John 5
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Here we have -

I. JESUS ATTRACTED BY MISERY. Why was Jesus found at Bethesda? Because there were such misery and need. He was ever found where he was most wanted, and where he might do most good. He was not found in places of luxury, but in the haunts of misery.

1. The misery was great. There was presented to the eye of Jesus there such pain, degradation, poverty, and misery, physical, mental, and moral, as could scarcely be described, and all presented to him together in one scene.

2. The misery was various. It was not confined to one disease, but embraced many classes - "the impotent, the halt," etc. The diseases were various in their kind and history, but all baneful branches from the common stem of physical and moral disorder.

3. The misery was distributed among a great number. There was a multitude. The porches were full, and doubtless many could not be admitted for want of room. Physical suffering is the heritage of the human family, and the special heritage of some. It is a mercy that suffering is distributed. We only know of One who could and did bear all in himself "the Man of sorrows," etc.

4. All were waiting and struggling for the same blessing, viz. restoration to health. With what anxiety they would watch the moving of the waters, and what efforts they made to have the first bath! To this place Jesus was attracted. Being the incarnation of mercy, he was attracted by misery. The whole scene was such as would naturally excite his compassion, and stood forth as a picture to him of a more terrible and universal malady, that of sin, which he came to take away.

II. JESUS SPECIALLY ATTRACTED BY THE MOST MISERABLE. They were all miserable enough, but there was a certain man standing alone in misery and helplessness.

1. He was impotent, perhaps paralytic, thoroughly helpless, and unable to plunge into the healing pool, and had no one to help him in.

2. He had been a long time in this condition. Thirty-eight years. The best part of his life was spent in pain and misery. He had only just sufficient life left to feel his pain and woe.

3. He was almost in the grip of utter despair. Impotent in mind and will as well as in body. He had been there for years, and doubtless was the sport of the more fortunate, and the prey of despair. Still he mechanically crawled there day after day, with an occasional glimmer of hope that some good chance would turn up. And it turned up at last. Jesus, the Son of God, was there, and this poor man became the chief object of his pity. He doubtless pitied the multitude, but the most miserable riveted his compassion. The most helpless and miserable became the most fortunate.


1. A wonderful question. "Wilt thou," etc.? We see:

(1) The importance of the consent of the will in physical as well as spiritual recovery. Christ did not choose to help people against their will. The consent of the will is essential to the efficacy of even Divine influences, especially in spiritual restoration. It is the first step towards it.

(2) Christ was anxiously willing to help every one who had the wish for it, and even more, he was anxious to create and encourage the will so as to be able to lay hold on the help. In consequence of long and repeated failures to get relief, even the will for it now in this poor cripple seemed to be weak; but Jesus fans the smouldering embers with the question, "Wilt thou," etc.? This is a vivid picture in the physical domain of the indifference and apathy of men with regard to spiritual recovery. But this is an exceptional picture, for as a rule men are intensely anxious for health of body. Look at the multitude at Bethesda; what struggle they make to be the first in the moved water! But in a lamentable contrast to this is the conduct of men with regard to the water of life; they seem to struggle to be the last there. The appeal is made by the physician to the sick, and not as usual by the sick to the physician. God in grace first prayed to man, and thus teaches man to pray to him, and create in him an interest in his own welfare. "Wilt thou," etc.?

(3) The question brings from the man a sad tale. A tale of human helplessness on the one hand, and of human selfishness on the other. The "will" was not entirely gone, but it was very weak through his own helplessness and the stolid selfishness of others. "Sir, I have no man," etc. "Every one for himself" was the rule then. A picture of life. "The survival of the fittest" seems to be the law of nature under sin; but there is a law of grace by which the seemingly unfittest may survive, and its question is, "Wilt thou," etc.? There is a gracious power on which the weakest may lay hold.

2. A wonderful command. "Rise," etc. In this command we distinctly hear:

(1) The voice of Divine power. "Rise." This he was utterly unable to do. "Take up thy bed." As well tell the bed to take him up. Every human power had failed even at earlier stages of the disease. And human power never speaks thus under such circumstances but in madness. But is natural in the Divine.

(2) The voice of Divine authority. Divine power and authority go together. There is here a Divine will, and a Divine right and power for its immediate execution. There is no hesitancy, no timidity, but full and serene Divine consciousness of power to carry out his will, and make the man whole.

(3) The voice of Divine mercy. Power alone, or swayed by justice, could kill and perform any miraculous feat of destruction, as in the case of Lot's wife; but infinite power, under the guidance of mercy, heals and saves, and that most completely. "Whole." Amidst the thunders of power and the majestic lightnings of authority we hear the genial voice of mercy answering its own question, "Wilt thou?" etc., by the command, "Rise," etc.

3. A wonderful effect. "Immediately the man was made whole." Consequent upon the command an effort was made; strength came with the effort. The effect was instantaneous; the miracle was complete and thorough. The man rose and walked away; a wonder to ethers, not less to himself, and an unmistakable monument of Divine power as well as Divine mercy.


1. Jesus selected his own object. The most helpless and miserable. This was a most gracious act to the man himself. And this most helpless and furthest from the reach of human aid, answered well the purposes of Jesus in revealing himself as the Son of God. Among the suffering throng there was not one who answered this purpose so well. The greatest misery attracts most of the relieving compassion of Jesus, and when relieved will redound most to his glory.

2. Jesus often helps in a manner and degree which we should not expect. This poor cripple never expected more than to he helped to the pool; but Christ made him whole by his mere word and will. "He is able to do exceeding abundantly," etc.

3. What Christ did physically to this man, he is ready and willing to do spiritually to the human race. The human family by sin are spiritually impotent and helpless. Christ, in the gospel of his love and power, asks the question to each, "Wilt thou," etc.? If they are willing, he is willing and able.

4. There is much suffering in the world, but there is mercy here as well. The world is a Bethesda, the house of mercy; Jesus has made it so. Every healing spring in nature, as well as the river of life, is from him. - B.T.

This miracle is indeed a parable. The pitiable condition of the sufferer, the prolonged duration of his calamity, his utter helplessness and despondency, all have their analogues in the spiritual state of the sinful. And, on the other hand, the exercise of Christ's Divine authority, the condition of blessing imposed upon the infirm man, and the immediateness and completeness of the cure, are all suggestive of the terms, the process, and the results of salvation. The language in which Christ addressed the sufferer, with a view to elicit his faith, is especially instructive: "Wouldest thou be made whole?"

I. IT DOES NOT FOLLOW THAT WHEREVER THERE IS A SPIRITUAL MALADY THERE IS ALSO A CONSCIOUSNESS OF IT AND A DESIRE TO BE DELIVERED FROM IT. Jesus did not take it for granted that, because the man had an infirmity of long standing, he was therefore anxious to be relieved from it. As a matter of fact, he was so anxious; and the presumption is that men do wish to be delivered from bodily and temporal ills. It is not so in all cases with spiritual disorders. It was a reproach against the self-righteous that they knew not that they were poor, naked, blind, and miserable. Sin is not always accompanied by consciousness of sin. Long familiarity with vice and crime, and still more with that alienation of heart from God which is the essence of sin, is often found to render the nature insensible to its own wretched condition and prospects.

II. EVEN DIVINE MERCY DOES NOT ACT INDEPENDENTLY OF HUMAN CONFESSION, FAITH, AND DESIRE. The truth is that it cannot; for God cannot override the nature with which he has himself endowed his creatures. He may annihilate that nature; but, whilst it remains, he cannot contradict himself by acting independently of it. And, further, he will not dispense with the appointed human conditions, for the sake of his own moral government, whose sacredness he will surely maintain, and for the sake of the spiritual welfare of those whom he governs. It may appear, on a superficial glance, that in taking this view we magnify the free will of man above the sovereignty of God; but reflection convinces us that this is not the case. There is nothing arbitrary in the Divine government; and infinite Wisdom has decided that without the voluntary cooperation of man the highest blessings must be unattainable.

III. WHERE THERE IS A DISPOSITION AND DESIRE ON THE PART OF MAN, DIVINE MERCY WILL NOT WITHHOLD THE GRACE OF SPIRITUAL HEALING. There is no place for human power; we can do nothing to heal our spiritual diseases. There is no place for human merit; we can do nothing to deserve a Divine interposition. Yet he who will be made whole, who accepts the Deliverer and welcomes the promised deliverance, shall experience the healing power of Immanuel. Let there be willingness, let there be faith in Christ, let there be submission to Divine plans and order, and there is no sin for which pardon cannot be obtained, no character for which it shall be found that there is not provided renewal and spiritual health. - T.

A remarkable question, truly! and if we did not know who asked it, it would be reckoned a thoughtless and somewhat silly question. But Jesus, we know, must have had weighty reasons for asking it. It looks plausible to assume that a man who had been thirty and eight years ill must assuredly have wanted to be cured; but, after all, the assumption is badly founded. It was certainly better to make the man whole than to leave him impotent, but it does not at all follow that the man would feel it to be better amid the experiences of his new state. Thirty and eight years would fasten a man down to the habits of a dependent invalid, and the perfect recovery of physical strength by no means guaranteed that he would be fit in all other respects to use the strength he had gained. Those who had willingly helped him in the days of his incapacity would now say, "Get you gone and seek work; earn your bread as others do, by the labour of your hands." Who can doubt that the man soon had cause to reflect over the question of Jesus, and admit that it was a question full of meaning? The question, then, we see, was just the question to put to this man; and more than that, it is a question which all need to answer.

I. IT REMINDS US OF THE UNIVERSAL SPIRITUAL MALADY. Jesus is the great Physician, and comes to benefit the sick. When he talks so much of himself as the Giver of new life, what does this mean but that the old life is not sufficient? When men are ill in body they know that they are ill, and are quick to seek for remedies. But men take a deal of persuading and humbling and emptying of self before they can see the need of healing from Christ.

II. IT REMINDS US HOW WE MUST TAKE THE TRUE WAY TO SPIRITUAL HEALING. Notice the answer the impotent man gives to Jesus. He proceeds to explain that he is doing his best according to his light and opportunity. The only thing he knows of is to wait at Bethesda till his chance comes, and it is plain it never will come. And so to us, taking all sorts of traditional ways to ease the troubles of the breast, Jesus comes, and in the midst of all our failures says there is real healing if only we take the right way.

III. IT REMINDS US OF THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE NEW AND BETTER STATE. From this poor man in his helplessness little was expected. When he was healed he would have to enter on a life of struggle, duty, and self-reliance. When Christ lays down before us of the riches of his grace, a great deal more is thereby expected from us. - Y.

This poor sufferer excited the Saviour's sympathy and pity, and Christ healed him without delay. And it is noticeable that the word of healing was also a word of command: "Take up thy bed, and walk." The authority of the Divine Physician was acknowledged by the patient who had received the benefit. That authority was felt to be capable of overriding the letter of the ceremonial law. And the man who had been made whole, when censured by the formalists for carrying his couch on the sabbath day, naturally enough fell back for his vindication upon the command of the great Healer. He was bound to do the bidding of him who had set him free from a protracted infirmity, and had thus established a claim upon his grateful obedience.


1. Human nature is distinguished by a capacity for feeling and by a faculty of energy.

2. Consequently a Divine Saviour must both relieve him of his pains and infirmities, and at the same time give a new direction to his practical powers. The double need requires a double grace.

II. REMARK IN CHRIST THE DISPOSITION TO PITY THE SUFFERER, TO PARDON THE SINNER, TO RESTORE THE DISORDERED TO MORAL HEALTH AND HARMONIOUS ACTIVITY. The miracles of healing which Christ wrought (in number more than two-thirds of the whole, as recorded by the evangelists) are an abundant proof both of his compassion and of his power to save. The variety of human ills with which he dealt may be taken as symbolizing the sympathy of Jesus with all the sorrows and errors of humanity, and his power to heal, to harmonize, and to bless.

III. REMARK NO LESS IN CHRIST THE HABIT OF RIGHTEOUS AND AUTHORITATIVE COMMAND. Christ's was the authority of holiness, of helpfulness, of love. This authority was acknowledged by nature, by demons, and especially by men. He was felt to speak as One "having authority;" he drew forth the exclamation, "What manner of man is this!" When he spoke the word of command, rigid Jews broke without compunction the tradition of the elders, and helpless cripples willed to use their hitherto powerless limbs. All this denoted the right of the Son of God to rule over human hearts and consciences, over individual conduct, and over social life.


1. So far as the Lord himself is concerned, his healing grace witnesses to his Divinity, and his Divinity involves his control over his own subjects.

2. So far as they are concerned who are healed by the Redeemer, it may be said that gratitude and love give efficacy to those purposes of obedience which are formed in the presence of his rightful authority and power. The heart responds gratefully and affectionately to the interest exhibited and the healing mercy exercised by Jesus, and looks up to its best Friend for guidance and for help. There is no law so powerful as the law of love, and no obedience so thorough and cheerful as that of gratitude. - T.

Notice -


1. That the human family are subject to great sufferings. This is too patent to require proof. It is the universal experience of all. These are various and great.

(1) Physical sufferings - those arising from the infirmities, diseases, and ultimate mortality of physical life.

(2) Mental sufferings - those arising from personal and social afflictions, bereavements, disappointments, slander, failures of every description, and the mysterious problems of being.

(3) Moral sufferings - arising from a sense of guilt; the unreconciliation of the soul with God, and its consequent unsettled and painful spiritual state.

2. It was the great object of Christ to alleviate and remove these. To this he devoted his life and energy. He did this by sympathizing and guiding words, by merciful deeds, and by his vicarious death. In all his life and death, "surely he bore our griefs, and carried our sorrows."


1. Sin is the direct or indirect cause of all sufferings. All the sufferings of the human family, whether physical, mental, or moral, are traceable to sin. "The wages of sin is death" in all the departments of human being. The sufferings of this poor cripple were the direct consequence of his sin. Physical and spiritual nature invariably punishes the violation of its laws with suffering.

2. The cause must be removed in order to remove the effects. You must dry the fountain before you can dry the stream. As long as there is a fountain there must be a stream. As long as there is sin there must be suffering. Effects must follow causes.

3. The removal of the cause must be followed with the removal of the effect. Dry the fountain, there will be no stream. "Sin no more," there will be no suffering. We have a practical illustration of this in this world. In the degree sin is lessened suffering is lessened, and even with regard to the extent of suffering for which we are not directly responsible the pain is not unnatural. We have a revealed illustration of this from the other world. In heaven there is no sin, and there is no suffering. In hell there is unmixed sin, and there is unmixed suffering. Suffering must end with sin, not before; but then it will.

III. TO DO AWAY WITH SIN REQUIRES DIVINE AND HUMAN COOPERATION. "Sin no more." This is the Divine voice appealing to man for his consent and cooperation against sin.

1. This appeal presupposes two things at least.

(1) That to resist sin effectually is a possibility. In connection with what Christ has done and is doing, and what man can do, this is possible. We are not asked to perform impossibilities. A similar help which accompanied the effort to rise and walk, wilt accompany the effort to resist sin.

(2) That to resist sin is a most binding duty. It is each man's duty to God, to himself, and to others.

2. This Divine appeal is made to man's moral nature.

(1) To his individual consciousness. "Sin no more." Men are to be restored, not in the abstract, but in the concrete. Not as multitudes, but as individuals. Each man is directly appealed to.

(2) To his individual sinful consciousness. "Sin no more." Thou hast sinned, thou art a sinner. The Divine voice appeals to man as a sinner; thus his sin is brought home to him. This is an essential step to its removal, and unless an assenting echo comes from within, the Divine power has nothing to work upon.

(3) To the powers in man which can distinguish and resist sin. His conscience and will. The one can distinguish between good and evil, and the other can say yes or no to its dictates, as well as to the dictates of Heaven. Conscience is ever on the side of good, and against evil and such. The will is not; hence to educate the conscience, and stir up and gain the human will to the right side, is the chief aim of Christ and his gospel.

3. This Divine appeal is made through the most powerful motives.

(1) Those arising from considerations of sin itself.

(a) Experience of its evil consequences in the past. "Lest a worse thing come unto thee" - implying that its consequences in the past were bad. The sin of this man had cost him thirty-eight years of untold suffering and misery; only a taint shadow of its spiritual consequences. Every hell is against sin, and sin really is against itself. Man should learn from his failures, and grow wiser by experience.

(b) Its certain worse consequences in the future. "Lest a worse thing," etc.

(α) However bad has been the experience of sin, its worst has not been yet felt; there is something worse in store.

(β) A repetition of sin tends to its final issue.

Every repetition fixes it deeper in the character, and makes it more difficult of cure. It is in the very nature of sin to go from bad to worse, and the next step in it may lead to the worst of all - to utter inability to resist, and the consequent impossibility of relief. This should be a strong motive against sin, and a mighty influence to incline the will against it.

(2) Those motives arising from considerations of the Divine goodness. "Behold, thou art made whole."

(a) Deliverance from the painful consequences of sin is not a sufficient guarantee against falling into it again. The danger may be greater. It will be a point at which the man will be specially attacked; and if it becomes strong, it must become so by special watchfulness and prayer.

(b) Deliverance from the painful consequences of sin should be a strong motive not to commit it again. "Behold, thou," etc. This should awake

(α) a sense of special duty - not to sin. (β) A sense of special obligations to the Deliverer.

(γ) A sense of special gratitude to him for the deliverance. And this can never be manifested while sin is wilfully committed, for it is as detestable to God as it is ruinous to man.

(c) All the special and general goodness of God in providence and grace is in order to keep us from sin. With Divine eloquence it tells each man, "Sin no more." This is the case especially with regard to our personal deliverances. And if these will not keep us from sin, what will?


1. Christ cured bodies in order to cure souls. His physical cures were introductory to the spiritual. He performed the miracle of Bethesda in order to teach the lesson of the temple: "Sin no more."

2. No cure is complete unless the soul is cured of the disease of sin. Jesus sought the man in order to finish his work. At Bethesda it was incomplete. How many are satisfied with the introduction! But Divine goodness is wasted unless it is carried out to its natural issues, the restoration of the soul.

3. To keep away from sin is better than to be delivered from it. Prevention is easier and safer than cure. Prevention is ever possible, cure is not. It is possible to be in the palsy of sin where there is no Divine Physician.

4. Jesus helps man in order that man should help himself. He helped this man and did for him what he himself could not do. He made him whole. He was then in a position and under an obligation to do something for himself. "Sin no more."

5. In order to keep away from sin, we should ever remember its terrible consequences and our gracious deliverances. We should be reminded of these, for we are very forgetful. There was a danger that this man should forget this between Bethesda and the temple; therefore the first thing Christ did was to remind him, "Thou hast been made," etc. - B.T.

I. HE WHO WARNS HAS THE RIGHT TO SPEAK. It is not a mere stranger who comes up. He who speaks has rendered the greatest services to the man he addresses, and his warning for the future is based on his service in the past. So to speak, the healing would have been incomplete but for the giving of the warning. There are diseases the origin of which is not traceable; there are other diseases distinctly traceable to the evil doing of those who suffer from them. This man might surely have said, even as did the Samaritan woman, "Here is One who told me all that ever I did." Many would speak to the healed man, and their utterances would only move him to say that they knew not what they were talking about. "Sin no more," says Jesus. That seemed to point back to. some act or course of evil doing far away in the past, forgotten by most who had ever known it, and to many not known at all. But he who had the power to heal had also the power to know. If in after years this man neglected the warning and fell into suffering, all the bitterer would that suffering be in recollecting that he was so clearly forewarned against it.

II. JESUS WOULD HAVE HEALTH RESTORED, WHATEVER THE CAUSE OF ITS LOSS MIGHT BE. Jesus did not come first of all to the impotent man, reminding him that all these long years of infirmity were the consequence of his own evil doing. The man knew that well enough, and in all likelihood lamented bitterly over his folly. All sufferers demand sympathy; sufferers through their sin most of all. Jesus did not bean lecturing the impotent man as he lay by the pool. He healed him first, and then spoke plainly, even severely, to him after.

III. WHAT JESUS GIVES MAN MUST GUARD. While this poor man lay helpless, many temptations passed him by. Now that he was well again, temptations would crowd in upon him. The tempter says, "You are getting old; the years are few: make up for what you lost all the time you were so helpless." Jesus could easily make fresh physical energy pour into every organ and member of this disabled man. But when it; was a question of making him spiritually strong, then he had to be appealed to in a very warning way. What a dreadful possibility Jesus presents to the man! "A worse thing may happen to thee." What can be worse than a life of physical suffering? And yet there are degrees even in that. More sin might mean even worse bodily suffering, though it is almost certain Jesus meant the ruin of the whole nature.

IV. THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF HEALTH. Those in full vigour of body and mind must not be astonished when they are spoken to plainly. If they are not careful, their very strength and capability work out all the more evil. When we mourn over promising lives made useless by bodily infirmity, we must remember another aspect of bodily infirmity, namely, that people who might have done great mischief have thereby been made harmless. - Y.

Healing is work. The sabbath is for rest. Thus the Jews, in their rigid formality, objected against Jesus that, in restoring the infirm and sick man to health and vigour, he had transgressed the Law, because he had wrought the cure upon the sabbath day. The calumnies and persecutions of his enemies were met on the part of Christ by these simple and significant words: "My Father worketh even until now, and I work." There is no pause in the Creator's beneficence, none in the Saviour's ministrations.

I. HERE IS TEACHING UPON THE RELATION OF THE FATHER AND THE SON. The Jews were quick to discern the claim implicitly contained in the language of Jesus. He was "making himself equal with God." This he did, both by speaking thus of his "Father," and by asserting of himself what was true of no mere man, but of God only.

II. HERE IS TEACHING UPON THE UNINTERMITTING CONTINUITY OF THE DIVINE OPERATIONS. Christ gives no countenance to the very common notion that God created the universe, as a mechanic may a machine, leaving it when wound up to do its work, with no energy exercised, no interest shown, no interference taking place on the part of the Creator. God is ever working. In all the laws of nature, in all the movements of society, we are justified in tracing his ever-present and most beneficent hand.

III. HERE IS TEACHING UPON THE PARAMOUNT AUTHORITY OF THE LORD CHRIST. What dignity is there in the assertion of our Master, "I work"! He came to this earth in order to work; his life among men was a life of toil. "I must," said he, "work the works of him that sent me, while it is day." Especially did he work in the vanquishing of human ills, and in the promotion of human purity and well being. His work was not only wise; it was effective. Satan worked; Christ counter worked. Christ worked with Divine efficiency.

IV. HERE IS TEACHING UPON THE RELATION BETWEEN CHRIST AND MEN'S VIEWS AND PRACTICES WITH REFERENCE TO RELIGION. The Jews cavilled and quibbled, made much of trifles, were strict in ceremonial observances. How did the Lord and Saviour act in view of Jewish formalities? "I work!" - such was his reply, his rebuke. They might talk and find fault, they might forget the sufferer and the sinner in their exaltation of the Law. The Lord showed them a more excellent way, when he quietly but assiduously did the work for which he came into the world.

V. HERE IS TEACHING UPON THE NATURE OF THE CHURCH'S MINISTRY. If the Father and the Son concur in working, and if their work is incessant, what must be the vocation of the representatives of Christ, the servants of God? Surely their ministry must needs he one of toil. And if even the sabbath was a suitable occasion for the performance of a miracle of healing and of mercy, can Christians put the Lord's day to a better use than they do when they spend its hours in seeking the salvation of mankind? - T.

It might have been expected that a Saviour so compassionate and so beneficent as, even from an ordinary human point of view, Jesus undoubtedly was, would have met with a warm and grateful reception. Especially, it might have been expected, would his own countrymen, the neighbours and acquaintances of those who were benefited by his kindness, have encompassed him with honour, confidence, and affection. But it was not so; and Jesus was not surprised, for he well knew what human nature is. Again and again in the Gospel narrative do we meet with statements regarding the offence taken at Jesus by the Jews, and the hostility they cherished towards him.

I. THE OFFENCE WAS USUALLY TAKEN WITH SOME WORD SPOKEN BY JESUS WHICH HAD A PECULIAR PRECIOUSNESS, OR WITH SOME DEED THAT DESERVED ESPECIAL HONOUR. Those who in their life and work moved upon familiar lines, who fell in with the prejudices of their country and their times, escaped censure and commanded confidence. But the discourses of Jesus were paradoxical, and the deeds of Jesus were novel and surprising. It was when he said something altogether above the spiritual level of his contemporaries, when he wrought some work worthy of God himself, that the hostility and malice of the Jews was aroused. And if any one will observe upon what grounds the unbelievers of our own time take offence at Christ, he will find that the "scandal," the stone of stumbling, is something deserving of admiration and of reverence.

II. OFFENCE WAS TAKEN WITH JESUS BECAUSE HE WOULD NOT CONDESCEND TO THEM PETTY AND FORMAL NOTIONS OF RELIGION. The sabbath was a divinely instituted ordinance, and one obviously beneficial and beautiful. But the Jews confounded the means with the end, and attached a superstitious sanctity to the seventh day. Jesus was the Lord of the sabbath, and held that the day was hallowed by the performance of a deed of mercy and helpfulness. This was a view alien from the formal and ceremonial habits of the Jewish leaders. The ways of Jesus were too high, too spiritual, for these narrow-minded hypocrites, and accordingly they were offended with him.

III. OFFENCE WAS TAKEN WITH JESUS BECAUSE HIS OPPONENTS COULD NOT RISE TO HIS GLORIOUS BUT JUST REPRESENTATION OF HIS OWN NATURE AND MISSION. The claim which Jesus made to identity of purpose and to closest intimacy of nature with the Divine Father should have awakened in the minds of the Jews, at least, a spirit of inquiry, and have suggested, at least, the hope that in this gracious Being God might be visiting and redeeming his people. This, however, was far from being the case. The higher Christ's claim, the ruder the resentment of his adversaries. It may be questioned whether they really believed in God at all; had they done so, how could they have avoided the conclusion that God was "in Christ"?

IV. THE OFFENCE WITH JESUS LED TO THOSE PURPOSES AND PLOTS WHICH ISSUED IN HIS DEATH. The impression produced upon the Jewish leaders by our Lord's ministry in Jerusalem was one of hostility; and this hostility was deepened by every great act of Divine authority he accomplished, and by every bold and sublime utterance which either explicitly or implicitly rebuked their formality and unspirituality. Thus their "offence" deepened into malice and rage. They "stumbled" at the miracles by which the Lord asserted and explained his claims. Repeated "offence" issued in resolute plots against his life. And Jesus thus came to the cross not because of his faults, for he had none; but because of his righteous claims and his peerless beneficence. His death was a witness against his foes as fully as it was a witness in his own favour. - T.

Most of our Lord's discourses concern man and his spiritual life, are moral and practical. But this passage is, in the true and proper sense of the term, theological, informing us of the relations between the persons of the Godhead, and revealing, so to speak, the inner springs of our Saviour's ministry, by giving us a glimpse into the Divine nature and purposes.

I. THE FATHER IS EVER CARRYING ON BENEFICENT OPERATIONS IN HUMAN SOCIETY. The whole discussion originated in the cure of the infirm man at Bethesda; this being wrought on the sabbath occasioned the murmurings of the Jews, and elicited the defence of Jesus. Now, an ordinary physician, had he effected such a cure, would have been rightly satisfied to fall back upon the fact that the man's sufferings were relieved, and that human strength and comfort are an abundant justification for any measures not morally wrong. But the Divine Physician fell back upon the working of God in the world and among men. What he says does not remove all mystery, for he tells us nothing to explain the existence of sin and of suffering. But he does give us to understand that God is ever working among men in the very way in which he - Jesus himself - had been working, when he had healed the infirmities of the sick.

II. THE FATHER, LOVING THE SON, SHOWS HIM WHAT THINGS HE IS EVER DOING. This language is, of course, accommodated to our powers of comprehension. However the world, or the Jews in particular, might hate Christ, he was the beloved of the Divine Father, and as such was admitted to the Father's intimate and affectionate confidence. What a qualification for him who came to this earth as Prophet, Priest, and King of humanity! How wise a provision was thus made for our salvation! A perfect sympathy exists between the Personal Power of beneficence in the universe and the Teacher, Saviour, Lord of man.

III. THE SON, SEEING THE FATHER'S WORKS, DOES THE SAME IN HIS EARTHLY MINISTRY AND IN THE EXERCISE OF HIS MEDIATORIAL SOVEREIGNTY. Here was the all-sufficient vindication of our Lord's miracles themselves, and also of their manner and circumstances. The Father is ever working for man's welfare, on the sabbath as on other days. Every day of the week his sun shines, his air passes gently over the earth, his streams flow, his flowers bloom, his birds sing, his creatures rejoice in his bounty and kindness. He is all day long and every day promoting not only the bodily, but the intellectual and spiritual welfare of his dependent children. And what the Father does, that the Son does, moving amongst men, seen or unseen, a Presence of grace and comfort, of inspiration and of peace. Thus he ever works his Father's works, and forwards the cause which is dear to the Father's heart. Where we see the triumphs of the Gospel in individual hearts, in human society, let us recognize the tokens of the Saviour's holy and benevolent ministry, and be assured that this is the work of God himself.

IV. THE PAST OPERATIONS OF DIVINE MERCY ARE A PLEDGE OF GREATER AND MORE MARVELLOUS WORKS IN THE FUTURE. Our Lord, unlike a human teacher or leader, always represented what he did as only the promise of greater and better things to come. This assurance of his foreknowledge was verified in the marvels of Pentecost, and in the fruits which have been yielded throughout the long centuries of the spiritual dispensation. - T.

Many are the offices which it is appointed for the Son of man to hold. Yet they are all consistent one with another, and only a complete view of them can present Christ as he really is, and can elicit towards him all those sentiments which are justly due to him. If he is the Saviour of sinners and the Friend of his people, he is also the Lord of the earth and the Judge of all mankind.

I. THE QUALIFICATIONS OF CHRIST AS JUDGE. As represented by himself, these are two.

1. His Divine ability of knowledge, of authority, of justice, in virtue of his nature as Son of God. This is asserted in the claim he makes in ver. 22 of equality with the Father, and of a consequent right to the same honour which is accorded to the Father.

2. His participation in our human nature implied in the designation "Son of man" in ver. 27. This true humanity of our Lord ensures that all judgment shall be conducted not only with Divine knowledge and equity, but with human sympathy and consideration.

II. THE PERSONS OVER WHOM CHRIST EXERCISES HIS JUDICIAL FUNCTIONS. All mankind must stand at his bar; God hath committed all judgment unto him, and a day is appointed in which God will judge all men by the Man Christ Jesus. Friends and subjects, enemies and rebels, alike must receive sentence from his lips.


1. The thoughts and intents of the heart are considered as well as outward actions.

2. With respect to those who have been privileged to hear the gospel, the all-important question is - Did they receive or reject the Divine Mediator, the offer of Divine mercy?


1. There is judgment here and now, as seems implied in ver. 22. Christ is ever passing judgment upon men, criticizing their character and their action, discriminating between the evil and the good, making allowance for human infirmities on the one hand, and for human endeavours on the other. It is well for us that Christ judges his people now; that when necessary he has a controversy with them; that he has words of reproach for the unfaithful, and words of encouragement for the depressed; that he chastens his people in kindness and with purposes of love. It is for them to submit themselves to their Lord, to bow before his chastising hand, to profit by his correction.

2. There is judgment hereafter. Life has to be considered, not only in detail, but as a whole. When it is finished, then is the time for it to be duly estimated and justly recompensed. Now, our Lord himself assures us that retribution in the life to come is his peculiar work. The anticipation of this process should quicken our spiritual diligence and solicitude. The sinner may well repent and seek acceptance, so that he may recognize his Saviour upon the judgment seat; and the Christian may well prepare to render in his account "with joy and not with grief." - T.

Notice -


1. It is the spiritual life of the soul. It is called "eternal life," not merely as distinguished from temporal and fading, but also from material and carnal. The soul by sin has lost its spiritual life, its primitive purity, harmony and happiness arising from the peace and friendship of God. The soul left God like an erratic star from its central sun, and is truly described as being dead - dead to God and its highest interest. This life is the life of God within. His Law written in the heart, and his image restored in the soul. A life having its roots in God, its vitality from him, germinating and budding in the genial soil of his peace and friendship, growing and blooming in the sunshine of his love, and under the reviving dew of his presence and influence. This is the highest life of which the soul is capable. It is its true life - real, and not a mere form.

2. This life is in and through Christ. Having lost our spiritual life by sin, it is evident that we must have it from a Divine source, and through a Divine medium, and under a new and Divine arrangement. Christ is this Source and Medium. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. "I am come that they might have life," etc. As we derive our natural life from Adam, we derive our spiritual life from Christ, the second Adam.

3. This life is a blessing to be attainted. It comes not with us into the world. We have many things in consequence of birth. We are here with all the privileges of manhood; but not with eternal life. This we must attain, and to attain it is the chief end of life. If we had eternal life simply as men, we would not be urged to get it, seek it, and make every effort to lay hold of it.

4. It is to be had on certain conditions. These conditions are as set forth here - knowledge of and faith in the Divine Father and the Son: "He that heareth my word," etc. Every life from the lowest to the highest has its conditions, and these must be complied with ere that life can be enjoyed. Eternal life has its conditions. To know and believe the Author, the Source, and the Giver of this life is essential to its enjoyment. This natural, reasonable, and gracious as the conditions are suitable, easy, and within the reach of all.

5. It is to be had on these condition,'s now. As soon as its conditions are complied with, eternal life is begun in the soul. "Hath eternal life." Some speak of it as if it were entirely future, whereas it must be had in the present or never. This world is the only birthplace, and the season of salvation is the only birthday of eternal life. All those who enjoy it in heaven found it on earth.

6. It can only be fully enjoyed in the future. Being eternal, it must have eternity to develop itself fully. What is eternal in duration cannot reach maturity in time; what is spiritual in nature cannot be fully enjoyed under material conditions. All terrestrial life reaches a climax under terrestrial laws and circumstances; but spiritual life requires spiritual conditions, and naturally demands eternity in its full length to expand and develop its beauty, fruition, and happiness.

7. It is a life without end. "Eternal life." Every life here has an end, but one - spiritual life - Christ-life in the soul. This is eternal, and worthy of being so. The life of the body has an end: and when we consider its vanity, emptiness, privations, and sufferings, we are glad that it has. There is nothing in it, as a whole, to make endlessness desirable. There is no life, but that of God in the soul, worthy of being qualified by the word "eternal;" this has all the elements to make it worthy of eternal continuance. Eternity in the possession of this life will make up the sum of all the happiness man is capable of.


1. There is a wonderful immunity. "Shall not come into judgment." Much of the blessings of redemption consist, not in what we shall enjoy, but in what we shall evade; and this will be a great evasion. "Shall not come," etc. And why? Because it is passed. Eternal life and judgment are opposed to each other, and are respectively the results of faith and no faith in Christ. Judgment is in the region of death, but the believer has come out of that. There can be no real judgment for the possessor of life. "Who can lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" in this case the final examination is in the preliminary. Pass this, and you pass all.

2. There is a wonderful transition. "From death unto life."

(1) This transition is wonderfully great. Death and life are diametrically opposed. The moral distance between them is immeasurable; the change involved is, therefore, great. There is a change of nature, of condition, of sphere, of character, of prospects, of world. The passage from death unto life is morally long, and the transition wonderful.

(2) The transition is Divine. Every one who undergoes this transition must undergo a Divine process. The voice of God alone can make the dead in trespasses and sins hear. His power alone can bring them back to life. His infinite love can warm and quicken the soul into spiritual vitality; cause the heart to beat, and the blood to course so as to result in a new and Divine life. What is human in the process is lost when compared with the Divine, and God is all in all.

(3) The transition is real. It is not a passing dream, but a glorious reality; a genuine passage of the soul from a state of spiritual death to that of spiritual life. That it is real is evidenced:

(a) By the believer's experience and consciousness; He does not feel the same man. And he is right; for he is a new man. "I live, but not I," etc. His experience is quite different. "Who was before a blasphemer," etc.

(b) There are the ordinary proofs of life. It is not very difficult to distinguish between a dead and a living body, and not much more difficult is it to distinguish between a dead and a living soul. Mark the difference in the man - in his habits, his temper, his character, his language; they are unmistakable evidence of the transition.

(c) The emphatic testimony of Christ. "Verily, verily," etc.

(4) The transition is free. It cost infinitely to God. Before a single soul could be transmitted from death unto life, God's only begotten Son bad to suffer the most ignominious death. But what we have to do in the transition is only to believe and submit; only to jump on board the ship of life, and the passage is free.

(5) The transition, though great, is quickly made. We hear of quick passages made across the oceans, but they are all physical distance. To the moral distance between death and life, they are the moral poles of the universe; but the passage is quickly made. Only believe in Christ. The quickest passage, perhaps, on record is that of the thief on the cross. In the morning and even at midday he was in the empire of death and one of its extreme regions; but by an act of faith in Christ he was, before the close of that day, with Christ in one of the regions of life - in Paradise.

(6) The transition is a most happy one. "From death," etc.

(a) The happiness of the greatest deliverance.

(b) The happiness of the highest promotion.

(c) The happiness of perfect safety.

(d) The happiness of an ever-increasing enjoyment - the enjoyment of a holy, spiritual, and ever-young and growing life.

(e) The happiness of a never-ending gratitude. - B.T.

The dispute between Jesus and the unwilling and unbelieving Jews was a dispute as to our Lord's authority, dignity, and power. The attitude of his enemies constrained the Lord to adopt language the boldest and most uncompromising with regard to himself and his offices. Thus it was that he was led in the course of this discussion to advance his claim of authority over such even as were spiritually dead.

I. THE STATE OF SPIRITUAL DEATH. I. Its cause is sin, wicked departure from the God of life.

2. Its tokens are - insensibility to spiritual realities, incapacity for spiritual exertion, and unfitness for spiritual society.

3. Its effects are apparent both here in this world, and hereafter in the future state of retribution.


1. It is the summons of One who has life in himself; as is apparent from his power, several times exercised in the course of his ministry, to raise the dead, and even more strikingly from his own glorious resurrection.

2. It is conveyed in a voice in itself authoritative and Divine; and yet a voice of invitation and of promise.


1. This is by no means universal, being rendered only by those who are awakened by the influences of the Holy Spirit to some susceptibility to the spiritually authoritative tones and language of the Son of God.

2. It is the hearing of the soul which our Lord requires as the condition of life. The Old Testament admonition and promise are appropriate in this connection: "Hear, and your soul shall live." The frequent invitation, or rather summons, addressed to the people by the Saviour should be borne in mind: "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." Many listened to his discourses who never really heard him; and it is so now with His gospel.


1. This life which is conferred by the Son of God is spiritual. In a subsequent part of the discourse, Jesus claims to be endowed with authority to raise the dead to the life of the future state; but here the life which is promised is of the spirit. "That which is born of the Spirit is spirit." The spiritual character of this life appears from the references to that with which it is in contrast: "You hath he quickened, who were dead through trespasses and sins."

2. It is dependent life, derived from the source of spiritual vitality. Of himself the Lord Jesus says, in the following verse, that he possessed life, as his own, "in himself," by the appointment of the Father. But Christians derive their new life from him, who came "that they might have life, and might have it more abundantly."

3. It is immortal life, in this being distinguished from that of the body. In the preceding verse Christ describes it as "eternal," by which we may understand that it consists in participation in the Divine nature and in the Divine immortality. Thus the new life in Christ is independent of that of the body, whose dissolution indeed is the occasion of its higher development and true perfection. - T.

1. The effect of Christ's preceding discourse on his hearers was wonder. "They marvelled."

2. The teachings and deeds of Christ were well calculated to produce this emotion in all.

3. Each manifestation of his power and glory was only introductory to something greater still. "Marvel not at this," etc. The two resurrections - the resurrection of life and that of judgment. Notice -


1. In the physical condition supposed. The subjects of both are dead, and described as being in their graves. The good die as well as the bad. They lie down and sleep together; their graves are often in close proximity to each other, and their dust is mingled together. They are under the same physical condition, that of mortality and complete dissolution.

2. Both are similar in their wonderful effects. Both are resurrections. There wilt be a quickening into life, into full conscious existence. There will be a reunion of body and soul after a long separation; the physical effects will be similar in both. The good and the bad shall hear, and come forth.

3. Both are the result of the same Divine power.

(1) The Agent is the same in both. "The Son of God." To raise the dead is the prerogative of Divinity, and by the power of the Son of God shall the good and the bad be raised. As the resurrection forms a most important part of the great scheme of redemption, it most befittingly falls to the Redeemer's lot to do it. He has the right and the power; and it will be exercised on this occasion on all, irrespective of character.

(2) The process in both is the same. "Shall hear the voice of the Son," etc. There will be an outward manifestation - a voice - and there will be a response. The same voice can awake the good and the bad. They would sleep on forever unless called by him. The voice of angels would be ineffective. But all will hear and know his voice, and come forth. Even the Son of God never addressed such a vast congregation before at once, and never with such unexceptional success. How many of his sermons missed the mark! But this grand resurrection sermon will not fail in a single instance. All shall hear and come forth.

4. The subjects of both resurrections shall come forth in their own and true character. As good or evil. Neither the sleep of death nor the Divine process of the resurrection can produce any change in character. Whatever a man soweth that shall he reap. The resurrection will not change this law, but help to carry it out. Character will cling to us forever.

5. The subjects of both shall come forth in their true character - according to the character of their deeds. "They that have done good, and they that have done evil." Character in both cases is formed by actions; so that the resurrection will be the same in its process to both classes. It will be fair to both - a faithful reproduction, not merely of the physical and mental, but also of the moral and spiritual self. Identity will be preserved intact. No one will have any reason to complain.

6. Both are similar in their certainty. The resurrection of the good and bad is equally certain. "All that are in the graves shall hear," etc. There is an absolute necessity for both, and there is an adequate power. Divine physical power is irresistible; Divine moral power is not so. What is absolutely necessary must come to pass. The good must be raised for the purposes of grace, the bad for the purposes of justice.


1. Dissimilar in the character of their subjects. The subjects of one are those who have done good, the subjects of the other are those who have done evil. And between good and evil there is an essential and an eternal difference - a difference which neither eternity nor omnipotence can efface. Good will be good and evil will be evil at the last day, and the difference will be more strikingly seen.

2. Dissimilar in their results.

(1) One is the resurrection of life, the other is that of judgment. Those who have done good will not be raised to judgment, for they have passed from death unto life. Therefore they must rise unto life; the highest, the truest life of the soul - a life like that of Christ himself. The other is the resurrection of judgment, of condemnation - the opposite of life.

(2) The one is a reward, the other is punishment. Life is the natural consequence of goodness and faith in Christ; still it is a reward and a Divine favour. The resurrection and its consequences will be a reward to the good, but punishment to the wicked. It would be mercy to them to let them sleep on; but justice demands their resurrection to receive the wages of sin, which is death.

(3) The one will be followed by a glorious ascension, the other by horrible descent. Those who have done good will come forth to rise forever in the ever-increasing enjoyment of a pure, happy, and endless life; while those who have done evil will rise to sink deeper in spiritual death. The reunion of body and soul to the good must intensify their happiness. To the wicked it must intensify their misery. What a difference there is between the good man being awaked to join his family at the breakfast table and at the mercy seat, and the culprit being awaked in the morning to undergo the terrible sentence of the law! This is but a faint illustration of the difference between the resurrection of life and that of judgment.


1. We have passed through many important crises, but the most important and marvellous one is yet in store. "The hour is coming," etc. A most important and wonderful hour! Time and eternity in an hour! We should live continually in that hour.

2. The inseparable connection between the present and the future. Our future is in our present, and our present will be reproduced in the future.

3. The importance of well doing in the present. Let us hear the voice of the Son of man, now that we may welcome the voice of the Son of God in that hour. The physical process of the resurrection is entirely future, with which we shall have nothing to do. The spiritual process is going on now, and by Divine help we can shape our own resurrection and determine whether it is to be one of life or of judgment. - B.T.

I. THOSE TO WHOM THE TESTIMONY WAS OFFERED. Jesus had done two things which exceedingly shocked and horrified the Jews of Jerusalem. On the sabbath day he had healed an impotent man, and told him to take up his bed and walk. He had also said that God was his Father, making himself equal with God. The words, the deeds, and the appearance of Jesus seemed contradictory to those who would not wait to look under the surface, but judged everything by their own traditions and prejudices. And when Jesus was confronted by all this prejudice and narrow-mindedness, all he could do was to go on with his work and his witness bearing. Not for himself he needed to fear anything, but he did fear for those who were blind to his claims. The hearts of men had got so hardened and their minds so twisted, that the true was reckoned to be the false, and the right to be the wrong. It did no harm to Jesus that he should be called sabbath breaker and blasphemer, but; it did great harm to those falsely calling him so. Hence he tries, quietly and patiently, to get them to examine into the evidence for his claims. Jesus never wanted people to take his bare word. He knew that false Christs would go out into the world, and therefore he would furnish ample and comforting evidence that he was the true Christ. Somehow or other, there were immense difficulties in the way of people receiving Jesus as the Christ of God. But they were not difficulties that Jesus made. Jesus is on our side against the difficulties. The works of Jesus, going on from day to day, gradually mounted up to a body of testimony, on which the faith of a sincere heart could build as on a foundation of rock.

II. THE WITNESS BEARING WORKS. John was a witness, but Jesus had greater witness than that of John. Jesus did not speak in any way depreciatory of John. The best of men may not be the best of witnesses. John told people where to look. He fixed their attention on Jesus, and they were then to watch what Jesus would do. From our own observation of Jesus we know far more than ever John could have told. us. The deeds of Jesus speak with unsurpassed power and tenderness to those who are disposed to listen. There they lie in their simple beauty and depth of suggestion, waiting till we look at them and search into them and put them together, investigating to their very depths, so that whatever witness bearing power is in them may be brought out to the full. What men say about Jesus is all very well in its way, but what we can see Jesus himself doing is far better. He means that we should, as it were, see him with our own eyes.

III. OUR RESPONSIBILITY BEFORE THIS WITNESS BEARING. We may neglect to examine into these witnesses, but that does not prove them unworthy of our closest study. Jesus knows his own. What you are disinclined to look at just now, you may be eager to search into by and by. Thousands pooh pooh the reality and possibility of the works of Jesus, measuring the possible and the impossible by their little experience. Supposing what happened to Martha and Mary happened to them, and one of their dearest was raised from the dead, where would their incredulity be then? Those Jews who so savagely charged Jesus with breaking the sabbath must surely have been men whose own persons and dearest friends had been untouched by suffering. We are responsible, too, for examining into all the works of Jesus - works in the spiritual sphere as much as in the natural; works like the conversion of Saul of Tarsus as much as the resurrection of Lazarus. It is indeed a great responsibility to be face to face with the testimonies from more than eighteen centuries of Pentecostal power. - Y.

Jesus is expostulating with the Jews, who refuse to admit his claims, to accept his salvation. The course of his argument and censure is somewhat thus: "You revere and examine the canonical Scriptures. You profess to think of them so highly that you regard them as the source of eternal life for men. Yet you will not yield faith and allegiance to me. What inconsistency is here! The true value of the Scriptures lies just in this, that they bear witness to me, that they are intended to lead you and all who read them to me. The fact is, that you rest in the Scriptures, instead of being led by the Scriptures to me, who am Life Eternal. Thus the Word fails to fulfil in your case its intended purpose."


1. This is so with the Old Testament, which was in our Lord's mind when he used this language. In the Old Testament there are recorded some explicit and direct predictions which are fulfilled in Jesus; whilst the symbols, sacrifices, and services of the old economy in many instances point to him who should come. No Christian can read certain of the psalms, or certain passages from the writings of Isaiah and of Daniel, without tracing prophetic outlines of the sufferings and of the reign of the Messiah.

2. It is obvious that this is still more strikingly the case with the New Testament, to which, of course, our Lord could not be referring here, but which we are bound to search, and in which we are sure to find abundant witness to Jesus as the Christ of God and the Saviour of men. The Gospels and Epistles are full of Christ; they relate facts, they offer doctrinal explanations, they draw practical inferences, all of which have a bearing upon human salvation.

II. THE SCRIPTURES ARE THUS THE MEANS OF ETERNAL LIFE TO MANKIND. By "eternal life," the most comprehensive of all phrases employed to denote spiritual enrichinent and blessing, we are to understand the life of the soul, the life which is Divine. Now, this is a boon which the knowledge of the mere letter of Scripture can never impart. It must be communicated by the quickening Spirit of God, and is conveyed through that Mediator, who is in himself the life of God, and who becomes, by his humiliation, obedience, and sacrifice, the life of man. He himself professed and promised to bestow this boon: "Come unto me, that ye may have life;" "This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." If we know Christ in and through the Scriptures, we may be justly said to owe to them the incomparable gift of life eternal.


1. In what spirit? With a reverent sense of their Divine origin and authority, and with a high conviction of their priceless value.

2. With what intent and view? Not for curiosity's sake, nor for secular ends, but for spiritual improvement.

3. In what manner? Systematically, and not in a desultory fashion; with all accessible human aids, and with prayer for Divine enlightenment and assistance. - T.

We have here -

I. A COMMENDABLE SEARCH. Commendable because:

1. It is a search for the proper object. "Eternal life."

(1) This is man's greatest spiritual need. This he lost by sin. When he sinned, he died spiritually. He became dead to God and virtue. But when he lost his spiritual life, the craving for it remained. Eternal life is felt by man to be his greatest spiritual need.

(2) This is man's highest good. It is his greatest spiritual need, and is calculated to develop all his spiritual capacities and satisfy all his spiritual wants. This is the climax of being. Nothing higher can be given, nothing higher can be desired.

(3) This is the most important object that can engage the attention of man. His greatest need, his highest good, and any attention bestowed upon it and any effort put forth to secure it is praiseworthy.

2. It is a search for the proper object in the proper field. "The Scriptures."

(1) Eternal life is a subject of revelation. This is natural and essential; it must be so. It is evidently beyond human discovery. "Eye hath not seen," etc. Eternal life and the way to obtain it must come from the source of life.

(2) Men in all ages have looked for it in connection with some kind of revelation, either oral or written. The human race have instinctively looked for it in the direction of the Divine; they searched for it in every voice and book purporting to be Divine communications, as instanced in the oracles of the Greeks and Romans, the Shasters of the Hindoos, etc.

(3) This search for it is made in the true revelation. "Ye search the Scriptures." All other revelations are false and imaginary, but the Scriptures are the true revelation of God's will and gracious purposes - a revelation of eternal life. They are "they which testify of me."

3. The chief object is sought in a praiseworthy manner. "Ye search," etc. The Scriptures, as the revelation of God's will, are worthy of the most diligent search. No search can be too minute and no effort can be too thorough. Eternal life is a pearl to be found by search. These people searched the Scriptures, and in the time and efforts they bestowed on this, they were patterns to the present age.


1. They failed to recognize Christ as the great Theme of the Scriptures.

2. They failed to learn the testimony of Scripture to Christ as the Life of the world.

(1) As the Source of life.

(2) As the Author and Giver of life.

(3) As the Support of life.

(4) As the perfect Pattern of life, in its development, progress, struggles, and final triumph.

The very Scriptures which they searched emphatically and unitedly bear witness to Christ as the Life of the world, and as the Author and Giver of spiritual life in the soul. This witness they failed to recognize, this testimony they failed to understand.

3. They failed to come to Christ to have life. Our Lord suggests the reasons for this.

(1) Want of inward religious integrity. "I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you." "You have not the Word of God abiding in you;" and, having neither his love nor his Word in them, they failed to accept his most precious gift.

(2) Want of spiritual discernment. They could not see through the letter to the Spirit; could not see the Son of God in the Son of man, nor the Divine Saviour in Jesus of Nazareth.

(3) Want of self-surrender. "Ye wilt not," etc. Surrender of their prejudices, of their carnal notions, and of their wicked conduct. This was the chief reason of their terrible failure in relation to Christ and eternal life.

4. This failure is very sad. Because:

(1) Their best energies were wasted. There was much search, but all in vain. Their labour was spent for that which satisfieth not, and their money for that which is not bread. This is life wasted, energies misapplied.

(2) The chief good was lost. "Eternal life." How sad, after so much search!

(3) Lost while so near to them. In the very Scriptures they so diligently searched. The Author and Giver of eternal life was in their nature, in their midst, preaching in their streets, teaching in their synagogues, performing mighty deeds before their very eyes, and uttering the words of eternal life in their ears. Still they lost the highest good. They were in the field, but missed the pearl; they had the casket, but missed the jewel.

(4) Lost while they ought to find it. They had the best advantages - the testimony of Scriptures, of John, of the Father, and of the mighty works of Christ himself. To lose an important thing through misfortune, or through something which could not be helped, is sad enough, but to lose eternal life while it could be easily attained is sadder still. This was the case with the Jews, as well as with all who have the gospel.


1. The chief good may be very near and yet missed. This was the case with regard to the majority of Christ's hearers, and this is the case still. It is so near, but how often missed!

2. Much commendable search of Scripture may be made in vain. Many students of the Bible are scripturally rich but spiritually poor. "Ever learning," etc.

3. It is not enough to search the Scriptures, but we must search them with the proper end in view - with open eyes and open hearts. We should not stop with the letter, but dive down to the spirit and drink of the living water, accept the Life - the Christ of the Bible.

4. How little is enough to keep us from the chief good! A want of will is sufficient. Look at the rich young man; only one thing was lacking. And look at these Jews; it was only the "will not" that stood between them and eternal life.

5. In Christ alone eternal life is to be found.

6. We must come to him, for it, or be without it.

7. The importance of the subject and the Divine aids should ever decide the will in favour of Christ. To know the Scriptures and not know the Christ of the Scriptures is very sad. - B.T.

Jesus deals with the numerous obstacles to faith one by one, as they rise up. And observe, too, that Jesus is here dealing, not only with unbelievers, but with mortal enemies. Some looked on Jesus and listened to him, and then went away, as little touched by hate as by love; others were so filled with falsehood and pride, and zeal of God not according to knowledge, that almost every word of Jesus caused a fresh and violent irritation. Such could do nothing but oppose Jesus, and make their unbelief hideously manifest in their works. And Jesus knows the reason for all this violence in unbelief. These opponents of his have wrong views as to the true glory of human nature. Jesus could never have a glory that would please them.

I. MAN'S TOUCHING CONSCIOUSNESS THAT HE COMES SHORT OF HIS GLORY. For it is glory rather than honour that Jesus is here speaking about. The word is δόξα, not τιμη. Glory is the manifestation, the full bringing out of what is inside. Honour is the value, the price, so to speak, which others put upon us. These enemies of Jesus, according to the judgment he expresses upon them, were men seeking a glory which would not come by any natural development. If it came, it had to come by their wishing and seeking. The glory of the lily in its clothing comes by the mystery of its creation; the glory of Solomon comes by what he gathers to himself. Jesus looked upon men, every one of whom was conscious he had done something, had achieved for himself a position of sanctity and success which made it right for others to honour him.

II. MAN LETTING HIS GLORY BE DETERMINED BY FRAIL HUMAN JUDGMENT. When ambition gets into our hearts, we crave for those eminences and splendours which the world, in its fondness for the outward and visible, will readily recognize. Jesus could not be recognized for what he was, because he could not be measured by the standard to which his enemies habitually appealed. It was not that he came short of the standard; he could not be measured by it at all. It was as if a man who had nothing but liquid measures should be asked to determine the length of a piece of cloth. These enemies of Jesus could not even understand him. He set at nought the glories, the aims, and the sanctities they held dearest. They let glory be determined by human traditions and the self-seeking notions of the natural heart.

III. HOW SEEKERS OF GLORY CAN COME TO A REAL FAITH IN JESUS. They must see how in Jesus there is the real, abiding, everlasting glory of humanity. In Jesus there was the glory that cometh from God - the glory of a pure heart, a gentle spirit, a perfect integrity; the glory of a life that best shows forth the glory of God. This was the glory of Jesus, that he glorified the Father. In the Son, those who had eyes to discern could see all of the eternal glory that was within the reach of human perceptions. As long as these enemies of Jesus remained in the same mind and clung to their cherished standards, so long Jesus would be impossible to their faith. Our attitude to Jesus infallibly determines our real worth. We are unconsciously judging ourselves in judging him. - Y.

The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database.
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