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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

John 5

 

 

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Verse 1

After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. The first verse of this chapter raises the most difficult, perhaps, and most controverted, of all questions touching the Harmony of the Gospels and the Duration of our Lord's ministry.

After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Three Passovers are distinctly mentioned in this Gospel as occurring during our Lord's public ministry: the first in John 2:13, when Jesus paid His first official visit to Jerusalem; another, quite incidentally mentioned in John 6:4; and the last, when Jesus went up to become "our Passover, sacrificed for us" (John 12:2; John 12:12; John 13:1-2). If no other Passover occurred than these three, during Christ's public life, then it could not have lasted more than two years and a half: whereas, if the feast mentioned in the first verse of this chapter was a Passover-making four in all-then the duration of our Lord's public ministry was toward three years and a half. That this feast was a Passover, was certainly the most ancient opinion, and it is the opinion of the great majority of critics, (being that of Irenoeus, as early as the second century, Eusebius and Theodoret, among the fathers; and of Luther, Beza, Maldonat, Grotius, Lightfoot, La Clerc, Lampe, Hengstenberg, Greswell, Robinson, Tholuck in his 6th Edition, and apparently in his 7th and last, Middleton, Trench, Webster, and Wilkinson, etc.) Those who object to this view all differ among themselves as to what other feast it was, and some of the most acute have given up the hope of determining which it was. (So Lucke, at length, DeWette, and Alford.) That it was a Pentecost (as Cyril of Alexandria, Chrysostom and Theophylact, among the fathers; and Erasmus, Calvin, and Bengel have since thought) is inadmissible, as this Feast-which occurred 50 days after the Passover, or toward the end of May-will appear too late, if we consider that our Lord returned to Galilee in the month of December or January (John 4:35).

The Feast of Tabernacles (as Cocceius and Ebrard) is, for the same reason, still more out of the question, as it did not occur until the end of September. All these theories are now given up, by those who object to the Passover, in favour of the Feast of Purim, which was observed rather less than a month before the Passover. (So Keppler-who first suggested it, but doubtfully-and now Hug, Olshausen, Wieseler, Meyer, Neander, Tischendorf, Lange, and Ellicott.) But there are very strong objections to this view. First, The Feast of Purim was celebrated over all the country equally with the capital; none went up to Jerusalem to keep it; and the observance of it consisted merely in the reading of the book of Esther in the different synagogues, and spending the two days of it in feasting (Esther 9:21-22): whereas the "multitude" referred to in John 5:13 seems to imply that it was one of those greater festivals that drew large numbers from the provinces to the capital.

It is difficult, indeed, to see why our Lord should have gone up to Jerusalem expressly to keep a feast of this nature, as the words of the first verse clearly imply. For though He was there at the Feast of Dedication (John 10:22) - which also was not a principal one-He did not go on purpose to keep it, but was there, or thereabouts, at any rate. But once more the Impotent Man, healed at this feast, was healed on the Sabbath-and by comparing John 5:9 and John 5:13, one would naturally conclude that this Sabbath was one of the days of the Feast; whereas there is good reason to believe that the Purim was so far from being celebrated on a Sabbath, that when it fell on that day, it was put off until after it was over. The only objections to its being a Passover worth noticing are two. First, that our Evangelist, when he means a Passover, expressly names it; whereas here he merely calls it "a feast of the Jews:" and next, that if this be a Passover, it leaves too little time between this one and that of John 6:4, and further, that since Jesus confessedly did not go up to Jerusalem at the next Passover, mentioned in John 6:4 - "because the Jews sought to kill Him" (John 7:1) - it would follow that our Lord was about a year and a half absent from Jerusalem-a thing hard to believe.

These objections are certainly weighty; but they are not insuperable. We lay no stress upon the fact that the definite article [ hee (Greek #3588) heortee (Greek #1859)], 'the feast of the Jews' is found in several manuscripts - (eight uncial, and two of the best cursive ones) - supported by the two ancient Egyptian versions; because this reading does not have support enough. At the same time it must be observed that all who held to this reading certainly understood the feast intended to be the feast, by way of distinction from all the rest, that is, the Passover. But even with the article omitted, it has been shown by Middleton (Greek Article I., 3: 1) and Winer (19: 2. b.) that its presence is implied, and the sense definite, just in such cases as the present. As to the shortness of the interval between the Passover of John 5:1 (supposing it to be one) and that of John 6:4, it does not follow that the interval of time was short, because the events recorded between them in this Gospel are so few; since it is manifest that our Evangelist, until he comes to the final scenes, confines himself almost wholly to what had been omitted by the other Evangelists.

To them, therefore, we are to go for the Galilean events which occurred between those Passovers. Finally, as to the long interval of a year and a half between this His second Passover (if so it be), and the Feast of Tabernacles, after the third one, when He next went up to Jerusalem (John 7:2; John 7:10), the reason given for it, in John 7:1, appears sufficient; and as He was to take His final leave of Galilee not very long after, He would have abundant occupation there to fill up the time, while His continuing either in the capital or its neighhourhood nearly all the time between the Feast of Tabernacles and His final Passover-a period of about seven months-would sufficiently compensate for His longer absence from it at an earlier period. On a review of the whole evidence, then, we are decidedly of opinion that the ''Feast" here referred to by our Evangelist was THE PASSOVER-and consequently, the second of four occurring during our Lord's public ministry.


Verse 2

Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.

Now there is at Jerusalem, by the sheep [market]. The supplement here is an unhappy one, as no such market-place is known. But as the sheep gate is mentioned in Nehemiah 3:1; Nehemiah 3:32, and is familiar in the Jewish references to the temple, no doubt the supplement ought to be, as in the margin, "by the sheep [gate]."

A pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda , [ beeyt (Hebrew #1004) chacdaa' (Hebrew #2617)] - that is, 'Mercy-house;' doubtless from the cures performed there.

Having five porches - for shelter to the patients. That Jerusalem was yet standing when this Gospel was written cannot be inferred, as Bengel thought, from the use of the present tense "is." The water here referred to did not necessarily disappear with the overthrow of the city. There are indeed two distinct sites yet to be seen which have been identified with this pool: one, and the more probable site, a ruined reservoir near Stephen's gate, which ancient tradition has fixed upon and late investigations strongly confirm; the other, what is known as the Fountain of the Virgin. But even though all remains of it had disappeared with the destruction of Jerusalem, the Evangelist might have no knowledge of the fact; nor did he require to know it, as its well-known existence at the time of this incident is all that the word necessarily implies.


Verse 3

In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.

In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk (or infirm people) of blind halt withered [ In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk (or infirm people), of blind, halt, withered , [ xeeroon (Greek #3584)] - or 'paralyzed' (as Mark 3:1), "waiting for the moving of the water."


Verse 4

For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.

For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. The imperfect tense in which these verbs are expressed conveys the idea of use and custom [ katebainen (Greek #2597) ... etarasse (Greek #5015) ... egineto (Greek #1096)] - 'was wont to descend'-`to trouble the pool'-`to be made whole.'


Verse 5

And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.

And [or rather, 'Now' de (G1161)] a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years - a length of time which to the man himself might seem to render a cure hopeless, and on the principle of a mere medicinal virtue in this water, which some even sound critics are too ready to tamper with, undoubtedly would. This, then, was probably the most pitiable of all the patients assembled at the pool, and for that very reason, no doubt, was selected by the Lord for the display of His glory.


Verse 6

When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?

When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case. As He doubtless visited the spot just to perform this cure, so He knew where to find His patient, and the whole previous history of His case (John 2:25).

He saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? Could anyone doubt that a sick man would like to be made whole, or that the patients came there, and this man had returned again and again, just in hope of a cure? But our Lord asked the question, first, to fasten attention upon Himself; next, by making him detail his case, to deepen in him the feeling of entire helplessness; and further, by so singular a question, to beget in his desponding heart the hope of a cure. (See the note at Mark 10:51.)


Verse 7

The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.

The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. Instead of saying he wished to be cured, he just tells with piteous simplicity how fruitless had been all his efforts to obtain it, and how helpless and all but hopeless he was. Yet not quite. For here he is at the pool, waiting on. It seemed of no use; nay, only tantalizing - "While I am coming, another steppeth down before me" - the fruit was snatched from His lips. Yet he will not go away. He may get nothing by staying; he may drop into his grave before he get into the pool; but by going from the appointed, divine way of healing, he can get nothing. Wait therefore he will, wait he does, and when Christ comes to heal him, lo! he is waiting his turn. What an attitude for a sinner at Mercy's gate! The man's hopes seemed low enough before Christ came to him. He might have said, just before "Jesus passed by that way," 'This is no use; I'll never get in; let me die at home.' Then all had been lost. But he held on, and his perseverance was rewarded with a glorious cure. Probably some rays of hope darted rate his heart as he told his tale before those Eyes whose glance measured his whole case. But the word of command consummates his preparation to receive the cure, and instantaneously works it.


Verse 8

Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.

Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.


Verse 9

And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.

And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked. "He spake, and it was done." The slinging of his portable couch ever his shoulders was designed to show the perfection of the cure.

Such is this glorious miracle. Now let us look at it, as it stands here in the received text; and next let us examine the shortened text presented by most modern Editors of the Greek Testament-which leaves out the last clause of John 5:3, "waiting for the moving of the waters," and the whole of John 5:4. The miracle, as it here stands, differs in two points from all other miracles recorded in Scripture: First, It was not one, but a succession of miracles periodically performed: Next, as it was only done "when the waters were troubled," so only upon one patient at a time, and that the patient "who first stepped in after the troubling of the waters." But this only the more undeniably fixed its miraculous character. We have heard of many waters having a medicinal virtue; but what water was ever known to cure instantaneously a single disease? And who ever heard of any water curing all, even the most diverse diseases - "blind, halt, withered" - alike? Above all, who ever heard of such a thing being done only "at a certain season," and most singularly of all, doing it only to the first person who stepped in after the moving of the waters? Any of these peculiarities-much more all taken together-must have proclaimed the supernatural character of the cures performed.

If the text, then, be genuine, there can be no doubt of the miracle, as there were multitudes living when this Gospel was published who, from their own knowledge of Jerusalem, could have exposed the falsehood of the Evangelist, if no such cure had been known there. It only remains, then, that we inquire on what authority the omission of the last clause of John 5:3, and the whole of John 5:4, from the text (by Tischendorf and Tregelles, and approved by Tholuck, Meyer, Olshausen, Alford, etc.) is supported. The external evidence against it is certainly very strong. [It is missing in the newly-discovered Codex Sinaiticus, and the Codex Vaticanus-'Aleph (') and B-the two earliest known manuscripts of the New Testament; in C, not much later; in D-which, however, has the disputed clause of John 5:3; and in three of the cursive or later manuscripts; in the ancient version called the Curetonian Syriac, and in the two ancient Egyptian versions, according to some copies. Besides this, it is fair to add, that there is considerable variety in the words used by the manuscripts that have the disputed passage, and that in some manuscripts and versions the passage is so marked as to imply that it was not universally received.]

But when all the evidence in favour of the disputed passage-external and internal-is combined and well weighed, we think it will appear quite decisive. The external evidence for it is much stronger in fact than in appearance. [It is found-though not in the first, but the second hand-in the Alexandrian manuscript of date scarcely second to the two oldest, and, in the opinion of some of the best critics, of almost equal authority; in ten other uncial manuscripts; in the oldest or Peshito, and indeed all but the Curetonian Syriac, and in both the Old Latin and Vulgate Latin versions-which very rarely agree with the Alexandrian manuscript when it differs from the Vatican-showing how very early the disputed words were diffused and recognized: in confirmation of which we have an undoubted reference to the passage by Tertullian, in the end of the second and beginning of the third century.

Moved by this consideration, no doubt, Lachmann inserts the passage.] But the internal evidence is, in our judgment, quite sufficient to outweigh even stronger external evidence against it than there is. First, While the very strangeness and, as some venture to say, the legendary air of the miracle may easily account for its omission, we cannot see how such a passage could have crept in if it did not belong to the original text. But secondly, The text seems to us to yield no sense, or but an inept sense, without the disputed words. Just try to explain without them this statement of John 5:7 : "Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me." Who would ever understand how the mere inability of this impotent man to step first into the pool should deprive him of its virtue-from whence soever that proceeded-when the water was troubled? Clearly the explanation given in John 5:4 - along with the last clause of John 5:3 - is necessary to the understanding of John 5:7. The two, therefore, must stand or fall together; and as the seventh verse is admitted to be genuine, so, in oar judgment, must the rest.

And on the same day was the sabbath. Beyond all doubt this was intentional, as in so many other hearings, in order that, when opposition arose on this account, men might be compelled to listen to the claims and teaching of the Lord Jesus.


Verse 10

The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed.

The Jews - that is, those in authority (see the note at John 1:19).

Therefore said unto him that was cured, It is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed - a glorious testimony to the cure, as instantaneous and complete, from the lips of the most prejudiced! In ordinary circumstances the rulers had the law on their side (Nehemiah 13:15; Jeremiah 17:21). But when the man referred them to "Him that had made him whole" as his authority, the argument was resistless.


Verse 11

He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk.

He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk.


Verse 12

Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk?

Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? They ingeniously parry the man's thrust, asking him, not who had "made him whole" - that would have condemned themselves and defeated their purpose-but who had bidden him "take up his bed, and walk," in other words, who had dared to order a breach of the Sabbath? ''Tis time we were looking after him'-thus hoping to shake the man's faith in his Healer.


Verse 13

And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place.

And, [ de (G1161), or rather, 'But'] he that was healed wist not who it was. That some one with unparalleled generosity, tenderness, and power had done it, the man knew well enough; but as he had never heard of Him before, so He had disappeared too quickly for any inquiries.

For Jesus had conveyed himself away , [ exeneusen (Greek #1593)] - had 'slipped out' of the crowd that had gathered.

A multitude being in that place - to avoid both too hasty popularity and too precipitate hatred (Matthew 12:14-19; John 4:13).


Verse 14

Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.

Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple - saying, perhaps, "I will go into thy house with burnt offerings; I will pay my vows, which my lips have uttered, and my mouth hath spoken, when I was in trouble" (Psalms 66:13-14). Jesus, there Himself for His own ends, "findeth him there" - not all accidentally, be insured.

And said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee , [ hina (Greek #2443) mee (Greek #3361) cheiron (Greek #5501) ti (Greek #5100) soi (Greek #4671) geneetai (Greek #1096)] - or, 'lest some worse thing befal thee-a glimpse this of the reckless life he had probably led before his thirty-eight years' infirmity had come upon him, and which not improbably had brought on, in the just judgment of God, his chronic complaint. Fearful illustration this of "the severity of God," but glorious manifestation of our Lord's insight into "what was in man."


Verse 15

The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole.

The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus which had made him whole - little thinking how unwelcome his grateful and eager testimony would be. "The darkness," as Olshausen says, "received not the light which was pouring its rays upon it" (John 1:5-11).


Verse 16

And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus and sought to slay him because he had done these things on And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.

And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him. [This last clause - kai (Greek #2532) ezeetoun (Greek #2212) auton (Greek #846) apokteinai (Greek #615) - is excluded from the text by Tischendorf and Tregelles, on weighty but, as we judge, insufficient authority. Alford does the same, and Lucke, Meyer, and DeWette, approve of the omission, which they regard as a gloss to explain John 5:18. But the word mallon (Greek #3123) - "the more" - which none propose to exclude from the text, presupposes the clause in John 5:16, and is the strongest argument in favour of it. Lachmann retains the clause.]

Because he had done these things on the sabbath day. What to these hypocritical religionists was the doing of the most glorious and beneficent miracles, compared with the atrocity of doing them on the Sabbath day! Having given them this handle, on purpose to raise the first public controversy with them, and thus open a fitting opportunity for laying His claims before them, He rises at once to the whole height of them, in a statement which for grandeur, weight, and terseness exceeds almost anything that ever afterward fell from Him-at least to His enemies.


Verse 17

But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.

But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. The "I" here is emphatic [ kagoo (Greek #2504)] - q.d., 'The creative and conservative activity of My Father has known no Sabbath-cessation from the beginning until now, and that is the law of My working.'


Verse 18

Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.

Therefore [or 'for this cause' dia (G1223) touto (G5124)], the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father , [ patera (Greek #3962) idion (Greek #2398)]. This is not strong enough. It should be, 'that God was His own Father;' in the sense of Romans 8:32 (see there).

Making himself equal with God. This last clause expresses the sense in which they understood His words. And they were right in gathering this to be His meaning, not from the mere words "My Father," but from His claim of right to act as His Father did, in the like high sphere and by the same law of ceaseless activity in that sphere. And since, instead of instantly disclaiming any such meaning-as He must have done if it was false-He positively sets His seal to it in the following verses, merely explaining how consistent such claim was with the prerogatives of His Father, it is beyond all doubt that we have here an assumption of unique, personal Sonship, or participation in the Father's essential nature.


Verse 19

Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.

Then answered Jesus and said unto them, The Son can do nothing of himself , [ af' (Greek #575) heautou (Greek #1438)] - or 'from Himself,' that is, as an originating and independent Actor, apart from and in rivalry of the Father; which was what they supposed;

But what he seeth the Father do , [ ean (Greek #1437) mee (Greek #3361) ti (Greek #5100) blepee (Greek #991) ton (Greek #3588) patera (Greek #3962) poiounta (Greek #4160)] - 'but only what He seeth the Father doing.' The meaning is, 'The Son has and can have no separate interest or action from the Father.'

For what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise [ homoioos (Greek #3668)] - or 'in the like manner:'-q.d., 'On the contrary, whatever the Father doeth, that same doeth the Son, and just as He doeth it.' What claim to absolute equality with the Father could exceed this-not only to do whatever the Father does, but to do it as the Father does it? And yet, in perfect conformity with the natural relation of Father and Son, everything originates with the Former, and is carried out by the Latter.


Verse 20

For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel.

For the Father loveth the Son. The word here for "loveth" [ filei (Greek #5368)] is that which peculiarly denotes personal affection, as distinguished from that in the similar statement of John the Baptist [ agapa (Greek #25)], which peculiarly marks complacency in the character of the person loved (see the note at John 3:35).

And showeth him all things that himself doeth. As love has no concealments, so it results from the perfect fellowship and mutual endearment of the Father and the Son (see the notes at John 1:1; John 1:18,) Whose interests are one, even as Their nature, that the Father communicates to the Son all His counsels; and what has been thus shown to the Son is by Him executed in His mediatorial character. For, as Alford properly says, with the Father doing is willing: it is the Son only who acts in Time.

And he will show him greater works than these. The order is more lively in the original-`and greater works than these will He show Him.'

That ye may marvel referring to what He goes on to mention (in John 5:21; John 5:31) and which may be That ye may marvel - referring to what He goes on to mention (in John 5:21-31), and which may be comprised in two great words - "LIFE" and "JUDGMENT" - which Stier beautifully calls 'God's Regalia.' Yet these Christ says the Father and He have, and put forth, in common.


Verse 21

For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.

For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them - one act in two stages, the resurrection of the body and the restoration of life to it. This surely is the Father's absolute prerogative, if He have any.

Even so the Son quickeneth whom he will - not only doing the same divine act, but doing it as the result of His own will, even as the Father does it. This statement is of immense importance in relation to the miracles of Christ, distinguishing them from similar miracles of prophets and apostles, who as human instruments were employed to perform supernatural actions, while Christ did all-as the Father's commissioned Servant indeed, but-in the exercise of His own absolute right of action.


Verse 22

For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:

For the Father judgeth no man , [ oude (Greek #3761) gar (Greek #1063) ho (Greek #3588) pateer (Greek #3962) krinei (Greek #2919) oudena (Greek #3762)] - 'For neither doth the Father judge any man:' implying that the same thing was meant in the former verse of the "quickening of the dead;" both acts being done, not by the Father and the Son, as though twice done, but by the Father through the Son as His voluntary Agent. Our Lord has now passed to the second of the "greater works" which He was to show them, to their astonishment (John 5:20).

But hath committed all judgment unto the Son - judgment in its most comprehensive sense, or as we should say, all administration.


Verse 23

That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.

That all [men] should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. As he who believes that Christ, in the foregoing verses, has given a true account of His relation to the Father must of necessity hold Him entitled to the same honour as the Father, so He here adds that it was the Father's express intention, in making over all judgment to the Son, that men should thus honour Him.

He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent Him , [ ton (Greek #3588) pempsanta (Greek #3992) auton (Greek #846)] - 'which sent Him:' he does not do it in fact, whatever he may imagine, and will be held as not doing it by the Father Himself, who will accept no homage which is not accorded to His own Son.


Verse 24

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me - that is, 'believeth in Him as having sent Me.'

Hath everlasting life - hath it immediately on his believing: see the note at John 3:18; and compare 1 John 5:12-13;

And shall not come, [ erchetai (G2064), rather, 'and cometh not'] into condemnation. So absolved is he from guilt-so released from the sentence of condemnation, which as a sinner the divine law had fastened upon him-that the life which he enjoys is henceforth and forever a life of uncondemned, unrebuked right to stand before a holy God on terms of peace and acceptance.

But is passed from, [ metabebeeken (G3327) ek (G1537), literally, 'hath passed over out of'] death unto life. What a transition! But though 'freedom from condemnation' is that feature of this new life which our Lord here emphatically dwells on, it is quite evident-both from what goes before and what follows after-that it is life from the dead in the widest sense which our Lord means us to understand as communicated, of His own inherent will, to all who believe in Him. (Compare 1 John 3:14.) It is as if He had said, 'I have spoken of the Son's right not only to heal the sick, but to raise from the dead, and quicken whom He will: And now I say unto you, That life-giving operation has already passed upon all who receive my words as the Sent of the Father on the great errand of mercy.'


Verse 25

Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming , [ erchetai (Greek #2064) hoora (Greek #5610)] - or, 'There cometh an hour;' that is, in its whole fullness it was only "coming," namely, at Pentecost.

And now is - in its beginnings.

When the dead - the spiritually dead, as is clear from John 5:28, (see the note at Luke 9:64 ,)

Shall hear the voice of the Son of God. Here our Lord rises from the calmer phrase "hearing His word" (John 5:24) to the grander expression, "hearing the voice of the Son of God," to signify that as it finds men in a dead condition, so it carries with it a divine resurrection-power.

And they that hear shall live - in the largest sense of the word, as at the close of John 5:24.


Verse 26

For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself;

For as the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given, [ edooken (G1325), or 'gave He'] to the Son to have life in himself. Does this refer to the essential life of the Son before all time? (in the sense of John 1:4) - as most of the fathers understood it, and Olshausen, Stier, Alford, etc., among the moderns understand it; or, does it refer to the purpose of God that this essential life should reside in the Person of the incarnate Son, and be manifested thus to the world?-as Calvin, Lucke, Luthardt, etc., view it. The question is as difficult as the subject is high. But as all that Christ says of His essential relation to the Father is intended to explain and exalt his mediatorial functions, so the one seems in our Lord's own mind and language mainly the starting-point of the other.


Verse 27

And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.

And hath given him (or, as before, 'gave Him') authority to execute judgment also - as well as to quicken whom He will (John 5:21).

Because he is the Son of man. This seems to confirm the last remark, that what Christ had properly in view was the indwelling of the Son's essential life in humanity as the great theater and medium of divine display, in both the great departments of His work-life-giving and judgment. The appointment of a Judge in our own nature is one of the most august and beautiful arrangements of divine wisdom in Redemption.


Verse 28

Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,

Marvel not at this - this committal of all judgment to the Son of Man.

For the hour is coming - or, 'there cometh an hour.' But here our Lord adds not, "and now is," as in John 5:25; because the hour there intended was to arrive almost immediately, and in one sense had already come, whereas the hour here meant was not to arrive until the close of the whole dispensation of mercy.

In the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice.


Verse 29

And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life - that is, the resurrection unto life everlasting (Matthew 25:46).

And they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation , [ kriseoos (Greek #2920)] - or, 'of judgment,' but in the sense of condemnation. It would have been harsh, as Bengel remarks, to say, 'the resurrection of death,' though that is meant; because sinners rise only from death to death. The resurrection of both classes is an exercise of sovereign authority; but in the one case it is an act of grace, in the other of justice. Compare Daniel 12:2, from which the language is taken. How awfully grand are these unfoldings of His dignity and authority from the mouth of Christ Himself! And they are all, it will be observed, uttered in the third person-as great principles and arrangements from everlasting, independent of the utterance of them on this occasion. Immediately after this, however, He resumes the first person.


Verse 30

I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.

I can of [or 'from' af' (G575)] mine own self do nothing - apart from, or in rivalry of, the Father, and in any separate interest of My own (see the note at John 5:19): As I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me: - q. d., 'My judgments are all anticipated in the bosom of my Father, to which I have immediate access, and by Me they are only responded to and reflected. They cannot, therefore, err, since I live for one end only, to carry into effect the will of Him that sent Me.'


Verse 31

If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.

If I bear witness of myself , [ peri (Greek #4012)] - 'concerning Myself;' that is, in the sense already explained-standing alone, and setting up a separate interest of my own.

My witness is not true.


Verse 32

There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true.

There is another that beareth witness of me - meaning, The Father, as is plain from the connection. How brightly the distinction of the Persons shines out here!

And I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true. How affecting is this allusion! Thus did Jesus cheer His own spirit under the cloud of human opposition which was already gathering over His head.


Verse 33

Ye sent unto John, and he bare witness unto the truth.

Ye sent unto John - referring to the deputation which these same rulers sent to the Baptist (John 1:19, etc.), of which, though not present, Jesus was fully cognizant, as of the answer which the Baptist returned.

And he bare witness unto the truth.


Verse 34

But I receive not testimony from man: but these things I say, that ye might be saved.

But I receive not testimony from man - that is, I depend not on human testimony. That He should have permitted Himself to receive testimony from the Baptist, seemed to the Lord Jesus to need some explanation, lest it should be supposed that He stood in need of it, which therefore He here explicitly says He did not.

But these things I say, that ye might (or 'may') be saved. 'If I refer to John's testimony at all, it is but to aid your faith, in order to your salvation.'


Verse 35

He was a burning and a shining light: and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.

He was a burning and a shining light , [ ho (Greek #3588) luchnos (Greek #3088) ho (Greek #3588) kaiomenos (Greek #2545) kai (Greek #2532) fainoon (Greek #5316)] - literally, 'the burning and shining lamp,' or 'torch:'-q. d., 'the great light of his day.' Christ is never called by the humble word here applied to John-a light-bearer-studiously used to distinguish him from his Master, but ever The Light [ to (Greek #3588) Foos (Greek #5457)] in the most absolute sense. See the note at John 1:6.

And ye were willing for a season - that is, until they saw that it pointed where they were not prepared to go.

To rejoice in his light. There is a play of irony here, referring to the hollow delight with which his testimony excited them.


Verse 36

But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.

But I have greater witness , [ egoo (Greek #1473) de (Greek #1161) echoo (Greek #2192) teen (Greek #3588) marturian (Greek #3141) meizoo (Greek #3187)] - rather, 'The witness which I have is greater'

Than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me - not simply as miracles, nor even as miracles of mercy, but these miracles as He did them, with a will and a power, a majesty and a grace manifestly His own.


Verse 37

And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.

And the Father himself hath borne witness of me - not referring, probably, to the voice at His baptism, but, as seems from what follows, to the testimony of the Old Testament Scriptures. (So Calvin, Lucke, Meyer, Luthardt.)

Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape - never recognized Him in this character. The words as Stier remarks, are designedly mysterious, like many others which our Lord uttered.


Verse 38

And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not.

And ye have not his word abiding in you - passing now from the Witness-bearer to the testimony borne by the Father in "the lively oracles:" both were alike strangers to their breasts, as was evidenced by their rejecting him to whom all that witness was borne.


Verse 39

Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

Search the Scriptures , [ ereunate (Greek #2045)] - or 'Ye search.' Since either sense may be adopted consistently with the word itself, we must be guided by what seems to be the strain of our Lord's statement. But on this interpreters are entirely divided, and most are satisfied that theirs is the only tenable sense. The indicative sense-`Ye search'-is adopted by Cyril among the fathers, and of moderns by Erasmus, Beza, Lampe, Bengel, Campbell, Olshausen, Meyer, DeWette, Lucke, Tholuck, Webster and Wilkinson. In the imperative sense-`Search'-our translators are supported by Chrysostom and Augustine among the fathers, and of moderns by Luther, Calvin, Grotius, Maldonat, Wetstein, Stier, Alford, Perhaps the former sense-`Ye search'-best accords with what follows.

For in them ye think , [ dokeite (Greek #1380)] - 'deem,' 'consider'; in a good sense. Ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.


Verse 40

And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.

And ye will not come, [ ou (G3756) thelete (G2309) elthein (G2064), rather 'ye are not willing to come'] to me, that ye might have life: - q.d., 'With disregarding the Scriptures I charge you not: Ye do indeed busy yourselves about them (He was addressing, it will be remembered, the rulers-see the note at John 5:16): rightly deeming them your charter of eternal life: But ye miss the great Burden of them: Of Me it is they testify; and yet to Me ye will not come for that eternal life which ye profess to find there, and of which they proclaim Me the ordained Dispenser.' (See Acts 17:11-12.) Severe though this rebuke was, there is something most touching and gracious in it.


Verse 41

I receive not honour from men.

I receive not honour , [ doxan (Greek #1391)] - 'applause,' 'glory,'

From men - contrasting His own end with theirs, which was to obtain human applause.


Verse 42

But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you.

But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you - which would have inspired you with a single desire to know His mind and will, and yield yourselves to it, in spite of prejudice, and regardless of consequences.


Verse 43

I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.

I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. How strikingly has this been verified in the history of the Jews. From the time of the true Christ to our time, says Bengel, 64 false Christs have been reckoned, by whom the Jews have been deceived.


Verse 44

How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?

How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only. The "can" not here, and the "will" not of John 5:40, are but different aspects of one and the same state of the human heart, under the conscious and entire dominion of corrupt principles and affections-as contrasted with that simplicity and godly sincerity which, as in Nathanael (John 1:47), seeks only to know and receive the truth.


Verse 45

Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust.

Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: - q. d., 'My errand here is not to collect evidence to condemn you at God's bar.'

There is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust , [ eelpikate (Greek #1679)] - or 'hope': q.d., 'Alas! that will be too well done by another, and him the object of all your religious boastings-Moses;' here put for "the Law," the basis of the Old Testament Scriptures.


Verse 46

For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me.

For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me , [ episteuete (Greek #4100)] - rather, 'If ye believed Moses, ye would believe Me.' For he wrote of me - an important testimony, as Alford remarks, to the subject of the whole Pentateuch, "of ME."


Verse 47

But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?

But if ye believe not his writings (see the note at Luke 16:31).

How shall ye believe my words? - a remarkable contrast, not absolutely putting Old Testament Scripture below His own words, but pointing to the office of those venerable documents to prepare Christ's way, to the necessity universally felt for documentary testimony in revealed religion, and perhaps, as Stier adds, to the relation which the comparative "letter" of the Old Testament holds to the more flowing "words" of "spirit and life" which characterize the New Testament.

Remarks:

(1) The light in which the ministry of angels is presented to us in connection with the pool of Bethesda is most interesting and instructive. First, it would appear that one particular angel had charge over the miraculous virtue of this pool. And next, all that he did was to "trouble" the water. That the patient who first stepped in after this owed his cure to angelical virtue is not said. The contrary is rather implied and is in accordance with all else that we read of their ministry. They ministered to the tempted Saviour, but only in the way of bringing Him, as one of them did Elijah (1 Kings 19:5-8), the bodily sustenance for which He had so long confidingly waited (Matthew 4:11). In the extremity of His agony, there appeared an angel unto Him from heaven, strengthening Him; but for spiritual strength there is no reason to suppose that Jesus was indebted to an angel, except insofar as the consciousness of supernatural vigour of body and spirit to sustain the Conflict, certainly imparted by this angel, would tend to reassure Him of His Fathers love and presence with Him in that awful hour.

When apprehended, He expressed His confidence that He could immediately have, for the asking, more than twelve legions of angels, to free Him-If He desired it-from the hands of men; but that only. In heaven, He tells us, the angels of His dear "little ones" always behold the face of His Father which is in heaven (Matthew 18:10) - to receive, we may suppose, His commands concerning them. And Lazarus, in the parable, when he died, was carried by angels into Abraham's bosom. But in no case do their ministrations extend beyond what is outward. That they have either command or ability to interfere between the soul and God in things purely spiritual, or to affect the spiritual life at all except in the way of external ministration, we are bound-with such Scripture statements before us-positively to deny. How different from this is the teaching of the Church of Rome is known to all.

(2) Those who can see in the discourse which our Lord uttered on this occasion no claim to essential equality with God, and no assertion of the distinct conscious Personality of the Father and the Son, are not likely to see it anywhere else. It is not, in fact, more evidence that such want: it is the right appreciation of the evidence they possess. Nor can there be any doubt that unwillingness-whether conscious or not-to credit these truths on any evidence lies at the bottom of the rejection of them. But those who recognize in this discourse the Personal distinctions in the Godhead should not overlook these further intimations clearly to be gathered from it-that unity of action among the Persons results from unity of nature; and that Their oneness of interest is no unconscious or involuntary thing, but a thing of glorious consciousness, will, and love, of which the Persons themselves are the proper objects.

(3) In the announcement that the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and hearing shall live-first, spiritually at this present time, and then corporeally at the resurrection-day (John 5:25; John 5:28-29) - were have one of those apparent paradoxes which "the wise and prudent" ever stumble at, but to faith are full of glory. See the notes at Matthew 12:9-21, Remark 3 at the close of that section.

(4) Observe the honour accorded to the Scriptures generally, and the Old Testament Scriptures in particular by the Lord Jesus. Whether we understand him to bid them "Search the Scriptures," or in the way of commendation to say, "Ye do search the Scriptures," even though this was addressed more immediately to the rulers, the reason assigned for it-that in them they thought they had eternal life-is enough to show that in His view it was alike the interest and the duty of all to search them. How directly in the teeth of this is the teaching of the Church of Rome, none need to be told. See the notes at Luke 16:1-31, Remark 9 at the close of that section. But,

(5) In that miserable "searching of the Scriptures" to which the Jewish ecclesiastics certainly addicted themselves-and in which they have been even exceeded by the learned rabbis of later times-we see how possible it is to rest in the mere Book without the living spirit of it, and above all without the living Christ of it-to direct the soul to Whom is its main use and chiefest glory.

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on John 5:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/john-5.html. 1871-8.

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