THE SON OF GOD.
"The fourth living creature was like a flying Eagle." -- REV. 4:7.
"The way of an Eagle in the air is too wonderful for me." -- PROV. 30:18-19.
WE come now to that Gospel which more than any other carries on its face the plainest tokens of being occupied with an aspect of Christ distinct from all the rest. "The fourth living creature was like unto an eagle." And if in tracing those views of the Lord, the emblems of which are taken from creatures which walk on earth, it has been difficult to bring within my limits the characteristic peculiarities of each Gospel, what shall I say of this Gospel, which like the eagle soars away to heaven, where nearly the whole is peculiar, and every part throughout replete with mysteries touching the Son of God? Canst thou fly as the eagle? "She mounteth up on high: she dwelleth and abideth in the rock, upon the strong place. Her eyes behold afar off; her young ones suck up blood, and where the slain is, there is she" (Job 39:27-30). Who can follow here? Some have heard a voice, saying, "I bare you upon eagles' wings" (Exod. 19:4): and in His strength who makes his redeemed to ride upon high places, they also "mount up with wings as eagles" (Isa. 40:31). For "as an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings; so the Lord leads His beloved" (Deut. 32:11-12) into heavenly places, thence to behold what such as walk on earth can never see.
But alas! how little have we seen, how little are we fit to see, the precious things which are above this world. And yet it is this that St John treats of, revealing the Lord as "not of this world" (John 17:16), for the contemplation of those who like Him are not of this world; in tones replete with heaven, and which are themselves everywhere the exact echo of that Blessed One of whom they speak; witnessing how deeply His image and Spirit had sunk down into and pervaded the whole soul of "that disciple whom Jesus loved." My present purpose, however, is rather to indicate than to explore the subject; to shew that there is a special purpose here, rather than to attempt to fathom its great deep. For here we may bathe our souls in seas of rest; here we indeed come to waters far above the loins or ancles: "the waters are risen, waters to swim in, a river that cannot be passed over" (Ezek. 47:3-5). Having therefore briefly shewn, though indeed it needs no proof, how remarkably this Gospel differs from the rest, I would endeavour to learn some of the lessons which these peculiarities are intended to impress upon us.
To turn then to this Gospel. How distinctive is its commencement. Omitting the birth of Jesus as Son of Man, St John begins before all worlds. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1). Then comes the wondrous announcement, that though "all things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made;" though "in Him was Life, and the Life was the Light," yet "He was made flesh and dwelt among us." For man had departed from God, and lost His image. Then "the image of God" (Col. 1:15) comes to dwell in man, that man may dwell in God. No man could see God: therefore the Only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, came to declare Him to us. All this, and much more of a like nature, which meets us at the opening of this Gospel, is too remarkable to escape observation. Instead of the Lord of a kingdom, here it is "The Light of men." Instead of a Servant, here we see "Him who made all things." Instead of a Man subject to the powers of this world, born of a woman, laid in a manger, here it is "the Only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father," revealing His image, and communicating life "to as many as received Him" among the sons of men. Objections may be raised, and explanations offered, but the fact is beyond all doubt, that the view here rises, as the heaven is above the earth, over any which is given to us in the other Gospels.
Equally characteristic is the notice of John. The Baptist is elsewhere seen rather in connexion with the earthly than the heavenly relations of the Lord Jesus. Here it is clear that the Evangelist sees more, and wishes more to be seen in him, than the man. If Jesus is "the Light," John is also a light, though of another nature; a "lamp, burning and shining," yet but a lamp (John 5:35), (The contrast between Christ as the Light, and John as the lamp, is lost in the common version, where the words respecting John, ekeinos en ho luchnos ho kaiomenos, have been rendered, "He was a burning light." The Vulgate here more correctly gives, "Ille erat lucerna ardens.") destined to be quenched soon as the Light of heaven shall have introduced the perfect day. So Jesus is "the Word" here, and John is "the Voice" (John 1:23); words, which even partially apprehended, convey something to us very different from such titles as "the Lord," and "my Messenger" (Mark 1:2). The "Word" (Logos) is the sense: the "Voice" is the sound. Outwardly, the voice seems to be first, yet while in the act of communication it precedes the word, it is not really before it, for the sense must have been in the mind before it was out-spoken. So the word, if it has been received, abides in the heart; but the voice passes away. Having served to communicate the word, which was in one heart, to other hearts, the voice has done its work. Its use is as a witness, and this being accomplished, the word remains, while the witnessing voice is content to be forgotten. All this, as it applies to Him who is "the Word," and His forerunner, has been noticed by saints in other days. (Augustine again and again refers to the mystery contained in the fact, that Christ is "the Word," and John "the Voice." A reference to the following passages will amply repay perusal, and suggest much: Serm. 288, § 2 and 3; Serm. 289, § 3; Serm. 293, § 3.) To some it may be a hint of what is here for such as through grace can receive it. To all it speaks of the Lord in a relation connected with heaven rather than with earth.
No less distinctive is the witness of the Baptist, as recorded here. In St Matthew, he preaches a "coming kingdom;" in St Luke, "repentance;" while here he is "a witness to the Light, that all men through him might believe" (John 1:7). Accordingly that part of his witness which is given here, touches the heavenly side of the Lord: -- "I saw and bare record that this is the Son of God." "Again, the next day, John stood and two of His disciples, and looking upon Jesus as He walked, he said, Behold the Lamb of God" (John 1:32-36). All this, so perfectly in keeping here, is passed in silence by the other Evangelists, who, as their office is to shew the Human rather than the Divine in Christ, (though in a sense even the Human in Him is all Divine,) record such parts of the Baptist's testimony as bear upon their respective views, while St John selects what is more connected with the Divine nature. How this testimony touches those who are "partakers of the Divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4), we may see presently. Suffice it to notice here how the particulars given by St John all lead us to contemplate the Son of God.
The Baptist's words, too, respecting himself, as given here, which at first sight appear opposed to what St Matthew has recorded of him, like all such apparent contradictions, express a deep truth, experimentally known by all who, like John, have been called by grace to "prepare the way of the Lord" by the preaching of His gospel. In St Matthew, John the Baptist says to Christ, "I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me" (Matt. 3:14); whereas in St John he says, "I knew Him not, but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining upon Him, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw and bare record that this is the Son of God" (John 1:33, 34). Carelessly heard, these words do seem to have a discrepancy. But once see that St John is speaking of our Lord in an aspect as much higher than St Matthew's view as the Eternal Word is higher than the Son of David and Abraham, and then the words, which to our darkness may seem dark, in His light will yield only more brightness. For we may know, and do know, Christ as Son of David, and as such the rightful Heir of great glory, long before we know Him as the Word, who gives the Holy Ghost. I speak what I have known and felt. And I know that from the first of my witness to Christ, when like John I went preaching and baptizing, I so far knew Christ as to say, "I have need to be baptized of Thee;" for even then I saw He was Lord of a kingdom, and that I more needed to be baptized of Him, than He could need my poor testimony; and yet I knew Him not as the Word, until, in the act of receiving Him, that I might bear witness of Him, the Father revealed Him to me in such a character as I had till then never known or conceived of; and this, though from my youth I had been taught to believe that Jesus was the Son of God; so that I can truly say, "I knew Him not;" while yet from the first I knew that I had "need to be baptized of Him." And this high knowledge of Christ as the Eternal Word -- a knowledge we at first have not -- is that of which St John is speaking, and which is the special burden of his Gospel. But here, as in all things, experience only makes all clear. "We must do the works, if we would know of the doctrine" (John 7:17).
The next chapter -- and it is one of a series, each stage of which illustrates some virtue of the Son -- is full of particulars equally characteristic. Could I speak of the mysteries hid under the letter here, this would be yet more manifest. Here the first lesson is, that man's work ever ends in failure, while the work of the Son, out of man's failure, brings in yet greater glory. "Every man" -- this is the way of men, in opposition to the way of the Son, -- "Every man at the beginning sets forth good wine:" nature and the world give their best and fairest at the beginning; "but when men have well drunk, then that which is worse." Not so with the Son of God. "Thou hast kept the best wine until now." When man's feast fails, there yet remains what the Son of God has in store for them who bid Him welcome. And though with men the first is best, not so with the Son of God. His good wine comes sweeter and sweeter even to the end (John 2:10). The same truth comes out touching the temple. Man may, and will, ruin what he can; but the Son shall raise it up in greater glory (John 2:19). (Strauss, while discussing the charge brought against the Lord, that He had said, "I will destroy this temple," &c., and noting the fact that St Luke omits this, says, with his usual effrontery, "It is highly probable that the declaration about the destruction and rebuilding of the temple was really uttered by Jesus. That Luke omits the production of the false witnesses is therefore to be regarded as a deficiency in his narrative." (Vol. iii. p. 214.) This judge of the Gospels cannot see how what is perfectly in keeping touching the Son of God may be out of character in the description of the Son of Man. Surely the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.) But even the letter here is distinctive. "The mother of Jesus saith unto Him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, (could such words be found in St Luke?) Woman, what have I to do with thee?" Then we read, "This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth His glory;" for though the veil was yet upon Him, "the glory as of the Only-begotten" could not be wholly hid. So of the temple of His body, He says here, -- for "the Son quickeneth whom He will," -- "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up" (John 2:4, 11, 19). So we read, "Jesus did not commit Himself unto them, because He knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man; for He knew what was in man," -- words, which, as they bring to our remembrance the prophet's witness, "The heart is deceitful; who can know it?" and the answer, "I the Lord search the heart," reveal Jesus as the Lord, "to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid." But this is exactly in keeping with that view which is now before us, of "the Word who was with God, and who was God."
Even more marked is the next chapter, where the doctrine of a "second birth," as connected with Himself, "the Only-begotten Son of God," is given in a tone quite different from anything in the other Gospels. We have here an advance on the preceding chapter. There generally it was shewn how, when man's work ended in failure, the Son out of that failure could bring in better things; ("This beginning of miracles" (John 2:11). Doubtless there was a reason for this miracle in Cana being the first. I may observe in passing that it overthrows the stories of the infantine miracles as recorded in the Apocryphal Gospels.) a fit introduction to the miracles of grace to be accomplished by the Son of the Father. Here the detail of that special miracle, the new-birth, comes as a stepping-stone to the next miracle, (occupying the following chapter,) of the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. With Nicodemus, the subject is "the birth of water and the Spirit." With the woman of Samaria, it is "the well of water within, springing up unto everlasting life."
And here I would observe, -- for these scenes with Nicodemus, and the Samaritan, are examples, -- that in St John, though facts are related, they are never, as in the other Gospels, recorded for their own sakes, but invariably serve to introduce some spiritual discourse, of which the fact is generally the outward sign: the discourse or doctrine being invariably introduced with "Verily, verily" (See John 1:51; 3:3, 5, 11; 5:19, 24, 25; 6:26, 32, 47, 53; 8:34, 51, 58; 10:1, 7; 12:24; 13:16, 20, 21, 38; 14:12; 16:20, 23; 21:18), (St John, himself "the disciple who testifieth" (John 21:24), the one who caught most of the manner of the Lord, of Him who was "the faithful Witness" (Rev. 1:5), is the only evangelist who gives this double, "Verily, verily.") an expression not to be found in any of the other Gospels. This very form of the Gospel is characteristic. We saw something like this in St Luke, where, in describing the Son of Man, the very style, so distinctly human, was suited to the subject which that Evangelist had to set before us. The tendency in St John to rise to heaven, and to witness of heavenly things, is no less marked, and is equally in keeping with that view of the Lord, which it is his office to present to us.
As to the details of the interview with Nicodemus, I may add a word, for the truth here, growing out of that relationship of the Lord, which is set forth in this Gospel, is of the most vital interest. How is man to become God's son? This is the question here; and a fit question to have an early place in the Gospel which reveals the Son of God. In baptism indeed the Lord in His own person had shewn the path, but its mystery had as yet never been opened out. Here the secret is told. Natural birth will bring us into this world; but natural birth will not introduce us into the kingdom which is within the veil. To go thither we must be re-born. But how can this be? The wise Pharisee, who comes regarding the Lord as "a teacher," and commencing his discourse with a self-sufficient "We know," is forced to confess he knows nothing, and to cry, "How can these things be?" before the mystery of the new-birth can be revealed to him (John 3:2, 9). To be re-born we want something more than "a teacher." As sons of men, our life and portion is of the earth, earthy. Unfit for heaven, careless of its joys, how shall man enter there? Can the flesh be changed to bear the Lord's presence? "That which is born of the flesh is flesh;" and "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom." What then can be done? There must be the communication of another life. So the Son who is the Word, "in whom is life," came down to men, and laid hold of man in His own Person. He entered the kingdom of this world, and became a Man, that so laying hold of man, and traversing the length and breadth of man's portion, He might lift man, as quickened by Him, through death into another life, as God's heir, and Christ's joint-heir. Therefore we are baptized. We come as dead ones, confessing that our life as men is utterly unfit to give us admission into the Lord's presence. We come to put off that life, and are buried in baptism, renouncing Old Adam, to claim a new life in union with the life-giving Word; in the faith that if He be in us, His home shall be ours, and though for a season we yet bear the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. This in effect is what the Lord says here. Ye must be born again. Do you ask, How can these things be? How can man rise up to enter heaven? No man can ascend thither, save He that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven. But to take man thither He has come to take man's lot and die. For as the serpent was lifted up, so shall the Son of Man be lifted up. Then faith in Him, risen and ascended, shall bring others to Him, and they who receive the Word shall live with Him. Thus by the reception of the Word, man receives a life as real and much more blessed than the natural life he has in old Adam -- a life which exists the witness that judgment is in one sense behind us, for Jesus is risen, and our regeneration is a participation in His resurrection and eternal life. Thus does "the lifting up of the Son" close all earthly associations, and introduce to heavenly things hitherto all unknown. I cannot do more than touch the question here; but the whole passage is a marked example of the tone which runs through this Gospel. Indeed the words repeated so often, -- "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life," -- sufficiently shew what is the mind of the Spirit in this Scripture. "Cursed is the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm" (Jer. 17:5). But "he that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life."
And here let me observe how this word "life," so repeatedly occurring here (see John 3:36; 5:26, 29, 40; 6:33, 35, 48, 51, 53, 63, &c.), contrasts with the language of St Matthew's Gospel. With St Matthew the idea throughout is "righteousness," rather than "life." Of course life and righteousness are but different forms or expressions of one and the same reality. But where St Matthew, as befits his view of "the kingdom," sees righteousness, St John sees life. Thus St Matthew, as I have already noticed, records the words, "Suffer it to be so now, for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness." St John testifies of the Only-begotten, -- "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men." And this contrast runs through the Gospels. The Epistles have the like distinction. For instance, "righteousness" is the form of expression peculiar to the first Epistle. But where Paul says, "The righteousness of God without the law was manifested" (Rom. 3:21), John, still in character, says, "The life was manifested" (1 John 1:2). Where Paul comes to "declare God's righteousness, that He might be just, and yet a justifier" (Rom. 3:26), John comes "to bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested to us" (1 John 1:2). Both speak of the same reality, in different forms, not without a reason; even as the difference of form in the Gospels develops the fulness of the same blessed Lord.
The following chapter, of the woman of Samaria, takes up the same strain, enlarging on the growth and nourishment of the new life through faith in Christ Jesus. Nicodemus is told of the quickening, the Samaritan woman of the indwelling of life, through that Spirit, whose work it is to testify of and glorify the Son of God. The religious Jew is chosen to shew that, spite of all his religion, he needs new life. The defiled Samaritan to be a witness that, spite of all her sins, even in her soul there might be a well of living water. Here faith in the Son gives "a well of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:14); making us, now that we are alive, "worshippers," not in certain earthly places, but "in spirit and in truth;" revealing to us "the Father" as "seeking such to worship Him;" and enabling us to worship Him in the spirit of dear children. And all this, not in virtue of anything in man, for here one of the vilest is the example chosen to shew us where this grace may find its dwelling, but as springing from union with the Son: -- "The water which I shall give," is that which transforms this lost one, and others like her, into a vessel, first to contain, then to minister, the grace of life.
The next three chapters rise yet higher, with a witness to the Person of the Son, the force of which I despair of expressing, even in the measure which has flashed in upon my own soul. I may however observe that in these three chapters, (the 5th, 6th, and 7th,) the Lord is contrasted with all that law or ordinances had done for God's elect. Nay, He is shewn as the fulfilment of all, whether Sabbaths, Passovers, or the like, Himself the true rest and food for weary souls. The way in which these feasts are set aside here, to lead us higher, is very striking. Each of these chapters begins with a reference to some solemnity once ordained by God Himself; first, the Sabbath; then the Passover; then the Feast of Tabernacles. (Chapter 5 commences, "After this there was a feast of the Jews" (John 5:1). That this was the Sabbath appears from John 5:9. Chapter 6 commences, "And the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh" (John 6:4). In John 7:2, we read, "Now the Jews' feast of Tabernacles was at hand.) These were forms, the witnesses of what God had done, or would do, for ruined men. Once the forms had glorified God, being used as seals of His truth, to give both to God and man their due place. Then there was life in them for men. But the time had come when these same forms were used to glorify men, to make sinners of one class glory over sinners of another, and then all was death. Then the Word, coming in a form in which God was glorified, through which therefore there was life for men, set Himself in contrast to the forms misused to glorify man, and which for this reason had become powerless. And they who clung to the form, all the more strongly because they lacked the life, fought against the life in Him, making the very form their weapon to resist that of which it was the witness. Nevertheless there stood the Vessel, in which God was glorified, and which therefore ministered rest and life to weary men, declaring that not only from Himself, the Only-begotten, but from those who believed in Him, and were adopted children, living waters should flow to comfort those around, when He was glorified. One in the form of a Man, glorifying God on earth, was here saying, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink:" nay more, saying of His disciples, "He that believeth on me, out of his belly shall flow rivers." And "this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive, for the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7:37-39). O wondrous truth, that from the temples of our bodies, if only the Lord and not self is glorified, there shall run "living waters;" while if self is exalted, spite of all our knowledge, not one drop shall be ministered by us to weary souls! We may be believers, and yet the Lord may not in us be glorified. We may yet be under law, not come even to the cross, much less to Pentecost; nay, we may be crucifying Him afresh, and putting Him to an open shame. In such a case "the Holy Ghost will not be given, because Jesus is not yet glorified." Where He is glorified, though Pharisees and the world rage and imagine vain things, the living waters shall run into the desert, and "everything shall live whither the river comes."
My limits forbid my tracing, as I would desire, the truths unfolded here, as linked with the Person of the Lord, as Son of God. I may however observe, for it is characteristic of this Gospel, that the 5th chapter, which speaks of the work on the Sabbath, a work wrought as our Lord says, because neither God nor man could rest in sin and misery, (The Lord's words were, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." As though He had said, You judge me for breaking the Sabbath in healing this sufferer on the Sabbath-day. I do so because it has been proved -- this man's misery proves it -- that this Sabbath, the rest of the first creation, is indeed no Sabbath. There is no rest in it now either for God or man, for neither God nor man can rest in sin and misery. God did indeed rest in an unfallen world, and since the fall, before finally giving up the first creation to condemnation, He tried it once and again; giving, while the trial lasted, the Sabbath as a sign of a rest in the first creation. But sin works in it, and God cannot rest. Therefore, instead of "God did rest the seventh day," the truth now is, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.") contrasts the incompetency of law, which, like the pool of Bethesda, required something of strength in the patient, with the absolute life-giving and strength-giving power of the Son of God; shewing in addition that if men will not receive Him as Life-giver, they must as Judge; that in one or other of these relations He must be known by all men. The 6th chapter shews His place on earth, according to the mystery of the Paschal Lamb; that He must suffer, and yet give life to men; fulfilling the word, "He shall satisfy her poor with bread;" then opening to His disciples the secret of that Bread which came down from heaven; and then concluding with the question, "What and if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where He was before?" (John 6:62). After this comes the instruction of the 7th chapter, touching the Feast of Tabernacles, where, having testified that the time for His manifestation to the world as Son of Man was not yet come, He comes as the Sent of the Father, that is as Son of God, promising the "living water" as the witness of His coming glory. But I cannot pursue this. Enough if I have shewn how Jesus is presented here, not so much as Son of Adam, or Abraham, as Son of God.
What follows is equally distinctive, though the force of the connexion may be unperceived save where the life which connects it is personally enjoyed by us. Hitherto the burden touching the Son has been, "In Him was Life." Here He speaks of Light: -- "I am the Light of the world. He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12). And what a Light it is! An adulteress taken in the act, with sin confessed, stands in the light without judgment; while righteous Pharisees must go out one by one, being convicted by their own consciences (John 8:3-11). And the miracle here accomplished on "the man blind from his birth" (John 9:1-7), illustrates the light-giving power of this same Son of God. From this point the word "truth" constantly recurs. Faith grows to knowledge; for truth as well as grace had come by Jesus Christ (John 1:17). The grace saved, quickening to life: the truth sanctified, by giving light; the Life and the Light both issuing from the same fountain. He that believed, accepting the "grace," obtained eternal life; but he who followed the Pattern, continuing in the "truth," had light also. So the Lord says here to "those who believed in Him, If ye continue in my word, then ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31, 32). Faith from the first gives life; but if we keep the word, light comes, turning what once was faith into certain knowledge. I may have come out of the grave of nature, bound hand and foot with grave-clothes, with a napkin about my face, having life, but no light. Now I have light. "One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see" (John 9:25). And though rulers who set up to be lights, claiming authority and succession in the Church, even while saying, "Give God the glory" (John 9:24), may judge the Light-giver and the enlightened, their judgments cannot rob him whose eyes are opened of the light of God. In other Gospels blind ones are healed; but here with the act of healing is added the witness, "As long as I am in the world, I am the Light of the world;" for the Spirit would shew how light and knowledge, as well as life, are necessary accompaniments of a true reception of the eternal Word. Need I observe how all this marks the specific purpose of this Gospel? He that cannot see this must be blind indeed.
But I will not pursue this, for the general tenor of this Scripture, little as its depth may be apprehended, needs no proof. I will therefore only add, that just as the other Gospels, as they proceed onwards increasingly develop each its own peculiar view of the Lord Jesus, -- as, for example, St Matthew, where the chapters preceding the Passion are full of matters touching the children of the kingdom, with a testimony of the sin of those who sit in Moses' seat, -- so here also, in the corresponding place, the burden of this Gospel is as distinctly seen in the testimony of the sending of the Spirit by the Son, and in all that revelation of the Father's house and heart which is given only in this Gospel (chapters 13-17). This, however, would lead us where few could follow. I pass therefore to lower ground, to those scenes which are common to this and to the other Gospels, to note how different are the points here dwelt on, how unmistakeably they mark the specific view of Christ, which is here presented to us.
Observe then, that in St John not a word is said of His apprehensions of the cross, as in the other Gospels. Here He stands as it were above His sorrows. In St Luke (Luke 18:32), He may speak of being "delivered to the Gentiles, and mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on." All this is entirely omitted here. Instead of speaking of His griefs, the Son of the Father, "when He knew that His hour was come, that He should depart out of this world unto the Father" (John 13:1), is occupied in pouring comfort into His disciples' hearts. He "gives them His peace" (John 14:27). He "declares to them the Father's name" (John 17:26). "If they loved Him, they would rejoice, because He went to the Father;" for "now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him" (John 14:28; 13:31). And if for a moment, at the recollection that one eating bread with Him should betray Him, His "soul is troubled" (John 12:27; 13:21), and He refers to the betrayal; it is but a passing cloud, only revealing by its contrast the depth and quiet of that heaven of peace which still abode in Him.
It is the same here in the Garden. Life and Light throughout are with Him. St Luke may shew how the Son of Man prepares for His last great conflict; may tell us how He, "who in all points was tempted as we are, yet without sin," said, "Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from me;" may shew us "an angel strengthening Him," as "in an agony He prays more fervently;" may mark how He seems to seek sympathy from His disciples, while "great drops of blood fall to the ground" (Luke 22:41-44). We look in St John at the self-same scene; and what a contrast. Not one word of His prayer, or agony, or of an angel strengthening Him: not a word of His sweat, as it were great drops of blood: not a word of His apparent longing for sympathy and companionship in this His dark hour. Throughout He is the incarnate Word. "Jesus, knowing all things that should come upon Him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye? They answered, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am He. As soon as He had said unto them, I am He, they went backward, and fell to the ground." Here, instead of weakness and agony, is power appalling His adversaries.
Then again, instead of seeking sympathy from His disciples, here He is seen as possessing and exercising the power to protect them: -- "Jesus saith, I have told you that I am He. If therefore ye seek me, let these go their way; that the saying might be fulfilled which He spake, Of them which Thou gavest me I have lost none" (John 18:4-9). (Such as look closely will notice here many more interesting particulars. In St Luke our Lord says, "Father, remove this cup." In St Matthew it is "My Father;" because in St Matthew it is man in covenant with God that is presented to us. In St Mark it is, "Abba, Father.") Surely here is both the peace, and the power, of heaven, even in the bitter cross. He stands as One from whom no one can take His life, unless He please to lay it down.
In exact keeping with this, the company of people seen in St Luke (Luke 23:27, 28), yielding Him sympathy, "as they bewailed and lamented Him," and receiving His sympathy in return, as He bids them "weep for themselves," do not come within the line of vision to which St John directs us. An exalted tone, as of the Son of God, runs throughout the whole. Before Pontius Pilate He is here the calm witness of the "truth," still testifying, "He that is of the truth heareth my voice" (John 18:37). Even on the cross, it is the same. Abraham's Son may cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:46). The Servant of God may also "cry with a loud voice, and give up the ghost" (Mark 15:37). The Son of Man may say, "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit" (Luke 23:46). But of the Son of the Father we read, "After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, saith, I thirst." Then, "when He had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished, and bowed the head, and yielded up the Spirit" (John 19:28, 30). (paredoke to pneuma, very different from St Luke's exepneumen. Our authorised version translates both these very dissimilar expressions by the self-same English words, "He gave up the ghost;" a rendering which drops the whole force of the contrast, which is clearly intended in the words of the original. The Vulgate here correctly translates, "tradidit spiritum" in St John; and in St Luke, "exspiravit.") As the eternal Son He need not "commend Himself" to God. His own "It is finished," seals with a sufficient witness the full accomplishment of His own perfect work. Add to which that St John alone omits all record of the darkness, which, as it had a moral, as well as an historic, bearing, could have no place in the laying down of His life by the eternal Son. Thus it is ever here. The Word is seen made flesh; but the Divine beams forth through the Human everywhere. The cloud is bright with the sun, and the veil even before its rending is transparent to faith at least with heavenly glory.
But enough of what is distinctive. The depth is yet untouched. But what has been said may be sufficient to indicate to God's children what lies before them in this Gospel. The further entrance into it I leave to their prayers and diligence, and to the teachings of that Spirit, whose office it is to take of the things of Christ, and shew them to us. I would now, in one or two examples, shew how what is distinctive here bears on those who, through grace, are the sons of God in Christ Jesus.
Take then the opening testimony touching the Son, that "in Him was life, and the life was the light of men." What does it teach us who rejoice that "as He is, so are we in this world," as to the nature of that light, which, if He be in us, we too must manifest? It says simply, "The life was the light," -- the life, not the profession; "the life was the light of men." There stood One, in a servant's form, in the likeness of sinful flesh, whose life, even while others judged Him, was judging everything, and shewing, by its holy contrast, what in men was, and what was not, according to God's mind. "The life was the light." It is so yet. The Lord is in us: -- "Know ye not that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" (2 Cor. 13:5). And if He be in us, He must yet shew Himself by a life, for "in Him is life," and we also must be "light in the Lord" (Eph. 5:8). "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life;" not the light of genius, or of doctrine, but "the light of life;" a light which will make itself felt, even if sinners hate it; which may shine in darkness, and the darkness not comprehend it, but which, misunderstood, slighted, or opposed, has something in it which false professors cannot abide, and from which, sooner or later, they will withdraw themselves. The light of doctrine they can misuse to their own self-glorification. But the "light of life," a life by self-judgment convincing the world of sin and judgment; a life, by an hourly preparation for a change, and for the Lord's return, witnessing that we expect Him one day suddenly to come and judge all things; a life, the foretaste of heaven, in that its joys are not of nature, which is sorrowful yet always rejoicing, dying and behold it yet lives; such a life, just because it is light, and shews pretences as they are, if men will not be humbled by it, must be cast out. The wise of this world shall prove it a delusion, and pious worldlings lament its injudiciousness, and impious ones mock, and scoff, and hate it. But through all, it shall prove it is a light, by reproving what it comes in contact with, for "all things are reproved and made manifest by the light" (Eph. 5:13). In the Son of the Father there was life, and "the life was the light." Let the adopted children see that their life also is the light of men.
Take another point distinctive here: -- "No one hath seen God at any time: the Only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath revealed Him" (John 1:18). How does this testify of what becomes us as adopted children? The world knows not God: it cannot see Him: therefore the children of the Father, even as the Only-begotten Son, are set here to reveal and recommend Him. If Christ be in us, -- for "He cannot be hid" (Mark 7:24), -- something at least of the Father will appear; for where He is, there the Father that sent Him is seen also (John 12:45). So St Paul says to the Corinthians, "Ye are the letter of Christ" (2 Cor. 3:3); ye are they who give Him His character before the world. He represents you above. You must represent Him here, and thus reveal the Father, whose image He came to shew to men. If you walk "worthy of God," God is glorified in you. If otherwise, "the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you." For though some have learned to divide between what is the Church's true position, and its failing, men do and will judge by what they see. Art thou a son of God? Then, as the Only-begotten Son revealed Him, so in thy measure must thou also. Would men learn by thee what God was? This is the test of Christians; this too is the test of true Churches. This it is which, if we understand our calling, compels us to deal in grace; which, forbidding us to seize our brother by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest, commands us to suffer all things; because God now is dealing in grace, forgiving trespasses, and has set us here to represent that grace, by a life of sacrifice, that His character may be revealed in us. Oh! where is He thus revealed? Is that a revelation of Him, which has hid from men the holy and gracious standard which befits His kingdom; which has made it possible to be zealous for the Church, while careless of His glory; at peace with and honoured by her, while not at peace with Him; judging while He is shewing grace; in honour where He was rejected; descending to rule this world, instead of with Him waiting for that which is to come? Is this the revelation of the Father? If it be, then He who is without variableness or shadow of turning has indeed changed, since the Only-begotten Son revealed the glory, full of grace and truth.
But I must conclude. For to shew how the distinctions in this Gospel bear upon our walk, and illustrate our calling, as children of the Father, would lead me far beyond the limits here permitted to me. And indeed the things here shewn are of such a nature, needing to be revealed by the Holy Ghost, that they are better left to be spoken by Him, in His sweet teachings, as He sees we need them. God grudges nothing. He who gave His Son, He whose Spirit is content to dwell in tabernacles, which, though by his workmanship made fair within, are without of badgers' skins, has shewn how freely He gives. If we can bear it, all is ours: if we have it not, it is because we cannot bear it. Let us, like John, but make our dwelling nigh to that side cleft for us, seeing in the water and blood shed thence a pledge of those unsearchable depths of love which still remain, and we may drink our fill of love; and as no lack is there, so surely will there be no grudging. Oh, what depths are here! The heaven and earth were made; and thrones, and dominions, and principalities, and powers, were made also. But the Maker is here before us, made for a season like to us, that we might by Him be changed to bear His image; till, made like Him, His works are wrought in us also, till we by Him are workers of His works to His glory.
I say therefore, Let such as desire to know what becomes them as God's children, ponder well the peculiarities of this Gospel; ponder them as little children, as poor in spirit, diligently using what they have, that they may receive more. "Much food is in the tillage of the poor" (Prov. 13:23): their garden of herbs is small; but diligence gets much food thence, and health can use it all. If we be such "poor" ones, this Gospel will for us produce "much food:" then in each peculiarity will some treasure be found by us. Is the Son the "Lamb of God?" We too must be lambs; not swine or dogs, with the mark of the beast, but with the spirit of a dove abiding on us. Has the Son both life and light? The begotten children, like the Only-begotten, must exhibit both life and light also; and though often misunderstood, and unintelligible to carnal and godless men, must shew in their ways, because Christ is in them, the living truth of which sabbaths, passovers, and feasts of tabernacles, were but the faint figures. As sons of men they may at times have fears, and doubts, and darkness. But, as sons of the Father, their place is to walk even now as admitted within the veil: calm in trial, strong in weakness, betrayed but not distracted, to the end the unwavering witnesses for the same blessed Truth. Lord, all things are possible with Thee. Fulfil Thou Thy purpose. Thou hast predestinated us to be conformed to the image of Thy beloved Son. So conform us to Him here, by making us partakers of His cross and resurrection, that like Him we may reveal Thee, and not ourselves, in all our ways. Amen.
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