An Exposition Of The Gospels by The Most Rev. John Macevilly D.D.

In this chapter, we have an account of our Lord’s conversation with His brethren, who from selfish motives, urge Him, on occasion of the Feast of Tabernacles, to go up to Jerusalem and perform His miraculous wonders, in the face of the world (1–9).

His ascent privately to Jerusalem to join in the celebration of the Festival (10).

The search for Him, and the discourses regarding Him among the people (11–13).

His teaching in the Temple, and the admiration of the crowd, at the learning He displayed, as He had not learned letters (14, 15).

Our Lord’s justification of Himself and of His doctrine (16–18).

The reproachful language of the Jews on His having charged them with a design to put Him to death (18–21).

His retort on them as having themselves violated the Sabbath, with the violation of which they unjustly charged Him (21–25).

His declaration as to His heavenly origin, and the rejection of the Jews (28–36).

His invitation to all to come and partake of His abundant graces (37–39).

The result of His discourse. The division caused among the multitude (40–42).

The testimony of those sent to arrest Him (44) and the bitter reproaches addressed to Him, in consequence, by the Pharisees who employed them (44–48).

The fearless defence of our Lord by Nicodemus, and the reproaches he was subjected to, in consequence (50–52.)


2. “Now, the Jewish feast of Tabernacles,” etc. This feast was instituted in memory of the Divine protection extended to the Jewish people, when living in tents, during their forty years’ sojourn in the desert. It commenced on the 15th day of the seventh month, Tishri (September), and lasted seven consecutive days, to which the eighth day was added, a day of special solemnity. It was a most joyous festival. During these eight days, the Israelites were obliged to dwell in tents, hurriedly constructed of wood, branches of trees, skins, etc. They carried in their hands, each day, branches of palm-trees, olives, citrons, myrtles and willows. It was the third of the great festivals of the Jews, the others being the Pasch and Pentecost.

3. “Brethren,” His blood relations on His mother’s side; or, on St. Joseph’s side, who was His reputed father. Not all His relatives spoke, as is stated here. Some of them believed in Him; others, of whom there is question (v. 5), did not. These latter were not of His disciples strictly so called. For, these believed in Him.

“Pass from hence,” depart from this obscure district, where Thou art hidden, and Thy great works generally unknown, “and go into Judea,” show Thyself in Jerusalem, the chief centre of public resort; whence Thy fame is sure to go out, and Thy works made known (Acts 2:5). These were anxious for His glory, in order that as His relatives, they themselves, might profit thereby.

“That Thy disciples,” those desirous of learning Thy doctrine, whom Thy teaching and wonderful works performed heretofore at Jerusalem (c. 2:23) rendered favourable to Thee, “may see Thy works,” may be confirmed in their good opinion, by witnessing the splendour of Thy works. These men would subject the works of our Lord to the test of learned inquiries. They had not yet believed in Him.

4. “For there is no man that doth any thing,” etc. Men who perform works calculated to gain them celebrity, as you do, with a view of profiting mankind, whose anointed Saviour you wish to have yourself regarded, don’t seek darkness and obscurity; nor do they resort to obscure and unknown places, as is done by you here in Galilee.

“And He Himself seeketh to be known openly.” The Greek for “openly,” εν παρρησια, means, “full liberty of speech.” Such a man wishes to be publicly celebrated and freely spoken of.

“If,” which means, since, whereas, “Thou dost these things,” since Thou performest wonderful works, calculated to render Thee celebrated. “Manifest Thyself to the world,” perform the same works in Jerusalem, the capital of Judea, wherein are found men from every nation under heaven (Acts 2:5); that thus, Thy fame may spread throughout the entire earth. These clearly had in view their own selfish profit and advancement.

5. These men, even after witnessing His wonderful works, seeing His poverty and humility, did not believe Him to be the Messiah. Had they believed in Him, they would not presume to counsel Him. They would have Him acknowledged as such in Jerusalem, and in order to secure this, they wish Him to perform His miraculous wonders there, so that the priests and scribes would acknowledge Him as the Messiah; and they themselves would derive glory, honour, and emolument therefrom.

6. “My time,” for going up to this festival and manifesting Myself to the world, according to the decree of my Eternal Father, “is not yet come.” I shall not go up publicly with you, but I mean to go up privately, in order to avoid the fury of the Jews.

“Your time is always ready.” You need not apprehend any bad treatment at their hands; you gave them no provocation, no cause of enmity whatever.

7. “Cannot hate you.” You offer no resistance to the Scribes and Pharisees. Far from it, you obey them, and in all things carry out their wishes; “Me it hateth.” These wicked men entertain a deadly hatred for Me, as the stern reprover of their wicked conduct, “because I give testimony,” etc., thus verifying the words of the wise man, “Let us lie in wait for the just man, because he is contrary to our doings, and upbraideth us with transgressions of the law,” etc. (Wisdom 2:12.)

8. “I do not go up to this festival,” publicly, in your company, and in the way you would expect, as I wish to avoid exciting the hatred of the Jews, already incensed against Me.

“I do not go up,” may mean, “I do not YET go up.” The Greek for “not,” οὔπω, is rendered, not yet, in this very passage. He did go up, however; but, it was only after the fulfilment of the time, and in the manner marked out in the decrees of His Eternal Father. Whether He went up, the first day, at the beginning of the feast, or only later on, is disputed; most likely, He attended from the very beginning, as is insinuated (v. 14). His ascent was private; His going to the Temple on the fourth day, public.

9, 10. “Not openly” accompanied by a great retinue of followers; nor straightway through Samaria; but, through Pærea, after crossing the Jordan near Jericho.

“But as it were in secret,” accompanied by only a few trusty friends, without any display; to avoid openly encountering the hostility of the Jewish rulers, who sought to compass His death. His ascent was not altogether “in secret,” but, “as IT WERE, in secret.” On the fourth day, He publicly appeared in the Temple.

11. “The Jews,” or rather the chief men among them, “sought Him, on the festival day,” in order to meet Him and put Him to death. The day marked out for the worship of God is devoted by them to the works of the devil. Would to God, this was not true in regard to Christian festivals also. On these, God is, sometimes, more outraged than on any other days.

“Where is He?” A scornful question—what is become of this impostor? Why does He seek lurking, hiding places? It may be, that some, too, who were friendly to our Lord, asked the question.

12. “Much murmuring,” great discussion carried on privately among the crowd, as to His character, some saying “He is a good man.” A true teacher and Prophet. This was the opinion expressed by those who witnessed His miracles and heard His preaching in Galilee. Others, on the contrary, viz., the Scribes and Pharisees and their followers, charged Him with seducing the people, to make Himself head of a new faction, and create sedition and rebellion.

13. “Yet no one spoke openly of Him.” The Greek for, openly, is the same as in v. 4, εν παρρησια. No one of those who were for or against Him spoke openly of Him, owing to a prohibition on the part of the Jewish rulers, that there would be no reference whatsoever to His name, “for fear of the Jews,” or chief rulers, who had issued the prohibition referred to.

14. “About the middle of the feast,” which lasted eight days. Hence, the fourth day is herereferred to. “Jesus went into the Temple and taught.” Our Lord’s ascent to Jerusalem was private; His ascent to the Temple, public. The festival was celebrated both within the city and outside it, by the people dwelling in temporary tents. Most likely, our Lord was celebrating it from the very first day of the solemnity, having followed His relations, on their departure for Jerusalem; but, only secretly, to give us an example of prudence in dealing with rabid enemies. But, on the fourth day, He courageously and fearlessly braved the fury of His enemies, by publicly presenting Himself in the Temple and preaching there; to give us an example of fortitude, when the call of duty and God’s glory requires it; and to inspire us with confidence, to be rescued in due time. By comparing this with v. 10, it would appear, that our Lord was present and privately celebrating the festival from the first day; and this well accords with our idea of Him who came to “fulfil all justice.” No evil could accrue to Him from being privately present.

15. The teaching of our Lord must have been wonderful, since it had the effect of making His rabid enemies, who sought to put Him to death, regard with admiration and astonishment, the knowledge He displayed without having learned letters. The learning in repute among the Jews, was the knowledge of the Sacred Scriptures and their profound mysteries. In this sense, is the Word taken (2 Tim. 3:15). “Having never learned,” in their schools. They knew His position in life, His education; hence, their admiration of the profound knowledge displayed by Him. This should have been an inducement to them, to see and receive Him as a divinely sent teacher. But, owing to their hatred of Him, they contented themselves with stolid and sterile admiration. They, moreover, were attributing it to diabolical influence and agency.

16. “My doctrine is not Mine, but His that sent Me.” In His school, I learned all I know. Our Redeemer, knowing well what they were privately and secretely discussing among themselves, said, you cannot understand where I learned what I am delivering to you. It is not from any diabolical source it came, as many of you would be inclined to suppose. The doctrine I deliver is not from Myself: Although, it be My doctrine, inasmuch as I possess it and give utterance to it; still, in another respect, it is not mine. It did not originate with Myself; but, it was communicated to Me, as God, by My Father at My eternal generation; and viewed in this way, My doctrine, as well as the nature and essence communicated to Me, is identical with that of My Father; or, if there be question of My knowledge, as man, it was knowledge of all things infused into My human nature, at My Incarnation, conformably to the words of the Prophet Isaias (11:2), “And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him; the Spirit of wisdom and understanding … the Spirit of knowledge,” etc. Although His doctrine as God, was His own; still, He wishes to attribute it to the Father, to show them that it came from God; and His doctrine, as man, what He taught, as man, was identical with that of the Father; since what He knew and taught, as man, was what His Father wished Him to teach.

17. Our Lord here assigns a criterion for knowing, whether His doctrine was divine or human; and tacitly reproaches the Jews with opposing God’s will, owing to the hatred and hostility they bore Himself. Their wicked dispositions were the cause of their wilful blindness, in regard to the source from which He derived His teaching, and the obstacles to their seeing things in a true light. If they desired to do the will of God, by a conformity of life to the Divine precepts, they would know, aided by the interior light of grace, which God would not refuse them; whether His doctrine was from God or from Himself, a mere human invention, opposed to that of God. It is only the spiritual man, whose will is conformable to God’s will, that shall have his intellect enlightened to see the things that are of the Spirit of God.

18. “He that speaketh of himself,” etc. Our Lord having, in the preceding verse, pointed to a criterion for knowing that His doctrine was from God, and the reason why the Jews did not know it; now, assigns another criterion for ascertaining His doctrine to be from God, thus: “He that speaketh from himself,” or delivers doctrine of His own, as opposed to that of God, seeketh his own glory,” wishes to gain a crowd of disciples who would extol him, become his followers, and proclaim him as their chief, thus seeking his own glory. This is seen from the lives of all Heresiarchs. “But he that seeketh”—not his own glory, but—“the glory of Him that sent Him, He is true.” Our Lord does not say, “he that speaketh from God, seeketh the glory of God,” as would seem necessary, in order that the latter clause of the sentence, should be directly contrary to the preceding. But, “He is true,” veracious; thus refuting the charge made against Himself, of seducing the people by false teaching, whereas He taught the truth of God, who is infinitely veracious. “And there is no injustice in Him,” He is not guilty of unjustly robbing God of His glory; He thus refutes the charge of His having violated the law of the Sabbath. Our Lord charges the Pharisees, by implication, with seeking “their own glory;” therefore, not true, mendacious, preferring the false traditions of men to the Divine Law. Unjust, as trangressors of the Divine Law, while arrogating to themselves unjustly the glory of God.

19. Having proved that He was truthful in His teaching, and just in His works, our Lord now charges the Jews with injustice and transgression of the law. They violated the law of Moses, whom they pretended to value so much. They sought to kill Him (5:16–18), who was just and innocent, and this was strictly prohibited, in the law of Moses (Exodus 23:7). They unjustly charged Him with violating the law of Moses for curing a man on the Sabbath day. (c. 5) But He clearly proves that they were the real prevaricators, by violating it, in a most important point. For, He well knew the murderous designs of the Scribes and Pharisees in reference to Himself. The words, “and none of you keepeth the law,” may also refer to their violation of the law of the Sabbath, in circumcising infants on the Sabbath, for the alleged imputed violation for which they wished to kill Him (5:16–18).

20. “The multitude.” Of the multitude, some were in favour of Him; others opposed to Him. None of them, however, had any idea of killing Him. But the Pharisees and rulers, of whose machinations the people were ignorant, had such designs; and it is to them our Lord addressed the preceding words. “Thou hast a devil.” It is at the suggestion of the devil thou utterest this calumny against us; or, the words may mean—Thou art crazy, or mad.

21. Passing over in silence the reproaches levelled at Himself personally, by the crowd, our Lord shows that the accusation brought against Him, for having violated the law of Moses was unfounded and unjust. The cure of the paralytic (5:5–16) occurred several months before this; still, the Jewish rulers bore it in mind, as well as their charge of blasphemy against Him, for claiming God for His Father; and this they make a pretext for wishing to compass His death.

“One work I have done,” in curing the paralytic.

“And you all wonder.” You are in a state of tumultuous, angry excitement; filled with indignation, from which springs your murderous machination against My life.

22. “Therefore,” in order to remove all just ground for such indignation on your part, I shall give you an example, or illustration, which you must reverently attend to, while from it, you will see how unfounded your indignation is, arising from my cure of the paralytic on the Sabbath day. (c. 5) The example I adduce is from the Mosaic dispensation regarding circumcision. “Moses gave you circumcision,” or, rather, renewed the ordinance relative to it in his law; not that it was originally of Mosaic institution, like the Sabbath law; it was handed down from the “Fathers,” the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc., and prescribed by God to be binding on their posterity (Genesis 17:10, etc.; 21:4). This rite was interrupted, during their forty years’ sojourn, in the desert. Moses renewed it, in his laws (Leviticus 12:3).

According to the original command of God given to the Patriarchs, the new-born infant should be circumcised on the eighth day after its birth. Whenever, then, the birth occurred on the Sabbath, the infant should be circumcised on that day week, the eighth day, which fell on the Sabbath, the precept regarding circumcision being of greater importance and of more binding force, was attended to; the precept regarding the Sabbath, as of less importance, unheeded. Circumcision was of patriarchal origin, originally enjoined by God on Abraham, and being of earlier origin and of greater importance, it superseded, in particular cases, the Sabbatical observance.

“And on the Sabbath day you circumcise a man.” We find a new-born infant called, a man, elsewhere (John 16:21).

There is a great diversity of opinion among Commentators regarding the connection and force of “therefore.” Some, with Beelen, etc., connect it with what went before, thus: “And you all wonder, therefore,” on this account, δια τοῦτο, on account of the work He did. This would render the interpretation comparatively easy, and the connection very smooth. It is, however, more probably connected with what follows. It points to an example or illustration, showing, that our Lord did not violate the Sabbath, in curing, by the mere word of power, the palsied man; since the Jews themselves did not interpret the Sabbatical law so strictly, as not to admit of exception, in conflict with a higher law, like the law of circumcision. These enclose the words (“not because it is of Moses,” etc.) in a parenthesis, as found in the Vulgate reading, as if it were incidentally used to meet an objection which might possibly be raised against the saying, that Moses was the institutor or original promulgator of circumcision, which our Lord here Himself seems to assert. “Moses gave you circumcision,” etc., and that the parenthetical observation had no force in the argument.

Others, laying great stress on the observation enclosed within the parenthesis, say, that “therefore” has direct and immediate reference to these words. It is because (“therefore”) circumcision, which Moses inserted or re-promulgated among his laws, was strictly of patriarchal origin, you circumcise on the Sabbath day; thereby showing that Sabbatical observance, with the violation of which you unjustly charge Me, admits of exception, in case of conflict with a higher or more binding law. So, that “therefore” has immediate reference to the words, “but of the Fathers,” and it is, because of the conflict with a higher law, they overlooking the law relating to the observance of the Sabbath, circumcise a man on the Sabbath day; or, thus: “Therefore,” or on this account, did Moses give you circumcision, because it was originally handed down from the Patriarchs, and as coming from the Patriarchs, you circumcise on the Sabbath day, as they did, it being older and of greater binding force than the Sabbatical law, originally promulgated by Moses. Why, then, censure Me for doing the same?

23. This, then, is our Lord’s crushing refutation of their charge—“If a man … that the law of Moses may not be broken,” meaning, without violating the law of Moses, although involving servile work in inflicting pain, staunching blood, applying soothing remedies, etc., etc. The words, “that the law of Moses,” etc., may also mean, you circumcise on the Sabbath, in order that the law of Moses, commanding that circumcision be administered on the eighth day (Leviticus 12:3) be not broken. It was a law of Moses, as well as a patriarchal law. For, He re-promulgated it, and made it His own. “Moses gave you circumcision.” The law of circumcision involved servile work; our Lord’s act of curing involved none; it was a mere word. His was a work of mercy, exceeding in importance Sabbatical observance; circumcision, only conferred a partial benefit; our Lord’s case reached the entire man, soul and body. Hence, the natural and Divine precept of mercy, of relieving our brother in distress, should outweigh the law of Moses, relative to the observance of the Sabbath.

24. Let your judgments, then, be not merely according to appearances, or founded on any personal prejudices in regard to Me, or feelings of personal respect, which seems to be the chief motive that influences you in this case, when you judge according to your views of the law of Moses, and your veneration for him, despising Me and My actions.

“But, judge just judgment.” Judge the case according to its intrinsic merits and deserts, without any regard to persons. Far, from doing so, you are guilty of exception of persons. You accuse Me of violating the Sabbatical ordinance, in restoring health of soul and body to a sick man, by a mere word, while you yourselves perform the work of circumcising on the Sabbath day, with all its accompaniments.

25. “Some of Jerusalem.” The Greek has, “of the Jerusalemites.” The sense is the same. Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who knew well the wicked designs of the Rulers regarding our Lord. Hence, the Evangelist refers to them as distinguished from the strangers then flocking to Jerusalem, who knew nothing of the wicked machinations of the Rulers. These latter, probably, were friendly to our Lord, having seen His miracles and having heard His doctrine.

“Is not this He whom they wish to kill.” They knew well the wicked designs of the Rulers, the Scribes, Priests and Pharisees.

26. “Behold, He speaketh openly, and they say nothing to Him.” They express their astonishment that the Rulers, whose hatred of our Lord they well knew, were now silent, while He was speaking freely and openly regarding them.

“Have the Rulers known for a truth that this is the Christ?” These men, seeking some cause for an event so unaccountable, a change so great in the attitude of the Rulers in His regard, concluded, that they must now be convinced that He is truly the Christ, whom they hitherto charged with falsely affecting to be such. It must be, therefore, because they now find Him to be really the Christ. The Rulers have laid aside every feeling of animosity, which arose from zeal for the interests of the true Christ. In this, however, the crowd were deceived. It was not from any feeling of zeal for the interests of the true Christ the Pharisees, etc., were influenced, but by a feeling of pride, jealousy and envy.

27. “But,” this is most unlikely; this cannot be; for, “we know this man whence He is” (see 5:42). “But, when the Christ cometh, no one knows whence He is.” From this it would seem there was some absurd notion afloat among the ignorant portion of the Jews regarding our Lord’s parentage, etc. The learned knew well He was to be born in Bethlehem, of the family of David (v. 42). But the ignorant portion came to an erroneous conclusion, probably misunderstanding the words of the Prophet Isaias (43), “Generationem ejus quis enarrabit?” “Egressus ejus ab initio, a diebus æternitatis” (Micheas 7), and other such texts, which have reference to His Divine nature.

28, 29. “Jesus, therefore, knowing their thoughts and conversation, “cried out in the Temple,” raised His voice, to render more impressive what He was saying, “teaching and saying,” as the only thing you want in Me, in order to acknowledge Me as your Messiah is, not to know me. He then shows they did not know Him. They should, therefore, acknowledge Him.

“You both know Me and know who I am.” That is, you assert that you know who I am and My parentage, as you think you know My parents; but, in this you are mistaken. For, “I have not come of Myself.” In this our Lord clearly insinuates, that He was the Son of God, sent by Him, in fulfilment of the promises made to their fathers. “But He that sent Me is true,” infinitely veracious in His words and acts, and in the testimony He bore to Me as His Son, and as I teach His doctrine, what I teach must, therefore, be true. “Whom you know not.” You know not that He is My Father, who, by word and miraculous wonders, bore testimony to Me as His Son, and not Joseph, whom you fancy to be My real father.

“But I know Him, because I am from Him,” His Eternal Son, begotten of Him from eternity, “and He hath sent Me” into this world, to assume human nature for your redemption. In these latter words, our Lord refers to His Divine and human natures. His Divine, in the words, “I am from Him,” His human, “and He hath sent Me.”

Others interpret the words, “you both know Me,” etc., as if taken up by Him, and repeated after them in irony, so as to convey, that they were mistaken as to His person and parentage, and, then, He states His true origin and parentage, “and I am not come of Myself,” etc. On their own showing, therefore, they should acknowledge Him as their Messiah. Since they would seem to admit that He had all the other qualities to be desired in the Messiah, the only thing wanted was, that they should not know Him, and this too He now shows to be verified regarding Him.

By others, the words, “you both know Me,” etc., are read interrogatively, “Do you, indeed, know Me?” etc. Conveying, that they did not; and then He proceeds to show who He was and whence He was.

Some Latin Codices have at the end of v. 28, as in 8:55, “But I know Him, and if I should say I know Him not, I shall be a liar, like you.” Editions and versions generally omit them here.

30. “Therefore,” in consequence of His saying that He came from God the Father, whom they knew not, they, blinded from malice and obduracy, instead of being convinced, were more embittered against Him, and would put Him to death, because the people preferred Him to themselves, and regarded Him as the Messias. But, His power restrained them, because the hour marked out in the eternal decrees, for His suffering death, had not yet arrived—“his hour,” the time which, of His own free will, in obedience to the decrees of His Eternal Father, He had fixed for suffering the death of the cross.

31. “Of the people,” probably, refers to those who had come to the festival, together with some of the better disposed of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. “Many believed in Him,” owing to the miracles He performed, which are fully recorded by the other Evangelists. Perhaps, our Lord worked wonders on this occasion also, which St. John passes over here in silence. For, all His miracles were not recorded (21:25).

“When the Christ cometh,” that is, if Christ were yet to come, supposing Him not to have come already, could He perform greater miracles than this man performs? Surely not. Why not, then, accept Him for the Christ, since He gives us the most undoubted proof that He is the Christ. The Jews were impressed with the belief that the Messias would work many miracles. This opinion derived probability from passages of SS. Scriptures regarding Him, “then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,” etc. (Isaias 35:5, 6, etc.)

32. The Rulers, maddened with envy, on seeing the people acknowledge our Lord as the true Messiah, could no longer dissemble their rage, and throwing off all restraint, sent to have Him apprehended.

33. “To them,” the ministers sent to apprehend Him, who would carry back to the Rulers what they would hear Him say.

“Yet a little while”—but a very brief period of time, six months from this—“I am with you.” I remain on earth, “and then I go to Him that sent Me.” Then I shall voluntarily submit to death, and return; but, until that time comes, of which I am fully aware, all your efforts to destroy Me shall be unavailing. I shall, till then, set at nought every attempt against me.

34. “You shall seek Me,” etc. Some interpret these words as indicating or promising some good, viz., that after His death, on witnessing the miracles and preaching of His Apostles, they, touched with compunction, shall be converted, and shall desire to see and hear Him whom they now despise; but they will not be able, as He shall then have ascended into heaven. The words bear this construction (13:33), when addressed by our Lord to His apostles. Others understand these words as threatening evil, as if He said: After My death, you will endeavour to abolish My name and every memory of Me. You wish to apprehend Me, and again put Me to death, and utterly wipe out My name and teaching. But, you shall strive in vain. I shall be out of your reach, at the right hand of My Father, and you will never reach that seat of everlasting bliss, in punishment of your obstinacy and unrepented guilt.

Others interpret it: You shall seek and earnestly desire the Messiah or Me, who am the Messiah, as your deliverer—the deliverer of your people and nation, when in dire straits, to which your city and nation shall be reduced, by the strong hand of the Romans. But, you shall be disappointed. You shall not be able to find Him; you shall not be able to reach where He shall be. Some reject this interpretation, as, in reality, the Jews in their distress did not seek the Messiah.

Others, with Maldonatus, say the words simply mean, that, although you should seek Me—which they by no means, did—still, you would not find Me, because, where I am, you could not come. It is a phrase signifying, that our Lord was taken away from the earth, so as not to be found among the living. Similar is the phrase (Psa. 9:16; 36:10; Isaias 41:12; Ozee 2:7).

35. “The dispersed among the Gentiles,” is understood by some, of the Jews scattered through every country under heaven. It most likely, signifies the Gentiles themselves dispersed throughout the globe, as the words, “and teach the Gentiles,” would denote. In the fulness of their pride, they supposed it to be a matter utterly impossible that He would go to these. Because, it was a thing hitherto unheard of, that a Prophet of God, would go to instruct the impure, idolatrous Gentiles, with whom no Jew could hold intercourse. In this, the Jews unconsciously and unwillingly predicted what afterwards happened, when our Lord, through His Apostles and representatives, after the Jews had spurned their teaching, went and transferred their ministry to the Gentile world; the curse of rejection and reprobation having fallen on the Jews.

For “Gentiles,” it is the Greeks, in the Greek Version. “The dispersed among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks.”

The Jews divided the world into Jews and Greeks. Under the latter, best known as the dominant race, since the conquests of Alexander the Great, were included all the other less prominent and least known nations and peoples of the earth.

37. “And on the last and great day of the festival,” which is generally understood of the eighth day, when the people assembled in greater crowds, on the eve of their departure.

This eighth day which was, in course of time, added to the seven preceding ones, that originally constituted the Festival, was celebrated with the greatest solemnity (Leviticus 23:36). On this closing day, our Lord availing Himself of the greater assemblage of people, wished to impress on them, the most solid and practical truths.

“Jesus stood,” in some elevated position, where He could be best heard; and regardless of the threats and machinations of His enemies, “cried” out, fearlessly and courageously, in order to show that He feared no one while performing the work of His Father, in gaining souls and diffusing the light of His heavenly truths. Similar should be the spirit in times of danger and opposition, with which all true preachers of the Gospel should be animated. “Ne formides a facie eorum,” etc. (Jeremiah 1:17; Ezechiel 3:9.)

“If any man thirst,” feels a vehement desire for eternal happiness, his own salvation. There is hardly any sensation equal to that of thirst or an anxious craving to slake a desire for drink “Quemadmodum desiderat cervus,” etc. (Psa. 41:2.)

“Let him come to Me,” by faith; to Me, who am the inexhaustible fountain of living waters.

“And drink,” slake his thirst, by drinking to satiety of the abundant graces which I still ungrudgingly dispense, in order to satiate and spiritually inebriate him. It is only those, however, that “thirst,” really anxious and desirous for it, that are invited This is allusive to the words of Isaias (55:1), “Omnes sitientes, venite ad aquas.”

38. “He that believeth in Me.” It is by believing we come to Him. Our Lord speaks of faith animated by charity, accompanied by good works, and the observance of God’s commandments. For, “the devils also believe and tremble” (James 2:19).

“As the Scripture saith,” in several passages, referring to the following words, in substance and in sense, if not exactly in so many words. (Joel 2:28), “I shall pour out My Spirit on all flesh,” etc. (Isaias 41:18; 44:3; 55:1; Ezechiel 36:25; Eccles. 24:40, etc.)

“Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” His soul, which is the receptacle of spiritual food, as the belly, of corporal aliment, will be filled with the copious abundance of the graces of the Holy Ghost, so that nothing will be wanting to him. “Living water,” which shall display itself in external operations, in the practice of all virtues, whereby men shall advance more and more in perfection, and slake their own thirst after justice. They will not confine to themselves the overflowing waters of grace. They shall communicate their happiness to others, whom they shall aid in obtaining life eternal That “the living waters,” refer to the abundant graces of the Holy Ghost, is clear from the words, “He said of the Spirit” (v. 39). Our Redeemer, who here quotes no one particular passage of Scripture, explains, in order to prevent misconception, the meaning of the words, “living water,” as referring to the Spirit, which was to be given abundantly, hereafter.

39. “Now, this He said of the Spirit,” etc. The Evangelist assigns a reason why our Lord speaks in the future, not in the present or past, regarding “the rivers of living water,” that shall flow; because by them, He meant the abundant gifts of the Spirit which they were to receive. For, although the Holy Ghost with His gifts was given in past times, to the saints and just of old; still, they were not given in such copious and gushing abundance, as on Pentecost Sunday, when the Holy Ghost visibly descended on the Apostles and filled them with the heavenly fire and divine virtue which they displayed on the spot.

“For as yet the Spirit was not given,” in the full abundance afterwards displayed, “because Jesus was not glorified,” in His Resurrection, and especially in his Ascension. Our Lord referred to the necessity of His going to the Father, in order to send down the Paraclete (John 16:7). The glorification of our Lord, the Divine Head of the Church, should, as a matter of congruity, precede the glorification of the members.

By not giving the Holy Ghost in all fulness, till our Lord was in heaven, He wished to show, that the Holy Ghost proceeded from Him as well as from the Father. He also wished to show the Jews, that He was in heaven whom they crucified. Hence, the words of St. Peter (Acts 2:33).

40. “The Prophet, indeed.” The definite article, “the,” only denotes that He was a distinguished Prophet, not the Messias, the “Prophet of their own nation,” etc. (Deut. 18:15.) For another class said (v. 41), “He is the Christ,” or Messias. The text from Deuteronomy, above referred to, was meant by the Holy Ghost to designate the Messias. But, the Jews erroneously fancied the Prophet thus spoken of to be different from Christ (see John 1:21). It may refer to “the Prophet,” who, as was supposed by the Jews, would precede or accompany the Messiah (John 1:21).

41, 42. Some of them may have thought that, as our Lord was brought up at Nazareth in Galilee, He was born there, and of parents, who were not Jews. Others, very likely, knew His parentage and birthplace, but affected to be ignorant of it, and would have Him looked upon as a Galilean, who could not be the Christ; as He was to be born in Bethlehem, of the seed of David.

43. Owing to their difference of opinion regarding Him, there was a division amongst them.

44. Others, had such inveterate hostility towards Him, that they would have arrested Him as an impostor, an abettor of rebellion and revolution, a blasphemer, who affected to be the Son of God, etc.

“But no one laid hands on Him.” Our Lord by His innate power restrained them from offering Him violence.

It may be, that those referred to in this verse, who would fain apprehend Him, are the same ministers who received orders to that effect (v. 32). The following (v. 45), renders this view very probable.

45, 46. The ministers commissioned by the Rulers to arrest Him, when on the first day, or some other day, He appeared in the Temple, did not do so, on that day. They then returned on the eighth day, “the great day of the festivity” (v. 37), when He appeared a second time during the Feast in the Temple (vv. 14–37), in order to carry out their commission, and being captivated by His eloquence, came back to their employers to whom, they were naturally so beholden, whose followers they were, and whose principles they had imbibed, and bore the most convincing testimony in His favour. Instead of their arresting and capturing Him, they were led captive by the divine force of His eloquence. “Never did man speak like this man.” This was the most convincing evidence in favour of our Lord’s teaching and the power of His Divine eloquence.

Whether the ministers sent to arrest our Lord (v. 32), came on more than one day to the Temple for that purpose, and deferred arresting Him, or whether they came only on the eighth or last day, is uncertain.

47. The Pharisees, these implacable enemies of our Lord, confirmed in iniquity, and rendered obdurate by sin, far from yielding to the impressions of grace, only derided and jeered at the testimony of their own servants. “Are you also,” as well as the ignorant crowd, you who have shared so largely in our confidence, and learned from us the principles of the law of Moses, “are you too seduced” by this impostor, so as to be inclined to receive Him for the Messiah.

48. They wished to remove the favourable impressions made by our Lord on their servants, by alleging that if He were a Prophet or the Messiah, “the Rulers,” members of the Sanhedrim, who regulated and controlled their religious rites and doctrines, and were themselves versed in the law, and “the Pharisees,” noted for their sanctity, filling offices of authority, would not fail to receive Him and believe in Him. But, the contrary was the fact—those men well versed in the law rejected Him. They did so, however, from envy, blind ambition and jealousy, seeing their own power and influence with the people on the wane. In their case were verified the words of our Lord (Matthew 11:25), “Abscondisti hæc a sapientibus et revelasti ea parvulis.” The weapons they employ are scorn and contempt, instead of argument.

49. “This multitude”—they speak of them in terms of scorn—“who knoweth not the law,” and, therefore, neglect to observe it, or believe the truths it announces; “are accursed,” that is, liable to the penalties threatened by God on the transgressors of the law. “Cursed is he who abideth not in the words of this law” (Deut. 27:26). The words may mean, deserving of contempt, of no consideration whatever.

50. Nicodemus (c. 3), this sincere, but hitherto timid follower of our Lord, “he that came to Him by night, who was one of them,” a member of the Sanhedrim or Supreme Council, now displays apostolic courage in defence of our Lord, and in reproaching His enemies with acting unjustly towards Him, and in violation of, at least, the spirit of the law in condemning Him unheard, and in pronouncing His followers as liable to a curse. Although it might be difficult to point out the text of the law, prohibiting what is here referred to; still, it is quite certain, that the whole spirit of the law of Moses, as seen in several places (Lev. 19:15–18, was, that justice should be done to the accused party, by a fair trial. The same was the practice of the Jews, as evidenced in the case of Susanna (Daniel). The same is dictated by the law of nature, or the law of justice itself, God’s own original law, with which the law of Moses is always in accord. It was strictly adhered to by moral Pagans and by the Romans in particular (Acts 25:16.)

What an example is held out here by Nicodemus to those placed in authority to defend the rights of God and religion, when unjustly assailed.

52. Far from listening to reason, they assail Nichodemus with cutting, scornful reproaches, calling him in terms of contempt, “a Galilean,” a follower of this impostor from Galilee. Art thou an abettor of this despised Galilean? “Galilean” was a term of reproach at this time. Julian, the apostate, mortally transfixed with the arrow or javelin of a Persian, cries out in defiant scorn, “Vicisti Galilæa.” They knew well Nicodemus was not from Galilee. But, they class him, a member of the Sanhedrim, with these despised Galileans. Ridicule is at all times a favourite weapon with infidels, for want of argument, in assailing the truths and practices of religion. In the Greek for “Galilean,” is read “from Galilee.”

“Search the Scriptures.” “Scriptures” is wanting in the Greek, in which the sentence runs thus:—“Search and see that out of Galilee a Prophet riseth not.” In the Greek, “ariseth” is in the past tense, “hath arisen.” A foolish argument, indeed. For, even if true, which is disputed by many, that hitherto no Prophet came out of Galilee, it would not follow, that a Prophet might not come out of it, hereafter. If urged, the argument would prove that the first Prophet, who came out of a country, was no Prophet. Some one must come forth, first. It would prove that Elias the Thesbite was no Prophet; for, he first came out of Thesbis. Besides, the fact is questioned by many. Some say, Debora, the Prophetess, was a Galilean, of the tribe of Zabulon and Nepthali. So was Anna the Prophetess, of the tribe of Aser (Luke 2:36).

The argument of the Pharisees is beside the point; since, Nicodemus said nothing of our Lord being a Prophet. He only spoke of the injustice of condemning Him unheard and unconvicted.

53. The remarks of Nicodemus had some effect for the present. For, the assembly broke up in confusion, without giving them an opportunity, this time, of carrying out their murderous designs, against our Blessed Lord. God’s Providence had so arranged it, as His hour was not yet come.

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