19. A division therefore arose again among the Jews on account of those sayings.20. And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad: why do you hear him? 21. Others said, These are not the words of a demoniac. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind? 22. And it was the feast of Dedication at Jerusalem, and it was winter.23. And Jesus was walking in the temple in Solomon's porch.24. The Jews then surrounded him, and said to him, How long dost thou keep our soul in suspense? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.25. Jesus answered them, I have told you, but you do not believe. The works which I do in my Father's name testify of me.26. But you do not believe, because you are not of my sheep, as I said to you.27. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.28. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, nor shall any one wrest them out of my hand.29. My Father, who gave them to me, is greater than all; and none can wrest them out of my Father's hand.30. I and my Father are one.
19. A division therefore arose again. The advantage gained by Christ's discourse was, that it procured him some disciples; but as his doctrine has also many adversaries, hence arises a division, so that they are split into parties, who formerly appeared to be one body of the Church. for all, with one consent, professed that they worshipped the God of Abraham and complied with the Law of Moses; but now, when Christ comes forward, they begin to differ on his account. If that profession had been sincere, Christ, who is the strongest bond of charity, and whose office it is to gather those things which are scattered, would not break up their agreement. But Christ, by the light of his Gospel, exposes the hypocrisy of many who, while they had nothing but a false and hypocritical pretense, boasted that they were the people of God.
Thus, the wickedness of many is still the reason why the Church is troubled by divisions, and why contentions are kindled. Yet those who disturb the peace, throw the blame on us, and call us Schismatics; for the principal charge which the Papists bring against us is, that our doctrine has shaken the tranquillity of the Church. Yet the truth is, that, if they would yield submissively to Christ, and give their support to the truth, all the commotions would immediately be allayed. But when they utter murmurs and complaints against Christ, and will not allow us to be at rest on any other condition than that the truth of God shall be extinguished, and that Christ shall be banished from his kingdom, they have no right to accuse us of the crime of schism; for it is on themselves, as every person sees, that this crime ought to be charged. We ought to be deeply grieved that the Church is torn by divisions arising among those who profess the same religion; but it is better that there are some who separate themselves from the wicked, to be united to Christ their Head, than that all should be of one mind in despising God. Consequently, when schisms arise, we ought to inquire who they are that revolt from God and from his pure doctrine.
20. He hath a devil. They employ the most offensive reproach which they can devise, in slandering Christ, that all may shudder at the thought of hearing him. For wicked men, that they may not be forced to yield to God, in a furious manner, and with closed eyes, break out into proud contempt of him, and excite others to the same rage, so that not a single word of Christ is heard in silence. But the doctrine of Christ has sufficient power in itself to defend it against slanders. And this is what believers mean by their reply,
21. These are not the words of a demoniac. It is as if they demanded that men should judge from the fact itself; for the truth, as we have said, is strong enough to maintain itself. And this is the only protection of our faith, that wicked men will never be able to hinder the power and wisdom of God, and his goodness also, from shining in the Gospel.
22. And it was the feast of Dedication. The Greek word (enkainia) which we have translated dedication, properly signifies renovations; because the temple, which had been polluted, was again consecrated by the command of Judas Maccabaeus; and at that time it was enacted that the day of the new dedication or consecration should be celebrated every year as a festival, that the people might recall to remembrance the grace of God, which had put an end to the tyranny of Antiochus. Christ appeared in the temple at that time, according to custom, that his preaching might yield more abundant fruit amidst a large assembly of men.
23. And Jesus was walking in the temple, in Solomon's porch. The Evangelist gives to Solomon's porch the designation of the temple; not that it was the sanctuary, but only an appendage to the temple Nor does he mean the ancient porch which was built by Solomon, which had been altogether destroyed by the Chaldeans, but that which the Jews -- perhaps immediately after their return from the Babylonish captivity -- built after the pattern of the ancient porch, and gave it the same name, that it might be more highly honored; and Herod afterwards built a new temple.
24. The Jews therefore surrounded him. This was undoubtedly a cunning attack on Christ, at least on the part of those with whom the scheme originated. For the common people might, without any fraud, desire that Christ would openly declare that God had sent him to be a deliverer; but a few persons, by trick and stratagem, wished to draw this word from him amidst the crowd, that he might be killed by a mob, or that the Romans might lay hands on him.
How long dost thou keep our soul in suspense? By complaining of being kept in suspense, they pretend that they are so ardently desirous of the promised redemption, that their minds are eagerly and incessantly occupied by the expectation of Christ. And this is the true feeling of piety, to find nowhere else than in Christ alone, what will satisfy our minds, or give them true composure; as he himself says,
Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you, and your souls shall find rest,
(Matthew 11:28, 29.)
Therefore, those who come to Christ ought to be prepared in the same manner as those men pretend to be. But they are wrong in accusing Christ, as if he had not hitherto confirmed their faith; for it was entirely their own fault that they had not a full and perfect knowledge of him. But this is always the case with unbelievers, that they choose rather to remain in doubt than to be founded on the certainty of the word of God. Thus, in our own day, we see many who voluntarily shut their eyes, and spread the clouds of their doubt, in order to darken the clear light of the Gospel. We see also many light spirits, who fly about in idle speculations, and never find, throughout their whole life, a permanent abode.
Tell us plainly. When they demand that Christ shall declare himself freely, or openly and boldly, their meaning is, that he may no longer convey his meaning indirectly, and in a circuitous manner. Thus they charge his doctrine with obscurity, which, on the contrary, was abundantly plain and distinct, if the men who heard it had not been deaf. Now this history warns us, that we cannot avoid the artifices and slanders of wicked men, if we are called to preach the Gospel. Wherefore, we ought to be on the watch, and not to be surprised at it as a new thing, when the same thing happens to us as to our Master.
25. I have told you. Our Lord Jesus does not conceal that he is the Christ, and yet he does not teach them as if they were willing to learn, but rather reproaches them with obstinate malice, because, though they had been taught by the word and works of God, they had not yet made any progress. Accordingly, that they do not know him, he imputes to their own fault, as if he said: |My doctrine is easily enough understood, but the blame lies with you, because you maliciously resist God.|
The works which I do. He speaks of his works, in order to convict them of being doubly obstinate; for, besides the doctrine, they had a striking testimony in his miracles, if they had not been ungrateful to God. He twice repeats the words, You do not believe, in order to prove that, of their own accord, they were deaf to doctrine, and blind to works; which is a proof of extreme and desperate malice. He says that he did the works in the name of his Father; because his design was, to testify the power of God in them, by which it might be openly declared that he came from God.
26. Because you are not of my sheep. He assigns a higher reason why they do not believe either in his miracles or in his doctrine. It is, because they are reprobate. We must observe Christ's design; for, since they boasted of being the Church of God, that their unbelief may detract nothing from the authority of the Gospel, he affirms that the gift of believing is a special gift. And, indeed, before that men know God, they must first be known by him, as Paul says, (Galatians 4:9.) On the other hand, those to whom God does not look must always continue to look away from him. If any one murmur at this, arguing that the cause of unbelief dwells in God, because he alone has power to make sheep; I reply, He is free from all blame, for it is only by their voluntary malice that men reject his grace. God does all that is necessary to induce them to believe, but who shall tame wild beasts? This will never be done, till the Spirit of God change them into sheep They who are wild will in vain attempt to throw on God the blame of their wildness, for it belongs to their own nature. In short, Christ means that it is not wonderful, if there are few who obey his Gospel, because all whom the Spirit of God does not subdue to the obedience of faith are wild and fierce beasts. So much the more unreasonable and absurd is it, that the authority of the Gospel should depend on the belief of men; but believers ought rather to consider, that they are the more strongly bound to God, because, while others remain in a state of blindness, they are drawn to Christ by the illumination of the Spirit. Here, too, the ministers of the Gospel have ground of consolation, if their labor be not profitable to all.
27. My sheep hear my voice. He proves by an argument drawn from contraries, that they are not sheep, because they do not obey the Gospel. For God effectually calls all whom he has elected, so that the sheep of Christ are proved by their faith. And, indeed, the reason why the name of sheep is applied to believers is, that they surrender themselves to God, to be governed by the hand of the Chief Shepherd, and, laying aside the fierceness of their nature, become mild and teachable. It is no small consolation to faithful teachers, that, though the greater part of the world do not listen to Christ, yet he has his sheep whom he knows, and by whom he is also known Let them do their utmost to bring the whole world into the fold of Christ; but when they do not succeed according to their wish, let them be satisfied with this single consideration, that they who are sheep will be gathered by their agency. The rest has been already explained.
28. And they shall never perish. It is an inestimable fruit of faith, that Christ bids us be convinced of our security when we are brought by faith into his fold. But we must also observe on what foundation this certainty rests. It is because he will be a faithful guardian of our salvation, for he testifies that our salvation is in his hand And if this were not enough, he says that they will be safely guarded by the power of his Father This is a remarkable passage, by which we are taught that the salvation of all the elect is not less certain than the power of God is invincible. Besides, Christ did not intend to throw this word foolishly into the air, but to give a promise which should remain deeply axed in their minds; and, therefore, we infer that the statement of Christ is intended to show that the elect are absolutely certain of their salvation. We are surrounded, indeed, by powerful adversaries, and so great is our weakness, that we are every moment in imminent danger of death; but as He who keeps what we have committed to him (2 Timothy 1:12) is greater or more powerful than all, we have no reason to tremble as if our life were in danger.
Hence, too, we infer how mad is the confidence of the Papists, which relies on free-will, on their own virtue, and on the merits of their works. Widely different is the manner in which Christ instructs his followers, to remember that, in this world, they may be said to be in the midst of a forest, surrounded by innumerable robbers, and are not only unarmed and exposed as a prey, but are aware that the cause of death is contained in themselves, so that, relying on the guardianship of God alone, they may walk without alarm. In short, our salvation is certain, because it is in the hand of God; for our faith is weak, and we are too prone to waver. But God, who has taken us under his protection, is sufficiently powerful to scatter, with his breath alone, all the forces of our adversaries. It is of great importance for us to turn our eye to this, that the fear of temptations may not dismay us; for Christ even intended to point out the way in which sheep are made to live at ease in the midst of wolves.
And none can wrest them out of my Father's hand. The word and, in this passage, means therefore For, since the power of God is invincible, Christ infers that the salvation of believers is not exposed to the ungovernable passions of their enemies, because, ere they perish, God must be overcome, who has taken them under the protection of his hand.
30. I and my Father are one. He intended to meet the jeers of the wicked; for they might allege that the power of God did not at all belong to him, so that he could promise to his disciples that it would assuredly protect them. He therefore testifies that his affairs are so closely united to those of the Father, that the Father's assistance will never be withheld from himself and his sheep The ancients made a wrong use of this passage to prove that Christ is (homoousios) of the same essence with the Father. For Christ does not argue about the unity of substance, but about the agreement which he has with the Father, so that whatever is done by Christ will be confirmed by the power of his Father.