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Commentary On The Gospel According To Saint John Volumes 1&2


24 Annas therefore sent Him bound unto Caiaphas, the high priest. 25 Now Simon Peter teas standing warming himself. They said therefore unto him, Art thou also one of His disciples? He denied, and said, I am not. 26 One of the servants of the high priest, being a kinsman of him whose ear Peter cut off, saith, Did not I see thee in the garden with Him? 27 Peter therefore denied again: and straightway the cock crew.

THE inspired Evangelist, to our profit, checks the course of his narrative, like a horse at full speed, and turns it back again. And why? Because he was bound, before narrating what next ensued, to point out to us Peter’s third denial; and this event is best and most appropriately described as it occurred. He therefore designedly refers to what took place at first, and says, that Jesus was sent by Annas to Caiaphas; and shows us that Peter was questioned by the servants who were warming themselves with him at the fire, and also by a kinsman of him whom he had smitten; and that this was the occasion of his third denial. Then He mentions the crowing of the cock, making it plain to us that no word of our Saviour ever falls to the ground; for He had foreknown and foretold the frailty of His own disciple in the midst of danger. Perhaps the divinely taught compiler of this book would have made no mention at all of this fact, had he not bethought himself of the captious spirit and ceaseless babbling of the adversaries of God. For some of those who seek to make bitter war on the glory of the Saviour would straightway have said: “Show us the denial of Peter, and how, and where, that came to pass which was foretold by Christ, Who, you say, cannot lie. For you maintain that He is Truth, and that He proceedeth from a Father Who is true.” It was very essential, therefore, that the inspired Evangelist should narrate to us this occurrence, and show that Christ at all times said what was true.

But perhaps some opponent, abstaining from bringing any such attack against us, will bring a grievous charge against Peter, and accuse the well-beloved disciple of incomparable cowardice, and say that he was so ready to make this verbal repudiation of his Lord, as thrice to fall away and deny Him, when he had not so much as had any actual experience of danger, and when peril was not, indeed, nigh at hand. Talk of this sort may be suitable to those who are not yet initiated in the faith; but I will at once dismiss it, and, bidding farewell to such nonsense, will attempt to make some excuse for the Apostle’s conduct, setting forth my argument for the benefit of those who are already accustomed to reflect upon the mysteries contained in the mysterious working of Divine Providence. For it was the bounden duty of the wise Evangelist to make mention of such things, that his hearers might know what even the teachers of the world were in themselves before Christ’s Resurrection, and before the Holy Spirit descended upon them; and what they were thereafter, when they had received the grace of the Spirit, Which Christ called power from on high. For any one may see how very jealous they were in assuming virtue; how readily they girded up their loins to follow Christ, and to overcome perils of every sort which they so frequently encountered. But when our Saviour Christ had not yet subdued the power of death, the fear thereof was still stubborn, and altogether invincible; and they who had not yet received the Spirit, nor had their hearts steeled by grace from above, showed that their minds were not yet wholly free from human frailty, and they were not altogether unshaken by the terrors of death. For just as iron, though naturally strong, cannot encounter without injury the harder kinds of stone, if it be not strengthened in the forge; so the soul of man may be buoyed up with unslacking enthusiasm for every thing that is good, but can never be triumphant in the conflicts that so arise, except it be first perfected by the grace of the Spirit of God. Even the disciples, therefore, themselves were frail at first; but, when they had received the Spirit of Almighty God, cast aside their native weakness, and, by communion with Him, attained to exceeding boldness.

It was expedient, then, that the frailty of the Saints should be recorded to the praise and glory of God, Who changed their weakness into power, and raised up, like a strong tower, their spirits, which were easily daunted even by slight dangers, and at times broken down by the mere apprehension of suffering. And that which befell a single one, or some few of the Saints, may afford us at the same time a lesson and a consolation. For we are taught thereby, not, through dwelling on our own infirmities inconsiderately, to slacken in God’s service, but rather to trust in Him Who is able to make us all strong, and to boast ourselves in His miraculous works and favour shown to us beyond hope.

28 They lead Jesus therefore from Caiaphas into the palace: and it was early; and they themselves entered not into the palace, that they might not be defiled, but that they might eat the passover.

Judge righteous judgment, and Thou shalt not slay the innocent and just man, were the express injunctions of the Law and the Word of God. These miserable men could not help being ashamed of their lack of charges against Him; but, finding their fury against Christ to be without excuse, and being prevented from killing Him with their own hands by the approach of the atoning sacrifice (for they were about to sacrifice the Paschal lamb, according to the Law, which yet with them had lost its power), they bring Him to Pilate; trusting, in their gross folly, that they would not be quite implicated in the charge of shedding blood unjustly if they did not slay Him themselves, but only brought Him to suffer death at the hands of another; though what was in their hearts was altogether at variance with the Mosaic Law. And we must convict them, besides, of the greatest folly in acting as follows. For, while sentencing the sinless One to the doom of death, and bringing down upon their own heads the guilt of so frightful an impiety, they yet shun the threshold of the judgment hall, as though it would cause them to be defiled, and anxiously shrink from having intercourse with men who were still unclean. For they believed, I suppose, that stones, and the bodies of men who were their brethren, could defile the soul of man; but deemed that the worst of all crimes, the most unjust shedding of blood, stained them not a whit. And, marvel of marvels, the most absurd and irrational idea of all, they think themselves purified by the slaughter of a lamb, which typified for us nothing but the shadow of the mystery that is in Christ; and, while honouring the type of what is coming to pass, they scorn the reality itself. For while they were performing that which was but the semblance of His Atonement, they were defiled by the shedding of the Blood of Christ. Christ, then, said well when He called them whited sepulchres, outwardly adorned with the superficial embellishments of art, but inwardly full of evil odours and detestable impurity; and when, in another place, He said that they strained out the gnat and swallowed the camel. For while they were often exact about matters that were, so to say, wholly unimportant and insignificant, or, rather, about a mere nothing (for what is the gnat?), they made of no account the most weighty of all the charges against themselves, and made clean the outside of the cup and platter, while they regarded not at all the uncleanness within. For see how, though the prophet Jeremiah said plainly: Wash thy heart from wickedness, O Jerusalem, that thou mayest be saved, they were thoroughly convinced that the inward impiety of the soul mattered not a whit; and, when they brought Christ to Pilate, they shrank from places as accursed, and from the bodies of uncircumcised men; and if they did not commit the lawless act with their own hands, they yet made Pilate, as it were, minister to their cruelty, and in their stupidity imagined that they remained free from all blame. It may well excite our wonder to find that the holy prophets were well aware even of this impiety of theirs; for the blessed Isaiah said concerning them: Woe unto the wicked! for the reward of his hands shall be given him. And Ezekiel also: As thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head. Moreover, the inspired Psalmist exclaims: Render to them their desert; give them according to the work of their hands. For as they led Christ, the Saviour of all, captive to the Roman officers, so they received in their turn their reward, and were abandoned to the dominion of Rome, and were spoiled by the hand of their conquerors. For so fearful was the war that was kindled against them, and so frightful the extremities in which they were involved, that, if it had been possible, some, nay many, among them would rather have chosen to go into the mountains and rocks, and die there, before they saw the war—a choice which Christ foretold that they would make, when He said: When ye see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then shall ye say to the mountains, Cover us; and to the hills, Fall on us.

29 Pilate therefore went out unto them, and saith, What accusation bring ye against this Man?

They shrank from the pollution, as they deemed it, of stones and walls, but Pilate went forth and inquired of them the reason of their coming to him, and required them to tell him the charges against the Captive they had brought unto him, judging the leaders of the Jews on the other hand. For, though he was a foreigner, he held in respect the ordinances of the Jews, and treated with consideration their prevailing customs. For he hastened out of the judgment hall, as was not his habit, expressing to the Jews by this significant action that their Law ought to be observed. They, being contrariwise minded to the Divine commandments, and paying very little heed to the Mosaic dispensation, were bringing about an unrighteous blood-shedding; while Pilate, who was outside the pale of the Law, inquired the charges, and investigated the accusations, they brought against Him, and pointed out to them, that it was absurd to chastise or exact a penalty from a Man Who had done no sin. And they, though they had nothing to say against Him, brought Him to Pilate, like a fierce robber. Well, then, was it said to the Synagogue of the Jews: Sodom has been justified by thee; and Christ Himself cries out, accusing the madness that the children of Israel here showed: Thou hast not done according to the judgments of the nations round about. And the saying is true; for the Greeks would not with defiled and unwashed hands have brought the usual sacrifices to the stones and blocks of wood they conceived to be gods, nor would they have destroyed one, unless it was in the most evil plight; but the Jews, though about to sacrifice the Passover to the true God, had their souls stained with the guilt of innocent blood, and were hastening to put to death unjustly Him Who was a stranger to all sin.

30 They answered and said unto him, If this Man were not an evil-doer, we should not have delivered Him up unto thee.

They were perplexed for a specious plea against Him, but cloak the baseness of their impiety, and their apparent resolution to put Him to death unjustly, by the sophistical reply, that they would never have brought Jesus to suffer justice, if they had not taken Him in a criminal act. For they still affected to observe the Law, which bade them execute righteous judgment in all things; and, marvellous to relate, they use their respect for the Law as a weapon against the Lawgiver. They, who did not shrink from bringing an accusation against the Lawgiver, claimed credit as keepers of the Law. They declared that He That had come to take away sin had done evil, that the truth of the words that Christ spake, by the mouth of the Prophet Isaiah, might be seen: Woe unto them! for they have fled from Me: their doom is misery, because they have transgressed against Me. Though I have redeemed them, yet they have spoken lies against Me

31 Pilate therefore said unto them, Take Him yourselves, and judge Him according to your Law.

I should not do justice, he says, if I were to subject to legal penalties a Man Who has been convicted of no wrong, and Whose doom you left undecided; but judge Him, rather, according to your Law, if, indeed, he says, it has ordained that the Man Who is wholly without guilt deserves chastisement. It is not a little absurd, or, I should rather say, it is a subject for perpetual regret, that, while the Law of the Gentiles justified our Lord, so that even Pilate shrank from punishing Him That was brought to him on so vague a charge, they, who made it their boast that they were instructed in the. Law of God, declared that He ought to be put to death.

31 The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death: 32 that the word of Jesus might be fulfilled, which lie spake, signifying by what manner of death lie should die.

They answer, that their purification, accomplished by the slaughter of the Paschal lamb (if any purification at all were possible for such murderers), stood in their way, and was, as it were, an overpowering obstacle to their shedding His innocent Blood. For, surely, they would have been very ready to commit the impious crime, and would not have needed the co-operation of any other The Jewish mind was very prone to work every kind of evil deed, and to shrink from no atrocity; and to feel no shame at doing anything displeasing to God. They deemed it right for Pilate to lend them the service of his own cruelty, and to imitate the fury of the Jews, and to minister to them on this occasion, and to be by them overruled, so as to partake of their madness. And this also they say, that Christ might be proved to speak truth, and to have foreknown what manner of death He would die, and to have foretold it to His holy disciples. For what spake He unto them? Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man is betrayed unto the hands of sinners; and they shall crucify Him, and kill Him, and the third day He shall be raised up. It is requisite to make mention of this. For it was necessary that He should have this foreknowledge, that none might suppose that He, in Whose sight all things are naked and laid open, encountered His death involuntarily; but that men should believe that, of His own Will, He underwent the Cross on our behalf, and for our sakes.

33 Pilate therefore entered again into the palace, and called Jesus, and said unto Him. Art Thou the King of the Jews?

Having nothing at all to accuse Him of and none of those crimes to allege against Him, which seem to bring in their train just punishment on the doers of them, and Pilate persisting in inquiring why they had brought Him, they assert that Jesus had sinned against Cæsar, in assuming on Himself the dominion which Cæsar had acquired over the Jews, and in changing the glory of his kingdom to suit His personal pretensions. Great was the malice which suggested this device, and caused the false accusation to assume this shape; for they knew that Pilate, however reluctant he might be, would take thought for his own safety, and would swiftly and precipitately punish the man against whom any such outcry was raised. For, as the inhabitants of Judæa ever were continually moved to tumults and civil strife, and were easily provoked to revolt, Cæsar’s officers were the more vigilant in this respect, and were more careful guardians of order, and inflicted the most summary penalties on men who had this charge brought against them, sometimes groundlessly. The Jews, therefore, make it a charge against Christ, that He reigned over Israel. Therefore justly were they cast out, and the Gentiles brought in, and made subject to the yoke, and put into the Kingdom of Christ. Ask of Me, He says, and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession For when the one nation of the Jews provoked Him to wrath, all the nations of the world are given to Christ; and instead of one country, I mean Judæa, the uttermost parts of the earth. For, as Paul saith: Their fall is the riches of the world, and their loss the riches of the Gentiles

Pilate, then, speaks out plainly what he heard the Jews muttering, and bids Jesus answer him, whether He was in truth the King of the Jews. He was full of anxiety, it would appear, and thought Cæsar’s rule was menaced, and was, therefore, very desirous to learn the truth, in order to visit what had been done with appropriate retribution, and acquit of blame the office entrusted to him by the Romans.

34 Jesus answered, Sayest thou this of thyself, or did others tell it thee concerning Me?

As no one, He says, has openly brought this charge against Me, whence proceeds your question? There can be no doubt that this trick proceeds from the malice of the Jews, and that they devised this cruel stratagem; for else you would not be, He says, at once judge and accuser. And Christ said this, wishing to bring it to the knowledge of Pilate that nothing that was unseen, and devised, and said in secret, could escape Him; and that, seeing that He was more than man, he might be more reluctant to minister to the cruelty of those who brought Him; and at the same time to teach him that he did very wrong in forcing Him, Who had been convicted of no crime, on the mere word of others to pay the penalty.

35 Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests delivered Thee unto me: What hast Thou done?

He now exposes the villainy of the Jews, and almost publishes the multitude of His accusers. It is as though he said: “It does not concern me to know about Thee, for I am not a Jew; but rather befits Thine own nation and kindred, who, it may be, have this knowledge, and so bring Thee to suffer death.” He then accuses himself. For to say, What hast Thou done, implies nothing else but this. The holy Evangelist was very zealous to narrate every detail about the trial of Christ, and among them he tells us the fact that Pilate asked Jesus the question: What hast Thou done? And hereby we may best observe the total absence of charges against Him, and that, as none were brought forward, and Christ our Saviour was convicted of no crime, the sentence of death that went forth against Him was impious and most unjust.

36 Jesus answered, My Kingdom is not of this world: if My Kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is My Kingdom not from hence.

He dispelled the fear Pilate felt as the appointed guardian of Cæsar’s kingdom, for he supposed that Christ was meditating insurrection against temporal rule, as the Jews had vainly talked. For they hinted at this when they said: If this Man were not an evil-doer, we should not have delivered Him up unto thee; meaning insurrection by the evil they said He was doing. For they affected to be so well-disposed to the Romans, as not even to be able to utter the word revolt. For this cause, then, they said they had brought Him to Pilate, to suffer judgment. Christ, in His reply, denied not that He was a King, for He could not but speak truth; but He clearly proved that He was no enemy to Cæsar’s rule, signifying that His Kingdom was not an earthly kingdom, but that He reigned, as God, over heaven and earth, and yet greater things than these.

What proof, then, did He give? and how did He remove this suspicion? He says, that He had never employed any spearmen or warriors, and had never had with Him any men at all resolved on resistance; not merely in order to prevent His losing His Kingdom, but not even, that He might escape from the imminent danger cast upon Him by the hand of the Jews; for it did not proceed from their ruler himself, namely, Cæsar. When, then, He had shown the groundlessness of this outcry by so clear a proof, Pilate perceived that the presumptuous attempt against Christ was without excuse. Yet, without any compulsion, and when there was nothing to incite him to that consequence, he complied with the pleasure of the Jews, to the perdition of his own soul, and shared with them the guilt of having put Christ to death. Christ, indeed, when He said that His Kingdom was a supernatural kingdom, not only freed Pilate from all alarm, and dispelled his suspicions about an insurrection, but induced him also to have an exalted opinion of Him, and by His reply in some sort commenced to instruct him.

37 Pilate therefore said unto Him, Art Thou a king then?

He makes use of Christ’s truth-speaking to charge Him withal. When he heard Him say: My Kingdom is not from hence he was indeed quit of his fear of an insurrection; but he still compels Him to openly profess this thing, and defines as a charge His mere assertion that He had a kingdom, though He asserted that it was not of this world. He drives Jesus, as it were, to make this profession; and says, Thou hast confessed already that Thou art a King.

37 Jesus answered him, Thou sayest that I am a King. To this end have I been born, and to this end am I come into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth My voice. 38 Pilate saith unto Him, What is truth?

He does not deny the glory of His Kingdom, nor leave it to the voice of Pilate only to affirm it, for as God He is King, whether man so will, or no; but He once more showed the power of the truth which impelled Pilate, though reluctant, to declare the glory of Him Who was on His trial; for, He says: Thou hast said, that I am a King. For this cause was I born, He says, and came into this world when I became Man, that I should bear witness unto the truth; that is, that He might take lying out of the world, and, having subdued the devil, who gained his way by guile, He might show truth triumphant over the universe; truth—that is, that nature that is truly sovereign by nature, which has not by craft acquired the ability to hold rule and dominion over heaven and earth, and, in a word, everything that is brought into being; nor has this been added unto it from without, but it is seen to be essentially and naturally inherent. In order, too, that He might show that Pilate’s dulness of apprehension arose from his stubborn heart, and his reluctance to admit the truth, Christ fitly adds the word: Everyone that is of the truth heareth My voice. For the word of truth gains a ready acceptance from those who have already learnt and love it; but with others it is not so. Yea, the Prophet Isaiah said to some: If ye will not believe, neither shall ye understand. Pilate showed at once the truth of this, when he said: What is truth? For, just as those whose sight is injured, and who have wholly lost the use of their eyes, have their sense of colour entirely annihilated, so as not to note when gold is brought before them, or a shining and precious stone shown them, nay, even the very light of the sun’s rays excites in them no wonder, as they have no perception thereof, and can gain no profit from any such thing; so to men whose minds are warped, truth seems a foul and ugly thing, although it instils into the minds of those who behold it its spiritual and Divine radiancy.

38 And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find no crime in Him. 39 But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one prisoner at the Passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews?

For a condemnation at once of the want of piety, and of the cruelty of the Jews, he excels them in the knowledge of what was just and right, though he could not boast of Divine instruction, but was merely the guardian of human ordinances, and reverenced most of all the enactments of those from whom he had his office as a gift. If the teachers of the Jewish Law had so done, and chosen to be thus minded, they might very likely have escaped the net of the devil, and shunned the most abominable of all crimes, I mean the shedding of the Blood of Christ. Pilate, then, hesitates to condemn Christ, Who had been taken in and convicted of no criminal act, and says that He That was far removed from all guilt ought not to pay a penalty, and strongly maintains that it is wholly at variance with the laws he observed; putting to shame the frightful frenzy of the Jews in contradiction to their own Law. For he thought that, as they professed to reverence the doctrine of impartial justice, they ought at once to yield to the statement of what was just and right that he put before them. But, perceiving that to acquit Him That they had brought to him of all blame would imply no small condemnation of the precipitancy of the Jews, that they might not on this account insist the more vehemently, and stir up a strange commotion, he paved the way, as it were, and put the best complexion upon the matter, by saying: Ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one prisoner at the Passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews? When he called Jesus King of the Jews, he spoke in jest, and tried to abate by ridicule the anger of the furious mob, and hereby also clearly showed that this particular accusation was brought in vain; for a Roman officer would never have thought a man condemned of plotting for a kingdom and revolution against Rome, worthy to be released. He bore witness, then, to His utter guiltlessness by the very reasons he gave for His release.

I think these words explain the drift of the passage. And as I was considering and meditating in my mind how the custom arose for the Jews to ask for one man to be released to them (a robber, it might be, or a murderer), the idea occurred to me that they no longer regulated their actions altogether according to the Law, but, choosing rather to use their own customs, they fell into a decayed state of manners not altogether in accordance with the Mosaic dispensation. But while I was searching the Divine Scriptures, and hunting everywhere for the origin of this custom, I came upon one of the Divine dictates, which caused me to suspect that when the Jews sought the release of a malefactor, they were, in fact, in however mistaken a way, fulfilling one of the customs of the Law. At the end of the book called Numbers we find recorded the law concerning voluntary and involuntary homicide; and when the penalty in the case of premeditated murder has been clearly laid down, the book goes on to speak of involuntary homicide, and, after other remarks, makes the following declaration: But if he thrust him suddenly without enmity, or have cast upon him anything without laying of wait, or with any stone wherewith a man may die, seeing him not, and cast it upon him that he die, and was not his enemy, neither sought his harm: then the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the revenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to the city of his refuge, whither he was fled. Such, then, being the written commandment, when any, as it chanced, were involved in such a calamity, the Jews, when they were congregated together, that they might not appear altogether to neglect this enactment, sought the release of one of them. For the Law laid down that it was to be the act of the entire assembly. As, then, they were permitted by the Law to ask for the release of a prisoner, they make this request of Pilate. For after they had once accepted the Roman yoke they were henceforth, for the most part, in the administration of their affairs ruled by their laws. Nay, further, though it was lawful for them to put to death any one convicted of a crime, they brought Jesus to Pilate as a criminal, saying: It is not lawful for us to put any man to death. For though they alleged as a plea their purification by the sacrifice of the Passover, yet they showed themselves flatterers of Rome, in entrusting to the laws of the Romans the duty which the Divine commandment from heaven laid upon themselves.

40 They cried out therefore again, saying, Not this Man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.

Herein also the Jews show themselves indeed law-breakers, and more inclined to give way to their own inclinations than to honour their ancient commandments; for though the Mosaic Law ordered that a man who had committed involuntary homicide should be released, and not a man like Barabbas (for how could such a thing be?), they prefer to ask for a notorious robber. And that the man here named was, in fact, a dangerous and brutal criminal, and not free from blood-guiltiness, the words of the inspired Peter to the people of the Jews will make clear to us: But ye denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted unto you. For they preferred a robber to Him Who regarded not His equality with God the Father, and took our poverty upon Him for this very end, that He might deliver us from the true murderer, that is, Satan; and they were men adorned with the priesthood of the Law, and who greatly vaunted themselves thereon. Yet they passed by and utterly rejected the commandment, Judge righteous judgment, and justified the murderer, condemning Christ, and cried with one accord: Not this Man, but Barabbas. The Jews, however, will pay the penalty of their impious act; but we may well admire the Holy Scripture, examining it in the light of Christ’s Person, and this desperate outcry; for thus saith the Prophet Jeremiah: I have forsaken mine house, I have left mine heritage, I have given my beloved soul into the hand of her enemies. Mine heritage is unto me as a lion in the forest; it crieth out against me. It may be well to explain this simile of the lion in the forest. He says it is with his heritage as when this great and frightful beast desires to seize some prey in the forest, it goes up to a high peak, and gives forth a great and fearful roar, and strikes such terror into those who hear, that man or beast at once fall prostrate, not able to endure the awful sound of his threatening voice, and the beast, as it were, makes them fall by the breath of his mouth. And God confirms this saying also by the prophet, when he thus speaks: The lion roareth; who will not fear? The assembly of the Jews, therefore, was as a lion in the forest to our Saviour Christ, so far, at least, as their presumptuous clamour against Him went; for the Nature of God endureth not panic or fear at all. For the assembly, by its clamour, put Him to death, though Pilate invited them to choose His release; so that even those who had not yet learnt the Divine Law might be proved better than men instructed in the Law.

1 Then Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged Him. 2 And the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns, and put it on His head, and arrayed Him in a purple garment; and they came unto Him, 3 and said, Hail, King of the Jews! And they struck Him with their hands.

He scourges Him unjustly, and suffers the crowd of soldiers to insult Him, and put a crown of thorns about His Head, and throw a purple robe upon Him, and buffet Him with the palms of their hands, and otherwise dishonour Him. For he thought he could easily put to shame the people of the Jews, if they saw the Man Who was altogether free from guilt suffering this punishment, only without a cause. He was scourged unjustly, that He might deliver us from merited chastisement; He was buffeted and smitten, that we might buffet Satan, who had buffeted us, and that we might escape from the sin that cleaves to us through the original transgression. For if we think aright, we shall believe that all Christ’s sufferings were for us and on our behalf, and have power to release and deliver us from all those calamities we have deserved for our revolt from God. For as Christ, Who knew not death, when He gave up His own Body for our salvation, was able to loose the bonds of death for all mankind, for He, being One, died for all; so we must understand that Christ’s suffering all these things for us sufficed also to release us all from scourging and dishonour. Then in what way by His stripes are we healed, according to the Scripture? Because we have all gone astray, every man after his own way, as says the blessed Prophet Isaiah; and the Lord hath given Himself up for our transgressions, and for us is afflicted. For He was bruised for our iniquities, and has given His own back to the scourge, and His cheeks to the smiters, as he also says. The soldiers indeed take Jesus as a pretender to the throne, and insult Him soldierlike. And for this cause was a crown of thorns brought and put upon His brow, being the symbol of earthly sovereignty; and the purple robe was, as it were, an image and type of royal apparel; and ridicule also was thereby heaped upon Him, for they came near unto Him, and cried, as the Evangelist says: Hail, King of the Jews!

And I have heard some say, and to some the conceit is well-pleasing, that the crown of thorns further signifies the multitude of idol-worshippers who will be taken up by Christ, as it were, into a diadem, through faith in Him; and they liken the Gentiles to barren and useless thorns, through their bearing no fruit of piety, and being rather fit to feed consuming fire—just like rubbish in the fields, just as wild thicket, which grows up without any culture; and the royal apparel, I mean the purple robe, they say, means Christ’s Kingdom, which will be extended over all the world. We may well receive any interpretation which is not alien to the truth, and which it is not unprofitable to believe in. We need not therefore reject such a construction of the passage, indicative as it is of careful ingenuity.

4 And Pilate went out again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring Him out to you, that ye may know that I find no crime in Him.

He confesses the wrong he had done, and is not ashamed. For he admitted that he had scourged Him without a cause, and declares that he will show Him unto them, supposing that he would glut their savage passion by so pitiable a spectacle, and well-nigh accuses them henceforth, and that publicly, of putting Him to death unjustly, and of compelling him openly to be a law-breaker, who, if he transgressed his own laws, could not escape scot free. The saying was fulfilled in Christ, and shown to be true, that the prince of this world Cometh, and he will find nothing in Me. For observe how Satan, after throwing everything into confusion, finds nothing at all cast out from God, and ranked under the power of sin, which he might, perhaps, if it had been referred to the Saviour Christ, have caused to be rightly condemned and implicated in his accusations. Just as, then, in Adam he subdued the whole human race, showing it to be subject unto sin, so now was he vanquished by Humanity. For He That was truly God, and had no sin in Him, was yet Man; and just as the sentence of condemnation for transgression went forth over all mankind, through one man, the first Adam, so likewise, also, the blessing of justification by Christ is extended to all through One Man, the Second Adam. Paul is our witness, who says: As through one the judgment came unto all men to condemnation; even so through One the free gift came unto all men to justification of life. We therefore are diseased through the disobedience of the first Adam and its curse, but are enriched through the obedience of the Second and its blessing. For He that was Lord of the Law as God came among us, and kept the Law as Man. Yea, we find Him saying unto us: He that loveth Me will keep My commandments; even as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love. Note how He, as Lawgiver and God, has enjoined upon us the keeping of His commandments; and how, as keeping the Law while a Man among men, He declares that He Himself also kept the commandment of His Father.

5 Jesus therefore came out, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple garment. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the Man! 6 When therefore the chief priests and the officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, Crucify Him, Crucify Him.

He showed, then, the Lord of all impiously outraged, and mocked by the intolerable insults of the soldiers, trusting that the furious wrath of the Jews would be sated, and now, at last, abate, and rest content with that most pitiable and dishonourable spectacle. But they were so far from showing any mercy in word or deed towards Him, and from entertaining any kind of good intentions, as even to surpass the ferocity of beasts, and to hurry onward to greater evil still, and make a still more furious outcry, condemning Him to the worst of deaths, and compelling Him to undergo the extremity of suffering. For what punishment can be as severe as the Cross? And it is to the leaders of the Jews alone, it appears, that the wise Evangelist ascribed the origin of this impious doom. For see how, as it were, carefully guarding his words, he says: When, therefore, the chief priests and the officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, Crucify Him, crucify Him. For, when the multitude of the vulgar were, it may be, somewhat ashamed by the sight of Christ’s sufferings, for perhaps they called to mind the wonderful miracles wrought by Him, the rulers first start the clamour, and kindle into strange fury the passions of the people subject unto them. That which was said of God in the prophets, concerning them, is true: For the pastors have become brutish, and have not sought the Lord; therefore all their flock perceived Him not, and were scattered abroad. And the saying is true. For as those in the pasture, that is, the multitude of the vulgar, did not enjoy the direction of their rulers to the knowledge of Christ, they perished, and relapsed into ruinous heedlessness of Christ. For let any man that likes probe the origin of the impious crime, and he will ascribe it to the rulers. For it was in the outset their most unholy design; they it was who induced the traitor to make a bargain with them, and bought Him over with the money of the Sanctuary; they joined the band of soldiers to the officers, bade them bind Him like the meanest of robbers, and brought Him to Pilate; and now, when they saw Him scourged, and well-nigh beside Himself with insults from every quarter, are but exasperated the more, and utter the dictates of their unmeasured hatred. For they purposed to put the Lord of the Vineyard to death, and thought they would securely enjoy His heritage, and, if Christ were removed, that they would again rule and enjoy all honour. But, as the Psalmist says: He that sitteth in the heavens, shall laugh them to scorn; the Lord shall hold them in derision. For nothing happened according to their expectation, but, on the contrary, the course of events was completely reversed.

6 Pilate saith unto them, Take Him yourselves, and crucify Him; for I find no crime in Him.

Pilate is in consternation, that the people of the Jews and the inhuman crowd of the chief priests should attain to such a pitch of presumption, as not even to shrink from subjecting Christ to so frightful a death, though no fault was found in Him to bring Him to such a doom. And, therefore, he says, almost like one annoyed at an insult offered to himself: “Make you me a judge of this unjust shedding of blood? Am I, contrary to all Roman Law, become the murderer of the Innocent? and shall I, at your beck and call, fling to the winds all thought of myself? and shall I not, if I minister at my own peril to your requests, live in expectation of paying the penalty? If you do not think that you are doing an unholy deed; if you think the work presents no difficulty; do you yourselves, he says—you, who boast of Divine instruction, you, who vaunt so highly your knowledge of your Law—do you fix the cross, dare the murder, do of yourselves the unholy deed, bringing down on your own heads the charge of this great impiety; let the presumptuous act be the act of Jews, and upon them let the blood-guiltiness rest. If you have a Law that subjects the Sinless to so fearful a penalty, that chastises the Guiltless, execute it with your own hands; I will not endure to be a party to it.” We may imagine this to be what Pilate says, for his words are pregnant with some such meaning. And the shamelessness of the Jews may here also well excite our amazement, for they are not even put to shame by the just judgment of a foreigner, though the Divine Law said concerning this people: For the priest’s lips should keep judgment, and they should seek the Law from his mouth.

7 The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.

When their false accusation that they had at first contrived proved fruitless, and they established against Him no attempt at revolution or revolt against Cæsar’s rule (for the Lord parried these charges, saying: My Kingdom is not of this world; if my Kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews), and when Pilate thereupon gave a just and impartial verdict, and did not as yet comply with their will, but said openly that He found no fault in Him, the audacious Jews completely changed their tactics, and asserted that they had a law, which condemned the Saviour to death. What law was that? That which fixes the punishment for blasphemers; for in the book called Leviticus it is recorded, that certain men, who were counted among Jews, strove together, according to the Scripture, in the camp, and that one of them made mention of the Name of God, and blessed Him, for thus saith the Scripture euphemistically, meaning that he cursed and blasphemed Him, and was then doomed to die, and to pay a bitter penalty for his impious tongue, God plainly declaring: Whosoever curseth his God shall bear his sin, and he that taketh the Name of the Lord in vain, shall be put to death, and all the congregation of Israel shall stone him: as well the stranger as he that is born in the land, when he taketh the Name of the Lord in vain, shall be put to death.

But, perhaps, someone may be in doubt, and ask this question: “What, then, does the Law say, and what does it intend to signify hereby?” For that a man who is convicted of blasphemy against God should die is, indeed, just, and he very rightly meets his doom. But suppose a man treat a false god with contumely, is he then not free from guilt? For the words of the Law are, If any man curse God, he shallbear his sin. What do we reply? The Lawgiver is infallible, for to love to hurl scorn upon false gods is, as it were, a course of preparation which makes us ready to utter blasphemies against the true God. Therefore also, in another passage, He dissuades us from it, saying: Gods thou shalt not revile; for He thought it meet to give unto the name of Godhead, though it be sometimes misplaced, the honour that is its due. The Law, however, did not certainly bid us ascribe any honour to gods erroneously so called, but teaches us to regard as holy the name of Godhead, though it be stolen by some.

As the Law, then, orders that the man who is convicted of blasphemy should be rewarded with death, they say that Christ is subject to the penalty, for that He made Himself the Son of God. We ought to bear in mind where, and in what sense, this was said by Christ. At the pool that was called after the sheep-gate, He healed the impotent man of his long and grievous infirmity on the Sabbath-day. And the Jews, when they ought to have marvelled at the wonders that He wrought, were, on the contrary, offended at His breaking the Sabbath, and for that reason only railed against Him. Then Christ answered, and said: My Father worketh even until now, and I work; and thereupon says the Evangelist: For this cause therefore the Jews persecuted Jesus, because He not only brake the Sabbath, but also called God His own Father, making Himself equal with God. The Jews, then, were offended when Christ called the Lord of all His Father; and then He made this most mild reply to them, saying: It is written in your Law, I said, Ye are gods, and are all sons of the Most High. If he called them gods unto whom the Word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), say ye of Him Whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? But the people of the Jews, remembering none of these things, make the truth a charge against the truth; and because Christ said what was in fact the truth, they assert that He is worthy of death. Here I will make use of the Prophet’s words: How do ye say, We are wise, and the Law of the Lord is with us? For would it not have been right, either first to ascertain by the strictest scrutiny Who Christ was, and whence He came; and if He had been convicted of falsehood, then, very justly, to pass sentence upon Him, or if He spoke the truth, to worship Him? Why, then, did you Jews give up searching and satisfying yourselves by Holy Writ, and betake yourselves to making a mere outcry against Him? and why made you what was in fact the truth, the ground for accusation? You ought, when you said unto Pilate: He made Himself the Son of God, to have charged Him also with the works of Godhead, and to have made His mighty wonder-working power a count in the indictment; you ought to have cried out thereafter, that a man who had been three days dead, rose again, and came back to life at the mere bidding of the Saviour; you ought to have brought forward the only child of the widow, and the daughter of the leader of the synagogue; you ought to have called to mind that Divine saying, spoken unto the son of the widow: Young man, I say unto thee, Arise; and to the damsel: Maiden, Arise. You ought, besides, to have told Pilate, that He gave sight to the blind, and cleansed the lepers of their leprosy; and also, that by a single word of command He calmed the storm of the angry sea, and the onslaught of the raging billows; and whatever else Christ did. All this, however, they bury in the silence of ingratitude, and passing over those miracles whereby Christ was seen to be God, in malice they proceed to basely state the paradox; and, miserable wretches that they were, they cried out to a foreigner, who had no knowledge of the Divine Scripture, and saw that Jesus was a Man: He made Himself the Son of God; though the inspired Scripture declared that the Word of God should visit the world in human form: Behold, the Virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a Son, and they shall call His Name Emmanuel; which is, being interpreted, God with us. And what could that which was born of a virgin be but a man, like unto us in bodily appearance and nature? But, besides being Man, He was also truly God.

8 When Pilate therefore heard this saying, he was the more afraid; 9 and he entered into the palace again, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art Thou? But Jesus gave him no answer.

The malicious design of the Jews had a result they little expected. For they wished to pile up the indictment against Christ, by saying that He had ventured to sin against the Person of God Himself. But the weighty character of the accusation itself increased Pilate’s caution, and he was the more oppressed with alarm, and more careful concerning Christ than before, and questioned Him the more particularly, what He was, and whence He came; not disbelieving, as I think, that though He was a Man, He might be also the Son of God. This idea and belief of his, was not derived from Holy Writ, but the mistaken notions of the Greeks; for Greek fables call many men demi-gods, and sons of gods. The Romans, too, who in such matters were still more superstitious, gave the name of god to the more distinguished of their own monarchs, and set up altars to them, and allotted them shrines, and put them on pedestals. Therefore Pilate was more earnest and anxious than before, in his inquiry Who Christ was, and whence He came. But He, the Scripture saith, answered him not a word, remembering, I suppose, what He Himself had said unto him: Every one that is of the truth, heareth My voice. And how could Pilate, a worshipper of idols, have hearkened to the voice of the Saviour, when He said that He was Truth, and the Child of truth? And how could he at all have received and honoured the name of truth, who at once ridiculed it, and said, What is truth? because he still worshipped false gods, and was buried in the darkness of their deceitfulness?

10 Pilate therefore saith unto Him, Speakest Thou not unto me? Knowest Thou not that I have power to crucify Thee, and have power to release Thee?

Pilate thought this silence the silence of a madman. Therefore, he stretches over Him, as it were, the wand of his official power, and thought that he could induce Him by fear, against His Will, to return a fruitless answer. For he says that nothing could hinder his inclining whichever way he chose, either to punish Him, or to take compassion upon Him; and that there was nothing to turn him aside, to give a verdict against his will, with whom alone rested the fate of the accused. He rebukes Him, therefore, as though he felt himself insulted by untimely silence, and, so far as that went, his indignation were whetted against Him. For he perceived not at all the hidden meaning of Christ’s silence. Observe here the accurate fulfilment of that which was foretold by the voice of the Prophet: He was brought as a lamb to the slaughter; and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth. In His humiliation His judgment was taken away. Thus saith the blessed Isaiah, and the Psalmist also, assuming the Person of Christ, saith in the Spirit: I have kept My mouth with a bridle, while the wicked congregated themselves before Me. I was dumb, and humbled Myself, and kept silence from good words. By good words, curses must be understood. For it is usual with Holy Scripture to speak euphemistically on such occasions, when reference is made to the Person of God Himself.

11 Jesus answered him, Thou wouldest have no power against Me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivereth Me unto thee hath greater sin.

He makes no clearer revelation of what He was, or whence He came, or Who was His Father. Nor, indeed, does He suffer us to waste the word of revelation, by giving it to ears that are estranged, saying: Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast your pearls before the swine. When, then, Pilate was parading before Him his official power, and, in his folly, alleging that he could wholly determine His fate according to his mere will and pleasure, He very appropriately meets him with a declaration of His own power and might, and stops him short, as it were, as he was vaunting himself with vain and empty boasting against the glory of God. For, in truth, it were no small calamity that any should suppose that Christ could be dragged, against His Will, to suffer insult; and that the malice of the Jews vanquished Him, Who was truly God, and proclaimed Sovereign of the universe by the holy and inspired writings. He has, therefore, removed this stumblingblock from our path, and cuts up, as it were, such an error by the roots, by the words: Except it were given thee from above. And when He says, that power was given to Pilate from above, He does not mean that God the Father inflicted crucifixion upon His own Son, against His Will; but that the Only-begotten Himself gave Himself to suffer for us, and that the Father suffered the fulfilment of the mystery in Him. It is, then, plainly the consent and approval of the Father that is here said to have been given, and the pleasure of the Son is also clearly signified. For, no doubt the force of numbers could never have overcome the power of the Saviour; but we may easily see this from the numerous plots they laid against Him, which resulted in nothing but their being convicted of having made an insolent attempt. They, indeed, desired to seize Him, as the Evangelist says; but He, going through the midst of them, went His way, and so passed by. He says, so passed by, meaning, not cautiously, or with bated breath, or practising the manœuvres that men do who wish to escape; but with his usual step, free from all alarm. For He hid Himself by His Divine and ineffable might, and then eluded the sight of His would-be murderers; for He did not wish as yet to die nor did He suffer the passions of His persecutors to determine, as it were, without His consent the hour of His peril. Therefore He says, that by His own command, and the consent of God the Father, power was given unto Pilate, so that he was enabled to accomplish the deeds which he did, in fact, venture to perform. For the nature of the Most High God is wholly invincible, and cannot be subdued by anything that exists; for in Him the power of universal dominion of necessity exists. He accuses of the greater sin—that is, of greater sin against Himself—the traitor that brought Him to Pilate; and with great reason. For he was, as it were, the source from which the impious crime against Him sprang, and also the gate through which it passed; while the judge was but the minister to the crimes of others, and so showed himself, by his ill-timed cowardice, a partaker in the iniquity of the Jews. Who, then, is the traitor, and to whom is the prime authorship of the charges to be referred? Surely, to that most venal disciple, or rather traitor and destroyer of his own soul; and besides him, the crowd of the rulers and the people of the Jews; and though Christ attributes to them the greater part of the blame, He does not acquit Pilate wholly of complicity in guilt.

12 Upon this Pilate sought to release Him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou release this Man, thou art not Cæsar’s friend: everyone that maketh himself a King speaketh against Cæsar.

The exclamation of the Jews afflicts Pilate with panic, and sharpens the keenness of his caution, and makes him pause before putting Him to death. For they shouted out, that that very prisoner had made Himself the Son of God, Whom Pilate had been most anxious to release from all danger, and to acquit of every false accusation, having this fear at heart. The Israelites saw this, and returned to their original falsehood, saying, that Jesus had courted the people, and transgressed against Cæsar’s power, and, so far as His power went, had waged war against the rule of Rome, for He had made Himself a king. See how laborious and passionate was the attempt of His accusers against Him! For, first of all, they cried out with one accord, miserable wretches that they were, and asserted that He had ventured to assail Cæsar’s power. But when they did not meet with much success, Christ declaring that His Kingdom was not an earthly kingdom, they alleged, even unto Pilate, who sat in a Roman tribunal, His offence against God Himself, saying: He made Himself the Son of God. For the villains thought that they could thereby spur Pilate to heedless wrath, and lend him courage to doom the Saviour to death, making His action a mark of His piety towards God; but when their malicious attempt proved unavailing, they once more recurred to the charge they had presumed to make at first, declaring that He had ventured to assail the rule of Cæsar, and violently accusing the judge of taking up arms against Cæsar’s majesty, if he did not consent to pass the sentence of fitting condemnation upon Him Who, as they alleged, had spoken against Cæsar, by daring to take upon Himself, in any shape, the title of King; though Cæsar did not claim an empire in the heavens, such as that of which Christ was, indeed, the Lord, but an earthly and inferior empire, which itself had its root in the power of Christ. For through Him kings reign, according to the Scripture, and monarchs rule over the earth. Therefore these most impious men bridled not their tongues, but, in their excessive enmity to God, attacked the glory of the Saviour. Them did the blessed Prophet Isaiah justly rebuke, saying: But draw near hither, ye sons of the sorceress, the seed of the adulterer and the whore. Against Whom do ye sport yourselves? against Whom make ye a wide mouth, and draw out the tongue? Are ye not children of perdition, a lawless seed? For it was not against any mere man that they made their outcry, and spoke out with unbridled tongues, and practised every sort of calumny; but against their own Lord Himself, Who ruleth over all with the Father. Therefore rightly did they become, and are in truth, children of perdition, and a lawless seed.

13 When Pilate therefore, heard this saying, he brought Jesus out, and sat down on the judgment-seat, at a place called the Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha. 14 Now it was the preparation of the Passover: it was about the sixth hour. And he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King!

The Evangelist, when he thus speaks, throws the whole burden, as it were, of the charge of shedding Christ’s blood upon the Jews. For he now clearly says, that Pilate was well-nigh overcome against his will by their opposition, so that he put away the thought of justice, and paid little heed to the consequence; and, therefore, he was dragged down to do the will of Christ’s murderers, though he had often expressly told them, that Jesus had been found guilty of no fault at all, and it is this which will make Him subject to the worst of penalties. For, by preferring the pleasure of a mob to honouring the Just, and giving over a guiltless Man to the frenzy of the Jews, he will be convicted out of his own mouth of impiety. He ascends, therefore, to his usual judgment-seat, as about to pronounce sentence of death against Christ. The inspired Evangelist is induced to signify to our profit the day and hour, because of the resurrection itself, and His three days’ sojourn among the departed, that the truth of our Lord’s saying to the Jews might appear: For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so also shall the Son of Man be three’ days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The Roman ruler on his judgment-seat, pointing to Jesus, says: Behold your King! Either he was jesting with the multitude, and was granting, with a scornful smile, the innocent blood to those who thirsted for it without a cause, or, perhaps, he was casting in the teeth of the savage Jews the reproach that they endured to see in such evil plight Him Whom they themselves named and asserted to be King of Israel.

15 They therefore cried out, Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King?

They reiterate their old cry with the same fury, and desisted not from their lust for blood, and were not softened at all by the insults He had endured, nor inclined to clemency by the outrages inflicted upon Him; but were rather goaded to a greater pitch of fury, and intreat that He Who had raised the dead in their midst, and shown Himself the worker of such marvels, should be crucified; at which Pilate was sore amazed, seeing that they declared with such vehemence, that He, Who had acquired such eminence among them as to be deemed the Son of God, and King, was not merely worthy of death, but that He deserved so cruel a fate, for crucifixion is the worst of deaths. The judge, therefore, makes their outcry a charge and reproach against them, that they should be desirous that He should be crucified, Who had excited so great admiration by deeds which were so pre-eminent as to transcend anything on earth. For what is there that is equal to what does not fall short of the Son of God, and King?

15 The chief priests answered, We have We king but Cæsar.

Hereupon the well-beloved Israel spurned his God, and started aside from his allegiance, and, as Moses said, abandoned the God that was his Father, and remembered not the Lord his helper. For see how he turned his eyes upon an harlot, according to the Scripture, refused to be ashamed, disowned his own glory, and denied his Lord. Of this very charge God accused Israel of old, speaking by the mouth of Jeremiah: For pass over the isles of Chittim, and send unto Kedar, and see whether the nations change their gods, who are yet no gods; but My people have changed their glory. And again: The heavens were astonished thereat, and were horribly afraid, saith the Lord; for My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me the fountain of living waters, and have hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that hold no water. For while other nations throughout the whole world clung fast to the deceitfulness of their idols, and steadfastly adhered to the gods whom they so deemed, and did not readily undergo a change of faith, nor easily alter their form of worship, the Israelites started aside, and joined themselves to the empire of Cæsar, and cast off the rule of God. Therefore, very justly, were they given over into Cæsar’s hands, and, having at first welcomed his rule, afterwards brought themselves to grievous ruin, and underwent expulsion from their country, and the sufferings of war, and those irremediable calamities that befell them.

Observe, too, here the minuteness of the writer. For he does not say that the people started the impious cry, but rather their rulers. For he says: the chief priests cried out, everywhere pointing out, that it was through their submissively following their leaders that the multitude was carried down the precipice, and fell into the abyss of perdition. The chief priests incur the penalty, not merely as losing their own souls, but also as having been leaders and responsible guides of the people subject unto them, in the fatal shedding of blood; just as also the prophet rebuked them, saying: Because ye have been a snare unto the watch-tower, and as a net stretched out upon Tabor, which they who catch the prey have spread. The Prophet here means by the watch-tower the multitude, who were subject unto them, who were arrayed, as it were, to observe the conduct of their rulers, and to conform their own to it. And, therefore, the leading men of the people are called watchmen in Holy Writ. The chief priests themselves, then, were a snare and a net unto the watch-tower; for they both started this denial, and also induced all the rest to cry: We have no king but Cæsar. These miserable men presumed so to say, though God the Father, by the mouth of the Prophet, predicted the coming of the Saviour, and cried out: Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass. These men, who had once brought Jesus into Jerusalem riding upon an ass, and honoured Him as a God with blind praises, with one accord, for they cried: Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord! now make an outcry against Him, accusing Him only of attacking the Roman rule, and shaking off, as it were, the yoke of the Kingdom of God from their necks. For this was the plain meaning of the cry: We have no king but Cæsar. But we shall find that then, too, it was the people that raised the shout for the Saviour Christ, and that it was the chief priests who presumed in their madness to make this exclamation, just as the others had proceeded from them.

16 Then therefore he delivered Him unto them to be crucified.

Pilate henceforward permits the Jews, in their unbridled resentment, to run to all lengths in lawlessness; and, divesting himself of the power due unto a judge, suffers their uncontrolled passions at length to take their course unreproved, in allowing them to crucify One Who was wholly guiltless, and Who received this monstrous condemnation merely because He said He was the Son of God. One must lay the whole guilt of the impious crime at the door of the Jews; and rightly and justly, I think, accuse them of being the prime movers in the act, for with them originated this impiety against Christ. Yet we cannot acquit Pilate of complicity in their iniquity; for he shared their responsibility, inasmuch as when he might have delivered and rescued Him from the madness of His murderers, he did not merely refrain from releasing Him, but even gave Him up to them for the very purpose, that they might crucify Him.

16 They took Jesus therefore. 17 And He went out, bearing the Cross for Himself, unto the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha: 18 where they crucified Him, and with Him two others, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.

They lead away, then, to death the Author of Life; and for our sakes was this done, for by the power and incomprehensible Providence of God, Christ’s death resulted in an unexpected reversal of things. For His suffering was prepared as a snare for the power of death, and the death of the Lord was the source of the renewal of mankind in incorruption and newness of life. Bearing the Cross upon His shoulders, on which He was about to be crucified, He went forth; His doom was already fixed, and He had undergone, for our sakes, though innocent, the sentence of death. For, in His own Person, He bore the sentence righteously pronounced against sinners by the Law. For He became a curse for us, according to the Scripture: For cursed is everyone, it is said, that hangeth on a tree. And accursed are we all, for we are not able to fulfil the Law of God: For in many things we all stumble; and very prone to sin is the nature of man. And since, too, the Law of God says: Cursed is he which continueth not in all things that are written in the book of this Law, to do them, the curse, then, belongeth unto us, and not to others. For those against whom the transgression of the Law may be charged, and who are very prone to err from its commandments, surely deserve chastisement. Therefore, He That knew no sin was accursed for our sakes, that He might deliver us from the old curse. For all-sufficient was the God Who is above all, so dying for all; and by the death of His own Body, purchasing the redemption of all mankind.

The Cross, then, that Christ bore, was not for His own deserts, but was the cross that awaited us, and was our due, through our condemnation by the Law. For as He was numbered among the dead, not for Himself, but for our sakes, that we might find in Him, the Author of everlasting life, subduing of Himself the power of death; so also, He took upon Himself the Cross that was our due, passing on Himself the condemnation of the Law, that the mouth of all lawlessness might henceforth be stopped, according to the saying of the Psalmist; the Sinless having suffered condemnation for the sin of all. And of great profit will the deed which Christ performed be to our souls—I mean, as a type of true manliness in God’s service. For in no other way can we triumphantly attain to perfection in all virtue, and perfect union with God, save by setting our love toward Him above the earthly life, and zealously waging battle for the truth, if occasion calls us so to do. Moreover, our Lord Jesus Christ says: Every man that doth not take his cross and follow after Me, is not worthy of Me. And taking up the Cross means, I think, nothing else than bidding farewell to the world for God’s sake, and preferring, if the opportunity arise, the hope of future glory to life in the body. But our Lord Jesus Christ is not ashamed to bear the Cross that is our due, and to suffer this indignity for love towards us; while we, poor wretches that we are, whose mother is the insensate earth beneath our feet, and who have been called into being out of nothing, sometimes do not even dare to touch the skirt of tribulation in God’s service; but, if we have anything to bear in the service of Christ, at once account the shame intolerable, and shrinking from the ridicule of our adversaries, and those who sit in the seat of the scornful, as an accursed thing, and preferring to God’s pleasure this paltry and ill-timed craving for reputation, fall sick of the disease of disdainful arrogance, which is the mother, so to say, of all evils, and so make ourselves subject to the charge. For thus is the servant above his lord, and the disciple above his master, and thinks and acts accordingly. Alas, for this grievous infirmity, which always in some strange shape lies athwart our path, and leads us astray from the pursuit of what is meet!

Call to mind, too, how the inspired Peter could not endure Christ’s prophecy, when He foretold His sufferings upon the Cross, for He said: Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man is betrayed unto the hands of sinners; and they shall crucify Him, and kill Him. The disciple, not yet understanding the mysterious ways of God’s providence, God-loving and teachable as he was, was moved by his scruples to exclaim: Be it far from Thee, Lord; this shall never be unto Thee. What answered Christ? Get thee behind Me, Satan; thou art a stumblingblock unto Me: for thou mindest not the things of God, but the things of men. But we may hence derive no small profit, for we shall know, that when occasion calls us to exhibit courage in God’s service, and we are compelled to endure conflicts that ensue for virtue’s sake; yea, even if they who honour and love us best strive to hinder us from doing anything that may tend to stablish virtue, alleging, it may be, our consequent dishonour among men, or from some worldly motive, we must not yield. For they, then, are in nowise unlike Satan, who loves and is ever wont to cast stumblingblocks in our path by divers deceits, and sometimes by smooth words, so as to divert from the pursuit of what is meet, the man who is urged thereto by the spirit of piety. And methinks Christ meant something like this, when He said: If, therefore, thy right eye causeth thee to stumble, pluck it out, and cast it from thee. For that which does us injury is no longer our own, even though united to us by the bond of love, and though its connexion with us be but its natural desert.

Two robbers were crucified together with Christ, and this was owing to the malice of the Jews. For, as though to emphasize the dishonour of our Saviour’s death, they involved the just Man in the same condemnation as the transgressors of the Law. And we may take the condemned criminals, who hung by Christ’s side, as symbolical of the two nations who were shortly about to be brought into close contact with Him, I mean the children of Israel and the Gentiles. And why do we take condemned criminals as the type? Because the Jews were condemned by the Law, for they were guilty of transgressing it; and the Greeks by their idolatry, for they worshipped the creature more than the Creator.

And after another manner those who are united with Christ are also crucified with Him; for enduring, as it were, death to their old conversation in the flesh, they are reformed into a new life, according to the Gospel. Yea, Paul said: And they that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh, with the passions and the lusts thereof; and again, speaking of himself in words applicable to all men: For I, through the Law, died unto the Law, that I might live unto God. I have been crucified with Christ: yet I live; and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me. And he exhorts also the Colossians: Wherefore, if ye died from the world, why do ye behave yourselves as though living in the world? For, by becoming dead unto worldly conversation, we are brought to the rudiments of conduct and life in Christ. Therefore the crucifixion of the two robbers, side by side with Christ, signifies in a manner to us, through the medium of that event, the juxtaposition of the two nations, dying together, as it were, with the Saviour Christ, by bidding farewell to worldly pleasures, and refusing any longer to live after the flesh, and preferring to live with their Lord, so far as may be, by fashioning their lives according to Him, and consecrating them in His service. And the meaning of the figure is in no way affected by the fact, that the men who hung by His side were malefactors; for we were by nature children of wrath, before we believed in Christ, and were all doomed to death, as we said before.

19 And Pilate wrote a title also, and put it on the Cross. And there was written, Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.

This is, in fact, the bond against us which, as the inspired Paul says, the Lord nailed to His Cross, and in it led in triumph the principalities and the powers as vanquished, and as having revolted from His rule. And if it were not Christ Himself that fixed the title on the Cross, but the fellow-worker and minister of the Jews, still, as He suffered it so to be, it is as though He were recorded as having inscribed it with His own Hand. And He triumphed over principalities in it. For it was open to the view of all who chose to learn, pointing to Him Who suffered for our sake, and Who was giving His Life as a ransom for the lives of all. For all men upon the earth, in that they have fallen into the snare of sin (for all have gone aside, and have all together become filthy, according to the Scripture), had made themselves liable to the accusation of the devil, and were living a hateful and miserable life. And the title contained a handwriting against us—the curse that, by the Divine Law, impends over the transgressors, and the sentence that went forth against all who erred against those ancient ordinances of the Law, like unto Adam’s curse, which went forth against all mankind, in that all alike broke God’s decrees. For God’s anger did not cease with Adam’s fall, but He was also provoked by those who after him dishonoured the Creator’s decree; and the denunciation of the Law against transgressors was extended continuously over all. We were, then, accursed and condemned, by the sentence of God, through Adam’s transgression, and through breach of the Law laid down after him; but the Saviour wiped out the handwriting against us, by nailing the title to His Cross, which very clearly pointed to the death upon the Cross which He underwent for the salvation of men, who lay under condemnation. For our sake He paid the penalty for our sins. For though He was One that suffered, yet was He far above any creature, as God, and more precious than the life of all. Therefore, as the Psalmist says, the mouth of all lawlessness was stopped, and the tongue of sin was silenced, unable any more to speak against sinners. For we are justified, now that Christ has paid the penalty for us; for by His stripes we are healed, according to the Scripture. And just as by the Cross the sin of our revolt was perfected, so also by the Cross was achieved our return to our original state, and the acceptable recovery of heavenly blessings; Christ, as it were, gathering up into Himself, for us, the very fount and origin of our infirmity.

20 This title therefore read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and in Latin, and in Greek.

We may remark that it was very providential, and the fruit of God’s inexpressible purpose, that the title that was written embraced three inscriptions—one in Hebrew, another in Latin, and another in Greek. For it lay open to the view, proclaiming the Kingdom of our Saviour Christ in three languages, the most widely known of all, and bringing to the crucified One the first-fruits, as it were, of the prophecy that had been spoken concerning Him. For the wise Daniel said that there was given Him glory and a Kingdom, and all nations and languages shall serve Him; and, to like effect, the holy Paul teaches us, crying out that every knee shall bow; of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth; and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Therefore the title proclaiming Jesus King was, as it were, the true firstfruits of the confession of tongues. And, in another sense, it accused the impiety of the Jews, and all but proclaimed expressly, to those who congregated to read it, that they had crucified their King and Lord, purblind wretches that they were, without thought of love toward Him, and sunk in crass insensibility.

21 The chief priests of the Jews therefore said to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews, but, that He said, I am King of the Jews. 22 Pilate answered, What I have written, I have written.

The rulers of the Jews took ill the writing on the title, and, full of bitter hatred, once more denied the Kingship of Christ, and said in their great folly that He had never reigned in fact, nor been accepted as King, but had merely used this expression: not knowing that to lie is contrary to the nature of truth, and Christ is Truth. He was, then, King of the Jews, if He was proved to have given Himself this title, as they themselves also confirmed by their own words. And Pilate rejected their request that he should alter the inscription, not consenting in all things to do despite unto the glory of our Saviour, doubtless owing to God’s Ineffable Will. For the Kingship of Christ was firmly rooted, and beyond the reach of calumny, though the Jews might not consent thereunto, and might strive to deface the confession of His glory.

23 The soldiers therefore, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments, and made four parts, to every soldier part; and also the coat. Now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. 24 They said therefore one to another, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the Scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted My garments among them, and upon My vesture did they cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did.

The soldiers, then, divided our Saviour’s garments among themselves, and this is indicative of their brutal ferocity and inhuman disposition. For it is the custom of executioners to be unmoved by the misery of condemned criminals, and to obey orders sometimes with unnecessary harshness, and to show a masculine indifference to the fate of the sufferers, and to divide their garments among themselves, as though the lot fell upon them by some sufficient and lawful reason. They divided, then, the dissevered garments into four portions, but kept the one coat whole and uncut. For they did not choose to tear it in pieces, and make it altogether useless, and so they decided it by casting lots. For Christ could not lie, Who thus spake by the voice of the Psalmist: They divided My raiment among them, and upon My vesture did they cast lots. All these things were foretold for our profit, that we might know, by comparing the prophecies with the events, what He is of Whom it was foretold that He should come for our sake in our likeness, and of Whom it was expected that He should die for the salvation of all men. For no man of sense can suppose that the Saviour Himself, like the foolish Jews, would strain out the gnat, that is, foretell a trifling detail concerning His sufferings, as in this mention of the partition of His raiment, and, as it were, swallow the camel, that is, think of no account the great lengths to which the impious presumption of the Jews carried them. Rather, when He foretold these details, He foretold also the great event itself; firstly, in order that we might know that, as He was by Nature God, He had perfect knowledge of the future; secondly, also, that we might believe that He was in fact the Messiah of prophecy, being led to the knowledge of the truth by the many and great things fulfilled in Him.

And if it behoves us also to declare another thought which strikes us with regard to the partition of the garments—a thought which can do no harm, and may possibly do good to those who hear it—I will speak as follows: Their division of the Saviour’s garments into four parts, and retention of the coat in its undivided state, is perhaps symbolical of the mysterious providence whereby the four quarters of the world were destined to be saved. For the four quarters of the world divided, as it were, among themselves the garment of the Word, that is, His Body which yet remained indivisible. For though the Only-begotten be cut into small pieces, so far as individual needs are concerned, and sanctify the soul of every man, together with his body, by His Flesh; yet is He, being One, altogether subsistent in the whole Church in indivisible entirety; for, as Saint Paul saith, Christ cannot be divided. That such is the meaning of the mystery concerning Him, the Law dimly shadows forth. For the Law represented the taking of a lamb at the fitting time, and the taking, not of one lamb for every man, but of one for every house, according to the number of the household; for every man (if his household were too small) was to join with his neighbour that was next unto his house. And so the command was, that many should have a part in one lamb; but, in order that it might not appear, therefore, to be physically divided, by the flesh being dissevered from the bones, and taken from house to house, the Law laid down the further injunction: In one house shall it be eaten: ye shall not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house. For observe how, as I said just now, the Law took care that many who might be in one household should have a part in one lamb, but most carefully also took great precautions that it should not appear physically divided, but should be found in its completeness and entirety as one in all who partook of it, being, at the same time, divisible and indivisible. We must entertain some such view with regard to Christ’s garments, for they were divided into four portions, but the coat remained undivided.

And it can do no harm also to add, that if any man choose, by way of speculation, to look upon the coat that was woven from the top throughout, and seamless, as an illustration of Christ’s holy Body, because It came into being without any connexion or intercourse of man with woman, but woven into its proper shape by the effective working of the Spirit from above, this view is worthy our acceptance. For such speculations as do no damage to the elements of the faith, but are rather fertile of profit, it would surely be ill-advised for us to reject; nay, we ought rather to commend them, as the fruit of an excellent disposition of mind.

25 But there were standing by the Cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

This also the inspired Evangelist mentions to our profit, showing herein also, that none of the words of Holy Writ fall to the ground. What do I mean by this? I will tell you. He represents, as standing by the Cross, His mother, and with her the rest, clearly weeping. For women are ever prone to tears, and very much inclined to lament, especially when they have abundant occasion for shedding tears. What, then, induced the blessed Evangelist to go so much into detail, as to make mention of the women as staying beside the Cross? His object was to teach us that, as was likely, the unexpected fate of our Lord was an offence unto His mother, and that His exceeding bitter death upon the Cross almost banished from her heart due reflection; and, besides the insults of the Jews, and the soldiers also, who probably stayed by the Cross and derided Him Who hung thereon, and who presumed, in His mother’s very sight, to divide His garments among themselves, had this effect. For, doubtless, some such train of thought as this passed through her mind: “I conceived Him That is mocked upon the Cross. He said, indeed, that He was the true Son of Almighty God, but it may be that He was deceived; He may have erred when He said: I am the Life. How did His crucifixion come to pass? and how was He entangled in the snares of His murderers? How was it that He did not prevail over the conspiracy of His persecutors against Him? And why does He not come down from the Cross, though He bade Lazarus return to life, and struck all Judæa with amazement by His miracles?” The woman, as is likely, not exactly understanding the mystery, wandered astray into some such train of thought; for we shall do well to remember, that the character of these events was such as to awe and subdue the most sober mind. And no marvel if a woman fell into such an error, when even Peter himself, the elect of the holy disciples, was once offended, when Christ in plain words instructed him that He would be betrayed unto the hands of sinners, and would undergo crucifixion and death, so that he impetuously exclaimed: Be it far from Thee, Lord; this shall never be unto Thee. What wonder, then, if a woman’s frail mind was also plunged into thoughts which betrayed weakness? And when we thus speak, we are not shooting at a venture, as some may suppose, but are led to suspect this by what is written concerning the mother of our Lord. For we remember that the righteous Simeon, when he received the infant Lord into his arms, after having blessed Him, and said: Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart, O Lord, according to Thy Word, in peace; for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, he also said to the holy Virgin herself: Behold, this Child is set for the falling and rising up of many in Israel; and for a sign which is spoken against; yea, and a sword shall pierce through thine own soul, that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed. By a sword he meant the keen pang of suffering, which would divide the mind of the woman into strange thoughts; for temptations prove the hearts of those who are tempted, and leave them bare of the thoughts that filled them.

26 When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple standing by, whom He loved, He saith unto His mother, Woman, behold thy Son! 27 Then saith He to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour the disciple took her unto his own home.

He took thought for His mother, paying no heed to His own bitter agony, for His sufferings affected Him not. He gave her into the charge of the beloved disciple (this was John, the writer of this book), and bade him take her home, and regard her as a mother; and enjoined His own mother to regard him as none other than her true son—by his tenderness, that is, and affection, fulfilling and stepping into the place of Him, Who was her Son by nature.

But as some misguided men have thought that Christ, when He thus spake, gave way to mere fleshly affection—away with such folly! to fall into so stupid an error is only worthy of a madman—what good purpose, then, did Christ hereby fulfil? First, we reply, that He wished to confirm the command on which the Law lays so much stress. For what saith the Mosaic ordinance? Honour thy father and thy mother, that it may be well with thee. His commandment unto us did not cease with exhorting us to perform this duty, but threatened us with the extreme penalty of the Law, if we chose to disregard it, and has put sin against our parents after the flesh on a par with sin against God. For the Law which ordered that the blasphemer should undergo the sentence of death, saying: Let him that blasphemeth the Name of the Lord be put to death, also subjected to the same penalty the man who employs his licentious and unruly tongue against his parents: He that curseth father or mother shall surely be put to death. As, then, the Lawgiver hath ordained that we should pay such honour to our parents, surely it was right that the commandment thus proclaimed should be confirmed by the approval of the Saviour; and as the perfect form of every excellence and virtue through Him first came into the world, why should not this virtue be put on the same footing as the rest? For, surely, honour to parents is a very precious kind of virtue. And how could we learn that we ought not to lightly regard love toward them, even when we are overwhelmed by a flood of intolerable calamities, save by the example of Christ first of all, and through Him? For best of all, surely, is he who is mindful of the holy commandments, and is not diverted from the pursuit of duty in stormy and troublous times, and not in peace and quietness alone.

Besides, also, was not the Lord, I say, right to take thought for His mother, when she had fallen on a rock of offence, and when her mind was in a turmoil of perplexity? For, as He was truly God, and looked into the motions of the heart, and knew its secrets, how could He fail to know the thoughts about His crucifixion, which were then throwing her into sore distress? Knowing, then, what was passing in her heart, He commended her to the disciple, the best of guides, who was able to explain fully and adequately the profound mystery. For wise and learned in the things of God was he who received and took her away gladly, to fulfil all the Saviour’s Will concerning her.

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things are now finished, that the Scripture might be accomplished, said, I thirst. 29 There was set there a vessel full of vinegar: so they put a sponge full of the vinegar upon hyssop, and brought it to His mouth.

When the iniquity of the Jews had fully wrought the impious crime against Christ, and when there was nothing left wanting to the perfect satisfaction of their savage cruelty, the flesh, at the last extremity, felt a natural craving, for it was parched by the various acts of outrage, and felt thirst. For pain is very apt to provoke thirst, spending the natural moisture of the body in excessive inward heat, and burning the inward parts with the pangs of inflammation. It would have been easy for the Word, the Almighty God, to have released His Flesh from this torment; but, just as He willingly underwent His other sufferings, so He bore this also of His own Will. Then He sought to drink; but so pitiless and far removed from the love of God were they, that, instead of liquid to quench His thirst, they gave Him something to aggravate it, and, in rendering the very service of love, committed a further act of impiety. For, in acceding at all to His request, were they not assuming the appearance of affection? But it was impossible that the inspired Scripture should ever lie, which put into the mouth of the Saviour these words concerning them: They gave Me gall to eat, and when I was athirst, they gave Me vinegar to drink.

The blessed Evangelist John says that they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it on hyssop, and so brought it. Luke makes no mention of anything of the kind, but merely declares that they brought Him vinegar. Matthew and Mark say that the sponge was put on a reed. Some may perhaps think there is a discrepancy in the accounts of the holy Evangelists; but no one who is right-minded will be so persuaded. We must rather try to search, and see by every means in our power, in what way the act of impiety was effected. The inspired Luke, then, disregarding the way in which the vinegar was brought, says, in brief, that vinegar was brought to Him when He was athirst. And there can be no question, that the Evangelists would not have disagreed with each other in these trifling and unimportant details, when, in all essential matters, they are in such perfect harmony and concord. What, then, is the difference between them? and of what treatment is it susceptible? There is no doubt, that the officers who executed the impious crime against Christ were many in number, I mean the soldiers who brought Him to the Cross; several also of the Jews shared in their cruelty, some putting the sponge on a reed, others on a stick of what is called hyssop—for the hyssop is a kind of shrub—and gave Jesus to drink of it; doing this, purblind wretches that they were, to their own condemnation. For, unawares, they were proving themselves utterly undeserving of compassion, when they thus altogether discarded mercy and humanity, and with unparalleled audacity vied with each other in impiety alone. Therefore, by the mouth of the Prophet Ezekiel, God thus spake unto the mother of the Jews, I mean Jerusalem: As thou hast done, so shall it be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head; and by the mouth of Isaiah, to lawless Israel: Woe unto the wicked! It shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him. This completed the measure of all the crimes that had been committed against Christ; but here, too, we may find a lesson to our profit. For hereby we may know that those who are of a God-loving temper, and who are firmly rooted in the love of Christ, shall wage, as it were, a ceaseless war with those who are of a different spirit; who will not, even to their latest breath, desist from raging against them, preparing for them severe temptations from every quarter, and eagerly devising every sort of thing that may hurt them. But, just as the wicked cease not from troubling them, so also shall their courage be continually sustained; and just as their trials, and the tribulation of temptation, have no abatement, so also the blessedness of the Saints shall have no end, and the joy of their state of glory shall remain for evermore, and world without end.

30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished: and He bowed His Head, and gave up His Spirit.

When this indignity had been added to the rest, the Saviour exclaimed, It is finished; meaning that the measure of the iniquity of the Jews, and of their furious rage against Him, was completed. For what had the Jews left untried, and what extremity of atrocity had they not practised against Him? For what kind of insult was omitted, and what crowning act of outrage do they seem to have left undone? Therefore rightly did He exclaim, It is finished, the hour already summoning Him to preach to the spirits in hell. For He visited them, that He might be Lord both of the living and the dead; and for our sake encountered death itself, and underwent the common lot of all humanity, that is, according to the flesh, though being as God by Nature Life, that He might despoil hell, and render return to life possible to human nature; being thus proved the firstfruits of them that are asleep, and the firstborn from the dead, according to the Scriptures. He bowed His head, therefore; for as this generally befalls the dying, through the slackening of the sinews of the flesh, when the spirit or soul that united and sustained it is fled, the Evangelist made use of this expression. The expression also, He gave up His Spirit, does not differ from language usually employed, for the vulgar use it as equivalent to “his life was extinguished, and he died.” But it is probable that it was of set purpose, and advisedly, that the holy Evangelist, instead of saying simply, He died, said, He gave up His Spirit; gave it up, that is, into the hands of God the Father, according to the saying that He spake: Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit; and for us, also, the meaning of the expression lays down a beginning and foundation of firm hope. For, I think, we ought to believe, and for this belief there is much ground, that the souls of Saints, when they quit their earthly bodies, are, by the bountiful mercy of God, almost, as it were, consigned into the hands of a most loving Father, and do not, as some infidels have pretended, haunt their sepulchres, waiting for funeral libations; nor yet are they, like the souls of sinful men, conveyed to the place of endless torment, that is, to hell. Rather, do they hasten into the hands of the Father of all, by the new way which our Saviour Christ has prepared for us; for He consigned His Soul into the hands of His Father, that we also, making it our anchor, and being firmly rooted and grounded in this belief, might entertain the bright hope that when Ave undergo the death of the body, we shall be in God’s hands; yea, in a far better condition than when we were in the flesh. Therefore, also, the wise Paul assures us that it is better to depart, and be with Christ.

And when He gave up the ghost, the veil of the temple was rent in twain, from the top to the bottom. The veil of the temple was of fine linen, let down to the floor of the centre of the temple, and shrouding the inner portion thereof, and allowing only the high priest to enter into the innermost shrine. For it was not in the power of any one at will to penetrate into the interior with unwashen feet, and carelessly to gaze upon the Holy of holies. How very necessary it was that this curtain should make this division, Paul shows us by his words in the Epistle to the Hebrews: For there was a tabernacle prepared; the first, which is called the Holy place. And after the second veil, the tabernacle, which is called the Holy of holies, having a golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot holding the manna, and the tables of the covenant, and Aaron’s rod that budded. But into the first tabernacle, he says, the priests go in, accomplishing the services; but into the second, the high priest alone, once in the year, not without blood, which he offereth for himself, and for the errors of the people: the Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the Holy place hath not yet been made manifest, while as the first tabernacle is yet standing. For there can be no question, that a veil was let down at the very entrance of the temple. And so there came into his mind the first tabernacle, which he called holy; for no one could affirm that any part of the temple was not holy, or, if he did so, he would lie, for it was all holy. And after the first tabernacle came the veil which was betwixt, which is the second veil, separating the innermost portion, that is, the Holy of holies. But, as the blessed Paul said, the Spirit signified, by figures and types, that the more fitting way in which the Saints should tread had not yet been made manifest; for the people were still kept at a distance, and the first tabernacle was yet standing. For there had not, as yet, in fact, appeared unto men the manner of the life that Christ gave unto those who were called by the Spirit unto sanctification; and not yet had the mystery concerning Him been made manifest, for the written commandment of the Law was still in force. Therefore, also, the Law placed the Jews in the outer court. For the dispensation of the Law was, as it were, a porch and vestibule leading unto the teaching and life of the Gospel. For the one is but a type, the other is the truth itself. The first tabernacle was, indeed, holy, for the Law is holy, and the commandment righteous and good; but the innermost portion of the temple was the Holy of holies, for though the men who partook of the righteousness of the Law were holy, they became yet holier when they accepted the faith that is in Christ, and were anointed with the Holy Spirit of God. The righteousness of faith, therefore, is greater than the righteousness of the Law; and by faith we are far more abundantly sanctified. Therefore, also, the wise Paul says, that he gladly and readily endured the loss of the righteousness that is of the Law, that he might gain Christ, and might be found in Him, not having a righteousness of mine own, even that which is of the Law, but that which is through faith in Jesus Christ. And some fell backwards, and, after running well for a time, were bewitched; and the Galatians were of this class: after pursuing the righteousness which is of faith, turning back to the commandment of the Law, and recurring to the state of life shadowed forth by types and figures; and to these Paul administered the well-merited reproof: If ye receive circumcision, Christ will profit you nothing. Ye are severed from Christ, ye who would be justified by the Law; ye are fallen away from grace. But (to bring our explanation of the passage to a good and proper conclusion) we will simply repeat, that the veil of the temple was rent in twain, from the top to the bottom; to signify, as it were, that God was in the very act of revealing the Holy of holies, and making the way into the inmost shrine open henceforth to those who believe on Christ. For the knowledge of the Divine mysteries is now laid bare before us; no longer shrouded in the obscurity of the letter of the Law, as it were a curtain, nor hidden by any covering from our quest, nor defended against the intrusion of the eye of the mind by types through which we could see but dimly. Rather are these mysteries now seen in simplicity of faith; yea, but few words suffice to explain them. For the word is nigh thee, says Paul, in thy mouth, and in thy heart; that is, the word of faith, which we preach: because, if thou shalt say with thy mouth, Jesus is Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised Him from’ the dead, thou shalt be saved: for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Herein is seen in its completeness the mystery of piety towards God. But, while Christ had not as yet waged the conflict for our salvation, nor undergone the death of the flesh, the veil was still spread out, for the power of the commandment of the Law still prevailed. But when the iniquitous Jews, in their presumption, had wreaked to the utmost their malice upon Christ, and He had given up the ghost for our sake, and the sufferings of Emmanuel were accomplished, the time had then come that the broad veil, that had so long been spread out, should from henceforth be rent asunder—that is, the protection of the letter of the Law—and that the fair vision of the truth should lie bare and open before those who had been sanctified in Christ by faith. The veil was torn throughout; for what other meaning can be put upon the words: From the top to the bottom? And why was this? It was because the revelation of the message of salvation was not partial, but our enlightenment concerning the Divine mysteries was perfected thereby. Therefore, also, the Psalmist said unto God, in the person of His new people: The hidden secrets of Thy wisdom hast Thou revealed unto me; and, furthermore, the inspired Paul thus addresses believers on Christ: I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace which was given you in Christ Jesus; that in every thing ye were enriched in Him, in all utterance, and all wisdom, and all knowledge. The rending of the veil, then, not in part, but entirely throughout, signified then, that the worshippers of the Saviour were about to be enriched in all wisdom, and in all knowledge, and in all utterance, manifestly receiving the knowledge of the mystery concerning Him, undefiled and unclouded by blot or shadow. For this is what is meant by the words: From the top to the bottom. We say, then, that the most appropriate and fitting time for the revelation of the Divine mysteries was the occasion on which the Saviour laid down His life for us, when Israel spurned His grace, and wholly started aside from the love of God, in his frenzy against Him, and headstrong impiety. For any one may see that the measure of their iniquities was complete, when he learns that they persecuted, even unto death, the Giver of Life.

I think, therefore, that we have said enough on this subject, and that our explanation of the Divine purpose does not fall short of the mark. But, as we find the inspired Evangelist is very diligent to say: When He gave up the ghost, the veil of the temple was rent, thereby almost signifying as essential for us to know the occasion of that event, let us supplement our remarks by a further consideration, which savours, I think, of the spirit of pious research. For it is a thought which will be found in no way abhorrent to those fundamental doctrines, which are at once a blessing and a necessity to us. To proceed, then: the following custom was in vogue, both among the people and the rulers of the Jews. When they saw anything being clone which they thought would especially offend the Giver of the Law, or when they heard any outrageous or blasphemous utterance, they tore their garments, and put on the appearance of mourners; thereby, in a manner, taking up the defence of God, and by the intolerance they displayed of such offences, passing sentence of condemnation on the madness of the transgressors, and acquitting themselves of complicity therein. Moreover, the disciples of the Saviour, Barnabas and Paul, when certain of those who had not yet received the faith, thinking them to be gods (for they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercury), brought sacrifices and garlands, in company with the priests, and attempted to make sacrifices in their honour, leapt down from the platform on which they stood, because of the outrage that would be inflicted upon the glory of God, if any sacrifice were offered to men, and rent their garments, as is recorded, and by fitting words prevented the ignorant endeavour of the worshippers of idols. Also, when our Saviour Christ was on His trial before the rulers of the Jews, and was required to say Who He was, and whence He came, and said plainly in reply: Verily, I say unto you, henceforth ye shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven, Caiaphas leapt up out of his seat, and rent his garments, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy. The temple of God, then, followed, so to say, the custom that prevailed among the Jews, and rent its veil, as it had been clothes, at the moment when our Saviour gave up the ghost. For it condemned the impiety of the Jews as an insult against itself. And the accomplishment of this was God’s work, that He might show unto us the temple itself bewailing Israel’s guilt.

31 The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain on the cross upon the Sabbath (for the day of that Sabbath was a high day), asked of Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.

It is not with the motive of testifying to the reverence for holy days felt by men inured to shed blood with brutal ferocity, and found guilty of so monstrous an iniquity, that the blessed Evangelist says this; but rather from the wish to show that, in their gross stupidity, they committed that folly of which Christ spoke. For they strained out the gnat while they swallowed the camel; for they are found to reckon as of no account at all the most outrageous and awful of all crimes against God, while they exercised the greatest diligence with reference to the most paltry and insignificant matters, showing their folly in either case. The proof of this is not far to seek. For, behold, in the very act of putting Christ to death, they put great store on the respect due to the Sabbath; and, while they insulted the Lawgiver by outrages which surpass description, they parade their reverence of the Law; and, as that Sabbath was a high day, they affect to pay honour to it—the very men who destroyed the Lord of the high day; and they ask a favour, which well suited their cruel spirit. For they besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, wishing to embitter, by this last intolerable outrage, the pangs of approaching death, to those who were already in agony.

32 The soldiers therefore came, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with Him: 33 but when they came to Jesus, and saw that He was dead already, they brake not His Legs: 34 howbeit, one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His Side, and straightway there came out blood and water. 35 And he that hath seen hath borne witness, and his witness is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye also may believe. 36 For these things came to pass, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, A bone of Him shall not be broken. 37 And again another Scripture saith, They shall look on Him Whom they pierced.

In pursuance of the request of the Jews, men afflicted with a madness akin to their cruelty—I mean the soldiers of Pilate—break the legs of the two robbers, as they were still numbered among the living, intensifying the bitter pang of their last agony, and finally despatching them by the most grievous act of violence. But when they found Jesus with His Head bowed down, and saw that He had already given up the ghost, they thought it lost labour to break His Legs; but, as they still had a faint suspicion that He might not be actually dead, they with a spear pierced His Side, which sent forth Blood, mingled with Water; God presenting us thereby with a type, as it were, and foreshadowing of the mystery of the Eucharist, and Holy Baptism. For Holy Baptism is of Christ, and Christ’s institution; and the power of the mystery of the Eucharist grew up for us out of His Holy Flesh.

By his account of what took place, the wise Evangelist confirms his hearers in the belief that He was the Christ long ago foretold by Holy Writ; for the events of His life harmonised with what was written concerning Him. For not a bone of Him was broken, and He was pierced with the spear of the soldier, according to the Scripture. He says himself, that the disciple that bare record of these things was a spectator and eye-witness of what took place, and knew, in fact, that his testimony was true; and the disciple to whom he thus alludes is none other than himself. For he shrank from speaking more openly, putting away from himself the assumption of love of glory, as an unholy thing, and as a grievous infirmity.

Concerning the request for the Body of the Lord.

38 And after these things, Joseph of Arimathæa, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked of Pilate that he might take away the Body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came, therefore, and took away His Body.

This saying is indeed fraught with a grievous charge against the Jews, as it shows that to become a disciple of Christ was dangerous, and exposed a man to penalties; for he plainly introduces this most excellent young man—I mean Joseph—to our notice, as most especially anxious to escape the notice of the Jews, though he had been induced by Christ’s teaching to choose that worship which was the reality itself, and better and more pleasing to the God Who loves virtue than the commandment of the Law, and at the same time gives us a proof necessary to confirm our faith. For it was necessary for us to believe that Christ laid down His Life for us. And is it not an inevitable consequence that, when a man is entombed, we must have a firm conviction that he also died? And we may well condemn, as guilty of gross brutality, the presumption, hard-heartedness, and merciless temper of the Jews, who did not even pay unto Christ the respect due to the dead, nor honour Him with burial rites, when they saw Him lying before them an inanimate corpse; though they knew that He was the Christ, and had often been amazed by the marvellous works that He did, even though their bitter hatred might never have allowed them to profit by His miraculous power. The disciple of Arimathæa, therefore, passes judgment on the inhumanity of the Jews, and condemns the men of Jerusalem, when he goes and tends with fitting care the Body of Him Whom he did not as yet honour by an open confession of faith, but still believed on Him in secret, for fear of the Jews, as says the blessed Evangelist.

39 And there came also Nicodemus, he who at the first came to Him by night, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pound weight.

He says that this disciple was not alone in taking counsel wisely, as well as in fervent zeal, to go to dress the sacred Body for burial, but he makes mention of a second along with the first. This was Nicodemus, who completed the body of testimony to the event that is respected by the Law. For, says the Law: In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established. The men who laid Jesus in the tomb were two in number, Joseph and Nicodemus; men who received the faith inwardly in their hearts, but were still scared by a foolish fear, and did not yet prefer to the honour and glory of the world that which is of God. For then they would have dismissed all fear of the Jews, and, paying slight heed to any danger from that quarter, would have indulged their faith fearlessly and freely, and thus have proved themselves holy, and good keepers of the commandment of our Saviour.

40 So they took the Body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. 41 Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new tomb, wherein was never man yet laid.

Christ was numbered among the dead, Who for our sake became dead, according to the Flesh, but Whom we conceive to be, and Who is, in fact, Life, of Himself, and through His Father. And, that He might fulfil all righteousness, that is, all that was appropriate to the form of man, He of His own Will subjected the Temple of His Body not merely to death, but also to what follows after death, that is, burial and being laid in the tomb. The writer of the Gospel says that this sepulchre in the garden was a new one; this fact signifying to us, as it were, by a type and figure, that Christ’s death is the harbinger and pioneer of our entry into Paradise. For He entered as a Forerunner for us. What other signification than this can be intended by the carrying over of the Body of Jesus in the garden? And by the newness of the sepulchre is meant the untrodden and strange pathway whereby we return from death unto life, and the renewing of our souls, that Christ has invented for us, whereby we baffle corruption. For henceforth, by the death of Christ, death for us has been transformed, in a manner, into sleep, with like power and functions. For we are alive unto God, and shall live for evermore, according to the Scriptures. Therefore, also, the blessed Paul, in a variety of places, calls those asleep who have died in Christ. For in the times of old the dread presence of death held human nature in awe. For death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the likeness of Adam’s transgression; and we bore the image of the earthy in his likeness, and underwent the death that was inflicted by the Divine curse. But when the Second Adam appeared among us, the Divine Man from heaven, and, contending for the salvation of the world, purchased by His death the life of all men, and, destroying the power of corruption, rose again to life, we were transformed into His Image, and undergo, as it were, a different kind of death, that does not dissolve us in eternal corruption, but casts upon us a slumber which is laden with fair hope, after the Likeness of Him Who has made this new path for us, that is, Christ.

And if any one choose to give an additional meaning to the saying that the sepulchre was a new one, and that no man had been lain therein, be it so. He says, then, we may suppose, that the sepulchre was new, and that no one had been ever laid therein, that no one might be thought to have arisen from the sleep of death save Jesus only.

42 There, then, because of the Jews’ preparation (for the tomb was nigh at hand), they laid Jesus.

He not only says plainly that Christ’s Body was dressed for burial, and that there was a garden nigh unto the cross, and that there was a new sepulchre in it, but he also explains that He was laid therein, not leaving the least of the things which were done untold. For most essential truly to any creed or system of the mystery of our faith is the confession and the knowledge that Christ died. Therefore, also, the wise Paul, defining our rule of faith, speaks as follows: The word is nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart; that is, the word of faith, which we preach: because, if thou shalt say with thy mouth, Jesus is Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. And in another passage also: For I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received, how that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried; and that He hath been raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures. Very essential, then, for us is the narrative which the writer of the book gives us on these points. For it was our bounden duty to believe that He died and was buried; after that will easily follow the true belief, that He burst asunder the bonds of death, and returned as God to the life that was His own. For it was not possible that He should be holden of death. For, being by Nature Life, how could He have undergone corruption? And how could He in Whom we live, and move, and have our being, have been subjected to the laws to which our human nature is subject? Could He not rather, as God, have easily quickened that which lacked life?

20:1 Now on the first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, while it was yet dark, unto the tomb, and seeth the stone taken away from the tomb. 2 She runneth, therefore, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we know not where they have laid Him. 3 Peter therefore went forth, and the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb. 4 And they ran both together: and the other disciple outran Peter, and came first to the tomb; 5 and stooping and looking in, he seeth the linen cloths lying; yet entered he not in. 6 Simon Peter therefore cometh, following him, and entered into the tomb; and he beholdeth the linen cloths lying, 7 and the napkin, that was upon His Head, not lying with the linen cloths, but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then entered in therefore the other disciple also, which came first to the tomb, and he saw and believed. 9 For as yet they knew not the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.

This excellent and pious woman would never have endured to remain at home and leave the sepulchre, had not her fear of the law for the Sabbath, and the penalty which impended upon those who transgressed it, curbed the vehemence of her zeal, and had she not, allowing ancient custom to prevail, thought she ought to withdraw her thoughts from the object of her most earnest longings. But, when the Sabbath was already past, and the dawn of the next day was appearing, she hurried back to the spot, and then, when she saw the stone rolled away from the mouth of the tomb, well-grounded suspicions seized her mind, and, calling to mind the ceaseless hatred of the Jews, she thought that Jesus had been carried away, accusing them of this crime in addition to their other misdeeds. While she was thus engaged, and revolving in her mind the probabilities of the case, the woman returned to the men who loved the Lord, anxious to obtain the co-operation of the most intimate of His disciples in her quest. And so deep-rooted and impregnable was her faith that she was not induced to esteem Christ less highly because of His death upon the cross, but even when He was dead called Him Lord, as she had been wont to do, thereby showing a truly God-loving spirit. When these men (I mean Peter, and John the writer of this book, for he gives himself the name of the other disciple) heard these tidings from the woman’s mouth, they ran with all the speed they could, and came to the sepulchre in haste, and saw the marvel with their own eyes, being in themselves competent to testify to the event, for they were two in number, as the Law enjoined. As yet they did not meet Christ risen from the dead, but infer His Resurrection from the bundle of linen clothes, and hence forth believed that He had burst asunder the bonds of death, as Holy Writ had long ago proclaimed that He would do. When, therefore, they looked at the issues of events in the light of the prophecies which turned out true, their faith was henceforth rooted on a firm basis.

Observe that the blessed Evangelist, John, when he tells us the time of the Resurrection, says: On the first day of the week early, while it was yet dark, cometh Mary Magdalene unto the tomb; while Matthew, also, wishing to indicate the time to us, says that the Resurrection took place when the night was far spent. No one, I suppose, will imagine that the inspired writers are at variance, or that they fix the time of the Resurrection differently. For any one that chooses to investigate the meaning of the indications they give of the time, will find that their accounts tally. For early dawn and late night fix the same point of time, that is, the very dead of night, so to say. There is, therefore, no discrepancy between them; for the one, taking as his starting-point the end of night, and the other the beginning, both reach the middle watch, and meet at the same point, that is, as I just now said, the dead of night.

10 So the disciples went away again unto their own home. 11 But Mary was standing without at the tomb weeping.

The wise disciples, after having gathered sufficiently satisfactory evidence of the Resurrection of our Saviour, being in travail, as it were, with their confirmed and unshaken faith, and by comparison of events as they had actually occurred with the prophetic utterances of Holy Scripture, went back home, and hastened, as is likely, to see their fellow-workers, to recount to them the miracle, and afterwards to consider the course to be pursued. And we shall not err if we think that they had another object in so acting. For while the passion of the Jews was at its height, and the rulers were thirsting eagerly for the blood of every man who marvelled at the teaching of the Saviour, and admitted His Divine and ineffable power and glory, but most of all for the blood of the holy disciples themselves, they had good reason for shrinking from encountering them, and left the sepulchre before it was quite light, as they could not have done so without risk, if seen in the daytime, the sun’s rays revealing them to all beholders. We are far from saying that unmanly cowardice was the motive of their cautious flight. Rather should we suppose that the knowledge of what was expedient for them was instilled in the minds of the Saints by Christ, Who did not permit these who were destined to be lights and teachers of the world to run untimely risks. For it was necessary that the truth of His saying should be seen, which He spake concerning them to the Father in heaven. Holy Father, keep them, He says, in Thy Name which Thou hast given Me, that they may be one, even as We are One. While I was with them, I kept them in Thy Name which Thou hast given Me: and I guarded them, and not one of them perished, but the son of perdition. The disciples therefore retired, thinking they ought to await the time when they should speak openly. And this they did in obedience to the Saviour’s words. For He charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, as it is written, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which they had heard of Him: for John indeed baptised with water, but they shall be baptised with the Holy Ghost not many days hence; an event which we find actually came to pass in the days of the Holy Pentecost, when there appeared unto them tongues parting asunder, like as of fire; and it sat upon each one of them. For then were they invested with a spirit of the greatest courage and endurance, and, high exalted above the frailty of their fellow men, boldly encountered the madness of the Jews, and thought their plotting against them worthy of no account. The wise disciples, then, concealed themselves from the motive of expediency, as I said just now, while Mary, in her love of Christ free from all fear and not much suspecting the wrath of the Jews, sat on the watch persistently, and, affected after the manner of women, wept abundantly, and continually wiped away the tears that kept falling from her eyes, mourning not only because the Lord was dead, but also because she thought He had been taken away from the sepulchre.

11 So, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; 12 and she beholdeth two angels in white sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the Body of Jesus had lain. 13 And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou?

Observe that the tears let fall for Christ do not lose their reward, nor is it long before love for Him bears fruit; rather will His grace and rich requital follow closely in the wake of pain. For, behold, as Mary was sitting there, her cheeks bedewed with mourning for her beloved Lord Whom she had lost, the Saviour vouchsafed unto her the knowledge of the mystery concerning Him, by the mouth of holy angels. For she saw angels in bright apparel, the garments wherewith they were clad signifying to her the perfect beauty of angelic purity, who interrupted her lamentations, and said unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? It was not, indeed, that they desired to learn the reason why her tears were falling, for they would have known it even had the woman not told it them, and the very circumstances themselves were sufficient to indicate it. Rather do they bid her cease from weeping, as there was no occasion for tears, and as she had made what was a subject for rejoicing a cause of grief. Why, indeed, say they, when death has been subdued, and corruption lost its power, and our Saviour Christ has therefore risen again, and made a new pathway for the dead back to incorruption and to life, why dost thou, O woman, mistake the time, and why art thou so distraught by bitter pangs of woe, when the issue of events rather calls you to rejoice? For, in truth, thou shouldest be glad, and of good cheer. Why, then, weepest thou, and thus in some sort detractest from the honour due unto a festival?

The angels appeared sitting at the head and at the feet where the Body of Jesus had lain; thereby, as it were, signifying to the woman, who thought that the Lord had been taken away, that no one could have done despite unto the holy Body while angels kept watch and holy powers encompassed the Temple of God, for they knew their Lord. One may raise the question, not unreasonably, how it was that the blessed angels said nothing to the holy disciples, and did not even appear unto them, but were both seen by the woman and also spake unto her. We reply, then, that it was the object of the Saviour Christ to instil into the minds of those who loved Him the perfect knowledge of the mystery concerning Him; but that this perfect knowledge was in different ways given unto them, and adapted to the requirements of those who stood in need of it. The course of events itself, as compared with the expectations raised in Holy Writ, sufficed to give the holy disciples adequate knowledge, and begat in them a confidence that did not admit of doubt. For they went home trusting in the Holy Scriptures, and it would have been superfluous for those, whose faith was thus firmly grounded, to be taught by the mouth of the holy angels; but it was very necessary to the woman, who knew not the Holy and Divine Scripture, and by no other means could apprehend the deep mystery of the Resurrection.

13 She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him. 14 When she had thus said, she turned herself back, and beholdeth Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.

The woman, or rather all womankind, is slow of understanding. For she does not understand the hidden meaning of what met her gaze, but rather announces it as the cause of her grief. But as she ceased not to call Christ Lord, and thereby signified her love towards Him, she is justly permitted to enjoy the sight of the object of her desire. For she beholds Jesus, though she did not think Him to be at her side; and why? Either her ignorance was caused by our Saviour Christ still concealing Himself by His Divine power, and not allowing Himself very easily to be recognised by the eye of the beholder; or, as it was still early in the morning, she could not readily distinguish what was before her eyes, as night somehow prevented her from so doing, and scarcely revealed the Figure of Him Who was drawing nigh. Therefore, also, our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, in the Song of Songs, makes mention of His walk on this night, and the moisture of the morning dew, in the words: For My Head is filled with dew, and My Locks with the drops of the night.

15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou? She, supposing Him to be the gardener, saith unto Him, Sir, if thou hast borne Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away.

As it was still dark, and the night had not yet wholly passed away, she sees Jesus, Who stood near her, but dimly, and knows not Who He is, being unable to distinguish the Form of His Body or His Features, but hears Him say, Woman, why weepest thou? The Saviour’s words are indeed words of courtesy, still such as to arouse in her the suspicion that they were most like the words of one of the gardeners. It follows, too, that the Lord, when He thus spake, was not in point of fact asking her the reason for her weeping, nor desirous to learn of whom she was in search; but was rather anxious to stop her lamentations, just as, indeed, were the two blessed angels, for it was in their company that He spake. Why, then, weepest thou, O woman? He says; Whom seekest thou? That is to say, wipe away thy tears, as thou hast the object of thy search. I, He says, am He Who is the occasion of thy mourning, as having been dead, and as having suffered a dreadful fate, and as having also been taken away out of the tomb. But, as I am alive and am here, give up thy lamentations, and contrariwise be of good cheer. He asked the question, then, wishing to end her sorrow. For it was meet that the Lord should be our restorer in this way also. For by Adam’s transgression, as in the firstfruits of the race, the sentence went forth to the whole world: Dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return; and to the woman in special: In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children. To be rich in sorrow, then, as by way of a penalty, was the fate of woman. It was, therefore, necessary that by the mouth of Him That had passed sentence of condemnation, the burden of that ancient curse should be removed, our Saviour Christ now wiping away the tears from the eyes of the woman, or rather of all womankind, as in Mary the firstfruits. For she, first of women, being offended at the death of the Saviour, and grieving thereat, was thought worthy to hear the voice that cut short her weeping; the power of the word, in fact, extending also to the whole race of women, if indeed they be pained by the outrages against Christ, and honour faith in Him, and almost fall to quoting that saying in the Psalms: Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate Thee? And am I not grieved with those that rise up against Thee? I hate them with a perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.

While, however, our Lord Jesus Christ says this to put a stop to her weeping, she, supposing the speaker to be one of the gardeners, undertook very readily to transfer the remains to another place, if only it were shown her where he had laid Him. For, not yet apprehending the great mystery of the Resurrection, she was disturbed by suspicions of this kind. For the feminine mind is slow-witted and ill-prepared to readily comprehend even what is not very difficult, far less miracles which baffle description.

16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turneth herself, and saith, unto Him in Hebrew, Rabboni; which is to say, Master, and ran forward to touch Him.

He invites the recognition of the woman, whose mind had already been enlightened, and, allowing her to gaze upon Him without let or hindrance (for indeed she loved Him ardently), He almost rebukes her for having been so slow to perceive that He was Christ, for there is some such implied meaning in His calling her by name. She understood at once, and at the sight of Him casts aside the suspicions she felt at first, and offers Him the usual tribute of respect, calling Him Rabboni, that is to say, Master; and, with her mind full of a heavenly joy, ran eagerly to touch the holy Body, and to gain blessing therefrom.

17 Jesus saith to her, Touch Me not; for I am not yet ascended unto My Father.

The meaning of this saying is not easily understood by the vulgar, for a mystery underlies it; but we must probe it for our advantage. For the Lord will vouchsafe unto us the knowledge of His own Words. For He repulses the woman as she was running up to Him, and though she longed to embrace His Feet, He suffered her not; and, in explanation of His reason for so doing, said: For I am not yet ascended unto My Father. We must inquire into the meaning of this saying. For what if He were not yet ascended to His Father? How could this reason suffice to render it improper for those that loved Him to touch His holy Body? Would it not be blameworthy for any one to imagine that the Lord shrank from the pollution of the touch, and thus spake that He might be pure when He ascended to the Father in heaven? Would not such a man stand convicted of great folly and madness? For the Nature of God can never be polluted. For just as the light of the sun’s ray, when it strikes upon a dunghill or any other earthly impurities, suffers no stain—for it remains as it is, that is, undefiled, and partakes in no degree of the ill odour of the objects that it encounters—even so the all-holy Nature of God can never admit of the blemish of defilement. What, then, is the reason why Mary was prevented from touching Him, when she drew near and yearned so to do? What can the Lord mean when He says: For I am not yet ascended unto My Father? We must investigate this according to the best of our ability. We say, therefore, that the reasons for our Saviour’s sojourn amongst us were manifold and diverse, but this one the principal of all, which is indicated in His own words: For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Therefore, before the saving Cross and the Resurrection from the dead, while as yet His providential scheme had not received its appropriate fulfilment, He mingled both with the just and the unjust, and ate with publicans and sinners, and allowed any that so willed to come to Him and touch His holy Body, that He might sanctify all men and call them to a knowledge of the truth, and might bring back to health those who were diseased and enfeebled by the constant practice of sin. Therefore also, in another place, He said unto them: They that are whole have no need of a physician; but they that are sick. Therefore, before His Resurrection from the dead, He had intercourse indiscriminately with the righteous and with sinners, and never frightened away any that came unto Him. Moreover, when He was once reclining at the house of a Pharisee, a woman came in unto Him weeping, who was a sinner in the city, as is written, and let down her wanton locks, scarcely released from the service of her past sins, and wiped His Feet therewith; and we sec that He did not stop her. Again, when He was on His way to bring back to life the daughter of the leader of the Synagogue, once more a woman came near unto Him, who had an issue of blood, and touched the border of His garment; and we find that He was in nowise offended, but rather vouchsafed unto her the comforting assurance: Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace. But at that time, by His Providence, men who were still unclean, and who were polluted both in mind and body, were suffered without let or hindrance to touch the holy Flesh Itself of our Saviour Christ, and to gain every blessing thereby; but when, after having completed the scheme of our redemption, He had both suffered the Cross itself, and death thereon, and had risen again to life, and shown that His Nature was superior to death, henceforward, instead of granting them a ready permission, He hinders those who come to Him from touching the very Flesh of His holy Body; thereby giving us a type of the holy Churches, and the mystery concerning Himself, just as also the Law given by the all-wise Moses itself did, when it represented the slaughter of the lamb as a figure of Christ; for no uncircumcised person, said the Law, shall eat thereof, meaning by uncircumcised impure—and humanity may justly be deemed impure in its own nature. For what is the nature of man, as compared with God’s inherent purity? We may not, therefore, while we remain uncircumcised, that is, impure, touch the holy Body, but only when we have been made pure by the true circumcision of the Spirit. For circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, as Paul saith. And we cannot be spiritually circumcised if the Holy Spirit hath not taken up His abode in us by faith and Holy Baptism. Surely, therefore, it was meet that Mary should for a while be restrained from touching His sacred Body, as she had not yet received the Spirit. For even though Christ was risen from the dead, still the Spirit had not yet been given to humanity by the Father through Him. For when He ascended to God the Father, He sent the Spirit down to us; wherefore also He said: It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter cannot come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you. As, therefore, the Holy Spirit had not yet been sent down unto us, for He had not yet ascended to the Father, He repulses Mary as not yet having received the Spirit, saying: Touch Me not, for I am not yet ascended unto the Father; that is to say, I have not yet sent down unto you the Holy Spirit. Hence the type is applicable to the Churches. Therefore, also, we drive away from the Holy Table those who are indeed convinced of the Godhead of Christ, and have already made profession of faith, that is, those who are already catechumens, when they have not as yet been enriched with the Holy Spirit. For He does not dwell in those who have not received Baptism. But when they have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, then indeed there is nothing to hinder them from touching Our Saviour Christ. Therefore, also, to those who wish to partake of the blessed Eucharist, the ministers of Divine mysteries say, “Holy things to the holy;” teaching that participation in holy things is the due reward of those who are sanctified in the Spirit.

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