Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. XIV:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Homilies of St. John Chrysostom on the Gospel of St. John.: John 11.1,2
John 11:1, 2
“Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, of the town of Mary and her sister Martha. It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment.” 1664
[1.] Many men, when they see any of those who are pleasing to God suffering anything terrible, as, for instance, having fallen into sickness, or poverty, and any other the like, are offended, not knowing that to those especially dear to God it belongeth to endure these things; since Lazarus also was one of the friends of Christ, and was sick. This at least they who sent said, “Behold, he whom Thou lovest is sick.” But let us consider the passage from the beginning. “A certain man,” It saith, “was sick, Lazarus of Bethany.” Not without a cause nor by chance hath the writer mentioned whence Lazarus was, but for a reason which he will afterwards tell us. At present let us keep to the passage before us. He also for our advantage informeth us who were Lazarus sisters; and, moreover, what Mary had more (than the other), going on to say, “It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment.” Here some doubting 1665 say, “How did the Lord endure that a woman should do this?” In the first place then it is necessary to understand, that this is not the harlot mentioned in Matthew ( Matt. xxvi. 7 ), or the one in Luke ( Luke vii. 37 ), but a different person; they were harlots full of many vices, but she was both grave and earnest; for she showed her earnestness about the entertainment of Christ. The Evangelist also means to show, that the sisters too loved Him, yet He allowed Lazarus to die. But why did they not, like the centurion and the nobleman, leave their sick brother, and come to Christ, instead of sending? They were very confident in Christ, and had towards Him a strong familiar feeling. Besides, they were weak women, and oppressed with grief; for that they acted not in this way as thinking slightly of Him, they afterwards showed. It is then clear, that this Mary was not the harlot. “But wherefore,” saith some one, “did Christ admit that harlot?” That He might put away her iniquity; that He might show His lovingkindness; that thou mightest learn that there is no malady which prevaileth over His goodness. Look not therefore at this only, that He received her, but consider the other point also, how He changed her. But, (to return,) why doth the Evangelist relate this history to us? Or rather, what doth he desire to show us by saying,
John 11.5 . 1666 “Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.”
That we should never be discontented or vexed if any sickness happen to good men, and such as are dear to God.
John 11.3 . 1667 “Behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.”
They desired to draw on Christ to pity, for they still gave heed to Him as to a man. This is plain from what they say, “If thou hadst been here, he 1668 had not died,” and from their saying, not, “Behold, Lazarus is sick,” but “Behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.” What then said Christ?
John 11.4 . “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.”
Observe how He again asserteth that His glory and the Fathers is One; for after saying “of God,” He hath added, “that the Son of God might be glorified.”
“This sickness is not unto death.” Since He intended to tarry two days where He was, He for the present sendeth away the messengers with this answer. Wherefore we must admire Lazarus sisters, that after hearing that the sickness was “not unto death,” and yet seeing him dead, they were not offended, although the event had been directly contrary. But even so they came to Him, 1669 and did not think that He had spoken falsely.
The expression “that” in this passage denotes not cause, but consequence; the sickness happened from other causes, but He used it for the glory of God.
John 11.6 . “And having said this, He tarried two days.” 1670
Wherefore tarried He? That Lazarus might breathe his last, and be buried; that none might be able to assert that He restored him when not yet dead, saying that it was a lethargy, a fainting, a fit, 1671 but not death. On this account He tarried so long, that corruption began, and they said, “He now stinketh.”
John 11.7 . “Then saith He to his disciples, Let us go into Judea.” 1672
p. 226 Why, when He never in other places told them beforehand where He was going, doth He tell them here? They had been greatly terrified, and since they were in this way disposed, He forewarneth them, that the suddenness might not trouble them. What then say the disciples?
John 11.8 . “The Jews of late sought to stone Thee, and goest Thou thither again?”
They therefore had feared for Him also, but for the more part rather for themselves; for they were not yet perfect. So Thomas, shaking with fear, said, “Let us go, that we also may die with Him” ( John 11.16 ), because Thomas was weaker and more unbelieving 1673 than the rest. But see how Jesus encourageth them by what He saith.
John 11.9 . “Are there not twelve hours of the day?” 1674
He either saith this, 1675 that “he who is conscious to himself of no evil, shall suffer nothing dreadful; only he that doeth evil shall suffer, so that we need not fear, because we have done nothing worthy of death”; or else that, “he who seeth the light of this world is 1676 in safety; and if he that seeth the light of this world is in safety, much more he that is with Me, if he separate not himself from Me.” Having encouraged them by these words, He addeth, that the cause of their going thither was pressing, and showeth them that they were about to go not unto Jerusalem, but unto Bethany.
John 11:11, 12 . “Our friend Lazarus,” He saith, “sleepeth, but I go that I may awake him out of sleep.”
That is, “I go not for the same purpose as before, again to reason and contend with the Jews, but to awaken our friend.”
John 11.12 . “Then said His disciples, Lord, if he sleep he shall do well.”
This they said not without a cause, but desiring to hinder the going thither. “Sayest Thou,” asks one of them, “that he sleepeth? Then there is no urgent reason for going.” Yet on this account He had said, “Our friend,” to show that the going there was necessary. When therefore their disposition was somewhat reluctant, He said,
[2.] John 11.14 . 1677 “He is dead.”
The former word He spake, desiring to prove that He loved not boasting; but since they understood not, He added, “He is dead.”
John 11.15 . “And I am glad for your sakes.”
Why “for your sakes”? “Because I have forewarned you of his death, not being there, and because when I shall raise him again, there will be no suspicion of deceit.” Seest thou how the disciples were yet imperfect in their disposition, and knew not His power as they ought? and this was caused by interposing terrors, which troubled and disturbed their souls. When He said, “He sleepeth,” He added, “I go to awake him”; but when He said, “He is dead,” He added not, “I go to raise him”; for He would not foretell in words what He was about to establish certainly by works, everywhere teaching us not to be vainglorious, and that we must not make promises without a cause. And if He did thus in the case of the centurion when summoned, (for He said, “I will come and heal him Matt. viii. 7 ,) it was to show the faith of the centurion that He said this. If any one ask, “How did the disciples imagine sleep? How did they not understand that death was meant from His saying, I go to awake him? for it was folly if they expected that He would go fifteen stadia to awake him”; we would reply, that they deemed this to be a dark saying, such as He often spake to them.
Now they all feared the attacks of the Jews, but Thomas above the rest; wherefore also he said,
John 11.16 . “Let us go, that we also may die with Him.”
Some say that he desired himself to die; but it is not so; the expression is rather one of cowardice. Yet he was not rebuked, for Christ as yet supported his weakness, but afterwards he became stronger than all, and invincible. 1678 For the wonderful thing is this; that we see one who was so weak before the Crucifixion, become after the Crucifixion, and after having believed in the Resurrection, more zealous than any. So great was the power of Christ. The very man who dared not go in company with Christ to Bethany, the same while not seeing Christ ran 1679 well nigh through the inhabited world, and dwelt in the midst of nations that were full of murder, and desirous to kill him.
But if Bethany was “fifteen furlongs off,” which is two miles, how was Lazarus “dead four days”? 1680 Jesus tarried two days, on the day before those two one had come with the message, 1681 (on which same day Lazarus died,) then in the course of the fourth day He arrived. He waited to be summoned, and came not uninvited on this account, that no one might suspect what took place; nor did those women who were beloved by Him come themselves, but others were sent.
p. 227 John 11.18 . “Now Bethany was 1682 about fifteen furlongs off.”
Not without cause doth he mention this, but desires to inform us that it was near, and that it was probable on this account that many would be there. He therefore declaring this adds,
John 11.19 . “Many of the Jews came 1683 to comfort them.” 1684
But how should they comfort women beloved of Christ, when 1685 they had agreed, that if any should confess Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue? It was either because of the grievous nature of the calamity, or that they respected them as of superior birth, or else these who came were not the wicked sort, many at least even of them believed. The Evangelist mentions these circumstances, to prove that Lazarus was really dead.
[3.] But why did not [Martha,] when she went to meet Christ, 1686 take her sister with her? She desired to meet with Him apart, and to tell Him what had taken place. But when He had brought her to good hopes, she went and called Mary, who met Him while her grief was yet at its height. Seest thou how fervent her love was? This is the Mary of whom He said, “Mary hath chosen that good part.” ( Luke x. 42 .) “How then,” saith one, “doth Martha appear more zealous?” She was not more zealous, but it was because the other had not yet been informed, 1687 since Martha was the weaker. For even when she had heard such things from Christ, she yet speaks in a groveling manner, “By this time he stinketh, for he hath been dead four days.” ( John 11.39 .) But Mary, though she had heard nothing, uttered nothing of the kind, but at once believing, 1688 saith, 1689
John 11.21 . “Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.”
See how great is the heavenly wisdom of the women, although their understanding be weak. For when they saw Christ, they did not break out into mourning and wailing and loud crying, as we do when we see any of those we know coming in upon our grief; but straightway they reverence their Teacher. So then both these sisters believed in Christ, but not in a right way; for they did not yet certainly know 1690 either that He was God, or that He did these things by His own power and authority; on both which points He taught them. For they showed their ignorance of the former, by saying, “If thou hadst been here, our brother had not died”; and of the latter, by saying, 1691
John 11.22 . “Whatsoever 1692 thou wilt ask of God, He will give it thee.”
As though they spoke of some virtuous and approved mortal. But see what Christ saith;
John 11.23 . “Thy brother shall rise again.”
He thus far refuteth the former saying, “Whatsoever thou wilt ask”; for He said not, “I ask,” but what? “Thy brother shall rise again.” To have said, “Woman, thou still lookest below, I need not the help of another, but do all of Myself,” would have been grievous, and a stumblingblock in her way, but to say, “He shall rise again,” was the act of one who chose a middle mode of speech. 1693 And by means of that which follows, He alluded to the points I have mentioned; for when Martha saith,
John 11.24 . “I know that he shall rise again 1694 in the last day,” to prove more clearly His authority, He replieth,
John 11.25 . “I am the Resurrection and the Life.”
Showing that He needed no other to help Him, if so be that He Himself is the Life; since if He needed another, 1695 how could He be “the Resurrection and the Life”? Yet He did not plainly state this, but merely hinted it. But when she saith again, “Whatsoever thou wilt ask,” He replieth,
“He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”
Showing that He is the Giver of good things, and that we must ask of Him.
John 11.26 . “And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me, shall never die.”
Observe how He leadeth her mind upward; for to raise Lazarus was not the only thing sought; it was necessary that both she and they who were with her should learn the Resurrection. Wherefore before the raising of the dead He teacheth heavenly wisdom by words. But if He is “the Resurrection,” and “the Life,” He is not confined by place, but, present everywhere, knoweth how to heal. If therefore they had said, as did the centurion, “Speak the word, and my servant shall be healed” ( Matt. viii. 8 ), He would have done so; but since they summoned Him to them, and begged Him to come, He condescendeth in order to raise them from the humble opinion they had formed of Him, and cometh to the place. Still while condescending, He showed that even when absent He had power to heal. On this account also He delayed, for the mercy would not have been appar p. 228 ent as soon as it was given, had there not been first an ill savor (from the corpse). But how did the woman know that there was to be a Resurrection? They 1696 had heard Christ say many things about the Resurrection, yet still she now desired to see Him. And observe how she still lingers below; for after hearing, “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” not even so did she say, “Raise him,” but,
John 11.27 . “I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God.”
What is Christs reply? “He that believeth on Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live,” 1697 (here speaking of this death which is common to all. 1698 ) “And whosoever liveth and believeth on Me, shall never die” ( John 11.26 ), signifying that other death. “Since then I am the Resurrection and the Life, be not thou troubled, though thy brother be already dead, but believe, for this is not death.” For a while He comforted her on what had happened; and gave her glimpses of hope, by saying, “He shall rise again,” and, “I am the Resurrection”; and that having risen 1699 again, though he should again die, he shall suffer no harm, so that it needs not to fear this death. What He saith is of this kind: “Neither is this man dead, nor shall ye die.” “Believest thou this?” She saith, “I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God.”
“Which should come into the world.”
The woman seems to me not to understand the saying; she was conscious that it was some great thing, but did not perceive the whole meaning, so that when asked one thing, she answered another. Yet for a while at least she had this gain, that she moderated her grief; such was the power of the words of Christ. On this account Martha went forth first, and Mary followed. For their affection to their Teacher did not allow them strongly to feel their present sorrow; so that the minds of these women were truly wise as well as loving.
[4.] But in our days, among our other evils there is one malady very prevalent among our women; they make a great show in their dirges and wailings, baring 1700 their arms, tearing their hair, making furrows down their cheeks. And this they do, some from grief, others from ostentation and rivalry, others from wantonness; and they bare their arms, and this too in the sight of men. Why doest thou, woman? Dost thou strip thyself in unseemly sort, tell me, thou who art a member of Christ, in the midst of the market-place, when men are present there? Dost thou pluck thy hair, and rend thy garments, and wail loudly, 1701 and join the dance, and keep throughout a resemblance to Bacchanalian women, and dost thou not think that thou art offending God? What madness is this? Will not the heathen 1702 laugh? Will they not deem our doctrines fables? They will say, “There is no resurrection—the doctrines of the Christians are mockeries, trickery, and contrivance. For their women lament as though there were nothing after this world; they give no heed to the words engraven in their books; all those words are fictions, and these women show that they are so. Since had they believed that he who hath died is not dead, but hath removed to a better life, they would not have mourned him as no longer being, they would not have thus beaten themselves, 1703 they would not have uttered such words as these, full of unbelief, I shall never see thee more, I shall never more regain thee, all their religion is a fable, and if the very chief of good things is thus wholly disbelieved by them, much more the other things which are reverenced among them.” The heathen 1704 are not so womanish, among them many have practiced heavenly wisdom; and a woman hearing that her child had fallen in battle, straightway asked, “And in what state are the affairs of the city?” Another truly wise, when being garlanded 1705 he heard that his son had fallen for his country, took off the garland, and asked which of the two; then when he had learnt which it was, immediately put the garland on again. Many also gave their sons and their daughters for slaughter in honor of their evil deities; and Lacedæmonian women exhort their sons either to bring back their shield safe from war, or to be brought back dead upon it. Wherefore I am ashamed that the heathen show true wisdom in these matters, and we act unseemly. Those who know nothing about the Resurrection act the part of those who know; and those who know, the part of those who know not. And ofttimes many do through shame of men what they do not for the sake of God. For women of the higher class neither tear 1706 their hair nor bare their arms; which very thing is a most heavy charge against them, not because they do not strip themselves, but because they act as they do not through piety, but that they may not be thought to disgrace themselves. Is their shame stronger than grief, and the fear of God not stronger? And must not this deserve severest censure? What the rich women do because of their riches, the poor ought to do through fear of God; but at present it is quite the contrary; the rich act wisely through vainglory, the poor through littleness of soul act unseemly. What is worse than this anomaly? We do all for men, all for the p. 229 things of earth. And these people utter words full of madness and much ridicule. The Lord saith indeed, “Blessed are they that mourn” ( Matt. v. 4 ), speaking of those who mourn 1707 for their sins; and no one mourneth that kind of mourning, nor careth for a lost soul; but this other we were not bidden to practice, and we practice it. 1708 “What then?” saith some one, “Is it possible being man not to weep?” No, neither do I 1709 forbid weeping, but I forbid the beating yourselves, the weeping immoderately. 1710 I am neither brutal nor cruel. I know that our nature asks 1711 and seeks for its friends and daily companions; it cannot but be grieved. As also Christ showed, for He wept over Lazarus. So do thou; weep, but gently, but with decency, but with the fear of God. If so thou weepest, thou dost so not as disbelieving the Resurrection, but as not enduring the separation. Since even over those who are leaving us, and departing to foreign lands, we weep, yet we do this not as despairing.
[5.] And so do thou weep, as if thou wert sending one on his way to another land. These things I say, not as giving a rule of action, but as condescending (to human infirmity). For if the dead man have been a sinner, and one who hath in many things offended God, it behooveth to weep (or rather not to weep only, since that is of no avail to him, but to do what one can to procure 1712 some comfort for him by almsgivings and offerings; 1713 ) but it behooveth also to rejoice at this, that his wickedness hath been cut short. If he have been righteous, it again 1714 behooveth to be glad, that what is his is now placed in security, free from the uncertainty of the future; if young, that he hath been quickly delivered from the common evils of life; if old, that he hath departed after taking to satiety that which is held desirable. But thou, neglecting to consider these things, incitest thy hand-maidens to act as mourners, as if forsooth thou wert honoring the dead, when it is an act of extreme dishonor. 1715 For honor to the dead is not wailings and lamentings, but hymns and psalmodies and an excellent life. The good man when he departeth, shall depart with angels, though no man be near his remains; but the corrupt, though he have a city to attend his funeral, shall be nothing profited. Wilt thou honor him who is gone? Honor him in another way, by alms-deeds, by acts of beneficence and public service. 1716 What avail the many lamentations? And I have heard also another grievous thing, that many women attract lovers by their sad cries, acquiring by the fervor of their wailings a reputation for affection to their husbands. O devilish purpose! O Satanic invention! 1717 How long are we but dust and ashes, how long but blood and flesh? Look we up to heaven, take we thought of spiritual things. 1718 How shall we be able to rebuke the heathen, 1719 how to exhort them, when we do such things? How shall we dispute with them concerning the Resurrection? How about the rest of heavenly wisdom? How shall we ourselves live without fear? Knowest not thou that of grief 1720 cometh death? for grief darkening 1721 the seeing part of the soul not only hindereth it from perceiving anything that it ought, but also worketh it great mischief. In one way then we offend God, and advantage neither ourselves nor him who is gone; in the other we please God, and gain honor among men. If we sink not down ourselves, He will soon remove the remains of our despondency; if we are discontented, He permitteth us to be given up to grief. If we are thankful, we shall not despond. “But how,” saith some one, “is it possible not to be grieved, when one has lost a son or daughter or wife?” I say not, “not to grieve,” but “not to do so immoderately.” For if we consider that God hath taken away, and that the husband or son which we had was mortal, we shall soon receive comfort. To be discontented is the act of those who seek for something higher than their nature. Thou wast born man, and mortal; why then grievest thou that what is natural hath come to pass? Grievest thou that thou art nourished by eating? Seekest thou to live without this? 1722 Act thus also in the case of death, and being mortal seek not as yet for immortality. Once for all this thing hath been appointed. Grieve not therefore, nor play the mourner, but submit to laws laid on all alike. Grieve for thy sins; this is good mourning, this is highest wisdom. Let us then mourn for this cause continually, that we may obtain the joy which is there, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
[ “ and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. ” ] N.T.225:1665
al. “ make a question. ”225:1666
“ Therefore his sisters sent unto Him, saying, ” &c., N.T.225:1668
“ our brother, ” N.T.225:1669
al. “ to the Lord. ”225:1670
v. 6. “ When He had heard therefore that he was sick, He abode two days still in the same place where He was. ” N.T.225:1671
[ “ again ” ] N.T.226:1673
al. “ more cowardly. ”226:1674
John 11:9, 10 . “ If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him. ” N.T.226:1675
al. “ and this He said desiring to show. ”226:1676
al. “ shall be. ”226:1677
John 11.13-15 . “ Howbeit, Jesus spake of his death, but they thought that He had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless, let us go to him. ” N.T.226:1678
al. “ alone ran. ”226:1680
John 11.17 . “ Then when Jesus came, He found that he had lain in the grave four days already. ”226:1681
i.e. that Lazarus was sick.227:1682
“ nigh unto Jerusalem, ” N.T.227:1683
[ “ To Martha and Mary ” ] N.T.227:1684
[ “ concerning their brother ” ] N.T.227:1685
Ben. has a different reading, with no variety of sense.227:1686
John 11.20 . “ Then Martha, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary sat in the house. ”227:1687
al. “ had not yet heard. ”227:1688
al. “ but believed, saying. ”227:1689
The words are used by Martha also; but she afterwards implies want of faith.227:1690
al. “ they know not yet. ”227:1691
al. and that they knew not, is manifest from their saying, “ If Thou, ” &c., and from their adding, “ Whatsoever, ” &c.227:1692
“ But I know that even now, whatsoever, ” &c., N.T.227:1693
Ben. “ fitly made the saying of a middle character. ”227:1694
[ “ in the Resurrection ” ] N.T.227:1695
al. “ other help, ” al. “ helper. ”228:1696
al. “ she. ”228:1697
from John 11.25228:1698
or, “ of this death. ”228:1699
or, “ one who has risen. ”228:1700
al. “ making bloody. ”228:1701
al. “ and raise loud wailings, and leap. ”228:1702
lit. “ Greeks. ”228:1703
al. “ have been thus inflamed. ”228:1704
lit. “ Greeks. ”228:1705
i.e. about to sacrifice.228:1706
al. “ loose n. ”229:1707
al. “ bewail. ”229:1708
al. “ to mourn, and we mourn it. ”229:1709
al. “ why, do I. ”229:1710
al. “ I forbid not to grieve, but I forbid to act unseemly. ”229:1711
or, “ is overcome. ”229:1712
al. “ give. ”229:1713
see Hom. XII. p. 43, and note.229:1714
al. “ more. ”229:1715
al. “ folly, ” al. “ madness. ”229:1716
al. “ thought. ”229:1718
al. “ consider the spiritual. ”229:1719
lit. “ Greeks. ”229:1720
al. “ for of grief. ”229:1721
al. “ it darkens. ”229:1722
al. “ without meat. ”
Next: John 11.30,31
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