John 9:4
I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night comes, when no man can work.
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(4) I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day.—The better reading is probably that which has we, instead of “I,” and perhaps also that which has us, instead of “me”; but this latter change is not so well supported by MS. authority. The clause would read then, We must work the works of Him that sent Me (or us) while it is day. He identifies the disciples with Himself in the redemptive work of His mission. There is before them a striking instance of the power of evil. He and they are there to manifest the power of good. They must gird themselves to the task. If we are right in placing the whole section from John 7:37 to John 10:21 on the same great day of the Feast (comp. Note on John 9:14), then this work must have come near the close of the day. The sun sinking to the west may have reminded them that the day was passing away, and that the night was approaching. He was reminded of the day of life, and the night of death. He will not be long in the world (John 9:5). That night will be the close of His human work, and the shadows of evening are already falling upon Him.

The night cometh, when no man can work.—He does not except even Himself from the proverbial law. The day of opportunity passes, never to return. His own great work of doing the work of Him that sent Him, could only be done when that day was present. It has, of course, been ever done in the work of His church under the guidance of His Spirit; but the work of His own human activity on earth ceased when the night came. Comp. John 11:9 for this thought of the hours of the day.



John 9:4
. - Romans 13:12.

The contrast between these two sayings will strike you at once. Using the same metaphors, they apply them in exactly opposite directions. In the one, life is the day, and the state beyond death the night; in the other, life is the night, and the state beyond death the day. Remarkable as the contrast is, it comes to be still more so if we remember the respective speakers. For each of them says what we should rather have expected the other to say. It would have been natural for Paul to have given utterance to the stimulus to diligence caused by the consciousness that the time of work was brief; and it would have been as natural for Jesus, who, as we believe, came from God, from the place of the eternal supernal glory, to have said that life here was night as compared with the illumination that He had known. But it is the divine Master who gives utterance to the common human consciousness of a brief life ending in inactivity, and it is the servant who takes the higher point of view.

So strange did the words of my first text seem as coming from our Lord’s lips, that the sense of incongruity seems to have been the occasion of the remarkable variation of reading which the Revised Version has adopted when it says ‘We must work the works of Him that sent Me.’ But that thought seems to me to be perfectly irrelevant to our Lord’s purpose in this context, where He is vindicating His own action, and not laying down the duty of His servants. He is giving here one of these glimpses, that we so rarely get, into His own inmost heart. And so we have to take the sharp contrast between the Master’s thought and the servant’s thought, and to combine them, if we would think rightly about the present and the future, and do rightly in the present.

I. Let me ask you to look at the Master’s thought about the present and the future.

As I have already said, our Lord gives utterance here to the very common, in fact, universal human consciousness. The contrast between the intense little spot of light and the great ring of darkness round about it; between ‘the warm precincts of the cheerful day’ and the cold solitudes of the inactive night has been the commonplace and stock-in-trade of moralists and thoughtful men from the beginning; has given pathos to poetry, solemnity to our days; and has been the ally of base as well as of noble things. For to say to a man, ‘there are twelve hours in the day of life, and then comes darkness, the blackness that swallows up all activity,’ may either be made into a support of all lofty and noble thoughts, or, by the baser sort, may be, and has been, made into a philosophy of the ‘Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die’ kind; ‘Gather ye roses while ye may’; ‘A short life and a merry one.’ The thought stimulates to diligence, but it does nothing to direct the diligence. It makes men work furiously, but it never will prevent them from working basely. ‘Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might,’ is a conclusion from the consideration that ‘there is neither wisdom nor knowledge nor device in the grave whither we go,’ but what the hand should find to do must be settled from altogether different considerations.

Our Lord here takes the common human point of view, and says, ‘Life is the time for activity, and it must be the more diligent because it is ringed by the darkness of the night.’ What precisely does our Lord intend by His use of that metaphor of the night? No figures, we know, run upon all-fours. The point of comparison may be simply in some one feature common to the two things compared, and so all sorts of mischief may be done by trying to extend the analogy to other features. Now, there are a great many points in which day and night may respectively be taken as analogues of Life and Death and the state beyond death. There is a ‘night of weeping’; there is a ‘night of ignorance.’ But our Lord Himself tells us what is the one point of comparison which alone is in His mind, when He says, ‘The night cometh, when no man can work.’ It is simply the night as a season of compulsory inactivity that suggests the comparison in our text. And so we have here the presentation of that dear Lord as influenced by the common human motive, and feeling that there was work to be done which must be crowded into a definite space, because when that space was past, there would be no more opportunity for the work to be done.

Look at how, in the words of my first text, we have, as I said, a glimpse into His inmost heart. He lets us see that all His life was under the solemn compulsion of that great must which was so often upon His lips, that He felt that He was here to do the Father’s will, and that that obligation lay upon Him with a pressure which He neither could, nor would if He could, have got rid of.

There are two kinds of ‘musts’ in our lives. There is the unwelcome necessity which grips us with iron and sharpened fangs; the needs-be which crushes down hopes and dreams and inclinations, and forces the slave to his reluctant task. And there is the ‘must’ which has passed into the will, into the heart, and has moulded the inmost desire to conformity with the obligation which no more stands over against us as a taskmaster with whip and chain, but has passed within us and is there an inspiration and a joy. He that can say, as Jesus Christ in His humanity could, and did say: ‘My meat’-the refreshment of my nature, the necessary sustenance of my being-’is to do the will of my Father’; that man, and that man alone, feels no pressure that is pain from the incumbency of the necessity that blessedly rules His life. When ‘I will’ and ‘I choose’ coincide, like two of Euclid’s triangles atop of one another, line for line and angle for angle, then comes liberty into the life. He that can say, not with a knitted brow and an unwilling ducking of his head to the yoke, ‘I must do it,’ but can say, ‘Thy law is within my heart,’ that is the Christlike, the free, the happy man.

Further, our Lord here, in His thoughts of the present and the future, lets us see what He thought that the work of God in the world was. The disciples looked at the blind man sitting by the wayside, and what he suggested to them was a curious, half theological, half metaphysical question, in which Rabbinical subtlety delighted. ‘Who did sin, this man or his parents?’ They only thought of talking over the theological problem involved in the fact that, before he had done anything in this world to account for the calamity, he was born blind. Jesus Christ looked at the man, and He did not think about theological cobwebs. What was suggested to Him was to fight against the evil and abolish it. It is sometimes necessary to discuss the origin of an evil thing, of a sorrow or a sin, in order to understand how to deal with and get rid of it. But unless that is the case, our first business is not to say, ‘How comes this about?’ but our business is to take steps to make it cease to come about. Cure the man first and then argue to your heart’s content about what made him blind, but cure him first. And so Jesus Christ taught us that the meaning of the day of life was that we should set ourselves to abolish the works of the devil, and that the work of God was that we should fight against sin and sorrow, and in so far as it was in our power, abolish these, in all the variety of their forms, in all the vigour of their abundant growth. Sorrow and sin are God’s call to every one of His sons and daughters to set themselves to cast them out of His fair creation; and ‘the day’ is the opportunity for doing that.

Our Lord here, as I have already suggested, shows us very touchingly and beautifully, how entirely He bore our human nature, and had entered into our conditions, in that He, too, felt that common human emotion, and was spurred to unhasting and yet unresting diligence by the thought of the coming of the night. I suppose that although we have few chronological data in this Gospel of John, the hour of our Lord’s death was really very near at that time. He had just escaped from a formidable attempt upon His life. ‘They took up stones to stone Him, but He, passing through the midst of them, went His way,’ is the statement which immediately precedes the account of His meeting with this blind man. And so under the pressure, perhaps, of that immediate experience which revealed the depths of hatred that was ready for anything against Him, He gives utterance to this expression: ‘If it be the case that the time is at hand, then the more need that, Sabbath day as it is, I should pause here.’ Though the multitude were armed with stones to stone Him, He stopped in His flight because there was a poor blind man there whom He felt that He needed to cure. Beautiful it is, and drawing Him very near to us,-and it should draw us very near to Him-that thus He shared in that essentially human consciousness of the limitation of the power to work, by the ring of blackness that encircled the little spot of illuminated light.

But some will say, ‘How is it possible that such a consciousness as this should really have been in the mind of Jesus Christ?’ ‘Did He not know that His death was not to be the end of His work? Did He not know, and say over and over again, in varying forms, that when He passed from earth, it was not into inactivity? Is it not the very characteristic of His mission that it is different from that of all other helpers and benefactors and teachers of the world, in that His death stands in the very middle of His work, and that on the one side of it there is activity, and on the other side of it there is still, and in some sense loftier and greater, activity?’ Yes; all that is perfectly true, and I do not for a moment believe that our Lord was forgetting that the life on the earth was but the first volume of His biography, and of the records of His deeds, and that He contemplated them, as He contemplated always, the life beyond, as working in and on and over and through His servants, even unto the end of the world.

But you have only to remember the difference between the earthly and the heavenly life of the Lord fully to understand the point of view that He takes here. The one is the basis of the other; the one is the seedtime, the other is the harvest. The one has only the limited years of the earthly life, in which it can be done; the other has the endless years of Eternity, through which it is to be continued. And if any part of that earthly life of the Lord had been void of its duty, and of its discharge of the Father’s will, not even He, amidst the blaze of the heavenly glory, could have thereafter filled up the tiny gap. All the earthly years were needed to be filled with service, up to the great service and sacrifice of the Cross, in order that upon them might be reared the second stage and phase of His heavenly life. With regard to the one, He said on the Cross, ‘It is finished.’ But when He died He passed not into the night of inactivity, but into the day of greater service. And that higher and heavenly form of His work continues, and not until ‘the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ,’ and the whole benefit and effect of His earthly life are imparted to the whole race of man, will it be said, ‘It is done,’ and the angels of heaven proclaim the completion of His work for man. But seeing that that work has its twofold forms, Jesus, like us, had to be conscious of the limitations of life, and of the night that followed the day.

II. And now turn, in the second place, to the servant’s thought.

As I have already pointed out, it is the precise reversal of the other. What to Christ is ‘day’ to Paul is ‘night.’ What to Christ is ‘night’ to Paul is ‘day.’ Now the first point that I would make is this, that the future would never have been ‘day’ to Paul if Jesus had not gone down into the darkness of the ‘night.’ I have said that there was only one point of comparison in our Lord’s mind between night and death. But we may venture to extend the figure a little, and to say that the Light went into the ‘valley of the shadow of Death,’ and lit it up from end to end. The Life went into the palace of Death, and breathed life into all there. There is a great picture by one of the old monkish masters, on the walls of a Florentine convent, which represents the descent of Jesus to that dim region of the dead. Around Him there is a halo of light that shines into the gloomy corridor, up which the thronging patriarchs and saints of the Old Dispensation are coming, with outstretched hands of eager welcome and acceptance, to receive the blessing. Ah! it is true, ‘the people that walked in darkness have seen a great Light; and to them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, unto them hath the Light shined.’ Christ the Light has gone down into the darkness, and what to Him was night He has made for us day. Just as Scripture all but confines the name of death to Christ’s experience upon the Cross, and by virtue of that experience softens it down for the rest of us into the blessed image of sleep, so the Master has turned the night of death into the dawning of the day.

Further, to the servant the brightness of that future day dimmed all earth’s garish glories into darkness. It was because Paul saw the Beyond flaming with such lustre that the nearer distance to him seemed to have sunk into gloom. Just as a man or other object between you and the western sky when the sun is there will be all dark, so earth with heaven behind it becomes a mere shadowy outline. The day that is beyond outshines all the lustres and radiances of earth, and turns them into darkness. You go into a room out of blazing tropical sunshine, and it is all gloom and obscurity. He whose eyes are fixed on the day that is to come will find that here he walks as one in the night.

And the brightness of that day, as well as the darkness of the present night, directed the servant as to what he should be diligent in. Since it is true that ‘the day is at hand,’ let us put on the armour of light, and dress ourselves in garb fitting for it. Since it is true that ‘the night is far spent’ let us put off the works of darkness.

III. And so that brings me to the last point, and that is the combination of the Master’s and the servant’s thought, and the effect that it should produce upon us.

It is not enough either for our hearts or our minds that we should say ‘the night cometh when no man can work.’ Life is day, but it is night also. Death is night but it is dawning as well. We cannot understand either the present or the future unless we link them together. That death which is the cessation of activity in one aspect, is, for Christ’s servants, as truly as for Christ, the beginning of an activity in a higher and nobler form. I do not believe in a heaven of rest, meaning by that, inaction; I still less believe in a death which puts an end to the activity of the human spirit. I believe that this world is our school, our apprenticeship, the place where we learn our trade and exercise our faculties, where we paint the picture, as it were, which we offer when we desire to be admitted to the great guild of artists, and according to the result of which, in the eye of the Judge, is our place hereafter. What the Germans call ‘proof pieces’-that is the meaning of life. And though ‘the night cometh when no man can work,’ the day cometh when the characters we have made ourselves here, the habits we have cultivated and indulged in, the capacities we have exercised, and the set and drift of all our activity upon earth, will determine the work that we get to do there.

So then, stereoscoping these two thoughts, we get the solid image that results from them both. And it teaches us not only diligence, and thus supplies stimulus, but it determines the direction of our diligence, and thus supplies guidance. We ought to be misers of our time and opportunities. Jesus Christ said, ‘I must work the work of Him that sent Me while it is day; the night cometh.’ How much more ought you and I to say so? And some of us ought very specially to say it, and to feel it, because the hour when we shall have to lay down our tools is getting very near, and the shadows are lengthening. If you had been in the fields in these summer evenings during the last few days, you would have seen the haymakers at work with more and more diligence as the evening drew on darker and darker. Dear friends, some of us are at the eleventh hour. Let us fill it with diligent work. The night cometh.

But my texts not only stimulate to diligence, but they direct the diligence. If it be that there is a day beyond, and that Christ’s folk are ‘the children of the day,’ then ‘let us not sleep as do others, but let us watch and be sober.’ We have to cast ourselves on Him as our Saviour, to love Him as our Lord and Friend, to take Him as our Pattern and our Guide, our Help, our Light, and our Life. And then we shall neither be deceived by life’s garish splendours nor oppressed by its gloom and its sorrow; we shall neither shrink from that last moment, as a night of inaction, nor be too eager to cast off the burden of our present work, but we shall cheerfully toil at what will prepare us for ‘the day,’ and the bell at night that rings us out of mill and factory will not be unwelcome, for it will ring us in to higher work and nobler service. The transition will be like one of those summer nights in the Arctic circle, when the sun does not dip. Through a little thin film of less light we shall pass into the perfect day, where ‘the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the light thereof,’ and ‘there shall be no more night.’John 9:4. I must work the works of him that sent me — Called in the preceding verse the works of God; that is, I must not cease doing this, however the malice of the Jews may be irritated thereby; I must not desist from doing the will of my heavenly Father, in order to please them; while it is day — While I have an opportunity; while the time lasts, which is appointed to work in, and while the light lasts, which is given to work by. Observe, reader, Christ himself had his day; 1st, All the business of the mediatorial kingdom was to be done within the limits of time, and in this world; for at the end of the world, when time shall be no more, the kingdom shall be delivered up to God: even the Father, and the mystery of God shall be finished. 2d, All the work he had to do in his own person, here on earth, to set us an example of holy living, was to be done before his death. The time of his abode in this world was the day here spoken of. And the time of our life is our day, in which it concerns us to do the work of the day. During the day of life we must be busy, and that in doing the work appointed us: it will be time enough to rest when our day is ended. Our Lord adds, The night cometh, when no man can work — As if he had said, I see death approaching, which, as it puts a period in general to human labours, so will close the scene of such labours as these, and remove me from the converse and society of men. The period of his opportunity for doing the will of his Father, and glorifying him on earth, was at hand, and therefore he would lose no time, but be active and laborious. Thus, the consideration of our death approaching, should quicken us to a diligent improvement of all the opportunities of life, both for doing and gaining good. The night cometh — It will come certainly, and may come soon and suddenly: and when it comes we cannot work, because the light afforded us to work by will be extinguished, and the time allotted us to work in will then be expired. When the night comes, the labourers must be called. They must then show their work, and receive according to the deeds done in the body: for then the time of probation will be ended, and the time of retribution begun.9:1-7 Christ cured many who were blind by disease or accident; here he cured one born blind. Thus he showed his power to help in the most desperate cases, and the work of his grace upon the souls of sinners, which gives sight to those blind by nature. This poor man could not see Christ, but Christ saw him. And if we know or apprehend anything of Christ, it is because we were first known of him. Christ says of uncommon calamities, that they are not always to be looked on as special punishments of sin; sometimes they are for the glory of God, and to manifest his works. Our life is our day, in which it concerns us to do the work of the day. We must be busy, and not waste day-time; it will be time to rest when our day is done, for it is but a day. The approach of death should quicken us to improve all our opportunities of doing and getting good. What good we have an opportunity to do, we should do quickly. And he that will never do a good work till there is nothing to be objected against, will leave many a good work for ever undone, Ec 11:4. Christ magnified his power, in making a blind man to see, doing that which one would think more likely to make a seeing man blind. Human reason cannot judge of the Lord's methods; he uses means and instruments that men despise. Those that would be healed by Christ must be ruled by him. He came back from the pool wondering and wondered at; he came seeing. This represents the benefits in attending on ordinances of Christ's appointment; souls go weak, and come away strengthened; go doubting, and come away satisfied; go mourning, and come away rejoicing; go blind, and come away seeing.The works of him ... - The works of beneficence and mercy which God has commissioned me to do, and which are expressive of his goodness and power. This was on the Sabbath day John 9:14; and though Jesus had endangered his life (John 5:1-16 by working a similar miracle on the Sabbath, yet he knew that this was the will of God that he should do good, and that he would take care of his life.

While it is day - The day is the proper time for work - night is not. This is the general, the universal sentiment. While the day lasts it is proper to labor. The term "day" here refers to the life of Jesus, and to the opportunity thus afforded of working miracles. His life was drawing to a close. It was probably but about six months after this when he was put to death. The meaning is, My life is near its close. While it continues I must employ it in doing the works which God has appointed.

The night cometh - Night here represents death. It was drawing near, and he must therefore do what he had to do soon. It is not improbable, also, that this took place near the close of the Sabbath, as the sun was declining, and the shades of evening about to appear. This supposition will give increased beauty to the language which follows.

No man can work - It is literally true that day is the appropriate time for toil, and that the night of death is a time when nothing can be done. Ecclesiastes 9:10; "there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave." From this we may learn:

1. that it is our duty to employ all our time in doing the will of God.

2. that we should seek for opportunities of doing good, and suffer none to pass without improving it. We go but once through the world, and we cannot return to correct errors, and recall neglected opportunities of doing our duty.

3. We should be especially diligent in doing our Lord's work from the fact that the night of death is coming. This applies to the aged, for they must soon die; and to the young, for they may soon be called away from this world to eternity.

4. I must work the works of him that sent me, &c.—a most interesting statement from the mouth of Christ; intimating, (1) that He had a precise work to do upon earth, with every particular of it arranged and laid out to Him; (2) that all He did upon earth was just "the works of God"—particularly "going about doing good," though not exclusively by miracles; (3) that each work had its precise time and place in His programme of instructions, so to speak; hence, (4) that as His period for work had definite termination, so by letting any one service pass by its allotted time, the whole would be disarranged, marred, and driven beyond its destined period for completion; (5) that He acted ever under the impulse of these considerations, as man—"the night cometh when no man (or no one) can work." What lessons are here for others, and what encouragement from such Example! The Father, who sent Christ into the world, gave him work to do: his general work was, to glorify God upon the earth, John 17:4, as by working out the redemption of man, so by revealing his will to the sons of men, and working miracles for the glorifying the name of God. Saith Christ, I have a set time to work in; that is, that which he here calleth day, the time wherein Christ was to live upon the earth.

The night cometh, when no man can work; I am not to be here always, there will come a time when I must be absent from the earth, then none of this work can be done. A good argument to persuade every Christian to work while the time of his life lasts, for the night of death will come, when no man can any longer work out his salvation; but as the tree falleth, so it must lie, Ecclesiastes 9:10. I must work the works of him that sent me,.... This shows, that the works of God, that were to be manifest, were to be done by Christ: many were the works which the Father gave him to do, and which he undertook to perform; and therefore there was a necessity of doing them, as principally the work of redemption, by fulfilling the law, and satisfying justice: and besides this, there were the preaching of the Gospel, and doing of miracles, and among these was this of giving sight to the blind, see Isaiah 35:5, both in a natural and spiritual sense: and with a view to this he speaks of the works he mast do,

while it is day; while the day of life lasts, for in the grave there is no work nor device:

the night cometh when no man can work; meaning the night of death, and of the grave, and suggesting his own death hereby, that he had but a little time to be in this world, and therefore would make the best use of it, to do the will and work of his Father that sent him; and which should be a pattern to us. This life is but short, it is but as the length of a day; a great deal of business is to be done; and death is hastening on, which will put a period to all working.

{2} I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is {b} day: the night cometh, when no man can work.

(2) The works of Christ are is it were a light, which enlighten the darkness of the world.

(b) By day is meant the light, that is, the enlightening doctrine of the heavenly truth: and by night is meant the darkness which comes by the obscurity of the same doctrine.

John 9:4. By means of the participative ἡμᾶς (see the critical observations), Jesus includes the disciples with Himself as helpers and continuers of the Messianic activity. The further progress of the discourse is indicated by the pronoun which, for the sake of emphasis, is placed at the beginning of the sentence; the subject is thus specified through whose activity the φανέρωσις mentioned in John 9:3 is to be accomplished. “It is we who are destined by God to work His works as long as we live, and until death put an end to our activity.” There is no hint whatever in the text that Jesus wished to meet the scruples of the disciples on account of the healing which He was about to perform on the Sabbath (Kuinoel); indeed, as far as the disciples were concerned, to whom Sabbath healings by Jesus were nothing new, there was no ground for such a procedure.

τοῦ πέμψ. με] Jesus does not again say ἡμας;[44] for His mission involved also that of the disciples, and it was He who commissioned the disciples (John 13:20, John 20:21).

ἕως] so long as, denoting contemporaneous duration, very frequently so in the classical writers subsequently to Homer, with the praes. or imperf. See Blomfield, Gloss. ad Aesch. Pers. 434.

Day and Night are images, not of tempus opportunum and importunum, nor even of αἰὼν οὗτος and ΜΈΛΛΩΝ (Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euth. Zigabenus, Ruperti, and others); but (for Jesus was thinking of His speedy departure out of the world, John 9:5) of life and death (comp. Hom. Il. ε. 310, Λ. 356; Aesch. Sept. 385; Pers. 841; Plat. Apol. p. 40 D, and Stallbaum thereon; Hor. Od. 1. 28. 15). The latter puts an end to the activity of every one on earth (even to that of Christ in His human manifestation). By the different use made of the same image in John 11:9 f., we are not justified in regarding it as including the period of the passion (Hengstenberg). Moreover, Christ was still working whilst He hung on the cross. Olshausen’s view is wrong: ἡμέρα denotes the time of grace, which was then specially conditioned by the presence of Christ, the Light of the world; with His removal darkness assumed its sway. Against this view the general and unlimited form of the expression on ὅτι οὐδεὶς δύναται ἐργάζεσθαι (which Olshausen arbitrarily restricts by adding “for a time,” and “in spiritual matters”) is in itself a decisive objection; not to mention that Jesus regarded His death, not as the beginning of spiritual darkness, but as the very condition of greater enlightenment by the Spirit (John 17:7, John 15:26, John 14:26, al.). With Olshausen agrees substantially B. Crusius; comp. also Grotius, Bengel, and several others. Luthardt also refers day and night to the world, whose day-time coincided with the presence of Christ in the world, and whose night began when He departed out of the world; as soon as He should leave the world, no other could occupy His place in the accomplishment of redemption; from that time onward, there would be no longer a redemptive history, but merely an appropriation of redemption. But apart from the hair-splitting character of the distinction thus drawn, the grounds adduced against Olshausen hold substantially good against this explanation also, especially that ἐργάζεσθαι—which here has no determining object, as in the previous case—and ΟὐΔΕΊς are quite general; and accordingly, ἜΡΧΕΤΑΙ ΝῪΞ

ἘΡΓΆΖΕΣΘΑΙ must be regarded as a commonplace. Godet finds in ΝΎΞ the thought of the evening rest, which Christ was to enjoy in His heavenly state. This is incorrect, however, because it is not evening but night that is mentioned, and because δύναται would then be inappropriate.

[44] Which Ewald prefers in opposition to his own translation. But see the critical note.4. I must work, &c.] The reading here is somewhat doubtful, as to whether ‘I’ or ‘we,’ ‘Me’ or ‘us’ is right in each case. The best authorities give, We must work the works of Him that sent Me, and this, the more difficult reading, is probably correct. Some copyists altered ‘we’ into ‘I’ to make it agree with ‘Me,’ others altered ‘Me’ into ‘us’ to make it agree with ‘we.’

We must work:’ Christ identifies Himself with His disciples in the work of converting the world. ‘Him that sent Me:’ Christ does not identify His mission with that of the disciples. They were both sent, but not in the same sense. So also He says ‘My Father’ and ‘your Father,’ ‘My God’ and ‘your God;’ but not ‘our Father,’ or ‘our God’ (John 20:17).

while it is day] Or, so long as it is day, i. e. so long as we have life. Day and night here mean, as so often in literature of all kinds, life and death. Other explanations, e.g. opportune and inopportune moments, the presence of Christ in the world and His withdrawal from it,—are less simple and less suitable to the context. If all that is recorded from John 7:37 takes place on one day, these words would probably be spoken in the evening, when the failing light would add force to the warning, night cometh (no article), when no one can work. ‘No one;’ not even Christ Himself as man upon earth: comp. John 11:7-10; Psalm 104:23.John 9:4. Νύξ, the night) Christ is the light: when it departs, the night comes, which does not restrain the light, but obscures the earth.—οὐδείς, no man) He does not say, I cannot; but, no man. He Himself could have worked at all times; but yet He observed the seasonable time: John often describes Christ as speaking thus indefinitely concerning things that present themselves, in the way that would become any ordinary pious person in speaking of such matters: ch. John 11:9, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not,” etc.; John 12:24-25, “Except a corn of wheat—die, it abideth alone, but, etc. He that loveth his life, shall lose it,” etc. In fact, Jesus was tempted in all things, but without sin.Verse 4. - We must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day. The emendation of the text certainly throws much beauty into the statement. Christ identifies himself with his disciples. They are pledged by accepting his call, and he has been himself charged by his own sublime mission to work while it is called day. The sun was going down over the holy city on that sabbath day, and Jesus will not wait, nor lose the opportunity of doing the merciful will of the Father. He did not say, "Him that sent us" (as Tischendorf reads), for "As the Father had sent him, so he sent them." But he adds, The night cometh, when no man can work. The materialistic interpretation of Paulus, "Christ must have daylight for a delicate operation," is too puerile to deserve refutation. The suggestion of the Greek Fathers (Chrysostom, Theophylact, etc.), who here drew a distinction between the work of this world and the work of the future world, between work done before and after his Passion, representing the work of his earthly ministry as done in the day, and that of the Spirit as work done in the night, is singularly unfortunate. Our Lord is merely adopting the phrase as a customary image for life and death. Death puts an end to all human activity on earth, even to Christ's own, as a human Friend and Teacher. Numerous attempts have been made to suppose some emphatic contrast between the lifetime of Christ and the period that should follow his Passion. They all fail, because Christ's own activity resumes another form by his resurrection and the gift of his Spirit. The night of death, accompanied by the cessation of active labor, is the general idea. The day's work must be done in the day. The probation involved in the bare fact of its limitation, and in this case its rapidly approaching consummation, is the main thought, without pressing the imagery too far. By saying, "We must work," etc., he gave a lesson and an example for all time. The 'Pirke Aboth,' "The Sayings of the Fathers," record the words of R. Tryphon, "The day is short, and the task is great, and the workmen are sluggish, and the reward is much, and the Master of the house is urgent." I must work (ἐμὲ δεῖ ἐργάζεσθαι)

The best texts read ἡμᾶς, us, instead of ἐμὲ, me. Literally, it is necessary for us to work. The disciples are thus associated by Jesus with Himself. Compare John 3:11.

Sent me, not us

The Son sends the disciples, as the Father sends the Son.

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