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Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Gospel
JOHN 8:46-59
Christ's Discourse with the Pharisees.
46 Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? 47 He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God. 

Here Christ and the Jews are still at issue; he sets himself to convince and convert them, while they still set themselves to contradict and oppose him.

IV. Christ, having thus proved all murderers and all liars to be the devil's children, leaves it to the consciences of his hearers to say, Thou art the man. But he comes in the following verses to assist them in the application of it to themselves; he does not call them liars, but shows them that they were no friends to truth, and therein resembled him who abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Two things he charges upon them:--

1. That they would not believe the word of truth (v. 45), hoti ten aletheian lego, ou pisteuete moi.

(1.) Two ways it may be taken;-- [1.] "Though I tell you the truth, yet you will not believe me (hoti), that I do so." Though he gave abundant proof of his commission from God, and his affection to the children of men, yet they would not believe that he told them the truth. Now was truth fallen in the street, Isa. lix. 14, 15. The greatest truths with some gained not the least credit; for they rebelled against the light, Job xxiv. 13. Or, [2.] Because I tell you the truth (so we read it) therefore you believe me not. They would not receive him, nor entertain him as a prophet, because he told them some unpleasing truths which they did not care to hear, told them the truth concerning themselves and their own case, showed them their faces in a glass that would not flatter them; therefore they would not believe a word he said. Miserable is the case of those to whom the light of divine truth is become a torment.

(2.) Now, to show them the unreasonableness of their infidelity, he condescends to put the matter to this fair issue, v. 46. He and they being contrary, either he was in an error or they were. Now take it either way.

[1.] If he were in an error, why did they not convince him? The falsehood of pretended prophets was discovered either by the ill tendency of their doctrines (Deut. xiii. 2), or by the ill tenour of their conversation: You shall know them by their fruits; but (saith Christ) which of you, you of the sanhedrim, that take upon you to judge of prophets, which of you convinceth me of sin? They accused him of some of the worst of crimes--gluttony, drunkenness, blasphemy, sabbath-breaking, confederacy with Satan, and what not. But their accusations were malicious groundless calumnies, and such as every one that knew him knew to be utterly false. When they had done their utmost by trick and artifice, subornation and perjury, to prove some crime upon him, the very judge that condemned him owned he found no fault in him. The sin he here challenges them to convict him of is, First, An inconsistent doctrine. They had heard his testimony; could they show any thing in it absurd or unworthy to be believed, any contradiction either of himself or of the scriptures, or any corruption of truth or manners insinuated by his doctrine? ch. xviii. 20. Or, Secondly, An incongruous conversation: "Which of you can justly charge me with any thing, in word or deed, unbecoming a prophet?" See the wonderful condescension of our Lord Jesus, that he demanded not credit any further than the allowed motives of credibility supported his demands. See Jer. ii. 5, 31; Mic. vi. 3. Ministers may hence learn, 1. To walk so circumspectly as that it may not be in the power of their most strict observers to convince them of sin, that the ministry be not blamed. The only way not to be convicted of sin is not to sin. 2. To be willing to admit a scrutiny; though we are confident in many things that we are in the right, yet we should be willing to have it tried whether we be not in the wrong. See Job vi. 24.

[2.] If they were in an error, why were they not convinced by him? "If I say the truth, why do you not believe me? If you cannot convince me of error, you must own that I say the truth, and why do you not then give me credit? Why will you not deal with me upon trust?" Note, If men would but enquire into the reason of their infidelity, and examine why they do not believe that which they cannot gainsay, they would find themselves reduced to such absurdities as they could not but be ashamed of; for it will be found that the reason why we believe not in Jesus Christ is because we are not willing to part with our sins, and deny ourselves, and serve God faithfully; that we are not of the Christian religion, because we would not indeed be of any, and unbelief of our Redeemer resolves itself into a downright rebellion against our Creator.

2. Another thing charged upon them is that they would not hear the words of God (v. 47), which further shows how groundless their claim of relation to God was. Here is,

(1.) A doctrine laid down: He that is of God heareth God's words; that is, [1.] He is willing and ready to hear them, is sincerely desirous to know what the mind of God is, and cheerfully embraces whatever he knows to be so. God's words have such an authority over, and such an agreeableness with all that are born of God, that they meet them, as the child Samuel did, with, Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth. Let the word of the Lord come. [2.] He apprehends and discerns them, he so hears them as to perceive the voice of God in them, which the natural man does not, 1 Cor. ii. 14. He that is of God is soon aware of the discoveries he makes of himself of the nearness of his name (Ps. lxxv. 1), as they of the family know the master's tread, and the master's knock, and open to him immediately (Luke xii. 36), as the sheep know the voice of their shepherd from that of a stranger, ch. x. 4, 5; Cant. ii. 8.

(2.) The application of this doctrine, for the conviction of these unbelieving Jews: You therefore hear them not; that is, "You heed not, you understand not, you believe not, the words of God, nor care to hear them, because you are not of God. Your being thus deaf and dead to the words of God is a plain evidence that you are not of God." It is in his word that God manifests himself and is present among us; we are therefore reckoned to be well or ill affected to his word; see 2 Cor. iv. 4; 1 John iv. 6. Or, their not being of God was the reason why they did not profitably hear the words of God, which Christ spoke; they did not understand and believe him, not because the things themselves were obscure or wanted evidence, but because the hearers were not of God, were not born again. If the word of the kingdom do not bring forth fruit, the blame is to be laid upon the soil, not upon the seed, as appears by the parable of the sower, Matt. xiii. 3.

Christ's Discourse with the Pharisees.
48 Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? 49 Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me. 50 And I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth. 

Here is, I. The malice of hell breaking out in the base language which the unbelieving Jews gave to our Lord Jesus. Hitherto they had cavilled at his doctrine, and had made invidious remarks upon it; but, having shown themselves uneasy when he complained (v. 43, 47) that they would not hear him, now at length they fall to downright railing, v. 48. They were not the common people, but, as it should seem, the scribes and Pharisees, the men of consequence, who, when they saw themselves convicted of an obstinate infidelity, scornfully turned off the conviction with this: Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? See here, see it and wonder, see it and tremble,

1. What was the blasphemous character commonly given of our Lord Jesus among the wicked Jews, to which they refer. (1.) That he was a Samaritan, that is, that he was an enemy to their church and nation, one that they hated and could not endure. Thus they exposed him to the ill will of the people, with whom you could not put a man into a worse name than to call him a Samaritan. If he had been a Samaritan, he had been punishable, by the beating of the rebels (as they called it), for coming into the temple. They had often enough called him a Galilean--a mean man; but as if that were not enough, though it contradicted the other, they will have him a Samaritan--a bad man. The Jews to this day call the Christians, in reproach, Cuthæi-Samaritans. Note, Great endeavours have in all ages been used to make good people odious by putting them under black characters, and it is easy to run that down with a crowd and a cry which is once put into an ill name. Perhaps because Christ justly inveighed against the pride and tyranny of the priests and elders, they hereby suggest that he aimed at the ruin of their church, in aiming at its reformation, and was falling away to the Samaritans. (2.) That he had a devil. Either, [1.] That he was in league with the devil. Having reproached his doctrine as tending to Samaritanism, here they reflect upon his miracles as done in combination with Beelzebub. Or, rather [2.] That he was possessed with a devil, that he was a melancholy man, whose brain was clouded, or a mad man, whose brain was heated, and that which he said was no more to be believed than the extravagant rambles of a distracted man, or one in a delirium. Thus the divine revelation of those things which are above the discovery of reason have been often branded with the charge of enthusiasm, and the prophet was called a mad fellow, 2 Kings ix. 11; Hosea ix. 7. The inspiration of the Pagan oracles and prophets was indeed a frenzy, and those that had it were for the time beside themselves; but that which was truly divine was not so. Wisdom is justified of her children, as wisdom indeed.

2. How they undertook to justify this character, and applied it to the present occasion: Say we not well that thou art so? One would think that his excellent discourses should have altered their opinion of him, and have made them recant; but, instead of this, their hearts were more hardened and their prejudices confirmed. They value themselves on their enmity to Christ, as if they had never spoken better than when they spoke the worst they could of Jesus Christ. Those have arrived at the highest pitch of wickedness who avow their impiety, repeat what they should retract, and justify themselves in that for which they ought to condemn themselves. It is bad to say and do ill, but it is worse to stand to it; I do well to be angry. When Christ spoke with so much boldness against the sins of the great men, and thereby incensed them against him, those who were sensible of no interest but what is secular and sensual concluded him beside himself, for they thought none but a madman would lose his preferment, and hazard his life, for his religion and conscience.

II. The meekness and mercifulness of Heaven shining in Christ's reply to this vile calumny, v. 49, 50.

1. He denies their charge against him: I have not a devil; as Paul (Acts xxvi. 25), I am not mad. The imputation is unjust; "I am neither actuated by a devil, nor in compact with one;" and this he evidenced by what he did against the devil's kingdom. He takes no notice of their calling him a Samaritan, because it was a calumny that disproved itself, it was a personal reflection, and not worth taking notice of: but saying he had a devil reflected on his commission, and therefore he answered that. St. Augustine gives this gloss upon his not saying any thing to their calling him a Samaritan--that he was indeed that good Samaritan spoken of in the parable, Luke x. 33.

2. He asserts the sincerity of his own intentions: But I honour my Father. They suggested that he took undue honours to himself, and derogated from the honour due to God only, both which he denies here, in saying that he made it his business to honour his Father, and him only. It also proves that he had not a devil; for, if he had, he would not honour God. Note, Those who can truly way that they make it their constant care to honour God are sufficiently armed against the censures and reproaches of men.

3. He complains of the wrong they did him by their calumnies: You do dishonour me. By this it appears that, as man, he had a tender sense of the disgrace and indignity done him; reproach was a sword in his bones, and yet he underwent it for our salvation. It is the will of God that all men should honour the Son, yet there are many that dishonour him; such a contradiction is there in the carnal mind to the will of God. Christ honoured his Father so as never man did, and yet was himself dishonoured so as never man was; for, though God has promised that those who honour him he will honour, he never promised that men should honour them.

4. He clears himself from the imputation of vain glory, in saying this concerning himself, v. 50. See here, (1.) His contempt of worldly honour: I seek not mine own glory. He did not aim at this in what he had said of himself or against his persecutors; he did not court the applause of men, nor covet preferment in the world, but industriously declined both. He did not seek his own glory distinct from his Father's, nor had any separate interest of his own. For men to search their own glory is not glory indeed (Prov. xxv. 27), but rather their shame to be so much out in their aim. This comes in here as a reason why Christ made so light of their reproaches: "You do dishonour me, but cannot disturb me, shall not disquiet me, for I seek not my own glory." Note, Those who are dead to men's praise can safely bear their contempt. (2.) His comfort under worldly dishonour: There is one that seeketh and judgeth. In two things Christ made it appear that he sought not his own glory; and here he tells us what satisfied him as to both. [1.] He did not court men's respect, but was indifferent to it, and in reference to this he saith, "There is one that seeketh, that will secure and advance, my interest in the esteem and affections of the people, while I am in no care about it." Note, God will seek their honour that do not seek their own; for before honour is humility. [2.] He did not revenge men's affronts, but was unconcerned at them, and in reference to this he saith, "There is one that judgeth, that will vindicate my honour, and severely reckon with those that trample upon it." Probably he refers here to the judgments that were coming upon the nation of the Jews for the indignities they did to the Lord Jesus. See Ps. xxxvii. 13-15. I heard not, for thou wilt hear. If we undertake to judge for ourselves, whatever damage we sustain, our recompence is in our own hands; but if we be, as we ought to be, humble appellants and patient expectants, we shall find, to our comfort, there is one that judgeth.

Christ's Discourse with the Pharisees
51 Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death. 52 Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death. 53 Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself? 54 Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God: 55 Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. 57 Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? 58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. 59 Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by. 

In these verses we have,

I. The doctrine of the immortality of believers laid down, v. 51. It is ushered in with the usual solemn preface, Verily, verily, I say unto you, which commands both attention and assent, and this is what he says, If a man keep my sayings, he shall never see death. Here we have, 1. The character of a believer: he is one that keeps the sayings of the Lord Jesus, ton logon ton emon--my word; that word of mine which I have delivered to you; this we must not only receive, but keep; not only have, but hold. We must keep it in mind and memory, keep it in love and affection, so keep it as in nothing to violate it or go contrary to it, keep it without spot (1 Tim. vi. 14), keep it as a trust committed to us, keep in it as our way, keep to it as our rule. 2. The privilege of a believer: He shall by no means see death for ever; so it is in the original. Not as if the bodies of believers were secured from the stroke of death. No, even the children of the Most High must die like men, and the followers of Christ have been, more than other men, in deaths often, and killed all the day long; how then is this promise made good that they shall not see death? Answer, (1.) The property of death is so altered to them that they do not see it as death, they do not see the terror of death, it is quite taken off; their sight does not terminate in death, as theirs does who live by sense; no, they look so clearly, so comfortably, through death, and beyond death, and are so taken up with their state on the other side death, that they overlook death, and see it not. (2.) The power of death is so broken that though there is no remedy, but they must see death, yet they shall not see death for ever, shall not be always shut up under its arrests, the day will come when death shall be swallowed up in victory. (3.) They are perfectly delivered from eternal death, shall not be hurt of the second death. That is the death especially meant here, that death which is for ever, which is opposed to everlasting life; this they shall never see, for they shall never come into condemnation; they shall have their everlasting lot where there will be no more death, where they cannot die any more, Luke xx. 36. Though now they cannot avoid seeing death, and tasting it too, yet they shall shortly be there where it will be seen no more for ever, Exod. xiv. 13.

II. The Jews cavil at this doctrine. Instead of laying hold of this precious promise of immortality, which the nature of man has an ambition of (who is there that does not love life, and dread the sight of death?) they lay hold of this occasion to reproach him that makes them so kind an offer: Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead. Observe here,

1. Their railing: "Now we know that thou hast a devil, that thou art a madman; thou ravest, and sayest thou knowest not what." See how these swine trample underfoot the precious pearls of gospel promises. If now at last they had evidence to prove him mad, why did they say (v. 48), before they had that proof, Thou hast a devil? But this is the method of malice, first to fasten an invidious charge, and then to fish for evidence of it: Now we know that thou hast a devil. If he had not abundantly proved himself a teacher come from God, his promises of immortality to his credulous followers might justly have been ridiculed, and charity itself would have imputed them to a crazed fancy; but his doctrine was evidently divine, his miracles confirmed it, and the Jews' religion taught them to expect such a prophet, and to believe in him; for them therefore thus to reject him was to abandon that promise to which their twelve tribes hoped to come, Acts xxvi. 7.

2. Their reasoning, and the colour they had to run him down thus. In short, they look upon him as guilty of an insufferable piece of arrogance, in making himself greater than Abraham and the prophets: Abraham is dead, and the prophets, they are dead too; very true, by the same token that these Jews were the genuine offspring of those that killed them. Now, (1.) It is true that Abraham and the prophets were great men, great in the favour of God, and great in the esteem of all good men. (2.) It is true that they kept God's sayings, and were obedient to them; and yet, (3.) It is true that they died; they never pretended to have, much less to give, immortality, but every one in his own order was gathered to his people. It was their honour that they died in faith, but die they must. Why should a good man be afraid to die, when Abraham is dead, and the prophets are dead? They have tracked the way through that darksome valley, which should reconcile us to death and help to take off the terror of it. Now they think Christ talks madly, when he saith, If a man keep my sayings, he shall never taste death. Tasting death means the same thing with seeing it; and well may death be represented as grievous to several of the senses, which is the destruction of them all. Now their arguing goes upon two mistakes:-- [1.] They understood Christ of an immortality in this world, and this was a mistake. In the sense that Christ spoke, it was not true that Abraham and the prophets were dead, for God is still the God of Abraham and the God of the holy prophets (Rev. xxii. 6); now God is not the God of the dead, but of the living; therefore Abraham and the prophets are still alive, and, as Christ meant it, they had not seen nor tasted death. [2.] They thought none could be greater than Abraham and the prophets, whereas they could not but know that the Messiah would be greater than Abraham or any of the prophets; they did virtuously, but he excelled them all; nay, they borrowed their greatness from him. It was the honour of Abraham that he was the Father of the Messiah, and the honour of the prophets that they testified beforehand concerning him: so that he certainly obtained a far more excellent name than they. Therefore, instead of inferring from Christ's making himself greater than Abraham that he had a devil, they should have inferred from his proving himself so (by doing the works which neither Abraham nor the prophets ever did) that he was the Christ; but their eyes were blinded. They scornfully asked, Whom makest thou thyself? As if he had been guilty of pride and vain-glory; whereas he was so far from making himself greater than he was that he now drew a veil over his own glory, emptied himself, and made himself less than he was, and was the greatest example of humility that ever was.

III. Christ's reply to this cavil; still he vouchsafes to reason with them, that every mouth may be stopped. No doubt he could have struck them dumb or dead upon the spot, but this was the day of his patience.

1. In his answer he insists not upon his own testimony concerning himself, but waives it as not sufficient nor conclusive (v. 54): If I honour myself, my honour is nothing, ean ego doxazo--if I glorify myself. Note, Self-honour is no honour; and the affectation of glory is both the forfeiture and the defeasance of it: it is not glory (Prov. xxv. 27), but so great a reproach that there is no sin which men are more industrious to hide than this; even he that most affects praise would not be thought to do it. Honour of our own creating is a mere chimera, has nothing in it, and therefore is called vain-glory. Self-admirers are self-deceivers. Our Lord Jesus was not one that honoured himself, as they represented him; he was crowned by him who is the fountain of honour, and glorified not himself to be made a high priest, Heb. v. 4, 5.

2. He refers himself to his Father, God; and to their father, Abraham.

(1.) To his Father, God: It is my Father that honoureth me. By this he means, [1.] That he derived from his Father all the honour he now claimed; he had commanded them to believe in him, to follow him, and to keep his word, all which put an honour upon him; but it was the Father that laid help upon him, that lodged all fulness in him, that sanctified him, and sealed him, and sent him into the world to receive all the honours due to the Messiah, and this justified him in all these demands of respect. [2.] That he depended upon his Father for all the honour he further looked for. He courted not the applauses of the age, but despised them; for his eye and heart were upon the glory which the Father had promised him, and which he had with the Father before the world was. He aimed at an advancement with which the Father was to exalt him, a name he was to give him, Phil. ii. 8, 9. Note, Christ and all that are his depend upon God for their honour; and he that is sure of honour where he is known cares not though he be slighted where he is in disguise. Appealing thus often to his Father, and his Father's testimony of him, which yet the Jews did not admit nor give credit to,

First, He here takes occasion to show the reason of their incredulity, notwithstanding this testimony--and this was their unacquaintedness with God; as if he had said, "But why should I talk to you of my Father's honouring me, when he is one you know nothing of? You say of him that he is your God, yet you have not known him." Here observe,

a. The profession they made of relation to God: "You say that he is your God, the God you have chosen, and are in covenant with; you say that you are Israel; but all are not so indeed that are of Israel," Rom. ix. 6. Note, Many pretend to have an interest in God, and say that he is theirs, who yet have no just cause to say so. Those who called themselves the temple of the Lord, having profaned the excellency of Jacob, did but trust in lying words. What will it avail us to say, He is our God, if we be not in sincerity his people, nor such as he will own? Christ mentions here their profession of relation to God, as that which was an aggravation of their unbelief. All people will honour those whom their God honours; but these Jews, who said that the Lord was their God, studied how to put the utmost disgrace upon one upon whom their God put honour. Note, The Profession we make of a covenant relation to God, and an interest in him, if it be not improved by us will be improved against us.

b. Their ignorance of him, and estrangement from him, notwithstanding this profession: Yet you have not known him. (a.) You know him not at all. These Pharisees were so taken up with the study of their traditions concerning things foreign and trifling that they never minded the most needful and useful knowledge; like the false prophets of old, who caused people to forget God's name by their dreams, Jer. xxiii. 27. Or, (b.) You know him not aright, but mistake concerning him; and this is as bad as not knowing him at all, or worse. Men may be able to dispute subtly concerning God, and yet may think him such a one as themselves, and not know him. You say that he is yours, and it is natural to us to desire to know our own, yet you know him not. Note, There are many who claim-kindred to God who yet have no acquaintance with him. It is only the name of God which they have learned to talk of, and to hector with; but for the nature of God, his attributes and perfections, and relations to his creatures, they know nothing of the matter; we speak this to their shame, 1 Cor. xv. 34. Multitudes satisfy themselves, but deceive themselves, with a titular relation to an unknown God. This Christ charges upon the Jews here, [a.] To show how vain and groundless their pretensions of relation to God were. "You say that he is yours, but you give yourselves the lie, for it is plain that you do not know him;" and we reckon that a cheat is effectually convicted if it be found that he is ignorant of the persons he pretends alliance to. [b.] To show the true reason why they were not wrought upon by Christ's doctrine and miracles. They knew not God; and therefore perceived not the image of God, nor the voice of God in Christ. Note, The reason why men receive not the gospel of Christ is because they have not the knowledge of God. Men submit not to the righteousness of Christ because they are ignorant of God's righteousness, Rom. x. 3. They that know not God, and obey not the gospel of Christ, are put together, 2 Thess. i. 8.

Secondly, He gives them the reason of his assurance that his Father would honour him and own him: But I know him; and again, I know him; which bespeaks, not only his acquaintance with him, having lain in his bosom, but his confidence in him, to stand by him, and bear him out in his whole undertaking; as was prophesied concerning him (Isa. l. 7, 8), I know that I shall not be ashamed, for he is near that justifies; and as Paul, "I know whom I have believed (2 Tim. i. 12), I know him to be faithful, and powerful, and heartily engaged in the cause which I know to be his own." Observe, 1. How he professes his knowledge of his Father, with the greatest certainty, as one that was neither afraid nor ashamed to own it: If I should say I know him not, I should be a liar like unto you. He would not deny his relation to God, to humour the Jews, and to avoid their reproaches, and prevent further trouble; nor would he retract what he had said, nor confess himself either deceived or a deceiver; if he should, he would be found a false witness against God and himself. Note, Those who disown their religion and relation to God, as Peter, are liars, as much as hypocrites are, who pretend to know him, when they do not. See 1 Tim. vi. 13, 14. Mr. Clark observes well, upon this, that it is a great sin to deny God's grace in us. 2. How he proves his knowledge of his Father: I know him and keep his sayings, or his word. Christ, as man, was obedient to the moral law, and, as Redeemer, to the mediatorial law; and in both he kept his Father's word, and his own word with the Father. Christ requires of us (v. 51) that we keep his sayings; and he has set before us a copy of obedience, a copy without a blot: he kept his Father's sayings; well might he who learned obedience teach it; see Heb. v. 8, 9. Christ by this evinced that he knew the Father. Note, The best proof of our acquaintance with God is our obedience to him. Those only know God aright that keep his word; it is a ruled case, 1 John ii. 3. Hereby we know that we know him (and do not only fancy it), if we keep his commandments.

(2.) Christ refers them to their father, whom they boasted so much of a relation to, and that was Abraham, and this closes the discourse.

[1.] Christ asserts Abraham's prospect of him, and respect to him: Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it, and was glad, v. 56. And by this he proves that he was not at all out of the way when he made himself greater than Abraham. Two things he here speaks of as instances of that patriarch's respect to the promised Messiah:--

First, The ambition he had to see his day: He rejoiced, egalliasto--he leaped at it. The word, though it commonly signifies rejoicing, must here signify a transport of desire rather than of joy, for otherwise the latter part of the verse would be a tautology; he saw it, and was glad. He reached out, or stretched himself forth, that he might see my day; as Zaccheus, that ran before, and climbed the tree, to see Jesus. The notices he had received of the Messiah to come had raised in him an expectation of something great, which he earnestly longed to know more of. The dark intimation of that which is considerable puts men upon enquiry, and makes them earnestly ask Who? and What? and Where? and When? and How? And thus the prophets of the Old Testament, having a general idea of a grace that should come, searched diligently (1 Pet. i. 10), and Abraham was as industrious herein as any of them. God told him of a land that he would give his posterity, and of the wealth and honour he designed them (Gen. xv. 14); but he never leaped thus to see that day, as he did to see the day of the Son of man. He could not look with so much indifferency upon the promised seed as he did upon the promised land; in that he was, but to the other he could not be, contentedly a stranger. Note, Those who rightly know any thing of Christ cannot but be earnestly desirous to know more of him. Those who discern the dawning of the light of the Sun of righteousness cannot but wish to see his rising. The mystery of redemption is that which angels desire to look into, much more should we, who are more immediately concerned in it. Abraham desired to see Christ's day, though it was at a great distance; but this degenerate seed of his discerned not his day, nor bade it welcome when it came. The appearing of Christ, which gracious souls love and long for, carnal hearts dread and loathe.

Secondly, The satisfaction he had in what he did see of it: He saw it, and was glad. Observe here,

a. How God gratified the pious desire of Abraham; he longed to see Christ's day, and he saw it. Though he saw it not so plainly, and fully, and distinctly as we now see it under the gospel, yet he saw something of it, more afterwards than he did at first. Note, To him that has, and to him that asks, shall be given; to him that uses and improves what he has, and that desires and prays for more of the knowledge of Christ, God will give more. But how did Abraham see Christ's day? (a.) Some understand it of the sight he had of it in the other world. The separate soul of Abraham, when the veil of flesh was rent, saw the mysteries of the kingdom of God in heaven. Calvin mentions this sense of it, and does not much disallow it. Note, The longings of gracious souls after Jesus Christ will be fully satisfied when they come to heaven, and not till then. But, (b.) It is more commonly understood of some sight he had of Christ's day in this world. They that received not the promises, yet saw them afar off, Heb. xi. 13. Balaam saw Christ, but not now, not nigh. There is room to conjecture that Abraham had some vision of Christ and his day, for his own private satisfaction, which is not, nor must be, recorded in his story, like that of Daniel's, which must be shut up, and sealed unto the time of the end, Dan. xii. 4. Christ knew what Abraham saw better than Moses did. But there are divers things recorded in which Abraham saw more of that which he longed to see than he did when the promise was first made to him. He saw in Melchizedek one made like unto the Son of God, and a priest for ever; he saw an appearance of Jehovah, attended with two angels, in the plains of Mamre. In the prevalency of his intercession for Sodom he saw a specimen of Christ's intercession; in the casting out of Ishmael, and the establishment of the covenant with Isaac, he saw a figure of the gospel day, which is Christ's day; for these things were an allegory. In offering Isaac, and the ram instead of Isaac, he saw a double type of the great sacrifice; and his calling the place Jehovah-jireh--It shall be seen, intimates that he saw something more in it than others did, which time would produce; and in making his servant put his hand under his thigh, when he swore, he had a regard to the Messiah.

b. How Abraham entertained these discoveries of Christ's day, and bade them welcome: He saw, and was glad. He was glad of what he saw of God's favour to himself, and glad of what he foresaw of the mercy God had in store for the world. Perhaps this refers to Abraham's laughing when God assured him of a son by Sarah (Gen. xvii. 16, 17), for that was not a laughter of distrust as Sarah's but of joy; in that promise he saw Christ's day, and it filled him with joy unspeakable. Thus he embraced the promises. Note, A believing sight of Christ and his day will put gladness into the heart. No joy like the joy of faith; we are never acquainted with true pleasure till we are acquainted with Christ.

[2.] The Jews cavil at this, and reproach him for it (v. 57): Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Here, First, They suppose that if Abraham saw him and his day he also had seen Abraham, which yet was not a necessary innuendo, but this turn of his words would best serve to expose him; yet it was true that Christ had seen Abraham, and had talked with him as a man talks with his friend. Secondly, They suppose it a very absurd thing for him to pretend to have seen Abraham, who was dead so many ages before he was born. The state of the dead is an invisible state; but here they ran upon the old mistake, understanding that corporally which Christ spoke spiritually. Now this gave them occasion to despise his youth, and to upbraid him with it, as if he were but of yesterday, and knew nothing: Thou art not yet fifty years old. They might as well have said, Thou art not forty; for he was now but thirty-two or thirty-three years old. As to this, Irenæus, one of the first fathers, with this passage supports the tradition which he says he had from some that had conversed with St. John, that our Saviour lived to be fifty years old, which he contends for, Advers. Hæres. lib. 2, cap. 39, 40. See what little credit is to be given to tradition; and, as to this here, the Jews spoke at random; some year they would mention, and therefore pitched upon one that they thought he was far enough short of; he did not look to be forty, but they were sure he could not be fifty, much less contemporary with Abraham. Old age is reckoned to begin at fifty (Num. iv. 47), so that they meant no more than this, "Thou art not to be reckoned an old man; many of us are much thy seniors, and yet pretend not to have seen Abraham." Some think that his countenance was so altered, with grief and watching, that, together with the gravity of his aspect, it made him look like a man of fifty years old: his visage was so marred, Isa. lii. 14.

[3.] Our Saviour gives an effectual answer to this cavil, by a solemn assertion of his own seniority even to Abraham himself (v. 58): "Verily, verily, I say unto you; I do not only say it in private to my own disciples, who will be sure to say as I say, but to you my enemies and persecutors; I say it to your faces, take it how you will: Before Abraham was, I am;" prin Abraam genesthai, ego eimi, Before Abraham was made or born, I am. The change of the word is observable, and bespeaks Abraham a creature, and himself the Creator; well therefore might he make himself greater than Abraham. Before Abraham he was, First, As God. I am, is the name of God (Exod. iii. 14); it denotes his self-existence; he does not say, I was, but I am, for he is the first and the last, immutably the same (Rev. i. 8); thus he was not only before Abraham, but before all worlds, ch. i. 1; Prov. viii. 23. Secondly, As Mediator. He was the appointed Messiah, long before Abraham; the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. xiii. 8), the channel of conveyance of light, life, and love from God to man. This supposes his divine nature, that he is the same in himself from eternity (Heb. xiii. 8), and that he is the same to man ever since the fall; he was made of God wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, to Adam, and Abel, and Enoch, and Noah, and Shem, and all the patriarchs that lived and died by faith in him before Abraham was born. Abraham was the root of the Jewish nation, the rock out of which they were hewn. If Christ was before Abraham, his doctrine and religion were no novelty, but were, in the substance of them, prior to Judaism, and ought to take place of it.

[4.] This great word ended the dispute abruptly, and put a period to it: they could bear to hear no more from him, and he needed to say no more to them, having witnessed this good confession, which was sufficient to support all his claims. One would think that Christ's discourse, in which shone so much both of grace and glory, should have captivated them all; but their inveterate prejudice against the holy spiritual doctrine and law of Christ, which were so contrary to their pride and worldliness, baffled all the methods of conviction. Now was fulfilled that prophecy (Mal. iii. 1, 2), that when the messenger of the covenant should come to his temple they would not abide the day of his coming, because he would be like a refiner's fire. Observe here,

First, How they were enraged at Christ for what he said: They took up stones to cast at him, v. 59. Perhaps they looked upon him as a blasphemer, and such were indeed to be stoned (Lev. xxiv. 16); but they must be first legally tried and convicted. Farewell justice and order if every man pretend to execute a law at his pleasure. Besides, they had said but just now that he was a distracted crack-brained man, and if so it was against all reason and equity to punish him as a malefactor for what he said. They took up stones. Dr. Lightfoot will tell you how they came to have stones so ready in the temple; they had workmen at this time repairing the temple, or making some additions, and the pieces of stone which they hewed off served for this purpose. See here the desperate power of sin and Satan in and over the children of disobedience. Who would think that ever there should be such wickedness as this in men, such an open and daring rebellion against one that undeniably proved himself to be the Son of God? Thus every one has a stone to throw at his holy religion, Acts xxviii. 22.

Secondly, How he made his escape out of their hands. 1. He absconded; Jesus hid himself; ekrybe--he was hid, either by the crowd of those that wished well to him, to shelter him (he that ought to have been upon a throne, high and lifted up, is content to be lost in a crowd); or perhaps he concealed himself behind some of the walls or pillars of the temple (in the secret of his tabernacle he shall hide me, Ps. xxvii. 5); or by a divine power, casting a mist before their eyes, he made himself invisible to them. When the wicked rise a man is hidden, a wise and good man, Prov. xxviii. 12, 28. Not that Christ was afraid or ashamed to stand by what he had said, but his hour was not yet come, and he would countenance the flight of his ministers and people in times of persecution, when they are called to it. The Lord hid Jeremiah and Baruch, Jer. xxxvi. 26. 2. He departed, he went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, undiscovered, and so passed by. This was not a cowardly inglorious flight, nor such as argued either guilt or fear. It was foretold concerning him that he should not fail nor be discouraged, Isa. xlii. 4. But, (1.) It was an instance of his power over his enemies, and that they could do no more against him than he gave them leave to do; by which it appears that when afterwards he was taken in their pits he offered himself, ch. x. 18. They now thought they had made sure of him and yet he passed through the midst of them, either their eyes being blinded or their hands tied, and thus he left them to fume, like a lion disappointed of his prey. (2.) It was an instance of his prudent provision for his own safety, when he knew that his work was not done, nor his testimony finished; thus he gave an example to his own rule, When they persecute you in one city flee to another; nay, if occasion be, to a wilderness, for so Elijah did (1 Kings xix. 3, 4), and the woman, the church, Rev. xii. 6. When they took up loose stones to throw at Christ, he could have commanded the fixed stones, which did cry out of the wall against them, to avenge his cause, or the earth to open and swallow them up; but he chose to accommodate himself to the state he was in, to make the example imitable by the prudence of his followers, without a miracle. (3.) It was a righteous deserting of those who (worse than the Gadarenes, who prayed him to depart) stoned him from among them. Christ will not long stay with those who bid him be gone. Christ did again visit the temple after this; as one loth to depart, he bade oft farewell; but at last he abandoned it for ever, and left it desolate. Christ now went through the midst of the Jews, and none of them courted his stay, nor stirred up himself to take hold of him, but were even content to let him go. Note, God never forsakes any till they have first provoked him to withdraw, and will have none of him. Calvin observes that these chief priests, when they had driven Christ out of the temple, valued themselves on the possession they kept of it: "But," says he, "those deceive themselves who are proud of a church or temple which Christ has forsaken." Longe falluntur, cum templum se habere putant Deo vacuum. When Christ left them it is said that he passed by silently and unobserved; paregen houtos, so that they were not aware of him. Note, Christ's departures from a church, or a particular soul, are often secret, and not soon taken notice of. As the kingdom of God comes not, so it goes not, with observation. See Judg. xvi. 20. Samson wist not that the Lord was departed from him. Thus it was with these forsaken Jews, God left them, and they never missed him.