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904 The Disciples confirmed. The Jews question His authority.
HOMIL. Special purpose He went, and not for hunger, but for His disciples' sake, who indeed marvelled exceedingly, although many miracles had been done greater; but, as I said, this was strange, for now first He shewed forth His power to take vengeance. Wherefore not in any other, but in the moistest of all planted things did He work the miracle, so that hence also the miracle appeared greater.
And that thou mightest learn, that for their sakes this was done, that He might train them to feel confidence, hear what He saith afterwards. But what saith He? "Ye also shall do greater things, if ye are willing to believe and to be confident in prayer." Seest thou that all is done for their sake, so that they might not be afraid and tremble at plots against them? Wherefore He saith this a second time also, to make v. 21.22. them cleave to prayer and faith. "For not this only shall ye do, but also shall remove mountains; and many more things shall ye do, being confident in faith and prayer.”
But the boastful and arrogant Jews, wishing to interrupt His teaching, caine unto Him, and asked, By what authority doest Thou these things? For since they could not object against the miracles, they bring forward against Him the correction of the traffickers in the temple. And this in John also they appear to ask, although not in these words, but
1 John 2, with the same intent. For there too they say, 'What sign 18. 19. shewest Thou unto us? seeing that Thou doest these things.
But there He answers them, saying, Destroy This Temple, and I in three days will raise It up, whereas here He drives them into a difficulty. Whence it is manifest, that then indeed was the beginning and prelude of the miracles, but here the end.
But what they say is this, Hast Thou received the teacher's chair? Hast Thou been ordained a priest, that Thou didst display such authority? it is said. And yet He had done nothing implying arrogance, but had been careful for the good order of the Temple, yet nevertheless having nothing to say, they object against this. And indeed when He cast them out, they did not dare to say any thing, because of the miracles, but when He shewed Himself, then they find fault with Him.
What then saith He? He doth not answer them directly,
The witness of John. Fear of man hinders faith. 905
to shew that, if they had been willing to see His authority, they MATT. could; but He asks them again, saying, The Baptism of John, 25-31. whence is it? From Heaven, or of men?
And what sort of inference is this? The greatest surely. For if they had said, From Heaven, He would have said unto them, Why then did ye not believe him? For if they had believed, they would not have asked these things. For of Him John had said, I am not worthy to loose the latchet of His shoe'; and, Behold the Lamb of God, Which taketh John1, away the sins of the world; and, This is the Son of God; 2 ib. v. and, He that cometh from above is above all; and, His fan ib. v. is in His Hand, and He will throughly purge His floor. 34. So that if they had believed him, there was nothing to hinder them from knowing by what authority Christ doeth these Mat. 3, things.
4 John 4,
After this, because they, dealing craftily, said, We know v. 27. not, He said not, Neither know I, but what? Neither tell I you. For if indeed they had been ignorant, it would have been requisite for them to be instructed; but since they were dealing craftily, with good reason He answers them nothing.
And how was it they did not say, that the baptism was of men? They feared the people, it is said. Seest thou a v. 26. perverse heart? In every case they despise God, and do all things for the sake of men. For this man too they feared for their sakes, not reverencing the Saint, but on account of Tòv men', and they were not willing to believe in Christ, because arpa, ἄνδρα, of men, and all their evils were engendered to them from (great) hence. 7 ἀνθρώ
After this, He saith, What think ye? A certain man had Tovs two sons; and he saith to the first, Go, work to-day in the vineyard. But he answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. Whether then of them twain did the will of his father? They say, the first.
Again He convicts them by a parable, intimating both their unreasonable obstinacy, and the submissiveness of those who were utterly condemned by them. For these two children declare what came to pass with respect to both the
906 Publicans and harlots proved to be comparatively obedient.
HOMIL. Gentiles, and the Jews. For the former not having under-
But when, not understanding His sayings, they had delivered the judgment, He unfolds His concealed meaning v.31.32. after this, and saith, Publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of heaven before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not; but the Publicans believed him; and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterwards, that ye might believe him.
For if He had said simply, Harlots go before you, the word would have seemed to them to be offensive; but now, being uttered after their own judgment, it appears to be not too hard.
Therefore He adds also the accusation. What then is
And with this there is another charge also, that publicans gave heed; and with this, again another, that "not even after them did ye. For ye should have done so even before them, but not to do it even after them was to be deprived of all excuse;" and unspeakable was both the praise of the one, and the charge against the other. "To you he came, and ye
Scribes and Pharisees would not even follow them. 907
accepted him not; he came not to them, and they receive MATT. XXI. him, and not even them did ye take for instructors." 31, 32.
See by how many things is shewn the commendation of those, and the charge against these. To you he came, not to them. Ye believed not, this offended not them. They believed, this profited not you.
But the word, 'go before you,' is not as though these were following, but as having a hope, if they were willing. For nothing, so much as jealousy, rouses the grosser sort. Therefore He is ever saying, The first shall be las!, and the last first. Therefore He brought in both harlots and publicans, that they might provoke them to jealousy.
For these two indeed are chief sins, engendered of violent lust, the one of sexual desire, the other of the desire of money. And He indicates that this especially was hearing the Law of God, to believe John. For it was not of grace only, that harlots entered in, but also of righteousness. For not, as continuing harlots, did they enter in, but having obeyed and believed, and having been purified and converted, so did they enter in.
Seest thou how He rendered His discourse less offensive, and more penetrating, by the parable, by His bringing in the harlots? For neither did He say at once, Wherefore believed ye not John? but what was much more pricking, when He had put forward the publicans and the harlots, then He added this, by the order of their actions convicting their unpardonable conduct, and shewing that for fear of men they do all things, and for vain-glory. For they did not confess Christ for fear, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; and again, of John they dared not speak evil, and not even this from reverence, but for fear. All which things He convicted by His sayings, and with more severity afterwards did He go on to inflict the blow, saying, But ye, when ye knew it, repented not afterwards, that ye might believe him.
For an evil thing it is not at the first to choose the good, but it is a heavier charge not even to be brought round. For this above all maketh many wicked, which I see to be the case with some now from extreme insensibility.
But let no one be like this; but though he be sunk down
908 Example of repentance in a Courtezan at Antioch.
HOMIL. to the extremity of wickedness, let him not despair of the change for the better. For it is an easy thing to rise up out of the very abysses of wickedness.
Heard ye not how that harlot, that went beyond all in lasciviousness, outshone all in godly reverence? Not the harlot in the Gospels do I mean, but the one in our generation, who came from Phonice, that most lawless city. For she was once a harlot among us, having the first honours on the stage, and great was her name every where, not in our city only, but even as far as the Cilicians and Cappadocians. And many estates did she ruin, and many orphans did she overthrow; and many accused her of sorcery also, as weaving such toils not by her beauty of person only, but also by her drugs. This harlot once won even the brother of the empress, for mighty indeed was her tyranny.
But all at once, I know not how, or rather I do know well, for it was being so minded, and converting, and bringing down upon herself God's grace, she despised all those things, and having cast away the arts of the devil, mounted up to Heaven.
And indeed nothing was more vile than she was, when she was on the stage; nevertheless, afterwards she outwent many in exceeding continence, and having clad herself with sackcloth, all her time she thus disciplined herself. On the account of this woman both the governor was stirred up, and soldiers armed, yet they had not strength to carry her off to the stage, nor to lead her away from the virgins that had received her.
This woman having been counted worthy of the unutterable mysteries, and having exhibited a diligence proportionate to the grace (given her), so ended her life, having washed off all through grace, and after her Baptism having shewn forth much self-restraint. For not even a mere sight of herself did she allow to those who were once her lovers, when they had come for this, having shut herself up, and having passed many years, as it were, in a prison. Thus shall the last be first, and the first last; thus do we in every case need a fervent soul, and there is nothing to hinder one from becoming great and admirable.
Let no man then of them that live in vice despair; let no