‘Never Man Spake like this Man’, John 7. 46

R. V. Court, Bristol, England

These words were uttered by men who had been sent to the Lord Jesus in an official capacity by the chief priests and Pharisees, probably with a warrant for His arrest, and they could not therefore be charged with a bias in favour of the Lord. W. E. Vine describes them as being "officers or bailiffs of the Sanhedrin". It would seem that, having been sent to arrest the Lord, they arrived as He was addressing the crowd on the last day, the great day of the feast of tabernacles, v. 37. To their credit, let it be said that they did not attempt to interrupt His conversation, but awaited a convenient moment to step in. Perhaps they had to listen to His words, and it is almost certain that it was not the words alone that impressed them, but the manner in which they were spoken. There was a dignity, an authority, a power in His utterance that made it impossible for them to prefer their warrant. Did they share in the discussion that took place in verses 40-42? And when the division in verse 43 took place, were they secretly convinced of the truth of His claims? Whatever their attitude, while verse 44 says, "some of them would have taken him", the men with the warrant were not among them.

It was probably a very serious matter for these officers to disobey orders, and we can well understand the astonished question of the rulers, "Why have ye not brought him?". It was at this stage that the men uttered the matchless words, "Never man spake like this man". It is almost certain that when they said "never man", they regarded Him only as a man, although so different from any other with whom they had ever had dealings. Today, with our fuller knowledge of "the Man" in question, we may feel well justified in underlining the word Man, for mere man never spake like this One who was more than man!

Gracious Words. It is instructive to note what is said elsewhere in the New Testament about the nature and grace of His utterances. We turn to Luke 4. 22, to discover the effect His words had on a congregation in the synagogue at Nazareth; "they all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth". There was a sincerity, a genuineness, an attractiveness, that appealed to them, and they realized that what He was saying was true. How tragic that as He developed His theme, and made it clear that His mission embraced Gentiles as well as Jews, they "rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong", v. 29. They failed, of course, because the power that controlled His speech also controlled His actions. It is, sadly, possible to be attracted by the teaching of the Lord, but to be unwilling to submit to it.

Matthew 11. 28 must surely be considered as an illustration of the graciousness of His words! As He used the term "all ye that labour", He was aware of the vast variety of need that must have existed among His hearers: widows, orphans, those recently bereaved, those suffering from economic and domestic problems, even the whole range of human need. He spoke to them in a way that made the individual feel that He knew all about him, that He was speaking specially to him. His words were with grace.

Powerful Words. In Luke 24. 31 the Lord is in Capernaum, and again we are introduced to His teaching. "They were astonished at his doctrine, for his word was with power", v. 32. We may link Matthew 7. 29 with this verse, where it is asserted, "he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes". The point here is that the Jewish scribes in their teaching were wont to quote as their authority certain well-known teachers of the law, not daring to express their own opinion. This new Teacher did not quote others to enforce His teaching. His word was, "I say unto you"; no further authority was needed. But in Luke 4, we find that there was not only the note of authority in what He said, but also the executive authority behind His words, as we see in verses 33-36. The demons were subject to His word. "His word was with power." Doubtless we may have had personal experience of this. There have been times, as we have read the Scriptures, when a particular word or passage has come to us with such force, that there has been no doubt in our minds that He was speaking to us in such a way that we have been compelled to obey.

Bold Words. Another facet of His teaching is found in John 7. 26. The verses on either side of this reference make it clear that there was hostility among the crowd, and only few were prepared to utter favourable words concerning Him. In verse 19, the Lord Jesus made the positive claim diat there were plots to kill Him, and verse 25 acknowledges the truth of what He said, "Is not this he, whom they seek to kill?". Surely this was the time to tread gently, thus to avoid saying things which would make matters worse. But in verse 26, "he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him". It is clear that the One who "knew what was in man" was not afraid of what He saw there. The truth demanded boldness, and He could not be restricted by the threats of men. This very boldness impressed some of His hearers, v. 26, but enraged others, "they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come", v. 30. His authority was not a muted one.

Faithful Words. We shall now think a little about the utter truthfulness of the Lord's words in John 8. 45. It is a bold claim that He makes, "I tell you the truth". In verse 46, He challenges His hearers to prove Him wrong in what He both said and did. This bold claim rings down die years, and no one has yet been able to answer the challenge. If he speaks of the blessings of salvation, He speaks the truth; if He speaks of the judgment of God upon sin, He speaks the truth; if He says, "I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore", Rev. 1. 18, He speaks the truth; and if He speaks of coming events, He speaks the truth.

Matthew 28. 6 has a bearing on this. It would seem that the messengers from heaven, who proclaimed to the women the fact of the resurrection of their Lord, could not understand how the fact could possibly be doubted by human beings. Their words to the anxious women were plain, "He is not here: for he is risen, as he said" (or, because He said He would). To them, there could be no possible doubt; He had said it, it must be.

What a wonderful blending of virtues to be found in the conversation of a Man-a real Man. Grace, power, boldness, truth! How can they be accounted for? If we are looking for a human explanation, we search in vain. Never in His conversation did He make any allowance for any possible mistake. Never did he apologize for an inadvertent error. Never did He withdraw a remark once made, as though He regretted it.

We search the Scriptures for an explanation, and the answer is easily found. Speaking of His doctrine in general terms, the Lord Jesus said, "My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me", John 7. 16. And lest any should be tempted to urge that this merely suggests that certain thoughts were given to Him to be expressed and explained in His own way, the Lord made His position plain in John 12. 49-50, "I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak".

In view of this claim, what utter blasphemy it is to charge the Lord Jesus with making mistakes.

As we turn to "the holy of holies" of John 17, and listen to the Lord as he speaks to His Father, it is almost as though He is reporting to the Father what He had done while on earth. Note the repetition of the words, "I have". In the course of this repetition, He says in verse 8, "I have given them the words which thou gavest me", using a word which indicated actual words which He had uttered. The Lord is not speaking of a thought which had been introduced into His mind by God; He is speaking of "words" which had come directly to Him from the Father.

With the same thought in mind, our beloved, infallible Lord said in John 6. 63, "the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life". They emanate from the fountainhead of all truth.

Shall we take to our hearts the words of the Father, heard on the mount of transfiguration, "This i- my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him", Matt. 17. 5. To hear Him is to hear God.

Thou art the truth, Thy word alone
True wisdom can impart.
Thou only canst inform the mind
And purify the heart.