. ................. Book Index ................
The Life of Christ
The Light of the World
This volume is based on:-
John 5:1-16; 7:1-53; 8:1-59; 9:1-41 and 1 Corinthians 10:1-4.
It is recommended that you read these verses before you read the book.
© You may freely copy this book as you desire.
The language of the Scripture quotes has been modernised for easier understanding.
The purpose of the ceremonies
Three times a year the Jews were required to assemble at Jerusalem for religious purposes. Exodus 23:14, 17. Enshrouded in the pillar of cloud, Israel's invisible Leader had given the directions in regard to these gatherings. Exodus 13:21-22. During the captivity of the Jews, they could not be held; but when the people were restored to their own land, the observance of these memorials was once more begun.
It was God's design that these anniversaries should call Him to the minds of the people. But with few exceptions, the priests and leaders of the nation had lost sight of this purpose. He who had ordained these national assemblies and understood their significance witnessed their perversion with sadness.
The last of the year
The Feast of Tabernacles was the closing gathering of the year held in September/October, commencing on the fifteenth day of the seventh month. It was God's design that at this time the people should reflect on His goodness and mercy. The whole land had been under His guidance, receiving His blessing and for this reason the ritual was also known as the Feast of Ingathering. Exodus 23:16.
Day and night His watch-care had continued. The sun and rain had caused the earth to produce her fruits. From the valleys and plains of Palestine the harvest had been gathered. The olive berries had been picked, and the precious oil stored in bottles. The palm had yielded her store. The purple clusters of the vine had been trodden in the wine press.
A time for thanks
The festivities continued for seven days, with an eighth day added as a special sabbath, and for its celebration the inhabitants of Palestine, with many from other lands, left their homes, and came to Jerusalem. Leviticus 23:36. From far and near the people came, bringing in their hands a token of rejoicing. Old and young, rich and poor, all brought some gift as a tribute of thanksgiving to Him who had crowned the year with His goodness, and made His paths drop fatness. Everything that could please the eye, and give expression to the universal joy, was brought from the woods till the city bore the appearance of a beautiful forest.
A double meaning
This feast was not only the harvest thanksgiving, but the memorial of God's protecting care over Israel in their wilderness wanderings.
In commemoration of their tent life, the Israelites during the feast dwelt in booths or tabernacles of green boughs. These were erected in the streets, in the courts of the temple, or on the housetops. The hills and valleys surrounding Jerusalem were also dotted with these leafy dwellings, and seemed to be alive with people.
With sacred songs and with thanksgiving the worshippers celebrated this occasion.
The Judgment day
A little before the feast was the Day of Atonement (on the tenth day of the month), when, after confession of their sins, the people were declared to be at peace with Heaven. Thus the way was prepared for the rejoicing of the feast.
"O give thanks to the Lord; for He is good: for His mercy endures forever" rose triumphantly, while all kinds of music, mingled with shouts of hosanna, accompanied the united singing. Psalm 106:1.
The temple was the centre of the universal joy. Here was the pomp of the sacrificial ceremonies. Here, ranged on either side of the white marble steps of the sacred building, the choir of Levites led the service of song.
The multitude of worshippers, waving their branches of palm and myrtle, took up the strain, and echoed the chorus; and again the melody was caught up by voices near and afar off, till the encircling hills were alive with praise.
At night the temple and its court blazed with artificial light. The music, the waving of palm branches, the glad hosannas, the great concourse of people, over whom the light streamed from the hanging lamps, the array of the priests, and the majesty of the ceremonies, combined to make a scene that deeply impressed the beholders.
But the most impressive ceremony of the feast, so tradition tells us, one that called forth greatest rejoicing, was the one commemorating an event in the wilderness travels after the exodus from Egypt.
A special ceremony
At the first dawn of each day, the priests sounded a long, shrill blast upon their silver trumpets, and the answering trumpets, and the glad shouts of the people from their booths, echoing over hill and valley, welcomed the day. Then the priest dipped from the flowing waters of the river Kedron a flagon of water, and, lifting it on high, while the trumpets were sounding, he ascended the broad steps of the temple, keeping time with the music with slow and measured tread, chanting meanwhile, "Our feet shall stand within your gates, O Jerusalem." Psalm 122:2.
He bore the flagon to the brass altar of sacrifice, which occupied a central position in the court of the priests. Here were two silver basins, with a priest standing at each one. The flagon of water was poured into one, and a flagon of wine into the other; and the contents of both flowed into a pipe which communicated with the Kedron, and was conducted to the Dead Sea.
This daily display of the consecrated water represented the fountain that at the command of God had gushed from the rock to quench the thirst of the children of Israel. Exodus 17:5-6. Then the jubilant strains rang forth, "The Lord God is my strength and my song;" "therefore with joy shall you draw water out of the wells of salvation." Isaiah 12:2, 3.
Christ made no move to attend
As the sons of Joseph made preparation to attend the Feast of Tabernacles, they saw that Christ made no movement signifying His intention of attending. They watched Him with anxiety. Since the healing of the paralytic at Bethesda He had not attended the national gatherings. To avoid useless conflict with the leaders at Jerusalem, He had restricted His labours to Galilee.
His apparent neglect of the great religious assemblies, and the enmity manifested toward Him by the priests and rabbis, were a cause of perplexity to the people about Him, and even to His own disciples and His brothers and sisters. In His teachings He had dwelt upon the blessings of obedience to the law of God, and yet He Himself seemed to be indifferent to the service which had been divinely established.
His mingling with publicans and others of bad reputation, His disregard of the churchs observances, and the freedom with which He set aside the man-made requirements concerning the Sabbath, all seeming to place Him in opposition to the religious authorities, raised much questioning.
His brothers thought it a mistake for Him to alienate the great and learned men of the nation. They felt that these men must be in the right, and that Jesus was at fault in placing Himself in antagonism to them. But they had witnessed His blameless life, and though they did not count themselves with His disciples, they had been deeply impressed by His works. His popularity in Galilee was gratifying to their ambition; they still hoped that He would give an evidence of His power which would lead the Pharisees to see that He was what He claimed to be. What if He were the Messiah, the Prince of Israel! They cherished this thought with proud satisfaction.
So anxious were they about this that they urged Christ to go to Jerusalem. "Depart from here," they said, "and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You do. For there is no man that does anything in secret, and he himself seeks to be known openly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world." The "if" expressed doubt and unbelief. They attributed cowardice and weakness to Him. If He knew that He was the Messiah, why this strange reserve and inaction?
If He really possessed such power, why not go boldly to Jerusalem, and assert His claims? Why not perform in Jerusalem the wonderful works reported of Him in Galilee? Do not hide in secluded provinces, they said, and perform your mighty works for the benefit of ignorant peasants and fishermen.
Present yourself at the capital, win the support of the priests and rulers, and unite the nation in establishing the new kingdom.
A wrong motive
These brothers of Jesus reasoned from the selfish motive so often found in the hearts of those ambitious for display. This spirit was the ruling spirit of the world. They were offended because, instead of seeking an earthly throne, Christ had declared Himself to be the bread of life. John 6:35. They were greatly disappointed when so many of His disciples left Him. They themselves turned from Him to escape the cross of acknowledging what His works revealed - that He was the Sent of God.
A time for everything
"Then Jesus said to
them, My time is not yet come: but your time is always ready. The
world cannot hate you; but Me it hates, because
I testify of it, that the works of it are evil. Go you up to this feast: I go not up yet to this feast; for My time is not yet full come. When He had said these words to them, He abode still in Galilee."
His brothers had spoken to Him in a tone of authority, prescribing the course He should pursue. He cast their rebuke back to them, classing them not with His self-denying disciples, but with the world. "The world cannot hate you," He said, "but Me it hates, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil."
The world does not hate those who are like it in spirit; it loves them as its own.
He saw a different world
The world for Christ was not a place of ease and self-seeking. He was not watching for an opportunity to seize its power and its glory. It held out no such prize for Him. It was the place into which His Father had sent Him. He had been given for the life of the world, to work out the great plan of redemption. He was accomplishing His work for the fallen race.
But He was not to be presumptuous, not to rush into danger, not to hasten a crisis. Each event in His work had its appointed hour. He must wait patiently. He knew that He was to receive the world's hatred; He knew that His work would result in His death; but to prematurely expose Himself would not be the will of His Father.
His reason for not going
From Jerusalem the report of Christ's miracles had spread wherever the Jews were dispersed; and although for many months He had been absent from the feasts, the interest in Him had not lessened. Many from all parts of the world had come up to the Feast of Tabernacles in the hope of seeing Him.
At the beginning of the feast many inquiries were made for Him. The Pharisees and rulers looked for Him to come, hoping for an opportunity to condemn Him. They anxiously inquired, "Where is He?" but no one knew. The thought of Him was uppermost in all minds. Through fear of the priests and rulers, none dared acknowledge Him as the Messiah, but everywhere there was quiet yet earnest discussion concerning Him. Many defended Him as one sent from God, while others denounced Him as a deceiver of the people.
But He did come!
Meanwhile Jesus had quietly arrived at Jerusalem. He had chosen an unfrequented route by which to go, in order to avoid the travellers who were making their way to the city from all quarters. Had He joined any of the caravans that went up to the feast, public attention would have been attracted to Him on His entrance into the city, and a popular demonstration in His favour would have aroused the authorities against Him. It was to avoid this that He chose to make the journey alone.
The fourth day
In the midst of the feast, when the excitement concerning Him was at its height, He entered the court of the temple in the presence of the multitude. Because of His absence from the feast, it had been urged that He dared not place Himself in the power of the priests and rulers. All were surprised at His presence. Every voice was hushed. All wondered at the dignity and courage of His bearing in the midst of powerful enemies who were thirsting for His life.
Standing thus, the centre of attraction to that vast throng, Jesus addressed them as no man had ever done. His words showed a knowledge of the laws and institutions of Israel, of the sacrificial service and the teachings of the prophets, far exceeding that of the priests and rabbis. He broke through the barriers of formalism and tradition.
The scenes of the future life
seemed outspread before Him. As one who beheld the Unseen, He
spoke of the earthly and the heavenly, the human and the divine,
with positive authority. His words were most clear and
convincing; and again, as at Capernaum, the people were
astonished at His teaching; "for His word was with power."
Luke 4:32. Under a variety of representations He warned His
hearers of the calamity that would follow all who rejected the
blessings He came to bring them.
He had given them every possible proof that He came forth from God, and made every possible effort to bring them to repentance. He would not be rejected and murdered by His own nation if He could save them from the guilt of such a deed.
No formal schooling
All wondered at His knowledge of the law and the prophecies; and the question passed from one to another, "How knows this Man letters, having never learned?" No one was regarded as qualified to be a religious teacher unless he had studied in the church schools, and both Jesus and John the Baptist had been represented as ignorant because they had not received this training. Those who heard them were astonished at their knowledge of the Scriptures, "having never learned." Of men they had not, truly; but the God of heaven was their teacher, and from Him they had received the highest kind of wisdom.
As Jesus spoke in the temple court, the people were held spellbound. The very men who were the most violent against Him felt themselves powerless to do Him harm. For the time, all other interests were forgotten.
The final sabbath
Day after day He taught the people, until the last, "that great day of the feast." The morning of this day found the people wearied from the long season of festivity. Suddenly Jesus lifted up His voice, in tones that rang through the courts of the temple:
"If any man thirst, let him come to Me, and drink. He that believes on Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." The condition of the people made this appeal very forcible. They had been engaged in a continued scene of pomp and festivity, their eyes had been dazzled with light and colour, and their ears regaled with the richest music; but there had been nothing in all this round of ceremonies to meet the wants of the spirit, nothing to satisfy the thirst of the soul for that which perishes not. Jesus invited them to come and drink of the fountain of life, of that which would be in them a well of water, springing up to everlasting life.
The priest had that morning performed the ceremony which commemorated the smiting of the rock in the wilderness. That rock was a symbol of Him who by His death would cause living streams of salvation to flow to all who are thirsty. Christ's words were the water of life. There in the presence of the assembled multitude He set Himself apart to be smitten, that the water of life might flow to the world.
In smiting Christ, Satan thought to destroy the Prince of life; but from the smitten rock there flowed living water. As Jesus thus spoke to the people, their hearts thrilled with a strange awe, and many were ready to exclaim, with the woman of Samaria, "Give me this water, that I thirst not." John 4:15.
Jesus knew the wants of the soul. Pomp, riches, and honour cannot satisfy the heart. "If any man thirst, let him come to Me." The rich, the poor, the high, the low, are alike welcome.
He promises to relieve the burdened mind, to comfort the sorrowing, and to give hope to the despondent. Many of those who heard Jesus were mourners over disappointed hopes, many were nourishing a secret grief, many were seeking to satisfy their restless longing with the things of the world and the praise of men; but when all was gained, they found that they had toiled only to reach a broken cistern, from which they could not quench their thirst. Amid the glitter of the joyous scene they stood, dissatisfied and sad.
That sudden cry, "If any man thirst," startled them from their sorrowful meditation, and as they listened to the words that followed, their minds kindled with a new hope. The Holy Spirit presented the symbol before them until they saw in it the offer of the priceless gift of salvation.
The fountain is still flowing
The cry of Christ to the thirsty soul is still going forth, and it appeals to us with even greater power than to those who heard it in the temple on that last day of the feast. The fountain is open for all. The weary and exhausted ones are offered the refreshing draught of eternal life. Jesus is still crying, "If any man thirst, let him come to Me, and drink." "Let him that is athirst come. And whoever will, let him take the water of life freely." Revelation 22:17. "Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." John 4:14.
All the while Jesus was at
Jerusalem during the feast He was shadowed by spies. Day after
day new schemes to silence Him were tried.
The priests and rulers were watching to trap Him and planning to stop Him by violence. But this was not all. They wanted to humble this Galilean rabbi before the people. On the first day of His presence at the feast, the rulers had come to Him, demanding by what authority He taught. They wished to divert attention from Him to the question of His right to teach, and thus to their own importance and authority.
"My teaching is not
Mine," said Jesus, "but His that sent Me. If any
man wills to do His will,
he shall know of the teaching, whether it be of God, or whether I speak from Myself." John 7:16, 17, R. V. The question of these disapproving ones Jesus met, not by answering their criticism, but by opening up truth vital to the salvation of the soul. The perception and appreciation of truth, He said, depends less upon the mind than upon the heart.
Truth comes through our hearts
Truth must be received into the soul; it claims the homage of the will. If truth could be submitted to the reason alone, pride would be no hindrance in the way of its reception. But it is to be received through the work of grace in the heart; and its reception depends upon the renunciation of every sin that the Spirit of God reveals.
A man or a woman's advantages for obtaining a knowledge of the truth, however great these may be, will prove of no benefit to them unless their hearts are open to receive the truth, and there is a conscientious surrender of every habit and practice that is opposed to its principles.
To those who thus yield themselves to God, having an honest desire to know and to do His will, the truth is revealed as the power of God for their salvation. These will be able to distinguish between him who speaks for God, and him who speaks merely from himself.
The Pharisees had not put their will on the side of God's will. They were not seeking to know the truth, but to find some excuse for evading it; Christ showed that this was why they did not understand His teaching.
Discerning the true
He now gave a test by which the true teacher might be distinguished from the deceiver: "He that speaks from himself seeks his own glory: but he that seeks the glory of Him that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him." John 7:18, R. V.
He that seeks his own glory is speaking only from himself. The spirit of self-seeking betrays its origin. But Christ was seeking the glory of God. He spoke the words of God. This was the evidence of His authority as a teacher of the truth.
A last try
Jesus gave the rabbis an evidence of His divinity by showing that He read their hearts. Ever since the healing at Bethesda they had been plotting His death. Thus they were themselves breaking the law which they professed to be defending. "Did not Moses give you the law," He said, "and yet none of you keeps the law? Why go you about to kill Me?"
Like a swift flash of light these words revealed to the rabbis the pit of ruin into which they were about to plunge. For an instant they were filled with terror. They saw that they were in conflict with Infinite Power. But they would not be warned.
In order to maintain their influence with the people, their murderous designs must be concealed. Evading the question of Jesus, they exclaimed, "You have a devil: who goes about to kill You?" They insinuated that the wonderful works of Jesus were instigated by an evil spirit.
His works proved His claim
To this insinuation Christ gave no heed. He went on to show that His work of healing at Bethesda was in harmony with the Sabbath law, and that it was justified by the interpretation which the Jews themselves put upon the law. He said, "Moses therefore gave to you circumcision;... and you on the Sabbath day circumcise a man."
According to the law, every child must be circumcised on the eighth day. Leviticus 12:1-3. Should the appointed time fall upon the Sabbath, the rite must then be performed. How much more must it be in harmony with the spirit of the law to make a man "every whit whole on the Sabbath day." And He warned them to "judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment."
The rulers were silenced; and many of the people exclaimed, "Is not this He, whom they seek to kill? But, lo, He speaks boldly, and they say nothing to Him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ?"
Many were convinced
Many among Christ's hearers who were dwellers at Jerusalem, and who were not ignorant of the plots of the rulers against Him, felt themselves drawn to Him by an irresistible power. The conviction pressed upon them that He was the Son of God. But Satan was ready to suggest doubt; and for this the way was prepared by their own faulty ideas of the Messiah and His coming.
It was generally believed that Christ would be born at Bethlehem, but that after a time He would disappear, and at His second appearance none would know where He came from.
There were even some who held that the Messiah would have no natural relationship to humanity.
And because the popular conception of the glory of the Messiah was not met by Jesus of Nazareth, many gave heed to the suggestion, "However we know where this Man is from: but when Christ comes, no man knows where He is from."
While they were thus wavering between doubt and faith, Jesus took up their thoughts and answered them: "You both know Me, and you know where I am from [Nazareth]: and I am not come of Myself, but He that sent Me is true, whom you know not."
They claimed a knowledge of what the origin of Christ should be, but they were in utter ignorance of it. If they had lived in accordance with the will of God, they would have known His Son when He was manifested to them.
It was plain
The hearers could not but understand Christ's words. Clearly they were a repetition of the claim He had made in the presence of the Sanhedrin many months before, when He declared Himself the Son of God. As the rulers then tried to bring about His death, so now they sought to take Him; but they were prevented by an unseen power, which put a limit to their rage, saying to them, Thus far shall you go, and no farther.
Among the people many believed on Him, and they said, "When Christ comes, will He do more miracles than these which this Man has done?"
His end was near
The leaders of the Pharisees, who were anxiously watching the course of events, caught the expressions of sympathy among the throng. Hurrying away to the chief priests, they laid their plans to arrest Him. They arranged, however, to take Him when He was alone; for they dared not seize Him in the presence of the people. Again Jesus made it manifest that He read their purpose. "Yet a little while am I with you," He said, "and then I go to Him that sent Me. You shall seek Me, and shall not find Me: and where I am, thither you cannot come."
Soon He would find a refuge beyond the reach of their scorn and hate. He would ascend to the Father, to be again the Adored of the angels; and there His murderers could never come.
Sneeringly the rabbis said, "Where will He go, that we shall not find Him? Will He go to the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles?" Little did these accusers dream that in their mocking words they were picturing the mission of the Christ!
All day long He had stretched forth His hands to a disobedient and gainsaying people; yet He would be found of them that sought Him not; among a people that had not called upon His name He would be manifest. Romans 10:20, 21.
Some were fooled for a while
Many who were convinced that Jesus was the Son of God were misled by the false reasoning of the priests and rabbis. These teachers had repeated with great effect the prophecies concerning the Messiah, that He would "reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His ancient/s gloriously;" that He would "have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth." Isaiah 24:23; Psalm 72:8. Then they made contemptuous comparisons between the glory here pictured and the humble appearance of Jesus.
The very words of prophecy were so perverted as to sanction error. Had the people in sincerity studied the word for themselves, they would not have been misled. The sixty-first chapter of Isaiah testifies that Christ was to do the very work He did. Chapter fifty-three sets forth His rejection and sufferings in the world, and chapter fifty-nine describes the character of the priests and rabbis.
The right to choose
God does not compel men to give up their unbelief. Before them are light and darkness, truth and error. It is for them to decide which they will accept. The human mind is endowed with power to discriminate between right and wrong. God designs that men shall not decide from impulse, but from weight of evidence, carefully comparing scripture with scripture.
Had the Jews laid by their prejudice and compared written prophecy with the facts characterising the life of Jesus, they would have perceived a beautiful harmony between the prophecies and their fulfilment in the life and ministry of the lowly Galilean.
We must read for ourselves
Many are deceived today in the same way as were the Jews. Religious teachers read the Bible in the light of their own understanding and traditions; and the people do not search the Scriptures for themselves, and judge for themselves as to what is truth; but they yield up their judgment, and commit their souls to their leaders. The preaching and teaching of His word is one of the means that God has ordained for diffusing light; but we must bring every man's teaching to the test of Scripture.
Whoever will prayerfully study the Bible, desiring to know the truth, that he or she may obey it, will receive divine enlightenment. They will understand the Scriptures. "If any man wills to do His will, he shall know of the teaching." John 7:17, R. V.
Not yet the time
On the last day of the feast, the officers sent out by the priests and rulers to arrest Jesus, returned without Him. They were angrily questioned, "Why have you not brought Him?" With solemn countenance they answered, "Never man spoke like this Man."
Hardened as were their hearts, they were melted by His words. While He was speaking in the temple court, they had lingered near, to catch something that might be turned against Him. But as they listened, the purpose for which they had been sent was forgotten. They stood as men entranced. Christ revealed Himself to their souls. They saw that which priests and rulers would not see, - humanity flooded with the glory of divinity. They returned, so filled with this thought, so impressed by His words, that to the inquiry, "Why have you not brought Him?" they could only reply, "Never man spoke like this Man."
The priests and rulers, on first coming into the presence of Christ, had felt the same conviction. Their hearts were deeply moved, and the thought was forced upon them, "Never man spoke like this Man." But they had stifled the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
The majority are not always right
Now, enraged that even the instruments of the law should be influenced by the hated Galilean, they cried, "Are you also deceived? Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on Him? But this people who knows not the law are cursed."
Those to whom the message of truth is spoken seldom ask, "Is it true?" but, "By whom is it advocated?" Multitudes estimate it by the numbers who accept it; and the question is still asked, "Have any of the learned men or religious leaders believed?" Humans are no more favourable to real godliness now than in the days of Christ. They are just as intently seeking earthly good, to the neglect of eternal riches; and it is not an argument against the truth, that large numbers are not ready to accept it, or that it is not received by the world's great men, or even by the religious leaders.
An honest man
Again the priests and rulers proceeded to lay plans for arresting Jesus. It was urged that if He were longer left at liberty, He would draw the people away from the established leaders, and the only safe course was to silence Him without delay. In the full tide of their discussion, they were suddenly checked. Nicodemus questioned, "Does our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he does?" Silence fell on the assembly. The words of Nicodemus came home to their consciences. They could not condemn a man unheard.
But it was not for this reason
alone that the haughty rulers remained silent, gazing at him who
had dared to speak in favour of justice.
They were startled and upset that one of their own number had been so far impressed by the character of Jesus as to speak a word in His defence. Recovering from their astonishment, they addressed Nicodemus with cutting sarcasm, "Are you also of Galilee? Search and look: for out of Galilee arises no prophet."
Yet the protest resulted in staying the proceedings of the council. The rulers were unable to carry out their purpose and condemn Jesus without a hearing. Defeated for the time, "every man went to his own house. Jesus went to the Mount of Olives."
A teaching time
From the excitement and confusion of the city, from the eager crowds and the treacherous rabbis, Jesus turned away to the quiet of the olive groves, where He could be alone with God. But in the early morning He returned to the temple, and as the people gathered about Him, He sat down and taught them.
He was soon interrupted. A group of Pharisees and scribes approached Him, dragging with them a terror-stricken woman, whom with hard, eager voices they accused of having violated the seventh commandment. Having pushed her into the presence of Jesus, they said to Him, with a hypocritical show of respect, "Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what say You?"
Their pretended reverence veiled a deep-laid plot for His ruin. They had seized upon this opportunity to secure His condemnation, thinking that whatever decision He might make, they would find occasion to accuse Him. Should He acquit the woman, He might be charged with despising the law of Moses. Should He declare her worthy of death, He could be accused to the Romans as one who was assuming authority that belonged only to them.
Jesus looked for a moment upon the scene, - the trembling victim in her shame, the hard-faced dignitaries, devoid of even human pity. His spirit of stainless purity shrank from the spectacle. Well He knew for what purpose this case had been brought to Him. He read the heart, and knew the character and life history of everyone in His presence. These would-be guardians of justice had themselves led their victim into sin, that they might lay a snare for Jesus. Giving no sign that He had heard their question, He stooped, and fixing His eyes upon the ground, began to write in the dust.
Impatient at His delay and apparent indifference, the accusers drew nearer, urging the matter upon His attention. But as their eyes, following those of Jesus, fell upon the pavement at His feet, their countenances changed. There, traced before them, were the guilty secrets of their own lives. The people, looking on, saw the sudden change of expression, and pressed forward to discover what it was that they were regarding with such astonishment and shame.
Against the law
With all their professions of reverence for the law, these rabbis, in bringing the charge against the woman, were disregarding its provisions.
It was the husband's duty to take action against her, and the guilty parties were to be punished equally. The action of the accusers was wholly unauthorised.
Jesus, however, met them on their own ground. The law specified that in punishment by stoning, the witnesses in the case should be the first to cast a stone. Now rising, and fixing His eyes upon the plotting elders, Jesus said, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." And stooping down, He continued writing on the ground.
He had not set aside the law given through Moses, nor infringed upon the authority of Rome. The accusers had been defeated.
Now, their robe of pretended holiness torn from them, they stood, guilty and condemned, in the presence of Infinite Purity. They trembled lest the hidden iniquity of their lives should be laid open to the multitude; and one by one, with bowed heads and downcast eyes, they stole away, leaving their victim with the pitying Saviour.
Neither do I condemn you
Jesus arose, and looking at the woman said, "Woman, where are those your accusers? has no man condemned you? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said to her, Neither do I condemn you: go, and sin no more."
The woman had stood before Jesus, cowering with fear. His words, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone," had come to her as a death sentence. She dared not lift her eyes to the Saviour's face, but silently awaited her doom. In astonishment she saw her accusers depart speechless and confounded; then those words of hope fell upon her ear, "Neither do I condemn you: go, and sin no more." Her heart was melted, and she cast herself at the feet of Jesus, sobbing out her grateful love, and with bitter tears confessing her sins.
This was to her the beginning of a new life, a life of purity and peace, devoted to the service of God. In the uplifting of this fallen soul, Jesus performed a greater miracle than in healing the most grievous physical disease; He cured the spiritual malady which is to death everlasting. This penitent woman became one of His most steadfast followers. With self-sacrificing love and devotion she repaid His forgiving mercy.
In His act of pardoning this woman and encouraging her to live a better life, the character of Jesus shines forth in the beauty of perfect righteousness. While He does not excuse sin, nor lessen the sense of guilt, He seeks not to condemn, but to save. The world had for this erring woman only contempt and scorn; but Jesus speaks words of comfort and hope.
The Sinless One pities the weakness of the sinner, and reaches to her a helping hand.
While the hypocritical Pharisees denounce, Jesus bids her, "Go, and sin no more."
To help the helpless
It is not Christ's follower that, with averted eyes, turns from the erring, leaving them unhindered to pursue their downward course. Those who are forward in accusing others, and zealous in bringing them to justice, are often in their own lives more guilty than they. Men hate the sinner, while they love the sin. Christ hates the sin, but loves the sinner. This will be the spirit of all who follow Him. Christian love is slow to censure, quick to discern penitence, ready to forgive, to encourage, to set the wanderer in the path of holiness, and to stay his feet therein.
The Light of Life
"Then spoke Jesus again to them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." When He spoke these words, Jesus was in the court of the temple specially connected with the services of the Feast of Tabernacles. In the centre of this court rose two lofty standards, supporting lampstands of great size. After the evening sacrifice, all the lamps were kindled, shedding their light over Jerusalem.
This ceremony was in commemoration of the pillar of light that guided Israel in the desert, and was also regarded as pointing to the coming of the Messiah. At evening when the lamps were lighted, the court was a scene of great rejoicing. Grey-haired men, the priests of the temple and the rulers of the people, united in the festive dances to the sound of instrumental music and the chants of the Levites.
In the illumination of Jerusalem, the people expressed their hope of the Messiah's coming to shed His light upon Israel. But to Jesus the scene had a wider meaning. As the radiant lamps of the temple lighted up all about them, so Christ, the source of spiritual light, illumines the darkness of the world.
The light of the world
Yet the symbol was imperfect. That great light which His own hand had set in the heavens was a truer representation of the glory of His mission.
It was morning; the sun had just risen above the Mount of Olives, and its rays fell with dazzling brightness on the marble palaces, and lit up the gold of the temple walls, when Jesus, pointing to it, said, "I am the light of the world."
By one who listened to these words, they were long afterward re-echoed in that sublime passage, "In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness; and the darkness apprehended it not." "That was the true light, which lights every man that comes into the world." John 1:4, 5, R. V., 9.
And long after Jesus had ascended to heaven, Peter also, writing under the illumination of the divine Spirit, recalled the symbol Christ had used: "We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto you do well that you take heed, as to a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the daystar [the sun] arise in your hearts." 2 Peter 1:19.
The place of light
In the manifestation of God to His people, light had ever been a symbol of His presence. At the creative word in the beginning, light had shone out of darkness. Light had been enshrouded in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, leading the vast armies of Israel. Light blazed with awful grandeur about the Lord on Mount Sinai. Light rested over the mercy seat in the tabernacle. Light filled the temple of Solomon at its dedication. Light shone on the hills of Bethlehem when the angels brought the message of redemption to the watching shepherds.
God is light; and in the words, "I am the light of the world," Christ declared His oneness with God, and His relation to the whole human family. It was He who at the beginning had caused "the light to shine out of darkness." 2 Corinthians 4:6.
He is the light of sun and moon and star. He was the spiritual light that in symbol and type and prophecy had shone upon Israel. But not to the Jewish nation alone was the light given. As the sunbeams penetrate to the remotest corners of the earth, so does the light of the Sun of Righteousness shine upon every soul.
"That was the true light, which lights every man that comes into the world." The world has had its great teachers, men of giant intellect and wonderful research, men whose utterances have stimulated thought, and opened to view vast fields of knowledge; and these men have been honoured as guides and benefactors of their race. But there is One who stands higher than they. "As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God." "No man has seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him." John 1:12, 18. We can trace the line of the world's great teachers as far back as human records extend; but the Light was before them.
As the moon and the planets of the solar system shine by the reflected light of the sun, so, as far as their teaching is true, do the world's great thinkers reflect the rays of the Sun of Righteousness. Every gem of thought, every flash of the intellect, is from the Light of the world.
In these days we hear much about "higher education." The true "higher education" is that imparted by Him "in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."
"In Him was life; and the life was the light of men." Colossians 2:3; John 1:4. "He that follows Me," said Jesus, "shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."
In the words, "I am the light of the world," Jesus also declared Himself the Messiah. The aged Simeon, in the temple where Christ was now teaching, had spoken of Him as "a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel." Luke 2:32. In these words he was applying to Him a prophecy familiar to all Israel. By the prophet Isaiah, the Holy Spirit had declared, "It is too light a thing that You should be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give You for a light to the Gentiles, that You may be My salvation to the end of the earth." Isaiah 49:6, R. V. This prophecy was generally understood as spoken of the Messiah, and when Jesus said, "I am the light of the world," the people could not fail to recognise His claim to be the Promised One.
To the Pharisees and rulers this claim seemed an arrogant assumption. That a man like themselves should make such pretensions they could not tolerate. Seeming to ignore His words, they demanded, "Who are You?" They were bent upon forcing Him to declare Himself the Christ. His appearance and His work were so at variance with the expectations of the people, that, as His wily enemies believed, a direct announcement of Himself as the Messiah would cause Him to be rejected as an impostor.
But to their question, "Who are You?" Jesus replied, "Even that which I have also spoken to you from the beginning." John 8:25, R.V.
That which had been revealed in His words was revealed also in His character.
He was the embodiment of the truths He taught. "I do nothing of Myself," He continued; "but as My Father has taught Me, I speak these things. And He that sent Me is with Me: the Father has not left Me alone; for I do always those things that please Him." He did not attempt to prove His Messianic claim, but showed His unity with God. If their minds had been open to God's love, they would have received Jesus.
Among His hearers many were drawn to Him in faith, and to them He said, "If you continue in My word, then are you My disciples indeed; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
These words offended the Pharisees.
The nation's long subjection to a foreign yoke, they disregarded, and angrily exclaimed, "We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how says You, You shall be made free?" Jesus looked upon these men, the slaves of malice, whose thoughts were bent upon revenge, and sadly answered, "Verily, verily, I say to you, Whoever commits sin is the servant of sin."
They were in the worst kind of bondage, - ruled by the spirit of evil.
Every soul that refuses to give himself to God is under the control of another power. He is not his own. He may talk of freedom, but he is in the most abject slavery.
He is not allowed to see the beauty of truth, for his mind is under the control of Satan. While he flatters himself that he is following the dictates of his own judgment, he obeys the will of the prince of darkness. Christ came to break the shackles of sin-slavery from the soul. "If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed." "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" sets us "free from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:2.
In the work of redemption there is no compulsion. No external force is employed. Under the influence of the Spirit of God, man is left free to choose whom he will serve.
In the change that takes place when the soul surrenders to Christ, there is the highest sense of freedom.
The expulsion of sin is the act of the soul itself.
True, we have no power to free ourselves from Satan's control; but when we desire to be set free from sin, and in our great need cry out for a power out of and above ourselves, the powers of the soul are imbued with the divine energy of the Holy Spirit, and they obey the dictates of the will in fulfilling the will of God.
The only condition upon which the freedom of man is possible is that of becoming one with Christ. "The truth shall make you free;" and Christ is the truth. Sin can triumph only by enfeebling the mind, and destroying the liberty of the soul. Subjection to God is restoration to one's self, - to the true glory and dignity of man. The divine law, to which we are brought into subjection, is "the law of liberty." James 2:12.
The Pharisees had declared themselves the children of Abraham. Jesus told them that this claim could be established only by doing the works of Abraham. The true children of Abraham would live, as he did, a life of obedience to God. They would not try to kill One who was speaking the truth that was given Him from God. In plotting against Christ, the rabbis were not doing the works of Abraham. A mere earthly descent from Abraham was of no value. Without a spiritual connection with him, which would be shown in possessing the same spirit, and doing the same works, they were not his children.
The real Christian leader
This principle bears with equal weight upon a question that has long agitated the Christian world, - the question of apostolic succession.
Descent from Abraham was proved, not by name and lineage, but by likeness of character. So the apostolic succession rests not upon the transmission of church authority, but upon spiritual relationship.
A life actuated by the apostles' spirit, the belief and teaching of the truth they taught, this is the true evidence of apostolic succession. This is what constitutes men and women the successors of the first teachers of the gospel.
Jesus denied that the Jews were children of Abraham. He said, "You do the deeds of your father." In mockery they answered, "We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God." These words, in allusion to the circumstances of His birth, were intended as a thrust against Christ in the presence of those who were beginning to believe on Him.
Jesus gave no heed to the base insinuation, but said, "If God were your Father, you would love Me: for I proceeded forth and came from God."
Their works testified of their relationship to him who was a liar and a murderer. "You are of your father the devil," said Jesus, "and the lusts of your father it is your will to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and stood not in the truth, because there is no truth in him.... Because I say the truth, you believe Me not." John 8:44, 45, R. V.
The fact that
Jesus spoke the truth, and that with certainty,
was why He was not received by the Jewish leaders.
It was the truth that offended these self-righteous men. The truth exposed the fallacy of error; it condemned their teaching and practice, and it was unwelcome. They would rather close their eyes to the truth than humble themselves to confess that they had been in error. They did not love the truth. They did not desire it, even though it was truth.
"Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do you not believe Me?" RV. Day by day for three years His enemies had been following Christ, trying to find some stain in His character. Satan and all the confederacy of evil had been seeking to overcome Him; but they had found nothing in Him by which to gain an advantage. Even the devils were forced to confess, "You are the Holy One of God." Mark 1:24.
Jesus lived the law in the sight of heaven, in the sight of unfallen worlds, and in the sight of sinful men. Before angels, men, and demons, He had spoken, unchallenged, words that from any other lips would have been blasphemy: "I do always those things that please Him."
The fact that although they could find no sin in Christ the Jews would not receive Him proved that they themselves had no connection with God. They did not recognise His voice in the message of His Son. They thought themselves passing judgment on Christ; but in rejecting Him they were pronouncing sentence upon themselves. "He that is of God," said Jesus, "hears God's words: you therefore hear them not, because you are not of God."
The lesson is true for all time. Many a man who delights to quibble, to criticise, seeking for something to question in the word of God, thinks that he is thereby giving evidence of independence of thought, and mental acuteness. He supposes that he is sitting in judgment on the Bible, when in truth he is judging himself.
He makes it plain that he is incapable of appreciating truths that originate in heaven, and that compass eternity. In presence of the great mountain of God's righteousness, his spirit is not awed. He busies himself with hunting for sticks and straws, and in this betrays a narrow and earthly nature, a heart that is fast losing its capacity to appreciate God.
He whose heart has responded to the divine touch will be seeking for that which will increase his knowledge of God, and will refine and elevate the character. As a flower turns to the sun, that the bright rays may touch it with tints of beauty, so will the soul turn to the Sun of Righteousness, that heaven's light may beautify the character with the graces of the character of Christ.
Jesus continued, drawing a sharp contrast between the position of the Jews and that of Abraham: "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day: and he saw it, and was glad."
Abraham had greatly desired to see the promised Saviour. He offered up the most earnest prayer that before his death he might behold the Messiah. And he saw Christ. A supernatural light was given him, and he acknowledged Christ's divine character. He saw His day, and was glad. He was given a view of the divine sacrifice for sin. Of this sacrifice he had an illustration in his own experience. The command came to him, "Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you lovest,... and offer him... for a burnt offering." Genesis 22:2.
Upon the altar of sacrifice he laid the son of promise, the son in whom his hopes were centred. Then as he waited beside the altar with knife upraised to obey God, he heard a voice from heaven saying, "Lay not your hand upon the lad, neither do you anything to him: for now I know that you fear [respect] God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son from Me." Genesis 22:12.
This terrible ordeal was imposed upon Abraham that he might see the day of Christ, and realise the great love of God for the world, so great that to raise it from its degradation, He gave His only-begotten Son to a most shameful death.
Abraham learned of God the
greatest lesson ever given to mortal. His prayer that he might
see Christ before he should die was answered.
He saw Christ; he saw all that mortal can see, and live. By making an entire surrender, he was able to understand the vision of Christ, which had been given him. He was shown that in giving His only-begotten Son to save sinners from eternal ruin, God was making a greater and more wonderful sacrifice than ever man could make.
What does God want?
Abraham's experience answered the question: "With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" Micah 6:6, 7.
In the words of Abraham, "My son, God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering," (Genesis 22:8), and in God's provision of a sacrifice instead of Isaac, it was declared that no man could make expiation for himself. The pagan system of sacrifice was wholly unacceptable to God. No father was to offer up his son or his daughter for a sin offering.
The Son of God alone can bear the guilt of the world.
Through his own suffering, Abraham was enabled to behold the Saviour's mission of sacrifice. But Israel would not understand that which was so unwelcome to their proud hearts. Christ's words concerning Abraham conveyed to His hearers no deep significance. The Pharisees saw in them only fresh ground for criticising. They retorted with a sneer, as if they would prove Jesus to be a madman, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?" With solemn dignity Jesus answered, "Verily, verily, I say to you, Before Abraham was, I AM."
Silence fell upon the vast assembly. The name of God, given to Moses to express the idea of the eternal presence, had been claimed as His own by this Galilean Rabbi. He had announced Himself to be the self-existent One, He who had been promised to Israel, "whose goings forth have been from of old, from the days of eternity." Micah 5:2, margin.
Again the priests and rabbis cried out against Jesus as a blasphemer. His claim to be one with God had before stirred them to take His life, and a few months later they plainly declared, "For a good work we stone You not; but for blasphemy; and because that You, being a man, make Yourself God." John 10:33.
Because He was, and claimed to be, the Son of God, they were bent on destroying Him. Now many of the people, siding with the priests and rabbis, took 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."
The Light was shining in darkness; but "the darkness apprehended it not." John 1:5, R. V.
................... Text only ................... "Word" version