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After these things, &c . Observe, John here omits many things which Christ did in Galilee, but which Matthew records from the 4th to the 12th chapter of his Gospel. For what Matthew relates in his 12th chapter concerning the disciples plucking the ears of corn took place after the following feast, as will appear presently.
A feast. SS. Chrysostom, Cyril, and others think that this was the Feast of Pentecost. With more probability, S. Irenæus ( lib. 2, c . 39), Ruperti, and others, think it was the Passover. They show this (1.) Because in chap. iv., ver. 35, Jesus said there were still four months unto harvest. That therefore must have been before the Passover: thus the Passover must have been the first great subsequent feast.
2. Because the Passover was the feast of feasts. When therefore it is said absolutely, there was a feast, the Passover, which was the feast par excellence, is to be understood.
3. Because Christ after His baptism preached for three years and a half, according to the common consent of divines. It follows from this that there ought to be notices in the Gospels of four Passovers, which is the case. The first is mentioned in John 2:13 ; the second in this place; the third in John 6:4 ; the fourth, just before His death, xix. 14. But if the feast mentioned in this 5th chapter were not the Passover, we could only gather the mention of three by S. John.
Here then comes to a close the account of the first year and three months of Christ's ministry, that is to say, from January 6, when He was baptized, until this second Passover, which was kept in Nisan, or March. Ver. 2. Now there is . . . sheep-market : Vulgate , Probatica. The pool took its name both because it was nigh the gate adjacent to the Temple, through which the flocks of sheep for the sacrifices were driven, and also because the sheep, which were offered to God every morning and evening in the Temple, were there gathered together and washed.
A pool : i.e. a place which contained fishes, or at least might have held them. The Greek is κολυμβήθζα , a place to swim in, because fishes, or even men, might swim in it. The Vulgate has piscina. This poo1 was constructed by Solomon for the service of the Temple; hence it is called by Josephus ( Bell. Jude 1:6; Jude 1:6 : 6) Solomon's Pool. In it the Nethinims washed the victims which they handed over to the priests to be offered in the Temple.
Some Greek codices instead of pool read πύλη , a Porch, or gate, but S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, Cyril, Euthymius, S. Jerome, and others passim, read κολυμβήθζα , i.e., a pool. The Syriac has a baptistery, or font.
Bethsaida : so read the Vulgate, and among the Greeks SS. Chrysostom and Cyril. And appositely, for Bethsaida means in Hebrew a house, i.e., a place of hunting, or fishing. And this is the signification of the Greek κολυμβήθζα , a place for fish to swim in. The Greek MSS., however, read Вη θεσδὰ : so also S. Jerome ( loc. Hebræis). Bethesda means in Hebrew a place of pouring forth, because the rain from the roofs of the houses, and streams of water from aqueducts, flowed into it. The Syriac has Bethchesda, or house of mercy, from the Hebrew חסד , chesed, mercy, because there God showed His mercy to the miserable sick whom He healed; or else because righteous men relieved with their alms the sick poor who lay there.
Having five porches, or porticoes: these porches or porticoes were places covered above, but open below, either for walking, or taking rest in, that sick persons might rest in them secure from rain, or the heat of the sun, and immediately step out of them into the pool when its angel moved the water. Ver. 3. In them . . . languishing people (Vulg.); Greek, α̉σθενόντων ; Eng. Ver. sick folk ; withered (Vulg.) aridorum, dry, i.e ., whose arm, or hand, or foot, or some other limb, was lifeless.
An angel of the Lord ; either Raphael, or some other . Raphael, who presides over bodily healing, is so called from the Hebrew, which signifies the medicine , or physician of God. Whence he cured Tobit of his blindness.
According to a time (Vulg.), i.e ., at a certain time determined by God, or the angel, but unknown to men. Wherefore what Tertullian and Cyril say does not seem to be correct, that it was only once in the year, namely, at Pentecost, that the angel went down into the pool. For if so, the sick folk would not have lain beside it (for so long a time), but would have waited at home until Pentecost was close at hand. As Euthymius says, "By speaking of a stated time, he showed that the miracle was not continually taking place, but at certain times, unknown indeed to men, though often, as I think, in the course of the year."
The water was moved (Vulg.); Greek, ε̉ταζάσσετο ύδω̃ζ , i.e. he disturbed or troubled the water. "The sound of moving signified that angels were present to sanctify the water," says S. Cyril. "The water was moved in order to show that the angel had descended," says S. Ambrose.
And he that first went down, &c. In order to show the value of labour and diligence, and that we ought to be swift and active to take God's benefits. Thus it was necessary for him who would gather the manna to rise at dawn, for when the sun was risen it melted, "that it might be made known unto all that it was needful to prevent the rising of the sun for Thy blessing, and to worship Thee at the dawning of the day" (Wis 6:28). For God gives His gifts to the watchful and earnest, not to the slow and sleepy. Thus in the race only he who excels the rest receives the prize ( 1Co 9:24 ).
You will ask why, after the troubling of the water, as it is in the Greek, only he who first stepped in after the troubling was healed? I answer, that the literal reason was to show that this power of healing did not proceed from any natural virtue of the water, but from the moving of the angel, and the command of God. This moving of the angel did not impress any physical power or quality upon the water to heal any disease, but it was a sign of the Divine power and working, which were about to heal that sick person who had previously, by his own diligence, stirred up himself, and had, gone down into the water that he might there receive the miraculous blessing of God. This moving , therefore, was an invitation to the sick to receive healing in the troubled water.
Appositely indeed did the angel make use of this sign of motion, because, whilst it was being moved, the virtue of the water became lively and efficacious. For life consists in motion, death in quietude and torpor.
Tropologically, the reason was to signify that the sinner, when he is converted and healed by God, is wont to be troubled and agitated in his conscience by various emotions of fear, shame, and hope. For by these God moves a man to repentance and contrition, that he may thereby be healed, as the Council of Trent teaches.
0f whatsoever disease. From hence it is plain that the healing virtue of this pool did not proceed from the victims which were washed in it, nor from wood lying at the bottom, of which the cross of Christ was afterwards made, as some have supposed, but was supernatural and miraculous. For God wished to bestow this benefit upon believing people about the time of Christ's coming (for there is no mention of it in the Old Testament), in order that Christ thus healing a sick man might show that He was God, who had given this property to the pool, and therefore that He without it could heal the sick. Wherefore it would seem that this gift was taken away from the ungrateful Jews when they killed Christ, for we find no subsequent mention of it. As Tertullian says ( cont. Jud ., c. 13) , "The pool of Bethsaida, which, to the coming of Christ, healed the sicknesses of Israel, afterwards ceased from bestowing its benefits through their persevering fury."
Allegorically, God willed that this pool should be a token of His Passion and His Baptism. For as the angel descended into the water, so Christ went down to His Passion and torments; and in them, as in water, He was immersed and buried. And as the pool was red with the blood of the victims which were washed in it, so was Christ ruddy, and stained with His own blood ( Isa 63:2 ), that by the merit of His blood He might cause baptism (wherefore the Syriac here translates baptistery ), in whose water believers are washed, to heal all spiritual infirmities. So Tertullian ( de Baptismo, c. 5), S. Ambrose ( de Spir. Sc ., lib. 1, c. 7), and S. Chrysostom. The latter says, "For when God wished to instruct us in the belief of baptism now nigh at hand, He drove away not only pollutions, but diseases by means of water: for the nearer the images and figures were to the truth, they were more illustrious than the ancient figures." And S. Austin says, "To descend into the troubled water is humbly to believe in the Lord's Passion. There one was healed to signify unity. Whosoever came afterwards was not healed, because whoso is outside of unity cannot be healed." Ver. 5 . A man having an infirmity : Greek and Vulgate. S. Chrysostom and others say that this sick man was a paralytic.
Tropologically, this infirm man represents one who has grown old in a course of sin: who lies without strength in habits of vice, and is without any power to do good. For as palsy dissolves the bonds which knit the limbs together, so does a habit of sin enervate and dissolve the strength of the soul, so that men cannot arise out of it, and resist it, unless they are raised and strengthened by the mighty grace of God. Hence it is plain that such a palsy as this was naturally incurable; and we see that for thirty-eight years it could not be healed by any skill. Christ therefore took upon Himself to heal this palsy rather than the diseases of the other sick who were there, in order to show forth both His Almighty power and His infinite mercy. This was why Christ determined to heal Paul, who was labouring even beyond the rest of the incredulous and impious Jews under the worst spiritual disease of unbelief, as he himself shows us in the beginning of his 1st Epistle to Timothy. As S. Austin says, "The great Physician descended from heaven because one who was sick unto death lay on the earth." On the symbolical meaning of the thirty-eight years see S. Augustine in loc ., where he says, amongst other things, that it was the symbol of weakness, as forty is the symbol of healing and perfection. "If therefore," he says, "the number forty has the perfection of the Law, and the Law is not fulfilled except by the twofold precept of charity, what wonder that he was sick, who lacked two of the forty?" The twofold love, viz., of God and his neighbour, was lacking. Ver. 6. When Jesus saw , &c. Christ knew well that he had a desire to be healed, but He asked the question - 1. To afford the sick man an opportunity for conversation, and from thence of being healed. As S. Cyril says, "Herein was a great proof of the compassion of Christ, that He did not (always) wait for the entreaties of those who were sick, but prevented them by His mercy."
2. That He might sharpen the man's attention to the instantaneous character of the miracle, and so to the words and deeds of Christ. From all these He might know with certainty that he was healed, not by the pool, nor by medicine, but by Christ alone, who was superior to all the virtue of the pool, or of medicine, and so might believe in Him as a prophet, and the Messiah, and might in penitence ask and obtain of Him remission of his sins. Wherefore He healed him beside the healing pool, but without touching it, that He might show that it was He who had given its virtue to the pool, and that He therefore, without the aid of the pool, could heal him by His word alone. Ver. 7 . The sick man answered , &c. The sick man does not answer Christ's question directly. He takes for granted that every one knew that he desired to be healed. Therefore he makes mention of the way of obtaining healing by means of the pool. As though he had said, "I am prevented by palsy from going into the pool, for I have none to carry me. I am a poor man. If therefore Thou canst help me in this matter, do so." For he thought that when Christ asked the question, Dost thou wish to be healed? He meant, "Dost thou wish that I should carry thee into the pool, when the angel moves the water, that thou mayest in it be healed?" As yet he did not know the power of Jesus, for he had never seen Him.
The Syriac translates a little differently: Even so, Lord (I do wish to be healed), but I have not a man. Beautifully does S. Augustine say, "In very deed was that man (Jesus) necessary for his salvation, but it was that man who is also God." Ver. 8. Jesus saith unto him , &c. These words of Christ were practical and efficacious. In saying Arise, He caused him to arise, and healed him. As S. Augustine says, "It was not a command of work, but an operation of healing." And S. Cyril, "Such power and virtue were not of man; it is a property of God alone to command like this." Christ bade him take up his bed, that it might be evident to all that He had healed him, yea, that he had been made instantly stout and strong, so as to be able to carry his bed. Wherefore Euthymius in this passage observes that Christ was accustomed, after the miracles which He wrought, to add something by which their truth and greatness might be perceived. Thus in this instance He bade the paralytic take up his bed, which he could not have done unless he was healed; yea, stout and strong. So after the multiplication of the loaves, He ordered more fragments to be taken up than were originally in the bread. So He said to the leper whom He healed, "Go show thyself to the priest." So He ordered something to be given to eat to the girl whom He raised from the dead (Mark v. 43).
Tropologically, S. Gregory ( Hom. 12 in Ezech .) applies these words to sinners who have been justified by penance, who, by the just judgment of God, suffer temptations from their former sins. He says, "The sick man restored to health is bidden to carry the bed in which he had been carried. For it is necessary that every one who is healed should bear the contumely of the flesh, in which he had before lain in his sickness. What then is it to say, Take up thy bed, and go unto thine house, but, Bear the temptations of the flesh, in which thou hast hitherto lain?"
Thus S. Mary of Egypt for seventeen years after her conversion suffered dreadful temptations of the flesh, because she had previously lived for that number of years immodestly. Sins therefore are their own executioners, and their own righteous avengers. What before pleased afterwards torments: what willingly thou hast done, the same thou shalt hereafter unwillingly suffer.
Symbolically, S. Augustine says ( Tract. 17), " Arise ; that is, love God, who is above. Take up thy bed; i.e ., love thy neighbour, bear his infirmities, according to the words, 'Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.' When thou wast weak thy neighbour carried thee: thou art made whole, carry now thy neighbour. Carry him with whom thou walkest, that thou mayest come to Him with whom thou desirest to abide." Ver. 9. And immediately (Syriac) in that moment . . . for on that day was the Sabbath. Christ designedly healed upon the Sabbath, both because the Sabbath was the highest festival of the Jews, which therefore it was right to sanctify above other days by good works, such as healing a sick man like this paralytic: and also because He hereby wished to show the Jews that He was the Lord of the Sabbath. For in bidding him take up his bed, which was a thing forbidden by the old Law, He showed that He was Messiah and God. Moreover, because the Sabbath was a day dedicated to rest and the praise of God, Christ gave rest from his pains to this sick man, and so afforded a notable occasion for praising God on this day. Ver. 10. The Jews therefore, &c. As Nonnus paraphrases, "Clamorously they uttered an accusing charge, 'It is the Sabbath, which every one ought to keep wholly in rest: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed.'" Speaking generally, they say the truth; for among the Jews it was a matter of the highest obligation to keep the Sabbath. All work was then forbidden, as appears from Exodus 20:8 . And especially the carrying of burdens on that day is forbidden by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 17:21 , &c.). Christ, however, here says the contrary to the sick man whom He cured, because He, being Lord of the Sabbath, could dispense with its obligation. Moreover, what was forbidden by the Law upon the Sabbath was servile work, not a pious and Divine work like this. Christ bade the man who was healed take up his bed that the crowds of people who were flocking into the Temple on the Sabbath might become acquainted with the miracle, and acknowledge Jesus, its author, to be the Messiah, giving Him thanks. Ver. 11 . He answered them, &c. Understand, This was indeed a Divine man, and by Divine power has healed me. Therefore He is a friend of God, and would not bid me do anything except what is pleasing to God. As S. Augustine says, "Should I not receive a command from Him from whom I have received healing?" Just indeed was this defence of the sick man, which the Jews ought to have understood and accepted, but being blinded by pride they could not receive it, and so sinned by persecuting Christ and fell into hell. Ver. 12. Therefore they asked him, &c. Being indignant, they say with threats, "Who is that bold and insolent man, who dare bid thee, contrary to the Law, carry thy bed upon the Sabbath day? Verily, that man is not of God who does not keep the Sabbath which God has ordained." Thus they spoke through a blind prejudice derived from this Law, which they did not understand. Whereas, on the contrary, they ought to have understood that He who had miraculously healed the sick man, could not have done it except by the singular authority and help of God, and therefore that He had equally received from God the right to say on the Sabbath, Take up thy bed and walk. Ver. 13. But he who was healed, &c. The man knew not the name of Jesus, nor whither He had gone, nor indeed who He was, for he had never seen Him before.
Departed. Euthymius gives the reason. "As soon as He had healed the man, He withdrew because of the crowd, partly to avoid the praise of the just, and partly to take away occasion for the envy of the unjust." S. Chrysostom gives another reason: That the man's testimony in the absence of Jesus might be less liable to suspicion. For if he who was healed had praised Christ to the Jews before His face, he might have seemed to have done it out of favour. But now that he praised Him in His absence, it is evident that he did so from the love of the truth. Ver. 14. Afterwards Jesus , &c. The Arabic is, Now thou art healed, return not to sin, less a worse evil be done thee.
In the Temple. From this it appears that this man who was healed by Christ, as soon as he had carried his bed to his house, went to the Temple to give God thanks for His great benefit of healing. As Chrysostom says, "Assuredly a great mark of piety and reverence. He did not go to the marketplace, or the porch; he did not indulge in pleasure, or ease; he was occupied in the Temple."
Sin no more. From hence it is plain that God often sends diseases upon sick persons on account of their sins; and that this man had been afflicted because of his sins. Thus this paralytic, who had been sick for thirty-eight years, from a time before Christ was born, had committed some crime, which God wished him to suffer for, and expiate, by this protracted disease. Christ therefore tacitly admonishes the man's conscience that he should be mindful of his sin, and be contrite, and avoid it for the time to come. At the same time He intimates that He, being a Prophet, knew this by Divine revelation. Wherefore when sickness is sent by God upon any one, let him examine his conscience, and blot out by repentance and confession the sin for which God has sent the sickness, and let him pray to God to pardon his sin, and take away the disease.
I said, often sends , for God sometimes sends diseases upon holy men that he may prove, increase, and crown their patience, as He did in the case of Job, whose whole dispute with his friends turned upon this point; his friends urging that his sins had given occasion to his being so grievously afflicted, whilst he, on the contrary, contended that he was free from sins, and had not deserved those afflictions. And God in the last chapter adjudges the dispute in his favour, and condemns his friends. The same thing will appear in the case of the man who was born blind (chap. ix.), of whom Christ spake thus, "Neither did this man sin, nor his parents, that he was born blind."
Moreover, as Christ healed this sick man's body at the pool, so did He both by His inward inspiration, and by his external admonition, heal his soul in the Temple. He brought back to his memory the sins of his youth, by reason of which he had deserved so long a sickness, and he moved his heart to contrition for them, and to ask pardon from God, that so he might be justified. Indeed, Christ healed his body for this very reason that He might heal his soul.
Lest a worse thing , &c. "For," as Theophylact says, "he who is not made better by a former punishment is kept for greater torments, as being insensate, and a despiser." "And this happens," says Euthymius, "either in this life, or in the life to come, or in both." "A relapse is worse than the original disease." So a relapse into a fault is worse than the fault on account of the greater ingratitude, boldness, impudence. Ver. 15. The man went away, and told , &c. Not out of malevolence, but from gratitude, that he might not hide the author of so great a kindness. So Augustine, Chrysostom, and others. "He went away and told," says Euthymius, "not as being wicked, that he might betray, but as being grateful to disclose who was his benefactor. Because he thought he should be guilty of a crime if he kept silence, therefore he proclaimed the benefit." Ver. 16. Wherefore the Jews persecuted Jesus , &c. Some Greek MS., also the Syriac and Arabic Versions, add, And sought to kill Him. Wherefore , i.e ., on this pretext, for the true cause was envy. For the Jews, especially the scribes and Pharisees, were envious at this glory of Jesus, and grieved that the people should prefer Him to themselves. They were indignant that their wickedness was reproved by Him, and condemned by His holiness. For they wished to be paid court to as Rabbis, and doctors of the Law, and oracles of wisdom and sanctity. Ver. 17. But Jesus answered , &c. " The Father worketh ," says S. Augustine ( lib. 4. de Gen., cap. 12) , "both affording suitable government to things created and having in Himself eternal tranquillity:" for, as he says elsewhere, "being still He worketh, and working He is at rest." And after an interval, "The power and virtue of the Creator is the cause of existence of every creature. And if this virtue were ever to cease from governing created things, their forms ( species) would cease at the same time, and all nature would come to an end." Like as the light in the air vanishes if the sun withdraw his rays, by which light is produced. The meaning is, "You, 0 ye scribes, object against Me the law of Sabbatical rest, which God commanded you because He Himself rested on the Sabbath from all His work. But I answer that God on the Sabbath only rested from producing new species of things. But He did not rest in such a manner that He is not every Sabbath continually working, that is to say, governing and preserving the world, and all the things that are in it, moving the heavens, bringing forth one thing out of another, feeding and healing all living things, &c. This, which is work of the highest beneficence, is not servile work, but pious and Divine. Such work is indeed lawful; yea, it adorns and hallows the Sabbath. So too I, who am the co-equal Son of the Father, always work, and always have wrought the same things with Him. For neither do I work without the Father, nor the Father without Me." So S. Augustine and others.
Observe the Hebraism: and I work, that is, so , or in like manner , I work. For the word and, when it is the mark of conjunction, since it joins like things, is a sign of comparison and similitude, and means the same thing as thus, as is constantly the case in the Book of Proverbs. Ver. 18. Wherefore , &c. His Father , Greek, πατέζα ίδιον ,. i.e ., His own Father , because Christ alone is the peculiar, and by nature, Son of God.
Making Himself equal with God, because He had said that not merely like things, but that the self same things which the Father works, were wrought by Him, and therefore that He in all things co-operated, not as a servant, but as a Son, of the same substance with the Father. As Cyril says, "Seeing that He was a man, and not knowing that God dwelt in Him, they could not bear that He should call God His Father in a special manner." The chief priests and scribes therefore wished to kill Jesus, because they feared lest, as His glory increased, their authority should decrease; indeed lest Jesus, persuading the people that He was God, should be preferred by the people to the priests, and should deprive them of their authority, and should bring in His own new priests and pontiffs, which we see He actually did do. Ver. 19. Verily, Verily, &c . . . cannot : "not from defect of power," says Euthymius, "but on account of inseparability. For it is impossible that the Son should do anything which the Father does not." So S. Chrysostom and S. Augustine. Except , or unless . This word is not here exceptive, signifying the same as but only. It has the same meaning in Matthew 12:4 .
What He seeth : Greek, βλέπη , i.e ., may see. For it is not before He worketh, but as soon as He seeth the Father working, that He, Christ, worketh with Him. For Christ as God does not produce what is similar, but what is identical with the work of the Father. For the action of the Father, which both see and work together, is the same. I say action, but not the Hypostatic Union, nor the things which depend upon it, for this union has not to do with action, but with the terminus in quo. Wherefore, although the whole Blessed Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, by their Divine action, have brought about this Hypostatic Union, yet the union itself is terminated in the Son, and does not extend to the Father and the Holy Ghost. Wherefore the Son only, not the Father and the Holy Ghost, became incarnate, and died, &c.
Observe, Christ in this place only means to say that He has received from God the Father His Divine Essence, power, and working, as from His Author. He makes use of the word see, as if the Son did nothing except what He seeth the Father do, or what He sees to be the work of His Father. For children and pupils are wont to imitate the ways and deeds of their fathers and teachers. Christ is speaking after the manner of men, or as amongst men it becomes a son to speak of his father.
It may be added that Christ in a proper and theological sense uses the word see, because He proceeds from the Father as the Word, which is the term of the vision and the notional cognition of God the Father. For the Father, as seeing and understanding Himself and all things, produces and begets the Word, and by this communicates to Him His own vision and action. Therefore the Son neither seeth, nor doeth anything except what He seeth the Father see, or do. For He Himself is the Word and the Idea, in whom, as a Term, the Father expresses and imprints all His own vision and cognition, both speculative and practical. The meaning then is this, "Whatever I work, the Father worketh the same, and by altogether the same vision, cognition, will, power, and action. Wherefore if ye accuse Me because I have healed one paralysed on the Sabbath day, ye accuse God the Father also. For He hath wrought this with Me, because He in Me and by Me worketh all things. Indeed, I have received all My work from the Father. Wherefore, if ye believe that God the Father works all things rightly, wisely, and holily, ye ought to believe the same of Me, and therefore that this healing on the Sabbath was a work prudent, holy, and Divine."
Doth likewise : altogether in the same manner, with the same liberty, the same power, the same authority. So S. Gregory Nazianzen ( Orat. 2 , de Filio ). S. Cyril says, "They do likewise, or work in like manner , who are altogether of the same nature: but as to things which have a diverse essence there cannot be in them the same mode of working. As therefore He (the Son) is God of true God, He is able to do likewise the same things as the Father."
Ver. 20. For the Father , &c. Showeth , not as a master to a disciple, says Euthymius, but as a father to a son, as God to God. Showeth therefore means gives, communicates, especially because, as I have said, the Son by demonstration, i.e ., by understanding and vision , proceedeth as the Word from the Father. To show in the sense of give, exhibit , attribute, is used in 1 Samuel 14:12 ; Exodus 33:19 ; Psalms 4:6 , &c. That this is the meaning here is plain from what follows. Moreover, the Father showeth , i.e ., communicates all things to the Son in that He is God, not by free love, but by nature, out of the fecundity of the Divine Essence, of which the greatest sign among men is love. For he who among men communicates all things to his son, by so doing gives an eminent token that he loves him in the highest degree. Moreover, the Father communicates all things to the Son in that He is Man, of which communication love is not the sign, but the cause. "For the Father to show to the Son," says Bede, "is by the Son to do what He doeth."
Admirably does S. Athanasius say ( Disp. cont. Arium. lib . 1), "The Almighty Father hath given to the Son omnipotence, majesty to majesty, to virtue He has given virtue, to the prudent one He has given prudence, foreknowledge to the foreknowing, eternity to eternity, Divinity to Divinity, equality to equality, immortality to immortality, invisibility to invisibility, to a king a kingdom, life to life; and He hath given not something other than that which He hath; and as much as He hath, so much hath He given."
You will ask why to manifest and to show here and elsewhere are put for to give and to communicate. I reply (1.) because God by showing Himself and His works to the Son, communicates to Him His own knowledge, and consequently His essence. For God's knowledge is the same thing as His essence. (2.) By showing, He illuminates the Son, i.e ., He communicates His own light of wisdom, and of all good, and Himself, wholly to Him. For God is the uncreate and infinite Light, as S. John shows (1 Epist. i. 5). Lastly, by showing, i.e ., by understanding, He produces the Word, i.e ., the Son. For in God the most noble thing is understanding, and the most noble action is to understand, to illuminate, to show. For the noblest and chief power of the soul is intellect and reason. These command the will, and guide it as it were blindfold; and by it they rule and move all the other senses and powers of the soul. Hence comes the axiom of the wise, "Mind effects all things:" it is the part of reason to govern. Just as strong as any one is in intellect, so far is he able to command. For the intellect in conceiving and understanding, by means of conception and intelligence, in a lively manner incorporates all those things into itself, and as it were possesses them. For it conceives all things in itself in a certain lively manner, and forms an appearance of them in itself, which presents to it all the goodness and beauty of things. Wherefore the understanding is the eye of the mind. As in the body the eye is the noblest and most efficacious sense, which incorporates into itself the forms of all things, far more does the understanding do this in the mind. Wherefore the blessed in heaven, by means of the understanding, in understanding and seeing God, incorporate Him into themselves, possess Him, and are blessed by Him. This then is the reason of this mode of speech by which to show is taken for to give , to communicate, to bring one into possession of the thing shown. This is what Aristotle says, "The intellect by understanding becomes all things," because by a lively conception of things it assimilates itself to them, and them to itself. Thus it seizes and holds them, and makes them to exist in a nobler and better manner in itself than they are in themselves. For in themselves they are often dead and inanimate, but in the intellect they are living and animated. They live in the highest and most excellent vital act.
And will show greater things : by showing will give and communicate. These greater things are more illustrious mysteries and miracles, especially the raising of the dead, and the authority to judge all men; of both which Christ proceeds to speak.
That ye may marvel . He does not say that ye may believe. For the scribes and the Jews, when they saw so many miracles of Christ, wondered at His power, but yet were blinded by envy and hatred, and would not believe in Him as the Messiah. Still Christ did those things with the intention that they should believe in Him. The heretics act in just the same way even now. They admire the wisdom, holiness, and miracles of the orthodox saints, but will not follow their faith, nor imitate their manner of living. Such is heresy, and the blindness, obstinacy, and malignity of error. Ver. 21. For as the Father &c. Behold here is the first greater work which Christ said the Father would show, that is, communicate, to the Son. As S. Cyril says, "Marvel not that one who was utterly weakened by long disease was strengthened by a word, and took up his bed, and went away, for I am about altogether to destroy death, and to judge the whole world."
So also the Son , &c. He tacitly signifies that He is God, equal to the Father in power and liberty to raise and quicken whom He will.
Whom He will. It is not that the Father wills to quicken some, and the Son wills to quicken others, but the same, because His will is conformable, yea, the same as the will of the Father. So Augustine.
Quickeneth , i.e ., raiseth from the dead, both in this life, as He raised Lazarus, and in the day of judgment, when He will raise all mankind. Ver. 22. For neither doth the Father judge, &c. The Arabic omits for, but the Greek has it, and appositely. For this is the second reason by which Christ proves that He is God, and the second greater work which He said the Father would show Him. As Cyril says, "He brings forward another Divine and excellent argument, by which He shows that He is by nature truly God. For to whom else does it belong to judge the world but to God only?"
To His Son. One God with Himself, but by His Incarnation made man. As S. Austin says ( lib. 1, de. Trin., c. 13) , "No one shall see the Father at the judgment of the quick and the dead, but all shall see the Son, because He is the Son of Man, that He may be seen by the wicked also, when 'they shall look on Him whom they pierced.'"
You will say, Christ has been created judge as man, according to the words ( Act 10:42 ), "Who has been constituted by God the judge of quick and dead," therefore Christ cannot prove from His being judge that He is God. I answer, that this correctly proves it, because the power of judgment is a thing peculiar to God: it is a matter of the highest and most ample right. Wherefore neither would God communicate it, nor could it be fittingly communicated to a mere man, but to Christ alone, who is both God and man. For He as God has the supreme authority to judge, but as man, He is able to exercise this judgment visibly before men, to acquit, or to condemn. For a judge ought to be seen and heard by those who are accused. Ver. 23. That all, &c. For the Jews who would not then honour the Son of God, or acknowledge Him to be such, when they shall see His Divine power and majesty in the day of judgment, will be compelled to acknowledge, honour, and adore Him as God.
Like as they honour the Father : the words like as signify equality, not similitude.
He who honoureth not the Son, &c. Because by denying the Son he denies also the Father; for father and son are correlative terms: and he who has not a son cannot be a father. With regard to God, he who denies that the Son is the Son of God, denies that God the Father is truly and properly the Father, and has begotten. Tacitly he asserts that He could not beget a consubstantial and co-equal son. Moreover he denies the Father , because the Father sent the Son into the world, that by Him He might be honoured, in such a manner that He should be acknowledged to be the Father properly so called, and to have begotten a Son of the same substance with Himself, and to be adored with the same latria as Himself. He therefore who denies that the Son is God, denies that the Father begat God, which is the highest blasphemy of the Father. For he deprives the Father of that offspring which is His equal and worthy of Himself, and instead of a Divine and uncreated offspring assigns to Him one that is created and mean. Wherefore he denies Him to be a proper and Divine Father. Ver. 24. Verily, verily , &c. See what has been said on John 3:3 . Heareth, so as to believe and obey My word. Thus He subjoins, and believeth in Him that sent Me , and by consequence believeth in Me as His Son, sent by the Father into the world to save it. He saith not, and believeth in Me , but speaks with greater amplitude. For in saying, and believeth in Him that sent Me , He implies the mystery of the Trinity, and the Incarnation, which two things are the chief articles of the Faith, and chiefly necessary to salvation. For He who sent the Son is God the Father; the Father and the Son together necessarily breathe the Holy Ghost. Lo, you have the whole Trinity.
Hath, i.e ., by right, deservedly, and in hope. See on iii. 16.
Hath passed, i.e ., certainly will pass (the perfect is used instead of the future because of the certainty of the thing, meaning, he will as certainly and infallibly pass as if He had already passed), from death, the temporal death of the body, unto life, eternal and blessed, in heaven. For although the reprobate who will be damned will also be raised again to life, that they may burn in hell, yet that life in hell is rather a continual death, than life. For, as St. Austin saith, ( de Civ., lib. 6, c. 12), "There is no more complete and worse death, than where death dieth not." For in hell there will be living death, and deathly life, that is, always dying, but never dead. Again He speaks yet more plainly. He who believeth and obeyeth God the Father, and the Son who is sent by Him, hath passed from the death of the soul, dead through sin, to the spiritual life of grace, that he may after the death of the body pass to the life of glory. Ver. 25. Verily, verify , &c. "Lest thou shouldst think that this is to come to pass after a very long time, He subjoins, and now is. For if He were only announcing things future, there might not unreasonably be doubt, but He saith that these things shall come to pass whilst He is still conversant upon earth." So Chrysostom. For, as Theophylact says, "He is speaking here of those three whom He was about to raise, the widow's son, the daughter of the ruler of the synagogue, and especially of Lazarus. For this last He was about to raise in Judea. And Christ is here speaking in Judea to Jews. This then is the signification of now is. Christ then rises from the spiritual resurrection of souls from sin to the life of grace, to the resurrection of those bodies which He was about to raise whilst He lived on earth. From this He rises to the full resurrection glory of the bodies which He will raise in the day of judgment. For from His power to raise souls from the death of sin to the life of grace, as from a thing greater and more difficult, Christ proves that He has power to raise the body, a thing less difficult. So Toletus, Jansen, and others. But S. Cyril and others think that the reference in this place is to the general resurrection, and they take the expression, and now is, to refer to the last judgment. For S. John (1st Epist. ii. 18) calls the whole time of the New Law the last hour , i.e ., the last time , because this is the last stage of the world, and therefore all things which are done in it seem to be, as it were, present, and to be done in this present hour.
Some add that Christ is here speaking of the saints whom He raised when He Himself arose from the dead (S. Matt. xxvii. 52). The fullest meaning of the passage is to understand it of all whom Christ has raised, and will raise from the dead.
And they that hear, i.e ., who shall feel the force of the voice of Christ, or who shall obey Him, as bearing the voice of the Son of God, who calls the things which are not as though they were. Ver. 26. For as the Father, &c. To have life in Himself signifies three things. 1. To have life from Himself and from His own Essence, and from no other source. For the Essence of God is life, and His life is His Essence. God therefore essentially, and by His Essence, is essential, uncreated, and infinite life. 2. That God has life in Himself, is that He is the fountain of all life, of angels, men, and animals. As Euthymius says, To have life in Himself means that after the manner of a living fountain He is the Author of life, according to the words, "With Thee is the well of life" ( Psa 36:10 ). 3. Which follows from the two previous meanings, to have life in Himself means to have life in His own power, to be the Lord of life to all things living, so that He according to His own good pleasure gives them life, preserves it, and takes it away. This makes plain the unity of Essence, i.e., of Deity, in the Father and the Son. For if the Son had a different Essence from the Father, then He would have life in another, that is to say, in the Father, who gave Him life. But now He hath life in Himself, i.e ., in His own Divine Essence, which He hath altogether in common with the Father. So S. Chrysostom. "Behold," he says, "how they differ not in any respect whatsoever, save that the one is the Father, and the other the Son."
So hath He given also , &c In that He is the Son of God, and that according to the three ways just spoken of. As S. Augustine says, that His life might not have need of life, that He should not be understood to have life by way of participation: for if He had life by way of participation, He might, by losing the participation, become without life. Such doctrine concerning the Son accept not, think not, believe not. The Father therefore continues as life, the Son also continues as life. The Father is life in Himself, not from the Son: the Son is life in Himself, but from the Father. Ver. 27. And hath given , &c. Because Christ as God hath life in Himself, from hence, in that He is man, He hath power to judge all men. The word because must here be taken specifically, and means inasmuch as. But it may be taken even more expressively in a reduplicative and causative sense, as giving the express reason why God gave Christ judicial authority. That reason is because Christ is the Son of Man, i.e ., because He deigned to become Incarnate. As though it were said, "God hath willed to judge men by Christ a man, that judgment might take place in a congruous manner, that is, after a sensible and human manner, that as He Himself saved the world by the man Christ, so He would also judge it by the same, by that man, I say, who is God, who took human life, and laid it down for man's salvation."
Wherefore it is that He by this great emptying of Himself, by which He willed to become man, merited this exaltation of judicial power, that He who was the Saviour of all should be the judge of all. So Maldonatus and others. S. Augustine gives also a twofold reason. The first is, "that those who are to be judged might see their judge. For those who shall be judged will be both good and bad. It was right that in the judgment the form of a servant should be shown both to the good and the bad, but the form of God should be reserved for the good only." The second reason is, "because the judge shall have that form in which He stood before His judge. That form which was judged shall judge: unrighteously was it judged, but righteously shall it judge." Ver. 28. Marvel not , &c. . . . the hour , i.e ., the time of the Evangelical Law, which is the last, and in the end of which shall be the resurrection of the dead, and the final judgment.
In their graves : those who are dead and buried, including also the unburied dead. For as S. Augustine says, "By those who are buried in ordinary course, He signified also those who do not receive ordinary burial."
The voice of the Son of God : this shall be the sound of the archangel's, probably Michael's trumpet, Arise , ye dead , come to judgment. This shall be accompanied by the sound of the trumpets and voices of other angels. The sound is spoken of as the voice of God, because by His command, through the ministry of angels, an effect shall be produced on the air which shall resound throughout the whole world, and be effectual as at least a moral instrument to raise the dead. For it is not necessary to attribute to this trumpet any physical power of raising the dead. Ver. 29. They that have done good, &c. . . . shall proceed , Greek ε̉κποζεύσονταί , i.e ., shall go forth , out of their tombs and their graves, towards the Valley of Jehoshaphat, where the universal judgment shall take place.
Christ here sets before the unbelieving Jews His authority to judge, that through fear of it He may make them fear, may make them contrite, and convert them. He did the same at the end of His life, when, being adjured by Caiaphas, the High Priest, to say if He was the Son of God, He answered that He was, and added (Matt. xxvi. 64), "Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven."
There is nothing more terrible, and at the same time more effectual for rousing the minds of men to repentance and leading a holy life than a lively representation of the last judgment. So Christ, when He ascended into heaven, commanded His apostles by the angels to preach his return to judgment ( Act 1:11 ). S. Paul pressed the same thing upon the Areopagites ( Act 17:31 ). For in that judgment shall the destiny of each be finally decided for everlasting happiness or everlasting woe. "In all thy works," therefore, "remember thy last end, and thou wilt never sin" (Ecclus. 7:40). In very deed that fateful day will be the last of this world, and the horizon of eternity, which shall separate the just from the unjust and set them far apart, heaping upon the just utmost felicity, and weighing down the unjust with calamity, and that for ever and ever. Think constantly of this wonderful difference, be zealous for holiness, live for eternity. Ver.30. I cannot , &c. Christ shows that His judgment, by which, as man, He will judge all men, will be a last judgment, for his reason that He cannot either judge or will any other thing than that which the Father judges and wills. For He, in that He is God, has the very same judgment, the very self-same Divine mind and will that the Father has. But in that He is man, He is wholly governed by the Divinity and the indwelling Word, so that He can neither judge nor will anything but that which the Godhead judges and wills. So S. Augustine.
As I hear, so I judge : always, and especially in the judgment day. I hear, i.e., I know, I understand. As S. Chrysostom says, "By hearing nothing else is meant than that nothing else is possible but the Father's judgment. I so judge as if the Father Himself were judge."
Because I seek not Mine own will , i.e ., Mine own alone, or diverse from the Father's will, for I have no such will, but the will of Him that sent Me : for My Divine will is identical with the Father's, and My human will is wholly conformable to the Divine will. As S. Augustine says, "not that He has no will of His own in judging, but because His will is not so His own as to be diverse from the Father's will." He gives the reason à priori why His future judgment should be just, because, indeed, His will is altogether subject and conformed to the Divine will, because it subsists in the Divine Person of the Word, and is ruled by it. For the will bends and rules the intellect and its judgment in whatever direction it pleases. Ver. 31 . If I bear witness of Myself , that I am the Son of God, and therefore as man altogether conformed to the judgment and will of God, My witness is not true, that is, legitimate, judicial, worthy of credit. The word true here is not opposed to false, but to untrustworthy, uncertain. It answers to the Hebrew word neeman, faithful, worthy of credit. For it may be that a man may utter most true testimony concerning himself, and yet may fail to gain credit because of a suspicion that he has too great love of himself, as Euthymius says.
There is a prolepsis by which Christ meets a tacit objection of the scribes, to the following effect. "Thou, 0 Jesus, proclaimest Thyself to be the Son of God, and so in all things to follow the judgment of God. But we will not believe Thee unless Thou shalt prove what Thou sayest by the testimony of God, or of men worthy of credit. This testimony of Thine in a matter which peculiarly concerns Thyself appears to us open to suspicion." Jesus replies, "I grant you that My testimony concerning Myself is not legitimate, nor worthy of credit, if I alone bear witness of Myself. I grant therefore that you need not believe Me alone; but I am not alone, but others worthy of credit bear witness of Me, as will appear by what follows." Christ is here speaking of the common opinion of the Jews, not uttering His own sentiments, as appears from chap. viii. 13, where the Jews openly object to Christ, Thou bearest testimony of Thyself, Thy testimony is not true. Then Christ answers, My testimony is true , &c . , because I am not alone, but I, and the Father who sent Me. So S. Cyril Ver. 32. There is another who beareth, &c. Another, viz., God the Father, who at My baptism spoke in thunder from heaven, This is My beloved Son. So S. Cyril, Bede. Again, another, i.e ., John the Baptist, testifies to Me. So S. Chrysostom and others. Another then here means, there are others who testify that I am the Son of God, namely, God the Father, John the Baptist, Moses and the Prophets, also My Divine works and miracles. For all of these Christ proceeds to adduce as witnesses to prove that He is Messiah, and the Son of God.
And I know that it is true. So far as I Myself am concerned, I do not need these witnesses, for by Divine knowledge I know that what they testify is true, that I am the Son of God. But I bring forward their testimony for your sakes, that ye may believe what is attested by so many witnesses. Ver. 33. Ye sent unto John, &c. Ye sent messengers to him as a man in your estimation holy, and worthy of all credit, to ask him if he were the Messias. John answered that not he, but I, am the Messias. This testimony he gave not out of friendship, or favour to Me, but to the truth. For that he would testify to nothing but the truth, ye yourselves thought, when ye were willing to receive him as the Messiah. Therefore ye cannot reject his testimony, says Euthymius. Ver. 34. But I receive not, &c. I do not require the witness of John, for I am God, and the Son of God, to whom John, Moses, and the Prophets ought to yield, and be taught by, and receive authority from.
But this I say that ye may be saved : meaning, as S. Chrysostom says, "I do not need the testimony of man, for I am God. But since John, whom ye admire as a prophet, is of so great authority with you, when ye do not believe Me working miracles, I bring back to your remembrance his testimony, that I may draw you and save you." Ver. 35. He was a burning and shining lamp. Greek, ό λύχνος , the illustrious and famous lamb. John was not the light itself, shining of itself (for this was what Christ Himself was), but he was the lamp or lantern which, receiving light from Christ, burnt in himself with the knowledge and love of God, and afforded light to others by the example of his sanctity, and the fervour of his preaching. For God sent John after a long silence for ages of all the prophets, as it were a heavenly prophet, to be a lamp to illuminate the dark ignorance of the Jews, and to show them the true Light, Christ the Lord, and to bear a torch before Him. So S. Cyril and others. For the Only Begotten One is Light by nature, who, out of Light, that is, the Substance of the Father, hath shone forth. John indeed was a lamp, because he shone with light derived from Him. He shone through oil, i.e., with the grace of the Holy Spirit, which coming into our souls as it were lamps, nourishes and keeps them. Wherefore the type of John was the lamp of oil burning before God in the Temple in the Holy of Holies. For so did John shine before Christ. Therefore was John the Baptist always a burning and shining lamp in the tabernacle of witness, as Cyril says.
Moraliter , S. Bernard ( Serm. de S. Joan Bapt .) teaches that holy men and preachers ought first to burn with charity and zeal in themselves before they shine in preaching to others. " John was a burning and shining lamp . It does not say, shining and burning, because the brightness of John sprang from his fervour, not his fervour from his splendour. For there are some who do not shine because they burn, but rather burn in order that they may shine. But these plainly do not burn with the spirit of charity, but with the love of vanity. Listen to Alcuin on this passage: "John was a lamp, enlightened by light from Christ, burning with faith and love, shining in word and action, who was sent before to confound the enemies of Christ, according to the words, 'I have prepared a lamp for My Christ, I will clothe His enemies with confusion'" (Vulg.)
Such a one was S. Athanasius. Hence S. Gregory Nazianzen ( Orat. 21), speaking in his praise, calls him "the eye of the world, the prelate of priests, the leader and master of confessors, a sublime voice, a firm pillar of the faith, next to John the Baptist, a second burning and shining lamp." He adds, "Athanasius was as an adamant to the persecutors" (by his invincible patience), "a magnet to disputers, to attract them to himself, and to make them be at harmony one with another." And again, "Let virgins praise him as their betrothed, wives as their director, anchorites as him who wakes them up, monks as their lawgiver, the simple as their guide, those given to speculation as their theologian, the joyous as their moderator, the unfortunate as their consoler, the aged as their staff, youths as their instructor, the poor as a dispenser, the rich as their almoner, the sick as their physician, the whole as the guardian of their health, and, in short, all as he who is made all things to all that he may gain all, or as many as possible." Such a one was S. Basil, of whom the same Nazianzen says, "The voice of Basil was as thunder, because his life was as lightning." Because he lightened in his life, therefore did he thunder with his voice.
But ye wished to rejoice for an hour (Vulg.), i.e ., for a short time, in his light. When John began to preach with so much sanctity of life and zeal, ye rejoiced because so great a prophet had been sent by God, who, ye trusted, would be your Messiah. But when John began to rebuke your wickedness, and to indicate that I, the poor and lowly One, was the Messiah, ye despised John. Ye would not believe his testimony, because if ye had believed it, ye would have received Me as the Messiah. Ver. 36. But I have greater witness , &c.: i.e ., than John's witness; greater in the sense of surer, more efficacious, that I am Messiah, the Son of God. This greater testimony is My works, My miracles which the Father hath given Me, that by them I may show that He Hath sent Me. "For one might find fault with John's testimony, as if it were given out of favour," says Euthymius; "but the works being free from all suspicion stop the mouths of the contentious," says S. Chrysostom. "For the works might convince even the insane."
The works (the miracles) which I do, &c., such as the recent healing of the paralytic. I speak of My supernatural works, which could not be effected by any natural cause, but are peculiar to God alone. Wherefore they are as it were the seal of God, by which He bears testimony to Me, and seals and confirms My doctrine. So S. Chrysostom and others.
er. 36. But I have greater witness , &c.: i.e ., than John's witness; greater in the sense of surer, more efficacious, that I am Messiah, the Son of God. This greater testimony is My works, My miracles which the Father hath given Me, that by them I may show that He Hath sent Me. "For one might find fault with John's testimony, as if it were given out of favour," says Euthymius; "but the works being free from all suspicion stop the mouths of the contentious," says S. Chrysostom. "For the works might convince even the insane."
The works (the miracles) which I do, &c., such as the recent healing of the paralytic. I speak of My supernatural works, which could not be effected by any natural cause, but are peculiar to God alone. Wherefore they are as it were the seal of God, by which He bears testimony to Me, and seals and confirms My doctrine. So S. Chrysostom and others.
From this it follows that the Jews both could and ought to have known of a certainty that Jesus was the Messiah, or the Christ, and the Son of God, by the miracles which He wrought. 1. Because He did them with this end and object, that by them He might prove that He was Christ and God. 2. Because Jesus did all the miracles which the prophets had foretold would be done by Christ. 3. Because although certain of the prophets and holy men had done some miracles, they had done neither so many nor so great as Jesus had done. Again, the prophets had wrought miracles, not by their own power, but through invoking God; but Christ did them by His own power, and His own authority, as being the Lord. Whence it was easy to discern that He was the Messiah and God.
In two special ways therefore the miracles of Jesus prove that He is God. First, by the way in which He wrought them, as I have said; because He employed that most mighty power, peculiar to Himself, in working miracles. Then He reserved some miracles to Himself, which by their very nature prove beyond possibility of doubt that He was God. Of this sort was His birth of a Virgin, His knowing the secrets of the heart, and what was in man, and all things. This last was the reason which the apostles gave for believing that He came forth from God. Of like nature was His foretelling all things which were about to happen in His Passion, death, and resurrection, according to the Scriptures. Also that when He willed He laid down His life upon the cross, and resumed it on the third day; that He ascended into heaven; that He sent the Holy Ghost; lastly, that He transmitted that marvellous power of working miracles to His apostles and seventy-two disciples. This also was peculiar to Christ of which I am about to speak, the force and the power at all times and in all places, ready and at hand, wholly unrestricted, of working such great, such incredible miracles, and so wholly beyond the power of nature; so full and perfect, so salutary, so true, so sure and glorious, so Divine, and so in accordance with the character of the Son of God; among which stands pre-eminent that salutary and instantaneous power of healing every kind of disease in all who in all places and at all times approached Him for the sake of recovering their health. This absolute power, and ever-abiding virtue, belongs to Christ alone. Neither Elijah, nor Eliseus, nor even Moses, nor any angel, had it in the time of the Old Testament; for all these only wrought miracles at intervals, as appears from perusing their histories. Moreover, their miracles are summed up in a definite number; the miracles of Christ were continuous and incessant, and could not be numbered. So S. Augustine and others. Add to all this the results of the death of Christ, the conversion of the whole world by twelve fishermen, the fervour of the faithful in the primitive Church, the unconquerable strength of innumerable martyrs, yea, the exultation in their torments of even boys, virgins, and women. All these things proclaim aloud that Christ is to be worshipped, loved, and adored as the Son of God, for He alone could work such Divine works peculiarly belonging to God. Ver. 37. The Father , &c. . . . hath borne witness, as at My baptism. Again, He hath borne witness concerning Me, through the Scriptures by Moses and the prophets.
Observe, Christ in this place, besides the testimony of John, adduces three other and greater witnesses to show that He is the Messiah: 1. By His miracles (ver. 36); 2. By the Father's voice at His baptism; 3. By the Scriptures (ver. 39). Ver. 38. Ye have not His word abiding (Arabic, made strong ) in you, &c. The connection and subsequent argument of these words is obscure, which different writers explain in different ways.
1. You may explain them as a sort of concession, thus. "You, 0 ye scribes, when I allege the testimony of God My Father concerning Me, make objection that ye have not heard it, that ye have neither seen His face, nor His appearance, as Moses saw, whom ye profess to believe. I grant what you say, but I add that no one, not even Moses, heard God's own voice, nor saw His appearance, nor His face. They only beheld that immense fire by which God was concealed, and heard a sound formed in the air by an angel, instead of God's voice. For I alone, who am the Son of God by nature, have heard His real voice, and seen His appearance, or His Divine face, which I see continually. Nevertheless I urge upon you that ye have beard the voice of God giving attestation to Me, when at My baptism the Father publicly declared, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Again, ye have heard the word of God concerning Me in the Holy Scriptures, Moses and the prophets, who bear witness that I am the Messiah. But ye, although ye have heard this word and testimony of God concerning Me, yet have it not abiding in you, because ye receive not in your minds, nor understand, nor believe it, inasmuch as ye do not believe in Me, as sent by God. In this ye gravely err and sin. For if ye have heard the word of an angel in God's stead speaking with Moses as His servant, and believe him, much more ought ye to believe the Word of God bearing witness to Me that I am His Son, especially since Moses bears witness to Me, and bids you to hearken unto Me, as follows. So Euthymius. This meaning seems clear, plain, and true.
2. However, S. Hilary ( lib. 9, de Trin .) thus connects and expounds this whole passage. "This is why ye have not heard His voice, nor seen His appearance, neither doth His word abide in you, because ye do not believe in Me." As though it were said, "If ye would believe in Me, ye would hear the Father's voice, and see His appearance. For he that seeth Me seeth the Father also. In like manner, he that heareth Me heareth the Father also, and the word of the Father abideth in him."
3. SS. Cyril and Chrysostom think that these words were spoken to confound the Jews, who boasted that they had heard and seen God promulging the Decalogue on Sinai. "Ye boast falsely, 0 ye Jews, that ye have seen and heard God on Sinai, for God is a pure Spirit. Wherefore that voice which ye heard, and that appearance of fire which ye saw on Sinai, was neither the voice nor the true appearance of God, but only a corporeal symbol and figure, shadowing forth to you who are fleshly and ignorant the invisible Godhead."
4. S. Athanasius ( lib. 4, cont. Arian. ) by the Word, Greek, λόγος , understands Christ the Son of God, who is the Word of the Father. This he asserts is aptly joined with the appearance and form of God, because He is the character , and the lively image of the Father. And the meaning is, "Ye have not heard the voice of God, nor seen His form; and when there remained for you one only way to do this, by believing in Me, who am the Word of the Father, and the image of His Substance (or Person), whom whosoever seeth sees also the Father, ye despise this way, and will not believe Me. Wherefore ye know not the Father, and are deprived of Divine knowledge."
5. Toletus: "Ye, 0 ye Jews, being terrified by the voice of the angel's trumpet, and by the fire that lightened on Sinai, asked that ye might not hear any more that terrible voice, nor see the dreadful fire, but that God might speak to you by Moses as a mediator. But you keep not the promise by which you bound yourselves. You accepted the stipulation that ye would hear the Prophet of your own nation whom He should send. But His word and compact abide not in you, because what ye promised ye are not willing to fulfil. For, behold, I am He whom He has sent, and ye neither believe Me, nor hear Me, as ye promised."
The first meaning seems the best and most apposite. Ver. 39. Search (scrutamini) the Scriptures, &c. The word for Search in Greek, as well as Latin, may be taken either in the indicative, or the imperative mood. Cyril takes it in the indicative: "Ye, 0 ye scribes, assiduously turn and search the Scriptures which bear testimony concerning Me, but ye do not care to understand them, because ye will not come unto Me." But SS. Augustine and Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euthymius, and others, take it in the imperative: "Search ye the Scriptures, and in them ye will find God the Father bearing witness to Me."
Moreover, by the word Search , Christ, says S. Chrysostom, pressed upon the Jews not merely the bare reading of the Scriptures, but a thorough and diligent examination of them. He did not say, Read the Scriptures , but Search them. Dig out the hidden treasures which they contain concerning Me and Divine things, just as those who search for veins of gold and silver dig in the earth to find them. Thus the Beræans to whom Paul preached (Acts xvii.) searched the Scriptures, with a sincere desire to know nothing but the truth. Therefore in the Scriptures they found Christ whom Paul preached to them.
Because in them , i.e ., in understanding and believing them, ye think , &c. Because if any one believes and does what the Scriptures bid him, he will attain eternal life. From this it is plain that most of the Jews, and especially the Pharisees, believed in the immortality of the soul, and in an existence after death, in which God would give eternal life to the just, and death eternal to the unjust.
And (Vulg.), i.e ., because, for the Hebrew vau , or and , often has a causative force, meaning because, for Christ now gives the reason why He said, Search the Scriptures : because they are they which testify of Me. Many parts do this literally, many more in an allegorical and mystical sense. For "Christ is the end of the Law" (Rom. x. 4). And as S. Peter says, "To Him give all the prophets witness, that all who believe in Him should receive remission of sins through His name." Let therefore the reader of Holy Scripture, but especially interpreters, doctors, and preachers search the Scriptures, and they will find Christ in them all, either openly revealed, or else veiled in shadows and figures. Ver. 40. And (yet), ye will not , &c. "Ye do not wish to cleave to Me, to believe in Me, to receive My doctrine and My law." Ver. 41. I receive not brightness (Vulg. claritatem ), Greek, δόξαν , i.e., glory , from men. There is an anticipation, "Ye, 0 ye Scribes, suspect, and object that I preach such great things of Myself, and so carefully endeavour to prove My dignity and authority out of the desire of vain glory, that I may catch the breeze of popularity, being desirous of being taken to be the Son of God. I answer that I do not preach these things about Myself in order that I may get glory from men, but for your own sakes, that I may save you. For I am even athirst for your salvation. For I know that no one can be saved, and possess eternal life, but by Me, whom God has appointed the Saviour of the world." So S. Cyril. Ver. 42. But I know you, &c. "I know and penetrate the inmost recesses of your hearts (for I, being God, am the Searcher of hearts), and I see in them nothing of Divine love, but that they are full of ambition, avarice, and pride. And this is the reason why ye will not receive those clear testimonies which I bring forward in My favour. The root from whence your unbelief and obstinacy spring is not ambition of glory in Me, but your own lack of charity. For if ye truly loved God, ye would indeed acknowledge that I have been sent by Him, and am clearly described in the Scriptures." Thus even now the cause of heresy in many is a vitiated love, because indeed many love the liberty of the flesh which heresy teaches, and do not love God, who forbids it.
Cyril connects this verse with what precedes, thus, "I have not proclaimed these great things about Myself for the sake of glory, that I may gain human praise, but that ye may learn (as I know) that the love of God is not in you, deprived of which, how can ye come to Me who am the Son of God?"
Differently also Maldonatus and Toletus: "I preach that I am Messiah, and the Son of God, not because I seek the vain glory of men, but because I know that ye have not that love of God which leads to eternal life, so that I may lead you to this love by faith, by which ye may believe in Me." Ver. 43. I am come , &c., in My Father's name, as the Son-sent by God the Father, that by His authority I may fulfil those things which He has promised to you concerning Messiah, to His alone praise and glory, so that through Him there may be showered upon you the knowledge of God, grace, salvation, and eternal life. This I have clearly proved to you by the many testimonies which the Father hath given Me. Yet ye do not receive Me, but treat Me as a false prophet. Wherefore by the just judgment of God it shall come to pass, that if another, who is really a false prophet, shall come to you, one who is not sent by God, but who shall come in his own name, i.e ., in his own authority, falsely boasting himself to be the Messiah, such an one ye will receive. Another therefore will be that Antichrist whom the Jews will receive, though they rejected Christ. To this apply the words of Paul (2 Thes. ii. 10), "Therefore God shall send upon them the working of error, that they may believe a lie, that all may be judged, who have not believed the truth, but have consented to iniquity." So SS. Chrysostom, Cyril, Augustine, and the ancient writers , passim. Again , another may mean any false prophet, pretending to be Christ, and therefore a forerunner of Antichrist, like that Egyptian, shortly after the time of Christ, who led thousands of men to destruction (see Jos. Bell. Jud. lib. 2, c. 12). Ver. 44. How can ye believe , &c. "Ye love human glory, brief and poor: wherefore ye contemn Me, who despise human glory, and teach that it ought to be contemned; and that the Divine and eternal glory ought to be aimed at, which God will begin in the saints on earth, and bring to perfection in Heaven." Ver. 45. Think not , &c. Listen to Cyril, "He declares that there was no need of any other accuser, for that although all others were silent, the law of Moses by itself was sufficient for the condemnation of the Jews who did not believe in Him." He names Moses because the Jews placed all their faith and trust in him. As they said, "We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not from whence He is" ( Joh 9:28 ). Ver. 46. For if ye had believed Moses, perchance (Vulg.) ye would also have believed Me. Perchance ; so the Vulgate often translates the Greek, άν : but it is here used in the sense of assuredly . It is an expression of confirmation , not of doubt . " Assuredly ye would have believed Me." Hence some copies omit the word perchance .
For he wrote of Me : both in Leviticus, and the whole Pentateuch; for all his ceremonies and narrations prefigured Me. Also he clearly and expressly wrote of Me ( Deu 18:15-18 ), saying, "The L ORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him."
Again Moses wrote of Christ ( Gen 49:10 ), when he speaks of the time at which Messiah was to come. "The sceptre shall not be taken away from Judah, nor a leader from his thigh, until He that is to be sent shall come: and the same shall be the expectation of the nations" (Vulg.)
For already the sceptre had failed from Jacob, and had been transferred to Herod. Therefore it was the time of Messiah's Advent. Ver. 47. But if , &c. This is an argument ad hominem . For the Jews preferred Moses to Christ. Wherefore He rightly reasons against them thus: "If ye do not believe the writings of Moses (of whom ye make the highest account) which he wrote concerning Me, far less will ye believe My own words. In vain therefore do I bring so many testimonies, since I see you confirmed and obstinate in your hatred and rebellion against Me. Therefore I conclude My discourse. I will keep silence and depart."
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Lapide, Cornelius. "Commentary on John 5". The Great Biblical Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany