I have commented on the Passion ( Matthew 27,28.), I shall therefore only briefly touch on those points which are related by S. John only.
Ver1.—When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over she brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which He entered and His disciples. Jesus had now finished that glowing, and long discourse, in which He bade His disciples farewell, and was hastening to His Passion and Death. In fact, He offered Himself to it, voluntarily, by going into the garden, and there waiting for Judas and the Jews, by whom He knew He was to be taken. He gave thus an example of boldness of mind, by first choosing for Himself the very spot in which He was about to contend with death, sin, and the devil, as though sure of victory and triumph. It is hence inferred that Jesus, as soon as He had finished His discourse, crossed the Brook, and that the dispute of the Apostles about precedence ( Luke 22:24) took place, not after this discourse (as S. Augustine thinks) but before it. When the hymn was sung is uncertain, for S. Matthew seems to intimate that it was sung at the end of the discourse ( Matthew 26:30). But reason seems to suggest that it was sung before it, as being a giving of thanks which was sung immediately after the supper, and the Eucharist, and before this discourse. So Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euthymius on Matt. xxvi., and Ribera on this passage.
He went forth. From the house, where He began and finished the whole discourse. But F. Lucas and others think that the latter part of the discourse (from xiv31) was spoken after He had left the house on the way to the Brook Cedron. But then "went forth" must be interpreted "passed over."
Over the Brook Cedron. "The torrent" flowing in winter, dry in summer. The torrent signifies the violence of the attack made on Christ at His Passion. And He passed through the torrent, to signify that He was going into a torrent of sufferings, says Jansenius, as the Psalm has it, "He will drink of the Brook in the way" ( Psalm 110:7). And hence some think that Jesus was brought back through the Brook, and thrown into it (see Adricom. Numbers 207), as in Psalm 69
Cedron. So called from the cedars growing there. S. Thomas and the Syriac and Arabic version. But it is a Hebrew word signifying darkness. See S. Jerome in Locis Hebr. It was dark as being a shady place, or from the blackness of the waters, or from the smoke from the burning of bodies. Cedron is a singular, and not a plural, word. It lies between Jerusalem and Mount Olivet, and runs through the valley of Jehosaphat. It was the common burial-place, and the Turks are now buried there. And it is in this valley that all men will be gathered together at the last judgment. St. John mentions it, (1.) To establish historical accuracy. (2.) As it was figurative, for as David, fleeing from Absalom, crossed the Brook Cedron, so did Christ cross the same Brook, not indeed as flying from the Jews, but as going forth to meet them. (3.) To show that He was going to expiate, not His own sins, but those of Adam and his posterity, however monstrous, such as those committed in this valley, where parents burnt their children alive in honour of Moloch. (4.) That He might turn the place of His suffering into one of triumph: For it was from the neighbouring Mount Olivet that He rose in triumph after His Resurrection. And when He returns to judge the world, it is there that He will be seated as judge, and recompense all men according to their deserts.
Where was a garden. Because Adam sinned in a garden, Christ began to expiate His sin in a garden. "For all things had to revert to their pristine state," says S. Cyril. S. Chrysostom adds, "For He tarries in the garden, as in a prison." "To save trouble," says Theophylact, "to the Jews who were seeking Him;" adding also another reason, "for He used to seek solitary places which gender silence," that we should do the same. (See Matt. xxvi.)
Symbolically. Observe that Christ first went into the desert, afterwards into the corn-fields, and at last into the garden, to teach us to go into the harvest-fields of preaching, and thence to the Passion and the Cross. Hear S. Ambrose in Luc. lib. iv. "Behold," says he, "by what ways we are brought back to paradise. Christ is first in the desert. He guides, He instructs, He informs, He exercises man. He anoints him with spiritual oil. When He sees that he is stronger He leads him through corn-fields and fruitful places (as when the Jews complained that His disciples plucked the ears of corn on the Sabbath day), for He hid then placed the Apostles in cultivated ground, and in a profitable work. And afterwards He planted them in paradise, at the time of His Passion, when He crossed the Brook Cedron, where was a garden."
Ver4.—Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon Him (the word "knowing" is added, that no one should suppose that He had fallen without knowing it, and unwillingly, into the hands of the Jews, but that He knowingly and willingly gave Himself up to them, and also went forward to meet them), went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye? Judas had already kissed Jesus, and had thus given a sign to the band that they should take Him. But Jesus did not wish to be taken when that sign was given, lest He should seem to be taken against His will. He then by the almighty power of His Godhead held back the soldiers, and fixed them to the spot, so that when the sign was given they did not dare to rush forward to take Him, and indeed could not. Christ accordingly boldly stepped forward of His accord to meet them, and challenged them, as it were, to seize Him, by asking, Whom seek ye?
Ver5.—They answered Him, Jesus of Nazareth. They said not, "We seek Thee," but they say, "We seek Jesus." And therefore they did not recognise Him, though pointed out by the traitor"s kiss (because Jesus had smitten them with blindness), and though the officers of the chief Priests had often seen and heard Him before this. So S. Chrysostom says: "Thou seest His irresistible power, that standing in the midst of them He smote them with blindness." And S. Cyril, "His Divine Power shone forth, for though He put Himself in their way, He was not recognised by those who were seeking Him."
And Judas also, who betrayed Him, stood with them. Judas had preceded the soldiers in order to betray Jesus, but finding that they did not rush forward to take Him, he became conscious of his perfidy, and turned back in obstinate impenitence, not to the disciples, but to the soldiers, in order to be defended by them against Jesus, whose power he feared, and was therefore struck to the ground with them. So S. Augustine. But Euthymius and Ribera think that Judas came up to Christ and kissed Him, after he had been struck down. This is probable, and only proves the greater shamelessness of Judas.
As soon then as He had said unto them, I am He, they went backward. They did not fall forward on their breasts, lest the power which threw them down should seem to have come from behind, but they fell backward, to make it plain that they were thrown down by the power of Christ"s words, and that they could not bear to behold His face or hear His words. For the words "I am" reminded them of what God said to Moses ( Exodus 3:14) "I am that I am: this is My Name;" and I can annihilate you if I will. And therefore ye are those who are not: for all your being ye receive not from yourselves, but directly from Me. The tropological and allegorical meaning I have given Matthew 26:50.
Ver7.—If therefore ye seek Me, let these go their way. Why was this? (1.) That He might by His own death alone redeem the world. "He removed His disciples out of danger," says S. Cyril, "as knowing that the contest and the work of our salvation pertained to Him alone, as being the work of a ruler and not of one under him." (2.) Because He destined the Apostles to succeed Him, and spread His truth over the world after His death and Resurrection. (3.) To show His great love and care for them, as a shepherd careth for his sheep, as S. John suggests in the next verse.
Ver9.—That the saying might be fulfilled, which He spake, 0f them which Thou gavest Me have I lost none, i.e., of the eleven Apostles which Thou gavest Me: for Judas, as the son of perdition, was not given Him absolutely of the Father. But of what loss and death does Christ here speak: of the soul or of the body? Some say one, some another. But I say, both of body and soul. For they would have perished in the body if they had been seized and slain together with Jesus, more especially because Peter had withstood them and had wounded Malchus. They would have also perished in their souls, because they would have denied Christ in their weakness, and from fear of the threats of the Jews, just as Peter denied Him. And so, when killed by the Jews they would have perished both in body and soul. For they would have died in the mortal sin of denial. So Rupertus, Cajetan, Ribera, F. Lucas, Toletus, and others.
Ver10.—But there was a servant named Malchus. He mentions the name of the servant to signify the mystery. For Malchus is the same as "king." But as the servant of the High Priest he signifies the Jewish people, which was formerly a kingly and free power, but afterwards became subject to the Priesthood, which burdened it with its traditions and ceremonies, and also preyed upon it. See Matt. xxiii. Now this man, when S. Peter and the Apostles preached the Gospel, lost his right ear on account of his unbelief and hatred of Christ: that is, he became deaf to the Gospel, and to those things which were necessary to salvation, till the Lord converted him, and healed his ear. So S. Cyril (in loc.), S. Ambrose on Luke 22:5-51., and S. Jerome on Matthew 26:51-52 S. Ambrose adds that S. Peter wished to imitate the zeal of Phinehas, who slew a prince of Israel who committed fornication with the daughters of Moab: and thus obtained the High Priesthood (Num. xxv.) The love therefore of S. Peter, and his zeal for Christ, lessened his fault. And yet he sinned in drawing his sword without consulting Christ, more especially when he had heard just before from His own lips, that He was going of His own accord to His Passion and Death.
Ver12.—Bound Him. By Whom they should have wished to be set free. And maybe they were of the number of those who, when afterwards set free by Him, said, "Thou hast burst my bonds in sunder" ( Psalm 116:14), says S. Augustine. Christ, had He so willed, would have broken all the bonds of the Jews more easily than Samson burst the hempen bonds of Delilah ( Judges 15:9). But He would not—(1.) In order to expiate the sin of Adam which he committed with His hands. For since the first Adam too readily stretched forth his hands to the forbidden fruit, Christ the second Adam was willing to be bound in order to expiate the sins of Adam and his posterity, which are most commonly wrought with the hands.
(2.) To fulfil the type: for Isaac, who was a type of Christ, was bound when about to be offered by Abraham. For the victims were bound, lest they should struggle against being offered (Gen. xxii9).
(3.) That by having taken on Him these bonds from love of us, He might bind us with the cords of love, as is said (Hos. xi4), "I will draw them with cords of a man, with bands of love."
Moreover, it is clear that the Jews firmly and cruelly bound Christ, both from the intense hatred with which they, and their masters the Chief Priests, burnt against Him, as wishing to avenge their ignominious fall which they had suffered at His hands, and the violence of St. Peter towards Malchus and themselves. See notes on Matt. xxv55.
Ver13.—And they led Him away to Annas first, for he was father-in-law to Caiaphas, which was the High Priest that same year. But why did Judas and the Jews lead Him first to Annas, and not to Caiaphas, when He had to be judged by Caiaphas (as High Priest), and not by Annas?
I answer (1.) To pay honour to Annas, as being the elder, and father-in-law to Caiaphas, whom "Caiaphas honoured as father," says Euthymius, and by whose counsel he governed the people. (2.) The house of Annas was in the way to that of Caiaphas. (3.) Because Annas especially wished and arranged for the seizure of Christ. And hence the soldiers lead Him as it were in triumph, in order to delight him, and that they, in return, themselves might obtain some reward for so doing. (4.) To summon Annas (who on the previous evening had gone to his own house, on account of the cold) to attend the council which was about to be held the next morning at the house of Caiaphas to try Jesus. (5.) And specially, because Annas had promised Judas the reward of his betrayal, Judas therefore takes Jesus to his house, to obtain from him the thirty pieces he had promised, and, as S. Cyril thinks, he then actually received. And this is inferred from the fact that in the first agreement with the Rulers, the money was only promised, not paid (see Matthew 26:15). Judas therefore received them this very night at the house of Annas, and shortly afterwards, in sorrow at what he had done, threw them down in the temple ( Matthew 27:3). For he could not receive them at the house of Caiaphas, who was so engaged in finding false witnesses, in examining Christ, in summoning the Council, &c., that he had no time to treat with Judas. And Judas does not appear to have gone with the soldiers further than to the house of Annas, or to have entered the house of Caiaphas. For if Judas had been there, Peter would not have gone in, for fear of Judas betraying him. For if Judas had been present in the house of Caiaphas when Peter thrice denied Christ, he would certainly have either publicly convicted him of falsehood, or have secretly informed the servants that Peter was a fellow-disciple of Christ, in order that they might apprehend him.
The High Priest that same year. Because the Roman Governors often changed the High Priests every year, and created new ones; though it was peculiar to Pilate that he did not remove Caiaphas whom he found High Priest: who accordingly held the High Priesthood for the whole three years of Christ"s ministry.
Ver22.—One of the servants struck Jesus. S. Augustine (in loc.) having enumerated many punishments which a slave deserved, says, "But which of these could He not have commanded by His power (since the world was made by Him), unless He preferred to teach us patience by which the world is overcome?" See on Matthew 26:59. Moreover, Christ turned not the other cheek, lest He should appear to admit His fault. As S. Paul, too, when smitten unjustly said, in his zeal for justice, "God shall smite thee, thou whited wall" ( Acts 23:3). "He offered not," says S. Augustine, "His other cheek to the smiter, but made His whole Body ready for being nailed to the Cross, in order to confirm His own teaching, by His example" ( Matthew 5:39).
Ver24.—Now Annas sent Him bound unto Caiaphas the High Priest. The Syriac and Arabic versions, as also S. Cyril, read "had sent Him," and so too English version. But it seems as if S. John had forgotten to mention the sending of Jesus from Annas to Caiaphas, and here inserted it out of place, whereas it should come in after ver13.
Ver28.—Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the prætorium. To the house and hall of Pilate; for he was Prætor, that is, both civil and criminal judge of Judæa. S. Augustine reads (inaccurately) unto Caiaphas into the Prætorium, and therefore was obliged to say either that Caiaphas came to the house of Pilate, or that they both lived in the same house, though the contrary is plain from the Gospel.
Every magistrate who had an army under him, was called Prtor, a preundo. And the place in which he held trials was called Prtorium; a place in which criminals were tried, for which purpose Jesus was brought thither by the Chief Priests.
But they themselves entered not into the judgment-hall lest they should be defiled (by entering the house of the heathen governor), but that they might (as pure and clean) eat the Passover. The Passover does not here mean the Paschal Lamb (as SS. Chrysostom and Cyril suppose), for that they had eaten the day before; but the Paschal victims, which were sacrificed during the whole seven days, which could be eaten only by those who were clean. See here the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, who wished to appear most religious, though in truth utterly wicked and the murderers of Christ. S. Augustine exclaims, "0 impious and foolish blindness! for forsooth they would be defiled by a dwelling which was another"s, and not be defiled by a crime which was their own." See S. Cyril.
Ver31.—It is not lawful for us to put any one to death. For the Romans, it appears, had deprived the Jews, as a conquered people, of the power of capital punishment and claimed it for themselves. This is the meaning of the words. See Rupertus, S. Thomas, Jansen, Suarez, and others. You will say the Jews stoned S. Stephen, and threw down S. James headlong. But this was not in course of law, but in a popular tumult. Josephus (Ant. xx8, al16) says that Annas was deposed from his office by the Roman governor for ordering S. James to be killed, and ( Acts 18) the Jews did not dare to kill Paul, but handed him over to the Proconsul Gallio. But you will urge that Pilate had already given the Chief Priests liberty to judge and to put Him to death, when he said, "Take ye Him and judge Him according to your law." I answer, that they could have done so, but were unwilling to accept his offer. They said, as it were, in their minds, Ye, Romans have taken away from us altogether the power of the sword. We therefore do not wish to exercise it in this particular case. Either restore us this power absolutely, or else take your part in the deed. This they said as wishing Jesus to suffer the most ignominious death, that of crucifixion as a seditious person, and aiming at kingly power. And they wished to transfer from themselves to Pilate the unpopularity of His death. For they feared they should be stoned by the people, who were in favour of Jesus, or else be assailed by their revilings.
Others reply (as S. Augustine and S. Cyril, and Suarez after them, par iii. Qust. lxvii. art4), that it was not lawful for the Jews to put Him to death at the Passover (being a solemn feast), but that it was lawful at other times. But Ribera replies, that it was specially the practice of the sect of the Pharisees not to condemn any one to death (see Josephus Ben-Gorion, Hist. Jude 4:6). They said therefore, "It is not lawful for us," under the cloak of religion. For many, and the chief of those who aimed at the death of Christ, were Pharisees. And because they had authority with the people, others followed their lead.
Ver32.—That the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled which He spake signifying by what death He should die, viz. that He was to be delivered up to the Gentiles, and to be crucified by them. See John 12:32 and Matthew 20:18.
Ver33.—Then Pilate entered into the judgment-hall gain. He had gone out, to hear the charges which the Jews brought against Jesus, and then came back again to examine Him.
And said unto Him, Art Thou the King of the Jews? It appears from Luke 23:2, that when the Chief Priests saw that they could not move Pilate by their mere authority to condemn Jesus, they brought against Him the charge of perverting the nation, of forbidding to pay tribute to Csar. Pilate caught at this last charge, and put this question. See notes on Matt. xxvii11.
Ver37.—Thou sayest that I am a King, i.e., I am in truth the King of the Jews, to rule in the faithful by faith and grace, and bring them to My heavenly Kingdom.
To this end was I born, and for this cause I came into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. To evangelical truth, which mainly consists in these things—(1.) In the true knowledge of God, namely, that He is One in Essence, and threefold in Person.
For every being is true, that is a true and not an imaginary thing, and is true in itself. Wherefore God, who is Very Being (I am that I am) is also truth, and good itself. Because His essential Being is Truth and Goodness. Again, the Son who proceedeth from the Father, as His Word, is Truth Itself, not merely of existence but of mind. Whence S. Augustine says, when Jesus bears witness to the truth, He bears witness to Himself, for He Himself is truth.
(2.) In the knowledge of the Incarnation; namely, to know that the Son was sent into the world in the flesh, that He might save the world, and that no one can be saved, except by faith in Him (see John xvii3).
(3.) In the knowledge of true blessedness: viz., that it consists not in wealth, honours, &c., but in the kingdom of heaven, i.e. in the vision and possession of God. For the sum of Christ"s preaching was, "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" ( Matthew 3:2).
Christ says that He was born to bear witness to the Truth. (1.) To keep Pilate from wondering that He owned Himself to be a King, for it was but speaking the truth. (2.) That Pilate might learn the innocence and candour of Jesus; for in this truth consists. (3.) To remind him of the justice with which he ought to decide His cause, and that he should not be so moved by the false charges and clamours of the Chief Priests, so as to condemn Him against truth and justice.
Every one that is of the truth heareth My voice. Those, i.e., who are studious and desirous of the truth; who earnestly and with their whole heart seek the Truth, i.e., the true God and the true Messiah, true happiness and salvation. And who when they have found it embrace it before all things beside. They are opposed to those who are "of contention" (Rom. ii8), who, like the philosophers of that time, are ever striving to contend, dispute, and argue. To be, then, "of the truth" is the same as being "of God." For the Son of God is the Son of the Truth; for God is truth, according to John 8:47, "He that is of God heareth God"s words. Ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God." Because, though ye are "of God" by creation, yet ye are not "of Him" by election, faith, and grace. "He commended," says S. Augustine (in loc.) "that grace which calls according to His purpose." For he that hath received his testimony (the testimony of the Baptist) "hath set to his seal that God is true" ( John 3:33). And how true it is, is shown by the statements of enemies. For Josephus (Antiq. xiv8) writes, "At that time lived a wise man called Jesus, if indeed it is allowable to call Him a man, for He performed wonderful works, and taught those who willingly received the truth."
Christ tacitly answers Pilate"s objection, viz. "If Thou bearest witness to the truth, why do the Scribes and Pharisees, who profess the truth, hear Thee not—nay more, persecute Thee even to the death?" He answers, "Because they themselves are not of the truth, but of a lie. For they follow the false opinions of wealth, honours, &c., which the devil suggests to them." See John 8:44.
Ver38.—Pilate saith unto Him, What is truth? Pilate supposed Christ to be a philosopher or prophet, who speculated about truth. And therefore he asked Him what that truth was to which He was born to bear witness. But this was not much to the point which he was aiming at, viz., the deliverance of Jesus, who was a grave, wise, and innocent man. And therefore he thought on a very fitting means for His deliverance. For he was about to set free one at the feast; and therefore compared Jesus and Barabbas, in order that the Jews should rather ask for Jesus than Barabbas. He therefore rushed out to propose it to them.
Symbolically. What is truth? S. Augustine answers (in Sententi, 386), "Truth is God Himself, who is the primal source of life, and the primal essence, as He is the highest wisdom. For He is that unchangeable truth which is rightly termed "the law of all arts, and the art of the Almighty Artificer."" And also (Epist. ix.), "The truth held by Christians is incomparably more beautiful than Helen of Greece. For our martyrs contended more boldly in its behalf against this Sodom of ours, than these heroes fought for her against Troy." Nay, Christ Himself died as the first martyr for the truth.
What is truth? Hear Lactantius (de Ira Dei, cap. ii.) pointing out its three steps. (1.) The first is to know what religions are false, and to cast aside the impious worship of gods made by man"s hands. (2.) To understand that there is one supreme God, whose power and providence created the world at the first, and governed it afterwards. (3.) To recognise His minister and messenger and delegate to man. By whose teaching we shall be set free from the error in which we were entangled, that being fashioned for the worship of the true God we might learn righteousness.
What is truth? "I am the way, the Truth, and the life." (John xiv.)
What is truth? It is the very highest good, says S. Basil in Antonius, surnamed Melissa.*;
What is truth? It is God, says S. Dionysius, inasmuch as He is in His nature one only, and not many. For the truth is one—falsehood is manifold.
What is truth? It is the faculty which brings to the light things which are shrouded in darkness, says Philo.
What is truth? The mightiest of all things, says Nazianzen (Orat. xiii.)
What is truth? It is a firm apprehension of an object in the mind, says S. Chrysostom. Hence the saying of Zorobabel, 3Esdr3., "A king is strong, wine is strong, but truth is strongest of all." And chap iv36, "All the earth invokes truth, heaven also blesses it, and all things are moved by, and tremble at it;" and vcr40, "There is no iniquity in its judgment, but strength and sovereignty and power, and the majesty of all ages. Blessed be the God of truth." Accordingly, Alphonso King of Arragon says, "Truth ought to be innate in all men. But it ought to be the chief ornament of kings, so that a single word of a prince ought to be of as great weight for settling the truth as the oath of private men." (See Panormitan. de Gentis Alphonsi, lib1.) Hence the Jewish High Priest bore written on his breastplate (rationali) Urim and Thummim. Exodus 28:30.
The Gentiles saw this in shadow (Stobus, Serm. xi.), and Menander says, Truth is a citizen of heaven, and alone enjoys converse with the gods.
Plato used to term "Truth" a most sweet mode of speech. Iamblicus speaks of it as "conversant with the gods and their purity of action." schines, "So mighty is truth, that it transcends all human thought." Plato again (de Legg. v.), "Truth is the guide to all good both in gods and men. Every one who would hereafter be good and happy ought to have a share in it, in order to live as long as he can a life of truthfulness." Trismegistus, "Truth exists only in eternal subsistences; and those subsistences are themselves true. All things therefore on earth are not truth itself, but merely its imitations and shadows. Truth is the most perfect virtue and the very highest good, which is neither disquieted with matter, nor encompassed with a body, but is pure, conspicuous, august, unchangeable, and unalterable good." Plutarch (in Antonius, cap. xxi.) says, "equality is tested by a balance, but truth by reasons of philosophy." And Evagrius (ibid.), "To keep back the truth is to bury gold." And Democrittis, "Piety should be openly declared, and truth stedfastly defended." And Epictetus, "Nothing should be counted more precious than truth, not even friendship, as being under the influence of our feelings, which hinder what is just, and cast it into the shade." Whence the saying, "Plato is dear, but truth is dearer:" and also, "Truth is an eternal and undying thing, for it bestows not a beauty which will gradually fade, nor does it deprive us of that confidence which arises from justice. But it sets forth those things which are just and rightful, refuting and distinguishing from them those which are unjust." Demosthenes was asked, "What should men have which is like God?" and he answered, "To act kindly, and to love the truth." (Val. Max. viii.)
Pythagoras used to say, "The most gracious gifts bestowed by God on man, were to embrace the truth, and to devote oneself to acts of kindness; for both these can be compared with the actions of the immortal gods." (lian, Var. Hist. lib. xii.)
*Cornelius says, "In Melissa," as though it were the name of a book. Antonius, a Greek monk, was called Melissa from the character of his sermons. The book from which these extracts are given is entitled "Loci communes de Virtutibus et Vitiis." He lived in c1140. See Cave, Hist. Lit. vol. ii. p219. (Return to the place.)
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Lapide, Cornelius. "Commentary on John 18". The Great Biblical Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany