Here is, I. Christ’s public preaching in the temple (John 7:14): He went up into the temple, and taught, according to his custom when he was at Jerusalem. His business was to preach the gospel of the kingdom, and he did it in every place of concourse. His sermon is not recorded, because, probably, it was to the same purport with the sermons he had preached in Galilee, which were recorded by the other evangelists. For the gospel is the same to the plain and to the polite. But that which is observable here is that it was about the midst of the feast; the fourth or fifth day of the eight. Whether he did not come up to Jerusalem till the middle of the feast, or whether he came up at the beginning, but kept private till now, is not certain. But, Query, Why did he not go to the temple sooner, to preach? Answer, 1. Because the people would have more leisure to hear him, and, it might be hoped, would be better disposed to hear him, when they had spent some days in their booths, as they did at the feast of tabernacles. 2. Because he would choose to appear when both his friends and his enemies had done looking for him; and so give a specimen of the method he would observe in his appearances, which is to come at midnight, Matt. 25:6. But why did he appear thus publicly now? Surely it was to shame his persecutors, the chief priests and elders. (1.) By showing that, though they were very bitter against him, yet he did not fear them, nor their power. See Isa. 50:7, 8. (2.) By taking their work out of their hands. Their office was to teach the people in the temple, and particularly at the feast of tabernacles, Neh. 8:17, 18. But they either did not teach them at all or taught for doctrines the commandments of men, and therefore he goes up to the temple and teaches the people. When the shepherds of Israel made a prey of the flock it was time for the chief Shepherd to appear, as was promised. Ezek. 34:22, 23; Mal. 3:1.
II. His discourse with the Jews hereupon; and the conference is reducible to four heads:
1. Concerning his doctrine. See here,
(1.) How the Jews admired it (John 7:15): They marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned? Observe here, [1.] That our Lord Jesus was not educated in the schools of the prophets, or at the feet of the rabbin; not only did not travel for learning, as the philosophers did, but did not make any use of the schools and academies in his own country. Moses was taught the learning of the Egyptians, but Christ was not taught so much as the learning of the Jews; having received the Spirit without measure, he needed not receive any knowledge from man, or by man. At the time of Christ’s appearing, learning flourished both in the Roman empire and in the Jewish church more than in any age before or since, and in such a time of enquiry Christ chose to establish his religion, not in an illiterate age, lest it should look like a design to impose upon the world; yet he himself studied not the learning then in vogue. [2.] That Christ had letters, though he had never learned them; was mighty in the scriptures, though he never had any doctor of the law for his tutor. It is necessary that Christ’s ministers should have learning, as he had; and since they cannot expect to have it as he had it, by inspiration, they must take pains to get it in an ordinary way. [3.] That Christ’s having learning, though he had not been taught it, made him truly great and wonderful; the Jews speak of it here with wonder. First, Some, it is likely, took notice of it to his honour: He that had no human learning, and yet so far excelled all that had, certainly must be endued with a divine knowledge. Secondly, Others, probably, mentioned it in disparagement and contempt of him: Whatever he seems to have, he cannot really have any true learning, for he was never at the university, nor took his degree. Thirdly, Some perhaps suggested that he had got his learning by magic arts, or some unlawful means or other. Since they know not how he could be a scholar, they will think him a conjurer.
(2.) What he asserted concerning it; three things:—
[1.] That his doctrine is divine (John 7:16): My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. They were offended because he undertook to teach though he had never learned, in answer to which he tells them that his doctrine was such as was not to be learned, for it was not the product of human thought and natural powers enlarged and elevated by reading and conversation, but it was a divine revelation. As God, equal with the Father, he might truly have said, My doctrine is mine, and his that sent me; but being now in his estate of humiliation, and being, as Mediator, God’s servant, it was more congruous to say, “My doctrine is not mine, not mine only, nor mine originally, as man and mediator, but his that sent me; it does not centre in myself, nor lead ultimately to myself, but to him that sent me.” God had promised concerning the great prophet that he would put his words into his mouth (Deut. 18:18), to which Christ seems here to refer. Note, It is the comfort of those who embrace Christ’s doctrine, and the condemnation of those who reject it, that it is a divine doctrine: it is of God and not of man.
[2.] That the most competent judges of the truth and divine authority of Christ’s doctrine are those that with a sincere and upright heart desire and endeavour to do the will of God (John 7:17): If any man be willing to do the will of God, have his will melted into the will of God, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God or whether I speak of myself. Observe here, First, What the question is, concerning the doctrine of Christ, whether it be of God or no; whether the gospel be a divine revelation or an imposture. Christ himself was willing to have his doctrine enquired into, whether it were of God or no, much more should his ministers; and we are concerned to examine what grounds we go upon, for, if we be deceived, we are miserably deceived. Secondly, Who are likely to succeed in this search: those that do the will of God, at least are desirous to do it. Now see, 1. Who they are that will do the will of God. They are such as are impartial in their enquiries concerning the will of God, and are not biassed by any lust or interest, and such as are resolved by the grace of God, when they find out what the will of God is, to conform to it. They are such as have an honest principle of regard to God, and are truly desirous to glorify and please him. 2. Whence it is that such a one shall know of the truth of Christ’s doctrine. (1.) Christ has promised to give knowledge to such; he hath said, He shall know, and he can give an understanding. Those who improve the light they have, and carefully live up to it, shall be secured by divine grace from destructive mistakes. (2.) They are disposed and prepared to receive that knowledge. He that is inclined to submit to the rules of the divine law is disposed to admit the rays of divine light. To him that has shall be given; those have a good understanding that do his commandments, Ps. 111:10. Those who resemble God are most likely to understand him.
[3.] That hereby it appeared that Christ, as a teacher, did not speak of himself, because he did not seek himself, John 7:18. First, See here the character of a deceiver: he seeketh his own glory, which is a sign that he speaks of himself, as the false Christs and false prophets did. Here is the description of the cheat: they speak of themselves, and have no commission nor instructions from God; no warrant but their own will, no inspiration but their own imagination, their own policy and artifice. Ambassadors speak not of themselves; those ministers disclaim that character who glory in this that they speak of themselves. But see the discovery of the cheat; by this their pretensions are disproved, they consult purely their own glory; self-seekers are self-speakers. Those who speak from God will speak for God, and for his glory; those who aim at their own preferment and interest make it to appear that they had no commission form God. Secondly, See the contrary character Christ gives of himself and his doctrine: He that seeks his glory that sent him, as I do, makes it to appear that he is true. 1. He was sent of God. Those teachers, and those only, who are sent of God, are to be received and entertained by us. Those who bring a divine message must prove a divine mission, either by special revelation or by regular institution. 2. He sought the glory of God. It was both the tendency of his doctrine and the tenour of his whole conversation to glorify God. 3. This was a proof that he was true, and there was no unrighteousness in him. False teachers are most unrighteous; they are unjust to God whose name they abuse, and unjust to the souls of men whom they impose upon. There cannot be a greater piece of unrighteousness than this. But Christ made it appear that he was true, that he was really what he said he was, that there was no unrighteousness in him, no falsehood in his doctrine, no fallacy nor fraud in his dealings with us.
2. They discourse concerning the crime that was laid to his charge for curing the impotent man, and bidding him carry his bed on the sabbath day, for which they had formerly prosecuted him, and which was still the pretence of their enmity to him.
(1.) He argues against them by way of recrimination, convicting them of far worse practices, John 7:19. How could they for shame censure him for a breach of the law of Moses, when they themselves were such notorious breakers of it? Did not Moses give you the law? And it was their privilege that they had the law, no nation had such a law; but it was their wickedness that none of them kept the law, that they rebelled against it, and lived contrary to it. Many that have the law given them, when they have it do not keep it. Their neglect of the law was universal: None of you keepeth it: neither those of them that were in posts of honour, who should have been most knowing, nor those who were in posts of subjection, who should have been most obedient. They boasted of the law, and pretended a zeal for it, and were enraged at Christ for seeming to transgress it, and yet none of them kept it; like those who say that they are for the church, and yet never go to church. It was an aggravation of their wickedness, in persecuting Christ for breaking the law, that they themselves did not keep it: “None of you keepeth the law, why then go ye about to kill me for not keeping it?” Note, Those are commonly most censorious of others who are most faulty themselves. Thus hypocrites, who are forward to pull a mote out of their brother’s eye, are not aware of a beam in their own. Why go ye about to kill me? Some take this as the evidence of their not keeping the law: “You keep not the law; if you did, you would understand yourselves better than to go about to kill me for doing a good work.” Those that support themselves and their interest by persecution and violence, whatever they pretend (though they may call themselves custodes utriusque tabulae—the guardians of both tables), are not keepers of the law of God. Chemnitius understands this as a reason why it was time to supersede the law of Moses by the gospel, because the law was found insufficient to restrain sin: “Moses gave you the law, but you do not keep it, nor are kept by it from the greatest wickedness; there is therefore need of a clearer light and better law to be brought in; why then do you aim to kill me for introducing it?”
Here the people rudely interrupted him in his discourse, and contradicted what he said (John 7:20): Thou has a devil; who goes about to kill thee? This intimates, [1.] The good opinion they had of their rulers, who, they think, would never attempt so atrocious a thing as to kill him; no, such a veneration they had for their elders and chief priests that they would swear for them they would do no harm to an innocent man. Probably the rulers had their little emissaries among the people who suggested this to them; many deny that wickedness which at the same time they are contriving. [2.] The ill opinion they had of our Lord Jesus: “Thou hast a devil, thou art possessed with a lying spirit, and art a bad man for saying so;” so some: or rather, “Thou art melancholy, and art a weak man; thou frightenest thyself with causeless fears, as hypochondriacal people are apt to do.” Not only open frenzies, but silent melancholies, were then commonly imputed to the power of Satan. “Thou art crazed, has a distempered brain.” Let us not think it strange if the best of men are put under the worst of characters. To this vile calumny our Saviour returns no direct answer, but seems as if he took no notice of it. Note, Those who would be like Christ must put up with affronts, and pass by the indignities and injuries done them; must not regard them, much less resent them, and least of all revenge them. I, as a deaf man, heard not. When Christ was reviled, he reviled not again,
(2.) He argues by way of appeal and vindication.
[1.] He appeals to their own sentiments of this miracle: “I have done one work, and you all marvel, John 7:21. You cannot choose but marvel at it as truly great, and altogether supernatural; you must all own it to be marvellous.” Or, “Though I have done but one work that you have any colour to find fault with, yet you marvel, you are offended and displeased as if I had been guilty of some heinous or enormous crime.”
[2.] He appeals to their own practice in other instances: “I have done one work on the sabbath, and it was done easily, with a word’s speaking, and you all marvel, you make a mighty strange thing of it, that a religious man should dare do such a thing, whereas you yourselves many a time do that which is a much more servile work on the sabbath day, in the case of circumcision; if it be lawful for you, nay, and your duty, to circumcise a child on the sabbath day, when it happens to be the eighth day, as no doubt it is, much more was it lawful and good for me to heal a diseased man on that day.” Observe,
First, The rise and origin of circumcision: Moses gave you circumcision, gave you the law concerning it. Here, 1. Circumcision is said to be given, and (John 7:23) they are said to receive it; it was not imposed upon them as a yoke, but conferred upon them as a favour. Note, The ordinances of God, and particularly those which are seals of the covenant, are gifts given to men, and are to be received as such. 2. Moses is said to give it, because it was a part of that law which was given by Moses; yet, as Christ said of the manna (John 6:32), Moses did not give it them, but God; nay, and it was not of Moses first, but of the fathers, John 7:22. Though it was incorporated into the Mosaic institution, yet it was ordained long before, for it was a seal of the righteousness of faith, and therefore commenced with the promise four hundred and thirty years before, Gal. 3:17. The church membership of believers and their seed was not of Moses or his law, and therefore did not fall with it; but was of the fathers, belonged to the patriarchal church, and was part of that blessing of Abraham which was to come upon the Gentiles, Gal. 3:14.
Secondly, The respect paid to the law of circumcision above that of the sabbath, in the constant practice of the Jewish church. The Jewish casuists frequently take notice of it, Circumcisio et ejus sanatio pellit sabbbatum—Circumcision and its cure drive away the sabbath; so that if a child was born one sabbath day it was without fail circumcised the next. If then, when the sabbath rest was more strictly insisted on, yet those works were allowed which were in ordine ad spiritualia—for the keeping up of religion, much more are they allowed now under the gospel, when the stress is laid more upon the sabbath work.
Thirdly, The inference Christ draws hence in justification of himself, and of what he had done (John 7:23): A man-child on the sabbath day receives circumcision, that the law of circumcision might not be broken; or, as the margin reads it, without breaking the law, namely, of the sabbath. Divine commands must be construed so as to agree with each other. “Now, if this be allowed by yourselves, how unreasonable are you, who are angry with me because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day!” emoi cholate. The word is used only here, from choge—fel, gall. They were angry at him with the greatest indignation; it was a spiteful anger, anger with gall in it. Note, It is very absurd and unreasonable for us to condemn others for that in which we justify ourselves. Observe the comparison Christ here makes between their circumcising a child and his healing a man on the sabbath day. 1. Circumcision was but a ceremonial institution; it was of the fathers indeed, but not from the beginning; but what Christ did was a good work by the law of nature, a more excellent law than that which made circumcision a good work. 2. Circumcision was a bloody ordinance, and made sore; but what Christ did was healing, and made whole. The law works pain, and, if that work may be done on the sabbath day, much more a gospel work, which produces peace. 3. Especially considering that whereas, when they had circumcised a child, their care was only to heal up that part which was circumcised, which might be done and yet the child remain under other illnesses, Christ had made this man every whit whole, holon anthropon hygie—I have made the whole man healthful and sound. The whole body was healed, for the disease affected the whole body; and it was a perfect cure, such as left no relics of the disease behind; nay, Christ not only healed his body, but his soul too, by that admonition, Go, and sin no more, and so indeed made the whole man sound, for the soul is the man. Circumcision indeed was intended for the good of the soul, and to make the whole man as it should be; but they had perverted it, and turned it into a mere carnal ordinance; but Christ accompanied his outward cures with inward grace, and so made them sacramental, and healed the whole man.
He concludes this argument with that rule (John 7:24): Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. This may be applied, either, First, In particular, to this work which they quarrelled with as a violation of the law. Be not partial in your judgment; judge not, kat opsin—with respect of persons; knowing faces, as the Hebrew phrase is, Deut. 1:17. It is contrary to the law of justice, as well as charity, to censure those who differ in opinion from us as transgressors, in taking that liberty which yet in those of our own party, and way, and opinion, we allow of; as it is also to commend that in some as necessary strictness and severity which in others we condemn as imposition and persecution. Or, Secondly, In general, to Christ’s person and preaching, which they were offended at and prejudiced against. Those things that are false, and designed to impose upon men, commonly appear best when they are judged of according to the outward appearance, they appear most plausible prima facie—at the first glance. It was this that gained the Pharisees such an interest and reputation, that they appeared right unto men (Matt. 23:27, 28), and men judged of them by that appearance, and so were sadly mistaken in them. “But,” saith Christ, “be not too confident that all are real saints who are seeming ones.” With reference to himself, his outward appearance was far short of his real dignity and excellency, for he took upon him the form of a servant (Phil. 2:7), was in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom. 8:3), had no form nor comeliness, Isa. 53:2. So that those who undertook to judge whether he was the Son of God or no by his outward appearance were not likely to judge righteous judgment. The Jews expected the outward appearance of the Messiah to be pompous and magnificent, and attended with all the ceremonies of secular grandeur; and, judging of Christ by that rule, their judgment was from first to last a continual mistake, for the kingdom of Christ was not to be of this world, nor to come with observation. If a divine power accompanied him, and God bore him witness, and the scriptures were fulfilled in him, though his appearance was ever so mean, they ought to receive him, and to judge by faith, and not by the sight of the eye. See Isa. 11:3; 1 Sam. 16:7. Christ and his doctrine and doings desire nothing but righteous judgment; if truth and justice may but pass the sentence, Christ and his cause will carry the day. We must not judge concerning any by their outward appearance, not by their titles, the figure they make in the world, and their fluttering show, but by their intrinsic worth, and the gifts and graces of God’s Spirit in them.
3. Christ discourses with them here concerning himself, whence he came, and whither he was going, John 7:25-36.
(1.) Whence he came, John 7:25-31. In the account of this observe,
[1.] The objection concerning this stated by some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who seem to have been of all others most prejudiced against him, John 7:25. One would think that those who lived at the fountain-head of knowledge and religion should have been most ready to receive the Messiah: but it proved quite contrary. Those that have plenty of the means of knowledge and grace, if they are not made better by them, are commonly made worse; and our Lord Jesus has often met with the least welcome from those that one would expect the best from. But it was not without some just cause that it came into a proverb, The nearer the church the further from God. These people of Jerusalem showed their ill-will to Christ,
First, By their reflecting on the rulers, because they let him alone: Isa. not this he whom they seek to kill? The multitude of the people that came up out of the country to the feast did not suspect there was any design on foot against him, and therefore they said, Who goes about to kill thee? John 7:20. But those of Jerusalem knew the plot, and irritated their rulers to put it into execution: “Isa. not this he whom they seek to kill? Why do they not do it then? Who hinders them? They say that they have a mind to get him out of the way, and yet, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing to him; do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ?” John 7:26. Here they slyly and maliciously insinuate two things, to exasperate the rulers against Christ, when indeed they needed to spur. 1. That by conniving at his preaching they brought their authority into contempt. “Must a man that is condemned by the sanhedrim as a deceiver be permitted to speak boldly, without any check or contradiction? This makes their sentence to be but brutem fulmen—a vain menace; if our rulers will suffer themselves to be thus trampled upon, they may thank themselves if none stand in awe of them and their laws.” Note, The worst of persecutions have often been carried on under colour of the necessary support of authority and government. 2. That hereby they brought their judgment into suspicion. Do they know that this is the Christ? It is spoken ironically, “How came they to change their mind? What new discovery have they lighted on? They give people occasion to think that they believe him to be the Christ, and it behoves them to act vigorously against him to clear themselves from the suspicion.” Thus the rulers, who had made the people enemies to Christ, made them seven times more the children of hell than themselves, Matt. 23:15. When religion and the profession of Christ’s name are out of fashion, and consequently out of repute, many are strongly tempted to persecute and oppose them, only that they may not be thought to favour them and incline to them. And for this reason apostates, and the degenerate offspring of good parents, have been sometimes worse than others, as it were to wipe off the stain of their profession. It was strange that the rulers, thus irritated, did not seize Christ; but his hour was not yet come; and God can tie men’s hands to admiration, though he should not turn their hearts.
Secondly, By their exception against his being the Christ, in which appeared more malice than matter, John 7:27. “If the rulers think him to be the Christ, we neither can nor will believe him to be so, for we have this argument against it, that we know this man, whence he is; but when Christ comes no man knows whence he is.” Here is a fallacy in the argument, for the propositions are not body ad idem—adapted to the same view of the subject. 1. If they speak of his divine nature, it is true that when Christ comes no man knows whence he is, for he is a priest after the order of Melchizedek, who was without descent, and his goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting, Mic. 5:2. But then it is not true that as for this man they knew whence he was, for they knew not his divine nature, nor how the Word was made flesh. 2. If they speak of his human nature, it is true that they knew whence he was, who was his mother, and where he was bred up; but then it is false that ever it was said of the Messiah that none should know whence he was, for it was known before where he should be born, Matt. 2:4, 5. Observe, (1.) How they despised him, because they knew whence he was. Familiarity breeds contempt, and we are apt to disdain the use of those whom we know the rise of. Christ’s own received him not, because he was their own, for which very reason they should the rather have loved him, and been thankful that their nation and their age were honoured with his appearance. (2.) How they endeavoured unjustly to fasten the ground of their prejudice upon the scriptures, as if they countenanced them, when there was no such thing. Therefore people err concerning Christ, because they know not the scripture.
[2.] Christ’s answer to this objection, John 7:28, 29.
First, He spoke freely and boldly, he cried in the temple, as he taught, he spoke this louder than the rest of his discourse, 1. To express his earnestness, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts. There may be a vehemency in contending for the truth where yet there is no intemperate heat nor passion. We may instruct gainsayers with warmth, and yet with meekness. 2. The priests and those that were prejudiced against him, did not come near enough to hear his preaching, and therefore he must speak louder than ordinary what he will have them to hear. Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear this.
Secondly, His answer to their cavil is, 1. By way of concession, granting that they did or might know his origin as to the flesh: “You both know me, and you know whence I am. You know I am of your own nation, and one of yourselves.” It is no disparagement to the doctrine of Christ that there is that in it which is level to the capacities of the meanest, plain truths, discovered even by nature’s light, of which we may say, We know whence they are. “You know me, you think you know me; but you are mistaken; you take me to be the carpenter’s son, and born at Nazareth, but it is not so.” 2. By way of negation, denying that that which they did see in him, and know of him, was all that was to be known; and therefore, if they looked no further, they judged by the outward appearance only. They knew whence he came perhaps, and where he had his birth, but he will tell them what they knew not, from whom he came. (1.) That he did not come of himself; that he did not run without sending, nor come as a private person, but with a public character. (2.) That he was sent of his Father; this is twice mentioned: He hath sent me. And again, “He hath sent me, to say what I say, and do what I do.” This he was himself well assured of, and therefore knew that his Father would bear him out; and it is well for us that we are assured of it too, that we may with holy confidence go to God by him. (3.) That he was from his Father, par autou eimi—I am from him; not only sent from him as a servant from his master, but from him by eternal generation, as a son from his father, by essential emanation, as the beams from the sun. (4.) That the Father who sent him is true; he had promised to give the Messiah, and, though the Jews had forfeited the promise, yet he that made the promise is true, and has performed it. He had promised that the Messiah should see his seed, and be successful in his undertaking; and, though the generality of the Jews reject him and his gospel, yet he is true, and will fulfil the promise in the calling of the Gentiles. (5.) That these unbelieving Jews did not know the Father: He that sent me, whom you know not. There is much ignorance of God even with many that have a form of knowledge; and the true reason why people reject Christ is because they do not know God; for there is such a harmony of the divine attributes in the work of redemption, and such an admirable agreement between natural and revealed religion, that the right knowledge of the former would not only admit, but introduce, the latter. (6.) Our Lord Jesus was intimately acquainted with the Father that sent him: but I know him. He knew him so well that he was not at all in doubt concerning his mission from him, but perfectly assured of it; nor at all in the dark concerning the work he had to do, but perfectly apprized of it, Matt. 11:27.
[3.] The provocation which this gave to his enemies, who hated him because he told them the truth, John 7:30. They sought therefore to take him, to lay violent hands on him, not only to do him a mischief, but some way or other to be the death of him; but by the restraint of an invisible power it was prevented; nobody touched him, because his hour was not yet come; this was not their reason why they did it not, but God’s reason why he hindered them from doing it. Note, First, The faithful preachers of the truths of God, though they behave themselves with ever so much prudence and meekness, must expect to be hated and persecuted by those who think themselves tormented by their testimony, Rev. 11:10. Secondly, God has wicked men in a chain, and, whatever mischief they would do, they can do no more than God will suffer them to do. The malice of persecutors is impotent even when it is most impetuous, and, when Satan fills their hearts, yet God ties their hands. Thirdly, God’s servants are sometimes wonderfully protected by indiscernible unaccountable means. Their enemies do not do the mischief they designed, and yet neither they themselves nor any one else can tell why they do not. Fourthly, Christ had his hour set, which was to put a period to his day and work on earth; so have all his people and all his ministers, and, till that hour comes, the attempts of their enemies against them are ineffectual, and their day shall be lengthened as long as their Master has any work for them to do; nor can all the powers of hell and earth prevail against them, until they have finished their testimony.
[4.] The good effect which Christ’s discourse had, notwithstanding this, upon some of his hearers (John 7:31): Many of the people believed on him. As he was set for the fall of some, so for the rising again of others. Even where the gospel meets with opposition there may yet be a great deal of good done, 1 Thess. 2:2. Observe here, First, Who they were that believed; not a few, but many, more than one would have expected when the stream ran so strongly the other way. But these many were of the people, ek tou ochlou—of the multitude, the crowd, the inferior sort, the mob, the rabble, some would have called them. We must not measure the prosperity of the gospel by its success among the great ones; nor much ministers say that they labour in vain, though none but the poor, and those of no figure, receive the gospel, 1 Cor. 1:26. Secondly, What induced them to believe: the miracles which he did, which were not only the accomplishment of the Old-Testament prophecies (Isa. 35:5, 6), but an argument of a divine power. He that had an ability to do that which none but God can do, to control and overrule the powers of nature, no doubt had authority to enact that which none but God can enact, a law that shall bind conscience, and a covenant that shall give life. Thirdly, How weak their faith was: they do not positively assert, as the Samaritans did, This is indeed the Christ, but they only argue, When Christ comes will he do more miracles than these? They take it for granted that Christ will come, and, when he comes, will do many miracles. “Isa. not this he then? In him we see, though not all the worldly pomp we have fancied, yet all the divine power we have believed the Messiah should appear in; and therefore why may not this be he?” They believe it, but have not courage to own it. Note, Even weak faith may be true faith, and so accounted, so accepted, by the Lord Jesus, who despises not the day of small things.
(2.) Whither he was going, John 7:32-36. Here observe,
[1.] The design of the Pharisees and chief priests against him, John 7:32. First, The provocation given them was that they had information brought them by their spies, who insinuated themselves into the conversation of the people, and gathered stories to carry to their jealous masters, that the people murmured such things concerning him, that there were many who had a respect and value for him, notwithstanding all they had done to render him odious. Though the people did but whisper these things, and had not courage to speak out, yet the Pharisees were enraged at it. The equity of that government is justly suspected by others which is so suspicious of itself as to take notice of, or be influenced by, the secret, various, uncertain mutterings of the common people. The Pharisees valued themselves very much upon the respect of the people, and were sensible that if Christ did thus increase they must decrease. Secondly, The project they laid hereupon was to seize Jesus, and take him into custody: They sent officers to take him, not to take up those who murmured concerning him and frighten them; no, the most effectual way to disperse the flock is to smite the shepherd. The Pharisees seem to have been the ringleaders in this prosecution, but they, as such, had no power, and therefore they god the chief priests, the judges of the ecclesiastical court, to join with them, who were ready enough to do so. The Pharisees were the great pretenders to learning, and the chief priests to sanctify. As the world by wisdom knew not God, but the greatest philosophers were guilty of the greatest blunders in natural religion, so the Jewish church by their wisdom knew not Christ, but their greatest rabbin were the greatest fools concerning him, nay, they were the most inveterate enemies to him. Those wicked rulers had their officers, officers of their court, church-officers, whom they employed to take Christ, and who were ready to go on their errand, though it was an ill errand. If Saul’s footmen will not turn and fall upon the priests of the Lord, he has a herdsman that will, 1 Sam. 22:17, 18.
[2.] The discourse of our Lord Jesus hereupon (John 7:33, 34): Yet a little while I am with you, and then I go to him that sent me; you shall seek me, and shall not find me; and where I am, thither you cannot come. These words, like the pillar of cloud and fire, have a bright side and a dark side.
First, They have a bright side towards our Lord Jesus himself, and speak abundance of comfort to him and all his faithful followers that are exposed to difficulties and dangers for his sake. Three things Christ here comforted himself with:—1. That he had but a little time to continue here in this troublesome world. He sees that he is never likely to have a quiet day among them; but the best of it is his warfare will shortly be accomplished, and then he shall be no more in this world, John 17:11. Whomsoever we are with in this world, friends or foes, it is but a little while that we shall be with them; and it is a matter of comfort to those who are in the world, but not of it, and therefore are hated by it and sick of it, that they shall not be in it always, they shall not be in it long. We must be awhile with those that are pricking briars and grieving thorns; but thanks be to God, it is but a little while, and we shall be out of their reach. Our days being evil, it is well they are few. 2. That, when he should quit this troublesome world, he should go to him that sent him; I go. Not, “I am driven away by force,” but, “I voluntarily go; having finished my embassy, I return to him on whose errand I came. When I have done my work with you, then, and not till then, I go to him that sent me, and will receive me, will prefer me, as ambassadors are preferred when they return.” Their rage against him would not only not hinder him from, but would hasten him to the glory and joy that were set before him. Let those who suffer for Christ comfort themselves with this, that they have a God to go to, and are going to him, going apace, to be for ever with him. 3. That, though they persecuted him here, wherever he went, yet none of their persecutions could follow him to heaven: You shall seek me, and shall not find me. It appears, by their enmity to his followers when he was gone, that if they could have reached him they would have persecuted him: “But you cannot enter into that temple as you do into this.” Where I am, that is, where I then shall be; but he expressed it thus because, even when he was on earth, by his divine nature and divine affections he was in heaven, John 3:13. Or it denotes that he should be so soon there that he was as good as there already. Note, It adds to the happiness of glorified saints that they are out of the reach of the devil and all his wicked instruments.
Secondly, These words have a black and dark side towards those wicked Jews that hated and persecuted Christ. They now longed to be rid of him, Away with him from the earth; but let them know, 1. That according to their choice so shall their doom be. They were industrious to drive him from them, and their sin shall be their punishment; he will not trouble them long, yet a little while and he will depart from them. It is just with God to forsake those that think his presence a burden. They that are weary of Christ need no more to make them miserable than to have their wish. 2. That they would certainly repent their choice when it was too late. (1.) They should in vain seek the presence of the Messiah: “You shall seek me, and shall not find me. You shall expect the Christ to come, but your eyes shall fail with looking for him, and you shall never find him.” Those who rejected the true Messiah when he did come were justly abandoned to a miserable and endless expectation of one that should never come. Or, it may refer to the final rejection of sinners from the favours and grace of Christ at the great day: those who now seek Christ shall find him, but the day is coming when those who now refuse him shall seek him, and shall not find him. See Prov. 1:28. They will in vain cry, Lord, Lord, open to us. Or, perhaps, these words might be fulfilled in the despair of some of the Jews, who possibly might be convinced and not converted, who would wish in vain to see Christ, and to hear him preach again; but the day of grace is over (Luke 17:22); yet this is not all. (2.) They should in vain expect a place in heaven: Where I am, and where all believers shall be with me, thither ye cannot come. Not only because they are excluded by the just and irreversible sentence of the judge, and the sword of the angel at every gate of the new Jerusalem, to keep the way of the tree of life against those who have no right to enter, but because they are disabled by their own iniquity and infidelity: You cannot come, because you will not. Those who hate to be where Christ is, in his word and ordinances on earth, are very unfit to be where he is in his glory in heaven; for indeed heaven would be no heaven to them, such are the antipathies of an unsanctified soul to the felicities of that state.
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