John 5:35
He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.
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(35) He was a burning and a shining light.—Better, He was the lamp that is lighted and (then) giveth light. The statement of the Prologue, “He was not the Light, but came to bear witness of the Light” (John 1:8), shows how important this change is. The word rendered “light” occurs again in Matthew 5:15; Matthew 6:22; Mark 4:21; Luke 8:16; Luke 11:33-34; Luke 11:36; Luke 12:35; Luke 15:8; 2Peter 1:19; Revelation 18:23; Revelation 21:23; Revelation 22:5. The reader who will take the trouble to com pare these passages, will see clearly the difference in the Greek words. It should be lamp in all these instances. The article in “the lamp” is to be explained from a reference to the one lamp of every home. (Comp. Notes on Matthew 5:15 and Mark 4:21.) The term was in common use to denote a distinguished hero or teacher. The Rabbis were often called “Lamps of the Law,” and David was “The Lamp of Israel” (2Samuel 21:17). Comp. the remarkable parallel spoken of the Baptist’s great prototype, “Then stood up Elias the prophet, as fire, and his word was kindled like a lamp” (Ecclesiasticus 48:1). Others explain the words here of the promised lamp which was to appear, or of the torchbearer who lights the bridegroom’s path.

Ye were willing . . .—John’s work came to them as light in darkness. It attracted them. They went to it. They were willing to find a source of joy in it. They sent to ask him questions, but they heeded not his answers. But the light came to them not to amuse them, but to lead them. He gave light because he had been kindled at the Source of all Light. He came to bear witness to them of the true Light, from which his was derived. (Comp. Note on John 1:23.) Their action with regard to John was part of the negatively evil, unreal character condemned in John 3:20. They professed to be men, and teachers of other men; but when speaking of this John, our Lord found a similitude of their generation in the changing moods of little children playing in the market-place (Matthew 11:16).



John 1:8
. - John 5:35.

My two texts both refer to John the Baptist. One of them is the Evangelist’s account of him, the other is our Lord’s eulogium upon him. The latter of my texts, as the Revised Version shows, would be more properly rendered, ‘He was a lamp’ rather than ‘He was a light,’ and the contrast between the two words, the ‘light’ and ‘the lamps,’ is my theme. I gather all that I would desire to say into three points: ‘that Light’ and its witnesses; the underived Light and the kindled lamps; the undying Light and the lamps that go out.

I. First of all, then, the contrast suggested to us is between ‘that Light’ and its witnesses.

John, in that profound prologue which is the deepest part of Scripture, and lays firm and broad in the depths the foundation-stones of a reasonable faith, draws the contrast between ‘that Light’ and them whose business it was to bear witness to it. As for the former, I cannot here venture to dilate upon the great, and to me absolutely satisfying and fundamental, thoughts that lie in these eighteen first verses of this Gospel. ‘The Word was with God,’ and that Word was the Agent of Creation, the Fountain of Life, the Source of the Light which is inseparable from all human life. John goes back, with the simplicity of a child’s speech, which yet is deeper than all philosophies, to a Beginning, far anterior to ‘the Beginning’ of which Genesis speaks, and declares that before creation that Light shone; and he looks out over the whole world, and declares, that before and beyond the limits of the historical manifestation of the Word in the flesh, its beams spread over the whole race of man. But they are all focussed, if I may so speak, and gathered to a point which burns as well as illuminates, in the historical manifestation of Jesus Christ in the flesh. ‘That was the true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.’

Next, he turns to the highest honour and the most imperative duty laid, not only upon mighty men and officials, but upon all on whose happy eyeballs this Light has shone, and into whose darkened hearts the joy and peace and purity of it have flowed, and he says, ‘He was sent’-and they are sent-’to bear witness of that Light.’ It is the noblest function that a man can discharge. It is a function that is discharged by the very existence through the ages of a community which, generation after generation, subsists, and generation after generation manifests in varying degrees of brightness, and with various modifications of tint, the same light. There is the family character in all true Christians, with whatever diversities of idiosyncrasies, and national life or ecclesiastical distinctions. Whether it be Francis of Assisi or John Wesley, whether it be Thomas a Kempis or George Fox, the light is one that shines through these many-coloured panes of glass, and the living Church is the witness of a living Lord, not only before it, and behind it, and above it, but living in it. They are ‘light’ because they are irradiated by Him. They are ‘light’ because they are ‘in the Lord.’ But not only by the fact of the existence of such a community is the witness-bearing effected, but it comes as a personal obligation, with immense weight of pressure and immense possibilities of joy in the discharge of it, to every Christian man and woman.

What, then, is the witness that we all are bound to bear, and shall bear if we are true to our obligations and to our Lord? Mainly, dear brethren, the witness of experience. That a Christian man shall be able to stand up and say, ‘I know this because I live it, and I testify to Jesus Christ because I for myself have found Him to be the life of my life, the Light of all my seeing, the joy of my heart, my home, and my anchorage’-that is the witness that is impregnable. And there is no better sign of the trend of Christian thought to-day than the fact that the testimony of experience is more and more coming to be recognised by thoughtful men and writers as being the sovereign attestation of the reality of the Light. ‘I see’; that is the proof that light has touched my eyeballs. And when a man can contrast, as some of us can, our present vision with our erstwhile darkness, then the evidence, like that of the sturdy blind man in the Gospels, who had nothing to say in reply to the subtleties and Rabbinical traps and puzzles but only ‘I was blind; now I see’-his experience is likely to have the effect that it had in another miracle of healing: ‘Beholding the man which was healed standing amongst them, they could say nothing against it.’ I should think they could not.

But there is one thing that will always characterise the true witnesses to that Light, and that is self-suppression. Remember the beautiful, immovable humility of the Baptist about whom these texts were spoken: ‘What sayest thou of thyself?’ ‘I am a Voice,’ that is all. ‘Art thou that Prophet?’ ‘No!’ ‘Art thou the Christ?’ ‘No! I am nothing but a Voice.’ And remember how, when John’s disciples tried to light the infernal fires of jealousy in his quiet heart by saying, ‘He whom thou didst baptise, and to whom thou didst give witness’-He whom thou didst start on His career-’is baptising,’ poaching upon thy preserves, ‘and all men come unto Him,’ the only answer that he gave was, ‘The friend of the Bridegroom’-who stands by in a quiet, dark corner-’rejoices greatly because of the Bridegroom’s voice.’ Keep yourself out of sight, Christian teachers and preachers; put Christ in the front, and hide behind Him.

II. Now let me ask you to look at the other contrast that is suggested by our other text. The underived light and the kindled lamps.

It is possible to read the words of that second text thus-’He was a lamp kindled and {therefore} shining.’ But whether that be the meaning, or whether the usual rendering is correct, the emblem itself carries the same thought, for a lamp must be lit by contact with a light, and must be fed with oil, if its flame is to be sustained. And so the very metaphor-whatever the force of the ambiguous word-in its eloquent contrast between the Light and the lamp, suggests this thought, that the one is underived, self-fed, and therefore undying, and that the other owes all its flame to the touch of that uncreated Light, and burns brightly only on condition of its keeping up the contact with Him, and being fed continually from His stores of radiance.

I need not say more than a word with regard to the former member of that contrast suggested here. That unlit Light derives its brilliancy, according to the Scriptural teaching, from nothing but its divine union with the Father. So that long before there were eyes to see, there was the eradiation and outshining of the Father’s glory. I do not enter into these depths, but this I would say, that what is called the ‘originality’ of Jesus is only explained when we reverently see in that unique life the shining through a pure humanity, as through a sheet of alabaster, of that underived, divine Light. Jesus is an insoluble problem to men who will not see in Him the Eternal Light which ‘in the beginning was with God.’ You find in Him no trace of gradual acquisition of knowledge, or of arguing or feeling His way to His beliefs. You find in Him no trace of consciousness of a great horizon of darkness encompassing the region where He sees light. You find in Him no trace of a recognition of other sources from which He has drawn any portion of His light. You find in Him the distinct declaration that His relation to truth is not the relation of men who learn, and grow, and acquire, and know in part; for, says He, ‘I am the Truth.’ He stands apart from us all, and above us all, in that He owes His radiance to none, and can dispense it to every man. The question which the puzzled Jews asked about Him, ‘How knoweth this Man letters, having never learned?’ may be widened out to all the characteristics of His human life. To me the only answer is: ‘Thou art the King of glory, O Christ! Thou art the Everlasting Son of the Father.’

Dependent on Him are the little lights which He has lit, and in the midst of which He walks. Union with Jesus Christ-’that Light’-is the condition of all human light. That is true over all regions, as I believe. ‘The inspiration of the Almighty giveth understanding.’ The candle of the Lord shines in every man, and ‘that true Light lighteth every man that cometh into the world.’ Thinker, student, scientist, poet, author, practical man-all of them are lit from the uncreated Source, and all of them, if they understand their own nature, would say, ‘In Thy light do we see Light.’

But especially is this great thought true and exemplified within the limits of the Christian life. For the Christian to be touched with Christ’s Promethean finger is to flame into light. And the condition of continuing to shine is to continue the contact which first illuminated. A break in the contact, of a finger’s breadth, is as effectual as one of a mile. Let Christian men and women, if they would shine, remember, ‘Ye are light in the Lord’; and if we stray, and get without the circle of the Light, we pass into darkness, and ourselves cease to shine.

Brethren, it is threadbare truth, that the condition of Christian vitality and radiance is close and unbroken contact with Jesus Christ, the Source of all light. Threadbare; but if we lived as if we believed it, the Church would be revolutionised and the world illuminated; and many a smoking wick would flash up into a blazing torch. Let Christian people remember that the words of my text define no special privilege or duty of any official or man of special endowments, but that to all of us has been said, ‘Ye are My witnesses,’ and to all of us is offered the possibility of being ‘burning and shining lights’ if we keep ourselves close to that Light.

III. Lastly, the second of my texts suggests-the contrast between the Undying Light and the lamps that go out.

‘For a season ye were willing to rejoice in His light.’ There is nothing in the present condition of the civilised and educated world more remarkable and more difficult for some people to explain than the contrast between the relation which Jesus Christ bears to the present age, and the relation which all other great names in the past-philosophers, poets, guides of men-bear to it. There is nothing in the world the least like the vividness, the freshness, the closeness, of the personal relation which thousands and thousands of people, with common sense in their heads, bear to that Man who died nineteen hundred years ago. All others pass, sooner or later, into the darkness. Thickening mists of oblivion, fold by fold, gather round the brightest names. But here is Jesus Christ, whom all classes of thinkers and social reformers have to reckon with to-day, who is a living power amongst the trivialities of the passing moment, and in whose words and in the teaching of whose life serious men feel that there lie undeveloped yet, and certainly not yet put into practice, principles which are destined to revolutionise society and change the world. And how does that come?

I am not going to enter upon that question; I only ask you to think of the contrast between His position, in this generation, to communities and individuals, and the position of all other great names which lie in the past. Why, it does not take more than a lifetime such as mine, for instance, to remember how the great lights that shone seventy years ago in English thinking and in English literature, have for the most part gone out, and what we young men thought to be bright particular stars, this new generation pooh-poohs as mere exhalations from the marsh or twinkling and uncertain tapers, and you will find their books in the twopenny-box at the bookseller’s door. A cynical diplomatist, in one of our modern dramas, sums it up, after seeing the death of a revolutionary, ‘I have known eight leaders of revolts.’ And some of us could say, ‘We have known about as many guides of men who have been forgotten and passed away.’ ‘His Name shall endure for ever. His name shall continue as long as the sun, and men shall be blessed in Him; all generations shall call Him blessed.’ Even Shelley had the prophecy forced from him-

‘The moon of Mahomet

Arose and it shall set,

While blazoned as on heaven’s eternal noon,

The Cross leads generations on.’

We may sum up the contrast between the undying Light and the lamps that go out in the old words: ‘They truly were many, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death, but this Man, because He continueth ever . . . is able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God through Him.’

So, brethren, when lamps are quenched, let us look to the Light. When our own lives are darkened because our household light is taken from its candlestick, let us lift up our hearts and hopes to Him that abideth for ever. Do not let us fall into the folly, and commit the sin, of putting our heart’s affections, our spirit’s trust, upon any that can pass and that must change. We need a Person whom we can clasp, and who never will glide from our hold. We need a Light uncreated, self-fed, eternal. ‘Whilst ye have the Light, believe in the Light, that ye may be the children of light.’

5:30-38 Our Lord returns to his declaration of the entire agreement between the Father and the Son, and declared himself the Son of God. He had higher testimony than that of John; his works bore witness to all he had said. But the Divine word had no abiding-place in their hearts, as they refused to believe in Him whom the Father had sent, according to his ancient promises. The voice of God, accompanied by the power of the Holy Ghost, thus made effectual to the conversion of sinners, still proclaims that this is the beloved Son, in whom the Father is well pleased. But when the hearts of men are full of pride, ambition, and the love of the world, there is no room for the word of God to abide in them.He was - It is probable that John had been cast into prison before this. Hence, his public ministry had ceased, and our Saviour says he was such a light.

Light - The word in the original properly means a "lamp," and is not the same which in John 1:4-5 is translated "light." That is a word commonly applied to the sun, the fountain of light; this means a lamp, or a light that is lit up or kindled artificially from oil or tallow. A teacher is often called a "light," because he guides or illuminates the minds of others. Romans 2:19; "thou art confident that thou art a guide of the blind, a light of them that sit in darkness;" John 8:12; John 12:46; Matthew 5:14.

A burning - A lamp lit up that burns with a steady luster.

Shining - Not dim, not indistinct. The expression means that he was an eminent teacher; that his doctrines were clear, distinct, consistent.

Ye were willing - You willed, or you chose; you went out voluntarily. This shows that some of those whom Jesus was now addressing were among the great multitudes of Pharisees that came unto John in the wilderness, Matthew 3:7. As they had at one time admitted John to be a prophet, so Jesus might with great propriety adduce his testimony in his favor.

For a season - In the original, for an "hour" - denoting only a short time. They did it, as many others do, while he was popular, and it was the "fashion" to follow him.

To rejoice in his light - To rejoice in his doctrines, and in admitting that he was a distinguished prophet; perhaps, also, to rejoice that he professed to be sent to introduce the Messiah, until they found that he bore testimony to Jesus of Nazareth.

35. He was a burning and a shining light—literally, "the burning and shining lamp" (or torch):—that is, "the great light of his day." Christ is never called by the humble word here applied to John—a light-bearer—studiously used to distinguish him from his Master, but ever the Light in the most absolute sense. (See on [1785]Joh 1:6).

willing for a season—that is, till they saw that it pointed whither they were not prepared to go.

to rejoice in his light—There is a play of irony here, referring to the hollow delight with which his testimony tickled them.

I do not speak this to lessen John in any of your thoughts; he was a famous light, burning in the knowledge and love of the truth; shining both in his doctrine, in publishing the truth, and also in holiness of life and conversation.

He was not that light, John 1:8, but he was a light, not to fwv to alhyinon, but lucnov, Matthew 5:14 Luke 8:16. And you for a small time pretended a great affection for John, and came with great zeal to hear him, Matthew 3:5 21:26 Mark 1:5, hoping that he was the Messias, or at least Elias, or that prophet in him revived again. But when they saw that John did only bear record to Christ, they grew cold in their affection, not liking either his doctrine, or the strictness of his life, or the tidings that he brought; looking for a far more splendid and glorious Messiah than Christ appeared to them to be.

He was a burning and a shining light,.... He was not that light, the famous light, the Messiah, the sun of righteousness; yet he was the "phosphorus", the forerunner of that light, and was himself a very great one: he had much light himself into the person and office of the Messiah; in the doctrines of faith in Christ, and repentance towards God; in the Gospel dispensation, and in the abolition of the Mosaic economy; and gave great light to others, in the business of salvation, and remission of sins, and was the means of guiding the feet of many in the way of peace. His light of pure doctrine, and of an holy and exemplary conversation, shone very visibly, and brightly before men; and he burned with strong love and affection for Christ, and the souls of men; and with flaming zeal for the honour of God, and true religion, and against all sin and profaneness, which he was a faithful reprover of, and for which he lost his life. It was common with the Jews to call their doctors, who were famous for their knowledge, and holiness of life, lights, burning lights, and shining lights; or in words which amount to the same. So R. Simeon ben Jochai is often called in the book of Zohar, , "the holy light"; and particularly it is said of him (m),

"R. Simeon, , is as "the lamp of light which burns above", and "burns" below; and by the light which burns below all the children of the world are enlightened: woe to the world, when the light below ascends to the light above.''

So R. Abhu is called , "the lamp of light" (n): and it is (o) said of Shuah, Judah's father-in-law, that he was , "the light of the place"; that is, where he lived. The gloss on the place says, he was a man of note in the city, and enlightened their eyes; and it is very frequent with them still, when they are praising any of their doctors, to say of him, he was , "a great light", who enlightened the eyes of Israel, and in whose light the people walked (p); so among the philosophers, Xenophon, and Plato, are called duo lumina (q), "two lights"; See Gill on Matthew 5:14;

and ye were willing for a season, or "for an hour",

to rejoice in his light; or "to glory in it", or "boast of" it, as the Syriac and Persic versions render it. When John first appeared among them, they were fond, and even proud of him; they gloried in him, that a man of such uncommon endowments, and of such exemplary holiness, was raised up among them; and hoped that he was the Messiah, or Elias, that was to come before him; and pleased themselves, that times of great outward honour and prosperity were hastening: wherefore they flocked about him, and many of the Pharisees and Sadducees attended his ministry, and would have been baptized by him; but when they found that he was not the Messiah, nor Elias, nor that prophet, but bore a testimony to Jesus of Nazareth, that he was the Messiah; and ran counter to their notions of a temporal kingdom, and of birth privileges, and their own righteousness; and threatened them with ruin, and destruction, both in this world, and that which is to come, in case of their impenitence and unbelief; they grew sick of him, and said he had a devil, and rejected the counsel of God he declared, and despised his baptism. Such was their fickleness and inconstancy, which Christ here tacitly charges them with. They were like the stony ground hearers, and like some of the Apostle Paul's admirers among the Galatians, who at first could have plucked out their eyes for him, but afterwards became his enemies for telling them the truth.

(m) Zohar in Exod. fol. 79. 1.((n) T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 17. 1.((o) Bereshit Rabba, sect. 85. fol. 74. 4. & Mattanot Cehunah in ib. (p) Vid. R. David Ganz Tzemach David, par. 1. fol. 38. 1. 41. 1. 44. 2. 45. 1. 46. 2. & 47. 1.((q) A. Gell. Noct. Attic. l. 14. c. 3.

He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for {q} a season to rejoice in his light.

(q) A little while.

John 5:35. What a manifestation he was, yet how lightly ye esteemed him!

ἦν and ἠθελ. point to a manifestation already past.

ὁ λύχνος] not τὸ φῶς, John 1:8, but less; hence φῶς in the second clause is used only predicatively. The article denotes the appointed lamp which, according to O. T. promise, was to appear, and had appeared in John as the forerunner of the Messiah, whose vocation it was to inform the people of the Messianic salvation (Luke 1:76-77). The figure of the man who lights the way for the approaching bridegroom (Luthardt) is very remote. Comp. rather the similar image, though not referred to here, of the mission of Elias, Sir 48:1. The comparison with a lamp in similar references was very common (2 Samuel 21:17; Revelation 21:23; 2 Peter 1:19). Comp. also Strabo, xiv. p. 642, where Alexander the rhetorician bears the surname ὁ Λύχνος.

καιόμενος καὶ φαίνων] is not to be interpreted of two different properties (burning zeal and light-giving); in the nature of things they go together. A lamp burns and shines; this it does of necessity, and thus it is represented. Comp. Luke 12:35; Revelation 4:5.

ὑμεῖς δὲ, κ.τ.λ.] striking description of the frivolous worldliness which would gratify its own short-lived excitement and pleasure in this new and grand manifestation, instead of making use of it to obtain saving knowledge, and allowing its full solemnity to operate upon them. The Jews flocked in great crowds to the Baptist (Matthew 3:5; Matthew 11:7 ff.), as to the messenger of the approaching glorious kingdom of the Messiah; but instead of finding what they desired (ἠθελήσ.), they found all the severity of the spirit of Elias calling to repentance, and how soon was the concourse over! In like manner, the Athenians hoped to find a new and passing divertissement when the Apostle Paul came among them. “Johanne utendum erat, non fruendum,” Bengel.

πρὸς ὥραν] τοῦ εὐκολίαν αὐτῶν δεικνύντος ἐστὶ καὶ ὅτι ταχέως αὐτοῦ ἀπεπήδησαν, Chrysostom. Comp. Galatians 2:5; Philemon 1:15. The main feature of the perverted desire does not lie in πρὸς ὥραν, which more accurately describes the ἀγαλλ. according to its frivolity, so soon changing into satiety and disgust, but in ἀγαλλ. itself, instead of which μετάνοια should have been the object of their pursuit.

ἐν τῷ φωτὶ αὐτοῦ] in, i.e. encompassed by his light, the radiance which shone forth from him. Comp. 1 Peter 1:6; and for χαίρειν ἐν, see on Php 1:18.

John 5:35. ἐκεῖνος ἦν ὁ λύχνος ὁ καιόμενος καὶ φαίνων, “He was (suggesting that now the Baptist was dead) the lamp that burneth and shineth”.—ὁ λύχνος; for the difference between λύχνος a lamp and λαμπάς a torch, see Trench, Synonyms, p. 154, and cf. λαμπαδηδρομία the Athenian torch-race. The article “simply marks the familiar piece of household furniture” (Westcott). “The article simply converts the image into a definition” (Godet). “The article points him out as the definite light which could have shown them the way to salvation, John 5:34” (Weiss). Others find a reference to Psalm 132:17, ἡτοίμασα λύχνον τῷ Χριστῷ σου. Grotius and Lücke think the reference is to Sir 48:1, καὶ ἀνέστη Ἐλίας προφήτης ὡς πῦρ καὶ ὁ λόγος αὐτοῦ ὡς λαμπάς ἐκαίετο. In the mediæval Latin Hymns the Baptist is “non Lux iste, sed lucerna”. [Cicero, Proverbs Milone, 21, and elsewhere, calls certain illustrious citizens “lumina,” but with a somewhat different significance.]—ὁ καιόμενος, “burning and shining are not two different properties,” Meyer; a lamp must burn if it is to shine.—ὑμεῖς δὲ ἠθελήσατε ἀγαλλιασθῆναι πρὸς ὥραν ἐν τῷ φωτὶ αὐτοῦ; the expression seems intended to suggest the thoughtless and brief play of insects in the sunshine or round a lamp. [“Wie die Mücken im Sonnenschein spielen,” Hausrath in Holtzmann.] Like children following in a bridal procession, dancing in the torchlight: the type of sentimental religionists revelling in their own emotions.

35. He was a burning and a shining light] A grievous mistranslation, ignoring the Greek article twice over, and also the meaning of the words; and thus obscuring the marked difference between the Baptist and the Messiah: better, he was the lamp which is kindled and (so) shineth. Christ is the Light; John is only the lamp kindled at the Light, and shining only after being so kindled, having no light but what is derived. The word here, and Matthew 6:22, translated ‘light,’ is translated ‘candle’ Matthew 5:15; Mark 4:21; Luke 8:16; Luke 11:33; Luke 11:36; Luke 15:8; Revelation 18:23; Revelation 22:5. ‘Lamp’ would be best in all places. No O.T. prophecy speaks of the Baptist under this figure. David is so called 2 Samuel 21:17 (see margin), and Elijah (Sir 48:1). The imperfects in this verse seem to imply that John’s career is closed; he is in prison, if not dead.

were willing for a season] Like children, they were glad to disport themselves in the blaze, instead of seriously considering its meaning. And even that only for a season: their pilgrimages to the banks of the Jordan had soon ended; when John began to preach repentance they left him, sated with the novelty and offended at his doctrine.—For another charge of frivolity and fickleness against them in reference to John comp. Matthew 11:16-19.

John 5:35. Ὁ λύχνος, lamp [light]) The article amplifies, and alludes to the prophecies in the Old Testament concerning John. Comp. Sir 48:1, καὶ ἀνέστη Ἡλίας ὁ προφήτης ὡς πῦρ, καὶ ὁ λόγος αὐτοῦ ὡς λαμπὰς ἐκαίετο [Elias—arose as fire, and his word burned as a torch]. Otherwise this appellation is a weak one, [to be applied] to the Christ Himself.—καιόμενος) blazing vehemently (comp. the passage quoted above concerning Elias), and quickly burning out.—καὶ φαίνων, and a shining) καί also denotes concomitancy: whilst the light blazed, it shone; no longer.—ἀγαλλιασθῆναι, to exult) without penitential mourning, and without making any approach towards Myself. A choice word to express the thought. They ought to have used, not enjoyed [made their chief joy], John. The Jews treated that which was but a mean, as if it were an end. They are grossly mistaken, who seek in the word and ministers of God only the gratification of their outward or inward senses, and not Christ Himself, [—who, when they are delighted with the gifts of ministers, seem to themselves religious and devoted, and yet do not follow their instruction.—V. g.]—ἠθελήσατε πρὸς ὥραν, ye were willing for a season) Your willingness was not of long continuance.—φωτί, in the light) Ye were attracted by the splendour, not by the blazing ardour of him.—αὐτοῦ, his) without proceeding forward to Me, the Light, the fountain of joy: ch. John 8:56, “Your Father Abraham rejoiced to see My day; and he saw it, and was glad:” ἠγαλλιάσατο.

Verse 35. - He was the lamp (λύχνος, not φῶς) that burneth and shineth. He was not the Light, but came to bear witness to the Light (John 1:8). The glory of his appearance was a derived or kindled illumination (cf. Matthew 6:22; 2 Peter 1:19). (It is not against this inference that in Revelation 21:23 the Lamb is the Lamp of the New Jerusalem.) The household lamp or torch, when kindled, burns with more or less brilliance, but burns itself out, exhausts itself. One may walk in the light of it, see the way one should take, discharge duties that would otherwise be impossible, avoid perils that might without the lamp prove disastrous or destructive; but the capacity of the torch is soon reduced to a minimum. Bengel, Stier, Alford, think that the celebrated passage in Ecclus. 48:1 may be referred to: "Then stood up Elijah the prophet like as a fire, and his word burned as a lamp." This is not impossible, though it would stand alone as a distinct reference in the Gospels to any apocryphal book. Lunge has given a long series of the lamp and fire symbols of the Old Testament; the group of events in which the Lord appeared in flames of fire and clouds of glory, from Exodus 3 to Malachi 3:2, affirming John to be "the flame signal of Messiah, the last Old Testament form of the pillar of fire and candlestick of the temple, therefore the lamp at once flaming and shining." More than this, and more to the point, we find that, under the figure of lamps of fire, the messengers of God, the activities of the Church, here repeatedly set forth (cf. Matthew 5:14-16; Matthew 25:1-8; Revelation 1:20; Philippians 2:15). John was the burning lamp, not the archetypal Light. Ye desired for a season to rejoice in his light. Many interpretations have been suggested, such as the exultation of a wedding party in the brief light of the torch bearer, announcing the approach of the bridegroom; or the dancing of ephemerides in the glitter of a lamp. The metaphor is lost in the solemn memory of the high gratification for a season which the populations of Judaea, Galilee, and the wilderness had manifested on the apparition of the great prophet. The universal acclaim soon subsided. The leaders of the people fell back when they heard John's call to repentance. Publicans and harlots pressed into the kingdom before the scribes and Pharisees. "The generation of vipers" did to John "whatsoever they listed." The secular power hushed his voice and crushed the man. "For a season" only did they listen to his word or respond to his challenge. His great testimony, though given to him by God, and by no means proceeding from his mere human consciousness, had been in the main unheeded. Wunsche quotes from 'Sota,' fol. 21, a, "Rabbi Menahem said that Solomon (Proverbs 6:23) compares 'prayer' with 'lamp,' and 'teaching' with 'light,' because the one flashes for the twinkling of an eye, comforts in the moment during which it shines; while the other, like the shining of the sun, burns evermore, and leads to eternal rest." John 5:35A burning and shining light (ὁ λύχνος ὁ καιόμενος καὶ φαίνων)

Rev., correctly, the lamp that burneth and shineth. Λύχνος, lamp, as contrasted with the light (φῶς). See John 1:5, John 1:7, John 1:8, John 1:9; and compare John 8:12; John 9:5; John 12:46. Wyc., lantern. The Baptist did not, like Jesus, shine by his own light. The definite article with lamp, points to it as a familiar household object. Burning hints at the fact that the lamp gives but a transitory light. In burning the oil is consumed.

Ye were willing

Again the emphatic ὑμεῖς, ye.

To rejoice (ἀγαλλιασθῆναι)

The word signifies exultant, lively joy. See Matthew 5:12; Luke 1:47; Luke 10:21; 1 Peter 1:6. The interest in the Baptist was a frivolous, superficial, and short-lived excitement. Bengel says, "they were attracted by his brightness, not by his warmth."

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