Early Church Fathers
John xviii. 1.-"When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which He entered, and His disciples."
[1.] An awful thing is death, and very full of terror, but not to those who have learnt the true wisdom which is above. For he that knows nothing certain concerning things to come, but deems it1 to be a certain dissolution and end of life, with reason shudders and is afraid, as though he were passing into non-existence. But we who, by the grace of God, have learnt the hidden and secret things of His wisdom, and deem the action to be a departure to another place, should have no reason to tremble, but rather to rejoice and be glad, that leaving this perishable life we go to one far better and brighter, and which hath no end. Which Christ teaching by His actions, goeth to His Passion, not by constraint and necessity, but willingly. "These things," it saith, "Jesus spake, and departed `beyond the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which He entered, and His disciples.'"
Ver. 2. "Judas also, which betrayed Him, knew the place; for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with His disciples."
He journeyeth at midnight, and crosseth a river, and hasteth to come to a place known to the traitor, lessening the labor to those who plotted against Him, and freeing them from all trouble; and showeth to the disciples that He came willingly to the action, (a thing which was most of all sufficient to comfort them,) and placeth Himself in the garden as in a prison.
"These things spake Jesus unto them." "What sayest thou?2 Surely He was speaking with the Father, surely He was praying. Why then dost thou not say that, `having ceased from the prayer,' He came there?" Because it was not prayer, but a speech made on account of the disciples. "And the disciples entered into the garden." He had so freed them from fear that they no longer resisted, but entered with Him into the garden. But how came Judas there, or whence had he gained his information when he came? It is evident from this circumstance, that Jesus generally3 passed the night out of doors.4 For had He been in the habit of spending it at home, Judas would not have come to the desert, but to the house, expecting there to find Him asleep. And lest, hearing of a "garden," thou shouldest think that Jesus hid Himself, it addeth, that "Judas knew the place";and not simply so,5 but that He "often resorted thither with His disciples." For ofttimes He was with them apart, conversing on necessarymatters, and such as it was not permitted to others to hear. And He did this especially in mountains and gardens, seeking a place freefrom disturbance, that their attention might not be distracted from listening.
Ver. 3. "Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the Chief Priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns, and torches, and weapons."
And these men had often at other times sentto seize Him, but had not been able; whence it is plain, that at this time He voluntarily surrendered Himself. And how did they persuade the band? They were soldiers,6 who had made it their practice to do anything for money.
Ver. 4. "Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon Him, went forth, and said, Whom seek ye?"
That is, He did not wait to learn this from their coming, but spake and acted without confusion, as knowing all these things. "But why come they with weapons, when about to seize Him?" They feared His followers, and for this reason they came upon Him late at night. "And He went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye?"
Ver. 5. "They answered Him, Jesus of Nazareth."7 )
Seest thou His invincible power, how being in the midst of them He disabled their eyes? for that the darkness was not the cause of their not knowing Him, the Evangelist hath shown, by saying, that they had torches also. And even had there been no torches, they ought at least to have known Him by His voice; or if they did not know it, how could Judas be ignorant, who had been so continually with Him? for he too stood with them, and knew Him no more than they, but with them fell backward. And Jesus did this to show, that not only they could not seize Him, but could not even see Him when in the midst, unless He gave permission.
Ver. 7. "He saith again, Whom seek ye?"8 What madness! His word threw them backward, yet not even so did they turn, when they had learnt that His power was so great, but again set themselves to the same attempt. When therefore He had fulfilled all that was His, then He gave Himself up.
Ver. 8. "He answered, I told you that I Am." (Ver. 5. "And Judas also which betrayed Him stood with them.")
See the forbearance9 of the Evangelist, how he doth not insult over the traitor, but relates what took place, only desiring to prove one thing, that the whole took place withHis own consent. Then, lest any one should say that He Himself brought them to this, by having placed Himself into their hands, and revealed Himself to them; after having shown to them all things which should have been sufficient to repulse them, when they persevered in their wickedness, and had no excuse, He put Himself in their hands, saying,
"If therefore ye seek Me, let these go their Way."
Manifesting until the last hour His lovingkindness towards them. "If," He saith, "ye want Me, have nothing to do with these, for, behold, I give Myself up."
Ver. 9. "That the saying might be fulfilled which He spake, Of those which Thou gavest Me have I lost none."
By "loss"10 He doth not here mean that which is of death, but that which is eternal; though the Evangelist in the present case includes the former also. And one might wonder why they did not seize them with Him, and cut them to pieces, especially when Peter had exasperated them by what he did to the servant. Who then restrained them? No other than that Power which cast them backward. And so the Evangelist, to show that it did not come to pass through their intention, but by the power and decree of Him whom they had seized, has added, "That the saying might be fulfilled which He spake," that "not one, &c." (c. xvii. 12.)
[2.] Peter, therefore, taking courage from His voice, and from what had already happened, arms himself against the assailants,11 "And how," saith some one, "doth he who was bidden not to have a scrip, not to have two coats, possess a sword?" Methinks he had prepared it long before, as fearing this very thing which came to pass. But if thou sayest, "How doth he, who was forbidden even to strike a blow with the hand, become a manslayer?" He certainly had been commanded not to defend himself, but here he did not defend himself, but his Master. And besides, they were not as yet perfect or complete. But if thou desirest to see Peter endued with heavenly wisdom, thou shalt after this behold him wounded, and bearing it meekly, suffering ten thousand dreadful things, and not moved to anger. But Jesus here also worketh a miracle, both showing that we ought to do good to those who do evil to us, and revealing His own power. He therefore restored the servant's ear, and said to Peter, that "All they that take the sword shall perish by the sword" (Matt. xxvi. 52); and as He did in the case of the basin, when He relaxed his vehemence12 by a threat, so also here. The Evangelist adds the name of the servant, because the thing done was very great, not only because He healed him, but because He healed one who had come against Him, and who shortly after would buffet Him, and because He stayed the war which was like to have been kindled from this circumstance against the disciples. For this cause the Evangelist hath put the name, so that the men of that time might search and enquire diligently whether these things had really come to pass. And not without a cause doth he mention the "right ear," but as I think desiring to show the impetuosity of the Apostle, that he almost aimed at the head itself. Yet Jesus not only restraineth him by a threat, but also calmeth him by other words, saying,
Ver. 11. "The cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?"13
Showing, that what was done proceeded not from their power, but from His consent, and declaring that He was not one opposed to God but obedient to the Father even unto death.
Ver. 12, 13. "Then Jesus was taken; and they bound Him, and led Him away to Annas."14
Why to Annas? In their pleasure they made a show of15 what had been done, as though forsooth they had set up a trophy."And he was father-in-law to Caiaphas."
Ver. 14. "Now Caiaphas was he which gave counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people."
Why doth the Evangelist again remind us of his prophecy? To show that these things were done for our salvation. And such is the exceeding force of truth, that even enemies proclaimed these things beforehand. For lest the listener, hearing of bonds, should be confounded, he reminds him of that prophecy, that the death of Jesus was the salvation of the world.
Ver. 15. "And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple."16
Who is that other disciple? It is the writer himself. "And wherefore doth he not name himself? When he lay on the bosom of Jesus, he with reason concealed his name; but now why doth he this?" For the same reason, for here too he mentions a great good deed, that when all had started away,17 he followed. Therefore he conceals himself, and puts Peter before him. He was obliged to mention himself, that thou mightest understand that he narrates more exactly than the rest what took placein the hall, as having been himself within. But observe how he detracts from his own praise; for, lest any one should ask, "How, when all had retreated, did this man enter in farther than Simon?" he saith, that he "was known to the high priest." So that no one should wonder that he followed, or cry himup for his manliness. But the wonder was that matter of Peter, that being in such fear, he came even as far as the hall, when the others had retreated. His coming thither Was caused by love, his not entering within by distress and fear. For the Evangelist hath recorded these things, to clear a way for excusing his denial; with regard to himself, he doth not set it down as any great matter that he was known to the high priest, but since he had said that he alone with Jesus went in, lest thou shouldest suppose that the action proceeded from any exalted feelings, he puts also the cause. And that Peter would have also entered had he been permitted, he shows by the sequel; for when he went out, and bade the damsel who kept the door bring in Peter, he straightway came in. But why did he not bring him in himself? He clung to Christ, and followed Him; on this account he bade18 the woman bring him in. What then saith the woman?
Ver. 17. "Art not thou also one of this man's disciples? And he saith, I am not."19
What sayest thou, Peter? Didst thou not declare but now, "If need be that I lay down my life for Thee, I will lay it down"? What hath happened then, that thou canst not even endure the questioning of a door-keeper? Is it a soldier who questions thee? Is it one of those who seized Him? No, it is a mean and abject door-keeper, nor is the questioning of a rough kind.20 She saith not, "Art thou a disciple of that cheat and corrupter," but, "of that man," which was the expression rather of one pitying and relenting.21 But Peter could not bear any of these words. The, "Art not thou also," is said on this account, that John was within. So mildly did the woman speak. But he perceived none of this, nor took it into his mind, neither the first time, nor the second, nor the third, but when the cock crew; nor did this even bring him to his senses, till Jesus gave him the bitter look. And he stood warming himself22 with the servants of the high priest, but Christ was kept bound within. This we say not as accusing Peter, but showing the truth of what had been said by Christ.
Ver. 19. "The high priest then asked Jesus of His disciples, and of His doctrine."
[3.] O the wickedness! Though he had continually heard Him speaking in the temple and teaching openly, he now desires to be informed. For since they had no charge to bring, they enquired concerning His disciples, perhaps where they were, and why He had collected them, and with what intention, and on what terms. And this he said, as desiring to prove Him to be a seditious person and an innovator, since no one gave heed to Him, except them alone, as though His were some factory of wickedness. What then saith Christ? To overthrow this, He saith,
Ver. 20. "I spake openly to the world, (not to the disciples privately,) I taught openly in, the temple."23
"What then, said He nothing in secret?" He did, but not, as they thought, from fear, and to make conspiracies, but if at any time His sayings were too high for the hearing of the many.
Ver. 21. "Why askest thou Me? Ask them which heard Me."24
These are not the words of one speaking arrogantly, but of one confiding in the truth of what He had said. What therefore He said at the beginning, "If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true" (c. v. 31), this He now implieth, desiring to render His testimony abundantly credible. For when Annas mentioned the disciples,25 what saith He? "Dost thou ask Me concerning Mine? Ask Mine enemies, ask those who have plotted against Me, who have bound Me; let them speak." This is an unquestionable proof of truth, when one calls his enemies to be witnesses to what he saith. What then doth the high priest? When it would have been right thus to have made the enquiry, that person did not so.
Ver. 22. "And when he had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by smote Him with the palm of his hand."26
What could be more audacious than this? Shudder, O heaven, be astounded, O earth, at the long-suffering of the Lord, and the senselessness of the servants! Yet what was it that He said? He said not, "Why askest thou Me," as if refusing to speak, but wishing to remove every pretext for senseless behavior; and being upon this buffeted, though He was able to shake, to annihilate, or to remove all things, He doth not any one of these, but speaketh words able to relax any brutality.
Ver. 23. "And He saith, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil."27
That is, "If thou canst lay hold on My words, declare it; but if thou canst not, why strikest thou Me?" Seest thou that the judgment-hall is full of tumult, and trouble, and passion, and confusion? The high priest asked deceitfully and treacherously, Christ answered in a straightforward manner, and as was meet. What then was next to be done? Either to refute, or to accept what He said. This however is not done, but a servant buffets Him. So far was this from being a court of justice, and the proceedings those of a conspiracy, and a deed of tyranny. Then not having even so made any farther discovery, they send Him bound to Caiaphas.28
Ver. 25. "And Simon Peter stood and warmed himself."
Wonderful, by what a lethargy29 that hot and furious one was possessed, when Jesus was being led away! After such things as had taken place, he doth not move, but still warms himself, that thou mayest learn how great is the weakness of our nature if God abandoneth. And, being questioned, he denies again.30
Ver. 26. Then saith "the kinsman31 of him whose ear Peter cut off, (grieving at what had taken place,) Did I not see thee in the garden?"32
But neither did the garden bring him to remember what had taken place,33 nor the great affection which Jesus there had shown by those words, but all these from pressure of anxiety he banished from his mind. But why have the Evangelists with one accord written concerning him? Not as accusing the disciple, but as desiring to teach us, how great an evil it is not to commit all to God, but to trust to one's self. But do thou admire the tender care of his Master, who, though a prisoner and bound, took great forethought for His disciple, raising Peter up, when he was down, by His look, and launching him into a sea of tears.34
"They lead Him therefore from Caiaphas to Pilate."35
This was done, in order that the number of His judges might show, even against their will, how fully tested was His truth. "And it was early." Before cock crow He was brought to Caiaphas, early in the morning to Pilate; whence the Evangelist shows, that being questioned by Caiaphas during an entire half of the night, He was in nothing proved guilty; wherefore Caiaphas sent Him on to Pilate. But leaving these things for the others to relate, John speaks of what follows next. And observe the ridiculous conduct of the Jews. They who had seized the innocent, and taken up arms, do not enter into the hall of judgment, "lest they should be polluted." And tell me, what kind of pollution was it to set foot in a judgment-hall, where wrong-doers suffer justice? They who paid tithes of mint and anise, did not think they were polluted when bent on killing unjustly, but thought that they polluted themselves by even treading in a court of justice. "And why did they not kill Him, instead of bringing Him to Pilate?" In the first place, the greater part of their rule and authority had been cut away, when their affairs were placed under the power of the Romans; and besides, they feared lest they should afterwards be accused and punished by Him. "But what is, `That they might eat the Passover?' For He had done this on the first day of unleavened bread." Either he calls the whole feast "the Passover," or means, that they were then keeping the Passover, while He delivered it to His followers one day sooner, reserving His own Sacrifice for36 the Preparation-day, when also of old the Passover was celebrated. But they, though they had taken up arms, which was unlawful, and were shedding blood, are scrupulous about the place, and bring forth Pilate to them.
Ver. 29. "And having gone out, he said. What accusation bring ye against this man?"
[4.] Seest thou that he was free from37 fondness for rule and from malice? For seeing Jesus bound, and led by so many persons, he did not think that they had unquestionable proof of their accusation, but questions them, thinking it astrange thing that they should take for themselves the judgment, and then committhepunishment without any judgment to him.What then say they?
Ver. 30. "If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee."
O madness! for why do ye not mention His evil deeds, instead of concealing them? Why do ye not prove the evil? Seest thou that they everywhere avoid a direct accusation, and that they can say nothing? That Annas questioned Him about His doctrine, and having heard Him, sent Him to Caiaphas; and he having in his turn questioned Him, and discovered, nothing, sent Him to Pilate. Pilate saith, "What accusation bring ye against this man?" Nor here have they anything to say, but again employ certain38 conjectures. At which Pilate being perplexed saith,
Ver. 31, 32. "Take ye him and judge him according to your law. They therefore said, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death," But this they said, "that the saying of the Lord might be fulfilled, which He spake, signifying by what death He should die."
"And how did the expression, `It is not lawful for us to put any man to death,' declare this?"Either the Evangelist means that He was about to be slain not by the Jews only, but by39 the Gentiles also, or that it was not lawful for them to crucify. But if they say, "It is not lawful for us to put any man to death," they say it with reference to that season. For that they did slay men, and that they slew them in a different way, Stephen shows, being stoned. But they desired to crucify Him, that they might make a display of the manner of His death. Pilate, wishing to be freed from trouble, doth not dismiss Him for a long trial, but,
Ver. 33, 34. "Having entered in, he asked Jesus, and said,40 Art thou the King of the Jews? Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of Me?"
Wherefore did Christ ask this? Because He desired to expose the evil intentions of the Jews. Pilate had heard this saying from many, and, since the accusers had nothing to say, in order that the enquiry might not be a long one, he desires to bring forward that which was continually reported. But when he said to them, "Judge him according to your law," wishing to show that His offense was not a Jewish one, they replied, "It is not lawful for us." "He hath not sinned against our law, but the indictment is general."41 Pilate then, having perceived this, saith, as being (himself) likely to be endangered, "Art thou the King of the Jews?" Then Jesus, not from ignorance, but from a desire that the Jews should be accused even by him, asked him, saying, "Did others tell it thee?"42 On this point then declaring himself, Pilate replied,
Ver. 35. "Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me; what hast thou done?"
Here desiring to clear himself of the matter. Then because he had said, "Art thou the King?" Jesus reproving him answereth, "This thou hast heard from the Jews. Why dost thou not make accurate enquiry? They have said that I am a malefactor; ask them what evil I have done. But this thou doest not, but art simply framing charges against Me." "Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself," or from others? Pilate then cannot at once say that he had heard it, but simply goes along with43 the people, saying, "They have delivered thee unto me." "I must needs therefore ask thee what thou hast done." What then saith Christ?
Ver. 36. "My Kingdom is not of this world."
He leadeth upwards Pilate who was not a very wicked man, nor after their fashion, and desireth to show that He is not a mere man, but God and the Son of God And what saith He?
"If My Kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews."44
He undoeth that which Pilate for a while had feared, namely, the suspicion of seizing kingly power, "Is then His kingdom not of this world also?"45 Certainly it is. "How then saith He it `is not'?" Not because He doth not rule here, but because He hath his empire from above, and because it is not human, but far greater than this and more splendid. "If then it be greater, how was He made captive by the other?" By consenting, and giving Himself up. But He doth not at present reveal46 this, but what saith He? "If I had been of this world, `My servants would fight, that I should not be delivered.'" Here He showeth the weakness of kingship among us, that its strength lies in servants; but that which is above is sufficient for itself, needing nothing. From this the heretics taking occasion say, that He is different from the Creator. What then, when it saith, "He came to His own"? (c. i. 11.) What, when Himself saith, "They are not of this world, as I am not of this world"? (c. xvii. 14.) So also He saith that His kingdom is not from hence, not depriving the world of His providence and superintendence, but showing, as I said, that His power was not human or perishable. What then said Pilate?
Ver. 37. "Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a King. To this end was I born."
If then He was born a king, all His other attributes are by Generation, and He hath nothing which He received in addition. So that when thou hearest that, "As the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son also to have life" (c. v. 26), deem of nothing else but His generation, and so of the rest.
"And for this cause came I,47 that I should bear witness unto the truth."
That is, "that I should speak this very thing, and teach it, and persuade all men."
[5.] But do thou, O man, when thou hearest these things, and seest thy Lord bound and led about, deem present things to be nought. For how can it be otherwise than strange, if Christ bore such things for thy sake, and thou often canst not endure even words? He is spit upon, and dost thou deck thyself with garments and rings, and, if thou gain not good report from all, think life unbearable? He is insulted, beareth mockings, and scornful blows upon the cheek; and dost thou wish everywhere to be honored, and bearest thou not the reproaching of Christ? Hearest thou not Paul saying, "Be ye imitators48 of me, even as I also am of Christ"?(1 Cor. xi. 1.) When therefore any one makes a jest of thee, remember thy Lord, that in mockery they bowed the knee before Him, and worried49 Him both by words and deeds, and treated Him with much irony; but He not only did not defend Himself, but even repaid them with the contraries, with mildness and gentleness. Him now let us emulate; so shall we be enabled even to be delivered from all insult. For it is not the insulter that gives effect to acts of insult, and makes them biting, but he who is little of soul, and is pained by them. If thou art not pained, thou hast not been insulted; for the suffering from injuries depends not on those who inflict, but on those who undergo them. Why dost thou grieve at all? If a man hath insulted thee unjustly, in this case surely thou oughtest not to grieve at all, but to pity him; if justly, much more oughtest thou to keep quiet. For should any one address thee, a poor man, as though thou wert rich, the praise contained in his words is nothing to thee, but his encomium is rather mockery; and so if one insulting thee utter things that are untrue, the reproach is nothing to thee either. But if conscience takes hold of what hath been said, be not grieved at the words, but make correction in deeds. This I say with regard to what really are insults. For if one reproach thee with poverty or low birth, laugh at him.50 These things are a reproach not to the hearer, but to the speaker, as not knowing true wisdom. "But," saith some one, "when these things are said in the presence of many who are ignorant of the truth, the wound becomes unbearable." Nay, it is most bearable, when you have an audience present of witnesses praising and applauding you, scoffing at and making a jest of him. For not he that defends himself, but he that saith nothing, is applauded by sensible persons. And if none of those present be a sensible person, then laugh at him most of all, and delight thyself in the audience of heaven. For there all will praise and applaud and welcome thee. For one Angel is as good as all the world. But why speak I of Angels, when the Lord Himself proclaimeth51 thee? Let us exercise ourselves with these reasonings. For it is no loss to be silent when insulted, but it is, on the contrary, to defend one's self when insulted. Since were it a fault silently to bear what is said, Christ would never have told us, "If one smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." (Matt. v. 39.)52 If then our enemy say what is not true, let us on this account even pity him, because he draws down upon him the punishment and vengeance of the accusers,53 being unworthy even to read the Scriptures. For to the sinner God saith, "Why declarest thou My statutes, and takest My covenant in thy mouth? Thou satest and spakest against thy brother." (Ps. l. 16 and Ps. l. 20 LXX.) And if he speak the truth, so also he is to be pitied; since even the Pharisee spake the truth; yet he did no harm to him who heard him, but rather good, while he deprived himself of ten thousand blessings, enduring shipwreck by this accusation, So that either way it is he that suffers injury, not thou; but thou, if thou art sober, wilt have double gain; both the propitiating God by thy silence, and the becoming yet more discreet, the gaining an opportunity from what hath been said to correct what has been done, and the despisingmortal glory. For this is the source of our pain, that many gape upon the opinion of men. If we are minded to be thus truly wise, we shall know well that human things are nothing. Let us learn then, and having reckoned up our faults, let us accomplish their correction in time, and let us determine to correct one this month, another next month, and athird in that which follows. And so mounting as it were by steps, let us get to heaven by a Jacob's ladder. For the ladder seems to me to signify in a riddle by that vision the gradual ascent by means of virtue, by which it is possible for us to ascend from earth to heaven, not using material steps, but improvement and correction of manners. Let us then lay hold on this means of departure and ascent, that having obtained heaven, we may also enjoy all the blessings there, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.