Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Lectures or Tractates on the Gospel...: Tractate LXII
Chapter XIII. 26–31.
1. I Know, dearly beloved, that some may be moved, as the godly to inquire into the meaning of, and the ungodly to find fault with, the statement, that it was after the Lord had given the bread, that had been dipped, to His betrayer that Satan entered into him. For so it is written: “And when He had dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the Son of Simon. And after the bread, then entered Satan into him.” For they say, Was this the worth of Christs bread, given from Christs own table, that after it Satan should enter into His disciple? And the answer we give them is, that thereby we are taught rather how much we need to beware of receiving what is good in a sinful spirit. For the point of special importance is, not the thing that is received, but the person that receives it; and not the character of the thing that is given, but of him to whom it is given. For even good things are hurtful, and evil things are beneficial, according to the character of the recipients. “Sin,” says the apostle, “that it might appear sin, wrought death to me by that which is good.” 1210 Thus, you see, evil is brought about by the good, so long as that which is good is wrongly received. It is he also that says: “Lest I should be exalted unduly through the greatness of my revelations, there was given to me a thorn in my flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me. For which thing I besought the Lord thrice, that He would take it away from me; and He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for strength is made perfect in weakness.” 1211 And here, you see, good was brought about by that which was evil, when the evil was received in a good spirit. Why, then, do we wonder if Christs bread was given to Judas, that thereby he should be made over to the devil; when we see, on the other hand, that Paul was visited by a messenger of the devil, p. 313 that by such an instrumentality he might be perfected in Christ? In this way, both the good was injurious to the evil man, and the evil was beneficial to the good. Bear in mind the meaning of the Scripture, “Whosoever shall eat the bread or drink the cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.” 1212 And when the apostle said this, he was dealing with those who were taking the body of the Lord, like any other food, in an undiscerning and careless spirit. If, then, he is thus taken to task who does not discern, that is, does not distinguish from the other kinds of food, the body of the Lord, what condemnation must be his, who in the guise of a friend comes as an enemy to His table! If negligence in the guest is thus visited with blame, what must be the punishment that will fall on the man that sells the very person who has invited him to his table! And why was the bread given to the traitor, but as an evidence of the grace he had treated with ingratitude?
2. It was after this bread, then, that Satan entered into the Lords betrayer, that, as now given over to his power, he might take full possession of one into whom before this he had only entered in order to lead him into error. For we are not to suppose that he was not in him when he went to the Jews and bargained about the price of betraying the Lord; for the evangelist Luke very plainly attests this when he says: “Then entered Satan into Judas, who was surnamed Iscariot, being one of the twelve; and he went his way, and communed with the chief priests.” 1213 Here, you see, it is shown that Satan had already entered into Judas. His first entrance, therefore, was when he implanted in his heart the thought of betraying Christ; for in such a spirit had he already come to the supper. But now, after the bread, he entered into him, no longer to tempt one who belonged to another, but to take possession of him as his own.
3. But it was not then, as some thoughtless readers suppose, that Judas received the body of Christ. For we are to understand that the Lord had already dispensed to all of them the sacrament of His body and blood, when Judas also was present, as very clearly related by Saint Luke; 1214 and it was after this that we come to the moment when, in accordance with Johns account, the Lord made a full disclosure of His betrayer by dipping and holding out to him the morsel of bread, and intimating perhaps by the dipping of the bread the false pretensions of the other. For the dipping of a thing does not always imply its washing; but some things are dipped in order to be dyed. But if a good meaning is to be here attached to the dipping, his ingratitude for that good was deservedly followed by damnation.
4. But still, possessed as Judas now was, not by the Lord, but by the devil, and now that the bread had entered the belly, and an enemy the soul of this man of ingratitude: still, I say, there was this enormous wickedness, already conceived in his heart, waiting to be wrought out to its full issue, for which the damnable desire had always preceded. Accordingly, when the Lord, the living Bread, had given this bread to the dead, and in giving it had revealed the betrayer of the Bread, He said, “What thou doest, do quickly.” He did not command the crime, but foretold evil to Judas, and good to us. For what could be worse for Judas, or what could be better for us, than the delivering up of Christ,—a deed done by him to his own destruction, but done, apart from him, in our behalf? “What thou doest, do quickly.” Oh that word of One whose wish was to be ready rather than to be angry! That word! expressing not so much the punishment of the traitor as the reward awaiting the Redeemer! For He said, “What thou doest, do quickly,” not as wrathfully looking to the destruction of the trust-betrayer, but in His own haste to accomplish the salvation of the faithful; for He was delivered for our offences, 1215 and He loved the Church, and gave Himself for it. 1216 And as the apostle also says of himself: “Who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” 1217 Had not, then, Christ given Himself, no one could have given Him up. What is there in Judas conduct but sin? For in delivering up Christ he had no thought of our salvation, for which Christ was really delivered, but thought only of his money gain, and found the loss of his soul. He got the wages he wished, but had also given him, against his wish, the wages he merited. Judas delivered up Christ, Christ delivered Himself up: the former transacted the business of his own selling of his Master, the latter the business of our redemption. “What thou doest, do quickly,” not because thou hast the power in thyself, but because He wills it who has all the power.
5. “Now no one of those at the table knew for what intent He spake this unto him. For some of them thought, because Judas had the money-bag, that Jesus said unto him, Buy those things which we have need of against p. 314 the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor.” The Lord, therefore, had also a money-box, where He kept the offerings of believers, and distributed to the necessities of His own, and to others who were in need. It was then that the custom of having church-money was first introduced, so that thereby we might understand that His precept about taking no thought for the morrow 1218 was not a command that no money should be kept by His saints, but that God should not be served for any such end, and that the doing of what is right should not be held in abeyance through the fear of want. For the apostle also has this foresight for the future, when he says: “If any believer hath widows, let him give them enough, that the church may not be burdened, that it may have enough for them that are widows indeed.” 1219
6. “He then, having received the morsel of bread, went immediately out: and it was night.” And he that went out was himself the night. “Therefore when” the night “was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified.” The day therefore uttered speech unto the day, that is, Christ did so to His faithful disciples, that they might hear and love Him as His followers; and the night showed knowledge unto the night, 1220 that is, Judas did so to the unbelieving Jews, that they might come as His persecutors, and make Him their prisoner. But now, in considering these words of the Lord, which were addressed to the godly, before His arrest by the ungodly, special attention on the part of the hearer is required; and therefore it will be more becoming in the preacher, instead of hurriedly considering them now, to defer them till a future occasion.
Rom. vii. 13.312:1211
2 Cor. xii. 7-9.313:1212
1 Cor. xi. 27.313:1213
Luke 22:3, 4.313:1214
Luke xxii. 19-21.313:1215
Rom. iv. 25.313:1216
Eph. v. 25.313:1217
Gal. ii. 20.314:1218
Matt. vi. 34.314:1219
1 Tim. v. 16.314:1220
Ps. xix. 2.
Next: Tractate LXIII
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