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

Posts Tagged ‘Notes on John’s Gospel’

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on John 12:20-33

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 10, 2018

20 Now there were certain Gentiles among them, who came up to adore on the festival day.

Certain Gentiles.” In Greek, “certain Hellenists, or Greeks.” The Greek language was the most extensively used among the Gentiles. Hence, the word “Greeks,” was commonly used by the Jews to designate all the Pagan nations; as most of the Pagans, whom they knew, spoke the Greek language. The Apostle (St. Paul), commonly uses the word, when speaking of the Gentile or Pagan world, as contra-distinguished from the Jews. (Rom. 1:16; 11:9), etc. The Evangelist appropriately introduces this, when describing the rage and envy of the Pharisees, to signify, that both Jews and Gentiles were to join in receiving and believing in our Lord.

Who these Gentiles were, cannot be easily determined. Some say, they were Jews who spoke the Greek language, and dwelt in some of the Greek cities of Asia Minor, Greece, Egypt, where they had their Synagogues. Others say, they were Proselytes, from among the Gentiles. Others, Gentiles and idolaters, who came to bring offerings to the God of Israel and worship Him. These holding, that there was one God, and seeing Him adored, with such majesty, by the Jews in the glorious Temple of Jerusalem, came to join in his worship, and present their gifts. The Temple was greatly venerated by Pagan Monarchs, who bestowed on it the richest gifts. Cyrus (1 Esdras; Darius Hystaspes, c. 6), and other Kings of Asia. (2 Machabees 3.) The neighbouring Pagans frequently attended the great feasts of the Jews. Hence, the outer Court of the Temple was called, the Court of the Gentiles.

21 These therefore came to Philip, who was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying: Sir, we would see Jesus.

They came to Philip, either because he was the first of our Lord’s disciples they met: or, because they knew him before. Some say, the mention of his native place, “Bethsaida of Galilee,” would show that these dwelt in the neighbourhood of Galilee; and hence, knew Philip, who was a Galilean. This is not likely; as among the disciples, there were other Galileans also.

Besides, knowing that the Jews would not wish to hold converse with Gentiles, the Gentiles in question had the deepest feelings of reverence for our Lord, and would not presume to approach Him in person. Hence, they employ Philip as an intermediary. “We wish to see,” that is, converse with “Jesus,” For, as regards “seeing,” all could see Him, as He was preaching. It means, therefore, to converse with Him.

22 Philip cometh and telleth Andrew. Again Andrew and Philip told Jesus.

Philip declined the task of introducing them, and had recourse to Andrew, his countryman, for the purpose. Andrew, it seems, enjoyed greater influence with our Lord, being His oldest disciple. It was he introduced Peter, his brother (1:40). Likely, Philip’s hesitation may have resulted from our Lord’s command, “in viam Gentium, ne abieritis.” Before exposing themselves to transgress, in any way, our Lord’s wish in this matter, they both lay the matter before our Lord.

23 But Jesus answered them, saying: The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified.

Jesus answered them.” Likely, the Gentiles, too, were near, and within hearing, as we find no other answer made to Philip’s appeal, which would seem not to be unacceptable to our Lord. Whether He admitted them to conversation with Him is not stated. He, however, granted them more than was asked (v. 23–28).

The hour is come,” the appointed time for His death, which was to be followed by His Resurrection, Ascension, “is come,” so near at hand, that it may be said to have come, “that the Son of Man,” whose name the Pharisees would fain blot out from the minds of mankind and utterly obliterate.

Should be glorified,” made known to the Gentile world, of whom these are the first fruits; and after His Glorious Resurrection, Ascension, and sending down of the Holy Ghost, joined with the preaching of the Gospel, throughout the world, he would be acknowledged, adored and proclaimed by the entire earth, Jew and Gentile, as the Eternal Son of God. Our Lord frequently employs this epithet, “the Son of Man,” rather than the “Son of God,” as denoting His union with human nature, which He so honoured, denoting also His humble lowliness, in which through His humiliation, He was to receive the honours due to the Messiah; glory being exchanged, as its reward, for humiliation. (Philip. 2.)

Some Expositors (among whom Patrizzi), say, the “hour,” refers to the present day, on which He was so honoured, by the multitude, and on which a glorious testimony was soon to be borne to Him by His Father (v. 28), in the hearing of so many; the day whereon He was approaching Jerusalem, to enter on that course of suffering so often predicted by Him (Matthew 20:17–19; Mark 10:32; Luke 18:31–34), as the prelude to His glory.

Most likely, it refers to the testimony rendered to Him by His Father, in His Resurrection, Ascension, preaching of the Gospel, which would make known to all, the economy of Redemption, founded chiefly on His humiliation and death.

24 Amen, amen, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die,

As His glorification was the fruit and reward of His humiliation and death (Philip. 2), which was now at hand, He illustrates the subject by a familiar similitude, and thus removes any grounds of offence or scandal which it might create in their minds. This being an important and solemn utterance, He prefaces it, with “Amen, amen,” usual with Him in such cases. His death would purchase a vast harvest of worshippers from all nations and peoples and tongues, etc. (Apoc. 7). For this, His death was necessary, just as it was necessary, in order that from a grain of corn, a crop or harvest would proceed, that the grain should first die and be dissolved, after being committed to the bosom of the earth. Unless it dies, it produces no fruit. It remains sterile and alone. But, if it dies, it produces much fruit When, after I die, I am committed to the earth, an uncommon harvest of faithful followers shall rise up, who are, in some limited sense, to partake of My nature, by a communication of My choicest graces, as the harvest is of the same nature with the seed. These shall proclaim My glory throughout the world.

25 Itself remaineth alone. But if it die it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it and he that hateth his life in this world keepeth it unto life eternal.

He wishes to fortify them against the sufferings and persecutions in store for His followers who are destined to tread the same path that He has trodden. Sufferings and trials and mortification are the only means of securing eternal happiness.

He that loveth his life,” with an inordinate, sensual love, at the expense of the law of God, which he hesitates not to violate in order to save His life, “shall lose it,” shall lose his soul in the world to come. It is clear from the following clause, that to this clause, “he that loveth his life” should be added (in this world) shall lose it in the world to come.

And he that hateth,” etc. (See Matthew 10:39; 16:25, Commentary on.) This was a favourite principle or kind of axiom with our Lord. It is the compendium of a Christian life.

26 If any man minister to me, let him follow me: and where I am, there also shall my minister be. If any man minister to me, him will my Father honour.

Our Lord insinuates, that He Himself would lose His life in this world; that the triumphs He was now enjoying would not last; that sufferings and death were near; and, then, He exhorts His followers to follow His example and walk in His footsteps.

If any man minister to Me,” etc., or, would wish to show himself My minister and true disciple, “let him follow Me,” imitate Me, in My disregard for temporal life, in order to secure life eternal (Matthew 10:38). By following Me, he shall not lose His life in the world to come. He shall be sharer with Me in everlasting happiness. “Where I am,” being now, as to My Divinity, in heaven; and sure to ascend there shortly, in My human nature, “there also shall My minister be,” sharing with Me, the ineffable joys of heaven.

This true minister and faithful persevering follower in humiliation, sorrows and death, here, shall be exalted and honoured hereafter by My Father in heaven, before the angels and the blessed, by rendering him a partaker of the glory, which shall be the reward of My humiliation, sufferings and death.

I am,” clearly shows our Lord was then in heaven. This, of course, refers to His Divine nature; at a future day, He will ascend there, in His glorified humanity.

27 Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour. But for this cause I came unto this hour.

Now is My soul troubled,” etc. The reference to the grain, which dies in the earth, to which He compared Himself, brought before our Lord’s mind, the horrors of His approaching death, its tortures and gloomy accompaniments. Thus, in order to show that He Himself endured what He encouraged others to endure after Him; and also, to prove His human nature, and point out what we are to do, when terrified by death, impending evils, viz., to have recourse to God; He voluntarily permits His human nature and inferior faculties to be disturbed; to shrink from the contemplation of His impending Passion, and to endure in some measure beforehand, the agony He endured in the garden. (See Matthew 26:38; Luke 22:42–44, Commentary on.)

Likely this “man of sorrows,” often during life, voluntarily permitted the inferior faculties of His human nature to be troubled at the foresight and anticipation of His Passion and final suffering on earth

And what shall I say?” Expresses His doubts, fears and perplexity, as if deliberating within Himself, if He could endure this torture; or, if the work of Redemption should be given up, and He should call on God to rescue Him (Luke 22:42).

Father, save Me from this hour.” These words, in this Indicative form, contain a petition to save Him (Matthew 26:39), in which He at once checks Himself. Some read them, as the Greek admits, interrogatively, “Shall I say, Father, save Me?” Shall I ask of God to rescue Me? Or, shall I submit to these tortures? The former reading is preferable, as it better expresses the parallelism between these words and His prayer in the garden.

From this hour,” from this agony which awaits Me, at the time fixed in the Divine decrees.

But, for this cause,” as if correcting His inferior appetite, which naturally shrank from death, He, at once, absolutely wishes, in His superior faculties, will and intellect, that the desires of His inferior appetite should not be complied with; and that He would go forward to certain death. Similar are His words and feelings (Matthew 26.)—“Non mea, sed tua voluntas fiat.” “Transeat a me calix iste.” Here it is, “Nunc turbata est anima mea.” In the garden, He prayed, “transfer calicem istum.” Here, “Pater, Salvifica me ex hac hora.” In the garden, He subjected His natural desire of life to His Father’s will, “Non sicut ego volo, sed sicut tu.” Here, “clarifica nomen tuum.”

But for this cause,” for the purpose of dying to save mankind, have I reached this hour of agony and suffering.

28 Father, glorify thy name. A voice therefore came from heaven: I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.

. “Father, glorify Thy name,” by My death, which is to be cheerfully undergone in obedience to Thy will. By it, Thy name shall be celebrated all over the earth. The words convey the same signification as, “Nevertheless, not My will; but, Thine be done.”

Then came a voice from heaven: I have both glorified it,” by My testimony at your Baptism. “This is My beloved Son,” etc., by the stupendous miracles wrought through you, by your preaching, doctrines, etc.

And I shall glorify it again,” by Thy death and the wonders that shall take place thereat; by thy subsequent glory and exaltation, in thy Resurrection and Ascension. By our Lord’s death and exaltation, the faith and worship of God was propagated among Jews and Gentiles, and His name thus glorified. As an angel from heaven was sent by the Heavenly Father to strengthen our Lord in His agony in the garden; so here too, was a voice sent from above to sustain Him, in His troubles.

29 The multitude therefore that stood and heard said that it thundered. Others said: An angel spoke to him.

Very likely this trumpet voice from heaven was distinctly heard by all, uttering an articulate sound. For, “it was for their sakes it came” (v. 30). Some of them, on account of its loudness, pronounced it to be thunder; and possibly, said so out of envy, not wishing to attend to the testimony it bore. Hence, they would wish to regard it, as a natural phenomenon. Others, better disposed, regarded it as uttered by the trumpet voice of an angel. The Evangelist conveys, that all heard it, as it sounded so loud and clear.

30 Jesus answered and said: This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes.

Not for Me,” as if I needed to be assured that My Father hears Me. For, I know that He always hears me (11:42).

But for your sakes,” that you may learn from it and believe, that I am sent from God the Father, and that the same glory is common to us both.

31 Now is the judgment of the world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.

He points out the mode in which His Father is to glorify Him.

Now is the judgment of the world.” “Now,” at My approaching death, a judgment of condemnation shall be passed on those obstinate unbelievers, who reject Me, and after so many splendid proofs, refuse to believe in Me; nay, go so far as to put Me unjustly to death. The signal vengeance of God, shall, therefore, be justly visited on them.

Now shall the Prince of this world,” that is, Satan, who exercised unbounded sway over mankind, by holding them captive in the chains of sin, shall now be dislodged, by the powerful grace merited by My death, from the hearts of men, as from a citadel in which he ruled. Others, understand it of a judgment or sentence of remission or absolution, thus: now shall a sentence of remission be pronounced in favour of men who hitherto were kept bound in the chains of sin. This remission shall be obtained by My death; whereby, I ransom them, pay their debt, and set them free from the tyranny of sin and Satan, who shall himself be dethroned and dislodged from the citadel and stronghold he possessed in the souls of men. Thus shall the name of God be glorified; His Attributes, Mercy, Power, etc., proclaimed throughout the world. The devil is often called in SS. Scripture, “the Prince of the Power of this air,” etc., on account of the dominion he exercises over the children of unbelief. His dominion was destroyed by the death of Christ, on whom, though innocent, the punishment of sin was inflicted (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14), and although Satan still exercises power over men; still, it is owing to their own fault. So far as the liberation through Christ is concerned, it embraces all, who do not obstinately resist the influences of Divine grace. Now, that the Liberator and Saviour of the human race has appeared, the effusion of grace is universal.

Formerly, in regard to the just of old, it was only partial; and that, in virtue of the future merits of Christ now purchased by the blood of the cross.

And,” the same as, for, “if,” (whereas),—“I be lifted up from the earth,” raised aloft on the tree of the cross (John 3:14; 8:28), which is clearly referred to, next verse. He shows how the devil is to be cast out and stripped of his power, viz., by His death.

I shall draw all things to Myself.” “All things,” all men, of every description, from every clime and country, Jews and Gentiles. The neuter form, “all things,” “omnia,” is a more emphatic way of expressing universal subjection to Christ. “Shall draw,” voluntarily, as regards man; forcibly, as regards the demon snatching forcibly his prey from His hands. “Draw,” expresses the resistance of the devil and the superior power of the grace of Christ, forcibly wresting men from the tyrannical grasp and dominion of Satan.

33 (Now this he said, signifying what death he should die.)

The word of this verse are not the words of our Lord; but, of the Evangelist, and should be enclosed in a parenthesis, and interpreted as such

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on John 1:6-8, 19-28

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 27, 2017

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

There was,” etc. The object of the Evangelist here may be to correct an error which seemed to prevail, that the Baptist was the Messiah (Luke 3:15; John 1:19). While correcting this error, the Evangelist adduces John, who was commonly supposed to be a Prophet (Matthew 21:26), as an important witness to prove that Jesus was the Christ, “the Son of God,” which was the chief design of this gospel (John 20:31).

The Evangelist may also have in view to show that, while obstinate unbelievers rejected our Lord, God had employed, on His part, the most effectual means to dispose men to receive Him; among the rest, He employed the ministry and testimony of the Baptist, so much prized and valued by the Jews. The Evangelist commends his ministry and testimony by saying he “was sent from God” divinely commissioned.

7 This man came for a witness, to give testimony of the light, that all men might believe through him.

He came for a witness,” etc. In preceding verse, he points out John’s Divine mission; in this, the object of that Divine mission, which was to give testimony regarding our Lord (“of the light”) as the long expected Messiah, thus to prepare the people to receive Him (Matthew 3). He also pointed Him out after He had come. “Ecce agnus Dei,” etc. (John 1:31). He extols John’s character and Divine mission, beyond others who were not selected by God for so high an office.

Light” refers to the person of our Lord, “through Him,” through John’s testimony and preaching.

While extolling John in the preceding verse, he here lowers him in comparison with the Word, whose herald he was.

8 He was not the light, but was to give testimony of the light.

He was not the light.” Although, in some finite respect, a light, the Baptist was not the immense, increated light of which we speak, but the herald and witness of the light, not the sun, but the precursor of the Sun of Justice, “a burning and shining light,” enkindled by the great increated light and true lamp of creation. The Evangelist thus removes any false opinions which the people or the disciples might entertain regarding John as the long expected promised Messiah.

19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent from Jerusalem priests and Levites to him, to ask him: Who art thou?

And this is the testimony,” etc. Some Commentators hold that the testimony spoken of Him was given after the Baptism of our Lord by the Baptist. The testimony given before His Baptism, is, according to them, recorded by the other Evangelists: and hence, not referred to by St. John, in this Gospel.

The words of this verse are connected by some Expositors with vv. 7 and 15, where there is made a general allusion to John’s testimony regarding our Lord’s Divinity. These say, we have here a more definite and specific description of John’s testimony borne by him on the occasion of the deputation referred to.

Others connect the words with the foregoing verse, thus: He alone who was in the bosom of the Father, could disclose all regarding Him. For, as regards John, He disclaimed all pretensions to superior excellence on this occasion.

Others say, there is question of a new testimony borne by John.

The Jews … from Jerusalem”—the most distinguished men of the nation—“sent Priests and Levites.” The highest ecclesiastical representatives. The object of this embassy was “to ask Him who art thou?” “Who,” what quality or character dost thou bear or assume? This deputation, no doubt, represented, or were sent by, the Sanhedrim, the Supreme Jewish Council, to whom it belonged to judge of true or false prophets, and in general, of all things appertaining to religion. Some say, they were influenced by jealousy towards John, whose sanctity of life and preaching seemed to lower them in public estimation. Others say, the jealousy was towards our Redeemer, to whose superiority John had so openly testified. It was a subject of doubt, all things considered, if John were not the Messiah, at least, in the minds of the people (Luke 3:15), whether reasonably or not, whether in accordance with the ancient prophecies or not, is another question. But, the fact is recorded by St. Luke, as above; and in this state of doubt, they send forward this solemn embassy to inquire into John’s claims to be considered their long-expected Messiah, the term of whose coming was now accomplished. John’s manner of life and preaching created this doubt, and, likely, it was to clear it up—all feelings of jealousy apart—they deputed these men to make inquiry. This was a very solemn embassy considering all its circumstances. The persons sent, Priests and Levites. The authority by whom sent, the Sanhedrim, from Jerusalem. The grave subject of inquiry, John’s office and authority.

John’s evidence was given publicly and openly to this embassy, of select ecclesiastical personages, who were well able to judge, and not before the crowd, who might misunderstand it. Hence, the Evangelist minutely details every circumstance of it.

The Priests and Levites were taken from the Tribe of Juda. The Priests, from the family of Aaron alone.

These latter were consecrated by a more solemn rite, and exercised more exalted functions in connexion with the service of the Temple and the offering of sacrifice. The Levites were taken from the other families of the Tribe of Juda, consecrated in a less solemn manner, and told off for the inferior functions in the Temple.

20 And he confessed and did not deny: and he confessed: I am not the Christ.

The question which they were deputed to ask him was, “Who art thou?” From the first reply which he gave them, “I am not the Christ,” it seemsclear, that after asking him, in a general way who he was, they at once ask him, “Art thou the Christ?” For, otherwise, the Baptist could not, with any sense of propriety say, unasked, “I am not the Christ,” as if the people could have so exalted an idea of him, or he could himself have imagined it.

And he confessed and denied not,” a Hebrew form of conveying most empathically, as well positively as negatively, a full explicit reply to a question, and of conveying a full, open declaration. “He confessed” the truth, “and denied not,” that he was not the Christ.

21 And they asked him: What then? Art thou Elias? And he said: I am not. Art thou the prophet? And he answered: No.

Art thou Elias?” In the Prophecy of Malachias (c. 4:5, 6), it is stated that Elias, who had been taken up into heaven, is to precede the coming of our Redeemer. In this passage of Malachias, there is question of his coming at the end of time in glory and majesty. But, he was also to come before this last coming in meekness and humility (Malachias 3:1; Zacharias 9:9). The Jews made no distinction between his first and second coming. They ignored this first coming; and hence, they supposed, that Elias, who was taken up into heaven (4 Kings 2:11), would precede our Redeemer whenever He came. This gave rise to the question, “Art thou Elias?”

I am not.” True, he was not Elias, the Thesbite, in person, to whom their question had reference, although, he came in the spirit and power of Elias (Luke 1:17), to discharge the same office of precursor at our Lord’s first coming, that Elias is to discharge at His second (see Matthew 17:2; Mark 10:9, Commentary on).

The Prophet (ὅ προφητης) whom the Jews, from an erroneous interpretation of Deuteronomy (18:15), supposed to precede as well as Elias, the coming of our Lord, or rather accompany Him. The passage in Deuteronomy referred, no doubt, to our Lord Himself (Acts 3:23; 7:37). But, the Jews understood it otherwise; and hence, John though a Prophet, and more than a Prophet, denies that he was “the Prophet” they referred to, or the Prophet in the sense of their question (see Matthew 11:9, Commentary on).

22 They said therefore unto him: Who art thou, that we may give an answer to them that sent us? What sayest thou of thyself?

Their opinion of the Baptist was so exalted as to make them fancy that if he were not the Messiah, he must be one of the two great Prophets who were expected about the time of the Messiah’s coming. Finding he was neither, they content themselves with a general question, as to who he was. With what authority or power was he invested? What mission did he receive, to be exercised? This they want to know, in order to bring back word or return a satisfactory answer to the Sanhedrim, by whom they were deputed to wait on the Baptist.

23 He said: I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Isaias.

See Matthew 3:3, Commentary on. Having already declared what he was not, he now declares in very distinct terms, what he was, thus meaning to show the nothingness of his origin, compared with the Messiah.

24 And they that were sent were of the Pharisees.

Those sent were of the sect of the Pharisees, while in dignity Priests and Levites. Who the Pharisees were (see Matthew 3:7). The reason why the Evangelist makes special mention of them here was, that besides being the most powerful party in the Sanhedrim, they were overbearing and haughty; glorying in their knowledge of the law and affected sanctity of life, which will account for their captious questioning, recorded in next verse. Likely, they were not commissioned by those who sent them to question the Baptist further than was necessary to know who he was, by what authority he acted; or if he was the Christ, as the people generally thought in their hearts regarding him (Luke 3:15).

25 And they asked him and said to him: Why then dost thou baptize, if thou be not Christ, nor Elias, nor the prophet?

Why therefore,” etc.? By what authority, then, dost thou baptize publicly and with a show of authority, the people flocking to you in crowds, whom you wish to subject to the Baptism of Penance? This they regard as audacious on the part of John, after the declarations elicited from him. The Prophets foretold that at the coming of Christ, Baptism was to be administered to the people (Ezech. 36:25; Zach. 13:1). The Pharisees learned in the law knew this. They thought, however, that it was only by the Messiah or His accompanying Prophet this could lawfully be done.

26 John answered them, saying: I baptize with water: but there hath stood one in the midst of you, whom you know not.

I baptize in water.” I am commissioned and sent by God—the Jews themselves would not deny that John’s Baptism was from heaven—to “baptize in water” only, as a preparation for the Baptism of the Messiah. Hence, I don’t assume the office which He is to discharge. For, His Baptism will be quite different both in itself and in its effects. Most likely, the Baptist added, “He shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost and in fire.” The Evangelist omits this part as it was fully given by the other Evangelists. The effects and the end of both Baptisms are quite different.

He is not far off from you, whose precursor I am, whose Baptism will perfect mine, He is “in your midst, whom you know not,” whose exalted dignity you are ignorant of. Hence, their culpability in not finding Him and not believing in Him.

27 The same is he that shall come after me, who is preferred before me: the latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to loose.

(See v. 15, also Matthew 3:2). “He shall come after me” in his public manifestation, when I shall have discharged the office of precursor. But, “He is preferred before Me” in dignity, a dignity so great, that “I,”—whom you seem to esteem so much—“am not worthy to loose the latchet of His shoe,” unworthy to discharge in His regard the most menial and servile offices, the distance between us being infinite. He, true God; I, a creature.

28 These things were done in Bethania, beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

For “Bethania,” several writers, Origen, Chrysostom, etc., read “Bethabara.” But “Bethania” is the more common reading of MSS. Both words, probably, refer to the same place. Bethabara signifying the house or place of passage, as it was there, the Hebrews first crossed the Jordan on coming up from Egypt, and it was a place for crossing the Jordan from Perea into Judea. “Bethania” signifies a ferry passage, or house of boats, which were always kept in readiness there, for ferrying passengers across the Jordan. If the words do not denote the same place, the places were quite close to one another on the banks of the Jordan. This “Bethania” is by no means to be confounded with the dwelling-place of Mary and Martha, near Jerusalem. John selected this place for his Baptism, as crowds used to resort to it, when crossing the Jordan. The Evangelist refers to this place of public resort to show, that the testimony of John was publicly given so as to leave no room for afterwards questioning it.

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Father Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on John 1:6-8, 19-28

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 27, 2017

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

There was a man sent from God, &c. He was sent, as Luke says, (3:1), “in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Cæsar: and the Word of God came to him in the wilderness.” “Thou, then,” says Chrysostom, “when thou understandest that he was sent from God, do not think that anything merely human is being announced, but that all is Divine. He does not declare anything of his own, but the secrets of Him who sends him. Therefore he, John, is called an angel, that is, a messenger. It is the office of a messenger to know nothing of himself.”

7 This man came for a witness, to give testimony of the light, that all men might believe through him.

The man came for a witness, &c. Namely, that he might bear witness that Jesus is the true Light of the world, and that we must look for, and ask of Him all the light of faith, and all the knowledge of salvation.

Observe that in Greek the article is prefixed to light, as it were that light meaning the spiritual and Divine light, that which shineth of itself, and is essentially light, and the source of all enlightenment, which is as it were a Divine Sun, in respect of which John the Baptist was but as the moon, or the day-star. For as the morning star goes before the sun, so did John precede Christ the Sun of righteousness. The meaning is as follows—Inasmuch as the light of the Godhead was hidden in the humanity of Christ, as in a lantern dark and shaded, so that men discerned it not, therefore did God send John, that he might uncover and make this light manifest, and testify that Jesus was the very Son of God, the Teacher and Redeemer of the world. For, as Paul saith (1 Tim. 6:16), God “inhabiteth the unapproachable light, whom no man hath seen, nor can see.” And again, the Son “is the splendour of His glory, and the form of the substance” of God the Father (Heb. 1:3, Vulg.)

And again, the same is “the brightness of eternal light, and the spotless mirror of the majesty of God, and the image of His goodness” (Wisd. 7:26).

That all men might believe through him: that is, believe in the Light, and so be justified and saved. Through him, namely, John, who as it were with his finger pointed out Christ, saying: “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world.”

8 He was not the light, but was to give testimony of the light.

He was not the Light, &c. The Jews and the Scribes thought, because of the preaching and heavenly life of John in the wilderness, that he was himself the Light, i.e., Christ. John the Evangelist by these words destroys such an idea. He was not the Light. That is, he was not the Saviour of the world, but only His witness, who received all his own light of knowledge and prophecy and grace from Christ. Wherefore in Jn 5:35, he is called “a burning and a shining lamp.” “But,” says Origen. “he did not burn by his own fire, nor shine by his own light.”

19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent from Jerusalem priests and Levites to him, to ask him: Who art thou?

Ver. 19.—And this is the witness of John, &c. John the Baptist often bare witness to Jesus, that He was the Messias, or the Christ, both before and after His baptism. John the Evangelist therefore, omitting in this place the testimony which the Baptist bore to Jesus before His baptism, which had been related by the three other Evangelists, gives his testimony concerning Him after he had baptized Him. For this testimony was public, judicial, and most celebrated. It had been judicially demanded by the chief priests and magistrates, and had been received by them through the ambassadors whom they sent to John. The reason of this embassy was because the chief priests saw John leading in the desert an angelic life, preaching with great power, baptizing, and moving men to repentance, as none of the other prophets had done. The chief priests thought therefore that it was their duty to ask him who he was, especially because they knew that the sceptre had passed from Judah to Herod, and the seventy weeks of Daniel being completed, the coming of Messias must be nigh at hand. Wherefore, suspecting that John was the Messias, they ask him, Who art thou?

S. Chrysostom gives another reason—that they asked out of envy and hatred of Jesus, in order that they might show that Jesus was not the Messiah. They would have preferred to bestow the title upon John. They disliked John’s preferring Jesus to himself, and calling Him the Messias or Christ. But although there might be some envy mingled with it, the true reason was, as I have said, that it was the counsel of God so to exalt John, that the chief priests might be driven to ask him whether he were the Christ or not, that being asked he might authoritatively answer that which was the truth, namely, that not he, but Jesus, was the Messias, and that, being convicted by this testimony of John, they might be compelled either to receive Jesus as the Messias or to be without excuse.

Who art thou? The chief priests appear tacitly at least to have inquired of John, whether he were the Christ or not; for John replies, I am not the Christ.

Moreover, they were aware that John was the son of the priest Zacharias, and therefore a priest himself. When therefore they say, Who art thou? they ask virtually. What office hast thou received from God? With what object has God sent thee to preach and baptize? For God was wont to commit greater offices to priests.

Tropologically, let every one often ask himself, Who art thou? Firstly, as regards our substance. Listen to thy conscience making answer to thyself—the name of God my Creator is, I Am that I Am (Exod. 3). My name therefore as a creature is “I am that am not,” because I am nothing of myself, but out of my nothingness have been brought forth by God, and made a man. Wherefore my body and soul are not my own, but God’s, who has given them, or rather lent them, to me. As S. Francis was wont to say, “Who art Thou, Lord? Who am I? Thou art an abyss of wisdom and long-suffering, and all goodness. I am an abyss of ignorance, weakness, of all evil and wretchedness. Thou art an abyss of being, I of nothingness.” So when Christ appeared to S. Catherine of Sienna, He said, “Blessed art thou if thou knowest who I am, and who thou art. I am He who is, thou art she who is not.”

Secondly, as to quality. Who? that is, of what sort art thou? Answer, As regards my body, I am weak, miserable, and wretched. As to my soul, as regards my reason, I am like unto the angels. As regards my sensual appetite, and concupiscence, I am like the brutes. Therefore I will follow my reason, and so become assimilated to the angels.

Thirdly, as regards relation. Who? that is, whose son art thou? Reply, I am the son of Adam, the first sinner, and therefore being born in sin, I am living in sin, and must die in sin, unless the grace of Christ rescue me from my sins, and sanctify and save me.

Fourthly, as regards employment. Who art thou? what trade or profession art thou? I am a carpenter, a baker, a governor, a shepherd, a lawyer. See then that thou exercise thyself in thy calling, whatsoever it be, as the law of God requires, namely, in such wise that thou live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, looking for the blessed hope, and the coming of the glory of the great God, that thou mayest so pass through things temporal, that thou lose not, but gain the things eternal. Work, study, live for eternity. As S. Bernard was wont often to say to himself, “Bernard, tell me, wherefore art thou here?” And with this goad, as it were, he stirred himself up to zeal for all virtues.

Fifthly, as regards suffering. Who art thou? that is to say, what dost thou suffer? Reply, In the body I suffer hunger, thirst, disease, continual afflictions, so that there is scarcely the smallest space of time in which I have not many things to bear. As regards my soul, I have far greater and more bitter afflictions, griefs, and anguish, anxieties, sorrows, angers, indignation, darkness, fear, &c., so that I seem to be, as it were, a mark at which all afflictions hurl their darts, and thrust me through with their arrows. Be thou therefore a very adamant of patience, that thou mayest patiently and generously endure all things, and win the everlasting crown of patience in heaven.

Sixthly, as regards place. Who? that is, where art thou? Answer, I am on earth, placed between heaven and hell, in such wise, that if I live holily, I may pass to heaven, if wickedly, to hell. Live therefore carefully, warily, and holily, that not hell, but heaven may receive thee, when this short mortal life is over.

Seventhly, as regards time. Who art thou? When wast thou born? How long hast thou lived? When shalt thou die? Answer, Born yesterday, to-day I live, to-morrow I die. “For we are of yesterday, and know nothing; all our days upon the earth are but a shadow” (Job 8:9). Therefore despise all things temporal, which fly past as a bird doth. Love and covet heavenly things, which endure for ever with God and the angels. So shalt thou, being eternal, be happy eternally, and abide in everlasting delights. For as S. Gregory says, “That we may be eternal, and happy eternally, let us imitate eternity. And this is to us a great eternity, even the imitation of eternity.”

Lastly, as regards posture and clothing. Who art thou? that is, what posture, or clothing hast thou? Reply, I stand, I sit, I lie, I wear the habit of a Christian, a priest, a bishop, a religious. Take heed then that thou live conformably to thy habit. For it is not the habit which makes the Christian, or the monk, but purity of life, humility, charity.

20 And he confessed and did not deny: and he confessed: I am not the Christ.

And he confessed, &c. That is, publicly, plainly, and fully that he was not the Christ. For when the Hebrews wished very strongly to assert anything, they doubled the affirmative, and trebled the negative. Observe the great humility of S. John: how firmly he refused the name of Christ when it was offered to him. For he loved the truth, and Jesus, to whom this name belonged. Men of the world love to boast, and say, I am a nobleman, a governor, a canon, a bishop. But John teaches us to say, “I am nothing,” because if I am anything, I have it from God.

21 And they asked him: What then? Art thou Elias? And he said: I am not. Art thou the prophet? And he answered: No.

And they asked him, &c. When John denied that he was the Christ, the messengers asked him if he were Elias. For him God took away, that he might be the forerunner of Christ. And of him they were then in expectation, according to the words of Malachi (4:5), “Behold, I send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord come,” meaning the day of judgment, when Christ shall return to be the Judge of all. But the Scribes did not understand this. They thought that there would be but one advent of Christ, and that a glorious one, the precursor of which would be Elias. Thus the Jews think even now that Christ has not yet come, but is about to come with Elias. And yet they ought to have known from the same Malachi (3:1) that there would be another precursor of Christ’s first coming in the flesh, even John the Baptist. “For I,” saith the Lord, “do send My messenger, and he shall prepare My way before My face.”

Art thou the prophet? Greek, ὁ προφήτης, the prophet par excellence. “Art thou a new and great prophet, such an one as we think will come with Messiah, to be His herald?” So SS. Chrysostom and Cyril. But they (the Jews) were in error. For Christ needed not a prophet, as Moses, who was not eloquent, needed Aaron. But Christ was His own prophet, herald, priest, and lawgiver. Moreover John was not a prophet in the sense that he foretold things to come. But he pointed out with his finger, as it were, Christ present. Therefore was he more than a prophet, as Christ says in the 11th of Matthew.

22 They said therefore unto him: Who art thou, that we may give an answer to them that sent us? What sayest thou of thyself?
23 He said: I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Isaias.

I am the Voice, &c. (Isa. 40:3), where I have expounded the meaning. Listen to what the Fathers say about it. “I am a servant, and prepare paths, your hearts, for the Lord,” says Theophylact. “I come, he says, to say that He is at the doors who is expected, that you may be prepared to go whithersoever He may bid you,” says Cyril.

24 And they that were sent were of the Pharisees.

And they that were sent, &c. John adds this, to suggest the occasion why they examined John the Baptist concerning baptism. These messengers who were sent to John were Pharisees, and therefore were well versed in the Scriptures. Consequently they knew that Messiah would baptize for the remission of sins, because Ezekiel (36:25) and Zechariah (13:1) had predicted that He would do so. But concerning other prophets and saints they had not read in Scripture that they would baptize. They ask John therefore to tell them by what authority he baptized, especially since he not only asserted that he was not Christ, but not even a prophet.

25 And they asked him and said to him: Why then dost thou baptize, if thou be not Christ, nor Elias, nor the prophet?

And they asked him, &c. “These Pharisees,” says S. Cyril, “in their arrogancy insult John, as though they said, Neither Elias, nor Eliseus, nor any of the other prophets dared to take upon themselves the office of baptizing. With what face then, or boldness, dost thou, who art not a prophet, arrogate this office to thyself?”

26 John answered them, saying: I baptize with water: but there hath stood one in the midst of you, whom you know not.

John answered them, &c. As though he had said, “God hath sent me to baptize with water, that I might stir you up to repentance and tears, so as to fit you for Christ’s baptism. For He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, for the remission of sins,” as the remaining three Evangelists declare. Therefore John is silent about this.

There hath stood one, &c. That is, Christ is living in the midst of you, and yet ye know Him not. That is, you do not recognise Him as Messiah, but look upon Him as a mere man, as vile and abject.

27 The same is he that shall come after me, who is preferred before me: the latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to loose.

The same is he that shall come after me, &c. After me Christ shall come to baptize you, that by His baptism He may perfect mine, and may wash and justify them that are penitent. As S. Cyril paraphrases, “I in preparation wash with water those who are polluted with sins as a beginning of repentance, and by this means leading you from what is lower I prepare you for more lofty things. For He who is the giver of greater things, and of the highest perfection, is about to come after me.” Or, as S. Chrysostom says, “My baptism is only a disposition and preparation for the baptism of Christ. Mine is of water and corporeal, Christ’s is of fire and spiritual.”

The latchet of whose shoe, &c. As though he said, “I am not worthy to be reckoned amongst the last of the servants of Christ, on account of the greatness of the Deity which is in Him.”

28 These things were done in Bethania, beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

These things were done in, &c. Bethany is the reading of the Latin, Syriac, Arabic versions, of many codices, including the Vatican, of Bede, Alcuin, the Gloss, &c. But instead of Bethany, Origen, S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euthymius, S. Epiphanius, and S. Jerome (in loc. Heb.) read Bethabara, where Gideon slew the Midianites. I observe with Toletus that Bethany and Bethabara were one and the same place, or at least that one was nigh the other, or on opposite banks of the Jordan. This was the place in which the Hebrews, when they came out of Egypt, first crossed the Jordan under the leadership of Joshua, to enter the promised land. For Bethabara means in Hebrew a house of passage; Bethany, a house of ships. For vessels were waiting here to carry passengers over Jordan. This Bethany is derived from Beth, a house, and any, spelt with alpha, a ship. The Bethany of Martha and Lazarus was a different place, and spelt differently in Hebrew. That Bethany means the house of humility, from Beth, a house, and any, spelt with ain, humility.

John, then, chose this place wherein to baptize for several reasons, because of the abundance of water, also in memory of the ancient passage of the Israelites. S. Jerome says (loc. Hebrœis), “Even at this present time many of our brethren who believe, desiring there to be born again, are baptized in the life-giving flood.” They did this in memory of Christ, who was there baptized by John. This place is distant about four leagues from the Dead Sea.

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St Augustine’s Tractates on John 1:6-8, 19-28

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 27, 2017

TRACTATE TWO
Jn 1:6-8

It is fitting, brethren, that as far as possible we should treat of the text of Holy Scripture, and especially of the Holy Gospel, without omitting any portion, that both we ourselves may derive nourishment according to our capacity, and may minister to you from that source from which we have been nourished. Last Lord’s day, we remember, we treated of the first section; that is, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was nothing made. That which was made, in Him is life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” So far, I believe, had I advanced in the treatment of the passage: let all who were present recall what was then said; and those of you who were not present, believe me and those who chose to be present. Now therefore,—because we cannot always be repeating everything, out of justice to those who desire to hear what follows, and because repetition of the former thought is a burden to them and deprives them of what succeeds,—let those who were absent on the former occasion refrain from demanding repetition, but, together with those who were here, listen to the present exposition.

2. It goes on, “There was a man sent from God whose name was John.” Truly, brethren beloved, those things which were said before, were said regarding the ineffable divinity of Christ, and almost ineffably. For who shall comprehend “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God”? And do not allow the name word to appear mean to you, through the habit of daily words, for it is added, “and the Word was God.” This Word is He of whom yesterday we spoke much; and I trust that God was present, and that even from only thus much speaking something reached your hearts. “In the beginning was the Word.” He is the same, and is in the same manner; as He is, so He is always; He cannot be changed; that is, He is. This His name He spoke to His servant Moses: “I am that I am; and He that is hath sent me.”1 Who then shall comprehend this when you see that all mortal things are variable; when you see that not only do bodies vary as to their qualities, by being born, by increasing, by becoming less, by dying, but that even souls themselves through the effect of divers volitions are distended and divided; when you see that men can obtain wisdom if they apply themselves to its light and heat, and also lose wisdom if they remove themselves from it through some evil influence? When, therefore, you see that all those things are variable, what is that which is, unless that which transcends all things which are so that they are not? Who then can receive this? Or who, in what manner soever he may have applied the strength of his mind to touch that which is, is, can reach to that which he may in any way have touched with his mind? It is as if one were to see his native land at a distance, and the sea intervening; he sees whither he would go, but he has not the means of going. So we desire to arrive at that our stability where that which is, because this alone always is as it is: the sea of this world interrupts our course, even although already we see whither we go; for many do not even see whither they go. That there might be a way by which we could go, He has come from Him to whom we wished to go. And what has He done? He has appointed a tree by which we may cross the sea. For no one is able to cross the sea of this world, unless borne by the cross of Christ. Even he who is of weak eyesight sometimes embraces this cross; and he who does not see from afar whither he goes, let him not depart from it, and it will carry him over.

3. Therefore, my brethren, I would desire to have impressed this upon your hearts: if you wish to live in a pious and Christian manner, cling to Christ according to that which He became for us, that you may arrive at Him according to that which is, and according to that which was. He approached, that for us He might become this; because He became that for us, on which the weak may be borne, and cross the sea of this world and reach their native country; where there will be no need of a ship, for no sea is crossed. It is better then not to see with the mind that which is, and yet not to depart from the cross of Christ, than to see it with the mind, and despise the cross of Christ. It is good beyond this, and best of all, if it be possible, that we both see whither we ought to go, and hold fast that which carries us as we go. This they were able to do, the great minds of the mountains, who have been called mountains, whom the light of divine justice pre-eminently illuminates; they were able to do this, and saw that which is. For John seeing said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” They saw this, and in order that they might arrive at that which they saw from afar, they did not depart from the cross of Christ, and did not despise Christ’s lowliness. But little ones who cannot understand this, who do not depart from the cross and passion and resurrection of Christ, are conducted in that same ship to that which they do not see, in which they also arrive who do see.

4. But truly there have been some philosophers of this world who have sought for the Creator by means of the creature; for He can be found by means of the creature, as the apostle plainly says, “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and glory; so they are without excuse.” And it follows, “Because that, when they knew God;” he did not say, Because they did not know, but “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” How darkened? It follows, when he says more plainly: “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools”2 They saw whither they must come; but ungrateful to Him who afforded them what they saw, they wished to ascribe to themselves what they saw; and having become proud, they lost what they saw, and were turned from it to idols and images, and to the worship of demons, to adore the creature and to despise the Creator. But these having been blinded did those things, and became proud, that they might be blinded: when they were proud they said that they were wise. Those, therefore, concerning whom he said, “Who, when they had known God,” saw this which John says, that by the Word of God all things were made. For these things are also found in the books of the philosophers: and that God has an only-begotten Son, by whom are all things. They were able to see that which is, but they saw it from afar: they were unwilling to hold the lowliness of Christ, in which ship they might have arrived in safety at that which they were able to see from afar; and the cross of Christ appeared vile to them. The sea has to be crossed, and dost thou despise the wood? Oh, proud wisdom! thou laughest to scorn the crucified Christ; it is He whom thou dost see from afar: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.” But wherefore was He crucified? Because the wood of His humiliation was needful to thee. For thou hadst become swollen with pride, and hadst been cast out far from that fatherland; and by the waves of this world has the way been intercepted, and there is no means of passing to the fatherland unless borne by the wood. Ungrateful one! thou laughest Him to scorn who has come to thee that thou mayest return: He has become the way, and that through the sea:1 thence He walked in the sea to show that there is a way in the sea. But thou who art not able in any way thyself to walk in the sea, be carried in a ship, be carried by the wood: believe in the crucified One, and thou shalt arrive thither. On account of thee He was crucified, to teach thee humility; and because if He should come as God, He would not be recognized. For if He should come as God, He would not come to those who were not able to see God. For not according to His Godhead does He either come or depart; since He is everywhere present, and is contained in no place. But, according to what did He come? He appeared as a man.

5. Therefore, because He was so man, that the God lay hid in Him, there was sent before Him a great man, by whose testimony He might be found to be more than man. And who is this? “He was a man.” And how could that man speak the truth concerning God? “He was sent by God.” What was he called? “Whose name was John.” Wherefore did he come? “He came for a witness, that he might bear witness concerning the light, that all might believe through him.” What sort of man was he who was to bear witness concerning the light? Something great was that John, vast merit, great grace, great loftiness! Admire, by all means, admire; but as it were a mountain. But a mountain is in darkness unless it be clothed with light. Therefore only admire John that you may hear what follows, “He was not that light;” lest if, when thou thinkest the mountain to be the light, thou make shipwreck on the mountain, and find not consolation. But what oughtest thou to admire? The mountain as a mountain. But lift thyself up to Him who illuminates the mountain, which for this end was elevated that it might be the first to receive the rays, and make them known to your eyes. Therefore, “he was not that light.”

6. Wherefore then did he come? “But that he might bear witness concerning the light.” Why so? “That all might believe through him.” And concerning what light was he to bear witness? “That was the true light.” Wherefore is it added true? Because an enlightened man is also called a light; but the true light is that which enlightens. For even our eyes are called lights; and nevertheless, unless either during the night a lamp is lighted, or during the day the sun goes forth, these lights are open in vain. Thus, therefore, John was a light, but not the true light; because, if not enlightened, he would have been darkness; but, by enlightenment, he became a light. For unless he had been enlightened he would have been darkness, as all those once impious men, to whom, as believers, the apostle said, “Ye were sometimes darkness.” But now, because they had believed, what?—“but now are ye light,” he says, “in the Lord.”2 Unless he had added “in the Lord,” we should not have understood. “Light,” he says, “in the Lord:” darkness you were not in the Lord. “For ye were sometimes darkness,” where he did not add in the Lord. Therefore, darkness in you, light in the Lord. And thus “he was not that light, but was sent to bear witness of the light.”

TRACTATE FOUR
Jn 1:19-28

You have very often heard, holy brethren, and you know well, that John the Baptist, in proportion as he was greater than those born of women, and was more humble in his acknowledgment of the Lord, obtained the grace of being the friend of the Bridegroom; zealous for the Bridegroom, not for himself; not seeking his own honor, but that of his Judge, whom as a herald he preceded. Therefore, to the prophets who went before, it was granted to predict concerning Christ; but to this man, to point Him out with the finger. For as Christ was unknown by those who did not believe the prophets before He came, He remained unknown to them even when present. For He had come humbly and concealed from the first; the more concealed in proportion as He was more humble: but the people, despising in their pride the humility of God, crucified their Saviour, and made Him their condemner.

2. But will not He who at first came concealed, because humble, come again manifested, because exalted? You have just listened to the Psalm: “God shall come manifestly, and our God shall not keep silence.”1 He was silent that He might be judged, He will not be silent when He begins to judge.2 It would not have been said, “He will come manifestly,” unless at first He had come concealed; nor would it have been said, “He shall not keep silence,” unless He had first kept silence. How was He silent? Interrogate Isaiah: “He was brought as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before his shearer was dumb, so He opened not His mouth.” “But He shall come manifestly, and shall not keep silence.” In what manner “manifestly”? “A fire shall go before Him, and round about Him a strong tempest.”3 That tempest has to carry away all the chaff from the floor, which is now being threshed; and the fire has to burn what the tempest carries away. But now He is silent; silent in judgment, but not silent in precept. For if Christ is silent, what is the purpose of these Gospels? what the purpose of the voices of the apostles, what of the canticles of the Psalms, what of the declarations of the prophets? In all these Christ is not silent. But now He is silent in not taking vengeance: He is not silent in not giving warning. But He will come in glory to take vengeance, and will manifest Himself even to all who do not believe on Him. But now, because when present He was concealed, it behoved that He should be despised. For unless He had been despised, He would not have been crucified; if He had not been crucified, He would not have shed His blood—the price by which He redeemed us. But that He might give a price for us, He was crucified; that He might be crucified, He was despised; that He might be despised, He appeared in humility.

3. Yet because He appeared as it were in the night, in a mortal body, He lighted for Himself a lamp by which He might be seen. That lamp was John,4 concerning whom you lately heard many things: and the present passage of the evangelist contains the words of John; in the first place, and it is the chief point, his confession that he was not the Christ. But so great was the excellence of John, that men might have believed him to be the Christ: and in this he gave a proof of his humility, that he said he was not when he might have been believed to have been the Christ; therefore, “This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites to him from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?” But they would not have sent unless they had been moved by the excellence of his authority who ventured to baptize. “And he confessed, and denied not.” What did he confess? “And he confessed, I am not the Christ.”

4. ‘And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias?” For they knew that Elias was to precede Christ. For to no Jew was the name of Christ unknown. They did not think that he was the Christ; but they did not think that Christ would not come at all. When they were hoping that He would come, they were offended at Him when He was present, and stumbled at Him as on a low stone. For He was as yet a small stone, already indeed cut out of the mountain without hands; as saith Daniel the prophet, that he saw a stone cut out of the mountain without hands. But what follows? “And that stone,” saith he “grew and became a great mountain, and filled the whole face of the earth.”5 Mark then, my beloved brethren, what I say: Christ, before the Jews, was already cut out from the mountain. The prophet wishes that by the mountain should be understood the Jewish kingdom. But the kingdom of the Jews had not filled the whole face of the earth. The stone was cut out from thence, because from thence was the Lord born on His advent among men. And wherefore without hands? Because without the cooperation of man did the Virgin bear Christ. Now then was that stone cut out without hands before the eyes of the Jews; but it was humble. Not without reason; because not yet had that stone increased and filled the whole earth: that He showed in His kingdom, which is the Church, with which He has filled the whole face of the earth. Because then it had not yet increased, they stumbled at Him as at a stone: and that happened in them which is written, “Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever that stone shall fall, it will grind them to powder.”6 At first they fell upon Him lowly: as the lofty One He shall come upon them; but that He may grind them to powder when He comes in His exaltation, He first broke them in His lowliness. They stumbled at Him, and were broken; they were not ground, but broken: He will come exalted and will grind them. But the Jews were to be pardoned because they stumbled at a stone which had not yet increased. What sort of persons are those who stumble at the mountain itself? Already you know who they are of whom I speak. Those who deny the Church diffused through the whole world, do not stumble at the lowly stone, but at the mountain itself: because this the stone became as it grew. The blind Jews did not see the lowly stone: but how great blindness not to see the mountain!

5. They saw Him then lowly, and did not know Him. He was pointed out to them by a lamp. For in the first place he, than whom no greater had arisen of those born of women, said, “I am not the Christ.” It was said to him, “Art thou Elias? He answered, I am not.” For Christ sends Elias before Him: and he said, “I am not,” and occasioned a question for us. For it is to be feared lest men, insufficiently understanding, think that John contradicted what Christ said. For in a certain place, when the Lord Jesus Christ said certain things in the Gospel regarding Himself, His disciples answered Him: “How then say the scribes,” that is, those skilled in the law, “that Elias must first come?” And the Lord said, “Elias is already come, and they have done unto him what they listed;” and, if you wish to know, John the Baptist is he.1 The Lord Jesus Christ said, “Elias is already come, and John the Baptist” is he; but John, being interrogated, confessed that he was not Elias, in the same manner that he confessed that he was not Christ. And as his confession that he was not Christ was true, so was his confession that he was not Elias. How then shall we compare the words of the herald with the words of the Judge? Away with the thought that the herald speaks falsehood; for that which he speaks he hears from the Judge. Wherefore then did he say, “I am not Elias;” and the Lord, “He is Elias”? Because the Lord Jesus Christ wished in him to prefigure His own advent, and to say that John was in the spirit of Elias. And what John was to the first advent, that will Elias be to the second advent. As there are two advents of the Judge, so are there two heralds. The Judge indeed was the same, but the heralds two, but not two judges. It was needful that in the first instance the Judge should come to be judged. He sent before Him His first herald; He called him Elias, because Elias will be in the second advent what John was in the first.

6. For mark, beloved brethren, how true it is what I say. When John was conceived, or rather when he was born, the Holy Spirit prophesied that this would be fulfilled in him: “And he shall be,” he said, “the forerunner of the Highest, in the spirit and power of Elias.”2 What signifieth “in the spirit and power of Elias”? In the same Holy Spirit in the room of Elias. Wherefore in room of Elias? Because what Elias will be to the second, that John was to the first advent. Rightly therefore, speaking literally, did John reply. For the Lord spoke figuratively, “Elias, the same is John:” but he, as I have said, spoke literally when he said, “I am not Elias.” Neither did John speak falsely, nor did the Lord speak falsely; neither was the word of the herald nor of the Judge false, if only thou understand. But who shall understand? He who shall have imitated the lowliness of the herald, and shall have acknowledged the loftiness of the Judge. For nothing was more lowly than the herald. My brethren, in nothing had John greater merit than in this humility, inasmuch as when he was able to deceive men, and to be thought Christ, and to have been received in the place of Christ (for so great were his grace and his excellency), nevertheless he openly confessed and said, “I am not the Christ.” “Art thou Elias?” If he had said I am Elias, it would have been as if Christ were already coming in His second advent to judge, not in His first to be judged. As if saying. Elias is yet to come, “I am not,” said he, “Elias.” But give heed to the lowly One before whom John came, that you may not feel the lofty One before whom Elias came. For thus also did the Lord complete the saying: “John the Baptist is he which is to come.” He came as a figure of that in which Elias is to come in his own person. Then Elias will in his own proper person be Elias, now in similitude he was John. Now John in his own proper person is John, in similitude Elias. The two heralds gave to each other their similitudes, and kept their own proper persons; but the Judge is one Lord, whether preceded by this herald or by that.

7. “And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he said, No. And they said unto him, Art thou a prophet? and he answered, No! They said therefore unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He saith, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.”3 That said Isaiah. This prophecy was fulfilled in John, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” Crying what? “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight the paths of our God.” Would it not have seemed to you that a herald would have cried, “Go away, make room.” Instead of the herald’s cry “Go away,” John says “Come.” The herald makes men stand back from the judge; to the Judge John calls. Yes, indeed, John calls men to the lowly One, that they may not experience what He will be as the exalted Judge. “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Isaiah.” He did not say, I am John, I am Elias, I am a prophet. But what did he say? This I am called, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way for the Lord: I am the prophecy itself.”

8. “And they which were sent were of the Pharisees,” that is, of the chief men among the Jews; “and they asked him and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not the Christ, nor Elias, nor a prophet?” As if it seemed to them audacity to baptize, as if they meant to inquire, in what character baptizest thou? We ask whether thou art the Christ; thou sayest that thou art not. We ask whether thou perchance art His precursor, for we know that before the advent of Christ, Elias will come; thou answerest that thou art not. We ask, if perchance thou art some herald come long before, that is, a prophet, and hast received that power, and thou sayest that thou art not a prophet. And John was not a prophet; he was greater than a prophet. The Lord gave such testimony concerning him: “What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?” Of course implying that he was not shaken by the wind; because John was not such an one as is moved by the wind; for he who is moved by the wind is blown upon by every seductive blast. “But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment?” For John was clothed in rough garments; that is, his tunic was of camel’s hair. “Behold, they who are clothed in soft raiment are in kings’ houses.” You did not then go out to see a man clothed in soft raiment. “But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, one greater than a prophet is here;”1 for the prophets prophesied of Christ a long time before, John pointed Him out as present.

9. “Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not the Christ, nor Elias, nor a prophet? John answered them, saying, I baptize with water; but there standeth One among you whom ye know not.” For, very truly, He was not seen, being humble, and therefore was the lamp lighted. Observe how John gives place, who might have been accounted other than he was. “He it is who cometh after me, who is made before me” (that is, as we have already said, is “preferred before me”), whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.” How greatly did he humble himself! And therefore he was greatly lifted up; for he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.2 Hence, holy brethren, you ought to note that if John so humbled himself as to say, “I am not worthy to unloose His shoe-latchet,” what need they have to be humbled who say, “We baptize; what we give is ours, and what is ours is holy.” He said, Not I, but He; they say, We. John is not worthy to unloose His shoe’s latchet; and if he had said he was worthy, how humble would he still have been! And if he had said he was worthy, and had spoken thus, “He came after me who is made before me, the latchet of whose shoe I am only worthy to unloose,” he would have greatly humbled himself. But when he says that he is not worthy even to do this, truly was he full of the Holy Spirit, who in such fashion as a servant acknowledged his Lord, and merited to be made a friend instead of a servant.

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St Cyril of Alexandria’s Homiletic Commentary on John 1:6-8, 19-28.

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 27, 2017

6, 7 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light.

Having before Explained about God the Word, and most accurately gone through the things whereby He is shewn to be by Nature Son of God the Father, he fortifies their faith in what they had already heard by his words. And since (according to what was said by God through Moses), At |70 the mouth of two and three witnesses shall every word be established, wisely does he bring in addition to himself the blessed Baptist, and introduces him along with himself a most noteworthy witness. For he did not suppose that he ought, even if of gravest weight, to demand of the readers in his book concerning our Saviour credence above that of the law, and that they should believe him by himself when declaring things above our understanding and sense.

Therefore the blessed Evangelist himself testifies that The Word was in the beginning and the Word was God and was in the beginning with God and that all things were made by Him, and He was in the things made as Life, and that the Life was the Light of men, that by all these he might shew that the Son is by Nature God. And the Divine Baptist too testifies in addition to him, crying aloud, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight the paths of our God. For soothly one will say that He is Very God, in Whom is by Nature inherent the dignity of lordship and it accrues not to any other rightly and truly, since to us there is one God the Father, and one Lord Jesus Christ, as Paul saith; and though there be many called gods by grace and lords both in heaven and earth, yet the Son is One with the Father Very God.

Therefore, most noteworthy is the pair of holy witnesses, and credence no longer capable of blame is due to the things said, both as having received the fulness of the law, and supported by the notability of the persons. For the blessed Evangelist then to say ought concerning himself, and to take hold of his own praises, were in truth burdensome and moreover ill-instructed. For he would rightly have heard, Thou bearest record of thyself, thy record is not true. Therefore he commits to those who know him to form their opinion of him, and goes to his namesake, doing well in this too, and says that he was sent by God. For it behoved him to shew that not of his own accord nor with self-invited zeal does the holy Baptist come to his testimony respecting our Saviour, but yielding to the commands from above, and ministering to the Divine Will of the Father. Wherefore he |71 says, There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

But we must notice how unerringly and fitly he expressed himself as to each, and correspondently to the nature of the things indicated. For in the case of God the Word, was is fitly introduced indicating every way His Eternity, and His being more ancient than all beginning that is in time, and removing the idea of His having been created. For that which always is, how can it be conceived of as originate? But of the blessed Baptist, befittingly does he say, There was a man sent from God, as of a man having an originate nature. And very unerringly does the Evangelist herein seem to me not merely to say that There was, but by adding the word a man, to overthrow the most unadvised surmise of some.

For already was there a report bruited of many, commonly saying that the holy Baptist was not really a man by nature but one of the holy angels in heaven, making use of human body and sent by God to preach. And the plea for this surmise they found in its being said by God, Behold I send, My messenger before Thy Face, which shall prepare Thy way; before Thee. But they err from the truth who imagine thus, not considering that the name of Angel is indicative of ministry rather than of essence, even as in the history of the blessed Job messengers 6 one after the other run to announce . his manifold sufferings and ministering to those incurable afflictions. Something like this does the most wise Paul himself define respecting the holy angels, writing thus: Are l they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?

John the blessed Baptist then is called an angel by the mouth of the Lord, not as being actually by nature an angel, but as sent to announce and crying aloud, Prepare ye the way of the Lord. Very profitably does he declare moreover that the angel was sent by God, shewing that his witness is most sure. For he that was sent by God to preach, would not |72 utter anything in his teaching that was not wholly according to the will of Him Who put the mission on him. True therefore is the witness as being God-taught. For the most wise Paul also telling us that he was sent by Jesus Christ, affirmed that he learned the power of the mystery not of any other, but by revelation of Him Who sent him, signifying the revelation in sum so to say and briefly, in saying that he was sent by Jesus Christ. Hence the being God-taught wholly follows on being sent by God. And that freedom from lying is wholly the aim of the ministers of the truth is undoubted.

The man’s name he says was John. It needed that he who was sent should be recognized by the mark of the name, which introduces, as I suppose, great authenticity to what is said. For an angel (namely Gabriel that stand in the presence of God, as himself says) when he declared to Zacharias the good tidings of his birth of Elizabeth, added this to what he said, namely that his name shall be John. It is I suppose clear and confessed by all that he was so named of the angel according to the Divine purpose and appointment. How then will not he who was crowned by God with so great honour be conceived of as above all praise? Wherefore the mention of his name is profitably and necessarily brought in.

But since the Evangelist has added that the holy Baptist was sent by God for a witness that all men through him might believe, we will further say when our opponents fall foul and say, “Why did not all believe the God-sent? how came he who was fore-appointed by the decree from above to be powerless to persuade any?”—-It is meet, sirs, that we should not blame John for want of zeal herein, but should exclaim against the obstinacy of those who disbelieved. For so far as pertains to the aim of the herald, and the mode of his apostolate from above, none would have been found imparticipate in the teaching, nor would have remained in unbelief: but since there was diversity of disposition in the hearers and each has power over his own free-choice, some receiving not the faith missed what was profitable. Wherefore we must say to them (as it is in the prophet), He that heareth, let him hear; and he that forbeareth, let him forbear. |73

This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light.

The word This is full of declaration of virtue and praise of person. For he that was sent, he says, from God, he that with reason struck with astonishment the whole of Judaea, by the gravity of his life and its marvellous exercise in virtue, he that is fore-announced by the voice of the holy Prophets: called by Isaiah, The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, and by the blessed David, a lamp fore-ordained for Christ 7; This man came for a witness to hear witness of the Light. He here calls God the Word Light, and shews that He is One and strictly the very actual Light, with Whom there is by nature nought else that has the property of illumining, and that is not lacking light. Therefore foreign and, so to say, of other nature than the creature is the Word of God, since verily and truly is He strictly Light, the creature participate of light. He then that is unclassed with things made, and conceived of therefore as being of other nature than they, how will He be originate, rather how will He not be within the limits of Deity and replete with the Good Nature of Him who begat Him?

8 He was not the Light, but was sent to bear witness of the Light.

The Baptist having esteemed desert-abodes above the haunts of the cities, and having shewn forth an unwonted persistence in exercise of virtue, and having mounted to the very summit of the righteousness attainable by man, was most rightly wondered at, and even by some imagined to be Christ Himself. And indeed the rulers of the Jews led by his achievements in virtue to some such notion, send some to him bidding them to inquire if he be the Christ. The blessed Evangelist then not ignorant of the things that were by many bruited of him, of necessity puts, He was not the Light, that he might both uproot the error as to this, and again build up some weight of credence to him who was sent from God for a witness. For how is he not eminent exceedingly, how is he not every way worthy of marvel, who is so clad with great virtue and so illustrious in righteousness as to imitate |74 Christ Himself, and by the choice beauty of his piety, to be even imagined to be the Light Itself?

He was not then, says he, the Light, but sent to bear witness of the Light. In saying the Light, with the addition of the article, he shews that it is really one: for so it is in truth. For that both the blessed Baptist and each of the other saints, may be rightly called light we will not deny, seeing that it is said of them by our Saviour, Ye are the light of the world. And again it is said of the holy Baptist, I have ordained a lamp for My Christ, and, He was a burning and a shining light, and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light. But even though the saints be light, and the Baptist a lamp, we are not ignorant of the grace that was given them and of their supply from the Light. For neither is the light in the lamp its own, nor the illumination in the saints, but they are rendered bright and lightsome by the enlightening of the Truth and are lights in the world, holding forth the word of life. And what is the Life, whose word they holding forth are called light, save surely the Only-Begotten, Who saith, I am the Life? Therefore, One of a truth is That Which is verily Light, lighting, not enlightened: and by participation of the One, whatever is called light, will be so deemed of by imitation of It. |75

19, 20  And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.

The Evangelist recalls his own words and endeavours to explain to us more fully (doing exceeding well) what he had already told us told us briefly as in summary. For having said There was a man sent from God, whose name was John: the same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, needs does he bring in the mode also of the witness given by him. For when, he says, the chiefs of the Jewish divisions after the Law, sent priests and Levites to him, bidding them ask him, what he would say of himself, then very clearly did he confess, spurning all shame for the truth’s sake. For he said, I am not the Christ. Therefore neither do I, says he, the compiler of this Book, lie saying of him, He was not the Light but to bear witness of the Light.

21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? and he saith, I am not. Art thou that Prophet? And he answered, No.

Having said by way of explanation, he confessed, I am not the Christ; he tries to shew how or in what manner the confession was made; and he appears to me to wish thereby to lay bare the ill-instructedness of the Jews. For professing themselves to be wise they became fools, and puffed up at their knowledge of the Law, and ever putting forward the commandments of Moses and asserting that they were perfectly instructed in the words of the holy Prophets, by their foolish questions they are convicted of being wholly uninstructed. For the hierophant Moses saying that the Lord should be revealed as a Prophet foretold to the children of Israel, The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me, unto Him shall ye hearken; according to all that thou desiredst of the Lord thy God in Horeb. The blessed Isaiah, introducing to us the forerunner and fore-messenger, says, The voice of one crying in the wilderness Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight: and in addition to these the Prophet Joel 13 says of |127 the Tishbite (he was Elias) Behold, I send you Elijah the Tishbite 14 who shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

There being then three, who were promised should come, Christ and John and Elias, the Jews expect that more will come, that they may rightly hear, Ye do err not knowing the Scriptures. For when they enquired of the blessed Baptist and learned that he was not the Christ, they answer, What then? art thou Elias? and on his saying I am not, when they ought to have asked respecting the fore-runner (for he it was that remained) they ignorantly return to Christ Himself, Who was revealed through the Law as a Prophet. For see what they say, not knowing what was told them through Moses, Art thou the Prophet? and he answered, No. For he was not the Christ, as he had already before declared.

22, 23 What sayest thou of thyself? I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.

He accuses them sharply as knowing nothing, and accredits the design or purpose entrusted to him by Prophetic testimony. For I come, he says, to say nothing else than that He, The Looked for, is at length at the doors, yea rather the Lord within the doors. Be ye ready to go whatsoever way He bids you, ye have gone the way given you through Moses, take up that by Christ: for this the choir of the holy Prophets foretold you.

A setting forth of sayings concerning the way that is after Christ.

Isaiah. Come ye and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us of His ways and we will walk in His paths.

The same. And an highway shall be there and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; no lion shall be there nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, but the redeemed shall walk there. |128

The same. I will give beginning 15 to Sign, and will exhort Jerusalem unto the way.

The same. And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not: I will lead them in paths that they have not known.

Jeremiah. Stand ye in the ways and see and ask for the old paths, where is the good way and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for you souls.

What then is the good way and that purifies those who walk in it, let Christ Himself say: I am the Way.

24 And they had been sent from the Pharisees. 16 

They who were sent from the Jews (they were Levites and certain of those who belonged to the priesthood) were convicted of asking foolish questions. For supposing that Christ was one person, the Prophet declared by the Law another, they said, after the holy Baptist had said, I am not the Christ, Art thou the Prophet? But lo, the multitude of the Pharisees also is caught in conceit of wisdom rather than having really an accurate knowledge of the Divine oracles. For why, it says, baptizest thou at all, if thou be not the Christ nor Elias neither the Prophet? and they are shewn again to be full of no small senselessness against the Baptist. For they do not, it seems, vouchsafe to put him in the number of those expected, but sick with the haughtiness that was their foster-sister 17, they deem that he is nought, albeit he be fore-announced by the Prophet’s voice. For though they heard, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness Prepare ye the way of the Lord: receiving not his word, they rebuke him without restraint saying after this sort: There is nought in thee, Sir, worthy of credit, nor wondrous nor great: why baptizest thou even at all? why dost thou, who art absolutely nothing, take in hand so great a thing? It was the habit of the ungodly Pharisees to act thus, to disparage one who was already |129 come, to pretend to honour one who was to come. For in order that they might always procure for themselves honours at the hand of the Jews, and might procure to themselves incomes of money, they desire that none save themselves should appear illustrious. For thus slew they the heir Himself also, saying Come let us kill Him and let us seize on His inheritance.

26 I baptize with water.

Much enduringly does the blessed Baptist bear with the fault finders: and very seasonably does he make the declaration regarding himself a basis of saving preaching: and teaches those who were sent from the Pharisees now even against their will that Christ was within the doors. For I, he says, am bringing in an introductory Baptism, washing those defiled by sin with water for a beginning of penitence and teaching them to go up from the lower unto the more perfect. For this were to accomplish in act, what I was sent to preach, Prepare ye, I mean, the way of the Lord. For the Giver of the greater and most notable gifts and Supplier of all perfection of good things, standeth among you, unknown as yet by reason of the veil of flesh, but so much surpassing me the Baptist, that I must deem myself not to have the measure even of a servant’s place in His Presence. For this I deem is the meaning of, I am not worthy to unloose His shoe-latchet.

And in saying what is true, he works something else that is useful, for he persuades the haughty Pharisee to think lowlily, and brings himself in as an example of this.

But he says that these things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, putting this too as a sign of accurate and careful narration. For we are all accustomed, so to speak, in our accounts of things that require it to mention also the places where they happened. (source)

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Father Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on John 8:46-59

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 12, 2017

Ver. 46.—Which of you, &c. This is to anticipate an objection of the Jews. For they might say, “We do not believe thee, because thou art a violater of our law, in healing the sick on the Sabbath-day.” Produce any other charge against Me, and I will submit to your disbelieving Me. My healing on the Sabbath was not a violation, but a sanctification of the Sabbath. I leave any further charge to be decided by you who are my sworn enemies. So confident was Christ in His innocence that no one could lay anything to His charge which bore the slightest resemblance to sin. For He was Himself sinless, both on account of the Beatific Vision which He enjoyed, as the Blessed in heaven are incapable of sin for the same reason (for seeing God to be the Supreme Good, they necessarily love Him with all their strength, and hate whatever displeases Him) and likewise from the hypostatical union with the Word. For because His humanity existed in the Person of the Word, the Word kept His humanity free from all sin, and in perfect holiness. For if the humanity of Christ had sinned, the Person of the Word would have sinned; which is impossible. For virtuous or vicious actions relate to persons, and are attributed to them. Hence S. Ambrose (on Ps. 40:13) brings in God the Father thus addressing Christ, “Thou wert conversant with sinners, Thou didst take on Thee the sins of all, Thou wast made sin for all, but yet no practice of sin could reach Thee. Thou didst dwell among men, as if among angels, Thou madest earth to be like heaven, that even there also Thou mightest take away sin.”

If I say the truth, &c. He here shuts out another objection of the Jews. For they could have said, We believe Thee not, not for any sin which Thou hast committed, but because the things Thou sayest and teachest are not true.” Christ meets the objection by saying, “I have proved to you My doctrine by so many arguments and miracles, that no prudent person who is not blinded by hatred could question its perfect truth. If then My life is most innocent, and My doctrine most true, why do ye not believe Me?” Receive then the truth not as a bare assertion, but as demonstrated by reason.

Ver. 47.—He that is of God, &c. He here assigns the true reason for the unbelief of the Jews, because they were born not of God, but of the devil; that is, ye do not listen to the spirit and instinct of God, but of the devil. For the devil has blinded your hearts with covetousness, hatred, and envy of Me. And ye therefore listen not to the words of God which I, who am sent from Him, announce to you, because ye will not hear and understand them. Because then ye are not the children of God who is true, but of the devil who is a liar, ye listen to his lying suggestions, but will not give a hearing to the true words of God which are uttered by Me.

Moreover S. Augustine and S. Gregory (Hom. xviii.) understand these words of the elect and reprobate. He who is predestinated and elected hears the words of God, ye hear them not because ye are reprobate. But this is not the literal and genuine sense of the word, but merely an adapted one. For as Toletus and Maldonatus observe, many of those who at that time did not believe in Christ afterwards believed at the preaching of S. Peter and the Apostles; and on the other hand, some who then believed in Christ afterwards fell away from the faith, and became reprobates (see John 6:67).

Lastly, the Manichees inferred wrongly from the passage (as S. Augustine asserts) that some men are good by their own nature, as created by the good God, but others are naturally evil, as created by the evil principle.

Morally:—S. Gregory infers thus from this saying of Christ: “Let each one ask himself if he takes in the word of God with the ear of his heart, and he will understand whence it is. The truth bids us long for the heavenly country, to crush the desires of the flesh, to shun the glory of the world, not to covet others’ goods, to be liberal with one’s own. Let each one of you consider with himself if this voice of God has prevailed in the ear of his heart, and he will acknowledge that it is from God.” And just below, “There are some who willingly listen to the words of God so as to be moved by compunction even to tears, but who after their tears go back again to their sin. And these assuredly hear not the words of God, because they scorn to carry them out in deed.” Hence S. Gregory infers that it is a mark of divine predestination if a man obeys the holy inspirations of God, and of reprobation if he rejects them (see Prov. 1:24). And John 10:27, “My sheep hear My voice.” They who hear the voice of Christ their Shepherd are saved, they who hear not are devoured by the devil. So too Christ says plainly, “Blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it” (Luke 11:25). And S. Bernard (Serm. I, in Septuag.) tells his monks that the greatest proof of predestination is the profitable hearing of the word of God. For it was their constant food, by reading and meditation and prayer, to examine whatever proceeds from the mouth of God, and to fulfil it in their lives.

Ver. 48.—The Jews answered and said, &c. They used to say it, though it is written nowhere else. But why did they call Him a Samaritan? (1.) Because He associated with the Samaritans. (2.) Because He came from Galilee, which was near Samaria. (3.) Because the Samaritans were partly Jews and partly Gentiles, and Christ seemed to them to be the same, as bringing in a new faith and religion; and He thus seemed to be mixing up the traditions of the elders with the Gospel. (4.) And lastly, because He seemed to be making a schism, like the Samaritans. A Samaritan was, more over, a term of reproach.

And hast a devil. (1.) Because they said He cast out devils through Beelzebub, the chief of the devils. (2.) Because He made Himself God, transferring to Himself the glory due to God, as Lucifer strove to do. So Leontius. Our Lord so understood it, and answered, “I seek not My own glory.” (3.) Thou art mad, like lunatics, and those possessed with devils (see 10:20, and 7:20). This was an atrocious blasphemy. How wondrous, then, the patience of Christ! For He answered,

Ver. 49.—I have not a devil, &c. As loving truth He denies the false charge, but though all-powerful He returns not their reproach. “God, though receiving an injury, replies not with words of contumely; and thou, when insulted by thy neighbours, shouldest abstain from their evil words, lest the exercise of just reproof should be turned into weapons of anger.” And Chrysostom, “When it was necessary to teach, and to inveigh against their pride, He was severe. But in bearing with those who reproached Him, He exercised great gentleness, to teach us to resent any wrongs done to God, to overlook the wrongs done to ourselves.” And S. Augustine, “Let us imitate His patience, that we may attain to His powers.”

Christ took no notice of the term Samaritan, because it was a reproach directed only against Himself, and not against God. He refused therefore to avenge His own wrongs, but would defend the honour of God. All knew He was a Galilean, and not a Samaritan, and by saying that He had not a devil, He refuted at the same time the charge of being a Samaritan. For the Samaritans, as schismatics, were the bond slaves of the devil. S. Gregory (Hom. xviii.) gives a mystical reason for His silence. “A Samaritan,” he says, “means a guardian, and He is truly our guardian, of whom the Psalmist speaks, ‘Except the Lord keep the city, they watch in vain who guard it’ (Ps. 127:2); to whom moreover it is said by Isaiah, ‘Watchman, what of the night?’ He would not therefore say, ‘I am not a Samaritan,’ lest he should deny also that He was our guardian.”

I have not a devil. But ye have one. So far from detracting from the glory of God, or claiming it for Myself, as Lucifer did, I continually honour the Father and say that I derive everything from Him, that I am sent from Him, that I obey Him in all things, that I refer everything I have to Him, and direct everything to His honour and glory. But ye rather dishonour God the Father, because ye dishonour Me, and assail Me with most bitter reproaches, through I am His Son, and His ambassador in the world. So Leontius. Others explain it more generally of sin—I honour My Father by good works, ye dishonour Him by your sins. So S. Augustine.

Ver. 50.—I seek not, &c. It is God the Father who will most sharply punish those who seek not My glory, but in every way dishonour and discredit Me. S. Chrysostom.

It may be said, “This is contrary to what Christ says (v. 22), The Father judgeth no man.” But there Christ speaks of the public and general judgment, here He speaks of the private and daily judgment with which He avenges the wrongs done to His Son and His saints, as by the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus for the death of Christ; as He here seems to hint. So Maldonatus and others. But the Gloss says, “There is one that judgeth who distinguishes My glory from yours; as David says, ‘Judge Me, O God, and distinguish My cause from that of the ungodly people’ ” (Ps. 43:1, Vulg.)

Ver. 51.—Verily, verily, I say. He says this not from indignation but from pity of the Jews, showing that He is seeking not His own glory, but their salvation. “I say in very truth,” and as S. Augustine thinks, he means I swear, “that if ye keep My commandments ye shall never die the death of the soul; ye shall never sin, for sin is the death of the soul. But ye shall ever live, here in the grace of God, and in heaven is His glory. Ye shall die indeed in the body, but I will raise you up in the day of judgment, and ye shall live in happiness of body and spirit for all eternity.” So S. Augustine.

Ver. 52.—Now we know, &c. “The devil suggests to Thee such proud and absurd boasting, that Thy word will drive away death from those who believe in Thee, when we see that Prophets and holy men, as Abraham, all died. But as says S. Gregory (Hom. xviii.), looking only to the death of the body, they were dark to the word of truth. For as Bede saith, “Abraham, though dead in the body, was alive in his soul.” Learn from this, thou Religious, thou Preacher, thou Christian, from thy Master to receive calumnies for thy good deeds, curses and ill-will for thy kindnesses. Learn also to be good to the ungrateful. For Christ, though unweariedly teaching the Jews, healing them, delivering them from evil spirits, yet patiently endured these contumelies and reproaches, ingratitude in return for kindnesses, blasphemies for miracles, and for His teaching derision and reprehension, and yet did not cease to benefit those who were ungrateful, the very highest point of patience and charity.

Abraham is dead, &c. Thou blasphemest then, in making thyself greater than Abraham and the Prophets, yea, even greater than God Himself, since the word of God could not deliver Abraham and the Prophets from the death. But yet the word of God, promulged by the lips of Christ, was more powerful than the word of God which was uttered to Abraham and the Prophets. And, moreover, Abraham and the Prophets were not dead in their souls, and though dead in the body were to be raised up by Christ to eternal life.

Ver. 53.—Art thou greater? &c. They considered it most absurd, and even blasphemous, for Christ to prefer Himself to Abraham, as He really did; for He was both God and man, though the Jews knew it not, or rather refused to believe it.

Ver. 54.—Jesus answered, &c. This was in answer to their question, Whom makest thou Thyself? He refers all His glory to His Father from whom He is, and who is God. What I say of Myself is of no value or weight, and that not only with you, as S. Chrysostom says, but with others. For in every court no one is believed on his own word but on the testimony of others, who witness for him (see chap. 5:31). Solomon also says, “Let another praise thee, and not thine own lips” (Prov. 27:2). The Arians objected that the Father glorifies the Son. He is therefore greater than the Son. S. Augustine replies, “Thou heretic, readest thou not that the Son Himself said that He glorifies His Father? But He also glorifies the Son, and the Son glorifies the Father. Put aside thy pernicious teaching, acknowledge their equality, correct thy perversity.”

Ver. 55.—Yet ye have not known Him, &c. (1.) Ye know not the true God whom ye worship; ye know Him not to be one in essence and threefold in person, for ye think Him to be one in Person, as He is one in essence. Ye know not that God is a Father, and that He begat Me His Son, and that we two by our Breath produced the Holy Ghost. For had ye known it, ye would certainly have known and believed Me to be the Messiah, the Son of God; and conversely, “if ye had known Me, ye would assuredly have known My Father,” says S. Chrysostom.

(2.) S. Augustine says, Ye believe that there is one God, though ye neither see nor hear Him (see chap. 5:37). Ye ought therefore equally to believe in Me His Son, on account of the many signs and wonders which I work, though ye see not the Godhead which is hid within. (3.) Ye have not known Him, ye have not believed His testimony, This is My beloved Son; for ye know not, or rather would not know, that this was the true voice of God. (4.) Euthymius explains, “Ye have not shown that ye know Him, because ye live wickedly, not as worshippers of God, but like idolatrous Gentiles, professing, as S. Paul says, to know Him (Tit. 1:16), but in works denying Him.”

And if I say, &c. Maldonatus thinks that Christ called the Jews “liars,” because they said to Him, “Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil.” For these were two most gross falsehoods, nay even blasphemies. But S. Chrysostom, Ammonius, and Theophylact are more to the point in asserting that they were called “liars,” because they lied in saying that they knew God. For they believed not that He had a Son, and was threefold in His personality.

But I know Him, &c. Theophylact explains it thus, “I show by my life and conduct that I know, reverence, and worship God, because I reverently observe and constantly fulfil His word. Or it may be explained, even better, in this way. Because I acknowledge God the Father, and clearly perceive His Majesty, Power, and Holiness; I therefore, as man, greatly reverence Him, and clearly and fully observe His precept, which ye Jews do not observe, because ye know not nor comprehend His Majesty, and therefore do not reverence it.” So Theophylact. Moreover, S. Augustine says, “He spake as the Son, the Word of the Father, and was the very Word of the Father Who spake to men.” And He fitly said the “word,” not the “precept,” because He Himself was the Word of the Father, and the Father had ordered Him to announce to men that very truth, that they should acknowledge, believe, and worship God the Father and God the Son.

Ver. 56.—Your father Abraham, &c. He longed for it with exulting mind; “He feared not, but exulted,” says S. Augustine. “Believing he exulted with hope, that he might see by understanding.” It is a catachresis. But what day? S. Augustine understands by it, that day of all eternity, wherein from all eternity the Son was begotten of the Father. “He wished to know My eternal generation and My Godhead, that he might believe in it, and be thereby saved.” “He saw,” says S. Augustine, “My day, because he acknowledged the mystery of the Trinity.” (Bede follows him, as usual.) S. Jerome (on Dan. 8.) and S. Gregory (in loc.) say that it was the day when, by the three angels that appeared to him, only one of whom spoke to him, the mystery of the Trinity was by symbols revealed to him; he saw three but adored one (Gen. 18:2).

(1.) But others generally refer it to the day of His Humanity, and thus understand it of the day of His Passion, Crucifixion, and death. See S. Chrysostom, &c. (2.) It is more simple to understand it of the day of His Incarnation. For all the Prophets and Patriarchs earnestly longed for the coming of Christ, to free them from their sins and from their imperfect state (limbo). “To see” (says John Alba) “is to enjoy the happiness and blessings brought by Christ.” The word has often that meaning, as in the Psalm “to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living,” i.e., to enjoy it.

He saw it. By faith, and again in a figure when he was commanded by God to offer up his son Isaac, which was a type of Christ’s offering on the Cross. So S. Chrysostom and S. Augustine, and S. Bernard (Serm. vi. de. Vigil Natalis) adds that by smiting on his thigh he signified that Christ was to come from his race.

(2.) He knew by prophetical revelation. But this would not be “seeing.”

(3.) The genuine meaning is, he saw from his own place (in limbo). He knew the day when Christ was incarnate and was born, not only from what Simeon told him, when he met him in the place below (in limbo), but also from what Anna the Prophetess, Zacharias, Anna the Virgin’s Mother, and S. John the Baptist told him, but he saw it by intuitive perception. He saw all, just as the Blessed in heaven behold all things on earth and under the earth, and as S. Anselm saw with his eyes lifted up by God what was doing behind a wall. Abraham longingly desired to see this, as if present. For the promise that Christ should be born of him had been frequently made him by God. And it was due to him, in consequence of his faith, obedience, and many merits, that as the father of the faithful, who for so long a time, without any fault of his own, was so long detained in prison (limbo), most eagerly looking for Christ to deliver him, might for his own consolation, and that of his fellow-patriarchs, and in solace of their long and anxious expectation, know the very day when Christ was Incarnate and born. For two thousand years had he eagerly waited for Christ and sighed for His birth. And therefore God revealed it to him by His Spirit, and then Abraham and all the Saints in prison rejoiced and were glad. So Jansen, Maldonatus, and others. Lastly, the angels who comfort souls in Purgatory, much more consoled the souls of Abraham and the Patriarchs (in limbo), even as the same angels announced that much longed-for birth to the shepherds. Christ said this, (1.) To show that He was greater than Abraham, and that He was God, (2.) to show how highly He was valued, though absent, by Abraham, though the Jews despised Him when present among them. (3.) And also to prick their consciences indirectly in this way: “Abraham had so great a longing for Me, but ye have rejected Me. Ye are therefore not true children of Abraham, but spurious and degenerate.” He says “Abraham your father,” whose children ye glory in being, though I do not glory in him, but he rather glories and exults in Me.

Ver. 57.—Thou art not yet, &c. So that Abraham on his part could have seen Thee, and rejoiced at the sight. Irenæus hence infers that Christ lived fifty years on earth (adv. Hœr. ii. 39, 40). But it is the common opinion that He was on earth for only thirty-four (and those not complete) years. S. Chrysostom and Euthymius read forty years, but the common reading is fifty. The Jews seem to have been thinking of the Jubilee. “Thou hast not reached one Jubilee, how then canst Thou say that Thou hast seen Abraham, who lived forty Jubilees before?” (So Severus of Antioch in Catena.) But Euthymius thinks that Christ seemed to the Jews, by reason of the maturity of His judgment and the gravity of His bearing, and also from the labours He had undergone in journeying and preaching, to be fifty years old. But you may easily say that the Jews, in order to avoid exception or mistake, put His age much higher than they knew He had attained to.

Ver. 58.—Jesus said, &c. That is, I am God. The word am denotes eternity, which is ever present, and has no past or future. I am eternal, immutable, and ever the same. So S. Augustine, Bede, S. Gregory. I as God exceed the age of Abraham not by fifty years, but by infinite durations of years. For as Tertullian (de Trinit.) says, unless He had been God, He could not, as being descended from Abraham, have been before him. Hear S. Augustine on this passage, “Before Abraham was made, that refers to human nature, but I am pertains to the Divine Substance; was made (Vulg.), because Abraham was a creature. He said not, ‘Before Abraham was, I am,’ but Before Abraham was made, I am. Nor did He say, ‘Before Abraham was made, I was made.’ For in the beginning God made heaven and earth; for in the beginning was the Word. Before Abraham was made, I am. Acknowledge the Creator, distinguish the creature. He who spake was made of the seed of Abraham; and in order that Abraham might be made, He was (existed) before Abraham.”

Ver. 59.—Then they took up, &c., as a blasphemer, who placed Himself above Abraham, and made Himself equal to God. Blasphemers were ordered to be stoned (Lev. 26:16). It is clear that these Jews were not those who were said to have believed in Him (as Theophylact supposes), but the others who were opposed to Christ. “And to what should such hardness betake itself but to stones?” says. S. Augustine (in loc.) “They sought to crush Him, whom, they could not understand,” says S. Gregory (Hom. xviii.)

But Jesus hid Himself, &c. He made Himself invisible, and thus passed unharmed through the midst of them. So Leontius and others. S. Gregory says, “Had He willed to exercise His power, He would have bound them in their sins, or would have plunged them into the pains of eternal death. But He who came to suffer, would not exercise judgment.” And S. Augustine, “He would rather commend to us His patience, than exercise His power. He forsakes them, since they would not accept His correction. He hides not Himself in a corner of the temple, as if afraid, or running into a cottage, or turning aside behind a wall or column: but by His Divine Power making Himself invisible, He passed through their midst. As man He fled from the stones, but woe to them from whose stony hearts God flies away.

Morally, we are taught by this example (says S. Gregory) humbly to avoid the anger of the proud, even when we have the power to resist them.

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 11:1-46

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 18, 2017

11:1–5

1. Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.

2. (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.)

3. Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.

4. When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.

5. Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.

Bede. (non occ.) After our Lord had departed to the other side of Jordan, it happened that Lazarus fell sick: A certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany. In some copies the copulative conjunction precedes, to mark the connection with the words preceding. (ἢν δέ τις, now a certain man.) Lazarus signifies helped. Of all the dead which our Lord raised, he was most helped, for he had lain dead four days, when our Lord raised him to life.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 1.) The resurrection of Lazarus is more spoken of than any of our Lord’s miracles. But if we bear in mind who He was who wrought this miracle, we shall feel not so much of wonder, as of delight. He who made the man, raised the man; and it is a greater thing to create a man, than to revive him. Lazarus was sick at Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. The place was near Jerusalem.

Alcuin. And as there were many women of this name, He distinguishes her by her well-known act: It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.

Chrysostom. (Greg. Hom. lxii. 1.) First we are to observe that this was not the harlot mentioned in Luke, but an honest woman, who treated our Lord with marked reverence.

Augustine. (de Con. Ev. ii. lxxix.) John here confirms the passage in Luke (Luke 7:38), where this is said to have taken place in the house of one Simon a Pharisee: Mary had done this act therefore on a former occasion. That she did it again at Bethany is not mentioned in the narrative of Luke, but is in the other three Gospels.

Augustine. (de Verb. Dom. s. lii) A cruel sickness had seized Lazarus; a wasting fever was eating away the body of the wretched man day by day: his two sisters sat sorrowful at his bedside, grieving for the sick youth continually. They sent to Jesus: Therefore his sisters sent unto Him, saying, Lord, behold he whom Thou lovest is sick.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 5.) They did not say, Come and heal; they dared not say, Speak the word there, and it shall be done here; but only, Behold, he whom Thou lovest is sick. As if to say, It is enough that Thou know it, Thou art not one to love and then to desert whom Thou lovest.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 1.) They hope to excite Christ’s pity by these words, Whom as yet they thought to be a man only. Like the centurion and nobleman, they sent, not went, to Christ; partly from their great faith in Him, for they knew Him intimately, partly because their sorrow kept them at home.

Theophylact. And because they were women, and it did not become them to leave their home if they could help it. Great devotion and faith is expressed in these words, Behold, he whom Thou lovest is sick. Such was their idea of our Lord’s power, that they were surprised, that one, whom He loved, could be seized with sickness.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 6.) When Jesus heard that, He said, This sickness is not unto death. For this death itself was not unto death, but to give occasion for a miracle; whereby men might be brought to believe in Christ, and so escape real death. It was for the glory of God, wherein observe that our Lord calls Himself God by implication, thus confounding those heretics who say that the Son of God is not God. For the glory of what God? Hear what follows, That the Son of God might be glorified thereby, i. e. by that sickness.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 1.) That here signifies not the cause, but the event. The sickness sprang from natural causes, but He turned it to the glory of God.

Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 7.) He is sick, they sorrowful, all beloved. Wherefore they had hope, for they were beloved by Him Who is the Comforter of the sorrowful, and the Healer of the sick.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii non occ. v. lxii. 3.) Wherein the Evangelist instructs us not to be sad, if sickness ever falls upon good men, and friends of God.

11:6–10

6. When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was.

7. Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judæa again.

8. His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?

9. Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world.

10. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.

Alcuin. Our Lord heard of the sickness of Lazarus, but suffered four days to pass before He cured it; that the recovery might be a more wonderful one. When He had heard therefore that he was sick, He abode two days still in the place where He was.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 1.) To give time for his death and burial, that they might say, he stinketh, and none doubt that it was death, and not a trance, from which he was raised.

Then after that saith He to His disciples, Let us go into Judæa again.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 7.) Where He had just escaped being stoned; for this was the cause of His leaving. He left indeed as man: He left in weakness, but He returns in power.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 1.) He had not as yet told His disciples where He was going; but now He tells them, in order to prepare them beforehand, for they are in great alarm, when they hear of it: His disciples say unto Him, Master, the Jews sought to stone Thee, and goest Thou thither again? They feared both for Him, and for themselves; for they were not yet confirmed in faith.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 8.) When men presumed to give advice to God, disciples to their Master, our Lord rebuked them: Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? He shewed Himself to be the day, by appointing twelve disciples: i. e. reckoning Matthias in the place of Judas, and passing over the latter altogether. The hours are lightened by the day; that by the preaching of the hours, the world may believe on the day. Follow Me then, saith our Lord, if ye wish not to stumble: If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world: But if a man walk in the night he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 1.) As if to say, The upright need fear no evil: the wicked only have cause to fear. We have done nothing worthy of death, and therefore are in no danger. Or, If any one seeth this world’s light, he is safe; much more he who is with Me.

Theophylact. Some understand the day to be the time preceding the Passion, the night to be the Passion. In this sense, while it is day, would mean, before My Passion; Ye will not stumble before My Passion, because the Jews will not persecute you; but when the night, i. e. My Passion, cometh, then shall ye be beset with darkness and difficulties.

11:11–16

11. These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go that I may awake him out of sleep.

12. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well.

13. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep.

14. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.

15. And I am glad for your sakes I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.

16. Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellowdisciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 1.) After He has comforted His disciples in one way, He comforts them in another, by telling them that they were not going to Jerusalem, but to Bethany: These things saith He: and after that He saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go that I may awake him out of sleep: as if to say, I am not going to dispute again with the Jews, but to awaken our friend. Our friend, He says, to shew how strongly they were bound to go.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. c. 9.) It was really true that He was sleeping. To our Lord, he was sleeping; to men who could not raise him again, he was dead. Our Lord awoke him with as much ease from his grave, as thou awakest a sleeper from his bed. He calls him then asleep, with reference to His own power, as the Apostle saith, But I would not have you to be ignorant, concerning them which are asleep. (1 Thess. 4:13) Asleep, He says, because He is speaking of their resurrection which was to be. But as it matters to those who sleep and wake again daily, what they see in their sleep, some having pleasant dreams, others painful ones, so it is in death; every one sleeps and rises again with his own account.a

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 1.) The disciples however wished to prevent Him going to Judæa: Then said His disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Sleep is a good sign in sickness. And therefore if he sleep, say they, what need to go and awake him.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 11.) The disciples replied, as they understood Him: Howbeit Jesus spake of his death; but they thought that He had spoken of taking rest in sleep.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 2.) But if any one say, that the disciples could not but have known that our Lord meant Lazarus’s death, when He said, that I may awake him; because it would have been absurd to have gone such a distance merely to awake Lazarus out of sleep; we answer, that our Lord’s words were a kind of enigma to the disciples, here as elsewhere often.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 11.) He then declares His meaning openly: Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 2.) But He does not add here, I go that I may awake him. He did not wish to anticipate the miracle by talking of it; a hint to us to shun vain glory, and abstain from empty promises.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 11.) He had been sent for to restore Lazarus from sickness, not from death. But how could the death be hid from Him, into whose hands the soul of the dead had flown?

And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that ye might believe; i. e. seeing My marvellous power of knowing a thing I have neither seen nor heard. The disciples already believed in Him in consequence of His miracles; so that their faith had not now to begin, but only to increase. That ye might believe, means, believe more deeply, more firmly.

Theophylact. Some have understood this place thus. I rejoice, He says, for your sakes; for if I had been there, I should have only cured a sick man; which is but an inferior sign of power. But since in My absence he has died, ye will now see that I can raise even the dead putrefying body; and your faith will be strengthened.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 2.) The disciples all dreaded the Jews; and especially Thomas; Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow-disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him. But he who was now the most weak and unbelieving of all the disciples, afterwards became stronger than any. And he who dared not go to Bethany, afterwards went over the whole earth, in the midst of those who wished his death, with a spirit indomitable.

Bede. The disciples, checked by our Lord’s answer to them, dared no longer oppose; and Thomas, more forward than the rest, says, Let us also go that we may die with him. What an appearance of firmness! He speaks as if he could really do what he said; unmindful, like Peter, of his frailty.

11:17–27

17. Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already.

18. Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off:

19. And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.

20. Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house.

21. Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

22. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.

23. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.

24. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.

25. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:

26. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

27. She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.

Alcuin. Our Lord delayed His coming for four days, that the resurrection of Lazarus might be the more glorious: Then when Jesus came, He found that He had lain in the grave four days already.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 2.) Our Lord had stayed two days, and the messenger had come the day before; the very day on which Lazarus died. This brings us to the fourth day.

Augustine. (Tract. xlix. 12.) Of the four days many things may be said. They refer to one thing, but one thing viewed in different ways. There is one day of death which the law of our birth brings upon us. Men transgress the natural law, and this is another day of death. The written law is given to men by the hands of Moses, and that is despised—a third day of death. The Gospel comes, and men transgress it—a fourth day of death. But Christ doth not disdain to awaken even these.

Alcuin. The first sin was elation of heart, the second assent, the third act, the fourth habit.

Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 2.) Two miles. This is mentioned to account for so many coming from Jerusalem: And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. But how could the Jews be consoling the beloved of Christ, when they had resolved that whoever confessed Christ should be put out of the synagogue? Perhaps the extreme affliction of the sisters excited their sympathy; or they wished to shew respect for their rank. Or perhaps they who came were of the better sort; as we find many of them believed. Their presence is mentioned to do away with all doubt of the real death of Lazarus.

Bede. Our Lord had not yet entered the town, when Martha met Him: Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him: but Mary sat still in the house.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 2.) Martha does not take her sister with her, because she wants to speak with Christ alone, and tell Him what has happened. When her hopes had been raised by Him, then she went her way, and called Mary.

Theophylact. At first she does not tell her sister, for fear, if she came, the Jews present might accompany her. And she did not wish them to know of our Lord’s coming.

Then saith Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 3.) She believed in Christ, but she believed not as she ought. She did not speak as if He were God: If Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

Theophylact. She did not know that He could have restored her brother as well absent as present.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 3.) Nor did she know that He wrought His miracles by His own independent power: But I know that even now, whatsoever Thou will ask of God, God will give it Thee. She only thinks Him some very gifted man.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 13.) She does not say to Him, Bring my brother to life again; for how could she know that it would be good for him to come to life again; she says, I know that Thou canst do so, if Thou wilt; but what Thou wilt do is for Thy judgment, not for my presumption to determine.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 3.) But our Lord taught her the truths which she did not know: Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Observe, He does not say, I will ask God, that he may rise again, nor on the other hand does He say, I want no help, I do all things of Myself; a declaration which would have been too much for the woman; but something between the two, He shall rise again.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 14.) Shall rise again, is ambiguous: for He does not say, now. And therefore it follows: Martha saith unto Him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day: of that resurrection I am certain; of this I am doubtful.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii.) She had often heard Christ speak of the resurrection. Jesus now declares His power more plainly: Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection and the life. He needed therefore none to help Him; for if He did, how could He be the resurrection. And if He is the life, He is not confined by place, but is every where, and can heal every where.

Alcuin. I am the resurrection, because I am the life; as through Me he will rise at the general resurrection, through Me he may rise now.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii.) To Martha’s, Whatsoever Thou shall ask, He replies, He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: shewing her that He is the Giver of all good, and that we must ask of Him. Thus He leads her to the knowledge of high truths; and whereas she had been enquiring only about the resurrection of Lazarus, tells her of a resurrection in which both she and all present would share.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 15.) He that believeth in Me, though he were dead: i. e. though his flesh die, his soul shall live till the flesh rise again, never to die more. For faith is the life of the soul.

And whosoever liveth, in the flesh, and believeth in Me, though he die for a time in the flesh, shall not die eternally.

Alcuin. Because He hath attained to the life of the Spirit, and to an immortal resurrection. Our Lord, from Whom nothing was hid, knew that she believed, but sought from her a confession unto salvation: Believest thou this? She saith unto Him, Yea, Lord, I believe that Thou art the Christ the Son of God, which should come into the world.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 3.) She seems not to have understood His words; i. e. she saw that He meant something great, but did not see what that was. She is asked one thing, and answers another.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 15.) When I believed that Thou wert the Son of God, I believed that Thou wert the resurrection, that Thou wert lifeb; and that he that believeth in Thee, though he were dead, shall live.

11:28–32

28. And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee.

29. And as soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him.

30. Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him.

31. The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there.

32. Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii. 3.) Christ’s words had the effect of stopping Martha’s grief. In her devotion to her Master she had no time to think of her afflictions: And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 16.) Silently1, i. e. speaking in a low voice. For she did speak, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxii.) She calls her sister secretly, in order not to let the Jews know that Christ was coming. (non occ.). For had they known, they would have gone, and not been witnesses of the miracle.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 16.) We may observe that the Evangelist has not said, where, or when, or how, the Lord called Mary, but for brevity’s sake has left it to be gathered from Martha’s words.

Theophylact. Perhaps she thought the presence of Christ in itself a call, as if it were inexcusable, when Christ came, that she should not go out to meet Him.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiii. 1.) While the rest sat around her in her sorrow, she did not wait for the Master to come to her, but, not letting her grief detain her, rose immediately to meet Him; As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto Him.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. non occ.) So we see, if she had known of His arrival before, she would not have let Martha go without her.

Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met Him.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiii. 1.) He went slowly, that He might not seem to catch at an occasion of working a miracle, but to have it forced upon Him by others asking. Mary, it is said, arose quickly, and thus anticipated His coming. The Jews accompanied her: The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary that she arose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 16.) The Evangelist mentions this to shew how it was that so many were present at Lazarus’ resurrection, and witness of that great miracle.

Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiii. 1.) She is more fervent than her sister. Forgetful of the crowd around her, and of the Jews, some of whom were enemies to Christ, she threw herself at her Master’s feet. In His presence all earthly things were nought to her; she thought of nothing but giving Him honour.

Theophylact. But her faith seems as yet imperfect: Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

Alcuin. As if to say, Lord, while Thou wert with us, no disease, no sickness dared to shew itself, amongst those with whom the Life deigned to take up His abode.

Augustine. (de Verb. Dom. s. lii) O faithless assembly! Whilst Thou art yet in the world, Lazarus Thy friend dieth! If the friend dies, what will the enemy suppose? Is it a small thing that they will not serve Thee upon earth? lo, hell hath taken Thy beloved.

Bede. Mary did not say so much as Martha, she could not bring out what she wanted for weeping, as is usual with persons overwhelmed with sorrow.

11:33–41

33. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled,

34. And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see.

35. Jesus wept.

36. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!

37. And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?

38. Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.

39. Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.

40. Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?

41. Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiii. 1.) Christ did not answer Mary, as He had her sister, on account of the people present. In condescension to them He humbled Himself, and let His human nature be seen, in order to gain them as witnesses to the miracle: When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, He groaned in His spirit, and was troubled.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix.) For who but Himself could trouble Him? Christ was troubled, because it pleased Him to be troubled; He hungered, because it pleased Him to hunger. It was in His own power to be affected in this or that way, or not. The Word took up soul and flesh, and whole man, and fitted it to Himself in unity of person. And thus according to the nod and will of that higher nature in Him, in which the sovereign power resides, He becomes weak and troubled.

Theophylact. To prove His human nature He sometimes gives it free vent, while at other times He commands, and restrains it by the power of the Holy Ghost. Our Lord allows His nature to be affected in these ways, both to prove that He is very Man, not Man in appearance only; and also to teach us by His own example the due measures of joy and grief. For the absence altogether of sympathy and sorrow is brutal, the excess of them is womanly.

Augustine. (de Ver. Dom. s. lii) And said, Where have ye laid him? He knew where, but He asked to try the faith of the people.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiii. 1.) He did not wish to thrust the miracle upon them, but to make them ask for it, and thus do away with all suspicions.

Augustine. (lib. 83. Quæst. qu. lxv.) The question has an allusion too to our hidden calling. That predestination by which we are called, is hidden; and the sign of its being so is our Lord asking the question: He being as it were in ignorance, so long as we are ignorant ourselves. Or because our Lord elsewhere shews that He knows not sinners, saying, I know you not, (Matt. 7:23) because in keeping His commandments there is no sin.

They said unto Him, Lord, come and see.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiii. 1.) He had not yet raised any one from the dead; and seemed as if He came to weep, not to raise to life. Wherefore they say to Him, Come and see.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 20.) The Lord sees when He pities, as we read, Look upon my adversity and misery, and forgive me all my sin. (Ps. 25:18.)

Jesus wept.

Alcuin. Because He was the fountain of pity. He wept in His human nature for him whom He was able to raise again by His divine.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. non occ.) Wherefore did Christ weep, but to teach men to weep?

Bede. It is customary to mourn over the death of friends; and thus the Jews explained our Lord’s weeping: Then said the Jews, Behold how He loved him.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 21.) Loved him. Our Lord came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. And some of them said, Could not this Man which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died? He was about to do more than this, to raise him from death.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiii. 1.) It was His enemies who said this. The very works, which should have evidenced His power, they turn against Him, as if He had not really done them. This is the way that they speak of the miracle of opening the eyes of the man that was born blind. They even prejudge Christ before He has come to the grave, and have not the patience to wait for the issue of the matter. Jesus therefore again groaning in Himself, cometh to the grave. That He wept, and He groaned, are mentioned to shew us the reality of His human nature. John who enters into higher statements as to His nature than any of the other Evangelists, also descends lower than any in describing His bodily affections.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix.) And do thou too groan in thyself, if thou wouldest rise to new life. To every man is this said, who is weighed down by any vicious habit. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. The dead under the stone is the guilty under the Law. For the Law, which was given to the Jews, was graven on stone. And all the guilty are under the Law, for the Law was not made for a righteous man.

Bede. A cave is a hollow in a rock. It is called a monument, because it reminds us of the dead.

Jesus said, Take ye away the stone.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiii. 2.) But why did He not raise him without taking away the stone? Could not He who moved a dead body by His voice, much more have moved a stone? He purposely did not do so, in order that the miracle might take place in the sight of all; to give no room for saying, as they had said in the case of the blind man, This is not he. Now they might go into the grave, and feel and see that this was the man.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. c. 22.) Take ye away the stone; mystically, Take away the burden of the law, proclaim grace.

Augustine. (lib. 83. Quæst. qu. 61.) Perhaps those are signified who wished to impose the rite of circumcision on the Gentile converts; or men in the Church of corrupt life, who offend believers.

Augustine. (de Ver. Dom. serm. lii) Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, though they had often seen Christ raise the dead, did not fully believe that He could raise their brother; Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto Him, Lord, by this time he stinketh, for he hath been dead four days.

Theophylact. Martha said this from weakness of faith, thinking it impossible that Christ could raise her brother, so long after death.

Bede. (non occ. [Nic.]) Or, these are not words of despair, but of wonder.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiii. 2.) Thus every thing tends to stop the mouths of the unbelieving. Their hands take away the stone, their ears hear Christ’s voice, their eyes see Lazarus come forth, they perceive the smell of the dead body.

Theophylact. Christ reminds Martha of what He had told her before, which she had forgotten: Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiii.) She did not remember what He said above, He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. To the disciples He had said, That the Son of God might be glorified thereby; here it is the glory of the Father He speaks of. The difference is made to suit the different hearers. Our Lord could not rebuke her before such a number, but only says, Thou shalt see the glory of God.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix.) Herein is the glory of God, that he that stinketh and hath been dead four days, is brought to life again.

Then they took away the stone.

Origen. (tom. in Joan. xxviii.) The delay in taking away the stone was caused by the sister of the dead, who said, By this time he stinketh, for he hath been dead four days. If she had not said this, it would not be said, Jesus said, Take away the stone. Some delay had arisen; it is best to let nothing come between the commands of Jesus and doing them.

11:41–46

41. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.

42. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.

43. And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.

44. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.

45. Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.

46. But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done.

Alcuin. Christ, as man, being inferior to the Father, prays to Him for Lazarus’s resurrection; and declares that He is heard: And Jesus lifted up His eyes, and said, Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me.

Origen. (tom. xxviii.) He lifted up His eyes; mystically, He lifted up the human mind by prayer to the Father above. We should pray after Christ’s pattern, Lift up the eyes of our heart, and raise them above present things in memory, in thought, in intention. If to them who pray worthily after this fashion is given the promise in Isaiah, Thou shalt cry, and He shall say, Here I am; (Isa. 58:9) what answer, think we, our Lord and Saviour would receive? He was about to pray for the resurrection of Lazarus. He was heard by the Father before He prayed; His request was granted before made. And therefore He begins with giving thanks; I thank Thee, Father, that Thou hast heard Me.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiv. 2.) i. e. There is no difference of will between Me and Thee. Thou hast heard Me, does not shew any lack of power in Him, or that He is inferior to the Father. It is a phrase that is used between friends and equals. That the prayer is not really necessary for Him, appears from the words that follow, And I knew that Thou heardest Me always: as if He said, I need not prayer to persuade Thee; for Ours is one will. He hides His meaning on account of the weak faith of His hearers. For God regards not so much His own dignity, as our salvation; and therefore seldom speaks loftily of Himself, and, even when He does, speaks in an obscure way; whereas humble expressions abound in His discourses.

Hilary. (lib. x. de Trin.) He did not therefore need to pray: He prayed for our sakes, that we might know Him to be the Son: But because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that Thou hast sent Me. His prayer did not benefit Himself, but benefited our faith. He did not want help, but we want instruction.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiv. 2.) He did not say, That they may believe that I am inferior to Thee, in that I cannot do this without prayer, but, that Thou hast sent Me. He saith not, hast sent Me weak, acknowledging subjection, doing nothing of Myself, but hast sent Me in such sense, as that man may see that I am from God, not contrary to God; and that I do this miracle in accordance with His will.

Augustine. (de Verb. Dom. Serm. lii) Christ went to the grave in which Lazarus slept, as if He were not dead, but alive and able to hear, for He forthwith called him out of his grave: And when He had thus spoken, He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. He calls him by name, that He may not bring out all the dead.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiv. 2.) He does not say, Arise, but, Come forth, speaking to the dead as if he were alive. For which reason also He does not say, Come forth in My Father’s name, or, Father, raise him, but throwing off the whole appearance of one praying, proceeds to shew His power by acts. This is His general way. His words shew humility, His acts power.

Theophylact. The voice which roused Lazarus, is the symbol of that trumpet which will sound at the general resurrection. (He spoke loud, to contradict the Gentile fable, that the soul remained in the tomb. The soul of Lazarus is called to as if it were absent, and a loud voice were necessary to summon it.) And as the general resurrection is to take place in the twinkling of an eye, so did this single one: And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face was bound about with a napkin. Now is accomplished what was said above, The hour is coming, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live. (5:25)

Origen. (t. xxviii.) His cry and loud voice it was which awoke him, as Christ had said, I go to awake him. The resurrection of Lazarus is the work of the Father also, in that He heard the prayer of the Son. It is the joint work of Father and Son, one praying, the other hearing; for as the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom He will. (5:21)

Chrysostom. (Hom. lxiv.) He came forth bound, that none might suspect that he was a mere phantom. Besides, that this very fact, viz. of coming forth bound, was itself a miracle, as great as the resurrection. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, that by going near and touching him they might be certain he was the very person. And let him go. His humility is shewn here; He does not take Lazarus about with Him for the sake of display.

Origen. (t. xxviii. 10.) Our Lord had said above, Because of the people that stand by I said it, that they may believe that Thou hast sent Me. It would have been ignorance of the future, if He had said this, and none believed, after all. Therefore it follows: Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on Him. But some of them went their way to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done. It is doubtful from these words, whether those who went to the Pharisees, were of those many who believed, and meant to conciliate the opponents of Christ; or whether they were of the unbelieving party, and wished to inflame the envy of the Pharisees against Him. The latter seems to me the true supposition; especially as the Evangelist describes those who believed as the larger party. Many believed; whereas it is only a few who go to the Pharisees: Some of them went to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done.

Augustine. (lib. lxxxiii. Quæst. q. 65.) Although according to the Gospel history, we hold that Lazarus was really raised to life, yet I doubt not that his resurrection is an allegory as well. We do not, because we allegorize facts, lose our belief in them as facts.

Augustine. (Tr. super Joan. xlix. 3.) Every one that sinneth, dies; but God, of His great mercy, raises the soul to life again, and does not suffer it to die eternally. The three miraculous resurrections in the Gospels, I understand to testify the resurrection of the soul.

Gregory. (iv. Moral. c. xxix.) The maiden is restored to life in the house, the young man outside the gate, Lazarus in his grave. She that lies dead in the house, is the sinner lying in sin: he that is carried out by the gate is the openly and notoriously wicked.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix. 3.) Or, it is death within; when the evil thought has not come out into action. But if thou actually do the evil thing, thou hast as it were carried the dead outside the gate.

Gregory. (v. Moral.) And one there is who lies dead in his grave, with a load of earth upon him; i. e. who is weighed down by habits of sin. But the Divine grace has regard even unto such, and enlightens them.

Augustine. (lib. lxxxii. Quæst. q. lxv.) Or we may take Lazarus in the grave as the soul laden with earthly sins.

Augustine. (in Joan. Tr. xlix.) And yet our Lord loved Lazarus. For had He not loved sinners, He would never have come down from heaven to save them. Well is it said of one of sinful habits, that He stinketh. He hath a bad report1 already, as it were the foulest odour.

Augustine. (lib. lxxxiii. Quæst. q. 65.) Well may she say, He hath been dead four days. For the earth is the last of the elements. It signifies the pit of earthly sins, i. e. carnal lusts.

Augustine. (Tract. in Joan. xlix. 19.) The Lord groaned, wept, cried with a loud voice. It is hard for Him to arise, who is bowed down with the weight of evil habits. Christ troubleth Himself, to signify to thee that thou shouldest be troubled, when thou art pressed and weighed down with such a mass of sin. Faith groaneth, he that is displeased with himself groaneth, and accuseth his own evil deeds; that so the habit of sin may yield to the violence of repentance. When thou sayest, I have done such a thing, and God has spared me; I have heard the Gospel, and despised it; what shall I do? then Christ groaneth, because faith groaneth; and in the voice of thy groaning appeareth the hope of thy rising again.

Gregory. (xxii. Moral.) Lazarus is bid to come forth, i. e. to come forth and condemn himself with his own mouth, without excuse or reservation: that so he that lies buried in a guilty conscience, may come forth out of himself by confession.

Augustine. (lib. lxxxiii. Quæst. q. 65.) That Lazarus came forth from the grave, signifies the soul’s deliverance from carnal sins. That he came bound up in grave clothes means, that even we who are delivered from carnal things, and serve with the mind the law of God, yet cannot, so long as we are in the body, be free from the besetments of the flesh. That his face was bound about with a napkin means, that we do not attain to full knowledge in this life. And when our Lord says, Loose him, and let him go, we learn that in another world all veils will be removed, and that we shall see face to face.

Augustine. (Tr. xlix.) Or thus: When thou despisest, thou liest dead; when thou confessest, thou comest forth. For what is to come forth, but to go out, as it were, of thy hiding place, and shew thyself? But thou canst not make this confession, except God move thee to it, by crying with a loud voice, i. e. calling thee with great grace. But even after the dead man has come forth, he remains bound for some time, i. e. is as yet only a penitent. Then our Lord says to His ministers, Loose him, and let him go, i. e. remit his sins: Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matt. 18:18)

Alcuin. Christ awakes, because His power it is which quickens us inwardly: the disciples loose, because by the ministry of the priesthood, they who are quickened are absolved.

Bede. By those who went and told the Pharisees, are meant those who seeing the good works of God’s servants, hate them on that very account, persecute, and calumniate them.

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Father MacEVilly’s Commentary on John 11:1-45

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 18, 2017

1 Now there was a certain man sick, named Lazarus, of Bethania, of the town of Mary and of Martha her sister.

It is supposed generally that an interval of about three months elapsed between this and the occurrences recorded in the last chapter, at the Feast of the Renovation. These took place about the middle of December—and those mentioned in this chapter, took place about the middle of March, at the near approach of the Pasch, when our Lord was put to death.

Now there was a certain man sick named Lazarus,” etc. He was supposed to be in good circumstances, quite different from the Lazarus mentioned in connexion with the rich glutton. (Luke 16.) “Of Bethania, of the town of Mary and Martha, her sister.” These latter words are put in apposition to the former, meaning, “Bethania,” that is to say, the town or village in which Martha and Mary lived, just as Bethsaida is called, “the town of Peter and Andrew” (1:41), not that they were owners of it, but only lived there. This Bethania was about two miles from Jerusalem, to the east of Mount Olivet. The Evangelist narrates every thing in detail, connected with the great miracle, which He is about to describe.

2 (And Mary was she that anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair: whose brother Lazarus was sick.)

The more probable opinion, though warmly disputed (see Corlui, in hunc locum) is, that Mary Magdalen (Luke 8:2; Matthew 28:5, 6, and 7), the Mary referred to here, the sister of Lazarus, as also in Luke 10:38; John 12:3–8, and the sinful woman, Luke 7:36–50, are one and the same person (see Matthew 26:7, Commentary on).

3 His sisters therefore sent to him, saying: Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.

The sisters of Lazarus respectfully hint, or rather modestly request, that our Lord would cure their sick brother. This expresses their great faith in our Lord, their confidence and love. Their faith, shown in their belief that our Lord, though absent, could cure him. Their hope, in the expectation that, on receiving the message, He would restore him. Their charity—“behold whom Thou lovest,” etc., which implied reciprocal great love on their part. They say, “whom Thou lovest,” etc., not Lazarus; not our brother, to excite our Lord’s tender compassion and pity, the more effectually, to move Him to cure their brother.

4 And Jesus hearing it, said to them: This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God: that the Son of God may be glorified by it.

Said to them,” viz., the sisters, through the messenger, “not unto death,” will not terminate in death, but has for object, the glory of God; or, is not meant to end in the death which, as you apprehend, will close his mortal life; since, he was to be soon again resuscitated.

But for the glory of God.” To promote and manifest God’s glory; when men seeing the miracle, would believe in our Lord, as Son of God, and thus glorify the Father and the Son. This is explained in the following words, “that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” The glory of the Father and of the Son is the same. The death and resuscitation of Lazarus was meant for a signal display of the glory of God, by proving the Divine mission of His Son.

5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister Mary and Lazarus.

He loved them with an eternal love, as God; with a human love, as good, virtuous people, and also on account of their singular love devotion and liberality, in hospitably entertaining Himself and His disciples, on several occasions.

6 When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he still remained in the same place two days.

He did not wish to go to Bethania till Lazarus would be some time dead, and no cavilling questions raised about the reality of his death, and the subsequent miracle of his resuscitation. It is likely, that Lazarus died soon after the messengers left our Lord, on their return home. The circumstance of our Lord’s remaining two days at Bethabara, thirty miles from Bethania, where this disconsolate family lived, whom He knew to be plunged in the deepest sorrow, would seem to indicate, that He meant to compensate for this apparent indifference in remaining so long away, by raising him, as He did, from the grave.

7 Then after that, he said to his disciples: Let us go into Judea again.

Then after that.” After the lapse of two days, from the departure of the messengers. Up to that, He said nothing of His intended journey, or of the death of Lazarus.

Let us go into Judea”—the portion occupied by the Tribes of Juda and Benjamin—“again.” They had left it not long before when the Jews meant to stone Him (10:31–39). He knew the disciples had no wish to return to Judea, from a sense of danger. He now prepares them for it by this announcement of His intention.

8 The disciples say to him: Rabbi, the Jews but now sought to stone thee. And goest thou thither again?

His disciples, who were ignorant of His design to die, wish to dissuade Him from encountering certain death. They knew not His designs of Redemption, which was now on the eve of accomplishment.

9 Jesus answered: Are there not twelve hours of the day? If a man walk in the day he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world:
10 But if he walk in the night, he stumbleth, because the light is not in him.

Since the return from the Babylonish captivity, the Jews divided their days from sunrise to sunset into twelve parts, which were longer or shorter, according to the season of the year. This was the division in use among the Romans, to whom the Jews were now subject. Our Lord means to employ an allegory wherein the twelve hours of the day denote the period of human life; the night, death. He, therefore, means to convey, that as a man walking in day-time, is sure to avoid all obstacles, against which he might impinge, and thus stumble, because he has the light of the day to guide him; so, as there is a certain time marked out for Him in the decrees of His heavenly Father to continue in life, they need not fear any danger till “His hour is come,” and the time has expired. Now that time will expire then only, when He shall voluntarily hand Himself over to His cruel executioners. Hence, they need be under no apprehension in accompanying Him now into Judea.

11 These things he said; and after that he said to them: Lazarus our friend sleepeth: but I go that I may awake him out of sleep.

After having strengthened them against indulging in fear, He announces the death of Lazarus. “Sleepeth.” Death is but a kind of sleep. The SS. Scriptures often term it such, in view of the future general Resurrection.

Awake him.” He thus modestly refers to the exercise of His Almighty power, soon to be displayed in the resuscitation of Lazarus.

12 His disciples therefore said: Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well.
13 But Jesus spoke of his death: and they thought that he spoke of the repose of sleep.

If he only sleeps, he is sure of recovery. Let us allow him to sleep. It would seem that by the observation, “he shall do well,” they meant to dissuade our Lord from undertaking an unnecessary journey.

14 Then therefore Jesus said to them plainly: Lazarus is dead.

The messenger only spoke of Lazarus’s illness. Our Lord showed His Divine insight into secret, hidden events, by saying, “plainly,” literally, without any figure, “Lazarus is dead.”

15 And I am glad, for your sakes; that I was not there, that you may believe. But, let us go to him.

I am glad … not there,” because, if there at the time of Lazarus’s death, He would have been moved by the tears and entreaties of his sisters to ward off death, or to raise him up at once. Neither course would so strongly contribute to the faith of His Apostles, as did what took place in his resuscitation, after he was in the grave for some time. “That you may believe,” that is, be more and more confirmed in your faith.

16 Thomas therefore, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples: Let us also go, that we may die with him.

Thomas, called Didymus.” The word, “Thomas,” translated into Greek, means, “Didymus,” or twin, just as Cephas, in Greek, means, Petros or rock.

Let us go and die,” etc. He did not seem to understand our Saviour’s words (verses 9 and 10). Hence, fancying our Lord meant to go to death, he intrepidly encourages his fellow Apostles to share in his fate.

17 Jesus therefore came: and found that he had been four days already in the grave.

Four days already in the grave.” Commentators explain it thus: most likely, Lazarus died on the day the messenger was despatched to our Lord, and was buried the following day. Our Lord set out from Bethabara the third day after Lazarus’s death, and the second of his burial. The distance was rather long; and our Lord, on the third day of Lazarus’s burial, travelled leisurely, delivering instructions as He went along. Most likely, He remained for the night at some midway place. The following or fourth day He arrived near Bethany about mid-day. It would not be congruous, that the miracle, with all its circumstances, should occur at any other time save the day time.

18 (Now Bethania = Bethnay was near Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off.)

Bethany was about two miles distant from Jerusalem.

19 And many of the Jews were come to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.

The family of Lazarus likely occupied a respectable position, and had many friends in the neighbouring city; probably, men of eminence and learning. They came out to condole with the sisters of the deceased. The testimony of these, some of them, no doubt, hostile to our Lord, would have great weight in regard to the stupendous miracle of which they were witnesses.

20 Martha therefore, as soon as she heard that Jesus was come, went to meet him: but Mary sat at home.

It is clear our Lord did not, at this time, reach the house of Martha; but only came to the place of the sepulchre, which was outside the town or village, according to the custom of the Jews. “Martha,” to whom, as mistress of the house (Luke 10:38), the tidings of our Lord’s arrival was communicated, on hearing of His approach went out at once—without waiting to intimate it to her sister—to meet our Lord, sure to receive greater and more practical consolation than she could expect from any of the sympathizing Jews.

But Mary sat at home,” receiving the expression of condolence from those who came to sympathize with them. Likely, too, she had not at once heard of our Lord’s arrival (v. 28), and Martha, in her hurry, did not tell her at the time. Moreover, had she left, all the Jews in the house would have followed: and confusion at their meeting our Lord, to whom some of them were hostile, might ensue.

21 Martha therefore said to Jesus: Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
22 But now also I know that whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.

Martha’s faith in our Lord’s power was somewhat imperfect, since He could as easily operate when absent, as when present. And although she believed Him to be “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v. 27); still, it is likely she did not clearly apprehend His identity of nature and power with the Father; since, she regards His power as dependent on the Father, who would surely grant all His petitions. She does not say, if Thou wilt, Thou canst raise my brother. It may be, she tacitly expects He would, in virtue of His acceptance with His Father, raise her brother again, relying on the message received from Him (v. 4. He had already cured men on the point of death. Hence, she says, if present, He would have cured her brother. It is hardly likely, that she hoped, He would perform the stupendous miracle of raising the dead to life. The words of this verse, clearly denote that she expected our Lord would obtain any thing from God necessary to console them in their affliction. Possibly, even to the extent of raising up her brother, though, it does not seem clear that she expected this (vv. 24–39).

23 Jesus saith to her: Thy brother shall rise again.
24 Martha saith to him: I know that he shall rise again, in the resurrection at the last day.

Thy brother shall rise again.” Our Lord, while referring to the near resurrection of Lazarus, uses ambiguous language, which would apply to the General Resurrection, as Martha understood it, possibly in order to prepare her for the miracle He was about to perform, and to elicit from her the act of faith she expressed in reply to His question, arising out of this subject (v. 27). Martha heard our Lord often treating of the General Resurrection of all men; and now she hears Him in language harmonizing with His former teaching, proclaim the same doctrine, but, in her words, would seem to be implied, the latent or suppressed complaint, viz.: what particular consolation does this bring us now in our excessive grief? What particular or special favour is now conferred on us?

25 Jesus said to her: I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, although he be dead, shall live:

Our Lord then said to her, “I am the Resurrection,” etc. I am the cause, the power by which all men are raised from the dead, raising up and giving life to whom I will—“the life,” the source of life eternal to all the good who deserve it. For, as regards the life to which the reprobate are restored, this is but a living death, a perpetuation of everlasting torture. Better for them, they were never born (“Melius illi fuisset si natus non esset iste homo”—Matthew 26:24), never raised to life. By saying, He is “the Resurrection and the life,” our Lord wishes to convey, that every one who is resuscitated, is raised by Him and Him alone; that every one, who lives, lives by Him alone. Hence, it would be just as easy for Him now to raise up Lazarus, as it will be to raise up all men, at the General Resurrection.

He that believeth in Me,” etc. In this, He points out the means of securing a happy Resurrection and everlasting glory. This means is faith. He that hath faith in Him, with the other dispositions, during life, “although now dead—in the body”—“shall live,” shall be raised to a life of everlasting glory, both in regard to soul and body.

26 And every one that liveth and believeth in me shall not die for ever. Believest thou this?

And every one that liveth,” etc.—now living in the body—“and believeth in Me,” although his body may soon return to earth, still, “he shall not die for ever.” The bodies and souls of men, like him who believes, shall, after a time, be restored to a life of glorious immortality. Our Lord wishes to convey a proof, not only of His Omnipotent Power in restoring to life all who die; but, a still greater manifestation of His Power and boundless beneficence as well, in bestowing on them everlasting happiness. Hence, as Martha’s brother, though now dead, believed, and had faith in our Lord, she should not be disturbed at what has taken place, she should expect for him a glorious immortality; nay, perhaps, a near resurrection.

Believest thou this?” That is to say, My assertion regarding Myself, as the source of Resurrection and life?

27 She saith to him: Yea, Lord, I have believed that thou art Christ, the Son of the living God, who art come into this world.

Martha, not fully understanding what our Lord wished her to believe and profess, makes an act of faith which fully contained all she was asked. She professes to have believed Him to be the natural, genuine Son of God, God Himself; and that, therefore, every thing He taught was true, and that He was, therefore, as He asserted, “the Resurrection and the life.”

I have believed,” heretofore, and my faith still continues the same, “that Thou art the Christ,” the promised Messiah, nay, more, “the Son of the living God,” the true, genuine, natural Son of God, “who art come,” or as the Greek has it, “who was to come,” long before predicted and expected, “into this world,” to enlighten and save the entire human race, Jew and Gentile alike.

Some Commentators, think that Martha did not believe as St. Peter did (Matthew 16.), though the form of words is similar. While expressing her belief in Him as the Son of God, she did not distinguish whether He was the natural or adopted Son of God. (St. Chrysostom, etc.) They in proof of this refer to Martha’s words (v. 22).

28 And when she had said these things, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying: The master is come and calleth for thee.

She went,” evidently at our Lord’s instance. “The Master is come, and calleth thee.” But for brevity sake, it is omitted here by the Evangelist, that our Lord suggested this to Martha, “secretly,” to escape being noticed by the Jews, who were with her.

29 She, as soon as she heard this, riseth quickly and cometh to him.
30 For Jesus was not yet come into the town: but he was still in that place where Martha had met him.

Our Lord remained outside the village near the tomb, which, according to Jewish custom, was outside the town or village. He did not wish to go to the house of Mary, in the first instance, as He should return again to perform the miracle at the grave.

31 The Jews therefore, who were with her in the house and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up speedily and went out, followed her, saying: She goeth to the grave to weep there.

When they saw that she rose up speedily,” as Martha had whispered into her ear the tidings of our Lord’s arrival, “followed her.” It was thus providentially arranged, that they should witness the miracle.

32 When Mary therefore was come where Jesus was, seeing him, she fell down at his feet and saith to him. Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

Fell down at His feet,” in testimony of her great reverence and gratitude for His having rescued her from her passions and sins. This she did, regardless of the presence of the Jews, who entertained hostile feelings against our Lord.

33 Jesus, therefore, when he saw her weeping, and the Jews that were come with her weeping, groaned in the spirit and troubled himself,

Groaned in spirit and troubled Himself.” There is a great diversity of opinion regarding the meaning of these words, owing to the peculiar signification of the Greek word ενεβριμησατο), which generally means, to be indignant. However, this word, rigorously speaking, denotes the commotion or excitement of any of the violent passions, anger, sorrow, etc. Looking to the context, the circumstances of the people weeping around Him, it, most likely, denotes the commotion of tenderness and sympathetic sorrow caused by our Lord’s seeing the tears and affliction of those present, and especially of His dear friends, who were plunged in sorrow; and by His own free will, which always kept in check all His passions, He excited Himself to feelings of tenderness and humanity, which manifested themselves afterwards in tears. Some who understand, “groaned in spirit,” to mean indignation, say, He was indignant at the hypocritical expression of sorrow on the part of the Jews, mingling with the sincere lamentation of Mary. He always showed His horror of hypocrisy.

34 And said: Where have you laid him? They say to him: Lord, come and see.

Where have you laid him?” He spoke thus, as if He were acting in a human way. For, He knew it Himself. He wishes to excite their attention to the great miracle about to be performed.

Lord, come and see.” They went before Him to point out the precise spot.

35 And Jesus wept.

Jesus wept,” in sympathy with His friends, to show His true humanity and sympathetic feelings of tenderness. He conformed to the admonition, “lugere cum lugentibus” (Rom. 12:15). As He meant to display His Divinity in the miracle He was about performing; so, He here manifests His humanity in sentiments of tenderness and compassion, proving He had not a hard, unfeeling heart.

Only on three occasions have we any record of our Lord’s weeping. 1. Here. 2. When weeping over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). 3. On the cross (Heb. 5., “Cum clamore magno et lacrymis”). No doubt, in each case, there were strong mystical reasons. Most likely, He wept over the dreadful evil of sin, the havoc it wrought, and over the ingratitude of man.

36 The Jews therefore said: Behold how he loved him.

Some of the Jews, who were well affected towards our Lord. said, “Behold,” etc. Tears, in a grown man, are a great sign of sorrow. These Jews admired our Lord’s fast friendship and humanity.

37 But some of them said: Could not he that opened the eyes of the man born blind have caused that this man should not die?

But others, who were unfriendly and unfavourably disposed, attributed it to weakness. If He had the power of warding off death from this man, and did not do it, why now weep over what He could have prevented? They sneeringly ask, “Could not He that opened the eyes,” a more difficult thing, do what was easier, viz., cure this infirm man and ward off death? All admit the death of Lazarus. All admit the cure of the blind man. Yet still they refer to it, out of malice, in a sneering, sarcastic manner.

38 Jesus therefore again groaning in himself, cometh to the sepulchre. Now it was a cave; and a stone was laid over it.

Groaning in Himself.” The near approach to the grave excited His sensibility and compassionate tenderness.

It was a cave,” sunk into the earth, “a stone laid over it.” unlike the grave of our Lord, which was over ground, and “a stone rolled to the mouth of the sepulchre.”

39 Jesus saith: Take away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith to him: Lord, by this time he stinketh, for he is now of four days.

Take away the stone.” He might, if He pleased, have removed it by the sole act of His will, and have raised up Lazarus without removing it. But, He preferred calling on them to remove it, to leave no possibility of doubt regarding the identity and death of Lazarus. Martha imagined our Lord only wished to see the remains. It would seem she did not anticipate or expect that He could raise him up in this state of decomposition. Hence, the reproach addressed by our Lord to her in the following verse. All these circumstances detailed by the Evangelist take away all grounds for suspecting imposture.

40 Jesus saith to her: Did not I say to thee that if thou believe, thou shalt see the glory of God?

Did I not say to thee?” It is disputed at what time He said this. Some say, through the messenger (v. 4). “His sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God.” etc. Others refer it to verse 25. “Thou shalt see the glory of God,” which shall be manifested in the great miracle of the resuscitation of Lazarus. This shall promote My glory, by showing the power I possess, and the proof it gives of My Divine mission. He confirms the faith of Martha, which would seem, at this critical point, to be somewhat wavering (v. 41).

41 They took therefore the stone away. And Jesus lifting up his eyes, said: Father, I give thee thanks that thou hast heard me.

The removal of the stone left no doubt of the identity and death of Lazarus, his remains approaching a state of decomposition.

Lifting up His eyes,” to heaven, to His Eternal Father, thus showing whence the power of performing the great miracle emanated—and referring all to Him. said: “Father, I give Thee thanks, that Thou hast heard Me,” in regard to the resuscitation of Lazarus. It may be, too, that whilst He groaned in spirit, He prayed to His Father—the Evangelist makes no special mention of any expressed prayer—or, He may have simply wished it in His heart, and His Father attended to this desire, “desiderium animœ ejus tribuisti ei” (Psa. 9:1). Our Lord teaches us how to commence our petitions to God. It is, by thanking Him for past favours, so as to render Him propitious and bountiful in granting those we now ask.

42 And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people who stand about have I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.

It was not on My own account, I thanked Thee, for hearing Me. This is not new to Me. For, “I knew that Thou always hearest Me;” “but, because of the people who stand about have I said it,” that is, have I said the words. “I give Thee thanks”—uttering them aloud—“that they may believe that Thou hast sent Me,” on beholding the miracle, I am now about to perform by Thy Divine power, in proof of My mission from Thee to earth.

43 When he had said these things, he cried with a loud voice: Lazarus, come forth.

With a loud voice,” to render those present more attentive, and to demonstrate His own great power and authority, whereby this miracle was accomplished; and some add, to show that He summoned the soul of Lazarus from afar, from Limbo, where it reposed in the bosom of Abraham; or, it may be, that he spoke in a loud voice, as to a dead man, just as we speak in a loud voice to the deaf. Theophylact observes, that this loud voice of our Redeemer was a symbol of the loud trumpet of the Archangel, which is to sound at the General Resurrection.

Lazarus, come forth.” He mentions him by name, lest it might be supposed that any of the others who might have been laid in the tomb, answered the Divine call and command. “Lazarus,” the person of Lazarus, soul and body, “come forth,” from the tomb. This implied his resurrection, the union of soul and body, effected by our Lord’s power. For, He invokes no other power to assist Him. He does it all by His own sole command and authority. “Come forth,” and show yourself, resuscitated by My power, to all here present.

44 And presently he that had been dead came forth, bound feet and hands with winding bands. And his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus said to them: Loose him and let him go.

And presently,” without any delay, the power of our Lord producing an instantaneous effect.

He that was dead,” Lazarus, who in person, was summoned by the voice of God, burst forth at once from the embrace of death.

Bound hand and feet with winding bands,” according to the custom of the Jews, in burying their dead. “And his face was bound about with a napkin,” quite common among the Jews in preparing their dead for burial.

45 Many therefore of the Jews, who were come to Mary and Martha and had seen the things that Jesus did, believed in him.

Believed in Him.” On seeing the proof they just saw of His Divinity. They were aided by Divine grace.

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 9:1-41

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 26, 2017

1. And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.
2. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
3. Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
4. I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
5. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
6. When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,
7. And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lvi. 1.) The Jews having rejected Christ’s words, because of their depth, He went out of the temple, and healed the blind man; that His absence might appease their fury, and the miracle soften their hard hearts, and convince their unbelief. And as Jesus passed by, He saw a man which was blind from his birth. It is to be remarked here that, on going out of the temple, He betook Himself intently to this manifestation of His power. He first saw the blind man, not the blind man Him: and so intently did He fix His eye upon him, that His disciples were struck, and asked, Rabbi, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?

Bede. Mystically, our Lord, after being banished from the minds of the Jews, passed over to the Gentiles. (non occ.). The passage or journey here is His descent from heaven to earth, where He saw the blind man, i. e. looked with compassion on the human race.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. 1, 2.) For the blind man here is the human race. Blindness came upon the first man by reason of sin: and from him we all derive it: i. e. man is blind from his birth.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. 1, 2.) Rabbi is Master. They call Him Master, because they wished to learn: they put their question to our Lord, as to a Master.

Theophylact. This question does not seem a proper one. For the Apostles had not been taught the fond notion of the Gentiles, that the soul has sinned in a previous state of existence. It is difficult to account for their putting it.

Chrysostom. (Hom. liv. 1. c. 5.) They were led to ask this question, by our Lord having said above, on healing the man sick of the palsy, Lo, thou art made whole; sin no more. Thinking from this that the man had been struck with the palsy for his sins, they ask our Lord of the blind man here, whether he did sin, or his parents; neither of which could have been the reason of his blindness; the former, because he had been blind from his birth; the latter, because the son does not suffer for the father.

Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. 3) Was he then born without original sin, or had he never added to it by actual sin? Both this man and his parents had sinned, but that sin was not the reason why he was born blind. Our Lord gives the reason; viz. That the works of God should be made manifest in him.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lvi. 1, 2.) He is not to be understood as meaning that others had become blind, in consequence of their parents’ sins: for one man cannot be punished for the sin of another. But had the man therefore suffered unjustly? Rather I should say that that blindness was a benefit to him: for by it he was brought to see with the inward eye. At any rate He who brought him into being out of nothing, had the power to make him in the event no loser by it. Some too say, that the that here, is expressive not of the cause, but of the event, as in the passage in Romans, The law entered that sin might abound; (Rom. 5:20) the effect in this case being, that our Lord by opening the closed eye, and healing other natural infirmities, demonstrated His own power.

Gregory. (in Præf. Moral. c. 5.) One stroke falls on the sinner, for punishment only, not conversion; another for correction; another not for correction of past sins, but prevention of future; another neither for correcting past, nor preventing future sins, but by the unexpected deliverance following the blow, to excite more ardent love of the Saviour’s goodness.

Chrysostom. (Hom. liv. 2.) That the glory of God should be made manifest, He saith of Himself, not of the Father; the Father’s glory was manifest already. I must work the works of Him that sent Me: i. e. I must manifest Myself, and shew that I do the same that My Father doeth.

Bede. For when the Son declared that He worked the works of the Father, He proved that His and His Father’s works were the same: which are to heal the sick, to strengthen the weak, and enlighten man.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. 4.) By His saying, Who sent Me, He gives all the glory to Him from Whom He is. The Father hath a Son Who is from Him, but hath none from whom He Himself is.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lvi. 2.) While it is day, He adds; i. e. while men have the opportunity of believing in Me; while this life lasts; The night cometh, when none can work. Night here means that spoken of in Matthew, Cast him into outer darkness. (Mat. 22:13) Then will there be night, wherein none can work, but only receive for that which he has worked. While thou livest, do that which thou wilt do: for beyond it is neither faith, nor labour, nor repentance.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. 5.) But if we work now, now is the day time, now is Christ present; as He says, As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. This then is the day. The natural day is completed by the circuit of the sun, and contains only a few hours: the day of Christ’s presence will last to the end of the world: for He Himself has said, Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. (Mat. 28:20)

Chrysostom. (Hom. lvi. 2.) He then confirms His words by deeds: When He had thus spoken, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. He who had brought greater substances into being out of nothing, could much more have given sight without the use of any material: but He wished to shew that He was the Creator, Who in the beginning used clay for the formation of man. (Hom. lvii. 1). He makes the clay with spittle, and not with water, to make it evident that it was not the pool of Siloam, whither He was about to send him, but the virtue proceeding from His mouth, which restored the man’s sight. And then, that the cure might not seem to be the effect of the clay, He ordered the man to wash: And He said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam. The Evangelist gives the meaning of Siloam, which is by interpretation, Sent, to intimate that it was Christ’s power that cured him even there. As the Apostle says of the rock in the wilderness, that that Rock was Christ, (1 Cor. 10:14) so Siloam had a spiritual character: the sudden rise of its water being a silent figure of Christ’s unexpected manifestation in the flesh. But why did He not tell him to wash immediately, instead of sending him to Siloam? That the obstinacy of the Jews might be overcome, when they saw him going there with the clay on his eyes. Besides which, it proved that He was not averse to the Law, and the Old Testament. And there was no fear of the glory of the case being given to Siloam: as many had washed their eyes there, and received no such benefit. And to shew the faith of the blind man, who made no opposition, never argued with himself, that it was the quality of clay rather to darken, than give light, that He had often washed in Siloam, and had never been benefited; that if our Lord had the power, He might have cured him by His word; but simply obeyed: he went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing. (Hom. lvi. 2). Thus our Lord manifested His glory: and no small glory it was, to be proved the Creator of the world, as He was proved to be by this miracle. For on the principle that the greater contains the less, this act of creation included in it every other. Man is the most honourable of all creatures; the eye the most honourable member of man, directing the movements, and giving him sight. The eye is to the body, what the sun is to the universe; and therefore it is placed aloft, as it were, upon a royal eminence.

Theophylact. Some think that the clay was not laid upon the eyes, but made into eyes.

Augustine. (Tr. xlv. 2.) Our Lord spat upon the ground, and made clay of the spittle, because He was the Word made flesh. The man did not see immediately as he was anointed; i. e. was, as it were, only made a catechumen. But he was sent to the pool which is called Siloam, i. e. he was baptized in Christ; and then he was enlightened. The Evangelist then explains to us the name of this pool: which is by interpretation, Sent: for, if He had not been sent, none of us would have been delivered from our sins.

Gregory. (viii. Moral. c. xxx. [49.].) Or thus: By His spittle understand the savour of inward contemplation. It runs down from the head into the mouth, and gives us the taste of revelation from the Divine splendour even in this life. The mixture of His spittle with clay is the mixture of supernatural grace, even the contemplation of Himself with our carnal knowledge, to the soul’s enlightenment, and restoration of the human understanding from its original blindness.

8. The neighbours therefore, and they which before had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged?
9. Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he.
10. Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened?
11. He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes, and said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash: and I went and washed, and I received sight.
12. Then said they unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not.
13. They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind.
14. And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes.
15. Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see.
16. Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the Sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.
17. They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? He said, He is a prophet.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lvii. s. 1.) The suddenness of the miracle made men incredulous: The neighbours therefore, and they which had seen him that he was blind, said, Is not this he that sat and begged? Wonderful clemency and condescension of God! Even the beggars He heals with so great considerateness: thus stopping the mouths of the Jews; in that He made not the great, illustrious, and noble, but the poorest and meanest, the objects of His providence. Indeed He had come for the salvation of all. Some said, This is he. The blind man having been clearly recognised in the course of his long walk to the pool; the more so, as people’s attention was drawn by the strangeness of the event; men could no longer say, This is not he; Others said, Nay, but he is like him.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. 8.) His eyes being opened had altered his look. But he said, I am he. He spoke gratefully; a denial would have convicted Him of ingratitude.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lvii. s. 2.) He was not ashamed of his former blindness, nor afraid of the fury of the people, nor averse to shew himself, and proclaim his Benefactor. Therefore said they unto him, How were thine eyes opened? How they were, neither he nor any one knew: he only knew the fact; he could not explain it. He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes. Mark his exactness. He does not say how the clay was made; for he could not see that our Lord spat on the ground; he does not say what he does not know; but that He anointed him he could feel. And said unto me, Go to the pool of Siloam, and wash. This too he could declare from his own hearing; for he had heard our Lord converse with His disciples, and so knew His voice. Lastly, he shews how strictly he had obeyed our Lord. He adds, And I went, and washed, and received sight.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. s. 8.) Lo, he is become a proclaimer of grace, an evangelist, and testifies to the Jews. That blind man testified, and the ungodly were vexed at the heart, because they had not in their heart what appeared upon his countenance. Then said they unto him, Where is He?

Chrysostom. (Hom. lvii. 2.) This they said, because they were meditating His death, having already begun to conspire against Him. Christ did not appear in company with those whom He cured; having no desire for glory, or display. He always withdrew, after healing any one; in order that no suspicion might attach to the miracle. His withdrawal proved the absence of all connexion between Him and the healed; and therefore that the latter did not publish a false cure out of favour to Him. He said, I know not.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. 8.) Here he is like one anointed, but unable yet to see: he preaches, and knows not what he preaches.

Bede. Thus he represents the state of the catechumen, who believes in Jesus, but does not, strictly speaking, know Him, not being yet washed. It fell to the Pharisees to confirm or deny the miracle.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lvii. 2.) The Jews, whom they asked, Where is He? were desirous of finding Him, in order to bring Him to the Pharisees; but, as they could not find Him, they bring the blind man. They brought to the Pharisees him that aforetime was blind; i. e. that they might examine him still more closely. The Evangelist adds, And it was the sabbath day when Jesus made the clay, and opened his eyes; in order to expose their real design, which was to accuse Him of a departure from the law, and thus detract from the miracle: as appears from what follows, Then again the Pharisees also asked him how he had received his sight. But mark the firmness of the blind man. To tell the truth to the multitude before, from whom he was in no danger, was not so great a matter: but it is remarkable, now that the danger is so much greater, to find him disavowing nothing, and not contradicting any thing that he said before: He said unto them, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see. He is more brief this time, as his interrogators were already informed of the matter: not mentioning the name of Jesus, nor His saying, Go, and wash; but simply, He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see; the very contrary answer to what they wanted. They wanted a disavowal, and they receive a confirmation of the story.

Therefore said some of the Pharisees.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. 9.) Some, not all: for some were already anointed. But they, who neither saw, nor were anointed, said, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Rather He kept it, in that He was without sin; for to observe the sabbath spiritually, is to have no sin. And this God admonishes us of, when He enjoins the sabbath, saying, In it thou shall do no servile work. (Exod. 20:10) What servile work is, our Lord tells us above, Whosoever committeth sin, is the servant of sin. (c. 8:34) They observed the sabbath carnally, transgressed it spiritually.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lvii. 2.) Passing over the miracle in silence, they give all the prominence they can to the supposed transgression; not charging Him with healing on the sabbath, but with not keeping the sabbath. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? They were impressed by His miracles, but only in a weak and unsettled way. For whereas such might have shewn them, that the sabbath was not broken; they had not yet any idea that He was God, and therefore did not know that it was the Lord of the sabbath who had worked the miracle. Nor did any of them dare to say openly what his sentiments were, but spoke ambiguously; one, because he thought the fact itself improbable; another, from his love of station. It follows, And there was a division among them. That is, the people were divided first, and then the rulers.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. 4, 5) It was Christ, who divided the day into light and darkness.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lviii. 1.) Those who said, Can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? wishing to stop the others’ mouths, make the object of our Lord’s goodness again come forward; but without appearing to take part with Him themselves: They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of Him, that He hath opened thine eyes?

Theophylact. See with what good intent they put the question. They do not say, What sayest thou of Him that keepeth not the sabbath, but mention the miracle, that He hath opened thine eyes; meaning it would seem, to draw out the healed man himself; He hath benefited them, they seem to say, and thou oughtest to preach Him.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. 9.) Or they sought how they could throw reproach upon the man, and cast him out of their synagogue. He declares however openly what he thinks: He said, He is a Prophet. Not being anointed yet in heart, he could not confess the Son of God; nevertheless, he is not wrong in what he says: for our Lord Himself says of Himself, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country. (Luke 4:24)

18. But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight.
19. And they asked them, saying, Is this your son, who ye say was born blind? how then doth he now see?
20. His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind:
21. But by what means he now seeth, we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself.
22. These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.
23. Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lviii. 1.) The Pharisees being unable, by intimidation, to deter the blind man from publicly proclaiming his Benefactor, try to nullify the miracle through the parents: But the Jews did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they had called the parents of him that had received his sight.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. s. 10.) i. e. had been blind, and now saw.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lviii. 3.) But it is the nature of truth, to be strengthened by the very snares that are laid against it. A lie is its own antagonist, and by its attempts to injure the truth, sets it off to greater advantage: as is the case now. For the argument which might otherwise have been urged, that the neighbours knew nothing for certain, but spoke from a mere resemblance, is cut off by introduction of the parents, who could of course testify to their own son. Having brought these before the assembly, they interrogate them with great sharpness, saying, Is this your son, (they say not, who was born blind, but) who ye say was born blind? Say. Why what father is there, that would say such things of a son, if they were not true? Why not say at once, Whom ye made blind? They try two ways of making them deny the miracle: by saying, Who ye say was born blind, and by adding, How then doth he now see?

Theophylact. Either, say they, it is not true that he now sees, or it is untrue that he was blind before: but it is evident that he now sees; therefore it is not true that he was born blind.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lviii. 2.) Three things then being asked,—if he were their son, if he had been blind and how he saw,—they acknowledge two of them: His parents answered them and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind. But the third they refuse to speak to: But by what means he now seeth, we know not. The enquiry in this way ends in confirming the truth of the miracle, by making it rest upon the incontrovertible evidence of the confession of the healed person himself; He is of age, they say, ask him; he can speak for himself.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. 10.) As if to say, We might justly be compelled to speak for an infant, that could not speak for itself: but he, though blind from his birth, has been always able to speak.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lvii. 2.) What sort of gratitude is this in the parents; concealing what they knew, from fear of the Jews? as we are next told; These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews. And then the Evangelist mentions again what the intentions and dispositions of the Jews were: For the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that He was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. 10.) It was no disadvantage to be put out of the synagogue: whom they cast out, Christ took in.

Therefore said his parents, He is of age, ask him.

Alcuin. The Evangelist shews that it was not from ignorance, but fear, that they gave this answer.

Theophylact. For they were fainthearted; not like their son, that intrepid witness to the truth, the eyes of whose understanding had been enlightened by God.

24. Then again called they the man that was blind, and said unto him, Give God the praise: we know that this man is a sinner.
25. He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.
26. Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes?
27. He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples?
28. Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples.
29. We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is.
30. The man answered and said unto them, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes.
31. Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.
32. Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind.
33. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.
34. They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lviii. 2.) The parents having referred the Pharisees to the healed man himself, they summon him a second time: Then again called they the man that was blind. They do not openly say now, Deny that Christ has healed thee, but conceal their object under the pretence of religion: Give God the praise, i. e. confess that this man has had nothing to do with the work.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. s. 11.) Deny that thou hast received the benefit. This is not to give God the glory, but rather to blaspheme Him.

Alcuin. They wished him to give glory to God, by calling Christ a sinner, as they did: We know that this man is a sinner.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lviii. 2.) Why then did ye not convict Him, when He said above, Which of you convinceth Me of sin? (c. 8:46)

Alcuin. The man, that he might neither expose himself to calumny, nor at the same time conceal the truth, answers not that he knew Him to be righteous, but, Whether He be a sinner or no, I know not.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lviii. 2.) But how comes this, whether He be a sinner, I know not, from one who had said, He is a Prophet? did the blind fear? far from it: he only thought that our Lord’s defence lay in the witness of the fact, more than in another’s pleading. And he gives weight to his reply by the mention of the benefit he had received: One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see: as if to say, I say nothing as to whether He is a sinner; but only repeat what I know for certain. So being unable to overturn the fact itself of the miracle, they fall back upon former arguments, and enquire the manner of the cure: just as dogs in hunting pursue wherever the scent takes them: Then said they to him again, What did He do to thee? How opened He thine eyes? i. e. was it by any charm? For they do not say, How didst thou see? but, How opened He thine eyes? to give the man an opportunity of detracting from the operation. So long now as the matter wanted examining, the blind man answers gently and quietly; but, the victory being gained, he grows bolder: He answered them, I have told you already, and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? i. e. Ye do not attend to what is said, and therefore I will no longer answer you vain questions, put for the sake of cavil, not to gain knowledge: Will ye also be His disciples?

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. s. 11.) Will ye also? i. e. I am already, do ye wish to be? I see now, but do not envy (video, non invideo). He says this in indignation at the obstinacy of the Jews; not tolerating blindness, now that he is no longer blind himself.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lviii. 2.) As then truth is strength, so falsehood is weakness: truth elevates and ennobles whomever it takes up, however mean before: falsehood brings even the strong to weakness and contempt.

Then they reviled him, and said, Thou art His disciple.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. 12.) A malediction only in the intention of the speakers, not in the words themselves. May such a malediction (ἐλοιδόρησαν, maledixerunt, Vulg.) be upon us, and upon our children! It follows: But we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spake unto Moses. But ye should have known, that our Lord was prophesied of by Moses, after hearing what He said, Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me, for he wrote of Me. (c. 5:46) Do ye follow then a servant, and turn your back on the Lord? Even so, for it follows: As for this fellow, we know not whence He is.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lviii. s. 3.) Ye think sight less evidence than hearing; for what ye say, ye know, is what ye have heard from your fathers. But is not He more worthy of belief, who has certified that He comes from God, by miracles which ye have not heard only, but seen? So argues the blind man: The man answered and said, Why herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not whence He is, and yet He hath opened mine eyes. He brings in the miracle every where, as evidence which they could not invalidate: and, inasmuch as they had said that a man that was a sinner could not do such miracles, he turns their own words against them; Now we know that God heareth not sinners; as if to say, I quite agree with you in this opinion.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. s. 13.) As yet however He speaks as one but just anointed1, for God hears sinners too. Else in vain would the publican cry, God be merciful to me a sinner. (Luke 18:13) By that confession he obtained2 justification, as the blind man had his sight.

Theophylact. Or, that God heareth not sinners, means, that God does not enable sinners to work miracles. When sinners however implore pardon for their offences, they are translated from the rank of sinners to that of penitents.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lviii. 3.) Observe then, when he said above, Whether He be a sinner, I know not, it was not that he spoke in doubt; for here he not only acquits him of all sin, but holds him up as one well pleasing to God: But if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth His will, him He heareth. It is not enough to know God, we must do His will. Then he extols His deed: Since the world began, was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind: as if to say, If ye confess that God heareth not sinners; and this Man has worked a miracle, such an one, as no other man has; it is manifest that the virtue whereby He has wrought it, is more than human: If this Man were not of God, He could do nothing.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. 13.) Freely, stedfastly, truly. For how could what our Lord did, be done by any other than God, or by disciples even, except when their Lord dwelt in them?

Chrysostom. (Hom. lviii. 3.) So then because speaking the truth he was in nothing confounded, when they should most have admired, they condemned him: Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us?

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. 14.) What meaneth altogether? That he was quite blind. Yet He who opened his eyes, also saves him altogether.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lviii. 3.) Or, altogether, that is to say, from thy birth thou art in sins. They reproach his blindness, and pronounce his sins to be the cause of it; most unreasonably. So long as they expected him to deny the miracle, they were willing to believe him, but now they cast him out.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. 14.) It was they themselves who had made him teacher; themselves, who had asked him so many questions; and now they ungratefully cast him out for teaching.

Bede. It is commonly the way with great persons to disdain learning any thing from their inferiors.

35. Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?
36. He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?
37. And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee.
38. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.
39. And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.
40. And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also?
41. Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see: therefore your sin remaineth.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lix. 1.) Those who suffer for the truth’s sake, and confession of Christ, come to greatest honour; as we see in the instance of the blind man. For the Jews cast him out of the temple, and the Lord of the temple found him; and received him as the judge doth the wrestler after his labours, and crowned him: Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when He had found him, He saith unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? The Evangelist makes it plain that Jesus came in order to say this to him. He asks him, however, not in ignorance, but wishing to reveal Himself to him, and to shew that He appreciated his faith; as if He said, The people have cast reproaches on Me, but I care not for them; one thing only I care for, that thou mayest believe. Better is he that doeth the will of God, than ten thousand of the wicked.

Hilary. (vi. de Trin. circa fin.) If any mere confession whatsoever of Christ were the perfection of faith, it would have been said, Dost thou believe in Christ? But inasmuch as all heretics would have had this name in their mouths, confessing Christ, and yet denying the Son, that which is true of Christ alone, is required of our faith, viz. that we should believe in the Son of God. But what availeth it to believe on the Son of God as being a creature, when we are required to have faith in Christ, not as a creature of God, but as the Son of God.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lix. 1.) But the blind man did not yet know Christ, for before he went to Christ he was blind, and after his cure, he was taken hold of by the Jews: He answered and said, Who is He, Lord, that I might believe on Him? The speech this of a longing and enquiring mind. He knows not who He is for whom he had contended so much; a proof to thee of his love of truth. The Lord however says not to him, I am He who healed thee; but uses a middle way of speaking, Thou hast both seen Him.

Theophylact. This He says to remind him of his cure, which had given him the power to see. And observe, He that speaks is born of Mary, and the Son is the Son of God, not two different Persons, according to the error of Nestorius: And it is He that talketh with thee.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. 15.) First, He washes the face of his heart. Then, his heart’s face being washed, and his conscience cleansed, he acknowledges Him as not only the Son of man, which he believed before, but as the Son of God, Who had taken flesh upon Him: And he said, Lord, I believe. I believe, is a small thing. Wouldest thou see what he believes of Him? And falling down, he worshipped Him. (Vulgate)

Bede. An example to us, not to pray to God with uplifted neck, but prostrate upon earth, suppliantly to implore His mercy.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lix. 1.) He adds the deed to the word, as a clear acknowledgment of His divine power. The Lord replies in a way to confirm His faith, and at the same time stirs up the minds of His followers: And Jesus said, For judgment have I come into this world.

Augustine. (Tr. xliv. 16, 17.) The day then was divided between light and darkness. So it is rightly added, that they which see not, may see; for He relieved men from darkness. But what is that which follows: And that they which see might he made blind. Hear what comes next. Some of the Pharisees were moved by these words: And some of the Pharisees which were with Him heard these words, and said unto Him, Are we blind also? What had moved them were the words, And that they which see might be made blind. It follows; Jesus saith unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin; i. e. If ye called yourselves blind, and ran to the physician. But now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth: for in that saying, We see, ye seek not a physician, ye shall remain in your blindness. This then which He has just before said, I came, that they that see not might see; i. e. they who confess they cannot see, and seek a physician, in order that they may see: and that they which see not may be made blind; i. e. they which think they can see, and seek not a physician, may remain in their blindness. This act of division He calls judgment, saying, For judgment have I come into this world: not that judgment by which He will judge quick and dead at the end of the world.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lix. 1.) Or, for judgment, He saith; i. e. for greater punishment, shewing that they who condemned Him, were the very ones who were condemned. Respecting what He says, that they which see not might see, and that they which see might be made blind; it is the same which St. Paul says, The Gentiles which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. (Rom. 9:30, 31)

Theophylact. As if to say, Lo, he that saw not from his birth, now sees both in body and soul; whereas they who seem to see, have had their understanding darkened.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lix. 1.) For there is a twofold vision, and a twofold blindness; viz. that of sense, and that of the understanding. But they were intent only on sensible things, and were ashamed only of sensible blindness: wherefore He shews them that it would be better for them to be blind, than seeing so: If ye were blind, ye should have no sin; your punishment would be easier; But now ye say, We see.

Theophylact. Overlooking the miracle wrought on the blind man, ye deserve no pardon; since even visible miracles make no impression on you.

Chrysostom. (Hom. lix. 1, 2.) What then they thought their great praise, He shews would turn to their punishment; and at the same time consoles him who had been afflicted with bodily blindness from his birth. For it is not without reason that the Evangelist says, And some of the Pharisees which were with him, heard these words; but that he may remind us that those were the very persons who had first withstood Christ, and then wished to stone Him. For there were some who only followed in appearance, and were easily changed to the contrary side.

Theophylact. Or, if ye were blind, i. e. ignorant of the Scriptures, your offence would be by no means so heavy a one, as erring out of ignorance: but now, seeing ye call yourselves wise and understanding in the law, your own selves condemn you.

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St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentaries on John 4:5-42

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 25, 2017

Ver. 5, 6. “He cometh to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there.”

Why is the Evangelist exact about the place? It is, that when thou hearest the woman say, “Jacob our father gave us this well,” thou mayest not think it strange. For this was the place where Levi and Simeon, being angry because of Dinah, wrought that cruel slaughter. And it may be worth while to relate from what sources the Samaritans were made up; since all this country is called Samaria. Whence then did they receive their name? The mountain was called “Somor” from its owner (1 Kings 16:24): as also Esaias saith, “and the head of Ephraim is Somoron” (Isa. 7:9, LXX.), but the inhabitants were termed not “Samaritans” but “Israelites.” But as time went on, they offended God, and in the reign of Pekah, Tiglath-Pileser came up, and took many cities, and set upon Elah, and having slain him, gave the kingdom to Hoshea.10 (2 Kings 15:29.) Against him Shalmaneser came and took other cities, and made them subject and tributary. (2 Kings 17:3.) At first he yielded, but afterwards he revolted from the Assyrian rule, and betook himself to the alliance of the Ethiopians.11 The Assyrian learnt this, and having made war upon them and destroyed their cities, he no longer allowed the nation to remain there, because he had such suspicions that they would revolt. (2 Kings 17:4.) But he carried them to Babylon and to the Medes, and having brought thence nations from divers places, planted them in Samaria, that his dominion for the future might be sure, his own people occupying the place. After this, God, desiring to show that He had not given up the Jews through weakness, but because of the sins of those who were given up, sent lions against the foreigners,1 who ravaged all their nation. These things were reported to the king, and he sent a priest to deliver to them the laws of God. Still not even so did they desist wholly from their impiety, but only by halves. But as time went on, they in turn abandoned2 their idols, and worshiped God. And when things were in this state, the Jews having returned, ever after entertained a jealous feeling towards them as strangers and enemies, and called them from the name of the mountain, “Samaritans.” From this cause also there was no little rivalry between them. The Samaritans did not use all the Scriptures, but received the writings of Moses only, and made but little account of those of the Prophets. Yet they were eager to thrust themselves into the noble Jewish stock, and prided themselves upon Abraham, and called3 him their forefather, as being of Chaldæa; and Jacob also they called their father, as being his descendant. But the Jews abominated them as well as all (other nations). Wherefore they reproached Christ with this, saying, “Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil.” (c. 8:48.) And for this reason in the parable of the man that went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, Christ makes the man who showed pity upon him to have been “a Samaritan” (Luke 10:33), one who by them was deemed mean, contemptible, and abominable. And in the case of the ten lepers, He calls one a “stranger” on this account, (for “he was a Samaritan,”) and He gave His charge to the disciples in these words, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not.” (Matt. 10:5.)

[3.] Nor was it merely to describe the place that the Evangelist has reminded us of Jacob, but to show that the rejection of the Jews had happened long ago. For during the time of their forefathers these Jews possessed the land, and not the Samaritans; and the very possessions which not being theirs, their forefathers had gotten, they being theirs, had lost by their sloth and transgressions. So little4 is the advantage of excellent ancestors, if their descendants be not like them. Moreover, the foreigners when they had only made trial of the lions, straightway returned to the right worship5 of the Jews, while they, after enduring such inflictions, were not even so brought to a sound mind.

To this place Christ now came, ever rejecting a sedentary and soft6 life, and exhibiting7 one laborious and active. He useth no beast to carry Him, but walketh so much on a stretch, as even to be wearied with His journeying. And this He ever teacheth, that a man should work for himself, go without superfluities, and not have many wants. Nay, so desirous is He that we should be alienated from superfluities, that He abridgeth many even of necessary things. Wherefore He said, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head.” (Matt. 8:20.) Therefore He spent most of His time in the mountains, and in the deserts, not by day only, but also by night. And this David declared when he said, “He shall drink of the brook in the way” (Ps. 110:7): by this showing His frugal8 way of life. This too the Evangelist shows in this place.

Ver. 6, 7, 8. “Jesus therefore, being wearied with His journey, sat thus by the well; and it was about the sixth hour. There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus saith unto her, Give Me to drink. For His disciples were gone away into the city to buy meat.”

Hence we learn His activity in journeying, His carelessness about food, and how He treated it as a matter of minor importance.9 And so the disciples were taught to use the like disposition themselves; for they took with them no provisions for the road. And this another Evangelist declares, saying, that when He spake to them concerning “the leaven of the Pharisees” (Matt. 16:6), they thought that it was because they carried no bread; and when he introduces them plucking the ears of corn, and eating (Matt. 12:1), and when he saith that Jesus came to the fig-tree by reason of hunger (Matt. 21:18), it is for nothing else but only to instruct us by all these to despise the belly, and not to deem that its service is anxiously to be attended to. Observe them, for instance, in this place neither bringing anything with them, nor because they brought not anything, caring for this at the very beginning and early part of the day, but buying food at the time when all other people were taking their meal.10 Not like us, who the instant we rise from our beds attend to this before anything else, calling cooks and butlers, and giving our directions with all earnestness, applying ourselves afterwards to other matters, preferring temporal things to spiritual, valuing those things as necessary which we ought to have deemed of less importance.11 Therefore all things are in confusion. We ought, on the contrary, making much account of all spiritual things, after having accomplished these, then to apply ourselves to the others.

And in this place it is not His laboriousness alone that is shown, but also His freedom from pride; not merely by His being tired, nor by His sitting by the way-side, but by His having been left alone, and His disciples having been separated1 from Him. And yet it was in His power, if He had willed it, either not to have sent them all away, or when they departed to have had other ministers. But He would not; for so He accustomed His disciples to tread all pride beneath their feet.

“And what marvel,” saith one, “if they were moderate in their wishes, since they were fishermen and tentmakers?” Yes! Fishermen and tentmakers they were; but they had in a moment2 mounted even to the height of heaven, and had become more honorable than all earthly kings, being deemed worthy to become the companions of the Lord of the world, and to follow Him whom all beheld with awe. And ye know this too, that those men especially who are of humble origin, whenever they gain distinction, are the more easily lifted up to folly, because they are quite ignorant how to bear their sudden3 honor. Restraining them therefore in their present humblemindedness, He taught them always to be moderate,4 and never to require any to wait upon them.

“He therefore,” saith the Evangelist, “being wearied with His journey, sat5 thus at the well.”6

Seest thou that His sitting was because of weariness? because of the heat? because of his waiting for His disciples? He knew, indeed, what should take place among the Samaritans, but it was not for this that He came principally; yet, though He came not for this, it behooved not to reject the woman who came to Him, when she manifested such a desire to learn. The Jews, when He was even coming to them, drove Him away; they of the Gentiles, when He was proceeding in another 1direction, drew Him to them. They envied, these believed on Him. They were angry with, these revered and worshiped Him. What then? Was He to overlook the salvation of so many, to send away such noble zeal? This would have been unworthy of His lovingkindness. Therefore He ordered all the matter in hand with the Wisdom which became Him. He sat resting His body and cooling It by the fountain; for it was the very middle of the day, as the Evangelist has declared, when he says,

“It was about the sixth hour.”

He sat “thus.” What meaneth “thus”? Not upon a throne, not upon a cushion, but simply, and as He was,7 upon the ground.

Ver. 7. “There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water.”

[4.] Observe how he declareth that the woman came forth for another purpose, in every way silencing the shameless gainsaying of the Jews, that none might say that He acted in opposition to His own command, bidding (His disciples) not to enter into any city of the Samaritans, yet conversing with Samaritans. (Matt. 10:5.) And therefore the Evangelist has put,

Ver. 8. “For His disciples were gone away into the city to buy meat.”8

Bringing in many reasons for His conversation with her. What doth the woman? When she heard, “Give Me to drink,”9 she very wisely makes the speech of Christ an occasion for a question, and saith,

Ver. 9. “How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a Samaritan? For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.”

And whence did she suppose Him to be a Jew? From His dress, perhaps, and from His dialect. Observe, I pray you, how considerate the woman was. If there was need of caution, Jesus needed it, not she. For she doth not say, “The Samaritans have no dealings with the Jews,” but, “The Jews do not admit the Samaritans.” Yet still, although free herself from blame,10 when she supposed that another was falling into it she would not even so hold her peace, but corrected, as she thought, what was done unlawfully. Perhaps some one may ask how it was that Jesus asked drink of her, when the law11 did not permit it. If it be answered that it was because He knew beforehand that she would not give it, then for this very reason He ought not to have asked. What then can we say? That the rejecting such observances as these was now a matter of indifference to Him; for He who induced others to do them away, would much more Himself pass them by. “Not that which goeth in,” saith He, “defileth a man, but that which goeth out.” (Matt. 15:11.) And this conversation with the woman would be no slight charge against the Jews. For often did He draw them to Himself, both by words and deeds, but they would not attend; while observe how she is detained by a simple request.12 For He did not as yet enter on the prosecution of this business,13 nor the way,14 yet if any came to Him He did not prevent them. And to the disciples also He said thus, “Into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not.” He did not say, “And when they come to you, reject them”; that would have been very unworthy of His lovingkindness. And therefore He answered the woman, and said,

Ver. 10. “If thou knewest the gift of God and who it is that saith to thee, Give Me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water.”

First, He showeth that she is worthy to hear and not to be overlooked, and then He revealeth Himself. For she, as soon as she had learnt who He was, would straightway hearken and attend to Him; which none can say of the Jews, for they, when they had learned, asked nothing of Him, nor did they desire to be informed on any profitable matter, but insulted and drove Him away. But when the woman had heard these words, observe how gently she answers:

Ver. 11. “Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; from whence then hast thou that living water?”

Already He hath raised her from her low opinion of Him, and from deeming that He is a common man. For not without a reason doth she here call Him, “Lord”;1 but assigning to Him high honor. That she spake these words to honor Him, is plain from what is said afterwards, since she did not laugh nor mock, but doubted for a while. And wonder not if she did not at once perceive all, for neither did Nicodemus. What saith he? “How can these things be?” and again, “How can a man be born when he is old?” and again, “Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” But this woman more reverently: “Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; from whence then hast thou that living water?” Christ said one thing, and she imagined another, hearing nothing beyond the words, and as yet unable to form any lofty thought. Yet, had she spoken hastily, she might have said, “If thou hadst had that living water, thou wouldest not have asked of me, but wouldest rather have provided for thyself. Thou art but a boaster.” But she said nothing like this; she answers with much gentleness, both at first and afterwards. For at first she saith, “How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me?” she saith not, as though speaking to an alien and an enemy, “Far be it from me to give to thee, who art a foe and a stranger to our nation.” And afterwards again, when she heard Him utter great words, a thing at which enemies are most annoyed, she did not mock nor deride2; but what saith she?

Ver. 12. “Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?”

Observe how she thrusts herself into the noble stock of the Jews. For what she saith is somewhat of this kind: “Jacob used this water, and had nothing better to give us.” And this she said showing that from the first answer (of Christ) she had conceived a great and sublime thought; for by the words, “he drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle,” she implies nothing else, than that she had a notion of a better Water, but that she3 never found it, nor clearly knew it. More clearly to explain what she means to say, the sense of her words is this: “Thou canst not assert that Jacob gave us this well, and used another himself; for he and his children drank of this one, which they would not have done if they had had another and a better. Now of the water of this well it is not in thy power to give me, and thou canst not have another and a better, unless thou dost confess that thou art greater than Jacob. Whence then hast thou that water which thou promisest that thou wilt give us?” The Jews did not converse with Him thus mildly, and yet He spake to them on the same subject, making mention of the like water, but they profited nothing; and when He made mention of Abraham, they even attempted to stone Him. Not so does this woman approach Him; but with much gentleness, in the midst of the heat, at noon, she with much patience saith and hears all, and does not so much as think of what the Jews most probably would have asserted, that “This fellow is mad, and beside himself: he hath tied me to this fount and well, giving me nothing, but using big words”; no, she endures and perseveres until she has found what she seeks.

[5.] If now a woman of Samaria is so earnest to learn something profitable, if she abides by Christ though not as yet knowing Him, what pardon shall we obtain, who both knowing4 Him, and being not by a well, nor in a desert place, nor at noon-day, nor beneath the scorching sunbeams, but at morning-tide, and beneath a roof like this, enjoying shade and comfort,5 yet cannot endure to hear anything that is said, but are wearied6 by it. Not such was that woman; so occupied was she by Jesus’ words, that she even called others to hear them. The Jews, on the contrary, not only did not call, but even hindered and impeded those who desired to come to Him,7 saying, “See, have any of the rulers believed on him? but this people, which knoweth not the Law, are cursed.”8 Let us then imitate this woman of Samaria; let us commune with Christ. For even now He standeth in the midst of us, speaking to us by the Prophets and Disciples; let us hear and obey. How long shall we live uselessly and in vain? Because, not to do what is well-pleasing to God is to live uselessly, or rather not merely uselessly, but to our own hurt; for when we have spent the time which has been given us on no good purpose, we shall depart this life to suffer severest punishment for our unseasonable extravagance. For it can never be that a man who has received money to trade with, and then has eaten it up, shall have it1 required at his hands by the man who intrusted it to him; and that one who has spent such a life as ours to no purpose shall escape punishment. It was not for this that God brought us into this present life, and breathed into us a soul, that we should make use of the present time only,2 but that we should do all our business with a regard to the life which is to come. Things irrational only are useful for the present life; but we have an immortal soul, that we may use every means to prepare ourselves for that other life. For if one enquire the use of horses and asses and oxen, and other such-like animals, we shall tell him that it is nothing else but only to minister to the present life; but this cannot be said of us; our best condition is that which follows on our departure hence; and we must do all that we may shine there, that we may join the choir of Angels, and stand before the King continually, through endless3 ages. And therefore the soul is immortal, and the body shall be immortal too, that we may enjoy the never-ending blessings. But if, when heavenly things are proffered thee, thou remainest nailed to earth, consider what an insult is offered to thy Benefactor, when He holdeth forth to thee things above, and thou, making no great account of them choosest earth instead. And therefore, as despised by thee, He hath threatened thee with hell; that thou mayest learn hence of what great blessings thou deprivest thyself. God grant that none make trial of that punishment, but that having been well-pleasing to Christ, we may obtain everlasting blessings, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ; to whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.

HOMILY XXXII

John 4:13, 14.

“Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting Life.”

[1.] Scripture calls the grace of the Spirit sometimes “Fire,” sometimes “Water,” showing that these names are not descriptive of its essence, but of its operation; for the Spirit, being Invisible and Simple, cannot be made up of different substances. Now the one John declares, speaking thus, “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with Fire” (Matt. 3:11): the other, Christ, “Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38.) “But this,” saith John, “spake He of the Spirit, which they should receive.” So also conversing with the woman, He calleth the Spirit water;4 for, “Whosoever shall drink of the water which I shall give him, shall never thirst.” So also He calleth the Spirit by the name of “fire,” alluding to the rousing and warming property of grace, and its power of destroying transgressions; but by that of “water,” to declare the cleansing wrought by it, and the great refreshment which it affordeth to those minds which receive it. And with good reason; for it makes the willing soul like some5 garden thick with all manner of trees fruitful and ever-flourishing, allowing it neither to feel despondency nor the plots of Satan, and quenches6 all the fiery darts of the wicked one.

And observe, I pray you, the wisdom of Christ,7 how gently He leads on8 the woman; for He did not say at first, “If thou knewest who it is that saith to thee, Give Me to drink,” but when He had given her an occasion of calling Him “a Jew,” and brought her beneath the charge of having done so, repelling the accusation He saith, “If thou knewest who it is that saith to thee, Give Me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of Him”; and having compelled her by His great promises to make mention9 of the Patriarch, He thus alloweth the woman to look through,10 and then when she objects, “Art thou greater than our father Jacob?” He saith not, “Yea, I am greater,” (for He would have seemed but to boast, since the proof did not as yet appear,) but by what He saith He effecteth this. For He said not simply, “I will give thee water,” but having first set that given by Jacob aside, He exalteth that given by Himself, desiring to show from the nature of the things given, how great is the interval and difference between the persons of the givers,1 and His own superiority to the Patriarch. “If,” saith He, “thou admirest Jacob because he gave thee this water, what wilt thou say if I give thee Water far better than this? Thou hast thyself been first to confess that I am greater than Jacob, by arguing against Me, and asking, ‘Art thou greater than Jacob, that thou promisest to give me better water?’ If thou receivest that Water, certainly thou wilt confess that I am greater.” Seest thou the upright judgment of the woman, giving her decision from facts, both as to the Patriarch, and as to Christ? The Jews acted not thus; when they even saw Him casting out devils, they not only did not call Him greater than the Patriarch but even said that He had a devil. Not so the woman, she draws her opinion whence Christ would have her, from the demonstration afforded by His works. For by these He justifieth Himself, saying, “If I do not the works of My Father, believe Me not; but if I do, if ye believe not Me, believe the works.” (c. 10:37, 38.) And thus the woman is brought over to the faith.

Wherefore also He, having heard, “Art thou greater than our father Jacob,” leaveth Jacob, and speaketh concerning the water, saying, “Whosoever shall drink of this water, shall thirst again”; and He maketh His comparison, not by depreciating one, but by showing the excellence of the other; for He saith not, that “this water is naught,” nor “that it is inferior and contemptible,” but what even nature testifies that He saith: “Whosoever shall drink of this water shall thirst again; but whosoever shall drink of the Water which I shall give him, shall never thirst.” The woman before this had heard of “living Water” (v. 10), but had not known its meaning. Since because that water is called “living” which is perennial and bubbles up unceasingly from uninterrupted springs, she thought that this was the water meant. Wherefore He points out this more clearly by speaking thus, and establishing by a comparison the superiority (of the water which He would give). What then saith He? “Whosoever shall drink of the Water that I shall give him, shall never thirst.” This and what was said next especially showed the superiority, for material water possesses none of these qualities. And what is it that follows? “It shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” For as one that hath a well within him could never be seized by thirst, so neither can he that hath this Water.

The woman straightway believed, showing herself much wiser than Nicodemus, and not only wiser, but more manly. For he when he heard ten thousand such things neither invited any others to this hearing, nor himself spake forth openly; but she exhibited the actions of an Apostle, preaching the Gospel to all, and calling them to Jesus, and drawing a whole city forth to Him. Nicodemus when he had heard said, “How can these things be?” And when Christ set before him a clear illustration, that of “the wind,” he did not even so receive the Word. But the woman not so; at first she doubted, but afterwards receiving the Word not by any regular demonstration, but in the form of an assertion, she straightway hastened to embrace it. For when Christ said, “It shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting Life,” immediately the woman saith,

Ver. 15. “Give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.”

Seest thou how little by little she is led up to the highest doctrines? First she thought Him some Jew who was transgressing the Law; then when He had repelled that accusation, (for it was necessary that the person who was to teach2 her such things should not be suspected,) having heard of “living water,” she supposed that this was spoken of material water; afterwards, having learnt that the words were spiritual, she believed that the water could remove the necessity caused by thirst, but knew not yet what this could be; she still doubted, deeming it indeed to be above material things, but not being exactly informed. But here having gained a clearer insight, but not yet fully perceiving the whole, (for she saith, “Give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw,”) she for the time preferreth Him to Jacob. “For” (saith she) “I need not this well if I receive from thee that water.” Seest thou how she setteth Him before the Patriarch? This is the act of a fairly-judging3 soul. She had shown how great an opinion she had of Jacob, she saw One better than he, and was not held back by her prepossession. Thus this woman was neither of an easy temper, (she did not carelessly receive what was said, how can she have done so when she enquired with so great exactness?4) nor yet disobedient, nor disputatious, and this she showed by her petition. Yet to the Jews once He said, “Whosoever shall eat of My flesh5 shall never hunger, and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst” (c. 6:35); but they not only did not believe, but were offended at Him. The woman had no such feeling, she remains and petitions. To the Jews He said, “He that believeth on Me shall never thirst”; not so to the woman, but more grossly, “He that drinketh of this Water shall never thirst.” For the promise referred to spiritual and unseen1 things. Wherefore having raised her mind by His promises, He still lingers among expressions relating to sense, because she could not as yet comprehend the exact expression of spiritual things. Since had He said, “If thou believest in Me thou shalt not thirst,” she would not have understood His saying, not knowing who it could be that spake to her, nor concerning what kind of thirst He spake. Wherefore then did He not this in the case of the Jews? Because they had seen many signs, while she had seen no sign, but heard these words first. For which reason He afterwards reveals His power by prophecy, and does not directly introduce His reproof,2 but what saith He?

Ver. 16–19. “Go, call thy husband, and come thither. The woman answered and said I have no husband. Jesus saith unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: for thou hast had five husbands, and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. The woman saith unto Him, Sir, I perceive that Thou art a Prophet.”

[2.] O how great the wisdom of the woman! how meekly doth she receive the reproof! “How should she not,” saith some one? Tell me, why should she? Did He not often reprove the Jews also, and with greater reproofs than these? (for it is not the same to bring forward the hidden thoughts of the heart, as to make manifest a thing that was done in secret; the first are known to3 God alone, and none other knoweth them but he who hath them in his heart; the second, all who were sharers in it know;) but still when reproved did not bear it patiently. When He said, “Why seek ye to kill me?” (c. 7:19), they not only did not admire as the woman did but even mocked at and insulted Him; yet they had a demonstration from other miracles, she had only heard this speech. Still they not only did not admire, but even insulted Him, saying, “Thou hast a demon, who seeketh to kill thee?” While she not only doth not insult but admires, and is astonished at Him, and supposes Him to be a Prophet. Yet truly this rebuke touched the woman more than the other touched them; for her fault was hers alone, theirs was a general one; and we are not so much stung by what is general as by what is particular. Besides they thought they should be gaining a great object if they could slay Christ, but that which the woman had done was allowed by all to be wicked; yet was she not indignant, but was astonished and wondered. And Christ did this very same thing in the case of Nathanael. He did not at first introduce the prophecy, nor say, “I saw thee under the fig-tree,” but when Nathanael said, “Whence knowest thou me?” then He introduced this. For He desired to take the beginnings of His signs and prophecies from the very persons who came near to Him, so that they might be more attached4 by what was done, and He might escape the suspicion of vainglory. Now this He doth here also; for to have charged her first of all that, “Thou hast no husband,” would have seemed burdensome and superfluous, but to take the reason (for speaking) from herself, and then to set right all these points, was very consistent, and softened the disposition of the hearer.

“And what kind of connection,” saith some one, “is there in the saying, ‘Go, call thy husband’?” The discourse was concerning a gift and grace surpassing mortal nature: the woman was urgent in seeking to receive it. Christ saith, “Call thy husband,” showing that he also must share in these things; but she, eager to receive5 (the gift), and concealing the shamefulness of the circumstances, and supposing that she was conversing with a man, said, “I have no husband.” Christ having heard this, now seasonably introduces His reproof, mentioning accurately both points; for He enumerated all her former husbands, and reproved her for him whom6 she now would hide. What then did the woman? she was not annoyed, nor did she leave Him and fly, nor deem the thing an insult, but rather admired Him, and persevered the more. “I perceive,” saith she, “that Thou art a Prophet.” Observe her prudence; she did not straightway run to Him, but still considers Him, and marvels at Him. For, “I perceive,” means, “Thou appearest to me to be a Prophet.” Then when she suspected this, she asks Him nothing concerning this life, not concerning bodily health, or possessions, or wealth, but at once concerning doctrines. For what saith she?

Ver. 20. “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain,” (meaning Abraham and his family, for thither they say that he led up his son,) “and how say ye7 that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship?”

[3.] Seest thou how much more elevated in mind she has become? She who was anxious that she might not be troubled for thirst, now questions concerning doctrines. What then doth Christ? He doth not resolve the question, (for to answer simply to men’s words was not His care, for it was needless,8) but leads the woman on to the greater height, and doth not converse with her on these matters, until she has confessed that He was a Prophet, so that afterwards she might hear His Word with abundant belief; for having been persuaded of this, she could no longer doubt concerning what should be said to her.

Let us now after this be ashamed, and blush. A woman who had had five husbands, and who was of Samaria, was so eager concerning doctrines, that neither the time of day, nor her having come for another purpose, nor anything else, led her away from enquiring on such matters but we not only do not enquire concerning doctrines, but towards them all our dispositions are careless and indifferent. Therefore everything is neglected. For which of you when in his house takes some Christian book1 in hand and goes over its contents, and searches the Scriptures? None can say that he does so, but with most we shall find draughts and dice, but books nowhere, except among a few. And even these few have the same dispositions as the many; for they tie up their books, and keep them always put away in cases, and all their care is for the fineness of the parchments, and the beauty of the letters, not for reading them. For they have not bought them to obtain advantage and benefit from them, but take pains about such matters to show their wealth and pride. Such is the excess of vainglory. I do not hear any one glory that he knows the contents, but that he hath a book written in letters of gold. And what gain, tell me, is this? The Scriptures were not given us for this only, that we might have them in books, but that we might engrave them on our hearts. For this kind of possession, the keeping the commandments merely in letter, belongs to Jewish ambition; but to us the Law was not so given2 at all, but in the fleshy tables of our hearts.3 And this I say, not to prevent you from procuring Bibles, on the contrary, I exhort and earnestly pray that you do this, but I desire that from those books you convey the letters and sense into your understanding, that so it may be purified when it receiveth the meaning of the writing.4 For if the devil will not dare to approach a house where a Gospel is lying, much less will any evil spirit, or any sinful nature,5 ever touch or enter a soul which bears about with it such sentiments as it contains. Sanctify then thy soul, sanctify thy body, by having these ever in thy heart, and on thy tongue. For if foul speech defiles and invites devils, it is clear that spiritual reading sanctifies and draws down the grace of the Spirit. The Scriptures6 are divine charms, let us then apply to ourselves and7 to the passions of our souls the remedies to be derived from them. For if we understand what it is that is read, we shall hear it with much readiness. I am always saying this, and will not cease to say it. Is it not strange that those who sit by the market can tell the names, and families, and cities of charioteers, and dancers, and the kinds of power possessed by each, and can give exact account of the good or bad qualities of the very horses, but that those who come hither should know nothing of what is done here, but should be ignorant of the number even of the sacred Books? If thou pursuest those worldly things for pleasure, I will show thee that here is greater pleasure. Which is sweeter, tell me, which more marvelous, to see a man wrestling with a man, or a man buffering with a devil, a body closing with an incorporeal power, and him who is of thy race victorious? These wrestlings let us look on, these, which also it is seemly and profitable to imitate, and which imitating, we may be8 crowned; but not those in which emulation brings shame to him who imitates them. If thou beholdest the one kind of contest, thou beholdest it with devils; the other, with Angels and Archangels, and the Lord of Archangels. Say now, if thou wert allowed to sit with governors and kings, and to see and enjoy the spectacle, wouldest thou not deem it to be a very great honor? And here when thou art a spectator in company with the King of Angels, when thou seest the devil grasped by the middle of the back,9 striving much to have the better, but powerless, dost thou not run and pursue after such a sight as this? “And how can this be?” saith some one. If thou keep the Bible in thy hands; for in it thou shalt see the lists, and the long races, and his grasps,10 and the skill of the righteous one. For by beholding these things thou shalt learn also how to wrestle so thyself, and shalt escape clear of devils; the performances of the heathen are assemblies of devils, not theaters of men. Wherefore I exhort you to abstain from these Satanic assemblies;11 for if it is not lawful to enter into an idol’s house, much less to Satan’s festival. I shall not cease to say these things and weary you, until I see some change; for to say these things, as saith Paul, “to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.” (Phil. 3:1.) Be not then offended at my exhortation. If any one ought to be offended, it is I who often speak and am not heard, not you who are always hearing and always disobeying. God grant that you be not always liable to this charge, but that freed from this shame you be deemed worthy to enjoy the spiritual spectacle,1 and the glory which is to come, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

HOMILY XXXIII

John 4:21, 22.

“Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.”

[1.] Everywhere, beloved, we have need of faith, faith the mother of blessings, the medicine of salvation; and without this it is impossible to possess any one of the great doctrines. Without this, men are like to those who attempt to cross2 the open sea without a ship, who for a little way hold out by swimming, using both hands and feet, but when they have advanced farther, are quickly swamped by the waves: in like manner they who use their own reasonings, before they have learnt anything, suffer shipwreck; as also Paul saith, “Who concerning faith have made shipwreck.” (1 Tim. 1:19.) That this be not our case, let us hold fast the sacred anchor by which Christ bringeth over the Samaritan woman now. For when she had said, “How say ye3 that Jerusalem is the place in which men ought to worship?” Christ replied, “Believe Me, woman, that the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in Jerusalem, nor yet in this mountain, worship the Father.” An exceedingly great4 doctrine He revealed to her, and one which He did not mention either to Nicodemus or Nathanael. She was eager to prove her own privileges more honorable than those of the Jews; and this she subtly argued from the Fathers, but Christ met not this question. For it was for the time distracting5 to speak on the matter, and to show why the Fathers worshiped in the mountain, and why the Jews at Jerusalem. Wherefore on this point He was silent, and having taken away from both places priority in dignity, rouses her soul by showing that neither Jews nor Samaritans possessed anything great in comparison with that which was to be given; and then He introduceth the difference. Yet even thus He declared that the Jews were more honorable, not preferring place to place, but giving them the precedence because of their intention. As though He had said, “About the ‘place’ of worship ye have no need henceforth to dispute, but in the ‘manner’ the Jews have an advantage over you Samaritans, for ‘ye,’ He saith, ‘worship ye know not what; we know what we worship.’ ”

How then did the Samaritans “know not” what they worshiped? Because they thought that God was local and partial; so at least they served Him, and so they sent to the Persians, and reported that “the God of this place is wroth with us” (2 Kings 17:26.), in this respect forming no higher opinion of Him than of their idols. Wherefore they continued to serve both Him and devils, joining things which ought not to be joined. The Jews, on the contrary, were free from this supposition, at least the greater part of them, and knew that He was God of the world. Therefore He saith, “Ye worship ye know not what; we know what we worship.” Do not wonder that He numbereth Himself among Jews, for He speaketh to the woman’s opinion of Him as though He were a Jewish Prophet, and therefore He putteth, “we worship.” For that He is of the objects of worship is clear to every one, because to worship belongs to the creature, but to be worshiped to the Lord of the creature. But for a time He speaketh as a Jew; and the expression “we” in this place meaneth “we Jews.” Having then exalted what was Jewish, He next maketh Himself credible, and persuadeth the woman to give the greater heed to His words, by rendering His discourse above suspicion, and showing that He doth not exalt what belongs to them by reason of relationship6 to those of His own tribe. For it is clear, that one who had made these declarations concerning the place on which the Jews most prided themselves, and thought that they were superior to all, and who had taken away their high claims, would not after this7 speak to get favor of any, but with truth and prophetic power. When therefore He had for a while removed her from such reasonings,8 saying, “Woman, believe Me,” and what follows, then He addeth, “for salvation is of the Jews.” What He saith is of this kind: neither, that blessings to the world came from them, (for to know God and condemn idols had its beginning, from them, and with you the very act of worship, although ye do it not rightly, yet received its origin from them,) or else, He speaketh of His own Coming. Or rather, one would not be wrong in calling both these things “salvation” which He said was “of the Jews”; which Paul implied when he said, “Of whom is Christ according to the flesh, who is God over all.” (Rom. 9:5.) Seest thou how He commendeth1 the old Covenant, and showeth that it is the root of blessings, and that He is throughout not opposed to the Law, since He maketh the groundwork2 of all good things to come from the Jews?

Ver. 23. “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father.”

“We, O woman,” He saith, “excel you in the manner of our worship, but even this shall henceforth have an end. Not the places only, but even the manner of serving God shall be changed. And this change is at your very doors. ‘For the hour cometh, and now is.’ ”

[2.] For since what the Prophets said they said long before the event, to show that here it is not so,3 He saith, “And now is.” Think not, He saith, that this is a prophecy of such a kind as shall be accomplished after a long time, the fulfillment is already at hand and at your very doors, “when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth.” In saying “true,”4 He excludeth Jews as well as Samaritans; for although the Jews be better than the Samaritans, yet are they far inferior to those that shall come, as inferior as is the type to the reality. But He speaketh of the Church, that she5 is the “true” worship, and such as is meet for God.

“For the Father seeketh such to worship Him.”

If then He in times past sought such as these, He allowed to those others their way of worship, not willingly,6 but from condescension, and for this reason,7 that He might bring them in also. Who then are “the true worshipers”? Those who confine not their service by place, and who serve God in spirit; as Paul saith, “Whom I serve in my spirit8 in the Gospel of His Son”: and again, “I beseech you that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, acceptable unto God, your reasonable service.” (Rom. 1:9 and 12:1.) But when he saith,

Ver. 24. “God is a Spirit” [God is spirit].

He declareth nothing else than His incorporeal Nature. Now the service of that which is incorporeal must needs be of the same character, and must be offered by that in us which is incorporeal, to wit, the soul, and purity of mind. Wherefore He saith, “they that worship Him, must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” For because both Samaritans and Jews were careless about the soul, but took great pains about the body, cleansing it in divers ways, it is not, He saith, by purity of body, but by that which is incorporeal in us, namely the mind, that the incorporeal One is served. Sacrifice then not sheep and calves, but dedicate thyself to the Lord; make thyself a holocaust, this is to offer a living sacrifice. Ye must worship “in truth”9; as former things were types, such as circumcision, and whole burnt offerings, and victims, and incense, they now no longer exist, but all is “truth.” For a man must now circumcise not his flesh, but his evil thoughts, and crucify himself, and remove and slay his unreasonable desires.” The woman was made dizzy by His discourse, and fainted10 in at the sublimity of what He said, and, in her trouble, hear what she saith:

Ver. 25, 26. “I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when He is come, He will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I am that speak unto thee.”

And whence came the Samaritans to expect the coming of Christ, seeing that they received Moses only?11 From the writings of Moses themselves. For even in the beginning He revealed the Son. “Let Us make man in Our Image, after Our Likeness” (Gen. 1:26), was said to the Son. It was He who talked with Abraham in the tent. (Gen. 18.) And Jacob prophesying concerning Him said, “A ruler shall not fail from Judah, nor a leader from his thighs, until He come for whom it is reserved,12 and He is the expectation of nations.” (Gen. 18.) And Moses himself saith, “The Lord thy God will raise up unto you a Prophet of your brethren like unto me, unto Him shall ye hearken.” (Deut. 18:15.) And the circumstances attending the serpent, and the rod of Moses, and Isaac, and the sheep, and many other things they who chose might select as proclaiming His coming.

“And why, pray,” saith one, “did not Christ lead on the woman by these means? why did He instance the serpent to Nicodemus, and mention prophecy to Nathanael, but to her say nothing of the kind? For what reason, and why?” Because they were men, and were versed in these things, she a poor ignorant woman unpracticed in the Scriptures. Wherefore He doth not speak to her from them, but draweth her on by the “water” and by prophecy, and bringeth her to make mention of Christ and then revealeth Himself; which had He at first told the woman when she had not questioned Him, He would have seemed to her to trifle and talk idly, while as it is by bringing her little by little to mention Him, at a fitting time He revealed Himself. To the Jews, who continually said, “How long dost Thou make us to doubt? tell us if Thou art the Christ” (c. 10:24), to them1 He gave no clear answer, but to this woman He said plainly, that He is. For the woman was more fair-minded than the Jews; they did not enquire to learn, but always to mock at Him, for had they desired to learn, the teaching which was by His words, and by the Scriptures, and by His miracles would have been sufficient. The woman, on the contrary, said what she said from an impartial judgment and a simple mind, as is plain from what she did afterwards; for she both heard and believed, and netted2 others also, and in every circumstance we may observe the carefulness and faith of the woman.

Ver. 27. “And upon this came His disciples,” (very seasonably did they come when the teaching was finished,) “and marveled that He talked with the woman, yet no man said, What seekest Thou? or, Why talkest Thou with her?”

[3.] At what did they marvel? At His want of pride and exceeding humility, that looked upon as He was, He endured with such lowliness of heart to talk with a woman poor, and a Samaritan. Still in their amazement the); did not ask Him the reason, so well were they taught to keep the station of disciples, so much did they fear and reverence Him. For although they did not as yet hold the right opinion concerning Him, still they gave heed unto Him as to some marvelous one, and paid Him much respect. Yet they frequently are seen to act confidently; as when John lay upon His bosom, when they came to Him and said, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” (Matt. 18:1), when the sons of Zebedee entreated Him to set one of them on His right hand, and the other on His left. Why then did they not here question Him? Because since all those instances related to themselves, they had need to enquire into them, while what here took place was of no such great importance to them. And indeed John did that a long time after towards the very end, when He enjoyed greater confidence, and was bold in the love of Christ; for he it was,3 he saith, “whom Jesus loved.” What could equal such blessedness?

But, beloved, let us not stop at this, the calling the Apostle blessed, but let us do all things that we also may be of the blessed, let us imitate the Evangelist, and see what it was that caused such great love. What then was it? He left his father, his ship, and his net, and followed Jesus. Yet this he did in common with his brother, and Peter, and Andrew, and the rest of the Apostles. What then was the special4 thing which caused this great love? Shall we discover it? He saith nothing of this kind about himself, but only that he was beloved; as to the righteous acts for which he was beloved he has modestly been silent. That Jesus loved him with an especial love was clear to every one; yet John doth not appear conversing with or questioning Jesus privately, as Peter often did, and Philip, and Judas, and Thomas, except only when he desired to show kindness and compliance to his fellow Apostle; for when the chief5 of the Apostles by beckoning constrained him, then he asked. For these two had great love each for the other. Thus, for instance, they are seen going up together into the Temple and speaking in common to the people. Yet Peter in many places6 is moved, and speaks more warmly than John. And at the end he hears Christ say, “Peter,7 lovest thou Me more than these?” (c. 21:15.) Now it is clear that he who loved “more than these” was also beloved. But this in his case was shown by loving Jesus, in the case of the other by being beloved by Jesus8

What then was it which caused this especial love? To my thinking, it was that the man displayed great gentleness and meekness, for which reason he doth not appear in many places speaking openly. And how great a thing this is, is plain also from the case of Moses. It was this which made him such and so great as he was. There is nothing equal to lowliness of mind. For which cause Jesus with this began the Beatitudes, and when about to lay as it were the foundation and base of a mighty building, He placed first lowliness of mind. Without this a man cannot possibly be saved; though he fast, though he pray, though he give alms, if it be with a proud spirit, these9 things are abominable, if humility be not there; while if it be, all these things are amiable and lovely, and are done with safety. Let us then be modest,1 beloved, let us be modest; success is easy, if we be sober-minded. For after all what is it, O man, that exciteth thee to pride? Seest thou not the poverty of thy nature? the unsteadiness2 of thy will? Consider thine end, consider the multitude of thy sins. But perhaps because thou doest many righteous deeds thou art proud. By that very pride thou shall undo them all. Wherefore it behoveth not so much him that has sinned3 as him that doeth righteousness to take pains to be humble. Why so? Because the sinner is constrained by conscience, while the other, except he be very sober, soon caught up as by a blast of wind is lifted on high, and made to vanish like the Pharisee. Dost thou give to the poor? What thou givest is not thine, but thy Master’s, common to thee and thy fellow-servants. For which cause thou oughtest especially to be humbled, in the calamities of those who are thy kindred foreseeing thine own, and taking knowledge of thine own nature in their cases. We ourselves perhaps are sprung from such ancestors; and if wealth has shifted to you, it is probable that it will leave you again. And after all, what is wealth? A vain4 shadow, dissolving smoke, a flower of the grass, or rather something meaner than a flower. Why then art thou high-minded over grass? Doth not wealth fall to thieves, and effeminates, and harlots, and tomb-breakers? Doth this puff thee up, that thou hast such as these to share in thy possession? or dost thou desire honor? Towards gaining honor nothing is more serviceable than almsgiving. For the honors arising from wealth and power are compulsory, and attended with hatred, but these others are from the free wilt and real feeling of the honorers; and therefore those who pay them can never give them. Now if men show such reverence for the merciful, and invoke all blessings upon them, consider what return, what recompense they shall receive from the merciful God. Let us then seek this wealth which endureth forever, and never deserts5 us, that, becoming great here and glorious there, we may obtain everlasting blessings, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and the Holy Spirit be glory, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.

HOMILY XXXIV

John 4:28, 29.

“The woman then left her water pot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a Man which told me all things that ever I did; is not this the Christ?”

[1.] We require much fervor and uproused zeal, for without these it is impossible to obtain the blessings promised to us. And to show this, Christ at one time saith, “Except a man take6 up his cross and follow Me, he is not worthy of Me” (Matt. 10:38); at another, “I am come to send fire upon the earth, and what will I if it be already kindled?” (Luke 12:49); by both these desiring to represent to us a disciple full of heat and fire, and prepared for every danger. Such an one was this woman. For so kindled was she by His words, that she left her water pot and the purpose for which she came, ran into the city, and drew all the people to Jesus. “Come,” she saith, “see a Man which told me all things that ever I did.”

Observe her zeal and wisdom. She came to draw water, and when she had lighted upon the true Well, she after that despised the material one; teaching us even by this trifling instance when we are listening to spiritual matters to overlook the things of this life, and make no account of them. For what the Apostles did, that, after her ability, did this woman also.7 They when they were called, left their nets; she of her own accord, without the command of any, leaves her water pot, and winged by joy8 performs the office of Evangelists. And she calls not one or two, as did Andrew and Philip, but having aroused a whole city and people, so brought them to Him.

Observe too how prudently she speaks; she said not, “Come and see the Christ,” but with the same condescension9 by which Christ had netted her she draws the men to Him; “Come,” she saith, “see a Man who told me all that ever I did.” She was not ashamed to say that He “told me all that ever I did.” Yet she might have spoken otherwise, “Come, see one that prophesieth”; but when the soul is inflamed with holy fire, it looks then to nothing earthly, neither to glory nor to shame, but belongs to one thing alone, the flame which occupieth it.

“Is not this the Christ?” Observe again here the great wisdom of the woman; she neither declared the fact plainly, nor was she silent, for she desired not to bring them in by her own assertion, but to make them to share in this opinion by hearing Him; which rendered her words more readily acceptable to them. Yet He had not told all her life to her, only from what had been said she was persuaded (that He was informed) as to the rest. Nor did she say, “Come, believe,” but, “Come, see”.; a gentler1 expression than the other, and one which more attracted them. Seest thou the wisdom of the woman? She knew, she knew certainly that having but tasted that Well, they would be affected in the same manner as herself. Yet any one of the grosser sort would have concealed the reproof which Jesus had given; but she parades her own life, and brings it forward before all men, so as to attract and capture all.

Ver. 31. “In the mean time His disciples asked2 Him, saying, Master, eat.” “Asked,” here is “besought,” in their native language; for seeing Him wearied with the journey, and the oppressive heat, they entreated Him; for their request concerning food proceeded not from hastiness, but from loving affection for their Teacher? What then saith Christ?

Ver. 32, 33. “I have meat to eat that ye know not of. Therefore” (saith the Evangelist) “said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought Him aught to eat?”

Why now wonderest thou that the woman when she heard of “water,” still imagined mere water to be meant, when even the disciples are in the same case, and as yet suppose nothing spiritual, but are perplexed? though they still show their accustomed modesty and reverence toward their Master, conversing one with the other, but not daring to put any question to Him. And this they do in other places, desiring to ask Him, but not asking. What then saith Christ?

Ver. 34. “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work.”

He here calleth the salvation of men “meat,” showing what an earnest desire He hath of providing for us;3 for as we long for food, so He that we may be saved. And hear how in all places He revealeth not all off-hand, but first throweth the hearer into perplexity, in order that having begun to seek the meaning of what has been said, and then being perplexed and in difficulty, he may when what he sought appears, receive it the more readily, and be made more attentive to listening. For wherefore said He not at once, “My meat is to do the will of My Father?” (though not even this would have been clear, yet clearer than the other.) But what saith He? “I have meat to eat that ye know not of”; for He desireth, as I said, first to make them more attentive through their uncertainty, and by dark sayings like these to accustom them to listen to His words. But what is “the will of the Father”? He next speaketh of this, and explaineth.

Ver. 35. “Say ye not, that there are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look upon the fields, for they are white already to harvest.”

[2.] Behold, He again by familiar words leadeth them up to the consideration of greater matters; for when He spoke of “meat,” He signified nothing else than the salvation of the men who should come to Him; and again, the “field” and the “harvest” signify the very same thing, the multitude of souls prepared for the reception of the preaching; and the “eyes” of which He speaketh are those both of the mind and of the body; (for they now beheld the crowd of Samaritans advancing;) and the readiness of their will He calleth, “fields already white.” For as the ears of corn, when they have become white, and are ready for reaping, so these, He saith, are prepared and fitted for salvation.

And wherefore instead of calling them “fields” and “harvest,” did He not plainly say, that “the then were coming to believe and were ready to receive the Word, having been instructed by the Prophets; and now bringing forth fruit”? What mean these figures used by Him? for this He doth not here only, but through all the Gospel; and the Prophets also employ the same method, saying many things in a metaphorical manner. What then may be the cause of this? for the grace of the Spirit did not ordain it to be so without a reason, but why and wherefore? On two accounts; one, that the discourse may be more vivid, and bring what is said more clearly before our eyes. For the mind when it has laid hold on a familiar image of the matters in hand, is more aroused, and beholding them as it were in a picture, is occupied by them to a greater degree. This is one reason; the other is, that the statement may be sweetened, and that the memory of what is said may be more lasting. For assertion does not subdue and bring in an ordinary hearer so much as narration by objects, and the representation of experience.4 Which one may here see most wisely effected by the parable.

Ver. 36. “And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal.”

For the fruit of an earthly harvest profiteth not to life eternal, but to this which is for a time; but the spiritual fruit to that which hath neither age nor death. Seest thou that the expressions are of sense, but the thoughts spiritual, and that by the very words themselves He divideth things earthly from heavenly? For when in discoursing of water He made this the peculiar property of the heavenly Water, that “he who drinketh it shall never thirst,” so He doth here also when He saith, “that this fruit is gathered unto eternal life.”

“That both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.”

Who is “he that soweth”? Who “he that reapeth”? The Prophets are they that sowed but they reaped not, but the Apostles. “Yet not on this account are they deprived of the pleasure and recompense of their labors, but they rejoice and are glad with us, although they reap not with us. For harvest is not such work as sowing. I therefore have kept you for that in which the toil is less and the pleasure greater, and not for sowing because in that there is much hardship and toil. In harvest the return is large, the labor not so great; nay there is much facility.”1 By these arguments He here desireth to prove, that “the wish of the Prophets is, that all men should come to Me.” This also the Law was engaged in effecting; and for this they sowed, that they might produce this fruit.2 He showeth moreover that He sent them also, and that there was a very intimate connection between the New Covenant and the Old, and all this He effecteth at once by this parable. He maketh mention also of a proverbial expression generally circulated.

Ver. 37. “Herein,” He saith, “is that saying true, One soweth and another reapeth.”

These words the many used whenever one party had supplied toil and another had reaped the fruits; and He saith, “that the proverb is in this instance especially true, for the Prophets labored, and ye reap the fruits of their labors.” He said not “the rewards,” (for neither did their great labor go unrewarded,) but “the fruits.” This also Daniel did, for he too makes mention of a proverb, “Wickedness proceedeth from the wicked”; and David in his lamenting makes mention of a similar proverb.3 Therefore He said beforehand, “that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.” For since He was about to declare, that “one hath sowed and another reapeth,” lest any one should deem that the Prophets were deprived of their reward, He asserteth something strange and paradoxical, such as never chanceth in sensual things, but is peculiar to spiritual only. For in things of sense, if it chance that one sow and another reap, they do not “rejoice together,” but those who sowed are sad, as having labored for others, and those who reap alone rejoice. But here it is not so, but those who reap not what they sowed rejoice alike with those who reap; whence it is clear that they too share the reward.

Ver. 38. “I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labors; other men labored, and ye are entered into their labors.”

By this He the more encourageth them; for when it seemed a very hard matter to go through all the world and preach the Gospel, He showeth them that it is even most4 easy. The very difficult work was that other, which required great labor, the putting in the seed, and introducing the uninitiated soul to the knowledge of God. But wherefore uttereth He these sayings? It is that when He sendeth them to preach they may not be confounded, as though sent on a difficult task. “For that of the Prophets,” He saith, “was the more difficult, and the fact witnesseth to My word, that ye are come to what is easy; because as in harvest time the fruits are collected with ease, and in one moment the floor is filled with sheaves, which await5 not the revolutions of the seasons, and winter, and spring, and rain, so it is now. The facts proclaim it aloud.” While He was in the midst of saying these things, the Samaritans came forth, and the fruit was at once gathered together. On this account6 He said, “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields, that they are white.” Thus He spake, and the fact was clear, and the words seen (true) by the event. For saith St. John,

Ver. 39. “Many of the Samaritans of that city believed on Him for the saying of the woman which testified, He told me all that ever I did.”

They perceived7 that the woman would not from favor have admired One who had rebuked her sins, nor to gratify another have paraded her own course of life.

[3.] Let us then also imitate this woman, and in the case of our own sins not be ashamed of men, but fear, as is meet, God who now beholdeth what is done, and who hereafter punisheth those who do not now repent. At present we do the opposite of this, for we fear not Him who shall judge us, but shudder at those who do not in anything hurt us, and tremble at the shame which comes from them. Therefore in the very thing which we fear, in this do we incur punishment. For he who now regards only the reproach of men, but when God seeth is not ashamed to do anything unseemly, and who will not repent and be converted, in that day will be made an example, not only before one or two, but in the sight of the whole world. For that a vast assembly is seated there to behold righteous actions as well as those which are not such, let the parable of the sheep and the goats teach thee, as also the blessed Paul when He saith, “For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10), and again, “Who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness.” (1 Cor. 4:5.) Hast thou done or imagined any evil thing, and dost thou hide it from man? yet from God thou hidest it not. But for this thou careth nothing; the eyes of men, these are thy fear. Think then that thou wilt not be able to escape the sight even of men in that day1; for all things as in a picture shall then be set before our very eyes, so that each shall be self-condemned. This is clear even from the instance of Dives, for the poor man whom he had neglected, Lazarus I mean, he saw standing before his eyes, and the finger which he had often loathed, he intreats may become a comfort to him then. I exhort you therefore, that although no one see what we do, yet that each of us enter into his own conscience, and set reason for his judge, and bring forward his transgressions, and if he desire them not to be exposed to public view then in that fearful day, let him now heal his wounds, let him apply to them the medicines of repentance. For it is in the power, yea, it is in the power of one full of ten thousand wounds to go hence whole. For “if ye forgive,” He saith, “your sins are forgiven unto you.”2 (Matt. 6:14, not verbally quoted.) For as sins buried3 in Baptism appear no more, so these4 also shall disappear, if we be willing to repent. And repentance is the not doing the same again; for he that again puts his hand to the same, is like the dog that returneth to his own vomit, and like him in the proverb who cards wool into the fire,5 and draws water into a cask full of holes. It behooves therefore to depart both in action and in thought from what we have dared to do, and having departed, to apply to the wounds the remedies which are the contraries of our sins. For instance: hast thou been grasping and covetous? Abstain from rapine, and apply almsgiving to the wound. Hast thou been a fornicator? Abstain from fornication, and apply chastity to the wound. Hast thou spoken ill of thy brother, and injured him? Cease finding fault,6 and apply kindness. Let us thus act with respect to each point in which we have offended, and let us not carelessly pass by our sins, for there awaiteth us hereafter, there awaiteth us a season of account. Wherefore also Paul said, “The Lord is at hand: be careful for nothing.” (Phil. 4:5, 6.) But we perhaps must add the contrary of this, “The Lord is at hand, be careful.” For they might well hear, “Be careful for nothing,” living as they did in affliction, and labors, and trials; but they who live by rapine, or in luxury, and who shall give a grievous reckoning, would in reason hear not this, but that other, “The Lord is at hand, be careful.” Since no long time now remains until the consummation, but the world is hastening to its end; this the wars declare, this the afflictions, this the earthquakes, this the love which hath waxed cold. For as the body when in its last gasp and near to death, draws to itself ten thousand sufferings; and as when a house is about to fall, many portions are wont to fall beforehand from the roof and walls; so is the end of the world nigh and at the very doors, and therefore ten thousand woes are everywhere scattered abroad. If the Lord was then “at hand,” much more is He now “at hand.” If three hundred7 years ago, when those words were used, Paul called that season “the fullness of time,” much more would he have called the present so. But perhaps for this very reason some disbelieve, yet they ought on this account to believe the more. For whence knowest thou, O man, that the end is not “at hand,” and the words shortly to be accomplished? For as we speak of the end of the year not as being the last day, but also the last month, though it has thirty days; so if of so many years I call even four hundred years “the end,” I shall not be wrong; and so at that time Paul spoke of the end by anticipation. Let us then set ourselves in order, let us delight in the fear of God; for if we live here without fear of Him, His coming will surprise us suddenly, when we are neither careful, nor looking for Him. As Christ declared when He said, “For as in the days of Noah, and as in the days of Lot, so shall it be at the end of this world.” (Matt. 24:37, not verbally quoted.) This also Paul declared when he said, “For when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child.” (1 Thess. 5:3.) What means, “as travail upon a woman with child”? Often have pregnant women when sporting, or at their meals, or in the bath or market-place, and foreseeing nothing of what was coming, been seized in a moment by their pains. Now since our case is like theirs, let us ever be prepared, for we shall not always hear these things, we shall not always have power to do them. “In the grave” saith David, “who shall give Thee thanks?”1 (Ps. 6:5.) Let us then repent here, that so we may find God merciful unto us in the day that is to come, and be enabled to enjoy abundant forgiveness; which may we all obtain, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and dominion now and ever, and world without end. Amen.

HOMILY XXXV

John 4:40–43.

“So when the Samaritans were come unto Him, they besought Him that He would tarry with them: and He abode there two days. And many more believed because of His own Word; and said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that This is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world. Now after two days He departed thence, and went into Galilee.”

Nothing is worse than envy and malice, nothing more mischievous than vainglory; it is wont to mar ten thousand good things. So the Jews, who excelled the Samaritans in knowledge, and had been always familiar with2 the Prophets, were shown from this cause inferior to them. For these believed even on the testimony of the woman, and without having seen any sign, came forth beseeching Christ to tarry3 with them; but the Jews, when they had beheld His wonders, not only did not detain Him among them, but even drove Him away, and used every means to cast Him forth from their land, although His very Coming4 had been for their sake. The Jews expelled Him, but these even entreated Him to tarry with them. Was it not then rather fitting, tell me, that He should receive those who asked and besought Him, than that He should wait upon those who plotted against and repulsed Him, while to those who loved and desired to retain Him He gave not Himself? Surely this would not have been worthy of His tender care;5 He therefore both accepted6 them, and tarried with them two days. They desired to keep Him among them continually, (for this the Evangelist has shown by saying, that “they besought Him that He would tarry with them,”) but this He endured not, but stayed with them only two days; and in these many more believed on Him. Yet there was no likelihood that these would have believed, since they had seen no sign, and had hostile feelings towards the Jews; but still, inasmuch as they gave in sincerity their judgment on His words, this stood not in their way, but they received a notion which surmounted their hindrances, and vied with each other to reverence Him the more. For, saith the Evangelist, “they said to the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.” The scholars overshot their instructress. With good reason might they condemn the Jews, both by their believing on, and their receiving Him. The Jews, for whose sake He had contrived7 the whole scheme,8 continually were for stoning Him,9 but these, when He was not even intending to come to them, drew Him to themselves. And they, even with signs, remain uncorrected; these, without signs, manifested great faith respecting Him, and glory in this very thing that they believe without them; while the others ceased not asking10 for signs and tempting Him.

Such need is there everywhere of an honest soul; and if truth lay hold on such an one, she easily masters it; or if she masters it not, this is owing not to any weakness of truth, but to want of candor11 in the soul itself. Since the sun too, when he encounters clear eyes, easily enlightens them; if he enlightens them not, it is the fault of their infirmity, not of his weakness.

Hear then what these say; “We know that this is of a truth the Christ, the Saviour of the world.” Seest thou how they at once understood that He should draw the world to Him, that He came to order aright12 our common salvation, that He intended not to confine His care to the Jews, but to sow His Word everywhere? The Jews did not so, but going about to establish their own righteousness, submitted not themselves to the righteousness of God; while these confess that all are deserving of punishment, declaring with the Apostle, that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by His grace.” (Rom. 3:23, 24.) For by saying that He was “the Saviour of the world,” they showed that it was of a lost world,1 and He not simply a Saviour, but one of the very mightiest. For many had come to “save,” both Prophets and Angels2; but this, saith one, is the True Saviour, who affordeth the true salvation, not that which is but for a time. This proceeded from pure faith. And in both ways are they admirable; because they believed, and because they did so without signs, (whom Christ also calleth “blessed,” saying, “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed,”) (c. 20:29,) and because they did so sincerely. Though they had heard the woman say doubtfully, “Is not this the Christ?” they did not also say, “we too suspect,” or, “we think,”3 but, “we know,” and not merely, “we know,” but, “we know that this is of a truth the Saviour of the world.” They acknowledged Christ not as one of the many,4 but as the “Saviour” indeed. Yet whom had they seen saved? They had but heard His words, and yet they spake as they would have spoken had they beheld many and great marvels. And why do not the Evangelists tell us these words, and that He discoursed admirably? That thou mayest learn that they pass by many important matters, and yet have declared the whole to us by the event. For He persuaded an entire people and a whole city by His words. When His hearers are not persuaded, then the writers are constrained to mention what was said, lest any one from the insensibility of the hearers should give a judgment against Him who addressed them.

“Now after two days He departed thence and went into Galilee.”

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