24.Unless a grain of wheat having fallen into the ground, die, it remaineth alone. If a grain of wheat do not die or putrefy, it continues to be dry and unfruitful; but the death of the seed has the beneficial effect of quickening it, that it may yield fruit. In short, Christ compares his death to sowing, which appears to tend to the destruction of the wheat, but yet is the cause of far more abundant increase. Though this admonition was especially necessary at that time, yet it is of continual use in the Church. And, first, we ought to begin with the Head. That dreadful appearance of disgrace and cursing, which appears in the death of Christ, not only obscures his glory, but removes it altogether from our view. We must not, therefore, confine our attention to his death alone, but must likewise consider the fruit which has been yielded by his glorious resurrection. Thus there will be nothing to prevent his glory from being every where displayed. From him we must next come to the members; for not only do we think that we perish in death, but our life also is a sort of continual death, (Col_3:3.) We shall therefore be undone, unless we be supported by that consolation which Paul holds out: if our outward man decays, the inward man is renewed from day to day, (2Co_4:16.)
When, therefore, the godly are distressed by various afflictions, when they are pressed hard by the difficulties of their situation, when they suffer hunger, or nakedness, or disease, when they are assailed by reproaches, when it appears as if they would every hour be almost overwhelmed by death, let them unceasingly consider that this is a sowing which, in due time, will yield fruit.
The oracle is introduced with a solemn Ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν: Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except the corn (or, grain) of wheat, having fallen to the ground, die, it abideth by itself alone: but if it die, it beareth much fruit. The simple illustration of life through death, life triumphing over death. “Even nature protests against the Hellenic fear of death” (Lange). As long as the corn of wheat is scrupulously kept from decomposition and death in the granary, the hidden germ is dormant; let it be sown as “bare grain” (1Co_15:36, etc.), then the strange force within it puts forth its hidden faculty, the outer covering of this point of energy falls away, and the new thing appears. God gives it a body, and much fruit is brought forth. Thoma suggests that the Johannist here is putting into the lips of Jesus the thoughts of Paul. How much more probable is it that Paul grasped the thought of Jesus, and applied a part of it to the grand argument for the resurrection, both of Christ and Christians! Compare with this the teaching of Joh_6:1-71., where the Bread of life is given for the food of men. Even the “bread-making” for man involves, in another way, the temporary destruction of the living germ in the grain of which it is composed, that it may become the life of men. Christ is himself the “Son of God,” the “Logos incarnate,” the “Son of man.” By becoming, in his death, the food of man’s soul, he created thus a new life in the hearts of men. Over and over again our Lord has declared himself to be “the Life,” and “the Source of life,” for men; but he here lays down the principle that this life-giving power of his is conditioned by his death. The great harvest will be reaped only when he shall have sacrificed his life and put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. It is, too, only as every believing man dies to himself, is crucified with Christ, is dead with him to the world, that he rises again in the newness of life.
25.He who loveth his soul shall destroy it. To doctrine Christ joins exhortation; for if we must die in order that we may bring forth fruit, we ought patiently to permit God to mortify us. But as he draws a contrast between the love of life and the hatred of lit, we ought to understand what it is to love and hate life. He who, under the influence of immoderate desire of the present life, cannot leave the world but by constraint, is said to love life; but he who, despising life, advances courageously to death, is said to hate life. Not that we ought absolutely to hate life, which is justly reckoned to be one of the highest of God’s blessings; but because believers ought cheerfully to lay it down, when it retards them from approaching to Christ; just as a man, when he wishes to make haste in any matter, would shake off from his shoulders a heavy and disagreeable burden. In short, to love this life is not in itself wrong, provided that we only pass through it as pilgrims, keeping our eyes always fixed on our object. For the true limit of loving life, is, when we continue in it as long as it pleases God, and when we are prepared to leave it as soon as he shall order us, or — to express it in a single word — when we carry it, as it were, in our hands, and offer it to God as a sacrifice. Whoever carries his attachment to the present life beyond this limit, destroys his life; that is, he consigns it to everlasting ruin. For the word destroy (ἀπολέσει) does not signifyto lose, or to sustain the loss of something valuable, but to devote it to destruction.
His soul. It frequently happens that the word ψυχή, soul, is put for life. Some consider it as denoting, in this passage, the seat of the affections; as if Christ had said, “tie who too much indulges the (desires of his flesh destroys his soul.” But that is a forced interpretation, and the other is more natural, that he who disregards his own life takes the best method of enjoying it eternally.
In this world. To make the meaning still more clear, the phrase in this world, which is but once expressed, ought to be twice repeated, so that the meaning may be, “They do not take the proper method of preserving their life who love it in this world, but, on the other hand, they truly know how to preserve their life who despise it in this world. ” And, indeed, whoever is attached to the world does, of his own accord, deprive himself of the heavenly life, of which we cannot be heirs in any other way than by being strangers and foreigners in the world. The consequence is, that the more anxious any person is about his own safety, the farther does he remove himself from the kingdom of God, that is, from the true life.
He who hateth his soul I have already suggested that this expression is used comparatively; because we ought to despise life, so far as it hinders us from living to God; for if meditation on the heavenly life were the prevailing sentiment in our hearts:. the world would have no influence in detaining us. Hence, too, we obtain a reply to an objection that might be urged. “Many persons, through despair, or for other reasons, and chiefly from weariness of life, kill themselves; and yet we will not say that such persons provide for their own safety, while others are hurried to death by ambition, who also rush down to ruin.” But here Christ speaks expressly of that hatred or contempt of this fading life, which believers derive: from the contemplation of a better life. Consequently, whoever does not look to heaven, has not yet learned in what way life must be preserved. Besides, this latter clause was added by Christ, in order to strike terror into those who are too desirous of the earthly life; for if we are overwhelmed by the love of the world, so that we cannot easily forget it, it is impossible for us to go to heaven. But since the Son of God arouses us so violently, it would be the height of folly to sleep a mortal sleep.
He that loves his own life (ψυχή); life used as equivalent to “self,” in that totality of being which, like the life of the seed-corn, survives the accident of death—he that loves his own life (self) is losing it; or, perhaps, destroying it, ipso facto. There are ends and objects of love so much greater than” the self,” that to keep it by some act of will and recreant fear is to make it utterly valueless, is really to destroy its true vitality. And he that hateth his (ψυχή) life (self) in this world, wherever the greater claim of Christ and of the Father would be compromised by loving it, shall veritably preserve it, viz. the self, unto eternal (ζωή) life; i.e. to the blessedness of eternal being. The ψυχή is a great possession; and “what advantageth a man if he should gain the whole world, and lose it?” But if a man persists in gaining the world, and forgets that this earthly existence is not capable of satisfying the demands or finding a sphere for the true self, and so makes the earthly reign or enjoyment of the ψυχή the end of all striving,—then he miserably fails. So far it is clear that our Lord is applying a great principle of the true life to the case of his own Messianic work and ministry. He draws, from a law of the superiority of the Divine life to the fear of death and to the fact of death, a justification of his own approaching doom. He can only by dying live his perfect life, win his greatest triumph; reap his world-wide harvest.
26.If any, man serve me. That death may not be exceedingly bitter and disagreeable to us, Christ invites us by his example to submit to it cheerfully; and certainly we shall be ashamed to refuse the honor of being his disciples. But on no other condition does he admit us into their number, except that we follow the path which he points out. He leads the way to us to suffer death. The bitterness of death is therefore mitigated, and is in some measure rendered agreeable, when we have in common with the Son of God the condition of submitting to it. So far is it from being proper that we should shrink from Christ on account of the cross, that we ought rather to desire death for his sake. To the same purpose. pose is the statement which immediately follows:
And where I am, there shall also my servant be. For he demands that his servants should not refuse to submit to death, to which they see him go before them as an example; for it is not right that; the servant should have any thing separate from his lord.. The future tense, shall be, (ἔσται) is put for let him be, according to the custom of the Hebrew language. Others regard it as a consolation, as if Christ promised to those who should not be unwilling to die along with him, that they would be partakers of his resurrection. But the former view, as I have said, is more probable; for he afterwards adds the consolation, that the Father will not leave without reward the servants of Christ who shall have been his companions both in life and in death.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
26. let him follow me] in My life of self-sacrifice: Christ Himself has set the example of hating one’s life in this world. These words are perhaps addressed through the disciples to the Greeks listening close at hand. If they ‘wish to see Jesus’ and know Him they must count the cost first. ‘Me’ is emphatic in both clauses.
where I am] i.e. where I shall be then, in My kingdom. Comp. Joh_14:3, Joh_17:24. Some would include in the ‘where’ the road to the kingdom, viz. death. ‘I’ and ‘My’ are emphatic.
serve … honour] Here the verbs are emphatic (not ‘Me’), and balance one another. This verse is closely parallel to Joh_12:35 : ‘let him follow Me’ corresponds to ‘hateth his life in this world;’ ‘him will the Father honour,’ to ‘shall keep it unto life eternal.’
27.Now is my soul troubled. This statement appears at first to differ widely from the preceding discourse. He had displayed extraordinary courage and magnanimity by exhorting his disciples not only to suffer death, but willingly and cheerfully to desire it, whenever it is necessary; and now, by shrinking from death, he confesses his cowardice. Yet there is nothing in this passage that is not in perfect harmony, as every believer knows by his own experience. If scornful men laugh at it, we need not wonder; for it cannot be understood but by practice.
Besides, it was highly useful, and even necessary for our salvation, that the Son of God should have experience of such feelings, In his death we ought chiefly to consider his atonement, by which he appeased the wrath and curse of God, which he could not have done, without taking upon himself our guilt. The death which he underwent must therefore have been full of horror, because he could not render satisfaction for us, without feeling, in his own experience, the dreadful judgment of God; and hence we come to know more fully the enormity of sin, for which the Heavenly Father exacted so dreadful a punishment from his only-begotten Son. Let us therefore know, that death was not a sport and amusement to Christ, but that he endured the severest torments on our account.
Nor was it unsuitable that the Son of God should be troubled in this manner; for the Divine nature, being concealed, and not exerting its force, may be said to have reposed, in order to give an opportunity of making expiation. But Christ himself was clothed, not only with our flesh, but with human feelings. In him, no doubt, those feelings were voluntary; for he feared, not through constraint, but because he had, of his own accord, subjected himself to fear. And yet we ought to believe, that it was not in pretense, but in reality, that he feared; though he differed from other men in this respect, that he had all his feelings regulated in obedience to the righteousness of God, as we have said elsewhere.
There is also another advantage which it yields to us. If the dread of death had occasioned no uneasiness to the Son of God, which of us would have thought that his example was applicable to our case? For it has not been given to us to die without, feeling of regret; but when we learn that He had not within him a hardness like stone or iron, we summon courage to follow him, and the weakness of the flesh, which makes us tremble at death, does not hinder us from becoming the companions of our General in struggling with it.
And what shall I, say? Here we see, as it were, before our eyes, how much our salvation cost the Son of God, when he was reduced to such extremity of distress, that he found neither words to express the intensity of his sorrow, nor yet resolution as man. He betakes himself to prayer, which is his only remaining resource, and asks to be delivered from death. Again, perceiving also that, by the eternal purpose of God, he has been appointed to be a sacrifice for sins, he suddenly corrects that wish which his prodigious sorrow had wrung from him, and puts forth his hand, as it were, to pull himself back, that he may entirely acquiesce in the will of his Father.
In this passage we ought to observe five steps. For, first, there is the complaint, which breaks out from vehement sorrow. Secondly, he feels that he needs a remedy, and, in order that he may not be overwhelmed with fear, he puts the question to himself, what he ought to do. Thirdly, he goes to the Father, and entreats him to deliver him. Fourthly, he recalls the wish which he knows to be inconsistent with his calling, and chooses rather to suffer anything than not to fulfill what his Father has enjoined upon him. Lastly, he is satisfied with the glory of God alone, forgets all things else, and reckons them of no value.
But it may be thought, that it is unbecoming in the Son of God rashly to utter a wish which he must immediately retract, in order to obey his Father. I readily admit, that this is the folly of the cross, which gives offense to proud men; but the more the Lord of glory humbled himself, so much the more illustrious is the manifestation of his vast love to us. Besides, we ought to recollect what I have already stated, that the human feelings, from which Christ was not exempt, were in him pure and free from sin. The reason is, that they were guided and regulated in obedience to God; for there is nothing to prevent Christ from having a natural dread of death, and yet desiring to obey God. This holds true in various respects: and hence he corrects himself by saying,
For this cause came I into this hour. For though he may lawfully entertain a dread of death, yet, considering why he was sent, and what his office as Redeemer demands from him, he presents to his Father the dread which arose out of his natural disposition, in order that it may be subdued, or rather, having subdued it, he prepares freely and willingly to execute the command of God. Now, if the feelings of Christ, which were free from all sin, needed to be restrained in this manner, how earnestly ought we to apply to this object, since the numerous affections which spring from our flesh are so many enemies to God in us! Let the godly, therefore, persevere in doing violence to themselves, until they have denied themselves.
It must also be observed, that we ought to restrain not only those affections which are directly contrary to the will of God, but those which hinder the progress of our calling, though, in other respects, they are not wicked or sinful. To make this more fully evident, we ought to place in the first rank the will of God; in the second, the will of man pure and entire, such as God gave to Adam, and such as was in Christ: and, lastly, our own, which is infected by the contagion of sin. The will of God is the rule, to which every thing that is inferior ought to be subjected. Now, the pure will of nature will not of itself rebel against God; but man, though he were wholly formed to righteousness, would meet with many obstructions, unless he subject his affections to God. Christ, therefore, had but one battle to fight, which was, to cease to fear what he naturally feared, as soon as he perceived that the pleasure of God was otherwise. We, on the other hand, have a twofold battle; for we must struggle with the obstinacy of the flesh. The consequence is, that the most valiant combatants never vanquish without being wounded.
Father, save me. This is the order which ought to be maintained, whenever we are either distressed by fear, or oppressed with grief. Our hearts ought instantly to be raised up to God. For there is nothing worse, or more injurious, than to nourish inwardly what torments us; as we see a great part of the world consumed by hidden torments, and all who do not rise to God are justly punished for their indolence by never receiving any alleviation.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
27. This is a verse of well-known difficulty, and the meaning cannot be determined with certainty, several meanings being admissible. The doubtful points are (1) the position of the interrogation, whether it should come after ‘I say’ or ‘from this hour;’ (2) the meaning of ‘for this cause.’
Now is my soul troubled] The word rendered ‘soul’ is the same as that rendered ‘life’ in ‘loveth his life’ and ‘hateth his life.’ To bring out this and the sequence of thought, ‘life’ would perhaps be better here. ‘He that would serve Me must follow Me and be ready to hate his life; for My life has long since been tossed and torn with emotion and sorrow.’ ‘Is troubled’ = has been and still is troubled; a frequent meaning of the Greek perfect.
what shall I say?] Or, what must I say? This appears to be the best punctuation; and the question expresses the difficulty of framing a prayer under the conflicting influences of fear of death and willingness to glorify His Father by dying. The result is first a prayer under the influence of fear—‘save Me from this hour’ (comp. ‘Let this cup pass from Me,’ Mat_26:39), and then a prayer under the influence of ready obedience—‘Glorify Thy Name’ through My sufferings. But the Greek means ‘save me out of’ (sôson ek), i.e. ‘bring Me safe out of;’ rather than ‘save Me from’ (sôson apo), i.e. ‘keep Me altogether away from,’ as in ‘deliver us from the evil’ (Mat_6:13). S. John omits the Agony in the garden, which was in the Synoptists and was well known to every Christian; but he gives us here an insight into a less known truth, which is still often forgotten, that the agony was not confined to Gethsemane, but was part of Christ’s whole life. Others place the question at ‘from this hour,’ and the drift of the whole will then be, ‘How can I say, Father save Me from this hour? Nay, I came to suffer; therefore My prayer shall be, Father, glorify Thy Name.’
for this cause] These words are taken in two opposite senses; (1) that I might be saved out of this hour; (2) that Thy Name might be glorified by My obedience. Both make good sense. If the latter be adopted it would be better to transpose the stops, placing a full stop after ‘from this hour’ and a colon after ‘unto this hour.’
Now, at this moment, has been and yet is my soul troubled (“concurrebat horror morris et ardor obedientisa,” Bengel). In Joh_11:33 we hear that he troubled himself, and shuddered wrathfully in his “spirit” (πνεύμετι) at the contemplation of all the evils and curse of death; now his whole ψυχή, i.e. his life centered in its corporeal environment as a man, the self which the Son of God had taken up into the Divine essence, was in depth of agony, preluding the strong crying and tears to which Heb_5:7 refers. These perturbations of his soul and spirit can only be accounted for by the uniqueness of his Personality, the capacity for suffering, and the extent to which he was identifying himself with the sinful nature with which he had invested himself. Sin is the sting of death. He had by the nature of his incarnation become sin for us. Martyrs, freed from sin, delivered from its curse and shame and power through him, face it with calmness and hope; but there was infinite space in his breast for all the curse of it to rain its horrible tempest. He felt that the hour of his extremest travail had come upon him. And what shall I (must I) say? What is the regal passion of my heart? What is the right revelation for me to make to you? What is the prayer for me to offer to the Father? It remains a great question whether the next utterance is the primary answer of the question itself, or whether it continues the interrogation—whether, i.e., the Lord lifts up for a moment the cry of heart-rending grief, Father, save me from this hour! or whether he said, Shall I say, Father, save me from this hour? The first view supposes in the first place actual uncertainty and awful bewilderment, and then a most intense cry (Heb_5:7) to him who was able to save him from death. Save me either from the death itself, or from the fear and horror which accompanies it (Lucke, Meyer, Hengstenberg, and Moulton). It need not be a prayer to leave the world unsaved, to sacrifice all the work on which he had come. We are told by the apostle (Heb_5:7) that he was “heard” (ἀπὸ τῆς εὐλαβείας) and delivered from human weakness which might have rebelled in the intolerable darkness of that hour. Father, save me from this hour; the equivalent to the prayer, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me,” with its grand “nevertheless,” etc. If this be its meaning, we have a scene nearly, if not closely, identifiable with the agony of the garden. The correction which immediately follows augments the comparison with the scene in Gethsemane recorded by the synoptists. The R.T. and Revised version have put their note of interrogation after ταύτης into the margin, and not into the text. Ewald, Lange, Kling, Tholuck, Lachmann, accept this punctuation, and Godet regards it as an hypothetical prayer, although he does not place the interrogation after ταύτης. The self-interrogation of the previous utterance at least reveals the presence of such a desire, but one which vanishes as the mysterious hour engulfs and wraps him round. If this be the true interpretation, then the clause that follows must be, Nay this I cannot say, for on account of this very conflict—for this cause—only to fight this great battle—I came steadily forward to this hour. I cannot pray to escape from it. If, however, we have the expression of an actual though momentary prayer, and if we give it the meaning, “bring me safely through and out of this hour,” it corresponds with the Divine trust in the Father’s love which, in the extremity of the anguish and desertion, he yet reveals, and the ἀλλά becomes equivalent to “Pray, this I need not say; the end is known” (Westcott). I know that I shall be delivered, for this cause, viz. that I should encounter and pass through the hour I came into the world, and have reached the final crisis. This is, to my mind, more satisfactory; the interrogative prayer gives a sentimental character to the utterance out of harmony with the theme. Godet thinks that the fact that, according to the synoptists, our Lord in the garden did actually offer the prayer which he here hesitates to present, is evidence of the historic character of both accounts. I differ from him, because the sublime answer to the prayer here given would seem to preclude the necessity of the final conflict. The circumstance that he did offer the prayer as interpreted above, a prayer which was veritably heard, is in harmony with the narrative of the agony.
Pop Bible Comm Schaff
Joh_12:27.Now is my soul troubled. There is no want of connection between these words and the immediately preceding verses. The connection, on the contrary, is of the closest kind. Because this is the moment of highest exaltation in the contemplation of the universal triumph symbolized in the coming of the Greeks, it is also that when all the intensity of suffering by which the triumph is procured is most present to the mind of Jesus. The verb ‘troubled’ is the same as in Joh_11:33, ‘He troubled Himself,’
And what shallI say? Not, What feelings shall I cherish at this hour, What mood of mind becomes the circumstances in which I am placed? but, How shall I find utterance for the emotions that now fill my heart?
Father, save me out of this hour. Tounderstand these words interrogatively, ‘Shall I say, Father, save me from this hour?’ as is done by many commentators, is to introduce a hesitation into the mind of Jesus which we may well believe never had place in it, and is almost, if we may venture to say so, to give the utterance a sentimental turn at variance with the solemn scene; on the other hand, viewed as a direct prayer to His Heavenly Father, they are the exemplification in His own case of the law of Joh_12:25. It is usually thought that Jesus prays that He may be spared the bitterness of this hour. Mat_26:39 shows that Jesus had the feeling—one perfectly free from sin—that would lead Him to escape suffering and death; but the higher law immediately comes in. He has the Father’s will to do. To it He must yield His life, His self. Therefore He adds, But for this cause (that the Father’s name may be glorified, Joh_12:28) came I unto this hour. This prayer, however, is not ‘save me from,’ but ‘save me out of this hour,’—not for freedom from suffering, but (comp. Heb_5:7; Act_2:31) for deliverance out of it. Such a prayer is as consistent with His knowledge of ‘the glory that should follow’ as is Mat_26:39 with Mat_16:21. But the very prayer for deliverance is checked. ‘For this cause’ (that He may be delivered out of the hour) ‘came I unto this hour:’ the object of the hour of suffering is to bring triumph. We must not miss the emphasis on the word ‘Father;’ it is not simply God’s but the Father’s glory that he desires.
28.Father, glorify thy name. By these words he testifies, that he prefers the glory of the Father to all things else, and even neglects and disregards his own life. And the true regulation of all our desires is, to seek the glory of God in such a manner that all other things shall give way to it; for it ought to be reckoned by us an abundant recompense, leading us to endure patiently all that is vexatious or irksome.
I have both glorified it. It is as if he had said, I will finish what I have begun; for God never leaveth the work of his hands imperfect as it is said, Psa_138:8. But as it is the purpose of God to prevent the offense of the cross, he not only promises that the death of Christ will be glorious, but also mentions with commendation the numerous ornaments with which he had already adorned it.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
28. Then came there] Better, There came therefore, i.e. in answer to Christ’s prayer. There can be no doubt what S. John wishes us to understand;—that a voice was heard speaking articulate words, that some could distinguish the words, others could not, while some mistook the sounds for thunder. To make the thunder the reality, and the voice and the words mere imagination, is to substitute an arbitrary explanation for the Evangelist’s plain meaning. For similar voices comp. that heard by Elijah (1Ki_19:12-13); by Nebuchadnezzar (Dan_4:31); at Christ’s Baptism (Mar_1:11) and Transfiguration (Mar_9:7); and at S. Paul’s Conversion (Act_9:4; Act_9:7; Act_22:9), where it would seem that S. Paul alone could distinguish the words, while his companions merely heard a sound (see on Act_9:4). One of the conditions on which power to distinguish what is said depends is sympathy with the speaker.
have glorified it] in all God’s works from the Creation onwards, especially in the life of Christ.
will glorify it] in the death of Christ and its results.
29.That it thundered. It was truly monstrous, that the assembled multitude were unmoved by so evident a miracle. Some are so deaf, that they hear as a confused sound what God had distinctly pronounced. Others are less dull of caring, but yet take away much from the majesty of the Divine voice, by pretending that it was an angel who spoke. But the same thing is practiced every day; for God speaks plainly enough in the Gospel, in which is also displayed the power and energy of the Spirit, which ought to shake heaven and earth; but many are as little affected by the doctrine, as if it only proceeded from a mortal man, and others consider the word of God to be confused and barbarous, as if it were nothing else than thunder.
But a question arises: Did that voice sound from heaven without any profit or advantage? I reply, what the Evangelist here ascribes to the multitude belongs only to a part of them; for there were some besides the Apostles who did not interpret it so badly. But the Evangelist intended to point out briefly what is commonly done in the world; and that is, that the greater part of men, while they hear God, do not hear him though he speak plainly and distinctly.
A heavy thunder-cloud seems to hang over him; for a moment a break in the darkness, a rift in the clouds, presents itself, and, though he might have prayed for legions of angels, he did not. The second Adam knows the issue of the tremendous trial, and, in full apprehension of the answer to his deepest prayer, he cries, Father, glorify thy Name. The “thy” is emphatic. A contrast is implied between the eternal glory and the glory of the Christ. “I am thine; thou art mine;” “Thy will be done;” “Not as I will, but as thou wilt;” “If this cup cannot pass away from me except I drink it, thy will be done;” “Not my will, but thine be done.” I bare my breast for the blow; I yield my ψυχή absolutely to thy control! God glorifies himself in many ways, and here we see the highest point to which the human can rise. Godet calls attention to the extraordinary mistake made by Colani, who founds a charge against the Gospel itself on the supposition that these solemn words were, “Father, glorify my Name.” The synoptists tell us that at the baptism (Mat_3:17) and at the Transfiguration (Mat_17:5) a literal voice of words was heard from heaven conveying intelligible ideas to Jn the Baptist and subsequently to Peter, James, and John. And here the same John (son of Zebedee) records, not only that such a kind of voice was repeated on this occasion, but reports the very words themselves. There came therefore a voice out of heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. These words many of the crowd round about him, as well as Jesus himself, distinctly heard. The multitude that stood by said, It has thundered; hearing only a voice of thunder. It will not, however, on that account be fair to this evangelist to say (with Paulus, Lucke, and even Hengstenberg) that there was no objective audible voice which any ear beside that of Jesus could hear, and which none but the mind of Jesus could interpret. It is not sufficient to say “that the thunder and the voice were identical.” Hengstenberg quotes numerous passages from the Old Testament where thunder was interpreted to mean the “voice of Jehovah” (1Sa_12:18; Psa_29:1-11.; Job_37:4; Psa_18:13), but there are numerous passages both in the Old Testament and in the Gospels and Acts where an objective voice was heard. Such voice was at times accompanied by thunder, but not in the majority of cases. In the promises made in the garden of Eden, in the call of Moses and Samuel, and in the communion that passed between the Lord and Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samuel, Solomon, and Elijah, Jehovah spake in audible words without such auxiliary. When communications were made to Eli, to David, to Hezekiah, and others, they were given by the lips of prophetic men. When the Law was given to all the tribes of Israel, the thunder-trumpet was exceeding loud and long, and the people could not bear the awful experience, so that the Lord was pleased to speak to Moses only, and he was to communicate with the people. The case of Elijah is remarkable because the “still small voice” is distinguished from the thunder, etc., which had preceded it. Why should Hengstenberg have refrained from giving these Old Testament facts their proper weight? The rationalistic view would make the words spoken to have been the inference that either Jesus or John drew from a clap of thunder, and must conclude that the crowd, so far as the objective fact was concerned, were practically in the right. The narrative itself recounts a varied appreciation of a distinct and objective fact. Those who were not alive to any voice from heaven confounded it with thunder, lowered the Divine communication down to an ordinary natural fact. Others, i.e. “a few others,” were much nearer to the reality when they said, An angel hath spoken to him (compare reference to the angelic aid that came to the Lord in Gethsemane). The voice of God’s plenipotentiary angel speaking in his Name, was recognized as a supernatural communication, though the meaning of it was not grasped (cf. the voice with which Jesus spoke to Paul on the way to Damascus). But we may reasonably suppose that these Greeks, that the disciples who surrounded Jesus, that the beloved John, found in the voice a direct answer to the previous sublime cry of the Lord. The prayer, “Father, glorify thy Name,” received the answer, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again; i.e. In thy work and life hitherto, as Prophet, Master, Example, as my beloved Son, my Name has already been glorified in thee, and now in thy approaching sacrificial agony in which thou wilt become perfect as a Priest-King, and the Author of eternal salvation, “I will glorify it again.”
31.Now is the judgment of this world. The Lord now, as if he had already succeeded in the contest, boasts of having obtained a victory not only over fear, but over death; for he describes, in lofty terms, the advantage of his death, which might have struck his disciples with consternation. Some view the word, judgment (πρίσις) as denoting reformation, and others, as denoting condemnation. I rather agree with the former who explain it to mean, that the world must be restored to a proper order; for the Hebrew word משפט, mishpat, which is translated judgment, means a well-ordered state. Now we know, that out of Christ there is nothing but confusion in the world; and though Christ had already begun to erect the kingdom of God, yet his death was the commencement of a well-regulated condition, and the full restoration of the world.
Yet it must also be observed, that this proper arrangement cannot be established in the world, until the kingdom of Satan be first destroyed, until the flesh, and every thing opposed to the righteousness of God, be reduced to nothing. Lastly, the renovation of the world must be preceded by mortification. Accordingly, Christ declares:
Now shall the prince of this world be cast out; for the confusion and deformity arise from this, that while Satan usurps tyrannical dominion, iniquity everywhere abounds. When Satan has beencast out, therefore, the world is brought back from its revolt, and placed under obedience to the government of God. It may be asked, how was Satan cast out by the death of Christ, since he does not cease to make war continually? I reply, this casting out must not be limited to any short period of time, but is a description of that remarkable effect of the death of Christ which is daily manifested.
32.If I be lifted up. Next follows the method by which the judgment shall be conducted; namely, Christ, being lifted up on the cross, shall gather all men to himself, in order that he may raise them from earth to heaven. The Evangelist says, that Christ pointed out the manner of his death; and, therefore, the meaning undoubtedly is, that the cross will be, as it were, a chariot, by which he shall raise all men, along with himself, to his Father. It might have been thought, that at that time he was carried away from the earth, so as no longer to have any interests in common with men; but he declares, that he will go in a very different manner, so as to draw upwards to himself those who were fixed on the earth. Now, though he alludes to the form of his death, yet he means generally, that his death will not be a division to separate him from men, but that it will be an additional means of drawing earth upwards towards heaven.
I will draw all men to myself. The word all, which he employs, must be understood to refer to the children of God, who belong to his flock. Yet I agree with Chrysostom, who says that Christ used the universal term, all, because the Church was to be gathered equally from among Gentiles and Jews, according to that saying,
There shall be one shepherd, and one sheepfold, (Joh_10:16.)
The old Latin translation has, I will draw all things to me; and Augustine maintains that we ought to read it in that manner; but the agreement of all the Greek manuscripts ought to have greater weight with us.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
32. And I] ‘I’ is very emphatic in opposition to ‘the ruler of this world.’ The glorified Christ will rule men’s hearts in place of the devil.
be lifted up] Raised up to heaven by means of the Cross: we need not, as in Joh_3:14 and Joh_8:28, confine the meaning to the Crucifixion, although the lifting up on the Cross may be specially indicated. The words ‘from the earth’ (literally, out of the earth) seem to point to the Ascension; yet the Cross itself, apparently so repulsive, has through Christ’s Death become an attraction; and this may be the meaning here. For the hypothetical form ‘if I be lifted up,’ comp. ‘if I go,’ Joh_14:3. In both cases Christ is concerned not with the time of the act, but with the consequences of it; hence He does not say ‘when,’ but ‘if.’
will draw] There are two Greek words for ‘draw’ in the N.T., one of which necessarily implies violence, the other does not: it is the latter that is used here and in Joh_6:44; the former is used Act_14:19; Act_17:6. Man’s will is free; he can refuse to be drawn: and there is no violence; the attraction is moral. We see from Joh_6:44 that before the ‘lifting up’ it is the Father who draws men to the Son.
all men] Not only the Jews represented by the Twelve, but the Gentiles represented by these Greeks.
unto me] Better, unto Myself, up from the earth.
And I, if I be lifted out of (or, from) the earth, will draw all (men) to myself. Now this he spake, signifying by what death he was about to die. Ὑψωθω ͂ has been by Meyer, as well as many of the Fathers, referred to the Lord’s resurrection and ascension. The ἐκ τῆς γῆς would certainly be in favor of it, and be a possible rendering if we hold (with Westcott and others) that resurrection and uplifting from the earth involve and presuppose a previous death, or that John always speaks of Christ’s death as itself a glorious thing, as itself the commencement of the supreme glory of the Son of man. On the other hand—though this idea is reiterated by the opponents of the Fourth Gospel—there is nothing in the New Testament which makes the cross of Christ in itself a symbol of the exaltation of Jesus. Moreover, the next verse compels a closer reference to “the way in which he was about to die”—a mode of departure admirably expressed by the term “uplifting.” The language of Jesus to Nicodemus, in which the same word occurs in describing the lifting up of the Son of man after the fashion in which the serpent was uplifted in the wilderness, confirms this interpretation of the evangelist, which we have no claim to traverse (cf. also Joh_18:32; Joh_21:19). Christ declared that the attraction of the cross would be mightier than all the fascination of the prince of this world. The word ἐλκυ ́σω, “I will draw,” is applied elsewhere (Joh_6:44) to the Father’s work of grace, which preveniently prepares men to come to Christ. In these words we learn that the attraction of the cross of Christ will prove to be the mightiest and most sovereign motive ever brought to bear on the human will, and, when wielded by the Holy Spirit as a revelation of the matchless love of God, will involve the most sweeping judicial sentence that can be pronounced upon the world and its prince. In Joh_16:11 the belief or the conviction that the prince of this world has been already condemned (κέκριται) is one of the great results of the mission of the Comforter.
34.We have heard from the law. Their intention undoubtedly was, to carp malignantly at the words of Christ; and therefore their malice blinds them, so that they perceive nothing amidst the clearest light. They say that Jesus ought not to be regarded as the Christ, because he said that he would die, while the Law ascribes perpetuity to the Messiah; as if both statements had not been expressly made in the Law that Christ will die, and that afterwards his kingdom will flourish to the end of the world. But they seize on the second clause, and make it a ground of calumny. The origin of their error was, that they judged of the splendor of Messiah’s kingdom according to their carnal views; in consequence of which, they reject Christ because he does not correspond to their foolish notion. Under the term the Law they embrace also the Prophets, and the present tense — remaineth — -is used, agreeably to the Hebrew idiom, instead of the future tense, will remain
Who is that Son of man? This is a reproachful question, as if that short refutation vanquished Christ so completely that he had nothing more to say. This shows how haughty their ignorance was; for it is as if they had said, “Go now, and boast that thou art the Christ, since thine own confession proves that thou hast nothing to do with the Messiah.”
Cambridge Bible Plummer
Joh 12:34. The people answered] The multitude therefore answered.
out of the law] In its widest sense, including the Psalms and the Prophets. Comp. Psa_89:29; Psa_89:36; Psa_110:4; Isa_9:7; Eze_37:25, &c. The people rightly understand ‘lifted up from the earth’ to mean removal from the earth by death; and they argue—‘Scripture says that the Christ (see on Joh_1:20) will abide for ever. You claim to be the Christ, and yet you say that you will be lifted up and therefore not abide.’
who is this Son of man?] ‘This’ is contemptuous: ‘a strange Messiah this, with no power to abide!’ (on ‘Son of Man’ see Joh_1:51). “Here we have the secret, unexplained by the Synoptists, why even when the scale is seeming to turn for a moment in favour of belief, it is continually swayed down again by the discovery of some new particular in which the current ideas respecting the Messiah are disappointed and contradicted.” S. p. 199. One moment the people are convinced by a miracle that Jesus is the Messiah, the next that it is impossible to reconcile His position with the received interpretations of Messianic prophecy. It did not occur to them to doubt the interpretations.
Pop Bible Comm Schaff
Joh_12:34. The multitude therefore answered him, We have heard out of the law that the Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted on high? The‘multitude,’ who are Jews not Greeks, have rightly understood the words of Jesus in Joh_12:32 to mean a lifting on high by death. But they have learned from the Scriptures (here, as in chap. Joh_10:34, called ‘the law’)—probably from such passages as Sam. Joh_7:13-15; Psalms 72, 89, 110; Isaiah 6, 7; Dan_7:14—that ‘the Christ abideth for ever,’ that, according to their interpretation, He should have a glorious and eternal reign on earth. There is thus an irreconcilable contradiction between the fate expected by Jesus and the claims which they might perhaps have otherwise allowed.
Who is this Son ofman? The words are not an honest inquiry who this Son of man can be, and how he can be the Christ. They are really a rejection of the claims of Jesus. ‘Who is this? We have nothing and shall have nothing to do with Him.’ The interpretation thus given is greatly confirmed by the fact that the words are immediately followed not by explanation, but by solemn warning on the part of Jesus (Joh_12:35-36), and by the Evangelist’s own reflections on the hardness and perversity of man (Joh_12:37-41); while, at the same time, it is in a high degree suitable to the place occupied by them in the Gospel. ‘Son of man’ had been the favourite designation by Jesus of Himself. How appropriate is it that, when finally rejected, He should be rejected in that character! Have we not here also another illustration of the Evangelist’s love of commemorating instances when, against themselves and as if under the guidance of an irresistible power, men were compelled to ascribe to Jesus in contempt epithets which, rightly understood, were His highest glory?
35.Yet a little while the light is with you. Though in this reply the Lord gently admonishes them, yet at the same time he reproves them sharply; for he charges them with shutting their eyes against the light, and at the same time threatens that ere long the light will be taken away from them. When he says that yet a little while there is some remaining light, he confirms what he had already said about his death; for though by the light he does not mean his bodily presence, but his Gospel, yet he alludes to his departure; as if he had said, When I shall have gone away, I will not cease to be the light, and thus my glory will not be diminished through your darkness. When he says that the light is with them, he indirectly reproves them for closing their eyes and shutting out the light; and thus he declares that they do not deserve an answer to their objection, because of their own accord they seek an opportunity of falling into error.
Walk while you have the light lest darkness overtake you. This statement, that the light does not continue to shine on them but for a little while, Applies equally to all unbelievers; for Scripture promises that to the children of God the Sun of righteousness (Mal_4:2) will rise, and will never go down.
The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor the moon by night, but the Lord shall be your everlasting light, (Isa_60:19.)
But all ought to walk cautiously, because contempt of the light is followed by darkness. This, too, is the reason why night so thick and dark sat down on the world for many centuries. It was because there were few who deigned to walk in the brightness of heavenly wisdom; for Christ enlightens us by his Gospel, in order that we may follow the way of salvation, which he points out to us. For this reason, they who do not avail themselves of the grace of God extinguish, as far as lies in their power, the light which is offered to them.
And he who walketh in darkness knoweth not where he goeth. To strike them with still deeper alarm, he reminds them how wretched is the condition of those who, being destitute of light, do nothing but wander throughout the whole course of, their life. For they cannot move a step without the risk of falling or even of destruction. But now Christ declares that we are in darkness, unless he shine upon us. Hence infer what is the value of the sagacity of the human mind, when it is the sole guide and instructor, apart from Christ.
Christ’s reply is introduced with a simple εἶπεν. Jesus therefore said to them, not in answer to their question, but by taking up a title of dignity that he had claimed before, tie evidently assumes to be the Light of the world (Joh_8:12), and now the time is almost over when they could see its luster or discern other things, either themselves, or their sins, or this world, or the next world, by that Light. The time for further instruction, or remonstrance, or declarations is at an end. The evangelist sums up, in Joh_12:44-50, the general substance of our Lord’s teaching with reference to himself and his disciples and the world which would not believe; and thus, then, in a wonderful way, justifies, as it were, the non-answer to the captious question, “Who is this Son of man?” Yet a little while is the Light amongst you. The “little while” of our Lord’s day of ministry was often upon his lips (Joh_7:33; Joh_13:33; Joh_14:19; Joh_16:16). Verily to his consciousness it must have been but as the twinkling of an eye, and now it was a very little while even for his hearers. Based on this solemn fact, he makes a last public appeal to individuals, propounding gracious invitation, Divine promise, solemn warning; and so he terminated his public ministry, and vanished from before them. As far as the memory of his living words and deeds might influence them, the Light, though not among them, might still shine, and the glory of Pentecost would renew the appeal. Walk as ye have the Light; make progress in the understanding of self, of duty, of time, of eternity, and act accordingly. The ὡς is the reading preferred to the ἕως of the T.R. in this and the following verse by Tischendorf, Meyer, Westport and Hort, and the Revisers’ text. Meyer here differs from Godet and others who, accepting the reading ὡς, give it, in virtue of certain passages in the classics, the sense of quamdiu, and justly maintains the sense “as,” “in the measure that.” According to the light that you see, walk, lest (ἵνα μὴ, “in order that not”) darkness overtake you: and he that walketh in the darkness knoweth not whither he goeth; lest the possibility of seeing the Divine revelation in me be taken from you, and lest there be taken away from you that which you seem to have (cf. Jer_13:16). Then, in harmony with the great sayings of Joh_9:4, Joh_9:5 and Joh_11:9, “In the night no man can work;” “In the night, when men cannot see the light of this world, they stumble over unseen perils and pitfalls;” so here, he says, in the darkness that will come upon men from making no use of the Light of the world, “they will not know whither they are going,” they will find no work, have no perception of imminent danger, but, driven on and on by measureless force, they will drift over the fathomless unknown into infinite and endless suspense. When the Light of the world is spurned, and a godless evolution made to supply its place, humanity and the world have no goal set before them; there is no end at which they aim—no mind or will to guide the progress of mankind.
Cambridge Bible Plummer
36. While ye have] Here again the better reading is as ye have; and ‘light’ should be ‘the Light.’ Note the emphatic repetition so common in S. John.
that ye may be] Rather, that ye may become. Faith is only the beginning; it does not at once make us children.
children of light] No article: but in all the four preceding cases ‘light’ has the article and means Christ, the Light, as in Joh_1:5; Joh_1:7-9. The expression ‘child of’ or ‘son of’ is frequent in Hebrew poetry to indicate very close connexion as between product and producer (see on Joh_17:12). Thus, ‘son of peace,’ Luk_10:6; ‘children of this world,’ Joh_16:8; ‘sons of thunder,’ Mar_3:17. Such expressions are very frequent in the most Hebraistic of the Gospels: comp. Mat_5:9; Mat_8:12; Mat_9:15; Mat_13:38; Mat_23:15.
and departed] Probably to Bethany, to spend the last few days before His hour came in retirement. Comp. Mat_21:17; Mar_11:11; Luk_21:37.
did hide himself] Rather, was hidden.
But he concludes with one more glorious invitation. As, up to this moment, you have the Light, Believe in the Light; treat it as light—receive the revelation I have given you (cf. the ninth and eleventh chapters); “Work while it is called today;” “stumble not;” make no irreparable mistake. “Become “—so walk that ye may become yourselves sons of Light, illumined and luminous. This fine expression is found in Luk_16:8; 1Th_5:5; and, with alteration of υἱοὶ into τέκρα, in Eph_5:8. This last word, public word, of Jesus, which was in part accepted by some of his hearers, as we see from verse 42, corresponds with the Beatitudes, and sustains one at least of the main theses of the prologue: “The Life was the Light of men.” These things spake Jesus, and departed, and was hidden from them. This utterance records the close of the Lord’s public ministry, and therefore the solemn termination of the various scenes and discourses preserved in the synoptic narrative. The people of his love saw him no more till he appeared as a criminal in the hands’ of the officers of the Sanhedrin, on his way to the Praetorium. In the silence of the home- at Bethany he probably spent the last day of his earthly ministry, which terminated in the marvelous converse at the Last Supper. “This time it was no mere cloud which obscured the sun, for to them the sun itself had set.” And now, through several verses, the evangelist presents his own reflections on the cause of the strange paradoxical proceeding which led “his own” not to receive him.
44.And Jesus cried. The object of Christ, in this statement, is to encourage his followers to a proper and unshaken steadfastness of faith; but it contains also an implied reproof, by which he intended to correct that perverse fear. The cry is expressive of vehemence; for it is not a simple doctrine, but an exhortation intended to excite them more powerfully. The statement amounts to this, that faith in Christ does not rely on any mortal man, but on God; for it finds in Christ nothing but what is divine, or rather, it beholds God in his face. Hence he infers, that it is foolish and unreasonable for faith to be wavering or doubtful; for it is impossible to offer a greater insult to God, than not to rely on his truth. Who is it then that has duly profited by the Gospel? It is he who, relying or this confidence, that he does not believe men but God, quietly and steadily contends against all the machinations of Satan. If, then, we would render to God the honor due to him, we must learn to remain firm in faith, not only though the world were shaken, but even though Satan should disturb and overturn all that is under heaven.
He that believeth on me believeth not on me, but on him that sent me. Believers are saidnot to believe on Christ, when they do not fix their whole attention on his human countenance. Comparing himself with the Father, he bids us look at the power of God; for the weakness of the flesh has no firmness in
itself. When we shall, afterwards, find him exhorting the disciples to believe on him, it will be in a different sense; for, in that passage, God is not contrasted with man, but Christ is brought forward with all his gifts and graces which ought to be sufficient for upholding our faith.
Pop Comm Bible Schaff
Joh_12:44.But Jesus cried and said. In what sense are we to understand the cry and utterance about to be mentioned? Was it public or private? Or is it strictly speaking no utterance of Jesus at all, but only a summary by the Evangelist himself of the main points of that teaching of Jesus which he had recorded in the previous part of his Gospel? That it was not public is clear from the fact that the ministry had closed at Joh_12:36; and it is impossible to meet this difficulty by the supposition that the cry is merely a continuation of the first words of that verse. That it was not private is equally clear, partly from the use of ‘cried’ (comp. Joh_7:28; Joh_7:37), partly because the nature and tone of the words themselves are such as to suggest that Jesus is speaking to ‘the Jews,’ not to His disciples. The only supposition therefore is, that the passage contains an epitome or summary of the words of Jesus to the Jews. The words ‘cried and said’ are therefore equivalent to, This was the teaching of Jesus when He spake openly to the world. The Evangelist, however, does not give the summary in his own words, but (we can hardly doubt) makes use of actual sayings uttered by his Master at various times,—sayings which for the most part combine and give forcible expression to truths which we have found stated in the discourses of this Gospel. There is in this section but little that is new; on the other hand, there is very little actual repetition of verses fromearlier chapters. If our view of the passage is correct, the words were spoken by Jesus; the selection is made by John.
He that believeth in me, believeth not in me, but in him that sent me. This is the first and almost the only place in this Gospel (see chap. 1) in which the words ‘believe in,’ so constantly associated with our Lord (see chap. Joh_2:11), are used in reference to the Father. Once indeed, in chap. Joh_5:24, the Authorised Version reads ‘believeth on Him that sent me,’ but, as we have seen, this is a mistranslation. No words could more strikingly express what Jesus had accomplished for those who received Him: He had led them to the Father, and through Jesus they are now believers in God (1Pe_1:21), ‘throwing themselves with absolute trust’ on God revealed in Christ. Hence the appropriateness of the words in this place, where the full effect of the mission of Jesus upon the many (Joh_12:40) and upon the few is traced. The form of expression here recalls chap. Joh_7:16 : as there Jesus declares that the words which He speaks are words received from God, so here that the faith He has awakened and rendered possible is faith in God. In each relation He is Mediator between God and men.
45.And he who seeth me. The word see is here taken for knowledge; for, in order to give true and thorough tranquillity to our consciences, which would otherwise have been constantly liable to various agitations, he sends us to the Father. The reason why the stability of faith is firm and secure is, that it is stronger than the world, and is above the world. Now, when Christ is truly known, the glory of God shines in him, that we may be fully persuaded that the faith which we have in him does not depend on man, but that it is founded on the eternal God; for it rises from the flesh of Christ to his Divinity. And, if it be so, not only must it be fixed perpetually in our hearts, but it must likewise show itself boldly in the tongue, when it is necessary.
Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me; and he that beholdeth me, beholdeth him that sent me. These words do not occur before, but in every form our Lord had exalted “him that sent him.” His doctrine or teaching, his purpose in manifestation, the secret food that sustained him, the Divine presence that never left him alone, the entire background of the mission of his human will and life into the world, the object of faith to men as revealed in his humanity, and that which the spiritual eye ought to see, nay—if the beholder did but know it does see, constitute an unveiling of the eternal Father who sent him into the world (see Joh_4:34; Joh_5:36; Joh_6:38; Joh_7:17, Joh_7:18, Joh_7:29; Joh_8:28, Joh_8:42; Joh_10:38; cf. also Joh_14:1, Joh_14:9, Joh_14:24). It becomes, then, of high value to grasp the truth. We actually believe in God when believing in him. His mission is lost in the glory of God who appears in him. So far as he is sent, he was necessarily of lower order and rank than he who sent him. His humanity began to be in time; it was generated in the womb of the virgin; it was sanctified and sent into the world; and yet through it there was the highest revelation of the Father. We cannot attribute so stupendous a thought to the evangelist, and at the same time we admit the portentous singularity and uniqueness of the consciousness which could thus aver identity of nature with God and the completeness of revelation that the Speaker was making in himself of the Father.
46.I am come into the worm as a light. In order to render his disciples more bold and persevering, he proceeds still farther in maintaining the certainty of faith. And, first, he testifies that he came into the world to be a light, by which men might be delivered from darkness and errors; and, at the same time, he points out the means of obtaining so great a benefit, when he says, that whosoever believeth in me may not remain in darkness. Besides, he accuses of ingratitude all who, after having been taught by the Gospel, do not separate themselves from unbelievers; for the higher the excellence of this benefit, of being called from darkness to light, the less excusable are they who, through their indolence or carelessness, quench the light that had been kindled in them.
The words, I am come into the world as a light, are highly emphatic; for though Christ was a light from the beginning, yet there is a good reason why he adorns himself with this title, that he has come to perform the part of a light. That we may perceive distinctly the various steps, he shows, first, that he is a light to others rather than to himself; secondly, that he is a light, not only to angels, but also to men; thirdly, that he was manifested in the flesh, in order that he might shine with full brightness.
The term, whosoever, appears to have been added on purpose, partly, that all believers, without exception, may enjoy this benefit ill common, and partly, to show that the reason why unbelievers perish in darkness is, that, of their own accord, they forsake the light. Now, if the whole wisdom of the world were collected into one mass, not a single ray of the true light would be found in that vast heap; but, contrary, it will be a confused chaos; for it belongs to Christ alone to deliver us from darkness.
The revelation of God becomes the light of the soul and the light of the world. The evangelist had said, in his prologue, “In him was life,” and the Life (the eternal Loges of life) was “the Light of men.” All true understanding, all purifying, gracious influence shed on human affairs, nature, or destiny, are the issue and result of the Divine Life which, under every dispensation, has wrought in humanity. Above all, “the Light that lighteth every man,” namely, that which has always and which ever will radiate from the life conferred on our humanity by the Loges, the life of God in mind and conscience, “came into the world”—came, that is, in a new and more effective form, came in the radiance of a perfect human life. The evangelist has sustained his teaching by quoting the solemn words of Jesus in Joh_3:19; Joh_8:12; also Joh_9:5, where a special narrative of miraculous love typified both the need in which the human family, the sacred Israel, and even his own disciples, stood of light, and of the light which he could pour upon the sightless eyeballs. And now the connection of this passage is—You could not behold me if light did not stream forth from me. I have come, and am come (ἐλήλυθα, this has been and is my abiding purpose; cf. Joh_5:43; Joh_7:28) a Light into the world, and my object has been and is that whosoever believeth on me—whoso-ever sees by the inward eye that which I really am, sees how my life stands related to the Father, whosoever assents to the new revelation thus given, even over and above the “inward light” of the Logos—should not abide in the darkness which enwraps all souls; for, as said in the prologue, “the Light” (the archetypal Light) shineth upon the darkness of human nature, and the darkness comprehendeth it not.” It should be especially noticed that in 2Co_4:6 St. Paul had grasped and uttered the fullness of this thought.
Pop Comm Bible Schaff
Joh_12:46. As light I have come into the world, that every one that believeth in me may not abide in the darkness. Here we have the substance of the Saviour’s last words to the multitude (Joh_12:35-36) and the earlier sayings of chap. Joh_8:12. Joh_9:5; but nowhere has it been as clearly taught that all are ‘in the darkness’ until by faith in Jesus they receive light. Comp. chap. Joh_3:19 (Act_26:18; Col_1:13), and especially Joh_12:4-5, in the Prologue. It is easy to trace a certain connection of thought in these verses, though from the nature of the case the connection is not always very close. The first two (Joh_12:4; Joh_12:45)are occupied with the relation between the disciples of Jesus and the Father who sent Him; the next three (Joh_12:46-48),with the relation of Jesus to the world; the last two, with His relation to the Father. From beholding (Joh_12:45)to light is a natural transition; from this point each verse directly leads the way to that which follows it. The thought is at first expressed in the language of figure (Joh_12:46), then with studious plainness and simplicity.
47.If any man hear my words. After having spoken concerning his grace, and exhorted his disciples to steady faith, he now begins to strike the rebellious, though even here he mitigates the severity due to the wickedness of those who deliberately — as it were — reject God; for he delays to pronounce judgment on them, because, on the contrary, he has come for the salvation of all. In the first place, we ought to understand that he does not speak here of all unbelievers without distinction, but of those who, knowingly and willingly, reject the doctrine of the Gospel which has been exhibited to them. Why then does Christ not choose to condemn them? It is because he lays aside for a time the office of a judge, and offers salvation to all without reserve, and stretches out his arms to embrace all, that all may be the more encouraged to repent. And yet there is a circumstance of no small moment, by which he points out the aggravation of the crime, if they reject an invitation so kind and gracious, for it is as if he had said, “Lo, I am here to invite all, and, forgetting the character of a judge, I have this as my single object, to persuade all, and to rescue from destruction those who are already twice ruined.” No man, therefore, is condemned on account of having despised the Gospel, except he who, disdaining the lovely message of salvation, has chosen of his own accord to draw down destruction on himself.
The word judge, as is evident from the word save, which is contrasted with it, here signifies to condemn. Now this ought to be understood as referring to the office which properly and naturally belongs to Christ; for that unbelievers are not more severely condemned on account of the Gospel is accidental, and does not arise from its nature, as we have said on former occasions.
If any one shall have heard my sayings, and have (guarded) kept them not. Here our Lord passes from the effect of his earthly life, which is light, to that of the words (ῥημα ́τα) by which the whole future of mankind will be affected, and one is reminded of the close of the sermon on the mount, where the condition of that man is portrayed who hears the λόγους of Christ and doeth them net, whose destiny will be determined by the natural course of things (see Mat_7:26, Mat_7:27). Keep (guard) them not (see Mat_19:20). The “hearing” is clearly not identical with spiritual acceptance, but is restricted to the awful charge of responsibility that comes upon every man who simply hears, knows what Christ’s words are, and then “keeps” them not so as to fulfill their intention. Christ says, I judge him not. I am not now pronouncing a sentence upon him; I am his Savior; but this is his condemnation, that he believes not, etc. (Joh_3:17-19). Our Lord claimed, in the sermon on the mount, to be the Executor of a judgment, and in Joh_5:22-29 he declared that he would be as Son of man, the final Adjudicator of doom on the disobedient (cf. Mat_25:1-46.), and in many places he made this thought even more solemn by speaking of himself on that occasion, not as the compassionate Savior, but the Administrator of an inviolable law, which cannot be swayed by immediate emotion, but will effectuate itself on eternal and unswerving principles. The Law accuses the old Law (Joh_5:45)—but I judge him not; for I came (ἦλθον) not to judge, but to save the world, referring to the Incarnation in its purport and supreme motive.
48.He who rejecteth me. That wicked men may not flatter themselves as if their unbounded disobedience to Christ would pass unpunished, he, adds here a dreadful threatening, that though he were to do nothing in this matter, yet his doctrine alone would be sufficient to condemn them, as he says elsewhere, that there would be no need of any other judge than Moses, in whom they boasted, (Joh_5:45.) The meaning, therefore, is: “Burning with ardent desire to promote your salvation, I do indeed abstain from exercising my right to condemn you, and am entirely employed in saving what is lost; but do not think that you have escaped out of the hands of God; for though I should altogether hold my peace, the word alone, which you have despised, is sufficient to judge you.”
And receiveth not my words. This latter clause is an explanation of the former; for since hypocrisy is natural to men, nothing is easier for them than to boast in words that they are ready to receive Christ; and we see how common this boasting is even amongst the most wicked men. We must therefore attend to this definition, that Christ is rejected when we do not embrace the pure doctrine of the Gospel.
Loudly do the Papists, indeed, proclaim this word which Christ uttered; but as soon as his pure truth is brought forward, nothing is more hateful to them. Such persons kiss Christ in the same manner as Judas kissed him, (Mat_26:49.) Let us therefore learn to receive him along with his word, and to render to him that homage and obedience which he demands as his sole right.
The word which I speak shall judge you at the last day. It is impossible to give a nobler or more magnificent title to the Gospel than to, ascribe to it the power of judging; for, according to these words, the last judgment shall be nothing else than an approbation or ratification (36) of the doctrine of the Gospel. Christ himself will indeed ascend the tribunal, but he declares that he will pronounce the sentence according to the word which is now preached. This threatening ought to strike deep? terror into the ungodly, since they cannot escape the judgment of that doctrine which they now so haughtily disdain.
But when Christ mentions the last judgment, he means that they are now destitute of understanding; for he reminds them that the punishment which they now treat with mockery will then be openly displayed. On the other hand, it yields to the godly an invaluable consolation, that to whatever extent. they may be now condemned by the world, still they do not doubt that they are already acquitted in heaven; for, wherever the faith of the Gospel has its seat, the tribunal of God is erected to save. Relying on this right, we need not trouble ourselves about Papists or their absurd decisions; for our faith rises even above angels.
He that rejecteth me – Luk_10:16. The word “reject” means to despise, or to refuse to receive him.
Hath one – That is, he needs not my voice to condemn him. He will carry his own condemnation with him, even should I be silent. His own conscience will condemn him. The words which I have spoken will be remembered and will condemn him, if there were nothing further. From this we learn:
1. That a guilty conscience needs no accuser.
2. That the words of Christ, and the messages of mercy which the sinner has rejected, will be remembered by him.
3. That this will be the source of his condemnation. This will make him miserable, and there will be no possibility of his being happy.
4. That the conscience of the sinner will concur with the sentence of Christ in the great day, and that he will go to eternity self-condemned. It is this which will make the pains of hell so intolerable to the sinner.
5. The word that Christ has spoken, the doctrines of his gospel, and the messages of mercy, will be that by which the sinner will be judged in the last day. Every person will be judged by that message, and the sinner will be punished according to the frequency and clearness with which the rejected message has been presented to his mind, Mat_12:41.