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Commentary On John Volume 1 by Jean Calvin

John 7:1-8

1. And after these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for he did not wish to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill him.2. And the setting up of tabernacles, a feast of the Jews, was at hand.3. His brethren therefore said to him, Depart hence, and go away into Judea, that thy disciples also may see the works which thou dost.4. For no man doth any thing in secret, and seeketh to become known; if thou dost these things, show thyself to the world.5. For even his brethren did not believe in him.6. Jesus therefore said to them, My time is not yet come, but your time is always ready.7. The world cannot hate you, but me it hateth, because I testify of it that its works are evil.8. Go you up to this feast. I go not up yet to this feast, because my time is not yet completed.

1. Jesus walked in Galilee. The Evangelist appears not to pursue a continued narrative, but to select out of what occurred at different times those events which were worthy of being related. He says that Christ sojourned for a time in Galilee, because he could not remain in safety anywhere among the Jews. If any person think it strange that Christ sought a place of concealment, who, by the mere act of his will, could break and render powerless all the efforts of his enemies, it is easy to reply, that he remembered the commission which he had received from the Father, and determined to confine himself within the limits which belonged to him as man; for,

having taken upon him the form of a servant, he emptied himself, till the Father exalted him, (Philippians 2:6-8.)

If it be objected that, as he knew the time of his death, which had been foreordained and determined in the purpose of God, he had no reason for avoiding it, the former solution applies here also; for he conducted himself as a man who was liable to dangers, and, therefore, it was not proper that he should throw himself at random into dangerous situations. In encountering dangers, it is not our business to inquire what God has determined respecting us in his decree, but what he commands and enjoins on us, what our office requires and demands, and what is the proper method of regulating our life. Besides, while Christ avoided dangers, he did not turn aside a hairsbreadth from the course of duty; for to what purpose would life be maintained and defended, but that we may serve the Lord? We ought always to take care, therefore, that we do not, for the sake of life, lose the reasons for living. When a small and despised corner of Galilee grants a lodging to Christ, whom Judea cannot endure, we learn from it that piety and the fear of God are not always to be found in the chief places of the Church.

2. Now a feast of the Jews was at hand. Though I do not affirm it, yet it is probable that this happened during the second year after Christ's baptism. As to this feast, which the Evangelist mentions, it is not necessary at present to say much. For what purpose and use it was enjoined, Moses shows, (Leviticus 23:34.) It was, that by this annual ceremony the Jews might call to remembrance, that their fathers lived forty years in tabernacles, when they had no houses, that they might thus celebrate the grace of God displayed in their deliverance. We have formerly said that there were two reasons why Christ came to Jerusalem during this feast. One was, that, being subject to the Law, in order to redeem us all from its bondage, he wished to omit no part of the observation of it; and the other was, that, amidst a numerous and extraordinary assemblage of people, he had a better opportunity of advancing the Gospel. But now the Evangelist relates that Christ kept himself in retirement at Galilee, as if he did not intend to come to Jerusalem.

3. His brethren therefore said to him. Under the word brethren the Hebrews include all cousins and other relations, whatever may be the degree of affinity. He says that they mocked at Christ, because he shunned to be seen or known, and concealed himself in a mean and despised district of Judea. There is reason to doubt, however, if they were excited by ambition to desire that Christ should obtain celebrity. But granting this, still it is evident that they ridicule him, because they do not think that his conduct is rational and judicious; and they even upbraid him with folly, because, while he wishes to be something, he wants confidence in himself, and does not venture to appear openly before men. When they say, that thy disciples also may see, they mean not only his domestics, but all those whom he wished to procure out of the whole nation; for they add, |Thou wishest to be known by all, and yet thou concealest thyself.|

4. If thou dost these things; that is, if thou aspirest to such greatness that all may applaud thee, direct towards thee the eyes of all. And they add, show thyself to the world, using the word world, as contrasted with the small number of persons among whom he was spending his time without honor. We might also draw from it another meaning. |If thou dost these things, that is, since thou art endued with so great power as to procure reputation for thyself by miracles, do not throw them away; for all that has been given to thee by God thou spendest here to no purpose, because there are none to bear thee testimony, or to hold thee in just estimation.| Hence we perceive how great is the indolence of men in considering the works of God; for the relations of Christ would never have spoken in this manner, if they had not -- as it were -- trampled under foot the manifest proofs of his Divine power, which they ought to have beheld with the greatest admiration and reverence. What is here told us concerning Christ happens in daily experience, that the children of God suffer greater annoyance from their near relations than from strangers; for they are instruments of Satan which tempt, sometimes to ambition, and sometimes to avarice, those who desire to serve God purely and faithfully. But such Satans receive a vigorous repulse from Christ, who thus instructs us by his example, that we ought not to yield to the foolish wishes of brethren or relations.

5. For even his brethren did not believe in him. Hence we infer how small is the value of carnal relationship; for the Holy Spirit stamps with a perpetual mark of infamy the relations of Christ, because, though convinced by the testimonies of so many works, they did not even then believe. Therefore, whosoever wishes to be thought to be in Christ, as Paul says, let him be a new creature, (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15;) for they who dedicate themselves wholly to God obtain the place of father, and mother, and brethren to Christ, and all others he utterly disavows, (Matthew 12:50.) So much the more ridiculous is the superstition of Papists, who, disregarding everything else in the Virgin Mary, extol her only on the ground of relationship, bestowing on her the title of the Mother of Christ, as if Christ himself had not reproved the woman who exclaimed from the midst of the crowd,

Blessed is the womb that bore thee, and the breasts that suckled thee; for Christ replied, Nay, rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God, (Luke 11:27, 28.)

6. My time is not yet come. There are some who erroneously interpret this as referring to the time of his death, for it denotes the time of his setting out on the journey to go to the feast. He assures them that, in this respect, he differs from his relations. They may freely and without danger appear, at all hours, before the world, because the world is friendly and favorable to them; but he is in dread of his person, and justly, because the world is his mortal enemy. By these words he means that they do wrong in giving advice on a matter which they do not understand.

7. The world cannot hate you. When he says that the world cannot hate them, he reproves them for being altogether carnal; for peace with the world can only be purchased by a wicked consent to vices and to every kind of wickedness.

But me it hateth, because I testify. The world here denotes men who are not born again, who retain their natural disposition; and accordingly he declares that all who have not yet been regenerated by the Spirit are Christ's adversaries. And why? Because he condemns their works And if we acquiesce in the decision of Christ, we are under the necessity of acknowledging that the whole nature of man is so sinful and wicked, that nothing right, or sincere, or good, can proceed from it. This is the only reason why any of us is pleased with himself, so long as he is in his natural state.

Because I testify of it, that its works are evil. When Christ says that the world hateth him on this account, he means that the Gospel cannot be faithfully preached without summoning the whole world, as guilty, to the judgment-seat of God, that flesh and blood may thus be crushed and reduced to nothing, according to that saying,

When the Spirit shall come, he will reprove the world of sin, (John 16:8.)

We learn from it also, that so great is the pride natural to men, that they flatter and applaud themselves in their vices; for they would not kindle into rage, when they are reproved, were it not that they are blinded by excessive love of themselves, and on that account flatter themselves in their sins. Even among the vices of men, the chief and most dangerous is pride and arrogance. The Holy Spirit alone softens us, so as to endure reproofs patiently, and thus to offer ourselves willingly to be slain by the sword of the Church.

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