35.He was a burning and shining lamp. When he calls John a burning lamp, this proves their ingratitude; for it follows that they are only blind, because they choose to be so, since God kindled a lamp before their eyes. The meaning of the words therefore is, “ did not intend that you should go astray; for he appointed John to be a lamp, that he might direct you by his brightness; and, therefore, when you do not acknowledge me to be the Son of God, this arises from voluntary error.” This is followed by another reproach, that not only did they shut their eyes, and thus obstruct the entrance of the light which was offered to them, but they intentionally abused it for the purpose of crushing Christ. For when they were ready to applaud John beyond what he justly deserved, this arose from a wicked and treacherous design not to give way to the Son of God.
And you were willing to amuse yourselves in his light. This wicked abuse of the heavenly light Christ elegantly compares to foolish mirth; as if the head of a family were to light a lamp for his servants by night, that they might perform the duties which he had enjoined on them, but they, instead of doing so, employed it for debauchery and every kind of licentiousness. By these words Christ accuses the Jews, and at the same time conveys to all of us a warning that, when God sends faithful teachers to guide us in the right way, we should take care not to abuse them by wandering in every direction. How useful this warning is, the experience of all ages shows. God undertakes to direct men, throughout the whole course of their life, to the final goal, and sends his prophets to be their guides. Yet such is the madness of the folly of men that, instead of walking, they prefer to indulge in wanton dancing, without making any progress; so light and unsteady are they that, despising and rejecting his continued guidance, they are hurried away by the sudden impulses of their passions.
For a time, or, for an hour. By this term he reproves them for their folly in thinking that wickedness of a transitory nature and short duration can extinguish the light of God. Thus in our own day all those faithful teachers whom God has given to his Church as burning lamps are applied by the Papists to a contrary purpose; as if their intention were, by looking at the light, to dazzle their eyes. And not only do they abuse the lamps for extinguishing the light of God, but they often indulge in foolish gaiety amidst the darkness, as when they rise against the pure doctrine of the Gospel, and glory in the foolish sayings of their noisy declaimers. But what Christ here asserts concerning John, Paul declares to be common to all believers, because, having the word of life, they ought to give light to the world, like torches. But Christ shows that it belongs strictly to the Apostles and ministers of the Gospel to go before others and hold out the torch to guide them; (107) for though we are all blind, and in the midst of darkness, God shines upon us by the light of his word. But here he peculiarly adorns John the Baptist with this honorable designation, because by his ministry God shone on his Church with much greater brightness.
(107) “Pource qu’ marchent les premiers, portans le flambe au devant les autres pour les guider.”