Augustin on John 116
117 (Jn 19,17-22.
1. On Pilate’s judgment and condemnation before the tribunal, they took the Lord Jesus Christ, about the sixth hour, and led Him away. “And He, bearing His cross, went forth into the place that is called Calvary, but in Hebrew, Golgotha; where they crucified Him.” What else, then, is the meaning of the evangelist Mc saying, “And it was the third hour, and they crucified Him,”1 but this, that the Lord was crucified at the third hour by the tongues of the Jews, at the sixth hour by the hands of the soldiers? That we may understand that the fifth hour was now completed, and there was some beginning made of the sixth, when Pilate took his seat before the tribunal, which is expressed by Jn as “about2 the sixth hour;” and when He was led forth, and nailed to the tree with the two robbers, and the events recorded were enacted beside His cross, the completion of the sixth hour was fully reached, being the hour from which, on to the ninth, the sun was obscured, and the darkness took place, we have it jointly attested on the authority of the three evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke.3 But as the Jews attempted to transfer the crime of slaying Christ from themselves to the Romans, that is to say, to Pilate and his soldiers, therefore Mc suppresses the hourat which Christ was crucified by the soldiers,and which then began to enter upon the sixth, and remembers rather to give an express place to the third hour, at which they are understood to have cried out before Pilate, “Crucify, crucify him” (verse 6), that it not only may be seen that the former crucified Jesus, namely, the soldiers who hung Him on the tree at the sixth hour, but the Jews also, who at the third hour cried out to have Him crucified.
2. There is also another solution of this question, that we should not here understand the sixth hour of the day, because Jn says not, And it was about the sixth hour of the day, or about the sixth hour, but says, “And it was the parasceve of the passover, about the sixth hour” (ver. 14). And parasceve is in Latin praeparatio (preparation); but the Jews are fonder of using the Greek words in observances of this sort, even those of them who speak Latin rather than Greek. It was therefore the preparation of the passover. But “our passover, Christ,” as the apostle says, “has been sacrificed;”4 and if we reckon the preparation of this passover from the ninth hour of the night (for then the chief priests seem to have given their verdict for the sacrifice of the Lord, when they said, “He is guilty of death,”5 and when the hearing of His case was still proceeding in the high priest’s house: whence there is a kind of harmony in understanding that therewith began the preparation of the true passover, whose shadow was the passover of the Jews, that is, of the sacrificing of Christ, when the priests gave their sentence that He was to be sacrificed), certainly from that hour of the night, which is conjectured to have been then the ninth, on to the third hour of the day, when the evangelist Mc testifies that Christ was crucified, there are six hours, three of the night, and three of the day. Hence in the case of this parasceve of the passover, that is, the preparation of the sacrifice of Christ, which began with the ninth hour of the night, it was about the sixth hour; that is to say, the fifth hour was completed, and the sixth had already begun to run, when Pilate ascended the tribunal: for that same preparation, which had begun with the ninth hour of the night, still continued till the sacrifice of Christ, which was the event in course of preparation, was completed, which took place at the third hour, according to Mark, not of the preparation, but of the day; while it was also the sixth hour, not of the day, but of the preparation, by reckoning, of course, six hours from the ninth hour of the night to the third of the day. Of these two solutions of this difficult question let each choose the one that pleases him. But one will judge better what to choose who reads the very elaborate discussions on “The Harmony of the Evangelists.”6 And if other solutions of it can also be found, the stability of gospel truth will have a more cumulative defense against the calumnies of unbelieving and profane vanity. And now, after these brief discussions, let us return to the narrative of the evangelist John.
3. “And they took Jesus,” he says, “and led Him away; and He, bearing His cross, went forth unto the place that is called Calvary, in the Hebrew, Golgotha; where they crucified Him.” Jesus, therefore, went to the place where He was to be crucified, bearing His cross. A grand spectacle! but if it be impiety that is the onlooker, a grand laughing-stock; if piety, a grand mystery: if impiety be the onlooker, a grand demonstration of ignominy; if piety, a grand bulwark of faith: if it is impiety that looketh on, it laughs at the King bearing, in place of His kingly rod, the tree of His punishment; if it is piety, it sees the King bearing the tree for His own crucifixion, which He was yet to affix even on the foreheads of kings, exposed to the contemptuous glances of the impious in connection with that wherein the hearts of saints were thereafter to glory. For to Paul, who was yet to say, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,”7 He was commending that same cross of His by carrying it on His own shoulders, and bearing the candelabrum of that light that was yet to burn, and not to be placed under a bushel.8 “Bearing,” therefore, “His cross, He went forth into the place that is called Calvary, in the Hebrew, Golgotha; where they crucified Him, and two others with. Him on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.” These two, as we have learned in the narrative of the other evangelists, were thieves with whom He was crucified, and between whom He was fixed,9 whereof the prophecy sent before had declared, “And He was numbered among the transgressors.”10
4. “And Pilate wrote a title also, and put it on the cross, and the writing was, Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews. This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, The King of the Jews.” For these three languages were conspicuous in that place beyond all others: the Hebrew on account of the Jews, who gloried in the law of God; the Greek, because of the wise men among the Gentiles; and the Latin, on account of the Romans, who at that very time were exercising sovereign power over many and almost all countries.
5. “Then said the chief priests of the Jews unto Pilate Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews. Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.” Oh the ineffable power of the working of God, even in the hearts of the ignorant! Was there not some hidden voice that sounded through Pilate’s inner man with a kind, if one may so say, of loud-toned silence, the words that had been prophesied so long before in the very letter of the Psalms, “Corrupt not the inscription of the title”?11 Here, then, you see, he corrupted it not; what he has written he has written. But the high priests, who wished it to be corrupted, what did they say? “Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews.” What is it, madmen, that you say? Why do you oppose the doing of that which you are utterly unable to alter? Will it by any such means become the less true that Jesus said, “I am King of the Jews”? If that cannot be tampered with which Pilate has written, can that be tampered with which the truth has uttered? But is Christ king only of the Jews, or of the Gentiles also? Yes, of the Gentiles also. For when He said in prophecy, “I am set king by Him upon His holy hill of Zion, declaring the decree of the Lord,” that no one might say, because of the hill of Zion, that He was set king over the Jews alone, He immediately added, “The Lord said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten Thee. Ask of me, and I will give Thee the Gentiles for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy poossession.”12 Whence He Himself, speaking now with His own lips among the Jews, said, “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one flock and one Shepherd.”13 Why then would we have some great mystery14 to be understood in this superscription, wherein it was written, “King of the Jews,” if Christ is king also of the Gentiles? For this reason, because it was the wild olive tree that was made partaker of the fatness of the olive tree, and not the olive tree that was made partaker of the bitterness of the wild olive tree.15 For inasmuch as the title, “King of the Jews,” was truthfully written regarding Christ, who are they that are to be understood as the Jews but the seed of Abraham, the children of the promise, who are also the children of God? For “they,” saith the apostle, “who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.”16 And the Gentiles were those to whom he said, “But if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”17 Christ therefore is king of the Jews, but of those who are Jews by the circumcision of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God;18 who belong to the Jerusalem thatis free, our eternal mother in heaven, the spiritual Sarah, who casteth out the bond maid and her children from the house of liberty.19 And therefore what Pilate wrote he wrote, because what the Lord said He said.
1 (Mc 15,25,
3 (Mt 27,45 Mc 15,33 and Lc 23,44,
4 (1Co 5,7,
5 (Mt 26,66,
6 “On the Harmony of the Evangelists,” Book 3,chap. 13,secs. 40-50).
7 (Ga 6,14,
8 (Mt 5,15,
9 (Mt 27,38 Mc 15,27 and Lc 23,33,
10 (Is 53,12,
11 (Ps 57,58.
12 (Ps 2,6-8.
13 Chap. 10,16.
15 (Rm 11,17,
16 (Rm 9,7-8,
17 (Ga 3,29).
18 (Rm 2,29,
19 (Ga 4,22-31.
118 (Jn 19,23-24.
1). The things that were done beside the Lord’s cross, when at length He was now crucified, we would take up, in dependence on His help, in the present discourse. “Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Him, took His garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also His coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots.” It was done as the Jews wished; not that it was they themselves, but the soldiers who obeyed Pilate, who himself acted as judge, that crucified Jesus: and yet if we reflect on their wills, their plots, their endeavors, their delivering up, and, lastly, on their extorting clamors, it was the Jews certainly, more than any else, who crucified Jesus.
2. But we must not speak in a mere cursory way of the partition and dividing by lot of His garments. For although all the four evangelists make mention thereof, yet the others do so more briefly than John: and their notice of it is obscure, while his is in the plainest manner possible. For Matthew says, “And after they crucified Him, they parted His garments, casting lots.”1 Mark: “And they crucified Him, and parted His garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take.”2 Luke: “And they parted His raiment, and cast lots.”3 But Jn has told us also how many parts they made of His garments, namely, four, that they might take one part apiece. From which it, is apparent that there were four soldiers, who obeyed the governor’s orders in crucifying Him. For he plainly says: “Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Him, took His garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and likewise the coat,” where there is understood, they took: so that the meaning is, they took His garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and they took also His coat. And he so spake, that we might see that there was no lot cast on His other garments; but His coat, whichthey took along with the others, they did not similarly divide. For in regard to it he proceeds to explain, “Now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.” And then telling us why they cast lots on it, he says, “They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be.” Hence it is clear that in the case of the other garments they had equal parts, so that there was no need to cast lots: but that as regards this one, they could not have had a part each without rending it, and thereby possessing themselves only of useless fragments of it; to prevent which, they preferred letting it come to one of them by lot. The account given by this evangelist is also in harmony with the testimony of prophecy, which he likewise immediately subjoins, saying, “That the scripture might be fulfilled which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots.” For He says not, they cast lots, but “they parted:” nor does He say, casting lots they parted; but while making no mention whatever of the lot in regard to the rest of the garments, He afterwards said, “and for my vesture they did cast lots,” in reference solely to the coat that remained. On which I shall speak as He Himself enables me, after I have first refuted the calumny, which may possibly arise, as if the evangelists disagreed with one another, by showing that the words of none of the others are inconsistent with the narrative of John.
3. For Matthew, in saying, “They parted His garments, casting lots,” wished it to be understood, that in the whole affair of parting the garments, the coat was also included, on which they cast lots; for in course of parting all the garments, of which it also was one on it alone they cast lots. To the same purpose also are the words of Luke: “Parting His garments, they cast lots;” for in the process of parting they came to the coat whereon the lot was cast, that the entire parting of His garments among them might be completed. And what difference is there whether it is said, “Parting they cast lots,” according to Luke; or, “They parted, casting the lot,” according to Matthew: unless it be that Luke, in saying “lots,” used the plural for the singular number,-a form of speech that is not unusual in the Holy Scriptures, although some copies are found to have “lot,”4 and not “lots”? Mark, therefore, is the only one who seems to have introduced any kind of difficulty; for in saying, “Casting the lot upon them, what every man should take,” his words seem to imply, as if the lot was cast on all the garments, and not on the coat alone. But here also brevity is the cause of the obscurity; for the words, “Casting the lot upon them,” are as if it were said, Casting the lot when they were in the process of division; which was also the case. For the partition of all His garments would not have been complete, had it not been declared by lot which of them also should get possession of the coat, so as thereby to bring any contention on the part of the dividers to an end, or rather prevent any such from arising. In saying, therefore, “What every man should take,” so far as that has to do with the lot, we must not take it as referring to all the garments that were divided; for the lot was cast, who should take the coat: whereof having omitted to describe the particular form, and how, in the equal division that was made of the parts, it remained by itself, in order, without being rent, to be awarded by lot, he therefore made use of the expression, “what every man should take,” in other words, who it was that should take it: as if the whole were thus expressed, They parted His garments, casting the lot upon them, who should take the coat, which had remained over in addition to their equal shares of the rest.
4. Some one, perhaps, may inquire what is signified by the division that was made of His garments into so many parts, and of the casting of lots for the coat. The raiment of the Lord Jesus Christ parted into four, symbolized His quadripartite Church, as spread abroad over the whole world, which consists of four quarters, and equally, that is to say, harmoniously, distributed over all these quarters. On which account He elsewhere says, that He will send His angels to gather His elect from the four winds:5 and what is that, but from the four quarters of the world, east, west, north, and south? But the coat, on which lots were cast, signifies the unity of all the parts, which is contained in the bond of charity. And when the apostle is about to speak of charity, he says, “I show you a more excellent way;”6 and in another place, “To know also the love of Christ, which far excelleth knowledge;”7 and still further elsewhere, “And above all these things charity which is the bond of perfectness.”8 If, then, charity both has a more excellent way, and far excelleth knowledge, and is enjoined above all things, it is with great propriety that the garment, by which it is signified, is represented as woven from the top.9 And it was without seam, that its sewing might never be separated; and came into the possession of one man, because He gathereth all into one. Just as in the case of the apostles, who formed the exact number of twelve, in other words, were divisible into four parts of three each, when the question was put to all of them, Peter was the only one that answered, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God;” and to whom it was said, “I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven,”10 as if he alone received the power of binding and loosing: seeing, then, that one so spake in behalf of all, and received the latter along with all, as if personifying the unity itself; therefore one stands for all, because there is unity in all. Whence, also, after here saying, “woven from the top,” he added, “throughout.”11 And this also, if referred to its meaning, implies that no one is excluded from a share thereof, who is discovered to belong to the whole: from which whole, as the Greek language indicates, the Church derives her name of Catholic. And by the casting of lots, what else is commended but the grace of God? For in this way in the person of one it reached to all, since the lot satisfied them all, because the grace of God also in its unity reacheth unto all; and when the lot is cast, the award is decided, not by the merits of each individual, hut by the secret judgment of God.
5. And yet let no one say that such things had no good signification because they were done by the bad, that is to say, not by those who followed Christ, but by those who persecuted Him. For what could we have to say of the cross itself, which every one knows was in like manner made and fastened to Christ by enemies and sinners? And yet it is to it we may rightly understand the words of the apostle to be applicable, “what is the breadth, and the length,and the height, and the depth.”12 For its breadth lies in the transverse beam, on which the hands of the Crucified are extended; and signifies good works in all the breadth of love: its length extends from the transverse beam to the ground, and is that whereto the back and feet are affixed; and signifies perseverance through the whole length of time to the end: its height is in the summit, which rises upwards above the transverse beam; and signifies the supernal goal, to which all works have reference, since all things that are done well and perseveringly, in respect of their breadth and length, are to be done also with due regard to the exalted character of the divine rewards: its depth is found in the part that is fixed into the ground; for there it is both concealed and invisible, and yet from thence spring up all those parts that are outstanding and evident to the senses; just as all that is good in us proceeds from the depths of the grace of God, which is beyond the reach of human comprehension and judgment. But even though the cross of Christ signified no more than what was said by the apostle, “And they who are Jesus Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the passions and lusts,”13 how great a good it is! And yet it does not this, unless the good spirit be lusting against the flesh, seeing that it was the opposing, or, in other words, the evil spirit that constructed the cross of Christ. And lastly, as every one knows, what else is the sign of Christ but the cross of Christ? For unless that sign be applied, whether it be to the foreheads of believers, or to the very water out of which they are regenerated, or to the oil with which they receive the anointing chrism, or to the sacrifice that nourishes them, none of them is properly administered. How then can it be that no good is signified by that which is done by the wicked, when by the cross of Christ, which the wicked made, every good thing is sealed to us in the celebration of His sacraments? But here we stop; and what follows we shall consider at another time in the course of dissertation, as God shall grant us assistance.
1 (Mt 27,35,
2 (Mc 15,24,
3 (Lc 23,34).
4 As it now is in the Greek [Textus receptus], klh`ron.-Migne.
5 (Mt 24,31,
6 (1Co 12,31,
7 (Ep 3,19,
8 (Col 3,14,
10 (Mt 16,15-16 Mt 16,19.
11 Per totum).
12 (Ep 3,18,
13 (Ga 5,24,
119 (Jn 19,24-30.
1). The Lord being now crucified, and the parting of His garments having also been completed by the casting of the lot, let us look at what the evangelist Jn thereafter relates. “And these things,” he says, “the soldiers did. Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary [the wife] of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple standing by whom He loved, He saith unto His mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith He to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour the disciple took her unto his own home.” This, without a doubt, was the hour whereof Jesus, when about to turn the water into wine, had said to His mother, “Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.”1 This hour, therefore, He had foretold, which at that time had not yet arrived, when it should be His to acknowledge her at the point of death, and with reference to which He had been born as a mortal man. At that time, therefore, when about to engage in divine acts, He repelled, as one unknown, her who was the mother, not of His divinity, but of His [human] infirmity; but now, when in the midst of human sufferings, He commended with human affection [the mother] by whom He had become man. For then, He who had created Mary became known in His power; but now, that which Mary had brought forth was hanging on the cross.2
2. A passage, therefore, of a moral character is here inserted. The good Teacher does what He thereby reminds us ought to be done, and by His own example instructed His disciples that care for their parents ought to be a matter of concern to pious children: as if that tree to which the members of the dying One were affixed were the very chair of office from which the Master was imparting instruction. From this wholesome doctrine it was that the Apostle Paul had learned what he taught in turn, when he said, “But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.”3 And what are so much home concerns to any one, as parents to children, or children to parents? Of this most wholesome precept, therefore, the very Master of the saints set the example from Himself, when, not as God for the hand-maid whom He had created and governed, but as a man for the mother, of whom He had been created, and whom He was now leaving behind, He provided in some measure another son in place of Himself. And why He did so, He indicates in the words that follow: for the evangelist says, “And from that hour the disciple took her unto his own,” speaking of himself. In this way, indeed, he usually refers to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved: who certainly loved them all, but him beyond the others, and with a closer familiarity, so that He even made him lean upon His bosom at supper;4 in order, I believe, in this way to commend the more highly the divine excellence of this very gospel, which He was thereafter to preach through his instrumentality.
3. But what was this “his own,” unto which Jn took the mother of the Lord? For he was not outside the circle of those who said unto Him, “Lo, we have left all, and followed Thee.” No, but on that same occasion he had also heard the words, Every one that hath forsaken these things for my sake, shall receive an hundred times as much in this world.5 That disciple, therefore, had an hundredfold more than he had cast away, whereunto to receive the mother of Him who had graciously bestowed it all. But it was in that society that the blessed Jn had received an hundredfold, where no one called anything his own, but they had all things in common; even as it is recorded in the Ac of the Apostles. For the apostles were as if having nothing, and yet possessing all things6 How was it, then, that the disciple and servant received unto his own the mother of his Lord and Master, where no one called anything his own? Or, seeing we read a little further on in the same book, “For as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of them, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need,”7 are we not to understand that such distribution was made to this disciple of what was needful, that there was also added to it the portion of the blessed Mary, as if she were his mother; and ought we not the rather so to take the words, “From that hour the disciple took her unto his own,” that everything necessary for her was entrusted to his care? He received her, therefore, not unto his own lands, for he had none of his own; but to his own dutiful services, the discharge of which, by a special dispensation, was entrusted to himself.
4. He then adds: “After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and fixed it upon hyssop, and put it to His mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished: and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost.” Who has the power of so adjusting what he does, as this Man had of arranging all that He suffered? But this Man was the Mediator between God and men; the Man of whom we read in prophecy, He is man also, and who shall acknowledge Him for the men who did such things acknowledged not this Man as God. For He who was manifest as man, was hid as God: He who was manifest suffered all these things, and He Himself also, who was hid, arranged them all. He saw, therefore, that all was accomplished that required to be done before He received the vinegar, and gave up the ghost; and that this also might be accomplished which the scripture had foretold, “And in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink,”8 He said, “I thirst:” as if it were, One thing still you have failed to do, give me what you Are. For the Jews were themselves the vinegar, degenerated as they were from the wine of the patriarchs and prophets; and filled like a full vessel with the wickedness of this world, with hearts like a sponge, deceitful in the formation of its cavernous and tortuous recesses. But the hyssop, whereon they placed the sponge filled with vinegar, being a lowly herb, and purging the heart, we fitly take for the humility of Christ Himself; which they thus enclosed, and imagined they had completely ensnared. Hence we have it said in the psalm, “Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed.”9 For it is by Christ’s humility that we are cleansed; because, had He not humbled Himself, and became obedient unto the death of the cross,10 His blood certainly would not have been shed for the remission of sins, or, in other words, for our cleansing.
5. Nor need we be disturbed with the question, how the sponge could be applied to His mouth when He was lifted up from the earth on the cross. For as we read in the other evangelists, what is omitted by this one, it was fixed on a reed,11 so that such drink as was contained in the sponge might be raised to the highest part of the cross. By the reed, however, the scripture was signified, which was fulfilled by this very act. For as a tongue is called either Greek or Latin, or any other, significant of the sound, which is uttered by the tongue; so the reed may give its name to the letter which is written with a reed. We most usually, however, call those tongues that express the sounds of the human voice: while in calling scripture a reed, the very rareness of the thing only enhances the mystical nature of that which it symbolizes. A wicked people did such things, a compassionate Christ suffered them. They who did them, knew not what they did; but He who suffered, not only knew what was done, and why it was so, but also wrought what was good through those who were doing what was evil.
6. “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished.” What, but all that prophecy had foretold so long before? And then, because nothing now remained that still required to be done before He died, as if He, who had power to lay down His life and to take it up again,12 had at length completed all for whose completion He was waiting, “He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost.” Who can thus sleep when he pleases, as Jesus died when He pleased? Who is there that thus puts off his garment when he pleases, as He put off His flesh at His pleasure? Who is there that thus departs13 when he pleases, as He departed this life14 at His pleasure? How great the power, to be hoped for or dreaded, that must be His as judge, if such was the power He exhibited as a dying man!
1 Chap. 2,4.
2 See Tract. VIII).
3 (1Tm 5,8,
4 Chap. 13,23.
5 (Mt 19,27 Mt 19,29.
6 (2Co 6,10,
7 (Ac 4,32-35.
8 (Ps 69,21,
9 (Ps 51,7,
10 (Ph 2,8).
11 (Mt 27,48 Mc 15,36,
12 Chap. 10,18.
120 (Jn 19,31-20,9.
1). After that the Lord Jesus had accomplished all that He foreknew required accomplishment before His death, and had, when it pleased Himself, given up the ghost, what followed thereafter, as related by the evangelist, let us now consider. “The Jews therefore,” he says, “because it was the preparation (parasceve), that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath-day (for that Sabbath-day was an high day), besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.” Not that their legs might be taken away, but the persons themselves whose legs were broken for the purpose of effecting their death, and permitting them to be detached from the tree, lest their continuing to hang on the crosses should defile the great festal day by the horrible spectacle of their day-long torments.
2. “Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other who was, crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that He was dead already, they brake not His legs: but one of the soldiers with a spear laid open1 His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.” A suggestive2 word was made use of by the evangelist, in not saying pierced, or wounded His side, or anything else, but “opened;that thereby, in a sense, the gate of life might be thrown open, from whence have flowed forth the sacraments of the Church, without which there is no entrance to the life which is the true life. That blood was shed for the remission of sins; that water it is that makes up the health-giving cup, and supplies at once the layer of baptism and water for drinking. This was announced beforehand, when Noah was commanded to make a door in the side of the ark,3 whereby the animals might enter which were not destined to perish in the flood, and by which the Church was prefigured. Because of this, the first woman was formed from the side of the man when asleep,4 and was called Life, and the mother of all living.5 Truly it pointed to a great good, prior to the great evil of the transgression (in the guise of one thus lying asleep).6 This second Adam bowed His head and fell asleep on the cross, that a spouse might be formed for Him from that which flowed from the sleeper’s side. O death, whereby the dead are raised anew to life! What can be purer than such blood? What more health-giving than such a wound?
3. “And he that saw it,” he says, “bare record, and his record is true; and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye also might believe.” He said not, That ye also might know, but “that ye might believe;” for he knoweth who hath seen, that he who hath not seen might believe his testimony. And believing belongs more to the nature of faith than seeing. For what else is meant by believing than giving to faith a suitable reception? “For these things were done,” he adds, “that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of Him ye shall not break. And again, another scripture saith, They shall look on Him whom they pierced.” He has furnished two testimonies from the Scriptures for each of the things which he has recorded as having been done. For to the words, “But widen they came to Jesus, and saw that He was dead already, they brake not His legs,” belongeth the testimony, “A bone of Him ye shall not break:” an injunction which was laid upon those who were commanded to celebrate the passover by the sacrifice of a sheep in the old law, which went before as a shadow of the passion of Christ. Whence “our passover has been offered, even Christ,”7 of whom the prophet Isaiah also had predicted, “He shall be led as a lamb to the slaughter.”8 In like manner to the words which he subjoined, “But one of the soldiers laid open His side with a spear,” belongeth the other testimony, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced;” where Christ is promised in the very flesh wherein He was afterwards to come to be crucified.
4. “And after this, Joseph of Arimathea (being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews) besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. And there came also Nicodemus, who came to Jesus by night at first, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.” We are not to explain the meaning by saying, “first bringing a mixture of myrrh,” but by attaching the word “first” to the preceding clause. For Nicodemus had at first come to Jesus by night, as recorded by this same Jn in the earlier portions of his Gospel.9 By the statement given us here, therefore, we are to understand that Nicodemus came to Jesus, not then only, but then for the first time; and that he was a regular comer afterwards, in order by hearing to become a disciple; which is certified, nowadays at least, to almost all nations in the revelation of the body of the most blessed Stephen.10 “Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.” The evangelist, I think, was not without a purpose in so framing his words, “as the manner of the Jews is to bury;” for in this way, unless I am mistaken, he has admonished us that, in duties of this kind, which are observed to the dead, the customs of every nation ought to be preserved.
5. “Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.” As in the womb of the Virgin Mary no one was conceived before Him, and no one after Him, so in this sepulchre there was no one buried before Him, and no one after Him. “There laid they Jesus therefore, because of the Jews’ preparation; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.” He would have us to understand that the burial was hurried, lest the evening should overtake them; when it was no longer permitted to do any such thing, because of the preparation, which the Jews among us are more in the habit of calling in Latin, coena pura (the pure meal).
6. “And on the first of the week came Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and saw the stone taken away from the sepulchre.” The first of the week11 is what Christian practice now calls the Lord’s day, because of the resurrection of the Lord.12 “She ran, therefore, and came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid Him.” Some of the Greek codices have, “They have taken my Lord,” which may likely enough have been said by the stronger than ordinary affection of love and handmaid relationship; but we have not found it in the several codices to which we have had access).
7. “Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. So they ran both together: and that other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre.” The repetition here is worthy of notice and of commendation for the way in which a return is made to what had previously been omitted, and yet is added just as if it followed in due order. For after having already said, “they came to the sepulchre,” he goes back to tell us how they came, and says, “so they ran both together,” etc. Where he shows that, by outrunning his companion, there came first to the sepulchre that other disciple, by whom he means himself, while he relates all13 as if speaking of another.
8. “And he stooping down,” he says, “saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and saw the linen clothes lying, and the napkin, which had been about His head, not lying with the linen clothes, but folded up in one place by itself.” Do we suppose these things have no meaning? I can suppose no such thing. But we hasten on to other points, on which we are compelled to linger by the need there is for investigation, or some other kind of obscurity. For in such things as are self-manifest, the inquiry into the meaning even of individualdetails is, indeed, a subject of holy delight, but only for those who have leisure, which is not the case with us.
9. “Then went in also that other disciple who had come first to the sepulchre.” He came first, and entered last. This also of a certainty is not without a meaning, but I am without the leisure needful for its explanation. “And he saw, and believed.” Here some, by not giving due attention, suppose that Jn believed that Jesus had risen again; but there is no indication of this from the words that follow. For what does he mean by immediately adding, “For as yet they knew not the scripture, that He must rise again from the dead”? He could not then have believed that He had risen again, when he did not know that it behoved Him to rise again. What then did he see? what was it that he believed? What but this, that he saw the sepulchre empty, and believed what the woman had said, that He had been taken away from the tomb? “For as yet they knew not the scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.” Thus also when they heard of it from the Lord Himself, although it was uttered in the plainest terms, yet from their custom of hearing Him speaking by parables, they did not understand, and believed that something else was His meaning. But we shall put off what follows till another discourse.
3 (Gn 6,16,
4 (Gn 2,22,
5 (Gn 3,20).
6 This last clause is found only in three of the Augustinian Mss.
7 (1Co 5,7
8 (Is 53,7,
9 Chap. 3,1, 2.
10 This revelation, whereby the body of Nicodemus was discovered, is referred to the close of the year 415, by those who trust in the authority of the Presbyter Lucian, in a small book written on the subject.-Migne.
11 Una Sabbati.
12 Augustin here adds, quem Matthaeus solus in Evangelistis primam Sabbati nominavit (Mt 28,1) contrasting primam with una).
13 Some editions here insert into the text, More sanctae Scripturae, “after the manner of Holy Scripture.” Others enclose it within brackets.-Migne.
Augustin on John 116