<< John XII: Spiritual Meaning and Commentary >>
The resurrection of Lazarus representing the raising up of a church among the Gentiles, the beautiful narrative with which this chapter commences represents the Lord’s entering into a covenant of life with his church. Individually, it represents the reciprocal conjunction of the Lord and man after regeneration, which is spiritual resurrection, by the appropriation of good, which is represented by a supper.
1. Then Jesus, six days before the passover, came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. As this was the passover in connection with which the Lord was crucified these six days represent states of trial, ending in his last temptation, the passion of the cross, followed by his resurrection, which was his entrance into rest—rest from the labour of his combat with the powers of darkness—rest which was eminently represented by the Sabbath which follows the six days of labour; for the Lord’s state of glorification is Best itself, and the origin of spiritual rest to man. But every state of tribulation has rest for its beginning as well as for its end.
The state itself implies this. We would not know tribulation but for the rest which precedes it, nor would we know rest but for tribulation which has gone before it. In this respect spiritual is like natural life. Life begins with the peace of infancy, and ends with the peace of old age 3 between them there is a state of labour and trial, which changes the peace of slumbering, into the peace of conquered passions. But tribulation itself has its intervals of repose, like the resting-places of Israel in the desert, to give us a foretaste of the promised rest, and to refresh us in our laborious journey, of which it is to be the happy termination and exceeding great reward. There are some indications of this in the life of the Lord himself, who in all things was our great example. In the bosom of the loving family of Bethany, Jesus seems, humanly speaking, to have found occasionally a peaceful retreat from the persecuting hatred of his Jewish enemies. He had blessed and brightened the home of Martha and Mary, by restoring to them their beloved brother, who had been dead and was now alive again. Here, during an interval of rest, did the Lord representatively bind to himself the church, which was to be raised up among the Gentiles through the power of his own resurrection. And here did he, in being a guest in the house of Martha and Mary, give an expressive symbol of his presence in the mind where love reigns, and has been rendered more loving by the restoration to it and union with it of a true and living faith.
2 There they made him a supper: and Martha served: but Lazarus was one, of them that sat at the table with him. The supper made, for Jesus may be considered to have some analogy to the sacrificial feast of the Israelitish church. These were regarded in the light of food partly offered to God, and partly consumed by man. The offering was considered as an outward expression of an inward feeling, either of contrition or of thanksgiving, and was nothing without it. The various offerings’ wer;e representatives of human affections, devoted to God, the acceptance of which brings the worshipper into a spiritual and saving relation with thev Object of his love and worship. And as all our offerings to God are but the return to Him of the gifts lie has bestowed upon us, our feasts and sacrifices become the means of conjunction with him, they are covenants between God and our own souls. When we take an interior view of the subject of the present narrative, we must regard the Lord as the guest of those who are members!of the household of faith. Every humble mind is a house where the Lord may be entertained as a guest; for he who dwells in the high and holy place does not disdain to dwell with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit (Is. lvii. 15). He is present with such a one in his glorified humanity, as he was with Lazarus and his sisters in his yet frail human nature. He dwells in our hearts by his love, and in onr understandings by his wisdom. It is here, in our humbled and purified minds, that the Lord sups with us and we with him. There are various feasts at which the Lord may be present, but they all resolve themselves into this. For whether we offer him the homage of our love and faith, in the services of the church, or in the business of the world, there is no real offering but that of the heart and life. The evangelist is particular in stating that Martha served, but that Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Martha, we have seen, is the natural affection, or love, of goodness and truth, by which we mean love that is spiritual in its essence, but natural in its form and manifestation—spiritual love in the natural mind. The proper function of this love is to serve. In serving the spiritual love, and through it the divine love, natural love is in its true place and in the performance of its right use. The recorded circumstance that Martha served, is therefore expressive of a state of spiritual order existing in the mind, in which the Lord can be present with his love and truth. While Martha serves, she utters no complaint at serving alone, nor asks the Lord to bid Mary that she help her, as she had done on a previous occasion (Luke x. 40).
This now willing acquiescence in the condition assigned her, and joyful performance of its duties, are expressive elf the voluntary submission of natural to spiritual love, and through it to the divine love itself. While Martha served, Lazarus was one of them that sat at meat with Jesus, for whom the supper was made. Thus, at the same table sat Jesus, the Resurrection, and Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead, the Giver and the receiver of life. Lazarus being one of those who sat at meat is expressive of the circumstance, that faith, which had died out of the mind, as a natural principle, was now-restored to it as a spiritual principle, and brought into communion with the Lord, and into conjunction with the spiritual and natural affections from which it had been separated. In this singular and blessed meeting we may see an image and a foretaste of the state described and promise given by the Lord himself. ” Behold, I stand at the door and knock : if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come into him; and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Rev. iii. 20). Lazarus had overcome death itself. He had been called up from the dead by the voice of Jesus; but so is every child of the resurrection. Divine power is the only power that can raise us from death unto life, nevertheless, we are not passive during the work of resurrection. We must hear the Lord’s voice, and we must obey it. And that which was the act of a moment in the case of Lazarus, is the work of a lifetime with the regenerate.
3. The principal incident, for the sake of which the others are introduced, is that which comes now to be noticed. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. In this beautiful act Mary expressed her gratitude for her brother’s restoration to temporal life. What must be the gratitude which one feels for the restoration of a soul to spiritual life; and what the joy of angels over one sinner that repenteth ! This being the restoration represented by the resurrection of Lazarus, we are to consider Mary’s act as having the same representative character. And having to consider the resurrection of Lazarus as representing the resurrection to life of the spiritual principle of faith in ourselves, we have to regard Mary’s offering as one arising out of the new life, bestowed by him who is the life itself. We have already seen that Mary is a type of spiritual love, the sister to the natural love represented by Martha, Lazarus representing the intellectual principle of the- church, raised up to a perception of the Lord’s truth, and to the reception of a living faith, of which he is the Author and the Object. Thus restored, the mind, from its inmost affection, pours out its offering of- love and gratitude to the Lord, as the merciful giver of eternal life. This offering is the ointment which Mary poured upon the feet of Jesus. Ointment is emblematical of love. This offering is precious, and therefore costly. It is precious, because love is the most excellent of all graces, and costly, because it cannot be purchased but at the expense of all that we have. Little is said in the Word respecting the particular ointment used by Mary, nothing that can lead us to a better knowledge of its quality than its costliness and its fragrance. With this ointment Mary anointed the feet of Jesus. According to Matthew (xxvi. 7) and Mark (xiv. 3), Mary anointed his head. It is reasonably conjectured that Mary anointed both the head and the feet of Jesus ; and many think that the evangelists recorded the circumstance as they observed it, or as it impressed them. Believing that they wrote from divine inspiration, the difference is not the result of human but of divine choice, for the purpose of teaching the same truth as seen by persons in different states of perception.The gospels describe events with reference to the different and advancing states of the Lord’s glorification, and of man’s regeneration. In the progress of both these works, the internal is first made new and the external afterwards, according to the Lord’s words, Cleanse first that which is within, that the outside may be clean also” (Matt. xxiii. 26). In agreement with this, the first two gospels record the anointing of the Lord’s head, and the last the anointing of his feet, which describes the glorification, first of the internal, and afterwards of the external, of his humanity. And we shall see that the Lord regarded this anointing as having reference to his glorification, since Mary, he said, had done it to his burying. There is a peculiar significance in Mary anointing the feet of the Lord, as may be learned from what the Lord himself said when he washed his disciples feet, ” he that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit.” When the internal has been purified, nothing remains but to purify the external, and then the regenerate person is wholly clean. John describes the anointing of the Lord’s feet, because his gospel has more especial relation to the Lord’s glorification as a completed work, and because the Lord’s final and complete glorification was, as he himself said, now at hand. The Lord’s head had already been anointed. His humanity had already been glorified internally; its glorification to the very ultimate degree was about to be completed by the passion of the cross; and this, as seen by the more fully regenerate, was now foreshadowed by Mary anointing his feet with the precious ointment. It is well known that the Christ and Messiah mean anointed. The Lord was the anointed of Jehovah. The holy oil with which he was anointed was the divine love. But the Lord was not only the anointed of Jehovah, he was also the anointed of the church, and this anointing was represented by that of Mary. By receiving the divine love, Jesus became one with Jehovah; by receiving human love, he becomes one with the church. And when we speak of the church, we speak of one as well as of many. Where love and faith are, there is the church. When Mary anointed the feet of Jesus, if her precious ointment was a true expression of the precious grace of love dwelling in and coming from her heart, hers was an actual as well as a representative anointing of the Lord with love, and an actual union with him by love.—After anointing the feet of Jesus with the precious ointment, Mary wiped them with her hair. Much is said in Scripture respecting the human hair. The most striking instances of its evidently symbolical character are those of the Nazarites, and of the Lord himself, whom the Nazarites represented. As a Nazarite, Samson’s superhuman strength was in his hair, which can only be understood in any consistently religious sense, when that judge of Israel is considered to be a type of the Lord as the Redeemer. The hair of Samson was a symbol of the natural humanity which the Lord assumed, as the medium by which his divine power was brought down into the natural world, for the deliverance of mankind. This may be expressed in another form. The Lord came into the world as the Word, or divine Truth itself; but in order to redeem man, he who from eternity had been the Word or divine Truth in first principles, became the Word or divine Truth in ultimates; for in ultimates divine Truth is in its fulness and its power. Divine Truth in ultimates, as assumed by the Lord in the world for the purpose of redeeming mankind, was typified by the hair of the Nazarites, especially by that of Samson. It is in consequence of this sacred meaning of the hair, that when the person of the Lord was represented to John in Patmos, his head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow. Such being the meaning of the hair in reference to the Lord, it has a similar signification in regard to man. Of the numerous instances in which it is spoken of, there is one singularly apt in relation to the present subject. The strange compound creature which John saw ascend out of the bottomless pit, and which was the emblem of a religious principle that unites the most destructive qualities with the fairest appearances, is described as having the tail of a scorpion and the teeth of a lion, with the face of a man and the hair of a woman (Rev. ix.). The teeth of the lion and the tail of the scorpion were ready to destroy those who might be seduced by the appearance of the intelligence of a man and the affection of a woman. How dillerent the purpose and the use of Mary’s hair I She wiped with her hair the feet of her Saviour, which she had bathed with the precious ointment of her purest and tenderest love. As the Lord’s hair is his wisdom in ultimates, Mary’s hair is her love in ultimates—love in its power and in its beauty and glory. And as true love is never without its wisdom, this also is included in the meaning of her hair. The evangelist concludes his account of the anointing by saying, ” that the house was filled’with the odour of the ointment.” The oil used among the Jews for anointing was generally mixed with aromatics, and this was required in many cases by the law of Moses. Oil being emblematical of love, the aromatics which were mixed with it to give it a grateful odour, meant the wisdom which, combined with love, makes love delightful, the odour itself being expressive of the perception of love by wisdom. The perception of good by the will and the perception of truth by the understanding, are as odours which affect the sense of smell and colours which affect the sense of sight; hence the combined influence upon us of the varied fragrance and endless hues of the flowers of the field. So abundant as well as rich were the aromatics in Mary’s ointment, that when she poured it upon the feet of Jesus, the whole house was filled with its odour. The whole mind is filled with the odour of love, when it comes from a pure heart, and is enriched with a grateful sense of the Divine mercy and goodness in restoring the soul.
4-6. When Mary had anointed the feet of Jesus with her precious ointment, Then saith one, of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him. Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor ? This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. The character of Judas, as it here manifests itself, presents a remarkable contrast to that of Mary. Not only does Judas remain unmoved by the mingled love and humility of Mary, which her precious ointment and loosened tresses but poorly express, but he sees nothing in her offering but wasteful extravagance.
His complaint shows how mean are the ideas of degraded minds on the purest and worthiest acts of devoted affection. Judas, as a man, seems designed to exhibit that state of mind which regards everything as wasted which cannot be turned into the channel of self-interest. He seems a personification of avarice, which is the root of all evil But he is designed to hold up to our view the image of something more appalling than even this. He is the type of the lowest and grossest part, of our fallen nature, that corporeal principle which forms the deepest ground of our self hood, and which ever opposes itself to the higher ends and activities of the renewed inner man, and whose opposition is the more obstinate the higher and purer the internal affection. The twofold nature of this part of man’s degraded selfhood is indicated in the two names, Judas Iscariot, which are expressive of its quality, as being,evil and false. When it is added that it was he who should betray the, Lord, we are instructed further that it is the lowest principle of human nature which is the means of delivering the Lord into the hands of his enemies. Judas is also called one of his disciples. The twelve represented all the principles of human nature, as well as all the principles of the church, but Judas represented one of those principles perverted. A little child is corporeal in all his apprehensions of truth, but his innocence gives him a certain faith in it and affection for it. But when, instead of innocence, there is guilt, : and when besides guilt there is guile, these two, produce a character which is described as that of the traitor. But in censuring the waste Judas seems as if he were actuated by motives of charity. He asks why the ointment was not sold for three hundred pence and given to the poor. Money is symbolical of knowledge. Money is not wealtb, and knowledge is not wisdom, but its representative and means of obtaining it. To have sold the ointment, even for three hundred Eoman pence, would have been to exchange wisdom, and even goodness, for knowledge. To give to the poor was indeed in itself a good work, and it appears that the contents of the bag which Judas bare were often employed in ministering to the necessities of the indigent. But we learn that in making this proposal Judas had no more affection for the poor than he had for Ins Master. ” This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.” Spiritual theft consists in claiming to self what belongs to the Lord. This was eminently represented by the theft of Judas. And this theft of Judas was aggravated by his hypocrisy. He desired to deprive the Lord of what was due to him, but he did it under the pretence of concern for the poor. He had no regard for either, but only for his own aggrandizement. And such is the spiritual character which Judas represented. The spiritual Judas is one who uses religion as a means for his own aggrandizement, all that he possesses of it or cares for are its knowledges, which he carries in his memory, as Judas carried his Lord’s money in the bag, and uses it, like a thief, for selfish interest and his own glory, instead of his Master’s. It has often been remarked as something surprising, that Judas, whom his Lord knew to be dishonest, should have been entrusted with the bag. Does the circumstance not show that there was a spiritual reason for it, he being one of the twelve who was entrusted with it?
7 Even supposing Judas had been sincere in his plea for selling the ointment, the Lord did not admit the propriety or justice of his remark. Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. The Lord’s burying spiritually means his glorification, for when the maternal humanity was buried, and thus entirely put off, the Paternal humanity was fully put on, and became the Lord’s resurrection body. The Lord’s glorification was his complete anointing. The Divine love had been poured out upon him from his being conceived in the womb, but he was anointed in fulness when the humanity became the Divine Love itself, in form as well as in essence. The present anointing was, as we have said, performed by a human agent. But Mary representing the church, her anointing the body of Jesus is expressive of the church acknowledging the divinity of the Lord’s humanity; doing from without what the Father was doing from within, and thus reciprocating the inward divine operation; recognising the Divine Humanity as the Medium between God and man, and through it attaining conjunction with the Lord as the Supreme Good, Divine Love and Wisdom.
8 The Lord justifies Mary’s act on another ground. The poor always ye have with you: but me ye have not always. Who are spiritually meant by the poor It As spiritual riches are the knowledges of goodness and truth, those who possess little of these are the spiritually poor. As all are born, and many grow up, in ignorance of the truth, the disciples of Christ have these poor always with them, and when they will they can do them good. But there are poor which we have still nearer to us and more constantly with us than these. Our faculties, so far as they are deficient in the knowledge or possession of spiritual things, are poor; and these we have always with us, and when we will we can do them good by ministering to their wants. And then there are, in spiritual as in temporal wealth, the poor rich as well as the rich poor. The rich poor are those of whom it is said, ” I know thy works, and thy tribulation, and proverty, but thou art rich” (Rev. ii. 9). The poor rich are those who are rich in religious knowledge, but poor in religious virtue, who think themselves rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing, and know not that they are poor, and miserable, and blind and naked (Rev. iii. 17). All of us are more or less in all these conditions of poverty, and may always do something to mitigate or remove them. But none of us have the Lord thus constantly with us. In declaring this, he alluded more especially to his departure from his disciples by death. when they would have sorrow, a state which is incident to all Christian disciples, who, as children of the bride-chamber, mourn when the bridegroom is taken away. True, he departs but to return as the Comforter, but these states of trial show, that him, we have not always ; and that it is the more desirable and dutiful, so long as he is with us, to give him the costly offering of our best affections, that our souls may be brought into such internal conjunction with him, as may preserve us faithful to the day of his coming.
9 We read in the previous chapter (v. 19) that many of the Jews came to comfort Martha and Mary concerning their brother, and that many of them became believers in Jesus through his miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead, some, however, informed the Pharisees of what Jesus had done (46). Here again, we find, Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. The people of the Jews are those, who from a good disposition, desire to know the truth, not only respecting the Lord himself as the Author of spiritual life, but respecting the life which he imparts to those who have been spiritually dead. To see one who has been raised from death unto life must have been even a wonder indeed. Yet of every converted sinner may it be truly said, that he has been raised from the dead. Could we see the soul as we see the body, how striking and instructive would it be to behold it in these two states of death and life. We may, however, see this realized in ourselves, if we have been the subjects of the saving operation, which that of Jesus upon Lazarus represented.
10, 11. But here again we have the repetition of a circumstance which so often occurs in the previous history of the Lord’s life. Evil rises up to oppose the good. But the chief priests consulted that they might also put Lazarus to death: because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus. They who had endeavoured to destroy Jesus as the truth and the life, now take counsel to kill Lazarus, on whom the gift of life had been bestowed. When evil men cannot destroy the principles that are opposed to their own, they often endeavour to do it indirectly, by assailing them in their practical results, either by denying them, which is spiritually to kill, or by perverting them, by imputing them to an evil origin, which the Jews did when they accused the Lord of casting out devils by the prince of the devils. Those, on the contrary, who are well disposed judge favourably of truth from its good results, for good leads to the acknowledgment of truth, and thence of its Author, as many of the Jews believed on Jesus because of Lazarus. The offence of these in the eyes of the priests was that they went away and believed on Jesus they were alienated from the priestly rule to which they had submitted, and were brought under the dominion of the Son of man; they had forsaken error for truth, and evil for good.
12, 13. The fame of the miracle of raising Lazarus overbore, for the time, the influence of the priests; for on the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm-trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord. The Lord’s entry into Jerusalem is recorded in all the four gospels, though in each with some difference. John relates that it took place the next day after the supper, in the house of Lazarus. A new state, but one following and connected with the former, is described. The Lord’s own death and resurrection were now about to follow those of Lazarus; and a feast, more holy than that at which Jesus sat with Lazarus^ was about to “be provided for the faithful, who were to be fed with the flesh and blood of the Son of man. The feast of the passover was to be celebrated in, Jerusalem, and thither the Lord was now on his way to finish his course and complete his grand design. His entry into Jerusalem symbolized his entry into the church, not the church as it then existed, among the Jews, but as described by the prophet in the prediction which now received its literal fulfilment. This was the church which our Lord himself established, the true Zion, of which that in Jerusalem had never been more than the type. The much people who went forth to. meet ,him were the representatives, rather than the real members, of that church by which the Lord is received as the king of Israel, and which acknowledges him in his divine humanity,-and submits to the spiritual government of his divine truth. The branches of palm-trees, which the people took, were emblems of the spiritual truths themselves, by the love and perception of which the spiritual church is distinguished. The palm-tree itself is emblematical of the good of spiritual truth; and as the love of good and truth is the source of joy and delight, this was expressed by the rejoicings of the people and by the hosannas-which they sung. The hosanna with which the multitude saluted Jesus, is expressive of the acknowledgment of the Lord by faith, jubilant on his entry into the church, which, in relation to its individual members, is his entrance into their hearts and understandings, from which all true acknowledgment and joy spring. The people cried, ” Blessed be the king of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.” The king of Israel is the Lord as divine truth,.and divine truth proceeds from divine love, which is meant by Jesus coming in the name of the Lord. The people who thus saluted the Lord knew not indeed the full import of the words they uttered. They were but repeating words which they were accustomed to sing when they celebrated the feast of tabernacles, when they carried palms and sung from holy writ, ” Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord, O Lord, I beseech thee, send now prosperity. Blessed be he that cometh in the-name of the, Lord ” (Psalm cxviii. 25). Hosanna is the first word in this portion qf the Psalm,, and is expressive of the Lord’s salvation.
14, 15. The manner in which the Lord made, his entry into Jerusalem had been the subject of a divine prediction. And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written, Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt. The Lord’s entry into Jerusalem is generally considered to indicate humility; but it is rather expressive of regal authority, for kings were accustomed to ride upon asses. But there was a deeper reason than even this for the Lord making his entry into Jerusalem in the manner predicted and described. In riding upon a young ass the Lord intended to express symbolically, that he had now brought all the principles of his natural humanity into subordination to his divine love and wisdom, and that those inferior principles were henceforth to become the means by which he should convey the power of his salvation to the minds and hearts of men, and thus to his church particular and universal.
16. These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him. The singular circumstance of the disciples being ignorant of the significant character of the things that were done by them, and that happened to Jesus, shows how little they knew of his true character and work. But this state represented one that is common to all true disciples. Not till he is glorified in them can the disciples of any time see the true meaning of the things that have been spoken of him, and which they themselves have done unto him. It is not necessary, nor is it possible, that we should see at the time the meaning and the reason of every religious act we do. Obedience must spring from duty first, and from reason afterwards. And what is recorded of the disciples may teach us some useful lesson respecting our children. It is most important that the young should be early instructed in the simple truths of religion, and initiated into habits of virtue and piety. That children understand little of many things they learn and are required to do, is no good reason for leaving them uninstructed and untrained in religion. Like the disciples, they may not understand these things at the first, but when Jesus is glorified in their more matured intellects and purified hearts, then will they remember that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him.
17, 18. John states, what the other evangelists have passed over in silence, that the people therefore that was with him when he called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised him from the dead, bare record. For this cause the people also met him, for that they heard that he had done this miracle. It was the miracle of raising the dead that obtained for Jesus this attention and homage of the multitude. The people consisted of two classes, those who saw the miracle and those who heard of it. Those see the Lord’s miracle who perceive it intellectually ; those hear of it who perceive it morally, sight being predicated of the understanding and hearing of the will. Therefore, those who saw the miracle bare record, and those who heard of it came to meet Jesus. It is the intellectual faculty that bears record of the Saviour’s work, it is the moral faculty that runs to meet him, as the Author of eternal life. Considered in reference to one person, these are two acts of the mind, and have a connection with each other. It does not follow that those who actually witnessed the resurrection of Lazarus were not morally as well as intellectually convinced; it is only when spiritually considered, that it-is to be regarded as pointing out a distinction which is seen and realized in our individual experience—that our understanding bears record of the Lord’s works, and that our will is brought to the practical acknowledgment of them by means of its testimony.
19. This enthusiasm of the people in favour of Jesus was a cause of mortification to their religious leaders. The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive -ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him. There is in this expression a consciousness that their effort to restrain the popular movement was unavailing, and that there was no way of arresting the progress of the innovation but by destroying the Innovator. The feeling and conviction expressed by the Pharisees are like those which sometimes force themselves on the natural man, of the useless and unavailing nature of his efforts to oppose the progress of the cause of right, to which he is averse, and which he almost confesses to himself is true and good. “The world is gone after him ” must be the regretful admission of those who strive, especially when by dishonourable means and for selfish ends, to stem the tide of true human progress. In this instance the Pharisees uttered a truth that had even then begun to work, and which will be eventually realized to its fullest extent. The realization of this in the world at large will be hastened by those who espouse the cause of Jesus, allowing their natural affections and thoughts to go after him, by following his teaching and example.
20, 21. Besides the Jews who followed the Lord in his progress to and entry into Jerusalem, there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast: the same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus. The Greeks were Gentiles; but the isles of Greece were among the most eminent of those of which it is said, ” The isles shall wait for my law ” (Isa. xlii. 4) ;” the isles shall wait upon me, and on mine arm shall they trust” (li. 5); and because the Greeks were amongst the most eminent of the Gentiles, the new revelation was given to John in Patmos, which was one of the isles of the Grecian Archipelago ; thus signifying that the things relating to the end of the church, and its restoration in a new and more glorious state, shall be given to those who wait for the Lord and his kingdom. The Greeks, though Gentiles, were among them that came to worship at the feast. They do not come directly to the Lord, but seek access to him through one of his disciples; for those who are in a Gentile state come to the Lord through those who belong to the church; or what is the same, those who are in Gentile goodness, must acquire the truth of the church, as the means of communion with the Lord. The disciple whose good offices they desired is Philip. From all that is recorded of Philip in the gospel, it would appear that he represented those who know Jesus and desire to know him better. Philip is here said to be of Bethsaida, which, in the first chapter, is said to be the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip was also called to the apostleship soon after Peter. He it was who said to Nathanael, We have found him of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth; and who, when Nathanael demanded of him if any good thing could come out of Nazareth, answered by saying, Come and see. Indeed, all that we know of Philip is in immediate connection with Jesus, and always in reference to the knowledge of him as the Christ. Philip, therefore, represents an intellectual apprehension of the truth relating to the Lord. We have seen when treating, in Matthew (chap, x.), of the enumerations of the twelve, as they occur in the gospels, that of the three groups of four in which they are arranged, Peter is always the first of the first group, and Philip is always the first of the second. Philip may thus be considered as a second Peter; the leading intelligence of a lower class of minds, and the intellectual element among a lower degree of principles. This may make Philip appropriately the principal link of connection between the Greek Gentiles and the Lord. Those in their condition, who would see Jesus, must come to him, or seek access to him, through that intelligence which Philip represented. It is, as we shall see in a future chapter, an intelligence which sees Jesus, not as one with the Father, but which is capable of admitting that truth when presented in its true light.
22 But there is another who must be associated with Philip before introduction to the Lord can be obtained. When the Greeks apply to Philip, Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus. Philip and Andrew, like Peter and Andrew, are, with a difference in degree, types of faith in the understanding and faith in the will, or, of truth and the good which are acquired by means of it. To seek access to Jesus through Philip is to seek to come to him by intellectual faith, or through truth only; but to teach us that not only intellectual but voluntary faith, not truth only but the good of truth, is required for this, Philip comes and tells Andrew; and to instruct us further that faith both in the will and in the understanding is necessary to give us a true and saving connection with the Lord, Andrew and Philip come and tell Jesus—Andrew being now placed first to show that the good of faith is in the first place and the truth of faith in the second.
23 Introduced as the pious Greeks were into his presence, Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. Regarded in the literal or historical sense, it seems singular that the Lord should address those strangers and Gentiles in a discourse on his passion and glorification. But these Greek strangers were of, and represented, those among whom the new or Christian church was about to be raised up; and this raising up of the church was consequent on the Lord’s glorification; for his mystical body is fashioned after the pattern of his glorious body. The phrase, “the hour is come,” or “is coming,” is used by our Lord on several occasions. It is expressive of the near approach of the time, and the certainty of the event, of which the Lord speaks. The hour of the Lord’s glorification being come, tells us that the great work, for which the Lord had come into the world, was on the eve of its completion. The humanity which the Lord, in his marvellous and merciful condescension, had assumed for the redemption of his creatures, was now about to pass out of its state of humility into a state of transcendent glory.
24 The necessity for the glorification of the Son of man, its nature, and its blessed results, our Lord proceeds to declare. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. This divine declaration is explained in the Writings in a passage so lucid, so beautiful, and at the same time so practical, that, departing from our usual practice, we give it in the author’s own words. He is treating of the glorification of the Lord’s rational principle, in the inmost of which humanity, or the conscious life of man, begins, and which, in the Lord, was immediately below the soul, or the divine humanity, which he derived from the Father. The part of the Word, in connection with which the explanation is given, is that which contains the history of Ishmael and Isaac ; Ishmael, the son of Hagar the Egyptian, representing the natural rational, which every natural man of sound mind acquires, and Isaac representing the spiritual rational, which the regenerate only receive. He is explaining the words, Cast out this handmaid and her son. After stating that the casting out the handmaid and her son, signified the extermination of the things pertaining to the rational principle merely human, he proceeds: ” How the first rational principle was exterminated, and was succeeded by the Divine, shall be briefly explained. Every one who is regenerated has two rational principles, one before, the other after regeneration. The first, which is before regeneration, is acquired by experiences of the senses, by reflections on things in civil and moral life, by the sciences, and by reasonings drawn from and directed by them, as well as by the knowledges of things spiritual from the doctrine of faith or from the Word; but these extend little beyond the ideas of the corporeal memory, which are comparatively very material. Whatever therefore he then thinks is from such things, or, that they may be taken in at one view by the interior or intellectual sight, semblances of them are produced by comparison or analogy. Such is the nature of the first rational principle, or of that which exists before regeneration. But the rational principle after regeneration is formed of the Lord by means of the affections of spiritual truth and good, which affections are marvellously implanted by the Lord in the truths of the first rational principle, and thus the things therein which agree with and favour those affections are vivified, whilst other things are separated as useless, till at length spiritual goodnesses and truths are bound together as it were into bundles ; things incongruous, which cannot be vivified, being rejected as it were to the circumference, and this successively, as spiritual goodnesses and truths increase together with the life of their affections. Hence it is evident what is the nature of the second rational principle. This subject may be illustrated by comparison with the fruit of trees. The first rational principle, in the beginning, is like unripe fruit, which gradually ripens till the seeds are deposited within it; and when it is of such an age as to begin to separate itself from the tree, its state is full. But the second rational principle, which is given by the Lord when man is being regenerated, is like the same fruit in good ground, in which the parts that surround the seeds decay, and the seeds themselves shoot forth from their inmost parts, and throw out a root, and send up a stem, which grows into a new tree, and unfolds itself, at last into new fruits, and afterwards into gardens and paradises, according to the affections of good and of truth which it has received; as may be seen, John xii. 24. But as examples are most convincing, let us take one. The first rational principle in the beginning knows no other love than the love of self and the love of the world; and though instructed that heavenly love is entirely different from these, yet it does not comprehend it; and afterwards, when it does any good, it perceives no other delight from it, than that of meriting favour, or of being reputed a Christian, or of obtaining the joy of eternal life. But the other rational principle, with which man is gifted of the Lord by means of regeneration, begins to have some delight in goodness and truth themselves, and to be affected with this delight,’ not for the sake of self, but of goodness and truth; and being led tp act from this delight, it rejects merit, and at length renounces it as enormous. In.the new rational principle this delight successively increases and becomes blessed, and in the other life it becomes happiness, and its very heaven. Hence, then, it may ‘ appear how the case is in regard to each rational principle with one who is regenerated. But it is to be observed, that although a man is regenerated, still all things general and particular, which are of the first rational principle, remain with him, and are only separated from the other rational principle, and this miraculously by the Lord. But the Lord utterly exterminated the first rational principle, so that no trace of it remained, for the merely human and the Divine cannot be together. Hence he was no longer the son of Mary, but was Jehovah as to each essence.”
The similitude which the Lord employed to describe his glorification is equally descriptive of his resurrection. And as all the similitudes which the Lord employed were correspondences, the present comparison is an exact illustration of both. It is not our intention to enter largely or minutely on this branch of the subject; but we may remark that the. same law of order presided over the glorification of the natural principle as over that of the rational. Glorification, in all its degrees, was effected by a process of putting off and of putting on. And if we may follow the analogy of the death and resurrection of the seed, we may venture to say, that, while the Lord rose with his whole body complete, it does not follow that the body which rose from the sepulchre was the identical body that was laid in it—identical, we – mean, in substance. It was sown a natural body; it was raised a Divine Body: or, as the original may be better expressed, a natural body was sown, a Divine Body was raised. By what particular mode of operation this was effected it is not our purpose here to inquire. From the lucid exposition of the present passage we learn, that the divine seed, which the Lord inherited from the Father, became a Divine Humanity by “unfolding itself,” the material humanity serving, like the fruit in which the seed is deposited, as a body in which it might be manifested, and in which it might unfold itself. Yet there is one necessary condition of its development and perfection : the material body must die, that the Divine seed may live. Whatever was the final act which completed the Lord’s glorification, the process was gradual and successive, from the Lord’s birth to his death. And the humanity in which now dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, is a Divine Humanity, the Source and the Pattern of all human perfection.
25 Having instructed his hearers in the nature and manner of his glorification, the Lord proceeds to teach them the nature and manner of their regeneration, as the image of his divine work. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. This expresses in another form what the Lord had just said respecting himself. That which is to be hated is natural life, as opposed to spiritual life—the earthly as opposed to the heavenly. The word translated life is that which in some other places is rendered soul, and means the hereditary life, as opposed to the spiritual life which we receive by regeneration. “We cannot understand the Lord to speak of life in the sense of existence; for this no one is required to hate, nor would the hatred of temporal existence secure eternal life. Immortality is unconditional. The life of man is his ruling love, which enters as a living soul into all the thoughts and intents of the heart, and into all the words and actions of the life. The love of self is the life which belongs to all men by nature, and this life they must hate in the world, if they would keep it unto life eternal. That life which is lost is not the same life that is saved. But as a man can have at one time but one ruling love which is his life and his very self, when he hates his corrupt life, the Lord imparts to him a new life, a ruling love whose nature is heavenly. But the condition is, that he who hates life “in this world” shall keep it unto life eternal. No doubt the lesson teaches that the work is in this world, the reward is in the next. But there is a temporal and eternal in ourselves, which are found in our natural and our spiritual minds. To hate the evil life in this world, is to hate or shun it, as it exists in the natural mind, to overcome it in thought and act, which is to hate it practically. And when the love of evil is put to death in the flesh, the love of good obtains life in the spirit.
26 The Lord follows up his teaching respecting the duty of self-sacrifice by saying, If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour. To serve is rather to minister. A minister is one who acts from good; a servant one who acts from truth—one serves from love, the other from duty. In doing good to our neighbour we minister to the Lord; for good from the Lord in men is the neighbour to whom we are to minister. We never do real good to our neighbour, except when we contribute to his real good; and we never contribute to his real good, except when we contribute to the strengthening of his good principles. These good principles are the Lord in man; and in ministering to them we minister to the Lord. But those who minister to the Lord are to follow him ; that is, to follow his example, and to let their good be guided by his truth. We must not only do good, we must clo it intelligently; we must not only love, but love wisely. Then ” where I am there will my minister be.” Truth spiritualizes good. The first good principle with every one is natural. Divine truth directs it to spiritual objects and eternal ends ; and when il follows where truth leads, it becomes united to truth, and dwells with it in the heaven of the inner man. Then also is the divine promise realized, ” If any man will minister unto me, him will my Father honour.” The Father is the Divine love, as the Son is the Divine truth. When natural good is purified and sanctified by truth, it then, if it continues constant in ministering to the Lord, becomes receptive of the Divine love, and filled thereby with higher delights and purer joys.
27 The Lord, from speaking of his glorification to those around him, turns inwards into himself, where the last dread trial had already begun. Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say ? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. The temptation that culminated in the passion of the cross had already commenced. Anguish of soul preceded agony of body. The powers of darkness invaded his inner man and pressed upon his inner life, before they assailed his outer man and acted upon his outer life. The Lord’s soul which was troubled was not the divine soul which he inherited from the Father, for this was incapable of suffering; it was the human soul which he inherited from the mother, understanding by this the Lord’s human nature,; everything in the Lord’s humanity which was beneath the divine, even the rational principle, in the inmost of which the human principle begins. But this human principle considered as it is in men, was not capable of being troubled with that trouble which the Son of man endured. The human must have been receptive of the Divine, before it could be subject to such sorrows of temptation. Neither the purely divine nor the merely human were susceptible of such a feeling, as that which our Lord expressed. Only humanity inhabited by Divinity could be the subject of temptations such as the Lord experienced. In his tribulation Jesus exclaims, “What shall I say?” The sayings of our Lord were revelations of what passed in his own mind and occurred in his own experience, and thence of what pertains to the corresponding states of those who follow him. He therefore says what he felt, both from his maternal and paternal humanity; first from the maternal: ” Save me from this hour;” and then from the Paternal: “”but for this cause came I unto this hour.” There is ever in trial this conflict between the flesh and the spirit. The flesh shrinks from and deprecates the hour,—the state and experience in which its life is to be laid down. But with those who are in the true order of the heavenly life, the corrective will ever be at hand. The alternative presents itself, ” For this cause came I unto this hour.” Even in the midst of trial, when the natural shows its inclination and its weakness, the spiritual perceives that the very thing which the natural dreads is that for which the trial is permitted. No trial, no triumph; no suffering, no glory; no death, no life.
28. In the power of this conviction the Lord now prays, Father, glorify thy name. Taken in the ordinary sense, which it contains, the Son is willing to endure for the sake of advancing the Father’s glory; just as man’s highest motive to suffer and obey is the glory of God. But the Son is himself the name of the Father, for the glorification of which he prays. The Son is the Father’s name, because the Divine wisdom is the expression of the Divine love—the Divine Humanity is the express image of the Essential Divinity. A name expresses the quality or character of him who bears it, and the humanity expresses the quality of the divinity. The Son manifests the Father, and brings him forth to view. When therefore the Lord prayed the Father to glorify his name, he prayed the divinity to glorify the humanity, or to make the humanity divine and one with itself. When Jesus had uttered this prayer, then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. We need not dwell here on the prayer and answer, as presenting the appearance of a personal distinction between the Father and the Son. These are appearances that can only be presented in the domain of nature, or, at least in the sphere of finite existence, where divine things are seen under appearances, that accommodate them to human apprehension. Infinite things can only be seen by finite minds when they fall into corresponding finite ideas. In this way, what is only a distinction in the divine nature assumes the appearance of separate personality. But reason is able to correct these appearances. Every one of any reflection knows that there can be no such difference between the essential principles or attributes of the Deity, as that which was presented by the Lord when upon the earth. One cannot address the other. To suppose this, we must suppose the Father and the Son to have each a distinct consciousness, which entirely destroys all idea of divine unity. There was indeed a distinction of this kind between the Father and the Son before the Lord’s glorification; for the humanity had then a consciousness distinct from that of the divinity, which was manifested in it. And this human consciousness was that from which the Lord prayed to the Father, and which gave the Father the power of answering the Son’s petitions. But one primary object here is to attend to this answer to the Lord’s prayer. The Father answers this petition by Baying, ” I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The glorification of the humanity, like every other divine work, was effected by distinct acts, or by discrete degrees, each of which was continuous in itself. There are three degrees in all such processes—natural, spiritual, celestial. Every man who is fully regenerated, passes through all these degrees; and therefore the Lord, whose glorification answered to man’s regeneration, passed through them all. It is in reference to these that the Father says, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.” Among the signs by which this trinal glorification is represented or expressed, the three times which the Father thus openly addressed and acknowledged the Son are conspicuous.
29, 30. It is remarkable that the voice which gave so clear an utterance to the Lord, conveyed no distinct meaning to the multitude. The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him. Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes. It would appear from this that Jesus did not require this voice from heaven for his own comfort and encouragement; and that the voice was capable of strengthening the faith of the people, though it conveyed to them no intelligible sense. Faith cannot exist without knowledge. The knowledge of the truth precedes faith in the truth. That which enables us to know the truth is entirely different from that which enables us to believe it. That which gives faith is a state, not of the intellect only, but also and primarily of the heart. On the present occasion, the Lord had instructed the people in the truth relating to his own glorification, and to their regeneration as its fruit and its image. The voice from heaven was given to influence their hearts, that they might receive in faith what they had heard in intelligence. When this subject is considered as it relates to us individually, the lesson it teaches is more clearly and profitably perceived. Divine truth, as it comes from God out of heaven, becomes more sonorous as it descends; but as the sound increases the sense becomes more indistinct. In heaven among the angels, divine truth is tacit but clear ; on earth among men, it is loud but obscure. The divine law, which in heaven was light and peace, was uttered to the Israelites amidst the thunders of Sinai. Divine truth is soft and gentle but clear, when it is in the internal man, but when it descends into the external, it is loud but obscure. The people that stood by when the Lord uttered his prayer represented the affections and thoughts of the external man, while the Lord himself was the internal; and therefore the voice was clear and its words were intelligible to him, but were as the mutterings of thunder to the multitude. The sound was different to different hearers, for, while some said it thundered, some said an angel spake to him. In Scripture, thunder signifies divine truth as it affects the will, as lightning signifies divine truth as it affects the understanding. Here we have what seemed to the multitude as the sound of thunder and an angel’s voice; the first being expressive of the impression which divine truth makes upon the will, and the second, of divine truth as it affects the understanding. But divine truth that comes to men as the sound of thunder, indicates a particular condition in regard to those who thus hear it. The sound of thunder in the spiritual world is the sound of approaching judgment. Thunder is the result of an atmosphere overcharged with electricity; and the explosion dissipates the fluid and clears the atmosphere, rendering it fresh and exhilarating. Such is the use of judgment. It removes the accumulated evil and false influences, and purifies the moral and spiritual atmosphere.
31 Our Lord therefore addresses himself to the people in these words: Now is the judgment of this world : now shall the prince of this world be cast out. This is expressed still more strongly in Luke (x. 18), “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven;” where the judgment is presented under the figure we are now considering. The thunder cloud had burst upon the heads of the wicked. ” He sent forth lightning and scattered them” (Ps. cxliv. 6). Our Lord said, ” For judgment am I come into this world ;” and he adds, as the purpose of the judgment, ” that they which see not might see, and that those which see might be made blind” (chap. ix. 39). The end of all judgment is adjustment—that things wrong may be righted; that the good may be restored to the power of using their faculties, and the evil deprived of the power of abusing them. How is this to be effected, and how, in particular, was it effected by the Lord when he was manifest in the flesh ? It was effected by the performance of a judgment in the spiritual world. When evil increases and prevails in the natural world, evil spirits increase and prevail in the spiritual world; so that the equilibrium between heaven and hell is disturbed, and with it the equilibrium between good and evil upon earth. To remove the preponderance of the power of hell over that of heaven in the spiritual world, and thence the preponderance of the power of evil over the power of good in the natural world, is the purpose of judgment. A general judgment of this kind takes place at the end of every dispensation. The judgment which took place at the end of the Israelitish dispensation is that of which our Lord speaks. The subjugation of the powers of darkness and the glorification of the Lord’s humanity were concurrent operations, and therefore the Lord connects them together. And when he speaks of this world and the prince of this world, he does not mean the world as a place, but the world as a state; for only in respect to its moral and spiritual state is the world judged, and only in this respect is Satan its prince and ruler. Satan rules the world when evil rules in the hearts of men, and, as a consequence, in the church and in the world. The world was judged when the Lord established the principles of justice and judgment among men.; and the prince of this world was judged, when the powers of darkness were brought under subjection, by the completion of human redemption, and of the Lord’s glorification.
32, 33. After judgment comes a new power of elevation and new life. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This lifting up, naturally understood, was the Lord’s crucifixion : this he said, signifying what death he should die. But the Lord’s crucifixion was a means of his glorification. This glorification was the true lifting up of the Son of man, which gave him the power of drawing all men unto him. When his humanity was raised by glorification above, all human frailty, and above all trial and temptation, and exalted into union with his divinity, then was he able to draw all men unto him. This is a most Important doctrine, and teaches one of the greatest and most blessed truths that the Lord revealed, .or the gospel contains. The power to draw men unto him was the very object and use of the Lord’s coming. This was provided for by removing obstacles that stood in the way, and prevented man’s return to God, and by exercising a power of drawing men unto him. Obstructions were removed by the work of redemption, attraction was exercised by the work of glorification. By subjugating the powers of darkness, tho Lord deprived them of the power of preventing men from coming to him, that is, he restored to man the complete possession of spiritual liberty: by glorifying his humanity, the Lord acquired a power, and provided a medium, through which he could exercise an attraction upon human beings; for his humanity brought God relatively nearer to men, and established a sympathy between himself and them, by which his power of drawing them nearer to him and into conjunction with him was increased. It is therefore because the humanity he assumed was lifted up, that he is able to draw all men unto him. There is an application of this to individuals. The earth being an emblem of the natural mind, the lifting up of the Son of man is the elevation of the Lord’s divine truth out of the natural into the spiritual mind. When it it thus lifted up from the earthly to the heavenly region of the mind, it draws unto itself all the natural affections and thoughts—all that are included under the name of men, or such as are truly human.
34 When the Lord had uttered these remarkable and memorable words, The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must he lifted up ? who is this Son of man ? How characteristic of natural men are these words ! They had rightly learnt that Christ abideth for ever—that “of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever” (Isa. ix. 7). But they expected that both the king and the kingdom were to be of this world. They could not, therefore, understand what this lifting up could mean. Eor could they understand who this Son of man could be of whom the Lord spake. They knew nothing of the nature of the kingdom which the Lord came on. earth to establish, nor of the means by which its establishment was to be effected. The disciples themselves, and even the twelve, who had followed him and listened to his teaching, remained as dark on this subject as the multitude, till the Lord’s resurrection had revealed it to them. Their notions concerning Christ are the natural offspring of the condition of mind which is incident to every disciple in the early stage of his religious life. And even now, when the truth is known, and is taught to every Christian child, the early perception is the same in all, and is only changed from natural to spiritual by progressing in the regenerate life. Every one who receives Christ thinks Christ will abide for ever as he is received. But as every one receives the Lord according to his state, change of state produces change of reception. The Lord does not abide with us for ever as we first receive him. He must die and depart from, us after the flesh and according to the letter, that he may come to us in the power and glory of the spirit.
35 The Lord does not directly or formally correct the false notions of the people, but gives them such instruction as will lead them into the state of mind that is receptive of him at his coming. Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you: walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. The people had concluded their remarks by asking, ” Who is this Son of man?” The Lord’s words contain the answer to this question. He speaks of himself as the Light. The – Son of man is the name expressive of the Lord as divine Truth, or of the Word made flesh, the eternal and immutable Truth clothed in the vesture of humanity. This was the light that the people had with them in the person of Christ; this was the Son of man that was to be lifted up. But the condition of the Son of man’s being lifted up in our hearts is, that we walk in the light while it is with us—rather among us or in us. We cannot come to the spirit of the Word, unless we walk according to the teaching of the letter. The letter cannot be our guide always; but while it is, we must be faithful to its teaching. If, while we have the light, we walk in the light, it will, after a brief eclipse, such as that which hid the Lord from the disciples after the crucifixion, shine forth in greater splendour; but if we walk not according to the light while we have it, darkness will come upon us; for when the veil of the letter is rent asunder, those only who can see in the spiritual light of truth shall see the Lord. And he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth. The use of light is to lighten our path; but where there is no light, we wander and go we know not whither. Truth in religion is of the utmost importance; ignorance and error are both to be deplored, for their tendency is to keep the mind in darkness, and cause the feet to wander and stumble in the path of life.
36 Our Lord further says, While ye have the light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. In the previous verse the people are exhorted to walk while they have the light; here they are exhorted to believe in it. True faith is built upon obedience as well as manifested in good works. By walking in the light we come to believe in the light, and by believing and walking in the light we become the children of light. To be the children of light is to be regenerated by means of divine truth, which is, to become spiritual. The distinction here made between having the light, believing in the light, and being the children of light, is of great importance to be attended to ; for to have the light is to possess truth in the memory, to believe in the light is to have it in the understanding, and to be children or sons of the light is to be born again of truth by its full incorporation into the love and life.
These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them. The Lord departs from those who depart from him, and hides himself from those with whom he can have no communion. He departs from the evil will, and hides himself from the false understanding. To express it otherwise, evil in the will separates between man and his God, and falsity in the understanding hides the Divine face from him. Jesus literally departed and hid himself from the people, but his acts were representative of what he does spiritually with regard to those who, like the people he addressed, refused either to obey or believe in the offered light.
37 But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him. Miracles done before men seem to have little effect in producing belief. To believe, their understandings must be enlightened, their hearts must be changed, their eyes and their ears must be opened. This is the miracle which gives true and Irving faith. Creation is full of miracles, but these fail to convince men of the existence and presence of the Creator.
38 This unbelief had been foreseen and therefore foretold. They believed not on him, that the sayings of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed ? This occurs in Isaiah liii., where the deepest states of our Lord’s humiliation, his trials and temptations, are treated of; and the chapter begins with these words, for human unbelief lay at the foundation of all the Lord’s temptations. “Who hath believed our report?” is equivalent to the Lord’s own question, in relation to his second coming, ” When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith in the earth (Luke xviii. 8). The answer implied in the prophet’s question is, No one. No one hath believed our report, to none hath the arm of the Lord been revealed. There was no reception either of the divine truth or of the divine love among men, even when they appeared in the person, in the teaching, and in the works of the Son of man. Many believed not his report, although his doctrine dropped as the rain, and distilled as the dew, his speech as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass; nor did they yield to his beneficent acts, though the arm of his omnipotence had been put forth to perform them. The arm of the Lord, or, as expressed in the prophet, the arm of Jehovah, was the Lord’s humanity. This is expressively called the arm of the Lord, because the human nature which the Lord assumed was an extension of his saving power, by putting it forth in accommodating it to the condition of fallen humanity. The arm of the Lord is also the divine truth of his divine love, for divine love exerts its power through divine truth, comparative]y as the body does by the arm.
39, 40. But notwithstanding this putting forth of the arm of Jehovah in the person of Jesus Christ, the mass of those to whom the divine manifestation was made remained in unbelief. The evangelist even goes so far as to say that they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. The words of the prophet, and the evangelist’s introduction to them, seem, to teach that unbelief was independent of the will of the people, being the result of a divinely inflicted state of intellectual blindness and hardness of heart. The Lord, no doubt, hides the truth from men in certain states of mind, and in doing which his goodness is manifested. This we learn especially from the words of Jesus himself, when he addressed the Father in the remarkable words, ” I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes; even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight” (Luke x. 21). What seems good in the sight of God must be good in relation to men as well as in relation to Himself. He hides divine wisdom from the wise and prudent, only to prevent them from profaning what is holy. And profanation consists in first believing the truth and afterwards denying it. Those who do this not only seriously injure the cause of religion, but they do an incalculable and eternal injury to themselves. Those who are converted and healed, and return to unbelief and sin, are in a worse state than if they had never known the truth. ” For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance: seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame” (Heb. vi. 4-6). Reason as well as revelation tells,us that it is impossible for a perfect Being, infinite in goodness as in wisdom, to hide from any of his creatures the means of salvation, except for their own sake. And however the letter of the Word may seem to favour the opposite conclusion, the spirit of the Word reveals the true state of the case. The letter of the “Word expresses the truth according to the appearance ; but he who would judge righteous judgment must look into the truth as it is, in its nearer relation to its Author.
41 The evangelist concludes by saying, These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him. The glory of the Lord, of whom the prophet spake, he thus describes, ” I saw also the Lord, sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims : each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly ” (vi. 1, 2). It is evident from the tenor of the chapter, that this was a vision, in which the prophet saw the glory of the Lord, as it was in heaven, which is God’s throne, and as it was to be manifested on earth, in the temple of his humanity. The preaching and spread of the gospel are also the theme of the prophecy. ” I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I, send me.” (vi. 8). And then follows the words quoted by John,–‘Go and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not, and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of he people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes ; lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed “(vi. 9, 10). This is intended to describe the general state of the Jewish people, at the time of the Lord’s coming. It was foreseen that they would, as a church, refuse the offer of salvation, and that in consequence, their land would be utterly desolate ; in other words, that their dispensation would come to an end. Yet it is promised that “in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten : as a teil-tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves : so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof” (13). By this we are instructed that, while the church would come to an end, yet, according to the merciful providence of the Lord in such cases, a remnant should be preserved, to form the germ or nucleus of a new dispensation. According to the evident scope of this prophetic vision of the prophet, the blindness and hardness of heart, which had been brought upon the people, are descriptive of the general condition of the church, which had come to an end, to be succeeded, however, by a new and higher dispensation of truth and righteousness.
42, 43. Of the remnant, the tenth, the holy seed, which was promised to be preserved amidst the general corruption, the evangelist now speaks. Nevertheless, among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. Nicodemus was one of the rulers of the Jews, and he formed one of the first fruits of the Lord’s gospel. His was not, however, the only instance of the acceptance of Christianity among the rulers of the Jewish church. There were secret disciples, who did not confess him because of the Pharisees ; they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. Still they were disciples, though they remained in the ranks of Judaism, and retained their hereditary and national religious connection. The Lord did not condemn Mcodemus for coming to him by night, nor counsel him to confess him openly. He is tender to human infirmity, although we can have no difficulty in knowing which he commends. To love the praise of men more than the praise of God is certainly a very imperfect state; but it is one that will be succeeded by a better in those who are sincere, though secret, disciples.
44, 45. We have seen, at the 36th verse, that, having addressed himself to the people, he departed and went and hid himself. Here we find it recorded that Jesus cried, and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me. And he that seeth me, seeth him that sent me. Jesus is supposed to have uttered these words as he departed and was at some distance, hence he cried and said. However this may be, to cry is expressive of the ardency of his love, and also of the clearness of his truth. “What he uttered involves also this distinction. Jesus speaks of himself as being sent, and of the Father as sending him. The Father who sends is the divinity, the Son who is sent is the humanity j the Father who sends is the divine love, the Son. who is sent is the divine wisdom. Love comes to men and manifests .itself to them, addresses them and acts upon them, by wisdom. God, from his love, creates, redeems, and saves by his wisdom. The Lord’s divinity is thus the Father and Sender of his humanity ; and he who believes in Jesus as God manifest in the flesh, believes not in the mere humanity of Jesus, but in his indwelling Divinity. But Jesus here declares, ” he that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me.” In this our Lord asserts that true belief in him includes in it belief in God. And this he still further and more forcibly declares when he adds, ” and he that seeth me seeth him that sent me.” That which the Lord here teaches is, however, more than a theological tenet, to be embodied in a creed; it is a divine truth, to be embodied in a heavenly life. To know that he who sees and believes in Jesus sees and believes in God, is a most momentous truth; but to receive him in faith and love, this is to believe in and to see the Father in the Son, or God in his Divine Humanity.
46 Our Lord teaches this openly in the words which now follow. I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. Divine light is Divine wisdom; and love is in wisdom as heat is in light. The Lord came a light into the world, which lay in darkness. As the eternal Word, he was the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world. That which had been the inward shining light, came into the world and was outwardly manifested, that with their eyes and intellects men might see the light, which had never ceased to shine into the highest region of their minds, but which, in descending into their natural understandings, shone in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not. The divine love, compassionating the state of men, desired to remove their darkness, and therefore came with the light of wisdom, to enlighten the human mind; so that its light, displayed without, might unite with that which shone within, to dissipate the prevailing darkness of ignorance and error. The light which came to us by the incarnation of him who is the Light itself, has provided us with the means of being enlightened through a new medium, even the humanity of the Lord; so that while from his divinity the Lord still acts upon and gives light to the inmost of the mind, from his humanity he may give light to the natural mind, so that both may be enlightened together, and in the light may receive the love of God.
47 Merciful was this condescension of God to men, and merciful is the dealing of God with those who refuse it. And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. Judgment here evidently means condemnation. The Lord had already declared that ” God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved” (iii. 17). Salvation was the purpose of divine love, and the work of divine wisdom, in the Incarnation. Such is the divine nature, that it would save all; and the Lord’s work in the flesh is sufficient for universal salvation. But even those who reject this salvation are not judged or condemned by the Saviour. He came not to condemn, but to save; nor is there any attribute of his nature, as it is in him, that condemns even the worst of sinners. Condemnation has another cause, which the Lord now proceeds to show.
48 He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. If the words of the Lord judge, it may seem as if the Lord himself judged. But it is the unbeliever that turns into a means of condemnation that which is given as a means of salvation. If he knows the truth, the truth will make him free ; but if he violates the truth, the truth will bring him into bondage. There is no condemnation but that of rejected or violated truth. This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. It is not, therefore the truth that condemns, it is they who act contrary to the truth that condemn themselves. The truth does not oppose them; they oppose the truth; and in opposing the truth, they put themselves in a state opposite to the state of heaven, which exists by the laws of truth; and, consequently, they put themselves in the state which constitutes hell, as the opposite of heaven. Truth never alters its character; it is not in itself different in relation to the good and to the evil, the angel and the devil. The difference is in their relation to it. The angel loves and lives it; the devil hates and violates it; and it is his love of it that makes the angel, and his hatred of it that makes the devil. But this we shall see more fully declared when we come to the last verse.
49 The Lord gives a reason for the seeing and non-judging character of his truth. For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. Let us for a moment consider the doctrinal import of these words. Did Jesus speak as a divine person or as a human being? As a divine person he could not say, “I have not spoken of myself:” for what an infinite person says he cannot but speak of himself, nor can he speak as he has been commanded by another. It may be evident from this and from all other instances of expressed inferiority and dependence on the part of the Son, that the difference between the Father and the Son was a real and not a nominal difference. The difference was that which exists between love and wisdom, and between soul and body. There is a real distinction or difference between these. Love and wisdom, though one and indivisible, are perfectly distinct essentials in! God; and divinity and humanity, though one, are yet distinct. “Wisdom also exists and acts from love; but by existing, we must be understood to mean coming forth from love; and so with the humanity in regard to the divinity. Wisdom speaks from the promptings of love; the body acts from the energy of the soul. Here we see the force of the Lord’s declaration. He does not judge or condemn, because his words were the words of love as well as of truth. Truth did not speak of itself in the person of the Lord; it spoke what it heard and received from love. Love was the origin of the commandment. In Jesus infinite love spake through infinite wisdom.
50 The Lord therefore says, And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak. The commandment of the Father is everlasting life. Yes, this is the end of all the divine commandments. This was the end of every word uttered and every work done by Jesus Christ, when he was upon earth. Love to men was the object of the Lord’s coming into the world. Redemption was a work of pure infinite love. How true the words of the Lord, ” Even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.” Every word of the Lord was inspired by his love. And that love was the love of mankind, and those words which were its utterance were the words of wisdom, for the instruction and guidance of men in the life which constitutes as well as leads to heaven. God’s love to men was the origin of the law, and man’s love to God is the fulfilling of the law.
Author: William Bruce –1870
Pictures: James Tissot—-Courtesy of the Brooklyn museum