5:1 After these things there was a feast of the Jews1; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. JESUS HEALS ON THE SABBATH DAY AND DEFENDS HIS ACT. (At Feast-time at Jerusalem, probably the Passover.) John 5:1-47
After these things there was a feast of the Jews. Though every
feast in the Jewish calendar has found some one to advocate its claim to be
this unnamed feast, yet the vast majority of commentators choose either the
feast of Purim, which came in March, or the Passover, which came in April.
Older commentators pretty unanimously regarded it as the Passover, while the
later school favor the feast of Purim (John
4:35) locates Jesus in Samaria in December, and John
6:4 finds him on the shores of Galilee just before a Passover. If, then,
this was the feast of Purim, the Passover of John
6:4 was the "second" in Jesus' ministry, and that ministry
lasted but two years and a fraction. But if the feast here mentioned was a
Passover, then the one at John
6:4 would be the "third" Passover, and the ministry of Jesus
lasted three years and a fraction. Since, then, the length of Jesus'
ministry is largely to be determined by what the feast was, it becomes
important for us to fix the feast, if possible.
That it was "not" Purim the following arguments may be urged.
(1) Purim was not a Mosaic feast, but one established by human laws; hence
Jesus would not be "likely" to observe it. True, we find him at
the feast of Dedication which was also of human origin, but he did not
"go up" to attend it; he appears to have attended because he was
already in Jerusalem (John
10:22). John(2); Here the pregnant; juxtaposition of "feast" and "went up" indicates that
Jesus was "drawn" to Jerusalem by this feast, but Purim was
celebrated by the Jews everywhere, and did not require that any one should
go to Jerusalem, as did the three great festivals--Passover, Pentecost, and
Tabernacles. (3) It was kept in a boisterous, riotous manner, and was
therefore not such a feast as Jesus would honor. (4) It came early in the
year, when the weather was too rigorous and inclement for sick people to
frequent porticoes. (5) It did not include a Sabbath Day. (6) As Purim was
just a month before the Passover, Jesus would hardly have returned to
Galilee before the Passover (John
6:4) unless he intended to miss the Passover, which he would hardly do
for the sake of attending Purim in Jerusalem.
Those contending that it was "not" the Passover, present
several arguments, which we note and answer as follows: (1) Since John gives
the name of other Passovers, he would have named this also, had it been one.
But the conclusion is inferential, and not logical; and the answer is to be
twofold: First, perhaps John did give the name by prefixing the article to
it, and calling it "the feast", for being the oldest-- older than
the law and the Sabbath--and most important of all feasts, it was rightly
called by pre-eminence "the feast". Since the Sinaitic manuscript
gives the article, and calls it "the feast", the manuscript
authority for and against this reading is pretty evenly balanced. Second, if
John did not name it, there is probably this reason for his silence. Where
he names the feast elsewhere it is thought that the incidents narrated take
color from, or have some references to, the particular festal occasion which
is named; but here there is no such local color, and failure to name the
feast prevents mistaken attempts to find such local color. (2) Again it is
objected that if this is a different Passover from John
6:4; then John skips a year in the life of Jesus. He probably does so
skip, and this is not strange when the supplemental nature of his Gospel is
In favor of its being the Passover we submit two points: (1) Daniel seems
to forecast the ministry of the Messiah as lasting one-half week of years (Daniel
9:27). (2) It fits better in the chronological arrangement, for in the
next scene we find the disciples plucking grain, and the Sabbath question is
still at full heat. But the harvest season opens with the Passover.
5:2 Now there is1
in Jerusalem by the sheep [gate] a pool, which is
called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porches2.
Now there is. The present tense is used, for while the city was
destroyed, the pool evidently still existed.
In Jerusalem by the sheep [gate] a pool, which is called in Hebrew
Bethesda, having five porches. "In Hebrew", that is, in
Aramaic, a dialect of the classic Hebrew, in which the Old Testament was
written, and the language then in use in Palestine The pool had five covered
porticoes, probably erected for the accommodation of the sick, whence it is
called Bethesda, that is, "house of mercy". Dr. Barclay thinks
that this pool is buried in the rubbish of the Kedron valley. Dr. Robinson
suggested that it might be the Fountain of the Virgin, which is found in a
cavern under the east side of Ophel, a little north of midway between the
southeast corner of the temple wall and the Pool of Siloam. Though this
pool's claim has been objected to because of its inaccessibility--for it
lies thirty feet below the surface of the valley and forty feet back under
the mountain, and is approached by two flights of steps numbering in all
twenty-six--yet it has three distinct features which make its claim exceed
those of any other known pool in the temple neighborhood: (1) It is fed by
an intermittent spring, whose ebbing and flowing at intervals of several
hours, would cause the troubled waters called for in John
5:7. (2) It has a superstition connected with it kindred to that which
crept into the text at when the dragon is awake he swallows or stops the
water, but when he sleeps the water flows! (3) The modern Jerusalem Jews
believe in the special healing properties of this fountain. Says Conder,
"Every day crowds of both sexes go down to the spring, and, entering
the dark archway, descend the steps, and await the fitful troubling of the
waters, which rise suddenly and immerse them, fully clothed, nearly up to
But Nehemiah's description of the walls seems to locate the sheep gate
near the middle or northern portion of the temple area, and too far north
for the Virgin's fountain to be described as near it, unless John's sheep
gate differs from that of Nehemiah.
5:3 In these lay a multitude of them that
were sick, blind, halt, withered, [waiting for the moving of the water.]
[Waiting for the moving of the water], etc. The end of this verse
and all of John
5:4, as given in the Authorized Version, were probably added as a
marginal explanatory gloss early in the second century, and from thence
gradually became incorporated in the text. John's failure to mention that
the pool was thought to have medicinal qualities tempted transcribers to add
a few marginal words in the nature of comments.
5:5 And a certain
man was there, who had been thirty and eight years in his infirmity1.
And a certain man was there, who had been thirty and eight years in his
infirmity. It is not said that he had spent all these years beside the
pool, nor is it likely that he had. The time is given to mark the inveteracy
of the disease, and to show the pathos of his situation. The facts that he
had a bed, and that his healing was demonstrated by his walking, argue that
his disease was either rheumatism, or some form of paralysis.
5:6 When Jesus saw
him lying, and knew that he had been now a long time1 [in
that case], he saith unto him, Wouldest thou be made
When Jesus saw him lying, and knew that he had been now a long time.
By divine intuition, just as he also knew the lives of Nathanael and the
Samaritan woman at Jacob's well.
He saith unto him, Wouldest thou be made whole? By this question
Jesus aroused the man from the apathy of despair, awakening him to hope and
effort. Moreover, Jesus only healed as men consented to his healing.
5:7 The sick man
answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the
pool1: but while I am coming,
another steppeth down before me2.
The sick man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is
troubled, to put me into the pool. The man's lack of healing was not due
to want of interest, but to want of means.
But while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. The lower
flight of ten steps leading to the Virgin's pool is only four and half feet
wide, and the pool itself is but twenty-one feet and nine inches by nine
feet in breadth at its widest part. A half-dozen selfish men rushing down
this narrow passage, and filling the small space in the pool, would easily
crowd out one who was friendless and more than usually helpless.
5:8 Jesus saith unto him, Arise,
take up thy bed, and walk1.
Arise, take up thy bed, and walk. The bed was the light mattress or
pallet of the poor elsewhere noted (see Mark
2:3) which could be easily rolled up and carried under the arm.
straightway the man was made whole, and took up his bed and walked1.
Now it was the sabbath on that day2.
And straightway the man was made whole, and took up his bed and walked.
Christ spoke, the man obeyed, and by the obedience of faith was made whole.
Now it was the sabbath on that day. There was apparently nothing
urgent in the sick man's condition which made an immediate cure necessary;
but Jesus healed on the Sabbath, that he might thereby draw such an issue
between himself and the Jewish rulers as would afford opportunity for him to
present his divine claims to them in the clearest and most forceful manner.
He healed on the sabbath, that he might assert divine relations to the
Sabbath, and by so doing bring about a disputation which would enable him to
develop before them his divine relations to the Father.
5:10 So the Jews1
said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath, and it
is not lawful for thee to take up thy bed2.
So the Jews. That is, the Jewish rulers. John frequently uses the
term with this restricted meaning (John
18:12,14). The man was officially stopped and questioned.
Said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath, and it is not lawful
for thee to take up thy bed. They would have cited in proof of their
13:19. Alford and Schaff both assert that the man broke the Mosaic law;
but this position is not well taken. Jesus would not have ordered the
sabbath to be broken, for he came to fulfill and not to break the law (Matthew
5:17). At no time did he break the sabbath or countenance its violation,
as some able thinkers are erroneously led to suppose. In this case a man
lying on his bed, away from home, is suddenly healed. Under such
circumstances "Jewish tradition" said that he must either spend
the rest of the day watching his bed, or else he must go off and leave it to
be stolen. But He who rightfully interpreted the law of his own devising,
and who knew that "the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the
2:27), ordered the healed one to carry his bed along home with him. The
modern notions that this constituted a breach of the Mosaic sabbath
doubtless arose from the nature of the accompanying justification given by
Jesus, which fails to assert that the law has not been broken, but seems
almost to admit that it has. Nothing, however, can be argued against Jesus
on this score. A man may be able to justify an act in a dozen different
ways, and may choose to rest content in justifying himself in only one way.
Such is the case here. Elsewhere we shall find that Jesus was careful to
show that his sabbatic actions were strictly legal; but in this case, that
he might bring his divine claims plainly before the rulers, he ignored the
question as to the human legality of his act that he might present without
confusion its divine legality. Hence he used only one order or method of
justification; viz.: an appeal to his divine rights as exhibited in the
habits of his Father. It was the divine and not the human in Jesus which
wrought this miracle, so Jesus causes the whole controversy to turn on the
divine rights, that he may use the occasion for an elaborate discussion of
his divine claims and the proofs by which they are sustained. Also see John
5:11 But he answered them, He
that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk1.
He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk.
The man very naturally shifts the burden of responsibility. If he was
violating the sabbath, he had been ordered to do it by one who had alone
empowered him to do it. Of himself he would not and could not have done it.
5:12 They asked
him, Who is the man that said unto thee, Take up [thy bed], and walk1?
They asked him, Who is the man that said unto thee, Take up [thy bed],
and walk? By using the word "man" they suggest the contrast
between human authority and divine law. They were more concerned about the
law than about mercy.
5:13 But he that was healed knew not who
it was; for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a
multitude being in the place1.
For Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in the place.
Jesus, not wishing to unduly excite the multitude by his presence, had
Jesus findeth him in the temple1, and said unto him, Behold,
thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing befall thee2.
Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple. Possibly he was there
offering sacrifices in thanksgiving for his recovery, in the spirit of Psalms
66:13,14, but it is as likely that he was there merely enjoying the
sights and privileges from which he had so long been excluded.
Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing befall
thee. Many human ills are directly traceable to sin, and this one
appears to have been so; for death is the wages of sin (Romans
6:23), and sickness is partial payment. It is a solemn thought that sin
can produce worse conditions than even this case, where it found its victim
in youth, and left him a withered old man, bed- ridden, helpless, and
5:15 The man went
away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him whole1.
The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him
whole. There was evidently no unworthy motive in his action; for, as
Chrysostom observes, he did not report it that it was Jesus who made him
break the sabbath to condemn Jesus; on the contrary, he said it was Jesus
who made him whole, so honoring Christ. Feeling (as any Jew would have felt)
that he ought to clear himself before the rulers of his people, the man, no
doubt, honestly thought that the name and authority of the great Prophet of
Nazareth would end all question as to the conduct of both Healer and healed.
If so, he was sadly mistaken.
5:16 And for this
cause the Jews persecuted Jesus, because he did these things on the sabbath1.
And for this cause the Jews persecuted Jesus, because he did these
things on the sabbath. Literally, pursued, or hunted Jesus. This is
John's first plain declaration of open hostility to Jesus, though he has
already implied it. From this point the blood-red line of conspiracy against
the life of Jesus runs through this Gospel.
5:17 But Jesus answered them, My
Father worketh even until now, and I work1.
My Father worketh even until now, and I work. The dual nature of
Jesus permitted both a divine and human attitude toward the sabbath. We have
shown that Jesus chose to assert his divine attitude, for in no other matter
did these Jews have clearer distinction as to the difference between divine
and human right than in this matter of sabbath observance. See John
5:10. If Jesus were a mere man, their ideas of law clearly condemned
him; but if Jesus were indeed God, their knowledge of divine conduct in the
whole realm of nature clearly justified him, and the miracle asserted his
divine control in nature's realm. While God rested from creation on the
sabbath, nothing can be clearer than that in works of sustenance,
reproduction, healing, and providence. God has never rested, and never made
distinctions between the days of our week. In the light of the gospel we
find also that his redemptive work has never ceased and, considering the
part which Jesus was even then accomplishing in this field of labor, his
words, "and I work", are full of meaning.
5:18 For this
cause therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him1, because
he not only brake the sabbath2, but
also called God his own Father3, making
himself equal with God4.
For this cause therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him. See John
Because he not only brake the sabbath. Not only violated, but
denied its authority over his divine nature.
But also called God his own Father. They rightly interpreted Jesus
as asserting relationship to God differing from that sustained by others, as
expressed in some few passages in the Old Testament, where God is spoken of
as a Father to the people generally; that is, their Creator.
Making himself equal with God. No main could claim such unity of
nature as would exempt him from the obligation of the fourth commandment.
Had they misunderstood Jesus in this all-important point, how quickly would
he have corrected them, for he could not have been less righteous than Paul
and Barnabas (Acts
therefore answered and said unto them1, Verily,
verily2, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of
himself, but what he seeth the Father doing: for what things soever he doeth,
these the Son also doeth in like manner.
Jesus therefore answered and said unto them. His answer is a
connected address, the theme being his own character, mission, authority,
and credentials as the Son of God. It is the Christology of Jesus, and
instead of being a retraction of the claim to divinity which the Jews
accused him of making, it is a complete and amplified reassertion of it, so
that Luther fitly called it
"a sublime apology, which makes the matter worse."
Jesus first declares his relations to the Father (John
5:19-23), which are set forth in four divisions, each of which is
introduced by the word "for"; viz.: (1) Unity of action (John
5:19). (2) Unity of love, counsel, and plan (John
5:20). (3) Unity of life-impartation (John
5:21). (4) Unity in judgment, resulting in unity of honor. (John
5:22,23). This last division formed a turning-point in the discourse.
Since there is there unity of honor, it is important that men should honor
Jesus, and also otherwise sustain right relationships to him, and Jesus
therefore, to enlighten the Jews as to their duty toward him, proceeds to
set forth his relations to men (John
5:23-30), which he also gives in four divisions, closely correlative to
his four statements as to the Father, thus: (1) Right to receive divine
honor from men (John
5:23). (2) Authority to execute life and death judgment over men (John
5:24). (3) Power of life-impartation as to men, and that both
spiritually and literally (John
5:25-29). (4) All Jesus' relationships to man to be sustained and
executed according to the will and plan or mission of God (John
5:30). But since all these various relationships grow out of his divine
nature, Jesus next submits the credentials which establish his claim to such
a nature (John
5:31-39). There also are given in four divisions; namely: (1) Testimony
of the Baptist (John
5:31-35). (2) Jesus' own works and ministry (John
5:36). (3) Testimony of the Father (John
5:37). (4) Testimony of Scripture (John
5:38,39). Or we may regard Jesus as asserting that the Father testifies
to the Son's divinity in four different ways; that is,
"God is properly the sole and original testifier, and all others are
his signature and seals."
The discourse then closes with an application of its truth to the Jewish
5:40-47). They are told that all this truth is lost on them because of
their own fourfold sinful condition, which is thus stated: (1) Want of will
to come to Christ (John
5:40). (2) Want of real love toward God, or desire for his honor (John
5:41-43). (3) Love for the honor of men, rather than the honor of God (John
5:44). (4) Want of real faith in the Mosaic writings (John
Verily, verily. See John
The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father doing:
for what things soever he doeth, these the Son also doeth in like manner.
The Jews regarded Jesus as claiming equality with God in a vain-glorious,
honor-seeking spirit; but Jesus restates himself, so as to show that the
claim is really a renunciation or abdication of all independent
greatness--as having an equality exercised in absolute subservience (Isaiah
3:5-9). They had accused him as a human being acting contrary to the law
of the Father. But he declares himself to be a divine being, so united to
the Father as to have no will or action apart from the Father, a condition
the resultant of which is not weakness and insufficiency, but the strength
and perfection arising from an absolute and indissoluble union with the
Father--the glory of divinity. Chrysostom remarks,
"Just as when we say, it is impossible for God to do wrong, we do
not impute to him any weakness, but confess in him an unutterable power, so
also when Christ saith, "I can of mine own self do nothing", the
meaning is that it is impossible--my nature admits not--that I should do
anything contrary to the Father."
Jesus asserts his equality with the Father in such a way as not to
depreciate the dignity and glory of the Father.
5:20 For the
Father loveth the Son1, and
showeth him all things that himself doeth2: and
greater works than these will he show him3, that
ye may marvel4.
For the Father loveth the Son. The words here indicate that the
love of the Father toward the Son was source of revelation, and that the
revelation was progressive. Love constrained the Father to reveal, and love
in turn constrained the son to act according to the revelation.
And showeth him all things that himself doeth. Putting the
statements of John
5:19,20 together, we find that the Son knows all that the Father does,
and likewise does all that the Father does, and in like manner. There could
be no higher assertion or equality than this; in fact, it asserts identity
rather than equality. But the equality is not the result of conquest, nor
was it one of power opposed to power, but is freely given and accorded by
reason of love.
And greater works than these will he show him. Moreover, this unity
of love would be evidence by greater works in the future, of which two are
enumerated; namely, resurrection and judgment, the former being at first
spiritually and afterwards literally outlined. The Father would show these
works to the Son by causing him to do them; there would be no separate act
of the Father so that the works would be twice performed.
That ye may marvel. These works would produce faith in those of
right spirit. But among such hardened hearts as those whom Jesus addressed
they would only produce wonder and consternation. Those who withheld the
tribute of faith should pay that of amazement.
5:21 For as the
Father raiseth the dead and giveth them life1, even
so the Son also giveth life to whom he will2.
For as the Father raiseth the dead and giveth them life. Since the
verbs in this verse are in the present tense, and since Jesus is not known
to have raised the physically dead before this time, it is rightly taken
that he her speaks only of raising the spiritually dead, our miserable
existence in sin being often spoken of in Scripture as a death from which we
must be revived (Ephesians
Even so the Son also giveth life to whom he will. The use of the
word "will" likewise indicates a spiritual resurrection, for
Christ exercised a discrimination in such resurrections; but the final,
literal resurrection is without discrimination. See the word "all"
in physical resurrections, so the Son (for the present) performs spiritual
resurrections (to be followed by physical resurrections). Jesus later gave
those at Jerusalem a sign of his power to literally raise the dead by the
resurrection of Lazarus. Resurrection is bestowed or withheld according to
Jesus' will, but his will is not arbitrarily exercised. He visits those who
receive him, and revives those who believe him. If the Son possessed right
of concurrent action on these lofty planes, concurrent use of the sabbath
was a small matter indeed.
5:22 For neither
doth the Father judge any man, but he hath given all judgment unto the Son1;
For neither doth the Father judge any man, but he hath given all
judgment unto the Son. That is to say, the Father does not act in
judgment without the Son, nor the Son without the Father, for in no work is
either isolated from the other. Resurrection is nearly always associated
with judgment, and in this instance it is in reviving that the judgment is
manifested or executed. See also John
5:29. Note that judgment begins in this world (John
5:23 that all may
honor the Son, even as they honor the Father1. He
that honoreth not the Son honoreth not the Father that sent him2.
That all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father.
"Even as" means in the same manner and in equal degree. The
prerogative of judgment was committed unto Jesus that men might behold his
true majesty. If this verse does not teach us to worship Jesus as God,
language cannot teach it, for God gives not his glory unto another (Isaiah
42:8,11), nor could he, by reason of his very nature, arbitrarily will
such honor to one whose character and nature were unworthy of it. In these
words Jesus exposed the ruinous attitude assumed by the Jews in seeking to
He that honoreth not the Son honoreth not the Father that sent him.
Honor paid to the Father pertains or belongs to his nature and character.
But the Son is the manifestation of that nature and character (John
1:3). Therefore to fail to honor the Son is to fail to honor the Father.
Experience shows it to be the rule that only those who honor Jesus take
pains to honor the Father.
verily1, I say unto you, He that
heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal life2,
and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of
death into life3.
Verily, verily. See John
He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal
life. To "hear" means in this case to receive and obey, so
that eternal life is conditioned upon a knowledge of the revelation of the
Father and Son, and a right use of that knowledge. Eternal life is a present
gift, just as condemnation is a present condition (John
And cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life.
Those who have learned of and obey Jesus have already escaped or avoided the
verily1, I say unto you, The hour
cometh, and now is2, when the dead shall hear the voice of
the Son of God; and they that hear shall live.
Verily, verily. See John
The hour cometh, and now is. The "hath passed" of John
5:24 and the "now is" of this verse show that Jesus is, thus
far, primarily speaking of a present and hence a spiritual resurrection, or
When the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that
hear shall live. Christianity, or the dispensation of regeneration, was
to begin formally at Pentecost (Acts
2:1-4), but it was already present in a preliminary form in the teaching
of Jesus, for those who hearkened to it were counted as already redeemed.
Yet the spiritual condition of even the apostles was at that time such that
the hour of grace is spoken of as more future than present--more
"coming" than at hand.
5:26 For as the
Father hath life in himself, even so gave he to the Son also to have life in
For as the Father hath life in himself, even so gave he to the Son also
to have life in himself. Not only an independent life, such as man does
not possess (Acts
2:27,28), but a life which is a source of life to others. This
regenerating power completed Jesus' official status as judge, so that
wherever he awarded life, he could at the same time bestow it.
5:27 and he gave
him authority to execute judgment, because he is a son of man1.
And he gave him authority to execute judgment, because he is a son of
man. We can see several reasons, humanly speaking, why the humanity of
Jesus should be made a ground for committing the judgment of the races of
men to him: (1) Jesus having experienced our infirmities and temptations, we
can feel sure of his sympathy (Hebrews
4:15,16). (2) Jesus, partaking of the nature of both God and man, is,
because of his unique nature, the only fit daysman or umpire between them (Job
9:33). Possibly we may regard it as a reward of humility (Philippians
5:28 Marvel not
at this1: for the hour cometh, in which all that are in
the tombs shall hear his voice,
Marvel not at this. Jesus seems to here answer the surprised
expression of their faces by enlarging his statements.
5:29 and shall come forth; they that have
done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the
resurrection of judgment.
And shall come forth . . . unto the resurrection of life; and . . .
unto the resurrection of judgment. We have here the future, literal, and
final resurrection (Daniel
12:2); a scene of such stupendous grandeur as to overshadow all the
marvelous in all that Christ shall have previously done.
5:30 I can of
myself do nothing1: as I hear, I
judge2: and my judgment is
righteous; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of him that sent me3.
I can of myself do nothing. Jesus here reasserts his dependence
upon the Father, not as a bare repetition of his relationship to the Father,
but for the purpose of developing his relationship to men as based on or
growing out of this relationship to the Father.
As I hear, I judge. The Jews, as they listened to him, were
conscious that he was even then judging and passing sentence of condemnation
And my judgment is righteous; because I seek not mine own will, but the
will of him that sent me. Jesus does not deny the correctness of this
view, but shows that, because of his relationship or dependence upon the
Father, they are getting perfect justice, for: (1) His judgment was free
from all personal bias and selfish retaliation, and was (2) positively
perfect, being wholly inspired by the Father's will.
5:31 If I bear
witness of myself, my witness is not true1.
If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. This verse and
Jesus passes from discussing himself and the divine and human phases of his
nature and office to take up the evidences which attest him, first asserting
that the truth of what he has said does not rest solely on his own veracity.
There is here an indirect reference to that clause of the Jewish law which
required two witnesses. See John
8:14-18. But the saying is deeply spiritual.
5:32 It is
another that beareth witness of me1; and
I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true2.
It is another that beareth witness of me. That is, the Father; for
similar reference, see John
And I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true.
Since Jesus did nothing of himself, his very testimony was not his own, but
was the Father's who sent him, and was therefore absolutely true in the
consciousness of Jesus. If Jesus had testified independently of the
Father--had it been possible--it would have been in the nature of the case
contrary to that consensus of the divine will which forms the truth.
5:33 Ye have sent
unto John1, and he hath borne
witness unto the truth2.
Ye have sent unto John. This shows that Jesus was addressing the
And he hath borne witness unto the truth. John had witnessed the
truth concerning the Messiahship of Jesus. Some think that the pronoun
"another" in John
5:32 refers to John also, but by the present tense
"witnesseth" of that verse, and the past tense "hath borne
witness" of this verse, the ever-abiding testimony of the Father is
contrasted with the finished testimony of John, who is now silenced by
5:34 But the
witness which I receive is not from man1: howbeit
I say these things, that ye may be saved2.
But the witness which I receive is not from man. In the light of John
1:6,7, it sounds strange to hear Jesus thus renounce the testimony of
the Baptist. But the phrase, "not from man", is the Hebrew
negative, meaning "not from man alone". Jesus therefore meant to
accept it, as he in the next breath did that of Moses, as prophetic--as the
testimony of the Father spoken through a human medium; but meant to reject
it as a merely human testimony, such as it was in the view of these Jews who
denied in their hearts that John was a prophet. This mission of Jesus was
not to be proved by uninspired testimony, for uninspired man cannot testify
of God from lack of full and adequate knowledge (Matthew
Howbeit I say these things, that ye may be saved. And yet if the
Jews were willing to accept such testimony, Jesus in kindness would permit
it, that by any fair means they might believe and be saved.
5:35 He was the lamp that burneth and
shineth; and ye were willing to rejoice for a season in
And ye were willing to rejoice for a season in his light. They were
willing, like children, to play in John's light without stopping to
seriously consider its meaning, but when he bore testimony to Christ they
blasphemed him (Luke
5:36 But the
witness which I have is greater than [that of] John1; for
the works which the Father hath given me to accomplish2, the
very works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me3.
But the witness which I have is greater than [that of] John. By
"greater testimony" Jesus means testimony which is more
convincing. All divine testimony is of equal veracity, but some it is more
obviously convincing. The less the testimony savors of humanity, and the
more purely divine it appears, the more convincing it is (1 John
For the works which the Father hath given me to accomplish. The
term "works" is not to be confined to miracles, for the word
"finish" indicates a wider meaning. The entire Messianic mission
or redemptive work which ended with our Lord's words, "It is
5:20), and outlined by referring to spiritual judgment and regeneration,
should be included.
The very works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent
me. Christ's transforming grace still witnesses to Jew and Gentile that
the Father sent him, for it it manifests the love of God (John
3:16). The Father did not send the Son to merely work miracles, but to
redeem the world.
5:37 And the
Father that sent me, he hath borne witness of me1. Ye
have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his form2.
And the Father that sent me, he hath borne witness of me. The
testimony of the Father was given in three forms: (1) By direct or audible
voice and the visible sending of the Spirit--as at Jesus' baptism. (2) By
revelations, through the medium of prophets and angels gathered and
preserved in the Old Testament Scriptures. (3) Through the Son and his
Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his form.
Jesus here asserts that all testimony of the first kind had failed to reach
the Jewish rulers; the testimony of the second kind has been utterly lost
upon them, for they failed to see its accordance with the testimony of the
third kind which he was even then exhibiting to them, neither had it taught
them to expect a personal Savior.
5:39 Ye search
the scriptures, because ye think that in them ye have eternal life; and these
are they which bear witness of me1;
Ye search the scriptures, because ye think that in them ye have eternal
life; and these are they which bear witness of me. According to the
"Hillel used to say, More law, more life. . . . He who has gotten
himself words of law has gotten himself the life of the world to come."
In their zeal for the Scriptures the Jews had counted every letter of
them, expecting to find life in the laws and precepts, but failed to find
Him of whom the Scriptures spoke in figure, type, and prophecy. In their
reverence for the Book they failed to see that it was a mere means intended
to acquaint them with him through whom life was to come. Hence, as Canon
Cook suggests, there is deep pathos in the coordination
5:40 and ye will
not come to me, that ye may have life1.
And ye will not come to me, that ye may have life. John
5:39,40 give us three points worthy of deepest reflection: (1)
Protestantism may love the Book and show a martyr's loyalty to it, and yet
fail utterly to render any acceptable love or loyalty toward the Being
revealed in the Book. (2) Criticism, both higher and lower, may submit every
text to microscopic investigation, and yet be as blind as the ancient
Pharisees to its true meaning. It is profoundly true that the things of the
Spirit are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians
2:14), and that pride of literary culture, and the self-worship of
intellectualism tend to spiritual blindness (Matthew
5:21). It seems to come upon such a visitation from God, as in the case
of Elymas (Acts
13:8-12). (3) Though free will is meant to be man's crowning glory, yet
it may result in his shame and ruin.
5:41 I receive
not glory from men1.
I receive not glory from men. Jesus here shows that his rebuke of
their disbelief does not spring from personal pique or disappointed
ambition. He came seeking faith that he might save, not honor that he might
be glorified, and honor paid to him is by him transferred to God (Philippians
2:10,11), just as honor paid to the true Christian is transferred to
5:42 But I know
you, that ye have not the love of God in yourselves1.
But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in yourselves. He
speaks as the Searcher of hearts (John
2:24,25). Knowing them absolutely, he found them to be self-worshipers,
devoid of that love Godward which begets belief, and lacking in their
natures that which would enable them to understand him and his spirit, no
matter what evidence was submitted to them.
5:43 I am come in my Father's name, and ye
receive me not: if another shall come in his own name,
him ye will receive1.
If another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. Some
think that this is spoken primarily of a pre-eminently great antichrist who
is yet to come and deceive many of the Jews, and who, as Stier thinks, shall
be such an incarnation of Satan as Jesus was of God (Revelation
13:1-9). But they have already received many false christs with joy.
According to Schudt, as quoted by Bengel, there have been sixty-four
antichrists who have misled the Jews. Among them Bar Cocheba led twenty-four
thousand to ruin, including Akiba, the President of the Sanhedrin. False
christs come in their own name--for their own honor-- and make no war on
bosom sins, but upon earthly enemies; but Jesus came not to manifest
himself, but his Father.
5:44 How can ye
believe, who receive glory one of another, and the glory that [cometh] from the
only God ye seek not1?
How can ye believe, who receive glory one of another, and the glory
that [cometh] from the only God ye seek not? The question was as to
their believing Jesus to be the Messiah. Expecting one who would bring great
honor to themselves by his triumphs over his foes, and seeing nothing of
this kind to be expected from Jesus, they could not believe him to be the
5:45 Think not
that I will accuse you to the Father1: there is one that
accuseth you, [even] Moses, on whom ye have set your hope.
Think not that I will accuse you to the Father. Jesus here assumes
that the Jews gave enough credence to his words to fear that he might
hereafter appear as their accuser. But Jesus designs to appear rather as
Advocate than as Prosecutor (1 John
2:1). It was their fault that he was not their Advocate.
5:46 For if ye
believed Moses, ye would believe me1; for
he wrote of me2.
For if ye believed Moses, ye would believe me. In this verse and
authenticity of the Pentateuch, and sets forth one purpose for which Moses
For he wrote of me. Jesus was the essential subject of the law and
16:25,26). The phrase "wrote concerning me" is not to be
restricted to (Deuteronomy
18:15-18). Moses wrote symbolically of Jesus through his entire work, as
Bengel tersely puts it,
The Epistle to the Hebrews is a partial elaboration of the Christology of
Moses. But there is doubtless a depth of meaning in the Pentateuch which has
never yet been fully fathomed, for there is a fullness of Scripture greatly
exceeding the popular conception. Moreover, the Old and New Testaments are
so linked together that to reject one is eventually to reject the other, or
to read it with veiled eyes (2 Corinthians
5:47 But if ye
believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words1?
But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?
The emphasis is on "his writings" and "my words". They
professed to reverence Moses and to receive his writings, while they openly
despised Jesus and repudiated his words as fast as he spoke them.