Chrysostom on John 37
"Jesus saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? The impotent man answered Him, Yea, Sir, but I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool."
[1.] Great is the profit of the divine Scriptures, and all-sufficient is the aid which comes from them. And Paul declared this when he said, “Whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written aforetime for our admonition upon whom the ends of the world are come, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” (Rm 15,4, and 1Co 10,11). For the divine oracles are a treasury of all manner of medicines, so that whether it be needful to quench pride, to lull desire to sleep, to tread under foot the love of money, to despise pain, to inspire confidence, to gain patience, from them one may find abundant resource. For what man of those who struggle with long poverty or who are nailed to1 a grievous disease, will not, when he reads the passage before us, receive much comfort? Since this man who had been paralytic for thirty and eight years, and who saw each year others delivered, and himself bound by his disease, not even so fell back and despaired, though in truth not merely despondency for the past, but also hopelessness for the future, was sufficient to over-strain2 him. Hear now what he says, and learn the greatness of his sufferings.3 For when Christ had said, “Wilt thou be made whole?” “Yea, Lord,” he saith, “but I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool.” What can be more pitiable than these words? What more sad than these circumstances? Seest thou a heart4 crushed through long sickness? Seest thou all violence subdued? He uttered no blasphemous word, nor such as we hear the many use in reverses, he cursed not his day, he was not angry at the question, nor did he say, “Art Thou come to make a mock and a jest of us, that Thou asketh whether I desire to be made whole?” but replied gently, and with great mildness, “Yea, Lord”; yet he knew not who it was that asked him, nor that He would heal him, but still he mildly relates all the circumstances and asks nothing further, as though he were speaking to a physician, and desired merely to tell the story of his sufferings. Perhaps he hoped that Christ might be so far useful to him as to put him into the water, and desired to attract Him by these words. What then saith Jesus?
Jn 5,8. “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.”5
Now some suppose that this is the man in Matthew who was “lying on a bed” (Mt 9,2); but it is not so, as is clear in many ways. First, from his wanting persons to stand forward for him. That man had many to care for and to carry him, this man not a single one; wherefore he said, “I have no man.” Secondly, from the manner of answering; the other uttered no word, but this man relates his whole case. Thirdly, from the season and the time; this man was healed at a feast, and on the Sabbath, that other on a different day. The places too were different; one was cured in a house, the other by the pool. The manner also of the cure was altered; there Christ said, “Thy sins be forgiven thee,” but here He braced6 the body first, and then cared for the soul. In that case there was remission of sins, (for He saith, “Thy sins be forgiven thee,”) but in this, warning and threats to strengthen the man for the future; “Sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.” (Jn 5,14). The charges also of the Jews are different; here they object to Jesus, His working on the Sabbath, there they charge Him with blasphemy.
Consider now, I pray you, the exceeding wisdom of God. He raised not up the man at once, but first maketh him familiar by questioning, making way for the coming faith; nor doth He only raise, but biddeth him “take up his bed,” so as to confirm the miracle that had been wrought, and that none might suppose what was done to be illusion or a piece of acting. For he would not, unless his limbs had been firmly and thoroughly compacted, have been able to carry his bed. And this Christ often doth, effectually silencing those who would fain be insolent. So in the case of the loaves, that no one might assert that the men had been merely7 satisfied, and that what was done was an illusion, He caused that there should be many relics of the loaves. So to the leper that was cleansed He said, “Go, show thyself to the priest” (Mt 8,4); at once providing most certain proof of the cleansing, and stopping the shameless mouths of those who asserted that He was legislating in opposition to God. This also He did in like manner in the case of the wine; for He did not merely show it to them, but also caused it to be borne to the governor of the feast, in order that one who knew nothing of what had been done, by his confession might bear to Him unsuspected testimony; wherefore the Evangelist saith, that the ruler of the feast “knew not whence it was,” thus showing the impartiality of his testimony. And in another place, when He raised the dead, He said, “Give ye him to eat”;8 supplying this proof of a real resurrection, and by these means persuading even the foolish that He was no deceiver, no dealer in illusions,9 but that He had come for the salvation of the common nature of mankind.
[2.] But why did not Jesus require faith of this man, as He did in the case of others, saying, “Believest thou that I am able to do this?” 10 It was because the man did not yet clearly know who He was; and it is not before, but after the working of miracles that He is seen so doing. For persons who had beheld His power exerted on others would reasonably have this said to them, while of those who had not yet learned who He was, but who were to know afterwards by means of signs, it is after the miracles that faith is required. And therefore Matthew doth not introduce Christ as having said this at the beginning of His miracles, but when He had healed many, to the two blind men only.
Observe however in this way the faith of the paralytic. When he had heard, 11 “Take up thy bed and walk,” he did not mock, nor say, “What can this mean? An Angel cometh down and troubleth the water, and healeth only one, and dost Thou, a man, by a bare command and word hope to be able to do greater things than Angels? This is mere vanity, boasting, mockery.” But he neither said nor imagined anything like this, but at once he heard and arose, and becoming whole, was not disobedient to Him that gave the command; 12 for immediately he was made whole, and “took up his bed, and walked.” What followed was even far more admirable. That he believed at first, when no one troubled him, was not so marvelous, but that afterwards, when the Jews were full of madness and pressed upon him on all sides, accusing 13 and besieging him and saying, “It is not lawful for thee to take up thy bed,” that then he gave no heed to 14 their madness, but most boldly in the midst of the assembly 15 proclaimed his Benefactor and silenced their shameless tongues, this, I say, was an act of great courage. For when the Jews arose against him, and said in a reproachful and insolent manner to him,
Jn 5,10. “It is the Sabbath day, it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed”; hear what he saith:
Jn 5,11. “He that made me whole, the Same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk.”
All but saying, “Ye are silly and mad who bid me not to take Him for my Teacher who has delivered me from a long and grievous malady, and not to obey whatever He may command.” 16 Had he chosen to act in an unfair manner, he might have spoke differently, as thus, “I do not this of my own will, but at the bidding of another; if this be a matter of blame, blame him who gave the order, and I will set down the bed.” And he might have concealed the cure, for he well knew that they were vexed not so much at the breaking of the Sabbath, as at the curing of his infirmity. Yet he neither concealed this, nor said that, nor asked for pardon, but with loud voice confessed and proclaimed the benefit. Thus did the paralytic; but consider how unfairly they acted. For they said not, “Who is it that hath made thee whole?” on this point they were silent, but kept on bringing forward the seeming transgression.
Jn 5,12-13. “What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed and walk? And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed Himself away, 17 a multitude being in that place.”
And why did Jesus conceal Himself? First, that while He was absent, the testimony of the man might be unsuspected, for he who now felt himself whole was a credible witness of the benefit. And in the next place, that He might not cause the fury of the Jews to be yet more inflamed, for the very sight of one whom they envy is wont to kindle not a small spark in malicious persons. On this account He retired, and left the deed by itself to plead its cause among them, that He might not say anything in person respecting Himself, but that they might do so who had been healed, and with them also the accusers. Even these last for a while testify to the miracle, for they said not, “Wherefore hast thou commanded these things to be done on the Sabbath day?” but, “Wherefore doest thou these things on the Sabbath day?” not being displeased at the transgression, but envious at the restoration of the paralytic. Yet in respect of human labor, what the paralytic did was rather a work, for the other 18 was a saying and a word. Here then He commandeth another to break the Sabbath, but elsewhere He doth the same Himself, mixing clay and anointing a man’s eyes (c. 9); yet He doth these things not transgressing, but going beyond the Law. And on this we shall hereafter speak. For He doth not, when accused by the Jews respecting the Sabbath, always defend Himself in the same terms, and this we must carefully observe.
[3.] But let us consider awhile how great an evil is envy, how it disables the eyes of the soul to the endangering his salvation who is possessed by it. For as madmen often thrust their swords against their own bodies, so also malicious persons looking only to one thing, the injury 19 of him they envy, care not for their own salvation. Men like these are worse than wild beasts; they when wanting food, or having first been provoked by us, arm themselves against us; but these men when they have received kindness, have often repaid their benefactors as though they had wronged them. Worse than wild beasts are they, like the devils, or perhaps worse than even those; for they against us indeed have unceasing hostility, but do not plot against those of their own nature, (and so by this Jesus silenced the Jews when they said that He cast out devils by Beelzebub,) but these men neither respect their common nature, nor spare their own selves. For before they vex those whom they envy they vex their own souls, filling them with all manner of trouble and despondency, fruitlessly and in vain. For wherefore grievest thou, O man, at the prosperity of thy neighbor? We ought to grieve at the ills we suffer, not because we see others in good repute. Wherefore this sin is stripped of all excuse. The fornicator may allege his lust, the thief his poverty, the man-slayer his passion, frigid excuses and unreasonable, still they have these to allege. But what reason, tell me, wilt thou name? None other at all, but that of intense wickedness. If we are commanded to love our enemies, what punishment shall we suffer if we hate our very friends? And if he who loveth those that love him will be in no better a state than the heathen, what excuse, what palliation shall he have who injures those that have done him no wrong? Hear Paul, what he saith, “Though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing” (1Co 13,3); now it is clear to every one that where envy and malice are, there charity is not. This feeling is worse than fornication and adultery, for these go no farther than him who doeth them, but the tyranny of envy hath overturned entire Churches, and hath destroyed the whole world. Envy is the mother of murder. Through this Cain slew Abel his brother; through this Esau (would have slain) Jacob, and his brethren Joseph, through this the devil all mankind. Thou indeed now killest not, but thou dost many things worse than murder, desiring that thy brother may act unseemly, laying snares for him on all sides, paralyzing his labors on the side of virtue, grieving that he pleaseth the Master of the world. Yet thou warrest not with thy brother, but with Him whom he serves, Him thou insultest when thou preferest thy glory to His. And what is in truth worst of all, is that this sin seems to be an unimportant one, while in fact it is more grievous than any other; for though thou showest mercy and watchest and fastest, thou art more accursed than any if thou enviest thy brother. As is clear from this circumstance also. A man of the Corinthians was once guilty of adultery, yet he was charged with his sin and soon restored to righteousness; Cain envied Abel; but he was not healed, and although God Himself continually charmed 20 the wound, he became more pained and wave-tossed, and was hurried on to murder. Thus this passion is worse than that other, and doth not easily permit itself to be cured except we give heed. Let us then by all means tear it up by the roots, considering this, that as we offend God when we waste with envy at other men’s blessings, so when we rejoice with them we are well pleasing to Him, and render ourselves partakers of the good things laid up for the righteous. Therefore Paul exhorteth us to “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep” (Rm 12,15), that on either hand we may reap great profit.
Considering then that even when we labor not, by rejoicing with him that laboreth, we become sharers of his crown, let us cast aside all envy, and implant charity in our souls, that by applauding those of our brethren who are well pleasing unto God, we may obtain both present and future good things, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory, now and ever, world without end. Amen.
1 al). “held by.”
2 or, “throw him down.”
3 lit). “the tragedy.”
4 al). “endurance.”
5 al). “and go to thine house.”
7 i.e. not by real eating, aJplw`".
8 The reference seems to be to Lc 8,55.
10 Morel. and mss. read, “as He did in the case of the blind men, (Mt 9,28) saying, ‘Believe ye,’ ”&c.
11 Morel. and ms. in Bodl read, “for having heard that with authority, and as one commanding, He said to him, ‘Arise,’ ”&c.
12 Morel and ms. “who had commanded, ‘Arise,’ ”&c.
13 Morel and ms. “accusing, as the Evangelist shows by what follows, saying, ‘And on the same day was the Sabbath. The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the Sabbath day, it is not lawful,’ ”&c.
14 al). “not only disregarded.”
15 lit). “theater.”
16 see p. 132).
17 ejxevklinen ejxevneusen, G. T. and Mor.
18 i.e. that which Jesus did.
19 al). “pain.”
"Afterward Jesus findeth him in the Temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole; sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee."
[1.] A Fearful thing is sin, fearful, and the ruin of the soul, and the mischief oftentimes through its excess has overflowed and attacked men’s bodies also. For since for the most part when the soul is diseased we feel no pain, but if the body receive though but a little hurt, we use every exertion to free it from its infirmity, because we are sensible of the infirmity,1 therefore God oftentimes punisheth the body for the transgressions of the soul, so that by means of the scourging of the inferior part, the better part also may receive some healing. Thus too among the Corinthians Paul restored the adulterer, checking the disease of the soul by the destruction of the flesh, and having applied the knife to the body, so repressed the evil (1Co 5,5); like some excellent physician employing external cautery for dropsy or spleen, when they refuse to yield to internal remedies. This also Christ did in the case of the paralytic; as He showed when He said, “Behold, thou art made whole; sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.”
Now what do we learn from this? First, that his disease had been produced by his sins; secondly, that the accounts of hell fire are to be believed; thirdly, that the punishment is long, nay endless. Where now are those who say, “I murdered in an hour, I committed adultery in a little moment of time, and am I eternally punished?” For behold this man had not sinned for so many years as he suffered, for he had spent a whole lifetime in the length of his punishment; and sins are not judged by time, but by the nature of the transgressions. Besides this, we may see2 another thing, that though we have suffered severely for former sins, if we afterwards fall into the same, we shall suffer much more severely. And with good reason; for he who is not made better even by punishment, is afterwards led as insensible and a despiser to still heavier chastisement. The fault should of itself be sufficient to check and to render more sober the man who once has slipped, but when not even the addition of punishment effects this, he naturally requires more bitter torments.3 Now if even in this world when after punishment4 we fall into the same sins, we are chastised yet more severely then before, ought we not when after sinning we have not been punished at all, to be then5 very exceedingly afraid and to tremble, as being about to endure something irreparable? “And wherefore,” saith some one, “are not all thus punished? for we see many bad men well in body, vigorous, and enjoying great prosperity.” But let us not be confident, let us mourn for them in this case most of all, since their having suffered nothing here, helps them on6 to a severer vengeance hereafter.7 As Paul declares when he saith, “But now that we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (1Co 11,32); for the punishments here are for warning, there for vengeance.
“What then,” saith one, “do all diseases proceed from sin?” Not all, but most of them; and some proceed from different kinds of loose living,8 since gluttony, intemperance, and sloth, produce such like sufferings. But the one rule we have to observe, is to bear every stroke thankfully; for they are sent because of our sins, as in the Kings we see one attacked by gout (1R 15,23); they are sent also to make us approved, as the Lord saith to Job, “Thinkest thou that I have spoken to thee, save that thou mightest appear righteous?” (Jb 40,8 LXX).
But why is it that in the case of these paralytics Christ bringeth forward their sins? For He saith also to him in Matthew who lay on a bed, “Son, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee” (Mt 9,2): and to this man, “Behold, thou art made whole; sin no more.”9 I know that some slander this paralytic, asserting that he was an accuser of Christ, and that therefore this speech was addressed to him; what then shall we say of the other in Matthew, who heard nearly the same words? For Christ saith to him also, “Thy sins be forgiven thee.” Whence it is clear, that neither was this man thus addressed on the account which they allege. And this we may see more clearly from what follows; 10 for, saith the Evangelist, “Afterward Jesus findeth him in the Temple,” which is an indication of his great piety; for he departed not into the market places and walks, nor gave himself up to luxury and ease, but remained in the Temple, although about to sustain so violent an attack and to be harassed by all there. 11 Yet none of these things persuaded him to depart from the Temple. Moreover Christ having found him, even after he had conversed with the Jews, implied nothing of the kind. For had He desired to charge him with this, He would have said to him, “Art thou again attempting the same sins as before, art thou not made better by thy cure?” Yet He said nothing of the kind, but merely secureth him for the future.
[2.] Why then, when He had cured the halt and maimed, did He not in any instance make mention of the like? Methinks that the diseases of these (the paralytic) arose from acts of sin, those of the others from natural infirmity. Or if this be not so, then by means of these men, and by the words spoken to them, He hath spoken to the rest also. For since this disease is more grievous than any other, by the greater He correcteth also the less. And as when He had healed a certain other He charged him to give glory to God, addressing this exhortation not to him only but through him to all, so He addresseth to these, and by these to all the rest of mankind, that exhortation and advice which was given to them by word of mouth. Besides this we may also say, that Jesus perceived great endurance in his soul, and addressed the exhortation to him as to one who was able to receive His command, keeping him to health both by the benefit, and by the fear of future ills.
And observe the absence of boasting. He said not, “Behold, I have made thee whole,” but, “Thou art made whole; sin no more.” And again, not, “lest I punish thee,” but, “lest a worse thing come unto thee”; putting both expressions not personally, 12 and showing that the cure was rather of grace than of merit. For He declared not to him that he was delivered after suffering the deserved amount of punishment, but that through lovingkindness he was made whole. Had this not been the case, He would have said, “Behold, thou hast suffered a sufficient punishment for thy sins, be thou steadfast for the future.” But now He spake not so, but how? “Behold, thou art made whole; sin no more.” Let us continually repeat these words to ourselves, and if after having been chastised we have been delivered, let each say to himself, “Behold, thou art made whole; sin no more.” But if we suffer not punishment though continuing in the same courses, let us use for our charm that word of the Apostle, “The goodness of God leadeth [us] to repentance, but after [our] hardness and impenitent heart, [we] treasure up unto [ourselves] wrath.” (Rm 2,4-5).
And not only by strengthening 13 the sick man’s body, but also in another way, did He afford him a strong proof of His Divinity; for by saying, “Sin no more,” He showed that He knew all the transgressions that had formerly been committed by him; and by this He would gain his belief as to the future.
Jn 5,15. “The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus that had made him whole.”
Again observe him continuing in the same right feeling. He saith not, “This is he who said, Take up thy bed,” but when they continually advanced this seeming charge, he continually puts forward the defense, again declaring his Healer, and seeking to attract and attach others to Him. For he was not so unfeeling as after such a benefit and charge to betray his Benefactor, and to speak as he did with an evil intention. Had he been a wild beast, had he been something unlike a man and of stone, the benefit and the fear would have been enough to restrain him, since, having the threat lodged within, he would have dreaded lest he should suffer “a worse thing,” having already received the greatest pledges 14 of the power of his Physician. Besides, had he wished to slander Him, he would have said nothing about his own cure, but would have mentioned and urged against Him the breach of the Sabbath. But this is not the case, surely it is not; the words are words of great boldness and candor; he procaims his Benefactor no less than the blind man did. For what said he? “He made clay, and anointed mine eyes” (c. 9,6); and so this man of whom we now speak, “It is Jesus who made me whole.”
Jn 5,16. “Therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay Him, because He had done these things on the Sabbath day.” What then saith Christ?
Jn 5,17. “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.”
When there was need to make excuse for the Disciples, He brought forward David their fellow-servant, saying, “Have ye not read what David did when he was an hungered?” (Mt 12,2). But when excuse was to be made for Himself, He betook Himself to the Father, showing in two ways His Equality, by calling God His Father peculiarly, 15 and by doing the same things which He did. “And wherefore did He not mention what took place at Jericho 16 ?” Because He wished to raise them up from earth that they might no longer attend to Him as to a man, but as to God, and as to one who ought to legislate: since had He not been The Very Son and of the same Essence, the defense would have been worse than the charge. For if a viceroy who had altered a royal law should, when charged with so doing, excuse himself in this manner, and say, “Yea, for the king also has annulled laws,” he would not be able to escape, but would thus increase the weight of the charge. But in this instance, since the dignity is equal, the defense is made perfect on most secure grounds. “From the charges,” saith He, “from which ye absolve God, absolve Me also.” And therefore He said first, “My Father,” that He might persuade them even against their will to allow to Him the same, through reverence of His clearly asserted Sonship.
If any one say, “And how doth the Father ‘work,’ who ceased on the seventh day from all His works?” let him learn the manner in which He “worketh.” What then is the manner of His working? He careth for, He holdeth 17 together all that hath been made. Therefore when thou beholdest the sun rising and the moon running in her path, the lakes, and fountains, and rivers, and rains, the course of nature in the seeds and in our own bodies and those of irrational beings, and all the rest by means of which this universe is made up, then learn the ceaseless working of the Father. “For He maketh His sun to rise upon the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Mt 5,45). And again; “If God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the fire 18 ” (Mt 6,30); and speaking of the birds He said, “Your Heavenly Father feedeth them.”
[3.] In that place 19 then He did all on the Sabbath day by words only, and added nothing more, but refuted their charges by what was done in the Temple and from their own practice. But here where He commanded a work to be done, the taking up a bed, (a thing of no great importance as regarded the miracle, 20 though by it He showed one point, a manifest violation of the Sabbath,) He leads up His discourse to something greater, desiring the more to awe them by reference to the dignity of the Father, and to lead them up to higher thought. Therefore when His discourse is concerning the Sabbath, He maketh not His defense as man only, or as God only, but sometimes in one way, sometimes in the other; because He desired to persuade them both of the condescension of the Dispensation, and the Dignity of His Godhead. Therefore He now defendeth Himself as God, since had He always conversed with them merely as a man, they would have continued in the same low condition. Wherefore that this may not be, He bringeth forward the Father. Yet the creation itself “worketh” on the Sabbath, (for the sun runneth, rivers flow, fountains bubble, women bear,) but that thou mayest learn that He is not of creation, He said not, “Yea, I work, for creation worketh,” but, “Yea, I work, for My Father worketh.”
Jn 5,18. “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill Him, because He not only had broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.”
And this he asserted not by words merely, but by deeds, for not in speech alone, but also yet oftener by actions He declared it. Why so? Because they might object to His words and charge Him with arrogance, but when they saw the truth of His actions proved by results, and His power proclaimed by works, after that they could say nothing against Him.
But they who will not receive these words in a right mind assert, that “Christ made not Himself equal to God, but that the Jews suspected this.” Come then let us go over what has been said from the beginning. Tell me, did the Jews persecute Him, or did they not? It is clear to every one that they did. Did they persecute Him for this or for something else? It is again allowed that it was for this. Did He then break the Sabbath, or did He not? Against the fact that He did, no one can have anything to say. Did He call God His Father, or did He not call Him so? This too is true. Then the rest also follows by the same consequence; for as to call God His Father, to break the Sabbath, and to be persecuted by the Jews for the former and more especially for the latter reason, belonged not to a false imagination, but to actual fact, so to make Himself equal to God was a declaration of the same meaning. 21
And this one may see more clearly from what He had before said, for “My Father worketh, and I work,” is the expression of One declaring Himself equal to God. For in these words He has marked 22 no difference. He said not, “He worketh, and I minister,” but, “As He worketh, so work I”; and hath declared absolute Equality. But if He had not wished to establish this, and the Jews had supposed so without reason, He would not have allowed their minds to be deceived, but would have corrected this. Besides, the Evangelist would not have been silent on the subject, but would have plainly said that the Jews supposed so, but that Jesus did not make Himself equal to God. As in another place he doth this very thing, when he perceiveth that something was said in one way, and understood in another; as, “Destroy this Temple,” said Christ, “and in three days I will raise It up” (c. ii. 19); speaking of His Flesh. But the Jews, not understanding this, and supposing that the words were spoken of the Jewish Temple, said, “Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt Thou rear it up in three days?” Since then He said one thing, and they imagined another, (for He spake of His Flesh, and they thought that the words were spoken of their Temple,) the Evangelist remarking on this, or rather correcting their imagination, goes on to say, “But He spake of the Temple of His Body.” So that here also, if Christ had not made Himself equal with God, had not wished to establish this, and yet the Jews had imagined that He did, the writer would here also have corrected their supposition, and would have said, “The Jews thought that He made Himself equal to God, but indeed He spake not of equality.” And this is done not in this place only, nor by this Evangelist only, but again elsewhere another Evangelist is seen to do the same. For when Christ warned His disciples, saying, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Mt 16,6), and they reasoned among themselves, saying, “It is because we have taken no bread,” and He spake of one thing, calling their doctrine “leaven,” but the disciples imagined another, supposing that the words were said of bread; it is not now the Evangelist who setteth them right, but Christ Himself, speaking thus, “How is it that ye do not understand, that I spake not to you concerning bread?” But here there is nothing of the kind.
“But,” saith some one, "to remove this very thought Christ has added,
Jn 5,19. “‘The Son can do nothing of Himself.’”
Man! He doth the contrary. He saith this not to take away, but to confirm, 23 His Equality. But attend carefully, for this is no common question. The expression “of Himself” is found in many places of Scripture, with reference both to Christ and to the Holy Ghost, and we must learn the force of the expression, that we may not fall into the greatest errors; for if one take it separately by itself in the way in which it is obvious to take it, consider how great an absurdity will follow. He said not that He could do some things of Himself and that others He could not, but universally,
[4.] “The Son can do nothing of Himself.” I ask then my opponent, “Can the Son do nothing of Himself, tell me?” If he reply, “that He can do nothing,” we will say, that He hath done of Himself the very greatest of all goods. As Paul cries aloud, saying, “Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant.” (Ph 2,6-7). And again, Christ Himself in another place saith, “I have power to lay down My life, and I have power to take it again”: and, “No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.” (c. 10,18). Seest thou that He hath power over life and death, and that He wrought of Himself so mighty a Dispensation? And why speak I concerning Christ, when even we, than whom nothing can be meaner, do many things of ourselves? Of ourselves we choose vice, of ourselves we go after virtue, and if we do it not of ourselves, and not having power, we shall neither suffer hell if we do wrong, nor enjoy the Kingdom if we do right.
What then meaneth, “Can do nothing of Himself”? That He can do nothing in opposition to the Father, nothing alien from, nothing strange to Him, 24 which is especially the assertion of One declaring an Equality and entire agreement.
But wherefore said He not, that “He doeth nothing contrary,” instead of, “He cannot do”? It was that from this again He might show the invariableness and exactness of the Equality, for the expression imputes not weakness to Him, but even shows 25 His great power; since in another place Paul saith of the Father, “That by two immutable things in which it was impossible for God to lie” (He vi. 18): and again, “If we deny Him — He abideth faithful,” for “He cannot deny Himself.” (2Tm 2,12-13). And in truth this expression, “impossible,” is not declaratory of weakness, but power, power unspeakable. For what He saith is of this kind, that “that Essence admitteth not such things as these.” For just as when we also say, “it is impossible for God to do wrong,” we do not impute to Him any weakness, but confess in Him an unutterable power; so when He also saith, “I can of Mine own Self do nothing” (v. 30), His meaning is, that “it is impossible, nature admits not, 26 that I should do anything contrary to the Father.” And that you may learn that this is really what is said, let us, going over what follows, see whether Christ agreeth with what is said by us, or among you. Thou sayest, that the expression does away with His Power and His proper Authority, and shows His might to be but weak; but I say, that this proves His Equality, His unvarying Likeness, 27 (to the Father,) and the fact that all is done as it were by one Will 28 and Power and Might. Let us then enquire of Christ Himself, and see by what He next saith whether He interpreteth these words according to thy supposition or according to ours. What then saith He?
“For what things soever the Father 29 doeth these also doeth the Son likewise.”
Seest thou how He hath taken away you assertion by the root, and confirmed what is said by us? since, if Christ doeth nothing of Himself, neither will the Father do anything of Himself, if so be that Christ doeth all things in like manner to Him. 30 If this be not the case, another strange conclusion will follow. For He said not, that “whatsoever things He saw the Father do, He did,” but, “except He see the Father doing anything, He doeth it not”; extending His words to all time; now He will, according to you, be continually learning the same things. Seest thou how exalted is the idea, and that the very humility of the expression compelleth even the most shameless and unwilling to avoid groveling thoughts, and such as are unsuited to His dignity? For who so wretched and miserable as to assert, that the Son learneth day by day what He must do? and how can that be true, “Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail”? (Ps 102,27), or that other, “All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made” (c. 1,3); if the Father doeth certain things, and the Son seeth and imitateth Him? Seest thou that from what was asserted above, and from what was said afterwards, proof is given of His independent Power? and if He bringeth forward some expressions in lowly manner, marvel not, for since they persecuted Him when they had heard His exalted sayings, and deemed Him to be an enemy of God, sinking 31 a little in expression alone, He again leadeth His discourse up to the sublimer doctrines, then in turn to the lower, varying His teaching that it might be easy of acceptance even to the indisposed. 32 Observe, after saying, “My Father worketh, and I work”; and after declaring Himself equal with God, He addeth, “The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do.” Then again in a higher strain, “What things soever the Father doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” Then in a lower,
Jn 5,20. “The Father loveth the Son, and showeth Him all things that Himself doeth; and He will show Him greater works than these.”
Seest thou how great is the humility of this? And with reason; for what I said before, what I shall not cease to say, I will now repeat, that when He uttereth anything low or humbly, He putteth it in excess, that the very poverty of the expression may persuade even the indisposed to receive the notions with pious understanding. Since, if it be not so, see how absurd a thing is asserted, making the trial from the words themselves. For when He saith, “And shall show Him greater works than these,” He will be found not to have yet learned many things, which cannot be said even of the Apostles; for they when they had once received the grace of the Spirit, in a moment both knew and were able to do all things which it was needful that they should know and have power to do, while Christ will be found to have not yet learned many things which He needed to know. And what can be more absurd than this?
What then is His meaning? It was because He had strengthened the paralytic, and was about to raise the dead, that He thus spake, all but saying, “Wonder ye that I have strengthened the paralyzed? Ye shall see greater things than these.” But He spake not thus, but proceeded somehow in a humbler strain, in order that He might soothe 33 their madness. And that thou mayest learn that “shall show” is not used absolutely, listen again to what followeth.
Jn 5,21. “For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom He will.”
Yet “can do nothing of Himself” is opposed to “whom He will”: since if He quickeneth “whom He will,” He can do something “of Himself,” (for to “will” implies power,) but if He “can do nothing of Himself,” then He cannot “quicken whom He will.” For the expression, “as the Father raiseth up,” showeth unvarying resemblance in Power, and “whom He will,” Equality of Authority. Seest thou therefore that “cannot do anything of Himself” is the expression of One not taking away His (own) authority, but declaring the unvarying resemblance of His Power and Will (to those of the Father)? In this sense also understand the words, “shall show to Him”; for in another place He saith, “I will raise him up at the last Day.” (c. 6,40). And again, to show that He doth it not by receiving an inward power 34 from above, He saith, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” (c. xi. 25). Then that thou mayest not assert that He raiseth what dead He will and quickeneth them, but that He doth not other things in such manner, He anticipateth and preventeth every objection of the kind by saying, “What things soever He doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise,” thus declaring that He doeth all things which the Father doeth, and as the Father doeth them; whether thou speakest of the raising of the dead, or the fashioning 35 of bodies, or the remission of sins, or any other matter whatever, He worketh in like manner to Him who begat Him.
[5.] But men careless of their salvation give heed to none of these things; so great an evil is it to be in love with precedence. This has been the mother of heresies, this has confirmed the impiety of the heathen. 36 For God desired that His invisible things should be understood by the creation of this world (Rm 1,20), but they having left these and refused to come by this mode of teaching, cut out for themselves another way, and so were cast out from the true. 37 And the Jews believed not because they received honor from one another, and sought not the honor which is from God. But let us, beloved, avoid this disease exceedingly and with all earnestness; for though we have ten thousand good qualities, this plague of vainglory is sufficient to bring them all to nought. (c. 5,44). If therefore we desire praise, let us seek the praise which is from God, for the praise of men of what kind soever it be, as soon as it has appeared has perished, or if it perish not, brings to us no profit, and often proceeds from a corrupt judgment. And what is there to be admired in the honor which is from men? which young dancers enjoy, and abandoned women, and covetous and rapacious men? But he who is approved of God, is approved not with these, but with those holy men the Prophets and Apostles, who have shown forth an angelic life. If we feel any desire to lead multitudes about with us or be looked at by them, let us consider the matter apart by itself, and we shall find that it is utterly worthless. In fine, if thou art fond of crowds, draw to thyself the host of angels, and become terrible to the devils, then shalt thou care nothing for mortal things, but shalt tread all that is splendid underfoot as mire and clay; and shall clearly see that nothing so fits a soul for shame as the passion for glory; for it cannot, it cannot be, that the man who desires this should live the crucified life, as on the other hand it is not possible that the man who hath trodden this underfoot should not tread down most other passions; for he who masters this will get the better of envy and covetousness, and all the grievous maladies. “And how,” saith some one, “shall we get the better of it?” If we look to the other glory which is from heaven, and from which this kind strives to cast us out. For that heavenly glory both makes us honored here, and passes with us into the life which is to come, and delivers us from all fleshly slavery which we now most miserably serve, giving up ourselves entirely to earth and the things of earth. For if you go into the forum, if you enter into a house, into the streets, into the soldiers’ quarters, into inns, taverns, ships, islands, palaces, courts of justice, council chambers, you shall everywhere find anxiety for things present and belonging to this life, and each man laboring for these things, whether gone or coming, traveling or staying at home, voyaging, tilling lands, in the fields, in the cities, in a word, all. What hope then of salvation have we, when inhabiting God’s earth we care not for the things of God, when bidden to be aliens from earthly things we are aliens from heaven and citizens of earth? What can be worse than this insensibility, when hearing each day of the Judgment and of the Kingdom, we imitate the men in the days of Noah, and those of Sodom, waiting to learn all by actual experience? Yet for this purpose were all those things written, that if any one believe not that which is to come, he may, from what has already been, get certain proof of what shall be. Considering therefore these things, both the past and the future, let us at least take breath a little from this hard slavery, and make some account of our souls also, 38 that we may obtain both present and future blessings; through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be glory, now and ever, and world without end. Amen).
1 Sav. omits “because we are sensible of the infirmity.”
2 al). “learn.”
3 Ben. and ms. in Bodl. read the passage thus: “For the chastisement was of itself sufficient…but when not being sobered by the application of punishment, he again dares the same things, such an one will reasonably suffer some penalty, calling this as he does upon his own self.”
4 al). “have been punished here.”
5 al). “at this.”
6 ejfovdion givgnetai. So Euseb). H. E. 8,10, ejf. th`" ei;" th;n zwh;n eijsovdou .
7 lit). “there.”
8 al). “from loose living,” rJaqumiva").
9 See p. 129.
10 al). “from another reason.”
11 al). “chased thence by all.”
12 ajproswvpw", i.e. not referring to Himself.
14 al). “proofs.”
16 Jericho was taken on the seventh day by command of God. Jos 6,4 Jos 6,15.
17 lit). “weldeth.” sugkrotei`. Sav. conjectures sugkratei`, but the word is not uncommon for holding together a system.
18 eij" klivbanon, G. T.
21 th`" aujth`" gnwvmh" ajpovfasiv", i.e. in saying that He was making Himself “equal to the Father,” the Evangelist asserts a truth which had before been signified by His breaking the Sabbath, and saying that God was His Father.
22 al). “given.”
23 lit). “to clench.”
24 i.e. nothing by Himself.
25 al). “testifies.”
27 to; aparavllakton.
29 AEEkei`no", G. T.
30 Morel. and ms. in Bodl., “that the ‘likewise’ (to; oJmoivw") may remain.”
33 al). “heal.”
36 lit). “Greeks.”
37 th`" ou]sh" sub). oJdou`.
38 i.e. as well as of earthly things).
Chrysostom on John 37