FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT. BY REV. ASHTON OXENDEN, D.D.

ST. JOHN, vm. 46 TO END.

Jesus said, Which of you convinceth me of sin ? and if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God heareth God s words ; ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God. Then answered the Jews and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil ? Jesus answered, I have not a devil ; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me. And I seek not mine own glory ; there is one that seeketh and judgeth. Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying he shall never see death. Then said the Jews unto him; Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets ; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death. Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead ? and the pro phets are dead : whom makest thou thyself? Jesus an swered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing ; it id my Father that honoureth me, of whom ye say, that he is your God : yet ye have not known him ; but I know him : and if I should say, I know him not, 1 shall be a liar like
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unto you ; but I know him, and keep his saying. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it, and was glad. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art Dot yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham ?

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Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, 1 say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. Then took they up stones to cast at him : but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple,

OUR Lord had been conversing with the Pharisees and others. He had been an nouncing to them, that He was the Light of the world ; that God was His Father ; and that His gospel proclaimed the only true liberty. His hearers for the most part misunderstood His words ; but some few were struck by them, and believed.

And now He appeals to His own holy
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and consistent conduct ; * Which of you (He asks) convinceth me of sin ? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me V If the Saviour s life had been less holy, then there would have been some reason for them to doubt the truth which He proclaimed ; they would have had some cause for suspecting Him of being an impostor. But now they had no cloak for their unbelief

The fact was, as He here tells them, their hearts were wrong, and they had no taste for the message which God sent them : * He that is of God hea re th God s words :

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ye therefore hear them not (or have no pleasure in hearing them), because ye are
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not of God/ Just as a son delights in his absent father s message ; studies it, prizes it, and desires to fulfil it ; so is it with God s children. They hear His word with reverence ; they love the sound of it ; and there is something within, which responds to it. Their language is, Speak, Lord ; for thy servant heareth/ Jesus however tells them that it was not so with them; Ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God/

This stirred up their anger. Then answered the Jews, and said unto Him, Say we not well that Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil V The Jews looked upon the Samaritans as enemies to their church and nation. To call any one then a Samaritan was to express contempt for him, and to brand him as an unbeliever. But they went yet further, and accused our Lord of having a devil, of being possessed by an evil spirit.

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How does the Saviour answer this insulting accusation ? He might at once have struck them dumb for their scornful

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language, or He might have called down fire from heaven, and consumed them on the spot. But no, He bears with them, meekly replying, I have not a devil ; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me. And I seek not mine own glory ; there is one that seeketh (that is, seeketh my glory) and judgeth/ A person who is in fluenced by the devil would seek his own glory. His great aim would be to exalt himself, and not to honour God.

Our Lord then adds a most glorious truth ; Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a
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man keep my saying, he shall never see death/ He had before been telling them that His gospel proclaimed the truest liberty, and that if the Son made them free, they would be free indeed. But now He tells them of something even better than liberty. He tells them of a neverending life which He could give them. If a man keep my saying (that is, if he believes my gospel) he shall never see death/

Here indeed was a blessed announce ment. They had already been told (as we find from the sixth chapter) that He was

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the Bread of Life. This is the Bread which cometh down from heaven. If any
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man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever. And now, again, He plainly de clares that in Hun there is full deliverance from death.

What a comforting truth for us ! We all shrink from death. How blessed then to know that we may escape its power ; and that by believing in Christ we pass from death unto life/ We shall still die ; but if we are one with Him, then death has lost its sting for us, and the grave its victory. Death is but the gate, through which we shall pass to a new and more glorious life. Our bodies will lie down in the grave ; but our better part will go into God s presence, and remain there for ever.

But let us see how the Pharisees re ceived this saying. Did such new and unlooked-for tidings bring any joy to them? Did they value our Lord s words, and feel their preciousness ? Alas, no ! They received them with cold unbelief.
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They understood them not. * Then said the Jews unto Him, Now we know that

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Thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets, and Thou sayest, If a man keep My saying, he shall never taste of death. Art Thou greater than our Father Abraham, which is dead ? and the prophets are dead : whom makest Thou Thyself?

They had a great respect for their fore father Abraham and the prophets. But they knew that, great as they were, they had died. How then could it be that Jesus was able to set any one free from the curse of death ? For they seemed to be thinking of no other death than that which
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separates the soul from the body. They had no idea that He was speaking of that death which for ever separates the soul from God. Our Lord s language there fore appeared to them like presumption ; and they immediately exclaimed, Art Thou greater than our father Abraham?

Jesus replies by telling them that He had no desire to honour Himself, but that His heavenly Father had put honour upon Him ; Jesus answered, If I honour My self, My honour is nothing : it is My Father that honoureth Me, of whom ye say, that

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He is your God. Yet ye have not known Him, but I know Him ; and if I should say, I know Him not, I shall be a liar like unto you. But I know Him, and keep His saying/
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He then again refers to Abraham, and plainly tells them that He existed before Abraham ; and that Abraham looked for ward with a joyful hope to His coming. Your Father Abraham rejoiced to see my day : and he saw it, and was glad. Then said the Jews unto Him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham ? Jesus saith unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

It is clear from these words that Abra ham and the Patriarchs of old looked to the coming Saviour with the eye of faith. The hope of His one day appearing cheered their hearts. They saw Him, but not now : they beheld Him, but not nigh. He was the Star that gladdened them even in their gloomiest night. They lived in hope, and died in faith, not having received the promises (or the blessings promised), but having seen them afar off, and were per10

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suaded of them, and embraced them/ It is true, they had but a dim view of the Great Deliverer who was to come ; and they probably knew but little what sort of a Saviour He was to be. But they believed that He would come, and there they found rest/

The word here used to express Abra ham s feeling is a very strong one. It means in the Greek something more than simple joy. It means that his soul leapt forward, as it were, in earnest hope and expectation. It was just such a feeling as a person has who desires to see a longexpected friend that is coming to him. He runs forward, now and then jumping
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up to see if he can discover him. So it was with Abraham. He rejoiced -(i.e. he desired with a very great longing) to see the day of Christ/

Our Lord s declaration too that He was * before Abraham is very important. You will observe He does not merely say that He had seen Abraham ; but He says, Before Abraham was, / am. This is a remarkable expression. It is the same which the Lord used when speaking of

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Himself to Moses from the burning bush ; Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you/ So here Christ says, Before Abraham was, I AM. He was from the beginning God
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over all, blessed for ever/ The Word was with God, and was God. He whom we shall be reminded of on Good Friday as dying upon the cross ; He who was brought before Pontius Pilate as a malefactor ; whose back was scourged, and whose head was crowned with thorns ; He whose body was carried, by Joseph of Arimathea, as a life less corpse to the grave ; He who became man for our sakes, a poor, suffering, scorned, and dying man , could yet say, I and My Father are one ; Before Abra ham was, I am/

Blessed Saviour, Thou art God ; and therefore I will trust Thee with my soul s salvation. Thou art God, and therefore able to save. And Thou too art man, bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh ; Thou therefore art one with me. Thou canst feel for me, and knowest all my wants. Thou hast suffered for me, that I might not suffer, as my sins deserve. Perfect

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Saviour, in Thee I find all that my soul needs.

There is one remark of these Pharisees, which I must not pass over. They said to our Lord, Thou art not yet fifty years old/ Now, Jesus was only a little more than thirty at this time. How was it that they guessed His age so wrongly ? Is there not something very touching in this mis take of theirs ? May it not have been that His sorrows had so bowed Him down; that grief had made its furrows so deep on that sacred brow; that it had left upon Him the marks of age ? He was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief ; and He probably bore this stamp on His very countenance. Satan s malice had done its
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work. Man s unbelief and hardness of heart had often pierced Him to the very quick. The iron had entered His very soul. The three last years of His life were years of intense suffering, and their weight told upon Him. His visage was so marred more than any man ; and His form more than the sons of men/ And if this really was the cause of the Pharisees mistake, there is

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something in it very touching ; and it may well increase our reverence for the Saviour, and draw out our tenderest love towards Him.

Let us now see what effect our Lord s conversation had on His hearers. They were not only unable to comprehend the deep and precious truths which had fallen from His lips ; but their anger was stirred
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up to such a pitch, that they could bear with Him no longer.

There was one thing however that they clearly understood .; namely, that He claimed to be God. For they immediately took up stones to cast at Him, as one guilty of blasphemy. If you turn to Lev. xxiv. 16, you will Sfee that this was the regular punishment of a blasphemer under the Jewish Law ; * He that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall stone him/

But where could they find the stones, as they were in the Temple ? At this time the repairs of the Temple were probably unfinished, and there may have been stones

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lying about in consequence, which they eagerly seized and made use of.

They were in the Temple. But the sacredness of the building was no check upon them. They were ready to murder Jesus on the spot. He had spoken of Him self as God ; but they had not eyes to see His Godlike nature. He had announced Himself as the Light and Life of the world ; but they loved darkness and death, and so His errand was unwelcome to them. They were like the people of Gadara, who prayed Him to depart out of their coasts.

Christ proved His power by hiding Himself, and passing away through the midst of them. He did this once before, when the people of Nazareth laid hands on Him, and were ready to cast Him headlong down a precipice. On that occasion it is said, that He, passing through the midst
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of them, went His way/

How sad that He, who was laden with blessings, should be forced to escape for His life from those on whom He was so ready to bestow them. Alas ! they knew not what a benefactor they had among them. They knew not what mercies they

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were putting away from them. Perhaps and, oh, what a fearful thought ! perhaps those men never heard the Saviour s voice again. Their opportunity was gone. They had rejected Him. And never will they hear it as a voice of love. They will only hear it as a voice of wrath, on that day when they will stand trembling before His judgment throng

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