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

Then answered one of the lawyers, and said unto Him, Teacher, in saying these things thou reproachest us also. And He said, Also unto you, lawyers, woe! for ye lade men with burdens heavy and grievous to be borne; and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them. Therefore ye bear witness, and approve of the deeds of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchres.

REPROOF is ever, so to speak, a thing difficult for any man to bear: but it is not without profit to the soberminded: for it leads them to the duty of performing those things which make them worthy of honour, and lovers of virtuous pursuits. But those who run into wickedness with all eagerness, and whose heart is set against admonition, are hurried into greater sins by the very things that should have made them more soberminded, and are only hardened by the words of those who try to benefit them. And, as an example of this state of mind, behold those who among the Jews were called lawyers. For the Saviour of all was rebuking the Pharisees, as men that were wandering far from the right way, and fallen into unbecoming practices. For He blamed them as being boasters, as hypocrites, as loving greetings in the markets, and as wishing to sit in front of everybody else in the synagogues: and He further called them “whited sepulchres, which on the outside are beautiful, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all impurity.” At these things the band of wicked lawyers was indignant, and one of them stood up to controvert the Saviour’s declarations, and said; “Teacher, in saying these things, Thou reproachest us also.” Oh what great ignorance! what blindness in mind and understanding unto every thing necessary! These men subject themselves to blame: or rather the force of truth shewed them to be liable to the same accusations as the Pharisees, and of one mind with them, and partners of their evil deeds, if they thus consider that what Christ said unto the others was spoken also against them. For tell me, for what reason art thou angry? When any reproof is addressed to the Pharisees, thou sayest that thou art reproached. Thou confessest therefore thy deeds. Thou art conscious, of course, to thyself of being a similar character. But if thou considerest it a reproach for ought of this sort to be said of thee, and nevertheless dost not alter thy behaviour, it is thy own conduct thou art found blaming. If thou hatest reproof as being a reproach, shew thyself superior to the faults with which thou art charged: or rather do not regard as a reproach the word of correction. Dost thou not see that those who heal the bodies of men converse with the sick upon the causes which have brought on their maladies, and use pungent drugs to counteract what has happened: but no one is angry with them on this account, or regards what they say as a reproach. But thou art weak-minded in bearing admonitions, nor consentest to learn what those passions are which are bringing injury to thy heart. Far better would it be to love reproof, and ask for deliverance from thy maladies, and healing for the ulcers of thy soul. Far better were it rather to say, “Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed: save me, and I shall be saved: for Thou art my praise.”

Nothing however of this sort enters the mind of the lawyers, but they venture even to say; “In speaking these things, Thou reproachest us also:” ignorantly giving the name of reproach to a reproof which was for their benefit and advantage. What then does Christ reply? He makes His reproof yet more severe, and humbles their empty pride, thus saying; “Also to you, lawyers, woe! for ye lade men with burdens heavy and grievous to be borne: and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.” He frames His argument against them out of a plain example. For the law was confessedly grievous to the Israelites, as the divine disciples also acknowledged. For they even rebuked those who were endeavouring to make such as had already believed desire to return to the legal ritual: for they said; “And now why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear?” And the Saviour Himself taught us this, crying out and saying; “Come unto Me, all ye weary, and heavy laden; and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest for yourselves.” Weary then and heavy laden are those, He says, who are under the law: while He calls Himself meek, as though the law had nothing in it of this character. For, as Paul says; “Whosoever has despised Moses’ law is put to death without mercy at the mouth of two or three witnesses.” Woe to you, therefore, He says, O lawyers: for while ye bind burdens grievous to be borne, and intolerable to carry, and lay them on those who are under the law, ye yourselves will not touch them. For while commanding that the ordinance of Moses should be kept inviolate, and passing sentence of death upon any who despise it, they themselves paid not the slightest heed to the duty of performing its precepts. As accustomed thus to act, the wise Paul also rebukes them, saying; “Behold thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God; and knowest His will, and discernest the things that are more excellent, being instructed by the law; and art confident of thyself, that thou art a guide of the blind; an instructor of those without understanding; a teacher of babes; and that thou hast the form of knowledge and of truth in the law. Thou therefore that teachest others, teachest thou not thyself? thou that sayest that men should not steal, dost thou steal? thou that sayest that men should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? And thou that despisest idols, dost thou plunder the sanctuary? And thou that boastest in the law, by the transgression of the law despisest thou God?” For the teacher is rejected with infamy when his conduct does not agree with his words. Upon him our Saviour also passes the sentence of severe punishment: “for whosoever,” He says, “has taught and done, shall be called great: but whosoever shall teach and not do, he shall be called small in the kingdom of heaven.” And for the same reason the disciple of the Saviour also writes to us; “Let there not be many teachers among you, my brethren; knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. For in many things we all of us commit wrong.”

And having thus shewn the worthlessness of this abominable crew of lawyers, He goes on to utter a common reproof to all the chiefs of the Jews: “Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets: and your fathers killed them. Therefore ye bear witness, and approve of the deeds of your fathers; for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchres.” Let us then carefully examine what the Saviour means; for what wicked act can we say that they were guilty of in building the tombs of the saints? Were they not rather doing them distinguished honour? What doubt can there be of this? It is necessary therefore to see what it is which Christ teaches us. The ancestors then of the Jews had from time to time put the holy prophets to death, when bringing them the word of God, and leading them unto the right way: but their descendants, acknowledging that the prophets were holy and venerable men, built over them sepulchres or tombs, as bestowing upon them an honour suitable to the saints. Their fathers therefore slew them; but they, as believing that they were prophets and holy men, became the judges of those that slew them. For by determining to pay honour to those who had been put to death, they thereby accused the others of having done wrongfully. But they, who condemned their fathers for such cruel murders, were about to incur the guilt of equal crimes, and to commit the same, or rather more abominable offences. For they slew the Prince of Life, the Saviour and Deliverer of all: and added also to their wickedness towards Him other abominable murders. For Stephen was put to death, not as being accused of any thing base, but rather for admonishing them, and speaking unto them what is contained in the inspired Scriptures. And other crimes besides were committed by them against every saint who preached unto them the Gospel message of salvation.

The lawyers therefore and Pharisees were reproved in everyway, as being haters of God, and boastful, and lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God: and as everywhere hating to be saved. For this reason Christ added always that word “woe,” as something peculiarly theirs: 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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