Golden Chain 12132
12132 Jn 1,32-34
CHRYS. John having made a declaration, so astonishing to all his hearers, viz. that He, whom he pointed out, did of Himself take away the sins of the world, confirms it by a reference to the Father and the Holy Spirit. For John might be asked, how did you know Him? Wherefore he replies beforehand, by the descent of the Holy Spirit: And John bore record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.
AUG. This was not however the first occasion of Christ's receiving the unction of the Holy Spirit: viz. Its descent upon Him at His baptism; herein He condescended to prefigure His body, the Church, wherein those who are baptized receive preeminently the Holy Spirit. For it would be absurd to suppose that at thirty years old, (which was His age, when He was baptized by John,) He received for the first time the Holy Spirit: and that, when He came to that baptism, as He was without sin, so was He without the Holy Spirit. For if even of His servant and forerunner John it is written, He shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from His mother's womb; if He, though sprung from His father's seed, yet received the Holy Ghost, when as yet He was only formed in the womb; what ought we to think and believe of Christ, whose very flesh had not a carnal but spiritual conception?
AUG. We do not attribute to Christ only the possession of a real body, and say that the Holy Spirit assumed a false appearance to men's eyes: for the Holy Spirit could no more, in consistency with His nature, deceive men, than could the Son of God. The Almighty God, Who made every creature out of nothing, could as easily form a real body of a dove, without the instrumentality of other doves, as He made a real body in the womb of the Virgin, without the seed of the male.
AUG. The Holy Ghost was made to appear visibly in two ways: as a dove, upon our Lord at His baptism; and as a flame upon His disciples, when they were met together: the former shape denoting simplicity, the latter fervency. The dove intimates that souls sanctified by the Spirit should have no guile; the fire, that in that simplicity there should not be coldness. Nor let it disturb you, that the tongues are cloven; fear no division; unity is assured to us in the dove. It was meet then that the Holy Spirit should be thus manifested descending upon our Lord; in order that every one who had the Spirit might know, that he ought to be simple as a dove, and be in sincere peace with the brethren. The kisses of doves represent this peace. Ravens kiss, but they tear also; but the nature of the dove is most alien to tearing. Ravens feed on the dead, but the dove eats nothing but the fruits of the earth. If doves moan in their love, marvel not that He Who appeared in the likeness of a dove, the Holy Spirit, makes intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered. The Holy Spirit however groans not in Himself, but in us: He makes us to groan. And he who groans, as knowing that, so long as He is under the burden of this mortality, he is absent from the Lord, groans well: it is the Spirit that has taught him to groan. But many groan because of earthly calamities; because of losses which disquiet them, or bodily sickness which weigh heavily on them: they groan not, as does the dove. What then could more fitly represent the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of unity, than the dove? as He said Himself to His reconciled Church, My dove is one. What could better express humility, than the simplicity and moaning of a dove? Wherefore on this occasion it was that there appeared the very most Holy Trinity, the Father in the voice which said, You are My beloved Son; the Holy Spirit in the likeness of the dove. In that Trinity the Apostles were sent to baptize, i.e. in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
GREG. He said, Abode upon Him: for the Holy Spirit visits all the faithful; but on the Mediator alone does He abide for ever in a peculiar manner; never leaving the Son's Humanity, even as He proceeds Himself from the Son's Divinity. But when the disciples are told of the same Spirit, He shall dwell with you, how is the abiding of the Spirit a peculiar sign of Christ? This will appear if we distinguish between the different gifts of the Spirit. As regards those gifts which are necessary for attaining to life, the Holy Spirit ever abides in all the elect; such are gentleness, humility, faith, hope, charity: but with respect to those, which have for their object, not our own salvation, but that of others, he does not always abide, but sometimes withdraws, and ceases to exhibit them; that men may be more humble in the possession of His gifts. But Christ had all the gifts of the Spirit, uninterruptedly always.
CHRYS. Should any however think that Christ really wanted the Holy Spirit, in the way that we do, he corrects this notion also, by informing us that the descent of the Holy Ghost took place only for the purpose of manifesting Christ: And I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said to me, Upon whom you shall see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptizes with the Holy Ghost.
AUG. But who sent John? If we say the Father, we say true; if we say the Son, we say true. But it would be truer to say, the Father and the Son. How then knew he not Him, by Whom he was sent? For if he knew not Him, by Whom he wished to be baptized, it was rash in him to say, I have need to be baptized by You. So then he knew Him; and why said he, I knew Him not?
CHRYS. When he said, I knew Him not, he is speaking of time past, not of the time of his baptism, when he forbade Him, saying, I have need to be baptized of You.
AUG. Let us turn to the other Evangelists, who relate the matter more clearly, and we shall find most satisfactorily, that the dove descended when our Lord ascended from the water. If then the dove descended after baptism, but John said before the baptism, I have need to be baptized of You, he knew Him before His baptism also. How then said he, I knew him not, but He which sent me to baptize? Was this the first revelation made to John of Christ's person, or was it not rather a fuller disclosure of what had been already revealed? John knew the Lord to be the Son of God, knew that He would baptize with the Holy Ghost: for before Christ came to the river, many having come together to hear John, he said unto them, He that comes after me is mightier than I: He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire. What then? He did not know that our Lord (lest Paul or Peter might say, my baptism, as we find Paul did say, my Gospel,) would have and retain to Himself the power of baptism, the ministering of it however passing to good and bad indiscriminately. What hindrance is the badness of the minister, when the Lord is good? So then we baptize again after John's baptism; after a homicide's we baptize not: because John gave his own baptism, the homicide gives Christ's; which is so holy a sacrament, that not even a homicide's ministration can pollute it. Our Lord could, had He so willed, have given power to any servant of His to give baptism as it were in His own stead; and to the baptism, thus transferred to the servant, have imparted the same power, that it would have had, when given by Himself. But this He did not choose to do; that the hope of the baptized might be directed to Him, Who had baptized them; He wished not the servant to place hope in the servant. And again, had He given this power to servants, there would have been as many baptisms as servants; as there had been the baptism of John, so should we have had the baptism of Paul and of Peter. It is by this power then, which Christ retains in His own possession exclusively, that the unity of the Church is established; of which it is said, My dove is one. A man may have a baptism besides the dove; but that any besides the dove should profit, is impossible.
CHRYS. The Father having sent forth a voice proclaiming the Son, the Holy Spirit came besides, bringing the voice upon the head of Christ, in order that no one present might think that what was said of Christ, was said of John. But it will be asked: How was it that the Jews believed not, if they saw the Spirit? Such sights however require the mental vision, rather than the bodily. If those who saw Christ working miracles were so drunken with malice, that they denied what their own eyes had seen, how could the appearance of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove overcome their incredulity?
Some say however that the sight was not visible to all, but only to John, and the more devotional part. But even if the descent of the Spirit, as a dove, was visible to the outward eye, it does not follow that because all saw it, all understood it. Zacharias himself, Daniel, Ezechiel, and Moses saw many things, appealing to their senses, which no one else saw: and therefore John adds, And I saw and bore record that this is the Son of God. He had called Him the Lamb before, and said that He would baptize with the Spirit; but he had no where called Him the Son before.
AUG. It was necessary that the Only Son of God should baptize, not an adopted son. Adopted sons are ministers of the Only Son: but though they have the ministration, the Only one alone has the power.
12135 Jn 1,35-36
CHRYS. Many not having attended to John's words at first, he rouses them a second time: Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples.
BEDE; John stood, because he had ascended that citadel of all excellences, from which no temptations could cast him down: his disciples stood with him, as stout-hearted followers of their master.
CHRYS. But wherefore went he not all about, preaching in every place of Judea; instead of standing near the river, waiting for His coming, that he might point Him out? Because he wished this to be done by the works of Christ Himself. And observe how much greater an effort was produced; He struck a small spark, and suddenly it rose into a flame. Again, if John had gone about and preached, it would have seemed like human partiality, and great suspicion would have been excited.
Now the Prophets and Apostles all preached Christ absent; the former before His appearance in the flesh, the latter after His assumption. But He was to be pointed out by the eye, not by the voice only; and therefore it follows: And looking upon Jesus as He walked, he said, Behold the Lamb of God!
THEOPHYL. Looking he said, as if signifying by his looks his love and admiration for Christ.
AUG. John was the friend of the Bridegroom; he sought not his own glory, but bore witness to the truth. And therefore he wished not his disciples to remain with him, to the hindrance of their duty to follow the Lord; but rather showed them whom they should follow, saying, Behold the Lamb of God.
CHRYS. He makes not a long discourse, having only one object before him, to bring them and join them to Christ; knowing that they would not any further need his witness. John does not however speak to his disciples alone, but publicly in the presence of all. And so, undertaking to follow Christ, through this instruction common to all, they remained thenceforth firm, following Christ for their own advantage, not as an act of favor to their master. John does not exhort: he simply gazes in admiration on Christ, pointing out the gift He came to bestow, the cleansing from sin: and the mode in which this would be accomplished: both of which the word Lamb testifies to. Lamb has the article affixed to it, as a sign of preeminence.
AUG. For He alone and singly is the Lamb without spot, without sin; not because His spots are wiped off; but because He never had a spot. He alone is the Lamb of God, for by His blood alone can men be redeemed. This is the Lamb whom the wolves fear; even the slain Lamb, by whom the lion was slain.
BEDE. The Lamb therefore he calls Him; for that He was about to give us freely His fleece, that we might make of it a wedding garment; i.e. would leave us an example of life, by which we should be warmed into love.
ALCUIN. John stands in a mystical sense, the Law having ceased, and Jesus comes, bringing the grace of the Gospel, to which that same Law bears testimony. Jesus walks, to collect disciples.
BEDE. The walking of Jesus has a reference to the economy of the Incarnation, by means of which He has condescended to come to us, and give us a pattern of life.
12137 Jn 1,37-41
ALCUIN. John having borne witness that Jesus was the Lamb of God, the disciples who had been hitherto with him, in obedience to his command, followed Jesus: And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.
CHRYS. Observe; when he said, He that comes after me is made before me, and, Whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose, he gained over none; but when he made mention of the economy, and gave his discourse a humbler turn, saying, Behold the Lamb of God, then his disciples followed Christ. For many persons are less influenced by the thoughts of God's greatness and majesty, than when they hear of His being man's Helper and Friend; or any thing pertaining to the salvation of men. Observe too, when John says, Behold the Lamb of God, Christ says nothing.
The Bridegroom stands by in silence; others introduce Him, and deliver the Bride into His hands; He receives her, and so treats her that she no longer remembers those who gave her in marriage. Thus Christ came to unite to Himself the Church; He said nothing Himself; but John, the friend of the Bridegroom, came forth, and put the Bride's right hand in His; i.e. by his preaching delivered into His hands men's souls, whom receiving He so disposed of, that they returned no more to John. And observe farther; As at a marriage the maiden goes not to meet the bridegroom, (even though it be a king's son who weds a humble handmaid,) but he hastens to her; so is it here. For human nature ascended not into heaven, but the Son of God came down to human nature, and took her to His Father's house.
Again; There were disciples of John who not only did not follow Christ, but were even enviously disposed toward Him; but the better part heard, and followed; not from contempt of their former master, but by his persuasion; because he promised them that Christ would baptize with the Holy Ghost. And see with what modesty their zeal was accompanied. They did not straightway go and interrogate Jesus on great and necessary doctrines, nor in public, but sought private converse with Him; for we are told that Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, What seek you? Hence we learn, that when we once begin to form good resolutions, God gives us opportunities enough of improvement. Christ asks the question, not because He needed to be told, but in order to encourage familiarity and confidence, and show that He thought them worthy of His instructions.
THEOPHYL. Observe then, that it was upon those who followed Him, that our Lord turned His face and looked upon them. Unless you by your good works follow Him, you shall never be permitted to see His face, or enter into His dwelling.
ALCUIN. The disciples followed behind His back, in order to see Him, and did not see His face. So He turns round, and, as it were, lowers His majesty, that they might be enabled to behold His face.
ORIGEN. Perhaps it is not without a reason, that after six testimonies John ceases to bear witness, and Jesus asks seventhly, What seek you?
CHRYS. And besides following Him, their questions showed their love for Christ; They said to Him, Rabbi, (which is, being interpreted, Master,) where dwell You? They call Him, Master, before they have learnt any thing from Him; thus encouraging themselves in their resolution to become disciples, and to show the reason why they followed.
ORIGEN. An avowal, befitting persons who came from hearing John's testimony. They put themselves under Christ's teaching, and express their desire to see the dwelling of the Son of God.
ALCUIN. They do not wish to be under His teaching for a time only, but inquire where He abides; wishing an immediate initiation in the secrets of His word, and afterwards meaning often to visit Him, and obtain fuller instruction. And, in a mystical sense too, they wish to know in whom Christ dwells, that profiting by their example they may themselves become fit to be His dwelling. Or, their seeing Jesus walking, and straightway inquiring where He resides, is an intimation to us, that we should, remembering His Incarnation, earnestly entreat Him to show us our eternal habitation. The request being so good a one, Christ promises a free and full disclosure. He said to them, Come and see: that is to say, My dwelling is not to be understood by words, but by works; come, therefore, by believing and working, and then see by understanding.
ORIGEN. Or perhaps come, is an invitation to action; see, to contemplation.
CHRYS. Christ does not describe His house and situation, but brings them after Him, showing that he had already accepted them as His own. He says not, It is not the time now, tomorrow you shall hear if you wish to learn; but addresses them familiarly, as friends who had lived with him a long time. But how is it that He said in another place, The Son of man has no where to lay His head? when here He says, Come and see where I live? His not having where to lay His head, could only have meant that He had no dwelling of His own, not that He did not live in a house at all: for the next words are, They came and saw where He dwelt, and abode with Him that day. Why they stayed the Evangelist does not say: it being obviously for the sake of His teaching.
AUG. What a blessed day and night was that! Let us too build up in our hearts within, and make Him an house, whither He may come and teach us.
THEOPHYL. And it was about the tenth hour. The Evangelist mentions the time of day purposely, as a hint both to teachers and learners, not to let time interfere with their work.
CHRYS. It showed a strong desire to hear Him, since even at sunset they did not turn from Him. To sensual persons the time after meals is unsuitable for any grave employment, their bodies being overloaded with food. But John, whose disciples these were, was not such a one. His evening was a more abstemious one than our mornings.
AUG. The number here signifies the law, which was composed of ten commandments. The time had come when the law was to be fulfilled by love, the Jews, who acted from fear, having been unable to fulfill it, and therefore was it at the tenth hour that our Lord heard Himself called, Rabbi; none but the giver of the law is the teacher of the law.
CHRYS. One of the two which heard John speak and followed Him was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. Why is the other name left out? Some say, because this Evangelist himself was that other. Others, that it was a disciple of no eminence, and that there was no use in telling his name any more than those of the seventy-two, which are omitted.
ALCUIN. Or it would seem that the two disciples who followed Jesus were Andrew and Philip.
12141 Jn 1,41-43
CHRYS. Andrew kept not our Lord's words to himself; but ran in haste to his brother, to report the good tidings: He first finds his own brother Simon, and said to him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.
BEDE. This is truly to find the Lord; viz. to have fervent love for Him, together with a care for our brother's salvation.
CHRYS. The Evangelist does not mention what Christ said to those who followed Him; but we may infer it from what follows. Andrew declares in few words what he had learnt, discloses the power of that Master Who had persuaded them, and his own previous longings after Him. For this exclamation, We have found, expresses a longing for His coming, turned to exultation, now that He was really come.
AUG. Messias in Hebrew, Christus in Greek, Unctus in Latin. Chrism is unction, and He had a special unction, which from Him extended to all Christians, as appears in the Psalm, God, even Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness above Your fellows. All holy persons are partakers with Him; but He is specially the Holy of Holies, specially anointed.
CHRYS. And therefore he said not Messias, but the Messias. Mark the obedience of Peter from the very first; he went immediately without delay, as appears from the next words: And he brought him to Jesus. Nor let us blame him as too yielding, because he did not ask many questions, before he received the word. It is reasonable to suppose that his brother had told him all, and sufficiently fully; but the Evangelists often make omissions for the sake of brevity. But, besides this, it is not absolutely said that he did believe, but only, He took him to Jesus; i.e. to learn from the mouth of Jesus Himself, what Andrew had reported. Our Lord begins now Himself to reveal the things of His Divinity, and to exhibit them gradually by prophecy. For prophecies are no less persuasive than miracles; inasmuch as they are preeminently God's work, and are beyond the power of devils to imitate, while miracles may be fantasy or appearance: the foretelling future events with certainty is an attribute of the incorruptible nature alone: And when Jesus beheld him, He said, You are Simon the son of Jonas; you shall be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.
BEDE. He beheld him not with His natural eye only, but by the insight of His Godhead discerned from eternity the simplicity and greatness of his soul, for which he was to be elevated above the whole Church. In the word Peter, we must not look for any additional meaning, as though it were of Hebrew or Syriac derivation; for the Greek and Latin word Peter, has the same meaning as Cephas; being in both languages derived from petra. He is called Peter on account of the firmness of his faith, in cleaving to that Rock, of which the Apostle speaks, And that Rock was Christ; which secures those who trust in it from the snares of the enemy, and dispenses streams of spiritual gifts.
AUG. There was nothing very great in our Lord saying whose son he was, for our Lord knew the names of all His saints, having predestinated them before the foundation of the world. But it was a great thing for our Lord to change his name from Simon to Peter. Peter is from petra, rock, which rock is the Church: so that the name of Peter represents the Church. And who is safe, unless he build upon a rock? Our Lord here rouses our attention: for had he been called Peter before, we should not have seen the mystery of the Rock, and should have thought that he was called so by chance, and not providentially. God therefore made him to be called by another name before, that the change of that name might give vividness to the mystery.
CHRYS. He changed the name too to show that He was the same who done so before in the Old Testament; who had called Abram Abraham, Sarai Sarah, Jacob Israel. Many He had named from their birth, as Isaac and Samson; others again after being named by their parents, as were Peter, and the sons of Zebedee. Those whose virtue was to be eminent from the first, have names given them from the first; those who were to be exalted afterwards, are named afterwards.
AUG. The account A here of the two disciples on the Jordan, who follow Christ (before he had gone into Galilee) in obedience to John's testimony; viz. of Andrew bringing his brother Simon to Jesus, who gave him, on this occasion, the name of Peter; disagrees considerably with the account of the other Evangelists, viz. that our Lord found these two, Simon and Andrew, fishing in Galilee, and then bid them follow Him: unless we understand that they did not regularly join our Lord when they saw Him on the Jordan; but only discovered who He was, and full of wonder, then returned to their occupations. Nor must we think that Peter first received his name on the occasion mentioned in Matthew, when our Lord says, You are Peter, and upon this rock will I build My Church; but rather when our Lord says, You shall be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.
ALCUIN; Or perhaps He does not actually give him the name now, but only fixes beforehand what He afterwards gave him when He said, You are Peter, and upon this rock will I build My Church. And while about to change his name, Christ wishes to show that even that which his parents had given him, was not without a meaning. For Simon signifies obedience, Joanna grace, Jona a dove: as if the meaning was; You are an obedient son of grace, or of the dove, i.e. the Holy Spirit; for you have received of the Holy Spirit the humility, to desire, at Andrew's call, to see Me. The elder disdained not to follow the younger; for where there is meritorious faith, there is no order of seniority.
12143 Jn 1,43-46
CHRYS. After gaining these disciples, Christ proceeded to convert others, viz. Philip and Nathanael: The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee.
ALCUIN. Leaving, that is, Judea, where John was baptizing, out of respect to the Baptist, and not to appear to lower his office, so long as it continued. He was going too to call a disciple, and wished to go forth into Galilee, i.e. to a place of "transition" or "revelation," that is to say, that as He Himself increased in wisdom or stature, and in favor with God and man, and as He suffered and rose again, and entered into His glory: so He would teach His followers to go forth, and increase in virtue, and pass through suffering to joy. He finds Philip, and said to him, Follow Me. Everyone follows Jesus who imitates His humility and suffering, in order to be partaker of His resurrection and ascension.
CHRYS. Observe, He did not call them, before some had of their own accord joined Him: for had He invited them, before any had joined Him, perhaps they would have started back: but now having determined to follow of their own free choice, they remain firm ever after. He calls Philip, however, because he would be known to him, from living in Galilee. But what made Philip follow Christ? Andrew heard from John the Baptist, and Peter from Andrew; he had heard from no one, and yet on Christ saying, Follow Me, was persuaded instantly. It is not improbable that Philip may have heard John: and yet it may have been the mere voice of Christ which produced this effect.
THEOPHYL. For the voice of Christ sounded not like a common voice to some, that is, the faithful, but kindled in their inmost soul the love of Him. Philip having been continually meditating on Christ, and reading the books of Moses, so confidently expected Him, that the instant he saw, he believed. Perhaps too he had heard of Him from Andrew and Peter, coming from the same district; an explanation which the Evangelist seems to hint at, when he adds, Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.
CHRYS. The power of Christ appears by His gathering fruit out of a barren country. For form that Galilee, out of which there arises no prophet, He takes His most distinguished disciples.
ALCUIN. Bethsaida means house of hunters. The Evangelist introduces the name of this place by way of allusion to the characters of Philip, Peter, and Andrew, and their future office, i.e. catching and saving souls.
CHRYS. Philip is not persuaded himself, but begins preaching to others: Philip finds Nathanael, and said to him, We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law, and the Prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Joseph. See how zealous he is, and how constantly he is meditating on the books of Moses, and looking for Christ's coming. That Christ was coming he had known before; but he did not know that this was the Christ, of whom Moses and the Prophets did write: He says this to give credibility to his preaching, and to show his zeal for the Law and the Prophets, and how that he had examined them attentively. Be not disturbed at his calling our Lord the Son of Joseph; this was what He was supposed to be.
AUG. The person to whom our Lord's mother had been betrothed. The Christians know from the Gospel, that He was conceived and born of an undefiled mother. He adds the place too, of Nazareth.
THEOPHYL. He was bred up there: the place of His birth could not have been known generally, but all knew that He was bred up in Nazareth.
And Nathanael said to him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth.
AUG. However you may understand these words, Philip's answer wild suit. You may read it either as affirmatory, Something good can come out of Nazareth; to which the other says, Come and see: or you may read it as a question, implying doubt on Nathanael's part, Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? Come and see. Since either way of reading agrees equally with what follows, we must inquire the meaning of the passage. Nathanael was well read in the Law, and therefore the word Nazareth (Philip having said that he had found Jesus of Nazareth) immediately raises his hopes, and he exclaims, Something good can come out of Nazareth. He had searched the Scriptures, and knew, what the Scribes and Pharisees could not, that the Savior was to be expected thence.
ALCUIN. He who alone is absolutely holy, harmless, undefiled; of whom the prophet said, There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch (Nazaraus) shall grow out of his roots. Or the words may be taken as expressing doubt, and asking the question.
CHRYS. Nathanael knew from the Scriptures, that Christ was to come from Bethlehem, according to the prophecy of Micah, And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, - out of you shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. On hearing of Nazareth, then, he doubted, and was not able to reconcile Philip's tidings with prophecy. For the Prophets call Him a Nazarene, only in reference to His education and mode of life. Observe, however, the discretion and gentleness with which he communicates his doubts. He does not say, You deceive me, Philip; but simply asks the question, Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip too in turn is equally discrete. He is not confounded by the question, but dwells upon it, and lingers in the hope of bringing him to Christ: Philip said to him, Come and see. He takes him to Christ, knowing that when he had once tasted of His words and doctrine, he will make no more resistance.
12147 Jn 1,47-51
CHRYS. Nathanael, in difficulty as to Christ coming out of Nazareth, showed the care with which he had read the Scriptures: his not rejecting the tidings when brought him, showed his strong desire for Christ's coming. He thought that Philip might be mistaken as to the place. It follows, Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! There was no fault to be found with him, though he had spoken like one who did not believe, because he was more deeply read in the Prophets than Philip. He calls him guileless, because he had said nothing to gain favor, or gratify malice.
AUG. What means this, In whom is no guile? Had he no sin? Was no physician necessary for him? Far from it. No one was ever born, of a temper not to need the Physician. It is guile, when we say one thing, and think another. How then was there no guile in him? Because, if he was as a sinner, he confessed his sin; whereas if a man, being a sinner, pretends to be righteous, there is guile in his mouth. Our Lord then commended the confession of sin in Nathanael; He did not pronounce him not a sinner.
THEOPHYL. Nathanael however, notwithstanding this praise, does not acquiesce immediately, but waits for further evidence, and asks, Whence know You me?
CHRYS. He asks as man, Jesus answers as God: Jesus answered and said to him, Before that Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you: not having, beheld him as man, but as God discerning him from above. I saw you, He says, that is, the character of the life, when you were under the fig tree: where the two, Philip and Nathanael, had been talking together alone, nobody, seeing them; and on this account it is said, that on seeing him a long way off, He said, Behold an Israelite indeed; whence it appears that this speech was before Philip came near, so that no suspicion could attach to Christ's testimony. Christ would not say, I am not of Nazareth, as Philip told you, but of Bethlehem; in order to avoid an argument: and because it would not have been sufficient proof, had He mentioned it, of His being the Christ. He preferred rather proving this by His having been present at their conversation.
AUG. Has this fig tree any meaning? We read of one fig tree which was cursed, because it had only leaves, and no fruit. Again, at the creation, Adam and Eve, after sinning, made themselves aprons of fig leaves. Fig leaves then signify sins; and Nathanael, when he was under the fig tree, was under the shadow of death: so that our Lord seems to say, O Israel, whoever of you is without guile, O people of the Jewish faith, before that I called you by My Apostles, when you were as yet under the shadow of death, and saw Me not, I saw you.
GREG. When you were under the fig tree, I saw you; i.e. when you were yet under the shade of the law, I chose you.
AUG. Nathanael remembered that he had been under the fig tree, where Christ was not present corporeally, but only by His spiritual knowledge. Hence, knowing that he had been alone, he recognized our Lord's Divinity.
CHRYS. That our Lord then had this knowledge, had penetrated into his mind, had not blamed but praised his hesitation, proved to Nathanael that He was the true Christ: Nathanael answered and said to Him, Rabbi, You are the Son of God, You are the King of Israel: as if he said, You are He who was expected, you are He who was sought for. Sure proof being obtained, he proceeds to make confession; herein showing his devotion, as his former hesitation had shown his diligence.
ID. Many when they read this passage, are perplexed at finding that, whereas Peter was pronounced blessed for having, after our Lord's miracles and teaching, confessed Him to be the Son of God, Nathanael, who makes the same confession before, has no such benediction. The reason is this. Peter and Nathanael both used the same words, l but not in the same meaning. Peter confessed our Lord to he the Son of God, in the sense of very God; the latter in the sense of mere man; for after saying, You are the Son of God, he adds, You are the King of Israel; whereas the Son of God was not the King of Israel only, but of the whole world. This is manifest from what follows. For in the case of Peter Christ added nothing, but, as if his faith were perfect, said, that he would build the Church upon his confession; whereas Nathanael, as if his confession were very deficient, is led up to higher things: Jesus answered and said to him, Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig tree, believe you? You shall see greater things than these. As if He said, What I have just said has appeared a great matter to you, and you have confessed Me to be King of Israel; what will you say when you see greater things than these? What that greater thing is He proceeds to show: And He said to him, Verily, verily, I say to you, Hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man. See how He raises him from earth for a while, and forces him to think that Christ is not a mere man: for how could He be a mere man, whom angels ministered to? It was, as, as it were, saying, that He was Lord of the Angels; for He must be the King's own Son, on whom the servants of the King descended and ascended; descended at His crucifixion, ascended at His resurrection and ascension. Angels too before this came and ministered to Him, and angels brought the glad tidings of His birth. Our Lord made the present a proof of the future. After the powers He had already shown, Nathanael would readily believe that much more would follow.
AUG. Let us recollect the Old Testament account. Jacob saw in a dream a ladder reaching from earth to heaven; the Lord resting upon it, and the angels ascending and descending upon it. Lastly, Jacob himself understanding what the vision meant, set up a stone, and poured oil upon it. When he anointed the stone, did he make an idol? No: he only set up a symbol, not an object of worship You see here the anointing; see the Anointed also. He is the stone which the builders refused. If Jacob, who was named Israel, saw the ladder, and Nathanael was an Israelite indeed, there was a fitness in our Lord telling him Jacob's dream; as if he said, Whose name you are called by, his dream has appeared to you: for you shall see the heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man. If they descend upon Him, and ascend to Him, then He is both up above and here below at the same time; above in Himself, below in His members.
AUG. Good preachers, however, who preach Christ, are as angels of God; i.e. they ascend and descend upon the Son of man; as Paul, who ascended to the third heaven, and descended so far even as to give milk to babes. He said, We shall see greater things than these: because it is a greater thing that our Lord has justified us, whom He has called, than that He saw us lying under the shadow of death. For had we remained where He saw us, what profit would it have been? It is asked why Nathanael, to whom our Lord bears such testimony, is not found among the twelve Apostles. We may believe, however, that it was because he was so learned, and versed in the law, that our Lord had not put him among the disciples. He chose the foolish, to confound the world. Intending to break the neck of the proud, He sought not to gain the fisherman through the orator, but by the fisherman the emperor. The great Cyprian was an orator; but Peter was a fisherman before him; and through him not only the orator, but the emperor, believed.
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