Augustin on John 23

Tractate XXIV.

24 (Jn 6,1-14.

1. The miracles performed by our Lord Jesus Christ are indeed divine works, and incite the human mind to rise to the apprehension of God from the things that are seen. But inasmuch as He is not such a substance as may be seen with the eyes, and His miracles in the government of the whole world and the administration of the universal creation are, by their familiar constancy, slightly regarded, so that almost no man deigns to consider the wonderful and stupendous works of God, exhibited in every grain of seed; He has, agreeably to His mercy, reserved to Himself certain works, beyond the usual course and order of nature, which He should perform on fit occasion, that they, by whom His daily works are lightly esteemed, might be struck with astonishment at beholding, not indeed greater, but uncommon works. For certainly the government of the whole world is a greater miracle than the satisfying of five thousand men with five loaves; and yet no man wonders at the former; but the latter men wonder at, not because it is greater, but because it is rare. For who even now feeds the whole world, but He who creates the cornfield from a few grains? He therefore created as God creates. For, whence He multiplies the produce of the fields from a few grains, from the same source He multiplied in His hands the five loaves. The power, indeed, was in the hands of Christ; but those five loaves were as seeds, not indeed committed to the earth, but multiplied by Him who made the earth. In this miracle, then, there is that brought near to the senses, whereby the mind should be roused to attention, there is exhibited to the eyes, whereon the understanding should be exercised, that we might admire the invisible God through His visible works; and being raised to faith and purged by faith, we might desire to behold Him even invisibly, whom invisible we came to know by the things that are visible.

2. Yet it is not enough to observe these things in the miracles of Christ. Let us interrogate the miracles themselves, what they tell us about Christ: for they have a tongue of their own, if they can be understood. For since Christ is Himself the Word of God, even the act of the Word is a word to us. Therefore as to this miracle, since we have heard how great it is, let us also search how profound it is; let us not only be delighted with its surface, but let us also seek to know its depth. This miracle, which we admire on the outside, has something within. We have seen, we have looked at something great, something glorious, and altogether divine, which could be performed only by God: we have praised the doer for the deed. But just as, if we were to inspect a beautiful writing somewhere, it would not suffice for us to praise the hand of the writer, because he formed the letters even,equal and elegant, if we did not also read the information he conveyed to us by those letters; so, he who merely inspects this deed may be delighted with its beauty to admire the doer: but he who understands does, as it were, read it. For a picture is looked at in a different way from that in which a writing is looked at. When thou hast seen a picture, to have seen and praised it is the whole thing; when thou seest a writing, this is not the whole, since thou art reminded also to read it. Moreover, when thou seest a writing, if it chance that thou canst not read, thou sayest, “What do we think that to be which is here written?” Thou askest what it is, when already thou seest it to be something. He of whom thou seekest to be informed what it is that thou hast seen, will show thee another thing. He has other eyes than thou hast. Do you not alike see the form of the letters? But yet you do not alike understand the signs. Well, thou seest and praisest; but he sees, praises, reads and understands. Therefore, since we have seen and praised, let us also read and understand.

3. The Lord on the mount: much rather let us understand that the Lord on the mount is the Word on high. Accordingly, what was done on the mount does not, as it were, lie low, nor is to be cursorily passed by, but must be looked up to. He saw the multitude, knew them to be hungering, mercifully fed them: not only in virtue of His goodness, but also of His power. For what would mere goodness avail, where there was not bread with which to feed the hungry crowd? Did not power attend upon goodness, that crowd had remained fasting and hungry. In short, the disciples also, who were with the Lord, and hungry, themselves wished to feed the multitudes, that they might not remain empty, but had not wherewithal to feed them. The Lord asked, whence they might buy bread to feed the multitude. And the Scripture saith: “But this He said, proving him;” namely, the disciple Philip of whom He had asked; “for Himself knew what He would do.” Of what advantage then was it to prove him, unless to show the disciple’s ignorance? And, perhaps, in showing the disciple’s ignorance He signified something more. This will appear, then, when the sacrament of the five loaves itself will begin to speak to us, and to intimate its meaning: for there we shall see why the Lord in this act wished to exhibit the disciple’s ignorance, by asking what He Himself knew. For we sometimes ask what we do not know, that, being willing to hear, we may learn; sometimes we ask what we do know, wishing to learn whether he whom we ask also knows. The Lord knew both the one and the other; knew both what He asked, for He knew what Himself would do; and He also knew in like manner that Philip knew not this. Why then did He ask, but to show Philip’s ignorance? And why He did this, we shall, as I have said, understand afterwards.

4. Andrew saith: “There is a lad here, who has five loaves and two fishes, but what are these for so many?” When Philip, on being asked, had said that two hundred pennyworth of bread would not suffice to refresh that so great a multitude, there was there a certain lad, carrying five barley loaves and two fishes. “And Jesus saith, Make the men sit down. Now there was there much grass: and they sat down about five thousand men. And the Lord Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks;” He commanded, the loaves were broken, and put before the men that were set down. It was no longer five loaves, but what He had added thereto, who had created that which was increased. “And of the fishes as much as sufficed.” It was not enough that the multitude had been satisfied, there remained also fragments; and these were ordered to be gathered up, that they should not be lost: “And they filled twelve baskets with the fragments.”

5. To run over it briefly: by the five loaves are understood the five books of Moses; and rightly are they not wheaten but barley loaves, because they belong to the Old Testament. And you know that barley is so formed that we get at its pith with difficulty; for the pith is covered in a coating of husk, and the husk itself tenacious and closely adhering, so as to be stripped off with labor. Such is the letter of the Old Testament, invested in a covering of carnal sacraments: but yet, if we get at its pith, it feeds and satisfies us. A certain lad, then, brought five loaves and two fishes. If we inquire who this lad was, perhaps it was the people Israel, which, in a childish sense, carried, not ate. For the things which they carried were a burden while shut up, but when opened afforded nourishment. And as for the two fishes, they appear to us to signify those two sublime persons, in the Old Testament, of priest and of ruler, who were anointed for the sanctifying and governing of the people. And at length Himself in the mystery came, who was signified by those persons: He at length came who was pointed out by the pith of the barley, but concealed by its husk. He came, sustaining in His one person the two characters of priest and ruler: of priest by offering Himself to God as a victim for us; of ruler, because by Him we are governed. And the things that were carried closed are now opened up. Thanks be to Him. He has fulfilled by Himself what was promised in the Old Testament. And He bade the loaves to be broken; in the breaking they are multiplied. Nothing is more true. For when those five books of Moses are expounded, how many books have they made by being broken up, as it were; that is, by being opened and laid out? But because in that barley the ignorance of the first people was veiled, of whom it is said, “Whilst Moses is read, the veil is upon their hearts;”1 for the veil was not yet removed, because Christ had not yet come; not yet was the veil of the temple rent, while Christ is hanging on the cross: because, I say, the ignorance of the people was in the law, therefore that proving by the Lord made the ignorance of the disciple manifest.

6. Wherefore nothing is without meaning; everything is significant, but requires one that understands: for even this number of the people fed, signified the people that were under the law. For why were there five thousand, but because they were under the law, which is unfolded in the five books of Moses? Why were the sick laid at those five porches, but not healed? He, however, there cured the impotent man, who here fed multitudes with five loaves. Moreover, they sat down upon the grass; therefore understood carnally, and rested in the carnal. “For all flesh is grass.”2 And what were those fragments, but things which the people were not able to eat? We understand them to be certain matters of more hidden meaning, which the multitude are not able to take in. What remains then, but that those matters of more hidden meaning, which the multitude cannot take in, be entrusted to men who are fit to teach others also, just as were the apostles? Why were twelve baskets filled? This was done both marvellously, because a great thing was done; and it was done profitably, because a spiritual thing was done. They who at the time saw it, marvelled; but we, hearing of it, do not marvel. For it was done that they might see it, but it was written that we might hear it. What the eyes were able to do in their case, that faith does in our case. We perceive, namely, with the mind, what we could not with the eyes: and we are preferred before them, because of us it is said, “Blessed are they who see not, and yet believe.”3 And I add that, perhaps, we have understood what that crowd did not understand. And we have been fed in reality, in that we have been able to get at the pith of the barley.

7. Lastly, what did those men who saw this miracle think? “The men,” saith he, “when they had seen the sign which He had done, said, This is indeed a prophet.” Perhaps they still thought Christ to be a prophet for this reason, namely, that they were sitting on the grass. But He was the Lord of the prophets, the fulfiller of the prophets, the sanctifier of the prophets, but yet a prophet also: for it was said to Moses, “I will raise up for them a prophet like unto thee.” Like, according to the flesh, but not according to the majesty. And that this promise of the Lord is to be understood concerning Christ Himself,is clearly expounded and read in the Ac of the Apostles.4 And the Lord says of Himself, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country.”5 The Lord is a prophet, and the Lord is God’s Word, and no prophet prophesies without the Word of God: the Word of God is with the prophets, and the Word of God is a prophet. The former times obtained prophets inspired and filled by the Word of God: we have obtained the very Word of God for our prophet. But Christ is in such manner a prophet, the Lord of prophets, as Christ is an angel, the Lord of angels. For He is also called the Angel of great counsel.6 Nevertheless, what says the prophet elsewhere that not an ambassador, nor an angel, but Himself coming will save them;7 that is, He will not send an ambassador to save them, nor an angel, but Himself will come. Who will come? The Angel himself? Certainly not by an angel will He save them, except that He is so an angel, as also Lord of angels. For angels signify messengers. If Christ brought no message, He would not be called an angel: if Christ prophesied nothing, He would not be called a prophet. He has exhorted us to faith and to laying hold of eternal life; He has proclaimed something present, foretold something future because He proclaimed the present, thence He was an angel or messenger; because He foretold the future, thence He was a prophet; and that, as the Word of God He was made flesh, thence He was Lord of angels and of prophets.

1 (2Co 3,15,
2 (Is 40,6).
3 (Jn 20,29,
4 (Ac 7,37,
5 (Jn 4,44,
6 (Is 9,6, LXX.
7 (Is 35,4,

Tractate XXV.

25 (Jn 6,15-44.

1. Following upon yesterday’s lesson from the Gospel is that of to-day, upon which this day’s discourse is due to you. When that miracle was wrought, in which Jesus fed the five thousand with five loaves, and the multitudes marveled and said that He was a great prophet that came into the world, then follows this: “When Jesus therefore knew that they came to seize Him, and to make Him king, He escaped again unto the mountain alone.” It is therefore given to be understood that the Lord, when He sat on the mountain with His disciples, and saw the multitudes coming to Him, had descended from the mountain, and fed the multitudes on its lower parts. For how can it be that He should escape thither again, if He had not before descended from the mountain? There is something meant by the Lord’s descending from on high to feed the multitudes. He fed them, and ascended.

2. But why did He ascend after He knew that they wished to seize Him and make Him a king? How then; was He not a king, that He was afraid to be made a king? He was certainly not such a king as would be made by men, but such as would bestow a kingdom on men. May it not be that Jesus, whose deeds are words, does here, too, signify something to us? Therefore in this, that they wished to seize Him and make Him a king, and that for this He escapes to the mountain alone, is this action in His case silent; does it speak nothing, does it mean nothing? Or was this seizing of Him perhaps an intention to anticipate the time of His kingdom? For He had come now, not to reign immediately, as He is to reign in the sense in which we pray, Thy kingdom come. He ever reigns, indeed, with the Father, in that He is the Son of God, the Word of God, the Word by which all things were made. But the prophets foretold His kingdom according to that wherein He is Christ made man, and has made His faithful ones Christians. There will consequently be a kingdom of Christians, which at present is being gathered together, being prepared and purchased by the blood of Christ. His kingdom will at length be made manifest, when the glory of His saints shall be revealed, after the judgment is executed by Him, which judgment He Himself has said above is that which the Son of man shall execute. Of which kingdom also the apostle has said: “When He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father.” (1Co 15,24) In reference to which also Himself says: “Come, ye blessed of my Father, receive the kingdom which is prepared for you from the beginning of the world.” (Mt 25,34) But the disciples and the multitudes that believed on Him thought that He had thus come immediately to reign; hence, they wished to seize Him and to make Him a king; they wished to anticipate the time which He hid with Himself, to make it known in due time, and in due time to declare it in the end of the world.

3. That ye may know that they wished to make Him a king,-that is, to anticipate, and at once to have manifest the kingdom of Christ, whom it behoved first to be judged and then to judge,-when He was crucified, and they who hoped in Him had lost hope of His resurrection, having risen from the dead, He found two of them despairingly conversing together, and, with groaning, talking with one another of what had been done; and appearing to them as a stranger, while their eyes were held that He should not be recognized by them, He mixed with them as they held discourse: but they, narrating to Him the matter of their conversation, said that He was a prophet, mighty in deeds and in words, that had been slain by the chief priests; “And we,” say they, “did hope that it was He that should have redeemed Israel.” (Lc 24,13-21) Rightly you hoped: a true thing you hoped for: in Him is the redemption of Israel. But why are ye in haste? Ye wish to seize it. The following, too, shows us that this was their feeling, that, when the disciples inquired of Him concerning the end, they said to Him, “Wilt Thou at this time be made manifest, and when will be the kingdom of Israel?” For they longed for it now, they wished it now; that is, they wished to seize Him, and to make Him king. But saith He to the disciples (for He had yet to ascend alone), “It is not for you to know the times or seasons which the Father hath put in His own power: but ye shall receive virtue from on high, the Holy Spirit coming upon you, and ye shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the ends of the earth.” (Ac 1,6-8) You wish that I should manifest the kingdom now; let me first gather what I may manifest; you love elevation, and you shall obtain elevation, but follow me through humility. Thus it was also foretold of Him, “And the gathering of the peoples will surround Thee, and for this cause return Thou on high;” (Ps 7,8) that is, that the gatherings of the peoples may surround Thee, that Thou mayest gather many together, return Thou on high. Thus He did; He fed men, and ascended.

4. But why is it said, He escaped? For He could not be held against His will, nor seized against His will, since He could not be recognized against His will. But that you may know that this was done mystically, not of necessity, but of express purpose, you will presently see in the following: that He appeared to the same multitudes that sought Him, said many things in speaking with them, and discoursed much about the bread of heaven; when discoursing about bread, was He not with the same people from whom He had escaped test He should be held of them? Then, could He not have so acted at that time that He should not be seized by them, just as afterwards when He was speaking with them? Something, therefore, was meant by His escaping. What means, He escaped? His loftiness could not be understood. For of anything which thou hast not understood thou sayest, “It has escaped me.” Wherefore, “He escaped again unto the mountain alone,-the first-begotten from the dead, ascending above all heavens, and interceding for us.” (Col 1,18 Rm 8,34)

5. Meanwhile, He, the one great High Priest being above (He who has entered into that within the veil, the people standing without; for Him that priest under the old law, who did this once a year, did signify): He then being above, what were the disciples enduring in the ship? For that ship prefigured the Church while He is on high. For if we do not, in the first place, understand this thing which that ship suffered respecting the Church, those incidents were not significant, but simply transient; but if we see the real meaning of those signs expressed in the Church, it is manifest that the actions of Christ are a kind of speeches. “But when it was late, saith he, His disciples went down to the sea; and when they had entered into a ship, they came over the sea to Capernaum.” He declared that as finished quickly, which was done afterwards,-“They came over the sea to Capernaum.” He returns to explain how they came; that they passed over by sailing across the take. And whilst they were sailing to that place to which He has already said they had come, He explains by recapitulation what befell them. “It was now dark, and Jesus had not come to them.” Rightly he said “dark,” for the light had not come to them “It was now dark, and Jesus had not come to them.” As the end of the world approaches, errors increase, terrors multiply, iniquity increases, infidelity increases; the light, in short, which, by the Evangelist John himself, is fully and clearly shown to be charity, so much so that he says, “Whoso hateth his brother is in darkness;”7 that light, I say, is very often extinguished; this darkness of enmity between brethren increases, daily increases, and Jesus is not yet come. How does it appear to increase? “Because iniquity will abound, and the love of many will begin to wax cold.” Darkness increases, and Jesus is not yet come. Darkness increasing, love waxing cold, iniquity abounding,-these are the waves that agitate the ship; the storms arid the winds are the clamors of revilers. Thence love waxes cold; thence the waves do swell, and the ship is tossed.

6. “And a great wind blowing, the sea rose.” Darkness was increasing, discernment was diminishing, iniquity was growing. “When, therefore, they had rowed about twenty-five or thirty furlongs.” Meanwhile they struggled onward, kept advancing; nor did those winds and storms, and waves and darkness effect either that the ship should not make way, or that it should break in pieces and founder; but amid all these evils it went on. For, notwithstanding iniquity abounds, and the love of many waxes cold, and the waves do swell, the darkness grows and the wind rages, yet the ship is moving forward; “for he that perseveres to the end, the same shall be saved.”8 Nor is that number of furlongs to be lightly regarded. For it cannot really be that nothing is meant, when it is said that, “when they had rowed twenty-five or thirty furlongs, Jesus came to them.” It were enough to say, “twenty-five,” so likewise “thirty;” especially as it was an estimate, not an assertion of the narrator. Could the truth be aught endangered by a mere estimate, if he had said nearly thirty furlongs, or nearly twenty-five furlongs? But from twenty-five he made thirty. Let us examine the number twenty-five. Of what does it consist? of what is it made up? Of the quinary, or number five. That number five pertains to the law. The same are the five books of Moses, the same are those five porches containing the sick folk, the same are the five loaves feeding the five thousand men. Accordingly the number twenty-five signifies the law, because five by five-that is, five times five-make twenty-five, or the number five squared. But this law lacked perfection before the gospel came. Moreover, perfection is comprised in the number six. Therefore in six days God finished, or perfected, the world, and the same five are multiplied by six, that the law may be completed by the gospel, that six times five become thirty. To them that fulfill the law, therefore. Jesus comes. And how does He come? Walking upon the waves, keeping all the swellings of the world under His feet, pressing down all its heights. Thus it goes on, so long as time endures, so long as the ages roll. Tribulations increase, calamities increase, sorrows increase, all these swell and mount up: Jesus passeth on treading upon the waves.

7. And yet so great are the tribulations, that even they who have trusted in Jesus, and who strive to persevere unto the end, greatly fear lest they fail; while Christ is treading the waves, and trampling down the world’s ambitions and heights, the Christian is sorely afraid. Were not these things foretold him? Justly “they were afraid,” too, at seeing Jesus walking on the waves; like as Christians, though having hope in the world to come, are frequently disquieted at the crash of human affairs, when they see the loftiness of this world trampled down. They open the Gospel, they open the Scriptures, and they find all these things there foretold; that this is the Lord’s doing. He tramples down the heights of the world, that He may be glorified by the humble. Concerning whose loftiness it is foretold: “Thou shalt destroy strongest cities,” and “the spears of the enemy have come to an end, and Thou hast destroyed cities.”9 Why then are ye afraid, O Christians? Christ speaks: “It is I; be not afraid.” Why are ye alarmed at these things? Why are ye afraid? I have foretold these things, I do them, they must necessarily be done. “It is I; be not afraid. Therefore they would receive Him into the ship.” Recognizing Him and rejoicing, they are freed from their fears. “And immediately the ship was at the land to which they went.” There is an end made at the land; from the watery to the solid, from the agitated to the firm, from the way to the goal.

8. “On the next day the multitude that stood on the other side of the sea,” whence the disciples had come, “saw that there was none other boat there, save that one whereinto His disciples were entered, and that Jesus went not with His disciples into the boat, but that His disciples were gone away alone; but there came other boats from Tiberias, nigh unto the place where they did eat bread, giving thanks to the Lord: when, therefore, the multitudes saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum seeking Jesus.” Yet they got some knowledge of so great a miracle. For they saw that the disciples had gone into the ship alone, and that there was not another ship there. But there came boats also from near to that place where they did eat bread; in these the multitudes followed Him. He had not then embarked with His disciples, and there was not another ship there. How, then, was Jesus on a sudden beyond the sea, unless that He walked upon the sea to show a miracle?

9. “And when the multitudes had found Him.” Behold, He presents Himself to the people from whom He had escaped into the mountain, afraid that He should be taken of them by force. In every way He proves to us and gives us to know that all these things are said in a mystery, and done in a great sacrament (or mystery) to signify something important. Behold, that is He who had escaped the crowds unto the mountain; is He not speaking with the same crowds? Let them hold Him now; let them now make Him a king. “And when they had found Him on the other side of the sea, they said unto Him Rabbi, when camest Thou hither?”

10. After the sacrament of the miracle, He introduces discourse, that, if possible, they who have been fed may be further fed, that lie may with discourse fill their minds, whose bellies He filled with the loaves, provided they take in. And if they do not, let that be taken up which they do not receive, that the fragments may not be lost. Wherefore let Him speak, and let us hear. “Jesus answered and said Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye seek me, not because ye saw the signs, but because ye have eaten of my loaves.” Ye seek me for the sake of the flesh not for the sake of the spirit. How many seek Jesus for no other object but that He may bestow on them a temporal benefit! One has a business on hand, he seeks the intercession of the clergy; another is oppressed by one more powerful than himself, he flies to the church. Another desires intervention in his behalf with one with whom he has little influence. One in this way, one in that, the church is daily filled with such people. Jesus is scarcely sought after for Jesus’ sake. “Ye seek me, not because ye have seen the signs, but because ye have eaten of my loaves. Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that which endureth unto eternal life.” Ye seek me for something else, seek me for my own sake. For He insinuates the truth, that Himself is that meat: this shines out clearly in the sequel. “Which the Son of man will give you.” Thou didst expect, I believe, again to eat bread, again to sit down, again to be gorged. But He had said, “Not the meat which perisheth, but that which endureth unto eternal life,” in the same manner as it was said to that Samaritan woman: “If thou knewest who it is that asketh of thee drink, thou wouldest perhaps have asked of Him, and He would give thee living water.” When she said, “Whence hast thou, since thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep?” He answered the Samaritan woman: “If thou knewest who it is that asketh of thee drink, thou wouldst have asked of Him, and He would give thee water, whereof whoso drinketh shall thirst no more; for whoso drinketh of this water shall thirst again.” And she was glad and would receive, as if no more to suffer thirst of body, being wearied with the labor of drawing water. And so, during a conversation of this kind, He comes to spiritual drink. Entirely in this manner also here.

11. Therefore “this meat, not that which perisheth, but that which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you; for Him hath God the Father sealed.” Do not take this Son of man as you take other sons of men, of whom it is said, “And the sons of men will trust in the protection of Thy wings.”10 This Son of man is separated by a certain grace of the spirit; Son of man according to the flesh, taken out from the number of men: He is the Son of man. This Son of man is also the Son of God; this man is even God. In another place, when questioning His disciples, He saith: “Whom do men say that I, the Son of man, am? And they answered, Some John, some Elias, some Jeremias, or one of the prophets. And He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answered, Thou art the Christ, the S n of the living God.”11 He declared Himself Son of man, Peter declared Him the Son of the living God. Most fitly did He mention that which in mercy He had manifested Himself to be; most fitly did the other mention that which He continues to be in glory. The Word of God commends to our attention His own humility: the man acknowledged the glory of his Lord. And indeed, brethren, I think that this is just. He humbled Himself for us, let us glorify Him. For not for Himself is He Son of man, but for us. Therefore was He Son of man in that way, when “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” For to that end “God the Father sealed Him.” What is to seal, but to put some particular mark? To seal is to impress some mark which cannot be confounded with the rest. To seal is to put a mark on a thing. When thou puttest a mark on anything, thou doest so test it might be confused with other things, and thou shouldst not be able to recognize it. “The Father,” then, “hath sealed Him.” What is that, “hath sealed”? Bestowed on Him something peculiar, which puts Him out of comparison with all other men. For that reason it is said of Him, “God, even Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above l Thy fellows.”12 What is it then to seal, but to have Him excepted? This is the import of “above Thy fellows.” And so, do not, saith He, despise me because I am the Son of man, but seek from me, “not the meat that perisheth, but that which endureth to eternal life.” For I am the Son of man in such manner as not to be one of you: I am Son of man in such manner that God the Father sealed me. What does that mean, He “sealed me”? Gave me something peculiarly my own, that I should not be confounded with mankind, but that mankind should be delivered by me.

12. “They said therefore unto Him, What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” For He had said to them, “Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that which endureth unto eternal life.” “What shall we do?” they ask; by observing what, shall we be able to fulfill this precept? “Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He has sent.” This is then to eat the meat, not that which perisheth, but that which endureth unto eternal life. To what purpose dost thou make ready teeth and stomach? Believe, and thou hast eaten already. Faith is indeed distinguished from works, even as the apostle says, “that a man is justified by faith without the works of the law:”13 there are works which appear good, without faith in Christ; but they are not good, because they are not referred to that end in which works are good; “for Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.”14 For that reason, He willeth not to distinguish faith from work, but declared faith itself to be work. For it is that same faith that worketh by love.15 Nor did He say, This is your work; but, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He has sent;” so that he who glories, may glory in the Lord. And because He invited them to faith, they, on the other hand, were still asking for signs by which they might believe. See if the Jews do not ask for signs. “They said therefore rate Him, What sign doest thou, that we may see and believe thee? what dost thou work?” Was it a trifle that they were fed with five loaves? They knew this indeed, but they preferred manna from heaven to this food. But the Lord Jesus declared Himself to be such an one, that He was superior to Moses. For Moses dared not say of Himself that He gave, “not the meat which perisheth, but that which endureth to eternal life.” Jesus promised something greater than Moses gave. By Moses indeed was promised a kingdom, and a land flowing with milk and honey, temporal peace, abundance of children, health of body, and all other things, temporal goods indeed, yet in figure spiritual; because in the Old Testament they were promised to the old man. They considered therefore the things promised by Moses, and they considered the things promised by Christ. The former promised a full belly on the earth, but of the meat which perisheth; the latter promised, “not the meat which perisheth, but that which endureth unto eternal life.” They gave attention to Him that promised the more, but just as if they did not yet see Him do greater things. They considered therefore what sort of works Moses had done, and they wished yet some greater works to be done by Him who promised them such great things. What, say they, doest thou, that we may believe thee? And that thou mayest know that they compared those former miracles with this and so judged these miracles which Jesus did as being less; “Our fathers,” say they, “did eat manna in the wilderness.” But what is manna? Perhaps ye despise it. “As it is written, He gave them manna to eat.” By Moses our fathers received bread from heaven, and Moses did not say to them, “Labor for the meat which perisheth not.” Thou promisest “meat which perisheth not, but which endureth to eternal life;” and yet thou workest not such works as Moses did. He gave, not barley loaves, but manna from heaven.

13. “Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, not Moses gave you bread from heaven, but my Father gave you bread from heaven. For the true bread is He that cometh down from heaven, and giveth life to the world.” The true bread then is He that giveth life to the world; and the same is the meat of which I have spoken a little before,-“Labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that which endureth unto eernal life.” Therefore, both that manna signified this meat, and all those signs were signs of me. Ye have longed for signs of me; do ye despise Him that was signified? Not Moses then gave bread from heaven: God gives bread. But what bread? Manna, perhaps? No, but the bread which manna signified, namely, the Lord Jesus Himself. My Father giveth you the true bread. “For the bread of God is He that cometh down from heaven, and giveth life to the world Then said they unto Him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.” Like that Samaritan woman, to whom it was said, “Whoso drinketh of this water shall never thirst.” She, immediately understanding it in reference to the body, and wishing to be rid of want, said, “Give me, O Lord, of this water;” in the same manner also these said, “O Lord, give us this bread;” which may refresh us, and yet not fail.

14. “And Jesus said unto them, I am the Bread of Life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” “He that cometh to me;” this is the same thing as “He that believeth on me;” and “shall never hunger” is to be understood to mean the same thing as “shall never thirst.” For by both is signified that eternal sufficiency in which there is no want. You desire bread from heaven; you have it before you, and yet you do not eat. “But I said unto you, that ye also have seen me, and ye believed not.” But I have not on that account lost my people. “For hath your unbelief made the faith of God of none effect?”16 For, see thou what follows: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me, I will not cast out of doors.” What kind of within is that, whence there is no going out of doors? Noble interior, sweet retreat! O secret dwelling without weariness, without the bitterness of evil thoughts, without the solicitings of temptations and the interruptions of griefs! Is it not that secret dwelling whither shall enter that well-deserving servant, to whom the Lord will say, “Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord?”17

15. “And him that will come to me, I will not cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me.” Is it for that reason that Thou wilt not cast out him that shall come unto Thee, because Thou hast descended from heaven, not to do Thine own will, but the will of Him that sent Thee? Great mystery! I beseech you, let us knock together; something may come forth to us which may feed us, according to that which has delighted us. That great and sweet secret dwelling-place: “He that will come to me.” Give heed, give heed, and weigh the matter: “He that will come unto me, I will not cast out.” Why? “Because I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him that sent me.” Is it then the very reason why Thou castest not out him that cometh unto Thee, that Thou camest down from heaven, not to do Thy own will, but the will of Him that sent Thee? The very reason. Why do we ask whether it be the same? The same it is; Himself says it. For it would not be right in us to suspect Him to mean other than He says, “Whoso will come to me, I will not cast out.” And, as if thou askedst, wherefore? He answered, “Because I came not to do my own will, but the will of Him that sent me.” I am afraid that the reason why the soul went forth away from God is, that it was proud; nay, I do not doubt it. For it is written, “Pride is the beginning of all sin; and the beginning of man’s pride is a failing away from God.” It is written, it is firm and sure, it is true. And hence what is said of proud mortal man, clad in the tattered rags of the flesh, weighed down with the weight of a corruptible body, and withal extolling himself, and forgetting with what skin-coat he is cloth ed,-what, I ask, saith the Scripture to him? “Why is dust and ashes proud?” Why proud! Let the Scripture tell why. “Because in his life he put forth his inmost parts.”18 What is “put forth,” but “threw afar off”? This is to go forth away. For to enter within, is to long after the inmost parts; to put forth the inmost parts, is to go forth away. The proud man puts forth the inmost parts, the humble man earnestly desires the inmost parts. If we are cast out by pride, let us return by humility.

16. Pride is the source of all diseases, because pride is the source of all sins. When a physician removes a disorder from the body, if he merely cures the malady produced by some particular cause, but not the cause itself, he seems to heal the patient for a time, but while the cause remains, the disease will repeat itself. For example, to speak of this more expressly, some humor in the body produces a scurf or sores; there follows a high fever, and not a little pain; certain remedies are applied to repress the scurf, and to allay that heat of the sore; the remedies are applied, and they do good; thou seest the man who was full of sores and scurf healed; but because that humor was not expelled, it returns again to ulcers. The physician, perceiving this, purges away the humor, removes the cause, and there will be no more sores. Whence doth iniquity abound? From pride. Cure pride and there will be no more iniquity. Consequently, that the cause of all diseases might be cured, namely, pride, the Son of God came down and was made low. Why art thou proud, O man? God, for thee, became low. Thou wouldst perhaps be ashamed to imitate a lowly man; at any rate, imitate the lowly God. The Son of God came in the character of a man and was made low. Thou art taught to become humble, not of a man to become a brute. He, being God, became man; do thou, O man, recognize that thou art man. Thy whole humility is to know thyself. Therefore because God teaches humility, He said, “I came not to do my own will, but the will of Him that sent me.” For this is the commendation of humility. Whereas pride doeth its own will, humility doeth the will of God. Therefore, “Whoso cometh to me, I will not cast him out.” Why? “Because I came not to do my own will, but the will of Him that sent me.” I came humble, I came to teach humility, I came a master of humility: he that cometh to me is made one body with me; he that cometh to me becomes humble; he who adnereth to me will he humble, because he doeth not his own will, but the will of God; and therefore he shah not be cast out, for when he was proud he was cast out.

17. See those inner things commended to us in the psalm: “But the sons of men will put their trust in the covering of Thy wings.” See what it is to enter within; see what it is to flee for refuge to His protection; see what it is to run even under the Father’s lash, for He scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. “But the sons of men shall put their trust under the cover of Thy wings.” What is within? “They shall be filled with the plenteousness of Thy house,” when Thou shalt have sent them within, entering into the joy of their Lord; “they shall be filled with the plenteousness of Thy house; and Thou shalt give them to drink of the stream of Thy pleasure. For with Thee is the fountain of life.” Not away without Thee, but within with Thee, is the fountain of life. “And in Thy light we shall see light. Show Thy mercy upon them that know Thee, and Thy righteousness to them that are of upright heart.” They who follow the will of their Lord, not seeking their own, but the things of the Lord Jesus Christ, they are the upright in heart, their feet shall not be moved. For “God is good to Israel, to the upright in heart. But, as for me, says he, my feet were almost moved.” Why? “Because I was jealous at sinners, looking at the peace of sinners.”19 To whom is God good then, unless to the upright in heart? For God was displeasing to me when my heart was crooked. Why displeasing? Because He gave happiness to the wicked, and therefore my feet tottered, as if I had served God in vain. For this reason, then, my feet were almost moved, because I was not upright of heart. What then is upright in heart? Following the will of God. One man is prosperous, another man toils; the one lives wickedly and yet is prosperous, the other lives rightly and is distressed. Let not him that lives rightly and is in distress be angry; he has within what the prosperous man has not: let him therefore not be saddened, nor vex himself, nor faint. That prosperous man has gold in his own chest; this other has God in his conscience. Compare now gold and God, chest and conscience. The former has that which perishes, and has it where it will perish; the latter has God, who cannot perish, and has Him there whence He cannot be taken away: only if he is upright in heart; for then He enters within and goeth not out. For that reason, what said he? “For with Thee is the fountain of life:” not with us. We must therefore enter within, that we may live; we must not be, as it were, content to perish, nor willing to be satisfied of our own, to be dried up, but we must put our mouth to the very fountain, where the water fails not. Because Adam wished to live by his own counsel, he, too, fell through him who had fallen before through pride, who invited him to drink of the cup of his own pride. Wherefore, because “with Thee is the fountain of life, and in Thy light we shall see light,” let us drink within, let us see within. Why was there a going out thence? Hear why: “Let not the foot of pride come to me.” Therefore he, to whom the foot of pride came, went out. Show that therefore he went out. “And let not the hands of sinners move me;” because of the foot of pride. Why sayest thou this? “They are fallen, all they that work iniquity.”Where are they fallen? In their very pride. “They were driven out, and they could not stand”20 If, then, pride drove them out who were not able to stand, humility sends them in who can stand for ever. For this reason, moreover, he who said, “The bones that were brought low shall rejoice,”21 said before, “Thou shall give joy and gladness to my hearing.” What does he mean by, “to my hearing”? By hearing Thee I am happy; because of Thy voice I am happy; by drinking within I am happy. Therefore do I not fall; therefore “the bones that were brought low will rejoice;” therefore “the friend of the Bridegroom standeth and heareth Him;” therefore he stands, because he hears. He drinks of the fountain within, therefore he stands. They who willed not to drink of the fountain within, “there are they fallen: they were driven, they were not able to stand.”

18. Thus, the teacher of humility came not to do His own will, but the will of Him that sent Him. Let us come to Him, enter in unto Him, be ingrafted into Him, that we may not be doing our own will, but the will of God: and He will not cast us out, because we are His members, because He willed to be our head by teaching us humility. Finally, hear Himself discoursing: “Come unto me, ye who labor and are heavy laden: take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly of heart:” and when ye have learned this, “ye shall find rest for your souls,”22 from which ye cannot be cast out; “because I am come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him that sent me;” I teach humility; none but the humble can come unto me. Only pride casteth out; how can he go out who keeps humility and falls not away from the truth? So much as could be said about the hidden sense has now been said, brethren: this sense is hidden enough, and I know not whether I have drawn out and shaped in suitable words for you, why it is that He casteth not out him that cometh unto Him; because He came not to do His own will, but the will of Him that sent Him.

19. “And this,” saith He, “is the will of the Father that sent, that of all that He hath given me I should lose nothing.” He that keeps humility was given to Him; the same He receives: he that keeps not humility is far from the Master of humility. “That of all which He hath given me, I should lose nothing.” “So it is not the will of your Father that one of these little ones should perish.” Of the proud, there may perish; but of the little ones, none perisheth; because, “if ye will not become as this little one, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” “Of all that the Father hath given me, I should lose nothing, but I will raise it up again on the last day.” See how here He delineates that twofold resurrection. “He that cometh unto me” immediately rises again, being made humble in my members; but I will raise him up again on the last day also according to the flesh. “For this is the will of my Father that sent me, that every one who seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have eternal life; and I will raise him up on the last day.” He said above, “Whoso heareth my word, and believeth Him that sent me:” but now, “Whoso seeth the Son, and believeth on Him.” He has not said, seeth the Son, and believeth on the Father; for to believe on the Son is the same thing as to believe on the Father. Because,” even as the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given also to the Son to have life in Himself. That every one who seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have eternal life:” by believing and by passing unto life, just as by that first resurrection. And, because that is not the only resurrection, He saith, “And I will raise him up at the last day.”

7 (1Jn 2,11,
8 (Mt 24,12).
9 (Ps 9,7,
10 (Ps 36,7).
11 (Mt 16,13-16.
12 (Ps 45,8,
13 (Rm 3,28,
14 (Rm 10,4,
15 (Ga 5,6).
16 (Rm 3,3,
17 (Mt 25,23).
18 (Si 10,14-15.
19 (Ps 73,1-2).
20 (Ps 36,8-13.
21 (Ps 51,10,
22 (Mt 11,28-29.

Augustin on John 23