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LIFE OF OUR LORD ON EARTH,
IN THE WORDS OF THE EVANGELISTS.
THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD.
St. John viii. 12.
Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
To take up the thread of the narrative we must go back to that early morning time when the Lord, after the night in Olivet, came again to the Temple, and spake again to the people who resorted to Him there. The Sun, we may well suppose, was now coming forth out of his chamber in the East, and beginning to enlighten again that world which had been for the time bereft of his presence. What significance would this lend to the Lord's language here! How cheering the announcement to those who had been walking in the dark, whether physical darkness or spiritual; to those who had been toiling during dark or dimly-lighted hours of the night, to provide bread for their families during the coming day, or plodding their dangerous and weary way through the dark narrow lanes of the old city after night-fall with their heavy burthens; to those who had been groping in the darkness of spiritual bondage with the yet heavier burthens which their
Scribes and Pharisees were wont to bind upon their shoulders! Our Lord in this figure gathers up, and applies to Himself, the substance of prophecy and of history concerning Him." He, the I am, is not only the Light, the Fountain and Source of light, the true, original, living light,3 the Light as distinct from all temporary or lesser lights deriving their brightness from Him, He is also the Light of the world. The blessings He brings were not to be confined to Jews, as they selfishly supposed. He is a light to lighten the Gentiles. From the region of eternal day He came to visit a world lying in a long night of darkness. Physical darkness consists in the absence of light, and spiritual darkness proceeds from the want of the presence of Christ. But if we only follow Him, walking in the light of His truth, we shall in due time be delivered from this darkness, and attain finally to the light of everlasting life. To the sons of light there is day even in the midst of night. When indeed is it not day with him to whom Christ is sun and day?"
HE DEFENDS HIMSELF AGAINST THE PHARISEES. St. John viii. 13-20.
The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true. Jesus answered and said unto them, Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go. Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man. And yet if I judge, my judgment
1 "The sun itself is but the dark simulachrum, and light but the shadow of God."--Sir Thomas Browne.
2 St. Luke i. 78, 79; Is. ix. 2; lx. 1-3; 2 Cor. iv. 6.
3 St. John i. 4.
St. John v. 35.
5 St. John i. 9; ix. 5.
1 St. John ii. 8.
7 Collect for St. John the Evan
gelist's Day. St. John xii. 35, 36; Ps. cxix. 105; Prov. vi. 23; Is. 1. 10. 8 Cyprian de Orat. Dominica.
is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me. It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true. I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me. Then said they unto him, Where is thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also. These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as he taught in the temple: and no man laid hands on him, for his hour was not yet come.
Scarcely had the Lord begun His Sermon when He was rudely interrupted by the Pharisees, bringing up a former saying of His,' with which they supposed His present words to be inconsistent, and casting it in His teeth. But that former saying meant no more than that if He advanced such claims without proper proofs to substantiate them, they would be justified in withholding credit. Calmly the Lord replies to them, unreasonable as their objection was. He admits that He bears witness concerning Himself; for there were things which but for this they could not know. How could they tell His past or His future if He, who alone knew, were silent on the subject ?2 And then He proceeds to show how these statements of His concerning Himself are substantiated by external testimony; first reproving them for their carnal manner of judgment; for judging, as they did, according to the appearance; pronouncing against His claims because He was clothed with humility, and disdained human honour, and declined to put Himself forward as a judge among men.3 Yet when the Lord did judge, on those occasions when He pronounced any statement, what He said must, even according to their own laws of evidence, be admitted as true, being witnessed not by Himself alone, but by the Father who sent Him." At this mention of the Father, they proceed in their accustomed strain. Again they seem to be asking, "Is not this the Carpenter's son?"
Still they seem to be
3 Vv. 6, 11, above.
Note again the "I am" of v. 18. 5 St. John v. 37.
St. Matt. xiii. 55; St. John vi.
saying, in their contemptuous way, "We know this man whence He is." The Lord replies not to the words of their mouth, but to the thought of their heart; not to the question they had asked, but to the spirit which prompted it. Ye neither know me, as ye contemptuously profess; nor my Father, as ye boastfully declare. For not Joseph, as ye imagine is my Father, but God Himself; of whom ye make your boast, but whom ye know not aright, neither can know while ye refuse to recognise His Son.2 The Evangelist notes the particular part of the Temple where this discussion with the Pharisees took place. It was that part where were placed the chests to receive the offerings of those who frequented the Temple. See how exact the sacred historian is. How easy it would have been to convict him had he recorded anything incorrectly. That quarter of the Temple where the Lord uttered these bold words was the most public, the most frequented; where His enemies might easily have apprehended him, but that an invisible hand restrained them for the present, though against their inclination. "His hour was not yet come, because His work was not yet done." He must work the works of Him that sent Him, while it was yet day. Soon the night was coming in which He should no longer thus work. Then it would be their hour and the power of darkness.5 So every good man may nerve himself with the thought, "My times are in Thy hand."
JESUS JUSTIFIETH HIS DOCTRINE.
St. John viii. 21-24.
Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot
St. John vii. 27.
2 Vv. 51, 55, below; ch. xiv. 6, 7, 9; xvi. 3.
4 St. John ix. 4.
5 St. Luke xxii. 53; St. John xii. 27.
come. Then said the Jews, Will he kill himself? because he saith, Whither I go, ye cannot come. And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world. I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.
We come now to the substance of another of those divine discourses which St. John records. The Lord repeats what He on a former occasion had said to the Jews.2 That former saying He here expands.3 And He adds a sad sentence, framed after one of their own Prophets. "Ye shall die in your sin;' "5 in that state of sin from which faith in me can alone deliver you. He was about to return to His kingdom in Heaven. How could they come thither while they continued in obstinate unbelief? The Lord's saying set them thinking, or rather talking, among themselves; canvassing one with another, as before,' what this saying of His could mean. With their usual carnal bent they ask a question which proves their spiritual pride. As though they were superior to Him. As though He might stoop to suicide, but they never. And so the Lord reproves these carnally-minded
St. John vii. 35, 36.
The Jews seem to have regarded this as a not uncommon termination to the career of disappointed adventurers. 2 Sam. xvii. 23. The story of Celanus (Cic. Tusc. Disp. ii. 22) and others will occur to the classical reader. A man may devote himself to death out of pure vanity, as in old times Empedocles is said to have done, and later on the apostate Pere-grinus. He may be even impelled to it by revenge against others, as Hindoo fanatics nowadays think to lay their death at the door of those who have done them real or imaginary wrong. The case of the Donatist suicides is also a case in point. See Aug. in S. Jo. vi. 23; xi. 15, and in Ep. S. Jo. vi. 2. See also Gibbon, ch. xxi.