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THE DIFFERENT OPINIONS OF THE PEOPLE CONCERNING JESUS. THE PHARISEES ARE DISAPPOINTED IN THEIR ATTEMPT TO TAKE HIM.
John vii. 40–53.
40. Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet.
41. Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee?
42. Hath not the Scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was ?
43. So there was a division among the people because of him.
44. And some of them would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him.
No prophecy seems to have been more generally in the minds of the people, than that of Micah, declaring that the Messiah should be born at Bethlehem. When " the wise men” came as strangers to Jerusalem, asking, “ Where is he that is born king of the Jews ?” the answer was immediately returned, Christ should be born“ in Bethlehem of Judea ; for thus it is written by the prophet.”!
1 Chap. v. 2. 2 Matt. ii. 2–5.
Jesus, however, was brought up not at Bethlehem, but in Galilee. This was enough to satisfy his thoughtless enemies : Shall Christ come out of Galilee? Had they sought further, and inquired, we know they would have found the prophecy most literally fulfilled : and fulfilled by a series of means which showed that the providence of Him by whom the prophet spake was immediately exercised. Jesus did come of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem.
It has pleased God to send a light into the world. A veil is sometimes drawn before it ; not that the light may be hidden from any, but that occasion may be given to see whether there is the will to draw that veil aside, and discover truth beyond. But the truth, they who “ are not of the truth” do not desire to find : others search for it, and are satisfied.
45. Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees ; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him?
46. The officers answered, Never man spake like this man.
47. Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived ?
48. Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him?
49. But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed.
The officers who had been sent to apprehend Jesus, here give a striking testimony to his character and dignity. They were not, we may suppose, prejudiced in his favour, or inclined to ad
mire him. Yet they return abashed and confounded, and acknowledge, Never man spake like this man. Like the conviction of the Centurion who superintended the crucifixion : “ Truly this was the Son of God.”
There are not wanting in our own country many who allow the same. Never man spake like this man. Without controversy, they will confess, there are no such benevolent precepts, no such wise laws, as those of the gospel. It would be a happier world, if all conformed to them. But like the officers, they approve and admire, and no more. They do not take the author of this wisdom and goodness for their Lord and their God. And yet it might be justly said, If I have spoken evil, show where the evil is ; but if well, why do ye no tobey me?
Here indeed, a reason is alleged ; Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? It was to be taken for granted, that the rulers and the Pharisees were the best judges whether he was to be believed or not.
And in human life this is a constant source of error. People set up others as standards for themselves, and make them their guides. Were the rulers or the Pharisees really better able to decide whether Jesus was the Christ, than the plain men who were astonished at his doctrine ? They could not judge better, whether his works proved that - God was with him.” They could not judge better whether he spake as never man spake. The real question was, Were they witnesses equally disin
terested? Had they no reason for densing him? Would their own authority have been lessened, if he had been received? Would their own wars of living be condemned, if he were followed? Therefore, the people whom they despised, as knowing not the law, and who in many cases received him gladly, were more to be trusted than the rulers or the Pharisees. The things which were hidden from “ the wise and prudent,” were “revealed unto babes,” who had less to hinder them from receiving the kingdom of God as little children. Throughout the whole dispensation of the gospel we have constant occasion to see, that “God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty.”3 To “ the wise, to the scribe, to the disputer of this world,” God does not look. But “to this man will I look, saith the Lord ; even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and that trembles at my word.”+
50. Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,)
51. Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth ?
52. They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee ? Search, and look : for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet. 53. And every man went unto his own house.
In the treatment which Nicodemus received from his brethren the Pharisees, we have a living example of the conduct arising from a worldly, party
3 1 Cor. i. 27.
4 Isa. Ixvi. 2.
spirit. He ventures to require that Jesus should be dealt with like any other suspected person, according to law and reason. Does our law judge any man before it hear him, and know what he doeth ? 5 But the very thought exasperates them. Art thou also of Galilee? Dost thou take part with the person whom we are determined to condemn ?
Therefore we are warned, to “ love not the world :" not to make its opinion our rule, or its favour our object. A man's party, the company to which he belongs and with which he associates, is a portion of “the world :" and often that portion by which he is most endangered. They are the first whom he must abandon, if he perceives that their course is wrong: and therefore they are the first to oppose him with those taunts and sneers which are so difficult to bear. Many are they who “ receive the word with joy : but anon, when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by they are offended.”
It is only by the habitual prevalence of Faith that this danger can be overcome. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” It discovers the real worthlessness of that favour which is “not of the Father, but of the world.” The time is at hand, when the good will or the ill will, the applause or the contradiction, the smile or the frown, of a party or a company, will signify no more to us, than the
5 Deut. i. 17 ; xvii. 8–11.