Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume XIV/On the Gospel of John/Homily 60
|←Homily 59||Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume XIV/On the Gospel of John
John x. 22–24
“And it was at Jerusalem, the Feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch. Then came the Jews round about Him, and said unto Him, How long dost thou make us to doubt?”
[1.] Every virtue is a good thing, but most of all gentleness and meekness. This showeth us men; this maketh us to differ from wild beasts; this fitteth us to vie with Angels. Wherefore Christ continually expendeth many words about this virtue, bidding us be meek and gentle. Nor doth He merely expend words about it, but also teacheth it by His actions; at one time buffeted and bearing it, at another reproached and plotted against; yet again coming to those who plotted against Him. For those men who had called Him a demoniac, and a Samaritan and who had often desired to kill Him, and had cast stones at Him, the same surrounded and asked Him, “Art thou the Christ?” Yet not even in this case did He reject them after so many and so great plots against Him, but answered them with great gentleness.
But it is necessary rather to enquire into the whole passage from the beginning.
“It was,” It saith, “at Jerusalem, the Feast of the dedication, and it was winter.” This feast was a great and national one. For they celebrated with great zeal the day on which the Temple was rebuilt, on their return from their long captivity in Persia. At this feast Christ also was present, for henceforth He continually abode in Judæa, because the Passion was nigh. “Then came the Jews round about Him, and said, How long dost thou make us to doubt?”
“If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.”
He did not reply, “What enquire ye of Me? Often have ye called Me demoniac, madman, and Samaritan, and have deemed me an enemy of God, and a deceiver, and ye said but now, Thou bearest witness of thyself, thy witness is not true; how is it then that ye seek and desire to learn from Me, whose witness ye reject?” But He said nothing of the kind, although He knew that the intention with which they made the enquiry was evil. For their surrounding Him and saying, “How long dost thou make us to doubt?” seemed to proceed from a certain longing and desire of learning, but the intention with which they asked the question was corrupt and deceitful. For since His works admitted not of their slander and insolence, while they might attack His sayings by finding out in them a sense other than that in which they were spoken, they continually proposed questions, desiring to silence Him by means of His sayings; and when they could find no fault with His works, they wished to find a handle in His words. Therefore they said, “Tell us”; yet He had often told them. For He said to the woman of Samaria, “I Am that speak unto thee” ( c. iv. 26 ); and to the blind man, “Thou hast both seen Him, and it is He that talketh with thee.” ( c. ix. 37.) And He had told them also, if not in the same, at least in other words. And indeed, had they been wise, and had they desired to enquire aright, it remained for them to confess Him by words, since by works He had often proved the point in question. But now observe their perverse and disputations temper. When He addresseth them, and instructeth them by His words, they say, “What sign showest thou us?” ( c. vi. 30.) But when He giveth them proofs by His works, they say to Him, “Art thou the Christ? Tell us plainly”; when the works cry aloud, they seek words, and when the words teach, then they betake themselves to works, ever setting themselves to the contrary. But that they enquired not for the sake of learning, the end showed. For Him whom they deemed to be so worthy of credit, as to receive His witness of Himself, when He had spoken a few words they straightway stoned; so that their very surrounding and pressing upon Him was done with ill intent.
And the mode of questioning was full of much hatred. “Tell us plainly, Art thou the Christ?” Yet He spake all things openly, being ever present at their feasts, and in secret He said nothing; but they brought forward words of deceit, “How long dost thou make us to doubt?” in order that having drawn Him out, they might again find some handle against Him. For that in every case they questioned Him not in order to learn, but to find fault with His words, is clear, not from this passage only, but from many others also. Since when they came to Him and asked, “Is it lawful to give tribute unto Cæsar or not?” ( Matt. xxii. 17 ), when they spake about putting away a wife ( Matt. xix. 3 ), when they enquired about her who, they said, had had seven husbands ( Matt. xxii. 23 ), they were convicted of bringing their questions to Him, not from desire of learning, but from an evil intention. But there He rebuked them, saying, “Why tempt ye Me, ye hypocrites?” showing that He knew their secret thoughts, while here He said nothing of the kind; teaching us not always to rebuke those who plot against us, but to bear many things with meekness and gentleness.
Since then it was a sign of folly, when the works proclaimed Him aloud, to seek the witness of words, hear how He answereth them, at once hinting to them that they made these enquiries superfluously, and not for the sake of learning, and at the same time showing that He uttered a voice plainer than that by words, namely, that by works.
Ver. 25. “I told you often,” He saith, “and ye believe not: the works that I do in My Father’s Name, they are they that bear witness of Me.”
[2.] A remark which the more tolerable among them continually made to one another; “A man that is a sinner cannot do such miracles.” And again, “A devil cannot open the eyes of the blind”: and, “No man can do such miracles except God be with him.” ( c. iii. 2.) And beholding the miracles that He did, they said, “Is not this the Christ?” Others said, “When Christ cometh, will He do greater miracles than those which this Man hath done?” ( c. vii. 31.) And these very persons as many as then desired to believe on Him, saying, “What sign showest thou us, that we may see, and believe thee?” ( c. vi. 30.) When then they who had not been persuaded by such great works, pretended that they should be persuaded by a bare word, He rebuketh their wickedness, saying, “If ye believe not My works, how will ye believe My words? so that your questioning is superfluous.”
“For I on My part have fulfilled all that it behooved a Shepherd to do, and if ye follow Me not, it is not because I am not a Shepherd, but because ye are not My sheep.”
Ver. 27–30. “For My sheep hear My voice, and follow Me; and I give unto them eternal life ; neither can any man pluck them out of My hand. The Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand. I and the Father are One.”
Observe how in renouncing He exciteth them to follow Him. “Ye hear Me not,” He saith, “for neither are ye sheep, but they who follow, these are of the flock.” This He said, that they might strive to become sheep. Then by mentioning what they should obtain, He maketh these men jealous, so as to rouse them, and cause them to desire such things.
“What then? Is it through the power of the Father that no man plucketh them away, and hast thou no strength, but art too weak to guard them?” By no means. And in order that thou mayest learn that the expression, “The Father which gave them to Me,” is used on their account, that they might not again call Him an enemy of God, therefore, after asserting that, “No man plucketh them out of My hand,” He proceedeth to show, that His hand and the Father’s is One. Since had not this been so, it would have been natural for Him to say, “The Father which gave them to Me is greater than all, and no man can pluck them out of My hand.” But He said not so, but, “out of My Father’s hand.” Then that thou mayest not suppose that He indeed is weak, but that the sheep are in safety through the power of the Father, He addeth, “I and the Father are One.” As though He had said “I did not assert that on account of the Father no man plucketh them away, as though I were too weak to keep the sheep. For I and the Father are One.” Speaking here with reference to Power, for concerning this was all His discourse; and if the power be the same, it is clear that the Essence is also. And when the Jews used ten thousand means, plotting and casting men out of their synagogues, He telleth them that all their contrivances are useless and vain; “For the sheep are in My Father’s hand”; as the Prophet saith, “Upon My hand I have pictured thy walls.” ( Isa. xlix. 16.) Then to show that the hand is One, He sometimes saith that it is His own, sometimes the Father’s. But when thou hearest the word “hand,” do not understand anything material, but the power, the authority. Again, if it was on this account that no one could pluck away the sheep, because the Father gave Him power, it would have been superfluous to say what follows, “I and the Father are One.” Since were He inferior to Him, this would have been a very daring saying, for it declares nothing else than an equality of power; of which the Jews were conscious, and took up stones to cast at Him. ( Ver. 31.) Yet not even so did He remove this opinion and suspicion; though if their suspicion were erroneous, He ought to have set them right, and to have said, “Wherefore do ye these things? I spake not thus to testify that my power and the Father’s are equal”; but now He doth quite the contrary, and confirmeth their suspicion, and clencheth it, and that too when they were exasperated. For He maketh no excuse for what had been said, as though it had been said ill, but rebuketh them for not entertaining a right opinion concerning Him. For when they said,
Ver. 33–36. “For a good work we stone thee not, but for blasphemy; and because that thou being a man makest thyself God”; hear His answer; “If the Scripture called them gods unto whom the word of God came, how say ye that I blaspheme, because I said, I am the Son of God?”
What He saith is of this kind: “If those who have received this honor by grace, are not found fault with for calling themselves gods, how can He who hath this by nature deserve to be rebuked?” Yet He spake not so, but proved it at a later time, having first relaxed and yielded somewhat in His discourse, and said, “Whom the Father hath sanctified and sent.” And when He had softened their anger, He bringeth forward the plain assertion. For a while, that His speech might be received, He spoke in a humbler strain, but afterwards He raised it higher, saying,
Ver. 37, 38. “If I do not the works of My Father, believe Me not; but if I do, though ye believe not Me, believe the works.”
Seest thou how He proveth what I said, that He is in nothing inferior to the Father, but in every way equal to Him? For since it was impossible to see His Essence, from the equality and sameness of the works He affordeth a proof of unvaryingness as to Power. And what, tell me, shall we believe?
[3.] “That I am in the Father, and the Father in Me.”
“For I am nothing other than what the Father is, yet still Son; He nothing other than what I am, yet still Father. And if any man know Me, he knoweth the Father, and if he knoweth the Father, he hath learnt also the Son.” Now were the power inferior, then also what relateth to the knowledge would be false, for it is not possible to become acquainted with one substance or power by means of another.
Ver. 39–41. “Therefore they sought again to take Him, but He escaped out of their hands, and went away again beyond Jordan, into the place where John at first baptized. And many resorted unto Him, and said, John did no miracle, but all things that John spake of this man were true.”
When He hath uttered anything great and sublime, He quickly retireth, giving way to their anger, so that the passion may abate and cease through His absence. And thus He acted at that time. But wherefore doth the Evangelist mention the place? That thou mayest learn that He went there to remind them of the things there done and said by John, and of his testimony; at least when they came there, they straightway remembered John. Wherefore also they said, “John indeed did no miracle,” since how did it follow that they should add this, unless the place had brought the Baptist to their memory, and they had come to remember his testimony. And observe how they form incontrovertible syllogisms. “John indeed did no miracle,” “but this man doth,” saith some one; “hence therefore his superiority is shown. If therefore men believed him who did no miracles, much more must they believe this man.” Then, since it was John who bore the witness, lest his having done no miracle might seem to prove him unworthy of being a witness, they added, “Yet if he did no miracle, still he spake all things truly concerning this man”; no longer proving Christ to be trustworthy by means of John, but John to be so by what Christ had done.
Ver. 42. “Many therefore believed on Him.” There were many things that attracted them. They remembered the words which John had spoken, calling Christ “mightier than himself,” and “light,” and “life,” and “truth,” and all the rest. They remembered the Voice which came down from heaven, and the Spirit which appeared in the shape of a dove, and pointed Him out to all; and with this they recollected the demonstration afforded by the miracles, looking to which they were for the future established. “For,” saith some one, “if it was right that we should believe John, much more ought we to believe this man; if him without miracles, much more this man, who besides the testimony of John, hath also the proof from miracles.” Seest thou how much the abiding in this place, and the being freed from the presence of evil men, profited them? wherefore Jesus continually leadeth and draweth them away from the company of those persons; as also He seemeth to have done under the old Covenant, forming and ordering the Jews in all points, in the desert, at a distance from the Egyptians.
And this He now adviseth us also to do, bidding us avoid public places, and tumults, and disturbances, and pray peacefully in the chamber. For the vessel which is free from confusion, sails with a fair wind, and the soul which is separated from worldly matters rests in harbor. Wherefore women ought to have more true wisdom than men, because they are for the most part riveted to keeping at home. So, for instance, Jacob was a plain  man, because he dwelt at home, and was free from the bustle of public life; for not without a cause hath Scripture put this, when It saith, “dwelling in a house.” ( Gen. xxv. 27.) “But,” saith some woman, “even in a house there is great confusion.” Yes, when thou wilt have it so, and bringest about thyself a crowd of cares. For the man who spends his time in the midst of the market-places and courts of justice is overwhelmed, as if by waves, by external troubles; but the women who sits in her house as in some school of true wisdom, and collects her thoughts within herself, will be enabled to apply herself to prayers, and readings, and other heavenly wisdom. And as they who dwell in deserts have none to disturb them, so she being continually within can enjoy a perpetual calm. Nor even if at any time she need to go forth, is there then any cause for confusion. For the necessary occasions for a women to leave her house are, either for the purpose of coming hither, or when the body need to be cleansed in the bath; but for the most part she sits at home, and it is possible for her both to be herself truly wise, and receiving her husband when agitated to calm and compose him, to abate the excess and fierceness of his thoughts, and so to send him forth again, having put off all the mischiefs which he collected from the market-place, and carrying with him whatever good he learnt at home. For nothing, nothing is more powerful than a pious and sensible women to bring a man into proper order, and to mould his soul as she will. For he will not endure friends, or teachers, or rulers, as he will his partner advising and counseling him, since the advice carries even some pleasure with it, because she who gives the counsel is greatly loved. I could tell of many hard and disobedient men who have been softened in this way. For she who shares his table, his bed, and his embraces, his words and secrets, his comings in and goings out, and many other things, who is entirely given up and joined to him, as it is likely that a body would be joined to a head, if she happen to be discreet and well attuned, will go beyond and excel all others in the management of her husband.
[4.] Wherefore I exhort women to make this their employment, and to give fitting counsel. For as they have great power for good, so have they also for evil. A women destroyed Absalom, a woman destroyed Amnon, a woman was like to have destroyed Job, a woman rescued Nabal from the slaughter. Women have preserved whole nations; for Deborah and Judith exhibited successes worthy of men; so also do ten thousand other women. Wherefore Paul saith, “For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband?” ( 1 Cor. vii. 16.) And in those times we see Persis and Mary and Priscilla taking part in the labors of the Apostles ( Rom. 16 ); whom we also needs must imitate, and not by words only, but also by actions, bring into order him that dwelleth with us. But how shall we instruct him by our actions? When he sees that thou art not evilly disposed, not fond of expense or ornament, not demanding extravagant supplies of money, but content with what thou hast, then will he endure thee counseling him. But if thou art wise in word, and in actions doest the contrary, he will condemn thee for very foolish talking. But when together with words thou affordest him also instruction by thy works, then will he admit thee and obey thee the more readily; as when thou desirest not gold, nor pearls, nor costly clothing, but instead of these, modesty, sobriety, kindness; when thou exhibitest these virtues on thy part and requirest them on his. For if thou must needs do somewhat to please thy husband, thou shouldest adorn thy soul, not adorn and so spoil thy person. The gold which thou puttest about thee will not make thee so lovely and desirable to him, as modesty and kindness towards himself, and a readiness to die for thy partner; these things most subdue men. Indeed, that splendor of apparel even displeases him, as straitening his means, and causing him much expense and care; but those things which I have named will rivet a husband to a wife; for kindness and friendship and love cause no cares, give rise to no expense, but quite the contrary. That outward adornment becomes palling by use, but that of the soul blooms day by day, and kindles a stronger flame. So that if thou wouldest please thy husband, adorn thy soul with modesty, piety, and management of the house. These things both subdue him more, and never cease. Age destroys not this adornment, sickness wastes it not. The adornment of the body length of time is wont to undo, sickness and many other things to waste, but what relates to the soul is above all this. That adornment causes envy, and kindles jealousy, but this is pure from disease, and free from all vainglory. Thus will matters at home be easier, and your income without trouble, when the gold is not laid on about your body or encircling your arms, but passes on to necessary uses, such as the feeding of servants, the necessary care of children, and other useful purposes. But if this be not the case, if the (wife’s) face be covered with ornaments, while the (husband’s) heart is pressed by anxiety, what profit, what kind of advantage is there? The one being grieved allows not the marvelous beauty of the other to be seen. For ye know, ye know that though a man see the most beautiful of all women, he cannot feel pleasure at the sight while his soul is sorrowful, because in order to feel pleasure a man must first rejoice and be glad. And when all his gold is heaped together to adorn a woman’s body, while there is distress in his dwelling, her partner can have no pleasure. So that if we desire to be agreeable to our husbands, let us give them pleasure; and we shall give them pleasure, if we remove our ornaments and fineries. For all these things at the actual time of marriage appear to afford some delight, but this afterwards fades by time. Since if when the heaven is so beautiful, and the sun, to which thou canst not name any body that is equal, so bright, we admire them less from habitually seeing them, how shall we admire a body tricked out with gewgaws? These things I say, desiring that you should be adorned with that wholesome adornment which Paul enjoined; “Not with gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” ( 1 Tim. ii. 9, 10.) But dost thou wish to please strangers, and to be praised by them? Then assuredly this is not the desire of a modest woman. However, if thou wishest it, by doing as I have said, thou wilt have strangers also to love thee much, and to praise thy modesty. For the woman who adorns her person no virtuous and sober person will praise, but the intemperate and lascivious; nay, rather neither will these praise her, but will even speak vilely of her, having their eyes inflamed by the wantonness displayed about her; but the other all will approve, both the one sort and the other, because they receive no harm from her, but even instruction in heavenly wisdom. And great shall be her praise from men, and great her reward with God. After such adornment then let us strive, that we may live here without fear, and may obtain the blessings which are to come; which may we all obtain through the grace and loving-kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
- lit. “at the doors.”
- or, “What seek ye.”
- “I told you,” N.T.
- “How can,” &c., N.T.
- “But ye,” &c.
- “as I said unto you.”
- “and I know them.”
- “and they shall never perish.”
- “My Father,” N.T.
- i.e. of the Father and the Son.
- Ver. 31, 32 , omitted. “Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I showed you from My Father; for which of those works do ye stone Me? ”
- Ver. 34 , omitted. “Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your Law, I said, Ye are gods?”
- “It called.”
- “And the Scripture cannot be broken: say ye of Him whom the Father hath sanctified and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest,” &c., N.T. The comment looks as if this had been read.
- “that ye may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him,” N.T.
- Ben. omits, “if He knoweth the Father.”
- “and there He abode,” N.T.
- al. “we.”
- al. “the testimony unworthy.”
- “on Him there,” N.T.
- al. “after the proof of his testimony and,” &c.
- ἄ πλαστος
- al. “bound.”
- σκαμμάτων, “the arena,” hence any severe labor.
- Ben. “you.”
- al. “goes forward.”