<< John X: Spiritual Meaning and Commentary >>
This is not a new discourse, but a continuation of that recorded in the last chapter. The connection is evident in the literal sense. The Lord contrasts himself, as the Good Shepherd, with the Jewish teachers, as evil shepherds. No more beautiful description of the true and the false pastor could be given than that presented in the parable of the good shepherd. Still more intimate the connection, still more beautiful the description, in the internal sense, where its truths are seen in their universal application.
1, 2. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. The church on earth and in heaven is the Lord’s sheepfold. The aspect in which the church is presented is different under this figure from what it is when called by other names, as for instance a vineyard. A vineyard is the spiritual church, a sheepfold is the celestial. But the point here to be considered is the door of the fold through which the true shepherd enters, whose conduct is contrasted with that of thieves and robbers, who climb up some other way. As the Lord afterwards explains, a door is an evident symbol of that which introduces into the church; and lets in, either to truth, or to good, or to the Lord. Hence a door signifies truth itself, good itself, and the Lord himself; for truth leads to good, and good leads to the Lord. The doors and veils of the tabernacle and temple represented these. To enter the sheepfold by the Lord is to acknowledge, believe in, and love him, as he frequently taught. He who cntereth not by the door, but climbs up another way, is one who attempts to climb up to heaven by his own strength, and to gain admission in his own name. He who takes from the Lord what is his, and claims it for himself, is a thief and a robber. He robs the Lord of his merit and righteousness, of his redemption and salvation. Bobbing the Lord, he robs himself, and indeed he robs the Lord in himself, and thus robs himself of the Lord, or of his love and truth. In his mind Jesus is but a name, emptied of all significance and power. In a more abstract sense, false and evil principles in the mind are the thief and the robber, for these steal away all good out of the heart and all truth out of the understanding.
2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. In the supreme sense the shepherd is the Lord. In the secondary sense he is the faithful pastor. In the spiritual sense he is the faithful Christian. Sheep, in the abstract sense, are the graces of love and charity; and every one is a spiritual shepherd who cherishes these graces in his heart and cultivates them in his life. He, in imitation of his Lord, carries the lambs in his bosom, and gently leads those who are with young, or give suck. The fold itself is in his own warm heart, fenced about with truths in a careful and enlightened understanding. The door by which he enters is his rational faculty, and is the acknowledgment, in the understanding from the heart, that the Lord is his shepherd, and that through him and in him. there is life and safety.
3 To him the porter openeth. This is not to be considered merely as a figure introduced to complete or adorn the parable. In the Word every thing is significant and significative. Who then, and what, is this porter? The shepherd and the porter are distinguished from each other as love and wisdom. Wisdom is the guardian of what love cherishes as a treasure. Wisdom or intelligence is the watchman on the wall, the porter at the gate. It gives warning of the approach of the enemy or of the friend, and shuts the door to exclude the one, or opens it to admit the other. It is the same if we say that charity is the shepherd and faith the porter, for faith keeps the door of the heart where charity dwells. Therefore to Peter, who represented faith, were given the keys of the kingdom; and they were given to him when he had acknowledged Jesus to be ” the Son of the living God,” (Matt. xvi. 16, John vi. 69). The porter opens the door to the shepherd of the sheep. Wisdom opens the way for the entrance of love. ]STo one reaches the primary principle of love but through the secondary principle of wisdom; no one comes to genuine. charity but through faith. There may be natural charity before there is faith, but faith is necessary to make charity spiritual, which is the same as saying that truth is required to make good genuine, and wisdom is needed to make love pure and useful. Of the shepherd it is said, And the sheep hear Ins voice. In speech, sound expresses affection, and articulation thought. The sheep hearing the shepherd’s voice means that those who are in charity to their neighbour are receptive of the Lord’s love. They perceive his truths, indeed, and even with greater perfection than others, but his love is that which primarily affects them. Their every thought is affection thinking. The Lord addresses himself to their thought as well as to their affection. He calleth his own sheep by name. A name is expressive of quality or character. The Lord knows the quality of every one, and adapts his teaching, as he adapts all the operations of his providence, to their character and state. His calling them by name implies also that he gives them to know their own character, and to know him through this knowledge of themselves, for when the Lord speaks, he speaks not only to us but in us. Thus he knows his own sheep by name; and knowing their quality, he leads them out. To lead the sheep out means, to draw forth the affections of charity from the inner man to the performance of works of charity in the outer life. It is thus that the Lord affects, instructs, and leads us.
4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them. The ancient custom of shepherds leading their flocks, not driving them, affords a beautiful symbol of the conduct of the Divine, and of every spiritual shepherd. The faithful pastor reproves as well as instructs, but in both he goes before his flock, leading them by his example. The shepherd’s going before his sheep implies also their intelligence to follow him, as it is said they do; and the reason is given, that they know his voice: In the previous verse it is said that the shepherd “leads” his sheep; here it is said that “he putteth them forth.” When man is under the instruction of truth he is “being led to good, and when he has attained a state of good, he goes forth to the discharge of all the duties which truth teaches and which good delights in performing.
5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him; for they know not the voice of strangers. As the shepherd is one who appeals to his flock by truths grounded in good, the stranger is one who appeals to them by falsity grounded in evil. The sheep, therefore, will not follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they know not the voice of strangers.
6 This parable spake Jesus unto them; but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. The Lord’s parables were framed for the use of those who were without, and were commonly understood, as they were intended to be understood, by those to whom they were addressed. The Jews in general, and the Pharisees in particular, who heard this parable, did not understand it to represent that the faculty of perceiving truth was now so far destroyed in the Jewish church, that it was incapable of seeing the things that belonged to its peace. The Jews saw not the application of this parable to themselves. They knew the subject described, but they understood not the things as having reference to them or their teachers, or to Jesus himself.
7 The Lord, therefore, proceeds, contrary to his usual custom, to explain to them the meaning of the parable in its immediate reference to himself and them. Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. Did they understand this explanation? The question for us is, Do weunderstand it ? The Lord is the door as to his Divine Humanity. This is the great medium, brought in to unite in one all things that had been divided and rent asunder by evil introduced through the fall. Thus had been broken off the communication between heaven and the world, and between God and man. The Lord’s divine humanity became the door, through which God had access to man and man to God ; and as a consequence, all the channels of life and blessing were opened up through it anew. The Lord is thus the door of the sheep. Through him. there is admission into the church, on earth and in heaven, and security against evil.
8 All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers. This statement has been felt hard to be understood. It cannot mean that all pastors that preceded him were wicked, nor is it considered to relate to false Christs, none claiming that character having appeared before the Lord’s advent. If the natural reference is obscure the spiritual meaning is clear. All who ever came before Jesus are all who ever claimed pre-eminence for themselves, by teaching in their own spirit, and with a view to their own glory ; who have thus preferred themselves before him. These were thieves and robbers, as arrogating to themselves what belongs to the Lord. But, abstractly, those who came before the Lord are the principles of evil and falsity, which are directly opposed to his goodness and truth, which they even seek to steal out of the human heart and understanding. But the sheep did not hear them. The sheep are the affections of good and truth, or of charity and faith in the heart. Something of these had been preserved in the minds of men; and some persons in whom these affections had been active, had, in all ages, been a remnant saved from the general corruption and decay. These did not hear the evil shepherds—they did not suffer themselves to be seduced by evil and false principles.
9 The Lord again declares, I am the door ; but he repeats this truth to teach the use and benefit which we may derive from him as a medium. By me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. Salvation is through the Divine Humanity of the Lord. And he is the Saviour, because, having glorified himself, he is able to regenerate us. To enter through him is to pass through all states corresponding to those which he passed through. We can only be saved by being regenerated, and we can only be regenerated as the Lord was glorified. Those who are saved shall go in and out. To go in is to enter into states of love and charity, and to go out is to proceed from those inward states to outward acts of holiness and piety. The pastures which such find are the good and truth which recreate and sustain the soul, and which are received by those who acknowledge the Lord.
10 A contrast is now drawn between the true and the false shepherd. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy : I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. The evil of merit is specifically meant by the thief. But evil and falsity of every kind are of the same character; they come not, but for to steal, and kill, and destroy, that is, to alienate from, the mind all good and truth, and to kill with evil and destroy with falsity. But the Lord, with his good and truth, comes to the soul, to give it life, that is, the life of love and faith, and to give it abundantly. Specifically, love is life, and the life of love in the will reproduces itself by truths in the understanding, which is meant by life abounding.
11 The Lord had spoken of himself as the door, through which the shepherd enters; he now calls himself the shepherd, and not only the shepherd, but the good shepherd. The character here assumed by the Lord is one of the most prominent of those applied to Jehovah in the Old Testament; and, like many other titles and names, shows the identity of Jehovah and Jesus. Spiritually, the Lord is our shepherd as to his divine love, as he is the door as to his divine truth; or, what amounts to the same, he is the shepherd as to his divinity and the door as to his humanity. His Divinity enters into our minds through his humanity; his love enters through his truth. The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. What is called life is more properly soul. In a more external sense, the soul which the Lord laid down was that which in Gethsemane was exceedingly sorrowful even unto death, and which died upon the cross. Of the two terms which are translated life in the New Testament, one signifies the life of the internal ninn and the other the life of the external, or, what is the same, one the life of love and the other the life of truth. The Lord was tempted, and suffered, and died as to his external man, the life of which he laid down; the life of his internal man was above temptation and all its concomitants. The external man is the seat of hereditary evil, and the truth which is first therein is obscured by appearances and fallacies. These the Lord laid down. But he laid down his life (his soul) that he might take it again. And when, by temptation, the last of which was the passion of the cross, the Lord put off all hereditary evil and all appearances of truth, through which he had been tempted, he took up the life of the external man and the life of truth in their perfection and power. And this new soul, which in the Lord is a quickening spirit, he gives to men; that as he lives they may live also.
12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth ; and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. A hireling is not one who receives hire for his work, but who works for the sake of hire, and whose only interest in his labour is its profit. A hireling is one whose own the sheep are not. Spiritually, he is one who has no charity and faith of his own. He has them, but does not possess them. One of the characteristics of the real shepherd is, that he defends the sheep, even at the expense of his own life. The hireling does not lay down his life for the sheep. His love for charity and faith arc not strong enough to make him give up self and the world for their sake. He flees at the very approach of danger. He offers no resistance to evil. When ” he seeth the wolf coining, he leaveth the sheep, and iieeth.” The wolf is in our own hearts; but when our fear of the wolf is greater than our love of the sheep, or when our fear of death is stronger than the love of life, the sheep will be given up to their enemy, who will seize and scatter them. And here we see the complete dissipation of everything good and true in the mind, when good and truth are unresistingly yielded up to the power of evil and falsity; for evil seizes the sheep and falsehood scatters them, and thus they unitedly destroy everything heavenly, both in the will and in the understanding.
13 The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. It is of the very nature of a hireling to flee from danger. Those who place merit in righteousness have neither the motive nor the power to stand against temptation. When the lusts of evil and falsity break forth like the evening wolf, seeking to devour, and there is’ no real affection for goodness, no real resistance will be offered.
14 The Lord again says of himself, I am the good shepherd, and I know my sheep, and am known of mine. This reciprocal knowledge of the Lord and his people had been alluded to in the sheep knowing the shepherd’s voice; here their knowledge of him is more complete; and such reciprocation produces that completeness of conjunction which is expressed by the Lord being in his disciples and his disciples in him.
15 This conjunction between the Lord and man is the effect and the pattern of union between the Lord and the Father. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. From the reciprocal knowledge of him and of his people, the Lord turns to the reciprocal knowledge of himself and the Father. The cases are more than analogous, they are related to each other as cause and effect. The Lord asserts his perfect equality with the Father, which he so often and emphatically teaches. In the present instance, equal knowledge of each other is the mode of expressing equal infinity, for such knowledge must be infinite. And this infinite knowledge implies infinite union and oneness. The union of the divine and the human in the person of the Lord is the origin and exemplar of union between him and his children. And this union of the divine and the human was effected by the human laying down its life for the sheep. The Lord’s love for the human race, his desire for their salvation, was that from which he fought against all the powers of evil and darkness, and which made him lay down the life of his hereditary or maternal humanity. In tins the good shepherd is distinguished from the hireling ; the hireling does not lay down his life for the sheep.
16 But the Lord laid down his life for others besides those he calls his own. And other sheep have I, which are not of this fold: them also must I bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. In the proximate sense, the sheep whom the Lord calls his own, are the good who belong to his visible church, where the Word is; and the other sheep, which are not of this fold, are those scattered throughout the world, who live in mutual charity according to the religious light they possess. These are also the Lord’s sheep, whom he shall bring into his sheepfold, and take under his pastoral care. In a more interior sense, or higher application, the two flocks are those who constitute the two kingdoms of the Lord, the celestial and the spiritual; and the ingathering of the other sheep, which were not of the celestial fold, relates to the salvation of the spiritual, which was especially effected by the coming of the Lord. And not only does the Lord’s declaration point to a prospective result of his Incarnation in the natural world, but to an immediate effect which was to flow from it in the spiritual world. As this is a subject of great interest and importance, as exhibiting the grandeur and beneficence of the work of Redemption, in its immediate though unseen results in the eternal world, it may be well to consider it with some degree of minuteness.
The whole heaven is distinguished into three heavens, and into two kingdoms. This distinction did not exist actually, though it existed potentially, before the coming of the Lord. ” At that time the spiritual kingdom was not distinct from the celestial kingdom, as after the Lord’s coming, but was one with the celestial, though only its external.” Heaven, as it then existed, necessarily resembled the man of the most ancient church, from which it had been essentially derived. In the men of that church the understanding was not distinct from the will, as in the men of the succeeding church, but was one with the will, through its external. The celestial and spiritual kingdoms, which are the will and the understanding of the grand man, were thus circumstanced as they had been in the individual or least man.
When the Adarnic or most ancient church was consummated, and the Noetic or ancient church commenced, a miraculous change was effected in the condition of the human mind. The understanding was so far separated or discriminated from the will as to be able to act distinctly, and no longer as the unresisting instrument and echo of the voluntary faculty. No corresponding change was, however, then effected in the condition or form of heaven. The reason of this was, that no separate heaven or distinct kingdom could be formed of those who belonged to the spiritual church, till after the Lord had come into the world, and accomplished the works of redemption and glorification. The Lord, by his divine work in the flesh, redeemed angels as well as men, and ordinated heaven as well as subjugated hell. As part of the more perfect order which the Lord’s divine works introduced into the spiritual world, heaven was formed into two distinct kingdoms. The spiritual kingdom, which had formed the external of the celestial kingdom, acquired a distinct individuality, and became the nucleus of the new heaven and new kingdom formed of those who had remained in the world of spirits from the time of Noah (1 Pet. iii. 20), whom the Lord released after his resurrection, and raised into heaven at his ascension. This was that great deliverance and beatification which had been foreshadowed in the emancipation of Israel from Egyptian bondage, their journey through the desert, and their entrance into Canaan. The Lord’s divine work had the effect of making the two kingdoms at once more distinct and more united. One part of that work consisted in the Lord’s effecting an absolutely perfect distinction and union between the principles of goodness and truth in his own person, by the glorification of his humanity. That distinction and that union in him, are the origin and the archetype of their distinction and union in heaven and the church, and in the human mind. We therefore find in the Word predictions both of a distinction and a union of these two kingdoms at the time of the first advent. The separation of the spiritual kingdom from the celestial is described representatively by the division of the kingdom of Israel into two kingdoms, after the time of Solomon (1 Kings xii.), and prophetically by the cleaving of the mount of Olives in the midst when the feet of the Messiah rested upon it (Zech. xiv. 4); and the union of the two kingdoms is described in the numerous predictions of Judah and Israel being again united into one glorious and enduring kingdom, under the endless reign of one king—the Messiah.
Those whom the, Lord raised up and formed into the new spiritual kingdom, were the other sheep the Lord had, which he was to bring, which should hear his voice, and should combine with his own sheep to form one fold, under one Shepherd.
17 The Lord now speaks of the means by which his flock were to be gathered into one. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. We are not to look at this from a natural point of view. A human father may love his son more or less as he is more or less obedient. The Divine Father does not love thus. He loves more or less as his love is more or less received. The Father’s love in the Son could be increased, but the Father’s love for the Son could not. And here we observe that the Father loved the Son, not only because he laid down his life, but because he laid it down that he might take it again. The divinity entered into and filled the humanity so far as the hereditary life of the humanity was laid down; the divine love was united with the divine wisdom in the Lord’s humanity, so far as the appearances of truth, which adhered to it in the Lord’s early life, were removed. This removal was effected by means of temptations, the last of which was the passion of the cross. And when the merely human life and light were thus extinguished, and there was no longer any ground of temptation, the Lord took his life again, the life of his humanity now glorified by union with his essential divinity.
18 Of his life the Lord says, No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. His was a voluntary sacrifice, a free-will offering. He gave himself for us. “What love does this bespeak on his part! “What gratitude does it demand on ours ! Do we sufficiently reflect on the great truth which the Lord declares in these divine words ? Of the extent and intensity of his sufferings we can form no adequate conception. He had to contend for our redemption against the whole powers of darkness in the other world, and of evil in this. And yet, while he suffered as never man suffered, he possessed the power by which he could have destroyed his enemies. These words express another truth, relating to the Lord’s redemption. He carried on the conflict of temptation by his own inherent power. He was, so to speak, left to carry on this conflict alone. He was not indeed alone, for the Father was with him. But his human consciousness was alone in his states of humiliation. He then felt as a man and acted as a man. So distinct and separate was his human consciousness, that, in the hour of his greatest trial, it appeared to him as if the divinity were absent, and had forsaken him. All this was necessary. Redemption, and the union of his divinity and humanity, could not have been accomplished, unless the Lord had acted of himself from the depths of his human consciousness. The Lord as a man was in absolute freedom; he was free to lay down his life; and he laid it down of himself. Yet the divinity was not excluded from the Lord’s human freedom. In laying down his life, he obeyed a commandment he received from his Father. The humanity submitted to the will and complied with the requirements of the divinity. Not that Jesus acted in obedience to a formal command, but in agreement with a dictate of his indwelling divinity in all other cases he, as the Divine Truth, complied with promptings of his own Divine Love. The commandment which he obeyed was the law of infinite and unchangeable love. This was the commandment he received of his Father.
19-21. When the Lord had spoken these divine words, full of mercy as of wisdom, There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings. And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad ; why hear ye him ? Others said. These are not the words of him that hath a devil: can a devil open the eyes of the blind ? The people had been divided on account of his doings in respect to the blind man; and now they are divided on account of his sayings in regard to himself. The words as well as the works of the Lord tend to division. He came not to send peace on earth, but a sword, the sword of the Spirit, which divides between the evil and the good, the faithful and the unfaithful in the church, and between evil and good, and truth and error, in the individual mind. For this kind of judgment the Lord came into the world. Only by the separation of opposites can the church be restored and man be regenerated. This separation is the introduction of order. When things opposite in character range themselves on opposite sides, the principles of goodness and truth are brought into a heavenly form, as the means by which the opposite principles of evil and falsity are resisted and overcome. Those which range themselves on the evil side are they which say, ” He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him ?” They invert divine order, calling goodness demoniacal, and wisdom madness. And this they do that they may close the will against the admission of the Lord’s love. On the other hand, those which range themselves on the side of goodness, have a perception that truth cannot proceed from evil; and that evil cannot open the understanding to perceive the truth. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind ? There is a wisdom which comes from the tree of knowledge, as well as a wisdom that comes from the tree of life. I^ut how different are they in their character and results. One is sensual, the other is spiritual. By their fruits ye shall know them.
22 And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. This feast commemorated the purification and consecration of the temple by costly sacrifices, after it had been profaned by Antiochus Epiphanes. The date of that event prevents its being mentioned in any of the canonical books of the Old Testament; but the introduction of it by inspired writers into the New, gives the present reference to the commemorative feast a divine significance. The Lord himself was now about to complete the purification of the temple of his body by the grand sacrifice of himself, and to consecrate it, glorified to the service of the indwelling Deity. Hence he was about also to purify and sanctify to himself his mystical body the church; and those who now acknowledged him were among its first-fruits. But while it was the dedication with him and with those who confessed and favoured him, it was winter with the Jewish church in general, and with those in particular who decried and contemned him.
23. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch. Those who look no deeper than the letter tell us that Jesus walked in the porch of the temple to seek shelter from the inclemency of the weather. He had a higher purpose, and his act has a deeper meaning. This act had symbolic reference to the temple of his body, personal and mystical. The Lord stood, as it were, on the threshold of his glorification. He walked in the porch of that magnificent temple in which the divinity was to dwell, and according to the pattern of which his temple, the church, was to be sanctified, so that he might dwell with men, and be their God, and they his people. Solomon was an eminent representative of the Lord in his glory, that is, in his glorified humanity; and this porch, amed from him, is expressive of the Lord’s state, and the state of those with whom he there conversed.
24, 25. Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt ? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. It is remarkable that those who are little disposed to believe ask for some positive assurance—some one thing that shall convince them of some other and entirely different thing. The teaching and works of Jesus were much better testimony than his solemn asseveration. So he refuses to yield to their demand, and appeals to the works that he did in his Father’s name, as bearing witness of him. He had indeed told them before, and they believed not. Although this telling is not recorded, they must have received the information. But if they knew that he professed or claimed to be the Christ, why should they ask for a formal assurance that he was ? If they believed not his works, would they have believed his word ? He did his works in the Father’s name that is, in the spirit and power of the divine nature. His were the works of omnipotence and love, showing forth the attributes of the divinity that dwelt within him. What better evidence could men receive that he was indeed the Messiah ?
26 Their unbelief had another cause. It did not arise from want of evidence, but from want of the disposition to admit it. Ye believe not; because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. We have seen that the Lord’s sheep are they who are in love and charity. Not any chosen number are meant, to whom is given the gift of faith, but all who have the will to believe. This will is not indeed of man, but of the Lord, and he gives it to all who do not refuse it. Those who receive it are his sheep. The love of truth, which forms the foundation of faith, is from him. The cause of reception and rejection lies deeply seated in man’s free will., beyond another’s ken, as beyond his control.
27, 28. The Lord repeats his words, My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and then proceeds, And I give them eternal life ; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. Here we see that men may be his sheep, and yet require eternal life through the Lord’s work of salvation. Those who are in the good of charity are the Lord’s sheep, but good without truth is natural; truth makes it spiritual, for truth directs it , to a Divine object and to eternal ends, and thus gives to it eternal life. And when the good in man is thus enriched and confirmed by truth, it shall never perish, neither shall any pluck it out of the Lord’s hand, Those whose charity is united to faith, or whose good is united to truth, are safe in the Lord’s divine hand, which is his omnipotence. And that which is specifically meant is the omnipotence of his divine humanity, or of his divine truth. Those who are sincere in their charity, however simple and unenlightened they may be, are received into heaven, as the Lord’s sheepfold, when they enter the eternal world. They cannot, indeed, pass into heaven as angels, until their charity has been united to faith; but as all who are in good eagerly receive truth in the other life, they only remain in the middle state till they have entered into the marriage of charity and faith, when they enter, as a natural result, into heaven.
29 And not only are they in and under the protection of his divine Truth, but also of his divinity or Love. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no one is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. In the ” all”..-. the Lord includes himself, for he had said, ” The Father is greater than I.” How greater, if both are divine? Divine is greater than human, love is greater than wisdom, good is greater than truth, because one is the essence and the other the form; one is the producer, the other the produced. In this sense it is the Father is greater than the Son—than all. For this reason none is able to plucki them out of his Father’s hand. But this does not arise from the Father being greater or more powerful than the Son, as they are in themselves, but as they are in us. The Father is the Divine love; and when the love of God is in our hearts, the Father dwells in us, and we are in his hand; and the Son is the Divine wisdom; and when the Lord’s wisdom or truth is in our understanding, the Son dwells in us, and we are in his hand. Our Lord speaks of his sheep being both in his hand and in his Father’s hand, to teach us that those who are truly his people are both in faith and in love to him; and, although these two essential Christian graces are under the double protection of the omnipotence of his truth and love; yet, as love or charity is the greatest of Christian graces, it secures for the Christian the greatest protection, since it produces the closest union with the Lord. There is certainly something remarkable in the Lord’s declaration respecting his Father and himself. He first speaks of his own power as being such that none can pluck his sheep out of his hand, and then speaks of his Father’s power as being still greater than his own, and of those who are in his hand as being still more secure than in his own. Yet the Lord tells us that the Father hath given all power into the hand of the Son j and we know that the Divinity exercises all its power by the Humanity, that divine Love exercises all its power by divine Truth. The practical meaning is the real one. The Lord does not speak of the power of the Father and the power of the Son in the absolute but in the relative sense; not as they are in themselves, but as they are in us. Our love to the Lord is the Lord’s love in us; our faith in the Lord is his truth in us. The Father’s power in us is the power of his love in our hearts, the Son’s power in us is the power of his truth in our understandings. As love is the greatest of Christian graces, it enters most deeply into the affections of the heart, and most fully into the actions of the life. The Lord’s love in the heart is that which forms our best, and indeed, our only ground of security; and this our Lord teaches when he says, ” the Father gave them to me,” intimating that it is only those whose faith has its origin in love who can enjoy the security of his divine protection—the double protection of his truth and of his love. These are the hand of the Son and the hand of the Father, from which no power can pluck us.
30 But although the attributes, or rather essentials, of love and wisdom in the Lord are distinct, they are yet one and inseparable. I and the Father are one. Whether we speak of divinity and humanity, or of love and wisdom, in the Lord, unity is equally to be understood as necessarily belonging to them. We need not enter into the doctrinal idea, so as to present it under a controversial aspect. The unity of the Godhead must be a real unity. Two persons and one God present indeed the real idea of two, but not the real idea of one. But a real distinction and an equally real union are presented to the mind, when divinity and humanity are the two, and the person of the Lord Jesus Christ is the one. For the distinction and union are then seen to be as perfect as those of soul and body in man. And if we look at the subject under another aspect, it is the same. Love and wisdom in the Lord are like will and understanding in man, or, what amounts to the same, like charity and faith, or good and truth, in the mind. And here we may remark that the Lord’s words, ” I and the Father are one,” are equally true, whether we consider it applicable to the Lord himself, or to the Lord in the minds of the regenerate. The two essential principles are one in their divine source, and in their sincere human recipient.
31. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. We find in a future verse the reason of this meditated violence. We only remark here on its spiritual sense. The more exalted a truth is, and the more plainly it is declared to those who are in a negative spirit, the more violent is their hatred and opposition to it. This taking up stones to stone Jesus, symbolized an act of those who are spiritually opposed to the Lord’s truth. Stones signify falsities; and their taking them up signifies the raising of falsities out of the memory into the intellect, and thence holding them in readiness to destroy with them, if possible, the hated truth. It is remarkable that the infuriated Jews never actually stoned Jesus, even when they seized the stones with the intention of doing so. They were overawed by his calm and commanding presence, and restrained by his divine influence. We can hardly imagine more power than that exercised by the Lord over the Jews on these occasions. There is no intimation and no indication of fear, no shrinking in the presence of an infuriated people, burning with intense religious zeal to avenge what they regarded as an outrage on their faith. This power over his enemies must have been greatly increased by the words he addressed to them, and his manner in doing so.
32 Jesus answered them, Many good works have I showed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me ? The Lord had done many good works; and even his enemies could not convict him of having done an evil one. For which of those beneficent works did they intend to stone him? This question may still be asked of those who take up the weapons of falsehood to destroy the truth, which they hate but cannot gainsay. The Lord appeals to the good he had done from his Father, the very character of which evinced that they were done by divine power, and beneficent as well as divine. They were done from infinite love, this being indicated by the Lord’s declaration that they originated with his Father. If divine Truth acts from divine Love, and therefore does nothing hut good, against which particular good is the opposition directed ? To demand of man what particular good they oppose, is similar to demanding of them from what particular evil their opposition to good proceeds; thus it is the same as to ask them to examine themselves, in order to discover their particular sins.
33 The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not, but for blasphemy ; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. It has been often and well remarked, that these Jewish students of the Old Testament understood the Lord’s claim of unity with the Father to have been equivalent to his claiming to be God. It shows, however, that while they understood him as claiming to be God, they believed him. to be no more than man. Neither his works nor his teaching had impressed them with the idea that he had any claim to divinity. They considered him guilty of blasphemy in speaking of oneness with God. Yet they themselves were guilty of this sin, for they blasphemed the truth in turning the words of Jesus into falsehood. And this is still the cause of offence to the natural man, that “thou, being a man, makest thyself God.” Not simply the divinity of the Lord, but the divinity of his humanity, which the Lord’s claim implies, is the great stumbling-stone and rock of offence to the natural mind. This is the truth that the natural man denies and falsifies, and would willingly extinguish. It is, in his estimation, blasphemy for the Lord to say he is the Son of God. To say this is the same as to assert that his humanity is divine. For the Lord was the Son of God as to his humanity; and he was the Son of God, not only as born of Mary, when he came into the world, but especially as born of God, when he went out of the world. This birth was glorification, and to glorify is to make divine.
34-36. To the accusation that, in claiming to be the Son of God, the Lord made himself God, he answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods ? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken ; say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God ? The Lord condemns them by their own law. If those to whom the word of God came were thence called gods, Jesus, whom God had sanctified and sent into the world, could not blaspheme in calling himself the Son of God. The passage in the “law” referred to is in the 82d Psalm, “I have said, le are gods.” The reason of this application of the Divine name to men is to be found in its spiritual meaning. It is known that the name itself is in the plural form, and, when applied to the Divine Being, is considered to express excellence. But the spiritual ground of that form is, that the name is expressive of the divine nature as to truth, while Jehovah is expressive of the divine nature as to good: and Truth is manifold, but Good is one. God (Elohim) is therefore expressive of the Divine Truth in heaven and in the church ; and therefore is applied both to angels and men, as in. Psalms viii. 5; Ixxxii. 1,6; who are called gods from their reception of divine truths from the Lord. But if they are called gods to whom the word of God came, how much more entitled to the name of God must he be who is the Word of God itself, who was “in the beginning with God, and was God,” and who came to enlighten angels and men ? Those, spiritually understood, to whom the,word of God comes, are the regenerate; who, as such, are, “partakers of the Divine nature” (2 Pet. i. 4). But he whom the Father sanctified and sent into world, is the Eternal Word, the Holy One, begotten of the Father, and, as such, is not simply a partaker, but the possessor of the Divine nature, all the fulness of the Godhead dwelling bodily in him (Col. ii. 9). The name Son of God, we have seen, denotes especially the humanity glorified, this being truly the Son, by actual birth of the Father. Jesus by glorification is the Son in the divine sense, as we by regeneration are sons in the spiritual sense. The Lord speaks of being sanctified before being sent into the world. To be sanctified is the same as to be anointed. As the anointed, Jesus is the Christ. The holy oil was a symbol of the divine Love; and Jesus is the anointed as divine Wisdom filled with divine Love. Such was the Lord when he came into the world, as the Holy thing. In reference to the regenerate, the Son is sanctified, and sent into the world by the Father, when the Lord’s truth in them is receptive of his love, and, thus sanctified, is sent or comes forth from the heaven of the internal man into the world of the external, to redeem and save him.
37 If the Jews would not believe the word of Jesus, they might have believed his works. If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. Without entering into the dogmatic view, we may observe that, spiritually, there is a difference between the works of the Father and those of the Son. Those which are called his Father’s works are works in which the Divine love and mercy are more especially manifested; those which are called the Son’s works, are works in which the divine wisdom and truth are more especially manifested. In one sense all the Lord’s works are works of the Father, because, as he explains, the Father that dwelt in him did the works. But in this instance the Lord points out the only just ground on which they could reject his claim. “If I do not the works of my Father, believe mo not.” How were they to know whether the works of Jesus were the works of his Father? By not only knowing that his works were evidences of divine power, but that they bore the marks of divine love. But there are internal evidences of the divinity of the Lord’s works, which never fail to convince. The Lord does the works of the Father in his children, when he does the works of love in their hearts. And unless we suffer these works to be done in us, we cannot believe in the Son. And this is in agreement with the Lord’s words, ” No one can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.”
38 But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works; that ye may know, and believe that the Father is in me, and I in him. Every one knows with certainty a good work, but every one does not with equal certainty know a true word. The heart is a still better judge than the understanding, and the Lord appeals from the intellect to the heart. “If ye believe not me, believe the works.” Those which the Lord did spoke for themselves. ” No man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.” But the Lord appealed to his works, as evidences that the Father was in him, and also that he was in the Father. How could any one behold the stupendous and beneficent works which Jesus performed, and yet refuse to believe that they proceeded from an indwelling divinity ? But there are other works besides those outward works. Those which carry conviction with them, are the works which are done in the heart itself. The works that change the heart are the Father’s works, and they produce belief in the Son, and in the union of the Divine and Human, and of Divine good and Divine truth in the Lord the Saviour.
39 Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand. Those who are not the subjects of the works of love, so far are they from being converted to belief in the words of truth, that they are exasperated against them, and seek even to destroy them. The unbelieving still seek to lay hold on Jesus. The evil are desirous to subject truth to their own power. But the Lord provides against this, by removing the truth from their presence, and thus from their power; it escapes out of their hand. This is another of his miraculous escapes. There could have been, in the case of Jesus, none of those stratagems or disguises by which, under similar circumstances, mere men escape from the power of numerous, exasperated, and eager enemies. These did not properly constitute a mob, the confusion of which might give the Lord an opportunity to escape. They were around him as hearers, disputing with him and with each other, and a part of them were sufficiently united in design and action to have effected their purpose, had there been nothing in the character and power of Jesus to render their attempt abortive.
40 When Jesus escaped out of their hand, he went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized; and there he abode. Jesus may be said to have sowed in the ground which John prepared. As John represented the letter of the Word, and Jesus was the Word itself, the Lord completed and perfected in himself and in his church all the states that had their beginning in John and in his work. Jesus goes away again beyond Jordan, to those without the church, and into the extremes, where the sphere of Divine Truth terminates, as it flows into the humanity and into the human mind, and thence begins to reascend to glorification and regeneration. ” Beyond Jordan,” is out of the holy land, but where there is entrance into it. ” The place where John at first baptized,” is the state in which the first purifying effect of repentance is experienced. But when Jesus comes and abides there, the baptism of the Holy Spirit and of fire succeeds to that of water. The outward man has been purified by self-denial ; the inward man is now imbued with the spirit of truth and love. The higher gift comes when the lower duty is faithfully performed. Jesus cometh after John.
41 And many resorted unto him, and said, John did no miracle: but all things that John spake of this man were true. The people resorting to Jesus shows reciprocation. Reciprocation is salvation. It is not the Lord’s coming to us that actually saves us; it is our coming to him. He is always coming to us, and is always drawing us, that we may come to him. Our being drawn, attracted, our coming—this is actual life. Those who thus came to him said, ” John did no miracle.” This absence of all miraculous testimony on the part of John has often been remarked. It shows that miracles are not the necessary credentials of a divine messenger. Rational evidence is that which belongs to a spiritual dispensation. Here is the true witness, the real test—” all things that John spake of this man were true.” To see the truth of all that the Scripture saith respecting Jesus as our Saviour is the grand point. To find him to be in us and to us all that the Scriptures have taught and promised, is more than all miracles and signs.
42 And many believed on him there. Belief was the result of finding in Jesus all that John had said respecting him, Happy are they whose faith in the Lord revives and vivifies in them the testimony of the “Word, and whose experience seals their intellectual convictions; who moreover find in Jesus the truth that makes them free. There, where John baptized, is the state in which the baptism of repentance brings forth fruits meet for repentance. There Jesus in duo time comes, and produces that living faith, which makes those who receive it the true disciples of Jesus, the children of their Father in heaven.
Author: William Bruce –1870
Pictures: James Tissot—-Courtesy of the Brooklyn museum