Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Chap. 12. The Judgment
We now enter upon the third section of the first main division of this Gospel. It may be useful to state the divisions once more. The Prologue, John 1:1-18; The Ministry, John 1:19 to John 12:50, thus divided—(1) The Testimony, John 1:19 to John 2:11; (2) The Work, John 2:13 to John 11:57; (3) The judgment, 12. This third section, which now lies before us, may be subdivided thus—
(α) the Judgment of men, John 12:1-36;
(β) the Judgment of the Evangelist, John 12:37-43;
(γ) the Judgment of Christ, John 12:44-50.
We must be content to leave the precise method of harmonizing this later portion of S. John’s narrative with that of the Synoptists in uncertainty. “It is best to hold fast to the general scheme given by S. John, and to treat the Synoptic sections, especially those in S. Luke (Luke 9:51 to Luke 18:35), as fragments of a great picture which are more or less fortuitously thrown together, and are no longer capable of an exact reconstruction.” S. p. 191.
Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.1. Then Jesus] The ‘then’ or therefore simply resumes the narrative from the point where it quitted Jesus, John 11:55. This is better than to make it depend on John 11:57, as if He went to Bethany to avoid His enemies. His hour is drawing near, and therefore He draws near to the appointed scene of His sufferings.
six days before the Passover] The Passover began at sunset on Nisan 14: six days before this would bring us to Nisan 8. Assuming the year to be a. d. 30, Nisan 8 would be Friday, March 31. We may suppose, therefore, that Jesus and His disciples arrived at Bethany on the Friday evening a little after the Sabbath had commenced, having performed not more than ‘a Sabbath-Day’s journey’ on the Sabbath, the bulk of the journey being over before the day of rest began. But it must be remembered that this chronology is tentative, not certain.
which had been dead] These words are omitted by a large number of the best authorities, which give where Lazarus was, whom Jesus raised from the dead. They made Him therefore, &c.
1–36. The Judgment of Men
Note the dramatic contrast between the different sections of this division; the devotion of Mary and the enmity of the hierarchy, Christ’s triumph and the Pharisees’ discomfiture, &c.
There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him.2–8. The Devotion of Mary
2. they made him a supper] ‘They’ is indefinite: if we had only this account we should suppose that the supper was in the house of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus; but S. Mark (Mark 14:3) and S. Matthew (Matthew 26:6) tell us that it was in the house of Simon the leper, who had possibly been healed by Christ and probably was a friend or relation of Lazarus and his sisters. Martha’s serving (comp. Luke 10:40) in his house is evidence of the latter point (see the notes on the accounts of S. Matthew and S. Mark).
Lazarus was one of them] This is probably introduced to prove the reality and completeness of his restoration to life: but it also confirms the Synoptic accounts by indicating that Lazarus was a guest rather than a host.
sat at the table] Literally, reclined, as was the custom.
Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.3. took Mary a pound] S. John alone gives her name and the amount of ointment. The pound of 12 ounces is meant. So large a quantity of a substance so costly is evidence of her over-flowing love. Comp. John 19:39.
ointment of spikenard] The Greek expression is a rare one, and occurs elsewhere only Mark 14:3, which S. John very likely had seen: his account has all the independence of that of an eye-witness, but may have been influenced by the Synoptic narratives. The meaning of the Greek is not certain: it may mean (1) ‘genuine nard,’ and spikenard was often adulterated; or (2) ‘drinkable, liquid nard,’ and unguents were sometimes drunk; or (3) ‘Pistic nard,’ ‘Pistic’ being supposed to be a local adjective. But no place from which such an adjective could come appears to be known. Of the other two explanations the first is to be preferred.
very costly] Horace offers to give a cask of wine for a very small box of it; ‘Nardi parvus onyx eliciet cadum.’ Odes iv. xii. 17.
anointed the feet] The two Synoptists mention only the usual (Psalm 23:5) anointing of the head; S. John records the less usual act, which again is evidence of Mary’s devotion. The rest of this verse is peculiar to S. John, and shews that he was present.
Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him,4. Then saith, &c.] Rather, But Judas Iscariot, &c. The best authorities omit ‘Simon’s son.’
one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot] S. Mark says quite indefinitely, ‘some,’ S. Matthew, ‘his disciples.’ Each probably states just what he knew; S. Mark that the remark was made; S. Matthew that it came from the group of disciples; S. John that Judas made it, and why he made it. S. John was perhaps anxious that the unworthy grumbling should be assigned to the right person.
which should betray] Comp. John 6:71.
Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?5. three hundred pence] Here, as in John 6:7, the translation ‘pence’ is very inadequate and misleading; ‘three hundred shillings’ would be nearer the mark (see on Mark 6:7). S. Mark adds that some were very indignant at her.
to the poor] More accurately, to poor people; there is no article (comp. Luke 18:22).
This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.6. the bag] Better, the box, the cash-box in which the funds of the small company were kept. The word means literally ‘a case for mouthpieces’ of musical instruments, and hence any portable chest. It occurs in the LXX. of 2 Chronicles 24:8; 2 Chronicles 24:11, but nowhere in N.T. excepting here and John 13:29.
and bare] The Greek word may mean either ‘used to carry’ or ‘used to carry away,’ i.e. steal: comp. John 20:15. S. Augustine, commenting on ‘portabat,’ which he found in the Italic Version, and which survives in the Vulgate, says “portabat an exportabat? sed ministerio portabat, furto exportabat.” We have the same play in ‘lift,’ e.g. ‘shop-lifting;’ and in the old use of ‘convey:’ ‘To steal’ … “Convey the wise it call.” Merry Wives of Windsor 1. 3. “O good! Convey?—Conveyers are you all.” Richard II. iv. 1.
what was put therein] Literally, the things that were being cast into it from time to time; the gifts of friends and followers.
Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this.7. hath she kept] The large majority of authorities, including the best, read that she may keep, and the whole will run: Let her alone that she may preserve it for the day of My burial. The simplest interpretation of this is ‘Let her preserve what remains of it; not, however, to be sold for the poor, but to be used for My burial, which is near at hand.’ The text has probably been altered to bring it more into harmony with the Synoptists, with whom the present anointing appears as anointing for the burial by anticipation. The word for ‘burial’ or ‘entombment’ occurs only here and Mark 14:8.
For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.8. For the poor, &c.] Comp. Deuteronomy 15:11. Every word of this verse occurs in the first two Gospels, though not quite in the same order. Here the emphasis is on ‘the poor,’ there on ‘always.’ The striking originality of the saying, and the large claim which it makes, are evidence of its origin from Him who spake as never man spake. Considering how Christ speaks of the poor elsewhere, these words may be regarded as quite beyond the reach of a writer of fiction.
Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead.9–11. The Hostility of the Priests
9. Much people] Large caravans would be coming up for the Passover, and the news would spread quickly through the shifting crowds, who were already on the alert (John 11:55) about Jesus, and were now anxious to see Lazarus. Note that it is a ‘large multitude of the Jews’ who come; i.e. of Christ’s usual opponents. This again (comp. John 11:45-47) excites the hierarchy to take decisive measures. See on John 12:12.
But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death;10. But the chief priests] Nothing is here said about the Pharisees (comp. John 11:47; John 11:57), who are, however, not necessarily excluded. Both would wish to put Lazarus out of the way for the reason given in John 12:11 : but the chief priests, who were mostly Sadducees, would have an additional reason, in that Lazarus was a living refutation of their doctrine that ‘there is no resurrection’ (Acts 23:8). See on John 11:57.
put Lazarus also to death] Whatever may be true about John 11:53, we must not suppose that this verse implies a formal sentence of death: it does not even imply a meeting of the Sanhedrin.
These repeated references to the raising of Lazarus (John 11:45; John 11:47, John 12:1; John 12:9-10; John 12:17) greatly strengthen the historical evidence for the miracle. They are quite inconsistent with the theory either of a misunderstanding or of deliberate fraud.
Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.11. went away, and believed] Better, were going away and believing. It is best to leave ‘going away’ quite indefinite: the notion of falling away from the hierarchy lies in the context but not in the word. The imperfects denote a continual process.
S. Augustine comments on the folly of the priests—as if Christ could not raise Lazarus a second time! But this ignores the ‘also’: the hierarchy meant to put both to death. Their folly consisted in failing to see, not that He could raise Lazarus again, but that He could raise Himself (John 2:19). Note that it is the unscrupulous hierarchy, who attempt this crime. Comp. John 18:35, John 19:6; John 19:15; John 19:21.
On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem,12–18. The Enthusiasm of the People
12. On the next day] From the date given John 12:1, consequently Nisan 9, from Saturday evening to Sunday evening, if the chronology given on John 12:1 is correct. S. John seems distinctly to assert that the Triumphal Entry followed the supper at Bethany: S. Matthew and S. Mark both place the supper after the entry, S. Matthew without any date and probably neglecting (as often) the chronological order, S. Mark also without date, yet apparently implying (John 14:1) that the supper took place two days before the Passover. But the date in Mark 14:1 covers only two verses and must not be carried further in contradiction to S. John’s precise and consistent arrangement. S. John omits all details respecting the procuring of the young ass.
much people] Not ‘Jews’, as in John 12:9, but pilgrims without any bias against Christ. Here and in John 12:9 the true reading perhaps is, the common people.
Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.13. branches of palm trees] More literally, the palm-branches of the palm-trees; i.e. those which grew there, or which were commonly used at festivals. Comp. Simon’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem (1Ma 13:51). The palm-tree was regarded by the ancients as characteristic of Palestine. ‘Phœnicia’ (Acts 11:19; Acts 15:3) is probably derived from phœnix = ‘palm.’ The tree is now comparatively rare, except in the Philistine plain: at ‘Jericho, the city of palm-trees’ (Deuteronomy 34:3; 2 Chronicles 28:15) there is not one.
Hosanna] This is evidence that the writer of this Gospel knows Hebrew. In the LXX. at Ps. 117:25 we have a translation of the Hebrew, ‘save we pray,’ not a transliteration as here. (Comp. ‘Alleluia’ in Revelation 19:1; Revelation 19:6.) This Psalm is said by some to have been written for the Feast of Tabernacles after the return from captivity, by others for the founding or dedicating of the second Temple. In what follows the better reading is Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord even the king of Israel. The cry of the multitude was of course not always the same, and the different Evangelists give us different forms of it.
And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written,14. It is written] See on John 2:17.
Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass's colt.15. Fear not, &c. The quotation is freely made; ‘fear not’ is substituted for ‘rejoice greatly,’ and the whole is abbreviated, Zechariah 9:9. In adding ‘thy’ to ‘king’ and in writing ‘an ass’s colt’ the Evangelist seems to be translating direct from the Hebrew. The best editions of the LXX. omit ‘thy’ and all have ‘a young colt’ for the words here rendered ‘an ass’s colt.’ Comp. John 1:29, John 6:45, John 19:37. If the writer of this Gospel knew the O.T. in the original Hebrew he almost certainly was a Jew.
These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him.16. understood not] A mark of candour (see on John 11:12): comp. John 2:22 (where see note) and John 20:9. Would a Christian of the second century have invented this dulness of apprehension in Apostles? After Pentecost, however, much that had passed unnoticed or had been obscure before was brought to their remembrance and made clear (John 14:26). Note ‘these things’ thrice repeated; John 12:14-15 shew that the placing Him on the young ass is primarily meant.
was glorified] Comp. John 7:39 and John 11:4, where see notes.
The people therefore that was with him when he called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised him from the dead, bare record.17. when he called Lazarus] See on John 12:10. There is another reading, well supported, which gives ‘that He called Lazarus,’ and the whole will then run;—The multitude, therefore, which was with Him, kept bearing witness (John 1:7) that He called Lazarus out of the sepulchre and raised him from the dead. But ‘when’ is to be preferred; so that there are two multitudes, one coming with Jesus from Bethany and one (John 12:13; John 12:18) meeting Him from Jerusalem. See on John 12:41.
For this cause the people also met him, for that they heard that he had done this miracle.18. this miracle] ‘This’ is emphatic: other miracles had made comparatively little impression, but this sign had convinced even His adversaries.
The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him.19. The Discomfiture of the Pharisees
19. Perceive ye] Rather, Behold ye. The Greek may also mean ‘Behold’ (imperat.) or ye behold: the last is perhaps best; ‘Ye see what a mistake we have made; we ought to have adopted the plan of Caiaphas long ago.’
the world] The exaggerated expression of their chagrin, which in this Divine epic is brought into strong contrast with the triumph of Jesus. Comp. a similar exaggeration from a similar cause John 3:26; ‘all men come to Him.’
is gone after him] Literally, is gone away after Him. The Greek word is not the same but is similar in meaning to that used in John 12:11. After this confession of helplessness the Pharisees appear no more alone; the reckless hierarchy help them on to the catastrophe.
And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast:20–33. The Desire of the Gentiles and the Voice from Heaven
20. Greeks] The same word is translated ‘Gentiles’ John 7:35, where see note. Care must be taken to distinguish in the N.T. between Hellenes or ‘Greeks,’ i.e. born Gentiles, who may or may not have become either Jewish proselytes or Christian converts, and Hellenistae or ‘Grecians,’ as our Bible renders the word, i.e. Jews who spoke Greek and not Aramaic. Neither word occurs in the Synoptists. Hellenes are mentioned here, John 7:35, and frequently in the Acts and in S. Paul’s Epistles. Hellenistae are mentioned only in the Acts 6:1; Acts 9:29 : in Acts 11:20 the right reading is probably Hellenes.
that came up to worship] Better, that were wont to go up to worship. This shews that they were ‘proselytes of the gate,’ like the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:27): see on Matthew 23:15. In this incident we have an indication of the salvation rejected by the Jews passing to the Gentiles: the scene of it was probably the Court of the Gentiles; it is peculiar to S. John.
The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus.21. to Philip] Their coming to S. Philip was the result either (1) of accident; or (2) of previous acquaintance, to which the mention of his home seems to point; or (3) of his Greek name, which might attract them. See on John 1:45, John 6:5, John 14:8.
Sir] Indicating respect for the disciple of such a Master: comp. John 4:11; John 4:15; John 4:19.
we would see Jesus] This desire to ‘come and see’ for themselves would at once win the sympathy of the practical Philip. See on John 1:46 and John 14:8.
Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus.22. telleth Andrew] Another Apostle with a Greek name. They were both of Bethsaida (John 1:44), and possibly these Greeks may have come from the same district. S. Philip seems to shrink from the responsibility of introducing Gentiles to the Messiah, and applies in his difficulty to the Apostle who had already distinguished himself by bringing others to Christ (John 1:41, John 6:8-9).
and again] The true reading is Andrew cometh, and Philip, and they tell Jesus.
And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.23. And Jesus answered] Better, But Jesus answereth. He anticipates the Apostles and addresses them before they introduce the Greeks. We are left in doubt as to the result of the Greeks’ request. Nothing is said to them in particular, though they may have followed and heard this address to the Apostles, which gradually shades off into soliloquy.
These men from the West at the close of Christ’s life set forth the same truth as the men from the East at the beginning of it—that the Gentiles are to be gathered in. The wise men came to His cradle, these to His cross, of which their coming reminds Him; for only by His death could ‘the nations’ be saved.
The hour is come] The verb first for emphasis in the Greek as in John 4:21; John 4:23 : ‘it hath come—the fated hour.’ Comp. John 13:1.
that the Son of man] Literally, in order that, of the Divine purpose, as in John 11:50 and John 13:1, where see notes. See also the last note on John 1:51.
glorified] By His Passion and Death through which He must pass to return to glory. See on John 7:39 and John 11:4.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.24. Verily, verily] Strange as it may seem to you that the Messiah should die, yet this is but the course of nature: a seed cannot be glorified unless it dies. A higher form of existence is obtained only through the extinction of the lower form that preceded it. See on John 1:51.
He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.25. loveth his life … hateth his life … life eternal] ‘Life’ is here used in two senses, and in the Greek two different words are used. In the first two cases ‘life’ means the life of the individual, in the last, life in the abstract. By sacrificing life in the one sense, we may win life in the other. See notes on Matthew 10:39; Matthew 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; Luke 17:33. A comparison of the texts will shew that most of them refer to different occasions, so that this solemn warning must have been often on His lips. The present utterance is distinct from all the rest.
shall lose it] Better, loseth it; the Greek may mean destroyeth it.
hateth his life] i.e. is ready to act towards it as if he hated it, if need so require. Neither here nor in Luke 14:26 must ‘hate’ be watered down to mean ‘be not too fond of;’ it means that and a great deal more. The word rendered ‘life’ in ‘loveth his life’ and ‘hateth his life’ might also mean ‘soul,’ and some would translate it so: but would Christ have spoken of hating one’s soul as the way to eternal life?
If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.26. let him follow me] in My life of self-sacrifice: Christ Himself has set the example of hating one’s life in this world. These words are perhaps addressed through the disciples to the Greeks listening close at hand. If they ‘wish to see Jesus’ and know Him they must count the cost first. ‘Me’ is emphatic in both clauses.
where I am] i.e. where I shall be then, in My kingdom. Comp. John 14:3, John 17:24. Some would include in the ‘where’ the road to the kingdom, viz. death. ‘I’ and ‘My’ are emphatic.
serve … honour] Here the verbs are emphatic (not ‘Me’), and balance one another. This verse is closely parallel to John 12:35 : ‘let him follow Me’ corresponds to ‘hateth his life in this world;’ ‘him will the Father honour,’ to ‘shall keep it unto life eternal.’
Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.27. This is a verse of well-known difficulty, and the meaning cannot be determined with certainty, several meanings being admissible. The doubtful points are (1) the position of the interrogation, whether it should come after ‘I say’ or ‘from this hour;’ (2) the meaning of ‘for this cause.’
Now is my soul troubled] The word rendered ‘soul’ is the same as that rendered ‘life’ in ‘loveth his life’ and ‘hateth his life.’ To bring out this and the sequence of thought, ‘life’ would perhaps be better here. ‘He that would serve Me must follow Me and be ready to hate his life; for My life has long since been tossed and torn with emotion and sorrow.’ ‘Is troubled’ = has been and still is troubled; a frequent meaning of the Greek perfect.
what shall I say?] Or, what must I say? This appears to be the best punctuation; and the question expresses the difficulty of framing a prayer under the conflicting influences of fear of death and willingness to glorify His Father by dying. The result is first a prayer under the influence of fear—‘save Me from this hour’ (comp. ‘Let this cup pass from Me,’ Matthew 26:39), and then a prayer under the influence of ready obedience—‘Glorify Thy Name’ through My sufferings. But the Greek means ‘save me out of’ (sôson ek), i.e. ‘bring Me safe out of;’ rather than ‘save Me from’ (sôson apo), i.e. ‘keep Me altogether away from,’ as in ‘deliver us from the evil’ (Matthew 6:13). S. John omits the Agony in the garden, which was in the Synoptists and was well known to every Christian; but he gives us here an insight into a less known truth, which is still often forgotten, that the agony was not confined to Gethsemane, but was part of Christ’s whole life. Others place the question at ‘from this hour,’ and the drift of the whole will then be, ‘How can I say, Father save Me from this hour? Nay, I came to suffer; therefore My prayer shall be, Father, glorify Thy Name.’
for this cause] These words are taken in two opposite senses; (1) that I might be saved out of this hour; (2) that Thy Name might be glorified by My obedience. Both make good sense. If the latter be adopted it would be better to transpose the stops, placing a full stop after ‘from this hour’ and a colon after ‘unto this hour.’
Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.28. Then came there] Better, There came therefore, i.e. in answer to Christ’s prayer. There can be no doubt what S. John wishes us to understand;—that a voice was heard speaking articulate words, that some could distinguish the words, others could not, while some mistook the sounds for thunder. To make the thunder the reality, and the voice and the words mere imagination, is to substitute an arbitrary explanation for the Evangelist’s plain meaning. For similar voices comp. that heard by Elijah (1 Kings 19:12-13); by Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:31); at Christ’s Baptism (Mark 1:11) and Transfiguration (Mark 9:7); and at S. Paul’s Conversion (Acts 9:4; Acts 9:7; Acts 22:9), where it would seem that S. Paul alone could distinguish the words, while his companions merely heard a sound (see on Acts 9:4). One of the conditions on which power to distinguish what is said depends is sympathy with the speaker.
have glorified it] in all God’s works from the Creation onwards, especially in the life of Christ.
will glorify it] in the death of Christ and its results.
The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him.29. The people … thundered … spake] Better, The multitude … had thundered … hath spoken.
Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes.30. Jesus answered] He answered their discussions about the sound, and by calling it a voice He decides conclusively against those who supposed it to be thunder. But those who recognised that it was a voice were scarcely less seriously mistaken; their error consisted in not recognising that the voice had a meaning for them. Not for My sake hath this voice come, but for your sakes, i.e. that ye might believe. Comp. John 11:42.
Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.31. Now … now] With prophetic certainty Christ speaks of the victory as already won.
the judgment of this world] The sentence passed on this world (see on John 3:17 and John 5:29) for refusing to believe. The Cross is the condemnation of all who reject it.
the prince of this world] Literally, the ruler of this world. This is one of the apparently Gnostic phrases which may have contributed to render this Gospel suspicious in the eyes of the Alogi (see Introduction, Chap. II. i): it occurs again John 14:30, John 16:11, and nowhere else. It was a Gnostic view that the creator and ruler of the material universe was an evil being. But in the Rabbinical writings ‘prince of this world’ was a common designation of Satan, as ruler of the Gentiles, in opposition to God, the Head of the Jewish theocracy. But just as the Messiah is the Saviour of the believing world, whether Jew or Gentile, so Satan is the ruler of the unbelieving world, whether Gentile or Jew.
shall … be cast out] By the gradual conversion of unbelievers. This is a process which will continue until the last day.
And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.32. And I] ‘I’ is very emphatic in opposition to ‘the ruler of this world.’ The glorified Christ will rule men’s hearts in place of the devil.
be lifted up] Raised up to heaven by means of the Cross: we need not, as in John 3:14 and John 8:28, confine the meaning to the Crucifixion, although the lifting up on the Cross may be specially indicated. The words ‘from the earth’ (literally, out of the earth) seem to point to the Ascension; yet the Cross itself, apparently so repulsive, has through Christ’s Death become an attraction; and this may be the meaning here. For the hypothetical form ‘if I be lifted up,’ comp. ‘if I go,’ John 14:3. In both cases Christ is concerned not with the time of the act, but with the consequences of it; hence He does not say ‘when,’ but ‘if.’
will draw] There are two Greek words for ‘draw’ in the N.T., one of which necessarily implies violence, the other does not: it is the latter that is used here and in John 6:44; the former is used Acts 14:19; Acts 17:6. Man’s will is free; he can refuse to be drawn: and there is no violence; the attraction is moral. We see from John 6:44 that before the ‘lifting up’ it is the Father who draws men to the Son.
all men] Not only the Jews represented by the Twelve, but the Gentiles represented by these Greeks.
unto me] Better, unto Myself, up from the earth.
This he said, signifying what death he should die.33. what death] Literally, by what manner of death: comp. John 10:32, John 18:32, John 21:9.
should die] The word translated ‘should’ is the same as that used of the traitor, John 12:4 and John 6:71. It is used (1) of what is about to happen, (2) of what (seeing that it has happened) may be regarded as necessary and fore-ordained.
The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?34–36. The Perplexity of the Multitude
34. The people answered] The multitude therefore answered.
out of the law] In its widest sense, including the Psalms and the Prophets. Comp. Psalm 89:29; Psalm 89:36; Psalm 110:4; Isaiah 9:7; Ezekiel 37:25, &c. The people rightly understand ‘lifted up from the earth’ to mean removal from the earth by death; and they argue—‘Scripture says that the Christ (see on John 1:20) will abide for ever. You claim to be the Christ, and yet you say that you will be lifted up and therefore not abide.’
who is this Son of man?] ‘This’ is contemptuous: ‘a strange Messiah this, with no power to abide!’ (on ‘Son of Man’ see John 1:51). “Here we have the secret, unexplained by the Synoptists, why even when the scale is seeming to turn for a moment in favour of belief, it is continually swayed down again by the discovery of some new particular in which the current ideas respecting the Messiah are disappointed and contradicted.” S. p. 199. One moment the people are convinced by a miracle that Jesus is the Messiah, the next that it is impossible to reconcile His position with the received interpretations of Messianic prophecy. It did not occur to them to doubt the interpretations.
Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.35. Then Jesus said] Better, Jesus therefore said: instead of answering their contemptuous question He gives them a solemn warning.
while ye have] The better reading is, as ye have: ‘walk in a manner suitable to the fact of there being the Light among you: make use of the Light and work.’
darkness] that darkness ‘in which no man can work.’
come upon you] like a bird of prey. The same Greek verb is used of the last day; 1 Thessalonians 5:4; and in the LXX. of sin overtaking the sinner; Numbers 32:23.
for he that walketh in darkness] And he that walketh in the darkness.
whither he goeth] Or, goeth away; knows not to what end he is departing: comp. 1 John 2:11.
While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them.36. While ye have] Here again the better reading is as ye have; and ‘light’ should be ‘the Light.’ Note the emphatic repetition so common in S. John.
that ye may be] Rather, that ye may become. Faith is only the beginning; it does not at once make us children.
children of light] No article: but in all the four preceding cases ‘light’ has the article and means Christ, the Light, as in John 1:5; John 1:7-9. The expression ‘child of’ or ‘son of’ is frequent in Hebrew poetry to indicate very close connexion as between product and producer (see on John 17:12). Thus, ‘son of peace,’ Luke 10:6; ‘children of this world,’ John 16:8; ‘sons of thunder,’ Mark 3:17. Such expressions are very frequent in the most Hebraistic of the Gospels: comp. Matthew 5:9; Matthew 8:12; Matthew 9:15; Matthew 13:38; Matthew 23:15.
and departed] Probably to Bethany, to spend the last few days before His hour came in retirement. Comp. Matthew 21:17; Mark 11:11; Luke 21:37.
did hide himself] Rather, was hidden.
But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him:37. so many miracles] The Jews admitted His miracles, John 7:31; John 11:47. They are assumed by S. John as notorious, although he himself records only seven of them. Comp. John 2:23, John 4:45, John 7:31, John 11:47.
before them] i.e. before their very eyes.
37–43. The Judgment of the Evangelist
S. John here sums up the results of the ministry which has just come to a close. Their comparative poverty is such that he can explain it in no other way than as an illustration of that judicial blindness which had been foretold and denounced by Isaiah. The tragic tone returns again: see on John 1:5.
That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?38. That] Or, in order that, indicating the Divine purpose. Comp. John 13:18, John 15:25, John 17:12, John 18:9; John 18:32, John 19:24; John 19:36. It is the two specially Hebraistic Gospels that most frequently remind us that Christ’s life was a fulfilment of Hebrew prophecy. Comp. Matthew 1:22; Matthew 2:15; Matthew 2:17; Matthew 4:14; Matthew 8:17; Matthew 12:17; Matthew 13:35; Matthew 21:4; Matthew 26:54; Matthew 26:56; Matthew 27:9. See on Matthew 1:22.
Lord, who hath believed] The quotation closely follows the LXX.
our report] Literally, that which they hear from us; comp. Romans 10:16.
the arm of the Lord] His power. There seems to be no sufficient authority for interpreting this expression of the Messiah, although it is the power of God as manifested in the Messiah that is here specially meant. Comp. Luke 1:51; Acts 13:17.
Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again,39. Therefore] Or, For this cause (John 12:18; John 12:27); see on John 7:21-22. It refers to what precedes, and the ‘because’ which follows gives the reason more explicitly. This use is common in S. John: comp. John 5:18, John 8:47, John 10:17.
they could not] It had become morally impossible. Grace may be refused so persistently as to destroy the power of accepting it. ‘I will not’ leads to ‘I cannot.’ Pharaoh first hardened his heart and then God hardened it. Comp. Romans 9:6 to Romans 11:32.
He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.40. He hath blinded] Not Christ, nor the devil, but God. The quotation is free, following neither the Hebrew nor the LXX. very closely.
I should heal] ‘I’ = Christ. God has hardened their hearts so that they could not be converted, and therefore Christ could not heal them. Comp. Matthew 13:14-15, where Christ quotes this text to explain why He teaches in parables; and Acts 28:26, where S. Paul quotes it to explain the rejection of his preaching by the Jews in Rome.
These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him.41. when he saw] The better reading is, because he saw. We had a similar double reading in John 12:17, where ‘when’ is to be preferred. In the Greek the difference is only a single letter, ὅτε and ὅτι. Christ’s glory was revealed to Isaiah in a vision, and therefore he spoke of it. The glory of the Son before the Incarnation, when He was ‘in the form of God’ (Php 2:6), is to be understood.
Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue:42. Nevertheless] In spite of the judicial blindness with which God had visited them many even of the Sanhedrin believed. We know of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.
because of the Pharisees] The recognised champions of orthodoxy both in and outside the Sanhedrin. Comp. John 7:13, John 9:22.
did not confess] Imperfect tense; they were perpetually omitting to do so.
For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.43. the praise of men &c.] Better, the glory (that cometh) from men rather than the glory (that cometh) from God (see on John 5:41; John 5:44). The word rendered ‘praise’ is the same as that rendered ‘glory’ in John 5:41. Moreover ‘more than’ is not strong enough; it should be rather than. Joseph and Nicodemus confessed their belief after the crisis of the Crucifixion. Gamaliel did not even get so far as to believe on Him.
Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me.44. cried] Comp. John 7:28; John 7:37. The expression implies public teaching.
believeth not on me] His belief does not end there; it must include more. This saying does not occur in the previous discourses; but in John 5:36 and John 8:19 we have a similar thought. Jesus came as His Father’s ambassador, and an ambassador has no meaning apart from the sovereign who sends him. Not only is it impossible to accept the one without the other, but to accept the representative is to accept not him in his own personality but the prince whom he personates. These words are, therefore, to be taken quite literally.
44–50. The Judgment of Christ
The Evangelist has just summed up the results of Christ’s ministry (37–43). He now corroborates that estimate by Quoting Christ Himself. But as John 12:36 seems to give us the close of the ministry, we are probably to understand that what follows was uttered on some occasion or occasions previous to John 12:36. Perhaps it is given us as an epitome of what Christ often taught.
And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me.45. seeth] Or, beholdeth, contemplateth. The same verb is used John 6:40; John 6:62, John 7:3 and frequently in S. John.
I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.46. I am come] Emphatic; ‘I and none other.’ Comp. John 12:35-36, John 8:12, John 9:5.
abide in darkness] Till the Light comes, all are in darkness; the question remains whether they will remain so after the Light has come.
And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.47. hear my words] ‘Hear’ is a neutral word, implying neither belief nor unbelief. Matthew 7:24; Matthew 7:26; Mark 4:15-16. For ‘words’ read sayings (see on John 5:47) both here and in John 12:48.
and believe not] The true reading is and keep them not, i.e. fulfil them (comp. Luke 11:28; Luke 18:21). One important MS. omits the ‘not,’ perhaps to avoid a supposed inconsistency between John 12:47 and John 12:48.
He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.48. my words] Better, My sayings (see on John 12:47): ‘word’ in the next clause is right.
hath one that judgeth him] Hath his judge already, without My sentencing him. Comp. John 3:18, John 5:45. The hearer may refuse the word, but he cannot refuse the responsibility of having heard it.
in the last day] Peculiar to this Gospel: comp. John 6:39-40; John 6:44; John 6:54, John 11:24. This verse is conclusive as to the doctrine of the last judgment being contained in this Gospel.
For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.49. For] Or, Because: it introduces the reason why one who rejects Christ’s word will be judged by His word;—because that word is manifestly Divine and proceeds from the Father.
of myself] Literally, out of Myself (ek) without commission from the Father. Comp. from Myself (apo) John 5:30, John 7:16; John 7:28, John 8:28.
he gave me] Himself (and none other) hath given Me. See on John 10:18.
say … speak] ‘Say’ probably refers to the doctrine, ‘speak’ to the form in which it is expressed. See on John 8:43.
And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.50. And I know] The Son’s testimony to the Father. ‘The commission which He hath given Me is eternal life.’ (See on John 3:16.) His commission is to save the world.
as the Father said] The same distinction as in the previous verse: the matter of the revelation comes from the Father, the external expression of it from the Son.
With this the first main division of the Gospel ends. Christ’s revelation of Himself to the world in His ministry is concluded. The Evangelist has set before us the Testimony to the Christ, the Work of the Christ, and the Judgment respecting the work, which has ended in a conflict, and the conflict has reached a climax. We have reached the beginning of the end.