Early Church Fathers
John viii. 20.-"These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as He taught in the Temple; and no man laid hands on Him, for His hour was not yet come."
[1.] Oh the folly of the Jews! seeking Him as they did before the Passover, and then having found Him in the midst of them, and having often attempted to take Him by their own or by others' hands without being able; they were not even so awed by His power, but set themselves to their wickedness, and desisted not. For it saith, that they continually made the attempt; "These words spake He in the treasury, teaching in the Temple; and no man laid hands on Him." He spake in the Temple, and in the character of teacher, which was more adapted to rouse them, and He spake those things because of which they were stung, and charged Him with making Himself equal to the Father. For "the witness of two men is true," proveth this. Yet still "He spake these words," It saith, "in the Temple," in the character of teacher, "and no man laid hands on Him, for His hour was not yet come"; that is, it was not yet the fitting time at which He would be crucified. So that even then1 the deed done was not of their power, but of His dispensation, for they had long desired, but had not been able, nor would they even then have been able, except He had consented.
Ver. 21. "Then said Jesus unto them, I go My way, and ye shall seek Me."
Why saith He this continually? To shame and terrify their souls; for observe what fear this saying caused in them. Although they desired to kill Him that they might be rid of Him, they yet ask, "whither He goeth," such great things did they imagine from the matter. He desired also to show them another thing, that the deed would not be effected through their force; but He showed it to them in a figure beforehand, and already foretold the Resurrection by these words.
Ver. 22. "Then said the Jews, Will he kill himself?"
What then doth Christ? To remove their suspicion, and to show that such an act is sin, He saith,
Ver. 23. "Ye are from beneath."
What He saith, is of this kind: "It is no wonder that ye imagine such things, ye who are carnal men, and have no spiritual thoughts, but I shall not do anything of the kind, for,
"I am from above; ye are of the world."
Here again He speaketh of their worldly andcarnal imaginations, whence it is clear that the, "I am not of this world," doth not mean that He had not taken upon Him flesh, but that He was far removed from their wickedness. For He even saith, that His disciples were "not of the world" (c. xv. 19), yet they had flesh. As then Paul, when he saith, "Ye are not in the flesh" (Rom. viii. 9), doth not mean that they are incorporeal, so Christ when He saith, that His disciples are "not of the world," cloth nothing else than testify to their heavenly wisdom.
Ver. 24. "I said therefore unto you that...if ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins."
For if He came to take away the sin of the world, and if it is impossible for men to put that off in any other way except by the washing, it needs must be that he that believeth not must depart hence, having2 the old man; since he that will not by faith slay and bury that old man, shall die in him, and shall go away to that place to suffer the punishment of His former sins. Wherefore He said, "He that believeth not is judged already" (c. iii. 18); not merely through his not believing, but because he departeth parteth hence having his former sins upon him.
Ver. 25. "Then said they unto Him, Who art thou?"
Oh folly! After so long a time, such signs and teaching, they ask, "Who art thou?" What then saith Christ?
"The same that I told you from the beginning."
What He saith, is of this kind; "Ye are not worthy to hear My words at all, much less to learn who I am, for ye say all that ye do, tempting Me, and giving heed to none of My sayings. And all this I could now prove against you." For this is the sense of,
Ver. 26. "I have many things to say and to judge of you."
"I could not only prove you guilty, but also punish you; but He that sent Me, that is, theFather, willeth not this. For I am come not to judge the world, but to save the world, since God sent not His Son to judge the world, He saith, but to save the world. (c. iii. 17.) If now He hath sent Me for this, and He is true, with good cause I judge no one now. But these things I speak that are for your salvation, not what are for your condemnation." He speaketh thus, lest they should deem that it was through weakness that on hearing so much from them He went not to extremities, or that He knew not their secret thoughts and scoffings.
Ver. 27. "They understood not that He spake to them of the Father."
Oh folly! He ceased not to speak concerning Him, and they knew Him not. Then when after working many signs, and teaching them, He drew them not to Himself, He next speaketh to them of the Cross, saying,
Ver. 28, 29. "When ye have lifted up the Son of Man, then ye shall know that I Am, and that I speak not3 of Myself, and that He that sent Me is with Me. And the Father hath not left Me alone."
[2.] He showeth that He rightly said, "the same that I said unto you from the beginning." So little heed they gave to His words. "When ye have lifted up the Son of Man." "Do ye not expect that ye then shall certainly rid yourselves of Me, and slay Me? But I tell you that then ye shall most know that I Am, by reason of the miracles, the resurrection, and the destruction (of Jerusalem)." For all these things were sufficient to manifest His power. He said not, "Then ye shall know who I am"; for, "when ye shall see," He saith, "that I stiffer nothing from death, then ye shall know that I Am, that is, the Christ, the Son of God, who govern4 all things, and am not opposed to Him."5 For which cause He addeth, "and of Myself I speak nothing." For ye shall know both My power and My unanimity with the Father. Because the, "of Myself I speak nothing," showeth that His Substance differeth not(from that of the Father), and that He uttereth nothing save that which is in the mind of the Father. "For when ye have been driven away from your place of worship, and it is not allowed you even to serve Him as hitherto, then ye shall know that He doth this to avenge Me, and because He is wroth with those who would not hear Me." As though He had said, "Had I been an enemy and a stranger to God, He would not have stirred up such wrath against you." This also Esaias declareth, "He shall give the wicked in return for His burial" (Isa. liii. 9, Isa. liii. 9 LXX.); and David, "Then shall He speak unto them in His wrath" (Ps. ii. 5); and Christ Himself, "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate." (Matt. xxiii. 38.) And His parables declare the same thing when He saith, "What shall the Lord of that vineyard do to those husbandmen? He shall miserably destroy those wicked men." (Matt. xxi. 40, 41.) Seest thou that everywhere He speaketh thus, because He is not yet believed? But if He will destroy them, as He will, (for, "Bring hither," It saith, "those which would not that I should reign over them, and slay them,") wherefore saith He that the deed is not His, but His Father's? He addresseth Himself to their weakness, and at the same time honoreth Him that begat Him. Wherefore He said not, "I leave your house desolate," but, it "is left"; He hath put it impersonally. But by saying, "How often would I have gathered your children together-and ye would not," and then adding, "is left," He showeth that He wrought the desolation. "For since," He telleth them, "when ye were benefited and healed of your infirmities, ye would not know Me, ye shall know by being punished who I am."
"And the Father is with Me." That they may not deem the "who sent Me" to be a mark of inferiority, He saith, "is with Me"; the first belongeth to the Dispensation, the second to the Godhead.
"And He hath not left Me alone," for I do always those things that please Him.
Again He hath brought down His discourse to a humbler strain, continually setting Himself against that which they asserted, that He was not of God, and that He kept not the Sabbath. To this He replieth, "I do always those things that are pleasing unto Him"; showing that it was pleasing unto Him even that the Sabbath should be broken. So, for instance, just before the Crucifixion He said, "Think ye that I cannot call upon My Father?" (Matt. xxvi. 53.) And yet by merely saying, "Whom seek ye?" (c. xviii. 4, 6) He cast them down backwards. Why then saith He not, "Think ye that I cannot destroy you," when He had proved this by deed? He condescendeth to their infirmity. For He took great pains to show that He did nothing contrary to the Father. Thus He speaketh rather after the manner of a man; and as "He hath not left Me alone," was spoken, so also was the, "I do always those things that are pleasing unto Him."
Ver. 30. "As He spake these words, many believed on Him."
When He brought down His speech to a lowly strain, many believed on Him. Dost thou still ask wherefore He speaketh humbly? Yet the Evangelist clearly alluded to this when he said, "As He spake these things, many believed on Him." By this all but proclaiming aloud to us, "Oh hearer, be not confounded if thou hear any lowly expression, for they who after such high teaching were not yet persuaded that He was of the Father, were with good reason made to hear humbler words, that they might believe." And this is an excuse for those things which shall be spoken in a humble way. They believed then, yet not as they ought, but carelessly and as it were by chance, beingpleased and refreshed by the humility of the words. For that they had not perfect faith the Evangelist shows by their speeches after this, in which they insult Him again. And that these are the very same persons he has declared by saying,
Ver. 31. "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on Him, If ye continue in My word."
Showing that they had not yet received His doctrine, but only gave heed unto His words. Wherefore He speaketh more sharply. Before He merely said, "Ye shall seek Me" (c. vii. 34), but now He addeth what is more, "Ye shall die in your sins." (c. viii. 21.) And He showeth how; "because ye cannot when ye are come to that place afterwards entreat Me."
"These things which I speak unto the world."6 By these words He showed that He was now going forth to the Gentiles. But because they still knew not that He spake to them of the Father, He again speaketh of Him, and the Evangelist hath put the reason of the humility of the expressions.
[3.] If now we will thus search the Scriptures, exactly and not carelessly, we shall be able to attain unto our salvation; if we continually dwell upon them, we shall learn right doctrine and a perfect life. For although a man be very hard, and stubborn, and proud, and profit nothing at other times, yet at least he shall gain fruit from this time, and receive benefit, ifnot so great as to admit of his being sensible of it, still he shall receive it. For if a man who passes by an ointment-maker's shop, or sitteth in one, is impregnated with the perfume even against his will, much more is this the case with one who cometh to church. For as idleness is born of idleness, so too from working is generated a ready mind. Although thou art full of ten thousand sins, although thou art impure, shun not the tarrying here. "Wherefore," it may be said, "when hearing I do not?" It is no small profit to deem one's self wretched; this fear is not useless, this dread is not unseasonable. If only thou groanest that, "hearing I do not," thou wilt certainly come also to the doing at some time or other. For it cannot be that he who speaks with God, and hears God speak, should not profit. We compose ourselves at once and wash our hands when we desire to take the Bible into them. Seest thou even before the reading what reverence is here? And if we go on with exactness, we shall reap great advantage. For we should not, unless it served to place the soul in reverence, have washed our hands; and a woman if she be unveiled straightway puts on her veil, giving proof of internal reverence, and a man if he be covered bares his head. Seest thou how the outward behavior proclaims the inward reverence?Then moreover he that sits to hear groans often, and condemns his present life.
Let us then, beloved, give heed to the Scriptures, and if no other part be so, let the Gospels at least be the subjects of our earnest care, let us keep them in our hands. For straightway when thou hast opened the Book thou shalt see the name of Christ there, and shalt hear one say, "The birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise. When His mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, she was found with Child of the Holy Ghost." (Matt. i. 18.) He that heareth this will immediately desire virginity, will marvel at the Birth, will be freed from earthly things. It is not a little thing when thou seest the Virgin deemed worthy of the Spirit, and an Angel talking with her. And this upon the very surface; but if thou perseverest to go on unto the end, thou shall loathe all that pertains to this life, shalt mock at all worldly things. If thou art rich, thou shalt think nothing of wealth, when thou hearest that she who was (the wife) of a carpenter, and of humble family, became the mother of thy Lord. If thou art poor thou shall not be ashamed of thy poverty, when thou hearest that the Creator of the world was not ashamed of the meanest dwelling. Considering this, thou wilt not rob, thou wilt not covet, thou wilt not take the goods of others, but wilt rather be a lover of poverty, and despise wealth. And if this be the case, thou shalt banish all evil. Again, when thou seest Him lying in a manger, thou wilt not be anxious to put golden garments about thy child, or to cause thy wife's couch to be inlaid with silver. And if thou carest not for these things, thou wilt not do either the deeds of covetousness and rapine, which are caused by them. Many other things you may gain which I cannot separately enumerate, but they will know who have made the trial. Wherefore I exhort you both to obtain Bibles, and to retain together with the Bibles the sentiments they set forth, and to write them in your minds. The Jews because they gave no heed were commanded to suspend their books from their hands;7 but we place them not even in our hands but in our house, when we ought to stamp them on our heart. Thus cleansing our present life, we shall obtain the good things that are to come to which may we all attain, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.