John 12:38
That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?
Jump to: AlfordBarnesBengelBensonBICalvinCambridgeChrysostomClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctExp GrkGaebeleinGSBGillGrayGuzikHaydockHastingsHomileticsICCJFBKellyKingLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWMeyerParkerPNTPoolePulpitSermonSCOTeedTTBVWSWESTSK
(38) That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled.—This is the first instance in this Gospel of a phrase familiar to us already from its frequent occurrence in St. Matthew. We shall find it again in John 13:18; John 15:25; John 17:12; John 18:9; John 18:32; John 19:24; John 19:36. Its frequency is one of the characteristics of the two Gospels which are most allied to Hebrew modes of thought. St. Matthew and St. John both regard the events of our Lord’s life as fulfilling the prophecies of the Old Testament Scriptures. These prophecies foretold what in the divine plan was destined to occur, and therefore the events are regarded as occurring, in order that the will of God, as expressed in the prophecy, may be fulfilled. (Comp. Note on Matthew 1:22.)

Lord, who hath believed our report? . . .—The quotation is from the Greek version of Isaiah 53:1. That prophecy was by all understood of the Messiah. The prophet’s lamentation of the neglect of the prophetic message by the people is here placed by the Evangelist, in his interpretation of it, in the lips of the Messiah Himself, as He, in the fuller meaning, addresses the Father with the words, “Who hath believed our report?” (Comp. the words as quoted by St. Paul in Romans 10:16.) Here the “our report” means the “truth which we have declared unto them.” (So Jeremiah 10:22, Galatians 3:2.)

And to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?—Comp. Notes on Luke 1:51, and Acts 13:17. The phrase was used, as in Isaiah 51:9; Isaiah 52:10, to express the power of the Lord, and here refers especially to the power of the Lord manifested in the whole life of Christ. The signs which were revelations of this power are, of course, prominent in the thought, and the question strongly expresses the negative of the previous verse.

12:37-43 Observe the method of conversion implied here. Sinners are brought to see the reality of Divine things, and to have some knowledge of them. To be converted, and truly turned from sin to Christ, as their Happiness and Portion. God will heal them, will justify and sanctify them; will pardon their sins, which are as bleeding wounds, and mortify their corruptions, which are as lurking diseases. See the power of the world in smothering convictions, from regard to the applause or censure of men. Love of the praise of men, as a by-end in that which is good, will make a man a hypocrite when religion is in fashion, and credit is to be got by it; and love of the praise of men, as a base principle in that which is evil, will make a man an apostate, when religion is in disgrace, and credit is to be lost for it.The saying - The word of Isaiah, or that which Isaiah predicted. This occurs in Isaiah 53:1.

Might be fulfilled - That the same effect should occur which occurred in the time of Isaiah. This does not mean that the Pharisees rejected Christ in order that the prophecy of Isaiah should be fulfilled, but that by their rejection of him the same thing had occurred which took place in the time of Isaiah. His message was despised by the nation, and he himself put to death. And it was also true - by the same causes, by the same nation that the same gospel message was rejected by the Jews in the time of Christ. The same language of the prophet would express both events, and no doubt it was intended by the Holy Spirit to mark both events. In this way it was completely fulfilled. See the notes at Isaiah 53:1.

Our report - Literally, by report is meant "what is heard." Our speech, our message. That is, few or none have received the message. The form of the question is an emphatic way of saying that it was rejected.

The arm of the Lord - The arm is a symbol of power, as it is the instrument by which we execute our purposes. It is put for the power of God, Isaiah 51:9; Isaiah 52:10. Thus, he is said to have brought out the children of Israel from Egypt with a high arm that is, with great power. It hence means God's power in defending his people, in overcoming his enemies, and in saving the soul. In this place it clearly denotes the power displayed by the miracles of Christ.

Revealed - Made known, seen, understood. Though the power of God was displayed, yet the people did not see and understand it.

38. That the saying of Esaias … might be fulfilled—This unbelief did not at all set aside the purposes of God, but, on the contrary, fulfilled them. So as that which Isaiah prophesied, Isaiah 53:1, appeared to be fulfilled in them; for the term ina, which we translate that, doth not in Scripture always denote the final cause, with respect to the counsel and intention of God, but oft times the event. So John 5:20 Romans 5:20 2 Corinthians 1:17.

The arm of the Lord may either signify the gospel, which is called the power of God to salvation. Romans 1:16 1 Corinthians 1:18; or else the Messiah, who is thought to be mentioned under this notion by Isaiah, Isaiah 51:5 Isaiah 52:10 59:16 63:12, because the Father worketh by him, as a man worketh by his arm, Isaiah 1:3,14.

That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled,.... For though this was not the end of these men in disbelieving Christ, that the words of Isaiah might be fulfilled, yet hereby they were eventually fulfilled; and though the predictions of the prophet had no such influence on the wills of these men, as to lay upon them a coactive necessity, or force them to do, or to answer to the things foretold; yet they were to have, and had an infallible event or completion, otherwise the foreknowledge of God, and the authority of the prophetic writings, could not be maintained:

which he spake in Isaiah 53:1;

Lord, who hath believed our report? which words the prophet delivered by way of complaint to God the Father; not so much with respect to his own time, and the men of it, as to the times of Christ, and his apostles, whom he represents; for the whole chapter is a prophecy of the Messiah, and suggests, that in those times there would be but few that would believe the report made in the ministry of the Gospel, concerning the Messiah, his person, office, and grace; though so true in itself, and so much confirmed by miracles, and mighty deeds; the reason of which, he intimates, would be his outward mean appearance in the world; and which, it is certain, was the true reason, God denying the influence of his powerful and special grace, as follows:

and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? meaning either the Gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation, and which was bid from the wise and prudent; or the Lord Jesus Christ himself, who is the power of God, by whom he made the heavens and the earth, and upholds them in their being, and by whom he has redeemed and saved his people; and who was not revealed neither to them in the ministry of the word, nor in them the hope of glory: or the Holy Spirit is meant, the finger of God, by whom these surprising miracles were done; and yet he did not exert himself in these persons, in the special operations of his grace; or the powerful and efficacious grace of God itself is designed, which was not put forth, and did not attend the report of the Gospel, and therefore it was not believed.

That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the {h} arm of the Lord been revealed?

(h) The arm of the Lord is the gospel, which is the power of God to salvation to all that believe, and therefore the arm of the Lord is not revealed to those whose hearts the Lord has not opened.

John 12:38. Ἱνα] in order that, according to divine determination, the prophecy might be fulfilled. This “in order that” contains the definite assumption that the prophet Isaiah predicted what, according to divine destiny, was to come to pass; thus, then, the historical fulfilment stood in necessary relation of final cause to the prediction. Comp. on Matthew 1:22.

ὃν εἶπε] similar pleonasms, which, however, as here, may denote an emphatic circumstantiality, are found also in the Greek writers, as in Xen. Cyr. viii. 2. 14, Anab. i. 9. 11. The passage is Isaiah 53:1, closely following the LXX. The lament of the prophet over the unbelief of his time towards his preaching (and that of his fellows, ἡμῶν), and towards the mighty working of God announced by him, has, according to the Messianic character of the whole grand oracle, its reference and fulfilment in the unbelief of the Jews towards Jesus; so that in the sense of this fulfilment, the speaking subject (addressing God, κύριε, comp. Matthew 27:46), which Isaiah introduces, is Jesus, not the evangelist and those of like mind with him (Luthardt).

τῇ ἀκοῇ ἡμ.] to that heard from us, i.e. to the message which they receive from us (comp. on Romans 10:16), not: which we receive (comp. Sir 43:24), namely, actually in Christ (Luthardt), as Hengstenberg also understands it of that which we have received through revelation (comp. Euth. Zigabenus). Comp. on the genitive, Plat. Phaedr. p. 274 C; Pausan. viii. 41. 6; Pind. Pyth. i. 162. The plural, however, ἡμῶν, comprises God and Christ in the fulfilment.

ὁ βραχίων κυρ.] Plastic expression for the power of God (comp. Luke 1:51; Acts 13:17; Wis 5:16; Wis 11:21; Bar 2:11; Isaiah 51:5; Isaiah 52:10), and that according to the Messianic signification; in the miraculous signs of Christ—in which the unbelieving do not recognise the brachium Dei. “In se exsertum est, sed caeci non viderunt illud,” Bengel. But to understand Christ Himself (Augustine, Photius, Euth. Zigabenus, Beda, Ruperti, Zeger, Jansen, Maldonatus, Calovius, and several others) is required neither by the original text nor here by the connection.

38. That] Or, in order that, indicating the Divine purpose. Comp. John 13:18, John 15:25, John 17:12, John 18:9; John 18:32, John 19:24; John 19:36. It is the two specially Hebraistic Gospels that most frequently remind us that Christ’s life was a fulfilment of Hebrew prophecy. Comp. Matthew 1:22; Matthew 2:15; Matthew 2:17; Matthew 4:14; Matthew 8:17; Matthew 12:17; Matthew 13:35; Matthew 21:4; Matthew 26:54; Matthew 26:56; Matthew 27:9. See on Matthew 1:22.

Lord, who hath believed] The quotation closely follows the LXX.

our report] Literally, that which they hear from us; comp. Romans 10:16.

the arm of the Lord] His power. There seems to be no sufficient authority for interpreting this expression of the Messiah, although it is the power of God as manifested in the Messiah that is here specially meant. Comp. Luke 1:51; Acts 13:17.

John 12:38. Ὃν εἶπε, which he spake) Not only are the things prophetical which the Lord spake to the prophets, and they in His words, but also what the prophets spake to the Lord in their very own words.—Κύριεἀπεκαλύφθη;) Isaiah 53:1. So expressly write the LXX. In the Hebrew Κύριε is not extant. In comparing with this the following verse of the passage, The arm of the Lord may be taken for the Messiah Himself.—ἀκοῇ) ἀκοή, the faculty of hearing; thence that which is heard, i.e. a report, a testimony: its correlative is faith [taken out of ‘believed’].—ἠμῶν, our) of us prophets.—ὁ βραχίων Κυρίου) the arm of the Lord, put forth in miracles and in the work of redemption, and preached in the Gospel; Isaiah 52:10, “The Lord hath made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God;” Psalm 98:1-2, “His right hand and His holy arm hath gotten Him the victory. The Lord hath made known His salvation.”—τίνι ἀπεκαλύφθη, to whom hath been revealed?) In itself it has been put forth; but the blind did not see it. Who is a believer? Ans. He is such a one, to whomsoever the arm of the Lord has been revealed.

Verse 38. - In order that the words of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who believed our report? or the message which the prophets have delivered - the prediction they made of a suffering and rejected Christ, of One who would "sprinkle many nations," and in the very "travail of his soul see his seed." To whom was the arm of the Lord revealed? It does not mean that no hearts responded to the appeal, that the voice from heaven fell on no susceptible ears; but that it is one of the anomalies of human life that man does seem so insensible to his own highest interests. Prophets are always wondering at the condition of mankind. Even Jesus marveled at the unbelief of his hearers. The λόγος of Isaiah shows that prophets foresaw the issue of the kind of reception that a people who had been so faithless to Jehovah's lesser manifestations would give to the most amazing of all his self-disclosures. The ἵνα πληρωθῇ must not be explained away, the outline was presented by Isaiah of the reception which the favored but prejudiced and hardened house of Israel gave to Divine revelations. It would be filled in by the events which were then about to be enacted. God's intuition of actual facts, his unconditional foreknowledge of all contingent phenomena, do not necessitate their occurrence so as to deprive sinners of their guilt; yet when they have occurred, the causes which produced the widespread unbelief in the days of Isaiah were seen to be still at work, and to account for the strange incomprehensible mystery that blindness in part had happened to Israel. God works by law, and works freely by men and in them, not only foreseeing the evil and blindness, but positively punishing sin by blindness, taking away from a man that which he seemeth to have. By this means the "altar was built, the wood and the knife" for the great sacrifice. The use made of various portions of this oracle, by the Lord, by evangelists, by the apostles, by the deacon Philip, by Paul and Peter, shows that the early Church regarded it as the detailed description of the character suffering, and work of Christ. It became virtually a portion of the New Testament, and it was practically treated as such by Barnabas (100. 5, 'Ep. to Diog.,' 100. 49) and Justin Martyr (1 'Apol.,' 100. 50). The fifty-third of Isaiah may have been imperfectly understood by its author, may in his mind have had this, that, or the other original reference, and have suffered various Judaic interpretations. Modern criticism may scoff at it as a Messianic prophecy. All this does not touch the patent fact that nearly all the writers of the New Testament and numerous classes in the early Church used it as descriptive of their idea of Christ's work. It thus becomes of priceless value. John 12:38
John 12:38 Interlinear
John 12:38 Parallel Texts

John 12:38 NIV
John 12:38 NLT
John 12:38 ESV
John 12:38 NASB
John 12:38 KJV

John 12:38 Bible Apps
John 12:38 Parallel
John 12:38 Biblia Paralela
John 12:38 Chinese Bible
John 12:38 French Bible
John 12:38 German Bible

Bible Hub

John 12:37
Top of Page
Top of Page