This brings us back to the words of Jesus in John 2:19.
If he did not
mean that he would literally raise himself from the dead, why did he say this and what did
he mean by it?
Jesus was employing the idiom of permission; a rhetorical device which ascribes the actions of one individual to another. It is explained here.
Lest this be seen as a convenient cop-out, I can show two more passages in John’s Gospel (in addition to John 2:19
) where the idiom of permission is employed.
- John 3:22
After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.
- John 4:1-3
When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John,
(Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)
He left Judea, and departed again into Galilee.
John ascribes the baptisms to Jesus but then appears to contradict himself by ascribing them to Jesus’ disciples. The idiom of permission resolves this apparent contradiction, as we see from the following remarks by standard authorities.
Notice that each commentator refers to John 4:2
as a control text for John 3:22
, just as I have employed John 10:18
and Galatians 1:1
as control texts for John 2:19.
This reaffirms the importance of interpreting a single verse by reference to others.
A. T. Robertson's commentary:Baptized (ebaptizen).
Imperfect active of baptizō.
'He was baptizing.' The six disciples were with him and in John 4:2 John explains that Jesus did the baptizing through the disciples.
Albert Barnes' commentary:And baptized –
Jesus did not Himself administer the ordinance of baptism, but his disciples did it by his direction and authority, John 4:2.
Adam Clarke's commentary:And baptized –
It is not clear that Christ did baptize any with water, but his disciples did – John 4:2; and what they did, by his authority and command, is attributed to himself.
James Burton Coffman’s commentary:Nothing may be made of the fact that Jesus did not baptize, but his disciples baptized. See under John 4:2. What one does through his agents he is lawfully said to do; therefore Jesus baptized.
Why did he refrain from doing so personally? It might have given rise to jealousies and strife, later on, through some claiming greater privilege in having been baptized personally by the Lord. Perhaps, as noted above, it was to avoid any mistaken notion that Jesus was one of John's subordinates.
B. W. Johnson’s commentary:Tarried . . . and baptized.
The first intimation that Jesus administered the baptismal rite. He did it through his disciples (John 4:2).
This is the same principle that we see in John 2:19
, where the Son "claims" the act of resurrection himself even though the rest of the NT tells us that his Father performed the task.
Jesus could legitimately make this claim because he had the exousia
(privilege) to receive his life again. In fact this was one of the many necessary privileges he received from the Father, for as he freely admitted in John 5:30
: “I can of mine own self do nothing.”
We find this same principle at work in the Old Testament:
- Job 1:12
And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.
- Job 2:6-7
And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life.
So went Satan forth from the presence of the LORD, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown.
- Job 42:11
Then came there unto him all his brethren, and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance before, and did eat bread with him in his house: and they bemoaned him, and comforted him over all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him: every man also gave him a piece of money, and every one an earring of gold.
What was first attributed to the adversary is later attributed to God. There is no contradiction here, for the adversary acted with God’s divine sanction under the terms of a trial that He had chosen to bring upon God. Thus the actions of the one are treated as the actions of the other.
Additional examples may be found in the article to which I have previously referred (here.