The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Maldonado’s Commentary on Matt 11:2-11

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 6, 2010

Mat 11:2  Now when John had heard in prison the works of Christ: sending two of his disciples he said to him:

Maldonado offers no comment on this verse, he does however treat of the verse in relation to the following verse.

Mat 11:3  Art thou he that art to come, or look we for another?

Art thou He that art to come? The passage is difficult, because a doubt is apt to arise as to how John, who had confessed Christ to be the Lamb of God before He had done any miracles, could appear really to doubt after so many. S. Justin Martyr, indeed (or whoever is the author), in the 38th question to the Orthodox, and Tertullian (iv., Against Marcion), do not hesitate to say that John did really doubt. Tertullian adds what is worse, that he doubted because the spirit of prophecy had passed from him to Christ. Some, as this was most senseless, have sought another explanation: that John did not doubt whether Christ were the Lamb of God and the true Messiah, such as he had before testified him to be, but whether He would die and descend into hell. To this opinion, for want of a better, the greatest number of the Ancients incline (S. Ambrose, vii.. On S. Luke; Eusebius, Einissa Hom.; Jul. Pomerius, book iii., Cont. Jnd.; Venantius, On the Apostles’ Creed; S. Gregory, Horn. 1. on  Ezekiel). S. Chrysostom (Hom. xxxvii.), also, and Theophylact (Comment., in loc) speak of it, but they both rightly refute it. For how could John be ignorant of the death of Christ, and His descent into hell, of which no
prophet, and no man of learning who had studied the works of the prophets, was ignorant?

The opinion therefore of S. Hilary, S. Chrysostom, The Author, S. Cyril of Alexandria (2 Thesauri., iv.), Euthymius, Theophylact, Rupertus, that John himself had no doubts, but that his disciples had some, is true. For they so loved their own master, that though he preferred Christ far before himself, and declared that he was not worthy to loose His shoestrings, they would not believe him. They thought, perhaps, that John spoke from modesty, not truth, and, as much less as he made himself than Christ, so much the greater they believed him to be. Hence came their jealousy of Christ (S. John 3:26). When, then, John saw his death to be at hand, and he heard of these miracles which must have caused even the hardest to believe, he sent his disciples to Him, that, as they had not believed himself, they might believe Christ’s miracles. He sent them, therefore, as if he himself doubted, because they would never have ventured to ask Christ in their own names. So the most skilful physician feigns himself sick to cure those that are sick (2 Cor 11:29). “Who is weak, and I am not weak?” It is clear that this is the true meaning from the reason given in verse 2. “When John had heard in the prison the works of Christ.” What works? His miracles. Did the miracles of Christ cause doubt in him who not only believed in Him, but also proclaimed Him before any of them were done? He sent his disciples, therefore, that they might see them and cease to doubt.

S. Jerome and Bede add something further: that the disciples of John did not doubt whether Christ was the true Redeemer, but whether He would undergo death and descend into hell; and they were sent to Him to learn this. But the idea does not agree with the context. For how would they learn from the miracles whether Christ would die and go down into hell?

Mat 11:4  And Jesus making answer said to them: Go and relate to John what you have heard and seen.

Relate to John. Christ knew that they came to ask for themselves, not for John; but He would not show this, lest He should seem to accuse them of unbelief and simulation. He said, therefore, “Go and relate to John what you have heard and seen”. Or perhaps they thought that John doubted truly, and not merely in pretence. For it is not to be believed that he said this to the disciples that they might question Christ the more freely, and that, the master believing afterwards the more easily, and, as it were, changing his opinion, they also must change theirs. When we descend to vice we are willing to be leaders. We are ashamed to turn to virtue without a leader.

Christ knew that they came to ask for themselves, not for John; but He would not show this, lest He should seem to accuse them of unbelief and simulation. He said, therefore, “Go and relate to John what you have heard and seen”. Or perhaps they thought that John doubted truly, and not merely in pretence. For it is not to be believed that he said this to the disciples that they might question Christ the more freely, and that, the master believing afterwards the more easily, and, as it were, changing his opinion, they also must change theirs. When we descend to vice we are willing to be leaders. We are ashamed to turn to virtue without a leader.

What you have heard and seen.  “You have heard of some of my miracles from those who saw them, and some you have seen yourself’ For S. Luke (7:21) writes that Christ healed many blind before them, and cured many that were afflicted with various diseases, and cast out many devils. But why did not Christ answer plainly that He was the Christ, when He said so to the woman of Samaria though she did not ask Him? (S.John 4:26). S. Chrysostom and Rupertus reply that He would convince unbelievers by deeds, not words (as S. John 5:33-36, and 10:37, 38, and 15:24). Why, then, did He say that He was Christ to the Samarian woman? Because He knew, as the result proved, that she would easily believe His words?

Mat 11:5  The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, the poor have the gospel preached to them.

The poor have the Gospel preached to them. Theophylact and Euthymius take the verb actively, as if they said: The poor preach the Gospel; for they say that the Apostles are called the poor, because they were in a humble and poor condition; and the verb ευαγγελιζονται  is not always used in a passive sense, as has been said in the Preface. But sometimes it is so (as Heb 4:2; 1 Pet 1:25; 4:6); and this is the only meaning to be given to it here. For while the Gospel should be preached to all alike, Christ mentions only the poor: firstly, because this was to be numbered among the miracles; for what is more wonderful than that a poor man should be made a King? and secondly, that He might make allusion to the Prophet Isa 61:1), and show that He was the Christ of whom the Prophet spoke.

Mat 11:6  And blessed is he that shall not be scandalized in me.

That shall not be scandalized in me. Whoever did not derive death from the source whence he ought to have gained life, and whoever was moved to belief by the miracles, would not have been moved to accuse Him, like the Scribes and Pharisees, who said that He cast out devils by the prince of the devils. For He was a rock of offence and a stone of stumbling (Isa 8:14; Rom 9:33), and placed for the ruin of many (S. Luke 2:34), but not for those who believe. To these He was the chief corner-stone elect—as 1 Pet 2:6, 7. S. Jerome and Bede think that by these words Christ meant to mark the disciples of John who did not believe.

Mat 11:7  And when they went their way, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: What went you out into the desert to see? a reed shaken with the wind?

And when they went their way. Why not before? S, Chrysostom and Euthymius answer that Christ would not appear to praise and flatter John before His disciples.

Jesus began to say. Why? Lest they who were present and had heard of the message of John should think that he had changed his former opinion of Christ from which he had borne such exalted testimony to Him, or had really begun to doubt, and they also should waver in faith—as S. Jerome, S. Chrysostom, Cyril (lib. ii., cap. 4), Bede, The Author, Theophylact, and Euthymius have observed, and which the following comparison of the “reed” confirms. As if He had said: “John was not a man of light mind, and apt to change his opinion like a reed “.

Mat 11:8  But what went you out to see? a man clothed in soft garments? Behold they that are clothed in soft garments, are in the houses of kings.

What went ye out to see? Why did not Christ say rather: “What manner of man do you think John?” in allusion to what had been said (3:5, and S. Luke 3:7?; as if He should say: “There is no reason why you should regret having gone out to see a man of singular character, as if he had changed for the worse; for he is greater than you thought him when you went out to see him”.

Mat 11:9  But what went you out to see? A prophet? Yea I tell you, and more than a prophet.

Maldonado offers no specific, separate comment on this verse, but see the next comment.

Mat 11:10  For this is he of whom it is written: Behold I send my angel before my face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.

For this is he. He proves what He had said before, that John was greater than a prophet; for He was in a manner an angel, and not an ordinary angel, but that most noble one of which God had said through Malachi: “Behold, I send My angel, and he shall prepare the way before My face” (3:1). Other prophets and priests are called angels and prophets by the same Prophet (2:7, and Acts 7″53), but in another sense than John. They because they were sent to men; John because He was sent to Christ, that is, to God Himself. And even before His face; that is, to go most immediately before Him, which is the privilege of the most honoured friend; other servants following and not going before the Master, as has been observed by S. Chrysostom and The Author.

In this sense is to be understood John’s denial that he was a prophet (S. John 1:21); for he was not one like the rest, who foretold the coming long after of Christ. He was not a prophet, because he did not foretell Christ as about to come, but he pointed Him out with his finger as present. He was a prophet, as having recognised Christ by the Holy Spirit, when no one had pointed Him out; although Christ denied him to be a prophet in one sense, and he denied himself to be one in another,—Christ to show that he was greater, he himself to show that he was less, but each with the same end; because he was not a prophet like the rest.

Why he should be more than a prophet is not difficult to be understood. For his life was most notable; and though he did no miracle, he was himself a perpetual miracle. Conceived by miracle, recognising his coming Lord while yet in the womb, and pointing Him to his mother; by miracle loosing his father’s tongue when circumcised; living by miracle among the wild beasts; and, as The Author writes, not only equalling angels, but even surpassing them; who when he was a man and not an angel led an angelic and not a human life, so that even Jews, and not wholly without reason, thought that he was a true angel, as Eusebius (De Demons, ix. 8) says.

2 Responses to “Maldonado’s Commentary on Matt 11:2-11”

  1. […] Our Lord and its Six CircumstancesMy Notes on Matt 3:1-12 for the 2nd Sunday of Advent « Third Sunday of Advent: Maldonado’s Commentary on Matt 11:2-11 a Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 5 […]

  2. […] Maldonado’s Commentary on the Gospel (Matt 11:2-10). Includes commentary on verse 11 since this reading (with vs 11) will be used in the Ordinary Form next Sunday. […]

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