1 Christ raiseth Lazarus, four days buried. 45 Many Jews believe. 47 The high priests and Pharisees gather a council against Christ. 49 Caiaphas prophesieth. 54 Jesus hid Himself. 55 At the passover they inquire after Him, and lay wait for Him.
OW a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.
Douay Rheims Version
Christ raises Lazarus to life. The rulers resolve to put him to death.
OW there was a certain man sick, named Lazarus, of Bethania, of the town of Mary and of Martha her sister.
38. Jesus therefore again groaning in himself, cometh to the sepulchre. Now it was a cave; and a stone was laid over it.
39. Jesus saith: Take away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith to him: Lord, by this time he stinketh, for he is now of four days.
48. If we let him alone so, all will believe in him; and the Romans will come, and take away our place and nation.
49. But one of them, named Caiphas, being the high priest that year, said to them: You know nothing.
54. Wherefore Jesus walked no more openly among the Jews: but he went into a country near the desert, unto a city that is called Ephrem. And there he abode with his disciples.
Ver. 1.—Lazarus, a man honourable and rich, and therefore another person than the Lazarus who lay full of sores at the doors of the rich glutton (Luke xvi.)
Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha, in which, i.e., they dwelt as honoured residents, and as disciples and hostesses of Christ.
Mystically, Bethany is in the Hebrew the house of affliction, according to the Syriac version, and this agrees to the circumstances; for the sickness and death of Lazarus afflicted both him and his sisters.
Secondly, Bethany is house of obedience.
Thirdly, Bethany, says Pagninus, is the same as the house of reply, or of the Lord’s hearing, because there Christ heard the prayer of Martha and Mary, interceding for the life of Lazarus.
John passes from what Christ did in the Feast of the Dedication, as appears from x. 22, to the doings of Christ a little before the last Passover, as appears in v. 55; that is, he leaps from December to March: he omits therefore the doings of Christ in January and February, because Luke relates those at length from chapters xv. to xix.
Ver. 2.—It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair (Luke vii. 37). I have shown that the Mary who twice, or as some say, three times, anointed Christ, was without doubt the same as Mary Magdalene; although some think that there were two, and others three.
Whose brother Lazarus was sick. John adds this, to suggest a cause for the raising of Lazarus, namely, that he was the brother of the Magdalene, who was wholly devoted to Jesus, and besought of Him the raising up of her brother Lazarus.
Therefore his sisters sent, &c. Cyril, Theophylact, and Leontius think that these are words of astonishment and as of a person wondering, How is it possible that one should be stricken down by disease whom Thou lovest, Lord, who hast the power of life and death? how can sickness have dared to attack one who is filled with love of Thee? and how can weakness hold him in whom Thy love dwells?
Others, more simply, think the sisters to have spoken that out of faith and confidence. As S. Augustine, and from him Bede: They did not say, Come, for to one who loved it was enough only to announce the fact. They did not dare to say, Come and heal; they did not dare to say, Give the command there, and here it shall come to pass, for why shall it not be so with them, if the faith of that centurion is praised by speaking thus? For he said, Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldest enter under my roof, but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. None of these things said they; but only, Lord, he whom Thou lovest is sick; it is enough that Thou knowest it; for Thou wilt not love and leave uncared for! This then is the prayer implied, but hidden and implicit, because it signifies the necessity and the desire for help; which is often more efficacious than an open solicitation, because it is more humble, modest, relying, and trustful. So out of S. Thomas Suarez’ Treatise on Prayer.
Therefore this petition of the sisters shows, First, great faith; for they do not say, Come, hasten, lest death be beforehand with Thee. For they believe that Christ is able to cure even when absent; yea, even to raise again the dead. So Cyril, Theophylact, Rupertus. Secondly, great trustfulness, in that they confided that Christ, at the mere hearing, of the sickness, would bring a remedy to it, whence they do not multiply words and petitions. Thirdly, great love: Behold, he whom Thou lovest; as if they would say, Thou lovest us, and we Thee: it is sufficient for one who loves to announce the danger of the loved one. For love outweighs all prayers. Fourthly, resignation; for they resign themselves wholly to the providence of Christ, that concerning the disease and the sufferer, He should order and dispose as should befit His providence and love. Therefore this their prayer was efficacious, and is to be frequently used and imitated by us.
Figuratively, Rabanus and from him the Gloss: Lazarus, he says, is a sinner and is loved by the Lord; for He has not come to call the righteous, but sinners; the sisters are holy men, or good thoughts, who pray for the loosing of sins.
Lastly, the sisters did not themselves come to Jesus, but only sent messengers, both because they were women, to whom the care of the house pertained, and to whom a long journey would have been unfitting; and because their brother Lazarus, who was nigh unto death, needed their assistance; and because, trusting in the goodness and love of Christ, they thought a messenger sufficient. So S. Chrysostom, Cyril, and Euthymius.
Ver. 4.—When Jesus heard that He said, This sickness is not, &c. First, because this death of Lazarus shall not be so much death, as sleep; for he shall wake again and rise from it. Whence (ver. 11) He saith: Our friend Lazarus sleepeth, but I go that I may awake him out of sleep. Secondly, as if He said: The end and object of the sickness of Lazarus is not death, but the glory of God; for God did not send it on him in order that it should deprive him of life by death, but rather that it should restore life to him in greater measure, and thus be to the greater glory of God. So S. Augustine: “It is not to death,” he says, “because death itself is not to death, but rather to the giving occasion for a miracle, by the performing of which men may believe in Christ, and avoid the true death.” Thirdly, it is not to death, that is, to such a death as is usually common to men, namely, that man should remain in it nor return any more to this life and this world: for although death might separate the soul of Lazarus from his body, yet it did not end this world [for him] so that he should not return to it; which is the thing death does. For he was speedily raised up again by Christ, and returned to life more living and vigorous than before. So S. Chrysostom, Cyril, Theophylact, Euthymius, and others. Whence Nonnus renders, it is not to everlasting death.
But for the glory of God. By glory, first, Andreas Cretensis understands the Cross and death of Christ; for this the envious Jews determined upon because of His raising up Lazarus, and this greatly glorified Christ. Secondly, Theodorus takes it of the glory which was to come to Christ because of the publicity and fame throughout all Judea, and indeed through the whole world, of this raising of Lazarus performed by Him. Thirdly, and rightly, take the glory of God, because men seeing Lazarus raised up by Christ, believed on Him as the Messiah and Son of God, and therefore glorified both Christ and God the Father. For so John explains this glory in ver. 45: Many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on Him. Whence S. Augustine, “Such a glorifying did not exalt Him, but profited us.”
Ver. 5.—Now Jesus loved Martha, &c. Because of the singular love, devotion, and liberality with which they used to provide for Jesus and His disciples, for Martha had hospitable care for Jesus. Mary having been healed and converted by Christ, devoted herself wholly to Him, and indeed used to accompany Him when He went from town to town preaching, and ministered to Him of her substance (S. Luke viii. 2, 3). Lazarus imitated his sisters. John here inserts the mention of the love of Jesus, not so much that he may assign that cause for the sickness of Lazarus, as Cyril thinks, as if Jesus sent the sickness to Lazarus, because He loved him and his sisters, according to Rev. iii. 19, “As many as I love I rebuke and chasten;” but to signify that Jesus, after He had received the news of the sickness of Lazarus, plainly had a fixed purpose to heal him, but in suitable time and way. For His love made Him anxious respecting the welfare of Lazarus, and therefore He did all things which John narrates in order. Finally, Jesus so loved Lazarus and his sisters, that on their account He raised Lazarus from death, even although He knew that the raising of Lazarus would be to Himself the cause of the Cross and death. The life therefore of Lazarus was the death of Christ.
Ver. 6.—When he had heard, &c. He remained therefore in the same place for two days, during which Lazarus died, because He willed not to cure a sick man, but to raise one dead, and even four days buried and decaying; which was a far greater benefit and miracle, and was not open to the calumnies of the Jews, who might say that Lazarus was not truly dead, and therefore not raised, but only in a swoon or faint, from which he recovered, not by the help of Christ, but by the force of nature and youth.
Ver. 7.—Then after that saith He to His disciples, Let us go into Judea again. By thus forewarning, Christ calms the fears of His timid disciples; for they feared to return with Him into Judæa, because the Jews had a little before sought to stone Him (x. 31). So S. Chrysostom: “Never at any other time did the Lord announce to His disciples whither He was about to go; but here they were greatly afraid of being harassed should He set out without warning They feared both for Him and for themselves, for they were not strong in the faith.” S. Augustine says: “Christ departed, as a man, from Judea, that He might not be stoned: but in returning, forgetful of His weakness, He showed His power.”
Ver. 8.—His disciples say, &c. The disciples say this, because they feared the Jews on account of Christ, and still more for themselves.
Ver. 9.—Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? Lyra and those who follow him expound thus, as if it were “As the twelve hours change through the day, and the breezes change with them, so the minds of the Jews may easily be changed, that those who before hated Me may now love and receive Me!”
Secondly, S. Augustine, Bede, and Rupertus: “As the twelve hours follow the day, that is, the course of the sun, so that they succeed each other in turn, so it is your duty to follow Me; for I am as it were your sun and day, but ye accompany Me as the twelve hours.” And the Gloss: “Christ calls Himself the day, in which they ought to walk, that they may not stumble, and without whom if they walk they stumble; as the disciples just now did in being unwilling that He should die, who came to die for men; but them He calls hours, because these follow the day.”
Thirdly, S. Cyril, as if: “Some hours of My day, that is, of My life, shall remain, in which it behoves Me to preach and to benefit the Jews: the night will come, that is, My Passion and Death; because of which I shall encompass them in the shades of slaughter and calamity: for night is the symbol of wrath and calamities.”
Fourthly and rightly: Certain and fixed is the period of day, that is, of twelve hours, within which any one may walk without stumbling, because he has the light by which he sees and avoids obstacles: so and with equal certainty the time of My life is fixed by God the Father, in which I have to live and do the works which I have been sent to perform. This therefore I call the day; and in this I have no danger to fear from the Jews for Myself or for you, nor can I be slain before the time foreordained for Me by My Father; that is, before the setting and night of My life shall come.
If any man walk, &c.
Ver. 10.—But if a man walk in the night, &c. While it is day, that is, while the time of life remains to Me, ye will not stumble, 0 disciples, while following Me into Judea; but when the night shall have come, that is, death and the close of My life, then the Jews will persecute and kill you as My disciples, as they have persecuted and killed Me. So Rupertus. Mystically, he who follows the day, that is, the sun and light of faith and grace, does not stumble, does not fall into offences; but he who walks in the night, that is, in the darkness of ignorance and concupiscence, he falls into various faults and penalties. Eph. v. 8.
Ver. 11.—These things said He, &c. He calls death sleep, because Lazarus was soon to be aroused and awakened from it. Hear S. Augustine: To the Lord, who called him from the sepulchre with as much ease as thou callest one sleeping from his bed, he was merely asleep; to men, who were not able to raise him up, he was dead. So Paul calls the dead who are to rise again, sleepers (1 Thess. iv. 14).
Ver. 12.—Then said His disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. For in the sick sleep is usually the sign and forerunner, and often the cause, of health. The sense is as if it were said, Let us suffer him to sleep, that he may the more quickly recover: wherefore there is no reason that we should go to him. So S. Augustine and Cyril.
Ver. 13.—Howbeit Jesus spake of his death, &c. Because they took the “sleepeth” simply, not symbolically, of death, as Christ meant it.
Ver. 14.—Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. He showed Himself to be a prophet, yea, the Son of God, inasmuch as He reveals things secret and distant: for such was this death of Lazarus, which He here clearly declares, to take away the disciples’ error as to his sleep. For the messenger had announced to Christ only his sickness, not his death.
Ver. 15.—And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there. Christ therefore declaring his death, showed that He knew it not in a human manner, but in a Divine. For how, says Augustine, should the thing be hidden from Him who had created the man who was dying? and into whose hands his soul had gone forth? Nevertheless let us go unto him. Christ speaks of the dead as though he were living, because He was about to make him so, by raising him from the dead. So Cyril.
Ver. 16.—Then said Thomas, &c. Thomas was not doubly named, as if his first name had been Thomas, his second Didymus; but they were one and the same: for the Hebrew word Thomas is the same as the Greek Didymus, that is, a twin.
Let us also go, that we may die with Him. Not with Lazarus, as some will have it, for this seems foolish; but with Christ, who a little before had said, Let us go to him. Thomas, says Bede, exhorts his companions beyond all, that they should go and die with Christ, in which his great constancy appears. (And the Interlin.) Behold the true disposition of loving souls, either to live with Him or to die with Him; such as were the Soldurii among the Gauls, whose law and covenant in war was, either to conquer together or to die together, as Julius Cæsar bears witness in his Commentaries (De Bell. Gall. III. 22), whom S. Paul seems to have alluded to when he says, in 2 Cor. vii. 3, Ye are in our hearts to live and to die with you. Furthermore, that which S. Thomas says, Let us also go, that we may die with Him, is as if he had said, “If we go with Jesus, we must die with Him, because of the violent hatred of the Jews towards Him. If then He goes, let us also go, as brave disciples and soldiers, and die with Him courageously as our Leader; if He disregards death, and even advances to meet it, let us also disregard it and meet it.” For he had not sufficiently understood what Christ (ver. 9) intimates, that no danger threatened Him yet from the Jews. So Cyril. Therefore he offers himself for Christ to certain death, for he considered it was impending; which was a remarkable proof of his great bravery, and singular love for Christ.
Ver. 17.—Then when Jesus came [to Bethany, as some Greek Codices add] He found that he had lain in the grave four days already. That is, he had been buried four days ago. For the messenger respecting the illness of Lazarus came from the sisters to Jesus (says Chrysostom) on the day on which Lazarus died; the two following days Jesus remained in Bethabara; on the fourth day He went at length to Bethany. Therefore Lazarus seems to have died and been buried on the same day on which the sisters sent a messenger to Jesus; for otherwise Lazarus would not have been four days dead and buried when Christ came, as is here said.
More probably, Euthymius and Maldonatus think that Lazarus died indeed on the day on which the messenger came to Christ, but was buried on the following day, lest perhaps there might remain in him some signs of hidden life; that Christ remained two days in Bethabara, and on the fourth day departed thence towards Bethany; but because this journey was one of about ten hours, it could scarcely have been traversed by Christ and the apostles in one day on foot; hence Christ reached Bethany on the following morning, which was the fifth from the burial of Lazarus and then raised him from the dead; for neither was it becoming that he should be raised in the evening (lest it might seem a fancied and illusive raising), but in the morning, or in full day. Wherefore Lazarus had already been four complete days in the tomb or sepulchre, and the fifth from his burial was begun; so that it might well appear to all that he was not only dead, but decaying and devoured by worms. Hence the raising of Lazarus performed by Christ was a most certain and wonderful miracle, which could in no way be hidden, or carped at by the scribes.
Typically, one buried four days is a sinner having the habit of sinning, who is dead in sin and as it were buried in it, and lies past cure, without hope of forgiveness and spiritual life. For the first day is that in which any one sins by the consent of the will. The second, on which any one completes the sin in act. The third, on which he repeats it again and again, and brings upon himself a custom and habit of it. The fourth, on which this habit becomes obstinate, and is, as it were, turned into nature; according to S. Augustine (Confess., Lib. viii.), “Out of the perverted will a lust is formed; and when the lust is served, it becomes a custom; and when the custom is not resisted, it becomes a necessity, and thus being connected together by certain (as it were) cramps, they formed what I have called a chain, and a hard slavery held me bound. Such a sinner, then, is by the great and rare grace of Christ to be raised from this sepulchre again; which, that Christ might signify, He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.”
So also S. Augustine (On the Sermon of the Lord on the Mount) “As we come to sin by three degrees, by suggestion, by delectation, by consent; so also of the sin itself there are three differences; in heart, in action, in custom—three deaths, as it were. One, so to speak, in the house, when in the heart consent is given to the desire; a second, now carried forth, as it were, beyond the door, when consent goes on into action; a third, when the mind, being weighed down by the force of evil custom, as it were by a mass of earth, is, so to speak, already decaying in the grave. And whosoever has read the Gospels recognises that the Lord has raised up these three kinds of dead. And he perhaps considers what differences there were in the word itself of Him who raised them: in one place. “Maiden, arise,” and in another, “Young man, I say unto thee, Arise;” and in another, He groaned in spirit, and wept, and again He groaned, and then afterwards He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth!
Thirdly, the Gloss, out of S. Augustine and Bede. The first day of death is that in which we are born with original sin. The second, that in which, coming to years of discretion, we transgress the natural law. The third, in which we despise the written law. The fourth, in which we disdain also the Gospel of Christ and His grace. Contrariwise, S. Bernard takes the four days for the four motives and actions of a penitent; the first of fear; the second of conflict against sins; the third of grief; and the fourth of shame for the same.
Ver. 18.—Now Bethany was nigh, &c. A stadium is the eighth part of an Italian mile, and contains therefore 125 paces. John adds this to signify that many had come to Bethany from Jerusalem, inasmuch as it was so near, that they might comfort Martha and Mary, who were sorrowing for the death of Lazarus.
And many of the Jews came, &c. Many, especially relations, connections, friends; for these sisters were rich, noble, honoured, such as are accustomed to have many, either friends or dependent followers. Besides, the grief for a brother’s death is very keen, and many, even strangers, and not known, are accustomed to assemble for the purpose of comforting persons under such a loss. For the grief for death is common to all; and in it the consolation of all is common also.
Ver. 20.—Then Martha, as soon as she heard, &c. At leisure for silence, grief, and prayer, according to her custom; wherefore the news of the coming of Christ reached not Mary but Martha, for Martha was the senior, and was over the house, and was active and busy, wherefore all letters and messengers were first brought to her, not to Mary. But why did not she herself signify the coming of Christ to Mary? I reply, first, because the near approach of Christ did not allow of any delay. For Christ seems to have been near the house when Martha met Him. Secondly, because Martha wished to confer secretly with Christ, that she might find out from Him whether there were any hope of raising up or helping her brother. Thirdly, because Mary, as I have said, was given to quiet and prayer. Fourthly, because, if she had called out Mary, all the Jews would have followed her, and a tumult would have arisen; they would have contended and disputed with Christ. So Leontius. Finally, her joy at the approach of Christ drew her at once to meet Him, so that she did not think of calling her sister. I prefer to say this, rather than what some suppose, that she desired to deprive her sister of this commendation, viz. [of going to meet] the coming of Christ, for this appears to me too foolish and womanish, and unworthy of so holy a heroine.
Ver. 21.—Then said Martha unto Jesus, &c. Because I know Thee to be so powerful, that Thou art able to drive away death, and to love both him and us so well, that Thou wouldest not have permitted him to die. In her grief, says Chrysostom, she silently, but reverently, seems to blame Christ for coming too late. But rather in fact she accuses herself, that she had not sent the messenger sooner to Christ; or generally, she bewails and laments His absence, as we lament a casual absence of the physician, if, while he is absent, death takes place.
Ver. 22.—But I know that even now, whatsoever Thou wilt ask of God, God will give it Thee. And consequently, if Thou shouldest beg of God the raising again of Lazarus, although he has been four days in the tomb, God will give it Thee. “She thought,” says Cyril, “that Christ came, not that He might raise up Lazarus, but that He might comfort her and Mary; and therefore she begs of Him that He will raise Lazarus, but indirectly, and with a modest and humble resignation of her will to His.” Whence, as S. Augustine notes, she did not say: But now I pray Thee to raise my brother; for whence should she know whether it were good for her brother to rise again? This only she said, I know that Thou art able; do this, if Thou wilt; but whether Thou wilt do it or not is a matter for Thy judgment, not for my presumption to determine.
Hence learn by way of moral, that God often suffers us to fall into tribulations, and allows them to increase unto the utmost, and then powerfully helps us, that He may show His Omnipotence and providential mercy. Wherefore the faithful Christian must not then despair, but increase in hope, and pray the more earnestly. For when every human help fails, then the Divine help approaches and is very near. For so God helped Abraham when placed in difficulties (Gen. xx.), and Joseph, forgotten in prison (Gen. xli. 14). Also when the Hebrews were oppressed by Pharaoh (Exod. i.), and especially when the same people were everywhere surrounded; on one side by the sea, on the other by the mountains, and elsewhere by the army of Pharaoh. Then He divided the Red Sea and led them safely through, while Pharaoh, pursuing them through the bed of the sea, was overwhelmed with his whole army (Exod. xiv.) So in the time of the Judges, He permitted the same people to be oppressed, now by the Midianites, now by the Moabites, now by the Ammonites, now by the Philistines, that He might bring them to fervent prayer, and to appeal to Him; and when they did this, He sent them Gideon, Ehud, Samson, and other judges to free them. So He freed, by means of Judith, the Jews destined to death by Holofernes, and those by Haman He freed through Mordecai, and those by Antiochus through the Maccabees. So He freed David besieged in the cave by Saul, a messenger being sent to Saul that the Philistines were laying waste Judea (1 Sam. xxiii. 24). It is therefore the proper attribute of God to supply the defect of nature, and so also to help the lost and hopeless, according to the saying: “The poor committeth Himself unto Thee; Thou art the helper of the fatherless” (Ps. x. 14).
Ver. 23.—Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Jesus solaces Martha sorrowing for the death of her brother, by a hope of his resurrection, but an ambiguous one, that He might raise her by degrees to faith and hope of so great a miracle as that by which He was soon to raise him, so that she might dispose herself to it, and, as it were, merit it. So Leontius.
Ver. 24.—Martha saith unto Him, I know, &c. Christ had said that Lazarus should rise again, not explaining whether now, or in the day of judgment. Martha, then, to elicit an explanation of this ambiguity from the mouth of Christ, adds, I know that he shall rise again in the day of judgment; but this will not be any benefit peculiar to him, but the common lot of all men. But if he shall rise before that time, and be raised by Thee now, this will be a singular privilege to him and to us all; and I would that Thou wouldest say the word openly. Learn hence, that the Jews, and especially the Pharisees, believed in the immortality of the soul, and from thence the resurrection of the body; and this appears from 2 Macc. xii. 44, Job xix. 26.
Ver. 25.—Jesus said unto her, I am the Resurrection and the Life. I am He who recalls to life, I am He who gives life; by Me both the dead rise and the living live; therefore I am able now, immediately, before the general resurrection, to raise up thy brother from death. Whence S. Augustine: She says, My brother shall rise again in the last day. Thou sayest truly; but He by whom he shall then rise is able [to raise him] also now, because He is the Resurrection and the Life: that is, Christ saith, “I am the cause of the Resurrection and Life, so that all rise again by Me, and no one except by Me can rise.” Others explain thus, “I am the resurrection to life,” which is an hendiadys. He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.
To Martha asking that the life of the body should be restored to Lazarus, Christ replies more fully, and assigns assuredly life also to the soul; so that his soul should live here a new life by greater grace, and in the future by glory. “The soul shall live,” says Augustine, “until the body shall rise again, never afterwards to die!” The sense then is, “Not only thy brother shall rise again by My power, but whosoever is faithful, who believes in Me with a living faith, working by love, shall live even though he were dead: as well because his sou1 shall live always by Me a life of love and grace, and of glory in heaven; as because his body shall be raised by Me from death to a life blessed and eternal in the day of judgment;” to which Christ here chiefly alludes. Wherefore, although it (the body) may die, yet this will be for a short time only, so that death will seem not so much death as sleep and repose; from which it shall awake and arise on the day of judgment.
S. Cyprian (De Mortalit.) cites this place and explains: “If we believe in Christ, let us have faith in His words and promises; and since we shall not die for ever, let us come in glad security to Christ, with whom we shall live and reign for ever.”
Ver. 26.—And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die. I, as I will raise up the faithful, though dead, to a new and blessed life, so those also who are still alive, who believe in Me, I will keep in life eternal, and I will provide that they shall not die for ever: for although from the debt of nature they shall die for a brief time, yet I will soon raise them up from death to life eternal, so that they shall seem not so much to die as to sleep. Wherefore I am the Resurrection and the Life of all the faithful whether dead or living, because I will bestow upon them eternal life through the resurrection.
Believest thou this? Christ requires faith in the Resurrection, not from Lazarus, inasmuch as he was dead, but from his sister Martha, so that she may be at once excited to greater trust in it and hope for it, and therefore may prepare herself for it with greater desire and reverence. So Christ required from the father who begged that his son should be freed from the evil spirit, that he should believe Him to be able to do this (S. Mark ix. 23); and from those who carried the paralytic He required a similar faith (S. Matt. ix. 2).
Ver. 27.—The Christ, the Son of God, that is, that Son, viz., the true and only Son by nature. Christ perfected the imperfect faith of Martha, saying, I am the Resurrection and the Life. Wherefore she, being thus enlightened by Christ, burst forth into a perfect act of faith, and said: I believe that Thou art Messiah, the true Son of God, and therefore God, the first cause of all life and resurrection. I believe that Thou, as God, art therefore able to raise up and give life to Lazarus and to whomsoever of the dead Thou willest
Ver. 28.—And when she had so said, &c. Secretly, because Mary was surrounded with the Jews who were condoling with her. Martha therefore calls her in private, lest she might excite a tumult of the Jews, if she should call Mary openly and say that Jesus was there. Theophylact says somewhat differently: “The presence of Christ constitutes a calling. For His presence in itself summoned Mary, as love calls the lover to the loved.”
Vers. 29, 30.—As soon as she heard that, &c. Because Jesus wished to go to the sepulchre of Lazarus, which, according to the manner of the Jews, was outside the village or town: hence He did not wish to enter Bethany, because He would have to quit it again to go to the sepulchre. Therefore He remained outside, and there awaited Mary.
Ver. 31.—Followed her. The Providence of God ordained that very many Jews following Mary should see Jesus raising Lazarus, and should therefore be irrefragable witnesses of his being raised from the dead; and should thus believe in Jesus, and bring others to believe likewise.
Then when Mary was come, &c. She fell at His feet from reverence and gratitude, inasmuch as once bedewing them with her tears and drying them with her hair, she had heard Him say, Thy sins are forgiven thee; go in peace (S. Luke vii. 38). But she says the same thing as her sister Martha, because they had the same sense of grief, the same faith, and therefore the same words; yet she says less than Martha, who was not hindered by tears, had said. (Bede.)
Ver. 33.—When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, &c. You will ask, of what nature was the groaning and trouble of Christ?
First, Eusebius Emissenus, or rather Gallus: He groaned that He might teach us to groan over sinners. (Infremuit) that is, He groaned: But the groan is of one who pities, the murmur of one who is indignant. Nonnus translates agitated or disturbed by His fatherly mind. But this is too general, nor does it explain what or of what nature this trouble was.
Secondly, Theophylact by spirit understands Divinity; as if it were said, Jesus by His Spirit, i.e., by His Divinity, powerfully and as if by groaning, repressed His tears and the feeling of commiseration which was aroused in Him because of the lamentation of Mary and of the Jews, lest bursting forth into tears; and sobbing like others, He might speak in a voice weak and tearful, such as would be unfitting one so grave and holy.
To this agree S. Chrysostom and others, who by “murmur” understand the feeling of anger, indignation, and wrath which Christ, putting as it were a force upon Himself, mastered and repressed with a serene and firm countenance His feeling of commiseration and the tears ready to flow: as if it were said, Christ threatened and restrained His spirit and His human nature, that it should not yield to weeping. But against this is, first, that this feeling of compassion had plainly not yet been aroused when Christ groaned, but a little after, when He was troubled. Secondly, because in Christ these passions and affections were not involuntary and violent, but freely and voluntarily assumed, as I shall soon state.
I say then, that Christ here displayed the feeling and act of murmuring (A. V. groaning), that is, of indignation in spirit or mind and the innermost perceptions of the soul, when by sign and murmur, or indignant voice, He signified outwardly the grief which He felt arising from the death of Lazarus, and from the sobbing of Mary and the Jews: and that by this murmur He, as it were, prepared and animated Himself to the arduous combat with death, that He might signify how difficult would be the raising of Lazarus from the grave after four days’ dwelling there. Whence S. Augustine says: In the voice of indignation appears the hope of resurrection; in truth Jesus foresaw that He because of the raising up of Lazarus would be crucified by the envious Pharisees; yet not allowing this to stand in the way, He determined to raise him up; which act of heroic fortitude He allowed to be manifested in this groan. So soldiers groan when battle is near, and excite and sharpen their anger for the difficult and perilous combat that is imminent; for their anger is the whetstone of valour and bravery. Hence also we, when temptation, whether of the devil, the flesh, and the world, threatens, should sharpen our anger against them, that we may overcome the temptation; for by anger is concupiscence overcome, though the difficulty of the task be great. Further, this murmur, that is, indignation, was against death, and the devil, by whose envy death had entered into the world; which had been the cause of such bitter sorrow and lamentation.
And was troubled (Gr. and Vulg. He troubled Himself). That is, He permitted freely and willingly to Himself the strong feeling both of indignation, as already mentioned, and of commiseration and tears, because of the common lamentation of Martha, Mary, and the rest; for it would have been inhuman not to grieve and sympathise with them. For them therefore Jesus was troubled.
Note these passions of indignation, sorrow, commiseration, and weeping, were in such a manner in Christ as not to overbear His reason and will, or to arise unbidden as they are aroused with us; but rather to follow His reason, and to be ruled and excited by it. On which account right reason always used to direct and regulate them. Therefore [S. John] says, He troubled Himself (turbavit Seipsum); not, He was troubled. Wherefore these passions were in Christ not so much passions as feelings in place of passions, freely taken, as divines teach, out of Damascene. For Christ was able as He chose to excite them, to soften, to moderate, to rule, to direct, much more completely than a charioteer does his horses and his chariot.
He troubled therefore himself: putting on the feeling of grief, anger, and compassion, and showing it by a change of voice and countenance because of grief. Therefore the proper cause of this murmur and trouble of Christ was the death of Lazarus, and the weeping of Mary and the Jews, as appears from the verses themselves. The misery therefore of Lazarus and of all men excited the pity of Christ, the pity excited indignation against such troubles, the indignation increased the pity, and at the same time with it aroused zeal, and a purpose of taking away those troubles, even with the casting away of His own life by the death upon the Cross, by which so great a benefit was alone to be purchased, according to what Isaiah says (1xiii. 4), “The day of vengeance is in my heart . . . and my fury it upheld me.”
Ver. 34.—And said, Where have ye laid him, &c. Christ knew the place where Lazarus was buried: for, as S. Augustine argues, Didst thou know that he was dead, and art ignorant where he is buried? Yet He asked the question; because He acted with men after a human manner, and by the inquiry prepared Himself, and cleared the way for the raising up of Lazarus; and excited the attention at once of Mary, Martha, and the Jews, so that they should watchfully consider the words and actions of Christ, who was about to raise him.
Symbolically, S. Gregory says: Christ recalling to the women the sin of Eve, says, “I have placed the man in Paradise whom ye have placed in the tomb.”
Come and see. Eagerly they invite Jesus to come and see, hoping that He who had raised up strangers’ dead, would raise up also Lazarus His intimate associate, who was so beloved by Him. Whence, mystically, the Gloss: “See, that is pity;” for, as S. Augustine says, the Lord sees when He pities, according to this, “Look upon my adversity, and forgive me all my sins.” S. Chrysostom, and after him Theophylact: He seemed to them about to go thither that He might weep, not that He might raise up [the dead].
Ver. 35.—Jesus wept. At seeing the sepulchre of Lazarus (although Chrysostom supposes that He wept when He groaned and was troubled, which is equally probable), to signify His love for him, and the grief He felt at his death.
Secondly, that He might weep with the sisters and the Jews who were weeping, and teach us to do the same. So S. Augustine. Hear S. Ambrose: “Christ became all things to all men; poor to the poor, rich to the rich, weeping with the weeping, hungering with the hungry, thirsting with the thirsty, full with the abounding; He is in prison with the poor man, with Mary He weeps, with the Apostles He eats, with the Samaritan woman he thirsts.
Thirdly, that adding tears to His speech, He might make it stronger and more efficacious; for tears are a sign of vehement grief and affliction, and also of desire and longing: wherefore God is accustomed to hear and answer prayers seasoned, and as it were armed, with tears. So Christ on the [eve of the] Cross offering up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears, was heard in that He feared. [E. & Heb. V. 7, pro suâ reverentiâ, Vulg.] So Tobit (xii. 12) heard from S. Raphael, “When thou didst pray with tears [the words “with tears,” cum lacrymis, are not in the LXX Greek], and didst bring the dead, . . . I brought thy prayer before the Lord.” So Jacob, wrestling with the angel, obtained a blessing (Gen. xxxii. 29). Wherefore? because he wept and besought him (Hosea xii. 4). “The tears of penitents,” says S. Bernard, “are the wine of angels.” For it is the anguish of the mind in prayer which influences, and as it were compels God to pity, according as it is said, “a contrite and humble heart God shall not despise” (Ps. li. 17); just as the tears of an infant influence the mother, and obtain from her what it asks; for God shows toward us the heart of a mother.
Other writers give different causes for the tears of Christ. First, Cyril says that Christ wept for the miseries of the human race brought in by sin. Secondly, Andrew Cretensis says that He wept for the unbelief of the Jews, and because they would not believe in Christ, even after they had seen the miracle of the raising of Lazarus. Thirdly, Isidore of Pelusium and Rupertus think that Christ wept for the very reason that he was about to recall Lazarus out of Limbo, that is, from the haven and state of peace, to the storms, dangers, and sufferings of this life.
Further, we read that Christ wept thrice: here at the death of Lazarus; at the Cross (Heb. v. 7); at the sight of Jerusalem, and its impending ruin (Luke xix. 41). S. Bernard (Sermon 3, in Die Nativ.) says, “The tears of Christ cause me shame and grief. . . . Can I still trifle, and deride His tears?” And soon after: The Son of God sympathises (compatitur), and He weeps; man suffers (patitur), and shall we laugh?” And S. Augustine says: “Christ wept—let man weep for himself: wherefore did Christ weep, unless to teach man to weep? Wherefore did He groan and trouble Himself, except that the faith of man, rightly displeased with himself, should in a manner groan in accusation of his evil works, so that the habit of sinning should yield to the violence of repenting.”
Ver. 37.—And some of then said, Could not this man, &c. Certainly He was able to do that, but would not, because He had determined to do something far greater, namely, to raise him up when dead and four days buried, which the Jews thought impossible, and therefore wondered that Christ had not hindered the death of Lazarus.
Ver. 38.—Jesus therefore, again groaning in Himself, &c. Note that Christ was here thrice greatly distressed, and wept. First, when He sees Mary and the Jews weeping (ver. 33). Secondly, when He saw the sepulchre of Lazarus (ver. 34). Thirdly, here, when He came to it, to show how pitiable was the lot of Lazarus when dead, and typically of sinners spiritually dead by their sins, and hereafter to die perpetually in the torments of hell. For it was they who drew forth from Him in the agony of His Passion tears of blood (Luke xxii. 44).
It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. For the more noble of the Jews were buried in caves or underground chambers, as appears in the case of the sepulchre of Abraham (Gen. xxiii. 9), Isaac and Jacob (Gen. xlix. 31), Joseph of Arimathea (Matt. xxvii. 60).
Mystically, S. Augustine says: “This stone denotes the Mosaic Law, which was written on tables of stone, and included all under sin.”
Typically, the same says (Serm. 44, on S. John) “That mass placed on the sepulchre is the force of evil custom with which the soul is weighed down, nor permitted to rise up nor breathe.”
Ver. 39.—Jesus said: Take ye away the stone. Jesus commanded this, first, that when the stone was taken away the Jews might both see the body of Lazarus, and smell that it was corrupted, and so think his raising a work of more power. Secondly, that He might speak in the presence of the body of Lazarus, and bringing it dead before God should obtain of Him that it be raised up.
Typically, S. Bernard (Serm. 4, De Assump.): “Let the stone be taken away, but let penitence remain, no longer weighing down and burdening the mind, but confirming and rendering it living and strong; yes, let its food be to do the will of the Lord, which before it knew not.” So also training does not now constrain him who is free, as it is said, “The law is not made for the righteous; but rules and directs one who pays it a voluntary obedience into the way of peace.”
Martha, the sister of him that was dead, &c. Mystically, S. Augustine says: “Lazarus four days dead signifies a sinner buried in the habit of sin, and as it were despaired of. The Lord then came, to whom in truth all things were easy, and yet made manifest a difficulty.”
He groaned in spirit. He showed there was need of blame and loud reproof to those who have become hardened by custom. Yet at the loud voice of the Lord the bonds of necessity have been broken; the tyranny of hell trembled; Lazarus is restored living. Truly the Lord frees also those who are four days dead by evil habit; for Lazarus was sleeping to Christ when He willed to raise him.
Ver. 40.—Jesus said unto her, &c. This is the same as “Thou shalt see My glory, I who am God and the Son of God.” So Leontius and Euthymius.
But where did Christ say this to Martha? We answer, Christ said that not in precise words, but virtually and in effect He said it when the messengers were sent by Martha (ver. 4), when He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.” So S. Chrysostom. Again, and more clearly, to Martha herself, in verses 23 and 25.
If thou wouldest believe. Christ arouses the wavering faith and hope of Martha; for although she when she met Christ before had said, “I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God” (vers. 22 and 27), yet when it came to the point, when I say, Christ, just about to raise up Lazarus, ordered the sepulchre to be opened, Martha began to totter; wherefore she said, “Lord, by this time he stinketh, for he hath been dead four days.” She had therefore alternate impulses of grace and nature, of faith and distrust, of hope and despair, concerning the resurrection of Lazarus, such as we experience in ourselves: when looking to God we hope that we shall overcome all things, however difficult; but when looking to our own infirmity, when we ought to advance against some difficulty, we hesitate, we tremble, and almost disbelieve that it can be accomplished by us. So recruits before a battle show great boldness, but when the battle commences, at the first onset of the enemy they fear and fly. Whence it is said: “In peace lions, in battle stags.” But veteran soldiers before the battle tremble as stags, but in the battle they stand and fight as lions. By this difference you may distinguish the veteran from the tyro.
Ver. 41.—Then they took away the stone. Which being taken away, the corpse of Lazarus, fetid and decaying, appeared; so that it was evident to all that he was really dead, and that Christ brought his very body, just as it was, before God by prayers, and presented it to be raised up.
And Jesus lifted up His eyes. To God the Father, that He might teach us to raise our eyes and still more hearts to God in heaven when we pray. S. John Damascene (in Cantenâ) adds, that Christ looked up to heaven, as to His own land, to signify that He had come thence upon earth.
And said, Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me. Hence some think that Christ when He groaned in spirit (Yer. 33) besought the Father, mentally, to raise up Lazarus, and received an answer from Him that Lazarus was to be raised up by Him; and that therefore Christ says here, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me. This is probable.
But evidently it is as if He had said: I thank Thee, 0 Father, because Thou hast always and constantly hitherto heard Me when I prayed, and especially now, when, though silently and in the mind, I invoke and beseech Thee for the raising up of Lazarus; for Thou didst grant to Me, that soon I shall raise him up. Hence Christ teaches us how to pray, that in the beginning of prayer we should surely thank God for benefits received. This giving of thanks conciliates God’s favour to us, and inclines Him to bestow the new blessings which we beg for. For he who is grateful for the lesser gifts, merits to receive the greater. This is the faithful prayer of sons, whence Christ adds:
Ver. 42.—And I knew that Thou hearest Me always: but because, &c., i.e., what I said aloud (ver. 41).
Ver. 43.—And when He had thus spoken, &c. First, to show this voice to have great and prevailing authority, by which He was raising up Lazarus from death, as God ruling nature and death. Whence Cyril says, His command is kingly, and worthy of God: Lazarus, come forth. For He said this not as praying, but as bidding and commanding. A loud voice, then, signifies the great force and power which recalled Lazarus from death to life. For this was a most difficult work, and therefore required supreme and Divine power, as also a fitting voice. Symbolically and mystically, the cause was, to represent with this loud voice the trumpet-voice of the Archangel in the day of judgment, by which all the dead shall be raised. Whence SS. Chrysostom, Cyril, Theophilus, Euthymius, assert that Christ here willed to show in action what He had said in v. 25, “The hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they who hear shall live.” Hear S. Ambrose (De Fide Resur.): The Lord shows thee in what manner thou shalt rise. For He did not raise up one Lazarus only, but the faith of all; and if, when thou readest, thou believest this, thy mind also, which was dead, receives life with that Lazarus. For what means it that the Lord drew near to the tomb, and cried with a loud voice: Lazarus, come forth,—unless that He might afford us a specimen, might give us an example, of the future resurrection? Why did He cry aloud with His voice, as if He were not accustomed by His Spirit alone to perform [mighty works], as if He were not accustomed to command without speech? but that He might show what is written, “In the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump, the dead shall be raised. incorruptible” (1 Cor. xv. 52).
Typically, the loud voice of Christ signifies the great impulse of arousing grace, by which the sinner needs to be called forth from the custom of evil in which he lies buried, to grace and a new life. So S. Augustine. Hence Eph. v. 14, “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee life.”
Lazarus. He calls him by his proper name: lest, as says S. Ambrose, he might seem as one raised up for another, or his resurrection more by chance than by command. Again, He addresses the dead man as living, because all the dead live unto God, says S. Chrysostom.
Come forth. Not as if thou wert already risen, and only now wast to show thyself beyond the sepulchre, as Origen wrongly infers from hence: but, Rise, return from the dark and hidden caves of death and Hades; return, 0 soul of Lazarus, from the farthest limits of the Limbus Patrum into this body, and thence into the life, air, and light common to all living beings.
Ver. 44.—And he that was dead came forth, &c. The power of the voice of Christ is made manifest, which instantly raised up the dead man, so that the things spoken might be done.
Grave-clothes, bindings for the sepulchre, with which the hands and feet of the dead man are bound, so that they may be inserted and decently composed in a narrow receptacle. The Arabic translates linen cloths; Nonnus, “he had his whole body from foot to head bound with manifold wrappings for the grave.”
And his face was bound about with a napkin: in the manner of the Jews, that the fact of death might be signified, and the pale and fearful visage of the dead might strike no one with horror.
You will ask, Why did Christ, in raising the dead man, not at the same time unloose his bonds?
SS. Augustine, Chrysostom, Cyril, Leontius, and others reply that the Jews might see that the same Lazarus was raised up, who a little before had been swathed as dead, by themselves, with those bands and napkin, and was not a phantom, or some other man hidden in the sepulchre, to make a feigned appearance.
Secondly, that the miracle was twofold: that the first was the raising up the dead man; the second that he when raised up should immediately walk with his feet bound and his face covered, and come forth from his sepulchre straight to Jesus.
Typically, S. Gregory: Our Redeemer raised up a maiden in the house, a young man outside the gate [of the city], but Lazarus in the sepulchre. So he lies as it were still dead in the house, who is secretly sunk in sin. He is, as it were, brought outside the gate, whose iniquity reveals itself even to the shamelessness of public commission. But he is weighed down with the mound of the grave, who in the committing of wickedness is loaded with the weight of habit. But these He pities and recalls to life, in that very often by Divine grace He enlightens with the brightness of His countenance those dead not only in secret but even in open sins, and oppressed by the weight of evil custom.
S. Augustine says: Lazarus going forth from the sepulchre is the soul drawing back from carnal vices, but bound, that is, not yet freed from pains and troubles of the flesh, while it dwells in the body; the face is covered with a napkin, for we cannot have full understanding of things in this life; but it is said, “Loose him,” for after this life the veilings are taken away, that we may see face to face.
Jesus saith unto them, Loose him and let him go. To his home. Jesus addressed this command to the Jews, that they, handling Lazarus, might as it were touch and handle with their hands the miracle that was wrought by Him, and [see] that he was raised up.
Symbolically, Christ sends sinners bound with the bands of their sins to bishops and priests, that they may be released and absolved, saying, Whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Matt. xviii. 18). So also S. Augustine. “What is it,” he says, “to loose and let him go? What ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosed also in heaven.”
Finally, there is no doubt (though John is silent upon it) that Lazarus rendered great thanks to Christ; and that he dedicated his life to Him from whom he had received it. He became a disciple, a preacher, and the Bishop of Marseilles.
Ver. 45.—Then many of the Jews . . . believed on Him. For they were convinced by the evidence of the miraculous raising of Lazarus, so great and wonderful, that Jesus was a prophet, yea, more, the Messiah, as He professed.
Ver. 46.—But some of them went their ways, &c. S. Augustine doubts whether they did this with good or evil intention; whether to announce to them that they might believe, or to betray Him that they might use severity, as says the Gloss. For they might do this with a good intention, namely, in order that the Pharisees, if they could not bring themselves to believe in Christ, should at least have a milder disposition towards Him, as Origen is of opinion. But all others think that they did it with an evil intention. Theophilus and Leontius add that they intended to accuse Christ as being sacrilegious, and even so far as that He had dug up the body of a dead person. Great then was their malice and malignity, with which they repaid Christ for so great a benefit, [inflicting on Him] so great an outrage—for a miracle blasphemy, for life death; since they denounced Him to the Pharisees to be condemned to the cross.
Ver. 47.—Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, &c.
What do we? (What does it behove us to do? Syriac, What shall we do?)
For this man doeth many miracles. It behoved them to be convinced by so many signs and miracles of Jesus, and to believe Him to be Messiah, the Son of God; but blinded by hate and envy, they say and do the contrary, and studiously avoid condescending even to name Him, but say, This man, as if He were a common and worthless person (“They still call Him man,” says Chrysostom, “who had received so great a proof of His Godhead”), and consult concerning His murder, and propose to bereave of life Him who had restored life to Lazarus, and from whom they ought to seek and hope for life eternal. They did not say “Let us believe,” says S. Augustine, “but, lost men as they were, thought more of how they might injure Him, and destroy Him, than of how they might consult for their own safety, that they perish not. Their foolish heart was darkened, so that they forced on the destruction, present and lasting, of themselves and their whole nation.” “What foolishness and blindness,” says Origen, “that they should think themselves able to effect anything against Him whom they testify to have done many miracles, as if He were not able to deliver Himself out of their snares!”
Ver. 48.—If we let Him thus alone, &c. i.e., the Romans will destroy Judea and the whole Jewish race. S. Chrysostom and Theophylact by place understand Jerusalem, the metropolis of Judea, and thence the whole realm. But Maldonatus understands the Temple; for the chief priests feared that this with its victims and temporal gains should be taken from them by the Romans.
All will believe on Him. See here the genius of envy, and an effect worthy of it: the chief priests wishing to obscure the glory of Christ, display it the more, in saying that all men will believe on Him.
And the Romans shall come and take away our place and nation. Some are of opinion that they thought this, viz., If all believe on Jesus, all will depart from us, our Judaism, synagogue, and state, to Him; and so there will be none to contend for us against the Roman attempts to subjugate us.
But others more probably, If all believe Jesus to be the King and Messiah of the Jews, they will irritate against us the Romans, the lords of Judea, because we have made for ourselves a new King and Messiah, and fallen away from Tiberius Cæsar to Him; wherefore armed men will come and take away, that is, capture, ravage, and destroy Jerusalem and Judea and the entire Jewish race and nation. So Chrysostom. “They wished,” he says, “to excite the people, so as to bring Him under the risk of being suspected to be a pretender to royalty; i.e., if the Romans shall see Jesus heading throngs of people, they will suspect a pretender, and destroy the state. But what armed men and horsemen did Christ ever take about with Him? Only envy and hate blinded them, so that they plainly erred, and reasoned wrongly.”
Ver. 49.—And one of them named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them. While the rest were consulting and not grasping the case nor finding what it was needful to do, Caiaphas as high priest proffers advice, and clearly defines the matter. It is said, high priest that year, because, although according to the law in Exodus (xxix. 29) the high priesthood ought to last for life, and after that to devolve upon the eldest son, according to the law of birth, the Roman rulers used to change the high priests frequently, either according to their own will, or for a price received from those who sought the office (Josephus, Antiq., lib. xviii. cap. 2), When Tiberius succeeded Augustus Cæsar in the empire, “by him,” he says, “Valerius Gratus was sent to succeed Annius Rufus as procurator of Judea. This man deprived Ananus of the high priesthood, and appointed Ismael the son of Tabus to be high priest. He also deposed him in a little time, and transferred the honour to Eleazar the son of Ananus, the former high priest, and when he had held it for a year, Gratus deprived him of it, and assigned it to Simon the son of Camithus; and he also having completed a year in the dignity, was made to yield it to Joseph, who was surnamed Caiaphas.”
The high priesthood was not therefore an annual office among the Jews, as S. Augustine infers from this place; but was changed sometimes in fewer years, sometimes in more, and sometimes in the course of the same year.
Ye know nothing at all, &c. Ye, as if you were common and humble people, are foolish, ye do not understand the matter at all, ye do not grasp what it is needful to do, ye forward nothing, ye explain nothing, ye suggest no pertinent counsel; but I as high priest am enlightened by God, I set right the matter with a word, I give the best advice, and clear up the whole by saying: “It is expedient that one man, that is, Jesus, although He is accused of no crime, although He is innocent and a Prophet, and the doer of so great a miracle, should die (that is, be put to death by you) for the people, that is, so that the people because of Him should not be brought into suspicion with the Romans, nor that the Romans, because of Jesus regarded as Messiah and King of the Jews, should take away their place and nation; and thus the entire race will not perish, but when He is taken away, will remain safe and entire.” This was therefore the impious, false, and unjust judgment of Caiaphas, that it was expedient for the safety of the people, that, though innocent, Christ should be put to death, so that the Romans might not use severity to Judea and the Jews on His account. His reasoning was, that it was better for one Jesus to die than many; it is better that one should perish, than the whole community; i.e., why then do ye delay? why deliberate? It is not doubtful to me that it is expedient for one to die, Jesus, in place of all the Jews.
Origen says, “They had learned nothing who had not learned Jesus; as it is said, If thou knowest Jesus, it suffices, though thou knowest not other things. If thou knowest not Jesus, it is nought, though thou knowest all things besides.”
Ver. 51.—And this spake he . . . that Jesus should die for that nation: i.e., of the Jews.
Note, that Caiaphas, with the other chief priests being most hostile to Christ, wished out of private hate towards Him to speak out distinctly the same thing which the others secretly hinted at, but did not expressly state; namely, that Christ must be taken out of the way for the safety of the people, that they might not be attacked by the Romans, as I have said. But the Spirit turned the force of his words, when he wished to speak in this sense, as high priest and head of the Church, to others in which he should express the contrary meaning, and should describe and strengthen a very true faith in Christ; namely, that it was expedient that Christ should die for the people, i.e., for the salvation of the people; and by His death, as if by the payment of a price, should redeem them from sin, from the devil, from death, and from hell, those, I say, who would otherwise perish eternally. For the words of Caiaphas properly and precisely signify this. For otherwise, according to the wicked intention towards Christ in the mind of Caiaphas, he ought rather to have said thus: “It is expedient that one man, Jesus, should die, rather than the whole people:” but now he does not say rather than but for (in behalf of) the people; which properly signifies for the salvation of the people, that He may save the people: and although Caiaphas did not understand this, much less intend it, yet it being wonderfully suggested by the Holy Spirit, S. John here takes notice of it; and as he takes notice of it, so other sincere and honest men who were listening to Caiaphas might have noticed the same thing; and just so may we.
Learn from this the great care which God has of His Church, and how He assists the Pontiff who is her head, especially under the new Law, which Christ her Head and Spouse instituted, sanctioned, and rules, lest at any time the Church which is His bride should go astray from the true faith.
Further, because Caiaphas did not understand this mystery he was not properly a prophet; and Origen observes that the Holy Ghost spoke through his mouth as the angel spoke to the disobedient Balaam by the mouth of the ass (Numb. xxii.). Caiaphas, then, most wickedly twisted the words of the Holy Spirit to the death of Christ. Wherefore S. Chrysostom says that the Holy Spirit moved the tongue of Caiaphas, not his heart.
You will say, Then Caiaphas here erred in the faith. I reply by denying the consequence. Yea he formally declared the true faith, namely, that it was expedient that Christ should die for the salvation of the world, as I have said. And though it be that he himself did not understand this, nor mean to say it—for he intended that Christ should be cut off lest, because of Him, the people (of the Jews) should be destroyed by the Romans—yet herein was his error contrary to justice and piety, and not in a matter pertaining to the faith. His error had to do with a political question, whether, namely, Christ should be put to death for the State, or not. Besides, the Jewish High Priest had not that infallible assistance of the Holy Ghost which the Christian High Priests have from Christ and after Christ. It is, moreover, especially to be borne in mind that at that time, Christ being come, the Jewish Synagogue was beginning to fall, and Christ’s Church to rise up in its place. For shortly after this Caiaphas with the whole council of the Sanhedrin proclaimed Jesus to be guilty of death as a false Messiah. This was an error in the Faith. Wherefore their Synagogue then ceased to be the Church of God, and began to be the synagogue of Satan which denied and slew the Christ which was sent by God.
Ver. 52.—And not for that nation only, &c. It is expedient that Christ should die; not only for His and our nation, that is, for the Jews, but also for all the nations dispersed throughout the whole world, and who should believe in Him. For these are called children of God, not in actual fact, but in the foreknowledge and predestination of God; because, that is to say, they were hereafter to be, by the grace of God, faithful men and saints, and therefore sons of God. So SS. Augustine and Chrysostom. This is what Christ predicted in chap. x. ver. 16: Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold (not of the Jewish synagogue) them also I must bring, and there shall be one fold, and one Shepherd.
Ver. 53.—Then from that day forth, &c. See here plainly appears the unrighteous disposition and meaning of Caiaphas and his associates.
Ver. 54.—Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews, i.e., freely, openly, publicly. S. Cyril says: “As God He knew what the Jews had determined on, though none of them declared it; as man He withdrew Himself, because the hour of His death, decreed by His Father, had not yet come.” He did this to give an example to us, of avoiding peril to life by flight.
But went thence, &c. Leontius thinks Ephraim was Bethlehem, in which Christ had been born; but this seems unlikely, because Bethlehem was near to Jerusalem, and Jesus knew that He would be specially sought there by the chief priests. S. Jerome, and after him Jansenius, think it was Ephron (2 Chron. xiii. 19). Others think that Ephraim was situated above Jericho, and beside the desert there; but Adrichomius places it about five miles towards the east from Bethel, about seven hours’ [journey] distant from Jerusalem, beside the desert of Hai, not far from the brook Cherith, to which Elijah, flying from Jezebel, withdrew, and was fed there by ravens (1 Kings xvii. 5). Jesus withdrew thither, as well that He might avoid the rage of the chief priests for the time, as that He might have leisure in that retirement for prayer and contemplation, and thus strengthen and arm Himself for His approaching death, for the arduous contest with the chief priests—yea, more, with Lucifer—when He was upon the Cross.
Ephraim is symbolically the type of the Gentile Church. So Origen says: “Jesus was lately dwelling among the Jews, the Divine Word, that is to say, through the prophets; but He departed, He is not among them, for He has entered a hamlet which is almost deserted, of which it is said, ‘Many are the sons of the deserted one more than of the married:’ for Ephraim is interpreted fertility. But Ephraim was the brother of Manasseh, of an elder people given over to forgetfulness; for after a people devoted to forgetfulness had been passed over, abundance has come forth from the Gentiles. The Lord then, departing from the Jews, came to a land nigh to the desert, a city called fruitful, the Church of the whole earth, and there He tarries with His disciples even until now.”
Typically, Ephraim, as situated beside the desert, is the symbol of a holy soul which has leisure for solitude and prayer; for this becomes Ephraim—that is, fruitful in good works: wherefore Jesus tarries in it by His abundant grace.
Ver. 55.—And the Jews’ Passover was nigh at hand: viz., the last Passover to Christ, at which He Himself, as the Paschal Lamb, was sacrificed for the salvation of the world; and therefore He eagerly waited for it. The Syrians for Pascha say Pezcho, which is interpreted gladness; because this feast was more joyful than the others, even as to Christians it is so in the highest degree, because of our redemption made upon the Cross, and because of the resurrection.
And many went out of the country up to Jerusalem before the Passover, to purify themselves; i.e., to cleanse themselves by sacrifices and ceremonies from all actual uncleanness, and to prepare themselves by prayers and sacrifices to celebrate and eat the Passover rightly, as says S. Thomas and Jansen.
Ver. 56.—Then sought they for Jesus, and spake among themselves as they stood in the Temple, What think ye, that He will not come to the feast? Wherefore did Jesus not come, according to His custom, to this common feast of the Passover? Certainly because as God He knew beforehand the snares prepared for Him there by the scribes. S. Augustine, Chrysostom, &c., think that this was the question of the chief priests, Pharisees, and of their adherents and assistants, who had determined to apprehend Jesus, and therefore began indignantly to demand: Why has Jesus not come to the feast of the Passover? Is this the way ye neglect the Passover? Will He be thus a contemner and violator of the law, the very charge which we bring against Him? Then why does He not present Himself on these days before the Passover, and purify Himself as all others do, and so prepare Himself for so great a feast?