Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume XIV/On the Gospel of John/Homily 73
John xiv. 8, 9
“Philip saith unto Him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip? He who hath seen Me, hath seen the Father.”
[1.] The Prophet said to the Jews, “Thou hadst the countenance of a harlot, thou wert shameless towards all men.” ( Jer. iii. 3 , LXX.) Now it seems fitting to use this expression not only against that city, but against all who shamelessly set their faces against the truth. For when Philip said to Christ, “Show us the Father,” He replied, “Have I been so long time with you, and hast thou not known Me, Philip?” And yet there are some Who even after these words separate the Father from the Son. What proximity dost thou require closer than this? Indeed from this very saying some have fallen into the malady of Sabellius. But let us, leaving both these and those as involved in directly opposite error, consider the exact meaning of the words. “Have I been so long time with you, and hast thou not known Me, Philip?” He saith. What then? replieth Philip, “Art thou the Father after whom I enquire?” “No,” He saith. On this account He said not, “hast thou not known Him,” but, “hast thou not known Me,” declaring nothing else but this, that the Son is no other than what the Father is, yet continuing to be a Son. But how came Philip to ask this question? Christ had said, “If ye had known Me, ye should have known My Father also” ( c. xiv. 7 ), and He had often said the same to the Jews. Since then Peter and the Jews had often asked Him, “Who is the Father?” since Thomas had asked Him, and no one had learnt anything clear, but His words were still not understood; Philip, in order that He might not seem to be importunate and to trouble Him by asking in his turn after the Jews, “Show us the Father,” added, “and it sufficeth us,” “we seek no more.” Yet Christ had said, “If ye had known Me, ye should have known My Father also,” and by Himself He declared the Father. But Philip reversed the order, and said, “Show us the Father,” as though knowing Christ exactly. But Christ endureth him not, but putteth him in the right way, persuading him to gain the knowledge of the Father through Himself, while Philip desired to see Him with these bodily eyes, having perhaps heard concerning the Prophets, that they “saw God.” But those cases, Philip, were acts of condescension. Wherefore Christ said, “No man hath seen God at any time” ( c. i. 18 ); and again, “Every man that hath heard and hath learned from God cometh unto Me.” ( c. vi. 45.) “Ye have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His shape.” ( c. v. 37.) And in the Old Testament, “No man shall see My face, and live.” ( Ex. xxxiii. 20.) What saith Christ? Very reprovingly He saith, “Have I been so long time with you, and hast thou not known Me, Philip?” He said not, “hast thou not seen,” but, “hast thou not known Me.” “Why,” Philip might say, “do I wish to learn concerning Thee? At present I seek to see Thy Father, and Thou sayest unto me, hast thou not known Me?” What connection then hath this with the question? Surely a very close one; for if He is that which the Father is, yet continuing a Son, with reason He showeth in Himself Him who begat Him. Then to distinguish the Persons He saith, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father,” lest any one should assert that the same is Father, the same Son. For had He been the Father, He would not have said, “He that hath seen Me hath seen Him.” Why then did He not reply, “thou askest things impossible, and not allowed to man; to Me alone is this possible”? Because Philip had said, “it sufficeth us,” as though knowing Christ, He showeth that he had not even seen Him. For assuredly he would have known the Father, had he been able to know the Son. Wherefore He saith, “He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father.” “If any one hath seen Me, he shall also behold Him.” What He saith is of this kind: “It is not possible to see either Me or Him.” For Philip sought the knowledge which is by sight, and since he thought that he had so seen Christ, he desired in like manner to see the Father; but Jesus showeth him that he had not even seen Himself. And if any one here call knowledge, sight, I do not contradict him, for, “he that hath known Me,” saith Christ, “hath known the Father.” Yet He did not say this, but desiring to establish the Consubstantiality, declared, “he that knoweth My Essence, knoweth that of the Father also.” “And what is this?” saith some one; “for he who is acquainted with creation knoweth also God.” Yet all are acquainted with creation, and have seen it, but all do not know God. Besides, let us consider what Philip seeks to see. Is it the wisdom of the Father? Is it His goodness? Not so, but the very whatever God is, the very Essence. To this therefore Christ answereth, “He that hath seen Me.” Now he that hath seen the creation, hath not also seen the Essence of God. “If any one hath seen Me, he hath seen the Father,” He saith. Now had He been of a different Essence, He would not have spoken thus. But to make use of a grosser argument, no man that knows not what gold is, can discern the substance of gold in silver. For one nature is not shown by another. Wherefore He rightly rebuked him, saying, “Am I so long with you?” Hast thou enjoyed such teaching, hast thou seen miracles wrought with authority, and all belonging to the Godhead, which the Father alone worketh, sins forgiven, secrets published, death retreating, a creation wrought from earth, and hast thou not known Me? Because He was clothed with flesh, therefore He said, “Hast thou not known Me?”
[2.] Thou hast seen the Father; seek not to see more; for in Him thou hast seen Me. If thou hast seen Me, be not over-curious; for thou hast also in Me known Him.
Ver. 10. “Believest thou not that I am in the Father?”
That is, “I am seen in that Essence.”
“The words that I speak, I speak not of Myself,”
Seest thou the exceeding nearness, and the proof of the one Essence?
“The Father that dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works.”
How, beginning with words, doth He come to works? for that which naturally followed was, that He should say, “the Father speaketh the words.” But He putteth two things here, both concerning doctrine and miracles. Or it may have been because the words also were works. How then doeth He them? In another place He saith, “If I do not the works of My Father, believe Me not.” ( c. x. 37.) How then saith He here that the Father doeth them? To show this same thing, that there is no interval between the Father and the Son. What He saith is this: “The Father would not act in one way, and I in another.” Indeed in another place both He and the Father work; “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” ( c. v. 17 ); showing in the first passage the unvaryingness of the works, in the second the identity. And if the obvious meaning of the words denotes humility, marvel not; for after having first said, “Believest thou not?” He then spake thus, showing that He so modeled His words to bring him to the faith; for He walked in their hearts.
Ver. 11. “Believe that I am in the Father and the Father in Me.”
“Ye ought not, when ye hear of ‘Father’ and ‘Son,’ to seek anything else to the establishing of the relationship as to Essence, but if this is not sufficient to prove to you the Condignity and Consubstantiality, ye may learn it even from the works.” Had the, “he that hath seen Me, hath seen My Father,” been used with respect to works, He would not afterwards have said,
“Or else believe Me for the very works’ sake.” And then to show that He is not only able to do these things, but also other much greater than these, He putteth them with excess. For He saith not, “I can do greater things than these,” but, what was much more wonderful, “I can give to others also to do greater things than these.”
Ver. 12. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do, because I go to the Father.”
That is, “it now remaineth for you to work miracles, for I go away.” Then when He had accomplished what His argument intended, He saith,
Ver. 13. “Whatsoever ye shall ask in My Name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in Me.”
Seest thou again that it is He who doeth it? “I,” saith He, “will do it”; not, “I will ask of the Father,” but, “that the Father may be glorified in Me.” In another place He said, “God shall glorify Him in Himself” ( c. xiii. 32 ), but here, “He shall glorify the Father”; for when the Son shall appear with great power, He who begat shall be glorified. But what is, “in My Name”? That which the Apostles said, “In the Name of Jesus Christ, arise and walk.” ( Acts iii. 6.) For all the miracles which they did He wrought in them, and “the hand of the Lord was with them.” ( Acts xi. 21.)
Ver. 14. “I will do it,” He saith.
Seest thou His authority? The things done by means of others Himself doeth; hath He no power for the things done by Himself, except as being wrought in by the Father? And who could say this? But why doth He put it second? To confirm His own words, and to show that the former sayings were of condescension. But the, “I go to the Father,” is this: “I shall not perish, but remain in My own proper Dignity, and Am in Heaven.” All this He said, comforting them. For since it was likely that they, not yet understanding His discourses concerning the Resurrection, would imagine something dismal, He in other discourses promiseth that He will give them such things, soothing them in every way, and showing that He abideth continually; and not only abideth, but that He will even show forth greater power.
[3.] Let us then follow Him, and take up the Cross. For though persecution be not present, yet the season for another kind of death is with us. “Mortify,” it saith, “your members which are upon earth.” ( Col. iii. 5.) Let us then quench concupiscence, slay anger, abolish envy. This is a “living sacrifice.” ( Rom. xii. 1.) This sacrifice ends not in ashes, is not dispersed in smoke, wants neither wood, nor fire, nor knife. For it hath both fire and a knife, even the Holy Spirit. Using this knife, circumcise the superfluous and alien portion of thy heart; open the closedness of thine ears, for vices and evil desires are wont to stop the way against the entrance of the word. The desire of money, when it is set before one, permits not to hear the word concerning almsgiving; and malice when it is present raises a wall against the teaching concerning love; and some other malady falling on in its turn, makes the soul yet more dull to all things. Let us then do away these wicked desires; it is enough to have willed, and all are quenched. For let us not, I entreat, look to this, that the love of wealth is a tyrannical thing, but that the tyranny is that of our own slackmindedness. Many indeed say that they do not even know what money is. For this desire is not a natural one; such as are natural were implanted in us from the first, from the beginning, but as for gold and silver, for a long time not even what it is was known. Whence then grew this desire? From vainglory and extreme slackmindedness. For of desires some are necessary, some natural, some neither the one nor the other. For example, those which if not gratified destroy the creature are both natural and necessary, as the desire of meat and drink and sleep; carnal desire is natural indeed but not necessary, for many have got the better of it, and have not died. But the desire of wealth is neither natural nor necessary, but superfluous; and if we choose we need not admit its beginning. At any rate, Christ speaking of virginity saith, “He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” ( Matt. xix. 12.) But concerning riches not so, but how? “Except a man forsake all that he hath, he is not worthy of Me.” ( Luke xiv. 33.) What was easy He recommended, but what goes beyond the many He leaveth to choice. Why then do we deprive ourselves of all excuse? The man who is made captive by some more tyrannical passion shall not suffer a heavy punishment, but he who is subdued by a weak one is deprived of all defense. For what shall we reply when He saith, “Ye saw Me hungry and fed Me not”? ( Matt. xxv. 42 ); what excuse shall we have? We shall certainly plead poverty; yet we are not poorer than that widow, who by throwing in two mites overshot all the rest. For God requireth not the quantity of the offering, but the measure of the mind; and that He doth so, comes from His tender care. Let us then, admiring His lovingkindness, contribute what is in our power, that having both in this life and in that which is to come obtained in abundance the lovingkindness of God, we may be able to enjoy the good things promised to us, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
- “And how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?” N.T.
- i.e. Jerusalem.
- al. “to do this.”
- i.e. eyes given by means of the clay.
- “and the Father in Me?” N.T.
- the Father.
- i.e. those of the Father and the Son.
- “Believe Me,” N.T.
- τῆς κατὰ τὴν οὐσίαν συγγενείας
- “If ye shall ask anything in My Name, I,” &c., N.T.
- lit. “maladies.”