Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Lectures or Tractates on the Gospel...: Tractate XXXI
Chapter VII. 25–36
1. You remember, beloved, in the former discourses,—for it was both read in the Gospel and also discussed by us according to our ability,—how that the Lord Jesus went up to the feast-day, as it were in secret, not because He feared lest He should be laid hold of,—He who had the power not to be laid hold of,—but to signify that even in that very feast which was celebrated by the Jews He Himself was hidden, and that the mystery of the feast was His own. In the passage read to-day then, that which was supposed to be timidity appeared as power; for He spoke openly on the feast-day, so that the crowds marvelled, and said that which we have heard when the passage was read: “Is not this he whom they sought to kill? And, lo, he speaketh openly, and they say nothing. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the Christ?” They who knew with what fierceness He was sought after, wondered by what power He was kept from being taken. Then, not fully understanding His power, they fancied it was the knowledge of the rulers, that these rulers knew Him to be the very Christ, and that for this reason they spared Him whom they had with so much eagerness sought out to be put to death.
2. Then those same persons who had said, “Did the rulers know that this is the Christ?” proposed a question among themselves, by which it appeared to them that He was not the Christ; for they said in addition, “But we know this man whence he is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is.” As to how this opinion among the Jews arose, that “when Christ comes, no man knoweth whence He is” (for it did not arise without reason), if we consider the Scriptures, we find, brethren, that the Holy Scriptures have declared of Christ that “He shall be called a Nazarene.” 591 Therefore they foretold whence He is. Again, if we seek the place of His nativity, as that whence He is by birth, neither was this hidden from the Jews, because of the Scriptures which had foretold these things. For when the Magi, on the appearing of a star, sought Him out to worship Him, they came to Herod and told him what they sought and what they meant: and he, having called together those who had knowledge of the law, inquired of them where Christ should be born: they told him, “In Bethlehem of Judah,” and also brought forward the prophetic testimony. 592 If, therefore, the prophets had foretold both the place where the origin of His flesh was, and the place where His mother would bring Him forth, whence did spring that opinion among the Jews which we have just heard, but from this, that the Scriptures had proclaimed beforehand, and had foretold both? In respect of His being man, the Scriptures foretold whence He should be; in respect of His being God, this was hidden from the ungodly, and it required godly men to discover it. Moreover, they said this, “When Christ comes, no man knoweth whence He is,” because that which was spoken by Isaiah produced this opinion in them, viz. “And His generation, who shall tell?” 593 In short, the Lord Himself made answer to both, that they both did, and also did not know whence He was; that He might testify to the holy prophecy which before was predicted of Him, both as to the humanity of infirmity and also as to the divinity of majesty.
3. Hear, therefore, the word of the Lord, brethren; see how He confirmed to them both what they said, “We know this man whence he is,” and also what they said, “When Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence He is. Then cried Christ in the temple, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but He that sent me is true, whom ye know not.” That is to say, ye both know me, and ye know me not; ye both know whence I am, and ye know not whence I am. Ye know whence I am: Jesus of Nazareth, whose parents also ye knew. For in this case, the birth of the Virgin alone was hidden, to whom, however, her husband was witness; for the same was able faithfully to declare this, who was also able as a husband to be jealous. Therefore, this birth of the Virgin excepted, they knew all that in Jesus pertains to man: His face was known, His country was known, His family was known; where He was born was to be known by inquiry. Rightly then did He say, “Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am,” according to the flesh and form of man which He bore; but according to His p. 190 divinity, “And I am not come of myself, but He that sent me is true, whom ye know not;” but yet that ye may know Him, believe on Him whom He has sent, and ye will know Him. For, “No man has seen God at any time, except the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him:” 594 and, “None knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” 595
4. Lastly, when He had said, “But He that sent me is true, whom ye know not,” in order to show them whence they might know that which they did not know, He subjoined, “I know Him.” Therefore seek from me to know Him. But why is it that I know Him? “Because I am from Him, and He sent me.” Gloriously has He shown both. “I am from Him,” said He; because the Son is from the Father, and whatever the Son is, He is of Him whose Son He is. Hence we say that the Lord Jesus is God of God: we do not say that the Father is God of God, but simply God: and we say that the Lord Jesus is Light of Light; we do not say that the Father is Light of Light, but simply Light. Accordingly, to this belongs that which He said “I am from Him.” But as to my being seen of you in the flesh, “He sent me.” When thou hearest “He sent me,” do not understand a difference of nature to be meant, but the authority of Him that begets.
5. “Then they sought to take Him: but no man laid hands on Him, because His hour was not yet come;” that is, because He was not willing. For what is this. “His hour was not yet come”? The Lord was not born under fate. This is not to be believed concerning thee, much less concerning Him by whom thou wast made. If thy hour is His good will, what is His hour but His good will? He meant not therefore an hour in which He should be forced to die, but that in which He would deign to be put to death. But He was awaiting the time in which He should die, for He awaited also the time in which He should be born. The apostle, speaking of this time, says, “But when the fullness of time came, God sent His Son.” 596 For this cause many say, Why did not Christ come before? To whom we must make answer, Because the fullness of time had not yet come, while He by whom the times were made sets their bounds; for He knew when He ought to come. In the first place, it was necessary that He should be foretold through a long series of times and years; for it was not something insignificant that was to come: He who was to be ever held, had to be for a long time foretold. The greater the judge that was coming, the longer the train of heralds that preceded him. In short, when the fullness of time came, He also came who was to deliver us from time. For being delivered from time, we shall come to that eternity where there is no time: there it is not said, When shall the hour come, for the day is everlasting, a day which is neither preceded by a yesterday, nor cut off by a morrow. But in this world days roll on, some are passing away, others come; none abides; and the moments in which we are speaking drive out one another in turn, nor stands the first syllable for the second to sound. Since we began to speak we are somewhat older, and without doubt I am just now older than I was in the morning; thus, nothing stands, nothing remains fixed in time. Therefore ought we to love Him by whom the times were made, that we may be delivered from time and be fixed in eternity, where there is no more changeableness of times. Great, therefore, is the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, in that for our sakes He was made in time, by whom the times were made; that He was made among all things, by whom all things were made; that He became what He made. For He was made what He had made; for He was made man who had made man, lest what He had made should perish. According to this dispensation, the hour of His birth had now come, and He was born; but not yet had come the hour of His suffering, therefore not yet had He suffered.
6. In short, that ye may know that the words refer, not to the necessity of His dying, but to His power,—I speak this for the sake of some who, when they hear “His hour was not yet come,” are determined on believing in fate, and their hearts become infatuated;—that ye may know, then, that it was His power of dying, recollect the passion, look at Him crucified. While hanging on the tree, He said, “I thirst.” They, having heard this, offered to Him on the cross vinegar by a sponge on a reed. He received it, and said, “It is finished;” and, bowing His head, gave up the ghost. You see His power of dying, that He waited for this—until all things should be fulfilled that had been foretold concerning Him—to take place before His death. For the prophet had said, “They gave me gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” 597 He waited for all these things to be fulfilled: after they were completed, He said, “It is finished;” p. 191 and He departed by power, because He came not by necessity. Hence some wondered more at this His power to die than at His ability to work miracles. For they came to the cross to take the bodies down from the tree, for the Sabbath was drawing near, and the thieves were found still living. The punishment of the cross was so much the harder because it tortured men so long, and all that were crucified were killed by a lingering death. But the thieves, that they might not remain on the tree, were forced to die by having their legs broken, that they might be taken down thence. The Lord, however, was found to be already dead, 598 and the men marvelled; and they who despised Him when living, so wondered at Him when dead, that some of them said, “Truly this was the Son of God.” 599 Whence also that, brethren, where He says to those that seek Him, “I am He;” and they, going backward, all fell to the ground? 600 Consequently there was in Him supreme power. Nor was He forced to die at an hour; but He waited the hour on which His will might fittingly be done, not that on which necessity might be fulfilled against His will.
7. “But many of the people believed on Him.” The Lord made whole the humble and the poor. The rulers were mad, and therefore they not only did not acknowledge the Physician, but even were eager to slay Him. There was a certain crowd of people which quickly saw its own sickness, and without delay recognized His remedy. See what that very crowd, moved by His miracles, said: “When Christ cometh will He do more signs than these?” Surely, unless there will be two Christs, this is the Christ. Consequently, in saying these things, they believed on Him.
8. But those rulers, having heard the assurance of the multitude, and that murmuring noise of the people in which Christ was being glorified, “sent officers to take Him.” To take whom? Him not yet willing to be taken. Because then they could not take Him while He would not, they were sent to hear Him teaching. Teaching what? “Then said Jesus, Yet a little while I am with you.” What ye wish to do now ye will do, but not just now; because I am not just now willing. Why am I now as yet unwilling? Because “yet a little while I am with you; and then I go unto Him that sent me.” I must complete my dispensation, and in this manner come to my suffering.
9. “Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come.” Here He has already foretold His resurrection; for they would not acknowledge Him when present, and afterwards they sought Him when they saw the multitude already believing on Him. For great signs were wrought, even when the Lord was risen again and ascended into heaven. Then mighty deeds were done by His disciples, but He wrought by them as He wrought by Himself: since, indeed, He had said to them, “Without me ye can do nothing.” 601 When that lame man who sat at the gate rose up at Peters voice, and walked on his feet, so that men marvelled, Peter spoke to them to this effect, that it was not by his own power that he did this, but in the virtue of Him whom they slew. 602 Many pricked in the heart said, “What shall we do?” For they saw themselves bound by an immense crime of impiety, since they slew Him whom they ought to have revered and worshipped; and this crime they thought inexpiable. A great wickedness indeed it was, the thought of which might make them despair; yet it did not behove them to despair, for whom the Lord, as He hung on the cross, deigned to pray. For He had said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” 603 He saw some who were His own among many who were aliens; for these He sought pardon, from whom at the time He was still receiving injury. He regarded not that He was being put to death by them, but only that He was dying for them. It was a great thing that was forgiven them, it was a great thing that was done by them and for them, so that no man should despair of the forgiveness of his sin when they who slew Christ obtained pardon. Christ died for us, but surely He was not put to death by us? But those men indeed saw Christ dying by their own villany; and yet they believed on Christ pardoning their villanies. Until they drank the blood they had shed, they despaired of their own salvation. Therefore said He this: “Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, ye cannot come;” because they were to seek Him after the resurrection, being pricked in their heart with remorse. Nor did He say “where I will be,” but “where I am.” For Christ was always in that place whither He was about to return; for He came in such manner that He did not depart from that place. Hence He says in another place, “No man has ascended into heaven, but He who came down from heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven.” 604 He said not, who was in heaven. He spoke on the earth, and declared that He p. 192 was at the same time in heaven. He came in such wise that He departed not thence; and He so returned as not to abandon us. What do ye marvel at? This is Gods doing. For man, as regards his body, is in a place, and departs from a place; and when he comes to another place, he will not be in that place whence he came: but God fills all things, and is all everywhere; He is not held in places according to space. Nevertheless the Lord Christ was, as regards His visible flesh, on the earth: as regards His invisible majesty, He was in heaven and on earth; and therefore He says, “Where I am, thither ye cannot come.” Nor did He say, “Ye shall not be able.” but “ye are not able to come;” for at that time they were such as were not able. And that ye may know that this was not said to cause despair, He said something of the same kind also to His disciples: “Whither I go ye cannot come.” 605 Yet while praying in their behalf, He said, “Father, I will that where I am they also may be with me.” 606 And, finally, this He expounded to Peter, and says to him, “Whither I go thou canst not follow me now, but thou shalt follow me hereafter.” 607
10. “Then said the Jews,” not to Him, but “to themselves, Whither will this man go, that we shall not find him? will he go unto the dispersion among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles?” For they knew not what they said; but, it being His will, they prophesied. The Lord was indeed about to go to the Gentiles, not by His bodily presence, but still with His feet. What were His feet? Those which Saul desired to trample upon by persecution, when the Head cried out to him, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” 608 What is this saying that He said, “Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come?” Wherefore the Lord said this they knew not, and yet they did predict something that was to be without knowing it. For this is what the Lord said that they knew not the place, if place however it must be called, which is the bosom of the Father, from which Christ never departed; nor were they competent to conceive where Christ was, whence Christ never withdrew, whither He was to return, where He was all the while dwelling. How was it possible for the human heart to conceive this, least of all to explain it with the tongue? This, then, they in no wise understood; and yet by occasion of this they foretold our salvation, that the Lord would go to the dispersion of the Gentiles, and would fulfill that which they read but did not understand. “A people whom I have not known served me, and by the hearing of the ear obeyed me.” 609 They before whose eyes He was, heard Him not; those heard Him in whose ears He was sounded.
11. For of that Church of the Gentiles which was to come, the woman that had the issue of blood was a type: she touched and was not seen; she was not known and yet was healed. It was in reality a figure what the Lord asked: “Who touched me?” As if not knowing, He healed her as unknown: so has He done also to the Gentiles. We did not get to know Him in the flesh, yet we have been made worthy to eat His flesh, and to be members in His flesh. In what way? Because He sent to us. Whom? His heralds, His disciples, His servants, His redeemed whom He created, but whom He redeemed, His brethren also. I have said but little of all that they are: His own members, Himself; for He sent to us His own members, and He made us His members. Nevertheless, Christ has not been among us with the bodily form which the Jews saw and despised; because this also was said concerning Him, even as the apostle says: “Now I say that Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers.” 610 He owed it to have come to those by whose fathers and to whose fathers He was promised. For this reason He says also Himself: “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 611 But what says the apostle in the following words? “And that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy.” What, moreover, saith the Lord Himself? “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold.” 612 He who had said, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” how has He other sheep to which He was not sent, except that He intimated that He was not sent to show His bodily presence but to the Jews only, who saw and killed Him? And yet many of them, both before and afterwards, believed. The first harvest was winnowed from the cross, that there might be a seed whence another harvest might spring up. But at this present time, when roused by the fame of the gospel, and by its goodly odor, His faithful ones among all nations believe, He shall be the expectation of the Gentiles, when He shall come who has already come; when He shall be seen by all, He who was then not seen by some, by some was seen; when He shall come to judge who came to be judged; when He shall come to distinguish who came not to be distinguish p. 193 ed. For Christ was not discerned by the ungodly, but was condemned with the ungodly; for it was said concerning Him, “He was accounted among the wicked.” 613 The robber escaped, Christ was condemned. He who was loaded with criminal accusations received pardon; He who has released from their crimes all who confess Him, was condemned. Nevertheless even the cross itself, if thou considerest it well, was a judgment-seat; for the Judge being set up in the middle, one thief who believed was delivered, the other who reviled was condemned. 614 Already He signified what He is to do with the quick and the dead: some He will set on His right hand and others on His left. That thief was like those that shall be on the left hand, the other like those that shall be on the right. He was undergoing judgment, and He threatened judgment.
Matt. ii. 23.189:592
Matt. ii. 6.189:593
Isa. viii. 8.190:594
John i. 8.190:595
Matt. xi. 27.190:596
Gal. iv. 4.190:597
Ps. lxix. 21.191:598
John xix. 28-33.191:599
Matt. xxvii. 54.191:600
John xviii. 6.191:601
John xv. 5.191:602
Acts iii. 2-16.191:603
Luke xxiii. 34.191:604
John iii. 13.192:605
John xiii. 33.192:606
John xvii. 24.192:607
John xiii. 36.192:608
Acts ix. 4.192:609
Ps. xviii. 44.192:610
Rom. xv. 8.192:611
Matt. xv. 24.192:612
John x. 16.193:613
Isa. liii. 12.193:614
Luke xxii. 43.
Next: Tractate XXXII
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