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The New Testament Commentary Vol Iii John by B.W. Johnson

End of Three Months' Ministry in Jerusalem.

An interval of more than two months passed between the time of the healing of the man born blind and the feast of Dedication, the date of the controversy recorded in the remainder of this chapter. Some have held that in the interval the Lord went to Galilee and made his last circuit of its cities. This is the view of Andrews, but I agree rather with those who hold that his ministry in Jerusalem was continuous from the time of the feast of Tabernacles until he retired just after the feast of Dedication. It was a last and supreme effort to lead the nation to salvation.

The feast of Dedication was not one of the divinely appointed festivals, and there is nothing in the Savior's ministry to create the idea that he would observe it, but he was in Jerusalem and it afforded an opportunity to reach the people of which he availed himself. The feast was established by Judas Maccabæus, in the year b.c.164, to commemorate the purification of the temple after its defilement by the Syrian Greeks under Antiochus Epiphanes, which occurred b.c.167. It was observed for eight days, was a patriotic observance much like our Fourth of July in spirit, and was celebrated in all the towns and cities of Judea as well as Jerusalem. It was instituted by the Maccabees who were priests and of the most rigid caste, and was observed only by the more rigid Jews; hence it is not strange that the adversaries of Christ on this occasion display unusual bigotry. (Joh 10:22)

22. It was winter. This feast came in December. This fact is probably mentioned to explain why the Savior walked in Solomon's porch. (Joh 10:23)

23. Waked in Solomon's porch. A long, covered colonnade, or veranda, with the roof resting on pillars. It is generally supposed to have been in the southeast part of the temple inclosure, overlooking the valley of the Kedron. Josephus describes it as a stadium, or furlong, in length, and as having three parts, two of them thirty feet wide each, and the middle one forty-five feet. Its height varied from fifty to one hundred in different parts. He contends that it was built by Solomon, which is, at least, doubtful. (Joh 10:24)

24. Then came the Jews about him. Jesus was in a place of public resort and an opportunity was afforded for a decisive interview. They were determined to bring matters to a focus and hence came and surrounded him. It must be remembered that these were men of official station. How long dost thou keep us in suspense? Their question represents the uncertainty and discussion that prevailed in Jerusalem, rather than their own feelings. Their act related in verse 31, shows that they had made up their minds, but their demand that (Joh 10:25) he should tell whether he was the Christ shows the extent of the discussion in Jerusalem.

25. I told you, and ye believed not. He had told them repeatedly (5:19; 8:36, 56, 58), not as plainly, it is true, as he told the Samaritan woman (4:26) and the man blind from birth (9:37), but more plainly than he ever told his disciples before the confession of Peter (Matt.16:16). He knew what was in their hearts and he simply pointed them to his works, as he had done John the Baptist when his messengers came asking, |Art thou he that should come?| (Matt.11:2-6.) Indeed the profoundest evidence of his divinity is not his word, but his superhuman life, teachings and works, especially the work that he has continued to do in the world. Even if he had said he was the Christ they would not have understood him, as their idea of the Christ differed as far as the poles from the real Christ. (Joh 10:26)

26. Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep. The reason of their unbelief was not the lack of proof, but the lack within themselves. He means, in substance, until my teachings and examples attract you so that you will follow me like my sheep, ye will not believe, for you cannot be convinced by purely intellectual arguments. You cannot believe in Christ as your personal Savior until you recognize and follow his examples as a man and prophet. It is the one who |will do his will that shall know the doctrine, whether it be of God| (7:17). Had they been attracted by his voice to follow him like sheep they would have believed. (Joh 10:27) (Joh 10:28)

27, 28. I give unto them eternal life. I have omitted any special study of the phrase |eternal life| hitherto, although it has several times occurred in John. It occurs forty-four times in the New Testament, and of these occurrences seventeen are in the Fourth Gospel and six in the First Epistle of John, making twenty-three instances of its use by this single author. It never means simply endless existence, but always implies a blessed immortality. In Matt.25:46, it is opposed to everlasting punishment, which is endless existence in a state of punishment, while eternal life is endless existence in a state of bliss. The word rendered life (zoee) means, in its primary sense, |existence| as opposed to non-existence or annihilation. In this sense it occurs thirteen times in the New Testament, of which (1 Cor.15:19), |If in this life only we have hope, we are of all men the most miserable,| is a good example. It is also used in the sense of spiritual life quite frequently and especially by John; for instance, |Ye will not come to me that ye might have life.| It is also used without the adjective for eternal life as in John 5:29: |They that have done good shall come forth to the resurrection of life,| or into a blessed existence beyond the grave.

The word life, as used by John when predicated of God, means absolute being. Man created in the image of God hath this being from God and |in him lives and moves and has his being.| A man may have this life and yet in another sense be dead. |Let the dead bury their dead| (Matt.8:22), |He that believeth . . . hath passed from death unto life| (John 5:24), |This my son who was dead is alive again| (Luke 15:24). The usage of the New Testament sanctions the following conclusions:

1. All humanity are endowed with existence (zoee), nor is there any indication that this existence ever comes to an end. At death man yields up the soul (psuchee, in classic Greek |the breath|), the spirit (pneuma) returns to God who gave it, but there is no indication that the existence (zoee) closes. When Christ said, |I lay down my life,| he used psuchee instead of zoee. The same is true when he says, |He that loseth his life shall find it.| Much confusion has arisen from not distinguishing these two Greek words of different meaning in the translation. The zoee, (life, existence) is never said to end, or perish. It is the psuchee (breath, or animal life), that is laid down, or perishes. Death and destruction are not used in the sense of non-existence.

2. Life, in the sense of spiritual being, spiritual life, is the gift of Christ, and in its origin differs from the natural life. Those only have the spiritual life who are in union with Christ. He is the Bread of Life, the Water of Life, and came in order to bestow life (spiritual life, not mere existence) upon the world.

3. Eternal life is the inheritance of all who have been born of water and the Spirit, who have the spiritual life, and who, |by a patient continuance in well doing, seek for glory, honor and immortality.| It is the gift of Jesus Christ. It is a blessed immortality, and the phrase is never applied to an existence in a state of condemnation. The deathless angels that sinned do not have eternal life, but only those who have been freed from sin and delivered from the dominion of the grave by our Lord. It cannot be made too clear that eternal life is different from and higher than eternal existence and that therefore the fact that it is a gift does not imply that all who do not receive this gift are annihilated beyond the grave. The rich man in hades had existence beyond the grave but not eternal life; Lazarus, in Abraham's bosom, enjoying |good things,| had eternal life. (Joh 10:29)

29. No man, etc. It has been held that these verses teach the doctrine of the |final perseverance of the saints,| or |once in grace always in grace.| They rather teach that Christ watches over his sheep as a good shepherd; the sheep hear his voice; none that continue to hear his voice will ever perish, nor be plucked out of his hand. The condition is |hearing his voice,| and upon this condition is based the promise. All who hear him shall be protected against their own weaknesses and against the strength of assailants from without. None shall ever fall away from want of divine grace, or the power of adversaries, but because they cease to hear his voice. My Father . . . is greater than all. These words are intended to give further an absolute assurance of the perfect safety of those who hear the voice of Christ. Even the Father's hand shall hold them, and out of his mighty hand none can pluck them. This safety rests upon the Fatherhood of God. (Joh 10:30)

30. I and the Father are one. Not my, but the Father. Nor does he affirm that the Son and the Father are one, but here, in the presence of these Jews, he makes the statement that he and the Father are one, one in essence, one in purpose, and one in person, for he uses the plural verb. Since there is a unity of purpose and power the Father is pledged to protect the sheep that hear the voice of the Son. He says: |My sheep shall never perish, since my Father is greater than all, and he gave them into my hand, and I am one with him. (Joh 10:31)

31. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. The word |again| carries us back to chapter 8:52. These high ecclesiasts held that he had just been guilty of blasphemy in asserting that he and the Father are one, the penalty of which was stoning, and they proposed to inflict it without a trial. The stones used in the temple repairs, which were still in progress, would furnish material. The manner in which the mob was arrested shows the wonderful moral power of Jesus. (Joh 10:32)

32. Many good works . . . for which of those works do you stone me? In chapter 8:46 he had asked: Which of you convinceth me of sin? Now he calls for the specifications of the crime for which they have sentenced him. (Joh 10:33)

33. For blasphemy . . . thou makest thyself God. They reply that they would stone him for blasphemy in that he made himself divine. This charge was often made against him. When he said, |Thy sins be forgiven thee,| or spoke of God as his Father, or said that he and the Father were one, or when on trial before the Sanhedrim he declared that he was the Christ, the Son of God, it was uniformly pronounced blasphemy and it was on this charge that the Sanhedrim condemned him to death (Matt.26:65.) Had Jesus been only a man his words would have been blasphemous; they were appropriate to the Son of God. (Joh 10:34) (Joh 10:35) (Joh 10:36)

34, 35, 36. Is it not written . . I said ye are gods. The quotation is from Ps.82, which contains a reproof of unjust judges: |I have said that ye are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High, but ye shall die like men and fall like one of the princes.| The argument of Christ is: If in your law judges are called gods, and allowed to have, in some sense, the divine characteristics, and are called children of God, why should you pronounce me guilty of blasphemy for saying that I am the Son of God? And the Scripture cannot be broken. This parenthetic declaration is a very significant testimony to the inspiration of the Old Testament. Modern theologues who deal so freely with it find no warrant for their course in the example of Christ. Whom the Father hath sanctified. The word sanctify means |to make holy, or to set apart.| It is here used in the latter sense. Son of God. There is no article before Son in the Greek. Some have regarded this whole passage as an explanation of the Sonship of Christ in a way that would make it possible for any good man to be a Son in the same sense. If it were the only passage in the New Testament bearing on the subject it might be so explained, but if the circumstances are regarded, it will be seen that there is nothing that conflicts with the statements of his divine character elsewhere. The Jews were about to rush upon him in a mob to stone him to death, because of his affirmation that he was the Son of God, and one with the Father. He arrested them by an appeal to those Scriptures that they held in such sanctity. He neither affirms nor discusses the difference of his relation to God from those whom the Scriptures had spoken of as gods because they were appointed judges of men, as God is Judge of all the earth, but demands why they should pronounce him a blasphemer for declaring that he was the Son of God, when their Scriptures had called men gods. See Exod.22:28 as well as Ps.82:6. We would not look for a revelation of the highest truths concerning Christ's nature to an angry mob, not that he would conceal or modify the truth to avert danger, but because they were in no condition to receive it, and he would only present such truths as their souls were in a condition to apprehend. For full information of Christ's character we must look to his quiet conferences with his own disciples. See Chapter XIV. (Joh 10:37) (Joh 10:38)

37, 38. If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. The passage just quoted from their law showed that those who did the work assigned to them by God were recognized, as in some sense, partakers of the divine nature. Christ, therefore, points to his own works as a test. If he does the works of the Father, then they should recognize in him the Sonship. He refers not to his miracles alone, but to his whole life, the effects of his ministry, and the divine mercy as well as power in his miracles. These works, of which they had ample knowledge, proved that |the Father was in him, and he in the Father.| If they had prejudices against his person, they ought to consider the works without prejudice. The Father in me, and I in him. The Father is in the Son because he lives and moves in him; is the divine life that animates and controls the man Jesus; he is in the Father because a full partaker of the divine nature, filled with the divine will, purposes and desires, and animated by the one thought of doing the Father's work. (Joh 10:39)

39. They sought again to take him. Not to stone him, for their passion had cooled, but to arrest him. His escape was not probably due to miracle, but with many friends among the throng, he could readily withdraw through their aid. |They dared not stone him, but as he was alone and defenseless in their midst, they tried to seize him. But they could not. His presence overawed them. They could only make a passage for him, and glare their hatred upon him as he passed from among them. But once more, here was a clear sign that all teaching among them was impossible. He could as little descend to their notions of a Messiah, as they could rise to his. To stay among them was but to daily imperil his life to no purpose. Judea was, therefore, closed to him, as Galilee was now closed to him. There seemed but one district to be remaining in his native land which was safe for him, and that was Perea, the district beyond the Jordan. He retired, therefore, to the other Bethany (Bethabara), the Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John had been baptizing and there he stayed.| -- Farrar.

This ends three months of stormy ministry in Jerusalem. Twice there were attempts to mob him (8:59; 10:31); twice efforts to arrest him (7:32, 45; 10:39), and in addition secret plans for his assassination had been laid (7:19; 8:37). John is the only historian of this eventful period of the Savior's life, though several incidents reported by other writers may belong to the interval. (Joh 10:40)

40. Went beyond Jordan . . where John at first baptized. For the time the Lord retired before the threatening storm. His |hour had not yet come,| and would not until the passover, three months in the future. In this region, where John had done his work of preparation so thoroughly, a more friendly reception might be expected. (Joh 10:41) (Joh 10:42)

41, 42. Many resorted to him. This Perean ministry was fruitful for |many believed on him,| this being due to the fact that |all things John spake of this man were true.|

What were the incidents of this last stay, or the exact length of its continuance, we cannot certainly know. We see, however, that it was not exactly private, for John tells us that many resorted to him there, and believed on him, and bore witness that John -- whom they held to be a prophet, though he had done no miracle -- had borne emphatic witness to Jesus in that very place (John 1:28), and that all which he witnessed was true. -- Farrar.

In the other Gospels a number of incidents are recorded which are supposed to belong to this ministry beyond the Jordan. An example of these is found in the Savior's teaching upon the subject of divorce, found in Matthew 19:1-12.

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