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

That same hour there drew near certain Pharisees, saying unto Him, Depart, and go hence: for Herod desireth to kill thee. And He said unto them, Go ye, and tell this fox, Behold I cast out devils, and I do cures today and tomorrow, and on the third I shall be perfected. Nevertheless I must walk today and tomorrow and the day afterward: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killeth the prophets, and stoneth them that are sent unto her, how often would I have gathered thy children, as a hen gather eth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not. Behold your house is abandoned for you: and I say unto you, that ye shall not see Me, until ye say, Blessed is He That cometh in the name of the Lord.

THE Pharisaic crew was always, so to speak, wicked and designing, and eager for fraud, gnashing their teeth at Christ, whenever He was regarded with admiration, and with their heart consumed by the fire of envy. And yet how was it not rather their duty as being the people’s guides, and set over the ordinary multitude, to lead them on unto the confession of Christ’s glory, as being the purpose both of the enactment of the law, and of the preaching of the holy prophets. But this in their great wickedness they did not do: yea! rather in every way they resisted Him, and provoked Him incessantly to anger; and therefore Christ said unto them, “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites: for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye enter not in yourselves, and those that were entering ye have hindered.” For one can see that they had fallen into such a state of malice, and into a disposition so contrary to the love of God, that they were not willing for Him even to dwell in Jerusalem, lest He should benefit men, partly by filling them with wonder at His divine miracles, and partly by shedding upon them the light of the accurate vision of God by means of the teaching of truths superior to those of the law.

Such are the thoughts to which we are here led by the purport of the lessons now set before us. “For in that same hour, it says, certain Pharisees drew near, and said unto Him, Depart and go hence: for Herod desireth to kill Thee.” Come, then, and let us fix the scrutinizing eye of the mind on what is here said by them. Let us accurately examine which of the two is the case, whether the speakers are to be reckoned among those who love Him, or among those who would oppose Him. But, as it appears, there is no difficulty whatsoever in perceiving that they were His thorough opponents. For Christ, for instance, raised the dead from the grave, employing therein a power such as belongs to God: for He cried, “Lazarus, come forth:” and to the widow’s son, “Young man, I say unto thee, arise.” But they made the miracle food for their envy, and even said, when gathered together, “What do we, because this man doeth many miracles? If we thus leave Him alone, the Romans will come, and take away our people and our land.” And then, even then, it was that Caiaphas, planning wicked murder against Him, said; “As for you, ye know nothing at all, that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and not that the whole people perish.”

And they resisted Him also in other ways; at one time treating Him with scorn, and mocking His miraculous power, and venturing even to accuse His godlike authority, saying, that whatever was done was wrought by the help of Beelzebub: and at another even endeavouring to give Him up to Cæsar’s satellites. For as though He prohibited the Israelites from paying tax unto Cæsar, they drew near to Him in treachery and guile, saying, “Is it lawful to give tribute unto Cæsar or not?” Can those then who laid for Him all kinds of snares; who, in their audacity and hardihood, did not even abstain from murder; who, being cunning for wickedness, attacked Him with remorseless violence, and readily practised all such arts as those do who hate utterly; how, I say, can such be reckoned among those who love Him?

Why then did they draw near, saying, “Depart hence: for Herod wishes to kill Thee:” and what object had they in so doing? The Evangelist tells us this, by saying, “That same hour they drew near to Him.” And what is the meaning of this carefulness of language? Why was there this exactitude? or what hour does he mean as that in which the Pharisees said these things to Jesus? He was occupied in teaching the Jewish multitudes, when some one asked Him whether there be many that are saved. He passed by the question, however, as unprofitable, and turned to that which was fitting for Him to tell, the way, namely, by which men must walk to become heirs of the kingdom of heaven. For He said, “Strive to enter in at the strait door: and told them that if they refuse so to do, they will see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and themselves cast out.” And He added thereunto, that “whereas they had been the first, they should be the last,” upon the calling namely of the heathen. These remarks goaded the mind of the Pharisees unto anger: they saw the multitudes already repenting, and receiving with eagerness faith in Him; and that they needed now but a little more instruction to learn His glory and the great and adorable mystery of the incarnation. As being likely therefore to lose their office of being chiefs of the people, and as already fallen and expelled from their authority over them, and deprived of their profits,—for they were fond of wealth, and covetous, and given to lucre,—they made pretence of loving Him, and even drew near, and said, “Depart and go hence: for Herod desireth to kill Thee.” But, O stonyhearted Pharisee, hadst thou been wise; hadst thou been well acquainted with the law of the most wise Moses; hadst thou really fixed thy mind upon the declarations of the holy profits; it could not have escaped thee that there was no possibility of thy being undetected in feigning a false show of affection, while thy mind was full of gall. He was not a mere man, and one of those like unto us, and so liable to deception; but God in our likeness: God Who understandeth everything, and “knoweth secrets,” as it is written, and “trieth the hearts and reins;” “to Whom all things are naked, and spread open,” and from Whom nothing is hid. But thou knewest not this precious and mighty mystery: thou thoughtest that thou couldst deceive even Him Who saith; “Who is this that hideth from Me his mind, and shutteth up words in his heart, and thinketh that from Me he hideth them?”

What then does Christ answer to these things? He replied to them gently, and with His meaning veiled, as was His wont: “Go and tell, He says, this fox.” Attend closely to the force of the expression: for the words used seem forsooth to be directed, and to have regard, as it were, to the person of Herod: but they really rather refer to the craftiness of the Pharisees. For while He would naturally have said, “Tell that fox,” He does not do so, but using very skilfully a middle sort of expression, He, so to speak, pointed to the Pharisee, who was close beside Him, and said, “this fox.” And He compares the man to a fox: for it is constantly a very crafty animal, and, if I may so speak, malicious, such as were the Pharisees.

But what did He bid them say? “Behold, I cast out devils, and do cures today and tomorrow, and the third I shall be perfected.” Thou seest that He declares His intention of performing what He knew would grieve the troop of Pharisees: for they drive Him from Jerusalem, lest by the display of miracles He should win many unto faith in Him. But inasmuch as their purpose herein did not escape Him as being God, He declares His intention of performing what they hated, and says, that “He shall also rebuke unclean spirits, and deliver the sick from their sufferings, and be perfected;” which means, that of His own will He would endure the passion upon the cross, for the salvation of the world. He knew, therefore, as it appears, both how and when He would endure death in the flesh.

The Pharisees, however, imagined that the power of Herod would terrify Him, and humble Him unto mean fears, although He is Lord of powers, and begets in us spiritual bravery by His words, “Fear not them who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul.” And that He too makes no account of the violence of men He shewed, saying, “But I must walk today and tomorrow and the day after.” And in saying, “I must,” He does not imply that an inevitable necessity, so to speak, was laid upon Him, but rather that by the power of His own will, freely and without danger He would go wherever He chose, and traverse Judæa without any one opposing Him or plotting Him ill, until of His own accord He received His consummation upon the precious cross.

Let not therefore those murderers of the Lord pride themselves, or superciliously vaunt themselves against Him. Thou didst not win a victory over One Who fled from suffering. Thou didst not seize One unwilling. Thou didst not prevail over One Who refused to be caught in the meshes of thy craftiness. Of His own will He consented to suffer, as being well assured that by the death of His flesh He would abolish death, and return again to life. For He arose from the dead, having raised up with Him the whole nature of man, and having fashioned it anew unto the life incorruptible.

But He shews that Jerusalem is guilty of the blood of many saints, declaring, “that it is not possible for a prophet to perish out of her.” And what follows from this? That they were about to fall from being members of God’s spiritual family; that they were about to be rejected from the hope of the saints, and entirely deprived of the inheritance of those blessings which are in store for them who have been saved by faith. For that they were forgetful of God’s gifts, and intractable, and slothful unto everything that might have profited them, He shewed, saying; “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killeth the prophets, and stoneth them that are sent unto her, how often would I have gathered thy sons, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not: behold your house is abandoned unto you.” For He taught them by the most wise Moses, and ordained for them the law to direct them in their conduct, and be their ruler and guide in the life worthy of admiration, and which though it was but as yet in shadows, nevertheless possessed, the type of the true worship: He admonished them by the holy prophets: He would have had them under His wings, under the protection, that is, of His power: but they lost blessings thus valuable by being evil-disposed and ungrateful, and despisers.

“But,” saith He, “ye shall not see Me henceforth until ye say, Blessed is he that cometh in the Name of the Lord.” And what again is this? The Lord withdrew from Jerusalem, and left as unworthy of His presence those who said, “Depart and go hence.” And afterwards having traversed Judæa, and saved many, and performed miracles which no words can adequately describe, He returned again to Jerusalem. And then it was, even then, that He sat upon a foal and an ass, while vast multitudes and young children, holding up branches of palm-trees, went before Him, praising Him, and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is He That cometh in the Name of the Lord.” Having left them therefore as being unworthy, He says that He will then barely be seen by them when the time of His passion has arrived. For then again He went up to Jerusalem, and entered amid praises, and at that very time endured His saving passion in our behalf, that by suffering He might save, and renew unto incorruption the inhabitants of the earth. For God the Father has saved us by Christ: 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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