1 Of Zacchæus a publican. 11 The ten pieces of money. 28 Christ rideth into Jerusalem with triumph: 41 weepeth over: 45 driveth the buyers and sellers out of the temple: 47 teaching daily in it. The rulers would have destroyed him, but for fear of the people.
ND Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.
12 He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return.
13 And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.
37 And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen:
38 Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.
48 And could not find what they might do: for all the people were very attentive to hear him.
Douay Rheims Version
Zacheus entertains Christ. The parable of the pounds. Christ rides upon an ass and weeps over Jerusalem.
ND entering he walked through Jericho.
Ver. 1.—And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. S. Luke continues the account of the journey to Jerusalem. I have spoken of this in the preceding chapter, verse 35.
Ver. 2.—And behold, there was a man named Zacchæus, which was the chief among the publicans. Christ gave sight to the blind man near Jericho; soon after, in Jericho itself, He converted Zacchæus, for no place, no road, no moment of time was idle to Christ, but all were made notable by divine mercies, benefits, and miracles, that He might teach us to do the same. “Zacchmus.” This name is as it were an omen of his future righteousness and purification, for Zacchæus in Hebrew is the same as just, pure, clear. The chiefs of the publicans had many publicans, that is collectors of the taxes, under them. These taxes the Romans and Tiberius had imposed on the Jews against their will. Hence the publicans were hated by the Jews and accounted infamous, being called Parisim, that is, robbers. The chief was called Gabba; whence the word Gabella, the publicans being called Gabbaim. Angelus Caninus on Hebrew words in New Testament.
And he was rich. The chiefs of the publicans were not appointed unless they were rich, that they might advance money to the Roman ruler when he wanted it, and supply, in a great degree, the deficiencies of the publicans under him. S. Luke adds this to show better the grace of Christ and the virtue of Zacchæus, since he left his great wealth for the calling and love of Christ, and distributed it among the poor.
Ver. 3.—And he sought to see. He took pains to see Jesus in person as he had heard of His reputation, from the fame of His virtues and miracles. For we wish to see great men and to know them in person. But Zacchæus, beside his natural wish, was impelled by one above nature, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He desired to see Jesus that he might be absolved of his sins by Him, and be justified and made holy. “He wished,” says S. Chrysostom in his Homily on Zacchaeus, “to know by sight one whom he had known before in imagination, to see the face of Him whom he had seen before in mind, to look upon Him as present whom he had never seen do any works; that the love of Christ which he had conceived in his heart might be gratified to the full by the sight of his eyes.”
Ver. 3.—And he could not. But he was exalted in mind. Many of the heroes and saints were men of small stature, as I have shown in Zech. iv. 10 and Ecclus. xi. 3, on the words, “The bee is small among flying things, but her fruit is the chief of sweetest things.” It is in minimis that the supreme majesty of God, His glory, strength, and greatness, most clearly shine forth. “The crowd,” says S. Cyril, “is the confusion of a multitude, which we must climb above, if we wish to see Christ.”
Ver. 6.—And he ran. Mystically, the sycamore is the cross of Christ and His doctrine, which to the Gentiles and men of this world is mere folly, but to Zacchæus and the faithful is the wisdom of God, and the power of God. 1 Cor. i. 24. S. Gregory, lib. xxvii. Moral.: in fine, “Let us leave the wisdom that is hurtful, that we may gain that which is to our profit, &c. The dwarf Zacchæus submitted himself to the sycamore tree and saw the Lord; for they who choose humbly the folly of the world, these wisely contemplate the wisdom of God. A multitude hinders our slowness to see God, for the tumults of worldly cares so press upon the infirmity of the human mind that it cannot contemplate the light of truth. We are wise to ascend the sycamore if we retain in our minds, with forethought, that foolishness which is received from God.”
Theophylact speaks as follows: “We climb the fig-tree; that is, we ascend above the allurements of pleasure, which is signified by the fig-tree—we mount up by Penitence, but we come down through Humility.”
Ver. 5.—And when Jesus came to the place. Christ compensates the zeal of Zacchæus to see Him by His full Exhibition and Presence. Christ inspired Zacchæus with this ardour that He might perfect him by entering his house. Christ indeed went thither that He might arouse this feeling, and by it be received by Zacchæus as his guest, and bring blessing and salvation to his whole house. For, although the Saviour of the world, He came to sanctify sinners. “Jesus had not heard the voice of Zacchæus inviting him,” said S. Ambrose, “but He had seen his feeling.”
Christ therefore not only offered Himself to be seen by Zacchæus, who wished to see Him, but He also gave Himself to be possessed by him, and therefore chose to remain in his house, rather than in the house of any one else.
Moraliter. Let us learn to desire Christ and His inner conversation and grace, for Christ will soon offer Himself to us, and fulfil our desire, and as much as is that desire will be His conversation; for Wisdom, that is Christ, will meet him who fears and longs for God. “As a mother shall she meet him, with the bread of understanding shall she feed him, and give him the water of wisdom to drink.” Ecclus. xv. 2, 3. And chap. xxiv., “Come unto me, all ye that be desirous of me, and fill yourselves with my fruits. For my memorial is sweeter than honey,” v. 19, 20; and John vii. 37, 38.
Zacchæus, then, saw Christ with the eyes and sight of his body, and still more with those of his mind, by which Christ enlightened his soul to discern that he was the Saviour who would forgive the sins of those who repent, and give them salvation, that is, righteousness, grace, and glory. The countenance of Jesus therefore is not fruitless, and of no effect, but efficacious and operative. For by this alone He attracts men to His love, changes them, and brings them to salvation. Hence, says S. Cyril, “Jesus saw the mind of Zacchæus striving very earnestly after a holy life.”
For to-day I must abide at thy house. “Zacchæus,” says Titus, wished only for the sight of Jesus, but He who knows how to do more than we ask, gave him what was beyond his expectation; for Christ of His great bounty exceeds the prayers and powers of the petitioners.” “Christ promised,” says S. Chrysostom in his homily on Zacchæus, “that He would come to his house, whose soul and its desires He already possessed.”
Ver. 6.—And He made haste, and came down—see the prompt obedience of Zacchæus, which deserved salvation—and received Him gladly. Zacchæus received Christ into his house, and Christ in return bestowed on him salvation. “Zacchæus rejoiced,” says Euthymius, “because he had not only seen Christ, according to his wish, but because he had also been called by Him, and had received Him as his guest, a thing he had never hoped for.”
Ver. 7.—And when they saw it, they all murmured. (“All”—the Pharisees, and the Jews their parasites, who hated the publicans.) They murmured, saying that he was gone, &c.
The publicans were held by the Jews to be impious, unjust, wicked, and they often were such. Some think that “sinner” here means that Zacchæus was a Gentile and idolater. Such is the opinion of Tertullian, SS. Cyprian, Ambrose, Bede, and from them Maldonatus. And that Zacchæus speaks of a restitution of things exacted so unjustly, which was of a natural law, and not ordered by Moses. S. Chrysostom, in his sermon on Zacchæus, says, “He was a son of Abraham by faith, not by birth; by merit, not by descent; by devotion, not by race.” But the contrary is equally probable, perhaps more so, namely, that Zacchæus was a Jew, not a Gentile. 1. Because, ver. 9, he is called a son of Abraham. 2. Because Christ only conversed with Jews, for He was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Hence He is called by S. Paul “minister of the circumcision,” Rom. xv. 8. 3. Because Zacchæus is a Hebrew name. 4. Because the Jews would not have been silent on the matter but would have brought it against Jesus that he held communion with the Gentiles when the Messiah was promised to the Jews alone.
Ver. 8.—And Zacchæus stood, and said unto the Lord. We cannot, doubt that Christ as soon as He entered the house of Zacchæus began, according to His custom, to teach and exhort both Zacchæus himself and those of his household, to faith and repentance, and, if they repented, to promise them grace, righteousness, and salvation. He would also urge upon them contempt of riches and the world, and the acceptance of poverty and evangelical perfection, by following Him and giving their goods to the poor, that they might receive treasure in heaven, and a hundredfold in this life. S. Luke, for the sake of brevity, says nothing of this; but from what follows, and from what he had frequently said before, especially xviii. 22, of the custom of Christ to teach and preach, He leaves it to be understood. For by these words of Christ Zacchæus was plainly converted to faith, repentance, poverty, and contempt of riches and the world. He said,
Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I gave to the poor. He therefore did not keep one half for himself, but gave back to others what they had been unjustly defrauded of. For he adds, “If I have wronged any man of any thing, I restore him fourfold.” “I give,” “I restore,” that is, I am resolved from this time, and firmly determine to give and restore according to Thy doctrine and exhortation. On account of this efficacious resolution of the penitent Zacchæus, Christ added as a reward, “This day is salvation come to this house.” So S. Ambrose, Bede, Euthymius, Tertullian in his fourth book against Marcion, Fulgentius in his epistle to Galla. It is a Hebraism, similar to that of Pharaoh, Exod. v. 10: “I give you not straw,” that is, I decree and command that straw is not given to you. Matt. xxvi. 18: “I will keep the Passover at thy house,” that is, I will, I determine to keep it. S. Cyprian, however, in his tract On Works and Almsgiving, has explained the words “give” and “restore,” by the perfect tense: “I have given, I have restored,” as if Zacchæus had been converted previously by other discourses of Christ which he had heard.
And if I have, &c. The Greek is ε̉συκοφάντησα, that is, accused falsely of fraud, calumny, or any other like offence. Zacchæus owns to the crime of defrauding, but in a slight degree: for when, for the sum defrauded he restored fourfold out of his own half of his property, it follows that he gained only an eighth part of his wealth by fraud; so that, if he had eight thousand gold pieces, only one thousand was gained thus, the other seven being his own, either by inheritance, or some other just manner.
Observe the sudden and miraculous conversion of Zacchæus, through the grace of Christ, so that he not only repented at once, but also resolved to put away all the wealth to which he had previously clung, for he set apart half for the poor and half for restitution. Thus he instantly embraced the precept of evangelical poverty, that he might forsake all things, and, as a poor man, follow the work of his hands. “Hear a wonderful thing,” says S. Chrysostom, in his Homily on Zacchæus, “He had not yet learnt, and he obeyed. The Saviour by the rays of His righteousness, put to flight the darkness of Zacchæus’ wickedness.” And Bede, “Behold, the camel has laid down his burden, and passed through the eye of the needle—that is, he gave up the love of riches, and received the blessing of the Lord’s adoption. This is the folly which is wisdom, and which the publican chose from the sycamore as the fruit of life; restoring what he had seized, giving up his own, despising things seen.” And Theophylact, “Behold his alacrity; he began to sow not sparingly, nor did he give a few things but his whole life.” And S. Bernard (Serm. x, on Festival of all Saints), addressing his own Religious: “Zacchæus, whose praise is in the Gospel, gave the half of his goods to the poor, but I see here many Zacchæuses, who have left themselves nothing of all their property. Who shall write a gospel of these Zacchæuses, nay, of these Peters—who shall say in faith, ‘Lord, behold, we have left all things and followed Thee?’ But it is written in the everlasting gospel; it is written and signed in the book of life, ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.’” “I restore,” that is, I determine and firmly resolve to restore; nor can we doubt that he acted at once upon this resolve, and carried it out into actual practice.
Fourfold. It was not by the law of nature, nor by that of Moses, that Zacchæus bound himself to restore fourfold; as both only oblige him to restore the original sum. He resolved to perform this great and superabundant act of restitution and justice of his fervent charity and repentance. This is in conformity with the law of Exodus xxii. 1, which orders that a man who has stolen a sheep, should be condemned by the judge to restore fourfold. Zacchæus said this, not from boasting and ostentation, but partly from the fervour with which he had been inspired by Christ and the Holy Ghost, partly to refute the calumny of the scribes, who objected to Christ, that He associated with a sinner. For he shows that he was now no longer a sinner, but repentant and just—nay, more just than the just and holy.
In trope, S. Chrysostom (Hom. lxxviii) teaches us that we must adorn the house of our souls with almsgiving and righteousness, like Zacchæus, if we desire to receive Christ as a guest.
Ver. 9.—And Jesus said unto him. In answer to his words, but so that he might, appear to direct His face and voice not so much to him, as to the disciples and the multitude who stood by. There is a like enallage in Rom. x. 2; Ps. iii. 3, and elsewhere.
This day is salvation come to this house. “Condemnation,” says Euthymius, “which used to inhabit there, from its avarice having been turned out.” The Arabic has “This day is salvation come to the dwellers in this house.” “To this house.” From this it appears that when Zacchæus believed and was converted, all his household followed his example, and believed in Christ, repented, and were justified and sanctified. Moreover, Zacchæus after his conversion, and the Resurrection and Ascension, became an attendant of S. Peter, and was ordained by him Bishop of Cæsarea in Palestine. S. Clim. Recognitions, lib. i. 3.
Forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. Because he followed the faith, righteousness, and holiness of Abraham. For by suffering, says Bede, he left his goods to the poor, as Abraham left his country and his father’s house. It is said “he also,” to show that not only the just but those also who repent of injustice, pertain to the sons of promise. So Tertullian (Bk. iv. against Marcion), Cyprian, and others cited above. S. Chrysostom, in his Homily on Zacchæus, vol. ii.: “Zacchæus made an offering of all he had, reserving part of his patrimony for the restitution of what he had gained by fraud. Abraham offered his son to the Lord, Zacchæus his substance. Abraham gave his heir, Zacchæus his inheritance. Abraham displayed his only pledge for an offering, Zacchæus sacrificed the substance of his property. Thus Zacchæus is rightly termed the son of Abraham, for he followed the course of his father’s glory.
Again, Zacchæus was a son of Abraham, because he was a Jew, and a descendant of Abraham. As if Christ, when the Pharisees murmured at His consorting with Zacchæus, a publican, had answered them, “You have no cause to murmur, for Zacchæus is an Israelite, and in his ancestor and father Abraham he has the closest right to the Messiah and salvation. Thus he has no right to be neglected by Me, who am that Messiah, because he is a publican; but because he is a penitent, he ought to receive my adoption and blessing.”
Bede, in allegory and trope, thus applies each part of this history to the faithful and holy: “Zacchæus, that is, pure and justified, signifies a faithful people of the Gentiles who, when depressed by temporal occupations, and of no account, wished to see Christ enter Jericho; that is to share in the faith which Christ brought to the world. The multitude is the habit of vices, which, when it opposed him, he overthrew by relinquishing earthly things, and ascending the tree of the cross. The sycamore is a tall tree, and hence it is called lofty, and the foolish fig, σύκη—μώζα. It is indeed derided by the unbelieving as a foolish cross, but it sustains the believer as a fig. The man of small stature climbs it, when the humble cries out, ‘far be it from me to glory, save in the cross of Christ.’ The Lord therefore comes, that is, through His preachers, to the people of the nations. He sees, that is He chooses, through grace. He remains in the house of the dwarf Zacchæus, that is, He rests in the hearts of humble nations. Zacchæus descends from the sycamore, for although we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet we do not know Him now. Although He died through infirmity, yet He is alive now from the power of God.” The Church rightly reads this gospel of Zacchæus at the consecration of churches. Firstly, because Christ says in it, “This day is salvation come to this house”—words that are rightly applied to the churches when they are consecrated. For the dedication is, as it were, the salvation of the church. The church is consecrated to the salvation of many who are to be justified in it by preaching, prayer, contrition, confession, and absolution. Again, Christ says, “To-day I must abide in thy house.” In like manner Christ abides in a consecrated church, through the venerable sacrifice and sacrament of the Eucharist. For by consecration a church is made the abode and home of Christ. Thirdly, the material is a type of the spiritual Church, that is, of the faithful soul, in which Christ more especially desires to abide, for He wished to dwell in the soul, even more than in the house of Zacchæus, according to the words, “Your body is a temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you. Glorify God therefore in your body.” 1 Cor. vi. 19, 20.
Ver. 10.—For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save. It is not wonderful that Christ converted and saved Zacchæus, and publicans and sinners, for, to this He had been sent by the Father, and to this He Himself had come into the world. As, then, the skill of the physician is shown in healing inveterate, hopeless, and desperate diseases, so the supreme virtue of Christ, the Arch-physician, shone out in curing those diseases of the soul, which by nature are incurable, like avarice in publicans. Thus He drew Zacchæus, the publican, not only to despise avarice and all wealth, but to embrace evangelical poverty. In the same way He called the publican and made him an Apostle. The history of Peter the Publican or Telonarius, who gave up all his wealth, and caused himself to be sold for a slave, and the money to be given to the poor, is a further case in point.
Ver. 11.—And as they heard these things. Christ had made frequent mention of His kingdom, and had promised it to His followers. The Apostles hoped, therefore, that it would be brought to pass now, as He was going to Jerusalem, and that they as His friends would share in it, and reign with Him among the first. The fame and glory of Christ, which had shone forth with so much brightness and brilliance from His recent miracles, and especially, the stupendous conversion of Zacchæus, increased this hope, from which, as Jesus was entering Jerusalem a little after, the Apostles set Him upon an ass, and cried to the same multitude, as if He were the Messiah and the King, about to be inaugurated in Jerusalem, “Blessed is the kingdom of our father David which cometh”—“Blessed be the King who cometh in the name of the Lord.” Ver. 38. Christ, therefore, to disabuse them of this opinion, spoke the following parable, by which He signified that He must first be put to death by the Jews, and rule by faith throughout the whole world.
Ver. 12.—He said therefore, A certain nobleman. Syriac, “The son of a great stock.” This nobleman is Christ in His human nature. For as S. Basil says in the Catena, Christ is noble not only in His Godhead, but also in His human nature, for He is of the seed of David, according to that which Daniel saw and heard. “He gave to Him power, and honour, and a kingdom.” Eusebius adds, on this, “He does not call Himself a king as yet, because in His first coming He did not discharge the duties of a king.” For although this kingdom was due to Christ from the beginning, because of His Hypostatical Union with the Word, yet He willed to merit it only by His passion and death on the Cross, and not to enter upon the possession of it till after His resurrection, according to the words in chap. xxiv. 26. Christ therefore went into a far country when, on the fortieth day from His death and resurrection, He went up into heaven, where He entered upon His kingdom, that He might thus be the King of the whole world; and rule alike upon earth and in heaven. So Theophylact, Titus, Euthymius, and others. Christ therefore shall return from heaven to earth on the day of judgment, firstly, to show His kingdom visibly to all men; secondly, to take final judgment, as well on His elect as on the reprobate, and those who are unbelieving and disobedient; thirdly, to bring His elect into His heavenly kingdom, and make them partakers of His glory, as the Angels on His ascension declared to the Apostles, Acts i. II. Christ shall then return, that He may unite the kingdom of earth to the kingdom of heaven, and show Himself the Lord of earth and heaven, and remove His faithful from earth to His kingdom in heaven.
Ver. 13.—And he called, &c. That you may increase my gain and your own. “Ten,” that is all his servants, for he gave to each man a mna as appears from what follows. Christ would have us continually traffic with the “mnas,” that is His talents, gifts, graces, which He has given us, that we may assiduously increase our gain of works and merits. He forbids us therefore to be idle; so that our whole life ought not to be one of ease, but of continual trading in spiritual gain, which, says S. Gregory to Dominicus (lib. 1 Ep.39), “we truly carry on, if by our lives and words we bring profit to the souls of our neighbours; if by preaching the joys of heaven we strengthen the feeble in the love of things heavenly; if we bow down the bold and haughty by inflexibly proclaiming the punishments of Gehenna: if we spare no man for Truth’s sake: if, given up to heavenly friendships, we fear no human enmity.” He adds, “But I fear the burthen of my weakness for this work. I see Him when He has received His kingdom, returning and bringing me to account, and with what heart shall I endure His presence, to whom, in return for the work I have undertaken, I bring no gain of souls, or almost none?” This he says. As much more humble, so much greater.
Ver. 14.—But his citizens hated him, and sent. The Syriac, “The sons of his state:” The scribes and Jews, that is, hated Jesus, because He taxed them with their vices, and they sent an embassage after Him, saying, “we will not have this man (Jesus, who was poor, of small account, and the son of a carpenter) to rule over us.” This was fulfilled after the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven when they sent Saul to Damascus to take all who believed in Christ, and root out His faith, name, and kingdom. The same took place when the same men shut up S. Peter and the Apostles in prison, and scourged them, and when they stoned S. Stephen, and slew S. James, and persecuted the rest of the Christians, and still persecute them.
Ver. 15.—And it came to pass. The Syriac and Arabic, “And when He had received the kingdom and returned.” “This part of the parable,” says Euthymius, “is about the second advent, when He shall return with great power and glory, and sit upon the throne of His glory, for He shall then take account and render to every man according to his work.” So S. Augustine, Theophylact, Bede, and others. I have explained the rest, Matt. xxv. 19.
Ver. 16.—Thy pound hath, &c. As one seed of wheat sown in a field, by its power sucks up juice from the earth, and converts it into itself, and produces ten, nay, thirty and sixty seeds and grains of wheat. The Arabic has, “Thy mna has gained ten.” He did not say, “I have gained,” but, “thy mna,” because, granted that the freedom and co-operation of our wills concur to a good work, still, the whole working is of divine grace, and not of our will, for the work only has it from our will that it is free; but it has it from grace, that it is supernatural, pleasing to God, and meritorious. Hence S. Paul, 1 Cor. xv. 10.
Ver. 17.—And he said unto him, Well. That is, for one mna thou shalt receive a thousand and a thousand, nay the government of one Province or Decapolis, ten cities or more. That is, for a little labour and care on earth thou shalt receive great, nay, the very greatest, ineffable rewards in heaven, and shalt especially precede those on whom thou hast expended the gifts of God on earth, and whom thou hast converted to Christ or hast moved to His faith and goodness. S. Ambrose gives the reason: “As the angels are preferred to be first, so are they also who have merited the life of angels.”
And Bede more concisely: “Be it so that thou receivest power over ten cities, that is, thou shalt have more abundant happiness and honour in the heavens, and shalt be glorified above, for all and by all to whom thou hast been a fellow-worker in their salvation. For even after the judgment there will an order of dignity, and fitting mutual honour among the blessed.” Hence the words of the Apostle, 1 Thess. ii 19.
Ver. 18.—And the second came, saying. Here is shown the use of free will, and how much is effected by its strenuous co-operation with grace. For the first servant by this means gained ten mnas from one, but this one, by less diligence and labour from one, gained only five.
Ver. 19.—And he said, &c. “According to the measure of each one’s diligence,” says Euthymius, “are honour and reward measured out to him.”
Ver. 20.—And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound “I give it back to thee, whole, but without gain or increase.” “To tie up money in a napkin,” says Bede, “is to hide our gifts under the idleness of a lifeless torpor.”
Ver. 27.—But those mine enemies (the Jews, His citizens, who would not have Him to reign over them) bring them hither—to my Tribunal, in the valley of Jehosaphat and Jerusalem—and kill them before Me.” In the Greek, “Kill them before my face.” Our Lord alludes to those victorious kings who slew and destroyed their conquered rebels. By this destruction Christ signifies the extreme judgment of the Jews and His other enemies, and their own condemnation to eternal death in Gehenna, and that a living and vital death, where they will be perpetually tormented by death-dealing flames, and yet will never die. Our Lord alludes to Titus, who slaughtered the conquered Jews. He describes precisely to the letter the condemnation of the Jews, and the Gehenna which He has appointed for them when He shall return from heaven to judge and condemn them and the reprobate.
Ver. 28.—And when He had thus spoken, He went. From Jericho and the house of Zacchæus, going up to Jerusalem, that He might here begin to fulfil His own words as to His Passion, Cross, Death, consequent Resurrection, Kingdom, Glory, and judgment. He preceded the Apostles in this journey, which they abhorred, as their Leader and Captain, to show them that He could go cheerfully and bravely to death, nay even as if He were about to provoke death to a conflict: for He was about, through death, to go to a far distant country, namely to heaven, to possess a celestial and eternal kingdom.
Ver. 37.—To praise God with aloud voice (saying, Hosanna to the Son of David, Matt. xxi 9) for all the mighty works they had seen. Chiefly the resurrection to life of Lazarus, for it was because of this that the multitude came to meet Him. John xii. 18. So Bede.
Ver. 38.—Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord. That is, our King, the Messiah or Christ, who was sent by God to save us and give us His blessing.
Peace in heaven. That through Christ we may have peace with God and the angels, who are offended at our sins, and therefore glory on high, to Him who dwells in the heavens. “He is called the King,” says Bede, “not to exact tribute or to arm a host, and visibly destroy His enemies, but because He rules our souls and leads us up into heaven.” “Because,” he adds, “Christ shone forth in the flesh as the Propitiation of the whole world. Rightly therefore the Heavenly Host, that is the angels who sang at His birth and men who praised Him, when He was about to return to heaven, unite one with another in His praises.” Theophylact: “It is shown that the former war, in which we opposed God, has vanished away, and that God is praised by the angels in such a Reconciliation. The same fact, also, that God walks in our land shows that He is in unity with us.”
Ver. 41.—And when He, &c. To show the bowels of His love to it. How dear to Him was the salvation of the Jews, for to this had He been sent by the Father as the Messiah and Saviour. He wept therefore among all the joys of His triumph, and amidst the happy declamations of those who congratulated Him and shouted Hosanna, that He might temper their joy, by a mixture as it were of gall. He wept as well over the blindness, obduracy, and ingratitude of the people of Jerusalem, because they would not receive Him as their Messiah and Saviour, as for the vengeance of God towards them and the destruction of their nation by Titus; and because He saw His own labours and, sufferings for them frustrated and rendered of no effect. These three causes wrung tears from Christ, from the vehemence of His grief. So S. Cyril, Bede, Theophylact and others. In trope, Origen says, “Christ fulfilled all the beatitudes in His own Person. He said, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and He therefore wept.”
Ver. 42.—If thou hadst known. “As I know,” says S. Gregory (hom. 39), Bede and others. Because I am come to thee as thy Messiah, for thy salvation, to save thee, and bring thee everlasting blessing, according to the words of Zech. ix. If thou hadst known what is for thy good, salvation, and happiness, namely, penitence and faith in Me, which I have taught thee these three years past, thou wouldst weep, as I do, for thy past blindness and obstinacy. Euthymius supplies, “Thou wouldst in no wise perish.” Others say, “Thou wouldst bear thyself otherwise; listen to Me, and believe in Me.” The Syriac has, “If thou hadst known the things that are for thy peace and salvation in this thy day.” The Arabic. “If thou hadst known, even thou, and in this thy day, how much peace there was for thee in it.” Peace, in Hebrew, means prosperity, safety, happiness, every good, both of body and soul.
It is an aposopiopesis, showing the profound passion of grief and indignation in Christ, for He upbraids the ungrateful city with its unbelief, obstinacy, and ingratitude. This feeling in Christ was so strong that it choked His voice, and compelled Him to be silent, as by aposopiopesis. “For those who weep,” says Euthymius, “break off their words abruptly, from the strength of their feelings.” There is again great passion “pathos,” in the words; “Even thou, 0 daughter of Zion, by Me so beloved, so honoured, so enriched: for thee have I come from heaven to earth, for thee was I born at Bethlehem, for thee have I lived thirty-four years in continued labour, suffering, poverty. For three years have I taught and preached in thy towns and villages; I have healed thy lepers, thy sick, thy possessed; I have restored thy dead to life. Thou, therefore, daughter of Jerusalem, why dost thou not return the love of one who so loves thee, but scornest and destroyest Him as an enemy? It will come, it will come shortly, that great day of the Lord, in which thou will too late confess thy unbelief and lament thy blindness. This is thy day, in which thou vainly exultest in thy wealth, thy luxury, thy pomps. But My day shall come, yea, the day of the Lord, in which He will most grievously punish thee, and utterly root thee out, and in which thou shalt pour forth the inconsolable and never ceasing tears of most bitter anguish.” Similar is the passion of Christ to the traitor Judas. Ps. v. 13.
In trope, S. Gregory in his 39th Homily says, “The perverse soul, which delights in the passing day, here meets its day. The soul, that is, to which present things are peace, because, while it takes pleasure in temporal prosperity: while it is elevated by honour while it is dissolved in the pleasures of sense, while it is terrified by no thoughts of a punishment to come, it has peace in its day, although in one to come it will meet with heavy condemnation. For it will be afflicted when the righteous rejoice, and all that was lately for its peace will be turned into the bitterness of contention. For it will begin to be at strife with itself, and to question itself, as to why it had not feared the condemnation to come, and had shut the eyes of its soul to the prospect of the evils to come.
But now they are hid from Divine eyes. Because (de Industria) thou wouldst not know, says Titus. And Eusebius, in the Catena, “Christ makes known His coming for the peace of the world, and when they would not receive that peace, it was hidden from them.” The Incarnation of Christ, His preaching, His passion, His resurrection, were hidden from the Jews. Equally so their own perfidy, blindness, ingratitude, and therefore their punishment and destruction by Titus. “For,” says S. Gregory, “if we saw the evils that are impending, we should not rejoice in present prosperity.” Again, in figure, “The perverse soul, while it loses itself in the enjoyments of the present life, what does it but walk with closed eyes into the fire?” Hence it is well written, In the day of good things be not unmindful of the evil. And S. Paul, “Let those that rejoice be as those that rejoice not.” For if there is any joy in the present time, it should be so felt, as that the bitterness of the future judgment should never be absent from the thoughts, for while the reverent mind is pierced by fear of the final punishment, in proportion to its present rejoicing will the wrath hereafter be tempered.
Ver.43.—For the days shall come. The Greek reads, “Thy enemies shall cast up a bank about thee and compass thee round.” The Arabic, “The days shall come in which thine enemies shall throw down thy standards, and shall surround thee.” How truly Christ foretold this appears from Josephus, who in Bk. vi. Chap. 37, of his “Wars of the Jews,” says that Titus and the Romans erected three mounds round Jerusalem, and, in the space of only three days, surrounded the whole city with a wall of 39 stadia, so that there should be neither exit nor passage for any one. Christ alludes to Isaiah xxix. 1, 2, “Woe to Ariel,” &c. For Jerusalem, which before was strong and unconquered, was, as it were, Ariel—that is, the Lion of God, now deserted by me, and given over to destruction by the Romans, and to become, as it were, the ram of justice, and the sacrifice of divine vengeance. So Eusebius, S. Cyril and Theodoret on Isaiah xxix. I.
And keep thee in on every side. To such a pitch of famine, and to such straits shalt thou be reduced that mothers shall devour even their own children. Josephus, “Wars of the Jews ” chap. xiv. and following.
Ver. 44.—And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another. That is, shall destroy thee utterly; spoken in hyperbole, for the Romans were not so laborious or so idle, as to leave no stone upon another. S. Greg., hom. xxxix. The migration from the city is testified to, for it is now built on the spot where the Lord was crucified outside the gate. The former Jerusalem is utterly destroyed; for Mount Calvary is now in the middle of the new city.
Because thou knowest not the time of thy visitation. “The time of this visitation,” says Titus, “is that of Christ’s coming down from heaven.” “In figure all these things,” says S. Gregory hom. 39, “happen to the soul that has lived as a slave to the flesh. For then the devils surround it on all sides, tempt it, hedge it in, and carry it off to hell. Then all that erection of stones, that is, their thoughts, is overthrown, because they did not know the time of their visitation, when God by His preachers, His confessors, His masters, and His internal inspirations, warned them to amend their lives and take thought for their salvation.” Greg., Dial. Bk. iv chaps. 30, 38, 46, 52, and following, gives the dreadful example of Chrysaorius Theodore, King Theodoric, and others.