By S.D. Gordon
Way-marks in John's Narrative.
Out of this simple running account several things sift themselves, and stand out to our eyes. The action of the story swings chiefly about Jerusalem. The other parts seem but background to make Jerusalem stand out big. In this John's Gospel differs radically from the other three. They are absorbed chiefly with the tireless gracious Galilean ministry of Jesus, till the last great events force them to Jerusalem.
And the reason is plain. Jerusalem is Israel. It is the nation. Jesus is wooing the nation through its leaders. Why? For the nation's sake? for Israel's sake? Yes and no. Because these Jews were favourites of God? Distinctly no, though so highly favoured they had been in the wondrous mission entrusted to them. But because Israel was the gateway to a world Yes, for Israel's sake. Through this gateway, so carefully prepared when every other gate was closing, through this out to a world--this was the plan of action. And this will yet be found to be the plan. Through a Jewish gateway the King will one day go out to touch His world. This is the geography of John's story.
The action of the story swirls largely, too, about the great national feasts, the Passovers, the Tabernacles or harvest-home feast of the autumn, and one called "the Dedication," not elsewhere spoken of. To these came great crowds of pilgrim Jews from all quarters of the world, speaking many languages beside their national Hebrew, giving large business, especially to money-brokers and traders in the animals and birds used in the sacrifices. That classical Pentecost Chapter of Acts gives the wide range of countries and of languages represented by these pilgrim thousands. These feasts are the central occasions of John's story.
The time begins with John's preaching in the Jordan bottoms and reaches up practically to the evening of the betrayal. It is commonly reckoned three and a half years. That is, there are some months before that first Passover, and then the events run through and up to the fourth Passover, reckoning the unnamed feast of chapter five as a Passover. This is the chronology of John's Gospel. John's Gospel gives the only clue to the length of Jesus' ministry.
There are three groups of persons. There are the Jews. That is one of John's distinctive phrases. By it he means as a rule the official leaders of the nation, whom in common with the other writers he also designates by their party names, Pharisees, Scribes, Chief Priests, and so on. Among these the name of Caiaphas stands out, and later Annas.
Then there are the crowds, the masses of people that flock together in any new stirring movement. There are Galilean crowds, feast-time crowds including the great numbers of foreign pilgrim Jews, city crowds, and country crowds. They gather to John's preaching. They gather in great numbers in Jerusalem, and on the Galilean visits. They are easily impressionable, swayed by subtle crowd-contagion, stirred up and played upon cunningly by the opposition leaders.
They appeal greatly to Jesus, like unshepherded sheep. And the sick and needy ones, so numerous, draw out His pity and warm touch and healing power. They believe quickly, and almost as quickly are turned away and desert the cause they had so quickly and warmly rallied to. Fickle, unthoughtful, easily-swayed, needy crowds, but with the thoughtful ones and groups here and there who are really helped and who stick. These crowds are always in evidence.
And there are the disciples. There is the inner group of chosen ones who companion with Jesus, sharing His bread and bed, and close witnesses of His gracious spirit and unfailing power, with impulsive heady Peter and faithful steady John always nearest by. What a schooling all this was for them! And there are other disciples, not of this picked circle, but on most intimate personal terms with the Master, some of them, like thoughtful cautious Nicodemus, like the Bethany group of three, and Mary the Magdalene. And there is the larger, looser, changing body of disciples, mingling with the crowds, sometimes deserting, but no doubt with many thoughtful devoted ones among them. These are the leading persons figuring in John's story, grouped about the person of Jesus.
But these are simply interesting incidentals giving local colouring to John's story. We pass by them quickly now to a few things that take great hold of one's heart, that stand out biggest, and give the real action of life to the story.
As we unravel the fabric of John's Gospel there are three threads that stand out by reason of the distinctness of their colours. There's a thread of clear decided blue. There's a dark ugly black thread that gets blacker as it weaves itself farther in. And then there's a bright yellow glory-colour thread that shines with brighter lustre as the black gets blacker.
Trace the blue first, the thread of a simple glad acceptance of Jesus, and trust in Him. It deepens in its fine shading of blue as you follow it, true blue, the colour true hearts wear. From the very first Jesus is accepted by some, by many. And this continues steadily through to the very last. Some doors open at once to Him. Then under the influence of His presence and gentle resistless power they open wide, and then wider.
It is fascinating to trace the simply told story of growing faith, until one's own faith gets clearer and steadier and has more warm glow to it. To adapt Tennyson's fine lines, as knowledge grows from more to more there dwells in us more of the deep tender reverence of love, until all the powers of mind and spirit chord into one symphony of unending music. And the wheels of our common life move always to its rhythmic swing.
See how the crowds crowd to Jesus, and open up to the appeal of His words and acts and presence. Many of the pilgrim crowds of that first Passover believe, impressed by Jesus' spirit of helpfulness and His unusual power. And the Galileans among them give Him warm welcome as He comes up into their country. It is a great multitude that follows eagerly up on the east coast of the Galilean sea, hail Him as the long-expected prophet of their nation, talk of plans for making Him their King, and earnestly cry out, "Lord, evermore give us this (true) bread."
Even in the midst of the bickering discussions at the Tabernacles Feast many of the multitude believed on Him, some as the long-talked-of prophet, some as the very Christ Himself. And as He talks to His critics of His purpose always to please the Father, still others are drawn in heart to Him and believe. And at this same time, as the criticism gets uglier, many make bold to speak out on His behalf though it was getting to be a dangerous thing to do. As He feels compelled to withdraw from the tense atmosphere of Jerusalem, and goes away into the country districts beyond the Jordan the people come flocking to Him with open hearts.
The Lazarus incident made inroads into the upper circles of Jerusalem, many of the influential social class with whom these dear Bethany friends seem on close terms, and who had been out there during those stirring days, believe on Jesus, and many of the common people, too, are won by that occurrence. That tremendous raising of Lazarus had much to do with the great acclaim of the multitudes as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the kingly colt.
It is without doubt a sincere homage that these multitudes from far and near, and the home crowds, render, with their palm branches and garment-strewn roads, and spontaneous outburst of joyous song. And now as John put his bit of a knotted summary on the end of this part of his story, he points out that even among the members of the Jewish Senate there were many real believers.
But a crowd is a strange complex thing. It doesn't know itself. It's easily swept along to do as a crowd what would never be done by each one off by himself. And this works in good ways as well as in bad. Jesus drew the crowds and was drawn by them. He couldn't withstand the pull of the crowd. The lure of its intense need was irresistible to Him. Yet He knew crowds rarely.
He was never blinded by their enthusiasm. His keen insight saw under the surface, though it never held Him critically back from helping. He quickly notes that the belief of those first Passover crowds has not reached the dependable stage. He is never held back from showing the red marks in the road to be trodden even though many of His disciples balk at going farther on such a road, and some turn away to an easier road, so revealing an utter lack of the real thing. And even where there's real faith of the sincere sort it is yet sometimes not of the seasoned sort that can stand the storms.
These crowds seem of close kin to more modern crowds. One touch of a crowd rubs out centuries of difference and shows one family blood in us all. Yet keep things poised. It was out of these crowds that there came the disciples and close friends to whom we now turn. There's gold in the crowds, finest twenty-four carat gold. It's all a matter of mining. Skilful mining gets out the gold. This wondrous Lover used the magnetic-current method of mining, the love-current. The strong warm current, the fine personal spirit current, drew out to Him the fine grains of gold in these human crowds.
Now we climb the hill where the disciples are. The crowds are in the bottom-lands. Many have started up the hill. Jesus always woos men uphill. You can always tell a man by where he is standing, bottom-land, hillside, higher-hill-slope, hilltop. We turn now from the crowds that believed to those whose personal acceptance of Jesus drew them into the inner circle.
The first three incidents trace the beginnings of faith in those first close disciples who came to be numbered among the picked inner twelve. The first story is one of the rarest of John's many rare stories. It is characteristic of the real thing of faith that beginning with two they quickly number five. The attachment of the two to John, the Witness, reveals them as of the earnest inquiring sort, after the very best. John never forgot that talk with Jesus in the gathering twilight by the Jordan. It sends Andrew out for Peter, and John likely for James, while the Master gets Philip, and he in turn Nathaniel. That reveals the real stuff of faith. It has a mind whose questionings have been satisfied, a heart that catches fire, and feet that hasten out-of-doors for others. That's the real thing.
Their faith takes deeper root at Cana. A new personal experience of Jesus' power is a great deepener of faith, the great deepener. This is the only pathway from faith to a deeper realer sturdier faith. A man can get a deeper faith only by walking on his own feet where Jesus leads.
Their faith grows imperceptibly but by leaps and bounds. It grows down deeper and so up stronger and out farther by their companionship with Jesus through those brief packed years. What a school that was! the school of companionship with Jesus, with lessons daily, but the chiefest lesson the Teacher Himself. What a school it is! The only one for learning the real thing of faith: still open: pupils received at any time.
If we would shut our eyes and go with them as they company with Jesus through those wondrous days and events and experiences we may get some hold on how their faith grew. They actually saw the handful of loaves and fishes grow in their hands until thousands were fed. Their own eyes saw Jesus walking on the water.
It was out of their very hearts that they cry out through Peter's lips in answer to Jesus' pathetic pleading question and say, "To whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life." And without doubt Thomas acts as spokesman for all when Jesus announced His intention of returning to the danger zone, and Thomas sturdily says, "Let us also go, that we may die with Him."
But you are thinking of that terrible break of theirs on the betrayal night, are you? Well, perhaps if we call to mind with what an utter shock the events of that terrific twenty four hours came, intensified the more by the unexpectedness and the suddenness of it; and then if--perhaps--we may call to mind the more recent behaviour of some modern disciples who have had enormous advantages over them in regard to that terrific experience it may chasten our feelings a bit and soften the edge of our thought about them.
But dear faithful John never faltered. We must always love him for that. How humiliating for us if not even one had stood that test. And how their after-contact with John must have affected the others. John pulled the others back and up. And how their faith so sorely chastened and tested came to its fine seasoned strength afterwards.
These very events of the early days now come back with new meaning to them. Jesus' words at the temple cleansing, and the kingly entry into Jerusalem, shine now in a new light and give new strength to their faith. But John himself brings us back to this again in that long talk of the betrayal night. So we leave it now. But blue is a good colour for the eyes. It reveals great beauty in the bit of tapestry-pattern John is weaving for us to trace these true blue threadings.
But there's more here, much more, that adds greatly to the pattern. There are faithful disciples and precious intimate friendships outside the circle of these future leaders. Take only a moment for these as we push on.
There's that night visitor of the early Jerusalem days. Aristocrat, ruler, scholar, with all the supercautiousness that these qualities always grain in, Nicodemus actually left the inner circle of temple-rulers who were as sore to the touch as a boil over John's drastic cleansing, and comes for a personal interview. His utter sincerity is shown in the temper of his remarks and questions, and shown yet more in the openness of Jesus' spirit in talking with him. For this is a trait in Jesus' dealings,--openness when He finds an opening door. It must be so, then and now. He can open up only where there is an opening up to Him. Openness warms and loosens. The reverse chills and locks up.
It is in another just such situation but far more acute, that this man speaks out for Jesus in an official meeting of these same rulers. Timidly? have you thought, cautiously? Yet he spoke out when no one else did, though others there believed in Jesus. A really rare courage it was that told of a growing faith. And the personal devotion side of his faith, evidence again of the real thing, stands out to our eyes as we see him bring the unusual gift of very costly ointments for the precious body of his personal friend. It's a winsome story, this of Nicodemus. May there be many a modern duplicate of it.
In utter social contrast stands the next bit of this sort following so hard that the contrast strikes you at once. It's a half-breed Samaritan this time, and a woman, and an openly bad life. The Samaritans were hated by Jew and Gentile alike as belonging to neither, ground between the two opposing social national millstones. Womanhood was debased and held down in the way all too familiar always and everywhere. And a moral outcast ranks lowest in influence.
But true love discerns the possible lily in the black slime bulb at the pond's bottom and woos it into blossoming flower, till its purity and beauty greet our delighted eyes. Under the simple tact of love's true touch, out of such surroundings grows a faith, through the successive stages of gossipy curiosity, cynical remark, interest, eagerness, guilty self-consciousness that would avoid any such personal conversation, out and out comes a faith that means a changed life, and then earnest bringing of others till the whole village acclaims Jesus a Saviour, the Saviour.
And the very title they apply to Jesus reveals as by a flash-light the chief personal meaning the interview had for this outcast woman. In one way her faith meant more than Nicodemus', for it meant a radical change of outer life with her. And many a one stops short of that, though the real thing never does, and can't.
Then the circle widens yet more, geographically. Jew, Samaritan, it is a Roman this time, one of the conquering nation under whose iron heel the nation writhes restlessly. He is of gentle birth and high official position. It is his sense of acute personal need that draws him to Jesus. The child of his love is slipping from his clinging but helpless grasp.
There's the loose sort of hearsay groping faith that turns to Jesus in desperation. Things can't be worse, and possibly there might be help. There's the very different faith that looks Jesus in the face and hears the simple word of assurance so quietly spoken. He actually heard the word spoken about his dying darling, "thy son liveth."
Then there is that wondrous new sort of faith whose sharper hooks of steel enter and take hold of your very being as you actually experience the power of Jesus in a way wholly new to you. As it came to his keenly awakened mind that the favourable turn had come at the very moment Jesus uttered those quiet words, and then as he looked into the changed face of his recovering child, he became a changed man. The faith in Jesus was a part of his being. The two could never be put asunder. So the Roman world brought its grateful tribute of acceptance to this great wooing brooding Lover. The wooing had won again.
And now there's another extreme social turnabout in the circle that feels the power of Jesus' wooing. We turned from Jerusalem aristocrat to Samaritan outcast; now it's from gentle Roman official to a beggaring pauper. It is at the Tabernacles' visit. Jesus, quietly masterfully passing out from the thick of the crowd that would stone Him, noticed a blind ragged beggar by the roadway. One of those speculative questions that are always pushing in, and that never help any one is asked: "Who's to blame here?"
With His characteristic intense practicality Jesus quietly pushes the speculative question aside with a broken sentence, a sentence broken by His action as He begins helping the man. In effect He says, "Neither this man nor his parents are immediately to blame; the thing goes farther back. But"--and He reaches down and begins to make the soft clay with His spittle--"the thing is to see the power of God at work to help." And the touch is given and the testing command to wash, and then eyes that see for the first time.
But the one thing that concerns us now in this great ninth chapter is the faith that was so warmly wooed up out of nothing to a thing of courageous action and personal devotion to Jesus. It is fairly fascinating to watch the man move from birth-blind hopelessness through clay-anointed surprise and wonder and Siloam-walking expectancy on to water-washing eyesight.
It is yet more fascinating to see his spirit move up in the language he uses, from "the man called Jesus," and the cautious but blunt "I don't know about His being a sinner, but I know I can see," on to the bolder "clearly not a sinner but a man in reverent touch with God Himself."
Then the yet bolder, "a man from God," brings the break with the dreaded authorities which branded him before all as an outcast and as a damned soul. And then the earnest reverent cry "Who is He, Lord, that I may believe?" reveals the yearning purpose of his own heart. And then the great climax comes in the heart cry, "Lord, I believe, I believe Thee to be the very Son of God."
And the outcast of the rulers casts in his lot with Jesus and begins at once living the eternal quality of life which goes on endlessly. What a day for him from hopeless blindness of body and heart to eyesight that can see Jesus' face and know Him as his Saviour and Lord! Growth of faith clearly is not limited to the counting of hours. It waits only on one's walking out fully into all the light that comes, no matter where it may lead your steps.
The Bethany Height of Faith.
The Bethany story is one of the tenderest of all. It touches the heights. It's a hilltop story, both in its setting amidst the Bethany blue hills where it grew up, and in the height of faith it records. It has personal friendship and love of Jesus and implicit trust in Him as its starting point. And from this it reaches up to levels unknown before. Faith touches high water here. It rises to flood, a flood that sweeps mightily through the valleys of doubt and questionings all around about.
At the beginning there is faith in Jesus of the tender, personal sort. At the close there's faith that He will actually meet the need of your life and circumstance without limit. The highest faith is this: connecting Jesus' power and love with the actual need of your life. Abraham believed God with full sincerity that covenant-making night under the dark sky. But he didn't connect his faith in God with his need and danger among the Philistines. Peter believed in Jesus fully but his faith and his action failed to connect when the sore test came that Gethsemane night.
The Bethany pitch of faith makes connections. It ties our God and our need and our action into one knot. This is the pith of this whole story. Jesus' one effort in His tactful patient wooing is to get Martha up to the point of ordering that stone aside. He got her faith into touch with the gravestone of her sore need. Her faith and her action connected. That told her expectancy. Creeds are best understood when they're acted. Moving the stone was her confession of faith. Not that Jesus was the Son of God. That was settled long before.
No: it meant this--that the Son of God was now actually going to act as Son of God to meet her need. Under His touch her dead brother was going to live. The deadness that broke her heart would give way under Jesus' touch. The Bethany faith doesn't believe that God can do what you need, merely. It believes that He will do it And so the stone's taken away that He may do it. God has our active consent. Are we up on the Bethany level? Has God our active consent to do all He would? Is our faith being lived, acted out?
And the feast of grateful tribute that followed has an exquisite added touch. The faith that lets God into one's life to meet its needs gets clearer eyesight. Acted faith affects the spirit vision. There is a spirit sensitiveness that recognizes God and discerns how things will turn out.
Notice Jesus' words about Mary's act of anointing. There is a singularly significant phrase in it. "Let her keep it against (or in view of) the day of My burying." "Keep it" is the striking phrase. What does that mean? We speak of keeping a day, as Christmas, meaning to hallow the memories for which it stands. "Keep it" here seems to mean that. Let her keep a memorial. Yet it would be a memorial in advance of the event remembered and hallowed.
It seems to suggest that Mary thus discerned the outcome for Jesus of the coming crisis, and more, its great significance. The disciples expected Jesus' power to overcome all opposition. She alone sensed what was coming, His death and its tremendous spirit-meaning. And it is possible that the raising of her brother helped her to sense ahead another raising. For there is no mention of her at the tomb, as would otherwise have been most natural.
Her simple love-lit faith could see, and could see beyond to the final outcome. This is the story of the Bethany faith, faith at flood. This highest simplest truest faith, that had come in answer to Jesus' patient persistent wooing for it, opens the way for the greatest use of His power on record.
There's one story more in this true-blue faith list. It is the story of the Greeks. At first it seems not to belong in here. There is no mention made of the faith of these men nor of their acceptance of Jesus. But the more you think into it the more it seems that here is its true place, and that this is why John brings it in, not simply to show how the outside world was reaching for Jesus, but to show the inner spirit of these men towards Jesus.
Whether the term Greeks is used in the looser sense for the Greek-speaking Jews, or for non-Jewish foreigners, or, as I think most likely, in the meaning of men of Grecian blood, residents of Greece, the significance is practically the same, it was the outer world coming to Jesus. These had come a long journey to do homage to the true God at Jerusalem. Their presence reveals their spirit.
They were eye and ear-witnesses of the stirring events of those last days in Jerusalem. The stupendous story of the raising of the man out in the Bethany suburb was the talk of the city. And then there was that intense scene of the kingly entry into the city amid the acclaiming multitudes. They knew of the official opposition, and the public proclamation against Jesus. They breathed the Jerusalem air. That put them in touch with the whole situation.
Now notice keenly they seek a personal interview with Jesus. This is the practical outcome of the situation to them. It reminds one of that other man, under similar conditions though less intense, at an earlier stage, cautiously seeking a night interview. Their desire tells not curiosity but earnestness, and the very earnestness reveals both purpose and attitude towards Jesus.
And this is made the plainer by the very words they use as they seek out the likeliest man of the Master's inner circle to secure the coveted interview. They say, "Sir, we would see Jesus." The whole story of conviction, of earnestness, of decision, is in that tremendous little word "would." It was their will, their deliberate choice, to come into personal relations with this Man of whom they were hearing so much.
And it seems like a direct allusion to that tremendous word, and an answer to it, when Jesus, in effect, in meaning, says, "if any man would follow Me." Both the coming under such circumstances, and the form of the request, seem to tell the attitude of these men towards Jesus and their personal purpose regarding Him. It would be altogether likely that they accompany Philip as he seeks out Andrew. It would be the natural thing. And so they are with Philip and Andrew as they come to tell Jesus.
Then this would be the setting of these memorable intense words that Jesus now utters. He senses at once the request and the earnest purpose of these men seeking Him out. It is for them especially that these words are spoken. And if, as some thoughtful scholars think, Jesus spake here, not in His native Aramaic, but in the Greek tongue, it gives colouring to the supposition. The intense earnestness of His words, and the revealing of the intense struggle within His spirit as He breathes out the simple prayer,--all this is a tacit recognition of the spirit of these Greeks.
The parallel is striking with the Nicodemus interview where no direct mention is made of the faith that later events showed was unquestionably there. It seems like another of those silences of John that are so full of meaning. And the silence seems, as with Nicodemus, to mean the acquiescence of the inquirers in the message they hear.
This then would seem to be the reply to the request. They have indeed seen Jesus. And they accept it and Him, as most likely they linger through the Passover-days at hand and then turn their faces homeward. And so the warm wooing has drawn out this warm response from the cultured Greek world.
So we trace the blue thread in John's tapestry picture, the true faith that is drawn out from nothing to little and more and much and most, under the warmth of the brooded wooing of this great Lover.
The Ugly Thread in the Weaving.
Now for that ugly dark thread, the opposition to, the rejection of, the Lover's wooing. But we'll not linger here. We've been seeing so much of this thread as we traced the other and studied the whole. Ugly things stand out by reason of their very ugliness. This stands out in gloomy disturbing contrast with all the rest. A brief quick tracing will fully answer our present purpose. And then we can hasten on to the dominating figure in the pattern.
The opposition begins with silent rejection, moves by steady stages, growing ever intenser clear up to the murderous end. The sending of the committee to the Jordan to examine John and report on him was an official recognition of his power. The questions asked raise the possibility clearly being discussed of John being the promised prophet, or Elijah, or even the Christ Himself, and this is an expression of the national expectancy. The utter silence with which John's witness to Jesus is met is most striking. Its significance is spoken of by both Jesus and John.
The intensity of the resentment over the cleansing of the temple-area can be almost felt rising up out of the very page, in the critical questions and cynical comment of the Jews. One can easily see all the bitterness of their hate tracking its slimy footprints out of that cleansed courtyard.
The cunning discussion among the great Jordan crowds about the purifying rite of baptism, stirred up so successfully by "a Jew," that is, probably by one of the Jerusalem leaders, would seem to be a studied attempt to discredit the two preachers, Jesus and John, and swing the crowds away. It was shrewdly done and might have dissipated the fine spiritual atmosphere by bitter strife and discussion had not Jesus quietly slipped away.
This attitude of theirs is clearly recognized and felt by Jesus. He plainly points out that vulgarizing hurt of sin whereby God's own messenger is not recognized when He comes in the garb of a neighbour.
Then things get more acute. The blessed healing of a thirty-eight-year-old infirmity leads to outspoken persecution, to a desire and purpose actually to kill Jesus. It grew intenser as Jesus' claim grew clearer. The issue was sharply drawn. He "called God His own Father, making Himself equal with God." They begin plotting His death.
His prudent absence from Jerusalem at the time of the next Passover reveals graphically how tense the opposition had gotten. But even up by Galilee's shores they have messengers at work amongst the crowds exciting discussion and discontent and worse. In the discussion it is easy to pick out the two elements, the nagging critics and the earnest seekers. And the saddening result is seen in many disciples leaving Jesus and going back again to their old way.
Then things got so intense that Jesus' habit of life was broken or changed. He could no longer frequent Judea as He had done, but kept pretty much to the northern province of Galilee. The settled plan to kill made His absence a matter of common prudence. This makes most striking His great courage in going up to Jerusalem at the autumn Feast of Tabernacles. He quietly arrived in the midst of much rumour and hot discussion about Himself, and begins teaching the crowds openly, to the great amazement of many.
At once begin the wordy critical attacks, egged on probably by the warmth with which many receive Jesus' teachings. There are three attempts to take Him by force, including an official attempt at arrest. But, strangely enough, the very officers sent to arrest are so impressed by Jesus' teaching that they return with their mission not done, to the intensest disgust and rage of their superiors.
Early on the morning following there's a cunning coarse attempt to entrap Him into saying something that can be used against Him. A woman is brought accused of wrong-doing of the gravest sort, and His opinion is asked as to the proper punishment for so serious an offense. There's nothing more dramatic in Scripture than the withdrawal of these accusers, one by one, actually conscience-stricken in the presence of the few simple words of this wondrous Man.
This is followed by the intensest give-and-take of discussion thus far, in which they give vent to their bitterest degree of vile language in calling Him "a Samaritan," and accusing Him of being possessed with "a demon." And then the terrible climax is reached in the enraged passionate attempt of stoning. It is the worst yet to which their fanatical rage has gone.
Now they reach out to intimidate the multitude, by threatening to cut off from religious and civic privileges all who would confess belief in Jesus as Christ. And their spleen vents its rage on the man born blind but now so wondrously given sight of two sorts.
The winter Feast of the Dedication a few months later finds Jesus back again in Jerusalem teaching. And again their enraged attempt at stoning, the second one, is restrained by a something in Him they can neither understand nor withstand.
The Lazarus incident arouses their opposition to the highest pitch. This is recognized as a crisis. Such power had never been seen or known. The inroads of belief are everywhere, in the upper social circles, among the old families, even in the Jewish Senate itself, notwithstanding the threatened excommunication. On every hand men are believing. Things are getting desperate for these leaders. They determine to use all the authority at hand arbitrarily and with a high hand. What strange blindness of stubborn self-will to such open evidence of power!
A special meeting of the Jewish Senate is held, not unlikely hastily summoned of those not infected with belief. And there it is officially determined to put Jesus to death, and serve public notice that any one knowing of His whereabouts must report their information to the authorities.
And as the incoming crowds thicken for the Passover, and the talk about Lazarus is on every tongue, it is determined to put Lazarus to death, too. This is the pitch things have risen to as John brings this part of his story to a close.