Chrysostom on John 17
"These things were done in Bethany beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day he seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world."
[1.] A Great virtue is boldness and freedom of speech, and the making all things second in importance to the confessing of Christ; so great and admirable, that the Only-begotten Son of God proclaims such an one in the presence of the Father. (Lc 12,8). Yet the recompense is more than just, for thou confessest upon earth, He in heaven, thou in the presence of men, He before the Father and all the angels.
Such an one was John, who regarded not the multitude, nor opinion, nor anything else belonging to men, but trod all this beneath his feet, and proclaimed to all with becoming freedom the things respecting Christ. And therefore the Evangelist marks the very place, to show the boldness of the loud-voiced herald. For it was not in a house, not in a corner, not in the wilderness, but in the midst of the multitude, after that he had occupied Jordan, when all that were baptized by him were present, (for the Jews came upon him as he was baptizing,) there it was that he proclaimed aloud that wonderful confession concerning Christ, full of those sublime and great and mysterious doctrines, and that he was not worthy to unloose the latchet of His shoe. Wherefore he saith,1 “These things were done in Bethany,” or, as all the more correct copies have it, “in Bethabara” For Bethany was not “beyond Jordan,” nor bordering on the wilderness, but somewhere nigh to Jerusalem.
(He marks the places also for another reason. Since he was not about to relate matters of old date, but such as had come to pass but a little time before, he makes those who were present and had beheld, witnesses of his words, and supplies proof from the places themselves. For confident that nothing was added by himself to what was said, but that he simply and with truth described things as they were, he draws a testimony from the places, which, as I said, would be no common demonstration of his veracity.
“The next day he seeth Jesus coming to him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”
The Evangelists distributed the periods amongst them; and Matthew having cut short his notice of the time before Jn the Baptist was bound, hastens to that which follows, while the Evangelist Jn not only does not cut short this period, but dwells most on it. Matthew, after the return of Jesus from the wilderness, saying nothing of the intermediate circumstances, as what Jn spake, and what the Jews sent and said, and having cut short all the rest, passes immediately to the prison. “For,” saith he, “Jesus having heard” that Jn was betrayed, “departed thence.” (Mt 14,13). But Jn does not so. He is silent as to the journey into the wilderness, as having been described by Matthew; but he relates what followed the descent from the mountain, and after having gone through many circumstances, adds, “For Jn was not yet cast into prison.” (c. 3,24).
And wherefore, says one, does Jesus now come to him? why does he come not merely once, but this second time also? For Matthew says that His coming was necessary on account of Baptism: since Jesus adds, that “thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.” (Mt 3,15). But Jn says that He came again after Baptism, and declares it in this place, for, “I saw,” saith he, “the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and It abode upon Him.” Wherefore then did He come to John? for He came not casually, but went expressly to him. “John,” saith the Evangelist, “seeth Jesus coming unto him.” Then wherefore cometh He? In order that since Jn had baptized Him with many (others), no one might suppose that He had hastened to Jn for the same reason as the rest to confess sins, and to wash in the river unto repentance. For this He comes, to give Jn an opportunity of setting this opinion right again, for by saying, “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world,” he removes the whole suspicion. For very plain it is that One so pure as to be able to wash away2 the sins of others, does not come to confess sins, but to give opportunity to that marvelous herald to impress what he had said more definitely on those who had heard his former words, and to add others besides. The word “Behold” is used, because many had been seeking Him by reason of what had been said, and for a long time. For this cause, pointing Him out when present, he said, “Behold,” this is He so long sought, this is “the Lamb.” He calls Him “Lamb,” to remind the Jews of the prophecy of Isaiah, and of the shadow under the law of Moses, that he may the better lead them from the type to the reality. That Lamb of Moses took not at once away the sin of any one; but this took away the sin of all the world; for when it was in danger of perishing, He quickly delivered it from the wrath of God.
Jn 1,30. “This is He of whom I said, He that cometh after me is preferred before me.”
[2.] Seest thou here also how he interprets the word “before”? for having called Him “Lamb,” and that He “taketh away the sin of the world,” then he saith that “He is preferred before me, for He was before me”; declaring that this is the “before,” the taking upon Him the sins of the world, “and the baptizing with the Holy Ghost.” “For my coming had no farther object than to proclaim the common Benefactor of the world, and to afford the baptism of water; but His was to cleanse all men, and to give them the power of the Comforter.” “He is preferred before me,” that is to say, has appeared brighter than I, because “He was before me.” Let those who have admitted the madness of Paul of Samosata be ashamed when they withstand so manifest a truth.
Jn 1,31. “And I knew Him not,” he saith.
Here he renders his testimony free from suspicion, by showing that it was not from human friendship, but had been caused by divine revelation. “I knew Him not,” he saith. How then couldest thou be a trustworthy witness? How shalt thou teach others, while thou thyself art ignorant? He did not say “I know Him not,” but, “I knew Him not”; so that in this way he would be shown most trustworthy; for why should he have shown favor to one of whom he was ignorant?
“But that He should be made manifest unto Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.”
(He then did not need baptism, nor had that layer any other object than to prepare for all others a way to faith on Christ. For be did not say, “that I might cleanse those who are baptized,” or, “that I might deliver them from their sins,” but, “that He should be made manifest unto lsrael.” “And why, tell me, could he not without baptism have preached and brought the multitudes to Him?” But in this way it would not have been by any means easy. For they would not so all have run together, if the preaching had been without the baptism; they would not by the comparison have learned His superiority. For the multitude came together not to hear his words, but for what? To be “baptized, confessing their sins.” But when they came, they were taught the matters concerning Christ, and the difference of His baptism. Yet even this of Jn was of greater dignity than the Jewish, and therefore all ran to it; yet even so it was imperfect.
“How then didst thou know Him?” “By the descent of the Spirit,” he saith. But again, test any one should suppose that he was in need of the Spirit as we are, hear how he removes the suspicion, by showing that the descent of the Spirit was only to declare Christ. For having said, “And I knew Him not,” he adds “But He that sent me to baptize with water the Same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.” (Jn 1,33).
Seest thou that this was the work of the Spirit, to point out Christ? The testimony of Jn was indeed not to be suspected, but wishing to make it yet more credible, he leads it up to God and the Holy Spirit. For when Jn had testified to a thing so great and wonderful, so fit to astonish all his hearers, that He alone took on Him the sins of all the world, and that the greatness of the gift sufficed for so great a ransom, afterwards he proves this assertion.3 And the proof is that He is the Son of God, and that He needed not baptism, and that the object of the descent of the Spirit was only to make Him known. For it was not in the power of Jn to give the Spirit, as those who were baptized by him show when they say, “We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.” (Ac 19,2). In truth, Christ needed not baptism, neither his nor any other;4 but rather baptism needed the power of Christ. For that which was wanting was the crowning blessing of all, that he who was baptized should be deemed worthy of the Spirit this free gift5 then of the Spirit He added when He came.
. “And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from the heaven like a dove, and It abode upon Him. And I knew Him not: but He that sent me to baptize with water, the Same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.”
(He puts the “I knew Him not” repeatedly.6 On what account, and wherefore? He was His kinsman according to the flesh. “Behold,” saith the angel, “thy cousin Elisabeth, she also hath received a son.” (Lc 1,36). That therefore he might not seem to favor Him because of the relationship, he repeats the “I knew Him not.” And this happened with good reason; for he had passed all his time in the wilderness away from his father’s house.
How then, if he knew Him not before the descent of the Spirit, and if he then for the first time recognized Him, did he forbid Him before baptism, saying, “I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me?” (Mt 3,14), since this was a proof that he knew Him very well. Yet he knew Him not before or for a long time, and with good cause; for the marvels which took place when He was a child, as the circumstances of the Magi and others the like, had happened long before, while Jn himself was very young, and since much time had elapsed in the interval, He was naturally unknown to all. For had He been known, Jn would not have said, “That He should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing.”
[3.] Hence it remains clear to us, that the miracles which they say belong to Christ’s childhood, are false, and the inventions of certain who bring them into notice. For if He had begun from His early age to work wonders, neither could Jn have been ignorant of Him, nor would the multitude have needed a teacher to make Him known. But now he says, that for this he is come, “that He might be made manifest to Israel”; and for this reason he said again, “I have need to be baptized of Thee.” Afterwards, as having gained more exact knowledge of Him, he proclaimed Him to the multitude, saying, “This is He of whom I said, After me cometh a Man which is preferred before me.” For “He who sent me to baptize with water,” and sent me for this end, “that He should be made manifest to Israel,” Himself revealed Him even before the descent of the Spirit. Wherefore even before He came, Jn said, “One cometh after me who is preferred before me.” He knew Him not before he came to Jordan and baptized all men, but when He was about to be baptized, then he knew Him; and this from the Father revealing Him to the Prophet, and the Spirit showing Him when He was being baptized to the Jews, for whose sake indeed the descent of the Spirit took place. For that the witness of Jn might not be despised who said, that “He was before me,” and that “He baptizeth with the Spirit,” and that “He judgeth the world,” the Father utters a Voice proclaiming the Son, and the Spirit descends, directing7 that Voice to the Head of Jesus. For since one was baptizing, the other receiving baptism, the Spirit Comes to correct the idea which some of those present might form, that the words were spoken of John. So that when he says, “I knew Him not,” he speaks of former time, not that near to His baptism. Otherwise how could he have forbidden Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized of Thee”? How could he have said such words concerning Him?
“But,” says one, “how then did not the Jews believe for it was not Jn only that saw the Spirit in the likeness of a dove.” It was, because, even if they did see, such things require not only the eyes of the body, but more than these, the vision of the understanding, to prevent men from supposing the whole to be a vain illusion. For if when they saw Him working wonders, touching with His own hands the sick and the dead, and so bringing them back to life and health, they were so drunk with malice as to declare the contrary of what they saw; how could they shake off their unbelief by the descent of the Spirit only? And some say, that they did not all see it, but only Jn and those of them who were better8 disposed. Because even though it were possible with fleshly eyes to see the Spirit descending as in the likeness of a dove, still not for this was it absolutely necessary that the circumstance should be visible to all. For Zacharias saw many things in a sensible form, as did Daniel and Ezekiel, and had none to share in what they saw; Moses also saw many things such as none other hath seen; nor did all the disciples enjoy9 the view of the Transfiguration on the mount, nor did they all alike behold Him at the time of the Resurrection. And this Lc plainly shows, when he says, that He showed Himself “to witnesses chosen before of God.” (Ac 10,41).
“And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.”
Where did he “bear record that this is the Son of God?” he called Him indeed “Lamb,”and said that He should “baptize with the Spirit,” but nowhere did he say of Him, “Son of God.” But the other Evangelists do not write that He said anything after the baptism, but having been silent as to the time intervening, they mention the miracles of Christ which were done after John’s captivity, 10 whence we may reasonably conjecture that these and many others are omitted. And this our Evangelist himself has declared, at the end of his narrative. For they were so far from inventing anything great concerning Him, that the things which seem to bring reproach, these they have all with one voice 11 and with all exactness set down, and you will not find one of them omitting one of such circumstances; but of the miracles, part some have left for the others to relate, 12 part all have passed over in silence.
I say not this without cause, but to answer the shamelessness of the heathen. 13 For this is a sufficient proof of their truth-loving disposition, and that they say nothing for favor. And thus as well as in other ways you may arm yourselves for trial of argument 14 with them. But take heed. Strange were it that the physician, or the shoemaker, or the weaver, in short all artists, should be able each to contend correctly for his own art, but that one calling himself Christian should not be able to give a reason for his own faith; yet those things if overlooked bring only loss to men’s property, these if neglected destroy our very souls. Yet such is our wretched disposition, that we give all our care to the former, and the things which are necessary, and which are the groundwork 15 of our salvation, as though of little worth, we despise.
[4.] That it is which prevents the heathen from quickly deriding his own error. For when they, though established in a lie, use every means to conceal the shamefulness of their opinions, while we, the servants of the truth, cannot even open our mouths, how can they help condemning the great weakness of our doctrine? how can they help suspecting our religion to be fraud and folly? how shall they not blaspheme Christ as a deceiver, and a cheat, who used the folly of the many to further his fraud? And we are to blame for this blasphemy, because we will not be wakeful in arguments for godliness, but deem these things superfluous, and care only for the things of earth. He who admires a dancer or a charioteer, or one who contends with beasts, uses every exertion and contrivance not to come off worst in any disputes concerning him, and they string together long panegyrics, as they compose their defense against those who find fault with them, and cast sneers without number at their opponents: but when arguments for Christianity are proposed, they all hang their heads, and scratch themselves, and gape, and retire at length the objects of contempt.
Must not this deserve excessive wrath, when Christ is shown to be less honorable in your estimation than a dancer? since you have contrived ten thousand defenses for the things they have done, though more disgraceful than any, but of the miracles of Christ, though they have drawn to Him the world, you cannot bear even to think or care at all. We believe in the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, in the Resurrection of bodies, and in Life everlasting. If now any heathen say, “What is this Father, what this Son, what this Holy Ghost? How do you who say that there are three Gods, charge us with having many Gods?” What will you say? What will you answer? How will you repel the attack of these arguments? But what if when you are silent, the unbeliever should again propose this other question, and ask, “What in a word is resurrection? Shall we rise again in this body? or in another, different from this? If in this, what need that it be dissolved?” What will you answer? And what, if he say, “Why did Christ come now and not in old time? Has it seemed good to Him now to care for men, and did He despise us during all the years that are past?” Or if he ask other questions besides, more than these? for I must not propose many questions, and be silent as to the answers to them, lest, in so doing, I harm the simpler among you. What has been already said is sufficient to shake off your slumbers. Well then, if they ask these questions, and you absolutely cannot even listen to the words, shall we, tell me, suffer trifling punishment only, when we have been the cause of such error to those who sit in darkness? I wished, if you had sufficient leisure, to bring before you all the book of a certain impure heathen philosopher written against us, and that of another of earlier date, that so at least I might have roused you, and led you away from your exceeding slothfulness. For if they were wakeful that they might say these things against us, what pardon can we deserve, if we do not even know how to repel the attacks made upon us? For what purpose have we been brought forward? 16 Dost thou not hear the Apostle say, “Be ready to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you”? (1 Pet, 3,15). And Paul exhorts in like manner, saying, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” (Col 3,16). What do they who are more slothful 17 than drones reply to this? “Blessed is every simple soul,” and, “he that walketh simply 18 walketh surely.” (Pr 10,8). For this is the cause of all sorts of evil, that the many do not know how to apply rightly even the testimony of the Scriptures. Thus in this place, the writer does not mean (by “simple”) the man who is foolish, or who knows nothing, but him who is free from wickedness, who is no evil-doer, who is wise. If it were not so, it would have been useless to say, 19 “Be ye wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” (Mt 10,16). But why should I name these things, when the discourse comes in quite out of place? For besides the things already mentioned, other matters are not right with us, those, I mean, which concern our life and conversation. We are in every way wretched and ridiculous, ever ready to find fault with each other, but slow to correct in ourselves things for which we blame and accuse our neighbor. Wherefore I exhort you, that now at least we attend to ourselves, and stop not at the finding fault, (this is not enough to appease God;) but that we show forth a change in every way most excellent, in order that having lived here to the glory of God, we may enjoy the glory to come; which may it come to pass that we will all attain, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
1 al. “how then doth he this? adding and saying.”
2 al. “to redeem.”
4 or, “of any other man.”
9 al. “were thought worthy.”
11 al. “mind.”
12 al. “have made room for others.”
13 lit. “Greeks.”
14 lovgwn uJpoqevsei.
17 al. “irrational.”
18 “uprightly,” E. V.
19 al. “to hear.”
"Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; and looking upon Jesus as He walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God. And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus."
[1.] The nature of man is somehow a thing slothful, and easily declining to perdition, not by reason of the constitution of the nature itself, but by reason of that sloth which is of deliberate choice. Wherefore it needs much reminding. And for this cause Paul, writing to the Philippians, said, “To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.” (Ph 3,1).
The earth when it has once received the seed, straightway gives forth its fruits, and needs not a second sowing; but with our souls it is not so, and one must be content, after having sown many times, and manifested much carefulness, to be able once to receive fruit. For in the first place, what is said settles in the mind with difficulty, because the ground is very hard, and entangled with thorns innumerable, and there are many which lay plots, and carry away the seed; afterwards, when it has been fixed and has taken root, it still needs the same attention, that it may come to maturity, and having done so may remain uninjured, and take no harm from any. For in the case of seeds, when the ear is fully formed and has gained its proper strength, it easily despises rust, and drought, and every other thing; but it is not so with doctrines; in their case after all the work has been fully done, one storm and flood often comes on, and either by the attack of unpleasant circumstances, or by the plots of men skilled to deceive, or by various other temptations brought against them, brings them to ruin.
I have not said this without cause, but that when you hear John repeating the same words, yon may not condemn him for vain talking;1 nor deem him impertinent or wearisome. He desired to have been heard by once speaking, but because not many gave heed to what was spoken from the first, by reason of deep sleep, he again rouses them by this second call. Now observe; he had said, “He that cometh after me, is preferred before me”: and that “I am not worthy to unloose the latchet of His shoe”; and that “He baptizeth with the Holy Ghost, and with fire”; and that he “saw the Spirit descending like a dove, and it abode upon Him,” and he “bare record that this is the Son of God.” No one gave heed, nor asked, nor said, “Why sayest thou these things? in whose behalf? for what reason?” Again he had said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world”; yet not even so did he touch their insensibility. Therefore, after this he is compelled to repeat the same words again, as if softening by tillage2 some hard and stubborn soil, and by his word as by a3 plow, disturbing the mind which had hardened into clods,4 so as to put in the seed deep. For this reason he does not make his discourse a long one either; because he desired one thing only, to bring them over and join them to Christ. He knew that as soon as they had received this saying, and had been persuaded, they would not afterwards need one to bear witness unto Him. As also it came to pass. For, if the Samaritans could say to the woman after hearing Him, “Now we believe, not because of thy saying, for we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world,” the disciples would be much more quickly subdued,5 as was the case. For when they had come and heard Him but one evening, they returned no more to John, but were so nailed to Him, that they took upon them the ministry of John, and themselves proclaimed Him. For, saith the Evangelist, “He findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.” And observe, I pray you, this, how, when he said, “He that cometh after me is preferred before me”; and that, “I am not worthy to unloose the lachet of His shoe”; he caught no one, but when he spoke of the Dispensation, and lowered his discourse to a humbler tone, then the disciples followed Him.
And we may remark this, not only in the instance of the disciples, but that the many are not so much attracted when some great and sublime thing is said concerning God, as when some act of graciousness and lovingkindness, something pertaining to the salvation of the hearers, is spoken of. They heard that “He taketh away the sin of the world,” and straightway they ran to Him. For, said they, “if it is possible to wash away6 the charges that lie against us, why do we delay? here is One who will deliver us without labor of ours. Is it not extreme folly to put off accepting the Gift?” Let those hear who are Catechumens, and are putting off their salvation7 to their latest breath.
“Again,” saith the Evangelist, “Jn stood, and saith, Behold, the Lamb of God.” Christ utters no word, His messenger saith all. So it is with a bridegroom. He saith not for a while anything to the bride, but is there in silence, while some show him to the bride, and others give her into his hands; she merely appears, and he departs not having taken her himself, but when he has received her from another who gives her to him. And when he has received her thus given, he so disposes her, that she no more remembers those who betrothed her. Soit was with Christ. He came to join to Himself the Church; He said nothing, but merely came. It was His friend, John, who put into His the bride’s right hand, when by his discourses he gave into His hand the souls of men. He having received them, afterwards so disposed them, that they departed no more to Jn who had committed them to Him.
[2.] And here we may remark, not this only, but something besides. As at a marriage the maiden goes not to the bridegroom, but he hastens to her, though he be a king’s son, and though he be about to espouse some poor and abject person, or even a servant, so it was here. Man’s nature did not go up,8 but contemptible and poor as it was, He came to it, and when the marriage had taken place, He suffered it no longer to tarry here, but having taken it to Himself, transported it to the house of His Father.
“Why then doth not Jn take his disciples apart, and converse with them on these matters, and so deliver them over to Christ, instead of saying publicly to them in common with all the people, ‘Behold the Lamb of God’?” That it may not seem to be a matter of arrangement; for had they gone away from him to Christ after having been privately admonished by him, and as though to do him a favor, they would perhaps soon have started away again; but now, having taken upon them the following Him, from teaching which had been general, they afterwards remained His firm disciples, as not having followed Him in order to gratify the teacher, but as looking purely to their own advantage.
The Prophets and Apostles then all preached Him absent; the Prophets before His coming according to the flesh, the Apostles after He was taken up; Jn alone proclaimed Him present. Wherefore he calls himself the “friend of the Bridegroom” (c. 3,29), since he alone was present at the marriage, he it was that did and accomplished all, he made a beginning of the work. And “looking upon Jesus walking, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God.” Not by voice alone, but with his eyes also he bore witness to, and expressed his admiration of, Christ, rejoicing and glorying. Nor does he for awhile address any9 word of exhortation to his followers, but only shows wonder and astonishment at Him who was present, and declares to all the Gift which He came to give, and the manner of purification. For “the Lamb” declares both these things. And he said not, “Who shall take,” or “Who hath taken”; but, “Who taketh away the sins of the world”; because this He ever doth. He took them not then only when He suffered, but from that time even to the present doth He take them away, not being repeatedly 10 crucified, (for He offered One Sacrifice for sins,) but by that One continually purging them. As then The Word shows us His pre-eminence, 11 and The Son His superiority in comparison with others, so “The Lamb, The Christ, that Prophet, the True Light, the Good Shepherd,” and whatever other names are applied to Him with the addition of the article, mark a great difference. For there were many “Lambs,” and “Prophets,” and “Christs,” and “sons,” but from all these John separates Him by a wide interval. And this he secured not by the article only, but by the addition of “Only-Begotten”; for He had nothing in common with the creation.
If it seems to any unseasonable that these things should be spoken at “the tenth hour” (that was the time of day, for he says, “It was about the tenth hour”—(v. 39), such an one seems to me to be much mistaken. In the case indeed of the many, and those who serve the flesh, the season after feasting is not very suitable for any matters of pressing moment, because their hearts 12 are burdened with meats: but here was a man who did not even partake of common food, and who at evening was as sober as we are at morning, (or rather much more so; for often the remains of our evening food that are left within us, fill our souls with imaginations, but he loaded his vessel with none of these things;) he with good reason spake late in the evening of these matters. Besides, he was tarrying in the wilderness by Jordan, where all came to his baptism with great fear, and caring little at that time for the things of this life; as also they continued with Christ three days, and had nothing to eat. (Mt 15,32). For this is the part of a zealous herald and a careful husbandman, not to desist before he see that the planted seed has got a firm hold. 13 “Why then did he not go about all the parts of Judaea preaching Christ, rather than stand by the river waiting for Him to come, that he might point Him out when He came?” Because he wished that this should be effected by His works; his own object being in the mean time only to make Him known, and to persuade some to hear of eternal life. But to Him he leaves the greater testimony, that of works, as also He saith, “I receive not testimony of men. The works which My Father hath given Me, the same bear witness of Me.” (c. 5,34, 36). Observe how much more effectual this was; for when he had thrown in a little spark, at once the blaze rose on high. For they who before had not even given heed to his words, afterwards say, “All things which Jn spake were true.” (c. 10,41).
[3.] Besides, if he had gone about saying these things, what was being done would have seemed to be done from some human motive, and the preaching to be full of suspicion. 14
“And the two disciples heard him, and followed Jesus.”
Yet Jn had other disciples, but they not only did not “follow Jesus,” but were even jealously disposed towards him. “Rabbi,” says one, “He that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come unto him.” (c. 3,26). And again 15 they appear bringing a charge against him; “Why do we fast, but thy disciples fast not?” (Mt 9,14). But those who were better than the rest had no such feeling, but heard, and at once followed; followed, not as despising their teacher, but as being most fully persuaded by him, and producing the strongest proof that they acted thus from a right judgment of his reasonings. For they did not do so by his advice, that might have appeared suspicious; but when he merely foretold what was to come to pass, that “He should baptize with the Holy Ghost, [and with fire,]” they followed. They did not then desert their teacher, but rather desired to learn what Christ brought with Him more than John. And observe zeal combined with modesty. They did not at once approach and question Jesus on necessary and most important matters, nor were they desirous to converse with Him publicly, while all were present, at once and in an off-hand manner, but privately; for they knew that the words of their teacher proceeded not from humility, but from truth.
Jn 1,40. “One of the two who heard, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.”
Wherefore then has he not made known the name of the other also? Some say, because it was the writer himself that followed; others, not so, but that he was not one of the distinguished disciples; it behooved not therefore to say more than was necessary. For what would it have advantaged us to learn his name, when the writer does not mention the names even of the seventy-two? St. Paul also did the same. 16 “We have sent,” says he, “with him the brother,” (who has often in many things been forward,) “whose praise is in the Gospel.” (2Co 8,18). Moreover, he mentions Andrew for another reason. What is this? It is, that when you are informed that Simon having in company with him heard, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mt 4,19), was not perplexed at so strange a promise, you may learn that his brother had already laid down within him the beginnings of the faith.
Jn 1,38. “Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye?”
Hence we are taught, that God does not prevent our wills by His gifts, but that when we begin, when we provide the being willing, then He gives us many opportunities of salvation. “What seek ye?” How is this? He who knoweth the hearts of men, who dwelleth 17 in our thoughts, doth He ask? He doth; not that He may be informed; how could that be? but that by the question He may make them more familiar, and impart to them greater boldness, and show them that they are worthy to hear Him; for it was probable that they would blush and be afraid, as being unknown to him, and as having heard such accounts of Him from the testimony of their teacher. Therefore to remove all this, their shame and their fear, he questions them, and would not let them come all the way to the house in silence. Yet the event would have been the same had He not questioned them; they would have remained by following Him, and walking in His steps would have reached His dwelling. Why then did He ask? To effect that which I said, to calm their minds, 18 yet disturbed with shame and anxiety, and to give them confidence.
Nor was it by their following only that they showed their earnest desire, but by their question also: for when they had not as yet learned or even heard anything from Him, they call Him, “Master”; thrusting themselves as it were among His disciples, and declaring what was the cause of their following, that they might hear somewhat profitable. Observe their wisdom also. They did not say, “Teach us of Thy doctrines, or some other thing that we need to know”; but what? “Where dwellest Thou?” Because, as I before said, they wished in quiet to say somewhat to Him, and to hear somewhat from Him, and to learn. Therefore they did not defer the matter, nor say, “We will come to-morrow by all means, and hear thee speak in public”; but showed the great eagerness they had to hear Him, by not being turned back even by the hour, for the sun was already near its setting, (“it was,” saith John, “about the tenth hour.”) And therefore Christ does not tell them the marks of His abode, nor its situation, but rather induces them to follow Him by showing them that He had accepted them. For this reason He did not say anything of this kind to them, “It is an unseasonable time now for you to enter into the house, to-morrow you shall hear if you have any wish, return home now”; 19 but converses with them as with friends, and those who had long been with Him.
How then saith He in another place, “But the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head” (Lc 9,58), while here He saith, “Come and see” (v. 39) where I abide? Because the expression “hath not where to lay His head,” signifies that He had no dwelling place of His own, not that He did not abide in a house. And this too is the meaning of the comparison. 20 The Evangelist has mentioned that “they abode with Him that day,” but has not added wherefore, because the reason was plain; for from no other motive did they follow Christ, and He draw them to Him, but only that they might have instruction; and this they enjoyed so abundantly and eagerly even in a single night, that they both proceeded straightway to the capture 21 of others.
[4.] Let us then also learn hence to consider all things secondary 22 to the hearing the word of God, and to deem no season unseasonable, and, though a man may even have to go into another person’s house, and being a person unknown to make himself known to great men, though it be late in the day, or at any time whatever, never to neglect this traffic. Let food and baths and dinners and the other things of this life have their appointed time; but let the teaching of heavenly philosophy have no separate time, let every season belong to it. For Paul saith, “In season, out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort” (2Tm 4,2); and the Prophet too saith, 23 “In His law will he meditate day and night” (Ps 1,3); and Moses commanded the Jews to do this always. For the things of this life, baths, I mean, and dinners, even if they are necessary, yet being continually repeated, render the body feeble; 24 but the teaching of the soul the more it is prolonged, the stronger it renders the soul which receives it. But now we portion out all our time for trifles and unprofitable silly talking, and we sit together idly during the morning and afternoon, 25 midday and evening besides, and we have appointed places for this; but hearing the divine doctrines twice or thrice in the week we become sick, 26 and thoroughly sated. What is the reason? We are in a bad state of soul; its faculty of desiring and reaching after these things we have relaxed altogether. And therefore it is not strong enough to have an appetite for spiritual food. And this among others is a great proof of weakness, not to hunger nor thirst, but to be disinclined to both. Now if this, when it takes place in our bodies, is a sure sign of grievous disease, and productive of weakness, much more is it so in the soul.
“How then,” says one, “shall we be able to renew it, thus fallen and relaxed, to strength? what doing, what saying?” By applying ourselves to the divine words of the prophets, of the Apostles, of the Gospels, and all the others; then we shall know that it is far better to feed on these than on impure food, for so we must term our unseasonable idle talking and assemblies. For which is best, tell me, to converse on things relating to the market, or things in the law courts, or in the camp, or on things in heaven, and on what shall be after our departure hence? Which is best, to talk about our neighbor and our neighbor’s affairs, to busy ourselves in what belongs to other people, or to enquire into the things of angels, and into matters which concern ourselves? For a neighbor’s affairs are not thine at all; but heavenly things are thine. “But,” says some one, “a man may by once speaking finish these subjects altogether.” Why do you not think this in matters on which you converse uselessly and idly, why though ye waste your lives on this have ye never exhausted the subject? And I have not yet named what is far more vile than this. These are the things about which the better sort converse one with the other; but the more indifferent and careless carry about in their talk players and dancers and charioteers, defiling men’s ears, corrupting their souls, and driving their nature into mad excesses by these narratives, and by means of this discourse introducing every kind of wickedness into their own imagination. For as soon as the tongue has uttered the name of the dancer, immediately the soul has figured to itself his looks, his hair, his delicate clothing, and himself more effeminate than all. Another again fans the flame in another way, by introducing some harlot into the conversation, with her words, and attitudes, and glances, her languishing looks and twisted locks, the smoothness of her cheeks, and her painted eyelids. 27 Were you not somewhat affected when I gave this description? Yet be not ashamed, nor blush, for the very necessity of nature requires this, and so disposes the soul according as the tendency of what is said may be. But if, when it is I that speak, you, standing in the church, and at a distance from these things, were somewhat affected at the hearing, consider how it is likely that they are disposed, who sit in the theater itself, who are totally free from dread, who are absent from this venerable and awful assembly, who both see and hear those things with much shamelessness. “And why then,” perhaps one of those who heed not may say, “if the necessity of nature so disposes the soul, do you let go that, and blame us?” Because, to be softened 28 when one hears these things, is nature’s work; but to hear them is not a fault of nature, but of deliberate choice. For so he who meddles with fire must needs be injured, so wills the weakness of our nature; yet nature does not therefore draw us to the fire and to the injury thence arising; this can be only from deliberate perversity. I beseech you, therefore, to remove and correct this fault, that you may not of your own accord cast yourself down the precipice, nor thrust yourselves into the pits of wickedness, nor run of yourselves to the blaze, lest we place ourselves in jeopardy of the fire prepared for the devil. May it come to pass, that we all being delivered both from this fire and from that, may go to the very bosom of Abraham, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, to the Father and Holy Ghost, be glory for ever and ever. Amen).
1 al. “want of taste.”
3 al. “a kind of ”
5 Morel and ms. in Bodleian, “much more would the disciples have been thus affected, and when they had come would have been subdued by His words.”
6 al. “to release ourselves from.”
7 i.e. their baptism.
8 al. “depart.”
9 al. “even any.”
11 to; ejxaivreton.
12 or, “stomachs.”
13 al. “is retained.”
14 Morel. reads: kai; uJpoyiva" h\n meta; to; khvrugma loipovn.
15 al. “these same.”
16 Morel. and ms. in Bodl. “this also may be seen with Paul.”
19 al. “for the present.”
20 i.e. with the foxes and birds.
21 al. “the door.”
23 Morel. and ms. in Bodl. “and David also glances at this, saying.”
Chrysostom on John 17