Golden Chain 7111
7111 Mc 11,11-14
(p. 225) Bede: As the time of His Passion approached, the Lord wished to approach to the place of His Passion, in order to intimate that He underwent death of His own accord: wherefore it is said, "And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple." And by His going to the temple on first entering the city, He shews us beforehand a form of religion, which we are to follow, that if by chance we enter a place, where there is a house of prayer, we should first turn aside to it.
We should also understand from this, that such was the poverty of the Lord, and so far was He from flattering man, that in so large a city, He found no one to be His host, no abiding place, but lived in a small country place with Lazarus and his sisters; for Bethany is a hamlet of the Jews.
Wherefore there follows: "And when He had looked round about upon all things, (that is, to see whether any one would take Him in,) and now the eventide was come, He went out into Bethany with the twelve."
Nor did He do this once only, but during all the five days, from the time that He came to Jerusalem, to the day of His Passion, He used always to do the same thing; during the day He taught in the temple, but at night, He went out and dwelt in the mount of Olives.
It goes on, "And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, He was hungry."
Chrys., in Matt. Hom., 87: How is it that He was hungry in the morning, as Matthew says, if it were not that by an economy He permitted it to His flesh?
There follows, (p. 226) "And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, He came, if haply He might find any thing theron."
Now it is evident that this expresses a conjecture of the disciples, who thought that it was for this reason that Christ came to the fig tree, and that it was cursed, because He found no fruit upon it.
For it goes on: "And when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever."
He therefore curses the fig tree for His disciples' sake, that they might have faith in Him. For He everywhere distributed blessings, and punished no one, yet at the same time, it was right to give them a proof of His chastising power, that they might learn that He could even cause the persecuting Jews to wither away; He was however unwilling to give this proof on men, wherefore He shewed them on a plant a sign of His power of punishing. This proves that He came to the fig tree principally for this reason, and not on account of His hunger, for who is so silly as to suppose that in the morning He felt so greatly the pains of hunger, or what prevented the Lord from eating before He left Bethany? Nor can it be said that the sight of the figs excited His appetite to hunger, for it was not the season of figs; and if He were hungry, why did He not seek food elsewhere, rather than from a fig-tree which could not yield fruit before its time? What punishment also did a fig tree deserve for not having fruit before its time? From all this then we may infer, that He wished to shew His power, that their minds might not be broken by His Passion.
Theophylact: Wishing to shew His disciples that if He chose He could in a moment exterminate those who were about to crucify Him. In a mystical sense, however, the Lord entered into the temple, but came out of it again, to shew that He left it desolate, and open to the spoiler.
Bede: Farther, He looks round about upon the hearts of all, and when in those who opposed the truth, He found no place to lay His head, He retires to the faithful, and takes up His abode with those who obey Him. For Bethany means, the house of obedience.
Pseudo-Jerome: He went in the morning to the Jews, and visits us in the eventide of the world.
Bede: Just in the same way as He speaks parables, so also His deeds are parables; therefore He comes hungry to seek fruit off the (p. 227) fig tree, and though He knew the time of figs was not yet, He condemns it to perpetual barrenness, that He might shew that the Jewish people could not be saved through the leaves, that is, the words of righteousness which it had, without fruit, that is, good works, but should be cut down and cast into the fire.
Hungering therefore, that is, desiring the salvation of mankind, He saw the fig tree, which is, the Jewish people, having leaves, or, the words of the Law and the Prophets, and He sought upon it the fruit of good works, by teaching them, by rebuking them, by working miracles, and He found it not, and therefore condemned it. Do thou too, unless thou wouldest be condemned by Christ in the judgment, beware of being a barren tree, but rather offer to Christ the fruit of piety which He requires.
Chrys.: We may also say, in another sense, that the Lord sought for fruit on the fig tree before its time, and not finding it, cursed it, because all who fulfil the commandments of the Law, are said to bear fruit in their own time, as, for instance, that commandment, "Thou shalt not commit adultery;" but he who not only abstains from adultery but remains a virgin, which is a greater thing, excels them in virtue. But the Lord exacts from the perfect not only the observance of virtue, but also that they bear fruit over and above the commandments.
7115 Mc 11,15-18
(p. 228) Bede: What the Lord had done in figure, when He cursed the barren fig tree, He now shews more openly, by casting out the wicked from the temple. For the fig tree was not in fault, in not having fruit before its time, but the priests were blameable; wherefore it is said, "And they come to Jerusalem; and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple." Nevertheless, it is probable that He found them buying and selling in the temple things which were necessary for its ministry. If then the Lord forbids men to carry on in the temple worldly matters, which they might freely do any where else, how much more do they deserve a greater portion of the anger of Heaven, who carry on in the temple consecrated to Him those things, which are unlawful wherever they may be done.
It goes on: "and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers."
Theophylact: He calls moneychangers, changers of a particular sort of money, for the word means a small brass coin.
Bede: Because the Holy Spirit appeared over the Lord in the shape of a dove, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are fitly pointed out under the name of doves. The Dove therefore is sold, when the laying on of hands by which the Holy Spirit is received is sold for a price. Again, He overturns the seats of them who sell doves, because they who sell spiritual grace, are deprived of their priesthood, either before men, or in the eyes of God.
Theophylact: But if a man by sinning gives up to the devil the grace and purity of baptism, he has sold his Dove, and for this reason is cast out of the temple.
There follows: "And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple."
Bede: He speaks of those vessels which were carried there for the purpose of merchandise. But God forbid that it should be taken to mean, that the Lord cast out of the temple, or forbade men to bring into it, the vessels consecrated to God; for here He shews a type of the judgment to come, for He thrusts away the wicked from the Church, and restrains them by His everlasting word from ever again coming in to trouble the Church. Furthermore, sorrow, sent into the heart from above, takes away from the souls of the faithful those sins which were in them, and Divine grace assists them so that they should never again commit them.
It goes on: "And He (p. 229) taught, saying unto them, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer."
Pseudo-Jerome: (This) according to Isaiah (Is 56,7). "But ye have made it a den of thieves," according to Jeremiah. (Jr 7,11)
Bede: He says, "to all nations," not to the Jewish nation alone, nor in the city of Jerusalem alone, but over the whole world; and he does not say a house of bulls, goats, and rams, but of prayer.
Theophylact: Further, He calls the temple, "a den of thieves," on account of the money gained there; for thieves always troop together for gain. Since then they sold those animals which were offered in sacrifice for the sake of gain, He called them thieves.
Bede: For they were in the temple for this purpose, either that they might persecute with corporal pains those who did not bring gifts, or spiritually kill those who did. The mind and conscience of the faithful is also the temple and the house of God, but if it puts forth perverse thoughts, to the hurt of any one, it may be said that thieves haunt it as a den; therefore the mind of the faithful becomes the den of a thief, when leaving the simplicity of holiness, it plans that which may hurt others.
Augustine, de Con. Evan, ii, 67: John, however, relates this in a very different order, wherefore it is manifest that not once only, but twice, this was done by the Lord, and that the first time was related by John, the last, by all the other three.
Theophylact: Which also turns to the greater condemnation of the Jews, because though the Lord did this so many times, nevertheless they did not correct their conduct.
Augustine, de Con. Evan, ii, 68: In this again, Mark does not keep the same order as Matthew; because however Matthew connects the facts together by this sentence, "And He left them, and went out of the city into Bethany," (Mt 21,17) returning from whence in the morning, according to his relation, Christ cursed the tree, therefore it is supposed with greater probability that he rather has kept to the order of time, as to the ejection from the temple of the buyers and sellers. Mark therefore passed over what was done the first day when He entered into the temple, and on remembering it inserted it, when he had said that He found nothing on the fig tree but leaves, which was done on the second day, as both testify.
Gloss: But the Evangelist shews what effect the correction of the Lord had on the ministers of the temple, when he adds: "and the Scribes and Chief Priests heard it, and sought how (p. 230) they might destroy him;" according to that saying of Amos: "They hate him that rebuketh in the gate, and they abhor him that speaketh uprightly." (Amos 5:10) From this wicked design, however, they were kept back for a time solely by fear.
Wherefore it is added, "For they feared Him, because all the people were astonished at His doctrine. For He taught them as one having authority, and not as the Scribes" and Pharisees, as is said elsewhere.
7119 Mc 11,19-26
Pseudo-Jerome: The Lord, leaving darkness behind Him in the hearts of the Jews, went out, as the sun, from that city to another which is well-disposed and obedient. And this is what is meant, when it is said, "And when even was (p. 231) come, He went out of the city."
But the sun sets in one place, rises in another, for the light, taken from the Scribes, shines in the Apostles; wherefore He returns into the city; on which account there is added, "And in the morning, as they passed by, (that is, going into the city,) they saw the fig tree dried up from the root."
Theophylact: The greatness of the miracle appears in the drying up so juicy and green a tree. But though Matthew says that the fig tree was at once dried up, and that the disciples on seeing it wondered, there is no reason for perplexity, though Mark now says, that the disciples saw the fig tree dried up on the morrow; for what Matthew says must be understood to mean that they did not see it at once, but on the next day.
Augustine, de Con. Evan, ii, 68: The meaning is not that it dried up at the time, when they saw it, but immediately after the word of the Lord; for they saw it, not beginning to dry up, but completely dried up; and they thus understood that it had withered immediately after our Lord spoke.
Pseudo-Jerome: Now the fig tree withered from the roots is the synagogue withered from Cain, and the rest, from whom all the blood from Abel up to Zechariah is required.
Bede: Further, the fig tree was dried up from the roots to shew that the nation was impious not only for a time and in part, and was to be smitten forever, not merely to be afflicted by the attacks of nations from without and then to be freed, as had often been done; or else it was dried up from the roots, to shew that is was stripped not only of the external favour of man, but altogether of the favour of heaven within it; for it lost both its life in heaven, and its country on earth.
Pseudo-Jerome: Peter perceives the dry root, which is cut off, and has been replaced by the beautiful and fruitful olive, called by the Lord.
Wherefore it goes on: "And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto Him, Master, behold, the fig tree which Thou cursedst is withered away."
Chrys.: The wonder of the disciples was the consequence of imperfect faith, for this was no great thing for God to do; since then they did not clearly know His power, their ignorance made them break out into wonder.
And therefore it is added, "And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain," &c. That [p. 232] is; Thou shalt not only be able to dry up a tree, but also to change a mountain by they command and order.
Theophylact: Consider the Divine mercy, how it confers on us, if we approach Him in faith, the power of miracles, which He Himself possesses by nature, so that we should be able even to change mountains.
Bede: The Gentiles, who have attacked the Church, are in the habit of objecting to us, that we have never had full faith in God, for we have never been able to change mountains. It could, however, be done, if necessity called for it, as once we read that it was done by the prayers of the blessed Father Gregory of Neocaesarea, Bishop of Pontus, by which a mountain left as much space of ground for the inhabitants of a city as they wanted.
Chrys.: Or else, as He did not dry up the fig tree for its own sake, but for a sign that Jerusalem should come to destruction, in order to shew His power, in the same way we must also understand the promise concerning the mountain, though a removal of this sort is not impossible with God.
Pseudo-Jerome: Christ then who is the mountain, which grew from the stone, cut out without hands, is taken up and cast into the sea, when the Apostles with justice say, Let us turn ourselves to other nations, (Ac 13,46) since ye judged yourselves unworthy of hearing the word of God.
Bede: Or else, because the devil is often on account of his pride called by the name of a mountain, this mountain, at the command of those who are strong in the faith, is taken up from the earth and cast into the sea, whenever, at the preaching of the word of God by the holy doctors, the unclean spirit is expelled from the hearts of those who are fore-ordained to life, and is allowed to exert the tyranny of his power over the troubled and embittered souls of the faithless. At which time, he rages the more fiercely, the more he grieves at being turned away from hurting the faithful.
It goes on: "Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them."
Theophylact: For whosoever sincerely believes evidently lifts up his heart to God, and is joined to Him, and his burning heart feels sure that he has received what he asked for, which he who has experienced will understand; and those persons appear to me to experience this, who attend to the measure and the (p. 233) manner of their prayers. For this reason the Lord says, "Ye shall receive whatsoever ye ask in faith;" for he who believes that he is altogether in the hands of God, and interceding with tears, feels that he as it were has hold of the feet of the Lord in prayer, he shall receive what he has rightly asked for. Again, would you in another way receive what you ask for? Forgive your brother, if he has in any way sinned against you; this is also what is added: "And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses."
Pseudo-Jerome: Mark has, as he is wont, expressed seven verses of the Lord's prayer in one prayer. But what can he, whose sins are all forgiven, require more, save that he may persevere in what has been granted unto him.
Bede: But we must observe that there is a difference in those who pray; he who has perfect faith, which worketh by love, can by his prayer or even his command remove spiritual mountains, as Paul did with Elymas the sorcerer. But let those who are unable to mount up to such a height of perfection pray that their sins should be forgiven them, and they shall obtain what they pray for, provided that they themselves first forgive those who have sinned against them.
If however they disdain to do this, not only shall they be unable to perform miracles by their prayers, but they shall not even be able to obtain pardon for their sins, which is implied in what follows; "But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses."
7127 Mc 11,27-33
(p. 234) Theophylact: They were angry with the Lord, for having cast out of the temple those who had made it a place of merchandize, and therefore they come up to Him, to question and tempt Him.
Wherefore it is said: "And they come again to Jerusalem: and as He was walking in the temple, there come to Him the Chief Priests, and the Scribes, and the elders, and say unto Him, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee authority to do these things?"
As if they had said, Who art thou that doest these things? Dost thou make thyself a doctor, and ordain thyself Chief Priest?
Bede: And, indeed, when they say, "By what authority doest thou these things," they doubt its being the power of God, and wish it to be understood that what He did was the devil's work. When they add also, "Who gave thee this authority," they evidently deny that He is the Son of God, since they believe He works miracles, not by His own but by another's power.
Theophylact: Further, they said this, thinking to bring Him to judgment, so that if He said, by mine own power, they might lay hold upon Him; but if He said, by the power of another, they might make the people leave Him, for they believed Him to be God. But the Lord asks them concerning John, not without a reason, nor in a sophisticated way, but because John had borne witness of Him.
Wherefore there follows: "And Jesus answered and said unto them, I will also ask of you one question, and answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of me? answer me."
Bede: The Lord might indeed have (p. 235) confuted the cavils of his tempters by a direct answer, but prudently puts them a question, that they might be condemned either by their silence or their speaking, which is evident from what is added, "And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then did ye not believe him?"
As if He had said, He whom you confess to have had his prophecy from heaven bore testimony of Me, and ye have heard from him, by what authority I do these things.
It goes on: "But if we shall say, Of men; they feared the people."
They saw then that whatever they answered, they should fall into a snare; fearing to be stoned, they feared still more the confession of the truth.
Wherefore it goes on: "And they answered and said unto Jesus, We cannot tell."
Pseudo-Jerome: They envied the Lamp, and were in the dark, wherefore it is said, "I have ordained a lamp for mine anointed; his enemies will I clothe with shame." (Ps 131,17-18)
There follows: "And Jesus answering saith unto them, Neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things."
Bede: As if He had said, I will not tell you what I know, since ye will not confess what ye know. Further, we must observe that knowledge is hidden from those who seek it, principally for two reasons, namely, when he who seeks for it either has not sufficient capacity to understand what he seeks for, or when through contempt for the truth, or some other reason, he is unworthy of having that for which he seeks opened to him.
7201 Mc 12,1-12
(p. 237) Gloss: After the Lord had closed the mouths of His tempters by a wise question, He next shews their wickedness in a parable.
Wherefore it is said: "And He began to speak unto them by parable. A certain man planted a vineyard."
Pseudo-Jerome: God the Father is called a man by a human conception. The vineyard is the house of Israel; the hedge is the guardianship of Angels; the winefat is the law, the tower is the temple, and the husbandmen, the priests.
Bede, in Marc., 3, 42: Or else, the hedge is the wall of the city, the winefat is the altar, or those winefats, by which three psalms receive their name.
Theophylact: Or, the hedge is the law, which prohibited their mingling with strangers.
There follows: "And went into a far country."
Bede: Not by any change of place, but He seemed to go away from the vineyard, that He might leave the husbandmen to act on their own freewill.
It goes on: "And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard."
Pseudo-Jerome: The servants who were sent were the prophets, the fruit of the vineyard is obedience; some of the prophets were beaten, others wounded, others slain.
Wherefore it goes on: "And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty."
Bede: By the servant who was first sent we must understand Moses, but they beat him, and sent him away empty, because "they angered Moses in the tents." (Ps 106,6)
There follows: "And again he sent unto them another servant, and they wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled."
This other servant means David and the other Psalmists, but they wounded Him in the head and shamefully handled him, because they despised the songs of the Psalmists, (p. 238) and rejected David himself, saying, "What portion have we in David?" (1R 1R 12,16)
It goes on: "And he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some."
By the third servant and his companions, understand the band of the prophets. But which of the prophets did they not persecute? In these three kinds of servants, as the Lord Himself elsewhere pronounces, may be included in a figure all the doctors under the law, when He says, "that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning Me." (Lc 24,44)
Theophylact: Or else, by the first servant, understand the prophets who lived about the time of Elias, for Zedekiah the false prophet beat Micaiah (2 Chron. 18:23); and by the second servant whom they wounded in the head, that is, evil entreated, we may understand the prophets who lived about the time of Hosea and Isaiah; but by the third servant understand the prophets who flourished about the time of Daniel and Ezekiel.
It goes on: "Having yet therefore one son, his well-beloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, Perchance they will reverence my son."
Pseudo-Jerome: The well-beloved son and the last is the Only-begotten; and in that He says, "They will reverence my son," He speaks in irony.
Bede: Or else, this is not said in ignorance, but God is said to doubt, that freedom of will may be left to man.
Theophylact: Or else, He said this not as thought He were ignorant of what was to happen, but to shew what it was right and fitting that they should do.
"But those husbandmen said amongst themselves, This is the heir, come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours."
Bede: The Lord proves most clearly that the chiefs of the Jews did not crucify the Son of God through ignorance, but through envy; for they understood that this was He to whom it was said, "I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance." (Ps 2,8)
But these evil husbandmen strove to seize upon it by slaying Him, when the Jews crucifying Him tried to extinguish the faith which is by Him, and rather to bring forward their own righteousness which is by the Law, and to thrust it on the nations, and to imbue them with it.
There follows: "And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard."
Theophylact: That is, without Jerusalem, for the Lord was crucified out of the city.
Pseudo-Jerome: Or else, they case Him out of (p. 239) the vineyard, that is, out of the people, saying "Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil." (Jn 8,48)
Bede: Or, as far as in them lay, they cast Him out of their own borders, and gave Him up to the Gentiles that they might receive Him.
There follows: "What then will the Lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy those husbandmen, and give the vineyard unto others."
Augustine, de Con Evan, ii, 70: Matthew indeed subjoins that they answered and said, "He will miserably destroy those wicked men," (Mt 21,41) which Mark here says was not their answer, but that the Lord after putting the question, as it were answered Himself. But we may easily understand either that their answer was subjoined without the insertion of, "they answered," or "they said," which at the same time was implied; or else, that their answer, being the truth, was attributed to the Lord, since He also Himself gave this answer concerning them, being the Truth.
Theophylact: The Lord of the vineyard then is the Father of the Son who was slain, and the Son Himself is He who was slain, who will destroy those husbandmen, by giving them up to the Romans, and who will give the people to other husbandmen, that is, to the Apostles.
Read the Acts of the Apostles, and you will find three thousand, and five thousand on a sudden believing and bearing fruit to God.
Pseudo-Jerome: Or else, the vineyard is given to others, that is, to those who come from the east, and from the west, and from the south, and from the north, and who sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.
Bede: But that this was done by Divine interposition He affirms, by immediately afterwards adding, "And have ye not read this Scripture, The stone which the builders refused is become the headstone in the corner?"
As if He had said, how is this prophecy to be fulfilled, save in that Christ, being rejected and slain by you, is to be preached to the Gentiles, who will believe on Him? Thus then as a corner stone, He will found the two people on Himself, and of the two people will build for Himself a city of the faithful, one temple. For the masters of the synagogue, whom He had just called husbandmen, He now calls "builders", because the same persons, who seemed to cultivate His people, that they might bear the fruits of life, like a vineyard, were also commanded to construct and adorn this people, to be, as it were, a house worthy to have God for its inhabitant.
Theophylact: The (p. 240) stone then which the builders refused, the same has become the head-stone of the corner, that is, of the Church. For the Church is, as it were, the corner, joining together Jews and Gentiles; and this corner has been made by the Lord, and is wonderful in our eyes, that is, in the eyes of the faithful; for miracles meet with detraction from the faithless.
The Church indeed is wonderful, as it were resting on wonders, for the Lord worked with the Apostles, and confirmed the word with signs. And this is what is meant, when it is said, "This was the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes."
Pseudo-Jerome: This rejected stone, which is borne by that corner where the lamb and the bread met in the supper, ending the Old and beginning the New Testament, does things marvellous in our eyes (Ps 118,23) as the topaz.
Bede: But the Chief Priests shewed that those things which the Lord had spoken were true; which is proved from what follows: "And they sought to lay hold on him;" for He Himself is the heir, whose unjust death He said was to be revenged by the Father. Again, in a moral sense, each of the faithful, when the Sacrament of Baptism is intrusted to him, receives on hire a vineyard, which he is to cultivate. But the servant sent to him is evil intreated, beaten, and cast out, when the word is heard by him and despised, or, what is worse, even blasphemed; further, he kills, as far as in him lies, the heir, who has trampled under foot the Son of God.
The evil husbandman is destroyed; and the vineyard given to another, when the humble shall be enriched with that gift of grace, which the proud man has scorned. And it happens daily in the Church, that the Chief Priests wishing to lay hands on Jesus, are held back by the multitude, when some on, who is a brother only in name, either blushes or fears to attack the unity of the faith of the Church, and of its peace, though he loves it not, on account of the number of good brethren who dwell together within it.
7213 Mc 12,13-17
(p. 241) Bede: The Chief Priests though they sought to take Him, feared the multitude, and therefore they endeavored to effect what they could not do of themselves, by means of earthly powers, that they might themselves appear to be guiltless of His death.
And therefore it is said, "And they send unto Him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch Him in His words."
Theophylact: We have said elsewhere of the Herodians, that they were a certain new heresy, who said that Herod was the Christ, because the succession of the kingdom of Judah had failed. Others however say that the Herodians were the soldiers of Herod, whom the Pharisees brought as witnesses of the words of Christ, that they might take Him, and lead Him away. But observe how in their wickedness they wished to deceive Christ by flattery; for it goes on: "Master, we know that thou art true."
Pseudo-Jerome: For they questioned Him with honied words, and they surrounded Him as bees, who carry honey in their mouth, but a sting in their tail.
Bede: But this bland and crafty question was intended to induce Him in His answer rather to fear God than Caesar, and to say that tribute should not be paid, so that the Herodians immediately on hearing it might hold Him to be an author of sedition against the Romans.
And therefore they add, "And carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of any."
Theophylact: So that thou wilt not honour Caesar, that is, against the truth.
Therefore they add, "But teachest the way of God in truth. Is it (p. 242) lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? Shall we give, or shall we not give?"
For their whole plot was one which had a precipice on both sides, so that if He said that it was lawful to give tribute to Caesar, they might provoke the people against Him, as though He wished to reduce the nation itself to slavery; but if He said, that it was not lawful, they might accuse Him, as though He was stirring up the people against Caesar; the Fountain of wisdom escaped their snares.
Wherefore there follows: "But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it. And they brought it."
Bede: A denarius was a piece of money, accounted equal to ten smaller coins, and bearing the image of Caesar; wherefore there follows: "And He saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto Him, Caesar's.
Let those who think that our Saviour asked the question through ignorance and not by an economy, learn from this that He might have known whose image it was; but He puts the question, in order to return them a fitting answer.
Wherefore there follows: "And Jesus answering said unto them, Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's."
Theophylact: As if He had said, Give what bears an image to him whose image it bears, that is, the penny to Caesar; for we can both pay Caesar his tribute, and offer to God what is His own.
Bede: That is, tithes, first-fruits, oblations, and victims. In the same way as He gave tribute both for Himself and Peter, He also gave to God the things that are God's, doing the will of his Father.
Pseudo-Jerome: Render to Caesar the money bearing his image, which is collected for him, and render yourselves willingly up to God, for the light of thy countenance, O Lord (Ps 4,6), and not of Caesar's, is stamped upon us.
Theophylact: The inevitable wants of our bodies is as Caesar unto each of us; the Lord therefore orders that there should be given to the body its own, that is, food and raiment, and to God the things that are God's. It goes on: "And they marvelled at Him." They who ought to have believed, wondered at such great wisdom, because they had found no place for their craftiness.
Golden Chain 7111