Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 34: John, Part I, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
l. Now one named Lazarus, of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha, was sick. 2. And it was that Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3. The sisters therefore sent to him, saying, Lord, lo, he whom thou lovest is sick. 4. And Jesus, having heard this, said, This sickness is not to death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified by it. 5. Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. 6. Having therefore heard that he was sick, he then remained two days in the place where he was. 7. And after this he saith to his disciples, Let us go into Judea again. 8. The disciples say to him, The Jews but lately sought to stone thee, and dost thou go thither again? 9. Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk by day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. 10. But if any man walk by night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.
1. And one named Lazarus was sick. The Evangelist passes on to another narrative, which contains a miracle eminently worthy of being recorded. For not only did Christ give a remarkable proof of his Divine power in raising Lazarus, but he likewise placed before our eyes a lively image of our future resurrection. This might indeed be said to be the latest and concluding action of his life, for the time of his death was already at hand. We need not wonder, therefore, if he illustrated his own glory, in an extraordinary manner, in that work, the remembrance of which he wished to be deeply impressed on their minds, that it might seal, in some respects, all that had gone before. There were others whom Christ had raised from the dead, but he now displays his power on a rotting corpse. But the circumstances which tend to magnify the glory of God in this miracle shall be pointed out in their proper place and order.
Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. The probable reason why this circumstance is mentioned is, that Lazarus had not acquired so great celebrity among believers as his sisters had; for these holy women were accustomed to entertain Christ with their hospitality, as is evident from what is related by the Evangelist Luke, (Lu 10:38.) It is really too ridiculous a blunder, to suppose that Monks, and such fry as the Papists have, made this small town or village a castle.
2. It was that Mary who anointed the Lord. It is a similar display of ignorance, to imagine that this Mary, the sister of Lazarus, was that woman of wicked and infamous life, who is mentioned by Luke, (Lu 7:37.) This mistake was occasioned by the anointing; as if it were not evident enough that Christ was anointed on various occasions, and even at different places. The woman who was a sinner, of whom Luke gives an account, anointed Christ at Jerusalem, where he dwelt; but Mary afterwards anointed him at Bethany, which was her own village. The past tense employed by the Evangelist, who anointed, must be referred, not to the time of the occurrence which he is now relating, but to the time when he wrote; as if he had said, “It was this Mary who afterwards poured on the head of Christ the ointment, on account of which a murmuring arose among the disciples,” (Mt 26:7.)
3. Lo, he whom thou lovest is sick. The message is short, but Christ might easily learn from it what the two sisters wished; for, under this complaint, they modestly state their request that he would be pleased to grant them relief. We are not forbidden, indeed, to use a longer form of prayer; but our principal object ought to be, to pour into the bosom of God all our cares, and every thing that distresses us, that he may afford deliverance. Such is the manner in which the women act towards Christ: they plainly tell him their distress, in consequence of which they expect some alleviation. We ought also to observe that, from Christ’s love, they are led to entertain a confident hope of obtaining assistance, he whom thou lovest; and this is the invariable rule of praying aright; for, where the love of God is, there deliverance is certain and at hand, because God cannot forsake him whom he loveth
4. Now Jesus, having heard this, said, This sickness is not to death. He intended by this reply to free his disciples from anxiety, that they might not take it amiss, when they saw him giving himself so little concern about the danger of his friend. That they might not be alarmed, therefore, about the life of Lazarus, he declares that the disease is not deadly, and even promises that it will be an additional occasion of promoting his own glory. Though Lazarus died, yet as Christ soon afterwards restored him to life, he now declares, looking to this result, that the disease is not to death
But for the glory of God. This clause is not contrasted with death, as if it were an argument that would always hold; for we know that, even though the reprobate die, the glory of God is not less strikingly displayed in their destruction than in the salvation of believers. But Christ strictly meant, in this passage, the glory of God, which was connected with his office. The power of God, which was displayed in the miracles of Christ, was not fitted to strike terror, but was kind and gentle. When he says that there is no danger of death, because he intends to display in it his own glory and the glory of his Father, we ought to inquire for what purpose, and with what intention, he was sent by the Father; which was, to save, and not to destroy.
For the glory, of God, that the Son of God may be glorified. This expression is highly emphatic; for we learn from it that God wishes to be acknowledged in the person of his Son in such a manner, that all the reverence which he requires to be given to his own majesty 309 may be ascribed to the Son. Hence we were told formerly,
He who doth not honor the Son doth not honor the Father,
It is in vain for Mahometans and Jews, therefore, to pretend to worship God; for they blaspheme against Christ, and even endeavor, in this manner, to rob God of himself.
5. And Jesus loved Martha and her sister, and Lazarus. These two things appear to be inconsistent with each other, that Christ remains two days beyond Jordan, as if he did not care about the life of Lazarus, and yet the Evangelist says, that Christ loved him and his sisters; for, since love produces anxiety, he ought to have hastened immediately. As Christ is the only mirror of the grace of God, we are taught by this delay on his part, that we ought not to judge of the love of God from the condition which we see before our eyes. When we have prayed to him, he often delays his assistance, either that he may increase still more our ardor in prayer, or that he may exercise our patience, and, at the same time, accustom us to obedience. Let believers then implore the assistance of God, but let them also learn to suspend their desires, if he does not stretch out his hand for their assistance as soon as they may think that necessity requires; for, whatever may be his delay, he never sleeps, and never forgets his people. Yet let us also be fully assured that he wishes all whom he loves to be saved.
7. And after this, he saith to his disciples. At length he now shows that he cared about Lazarus, though the disciples thought that he had forgotten him, or, at least, that there were other matters which he reckoned of more importance than the life of Lazarus. He therefore enjoins them to cross the Jordan, and go to Judea
8. Rabbi, the Jews but lately sought to stone thee. When the disciples dissuade him from going, they do so, not so much perhaps on his account as on their own, for each of them is alarmed about himself, as the danger was common to all. Avoiding the cross, and being ashamed to own it, they allege — what is more plausible — that they are anxious about their Master. The same thing happens every day with many. For they who, through a dread of the cross, shrink from the performance of their duty, eagerly seek excuses to conceal their indolence, that they may not be thought to rob God of the obedience due to him, when they have no good cause to do so.
9. Are there not twelve hours in the day? This passage has been explained in various ways. Some have thought the meaning of these words to be, that men sometimes adopt a new and different resolution every hour. This is very far from Christ’s meaning; and indeed I would not have reckoned it worthy of being mentioned, had it not been that it has passed into a common proverb. Let us therefore be satisfied with the simple and natural meaning.
First, Christ borrows a comparison from Day and Night. For if any man perform a journey in the dark, we need not wonder if he frequently stumble, or go astray, or fall; but the light of the sun by day points out the road, so that there is no danger. Now the calling of God is like the light of day, which does not allow us to mistake our road or to stumble. Whoever, then, obeys the word of God, and undertakes nothing but according to his command, always has God to guide and direct him from heaven, and with this confidence he may safely and boldly pursue his journey. For, as we are informed,
Whosoever walketh in his ways hath angels to guard him, and, under their direction, is safe, so that he cannot strike his foot against a stone,
Relying on this protection, therefore, Christ advances boldly into Judea, without any dread of being stoned; for there is no danger of going astray, when God, performing the part of the sun, shines on us, and directs our course.
We are taught by these words, that whenever a man allows himself to be guided by his own suggestions, without the calling of God, his whole life is nothing else than a course of wandering and mistake; and that they who think themselves exceedingly wise, when they do not inquire at the mouth of God, and have not his Spirit to govern their actions, are blind men groping in the dark; that the only proper way is, to be fully assured of our divine calling, and to have always God before our eyes as our guide. 310 This rule of regulating our life well is followed by a confident expectation of a prosperous result, because it is impossible that God shall not govern successfully. And this knowledge is highly necessary to us; for believers can scarcely move a foot to follow him, but Satan shall immediately interpose a thousand obstructions, hold out a variety of dangers on every side, and contrive, in every possible way, to oppose their progress. But when the Lord invites us to go forward, by holding out, as it were, his lamp to us, we ought to go forward courageously, though many deaths besiege our path; for he never commands us to advance without at the same time adding a promise to encourage us, so that we may be fully convinced, that whatever we undertake agreeably to his command will have a good and prosperous issue. This is our chariot, and whoever betakes himself to it will never fail through weariness; and even though the obstacles were so formidable that we could not be conveyed through them by a chariot, yet, furnished with these wings, we shall always succeed, till we reach the goal. Not that believers never meet with any adversity, but because adverse occurrences are aids to their salvation.
It amounts to this, that the eyes of God will always be attentive to guard those who shall be attentive to his instructions. Hence we learn also that, whenever men overlook and disregard the word of God, and consequently indulge themselves foolishly, and undertake whatever they think right, the whole course of their life is accursed by God, and vengeance is always ready to punish their presumption and their blind passions. Again, Christ here divides the day into twelve hours, according to ancient custom; for though the days are longer in summer and shorter in winter, 311 yet they had always twelve hours of the day, and twelve of the night.
11. He spoke these things, and after this he saith to them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth, but I go that I may awake him. 12. Then his disciples said, Lord, if he sleepeth, he will recover. 13. Now Jesus spoke of his death; but they thought that he spoke of the repose of sleep. 14. Then Jesus, therefore, said to them plainly, Lazarus is dead. 15. And I rejoice, on your account, that I was not there, that you may believe. But let us go to him. 16. Then Thomas, who is called Didymus, 312 said to his fellow-disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him. 17. Jesus therefore came, and found that he had been already four days in the tomb.
11. Our friend Lazarus sleepeth. Having formerly asserted that the disease was not deadly, that his disciples may not be too much distressed at seeing what they did not expect, he now informs them also that Lazarus is dead, and excites a hope of his resurrection. It is a proof of amazing ignorance, that they believe that Christ spoke about sleep; for, though it is a metaphorical form of expression, still it is so frequent and common in Scripture, that it ought to have been familiarly known to all the Jews.
12. If he sleepeth, he will recover. 313 Replying that sleep will have a salutary effect on Lazarus, they thus endeavor indirectly to dissuade Christ from going thither. And yet they do not craftily or deceitfully turn aside Christ’s words to suit their own purpose, on the pretense of not understanding what he said; 314 but, thinking that he spoke about sleep, they gladly seize this opportunity of avoiding danger. Augustine, and many writers since his time, speculate about the word sleep, alleging that the reason why it is applied to death is, because it is as easy for God to raise the dead to life, as it is for us to perform the customary act of awaking those who are asleep. But that nothing of this sort came into the mind of Christ, may be inferred from the constant use of the term in Scripture; and since even profane writers usually apply this word Sleep to Death, 315 there was unquestionably no other reason why it came into use, but because a lifeless corpse lies without feeling, just as the body of a man who is in a profound sleep. Hence, also, sleep is not inappropriately called the image of death, and Homer calls it the brother of death, (κασίγνητος θανάτουυ.) Since this word denotes only the sleep of the body, it is prodigiously absurd to apply it — as some fanatics have done — to souls, as if, by being deprived of understanding, they were subject to death.
But I go to awake him. Christ asserts his own power, when he says that he will come to awake Lazarus; for, though, as we have said, the word sleep does not express the facility of the resurrection, yet Christ shows that he is Lord of death, when he says, that he awakes those whom he restores to life.
14. Then Jesus told them plainly, Lazarus is dead. The goodness of Christ was astonishing, in being able to bear with such gross ignorance in the disciples. And indeed the reason why he delayed, for a time, to bestow upon them the grace of the Spirit in larger measure, was, that the miracle of renewing them in a moment might be the greater.
15. And I rejoice, on your account, that I was not there. He means that his absence was profitable to them, because his power would have been less illustriously displayed, if he had instantly given assistance to Lazarus. For the more nearly the works of God approach to the ordinary course of nature, the less highly are they valued, and the less illustriously is their glory displayed. This is what we experience daily; for if God immediately stretches out his hand, we do not perceive his assistance. That the resurrection of Lazarus, therefore, might be acknowledged by the disciples to be truly a Divine work, it must be delayed, that it might be very widely removed from a human remedy.
We ought to remember, however, what I formerly observed, that the fatherly kindness of God towards us is here represented in the person of Christ. When God permits us to be overwhelmed with distresses, and to languish long under them, let us know that, in this manner, he promotes our salvation. At such a time, no doubt, we groan and are perplexed and sorrowful, but the Lord rejoices on account of our benefit, and gives a twofold display of his kindness to us in this respect, that he not only pardons our sins, but gladly finds means of correcting them.
That you may believe. He does not mean that this was the first feeble commencement of faith in them, but that it was a confirmation of faith already begun, though it was still exceedingly small and weak. Yet he indirectly suggests that, if the hand of God had not been openly displayed, they would not have believed.
16. Then Thomas. Hitherto the disciples had endeavored to hinder Christ from going. Thomas is now prepared to follow, but it is without confidence; or, at least, he does not fortify himself by the promise of Christ, so as to follow hint with cheerfulness and composure.
Let us go, that we may die with him. This is the language of despair, for they ought to have entertained no fears about their own life. The phrase, with him, may be explained as referring either to Lazarus or to Christ. If we refer it to Lazarus, it will be ironical, as if Thomas had said, “Of what use will it be to go thither, unless it be that we cannot discharge the duty of friends in any other manner than by seeking to die along with him?” Yet I greatly prefer the other meaning, that Thomas does not refuse to die with Christ But this, as I have said, proceeds from inconsiderate zeal; for he ought rather to have taken courage from faith in the promise.
18. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs. 19. And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. 20. When Martha, therefore, heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home. 21. Martha then said to Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother would not have died. 22. But I know that even now, whatsoever thou shalt ask of God, God will give it thee. 23. Jesus saith to her, Thy brother shall rise again. 24. Martha saith to him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. 25. Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life; he who believeth in me, though he were dead, shall live. 26. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? 27. She saith to him, Yes, Lord, I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.
18. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem. The Evangelist diligently follows out all that contributes to the certainty of the narrative. He relates how near Jerusalem was to the village of Bethany, that no one may be astonished that, for the purpose of comforting the sisters, many friends came from Jerusalem, whom God intended to be witnesses of the miracle. For, though the desire of performing an office of kindness was their inducement to go, yet they were assembled there, by a secret decree of God, for another purpose, that the resurrection of Lazarus might not remain unknown, or that the witnesses might not be only those who belonged to the family. Now it is a convincing proof of the base ingratitude of the nation, that this striking demonstration of Divine power at a well-known place, amidst a vast crowd of men, and near the gates of the city, and which might almost be said to be erected on a stage, instantly vanishes from the eyes of men. We should rather say that the Jews, by maliciously shutting their eyes, intentionally do not see what is before their eyes. Nor is it a new or uncommon occurrence, that men who, with excessive eagerness, continually gape for miracles, are altogether dull and stupid in the consideration of them.
About fifteen furlongs This distance between the two places was somewhat less than two thousand paces, or, two miles; for the Stadium, or furlong, contains six hundred feet; that is, one hundred and twenty-five paces. 316
19. To comfort them concerning their brother. This was, no doubt, the object which they had in view, but God had another object to accomplish, as we have stated. It is evident from what is here mentioned, that the house of Lazarus and his sisters was greatly respected and honored. Again, as it is natural that the death of friends should occasion grief and mourning to men, this duty, which the Evangelist mentions, ought not to be blamed, unless on this ground, that sinful excess, which prevails in this and in other departments of life, corrupts what is not in itself sinful.
20. Martha having heard that Jesus was coming. Martha travels beyond the village, as we shall afterwards see, not only perhaps on account of the reverence which she bore to Christ, but that she might meet him more secretly; for his danger was fresh in his recollection, and the rage of enemies had not well subsided, which had been a little abated by Christ’s departure into Galilee, but might, on their hearing of his arrival, break out anew with greater violence.
21. Lord, if thou hadst been here. She begins with a complaint, though in doing so she modestly expresses her wish. Her meaning may be expressed thus — “By thy presence thou mightst have delivered my brother from death, and even now thou canst do it, for God will not refuse thee any thing.” By speaking in this manner, she gives way to her feelings, instead of restraining them under the rule of faith. I acknowledge that her words proceeded partly from faith, but I say that there were disorderly passions mixed with them, which hurried her beyond due bounds. For when she assures herself that her brother would not have died, if Christ had been present, what ground has she for this confidence? Certainly, it did not arise from any promise of Christ.
The only conclusion therefore is, that she inconsiderately yields to her own wishes, instead of subjecting herself to Christ. When she ascribes to Christ power and supreme goodness, this proceeds from faith; but when she persuades herself of more than she had heard Christ declare, that has nothing to do with faith; 317 for we must always hold the mutual agreement between the word and faith, that no man may rashly forge anything for himself, without the authority of the word of God. Besides, Martha attached too much importance to the bodily presence of Christ. The consequence is, that Martha’s faith, though mixed up and interwoven with ill-regulated desires, and even not wholly free from superstition, could not shine with full brightness; so that we perceive but a few sparks of it in these words.
23. Thy brother shall rise again. The kindness of Christ is amazing, in forgiving those faults of Martha which we have mentioned, and in promising her, of his own accord, more than she had ventured plainly and directly to ask.
24. I know that he shall rise again. We now see Martha’s excessive timidity in extenuating the meaning of Christ’s words. We have said that she went farther than she had a right to do, when she fabricated a hope for herself out of the feelings of her own mind. She now falls into an opposite fault; for when Christ stretches forth his hand, she stops short, as if she were alarmed. We ought, therefore to guard against both of these extremes. On the one hand, we must not, without the authority of God’s word, drink in empty hopes, which will prove to be nothing but wind; and, on the other hand, when God opens his mouth, it is not proper that he should find our hearts either blocked up, or too firmly closed. Again, by this reply, Martha intended to ascertain more than she ventured to expect from the words of Christ, as if she had said: “If you mean the last resurrection, I have no doubt that my brother will be raised again at the last day, and I comfort myself with this confident expectation, but I do not know if you direct my attention to something greater.”
25. I am the resurrection and the life. Christ first declares that he is the resurrection and the life, and then he explains, separately and distinctly, each clause of this sentence. His first statement is, that he is the resurrection, because the restoration from death to life naturally comes before the state of life. Now the whole human race is plunged in death; and, therefore, no man will be a partaker of life until he is risen from the dead. Thus Christ shows that he is the commencement of life, and he afterwards adds, that the continuance of life is also a work of his grace. That he is speaking about spiritual life, is plainly shown by the exposition which immediately follows,
He who believeth in me, though, he were dead, shall live. Why then is Christ the resurrection? Because by his Spirit he regenerates the children of Adam, who had been alienated from God by sin, so that they begin to live a new life. On this subject, I have spoken more fully under Joh 5:21 and 24; 318 and Paul is an excellent interpreter of this passage, (Eph 2:5, and Eph 5:8.) Away now with those who idly talk that men are prepared for receiving the grace of God by the movement of nature. They might as well say that the dead walk. For that men live and breathe, and are endued with sense, understanding, and will, all this tends to their destruction, because there is no part or faculty of the soul that is not corrupted and turned aside from what is right. Thus it is that death everywhere holds dominion, for the death of the soul is nothing else than its being estranged and turned aside from God. 319 Accordingly, they who believe in Christ, though they were formerly dead, begin to live, because faith is a spiritual resurrection of the soul, and — so to speak — animates the soul itself that it may live to God; according to that passage,
The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they who hear shall live
This is truly a remarkable commendation of faith, that it conveys to us the life of Christ, and thus frees us from death.
26. And whosoever liveth, and believeth in me. This is the exposition of the second clause, how Christ is the life; and he is so, because he never permits the life which he has once bestowed to be lost, but preserves it to the end. For since flesh is so frail, what would become of men, if, after having once obtained life, they were afterwards left to themselves? The perpetuity of the life must, therefore, be founded on the power of Christ himself, that he may complete what he has begun.
Shall never die. The reason why it is said that believers never die is, that their souls, being born again of incorruptible seed, (1Pe 1:23,) have Christ dwelling in them, from whom they derive perpetual vigor; for, though
the body be subject to death on account of sin,
yet the spirit is life on account of righteousness,
That the outward man daily decays in them is so far from taking anything away from their true life, that it aids the progress of it, because the inward man is renewed from day to day, (2Co 4:16.) What is still more, death itself is a sort of emancipation from the bondage of death.
Dost thou believe this? Christ seems, at first sight, to discourse about spiritual life, for the purpose of withdrawing the mind of Martha from her present desire. Martha wished that her brother should be restored to life Christ replies, that he is the Author of a more excellent life; and that is, because he quickens the souls of believers by divine power. Yet I have no doubt that he intended to include both favors; and therefore he describes, in general terms, that spiritual life which he bestows on all his followers, but wishes to give them some opportunity of knowing this power, which he was soon afterwards to manifest in raising Lazarus.
27. Yes, Lord. To prove that she believes what she had heard Christ say about himself, that he is the resurrection and the life, Martha replies, that she believes that he is the Christ, and the Son of God; and indeed this knowledge includes the sum of all blessings; for we ought always to remember for what purpose the Messiah was promised, and what duty the prophets ascribe to him. Now when Martha confesses that it was he who was to come into the world, she strengthens her faith by the predictions of the prophets. Hence it follows, that we ought to expect from him the full restoration of all things and perfect happiness; and, in short, that he was sent to erect and prepare the true and perfect state of the kingdom of God.
28. Having said these things, she went away, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is here, and calleth for thee. 29. As soon as she heard it, she immediately arose, and came to him. 30. Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was in the place where Martha met him. 31. Then the Jews, who were with her in the house, and comforted her, perceiving that Mary suddenly arose and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth to the tomb, to weep there. 32. Mary therefore, having come where Jesus was, and having seen him, fell at his feet, saying to him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother would not have died. 33. Jesus therefore, when he saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also 320 weeping, groaned in his spirit, and was troubled, 34. And said, Where have you laid him? They say to him, Lord, come and see. 35. Jesus wept. 36. The Jews therefore said, Behold how he loved him? 321 37. And some of them said, Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not die? 38. Then Jesus, again groaning within himself, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was placed on it.
28. And called Mary, her sister. It was probably at the request of Martha, that Christ remained on the outside of the village, that he might not enter into so great an assembly of people; for she dreaded the danger, because Christ had but lately escaped with difficulty from instant death. Accordingly, that the rumor about his arrival might not spread farther, she makes it known privately to her sister.
The Master is here. The word Master shows in what estimation Christ was held among those pious women. Though they had not hitherto profited so much as they might have done, still it was a great matter that they were entirely devoted to him as his disciples; and Mary’s sudden departure, to come and meet him, was a proof that she regarded him with no ordinary reverence.
31. Then the Jews who were with her. Though Martha was permitted by Christ to return home for the purpose of withdrawing her sister from the numerous assembly, yet Christ had another design in view, which was, that the Jews might be witnesses of the miracle. True, they have no thought of it, but it was no new thing that men should be led, as it were in darkness, and by the secret providence of God, where they did not intend to go. They think that Mary is going to the tomb, according to the custom of those who seek excitements of their grief. For it is a very prevalent disease, that husbands deprived of their wives, parents deprived of their children, and, on the other hand, wives deprived of their husbands, and children deprived of their parents or other relatives and friends, are eager to increase their grief by every possible method. It is also customary to resort to various contrivances for this purpose. The affections of men are already sufficiently disordered; but it is still worse, 322 that they inflame them by new excitements, that they may rush against God with greater ardor and violence. It was their duty to dissuade Mary from going, that the sight of the tomb might not give fresh occasion for her grief; yet they do not venture to apply so harsh a remedy, but even themselves contribute to the excess of her grief, by accompanying her to the tomb. Thus it frequently happens, that they who treat too gently the excesses of their friends do them little good by their consolations.
32. She fell at his feet. From her falling down at his feet we learn that Christ was honored in that house beyond the ordinary custom of men. For, though it was customary to throw themselves down on the ground in the presence of kings and great men, yet as Christ had nothing about him, according to the flesh, that was royal or magnificent, it was for a different purpose that Mary fell down at his feet Indeed, she would not have done so, if she had not been convinced that he was the Son of God.
Lord, if thou hadst been here. Though she appears to speak of Christ respectfully, yet we have lately pointed out what is faulty in these words; for the power of Christ, which filled heaven and earth, ought not to have been limited to his bodily presence.
33. He groaned in his spirit. If Christ had not been excited to compassion by their tears, he would rather have kept his countenance unmoved, but when, of his own accord, he conforms to those mourners, so far as to weep along with them, 323 he gives proof that he has sympathy, (συμπάθεια.) For the cause of this feeling is, in my opinion, expressed by the Evangelist, when he says that Christ saw Mary and the rest weeping Yet I have no doubt that Christ contemplated something higher, namely, the general misery of the whole human race; for he knew well what had been enjoined on him by the Father, and why he was sent into the world, namely, to free us from all evils. As he has actually done this, so he intended to show that he accomplished it with warmth and earnestness. Accordingly, when he is about to raise Lazarus, before granting deliverance or aid, by the groaning of his spirit, by a strong feeling of grief, and by tears, he shows that he is as much affected by our distresses as if he had endured them in his own person.
But how do groaning and trouble of mind belong to the person of the Son of God? As some reckon it absurd to say that Christ, as one of the number of human beings, was subject to human passions, they think that the only way in which he experienced grief or joy was, that he received in himself those feelings, whenever he thought proper, by some secret dispensation. It is in this sense, Augustine thinks, that the Evangelist says that he was troubled, because other men are hurried along by their feelings, which exercise dominion, or rather tyranny, to trouble their minds. He considers the meaning therefore to be, that Christ, though otherwise tranquil and free from all passion, brought groaning and grief upon himself of his own accord. But this simplicity will, in my opinion, be more agreeable to Scripture, if we say that the Son of God, having clothed himself with our flesh, of his own accord clothed himself also with human feelings, so that he did not differ at all from his brethren, sin only excepted. In this way we detract nothing from the glory of Christ, when we say that it was a voluntary submission, by which he was brought to resemble us in the feelings of the soul. Besides, as he submitted from the very commencement, we must not imagine that he was free and exempt from those feelings; and in this respect he proved himself to be our brother, in order to assure us, that we have a Mediator, who willingly pardons our infirmities, and who is ready to assist those infirmities which he has experienced in himself.
It will perhaps be objected, that the passions of men are sinful, and therefore it cannot be admitted that we have them in common with the Son of God. I reply, there is a wide difference between Christ and us. For the reason why our feelings are sinful is, that they rush on without restraint, and suffer no limit; but in Christ the feelings were adjusted and regulated in obedience to God, and were altogether free from sin. To express it more fully, 324 the feelings of men are sinful and perverse on two accounts; first, because they are hurried along by impetuous motion, and are not regulated by the true rule of modesty; and, secondly, because they do not always arise from a lawful cause, or, at least, are not directed to a lawful end. I say that there is excess, because no person rejoices or grieves, so far only as is sufficient, or as God permits, and there are even some who shake themselves loose from all restraint. The vanity of our understanding brings us grief or sadness, on account of trifles, or for no reason whatever, because we are too much devoted to the world. Nothing of this nature was to be found in Christ; for he had no passion or affection of his own that ever went beyond its proper bounds; he had not one that was not proper, and founded on reason and sound judgment.
To make this matter still more clear, it will be of importance for us to distinguish between man’s first nature, as it was created by God, and this degenerate nature, which is corrupted by sin. When God created man, he implanted affections in him, but affections which were obedient and submissive to reason. That those affections are now disorderly and rebellious is an accidental fault; that is, it proceeds from some other cause than from the Creator. 325 Now Christ took upon him human affections, but without (ἀταξία) disorder; for he who obeys the passions of the flesh is not obedient to God. Christ was indeed troubled and vehemently agitated; but, at the same time, he kept himself in subjection to the will of the Father. In short, if you compare his passions with ours, they will differ not less than pure and clear water, flowing in a gentle course, differs from dirty and muddy foam.
The example of Christ ought to be sufficient of itself for setting aside the unbending sternness which the Stoics demand; for whence ought we to look for the rule of supreme perfection but from Christ? We ought rather to endeavor to correct and subdue that obstinacy which pervades our affections on account of the sin of Adam, and, in so doing, to follow Christ as our leader, that he may bring us into subjection. Thus Paul does not demand from us hardened stupidity, but enjoins us to observe moderation
in our mourning, that we may not abandon ourselves to grief, like unbelievers who have no hope
for even Christ took our affections into himself, that by his power we may subdue every thing in them that is sinful.
36. Behold, how he loved him! The Evangelist John here describes to us two different opinions which were formed about Christ. As to the former, who said, Behold, how he loved him! though they think less highly of Christ than they ought to have done, since they ascribe to him nothing but what may belong to a man, yet they speak of him with greater candor and modesty than the latter, who maliciously slander him for not having hindered Lazarus from dying. For, though they applaud the power of Christ, of which the former said nothing, yet they do so, not without bringing against him some reproach. It is evident enough from their words, that the miracles which Christ had performed were not unknown to them; but so much the more base is their ingratitude, that they do not scruple to complain, because now, in a single instance, he abstained from working. Men have always been ungrateful to God in the same manner, and continue to be so. If he does not grant all our wishes, we immediately launch into complaints: “Since he has been accustomed to aid us hitherto, why does he now forsake and disappoint us?” There is here a twofold disease. First, though we rashly desire what is not expedient for us, yet we wish to subject God to the perverse desires of the flesh. Secondly, we are rude in our demands, and the ardor of impatience hurries us before the time.
38. Jesus therefore again groaning within himself. Christ does not approach the sepulcher as an idle spectator, but as a champion who prepares for a contest; and therefore we need not wonder that he again groans; for the violent tyranny of death, which he had to conquer, is placed before his eyes. Some explain this groan to have arisen from indignation, because he was offended at that unbelief of which we have spoken. But another reason appears to me far more appropriate, namely, that he contemplated the transaction itself rather than the men. Next follow various circumstances, which tend to display more fully the power of Christ in raising Lazarus. I refer to the time of four days, during which the tomb had been secured by a stone, which Christ commands to be removed in presence of all.
39. Jesus saith, Remove the stone. Martha, the sister of him who was dead, saith to him, Lord, he already stinketh, for this is the fourth day. 40. Jesus saith to her, Did I not tell thee that, if thou believe, thou shalt see the glory of God? 41. They therefore removed the stone from the place where he who was dead lay. And Jesus again lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. 42. And I knew that thou hearest me always, but, on account of the multitude around me, I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. 43. Having spoken these words, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. 44. And he who had been dead came forth, bound hand and foot with bandages, and his face was wrapped in a napkin. Jesus saith to them, Loose him, and let him go.
39. Lord, he already stinketh. This is an indication of distrust, for she promises herself less from the power of Christ than she ought to have done. The root of the evil consists in measuring the infinite and incomprehensible power of God by the perception of her flesh. There being nothing more inconsistent with life than putrefaction and offensive smell, Martha infers that no remedy can be found. Thus, when our minds are preoccupied by foolish thoughts, we banish God from us, if we may be allowed the expression, so that he cannot accomplish in us his own work. Certainly, it was not owing to Martha, that her brother did not lie continually in the tomb, for she cuts off the expectation of life for him, and, at the same time, endeavors to hinder Christ from raising him; and yet nothing was farther from her intention. This arises from the weakness of faith. Distracted in various ways, we fight with ourselves, and while we stretch out the one hand to ask assistance from God, we repel, with the other hand, that very assistance, as soon as it is offered. 326 True, Martha did not speak falsely, when she said, I know that whatsoever thou shalt ask from God he will give thee; but a confused faith is of little advantage, unless it be put in operation, when we come to a practical case.
We may also perceive in Martha how various are the effects of faith, even in the most excellent persons. She was the first that came to meet Christ; this was no ordinary proof of her piety; and yet she does not cease to throw difficulties in his way. That the grace of God may have access to us, let us learn to ascribe to it far greater power than our senses can comprehend; and, if the first and single promise of God has not sufficient weight with us, let us, at least, follow the example of Martha by giving our acquiescence, when he confirms us a second and third time.
40. Did not I tell thee? He reproves Martha’s distrust, in not forming a hope sufficiently vigorous from the promise which she had heard. It is evident from this passage, that something more was said to Martha than John has literally related; though, as I have suggested, this very thing was meant by Christ, when he called himself the resurrection and the life Martha is therefore blamed for not expecting some Divine work.
If thou believe. This is said, not only because faith opens our eyes, that we may be able to see the power of God shining in his works, but because our faith prepares the way for the power, mercy, and goodness of God, that they may be displayed towards us, as it is said, Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it, (Ps 81:10.) In like manner, unbelief, on the other hand, hinders God from approaching us, and may be said to keep his hands shut. On this account it is said elsewhere, that Jesus
could not perform any miracle there on account of their unbelief, (Mt 13:58.)
Not that the power of God is bound by the caprice of men, but because, as far as they are able, their malice opposes the exercise of that power, and therefore they do not deserve that it should be manifested to them. Frequently, indeed, does God overcome such obstacles; but yet, whenever he withdraws his hand, so as not to assist unbelievers, this is done because, shut up within the narrow limits of their unbelief, they do not allow it to enter.
Thou shalt see the glory of God. Observe, that a miracle is called the glory of God, because God, displaying in it the power of his hand, glorifies his name. But Martha, now satisfied with Christ’s second declaration, permits the stone to be removed. As yet she sees nothing, but, hearing the Son of God, not without a good reason, give this order, she willingly relies on his authority alone.
41. And Jesus again raised his eyes. This was the token of a mind truly prepared for prayer; for before any one calls on God aright, he must be brought into communication with him, and this can only be done when, raised above the earth, he ascends even to heaven. True, this is not done by the eyes; for hypocrites, who are plunged in the deep filth of their flesh, appear to draw down heaven to them by their stern aspect; but what they only pretend to do must be sincerely accomplished by the children of God. And yet he who raises his eyes to heaven ought not, in his thoughts, to limit God to heaven; for He is present everywhere, and fills heaven and earth, (Jer 23:24.) But as men can never free themselves from gross imaginations, so as not to form some low and earthly conception about God, unless when they are raised above the world, Scripture sends them to heaven, and declares that heaven is the habitation of God, (Isa 66:1.)
So far as relates to the eyes, it is not a custom that must be perpetually observed, so that without it prayer is not lawful; for the publican, who prays with his face cast down to the ground, does not the less, on this account, pierce heaven by his faith, (Lu 18:13.) Yet this exercise is profitable, because men are aroused by it to seek God; and not only so, but the ardor of prayer often affects the body in such a manner that, without thinking of it, the body follows the mind of its own accord. Certainly, we cannot doubt that, when Christ raised his eyes to heaven, he was carried towards it with extraordinary vehemence. Besides, as all his thoughts were with the Father, so he also wished to bring others to the Father along with him.
Father, I thank thee. He begins with thanksgiving, though he has asked nothing; but though the Evangelist does not relate that he prayed in a form of words, yet there can be no doubt whatever that, before this, there was a prayer, for otherwise it could not have been heard. And there is reason to believe that he prayed amidst those groanings which the Evangelist mentions; for nothing could be more absurd than to suppose that he was violently agitated within himself, as stupid men are wont to be. Having obtained the life of Lazarus, he now thanks the Father By saying that he has received this power from the Father, and by not ascribing it to himself, he does nothing more than acknowledge that he is the servant of the Father For, accommodating himself to the capacity of men, he at one time openly proclaims his Divinity, and claims for himself whatever belongs to God; and, at another time, he is satisfied with sustaining the character of a man, and yields to the Father the whole glory of Divinity. Here both are admirably brought together by the Evangelist in one word, when he says that the Father heard Christ, but that he gives thanks, that men may know that he was sent by the Father, that is, that they may acknowledge him to be the Son of God. The majesty of Christ being incapable of being perceived in its true elevation, the power of God, which appeared in his flesh, gradually raised to this elevation the gross and dull senses of men. For since he intended to be wholly ours, we need not wonder if he accommodates himself to us in various ways; and as he even allowed himself to be emptied (Php 2:7) for us, there is no absurdity in saying that he abases himself on our account.
42. And I knew that thou hearest me always. This is an anticipation, lest any one should think that he did not stand so high in favor with the Father, as to be able easily to perform as many miracles as he chose. He means, therefore, that there is so great an agreement between him and the Father, that the Father refuses him nothing; and even that he had no need to pray, because he only executed what he knew that the Father had enjoined; but in order that men may be more fully assured that this is truly a divine work, for this reason he called on the name of the Father. It will perhaps be objected, Why then did he not raise all the dead? The reply is easy. A certain fixed limit was assigned to miracles by the purpose of God, so far as he knew to be sufficient for confirming the Gospel.
43. He cried with a loud voice. By not touching with the hand, but only crying with the voice, his Divine power is more fully demonstrated. At the same time, he holds out to our view the secret and astonishing efficacy of his word. For how did Christ restore life to the dead but by the word? And therefore, in raising Lazarus, he exhibited a visible token of his spiritual grace, which we experience every day by the perception of faith, when he shows that his voice gives life.
44. Bound hand and foot with bandages. The Evangelist is careful to mention the napkin and bandages, in order to inform us that Lazarus went out of the tomb, in the same manner that he was laid in it. This mode of burying is retained to the present day by the Jews, who cover the body with a shroud, and wrap the head separately in a handkerchief.
Loose him, and let him go. To magnify the glory of the miracle, it only remained that the Jews should even touch with their hands that Divine work which they had beheld with their eyes. For Christ might have removed the bandages with which Lazarus was bound, or made them to give way of themselves; but Christ intended to employ the hands of the spectators as his witnesses.
The Papists act an excessively ridiculous part, by endeavoring to draw auricular confession from this passage. They say, “Christ, after having restored Lazarus to life, commanded his disciples to loose him; and therefore it is not enough for us to be reconciled to God, unless the Church also pardon our sins.” But whence do they conjecture that the disciples were enjoined to loose Lazarus? On the contrary, we may infer that the order was given to the Jews, in order to take from them every ground of doubt or hesitation.
45. Many therefore of the Jews, who had come to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. 46. But some of them went away to the Pharisees, and told them what Jesus had done. 47. Then the chief priests and Pharisees assembled the council, and said, What do we? for this man doth many miracles. 48. If we let him go on thus, all will believe on him; and the Romans will come, and will take away our place and nation. 49. But one of them, named Caiaphas, who was the high priest of that year, said to them, You know nothing at all, 50. Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish. 51. Now this he spoke, not of himself, but being the high priest of that year, he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation; 52. And not for that nation only, but that he might assemble, in one body, the children of God who were scattered abroad.
45. Many therefore of the Jews believed on him. Christ did not permit the miracle which he had wrought to be without fruit, for by means of it he drew some persons to the faith. For we ought to understand that miracles have a twofold use. They are intended either to prepare us for faith, or to confirm us in faith. The former is here denoted by the Evangelist; for he means that those of whom he speaks regarded Christ with admiration and reverence, so as to submit to be his disciples; otherwise the bare miracle could not have been sufficient to produce faith. Accordingly, by the word believe we must not suppose anything else to be meant than a willingness to embrace the doctrine of Christ.
46. But some of them went away to the Pharisees. In those who accuse Christ we behold detestable ingratitude, or rather horrible rage, from which we infer how blind and mad is their impiety. The resurrection of Lazarus ought undoubtedly to have softened even hearts of stone; but there is no work of God which impiety will not infect and corrupt by the bitterness of its poison. So then, before men can profit by miracles, their hearts must be purified; for they who have no fear of God, and no reverence for him, though they saw heaven and earth mingled, will never cease to reject sound doctrine through obstinate ingratitude. Thus you will see in the present day many enemies of the Gospel, like fanatics, fighting with the open and visible hand of God. And yet they demand miracles from us, but it is for no other purpose than to show that, in stubborn resistance, they are monsters of men. As to the report being carried to the Pharisees rather than to any others, 327 it is because, in proportion to their hypocrisy, they were more fierce in opposing the Gospel. For the same reason he soon afterwards makes express mention of them, when he relates that the council was assembled. They were indeed a part of the priests, but are specially named by the Evangelist, because they served the purpose of bellows to kindle the rage of the whole council
47. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees assembled the council. Not less monstrous is the blindness of the priests, which is here described. If they had not been exceedingly stupid and brutish, they would at least have been impressed with some reverence for Christ, after so striking a demonstration of his Divine power. They now assemble deliberately and intentionally to bury the glory of God, at the sight of which they are constrained to be astonished. True, they do not openly proclaim that they wish to make war with God, but as they cannot extinguish Christ but by overturning the power of God, they unquestionably fight against that power openly by presumption and sacrilege. Infidelity indeed is always haughty, and despises God, but does not all at once break out to such an extent as to raise its horns against God. But when men have long struggled against God, the result at which they ultimately arrive is, that they endeavor to ascend above heaven, after the manner of the giants, 328 without any dread of the Divine majesty; 329 for they acknowledge that Christ doth many miracles And whence proceeds his great power? They therefore openly prepare to crush the power of God, which shines in the miracles of Christ. Yet God is not unemployed; but though he wink at them for a time, he laughs at their foolish arrogance, till the time come for executing his wrath, as it is said, (Ps. 2:4, 12.)
What do we? By these words they accuse themselves of sloth, as if they said that it is on account of their doing nothing, that Christ continues to make advances, because by active exertion they may stop his progress. Such is the confidence of wicked men, by which they lay claim to everything, as if it were in their power to do as they please, and as if even the result of the work depended on their wishes. And if the whole be duly weighed, they here employ their own industry as a shield against the Divine power, as if by perseverance they could vanquish God.
48. If we let him alone thus. What if they do not let him alone? In that case, as we have already said, they are fully convinced that it lies in their power to block up Christ’s path, so that he shall go no farther, provided that they earnestly strive against him. If Christ had been some impostor, their duty would have been to employ their exertions, that he might not lead away the sheep from the Lord’s flock; but by confessing his miracles, they make it sufficiently evident that they do not care much about God, whose power they so boldly and disdainfully despise.
The Romans will come. They cloak their wickedness by a plausible disguise, their zeal for the public good. The fear that chiefly distressed them was, that their tyranny would be destroyed; but they pretend to be anxious about the temple and worship of God, about the name of the nation, and about the condition of the people. And what is the object of all this? For they do not appear to seek pretences of this nature in order to deceive. They are not haranguing the people, but are holding in secrecy a private consultation among themselves. Being all aware that they are guilty of the same treachery, why do they not openly bring forward their plans and opinions? It is because impiety, though gross and manifest, is almost always accompanied by hypocrisy, and thus wraps itself in indirect evasions or subterfuges, so as to deceive under the semblance of virtue. Their chief design undoubtedly was, to hold out some appearance of gravity, moderation, and prudence, so as to practice imposition upon others; but it may readily be believed that, when they pretended to have just ground for persecuting Christ, they were themselves deceived by that poor disguise. Thus hypocrites, though their conscience reproves them within, are afterwards intoxicated by vain imaginations, so that in sinning they appear to be innocent. Yet they evidently contradict themselves; for at first they confessed that Christ did many miracles, and now they dread the Romans, as if there had not been abundantly sufficient protection in the power of God, which showed itself to be present by those miracles
The Romans will come. The Evangelist means, that the chief object of their consultation was, to guard against imminent danger. “If the Romans,” they say, “knew that any innovation was made in public matters, there is reason to fear that they would send an army to ruin our nation, together with the temple and worship of God.” Now it is wicked to consult about guarding against dangers, which we cannot avoid, unless we choose to depart from the right path. Our first inquiry ought to be, What does God command and choose to be done? By this we ought to abide, whatever may be the consequence to ourselves. Those men, on the other hand, resolve that Christ shall be removed from the midst of them, that no inconvenience may arise by allowing him to proceed, as he has begun. But what if he has been sent by God? Shall they banish a prophet of God from among them, to purchase peace with the Romans? Such are the schemes of those who do not truly and sincerely fear God. What is right and lawful gives them no concern, for their whole attention is directed to the consequences.
But the only way to deliberate in a proper and holy manner is this. First, we ought to inquire what is the will of God. Next, we ought to follow boldly whatever he enjoins, and not to be discouraged by any fear, though we were besieged by a thousand deaths; for our actions must not be moved by any gust of wind, but must be constantly regulated by the will of God alone. He who boldly despises dangers, or, at least, rising above the fear of them, sincerely obeys God, will at length have a prosperous result; for, contrary to the expectation of all, God blesses that firmness which is founded on obedience to his word. Unbelievers, on the other hand, are so far from deriving any advantage from their precautions, that, the more timorous they are, the more numerous are the snares in which they entangle themselves.
In this narrative the form and character of our own age are strikingly delineated. They who are desirous to be regarded as prudent and cautious have continually this song in their mouth: “We must consult the public tranquillity; the reformation which we attempt is not unaccompanied by many dangers.” After having raised this unfounded dislike against us, they find no better expedient than to bury Christ, for the purpose of obviating every annoyance. As if such wicked contempt of the grace of God could actually have a prosperous issue, when, in order to allay disturbances, they contrive this remedy, that the doctrine of salvation shall be abolished. On the contrary, what wicked men dread will happen; and though they may obtain what they expect, still it is a most unworthy recompense, to appease the world by offending God.
Will take away our place. It is uncertain whether they mean the temple or their country. They thought that their salvation depended on both; for, if the temple was destroyed, there would be no more sacrifices, or public worship of God, or calling on his name. If, therefore, they cared any thing about religion, they must have been anxious about the temple. It was of great importance, on the other hand, for upholding the condition of the Church, that they should not again be led away out of their own land. They still remembered the captivity into Babylon, which was an awfully severe vengeance of God. It was also a common proverb among them — which is frequently to be found in the Law — that it was in some respects a casting them off, if the Lord thrust them out of that land. Hence they conclude that, unless Christ be destroyed, the Church will not be safe.
49. Then one of them, named Caiaphas. It was a short consultation, for Caiaphas did not allow them to hesitate long. He holds out that there is but one way of purchasing safety, and that is, to slay an innocent man. To what a pitch of wickedness do men proceed, who, destitute of the fear of God, form their plans rather from the judgment of their flesh than from the word of God, and who confidently believe that they will derive advantage from that which is not permitted by the Author of every blessing. For what Caiaphas meant may be thus expressed. “They must provoke the wrath of God, in order that they may be happy and prosperous.” Wherefore, let us learn never to separate what is useful from what is lawful, since we ought not to expect any prosperity or success but from the blessing of God, which is promised not to wicked and rebellious persons, who ask assistance from the devil, but to believers who sincerely walk in their ways, (Ps 91:11.) And yet there was some plausibility in this argument, for the public advantage ought always to have the preference. But — as I have already said — a people is no better protected by the unjust death of an innocent man, than the whole body of a man is protected, when you only cut his throat, or pierce his breast with a sword.
Who was the high priest of that year. He does not call him the high priest of that year, as if he meant that the office was annual, and lasted only for a year; but because it had become a gift that could be purchased with money, and was conveyed to various persons contrary to the injunction of the Law. God did not intend that this dignity should be terminated but by the death of him who held it; 330 but, in consequence of trouble and confusion in public affairs, the Romans frequently changed the priests according to their fancy.
51. Now he spoke this, not of himself. When the Evangelist says that Caiaphas did not speak this of himself, he does not mean that Caiaphas — like one who was mad, or out of his senses — uttered what he did not understand; for he spoke what was his own opinion. But the Evangelist means that a higher impulse guided his tongue, because God intended that he should make known, by his mouth, something higher than what occurred to his mind. Caiaphas, therefore, might be said, at that time, to have two tongues; for he vomited out the wicked and cruel design of putting Christ to death, which he had conceived in his mind; but God turned his tongue to a different purpose, so that, under ambiguous words, he likewise uttered a prediction. God intended that the heavenly oracle should proceed from the high priest’s seat, that the Jews might have less excuse. For, though not one person in the whole assembly had his conscience moved, yet they afterwards perceived that their insensibility was not entitled to forgiveness. Nor did the wickedness of Caiaphas prevent his tongue from being the organ of the Holy Spirit, for God looked at the priesthood which he had instituted rather than at the person of the man. And this was the reason which I glanced at, that a voice uttered from a lofty place might be more distinctly heard, and might have greater reverence and authority. In the same manner, God intended to bless his people by the mouth of Balaam, on whom he had bestowed the spirit of prophecy.
But it is highly ridiculous in the Papists to infer from this that we ought to reckon as an oracle whatever the Roman high priest may think fit to pronounce. First, granting what is false, that every man who is a high priest is also a prophet, still they will be under the necessity of proving that the Roman high priest is appointed by the command of God; for the priesthood was abolished by the coming of one man, who is Christ, and we no where read that it was afterwards enjoined by God that any one man should be the ruler of the whole Church. Granting to them, in the second place, that the power and title of high priest was conveyed to the Bishop of Rome, we must see of what advantage it was to the priests that they accepted the prediction of Caiaphas In order to concur in his opinion, they conspire to put Christ to death. But far from us be that kind of obedience which drives us to horrid apostacy by denying the Son of God. With the same voice Caiaphas blasphemes and also prophesies. They who follow his suggestion despise the prophecy, and adopt the blasphemy. We ought to guard against the same thing happening to us, if we listen to the Caiaphas of Rome; for otherwise the comparison would be defective. Besides, I ask, Must we conclude that, because Caiaphas once prophesied, every word uttered by the high priest is always a prophecy? But soon afterwards Caiaphas condemned as blasphemy (Mt 26:65) the most important article of our faith. Hence we conclude, that what the Evangelist now relates was an extraordinary occurrence, and that it would be foolish to adduce it as an example.
That Jesus would die. First, the Evangelist shows that the whole of our salvation consists in this, that Christ should assemble us into one; for in this way he reconciles us to the Father, in whom is the fountain of life, (Ps 36:9.) Hence, also, we infer, that the human race is scattered and estranged from God, until the children of God are assembled under Christ their Head. Thus, the communion of saints is a preparation for eternal life, because all whom Christ does not gather to the Father remain in death, as we shall see again under the seventeenth chapter. For the same reason Paul also teaches that Christ was sent, in order
that he might gather together all things which are in heaven and in earth,
Wherefore, that we may enjoy the salvation brought by Christ, discord must be removed, and we must be made one with God and with angels, and among ourselves. The cause and pledge of this unity was the death of Christ, by which he drew all things to himself; but we are daily gathered by the Gospel into the fold of Christ.
52. And not for that nation only. The Evangelist means that the reconciliation effected by Christ is also extended to the Gentiles. But how comes it that they who, in consequence of being wretchedly scattered and wandering, became the enemies of God, are here called the children of God? I answer, as has been already said, God had in his breast children, who in themselves were wandering and lost sheep, or rather who were the farthest possible from being sheep, but, on the contrary, were wolves and wild beasts. It is therefore by election that he reckons as the children of God, even before they are called, those who at length begin to be manifested by faith both to themselves and to others.
53. From that day, therefore, they consulted to put him to death. 54. Therefore Jesus no longer walked openly among the Jews, but retired to a country near the wilderness, into a city which is called Ephraim, and there dwelt with his disciples. 55. Now the passover of the Jews was at hand, and many of that country went up to Jerusalem before the passover, to purify themselves. 56. They therefore sought Jesus, and said among themselves, while they stood in the temple, What think you? will he not come to the feast? 57. Now the chief priests 331 and Pharisees had issued an order, that if any one knew where he was, he would show it, that they might seize him.
53. They consulted to put him to death. The Evangelist relates that Christ again fled, knowing that his enemies sought him with so great rage. Yet let us remember that he did not fly in order to withdraw from his Father’s calling; for he had no other intention than to present himself to undergo voluntary death at the time which God had appointed. This consultation, which the Evangelist mentions, related not so much to slaying Christ as to find out some method of crushing him. They had already determined to put him to death; it only remained to advise in what way they could carry their resolution into effect.
54. Which is called Ephraim. As to the name of the town which is mentioned here, I think that either it was pronounced at that time in a corrupted manner, or it was entirely new. For we know how greatly the language was changed after the captivity into Babylon, and likewise how different was the appearance of the country; so that we need not be surprised that some places are mentioned, which in ancient times were altogether unknown.
And there he dwelt with his disciples. By calling them disciples of Christ, he means not those who had received his doctrine, but those who were his constant companions, and who were wont to live under the same roof.
55. Many from that country went up to Jerusalem. It was not absolutely enjoined that they should purify themselves before sacrificing the passover; and, therefore, the Evangelist does not say that all came, but many No unclean person, indeed, was permitted to eat; but I say that this sanctification was undertaken voluntarily and from their own inclination, so that others were not forbidden to eat, though they had not been prepared by such a ceremony before the day of the feast
56. They therefore sought Jesus. The design of the Evangelist is, to show how extensively the fame of Christ was diffused through the whole of Judea; for they who assemble in the temple, from whatever quarter they come, are eager to seek Christ, and are employed in holding conversations among themselves concerning him. It is true that they seek him after a human fashion, but yet, in seeking him, they discover that it is the tyranny of the priests which prevents him from appearing openly.
“A sa majeste.”
“Quand nous avons tousjours Dieu devant nos yeux pour nostre guide.”
“Combien que les jours soyent plus grands en este, et plus petits en hyver.”
“Adonc Thomas, qui est a dire Gemeau;” — “then Thomas, which means Twin.”
“Il sera guairi.”
“Comme faisans semblant de n’entendre point ce que Christ dit.”
“Et mesmers veu que les autheurs profanes transferent coustumierement ce mot de Dormir a la Mort.”
The Roman Passus, or pace — measured from the spot where either foot was planted to the spot where the same foot was planted after two ordinary steps — was five feet; so that the Mille, or thousand paces, contained five thousand feet, rather less than an English mile; and the Stadium, or furlong, which contained, as Calvin states, “one hundred and twenty-five paces,” was equal to six hundred and twenty-five feet. — Ed.
“Cela n’a rien de commun avec la foy.”
See pp. 200 and 204 of this volume.
“N’est autre chose qu’estre estrange et detourne de Dieu.”
“Voyez comme il l’aimoit!” — “see how he loved him!”
“Mais voyci le pis.”
“Quand de son bon gre il se conforme a ces pleurans, jusques pleurer avec eux.”
“Pour mieux dire.”
“C’est a dire, venant d’ailleurs que du Createur.”
“Ceste mesme aide, si tost qu’il nous la presente.”
“Plustost qu’a quelques autres.”
See page 223, n. 1.
“De la Divine majeste.”
“Par la mort de celuy qui l’avolt.”
“Les principaux sacrificateurs.”