Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keeps the law? Why go you about to kill me?…
The desire to kill Christ —
I. WAS INCONSISTENT WITH THEIR RELIGIOUS PROFESSION. They professedly believed in Moses, and esteemed him highly. But there was nothing in Moses to sanction their antagonism to Christ.
1. The spirit of their opposition was inconsistent with the moral law of Moses (ver. 19). You seek to kill Me, when your moral master in God's name has said, "Thou shalt not kill." None of you keepeth the law in this respect.
2. The proximate cause of the opposition was inconsistent with the moral law of Moses — the healing of the impotent man at Bethesda on the Sabbath day. This was the "one work" which now fired their indignation. But what did Moses do? What might have been considered more objectionable than this. He circumcised children on the Sabbath day — a work that inflicted physical pain and manual labour. And not only did Moses do it, but Abraham, etc, whose authority is of greater antiquity. Could it be right for them to do, on the Sabbath day, the work of mere ceremony, and wrong for Me to do a work of mercy? The crime and curse of religionists in all ages and lands have been the exalting the ceremonial over the moral — the local, the temporary, and contingent above the universal, eternal, and absolute.
II. IMPLIED A GREAT INACCURACY OF JUDGMENT (ver. 24). Judging from appearance, they concluded —
1. That a mere ordinary peasant had no Divine mission. Perhaps most of them knew His humble birthplace and parentage, and concluded from His lowly appearance that He was a poor man and nothing more. They were too blinded to discover beneath such apparently abject forms a Divine spirit, character, and mission. It has ever been so. Men who judge from appearances have always failed to discern anything great or Divine in those who occupy the humbler walks of life. And yet the men of highest genius, divinest inspirations and aims have been counted the offscouring of all things.
2. That a ritualistic religion was a religion of righteousness. Had there been in connection with the ceremonies of the Temple the healing of the sick on the Sabbath day, they would have esteemed the work as sacred. No ceremony could they allow as of secondary importance. But the ritualistic religion is sometimes immoral. When men observe even the divinest ceremonies as a matter of custom and form, they degrade their spiritual natures and insult omniscience. "God is a Spirit," etc. The religion of righteousness is the religion of love, not of law.
3. That by killing a teacher they would kill his influence. They sought to kill Christ because they knew if His doctrines spread their authority would crumble. Men who have judged from appearances have ever sought to kill unpopular teachers. But facts as well as philosophy show that such judgment is not righteous. The blood of the martyrs has always been the seed of the Church; their doctrines get free force and sweep from their death. It was so with Christ.
III. INVOLVED THEM IN PERPLEXITY (vers. 25-27). There seems much bewilderment here. They thought they knew Him, yet they felt they did not know Him. They wondered, too, how a man whom their rulers desired to kill should speak so boldly without being arrested. Minds under a wrong leading passion are sure to get into confusion. No intellect is clear, and its path straight and sunny, that is not under the control of benevolent dispositions. All the conflicting theories of the world concerning God, spirit, and morals, have their origin in a wrong state of heart. The intellectual confusion of hell grows out of malevolence. What they could not see Christ explains (ver. 28). As they had no love in them, they could not see God; and as they could not see God, they could not understand Him that He came from God and was sent by Him. Observe what Christ asserts —
1. That He knows the Absolute. He is the only Being in the universe that knows Him.
2. That He was a messenger from the Absolute. "He that sent me." This is the great spiritual ministry of the world. What are popes, cardinals, archbishops, to Him? "This is My beloved Son," says God; "hear ye Him." Whoever else you disregard, "hear ye Him."
IV. Their desire to kill Him was DIVINELY RESTRAINED (ver. 30). Why did not their malignant desire work itself out at once? It was wide and strong enough. The answer is, "Because His hour was not yet come." There was an unseen hand that held them back. He who holds the wind in His fist turns the hearts of men as the rivers of water. With God for "everything there is a season." Men may wish to hurry events, and to go before the appointed time, but there is a power that holds them back until the hour comes. The power that governs every wavelet in the ocean controls every passing passion of mankind. Conclusion: Learn —
1. That being hated by society is not always a proof of hate-worthiness. Here is one, "who did no sin," etc., hated with a mortal hate. To be hated by a corrupt society is to have the highest testimony to your goodness. The world loves its own, and hates all moral aliens. It worships the Herods, and stones the Stephens. "Marvel not if the world hate you, it hated Me before it hated you."
2. That being hated by society is no reason for neglecting our mission. Though Christ knew that in the leading men there flamed the fiercest indignation towards Him, yet He enters the Temple on a great public occasion and fearlessly delivers His message. That love for truth, God, and humanity which inspired and ruled Him raised Him above the fear of men, made Him fearless and invincible.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?