That Christ should suffer - That the Christ, or Messiah, should suffer. This, though fully revealed in the prophets, the prejudices of the Jews would not permit them to receive: they expected their Messiah to be a glorious secular prince; and, to reconcile the fifty-third of Isaiah with their system, they formed the childish notion of two Messiahs - Messiah ben David, who should reign, conquer, and triumph; and Messiah ben Ephraim, who should suffer and be put to death. A distinction which has not the smallest foundation in the whole Bible.
As the apostle says he preached none other things than those which Moses and the prophets said should come, therefore he understood that both Moses and the prophets spoke of the resurrection of the dead, as well as of the passion and resurrection of Christ. If this be so, the favourite system of a learned bishop cannot be true; viz. that the doctrine of the immortality of the soul was unknown to the ancient Jews.
That he should be the first that should rise from the dead - That is, that he should be the first who should rise from the dead so as to die no more; and to give, in his own person, the proof of the resurrection of the human body, no more to return under the empire of death. In no other sense can Jesus Christ be said to be the first that rose again from the dead; for Elisha raised the son of the Shunammite. A dead man, put into the sepulchre of the Prophet Elisha, was restored to life as soon as he touched the prophet's bones. Christ himself had raised the widow's son at Nain; and he had also raised Lazarus, and several others. All these died again; but the human nature of our Lord was raised from the dead, and can die no more. Thus he was the first who rose again from the dead to return no more into the empire of death.
And should show light unto the people - Should give the true knowledge of the law and the prophets to the Jews; for these are meant by the term people, as in Acts 26:17. And to the Gentiles, who had no revelation, and who sat in the valley of the shadow of death: these also, through Christ, should be brought to the knowledge of the truth, and be made a glorious Church, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. That the Messiah should be the light both of the Jews and Gentiles, the prophets had clearly foretold: see Isaiah 60:1; : Arise and shine, or be illuminated, for thy Light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. And again, Isaiah 49:6; : I will give thee for a Light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the ends of the earth. With such sayings as these Agrippa was well acquainted, from his education as a Jew.
That Christ - That the Messiah expected by the Jews should be a suffering Messiah.
And that he should be the first - This declaration contains two points:
(2) that he would be the first that should rise. This cannot mean that the Messiah would be the first dead person who should be restored to life, for Elijah had raised the son of the Shunammite, and Jesus himself had raised Lazarus, and the widow‘s son at Nain. It does not mean that he would be the first in the order of time that should rise, but first in eminence; the most distinguished, the chief, the head of those who should rise from the dead - πρῶτος ἐξ ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν prōtos ex anastaseōs nekrōnIn accordance with this he is called Colossians 1:18 “the beginning, the first-born from the dead,” having among all the dead who should be raised up the pre-eminence of primogeniture, or what pertained to the first-born. In 1 Corinthians 15:20 he is called “the first fruits of them that slept. This declaration is therefore made of him by way of eminence:
(1)As being chief, a prince among those raised from the dead;
(2)As being raised by his own power John 10:18;
(3)As, by his rising, securing a dominion over death and the grave 1 Corinthians 15:25-26; and,
(4)As bringing, by his rising, life and immortality to light. He rose to return to death no more. And he thus secured an ascendency over death and the grave, and was thus, by way of eminence, first among those raised from the dead.
And should show light unto the people - To the Jews. Would be their instructor and prophet. This Moses had predicted, Deuteronomy 18:15.
And to the Gentiles - This had often been foretold by the prophets, and particularly by Isaiah, Isaiah 9:1-2; compare Matthew 4:14-16; Isaiah 11:10; Isaiah 42:1, Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 54:3; Isaiah 60:3, Isaiah 60:5, Isaiah 60:11; Isaiah 61:6; Isaiah 62:2; Isaiah 66:12.
Jesus virtually says to Nicodemus: It is not controversy that will help your case: it is not arguments that will bring light to the soul. You must have a new heart, or you cannot discern the kingdom of heaven It is not greater evidence that will bring you into a right position, but new purposes, new springs of action. You must be born again. Until this change takes place, making all things new, the strongest evidences that could be presented would be useless. The want is in your own heart; everything must be changed, or you cannot see the kingdom of God. TM 368.1
This was a very humiliating statement to Nicodemus and with a feeling of irritation he takes up the words of Christ, saying, “How can a man be born when he is old?” He was not spiritually minded enough to discern the meaning of the words of Christ. But the Saviour did not meet argument with argument. Raising His hand in solemn, quiet dignity, He presses home the truth with greater assurance: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is everyone that is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said unto Him, “How can these things be?” TM 368.2
Some gleams of the truth were penetrating the ruler's mind. Christ's words filled him with awe, and led to the inquiry, “How can these things be?” With deep earnestness Jesus answered, “Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?” His words convey to Nicodemus the lesson that, instead of feeling irritated over the plain words of truth, and indulging irony, he should have a far more humble opinion of himself, because of his spiritual ignorance. Yet the words of Christ were spoken with such solemn dignity, and both look and tone expressed such earnest love to him, that he was not offended as he realized his humiliating position. TM 368.3Read in context »
If we have a sense of the long-suffering of God toward us, we shall not be found judging or accusing others. When Christ was living on the earth, how surprised His associates would have been, if, after becoming acquainted with Him, they had heard Him speak one word of accusation, of fault-finding, or of impatience. Let us never forget that those who love Him are to represent Him in character. MH 489.1
“Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another.” “Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.” Romans 12:10; 1 Peter 3:9. MH 489.2
The Lord Jesus demands our acknowledgment of the rights of every man. Men's social rights, and their rights as Christians, are to be taken into consideration. All are to be treated with refinement and delicacy, as the sons and daughters of God. MH 489.3Read in context »
Paul had appealed to Caesar, and Festus could not do otherwise than send him to Rome. But some time passed before a suitable ship could be found; and as other prisoners were to be sent with Paul, the consideration of their cases also occasioned delay. This gave Paul opportunity to present the reasons of his faith before the principal men of Caesarea, and also before King Agrippa II, the last of the Herods. AA 433.1Read in context »
Christianity will make a man a gentleman. We are the purchase of Christ's blood, and we are to represent Him, to pattern after Him. And He was courteous, even to His persecutors. The true follower of Jesus manifests the same mild, self-sacrificing spirit that marked the life of his Master. Look at Paul when brought before rulers. His speech before Agrippa is a model of dignified courtesy as well as persuasive eloquence. I would not encourage the formal politeness current with the world, which is destitute of the true spirit of courtesy, but the politeness that springs from real kindness of feeling. HP 296.5Read in context »