Christ’s Discourse with the Jews; All Judgment Committed to Christ; The Christian Charter.
17 But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. 18 Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God. 19 Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. 20 For the Father loveth the Son, and showeth him all things that himself doeth: and he will show him greater works than these, that ye may marvel. 21 For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. 22 For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: 23 That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him. 24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. 25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. 26 For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; 27 And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. 28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. 30 I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.
We have here Christ’s discourse upon occasion of his being accused as a sabbath-breaker, and it seems to be his vindication of himself before the sanhedrim, when he was arraigned before them: whether on the same day, or two or three days after, does not appear; probably the same day. Observe,
I. The doctrine laid down, by which he justified what he did on the sabbath day (v. 17): He answered them. This supposes that he had something laid to his charge: or what they suggested one to another, when they sought to slay him (v. 16), he knew, and gave this reply to, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. At other times, in answer to the like charge, he had pleaded the example of David’s eating the show-bread, of the priests’ slaying the sacrifices, and of the people’s watering their cattle on the sabbath day; but here he goes higher and alleges the example of his Father and his divine authority; waiving all other pleas, he insists upon that which was instar omnium–equivalent to the whole, and abides by it, which he had mentioned, Matt. xii. 8. The Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day; but he here enlarges on it.
1. He pleads that he was the Son of God, plainly intimated in his calling God his Father; and, if so, his holiness was unquestionable and his sovereignty incontestable; and he might make what alterations he pleased of the divine law. Surely they will reverence the Son, the heir of all things.
2. That he was a worker together with God.
(1.) My Father worketh hitherto. The example of God’s resting on the seventh day from all his work is, in the fourth commandment, made the ground of our observing it as a sabbath or day of rest. Now God rested only from such work as he had done the six days before; otherwise he worketh hitherto, he is every day working, sabbath days and week-days, upholding and governing all the creatures, and concurring by his common providence to all the motions and operations of nature, to his own glory; therefore, when we are appointed to rest on the sabbath day, yet we are not restrained from doing that which has a direct tendency to the glory of God, as the man’s carrying his bed had.
(2.) I work; not only therefore I may work, like him, in doing good on sabbath days as well as other days, but I also work with him. As God created all things by Christ, so he supports and governs all by him, Heb. i. 3. This sets what he does above all exception; he that is so great a worker must needs be an uncontrollable governor; he that does all is Lord of all, and therefore Lord of the sabbath, which particular branch of his authority he would now assert, because he was shortly to show it further, in the change of the day from the seventh to the first.
II. The offence that was taken at his doctrine (v. 18): The Jews sought the more to kill him. His defence was made his offence, as if by justifying himself he had made bad worse. Note, Those that will not be enlightened by the word of Christ will be enraged and exasperated by it, and nothing more vexes the enemies of Christ than his asserting his authority; see Ps. ii. 3-5. They sought to kill him,
1. Because he had broken the sabbath; for, let him say what he would in his own justification, they are resolved, right or wrong, to find him guilty of sabbath breaking. When malice and envy sit upon the bench, reason and justice may even be silent at the bar, for whatever they can say will undoubtedly be over-ruled.
2. Not only so, but he had said also that God was his Father. Now they pretend a jealousy for God’s honour, as before for the sabbath day, and charge Christ with it as a heinous crime that he made himself equal with God; and a heinous crime it had been if he had not really been so. It was the sin of Lucifer, I will be like the Most High. Now,
(1.) This was justly inferred from what he said, that he was the Son of God, and that God was his Father, patera idion—his own Father; his, so as he was no one’s else. He had said that he worked with his Father, by the same authority and power, and hereby he made himself equal with God. Ecce intelligunt Judæi, quod non intelligunt Ariani–Behold, the Jews understand what the Arians do not.
(2.) Yet it was unjustly imputed to him as an offence that he equalled himself with God, for he was and is God, equal with the Father (Phil. ii. 6); and therefore Christ, in answer to this charge, does not except against the innuendo as strained or forced, makes out his claim and proves that he is equal with God in power and glory.
III. Christ’s discourse upon this occasion, which continues without interruption to the end of the chapter. In these verses he explains, and afterwards confirms, his commission, as Mediator and plenipotentiary in the treaty between God and man. And, as the honours he is hereby entitled to are such as it is not fit for any creature to receive, so the work he is hereby entrusted with is such as it is not possible for any creature to go through with, and therefore he is God, equal with the Father.
1. In general. He is one with the Father in all he does as Mediator, and there was a perfectly good understanding between them in the whole matter. It is ushered in with a solemn preface (v. 19): Verily, verily, I say unto you; I the Amen, the Amen, say it. This intimates that the things declared are,
(1.) Very awful and great, and such as should command the most serious attention.
(2.) Very sure, and such as should command an unfeigned assent.
(3.) That they are matters purely of divine revelation; things which Christ has told us, and which we could not otherwise have come to the knowledge of. Two things he saith in general concerning the Son’s oneness with the Father in working:–
[1.] That the Son conforms to the Father (v. 19): The Son can do nothing of himself but what he sees the Father do; for these things does the Son. The Lord Jesus, as Mediator, is
First, Obedient to his Father’s will; so entirely obedient that he can do nothing of himself, in the same sense as it is said, God cannot lie, cannot deny himself, which expresses the perfection of his truth, not any imperfection in his strength; so here, Christ was so entirely devoted to his Father’s will that it was impossible for him in any thing to act separately.
Secondly, He is observant of his Father’s counsel; he can, he will, do nothing but what he sees the Father do. No man can find out the work of God, but the only-begotten Son, who lay in his bosom, sees what he does, is intimately acquainted with his purposes, and has the plan of them ever before him. What he did as Mediator, throughout his whole undertaking, was the exact transcript or counterpart of what the Father did; that is, what he designed, when he formed the plan of our redemption in his eternal counsels, and settled those measures in every thing which never could be broken, nor ever needed to be altered. It was the copy of that great original; it was Christ’s faithfulness, as it was Moses’s, that he did all according to the pattern shown him in the mount. This is expressed in the present tense, what he sees the Father do, for the same reason that, when he was here upon earth, it was said, He is in heaven (ch. iii. 13), and is in the bosom of the Father (ch. i. 18); as he was even then by his divine nature present in heaven, so the things done in heaven were present to his knowledge. What the Father did in his counsels, the Son had ever in his view, and still he had his eye upon it, as David in spirit spoke of him, I have set the Lord always before me, Ps. xvi. 8.
Thirdly, Yet he is equal with the Father in working; for what things soever the Father does these also does the Son likewise; he did the same things, not such things, but tauta, the same things; and he did them in the same manner, homoios, likewise, with the same authority, and liberty, and wisdom, the same energy and efficacy. Does the Father enact, repeal, and alter, positive laws? Does he over-rule the course of nature, know men’s hearts? So does the Son. The power of the Mediator is a divine power.
[2.] That the Father communicates to the Son, v. 20. Observe,
First, The inducement to it: The Father loveth the Son; he declared, This is my beloved Son. He had not only a good will to the undertaking, but an infinite complacency in the undertaker. Christ was now hated of men, one whom the nation abhorred (Isa. xlix. 7); but he comforted himself with this, that his Father loved him.
Secondly, The instances of it. He shows it,
1. In what he does communicate to him: He shows him all things that himself doth. The Father’s measures in making and ruling the world are shown to the Son, that he may take the same measures in framing and governing the church, which work was to be a duplicate of the work of creation and providence, and it is therefore called the world to come. He shows him all things ha autos poiei—which he does, that is, which the Son does, so it might be construed; all that the Son does is by direction from the Father; he shows him.
2. In what he will communicate; he will show him, that is, will appoint and direct him to do greater works than these.
(1.) Works of greater power than the curing of the impotent man; for he should raise the dead, and should himself rise from the dead. By the power of nature, with the use of means, a disease may possibly in time be cured; but nature can never, by the use of any means, in any time raise the dead.
(2.) Works of greater authority than warranting the man to carry his bed on the sabbath day. They thought this a daring attempt; but what was this to his abrogating the whole ceremonial law, and instituting new ordinances, which he would shortly do, “that you may marvel!” Now they looked upon his works with contempt and indignation, but he will shortly do that which they will look upon with amazement, Luke vii. 16. Many are brought to marvel at Christ’s works, whereby he has the honour of them, who are not brought to believe, by which they would have the benefit of them.
2. In particular. He proves his equality with the Father, by specifying some of those works which he does that are the peculiar works of God. This is enlarged upon, v. 21-30. He does, and shall do, that which is the peculiar work of God’s sovereign dominion and jurisdiction–judging and executing judgment, v. 22-24, 27. These two are interwoven, as being nearly connected; and what is said once is repeated and inculcated; put both together, and they will prove that Christ said not amiss when he made himself equal with God.
(1.) Observe what is here said concerning the Mediator’s power to raise the dead and give life. See
[1.] His authority to do it (v. 21): As the Father raiseth up the dead, so the Son quickeneth whom he will. First, It is God’s prerogative to raise the dead, and give life, even his who first breathed into man the breath of life, and so made him a living soul; see Deut. xxxii. 30; 1 Sam. ii. 6; Ps. lxviii. 20; Rom. iv. 17. This God had done by the prophets Elijah and Elisha, and it was a confirmation of their mission. A resurrection from the dead never lay in the common road of nature, nor ever fell within the thought of those that studied only the compass of nature’s power, one of whose received axioms was point blank against it: A privatione ad habitum non datur regressus–Existence, when once extinguished, cannot be rekindled. It was therefore ridiculed at Athens as an absurd thing, Acts xvii. 32. It is purely the work of a divine power, and the knowledge of it purely by divine revelation. This the Jews would own.
Secondly, The Mediator is invested with this prerogative: He quickens whom he will; raises to life whom he pleases, and when he pleases. He does not enliven things by natural necessity, as the sun does, whose beams revive of course; but he acts as a free agent, has the dispensing of his power in his own hand, and is never either constrained, or restrained, in the use of it. As he has the power, so he has the wisdom and sovereignty, of a God; has the key of the grave and of death (Rev. i. 18), not as a servant, to open and shut as he is bidden, for he has it as the key of David, which he is master of, Rev. iii. 7. An absolute prince is described by this (Dan. v. 19): Whom he would he slew or kept alive; it is true of Christ without hyperbole.
[2.] His ability to do it. Therefore he has power to quicken whom he will as the Father does, because he has life in himself, as the Father has, v. 26.
First, It is certain that the Father has life in himself. Not only he is a self-existent Being, who does not derive from, or depend upon, any other (Exod. iii. 14), but he is a sovereign giver of life; he has the disposal of life in himself; and of all good (for so life sometimes signifies); it is all derived from him, and dependent on him. He is to his creatures the fountain of life, and all good; author of their being and well-being; the living God, and the God of all living.
Secondly, It is as certain that he has given to the Son to have life in himself. As the Father is the original of all natural life and good, being the great Creator, so the Son, as Redeemer, is the original of all spiritual life and good; is that to the church which the Father is to the world; see 1 Cor. viii. 6; Col. i. 19. The kingdom of grace, and all the life in that kingdom, are as fully and absolutely in the hand of the Redeemer as the kingdom of providence is in the hand of the Creator; and as God, who gives being to all things, has his being of himself, so Christ, who gives life, raised himself to life by his own power, ch. x. 18.
[3.] His acting according to this authority and ability. Having life in himself, and being authorized to quicken whom he will, by virtue hereof there are, accordingly, two resurrections performed by his powerful word, both which are here spoken of:–
First, A resurrection that now is (v. 29), a resurrection from the death of sin to the life of righteousness, by the power of Christ’s grace. The hour is coming, and now is. It is a resurrection begun already, and further to be carried on, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God. This is plainly distinguished from that in v. 28, which speaks of the resurrection at the end of time. This says nothing, as that does, of the dead in their graces, and of all of them, and their coming forth. Now,
1. Some think this was fulfilled in those whom he miraculously raised to life, Jairus’s daughter, the widow’s son, and Lazarus; and it is observable that all whom Christ raised were spoken to, as, Damsel, arise; Young man, arise; Lazarus, come forth; whereas those raised under the Old Testament were raised, not by a word, but other applications, 1 Kings xvii. 21; 2 Kings iv. 34; xiii. 21. Some understand it of those saints that rose with Christ; but we do not read of the voice of the Son of God calling them. But,
2. I rather understand it of the power of the doctrine of Christ, for the recovering and quickening of those that were dead in trespasses and sins, Eph. ii. 1. The hour was coming when dead souls should be made alive by the preaching of the gospel, and a spirit of life from God accompanying it: nay, it then was, while Christ was upon earth. It may refer especially to the calling of the Gentiles, which is said to be as life from the dead, and, some think, was prefigured by Ezekiel’s vision (ch. xxxvii. 1), and foretold, Isa. xxvi. 19. Thy dead men shall live. But it is to be applied to all the wonderful success of the gospel, among both Jews and Gentiles; an hour which still is, and is still coming, till all the elect be effectually called. Note,
(1.) Sinners are spiritually dead, destitute of spiritual life, sense, strength, and motion, dead to God, miserable, but neither sensible of their misery nor able to help themselves out of it.
(2.) The conversion of a soul to God is its resurrection from death to life; then it begins to live when it begins to live to God, to breathe after him, and move towards him.
(3.) It is by the voice of the Son of God that souls are raised to spiritual life; it is wrought by his power, and that power conveyed and communicated by his word: The dead shall hear, shall be made to hear, to understand, receive, and believe, the voice of the Son of God, to hear it as his voice; then the Spirit by it gives life, otherwise the letter kills.
(4.) The voice of Christ must be heard by us, that we may live by it. They that hear, and attend to what they hear, shall live. Hear and your soul shall live, Isa. lv. 3.
Secondly, A resurrection yet to come; this is spoken of, v. 28, 29, introduced with, “Marvel not at this, which I have said of the first resurrection, do not reject it as incredible and absurd, for at the end of time you shall all see a more sensible and amazing proof of the power and authority of the Son of man.” As his own resurrection was reserved to be the final and concluding proof of his personal commission, so the resurrection of all men is reserved to be a like proof of his commission to be executed by his spirit. Now observe here,
a. When this resurrection shall be: The hour is coming; it is fixed to an hour, so very punctual is this great appointment. The judgment is not adjourned sine die–to some time not yet pitched upon; no, he hath appointed a day. The hour is coming.
(b.) It will certainly come, it is coming on, nearer every day than other; it is at the door. How far off it is we know not; but we know that it is infallibly designed and unalterably determined.
b. Who shall be raised: All that are in the graves, all that have died from the beginning of time, and all that shall die to the end of time. It was said (Dan. xii. 2), Many shall arise; Christ here tells us that those many shall be all; all must appear before the Judge, and therefore all must be raised; every person, and the whole of every person; every soul shall return to its body, and every bone to its bone. The grave is the prison of dead bodies, where they are detained; their furnace, where they are consumed (Job xxiv. 19); yet, in prospect of their resurrection, we may call it their bed, where they sleep to be awaked again; their treasury, where they are laid up to be used again. Even those that are not put into graves shall arise; but, because most are put into graves, Christ uses this expression, all that are in the graves. The Jews used the word sheol for the grave, which signifies the state of the dead; all that are in that state shall hear.
c. How they shall be raised. Two things are here told us:–
(a.) The efficient of this resurrection: They shall hear his voice; that is, he shall cause them to hear it, as Lazarus was made to hear that word, Come forth; a divine power shall go along with the voice, to put life into them, and enable them to obey it. When Christ rose, there was no voice heard, not a word spoken, because he rose by his own power; but at the resurrection of the children of men we find three voices spoken of, 1 Thess. iv. 16. The Lord shall descend with a shout, the shout of a king, with the voice of the archangel; either Christ himself, the prince of the angels, or the commander-in-chief, under him, of the heavenly hosts; and with the trumpet of God: the soldier’s trumpet sounding the alarm of war, the judge’s trumpet publishing the summons to the court.
(b.) The effect of it: They shall come forth out of their graves, as prisoners out of their prison-house; they shall arise out of the dust, and shake themselves from it; see Isa. lii. 1, 2, 11. But this is not all; they shall appear before Christ’s tribunal, shall come forth as those that are to be tried, come forth to the bar, publicly to receive their doom.
d. To what they shall be raised; to a different state of happiness or misery, according to their different character; to a state of retribution, according to what they did in the state of probation.
(a.) They that have done good shall come forth to the resurrection of life; they shall live again, to live for ever. Note,
[a.] Whatever name men are called by, or whatever plausible profession they make, it will be well in the great day with those only that have done good, have done that which is pleasing to God and profitable to others.
[b.] The resurrection of the body will be a resurrection of life to all those, and those only, that have been sincere and constant in doing good. They shall not only be publicly acquitted, as a pardoned criminal, we say, has his life, but they shall be admitted into the presence of God, and that is life, it is better than life; they shall be attended with comforts in perfection. To live is to be happy, and they shall be advanced above the fear of death; that is life indeed in which mortality is for ever swallowed up.
(b.) They that have done evil to the resurrection of damnation; they shall live again, to be for ever dying. The Pharisees thought that the resurrection pertained only to the just, but Christ here rectifies that mistake. Note,
[a.] Evil doers, whatever they pretend, will be treated in the day of judgment as evil men.
[b.] The resurrection will be to evil doers, who did not by repentance undo what they had done amiss, a resurrection of damnation. They shall come forth to be publicly convicted of rebellion against God, and publicly condemned to everlasting punishment; to be sentenced to it, and immediately sent to it without reprieve. Such will the resurrection be.
(2.) Observe what is here said concerning the Mediator’s authority to execute judgment, v. 22-24, 27. As he has an almighty power, so he has a sovereign jurisdiction; and who so fit to preside in the great affairs of the other life as he who is the Father and fountain of life? Here is,
First, The Father judges no man; not that the Father hath resigned the government, but he is pleased to govern by Jesus Christ; so that man is not under the terror of dealing with God immediately, but has the comfort of access to him by a Mediator. Having made us, he may do what he pleases with us, as the potter with the clay; yet he does not take advantage of this, but draws us with the cords of a man.
2. He does not determine our everlasting condition by the covenant of innocency, nor take the advantage he has against us for the violation of that covenant. The Mediator having undertaken to make a vicarious satisfaction, the matter is referred to him, and God is willing to enter upon a new treaty; not under the law of the Creator, but the grace of the Redeemer.
Secondly, He has committed all judgment to the Son, has constituted him Lord of all (Acts x. 36; Rom. xiv. 9), as Joseph in Egypt, Gen. xli. 40. This was prophesied of, Ps. lxxii. 1; Isa. xii. 3, 4; Jer. xxiii. 5; Mic. v. 1-4; Ps. lxvii. 4; xcvi. 13; xcviii. 9. All judgment is committed to our Lord Jesus; for 1. He is entrusted with the administration of the providential kingdom, is head over all things (Eph. i. 11), head of every man, 1 Cor. xii. 3. All things consist by him, Col. i. 17.
2. He is empowered to make laws immediately to bind conscience. I say unto you is now the form in which the statues of the kingdom of heaven run. Be it enacted by the Lord Jesus, and by his authority. All the acts now in force are touched with his sceptre.
3. He is authorized to appoint and settle the terms of the new covenant, and to draw up the articles of peace between God and man; it is God in Christ that reconciles the world, and to him he has given power to confer eternal life. The book of life is the Lamb’s book; by his award we must stand or fall.
4. He is commissioned to carry on and complete the war with the powers of darkness; to cast out and give judgment against the prince of this world, ch. xii. 31. He is commissioned not only to judge, but to make war, Rev. xix. 11. All that will fight for God against Satan must enlist themselves under his banner.
5. He is constituted sole manager of the judgment of the great day. The ancients generally understood these words of that crowning act of his judicial power. The final and universal judgment is committed to the Son of man; the tribunal is his, it is the judgment-seat of Christ; the retinue is his, his mighty angels; he will try the causes, and pass the sentence. Acts xvii. 31.
Thirdly, He has given him authority to execute judgment also, v. 27. Observe,
1. What the authority is which our Redeemer is invested with: An authority to execute judgment; he has not only a legislative and judicial power, but an executive power too. The phrase here is used particularly for the judgment of condemnation, Jude 15. poiesai krisin—to execute judgment upon all; the same with his taking vengeance, 2 Thess. i. 8. The ruin of impenitent sinners comes from the hand of Christ; he that executes judgment upon them is the same that would have wrought salvation for them, which makes the sentence unexceptionable; and there is no relief against the sentence of the Redeemer; salvation itself cannot save those whom the Saviour condemns, which makes the ruin remediless.
2. Whence he has that authority: the Father gave it to him. Christ’s authority as Mediator is delegated and derived; he acts as the Father’s Viceregent, as the Lord’s Anointed, the Lord’s Christ. Now all this redounds very much to the honour of Christ, acquitting him from the guilt of blasphemy, in making himself equal with God; and very much to the comfort of all believers, who may with the greatest assurance venture their all in such hands.
[2.] Here are the reasons (reasons of state) for which this commission was given him. He has all judgment committed to him for two reasons:–
First, Because he is the Son of man; which denotes these three things:–
1. His humiliation and gracious condescension. Man is a worm, the son of man a worm; yet this was the nature, this the character, which the Redeemer assumed, in pursuance of the counsels of love; to this low estate he stooped, and submitted to all the mortifications attending it, because it was his Father’s will; in recompence therefore of this wonderful obedience, God did thus dignify him. Because he condescended to be the Son of man, his Father made him Lord of all, Phil. ii. 8, 9. 2. His affinity and alliance to us. The Father has committed the government of the children of men to him, because, being the Son of man, he is of the same nature with those whom he is set over, and therefore the more unexceptionable, and the more acceptable, as a Judge. Their governor shall proceed from the midst of them, Jer. xxx. 21. Of this that law was typical; One of thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee, Deut. xvii. 15. 3. His being the Messiah promised. In that famous vision of his kingdom and glory, Dan. vii. 13, 14, he is called the Son of man; and Ps. viii. 4-6. Thou has made the Son of man have dominion over the works of thy hands. He is the Messiah, and therefore is invested with all this power. The Jews usually called the Christ the Son of David; but Christ usually called himself the Son of man, which was the more humble title, and bespeaks him a prince and Saviour, not the Jewish nation only, but to the whole race of mankind.
Secondly, That all men should honour the Son, v. 23. The honouring of Jesus Christ is here spoken of as God’s great design (the Son intended to glorify the Father, and therefore the Father intended to glorify the Son, ch. xii. 32); and as man’s great duty, in compliance with that design. If God will have the Son honoured, it is the duty of all to whom he is made known to honour him. Observe here,
1. The respect that is to be paid to our Lord Jesus: We must honour the Son, must look upon him as one that is to be honoured, both on account of his transcendent excellences and perfections in himself, and of the relations he stands in to us, and must study to give him honour accordingly; must confess that he is Lord, and worship him; must honour him who was dishonoured for us.
2. The degree of it: Even as they honour the Father. This supposes it to be our duty to honour the Father; for revealed religion is founded on natural religion, and directs us to honour the Son, to honour him with divine honour; we must honour the Redeemer with the same honour with which we honour the Creator. So far was it from blasphemy for him to make himself equal with God that it is the highest injury that can be for us to make him otherwise. The truths and laws of the Christian religion, so far as they are revealed, are as sacred and honourable as those of natural religion, and to be equally had in estimation; for we lie under the same obligations to Christ, the Author of our being; and have as necessary a dependence upon the Redeemer’s grace as upon the Creator’s providence, which is a sufficient ground for this law–to honour the Son as we honour the Father. To enforce this law, it is added, He that honours not the Son honours not the Father who has sent him. Some pretend a reverence for the Creator, and speak honourably of him, who make light of the Redeemer, and speak contemptibly of him; but let such know that the honours and interests of the Father and Son are so inseparably twisted and interwoven that the Father never reckons himself honoured by any that dishonour the Son. Note,
(1.) Indignities done to the Lord Jesus reflect upon God himself, and will so be construed and reckoned for in the court of heaven. The Son having so far espoused the Father’s honour as to take to himself the reproaches cast on him (Rom. xv. 3), the Father does no less espouse the Son’s honour, and counts himself struck at through him.
(2.) The reason of this is because the Son is sent and commissioned by the Father; it is the Father who hath sent him. Affronts to an ambassador are justly resented by the prince that sends him. And by this rule those who truly honour the Son honour the Father also; see Phil. ii. 11.
[3.] Here is the rule by which the Son goes in executing this commission, so those words seem to come in (v. 24): He that heareth and believeth hath everlasting life. Here we have the substance of the whole gospel; the preface commands attention to a thing most weighty, and assent to a thing most certain: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, I, to whom you hear all judgment is committed, I, in whose lips is a divine sentence; take from me the Christian’s character and charter.“
First, The character of a Christian: He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me. To be a Christian indeed is,
1. To hear the word of Christ. It is not enough to be within hearing of it, but we must attend on it, as scholars on the instructions of their teachers; and attend to it, as servants to the commands of their masters; we must hear and obey it, must abide by the gospel of Christ as the fixed rule of our faith and practice.
2. To believe on him that sent him; for Christ’s design is to bring us to God; and, as he is the first original of all grace, so is he the last object of all faith. Christ is our way; God is our rest. We must believe on God as having sent Jesus Christ, and recommended himself to our faith and love, by manifesting his glory in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. iv. 6), as his Father and our Father.
Secondly, The charter of a Christian, in which all that are Christians indeed are interested. See what we get by Christ.
1. A charter of pardon: He shall not come into condemnation. The grace of the gospel is a full discharge from the curse of the law. A believer shall not only not lie under condemnation eternally, but shall not come into condemnation now, not come into the danger of it (Rom. viii. 1), not come into judgment, not be so much as arraigned.
2. A charter of privileges: He is passed out of death to life, is invested in a present happiness in spiritual life and entitled to a future happiness in eternal life. The tenour of the first covenant was, Do this and live; the man that doeth them shall live in them. Now this proves Christ equal with the Father that he has power to propose the same benefit to the hearers of his word that had been proposed to the keepers of the old law, that is, life: Hear and live, believe and live, is what we may venture our souls upon, when we are disabled to do and live; see ch. xvii. 2.
[4.] Here is the righteousness of his proceedings pursuant to this commission, v. 30. All judgment being committed to him, we cannot but ask how he manages it. And here he answers, My judgment is just. All Christ’s acts of government, both legislative and judicial, are exactly agreeable to the rules of equity; see Prov. viii. 8. There can lie no exceptions against any of the determinations of the Redeemer; and therefore, as there shall be no repeal of any of his statutes, so there shall be no appeal from any of his sentences. His judgments are certainly just, for they are directed,
First, By the Father’s wisdom: I can of my ownself do nothing, nothing without the Father, but as I hear I judge, as he had said before (v. 19), The Son can do nothing but what he sees the Father do; so here, nothing but what he hears the Father say: As I hear,
1. From the secret eternal counsels of the Father, so I judge. Would we know what we may depend upon in our dealing with God? Hear the word of Christ. We need not dive into the divine counsels, those secret things which belong not to us, but attend to the revealed dictates of Christ’s government and judgment, which will furnish us with an unerring guide; for what Christ has adjudged is an exact copy or counterpart of what the Father has decreed.
2. From the published records of the Old Testament. Christ, in all the execution of his undertaking, had an eye to the scripture, and made it his business to conform to this, and fulfil it: As it was written in the volume of the book. Thus he taught us to do nothing of ourselves, but, as we hear from the word of God, so to judge of things, and act accordingly.
Secondly, By the Father’s will: My judgment is just, and cannot be otherwise, because I seek not my own will, but his who sent me. Not as if the will of Christ were contrary to the will of the Father, as the flesh is contrary to the spirit in us; but,
1. Christ had, as man, the natural and innocent affections of the human nature, sense of pain and pleasure, an inclination to life, an aversion to death: yet he pleased not himself, did not confer with these, nor consult these, when he was to go on his undertaking, but acquiesced entirely in the will of his Father.
2. What he did as Mediator was not the result of any peculiar or particular purpose and design of his own; what he did seek to do was not for his own mind’s sake, but he was therein guided by his Father’s will, and the purpose which he had purposed to himself. This our Saviour did upon all occasions refer himself to and govern himself by.
– Matthew Henry Commentary