Resources » Matthew Henry's Commentary » John » Chapter 8 » Verses 48–50

Verses 48–50

Here is, I. The malice of hell breaking out in the base language which the unbelieving Jews gave to our Lord Jesus. Hitherto they had cavilled at his doctrine, and had made invidious remarks upon it; but, having shown themselves uneasy when he complained (John 8:43, 47) that they would not hear him, now at length they fall to downright railing, John 8:48. They were not the common people, but, as it should seem, the scribes and Pharisees, the men of consequence, who, when they saw themselves convicted of an obstinate infidelity, scornfully turned off the conviction with this: Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? See here, see it and wonder, see it and tremble,

1. What was the blasphemous character commonly given of our Lord Jesus among the wicked Jews, to which they refer. (1.) That he was a Samaritan, that is, that he was an enemy to their church and nation, one that they hated and could not endure. Thus they exposed him to the ill will of the people, with whom you could not put a man into a worse name than to call him a Samaritan. If he had been a Samaritan, he had been punishable, by the beating of the rebels (as they called it), for coming into the temple. They had often enough called him a Galilean—a mean man; but as if that were not enough, though it contradicted the other, they will have him a Samaritan—a bad man. The Jews to this day call the Christians, in reproach, Cuthaei-Samaritans. Note, Great endeavours have in all ages been used to make good people odious by putting them under black characters, and it is easy to run that down with a crowd and a cry which is once put into an ill name. Perhaps because Christ justly inveighed against the pride and tyranny of the priests and elders, they hereby suggest that he aimed at the ruin of their church, in aiming at its reformation, and was falling away to the Samaritans. (2.) That he had a devil. Either, [1.] That he was in league with the devil. Having reproached his doctrine as tending to Samaritanism, here they reflect upon his miracles as done in combination with Beelzebub. Or, rather [2.] That he was possessed with a devil, that he was a melancholy man, whose brain was clouded, or a mad man, whose brain was heated, and that which he said was no more to be believed than the extravagant rambles of a distracted man, or one in a delirium. Thus the divine revelation of those things which are above the discovery of reason have been often branded with the charge of enthusiasm, and the prophet was called a mad fellow, 2 Kgs. 9:11; Hos. 9:7. The inspiration of the Pagan oracles and prophets was indeed a frenzy, and those that had it were for the time beside themselves; but that which was truly divine was not so. Wisdom is justified of her children, as wisdom indeed.

2. How they undertook to justify this character, and applied it to the present occasion: Say we not well that thou art so? One would think that his excellent discourses should have altered their opinion of him, and have made them recant; but, instead of this, their hearts were more hardened and their prejudices confirmed. They value themselves on their enmity to Christ, as if they had never spoken better than when they spoke the worst they could of Jesus Christ. Those have arrived at the highest pitch of wickedness who avow their impiety, repeat what they should retract, and justify themselves in that for which they ought to condemn themselves. It is bad to say and do ill, but it is worse to stand to it; I do well to be angry. When Christ spoke with so much boldness against the sins of the great men, and thereby incensed them against him, those who were sensible of no interest but what is secular and sensual concluded him beside himself, for they thought none but a madman would lose his preferment, and hazard his life, for his religion and conscience.

II. The meekness and mercifulness of Heaven shining in Christ’s reply to this vile calumny, John 8:49, 50.

1. He denies their charge against him: I have not a devil; as Paul (Acts 26:25), I am not mad. The imputation is unjust; “I am neither actuated by a devil, nor in compact with one;” and this he evidenced by what he did against the devil’s kingdom. He takes no notice of their calling him a Samaritan, because it was a calumny that disproved itself, it was a personal reflection, and not worth taking notice of: but saying he had a devil reflected on his commission, and therefore he answered that. St. Augustine gives this gloss upon his not saying any thing to their calling him a Samaritan—that he was indeed that good Samaritan spoken of in the parable, Luke 10:33.

2. He asserts the sincerity of his own intentions: But I honour my Father. They suggested that he took undue honours to himself, and derogated from the honour due to God only, both which he denies here, in saying that he made it his business to honour his Father, and him only. It also proves that he had not a devil; for, if he had, he would not honour God. Note, Those who can truly way that they make it their constant care to honour God are sufficiently armed against the censures and reproaches of men.

3. He complains of the wrong they did him by their calumnies: You do dishonour me. By this it appears that, as man, he had a tender sense of the disgrace and indignity done him; reproach was a sword in his bones, and yet he underwent it for our salvation. It is the will of God that all men should honour the Son, yet there are many that dishonour him; such a contradiction is there in the carnal mind to the will of God. Christ honoured his Father so as never man did, and yet was himself dishonoured so as never man was; for, though God has promised that those who honour him he will honour, he never promised that men should honour them.

4. He clears himself from the imputation of vain glory, in saying this concerning himself, John 8:50. See here, (1.) His contempt of worldly honour: I seek not mine own glory. He did not aim at this in what he had said of himself or against his persecutors; he did not court the applause of men, nor covet preferment in the world, but industriously declined both. He did not seek his own glory distinct from his Father’s, nor had any separate interest of his own. For men to search their own glory is not glory indeed (Prov. 25:27), but rather their shame to be so much out in their aim. This comes in here as a reason why Christ made so light of their reproaches: “You do dishonour me, but cannot disturb me, shall not disquiet me, for I seek not my own glory.” Note, Those who are dead to men’s praise can safely bear their contempt. (2.) His comfort under worldly dishonour: There is one that seeketh and judgeth. In two things Christ made it appear that he sought not his own glory; and here he tells us what satisfied him as to both. [1.] He did not court men’s respect, but was indifferent to it, and in reference to this he saith, “There is one that seeketh, that will secure and advance, my interest in the esteem and affections of the people, while I am in no care about it.” Note, God will seek their honour that do not seek their own; for before honour is humility. [2.] He did not revenge men’s affronts, but was unconcerned at them, and in reference to this he saith, “There is one that judgeth, that will vindicate my honour, and severely reckon with those that trample upon it.” Probably he refers here to the judgments that were coming upon the nation of the Jews for the indignities they did to the Lord Jesus. See Ps. 37:13-15. I heard not, for thou wilt hear. If we undertake to judge for ourselves, whatever damage we sustain, our recompence is in our own hands; but if we be, as we ought to be, humble appellants and patient expectants, we shall find, to our comfort, there is one that judgeth.