|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
5:30-38 Our Lord returns to his declaration of the entire agreement between the Father and the Son, and declared himself the Son of God. He had higher testimony than that of John; his works bore witness to all he had said. But the Divine word had no abiding-place in their hearts, as they refused to believe in Him whom the Father had sent, according to his ancient promises. The voice of God, accompanied by the power of the Holy Ghost, thus made effectual to the conversion of sinners, still proclaims that this is the beloved Son, in whom the Father is well pleased. But when the hearts of men are full of pride, ambition, and the love of the world, there is no room for the word of God to abide in them.
Verse 35. - He was the lamp (λύχνος, not φῶς) that burneth and shineth. He was not the Light, but came to bear witness to the Light (John 1:8). The glory of his appearance was a derived or kindled illumination (cf. Matthew 6:22; 2 Peter 1:19). (It is not against this inference that in Revelation 21:23 the Lamb is the Lamp of the New Jerusalem.) The household lamp or torch, when kindled, burns with more or less brilliance, but burns itself out, exhausts itself. One may walk in the light of it, see the way one should take, discharge duties that would otherwise be impossible, avoid perils that might without the lamp prove disastrous or destructive; but the capacity of the torch is soon reduced to a minimum. Bengel, Stier, Alford, think that the celebrated passage in Ecclus. 48:1 may be referred to: "Then stood up Elijah the prophet like as a fire, and his word burned as a lamp." This is not impossible, though it would stand alone as a distinct reference in the Gospels to any apocryphal book. Lunge has given a long series of the lamp and fire symbols of the Old Testament; the group of events in which the Lord appeared in flames of fire and clouds of glory, from Exodus 3 to Malachi 3:2, affirming John to be "the flame signal of Messiah, the last Old Testament form of the pillar of fire and candlestick of the temple, therefore the lamp at once flaming and shining." More than this, and more to the point, we find that, under the figure of lamps of fire, the messengers of God, the activities of the Church, here repeatedly set forth (cf. Matthew 5:14-16; Matthew 25:1-8; Revelation 1:20; Philippians 2:15). John was the burning lamp, not the archetypal Light. Ye desired for a season to rejoice in his light. Many interpretations have been suggested, such as the exultation of a wedding party in the brief light of the torch bearer, announcing the approach of the bridegroom; or the dancing of ephemerides in the glitter of a lamp. The metaphor is lost in the solemn memory of the high gratification for a season which the populations of Judaea, Galilee, and the wilderness had manifested on the apparition of the great prophet. The universal acclaim soon subsided. The leaders of the people fell back when they heard John's call to repentance. Publicans and harlots pressed into the kingdom before the scribes and Pharisees. "The generation of vipers" did to John "whatsoever they listed." The secular power hushed his voice and crushed the man. "For a season" only did they listen to his word or respond to his challenge. His great testimony, though given to him by God, and by no means proceeding from his mere human consciousness, had been in the main unheeded. Wunsche quotes from 'Sota,' fol. 21, a, "Rabbi Menahem said that Solomon (Proverbs 6:23) compares 'prayer' with 'lamp,' and 'teaching' with 'light,' because the one flashes for the twinkling of an eye, comforts in the moment during which it shines; while the other, like the shining of the sun, burns evermore, and leads to eternal rest."
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
He was a burning and a shining light,.... He was not that light, the famous light, the Messiah, the sun of righteousness; yet he was the "phosphorus", the forerunner of that light, and was himself a very great one: he had much light himself into the person and office of the Messiah; in the doctrines of faith in Christ, and repentance towards God; in the Gospel dispensation, and in the abolition of the Mosaic economy; and gave great light to others, in the business of salvation, and remission of sins, and was the means of guiding the feet of many in the way of peace. His light of pure doctrine, and of an holy and exemplary conversation, shone very visibly, and brightly before men; and he burned with strong love and affection for Christ, and the souls of men; and with flaming zeal for the honour of God, and true religion, and against all sin and profaneness, which he was a faithful reprover of, and for which he lost his life. It was common with the Jews to call their doctors, who were famous for their knowledge, and holiness of life, lights, burning lights, and shining lights; or in words which amount to the same. So R. Simeon ben Jochai is often called in the book of Zohar, , "the holy light"; and particularly it is said of him (m),
"R. Simeon, , is as "the lamp of light which burns above", and "burns" below; and by the light which burns below all the children of the world are enlightened: woe to the world, when the light below ascends to the light above.''
So R. Abhu is called , "the lamp of light" (n): and it is (o) said of Shuah, Judah's father-in-law, that he was , "the light of the place"; that is, where he lived. The gloss on the place says, he was a man of note in the city, and enlightened their eyes; and it is very frequent with them still, when they are praising any of their doctors, to say of him, he was , "a great light", who enlightened the eyes of Israel, and in whose light the people walked (p); so among the philosophers, Xenophon, and Plato, are called duo lumina (q), "two lights"; See Gill on Matthew 5:14;
and ye were willing for a season, or "for an hour",
to rejoice in his light; or "to glory in it", or "boast of" it, as the Syriac and Persic versions render it. When John first appeared among them, they were fond, and even proud of him; they gloried in him, that a man of such uncommon endowments, and of such exemplary holiness, was raised up among them; and hoped that he was the Messiah, or Elias, that was to come before him; and pleased themselves, that times of great outward honour and prosperity were hastening: wherefore they flocked about him, and many of the Pharisees and Sadducees attended his ministry, and would have been baptized by him; but when they found that he was not the Messiah, nor Elias, nor that prophet, but bore a testimony to Jesus of Nazareth, that he was the Messiah; and ran counter to their notions of a temporal kingdom, and of birth privileges, and their own righteousness; and threatened them with ruin, and destruction, both in this world, and that which is to come, in case of their impenitence and unbelief; they grew sick of him, and said he had a devil, and rejected the counsel of God he declared, and despised his baptism. Such was their fickleness and inconstancy, which Christ here tacitly charges them with. They were like the stony ground hearers, and like some of the Apostle Paul's admirers among the Galatians, who at first could have plucked out their eyes for him, but afterwards became his enemies for telling them the truth.
(m) Zohar in Exod. fol. 79. 1.((n) T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 17. 1.((o) Bereshit Rabba, sect. 85. fol. 74. 4. & Mattanot Cehunah in ib. (p) Vid. R. David Ganz Tzemach David, par. 1. fol. 38. 1. 41. 1. 44. 2. 45. 1. 46. 2. & 47. 1.((q) A. Gell. Noct. Attic. l. 14. c. 3.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
35. He was a burning and a shining light—literally, "the burning and shining lamp" (or torch):—that is, "the great light of his day." Christ is never called by the humble word here applied to John—a light-bearer—studiously used to distinguish him from his Master, but ever the Light in the most absolute sense. (See on Joh 1:6).
willing for a season—that is, till they saw that it pointed whither they were not prepared to go.
to rejoice in his light—There is a play of irony here, referring to the hollow delight with which his testimony tickled them.
John 5:35 Parallel Commentaries
John 5:35 NIV
John 5:35 NLT
John 5:35 ESV
John 5:35 NASB
John 5:35 KJV
Bible Hub: Online Parallel Bible