John Chysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of John

Homily 85 on the Gospel of John (Excerpts)

JOHN xix. 24-xx.2

Ver. 24. "These things the soldiers did." But He on the Cross, commits His mother to the disciple, teaching us even to our last breath to show every care for our parents. When indeed she unseasonably troubled Him, He said, "Woman, what have I to do with thee?" (c. ii. 4.) And, "Who is My mother?" (Matt. xii. 48.) But here He showeth much loving affection, and commits her to the disciple whom He loved. Again John conceals himself, in modesty; for had he desired to boast, he would have also put in the cause for which he was loved, since probably it was some great and wonderful one. But wherefore doth He converse on nothing else with John, nor comfort him when desponding? Because it was no time for comforting by words; besides, it was no little thing for him to be honored with such honor, and to receive the reward of steadfastness. But do thou consider, I pray, how even on the cross He did everything without being troubled, speaking with the disciple concerning His mother, fulfilling prophecies, holding forth good hopes to the thief. Yet before He was crucified He appeared sweating, agonized, fearing. What then can this mean? Nothing difficult, nothing doubtful. There indeed the weakness of nature had been shown, here was being shown the excess of Power. Besides, by these two things He teaches us, even if before things terrible we be troubled, not on that account to shrink from things terrible, but when we have embarked in the contest to deem all things possible and easy. Let us then not tremble at death. Our soul has by nature the love of life, but it lies with us either to loose the bands of nature, and make this desire weak; or else to tighten them, and make the desire more tyrannous. For as we have the desire of sexual intercourse, but when we practice true wisdom we render the desire weak, so also it falls out in the case of life; and as God has annexed carnal desire to the generation of children, to maintain a succession among us, without however forbidding us from traveling the higher road of continence; so also He has implanted in us the love of life, forbidding us from destroying ourselves, but not hindering our despising the present life. And it behooves us, knowing this, to observe due measure, and neither to go at any time to death of our own accord, even though ten thousand terrible things possess us; nor yet when dragged to it, for the sake of what is pleasing to God, to shrink back from and fear it, but boldly to strip for it, preferring the future to the present life.

But the women stood by the Cross, and the weaker sex then appeared the manlier (ver. 25); so entirely henceforth were all things transformed.

3. And He, having committed His mother to John, said, "Behold thy Son." (Ver. 26.) O the honor! with what honor did He honor the disciple! when He Himself was now departing, He committed her to the disciple to take care of. For since it was likely that, being His mother, she would grieve, and require protection, He with reason entrusted her to the beloved. To him He saith, "Behold thy mother." (Ver. 27.) This He said, knitting them together in charity; which the disciple understanding, took her to his own home. "But why made He no mention of any other woman, although another stood there?" To teach us to pay more than ordinary respect to our mothers. For as when parents oppose us on spiritual matters, we must not even own them, so when they do not hinder us, we ought to pay them all becoming respect, and to prefer them before others, because they begat us, because they bred us up, because they bare for us ten thousand terrible things. And by these words He silenceth the shamelessness of Marcion; for if He were not born according to the flesh, nor had a mother, wherefore taketh He such forethought for her alone?

Ver. 28. "After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished."

That is, "that nothing was wanting to the Dispensation." For He was everywhere desirous to show, that this Death was of a new kind, if indeed the whole lay in the power of the Person dying, and death came not on the Body before He willed it; and He willed it after He had fulfilled all things. Therefore also He said, "I have power to lay down My life; and I have power to take it again." (c. x. 18.) Knowing therefore that all things were fulfilled, He saith, "I thirst." . . . .

Ver. 38. "After this came Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple."

Not one of the twelve, but perhaps one of the seventy. For now deeming that the anger of the Jews was quenched by the Cross, they approached without fear, and took charge of His funeral. Joseph therefore came and asked the favor from Pilate, which he granted; why should he not? Nicodemus also assists him, and furnishes a costly burial. For they were still disposed to think of Him as a mere man. And they brought those spices whose especial nature is to preserve the body for a long time, and not to allow it quickly to yield to corruption, which was an act of men imagining nothing great respecting Him; but anyhow, they exhibited very loving affection. But how did no one of the twelve come, neither John, nor Peter, nor any other of the more distinguished disciples? Nor doth the writer conceal this point. . . .

4. And because they were straitened by the time, (since the Death took place at the ninth hour, and it is probable, that what with going to Pilate and what with taking down the body, evening would come upon them when it was not lawful to work,) they laid Him in the tomb that was near. And it is providentially ordered, that He should be placed in a new tomb, wherein no one had been placed before, that His Resurrection might not be deemed to be that of some other who lay there with Him; and that the disciples might be able easily to come and be spectators of what came to pass, because the place was near; and that not they alone should be witnesses of His burial, but His enemies also, for the placing seals on the tomb, and the sitting by of the soldiers to watch it, were the actions of men testifying to the burial. . . .

"The first day of the week" (that is, the Lord's day) "cometh Mary Magdalene, very early in the morning, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulcher." (Ch. xx. ver. 1.)

For He arose while both stone and seals lay over Him; but because it was necessary that others should be fully satisfied, the tomb was opened after the Resurrection, and thus what had come to pass was confirmed. This then was what moved Mary. For being entirely full of loving affection towards her Master, when the Sabbath was past, she could not bear to rest, but came very early in the morning, desiring to find some consolation from the place. But when she saw the place, and the stone taken away, she neither entered in nor stooped down, but ran to the disciples, in the greatness of her longing; for this was what she earnestly desired, she wished very speedily to learn what had become of the body. This was the meaning of her running, and her words declare it.

Ver. 2. "They have taken away," she saith, "my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him."

Seest thou how she knew not as yet anything clearly concerning the Resurrection, but thought there had been a removal of the body, and tells all simply to the disciples? And the Evangelist hath not deprived the woman of such a praise, nor thought it shame that they should have learnt these things first from her who had passed the night in watching. Thus everywhere doth the truth-loving nature of his disposition shine forth. When then she came and said these things, they hearing them, draw near with great eagerness to the sepulcher, and see the linen clothes lying, which was a sign of the Resurrection. For neither, if any persons had removed the body, would they before doing so have stripped it; nor if any had stolen it, would they have taken the trouble to remove the napkin, and roll it up, and lay it in a place by itself; but how? they would have taken the body as it was. On this account John tells us by anticipation that it was buried with much myrrh, which glues linen to the body not less firmly than lead; in order that when thou hearest that the napkins lay apart, thou mayest not endure those who say that He was stolen. For a thief would not have been so foolish as to spend so much trouble on a superfluous matter. For why should he undo the clothes? and how could he have escaped detection if he had done so? since he would probably have spent much time in so doing, and be found out by delaying and loitering. But why do the clothes lie apart, while the napkin was wrapped together by itself? That thou mayest learn that it was not the action of men in confusion or haste, the placing some in one place, some in another, and the wrapping them together. From this they believed in the Resurrection. On this account Christ afterwards appeared to them, when they were convinced by what they had seen. Observe too here again the absence of boastfulness in the Evangelist, how he witnesses to the exactness of Peter's search. For he himself having gotten before Peter, and having seen the linen clothes, enquired not farther, but withdrew; but that fervent one passing farther in, looked at everything carefully, and saw somewhat more, and then the other too was summoned to the sight. For he entering after Peter, saw the grave-clothes lying, and separate. Now to separate, and to place one thing by itself, and another, after rolling it up, by itself, was the act of some one doing things carefully, and not in a chance way, as if disturbed. . . .

6. When therefore one is about to die, let the friend of that dying person prepare the obsequies, and persuade the departing one to leave somewhat to the needy. With these garments let him send him to the grave, leaving Christ his heir. For if they who write kings among their heirs, leave a safe portion to their relations, when one leaves Christ heir with his children, consider how great good he will draw down upon himself and all his. These are the right sort of funerals, these profit both those who remain and those who depart. If we be so buried, we shall be glorious at the Resurrection-time. But if caring for the body we neglect the soul, we then shall suffer many terrible things, and incur much ridicule. For neither is it a common unseemliness to depart without being clothed with virtue, nor is the body, though cast out without a tomb, so disgraced, as a soul appearing bare of virtue in that day. This let us put on, this let us wrap around us; it is best to do so during all our lifetime; but if we have in this life been negligent, let us at least in our end be sober, and charge our relations to help us when we depart by alms-doing; that being thus assisted by each other, we may attain to much confidence, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, dominion, and honor, now and ever and world without end. Amen.

Excerpted from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series One, Volume 14
Edited by Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D.
American Edition, 1889
Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight


Homily 86 on the Gospel of John (Excerpts)

JOHN XX.10-21.

"Then the disciples went away again unto their own home. But Mary stood without at the sepulcher, weeping."

1. FULL of feeling somehow is the female sex, and more inclined to pity. I say this, lest thou shouldest wonder how it could be that Mary wept bitterly at the tomb, while Peter was in no way so affected. For, "The disciples," it saith, "went away unto their own home"; but she stood shedding tears. Because hers was a feeble nature, and she as yet knew not accurately the account of the Resurrection; whereas they having seen the linen clothes and believed, departed to their own homes in astonishment. And wherefore went they not straightway to Galilee, as had been commanded them before the Passion? They waited for the others, perhaps, and besides they were yet at the height of their amazement. These then went their way: but she stood at the place, for, as I have said, even the sight of the tomb tended greatly to comfort her. At any rate, thou seest her, the more to ease her grief, stooping down, and desiring to behold the place where the body lay. And therefore she received no small reward for this her great zeal. For what the disciples saw not, this saw the woman first, Angels sitting, the one at the feet, the other at the head, in white; even the dress was full of much radiance and joy. Since the mind of the woman was not sufficiently elevated to accept the Resurrection from the proof of the napkins, something more takes place, she beholdeth something more; Angels sitting in shining garments, so as to raise her thus awhile from her passionate sorrow, and to comfort her. But they said nothing to her concerning the Resurrection, yet is she gently led forward in this doctrine. She saw countenances bright and unusual; she saw shining garments, she heard a sympathizing voice. For what saith (the Angel)?

Ver. 13. "Woman, why weepest thou?"

By all these circumstances, as though a door was being opened for her, she was led by little and little to the knowledge of the Resurrection. And the manner of their sitting invited her to question them, for they showed that they knew what had taken place; on which account they did not sit together either, but apart from one another. For because it was not likely that she would dare at once to question them, both by questioning her, and by the manner of their sitting, they bring her to converse. What then saith she? She speaks very warmly and affectionately; "They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him."

"What sayest thou? Knowest thou not yet anything concerning the Resurrection, but dost thou still form fancies about His being laid 7?" Seest thou how she had not yet received the sublime doctrine?

Ver. 14. "And when she had thus said, she turned herself back."

And by what kind of consequence is it, that she having spoken to them, and not having yet heard anything from them, turned back? Me-thinks that while she was speaking, Christ suddenly appearing behind her, struck the Angels with awe; and that they having beheld their Ruler, showed immediately by their bearing, their look, their movements, that they saw the Lord; and this drew the woman's attention, and caused her to turn herself backwards. To them then He appeared on this wise, but not so to the woman, in order not at the first sight to terrify her, but in a meaner and ordinary form, as is clear from her supposing that He was the gardener. It was meet to lead one of so lowly a mind to high matters, not all at once, but gently. He therefore in turn asketh her, Ver. 15. "Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?"

This showed that He knew what she wished to ask, and led her to make answer. And the woman, understanding this, doth not again mention the name of Jesus, but as though her questioner knew the subject of her enquiry replies, "Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away."

Again she speaks of laying down, and taking away, and carrying, as though speaking of a corpse. But her meaning is this; "If ye have borne him hence for fear of the Jews, tell me, and I will take him." Great is the kindness and loving affection of the woman, but as yet there is nothing lofty with her. Wherefore He now setteth the matter before her, not by appearance, but by Voice. For as He was at one time known to the Jews, and at another time unperceived though present; so too in speaking, He, when He chose, then made Himself known; as also when He said to the Jews, "Whom seek ye?" they knew neither the Countenance nor the Voice until He chose. And this was the case here. And He named her name only, reproaching and blaming her that she entertained such fancies concerning One who lived. But how was it that, Ver. 16. "She turned herself, and saith," if so be that He was speaking to her? It seems to me, that after having said, "Where have ye laid him?" she turned to the Angels to ask why they were astonished, and that then Christ, by calling her by name, turned her to Himself from them, and revealed Himself by His Voice; for when He called her "Mary," then she knew Him; so that the recognition was not by His appearance, but by His Voice. And if any say, "Whence is it clear that the Angels were awestruck, and that on this account the woman turned herself," they will in this place say, "whence is it clear that she would have touched Him, and fallen at His feet?" Now as this is clear from His saying, "Touch Me not," so is the other clear from its saying, that she turned herself. But wherefore, said He, Ver. 17. "Touch Me not"?

5. Some assert, that she asked for spiritual grace, because she had heard Him when with the disciples say, "If I go to the Father, 'I will ask Him, and He shall give you another Comforter.'" (c. xiv. 3, 16.) But how could she who was not present with the disciples have heard this? Besides, such an imagination is far from the meaning here. And how should she ask, when He had not yet gone to the Father? What then is the sense? Methinks that she wished still to converse with Him as before, and that in her joy she perceived nothing great in Him, although He had become far more excellent in the Flesh. To lead her therefore from this idea, and that she might speak to Him with much awe, (for neither with the disciples doth He henceforth appear so familiar as before,) He raiseth her thoughts, that she should give more reverent heed to Him. To have said, "Approach Me not as ye did before, for matters are not in the same state, nor shall I henceforth be with you in the same way," would have been harsh and high-sounding; but the saying, "I am not yet ascended to the Father," though not painful to hear, was the saying of One declaring the same thing. For by saying, "I am not yet ascended," He showeth that He hasteth and presseth thither; and that it was not meet that One about to depart thither, and no longer to converse with men, should be looked on with the same feelings as before. And the sequel shows that this is the case.

"Go and say unto the brethren, that I go unto My Father, and your Father, unto My God and your God."

Yet He was not about to do so immediately, but after forty days. How then saith He this? With a desire to raise their minds, and to persuade them that He departeth into the heavens. But the, "To My Father and your Father, to My God, and your God," belongs to the Dispensation, since the "ascending" also belongs to His Flesh. For He speaketh these words to one who had no high thoughts. "Is then the Father His in one way, and ours in another?" Assuredly then He is. For if He is God of the righteous in a manner different from that in which He is God of other men, much more in the case of the Son and us. For because He had said, "Say to the brethren," in order that they might not imagine any equality from this, He showed the difference. He was about to sit on His Father's throne, but they to stand by. So that albeit in His Subsistence according to the Flesh He became our Brother, yet in Honor He greatly differed from us, it cannot even be told how much.

Vet. 18. "She therefore departeth, beating these tidings to the disciples."

So great a good is perseverance and endurance. But how was it that they did not any more grieve when He was about to depart, nor speak as they had done before? At that time they were affected in such a way, as supposing that He was about to die; but now that He was risen again, what reason had they to grieve? Moreover, Mary reported His appearance and His words, which were enough to comfort them. Since then it was likely that the disciples on hearing these things would either not believe the woman, or, believing, would grieve that He had not deemed them worthy of the vision, though He promised to meet them in Galilee; in order that they might not by dwelling on this be unsettled, He let not a single day pass, but having brought them to a state of longing, by their knowledge that He was risen, and by what they heard from the woman, when they were thirsting to see Him, and were greatly afraid, (which thing itself especially made their yearning greater,) He then, when it was evening, presented Himself before them, and that very marvelously. And why did He appear in the "evening"? Because it was probable that they would then especially be very fearful. But the marvel was, why they did not suppose Him to be an apparition; for He entered, "when the doors were shut," and suddenly. The chief cause was, that the woman beforehand had wrought great faith in them; besides, He showed His countenance to them dear and mild. He came not by day, in order that all might be collected together. For great was the amazement; for neither did He knock at the door but all at once stood in the midst, and showed His side and His hands. At the same time also by His Voice He smoothed their tossing thought, by saying, Ver. 19. "Peace be unto you."

That is, "Be not troubled"; at the same time reminding them of the word which He spake to them before the Crucifixion, "My peace I leave unto you" (c. xiv. 27); and again, "In me ye have peace, but" "in the world ye shall havetribulation." (c. xvi. 33.)

Ver. 20. "Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord."

Seest thou the words issuing in deeds? For what He said before the Crucifixion, that "I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you" (c. xvi. 22), this He now accomplished in deed; but all these things led them to a most exact faith. For since they had a truceless war with the Jews, He continually repeated the, "Peace be unto you," giving them, to counterbalance the war, the consolation. And so this was the first word that He spake to them after the Resurrection, (wherefore also Paul continually saith, "Grace be unto you and peace,") and to women He giveth good tidings of joy, because that sex was in sorrow, and had received this as the first curse. Therefore He giveth good tidings suitable respectively, to men, peace, because of their war; joy to women, because of their sorrow. Then having put away all painful things, He telleth of the successes of the Cross, and these were the "peace." "Since then all hindrances have been removed," He saith, "and I have made My victory glorious, and all hath been achieved," (then He saith afterwards,)

Ver. 21. "As My Father hath sent Me, so send I you."

"Ye have no difficulty, owing to what hath already come to pass, and to the dignity of Me who send you." Here He lifteth up their souls, and showeth them their great cause of confidence, if so be that they were about to undertake His work. And no longer is an appeal made to the Father, but with authority He giveth to them the power. For, Ver. 22, 23. "He breathed on them, and said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them, and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained."

As a king sending forth governors, gives power to east into prison and to deliver from it, so in sending these forth, Christ investeth them with the same power. But how saith He, "If I go not away, He will not come" (c. xvi. 7), and yet giveth them the Spirit? Some say that He gave not the Spirit, but rendered them fit to receive It, by breathing on them. For if Daniel when he saw an Angel was afraid, what would not they have suffered when they received that unspeakable Gift, unless He had first made them learners? Wherefore He said not, "Ye have received the Holy Ghost," but, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost." Yet one will not be wrong in asserting that they then also received some spiritual power and grace; not so as to raise the dead, or to work miracles, but so as to remit sins. For the gifts of the Spirit are of different kinds; wherefore He added, "Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them," showing what kind of power He was giving. But in the other case, after forty days, they received the power of working miracles. Wherefore He saith, "Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and ye shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea." (Acts i. 8.) And witnesses they became by means of miracles, for unspeakable is the grace of the Spirit and multiform the gift. But this comes to pass, that thou mayest learn that the gift and the power of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, is One. For things which appear to be peculiar to the Father, these are seen also to belong to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. "How then," saith some one, "doth none come to the Son, 'except the Father draw him'?" (c. vi. 44.) Why, this very thing is shown to belong to the Son also. "I," He saith, "am the Way: no man cometh unto the Father but by Me." (c. xiv. 6.) And observe that it belongeth to the Spirit also; for "No man can call Jesus Christ Lord, but by the Holy Ghost." (1 Cor. xii. 3.) Again, we see that the Apostles were given to the Church at one time by the Father, at another by the Son, at another by the Holy Ghost, and that the "diversities of gifts" (1 Cor. xii. 4) belong to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

4. Let us then do all we can to have the Holy Spirit with ourselves, and let us treat with much honor those into whose hands its operation hath been committed. For great is the dignity of the priests. "Whosesoever sins," it saith, "ye remit, they are remitted unto them"; wherefore also Paul saith, "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves." (Heb. xiii. 17.) And hold them very exceedingly in honor; for thou indeed carest about thine own affairs, and if thou orderest them well, thou givest no account for others, but the priest even if he rightly order his own life, if he have not an anxious care for thine, yea and that of all those around him, will depart with the wicked into hell; and often when not betrayed by his own conduct, he perishes by yours, if he have not rightly performed all his part. Knowing therefore the greatness of the danger, give them a large share of your goodwill; which Paul also implied when he said, "For they watch for your souls," and not simply so, but, "as they that shall give account." (Heb. xiii. 17.) They ought therefore to receive great attention from you; but if you join with the rest in trampling upon them, then neither shall your affairs be in a good condition.. . .For the things which are placed in the hands of the priest it is with God alone to give; and however far human wisdom may reach, it will appear inferior to that grace. And this I say, not in order that we may order our own life carelessly, but that when some of those set over you are careless livers, you the ruled may not often heap up evil for yourselves. But why speak I of priests? Neither Angel nor Archangel can do anything with regard to what is given from God; but the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, dispenseth all, while the priest lends his tongue and affords his hand. For neither would it be just that through the wickedness of another, those who come in faith to the symbols of their salvation should be harmed. Knowing all these things, let us fear God, and hold His priests in honor, paying them all reverence; that both for our own good deeds, and the attention shown to them, we may receive a great return from God, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, dominion, and honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.

Excerpted from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series One, Volume 14
Edited by Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D.
American Edition, 1889
Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight