Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible
JOHN CHAPTER 5
John 5:1-9 Christ cures an impotent man at the pool of Bethesda
on the sabbath day.
John 5:10-16 The Jews cavil, and persecute him for it.
John 5:17,18 He justifieth himself by the example of God his Father,
John 5:19-30 and asserts the power and judgment committed unto him
by the Father,
John 5:31-35 he appeals to the testimony of John,
John 5:36-38 of the Father,
John 5:39,40 and of the Scriptures.
John 5:41-44 He showeth that his humility caused their rejection of him,
John 5:45-47 but that in disbelieving him they disbelieved Moses also.
Though there are some that think the feast mentioned here was that of Pentecost, and others that it was the feast of tabernacles, yet the most and best interpreters judge it was the feast of the passover that is here mentioned; and that this was the second passover which happened after our Saviour had entered upon his public ministry. We read of the first, John 2:13; and from that verse of that chapter to this chapter the evangelist (as they think) hath been relating so much of our Saviour’s actions, until the second passover, as it was the will of God we should have upon public authentic record, and had not been recorded by the other evangelists, who give a further account of his actions done this year, Matthew 4:1-25 8:1-34 9:1-38 Mark 1:1-45 2:1-28 Luke 4:1-44 5:1-39. In the time of our Saviour’s public ministry (which was three years and a half) there were four passovers. The other evangelists take notice but of one of them, and that the last. John is thought to have mentioned all the four; the first, John 2:13, the second in this place, the third, John 6:4, the fourth, John 8:1. Another reason they give why the feast of the passover should be here intended is, because from about that time to the harvest were four months, according to what our Saviour had said, John 4:35.
Jesus went up to the passover, to Jerusalem, to show his obedience to his Father’s law, Deuteronomy 16:16.
We read in Scripture of the sheep gate in Jerusalem, Nehemiah 3:1. There was also a market for sheep and other cattle, Deuteronomy 14:26. Some therefore add market, others add gate, to the word in the Greek signifying sheep. Near to this gate or market there was
a pool, kolumbhyra: some translate it, a fish pool; others, (more properly), a place to wash or to swim in (the word derives from a verb that signifies, to swim). They say there were two such pools within the compass of the mount on which the temple stood; the one eastward, called
the upper pool, 2 Kings 18:17; the other westward, near to the sheep gate. The one was called
Bethesda; the other,
the pool of Siloah, by the king’s garden, Nehemiah 3:15, mentioned also by our evangelist, John 9:7. They say the waters of these pools were supplied from a fountain called Siloam, which was not always full of water, but the water bubbled up in it at certain times with a great noise, coming (as was thought) through hollow places of the earth, and quarries of hard stones. These waters of Shiloah are mentioned, Isaiah 8:6, and said to go softly; from which place these waters are concluded a type of the kingdom of David and of Christ. This being admitted, it is not to be wondered that they had that healing virtue given unto them (as some judge) just about the coming of Christ; for it should appear by John 9:7, that the pool of Siloam, as well as that of Bethesda, had so; for in former times it is thought to have been of use chiefly to wash garments in, and sacrifices when they were slain. Some will have them to have derived their healing virtue from thence; but that is vain, their healing virtue was doubtless derived from the Lord that healeth us. This pool in the Hebrew was called Bethesda, which some interpret, The house of pouring out, because, as some fancy, the blood of the sacrifices was there poured out; (but that is a great mistake, for that was to be poured out at the altar); or because rain water (as some think) was poured into it; or (which is more probable) because waters were poured into it out of the conduit mentioned 2 Kings 20:20. But others interpret it, The house of grace, mercy, &c., because of God’s great goodness showed the people, in giving this healing virtue to these waters. The
five porches belonging to this pool seem to have been five apartments for impotent men to walk in, or rest themselves in, when they came to wash themselves in the pool.
In these apartments (called here porches) there were a great number of sick persons, some labouring under one infirmity, some under another, some blind, some lame, waiting for the time the water should be troubled.
This water had not always in it this healing virtue, but only when it was
troubled, and this was at a certain season, how often the Scripture hath not determined; some will have it to be only at their great feasts, of the passover, and Pentecost, &c., but the Scripture saith no such thing. None must think that the angel appeared in any visible shape, but the rolling or troubling of the waters was a certain sign, that that was the time when alone they were medicinal; nor were many healed at one time, but only one person, that could first get into this water, he was healed, let his disease be what it would. The waters not being constantly medicinal, but, first, at a certain time, when they were troubled; and then, secondly, not for all, but only to him who could first get in; and, thirdly, for any disease, of what sort or kind soever his disease was; sufficiently confutes the opinion of those who fancy that the waters derived this healing virtue from the entrails of the beasts offered in sacrifice being washed there; for besides that this is denied by some, who say those entrails were washed in a room on purpose for that use within the temple; if they had derived their healing virtue from thence in a natural, rational way, they would have exerted their virtue upon more than him who first stepped in, and not at the time only when they were troubled, nor would their virtue have extended to all kinds of diseases. Of whatever use this pool therefore was before, certain it is at this time God made use of the water in it to heal, and so as men might see that it healed not by any natural, but a miraculous operation. The Scriptures of the Old Testament make no mention of it. And it is observed by those who are versed in the Jewish Rabbins, that neither do they make the least mention of it. Which makes it very probable, that they had this virtue, not from the time of the building of the sheep gate by Shallum, Nehemiah 3:15; nor from the time when the Asmonean family was extinct; or the rebuilding or further building and adoring the temple by Herod; but a little before the birth of Christ, as a figure of him being now coming, who, Zechariah 13:1, was a fountain opened to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and from whom is both our cleansing and our healing, as these waters, which before had a cleansing, and now received also a healing virtue.
What this man’s name was, or what his circumstances in the world, or what his particular disease, we are not told; nor is it said that he had lain there thirty-eight years, but that he had so long laboured under his weakness: which, whether it was the palsy or no, is uncertain: probably it was a disease hardly curable by human art and ordinary means; for it cannot be thought but in that time he had used all rational means, which he finding of no value as to his case, he came and lay at this fountain, waiting for a cure in this way of miraculous operation.
Christ, as God, knew the particular time when this infirmity seized him, which was eight years or upward before our Saviour’s birth, and about the time when the temple was re-edified, or rather enlarged and further adorned, by Herod. As man, he pitieth his case; he asketh him if he was willing to be made whole. Not that he doubted of his willingness; for what sick man was ever unwilling to be healed? Besides that, he knew that the poor man lay there for that very purpose; but that he might make him declare his miserable, helpless state and condition, and draw out his faith and hope in himself; and from his answer take an occasion to heal him, and make the spectators more attentive to his miracle.
What his particular impotency was the Scripture doth not tell us. Some have (not improbably) judged it the palsy, which deprives the person of motion, by the stoppage of the animal spirits, so that without help he cannot move from one place to another, which it is manifest this poor man could not; for he complains for want of help, that he could not get into the pool.
Our Lord will let this poor man know, that the waters and the angel derived their power from him; and that he with a word could do as much for him, as the waters troubled by the angel could effect: he therefore bids him arise, and take up his bed and walk, that others might see and be assured that he was perfectly cured.
The man’s strength returneth immediately; he is able immediately to arise, take up his bed, and to walk. All this was done on the sabbath day; on which day it was unlawful to carry any burdens, Jeremiah 17:21,24; and by the Jewish canons it was punishable by death, or scourging. But our Saviour had a mind to let the Jews know that he was Lord of the sabbath, and what had been unlawful without his special command, became lawful by it. Neither was this against the sense of the law, though against the letter of it; the law only prohibited civil labour, and carrying burdens for their own profit, and in the way of their trade; it forbade the doing of nothing which was to be done as a public testimony of the goodness and mercy of God showed to persons: and by this our Saviour opens a way for his correction of their erroneous opinions about the true sanctification of the sabbath. We shall observe, that our Saviour used the like phrase to him that had the palsy, Matthew 9:6; and to the centurion’s daughter, Mark 5:41, Damsel, arise; and to Lazarus, John 11:43, Lazarus, come forth; which our Saviour did for the testification of the miracle to all that should see them. It is further observed by Heinsius, that our Saviour did many miracles on the sabbath day, because that day was the usual time when the Jews were wont to consult the prophets for help, as may be learned from 2 Kings 4:23.
That is, according to the letter of the law: they understood not that Christ was the Lord of the sabbath; their cavil argued their want both of faith in Christ, and charity also toward their neighbour.
He makes them as good an answer as could well be imagined; the sum of which was, he believed that he that had thus healed him was a prophet, and so did what he did by a Divine authority, which it was lawful for him to obey, contrary to their traditions: though who this particular person was, or what his name was, were things as yet not known to him, (as we shall by and by read), yet he seemeth sensible that he was healed by a power more than human.
The impotent man that was healed seemed to oppose the authority of God (by virtue of which he believed himself healed) to the authority of man, which made it unlawful for him on the sabbath day to take up his bed and walk. The Jews, taking no notice of Christ’s being God, or so much as a prophet sent from God, do not ask, Who was he? But,
What man is that which said, & c.? opposing the command of God to the command of man. It is as much as if they had said; The law of God hath commanded that no burdens should be carried on the sabbath day; now, what is that man that dare teach thee or any one to do what is contrary to the law of God?
Christ came as a stranger to the pool, and only wrought this miracle, so as the impotent man that was healed had no time to inquire who he was: and there being there a crowd of people, Christ had through the people conveyed himself away; so as the man could not find him, to show them the man who had so said unto him.
Jesus findeth him in the temple; walking in the outward court of the temple, or some part of it, where people ordinarily walked. He charges him to
sin no more, lest a worse thing betided him; hereby letting him and us know that sin is the usual cause of diseases, and a holy walking the best preservative of health; and that God hath further revelations of his wrath against sin and sinners, than what do or can befall them in this life.
It were very uncharitable to judge that this poor man went to the Jewish magistrates to inform against Christ, who had been so kind to him; and much more probable that he went in the simplicity of his heart, desirous both to publish what Christ had done to his honour, and also to do good to others, who might also stand in need of his help.
But the Jews made another use of it, seeking from hence an advantage against him, because he had violated the sabbath, which they often made a capital crime.
We read of no objection they made to Christ, as to what he had done, only that they persecuted him, which they might do without speaking to him: but it should seem by what we read in this verse, that some of the Jews had objected to him his violation of the sabbath (as they thought); yet, as we before noted, answered (in the dialect of the gospel) doth often signify no more than the beginning of a discourse upon some proper occasion offered. Our Saviour defends himself from the example of his Father, in the remembrance of whose resting from his work of creation on the seventh day from the beginning of the creation, the Jews kept their sabbath; who, though he rested from his work of creation, yet hitherto
worketh, as well on the sabbath day as any other day, by his preservation of created beings: so (saith he) I, who am the Son of this Father, also work; upholding all things by the word of my power, Hebrews 1:3. So that works of Divine Providence are lawful on the sabbath day; such was this. I work no other way than my Father still worketh, though he rested on the seventh day from the creation.
This yet enraged the Jews more: they had before against him a charge of breaking the sabbath, or, at least, teaching another to break it (in their opinion); but now he had (as they judged) spoken blasphemy, calling God
Father; not in the sense the Jews so called him, and all good Christians are licensed to call him; but patera idion, his proper Father, or his own Father; by which (as they truly said) he made himself
equal with God. Nor did he by that alone make himself equal with God, but he ascribed also to himself a cooperation with God, in works proper to God alone: nor did he think this any robbery, Philippians 2:6. This was their charge; we shall now hear how our Saviour defends himself against it.
Consider Christ as God, so he can do nothing but what the Father doth, that is, nothing that respected created beings: for it is a known rule, That the works of the Trinity out of itself are not divided; whatsoever one person doth, the others do; though, to denote the order of the Trinity’s working, some works are most ordinarily ascribed to the Father, such are the works of creation and providence; some to the Son, as redemption; some to the Holy Spirit, as sanctification; yet they are not so ascribed to any Person, but that other Scriptures justify the cooperation of all three Persons. Consider the Son as the Messias; so also it is true, that
the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do. Nor is this any diminution to the glory of Christ, nor doth it speak any impotency in him, from whence the Arians and Socinians would conclude his inferiority to his Father; but rather his perfection, that he did only what pleased the Father: so that phrase, what he seeth the Father do, is to be interpreted; and that term, can do nothing, signifies no more than, he doth or will do nothing. See such a usage of the phrase, Genesis 19:22 Luke 16:2 John 12:39. From this he leaveth them easily to conclude, that what he had done, in curing this impotent man upon the sabbath day, was the Father’s work, though by him; for whatsoever the Father doth, or willeth, the same doth the Son likewise. From hence will appear an easy solution to the difficulty arising upon the first view of the words, viz. How these words can prove Christ equal with the Father, when they rather prove the contrary, because he can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do? Some seek a solution in the words
can do nothing; he that cannot do those things which God cannot do, is equal with God. Some seek it in the word seeth; which they say signifieth here an identity of nature and will. Some seek the solution in the word do, which they say signifieth to will and consent to. The best solution is to be taken from those words, of himself; the Son hath done many things which he did not see the Father do, but he did them not of himself. Our Saviour’s meaning is plainly this: The Son neither willeth nor can do any thing, but what the Father willeth and doth in him; therefore he is one in essence with the Father, and equal to him.
For what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise: the Son doth those things which the Father doth; and, as the Messias, he doth those things which the Father willeth to be done.
For the Father loveth the Son; both as his Son by eternal generation, Matthew 3:17, and also as the Messiah sent by him into the world, to finish the work the Father had given him to do: and look, as a father will make his son acquainted with all that he doth; and not only so, but communicates all his power and skill to his son, so far as he can: so the Father communicates all his power to the Son, working all things in him, and by him; and he will in and by him work greater things than this, healing this poor man; he will by him raise the dead, &c.
That ye may marvel: Christ knew that they would not believe, and all the effect that his miracles had upon the generality of the Jews, was but causing in them a stupefaction, amazement, and admiration, as John 11:47; whereas it was their duty, not only to marvel, but to have believed also, without which their admiration did but cause that they had no cloak for their sin.
He seemeth not to speak of what God will do in the general resurrection, but of those whom the Lord raised up from the dead in the Old Testament, by Elijah and Elisha. The giving of and restoring unto life, are things proper unto God, Deuteronomy 32:39 1 Samuel 2:6.
So the Son quickeneth whom he will: God hath given unto me a power to raise from the dead whom I will; as he did raise up Jairus’s daughter, Matthew 9:25, and the widow’s son, Luke 7:14, and Lazarus. John 11:43. This was one of those greater works, of which our Saviour spake in the former verse.
Alone he judgeth no man, he judgeth no man but by the Son, no man without the Son; but committed all judgment in the administration of the mediatory kingdom in the church to his Son, and by his Son will judge the world at the last day.
That his Son might be honoured by all men, Psalms 2:11,12 Php 2:10, with the same honour which is given to the Father; for the Son is sent by the Father, not as one inferior to him, as a servant is sent by his master, but as an equal is sent by his friend, John 4:34 6:38 7:28. And look, as a great prince, when he sendeth his ambassador, expects that those of whom he is sent should give him honour, and the same honour as to himself; so doth the Father: so that
he that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father which hath sent him. It is a text which reflects dreadfully upon such as honour not Christ, especially, the Jews and Socinians, who professedly do not honour him with the same honour with which they yet pretend to honour the Father, and are concluded by this text not in truth to honour the Father.
He that so heareth my words, that they are not a mere sound in his ears, nor affect his heart with some mere sudden and vanishing passion, but so that he gives an assent to them upon my authority; and that firmly and steadily believeth him that sent me, (the particle on seemeth not well put in by our translators; in the Greek it is tw pemqanti me, giveth credit to the words of my Father that sent me), believing that I am his only begotten Son, whom he hath sent into the world, and receiving me as such, hearing me, according to the command of the voice from heaven. Matthew 17:5; he hath a certain title to everlasting life, and hath received the first fruits of that harvest, Romans 8:23, the incorruptible seed of the word, 1 Peter 1:23; and already sitteth in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:6, and hath the kingdom of God within him. Luke 17:21, and shall not come into that judgment which shall issue in eternal condemnation; but is passed out of a state of spiritual death into a state of spiritual life; and shall be at last eternally saved, and pass into the actual fruition and enjoyment of life eternal.
The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: some understand this concerning the special resurrection of such bodies as Christ raised while he was upon the earth from death to life, of which number was Lazarus and the daughter of Jairus, &c. Others understand it of the general resurrection, spoken of John 5:28,29. That which favoureth this sense is, because here is no mention of believing, but only hearing a voice. But the most and best interpreters rather understand these words of those who are dead in trespasses and sins, and the quickening and life mentioned Ephesians 2:1, which is called
the first resurrection, Revelation 20:5, because of what was said immediately before, that such a one is passed from death to life; and what was said before, He that heareth my word, agreeth with what is said here of hearing the voice of Christ; and what followeth seemeth better to agree with this sense. And John 5:28,29 speak plainly of the second and general resurrection of the body.
They that hear shall live; those who so hear the voice of Christ in the gospel, as to give a firm and steady assent to it, and, upon the credit of it, shall receive Christ as their Mediator and Saviour, shall live eternally; they do live the life of grace, and shall live the life of glory.
How the eternal Father hath life in himself, is obvious to every capacity; for he is the First Mover, and therefore must have his life in and from himself, and not from any other; and he is the First Cause, and therefore that life which floweth from him to all created beings, must first be in him, as in its fountain. But in what sense it is said, that he hath
given to the Son to have life in himself whether as God, by his eternal generation, or as the Messiah and Mediator between God and man, and so the fountain of spiritual life to believers, is more questioned. Those who understand it as to the Divine nature, say, that this phrase, hath life in himself, is expressive of the name Jehovah; and that Christ is proved to be the true Jehovah by what is here said, that he hath life in himself. But they distinguish betwixt having life from or by himself, and having life in himself; the text saith, it is given to Christ to have life in himself. But there are other interpreters, who seem better to understand it of Christ as Mediator, to whom it is given to have life in himself, to communicate to his creatures; and think it is well interpreted by John 1:4, In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
To execute judgment also; to have the power of life and death, the keys of both; to rule and govern the world, and to judge it at the last day.
Because he is the Son of man: Acts 17:31, He hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained, &c. So Philippians 2:8, Being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even, the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, & c. Some think that the sense is, because he was that Son of man, who was the Seed of the woman, promised Genesis 3:15; the Son of man prophesied of by Daniel, Daniel 7:13,14. And that the term, Son of man, here, signifieth his office as Mediator.
Do not marvel at this power which I tell you the Father hath given me, to execute in the world justice and judgment; to raise some particular persons from a natural death, and whom he pleaseth from the spiritual death of sin: for the hour is coming, when all those who are in the graves, shall, by an archangel, Matthew 24:31 1 Thessalonians 4:16, hear my voice, commanding them to arise; and they shall obey my command.
And come forth; not all to be made partakers of eternal life and glory; there shall be a resurrection unto life, which only they shall obtain
who have done good, walking in the commandments of God; not because they have done good, as if their goodness had merited any such thing, for eternal life is the gift of God, Romans 6:23. But others, who have, wrought iniquity, and died without repentance and faith in me, shall arise, that the justice of God may by me, the Judge of the quick and the dead, be exceeded upon them unto eternal condemnation. This Daniel, Daniel 12:2, calleth shame, and everlasting contempt. Our Saviour, Matthew 25:46, calls it everlasting punishment.
I can of mine own self do nothing; neither considered as God, nor as Mediator. As God, the Father and Christ were one, and what one Person in the Holy Trinity doth, all do; so that has did nothing in that capacity separately from his Father. As Mediator, he did nothing of himself; he finished the work which his Father gave him to do.
As I hear, I judge; and my judgement is just; as the Father revealed his will to him, for the administration of his mediatory kingdom in the world, so he judged; and therefore his judgment must necessarily be just and true.
Because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me; for his will was not a will proper to himself, so as it was not also common to his Father, but diverse from the will of his Father; but as his essence, so his will, was the same with his Father; and he being by the Father sent into the world to do his will, accordingly did nothing as Mediator but what was his Father’s will as well as his own, in nothing diverse from his Father’s.
This seemeth to contradict what he saith, John 8:14, Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true: but our Saviour here speaketh according to the common opinion of the Jews, or indeed of men, who are ready to suspect any one’s testimony who testifieth of himself. He tells them, he could grant them this, though his record of himself was true, yet he could allow them their common received opinion and saying, John 8:13, that the testimony of one testifying of himself is suspicious; for it is certain that a man may testify truth of himself, only such a testimony is suspicious: he tells them, he did not only testify of himself, his reputation did not stand upon his own single word.
The Father by a voice from heaven testified of Christ, that he was his well beloved Son, in whom he was well pleased, Matthew 3:17. Some understand it of John the Baptist, of whom he speaketh, John 5:33. But he naming John in the next verse, it seems most proper to understand this of the Father testifying of Christ, both at his baptism, and also at his transfiguration; and to interpret the next verse, as speaking of another testimony distinct from that of John.
And (saith our Saviour) I know, that is, I am fully assured, that his testimony of me is true; for God is that God who cannot lie, but is truth itself. So that I do not barely testify of myself; for my Father, whom you all own to be a God of truth, and who cannot lie, and whom know to be such, he testifieth of me, and none can contradict his testimony.
Ye sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to John, John 1:29; he was a man of reputation among you, for all the people judged him a prophet; and he had an interest in Herod’s court:
he bare witness (he doth not say to me, but) to the truth.
I receive not testimony from man, that is, not for my own sake; for otherwise he did receive testimony from man, John 15:27 Acts 1:8. That must be truth, to which any one can give a true testimony. John by his testimony added nothing to me. I was what I am before John testified concerning me. I only spake of John’s testimony for your sake, that you might believe, and be saved.
I do not speak this to lessen John in any of your thoughts; he was a famous light, burning in the knowledge and love of the truth; shining both in his doctrine, in publishing the truth, and also in holiness of life and conversation.
He was not that light, John 1:8, but he was a light, not to fwv to alhyinon, but lucnov, Matthew 5:14 Luke 8:16. And you for a small time pretended a great affection for John, and came with great zeal to hear him, Matthew 3:5 21:26 Mark 1:5, hoping that he was the Messias, or at least Elias, or that prophet in him revived again. But when they saw that John did only bear record to Christ, they grew cold in their affection, not liking either his doctrine, or the strictness of his life, or the tidings that he brought; looking for a far more splendid and glorious Messiah than Christ appeared to them to be.
But I have greater witness than that of John; not than that of my Father, mentioned John 5:31,32, but
than that of John, last mentioned; nor doth he say a truer, but a greater witness. The works which the Father hath given me to finish; the works which his Father sent him to do, his fulfilling of the law, his publication of the gospel, the miracles which he wrought, were all of them works which his Father had given him to finish. Christ often appeals to the works which he had done, as sufficiently testifying of him, John 10:25,37,38 14:10,11 15:24. And it is plain, that the people looked upon them as a great testimony, John 3:2 9:32,33. The Jews avoided the force of this testimony impudently, some of them saying that he did them by the help of the devil, Matthew 12:24; others pretending (more lately) that the Messiah was to work no miracles; but that is expressly contrary to what we have, John 7:31, and is doubtless a device of later years. But it is a greater question, how the miracles of Christ
bear witness of him; and whether they were only a probable, or a certain and infallible, testimony of his Deity. Those that think them an infallible testimony, say:
1. That he did works which none else did, John 15:24.
2. That he did them by his own power; There went virtue out of him, and healed them all, Luke 6:19.
3. That they were done in confirmation of the doctrine to that purpose which he preached, which God would not have confirmed by miracles, had not he been sent of God to work such things.
Those that think they were not a certain and infallible testimony, say,
1. That the prophets and apostles also wrought miracles.
2. That our Saviour tells his apostles, they should do greater works than he had done.
3. That the doing of them from his own power, was a thing could not be known to others; so could be no testimony to them.
But our Saviour did not only himself raise the dead, cast out devils, and work other miracles; but he gave others also a power to do it; which argued an original power in himself; and is more than we read of any prophets or apostles; who, though they wrought such miraculous operations, yet having not that power originally in and from themselves, could not communicate it to others.
Hath borne witness of me; not only in my baptism, and at my transfiguration by an audible voice from heaven, but by the voice of his prophets, by whom he spoke to your fathers.
Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape; you have no knowledge of him, nor any acquaintance with him. It is expounded, John 5:38, Ye have not his word abiding in you: for though indeed God appeared to the Jews in no shape or similitude; yet they (that is, their forefathers) had heard his voice, Deuteronomy 4:12, speaking out of the midst of the fire, John 5:33. God, being an incorporeal Being, hath no such organs of speech as we have, by which we declare our minds unto others; but God had formed an audible voice, by which he revealed his will unto the Jews; so as it could only be said of the Jews of that generation and their forefathers, from the time of giving the law, that they had not heard his voice; for, Exodus 20:19, they then desired that Moses might speak to them, and that God would speak no more immediately. Accordingly, he did by the prophets speak to them; but they would not believe them, no, not when he spake to them by his Son, who knew his will, Hebrews 1:1,3.
Though they had heard the word of the Lord, their forefathers by the prophets, and in that generation by John the Baptist, (the messenger sent before Christ’s face), and now by Christ himself, whom the Father had sent; yet the word of the Lord had no place in their hearts, John 8:37; it was unto them as a tale told; they received the sound of it, but it was not graven in their hearts. And this appeared, because as of themselves they had no intimacy of communion with God to know his mind; so, when the Son was sent out of the bosom of the Father to reveal God unto them, yet they would not receive him, so as to give any steady, fixed assent to what he revealed, and to yield him any just and true obedience.
Search the Scriptures; the words may be read either imperatively (as our translation readeth them) or indicatively, You do search the Scriptures; that is, of the Old Testament, for the books of the New Testament were not at that time written; but as they had the books of the Old Testament, so they made use of them: Moses was read in the synagogues every sabbath day; and they (the Pharisees especially) were very well versed both in the law and the prophets.
For in them ye think ye have eternal life; they did agree that the way of salvation and everlasting life was revealed unto them in the Holy Scriptures; nay, they did judge, that eternal life was to be obtained by their observation of the law.
They are they which testify of me: they (saith our Saviour) are my principal testimony; he doth not only say, they testify, but they are they which testify. No writings but those testify of me; I principally appeal to them to give you an account of me.
You will not own, embrace, and receive me as the true Messiah and Saviour of the world, though that be the only means by which you can obtain that eternal life which you pretend to be seeking after, and rightly think that the Scripture alone can show you the way to. These two verses teach us,
1. That the Holy Scriptures are the only writings which show us the way to life eternal.
2. That not only the Scriptures of the New, but also of the Old Testament, are of use in order thereunto, though the Old Testament Scriptures show us it more darkly, and those of the New Testament show it to us more clearly.
3. That both the one and the other point us to Christ, and to the receiving and embracing of him, as our Saviour, if we would have life.
4. That it is not sufficient for us to search the Scriptures, to be versed in and acquainted with them, unless we, in obedience to them, come to Christ.
I depend not upon the single testimony of men; or, I seek not, nor hunt after, the honour of men, nor regard what they think or say of me.
You pretend a great deal of religion, and to do many things out of love to God, and a zeal for the glory of God; but though you can cheat others, yet you cannot deceive me: I, that search the heart, and try the reins, and am a witness to your actions, know that, whatsoever you pretend, the true love of God dwelleth not in you; and that is the reason why you do not receive me.
I am come clothed with an authority from my Father, sent by him for this very purpose, to reveal his will to men for their salvation; I speak, I do nothing but by the authority of my Father which sent me; nor do I aim at my own glory, but the glory of him that sent me: yet you give no credit to my words, nor embrace me, as him whom God hath sent for the Saviour of man.
If another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive; through the corruption of your hearts, and the just judgment of God, giving you up to strong delusions to believe lies, 2 Thessalonians 2:11. If any seducers come, without any authority from God, never sent of him, nor speaking his words, nor seeking his glory, or your good, you will readily enough receive them.
It is evident that by receiving honour from one another, is here to be understood the seeking and pursuing of honour and applause from men, without regard to the praise of God: so also John 12:43. For otherwise it is lawful for parents to receive honour from children, masters from servants, princes and other magistrates from people. But for men to be ambitious of honour and applause from men, in neglect of the honour and praise of God, this is highly sinful; and it cannot be expected that any such persons should so far deny themselves, and renounce their own works of righteousness, as to accept of Christ and his righteousness, and rely upon him alone for life and salvation. It is said, John 12:42, that among the chief rulers many believed; yet it is added, John 12:43, For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. But those words, John 12:43, seem rather to refer to the Pharisees, mentioned in the latter part of John 12:42, where a reason is given why, though many great rulers believed, yet they did not confess Christ, because of the Pharisees. Or if those words, John 12:43, be to be applied to those of whom it is said, they believed, John 12:42, we must distinguish concerning believing, which in John 12:42 signifieth no more than an assent given to him as a great prophet, upon the miracles they saw wrought by him; in this place, a true and lively faith, receiving Christ as our Mediator and Saviour.
There will be no need of my accusing you, you will need no other accuser than that Moses for whom you have so great a reverence, and for whose sake you contemn me. John 9:28,29, they said, We are Moses’s disciples. We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is. This Moses (saith our Saviour) will accuse you unto the Father.
Had you given a hearty credit and understanding assent to Moses, that is, to the writings of Moses, for so the term is oft taken, Luke 16:31 24:27, you would have received me: as all the law of Moses pointed to and prefigured me, so he in particular wrote of me, Genesis 3:15 Deuteronomy 18:15.
But if you believe not his writings, who so plainly wrote of me, and whose writings you own, and have so great a veneration for, how can I expect that you should believe the words of one whom you so vilify and condemn? For though my words be in themselves of greater authority, yet I have not so much credit with you as Moses had. But how doth our Saviour affirm, John 5:45, that they trusted in Moses, and deny here that they did believe him?
Answer. Some say, they believed with an implicit faith, presuming upon the merits of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob; but not with an explicit faith. Others say, they believed in the general, that whatsoever he wrote was true; but they did not believe them in the true sense of them. Tarnovius thinks, that they trusted in Moses, that they might be saved by their own works done in obedience to his law; but they did not believe him, because they rejected him of whom Moses wrote, and to whom the law of Moses was but a schoolmaster. They refused him who was the Head of the corner, Psalms 118:22 Matthew 21:42.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on John 5". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25