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Wednesday, June 19th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 21

Golden Chain Commentary on the GospelsGolden Chain Commentary

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Verses 1-9

l. And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples,2. Saying unto them, "Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me.3. And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them."4. And this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying,5. "Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass."6. And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them,7. And brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon.8. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strewed them in the way.9. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, "Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest."

Remig.: The Evangelist related above that the Lord departed from Galilee, and began to go up to Jerusalem. Being now occupied with telling what He did by the way, he proceeds in his purpose, saying, "And when they drew nigh to Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage." Bethphage was a small village of the priests, situated on the declivity of Mount Olivet, one mile distant from Jerusalem. For the priests who ministered in the temple their apportioned time, when their office of ministration was discharged, withdrew to this village to abide; as also did they who were to take their place. Because it was commanded by their Law that none should travel on the Sabbath more than a mile.

Origen: Whence Bethphage is interpreted, The house of the Shoulder; for the shoulder was the priest’s portion in the Law. It follows, "Then Jesus sent two of his disciples."

Pseudo-Chrys.: He said not to His disciples, Say, Thy Lord, or Your Lord, hath need of them; that they may understand, that He is Lord alone, not of the beasts only, but of all men; for even sinners are by the law of nature His, though by their own will they are the Devil’s.

Chrys.: And think not this a little thing which was now done, for who was it that wrought with the owners of the beasts that they refused not, but yielded them? By this also He instructs His disciples that He could have restrained the Jews, but would not; and further teaches them that they should grant whatever is asked of them; for if they who knew not Christ, now granted this, much more it becomes His disciples to give unto all. For that which is said, "But will straightway let them go,"

Pseudo-Chrys.: it is to be understood, that after He had entered into Jerusalem, the beast was returned by Christ to its owner.

Gloss., ap. Anselm: Or, The owner of the beasts will straightway send them to be engaged for Christ’s service. Hereto is added the testimony of the Prophet, that it may be shewn that the Lord fulfilled all things which were written of Him, but that the Scribes and Pharisees, blinded by envy, would not understand the things that they read; "All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Prophet;" to wit, Zacharias. [Zechariah 9:9]

Pseudo-Chrys.: For the Prophet knowing the malice of the Jews, that they would speak against Christ when He went up to the Temple, gave them this sign beforehand, whereby they might know their King, "Say ye to the daughter of Sion."

Raban.: In history, Daughter of Sion is the name given to the city of Jerusalem, which stands on mount Sion. But mystically, it is the Church of the faithful pertaining to the Jerusalem which is above.

Pseudo-Chrys.: "Behold," is a word used in pointing out any thing; look, that is, not with the bodily eye, but with the spiritual understanding, at the works of His power. Also aforetimes He oft said, "Behold," that He might shew that He of whom He spake before He was born was even then thy King. When then ye shall see Him, say not, "We have no King but Caesar. He cometh to thee," [John 19:15] if thou wilt apprehend Him, that He may save thee; if thou wilt not apprehend Him, He cometh against thee; "Meek," so that He is not to be feared for His power, but loved for His meekness; wherefore He sitteth not on a golden car, refulgent in costly purple, nor is mounted on a mettled steed, rejoicing in strife and battle, but upon a she-ass, that loves peace and quiet.

Aug., de Cons. Ev., ii, 66: In this quotation from the Prophet, there is some variety in the different Gospels. Matthew quotes it as if the Prophet had expressly mentioned the she-ass; but it is not so quoted by John [marg. note: John 12:15], nor in the Church-copies of the translation in common use. This seems to me to be accounted for by the account, that Matthew wrote his Gospel in the Hebrew language. And it is clear that the translation called the LXX, has some things different from what are found in the Hebrew, by those who know that tongue, and who have rendered the same books out of the Hebrew. If the reason of this discrepancy be asked, I consider nothing more likely than that the LXX interpreted with the selfsame spirit with which the original was written, which is confirmed by that wonderful agreement among them of which we are told.

By thus varying the expression, while they did not depart from the meaning of that God whose words they were, they convey to us the very same thing as we gather from this agreement, with slight variety, among the Evangelists. This shews us that it is no lie, when one relates any thing with such diversities in detail, as that he does not depart from his intention with whom he ought to agree. To know this is useful in morals in avoiding lies; and for faith itself, that we should not suppose that the truth is secured in sacred sounds, as though God imparted to us not the matter only, but the words in which the matter is conveyed. Rather the matter is in such sort conveyed in words, that we ought not to want words at all, if it were possible that the matter could be known by us without words, as God and His Angels know it.

It follows, "But the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them, and brought the ass, and the colt." The other Evangelists say nothing of the ass. And if Matthew had not mentioned the colt, as they do not mention the ass, the reader ought not to have been surprised. How much less then should it move him, when one has so mentioned the ass which the others have omitted, as not to forget the colt which they have mentioned. For there is no discrepancy where both circumstances may have occurred, though one only related one, and another; how much less then where one mentions both, though another mentions only one?

It follows, "And they put on them their clothes, and set him thereon."

Jerome: But it seems that the Lord could not in so short a distance have sate upon both animals; seeing then that the history has either an impossibility or a meanness, we are sent to higher things, that is, to the figurative sense.

Remig.: Notwithstanding, it was possible that the Lord might have sate upon both animals.

Chrys.: To me it seems that He was mounted upon the ass, not only because of the mystery, but to give us a lesson of wisdom, teaching us therein that it needs not to be mounted on horses, but that it is sufficient to employ an ass, and be content with that which is necessary. But enquire of the Jews, what King has entered Jerusalem mounted upon an ass? They can name none other, but this one only.

Jerome: The multitudes that came out of Jericho, and followed the Saviour, cast down their garments, and strewed the way with branches of trees; and therefore it follows, "But the multitudes spread their garments in the way;" that is, beneath the feet of the ass, that it should not stumble against a stone, nor tread upon a thorn, nor fall into a ditch. "Others cut down branches from the trees, and strewed them in the way;" from the fruit-trees, that is, with which mount Olivet was clothed.

And when all that could be done was done, they added also the tribute of the tongue, as it follows, "And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosannna to the Son of David."

I shall shortly examine what is the meaning of this word, Hosanna. In the hundred and seventeenth Psalm, which is clearly written of the Saviour’s coming, we read this among other things; "Save me now, O Lord, send now prosperity. Blessed art thou that art to come in the name of the Lord." [Psalms 118:25] For that which the LXX give "Save now, O Lord;" we read in the Hebrew, ’Anna, adonai osianna,’ which Symmachus renders more plainly, "I pray thee, O Lord, save, I pray thee." Let none think that it is a word made up of two words, one Greek and one Hebrew, for it is pure Hebrew.

Remig.: And it is confounded of one perfect and one imperfect word. For ’Hosi’ signifies ’save," ’anna’ is an interjection used in entreating.

Jerome: For it signifies that the coming of Christ is the salvation of the world, whence it follows, "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." Which same thing the Saviour in the Gospel confirms, "I am come in my John Father’s name." [John 5:43]

Remig.: Because, namely, in all His good actions, He sought not His own but His Father’s glory.

Gloss., ap. Anselm: And the meaning is, "Blessed," that is, Glorious, "is He that cometh," that is, is incarnate; "in the name of the Lord;" that is, of the Father, by glorifying Him. Again they repeat, "Hosanna," that is, "Save, I pray thee," and define whither they would be saved, in the highest, that is in the heavenly, not in the earthly places.

Jerome: Or by that which is added, "Hosanna," that is, Salvation, "in the highest," it is clearly shewn that the coming of Christ is not the salvation of man only, but of the whole world, joining earthly things to things heavenly.

Origen: Or when they say, "Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord," it is the dispensation of Christ’s humanity that they set forth; but His restoration to the holy places when they say, "Hosanna in the highest."

Pseudo-Chrys.: "Hosanna," some interpret ’glory,’ some ’redemption," and glory is His due, and redemption belongs to Him who has redeemed all men.

Hilary: The words of their song of praise, express His power of redemption; in calling Him the Son of David, they acknowledge His hereditary title to the kingdom,.

Pseudo-Chrys.: Never before had the Lord employed the services of beasts, nor surrounded Himself with the ornaments of green boughs, till now when He is going up to Jerusalem to suffer. He moved them that beheld to do that which they had before desired to do; so it was opportunity that was now given them, not their purpose that was changed.

Jerome: Mystically; The Lord draws near to Jerusalem departing from Jericho, and taking great multitudes with Him, because great and laden with great wares, that is, the salvation of believers that has been entrusted to Him, He seeks to enter the city of peace, the place of the beholding of God. And He comes to Bethphage, that is, to The house of the jawbones; He bare also the type of confession; and halted on Mount Olivet, where is the light of knowledge, and the repose from toils and pains. By the village over against the Apostles is denoted this world; for that was against the Apostles, and was not willing to receive the light of their teaching.

Remig.: The Lord therefore sent His disciples from mount Olivet to the village, when He guided the preachers forth from the primitive Church into the world. He sent two, because there were two orders of preachers, as the Apostle shews, saying, "He that wrought in Peter to the Apostleship of circumcision, the same was mighty in me towards the Gentiles;" [Galatians 2:8] or, because the precepts of charity are two; or, because there are two testaments; or, because there is letter and spirit.

Jerome: Or, because there is theory and practice, that is, knowledge and works. By the ass which had been under the yoke, and was broken, the synagogue is understood. By the ass’s colt wild and unbroken, the Gentile people; for the Jewish nation is towards God the mother of the Gentiles.

Raban.: Whence Matthew, who wrote his Gospel to the Jews, is the only one who mentions that the ass was brought to the Lord, to shew that this same Hebrew nation, if it repent, need not despair of salvation.

Pseudo-Chrys.: Men are likened to animals, from some resemblance they bear in their not recognising the Son of God. And this animal is unclean, and beyond all other brutes incapable of reasoning, a stupid, helpless, ignoble drudge. Such were men before the coming of Christ, unclean with divers passions; unreasoning, that is, lacking the reason of the Word; stupid, in their disregard of God; weak in soul; ignoble, because forgetting their heavenly birth they became slaves of their passions, and of the demons; drudges, because they toiled under the load of error laid upon them by the daemons, or the Pharisees.

The ass was tied, that is, bound in the chain of diabolic error, so that it had not liberty to go whither it would; for before we do any sin we have free will to follow, or not, the will of the Devil; but if once by sinning we have bound ourselves to do his works, we are no longer able to escape by our own strength, but, like a vessel that has lost its rudder is tossed at the mercy of the storm, so man, when by sin he has forfeited the aid of Divine grace, no longer acts as he wills, but as the Devil wills. And if God, by the mighty arm of His mercy, do not loose him, he will abide till death in the chain of his sins. Therefore He saith to His disciples, "Loose them," that is, by your teaching and miracles, for all the Jews and Gentiles were loosed by the Apostles; "and bring them to me," that is, convert them to My glory.

Origen: Whence also, when He ascended into heaven, He gave command to His disciples that they should loose sinners, for which also He gave them the Holy Spirit. But being loosed, and making progress, and being nourished by the Divinity of the Word, they are held worthy to be sent back to the place whence they were taken, but no more to their former labours, but to preach to them the Son of God, and this is what He signifies when He says, "And straightway He will send them."

Hilary: Or by the ass and the colt is shewn the twofold calling from among the Gentiles. For the Samaritans did serve after a certain fashion of obedience, and they are signified by the ass; but the other Gentiles wild and unbroken are signified by the colt. Therefore two are sent to loose them that are bound by the chains of error; Samaria believed through Philip, and Cornelius as the first-fruits of the Gentiles was brought by Peter to Christ.

Remig.: But as it was then said to the Apostles, "If any man say ought to you, say ye, The Lord hath need of them;" so now it is commanded to the preachers, that though any opposition he made to them, they should not slack to preach.

Jerome: The Apostles’ clothes which are laid upon the beasts may be understood either as the teaching of virtues, or discernment of Scriptures, or verities of ecclesiastical dogmas, with which, unless the soul be furnished and instructed, it deserves not to have the Lord take His seat there.

Remig.: The Lord sitting upon the ass goes towards Jerusalem, because presiding over the Holy Church, or the faithful soul, He both guides it in this life, and after this life leads it to the view of the heavenly country. But the Apostles and other teachers set their garments upon the ass, when they gave to the Gentiles the glory which they had received from Christ. The multitudes spread their garments in the way, when they of the circumcision who believed, despised the glory which they had by the Law. They cut down branches from the trees, because out of the Prophets they had heard of the green "Branch" as an emblem of Christ. [marg. note: Isaiah 11:1, Jeremiah 23:5]

Or, the multitudes who spread their garments in the way, are the martyrs who gave to martyrdom for Christ their bodies, which are the clothing of their minds. Or, they are signified, who subdue their bodies by abstinence. They who cut down the branches of the trees, are they who seek out the sayings and examples of the holy fathers for their own or their children’s salvation.

Jerome: When He says, "The multitudes that went before and that followed," He shews that both people, those who before the Gospel, and those who after the Gospel, believed on the Lord, praise Jesus with the harmonious voice of confession.

Pseudo-Chrys.: Those prophesying spoke of Christ who was to come; these speak in praise of the coming of Christ already fulfilled.

Verses 10-16

Ver 10. And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this?11. And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.12. And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,13. And said unto them, "It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves."14. And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple; and he healed them.15. And when the Chief Priests and Scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, "Hosanna to the Son of David;" they were sore displeased,16. And said unto him, "Hearest thou what these say?" And Jesus saith unto them, "Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?"

Jerome: When Jesus entered with the multitudes, the whole city of Jerusalem was moved, wondering at the crowds, and not knowing the power.

Pseudo-Chrys.: With good reason were they moved at sight of a thing so to be wondered at. Man was praised as God, but it was the God that was praised in the man. But, I suppose, that neither they who praised knew what they praised, but the Spirit that suddenly inspired there poured forth the words of truth.

Origen: Moreover, when Jesus entered the true Jerusalem, they cried out, wondering at His heavenly virtues, and said, "Who is this King of glory?" [Psalms 24:8]

Jerome: While others were in doubt or enquiring, the worthless multitude confessed Him; "But the people said, This is Jesus the Prophet from Nazareth in Galilee." They begin with the lesser that they may come to the greater. They hail Him as that Prophet whom Moses had said should come like to himself, [marg. note: Deuteronomy 15:18] which is rightly written in Greek with the testimony of the article, "From Nazareth of Galilee," for there He had been brought up, that the flower of the field might be nourished with the flower of all excellencies.

Raban.: But it is to be noted, that this entry of His into Jerusalem was five days before the passover. For John relates, that six days before the Passover He came to Bethany, [John 12:1] and on the morrow sitting on the ass entered Jerusalem. In this observe the correspondence between the Old and New Testaments, not only in things but in seasons. For on the tenth day of the first month, the lamb that was to be sacrificed for the passover was to be taken into the house, [marg. note: Exodus 12:3] because on the same day of the same month, that is, five days before the passover, the Lord was to enter the city in which He was to suffer.

Pseudo-Chrys.: "And Jesus entered into the temple of God." This was the part of a good Son to haste to His Father’s house, and do Him honour; so you then becoming an imitator of Christ as soon as you enter into any city, first run to the Church. Further, it was the part of a good physician, that having entered to heal the sick city, he should first apply himself to the source of the sickness; for as every thing good cometh out of the temple, so also doth every evil. For when the priesthood is sound, the whole Church flourishes, but if it is corrupt, faith is impaired; and as when you see a tree whose leaves are pale-coloured you know that it is diseased at its root, so when you see an undisciplined people conclude without hesitation that their priesthood is unsound.

Jerome: "And he cast out all them that sold and bought." It should be known that in obedience to the Law, in the Temple of the Lord venerated throughout the whole world, and resorted to by Jews out of every quarter, innumerable victims were sacrificed, especially on festival days, bulls, rams, goats; the poor offering young pigeons and turtle-doves, that they might not omit all sacrifice. But it would happen that those who came from a distance would have no victim.

The Priests therefore contrived a plan for making a gain out of the people, selling to such as had no victim the animals which they had need of for sacrifice, and themselves receiving them back again as soon as sold. But this fraudulent practice was often defeated by the poverty of the visitors, who lacking means had neither victims, nor whence to purchase them. They therefore appointed bankers who might lend to them under a bond. But because the Law forbade usury, and money lent without interest was profitless, besides sometimes a loss of the principal, they bethought themselves of another scheme; instead of bankers they appointed ’collybistae,’ a word for which the Latin has no equivalent.

[ed. note: " St. Jerome here gives a different sense of the word, from what is commonly received among ancient writers. Hesychius, as far as I know, is the only one who agrees with him, and he interprets "collyba", sweetmeats. At the same time Hesychius himself makes its proper sense to be "a kind of coin, with an ox stamped on the brass." Pollux and Suidas and others agree with this interpretation, so far as to make the word stand for a small coin. Hence Collybists were those who gave change in small coin. Origen too, to whom St. Jerome is indebted for a great part of his exposition, understands by Collybists those who change good coin for bad, to the injury of those who employ them." Vallars, in loc.]

Sweetmeats and other trifling presents they called ’collyba,’ such, for example, as parched pulse, raisins, and apples of divers sorts. As then they could not take usury, they accepted the value in kind, taking things that are bought with money, as if this was not what Ezekiel preached of, saying, "Ye shall not receive usury nor increase." [Ezekiel 18:17] This kind of traffic, or cheating rather, the Lord seeing in His Father’s house, and moved thereat with spiritual zeal, cast out of the Temple this great multitude of men.

Origen: For in that they ought neither to sell nor to buy, but to give their time to prayer, being assembled in a house of prayer, whence it follows, "And he saith unto them, It is written, My shall be called a house of prayer." [Isaiah 56:7]

Aug., Regula ad Serv. Dei., 3: Let no one therefore do ought in the oratory, but that for which it was made and whence it got its name. It follows, "But ye have made it a den of thieves."

Jerome: For he is indeed a thief, and turns the temple of God into a den of thieves, who makes a gain of his religion. Among all the miracles wrought by our Lord, this seems to me the most wonderful, that one man, and He at that time mean to such a degree that He was afterwards crucified, and while the Scribes and Pharisees were exasperated against Him seeing their gains thus cut off, was able by the blows of one scourge to cast out so great a multitude. Surely a flame and starry ray darted from his eyes, and the majesty of the Godhead was radiant in his countenance.

Aug., de Cons. Ev., ii, 68: It is manifest that the Lord did this thing not once but twice; the first time is told by John, this second occasion by the other three.

Chrys., Hom., lxvii: Which aggravates the fault of the Jews, who after He had done the same thing twice, yet persisted in their hardness.

Origen: Mystically; The Temple of God is the Church of Christ, wherein are many, who live not, as they ought, spiritually, but after the flesh; and that house of prayer which is built of living stones they make by their actions to be a den of thieves. But if we must express more closely the three kinds of men cast out of the Temple, we may say thus. Whosoever among a Christian people spend their time in nothing else but buying and selling, continuing but little in prayers or in other right actions, these are the buyers and sellers in the Temple of God. Deacons who do not lay out well the funds of their Churches, but grow rich out of the poor man’s portion, these are the money-changers whose tables Christ overturns.

But that the deacons preside over the tables of Church money, we learn from the Acts of the Apostles. [marg. note: Acts 6:2] Bishops who commit Churches to those they ought not, are they that sell the doves, that is, the grace of the Holy Spirit, whose seats Christ overturns.

Jerome: But, according to the plain sense, the doves were not in seats, but in cages; unless indeed the sellers of the doves were sitting in seats; but that were absurd, for the seat denotes the dignity of the teacher, which is brought down to nothing when it is mixed with covetousness.

Mark also, that through the avarice of the Priests, the altars of God are called tables of money-changers. What we have spoken of Churches let each man understand of himself, for the Apostle says, "Ye are the temple of God." [2 Corinthians 6:16] Let there not be therefore in the abode of your breast the spirit of bargaining, nor the desire of gifts, lest Jesus, entering in anger and sternness, should purify His temple not without scourging, that from a den of thieves He should make it a house of prayers.

Origen: Or, in His second coming He shall cast forth and overturn those whom He shall find unworthy in God’s temple.

Pseudo-Chrys.: For this reason also He overturns the tables of the money-changers, to signify that in the temple of God ought to be no coin save spiritual, such as bears the image of God, not an earthly image. He overturns the seats of those that sold doves, saying by that deed, What make in My temple so many doves for sale, since that one Dove descended of free gift upon the temple of My Body? What the multitude had proclaimed by their shouts, the Lord shews in deeds.

Whence it follows, "And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them."

Origen: For in the temple of God, that is in the Church, all have not eyesight, nor do all walk uprightly, but only they who understand that there is need of Christ and of none other to heal them; they coming to the Word of God are healed.

Remig.: That they are healed in the Temple signifies, that men cannot be healed but in the Church, to which is given the power of binding and loosing.

Jerome: For had He not overthrown the tables of the money-changers and the seats of them that sold doves, the blind and the lame would not have deserved that their wonted sight and power of motion should be restored to them in the temple.

Chrys.: But not even thus were the Chief Priests convinced, but at His miracles and the shouts of the children they had indignation.

Jerome: For, not daring to lay hands on Him, the Priests defame his works, and the testimony of the children who cried, "Hosanna to the Son of David, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord," as though this might be said to none but to the Son of God only. Let then Bishops and all holy men take heed how they suffer these things to be said to them, if this is charged as a fault in Him who is truly Lord to whom this was said, because the faith of the believers was not yet confirmed.

Pseudo-Chrys.: For as a pillar a little out of the perpendicular, if more weight be laid upon it, is driven to lean still more to one side; so also the heart of man when once turned aside, is only stirred the more with jealousy by seeing or hearing deeds of some righteous man. In this way the Priests were stirred up against Christ, and said, "Hearest thou what these say?"

Jerome: But the answer of Christ was cautious. He spake not what the Scribes would fain have heard, The children do well that they bear witness to me; nor on the other hand, They do what is wrong, they are but children, you ought to be indulgent to their tender years. But He brings a quotation from the eighth Psalm, [Psalms 8:2] that though the Lord were silent, the testimony of Scripture might defend the words of the children, as it follows, "But Jesus said unto them, Yea, have ye never read, &c."

Pseudo-Chrys.: As though He had said, Be it so, it is My fault that these cry thus. But is it My fault that so many thousand years before the Prophet foretold that so it should be? But babes and sucklings cannot know or praise any one. Therefore they are called babes, not in age, but in guilelessness of heart; sucklings, because they cried out being moved by their joy at the wonderful things they beheld, as by the sweetness of milk. Miraculous works are called milk, because the beholding of miracles is no toil, but rather excites wonder, and gently invites to the faith. Bread is the doctrine of perfect righteousness, which none can receive but they who have their senses exercised about spiritual things.

Chrys.: This was at once a type of the Gentiles, and no small comfort to the Apostles; for that they might not be perplexed, contriving how having no education for the purpose they should preach the Gospel, these children going before them did away that fear; for He who made these to sing His praises, shall give speech to those. This miracle also shews that Christ was the Framer of nature; seeing the children spoke things full of meaning, and agreeing with the Prophets, whereas the men uttered things meaningless, and full of frenzy.

Verses 17-22

Ver 17. And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there.18. Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered.19. And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found. nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, "Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever." And presently the fig tree withered away.20. And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, "How soon is the fig tree withered away!"21. Jesus answered and said unto them, "Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.22. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer believing, ye shall receive.

Pseudo-Chrys.: A bad man is better overcome by giving way to him than by replying to him; for wickedness is not instructed but stimulated by reproof. The Lord accordingly sought by withdrawing Himself to check those whom His words could not check; whence it is said, "And He left them, and went out of the city into Bethany."

Jerome: Hence it is to be understood that the Lord was in so great poverty, and so far from having courted any one, that He had found in all that city neither entertainer, nor abode, but He made His home in a little village, in the house of Lazarus and his sisters; for their village was Bethany; and it follows, "and He lodged there."

Pseudo-Chrys.: Seeking surely to lodge in the body where His spirit also reposed; for so it is with all holy men, they love to be not where sumptuous banquets are, but where holiness flourishes.

Jerome: When the shades of night were dispersed, and He was returning to the city, the Lord was an hungred, thus shewing the reality of His human body.Gloss., ap. Anselm: For in permitting His flesh to suffer that which properly pertains to flesh, He foreshews His passion. Mark the earnest zeal of the active labourer, Who is said to have gone early into the city to preach, and to gain some to His Father.

Jerome: The Lord about to suffer among the nations, and to take upon Him the offence of the Cross, sought to strengthen the minds of His disciples by a previous miracle; whence it follows, "And seeing a fig-tree by the wayside, He came to it, and found nothing thereon but leaves only."

Chrys.: He came not because He was an hungred, but for His disciples’ sake; for because He ever did good and inflicted suffering on none, it behaved that He should set forth an example of His power of punishment; and this He would not exert upon man, but upon a plant.

Hilary: Herein also we find proof of the Lord’s goodness; where He was minded to shew forth an instance of the salvation procured by His means, He exerted the power of His might on the persons of men; by healing their present sicknesses, encouraging them to hope for the future, and to look for the healing of their soul. But now when He would exhibit a type of His judgments on the rebellious, He represents the future by the destruction of a tree; "Let no fruit grow on, thee henceforward for ever."

Jerome: "For ever," (in sempiternum,) or, "To the end of the world," (in saeculum,) for the Greek word, signifies both.

Chrys.: This was only a supposition of the disciples that it was cursed because it had not fruit; for another Evangelist says that it was not yet the season. Why then was it cursed? For the disciples’ sake, that they might learn that He had power to wither up those who crucified Him. And He worked this miracle in that which of all plants is the most juicy, that the greatness of the miracle might be more apparent. And when aught of this kind is done to brutes or vegetables, ask not whether the fig were with justice withered up, seeing it was not the season for its fruit; for to enquire thus were extreme madness, for in such creatures there can be neither fault nor punishment; but consider the miracle, and admire the Worker of it.

Gloss. ord.: The Creator does no wrong to the owner, but His creature, at His will, is converted to the profit of others.

Chrys.: And that you may learn that this was done for their sakes, to the end, namely, that they should be stirred up to confidence, hear what is said further. Jesus answered and said unto them, "Verily I say unto you, if ye shall have faith."

Jerome: The Gentile dogs bark against us, affirming that the Apostles had not faith, because they were not able to remove mountains. To whom we answer, that many wonders were done by the Lord which are not written; and therefore we believe the Apostles to have done some not written, and that they were therefore not written, that the unbelieving might not have in them larger room for cavilling.

For let us ask them, do they believe the miracles which are written, or do they not! And when they look incredulous, we can then establish that they who believe not the lesser would not have believed the greater.

Chrys.: This that the Lord speaks of He ascribes to prayer and faith; whence He continues, "And all things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer believing ye shall receive."

Origen: For Christ’s disciples pray for nothing that they ought not, and as confiding in their Master they pray only for things great and heavenly.

Raban.: But whenever we are not heard when we pray, it is either because we ask something adverse to the means of our salvation; or because the perverseness of those for whom we ask hinders its being granted to them; or because the performance of our request is put off to a future time, that our desires may wax stronger, and so may have more perfect capacity for the joys they seek after.

Aug., de Cons. Ev., ii, 68: It must be considered that Mark relates the wonder of the disciples at the withering of the tree, and the answer of the Lord concerning faith, to have been not on the day following the cursing of the tree, but on the third day after; and that on the second day Mark relates the casting of the merchants out of the Temple, which he had omitted on the first day. On the second day then he says that He went forth out of the city in the evening, and that as they passed by in the morning, the disciples then saw that the fig tree was withered.

But Matthew speaks as though all this had been done on the day following. This must be so taken as that when Matthew, having related that the fig tree was dried up, adds immediately, omitting all the events of the second day, "And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled," he yet meant that it was on another day that they marvelled. For the tree must be supposed to have withered at the time it was cursed, not at the time they saw it. For they did not see it withering, but when it was withered, and by that they understood that it had withered immediately upon the Lord’s words.

Origen: Mystically; the Lord leaving the Chief Priests and Scribes withdrew without the earthly Jerusalem, which therefore fell. He came to Bethany to ’The house of obedience,’ that is, to the Church, where when He had taken rest after the first erecting of the Church, He returned to the city which He had left a little while before, and returning, He was an hungred.

Pseudo-Chrys.: For had His hunger been as man for carnal food, He would not have hungred in the morning; he truly hungers in the morning who hungers after the salvation of others.Jerome: The tree which He saw by the wayside we understand as the synagogue, which was nigh to the way inasmuch as it had the Law, but yet believed not on the way, that is, on Christ.

Hilary: And that is compared to a fig tree, because the Apostles being the first believers out of Israel, like green figs shall in the glory, and the time, of their resurrection, be before the rest.

Pseudo-Chrys.: Also the fig in respect of the multitude of seeds under one skin is as it were an assembly of the faithful. But He finds nothing on it but leaves only, that is, pharisaical traditions, an outward shew of the Law without the fruits of truth.

Origen: And because this plant was figuratively a living creature, having a soul, He speaks to it as though it heard. "Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever." Therefore is the Jewish synagogue barren, and shall continue so until the end of the world, when the multitude of the Gentiles shall come in; and the fig tree withered while Christ was yet sojourning in this life; and the disciples seeing by their spiritual discernment the mystery of the withered faith, wondered; and having faith, and not doubting, they bare it, and so it withers when their lifegiving virtue passes to the Gentiles; and by each one who is brought to the faith, that mountain Satan is lifted up and cast into the sea, that is, into the abyss.

Pseudo-Chrys.: Or; "Into the sea," that is, into the world where the waters are salt, i.e. the people are wicked.

Raban.: And he avenges his exclusion from the elect by more cruel treatment of the reprobate.

Aug., Quaest. Ev., i, 29: Or, this is to be said by each servant of God in his own case respecting the mountain of pride, to cast it from him. Or, because by Jews the Gospel was preached, the Lord Himself, who is called the mount, is by the Jews cast among the Gentiles as into a sea.

Origen: For every man who is obedient to the word of God is Bethany, and Christ abides in him; but the wicked and the sinners He leaves. And when He has been with the righteous, He goes to other righteous after them, and accompanied by them; for it is not said that He left Bethany and went into the city. The Lord ever is an hungred among the righteous, desiring to eat among them the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which are love, joy, peace. But this fig tree which had leaves only without fruit, grew by the wayside.

Pseudo-Chrys.: That is, nigh to the world; for if a man lives nigh to the world, he cannot preserve in himself the fruit of righteousness.

Origen: But if the Lord come seeking fruit with temptations, and one be found having nought of righteousness but only a profession of faith, which is leaves without fruit, he is soon withered, losing even his seeming faith; and every disciple makes this fig tree to wither, by making it be seen that he is void of Christ, as Peter said to Simon, "Thy heart is not right in the sight of God." [Acts 8:21]

For it is better that a deceitful fig tree which is thought to be alive, yet brings forth no fruit, should be withered up at the word of Christ’s disciples, than that by an imposture it should steal away innocent hearts. Also there is in every unbeliever a mountain great in proportion to his unbelief, which is removed by the words of Christ’s disciples.

Verses 23-27

Ver 23. And when he was come into the temple, the Chief Priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, "By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?"24. And Jesus answered and said unto them, "I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things.25. The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men?" And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him?26. But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet.27. And they answered Jesus, and said, "We cannot tell." And he said unto them, "Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things."

Pseudo-Chrys.: The Priests were tormented with jealousy, because they had seen Christ entering the Temple in great glory. And not being able to master the fire of jealousy which burnt in their breasts, they break forth in speech.

Chrys.: Forasmuch as they could not detract from His miracles, they bring matter of blame from His forbidding to sell in the Temple. As though they had said, Hast Thou assumed the seat of authority? Hast Thou been anointed Priest, that Thou exertest this power?

Pseudo-Chrys.: By that they add, "Or who gave thee this authority?" they shew that there be many persons who give power to men, whether corporal or spiritual! as though they had said, Thou art not come of a priestly family; the Senate has not conferred on Thee this power, neither has Caesar granted it. But had they believed that all power is from God, they would never have asked, "Who gave thee this authority?" For every man judges of others by himself. The fornicator thinks that none are chaste; the chaste does not readily suspect any of fornication; he who is not a Priest of God, thinks no man’s Priesthood to be of God.

Jerome: Or in these words they urge the same cavil as above, when they said, "He casteth out demons through Beelzebub the Prince of the demons." [Matthew 12:24] For when they say, "By what authority doest thou thee things?" they doubt concerning the power of God, and would have it understood that the things He does are of the Devil. But when they add, "Who gave thee this authority?" they most clearly deny the Son of God, whom they suppose to work miracles, not by His own, but by others’ strength.

The Lord could have confuted the calumny of His tempters by a simple answer, but He put a question to them of such skilful contrivance, that they must be condemned either by their silence or their knowledge; "Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one question."

Pseudo-Chrys.: Not that they should answer it, and thereupon hear of Christ the answer to their question, but that being puzzled they should ask Him no farther; according to that precept He had given above, "Give not that which is holy to the dogs." [Matthew 7:6] For even if He had told them, it would have profited nothing, because the darkened will cannot perceive the things that are of the light. For him that enquires we ought to instruct, but him that tempts, to overthrow by a stroke of reasoning, but not to publish to him the power of the mystery.

The Lord thus sets before them in His question a dilemma; and that they might not escape Him, says, "Which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things." His question is this; "The baptism of John whence was it? from heaven, or of men?"

Aug., in Joan. Tr., v. 4: John received his authority to baptize from Him, whom he afterwards baptized; and that baptism which was committed to him is here called the baptism of John. He alone received such a gift; no righteous man before or after him was entrusted with a baptism to be called from himself. For John came to baptize in the water of repentance, to prepare the way for the Lord, not to give inward cleansing, which mere man cannot do.

Jerome: What the Priests revolved in their malice is shewn when he adds, "But they reasoned with themselves." For had they replied that it was from heaven, the question was inevitable, Why then were ye not baptized by John? But should they reply that it was an invention of human device, and had in it nothing divine, they feared a tumult among the people. For all the assembled multitudes had received John’s baptism, and held him accordingly for a Prophet.

This godless party therefore make answer, and by a seeming humility of speech confessing that they know not, turned to hide their insidious designs. And they answered Jesus, and said, "We know not." In saying that they knew not, they lied; and it might have followed upon their answering thus, that the Lord also should say, I know not; but truth cannot lie, and therefore it follows, "And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things."

This shews that they knew, but would not answer, and that He also knew, but would not answer, because they would not speak what they knew.

Origen: But some one will say in opposition to this, that it was absurd to ask by what authority Jesus did these things. For that it could not be that He would answer, that He did these by the Devil’s authority; and He would not tell them as it truly was, that He did them by His own power. If it should be said, that the rulers put this question to Him in order to deter Him from His proceedings; as when we say to one who is dealing with what is ours in a way which we do not like, we say to him, Who bade thee do this? meaning to deter him from what he is so doing; -- if it is to be taken so, what means Christ’s answer, Do you tell Me this, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things.

Perhaps therefore, the place should be understood as follows. There are in the general two opposite powers, one on the side of God, the other on the side of the Devil; but of particular powers there are many; for it was not one and the same power that wrought in all the Prophets to enable them to do miracles, but one in these, another in those; and, it may be, for lesser things a lesser power, for greater things a greater power. The Chief Priests had seen Jesus working many miracles, whereupon they desired to know the special degree and properties of that power which wrought in Him. For others who have wrought miracles wrought them at first in one power, and afterwards when more advanced in another and greater power; but the Saviour wrought all in one power, that which He received of the Father. But because they were not worthy to hear such mysteries, therefore He gives them no answer, but on the contrary put a question to them.

Raban.: There are two reasons why the knowledge of truth should be kept back from those who ask; either when he who asks is unfit to receive, or from his hatred or contempt of the truth is unworthy to have that which he asks opened to him.

Verses 28-32

Ver 28. "But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard.29. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.30. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not.31. Whether of them twain did the will of his father?" They say unto him, "The first." Jesus saith unto them, "Verily I say unto you, That the Publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.32. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the Publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him."

Jerome: Thus much prefaced, the Lord brings forward a parable, to convict them of their irreligion, and shew them that the kingdom of God should be transferred to the Gentiles.

Pseudo-Chrys.: Those who are to be judged in this cause, He applies to as judges, that condemning themselves they might be shewn to be unworthy to be acquitted by any other. It is high confidence of the justness of a cause, that will entrust it to the decision of an adversary. But He veils the allusion to them in a parable, that they might not perceive that they were passing sentence upon themselves; "A certain man had two sons." Who is he but God, who created all men, who being by nature Lord of all, yet would rather be loved as a father, than feared as a Lord. The elder son was the Gentile people, the younger the Jews, since from the time of Noah there had been Gentiles. And he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. To day," i.e. during this age. He spoke with him, not face to face as man, but to his heart as God, instilling understanding through the senses. To work in the vineyard is to do righteousness; for to cultivate the whole thereof, I know not that any one man is sufficient.

Jerome: He speaks to the Gentile people first, through their knowledge of the law of nature; "Go and work in my vineyard;" i.e. "What you would not have done to you, that do not you to others." [Tobit 4:16] He answers haughtily, "I will not."

Pseudo-Chrys.: For the Gentiles from the beginning leaving God and his righteousness, and going over to idols and sins, seem to make answer in their thoughts, We will not do the righteousness of God.

Jerome: But when, at the coming of the Saviour, the Gentile people, having done penitence, laboured in God’s vineyard, and atoned by their labour for the obstinacy of their refusal, this is what is said, "But afterward he repented, and went." The second son is the Jewish people who made answer to Moses, "All that the Lord hath said unto us we will do." [Exodus 24:3]

Pseudo-Chrys.: But afterwards turning their backs, they lied unto God, according to that in the Psalms, "The sons of the strangers have lied unto me." [Psalms 18:44] This is what is said, "But he went not." The Lord accordingly asks "which of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first." See how they have first sentence upon themselves, saying, that the elder son, that is, the Gentile people, did the will of his father. For it is better not to promise righteousness before God, and to do it, than to promise, and to fail.

Origen: Whence we may gather, that in this parable the Lord spoke to such as promise little or nothing, but in their works shine forth; and against those who promise great things but do none of these things that they have promised.

Jerome: It should be known that in the correct copies it is read not "The last," but The first," that they might be condemned by their own sentence. But should we prefer to read, as some have it, "The last," the explanation is obvious, to say that the Jews understood the truth, but dissembled, and would not say what they thought; just as though they knew that the baptism of John was from heaven, they would not say so.

Pseudo-Chrys.: The Lord abundantly confirms their decision, whence it follows, "Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto yon, that the publicans and harlots shall go before you in the kingdom of God;" as much as to say, Not only the Gentiles are before you, but even the publicans and the harlots.

Raban.: Yet the kingdom of God may be understood of the Gentiles, or of the present Church, in which the Gentiles go before the Jews, because they were more ready to believe.

Origen: Notwithstanding, the Jews are not shut out that they should never enter into the kingdom of God; but, "when the fulness of the Gentiles shall have entered in, then all Israel shall be saved."

Pseudo-Chrys.: I suppose that the "publicans" here are to represent all sinful men, and "the harlots" all sinful women; because avarice is found the most prevailing vice among men, and fornication among women. For a woman’s life is passed in idleness and seclusion, which are great temptations to that sin, while a man, constantly occupied in various active duties, falls readily into the snare of covetousness, and not so commonly into fornication, as the anxieties of manly cares preclude thoughts of pleasure, which engage rather the young and idle.

Then follows the reason of what He had said, "For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed Him not."

Raban.: John came preaching the way of righteousness, because he pointed to Christ, who is the fulfilling of the Law.

Pseudo-Chrys.: Or, because his venerable conversation smote the hearts of sinners, as it follows, "But the Publicans and harlots believed on him." Mark how the good life of the preacher gives its force to his preaching, so as to subdue unsubdued hearts. "And ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him;" as much as to say, They have done that which is more by believing on Him, ye have not even repented, which is less.

But in this exposition which we have set forth according to the mind of many interpreters, there seems to me something inconsistent. For if by the two sons are to be understood the Jews and Gentiles, as soon as the Priests had answered that it was the first son that did his father’s will, then Christ should have concluded His parable with these words, Verily I say unto you, that the Gentiles shall go into the kingdom of God before you. But He says, "The Publicans and harlots," a class rather of Jews than of Gentiles. Unless this is to be taken as was said above; So much rather the Gentile people please God than you, that even the Publicans and harlots are more acceptable to Him than you.

Jerome: Whence others think that the parable does not relate to Gentiles and Jews, but simply to the righteous and to sinners. These by their evil deeds had rejected God’s service, but after received from John the baptism of repentance; while the Pharisees who made a shew of righteousness, and boasted that they did the law of God, despising John’s baptism, did not follow his precepts.

Pseudo-Chrys.: This He brings in because the Priests had asked not in order to learn, but to tempt Him. But of the common folk many had believed; and for that reason He brings forward the parable of the two sons, shewing them therein that the common sort, who from the first professed secular lives, were better than the Priests who from the first professed the service of God, inasmuch as the people at length turned repentant to God, but the Priests impenitent, never left off to sin against God. And the elder son represents the people; because the people is not for the sake of the Priests, but the Priests are for the sake of the people.

Verses 33-44

Ver 33. "Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country:34. And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it.35. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.36. Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise.37. But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son.38. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance.39. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.40. When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?"41. They say unto him, "He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons."42. Jesus saith unto them, "Did ye never read in the Scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?43. Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.44. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder."

Chrys., Hom, lxviii: The design of this further parable is to shew that their guilt was heinous, and unworthy to be forgiven.

Origen: The householder is God, who in some parables is represented as a man. As it were a father condescending to the infant lisp of his little child, in order to instruct him.

Pseudo-Chrys.: He is called man, by title, not by nature; in a kind of likeness, not in verity. For the Son knowing that by occasion of His human name He himself should be blasphemed as though he were mere man, spoke therefore of the Invisible God the Father as man; He who by nature is Lord of Angels and men, but by goodness their Father.

Jerome: He hath "planted" a vine of which Isaiah speaks, "The vine of the Lord of Hosts is the house of Israel." [Isaiah 5:7] And "hedged it round about;" i.e. either the wall of the city, or the guardianship of Angels.

Pseudo-Chrys.: Or, by the hedge understand the protection of the holy fathers, who were set as a wall round the people of Israel.

Origen: Or, the hedge which God set round his people was His own Providence; and the winepress was the place of offerings.

Jerome: "A winepress," that is to say, An altar; or those winepresses after which the three Psalms, the 8th, the 80th, and the 83rd are entitled, that is to say, the martyrs. [ed. note: Ps 8, 81, 84. Hebr. from the wine press, and so the Vulgate Torcularia, as St. Jerome reads. Others consider it a musical instrument used at the vintage. St. Augustine takes it for an oil press, Enarr. in Ps. 80. init. in Ps. 83. init. of vines or olives. With St. Jerome he interprets it of martyrdoms in Ps. 8. n. 3. just before he interprets it of Christian Churches, as does Athanasius in loc.]

Hilary: Or, He set forth the Prophets as it were winepresses, into which an abundant measure of the Holy Spirit, as of new wine, might flow in a teeming stream.

Pseudo-Chrys.: Or, the winepress is the word of God, which tortures man when it contradicts his fleshly nature.

Jerome: "And built a tower therein," that is, the Temple, of which it is said by Micah, "And thou, O cloudy tower of the daughter of Sion."

Hilary: Or, The tower is the eminence of the Law, which ascended from earth to heaven, and from which, as from a watchtower, the coming of Christ might be spied. "And let it out to husbandmen."

Pseudo-Chrys.: When, that is, Priests and Levites were constituted by the Law, and undertook the direction of the people. And as an husbandman, though he offer to his Lord of his own stock, does not please him so much as by giving him the fruit of his own vineyard; so the Priest does not so much please God by his own righteousness, as by teaching the people of God holiness; for his own righteousness is but one, but that of the people manifold. "And went into a far country."

Jerome: Not a change of place, for God, by whom all things are filled, cannot be absent from any place; but He seems to be absent from the vineyard, that He may leave the vine-dressers a freedom of acting.

Chrys.: Or, it applies to His long-suffering, in that He did not always bring down immediate punishment on their sins.

Origen: Or, because God who had been with them in the cloud by day, and in the pillar of fire by night, [marg. note: Exodus 13:21] never after shewed Himself to them in like manner. In Isaiah the people of the Jews is called the vineyard, and the threats of the householder are against the vineyard; [marg. note: Isaiah 5:7] but in the Gospel not the vineyard but the husbandmen are blamed.

For perchance in the Gospel the vineyard is the kingdom of God, that is, the doctrine which is contained in holy Scripture; and a man’s blameless life is the fruit of the vineyard. And the letter of Scripture is the hedge set round the vineyard, that the fruits which are bid in it should not be seen by those who are without. The depth of the oracles of God is the winepress of the vineyard, into which such as have profited in the oracles of God pour out their studies like fruit.

The tower built therein is the word concerning God himself, and concerning Christ’s dispensations. This vineyard He committed to husbandmen, that is, to the people that was before us, both priests and laity, and went into a far country, by His departure giving opportunity to the husbandmen.

The time of the vintage drawing near may be taken of individuals, and of nations. The first season of life is in infancy, when the vineyard has nought to shew, but that it has in it the vital power. As soon as it comes to be able to speak, then is the time of putting forth buds. And as the child’s soul progresses, so also does the vineyard, that is, the word of God; and after such progress the vineyard brings forth the ripe fruit of love, joy, peace, and the like. Moreover to the nation who received the Law by Moses, the time of fruit draweth near.

Raban.: "The season of fruit," He says, not of rent-paying, because this stiff-necked nation brings forth no fruit.

Chrys., non occ., ap. Chrys.: He calls the Prophets servants, who as the Lord’s Priests offer the fruits of the people, and the proofs of their obedience in their works. But they shewed their wickedness not only in refusing the fruits, but in having indignation against those that come to them, as it follows, "And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another."

Jerome: Beat them, as Jeremiah, killed them, as Isaiah, stoned them, as Naboth and Zacharias, whom they slew between the temple and the altar.

Pseudo-Chrys.: At each step of their wickedness the mercy of God was increased, and at each step of the Divine mercy the wickedness of the Jews increased; thus there was a strife between human wickedness and Divine goodness.

Hilary: These "more than the first" who were sent, denote that time, when, after the preaching of single Prophets, a great number was sent forth together.

Raban: Or, the first servants who were sent were the Lawgiver Moses himself, and Aaron the first Priest of God; whom, having beaten them with the scourge of their tongue, they sent away empty; by the other servants understand the company of the Prophets.

Hilary: By the Son sent at last, is denoted the advent of our Lord.

Chrys.: Wherefore then did He not send Him immediately? That from what they had done to the others they might accuse themselves, and putting away their madness they might reverence His Son when He came.

Pseudo-Chrys.: He sent Him not as the bearer of a sentence of punishment against the guilty, but of an offer of repentance; He sent Him to put them to shame, not to punish them.

Jerome: But when He says, "They will reverence my Son," He does not speak as in ignorance. For what is there that this householder (by whom in this place God is intended) knows not? But God is thus spoken of as being uncertain, in order that free-will may be reserved for man.

Chrys.: Or He speaks as declaring what ought to be; they ought to reverence Him; thus shewing that their sin was great, and void of all excuse.

Origen: Or we may suppose this fulfilled in the case of those Jews who, knowing Christ, believed in Him. But what follows, "But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir, come let us kill him, and let us seize on the inheritance," was fulfilled in those who saw Christ, and knew Him to be the Son of God, yet crucified Him.

Jerome: Let us enquire of Arrius and Eunomius. See here the Father is said not to know somewhat. Whatever answer they make for the Father, let them understand the same of the Son, when He says that He knows not the day of the consummation of all things. [marg. note: Matthew 22:36]

Pseudo-Chrys.: But some say, that it was after His incarnation, that Christ was called a Son in right of His baptism like the other saints, whom the Lord refutes by this place, saying, "I will send my Son." Therefore when He thus meditated sending His Son after the Prophets, He must have been already His Son. Further, if He had been His Son in the same way as all the saints to whom the word of God was sent, He ought to have called the Prophets also His sons, as He calls Christ, or to call Christ His servant, as He calls the Prophets.

Raban.: By what they say, "This is the Son," He manifestly proves that the rulers of the Jews crucified the Son of God, not through ignorance, but through jealousy. For they understood that it was He to whom the Father speaks by the Prophet, "Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance." [Psalms 2:8] The inheritance given to the Son is the holy Church; an inheritance not left Him by His Father when dying, but wonderfully purchased by His own death.

Pseudo-Chrys.: After His entry into the Temple, and having cast out those who sold the animals for the sacrifices, then they took counsel to kill Him, "Come, let us kill him." For they reasoned among themselves, It will happen that the people hereby shall disuse the practice of sacrificing, which pertains to our gain, and shall be content to offer the sacrifice of righteousness, which pertains to the glory of God; and so the nation shall no more be our possession, but shall become God’s. But if we shall kill Him, then there being none to seek the fruit of righteousness from the people, the practice of offering sacrifice shall continue, and so this people shall become our possession; as it follows, "And the inheritance shall be ours."

These are the usual thoughts of all worldly Priests, who take no thought how the people shall live without sin, but look to how much is offered in the Church, and esteem that the profit of their ministry.

Raban.: Or, The Jews endeavoured by putting Him to death to seize upon the inheritance, when they strove to overthrow the faith which is through Him, and to substitute their own righteousness which is by the Law, and therewith to imbue the Gentiles. It follows, "And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him."

Hilary: Christ was cast out of Jerusalem, as out of the vineyard, to His sentence of punishment.

Origen: Or, what He says, "And cast him out of the vineyard," seems to me to be this; As far as they were concerned they judged Him a stranger both to the vineyard, and the husbandmen. "When therefore the Lord of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?"

Jerome: The Lord asks them not as though He did not know what they would answer, but that they might be condemned by their own answer.

Pseudo-Chrys.: That their answer is true, comes not of any righteous judgment in them, but from the case itself; truth constrained them.

Origen: Like Caiaphas [marg. note: John 11:49] so did they, not from themselves, prophesy against themselves, that the oracles of God were to be taken from them, and given to the Gentiles, who could bring forth fruit in due season.

Gloss. ord.: Or, the Lord whom they killed, came immediately rising from the dead, and brought to an evil end those wicked husbandmen, and gave up His vineyard to other husbandmen, that is, to the Apostles.

Aug., de Cons. Ev., ii, 70: Mark does not give this as their answer, but relates that the Lord after His question put to them, made this answer to Himself. But it may be easily explained, that their words are subjoined in such a way as to shew that they spoke them, without putting in ’And they answered.’ Or this answer is attributed to the Lord, because, what they said being true, might well be said to have been spoken by Him who is truth.

Chrys.: Or there is no contradiction, because both are right; they first made answer in these words, and then the Lord repeated them.

Aug.: This troubles us more, how it is that Luke not only does not relate this to have been their answer, but attributes to them a contrary answer. His words are, "And when they heard it they said, God forbid." [Luke 20:16] The only way that remains for understanding this is, therefore, that of the listening multitudes some answered as Matthew relates, and some as Luke.

And let it perplex no one that Matthew says that the Chief Priests and elders of the people came to the Lord, and that he connects the whole of this discourse in one down to this parable of the vineyard, without interposing any other speaker. For it may be supposed that He spoke all these things with the Chief Priests, but that Matthew for brevity’s sake omitted what Luke mentions, namely, that this parable was spoken not to those only who asked Him concerning His authority, but to the populace, among whom were some who said, He shall destroy them, and give the vineyard to others.

And at the same time this saying is rightly thought to have been the Lord’s, either for its truth, or for the unity of His members with their head. And there were also those who said, "God forbid," those namely, "who perceived that He spoke this parable against them."

Pseudo-Chrys.: Otherwise: Luke has given the answer of their lips, Matthew that of their hearts. For some made answer openly contradicting Him, and saying, "God forbid," but their consciences took it up with "He shall miserably destroy these wicked men." For so when a man is detected in any wickedness, he excuses himself in words, but his conscience within pleads guilty.

Chrys.: Or otherwise: the Lord proposed this parable to them with this intent, that not understanding it they should give sentence against themselves; as was done by Nathan to David. Again, when they perceived the meaning of the things that had been said against them, they said, "God forbid."

Raban: Morally; a vineyard has been let out to each of us to dress, when the mystery of baptism was given us, to be cultivated by action. Servants one, two, and three are sent us when Law, Psalm, and Prophecy are read, after whose instructions we are to work well. He that is sent is beaten and cast out when the word is contemned, or, which is worse, is blasphemed. He kills (as far as in him lies) the heir, who tramples under foot the Son, and does despite to the Spirit of grace. The wicked husbandman is destroyed, and the vineyard is given to another, when the gift of grace which the proud has contemned is given to the lowly.

Pseudo-Chrys.: When they seemed discontent, He brings forward Scripture testimony; as much as to say, If ye understood not My parable, at least acknowledge this Scripture.

Jerome: The same things are treated under various figures; whom above He called labourers and husbandmen, He now calls builders.

Chrys.: Christ is the stone, the builders are the Jewish teachers who rejected Christ, saying, "This man is not of God." [John 9:16]

Raban.: But despite of their displeasure, the same stone furnished the head stone of the corner, for out of both nations He has joined by faith in Him as many as He would.

Hilary: He is become the head of the corner, because He is the union of both sides between the Law and the Gentiles.

Chrys.: And that they might know that nothing that had been done was against God’s will, He adds, "It is the Lord’s doing."

Origen: That is, the stone is the gift of God to the whole building, and is wonderful in our eyes, who can discern it with the eyes of the mind.

Pseudo-Chrys.: As much as to say, How do ye not understand in what building that stone is to be set, not in yours, seeing it is rejected, but in another; but if the building is to be other, your building will be rejected.

Origen: By the kingdom of God, He means the mysteries of the kingdom of God, that is, the divine Scriptures, which the Lord committed, first to that former people who had the oracles of God, but secondly to the Gentiles who brought forth fruit. For the word of God is given to none but to him who brings fruit thereof, and the kingdom of God is given to none in whom sin reigns.

Whence came it then that it was given to them from whom it was afterwards taken away? Remember that whatever is given is given of free gift. To whom then He let out the vineyard, He let it out not as to elect already and believing; but to whom He gave it, He gave it with a sentence of election.

Pseudo-Chrys.: Christ is called A Stone, not only because of His strength, but because He mightily crushes His enemies; whence it follows, "And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken, and on whomsoever it shall fall, it shall grind him to powder."

Jerome: Whoso sinneth, yet believeth on Him, falls indeed upon a stone and is broken, yet is not altogether crushed, but is preserved to salvation through endurance. But on whomsoever it shall fall, that is, whomsoever this stone shall itself assault, and whosoever shall utterly deny Christ, it shall so crush him, that not a bone of him shall be left in which a drop of water could be taken up.

Pseudo-Chrys.: It is one thing to be broken, and another to be ground to powder. Of what is broken there remains something; but what is ground to powder is as it were converted into dust. And what falls upon a stone is not broken by any power of the stone, but because it fell heavily, either by reason of its weight, or of its fall from a great height So a Christian in sinning, perishes, but not to the utmost that Christ can destroy; but only so far as he destroys himself, either by the greatness of his sin, or by his exalted rank. But the unbelievers perish to the utmost that Christ can destroy them.

Chrys.: Or, He here points out their twofold destruction; first in their stumbling and being offended at Him, signified in that, "Whosoever shall fall upon this stone;" the other in the captivity that should come upon them, signified by that, "But upon whomsoever it shall fall."

Aug., Quaest. Ev., i. 30: Or, Those that fall upon Him, are those that despise and afflict Him. These do not perish utterly, but are broken so that they walk not upright. But upon these He shall fall when He shall come from above in judgment with a punishment of destruction, and thence He says, "Shall grind them to powder," because "the wicked are like the dust which the wind scattereth abroad on the face of the earth." [Psalms 1:4]

Verses 45-46

Ver 45. And when the Chief Priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.46. But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet.

Jerome: Hard as were the hearts of the Jews in unbelief, they yet perceived that the Lord’s sentence was directed against themselves.

Pseudo-Chrys., in fin. Hom. xxxix: Here is the difference between good and bad men. The good man when taken in a sin has sorrow because he has sinned, the bad man is grieved not because he has sinned, but because he is found out in his sin; and he not only does not repent, but is indignant with him that reproved him. Thus they being taken in their sins were stirred up to still greater wickedness; "And they sought to lay hands on him, but feared the multitude, because they took him for a Prophet."

Origen: One thing they know which is true concerning Him; they esteemed Him a Prophet, though not understanding His greatness in respect of His being the Son of God. But the rulers feared the multitude who thought thus of Him, and were ready to fight for Him; for they could not attain to the understanding which the multitude had, seeing they thought nothing worthy concerning Him.

Further, know that there are two different kinds of desires to lay hands on Jesus. The desire of the rulers and Pharisees was one kind; another that of the Bride, "I held him, and would not let him go;" [ Song of Solomon 3:4] intending to try Him still further, as she saith, "I will get me up into the palm tree, I will lay hold of its height." [Song of Solomon 7:8] All who think not rightly concerning His divinity, seek to lay hands on Jesus in order to put Him to death. Other words indeed excepting the word of Christ it is possible to seize and to hold, but the word of truth none can seize, that is, understand; none can hold it, that is, convict; nor separate it from the conviction of those that believe; nor do it to death, that is, destroy it.

Pseudo-Chrys.: Every wicked man also, as far as his will is concerned, lays hands on God, and puts Him to death. For whoso tramples upon God’s commandments, or murmurs against God, or raises a sullen look to heaven, would not he, if he had the power, lay hands on God, and kill Him, that he might sin without restraints?

Raban.: This, that they are afraid to lay hands on Jesus because of the multitudes, is daily acted in the Church, when any who is a brother only in name, is ashamed or afraid to assail the unity of faith and peace which he does not love, because of the good men with whom he lives.

Bibliographical Information
Aquinas, Thomas. "Commentary on Matthew 21". "Golden Chain Commentary on the Gospel". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gcc/matthew-21.html.
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