Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. IT IS POSSIBLE TO BE FAMILIAR WITH CHRIST, HIS DOCTRINE, AND GOSPEL, AND YET NOT TO BELIEVE ON HIM. In reading the gospel narrative, we meet with instances of unbelief which do not surprise us, which seem easily accounted for. There were many who did not really know Christ, who simply took other people's judgment concerning him, or acted upon the prejudices natural to ignorance. We scarcely wonder that the selfish, unscrupulous, unspiritual rulers and scribes at Jerusalem rejected Christ's claims, and acted towards him with hostility; or that the Roman procurator Pilate misunderstood him, and finally abandoned him to his foes. But we are shocked when we learn that the very brethren of Jesus wanted faith - at all events, thorough faith - in Jesus. They were his kin; they had known him for many years; they must have enjoyed many opportunities of studying his character and verifying his claims. Yet they withheld their faith, at least for a time. This fact is not unparalleled. In condemning the brethren of Jesus, the hearer of the gospel may possibly be condemning himself. In our own day, in the very heart of Christian society, there may be found many who are very familiar with the gospel, who are frequent readers and hearers of the Word, who have seen in their nearest friends very favourable representatives of the Christian character, who yet have little interest, and no faith, in Christ himself.
II. EXPLANATIONS OF THIS REJECTION OF CHRIST, CONSISTENT WITH FAMILIARITY WITH HIM MAY BE DISCOVERED IN HUMAN NATURE AND EXPERIENCE.
1. There are cases in which familiarity itself seems adverse to faith. A striking illustration of the action of this principle is recorded by St. Luke. The Nazarenes knew Jesus well; he had been brought up among them, had dwelt in their town; everything they had known of him must have been favourable. "Familiarity," says the proverb, "breeds contempt;" and in vulgar natures this is true. Accordingly, the people of Nazareth, when the Divine Prophet visited them, were not only incredulous, they were hostile. In his own city he had no honour. It seems to have been the same with our Lord's kindred; it was hard for them to believe that one brought up among them, and in circumstances resembling their own, could be so far above them, in true rank and in spiritual authority, as Jesus claimed to be. To how many has the name of Jesus been familiar from childhood, without awakening sentiments of reverence and faith! When some such persons have the dignity and the power and preciousness of Jesus brought in some way with unusual vividness before their minds, it may be noticed that resentment is aroused rather than faith. Christ has occupied a familiar place in their stock of knowledge; but perhaps on that very account they are indisposed to see in him what they have never seen before.
2. There are cases in which worldliness and sluggishness of spirit are a barrier to faith in Christ. Such persons may be, through birth and association, almost as brethren to the Lord; yet their habits of mind prevent them from rousing themselves even to consider his claims. They live at a low level, and they hate everything that would raise them to a higher. They resist any demand upon admiration or faith. They may be indisposed to believe in anyone or in anything; how much mere in a Being so glorious, in doctrines so inspiring, as Christianity presents!
3. There are cases in which example explains indifference to the Saviour. No doubt our Lord's kinsmen ought to have been influenced by the better example of the mother and the disciples of Jesus. But they appear to have been more affected by the negligence and unbelief of others. It is observable that they came to believe at a later period - perhaps, under the influence of the growing numbers of the Lord's adherents. Certain it is, that many of the hearers of the gospel have no better reason to give for their incredulity than the faithlessness of others, especially of those with whom they most associate, and from whom they unconsciously take their moral tone. A "reason" this is not, but it is a sufficient explanation to those acquainted with human nature.
III. VALUABLE PRACTICAL LESSONS MAY BE LEARNED FROM THE UNBELIEF OF CHRIST'S BRETHREN. Those especially who have long enjoyed many religious advantages may gain profit from this record, which contains suggestions of very serious admonition.
1. It is foolish and wrong to rest in outward privileges; for these of themselves, if not used aright, are of no avail. If it served no valuable end for these relatives of Jesus to be so near him in blood, we shall act foolishly if we rest in our association with Christ's Church.
2. It is important to penetrate through superficial acquaintance with Christ to real spiritual knowledge of him. It is well to have an acquaintance with the facts and doctrines of Christianity. But these are merely means to a higher end, to faith and fellowship, assimilation and devotion.
3. Not to believe in Christ is to reject him in all his glorious offices. He came to earth to be a Prophet, a Priest, and a King. To refuse our faith to him in these several offices, is to forfeit the spiritual, the priceless blessings which it is his heart's desire to confer upon the children of men. - T.
I. THE TIME OF JESUS. "My time is not yet come." His time to go up to the feast, or his time to manifest himself. We have here:
1. Jesus as the Subject of time. During his earthly career he was the Subject of time, and dependent upon it. He who was before and really above time was now its Subject. As such:
(1) He had regard to its events; what were taking place in the social and religious world around him, their bearings upon each other, and especially upon his movements and actions, and the bearings of his movements upon the events of the time.
(2) He had regard to the character of his time; to the men who acted in it - men of religious and social authority and power - to their principles and attitude towards him and the great mission of his life.
(3) He shaped his course accordingly. He had a certain amount of time to live and do his work. He could escape death if he wished; but could not have escaped death and perform the mission of his life. He might have shortened his days, and frustrated their end by indiscreetly rushing into the teeth of danger; but as a Subject of time he had due regard to current events and public feelings in relation to him, so that he acted with perfect wisdom and discretion.
2. Jesus as the Manager of time.
(1) To him time was very precious. His time was very short, and he had an immense work to do. Never was so little time given for such a great work. Every moment was an age, and ages were compressed into a moment. He made the best of time. Every moment was infinitely precious.
(2) He had a special time forevery work. He never performed a single miracle nor preached a single discourse at random. There was perfect adaptation and correspondence between his actions and the time. They fitted in with the natural sequence of events, and with the state of thoughts and feelings. They could not be performed at any other time with the same results. They were like the growth of spring and the ripe fulness of harvest.
(3) He had some special work forevery portion of time, so that every hour was well occupied and every minute well spent. He had a season foreverything, and everything was in its season.
(4) The exact time for all his movements was well known to him. He knew when it had not and when it had come, so that he was never too soon nor too late. He could not be induced to move by the solicitations of friends before his time; neither could he be stopped, nor be driven from the scene of duty, when his time had arrived. Punctuality was one of his characteristics. He was at every station and every duty in due time, and not before. He was never waiting, and no one had to wait for him. He was bound to time, and time was bound to him. He was both its Subject and its King.
II. THE TIME OF HIS BRETHREN. Their time and his differed materially.
1. Their time was always ready. This was true with regard to going up to the feast, and also to the manifestation of Christ according to their ideas. They were ever ready and anxious for this. But Christ's time was not yet come. Man's time is often before that of God. His ideas are more limited. God's thoughts and plans move in an infinite circle, and take a longer time to be accomplished. Man's time is often after that of God. Now is God's accepted time to repent and believe. It is at some more convenient season often with man.
2. Their time was by self; his by the general good. Their notions were carnal and selfish, and were inspired in all their movements by principles of self-interest; but Christ's notions were spiritual and Divine, and he was ever inspired in all his movements by Divine and benevolent principles - the glory of God and the spiritual redemption of the human family. There is a vast difference between the time of selfishness and that of self-sacrificing love.
3. Their time was by the present; his was by the future as well. They were prompted by present advantage, by considerations which only embraced the limited period of their own life; but Jesus was prompted by future advantages, and by considerations which embraced endless futurity. Every step he gave was given with regard to all future ages. His time was regulated by eternity, and the eternity of myriads depended on his time.
4. Their time was by earth; his was by heaven. Theirs was by the material sun; his was by the eternal throne. Their principles were in perfect accord with those of the world, and their notions of the Messiah were those of the nation at large. So that they could move with perfect safety whenever they liked, they were in no danger. But the principles of Jesus were in perfect accord with those of God - they were holiness, spirituality, benevolence, self-sacrifice, and mercy, and thus in direct antagonism to the world; so that an unwise move might result in an untimely and fatal collision.
5. Their time was by unbelief; his was by faith. We are told that his brothers did not really believe on him. And unbelief is ever impatient, commanding, and always ready for some carnal demonstration and material sign. Faith is patient, submissive, and ever grateful for a vision when it comes; but if it comes not at the time and in the way expected it waits and trusts and obeys. Jesus was the Messiah and the Saviour of faith. He revealed himself to faith, and faith is the only power on earth which could see, comprehend, and appreciate his real character and his Divine mission; consequently all his movements, although not regardless of unbelief as precautionary, yet were directly made in the interest of faith. When faith is ready, he will be at the feast, and will manifest himself at any risk.
1. We are in as much danger often from mistaken friends as from open foes. Jesus was so now from his brethren and the multitude; they wished to make him King.
2. A word or a deed in season is much more effective than otherwise. Christ's words and deeds were ever seasonable. God has his set time for punishment and salvation.
3. In order that our time should correspond with that of Jesus, let us believe on him. If we wish to have his company to the feast, let us exercise implicit trust in him.
4. If we wish to make the most of time, let us follow Jesus in watching the best season foreverything. Random shots seldom kill anything. We should not merely be diligent, but take aim. - B.T.
I. THE WAYS IN WHICH THE LORD JESUS WITNESSED AGAINST THE WORLD'S EVIL.
1. By his language. Meek and gracious as he was towards such sinners as were penitent, Jesus was unsparing in his denunciations of hardened and hypocritical offenders against the Law of God. Against falsehood, covetousness, cruelty, and licentiousness, the Son of man raised his voice in indignant protest and censure. And against such sins, when cloaked by a religious profession, he was severe with a severity unexampled even in Scripture.
2. By his conduct. In many cases there is no protest against evil so effective as an upright and holy life. This protest was ever offered by our Lord; it was natural and habitual to him. The calm dignity with which our Lord lived amidst formalists and dissemblers could not be unnoticed either by friends or foes, and by his foes it was felt as a rebuke and a condemnation.
II. THE HATRED WHICH OUR LORD'S WITNESS AGAINST THE WORLD'S EVIL AROUSED AGAINST HIM.
1. This hatred evinced a moral warfare within human nature. On the one hand, the conscience of sinners concurred in the rebukes uttered by the holy Saviour; on the other hand, their selfishness and pride would not submit to these rebukes. Thus there arose, as in such circumstances there ever arises, an inner conflict. And in order to repress the voice of conscience, sinners often hardened themselves against its expostulations by giving themselves more resolutely over into the power of evil.
2. This hatred led to calumny and slander against the holy Christ. Only thus can we account for the absurd and wicked and scandalous language used concerning Jesus. His enemies called him a sinner, a deceiver, and declared that he was possessed by a demon, by Beelzebub. If he had left their sins unrebuked, and had humoured their prejudices, he might have secured the adherence and support of the Jewish leaders; but the upright course he took in dealing with them brought down upon him their malice and their hatred.
3. This hatred was the motive of the plot which issued in the apprehension and death of Jesus. It appears that the hostility of the priests and rulers against Jesus of Nazareth was excited by his pure and spiritual teaching, which was felt to be a rebuke to their formality and hypocrisy, and by his denunciations of their ambition and covetousness. His enemies felt that there was a likelihood of his undermining their influence over the common people. This led to the resolution to compass his death by means however foul.
III. THE WORLD'S HATRED BECAME THUS THE OCCASION OF THE EVENT WHICH WROUGHT THE WORLD'S DELIVERANCE FROM ITS SIN. The wisdom of God is often manifested in the bringing of good out of evil. The most stupendous and glorious instance of this wisdom was afforded in the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus. He testified against the world's evil; the hatred of the world was thus inflamed against him; this hatred led to the apprehension, the condemnation, and the death of the Holy One and Just; and his death was God's method of vanquishing the world's sin, and of saving mankind from spiritual destruction and ruin. - T.
I. THE PARTICULAR SEASON FOR WHICH JESUS WAS WAITING. His brethren wanted. him to make the best of the crowd that would be at Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. The Feast of Tabernacles, however, was only a secondary occasion compared with the Feast of the Passover. There could have been nothing to remember at the Feast of Tabernacles unless, first of all, there had been something to remember at the Feast of the Passover. All other glorious recollections which Israel had to cherish with gratitude and hope came out of the deliverance from Egypt. Thus, at the Feast of the Passover, the time of Jesus fully came, and the coming was made manifest by his public and triumphal entry. The multitude surrounding him had come up for the Passover, like himself. They shout "Hosannah!" that is, they utter forth a prayer for salvation. And this prayer was soon answered, though not as the multitude expected, and not in a way that many of them would profit by. Jesus was just about to be delivered over to men, that men might do their worst to him. Then, when men had done their worst, his Father in heaven would do his best. Everything was done just at the right time. And all this comes forth from that Lord of hosts who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working. It is just what we should expect, that God's great dealings in grace should have about them the order and regularity which mark his dealings in nature.
II. HOW WE ARE TO PROFIT BY THE FULL COMING OF THE TIME OF JESUS. We can only profit by the coming of this time as we make it to profit. The time of Jesus has to come fully with each of us. Not a human being who has ever trod this planet but has to come somewhere and somehow in contact with Jesus. We can no more escape Jesus than we can escape death. Life is narrowing day by day, and we are getting pushed on to a wicket gate where face-to-face dealing with Jesus is inevitable. The time has fully come for Jesus to be showing something of his saving power in our experience. Whenever Jesus, in the days of his flesh, met with those who had divers diseases and infirmities, the time was fully come for him to take those diseases and infirmities away. And so the time of Jesus is fully come to save whenever the sinner feels his need of saving. When the lifeboat is built and put in the lifeboat house, the time is fully come for the boat to do its work. Whenever the work is ready for it, it is ready for the work. So Jesus is ready for the sinner whenever the sinner is ready for him. Ready to save, ready to govern, ready to comfort, ready to put in the way of a full recompense for an obedient life. - Y.
I. AS THE QUESTION OF GENERAL INTEREST. There is no doubt that Jesus was the most interesting person of that age. His mighty works and his wonderful teaching had excited the interest of the general public, and had stirred society to its utmost depth. How many persons there were concerning whom no question was asked! They might come and go almost unnoticed. But not so Jesus. The general question with regard to him was, "Where is he?" His movements were keenly watched, and his presence or absence was keenly noticed.
II. AS THE QUESTION OF WONDER. Although he was not at the last Passover, still he was in the habit of attending the national feasts at Jerusalem; and this being one of the chief, and probably rumours had reached the city of his intention to be present and being now late, wonder would naturally express itself by the question, "Where is he?"
III. AS THE QUESTION OF CURIOSITY. There was a large class to whom Jesus was only a curiosity. In them he excited no other sentiment. They stood in the rear, watching with avidity the actions of those in front. They had neither love nor hatred, but still were busy and interested in the strange phenomenon of his life, and perhaps no sentiment with regard to him would ask the question more often and flippantly, "Where is he?"
IV. AS THE QUESTION OF DOUBT. Doubt with regard to Jesus at this time was very prevalent. The multitude who represented the national idea of the Messiah were doubtful of him. Many of them had recently left him, and had apparently given up the hope of his consenting to be crowned the temporal King of the Jews. Still many of them even were doubtful as to this, and the disciples were not quite free from doubt on this matter. They still clung to the hope, but his absence from the feast, from such a public gathering and an advantageous occasion, would make the most sanguine doubtful, and they would impatiently ask, "Where is he?"
V. AS THE QUESTION OF HATRED. No feeling could be more present in the question than this, especially when we consider that it was asked by the Jews; for the dominant party were bitter, confirmed, and almost unanimous in their hatred to him and his ministry. And in the question as coming from them there was scarcely a spark of any other feeling but confirmed and seething hatred. They were in a region far below that of curiosity and doubt; they were in that of hatred and bloodshed.
VI. AS THE QUESTION OF SINCERE AFFECTION. Those who entertained this feeling were in a small minority, still it is not too much to think that in that vast and generally antagonistic crowd there was many a one who would re-echo the question even from the lips of malice and hatred, and send it forth filled with gratitude and love. "Where is he?" - he who healed my son or my daughter, he who is kind and so full of grace and truth? We know of one, at least, among the members of the Jewish Sanhedrin who would ask it as a question of love - Nicodemus. Genuine love and faith were not quite unrepresented in the inquiries concerning Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles.
1. The wonderful power of language as the instrument of thought and sentiments. The same words may convey different feelings. Murder and love may travel in the same vehicle. "Where is he?"
2. People in all ages make inquiries concerning Jesus Christ from different motives and with different intentions. Their language may be almost the same - "Where is he?" but the motive's and intentions are different and various.
3. It is of paramount importance with what motives and intentions we inquire for Christ. No motive nor intention is worthy of him but faith and the salvation of the soul.
4. Blessed are those who ask with living faith," Where is he?" He will soon appear and satisfy all their wants. -B.T.
I. THE SOURCE OF CHRIST'S DOCTRINE. This was a mystery to many of the Jews, who knew that Jesus was born in a lowly station, and that he had not been trained in the schools of rabbinical learning, and who could not understand how he could teach with such justice, profundity, and beauty. With this difficulty Jesus here deals.
1. The doctrine of Jesus is asserted by himself to be derived. He repudiated the notion that he spake from himself, i.e. from the experience or originality of a merely human mind.
2. The doctrine of Jesus is asserted by himself to be Divine. It was neither his own, nor that of a school of learning, nor was it a mere amplification of the sayings of the ancient legislator and the ancient prophets. Jesus ever claimed to have come from God, and to have acted and spoken with the authority of God. This, however, was his assertion; how were his hearers to verify it?
II. THE KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST'S DOCTRINE. There were many who listened to the discourses and conversations of the great Teacher, who were familiar with his language, but who were unacquainted with, and indifferent to, the spiritual meaning and power of which that language was, to sympathetic souls, the vehicle. How can this meaning and power be known?
1. There must be a will in harmony with God's will. Man is not merely an intellectual being; he is emotional and practical. And the will is the man. It is the habitual purposes which determine the man's character. Many persona have insight into truth, and even admiration of truth, whose moral life is nevertheless evil, because they abandon themselves to be the sport of every fleeting passion. The habitual indulgence of passion, pride, and worldliness blinds the spiritual vision, so that the highest good becomes indiscernible. And thus three who are not without natural gifts of intelligence become incapable of judging the highest type of character or of doctrine. On the other hand, the cultivation of a will in harmony with the Divine will is the means of purifying the spiritual vision. When the good is habitually chosen, the true comes to be habitually sought and prized.
2. The will thus in harmony with God's will recognizes the Divine origin of Christ's teaching. Both by reason of his acquaintance with the mind of God, and by his sympathy with the Law and the truth of God, the devout and obedient man is fitted to pronounce upon the origin of the Lord's teaching. "He that is spiritual judgeth all things;" he has "the mind of Christ." Thus it is, as our Lord acknowledged with gratitude, that things hidden from the wise and prudent are often revealed unto babes. His own apostles were a living illustration of this law. And every age furnishes examples of clever men, and even learned men, who have misunderstood and misrepresented Christ's teaching, because they have not been in sympathy with the righteous and holy will of the Eternal; whilst every age furnishes also examples of simple and unlettered men who, because lovers of goodness, have displayed a special discernment of mind in apprehending, and even in teaching, Christian doctrine. In this, as in other respects, it is the childlike nature that enters the kingdom of heaven. - T.
1. It is very natural that any one making special claims should be regarded with special caution. Jesus knew quite well that he would not be readily received on his own valuation. Thanks are owing to those who opposed and criticized him in the days of his flesh. Their very way of talking to him, the true Teacher, showed how little the instruction of other teachers had done for them.
2. Jesus had not been brought up among the people who were recognized as having the right to send forth teachers. As we should say, Jesus bad not been to Oxford or Cambridge. He would not speak like an educated Jew of Jerusalem, but like the son of a working man from far off Galilee. So Jesus had to explain the marvel how he seemed to know the Law and the Prophets at least as well as those whose whole lives had been spent in acquiring the knowledge.
I. LOOK AT THE CLASS WHO ARE SPECIALLY INTERESTED IN THIS VERSE. Those who wanted to know something certain about the authority and doctrine of Christ. These people in Jerusalem had all sorts of thoughts about Jesus. Some said he was a good man; others, a deceiver of the people. It was once said of him that he cast out demons by Beelzebub, the prince of the demons. Some thought he was Elijah; some Jeremiah, or, at all events, one of the prophets. There was no certainty about him in the minds of many. And in the minds of many the same uncertainty still prevails. Learned men spend years examining the Gospels, and they have nothing indubitable to report in the end. Yet be sure Jesus wants effectually to help all that are in real perplexity about him. Did he not say, "Blessed is he whosoever is not offended in me"?
II. HOW THIS CLASS IS TO BE HELPED. This class will always find a stumbling block in Jesus till it grows through a great inward change. Those who have no will to do the will of God will never find out the truth as it is in Jesus. Our own self-will and self-conceit form the greatest stumbling block. Self-willed people find it very uncomfortable the more they come to close quarters with Jesus. He never speaks without contradicting some dear desire of the unrenewed heart. Jesus was ever on the look out for people who wanted to do the will of God - people who felt they had come into the world to do the will of him who made them and the world into which they had come. God has his wishes just as much as any of us. A conscientious and loving servant, who is far away from his master, will ever have the thought of the master's wish before him; and when oftentimes he sees not quite clearly what the master would have him to do, he will be on the look out for every source of instruction. If, then, at such a moment a messenger should come from the master, meanly clad, and with a message written on a scrap of the commonest paper, he will not think less of the message if it tells him just what he wants to know. When John Williams the missionary was building his chapel in Rarotonga, he had occasion one day to send to his wife for something he had forgotten, so he scribbled the necessary message on a chip with a bit of charcoal. He took the materials at hand, but the message was none the less valid, none the less understood. And so the greatest of all messages, from the infinite and eternal God, is none the less his message because it came through One who was born in the lowliest surroundings and brought up in the home of a Galilaean working man. If we are resolutely on the side of God, God will help us into all truth, security, peace, and blessedness. - Y.
I. THE THIRST OF THE HUMAN SOUL. This thirst is deep seated in the nature of man. It manifests itself in the many forms of restless activity by which men seek to satisfy their aspirations. The powerlessness of the world to quench this thirst is an indication of the Divine origin of the soul. He who drinks at a cistern will find that the cistern will run dry. He who quaffs the water of a pool may find the water foul and turbid. Pie who tries to quench his thirst by draughts from the sea will learn that, so far from assuaging, these salt waters only increase the thirst.
"The frail vessel thou hast made, II. THE SATISFYING GIFTS OF GOD'S HOLY SPIRIT. That which the world cannot do, the Spirit of God can do; he can fill the created nature with peace, purity, truth, and power. The river of God's love flows on forever; it is inexhaustible. "With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation." "Blessed are they that... thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." III. THE INVITATION AND PROMISE OF JESUS. 1. He claims himself to dispense the satisfying gifts of the Spirit. He is the Rock in the wilderness, from which flows the stream of living water. Thus he said, "Let him come unto me;" and at an earlier period of his ministry, "I would have given thee living water." 2. The terms upon which this blessing is conferred are such as are most encouraging to the hearer of the gospel. Faith is required from the thirsting applicant. This is evidently intended by the use of the words "come" and "drink." The blessing must be appropriated. And yet the satisfying provision is offered freely; it is not bought, but given. "Drink of the water of life freely." - T.
II. THE SATISFYING GIFTS OF GOD'S HOLY SPIRIT. That which the world cannot do, the Spirit of God can do; he can fill the created nature with peace, purity, truth, and power. The river of God's love flows on forever; it is inexhaustible. "With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation." "Blessed are they that... thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled."
III. THE INVITATION AND PROMISE OF JESUS.
1. He claims himself to dispense the satisfying gifts of the Spirit. He is the Rock in the wilderness, from which flows the stream of living water. Thus he said, "Let him come unto me;" and at an earlier period of his ministry, "I would have given thee living water."
2. The terms upon which this blessing is conferred are such as are most encouraging to the hearer of the gospel. Faith is required from the thirsting applicant. This is evidently intended by the use of the words "come" and "drink." The blessing must be appropriated. And yet the satisfying provision is offered freely; it is not bought, but given. "Drink of the water of life freely." - T.
I. WHY DID JESUS PUT HIS INVITATION IN THIS PARTICULAR WAY? It could hardly be because of the present surroundings of the people. Jerusalem was plentifully supplied with water. Not a soul in the crowd but could get a drink very quickly. The main reason must be found in the feast which had brought the people together. It was the feast instituted to commemorate the forty years in the wilderness, and serious people would call to mind all the events of that period. Prominent among the experiences of wandering Israel was the miraculous supply of water. Where would the people have been but for the God who turned bitter waters into sweet, and made springs to burst forth in the desert? Thus the observers of the feast would be led to think of the intenser thirst of the inward man. Jesus tried to put the truth in every possible way. What did not catch the experience of one would catch that of another. Not everybody would this appeal of the Lord touch. They would not have been through the experiences and reflections which gave a proper feeling of the urgency and the pain of thirst. But if in all that crowd hearing the cry of Jesus there was but one, only one, who had known the agonies of thirst far away in some sandy waste where no water was, it was worth while for Jesus to shout aloud so that that single man might hear.
II. How THIS INVITATION IS TO BE MADE ATTRACTIVE TO US. We know nothing by our own experience of dry and thirsty lands. Wander anywhere through broad England and you can get a drink of water for the asking. We may sometimes have been inconvenienced a little, but that is no sufficient experience of thirst which lasts only for an hour or two. Reading accounts of some shipwrecks, we may gather a little of the feeling. Coleridge puts it thus in 'The Ancient Mariner' — "Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink." Of all the physical wants man can feel, none is capable of being raised to such a pitch of intensity as the want of water. So, down underneath the figure Jesus employs, there is a suggestion of the terrible suffering some have to undergo in finding spiritual truth and peace. As few comparatively know the full suffering of bodily thirst, so few comparatively know the full suffering of spiritual thirst. Few know such a state of heart as would warrant them in saying that their souls thirst for God. The way of agony is the way some must travel before they can be filled with the fulness of God. But intense agony in the sphere of the spiritual, as in the sphere of the natural, must be an exceptional thing. Yet who can tell but he may illustrate the exceptional, and so need to get guidance through the word of Jesus here? There are many things that say, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink." Then the thirsty drink, and find their thirst unquenched and intensified. We may have our natural Elims. What if they change to Marahs? What if the rushing stream dries away to a few tantalizing and useless drops? - Y.
I. CHRIST'S PROPHETIC DESIGNATION. He was known as a Prophet by those who saw in him more than a rabbi, while yet they knew him not as the Messiah. It had been foretold by Moses in the Pentateuch, and by the last of the prophets who contributed to the Old Testament canon, that a great Prophet should in after days be raised up by the Eternal. And this was fulfilled in the Prophet of Nazareth.
II. CHRIST'S PROPHETIC QUALIFICATIONS. His Divine nature, his intimacy with his Father, in whose bosom, i.e. in whose counsels and secrets, he was, constituted his supreme fitness for this office. And his humanity, his oneness with the race whose nature he assumed, enabled him to communicate prophetic messages with inimitable effectiveness. A prophet is one who speaks for God; this Jesus did, as none else could or can.
III. CHRIST'S PROPHETIC ACTS. His miracles were such, for they taught, with a power even words could not rival, great spiritual and eternal truths. His conduct in cleansing the temple with authority and holy indignation was an example of action becoming in a Prophet commissioned by God himself.
IV. CHRIST'S PROPHETIC WORDS. To enumerate these would be to repeat a large portion of the Gospel records. He explained the Law; he preached the gospel; he foretold things to come; he spake as One having authority; yet he spake as One having winning attractiveness in all his words.
V. CHRIST'S PROPHETIC PERPETUITY. His word was reiterated by the inspired apostles, to whose memory all his sayings were brought. It is continued in the New Testament, the Word of prophecy. As the Prophet of this spiritual dispensation, Jesus inspires his Church, convinces human minds, changes human hearts, hallows human society. As long as man needs teaching, Christ is, and will remain, the one great Divine and authoritative Prophet of humanity. - T.
1. A great feast. That of Tabernacles.
2. A great day. The last day of the feast.
3. A great preacher. The Christ, the Son of God.
4. A great sermon. "He cried;" and he had something worth crying - the living water for a thirsty world.
5. A great division. "And there was a division among the people," etc. Notice -
I. SOME OF THE FEATURES OF THIS DIVISION.
1. Jesus was the Subject of this division. "Because of him." The question was - Who was he? what was he? A good or a bad man, a true prophet or an impostor?
2. They were divided in their opinions. Some thought he was the Prophet; some thought he was the Christ; while others doubted, objected, and opposed.
3. They were divided while it was important that they should agree. If he was an impostor, it was important that they should agree to expose him and stem his influence; but if their Messiah, it was all-important that they should agree to accept and obey him.
4. They were divided while they ought to be unanimous. Jesus had told them who he was, and his person, character, ministry, and his mighty works, all were in perfect harmony with his claims. With perfect unity and Divine force they pointed to him as the Son of God.
5. In this division error dissents from truth. Some said, "He is the Christ." Error doubted and objected. Truth is older and firmer than error, right than wrong. Error and wrong are negatives of truth and right.
6. Amidst this division Christ remained the same, and shone on. The different opinions of men make no change in Jesus himself. Christ changes men's opinions, but their opinions produce no change in him.
II. THE UNDERLYLNG PRINCIPLES OF THIS DIVISION AND ITS CONSEQUENT VARIETY OF OPINIONS.
1. Some were prejudiced against him.
(1) Prejudice is unreasonable (ver. 41). It makes more of a place often than a person. The highest claims of a person are ignored through unreasonable objections to the place whence he hails.
(2) Prejudice makes what is really for the truth to appear against it. (Ver. 42.) Christ was of the lineage of David, and a native of Bethlehem. They manifest here a culpable ignorance or a wilful suppression of knowledge. Prejudice is capable of both.
2. Some were filled with hatred against him. (Ver. 44.) Through this passion even the Son of God appeared as an impostor and a demon. A Being of infinite love could not be accepted nor even recognized through hatred.
3. Some were well disposed to him. (Ver. 40.) A favourable disposition will generally find the truth or an approximation to it. "The Prophet;" "the Christ." This was probably the verdict of the majority of that age. Their heads were right, their hearts were wrong.
4. All seemed sadly indifferent. The most earnest were his haters. Even those who rightly pronounced him to be the Christ seemed to lack earnestness of soul. The great "cry" of Jesus on the last day of the feast did not find an adequate response from the heart of the multitudes. There was a division, a stir, and that was apparently all.
1. Christ has occasioned great divisions in the world. This was not She first nor the last. A variety of opinions, of sentiments and feelings, with regard to him. He is the occasion, not the cause. He is the Prince of peace and unity, and yet divisions with regard to him have stirred humanity into the highest pitch of passion, and have resulted in wars, persecutions, and martyrdoms.
2. The most important division of humanity is that on Christ. Nations divide on important questions, but upon none so important as this. Upon this hangs the eternal destiny of the world.
3. In this division all are divided into two parties, for or against him. There is no neutrality.
4. Through divisions, after all, right views of Jesus are obtained. We must obtain peace through wars, calm through storms, and unanimity through divisions. Out of these stirring divisions Christ will come forth as the Son of God and the Saviour of man.
5. In all these divisions it is all-important to possess an earnest spirit and a well disposed heart, for through these alone can we see Jesus as he is.
6. In these divisions we may give Jesus a good name and nothing more. We may call him the Christ, but "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord," etc. He demands the verdict of the heart.
7. In this division where do we stand - for or against him? - B.T.
I. IT WAS KNOWN BY THE JEWS THAT THE COMING OF THE CHRIST WAS FORETOLD IN THE OLD TESTAMENT SCRIPTURES. Although the name "Messiah" occurs once only, and that in the Book of Daniel, the observant reader of the Psalms and of the Prophets is well aware that the advent is foretold of a remarkable Being, who should in due time appear to fulfil the benevolent purposes of God towards men. Upon examination it is found that this person was predicted as Divine and yet human, as of royal lineage and authority, as the Bringer of blessings to Israel and to mankind, as a Sufferer and yet as a Conqueror, as One passing through death to victory and to dominion.
II. THE COMING OF THE CHRIST WAS EXPECTED BY THE JEWS AND BY THEIR NEIGHBOURS.
1. This appears from the insight which the Gospels give us into the minds of certain persons who lived at the time of our Lord's ministry and advent. Thus, Simeon was led to expect that he should see the Lord's Christ; men reasoned in their hearts concerning John, whether he were the Christ; the Samaritan woman remarked to Jesus himself, "We know that Messiah cometh."
2. The same appears also from certain tests which the Jews proposed to apply to Jesus of Nazareth, in order to verify or discredit the claim to Messiahship advanced on his behalf. They looked that the Christ should be a descendant of David; that he should be born at Bethlehem; that he should be a Worker of miracles; that he should be the Restorer of the kingdom to Israel, over whom he should rule; that he should abide forever. So far as there was correspondence between the facts of Jesus' ministry and these circumstances, so far there was a disposition on the part of some to acknowledge his Messiahship.
III. THERE WERE OBVIOUS AND POWERFUL HINDRANCES TO THE SPREAD OF THE BELIEF THAT JESUS WAS THE CHRIST.
1. The life of the Prophet of Nazareth in some respects contradicted popular expectations. He was lowly in station; poor and unfriended by the great; he put forward no assumptions of worldly power; he went about doing good. All this was very different from what the Jews expected in the Messiah.
2. Jesus himself discouraged his disciples and friends from noising abroad the tidings of his Messiahship.
3. The authorities of the synagogue, towards the close of our Lord's ministry, threatened with excommunication any who should confess him to be the Christ. This step could not but be adverse to a general recognition of his rightful claims.
IV. THAT JESUS WAS THE CHRIST WAS, HOWEVER, CORDIALLY BELIEVED BY HIS DISCIPLES. Collecting together the somewhat scattered evidence of this fact, the student of the Gospels cannot but be impressed by its abundance and conclusiveness. Andrew, in the very hour of his call to discipleship, acknowledged Jesus as Christ; Peter, at a later period, uttered a memorable confession to the same effect; the Samaritan woman and her neighbours came to the same conclusion; Martha of Bethany gave explicit testimony to her belief of this great fact; some of the Jews, as recorded in the text, did not hesitate to express their belief that Jesus was the Christ. It may be added that the very demons over whom he exercised authority are said to have known that he was the Divine Messiah.
V. JESUS CLAIM TO BE THE CHRIST WAS ONE CHIEF GROUND OF THE HOSTILITY OF THE JEWISH RULERS, AND WAS THE OCCASION OF HIS CONDEMNATION TO DEATH. At our Lord's trial before the high priest, one of the charges against him was that he affirmed himself to be the Christ; and it was upon this, and upon the further charge that he claimed to be the Son of God, that he was deemed by his enemies worthy of death. A rabbi, a prophet, he might have professed himself to be without giving offence. But for a lowly peasant teacher to claim Messiahship was to seal his own doom!
VI. AS CHRIST, JESUS WAS RAISED FROM THE DEAD; AND AS CHRIST, HE WAS PREACHED TO THE WORLD. In the discourses which are recorded in the Book of the Acts, as having been delivered after the Ascension, Jesus is set forth as the Christ of God, evidently proved to be such by his resurrection. And the Gospels, as John expressly tells us, were written that their readers might know that Jesus is the Christ. Here, indeed, are the glad tidings to be proclaimed to all men; for it is because Jesus is the Christ of God that he is the Saviour of the world. - T.
I. THE COUNCIL'S QUESTION. "Why did ye not bring him?" There are several feelings and sentiments implied in this question.
1. Great hatred. They hated Jesus to such an extent that they wished to put him to death. For this purpose they sent the officers to take him, and the hatred which inspired this contemplated deed was implied in this question. Human hatred cannot go further than this. Murder is the last cowardly argument of bigotry and weakness. They had no reason. Hatred does not require a valid reason; it will coin one for itself. It was seething in the question, "Why," etc.?
2. Great surprise. They would not be more surprised to see Jesus there without the officers than to see the officers without Jesus. They were not some men sent at random, but picked officers, furnished with authority and strictly commanded to bring him. But they are returned without their Victim - and why? They are lost in surprise.
3. Great disappointment. They had calculated upon a feast more enjoyable to them than that of Tabernacles. They had stayed away from the latter in anticipation of a greater luxury - to have the Victim of their hatred in their power. But, behold the officers without him! It is thought that the best opportunity is lost. By the next time the attempt is made to take him, he will perhaps have so grown in power and popularity that it will be in vain. A good opportunity is lost; the feast of hatred and malice is missed. "Why," etc.? The question trembles with disappointment. Hatred is terribly disappointed when it cannot obtain what it wishes.
4. A great insult. In this question we can hear the quivering notes of insulted pride. "Why," etc.? There is a suspicion that their authority was disobeyed and their command set at naught, and that by their inferiors, their dependents, their menials; and they demand the reason.
5. A severe reproof. We can well imagine their voices thunders, their words lightnings, and their visage as the angry sky just before a storm, as they asked the question, "Why did ye," etc.? If their power and authority were equal to their hatred and pride, these officials would soon have to feel the terrible weight of their revenge.
II. THE OFFICERS' REPLY. "Never man," etc.
1. This is a remarkable testimony of unbiased witnesses to Jesus. If they had any prejudice at all, it would certainly be against him. It is almost the general rule that servants are inspired with the spirit and sentiments of their masters. If so, we can well imagine how these officers felt and spoke as they went forth to take Jesus. But they returned in a different spirit and with a different tale. "Never man," etc. No one can suspect them of undue partiality to Jesus, but rather the contrary; therefore their testimony is remarkable and of special value.
2. It is the testimony of personal experience, as well as that of popular opinion. It is not the result of hearsay or a second hand report, but they had heard Jesus with their own ears, and seen with their own eyes the wonderful effect he had on the multitudes, and this was the testimony of their own personal experience and observation: "Never man," etc.
3. It is a great but a natural testimony to Jesus as a Teacher. "Never man," etc. There had been in the world great men among Jews and Gentiles - mighty orators, eloquent prophets, and sage philosophers; but "never man," etc., not even Moses. "Never man," etc. As much as to say that he must be more than a mere man; if not, the fact is still more extraordinary that a poor, uneducated Galilaean should eclipse all his illustrious predecessors in wisdom and Divine eloquence as a Teacher. Grant him to be the Messiah - the Son of God incarnate - then this testimony, though great, is most natural. What else could be expected?
4. The substantial truth of this testimony is amply corroborated by the teaching of Jesus. Although we have not the fascinating voice, the effective utterance, and the charming presence, yet sufficient is recorded to prove the unquestionable truth of the testimony. The testimony of these officers must have been inspired, for they could not fully comprehend it; still its truth has been confirmed by the most intelligent, learned, and competent judges of all succeeding ages. "Never man," etc.
(1) Never man spake such Divine and sublime truths - truths concerning man and God, concerning this world and the other. Never man spake as he to reason, to conscience, to the will and heart.
(2) Never man spake with such authority, ease, naturalness, transparency, and conviction.
(3) Never man spake with such Divine effect. To various objects - to nature, to diseases, to demons, to death, to man in all conditions, to the guilty, to the penitent, to the weary and heavy laden, etc.
5. The genuineness of their testimony is attested by the fact that they returned without him. His influence over them is patent to all. The strictness of the command and the fear of the consequences of failure to carry it out would naturally cause them to strain every nerve to take him. But they failed, and they could assign no other reason for their failure than the superhuman influence of his speech and doctrine. It is recorded as a proof of the eloquence of Marcus Antonius the orator, that when Marius sent soldiers to kill him, he pleaded with such eloquence for his life that they could not touch him, and they left him in tears. But here is an instance of a more captivating eloquence. Christ did not appeal to the pity of his captors, neither did he plead for his life; but he appealed to the conscience and heart, and pleaded for the life of the condemned world with such power as to disarm them. They returned without him, amazed and spellbound with his magic eloquence, and could give no account of their failure but in the simple but touching story, "Never man," etc.
1. We have here a singular instance of the wrath of man being made to praise the Lord. Instead of these officers bringing Jesus before the council to be tried and condemned, he sends them back to the council to bear witness to his excellence and preach his glory, even to his bitterest enemies.
2. Servants and dependents are often more open to conviction than their masters and superiors. Those who have had but few, if any, privileges are often touched by Divine truths before those who have been highly favoured. Thus the last shall be first, and the first shall be last.
3. Jesus has often taken those who would take him. These officers went to take him, but he took them. Saul of Tarsus is another instance, and the history of conversions through the ages is full of instances of Christ leading captivity captive.
4. The testimony of these officers has been the testimony of all who have given Jesus a fair hearing. Scholarship and common sense have joined the believer's experience in saying, "Never man,"etc.
5. It is not enough to admire Christ as a Teacher, but we must believe and obey him. - B.T.
I. CHRIST'S WORDS ARE INCOMPARABLE AS REVELATIONS OF TRUTH. He uttered the justest, the sublimest truths regarding the character and attributes of God; concerning the nature, the state, the sin, the peril of man; concerning religion, or the relation between man and God, especially concerning the Divine provision of salvation, and of spiritual and immortal life.
II. CHRIST'S WORDS ARE INCOMPARABLE AS ANNOUNCING LAWS OF HUMAN LIFE. Where else can we find perfect precepts to govern conduct, dictates of morality so spiritual, motives to obedience so mighty? Christ's are the authoritative words of a Divine Lawgiver, who claims to rule the hearts, and, through the hearts, the actions and habits of mankind.
III. CHRIST'S WORDS ARE INCOMPARABLE IN THEIR STYLE AND THEIR ILLUSTRATIONS, ADAPTING THEM TO READERS OF EVERY CLASS. They are simple words, however profound may be the truth they embody; they are beautiful words, which charm a pure and lively imagination; they are earnest words, which rouse emotion and inspire a reverent attention. This is evident both from the place they have taken in literature, and from the fact that they are equally appreciated by the young and the old, by the cultured and the untaught.
IV. CHRIST'S WORDS ARE INCOMPARABLE IN EFFICIENCY. This is the true test, and this test brings out the unequalled power of the words, which are mighty because they are the expression of the Divine mind.. Many of our Lord's sayings might be quoted, which have, as a matter of fact, revolutionized the thoughts and doctrines of millions of men. Some of the greatest reforms in human society may be traced up with certainty to words uttered by the Nazarene.
V. CHRIST'S WORDS ARE INCOMPARABLE FOR THEIR ENDURING, PERMANENT LIFE AND INFLUENCE. The words of many wise, thoughtful, and good men have perished. There are words which are full of meaning and preciousness for one generation, but which fail to affect the generations which follow. But Christ's words are treasured with increasing reverence and attachment by succeeding generations. His own saying is verified by the lapse of time. "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away." - T.
I. THE ASSERTION IMPLIED, viz. that Jesus was not received with faith by the rulers and the Pharisees. This was not universally true. The attitude of Nicodemus on this occasion shows that, even in the council of the nation, faith in Jesus as the Christ was not unknown. Joseph of Arimathaea also was a disciple of Jesus, though secretly. Yet, broadly speaking, it was undoubtedly the case that the upper classes of his countrymen rejected Jesus, and that the more influential among them hated and dreaded him. This may be accounted for, partly upon the general principle that the wealthy and educated tend to conservatism; but mainly by considering how the teaching of Jesus was undermining the authority of the Jewish leaders, and was even threatening to cut off some of the sources of their ill-gotten riches.
II. THE ARGUMENT SUGGESTED. The language suggested some such argument as this - What the learned and leading classes reject is likely to be incredible and unworthy of acceptance; now, these classes altogether repudiate Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah, or even as a prophet; there is, therefore, no room for accepting or even considering his claims. The fact of the hostility of the rulers was by this time matter of notoriety, and this had, no doubt, influence with many who were accustomed to look to their social and ecclesiastical superiors for leading. The same principle which was so influential in our Lord's day has in subsequent periods of human history induced many to reject the Saviour. Some have attached importance to the infidelity of princes, others to that of leaders in fashion, others to that of great philosophers; and have permitted their blind reverence for authority to turn their attention away from the weighty credentials of Christianity, and from the claims of Christ himself.
III. THE FALLACY LATENT. This is to be found in the assumption that learned and powerful men are likely to be right upon questions of religion. The events which followed in the history of the Son of man were enough to dispel this illusion. Not for the first or the last time, the judges in whom public confidence is chiefly placed were wrong, and the poor, illiterate, and despised were right. Against a fallacy which has led so many astray, it is well that those who desire above all things to attain the truth should be upon their guard. And the true protection is this: the habit, not of asking - What is the judgment of men? but of asking - What are the indications of the will of God? If the Lord Jesus Christ be in himself adapted to our needs as being the Prophet, the Priest, and the King of humanity, it is of little consequence, so far as practical guidance is concerned, to consider who rejects his claims. Let every one who is a seeker of truth turn his heart and mind to Christ. He is his own best witness, his own most convincing evidence. - T.