Exercitations upon the Evangelist St. John
Verses: 1, 2, 5, 13, 23, 26, 27, 30, 33, 38
Verses: 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 16, 17, 26, 30, 31
Verses: 1, 3, 4, 6, 12, 15, 16, 22
Verses: 2, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 16, 24
(there is nothing for chapter 17)
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.
[Now before the feast of the Passover.] The Vulgar, Beza, and the Interlinear read, Now before the feast day of the Passover: but by what authority they add day it concerns them to make out. For,
I. In the common language of the Jews, the whole festivity and time of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles, no part of that time being excepted; nor does the word feast, occur anywhere throughout the whole Bible in another signification.
II. It is something harsh to exclude the paschal supper out of the title of the feast of the Passover, because the name of the whole feast takes its original from it. This they do who imagine this supper mentioned in this place to have been the paschal supper, and yet it was before the feast of the Passover.
We have therefore shewn, by many arguments in our notes upon Matthew 26:2,6, that the supper here mentioned was the same with that at Bethany, in the house of 'Simon the leper,' two days before the Passover.
2. And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him;
[And supper being ended.] I acknowledge the aorist, and yet do not believe the supper was now ended. We have the very same word in the story of the same supper, Matthew 26:6; and Jesus being in Bethany: which in St. Mark is and being in Bethany, chapter 14:3: so that supper being ended is no more than 'being' supper.
Let us join the full story together. While Jesus was at supper in the house of Simon the leper two days before the Passover, a woman comes and pours very precious ointment upon his head. When some murmured at the profuseness of the expense, he defends the woman and the action by an apology: and having finished his apology, he rises immediately from the table, as it were, in the very midst of supper, and girds himself to wash his disciples' feet: so that while they are grumbling at the anointing of his head, he does not disdain to wash their feet.
The reason of this extraordinary action of his we may in some measure spell out from those little prefaces the evangelist uses before he tells the story.
I. "When Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world, &c." [There is an expression not unlike this in Bemidbar Rabba; "Abraham said, 'I am flesh and blood, tomorrow I shall go out of this world.'"]
It had a little rubbed up the memory of his departure out of this world, that the woman had as it were anointed him for his funeral: and therefore he riseth immediately from the table, that he might give them some farewell token of his humility and charity, and leave them an example for the practice of these virtues one amongst another.
II. "The devil having now put into the heart of Judas to betray him," it was but seasonable for him to shew his disciples that he would strengthen and vindicate them against the wolf who had now stolen, I will not say a sheep, but a goat, and that out of his own flock. It must not pass unobserved, that 'his disciples' murmured at the lavish use of the ointment, Matthew 26:8; as if the murmuring humour was crept in amongst others also as well as Judas; which perhaps moved Christ the more earnestly to meet the beginnings of that distemper by this action.
III. "Knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands," verse 3, he gave the traitor over to Satan, and confirms the rest to himself: signifying, by the external washing, that his should be secured from the devil by the washing of Christ. Whosoever shall attempt the determination, whether he washed the feet of Judas or not, let him see how he will free himself of this dilemma:
If he washed Judas' feet, why had not he his part in Christ, as well as the rest of his disciples? For supposing that true, "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me," why should not this be so too, "If I do wash thee, thou hast a part with me?"
If he did not wash Judas with the rest, but left him out, how could the rest be ignorant who was the unclean person? verse 10, which they were altogether ignorant of.
5. After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.
[Into a basin.] "On that day, [when they made R. Eleazar Ben Azariah president of the council] the votes were numbered; and they determined concerning the basin wherein they were to wash their feet, that it should contain from two logs to ten."
[He began to wash the feet, &c.] As to this action of our Saviour's washing his disciples' feet, it may be observed,
I. It was an unusual thing for superiors to wash the feet of inferiors. Amongst the duties required from a wife towards a husband this was one, that she should wash his face, his hands, and his feet. The same was expected by a father from his son. The same from a servant towards his master, but not vice versa. Nor, as I remember, was it expected from the disciple towards his master, unless included in that rule, "That the disciple is to honour his master more than his father."
II. The feet were never washed merely under the notion of legal purification. The hands were wont to be washed by the Pharisees merely under that notion, but not the feet: and the hands and the feet by the priests, but the feet not merely upon that account. That what was said before, concerning the basin wherein the feet were to be washed, must not be understood as if the feet were to be washed upon any score of a legal cleansing; but only care was taken by that tradition, lest through defect of a just quantity of water the feet and the person should contract some sort of uncleanness whilst they were washing.
So that by how much distant this action of Christ's was from the common usage and custom, by so much the more instructive was it to his followers, propounded to them not only for example, but doctrine too.
III. As to the manner of the action. It is likely he washed their feet in the same manner as his own were, Luke 7:38; viz. while they were leaning at the table (as the Jewish custom of eating was) he washed their feet, as they were stretched out behind them. And if he did observe any order, he began with Peter, who sat in the next place immediately to himself. This Nonnus seems to believe; to which opinion also there are others that seem inclined; and then the words he began to wash, must be taken in some such sense as if he made ready and put himself into a posture to wash. But perhaps this way of expression may intimate, as if he began to wash some of his disciples, but did not wash them all; which for my own part I could easily enough close with. For whereas Christ did this for example and instruction merely, and not with any design of cleansing them, his end was answered in washing two or three of them, as well as all. And so indeed I would avoid being entangled in the dilemma I lately mentioned, by saying, he did not only leave Judas unwashed, but several others also. What if he washed Peter and James and John only? And as he had before made some distinction betwixt these three and the rest of his disciples by admitting them into his more inward privacies, so perhaps he distinguisheth them no less in this action. These he foretold how they were to suffer martyrdom: might he not, therefore, by this washing, prefigure to them that they must be baptized with the same baptism that he himself was to be baptized with? and as the woman had anointed him for his burial, so he, by this action, might have washed them for that purpose.
13. Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.
[Master and Lord.] Rabbi, and Mar, are titles amongst the doctors very frequently used, both those of Jerusalem and those of Babylon.
23. Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.
[Leaning on Jesus' bosom.] "They were wont to eat leaning on the left side, with their feet to the ground, every one singly, upon their distinct beds."
"But when there were two beds, he that was chief sat highest: and he that was second to him sat above him." Gloss: "The bed of him that sat second was by the bolster of him that sat first."
"When there were three, the worthiest person lay in the middle; and the second lay above him; and the third below him." Gloss: "The third lay at the feet of him that was first."
"And if he would talk with him, he raised himself, and sitting upright talks with him." Gloss: "If he that sits chief would talk with him that is second to him, he raiseth himself and sits upright: for so long as he leans, or lies down, he cannot talk with him; because he that lies second lies behind the head of him that lies first, and the face of him that lies first is turned from him: so that it were better for the second to sit below him, because then he may hear his words while he sits leaning." So Lipsius writes of the Roman custom. "This was the manner of their sitting at table: they lay with the upper part of their body leaning on the left elbow; the lower part stretched at length, the head a little raised, and the back had cushions under. The first lay at the head of the bed, and his feet stretched out at the back of him that sat next," &c. To all which he adds, "That the Jews had the very same way of lying down at meals in Christ's time, appears evidently from John, Luke," &c.
So that while Christ and his disciples were eating together, Peter lay at the back of Christ, and John in his bosom: John in the bosom of Christ, and Christ in the bosom of Peter. Christ, therefore, could not readily talk with Peter in his ear (for all this discourse was by way of whispering). Peter, therefore, looking over Christ's head towards John, nods to him; and, by that, signs to him to ask Christ about this matter.
So the Gemara concerning the Persians (I suppose he means the Jews in Persia); when they could not, because of their way of leaning at meals, discourse amongst themselves, they talked by signs either with their hands or upon their fingers.
We must not omit what the Gloss said, that they were wont to sit at table leaning on their left side, with their "feet upon the ground"; this is to be understood when one sat alone, or two at the table only. And the Gemara tells us, that the order was otherwise when but two sat down: for then he that was the second sat below him that was the chief, and not at his pillow.
There was also a diversity of tables: for the ordinary table of the Pharisee, or one of the disciples of the wise men, was but little, where three at most could sit down; and there were tables which would hold more.
The ordinary table is described in Bava Bathra: "What kind of table is that of the disciples of the wise men? Two thirds of the table were spread with a tablecloth; and one third was uncovered, and on this were set the dishes and the herbs."
The ring of the table was on the outside. Gloss: "They were wont to put a ring upon the edge of the table to hang it by." That hanging up the table when they had done using it, seems to have been only to set it out of danger of contracting any defilement; and argues it was but small and light. Now the ring of the table was ab extra, when that part of the table where the ring was was naked, not covered with a tablecloth: so that it was not amongst the guests, but without, viz. in that void place where nobody sat down. We have more in the same place about the ring being placed within or without. Gloss: "If a child sit at table with his father, the ring was without, not among the guests, lest the child, playing with the ring, should shake the table." If a servant be waiting at the table, then the table is so placed (especially if it be night), that the ring is within, lest the servant, in moving to and fro, should happen to touch upon it.
[Whom Jesus loved.] We have touched upon this phrase before in our notes upon Mark 10:21; where, upon those words, "Jesus looking upon him loved him," let us add something omitted there. 2 Chronicles 18:2: and persuaded him to go up to Ramoth-Gilead. Greek: where he loved him is put for "he persuaded him to go up with him to Ramoth in Gilead": and so the Complutensian Bible hath it. Where Nobilius, "He loved him, that is, did him all good offices, and shewed him tokens of great kindness." So Jesus, earnestly beholding this young man, persuaded him, encouraged him, used all mild and gentle words and actions towards him, that he might urge and stir him up to the ways of godliness.
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.
[And when he had dipped the sop.] This was a very unusual thing, to dip a sop and reach it to any one: and what could the rest of the disciples think of it? It is probable they took it as if Christ had said to Judas, "What thou doest, do quickly: do not stay till the supper be done and the tables withdrawn; but take this sop to make up your supper, and begone about the business you are to despatch." So they might apprehend the matter; only John, indeed, understood what it meant: unless perhaps Peter, being not ignorant of the question John asked our Saviour, might not be ignorant of what Christ answered him by that action.
27. And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly.
[And after the sop, &c.] Satan knew well enough what Christ meant by it: for when he saw that by giving the sop Christ had declared which of them should betray him, the devil makes his entry. For as he had entered into the serpent that deceived the first Adam, so he knew the second Adam could not be betrayed but by one into whom he should first enter.
[That thou doest, do quickly.] I would take this expression for a tacit severe threatening pronounced, not without some scorn and indignation against him: q.d. "I know well enough what thou art contriving against me; what thou doest, therefore, do quickly: else thy own death may prevent thee, for thou hast but a very short time to live, thy own end draws on apace." So Psalm 109:8, "Let his days be few." And, indeed, within two days and three nights after this, Judas died.
30. He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.
[Went immediately out: and it was night.] So the traitor goes forth to his work of darkness under the conduct of the devil, the shelter of the night. He was to go two miles, viz. from Bethany to Jerusalem; then was he to seek out and get the chief priests together, to make his bargain with them for betraying Christ. Whether he did all this this very night or the day following, as the holy Scripture saith nothing of it, so is it of no great moment for us to make a business of inquiring about it. It is not so difficult to shew how many difficulties they involve themselves in that would have all this done the very same night wherein the paschal supper was celebrated, as it is a wonder that the favourers of this opinion should take no notice thereof themselves.
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.
[Little children.] "'Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me,' Isaiah 8:18. Were they indeed his sons, or were they not rather his disciples? Hence you may learn that any one's disciple is called his son." Nor is it unlikely but that Christ in calling his disciples here My little children might have an eye to that place in Isaiah: for when the traitor, the son of perdition, had removed himself from them, he could then properly enough say, "Behold, I and the children which thou hast given me."
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.
[The cock shall not crow.] We must not understand this as if the cock should not crow at all before Peter had denied Christ thrice: this had not been true, because the cock had crowed twice before Peter had denied him. But we must understand it, The cock shall not have finished his crowing, &c. Nor indeed was that time above half over before Peter had denied his Master.
The Jewish doctors distinguished the cockcrowing into the first, second, and third. The first they call the cockcrowing. The second, when he repeats it. The third, when he does it a third time. The distinction also amongst other nations is not unknown. When the time indeed was near, and the very night wherein this was to happen, then Christ saith, This very night the cock shall not crow his second time, &c. But here, two days before this night, he only saith, The cock shall not crow, that is, shall not have done all his crowing, before thou deny me. And thus our Saviour meets with the arrogance of Peter, foretelling him that he should not have the courage he so confidently assumed to himself, but should within the time and space of cockcrowing deny him thrice.
1. Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
[Let not your heart be troubled.] They could not but be exceedingly concerned at the departure of their Master drawing on so very near. But there were other things beside his departure that grieved and perplexed their minds.
I. They had run along with their whole nation in that common expectation, that the kingdom should be restored unto Israel through the Messiah, Acts 1:8. They had hoped to have been rescued by him from the Gentile yoke, Luke 24:21. They had expected he would have entertained his followers with all imaginable pomp and magnificence, splendour and triumph, Matthew 20:20. But they found, alas! all things fall out directly contrary; they had got little hitherto by following him but poverty, contempt, reproach, and persecution: and now that their Master was to leave them so suddenly, they could have no prospect or hope of better things. Is this the kingdom of the Messiah?
Against this depression and despondency of mind he endeavours to comfort them, by letting them know that in his Father's house in heaven, not in these earthly regions below, their mansions were prepared for them; and there it was that he would receive and entertain them indeed.
II. Christ had introduced a new rule and face of religion, which his disciples embracing did in a great measure renounce their old Judaism; and therefore they could not but awaken the hatred of the Jews, and a great deal of danger to themselves, which now (they thought) would fall severely upon them when left to themselves, and their Master was snatched from them.
That was dreadful, if true, which we find denounced: "Epicurus" (that is, one that despises the disciples and doctrine of the wise men) "has no part in the world to come, and those that separate themselves from the customs of the synagogue go down into hell, and are there condemned for all eternity."
These are direful things, and might strangely affright the minds of the disciples, who had in so great a measure bid adieu to the customs of the synagogues and the whole Jewish religion: and for him that had led them into all this now to leave them! What could they think in this matter?
To support the disciples against discouragements of this nature:
I. He lays before them his authority, that they ought equally to believe in him as in God himself: where he lays down two of the chief articles of the Christian faith: 1. Of the divinity of the Messiah, which the Jews denied: 2. As to true and saving faith, wherein they were blind and ignorant.
II. He tells them that in his Father's house were many mansions; and that there was place and admission into heaven for all saints that had lived under different economies and administrations of things. Let not your heart be troubled for this great change brought upon the Judaic dispensation, nor let it disquiet you that you are putting yourselves under a new economy of religion so contrary to what you have been hitherto bred up in; for "in my Father's house are many mansions"; and you may expect admission under this new administration of things, as well as any others, either before or under the law.
2. 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.
[I go to prepare a place for you.] Compare this with Numbers 10:33; "And the ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them, to search out a resting place for them."
6. Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
[I am the way, the truth, and the life.] Why is this superadded of truth and the life, when the question was only about the way?
I. It may be answered that this was perhaps by a Hebrew idiosyncrasy; by which the way, the truth, and the life, may be the same with the true and living way.
Jeremiah 29:11: To give you an end and hope, or expectation: that is, a hoped or expected end. So Kimchi in loc.; "A good end even as you expect."
II. Our Saviour seems to refute that opinion of the Jews concerning their law, as if it were the way, the truth, and the life, and indeed every thing: and to assert his own authority and power of introducing a new rule of religion, because himself is the way, the truth, and the life, in a sense much more proper and more sublime than the law could be said to be.
It had been happier for the Jew if he could have discerned more judiciously concerning the law; if he could have distinguished between coming to God in the law and coming to God by the law: as also between living in the law and living by the law. It is beyond all doubt, there is no way of coming to God but in his law: for what outlaw, or one that still wanders out of the paths of God's commandments, can come unto him? So also it is impossible that any one should have life but in the law of God. For who is it can have life that doth not walk according to the rule of his laws? But to obtain admission to the favour of God by the law, and to have life by the law; that is, to be justified by the works of the law; this sounds quite another thing: for it is by Christ only that we live and are justified; by him alone that we have access to God.
These are the fictions of the Rabbins: "There was one shewed a certain Rabbin the place where Corah and his company were swallowed up, and, 'Listen,' saith he, 'what they say.' So they heard them saying, Moses and his law are the truth. Upon the calends of every month hell rolls them about, as flesh rolls in the caldron, hell still saying, Moses and his law are truth."
It is, indeed, a great truth, what is uttered in this most false and ridiculous legend, that "the law of Moses is truth." But the Jews might (if they would) attain to a much more sound way of judging concerning the truth of it, and consider that the law is not the sum and ultimate of all truth, but that Christ is the very truth of the truth of Moses: John 1:17, "The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ."
7. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.
[If ye had known me, &c.] It was a very difficult thing to spell out the knowledge of the Messiah from the law and the prophets under the first Temple; but it was doubly more difficult under the second. For, under the first Temple, Moses had only his own veil over him, and the prophets only their own proper and original obscurity: but under the second Temple, the obscurity is doubled by the darkness and smoke of traditions; which had not only beclouded the true doctrines of faith and religion, but had also brought in other doctrines diametrically contrary to the chief and principal articles of faith: those for instance concerning justification, the person, reign, and office of the Messiah, &c.
With what measures of darkness these mists of tradition had covered the minds of the apostles, it is both difficult, and might be presumptuous, to determine. They did indeed own Jesus for the true Messiah, John 1:41; Matthew 16:16: but if in some things they judged amiss concerning his office, undertaking, and government, we must put it upon the score of that epidemical distemper of the whole nation which they still did in some measure labour under. And to this may this clause have some reference, "If ye had known me, and had judged aright concerning the office, undertaking, and authority of the Messiah, ye would, in all these things which I teach and do, have known the will, command, and authority of the Father."
[And from henceforth ye know him.] We may render it, Henceforward therefore know him: "Henceforward acknowledge the Father in all that I have done, brought in, and am to introduce still, and set your hearts to rest in it: believing that you see the Father in me, and in the things that I do."
8. Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.
[Shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.] "When the law was given to Moses, the Israelites saw God in his glory: do thou, therefore, now that thou art bringing in a new law and economy amongst us, do thou shew us the Father, and his glory, and it will suffice us; so that we will have no more doubt about it."
16. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
[He shall give you another Comforter.] I. Amongst all the names and titles given to the Messiah in the Jewish writers, that of Menahem, or the Comforter, hath chiefly obtained; and the days of the Messiah amongst them are styled the days of 'consolation.' The names of Messiah are reckoned up, viz. Shiloh, Jinnon, Chaninah, Menahem. And in Jerusalem Berac. we are told how the Messiah had been born in Bethlehem under the name of Menahem.
Luke 2:25; "Waiting for the consolation of Israel." Targumist upon Jeremiah 31:6: "Those that desire or long for the years of consolation to come." This they were wont to swear by, viz. the desire they had of seeing this consolation. So let me see the consolation.
Now, therefore, bring these words of our Saviour to what hath been said: q.d. "You expect, with the rest of this nation, the consolation in the Messiah and in his presence. Well; I must depart, and withdraw my presence from you; but I will send you in my stead 'another Comforter.'"
II. The minds of the disciples at present were greatly distressed and troubled, so that the promise of a Comforter seems more suitable than that of an Advocate, to their present state and circumstances.
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.
[The Spirit of truth.] Let us but observe how the whole world at this time lay in falsehood and error: the Gentiles under a spirit of delusion; the Jews under the cheat and imposture of traditions: and then the reason of this title of the Spirit of truth will appear; as also how seasonable and necessary a thing it was that such a Spirit should be sent into the world.
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.
[He shall teach you all things.] So chapter 16:13: "He shall lead you into all truth." Here it might be very fitly inquired, whether any ever, besides the apostles themselves, were "taught all things," or "led into all truth." It is no question but that every believer is led into all truth necessary for himself and his own happiness; but it was the apostles' lot only to be led into all truth necessary both for themselves and the whole church.
30. Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.
[The prince of this world cometh.] Seeing this kind of phrase, the prince of this world, was, in the common acceptation of the Jewish nation, expressive of the devil ruling among the Gentiles, it may very well be understood so in these words; because the very moment of time was almost come about, wherein Christ and the devil were to enter the lists for the dominion and government, which of those two should have the rule over the Gentiles.
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.
[Arise, let us go hence.] These words plainly set out the time and place wherein our Saviour had the discourse which is contained in this fourteenth chapter. The place was Bethany; the time, the very day of the Passover, when they were now about to walk to Jerusalem.
Those things which Christ had discoursed in chapter 13 were said two nights before the Passover; and that at Bethany, where Christ supped at the house of 'Simon the leper.' He abode there the day following, and the night after; and now, when the feast day was come, and it was time for them to be making towards Jerusalem to the Passover, he saith, Arise, let us go hence. What he did or said the day before the Passover, while he stayed at Bethany, the evangelist makes no mention. He only relates what was said in his last farewell before the paschal supper, and upon his departure from Bethany. All that we have recorded in chapters 15, 16, and 17, was discoursed to them after the paschal supper, and after that he had instituted the holy eucharist.
1. I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
[I am the true vine.] We may take these words in opposition to what is spoken concerning Israel. Israel is called a vine, Psalm 80:8; Isaiah 5:7; Jeremiah 2:21, &c. In Vajicra Rabba, the parallel is drawn between Israel and a vine; and the similitude is carried on to sixteen particulars, for the most part improper and unsuitable enough.
But that which is principally to be regarded in this place is this, that hitherto, indeed, Israel had been the vine, into which every one that would betake himself to the worship of the true God was to be set and grafted in. But from henceforward they were to be planted no more into the Jewish religion, but into the profession of Christ. To which that in Acts 11:26 hath some reference, where the disciples were first called 'Christians,' that is, no longer Jews or Israelites.
Our Saviour, as we have said before, discoursed these things immediately after that he had instituted the holy eucharist: while he was ordaining that holy sacrament he had said, "This is the new testament in my blood"; and from thence immediately adds, I am the true vine: so that for the future the church is to be under the administration of a new testament, and not, as the Jewish church, under that of the old; and from henceforward I am the true vine, into which all the branches of the church must be ingrafted, and not into the Israelitish vine any more.
3. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
[Now ye are clean.] Christ having discoursed of the vine and of the branches, these words seem to have an allusion to that law concerning the circumcision of the tree when first planted, Leviticus 19:23. For the first three years the fruit was to be accounted as uncircumcised, unclean, and not to be eaten; "But you, O my branches, now are clean through my word; that word which I have been preaching to you for these three years."
4. 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.
[Abide in me.] Indeed, a true fixing and abiding in Christ is by a true faith. But may we not suppose our Saviour here more peculiarly warning them against apostasy, or falling back from the gospel into Judaism, a plague likely to rage exceedingly in the church?
6. 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.
[As a branch.] See Ezekiel 15:2, where D. Kimchi paraphrases in this manner: "O Son of man, I do not ask thee concerning the vine that beareth fruit (for so it ought to be accounted), but concerning the branch which is amongst the trees of the wood, unfruitful, even as the trees themselves are." Where, by branch (for so it is commonly rendered), we are to understand the wild vine. So R. Solomon in loc.: "I do not speak (saith God) of the vine in the vineyard that bears fruit, but of the branch of the wild vine that grows in the woods." So that the sense of the prophet is, "O son of man, what is the vine tree more than any tree?" viz. a branch of the wild vine which grows amongst the trees of the forest, which is unfruitful, even as they are.
And this is our Saviour's meaning; "Every branch in me that bringeth not forth fruit is cast forth like the branch in the vine that grows wild in the forest, which is good for nothing but to be burned"...
12. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
[That ye love one another.] "Every sabbath they added that blessing towards that course of priests who, having performed their service the last week, were gone off. Let him who dwells in this house plant among you brotherhood, love, peace, and friendship."
Our Saviour once and again repeats that command, "Love one another": he calls it 'a new commandment,' chapter 13:34: for their traditions had in a great measure put that command of loving one another out of date; and that particularly by very impious vows they would be making. We have a little hint of it, Matthew 15:5, and more in the treatise Nedarim. See also Matthew 5:43, "Thou shalt hate thine enemy": this rule obtained in the Jewish schools. And upon that precept, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," let us see the mighty charitable Gloss in Chetubb. "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," that is, decree him to an easy death: namely, when he is adjudged by the Sanhedrim to die.
When you consider the frequent repetition of this precept, "Love one another," consider also that passage, Matthew 10:34, "I came not to send peace, but a sword": and then having reflected on those horrid seditions and mutual slaughters, wherewith the Jewish nation, raging with itself in most bloody discords and intestine broils, was, even by itself, wasted and overwhelmed, you will more clearly see the necessity and reasonableness of this command of loving one another, as also the great truth of that expression, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
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.
[But I have called you friends, for all things, &c.] Thus is it said of Abraham the 'friend of God,' Genesis 18:17.
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.
[Ye have not chosen me.] For it was a custom amongst the Jews that the disciple should choose to himself his own master. "Joshua Ben Perachiah said, 'Choose to thyself a master, and get a colleague.'"
22. If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin.
[They had not had sin.] So also verse 24: in both places the passage is to be understood of that peculiar sin of rejecting the Messiah: "If I had not spoken to them, and done those things that made it demonstrably evident that I was the Messiah, they had not had sin, that is, they had not been guilty of this sin of rejecting me. But when I have done such things amongst them, it is but too plain that they do what they do in mere hatred to me and to my Father." Our Saviour explains what sin he here meaneth in chapter 16:9.
2. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.
[They shall put you out of the synagogues.] This, I presume, must be understood of a casting out from the whole congregation of Israel, because I know the Jews always proceeded in that manner against the Samaritans; and certainly the disciples of Jesus were full as hateful to them as the Samaritans could be. Nay, they often call the Christians by the name of Cuthites, as well as those.
Those that were cast out of the church they despoiled of all their goods, according to Ezra 10:8: which they also did to those that were shammatized. Whence it may be a question, whether shammatizing did not cast out of the whole congregation; and again, whether one cast out of the whole congregation might be ever readmitted.
We may take notice of what is said in Avodah Zarah. No one that relapseth may be received again for ever. The Gloss tells us that the passage concerns the plebeians or laics, who having taken upon themselves any religious rule of life, go back again from that profession: they do not admit them into that order and society again. Whether therefore those that fell off from the gospel, returning to their Judaism again, were ever admitted into the Jewish church after they had voluntarily forsaken it, might be an inquiry. But these things only by the by.
There was, in truth, a twofold epocha of the persecution of the apostolical church, namely, both before that apostasy of which we have such frequent mention, and also after it. Our Saviour had foretold the apostasy in that tremendous parable about the unclean spirit cast out, and returning again with seven worse. "So shall it be also (saith he) unto this wicked generation," Matthew 12:45. The footsteps of this we may discern almost in every epistle of the apostles.
It is worthy observation, that of 2 Thessalonians 2:3: "The day of the Lord shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed." The day of the Lord here spoken of was that wherein Christ should come and reveal himself in that remarkable vengeance against Jerusalem and the Jewish nation, of which kind of expression we shall say more on chapter 21:22. The 'apostasy' or 'falling away,' and revelation of 'the man of sin,' was to precede that day: which might be easily made out by a history of those times, if I were to do the business either of a historian or a chronologer.
When therefore the severe and cruel persecution was first raised by the unbelieving Jews before this falling away of Christians, it must needs be greatly increased afterward by them and the apostates together: which distinction we may easily observe out of this verse.
[Will think that he doeth God service.] So the zealots, of whom we have mention in Sanhedrim; the zealots kill him. Gloss: "These are those good men who are endued with zeal in the cause of God." Such who with their own hands immediately slew the transgressor, not staying for the judgment of the Sanhedrim. So in the place before quoted, "The priest that ministers at the altar in his uncleanness, they do not bring before the Sanhedrim; but they bring him out into the court, and there brain him with the pieces of wood" provided to maintain the fire upon the altar.
What infinite mischiefs and effusion of blood such pretexts of zeal towards God might occasion, it is easy to imagine, and very direful instances have already witnessed to the world. Hence was it that they so often went about to have stoned our Saviour. Hence those forty and more that had conspired against St. Paul. And those zealots whose butcherly cruelties are so infamous in the Jewish story took the occasion of their horrid madness first from this liberty.
From such kind of villains as these the disciples of Christ could have little safeguard: indeed, they were greatly endangered upon a threefold account: I. From the stroke of excommunication, by which they were spoiled of their goods and estates, Hebrews 10:34. II. From the sentence of the Sanhedrim, dooming them either to be scourged or slain. III. From these assassins; for by this name (a name too well known in Europe) we will call them. We pronounce assassin and assassination; Gul. Tyrius calls them assysins, whom it may be worth the while to consult about the original of that name.
8. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
[He will reprove the world of sin, &c.] The Holy Spirit had absented himself from that nation now for the space of four hundred years, or thereabout: and therefore, when he should be given and poured out in a way and in measures so very wonderful, he could not but evince it to the world that "Jesus was the true Messiah," the Son of God, who had so miraculously poured out the Holy Spirit amongst them; and consequently could not but reprove and redargue the world of sin, because they believed not in him.
10. Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more;
[Of righteousness, &c.] That this righteousness here mentioned is to be understood of the righteousness of Christ, hardly any but will readily enough grant: but the question is, what sort of righteousness of his is here meant? whether his personal and inherent, or his communicated and justifying righteousness? We may say that both may be meant here.
I. Because he went to the Father, it abundantly argued him a just and righteous person, held under no guilt at all, however condemned by men as a malefactor.
II. Because he poured out the Spirit, it argued the merit of his righteousness; for otherwise he could not, in that manner, have given the Holy Spirit. And, indeed, that what is chiefly meant here is that righteousness of his by which we are justified, this may persuade us, that so many and so great things are spoken concerning it in the Holy Scriptures. Isaiah 56:1, "My salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed": Daniel 9:29, "To bring in everlasting righteousness": Jeremiah 23:6, "This is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord our Righteousness." And in the Epistles of the apostles, especially those of St. Paul, this righteousness is frequently and highly celebrated, seeming, indeed, the main and principal subject of the doctrines of the gospel.
In the stead of many others, let this serve for all; Romans 1:17, "For therein" [viz. in the gospel] "is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith": which words may be a good comment upon the foregoing clause.
I. The law teacheth faith; that is, that we believe in God. But the gospel directs us to proceed 'from faith to faith,' viz. from faith in God to faith in Christ: for true and saving faith is not a mere naked recumbency immediately upon God, which faith the Jews were wont to profess, but faith in God by the mediation of faith in Christ.
II. In the law the righteousness of God was revealed condemning, but in the gospel it was revealed justifying the sinner. And this is the great mystery of the gospel, that sinners are justified not only through the grace and mere compassion and mercy of God, but through divine justice and righteousness too, that is, through the righteousness of Christ, who is Jehovah, "the Lord our Righteousness."
And the Spirit of truth when he came did reprove and instruct the world concerning these two great articles of faith, wherein the Jews had so mischievously deceived themselves; that is, concerning true saving faith, faith in Christ; and also concerning the manner or formal cause of justification, viz. the righteousness of Christ.
But then, how can we form the argument? "I go unto the Father; therefore the world shall be convinced of my justifying righteousness."
I. Let us consider that the expression, "I go unto the Father," hath something more in it than "I go to heaven." So that by this kind of phrase our Saviour seems to hint, "That work being now finished, for the doing of which my Father sent me into the world, I am now returning to him again." Now the work which Christ had to do for the Father was various: the manifestation of the Father; preaching the gospel; vanquishing the enemies of God, sin, death, and the devil: but the main and chief of all, and upon which all the rest did depend, was, that he might perform a perfect obedience or obediential righteousness to God.
God had created man, that he might obey his Maker: which when he did not do, but being led away by the devil grew disobedient, where was the Creator's glory? The devil triumphs that the whole human race in Adam had kicked against God, proved a rebel, and warred under the banners of Satan. It was necessary, therefore, that Christ, clothing himself in the human nature, should come into the world and vindicate the glory of God, by performing an entire obedience due from mankind and worthy of his Maker. He did what weighed down for all the disobedience of all mankind, I may say, of the devil's too; for his obedience was infinite. He fulfilled a righteousness by which sinners might be justified, which answered that justice that would have condemned them; for the righteousness was infinite. This was the great business he had to do in this world, to pay such an obedience, and to fulfil such a righteousness; and this righteousness is the principal and noble theme and subject of the evangelical doctrine, Romans 1:17: of this the world must primarily and of necessity be convinced and instructed to the glory of him that justifieth, and the declaration of the true doctrine of justification. And this righteousness of his was abundantly evidenced by his going to the Father, because he could not have been received there, if he had not fully accomplished that work for which he had been sent.
II. It is added, not without reason, "and ye see me no more"; i.e. "Although you are my nearest and dearest friends, yet you shall no more enjoy my presence on earth; by which may be evinced, that you shall partake of my merits; especially when the world shall see you enriched so gloriously with the gifts of my Spirit."
11. Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged.
[Of judgment, because the prince, &c.] It is well known that the prince of this world was judged when our Saviour overcame him by the obedience of his death, Hebrews 2:14: and the first instance of that judgment and victory was when he arose from the dead: the next was when he loosed the Gentiles out of the chains and bondage of Satan by the gospel, and bound him himself, Revelation 20:1,2: which place will be a very good comment upon this passage.
And both do plainly enough evince that Christ will be capable of judging the whole world, viz. all those that believe not on him, when he hath already judged the prince of this world. This may call to mind the Jewish opinion concerning the judgment that should be exercised under the Messiah, that he should not judge Israel at all, but the Gentiles only; nay, that the Jews were themselves rather to judge the Gentiles, than that they were to be judged. But he that hath judged the prince of this world, the author of all unbelief, will also judge every unbeliever too.
12. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.
[Ye cannot bear them now.] Those things which he had to say, and they could not bear yet, were the institution of the Christian sabbath, and the abolishing of the Jewish (the reason and foundation of which, viz. his resurrection, they yet understood not); the rejection of the Jewish nation, when they expected 'that the kingdom should be restored to Israel,' Acts 1:6; the entire change of the whole Mosaic dispensation, and the bringing in of all nations in common within the pale of the church: these and such like things as these belonging to the kingdom of God, Acts 1:3, they could not yet bear. For though he had plainly enough discoursed to them the destruction of Jerusalem, Matthew 24, yet it is a question, whether they apprehended either that their whole nation must be utterly cast off, or that the rites of Moses should be antiquated, although he had hinted something of this nature to them more than once.
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 show you things to come.
[Whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak.] And verse 14, he shall receive of mine. He speaks according to the dialect and custom of the nation, and so to the capacity of his auditors: If they have heard, they teach: it is spoken of a judge in the lower Sanhedrim consulting a higher court, first, that of the triumvir: and if they hear, they teach; if not, then he goes to the supreme court of all.
The latter clause, he shall receive of mine, seems taken from Isaiah 11:2. And it should seem he inclined rather to this sense, because he does not say, he shall receive of mine and give; but he shall receive and shew it unto you: by which the Jew would understand he shall receive of my doctrine, or from my instructions. For the Holy Spirit is sent as an instructor from the Son, as the Son is sent as a Redeemer from the Father.
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.
[And ye shall see me, because I go to the Father.] "A little while, and ye shall not see me, because I go to the Father; and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father"; i.e. "Ye shall not see me personally, but virtually." It is true, they did not see him when he lay in the grave; and they did see him when he rose again: but I question whether these words ought to be taken in this sense, because it would sound somewhat harshly here what is added, "Ye shall see me, because I go to the Father." I would therefore rather understand it of his ascending into heaven; after which they saw him, indeed, no more personally, but they did see him in the influences and gift of his Holy Spirit. And so what follows agrees well enough with this sense of the words, verse 23; "In that day ye shall ask me nothing" [as ye were now about to inquire of me, verse 19]: "ask the Father in my name; and he shall reveal to you whatever you shall ask of him."
24. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.
[Hitherto have ye asked noting in my name.] Understand this clause of the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, and then all things will be easy. All the faithful did pray in the name of the Messiah; and these disciples, acknowledging Jesus to be the Messiah, did pray in the name of Jesus the Messiah. But hitherto they had asked nothing extraordinary in his name: not the power of working miracles; not the revelation of mysteries and of future things; not the spirit of prophecy, &c.: for it was not necessary for them, as yet, to ask these things in his name whilst he was present with them, who could dispense it to them according to their instant necessities; but for the future, when himself should be gone from them, whatsoever they should ask the Father in his name, he would give it them. That prayer of the apostle's, Acts 4:29,30, is a good comment upon these words: "Ask such things as these in my name; and whatsoever you ask you shall receive, that your joy may be full, when you shall find by experience that I am still present with you when gone from you."
Those things which both here and elsewhere in the discourses of our Saviour might give occasion for scholastical discussion, I leave wholly to the schools, omitting many passages about which a great deal might be said, because they have been already the labours of other pens. It was my design and undertaking only to note some things which were not obvious, and which others had not yet taken notice of; and not forgetting the title of this little work, I have the more sparingly run out into scholastic or theological disputes.
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