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A Commentary Upon The Gospel According To Saint Luke -St. Cyril

THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED.

YE have again assembled, I suppose, to be taught; and I praise your conduct, and count your willingness worthy of all admiration: for it is written, that “wisdom is better than stones of costly price; and all precious things are not comparable unto her.” For the wisdom that comes from above, from God, is an incomparable blessing; and when we attain unto it by means of the holy Scripture, inspired of God, and gain the divine light to dwell in our minds, we then advance without wandering unto whatsoever is useful for our spiritual profit. Come therefore, and let us now also scrupulously examine the meaning of the Evangelic lessons which have already been read to us.

At our previous meeting then the discourse which we addressed unto you was upon the ignorance of the Pharisees, and their utter madness, and base attacks. For they drew near unto Christ, the Saviour of us all, saying, “By what authority doest Thou these things, and who gave Thee this authority?” For what had Christ done? He had cast out of the temple those who were selling sheep and oxen, turtle doves and pigeons; and overturned the tables of the moneychangers, saying, “Take these things hence: and make not My Father’s house a house of merchandize.” And again, “My house is a house of prayer: but ye make it a den of thieves.”

We then spoke of these things as follows; that as the Lord was gathering up the shadow of the law, as a thing already unprofitable and superfluous, He sought to prohibit the sacrifices that were by the shedding of blood, because the time was now close at hand, and present, at which the worship in spirit and in truth must be declared. For He was Himself the truth, and as the truth had now appeared, types necessarily had become superfluous. Yet for this reason those wretched beings furiously attacked the Lord of all. And thus far our discourse had proceeded at our last meeting.

We will now shew that the chiefs and teachers of the Jewish synagogue in another way also violently attacked Christ. For the Saviour was teaching in the temple, setting forth most certainly for the instruction of His hearers things superior to the law; even the pathway of evangelic conduct. But they, being indignant at this also, wickedly drew near questioning Him, and saying, “Who gave Thee this authority?” What then again does this mean? ‘Thou art teaching, they say, in the temple, and yet Thou art sprung from the tribe of Judah, and art not numbered among those whose office it is to minister as priests in the temple. And why dost Thou teach what is repugnant to the commandment of Moses, and agrees not with the law that was given us of old?’

To those therefore who thus speak let us say, Doth this bite thy mind, and provoke thee to savage envy? Tell me, accusest thou the Lawgiver with the abrogation of the law? Dost thou blame Him, and make an outcry, because He does not obey His own laws? Tell me therefore, is God subject to His own law? Was it for us, or for Himself perhaps I suppose, that He enacted the commandments spoken by the holy prophets? But it is certain, even though thou ownest it not, that God transcends all law, and that it is we who are under the yoke of His commandments. When therefore any man, such as we are, transgresses the law, blame and condemn him for his transgression: but He Who enacted laws, not for Himself, but rather for us to obey, from time to time changes according to His own good pleasure whatever has been commanded; intending thereby not to humble those who are under the law to any thing evil, but rather to raise them up to that which is better. And so then now the season had arrived for the cessation of those things which were by types, and when that teaching of the law, which was given for the instruction of them of old time must pass away, in order that something better might be revealed, even the instruction given us in the Gospel.

But thou sayest, ‘Was this therefore in accordance with the will of Him Who instituted by Moses that former commandment for those of old time?’ Yes, I answer; and I arrive at this conclusion, not of my own mind, but as having proof thereof in the prophetic Scriptures. For God has somewhere said by the voice of Isaiah, “And the laws of My people shall be made to disappear.” How have the laws of the people been made to disappear? Because, as I said, they have been brought to nought by the manifestation of a new and better commandment, which the Son has spoken unto us by Himself; and which also He proclaimed of old by the voice of Ezechiel, thus speaking of those of the race of Israel; “Behold, I will gather them from every land whither I have scattered them in My anger, and hot displeasure, and great wrath; and I will make them return unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely, and they shall be to Me a people, and I will be to them a God, and I will give them another way and another heart, that they may fear Me all their days.” Another way therefore has been given them, by the gathering up, as I said, of the legal service, and of the teaching which consisted in writings and types, and the entrance in of that of the Gospel, of which the very beginning and pathway is faith, which by a spiritual service perfects unto justification, and raises up unto sanctification those who draw near unto God.

For that the institutions of Moses were intended to come to an end, and a new law and a new covenant to be given by Christ, any one may easily see, inasmuch as Ho says plainly; “Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will appoint a new covenant for the house of Israel, and for the house of Judah; not according to the covenant that I appointed for their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, because they did not abide in My covenant, and I despised them, saith the Lord.” He promises therefore a new covenant: and as the very wise Paul writes, “In that He said, a new, He hath made the former one old: but that which is made old, and growing old, is ready for destruction.” Inasmuch therefore as the former (covenant) was made old, it was necessary that that which is new should enter in its place: and this was done not by one of the holy prophets, but by Him rather Who is the Lord of the prophets.

Why therefore dost thou murmur, O Pharisee, at seeing the divinely inspired Scripture fulfilled, and those things which had been spoken of old by the holy prophets attaining also their fulfilment?

When then they asked, “By what authority doest Thou these things?” the Saviour replied, “I also will ask you one word, and tell Me: the baptism of John, was it from heaven or of men? And they, it says, considered with themselves, saying, that if we shall say, From heaven, He will say, Why therefore did ye not believe him? but if we say, Of men, all the people will stone us: for they are persuaded that John is a prophet. And they answered, that they knew not whence it was. And Jesus said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.” Observe the great malice of the Pharisees: they flee from the truth; they refuse the light; they feel no horror at committing sin. For God the Father sent the blessed Baptist as the forerunner of Christ, crying out and saying, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord: and make straight the pathways of our God.” Of him too the wise evangelist John wrote; “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came for a testimony to bear witness of the light: he was not the light, but to bear witness of the light;” even of Christ. And he bore witness by saying, that “He That sent me to baptize in water, He said unto me, that upon Whom thou seest the Spirit descend from heaven, and abide upon Him, He it is That baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw and bore witness, that This is the Son of God.” The blessed Baptist therefore, as being so great and admirable, is one worthy of our acceptance to move us unto faith, and to be a witness concerning Christ. But because it was the custom of the Jews lightly to slander the saints, and to call them false speakers, and to say that they had not been sent of God, but falsely assumed a knowledge of prophecy of their own mind, Christ asked them, what opinion they entertained of the Baptist? was he one who came from above, from God; did they honour him, that is, as one who had been sent to baptize in accordance with the will of God? or according to their custom, did they, from human considerations and wishes, deny that he came for this purpose? And they were afraid indeed to speak the truth, lest they should be told, Why then did ye not believe Him? but neither will they accuse the forerunner, not however from being afraid of God, but rather of the multitudes. And therefore they hide the truth, and say, “We know not.”

As not being then worthy to learn the truth, and to see the pathway which leadeth directly unto every good work, Christ answered them, “And neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.” The Jews therefore knew not the truth: for they were not “taught of God,” that is, of Christ. But to us who have believed in Him, Christ Himself revealeth it, so that we, receiving in mind and heart His divine and adorable mystery, or rather the knowledge of it, and being careful to fulfil those things which are well-pleasing to Him, shall reign with Him: by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever, Amen.








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