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Commentary On John Volume 1 by Jean Calvin

John 7:9-13

9. And having said these things, he remained in Galilee.10. And when his brethren had gone up, then he also went up to the feast, not openly, but, as it were, in secret.11. The Jews therefore sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he? 12. And there was much murmuring concerning him among the crowds; for some said, He is a good man, and others said, No, but he seduceth the multitude.13. Yet no man spoke openly about him for fear of the Jews.

9. He remained in Galilee. The Evangelist here places before our eyes the cousins of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, in compliance with ordinary customs, pretend to worship God, but yet are on friendly terms with unbelievers, and therefore walk without any alarm. On the other hand, he places before our eyes Christ himself, who hated by the world, comes secretly into the city, till the necessity arising out of his office compels him to show himself openly. But if there be nothing more wretched than to be separated from Christ, accursed be that peace which costs so high a price as to leave and abandon the Son of God.

11. The Jews therefore sought him. Here we ought to consider what was the condition of the Church. For the Jews, at that time, gaped for the promised redemption like hungry men; yet, when Christ appears to them, they remain in suspense. Hence arose that murmuring and that variety of opinions. That they whisper secretly is an indication of the tyranny which the priests and scribes exercised over them. It is a shocking exhibition, indeed, that this Church, which was at that time the only Church on earth, is here represented to us as a confused and shapeless chaos. They who rule, instead of pastors, hold the people oppressed by fear and terror, and throughout the whole body there is shameful desolation and lamentable disorder. By the Jews he means the common people, who, having been accustomed for two years to hear Christ, inquire about him, because he does not appear according to his custom. For when they say, Where is he? they describe a man whom they knew, and yet that word shows that they had not yet been earnestly moved, and that they always remained in doubt and suspense.

12. And there was much murmuring. He means that, wherever men were collected in crowds, as usually happens in large assemblies, they held secret conversations about Christ. The diversity of opinion, which is here related, proves that it is not a new evil, that men should differ in their opinions about Christ, even in the very bosom of the Church. And as we do not hesitate to receive Christ, who was formerly condemned by the greater part of his own nation, so we ought to be armed with the same kind of shield, that the dissensions which we see daily may not disturb us. Again, we may perceive how great is the rashness of men in the things of God. In a matter of no importance, they would not have taken so great liberty, but when the question relates to the Son of God and to his most holy doctrine, they immediately hasten to give judgment respecting it. So much the greater moderation ought we to maintain, that we may not thoughtlessly condemn our life with the eternal truth of God. And if the world holds us for impostors, let us remember that these are the marks and brands of Christ, provided that we show, at the same time, that we are faithful. This passage shows likewise that in a great multitude, even when the whole body is in a state of confusion, there are always some who think aright; but those few persons, whose minds are well regulated, are swallowed up by the multitude of those whose understandings are bewildered.

13. Yet no man spoke openly of him for fear of the Jews. By the Jews he here means the rulers, who had the government in their hands. They burned with such hatred against Christ, that they did not permit a word to be uttered on either side. Not that they were displeased at any reproaches which were heaped upon him, but because they could discover no better expedient than that his name should be buried in oblivion. Thus the enemies of the truth, after having found that they gain nothing by their cruelty, desire nothing more than to suppress the remembrance of him, and this object alone they strive to attain. That all were silent, being subdued by fear, was a proof of gross tyranny, as I have already said; for as unbridled licentiousness has no place in a well-regulated Church, so when all freedom is held oppressed by fear, it is a most wretched condition. But the power of our Lord Jesus Christ shone forth with greater and more wonderful brightness, when -- causing himself to be heard amidst armed foes, and amidst their furious resentment, and under so formidable a government -- he openly maintained and asserted the truth of God.

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