Fathers of the Church
Homilies 49-61 on the Gospel According to St. John
by John Chrysostom in 389 | translated by The Oxford Translation Edited By Rev. Philip Schaff, D.d., Ll.d
"When He had said these words unto them, He abode still in Galilee. But when His brethren were gone up, then went He up also unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret."
[1.] The things done by Christ after the manner of men, are not so done only to establish the Incarnation, but also to educate us for virtue. For had He done all as God, how could we have known, on falling in with such things as we wished not, what we must do? As, for instance, when He was in this very place, and the Jews would have killed Him, He came into the midst of them, and so appeased the tumult. Now had He done this continually, how should we, not being able to do so, and yet falling into the like case, have known in what way we ought to deal with the matter, whether to perish at once, or even to use some contrivance in order that the word might go forward? Since, therefore, we who have no power could not have understood what to do on coming into the midst of our foes, on this account we are taught this very thing by Him. For, saith the Evangelist, Jesus, "when He had said these words, abode in Galilee; but when His brethren were gone up, then went He up also unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret." The expression, "when His brethren were gone up," is that of one showing that He chose not to go up with them. On which account He abode where He was, and manifested not Himself, although they in a manner urged Him to do so. But why did He, who ever spake openly, do so now" as it were in secret"? The writer saith not "secretly," but, "as it were in secret." For thus, as I have said, He seemed to be instructing us how to manage matters And, apart from this, it was not the same to come among them when heated and restive, as to do so afterwards when the feast was ended.
Ver. 11. "Then the Jews sought Him, and said, Where is He? "
Excellent truly the good deeds at their feasts they are eager for murder, and wish to seize Him even during the feast. At least, in another place they speak thus, "Think ye that He will not come to the feast? " (John xi. 56); and here they said, "Where is He? " Through their excessive hatred and enmity they would not even call Him by name. Great was their reverence towards the feast, great their caution. By occasion of the very feast they wished to entrap Him!
Ver. 12. "And there was much murmuring among the people concerning Him."
I think they were exasperated by the place where the miracle had been wrought, and were greatly infuriated and afraid, not so much from anger at what had gone before, as from fear lest He should again work something similar. But all fell out contrary to what they desired, and against their will they rendered Him conspicuous.
"And some said, He is a good man; others said, Nay, but He deceiveth the people."
Methinks the first of these opinions was that of the many, the other that of the rulers and priests. For to slander Him suited their malice and wickedness. "He deceiveth," say they, "the people." How, tell me? Was it by seeming to work, not really working miracles? But experience witnesses the contrary.
Vet. 13. "Howbeit no man spake openly of Him for fear of the Jews."
Seest thou everywhere the ruling body corrupted, and the ruled sound indeed in judgment, but not having that proper courage which a multitude especially lacketh?
Ver. 14. "Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up and taught."
By the delay He made them more attentive; for they who had sought Him on the first days and said, "Where is He? " when they saw Him suddenly present, observe how they drew near, and were like to press upon Him as He was speaking, both those who said that He was a good man, and those who said that He was not such; the former so as to profit by and admire Him, the latter to lay hold on and detain Him. One party then said," He deceiveth the people," by reason of the teaching and the doctrines, not understanding His meaning; the other on account of the miracles said, "He is a good man." He therefore thus came among them when He had slackened their anger, so that they might hear His words at leisure, when passion no longer stopped their ears. What He taught, the Evangelist hath not told us; that He taught marvelously, this only he saith, and that He won and brought them over. Such was the power of His speech. And they who had said "He deceiveth the people," altered their opinion, "and marveled." Wherefore also they said,
Ver. 15. "How knoweth this man letters having never learned? "
Observest thou how the Evangelist showeth here also their marveling to be full of wickedness? for he saith not, that they admired the teaching, or that they received the words, but simply that they "marveled." That is, were thrown into a state of astonishment, and doubted, saying, "Whence hath this man these things"? when they ought from this very difficulty to have known that there was nothing merely human in Him. But because they would not confess this, but stopped at wondering only, hear what He saith. Ver. 16. "My doctrine is not Mine."
Again He answereth to their secret thoughts, referring them to the Father, and so desiring to stop their mouths.
Ver. 17. "If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of Myself."
What He saith is this, "Cast out from yourselves the malice and wrath and envy and hatred which has without cause been conceived against Me, then there is nothing to hinder you from knowing that My words are indeed the words of God. For at present these things cast a darkness over you, and destroy the light of right judgment, while if ye remove them this shall no longer be your case." Yet He spake not (plainly) thus, (for so He would have confounded them exceedingly,) but implied it all by saying, "He that doeth His will shall know of the doctrine, whether it is of God, or whether I speak of Myself"; that is, "whether I speak anything different and strange and contrary to God." For, "of Myself" is always put with this meaning, that "I say nothing except what seemeth good to Him, but all that the Father willeth, I will also."
"If any man do His will, he shall know of the doctrine."
"What meaneth," "If any man do His will? " "If any man be a lover of the life which is according to virtue, he shall know the power of the sayings." "If any man will give heed to the prophecies, to see whether I speak according to them or not."
[2.] But how is the doctrine His and not His? For He said not, "This doctrine is not Mine"; but having first said, "it is Mine," and having claimed it as His own, He then added, "it is not Mine." How then can the same thing be both "His" and not "His"? It is "His," because He spake it not as one who had been taught; and it is "not His," because it was the doctrine of the Father. How then saith He, "All that is the Father's is Mine, and Mine His"? (c. xvii. 10.) "For if because the doctrine is the Father's, it is not thine, that other assertion is false, for according to that it ought to be thine." But the "is not Mine," affords a strong proof that His doctrine and the Father's are one; as if He had said, "It hath nothing different, as though it were another's. For though My Person be different, yet so do I speak and do as not to be supposed to speak or do anything contrary to the Father, but rather the very same things that the Father saith and doeth." Then He addeth another incontrovertible argument, bringing forward something merely human, and instructing them by things to which they were accustomed. And what is that?
Ver. 8. "He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory."
That is, "He that desireth to establish any doctrine of his own, desireth to do so only that he himself may enjoy the glory. Now if I desire not to enjoy glory, wherefore should I desire to establish any doctrine of My own? He that speaketh of himself, that is, who speaketh anything peculiar or different from others, speaketh on this account, that he may establish his own glory; but if I seek the glory of Him that sent Me, wherefore should I choose to teach other things? " Seest thou that there was a cause wherefore He said there too that He "did nothing of Himself"? (c. v. 19, and viii. 28.) What was it? It was that they might believe that He desired not the honor of the many. Therefore when His words are lowly, "I seek," He saith, "the glory of the Father," everywhere desiring to persuade them that He Himself loveth not glory. Now there are many reasons for His using lowly words, as that He might not be deemed unbegotten, or opposed to God, His being clothed with flesh, the infirmity of His hearers, that He might teach men to be modest, and to speak no great thing of themselves: while for speaking lofty words one could only find one reason, the greatness of His Nature. And if when He said, "Before Abraham was, I am" (c. viii. 58), they were offended, what would have been their case if they had continually heard high expressions?
Ver. 19. "Did not Moses give you the Law? and yet none of you keepeth the Law? Why go ye about to kill Me? "
"And what connection," saith some one, "has this, or what has this to do with what was said before? " The Jews brought against Him two accusations; one, that He broke the Sabbath; the other, that He called God His Father, making Himself equal with God. And that this was no imagination of theirs, but His own declared judgment, and that He spake not as do the many, but in a special and peculiar sense, is clear from this circumstance. Many often called God their Father; as "Have we not all one Father, hath not one God created us? " (Mal. ii. 10), but not for that was the people equal to God, on which account the hearers were not offended. As then when the Jews said, "This man is not from God," He often healed them, and made defense for the violation of the Sabbath; so now had the sense they assigned to His words been according to their imagination, not according to His intention, He would have corrected them, and said, "Why suppose ye Me equal to God? I am not equal"; yet He said nothing of the kind, but, on the contrary, declared by what followed, that He is equal. For, "As the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them, so also the Son" (c. v. 21); and "That all may honor the Son as they honor the Father"; and "The works which He doeth, the same doeth the Son likewise;" all these go to establish His equality. Again, concerning the Law He saith, "Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or the Prophets." (Matt. v. 17.) Thus He knoweth how to remove evil suspicions which are in their minds; but in this place He not only doth not remove, but even confirmeth their suspicion of His equality. On which account also, when they said in another place, "Thou makest thyself God," He did not remove their suspicion, but even confirmed it, saying, "That ye may know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins, He saith to the sick of the palsy, Take up thy bed, and walk." (Matt. ix. 6.) This then He first aimed at, to make Himself equal with God, showing that He was not God's adversary, but that He said the same and taught the same with Him, and afterwards He setteth Himself to the breach of the Sabbath, saying, "Did not Moses give you the Law, and none of you keepeth the Law? " As though He had said, "The Law saith, Thou shall not kill; but ye kill, and yet accuse Me as transgressing the Law." But wherefore saith He, "None of you"? Because they all sought to kill Him. "And if," He saith, "I even have broken the Law, it was in saving a man, but ye transgress it for evil. And if My action was even a transgression, yet it was in order to save, and I ought not to be judged by you who transgress in the greatest matters. For your conduct is a subverting of the whole Law." Then also He presseth it farther, although He had said many things to them before, but at that former time He spake after a loftier manner, and more suitably to His own dignity, while now He speaketh more humbly. Wherefore? Because He would not continually irritate them. At present their anger had become intense, and they went on to murder. And therefore He continueth to check them in these two ways, by reproving their evil daring, and saying, "Why go ye about to kill Me? " and by modestly calling Himself, "A Man that hath told you the truth" (c. viii. 40), and by showing that murderers in heart are not worthy to judge others. And observe both the humility of Christ's question, and the insolence of their answer.
Ver. 20. "Thou hast a devil; who goeth about to kilt thee?"
[3.] The expression is one of wrath and anger, and of a soul made shameless by an unexpected reproof, and put to confusion before their time, as they thought. For just as a sort of robbers who sing over their plots, then when they desire to put him against whom they are plotting off his guard, effect their object by keeping silence, so also do these. But He, omitting to rebuke them for this, so as not to make them more shameless, again taketh in hand His defense with respect to the Sabbath, reasoning with them from the Law. And observe how prudently. "No wonder," He saith, "if ye disobey Me, when ye disobey the Law which ye think ye obey, and which ye hold to have been given you by Moses. It is therefore no new thing, if ye give not heed to My words." For because they said, "God spake to Moses, but as for this fellow we know not whence he is" (c. ix. 29), He showeth that they were insulting Moses as well as Himself, for Moses gave them the Law, and they obeyed it not.
Ver. 21. "I have done one work, and ye all marvel."
Observe how He argueth, where it is necessary to defend Himself, and make His defense a charge against them. For with respect to that which had been wrought, He introduceth not the Person of the Father, but His own: "I have done one work." He would show, that not to have done it would have been to break the Law, and that there are many things more authoritative than the Law, and that "Moses" endured to receive a command against the Law, and more authoritative than the Law. For "circumcision" is more authoritative than the Sabbath, and yet circumcision is not of the Law, but of "the fathers." "But I," He saith, "have done that which is more authoritative and better than circumcision." Then He mentioneth not the command of the Law; for instance, that the Priests profane the Sabbath, as He had said already, but speaketh more largely. The meaning of, "Ye marvel" (Matt. xii. 5) is, "Ye are confused," "are troubled." For if the Law was to be lasting, circumcision would not have been more authoritative than it. And He said not, "I have done a thing greater than circumcision," but abundantly refuteth them by saying,
Ver. 23. "If a man receive circumcision." "Seest thou that the Law is most established when a man breaketh it? Seest thou that the breaking of the Sabbath is the keeping of the Law? that if the Sabbath were not broken, the Law must needs have been broken? so that I also have established the Law." He said not, "Ye are wroth with Me because I have wrought a thing which is greater than circumcision," but having merely mentioned what had been done, He left it to them to judge, whether entire health was not a more necessary thing than circumcision. "The Law," He saith, "is broken, that a man may receive a sign which contributeth nothing to health; are ye vexed and indignant at its being broken, that one might be freed from so grievous a disease? "
Ver. 24. "Judge not according to appearance."
What is, "according to appearance"? "Do not, since Moses hath the greatest honor among you, give your decision according to your estimation of persons, but according to the nature of things; for this is to judge rightly. Wherefore hath no one of you reproved Moses? Wherefore hath no one disobeyed him when he ordereth that the Sabbath be broken by a commandment introduced from without into the Law? He alloweth a commandment to be of more authority than his own Law; a commandment not introduced by the Law, but from without, which is especially wonderful; while ye who are not lawgivers are beyond measure jealous for the Law, and defend it. Yet Moses, who ordereth that the Law be broken by a commandment which is not of the Law, is more worthy of confidence than you." By saying then, (I have made) "a whole man (healthy)," He showeth that circumcision also was "partial" health. And what was the health procured by circumcision? "Every soul," It saith, "that is not circumcised, shall be utterly destroyed." (Gen. xvii. 14.) "But I have raised up a man not partially afflicted, but wholly undone." "Judge not," therefore, "according to appearance."
Be we persuaded that this is said not merely to the men of that time, but to us also, that in nothing we pervert justice, but do all in its behalf; that whether a man be poor or rich, we give no heed to persons, but enquire into things. "Thou shalt not pity," It saith, "the poor in judgment." (Ex. xxiii. 3.) What is meant? "Be not broken down, nor bent," It saith, "if he that doth the wrong be a poor man." Now if you may not favor a poor man, much less a rich. And this I say not only to you who are judges, but to all men, that they nowhere pervert justice, but preserve it everywhere pure. "The Lord," It saith, "loveth righteousness"; and, "he that loveth iniquity hateth his own soul." (Ps. xi. 7 and 5, LXX.) Let us not, I entreat, hate our own souls, nor love unrighteousness. For certainly its profit in the present world is little or nothing, and for the world to come it brings great damage. Or rather, I should say, that not even here can we enjoy it; for when we live softly, yet with an evil conscience, is not this vengeance and punishment? Let us then love righteousness, and never look aside from that law. For what fruit shall we gain from the present life, if we depart without having attained unto excellence? What there will help us? Will friendship, or relations, or this or that man's favor? What am I saying? this or that man's favor? Though we have Noah, Job, or Daniel for a father, this will avail us nothing if we be betrayed by our own works. One thing alone we need, that is, excellency of soul. This will be able to carry you safe through, and to deliver you from everlasting fire, this will escort you to the Kingdom of Heaven. To which may we all attain, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, now and ever and world without end. Amen.
Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill? But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ? Howbeit we know this man whence he is."
[1.] Nothing is placed in the Holy Scriptures without a reason, for they were Uttered by the Holy Ghost, therefore let us enquire exactly into every point. For it is possible from one expression to find out the entire meaning (of a passage), as in the case before us. "Many of them of Jerusalem said, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill? But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him." Now why is added, "them of Jerusalem"? The Evangelist by this shows, that they who had most enjoyed His mighty miracles were more pitiable than any; they who had beheld the greatest proof, of His Godhead, and yet committed all to the judgment of their corrupt rulers. For was it not a great proof of it, that men furious and bent on murder, who went about and sought to kill Him, should be quiet of a sudden, when they had Him in their hands? Who could have effected this? who thus quenched their absolute fury? Still after such proofs, observe the folly and the madness of the men. "Is not this he, whom they seek to kill? " See how they accuse themselves; "whom," It saith, "they seek to kill, and yet they say nothing to him." And not only do they say nothing to Him, but nothing even when He "speaketh boldly." For one who spoke boldly and with all freedom would naturally have the more angered them; but they did nothing. "Do they know indeed that this is the very Christ? "What think ye? What opinion give ye? " The contrary, It saith. On which account they said, "We know this man whence he is." What malice, what contradiction! They do not even follow the opinion of their rulers, but bring forward another, perverse, and worthy of their own folly; "We know him whence he is."
"But when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence He is." (Matt. ii. 4.)
"Yet your rulers when asked replied, that He should be born in Bethlehem." And others again said, "God spake unto Moses, but as for this fellow, we know not from whence he is." (c. ix. 29.) "We know whence he is," and "we know not whence He is"; observe the words of drunken men. And again, "Doth Christ come out of Galilee? " (Ver. 41.) Is He not of "the town of Bethlehem"? Seest thou that theirs is the decision of madmen? "We know," and, "we know not"; "Christ cometh from Bethlehem"; "When Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence He is." What can be plainer than this contradiction? For they only looked to one thing, which was, not to believe. What then is Christ's reply?
Ver. 28. "Ye both know Me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of Myself, but He that sent Me is true, whom ye know not."
[2.] And again, "If ye had known Me, ye should have known My Father also." (c. viii. 19.) How then saith He, that they both" know Him," and "whence He is," and then," that they neither know Him, nor the Father"? He doth not contradict, (away with the thought,) but is very consistent with Himself. For He speaketh of a different kind of knowledge, when He saith, "ye know not"; as when He saith, "The sons of Eli were wicked sons, they knew not the Lord" (1 Sam. ii. 12); and again, "Israel doth not know Me." (Isa. i. 3.) So also Paul saith, "They profess that they know God, but in works they deny Him." (Tit. i. 16.) It is therefore possible, "knowing," "not to know." This then is what He saith: "If ye know Me, ye know that I am the Son of God." For the "whence I am" doth not here denote place. As is clear from what followeth, "I am not come of Myself, but He that sent Me is true, whom ye know not," referring here to the ignorance shown by their works. [As Paul saith, "They profess that they know God, but in works they deny Him."] For their fault came not merely of ignorance, but of wickedness, and an evil will; because even though they knew this, they chose to be ignorant. But what manner of connection is there here? How is it that He, reproving them, useth their own words? For when they say, "We know this man whence he is," He addeth, "ye both know Me." Was their expression, "We know him not"? Nay, they said, "We know him." But (observe), they by saying the, "We know whence he is," declared nothing else than that He was "of the earth," and that He was "the carpenter's son"; but He led them up to heaven, saying, "Ye know whence I am," that is, not thence whence ye suppose, but from that place whence He that sent Me (hath sent Me). For to say, "I am not come of Myself," intimateth to them, that they knew that He was sent by the Father, though they did not disclose it. So that He rebuketh them in a twofold manner; first, what they said in secret He published aloud, so as to put them to shame; after that He revealed also what was in their hearts. As though He had said, "I am not one of the abjects, nor of those who come for nothing, but He 'that sent Me is true, whom ye know not.'" What meaneth," He that sent Me is true"? "If He be true, He hath sent Me for the truth; if He be true, it is probable that He who is sent is true also." This also He proveth in another way, vanquishing them with their own words. For whereas they had said, "When Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence He is," He proveth from this that He Himself is the Christ. They used the words, "No man knoweth," with reference to distinction of some definite locality; but from the same words He showeth Himself to be the Christ, because He came from the Father; and everywhere He witnesseth that He alone hath the knowledge of the Father, saying, "Not that any man hath seen the Father, save He which is from the Father." (c. vi. 46.) And His words exasperated them; for to tell them, "Ye know Him not," and to rebuke them because knowing they pretended to be ignorant, was sufficient to sting and annoy them.
Ver. 30. "Then they sought to take Him, and no man laid his hand upon Him, because His hour was not yet come."
Seest thou that they are invisibly restrained, and their anger bridled? But wherefore saith It not, that He had restrained them invisibly, but, "Because His hour was not yet come"? The Evangelist was minded to speak more humanly and in a lowlier strain, so that Christ might be deemed to be also Man. For because Christ everywhere speaketh of sublime matters, he therefore intersperseth expressions of this kind. And when Christ saith, "I am from Him," He speaketh not as a Prophet who learneth, but as seeing Him, and being with Him.
Ver. 29. "I know Him," He saith, "for I am froth Him, and He hath sent Me."
Seest thou how He continually seeketh to prove the, "I am not come of Myself," and, "He that sent Me is true," striving not to be thought an enemy of God? And observe how great is the profit of the humility of His words; for, it saith, after this many said,
Ver. 31. "When Christ cometh, will He do more miracles than these which this man hath done? "
How many were the miracles? In truth, there were three, that of the wine, that of the paralytic, and that of the nobleman's son; and the Evangelist hath related no more. From which circumstance it is plain, as I have often said, that the writers pass by most of them, and discourse to us of those alone on account of which the rulers ill-treated Him, "Then they sought to take Him," and kill Him. Who "sought"? Not the multitude, who had no desire of rule, nor could be made captives by malice; but the priests. For they of the multitude said, "When Christ cometh, will He do more miracles? " Yet neither was this sound faith, but, as it were, the idea of a promiscuous crowd; for to say, "When He cometh," was not the expression of men firmly persuaded that He was the Christ. We may either understand the words thus, or that they were uttered by the multitudes when they came together. "Since," they may have said, "our rulers are taking every pains to prove that this man is not the Christ, let us suppose that he is not the Christ; will the Christ be better than he? " For, as I ever repeat, men of the grosser sort are led in not by doctrine, nor by preaching, but by miracles.
Vet. 32. "The Pharisees heard the people murmuring, and sent servants to take Him."
Seest thou that the violation of the Sabbath was a mere pretense? and that what most stung them was this murmuring? For here, though they had no fault to find with Him for anything said or done, they desired to take Him because of the multitude. They dared not do it themselves, suspecting danger, but sent their hired servants. Alas! for their tyranny and their madness, or rather, I should say, for their folly. After having often attempted themselves, and not prevailed, they committed the matter to servants, simply satisfying their anger. Yet He had spoken much at the pool (c. v.), and they had done nothing of the kind; they sought indeed occasion, but they attempted not, while here they can endure it no longer, when the multitude is about to run to Him. What then saith Christ?
Ver. 33. "Yet a little while am I with you." Having power to bow and terrify His hearers, He uttereth words full of humility. As though He had said, "Why are ye eager to persecute and kill Me? Wait a little while, and even though you should be eager to keep Me back, I shall not endure it." That no one should(as they did) suppose that the, "Yet a little while am I with you," denoted a common death, that no one might suppose this, or that He wrought nothing after death, He added,
Ver. 34. "And where I am, thither ye cannot come."
Now had He been about to continue in death, they might have gone to Him, for to that place we all depart. His words therefore bent the simpler portion of the multitude, terrified the bolder, made the more intelligent anxious to hear Him, since but little time was now left, and since it was not in their power always to enjoy this teaching. Nor did He merely say, "I am here," but, "I am with you," that is, "Though ye persecute, though ye drive Me away, yet for a little while I shall not cease dispensing what is for your good, saying and recommending the things that relate to your salvation."
Ver. 33. "And I go unto Him that sent Me." This was enough to terrify and throw them into an agony. For that they should stand in need of Him, He declareth also.
Ver. 34. "Ye shall seek Me," He saith, (not only " ye shall not forget Me," but ye shall even "seek Me,") "and shall not find Me."
[3.] And when did the Jews "seek Him"? Luke saith that the women mourned over Him, and it is probable that many others, both at the time and when the city was taken, remembered Christ and His miracles, and sought His presence. (Luke xxiii. 49.) Now all this He added, desiring to attract them. For the facts that the time left was short, that He should after His departure be regretfully desired by them, and that they should not then be able to find Him, were all together sufficient to persuade them to come to Him. For had it not been that His presence should with regret be desired by them, He would not have seemed to them to be saying any great thing; if, again, it was about to be desired, and they able to find Him, neither so would this have disturbed them. Again, had He been about to stay with them a long time, so also they would have been remiss. But now He in every way compelleth and terrifieth them. And the, "I go to Him that sent Me," is the expression of one declaring that no harm will happen to Him from their plotting, and that His Passion was voluntary. Wherefore now He uttered two predictions, that after a little while He should depart, and that they should not come to Him; a thing which belonged not to human intelligence, the foretelling His own death. Hear for instance, David saying, "Lord, make me to know mine end and the number of my days, what it is, that I may know what time I have." (Ps. xxxix. 4.) There is no man at all that knoweth this; and by one the other is confirmed. And I think that He speaketh this covertly to the servants, and directeth His discourse to them, thus specially attracting them, by showing them that He knew the cause of their arrival. As though He had said, "Wait a little, and I shall depart."
Ver. 35. "Then said the Jews among themselves, Whither will he go? "
Yet they who had wished to be rid of Him, who did all in their power not to see Him, ought not to have asked this question, but to have said, "we are glad of it, when will the departure take place? " but they were somewhat affected at His words, and with foolish suspicion question one another, "whither will he go? "
"Will he go unto the dispersion of the Gentiles? "
What is, "the dispersion of the Gentiles"? The Jews gave this name to other nations, because they were everywhere scattered and mingled fearlessly with one another. And this reproach they themselves afterwards endured, for they too were a "dispersion." For of old all their nation was collected into one place, and you could not anywhere find a Jew, except in Palestine only; wherefore they called the Gentiles a "dispersion," reproaching them, and boasting concerning themselves. What then meaneth, "Whither I go ye cannot come"? For all nations at that time had intercourse with them, and there were Jews everywhere. He would not therefore, if He had meant the Gentiles, have said, "Where ye cannot come." After saying, "Will he go to the dispersion of the Gentiles? " they did not add, "and ruin," but, "and teach them." To such a degree had they abated their anger, and believed His words; for they would not, had they not believed, have enquired among themselves what the saying was.
These words were spoken indeed to the Jews, but fear there is lest they be suited to us also, that "where He is" we "cannot come" on account of our life being full of sins. For concerning the disciples He saith, "I will that they also be with Me where I am" (c. xvii. 24), but concerning ourselves, I dread lest the contrary be said, that, "Where I am, ye cannot come." For when we act contrary to the commandments, how can we go to that place? Even in the present life, if any soldier act unworthily towards his king, he will not be able to see the king, but being deprived of his authority will suffer the severest punishment; if therefore we steal, or covet, if we wrong or strike others, if we work not deeds of mercy, we shall not be able to go thither, but shall suffer what happened to the virgins. For where He was, they were not able to enter in, but retired, their lamps having gone out, that is, grace having left them. For we can, if we will, increase the brightness of that flame which we received straightway by the grace of the Spirit; but if we will not do this, we shall lose it, and when that is quenched, there will be noticing else than darkness in our souls; since, as while a lamp is burning the light is strong, so when it is extinguished there is nothing but gloom. Wherefore the Apostle saith, "Quench not the Spirit." (1 Thess. v. 19.) And It is quenched when It hath not oil, when there is any violent gust of wind, when It is cramped and confined, (for so fire is quenched,) and It is cramped by worldly cares, and quenched by evil desires. In addition to the causes we have mentioned, nothing quencheth It so much as inhumanity, cruelty, and rapine. For when, besides having no oil, we pour upon it cold water, (for covetousness is this, which chills with despondency the souls of those we wrong,) whence shall it be kindled again? We shall depart, therefore, carrying dust and ashes with us, and having much smoke to convict us of having had lamps and of having extinguished them; for where there is smoke, there needs must have been fire which hath been quenched. May none of us ever hear that word, "I know you not." (Matt. xxv. 12.) And whence shall we hear that word, but from this, if ever we see a poor man, and are as though we saw him not? If we will not know Christ when He is an hungered, He too will not know us when we entreat His mercy. And with justice; for how shall he who neglects the afflicted, and gives not of that which is his own, how shall he seek to receive of that which is not his own? Wherefore, I entreat you, let us do and contrive everything, so that oil fail not us, but that we may trim our lamps, and enter with the Bridegroom into the bride- chamber. To which may we all attain, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, now and ever and world without end. Amen.
"In the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water."
[1.] They who come to the divine preaching and give heed to the faith, must manifest the desire of thirsty men for water, and kindle in themselves a similar longing; so will they be able also very carefully to retain what is said. For as thirsty men, when they have taken a bowl, eagerly drain it and then desist, so too they who hear the divine oracles if they receive them thirsting, will never be weary until they have drunk them up. For to show that men ought ever to thirst and hunger, "Blessed," It saith, "are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness" (Matt. v. 6); and here Christ saith, "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink." What He saith is of this kind, "I draw no man to Me by necessity and constraint; but if any hath great zeal, if any is inflamed with desire, him I call."
But why hath the Evangelist remarked that it was "on the last day, that great day"? For both the first day and the last were "great," while the intermediate days they spent rather in enjoyment. Wherefore then saith he, "in the last day"? Because on that day they were all collected together. For on the first day He came not, and told the reason to His brethren, nor yet on the second and third days saith He anything of this kind, lest His words should come to nought, the hearers being about to run into indulgence. But on the last day when they were returning home He giveth them supplies for their salvation, and crieth aloud, partly by this showing to us His boldness, and partly for the greatness of the multitude. And to show that He spake not of material drink, He addeth, "He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." By "belly" he here meaneth the heart, as also in another place It saith, "And Thy Law in the midst of my belly." (Ps. xl. 10; Theodotion.) But where hath the Scripture said, that "rivers of living water shall flow from his belly"? Nowhere. What then meaneth, "He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture saith"? Here we must place a stop, so that the, "rivers shall flow from his belly," may be an assertion of Christ. For because many said, "This is the Christ"; and, "When the Christ cometh will He do more miracles? " He showeth that it behooveth to have a correct knowledge, and to be convinced not so much from the miracles as from the Scriptures. Many, in fact, who even saw Him working marvels received Him not as Christ, and were ready to say, "Do not the Scriptures say that Christ cometh of the seed of David? " and on this they continually dwelt. He then, desiring to show that He did not shun the proof from the Scriptures, again referreth them to the Scriptures. He had said before, "Search the Scriptures" (c. v. 39); and again, "It is written in the Prophets, And they shall be taught of God" (c. vi. 45); and, "Moses accuseth you" (c. v. 45); and here," As the Scripture hath said, rivers shall flow from his belly," alluding to the largeness and abundance of grace. As in another place He saith, "A well of water springing up unto eternal life" (c. iv. 14), that is to say, "he shall possess much grace"; and elsewhere He calleth it, "eternal life," but here, "living water." He calleth that "living" which ever worketh; for the grace of the Spirit, when it hath entered into the mind and hath been established, springeth up more than any fountain, faileth not, becometh not empty, stayeth not. To signify therefore at once its unfailing supply and unlimited operation, He hath called it "a well" and "rivers," not one river but numberless; and in the former case He hath represented its abundance by the expression, "springing." And one may clearly perceive what is meant, if he will consider the wisdom of Stephen, the tongue of Peter, the vehemence of Paul how nothing bare, nothing withstood them, not the anger of multitudes, not the risings up of tyrants, not the plots of devils, not daily deaths, but as rivers borne along with a great rushing sound, so they went on their way hurrying all things with them.
Ver. 39. "But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive; for the Holy Ghost was not yet given."
[2.] How then did the Prophets prophesy and work those ten thousand wonders? For the Apostles cast not out devils by the Spirit, but by power received from Him; as He saith Himself, "If I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? " (Matt. xii. 27.) And this He said, signifying that before the Crucifixion not all cast out devils by the Spirit, but that some did so by the power received from Him. So when He was about to send them, He said, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost" (c. xx. 22); and again, "The Holy Ghost came upon them" (Acts xix. 6), and then they wrought miracles. But when He was sending them, the Scripture said not, that "He gave to them the Holy Ghost," but that He gave to them "power," saying, "Cleanse the lepers, cast out devils, raise the dead, freely ye have received, freely give."(Matt. x. 1, 8.) But in the case of the Prophets, all allow that the Gift was that of the Holy Spirit. But this Grace was stinted and departed and failed from off the earth, from the day in which it was said, "Your house is left unto you desolate" (Matt. xxiii. 38); and even before that day its dearth had begun, for there was no longer any prophet among them, nor did Grace visit their holy things. Since then the Holy Ghost had been withheld, but was for the future to be shed forth abundantly, and since the beginning of this imparting was after the Crucifixion, not only as to its abundance, but also as to the increased greatness of the gifts, (for the Gift was more marvelous, as when It saith, "Ye know not what Spirit ye are of" (Luke ix. 55); and again, "For ye have not received the Spirit of bondage, but the Spirit of adoption" (Rom. viii. 15); and the men of old possessed the Spirit themselves, but imparted It not to others, while the Apostles filled tens of thousands with It,) since then, I say, they were to receive this Gift, but It was not yet given, for this cause he addeth, "The Holy Ghost was not yet." Since then the Lord spoke of this grace, the Evangelist hath said, "For the Holy Ghost was not yet," that is, "was not yet given,"
"Because Jesus was not yet glorified."
Calling the Cross, "glory." For since we were enemies, and had sinned, and fallen short of the gift of God, and were haters of God, and since grace was a proof of our reconciliation, and since a gift is not given to those who are hated, but to friends and those who have been well-pleasing; it was therefore necessary that the Sacrifice should first be offered for us, that the enmity (against God) which was in our flesh should be done away, that we should become friends of God, and so receive the Gift. For if this was done with respect to the promise made to Abraham, much more with respect to grace. And this Paul hath declared, saying, "If they which are of the Law be heirs, faith is made void—because the Law worketh wrath." (Rom. iv. 14, 15.) What he saith, is of this kind: God "promised that He would give the earth to Abraham and to his seed: but his descendants were unworthy of the promise, and of their own deeds could not be well-pleasing unto God. On this account came in faith, an easy action, that it might draw grace unto it, and that the promise might not fail. And It saith,
"Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace, to the end the promise might be sure." (Rom. iv. 16.) Wherefore it is by grace, since by their own labors they prevailed not.
But wherefore after saying, "according to the Scriptures,' did He not add the testimony? Because their mind was corrupt; for,
Ver. 40-42. "Some said, This is the Prophet. Others said, He deceiveth the people; others said, Christ cometh not from Galilee, but from the village of Bethlehem."
Others said, "When Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence He is" (ver. 27); and there was a difference of opinion, as might be expected in a confused multitude; for not attentively did they listen to His words, nor for the sake of learning. Wherefore He maketh them no answer; yet they said, "Doth Christ come out of Galilee? " And He had praised, as being "an Israelite indeed," Nathanael, who had said in a more forcible and striking manner, "Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? " (c. i. 46.) But then these men, and they who said to Nicodemus, "Search and look, for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet" (ver. 52), said it not seeking to learn, but merely to overturn the opinion concerning Christ. Nathanael said this, being a lover of the truth, and knowing exactly all the ancient histories; but they looked only to one thing, and that was to remove the opinion that He was the Christ, on which account He revealed nothing to them. For they who even contradicted themselves, and said at one time, "No man knoweth whence He cometh," at another, "From Bethlehem," would manifestly even if they had been informed have opposed Him. For be it that they knew not the place of His birth, that He was from Bethlehem, because of His dwelling in Nazareth, (yet this cannot be allowed, for He was not born there,) were they ignorant of His race also, that He was "of the house and lineage of David"? How then said they, "Doth not Christ come of the seed of David? " (Ver. 42.) Because they wished to conceal even this fact by that question, saying all that they said with malicious intent. Why did they not come to Him and say, "Since we admire thee in other respects, and thou biddest us believe thee according to the Scriptures, tell us how it is that the Scriptures say that Christ must come from Bethlehem, when thou art come from Galilee? " But they said nothing of the kind, but all in malice. And to show that they spoke not enquiringly, nor as desiring to learn, the Evangelist straightway hath added, that,
Ver. 44. "Some of them would have taken Him, but no man laid his hand upon Him."
This, if nothing else, might have been sufficient to cause compunction in them, but they felt it not, as the Prophet saith, "They were cleft asunder, and were not pricked in heart." (Ps. xxxv. 15, LXX.)
[3.] Such a thing is malice! it will give way to nothing, it looks to one thing only, and that is, to destroy the person against whom it plotteth. But what saith the Scripture? "Whoso diggeth a pit for his neighbor, shall fill into it himself." (Prov. xxvi. 27.) Which was the case then. For they desired to kill Him, to stop, as they thought, His preaching; the result was the opposite. For the preaching flourishes by the grace of Christ, while all that was theirs is quenched and perished; they have lost their country, their freedom, their security, their worship, they have been deprived of all their prosperity, and are become slaves and captives.
Knowing then this, let us never plot against others, aware that by so doing we whet the sword against ourselves, and inflict upon ourselves the deeper wound. Hath any one grieved thee, and desireth thou to avenge thyself on him? Avenge not thyself; so shalt thou be able to be avenged; but if thou avenge thyself, thou art not avenged. Think not that this is a riddle, but a true saying. "How, and in what way? " Because if thou avenge not thyself on him, thou makest God his enemy; but if thou avenge thyself, no longer so. "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, saith the Lord." (Rom. xii. 19.) For if we have servants, and they having quarreled with each other, do not give place to us for judgment and for punishment, but take it upon themselves; though they come to us ten thousand times, we not only shall not avenge them, but shall even be wroth with them, saying, "Thou runaway, thou flogging-post, thou oughtest to have submitted all to us, but since thou hast prevented us and avenged thyself, trouble us no farther"; much more shall God, who hath bidden us commit all unto Him, say this. For how can it be otherwise than absurd, when we demand from our servants so much minding of wisdom and obedience, but will not yield to our Master in those matters in which we desire our domestics to yield to us? This I say because of your readiness to inflict punishment one upon another. The truly wise man ought not to do this even, but to pardon and forgive offenses, though there were not that great reward proposed, the receiving in return forgiveness. For, tell me, if thou condemnest one who hath sinned, wherefore dost thou sin thyself, and fall into the same fault? Hath he insulted? Insult not thou again, or thou hast insulted thyself. Hath he struck? Strike not thou again, for then there is no difference between you. Hath he vexed thee? Vex him not again, for the profit is nothing, and thou wilt in thy turn be placed on an equality with those who have wronged thee. Thus, if thou bear with meekness and gentleness, thou shall be able to reprove thine enemy, to shame him, to weary him of being wroth. No man cures evil with evil, but evil with good. These rules of wisdom give some of the heathen; now if there be such wisdom among the foolish heathen, let us be ashamed to show ourselves inferior to them. Many of them have been injured, and have borne it; many have been maliciously accused, and not defended themselves; have been plotted against, anti have repaid by benefits. And there is no small fear lest some of them be found in their lives to be greater than we, and so render our punishment severer. For when we who have partaken of the Spirit, we who look for the Kingdom, who follow wisdom for the sake of heavenly things, who fear (not) hell, and are bidden to become angels, who enjoy the Mysteries; when we reach not to the virtue unto which they have attained, what pardon shall we have? If we must go beyond the Jews, (for, "Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the Kingdom of Heaven"—Matt. v. 20,) much more the heathen; if the Pharisees, much more the unbelievers. Since if when we go not beyond the righteousness of the Jews, the Kingdom is shut against us, how shall we be able to attain unto it when we prove ourselves worse than the heathen? Let us then cast out all bitterness, and wrath, and anger. To speak "the same things, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe," (Phil. iii. 1.) For physicians also often use the same remedy, and we will not cease from sounding the same things in your ears, reminding, teaching, exhorting, for great is the tumult of worldly things, and it causes in us forgetfulness, and we have need of continual teaching. Let us then, in order that we meet not together in this place uselessly and in vain, exhibit the proof which is by works, that so we may obtain the good things to come, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory. now and ever and world without end. Amen.
"Then came the officers to the Chief Priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him? The officers answered, Never man spake like this Man."
[1.] There is nothing clearer, nothing simpler than the truth, if we deal not perversely; just as (on the other hand) if we deal perversely, nothing is more difficult. For behold, the Scribes and Pharisees, who seemed forsooth to be wiser than other men, being ever with Christ for the sake of plotting against Him, and beholding His miracles, and reading the Scriptures, were nothing profited, but were even harmed while the officers, who could not claim one of these privileges, were subdued by one single sermon, and they who had gone forth to bind Him, came back bound themselves by wonder. We must not only marvel at their understanding, that they needed not signs, but were taken by the teaching alone; (for they said not, "Never man wrought miracles thus," but, "Never man spake thus";) we must not, I say, merely marvel at their understanding, but also at their boldness, that they spake thus to those that had sent them, to the Pharisees, to His enemies, to men who were doing all with a view to gratify their enmity. "The officers," saith the Evangelist, "came, and the Pharisees said unto them, Why have ye not brought him?" To "come" was a far greater deed than to have remained, for in the latter case they would have been rid of the annoyance of these men, but now they become heralds of the wisdom of Christ, and manifested their boldness in greater degree. And they say not, "We could not become of the multitude, for they gave heed unto Him as unto a prophet"; but what? "Never man spake as this Man." Yet they might have alleged that, but they show their right feeling. For theirs was the saying not only of men admiring Him, but blaming their masters, because they had sent them to bind Him whom it behooved rather to hear. Yet they had not heard a sermon either, but a short one; for when the long mind is impartial, there is no need of long arguments. Such a thing is truth. What then say the Pharisees? When they ought to have been pricked at the heart, they, on the contrary, retort a charge on the officers, saying, Ver. 47. "Are ye also deceived?"
They still speak them fair, and do not express themselves harshly, dreading lest the others should entirely separate themselves, yet nevertheless they give signs of anger, and speak sparingly. For when they ought to have asked what He spake, and to have marveled at the words, they do not so, (knowing that they might have been captivated,) but reason with them from a very foolish argument;
Ver. 48. "Wherefore," saith one, "hath none of the rulers believed on Him? "
Dost thou then make this a charge against Christ, tell me, and not against the unbelievers?
Ver. 49. "But the people," saith one, "which knoweth not the Law, are accursed."
Then is the charge against you the heavier, because the people believed, and ye believed not. They acted like men that knew the Law; how then are they accursed? It is ye that are accursed, who keep not the Law, not they, who obey the Law. Neither was it right, on the evidence of unbelievers, to slander one in whom they believed not, for this is an unjust mode of acting. For ye also believed not God, as Paul saith; "What if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God of none effect? God forbid." (Rom. iii. 3, 4.) For the Prophets ever rebuked them, saying, "Hear, ye rulers of Sodom"; and, "Thy rulers are disobedient" (Isa. i. 10, 23); and again, "Is it not for you to know judgment? " (Mic. iii. 1.) And everywhere they attack them vehemently. What then? Shall one blame God for this? Away with the thought. This blame is theirs. And what other proof can a man bring of your not knowing the Law than your not obeying it? For when they had said, "Hath any of the rulers believed on him? " and, "These who know not the Law," Nicodemus in fair consequence upbraids them, saying,
Ver. 51. "Doth our law judge any man before it hear him? "
He showeth that they neither know the Law, nor do the Law; for if that Law commandeth to kill no man without first hearing him, and they before hearing were eager for this deed, they were transgressors of the Law. And because they said, "None of the rulers hath believed on him" (ver. 50), therefore the Evangelist informs us that Nicodemus was "one of them," to show that even rulers believed on Him; for although they showed not yet fitting boldness, still they were becoming attached to Christ. Observe how cautiously he rebukes them; he said not, "Ye desire to kill him, and condemn the man for a deceiver without proof"; but spake in a milder way, hindering their excessive violence, and their inconsiderate and murderous disposition. Wherefore he turns his discourse to the Law, saying, "Except it hear him carefully, and know what he doeth." So that not a bare "hearing," but "careful hearing" is required. For the meaning of, "know what he doeth," is, "what he intendeth," "on what account," "for what purpose," "whether for the subversion of the order of things and as an enemy." Being therefore perplexed, because they had said, "None of the rulers hath believed on him," they addressed him, neither vehemently, nor yet with forbearance. For tell me, after he had said, "The Law judgeth no man," how doth it follow that they should say,
Ver. 52. "Art thou also of Galilee?"
[2.] When they ought to have shown that they had not sent to summon Him without judgment, or that it was not fitting to allow Him speech, they take the reply rather in a rough and angry manner.
"Search, and look: for out of Galilee hath arisen no prophet."
Why, what had the man said? that Christ was a prophet? No; he said, that He ought not to be slain unjudged; but they replied insolently, and as to one who knew nothing of the Scriptures; as though one had said, "Go, learn," for this is the meaning of, "Search, and look." What then did Christ? Since they were continually dwelling upon Galilee and "The Prophet," to free all men from this erroneous suspicion, and to show that He was not one of the prophets, but the Master of the world, He said,
Chap. viii. ver. 12. "I am the light of the world."
Not "of Galilee," not of Palestine, nor of Judaea. What then say the Jews?
ver. 13. "Thou bearest record of thyself, thy record is not true."
Alas! for their folly, He continually referred them to the Scriptures, and now they say, "Thou bearest record of thyself." What was the record He bare? "I am the light of the world." A great thing to say, great of a truth, but it did not greatly amaze them, because He did not now make Himself equal to the Father, nor assert that He was His Son, nor that He was God, but for a while calleth Himself "a light." They indeed desired to disprove this also, and yet this was a much greater thing than to say,
"He that followeth Me, shall not walk in darkness."
Using the words "light" and "darkness" in a spiritual sense, and meaning thereby "abideth not in error." In this place He draweth on Nicodemus, and bringeth him in as having spoken very boldly, and praiseth the servants who had also done so. For to "cry aloud," is the act of one desirous to cause that they also should hear. At the same time He hinteth at these who were secretly contriving treacheries, being both in darkness and error, but that they should not prevail over the light. And He remindeth Nicodemus of the words which He had uttered before, "Every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved." (c. iii. 20.) For since they had asserted that none of the rulers had believed on Him, therefore He saith, that "he that doeth evil cometh not to the light," to show that their not having come proceedeth not from the weakness of the light, but from their own perverse will.
"They answered and said unto Him, Dost thou bear witness to thyself? " What then saith He?
Ver. 14. "Though I bear record of Myself, My record is true; for I know whence I come, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come."
What He had before said, these men bring forward as if it had been specially asserted. What then doth Christ? To refute this, and to show that He used those expressions as suitable to them and to their suspicions, who supposed Him to be a mere man, He saith, "Though I bear record of Myself, My record is true, for I know whence I come." What is this? "I am of God, am God, the Son of God, and God Himself is a faithful witness unto Himself, but ye know Him not; ye willingly err, knowing ye pretend not to know, but say all that ye say according to mere human imagination, choosing to understand nothing beyond what is seen."
Ver. 15. "Ye judge after the flesh."
As to live after the flesh is to live badly, so to judge after the flesh is to judge unjustly. "But I judge no man."
Ver. 16. "And yet if I judge, My judgment is true."
What He saith, is of this kind; "Ye judge unjustly." "And if," saith some one, "we judge unjustly, why dost Thou not rebuke us? why dost Thou not punish us? why dost Thou not condemn us? " "Because," He saith, "I came not for this." This is the meaning of, "I judge no man; yet if I judge, My judgment is true." "For had I been willing to judge, ye would have been among the condemned. And this I say, not judging you. Yet neither do I tell you that I say it, not judging you, as though I were not confident that had I judged you, I should have convicted you; since if I had judged you, I must justly have condemned you. But now the time of judgment is not yet." He alluded also to the judgment to come, saying,
"I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent Me."
Here He hinted, that not He alone condemneth them, but the Father also. Then He concealed this, by leading them to His own testimony.
Ver. 17. "It is written in your Law, that the testimony of two men is true."
[3.] What would the heretics say here? (They would say,) "How is he better than man, if we take what he hath said simply? For this rule is laid down in the case of men, because no man by himself is trustworthy. But in the case of God, how can one endure such a mode of speaking? How then is the word 'two' used? Is it because they are two, or because being men they are therefore two? If it is because they are two, why did he not betake himself to John, and say, I bear witness of myself, and John beareth witness of me? Wherefore not to the angels? Wherefore not to the prophets? For he might have found ten thousand other testimonies." But he desireth to show not this only that there are Two, but also that they are of the same Substance.
Ver. 19. "Then said they unto Him, Who is thy father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know Me, nor My Father."
Because while they knew they spake as though they knew not, and as if trying Him, He doth not even deem them worthy of an answer. Wherefore henceforth He speaketh all more clearly and more boldly; drawing His testimony from signs, and from His teaching of them that followed Him, and by the Cross being near. For, "I know," He saith, "whence I come." This would not greatly affect them, but the adding, "and whither I go," would rather terrify them, since He was not to remain in death. But why said He not, "I know that I am God," instead of, "I know whence I come"? He ever mingleth lowly words with sublime, and even these He veileth. For after saying, "I bear witness of Myself," and proving this, He descendeth to a humbler strain. As though He had said, "I know from whom I am sent, and to whom I depart." For so they could have had nothing to say against it, when they heard that He was sent from Him, and would depart to Him. "I could not have spoken," He saith, "any falsehood, I who am come from thence, and depart thither, to the true God. But ye know not God, and therefore judge according to the flesh. For if having heard so many sure signs and proofs ye still say, 'thy witness is not true,' if ye deem Moses worthy of credit, both as to what he speaketh concerning others and what he speaketh concerning himself, but Christ not so, this is to judge according to the flesh." "But I judge no man." He saith indeed also that "the Father judgeth no man."(c. v. 22.) How then doth He here declare, that, "If I judge, My judgment is just, for I am not alone"? He again speaketh in reply to their thoughts. "The judgment which is Mine is the judgment of the Father. The Father, judging, would not judge otherwise than as I do, and I should not judge otherwise than as the Father." Wherefore did He mention the Father? Because they would not have thought that the Son was to be believed unless He received the witness of the Father. Besides, the saying doth not even hold good. For in the case of men when two bear witness in a matter pertaining to another, then their witness is true, (this is for two to witness,) but if one should witness for himself, then they are no longer two. Seest thou that He said this for nothing else but to show that He was of the same Substance, that He needed no other witness, and was in nothing inferior to the Father? Observe at least His independence;
Ver. 18. "I am One that bear witness of Myself; and the Father that sent Me beareth witness of Me."
Had He been of inferior substance, He would not have put this. But now that thou mayest not deem that the Father is included, to make up the number (of two), observe that His power hath nothing different (from the Father's). A man bears witness when he is trustworthy of himself, not when he himself needs testimony, and that too in a matter pertaining to another; but in a matter of his own, where he needs the witness of another, he is not trustworthy. But in this case it is all contrary. For He though bearing witness in a matter of His own, and saying that witness is borne to Him by another, asserteth that He is trustworthy, in every way manifesting His independence. For why, when He had said, "I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent Me," and, "The testimony of two men is true," did He not hold His peace, instead of adding, "I am One that bear witness of Myself"? It was evidently to show His independence. And He placeth Himself first; "I am One that bear witness of Myself." Here He showeth His equality of honor, and that they were profited nothing by saying that they knew God the Father, while they knew not Him. And He saith that the cause of this (ignorance) was that they were not willing to know Him. Therefore He telleth them that it was not possible to know the Father without knowing Him, that even so He might draw them to the knowledge of Him. For since leaving Him they even sought to get the knowledge of the Father, He saith, "Ye cannot know the Father without Me." (Ver. 19.) So that they who blaspheme the Son, blaspheme not the Son only, but Him that begat Him also.
[4.] This let us avoid, and glorify the Son. Had He not been of the same Nature, He would not have spoken thus. For had He merely taught, but been of different Substance, a man might not have known Him, and yet have known the Father; and again, it would not have been that one who knew Him, would have altogether known the Father; for neither doth one who knoweth a man know an Angel. "Yes," replieth some one, "he that knoweth the creation, knoweth God." By no means. Many, or rather I should say, all men know the creation, (for they see it,) but they know not God. Let us then glorify the Son of God, not with this glory (of words) only, but that also which is by works. For the first without the last is nothing. "Behold," saith St. Paul, "thou art called a Jew, and restest in the Law, and makest thy boast of God—thou therefore that teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? Thou that makest thy boast of the Law, through breaking of the Law dishonorest thou God? " (Rom. ii. 17, 21, 23.) Beware lest we also who make boast of the rightness of our faith dishonor God by not manifesting a life agreeable to the faith, causing Him to be blasphemed. For He would have the Christian to be the teacher of the world, its leaven, its salt, its light. And what is that light? It is a life which shineth, and hath in it no dark thing. Light is not useful to itself, nor leaven, nor salt, but showeth its usefulness towards others, and so we are required to do good, not to ourselves only, but to others. For salt, if it salt not, is not salt. Moreover another thing is evident, that if we be righteous, others shall certainly be so also; but as long as we are not righteous, we shall not be able to assist others. Let there be nothing foolish or silly among us; such are worldly matters, such are the cares of this life. Wherefore the virgins were called foolish, because they were busy about foolish, worldly matters, gathering things together here, but laying not up treasure where they ought. Fear there is lest this be our case, fear lest we too depart clothed with filthy garments, to that place where all have them bright and shining. For nothing is more filthy, nothing more impure, than sin. Wherefore the Prophet declaring its nature cried out, "My wounds stink, and are corrupt." (Ps. xxxviii. 5.) And if thou wilt fully learn how ill-savored sin is, consider it after it hath been done; when thou art delivered from the desire, when the fire no longer troubleth thee, then shalt thou see what sin is. Consider anger, when thou art calm; consider avarice, when thou dost not feel it. There is nothing more shameful, nothing more accursed, than rapine and avarice. This we continually say, desiring not to vex you, but to gain some great and wonderful advantage. For he who hath not acted rightly after hearing once, may perhaps do so after hearing a second time; and he who hath passed by the second time, may do right after the third. God grant that we, being delivered from all evil things, may have the sweet savor of Christ; for to Him, with the Father and the Holy Ghost is glory, now and ever and world without end. Amen.
"These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as He taught in the Temple; and no man laid hands on Him, for His hour was not yet come."
[1.] Oh the folly of the Jews! seeking Him as they did before the Passover, and then having found Him in the midst of them, and having often attempted to take Him by their own or by others' hands without being able; they were not even so awed by His power, but set themselves to their wickedness, and desisted not. For it saith, that they continually made the attempt; "These words spake He in the treasury, teaching in the Temple; and no man laid hands on Him." He spake in the Temple, and in the character of teacher, which was more adapted to rouse them, and He spake those things because of which they were stung, and charged Him with making Himself equal to the Father. For "the witness of two men is true," proveth this. Yet still "He spake these words," It saith, "in the Temple," in the character of teacher, "and no man laid hands on Him, for His hour was not yet come"; that is, it was not yet the fitting time at which He would be crucified. So that even then the deed done was not of their power, but of His dispensation, for they had long desired, but had not been able, nor would they even then have been able, except He had consented.
Ver. 21. "Then said Jesus unto them, I go My way, and ye shall seek Me."
Why saith He this continually? To shame and terrify their souls; for observe what fear this saying caused in them. Although they desired to kill Him that they might be rid of Him, they yet ask, "whither He goeth," such great things did they imagine from the matter. He desired also to show them another thing, that the deed would not be effected through their force; but He showed it to them in a figure beforehand, and already foretold the Resurrection by these words.
Ver. 22. "Then said the Jews, Will he kill himself? "
What then doth Christ? To remove their suspicion, and to show that such an act is sin, He saith,
Ver. 23. "Ye are from beneath."
What He saith, is of this kind: "It is no wonder that ye imagine such things, ye who are carnal men, and have no spiritual thoughts, but I shall not do anything of the kind, for,
"I am from above; ye are of the world."
Here again He speaketh of their worldly and carnal imaginations, whence it is clear that the, "I am not of this world," doth not mean that He had not taken upon Him flesh, but that He was far removed from their wickedness. For He even saith, that His disciples were "not of the world" (c. xv. 19), yet they had flesh. As then Paul, when he saith, "Ye are not in the flesh" (Rom. viii. 9), doth not mean that they are incorporeal, so Christ when He saith, that His disciples are "not of the world," cloth nothing else than testify to their heavenly wisdom.
Ver. 24. "I said therefore unto you that...if ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins."
For if He came to take away the sin of the world, and if it is impossible for men to put that off in any other way except by the washing, it needs must be that he that believeth not must depart hence, having the old man; since he that will not by faith slay and bury that old man, shall die in him, and shall go away to that place to suffer the punishment of His former sins. Wherefore He said, "He that believeth not is judged already" (c. iii. 18); not merely through his not believing, but because he departeth hence having his former sins upon him.
Ver. 25. "Then said they unto Him, Who art thou? "
Oh folly! After so long a time, such signs and teaching, they ask, "Who art thou? " What then saith Christ?
"The same that I told you from the beginning."
What He saith, is of this kind; "Ye are not worthy to hear My words at all, much less to learn who I am, for ye say all that ye do, tempting Me, and giving heed to none of My sayings. And all this I could now prove against you." For this is the sense of,
Ver. 26. "I have many things to say and to judge of you."
"I could not only prove you guilty, but also punish you; but He that sent Me, that is, the Father, willeth not this. For I am come not to judge the world, but to save the world, since God sent not His Son to judge the world, He saith, but to save the world. (c. iii. 17.) If now He hath sent Me for this, and He is true, with good cause I judge no one now. But these things I speak that are for your salvation, not what are for your condemnation." He speaketh thus, lest they should deem that it was through weakness that on hearing so much from them He went not to extremities, or that He knew not their secret thoughts and scoffings.
Ver. 27. "They understood not that He spake to them of the Father."
Oh folly! He ceased not to speak concerning Him, and they knew Him not. Then when after working many signs, and teaching them, He drew them not to Himself, He next speaketh to them of the Cross, saying,
Ver. 28, 29. "When ye have lifted up the Son of Man, then ye shall know that I Am, and that I speak not of Myself, and that He that sent Me is with Me. And the Father hath not left Me alone."
[2.] He showeth that He rightly said, "the same that I said unto you from the beginning." So little heed they gave to His words. "When ye have lifted up the Son of Man." "Do ye not expect that ye then shall certainly rid yourselves of Me, and slay Me? But I tell you that then ye shall most know that I Am, by reason of the miracles, the resurrection, and the destruction (of Jerusalem)." For all these things were sufficient to manifest His power. He said not, "Then ye shall know who I am"; for, "when ye shall see," He saith, "that I stiffer nothing from death, then ye shall know that I Am, that is, the Christ, the Son of God, who govern all things, and am not opposed to Him." For which cause He addeth, "and of Myself I speak nothing." For ye shall know both My power and My unanimity with the Father. Because the, "of Myself I speak nothing," showeth that His Substance differeth not(from that of the Father), and that He uttereth nothing save that which is in the mind of the Father. "For when ye have been driven away from your place of worship, and it is not allowed you even to serve Him as hitherto, then ye shall know that He doth this to avenge Me, and because He is wroth with those who would not hear Me." As though He had said, "Had I been an enemy and a stranger to God, He would not have stirred up such wrath against you." This also Esaias declareth, "He shall give the wicked in return for His burial" (Isa. liii. 9, LXX.); and David, "Then shall He speak unto them in His wrath" (Ps. ii. 5); and Christ Himself, "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate." (Matt. xxiii. 38.) And His parables declare the same thing when He saith, "What shall the Lord of that vineyard do to those husbandmen? He shall miserably destroy those wicked men." (Matt. xxi. 40, 41.) Seest thou that everywhere He speaketh thus, because He is not yet believed? But if He will destroy them, as He will, (for, "Bring hither," It saith, "those which would not that I should reign over them, and slay them,") wherefore saith He that the deed is not His, but His Father's? He addresseth Himself to their weakness, and at the same time honoreth Him that begat Him. Wherefore He said not, "I leave your house desolate," but, it "is left"; He hath put it impersonally. But by saying, "How often would I have gathered your children together—and ye would not," and then adding, "is left," He showeth that He wrought the desolation. "For since," He telleth them, "when ye were benefited and healed of your infirmities, ye would not know Me, ye shall know by being punished who I am."
"And the Father is with Me." That they may not deem the "who sent Me" to be a mark of inferiority, He saith, "is with Me"; the first belongeth to the Dispensation, the second to the Godhead.
"And He hath not left Me alone," for I do always those things that please Him.
Again He hath brought down His discourse to a humbler strain, continually setting Himself against that which they asserted, that He was not of God, and that He kept not the Sabbath. To this He replieth, "I do always those things that are pleasing unto Him"; showing that it was pleasing unto Him even that the Sabbath should be broken. So, for instance, just before the Crucifixion He said, "Think ye that I cannot call upon My Father? " (Matt. xxvi. 53.) And yet by merely saying, "Whom seek ye? " (c. xviii. 4, 6) He cast them down backwards. Why then saith He not, "Think ye that I cannot destroy you," when He had proved this by deed? He condescendeth to their infirmity. For He took great pains to show that He did nothing contrary to the Father. Thus He speaketh rather after the manner of a man; and as "He hath not left Me alone," was spoken, so also was the, "I do always those things that are pleasing unto Him."
Ver. 30. "As He spake these words, many believed on Him."
When He brought down His speech to a lowly strain, many believed on Him. Dost thou still ask wherefore He speaketh humbly? Yet the Evangelist clearly alluded to this when he said, "As He spake these things, many believed on Him." By this all but proclaiming aloud to us, "Oh hearer, be not confounded if thou hear any lowly expression, for they who after such high teaching were not yet persuaded that He was of the Father, were with good reason made to hear humbler words, that they might believe." And this is an excuse for those things which shall be spoken in a humble way. They believed then, yet not as they ought, but carelessly and as it were by chance, being pleased and refreshed by the humility of the words. For that they had not perfect faith the Evangelist shows by their speeches after this, in which they insult Him again. And that these are the very same persons he has declared by saying,
Ver. 31. "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him, If ye continue in My word."
Showing that they had not yet received His doctrine, but only gave heed unto His words. Wherefore He speaketh more sharply. Before He merely said, "Ye shall seek Me" (c. vii. 34), but now He addeth what is more, "Ye shall die in your sins." (c. viii. 21.) And He showeth how; "because ye cannot when ye are come to that place afterwards entreat Me."
"These things which I speak unto the world." By these words He showed that He was now going forth to the Gentiles. But because they still knew not that He spake to them of the Father, He again speaketh of Him, and the Evangelist hath put the reason of the humility of the expressions.
[3.] If now we will thus search the Scriptures, exactly and not carelessly, we shall be able to attain unto our salvation; if we continually dwell upon them, we shall learn right doctrine and a perfect life. For although a man be very hard, and stubborn, and proud, and profit nothing at other times, yet at least he shall gain fruit from this time, and receive benefit, if not so great as to admit of his being sensible of it, still he shall receive it. For if a man who passes by an ointment- maker's shop, or sitteth in one, is impregnated with the perfume even against his will, much more is this the case with one who cometh to church. For as idleness is born of idleness, so too from working is generated a ready mind. Although thou art full of ten thousand sins, although thou art impure, shun not the tarrying here. "Wherefore," it may be said, "when hearing I do not? " It is no small profit to deem one's self wretched; this fear is not useless, this dread is not unseasonable. If only thou groanest that, "hearing I do not," thou wilt certainly come also to the doing at some time or other. For it cannot be that he who speaks with God, and hears God speak, should not profit. We compose ourselves at once and wash our hands when we desire to take the Bible into them. Seest thou even before the reading what reverence is here? And if we go on with exactness, we shall reap great advantage. For we should not, unless it served to place the soul in reverence, have washed our hands; and a woman if she be unveiled straightway puts on her veil, giving proof of internal reverence, and a man if he be covered bares his head. Seest thou how the outward behavior proclaims the inward reverence? Then moreover he that sits to hear groans often, and condemns his present life.
Let us then, beloved, give heed to the Scriptures, and if no other part be so, let the Gospels at least be the subjects of our earnest care, let us keep them in our hands. For straightway when thou hast opened the Book thou shalt see the name of Christ there, and shalt hear one say, "The birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise. When His mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, she was found with Child of the Holy Ghost." (Matt. i. 18.) He that heareth this will immediately desire virginity, will marvel at the Birth, will be freed from earthly things. It is not a little thing when thou seest the Virgin deemed worthy of the Spirit, and an Angel talking with her. And this upon the very surface; but if thou perseverest to go on unto the end, thou shall loathe all that pertains to this life, shalt mock at all worldly things. If thou art rich, thou shalt think nothing of wealth, when thou hearest that she who was (the wife) of a carpenter, and of humble family, became the mother of thy Lord. If thou art poor thou shall not be ashamed of thy poverty, when thou hearest that the Creator of the world was not ashamed of the meanest dwelling. Considering this, thou wilt not rob, thou wilt not covet, thou wilt not take the goods of others, but wilt rather be a lover of poverty, and despise wealth. And if this be the case, thou shalt banish all evil. Again, when thou seest Him lying in a manger, thou wilt not be anxious to put golden garments about thy child, or to cause thy wife's couch to be inlaid with silver. And if thou carest not for these things, thou wilt not do either the deeds of covetousness and rapine, which are caused by them. Many other things you may gain which I cannot separately enumerate, but they will know who have made the trial. Wherefore I exhort you both to obtain Bibles, and to retain together with the Bibles the sentiments they set forth, and to write them in your minds. The Jews because they gave no heed were commanded to suspend their books from their hands; but we place them not even in our hands but in our house, when we ought to stamp them on our heart. Thus cleansing our present life, we shall obtain the good things that are to come to which may we all attain, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
"Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him, If ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed. And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
[1.] BELOVED, our condition needs much endurance; and endurance is produced when doctrines are deeply rooted. For as no wind is able by its assaults to tear up the oak, which sends down its. root into the lower recesses of the earth, and is firmly clenched there; so too the soul which is nailed by the fear of God none will be able to overturn. Since to be nailed is more than to be rooted. Thus the Prophet prayeth, saying, "Nail my flesh by Thy fear" (Ps. cxix. 120, LXX.); "do Thou so fix and join me, as by a nail riveted into me." For as men of this kind are hard to be captured, so the opposite sort are a ready prey, and are easily thrown down. As was the case of the Jews at that time; for after having heard and believed, they again turned out of the way. Christ therefore desiring to deepen their faith that it might not be merely superficial, diggeth into their souls by more striking words. For it was the part of believers to endure even reproofs, but they immediately were wroth. But how doth He this? He first telleth them, "If ye continue in My word, ye are My disciples indeed: and the truth shall make you free." All but saying, "I am about to make a deep incision, but be not ye moved"; or rather by these expressions He allayed the pride of their imagination. "Shall make you free": from what, tell me? From your sins. What then say those boasters?
Ver. 33. "We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man." Immediately their imagination dropped, and this happened from their having been fluttered about worldly things. "If ye continue in My word," was the expression of One declaring what was in their heart, and knowing that they had indeed believed, but had not continued. And He promiseth a great thing, that they should become His disciples. For since some had gone away from Him before this, alluding to them He saith, "If ye continue," because they also had heard and believed, and departed because they could not continue. "For many of His disciples went back, and walked no more openly with Him." (c. vi. 66.)
"Ye shall know the truth," that is, "shall know Me, for I am the truth. All the Jewish matters were types, but ye shall know the truth from Me, and it shall free you from your sins." As to those others He said, "Ye shall die in your sins," so to these He saith, "shall make you free." He said not, "I will deliver you from bondage," this He allowed them to conjecture. What then said they?
"We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man." And yet if they must needs have been vexed, it might have been expected that they would have been so at the former part of His speech, at His having said, "Ye shall know the truth"; and that they would have replied, "What! do we not now know the truth? Is then the Law and our knowledge a lie? " But they cared for none of these things, they are grieved at worldly things, and these were their notions of bondage. And certainly even now, there are many who feel shame at indifferent matters, and at this kind of bondage, but who feel none for the bondage of sin, and who would rather be called servants to this latter kind of bondage ten thousand times, than once to the former. Such were these men, and they did not even know of any other bondage, and they say, "Bondsmen callest thou those who are of the race of Abraham, the nobly born, who therefore ought not to be called bondsmen? For, saith one, we were never in bondage to any man." Such are the boastings of the Jews. "We are the seed of Abraham," "we are Israelites." They never mention their own righteous deeds. Wherefore John cried out to them, saying, "Think not to say that we have Abraham to our father." (Matt. iii. 9.) And why did not Christ confute them, for they had often been in bondage to the Egyptians, Babylonians, and many others? Because His words were not to gain honor for Himself, but for their salvation, for their benefit, and toward this object He was pressing. For He might have spoken of the four hundred years, He might have spoken of the seventy, He might have spoken of the years of bondage during the time of the Judges, at one time twenty, at another two, at another seven; He might have said that they had never ceased being in bondage. But He desired not to show that they were slaves of men, but that they were slaves of sin, which is the most grievous slavery, from which God alone can deliver; for to forgive sins belongeth to none other. And this too they allowed. Since then they confessed that this was the work of God, He bringeth them to this point, and saith,
Ver. 34. "Whosoever committeth sin is. the servant of sin."
Showing that this is the freedom of which He speaketh, the freedom from this service.
Ver. 35. "The servant abideth not in the house, but the Son abideth forever."
Gently too from this He casts down the things of the Law, alluding to former times. For that they may not run back to them and say, "We have the sacrifices which Moses commanded, they are able to deliver us," He addeth these words, since otherwise what connection would the saying have? For "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace" (Rom. iii. 23, 24), even the priests themselves. Wherefore Paul also saith of the priest, that "he ought as for the people so also for himself to offer for sins, for that he also is compassed about with infirmity." (Heb. v. 3, 2.) And this is signified by His saying, "The servant abideth not in the house." Here also He showeth His equal honor with the Father, and the difference between slave and free. For the parable has this meaning, that is, "the servant hath no power," this is the meaning of "abideth not."
[2.] But why when speaking of sins doth He mention a "house"? It is to show that as a master hath power over his house, so He over all. And the, "abideth not," is this," hath not power to grant favors, as not being master of the house"; but the Son is master of the house. For this is the, "abideth forever," by a metaphor drawn from human things. That they may not say, "who art thou? "All is Mine, (He saith,) for I am the Son, and dwell in My Father's house," calling by the name of "house" His power. As in another place He calleth the Kingdom His Father's house, "In My Father's house are many mansions." (c. xiv. 2.) For since the discourse was of freedom and bondage, He with reason used this metaphor, telling them that they had no power to set free.
Ver. 36. "If the Son therefore shall make you free."
Seest thou the consubstantiality of the Son with the Father, and how He declareth that He hath the same power as the Father? "If the Son make you free, no man afterwards gain-sayeth, but ye have firm freedom." For "it is God that justifieth, who is He that condemneth? " (Rom. viii. 33, 34.) Here He showeth that He Himself is pure from sin, and alludeth to that freedom which reached only to a name; this even men give, but that God alone. And so he persuaded them not to be ashamed at this slavery, but at that of sin. And desiring to show that they were not slaves, except by repudiating that liberty, He the more showeth them to be slaves by saying, "Ye shall be free indeed."
This is the expression of one declaring that this freedom was not real. Then, that they might not say, "We have no sin," (for it was probable that they would say so,) observe how He bringeth them beneath this imputation. For omitting to convict all their life, He bringeth forward that which they had in hand, which they yet desired to do, and saith,
Ver. 37. "I know that ye are Abraham's seed but ye seek to kill Me."
Gently and by little doth He expel them from that relationship, teaching them not to be high-minded because of it. For as freedom and bondage depend on men's actions, so also doth relationship. He said not directly, "Ye are not the seed of Abraham, ye the murderers of the righteous"; but for a while He even goeth along with them, and saith, "I know that ye are Abraham's seed." Yet this is not the matter in question, and during the remainder of this speech He useth greater vehemence. For we may for the most part observe, that when He is about to work any great thing, after He hath wrought it, He useth greater boldness of speech, as though the testimony from His works shut men's mouths. "But ye seek to kill Me." "What of that," saith some one, "if they sought to do so justly." But this was not so either; wherefore also He puts the reason;
"Because My word hath no lace in you."
"How then was it," saith some one, "that
they believed on Him? " As I before said, they changed again. On which account He touched them sharply. "If ye boast the relationship of Abraham ye ought also to show forth his life." And He said not, "Ye do not contain my words," but, "My word hath no place in you," thus declaring the sublimity of His doctrines. Yet not for this ought they to have slain, but rather to have honored and waited on Him so as to learn. "But what," saith some one, "if thou speakest these things of thyself? " On this account He added,
Ver. 38. "I speak that which I have seen with My Father, and ye do that which ye have heard from your father."
"As," He saith, "I both by My words and by the truth declare the Father, so also do ye by your actions (declare yours). For I have not only the same Substance, but also the same Truth with the Father."
Ver. 39, 40. "They said unto Him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye had Abraham to your father, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill Me."
He here repeatedly handleth their murderous intention. and maketh mention of Abraham. And this He doth desiring to draw off their attention from this relationship, and to take away their excessive boasting, and also to persuade them no longer to rest their hopes of salvation in Abraham, nor in the relationship which is according to nature, but in that which is according to the will. For what hindered their coming to Christ was this, their deeming that relationship to be sufficient for them to salvation. But what is the "truth" of which He speaketh? That He is equal with the Father. For it was on this account that the Jews sought to slay Him; and He saith,
"Ye seek to kill Me because I have told you the truth, which I have heard of My Father."
To show that these things are not opposed to the Father, He again betaketh Himself to Him. They say unto Him,
Ver. 41. "We be not born of fornication, we have one Father, even God."
[3.] "What sayest thou? Ye have God for your Father, and do ye blame Christ for asserting this? " Seest thou that He said that God was His Father in a special manner? When therefore He had cast them out of their relationship to Abraham, having nothing to reply, they dare a greater thing, and betake themselves to God. But from this honor also He expelleth them, saying,
Ver. 42-44. "If God were your Father, ye would love Me; for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do ye not understand My speech? Even because ye cannot hear My word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do: he was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth: when he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own."
He had driven them out of their relationship to Abraham, and when they dared greater things, He then addeth a blow, telling them that they not only are not Abraham's children, but that they are even children of the devil, and inflicting a wound which might counterbalance their shamelessness; nor doth He leave it unsupported, but establisheth it by proofs. "For," He saith, "to murder belongeth to the wickedness of the devil." And He said not merely, "ye do his works," but, "ye do his lusts," showing that both he and they hold to murder, and that envy was the cause. For the devil destroyed Adam, not because he had any charge against him, but only from envy. To this also He alludeth here.
"And abode not in the truth." That is, in the right life. For since they continually accused Him of not being from God, He telleth them that this also is from thence. For the devil first was the father of a lie, when he said, "In the day that ye eat thereof your eyes shall be opened"(Gen. iii. 5), and he first used it. For men use a lie not as a thing proper, but alien to their nature, but he as proper.
Ver. 45. "And because I tell you the truth, ye believe Me not."
What kind of consequence is this? "Having no charge against Me, ye desire to kill Me. For because ye are enemies of the truth, therefore ye persecute Me. Since had this not been the reason, ye would have named your charge." Wherefore He added,
Ver. 46. "Which of you convinceth Me of sin? "
Then they said, "We be not born of fornication." Yet in fact many of them were born of fornication, for they practiced unbefitting unions. Still He doth not convict them of this, but setteth Himself to the other point. For when He hath proved them to be, not of God, but of the devil, by all these signs, (for to do murder is of the devil, and to lie is of the devil, both which ye do,) then He showeth that to love is the sign of being of God. "Why do ye not understand My speech? " Since they were always doubting, saying, "What is it that he saith, 'Whither I go ye cannot come'? " therefore He telleth them, "Ye do not understand My speech," "because ye have not the word of God. And this cometh to you, because that your understanding is groveling, and because what is Mine is far too great for you." But what if they could not understand? Not to be able here means not to be willing; for "ye have trained yourselves to be mean, to imagine nothing great." Because they said that they persecuted Him as being themselves zealous for God on this account He everywhere striveth to show that to persecute Him is the act of those who hate God, but that, on the contrary, to love Him is the act of those who know God.
"We have one Father, even God." On this ground they pride themselves, on their honor not their righteous deeds. "Therefore your not believing is no proof that I am an enemy to God, but your unbelief is a sign that you do not know God. And the reason is, from your being willing to lie and to do the works of the devil. But this is the effect of meanness of soul; (as the Apostle saith, 'For whereas there is among you envying and strife, are ye not carnal? ') (1 Cor. iii. 3.) And why is it that ye cannot? Because ye will to do the lusts of your father, ye are eager, ye are ambitious (to do them)." Seest thou that "ye cannot" express a want of will? For "this did not Abraham." "What are his works? Gentleness, meekness, obedience. But ye set yourselves on the contrary part, being hard and cruel."
But how came it into their thoughts to betake themselves to God? He had shown them unworthy of Abraham; desiring therefore to escape this charge, they mounted higher. For when He reproached them with murder, they said this, making it, as it were, a kind of excuse for themselves that they were avenging God. Therefore He showeth that this very thing is the act of men opposing God. And the, "I came forth," showeth that He was from thence. He saith, "I came forth," alluding to His arrival among us. But since they would probably say to Him, "Thou speaketh certain things strange and new," He telleth them that He was come from God. "And therefore with good reason ye hear them not, because ye are of the devil. For on what account would ye kill Me? What charge have ye to bring against Me? If there be none, why do ye not believe Me? " Thus then having proved them to be of the devil by their lying and their murder, He showeth them also to be alien from Abraham and from God, both because they hated One who had done no wrong, and because they would not hear His word; and in every way He proveth that He was not opposed to God, and that it was not on this account that they refused to believe, but because they were aliens from God. For when One who had done no sin, who said that He came from God and was sent of God, who spake the truth, and so spake it as to challenge all to the proof, after this was not believed, it is clear that He was not believed because of their being carnal. Since sins do use, yea they do use to debase a soul. Wherefore It saith, "Seeing ye are become dull of hearing." (Heb. v. 11.) For when a man cannot despise earthly things, how shall He ever be wise concerning heavenly things?
[4.] Wherefore, I exhort you, use we every means that our life may be righteous, that our minds may be cleansed, so that no filthiness be a hindrance to us; kindle for yourselves the light of knowledge, and sow not among thorns. For how shall one who knows not that covetousness is an evil, ever know the greater good? how shall one who refrains not from these earthly things ever hold fast to those heavenly? It is good to take by violence, not the things that perish, but the Kingdom of heaven. "The violent," it saith, "take it by force." (Matt. xi. 12.) It is then not possible to attain to it by sluggishness, but by zeal. But what meaneth "the violent"? There is need of much violence, (for strait is the way,) there is need of a youthful soul and a noble. Plunderers desire to outstrip all other, they look to nothing, neither to conviction, nor accusation, nor punishment, but are given up to one thing only, the getting hold of what they desire to seize, and they run past all that are before them in the way. Seize we then the Kingdom of heaven, for here to seize is no fault but rather praise, and the fault is the not seizing. Here our wealth comes not from another's loss. Haste we then to seize it. Should passion disquiet us, should lust disquiet us, let us do violence to our nature, let us become more gentle, let us labor a little, that we may rest forever. Seize not thou gold, but seize that wealth which showeth gold to be but mud. For tell me, if lead and gold were laid before thee, which wouldest thou take? Is it not clear that thou wouldest take the gold? Dost thou then, where one who seizes is punished, prefer that which is the more valuable, but where one who seizes is honored, give up what is the more valuable? If there were punishment in both cases, wouldest thou not rather aim at this latter? But in this case there is nothing like punishment, but even blessedness. And, "How," saith some one, "may one seize it? " Cast away the things which thou hast already in thy hands; for so long as thou graspest them thou wilt not be able to seize the other. For consider, I pray you, a man with his hands full of silver, will he be able, as long as he retains it, to seize on gold, unless he first cast away the silver, and be free? Because he that seizes a thing must be well-girt so as not to be detained. And even now there are adverse powers running down against us to rob us, but let us fly them, let us fly them, trailing after us nothing that may give a hold, let us cut asunder the cords, let us strip ourselves of the things of earth. What need of silken garments? How long shall we be unrolling this mockery? How long shall we be burying gold? I desired to cease from always saying these things, but ye will not suffer me, continually supplying me with occasions and arguments. But now at least let us desist, that having instructed others by our lives, we may obtain the promised good things, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, now and ever and world without end. Amen.
"Then answered the Jews, and said unto Him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honor My Father."
[1.] A Shameless and a forward thing is wickedness, and when it ought to hide itself, then is it the fiercer. As was the case with the Jews. For when they ought to have been pricked by what was said, admiring the boldness and conclusiveness of the words, they even insult Him, calling Him a Samaritan, and saying that He had a devil, and they ask, "Said we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? " Because when He uttereth anything sublime, this is thought among the very senseless to be madness. Yet nowhere before did the Evangelist say that they called Him "a Samaritan"; but from this expression it is probable that this had been often asserted by them.
"Thou hast a devil," saith some one. Who is it that hath a devil? He that honoreth God, or he that insulteth Him that honoreth Him? What then saith Christ, who is very meekness and gentleness? "I have not a devil, but I honor Him that sent me." Where there was need to instruct them, to pull down their excessive insolence, to teach them not to be proud because of Abraham, He was vehement; but when it was needful that He being insulted should bear it, He used much gentleness. When they said, "We have God and Abraham for our Father," He touched them sharply; but when they called Him a demoniac, He spake submissively, thus teaching us to avenge insults offered to God, but to overlook such as are offered to ourselves.
Ver. 50. "I seek not Mine own glory."
"These things," He saith, "I have spoken to show that it becometh not you, being murderers, to call God your Father; so that I have spoken them through honor for Him, and for His sake do I hear these reproaches, and for His sake do ye dishonor Me. Yet I care not for this insolence; to Him, for whose sake I now hear these things, ye owe an account of your words. For 'I seek not Mine own glory.' Wherefore I omit to punish you, and betake Myself to exhortation, and counsel you so to act, that ye shall not only escape punishment, but also attain eternal life."
Ver. 51. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep My saying, he shall never see death."
Here He speaketh not of faith only, but of a pure life. Above He said, "shall have everlasting life," but here, "shall not see death." (c. vi. 40.) At the same time He hinteth to them that they could do nothing against Him, for if the man that should keep His saying should not die, much less should He Himself. At least they understood it so, and said to Him,
Ver. 52. "Now we know that thou hast a devil; Abraham is dead, and the Prophets are dead."
That is, "they who heard the word of God are dead, and shall they who have heard thine not die? "
Ver. 53. "Art thou greater than our father Abraham? "
Alas for their vainglory! Again do they betake themselves to his relationship. Yet it would have been suitable to say, "Art thou greater than God? or they who have heard thee than Abraham? " But they say not this, because they thought that He was even less than Abraham. At first, therefore, He showed that they were murderers, and so led them away from the relationship; but when they persevered, He contrived this in another way, showing that they labored uselessly. And concerning the "death," He said nothing to them, neither did He reveal or tell them what kind of death He meant, but in the meantime He would have them believe, that He is greater than Abraham, that even by this He may put them to shame. "Certainly," He saith, "were I a common man I ought not to die, having done no wrong; but when I speak the truth, and have no sin, am sent from God, and am greater than Abraham, are ye not mad, do ye not labor in vain when ye attempt to kill Me? " What then is their reply? "Now we know that thou hast a devil." Not so spake the woman of Samaria. She said not to Him, "Thou hast a devil"; but only, "Art thou greater than our father Jacob? " (c. iv. 12.) For these men were insolent and accursed, while she desired to learn; wherefore she doubted and answered with proper moderation, and called Him, "Lord." For one who promised far greater things, and who was worthy of credit, ought not to have been insulted, but even admired; yet these men said that He had a devil. Those expressions of the Samaritan woman were those of one in doubt; these were the words of men unbelieving and perverse. "Art thou greater than our father Abraham? " so that this (which He had said) maketh Him to be greater than Abraham. "When therefore ye have seen Him lifted up, ye shall confess that He is greater." On this account He said," When ye have lifted Me up, ye shall know that I Am." (Ver. 28.) And observe His wisdom. Having first rent them away from Abraham's kindred, He showeth that He is greater than Abraham, that so He may be seen to be very exceedingly greater than the Prophets also. Indeed it was because they continually called Him a prophet that He said, "My word hath no place in you." (Ver. 37.) In that other place He declared that He raiseth the dead, but here He saith, "He that believeth shall never see death," which was a much greater thing than not to allow believers to be holden, by death. Wherefore the Jews were the more enraged. What then say they?
"Whom makest thou thyself? "
And this too in an insulting manner. "Thou art taking somewhat upon thyself," saith one of them. To this then Christ replieth;
Ver. 54. "If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing."
[2.] What say the heretics here? That He heard the question, "Art thou greater than our father Abraham? " and dared not to say to them, "Yea, I am greater," but did so in a covert manner. What then? Is His honor "nothing"? With respect to them it is nothing. And as He said, "My witness is not true" (c. v. 31), with reference to the opinion they would form of it, so also doth He speak here.
"There is One that honoreth Me."
And wherefore said He not, "The Father that sent Me," as He did before, but,
"Of whom ye say that He is your God." Ver. 55. "Yet ye have not known Him." Because He desired to show that they not only knew not His Father, but that they knew not God.
"But I know Him."
"So that to say, 'I know Him,' is not a boast, while to say, 'I know Him not,' would be a falsehood; but ye when ye say that ye know Him, lie; as then ye, when ye say that ye know Him, lie, so also should I, were I to say that I know Him not."
"If I honor Myself." Since they said, "Whom makest thou thyself? " He replieth, "If I make (Myself anything,) My honor is nothing. As then I know Him exactly, so ye know Him not." And as in the case of Abraham, He did not take away their whole assertion, but said, "I know that ye are Abraham's seed," so as to make the charge against them heavier; thus here He doth not remove the whole, but what? "Whom ye say." By granting to them their boast of words, He increaseth the force of the accusation against them. How then do ye "not know Him"? "Because ye insult One who saith and doeth everything that He may be glorified, even when that One is sent from Him." This assertion is unsupported by testimony, but what follows serves to establish it.
"And I keep His saying."
Here they might, if at least they had anything to say, have refuted Him, for it was the strongest proof of His having been sent by God.
Ver. 56. "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it, and was glad."
Again, He showeth that they were aliens from the race of Abraham, if they grieved at what he rejoiced in. "My day," seems to me to mean the day of the Crucifixion, which Abraham foreshowed typically by the offering of the ram and of Isaac. What do they reply?
Ver. 57. "Thou art not yet forty years old, and hast Thou seen Abraham? " So that we conclude that Christ was nearly forty.
Ver. 58, 59. "Jesus saith unto them, Before Abraham was, I Am. Then took they up stones to cast at Him."
Seest thou how He proved Himself to be greater than Abraham? For the man who rejoiced to see His day, and made this an object of earnest desire, plainly did so because it was a day that should be for a benefit, and belonging to one greater than himself. Because they had said, "The carpenter's son" (Matt. xiii. 55), and imagined nothing more concerning Him, He leadeth them by degrees to an exalted notion of Him. Therefore when they heard the words, "Ye know not God," they were not grieved; but when they heard, "before Abraham was, I Am," as though the nobility of their descent were debased, they became furious, and would have stoned Him.
"He saw My day, and was glad." He showeth, that not unwillingly He came to His Passion, since He praiseth him who was gladdened at the Cross. For this was the salvation of the world. But they cast stones at Him; so ready were they for murder, and they did this of their own accord, without enquiry.
But wherefore said He not, "Before Abraham was, I was," instead of "I Am"? As the Father useth this expression, "I Am," so also doth Christ; for it signifieth continuous Being, irrespective of all time. On which account the expression seemed to them to be blasphemous. Now if they could not bear the comparison with Abraham, although this was but a trifling one, had He continually made Himself equal to the Father, would they ever have ceased casting stones at Him?
After this, again He fleeth as a man, and concealeth Himself, having laid before them sufficient instruction: and having accomplished His work, He went forth from the Temple, and departed to heal the blind, proving by His actions that He is before Abraham. But perhaps some one will say," Why did He not paralyze their strength? So they would have believed." He healed the paralytic, yet they believed not; nay, He wrought ten thousand wonders; at the very Passion He cast them to the ground, and darkened their eyes, yet they believed not; and how would they have believed if He had paralyzed their strength? There is nothing worse than a soul hardened in desperation; though it see signs and wonders, it still perseveres in retaining the same shamelessness. Thus Pharaoh, who received ten thousand strokes, was sobered only while being punished, and continued of this character until the last day of his life, pursuing those whom he had let go. Wherefore Paul continually saith, "Lest any of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." (Heb. iii. 13.) For as the callosities of the body, when formed, become dead, and possess no sensation; so the soul, when it is occupied by many passions, becomes dead to virtue; and apply what you will to it, it gets no perception of the matter, but whether you threaten punishment or anything else, continues insensible.
[3.] Wherefore I beseech you, while we have hopes of salvation, while we can turn, to use every means to do so. For men who have become past feeling, are after that in the blind state of despairing pilots, who give up their vessel to the wind, and themselves contribute no assistance. Thus the envious man looks to one thing only, that is, to satisfy his lust, and though he be like to be punished or even slain, still he is possessed solely by that passion; and in like manner the intemperate and avaricious. But if the sovereignty of the passions be so great, much greater is that of virtue; if for them we despise death, much more for this; if they (sinners) regard not their own lives, much less ought we to do so in the cause of our salvation. For what shall we have to say, if when they who perish are so active about their own perdition, we for our own salvation manifest not even an equal activity, but ever continue wasting with envy? Nothing is worse than envy; to destroy another it destroys itself also. The eye of the envious wastes away in grief, he lives in a continual death, he deems all men, even those who have never wronged him, his enemies. He grieves that God is honored, he rejoices in what the devil rejoices in. Is any honored among men? This is not honor, envy him not. But is he honored by God? Strive and be thou like him. Thou wilt not? Why then dost thou destroy thyself too? Why castest thou away what thou hast? Canst thou not be like unto him, nor gain any good thing? Why then dost thou besides this take for thyself evil, when thou oughtest to rejoice with him, that so even if thou be not able to share his toils, thou mayest profit by rejoicing with Him? For often even the will is able to effect great good. At least Ezekiel saith, that the Moabites were punished because they rejoiced over the Israelites, and that certain others were saved because they mourned over the misfortunes of their neighbors. (Ezek. xxv. 8.) Now if there be any comfort for those who mourn over the woes of others, much more for those who rejoice at the honors of others. He charged the Moabites with having exulted over the Israelites, yet it was God that punished them; but not even when He punisheth will He have us rejoice over those that are punished. For it is not His wish to punish them. Now if we must condole with those who are punished, much more must we avoid envying. those who are honored. Thus, for example, Corah and Dathan perished with their company, making those whom they envied brighter, and giving themselves up to punishment. For a venomous beast is envy, an unclean beast, a deliberate vice which admits not of pardon, a wickedness stripped of excuse, the cause and mother of all evils. Wherefore let us pluck it up by the roots, that we may be freed from evil here, and may obtain blessings hereafter; through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory now and ever and world without end. Amen.
"And as Jesus passed by, He saw a man which was blind from his birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? "
[1.] "And as Jesus passed by, He saw a man which was blind from his birth." Being full of love for man, and caring for our salvation, and desiring to stop the mouths of the foolish, He omitteth nothing of His own part, though there be none to give heed. And the Prophet knowing this saith, "That Thou mightest be justified when Thou speakest, and be clear when Thou art judged." (Ps. li. 4.) Wherefore here, when they would not receive His sublime sayings, but said that He had a devil, and attempted to kill Him, He went forth from the Temple, and healed the blind, mitigating their rage by His absence, and by working the miracle softening their hardness and cruelty, and establishing His assertions. And He worketh a miracle which was no common one, but one which took place then for the first time. "Since the world began," saith he who was healed, "was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind." (Ver. 32.) Some have, perhaps, opened the eyes of the blind, but of one born blind never. And that on going out of the Temple, He proceeded intentionally to the work, is clear from this; it was He who saw the blind man, not the blind man who came to Him; and so earnestly did He look upon him, that even His disciples perceived it. From this, at least, they came to question Him; for when they saw Him earnestly regarding the man, they asked Him, saying, "Who did sin, this man, or his parents? " A mistaken question, for how could he sin before he was born? and how, if his parents had sinned, would he have been punished? Whence then came they to put this question? Before, when He healed the paralytic, He said, "Behold, thou art made whole, sin no more." (c. v. 14.) They therefore, having understood that he was palsied on account of sin, said," Well, that other was palsied because of his sins; but concerning. this man, what wouldest Thou say? hath he sinned? It is not possible to say so, for he is blind from his birth. Have his parents sinned? Neither can one say this, for the child suffers not punishment for the father." As therefore when we see a child evil entreated, we exclaim, "What can one say of this? what has the child done? " not as asking a question, but as being perplexed, so the disciples spake here, not so much asking for information, as being in perplexity. What then saith Christ?
Ver. 3. "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents."
This He saith not as acquitting them of sins, for He saith not simply, "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents," but addeth, "that he should have been born blind— but that the Son of God should be glorified in him." "For both this man hath sinned and his parents, but 'his blindness proceedeth not from that." And this He said, not signifying that though this man indeed was not in such case, yet that others had been made blind from such a cause, the sins of their parents, since it cannot be that when one sinneth another should be punished. For if we allow this, we must also allow that he sinned before his birth. As therefore when He declared, "neither hath this man sinned," He said not that it is possible to sin from one's very birth, and be punished for it; so when He said, "nor his parents," He said not that one may be punished for his parents' sake. This supposition He removeth by the mouth of Ezekiel; "As I live saith the Lord, this proverb shall not be, that is used, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge." (Ezek. xviii. 3, 2.) And Moses saith, "The father shall not die for the child, neither shall the child die for the father." (Deut. xxiv. 16.) And of a certain king Scripture saith, that for this very reason he did not this thing, observing the law of Moses. But if any one argue, "How then is it said, 'Who visiteth the sins of the parents upon the children unto the third and fourth generation'? " (Deut. v. 9); we should make this answer, that the assertion is not universal, but that it is spoken with reference to certain who came out of Egypt. And its meaning is of this kind; "Since these who have come out of Egypt, after signs and wonders, have become worse than their forefathers who saw none of these things, they shall suffer," It saith, "the same that those others suffered, since they have dared the same crimes." And that it was spoken of those men, any one who will give attention to the passage will more certainly know. Wherefore then was he born blind?
"That the glory of God should be made manifest," He saith.
Lo, here again is another difficulty, if without this man's punishment, it was not possible that the glory of God should be shown. Certainly it is not said that it was impossible, for it was possible, but, "that it might be manifested even in this man." "What," saith some one, "did he suffer wrong for the glory of God? " What wrong, tell me? For what if God had never willed to produce him at all? But I assert that he even received benefit from his blindness: since he recovered the sight of the eyes within. What were the Jews profited by their eyes? They incurred the heavier punishment, being blinded even while they saw. And what injury had this man by his blindness? For by means of it he recovered sight. As then the evils of the present life are not evils, so neither are the good things good; sin alone is an evil, but blindness is not an evil. And He who had brought this man from not being into being, had also power to leave him as he was.
[2.] But some say, that this conjunction is not at all expressive of cause, but relates to the consequence of the miracle; as when He saith, "For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see, and that they which see might be made blind" (ver. 39); and yet it was not for this He came, that those who saw might be made blind. And again Paul, "Because that which may be known of God is manifested in them, that they may be without excuse" (Rom. i. 19, 20); yet He showed it not unto them for this, that they might be deprived of excuse, but that they might obtain excuse. And again in another place, "The Law entered, that the offense might abound" (Rom. v. 20); yet it was not for this that it entered, but that sin might be checked. Seest thou everywhere that the conjunction relates to the consequence? For as some excellent architect may build part of a house, and leave the rest unfinished, so that to those who believe not he may prove, by means of that remnant, that he is author of the whole; so also God joineth together and completeth our body, as it were a house decayed, healing the withered hand, bracing the palsied limbs, straightening the lame, cleansing the lepers, raising up the sick, making sound the crippled, recalling the dead from death, opening the eyes that were closed, or adding them where before they were not; all which things, being blemishes arising from the infirmity of our nature, He by correcting showed His power.
But when He said, "That the glory of God might be manifested," He spake of Himself, not of the Father; His glory was already manifest. For since they had heard that God made man, taking the dust of the earth, so also Christ made clay. To have said, "I am He who took the dust of the earth, and made man," would have seemed a hard thing to His hearers; but this when shown by actual working, no longer stood in their way. So that He by taking earth, and mixing it with spittle, showed forth His hidden glory; for no small glory was it that He should be deemed the Architect of the creation.
And after this the rest also followed; from the part, the whole was proved, since the belief of the greater also confirmed the less. For man is more honorable than any created thing, and of our members the most honorable is the eye. This is the cause that He fashioned the eyes, not in a common manner, but in the way that He did. For though that member be small in size, yet it is more necessary than any part of the body. And this Paul showed when he said, "If the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? " (1 Cor. xii. 16.) For all indeed that is in us is a manifestation of the wisdom of God, but much more the eye; this it is that guides the whole body, this gives beauty to it all, this adorns the countenance, this is the light of all the limbs. What the sun is in the world, that the eye is in the body; quench the sun, and you destroy and confound all things; quench the eyes, and the feet, the hands, the soul, are useless. When these are disabled, even knowledge is gone, since by means of these we know God. "For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made." (Rom. i. 20.) Wherefore the eye is not only a light to the body, but beyond the body to the soul also. On which account it is established as in a royal fortress, obtaining the higher condition, and presiding over the other senses. This then Christ forms.
And that thou mayest not deem that He needeth matter when He worketh, and that thou mayest learn that He had not need at all of clay, (for He who brought into being the greater existences when as yet they were not, would much more have made this without matter,) that I say thou mayest learn that He did not this through necessity, but to show that He was the Creator at the beginning, when He had spread on the clay He saith, "Go, wash," "that thou mayest know that I need not clay to create eyes, but that My glory may be manifested hereby." For to show that He spake of Himself when He said, "That the glory of God may be manifested," He added,
Ver. 4. "I must work the works of Him that sent Me."
That is, "I must manifest Myself, and do the things which may show that I do the same things with the Father"; not things "similar," but, "the same," an expression which marks greater unvaryingness, and which is used of those who do not differ ever so little. Who then after this will face Him, when he seeth that He hath the same power with the Father? For not only did He form or open eyes, but gave also the gift of sight, which is a proof that He also breathed in the soul. Since if that did not work, the eye, though perfected, could never see anything; so that He gave both the energy which is from the soul, and gave the member also possessing all things, both arteries and nerves and veins, and all things of which our body is composed. "I must work while it is day."
What mean these words? To what conclusion do they lead? To an important one. For what He saith is of this kind. "While it is day, while men may believe on Me, while this life lasteth, I must work."
"The night cometh," that is, futurity, "when no man can work."
He said not, "when I cannot work," but, "when no man can work": that is, when there is no longer faith, nor labors, nor repentance. For to show that He calleth faith, a "work," when they say unto Him, "What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? " (c. vi. 28), He replieth, "This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent." How then can no man work this work in the future world? Because there faith is not, but all, willingly, or unwillingly, will submit. For lest any one should say that He acted as He did from desire of honor, He showeth that He did all to spare them who had power to believe "here" only, but who could no longer "there" gain any good thing. On this account, though the blind man came not to Him, He did what He did: for that the man was worthy to be healed, that had he seen he would have believed and come to Christ, that had he heard from any that He was present, he would not even so have been neglectful, is clear from what follows, from his courage, from his very faith. For it was likely that he would have considered with himself, and have said, "What is this? He made clay, and anointed my eyes, and said to me,' Go, wash;' could he not have healed me, and then have sent me to Siloam? Often have I washed there with many others, and have gained no good; had he possessed any power, he would while present have healed me." Just as Naaman spake respecting Elisha; for he too being commanded to go wash in Jordan, believed not, and this too when there was such a fame abroad concerning Elisha. (2 Kings v. 11.) But the blind man neither disbelieved, nor contradicted, nor reasoned with himself, "What is this? Ought he to have put on clay? This is rather to blind one the more: who ever recovered sight so ? " But he used no such reasonings. Seest thou his steadfast faith and zeal?
"The night cometh." Next He showeth, that even after the Crucifixion He would care for the ungodly, and bring many to Himself. For "it is yet day." But after that, He entirely cutteth them off, and declaring this, He saith,
Ver. 5. "As long as I am in the world, I am the Light of the world."
[3.] As also He said to others, "Believe while the light is with you." (c. xii. 36.) Wherefore then did Paul call this life "night" and that other "day"? Not opposing Christ, but saying the same thing, if not in words yet in sense; for he also saith, "The night is far spent, the day is at hand." (Rom. xiii. 12.) The present time he calleth "night," because of those who sit in darkness, or because he compareth it with that day which is to come, Christ calleth the future "night," because there sin has no power to work; but Paul calleth the present life night, because they are in darkness who continue in wickedness and unbelief. Addressing himself then to the faithful he said, "The night is far spent, the day is at hand," since they should enjoy that light; and he calleth the old life night. "Let us put away," he saith, "the works of darkness." Seest thou that he telleth them that it is "night"? wherefore he saith, "Let us walk honestly as in the day," that we may enjoy that light. For if this light be so good, consider what that will be; as much as the sunlight is brighter than the flame of a candle, so much and far more is that light better than this. And signifying this, Christ saith, that "the sun shall be darkened." Because of the excess of that brightness, not even the sun shall be seen.
If now in order to have here well-lighted and airy houses, we expend immense sums, building and toiling, consider how we ought to spend our very bodies themselves, that glorious houses may be built for us in the heavens where is that Light ineffable. Here there are strifes and contentions about boundaries and walls, but there will be nothing of the kind there, no envy, no malice, no one will dispute with us about settling boundaries. This dwelling too we assuredly needs must leave, but that abideth with us forever; this must decay by time, and be exposed to innumerable injuries, but that must remain without growing old perpetually; this a poor man cannot build, but that other one may build with two mites, as did the widow. Wherefore I choke with grief, that when so many blessings are laid before us, we are slothful, and despise them; we use every exertion to have splendid houses here, but how to gain in heaven so much as a little resting-place, we care not, we think not. For tell me, where wouldest thou have thy dwelling here? In the wilderness, or in one of the smaller cities? I think not; but in some of the most royal and grand cities, where the traffic is more, where the splendor is greater. But I will lead thee into such a City, whose Builder and Maker is God; there I exhort thee to found and build, at less cost [with less labor]. That house the hands of the poor build, and it is most truly "building," just as the structures made here are the work of extreme folly. For if a man were to bring you into the land of Persia, to behold what is there and to return, and were then to bid you build houses there, would you not condemn him for excessive folly, as bidding you spend unseasonably? How then dost thou this very same thing upon the earth which thou shall shortly leave? "But I shall leave it to my children," saith some one. Yet they too shall leave it soon after thee; nay, often even before thee; and their successors the same. And even here it is a subject of melancholy to thee that thou seest not thine heirs retain their possessions, but there thou needest apprehend nothing of the sort; the possession remaineth immovable, to thee, to thy children, and to their descendants, if they imitate the same goodness. That building Christ taketh in hand, he who buildeth that needs not to appoint care-takers, nor be thoughtful, nor anxious; for when God hath undertaken the work, what need of thought? He bringeth all things together, and raiseth the house. Nor is this the only thing wonderful, but also that He so buildeth it as is pleasing to thee, or rather even beyond what is pleasing, beyond what thou desirest; for He is the most excellent Artist, and careth greatly for thy advantage. If thou art poor, and desirest to build this house, it brings thee no envy, produces against thee no malice, for none of those who know how to envy behold it, but the Angels who know how to rejoice at thy blessings; none will be able to encroach upon it, for none dwell near it of those who are diseased with such passions. For neighbors thou hast there the saints, Peter and Paul with their company, all the Prophets, the Martyrs, the multitude of Angels, of Archangels. For the sake then of all these things, let us empty our substance upon the poor, that we may obtain those tabernacles; which may we all obtain through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, now and ever and world without end. Amen.
"When Jesus 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, and said, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam."
[1.] Those who intend to gain any advantage from what they read, must not pass by even any small portion of the words; and on this account we are bidden to "search" the Scriptures, because most of the words, although at first sight easy, appear to have in their depth much hidden meaning. For observe of what sort is the present case. "Having said these words," It saith," He spat on the ground." What words? "That the glory of God should be made manifest," and that, "I must work the works of Him that sent Me." For not without a cause hath the Evangelist mentioned to us His words, and added that, "He spat," but to show that He confirmed His words by deeds. And why used He not water instead of spittle for the clay? He was about to send the man to Siloam: in order therefore that nothing might be ascribed to the fountain, but that thou mightest learn that the power proceeding from His mouth, the same both formed and opened the man's eyes, He "spat on the ground"; this at least the Evangelist signified, when he said, "And made clay of the spittle." Then, that the successful issue might not seem to be of the earth, He bade him wash. But wherefore did He not this at once, instead of sending him to Siloam? That thou mayest learn the faith of the blind man, and that the obstinacy of the Jews might be silenced: for it was probable that they would all see him as he departed, having the clay spread upon his eyes, since by the strangeness of the thing he would attract to himself all, both those who did and those who did not know him, and they would observe him exactly. And because it is not easy to recognize a blind man who hath recovered sight, He first maketh by the length of way many to be witnesses, and by the strangeness of the spectacle exact observers, that being more attentive they may no longer be able to say, "It is he: it is not he." Moreover, by sending him to Siloam, He desireth to prove that He is not estranged from the Law and the Old (Covenant), nor could it afterwards be feared that Siloam would receive the glory, since many who had often washed their eyes there gained no such benefit; for there also it was the power of Christ that wrought all. On which account the Evangelist addeth for us the interpretation of the name; for having said, "in Siloam," he addeth,
"Which is, Sent."
That thou mayest learn that there also it was Christ who healed him. As Paul saith, "They drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ." (1 Cor. x. 4.) As then Christ was the spiritual Rock, so also was He the spiritual Siloam. To me also the sudden coming in of the water seems to hint an ineffable mystery. What is that? The unlooked for (nature) of His appearance, beyond all expectation.
But observe the mind of the blind man, obedient in everything. He said not, "If it is really the clay or the spittle which gives me eyes, what need of Siloam? Or if there be need of Siloam, what need of the clay? Why did he anoint me? Why bid me wash? " But he entertained no such thoughts, he held himself prepared for one thing only, to obey in all things Him who gave the command, and nothing that was done offended him. If any one ask, "How then did he recover his sight, when he had removed the clay? " he will hear no other answer from us than that we know not the manner. And what wonder if we know it not, since not even the Evangelist knew, nor the very man that was healed? What had been done he knew, but the manner of doing it he could not comprehend. So when he was asked he said, that "He put clay upon mine eyes, and I washed, and do see"; but how this took place he cannot tell them, though they ask ten thousand times.
Ver. 8, 9. "The neighbors therefore, and they which had seen him, that he was a beggar, said, Is not this he that sat and begged? Some said, This is he."
The strangeness of what had been brought to pass led them even to unbelief, though so much had been contrived that they might not disbelieve. They said, "Is not this he that sat and begged? " O the lovingkindness of God! Whither did He descend, when with great kindness He healed even beggars, and so silenced the Jews, because He deemed not the illustrious, nor the distinguished, nor the rulers, but men of no mark to be fit objects of the same Providence. For He came for the salvation of all.
And what happened in the case of the paralytic, happened also with this man, for neither did the one or the other know who it was that healed him. And this was caused by the retirement of Christ, for Jesus when He healed always retired, that all suspicion might be removed from the miracles. Since how could they who knew not who He was flatter Him, or join in contriving what had been done? Neither was this man one of those who went about, but of those who sat at the doors of the Temple. Now when all were doubting concerning him, what saith he?
"I am he."
He was not ashamed of his former blindness, nor did he fear the wrath of the people, nor did he decline showing himself that he might proclaim his Benefactor.
Ver. 10, 11. "They said unto him, How were thine eyes opened? He answered and said, A man that is called Jesus."
What sayest thou? Doth "a man" work such deeds? As yet he knew nothing great concerning Him.
"A man that is called Jesus made clay, and anointed mine eyes."
[2.] Observe how truthful he is. He saith not whence He made it, for he speaks not of what he doth not know; he saw not that He spat on the ground, but that He spread it on he knew from sense and touch.
"And said unto me, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam."
This too his hearing witnessed to him. But how did he recognize His voice? From His conversation with the disciples. And saying all this, and having received the witness by the works, the manner (of the cure) he cannot tell. Now if faith is needed in matters which are felt and handled, much more in the case of things invisible.
Ver. 12. "They said unto him, Where is he? He said, I know not."
They said, "Where is he? " having already murderous intentions against Him. But observe the modesty of Christ, how He continued not with those who were healed; because He neither desired to reap glory, nor to draw a multitude, nor to make a show of Himself. Observe too how truthfully the blind man maketh all his answers. The Jews desired to find Christ to bring Him to the priests, but when they did not find Him, they brought the blind man to the Pharisees, as to those who would question him more severely. For which reason the Evangelist remarks, that it was "the Sabbath" (ver. 14), in order to point out their wicked thoughts, and the cause for which they sought Him, as though forsooth they had found a handle, and could disparage the miracle by means of what appeared to be a transgression of the Law. And this is clear from their saying immediately on seeing him nothing but, "How opened he thine eyes? " Observe also the manner of their speech; they say not, "How didst thou receive thy sight? " but, "How opened he thine eyes? " thus affording him an excuse for slandering Jesus, because of His having worked. But he speaks to them shortly, as to men who had already heard; for without mentioning His name, or that "He said unto me, Go, wash," he at once saith,
Ver. 15. "He put clay upon my eyes, and I washed, and do see."
Because the slander was now become great, and the Jews had said, "Behold what work Jesus doth on the Sabbath day, he anointeth with clay!" But observe, I pray you, how the blind man is not disturbed. When being questioned he spake in the presence of those others without danger, it was no such great thing to tell the truth, but the wonder is, that now when he is placed in a situation of greater fear, he neither denies nor contradicts what he had said before. What then did the Pharisees, or rather what did the others also? They had brought him (to the Pharisees), as being about to deny; but, on the contrary, that befell them which they desired not, and they learned more exactly. And this they everywhere have to endure, in the case of miracles; but this point we will more clearly demonstrate in what follows. What said the Pharisees?
Ver. 16. "Some said," (not all, but the more forward,) "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? "
Seest thou that they were led up by the miracles? For hear what they say now, who before his had sent to bring Him. And if all did not so, (for being rulers through vainglory they fell into unbelief,) yet still the greater number even of the rulers believed on Him, but confessed Him not. Now the multitude was easily overlooked, as being of no great account in their synagogue, but the rulers being more conspicuous had the greater difficulty in speaking boldly, or some the love of rule restrained, others cowardice, and the fear of the many. Wherefore also He said, "How can ye believe who receive honor from men? " (c. v. 44.) And these who were seeking to kill Him unjustly said that they were of God, but that He who healed the blind could not be of God, because He kept not the Sabbath; to which the others objected, that a sinner could not do such miracles. Those first maliciously keeping silence about what had taken place, brought forward the seeming transgression; for they said not, "He healeth on the Sabbath day," but, "He keepeth not the Sabbath." These, on the other hand, replied weakly, for when they ought to have shown that the Sabbath was not broken, they rely only upon the miracles; and with reason, for they still thought that He was a man. If this had not been the case, they might besides have urged in His defense, that He was Lord of the Sabbath which Himself had made, but as yet they had not this opinion. Anyhow, none of them dared to say what he wished openly, or in the way of an assertion, but only in the way of doubt, some from not having boldness of speech, others through love of rule.
"There was therefore a division among them." This division first began among the people, then later among the rulers also, and some said, "He is a good man"; others, "Nay, but he deceiveth the people." (c. vii. 12.) Seest thou that the rulers were more void of understanding than the many, since they were divided later than they? and after they were divided, they did not exhibit any noble feeling, when they saw the Pharisees pressing upon them. Since had they been entirely separated from them, they would soon have known the truth. For it is possible to do well in separating. Wherefore also Himself hath said, "I am come not to bring peace upon the earth but a sword." (Matt. x. 34.) For there is an evil concord, and there is a good disagreement. Thus they who built the tower (Gen. xi. 4), agreed together to their own hurt; and these same again were separated, though unwillingly, yet for their good. Thus also Corah and his company agreed together for evil, therefore they were separated for good; and Judas agreed with the Jews for evil. So division may be good, and agreement may be evil. Wherefore It saith, "If thine eye offend thee, smite it out, if thy foot, cut it off." (Matt. v. 29, and xviii. 8.) Now if we must separate ourselves from an ill-joined limb, must we not much more from friends united to us for evils? So that agreement is not in all cases a good, just as division is not in all cases an evil.
[3.] These things I say, that we may shun wicked men, and follow the good; for if in the case of our limbs we cut off that which is rotten and incurable, fearing test the rest of the body should catch the same disease, and if we do this not as having no care for that part, but rather as desiring to preserve the remainder, how much more must we do this in the case of those who consent with us for evil? If we can set them right without receiving injury ourselves, we ought to use every means to do so; but if they remain incorrigible and may injure us, it is necessary to cut them off and cast them away. For so they will often be gainers rather (than losers). Wherefore also Paul exhorted, saying, "And ye shall put away from among yourselves that wicked person"; and, "that he that hath done this deed may be put away from among you." (1 Cor. v. 13, 2.) A dreadful thing, dreadful indeed, is the society of wicked men; not so quickly doth the pestilence seize or the itch infect those that come in contact with such as are under the disease, as doth the wickedness of evil men. For "evil communications corrupt good manners." (1 Cor. xv. 33.) And again the Prophet saith, "Come out from among them, and be ye separate." (Isa. lii. 11.) Let no one then have a wicked man for his friend. For if when we have bad sons we publicly disclaim them, without regarding nature or its laws, or the constraint which it lays upon us, much more ought we to fly from our companions and acquaintances when they are wicked. Because even if we receive no injury from them, we shall anyhow not be able to escape ill report, for strangers search not into our lives, but judge us from our companions. This advice I address to young men and maidens. "Providing," It saith, "things honest," not only in the sight of the Lord, but also "in the sight of all men." (Rom. xii. 17.) Let us then use every means that our neighbor be not offended. For a life, though it be very upright, if it offend others hath lost all. But how is it possible for the life that is upright to offend? When the society of those that are not upright invests it with an evil reputation; for when, trusting in ourselves, we consort with bad men, even though we be not harmed, we offend others. These things I say to men and women and maidens, leaving it to their conscience to see exactly how many evils are produced from this source. Neither I, perhaps, nor any of the more perfect, suspect any ill; but the simpler brother is harmed by occasion of thy perfection; and thou oughtest to be careful also for his infirmity. And even if he receive no injury, yet the Greek is harmed. Now Paul biddeth us be "without offense, both to Jews and Greeks, and to the Church of God." (1 Cor. x. 32.) (I think no evil of the virgin, for I love virginity, and "love thinketh no evil" (1 Cor. xiii. 5); I am a great admirer of that state of life, and I cannot have so much as an unseemly thought about it.) How shall we persuade those that are without? For we must take forethought for them also. Let us then so order what relates to ourselves, that none of the unbelievers may be able even to find a just handle of accusation against us. For as they who show forth a right life glorify God, so they who do the contrary cause Him to be blasphemed. May no such persons be among us:
but may our works so shine, that our Father which is in Heaven may be glorified, and that we may enjoy the honor which is from Him. To which may we all attain, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory forever and ever. Amen.
"They say unto the blind man again, What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eves? He said, He is a Prophet. The Jews then did not believe."
[1.] We must go over the Scriptures not in a chance way or carelessly, but with all exactness, that we be not entangled. Since even now in this place one might with show of reason question, how, when they had asserted, "This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the Sabbath," they now say to the man, "What sayest thou of him, that he hath opened thine eyes? " and not, "What sayest thou of him, that he hath broken the Sabbath? " but put now that which was the ground of the defense, not that of the accusation. What then have we to reply? That these (who speak) are not the men who said, "This man is not of God," but those who separated themselves from them, who also said, "A man that is a sinner cannot do such miracles." For desiring to silence their opponents the more, in order that they may not seem to be partisans of Christ, they bring forward the man who had received proof of His power, and question him. Observe now the wisdom of the poor man, he speaketh more wisely than them all. First he saith, "He is a Prophet"; and shrank not from the judgment of the perverse Jews who spake against Him and said, "How can this man be of God, not keeping the Sabbath? " but replied to them, "He is a Prophet."
"And they did not believe that he had been blind, and received his sight, until they had called his parents."
Observe in how many ways they attempt to obscure and take away the miracle. But this is the nature of truth, by the very means by which it seems to be assailed by men, by these it becomes stronger, it shines by means of that by which it is obscured. For if these things had not taken place, the miracle might have been suspected by the many; but now, as if desiring to lay bare the truth, so do they use all means, and would not have acted otherwise, supposing they had done all in Christ's behalf. For they first attempted to cast Him down by occasion of this mode (of cure), saying, "How opened he thine eyes? " that is, "was it by some sorcery? " In another place also, when they had no charge to bring against Him, they endeavored to insult the mode of the cure, saying, "He doth not cast out devils save by Beelzebub." (Matt. xii. 24.) And here again, when they have nothing to say, they betake themselves to the time (of cure), saying, "He breaketh the Sabbath"; and again, "He is a sinner." Yet He asked you, who would slay Him, and who were ready to lay hold of His actions, most plainly, saying, "Which of you convinceth Me of sin? " (c. viii. 46); and no man spake, nor said "Thou blasphemest because thou makest thyself without sin." But if they had had it in their power to say so, they would not have held their peace. For they who because they heard that He was before Abraham would have stoned Him, and said that He was not of God, who boasted that they, murderers as they were, were of God, but who said that One who did such wonders, after that He had wrought a cure, was not of God, because He kept not the Sabbath, if they had had but a shadow of a charge against Him, would never have let it pass. And if they call Him a sinner because He seemed to break the Sabbath, this charge also is shown to be unsound, when those who are ranked with them condemn their great coldness and littleness of soul. Being therefore entangled on every side, they afterwards betake themselves to something else more shameless and impudent. What is that? They "did not believe," It saith, "that he had been blind, and received his sight." How then did they charge Christ with not keeping the Sabbath? Plainly, as having believed. But why gave ye not heed to the great number of people? to the neighbors who knew him? As I said, falsehood everywhere defeats itself by the very means by which it seems to annoy the truth, and makes the truth to appear more bright. Which was now the case. For that no one might say that his neighbors and those who had seen him did not speak with precision, but guessed from a likeness, they bring forward his parents, by whom they succeeded against their will in proving that what had taken place was real, since the parents best of all knew their own child. When they could not terrify the man himself, but beheld him with all boldness proclaim his Benefactor, they thought to wound the miracle by means of his parents. Observe the malice of their questioning. For what saith it? Having placed them in the midst so as to throw them into distress, they apply the questioning with great severity and anger,
Ver. 19. "Is this your son? " (and they said not, "who once was blind," but) "of whom ye say that he was born blind? "
As if they were acting deceitfully, and plotting on behalf of Christ. O ye accursed, utterly accursed! What father would choose to invent such falsehoods against his child? For they almost say, "Whom ye have made out blind, and not only so, but have spread abroad the report everywhere."
"How then doth he now see? "
[2.] O folly! "Yours," saith one, "is the trick and the contrivance." For by these two things do they attempt to lead the parents to a denial; by using the words, "Whom ye say," and, "How then doth he now see? " Now when there were three questions asked, whether he was their son, whether he had been blind, and how he received his sight, the parents only acknowledged two of them, but do not add the third. And this came to pass for the sake of the truth, in order that none other save the man that was healed, who was also worthy of credit, should acknowledge this matter. And how would the parents have favored (Christ), when even of what they knew some part they spake not through fear of the Jews? What say they?
Ver. 20, 21. "We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but by what means he now seeth we know not, or who hath opened his eyes we know not; he is of age, he shall speak for himself."
By making him to be worthy of credit, they begged off themselves; "He is not a child, say they, nor incapable, but able to testify for himself."
Ver. 22. "These words spake they, because they feared the Jews."
Observe how the Evangelist again brings forward their opinion and thoughts. This I say, because of that speech which they before uttered, when they said, "He maketh Himself equal to God." (c. v. 18.) For had that also been the opinion of the Jews but not the judgment of Christ, he would have added and said, that "it was a Jewish opinion." When therefore the parents referred them to him that had been healed, they called him again the second time, and did not say openly and shamelessly, "Deny that Christ healed thee," but would fain effect this under a pretense of piety.
Ver. 24. "Give," saith one, "the glory to God."
For to have said to the parents, "Deny that he is your son, and that he was born blind," would have seemed very ridiculous. And again, to have said this to himself would have been manifest shamelessness. Wherefore they say not so, but manage the matter in another way, saying, "Give God the glory," that is, "confess that this man hath wrought nothing."
"We know that this man is a sinner."
"Why then did ye not convict Him when He said, 'Which of you convinceth Me of sin? ' (c. viii. 46.) Whence know ye that He is a sinner? " After that they had said, "Give God the glory," and the man had made no reply, Christ meeting praised him, and did not rebuke him, nor say, "Wherefore hast thou not given glory to God? " But what said He? "Dost thou believe on the Son of God? " (ver. 35), that thou mayest learn that this is "to give glory to God." Now had He not been equal in honor to the Father, this would not have been giving glory; but since he that honoreth the Son honoreth the Father also, the blind is with good reason not rebuked. Now while they expected that the parents would contradict and deny the miracle, the Pharisees said nothing to the man himself, but when they saw that they profited nothing by this, they again return to him, saying, "This man is a sinner."
Ver. 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."
Surely the blind man was not terrified? That be far from him. How then doth he who said, "He is a Prophet" (ver. 17), now say, "Whether he be a sinner, I know not"? He said so, not as being in such a state of mind, nor as having persuaded himself of this thing, but desiring to clear Him from their charges by the testimony of the fact, not by his own declaration, and to make the defense credible, when the testimony of the good deed done should decide the matter against them. Since if after many words when the blind man said, "Except this were a righteous man he could not do such miracles" (ver. 33), they were so enraged as to reply, "Thou wast altogether born in sin, and dost thou teach us? " what would they not have said, if he had spoken so from the beginning; what would they not have done? "Whether he be a sinner or not, I know not"; as though he had said, "I say nothing in this man's favor, I make no declaration at present, yet this I certainly know and would affirm, that if he were a sinner he could not have done such things." Thus he kept himself free from suspicion, and his testimony uncorrupted, as not speaking from partiality, but as bearing witness according to the fact. When therefore they could neither upset nor remove what had been done, they again return to their former plan, making trifling enquiries about the manner of the cure, like men who search on every side about a prey which is before them, and cannot be hurt, hastening round now in one direction, now in another; and they recur to the man's former assertions, in order now to make them unsound by continual questions, and say,
Ver. 26. "What did he to thee? How opened he thine eyes? "
What was his reply? Having conquered and cast them down, he no longer speaks to them submissly. As long as the matter needed enquiry and arguments he spake guardedly, while he supplied the proof; but when he had conquered and gained a splendid victory, he then takes courage, and tramples upon them. What saith he?
Ver. 27. "I have told you once, and ye did not hear; wherefore would ye hear it again? "
Seest thou the bold-speaking of a beggar towards Scribes and Pharisees? So strong is truth, so weak is falsehood. Truth, though she take hold but of ordinary men, maketh them to appear glorious; the other, even though it be with the strong, shows them weak? What he saith is of this kind: "Ye give no heed to my words, therefore I will no longer speak or answer you continually, who question me to no purpose, and who do not desire to hear in order to learn, but that you may insult over my words."
"Will ye also be His disciples? "
[3.] Now he hath ranked himself among the band of disciples, for the "will ye also?" is the expression of one who is declaring himself to be a disciple. Then he mocked and annoyed them abundantly. For since he knew that this struck them hard, he said it, wishing to upbraid them with exceeding severity; the act of a soul courageous, soaring on high and despising their madness, pointing out the greatness of this dignity, in which he was very confident, and showing that they insulted him who was a man worthy to be admired, but that he took not the insult to himself, but grasped as an honor what they offered as a reproach.
Ver. 28. "Thou art his disciple, but we are Moses' disciples."
"But this cannot be. Ye are neither Moses' nor this Man's; for were ye Moses', ye would become this Man's also." Wherefore Christ before said unto them, because they were continually betaking themselves to these speeches, "Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me, for he wrote of Me." (c. v. 46.)
Ver. 29. "We know that God spake unto Moses."
By whose word, whose report? "That of our forefathers," saith one. Is not He then more to be believed than your forefathers, who confirmeth by miracles that He came from God, and that He speaketh things from above? They said not, "We have heard that God spake to Moses," but, "We know." Do ye affirm, O Jews, what ye have by hearing, as knowing it, but deem what ye have by sight as less certain than what ye have by hearing? Yet the one ye saw not, but heard, the other ye did not hear, but saw. What then saith the blind man?
Ver. 30. "Why herein is a marvelous thing, that ye know not whence He is, and He doeth such miracles."
"That a Man, who is not one of the distinguished or noble or illustrious among you, can do such things; so that it is in every way clear that He is God, needing no human aid."
Ver. 31. "We know that God heareth not sinners."
Since they had been the first to say, "How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles?" (ver. 16), he now brings forward even their judgment, reminding them of their own words. "This opinion," saith he, "is common to me and you. Stand fast now to it." And observe, I pray you, his wisdom. He turns about the miracle in every way, because they could not do away with it, and from it he draws his inferences. Seest thou that at first he said "Whether he be a sinner or not, I know not"? not doubting (God forbid!) but knowing that He was not a sinner. At least now, when he had an opportunity, see how he defended Him. "We know that God heareth not sinners":
"But if any man be a worshiper of God, and doeth His will."
Here he not only hath cleared Him from sin, but declareth that He is very pleasing to God, and doeth all His will. For since they called themselves worshipers of God, he added, "and doeth His will"; "since," saith he, "it is not sufficient to know God: men must also do His will." Then he magnifies what had been done, saying,
Ver. 32. "Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind."
"If now ye acknowledge that God heareth not sinners, and this Person hath wrought a miracle, and such a miracle as no man ever wrought, it is clear that He hath surpassed all things in virtue, and that His power is greater than belongeth to man." What then say they?
Ver. 34. "Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? "
As long as they expected that he would deny Christ, they deemed him trustworthy, calling upon him once and a second time. If ye deemed him not trustworthy, why did ye call and question him a second time? But when he spake the truth, unabashed, then, when they ought most to have admired, they condemned him. But what is the, "Thou wast altogether born in sins"? They here unsparingly reproach him with his very blindness, as though they had said, "Thou art in sins from thy earliest age"; insinuating that on this account he was born blind; which was contrary to reason. On this point at least Christ comforting him said, "For judgment I am come into the world, that they which see not might see, and that they which see might be made blind." (c. ix. 39.)
"Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? " Why, what had the man said? Did he set forth his private opinion? Did he not set forth a common judgment, saying, "We know that God heareth not sinners"? Did he not produce your own words?
"And they cast him out."
Hast thou beheld the herald of the truth, how poverty was no hindrance to his true wisdom? Seest thou what reproaches, what sufferings he bare from the beginning, and how by word and by deed he testified?
[4.] Now these things are recorded, that we too may imitate them. For if the blind man, the beggar, who had not even seen Him, straightway showed such boldness even before he was encouraged by Christ, standing opposed to a whole people, murderous, possessed, and raving, who desired by means of his voice to condemn Christ, if he neither yielded nor gave back, but most boldly stopped their mouths, and chose rather to be cast out than to betray the truth; how much more ought we, who have lived so. long in the faith, who have seen ten thousand marvels wrought by faith, who have received greater benefits than he, have recovered the sight of the eyes within, have beheld the ineffable Mysteries, and have been called to such honor, how ought we, I say, to exhibit all boldness of speech towards those who attempt to accuse, and who say anything against the Christians, and to stop their mouths, and not to acquiesce without an effort. And we shall be able to do this, if we are bold, and give heed to the Scriptures, and hear them not carelessly. For if one should come in here regularly, even though he read not at home, if he attends to what is said here, one year even is sufficient to make him well versed in them; because we do not to-day read one kind of Scriptures, and tomorrow another, but always and continually the same. Still such is the wretched disposition of the many, that after so much reading, they do not even know the names of the Books, and are not ashamed nor tremble at entering so carelessly into a place where they may hear God's word. Yet if a harper, or dancer, or stage-player call the city, they all run eagerly, and feel obliged to him for the call, and spend the half of an entire day in attending to him alone; but when God speaketh to us by Prophets and Apostles, we yawn, we scratch ourselves, we are drowsy. And in summer, the heat seems too great, and we betake ourselves to the market place; and again, in winter, the rain and mire are a hindrance, and we sit at home; yet at horse races, though there is no roof over them to keep off the wet, the greater number, while heavy rains are falling, and the wind is dashing the water into their faces, stand like madmen, caring not for cold, and wet, and mud, and length of way, and nothing either keeps them at home, or prevents their going thither. But here, where there are roofs over head, and where the warmth is admirable, they hold back instead of running together; and this too, when the gain is that of their own souls. How is this tolerable, tell me? Thus it happens, that while we are more skilled than any in those matters, in things necessary we are more ignorant than children. If a man call you a charioteer, or a dancer, you say that you have been insulted, and use every means to wipe off the affront; but if he draw you to be a spectator of the action, you do not start away, and the art whose name you shun, you almost in every case pursue. But where you ought to have both the action and the name, both to be and to be called a Christian, you do not even know what kind of thing the action is. What can be worse than this folly? These things I have desired continually to say to you, but I fear lest I gain hatred in vain and unprofitably. For I perceive that not only the young are mad, but the old also; about whom I am especially ashamed, when I see a man venerable from his white hairs, disgracing those white hairs, and drawing a child after him. What is worse than this mockery? What more shameful than this conduct? The child is taught by the father to act unseemly.
[5.] Do the words sting? This is what I desire, that you should suffer the pain caused by the words, in order to be delivered from the disgrace caused by the actions. For there are some too far colder than these, who are not even ashamed at the things spoken of, nay, who even put together a long argument in defense of the action. If you ask them who was Amos or Obadiah, or what is the number of the Prophets or Apostles, they cannot even open their mouth but for horses and charioteers, they compose excuses more cleverly than sophists or rhetoricians, and after all this, they say, "What is the harm? what is the loss? " This is what I groan for, that ye do not so much as know that the action is a loss, nor have a sense of its evils. God hath given to thee an appointed space of life for serving Him, and dost thou while thou spendest it vainly, and at random, and on nothing useful, still ask, "What loss is there? " If thou hast spent a little money to no purpose, thou callest it a loss: when thou spendest whole days of thine upon the devil's pageants, thinkest thou that thou art doing nothing wrong? Thou oughtest to spend all thy life in supplications and prayers, whereas thou wastest thy life and substance heedlessly, and to thine own hurt, on shouts, and uproar, and shameful words, and fighting, and unseasonable pleasure, and actions performed by trickery, and after all this thou askest, "What is the loss? " not knowing thou shouldest be lavish of anything rather than time. Gold, if thou shalt have spent, thou mayest get again; but if thou lose time, thou shall hardly recover that. Little is dealt out to us in this present life; if therefore we employ it not as we ought, what shall we say when we depart "there"? For tell me, if thou hadst commanded one of thy sons to learn some art, and then he had continually stayed at home, or even passed his time somewhere else, would not the teacher reject him? Would he not say to thee, "Thou hast made an agreement with me, and appointed a time; if now thy son will not spend this time with me but in other places, how shall I produce him to thee as a scholar? " Thus also we must speak. For God will say also to us, "I gave you time to learn this art of piety, wherefore have ye foolishly and uselessly wasted that time? Why did ye neither go constantly to the teacher, nor give heed to his words? " For to show that piety is an art, hear what the Prophet saith, "Come, ye children, hearken unto me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord." (Ps. xxxiv. 11.) And again, "Blessed is the man whom Thou instructest, Lord, and teachest him out of Thy Law." (Ps. xciv. 12.) When therefore thou hast spent this time in vain, what excuse wilt thou have? "And why," saith some one, "did He deal out to us but little time?" O senselessness and ingratitude! That for which thou wert most bounden to give thanks to Him, for that He hath cut short thy labors and abridged thy toils, and made the rest long and everlasting, for this dost thou find fault, and art discontented?
But I know not how we have brought our discourse to this point, and have made it so long; we must therefore shorten it now. For this too is a part of our wretchedness, that here if the discourse be long, we all become careless, while there they begin at noon, and retire by torch and lamp light. However, that we be not always chiding, we now entreat and beseech you, grant this favor to us and to yourselves; and getting free from all other matters, to these let us rivet ourselves. So shall we gain from you joy and gladness, and honor on your account, and a recompense for these labors; while ye will reap all the reward, because having been aforetime so madly riveted to the stage, ye tore yourselves away, through fear of God, and by our exhortations, from that malady, and brake your bonds, and hastened unto God. Nor is it "there" alone that ye shall receive your reward, but "here" also ye shall enjoy pure pleasure. Such a thing is virtue; besides giving us crowns in heaven, even here it maketh life pleasant to us. Let us then be persuaded by what has been said, that we may obtain the blessings both here and hereafter, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, now and ever and world without end. Amen.
"And they cast him out. And 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? He answered and said, Who is He, Lord, that I might believe on Him? " And the rest.
[1.]. They who for the sake of the truth and the confession of Christ suffer anything terrible and are insulted, these are especially honored. For as he who loseth his possessions for His sake, the same it is who most findeth them; as he who hateth his own life, the same it is who most loveth it; so too he who is insulted, is the same who is most honored. As fell out in the case of the blind man. The Jews cast him out from the Temple, and the Lord of the Temple found him; he was separated from that pestilent company, and met with the Fountain of salvation; he was dishonored by those who dishonored Christ, and was honored by the Lord of Angels. Such are the prizes of truth. And so we, if we leave our possessions in this world, find confidence in the next; if here we give to the afflicted, we shall have rest in heaven; if we be insulted for the sake of God, we are honored both here and there.
When they had cast him out from the Temple, Jesus found him. The Evangelist shows, that He came for the purpose of meeting him. And observe how He recompenseth him, by that which is the chiefest of blessings. For He made Himself known to him who before knew Him not, and enrolled him into the company of His own disciples. Observe also how the Evangelist describes the exact circumstances; for when Christ had said, "Dost thou believe on the Son of God? " the man replied, "Lord, who is He? " For as yet he knew Him not, although he had been healed; because he was blind before he came to his Benefactor, and after the cure, he was being worried by those dogs. Therefore, like some judge at the games, He receiveth the champion who had toiled much and gained the crown. And what saith He? "Dost thou believe on the Son of God? " What is this, after so much arguing against the Jews, after so many words, He asketh him, "Dost thou believe? " He spake it not from ignorance, but desiring to make Himself known, and showing that He gently valued the man's faith. "This great multitude," He saith, "hath insulted Me, but of them I make no account; for one thing I care, that thou shouldest believe. For better is one who doeth the will of God, than ten thousand transgressors." "Dost thou believe on the Son of God? " As having both been present, and as approving what had been said by him, He asketh this question; and first, He brought him to a state of longing for Himself. For He said not directly, "Believe," but in the way of an enquiry. What then said the man? "Lord, who is He, that I might believe on Him? " The expression is that of a longing and enquiring soul. He knoweth not Him in whose defense he had spoken so much, that thou mayest learn his love of truth. For he had not yet seen Him.
Ver. 37. "Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast both seen Him, and it is He that talketh with thee."
He said not "I am He," but as yet in an intermediate and reserved manner, "Thou hast both seen Him." This was still uncertain; therefore He addeth more clearly, "It is He that talketh with thee."
Ver. 38. "He saith, Lord, I believe; and he worshiped Him" (straightway).
He said not, "I am He that healed thee, that bade thee, Go, wash in Siloam "; but keeping silence on all these points, He saith, "Dost thou believe on the Son of God? " and then the man, showing his great earnestness, straightway worshiped; which few of those who were healed had done; as, for instance, the lepers, and some others; by this act declaring His divine power. For that no one might think that what had been said by him was a mere expression, he added also the deed. When he had worshiped, Christ said,
Ver. 39. "For judgment I am come into the world, that they which see not might see, and that they which see might be made blind."
So also saith Paul; "What shall we say then?
That the Gentiles which followed not after righteousness have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of the faith of Jesus; but Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness." (Rom. ix. 30, 31.) By saying, "For judgment I am come into this world," He both made the man stronger respecting the faith, and aroused those who followed Him; for the Pharisees were following Him. And the, "For judgment," He spake with reference to a greater punishment; showing that they who had given sentence against Him, had received sentence against themselves; that they who had condemned Him as a sinner, were themselves the persons condemned. In this passage He speaketh of two recoveries of sight, and two blindnesses; one sensible, the other spiritual.
Ver. 40. "Some of them that followed Him, say unto Him, Are we also blind? "
As in another place they said, "We were never servants to any man"; and, "We be not born of fornication" (c. viii. 33, 41); so now they gape on material things alone, and are ashamed of this kind of blindness. Then to show that it was better for them to be blind than seeing, He saith,
Ver. 41. "If ye were blind, ye should have no sin."
Since they deemed the calamity a matter to be ashamed of, He turneth this back upon their own head, telling them, that "this very thing would have rendered your punishment more tolerable"; cutting away on every side their human thoughts, and leading them to a notion high and marvelous.
"But now ye say, We see."
As He saith in that other place, "Of whom ye said that He was your God" (c. viii. 54); so too here, "Now ye say that ye see, but ye see not." He showeth that what they deemed a great matter for praise, brought punishment upon them. He also comforted him who was blind from his birth, concerning his former maimed state, and then speaketh concerning their blindness. For He directeth His whole speech to this end, that they may not say, "We did not refuse to come to thee owing to our blindness, but we turn away and avoid thee as a deceiver."
[2.] And not without a cause hath the Evangelist mentioned, that they of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things, and said, "Are we blind also? " but to remind thee that these were the men who first withdrew from and then stoned Him, for they were persons who followed Him superficially, and who easily changed to the contrary opinion. How then doth He prove that He is not a deceiver, but a Shepherd? By laying down the distinguishing marks both of the shepherd, and of him who is a deceiver and a spoiler, and from these affording them opportunity of searching into the truth of the matter. And first He showeth who is a deceiver and a spoiler, calling him so from the Scriptures, and saying,
Chap. x. ver. 1. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber."
Observe the marks of a robber; first, that he doth not enter openly; secondly, not according to the Scriptures, for this is the, "not by the door." Here also He referreth to those who had been before, and to those who should be after Him, Antichrist and the false Christs, Judas and Theudas, and whatever others there have been of the same kind. And with good cause He calleth the Scriptures "a door," for they bring us to God, and open to us the knowledge of God, they make the sheep, they guard them, and suffer not the wolves to come in after them. For Scripture, like some sure door, barreth the passage against the heretics, placing us in a state of safety as to all that we desire, and not allowing us to wander; and if we undo it not, we shall not easily be conquered by our foes. By it we can know all, both those who are, and those who are not, shepherds. But what is "into the fold"? It refers to the sheep, and the care of them. For he that useth not the Scriptures, but "climbeth up some other way," that is, who cutteth out for himself another and an unusual way, "the same is a thief." Seest thou from this too that Christ agreeth with the Father, in that He bringeth forward the Scriptures? On which account also He said to the Jews, "Search the Scriptures" (c. v. 39); and brought forward Moses, and called him and all the Prophets witnesses, for "all," saith He, "who hear the Prophets shall come to Me"; and," Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me." But here He hath put the same thing metaphorically. And by saying, "climbeth up some other way," He alluded to the Scribes, because they taught for commandments the doctrines of men, and transgressed the Law (Matt. xv. 9); with which He reproached them, and said, "None of you doeth the Law." (c. vii. 19.) Well did He say, "climbeth up," not "entereth in," since to climb is the act of a thief intending to overleap a wall, and who doeth all with danger. Hast thou seen how He hath sketched the robber? now observe the character of the shepherd. What then is it?
Ver. 2-4. "He that entereth in by the door, the same is the shepherd of the sheep; to him the doorkeeper openeth, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calleth his own by name. And when he hath brought them out, he goeth before them."
[3.] He hath set down the marks of the shepherd, and of the evil doer; let us now see how He hath fitted to them what followeth. "To him," He saith, "the doorkeeper openeth"; He continueth in the metaphor to make the discourse more emphatic. But if thou shouldest be minded to examine the parable word by word, there is nothing to hinder thee from supposing Moses to be the doorkeeper, for to him were entrusted the oracles of God. "Whose voice the sheep hear, and he calleth his own by name." Because they everywhere said that He was a deceiver, and confirmed this by their own unbelief, saying, "Which of the rulers hath believed on him? " (c. vii. 48.) He showeth that they ought not on account of the unbelief of those persons to call Him a spoiler and deceiver, but that they, because they gave no heed to Him were consequently even excluded from the rank of sheep. For if a shepherd's part is to enter through the usual door, and if He entered through this, all they who followed Him might be sheep, but they who rent themselves away, hurt not the reputation of the Shepherd, but cast themselves out from the kindred of the sheep. And if farther on He saith that He is "the door," we must not again be disturbed, for He also calleth Himself "Shepherd," and "Sheep," and in different ways proclaimeth His dispensations. Thus, when He bringeth us to the Father, He calleth Himself "a Door," when He taketh care of us, "a Shepherd"; and it is that thou mayest not suppose, that to bring us to the Father is His only office, that He calleth Himself a Shepherd. "And the sheep hear his voice, and he calleth his own sheep, and leadeth them out, and goeth before them." Shepherds indeed do the contrary, for they follow after them; but He to show that He will lead all men to the truth, doeth differently; as also when He sent the sheep, He sent them, not out of the way of wolves, but "in the midst of wolves." (Matt. x. 16.) For far more wonderful is this manner of keeping sheep than ours. He seemeth to me also to allude to the blind man, for him too, having "called," He "led out" from the midst of the Jews, and the man heard "His voice," and "knew" it.
Ver. 5. "And a stranger will they not follow, for they know not the voice of strangers."
Certainly here He speaketh of Theudas and Judas, (for "all, as many as believed on them, were scattered" [Acts v. 36], It saith,) or of the false Christs who after that time should deceive. For lest any should say that He was one of these, He in many ways separateth Himself from them. And the first difference He setteth down is His teaching from the Scriptures; for He by means of these led men to Him, but the others did not from these draw men after them. The second is, the obedience of the sheep; for on Him they all believed, not only while He lived, but when He had died; the others they straightway left. With these we may mention a third difference, no trifling one. They did all as rebels, and to cause revolts, but He placed Himself so far from such suspicion, that when they would have made Him a king, He fled; and when they asked, "Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar? " He bade them pay it, and Himself gave the two drachm piece. (Matt. xvii. 27.) Besides this, He indeed came for the saving of the sheep, "That they might have life, and that they might have more abundantly" (ver. 10), but the others deprived them even of this present life. They betrayed those who were entrusted to them and fled, but He withstood so nobly as even to give up His life. They unwillingly, and by compulsion, and desiring to escape, suffered what they suffered, but He willingly and by choice endured all.
Ver. 6. "This parable spake Jesus unto them, but they understood not what things they were which He spake unto them."
And wherefore spake He obscurely? Because He would make them more attentive; when He had effected this, He removes the obscurity, saying,
Ver. 9. "I am the door, by Me if any man enter in, he shall go in and out, and find pasture."
As though He had said, "shall be in safety and security," (but by "pasture," He here meaneth His nurturing and feeding the sheep, and His power and Lordship,) that is, "shall remain within, and none shall thrust him out." Which took place in the case of the Apostles, who came in and went out securely, as having become lords of all the world, and none was able to cast them out.
Ver. 8. "All that ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them."
He doth not here speak of the Prophets, (as the heretics assert,) for as many as believed on Christ did hear them also, and were persuaded by them; but of Theudas and Judas, and the other exciters of sedition. Besides, He saith, "the sheep did not hear them," as praising them; now nowhere is He seen to praise those who refused to hearken to the Prophets, but, on the contrary, to reproach and accuse them vehemently; whence it is evident that the, "did not hear," refers to those leaders of sedition.
Ver. 10. "The thief cometh not but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy."
Which then took place when all (their followers) were slain and perished.
"But I am come that they might have life, and that they might have more."
And what is "more" than life, tell me? The kingdom of heaven. But He doth not as yet say this, but dwelleth on the name of "life," which was known to them.
Ver. 11. "I am the good Shepherd."
Here He next speaketh concerning the Passion, showing that this should be for the salvation of the world, and that He came to it not unwillingly. Then again He mentioneth the character of the shepherd and the hireling.
"For the shepherd layeth down his life."
Ver. 12. "But he that is an hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep and fleeth, and the wolf cometh and catcheth them."
Here He declareth Himself to be Master even as the Father, if so be that He is the Shepherd, and the sheep are His. Seest thou how He speaketh in a more lofty tone in His parables, where the sense is concealed; and giveth no open handle to the listeners? What then doth this hireling? He "seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and the wolf cometh, and scattereth them." This those false teachers did, but He the contrary. For when He was taken, He said, "Let these go their way, that the saying might be fulfilled" (c. xviii. 8, 9), that not one of them was lost. Here also we may suspect a spiritual wolf to be intended; for neither did Christ allow him to go and seize the sheep. But he is not a wolf only, but a lion also. "Because our adversary the devil," It saith, "walketh about as a roaring lion." (1 Pet. v. 8.) He is also a serpent, and a dragon; for, "Tread ye on serpents and scorpions." (Luke x. 19.)
[4.] Wherefore, I beseech you, let us remain pasturing beneath this Shepherd; and we shall remain, if we obey Him, if we hear His voice, if we follow not a stranger. And what is His voice? "Blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are the pure in heart, blessed are the merciful." (Matt. v. 3, 8, 7.) If thus we do, we shall remain beneath the Shepherd, and the wolf will not be able to come in; or if he come against us, he will do so to his own hurt. For we have a Shepherd who so loveth us, that He gave even His life for us. When therefore He is both powerful and loveth us, what is there to hinder us from being saved? Nothing, unless we ourselves revolt from Him. And how can we revolt? Hear Him say ing, "Ye cannot serve two masters, God and mammon." (Matt. vi. 24.) If then we serve God, we shall not submit to the tyranny of mammon. And truly a bitterer thing than any tyranny is the desire of riches; for it brings no pleasure, but cares, and envyings, and plottings, and hatred, and false accusations, and ten thousand impediments to virtue, indolence, wantonness, greediness, drunkenness, which make even freemen slaves, nay, worse than slaves bought with money, slaves not to men, but even to the most grievous of the passions, and maladies of the soul. Such a one dares many things displeasing to God and men, dreading lest any should remove from him this dominion. O bitter slavery, and devlish tyranny! For this is the most grievous thing of all, that when entangled in such evils we are pleased and hug our chain, and dwelling in a prison house full of darkness, refuse to come forth to the light, but rivet evil upon ourselves, and rejoice in our malady. So that we cannot be freed, but are in a worse state than those that work the mines, enduring labors and affliction, but not enjoying the fruit. And what is in truth worse than all, if any one desire to free us from this bitter captivity, we do not suffer it, but are even vexed and displeased, being in this respect in no better case than madmen, or rather in a much more miserable state than any such, inasmuch as we are not even willing to be delivered from our madness. What? was it for this, O man, that thou wast brought into the world? Was it for this that thou wast made a man, that thou mightest work in these mines, and gather gold? Not for this did God create thee in His Image, but that thou mightest please Him, that thou mightest obtain the things to come, that thou mightest join the choir of Angels. Why now dost thou banish thyself from such a relationship, and thrust thyself into the extreme of dishonor and meanness? He who came by the same birth pangs with thee, (the spiritual birth pangs I mean,) is perishing with hunger, and thou art bursting with fullness: thy brother goeth about with naked body, but thou providest garments even for thy garments, heaping up all this clothing for the worms. How much better would it have been to put them on the bodies of the poor; so would they have remained undestroyed, would have freed thee from all care, and have won for thee the life to come. If thou wilt not have them to be moth-eaten, give them to the poor, these are they who know how to shake these garments well. The Body of Christ is more precious and more secure than the coffer, for not only doth It keep the garments safe, not only doth It preserve them unconsumed, but even rendereth them brighter. Oftentimes the coffer taken with the garments causeth thee the utmost loss, but this place of safety not even death can harm. With It we need neither doors nor bolts, nor wakeful servants, nor any other such security, for our possessions are free from all treacherous attacks, and are laid up under guard, as we may suppose things laid up in heaven would be; for to all wickedness that place is inaccessible. These thing we cease not continually to say to you, and you hearing are not persuaded. The reason is, that we are of a soul which is mean, gaping upon the earth, groveling on the ground. Or rather, God forbid that I should condemn you all of wickedness, as though all were incurably diseased. For even if those who are drunk with riches stop their ears against my words, yet they who live in poverty will be able to look clearly to what I say. "But what," saith some one, "hath, this to do with the poor? for they have no gold, or any such garments." No, but they have bread and cold water, but they have two obols, and feet to visit the sick, but they have a tongue and speech to comfort the bedridden, but they have house and shelter to make the stranger their inmate. We demand not from the poor such and such a number of talents of gold, these we ask from the rich. But if a man be poor, and come to the doors of others, our Lord is not ashamed to receive even an obol, but will say that He hath received more from the giver, than from those who cast in much. How many of those who now stand here would desire to have been born at that time, when Christ went about the earth in the flesh, to have conversed and sat at meat with Him? Lo, this may be done now, we may invite Him more than then to a meal, and feast with Him, and that to greater profit. For of those who then feasted with Him many even perished, as Judas and others like him; but every one of those who invite Him to their houses now, and share with Him table and roof, shall enjoy a great blessing. "Come," it saith, "ye blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was an hungered, and ye gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in; sick, and ye visited Me; I was in prison, and and ye came unto Me." (Matt. xxv. 34-36.) That then we may hear these words, let us clothe the naked, let us bring in the stranger, feed the hungry, give the thirsty drink, let us visit the sick, and look upon him that is in prison, that we may have boldness and obtain remission of our sins, and share those good things which transcend both speech and thought. Which may we all obtain, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory and the might forever. Amen.
"I am the Good Shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine. As the Father knoweth Me, even so know I the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep."
[1.] A GREAT matter, beloved, a great matter it is to preside over a Church: a matter needing wisdom and courage as great as that of which Christ speaketh, that a man should lay down his life for the sheep, and never leave them deserted or naked; that he should stand against the wolf nobly. For in this the shepherd differs from the hireling; the one always looks to his own safety, caring not for the sheep; the other always seeks that of the sheep, neglecting his own. Having therefore mentioned the marks of a shepherd, Christ hath put two kinds of spoilers; one, the thief who kills and steals; the other, one who doth not these things, but who when they are done doth not give heed nor hinder them. By the first, pointing to Theudas and those like him; by the second, exposing the teachers of the Jews, who neither cared for nor thought about the sheep entrusted to them. On which account Ezekiel of old rebuked them, and said, "Woe, ye shepherds of Israel! Do the shepherds feed themselves? Do not the shepherds feed the sheep? " (Ezek. xxxiv. 2, LXX.) But they did the contrary, which is the worst kind of wickedness, and the cause of all the rest. Wherefore It saith, "They have not turned back the strayed, nor sought the lost, nor bound up the broken, nor healed the sick, because they fed themselves and not the sheep." (Ezek. xxxiv. 4.) As Paul also hath declared in another passage, saying, "For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's" (Phil. ii. 21); and again, "Let no man seek his own, but every man his neighbor's." (1 Cor. x. 24.) From both Christ distinguisheth Himself; from those who came to spoil, by saying, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have more abundantly" (ver. 10); and from those who cared not for the sheep being carried away by wolves, by never deserting them, but even laying down His life for them, that the sheep might not perish. For when they desired to kill Him, He neither altered His teaching, nor betrayed those who believed on Him, but stood firm, and chose to die. Wherefore He continually said, "I am the good Shepherd." Then because His words appeared to be unsupported by testimony, (for though the, "I lay down My life," was not long after proved, yet the, "that they might have life, and that they might have more abundantly," was to come to pass after their departure hence in the life to come,) what doth He? He proveth one from the other; by giving His mortal life (He proveth) that He giveth life immortal. As Paul also saith, "If when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more being reconciled we shall be saved." (Rom. v. 10.) And again in another place, "He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? " (Rom. viii. 32.)
But wherefore do they not now bring against Him the charge which they did before, when they said, "Thou bearest witness of thyself, thy witness is not true? " (c. viii. 13.) Because He had often stopped their mouths, and because His boldness towards them had been increased by His miracles. Then because He said above "And the sheep hear his voice, and follow him," lest any should say, "What then is this to those who believe not? " hear what He addeth "And I know My sheep, and am known of Mine." As Paul declared when he said, "God hath not rejected His people whom He foreknew" (Rom. xi. 2); and Moses, "The Lord knew those that were His" (2 Tim. ii. 19; comp. Num. xvi. 5); "those," He saith, "I mean, whom He foreknew." Then that thou mayest not deem the measure of knowledge to be equal, hear how He setteth the matter right by adding, "I know My sheep, and am known of Mine." But the knowledge is not equal. "Where is it equal? " In the case of the Father and Me, for there, "As the Father knoweth Me, even so know I the Father." Had He not wished to prove this, why should He have added that expression? Because He often ranked Himself among the many, therefore, lest any one should deem that He knew as a man knoweth, He added, "As the Father knoweth Me, even so know I the Father." "I know Him as exactly as He knoweth Me." Wherefore He said, "No man knoweth the Son save the Father, nor the Father save the Son" (Luke x. 22), speaking of a distinct kind of knowledge, and such as no other can possess.
[2.] "I lay down My life." This He saith continually, to show that He is no deceiver. So also the Apostle, when he desired to show that he was a genuine teacher, and was arguing against the false apostles, established his authority by his dangers and deaths, saying, "In stripes above measure, in deaths oft." (2 Cor. xi. 23.) For to say, "I am light," and "I am life," seemed to the foolish to be a matter of pride; but to say, "I am willing to die," admitted not any malice or envy. Wherefore they do not say to Him, "Thou bearest witness of thyself, thy witness is not true," for the speech manifested very tender care for them, if indeed He was willing to give Himself for those who would have stoned Him. On this account also He seasonably introduceth mention of the Gentiles;
Ver. 16. "For other sheep also I have," He saith, "which are not of this fold, them also must I bring."
Observe again, the word "must," here used, doth not express necessity, but is declaratory of something which will certainly come to pass. As though He had said, "Why marvel ye if these shall follow Me, and if My sheep shall hear My voice? When ye shall see others also following Me and hearing My voice, then shall ye be astonished more." And be not confounded when you hear Him say, "which are not of this fold" (Gal. v. 6), for the difference relateth to the Law only, as also Paul saith, "Neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision."
"Them also must I bring." He showeth that both these and those were scattered and mixed, and without shepherds, because the good Shepherd had not yet come. Then He proclaimeth beforehand their future union, that, "They shall be one fold."
Which same thing also Paul declared, saying, "For to make in Himself of twain one new man." (Eph. ii. 15.)
Ver. 17. "'Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again."
What could be more full of humanity than this saying, if so be that on our account our Lord shall be beloved, because He dieth for us? What then? tell me, was He not beloved during the time before this; did the Father now begin to love Him, and were we the causes of His love? Seest thou how He used condescension? But what doth He here desire to prove? Because they said that He was alien from the Father, and a deceiver, and had come to ruin and destroy He telleth them, "This if nothing else would persuade Me to love you, namely, your being so beloved by the Father, that I also am beloved by Him, because I die for you." Besides this He desireth also to prove that other point, that He came not to the action unwillingly, (for it unwillingly, how could what was done cause love? ) and that this was especially known to the Father. And if He speaketh as a man, marvel not, for we have often mentioned the cause of this, and to say again the same things is superfluous and unpleasant.
"I lay down My life, that I might take it again."
Ver. 18. "No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again."
Because they often took counsel to kill Him, He telleth them, "Except I will, your labor is unavailing." And by the first He proveth the second, by the Death, the Resurrection. For this is the strange and wonderful thing. Since both took place in a new way, and beyond ordinary custom. But let us give heed exactly to what He saith, "I have power to lay down My life." And who hath not "power to lay down his life"? Since it is in the power of any that will, to kill himself. But He saith it not so, but how? "I have in such a way the power to lay it down, that no one can effect this against My will." And this is a power not belonging to men; for we have no power to lay it down in any other way than by killing ourselves. And if we fall into the hands of men who plot against us, and have the power to kill us, we no longer are free to lay it down or not, but even against our will they take it from us. Now this was not the case with Christ, but even when others plotted against Him, He had power not to lay it down. Having therefore said that, "No man taketh it from Me," He addeth, "I have power to lay down My life," that is, "I alone can decide as to laying it down," a thing which doth not rest with us, for many others also are able to take it from us. Now this He said not at first, (since the assertion would not have seemed credible,) but when He had received the testimony of facts, and when, having often plotted against Him, the), had been unable to lay hold on Him, (for He escaped from their hands ten thousand tithes,) He then saith, "No man taketh it from me." But if this be true, that other point follows, that He came to death voluntarily. And if this be true, the next point is also certain, that He can "take it again" when He will. For if the dying was a greater thing than man could do, doubt no more about the other. Since the fact that He alone was able to let go His life, showeth that He was able by the same power to take it again. Seest thou how from the first He proved the second, and from His death showed that His Resurrection was indisputable?
"This commandment have I received of My Father."
What commandment was this? To die for the world. Did He then wait first to hear, and then choose, and had He need of learning it? Who that had sense would assert this? But before when He said, "Therefore doth My Father love Me," He showed that the first motion was voluntary, and removed all suspicion of opposition to the Father; so here when He saith that He received a commandment from the Father, He declared nothing save that, "this which I do seemeth good to Him," in order that when they should slay Him, they might not think that they had slain Him as one deserted and given up by the Father, nor reproach Him with such reproaches as they did, "He saved others, himself he cannot save"; and, "If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross" (Matt. xxvii. 42, 40); yet the very reason of His not coming down was, that He was the Son of God.
[3.] Then test on hearing that, "I have received a command from the Father," thou shouldest deem that the achievement doth not belong to Him, He hath said preventing the, "The good Shepherd layeth down His life for the sheep"; showing by this that the sheep were His, and that all which took place was His achievement, and that He needed no command. For had He needed a commandment, how could He have said, "I lay it down of Myself"? for He that layeth it down of Himself needeth no commandment. He also assigneth the cause for which He doeth this. And what is that? That He is the Shepherd, and the good Shepherd. Now the good Shepherd needeth no one to arouse him to his duty; and if this be the case with man, much more is it so with God. Wherefore Paul said, that "He emptied Himself." (Phil. ii. 7.) So the "commandment" put here means nothing else, but to show His unanimity with the Father; and if He speaketh in so humble and human a way, the cause is the infirmity of His hearers.
Ver. 19. "There was a division therefore among the Jews. And some said, He hath a devil (and is mad). Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil: can a devil open the eyes of the blind? "
For because His words were greater than belonged to man, and not of common use, they said that He had a devil, calling Him so now for the fourth time. For they before had said "Thou hast a devil, who seeketh to kill thee? " (c. vii. 20); and again, "Said we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? " (c. viii. 48); and here, "He hath a devil and is mad why hear ye him? " Or rather we should say, that He heard this not for the fourth time, but frequently. For to ask, "Said we not well that thou hast a devil? " is a sign that they had said so not twice or thrice, but many times. "Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil: can a devil open the eyes of the blind? " For since they could not silence their opponents by words, they now brought proof from His works. "Certainly neither are the words those of one that hath a devil, yet if ye are not persuaded by the words, be ye shamed by the works. For if they are not the acts of one that hath a devil, and are greater than belong to man, it is quite clear that they proceed from some divine power." Seest thou the argument? That they were greater than belonged to man is plain, from the Jews saying, "He hath a devil" that He had not a devil, He showed by what He did.
What then did Christ? He answered nothing to these things. Before this He had replied, "I have not a devil"; but not so now; for since He had afforded proof by His actions, He afterwards held His peace. For neither were they worthy of an answer, who said that He was possessed of a devil, on account of those actions for which they ought to have admired and deemed Him to be God. And how were any farther refutations from Him needed, when they opposed and refuted each other? Wherefore He was silent, and bore all mildly. And not for this reason alone, but also to teach us all meekness and long-suffering.
[4.] Let us now imitate Him. For not only did He now hold His peace, but even came among them again, and being questioned answered and showed the things relating to His foreknowledge; and though called "demoniac" and "madman," by men who had received from Him ten thousand benefits, and that not once or twice but many times, not only did He refrain from avenging Himself, but even ceased not to benefit them. To benefit, do I say? He laid down His life for them, and while being crucified spake in their behalf to His Father. This then let us also imitate, for to be a disciple of Christ, is the being gentle and kind. But whence can this gentleness come to us? If we continually reckon up our sins, if we mourn, if we weep; for neither doth a soul that dwelleth in the company of so much grief endure to be provoked or angered. Since wherever there is mourning, it is impossible that there should be anger; where grief is, all anger is out of the way; where there is brokenness of spirit, there is no provocation. For the mind, when scourged by sorrow, hath not leisure to be roused, but will groan bitterly, and weep yet more bitterly. I know that many laugh on hearing these things, but I will not cease to lament for the laughers. For the present is a time for mourning, and wailings, and lamentations, since we do many sins both in word and deed, and hell awaiteth those who commit such transgressions, and the river boiling with a roaring stream of fire, and banishment from the Kingdom, which is the most grievous thing of all. When these things then are threatened, tell me, dost thou laugh and bear thee proudly? And when thy Lord is angered and threatening, dost thou stand careless, and fearest thou not lest by this thou light for thyself the furnace to a blaze? Hearest thou not what He crieth out every day? "Ye saw Me an hungered, and gave Me no meat; thirsty, and ye gave Me no drink; depart ye into the fire prepared for the devil and his angels." (Matt. xxv.) And these things He threatened every day. "But," saith some one, "I did give Him meat." When, and for how many days? Ten or twenty? But He willeth it not merely for so much time as this, but as much as thou spendest upon earth. For the virgins also had oil, yet not sufficient for their salvation; they too lighted their lamps, yet they were shut out from the bridechamber. And with reason, since the lamps had gone out before the coming of the Bridegroom. On this account we need much oil, and abundant lovingkindness. Hear at least what the Prophet saith, "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy great mercy." (Ps. li. 1.) We therefore must so take pity upon our neighbor, according to His great mercy towards us. For such as we are towards our fellow-servants, such shall we find our Lord towards ourselves. And what kind of "mercy" is "great"? When we give not of our abundance, but of our deficiency. But if we give not even of our abundance, what hope shall there be for us? Whence shall we have deliverance from those woes? Where shall we be enabled to flee and to find salvation? For if the virgins after so many and so great toils found no comfort anywhere, who shall stand forth for us when we hear those fearful words of the Judge Himself, addressing and reproaching us, because "I was an hungered, and ye gave Me no meat; for inasmuch," It saith, "as ye did it not unto one of the least of these, ye did it not unto Me"; saying this not merely of His disciples, nor of those who have taken upon themselves the ascetic life, but of every faithful man. For such an one though he be a slave, or one of those that beg in the market-place, yet if he believeth in God, ought by right to enjoy all our good will. And if we neglect such an one when naked or hungry, we shall hear those words. With reason. For what difficult or grievous thing hath He demanded of us? What that is not of the very lightest and easiest? He saith not, "I was sick, and ye restored Me not," but, "and ye visited Me not." He saith not, "I was in prison, and ye delivered Me not," but, "and ye came not unto Me." In proportion therefore as the commands are easy, so is the punishment greater to them that disobey. For what is easier, tell me, than to walk forth and enter into a prison? And what more pleasant? For when thou seest some bound, others covered with filth, others with uncut hair and clothed in rags, others perishing with hunger, and running like dogs to your feet, others with deep ploughed sides, others now returning in chains from the market-place, who beg all day and do not collect even necessary sustenance, and yet at evening are required by those set over them to furnish that wicked and savage service; though thou be like any stone, thou wilt certainly be rendered kinder; though thou livest a soft and dissipated life, thou wilt certainly become wiser, when thou observest the nature of human affairs in other men's misfortunes; for thou wilt surely gain an idea of that fearful day, and of its varied punishments. Revolving and considering these things, thou wilt certainly cast out both wrath and pleasure, and the love of worldly things, and wilt make thy soul more calm than the calmest harbor; and thou wilt reason concerning that Judgment seat, reflecting that if among men there is so much forethought, and order, and terror, and threatenings, much more will there be with God. "For there is no power but from God." (Rom. xiii. 1.) He therefore who permitteth rulers to order these things thus, will much more do the same Himself.
[5.] And certainly were there not this fear, all would be lost, when though such punishments hang over them, there are many who go over to the side of wickedness. These things if thou wisely observe, thou wilt be more ready-minded towards alms- doing, and wilt reap much pleasure, far greater than those who come down from the theater. For they when they remove from thence are inflamed and burn with desire. Having seen those women hovering on the stage, and received from them ten thousand wounds, they will be in no better condition than a tossing sea, when the image of the faces, the gestures, the speeches, the walk, and all the rest, stand before their eyes and besiege their soul. But they who come forth from a prison will suffer nothing of this kind, but will enjoy great calm and tranquillity. For the compunction arising from the sight of the prisoners, quenches all that fire. And if a woman that is an harlot and a wanton meet a man coming forth from among the prisoners, she will work him no mischief. For becoming for the time to come, as it were, incapable of molding, he will thus not be taken by the nets of her countenance, because instead of that wanton countenance there will then be placed before his eyes the fear of the Judgment. On this account, he who had gone over every kind of luxury said, "It is better to go into the house of mourning than into the house of mirth." (Eccl. vii. 2.) And so "here" thou wilt show forth great wisdom, and "there" wilt hear those words which are worth ten thousand blessings. Let us then not neglect such a practice and occupation. For although we be not able to bring them food, nor to help them by giving money, yet shall we be able to comfort them by our words, and to raise up the drooping spirit, and to help them in many other ways by conversing with those who cast them into prison, and by making their keepers kinder, and we certainly shall effect either small or great good. But if thou sayest that the men there are neither men of condition, nor good, nor gentle, but man-slayers, tomb-breakers, cut-purses, adulterers, intemperate, and full of many wickednesses, by this again thou showest to me a pressing reason for spending time there. For we are not commanded to take pity on the good and to punish the evil, but to manifest this lovingkindness to all men. "Be ye," It saith, "like to My Father which is in heaven, for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matt. v. 45.) Do not then accuse other men's faults bitterly, nor be a severe judge, but mild and merciful. For we also, if we have not been adulterers, or tomb-breakers, or cut-purses, yet have we other transgressions which deserve infinite punishment. Perchance we have called our brother "fool," which prepares for us the pit; we have looked on women with unchastened eyes, which constitutes absolute adultery; and what is more grievous than all, we partake not worthily of the Mysteries, which maketh us guilty of the Body and Blood of Christ. Let us then not be bitter enquirers into the conduct of others, but consider our own state, so shall we desist from this inhumanity and cruelty. Besides this, it may be said that we shall there find many good men, and often men worth as much as all the city. Since even that prison-house in which Joseph was had in it many evil men, yet that just man had the care of them all, and was, with the rest, concealed as to his real character; for he was worth as much as all the land of Egypt, yet still he dwelt in the prison- house, and no one knew him of those that were within it. Thus also even now it is likely that there are many good and virtuous men, though they be not visible to all men, and the care thou takest of such as these gives thee a return for thy exertions in favor of the whole. Or if there be none such, still even in this case great is thy recompense; for thy Lord conversed not with the just only, while He avoided the unclean, but received with kindness both the Canaanitish woman, and her of Samaria, the abominable and impure; another also who was a harlot, on whose account the Jews reproached Him, He both received and healed, and allowed His feet to be washed by the tears of the polluted one, teaching us to condescend to those that are in sin, for this most of all is kindness. What sayest thou? Do robbers and tomb-breakers dwell in the prison? And, tell me, are all they just men that dwell in the city? Nay, are there not many worse even than these, robbing with greater shamelessness? For the one sort, if there be no other excuse for them, at least put before themselves the veil of solitude and darkness, and the doing these things clandestinely; but the others throw away the mask and go after their wickedness with uncovered head, being violent, grasping, and covetous. Hard it is to find a man pure from injustice.
[6.] If we do not take by violence gold, or such and such a number of acres of land, yet we bring about the same end by deceit and robbery in lesser matters, and where we are able to do so. For when in making contracts, or when we must buy or sell anything, we dispute and strive to pay less than the value, and use our utmost endeavors to have it so, is not the action robbery? Is it not theft and covetousness? Tell not me that thou hast not wrested away houses or slaves, for injustice is judged not by the measure of the things taken, but by the intention of those who commit the robbery. Since "just" and "unjust" have the same force in great and in little things; and I call cut-purses alike the man who cuts through a purse and takes the gold, and him who buying from any of the market people deducts something from the proper price; nor is he the only house- breaker who breaks through a wall and steals anything within, but that man also who corrupts justice, and takes anything from his neighbor.
Let us not then pass by our own faults, and become judges of other men's; nor let us, when it is time for lovingkindness, be searching out their wickedness; but considering what our own state was once, let us now be gentle and kind. What then was our state? Hear Paul say; "For we ourselves also were sometime foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, hateful, and hating one another" (Tit. iii. 3); and again, "We were by nature children of wrath." (Eph. ii. 3.) But God seeing us as it were confined in a prison-house, and bound with grievous chains, far more grievous than those of iron, was not ashamed of us, but came and entered the prison, and, though we deserved ten thousand punishments, both brought us out from hence, and brought us to a kingdom, and made us more glorious than the heaven, that we also might do the same according to our power. For when He saith to His disciples, "If I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another's feet; for I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you" (c. xiii.
14), He writeth this law not merely for the washing the feet, but also in all the other acts which He manifested towards us. Is it a man slayer who inhabits the prison? Yet let not us be weary in doing Him good. Is it a tomb-breaker, or an adulterer? Let us pity not his wickedness, but his calamity. But often, as I before said, one will be found there worth ten thousand; and if thou goest continually to the prisoners, thou shall not miss so great a prize. For as Abraham, by entertaining even common guests, once met with Angels, so shall we meet with great men too, if we make the action a business. And if I may make a strange assertion, he who entertains a great man is not so worthy of praise as he who receives the wretched and miserable. For the former hath, in his own life, no slight occasion of being well treated, but the other, rejected and given up by all, hath one only harbor, the pity of his benefactor; so that this most of all is pure kindness. He, moreover, who shows attention to an admired and illustrious man, doth it often for ostentation among men, but he who tends the abject and despairing, doth it only because of the command of God. Wherefore, if we make a feast, we are bidden to entertain the lame and halt, and if we do works of mercy, we are bidden to do them to the least and meanest. "For," It saith, "inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, ye have done it unto Me." (Matt. xxv. 45.) Knowing, therefore, the treasure which is laid up in that place, let us enter continually, and make it our business, and turn there our eager feelings about theaters. If thou hast nothing to contribute, contribute the comfort of thy words. For God recompenseth not only him that feedeth, but him also who goeth in. When thou enterest and arouseth the trembling and fearful soul, exhorting, succoring, promising assistance, teaching it true wisdom, thou shalt thence reap no small reward. For if thou shouldest speak in such manner outside the prison, many will even laugh, being dissipated by their excessive luxury: but those who are in adversity, having their minds humbled, shall meekly attend to thy words, and praise them, and become better men. Since even when Paul preached, the Jews often derided him, but the prisoners listened with much stillness. For nothing renders the soul so fit for heavenly wisdom as calamity and temptation, and the pressure of affliction. Considering all these things, and how much good we shall work both to those within the prison, and to ourselves, by being continually mixed up with them, let us there spend the time we used to spend in the market-place, and in unseasonable occupations, that we may both win them and gladden ourselves, and by causing God to be glorified, may obtain the everlasting blessings, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
"And it was at Jerusalem, the Feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch. Then came the Jews round about Him, and said unto Him, How long dost thou make us to doubt?"
[1.] EVERY virtue is a good thing, but most of all gentleness and meekness. This showeth us men; this maketh us to differ from wild beasts; this fitteth us to vie with Angels. Wherefore Christ continually expendeth many words about this virtue, bidding us be meek and gentle. Nor doth He merely expend words about it, but also teacheth it by His actions; at one time buffeted and bearing it, at another reproached and plotted against; yet again coming to those who plotted against Him. For those men who had called Him a demoniac, and a Samaritan and who had often desired to kill Him, and had cast stones at Him, the same surrounded and asked Him, "Art thou the Christ?" Yet not even in this case did He reject them after so many and so great plots against Him, but answered them with great gentleness.
But it is necessary rather to enquire into the whole passage from the beginning.
"It was," It saith, "at Jerusalem, the Feast of the dedication, and it was winter." This feast was a great and national one. For they celebrated with great zeal the day on which the Temple was rebuilt, on their return from their long captivity in Persia. At this feast Christ also was present, for henceforth He continually abode in Judaea, because the Passion was nigh.
"Then came the Jews round about Him, and said, How long dost thou make us to doubt?" "If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly."
He did not reply, "What enquire ye of Me? Often have ye called Me demoniac, madman, and Samaritan, and have deemed me an enemy of God, and a deceiver, and ye said but now, Thou bearest witness of thyself, thy witness is not true; how is it then that ye seek and desire to learn from Me, whose witness ye reject?" But He said nothing of the kind, although He knew that the intention with which they made the enquiry was evil. For their surrounding Him and saying, "How long dost thou make us to doubt?" seemed to proceed from a certain longing and desire of learning, but the intention with which they asked the question was corrupt and deceitful. For since His works admitted not of their slander and insolence, while they might attack His sayings by finding out in them a sense other than that in which they were spoken, they continually proposed questions, desiring to silence Hint by means of His sayings; and when they could find no fault with His. works, they wished to find a handle in His words. Therefore they said, "Tell us"; yet He had often told them. For He said to the woman of Samaria, "I Am that speak unto thee" (c. iv. 26); and to the blind man, "Thou hast both seen Him, and it is He that talketh with thee." (c. ix. 37.) And He had told them also, if not in the same, at least in other words. And indeed, had they been wise, and had they desired to enquire aright, it remained for them to confess Him by words, since by works He had often proved the point in question. But now observe their perverse and disputations temper. When He addresseth them, and instructeth them by His words, they say, "What sign showest thou us?" (c. vi. 30.) But when He giveth them proofs by His works, they say to Him, "Art thou the Christ? Tell us plainly"; when the works cry aloud, they seek words, and when the words teach, then they betake themselves to works, ever setting themselves to the contrary. But that they enquired not for the sake of learning, the end showed. For Him whom they deemed to be so worthy of credit, as to receive His witness of Himself, when He had spoken a few words they straightway stoned; so that their very surrounding and pressing upon Him was done with ill intent.
And the mode of questioning was full of much hatred. "Tell us plainly, Art thou the Christ?" Yet He spake all things openly, being ever present at their feasts, and in secret He said nothing; but they brought forward words of deceit, "How long dost thou make us to doubt?" in order that having drawn Him out, they might again find some handle against Him. For that in every case they questioned Him not in order to learn, but to find fault with His words, is clear, not from this passage only, but from many others also. Since when they came to Him and asked, "Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar or not?" (Matt. xxii. 17), when they spake about putting away a wife (Matt. xix. 3), when they enquired about her who, they said, had had seven husbands (Matt. xxii. 23), they were convicted of bringing their questions to Him, not from desire of learning, but from an evil intention. But there He rebuked them, saying, "Why tempt ye Me, ye hypocrites?" showing that He knew their secret thoughts, while here He said nothing of the kind; teaching us not always to rebuke those who plot against us, but to bear many things with meekness and gentleness.
Since then it was a sign of folly, when the works proclaimed Him aloud, to seek the witness of words, hear how He answereth them, at once hinting to them that they made these enquiries superfluously, and not for the sake of learning, and at the same time showing that He uttered a voice plainer than that by words, namely, that by works.
Ver. 25. "I told you often," He saith, "and ye believe not: the works that I do in My Father's Name, they are they that bear witness of Me."
[2.] A remark which the more tolerable among them continually made to one another; "A man that is a sinner cannot do such miracles." And again, "A devil cannot open the eyes of the blind": and, "No man can do such miracles except God be with him." (c. iii. 2.) And beholding the miracles that He did, they said, "Is not this the Christ?" Others said, "When Christ cometh, will He do greater miracles than those which this Man hath done?" (c. vii. 31.) And these very persons as many as then desired to believe on Him, saying, "What sign showest thou us, that we may see, and believe thee?" (c. vi. 30.) When then they who had not been persuaded by such great works, pretended that they should be persuaded by a bare word, He rebuketh their wickedness, saying, "If ye believe not My works, how will ye believe My words? so that your questioning is superfluous."
Ver. 26. "But," He saith, "I told you, and ye believe not, because ye are not of My sheep."
"For I on My part have fulfilled all that it behooved a Shepherd to do, and if ye follow Me not, it is not because I am not a Shepherd, but because ye are not My sheep."
Ver. 27—30. "For My sheep hear My voice, and follow Me; and I give unto them eternal life; neither can any man pluck them out of My hand. The Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father's hand. I and the Father are One."
Observe how in renouncing He exciteth them to follow Him. "Ye hear Me not," He saith, "for neither are ye sheep, but they who follow, these are of the flock." This He said, that they might strive to become sheep. Then by mentioning what they should obtain, He maketh these men jealous, so as to rouse them, and cause them to desire such things.
"What then? Is it through the power of the Father that no man plucketh them away, and hast thou no strength, but art too weak to guard them?" By no means. And in order that thou mayest learn that the expression, "The Father which gave them to Me," is used on their account, that they might not again call Him an enemy of God, therefore, after asserting that, "No man plucketh them out of My hand," He proceedeth to show, that His hand and the Father's is One. Since had not this been so, it would have been natural for Him to say, "The Father which gave them to Me is greater than all, and no man can pluck them out of My hand." But He said not so, but, "out of My Father's hand." Then that thou mayest not suppose that He indeed is weak, but that the sheep are in safety through the power of the Father, He addeth, "I and the Father are One." As though He had said "I did not assert that on account of the Father no man plucketh them away, as though I were too weak to keep the sheep. For I and the Father are One." Speaking here with reference to Power, for concerning this was all His discourse; and if the power be the same, it is clear that the Essence is also. And when the Jews used ten thousand means, plotting and casting men out of their synagogues, He telleth them that all their contrivances are useless and vain; "For the sheep are in My Father's hand"; as the Prophet saith, "Upon My hand I have pictured thy walls." (Isa. xlix. 16.) Then to show that the hand is One, He sometimes saith that it is His own, sometimes the Father's. But when thou hearest the word "hand," do not understand anything material, but the power, the authority. Again, if it was on this account that no one could pluck away the sheep, because the Father gave Him power, it would have been superfluous to say what follows, "I and the Father are One." Since were He inferior to Him, this would have been a very daring saying, for it declares nothing else than an equality of power; of which the Jews were conscious, and took up stones to cast at Him. (Ver. 31.) Yet not even so did He remove this opinion and suspicion; though if their suspicion were erroneous, He ought to have set them right, and to have said, "Wherefore do ye these things? I spake not thus to testify that my power and the Father's are equal"; but now He doth quite the contrary, and confirmeth their suspicion, and clencheth it, and that too when they were exasperated. For He maketh no excuse for what had been said, as though it had been said ill, but rebuketh them for not entertaining a right opinion concerning Him. For when they said,
Ver. 33—36. "For a good work we stone thee not, but for blasphemy; and because that thou being a man makest thyself God"; hear His answer; "If the Scripture called them gods unto whom the word of God came, how say ye that I blaspheme, because I said, I am the Son of God?"
What He saith is of this kind: "If those who have received this honor by grace, are not found fault with for calling themselves gods, how can He who hath this by nature deserve to be rebuked?" Yet He spake not so, but proved it at a later time, having first relaxed and yielded somewhat in His discourse, and said, "Whom the Father hath sanctified and sent." And when He had softened their anger, He bringeth forward the plain assertion. For a while, that His speech might be received, He spoke in a humbler strain, but afterwards He raised it higher, saying,
Ver. 37, 38. "If I do not the works of My Father, believe Me not; but if I do, though ye believe not Me, believe the works."
Seest thou how He proveth what I said, that He is in nothing inferior to the Father, but in every way equal to Him? For since it was impossible to see His Essence, from the equality and sameness of the works He affordeth a proof of unvaryingness as to Power. And what, tell me, shall we believe?
[3.] "That I am in the Father, and the Father in Me."
"For I am nothing other than what the Father is, yet still Son; He nothing other than what I am, yet still Father. And if any man know Me, he knoweth the Father, and if he knoweth the Father, he hath learnt also the Son." Now were the power inferior, then also what relateth to the knowledge would be false, for it is not possible to become acquainted with one substance or power by means of another.
Ver. 39—41. "Therefore they sought again to take Him, but He escaped out of their hands, and went away again beyond Jordan, into the place where John at first baptized. And many resorted unto Him, and said, John did no miracle, but all things that John spake of this man were true."
When He hath uttered anything great and sublime, He quickly retireth, giving way to their anger, so that the passion may abate and cease through His absence. And thus He acted at that time. But wherefore doth the Evangelist mention the place? That thou mayest learn that He went there to remind them of the things there done and said by John, and of his testimony; at least when they came there, they straightway remembered John. Wherefore also they said, "John indeed did no miracle," since how did it follow that they should add this, unless the place had brought the Baptist to their memory, and they had come to remember his testimony. And observe how they form incontrovertible syllogisms. "John indeed did no miracle," "but this man doth," saith some one; "hence therefore his superiority is shown. If therefore men believed him who did no miracles, much more must they believe this man." Then, since it was John who bore the witness, lest his having done no miracle might seem to prove him unworthy of being a witness, they added, "Yet if he did no miracle, still he spake all things truly concerning this man"; no longer proving Christ to be trustworthy by means of John, but John to be so by what Christ had done.
Ver. 42. "Many therefore believed on Him." There were many things that attracted them. They remembered the words which John had spoken, calling Christ "mightier than himself," and "light," and "life," and "truth," and all the rest. They remembered the Voice which came down from heaven, and the Spirit which appeared in the shape of a dove, and pointed Him out to all; and with this they recollected the demonstration afforded by the miracles, looking to which they were for the future established. "For," saith some one, "if it was fight that we should believe John, much more ought we to believe this man; if him without miracles, much more this man, who besides the testimony of John, hath also the proof from miracles." Seest thou how much the abiding in this place, and the being freed from the presence of evil men, profiled them? wherefore Jesus continually leadeth and draweth them away from the company of those persons; as also He seemeth to have done under the old Covenant, forming and ordering the Jews in all points, in the desert, at a distance from the Egyptians.
And this He now adviseth us also to do, bidding us avoid public places, and tumults, and disturbances, and pray peacefully in the chamber. For the vessel which is free from confusion, sails with a fair wind, and the soul which is separated from worldly matters rests in harbor. Wherefore women ought to have more true wisdom than men, because they are for the most part riveted to keeping at home. So, for instance, Jacob was a plain man, because he dwelt at home, and was free from the bustle of public life; for not without a cause hath Scripture put this, when It saith, "dwelling in a house." (Gen. xxv. 27.) "But," saith some woman, "even in a house there is great confusion." Yes, when thou wilt have it so, and bringest about thyself a crowd of cares. For the man who spends his time in the midst of the market-places and courts of justice is overwhelmed, as if by waves, by external troubles; but the women who sits in her house as in some school of true wisdom, and collects her thoughts within herself, will be enabled to apply herself to prayers, and readings, and other heavenly wisdom. And as they who dwell in deserts have none to disturb them, so she being continually within can enjoy a perpetual calm. Nor even if at any time she need to go forth, is there then any cause for confusion. For the necessary occasions for a women to leave her house are, either for the purpose of coming hither, or when the body need to be cleansed in the bath; but for the most part she sits at home, and it is possible for her both to be herself truly wise, and receiving her husband when agitated to calm and compose him, to abate the excess and fierceness of his thoughts, and so to send him forth again, having put off all the mischiefs which he collected from the market-place, and carrying with him whatever good he learnt at home. For nothing, nothing is more powerful than a pious and sensible women to bring a man into proper order, and to mould his soul as she will. For he will not endure friends, or teachers, or rulers, as he will his partner advising and counseling him, since the advice carries even some pleasure with it, because she who gives the counsel is greatly loved. I could tell of many hard and disobedient men who have been softened in this way. For she who shares his table, his bed, and his embraces, his words and secrets, his comings in and goings out, and many other things, who is entirely given up and joined to him, as it is likely that a body would be joined to a head, if she happen to be discreet and well attuned, will go beyond and excel all others in the management of her husband.
[4.] Wherefore I exhort women to make this their employment, and to give fitting counsel. For as they have great power for good, so have they also for evil. A women destroyed Absalom, a woman destroyed Amnon, a woman was like to have destroyed Job, a woman rescued Nabal from the slaughter. Women have preserved whole nations; for Deborah and Judith exhibited successes worthy of men; so also do ten thousand other women. Wherefore Paul saith, "For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shall save thy husband?" (1 Cor, vii. 16.) And in those times we see Persis and Mary and Priscilla taking part in the labors of the Apostles (Rom. 16); whom we also needs must imitate, and not by words only, but also by actions, bring into order him that dwelleth with us. But how shall we instruct him by our actions? When he sees that thou art not evilly disposed, not fond of expense or ornament, not demanding extravagant supplies of money, but content with what thou hast, then will he endure thee counseling him. But if thou art wise in word, and in actions doest the contrary, he will condemn thee for very foolish talking. But when together with words thou affordest him also instruction by thy works, then will he admit thee and obey thee the more readily; as when thou desirest not gold, nor pearls, nor costly clothing, but instead of these, modesty, sobriety, kindness; when thou exhibitest these virtues on thy part and requirest them on his. For if thou must needs do somewhat to please thy husband, thou shouldest adorn thy soul, not adorn and so spoil thy person. The gold which thou puttest about thee will not make thee so lovely and desirable to him, as modesty and kindness towards himself, and a readiness to die for thy partner; these things most subdue men. Indeed, that splendor of apparel even displeases him, as straitening his means, and causing him much expense and care; but those things which I have named will rivet a husband to a wife; for kindness and friendship and love cause no cares, give rise to no expense, but quite the contrary. That outward adornment becomes palling by use, but that of the soul blooms day by day, and kindles a stronger flame. So that if thou wouldest please thy husband. adorn thy soul with modesty, piety, and management of the house. These things both subdue him more, and never cease. Age destroys not this adornment, sickness wastes it not. The adornment of the body length of time is wont to undo, sickness and many other things to waste, but what relates to the soul is above all this. That adornment causes envy, and kindles jealousy, but this is pure from disease, and free from all vainglory. Thus will matters at home be easier, and your income without trouble, when the gold is not laid on about your body or encircling your arms, but passes on to necessary uses, such as the feeding of servants, the necessary care of children, and other useful purposes. But if this be not the case, if the (wife's) face be covered with ornaments, while the (husband's) heart is pressed by anxiety, what profit, what kind of advantage is there? The one being grieved allows not the marvelous beauty of the other to be seen. For ye know, ye know that though a man see the most beautiful of all women, he cannot feel pleasure at the sight while his soul is sorrowful, because in order to feel pleasure a man must first rejoice and be glad. And when all his gold is heaped together to adorn a woman's body, while there is distress in his dwelling, her partner can have no pleasure. So that if we desire to be agreeable to our husbands, let us give them pleasure; and we shall give them pleasure, if we remove our ornaments and fineries. For all these things at the actual time of marriage appear to afford some delight, but this afterwards fades by time. Since if when the heaven is so beautiful, and the sun, to which thou canst not name any body that is equal, so bright, we admire them less from habitually seeing them, how shall we admire a body tricked out with gewgaws? These things I say, desiring that you should be adorned with that wholesome adornment which Paul enjoined; "Not with gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works." (1 Tim. ii. 9, 10.) But dost thou wish to please strangers, and to be praised by them? Then assuredly this is not the desire of a modest woman. However, if thou wishest it, by doing as I have said, thou wilt have strangers also to love thee much, and to praise thy modesty. For the woman who adorns her person no virtuous and sober person will praise, but the intemperate and lascivious; nay, rather neither will these praise her, but will even speak vilely of her, having their eyes inflamed by the wantonness displayed about her; but the other all will approve, both the one sort and the other, because they receive no harm from her, but even instruction in heavenly wisdom. And great shall be her praise from men, and great her reward with God. After such adornment then let us strive, that we may live here without fear, and may obtain the blessings which are to come; which may we all obtain through the grace and loving-kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in 1867. (PNPF I/XIV, Schaff). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.