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 Main Index : Commentaries : PNT : PNT Vol. 3 : Chapter VIII

Volume III
The Gospel According to John
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CHAPTER VIII.

THE ADULTEROUS WOMAN

      By referring to the Revvised Version the reader will see that the last verse of Chap. VII. and eleven verses of Chap. VIII. are omitted. It is not in harmony with the purpose of this commentary to enter into a critical discussion of the reasons why they are rejected, further than to say that they are wanting in most of the very ancient manuscripts, and terms are also used that John nowhere else adopts. On the other hand the account is so much in harmony with the spirit of Christ, so characteristic, and bears such marks of real history, that I am compelled to believe that it gives a real incident of the life of the Master. With the stern ideas that grew up in the succeeding centuries it would have been impossible to have invented such a story, and the suggestion of some of the early Fathers, Augustine for one, that it had been stricken from some of the manuscripts because it might be tortured into a license for sin, is more likely. Whether or not penned by John it is so full of, Christ that I believe it is true, though it might have been added to the Gospel after it was written.

      "The whole scene, the arrest of the woman, the demand on Jesus, the Pharisaic contempt of public morality in obtruding the crime and the criminal on public attention in the temple courts; the attempt to entrap Jesus; the skill of his reply; the subtle recognition of the woman's shame [132] and despair,--and the gentle avoidance of adding to it by turning the public gaze from her to himself as he wrote upon the ground; the final confusion of the Pharisees and the release of the woman, bear the marks of real history. It is impossible to believe that any monkish mind conceived of this and added it to the narrative. The deed is the deed of Christ, whether or no the record is the record of John."--Abbott.

      1. Jesus went to the mount of Olives. The last verse of Chap. VII. says that "every man went to his own house." Those who disputed with him had homes in Jerusalem to which they retired, but "Jesus went to the Mount of Olives," perhaps to the shades of Gethsemane where he rested under a leafy olive tree, possibly to the bower of some of his Galilean friends, constructed of branches as was the custom at this feast, possibly to the loved home of Lazarus and his sisters which was situated on the farther slope of the mount, about two miles from the city. This is somewhat remarkable as the only place where John mentions by name this hallowed mount, although it soon acquires a striking prominence in his history from its relation to the scenes of Bethany, Gethsemane and the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It was separated from the city by the valley of Jehoshaphat, through which flowed the brook Kedron, and overlooked Jerusalem from the east. The road to Jericho, the Jordan, and Perea lay across, or rather around its brow. On its eastern slope were the sacred localities of Bethphage and Bethany.

      2. Early in the morning. Of the first day after the feast had ended (see (Chap. VII. 37), if this narrative is in its proper place in his life. And he sat down and taught them. We learn from verse 20, that he was now in "the treasury of the temple." John does not give the words of teaching for the reason, as I believe, that as soon as the Savior had taken his place as a teacher and the throngs were gathered, an interruption took place. The Scribes and Pharisees were awaiting his coming and at once obtruded upon him.

      3. The scribes and Pharisees. This is the only place where John mentions the Scribes, though they are often named by the other Evangelists. From the time of Ezra they had been a distinct class. Gradually they became the most influential teachers of Israel, having far more to do in shaping the religious life of the people than the priests. To this order belonged the Rabbins, the great Doctors of the law, such men as Hillel, Shammai and Gamaliel. When Christ began to teach, at once the people began to compare his methods with those of the Scribes. They did not speak "with authority," but fortified their decisions with the opinions of great Doctors, "teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." He, on the other hand, spoke as one drawing upon [133] a fountain of absolute truth within himself, "with authority and not as the Scribes." The phrase, "Scribes and Pharisees," has almost the same meaning as "the Jews," so frequently used by John. Brought unto him a woman. She had possibly been arrested during the night. As Jerusalem was crowded with strangers and this feast was a gay, joyous one, there was probably more license than usual. There was no reason why they should bring her to him. The law of Moses was clear and they could understand that Judea was a Roman province and the Roman civil law was now in force in Judea, which did not punish adultery with death. The man was equally guilty according to the Mosaic law, but pursuing the usual course of corrupt men they let him go and fastened upon the helpless woman.

      5. Moses commanded such should be stoned. The Mosaic enactment is found in Deut. 22:22, and Lev. 20:10. It required stoning in the case of a betrothed virgin, and also made the infidelity of a wife punishable with death. It was no feeling of outraged purity that brought these learned Scribes, thoroughly posted in the Mosaic teachings, to Christ. Long since the rigid observance of the Levitical law had been laid aside in questions of morals, and the nation under the influence of association with heathen, had become corrupt. The Scribes and Pharisees were themselves "whited sepulchers." They only thought that, by means of this guilty woman whom they had entrapped, they could annoy, possibly entangle and gain ground for accusing the Prophet of Galilee.

      6. This they said, tempting him. The dilemma corresponds to that of the tribute money. To affirm the binding validity and force of the Mosaic enactment, would be to counsel a course of action contrary to the Roman law, and would also be incongruous with the merciful spirit of him who had called publicans and permitted "sinners" to weep unrebuked upon his feet. On the other hand, to set aside the Mosaic judgment would make him liable to the charge of breaking the law of Moses and would be a powerful aid in breaking down his influence with the people. In one case they could accuse him to the Romans and place him under the ban of the civil power; in the other they could denounce him a setter aside of their cherished law. With his finger wrote on the ground. His act was a significant object lesson which said that he would pay no attention to them. When anyone speaks to me and I busy myself with something else it signifies that I do not consider him worthy of attention. It may be noted that this is the only record given that Christ ever wrote a line. It is vain to conjecture what he may have written with his finger in the dust, but if it had come down to us it would probably be found to have a marvellous adaptation to the circumstances. [134]

      7. He lifted himself up and said. As they were determined not to be foiled they kept pressing the question, "What sayest thou?" until he arose, looked at them with a look that seemed to pierce their very hearts, and to unveil their thoughts and lives, and then he said, "Let him that is without sin among you cast the first stone." They knew their lives were known; that he saw them polluted with impure thoughts and deeds; yet his answer bids the sinless one among them to step forth and, in accordance with the law of Moses, hurl the first stone at the poor, shame-stricken, agonized sinner who cowered before them. The answer was like a bolt of lightning. It affirmed nothing, but hurled them back on their own hearts and bade them thus decide. It said to them, "Thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest; for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself: for thou that judgest doest the same things."

      8. Again he stooped down, and wrote. Resuming his former attitude he left them to ponder what he had said and to act upon it. There, for a little while, stood the silent scene; the stooping Lord slowly tracing characters with his fingers upon the earth; the crouching and weeping woman held by her accusers, and the haughty Scribes and Pharisees with shame upon their countenances, perplexed faces and eyes cast upon the earth; a scene worthy of a painter. They had forgotten that the Mosaic law provided that the witnesses on whose testimony the accused was condemned should cast the first stone (Deut. 17:5-7), and also that a guilty husband could not demand punishment upon a guilty wife, according to their Rabbinical law. Before the judgment of the law of Moses could be carried out, therefore, they must settle the question of their own innocence, yet his language reveals a knowledge of their guilt.

      9. Being convicted by their own conscience, went out. As he wrote and left them to their own thoughts, conscience began to do its work. "The word of the Lord was quick and powerful." In the presence of one who read their hearts they were helpless, and, one by one, they began to go quietly out, the eldest and guiltiest leading the way, and in a little while the only figures left of the group were Jesus, still writing, and the woman whom they had left behind. She might have followed, but I trust that she remained because her heart yearned for forgiveness and a new life in the presence of the Sinless One before her. [135]

      10. Woman, where are thine accusers? Then he lifted himself up, looked around and saw that his enemies were gone, and then addressed the woman. As Augustine says: "Misery was in the presence of Mercy." "Doth no man condemn thee?" Is there no accuser to prove thy guilt?

      11. No man, Lord. . . . Neither do I condemn thee. He will not pronounce sentence upon her. He does not palliate her sin, but gives her the opportunity for repentance. In the words, "Go and sin no more," there is an implied rebuke of her past life, a charge to repent and live a better life, and an opening of the door of hope in case she heeded his words.


PRACTICAL OBSERVATIONS.

      1. Men often do not know themselves. These Scribes and Pharisees regarded themselves very religious men, and very loyal to Moses. They kept the letter of the ceremonial law. They trampled under foot its spirit.

      2. Men in their eagerness to entrap others often fall into their own snares. Many a man has fallen into the pit that he has digged for others. These Scribes and Pharisees in seeking to confuse Jesus brought confusion on themselves.

      3. Before we condemn others we should examine ourselves and see whether we are free from the sin we condemn. "With what measure we mete unto others, it shall be measured unto us again."

      4. "The merciful shall obtain mercy." On the one hand in the Scriptures stand the proud, religious, punctilious Pharisees, scorning to touch a publican or a "sinner." On the other hand stands the merciful Jesus, "the Friend of publicans and sinners," who had come to call, "not the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

      5. Still our mercy must be like that of Jesus, sorrow for the sinner, but indignation for sin. It must not degenerate into indifference. Like Christ, our mercy should lead us to "seek to save men from their sins," to call sinners to repentance, to open the door of hope to the fallen if they will only "go and sin no more." Sin is not the less sinful that there is mercy offered to the penitent sinner.


THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD.

      After this, "seated in the Treasury--either some special building of the temple so-called, or that part of the court of the women which contained thirteen chests with trumpet-shaped openings, into which the people, and especially the Pharisees, cast their gifts--he taught as recorded in the present section. In this court were two gigantic candelabra, fifty cubits high, sumptuously gilded, on the summit of which at night during the feast, lamps were [136] lighted which threw their light over the city." In the presence of these lamps, so admired by the throng, probably because attention was just then drawn to them, he exclaimed: "I am the light of the world," in accordance with his custom of fixing his words indelibly by referring to surrounding objects. His statement, fitting from the grandest character the earth has ever known, seemed to the Pharisees presumptuous, but he declares that he had the support of his Father's testimony. This statement led to various questions which resulted in their claim that Abraham was their father and the discourse that we now are called to study.

      12. I am the light of the world. If the account of the woman is in the right place, it would seem that, after that case had reached its settlement, he began his discourse to the people. He had said to his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount that he was the light of the world; now he declares it to the Jewish nation in the temple. It is to be remarked that light was regarded as an accompaniment of the presence of the Lord. Moses beheld the burning bush in Horeb; when he returned from the presence of the Lord on Sinai his face was shining with heavenly radiance; the pillar of fire that lighted Israel on the pilgrimage was the emblem of the presence of God; the Shekinah descended into the Holy of Holies in a blaze of light. While the fiery cloud had lighted Israel Christ makes a more stupendous claim and asserts he is the light of the world. It is easy for us to understand that he is the Sun that chases ignorance, the clouds of doubt and the darkness of despair away, and who fills the soul with the light of heavenly knowledge and hope. When he uttered these words three of those who heard him must have thought of his radiance as they had beheld him shining on the Mount of Transfiguration. It is to be noted that Christ always rises above the thought of being only a national Savior. He bore on his heart the woes of humanity. Other religious teachers have come as "the Light of Asia," or of a particular race, but he came as the "Light of the world," and hence he bade, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness. The pillar of fire is referred to which lighted Israel on the march. So shall his followers be lighted by him, and shall have not only light, but "the light of life." "In him was life and the life was the light of men" (John 1:4). His disciples are not in darkness because be imparts to them the new life which fills the soul with light in the reception of the word of God.

      13. Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true. Perhaps these Pharisees have in mind what is recorded in Chap. V. 31. Had they said, "The testimony is not sufficient to convince us," they might have merited more respectful treatment, but they bluntly affirm that his statement is false. [137]

      14. Though I bear record of myself, my record is true. A man is not usually competent to bear witness of himself on account of the frailty of human understanding and must have corroborative testimony. I suppose that Mahomet, Ellen Smith, and other enthusiasts really thought that they were inspired. But Christ was not subject to human limitations. He knew himself, what he was, whence he came, whither he would return, the secrets of his Father, was dowered with omniscience, and hence, was qualified to speak absolute truth. No man understands even his own being, but Christ knew all things, and hence never spoke doubtingly, or hesitatingly, never stumbled, or had to change his answers. "He spake as never man spake."

      15. Ye judge after the flesh. They looked upon outward appearances, material forms, and judged, like the world, from a superficial examination. They had not the spiritual discernment that was requisite to the recognition of Christ as one that came from God. Some "have eyes and see not," because some things have to be "spiritually discerned." There must be a certain preparation of heart before one can receive or comprehend Christ. To coarse, sensual, worldly hearts he is an enigma; to "Greeks" of every age, "foolishness; and to Jews a stumbling block." I judge no man. Re knows men, but he lets their own deeds judge them. When he sits on the throne of eternal judgment and the "books" are opened and men see their lives, they will not need that he judge them. Their consciences will approve or condemn.

      16. If I judge, my judgment is true. He came not into the world to judge the world, but to save it, but he does not refrain from judging because he could not pass a judgment that was infallibly true. His Father would judge in him, and all lives were "naked and opened" to the sight of the Father.

      17. It is also written in your law. The Jewish law which they accepted as divine. It declared (Deut. 19:15) that the testimony of two witnesses was to be accepted. In this case, besides his own witness, there was other testimony to confirm it. It will be noticed that Jesus does not say our law. He never classes himself with the Jews.

      18. The Father that sent me beareth witness of me. There was his own testimony that he came from the Father. Then, there was in addition, the testimony of the Father. The witness of the Father was given in all the Prophets who spoke of Christ, was given at the Baptism by testimony from [138] heaven, was given in the divine wisdom, sinless nature, and mighty works of Christ, for "no one could do these things unless God was with him." The divine presence was manifested in his life to such a degree that when Philip inquires for the Father (John 14:8) the Savior's reply is in a tone of sorrow: "Have I been so long time with thee and hast thou not known me?"

      19. Where is thy Father? This question is asked, not for information, but in a scornful spirit. They could not see his Father, therefore they disputed his words. The Savior strikes at the root of their difficulty in his reply: Ye neither know me, nor my Father. Had they known Christ this would have led them to a knowledge of the Father, for it is thus we learn to know God, by beholding him manifest in the flesh. The mighty Jehovah, clothed in majesty and sitting on his throne in the heavens, may be above our comprehension, but the Savior, weeping with tenderness and beaming with love, we can comprehend. On the other hand, it is a demonstration that men know not God who do not recognize Christ, for "in him is the fulness of the Godhead." By their rejection of Christ these Pharisees demonstrated that they "knew not God."

      20. These words spake Jesus in the treasury. The treasury of the temple was in the court of the women, the most public part of the temple. See Mark 12:41; Luke 21:1. The mention of the locality shows the boldness of the Lord's teaching. The Sanhedrim held its sessions, usually, in the hall Gazith, which was situated in the wall between the court of women and the inner court. Jesus was teaching within hearing of the very headquarters of his enemies, from whence had issued the orders, shortly before (Chap. VII. 32, 45), for his arrest. "Yet no man laid hands on him; for his hour was not yet come." Until the passover, six months in the future, that the plans of his enemies should all fail, and "his hour should not come," was clearly known to the Lord.

      21. I go my way, . . . ye shall die in your sins. We now pass to another stage in the discourse, either continued at that time, or resumed by a connection of thought, afterwards. His words are no longer confined to the Pharisees, but addressed to "the Jews," the whole class of official opposers, and he carries them forward to judgment. He will depart and they shall seek him when it is too late and shall not find him but die in their sin (see Revised Version), the sin of rejecting the only Savior who could save them from their sins, and the result will be that where he is they cannot come. The meaning of his words is plain in the light of subsequent events. 1. He went [139] back to heaven from the cross, the tomb, and the Mount of Ascension. 2. These Jewish hearers will die in their sin. 3. Therefore, they cannot go where Christ will have gone. 4. In other words, those who die in sin cannot find entrance into heaven. Coupled with the next three verses it is strongly opposed to the doctrine of universal restoration, as it is also, to an effectual repentance upon the death bed. It teaches us to "seek the Lord while he may be found," for the time comes when men shall seek him and not find him.

      22. Will he kill himself? I do not suppose that these "Jews" were so dull as their question implies. They probably asked this question in scorn. They did not understand the Lord because they did not want to understand. They mean that, as he proposes to go where they cannot come, he must be going to Gehenna, where all suicides go, rather than to heaven, where all Pharisees expected to go. The Jews placed suicides along with murder and held that the darkest regions of the under world were reserved for those who were guilty of the crime.

      23. Ye are from beneath. Their words were full of mockery and the Lord increases his severity. Understanding their allusion to the world beneath in their question, he replies, "You are from beneath," earthly, fleshly, worldly, of a spirit that will cause you to go to your own place, but I am from above. Hence, when he "goes away," he will return whence he came.

      24. I said therefore, ye shall die in your sins. Because "they are from beneath," "of the world." The only way that there is of escape from the fearful fate that he predicts is stated: "If ye believe not that I am, ye shall die in your sins." Their unbelief was due to their obstinacy and wilful blindness; there is still one door of hope; that is belief on him. He who dies in unbelief dies in sin.

      25. Who art thou? He had said, "believe that I am;" they said, "believe that thou art what? Who art thou?" Their words were no doubt spoken with a sneer, as though they said, "Whom, then, dost thou fancy thyself to be?" His answer is not such as he was wont to give to honest, earnest seekers, but such as mockers merited: "Even the same that I said from the beginning." I refer you to my words and what they testify of me. His teaching was a demonstration of his character. This answer of Christ has provoked much discussion, not so much concerning its meaning, as its proper [140] translation. The early Greek Fathers, such men as Chrysostom and Cyril, men who spoke Greek as their native tongue, held that the Savior said, "Why am I even speaking to you at all?" Or, in other words, Why will he condescend to speak at all to men upon whom his words are wasted? This gives a clear and harmonious idea.

      26. I have many things to say and judge of you. Still he continues to speak. His words will only make them more bitter, but he represents divine truth and the message must be given to the world. He will only speak what he "has heard" of God, though he has much to say in the way of admonition and censure.

      27. They understood not that he spake of the Father. They were so pre-occupied with thoughts of earthly things that they did not perceive what is so plain to us, that he declared that he would not speak his own words and judgments, but only what he "had heard of the Father." He had not designated by any title the One who had sent him. His meaning, to them, was partly veiled, as in his parables, in order that unawares, some seeds of truth should find a lodgment in their hearts. As Alford says: "There is no accounting for the ignorance of unbelief, as any minister of Christ knows by painful experience."

      28. When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am. Though his Jewish hearers did not understand the import of his words, they are clear to us. The "lifting up" always points to the cross, and this victory of his enemies and humiliation of the Son of God, is always pointed to as the crisis in which his cause is won and his salvation made sure. Two years and a half before, in the interview with Nicodemus, he had said, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have eternal life." He taught in these and other passages that his "lifting up" would be the means of breaking down unbelief and leading men to "know him." The prediction was realized. His disciples were few in number until after he died, but the very act that his enemies fondly hoped would blot his name from history was the means of filling the world with believers. Fifty days after his crucifixion thousands of those who had "crucified and slain" him, cried, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" A few weeks after thousands more of those concerning whom Peter said, "I know that through ignorance you crucified the Lord of life and glory," became believers. Thus the work went on until the cross became a badge of honor, instead of a symbol of [141] shame. The Lord, and indeed the whole Scripture, points to the death of Jesus as the central act of the Christian religion. It is his death that gives life to the world.

      29. He that sent me is with me. He always has a sense of the presence of the Father. He was not so much an ambassador from God, as "the Brightness of the Father's glory and the express image of his person," the manifestation of God. I do the things which please him always. "Always" is emphatic. He was completely resigned to the will of the Father. Even in Gethsemane his prayer was, "Not my will, but thine be done." Because his will was lost in the will of God, the "Father did not leave him alone." So, too, every child of God can have a consciousness of the presence of the Father if he will always do those things that please him.

      30. Many believed on him. From the instructions that follow it is evident that they did more than give assent to the proposition that he was an inspired man of God. They were evidently moved in heart to trust and follow him.


JESUS AND ABRAHAM.

      31. If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed. The words spoken by the Savior in the preceding discourse convinced many of his hearers. They "believed on him," but their faith was not yet made perfect by obedience. Hence he adds the conditions of discipleship. They must do more than believe; their belief must move them to accept his word and obey it. There is a condition, continue in my word; a promise, shall be my disciples. To abide in the word, is the condition of being Christ's disciples. This harmonizes with the entire gospel. The New Testament nowhere teaches justification by a faith that does not lead to obedience.

      32. And ye shall know the truth. Disciples are learners. Their object is to know the truth. The way to know the truth is, not to engage in study, but to obey the truth. He declares (John 7:17): "If any man will do his will he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God." This shows that the best way to silence doubts is to practice the duties of Christian life. It is certain that the faithful doers of the will of God are not the doubters, and it is also certain that those who become skeptics begin by neglecting their duties. Those who walk devoutly in the footsteps of Christ are not troubled by doubts. And the truth shall make you free. The truth known through obedience to Christ's words. Too often churches seek to bring those who would obey Christ into bondage to creeds, traditions of men and human forms. The gospel obeyed frees--frees from the yoke of Satan, from spiritual task-masters, from fear, fills the soul with hope and the free spirit of a man who serves the Father from love. [142]

      33. They answered. Probably not the Jews who believed, but the opposers in the throng. We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage. It was the proud boast of the Jews that they were descendants of Abraham. They trusted in their blood rather than in obedience to the God of Abraham. Their proud language was false. Their nation had been in bondage for over six hundred years, to Babylon, to Persia, to Macedon, to Syria, to Rome. It had been in bondage to idolatry in past time and was scourged by God with the captivity. It was at that very moment in bondage to Rome politically, and spiritually to the Rabbis, to tradition, to human commandments, to spiritual pride, and to sin. Those are most deeply enslaved who call their bondage freedom.

      34. Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. According to his custom, Christ makes no direct argument in reply, but states a truth and leaves them to apply it. The sinner is the slave of sin. Action forms habit, and habit is a second nature. We say of the drunkard, the tobacco chewer, the opium eater, the swearer, or the gambler, that he is the slave of habit. The same principle is involved in all evil doing, which tends to fasten evil habits upon the soul. Whoever sins is binding upon himself the chains of slavery. This is a law of our being. How many there are who become conscious of their weak, sinful condition and sigh for deliverance. See Rom. 7:9-24.

      35. The servant abideth not in the house forever. The servant has no claim to remain continually in the same family, but may be changed at will. The son can remain because he is a son. Hagar, the bondwoman, was sent forth from the home of Abraham. The Jews, bondmen instead of children, who claimed that they dwelt in the house of God and enjoyed his favor, would soon be expelled; only those who were made free by the Son and thus become children would continue to abide in the Lord's house.

      36. If the son, therefore, shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. Ye are not truly free, but servants of sin, children of the bondwoman who was cast out. If you would be free indeed you must have the freedom that the Son bestows and become children. In order to fully comprehend the figure read Gal. 4:19-21, which is the best commentary on this verse.

      37. I know that ye are Abraham's seed. He admits their boast that they are the fleshly children of Abraham, "but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you;" a proof that they were not spiritually Abraham's children. Abraham had no such spirit. John the Baptist found it needful to rebuke the Jewish boast, and declared "God could of these stones raise up children to Abraham," a hint that the children of the promise should be Abraham's children, not by fleshly descent, but by the will of God.

      38. I speak that which I have seen with my Father. Jesus was the Son; he had dwelt in the Father's house; he declared what he had seen and heard there; this they rejected, and did what they "had seen with their father;" not Abraham, whom they claimed, but the father named in verse 44.

      39-43. Abraham is our father. To Christ's allusion to their father they again [143] assert that they are Abraham's offspring. This might be true according to the flesh, but spiritually they had another father. See verse 44. Ye seek to kill me. A thing totally unlike Abraham, and showing that they are not his spiritual children. Ye do the deeds of your father. The father named in verse 44. If God were your father. This is in reply to their claim that they are God's children. Their assertion is disproved by their hate of him who was sent from God. God's spiritual children would welcome "God manifest in the flesh." Cannot hear my word. They could not understand him, because they were morally incapable of hearing him. Satan, their father, had them captive, and their minds were so preoccupied, that they could not receive Christ's truth.

      44. Ye are of your father, the devil. He shows that there are two households on the earth; that of God, composed of his children; and that of the devil, composed of his children. All who hear the voice of Christ become God's children by adoption (Rom. 8:15-17), and all who refuse to hear him, do so because they belong to the devil's household and hear his voice. He was a murderer from the beginning. Not merely because he inspired Cain's murder of Abel, but because he seduced the human race into disobedience and sought to destroy it. The temptation in Eden was a case of attempted murder, and has resulted in all the murders of earth, and the [144] spiritual death of myriads. They (the Jews) were the children of a murderer; hence they sought to kill Christ (see verse 40).

      45. Because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. He has just declared that the devil is the father of liars and that they are his children; hence they would refuse to receive the truth. They had in them the spirit of their father which would lead them to reject the truth and to prefer falsehood. There are many such in the earth still, who fight against the truth and resort to every dishonest quibble in order to overthrow it. They do not love the truth and this has so warped their nature that they will believe a lie more readily than the truth.

      46. Which of you convinceth me of sin? He points to his sinless character as a proof that there can be no falsehood in his words. The argument is: "If I am not the Son of God, find out some human defect or weakness that proves that I am only a man, and therefore, imperfect like all others." This is Christ's method with deists. Point out a single flaw in his matchless character. You cannot. Then listen to the words of the sinless man as to a voice from heaven. "If I am not convicted of any sin, I speak the truth. Why then do you not believe me?"

      47. He that is of God heareth God's words. These Pharisees claimed to be of God, but proved they were not by rejecting the words of the Son.

      48. Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? They resort to the language of passion and vituperation. Of all men they hated the Samaritans most and hence this charge; they next accuse him, not of having a devil, but being possessed with a demon, or evil spirit. The charge had been before made that he cast out devils by Beelzebub the prince of devils. See Matt. 12:24. The evil spirits, or demons, are represented as fallen angels (2 Peter 2:4); subject to Satan (Matt. 9:34); working miracles (Rev. 16:14).

      49. I honor my Father. He passes by in silence their first charge; the second he denies, and shows that it cannot be true, for he honors his Father, which a demon could not do; and yet the Jews dishonored him, while he honored the Father.

      50. I seek not mine own glory. He cared little therefore for their abuse, and sought not to defend himself. The "one that seeketh and judgeth" would take care of his reputation. God's children may disregard the unrighteous judgments of men, but God will Judge righteously. [145]

      51. If a man keep my word, he shall never see death. Here again is a condition and a promise. Notice 1. Its universal character. If any one, Jew or Gentile, male or female, bond or free. 2. The condition: Keep my words. Again, obedience essential; no life without it; by obedience we are not only freed, but enter into life. 3. Shall not see death. Death of the body is not reckoned death, but merely the gate through which the believer enters upon a more perfect life. "They who live and believe upon him shall never die."

      52. Abraham is dead, and the prophets. Everybody had died, even the best and greatest; how then could any one escape seeing death?

      53. Art thou greater than our father Abraham? Their argument is: They that heard the word of God are dead, and shall they who have heard thee not die? Their question is asked in scorn. Compare with John 4:12.

      54. If I honor myself, my honor is nothing. They had just asked: Whom makest thou thyself? The Father, who honoreth him, will settle that question by his resurrection from the dead and exaltation.

      55. Ye have not known him, but I know him. They claimed to be worshipers of Abraham's God. He now shows, that despite their claims, they did not know him, but that he knew and revealed him. Nor could he deny it, for he must tell the truth.

      56. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day . . . and was glad. Saw it in promise by prophetic vision; whether or not "Abraham was greater" he rejoiced in the hope of the revelation of Christ.

      57. Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou soon Abraham? They do not attempt to give his age, but a round period that will cover it. It had been about 2,000 years since the time of Abraham. Jesus did not say he had seen Abraham, but they pervert his words. [146]

      58. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. A solemn and official declaration preceded by" Verily, verily." The utterance is a remarkable one. It does not merely assert that he was before Abraham, but, before Abraham was, I AM. It identifies him with the I AM of the Old Testament. Divinity has no past tense, nor future tense, but always the present. God is not eternity or infinity, but eternal and infinite. His hands are laid upon the past as well as the future.

      59. They took up stones to stone him. They regarded his language blasphemy. If he had been only a man it would have been. Hence, in a sudden rage, without waiting for a trial, they sought to inflict the penalty of blasphemy by mob violence. Stoning was the legal penalty of blasphemy, but could not be inflicted without a trial and judgment. But Jesus hid himself. Quietly disappeared in the crowd and departed from the temple, while they were raging around to gather stones. It is not probable there was a miracle, as he never worked one for his own benefit.


PRACTICAL OBSERVATIONS.

      1. This discourse embodies Christ's teaching concerning himself in the following points: (1) He is the light, the moral and spiritual illuminator of the world; (2) He is superhuman in his origin (verse 23); (3) The manifestation of the Father (verse 29); (4) The freer of those who obey his words (verses 31-36); (5) Sinless (verse 46); (6) The life-giver to those who obey him (verse 51); (7) The great I AM (verse 58).--Barnes.

      2. To become his disciples we must abide in his words. We must not only receive them, but obey them and continue to live in them. No one is his disciple who continues in disobedience.

      3. To secure life we must keep his words. There is no promise to any but those who seek to do his will. To those who make it their meat to do his will, the death of the body is only the opening of the portals of the eternal home.

      4. There are two households, two armies, two churches; one of Satan, and the other of God. He who does the will of Satan is of the first; he who does God's will as revealed by Christ, is of the second. It is easy for each one to determine where he belongs.

      5. All true Christians are brothers and sisters of Christ, and heirs with him of God his father. His riches are their riches; his joys, their joys; his character, their character; his home, their home.

      6. I AM.--The word "I am" in Hebrew is equivalent in meaning to Jehovah, and differs from it very slightly in form. This is much obscured by our substitution of Lord for Jehovah. The name, which Moses was thus commissioned to use, was at once new and old: old in its connection with previous revelations; new in its full interpretation and in its bearing upon the covenant of which Moses was the destined mediator.--Cook. And here we cannot but be reminded [147] of the remarkable words of our Savior (John 8:58), "Before Abraham was, I am." The expression is so strikingly parallel that we know not how to resist the conclusion that there was a real, though mysterious identity in the essential nature of the two speakers; so that whatever was meant by Jehovah in saying to Moses, "I am hath sent me to you," the same was meant by the saying of Jesus, "Before Abraham was, I am."--Bush.

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