Early Church Fathers
John xii. 25, 26.-"He that loveth his life shall lose it, and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve Me, let him follow Me."
[1.] Sweet is the present life, and full of much pleasure, yet not to all, but to those who are riveted to it. Since, if any one look to heaven and see the beauteous things there, he will soon despise this life, and make no account of it. Just as the beauty of an object is admired while none more beautiful is seen, but when a better appears, the former is despised. If then we would choose to look to that beauty, and observe the splendor of the kingdom there, we should soon free ourselves from our present chains; for a kind of chain it is, this sympathy with present things. And hear what Christ saith to bring us in to this, "He that loveth his life shall lose it, and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal; if any man serve Me let him follow Me"; and, "Where I am, there is1 My servant also." The words seem like a riddle, yet they are not so, but are full of much wisdom. But how shall "he that loveth his life, lose it"? When he doeth its unseemly desires, when he gratifies it where he ought not. Wherefore one exhorteth us, saying, "Walk not in the desires of thy soul" (Ecclus. xviii. 30); for so wilt thou destroy it since it leadeth away from the path leading to virtue; just as, on the contrary, "he that hateth it in this world, shall save it." But what meaneth, "He that hateth it"? He who yields not to it when it commands what is pernicious. And He said not," he that yieldeth not to it," but, "He that hateth it"; for as we cannot endure even to hear the voice of those we hate, nor to look upon them with pleasure, so from the soul also we must turn away with vehemence, when it commands things contrary to what is pleasing to God. For since He was now about to say much to them concerning death, His own death, and saw that they were dejected2 and desponding, He spake very strongly, saying, "What say I? If ye bear not valiantly My death? Nay, if ye die not yourselves, ye will gain nothing." Observe also how He softens the discourse. It was a very grievous and sad thing to be told, that the man who loves life should die. And why speak I of old times, when even now we shall find many gladly enduring to suffer anything. in order to enjoy the present life, and this too when they are persuaded concerning things to come; who when they behold buildings, and works of art, and contrivances, weep, uttering the reflection, "How many things man inventeth, and yet becometh dust!So great is the longing after this present life." To undo these bonds then, Christ saith, "He that hateth his soul in this world, shall keep it unto life eternal." For that thou mayest know that He spake as exhorting them, and dissipating their fear, hear what comes next.
"If any man serve Me, let him follow Me."
Speaking of death, and requiring the following which is by works. For certainly he that serveth must follow him who is served. And observe at what time He said these things to them; not when they were persecuted, but when they were confident; when they thought they were in safety on account of the honor and attention of the many, when they might rouse themselves and hear, "Let him take up his cross, and follow Me" (Matt. xvi. 24); that is, "Be ever,"3 He saith, "prepared against dangers, against death, against your departure hence." Then after He had spoken what was hard to bear, He putteth also the prize. And of what kind was this? The following Him, and being where He is; showing that Resurrection shall succeed death. For, saith He,
"Where I am, there is4 My servant also."
But where is Christ? In heaven. Let us therefore even before the Resurrection remove thither in soul and mind.
"If any man serve Me, the Father shall love5 him."
Why said He not, "I"? Because they did not as yet hold a right opinion concerning Him, but held a higher opinion of the Father. For how could they imagine anything great concerning Him, who did not even know that He was to rise again? Wherefore He said to the sons of Zebedee, "It is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared by my Father" (Mark x. 40), yet He it is that judgeth. But in this passage He also establisheth His genuine sonship.6 For as the servants of His own Son, so will the Father receive them.
Ver. 27. "Now is My soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour."
"But surely this is not7 the expression of one urging them to go even to death." Nay, it is that of one greatly so urging them. For lest they should say, that "He being exempt from mortal pains easily philosophizes on death, and exhorts us being himself in no danger," He showeth, that although feeling its agony,8 on account of its profitableness He declineth it not. But these things belong to the Dispensation, not the Godhead. Wherefore He saith, "Now is My soul troubled"; since if this be not the case, What connection hath that which was spoken, and His saying, "Father, save Me from this hour"? And so troubled, that He even sought deliverance from death, if at least it were possible to escape. These were the infirmities of His human nature.
[2.] "But," He saith, "I have not what to say, when asking for deliverance."
"For for this cause came I unto this hour."
As though He had said, "Though we be confounded, though we be troubled, let us not fly from death, since even now I though troubled do not speak of flying; for it behooveth to bear what is coming on. I say not, Deliver Me from this hour," but what?
Ver. 28. "Father, glorify Thy Name."
"Although My trouble urges Me to say this,9 yet I say the opposite, `Glorify Thy Name,' that is, Lead Me henceforth to the Cross"; which greatly shows His humanity, and a nature unwilling to die, but clinging to the present life, proving that He was not exempt from human feelings. For as it is no blame to be hungry, or to sleep, so neither is it to desire the present life; and Christ indeed had a body pure from sin, yet not free from natural wants, for then it would not have been a body. By these words also He taught something else. Of what kind is that? That if ever we be in agony and dread, we even then start not back from that which is set before us; and by saying,10 "Glorify Thy Name" He showeth that He dieth for the truth calling the action, "glory to God." And this fell out after the Crucifixion. The world was about to be converted, to acknowledge the Name of God, and to serve Him, not the Name of the Father only, but also that of the Son; yet still as to this He is silent.
"There came therefore a Voice from Heaven, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again."
When had He "glorified it"? By what had been done before; and "I will glorify it again" after the Cross. What then said Christ?
Ver. 30.11 "This Voice came not because of Me, but for your sakes."
They thought that it thundered, or that an Angel spake to Him. And how did they think this? Was not the voice clear and distinct? It was, but it quickly flew away from them as being of the grosset sort, carnal and slothful. And some of them caught the sound only,12 others knew that the voice was articulate, but what itmeant, knew not. What saith Christ? "This Voice came not because of Me, but for your sakes." Why said He this? He said it, setting Himself against what they continually asserted, that He was not of God. For He who was glorified by God, how was He not from that God whose name by Him was glorified? indeed for this purpose the Voice came. Wherefore He saith Himself, "This Voice came not because of Me, but for your sakes," "not that I may learn by it anything of which I am ignorant, (for I know all that belongeth to the Father,) but for your sakes." For when they said, "An Angel hath spoken unto Him," or "It hath thundered," and gave not heed to Him, He saith, "it was for your sakes," that even so ye might be led to enquire what the words meant. But they, being excited, did not even so enquire, though they heard that the matter related to them. For to one who knew not wherefore it was uttered, the Voice naturally appeared indistinct. "The Voice came for your sakes."Seest thou that these lowly circumstances take place on their account, not as though the Son needeth help?
Ver. 31. "Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the prince of this world be cast down."13
What connection hath this with, "I have glorified, and will glorify"? Much, and closely harmonizing. For when God saith, "I will glorify," He showeth the manner of the glorifying. What is it? That one14 should be cast down. But what is, "the judgment of this world"? It is as though He said, "there shall be a tribunal and a retribution." How and in what way? "He15 slew the first man, having found him guilty of sin, (for `by sin death entered'-Rom. v. 12 ;) but in Me this he found not. Why then did he spring upon Me and give Me over to death? Why did he put into the mind of Judas to destroy Me?" (Tell me not that it was God's dispensation, for this belongeth not to the devil, but His wisdom; for the present let the disposition of that evil one be enquired into.) "How then is the world judged in Me?" It shall be said, as if a court of justice were sitting, to Satan, "Well, thou hast slain all men, because thou didst find them guilty of sin. But why didst thou slay Christ? Is it not clear that thou didst it wrongfully?" Therefore in Him the whole world shall be avenged. But, that this may be still more clear, I will make it plain by an exam- ple. Suppose there is some cruel tyrant, bringing ten thousand evils on all those who fall into his hands. If such a one engaging with a king, or a king's son, slay him unjustly, his death will have power to get revenge for the others also. Suppose there is one who demands payment of his debtors, that he beats them and casts them into prison; then from the same recklessness that he leads to the same dungeon one who owes him nothing: such a man shall suffer punishment for what he hath done to the others. For that one shall destroy him.
[3.] So also it is in the case of the Son; for of those things which the devil hath done against us, of these shall the penalty be required by means of what he hath dared against Christ. And to show that He implieth this, hear what He saith; "Now shall the prince of this world be cast down," "by My Death."
Ver. 32. "And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me."
That is, "even those of the Gentiles." And that no one may ask, "How shall he be cast down, if he is stronger even than Thou art?" He saith, "He is not stronger; how can he bestronger than One who draweth others to Him?"And He speaketh not of the Resurrection, but of what is more than the Resurrection, "I will draw all men to Myself." For had He said, "I shall rise again," it was not yet clear that theywould believe; but by His saying, "they shall believe," both are proved at once, both this, and also that He must rise again. For had He continued dead, and been a mere man, no one would have believed. "I will draw all men to Myself." (c. vi. 44.) How then said He that the Father draweth? Because when the Son draweth, the Father draweth also. He saith, "I will draw them," as though they were detained by a tyrant, and unable of themselves alone to approach Him, and to escape the hands of him who keepeth hold of them. In another place He calleth this "spoiling; no man can16 spoil a strong man's goods, except he first bind the strong man, and then spoil his goods." (Matt. xii. 29.) This He said to prove His strength,and what there He calleth "spoiling," He hath here called "drawing."
Knowing then these things, let us rouse ourselves, let us glorify God, not by our faith alone, but also by our life, since otherwise it would not be glory, but blasphemy. For God is not so much blasphemed by an impure heathen, as by a corrupt Christian. Wherefore I entreat you to do all that God may be glorified; for, "Woe," it saith, "to that servant by whom the Name of God is blasphemed," (and wherever there is a "woe," every punishment and vengeance straightway follows,) "but blessed is he by whom that Name is glorified." Let us then not be as in darkness, but avoid all sins, and especially those which tend to the hurt of others, since by these. God is most blasphemed. What pardon shall we have, when, being commanded to give to others, we plunder the property of others? What shall be our hope of salvation? Thou art punished if thou hast not fed the hungry; but if thou hast even stripped one who was clothed, what sort of pardon shalt thou obtain? These things I will never desist from saying, for they who have not heard to-day perhaps will hear tomorrow, and they who take no heed to-morrow perhaps will be persuaded the next day; and even if any be so disposed as not to be persuaded, yet for us there will be no account to give of them at the Judgment. Our part we have fulfilled; may we never have cause to be ashamed of our words, nor you to hide your faces, but may all be able to stand with boldness before the judgment-seat of Christ, that we also may be able to rejoice over you, and to have some compensation of our own faults, in your being approved in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory for ever. Amen.