Chrysostom hom. on Mt 38
38 Mt 11,25-26
“At that time Jesus answered and said, I make acknowledgment unto Thee,1 O Father, Lord of Heaven and earth; because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight.”2
1 [A. V., “I thank thee,” so R. V., with margin, “Or, praise.” The Oxford translator gives the exact sense of the Greek verb, but below reverts to the rendering “thank,” in accordance with the explanation of Chrysostom.—R.]
2 [R. V., “Yea, Father, for (or, that) so it was well-pleasing in thy sight.” Comp. the explanation in the Homily:—R.]).
Seest thou, how many ways He leads them on to the faith? First, by His praises of John. For by pointing to him as a great and marvellous one, He proved likewise all his sayings credible, whereby he used to draw them on to the knowledge of Him. Secondly, Mt 11,12 by saying, “The kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force;” for this is the language of one who is pressing and urging them. Thirdly, Mt 6,13 by signifying that the number of the prophets was finished; for this too manifested Himself to be the person that was announced beforehand by them. Fourthly, by pointing out that whatsoever things should be done by him, were all accomplished; at which time also He made mention of the parable of the children. Fifthly, by His upbraiding them that had not believed, and by His alarming and threatening them greatly. Sixthly, by His giving thanks for them that believed. For the expression, “I make acknowledgment to Thee,” here is, “I thank Thee.” “I thank Thee,” He saith, “because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent.”
What then? doth He rejoice in destruction, and in the others not having received this knowledge? By no means; but this is a most excellent way of His to save men, His not forcing them that utterly reject, and are not willing to receive His sayings; that, since they were not bettered by His call, but fell back, and despised it, His casting them out might cause them to fall into a longing for these things. And so likewise the attentive would grow more earnest.
And while His being revealed to these was fit matter of joy, His concealment from those was no more of joy but of tears. Thus at any rate He acts, where He weeps for the city. Not therefore because of this doth He rejoice, but because what wise men knew not, was known to these. As when Paul saith, “I thank God, that ye were servants of sin, but ye obeyed from the heart the form of doctrine which was delivered unto
You see, neither doth Paul therefore rejoice, because they were “servants of sin,” but because being such, they had been so highly favored.
Now by the “wise,” here, He means the Scribes, and the Pharisees. And these things He saith, to make the disciples more earnest, and to show what had been vouchsafed to the fishermen, when all those others had missed of it. And in calling them “wise,” He means not the true and commendable wisdom, but this which they seemed to have through natural shrewdness. Wherefore neither did He say, “thou hast revealed it to fools.” but “to babes;” to unsophisticated, that is, to simple-minded men; and He implies that so far from their missing these privileges contrary to their desert, it was just what might be expected. And He instructs us throughout, to be free from pride, and to follow after simplicity. For this cause Paul also expressed it with more exceeding earnestness, writing on this wise: “If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.”8 For thus is God’s grace manifested.
8 Rm 6,17. [R. V., “that form of teaching whereunto ye were delivered.” The A. V. renders the passage incorrectly: there being no doubt as to the Greek text. The R. V. also brings out the thought which the Homily indicates.—R.]
But wherefore doth He give thanks to the Father, although of course it was Himself who wrought this? As He prays and intercedes with God, showing His great love towards us, in the same way doth He this too: for this also is of much love. And He signifies, that not from Him only had they fallen away, but also from the Father. Thus, what He said, speaking to His disciples, “Cast not the holy things unto dogs,” 1Co 3,18 Mt 7,6 this He Himself anticipated them in performing.
Moreover He signifies hereby both His own principal will, and that of the Father; His own, I say, by His giving thanks and rejoicing at what had taken place; His Father’s, by intimating that neither had He done this upon entreaty, but of Himself upon His own will; “For so,” saith He, “it seemed good in Thy sight:” that is, “so it pleased Thee.”
And wherefore was it hidden from them? Hear Paul, saying, that “Seeking to establish their own righteousness, they have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God.” 11 Rm 10,3 Consider now how it was likely the disciples should be affected, hearing this; that what wise men knew not, these knew, and knew it continuing babes, and knew it by God’s revelation. But Luke saith, that “at the very hour,” when the seventy came telling Him about the devils, then He “rejoiced” and spake these things, 13 Lc 10,21 which, besides increasing their diligence, would also dispose them to be modest. That is, since it was natural for them to pride themselves on their driving away devils, on this among other grounds He refrains them; that it was a revelation, whatever had been done, no diligence on their part. Wherefore also the scribes, and the wise men, thinking to be intelligent for themselves, fell away through their own vanity. Well then, if for this cause it was hidden from them, “do you also,” saith He, “fear, and continue babes.” For this caused you to have the benefit of the revelation, as indeed on the other hand the contrary made them be deprived of it. For by no means, when He saith, “Thou hast hid,” doth He mean that it is all God’s doing: but as when Paul saith, “He gave them over to a reprobate mind,” Rm 1,28 and, “He hath blinded their minds,” 2Co 4,4 16 it is not meant to bring Him in as the doer of it, but those who gave the occasion: so here also He uses the expression, “Thou hast hid.”
11 prohgouvmenon, In the same sense in which Hooker says, “He willeth positively that which Himself worketh;He willeth by permission that which His creatures do.” E. P. 5,App. No. i, p. 714, cf. in Walton’s Life, p.29. “That in God there were two wills, an antecedent and a consequent will; His first will, that all mankind should be saved; His second, that those only should be saved, who lived answerable to that degree of grace which He had offered.”
13 [“would;” but the whole clause has been freely paraphrased.—R.]
For since He had said, “I thank 16 Thee, because Thou hast hid them, and hast revealed them unto babes;” to hinder thy supposing that as being Himself deprived of this power, and unable to effect it, so He offers thanks, He saith,
“All things are delivered unto me of my Father.”17 And to them that are rejoicing, because the devils obey them, “Nay, why marvel,” saith He.18 “that devils yield to you? All things are mine; “All things are delivered unto me.”
16 . [“This passage is irrelevant, since it speaks of the god of this world.”—R.]
17 [See above and note 1, p. 250.—R.]
But when thou hearest, “they are delivered,” do not surmise anything human. For He uses this expression, to prevent thine imagining two unoriginate Gods. Since, that He was at the same time both begotten, and Lord of all, He declares in many ways, and in other places also.
2. Then He saith what is even greater than this, lifting up thy mind; “And no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, but the Son.” Which seems indeed to the ignorant unconnected with what went before, but hath full accordance therewith. As thus: having said, “All things are delivered unto me of my Father,” He adds, “And what marvel,” so He speaks, “if I be Lord of all? I who have also another greater privilege, the knowing the Father, and being of the same substance.” Yea, for this too He covertly signifies by His being the only one who so knew Him. For this is His meaning, when He saith, “No man knoweth the Father but the Son.”
And see at what time He saith this. When they by His works had received the certain proof of His might, not only seeing Him work miracles, but endowed also in His name with so great powers. Then, since He had said, “Thou hast revealed them unto babes,” He signifies this also to pertain to Himself; for “neither knoweth any man the Father,” saith He, “save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son is willing19 to reveal Him;20 not “to whomsoever He may be enjoined,” “to whomsoever He may be commanded.” But if He reveals Him, then Himself too. This however He let pass as acknowledged, but the other He hath set down. And everywhere He affirms this; as when He saith, “No man cometh unto the Father, but byme.”21
And thereby he establishes another point also, His being in harmony and of one mind with Him. “Why,” saith He, “I am so far from fighting and warring with Him, that no one can even come to Him but by me.” For because this most offended them, His seeming to be a rival God, He by all means doth away with this; and interested Himself about this not less earnestly, but even more so, than about His miracles.
But when He saith, “Neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son,” He means not this, that all men were ignorant of Him, but that with the knowledge wherewith He knows22 Him, no man is acquainted with Him; which may be said of the Son too.23 For it was not of some God unknown, and revealed to no man, that He was so speaking, as Marcion saith;24 but it is the perfection of knowledge that He is here intimating, since neither do we know the Son as He should be known; and this very thing, to add no more, Paul was declaring, when he said, “We know in part, and we prophesy in part.”25
3. Next, having brought them by His words to an earnest desire, and having signified His unspeakable power, He after that invites them, saying. “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”26 Not this or that person, but all that are in anxiety, in sorrows, in sins. Come, not that I may call you to account, but that I may do away your sins; come, not that I want your honor, but that I want your salvation. “For I,” saith He, “will give you rest.” He said not, “I will save you,” only; but what was much more, “I will place you in all security.”
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”27 Thus, “be not afraid,” saith He, “hearing of a yoke, for it is easy: fear not, because I said, “a burden,” for it is light.
And how said He before, “The gate is narrow and the way strait?”28 Whilst thou art careless, whilst thou art supine; whereas, if thou duly perform His words, the burden will be light; wherefore also He hath now called it so.
But how are they duly performed? If thou art become lowly, and meek, and gentle. For this virtue is the mother of all strictness of life. Wherefore also, when beginning those divine laws, with this He began.29 And here again He doeth the very same, and exceeding great is the reward He appoints. “For not to another only dost thou become serviceable; but thyself also above all thou refreshest,” saith He.”For ye shall find rest unto your souls.”
Even before the things to come, He gives thee here thy recompense, and bestows the prize already, making the saying acceptable, both hereby, and by setting Himself forward as an example. For, “Of what art thou afraid?” saith He, “lest thou shouldest be a loser by thy low estate? Look to me, and to all that is mine; learn of me, and then shalt thou know distinctly how great thy blessing.” Seest thou how in all ways He is leading them to humility? By His own doings: “Learn of me, for I am meek.” By what themselves are to gain; for, “Ye shall find,” saith He,” rest unto your souls.” By what He bestows on them; for, “I too will refresh you,” saith He. By rendering it light; “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” So likewise doth Paul, saying, “For the present light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”30
And how, some one may say, is the burden light, when He saith, “Except one hate father and mother;” and, “Whosoever taketh not up his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me:” and, “Whosoever forsaketh not all that he hath, cannot be my disciple:”31 when He commands even to give up our very life?32 Let Paul teach thee, saying, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?33 “ And that, “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.”34 Let those teach thee, who return from the council of the Jews after plenty of stripes, and “rejoice that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Christ.”35 And if thou art still afraid and tremblest at hearing of the yoke and the burden, the fear comes not of the nature of the thing, but of thy remissness; since if thou art prepared, and in earnest, all will be easy to thee and light. Since for this cause Christ also, to signify that we too must needs labor ourselves, did not mention the gracious things only, and then hold His peace, nor the painful things only, but set down both. Thus He both spake of “a yoke,” and called it “easy;” both named a burden, and added that it was “light;” that thou shouldest neither flee from them as toilsome, nor despise them as over easy.
But if even after all this, virtue seem to thee an irksome thing, consider that vice is more irksome. And this very thing He was intimating, in that He said not first, “Take my yoke upon you,” but before that, “Come, ye that labor and are heavy laden;” implying that sin too hath labor, and a burden that is heavy and hard to bear. For He said not only, “Ye that labor,” but also, “that are heavy laden.” This the prophet too was speaking of, when in that description of her nature, “As an heavy burden they weighed heavy upon me.”36 And Zacharias too, describing her, saith she is “A talent of lead.”37
And this moreover experience itself proves. For nothing so weighs upon the soul, and presses it down, as consciousness of sin; nothing so much gives it wings, and raises it on high, as the attainment of righteousness and virtue.
And mark it: what is more grievous, I pray thee, than to have no possessions? to turn the cheek, and when smitten not to smite again? to die by a violent death? Yet nevertheless, if we practise self-command, all these things are light and easy, and pleasurable.
But be not disturbed; rather let us take up each of these, and inquire about it accurately; and if ye will, that first which many count most painful. Which then of the two, tell me, is grievous and burdensome, to be in care for one belly, or to be anxious about ten thousand? To be clothed with one outer garment, and seek for nothing more; or having many in one’s house, to bemoan one’s self every day and night in fear, in trembling, about the preservation of them, grieved, and ready to choke about the loss of them; lest one should be moth-eaten, lest a servant purloin and go off with them?
4. But whatever I may say, my speech will present no such proof as the actual trial. Wherefore I would there were present here with us some one of those who have attained unto that summit of self-restraint, and then you would know assuredly the delight thereof; and that none of those that are enamored of voluntary poverty would accept wealth, though ten thousand were to offer it.
But would these, say you, ever consent to become poor, and to cast away the anxieties which they have? And what of that? This is but a proof of their madness and grievous disease, not of anything very pleasurable in the thing. And this even themselves would testify to us, who are daily lamenting over these their anxieties, and accounting their life to be not worth living. But not so those others; rather they laugh, leap for joy, and the wearers of the diadem do not so glory, as they do in their poverty.
Again, to turn the cheek is, to him that gives heed, a less grievous thing than to smite another; for from this the contest hath beginning, in that termination: and whereas by the former thou hast kindled the other’s pile too, by the latter thou hast quenched even thine own flames. But that not to be burnt is a pleasanter thing than to be burnt, surely plain to every man. And if this hold in regard of bodies, much more in a soul.
And whether is lighter, to contend, or to be crowned? to fight, or to have the prize? and to endure waves, or to run into harbor? Therefore also, to die is better than to live. For the one withdraws us from waves and dangers, while the other adds unto them, and makes a man subject to numberless plots and distresses, which have made life not worth living in thine account.
And if thou disbelievest our sayings, hearken to them that have seen the countenances of the martyrs in the time of their conflicts, how when scourged and flayed, they were exceeding joyful and glad, and when exposed upon hot irons, rejoiced, and were glad of heart, more than such as lie upon a bed of roses. Wherefore Paul also said, when he was at the point of departing hence, and closing his life by a violent death, joy, and rejoice with you all; for the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me.”38 Seest thou with what exceeding strength of language he invites the whole world to partake in his gladness? So great a good did he know his departure hence to be, so desirable, and lovely, and worthy of prayer, that formidable thing, death.
5. But that virtue’s yoke is sweet and light, is manifest many other ways also; but to conclude, if you please, let us look also at the burdens of sin. Let us then bring forward the covetous, the retailers and second-hand dealers in shameless bargains. What now could be a heavier burden than such transactions? how many sorrows, how many anxieties, how many disappointments, how many dangers, how many plots and wars, daily spring up from these gains? how many troubles and disturbances? For as one can never see the sea without waves, so neither such a soul without anxiety, and despondency, and fear, and disturbance; yea, the second overtakes the first, and again others come up, and when these are not yet ceased, others come to a head.
Or wouldest thou see the souls of the revilers, and of the passionate? Why, what is worse than this torture? what, than the wounds they have within? what, than the furnace that is continually burning, and the flame that is never quenched?
Or of the sensual, and of such as cleave unto this present life? Why, what more grievous than this bondage? They live the life of Cain, dwelling in continual trembling and fear at every death that happens; the kinsmen of the dead mourn not so much, as these do for their own end.
What again fuller of turmoil, and more frantic, than such as are puffed up with pride? “For learn,” saith He, “of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Because long-suffering is the mother of all good things.
Fear thou not therefore, neither start away from the yoke that lightens thee of all these things, but put thyself under it with all forwardness, and then thou shalt know well the pleasure thereof. For it doth not at all bruise thy neck, but is put on thee for good order’s sake only, and to persuade thee to walk seemly, and to lead thee unto the royal road, and to deliver thee from the precipices on either side, and to make thee walk with ease in the narrow way.
Since then so great are its benefits, so great its security, so great its gladness, let us with all our soul, with all our diligence, draw this yoke; that we may both here “find rest unto our souls,” and attain unto the good things to come, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
18 Mt 11,27.
19 Lc 10,22.
20 bouvlhtai). [R. V., “willeth.”]
21 Mt 11,27.
22 Jn 14,6.
24 That is, that none but the Father has full knowledge of Him).
25 Tertull. adv. Marc. 1,8. “The Marcionites bring forward a new God, as if we were ashamed of the ancient One
I hear them talk of a new God, in the old world and in the old age, and under that ancient God, unknown and unheard of.” [Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 3,p.276.] It seems to have been common to all the Oriental sects, to speak of the Supreme God as utterly unknown until the Christian dispensation began).
26 1Co 13,9.
27 Mt 11,28.
28 Mt 11,29-30.
29 Mt 7,13.
30 Mt 5,3.
31 2Co 4,17.
32 Lc 14,26-27 Lc 14,33 Mt 10,37-38.
33 Mt 16,25.
34 Rm 8,35.
35 Rm 8,18.
36 Ac 5,41.
37 Ps 38,4.
38 Za 5,7-8.
39 Mt 12,1
“At that time Jesus went on the Sabbath day through the corn; and His disciples were a hungered, and began to pluck the1 ears of corn, and to eat.” But Luke saith, “On a double Sabbath.”2 Now what is a double Sabbath? When the cessation from toil is twofold, both that of the regular Sabbath, and that of another feast coming upon it. For they call every cessation from toil, a sabbath.
But why could He have led them away from it, who foreknew all, unless it had been His will that the Sabbath should be broken? It was His will indeed, but not simply so; wherefore He never breaks it without a cause, but giving reasonable excuses: that He might at once bring the law to an end, and not startle them. But there are occasions on which He even repeals it directly, and not with circumstance: as when He anoints with the clay the eyes of the blind man; Jn 9,6 Jn 9,14 as when He saith, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” Jn 5,17 4 And He doth so, by this to glorify His own Father, by the other to soothe the infirmity of the Jews. At which last He is laboring here, putting forward as a plea the necessity of nature; although in the case of acknowledged sins, that could not of course ever be an excuse. For neither may the murderer make his anger a plea, nor the adulterer allege his lust, no, nor any other excuse; but here, by mentioning their hunger, He freed them from all blame.
1 [With our best Mss. authorities, the article is omitted in the Homily. Comp. R. V., in loco.—R.]
2 deuteroprwvtw, Lc 6,1. [On the textual difficulty, see Tischendorf (viii). and Westcott and Hort. The former retains it, giving the patristic comments upon it. The latter put it in the margin, regarding it as spurious.—R.]
4 . [R. V., “even until now,” etc.]
But do thou, I pray thee, admire the disciples, how entirely they control themselves, and make no account of the things of the body, but esteem the table of the flesh a secondary thing, and though they have to struggle with continual hunger, do not even so withdraw themselves. For except hunger had sorely constrained them, they would not have done so much as this.
What then do the Pharisees? “When they saw it,” it is said, “they said unto Him, Behold, Thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the Sabbath day.” Mt 12,2
Now here indeed with no great vehemence yet surely that would have been consistent in them),—nevertheless they are not vehemently provoked, but simply find fault. But when He stretched out the withered hand and healed it, Mt 12,10 Mt 12,14 then they were so infuriated, as even to consult together about slaying and destroying Him. For where nothing great and noble is done, they are calm; but where they see any made whole, they are savage, and fret themselves, and none so intolerable as they are: such enemies are they of the salvation of men.
How then doth Jesus defend His disciples? “Have ye not read,” saith He, “what David did in the temple,7 when he was an hungered, himself and all they that were with him? how he entered into the house of God, and did eat the show-bread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?” Mt 12,3-4
7 [ejn to/ eJerw/, is inserted here (not in Homily XL). by Chrysotom, but does not occur in any of our Mss. of the New Testament).
Thus, whereas in pleading for His disciples, He brings forward David; for Himself, it is the Father. Jn 5,17
And observe His reproving manner: “Have ye not read what David did?” For great indeed was that prophet’s glory, so that Peter also afterwards pleading with the Jews, spake on this wise, “Let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried.” Ac 2,29
But wherefore doth He not call him by the name of his rank, either on this occasion or afterwards? Perhaps because He derived His race from him.
Now had they been a candid sort of persons, He would have turned His discourse to the disciples’ suffering from hunger; but abominable as they were and inhuman, He rather rehearses unto them a history.
But Mark saith, “In the days of Abiathar the High Priest:” Mc 2,26 11 not stating what was contrary to the history, but implying that he had two names; and adds that “he gave unto him,”12 indicating that herein also David had much to say for himself, since even the very priest suffered him; and not only suffered, but even ministered unto him. For tell me not that David was a prophet, for not even so was it lawful, but the privilege was the priests’: wherefore also He added, “but for the priests only.” For though he were ten thousand times a prophet, yet was he not a priest; and though he were himself a prophet, yet not so they that were with him; since to them too we know that he gave.
11 . [The Homily readstou` ajrcierevw", which is to be thus rendered. The R. V. follows the best Mss. in rejecting tou`, rendering “when Abiathar was high priest ;” but gives the other reading in the margin.—R.]page 256
12 Abimelech, 1S 21,6.
“What then,” it might be said, “were they all one with David?” Why talk to me of dignity, where there seems to be a transgression of the law, even though it be the constraint of nature? Yea, and in this way too He hath the more entirely acquitted them of the charges, in that he who is greater is found to have done the same.
“And what is this to the question,” one may say; “for it was not surely the Sabbath, that he transgressed?” Thou tellest me of that which is greater, and which especially shows the wisdom of Christ, that letting go the Sabbath, He brings another example greater than the Sabbath. For it is by no means the same, to break in upon a day, and to touch that holy table, which it was not lawful for any man to touch. Since the Sabbath indeed hath been violated, and that often; nay rather it is continually being violated, both by circumcision, and by many other works; and at Jericho Jos 6,15 too one may see the same to have happened; but this happened then only. So that He more than obtains the victory. How then did no man blame David, although there was yet another ground of charge heavier than this, that of the priests’ murder, which had its origin from this? But He states it not, as applying himself to the present subject only.
2. Afterwards again He refutes it in another way also. For as at first He brought in David, by the dignity of the person quelling their pride; so when He had stopped their mouths, and had put down their boasting, then He adds also the more appropriate refutation. And of what sort is this? “Know ye not, that in the temple the priests profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?” Mt 12,5 For in that other instance indeed, saith He, the emergency made the relaxation, but here is the relaxation even without emergency. He did not however at once thus refute them but first by way of permission, afterwards as insisting upon his argument. Because it was meet to draw the stronger inference last, although the former argument also had of course its proper weight.
For tell me not, that it is not freeing one’s self from blame, to bring forward another who is committing the same sin. For when the doer incurs no blame, the act on which he hath ventured becomes a rule for others to plead.
Nevertheless He was not satisfied with this, but subjoins also what is more decisive, saying that the deed is no sin at all; and this more than anything was the sign of a glorious victory, to point to the law repealing itself, and in two ways doing so, first by the place, then by the Sabbath; or rather even in three ways, in that both the work is twofold. that is done, and with it goes also another thing, its being done by the priests; and what is yet more, that it is not even brought as a charge. “For they,” saith He, “are blameless.”
Seest thou how many points He hath stated? the place; for He saith, “In the temple;” the persons, for they are “the priests;” the time, for He saith, “the Sabbath;” the act itself, for “they profane;” (He not having said, “they break,” but what is more grievous, “they profane;”) that they not only escape punishment, but are even free from blame, “for they,” saith He, “are blameless.”
Do not ye therefore account this, He saith, like the former instance. For that indeed was done both but once, and not by a priest, and was of necessity; wherefore also they were deserving of excuse; but this last is both done every Sabbath, and by priests, and in the temple, and according to the law. And therefore again not by favor, but in a legal way, they are acquitted of the charges. For not at all as blaming them did I so speak, saith He, nor yet as freeing them from blame in the way of indulgence, but according to the principle of justice.
And He seems indeed to be defending them, but it is His disciples whom He is clearing of the alleged faults. For when He saith, “those are blameless,” He means, “much more are these.”
“But they are not priests.” Nay, they are greater than priests. For the Lord of the temple Himself is here: the truth, not the type. Wherefore He said also,
“But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple.”15 Mt 12,6
Nevertheless, great as the sayings were which they heard, they made no reply, for the salvation of men was not their object.
Then, because to the hearers it would seem harsh, He quickly draws a veil over it, giving His discourse, as before, a lenient turn, yet even so expressing Himself with a rebuke. “But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have: mercy and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.” Mt 12,7 16
Seest thou how again He inclines His speech to lenity, yet again shows them to be out of the reach of lenity? “For ye would not have condemned,” saith He, “the guiltless.” Before indeed He inferred the same from what is said of the priests, in the words, “they are guiltless;” but here He states it on His own authority; or rather, this too is out of the law, for He was quoting a prophetic saying.17 Os 6,6
15 As being done, in the holy place ; 2, on the holy day).
16 . [R. V., “that one greater (Greek, a greater thing) than the temple is here.”]
17 R. V. “desire”.]
3. After this He mentions another reason likewise; “For the Son of man,” saith He, “is Lord of the Sabbath day;” 18 Mt 12,8 speaking it of Himself. But Mark relates Him to have said this of our common nature also; for He said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” 19 Mc 2,27
Wherefore then was he punished that was gathering the sticks? 20 Nb 15,32-36 Because if the laws were to be despised even at the beginning, of course they would scarcely be observed afterwards.
For indeed the Sabbath did at the first confer many and great benefits; for instance, it made them gentle towards those of their household, and humane; it taught them God’s providence and the creation, as Ezekiel saith;21 it trained them by degrees to abstain from wickedness, and disposed them to regard the things of the Spirit.
For because they could not have borne it, 22 if when He was giving the law for the Sabbath, He had said, “Do your good works on the Sabbath, but do not the works which are evil,” therefore He restrained them from all alike for, “Ye must do nothing at all,” saith He: and not even so were they kept in order. But He Himself, in the very act of giving the law of the Sabbath, did even therein darkly signify that He will have them refrain from the evil works only, by the saying, “Ye must do no work, except what shall be done for your life.”23 And in the temple too all went on, and with more diligence and double toil.24 Thus even by the very shadow He was secretly opening unto them the truth.
Did Christ then, it will be said, repeal a thing so highly profitable? Far from it; nay, He greatly enhanced it. For it was time for them to be trained in all things by the higher rules, and it was unnecessary that his hands should be bound, who was freed from wickedness, winged for all good works; or that men should hereby learn that God made all things; or that they should so be made gentle, who are called to imitate God’s own love to mankind (for He saith, “Be ye merciful, as your Heavenly Father”);25 or that they should make one day a festival, who are commanded to keep a feast all their life long; (“For let us keep the feast,” it is said, “not with old leaven, neither with leaven of malice and wickedness; but with unleavened bread of sincerity and truth”);26 as neither need they stand by an ark and a golden altar, who have the very Lord of all for their inmate, and in all things hold communion with Him; by prayer, and by oblation, and by scriptures, and by almsgiving, and by having Him within them. Lo now, wily is any Sabbath required, by him who is always keeping the feast, whose conversation is in Heaven?
4. Let us keep the feast then continually, and do no evil thing; for this is a feast: and let our spiritual things be made intense, while our earthly things give place: and let us rest a spiritual rest, refraining our hands from covetousness; withdrawing our body from our superfluous and unprofitable toils, from such as the people of the Hebrews did of old endure in Egypt. For there is no difference betwixt us who are gathering gold, and those that were bound in the mire, working at those bricks, and gathering stubble, and being beaten. Yea, for now too the devil bids us make bricks, as Pharaoh did then. For what else is gold, than mire? and what else is silver, than stubble? Like stubble, at least, it kindles the flame of desire; like mire, so doth gold defile him that possesses it.
Wherefore He sent us, not Moses from the wilderness, but His Son from Heaven. If then, after He is come, thou abide in Egypt, thou wilt suffer with the Egyptians: but if leaving that land thou go up with the spiritual Israel, thou shalt see all the miracles.
Yet not even this suffices for salvation. For we must not only be delivered out of Egypt, but we must also enter into the promise. Since the Jews too, as Paul saith, both went through the Red Sea,27 and ate manna, and drank spiritual drink, but nevertheless they all perished.
Lest then the same befall us also, let us not be slow, neither draw back; but when thou hearest wicked spies even now bringing up an evil report against the strait and narrow way, and uttering the same kind of talk as those spies of old, let not the multitude, but Joshua, be our pattern, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh; and do not thou give up, until thou have attained the promise, and entered into the Heavens.
Neither account the journey to be difficult. “For if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved.”28 “But this way,” it will be said, “is strait and narrow.” Well, but the former, through which thou hast come, is not strait and narrow only, but even impassable, and full of savage wild beasts. And as there was no passing through the Red Sea, unless that miracle had been wrought, so neither could we, abiding in our former life, have gone up into Heaven, but only by baptism intervening. Now if the impossible hath become possible, much more will the difficult be easy.
“But that,” it will be said, “was of grace only.” Why, for this reason especially thou hast just cause to take courage. For if, where it was grace alone, He wrought with you; will He not much more be your aid, where ye also show forth laborious works? If He saved thee, doing nothing, will He not much more help thee, working?
Above29 indeed I was saying, that from the impossibilities thou oughtest to take courage about the difficulties also; but now I add this, that if we are vigilant, these will not be so much as difficult. For mark it: death is trodden under foot, the devil hath fallen, the law of sin is extinguished, the grace of the Spirit is given, life is contracted into a small space, the heavy burdens are abridged.
And to convince thee hereof by the actual results, see how many have overshot the injunctions of Christ; and art thou afraid of that which is just their measure? What plea then wilt thou have, when others are leaping beyond the bounds, and thou thyself too slothful for what is enacted?
Thus, thee we admonish to give alms of such things as thou hast, but another hath even stripped himself of all his possessions: thee we require to live chastely with thy wife, but another hath not so much as entered into marriage: and thee we entreat not to be envious, but another we find giving up even his own life for charity: thee again we entreat to be lenient in judgments, and not severe to them that sin, but another, even when smitten, hath turned the other cheek also.
What then shall we say, I pray thee? What excuse shall we make, not doing even these things, when others go so far beyond us? And they would not have gone beyond us, had not the thing been very easy. For which pines away, he who envies other men’s blessings, or he who takes pleasure with them, and rejoices? Which eyes all things with suspicion and continual trembling, the chaste man, or the adulterer? Which is cheered by good hopes, he that spoils by violence, or he that shows mercy, and imparts of his own to the needy?
Let us then bear in mind these things, and not be torpid in our career for virtue’s sake; but having stripped ourselves with all readiness for these glorious wrestlings, let us labor for a little while, that we may win the perpetual and imperishable crowns; unto which may we all attain, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might forever and ever. Amen.
23 Ez 20,12.
24 The meaning seems to be, it would have been too hard a trial of their religious discretion).
25 Ex 12,16, LXX).
26 Nb 28,9-10.
27 Lc 6,36.
28 1Co 5,8.
29 1Co 10,1 &c).
Chrysostom hom. on Mt 38