Ver 24. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.25. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”
Chrys., Hom. iv: Peter had said, “Be it far from thee, Lord; this shall not be unto thee;” and had been answered, “Get thee behind me, Satan;” but the Lord was not satisfied with this rebuke, but over and above desired to shew the impropriety of those things which Peter had said, and the fruit of His own passion; whence it is added, “Then said Jesus to his disciples, If any man will to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me;” as much as to say, You say unto me, “Be it far from thee;” but I say unto you, that not only is it harmful for you to hinder Me from My Passion, but yourself will not be able to be saved unless you suffer and die, and renounce your life always.
And note, that He does not speak of it as compulsory, for He does not say, Though ye will not yet must ye suffer this, but, “If any man will.” By saying this He rather attracted them; for he who leaves his auditor at liberty, attracts him the more; whereas he that uses violence oftentimes hinders him.
And He proposes this doctrine, not to His disciples only, but in common to the whole world, saying, “If any man will,” that is, if woman, if man, if king, if free, if slave; there are three things mentioned; “let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”
Gregory, Hom. in Ev., xxxii, 2: For unless a man departs from himself, he does not draw near to Him who is above him. But if we leave ourselves, whither shall we go out of ourselves? Or if we have forsaken ourselves, who is it then that goes? Indeed, we are one thing when fallen by sin, another thing as we were made by nature. It is therefore then that we leave and deny ourselves, when we avoid that which we were of old, and strive towards that to which we are called in newness.
Greg., in Ezech., Hom. i, 10: He denies himself whosoever is changed for the better, and begins to be what he was not, and ceases to be what he was.
Greg., Mor., xxxiii, 6: He also denies himself, who having trode under foot the risings of pride, shews himself in the eyes of God to be estranged from himself.
Origen: But though a man may seem to keep from sin, yet if he does not believe in the cross of Christ, he cannot be said to be crucified with Christ; whence it follows, “And take up his cross.”
Chrys.: Otherwise; He that disowns another, whether a brother, or a servant, or whosoever it be, he may see him beaten, or suffering aught else, and neither succours nor befriends him; thus it is He would have us deny our body, and whether it be beaten or addicted in any other way, not to spare it. For this is to spare. So parents do then most spare their children when they hand them over to tutors, bidding them not to spare them. And that you should not think that this denial of self extends only to words or affronts, he shews to what degree we should deny ourselves, namely, to death the most shameful, even that of the cross; this He signifies when He says, “And take up his cross, and follow me.”
Hilary: We are to follow our Lord by taking up the cross of His passion; and if not in deed, yet in will, bear Him company.
Chrys.: And because malefactors often suffer grievous things, that you should not suppose that simply to suffer evil is enough, He adds the reason of suffering, when He says, “And follow me.” For His sake you are to endure all, and to learn His other virtues; for this is to follow Christ aright, to be diligent in the practice of virtues, and to suffer all things for His sake.
Greg., Hom. in Ev., xxxii, 3: There are two ways of taking our cross; when the body is afflicted by abstinence, or when the heart is pained by compassion for another. Forasmuch as our very virtues are beset with faults, we must declare that vainglory sometimes attends abstinence of flesh, for the emaciated body and pale countenance betray this high virtue to the praise of the world. Compassion again is sometimes attended by a false affection, which is hereby led to be consenting unto sin; to shut out these, He adds, “and follow me.”
Jerome: Otherwise; He takes up his cross who is crucified to the world; and he to whom the world is crucified, follows his crucified Lord.
Chrys.: And then because this seemed severe, He softens it by shewing the abundant rewards of our pains, and the punishment of evil, “He that will save his life shall lose it.”
Origen: This may be understood in two ways. First thus; if any lover of this present life spares his life, fearing to die, and supposing that his life is ended with this death; he seeking in this way to save his life, shall lose it, estranging it from life eternal. But if any, despising the present life, shall contend for the truth unto death, he shall lose his life as far as this present life is concerned, but forasmuch as he loses it for Christ, he shall the more save it for life eternal.
Otherwise thus; if any understand what is true salvation, and desire to obtain it for the salvation of his own life, he by denying himself loses his life as to the enjoyments of the flesh, but saves it by works of piety. He shews by saying, “For he that will,” that this passage must be connected in sense with that which went before. If then we understand the first, “Let him deny himself,” of the death of the body, we must take this that follows of death only; but if we understand the first of mortifying the propensities of the flesh, then, to lose his life, signifies to give up carnal pleasures.
Ver 26. “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?27. For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.28. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.”
Chrys.: Because He had said, Whoso will save, shall lose, and whoso will lose shall save, opposing saving to losing, that none should hence conclude that there was any equality between the losing on one side, and the saving on the other, He adds, “What does it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of his soul?” As though He had said, Say not that he who escapes the dangers which threaten him for Christ’s sake, saves his soul, that is, his temporal life; but add to his temporal life the whole world, and what of all these things will profit a man if his soul perishes for ever?
Suppose you should see all your servants in joy, and yourself placed in the greatest evils, what profit would you reap from being their master! Think over this within your own soul, when by the indulgence of the flesh that soul looks for its own destruction.
Origen: I suppose also that he gains the world who does not deny himself, nor loses his own life as to carnal pleasures, and thence suffers the loss of his soul. These two things being set before us, we must rather choose to lose the world, and gain our souls.
Chrys.: But if you should reign over the whole world, you would not be able to buy your soul; whence it follows, “Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” As much as to say, if you lose goods, you may have it in your power to give other goods to recover them; but if you lose your soul, you can neither give another soul, nor any thing else in ransom for it. And what marvel is it if this happen in the soul, when we see the same happen in the body; for if you should surround a body afflicted with an incurable disease with ten thousand diadems, they would not heal it.
Origen: And at first sight indeed the ransom of the soul might he supposed to be in his substance, that a man should give his substance to the poor, and so should save his soul. But I suppose that a man has nothing that giving as a ransom for his soul he should deliver it from death. God gave the ransom for the souls of men, namely the precious blood of His Son.
Greg., Hom. in Ev., xxxii, 4: Or the connexion may be thus; The Holy Church has a period of persecution, and a period of peace; and our Redeemer accordingly distinguishes between these periods in His commands; in time of persecution the life is to be laid down; but in time of peace, those earthly lusts which might gain too great power over us are to be broken through; whence He says, “What does it profit a man?”
Jerome: Having thus called upon His disciples to deny themselves and take up their cross, the hearers were filled with great terror, therefore these severe tidings are followed by more joyful; “For the Son of Man shall come in the glory of his Father with the holy Angels.” Dost thou fear death? Hear the glory of the triumph. Dost thou dread the cross? Hear the attendance of the Angels.
Origen: As much as to say; The Son of Man is now come, but not in glory; for He ought not to have been ordained in His glory to bear our sins; but then He shall come in His glory, when He shall first have made ready His disciples, being made as they are, that He might make them as He is Himself, in the likeness of His glory.
Chrys.: He said not in such glory as is that of the Father, that you might not suppose a difference of glory, but He says, “The glory of the Father,” that it might be shewn to be the same glory. But if the glory is one, it is evident that the substance is one. What then fearest thou, Peter, hearing of death? For then shalt thou see Me in glory. But if I be in glory, so also shall ye be. But in making mention of His glory, He mingleth therewith things terrible, bringing forward the judgment, as it follows, “And then shall he render to each man according to his works.”
Jerome: For there is no difference of Jew or Gentile, man or woman, poor or rich, where not persons but works are accepted.
Chrys.: This He said to call to their minds not only the punishment of sinners, but the prizes and crowns of the righteous.
Jerome: But the secret thought of the Apostles might have suffered an offence of this sort; The killings and deaths you speak of as to be now, but the promise of your coming in glory is put off to a long distant time. He that knows secret things therefore, seeing that they might object this, requites a present fear with a present reward, saying, “Verily I say unto you, There be some of those standing here that shall not taste death until the Son of Man come in his kingdom.”
Chrys., Hom. lvi: Willing to shew what is that glory in which He shall come hereafter, He revealed it to them in this present life, so far as it was possible for them to receive it, that they might not have sorrow in their Lord’s deathRemig. see Bed. in Luc. 9, 27: What is here said, therefore, was fulfilled in the three disciples to whom the in Lord, when transfigured in the mount, shewed the joys of the eternal inheritance; these saw “Him coming in His kingdom,” that is, shining in His effulgent radiance, in which, after the judgment passed, He shall be beheld by all the saints.
Chrys.: Therefore He does not reveal the names of those who should ascend into the mount, because the rest would be very desirous to accompany them whither they might look upon the pattern of His glory, and would be grieved as though they were passed over.
Greg.: Or, by the kingdom of God is meant the present Church, and because some of His disciples were to live so long in the body as to behold the Church of God built up and raised against the glory of this world, this comfortable promise is given them, “There be some of them standing here.”
Origen: Morally; To those who are nearly brought to the faith, the Word of God wears the form of a servant; but to those that are perfect, He comes in the glory of the Father. His angels are the words of the Prophets, which it is not possible to comprehend spiritually, until the word of Christ has been first spiritually comprehended, and then will their words be seen in like majesty with His. Then will He give of His own glory to every man according to his deeds; for the better each man is in his deeds, so much the more spiritually does he understand Christ and His Prophets. They that stand where Jesus stands, are they that have the foundations of their souls rested upon Jesus; of whom such as stood firmest are said not to taste death till they see the Word of God; which comes in His kingdom when they see that excellence of God which they cannot see while they are involved in divers sins, which is to taste death, forasmuch as the soul that sinneth, dies.
For as life, and the living bread, is He that came down from heaven, so His enemy death is the bread of death. And of these breads there are some that eat but a little, just tasting them, while some eat more abundantly. They that sin neither often, nor greatly, these only taste death; they that have partaken more perfectly of spiritual virtue do not taste it only, but feed ever on the living bread. That He says, “Until they see,” does not fix any time at which shall be done what had not been done before, but mentions just what is necessary; for he that once sees Him in His glory, shall after that by no means taste death.
Raban., e Bed. in Luc., 9: It is of the saints He speaks as tasting death, by whom the death of the body is tasted just as it were sipping, while the life of the soul is held fast in possession.