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Commentary On John Volume 1 by Jean Calvin

John 7:40-44

40. Many of the multitude, therefore, having heard this sermon, said, This is truly a Prophet. 41. Others said, This is the Christ. And others said, But will Christ come out of Galilee? 42. Doth not the Scripture say that Christ will come from the seed of David, and from the town of Bethlehem, where David dwelt? 43. There was therefore a difference of opinion in the multitude on account of him.44. And some of them wished to seize him, but no man laid hands on him.

40. Many of the multitude. The Evangelist now relates what fruit followed from this last sermon of our Lord Jesus Christ; namely, that some thought one thing and some another, so that a difference of opinion arose among the people It ought to be observed that John does not speak of the open enemies of Christ, or of those who were already filled with deadly hatred against sound doctrine, but of the common people, among whom there ought to have been greater integrity. He enumerates three classes of them.

He is truly a Prophet. The first acknowledged that Jesus was truly a Prophet, from which we infer that they did not dislike his doctrine. But, on the other hand, how light and trifling this confession was, is evident from the fact, that, while they approve of the Teacher, they neither understand what he means, nor relish what he says; for they could not truly receive him as a Prophet, without, at the same time, acknowledging that he is the Son of God and the Author of their salvation. Yet this is good in them, that they perceive in Christ something Divine, which leads them to regard him with reverence; for this willingness to learn might afterwards give an easy opening to faith.

41. Others said, He is the Christ. The second have a more correct opinion than the first; for they plainly acknowledge that he is the Christ; but the third rise up against them, and hence proceeds the debate. By this example we are warned that we ought not to think it strange in the present day, if men are divided among themselves by various controversies. We learn that Christ's sermon produced a schism, and that not among Gentiles who were strangers to the faith, but in the midst of the Church of Christ, and even in the chief seat of the Church. Shall the doctrine of Christ be blamed on that account, as if it were the cause of disturbances? Nay rather, though the whole world were in commotion, the word of God is so precious, that we ought to wish that it were received, at least by a few. There is no reason, therefore, why our consciences should be distressed, when we see those who wish to be accounted the people of God fighting with each other by contrary opinions.

Yet it ought also to be observed that divisions do not properly draw their origin from the Gospel; for there can be no firm agreement among men except in undoubted truth. As to the peace maintained among those who know not God, it arises more from stupidity than from true agreement. In short, of all the differences which spring up, when the Gospel is preached, the cause and seed formerly lay concealed in men; but when they are awakened, as it were, out of sleep, they begin to move, just as vapours are produced by something else than the sun, although it is not till the sun arises that they make their appearance.

But will Christ come out of Galilee? That they may not be thought to reject Christ on insufficient grounds, they fortify themselves by the testimony of Scripture; and though they do violence to this passage, by turning it improperly against Christ, still they have some appearance of truth. In this point only they are in the wrong, that they make Christ a Galilean. But whence arises this ignorance but from contempt? For if they had taken the trouble to inquire, they would have seen that Christ was adorned with both titles; that he was born in Bethlehem, and that he was the son of David But such is our natural disposition; in matters of little consequence we are ashamed of being indolent, while, in the mysteries of the heavenly kingdom, we slumber without any concern. It is likewise of importance to observe, that those men are diligent and industrious in seeking an excuse for turning aside from Christ, but, at the same time, are astonishingly slow and dull in receiving sound doctrine. In this manner, out of the Scriptures themselves, which lead us by the hand to Christ, men frequently make obstacles for themselves, that they may not come to Christ.

44. Some of them wished to seize him. By these words the Evangelist means, that they not only despised Christ, but that their wicked rejection of him was accompanied by cruelty and eagerness to do him injury; for superstition is always cruel. That their efforts were unavailing, we ought to ascribe to the providence of God; for since Christ's hour was not yet come, as has been formerly said, guarded by the protection of his Father, on which he relied, he surmounted all dangers.

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