Thomas said to him, Lord, we know not where you go; and how can we know the way?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Thomas saith unto him.—Comp., for the character of Thomas, John 11:16; John 20:24; John 21:2.
Lord, we know not whither thou goest.— Our Lord’s words had laid stress upon the “way.” Thomas lays stress upon the “whither.” His mind seeks for measured certainty. In all that he has heard of the Father’s house of many mansions, of being with the Lord, there is much that he cannot understand. The Messiah, they thought, was to reign upon earth. Where was this vast royal home, with dwelling-places for all, to which Christ was going first, and to which they were to follow? They know not whither, and without that knowledge they cannot even think of the way.John 14:5-6. Thomas saith — Taking him in a gross sense; Lord, we know not whither thou goest — “As their thoughts turned very much on a temporal kingdom, they might imagine that their Master intended to remove to some splendid palace on earth, which he was to prepare for their reception, making it the seat of his court.” Jesus saith, I am the way, the truth, and the life — Christ was his own way to the Father, inasmuch as by his own blood he entered into the holy place, Hebrews 9:12; and he is our way, in that we enter by him. By his doctrine and example he teaches us our duty; by his merit and intercession he procures for us our happiness; and in these respects he is the way. In him God and man meet and are brought together, and by him a way of intercourse is appointed and kept up between heaven and earth; our prayers ascend to God, and his blessings descend to us by him. He is the truth, 1st, As truth is opposed to figure and emblem: he is the substance of all the Old Testament types and shadows, which are therefore said to be figures of the true things. He is the true manna, (John 6:32,) the true tabernacle, Hebrews 8:2. 2d, As truth is opposed to falsehood and error, the doctrine of Christ is infallibly true doctrine; the truth as it is in Jesus. 3d, As truth is opposed to fallacy and deceit; he is true and faithful to all that trust in him, and will assuredly make good all his declarations and promises, 2 Corinthians 1:20. He is the life, for we are made alive unto God here, and brought to eternal life hereafter, only in and through him, who is the resurrection and the life, Romans 6:11. For as God hath given to believers eternal life, this life is in his Son, and only he that hath the Son hath life, John 5:11-12. No man cometh unto the Father but by me — Fallen man may, and must come to God as a judge, but cannot come to him as a Father, otherwise than by Christ as a Mediator, Redeemer, and Saviour; for through him alone, through his merits and Spirit, his doctrine and grace, can we be pardoned and renewed, justified, sanctified, and glorified.Luke 24:21. They entertained the common notions of a temporal kingdom; they supposed still that he was to be an earthly prince and leader, and they did not comprehend the reason why he should die. Thomas confessed his ignorance, and the Saviour again patiently explained his meaning. All this shows the difficulty of believing when the mind is full of prejudice and of contrary opinions. If Thomas had laid aside his previous opinions - had he been willing to receive the truth as Jesus plainly spoke it, there would have been no difficulty. Faith would have been an easy and natural exercise of the mind. And so with the sinner. If he were willing to receive the plain and unequivocal doctrines of the Bible, there would be no difficulty; but his mind is full of opposite opinions and plans, occupied with errors and vanities, and these are the reasons, and the only reasons, why he is not a Christian. Yet who would say that, after the plain instructions of Jesus, Thomas might not have understood him? And who will dare to say that any sinner may not lay aside his prejudices and improper views, and receive the plain and simple teaching of the Bible? John 14:2, yet dreamed of some earthly motion our Saviour was making, which makes Thomas to speak thus: so dull are we, and hard to conceive of spiritual things. But will some say, Doth not Thomas here contradict his Master, who had told them, John 14:4, that they both knew whither he went, and the way also?
Answer. Some think that our Saviour meant no more than they ought to have known, both whither he went, and the way also; active verbs in Scripture phrase, often signifying no more than duty, or ability. But possibly others answer better, They had some knowledge, but it was more confused and general; not distinct, particular, or certain.
we know not whither thou goest; though he had but just told them of his Father's house, and of his going to prepare a place for them:
and how can we know the way? for if we do not know the place, it is not reasonable to think we should know the way to it. Thomas seemed to have no other notion than that Christ was talking of some particular place in Judea, whither he was going, and of the road to it.Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)John 14:5. But this statement bewilders the despondent Thomas, who gloomily interjects: Κύριε … εἰδέναι; Thomas’ difficulty is that not knowing the goal they cannot know the way. In the reply of Jesus both the goal and the way are disclosed.5. Thomas] Nothing is to be inferred from the omission of ‘Didymus’ here (comp. John 11:16, John 20:24, John 21:2). For his character see on John 11:16. His question here has a melancholy tone combined with some dulness of apprehension. But there is honesty of purpose in it. He owns his ignorance and asks for explanation. This great home with many abodes, is it the royal city of the conquering Messiah, who is to restore the kingdom to Israel (see on Acts 1:6); and will not that be Jerusalem? How then can He go away?
and how can we know] The true reading is, How know we.John 14:5. Θωμᾶς, Thomas) One after the other asks questions, with reverential and sweet affection [suavity] towards Him: John 14:8 [Philip], John 14:22 [Judas, not Iscariot], and previously, ch. John 13:36 [Simon Peter].—καὶ πῶς, and how) Thomas, using acute reasoning, lays it down as a sure conclusion, that, inasmuch as they knew not the goal, they must much less know the way. [Jesus replies as to both (the goal and the way), but in inverse order. Jesus is the way: through Him (as the way) whither is it given us to attain? To the Father.—V. g.]Verses 5-7. -
(4) The question of Thomas, eliciting from Christ that he was going to the Father, and that his death was their "way" as well as his own way thither. Verse 5. - Thomas - true to the character elsewhere attributed to him in this Gospel, of anxious, intellectual striving after truth and reality, with a certain despondency and morbid fear of issues which he could not grasp, and yet with a great love to his Master - saith to him, We know not whither thou goest; i.e. we are still in vague perplexity. "Whither? oh, whither?" Art thou going to the dispersed among the Gentiles? Art thou going to restore the kingdom to Israel? Thou art to be "lifted up;" but how and where art thou to be lifted up? Thou art going - that is all we know, and this ignorance of ours makes us doubt "the way." How do we knew the way? Is not a knowledge of the goal absolutely necessary to bring into proper light for us the way, the strange mysterious way, thou art taking? There often seems in the language of skepticism much common sense, and in the dry light of science a straightforward honesty; and in reading the memorable reply of our Lord many have felt a lack of directness and recognition of the difficulty of Thomas. But is it really so?
The best texts substitute οἴδαμεν, know we, for δυνάμεθα, can we; reading, how know we the way. So Rev. Some also omit and before how.
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