them. And if He should seem to them too distant and inaccessible, they should rely absolutely upon Him, their Master, who has ever, and in all emergencies, been their true Friend and Helper. Their trust in God would not be misplaced, nor should it lack firmness, for the Mediator between God and man was sitting before them, through whom God is reconciled to all men. “Let others trust in, and boast of, their temporal power and fortune, you, however, comfort yourselves that you have a God, and know Him, and depend upon it that He is with you and can help you, as He has promised through the Word, and surely will not fail you, although everything be against you, but will assist, protect, and help you out, since you suffer all things for His sake.” [Luther, 8, 278]. To emphasize the comfort of these assurances, the Lord reminds His disciples that in His Father’s house there is room not only for Himself, but for them all, that they should have no harm on account of His leaving, but know that it was done for their benefit, that He wants to prepare and order their habitations with the Father, and that He wants to come back Himself to fetch them to the mansions, in order that they may occupy these habitations and remain where He is, thus having the certainty of both, of the mansions in heaven and of Christ Himself for all eternity. [Luther, 8, 292]. The mansions are there even now, by the love of the Father; but the trust in the Savior will bring them into the possession of all believers. As children of God, through faith in Jesus, they have a right and a part in the home of the Son. And Jesus, having made all preparations for their reception and eternal entertainment, will not leave His disciples to find their way above as best they can, but will complete His labor of love by coming again and receiving them to Himself and taking them along with Him to the places of their everlasting stay. There is the true home and fatherland of the Christians, in heaven with the Lord, where He wants them to be, in glorious, wonderful communion and union with Him. After the tedious and laborious pilgrimage of earth they there become partakers of the rest of the Lord. Heaven is the home of every Christian, just as soon as he has finished his earthly life. Jesus comes personally and guides the weary wanderer’s footsteps to everlasting joy and blessedness. Jesus reminds His disciples that they knew both His goal and the way to that goal, the eternal home. He had given them the necessary information so often and in so complete a manner that they all should have had full knowledge, blessed assurance. Heaven is Christ’s eternal home, as it is ours; and the way to heaven leads through Him, since faith in His redemption opens the portals of heaven.

An interruption by Thomas:

John 14:5-7

Thomas saith unto Him, Lord, we know not whither Thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me. If ye had known Me, ye should have known My Father also: and from henceforth ye know Him, and have seen Him.


Ephesians 2:8-9,18; Psalm 118:19-29; Hebrews 10:19-22; Mark 16:16; John 1:14; John 11:25-27; Exodus 3:14; John 4:26; John 6:20; John 6:35; John 6:41; John 6:48; John 6:51; John 8:12; John 8:24; John 8:28; John 8:58; John 9:9; John 10:7; John 10:9; John 10:11; John 10:14; John 11:25; John 13:19; John 15:1; John 15:5; John 18:5-6; John 18:8

Thomas was but expressing the thoughts of the majority of the disciples; he acted, in a way, as their mouthpiece. So firmly and completely were their hearts and minds bound up with the matters of this world and with their hopes of a temporal reign of the Messiah that even now they did not understand the references of the Lord. It was necessary almost to pry their thoughts loose from this world. Thomas protested that they did not even know the object and goal of the Master’s going; and how could they possibly know the way? The question sounds so foolish that it is well to remember what one commentator remarks: The disciples knew, but they did not know that they knew. Sorrow had benumbed their spiritual faculties. With infinite patience, therefore, the Lord gives them a brief summary of all His teaching. Christ is the Way to God and to heaven; not merely a leader and guide; He bears, He carries them that are His, that trust in Him; He brings them safely to the home above. Christ is the Truth: His every Word may be trusted implicitly, for it teaches the knowledge of God, and directs the way; the way which He teaches is the only right way, for He is the absolute Truth. Christ is the Life: He is the Fountain and Giver of all true life, the life that animates all those that believe on Him, and that is to be enjoyed eternally at the end of the way. He that believes on Him has eternal life, is indissolubly united with God, so far as God’s will and intention are concerned. These things being true, it follows that no man can come to the Father, attain to the enjoyment of eternal bliss, but by and through Jesus. There is no other way, all those that are devised by men, the ways of good works and self-righteousness, being false paths, that lead to everlasting destruction. Jesus is the only Way to heaven. “This, I believe, is what the second word, ‘truth,’ means in all simplicity, that Christ is not only the Way in the beginning, but the true, certain way, and alone will finally remain the Way to which one must ever adhere, and not let the wrong path deceive that would entice us to seek something beside Christ that should help us to salvation.” [Luther, 8, 313]. Jesus adds, by way of a gentle rebuke: If ye had known Me, ye should have known the Father. Their knowledge was not yet so deep and complete as it well might have been. The Father is in Jesus, and to know Him is to know the Father, John 10:30. The disciples had therefore seen the Father, who is revealed in the Son, with the eyes of faith, by which they had received Christ. “He that sees Christ with eyes ‘in faith’ by that same process of seeing also sees the Father; for he touches that Person in whom the Father (also bodily, as St. Paul says, Colossians 2:9) lives, and reveals all His heart and will. Thus we also see and know both Him and the Father, although not with eyes, nor through bodily seeing and knowing, but through that very faith.” [Luther, 8, 328].

An interruption by Philip:

John 14:8-11

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? 10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of Myself: but the Father that dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me: or else believe Me for the very works’ sake.


John 1:1-18; John 5:18; John 8:57-59; John 10:22-39; 1 John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:15-20; Revelation 22:13,16; John 20:30-31

The remark of Philip, requesting to be shown the Father, in order that he might see Him with the eyes of his body, showed just as much spiritual denseness and blindness as that of Thomas. His words imply that such a demonstration would be all that was necessary to establish their faith for always. Jesus makes His reproof very gentle, but repeats, in substance, the arguments which He had used in the case of the unbelieving Jews. For so long a time Jesus had been with the disciples, and yet Philip had not gained the proper and complete knowledge of Him. The manifestation which Philip desired had been made for as long a time as He had been in the company of Jesus, for seeing Christ in faith is identical with seeing the Father. It was a matter of surprise and regret to Jesus that Philip needed to be told this great truth once more, in order to correct his foolish notion of a physical, sensible demonstration of the Father. In the tone of intimate, loving admonition, which Jesus used throughout the last discourses, He continues His instruction. If He had put the question directly whether the disciples believed that He was in the Father and the Father in Him, the answer of Philip would undoubtedly have been positive. Philip should therefore consider that the words of Christ are not His own, just as His works are not His own, are not performed separately from the Father. The Father is and remains in Him from everlasting to everlasting. Jesus is the eternal Son, the eternal Logos. He that sees, hears, takes hold of, the man Jesus Christ incidentally sees, hears, and takes hold of God the Father. The essence of the Father and of the Son is the same, identical. What this man Jesus speaks with His human lips, that is the speaking, the voice of God. And he that refuses to believe the words has the additional, unquestionable testimony of the works, the great miracles. The omnipotence of God was revealed to man in the person of Jesus Christ. Every Christian that reads and studies his Bible in the right way and hears the preaching of the Gospel, hears and sees God Himself, is a witness of the great miracles. The belief in the Son is identical with the belief in the Father. The fact of the union between Father and Son cannot be doubted, the manner can never be adequately explained. Jesus repeats before His disciples what He had told the unbelieving Jews some time before, to impress it upon their minds, John 10:38. On account of His works, which are evidently divine, they should believe, if they refused to believe His mere words.

The promise of greater works:

John 14:12-14

12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto My Father. 13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If ye shall ask any thing in My name, I will do it.


Matthew 6:9-13; Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 11:9-13; Matthew 21:18-22; Mark 11:20-25; John 15:16; John 16:21-24; 1 John 5:13-15; James 1:5-8; James 4:2-3; Galatians 5:16-24; John 15:5-9

In connection with the mention of works which He was performing to testify in His own behalf, Jesus here gives His disciples of all times a glorious promise of works which they should do in their office as His ministers. Most solemnly He assures them, and comforts them by the assurance, that every believer in Him would be enabled to perform the same works that He had done, and even greater works than He had performed before them. The apostles and the disciples, especially of the early Church, performed miracles like those of Christ; they healed the diseased, they cast out demons, they raised the dead; and all this to testify to the truth of their teaching. Every believer in Christ is, however, by that token, filled with power from on high not only to testify of Christ, but, in so doing, to do greater signs than the Master Himself, namely, to awaken men from spiritual death. To convert sinners, to rescue lost and condemned men from damnation, that is a greater, a more important miracle than healing from bodily infirmities and awakening from temporal death. Not as though Jesus had not converted men by His preaching. But the great work of the New Testament, the gathering of the Christian Church through the preaching of the Gospel, did not really begin until after Pentecost. And the reason why the believers can perform these great works of saving souls is found in the fact that Jesus is going to the Father. Also according to His human nature He will then make constant use of His divine power and majesty, and will be able to impart to the believers in Him this wonderful power which He here promises them. The great works of converting sinful men are in reality works of the exalted Christ. And in case the disciples, the believers, at any time feel their own weakness and inability to perform the great works which have been given to them, they should merely ask, they should bring the matter to His attention; He will attend to the rest. He fixes no limit in giving this promise except that the prayer must be made in His name, which excludes all sinful and arrogant petitions. Jesus hears every true prayer, but in His own manner and at His own time. And by doing so, since the Father works in Him, the Father is glorified in the Son. The final purpose of all the great works which Jesus promises to His believers is the glory of God. But He repeats His promise to hear their prayers; for the repetition is intended to impress the great truth upon them more strongly. Note: The fact that a Christian’s prayer must be made in the name of Jesus cannot be emphasized too often. Only such prayers are acceptable as are made in faith in the Redeemer, the one Person whose complete atonement has given us the right to address God as our Father, and as are made in the name of the exalted Son of Man, whose providence and rule now extends over the whole world.

Verses 15-24

Of love and life

The coming of the Comforter:

John 14:15-17

15 If ye love Me, keep My commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever; 17 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.


Mark 1:4-8; John 7:37-39; John 16:4-15; John 3:1-18; Mark 16:16; Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:36-39; Titus 3:4-7; 1 John 2:1-6; Galatians 3:1-6; 1 Corinthians 12:12-13; Ephesians 4:4-6

The prerequisite and condition for the continuance of the loving relationship between Christ and His followers is this, that they show their love toward Him by keeping His commandments. Where there is no faith, there is no love; and where there is no love, there can be no real keeping of the Lord’s commandments. And the greatest commandment is this, that the Christians keep His Word, accept the Word of the Gospel in true faith, and cling to it with all their hearts. But if this condition obtains, then the Lord will pray the Father for a most unusual and wonderful gift for them. This gift is nothing less than another Comforter. Jesus Himself had been a Comforter to the disciples while He was with them. He had been their Friend, their Helper, and their Guide. But now His bodily presence would be removed from them, and they were as badly in need of a Strengthener and Comforter as ever. Jesus had been with them only a short period of time, but the other Comforter would abide with them always, would be the constant source and fountain of strength of all believers at all times. In the great work which is entrusted to the Christians and in the midst of all the trials and temptations of the world, they need some one upon whom they can depend absolutely for aid and comfort. This Comforter is the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit, who never misleads nor deceives the disciples of Jesus. The truth which He teaches, wherewith He cheers and sustains the hearts of the believers, is the Gospel and its wonderful content: God in Christ. “Here we learn and note that He is called a Comforter, and that for our sakes. For in His Godhead He is with the Father and the Son in one undivided divine essence; but for us He is called a Comforter, so that this name is nothing less than a revelation of what we should think of the Holy Ghost, namely, that He is a Comforter. But ‘Comforter’ no Moses or one that urges the Law is called, who terrifies with devil, death, and hell, but He that makes a sorrowful heart full of laughter and rejoicing toward God and bids thee be of good cheer, as one to whom his sins are forgiven, death strangled, heaven opened, and God Himself smiling upon thee.” [Luther, 8, 394]. This Spirit is the special strength and help of the disciples, by confirming them in the truth and enabling them to win victories through the truth of the Word. This Comforter, whom the believers will welcome so joyfully, the world cannot receive, cannot accept with His gifts. The unbelievers refuse to see and to know the Spirit and His Work. The enmity toward God which is found in their hearts robs them of all sensibility in spiritual, divine matters, 1 Corinthians 2:14. If they do make an attempt to fathom the mysteries of God from the standpoint of their enmity, they only increase their spiritual denseness. Only the believers know the Spirit, are on terms of intimate understanding with Him, for He remains in their heart by faith, and His testimony in their hearts produces an absolute conviction as to the certainty of their faith. As soon as a person receives faith and thus becomes a disciple, the Spirit takes possession of his heart and makes His abode with Him. And the knowledge and understanding of the Spirit and His work grows in the believer from day to day. Note that the three persons of the Godhead are spoken of in this section: the Son as praying to the Father, and the Father as sending the Comforter, the Holy Spirit.

Further encouragement:

John 14:18-20

18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while, and the world seeth Me no more; but ye see Me: because I live, ye shall live also. 20 At that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you.


Matthew 17:5; Colossians 1:9-14; Ephesians 1:2-14; 1 John 3:1-2; Ephesians 5:1-2; Romans 8:12-17; John 1:9-13; John 14:1-3; John 7:32-39; Revelation 22:12-17; John 5:24-29; John 14:10-11; John 17:20-26

The Lord repeats His comforting assurance from another angle. He promises not to leave His disciples orphans, without a guide, deprived of all comfort. In addition to the fact that He will provide the Comforter for them, He Himself will not abandon them and leave them to the fate of children bereft of their parents. It may seem to them that His departure means as much, but because of this very fact that He is entering into His glory, He will be able to be present with them just as surely as before, and for all times. He will return to them in the means of grace, where His presence is always certain, and He will shortly return to them in person. It is but a little while, and the world, the unbelieving, hostile children of unbelief, would see Him no more, neither with the eyes of the body nor with those of the spirit. But His disciples would and will see Him, the eyes of their understanding being enlightened; they would understand Him, His person and work, better than ever before. For with His resurrection His human body would enter into a new mode of existence, His mortal body would be transfused with divinity, it would be transfigured for all times. Jesus lives, and they shall live. When Christ comes to them in the spirit and they learn to know and understand Him better with each new day, then they become partakers of the new spiritual life of Jesus. They will also understand more and more what that wonderful union and communion means which obtains between Father and Son, between the believers and Christ. And the day will come when the last shred of the veil will be taken from their eyes, and they will know their Savior and the mystery of the Triune God even as they are known. In the mean time they should rest assured that the relation between the Savior and the believers is just as intimate and blessed as that between the Father and the Son. The presence of Jesus in the believers assures them of the fulness of both His grace and power in them, grace and mercy for their sins and power for their sanctification.

The effects of the mystical union:

John 14:21-23

21 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. 22 Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that Thou wilt manifest Thyself unto us, and not unto the world? 23 Jesus answered and said unto him, 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 with him.


John 15:1-17; 1 John 2:1-6; Romans 3:21-31; Romans 6:1-4; Ephesians 2:8-10; Galatians 5:16-24

Not the having only, but the keeping of the commandments of Christ is an evidence and proof of faith. For the love of Christ, which grows from faith, is a principle prompting obedience. There must be evidence and expression of faith by observing the commandments of Christ in life. But where a person is found with such proofs of the faith of his heart, he would receive a wonderful proof and manifestation of the love of both Father and Son. The love of the Father will rest upon, be communicated to, such a one. And Jesus Himself will show the greatness of His love by appearing and manifesting Himself to the believer as the Son of God and the Savior of the world. This is a most comforting promise. For a believer does not always live and move in blissful emotions, but is troubled more or less often by doubts concerning His salvation and other matters pertaining to His Christian life. In such cases, however, he must cling firmly to the Word and its promises, continue his work for Christ with undiminished vigor, and know that Christ is his Savior in spite of all attacks. Judas Jacobi here interrupted the Master. He had understood so much from the exposition of Jesus that the hope of the disciples for a temporal Messianic kingdom would not be realized. He wanted to know now why Christ intended to manifest Himself only to His believers, and not to the whole world, perhaps in the form of a conquering hero. Judas (Lebbaeus or Thaddaeus) had always held that opinion concerning Messianic glory that it would be in the nature of a great demonstration, with much display of temporal power. He could not understand what had prompted Jesus to determine it otherwise. Once more Jesus, therefore, patiently explains. It is impossible for Him to reveal Himself to the world, because the world rejects Him and His Word. But if any man, filled with true faith toward Him, now also shows his faith in love, the proof will be found in the fact that he keeps His Word, that he clings to the Gospel of grace and mercy. To him Jesus and the Father will come, in him They will make Their abode, through the Spirit; his house and table Companions They will be forever. That is the mystery and the beauty of the mystical union. The Triune God Himself, personally, lives in the hearts of the believers, not only with some manifestation of His power and strength, but with His actual essence. There is no need for the Christian to sigh longingly for the union with the Triune God in heaven, for His throne is also right here on earth, wherever His Word is preached and He enters into the hearts of the believers. That is a blessed mystery and a glorious fact.

Verses 24-31

Of the work of the Spirit

John 14:24-26

24 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. 25 These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. 26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.


John 15:4-6; Matthew 7:15-20; John 8:39-47; 1 John 4:7-21; Mark 1:4-8; John 7:37-39; John 16:4-15; John 3:1-18; Mark 16:16; Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:36-39; Titus 3:4-7; 1 John 2:1-6; Galatians 3:1-6; 1 Corinthians 12:12-13; Ephesians 4:4-6; Ephesians 2:18-22; John 20:30-31; Revelation 1:1-3,9-11; 2 Peter 1:1-2,3:15-16; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3,14:37-38

If there is no love for Christ in the heart of a man, because faith never found entrance into that heart, then there can be no keeping of His words; and if not of His, then neither of His Father’s, whose words He was teaching, who had sent Him. Without the love toward Christ which grows out of faith there can be no really good works; all the works of unbelievers which have the appearance of keeping the words of Christ are “splendid vices,” with which they deceive others and often themselves. Jesus, having now promised the Comforter to His disciples, having given the assurance also that He Himself would come and reveal Himself to His disciples and that He, with the other persons of the Godhead, would make His abode with the believers, tells them also what special work the Spirit would do in their case. He had spoken many things to them during His ministry, and especially in the last days, whose importance and significance they had not grasped. Therefore that same Comforter, the Holy Ghost, whom the Father would send in His name, would serve as their teacher, giving them the understanding of all things which they still had in memory, and recalling to their minds such things as they had forgotten. Note: The Father sends the Spirit, but in the name of Jesus; the same intimate relation between the Father and the Son again appears. Because Jesus is exalted to the right hand of God and is acting as the Advocate of mankind with the Father, for that reason the Spirit is sent in His name. That was the assurance which comforted and encouraged the apostles, and which serves also for our comfort. For with such a promise to back them up in their teaching, we know that the apostles could not fail in their proclamation of the great truths of God. We may rely without the slightest hesitation and doubt upon the words that were written by the apostles or under their direction, knowing that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Father and the Son, directed and inspired them.

The gift of peace:

John 14:27-31

27 Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. 28 Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved Me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for My Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe. 30 Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me. 31 But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence.


Numbers 6:24-26; Isaiah 9:2-7; Luke 2:8-14; John 16:33; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Romans 5:1-11; Romans 8:1-6; Ephesians 2; Colossians 3:12-17; Philippians 4:4-7; Hebrews 13:20-21; John 12:27-32

This was the last talk of Jesus with His disciples, the last opportunity for speaking with them at length. And so He made a verbal request. He not only said His farewell by wishing them the blessings of peace, but He actually gave them, bequeathed to them as their possession, the peace which He was about to earn for them through His suffering and death, peace with God through His blood, Romans 5:1. This was not a peace after the manner of the world, a mere external, temporal blessing. It is a peace which will insure quietness and security in the midst of turmoil and trouble. It will take the terror out of the hearts of the believers, even when the enemies are threatening murder and every form of abuse. The person that has the peace of a good conscience in the full assurance of God’s grace and mercy will be unmoved in the midst of upheavals that threaten the very foundations of the universe, Psalm 46. And Jesus testifies to the disciples that His announcement of His going away, far from filling their hearts with sorrow, should rather redound to their joy. Sorrow and grief in this case are indications of selfishness and a lack of understanding of His purpose in leaving them for a time. The Master is going to His Father, and that Father is greater than He in His present form, in the person and in the guise of a servant. By going to the Father, He will be given the full use of the divine power and majesty. And the benefit of this would come to them in a very short time. He could then give them a much better protection, care for His whole Church in a much better way than at present. And all of these things the Lord told His disciples in advance, for the fulfilment of the prophecy would tend to confirm their faith; and in the mean time, when all things seemed to speak against the fact of Christ’s divinity, they would have the certainty of this promise as an anchor for their faith.

But the time was passing by rapidly; Jesus must make His conversation brief. The hour of His Passion is drawing near; the prince, the ruler of this world, the devil, is preparing for his onslaught. The Lord must die on the cross, after having been delivered into the hands of the heathen. But Satan, though he comes in the treachery of Judas, could not prevail. There was no sin in Jesus according to which the devil might have claimed Him as his subject; there was no cause of death in Him. In Jesus there was nothing which the devil could call his own, nothing which he could claim as his and thus use for his purposes. And therefore also the devil, with all his cunning and power, would not be able to carry out his evil design, to conquer the Lord. He Himself is innocent, and will therefore, by His vicarious sacrifice, be able to reconcile the world to God. His work, His Passion, will stand before the world as an evidence of His love toward the Father and as a proof of His total fulfilment of all commandments concerning the redemption of mankind. — At this point Jesus interrupted His discourse only long enough to suggest their leaving the upper room, where the Passover meal had been held. The various Hallel Psalms had been sung before, after the close of the meal, which John does not describe.


Jesus speaks to His disciples of His going to the Father, of the evidences of love toward Him in the believers, and of the work of the Holy Spirit.

Chapter 15

Verses 1-10

Christ the true Vine

The Husbandman, the Vine, and the branches:

John 15:1-5

1 I am the true Vine, and My Father is the Husbandman. Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me. I am the Vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing.


Isaiah 5:1-7; Ezekiel 19:10-14; Matthew 3:1-12; Matthew 7:15-20; Jude 10-13; Romans 11:11-24; Galatians 5:19-24; John 13:1-11; Mark 16:16; Acts 22:16; Titus 3:4-7; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Hebrews 10:19-22; Exodus 3:14; John 4:26; John 6:20; John 6:35; John 6:41; John 6:48; John 6:51; John 8:12; John 8:24; John 8:28; John 8:58; John 9:9; John 10:7; John 10:9; John 10:11; John 10:14; John 11:25; John 13:19; John 14:6; John 18:5-6; John 18:8

Whether the Lord spoke these words in the courtyard of the house in which He had celebrated the Passover with His disciples, or on the way through the valley of the Kidron, is immaterial. In this section of His discourse He combines parable and application in a very impressive manner. He wants to make clear to His disciples the relation which He holds to those that are called to continue His work. In the great garden, or vineyard, of the world, Jesus is the true Vine, planted there by His heavenly Father according to the eternal counsel of salvation. God the Father Himself is the Husbandman, the Gardener, and He is actively and solicitously concerned about the growth of the Vine. The Vine-dresser takes an unceasing interest in every phase of the Vine’s condition, and in every branch that buds forth from the main stem. Everyone of the annual shoots of the Vine that is fruitless, that shows no indication of becoming a bearing branch, the Vine-dresser takes away, cuts off the stem; and every shoot that is bearing the Gardener cleans very carefully, by removing all suckers, by pruning away all unnecessary buds that sap the vigor of the branch. The object is to have each branch yield the richest possible results. Jesus now makes the application to His disciples. They are clean, free from inward stain, they are in the condition of good branches, ready to yield fruit; and that through the Word, on account of the Word which Jesus has spoken to them, which He had taught them during His ministry. This Word of the Gospel made them clean; it renewed, it converted them; it made them true branches of Christ. “He says plainly: Through the Word are ye clean which I have spoken to you; that is nothing else than the entire preaching of Christ, as He was sent into the world by the Father, in order to pay for our sins through His suffering and death and to reconcile the Father, that all who believe on Him might not be lost nor condemned, but for His sake have forgiveness of sins and eternal life (John 3:16). This Word makes a person clean (where it is received into the heart by faith), that is, it brings forgiveness of sins and makes acceptable before God, that for the sake of that faith, by which alone such Word is accepted and adhered to, we that cling thereto are reckoned and considered altogether pure and holy before God, though we, on account of our nature and life, are not clean enough, since sin, weakness, and frailties, which are still to be cleansed, always remain in us as long as we live on earth.” [Luther, 8, 504]. It is necessary therefore, as Christ here urges, that His disciples strive to remain in the condition to which the grace of God has elevated them. They must keep their hold on Him by faith and in trust. And He will then, in turn, abide in them, will supply them with divine power and energy. The branches are active indeed, but only through the power which they have received from the stem. Just as soon as a branch is taken away from the vine, its ability to bear fruit is ended. Even so, just as soon as a disciple severs his connection with Christ, which is maintained by faith, through the Word, he ceases to be in a condition in which he can bring forth fruit well-pleasing to God. Jesus is the Vine, the believers are the branches. While they abide in Him, while His strength flows into them every day and hour, through the Spirit, in the Word, so long they can bring forth fruit in abundance. But let that connection be severed, let the hold of faith be broken, then all good works are a thing of the past. Without Christ, without His power and life, outside of Christ and His strengthening Spirit, there is no possibility of real spiritual work of any kind. The result in such cases, even with the best of intentions, is nothing in the sight of God. In their own strength, by their own power, the believers cannot think, desire, speak, perform anything good. Christ works the doing of the good through the power of the Word.

The earnest application:

John 15:6-10

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 the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be My disciples. As the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you: continue ye in My love. 10 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.


Ezekiel 15:1-8; Matthew 3:1-12; Matthew 7:15-20; Matthew 13:36-50; Jude 10-13; Romans 11:11-24; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-12; Revelation 14:9-11; Revelation 19:20; Revelation 20:11-15; Revelation 21:1-8; John 8:31-32; John 14:12-17; Matthew 6:9-13; Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 11:9-13; Matthew 21:18-22; Mark 11:20-25; John 15:16; John 16:21-24; 1 John 5:13-15; James 1:5-8; James 4:2-3; Galatians 5:16-24; 1 John 2:1-6; Romans 3:21-31; Romans 6:1-4; Ephesians 2:8-10

Ten times in these ten verses is the necessity of abiding in Christ emphasized, the need of keeping a firm hold on the Savior by love. So much depends upon that fact that every believer, having once been implanted into the true Vine, maintain his close connection. For if any one does not remain in Christ, the consequences are disastrous. He is thrown out as a useless branch, for he is withered. There can be no dead wood lying about in the vineyard of God’s Church; so all the dead branches are heaped on a pile and thrown into the fire, and it burns. According to the common usage in such cases, there is inevitable and complete destruction for the dead branches. Every person that does not remain in Christ, after once having gained the saving knowledge, thereby becomes a dead member. He cuts off his own supply of spiritual life and power. And as for real fruit, actual good works, he no longer is able to perform them. There may be some Christian show and semblance, but the reality of Christian virtue is lost. “So long as the branch remains rooted in the stem or stock and its sap and power remains in him, his fruits must be and remain good, though they may in some way be stung by a worm or be attacked by caterpillars or some other vermin. Thus also, if a man abides in Christ and receives and keeps energy and power from Him by faith, that Jesus works in him with His power and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, then the remaining weakness, which is incited by the devil and this sinful nature, will do no harm, only that he oppose such weakness with the continual battle of faith and sweep out such vermin. But if thou wouldst give up the doctrine of faith or subvert it and, leaving Christ, depend upon thine own sanctity, or publicly live in sin and shame, and yet glory in the Gospel and in the Christian name: then thou shalt know that thou art a false branch and hast no part in the Vine, but, cast out and condemned with wood and fruits, belongest to eternal hell-fire.” [Luther, 8, 516]. But to those that abide in Jesus, or, what is identical with that condition, to those that abide in the Word of the Lord, a further beneficial effect and result of that blessed intimacy is the hearing of prayer by Jesus and the Father. By means of His teaching, of His Gospel, Jesus abides in His disciples, and by the power of that same Word they are enabled to bear fruit which is acceptable to Him. But this same relationship also teaches them to pray in the proper manner. For the words: You may pray what you will, are not to be taken in an absolute sense, in the sense of arbitrary choice. The relation of the believers to Christ precludes such an understanding. The prayer of Christians will always be made in the way of love and of God’s Word, in accordance with the new life which governs their every thought and action. Such prayers are the expression of the intimacy between Christ and His disciples, and are heard as a matter of natural consequence. For by this granting of prayer, flowing out of the intimate relationship between Christ and the believers, the Father is glorified. And the result is a strengthening of the bonds of love, an increase in the amount and in the quality of the good works, and a confirming of discipleship. The obedience of Christians is not a galling servitude, but a cheerful, joyful expression of their love. The same measure of love that the Father has toward the Son the latter has toward His own, and so the union and intimacy is a most perfect one, and should be kept by all means. Every person that abides in the love which Christ has for him and for the whole world is safe by reason of that love. But this abiding is done and accomplished by keeping and observing the commandments of Jesus; this brings the full possession and enjoyment of Christ’s love. Just as Christ kept the will of His Father and carried it into execution, so the Christians will naturally find their delight in observing all the commandments, all the sayings of their Master, above all that one concerning the clinging to the Word of the Gospel as the one Word of salvation. This abiding in Christ, in the Word of the Gospel, faithfulness in confessing, is the result and working of God’s grace. He that began the good work in us by planting us into the true Vine, Jesus Christ, will also perform it until the great day of glory.

Verses 11-27

The new status of Christ’s disciples

The joy of the Christians:

John 15:11-14

11 These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. 12 This is My commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.


Psalm 16; Psalm 32; Psalm 66; Proverbs 10:28; Ecclesiastes 2:26; Luke 2:10-11; John 16:16-24; John 17:13,25-26; Matthew 25:21; Romans 14:17-19; Romans 15:13; Galatians 5:22-26; Philippians 1:3-5; Colossians 1:9-14; James 1:2-8; 1 Peter 1:3-9; Philippians 2:1-11; Luke 15:1-10; Revelation 21:1-4; John 13:34-35; 1 John 2:1-11; John 10:11; Ephesians 5:1-2

The parable of the Vine and the branches with its application had a definite object, namely, that the joy which Christ has enjoyed, which is His in a peculiar sense, may be in His disciples, may become their property, their special and cherished possession. The great joy of His life He found in the intimate communion with His Father, with whom He is united in one essence, in the consciousness of the Father’s love, and in the observance of His will. If this same mind would be found in the disciples, they would feel the same joy, they would rejoice in the constant communion with Christ and God. And by the same token their joy would be fulfilled, they would have the full measure of joy, of bliss which could not be taken from them. This joy, attained by the consciousness of their union with their Savior, will then also work willingness to fulfil the commandment of love, that the brotherly love among them should be so full and so perfect as Christ’s love toward the believers is full and perfect. And in order to emphasize utter unselfishness and forgetfulness of self as the keynote in the manifestation of true love, He gives them an instance, a specific case of love’s highest proof. A greater love than this love has no man, that he give and lay down his life for his friends. This general truth had a very specific application in the case of Jesus: He laid down His life for those whom He had chosen as His friends. And in His case the idea of ransom, of substitution, stands out very prominently. In the place of, in the stead of, the guilty ones He gave His own life, thus delivering them from the consequences of deeds which they should have borne. “That is called a great, powerful love if a man gives to another in his misfortune a hundred or a thousand dollars, or pays all his debts for him; but how great would that be if a king or a prince would give to a poor beggar a duchy or principality, yea, even his own kingdom or land and people? There the whole world would sing and say of unheard-of love. But that is only a small matter when compared with this, that Christ gives His life and body for thee, which is indeed the highest love that any man on earth can show to another; for to serve with money and goods, yea, also with the body, is also called loving. But there is none that would not much rather give his money and goods, yea, his land and people, than that he should die for another; and if he did it, it would be nothing beside that fact that God’s Son comes down from heaven and steps forth in thy place, and willingly sheds His blood and dies, though thou hast been His enemy and a condemned person. That is the love which is much greater and higher than heaven and earth and everything that might be named.” [Luther, 8, 551]. This application of the great truth Christ makes Himself. His disciples are His friends, if the evidence of their works in performing His commandments indicates the faith of their hearts. He looked upon them as His friends for whom He intended to die; but they, in turn, should show and practise self-denial in loving and serving their neighbors, one another. Note: It is a name which honors the Christians very highly, to be called the friends of Jesus, the Savior, and to have such wonderful evidence of Christ’s friendship in His death.

The meaning of Christ’s friendship:

John 15:15-16

15 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. 16 Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in My name, He may give it you.


John 3:14-17; Romans 5:1-11; Ephesians 2:8-10; James 4:4; Luke 17:10; John 15:20; John 13:12-20; John 6:66-71; John 1:10-13; Ephesians 1:3-14; Matthew 6:9-13; Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 11:9-13; Matthew 21:18-22; Mark 11:20-25; John 16:21-24; 1 John 5:13-15; James 1:5-8; James 4:2-3; Galatians 5:16-24; John 15:5-9

This new character of the disciples the Lord explains more fully. He makes the distinction between servants and friends. A servant does not know what his master is doing; He receives orders to carry out an allotted task, but has no idea what the object of the master may be in assigning it; he has no personal interest in his work. But the disciples of Jesus are from henceforth His friends; they are in His confidence, they are admitted to the inner circle of intimates, to His close companionship. The only name that will now fit them is that of friends, for the Master has revealed to them the secrets of the Father, His essence and especially His counsel of love for the salvation of mankind. This is such a great honor because there is no equality between Him and them, to begin with. Between men of equal rank, friendship springs up spontaneously. But in this instance it was pure grace and mercy on the part of Jesus which prompted Him to choose them. There was not the faintest idea in the mind of the believers to elect Christ as their Savior or to range themselves on His side. This choosing was done entirely by Him. Everything that is done by the believers in faith is the result of the gracious election of Christ. It is on that account that they have been set, appointed, for the purpose of going out, of showing themselves before the world and doing good works. And these fruits of their faith and election should not be passing and evanescent, but they should have a permanent, lasting value. As believing Christians they have that ability, and they should make use of the energy and power supplied to them by Christ through faith. And this, in turn, implies such a close intimacy with the Father that the believers freely bring their petitions and prayers before Him. They pray in the name of Jesus, trusting in His redemption, which has restored them into their rightful position as children of God, knowing that God will hear their prayer and give them the blessings which they are in need of. Christ and the Father are to the believers a constant source and fountain of spiritual strength. They owe everything that they are, that they have, and all the good they do, to Christ and to the love of Christ.

The result of the Christians’ calling:

John 15:17-21

17 These things I command you, that ye love one another. 18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. 20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept My saying, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things will they do unto you for My name’s sake, because they know not Him that sent Me.


John 6:66-71; John 1:10-13; Ephesians 1:3-14; John 7:5-7; John 15:23; John 17:14-15; 1 John 3:13; Philippians 1:27-30; 1 Peter 3:13-17; Hebrews 11:32-40; Acts 7:51-60; Acts 12:1-3; 1 Corinthians 4:9-13; Revelation 1:9

The Lord again summarizes all the demands of Christian life in the one command, namely, that the Christians love one another. This is not a command in the sense of the Mosaic injunctions, but a truly evangelical admonition. That must be the principal characteristic of the Christians by which they are distinguished from all men, the mutual love which they show toward one another in all their dealings. But this behavior necessarily implies a segregation from the world, from other people among whom the Christians are living. It brings upon the believers the hatred of the world, an undying, malignant hatred, that may sometimes hide itself under the guise of toleration, but never sleeps. Under these circumstances the Christians should feel neither anxiety nor surprise, for it is altogether in accordance with the nature of the world to hate the believers, as they hated Christ, the Lord, before them. There is that ineradicable contrast between Christ and His disciples, on the one side, and the world, the unbelievers, on the other. If the Christians were of the world, if they had the nature, the manner, the character of the world, the world would immediately recognize the affinity and treat them accordingly. But now Jesus, by His choosing them, has separated the believers from the world. So the natural result is this characteristic hatred of the unbelievers, expressed sometimes only in veiled insinuations, then again in open enmity. Christ’s disciples of all times should therefore keep in remembrance the word that the servant is not greater than his lord; the servant cannot expect to experience better treatment than his master is receiving. The Lord Jesus suffered persecution of the most malicious kind during His earthly stay: His disciples can expect no less. On the other hand, if they have kept, observed, and practised the Word of the Master, the world will be apt to accord the same treatment to their teaching. That is always a ray of hope in a ministry which otherwise has little to commend it to one eager for the service of Christ. The reason for, and the explanation of, the hatred and persecution of the disciples is very simple. In the first place, the children of the world hate the very name of Jesus as the Savior of the world. The idea of a Redeemer from sins is not only distasteful, but absolutely hateful to them. And then, they had no knowledge of the Father that sent forth Jesus into the world with the aim and object that He avowed to have. Had they known God, they would without fail have recognized in Jesus Christ the Ambassador and Son of God. This explanation is the comfort of the disciples under whatever persecutions may come upon them, also in these latter days.

The hatred of the world and the testimony of the Spirit:

John 15:22-27

22 If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin. 23 He that hateth Me hateth My Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both Me and My Father. 25 But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their Law, They hated Me without a cause. 26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me: 27 And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with Me from the beginning.


John 9:39-41; Matthew 12:30-32; Romans 2:12; Romans 3:9-12,23; John 5:18; John 8:39-42; John 14:9; Psalm 69:4; John 14:15-17; Luke 24:45-49; 1 John 1:1-4; Acts 1:15-26; John 20:30-31

The position of the unbelieving Jews at the time of Jesus was much like that of Paul, Romans 7:7. If Jesus had not come and revealed Himself to the world as the Messiah, if He had not taught and preached as He did, then their great sin, unbelief, would not have been committed. After the revelation of Christ, after the open preaching of the Gospel before the world, there is no longer any excuse for unbelief. It is here laid bare as the sin of sins, for Christ earned and offered full atonement for all sins, and in rejecting Him they also rejected His atonement, whereby their sins were returned to them with their full damnation. And in hating Jesus they also hated the Father, thus loading upon themselves a still greater measure of guilt. That is the climax of enmity toward God, that the world despises and rejects the love of God, the grace of God in Christ, that the children of unbelief hate that God who offers them mercy and peace. The situation is perfectly plain. Jesus had not only preached of the Father time and again, but He had revealed Him also through His works, through His miracles. They had rejected this revelation in their unbelief. Seeing the Father in the person of the Son, they had hated Christ and therefore also the Father, with whom He is One. There is no excuse for the world, but there is some measure of comfort for the disciples in the fact that the world’s hatred has been prophesied, Psalm 69:4. Without a just cause, from a mere spirit of contrariness, the world hated Christ, and to-day hates the Christians. Their rejection of Him, of His Word, and of His followers, is inexcusable.

But over against all this hatred and enmity of the world stands the comforting promise of Christ concerning the Holy Spirit and His testimony. The Comforter, the Helper, the Guide, whom He has promised them, will surely come. Christ will send Him from the Father, for such is His power as the exalted Son of God. He is the Spirit of Truth; the teaching of the eternal Gospel and the revealing of its glory and beauties to the hearts of the believers is His principal work. He is sent by the Son, but proceeds also from the Father. There is the most wonderful intimacy between the various persons of the Godhead. To testify of Jesus the Savior: that is the office of the Spirit; for that reason He bears the name Spirit of Truth. “I shall give you, says Christ, the Spirit that will make you sure and certain of the truth, that ye no longer dare doubt with regard to this or that concerning your salvation, but may be sure of the matter and be judges, and even judge all other doctrine.” [Luther, 8, 599]. Note how strongly the Trinity of the Godhead is here brought out: Jesus, the speaker, as one person, will send the Comforter from the Father, a person distinct from Himself; and this Comforter, in turn, is distinguished from the Father and from the Son. With the aid of this Comforter and Helper the disciples would be able to witness, to testify concerning the redemption of mankind through the work of Christ. And their testimony should have all the greater weight and value because they had been with the Lord from the beginning; they could speak of what they had seen and heard. With such a wonderful witness from on high to support and strengthen them, there was no reason why the disciples should not perform their work with all energy and power, even as this attitude should characterize their work to-day. “There is therefore no other manner or way to comfort, strengthen, and instruct the consciences, and to protect and defend one’s self, than by this preaching and testimony of the Holy Ghost. … That is the Word of God, preached in the world through the Holy Ghost, known also to the children, which also the portals of hell shall not overthrow.” [Luther, 8, 603. 605].


Jesus tells His disciples the Parable of the Vine and the Branches with its application, explains and urges the commandment of brotherly love, and speaks of the hatred of the world against the disciples of Christ.

Chapter 16

Verses 1-15

Comfort against the world’s hatred

The intensity of the world’s hatred:

John 16:1-4

1 These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor Me. But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you.


John 15:18-27; John 1:10-13; John 8:12-59; John 17:25-26; John 13:12-20; John 14:25-31; Acts 4:1-22; Acts 7:51-60; Acts 12:1-3; Acts 23:12-23; Acts 26; Galatians 1:11-17; Romans 11:28-32; Romans 12:14-21; Revelation 2:9-11

Jesus had both warned His disciples of persecution and hatred, and had given them encouragement to meet all such demonstrations. And all these statements were made with the view of saving the disciples against being offended, that the coming of the predicted tribulations should not scandalize them. They now know that all these things happen in accordance with God’s counsel and will or by His permission. The hatred of the world, of the children of unbelief, may have various forms or degrees. For one thing, they will excommunicate the believers in Christ, they will exclude them from all external communion. The ostracism of the true disciples of Christ, in both church and society, is a favorite method of manifesting enmity toward Christ to this very day. And the time will come, Jesus says, when bigotry and hatred against Christ and His followers will not be satisfied with such measures, but will not even shrink back from murder itself. Every one of them, as a fitting representative of the whole class, will have the idea that he is thereby doing an act of special worship toward God. Every one will believe that his murderous intent and execution is a work of great merit and well pleasing to God. These words have been and are being fulfilled continually. The believers have ever been accounted a mad and malicious company. But the reason for this hatred, its intensity and its expression, is found, as Jesus has remarked before in the fact that the unbelievers know neither the Father nor the Son. From the beginning Jesus had attempted to bring out the relation between Himself and His Father very strongly; both His words and His works proclaimed the union between them, and yet the deliberate blindness of the unbelieving Jews continued. “But this is said for our comfort and strength against such excommunicating and murdering, that we pay no attention to it nor be offended. For here we have the testimony and the glory, which they themselves must give us by their own confession, that they do not persecute us on account of such matters in which they could adduce a public proof as doing well and right, as in the things in which the world has a right to condemn and to punish, so far as notorious scoundrels, thieves, murderers, and rebels are concerned, but they persecute us in those matters of which they neither know nor understand anything, namely, that we preach of Christ and the Father, whom they know not, and yet, in their blindness, they oppose such preaching and rage against it.” [Luther, 8, 624. 625]. What Jesus therefore has told His disciples will serve both as a warning and as a consolation, lest the coming of the trials and persecutions occasion surprise and offense. It had not been necessary for Jesus to give them such a full account at the beginning of His ministry; for in those days, and since, He had been with them as their Friend and Protector, guarding them against both weakness and persecution.

The comfort of Christ’s going away:

John 16:5-7

But now 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. Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you.


John 1:1-34; John 3:1-18; John 7:28-39; John 14:15-17; John 15:26; Acts 2:36-38; Mark 16:16

So long has Jesus been with them as Guide and Protector; but now the time for departure has come. But instead of provoking all manner of inquiries on their part, the announcement has stunned them with sorrow. The Lord has discharged the mission for which He was sent, and, in a manner of speaking, goes to report on a duty properly performed. But His words concerning His leaving find no interest on the part of the disciples as to His future welfare. Their attitude savors strongly of selfishness at the loss of the Master and grief at His departure. They are insensible to the real issue involved. And therefore He gives them the comforting, cheering assurance that His going away is expedient for them, that it will accrue to their advantage, that they will reap only benefit from it. If He should stay in their midst with His bodily presence, then the other, greater event would be rendered impossible: the Comforter would not come. The sending of the Spirit depended upon the fact that Christ should enter into the glory of His Father according to His human nature. As the exalted Son of Man He would have and make use of the power to send them the Comforter. “This is the meaning of these words: If I go not away, that is, if I do not die and be removed from this corporeal essence and life, nothing is gained, but you remain where you are now, and everything will remain in the old way as it was formerly and still is: the Jews under the Law of Moses, the heathen in their blindness; all under sin and death, and no one can be delivered therefrom nor be saved. Thus no scripture would be fulfilled and I should have come in vain, and all would be useless, both what the holy fathers before you and you yourselves believed and hoped. But if I depart and die and carry out what God has decided in His counsel to perform through Me, then the Holy Ghost will come to you, and work in you, and give you such courage that you will become My officers and coregents, change the whole world, abrogate the Law, or Jewry, destroy the heathen idolatry, and rebuke and change the whole world, so that your doctrine will remain and penetrate everlastingly, though it will displease the devil and the whole world. That is the gift and the glory which My going away brings to you.” [Luther, 8, 645]. Note: It appears from these words of Christ that we Christians of the present time have more benefit from the work of the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, than the disciples had of the personal, visible presence of the Lord when He dwelt among them in the form of a servant.

The reproof of the world:

John 16:8-11

And when He is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on Me; 10 Of righteousness, because I go to My Father, and ye see Me no more; 11 Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.


Acts 2; John 1:9-13; John 3:14-21; John 8:12,24; Mark 16:16; Romans 3:9-31; Ephesians 2:8-10; Matthew 23:27-28; Acts 13:10; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15; Matthew 25:31-46; John 12:31; Hebrews 2:14-15; Hebrews 4:12-13; Genesis 3:13-15; Revelation 20

And that Person, the Holy Spirit, coming into the world, will convict the world. That is one special function and activity of the Spirit, to convict the unbelieving world on three counts, with regard to sin, justice, and judgment. This the Lord explains. Of sin the world stands accused and unable to deny the charge that they do not believe on Christ, because they wilfully choose unbelief. That is the chief sin of the world, of the unbelievers, that they reject Christ and His Gospel. All other sins do not come into consideration if a person but believes in the forgiveness of sins. And therefore unbelief, which refuses to accept the forgiveness of sins, deliberately cuts itself off from salvation. This fact the Spirit impresses upon the minds and hearts of the unbelievers. “The world will not hear such preaching that they should all be sinners before God, and that their pious works have no value before Him, but that they rather through this crucified Christ must obtain mercy and salvation. Such unbelief against Christ becomes the sum and substance of all sins that lead a person into damnation, so that there is no help for him.” [Luther, 8, 654]. In close connection with this fact is the further truth that the Spirit convicts the unbelieving world of righteousness, since Jesus was going to the Father and would no longer be with them according to His visible presence. The true righteousness consists in this, that Christ, by His going to the Father, by His suffering, death, and resurrection, earned and prepared the righteousness which is acceptable with God. But the world wants nothing of Christ’s blood and righteousness, preferring its own self-righteousness. And so both righteousness and salvation are lost to them by unbelief, as the Spirit will impress upon them. And He will finally convict them of the judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged and condemned. The redemption of Christ sealed the devil’s doom; he has lost might and right with regard to mankind since sin was conquered by Jesus. This the Holy Ghost testifies to the hearts of the unbelievers, showing them that because of their unbelief they will have to share the doom of the devil, that they are condemned for rejecting the Conqueror of Satan. This also serves for the comfort of the believers, since they know that the world is even now convicted.

The Spirit’s work for the believers:

John 16:12-15

12 I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. 13 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 shew you things to come. 14 He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall shew it unto you. 15 All things that the Father hath are Mine: therefore said I, that He shall take of Mine, and shall shew it unto you.


John 14:15-26; John 15:26-27; Luke 24:44-49; 2 Timothy 3:14-17; Ephesians 2:18-22

Much more remains to be said, much more Christ would like to tell His disciples, but in their present state of little faith, of immature spirituality, mixed with sorrow and grief over His leaving, they would not be able to grasp, to understand it. Jesus had indeed told His disciples all that they needed for their salvation, and there was and is no need for further arbitrary revelations, no matter from what sources these claim to come. But the disciples needed further instruction in order to understand the instruction which they had already received from the Master. And this would be provided for by the Spirit of Truth, by the Spirit whose essential function would be the teaching of the truth, the Word of God. He will teach them, serve as their Guide in leading them into the whole truth. He will bring their hearts and minds into the truth, make them familiar with it, let them understand and grasp the truth, have them realize the grace of God in Christ Jesus. And in doing this, the Spirit will not display an arbitrary, independent activity. The relation between the persons of the Godhead is the intimacy of unity and precludes any such possibility. The Spirit can and will lead the believers into all truth, because He will not bring a separate, independent revelation and Gospel, but will speak what He has heard in the council of the Godhead. The guarantee of the Spirit’s teaching is that He will utter the words of the Triune God as such. “Here He makes the Holy Ghost a preacher, in order that no one shall stand gaping up into heaven (as the flighty spirits and enthusiasts do) and separate Him from the oral Word or ministry of preaching, but know and learn that He wants to be with and in the Word, and through it lead us into all truth, that we have faith in it, and fight therewith, and be kept against all lies and deceit of the devil, and conquer in all tribulations.” [Luther, 8, 676]. Thus the Spirit, in the Word, reveals and makes plain the mysteries of God and heaven. And since He is a Spirit of prophecy, He will tell also of things that are to come, that are now coming. The future salvation also belongs to the counsel of God: the coming of Christ to judgment, the consummation of the redemption in the Kingdom of Glory. And in regard to all these facts the Spirit will give the proper information. Moreover, in doing so, His work will redound to the glory of the Savior, since the truth which He will reveal He will receive from Christ for the purpose of preaching. By picturing Christ before the eyes and hearts of the believers, the Holy Spirit provides and gives to Christ the glory which is due Him in His capacity as Savior. And in taking His doctrine from the Son, the Spirit incidentally receives His doctrine from the Father, for since they have the Godhead in common, they have also the divine knowledge in common. Jesus here makes a very bold statement, as Luther says, and one that could not be made by any mere man. All that the Father has, He says, is Mine. He not only has charge of it; it is not only in His possession for a short time, but He has absolute power over its disposition, for He and the Father have everything in common. The Spirit has the unlimited fulness of the Godhead to draw from, all in the interest of the believers. That is the work of the Spirit for and in the believers, that He teaches them to know Jesus Christ, the Savior, aright and with ever-increasing clearness.

Verses 16-33

The comfort of Christ’s second advent

The comfort of the short separation:

John 16:16-18

16 A little while, and ye shall not see Me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see Me, because I go to the Father. 17 Then said some of His disciples among themselves, What is this that He saith unto us, A little while, and ye shall not see Me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see Me: and, Because I go to the Father? 18 They said therefore, What is this that He saith, A little while? we cannot tell what He saith.


John 7:32-39; John 8:21-24; John 12:27-36; John 13:31-35; John 14:15-21; John 20:19-23; Revelation 22:12-13,20

Only a little while it was, only a few short hours, and the Savior would be hidden from the eyes of His disciples in the darkness of the tomb, and they would not be able to behold Him. But then it would again be only a short while, a matter of a few days, when their eyes would be gladdened by His reappearance as their living Savior. But the intention of the Lord seems to be to convey also another great truth to their hearts, since He says that He is going to the Father, making this statement the basis for the others. His ascension was but a few days away, after which they would no longer enjoy the comfort of His personal, physical presence; but His return to glory would follow very shortly after that. In either case, and with either intended meaning, the words were full of comfort and cheer for the disciples. But the latter understood nothing of the joyful message. They were aroused from their apathetic dulness only to the extent that they discussed the probable meaning of Christ among themselves. The result of their discussion was that they frankly stated their inability to understand, to know the meaning of, the Master. They were utterly bewildered and alarmed; a dread sense of impending disaster took hold of their hearts.

The consoling assurance of Jesus:

John 16:19-22

19 Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask Him, and said unto them, Do ye enquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see Me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see Me? 20 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. 21 A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. 22 And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.


John 20:19-23; Revelation 7:9-17; Revelation 21:1-4; Revelation 22:12-13,20; Psalm 30; Psalm 16; Psalm 32; Psalm 66; Proverbs 10:28; Ecclesiastes 2:26; Luke 2:10-11; John 17:13,25-26; Matthew 25:21; Romans 14:17-19; Romans 15:13; Galatians 5:22-26; Philippians 1:3-5; Colossians 1:9-14; James 1:2-8; 1 Peter 1:3-9; Philippians 2:1-11; Luke 15:1-10

Jesus was fully aware of the anxious bewilderment and embarrassment of the disciples, and that they were ashamed to ask for an explanation. In His usual kind manner, therefore, He comes to their assistance by stating the difficulty which was agitating their minds. They could not quite become reconciled to the idea of His leaving them and going to the Father, nor did they fully comprehend what was included in these statements, as well as in the others that He should be removed from their sight for a little while and in just as short a space of time be seen of them once more. “We have now often heard what it means ‘to go to the Father’; which indeed is not a common expression, such as men usually employ and as they generally understand it, but is the language of the Lord Christ and His Christians. That Christ went forth from, or was sent by, the Father means nothing else than that He, the true Son of God from eternity, became a true man, and revealed Himself on earth in human nature, essence, and form, permitted Himself to be seen, heard, and felt, ate, drank, slept, worked, suffered, and died, like any other person. Again, that He goes to the Father, that means that He will be glorified by His resurrection from the dead, that He sits at the right hand of God and reigns with Him in eternity, as eternal, almighty God. For by His coming down or going from the Father He revealed and proved Himself a true, natural man; but by His return to the Father He declares Himself to be true, eternal God, out of God the Father, and thus remains in one person both God and man, and should be thus known and believed.” [Luther, 8, 691]. Very impressively Jesus tells the disciples the natural result of His removal from them, especially under such conditions as would soon be evident. They would weep and lament at the bitterness of His Passion, His crucifixion, and His death, while the world, represented by the unbelieving Jews, especially the leaders of the Church, would be filled with joy. But their sorrow-stricken souls would very quickly find wonderful consolation, which would turn their grief into rejoicing. The Lord adds an illustration to show in what way the acuteness and intensity of an overwhelming sorrow will be converted into joyful delight. At the time when the sorrow and pains of the mother are greatest and death itself seems imminent, the crisis is practically past; and with the birth of the child there comes the joy over the safe delivery and over the babe itself, causing the remembrance of the great sorrow to vanish. So the sorrow and pain of the disciples would be very acute and harsh, but with the return of their Master their joy would be all the greater; it would be such a joy as would surpass all human happiness, such a joy as could never be taken from them. Since the time of Pentecost with its wonderful revelation all believers may become partakers of this joy. Sorrow over the death of Christ can no longer affect us; Jesus now comes to us in a spiritual manner, with His Holy Spirit; He reveals all the glories of His salvation to our hearts. The Christians see and know Jesus by faith as the Son of God and their Savior, and are filled with a joy which will continue as long as His presence continues, to the end of time.

The prayer that never fails:

John 16:23-28

23 And in that day ye shall ask Me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it you. 24 Hitherto have ye asked nothing in My name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. 25 These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father. 26 At that day ye shall ask in My name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: 27 For the Father Himself loveth you, because ye have loved Me, and have believed that I came out from God. 28 I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.


Matthew 6:9-13; Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 11:9-13; Matthew 21:18-22; Mark 11:20-25; John 14:12-14; John 15:16; 1 John 5:13-15; James 1:5-8; James 4:2-3; Galatians 5:16-24; John 15:5-9; John 14:21-24; John 17:20-26; John 3:13-17

In that day, with the coming of the revelation through the Spirit, there will no longer be need to ask the Lord any questions. Though the personal intercourse between them and their Master had terminated, they would have the benefit and the certainty of a direct communion through the work of the Spirit. And solemnly Jesus assures them that their relation to the Father will be of a nature permitting them to go directly to Him with all their desires and needs, for their prayers will all be made in the name of Jesus. Because the atonement of Jesus has effected peace with the Father, has restored the believers to their position as children of God, they have but to refer to Jesus and His work, to appeal to His redemption, to be assured of the hearing of their prayers. The work of the Mediator and Savior had not been completed, and therefore the disciples had not prayed in His name. But now the road to the Father’s heart has been opened, and they shall entreat, they shall ask, knowing that they will receive, and thus have also the fulfilment of their joy. The efficacy of prayer depends upon faith in the Savior as the Substitute of mankind, by whom we have free access to the Father. In order to bring this truth home to the disciples still more strongly, the Lord frankly tells them that His teaching has been, to a large extent, in proverbial, parabolic sayings. But the hour is coming, after He will have entered into His glory, when He will speak to them without pictures or difficult figures, through the work of the Spirit. Then He will also teach them, announce to them plainly, what is meant by knowing the Father, by having the right understanding of His love and mercy. At that time prayer in the name of Jesus will be so strong, so efficacious, that there will not even be need of His special intercession for them. This is necessary, as a matter of course, to establish the right relation between God and the believers. Cp. Romans 8:34. But so great is the Father’s love which has been evoked by the love of the believers in Christ and by their firm belief that He came into the world to reveal the Father, to be His Ambassador, that the Father will deal directly with His children and will grant their prayers. And this the disciples should once more be assured of: Jesus went forth from the Father and came into the world to carry into effect the plan of salvation for all mankind. And now He leaves the world and goes to the Father, thus signifying that the work which He intended to perform has been done. That fact establishes the relation between God and the believers, and renders all their prayers in the name of Jesus acceptable to Him. Note: Everything that the believers ask of God in the name of Jesus, by faith in His merit, He will give to them. For they pray as the children of God, that have the nature and manner of their Father. It is self-evident, therefore, that they pray only for such things as please the Father, 1 John 5:14. That includes, above all, that they leave both the time and the manner of the hearing to His fatherly wisdom.

The close of the discourse:

John 16:29-33

29 His disciples said unto Him, Lo, now speakest Thou plainly, and speakest no proverb. 30 Now are we sure that Thou knowest all things, and needest not that any man should ask Thee: by this we believe that Thou camest forth from God. 31 Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe? 32 Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave Me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. 33 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.


Zechariah 13:7-9; Matthew 26:31-32; Matthew 20:17-19; John 14:27-31; 1 John 4:1-6; Numbers 6:24-26; Isaiah 9:2-7; Luke 2:8-14; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Romans 5:1-11; Romans 8:1-6; Ephesians 2; Colossians 3:12-17; Philippians 4:4-7; Hebrews 13:20-21

The last statements of Jesus had been so clear and unmistakable, of the love of the Father, of Christ’s coming from, and going to, the Father, that the disciples thought they understood Him perfectly. There was neither parable nor proverb in these sayings, and they had the conviction, which they also freely expressed, that He had a full knowledge of all things, and that His teaching was free from all obscurity. The implication of the disciples is that they need not wait for some future manifestation and revelation, when everything would be clear to their minds. They were persuaded now of His divine Sonship. But the enthusiasm of the disciples was premature; the time of Pentecost had not yet come; they must first experience sorrow and suffering. Jesus tells them that the test of their faith, of which they now seemed so sure, would come very soon. And the result would be most disappointing. They would be scattered, they would flee from His side, leaving Him all alone in His great Passion. Their own interests, their life and safety, would claim their first consideration. So would they fail Him in the critical hour. But as for Him; the prospect did not fill Him with terror; He would not be alone, since His Father would be with Him. His presence would at all times be sufficient for all needs. And now the Lord once more summarizes His loving sayings of the evening in one short sentence. He has spoken to them, He has given them all the necessary assurances, in order that in Him they might have peace. He places Himself and His sphere of activity in contrast to the world and her sphere of influence and activity. In the world, in the midst of the unbelievers, the disciples of all times have tribulation; from them they may expect only persecution and torment. That is the inevitable lot of the confessors of Christ. And yet they should feel happy and be of good cheer. For in Jesus they have peace. Amidst all the turmoil and hatred and persecution of these latter days the Christians have peace with God, peace in Christ the Savior. For He, Jesus, our Champion, has overcome the world. Though His Passion proper had not yet begun, the Lord knows that He will be Conqueror in the battle with sin, death, and hell, that all His enemies will be made His footstool. And therefore He will make the necessary provisions that His disciples will not be overcome by enmity and persecution. “Behold, that is the kind farewell and comforting last word which Christ leaves to His disciples; He would fain talk into their hearts. Although the apostles at that time did not understand it and even we do not yet understand it, … yet we have seen, by the grace of God, that the Holy Ghost reminded many hearts of these words when it came to the battle, and strengthened them that in the memory of that victory they endured everything, and died a peaceful death. May God help also us and give us that mind that we also cling to this fact in misfortune and death!” [Luther, 8, 743. 744].


Jesus teaches concerning the office of the Holy Spirit, both in rebuking and in comforting, and of His own going to the Father, and the blessed results which would thereby come to the believers.

Chapter 17

Verses 1-26

Christ’s great sacerdotal prayer

Christ prays for His own glorification:

John 17:1-5

1 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: As Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him. And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent. I have glorified Thee on the 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.


Hebrews 5:1-10; John 12:9-36; John 13:31-35; John 15:8; John 16:12-15; John 1:1-18; Matthew 28:18-20; Hebrews 1:8-9; Revelation 2:26-27; John 3:13-18; John 10:22-30; John 20:30-31; 1 John 5:20; Luke 24:44-47; John 8:54-59; John 18:1-6; Acts 7:55; Ephesians 1:15-23; Ephesians 4:10; Hebrews 10:12-14; Colossians 1:15-20; Revelation 19:11-16; Revelation 22:13,16

Jesus had finished the words of His last great charge to His disciples. And now He lifts up His eyes to His heavenly Father and pours forth His soul in a most wonderful and inspiring prayer of intercession. It has fitly been called the great sacerdotal prayer, for here Jesus appears in His work as Mediator, beseeching His heavenly Father first for Himself, then for His little band of disciples, and finally for all those that would be gathered by the proclamation of the Gospel. There is so much beauty, comfort, and power in this simple prayer that its main thoughts at least, if not the entire text, should be memorized. Jesus prayed in the presence of His disciples; what He wanted to tell the Father, what He wanted to ask of the Father, was in their interest, and in the interest of the faithful of all times. “But this is the summary and reason for this chapter. Upon a good sermon there should follow a good prayer, that is: If one has sent forth the Word, he should begin to utter prayerful sighs and to desire that it may also have power and work fruit. For since Christ the Lord has now enunciated all His doctrine and office and completed it, and has blessed His disciples with the fine, long, comforting sermon, He finally felt constrained to speak a prayer, both for them and for all Christians, in order that He might fully bring to end His office, as our one High Priest, and omit nothing that would serve to strengthen and keep them, since He wanted to leave them behind Him in the world.” [Luther, 8, 747]. Jesus addresses His Father in just that one word, thereby giving to His prayer a tone of intimacy and confidence which should characterize every true prayer. The hour is come, that one hour which was to be the climax and culmination of His life’s work, the hour in which He was to go to the Father through His death. Therefore the Father should glorify the Son, He should have the purpose of His life carried out through His Passion, death, resurrection, and session at the right hand of God. This glorification concerns the human nature of Christ; according to this nature He was to be endowed with the unlimited exercise of all the divine attributes. And the object of this glorification would be, in turn, that the Son should glorify the Father. The fulfilment of the will of the Father, the reconciliation of the world, the imparting of the redemption to all believers, all these facts would redound to the glory of the Father. The entire work of Christ in His state of exaltation is a continuous glorifying of the Father: its aim and object is the praise of God for His grace and mercy in Christ Jesus. The glorification of the Father is therefore in accordance with the measure of power given to Christ with respect to all flesh, that God, on account of the work of Jesus, might have the Savior give to every one that belonged to Him eternal life. The Son has the authority and power to give eternal life to them that God gave Him as His own. Through His suffering and death Jesus has power over all flesh, since He earned all men, gained them for Himself, by His redemption. There is none excepted: whosoever belongs to the category “flesh” is included in the number of those for whom Jesus paid with His blood. And out of this whole number God has given certain ones to Jesus. They are the ones that actually receive the salvation of Jesus by faith, they are the only ones that actually become partakers of the grace of God in Christ the Savior. The object of salvation, intended for all men, is realized only in the case of the believers. But this life eternal, which the believers receive at the hands of Jesus, consists in the true knowledge, in the right understanding of God as the only true God, as the one and only Lord, and of Jesus Christ, the Savior, in both His person and office, as the one sent by God to accomplish the salvation of the world. The knowledge and belief in both the Father and the Son are necessary for the obtaining of eternal life, for the two are on the same level: the Father has revealed Himself in the Son, and the Son has made known the Father. Eternal life is the intimate union and communion with the Father and the Son. This happiness and bliss begins even here in time; here on earth, indeed, only in part, but in the future life in all its fulness and glory. In this way the Son glorifies the Father, by bringing the believers to the right knowledge of the Father. This work He began in this world, that was one of the purposes of the incarnation. The fact that Jesus carried out the work entrusted to Him, that He fulfilled the will of the Father in every detail, will serve the glory and praise of the Father. Every person that was gained by the teaching of Jesus will add his voice in praising the God of mercy and in praying to Him in spirit and in truth. All this being accomplished, the Father should now, in turn, receive the Son up into glory, crown His human nature with the full and unrestricted exercise of all the divine attributes and powers which were His in the bosom of the Father before the world began. Jesus, even in the midst of humiliation on earth, was the possessor of the divine glory; even as man He was almighty, omniscient, omnipresent. But He did not make use of these divine attributes communicated to Him except in His miracles and at a few other occasions when the flashes of His divine majesty became visible to men. But through His Passion, death, and resurrection Jesus wanted to enter into the state of glory, into the full exercise and enjoyment of the heavenly, divine essence, and of all the joy and bliss in the presence of His Father, also according to His human nature. This section of Christ’s prayer therefore includes a petition for Himself, namely, for His own glorification as man; but He indicates even here that this glorious culmination will be of benefit also to men.

Christ prays for the disciples as such that have kept the Word:

John 17:6-8

I have manifested Thy name unto the men which Thou gavest Me out of the world: Thine they were, and Thou gavest them Me; and they have kept Thy Word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever Thou hast given Me are of Thee. For 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.


John 1:14-18; John 14:6-11; 1 John 4:9-10; 1 Timothy 3:16; 1 Peter 1:13-21; Colossians 1:15-20; John 6:35-40; John 10:22-30; John 18:1-9; John 15:15; John 8:21-30; John 8:39-42; John 13:1-5; John 16:27-28

The prayer of the Lord now concerns His disciples, specifically His apostles. To them He has manifested, revealed, the name of the Father; the whole essence and glory of the Father Jesus has proclaimed and taught to those men whom the Father had given Him out of the world as His own. He has shown them what the feeling and intention of the Father is toward sinful men. By this preaching and the call which it included certain men were separated out of the world by the Father and allotted, given, to Christ. They were God’s own by His choice and selection; and the Father gave them to Christ in time, in order that the latter might give them the revelation and knowledge necessary for obtaining eternal life. This object was realized; the men accepted and kept the Word of the Gospel; the faith which was worked in their hearts clings to the promises of the Gospel. The disciples, first of all, had gained the understanding that Jesus was not acting in an independent capacity, apart from the will and counsel of God, but that all the gifts and powers and words which He displayed and taught were from the Father. Then also, when Jesus had delivered to them the words which He had received from His Father, they had accepted them in faith. By their acceptance of the words, of the teaching of Christ with this understanding, they have shown that they have true faith and correct knowledge. So the disciples have the true knowledge, the certainty of faith, that Christ really came from the Father, that He was the Messenger and Ambassador of the Father to mankind. To accept the Word of God, to cling to the promises and statements of the Gospel, that is the characteristic attitude and work of the believers. So much the ministry of Jesus and His testimony had effected in their case.

The distinction between the disciples and the world:

John 17:9-11

I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine. 10 And all Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine; and I am glorified in them. 11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to Thee. Holy Father, keep through Thine own name those whom Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, as We are.


John 17:20-21; Matthew 6:9-13; Hebrews 5:1-10; John 16:12-15; John 13:1; John 14:23; Matthew 18:20; Matthew 28:18-20; John 10:14-16; Romans 12:3-5; Galatians 3:27-28; Ephesians 1:3-10; Ephesians 2:11-22; Ephesians 4:4-6; Romans 8:38-39

Jesus here makes a deliberate distinction. He expressly says that He is praying for His disciples; His intercession concerns them only. He sets aside the unbelieving world, for the unbelievers included under that name refuse to accept Him under any circumstances. “But this is the difference. In this way and in the same manner He does not pray for the world as He does for His Christians. For the Christians and for all that are to be converted He prays thus, that they may remain in the true faith, grow and continue in it, and not fall away from it, and that those that are still without faith leave their manner and also come. That means to pray right and well for the world, as we should all pray.” [Luther, 8, 790]. For those that God has given Him by a deliberate act of mercy, and that belong to God by His gracious choice and selection, Jesus prays. He is so certain of being heard in this instance because the believers are God’s own, in whom He will naturally take an interest. And Jesus here addresses the Father in a very bold manner: And what is Mine is all Thine, and what is Thine is Mine. He calmly claims absolute community of interests and property for Himself and the Father. “This no creature can say before God. For you must understand this not only of that which the Father has given Him on earth, but also of His one divine essence with the Father. For He speaks not only of His disciples and Christians, but comprehends in one heap all that is the Father’s, eternal, almighty essence, life, truth, righteousness, etc., that is, He confesses freely that He is true God, for the word ‘All that is Thine is Mine’ permits nothing to be excluded. If everything is His, then also the eternal Godhead is His; otherwise He cannot and dare not use the word ‘all.’ ” [Luther, 8, 794]. And so Jesus, the Son of God, that has everything in common with the Father, is glorified in His believers. He has taught them to know Him; He has brought His picture as the Redeemer of the world into their souls. Their understanding has been enlightened to enable them to understand, at least in a measure, the purpose of God in the salvation of the world, to place their trust in Christ, in the definite hope that the remaining revelation will be theirs in heaven. The career of Jesus in the world is now coming to its end; He is now leaving the world to return to His Father. But the disciples are still in the world, in the midst of unbelievers and enemies of the Gospel. Therefore the earnest petition of Christ is most necessary, that His Father, the holy Father, that desires to keep His holy name unsullied, would keep the believers in His name, in the confession of His name, in true faith, to the end. Only if the Father Himself takes care of His own, will the spiritual union of the believers in no wise be disturbed or brought to naught. God must keep the believers in the one true faith by the Word of His truth, which reveals and teaches His name. The preservation in faith is the work of God. To Him the believers of all times must look to keep them steadfast in His Word and faith, unto the end, as is His gracious and good will.

Keeping the believers in God’s name:

John 17:12-13

12 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, but the son of perdition; that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 And now come I to Thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have My joy fulfilled in themselves.


John 6:35-40; Matthew 6:9-13; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-3; 1 John 5:18; Psalm 5:11; John 6:66-71; Psalm 41:9; John 13:12-20; Acts 1:15-26; John 15:11; John 16:16-24

As long as Jesus was present in the world, in the flesh, so long He personally tended to the keeping of His disciples in the faith. He taught, He admonished them day by day; He always revealed anew to them the name of the Father, in the Gospel which He proclaimed. And His Gospel-work had been most successful. He had kept all of the disciples whom the Father had given Him, His watchful guiding and warning had not been in vain but only in one single case, that of the son of perdition, of the traitor. In his case the Scripture had to be fulfilled. Cp. Psalm 69:4; Acts 1:20. But now the sojourn of Christ on earth was drawing to a close; no more would He be present with His disciples in the terms of personal, visible contact to which they had become accustomed. Jesus was going to the Father, and therefore He was making this prayer in their presence, while He was yet in the world, that they might be convinced of His personal interest in them, of His unchanging solicitude for them. His urgent prayer for their preservation in the faith should give them the assurance, as it should to the believers of all times, that nothing is left undone which will assist them in the midst of all the perils of the world and their own flesh. That is a source of wonderful comfort to the believers, that gives them the fullness of joy. Theirs, then, is a joy in Christ; they are happy over the fact that they are Christians, that they are intimates of the Father. This joy must drive out every bit of doubt as to a person’s remaining in faith to the end, just as this entire section of Christ’s prayer contains nothing but comfort for every Christian. Where there is such intimacy as between God and Christ, on the one hand, and the believers, on the other, all fear and doubts must vanish. “Now if some one wants to know whether he is elected or in what relation he stands to God, let him but look upon the mouth of Jesus, that is, upon these and similar verses. For though a person cannot say of a certainty who will be elected in the future and remain to the end, yet this is certainly true, that whosoever is called and comes thereto, namely, to hear this revelation, that is, the Word of Christ, provided he accept it in all sincerity, that is, fully hold and believe that it is true, they are the ones that are given to Christ by the Father. But those that are given to Him He will surely keep, and insist that they do not perish.” [Luther, 8, 779].

The Word keeps in faith:

John 17:14-19

14 I have given them Thy Word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy Word is truth. 18 As Thou hast sent Me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.


John 15:18-25; John 1:9-13; John 8:21-24; Matthew 6:9-13; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-3; 1 John 5:18; Psalm 5:11; John 15:3; Romans 10:17; 1 Corinthians 1:18; Ephesians 1:3-14; Ephesians 5:25-27; Titus 3:4-7; 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

Only one means Jesus knows of, both for working faith and for keeping in the faith, and that means He has given to the disciples: the Word of the Father. There is no need of following the lead of enthusiasts that prate of new revelations, the inner light, and keys to the Scriptures. The Word of the Gospel as we have it in Scriptures is all-sufficient for all needs. But the Word thus becomes a distinguishing factor, since the Christians accept it, and the world, the unbelievers, refuses to recognize its worth and power. The result is that the unbelieving world hates the Christians. Their acceptance of the Gospel is a constant accusation of the world’s rejection of Christ; it emphasizes the essential difference between believers and unbelievers. The former have nothing in common with the world, with the nature and manner of the children of the world. The attitude toward the Word of the Gospel is the deciding factor; the Word is the touchstone by which men decide their fate. The Word therefore is the rock-foundation of a Christian’s faith. “There I have the Word of Christ, my Lord, yea, of the almighty Father in heaven; that I know and am certain, if I cling to that, then no power on earth nor the gates of hell can harm me, for He loves His Word and will hold His hand over it, and therefore also protect and defend all that cling to it.” [Luther, 8, 813]. The Christians, then, are perfectly willing and satisfied to occupy the position in which the world places them by its hatred, since thereby they are identified more fully with Christ. Purposely, therefore, Jesus does not ask that the believers be taken out of the world, that they be removed from the proximity of harm and danger and hatred, but only that the Father would keep them, shield them against the wiles of the devil. That is the one side of the Christians’ preservation in faith, which is the work of God. God guards and protects them from their enemies, the world and the devil, by not permitting these enemies to seduce them, nor lead them into misbelief, despair, or other great shame and vice. That danger is always present, and many a believer has been overcome, since he did not trust in the power of God alone. What Jesus here prays should be remembered by all Christians at all times: They do not belong to the world, as I am not of the world. Christ and the unbelieving world have nothing in common; and so the followers of Christ and the unbelieving world can have nothing in common. Their interests, their objects, lie in opposite directions and can never be reconciled. To attempt a compromise with the unbelieving world is to make peace with the devil. And therefore the prayer of Jesus takes this factor into account. He asks that God complete the separation between the believers and the world, sanctify the disciples wholly by consecrating them to God alone, through the power of the Word. The Christians are sanctified, separated from the world, as soon as faith has been wrought in their hearts. But it is the power of God in the Word which must continue to keep them separated and consecrated. And this sanctification and these fruits of faith are not our work and ability, but God’s mercy and divine power. [Luther, 8, 821]. The believers being thus set apart through the power of the Word, they are ready for their great ministry. Even as God sent the Son into the world to preach and bring salvation, so the Son, in turn, sends the believers out into the world to preach the redemption that has been earned by Jesus. They should be witnesses for the truth, they should confess Christ. They are His witnesses to the world, for all men are included both under sin and under grace, John 3:16. In the midst of the unbelieving world Christ wanted to build His Church. And in order that this might be accomplished, in order that the work of the disciples might be done with the feeling of free and full consecration, Jesus consecrates Himself, gives Himself as a sacrifice for the whole world. He is about to enter upon His Passion now to work a perfect redemption. And every believer that accepts this deliverance, this redemption, thereby is separated from the hostile, unbelieving world and consecrated in and for the truth of the Gospel. Thus the disciples are sanctified and remain sanctified; they remain in the Word of Truth, in and through which the sin which persists in troubling them is forgiven, and they receive strength both to combat the evil and to carry out the will of the Lord for the proclamation of the Word to others.

Christ prays for the future believers:

John 17:20-24

20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word; 21 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. 22 And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as We are one: 23 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. 24 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.


Psalm 117; Luke 24:44-49; Matthew 10:40-42; Matthew 28:18-20; John 20:30-31; John 10:14-16; Romans 12:3-5; Galatians 3:27-28; Ephesians 1:3-10; Ephesians 2:11-22; Ephesians 4:4-6; John 1:14; Romans 8:12-39; 1 John 3:2

Jesus Himself had gained believers, disciples, through the preaching of the Word. In their interest He had addressed a large section of His prayer to His heavenly Father. But before His mind’s eye there arose the picture of the future, when the purpose of His work in the world would be fully realized, when the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, would be gathered from all nations. Through the testimony of the disciples, whom He is commissioning as His messengers to the world, there will be others, many others, that would believe on Him through the Word as proclaimed by the servants of the Lord. And all these believing Christians of all times shall be one. All those that have faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior, and actually put all their trust in Him alone, are thereby united most closely and inseparably. Even though they know nothing of each other, even though they belong to various Christian denominations: if they but have faith in the Word and in the Savior in their hearts, they are all truly, internally one communion of saints. This unity of the Church of all places and of all times is in God, in the Father and Son. It is as real and intimate as the union obtaining between these two persons of the Godhead. And the influence of this great united body, though invisible in itself, will be such as to compel the acknowledgment of the world as to Christ’s having been sent into the world by the Father to work salvation for all men. There are so many manifestations of the power of God in the work of the Church that at all times some, at least, in the world are convinced and gained for Christ. The Christian Church does a great deal of missionary work by its very existence. Add to that the confession and the testimony of the believers, and much may be accomplished for the Savior and His glory. To this end the Lord has given to His disciples the glory which He has received from the Father. The Christians, by the call of Christ, have a certain amount of divine nature, of divine power, by virtue of their regeneration and sanctification. They exhibit this divine life in their whole being and manner. Their every word and act serves to impress men with the power of the Word of God in them. But it serves especially to make that communion of their hearts and minds before the Lord perfect, since it places them in contrast to the world. And thus again the unbelieving world gets some idea of the truth of the Christian religion and of its superhuman power. Some of them will always, by the grace of God, form the right conclusions as to the mission of Christ and as to the certainty of God’s love toward them, equal in sincerity and power to that wherewith He loves the Son. Jesus, therefore, in His omniscience beholding the assembly of the Church as it will be gathered until the end of time, makes a bold request: Father, those that Thou hast given Me, I will that where I am, they also be with Me. Here is the confidence of the Redeemer, whose vicarious work is sufficient for all men. The elect of God are Christ’s own, and He holds them safe against all enemies, to be with Him in all eternity. And all the greater is His boldness for this request, since they were given to Him, because the Father loved His Son from eternity, before the foundation of the world was laid. And the consummation of Christian blessedness will be the share of the believers, according to this prayer of the Lord, since they will see the glory of their Redeemer; they will behold the head which was once crowned with thorns adorned with everlasting honor as the eternal Son of God with power. That is the final goal of faith, the final purpose of the election of grace — eternal life, eternal glory in and with Christ.

The conclusion of the prayer:

John 17:25-26

25 O righteous Father, the world hath not known Thee: but I have known Thee, and these have known that Thou hast sent Me. 26 And 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.


John 1:9-13; John 10:14-18; John 15:9-10; John 3:14-17; Romans 5:8; 1 John 3:1; 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17; Ephesians 2:1-10; John 14:23

It is the righteous Father whom Christ is addressing, and therefore He who fulfilled all righteousness may well expect from Him the hearing of a prayer based upon the complete redemption of the world. The unbelieving world does not know the Father, and will not know the Father. But the fact that the Son knows Him will effect the granting of this petition, and the fact that the believers place their trust in the Son’s mission and atonement places them in a position which will insure the hearing of the prayer. Their faith and their understanding is of the right kind and results in the intimate relationship upon which they base their hope. The teaching of Christ by which He revealed the name, the Word, and the will of the Father has not been in vain. This work of Christ will continue also in the state of exaltation, through the preaching of His disciples, until the end of time. And wherever the name of God is preached, there His honor and glory will be exalted. “And mark that He not only says: I have declared unto them Thy name, but also adds: And I will declare it, that is, I not only want to have a beginning and let it go at that, but I want to continue always, and do that same thing without ceasing, both through Word and Spirit, that people seek nothing else or higher, but always have enough to do to grasp it better and more strongly. For therein lies the power that we learn to know the Father well through faith, in such a way that the heart full of consolation and with happy trust in all mercy will stand before Him, and fear no wrath.” [Luther, 8, 843]. In this way only will the final object of Christ’s salvation be realized, namely, that the love of the Father in Christ dwells in the believers, and Christ Himself is united with them for all eternity. The entire prayer of Christ is a wonderful expression of His love.


Christ, in His sacerdotal prayer, prays first of all for His own glorification, then for His present disciples, and finally for the future believers, asking that the gracious power of God may be manifested for their union here on earth and in the final consummation of glory and bliss in heaven.

Chapter 18

Verses 1-14

The arrest of Jesus

Across the Kidron to Gethsemane:

John 18:1-3

1 When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which He entered, and His disciples. And Judas also, which betrayed Him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with His disciples. Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons.


Matthew 26:30-35; Mark 14:26-31; Luke 22:39; John 6:66-71; Matthew 26:20-25; Mark 14:17-21; Luke 22:21-23; John 13:21-26; Psalm 41:9; Matthew 26:14-16; Matthew 26:47-48; Mark 14:43-45; Luke 22:47-48; Matthew 27:3-10; Acts 1:12-26; Psalm 109:6-8; John 21:20-25

Whether Jesus addressed His last discourses to His disciples and spoke His great sacerdotal prayer in the courtyard of the house where He had celebrated the Passover or on the way out of the city is immaterial. But now it is expressly stated that He went out, He left the city, with His disciples. He took the way which His ancestor David had once taken in his flight from Jerusalem, through the deep and dark ravine of the brook Kidron, which was a winter-torrent, flowing only in winter or during the rainy season. “Kidron we call in our language a black or dark brook; and the brook Kidron is situated near the city of Jerusalem; is not large, but flows only when it rains; has the name Kidron for this reason, because it is located so deep and dark, is lined with bushes and hedges, that the water can hardly be seen because of them. … The evangelist means to say Christ went over the true dark brook, yea, in my opinion He went over the black brook. He says nothing of the Mount of Olives and of the beautiful pleasant place, but refers only to this dark brook, as the one that fits best to this matter of the arrest and death of Christ.” [Luther, 8, 849]. On the eastern side of this ravine, on the lower slopes of the Mount of Olives, there was a garden, Gethsemane, into which Jesus entered with His disciples. The evangelist expressly states that Judas, the traitor, was well acquainted with the location of this garden, as well as with the habit of Jesus of frequenting this secluded spot, where He might, at least in a measure, enjoy a few hours’ rest and respite occasionally. Note that Jesus, as Luther remarks, neither sought the cross, nor did He flee from it; He entered into His Passion willingly, but He did not challenge martyrdom. Here at Gethsemane it was that the Lord was seized with the terror of death, that He battled with His Father in prayer, that His very blood was driven through His pores by the intensity of His suffering, but that He also gained the strength and courage bravely to face further suffering. Meanwhile Judas, who surmised that Jesus might choose this place of retirement, had made arrangements for His capture. There was a part of the Roman band, of the cohort, or garrison, of the Castle Antonia: they represented the government. In addition to these men, whom the Sadducees had probably obtained to prevent the risk of a popular uprising, there were men of the Temple-guard and servants of the Sanhedrin. This whole band, composed of such manifold and diverse elements, was led by Judas, and was well supplied with torches, both such as were made of resinous wood and such as burned oil and were more like lanterns. They wanted to be equipped for every emergency, even this, that Jesus might try to hide in the thickets of the ravine. Judas here appears as an enemy of Christ. He is the traitor that has betrayed to the Jews the place where Jesus might be found. He himself is the leader of the band, a despicable creature even in the eyes of his temporary cronies.

An exhibition of divine majesty:

John 18:4-9

Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon Him, went forth, and said unto them, 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. Then asked He them 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: That the saying might be fulfilled, which He spake, Of them which Thou gavest Me have I lost none.


Matthew 20:17-19; John 6:35-40; John 10:22-30; John 17:12; Exodus 3:14; John 4:26; John 6:20; John 6:35; John 6:41; John 6:48; John 6:51; John 8:12; John 8:24; John 8:28; John 8:58; John 9:9; John 10:7; John 10:9; John 10:11; John 10:14; John 11:25; John 13:19; John 14:6; John 15:1; John 15:5

The members of the band might have saved themselves a great deal of trouble, for the hour of Jesus had now come, and He voluntarily delivered Himself into their hands. He knew all things that were to happen to Him, and went out to meet the men that were seeking Him. He was not only the omniscient God, knowing everything that was to happen to Him, but He was also the almighty God, as they were shortly to find out. From the description of John the rôles of pursuers and pursued might have been reversed. For it is Jesus that challenges the band: Whom seek ye? Their answer is: Jesus the Nazarene. And Jesus, with inimitable dignity and impressiveness, answers: I am He. A wonderful, encompassing confession! “In considering this word, ‘I am He,’ the Christians should mark well who Christ is, what His will is, what His intention is, and how great He is that was captured by the Jews, crucified, and killed; and also, why Christ suffered thus and died. This serves to make a distinction between the suffering of Christ and that of all other saints. For when this distinction is made, then the Passion of Christ has value and transcends that of all prophets, apostles, martyrs, etc. But if you ask who Christ is, then you shall know that He is the Man who shortly before, in John 17:10, says: Father, all Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine.” [Luther, 8, 856]. As Jesus made His ringing confession, Judas, the traitor, as the evangelist especially remarks, stood with them. He had joined their ranks, he had cast his lot with the enemies of the Lord. And therefore the almighty power of this great confession struck also him, with the whole band: they all went backward and fell to the ground. Here was evidence of Christ’s divine majesty, which should have served to open their eyes as to the real nature of the Man whom they were trying to arrest. With all their torches and lamps and weapons of diverse shapes and kinds they could not stand before Christ, a single word out of whose mouth threw them into a heap. Having given this evidence of His almighty power, Jesus again sends forth His ringing challenge: Whom seek ye? He now hid the rays of His divine majesty, He once more became the lowly, humble man. The truculent answer of the enemies must have been given all the more grudgingly as they felt themselves inferior to this Man. And Jesus again designated Himself as the Man whom they were seeking; He voluntarily delivered Himself into their hands. But to the last He held His guarding and sheltering hand over His disciples, reminding the officers and leaders of the band that, by their own statement, they are instructed to arrest none but Himself. His disciples therefore should be given leave to go their way unchallenged. In doing this, the evangelist finds that Jesus was carrying out the words of His prayer of but a short hour ago, John 17:12. “The evangelist here indicates that Christ with these words speaks of a being lost temporally. Above, in John 17:12, the text says clearly that the Lord speaks of a being lost eternally. But these two texts are not opposed to each other, though it certainly might seem that way; for if the disciples had been taken captive at that time, they would have been lost eternally in body and soul. There Christ is their Patron and Protector with the word, ‘I am He,’ and that He says to the band, ‘Let these go their way.’ With these words He preserved them that they might be lost neither temporally nor eternally; and in their soul they remain safe forever, although they afterwards in due time had to yield their bodies, and were obliged to give glory to God by their death.” [Luther, 8, 866]. Note: The tender kindness of Christ is concerned about all His believers in the same way, and it is ever active, and effectively so, in our interest.

The arrest:

John 18:10-14

10 Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus. 11 Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it? 12 Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound Him, 13 And led Him away to Annas first; for he was father in law to Caiaphas, which was the high priest that same year. 14 Now Caiaphas was he, which gave counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.


Luke 22:35-38; Matthew 26:48-56; Mark 14:46-50; Luke 22:49-53; Luke 3:1-3; John 18:24; Matthew 26:57; John 11:45-53

At this point the impetuosity of Peter, together with his just anger at the audacity of the band in daring to threaten his Master, overwhelmed him. He drew the sword with which he had provided himself, Luke 22:38, and struck out at the foremost of the band, the one standing nearest to him, the servant of the high priest, whose name was Malchus. The blow was delivered with sufficient force to sever the man’s right ear from his head. But Jesus sternly reproved Peter for this interference with the counsel of God. He bade him put back the sword into its sheath. The Lord’s method of defending Himself was not by means of weapons of this world. Any unauthorized use of power, especially in the interest of Christ and His Word, is sternly frowned down by Jesus. “Against such doctrine and apparent show of right this example of Peter should be alleged, to say that there is a great difference between him to whom a matter is committed, and him to whom it is not committed. … What God wants He has sufficiently commanded and ordered. God does not sleep, neither is He a fool; He knows very well how the government shall be carried on. Therefore, in things that are not committed to thee let the sword alone.” [Luther, 8, 869]. Jesus wanted to drink the cup of suffering which His Father was now offering Him to drink. This attitude, that of willing obedience, was essential for the entire work of redemption. After this incident there was no more delay. The Roman soldiers, under the orders of their tribune, together with the leaders of the Sanhedrin that had come along, made the arrest, with all the show of authority as though they had a dangerous criminal to deal with. The band then took Jesus away to Hannas first, who, although no longer high priest, having held that office by annual appointment from A. D. 7-14, was still a man of commanding influence, and the father-in-law of the high priest of that year, Caiaphas. The palace of the high priests probably formed a complex of buildings about a square, or court, in an architecture which was half Jewish, half Roman, Hannas occupying the one side of the buildings and Caiaphas the other. To the rooms of Hannas Jesus was led first, partly out of deference to his station, partly in order to keep Him there for a preliminary examination, until the members of the Sanhedrin might all be called together. The evangelist identifies Caiaphas as the man who had made the prophecy, all unknown to himself, concerning the fact that Jesus should die for the people. As Luther says, Caiaphas was, in this case, much like the beast of Balaam, through whose mouth the Lord also spoke. Jesus truly was to die, not only for this people, who were His murderers, but for the sins of the whole world.

Verses 15-27

Jesus arraigned, and the denial of Peter

The first denial:

John 18:15-18

15 And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple: that disciple was known unto the high priest, and went in with Jesus into the palace of the high priest. 16 But Peter stood at the door without. Then went out that other disciple, which was known unto the high priest, and spake unto her that kept the door, and brought in Peter. 17 Then saith the damsel that kept the door unto Peter, Art not thou also one of this man’s disciples? He saith, I am not. 18 And the servants and officers stood there, who had made a fire of coals; for it was cold: and they warmed themselves: and Peter stood with them, and warmed himself.


Matthew 26:57-70; Mark 14:53-68; Luke 22:54-57

As Jesus was led away from Gethsemane, all the disciples having left Him according to His prophecy, there were two of their number that stopped in their flight and turned to follow the captors of Jesus at a distance. One of these men was Simon Peter; the other is not mentioned by name, but it was very likely John himself, of whom there is other evidence that he was well acquainted with the Temple, its appointments, its usages, and its officers. It is possible that John was related to Caiaphas. This fact gave him immediate access to the palace of the high priest. The entrance opened upon the court, around which the residence was built, and the word was often used to designate the entire palace. Though the high priest’s palace now officially belonged to Caiaphas, Hannas still had his apartments there. Peter, who was not known to the household, was not admitted to the court. But John soon missed his companion, and, returning to the door, gave the janitress some assurance as to Peter’s character, and thus gained admission for him. But as Peter stepped into the circle of light shed by the fire, the doorkeeper had an opportunity to look at him closely. And, probably without any serious intention, she asked him the question: Are you also one of this man’s disciples? And smoothly and glibly the lie rolled from Peter’s lips: I am not. The denial had been uttered so thoughtlessly that Peter’s conscience may have pricked him only a little, causing him to move back to some distance from the servants and guards that were assembled in the court. Nevertheless he did not leave. The fire which the house servants and the Sanhedrin ministers had kindled in the open section of the palace’s court was most pleasant on this cool spring night, and so Peter gradually edged up more closely, also for the purpose of finding out the trend of the remarks. Note: It is always foolish and often dangerous for a disciple of Christ to join the ranks of gossiping unbelievers. If one’s faith is challenged when engaged in the exercise of his duty, the defense may be swift and sure, but when one affiliates himself with his enemies, half the defense is taken away in advance.

The preliminary hearing:

John 18:19-24

19 The high priest then asked Jesus of His disciples, and of His doctrine. 20 Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing. 21 Why askest thou Me? ask them which heard Me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said. 22 And when He had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answerest Thou the high priest so? 23 Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou Me? 24 Now Annas had sent Him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest.


Matthew 26:59-68; Mark 14:55-65; Luke 22:63-71; Psalm 110:1-4; Hebrews 5:5-10; Hebrews 7:23-28; Hebrews 10:11-14

While they were waiting for the members of the Sanhedrin to assemble for an extraordinary session, Hannas, who is here called high priest by courtesy, as a former incumbent of the office, had a preliminary, private hearing with Jesus. He asked Jesus about His disciples and about His teaching. The information might be of value in several respects. He may have wanted to get the names of the disciples for future use, and a summary of Christ’s teaching in order to garble the information to suit his ends. Or Hannas may simply have wanted to find out whether Jesus was making disciples as simple rabbi or as avowed Messiah. In either event the answer of the Lord was to be used against Him in the trial. And therefore Jesus very properly referred Hannas to His plain and open speaking before the whole world. He had spoken without reserve to anybody and everybody that cared to hear. Both in synagogs and in the Temple, wherever occasion offered, the Lord had taught, where all the Jews regularly assembled. Nothing had He spoken in secret. This applies even to such speeches as He had made in the presence of His disciples only, for even at such times He had taught them facts which they were to reveal to the world at the proper time. Christ’s public doctrine contained everything that any person needed to come to a conclusion regarding His person and office. “But that Christ occasionally taught His disciples something privately, that does not concern His office of teaching and His public preaching; the office of teaching is public, for He had preached and taught publicly in the boat, on the land, on the mountains, in the synagogs, and in the Temple. In addition, He instructed His disciples privately and apart. Both, then, is true, namely, that Christ taught publicly and privately, but thus that His private teaching might also become public and nothing remain in a corner, nor in hiding.” [Luther, 8, 889]. It was a just demand of the Lord’s, therefore, that Hannas at this time apply to those that heard His preaching and hear their testimony. Jesus does not want to repeat here what He had so often taught and testified to. Three years and more He had attended to this part of His office; now the time had come to suffer and die. Note: In the kingdom of Christ everything has its time, also public teaching and preaching. If in some country, where the Word has been established, the majority of the people refuse to listen, then Christ begins to withdraw the pure preaching and takes His Gospel elsewhere. If a person therefore neglects preaching and the Word, he will have to account for his contempt with a severe reckoning. Such a one may in the hour of his death desire to hear of the one thing needful, and will find himself without the comfort of the Gospel. God is not mocked! When Jesus rebuked the former high priest with these words, one of the servants of the Sanhedrin that was standing near by had the impudence to slap Jesus in the face with his flat hand, a cowardly and unjustified blow. He even accompanied his unwarranted outrage with an explanation in the form of the question: Thus dost Thou answer the high priest? But Jesus did not take this blow without a word of reproof for the cowardly servant. If He had spoken evil, the servant should bear witness to that effect, and not undertake to administer a punishment without authority. And again, if His defense had been right and good, how could he dare to strike in such an unwarranted manner? It was a calm, reasonable, but conclusive rebuke, and in no wise out of harmony with the teaching of Jesus concerning the turning of the other cheek. A disciple of Christ will suffer the wrong, as Christ also did, but he may and should under circumstances reprove the injustice. “That He says to the servant: If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil, you must understand thus, that there is a great difference between these two, to turn the other cheek and to rebuke with words him that smites us thus. Christ should suffer, but just the same the word is put into His mouth, that He should speak and rebuke what is wrong.” [Luther, 8, 892]. Meanwhile the purpose of the waiting had been realized, and the trial in the hall of Caiaphas could begin. Therefore Hannas now sent Jesus from his apartments to those of Caiaphas. The Sanhedrin, the spiritual court of the Jews, had convened, and the formal examination could now take place.

Peter’s second and third denial:

John 18:25-27

25 And Simon Peter stood and warmed himself. They said therefore unto him, Art not thou also one of His disciples? He denied it, and said, I am not. 26 One of the servants of the high priest, being his kinsman whose ear Peter cut off, saith, Did not I see thee in the garden with Him? 27 Peter then denied again: and immediately the cock crew.


Matthew 26:71-75; Mark 14:69-72; Luke 22:58-62; John 13:36-38

While the hearing was going on in the chambers of Hannas, Peter had remained in the circle of the servants and guards near the fire. That was foolhardiness, for he that wilfully courts temptation and danger usually finds himself overwhelmed by the danger. The first time Peter had denied on account of the mocking question of the doorkeeper. Her suspicions had meanwhile been transmitted to the other servants, especially through the agency of a second janitress. A number of them now turned to Peter with searching questions as to his connection with the prisoner in the hall. The specific accusation was that Peter was a disciple of Christ. Peter denied for the second time. But the suspicion continued. One remark led to another, the dialect of Peter came in for its measure of attention. Finally a kinsman of Malchus, the man whose ear Peter had cut off in the garden, told him pointblank that he had seen him with Jesus in the garden. Peter was driven into a corner and had no weapon left with which to defend himself. He blasphemously reiterated his denial, — and then the time of cock-crowing came. He had entirely overheard the first signal of warning, but now was brought back to his senses. Note: The familiarity of the evangelist with affairs in the house of the high priest is indicated also in this section by his knowledge of relationships. Mark also: A repeated denial, such as that of Peter in this case, results in loss of faith. It may happen, under regrettable circumstances, that a person, being thrown into the company of scoffers, may deny his Lord by word or deed, and still retain his faith. But if such a denial is done repeatedly without heeding the warnings of conscience, then there is no chance for Christianity to remain in the heart. That was Peter’s condition at that moment; if he had died during the time of the third denial, he would have been lost. But the Lord had His disciple in mind and called him back to faith through a sincere repentance.

Verses 28-40

The trial before Pilate

The arraignment before Pilate:

John 18:28-32

28 Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the Passover. 29 Pilate then went out unto them, and said, What accusation bring ye against this man? 30 They answered and said unto him, If He were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered Him up unto thee. 31 Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye Him, and judge Him according to your Law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death: 32 That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled, which He spake, signifying what death He should die.


Matthew 27:2; Mark 15:1; Luke 23:1; Matthew 20:17-19; Acts 3:13; Acts 10:28; Exodus 12:1-28; Exodus 12:43-51; Leviticus 23:4-8; Numbers 9:1-14; 2 Chronicles 35:1-19; Isaiah 53:6-7; John 1:29-34; Matthew 26:1-2; Matthew 26:17-29; John 19:14-19,28-30; 1 Corinthians 5:7; Revelation 5:6-14; Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 8:32-38; 1 Corinthians 11:23-32; Acts 2:42

The remaining hours of the night, after cock-crowing, brought some rest to the members of the Sanhedrin, after their mock trial in the palace of Caiaphas, Matthew 26:57-68, but not to Jesus, with whom the servants had their sport. And hardly did the dawn break over the eastern hills when the Sanhedrin, having confirmed their resolution of the night in a session in the Hall of Polished Stones, led Jesus away to the Praetorium, the governor’s palace in Antonia, near the Temple. It was still very early in the morning. The Jews took Jesus to the door of Pilate’s palace, thus delivering Him into the power of the Roman governor for the confirmation and execution of their verdict, since they had adjudged Him guilty of death, but no longer possessed the authority to inflict capital punishment. The members of the Sanhedrin were incidentally very careful about their behavior. They did not wish to become defiled in any way by touching anything unclean or by coming into personal contact with Gentiles. They wanted to be Levitically clean for the eating of the second chagigah, or sacrifice, of the double festival. For the word Passover is applied not only to the meal of the 14th of Nisan, but to all the sacrificial meals that were prescribed for the seven days of the festival, Deuteronomy 16:2-3; 2 Chronicles 30:22. But the command of God did not go so far as to prohibit the entering into the house of a Gentile at this time. That was one of the traditions of the elders which the Jews observed with such strictness. The entire proceeding gave evidence of the hypocrisy of the Jewish rulers. They did not shrink from committing wanton murder, but transgressing a foolish commandment of their elders was considered a deadly sin. Since the Jews would not enter into the judgment-hall for a formal and customary trial, Pilate came out on the platform before the Praetorium and inquired for the charges against the prisoner. This was a concession on the part of Pilate which the Jews may have construed as a weakness. At any rate, their answer upon his reasonable inquiry was an insolent challenge: If this Man were not a doer of evil, we should not have delivered Him to thee. Their attitude was almost threatening. They had found the prisoner guilty of death, and therefore Pilate should ask no questions, ask neither for evidence nor for testimony, but simply confirm their decision and have the punishment executed. Pilate therefore replied to them according to their impudent answer. If it was a matter regarding which they had such definite information, if it was a mere matter of the transgression of a ceremonial law and not an affair for the criminal court of the Roman government, then they should act accordingly. They should take the accused and carry out the punishment which their church laws imposed in such cases. The leaders of the Jews answered that their verdict called for capital punishment, for an execution which it was not in their power to carry out. Their own consciences they were quieting with the pretext that they had found Jesus guilty of blasphemy, and before Pilate they were determined to urge the accusation that He was a political criminal, a rebel dangerous to the Roman government. Pilate, on the other hand, had the conviction that the whole affair was a matter of religious controversy, which in no way concerned the Roman government. Thus it happened in the end that Jesus, being handed over into the power of the Roman governor, was crucified, according to the Roman manner of executing. And thereby the prophecy of the Lord was fulfilled, not only that He would be delivered into the hands of the Gentiles, but also that He would die by crucifixion, John 12:32-33; Matthew 20:19. Note: The Lord knew every step of the way, was conscious at all times of the things that would happen to Him; His suffering and death were voluntary and therefore of such wonderful value.

Pilate begins the examination of Jesus:

John 18:33-35

33 Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto Him, Art Thou the King of the Jews? 34 Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of Me? 35 Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered Thee unto me: what hast Thou done?


Matthew 27:11; Mark 15:1-2; Luke 23:1-3

Having received no definite charges, but only vague intimations from the Jews, Pilate now resolved to give the prisoner a hearing. He took up the case, although he was convinced that Christ was no political criminal. That in itself was an injustice on the part of the governor, to make a case where he did not believe there was a case. But one of the statements of the Jewish rulers had been that Jesus had said that He was the King of the Jews. So Pilate takes up this matter, as one that might lead to some solution. But Jesus asks a very pertinent question in turn: Of thyself sayest thou this, or have others spoken to thee concerning Me? “Do you make this inquiry from any serious personal interest and with any keen apprehension of the blessings attached to the kingdom of God, or are you merely echoing a formal charge brought against Me by others?” [Expositor’s Greek Testament, 1, 851]. “In the first place He excuses Himself thus: Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of Me? This seems again as though it were answered in pride; however, it is not a proud answer, but a very necessary defense. For if some one is accused falsely, he should not let the accusation rest upon him nor say: This I will gladly suffer and let remain upon me for God’s sake, but should openly protest his innocence. Therefore the Lord throws the guilt and false accusation which the Jews put upon Him far from Himself and says: Thou, Pilate, askest whether I am the King of the Jews, that is to say, whether I am a rebel against the emperor? I call upon thine own conscience as a witness whether thou accusest Me of this of thyself or not. Surely, of thyself thou wouldst not say such things of Me. Let thy conscience answer, yea, let thine own eyes answer. Thou seest Me stand before thee, captured and bound; I was taken in no tumult, and there is no crowd of people about Me that uses weapons, but I have altogether the aspect of a captured and bound person. Therefore I cannot be accused of insurrection against the emperor. Thus the Lord presents His innocence over against the false accusation of the Jews, calling upon both the conscience and the eyes of the judge for a witness.” [Luther, 8, 908]. The very implication that he might have had the idea which he broached himself, Pilate rejects with a show almost of loathing: I surely am no Jew! But the people to whom Jesus belonged by birth, the Jews and the chief priests, had delivered Him. And with some asperity Pilate wanted to know what the whole trouble was about, what Jesus had committed to be brought before Him in this manner. The idea that he should take any stock in a Jewish Messiah, Pilate scouts with sneering mockery.

The defense of Jesus:

John 18:36-40

36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is My kingdom not from hence. 37 Pilate therefore said unto Him, Art Thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth My voice. 38 Pilate saith unto Him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in Him no fault at all. 39 But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the Passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews? 40 Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.


Matthew 27:11-14; Mark 15:1-5; Luke 23:1-5; Genesis 49:10; Psalm 110; Isaiah 9:6-7; Luke 1:31-32; Matthew 2:1-2; John 1:43-51; Matthew 1:1; John 7:42; John 12:12-15; John 19:16-22; 1 Timothy 6:13-16; Revelation 22:16; Revelation 1:4-8; Revelation 19:11-16; Revelation 17:14

After having protested against the false understanding of His claim which the Jews had brought in the form of a charge against Him, Jesus now proceeds to explain to Pilate in what sense the appellation “king” might well be applied to Him. His words amount to a wonderful confession regarding the spiritual kingdom of which He is the head. Christ’s kingdom, His Church, is not of this world; it neither had its origin in the world, nor has it the nature and manner and characteristics of the world. It is no temporal kingdom; it is a spiritual, a heavenly kingdom. Christ’s kingdom and the kingdoms, the governments, of the world are two entirely different things, which should never be confused or commingled. In this respect both Calvinism and Roman Catholicism, as well as any form of direct influence of the religious bodies on legislation, except to ward off unwarranted laws that would interfere with the free exercise of religion, are wrong. Christ’s proof for His statement lies in this, that His servants, His followers, if His kingdom were of this world, would, at the present time, take up arms in His defense and deliver Him from the hands of the Jews. But He had deliberately hindered any such demonstration, because His kingdom is not of this world. Pilate now wanted a definite answer, in order to form some sort of judgment as to Christ’s claim. He exclaims: Then you are a king, just the same! He still hoped to find some justification for his act, in case he should feel compelled to accede to the demands of the Jews. Jesus patiently explains to Pilate the nature of His kingship and the character of His kingdom. Pilate’s exclamation was fully justified, because He was and is in truth a king. But lest the governor misunderstand, Jesus plainly states the object of His coming into the world. For this purpose was He born and for this aim came He into the world, to bear witness of the truth, in the interest of eternal, unchanging truth. The truth which has been revealed in Christ is the grace of God in Him, the Redeemer of the world. To this fact Jesus is to testify, thereby becoming the King of Truth, who establishes and expands His kingdom by means of the Word of Truth; He reigns through the Word. This is true of Him and of His ministers at all times. “In these days it happens to us also: Should we be silent regarding the truth and not reprove the lies, then we might well remain. But since we open our mouth, confess the truth, and condemn the lies, every one wants to get at us. We preach no one but Christ, that no one is saved by himself; if it were possible for us to be saved in ourselves, it would not have been necessary for God to send His Son; but since God was obliged to send His Son, it certainly follows that we in ourselves are not able to be saved; that is our preaching and the truth, to which we bear witness.” [Luther, 8, 912]. It also follows from the facts which Christ states concerning Himself and the object of His coming into the world that only he that is of the truth, that has been born out of the truth, can and will hear His voice. Only he that has been born anew out of the Word of Truth has the power to give evidence of the truth that is in him. The truth, then, will be the element of such a person; he will live and move and have his being in the truth. He will then also listen to the voice of Christ, the Champion of truth; he will be an obedient citizen of the kingdom of Christ. It is thus evident that the kingdom of Jesus has an entirely different character, an entirely different object than any kingdom or government in the world. Pilate immediately realized and felt this from the explanation of Jesus. Pilate, acquainted with the efforts of the Greek and Roman philosophers to fix truth on the basis of human reason, thought it foolish, in his skeptical mind, for any one to claim the knowledge of truth as his possession. So he put the jeering question: What is truth? and immediately went out to the Jews and announced to them the result of his investigation, that he found no fault in that man Christ. There was no cause, no reason, for criminal procedure. Note: The position of Pilate is shared by a great many so-called wise and cultured people of this world. They care nothing for the truth, the divine truth, the infallible Word of God. The speculations of foolish philosophers have a higher value in their idea, as gropings after the truth, than the truth of Scriptures. If they at some time or other hear the truth, they turn away from its inviting voice and continue in their sins.

Pilate should now have made an end of the farce, to which he had made far too great concessions as it was. But he was a coward at heart, and the people felt this hesitation. In order to save himself from a disagreeable concession, he now tried to divert the minds of the people into a different channel. He reminded them of a custom which obtained, that they might ask for the release of some prisoner at the Passover. And so he gave them the choice between one Barabbas and Jesus, whom he calls the King of the Jews, thereby only adding new fuel to the fire of hatred that was already raging. The leaders of the Jews had figured on this contingency long before, and had instructed the members of the mob accordingly. The very offer of Pilate was another injustice. For since Jesus had not been convicted in a single point, it was foolish to speak of a deliverance and mercy in His case. Barabbas the people wanted and no one else, and the vacillation of Pilate played into their hands. The evangelist here adds the note: But Barabbas was a robber and murderer. “Barabbas was a rebel and a murderer, captured during a tumult, and had committed murder in a revolt of the people; and this was not only known throughout the city, but Barabbas had been taken in the act, and by Pilate, as the proper government, thrown into prison. But Jesus was just and innocent, so that His accusers, the Jews, could not attach any wrong to Him. Pilate then, following his own line of reasoning, concludes thus: Since this Jesus did nothing wrong, the Jews will be obliged to ask that I release Him. And again, since Barabbas is a well-known rebel and murderer, the Jews will have to demand that I deal with him according to justice. Thus Pilate reasons as a rational heathen. But the devil turns about and says: Not so, but release to us the rebel and murderer Barabbas, but crucify the righteous and innocent Jesus.” [Luther, 8, 916]. Pilate and the Jewish leaders are here on the same plane, just as the enemies of Christ in our days may be divided into two classes, both of them hostile to the Word: some consider the Christian religion nothing but a harmless fanaticism, others insist that its adherents are dangerous to the state. And in either case they act upon their conviction, as recent events have plainly shown.


Jesus is captured in Gethsemane and taken, first before Hannas, then, before the Sanhedrin, under the chairmanship of Caiaphas, while Peter denies Him three times; in the morning He is taken to the judgment-hall of Pilate, where He testifies concerning His kingdom.

Chapter 19

Verses 1-16a

The condemnation of Jesus

The scourging of Jesus:

John 19:1-6

1 Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged Him. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it on His head, and they put on Him a purple robe, And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote Him with their hands. Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring Him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in Him. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man! When the chief priests therefore and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, Crucify Him, crucify Him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye Him, and crucify Him: for I find no fault in Him.


Matthew 27:27-31; Mark 15:16-20; Luke 23:1-21; Matthew 20:17-19; John 18:36-40; Genesis 49:10; Psalm 110; Isaiah 9:6-7; Luke 1:31-32; Matthew 2:1-2; John 1:43-51; Matthew 1:1; John 7:42; John 12:12-15; John 19:16-22; 1 Timothy 6:13-16; Revelation 22:16; Revelation 1:4-8; Revelation 19:11-16; Revelation 17:14

Just as Pilate, throughout the proceedings, had shown himself a weak and vacillating fool, without the faintest sense of justice and firmness, so he continued in the last part of the trial, which was momentarily becoming a greater farce and travesty upon justice. He had declared his belief in the innocence of Christ, and yet he commits the crying injustice of having the prisoner scourged. It was a mere whim on his part, in order to placate the Jews and win their approval. He cherished the vain hope that they might be satisfied with the small punishment which he thereby meted out. It is a wrong policy to agree to a lesser injustice in order to avoid a greater and more serious. If one has the choice of two evils and then chooses the lesser, that is perfectly legitimate. But if a person loads his conscience with the guilt of a lesser sin in order possibly to avoid the greater, it must always be condemned. Thus it was with the scourging of Christ. This in itself was indescribable torture, for the prisoner was bowed down and fastened to a whipping-post, whereupon the naked back was cut to pieces with a scourge braided at one end, but with the loose strands weighted with small leaden spheres and sometimes with hooks, in order to lacerate the back more thoroughly. And the soldiers, in whose hands the prisoner was for the time being, were not satisfied with even this terrible cruelty, but invented a game of their own which they played with the uncomplaining Christ. Having braided or plaited a ring or crown of thorns, they pressed it down upon His head, causing the sharp points to penetrate through the tender skin into the sensitive flesh. To complete the mockery, they took an old purple mantle, which they may have found in some wardrobe, and threw it about Him. And finally they bowed their knees in mock homage, and hailed Him as the King of the Jews. It was a form of blasphemy calculated also to express their contempt of the Jews. Tiring finally of their blasphemous sport, they rained blows upon His head and body, partly from cruelty, partly from resentment, since He bore everything with divine patience. He gave His back to the smiters, and His cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; He hid not His face from shame and spitting, Isaiah 50:6. He suffered without complaint, as the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. Pilate himself, seeing the result of the soldiers’ cruel jest, was moved. He hoped that this exhibition would satisfy the Jews, and that he might now dismiss Jesus, Luke 23:16. Going ahead of Jesus, he announced to the Jews that he was bringing out the prisoner to show them that he found no fault in Him. And then he stepped aside for the Man with the crown of thorns and the faded purple robe, merely pointing to the Lord with the words: Behold the Man! It was a view well calculated to impress a sentimental crowd, but here was a mob dominated by hatred, upon whom the sight of blood merely had the effect of enraging them all the more. With the chief priests and the guards of the Temple leading them and stirring them up to ever new efforts, the people bellowed forth their demand: Crucify, crucify! “That is the world. In the first place, she cannot endure the righteous and innocent. In the second place, she prefers the rebel and murderer Barabbas to Christ, the Preacher of truth. Those are hard and coarse knots. But the third is much coarser, that the dear, loving world still has not enough nor is satisfied, although the truth is punished to some extent. The Jews are not satisfied, neither will they desist in their forcing of Pilate and crying over Jesus, though Jesus, the Preacher of truth, is whipped and scourged.” [Luther, 8, 921]. And the leaders of the mob knew just how to keep the bloodthirstiness at the highest point. The repetition of the one word, “Crucify!” in endless monotony had the object of deadening all remonstrances and stifling all opposition. Pilate, full of helpless indignation, in obvious despair, tries to shake off all responsibility, reiterating his statement that he finds no cause or fault in Jesus. But the time to reason and argue was long past. What could the lone man who had demonstrated his weakness do against the ceaseless droning of that one word, dinned into his ears with maddening regularity? Note: In withstanding wrong, it is always foolish and suicidal to make concessions. Far better to be martyred in the right cause than to yield in matters pertaining to conscience and plainly laid down in the Word of God.

Pilate again examines Jesus:

John 19:7-12

The Jews answered him, We have a Law, and by our Law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid; And went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art Thou? But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 Then saith Pilate unto Him, Speakest Thou not unto me? knowest Thou not that I have power to crucify Thee, and have power to release Thee? 11 Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against Me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered Me unto thee hath the greater sin. 12a And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release Him.


John 5:18; John 1:1-18; Matthew 3:13-17; John 1:29-34; Luke 9:34-35; 2 Peter 1:16-18; John 10:22-39; John 14:6-11; John 17:1-5; Matthew 26:63-68; Matthew 27:35-43; Matthew 27:50-54; Psalm 2; Colossians 1:9-14; Ephesians 1:2-14; 1 John 3:1-2; Ephesians 5:1-2; Romans 8:12-17; Matthew 27:17-19

When Pilate made his declaration before the people of his belief in the innocence of Jesus, they stopped their noisy demonstration just long enough to give him an answer which was intended to bring his superstitious heart into further subjection. They calmly stated to him that they had a Law, and that according to that Law it was necessary that Jesus die. It was intended to impress Pilate and to browbeat him into submission, by playing upon his superstition. Unwittingly the Jews here uttered a great truth, as their high priest had done a short time before. It was indeed necessary that Jesus die, but not for any guilt of His own. “Mark here that the innocence of Christ, our Lord, stands for our guilt. For though He was condemned to death being innocent, He yet is guilty before God according to the Law; not for His person, but for our persons. He stands before Pilate, not as the son of the Virgin Mary, but as a malefactor; and that not for Himself, but for thee and for me. … Thus Christ for His own person is innocent, but being in our stead, He is guilty, for He has taken our part to pay our guilt.” [Luther, 8, 932]. The emphasis of the Jews was now upon that one point which had aroused the hypocrites to the highest pitch of pretended indignation, namely, that He had made Himself the Son of God. Their manner implied that they considered His claim to be altogether unfounded, but one that for that very reason merited punishment. It was a point which had no value from the standpoint of the Jews, who were attempting to show that Jesus was a dangerous rebel. “Such accusation of blasphemy toward God had no weight with Pilate, since he knew nothing of the Law of the Jews; and even if the Jews had gained this point and truly had fixed this upon Christ that He had blasphemed God, yet Pilate might have said: Why do you Jews act contrary to your own Law? Your Law commands that a blasphemer should be stoned, and not crucified; but now you cry that I should crucify this man, although crucifying is not the penalty of blasphemy, also according to your Law. Therefore the Jews are again raving and foolish, and are caught. For thus it will happen to all enemies of God that oppose the truth, that they are always caught in their own rascality.” [Luther, 8, 928]. But for us there is a world of comfort in that fact, that Jesus suffered and died as the Son of God. That gives to His Passion the real, lasting worth. The Jews, in their anxiety to force Pilate into submission, almost spoiled their own object. For the effect of their statement concerning the claim of Christ was to make him afraid of the punishment of the gods, if he should carry out the demand of the Jews. So he once more entered the hall and had a second interview with Jesus. He wanted to know whether there were any truth to the statement as to His being of divine origin. The question, blunt as it sounds, must have been spoken also with a certain amount of awe. The silence of Jesus said more strongly than words might have done that the whole trial was a blasphemous farce. Jesus had given testimony concerning Himself, as the King of truth, and Pilate had rejected the words, treated them with contempt. But the silence of Jesus enraged the proud, supercilious Roman, who now sought to impress this poor prisoner with the greatness of his power over Him. That this Man would not answer him, the governor, who, in his belief, had absolute power over His life, was almost unbelievable. But the calm answer of Jesus pointed out to him his limits: Not wouldest thou have any power over Me if it had not been given to thee from above. Jesus was under divine direction to carry out the divine obligation resting upon Him. God’s purposes were being carried out in the present trial, and not a weak man’s whims and fancies. The greater blame rested with the Jews that had delivered the Lord into the hands of the Gentiles; their sin and guilt was of a nature that would bring them temporal and eternal destruction. “Here thou seest that Christ judges the work according to the heart and not according to outward seeming and appearance. Pilate commits a sin in having Christ crucified, though he finds no cause of death in Him. But since his heart is not so evil as that of Caiaphas and the high priests, therefore his sin is not so great as the sin of Caiaphas and the high priests.” [Luther, 8, 928]. Such was the impression that Pilate gained from this interview that he sought more than ever, although without result, to release the Lord. But as Jesus had told him, the matter was no longer in his hands, but in that of a higher power.

The condemnation:

John 19:12-16

12b But the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar. 13 When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha. 14 And it was the preparation of the Passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King! 15 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. 16a Then delivered he Him therefore unto them to be crucified.


Genesis 22:1-18; Exodus 12:1-28; Exodus 12:43-51; Leviticus 23:4-8; Numbers 9:1-14; 2 Chronicles 35:1-19; Isaiah 53:6-7; John 1:29-34; Matthew 26:1-2; Matthew 26:17-19; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-13; John 19:28-31; 1 Corinthians 5:7; Revelation 5:6-14; Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 8:32-38; Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-32; Acts 2:42; Isaiah 9:6-7; Luke 1:31-32; Matthew 2:1-2; Revelation 19:11-16

While Pilate was considering ways and means to effect the release of Jesus, the leaders of the Jews had not been idle. They now gave a new turn to the case by having the mob cry out to Pilate: If thou releasest this man, thou art not friendly to Caesar. Their argument ran along these lines: Jesus had declared Himself to be a king; that implied a rebellious disposition, if not actual insurrection, rebellion against the Roman emperor, against the constituted authority. If Pilate now took the part of the prisoner, he would aid and abet, or at least strongly encourage, a rebel, affiliate himself with him, at least morally. This fact, however, would put him under suspicion, if not under accusation, as himself unfriendly to Caesar and the Roman government. The implication of the Jews was, though they did not threaten outright, that they would make a complaint, and effect the loss of his position. Such a veiled threat was bound to have great influence upon a man of Pilate’s character, dependent, as he was, upon the mercy of the emperor. And it was the argument which practically decided the day for the Jews. For Pilate now formally led Jesus forth from the judgment-hall and himself sat down upon the judgment-seat, which was situated on an elevated floor or platform of stones, tessellated, or laid out in mosaics, known, on account of this feature, as the Pavement, or, in Hebrew, as Gabbatha, the Elevated Place. It was a strikingly dramatic scene which was here presented, and undoubtedly intentionally so on the part of Pilate. His entire attitude proclaimed that he was ready to administer justice, that he wanted to pronounce his final judgment. The evangelist carefully notes the time when this took place: it was the preparation of the Sabbath, that is, it was Friday, and it was going toward the sixth hour, it was between nine and twelve o’clock, by the general way of reckoning time which was then in vogue. Cp. Mark 15:25. On this day and at this hour the judgment was spoken upon Christ, whereby the world has been absolved from all guilt and transgression. Pilate appears in this entire matter as an unjust, unwise, weak judge, that plays havoc with justice and attempts to please men, that is not influenced solely by the facts of the case, but is swayed by personal, selfish interests. And his case illustrates also the course of sin. If a person accedes and yields to even the smallest sin against better knowledge, he will soon become the slave of sin and unable to withstand even a small temptation. Of the class of Pilate are those that finally give up all semblance of decent moral living, openly reject Christ and God, and become the willing tools of Satan. The Jews, on the other hand, appear in this story as the determined enemies of Christ. They had hardened their hearts against all influence for good; deliberate, ruthless murder was their avowed intention. And Christ was silent; He endured the horrible outrages without a word of complaint or protest. Pilate vented his bitterness and his baffled rage in the sarcastic, stinging remark: Behold your King! The words were intended to convey all his hatred and contempt for the Jews. That was their own accusation, this was included in their own threat, for this they wanted His execution, that He arrogated to Himself the title “King.” A fine picture of a king He made in His present plight! But the sarcasm of Pilate was wasted, if he had intended it in the interest of Christ. For the lust for blood had so inflamed the Jews that they were beyond any rational appeal. Their cry, in maddened fury, broke forth: Away! Away! Crucify Him! Pilate’s reply was another feeble attempt at sarcasm: Your king shall I crucify? And the chief priests answered, in a statement of mere form and hypocrisy, to force Pilate into concession: We have no king but Caesar. As a matter of fact, both the Sadducees and the Pharisees, the leaders of the Jews, hoped for the speedy delivery of the Jews from the sovereignty of the Romans. But they here profess a loyalty which they were far from feeling, in order to force the issue, since their faithfulness to the emperor would stand out in comparison with the hesitation of Pilate, which they would denounce as a wavering in fidelity and devotion to his sovereign. And so Pilate finally permitted the farce to reach its climax, in the condemnation of Christ: he pronounced judgment whereby Jesus was delivered to them, to the leaders of the Jews, not into their hands, but according to their will and desire, to be crucified.

Verses 16b-30

The crucifixion

John 19:16-22

16b And they took Jesus, and led Him away. 17 And He bearing His cross went forth into a place called The Place of a Skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha: 18 Where they crucified Him, and two other with Him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst. 19 And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews. 20 This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin. 21 Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that He said, I am King of the Jews. 22 Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.


Matthew 27:26–38; Mark 15:15-27; Luke 23:18-33; Matthew 20:17-28; John 18:36-40; Genesis 49:10; Psalm 110; Isaiah 9:6-7; Luke 1:31-32; Matthew 2:1-2; John 1:43-51; Matthew 1:1; John 7:42; John 12:12-15; John 19:16-22; 1 Timothy 6:13-16; Revelation 22:16; Revelation 1:4-8; Revelation 19:11-16; Revelation 17:14

John omits the account of the insults and cruelties which the soldiers inflicted upon Christ. Cp. Matthew 27:26-30; Mark 15:16-19. Death by crucifixion was the sentence, the most shameful death known to the Romans, one meted out only to criminals of the worst type. The execution of the sentence was in the hands of the soldiers, who carried it out according to custom, adding such little indignities and cruelties as they might devise on the spur of the moment. They took Jesus along with them, leading Him away from the praetorium. And He was bearing His cross, loaded down with the heavy log that must have hurt the lacerated back most cruelly. Of the relief afforded by the meeting with Simon of Cyrene, John says nothing, since this fact was known from the other gospels. In this way the procession reached a place which, after its shape, was called Calvary, the place of the skull, or, in the Aramaic form of the Hebrew language, Golgotha. Its exact location has never been determined in spite of the many claims that such has been the case. And it is best so, since even now the various denominations that have representatives at the Holy City are in the habit of fighting almost pitched battles over the supposed holy places. There on Calvary the soldiers then crucified Jesus, fastening Him to the cross-arms of the tree of curse and shame by driving nails through His hands and feet. The crucifixion and the torture of being suspended by His own flesh caused excruciating agony. And here the shame and disgrace was intensified and emphasized by the fact that Jesus was placed between two malefactors, men who were guilty of criminal acts and had deserved the penalty of death. Thus Jesus became a malefactor, took the place of the malefactors of the whole world. What we had become guilty of by our sins and transgressions: the greatest shame, curse, and damnation, all this was laid upon Him, in order that we might be free. “Thus Christ was crucified and hanged to the cross as the greatest thief, scoundrel, rebel, and murderer ever seen in the world, and the innocent Lamb, Christ, must bear and pay strange debts; for it is in our interest. Our sins they are that lie upon His neck; we are such sinners, thieves, scoundrels, rebels, and murderers. For though we are not so coarse in our actions, yet such is our state before God. But here Christ comes in our stead, and bears our sins, and pays them, in order that we might receive help. For if we believe in Him, not only we that avoid the outward, coarse sins will be saved through Christ, but also those that fall into coarse, outward sins are saved, if they truly repent and believe in Christ.” [Luther, 8, 955]. After Jesus had been crucified, there was some difficulty and discussion concerning the superscription. For Pilate had chosen the version: Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews, as containing the chief accusation against the Lord. Incidentally, this was a form of revenge on the part of Pilate, who regarded Jesus as a harmless fool, and wanted the Jews to feel that such a man was the proper king for them. The leaders of the Jews felt the sting of the words all the more since so many people went by the place of crucifixion, Calvary being near to the city’s gates. The fact also that the superscription had been composed by Pilate in the three languages that were in use in Palestine, in Hebrew-Aramaic, which was spoken by the common people, in Greek, which was the language of commerce, and in Latin, which was the language of court and camp, did much to make the matter contained in the words known. The chief priests of the Jews therefore remonstrated with Pilate with the object of having the reading changed to some form which would throw the blame on Jesus, that He had made the claim of being the King of the Jews. As it read, the superscription sounded as though the claim were admitted. But Pilate, with a firmness which would have stood him in good stead a few hours before, a firmness which was here reenforced by obstinacy and stubbornness, absolutely declined to make any change. But in all these things the hand of God must be discerned. It was God’s dispensation to have this very title placed over the head of Jesus. This Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified by the Jews is in truth the King of the Jews in the best sense of the word, the Messiah of Israel. This Messiah was to bring salvation to all the people of the entire world, whose chief languages were here used. By the torture of His cross and by His bitter death Jesus has atoned fully for the transgressions of the world. And this fact should be made known to all nations on earth, that they might place their trust in their Substitute that died on Calvary.

The soldiers cast lots:

John 19:23-24

23 Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also His coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. 24 They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the Scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted My raiment among them, and for My vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did.


Matthew 27:35-36; Mark 15:24-25; Luke 23:33-34; Psalm 22:18

The happenings that transpired under the cross are here recorded by John; first of all what the soldiers did. These men had no personal interest in their victim; their crucifying Him was merely a part of the day’s work. And they now proceeded to make use of the privilege accorded them by ancient custom. It seems that the criminals condemned to death by crucifixion were nailed to the cross entirely naked or nearly so, with a loin cloth at the most. So the soldiers took the clothes of Jesus, the upper garment, the girdle, the sandals, perhaps the linen shirt, and divided them into four parts, according to the number of men that had been detailed to tend to this work. But the inner garment, the tunic, remained after all the other articles of wearing apparel had been distributed. This they could not cut up without spoiling it, since it was seamless, unsewed, and woven in one piece from top to bottom, probably the work of loving hands. So the soldiers decided to dispose of it by casting lots; it was made the prize in a game of chance. And here again, as in so many items connected with the Passion-story, the game of chance was not the result of chance, but happened in accordance with the prophecy of the Psalmist, Psalm 22:18. Of this very incident the Messiah, speaking through the mouth of David, a thousand years before, had said: They divided My garments among themselves, and for My tunic did they cast lots. Here it was plainly indicated, as Luther writes, that Christ had paid the penalty to the full. Everything that He had, His body, His life, His very clothes, He gave up for love of the sinners, in order to earn salvation for them. But the soldiers, gambling as they were under the very cross of their Savior, are a fitting picture of the frivolous world, frittering away its chances of salvation almost in the shadow of the cross which points upward.

Christ’s care for His mother:

John 19:25-27

25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple standing by, whom He loved, He saith unto His mother, Woman, behold thy son! 27 Then saith He to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.


Matthew 27:55-56; Mark 15:40-41; Luke 23:49; Luke 23:55-56

A beautiful evidence of the Savior’s filial love and care! In the midst of the excruciating agonies of the body and the still more horrible tortures of the soul He yet finds time to think of His mother and the duties He owed her in return for her mother’s devotion. During the act of crucifixion itself the friends of Jesus naturally stood at some distance, as Matthew and Mark relate. But when matters had quieted down somewhat, these friends, principally women that were proving themselves stauncher and stronger than the apostles in this emergency, approached as near as possible to the cross. Mary, the mother of Jesus, stood there, and her sister, or rather sister-in-law, Mary, the wife of Cleophas, the mother of James, and Mary Magdalene, all of whom were united with the Lord in faith and tender love. Cp. Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40. The punctuation of the text may also be set to mention four women: the mother of Jesus, her sister Salome, Mary, the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. And of all the apostles there was only one present, the disciple whom Jesus loved, the writer of this account, John himself. Now Jesus, seeing them standing together in their sympathetic sorrow, turned first to His mother, bidding her look upon John as her son, who would take the place of Him that was about to be removed from His position of dutiful son. And in a similar manner He bade John look upon Mary as his mother, to show her all the kindness and care which a son owes to his mother in her old age. And John accepted the charge. Mary was received into his home with all the love which might have made her declining days cheerful, had Jesus remained in the flesh, personally to fulfil the obligations resting upon Him according to the Fourth Commandment which He here kept. John probably had a house in Jerusalem, as tradition has it, and could provide for Mary’s care and comfort in a proper manner, treating her altogether as an honored member of the household. Note: The provision of Jesus for His aged mother is an example of the proper fulfilment of the Fourth Commandment. This active obedience of Christ serves for our salvation; He has kept the Law in our stead. It may have seemed a trivial matter at a time when the redemption of millions was at stake, but it characterizes the Savior’s love. This Jesus, that died on the cross for us, to save our souls from damnation, will care also for our bodies, will make proper provision for their protection and keeping. Mark also: The small band of disciples under the cross of Jesus is a picture of the Christian Church. The believers properly belong under the cross of Christ. The world about them has nothing but mockery and blasphemy for the cross and the Crucified, but the faithful place their trust in life and death in the Man of Sorrows.

The death of Jesus:

John 19:28-30

28 After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. 29 Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to His mouth. 30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished: and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost.


Matthew 27:45-54; Mark 15:33-39; Luke 23:44-49; Psalm 22; Psalm 69:19-21; Isaiah 53:4-6; John 1:1-18; John 3:14-18; Matthew 5:17-18; 2 Corinthians 5:18; Galatians 3:13; Romans 3:23-26; Romans 5:6-11; Romans 6:3-11; Colossians 2:11-12; Mark 16:16

Again and again the evangelists bring out this fact that the suffering and death of Jesus took place in accordance with the will and counsel of God and with the sayings of the prophets, through whom the Messiah spoke. It was about three o’clock in the afternoon when the most acute and piercing suffering of Jesus, when, during the darkness that covered the land, He had drunk the cup of the wrath of God over the sins of the world to the very dregs, was over. He had remained victor in the terrible battle; He had conquered all the enemies of mankind; He had accomplished all things, brought them to a successful close; He had gained the salvation of mankind. Here is a word of wonderful comfort for all believers, especially in the hours when the attacks of doubt are directed against the assurance of salvation. The redemption of mankind is complete; nothing remains to be done but to accept this fact and to place unwavering trust in the Savior. But there was still a word of Old Testament prophecy which had not yet found its fulfilment, and therefore Jesus, whose thirst had been intensified by the agony of soul which He had just endured, cried out: I thirst. Cp. Psalm 69:21. And just as He had foretold through the mouth of His Old Testament servant, it happened. There was a vessel there containing vinegar, of which they had offered Him a sip when they crucified Him, but in a form intended to act as a mild anesthetic. One of the soldiers now took a sponge, dipped it into the vinegar, attached it to a reed of hyssop, and held it up to the mouth of the Savior, thus relieving, at least in a small measure, the burning thirst attending the crucifixion, although it was in itself a bit of cruelty to offer Him this drink. But the Holy One of God patiently endured all the indignities, all the cruelties that were heaped upon Him. And now, the great work having been accomplished and even the last passage of Old Testament Scripture having been fulfilled, Jesus Himself made the announcement of the redemption’s completion by calling out: It is finished. All that the Messiah was to endure and suffer, everything that belongs to the work of salvation, was finished. Yea, the death of Christ itself was included in this statement, for He was now about to lay down His life in death, in His own power, of His own free will. He now bowed His head and gave up the spirit, delivered His soul into the hands of His heavenly Father. All this He did in His own power; for He did not die of exhaustion, as all the external circumstances of the story also indicate. Jesus died because He wanted to die. In the case of the ordinary human being, death is an unpleasant, disagreeable, terrible experience, from which man shrinks and flees. But Jesus wanted to die, He wanted to fulfil the word which He Himself had spoken, John 10:16-17. The factor of willingness in the death of Jesus gives to it its value, makes it a sacrifice well pleasing to God. Mark also: The Man that died on the cross is not a mere man, but the Son of God, God Himself. Jesus, disposing of His own life as He willed it, Himself is God: This fact erases the guilt of the world; the great worth of the life which was given on Calvary makes it more than equivalent in value and ransom to all the sin and guilt of all men since the beginning of time and till the everlasting day begins.

Verses 31-42

The burial of Jesus

The piercing of the side:

John 19:31-37

31 The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day, (for that Sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. 32 Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with Him. 33 But when they came to Jesus, and saw that He was dead already, they brake not His legs: 34 But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. 35 And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe. 36 For these things were done, that the Scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of Him shall not be broken. 37 And again another Scripture saith, They shall look on Him whom they pierced.


Deuteronomy 21:22-23; Exodus 12:43-51; Numbers 9:9-12; Zechariah 12:10; Isaiah 53:6-7; John 1:29-34; Matthew 26:1-2; John 19:14-19,28-30; 1 Corinthians 5:7; Revelation 5:6-14; Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 8:32-38; Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-32; Acts 2:42

The Jews, that is, their spiritual leaders, concerned, as usual, more about the keeping of the traditions of their elders, in which they had applied Deuteronomy 21:23, than about committing murder and other heinous crimes, now sent a delegation to Pilate with a request. It was Friday, the day of preparation, and the Sabbath which was now coming was unusually great, being the day on which the first-fruits of the field were waved before the Lord and offered as a sacrifice. The Jews, therefore, did not want the bodies of the crucified hanging on the cross on that day, for fear of polluting their great festival day. Accordingly, their request was that Pilate should resort to a method sometimes employed for the speedy killing of the crucified, namely, by breaking the bones of their legs with a heavy bar or mallet. Here was evidence of the most despicable hypocrisy with a vengeance. Without compunction in condemning the just and innocent Christ, but when they fear a Levitical impurity existing largely in their own imagination, they guard against a possible contamination by providing for a forcible death and a speedy removal of the dead bodies. Pilate having given his consent, the idea broached by the Jews was carried into execution. The soldiers broke the legs first of one and then of the other malefactor that was crucified with Jesus. But coming to Jesus as the last one, they found that He was dead, that He had already expired. The carrying out of the customary breaking of the legs in His case would have been without purpose, and so they refrained from doing so. The explanation seems simple enough, and yet there was not the least shred of chance in the happening. The bones of Jesus were not broken because He is the true Lamb of God, the Passover Lamb, of whom all the lambs that were slaughtered on that festival of old were but types and figures, Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12. As the angel of death in Egypt passed by or over all the houses that were marked with the blood of the lamb, so the blood of this Lamb has turned the wrath of God from us. All those that have the portals of their heart marked with the blood of Jesus will not be visited by the angel of eternal death. Jesus was apparently dead when the soldiers reached His cross. And yet they wanted to make assurance doubly sure. One of their number, therefore, either pricked His side, as the strictest literalness of the word seems to indicate, in order to determine whether He had merely swooned away, or actually inflicted a deep wound in His side, piercing the heart, and thus fatal if Jesus had still been alive. But when the soldier withdrew his lance, as John relates, both blood and water flowed from the wounded side of the Savior. This was a strange happening, that the blood of one that had been dead for some time should flow out as from the living body, and that water should come from the wound at the same time. But John insists upon it that no mistake was possible; he, as an eye-witness, was too near not to be certain of the fact just as he describes it here. Both facts should be impressed upon the minds of the believers: that Christ truly died, and that this strange phenomenon took place at the piercing of His side. As one commentator has it: The blood that flowed from the side of Jesus was to serve for the washing of the sins of the whole world. It is the blood of reconciliation, the blood of God, wherewith He has cleansed all men from their sins. “The blood which flows from the side of our Lord Jesus is the treasure of our redemption, the payment and atonement for our sins. For by His innocent suffering and death and through His holy, precious bloodshed on the cross, our dear Lord Jesus Christ has paid for all our guilt, eternal death, and damnation, in which we, because of our sins, are immersed. That same blood of Christ is our advocate with God, and without ceasing cries for us to God: Mercy, mercy; forgive, forgive; indulgence, indulgence; Father, Father! and thus earns for us God’s grace, forgiveness of sins, righteousness, and salvation. … Therefore the blood and the water which flowed from the side of our dear Lord Jesus Christ on the cross is our highest comfort. For therein consists our soul’s salvation: in the blood is our redemption and satisfaction for our sins; in the water there is our daily cleansing and purging from sins. This we should learn well and thank God, our dear Lord, for His boundless love and goodness, and our faithful Savior Jesus Christ for His suffering and death, with all our hearts.” [Luther, 8, 965. 969]. Incidentally, as the evangelist points out, there is another prophecy which was in part fulfilled on Calvary, in the piercing of the side of Christ, Psalm 22:16-17; Zechariah 12:10; Revelation 1:7. The unbelieving Jews saw Him whose side was pierced hanging on the cross, and the fact should have recalled to their minds this prophecy of the Psalms and its import. The day will come when they will see the same Man against whom they vented their spite coming back to judge the quick and the dead; then their wailing and pleading for mercy will come too late.

The burial of Jesus:

John 19:38-42

38 And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. 39 And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. 40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. 41 Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. 42 There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.


Matthew 27:57-66; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 3:1-21; John 7:37-52; Isaiah 53:9; Matthew 12:40; 1 Peter 3:18-22

When, in the hour of trial, the apostles failed their Lord, other disciples, up till then almost unknown, boldly professed their allegiance to the hated Nazarene. One of these men was Joseph, a counselor, a member of the Sanhedrin, whose home was in Rama or Arimathaea, the city of Samuel, 1 Samuel 1:1,19. He had kept his convictions concerning Jesus secret for fear of the Jews. But now he comes forward boldly, goes to Pilate, and requests to be given the body of Jesus. Pilate, having made the necessary inquiries as to the death of the Crucified, granted the permission. So Joseph set out for Calvary to take down the body of his Master. And here he was joined by Nicodemus, of whom the evangelist has spoken in two places, John 3:1; John 7:50. This man had also come to the knowledge of the truth; he believed in Jesus as his Savior. He came to Calvary well prepared for the last work of love for the Master, bearing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, aromatic spices used for the embalming of the dead, a total of a hundred liters or Jewish pounds, almost seventy pounds avoirdupois. Being a rich man, he was willing to show his devotion for his Lord, the compound of spices which he brought being sufficient to anoint the whole body as well as to saturate the grave-cloths. Having taken the body down from the cross, these two men prepared it for burial, by wrapping it in the burial sheets with the aromatic spices, after the manner of the Jews in preparing bodies for entombment. At the place of crucifixion, adjacent to it or very near it, there was a garden, where Joseph had his own rock grave, which had never been used for a burial and therefore had not been desecrated by the smell of decaying flesh. The main reason for the hasty entombment in the near-by sepulcher was the nearness of the great festival day of the Jews. The day of preparation ended with sunset, after which manual labor of any kind was prohibited. Note: Jesus received, after all the shame and disgrace of His trial and death, at least an honorable burial: He was laid into the grave of a rich man and was buried after the manner of a rich man. All these factors point forward to His approaching glorification. There is nothing terrible about the sepulcher of Jesus; it rather appears as a couch for gentle sleep. Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, by His burial has sanctified the graves of all His saints, made them places of calm repose, where they wait in peace for the great day of resurrection.


Jesus, after further mockery, is condemned to death by Pilate, is crucified on Calvary, gives up His life into the hands of His heavenly Father, and is buried by Joseph and Nicodemus, who had been His secret disciples for some time.

Chapter 20

Verses 1-18

Easter morning

Mary Magdalene at the grave:

John 20:1-2

1 The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid Him.


Matthew 27:57-61; Matthew 28:1-15; Mark 16:1-11; Luke 24:1-12; Matthew 20:17-19; Matthew 26:31-32; John 11:38-44; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2; Revelation 1:9-10

“The first day of the week,” according to Christian reckoning; for with Christians all days are Sabbaths and none especially holy, excepting inasmuch as they are sanctified and hallowed by the Word of God and prayer. This was on Sunday, the third day after Jesus had been laid into the grave. On this morning several women from the circle of the disciples started out early for the grave of the Lord. Of these the evangelist John mentions Mary Magdalene especially, the story of the others having been narrated by the earlier gospel-writers. It was so early that the shadows of dawn were still lying over the country, though the light was breaking. When Mary Magdalene, in the company of the other women, came within sight of the tomb of the Master and saw that the heavy stone which fitted into the groove before the opening, and served in a way to lock the entrance, had been taken away, she waited for nothing more. The other women stayed and investigated the matter more closely, but Mary ran back to the city as quickly as she could. Whether by design or by accident, she struck Simon Peter and John first of all. Hastily she poured into their ears what she had seen, as well as her deductions therefrom; for she seems to have been certain that the sepulcher had been violated by some one, perhaps even by the authorities, who had reasons of their own for removing the body of the hated Nazarene. Hastily she states her message: They have carried away the Lord out of the tomb, and we know not where they have placed Him. She was not alone in her anxious fears, the other women agreeing with her. We here see the result of following one’s own conjectures and surmises instead of paying strict attention to the Word of the Lord. If all the disciples, men and women, had closely remembered the prophecies of the Lord concerning His Passion and resurrection, they would have saved themselves many a bitter heartache. Christians must learn ever better to search the Scriptures, to turn to the Word in all the various vicissitudes of life, instead of following their own ideas and feelings.

Peter and John at the grave:

John 20:3-10

Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, And the napkin, that was about His head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. For as yet they knew not the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.


Luke 24:12; Matthew 16:21-23; Matthew 17:22-23; Matthew 20:17-19; Luke 24:44-47; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Acts 2:22-39; Psalm 16:10; Isaiah 53:10-12; Hosea 6:2

The message of Mary Magdalene stirred both Peter and John to quick action. They immediately made up their minds to find out the truth of this most astounding matter. At first the two disciples ran together, side by side. Soon, however, the younger and nimbler John outran Peter and arrived at the tomb first. But here he hesitated. He may have had some presentiment of the miracles which the disciples were soon to witness. He could not quite make up his mind to investigate more closely. He merely stooped down and peered into the semidarkness of the tomb. He could make out the linen grave-cloths with which the body had been wound, but nothing more; and he could not make up his mind to enter. But when impulsive Peter came along, there was not a moment’s hesitation. He went into the tomb; he viewed closely the grave-cloths, assuring himself of their identity; he noted also the sudary, or napkin, which had been wrapped about the head of the Master. It struck him that this cloth was lying apart from the other linen wrappings, in a place by itself, and that it was folded or rolled together. All these significant discoveries he undoubtedly communicated to John, until the latter finally was induced also to enter and to see the evidence presented in the tomb with his own eyes. It was certainly surprising enough to find all the cloths laid aside with such apparent care, with no sign of haste, as would have been the case had the sepulcher been violated and the body stolen. What John saw drove him to one conclusion: Jesus Himself had laid aside these wrappings; He had risen; He had returned to life. And this conviction forced itself upon John, although he, with the other apostles, at that time did not have the proper understanding of the Scriptures concerning the resurrection of the Master, namely, that it was a necessary part of the scheme of redemption, that it must happen to complete the work for the salvation of mankind. And the same facts, as related by these faithful witnesses, without the slightest indication of having connived to cheat the world: the empty tomb, the careful order in the grave, the absence of any and every indication of robbery, should convince any reasonable critic of the resurrection of Jesus. That is the faith of the Christians; upon the miracle of Christ’s resurrection they place their own hope of salvation. The grave had to give up its prey. The victory of the grave is turned into defeat; the sting of death is taken away. Ours is the victory through Jesus Christ, our Lord. For the time being, at least, John was satisfied in his own mind that his Master had returned to life. And the time was coming when the last remnant of spiritual darkness was to be removed from his mind. Meanwhile the two disciples went away more slowly and thoughtfully from the grave than they had come. They returned home or to their place of lodging in Jerusalem. Note: Reasonable proofs of the resurrection of Christ can never give the heart the firm faith which is necessary for salvation. Under circumstances it is a good thing to be able to stop the mouths of the gainsayers by showing them the foolishness of their position; but the most convincing arguments are the statements of Scriptures themselves.

Mary Magdalene and the two angels:

John 20:11-13

11 But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, 12 And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. 13 And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him.


Luke 8:1-2; John 19:25; Matthew 27:55-61; Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-10

When Peter and John had run to the tomb in such great haste, Mary had followed more slowly, arriving in the garden only after Peter and John had again left. Her mind was still filled with her first conclusion, namely, that the removal of her Lord’s body was due to grave-robbery. And she had given way to a fit of unrestrained weeping. She still remained outside the tomb in helpless and hopeless despair. Incidentally, however, she is prompted to look whether the body of the Lord is really gone from the sepulcher, or whether the whole matter is only a kind of bad dream. So she stoops forward to look at the place where the men had laid the Lord in her own presence, with her tears still flowing freely. The love which Mary Magdalene had for the Master is a fitting example for the believers of all times. “This Mary is a fine, beautiful type and an excellent example of all those that cling to Christ, that their hearts should burn in pure and true love toward Christ. For she forgets everything, both her feminine modesty and person, is not bothered by the fact that she sees the two angels before her, does not remember that Hannas and Caiaphas are filled with hostile wrath. In brief, she sees nothing, she hears nothing but Christ only. If she could only find the dead Christ, then she would be perfectly satisfied. And the evangelist for that reason has described it so diligently in order that we, who preach and hear it, may also, according to this example, gain desire, love, and eagerness toward Christ the Lord.” [Luther, 8, 985]. When Mary stooped forward to look into the grave, she saw two angels in white garments sitting there, the one at the head, the other at the feet, where the body of the Lord had been lying. They were sitting there with a purpose; they were ready to give information concerning the truth of the resurrection to all that sought it. They may have been the same angels that had been present at the earlier hour, or they may have been new messengers of the Lord, become visible for the occasion. It seems that there must have been almost a friendly rivalry in heaven for the privilege of being the guardians of the grave of the Lord, just as at the birth of Christ the multitude of the heavenly host came down to the fields of Bethlehem to sing their anthem of praise. Sympathetically the angels asked Mary: Woman, why weepest thou? Their purpose was to open her eyes that she might see and hear the truth. But Mary’s grief is too deep to notice the presence of glorious comfort. She was surrounded with evidences of her Lord’s resurrection which should have caused her to leap and shout with joy, and here she gives the angels the hopeless answer: Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have placed Him. The case of Mary is repeated in the experience of Christians the world over. If they are visited with any real or supposed trouble, they are immediately so engrossed with their grief that they fail to see the multitude of evidences all about them that Jesus lives, and that therefore nothing can really matter. To trust unfailingly in the resurrected Savior, that must be the aim and the steady endeavor of the believers in the Lord.

Jesus appears to Mary:

John 20:14-18

14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing Him to be the gardener, saith unto Him, Sir, if Thou have borne Him hence, tell me where Thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away. 16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto Him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. 17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch Me not; for I am not yet ascended to My Father: but go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God. 18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things unto her.


Matthew 28:8-10; John 19:41; Luke 24:13-35; John 14:1-14; John 16:28; John 17:9-11; Ephesians 4:10

While Mary was still in the midst of her bitter complaint to the angels, she may have heard some noise behind her, a footstep or a rustling, which caused her to turn around quickly. She noticed that there was a man standing there, but somehow she did not associate this man with her Lord. It was not merely that her eyes were dim with tears, but that Jesus now appeared in a form from which all lowliness had vanished, and which was also glorified, spiritualized. As Jesus chose, He could make Himself visible and invisible, be present now in one place, now in another; He could either assume the old familiar aspect in which His disciples knew Him, or He could appear before them as a stranger whom they in no way associated with their former Master. So it was in this instance. Even His voice He had changed. His sympathetic question, therefore, couched in the same words as that of the angels, only causes a new outburst of resentment and grief. She took Jesus for the gardener, the man that certainly should know something about the disappearance of her Lord. If he was responsible for the removal of the body, he was to give her the necessary information at once, in order that she might go and carry Him away. The idea may have struck Mary that the gardener had seen fit to take the body to some other grave near by, because this tomb was to be used for another body. Note the love of Mary: Weak woman that she is, she will undertake single-handed to carry the body of her beloved Lord away. But Jesus felt that the time had now come for Him to reveal Himself. In the old familiar voice which all the disciples knew and loved, He spoke only that one word: Mary! The form of the speaker might have been unfamiliar, His body might have been glorified, but by that voice Mary would have known Him anywhere. From the depths of a heart transported with joy her shout broke forth: Rabboni; my Master! He was there, alive and well; and nothing else mattered. And she may have thought that the old, familiar intercourse would again be resumed, that she could touch Him, assure herself definitely as to His identity. But the time of intimate companionship between Master and pupils had now gone by. Jesus warns her not to touch Him; this was not His permanent return to visible fellowship with His disciples. He gives her the reason for this prohibition: Because I have not yet ascended to My Father. After His glorification had been fully accomplished, His disciples might enter into closer communion with Him than ever before, in the manner which He had explained to the apostles in the last discourses on the evening before His death. By His ascension, Jesus entered into the full and unlimited use of His divine majesty, and thus also of His omnipresence. And therefore He is now closer to His disciples than ever before. By faith all the believers have Jesus in their own hearts, a much more intimate, a much closer communion than ever that was which obtained between Christ and His disciples in the state of His humiliation. [Luther, 8, 990]. It is a wonderfully beautiful message which Jesus incidentally entrusts to Mary, which she should commit to His brethren: I ascend to My Father and to your Father, to My God and to your God. There is a world of comfort in the word “brethren.” “These words should fittingly be written with great and golden letters, not simply on paper nor into a book, but on our hearts, that they might live therein: Go, and tell My brethren. That surely should be a word to make a Christian joyful, and to awaken and stimulate love toward Christ. … If one would consider rightly how rich and comforting these words are, he would become intoxicated for joy and desire, as Mary Magdalene was intoxicated with devotion and love toward the Lord. Who of us would believe certainly and firmly in his heart that Christ is his Brother, he would come along with leaps and say: Who am I to be honored thus and to be, and be called, the son of God? For I surely am not worthy that such a great King and Lord of all creatures should call me His creature. But now He is not satisfied to call me His creature, but wants me to be and be called His brother. Should I, then, not be happy, since that Man calls me His brother who is the Lord over heaven and earth, over sin and death, over devil and hell, and all that may be named, not only in this world, but also may be in that to come?” [Luther, 8, 991. 992].The words of Jesus are unmistakable: He gives to His believers the high and great honor, placing them absolutely on the same level with Himself. That is the glorious fruit and result of His work of redemption. Mary Magdalene, for her part, now believed. She was convinced that the resurrection of Jesus was the seal of the completed redemption. And she brought her message to the disciples. She stated, without doubt or hesitation, that she had seen the Lord, and that these were His words to them. A true believer will always testify of the faith in his heart. And if, in addition, such a person is commissioned and called by the Lord to make known the fact of the resurrection to others, the testimony should be made with all gladness and with the assurance that carries conviction.

Verses 19-31

Two appearances to the assembled disciples

On the evening of Easter Day:

John 20:19-23

19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 20 And when He had so said, He shewed unto them His hands and His side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. 21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you. 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: 23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.


Mark 16:14-18; Luke 24:36-49; John 14:27-29; Numbers 6:24-26; Isaiah 9:2-7; Luke 2:8-14; John 16:33; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Romans 5:1-11; Romans 8:1-6; Ephesians 2; Colossians 3:12-17; Philippians 4:4-7; Hebrews 13:20-21; John 12:27-32; Acts 2:36-39; Matthew 16:15-19; Matthew 18:15-20; Matthew 6:9-15

Jesus gave His disciples sufficient evidence of His resurrection. On that very same day, in the evening, after He had appeared to various individuals and small groups, He showed Himself alive to ten of the apostles. They were assembled together in some house in Jerusalem and had carefully locked the doors, lest a sudden attack of the Jews make them, too, victims of their hatred. But for the glorified body of the resurrected Lord neither locked doors nor heavy walls were a hindrance. His being was no longer circumscribed by the confines of space and time. They had been alone but a moment ago, and now Jesus stood in their midst. And His was the greeting of the resurrected Savior: Peace to you! The purpose of His coming was now realized, the enmity between God and man had been removed. God was reconciled to His wayward and erring children. The peace of the risen Lord is the comfort and joy of all believers. “For that reason Christ became man, for that reason He died on the cross and arose on the third day, in order that, wherever our hearts, the devil, and the whole world cry about and against us because of our sins as though we were not at peace, that God did not want us, — that He might say to us: No, dear man, not thus, but peace with thee, God is not angry; on that account do not fear, for thy sins I have paid, death I have killed. In this be comforted, that I have done it; then all warfare must have an end and peace must come.” [Luther, 13a, 1037]. When the disciples were surprised at the risen Lord’s coming and filled with superstitious fear, as though they were seeing a ghost, Jesus showed them His hands, where the marks of the nails were still plainly visible, and His side, where the soldier’s lance-head had left a deep gash. This demonstration convinced the disciples; they were glad that they actually saw the Lord. It was the same body which had hung on the cross and thus earned and merited redemption for all men. His resurrection is not only a guarantee of our resurrection, but also of the fact that our vile bodies will be changed to conform to His glorified body, and that we shall be able to recognize our loved ones in heaven. Thus there is great, overwhelming joy for all Christians in the appearances of the risen Lord. Jesus now repeats His greeting as an introduction to a commission which He is about to give to them as His representatives. As the Father had sent Him into the world, so He now transferred the authority and the power of His calling to them. They were to carry the message of the peace of Easter into all the world. He sent them forth to preach the Gospel. For that is the summary and content of the Gospel, peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. And having named them thus as His messengers, as His ambassadors, the Lord formally inducts them into this office. He breathed on them, thus symbolizing the transmission of, and actually conveying to them, the Spirit who lived in Him, and whom He had the authority to bestow. The power of the Spirit was to be with them in the Word: If you remit the sins of any, they are remitted to them; if you retain those of any, they are retained. Thus they received the power to pronounce forgiveness of sins; thus was the Office of the Keys instituted. The forgiveness of sins which Jesus earned by His suffering and death should be imparted and given to men through the announcement of the Gospel, publicly and privately, to single persons and to large congregations. This is the absolution of sins. That is Christ’s will and commission: His disciples should pronounce forgiveness, should take away sins, and then every one should know and believe that by such absolution his sins are actually forgiven and taken away. The Gospel is not only a report of the salvation earned by Jesus, but it is the application of this message, the imparting of the forgiveness of sins. Only he that will not accept this forgiveness, this mercy, this salvation, thereby excludes himself from the grace of God. If such a one is told this fact, his sins are thereby retained. This power and authority was not the sole prerogative of the apostles, nor is it now in the hands of any hierarchy, but it accompanies the Gospel, it is contained in the commission of Christ to all His disciples to preach the Gospel to all nations. To the believers in general, to the Christian congregation that proclaims the message of the Gospel, the keys are given. The pastors that exercise this authority do so in the name of the congregation.

The unbelief of Thomas and the second appearance to the Eleven:

John 20:24-29

24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe. 26 And after eight days again His disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. 27 Then saith He to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side: and be not faithless, but believing. 28 And Thomas answered and said unto Him, My Lord and my God. 29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.


John 11:5-16; John 14:1-7; Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-20; Luke 24:44-53; Acts 1:1-14; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8; John 1:1-18; John 3:13-18; John 17:20-26; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:28; Romans 5:1-11; Hebrews 10:19-22; Ephesians 2:19-22; Colossians 2:6-15

Thomas, called Didymus, the Twin, loved his Lord with true devotion, as his words on the occasion of the death of Lazarus had shown, John 11:16. But he seems to have been of a rather sanguine temperament, with some leanings toward melancholy. He must be either in the highest realms of bliss or in a state of lowest dejection. For some reason he had not been present with the other disciples on Easter evening, and therefore had not seen the Lord. The other disciples were eager with their news: We have seen the Lord. They were convinced of His resurrection, they knew that their Master was living, they had received His commission. But Thomas shook his head in unbelief and voiced his doubt in most emphatic words. The proof which he demanded for the resurrection of the Lord was of a most inclusive and conclusive nature. He not only wanted to see the risen Master, he was not satisfied with merely looking at the impressions or prints in His hands where the nails had been driven through the flesh; he also wanted to back up the evidence of the one sense by that of another, he wanted to feel the wound, lest he be led astray by an illusion. And he wanted to place his hand into the gaping wound of His side where the lance-head of the soldier had entered. Those were the conditions under which he proposed to believe the fact of the resurrection, and they certainly show the extent and depth of his doubt. Jesus, of course, in His omniscience, was fully aware of this attitude of Thomas, and He arranged a second appearance before the apostles, apparently for the express purpose of convincing Thomas and making him a proper witness of the resurrection. It was eight days afterward, on the following Sunday evening, that the disciples were again assembled, Thomas in this case being in their midst. And Jesus repeated the methods of the previous occasion, stepping into the circle of the apostles while they were sitting behind locked doors, and giving them the greeting of peace. And now the Lord, turning directly to Thomas, complied with all the conditions as the doubting disciple had made them, inviting him to extend his finger and investigate both His hands, and to reach forth his hand and put it into His side. But Jesus adds, in the form of an impressive warning: Be not unbelieving, but believing. His faith, which was wavering badly and was having a hard battle with doubt, should not succumb altogether. The Lord was willing enough to have the test made if there were but chances of upholding a disciple in his trust in Him. Thomas, however, had no need of a test now that he saw his Master before him and heard His loving voice. His wavering faith returned to its full strength with one joyful strengthening by the word of the Lord, giving utterance to a wonderful confession concerning Jesus. In the tone of the firmest conviction Thomas exclaimed: My Lord and my God. His faith not only knows that his Lord and Master is alive, is risen from the dead, but he knows this Man to be the true God. By His resurrection from the dead, Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power. His resurrection is a seal of the completed redemption and reconciliation of the world, by which also His deity is established beyond a doubt. It is a miracle which only God can perform, to take His own life out of death. Jesus Christ is not only divine, but He is God Himself, true God with the Father and the Spirit. If this man, our Brother according to the flesh, were not true God, there would be no comfort for us in His death. But now there can be no doubt as to the complete and perfect redemption; for God in Christ, Christ as true God, was able to conquer all enemies, and to rise from the dead, and will live and reign through all eternity. But to gain the blessings of the resurrection of Jesus, it is necessary that every believer learn to say with Thomas: My Lord and my God. That is the nature of saving faith, that it clings to Jesus, the Savior, and appropriates all His redemption with a certain, joyful trust. Jesus now gently reproves Thomas for his foolish and dangerous doubt. Since he had seen his risen Lord, he believed and thus was satisfied and happy. But it is true at all times that the bliss and happiness of perfect faith does not rest upon the evidences of the senses nor upon feelings and reason, but upon the Word of the Gospel. The apostles, the witnesses of the resurrection of Christ, 1 John 1:1-3, have recorded the facts concerning Jesus, His person and His work, and the salvation which we have in His name. Through this Word we have communion with our Lord; in the Word He comes to us and lives in us. Thus we have His full blessing. “He that wishes to know what we should believe, let him hear what Thomas believes, namely, that Jesus is the Son of God and the Lord of life, who will help us out of sins and death unto life and righteousness. Such trust and hope is the true faith, not only to know it, but also to accept it and to comfort one’s self over against death and sin. Where there is such faith and trust, there is salvation, and our sins should not hinder us; for by faith they are forgiven.” [Luther, 13a, 1041].

The purpose of the Gospel of John:

John 20:30-31

30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book: 31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name.


John 1:1-18; John 3:31-36; John 3:13-18; John 8:23-24; John 12:46; Mark 16:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:28; Romans 5:1-11; Hebrews 10:19-22; Revelation 21:1-8; Revelation 22:12-17

After recording the indisputable evidences for the greatest miracle of all and the reception of the miracle by the disciples, John here summarizes and states the purpose of his gospel. He expressly writes that he has not nearly exhausted the recital of Christ’s miracles, but has given an account of only so many as are necessary to convince the readers of the gospel and work faith in Jesus the Christ, the Savior, the Son of God, in their hearts. For this is his thesis, as he distinctly asserts. His aim was to prove the deity of Christ and to work conviction in the hearts of men by such proof, in order that they might believe and by faith have the everlasting life which is in Christ and is given by Christ to them that believe in His name. That name, Jesus Christ, is not a mere appellation, a meaningless sound, but is itself glorious, beautiful Gospel which gives to the believers eternal life.


After Mary Magdalene and then Peter and John have inspected the empty grave, Jesus appears to Mary, on the evening of Easter Day to the disciples without Thomas, and eight days later to them all, with the comforting evidence and message of the resurrection.

Chapter 21

Verses 1-14

The appearance of Christ at the Sea of Tiberias

The fishing expedition:

John 21:1-3

1 After these things Jesus shewed Himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed He Himself. There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of His disciples. Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.


John 6:1; John 20:19; 1 Corinthians 15:3-8; Matthew 4:18-22

[On the authenticity of the last chapter of John, see Lehre und Wehre, 1909, 337 ff]

Jesus had told His disciples that He would see them at a designated place in Galilee after His resurrection, Matthew 26:32; Matthew 28:7; Mark 16:7. Some time, therefore, after the second appearance to the assembled disciples a week after Easter, the latter made the journey to the northern province, traveling by way of the road along the Sea of Galilee, and probably visiting their old homes. Thus it was that they found themselves, on a late afternoon, on the shores of the lake which some of them had so often traversed in their calling as fishermen. It was a party of seven that was together here: Simon Peter, Thomas Didymus, Nathanael of Cana, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples whose names the evangelist does not record. The interval between the resurrection of Jesus and the miracle of Pentecost must have been unusually trying for the disciples. They were without a leader, they had not yet received the extraordinary communication of the Spirit which would enable each one to strike out for himself. In this mood of uncertainty they were standing on the shore of the sea, when Peter suddenly exclaimed: I go off to fish. Probably the sight of the boats leaving for the night’s fishing had awakened the old love for his former occupation. And the others, rightly considering his words an invitation to join him, responded with great alacrity that they would accompany him. The excursion promised some diversion and might yield an income. So they embarked in a boat and launched forth. But their efforts were not crowned with success. As on a former occasion, they worked all night and caught nothing. Note: In any calling, trade, occupation, or profession the blessing must be given by the Lord; without Him the most assiduous efforts and apparent success are without value.

A second miraculous draught:

John 21:4-8

But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered Him, No. And He said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved 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.


Luke 5:1-11; John 13:21-24; John 19:26-27; John 20:1-2

The dawn of the morning after a night of such toil may well have found the disciples discouraged, and they turned more closely inshore. And there was Jesus standing on the shore, although the men in the boat did not recognize Him. It was another revelation of His spiritual body, which had the faculty of becoming invisible and changing its characteristics. The old familiar form and appearance was often not there to guide the disciples after the resurrection, as in the case of the appearance to Mary Magdalene and to the Emmaus pilgrims. Jesus did not reveal His identity at once. He merely called to them, as any man might have addressed a company of fishermen: Lads, have you any fish? that is: Have you had any luck in your work? Did you catch any fish? The word used by the Lord indicates anything that was eaten in addition to the regular meal of bread, the German Zukost. Since, in those countries, this was almost invariably fish, the question is very simple in its meaning. Upon their answering in the negative, the Lord bids them cast forth their net on the right side of the boat, for there they would find fish. And the result was such an immense catch of fish that the combined efforts of the men did not succeed in drawing the net into the boat. The number and the consequent weight of the fish were too great for their strength. The first man among the disciples to draw the proper conclusion from this obvious miracle was John. He told Peter: It is the Lord. This explanation immediately appealed to Peter, and, with his usual impetuous ardor, he quickly threw about him his fisherman’s coat, or blouse, and plunged into the sea to swim to the shore. As an old commentator has it: “John had the keener insight, Peter the greater ardor.” Peter had very likely been rowing with probably only a loin-cloth on, and the small garment, or coat, could be girded on most quickly over his naked body. The other disciples came more slowly than Peter, in the little boat or skiff, with the net full of fishes in tow. This was done all the more easily, since they had been a matter of only two hundred cubits, about one hundred yards, from the shore. All the disciples present knew by this time that they had again witnessed a miracle, had, in fact, been instruments of the Lord in performing this miracle, and the narrative pictures them as filled with awe and reverence at this new manifestation of divine power on the part of Jesus.

The meal on the beach:

John 21:9-14

As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread. 10 Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught. 11 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. 12 Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask Him, Who art Thou? knowing that it was the Lord. 13 Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise. 14 This is now the third time that Jesus shewed Himself to His disciples, after that He was risen from the dead.


Luke 24:13-48; Acts 10:39-41; John 20:19-29; Matthew 6:11

While the disciples came to land, in one way or the other, the Lord had kindled a fire and provided both bread and fish for breakfast. Note the narration of details peculiar to an eye-witness. Note also that the providence of Jesus is well able to take care of all the needs of His disciples, whether they be small or great. Upon the order of Jesus that they should bring of the fish which they had caught and had now towed to the shore, Simon Peter went aboard the skiff, and, single-handed, drew the net up on the beach. His love for the Master and the excitement of the occasion gave him almost superhuman strength. Many a labor of love in the interest of Christ and the Church has seemed impossible from the standpoint of human reckoning, but has proved a comparatively easy matter when undertaken in the fear of the Lord and with the firm conviction that it was the Lord’s will. Two items are emphasized by the evangelist at this point: the fact that the net contained a total of one hundred and fifty-three fishes, not small ones, but large and heavy; and that the net, in spite of the great weight, did not tear. All these details come together to make a picture of Christ’s almighty power which cannot be gainsaid by the enemies. This miracle teaches the believers of all times that the Lord can and will take care of their physical needs; He will provide their daily bread for them. Theirs is but to work in their calling with all faithfulness and not to give way to idleness on the one hand, and to foolish anxiety on the other. The Lord, having now provided the meal, invited the disciples to breakfast. And the disciples were glad to come, although with some restraint. Whereas before His Passion they had been on a friendly basis with their Master, a new dignity and aloofness forced their awed respect. They all knew that it was the Lord, and did not dare ask questions. Jesus now came forward and assumed the rôle of host, distributing both bread and fish to them. Almost every action of the Lord reminded the disciples of some incident in the Lord’s ministry, and made them raise their hearts in thankful prayer for the blessing of His presence. Incidentally, this third appearance to a larger body of disciples reminded them of the great calling which they were now soon to enter upon. The Lord did not get out of touch with His messengers; He did not permit their thoughts to get away entirely from the real life-work which was awaiting them.

Verses 15-25

The test of Peter’s love

The Lord’s threefold question:

John 21:15-17

15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me more than these? He saith unto Him, Yea, Lord; Thou knowest that I love Thee. He saith unto him, Feed My lambs. 16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me? He saith unto Him, Yea, Lord; Thou knowest that I love Thee. He saith unto him, Feed My sheep. 17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me? Peter was grieved because He said unto him the third time, Lovest thou Me? And he said unto Him, Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed My sheep.


Matthew 26:31-35; Matthew 26:69-75; John 10:11-16; Ephesians 2:19-21; 1 Peter 1:3-12; 1 Corinthians 8:3; Galatians 5:22-23; 1 John 4:19; Isaiah 55:1-3; Jeremiah 3:15; 2 Timothy 3:16-17

When the disciples had finished their breakfast as guests of the Master, Jesus showed that He had a special reason for appearing at this time. He addressed Himself to Peter, probably taking this disciple aside from the rest. The Lord had appeared to Peter alone on Easter Day, Luke 24:34, and had undoubtedly at that time reinstated him in his position as His disciple. But here the Lord purposely speaks to Peter in the view of, if not in the presence of, six disciples that had been present on the evening before His death. In a most solemn and impressive manner Jesus asks Peter three times as to his love for Him. He puts the first question in such a way as to make a comparison between the love of Peter and that of the rest. Peter had professed and protested a more affectionate regard for Christ than the other disciples, Matthew 26:33, but had learned, to his great sorrow, how foolish it is to trust in one’s own strength. Three times had he denied his Lord after that saying. It was not the object of Christ to work repentance at this time, for Peter’s grief had been deep and genuine, and he had been received into grace before this. Nevertheless, the lesson which the Lord administered was necessary, in order to keep Peter in the humility which is demanded above all of the servant of the Lord. The use of his old name, Simon, and the addition of the explanation, “son of Jonas,” made the question all the more searching: Lovest thou Me? Was Peter now ready to love His Lord and Savior with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his mind? The threefold answer of Peter is significant of the change that had taken place in him since that night of the denial. At that time it had been his own self, his own person, that had been brought into the foreground. But now the first person is relegated to the background, while Peter appeals to the knowledge of Christ. When the question of the Lord came for the third time, Peter was deeply grieved. He felt the justness of the Lord’s position; he knew that he had given cause for doubt. And the very tenderness of the reproof made the grief of Peter all the more poignant and his protestations of love all the more fervid. He finally appeals to the Lord’s omniscience. He that knows all things, that searches hearts and minds, could and would read the feeling of his heart aright and know that the love he bore his Savior was genuine, based upon the faith in the redemption of the God-man. This is a mark of true faith, when Christians not only confess before men that they love their Lord, but when they challenge the omniscient God Himself to search their hearts in this respect. The love of the Christians may often be weak and in strong need of support, but it must be genuine just the same. The Lord recognized and rewarded the sincerity of Peter’s love and faith. Three times He gives him the significant command to feed, to be a pastor to, His sheep, His lambs. The sheep of Jesus, as He Himself explains, John 10, are those whom the Father has given Him, the believers. And the lambs are the little ones in the kingdom of God, especially the children, Matthew 18; Mark 10. Thus Peter received a special call and was reinstated in his office and ministry. Peter was to be one of those that have charge of the flock of Christ, that perform the work of pastors and shepherds. For to feed the sheep, as Luther says, is nothing but proclaiming to them the Word of God, that is, true faith. The commission of the Lord is in power even to-day. All true preachers of the Gospel, in this respect, have the same ministry as the apostles. The prime requisite for a person that has charge of a flock of Jesus is genuine and fervid love toward Christ, the great Shepherd of all. This love will then find its expression in true pastoral work, both public and private, the application of the wonderful message of salvation wherever this message can be proclaimed.

A prophecy concerning Peter:

John 21:18-19

18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. 19 This spake He, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He saith unto him, Follow Me.


2 Peter 1:1-16; John 12:23-33; Philippians 1:29

The interview with Peter affected also the Lord very deeply, because His love for His disciples was most cordial. Referring probably to the action of Peter in girding his coat about him when the Lord stood on the beach, Jesus tells him that these conditions are still obtaining. He still has his freedom to come and go as he wished. But the time is coming, in his old age, when Peter will be obliged to extend his hands, to be bound and manacled and to be led where he has no natural inclination to go. It was a prophecy of Peter’s martyrdom. According to tradition which seems correct, Peter was put to death under the emperor Nero, by crucifixion, thus giving glory and honor and praise to God, even in his death. Only he must follow Christ, his Lord and Savior, at all times, whithersoever he was led. Note: The steadfast believer, sealing his faith with his life, gives glory to, and causes glory to come upon, the name of God and Jesus. Suffering for the sake of Christ belongs to the experiences of the average Christian, and especially of the servants of the Word.

The reference to John:

John 21:20-23

20 Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on His breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth Thee? 21 Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? 22 Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou Me. 23 Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?


John 13:21-26; John 19:26-27; John 20:1-2; Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:1-3

Peter was not yet altogether healed of his impetuousness. As he was walking along with Jesus, he could not refrain from turning back, and thus noticed that John, who here describes himself very exactly, was also coming their way. Peter at once asked: Lord, but this man, what of him? The Lord rebuked this lack of undivided attention on the part of Peter, telling him that it was entirely a matter for Him to decide whether John should remain until He would return. As soon as a person spends his time in musing upon what other people will do, he neglects some opportunities for service. The great Shepherd, Jesus Christ, has charge of His Church and will manage its affairs in such a way as to have them all redound to the salvation of them that are His and to the glory of God. Any interference with His government is foolish and sinful. Whether Jesus referred to His coming at the end of the world or to that coming which began in the judgment of Jerusalem, Matthew 16:28, is immaterial. But the saying of Jesus was understood falsely. Some of the disciples believed that John would never die. This notion, however, he himself corrects by emphasizing the words: If I will that he tarry. All things are in the power, under the government of Jesus, the Lord and King of the Kingdom of Grace. A simple trust in the wisdom of His guidance should always characterize the attitude of all believers. We must be sure that the risen Christ has the fortunes of those that are His in His hand and will always guide them in the way which is to their value and benefit.


John 21:24-25

24 This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true. 25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.


John 1:14; John 19:35; John 20:30-31; 1 John 1:1-4

Here John, in a final note, defends the trustworthiness of the record which he has offered in his gospel. He has not written on the basis of questionable sources, but he knows that the witness which he hereby bears is true. Incidentally he affirms that if all the sayings and all the miracles and signs of Jesus had been recorded and described, it would be such a great mass, as one might say, that the world could not contain all the books, could not comprehend and grasp the wonders thus offered. But what John has recorded is fully sufficient for his purpose and that of the Spirit that spoke through him, namely, to teach the deity and the redemption of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, that all that believe on Him might not perish, but have everlasting life.


Jesus appears to seven disciples at the Sea of Galilee, gives them another miraculous draught of fishes, and, in a searching interview, reinstates Peter into his discipleship.