65. And he said, Therefore have I told you that no man can come to me, unless it be given to him by my Father.66. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.67. Jesus therefore said to the twelve, Do you also wish to go away? 68. Simon Peter therefore answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.69. And we have believed and known that thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.70. Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? 71. Now he spoke of Judas Iscariot, son of Simon; for it was he that would betray him, although he was one of the twelve.
65. Therefore have I told you. He again states that faith is an uncommon and remarkable gift of the Spirit of God, that we may not be astonished that the Gospel is not received in every place and by all. For, being ill qualified to turn to our advantage the course of events, we think more meanly of the Gospel, because the whole world does not assent to it. The thought arises in our mind, How is it possible that the greater part of men shall deliberately reject their salvation? Christ therefore assigns a reason why there are so few believers, namely, because no man, whatever may be his acuteness, can arrive at faith by his own sagacity; for all are blind, until they are illuminated by the Spirit of God, and therefore they only partake of so great a blessing whom the Father deigns to make partakers of it. If this grace were bestowed on all without exception, it would have been unseasonable and inappropriate to have mentioned it in this passage; for we must understand that it was Christ's design to show that not many believe the Gospel, because faith proceeds only from the secret revelation of the Spirit.
Unless it be given him by my Father. He now uses the word give instead of the word which he formerly used, draw; by which he means that there is no other reason why God draws, than because out of free grace he loves us; for what we obtain by the gift and grace of God, no man procures for himself by his own industry.
66. From that time many of his disciples went back. The Evangelist now relates what trouble was the consequence of that sermon. It is a dreadful and monstrous thing, that so kind and gracious an invitation of Christ could have alienated the minds of many, and especially of those who had formerly professed to belong to him, and were even his ordinary disciples. But this example is held out to us for a mirror, as it were, in which we may perceive how great is the wickedness and ingratitude of men, who turn a plain road into an occasion of stumbling to them, that they may not come to Christ. Many would say that it would have been better that a sermon of this kind should never have been preached, which occasioned the apostacy of many. But we ought to entertain a widely different view; for it was then necessary, and now is daily necessary, that what had been foretold concerning Christ should be perceived in his doctrine, namely, that
he is the stone of stumbling, (Isaiah 8:14.)
We ought, indeed, to regulate our doctrine in such a manner that none may be offended through our fault; as far as possible, we ought to retain all; and, in short, we ought to take care that we do not, by talking inconsiderately or at random, disturb ignorant or weak minds. But it will never be possible for us to exercise such caution that the doctrine of Christ shall not be the occasion of offense to many; because the reprobate, who are devoted to destruction, suck venom from the most wholesome food, and gall from honey. The Son of God undoubtedly knew well what was useful, and yet we see that he cannot avoid offending many of his disciples. Whatever then may be the dislike entertained by many persons for pure doctrine, still we are not at liberty to suppress it. Only let the teachers of the Church remember the advice given by Paul, that the word of God ought to be properly divided, (2 Timothy 2:15;) and next let them advance boldly amidst all offenses. And if it happen that many apostatize, let us not be disgusted at the word of God, because it is not relished by the reprobate; for they who are so much shaken by the revolt of some that, when those persons fall away, they are immediately discouraged, are too delicate and tender.
And walked no more with him. When the Evangelist adds these words, he means that it was not a complete apostacy, but only that they withdrew from familiar intercourse with Christ; and yet he condemns them as apostates. Hence we ought to learn that we cannot go back a foot breadth, without being immediately in danger of falling into treacherous denial of our Master.
67. Jesus therefore said to the twelve. As the faith of the apostles might be greatly shaken, when they saw that they were so small a remnant of a great multitude, Christ directs his discourse to them, and shows that there is no reason why they should allow themselves to be hurried away by the lightness and unsteadiness of others. When he asks them if they also wish to go away, he does so in order to confirm their faith; for, by exhibiting to them himself, that they may remain with him, he likewise exhorts them not to become the companions of apostates. And, indeed, if faith be founded on Christ, it will not depend on men, and will never waver, though it should see heaven and earth mingling. We ought also to observe this circumstance, that Christ, when deprived of nearly all his disciples, retains the twelve only, in like manner as Isaiah was formerly commanded to
bind the testimony and seal the law among the disciples, (Isaiah 8:16.)
By such examples, every one of the believers is taught to follow God, even though he should have no companion.
68. Simon Peter therefore answered him. Peter replies here in the name of all, as he does on other occasions; because all of them were of the same mind, except that in Judas there was no sincerity. This reply contains two clauses; for Peter first states the reason why he cheerfully adheres to Christ, along with his brethren; namely, because they feel that his doctrine is wholesome and quickening; and, secondly, he acknowledges that to whomsoever they might go, if they left Christ, there remained for them nothing but death.
Thou hast the words of eternal life. When he says the words of life, by the phrase of life, he means quickening, using the genitive case instead of the adjective, which is a very common mode of expression among the Hebrews. It is a remarkable commendation bestowed on the Gospel, that it administers to us eternal life, as Paul testifies, that
it is the power of God for salvation to every one who believeth, (Romans 1:16.)
True, the Law also contains life, but because it denounces against all transgressors the condemnation of eternal death, it can do nothing but kill. Widely different is the manner in which life is offered to us in the Gospel, that is, when God reconciles us to himself through free grace, by not imputing our sins, (2 Corinthians 5:19.) It is no ordinary assertion that Peter makes concerning Christ, when he says that he has the words of eternal life; but he ascribes this to Christ as belonging to him alone. Hence follows the second statement which I glanced at a little ago, that as soon as they have gone away from Christ, there remains for them everywhere nothing but death. Certain destruction, therefore, awaits all who, not satisfied with that Teacher, fly to the inventions of men.
69. And we have believed and known. The verbs are in the past tense, but they may be changed into the present tense, we believe and know, but it makes little difference in the meaning. In these words Peter gives a brief summary of faith. But the confession appears to have nothing to do with the matter in hand, for the question had been raised about eating the flesh of Christ. I reply, although the twelve did not at once comprehend all that Christ had taught, yet it is enough that, according to the capacity of their faith, they acknowledge him to be the Author of salvation, and submit themselves to him in all things. The word believe is put first, because the obedience of faith is the commencement of right understanding, or rather, because faith itself is truly the eye of the understanding. But immediately afterwards knowledge is added, which distinguishes faith from erroneous and false opinions; for Mahometans and Jews and Papists believe, but they neither know nor understand any thing. Knowledge is connected with faith, because we are certain and fully convinced of the truth of God, not in the same manner as human sciences are learned, but when the Spirit seals it on our hearts.
70. Jesus answered them. Since Christ replies to all, we infer from it that all spake by the mouth of Peter. Besides, Christ now prepares and fortifies the eleven apostles against a new offense which was already at hand. It was a powerful instrument of Satan for shaking their faith, when they were reduced to so small a number, but the fall of Judas might take away all their courage; for since Christ had chosen that sacred number, who would ever have thought that any portion of the whole number could be torn away? That admonition of Christ may be interpreted thus: |You twelve alone remain out of a large company. If your faith has not been shaken by the unbelief of many, prepare for a new contest; for this company, though small, will be still diminished by one man.|
Have not I chosen you twelve? When Christ says that he has chosen or elected twelve, he does not refer to the eternal purpose of God; for it is impossible that any one of those who have been predestinated to life shall fall away; but, having been chosen to the apostolic office, they ought to have surpassed others in piety and holiness. He used the word chosen, therefore, to denote those who were eminent and distinguished from the ordinary rank.
And one of you is a devil. He unquestionably intended, by this name, to hold up Judas to the utmost detestation; for they are mistaken who extenuate the atrocity implied in the name and indeed we cannot sufficiently execrate those who dishonor so sacred an office. Teachers who faithfully discharge their office are called angels
They should seek the law at his mouth, for he is the angel of the Lord of Hosts,
Justly, therefore, is he accounted a devil, who, after having been admitted to so honorable a rank, is corrupted through his treachery and wickedness. Another reason is, that God allows more power and liberty to Satan over wicked and ungodly ministers, than over other ordinary men; and therefore, if they who were chosen to be pastors are driven by diabolical rage, so as to resemble wild and monstrous beasts, so far are we from being entitled, on that account, to despise the honorable rank to which they belong, that we ought rather to honor it the more, when the profanation of it is followed by so fearful a punishment.
71. He spoke of Judas Although Judas had a bad conscience, still we do not read that he was at all moved. Hypocrites are so stupid that they do not feel their sores, and in the presence of men they have such hardened effrontery, that they do not scruple to prefer themselves to the very best of men.