From: Luke 22:14-23:56
(The shorter Passion reading is Luke 23:1-49.)
The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke
The institution of the Eucharist
 And when the hour came, he sat at table, and the apostles with him. 
And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you be-
fore I suffer;  for I tell you I shall not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of
God.”  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this,
and divide it among yourselves;  for I tell you that from now on I shall not drink
of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”  And he took bread,
and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is
my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”  And like-
wise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the
new covenant in my blood.
The treachery of Judas foretold
 But behold the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table.  For
the Son of man goes as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom
he is betrayed!”  And they began to question one another, which of them it
was that would do this.
A dispute among the apostles
 A dispute also arose among them, which of them was to be regarded as the
greatest.  And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship
over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors.  But not
so with you; rather let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the
leader as one who serves.  For which is the greater, one who sits at table, or
one who serves? Is it not the one who sits at table? But I am among you as one
 “You are those who have continued with me in my trials;  and I assign to
you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom,  that you may eat and drink
at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Peter’s denial foretold
 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you
like wheat,  but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when
you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.”  And he said to him, “Lord,
I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”  He said, “I tell you, Peter,
the cock will not crow this day, until you three times deny that you know me.”
Appeal to the apostles
 And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no purse or bag or sandals,
Did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.”  He said to them, “But now, let
him who has a purse take it, and likewise a bag. And let him who has no sword
sell his mantle and buy one.  For I tell you that this scripture must be fulfilled
in me, ‘And he was reckoned with transgressors’; for what is written about me has
its fulfilment.”  And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said
to them, “It is enough.”
Jesus’ prayer and agony in the garden
 And he came out, and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and
the disciples followed him.  And when he came to the place he said to them,
“Pray that you may not enter into temptation.”  And he withdrew from them
about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed,  “Father, if thou art willing,
remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”  And
there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.  And being
in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of
blood falling upon the ground.  And when he rose from prayer, he came to the
disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow,  and he said to them, “Why do
you sleep? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”
The arrest of Jesus
 While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas,
one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him;  but
Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of man with a kiss?” 
And when those who were about him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord,
shall we strike with the sword?”  And one of them struck the slave of the high
priest and cut off his right ear.  But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he
touched his ear and healed him.  Then Jesus said to the chief priests and of-
ficers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come
out as against a robber, with swords and clubs?  When I was with you day
after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and
the power of darkness.”
 Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s
house. Peter followed at a distance;  and when they had kindled a fire in the
middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them.  Then
a maid, seeing him as he sat in the light and gazing at him, said, “This man also
was with him.”  But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” 
And a little later some one else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.”
But Peter said, “Man, I am not.”  And after an interval of about an hour still
another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him; for he is a Gali-
lean.”  But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are saying.” And imme-
diately, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed.  And the Lord turned
and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had
said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” 
And he went out and wept bitterly.
Jesus abused by the guards
 Now the men who were holding Jesus mocked him and beat him;  they
also blindfolded him and asked him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” 
And they spoke many other words against him, reviling him.
Jesus before the chief priests
 When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together,
both chief priests and scribes; and they led him away to their council, and they
said,  “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you
will not believe;  and if I ask you, you will not answer.  But from now on
the Son of man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.”  And
they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say
that I am.”  And they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have
heard it ourselves from his own lips.”
Jesus before Pilate
 Then the whole company of them arose, and brought him before Pilate. 
And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man perverting our nation,
and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ a
king.”  And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he ans-
wered him, “You have said so.”  And Pilate said to the chief priests and the
multitudes, “I find no crime in this man.”  But they were urgent, saying, “He
stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this
Jesus before Herod
 When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean.  And
when he learned that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him over to He-
rod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time.  When Herod saw Jesus, he
was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about
him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him.  So he questioned him
at some length; but he made no answer.  The chief priests and the scribes
stood by, vehemently accusing him.  And Herod with his soldiers treated him
with contempt and mocked him; then, arraying him in gorgeous apparel, he sent
him back to Pilate.  And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other
that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other.
Jesus is condemned to death
 Pilate then called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people,
 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the
people; and after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty
of any of your charges against him;  neither did Herod, for he sent him back
to us. Behold, nothing deserving death has been done by him;  I will therefore
chastise him and release him.”
 But they all cried out together, “Away with this man, and release to us Ba-
rabbas” —  a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started
in the city, and for murder.  Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to re-
lease Jesus;  but they shouted out, “Crucify, crucify him!”  A third time
he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no crime de-
serving death; I will therefore chastise him and release him.”  But they were
urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices
prevailed.  So Pilate gave sentence that their demand should be granted. 
He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder,
whom they asked for; but Jesus he delivered up to their will.
The crucifixion and death of Jesus
 And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was com-
ing in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind Jesus. 
And there followed him a great multitude of the people, and of women who be-
wailed and lamented him.  But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jer-
usalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 
For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and
the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never gave suck!’  Then they
will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 
For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” 
Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him.
 And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they cruci-
fied him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left.  And Jesus
said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots
to divide his garments.  And the people stood by, watching; but the rulers
scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ
of God, his Chosen One!”  The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and of-
fering him vinegar,  and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save your-
self!”  There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not
the Christ? Save yourself and us!”  But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do
you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 
And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this
man has done nothing wrong.”  And he said, “Jesus, remember me when
you come into your kingdom.”  And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, to-
day you will be with me in Paradise.”
 It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land
until the ninth hour,  while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple
was torn in two.  Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into thy
hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.  Now
when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, and said, “Cer-
tainly this man was innocent!”  And all the multitudes who assembled to see
the sight, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their
breasts.  And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him
from Galilee stood at a distance and saw these things.
 Now there was a man named Joseph from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He
was a member of the council, a good and righteous man,  who had not con-
sented to their purpose and deed, and he was looking for the kingdom of God.
 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.  Then he took
it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud, and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb, where
no one had ever yet been laid.  It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath
was beginning.  The women who had come with him from Galilee followed,
and saw the tomb, and how his body was laid;  then they returned, and pre-
pared spices and ointments.
On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.
1-38. These verses report the events immediately prior to our Lord’s passion,
events rich in meaning. The three Synoptic Gospels all give more or less the
same account, but St Luke omits certain details and adds others which fill out
Mark’s or Matthew’s account. Take, for example, the reporting of the institution
of the Eucharist: while being substantially the same in the three Synoptics and
often word for word, the Matthew and Mark accounts (cf. Mt 26:26-29; Mk 14:
22-25) are quite different from that of Luke taken together with the First Letter to
the Corinthians (cf. Lk 22:15-20; 1 Cor 11:23-25).
1. The feast of the Passover, the most solemn of all the Jewish feasts, was ins-
tituted by God to commemorate the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and to
remind them of their former slavery from which he saved them (Deut 16:3). It be-
gan with the passover supper on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month
of Nisan (March-April), a little after sundown, and went on until 22 Nisan, the
feast of the unleavened bread. The Mosaic Law laid down (Ex 12:15-20) that on
the evening of 14 Nisan the Jews had to remove any trace of leaven from their
houses and eat unleavened bread for the duration of the feast — reminding them
that when the moment came to leave Egypt they had to leave in such a hurry
that they had no time to prepare leavened bread to take with them (Ex 12:34).
All this was a prefigurement of the renewal which Christ would bring about:
“Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are un-
leavened. For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us, therefore,
celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but
with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor 5:7-8).
3-6. Even prior to the Passion, one can sense that the behaviour of Jesus’ ene-
mies was being orchestrated by the spirit of evil, Satan. This is particularly true
where Judas is concerned. Corrupt human will alone cannot explain the torrent
of hatred unleashed against Jesus.
The passion of our Lord marks the climax of the struggle between God and the
powers of evil. After the third temptation in the desert the devil “departed from
him until an opportune time” (Lk 4:13). The time has now come: it is the hour of
Christ’s enemies and of the power of darkness (cf. Lk 22:53), and it is also the
hour of God’s definitive victory, for he “decreed that man should be saved through
the wood of the cross. The tree of man’s defeat became his tree of victory; where
life was lost, there life has been restored” (”Roman Missal”, Preface of the Tri-
umph of the Cross).
7-13. This scene took place on 14 Nisan. Every Israelite was familiar with the
details of preparations for the Passover: it involved a rite which Jewish tradition,
based on God-given regulations contained in the Law of Moses (cf. the note on
Lk 22:1), had spelt out in minute detail — the unleavened loaves, bitter herbs,
and the lamb to be sacrificed in the courtyard of the temple in the late afternoon.
Peter and John, therefore, were perfectly acquainted with all these details; the
only enquiry concerns where the supper is to be held, and our Lord tells them
exactly how to find the place.
The disciples think that all that is involved is the Passover meal; but Jesus is
also thinking about the institution of the Holy Eucharist and the Sacrifice of the
New Alliance, which will take the place of the sacrifices of the Old Testament.
14. The Last Supper is beginning, the meal at which our Lord is going to institute
the Holy Eucharist, a mystery of faith and love: “We must therefore approach this
mystery, above all, with humble reverence, not following human arguments, which
ought to be hushed, but in steadfast adherence to divine revelation” (Paul VI, “My-
15. St John, the beloved disciple, sums up in a single phrase the sentiments wel-
ling up in Jesus’ soul at the Last Supper: “when Jesus knew that his hour had
come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in
the world, he loved them to the end” (Jn 13:1). Our Lord expresses his burning
desire to spend the hours prior to his death with those whom he loves most on
earth and, as happens when people are taking leave of their nearest and dearest,
very affectionate words are exchanged (cf. Theophylact, “Enarratio in Evangelium
loannis”, in loc.). His love is not confined to the apostles; he is thinking of all
men and women. He knows that this Passover meal marks the beginning of his
passion. He is going to anticipate the Sacrifice of the New Testament, which will
bring such benefits to mankind.
To fulfil his Father’s will, Jesus must necessarily go away, but his love, impelling
him to stay with his own, moves him to institute the Eucharist, in which he stays
behind, in which he remains really and truly present. “Think,” St J. Escrivá writes,
“of the human experience of two people who love each other, and yet are forced
to part. They would like to stay together forever, but duty — in one form or ano-
ther — forces them to separate. They are unable to fulfill their desire of remaining
close to each other, so man’s love — which, great as it may be, is limited seeks
a symbolic gesture. People who make their farewells exchange gifts or perhaps a
photograph with a dedication so ardent that it seems almost enough to burn that
piece of paper. They can do no more, because a creature’s power is not so great
as its desire.
“What we cannot do, our Lord is able to do. Jesus Christ, perfect God and perfect
man, leaves us not a symbol but a reality. He himself stays with us. He will go to
the Father, but he will also remain among men. He will leave us, not simply a gift
that will make us remember him, not an image that becomes blurred with time,
like a photograph that soon fades and yellows, and has no meaning except for
those who were contemporaries. Under the appearances of bread and wine, he
is really present, with his body and blood, with his soul and divinity” (”Christ Is
Passing By”, 83).
16-20. This text contains the three basic truths of faith having to do with the sub-
lime mystery of the Eucharist: 1) the institution of this sacrament and Jesus
Christ’s real presence in it; 2) the institution of the Christian priesthood; and 3)
the Eucharist as the Sacrifice of the New Testament or Holy Mass (cf. the note
on Mt 26:26-29). St Luke’s account is substantially the same as that in the First
Gospel, but it is enhanced by his more detailed description of some points (cf.
the note on v. 17).
Regarding the real presence of Christ in this sacrament, Paul VI stated: “In reli-
ance on this belief of the Church, the Council of Trent ‘openly and simply profes-
ses that in the bountiful sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, after the consecration
of the bread and wine, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, true God and true man,
is contained truly, really and substantially under the appearance of the objects
that the senses can perceive’ (”De SS. Eucharistia”, chap. 1). Therefore our Sa-
viour is not only present according to his humanity at the right hand of the Father,
after his natural mode of existence, but at the same time he is present in the sa-
crament of the Eucharist also by that form of existence which is possible to God,
though we can hardly express it in words. With thoughts enlightened by faith we
can reach it and we must believe it with the greatest constancy” (”Mysterium fi-
dei”). In contemplating this ineffable mystery, Christian souls have always per-
ceived its grandeur as deriving from the fact of Christ’s real presence in it. The
sacrament of the Eucharist is not only an efficacious sign of Christ’s loving pres-
ence in an intimate union with the faithful: in it he is present corporeally and sub-
stantially, as God and as man. Certainly, in order to penetrate this mystery one
needs to have faith, because “there is no difficulty about Christ being present in
the Sacrament as a sign; the real difficulty lies in his being as truly in the Sacra-
ment as he is in heaven; therefore, it is very meritorious to believe this” (St Bona-
venture, “In IV Sent.”, d. 10, q. 1, a. 1). This mystery cannot be perceived by the
senses: it can only be grasped by faith in the words of our Saviour who, being
truth itself (cf. Jn 14:6), cannot deceive or be deceived: thus, in a hymn which is
traditionally attributed to St Thomas Aquinas, the “Adoro te devote”, the Chris-
tian people sing: “Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived; how says trus-
ty hearing? that shall be believed; what God’s Son has told me, take for truth I
do; Truth himself speaks truly or there’s nothing true” (translated by G.M. Hop-
“If no one is to misunderstand this mode of presence, which oversteps the laws
of nature and constitutes the greatest miracle of all in its kind, our minds must
be docile and we must follow the voice of the Church through her teaching and
prayer. This voice continually re-echoes the voice of Christ. It informs us that
Christ becomes present in this sacrament precisely by a change of the bread’s
whole substance into his body and the wine’s whole substance into his blood.
This is clearly remarkable, a singular change, and the Catholic Church gives it
the suitable and accurate name of transubstantiation” (Paul VI, “Mysterium fidei”).
After instituting the Eucharist, our Lord instructs the apostles to perpetuate what
he has done: the Church has always taken Christ’s words “Do this in remem-
brance of me” to mean that he thereby made the apostles and their successors
priests of the New Covenant who would renew the Sacrifice of Calvary in an un-
bloody manner in the celebration of Holy Mass.
This means that at the centre of Christ’s entire activity stands the bloody Sacri-
fice he offered on the cross — the Sacrifice of the New Covenant, prefigured in
the sacrifices of the Old Law, in the offerings made by Abel (Gen 4:4), by Abra-
ham (Gen 15:10; 22:13), by Melchizedek (Gen 14:18-20; Heb 7:1-28). The Last
Supper is the very Sacrifice of Calvary performed in advance of the event through
the words of the Consecration. Similarly the Mass renews this sacrifice which
was offered once for all on the altar of the cross. Christ alone is the victim and
the priest at Supper, Calvary and Mass; the only thing that varies is the way he
“We believe that the Mass which is celebrated by the priest in the person of
Christ in virtue of the power he receives in the sacrament of Order, and which is
offered by him in the name of Christ and of the members of his Mystical Body, is
indeed the Sacrifice of Calvary sacramentally realized on our altars” (Paul VI,
Creed of the People of God, 24).
16. The words “I shall not eat it [this Passover] until it is fulfilled in the kingdom
of heaven,” as also those in v. 18, “I shall not drink of the fruit of this vine until the
kingdom of God comes,” do not mean that Jesus Christ will eat the paschal lamb
once his Kingdom is established, but simply that this was the last time he will ce-
lebrate the Jewish Passover. Announcing the New Passover, which is now immi-
nent and which will last until his second coming, Jesus once and for all replaces
the ancient rite with his redemptive sacrifice, which marks the beginning of the
17. The Passover meal always followed a very specific pattern. Before eating the
lamb, the senior person explained, in reply to a question from the youngest pre-
sent, the religious meaning of what was happening. Then the meal proceeded, in-
terspersed with hymns and psalms. At the end came a solemn prayer of thanks-
giving. Throughout the meal, marking its main stages, the diners drank four glas-
ses of wine mixed with water. St Luke refers to two of these, the second being
that which our Lord consecrated.
19. We should note how plainly our Lord speaks: he does not say “here is my bo-
dy,” or “this is the symbol of my body,” but “this is my body”: that is, “this bread
is no longer bread, it is my body”. “Some men, accordingly, not paying heed to
these things, have contended that Christ’s body and blood are present in this sa-
crament only as in a sign: this is to be rejected as heretical, since it is contrary
to Christ’s words” (St Thomas Aquinas, “Summa theologiae”, 3, q. 75, a. 1).
Jesus’ words when he promised the Eucharist reinforce what he says here: “I am
the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he
will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my
flesh [. . .]. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will
raise him up at the last day” (Jn 6:51, 54).
“Do this in remembrance of me.” The solemn Magisterium of the Church teaches
us the meaning and scope of these words: “If anyone says that by the words, ‘Do
this in remembrance of me’ Christ did not make his apostles priests, or that he
did not decree that they and other priests should offer his body and blood: let him
be condemned” (Council of Trent, “De SS. Missae sacrificio”, c. 2).
24-30. This was not the first time the apostles brought up this question about
which of them was the greatest. It came up when they were going towards Caper-
naum, after Jesus’ second announcement of his passion. At that time Jesus used
a child as an example of humility (cf. Mt 18:1-5; Mk 9:33-37; Lk 9:46-48). A little
later, when the mother of James and John made her special request, the same
subject arose: the other apostles were very annoyed with the sons of Zebedee,
and our Lord intervened and put himself forward as an example: “The Son of man
also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for ma-
ny” (Mk 10:45; cf. Mt 20:25-28).
The apostles failed to grasp what Jesus meant. They continue to be blinded by
their human outlook and the same argument starts again. Jesus had invited them
to have a greater sense of responsibility by telling them that one of their number
was going to betray him (vv. 21 and 22) and by charging them to renew the Eu-
charistic Sacrifice (v. 19). As on other occasions when the apostles boasted
about their personal merits, Jesus reminds them again of the example of his
own life: he was their Teacher and Lord (cf. Jn 13:13) and yet he acted as if he
were the least among them and served them. To respond to a calling from God
a person needs humility, which expresses itself in the form of a spirit of service.
“You want to hear all that I think of ‘your way’? Very well, then. . ., listen: if you
respond to the call, you will do your utmost in your work for Christ; if you be-
come a man of prayer, you will be granted the grace necessary to respond and,
hungry for sacrifice, you will seek out the hardest tasks.. . . And you will be hap-
py here, and unspeakably happy hereafter” (St J. Escrivá, “The Way”, 235).
The reward which Jesus promises those who stay faithful to him far exceeds any-
thing human ambition can envisage: the apostles will share in divine friendship in
the Kingdom of heaven and they will sit on twelve thrones to judge the twelve
tribes of Israel. Christ’s word and example are basic norm of government in the
Church; the Second Vatican Council explains our Lord’s commandment as fol-
lows: “The bishops, vicars and legates of Christ, govern the particular Church as-
signed to them by their counsels, exhortations and example, but over and above
that also by the authority and sacred power which indeed they exercise exclusive-
ly for the spiritual development of their flock in truth and holiness, keeping in mind
that he who is greater should become as the lesser, and he who is the leader as
the servant (cf. Lk 22:26-27)” (”Lumen Gentium”, 27).
25-27. By spreading Jesus’ teaching about humility and service to others, we pro-
mote the true brotherhood of man. Pope Paul VI pointed this out in his address to
the United Nations: “Allow me to say this to you, as the representative of a reli-
gion which accomplishes salvation through the humility of its divine Founder: men
cannot be brothers if they are not humble. It is pride, no matter how legitimate it
may seem to be, which provokes tension and struggles for prestige, for predomi-
nance, colonialism, selfishness; it is pride that disrupts brotherhood” (no. 4).
31-34. Our Lord had previously told Peter that he was going to give him a spe-
cially important mission among the apostles — that of being the cornerstone, the
foundation, of the Church he would found. “’So you are Simon the son of John?
You shall be called Cephas’ (which means Peter)” (Jn 1:42), Jesus told him on
the bank of the Jordan. Later, in Caesarea Philippi, after his profession of faith in
the divinity of the Redeemer, Christ again referred to him as being a rock, as ha-
ving a mission to strengthen the Church: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on
this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against
it” (Mt 16:18). Now, at this very solemn moment, when his death approaches
and he has just instituted the Sacrifice of the New Testament, our Lord renews
his promise to Peter to give him the primacy: Peter’s faith, despite his fall, can-
not fail because it is supported by the efficacious prayer of our Lord himself.
Jesus Christ is giving Peter a privilege which is both personal and transferable.
Peter will publicly deny his Lord in the high priest’s house, but he will not lose his
faith. As St John Chrysostom comments, it is as if our Lord were saying to Peter,
“I have not prayed that you may not deny me but that your faith may not fail”
(”Hom. on St Matthew”, 3). And Theophylact adds: “For, although St Peter would
have to experience ups and downs he still had the hidden seed of faith, and he
[Christ] adds, ‘And when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren’, as if
to say, ‘After you repent; confirm then your brethren, for I have made you the
leader of the apostles; this is the task given you: you with me are the strength
and the rock of my Church.’ This should be taken not only as applying to the disci-
ples who were present there, for them to be strengthened by Peter: it also refers
to all the faithful who would follow, until the end of the world” (”Enarratio in Evan-
gelium Lucae”, in loc.).
And, as it turned out, as a result of our Lord’s prayer, Peter’s faith did not fail and
he recovered from his fall; he confirmed his brothers and was indeed the corner-
stone of the Church.
Our Lord’s prayer was effective in respect not only to Peter but also to his succes-
sors: their faith will not fail. This indefectibility of the faith of the bishop of Rome,
the successor of St Peter, is to be seen as ensuring that he stay committed to
the faith, a commitment guaranteed by the charism of infallibility: “This infallibility,
with which the divine Redeemer wished to endow his Church in defining doctrine
pertaining to faith and morals, is co-extensive with the deposit of revelation, which
must be religiously guarded and loyally and courageously expounded. The Ro-
man Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his
office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful — who confirms his
brethren in the faith (cf. Lk 22:32) — he proclaims in an absolute decision a doc-
trine pertaining to faith or morals” (Vatican II, “Lumen gentium”, 25).
Therefore, when the Pope speaks ex cathedra (cf. Vatican I, “Pastor aeternus”,
chap. 4) “he enjoys that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer wished to pro-
vide his Church. . . and therefore the definitions of the Roman Pontiff are irreform-
able by their very nature” (see also the note on Mt 16:13-20).
“The supreme power of the Roman Pontiff and his infallibility, when he speaks ex
cathedra, are not a human invention: they are based on the explicit foundational
will of Christ [. . .]. No one in the Church enjoys absolute power by himself, as
man. In the Church there is no leader other than but Christ. And Christ constitu-
ted a vicar of his — the Roman Pontiff — for his wayfaring spouse on earth [
Love for the Pope must be in us a beautiful passion, because in him we see
Christ” (St. J. Escrivá, “In Love with the Church”, 13).
36-38. Jesus announces his passion by applying to himself the Isaiah prophecy
about the Servant of Yahweh (Is 53:12) — “he was numbered with the transgress-
sors” — and by pointing out that all the other prophecies about the sufferings the
Redeemer would undergo will find fulfillment in him. The testing-time is imminent
and our Lord is speaking symbolically when he talks about making provision and
buying weapons to put up a fight. The apostles take him literally, and this leads
him to express a certain indulgent understanding: “It is enough.” “Just in the
same way as we,” Theophylact says, “when we are speaking to someone and
see that he does not understand, say: ‘Very well, leave it’” (”Enarratio in Evange-
lium Lucae”, in loc.).
39-71. Our Lord’s passion is the outstanding proof of God’s love for men: “God
so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should
not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). It also proves beyond doubt that Christ,
true God and true man, loves us, as he said himself: “Greater love has no man
than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13).
“Do you want to accompany Jesus closely, very closely? . . . Open the Holy
Gospel and read the Passion of our Lord. But don’t just read it: live it. There is a
big difference. To read is to recall something that happened in the past; to live is
to find oneself present at an event that is happening here and now, to be some-
one taking part in those scenes. Then, allow your heart to open wide; let it place
itself next to our Lord. And when you notice it trying to slip away — when you
see that you are a coward, like the others — ask forgiveness for your cowardice
and mine” (St. J. Escriva, “The Way of the Cross”, IX, 3).
39-40. It was Jesus’ custom to retire to the garden of Gethsemane, on the Mount
of Olives, in order to pray; this seems to be implied by both St John (Jn 18:1) and
St Luke (21:37). This explains how Judas knew the place (Jn 18:1-2).
As soon as he reaches the garden our Lord prepares to face his agony. Before
going aside to pray, he asks his disciples to pray as well because very soon they
will be tempted to lose faith when they see him being arrested (cf. Mt 26:31). At
the Last Supper Jesus had told them this would happen; now he warns them that
if they are not watchful and prayerful they will not be able to resist the temptation.
He also wants his apostles to keep him company when he suffers — which is why,
when he comes back and finds them sleeping, he sorrowfully complains to Peter:
“Could you not watch with me one hour?” (Mt 26:40).
We should stay close to our Lord and keep him company, even at times of diffi-
culty and tribulation; the command Jesus gives here shows us how to go about
this — by prayer and vigilance.
41. Jesus prays kneeling down. Many Gospel passages refer to our Lord’s prayer
but this is the only time his posture is described. It may well be that he knelt at
other times also. Kneeling is an external expression of a humble attitude toward
42. Jesus Christ is perfect God and perfect man: as God he is equal to the Father,
as man less than the Father. And therefore as man he could pray, he had to pray
— as he did throughout his life. Now, when his spiritual suffering is so intense that
he is in agony, our Lord addresses his Father with a prayer which shows both his
trust and his anguish: he calls him, with immense affection, “Abba”, Father, and
asks him to remove this cup of bitterness. What causes our Lord his intense pain?
Foreknowledge of all the sufferings involved in his passion, which he freely under-
goes; and the weight of all the sins of mankind, the unfaithfulness of the chosen
people and abandonment by his disciples. Christ’s sensitive soul felt the full im-
pact of all this. So intense is our Redeemer’s anguish that he actually sweats
blood, an indication of the extent of his human capacity to suffer. In this connec-
tion St Thomas More comments: “The fear of death and torments carries no stig-
ma of guilt but rather is an affliction of the sort Christ came to suffer, not to es-
cape. We should not immediately consider it cowardice for someone to feel fear
and horror at the thought of torments [. . .]. But to flee because of a fear of torture
and death when the circumstances make it necessary to fight, or to give up all
hope of victory and surrender to the enemy — that, to be sure, is a capital crime
according to the military code. But otherwise, no matter how much the heart of
the soldier is agitated and stricken by fear, if he still comes forward at the com-
mand of the general, goes on, fights and defeats the enemy, he has no reason to
fear that his former fear might lessen his reward in any way. As a matter of fact,
he ought to receive even more praise because of it, since he had to overcome not
only the enemy but also his own fear, which is often harder to conquer than the
enemy itself” (”De tristitia Christi”, in loc.).
Jesus perseveres in his prayer: “Not my will, but thine, be done” — which shows
that he had a human will and that it was in total harmony with the divine will. This
prayer of our Lord is also a perfect lesson in abandonment to and union with the
Will of God — features which should be found in our own prayer, particularly in mo-
ments of difficulty. “Are things going against you? Are you going through a rough
time? Say very slowly, as if relishing it, this powerful and manly prayer: ‘May the
most just and most lovable will of God be done, be fulfilled, be praised and eternal-
ly exalted above all things. Amen, Amen.’ I assure you that you will find peace”
(St. J Escrivá, “The Way”, 691).
43. In the Gospel we often see angels play a part in our Lord’s life. An angel an-
nounces the mystery of the Incarnation to the Blessed Virgin (Lk 1:26); choirs of
angels sing God’s praises when Jesus is born in Bethlehem (Lk 2:13); angels mi-
nister to him after he is tempted in the wilderness (Mt 4:11); and now the Father
sends an angel to comfort him in his agony.
Our Lord, who is God, accepts this consolation. The Creator of all, who is never
in need of the help of his creatures is ready to accept, as man, consolation and
help from those who can give it.
In addition to aiding Jesus in his work as Redeemer, angels also minister to the
Church in a special way. We often see them act in the early days of the Church
(cf. Acts 5:19; 7:30; 8:26; 12:7 27:23; etc.). God has given angels the mission of
accompanying men and helping them as they make their way on earth towards
their heavenly goal. The angels, says Paul VI, “intercede for us and come to the
aid of our weakness in brotherly care” (”Creed of the People of God”, 29). Their
caring presence should move us to rely constantly on our guardian angels, to
have recourse to them in our needs and to show them reverence.
47-48. Judas now gives the prearranged sign (cf. Mt 26:48); he comes forward to
kiss our Lord — a form of friendly greeting normal among the Jews. When greet-
ing someone like this, one would say Shalom, “peace”. In contemplating this sad
betrayal by an apostle, Jesus treats Judas in a very gentle way and yet shows up
the malice and ugliness of his treachery: for the last time he tries to win Judas
There is no limit to the goodness of a merciful God, and not even the greatest
sinner should despair of obtaining forgiveness. “Even to Judas,” St Thomas More
comments, “God gave many opportunities of coming to his senses. He did not
deny him his companionship. He did not take away from him the dignity of his
apostleship. He did not even take the purse-strings from him, even though he was
a thief. He admitted the traitor to the fellowship of his beloved disciples at the last
supper. He deigned to stoop down at the feet of the betrayer and to wash with his
most innocent and sacred hands Judas’ dirty feet, a fit symbol of his filthy mind
[. . .]. Finally when Judas, coming with his crew to seize him, offered him a kiss,
a kiss that was in fact the terrible token of his treachery, Christ received him
calmly and gently [. . .]. Therefore, since God showed his great mercy, in so ma-
ny ways even toward Judas, an apostle turned traitor, since he invited him to for-
giveness so often and did not allow him to perish except through despair alone,
certainly there is no reason why, in this life, anyone should despair of any imita-
tor of Judas. Rather, according to that holy advice of the apostle, ‘Pray for one
another, that you may be healed’ (Jas 5:16), if we see anyone wandering wildly
from the right road, let us hope that he will one day return to the path, and mean-
while let us pray humbly and incessantly that God will hold out to him chances
to come to his senses, and likewise that with God’s help he will eagerly seize
them, and having seized them will hold fast and not throw them away out of ma-
lice or let them slip away from him through wretched sloth” (”De tristitia Christi”,
51. St Luke, who was a physician (cf. Col 4:15), here by divine inspiration records
the last miracle worked by Jesus before his death. Ever merciful, Jesus restores
to Malchus the ear Peter cut off (cf. Jn 18:10) — thereby showing that he is still
in control of events, even in the present situation. Careless of his own safety he
cures one of the people who have come to arrest him. Also, Jesus, who is giving
himself up to death in obedience to his Father, refuses to have violence used in
his defence. In fulfilment of the prophecies he offers no resistance, he goes like a
sheep to the slaughter (cf. Is 52-53. The “captains of the temple” were a military
corps charged with policing the temple precincts; they reported to the high priest.
To them, as well as to the priests and elders, our Lord addresses these words.
“This is your hour,” that is, the time when you, the prince of darkness, can un-
leash all your hatred against me: our Lord shows that he knows his death is at
hand. Previous attempts to arrest him had failed; but this one will succeed, be-
cause, as he explains, God allows it to happen. This is the hour the Father has
fixed to accomplish the redemption of mankind; therefore, Jesus freely lets him-
self be taken prisoner.
55-62. Peter, who has been following the throng of people hustling our Lord, en-
ters the house of the high priest. While Jesus is undergoing his first trial the sad-
dest event in the apostle’s life takes place. The evangelists give vivid accounts of
the scene. Peter is in a state of shock and is all confused. Inevitably, that night,
people would have spoken about Jesus and his disciples a number of times. In
conversation Peter says three times that he does not know Jesus, that he is not
a follower of his. He does want to continue to follow our Lord, but wanting is not
enough: he has a duty not to disguise the fact that he is a disciple, even though
it is obviously risky to do so; that is why his denial is a grave sin. No one is jus-
tified in denying or disguising his faith, the fact that he is a Christian, a follower
After the cock crows Jesus’ glance meets Peter’s. The apostle is moved by this
silent and tender gesture. Peter realizes the seriousness of his sin and the fact
that it fulfils our Lord’s prophecy about his betrayal. “He went out and wept bitter-
ly.” Tears like these are the natural reaction of a noble heart moved by God’s
grace; this lovesorrow, this contrition, when it is sincere, leads a person to make
the firm resolution to do anything necessary to erase the least trace of the sin he
66-71. Our Lord’s first trial, which took place at night, was aimed at establishing
the charges to be laid against him (Mt 26:59-66; Mk 14:53-64). Now, as day
dawns, the Sanhedrin trial begins: this trial was required because Jewish custom
forbade night trials on serious charges — which meant that any decisions taken
at such trials had no legal validity. The authorities want to charge Jesus with a
crime carrying the death penalty, and they decide to establish that he has com-
mitted blasphemy; but the evidence is so inconsistent that it fails to provide a pre-
text for condemning him. Therefore the Sanhedrin endeavours to get our Lord to
say something which will compromise him. Although he knows that his reply pro-
vides the Pharisees with the pretext they are looking for, Jesus solemnly states,
to the indignation of those present, not only that he is the Messiah but that he is
the Son of God, equal to the Father; and he emphasizes that in him the ancient
prophecies are being fulfilled (cf. Dan 7:13; Ps 110:1). The members of the San-
hedrin know exactly what our Lord’s answer means and, tearing their garments
to show their horror, they call for his death: he deserves death because he has
committed the blasphemy of claiming to be on the same level as God.
Recognizing Jesus would involve their doing an about-turn in their attitude to-
wards him — which they would have found very embarrassing. They are too
proud to change, and they close the door on faith — a lesson to us all not to let
pride blind us to our mistakes and sins.
1-2. Jesus underwent two trials — a religious one, following the Jewish system,
and a civil one, following the Roman.
In the first trial, the Jewish authorities condemned Jesus to death on religious
grounds for claiming to be the Son of God; but they could not carry out the sen-
tence because the Romans reserved to themselves the exercise of the death
penalty. The Sanhedrin now arranges a new trial before Pilate in order to get the
Romans to execute the sentence they themselves have already passed. Events
are moving to fulfil Jesus’ prophecy that he will die at the hands of the Gentiles
(cf. Lk 18:32).
Due to the fact that the Romans were very tolerant of religious customs of sub-
ject peoples — and took no interest in them provided they did not lead to public
unrest — the Jewish leaders alter the charges they bring against Jesus: from now
on they accuse him of political crimes — of inciting rebellion against the Romans
and of seeking to become king. And they present these charges in such a way
that a verdict favourable to the accused might be interpreted in Rome as a trea-
cherous act: “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend; every one who
makes himself a king sets himself against Caesar” (Jn 19:12).
2. To give their charges a veneer of credibility, they produce half-truths, taken out
of context and interpreted in the worst possible light. Jesus had taught: “Render
therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are
God’s” (Mt 22:21; cf. the note on same), and in his preaching he stated that by
virtue of being the Messiah he was King as well as Prophet and Priest; but he al-
so preached that his was a spiritual kingship and therefore he energetically rejec-
ted all the people’s attempts to proclaim him king (cf. Jn 6:15).
3-4. Jesus openly confesses that he is King, but from what he says he makes
quite clear the spiritual nature of this kingship (Jn 18:33-38). Pilate becomes con-
vinced that he is guilty of no crime (Jn 18:38; 19:4) and that all the charges
brought against him are groundless (Mt 27:18). However, instead of efficiently de-
livering judgment in favour of the accused, he temporizes; he tries to gain popula-
rity at Jesus’ expense and settles for indicating that he is convinced of his inno-
cence — as if inviting the accusers to back off; but this only encourages them to
become vociferous and complicates the situation.
By behaving in this way Pilate becomes the classic example of a compromiser:
“A man, a ‘gentleman’, ready to compromise would condemn Jesus to death
again” (St J. Escrivá, “The Way”, 393).
7. Herod Antipas normally went up to Jerusalem for the Passover, staying in his
own palace in the centre of the city. By sending Jesus to Herod Pilate is trying to
rid himself of a troublesome case and build up a friendship useful to his own pol-
8-11. Our Lord adopts a very different attitude to Herod Antipas compared with
his attitude to Pilate. Herod was superstitious, sensual and adulterous. In spite
of his regard for John the Baptist, he had him beheaded to keep his oath to Salo-
me (cf. Mk 6:14-29). Now he tries to get Jesus to perform a miracle, as if Jesus
were a magician putting on a show for Herod’s entertainment. Jesus does not re-
ply to his flattery. Our Lord’s attitude is simple, stately and also severe. His elo-
quent silence is a perfect example of the way to deal with behaviour of this type.
Herod reacts by dressing Jesus in a rich robe, to make fun of him.
12. Psalm 2 said this in prophecy of the Messiah: “The kings of the earth set
themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and his anoin-
ted.” These words are now fulfilled to the letter, as the Book of the Acts points
out: “For truly in this city there were gathered together against thy holy servant
Jesus, whom thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles
and the people of Israel, to do whatever thy hand and thy plan had predestined
to take place” (Acts 4:27f).
17. Verse 17 — “Necesse autem habebat dimittere eis per diem festum, unum”
(in the Old Vulgate) — has not been included in the New Vulgate because it is
absent from most of the better Greek manuscripts.
24-25. Jesus condemned to death and made to carry the cross (cf. Jn 19:16-17)
is devoutly contemplated by Christians in the first and second stations of the Way
of the Cross. Pilate at last gives in to the Sanhedrin and condemns our Lord to
the most ignominious form of punishment, death by crucifixion.
It was customary for people condemned to crucifixion to be made to carry the in-
strument of their own death. Our Lord fulfils in his own person the prophecies of
Isaiah: “By oppression and judgment he was taken away; [. . .] he was cut off
out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they
made his grave with the wicked” (Is 53:8-9).
26. Christian piety contemplates this episode of the Passion in the fifth station
of the Way of the Cross. The soldiers force Simon to help Jesus carry the cross,
not because they feel pity for our Lord, but because they realize that he is get-
ting weaker and weaker and they are afraid he may die before reaching Calvary.
According to tradition, preserved in the third, seventh and ninth stations, Jesus
fell three times under the weight of the cross; but he got up again and lovingly
embraced it once more in obedience to his heavenly Father’s will, seeing in the
cross the altar on which he would give his life as a propitiatory Victim for the sal-
vation of mankind.
However, our Lord chose to be helped by Simon of Cyrene in order to show us
that we — whom Simon represents — have to become co-redeemers with him.
“Love for God invites us to take up the cross and feel on our own shoulders the
weight of humanity. It leads us to fulfill the clear and loving plans of the Father’s
will in all the circumstances of our work and life” (St J. Escrivá, “Christ Is Pas-
sing By”, 97). God the Father, in his providence, gave his Son this small conso-
lation in the midst of his terrible suffering — just as he sent an angel to comfort
him in his agony in Gethsemane (Lk 22:43).
Other aspects of this scene of the Gospel are commented on in notes on Mt 27:
32 and Mk 15:21.
27-31. The piety of these women shows that Jesus had friends as well as ene-
mies. If we bear in mind that Jewish traditions, as recorded in the Talmud, for-
bade wailing for people condemned to death, we will appreciate the value of
these women’s gesture.
“Among the people watching our Lord as he passes by are a number of women
who are unable to restrain their compassion and break into tears, perhaps recall-
ing those glorious days spent with Jesus, when everyone exclaimed in amaze-
ment: “bene omnia fecit” (Mk 7:37), he has done all things well.
“But our Lord wishes to channel their weeping towards a more supernatural mo-
tive, and he invites them to weep for sins, which are the cause of the Passion
and which will draw down the rigour of divine justice: ‘Daughters of Jerusalem,
do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. . . For if they
do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?’ (Lk 23:28, 31).
“Your sins, my sins, the sins of all men, rise up. All the evil we have done and
the good that we have neglected to do. The desolate panorama of the countless
crimes and iniquities which we would have committed, if he, Jesus, had not
strengthened us with the light of his most loving glance. How little a life is for
making atonement!” (St. J. Escriva, “The Way of the Cross”, VIII).
Christian devotion also includes in the Way of the Cross a pious tradition that a
woman, called Veronica (Berenice), approached Jesus and wiped his face with a
linen cloth — a brave action on her part, in view of the hostility of the crowd (sixth
station). And another station, the fourth, venerates Jesus’ meeting with his bles-
sed Mother on the way to Calvary, a sorrowful meeting which fulfils Simeon’s
prophecy to the Blessed Virgin (cf. Lk 2:35).
On the way to Calvary the only people who give Jesus consolation are women —
evidencing their bravery and religious sensitivity during this painful time in Jesus’
life; whereas only one man John — is to be seen.
In spite of his awful suffering, Jesus is mindful of the terrible times which are ap-
proaching. His words in response to the women’s lament are a prophecy about
the destruction of Jerusalem, which will come about within a few years.
The “green wood” refers to the just and innocent; the “dry wood”, to the sinner,
the guilty one. Jesus, the Son of God, is the only truly just and innocent man.
33. The crucifixion is contemplated in the eleventh station of the Way of the
Cross. The soldiers nail Jesus’ hands and feet to the beams. The purpose of this
punishment is to bring on a slow death, involving maximum suffering: “Now they
are crucifying our Lord, and with him two thieves, one on his right and one on his
left. Meanwhile, Jesus says: ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they
do’ (Lk 23:34).
“It is Love that has brought Jesus to Calvary. And once on the Cross, all his ges-
tures and all his words are of love, a love both calm and strong. With a gesture
befitting an Eternal Priest, without father or mother, without lineage (cf. Heb 7:3),
he opens his arms to the whole human race.
“With the hammer blows with which Jesus is being nailed, there resound the pro-
phetic words of Holy Scripture: ‘They have pierced my hands and my feet. I can
count all my bones, and they stare and gloat over me’ (Ps 22:17-18). “’My people,
what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me!’ (Mic 6:3).
“And we, our soul rent with sorrow, say to Jesus in all sincerity: I am yours and I
give my whole self to you; gladly do I nail myself to your Cross, ready to be in the
crossroads of this world a soul dedicated to you, to your glory, to the work of Re-
demption, the co-redemption of the whole human race” (St J. Escrivá, “The Way
of the Cross, XI).
“It is good for us to try to understand better the meaning of Christ’s death. We
must get beyond external appearances and clichés. [. . .] Let us, above all, come
close to Jesus in his death and to his cross which stands out in silhouette above
the summit of Golgotha. But we must approach him sincerely and with the interior
recollection that is a sign of Christian maturity. The divine and human events of
the Passion will then pierce our soul as words spoken to us by God to uncover
the secrets of our heart and show us what he expects of our lives” (St. J. Escriva,
“Christ Is Passing By”, 101).
Jesus’ terrible suffering on the cross clearly shows the gravity of the sins of men,
of my sin. This gravity is measured by the infinite greatness and honour of God,
the offended one. God, who is infinitely merciful and at the same time infinitely
just, exercised both these attributes: his infinite justice required an infinite repa-
ration, of which mere man was incapable; his infinite mercy found the solution:
the second person of the Trinity, taking on human nature, becoming truly man
while not ceasing to be true God, suffered the punishment which was man’s due.
In this way, by being represented in Jesus’ sacred humanity, men would be able
to make sufficient atonement to God’s justice. No words can express God’s love
for us as manifested on the cross. A living faith in the mystery of our redemption
will lead us to respond with gratitude and love: “We believe that our Lord Jesus
Christ redeemed us by the sacrifice on the Cross from original sin and from all
those personal sins to which we confess, so that the truth of the apostle’s words
is vindicated that where sin increased, grace abounded all the more’ (Paul VI,
“Creed of the People of God”, 17).
34. Jesus addresses the Father in a tone of supplication (cf. Heb 5:7). We can
distinguish two parts in his prayer — his simple request: “Father, forgive them,”
and the excuse he offers, “for they know not what they do.” We can see him as
one who practises what he preaches (cf. Acts 1:1) and as a model whom we
should imitate. He had taught us that we have a duty to forgive offences (cf. Mt
6:12-15; 18:21-35), and even to love our enemies (cf. Mt 5:44-45; Rom 12:14, 20),
because he had come into the world to offer himself as a victim “for the forgive-
ness of sins” (Mt 26:28; cf. Eph 1:7) and to enable us to obtain pardon.
The excuse which Jesus offers may at first take us by surprise: “for they know
not what they do.” His love, his perfect mercy and justice make maximum allo-
wance for factors rendering our sins less heinous. It is quite clear that the people
directly responsible were perfectly aware that they were condemning an innocent
person to death, that they were guilty of homicide; but they did not realize, in
these moments of passion, that they were also committing deicide. This is what
St Peter means when he tells the Jews, encouraging them to repent, that they
acted “in ignorance” (Acts 3:17), and St Paul adds that if they had understood the
hidden wisdom of God “they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Cor 2:8).
Jesus in his mercy excuses them on the grounds of ignorance.
In any sinful action there are always areas of darkness, passion, blindness, which
without taking away a person’s freedom and responsibility do enable him to carry
out an evil action through being attracted by apparently good aspects which that
action involves; and this does lessen the evil that we do.
Christ teaches us to forgive those who offend us and to look for excuses for them,
thereby leaving open the door to the hope of their pardon and repentance; only
God can be the ultimate judge of men. This heroic charity was practised by Chris-
tians from the very beginning. Thus, the first martyr, St Stephen, dies begging
God to pardon his executioners (cf. Acts 7:60). “Force yourself, if necessary, al-
ways to forgive those who offend you, from the very first moment. For the greatest
injury or offence that you can suffer from them is as nothing compared with what
God has pardoned you” (St J. Escrivá, “The Way”, 452).
35-37. The Roman governor’s soldiers join the Jewish people and their leaders
in mocking Jesus; thus, everyone — Jews and Gentiles — contributed to making
Christ’s passion even more bitter. But we should not forget that we too make a
mockery of our Lord every time we fall into sin or fail to respond sufficiently to
grace. This is why St Paul says that those who sin “crucify the Son of God on
their own account and hold him up to contempt” (Heb 6:6).
39-43. The episode of the two thieves invites us to admire the designs of divine
providence, of grace and human freedom. Both thieves are in the same position
in the presence of the Eternal High Priest as he offers himself in sacrifice for
them and for all mankind. One of them hardens his heart, despairs and blas-
phemes, while the other repents, prays with confidence to Christ and is promised
immediate salvation. “The Lord,” St Ambrose comments, “always grants more
than one asks: the thief only asked him to remember him, but the Lord says to
him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’ Life consists in
dwelling with Jesus Christ, and where Jesus Christ is there is his Kingdom” (”Ex-
positio Evangelii sec. Lucam”, in loc.). “It is one thing for man to judge someone
he does not know; another, for God, who can see into a person’s conscience.
Among men, confession is followed by punishment; whereas confession to God
is followed by salvation” (St John Chrysostom, “De Cruce et latrine”).
While we make our way through life, we all sin, but we can all repent also. God
is always waiting for us with his arms wide open, ready to forgive us. Therefore,
no one should despair: everyone should try to have a strong hope in God’s mer-
cy. But no one may presume that he will be saved, for none of us can be absolu-
tely certain of our final perseverance (cf. Council of Trent, “De Iustificatione”, can.
16). This relative uncertainty is a spur God gives us to be ever vigilant; this vigi-
lance in turn helps us progress in the work of our sanctification as Christians.
42. “Many times have I repeated that verse of the Eucharistic hymn: “Peto quod
petivit latro poenitens”, and it always fills me with emotion: to ask like the peni-
tent thief did! He recognized that he himself deserved that awful punishment. . . .
And with a word he stole Christ’s heart and ‘opened up for himself’ the gates of
heaven” (St J. Escrivá, “The Way of the Cross”, XII, 4).
43. In responding to the good thief, Jesus reveals that he is God, for he has po-
wer over man’s eternal destiny; and he also shows that he is infinitely merciful
and does not reject the soul who sincerely repents. Similarly by these words
Jesus reveals to us a basic truth of faith: “We believe in eternal life. We believe
that the souls of all those who die in the grace of Christ — whether they must
still make expiation in the fire of purgatory, or whether from the moment they
leave their bodies they are received by Jesus Christ into Paradise like the good
thief go to form that People of God which succeeds death, death which will be
totally destroyed on the day of the Resurrection when these souls are reunited
with their bodies” (Paul VI, “Creed of the People of God”, 28).
45. The darkening of the sun is a sign of the magnitude and gravity of the Lord’s
death (cf. the note on Mk 15:33). The tearing of the curtain of the temple shows
the end of the Old Covenant and the beginning of the New Covenant, sealed in
the blood of Christ (cf. the note on Mk 15:38).
46. The Way of the Cross contemplates Jesus’ death as the twelfth station.
Christ’s life is totally influenced by the fact that he is the only Son of the Father:
“I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the
world and going to the Father” (Jn 16:28). All along, his only desire was to do
the will of him who sent him (cf. Jn 4:34), who, as Christ himself says, “is with
me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him” (Jn 8:29).
At this, the climax of his life on earth, when he is apparently left totally on his
own, Christ makes an act of supreme confidence, throws himself into his Father’s
arms, and freely gives up his life. He was not forced to die nor did he die against
his will; he died because he wanted to die. “It was the peculiar privilege of Christ
the Lord to have died when he himself decreed to die, and to have died not so
much by external violence as by internal assent. Not only his death, but also its
time and place, were ordained by him. For thus Isaiah wrote: ‘He was offered be-
cause it was his own will’ (Is 53:7). The Lord, before his Passion, declared the
same of himself, ‘I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it
from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I
have power to take it again’ (Jn 10:17f)” (St Pius V, Catechism, 1, 6, 7).
“We know”, says St Paul, “that our old self was crucified with him so that the
sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. The
death he died he died to sin, once for all. . . . So you also must consider your-
selves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom 6:6, 10f). Therefore,
Vatican II explains, “This work of redeeming mankind [. . .] Christ the Lord
achieved principally by the paschal mystery of his blessed Passion, Resurrec-
tion from the dead, and glorious Ascension, whereby ‘dying, he destroyed our
death, and rising, he restored our life.’ For it was from the side of Christ as he
slept the sleep of death upon the Cross that there came forth ‘the wondrous sa-
crament of the whole Church’” (”Sacrosanctum Concilium”, 5).
47. The three Synoptic Gospels all report the profound reaction of the centurion,
the reaction of an upright man who, helped by grace, studies these events with
an openness to the mystery of the supernatural. The parallel accounts in Mat-
thew 27: 54 and Mark 15:39 show more clearly that the centurion recognized the
divinity of Jesus Christ. See the note on Mk 15:39.
48. Jesus’ redemptive death on the cross immediately begins to draw people to-
wards God by way of repentance: as he made his way to Calvary there was the
probable conversion of Simon of Cyrene and the lamentations of the women of
Jerusalem; at the cross, the repentance of the good thief, the effect of grace on
the Roman centurion, and the compunction felt by the crowd reported in this
verse. Jesus had prophesied, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all
men to myself” (Jn 12:32). This prophecy begins to come true on Golgotha, and
it will continue to be fulfilled until the end of time.
“On the Cross hangs our Lord’s — now lifeless — body. The people, ‘when they
saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts’ (Lk 23:48).
“Now that you have repented, promise Jesus that, with his help, you will not cru-
cify him again. Say it with faith. Repeat, over and over again: I will love you, my
God, because ever since you were born, ever since you were a child, you aban-
doned yourself in my arms, defenceless, trusting in my loyalty” (St J. Escrivá,
“The Way of the Cross”, XII, 5).
49. We should note here the presence of a number of women, some of whose
names have been recorded by St Matthew (27:56) and St Mark (15:40-41) Ma-
ry Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and Salome. The soldiers
would not have allowed them to approach the cross while Jesus was alive; but
the women would have waited, watching from a distance, and then come up
close to it, and unashamedly stood there (cf. Jn 19:25), impelled by their deep
love for Jesus Christ. “Woman is stronger than man, and more faithful, in the
hour of trial: Mary of Magdala and Mary Cleophas and Salome! With a group of
valiant women like these, closely united to our Lady of Sorrows, what work for
souls could be done in the world!” (St J. Escrivá, “The Way”, 982).
50-54. St John’s Gospel tells us that “Nicodemus also, who had at first come
to him by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred
pounds’ weight” (Jn 19:39). “Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus visit Jesus
secretly in ordinary times and in the time of triumph. But they are courageous
in the face of authority, declaring their love for Christ audacter boldly — in the
time of cowardice. Learn from them” (”The Way”, 841).
“With them I too will go up to the foot of the Cross; I will press my arms tightly
round the cold Body, the corpse of Christ, with the fire of my love. . .; I will un-
nail it, with my reparation and mortifications . . . ; I will wrap it in the new winding-
sheet of my clean life, and I will bury it in the living rock of my breast, where no
one can tear it away from me, and there, Lord, take your rest!
“Were the whole world to abandon you and to scorn you . . . , serviam!, I will
serve you, Lord” (St J. Escrivá, “The Way of the Cross”, XIV, 1).
Joseph of Arimathea’s and Nicodemus’ love for our Lord leads them to ignore the
Dangers — the hatred of their colleagues in the Sanhedrin, possible reprisals from
fanatics. They show the body of Jesus utmost reverence, doing everything re-
quired for its pious burial and thereby giving an example to every disciple of Christ
who should be ready to risk honour, position and wealth for love for his Lord. In
the thirteenth and fourteenth stations of the Cross Christian piety contemplates
the descent from the cross, and the noble actions of these two men, whose res-
pect God chose to reward by inscribing their names in the Gospel text (cf. the
note on Mt 15:43—46).
55-56. These holy women — who were familiar with the material poverty of our
Lord when he was born in Bethlehem, and in the course of his public ministry and
on the cross — do not skimp in showing veneration for the body of the Lord. When
the Christian people generously endow eucharistic worship they are simply show-
ing that they have learned well the lesson taught by these first disciples.
Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the
Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of
the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.
Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, and
by Scepter Publishers in the United States.
14. And when the hour was come, he sat down and the twelve apostles with him.
15. And he said to them, With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer:
16. For I say to you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.
17. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves:
18. For I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come.
CYRIL; As soon as the disciples had prepared the Passover, they proceed to eat it; as it is said, And when the hour was come, &c.
BEDE; By the hour of eating the Passover, He signifies the fourteenth day of the first month, far gone towards evening, the fifteenth moon just appearing on the earth.
THEOPHYL. But how is our Lord said to sit down, whereas the Jews eat the Passover standing? They say, that when they had eaten the legal Passover, they sat down according to the common custom, to eat their other food.
It follows, And he said to them, With desire have I desired to eat this Passover with you, &c.
CYRIL; He says this, because the covetous disciple was looking out for the time for betraying Him; but that he might not betray Him before the feast of the Passover, our Lord had not divulged either the house, or the man with whom He should keep the Passover. That this was the cause is very evident from these words.
THEOPHYL. Or He says, With desire have I desired; as if to say, This is My last supper with you, therefore it is most precious and welcome to Me; just as those who are going away to a distance, utter the last words to their friends most affectionately.
CHRYS. Or He says this, because after that Passover the Cross was at hand. But we find Him frequently prophesying of His own Passion, and desiring it to take place.
BEDE; He first then desires to eat the typical Passover, and so to declare the mysteries of His Passion to the world.
EUSEB. Or else; When our Lord was celebrating the new Passover, He fitly said, With desire have I desired this Passover, that is, the new mystery of the New Testament which He gave to His disciples, and which many prophets and righteous men desired before Him. He then also Himself thirsting for the common salvation, delivered this mystery, to suffice for the whole world. But the Passover was ordained by Moses to be celebrated in one place, that is, in Jerusalem. Therefore it was not adapted for the whole world, and so was not desired.
EPIPH. Hereby we may refute the folly of the Ebionites concerning the eating of flesh, seeing that our Lord eats the Passover of the Jews. Therefore He pointedly said, "This Passover" that no one might transfer it to mean another.
BEDE; Thus then was our Lord the approver of the legal Passover; and as He taught that it related to the figure of His own dispensation, He forbids it henceforth to be represented in the flesh. Therefore He adds, For I say to you, I will not any more eat thereof; until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. That is, I will no more celebrate the Mosaic Passover, until, being spiritually understood, it is fulfilled in the Church. For the Church is the kingdom of God; as in Luke, The kingdom of God is within you. Again, the ancient Passover, which He desired to bring to an end, is also alluded to in what follows;
And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take you, &c. For this gave He thanks, that the old things were about to pass away, and all things to become new.
CHRYS. Remember then when you sit down to meat that after the meal you must pray therefore satisfy your hunger, but with moderation, lest being overcharged you should not be able to bend your knees in supplication and prayer to God. Let us not then after our meals turn to sleep, but to prayer. For Christ plainly signifies this, that the partaking of food should not be followed by sleep or rest, but by prayer and reading the holy Scripture. It follows, For I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God come.
BEDE; This may be also taken literally, for from the hour of supper up to the time of resurrection He was about to drink no wine. Afterwards He partook both of meat and drink, as Peter testifies, Who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.
THEOPHYL. The resurrection is called the kingdom of God, because it has destroyed death. Therefore David also says, The Lord reigns. He has put on beauty, that is, a beautiful robe, having put off the corruption of the flesh. But when the resurrection comes, He again drinks with His disciples; to prove that the resurrection was not a shadow only.
BEDE; But it is far more natural, that as before of the typical lamb, so now also of the drink of the Passover, He should say that He would no more taste, until the glory of the kingdom of God being made manifest, the faith of the whole world should appear; that so by means of the spiritual changing of the two greatest commands of the law, namely, the eating and drinking of the Passover you might learn that all the Sacraments of the law were to be transferred to a spiritual observance.
19. And he took bread, and gave thanks, and broke it, and gave to them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.
20. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.
BEDE; Having finished the rites of the old Passover, He passes on to the new, which He desires the Church to celebrate in memory of His redemption, substituting for the flesh and blood of the lamb, the Sacrament of His own Flesh and Blood in the figure of the bread and wine, being made a Priest for ever after the order of Melchisedech. Hence it is said, And he look bread, and gave thanks, as also He had given thanks upon finishing the old feast, leaving us an example to glorify God at the beginning and end of every good work. It follows, And broke it. He Himself breaks the bread which He holds forth, to show that the breaking of His Body, that is, His Passion, will not be without His will. And gave to them, saying, This is my body which is given for you.
GREG. NYSS. For the bread before the consecration is common bread, but when the mystery has consecrated it, it is, and it is called, the Body of Christ.
CYRIL; Nor doubt that this is true; for He plainly says, This is my body; but rather receive the words of your Savior in faith. For since He is the Truth, He lies not. They rave foolishly then who say that the mystical blessing loses its power of sanctifying, if any remains are left till the following day. For the most holy Body of Christ will not be changed, but the power of blessing and the life giving grace is ever abiding in it. For the life-giving power of God the Father is the only-begotten Word, which was made flesh not ceasing to be the Word, but making the flesh life giving. What then? since we have in us the life of God, the Word of God dwelling in us, will our body be life-giving? But it is one thing for us by the habit of participation to have in ourselves the Son of God, another for Himself to have been made flesh, that is, to have made the body which He took from the pure Virgin His own Body. He must needs then be in a certain manner united to our bodies by His holy Body and precious Blood, which we have received for a life giving blessing in the bread and wine. For lest we should be shocked, seeing the Flesh and Blood placed on the holy altars, God, in compassion to our infirmities, pours into the offerings the power of life, changing them into the reality of His own flesh, that the body of life may be found in us, as it were a certain life-giving seed. He adds, Do this in commemoration of me.
CHRYS. Christ did this to bring us to a closer bond of friendship, and to betoken His love toward us, giving Himself to those who desire Him, not only to behold Him, but also to handle Him, to eat Him, to embrace Him with the fullness of their whole heart. Therefore as lions breathing fire do we depart from that table, rendered objects of terror to the devil.
BASIL; Learn then in what manner you ought to eat the Body of Christ, namely, in remembrance of Christ's obedience even to death, that they who live may no more live in themselves, but in Him who died for them, and rose again.
THEOPHYL. Now Luke mentions two cups; of the one we spoke above, Take this, and divide it among yourselves, which we may say is a type of the Old Testament; but the other after the breaking and giving of bread, He Himself imparts to His disciples. Hence it is added, Likewise also the cup after supper.
BEDE; He gave to them, is here understood to complete the sentence.
AUG. Or because Luke has twice mentioned the cup, first before Christ gave the bread, then after He had given it, on the first occasion he has anticipated, as he frequently does, but on the second that which he has placed in its natural order, he had made no mention of before. But both joined together make the same sense which we find in the others, that is, Matthew and Mark.
THEOPHYL. Our Lord calls the cup the New Testament, as it follows, This cup is the New Testament in my blood, which shall be shed for you, signifying that the New Testament has its beginning in His blood. For in the Old Testament the blood of animals was present when the law was given, but now the blood of the Word of God signifies to us the New Testament. But when He says, for you, He does not mean that for the Apostles only was His Body given, and His Blood poured out, but for the sake of all mankind. And the old Passover was ordained to remove the slavery of Egypt; but the blood of the lamb to protect the first-born. The new Passover was ordained to the remission of sins; but the Blood of Christ to preserve those who are dedicated to God.
CHRYS. For this Blood molds in us a royal image, it suffers not our nobleness of soul to waste away, moreover it refreshes the soul, and inspires it with great virtue. This Blood puts to flight the devils, summons angels, and the Lord of angels. This Blood poured forth washed the world, and made heaven open. They that partake of it are built up with heavenly virtues, and arrayed in the royal robes of Christ; yes rather clothed upon by the King Himself. And since if you come clean, you come healthfully; so if polluted by an evil conscience, you come to your own destruction, to pain and torment. For if they who defile the imperial purple are smitten with the same punishment as those who tear it asunder, it is not unreasonable that they who with an unclean heart receive Christ should be beaten with the same stripes as they were who pierced Him with nails.
BEDE; Because the bread strengthens, and the wine produces blood in the flesh, the former is ascribed to the Body of Christ, the latter to His Blood. But because both we ought to abide in Christ, and Christ in us, the wine of the Lord's cup is mixed with water, for John bears witness, The people are many waters.
THEOPHYL. But first the bread is given, next the cup. For in spiritual things labor and action come first, that is, the bread, not only because it is toiled for by the sweat of the brow, but also because while being eaten it is not easy to swallow. Then after labor follows the rejoicing of Divine grace, which is the cup.
BEDE; For this reason then the Apostles communicated after supper, because it was necessary that the typical passover should be first completed, and then they should pass on to the Sacrament of the true Passover. But now in honor of so great a Sacrament, the masters of the Church think right that we should first be refreshed with the spiritual banquet, and afterward with the earthly.
GREEK EX. He that communicates receives the whole Body and Blood of our Lord, even though he receive but a part of the Mysteries. For as one seal imparts the whole of its device to different substances, and yet remains entire after distribution, and as one word penetrates to the hearing of many, so there is no doubt that the Body and Blood of our Lord is received whole in all. But the breaking of the sacred bread signifies the Passion.
21. But, behold, the hand of him that betrays me is with me on the table.
22. And truly the Son of man goes, as it was determined: but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed.
23. And they began to inquire among themselves, which of them it was that should do this thing.
AUG. When our Lord had given the cup to His disciples, He again spoke of His betrayer, saying, But, behold, the hand of him that betrays me, &c.
THEOPHYL. And this He said not only to show that He knew all things, but also to declare to us His own especial goodness, in that He left nothing undone of those things which belonged to Him to do; (for He gives us an example, that even to the end we should be employed in reclaiming sinners;) and moreover to point out the baseness of the traitor who blushed not to be His guest.
CHRYS. Yet though partaking of the mystery, he was not converted. Nay, his wickedness is made only the more awful, as well because under the pollution of such a design, he came to the mystery, as that coming he was not made better, either by fear, gratitude, or respect.
BEDE; And yet our Lord does not especially point him out, lest being so plainly detected, he might only become the more shameless. But He throws the charge on the whole twelve that the guilty one might be turned to repentance. He also proclaims his punishment, that the man whom shame had not prevailed upon, might by the sentence denounced against him be brought to amendment. Hence it follows, And truly the Son of man goes , &c.
THEOPHYL. Not as if unable to preserve Himself, but as determining for Himself to suffer death for the salvation of man.
CHRYS. Because then Judas in the things which are written of him acted with an evil purpose, in order that no one might deem him guiltless, as being the minister of the dispensation. Christ adds, Woe to that man by whom he is betrayed.
BEDE; But woe also to that man, who coming unworthily to the Table of our Lord, after the example of Judas, betrays the Son, not indeed to Jews, but to sinners, that is, to his own sinful members. Although the eleven Apostles knew that they were meditating nothing against their Lord, yet notwithstanding because they trust more to their Master than themselves, fearing their own infirmities, they ask concerning a sin of which they had no consciousness.
BASIL; For as in bodily diseases there are many of which the affected are not sensible, but they rather put faith in the opinion of their physicians, than trust their own insensibility; so also in the diseases of the soul, though a man is not conscious of sin in himself, yet ought he to trust to those who are able to have more knowledge of their own sins.
24. And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.
25. And he said to them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.
26. But you shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that does serve.
27. For whether is greater, he that sits at meat, or he that serves? is not be that sits at meat? but I am among you as he that serves.
THEOPHYL. While they were inquiring among themselves who should betray the Lord, they would naturally go on to say to one another, "You are the traitor," and so become impelled to say, "I am the best, I am the greatest." Hence it is said, And there was also a strife among them which should be accounted the greatest.
GREEK EX. Or the strife seems to have arisen from this, that when our Lord was departing from the world, it was thought that some one must become their head, as taking our Lord's place.
BEDE; As good men seek in the Scriptures the examples of their fathers, that they may thereby gain profit and be humbled, so the bad, if by, chance they have discovered any thing blamable in the elect, most gladly seize upon it, to shelter their own iniquities thereby. Many therefore most eagerly read, that a strife arose among the disciples of Christ.
AMBROSE; If the disciples did contend, it is not alleged as any excuse, but held out as a warning. Let us then beware lest any contentions among us for precedence be our ruin.
BEDE; Rather let us look not what carnal disciples did, but what their spiritual Master commanded; for it follows, And he said to them, The kings of the Gentiles, &c.
CHRYS. He mentions the Gentiles, to show thereby how faulty it was. For it is of the Gentiles to seek after precedence.
CYRIL; Soft words are also given them by their subjects, as it follows, And they that exercise authority upon them, are called benefactors.
Now they truly as alien from the sacred law are subject to these evils, but your preeminence is in humility, as it follows, But you shall not be so.
BASIL; Let not him that is chief be puffed up by his dignity, lest he fall away from the blessedness of humility, but let him know that true humility is the ministering to many. As then he who attends many wounded and wipes away the blood from their wounds, least of all men enters upon the service for his own exaltation, much more ought he to whom is committed the care of his sick brethren as the minister of all, about to render an account of all, to be thoughtful and anxious. And so let him that is greatest be as the younger. Again, it is meet that those who are in the chief places should be ready to offer also bodily service, after our Lord's example, who washed His disciples' feet. Hence it follows, And he that is chief as he that does serve. But we need not fear that the spirit of humility will be weakened in the inferior, while he is being served by his superior, for by imitation humility is extended.
AMBROSE; But it must be observed, that not every kind of respect and deference to others betokens humility, for you may defer to a person for the world's sake, for fear of his power, or regard to your own interest. In that case you seek to edify yourself, not to honor another. Therefore there is one form of the precept given to all men, namely, that they boast not about precedence, but strive earnestly for humility.
BEDE; In this rule however, given by our Lord, the great have need of no little judgment, that they do not indeed like the kings of the Gentiles delight to tyrannize over their subjects, and be puffed up with their praises, yet notwithstanding that they be provoked with a righteous zeal against the wickedness of offenders.
But to the words of the exhortation He subjoins His own example, as it follows, For which is greater, he who sits at meat, or he that serves? But I am among you, &c.
CHRYS. As if He says, Think not that your disciple needs you, but that you do not need him. For I who need no one whom all things in heaven and earth need, have condescended to the degree of a servant.
THEOPHYL. He shows Himself to be their servant, when He distributes the bread and the cup, of which service He makes mention, reminding them that if they have eaten of the same bread, and drunk of the same cup, if Christ Himself served all, they ought all to think the same things.
BEDE; Or He speaks of that service wherewith, according to John, He their Lord and Master washed their feet. Although by the word itself serving, all that He did in the flesh may be implied, but by serving He also signifies that He pours forth His blood for us.
28. You are they which have continued with me in my temptations.
29. And I appoint to you a kingdom, as my Father has appointed to me;
30. That you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
THEOPHYL. As the Lord had denounced woe to the traitor, so on the other hand to the rest of the disciples He promises blessings, saying, You are they which have continued with me, &c.
BEDE; For not the first effort of patience, but long-continued perseverance, is rewarded with the glory of the heavenly kingdom for perseverance, (which is called constancy or fortitude of mind,) is, so to say, the pillar and prop of all virtues. The Son of God then conducts those who abide with Him in His temptations to the everlasting kingdom. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. Hence it follows, And I give to you a kingdom , &c.
AMBROSE; The kingdom of God is not of this world. But it is not equality with God, but likeness to Him, to which man must aspire. For Christ alone is the full image of God, on account of the unity of His Father's glory expressed in Him. But the righteous man is after the image of God, if for the sake of imitating the likeness of the Divine conversation, He through the knowledge of God despises the world. Therefore also we eat the Body and Blood of Christ, that we may be partakers of eternal life. Whence it follows, That you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom. For the reward promised to us is not food and drink, but the communication of heavenly grace and life.
BEDE; Or the table offered to all saints richly to enjoy is the glory of a heavenly life, w herewith they who hunger and thirst after righteousness shall be filled, resting in the long desired enjoyment of the true God.
THEOPHYL. He said this not as if they would have there bodily food, or as if His kingdom were to be a sensible one. For their life then shall be the life of angels, as He before told the Sadducees. But Paul also says that the kingdom of God is not meat and drink.
CYRIL; By means of the things of our present life He describes spiritual things. For they exercise a high privilege with earthly kings, who sit at their table as guests. So then by man's estimation He shows who shall be rewarded by Him with the greatest honors.
BEDE; This then is the exchange to the right hand of the Most High, that those who now in lowliness rejoice to minister to their fellow-servants. shall then at our Lord's table on high be fed with the banquet of everlasting life, and they who here in temptations abide with the Lord being unjustly judged, shall then come with Him as just judges upon their tempters. Hence it follows, And sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
THEOPHYL. That is, the unbelievers condemned out of the twelve tribes.
AMBROSE; But the twelve thrones are not as it were any resting-places for the bodily posture, but because since Christ judges after the Divine likeness by knowledge of the hearts, not by examination of the actions, rewarding virtue, condemning iniquity; so the Apostles are appointed to a spiritual judgment, for the rewarding of faith, the condemnation of unbelief, repelling error with virtue, inflicting vengeance on the sacrilegious.
CHRYS. What then will Judas also sit there? Observe what the lay, was which God gave by Jeremiah, If I have promised any good, and you are counted unworthy of it, I will punish you. Therefore speaking to His disciples He did not make a general promise, but added, You who have continued with me in my temptations.
BEDE; From the high excellence of this promise Judas is excluded. For before the Lord said this, Judas must be supposed to have gone out. They also are excluded whoever having heard the words of the incomprehensible Sacrament, have gone backwards.
31. And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:
32. But I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not: and when you are converted, strengthen your brethren.
33. And he said to him, Lord, I am ready to go with you, both into prison, and to death.
34. And he said, I tell you, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that you shall thrice deny that you know me.
BEDE; Lest the eleven should be boastful, and impute it to their own strength, that they almost alone among so many thousands of the Jews were said to have continued with our Lord in His temptations, He shows them, that if they had not been protected by the aid of their Master succoring them, they would have been beaten down by the same storm as the rest. Hence it follows, And the Lord said to Simon, Simon, behold Satan has desired you, that he may sift you as wheat. That is, he has longed to tempt you and to shake you, as he who cleanses wheat by winnowing. Wherein He teaches that no man's faith is tried unless God permits it.
THEOPHYL. Now this was said to Peter, because he was bolder than the rest, and might feel proud because of the things which Christ had promised.
CYRIL; Or to show that men being as nought, (as regards human nature, and the proneness of our minds to fall,) it is not meet that they should wish to be above their brethren. Therefore passing by all the others, He comes to Peter, who was the chief of them, saying, But I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not.
CHRYS. Now He said not, 'I have granted,' but I have prayed. For He speaks humbly as approaching to His Passion, and that He may manifest His human nature. For He who had spoken not in supplication, but by authority, Upon this rock I will build my Church, and I will give you the keys of the kingdom, how should He have need of prayer that He might stay one agitated soul? He does not say, "I have prayed that you deny not," but that you do not abandon your faith.
THEOPHYL. For albeit you are for a time shaken, yet you hold stored up, a seed of faith; though the spirit has shed its leaves in temptation, yet the root is firm. Satan then seeks to harm you, because he is envious of my love for you, but notwithstanding that I have prayed for you, you shall fall. Hence it follows, And when you are converted, strengthen your brethren. As if He says, After that you have wept and repented your denial of Me, strengthen your brethren, for I have deputed you to be the head of the Apostles. For this befits you who are with Me, the strength and rock of the Church. And this must be understood not only of the Apostles who then were, but of all the faithful who were about to be, even to the end of the world that none of the believers might despair, seeing that Peter though an Apostle denied his Lord, yet afterwards by penitence obtained the high privilege of being the Ruler of the world.
CYRIL; Marvel then at the superabundance of the Divine forbearance: lest He should cause a disciple to despair, before the crime was committed, He granted pardon, and again restored him to his Apostolic rank, saying, Strengthen your brethren.
BEDE; As if to say, As I by prayer protected your faith that it should not fail, so do you remember to sustain the weaker brethren, that they despair not of pardon.
AMBROSE; Beware then of boasting, beware of the world; he is commanded to strengthen his own brethren, who said, Master, we have left all, and followed you.
BEDE; Because the Lord said He had prayed for Peter's faith, Peter conscious of present affection and fervent faith, but unconscious of his coming fall, does not believe he could in any way fall from Christ. As it follows, And he said to him, Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.
THEOPHYL. He burns forth indeed with too much love, and promises what is impossible to him. But it be him as soon as he heard from the Truth that he was to be tempted, to be no longer confident. Now the Lord, seeing that Peter spoke boastfully, reveals the nature of his temptation, namely, that he would deny Him; I tell you, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that you thrice deny, &c.
AMBROSE; Now Peter although earnest in spirit, yet still weak in bodily inclination, is declared about to deny his Lord; for he could not equal the constancy of the Divine will. Our Lord's Passion has rivals, but no equal.
THEOPHYL. From hence we draw a great doctrine, that human resolve is not sufficient without the Divine support. For Peter with all his zeal, nevertheless when forsaken of God was overthrown by the enemy.
BASIL; We must know then, that God sometimes allows the rash to receive a fall, as a remedy to previous self-confidence. But although the rash man seems to have committed the same offense with other men, there is no slight difference. For the one has sinned by reason of certain secret assaults and almost against his will, but the others, having no care either for themselves or God, knowing no distinction between sin and virtuous actions. For the rash needing some assistance, in regard to this very thing in which he has sinned ought to suffer reproof. But the others, having destroyed all the good of their soul, must be afflicted, warned, rebuked, or made subject to punishment, until they acknowledge that God is a just Judge, and tremble.
AUG. Now what is here said concerning the foregoing denial of Peter is contained in all the Evangelists, but they do not all happen to relate it upon the same occasion in the discourse. Matthew and Mark subjoin it after our Lord had departed from the house where He had eaten the Passover but Luke and John before He went out from thence. But we may easily understand either that the two former used these words, recapitulating them, or the two others anticipating them: only it rather moves us, that not only the words but even the sentences of our Lord, in which Peter being troubled used that boast of dying either for or with our Lord, are given so differently, as rather to compel us to believe that he thrice uttered his boast at different parts of our Lord's discourse, and that he was thrice answered by our Lord, that before the cock crowed he should deny Him thrice.
35. And he said to them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked you any thing? And they said, Nothing.
36. Then said he to them, But now, he that has a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip, and he that has no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.
37. For I say to you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end.
38. And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said to them, It is enough.
CYRIL; Our Lord had foretold to Peter that he should deny Him; namely, at the time of His being taken. But having once made mention of His being taken captive, He next announces the struggle that would ensue against the Jews. Hence it is said, And he said to them, When I sent you without purse, &c. For the Savior had sent the holy Apostles to preach in the cities and towns the kingdom of heaven, bidding them to take no thought of the things of the body, but to place their whole hope of salvation in l km.
CHRYS. Now as one who teaches to swim, at first indeed placing his hands under his pupils, carefully supports them, but afterward frequently withdrawing his hand, bids them help themselves, nay even lets them sink a little; so likewise did Christ deal with His disciples. At the beginning truly He was present to them, giving them most richly abundance of all things; as it follows, And they said to them, Nothing.
But when it was necessary for them to show their own strength, He withdrew from them for a little His grace, bidding them do something of themselves; as it follows, But now he that has a purse, that is, wherein to carry money, let him take it, and likewise his scrip, that is, to carry provisions in. And truly when they had neither shoes, nor girdle, nor staff, nor money, they never suffered the want of any thing. But when He allowed them purse and scrip, they seem to suffer hunger, and thirst, and nakedness. As if He said to them, Hitherto all things have been most richly supplied to you, but now I would have you also experience poverty, therefore I hold you no longer to the former rule, but I command you to get purse and scrip. Now God might even to the end have kept them in plenty, but for many reasons He was unwilling to do so. First that they might impute nothing to themselves, but acknowledge that every thing flowed from God; secondly, that they might learn moderation; thirdly, that they might not think too highly of themselves. For this cause while He permitted them to fall into many unlooked for evils, He relaxed the rigor of the former law, lest it should become grievous and intolerable.
BEDE; For He does not train His disciples in the same rule of life, in time of persecution, as in the time of peace. When He sent them to preach, He ordered them to take nothing in the way, ordaining in truth, that He who preaches the Gospel should live by the Gospel. But when the crisis of death was at hand, and the whole nation persecuted both the shepherd and the Hock, He proposes a law adapted to the time, allowing them to take the necessaries of life, until the rage of the persecutors was abated, and the time of preaching the Gospel had returned. Herein He leaves us also an example, that at times when a just reason urges, we may intermit without blame somewhat of the strictness of our determination.
AUG. By no inconsistency then of Him who commands, but by the reason of the dispensation, according to the diversity of times are commandments, counsels, or permissions changed.
AMBROSE; But He who forbids to strike, why does He order them to buy a sword? unless perchance that there may be a defense prepared, but no necessary retaliation; a seeming ability to be revenged, without the will. Hence it follows, And he who has not, (that is, a purse,) let him sell his garment, and buy a sword,
CHRYS. What is this? He who said, If any one strike you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also, now arms His disciples, and with a sword only. For if it were fitting to be completely armed, not only must a man possess a sword, but shield and helmet. But even though a thousand had arms of this kind, how could the eleven be prepared for all the attacks and lying in wait of people, tyrants, allies, and nations, and how should they not quake at the mere sight of armed men, who had been brought up near lakes and rivers? We must not then suppose that He ordered them to possess swords, but by the swords He points at the secret attack of the Jews. And hence it follows, For I say to you, that this that is written must, be accomplished in me: And he was numbered with the transgressors.
THEOPHYL. While they were contending among themselves above concerning priority, He said, It is not a time of dignities, but rather of danger and slaughter. Behold I even your Master am led to a disgraceful death, to be reckoned with the transgressors. For these things which are prophesied of Me have an end, that is, a fulfillment. Wishing then to hint at a violent attack, He made mention of a sword, not altogether revealing it, lest they should be seized with dismay, nor did He entirely provide that they should not be shaken by these sudden attacks, but that afterwards recovering, they might marvel how He gave Himself up to the Passion, a ransom for the salvation of men.
BASIL; Or the Lord does not bid them carry purse and scrip and buy a sword, but predicts that it should come to pass, that in truth the Apostles, forgetful of the time of the Passion, of the gifts and law of their Lord, would dare to take up the sword. For often does the Scripture make use of the imperative form of speech in the place of prophecy. Still in many books we do not find, Let him take, or buy, but, he will take, he will buy.
THEOPHYL. Or He hereby foretell to them that they would incur hunger and thirst, which He implies by the scrip, and sundry kinds of misery, which he intends by the sword.
CYRIL; Or else; When our Lord says, He who has a purse, let him take it, likewise a scrip, His discourse He addressed to His disciples, but in reality He regards every individual Jew; as if He says, If any Jew is rich in resources, let him collect them together and fly. But if any one oppressed with extreme poverty applies himself to religion, let him also sell his cloak and buy a sword. For the terrible attack of battle shall overtake them, so that nothing shall suffice to resist it. He next lays open the cause of these evils, namely, that He suffered the penalty due to the wicked, being crucified with thieves. And when it shall have come at last to this, the word of dispensation will receive its end. But to the persecutors shall happen all that has been foretold by the Prophets. These things then God prophesied concerning what should befall the country of the Jews, but the disciples understood not the depth of His words, thinking they had need of swords against the coming attack of the traitor. Whence it follows; But they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords.
CHRYS. And in truth, if He wished them to use human aid, not a hundred swords would have sufficed; but if He willed not the assistance of man, even two are superfluous.
THEOPHYL. Our Lord then was unwilling to blame them as not understanding Him, but saying, It is enough, He dismissed them; as when we are addressing any one, and see that he does not understand what is said, we say, Well, let us leave him, lest we trouble him. But some say, that our Lord said, It is enough, ironically; as if He said, Since there are two swords, they will amply suffice against so large a multitude as is about to attack us.
BEDE; Or the two swords suffice for a testimony that Jesus suffered voluntarily. The one indeed was to teach the Apostles the presumption of their contending for their Lord, and His inherent virtue of healing; the other never taken out of its sheath, to show that they were not even permitted to do all that they could for His defense.
AMBROSE; Or, because the law does not forbid to return a blow, perhaps He says to Peter, as he is offering the two swords, It is enough, as though it were lawful until the Gospel; in order that there may be in the law, the knowledge of Justice; in the Gospel, perfection of goodness. There is also a spiritual sword, that you may sell your patrimony, and buy the word, by which the nakedness of the soul is clothed. There is also a sword of suffering, so that you may strip your body, and with the spoils of your sacrificed flesh purchase for yourself the sacred crown of martyrdom. Again it moves, seeing that the disciples put forward two swords, whether perhaps one is not of the Old Testament, the other of the New, whereby we are armed against the wiles of the devil. Therefore the Lord says, It is enough, because he wanted nothing who is fortified by the teaching of both Testaments.
39. And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him.
40. And when he was at the place, he said to them, Pray that you enter not into temptation.
41. And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,
42. Saying, Father, if you be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but yours, be done.
BEDE; As He was to be betrayed by His disciple, our Lord goes to the place of His wonted retirement, where He might most easily be found; as it follows, And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives.
CYRIL. By day He was in Jerusalem, but when the darkness of night came on He held converse with His disciples on the mount of Olives; as it is added, And his disciples followed.
BEDE; Rightly does He lead the disciples, about to be instructed in the mysteries of His Body, to the mount of Olives, that He might signify that all who are baptized of His death should be comforted with the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
THEOPHYL. Now after supper our Lord betakes Himself not to idleness or sleep, but to prayer and teaching. Hence it follows, And when he was at the place, he said to them, Pray, &c.
BEDE; It is indeed impossible for the soul of man not to be tempted. Therefore he says not, Pray that you be not tempted, but, Pray that you enter not into temptation, that is, that the temptation do not at last overcome you.
CYRIL; But not to do good by words only, He went forward a little and prayed; as it follows, And he was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast. You will every where find Him praying apart, to teach you that with a devout mind and quiet heart we should speak with the most high God. He did not betake Himself to prayer, as if He was in want of another's help, who is the Almighty power of the Father, but that we may learn not to slumber in temptation, but rather to be instant in prayer.
BEDE; He also alone prays for all, who was to suffer alone for all, signifying that His prayer is as far distant from ours as His Passion.
AUG. He was torn from them about a stone's cast, as though He would typically remind them that to Him they should point the stone, that is, up to Him bring the intention of the law which was written on stone.
GREG. NYSS. But what means His bending of knees? of which it is said, And he kneeled down, and prayed. It is the way of men to pray to their superiors with their faces on the ground, testifying by the action that the greater of the two are those who are asked. Now it is plain that human nature contains nothing worthy of God's imitation. Accordingly the tokens of respect which we evince to one another, confessing ourselves to be inferior to our neighbors, we have transferred to the humiliation of the Incomparable Nature. And thus He who bore our sicknesses and interceded for us, bent His knee in prayer, by reason of the man which He assumed, giving us an example, that we ought not to exalt ourselves at the time of prayer, but in all things be conformed to humility; for God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
CHRYS. Now every art is set forth by the words and works of him who teaches it. Because then our Lord had come to teach no ordinary virtue, therefore He speaks and does the same things. And so having in words commanded to pray, lest they enter into temptation, He does the same likewise in work, saying, Father, if you be willing, remove this cup from me. He said not the words, If you will, as if ignorant whether it was pleasing to the Father. For such knowledge was not more difficult than the knowledge of His Father's substance, which He alone clearly knew, according to John, As the Father knows me, even so have I known the Father. Nor says He this, as refusing His Passion. For He who rebuked a disciple, who wished to prevent His Passion, so as even after many commendations, to call him Satan, how should He be unwilling to be crucified? Consider then why it was so said. How great a thing was it to hear that the unspeakable God, who passes all understanding, was content to enter the virgin's womb, to suck her milk, and to undergo every thing human. Since then that was almost incredible which was about to happen, He sent first indeed Prophets to announce it, afterwards He Himself comes clothed in the flesh, so that you could not suppose Him to be a phantom. He permits His flesh to endure all natural infirmities, to hunger, to thirst, to sleep, to labor, to be afflicted, to be tormented; on this account likewise He refuses not death, that He might manifest thereby His true humanity.
AMBROSE; He says, then, If you will, remove this cup from me, as man refusing death, as God maintaining His own decree.
BEDE; Or He begs the cup to be removed from Him, not indeed from fear of suffering, but from His compassion for the first people, lest they should have to drink the cup first drunk by Him. Therefore He says expressly, not, Remove from Me the cup, but this cup, that is, the cup of the Jewish people, who can have no excuse for their ignorance in slaying Me, having the Law and the Prophets daily prophesying of Me.
DION. ALEX. Or when He says, Let this cup pass from me, it is not, let it not come to Me, for unless it had come it could not pass away. It was therefore when He perceived it already present that He began to be afflicted and sorrowful, and as it was close at hand, He says, let this cup pass, for as that which has passed can neither be said not to have come nor yet to remain, so also the Savior asks first that the temptation slightly assailing Him may pass away. And this is the not entering into temptation which He counsels to pray for. But the most perfect way? of avoiding temptation is manifested, when he says, Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done. For God is not a tempter to evil, but He wishes to grant us good things above what we either desire or understand. Therefore He seeks that the perfect will of His Father which He Himself had known, should dispose of the event, which is the same will as His own, as respects the Divine nature. But He shrinks to fulfill the human will, which He calls His own, and which is inferior to His Father's will.
ATHAN. For here He manifests a double will. One indeed human, which is of the flesh, the other divine. For our human nature, because of the weakness of the flesh, refuses the Passion, but His divine will eagerly embraced it, for that it was not possible that He should be holden of death.
GREG. NYSS. Now Apollinaris asserts that Christ had not His own will according to His earthly nature, but that in Christ exists only the will of God who descends from heaven. Let him then say what will is it which God would have by no means to be fulfilled? And the Divine nature does not remove His own will.
BEDE; When He drew near His Passion, the Savior also took upon Him the words of weak man; as when something threatens us which we do not wish to come to pass, we then through weakness seek that it may not be, to the end that we also may be prepared by fortitude to find the will of our Creator contrary to our own will.
43. And there appeared an angel to him from heaven, strengthening him.
44. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
45. And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow.
46. And said to them, Why sleep you? rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.
THEOPHYL. To make known to us the power of prayer that we may exercise it in adversity, our Lord when praying is comforted by an Angel.
BEDE; In another place we read that Angels came and ministered to Him. In testimony then of each nature, Angels are said both to have ministered to Him and comforted Him. For the Creator needed not the protection of His creature, but being made man as for our sakes He is sad, so for our sakes He is comforted.
THEOPHYL. But some say that the Angel appeared, glorifying Him, saying, O Lord, Yours is the power, for you are able to vanquish death, and to deliver weak mankind.
CHRYS. And because not in appearance but in reality He took upon Himself our flesh, in order to confirm the truth of the dispensation He submits to bear human suffering; for it follows, And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly.
AMBROSE; Many are shocked at this place who turn the sorrows of the Savior to an argument of inherent weakness from the beginning, rather than taken upon Him for the time. But I am so far from considering it a thing to be excused, that I never more admire His mercy and majesty; for He would have conferred less upon me had He not taken upon Him my feelings. For He took upon Him my sorrow, that upon me He might bestow His joy. With confidence therefore I name His sadness, because I preach His cross. He must needs then have undergone affliction, that He might conquer. For they have no praise of fortitude whose wounds have produced stupor rather than pain. He wished therefore to instruct us how we should conquer death, and what is far greater, the anguish of coming death. You smarted then, O Lord, not from your own but my wounds; for he was wounded for our transgressions. And perhaps He is sad, because that after Adam s fall tile passage by which we must depart from this world was such that death was necessary. Nor is it far from the truth that He v. as sad for His persecutors, who He knew would suffer punishment for their wicked sacrilege.
GREG. He has expressed also the conflict of our mind in itself, as death approaches, for we suffer a certain thrill of terror and dread, when by the dissolution of the flesh we draw near to the eternal judgment; and with good reason, for the soul finds in a moment that which can never be changed.
THEOPHYL. Now that the preceding prayer was of His human nature, not His divine, as the Arians say, is argued from what is said of His sweat, which follows, And his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
BEDE; Let no one ascribe this sweat to natural weakness, nay, it is contrary to nature to sweat blood, but rather let him derive therefrom a declaration to us, that He was now obtaining the accomplishment of His prayer, namely, that He might purge by His blood the faith of His disciples, still convicted of human frailty.
AUG. Our Lord praying with a bloody sweat represented the martyrdoms which should How from His whole body, which is the Church.
THEOPHYL. Or this is proverbially said of one who has sweated intensely, that He sweated blood; the Evangelist then wishing to show that He was moistened with large drops of sweat, takes drops of blood for an example. But afterwards finding His disciples asleep for sorrow, He upbraids them, at the same time reminding them to pray; for it follows, And when he rose from prayer and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping.
CHRYS. For it was midnight, and the disciples' eyes were heavy from grief, and their sleep was not that of drowsiness but sorrow.
AUG. Now Luke has not stated after which prayer He came to His disciples, still in nothing does he disagree with Matthew and Mark.
BEDE; Our Lord proves by what comes after, that He prayed for His disciples whom He exhorts by watching and prayer to be partakers of His prayer; for it follows, And he said to them, Why sleep you? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.
THEOPHYL. That is, that they should not be overcome by temptation, for not to be led into temptation is not to be overwhelmed by it. Or He simply bids us pray that our life may be quiet, and we be not cast into trouble of any kind. For it is of the devil and presumptuous, for a man to throw himself into temptation. Therefore James said not, "Cast yourselves into temptation," but, When you are fallen, count it all joy, making a voluntary act out of an involuntary.
47. And while he yet spoke, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve went before them, and drew near to Jesus to kiss him.
48. But Jesus said to him, Judas, betray you the Son of man with a kiss?
49. When they which were about him saw what would follow, they said to him, Lord, shall we smite with the sword?
50. And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear.
51. And Jesus answered and said, Suffer you thus far. And he touched his ear, and healed him.
52. Then Jesus said to the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and the elders, which were come to him, Be you come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves?
53. When I was daily with you in the temple, you stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness.
GLOSS. After first mentioning the prayer of Christ, St. Luke goes on to speak of His betrayal wherein He is betrayed by His disciple, saying, And while he yet spoke, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas.
CYRIL; He says, he that was called Judas, holding his name as it were in abhorrence; but adds, one of the twelve, to signify the enormity of the traitor. For he who bad been honored as an apostle became the cause of the murder of Christ.
CHRYS. For just as incurable wounds yield neither to severe nor soothing remedies, so the soul when once it is taken captive, and has sold itself to any particular sin, will reap no benefit from admonition. And so it was with Judas, who desisted not from His betrayal, though deterred by Christ by every manner of warning. Hence it follows, And drew near to Jesus to kiss him.
CYRIL; Unmindful of the glory of Christ, he thought to be able to act secretly, daring to make an especial token of love the instrument of his treachery.
CHRYS. Now we must not depart from admonishing our brethren, albeit nothing comes of our words. For even the streams though no one drink therefrom still flow on, and him whom you have not persuaded today, peradventure you may tomorrow. For the fisherman after drawing empty nets the whole day, when it was now late takes a fish. And thus our Lord, though He knew that Judas was not to be converted, yet ceased not to do such things as had reference to him. It follows, But Jesus said to him, Judas, betray you the Son of man with a kiss?
AMBROSE; It must be used I think by way of question, as if he arrests the traitor with a lover's affection.
CHRYS. And He gives him his proper name, which was rather like one lamenting and recalling him, than one provoked to anger.
AMBROSE; He says, Betray you with a kiss? that is, do you inflict a wound with the pledge of love? with the instruments of peace do you impose death? a slave, do you betray your Lord; a disciple, your master; one chosen, Him who chose you?
CHRYS. But He said not, "Betray you your Master, your Lord, your Benefactor," but the Son of man, that is, the humble and meek, who though He were not your Master and Lord, forasmuch as He has borne himself so gently toward you, should have never been betrayed by you.
AMBROSE; O great manifestation of Divine power, great discipline of virtue! Both the design of your traitor is detected, and yet forbearance is not withheld. He shows whom it is Judas betrays, by manifesting things hidden; He declares whom he delivers up, by saying, the Son of man, for the human flesh, not the Divine nature, is seized. That however which most confounds the ungrateful, is the thought that he had delivered up Him, who though He was the Son of God, yet for our sakes wished to be the Son of man; as if He said, "For you did I undertake, O ungrateful man, that which you betray in hypocrisy.
AUG. The Lord when He was betrayed first said this which Luke mentions, Betray you the Son of man with a kiss? next, what Matthew says, Friend, wherefore are you come? and lastly, what John records, Whom seek you?
AMBROSE; Our Lord kissed him, not that He would teach us to dissemble, but both that He might not seem to shrink from the traitor, and that He might the more move him by not denying him the offices of love.
THEOPHYL. The disciples are inflamed with zeal, and unsheathe their swords. But whence have they swords? Because they had slain the lamb, and had departed from the feast. Now the other disciples ask whether they should strike; but Peter, always fervent in defense of his Master, waits not for permission, but straightway strikes the servant of the High Priest; as it follows, And one of them smote, &c.
AUG. He who struck, according to John, was Peter, but he whom he struck was called Malchus.
AMBROSE; For Peter being well versed in the law, and full of ardent affection, knowing that it was counted righteousness in Phineas that he had killed the sacrilegious persons, struck the High Priest's servant.
AUG. Now Luke says, But Jesus answered and said, Suffer; you thus far; which is what Matthew records, Put your sword up into its sheath. Nor will it move you as contrary thereto, that Luke says here that our Lord answered, Suffer you thus far, as if He had so spoken after the blow to show that what was done had pleased Him so far, but He did not wish it to proceed farther, seeing that in these words which Matthew has given, it may rather be implied that the whole circumstance in which Peter used the sword was displeasing to our Lord.For the truth is, that upon their asking,
Lord, shall we strike with the sword? He then answered, Suffer you thus far, that is, be not troubled with what is about to happen. They must be permitted to advance so far, that is, to take Me, and so to fulfill the things which were written of Me. For he would not say, And Jesus answering, unless He answered this question, not Peter's deed. But between the delay of their words of question to our Lord and His answer, Peter in the eagerness of defense struck the blow. And two things cannot be said, though one may be said and another may be done, at the same time. Then, as Luke says, He healed him who was struck, as it follows, And he touched his ear, and healed him.
BEDE; For the Lord is never forgetful of His loving kindness. While they are bringing death upon the righteous, He heals the wounds of His persecutors.
AMBROSE; The Lord in wiping away the bloody wounds, conveyed thereby a divine mystery, namely, that the servant of the prince of this world, not by the condition of His nature but by guilt, should receive a wound on the ear, for that he had not heard the words of wisdom. Or, by Peter so willingly striking the ear, he taught that he ought not to have a ear outwardly, who had not one in a mystery. But why did Peter do this? Because he especially obtained the power of binding and loosing , therefore by his spiritual sword he takes away the interior ear of him who understands not. But the Lord Himself restores the hearing, showing that even they, if they would turn, might be saved, who inflicted the wounds in our Lord's Passion; for that all sin may be washed away in the mysteries of faith.
BEDE; Or that servant is the Jewish people sold by the High Priests to an unlawful obligation, who, by the Passion of our Lord, lost their right ear; that is, the spiritual understanding of the law. And this ear indeed is cut off by Peter's sword, not that he takes away the sense of understanding from those that hear, but manifests it withdrawn by the judgment of God from the careless. But the same right ear in those who among the same people have believed, is restored by the Divine condescension to its former office.
It follows, Then said Jesus to them, Are you come out as against a thief with swords and staves? &c.
CHRYS. For they had come at night fearing an outbreak of the multitude, therefore He says, "What need was there of these arms against one who was always with you? as it follows, When I was daily with you.
CYRIL; Whereby He does not blame the chiefs of the Jews that they had not sooner prepared their murderous designs against Him, but convicts them of having presumptuously supposed they had attacked Him against His will; as if He says, "You did not take Me then, because I willed it not, but neither could you now, did I not of My own accord surrender Myself into your hands." Hence it follows, But this is your hour, that is, a short time is permitted you to exercise your vengeance against Me, but the Father's will agrees with Mine. He also says, that this power is given to darkness, i.e. the Devil and the Jews, of rising in rebellion against Christ. And shell is added, And the power of darkness.
BEDE; As if He says, Therefore are you assembled against Me in darkness, because your power, wherewith you are thus armed against the light of the world, is in wherewith. But it is asked how Jesus is said to be addressing the chief priests, the officers of the temple, and the elders, who came to Him, whereas they are reported not to have gone of themselves, but to have sent their servants while they waited in the hall of Caiaphas? The answer then to this contradiction is, that they came not by themselves, but by those whom they sent to take Christ in the power of their command.
54. Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest's house. And Peter followed afar off.
55. And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them.
56. But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with him.
57. And he denied him, saying, Woman, I know him not.
58. And after a little while another saw him, and said, You are also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not.
59. And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilean.
60. And Peter said, Man, I know not what you say. And immediately, while he yet spoke, the cock crew.
61. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, Before the cock crow, you shall deny me thrice.
62. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.
AMBROSE; The wretched men understood not the mystery, nor had reverence to an outpouring of compassion so merciful, that even His enemies He suffered not to be wounded. For it is said, Then took they him, &c. When we read of Jesus being holden, let us guard against thinking that He is holden with respect to His divine nature, and unwilling through weakness, for He is held captive and bound according to the truth of His bodily nature.
BEDE; Now the Chief Priest means Caiaphas, who according to John was High Priest that year.
AUG. But first He was led to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas, as John says, then to Caiaphas, as Matthew says, but Mark and Luke do not give the name of the High Priest.
CHRYS. It is therefore said, to the house of the High Priest, that nothing whatever might be done without the consent of the chief of the Priests. For thither had they all assembled waiting for Christ. Now the great zeal of Peter is manifested in his not flying when he saw all the others doing so; for it follows, But Peter followed afar off.
AMBROSE; Rightly he followed afar off, soon about to deny, for he could never have denied if he had clung close to Christ. But herein must he be revered, that he forsook not our Lord, even though he was afraid. Fear is the effect of nature, solicitude of tender affection.
BEDE; But that when our Lord was going to His Passion, Peter followed afar off represents the Church about to follow indeed, that is, to imitate our Lord's Passion, but in a far different manner, for the Church suffers for herself, our Lord suffered for the Church.
AMBROSE; And by this time there was a fire burning in the house of the High Priest; as it follows, And when they had kindled afire, &c. Peter came to warm himself, because his Lord being taken prisoner, the heart of his soul had been chilled in him.
PSEUDO-AUG. For to Peter were delivered the keys of the kingdom of heaven, to him were entrusted an innumerable multitude of people, who were wrapped up in sin. But Peter was somewhat too vehement, as the cutting off the ear of the High Priest's servant ant betokens. If he then who was so stern and so severe had obtained the gift of not sinning, what pardon would he have given to the people committed to him? Therefore Divine Providence suffers him first to beholden of sin, that by the consciousness of his own fall he might soften his too harsh judgment towards sinners. When he wished to warm himself at the fire, a maid came to him, of whom it follows, But a certain maid beheld him, &c.
AMBROSE; What means it, that a maid is the first to betray Peter, whereas surely men ought the more easily to have recognized him, save that that sex should be plainly implicated in our Lord's murder, in order that it might also be redeemed by His Passion; But Peter when discovered denies, for better that Peter should have denied, than our Lord's word should have failed. Hence it follows, And he denied, saying, Woman, I know him not.
AUG. What ails you, Peter, your voice is suddenly changed? That mouth full of faith and love, is turned to hatred and unbelief. Not yet awhile is the scourge applied, not yet the instruments of torture. Your interrogator is no one of authority, who might cause alarm to the confessor. The mere voice of a woman asks the question, and she perhaps not about to divulge your confession, nor yet a woman, but a door-keeper, a mean slave.
AMBROSE; Peter denied, because he promised rashly. He does not deny on the mount, nor in the temple, nor in his own house, but in the judgment-hall of the Jews. There he denies where Jesus was bound, where truth is not. And denying Him he says, I know him not.
It were presumptuous to say that he knew Him whom the human mind can not grasp. For no one knows the Son but the Father. Again, a second time he denies Christ; for it follows, And after a little while another saw him, and said, You were also one of them.
AUG. And it is supposed that in the second denial he was addressed by two persons, namely, by the maid whom Matthew and Mark mention, and by another whom Luke speaks of. With respect then to what Luke here relates, And after a little while, &c. Peter had already gone out of the gate, and the cock had crowed the first time, as Mark says; and now he had returned, that, as John says, he might again deny standing by the fire. Of which denial it follows, And Peter said, Man, I am not.
AMBROSE, For he preferred to deny himself rather than Christ, or because he seemed to deny being of the company of Christ, he truly denied himself.
BEDE; In this denial then of Peter we affirm that not only is Christ denied by him who says that He is not Christ, but by him also, who, being a Christian, says he is not.
AMBROSE; He is also asked a third time; for it follows, And about the space of one hour after, another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him.
AUG. What Matthew and Mark call after a little while, Luke explains by saying, about the space of one hour after; but with regard to the space of time, John says nothing. Likewise when Matthew and Mark record not in the singular but in the plural number those who conversed with Peter, while Luke and John speak of one, we may easily suppose either that Matthew and Mark used the plural for the singular by a common form of speech, or that one person in particular addressed Peter, as being the one who had seen him, and that others trusting to his credit joined in pressing him. But now as to the words which Matthew asserts were said to Peter himself, Truly you are one of them, for your speech betrays you; as also those which to the same Peter, John declared to have been said, Did not I see you in the garden? whereas Mark and Luke state that they spoke to one another concerning Peter; we either believe that they held the right opinion who say that they were really addressed to Peter; (for what was said concerning him in his presence amounts to the same as if it had been said to him;) or that they were said in both ways, and that some of the Evangelists related them one way, some the other.
BEDE; But he adds, For he is a Galilean; not that the Galileans spoke a different language from the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who indeed were Hebrews, but that each separate province and country having its own peculiarities could not avoid a vernacular tone of speech.
It follows, And Peter said, know I know not what you say.
AMBROSE; That is, I know not your blasphemies. But we make excuse for him. He did not excuse himself. For an involved answer is not sufficient for our confessing Jesus, but an open confession is required. And therefore Peter is not represented to have answered this deliberately, for he afterwards recollected himself, and wept.
BEDE; Holy Scripture is often wont to mark the character of certain events by the nature of the times in which they take place. Hence Peter who sinned at midnight repented at cock-crow; for it follows, And immediately, while be yet spoke, the cock crew. The error he committed in the darkness of forgetfulness, he corrected by the remembrance of the true light.
AUG. The cock-crow we understand to have been after the third denial of Peter, as Mark has expressed it.
BEDE; This cock must, I think, be understood mystically as some great Teacher, who rouses the listless and sleepy, saying, Awake, you righteous, and sin not.
CHRYS. Marvel now at the case of the Master, who though in He was a prisoner, had exercised much forethought for His disciple, whom by a look He brought to Himself, and provoked to tears; for it follows, And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter.
AUG. How we should understand this requires some careful consideration; for Matthew says, Peter was sitting without in the hall, which he would not have said unless the transaction relating to our Lord were passing within. Likewise also, where Mark said, And as Peter was beneath in the hall, he shows that the things he had been speaking of took place not only within but in the upper part. How then did our Lord look upon Peter? not with His bodily face, since Peter was without in the hall among those who were warming themselves, while these things were going on in the inner part of the house. Wherefore, that looking upon Peter seems to me to have been done in a divine manner. And as it was said, Look you, and hear me, and Turn and deliver my soul, so I think the expression here used, The Lord turned and looked upon Peter.
BEDE; For to look upon him is to have compassion, seeing that not only while penance is being practiced, but that it may be practiced, the mercy of God is necessary.
AMBROSE; Lastly, those whom Jesus looks upon weep for their sins. Hence it follows, And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, Before the cock crow, you shall deny me thrice.
And he went out, and wept bitterly. Why did he weep? Because he sinned as man. I read of his tears, I do not read of his confession. Tears wash away an offense which it is shame to confess in words. The first and second time he denied and wept not, for as yet our Lord had not looked upon him. He denied the third time, Jesus looked upon him, and he wept bitterly. So then if you will obtain pardon, wash away your guilt in tears.
CYRIL. Now Peter did not dare to weep openly, lest he should be detected by his tears, but he went out and wept. He wept not because of punishment, but because he denied his beloved Lord, which was more galling than any punishment.
63. And the men that held Jesus mocked him, and smote him.
64. And when they had blindfolded him, they struck him on the face, and asked him, saying, Prophesy, who is it that smote you?
65. And many other things blasphemously spoke they against him.
66. And as soon as it was day, the elders of the people and the chief priests and the scribes came together, and led him into their council, saying,
67. Are you the Christ? Tell us. And he said to them, If I tell you, you will not believe:
68. And if I also ask you, you will not answer me, nor let me go.
69. Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God.
70. Then said they all, Are you then the Son of God? And he said to them, You say that I am.
71. And they said, What need we any further witness? for we ourselves have heard of his own mouth.
AUG. The temptation of Peter which took place between the mockings of our Lord is not related by all the Evangelists in the same order. For Matthew and Mark first mention those, then Peter's temptation; but Luke has first described the temptations of Peter, then the mockings of our Lord, saying, And the men that held Jesus mocked him, &c.
CHRYS. Jesus, the Lord of heaven and earth, sustains and suffers the mockings of the ungodly, giving us an example of patience.
THEOPHYL. Likewise the Lord of prophets is derided as a false prophet. It follows, And they blindfolded him. This they did as a dishonor to Him who wished to be accounted by the people as a prophet.
But He who was struck with the blows of the Jews, is struck also now by the blasphemies of false Christians. And they blindfolded Him, not that He should not see their wickedness, but that they might hide His face from them. But heretics, and Jews, and wicked Catholics, provoke Him with their vile actions, as it were mocking Him, saying, Who smote you? while they flatter themselves that their evil thoughts and works of darkness are not known by Him.
AUG. Now our Lord is supposed to have suffered these things until morning in the house of the High Priest, to which He was first led. Hence it follows, And as soon as it was day, the elders of the people and the chief priests and the scribes came together, and led him into their council, saying, Are you the Christ? &c.
BEDE; They wished not for truth, but were contriving calumny. Because they expected that Christ would come only as man, of the root of David, they sought this of Him, that if He should say, "I am the Christ," they might falsely accuse Him of claiming to Himself the kingly power.
THEOPHYL. He knew the secrets of their hearts, that they who had not believed His works would much less believe His words. Hence it follows, And he said to them, If I tell you, you will not believe, &c.
BEDE; For He had often , declared Himself to be the Christ; as when he said, I and my Father are one, and other such like things. And if I also ask you, you will not answer me. For He had asked them how they said Christ was the Son of David, whereas David in the Spirit called Him his Lord. But they wished neither to believe His words nor to answer His questions.
However, because they sought to accuse falsely the seed of David, they hear something still farther; as it follows, Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God.
THEOPHYL. As if he said, There is no time left to you any longer for discourses and teaching, but hereafter shall be the time of judgment, when you shall see the Son of man, sitting on the right hand of the power of God.
CYRIL; Whenever sitting and a throne are spoken of God, His kingly and supreme majesty is signified. For we do not imagine any judgment-seat to be placed, on which we believe the Lord of all takes His seat; nor again, that in any wise right hand or left hand appertain to the Divine nature; for figure, and place, and sitting, are the properties of bodies. But how shall the Son be seen to be of equal honor and to sit together on the same throne, if He is not the Son according to nature, having in Himself the natural property of the Father?
THEOPHYL. When then they heard this, they ought to have been afraid, but after these words they are the more frantic; as it follows, All said, &c.
BEDE; They understood that He called Himself the Son of God in these words, The Son of man shall sit on the right hand of the power of God.
AMBROSE; The Lord had rather prove Himself a King than call Himself one, that they might have no excuse for condemning Him, when they confess the truth of that which they lay against Him. It follows, And he said, You say that I am.
CYRIL; When Christ spoke this, the company of the Pharisees were very wroth, uttering shameful words; as it follows, Then said they, What need we any further witness? &c.
THEOPHYL. Whereby it the manifest, that the disobedient reap no advantage, when the more secret mysteries are revealed to them, but rather incur the heavier punishment. Wherefore such things ought to be concealed from them.
1. And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him to Pilate.
2. And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King.
3. And Pilate asked him, saying, Are you the King of the Jews? And he answered him and said, You say it.
4. Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man.
5. And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place.
AUG. Luke, after he had finished relating the denial of Peter, recapitulated all that took place concerning our Lord during the morning, mentioning some particulars which the others omitted; and so he has composed his narrative, giving a similar account with the rest, when he says, And the whole multitude of them arose, and led him to Pilate, &c.
BEDE; That the word of Jesus might be fulfilled which He prophesied of His own death, He shall be delivered to the Gentiles, that is, to the Romans. For Pilate was a Roman, and the Romans had sent him as governor to Judea.
AUG. He next relates what happens before Pilate, as follows, And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting our nation, &c. Matthew and Mark do not give this, though affirming that they accused Him, but Luke has laid open the very charges which they falsely brought against Him.
THEOPHYL. Most plainly are they opposed to the truth. For our Lord was so far from forbidding to give tribute, that He commanded it to be given. How then did He pervert the people? Was it that He might take possession of the kingdom? But this is incredible to all, for when the whole multitude wished to choose Him for their king, He was as aware of it, and fled.
BEDE; Now two charges having been brought against our Lord, namely, that He forbade to pay tribute to Caesar, and called Himself Christ the King, it may be that Pilate had chanced to hear that which our Lord spoke, Render to Caesar the things which be Caesar's; and therefore setting aside this accusation as a palpable lie of the Jews, he thought fit to ask concerning that alone of which he knew nothing, the saying about the kingdom; for it follows, Pilate asked him, saying, Are you the King of the Jews, &c.
THEOPHYL. It seems to me that he asked this question of Christ by way of deriding the wantonness or hypocrisy of the alleged charge. As if he said, you a poor humble naked man, with none to help You, are accused of seeking a kingdom, for which you would need many to help You, and much money.
BEDE; He answers the governor in the same words which He used to the Chief Priests, that Pilate might be condemned by his own voice; for it follows, And he answering said, You say.
THEOPHYL. Now they finding nothing else to support their calumny, have resort to the aid of clamor, for it follows, And they were the more fierce, saying, He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place. As if they said, He perverts the people, not in one part only, but beginning from Galilee He arrives at this place, having passed through Judea. I think then that they purposely made mention of Galilee, as desirous to alarm Pilate, for the Galileans were of a different sect and given to sedition, as, for example, Judas of Galilee who is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles.
BEDE; But with these words they accuse not Him, but themselves. For to have taught the people, and by teaching to have roused them from their former idleness, and doing this to have passed through the whole land of promise, was an evidence not of sin, but of virtue.
AMBROSE; Our Lord is accused and is silent, for He needs no defense. Let them cast about for defense who fear to be conquered. He does not then confirm the accusation by His silence, but He despises it by not refuting it. Why then should He fear who does not court safety? The Safety of all men forfeits His own, that He may gain that of all.
6. When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man were a Galilean.
7. And as soon as he knew that he belonged to Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time.
8. And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him.
9. Then he questioned with him in many words; but he answered him nothing.
10. And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused him.
11. And Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate.
12. And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends together: for before they were at enmity between themselves.
BEDE, Pilate having determined not to question our Lord concerning the above-mentioned accusation, is the rather glad now that an opportunity offers to escape from passing judgment upon Him. Hence it is said, When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man were a Galilean. And lest he should be compelled to pass sentence against one whom he knew to be innocent, and delivered for envy sends Him to be heard by Herod, preferring that he who was the Tetrarch of our Lord's country might be the person either to acquit or punish Him;
for it follows, And as soon as he knew that he belonged to Herod's jurisdiction.
THEOPHYL. Wherein he follows the Roman law, which provided that every man should be judged by the governor of his own jurisdiction.
GREG. Now Herod wished to make proof of Christ's fame, desiring to witness His miracles; for it follows, And when Herod saw Jesus, he was glad, &c.
THEOPHYL. Not as though he was about to gain any benefit from the sight, but seized with curiosity he thought he should see that extraordinary man, of whose wisdom and wonderful works he had heard so much. He also wished to hear from His mouth what He could say. Accordingly he asks Him questions, making a sport of Him, and ridiculing Him. But Jesus, who performed all things prudently, and who, as David testifies, orders His words with discretion, thought it right in such a case to be silent. For a word uttered to one whom it profits nothing becomes the cause of his condemnation. Therefore it follows, But he answered him nothing.
AMBROSE; He was silent and did nothing, for Herod's unbelief deserved not to see Him, and the Lord shunned display. And perhaps typically in Herod are represented all the ungodly, who if they have not believed the Law and the Prophets, cannot see Christ's wonderful works in the Gospel.
GREG. From these words we ought to derive a lesson, that whenever our hearers wish as if by praising us to gain knowledge from us, but not to change their own wicked course, we must be altogether silent, lest if from love of ostentation we speak God's word, both they who were guilty cease not to be so, and we who were not become so. And there are many things which betray the motive of a hearer, but one in particular, when they always praise what they hear, yet never follow what they praise.
GREG. The Redeemer therefore though questioned held His peace, though expected disdained to work miracles. And keeping Himself secretly within Himself, left those who were satisfied to seek for outward things, to remain thankless without, preferring to be openly set at nought by the proud, than be praised by the hollow voices of unbelievers. Hence it follows, And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently accused him.
And Herod with his men of war set him at nought, and mocked him, and arrayed him in a white robe.
AMBROSE; It is not without reason that He is arrayed by Herod in a white robe, as bearing a sign of His immaculate Passion, that the Lamb of God without spot would take upon Himself the sins of the world.
THEOPHYL. Nevertheless, observe how the Devil is thwarted by the thing which He does. He heaps up scorn and reproaches against Christ, whereby it is made manifest that the Lord is not seditious. Otherwise He would not have been derided, when so great a danger was afloat, and that too from a people who were held in suspicion, and so given to change. But the sending of Christ by Pilate to Herod, becomes the commencement of a mutual friendship, Pilate not receiving those who were subject to Herod's authority, as it is added, And they were made friends, &c. Observe the Devil every where uniting together things separate, that he may compass the death of Christ. Let us blush then, if for the sake of our salvation we keep not even our friends in union with us.
AMBROSE; Under the type also of Herod and Pilate, who from enemies were made friends by Jesus Christ, is preserved the figure of the people of Israel and the Gentile nation; that through our Lord's Passion should come to pass the future concord of both, yet so that the people of the Gentiles should receive the word of God first, and then transmit it by the devotion of their faith to the Jewish people; that they too may with the glory of their majesty clothe the body of Christ, which before they had despised.
BEDE; Or this alliance between Herod and Pilate signifies that the Gentiles and Jews, though differing in race, religion, and character, agree together in persecuting Christians
13. And Pilate, when he had called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people,
14. Said to them, you have brought this man to me, as one that perverts the people: and, behold, I, having examined him before you, have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof you accuse him:
15. No, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done to him.
16. I will therefore chastise him, and release him.
17. (For of necessity he must release one to them at the feast.)
18. And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas:
19. (Who for a certain sedition made in the city, and for murder, was cast into prison.)
20. Pilate therefore, willing to release Jesus, spoke again to them.
21. But they cried, saying, Crucify him, crucify him.
22. And he said to them the third time, Why, what evil has he dons? I have found no cause of death in him: I will therefore chastise him, and let him go.
23. And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified. And the voices of them and of the chief priests prevailed.
24. And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required.
25. And he released to them him that for sedation and murder was cast into prison, whom they had desired; but he delivered Jesus to their will.
AUG. Luke returns to those things which were going on before the governor, from which he had digressed in order to relate what took place with Herod; saying as follows, And Pilate, when he had called, yet from which we infer, that he has omitted the part wherein Pilate questioned our Lord what He had to answer to His accusers.
AMBROSE; Here Pilate, who as a judge acquits Christ, is made the minister of His crucifixion.
He is sent to Herod, sent back to Pilate, as it follows, Nor yet Herod, for I sent you to him, and behold nothing worthy of death is done to him. They both refuse to pronounce Him guilty, yet for fear's sake, Pilate gratifies the cruel desires of the Jews.
THEOPHYL. Wherefore by the testimony of two men, Jesus is declared innocent, but the Jews s His accusers brought forward no witness whom they could believe. See then how truth triumphs. Jesus is silent, and His enemies witness for Him the Jews make loud cries, and not one of them corroborates their clamor.
BEDE; Perish then those writings, which composed so long a time after Christ, convict not the accused of magical arts against Pilate, but the writers themselves of treachery and lying against Christ.
THEOPHYL. Pilate therefore lenient and easy, yet wanting in firmness for the truth, because afraid of being accused, adds, I will therefore chastise him and release him.
BEDE; As if he said, I will subject Him to all the scourgings and mockings you desire, but do not thirst after the innocent blood. It follows, For of necessity he must release one to them, &c. an obligation not imposed by a decree of the imperial law, but binding by the annual custom of the nation whom in such things he was glad to please.
THEOPHYL. For the Romans permitted the Jews to live according to their own laws and customs. And it was a natural custom of the Jews to seek pardon of the prince for those who were condemned as they asked Jonathan of Saul. And hence it is now added, with respect to their petition, And they cried all at once, Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas, &c.
AMBROSE; Not unreasonably do they seek the pardon of a murderer, who were themselves demanding the death of the innocent. Such are the laws of iniquity, that what innocence hates, guilt loves. And here the interpretation of the name affords a figurative resemblance, for Barabbas is in Latin, the son of a father. Those then to whom it is said, You are your father the Devil, are represented as about to prefer t the true Son of God the son of their father, that is, Anti Christ.
BEDE; Even to this day their request still clings to the Jews. For since when they had the choice given to them, they chose a robber for Jesus, a murderer for a Savior; rightly lost they both life and salvation, and became subject to such robberies and seditions among themselves as to forfeit both their country and kingdom.
THEOPHYL. Thus it came to pass, the once holy nation rages to slay, the Gentile Pilate forbids slaughter; as it follows, Pilate therefore spoke again to them, but they cried, out, Crucify, &c.
BEDE; With the worst kind of death, that is, crucifixion, they long to murder the innocent. For they who hung on the cross, with their hands and feet fixed by nails to the wood, suffered a prolonged death, that their agony might not quickly cease; but the death of the cross was chosen by our Lord, as that which having overcome the Devil, He was about to place as a trophy on the brows of the faithful.
THEOPHYL. Three times did Pilate acquit Christ, for it follows, And he said to them the third time, Why, what evil has he done? I will chastise him, and let him go.
BEDE, This chastisement wherewith Pilate sought to satisfy the people, lest their rage should go even so far as to crucify Jesus, John's words bear testimony that he not only threatened but performed together with mockings and scourgings. But when they saw all their charges which they brought against the Lord baffled by Pilate's diligent questioning, they resort at last to prayers only; entreating that He might be crucified.
THEOPHYL. They cry out the third time against to be that by this third voice, they may approve the murder to e their own, which by their entreaties they extorted; for it follows, And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required.
And he released him that for sedition and murder was cast in to prison, but delivered Jesus to their will.
CHRYS. For they thought they could add this, namely, that Jesus was worse than a robber, and so wicked, that neither for mercy's sake, or by the privilege of the feast, ought He to be let free.
26. And as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus.
27. And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him.
28. But Jesus turning to them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.
29. For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck.
30. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us.
31. For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?
32. And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death.
GLOSS. Having related the condemnation of Christ, Luke naturally goes on to speak of His crucifixion; as it is said, And as they led him away, they laid hold upon on Simon, &c.
AUG. But John relates that Jesus bore His own cross, from which is understood that He was Himself carrying His cross, when He went froth to that place which is called Calvary; but as they journeyed Simon was forced into the service on the road, and the cross was given him to carry as far as the place.
THEOPHYL. For no one else accepted to bear the cross, because the wood was counted an abomination. Accordingly upon Simon the Cyrenian they imposed as it were to his dishonor the bearing of the cross, which others refused. Here is fulfilled that prophecy of Isaiah, Whose government shall be upon his shoulder. For the government of Christ is His cross; for which the Apostle says, God has exalted him. And as for a mark of dignity, some wear a belt, others a head dress, so our Lord the cross. And if you seek, you will find that Christ does not reign in us save by hardships, whence it comes that the luxurious are the enemies of the cross of Christ.
AMBROSE; Christ therefore bearing His cross, already as a conqueror carried His trophies. The cross is laid upon His shoulders, because whether Simon or Himself bore it, both Christ bore it in the man, and the man in Christ. Nor do the accounts of the Evangelists differ, since the mystery reconciles them. And it is the rightful order of our advance that Christ should first Himself erect the trophy of His cross, then hand it down to be raised by His martyrs. He is not a Jew who bears the cross, but an alien and a foreigner, nor does he precede but follow, according as it is written, Let him take up his cross, and follow me.
BEDE, Simon is by interpretation "obedient", Cyrene "an heir" By this man therefore the people of the Gentiles are denoted who formerly foreigners and aliens to the covenant, have now by obedience been made heirs of God. But Simon coming out of a village, bears the cross after Jesus, because forsaking the pagan rites, he obediently embraces the footsteps of our Lord's Passion. For a village is in Greek called, from whence Pagans derive their name.
THEOPHYL. Or he takes up the cross of Christ, who comes from the village; that is, he leaves this world and its labors, going forward to Jerusalem, that is heavenly liberty. Hereby also we receive no slight instruction. For to be a master after the example of Christ, a man must himself first take up his cross, and in the fear of God crucify his own flesh, that he may so lay it upon those that are subject and obedient to him. But there followed Christ a great company of people, and of women.
BEDE; A large multitude indeed followed the cross of Christ, but with very different feelings. For the people who had demanded his death were rejoicing that they should see Him dying, the women weeping that he was about to die. But He was followed by the weeping only of women. Not because that vast crowd of men was not also sorrowful at His Passion, but because the less esteemed female sex could more freely give utterance to what they thought.
CYRIL; Women also are ever prone to tears, and have hearts easily disposed to pity.
THEOPHYL. He bids those who weep for him cast their eyes forward to the evils that were coming, and weep for themselves.
CYRIL; Signifying that in the time to come women would be bereft of their children. For when war breaks out upon the land of the Jews. All shall perish, both small and great. Hence it follows, For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, &c.
THEOPHYL. Seeing indeed that women shall cruelly roast their children, and the belly which had produced shall miserably again receive that which it bore.
BEDE; By these miserably again receive that which it bore.
BEDE; By these days He signifies the time of the siege and captivity which was coming upon them from the Romans, of which He had said before, Woe to them that are with child, and give suck in those days. It is natural, when captivity by an enemy is threatening, to seek for refuge in fastnesses or hidden places, where men may lie concealed. And so it follows, Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us. For Josephus relates, that when the Romans pressed hard upon them, the Jews sought hastily the caverns of the mountains, and the lurking places in the hills. It may be also that the words, Blessed are the barren, are to be understood of those of both sexes, who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake, and that it is said to the mountains and hills, Fall upon us, and Cover us, because all who are mindful of their own weakness, when the crisis of their temptations breaks upon them, have sought to be protected by the example, precept, and prayers, of certain high and saintly men.
It follows, But if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?
GREG. He has called Himself the life and strength of the Divine nature; but we who are mere men are called the dry wood.
THEOPHYL. As though He said to the Jews, If then the Romans have so raged against Me, a fruit-bearing and ever flourishing tree, what will they not attempt against you the people, who are a dry tree, destitute of every life-giving virtue, and bearing no fruit?
BEDE; Or as if He spoke to all: If I who have done no sin being called the tree of life, do not depart form the world without suffering the fire of my Passion, what torment think you awaits those who are barren of all fruits?
THEOPHYL. But the Devil, desiring to engender an evil opinion of our Lord, caused robbers also to be crucified with Him; whence it follows, And there were two other malefactors led with him to be put to death.
33. And when they were come to the place, in which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.
ATHAN, When mankind became corrupted, then Christ manifested His own body, that where corruption has been pass seen, there might spring up incorruption. Wherefore He is crucified in the place of Calvary; which place the Jewish doctors say was the burial-place of Adam.
BEDE; Or else, without the gate were the places where the heads of condemned criminals were cut off, and they received the name of Calvary, that is, beheaded. Thus for the salvation of all men the innocent is crucified among the guilty, that where sin abounded, there grace might much more abound.
CYRIL; The only-begotten Son of God did not Himself in His own nature in which He is God suffer the things which belong to the body, but rather in His earthly nature. For of one and the same Son both may be affirmed, namely, that He does not suffer in His divine nature, and that He suffered in His human.
EUSEB. But if, on the contrary, after His intercourse with men, He suddenly disappeared, flying away to avoid death, He might be likened by man to a phantom. And just as if any one wished to exhibit some incombustible vessel, which triumphed over the nature of fire, he would put it into the flame, and then directly draw it out from the flame unharmed; so the Word of God, wishing to show that the instrument which He used for the salvation of men was superior to death, exposed His mortal body to death to manifest His nature, then after a little rescued it from death by the force of His divine power. This is indeed the first cause of Christ's death. But the second is the manifestation of the divine power of Christ inhabiting a body. For seeing that men of old deified those who were destined to a like end with themselves, and whom they called Heroes and Gods, He taught that He alone of the dead must be acknowledged the true God, who having vanquished death is adorned with the rewards of victory, having trodden death under His feet. The third reason is, that a victim must be slain for the whole race of mankind, which being offered, the whole power of the evil spirits was destroyed, and every error put to silence. There is also another cause of the health-giving death, that the disciples with secret faith might behold the resurrection after death. Whereunto they were taught to lift up their own hopes, that despising death they might embark cheerfully in the conflict with error.
ATHAN. Now our Savior came to accomplish not His own death, but that of man, for He experienced not death who is Life. Therefore not by His own death did He put off the body, but He endured that which was inflicted by men. But although His body had been afflicted, and was loosed in the sight of all men, yet was it not fitting that He who should heal the sicknesses of others should have His own body visited with sickness. But yet if without any disease He had put off His body apart in some remote place, He would not be believed when speaking of His remote place, For death must precede resurrection; why then should He openly proclaim His resurrection, but die in secret? Surely if these things had happened secretly, what calumnies would unbelieving men have invented? How would the victory of Christ over death appear, unless undergoing it in the sight of all men. He had proved it to be swallowed up by the incorruption of His body? But you will say, At least He ought to have devised for Himself a glorious death, to have avoided the death of the cross. But if He had done this, He would have made Himself suspected of not having power over every kind of death. As then the champion by laying prostrate whomsoever the enemy has opposed to him is shown to be superior to all, so the Life of all men took upon Him that death which His enemies inflicted, because it was the most dreadful and shameful, the abominable death upon the cross, that having destroyed it, the dominion of death might be entirely overthrown. Wherefore His head is not cut off as John's was He was not sawn asunder as Isaiah, that He might preserve His body entire, and indivisible to death, and not become an excuse to those who ho would divide the Church. For He wished to bear the curse of sin which we had incurred, by taking upon Him the accursed death of the cross, as it is said, Cursed is he that hangs upon a tree. He dies also on the cross with outstretched hands, that with one indeed He may draw to Him the ancient people, with the other the Gentiles joining both to Himself. Dying also on the cross He purges the air of evil spirits, and prepares for us an ascent into heaven.
THEOPHYL. Because also by a tree death had entered, it must needs be that by a tree it should be abolished, and that the Lord passing unconquered through the pains of a tree should subdue the pleasures which flow from a tree.
GREG. NYSS. But the figure of the cross from one center of contact branching out into four separate terminations, signifies the power and providence of Him who hung upon it extending every where.
AUG. For not without reason did He choose this kind of death, in order that He might be the master of breadth and length, and heighth and depth. For breadth lies in that cross piece of wood which is fastened from above. This belongs to good works, because on it the hands are outstretched. Length lies in that which is seen reaching from the former piece to the ground, for there in a certain manner we stand, that is, abide firm or persevere. And this is applied to long-suffering. Heighth is in that piece of wood which is left reaching upwards from that which is fixed across, that is, to the head of the Crucified; for the expectation of those who hope for better things is upward. Again, that part of the wood which is fixed hidden in the ground, signifies the depth of unrestrained grace.
CHRYS. Two thieves also they crucified on the two sides, that He might be a partaker of their reproach; as it follows, And the thieves one on his right hand, the other on his left. But it did not so turn out. For of them nothing is said, but His cross is every where honored. Kings, laying aside their crowns, assume the cross on their purple, on their diadems, on their arms. On the consecrated table, throughout the whole earth, the cross glitters. Such things are not of men. For even in their lifetime those who have acted nobly are mocked by their own actions, and when they perish their actions perish also. But in Christ it is quite different. For before the cross all things were gloomy, after it all things are joyful and glorious, that you may know that not a mere man was crucified.
BEDE; But the two robbers crucified with Christ signify those who under the faith of Christ undergo either the pains of martyrdom, or the rules of a still stricter continence. But they do this for eternal glory, who imitate the actions of the thief on the right hand; while they who do it to gain the praise of men, imitate the thief on the left hand.
34. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
35. And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God.
36. And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar,
37. And saying, If you be the king of the Jews, save yourself.
CHRYS. Because the Lord had said, Pray for them that persecute you, this likewise He did, when He ascended the cross, as it follows, Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them, not that He was not able Himself to pardon them, but that He might teach us to pray for our persecutors, not only in word, but in deed also. But He says, Forgive them, if they should repent. For He is gracious to the penitent, if they are willing after so great wickedness to wash away their guilt by faith.
BEDE; For must we imagine here that He prayed in vain, but that in those who believed after His passion He obtained the fruit of His prayers? It must be remarked, however, that He prayed not for those who chose rather to crucify, than to confess Him whom they knew to be the Son of God, but for such as were ignorant what they did, having a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge, as He adds, For they know not what they do.
GREEK EX. But for those who after the crucifixion remain in unbelief, no one can suppose that they are excused by ignorance, because of the notable miracles that with aloud voice proclaimed Him to be the Son of God.
AMBROSE; It is important then to consider, in what condition He ascends the cross; for I see Him naked. Let him then who prepares to overcome the world, so ascend that he seek no the appliances of the world. Now Adam was overcome who sought for a covering. He overcame who laid aside His covering. He ascends such as nature formed us, God being our Creator. Such as the first man had dwelt in paradise, such did the second man enter paradise. But about to ascend the cross rightly, did He lay aside His royal garments, that you may know that He suffered not as God, but as man, though Christ is both.
ATHAN. He also who for our sakes took upon him all our conditions, put on our garments, the signs of Adam's death, that He might put them off, and in their stead clothe us with life and incorruption.
It follows, And they parted his raiment among them, and cast lots.
THEOPHYL. For perhaps many of them were in want. Or perhaps rather they did this as a reproach, and from a kind of wantonness. For what treasure did they find in His garments?
BEDE; But in the lot the grace of God seems to be commended; for when the lot is cast, we yield not to the merits of any person, but to the secret judgment of God.
AUG. This matter indeed was briefly related by the three first Evangelists, but John more distinctly explains how it was done.
THEOPHYL. They did it then mockingly. For when the rulers scoffed, what can we say of the crowd? For it follows, And the people stood, who in truth had entreated that He should be crucified, waiting, namely, for an end. And the rulers also with them derided.
AUG. Having mentioned the rulers, and said nothing of the priests, St. Luke comprehended under a general name all the chief men, so that hereby may be understood both the scribes and the elders.
BEDE; And these also unwillingly confess that He saved others, for it follows, Saying, He saved others, let him save himself, &c.
ATHAN. Now our Lord being truly the Savior wished not by saving Himself, but by saving His creatures, to be acknowledged the Savior. For neither is a physician by healing himself known to be physician by healing himself known to be a physician, unless he also gives proof of his skill towards the sick. So the Lord being the Savior had no need of salvation, nor by descending from the cross did He wish to be acknowledged the Savior, but by dying. For truly a much greater salvation does the death of the Savior bring to men, than the descent from the cross.
GREEK EX. Now the Devil, seeing that there was no protection for him, was at a loss, and as having no other resource, tried at last to offer him vinegar to drink. But he knew not that he was doing this against himself; for the bitterness of wrath caused by the transgression of the law, in which he kept all men bound, he now surrendered to the Savior, who took it and consumed it, in order that in the place of vinegar, He might give us wine to drink, which wisdom had mingled.
THEOPHYL. But the soldiers offered Christ vinegar, as it were ministering to a king,
for it follows, saying, If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.
BEDE; And it is worthy of remark, that the Jews blaspheme and mock the name of Christ, which was delivered to them by the authority of Scripture; whereas the soldiers, as being ignorant of the Scriptures, insult not Christ the chosen of God, but the King of the Jews.
38. And the superscription also was written over him in the letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
39. And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If you be Christ, save yourself and us.
40. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Do not you fear God, seeing you are in the same condemnation?
41. And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man has done nothing amiss.
42. And he said to Jesus, Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.
43. And Jesus said to him, Verily I say to you, Today shall you be with me in paradise.
THEOPHYL. Observe a second time the device of the devil turned against himself. For in letters of three different characters he published the accusation of Jesus, that in truth it might not escape one of the passers by, that He was crucified because He made Himself King. For it is said, In Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, by which it was signified, that the most powerful of the nations, (as the Romans,) the wisest, (as the Greeks,) those who most worshipped God, (as the Jewish nation,) must be made subject to the dominion of Christ.
AMBROSE; And rightly is the title placed above the cross, because Christ's kingdom is not of the human body, but of the power of God. I read the title of the King of the Jews, when I read, My kingdom is not of this world. I read the cause of Christ written above His head, when I read, And the Word was God. For the head of Christ is God.
CYRIL; Now one of the thieves uttered the same revilings as the Jews, but the other tried to check his words, while he confessed his own guilt, adding, We indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds.
CHRYS. Here the condemned performs the office of judge, and he begins to decide concerning truth who before Pilate confessed his crime only after many tortures. For the judgment of man from whom secret things are hid is of one kind; the judgment of God who searches the heart of another. And in the former case punishment follows after confession, but here confession is made to salvation. But he also pronounces Christ innocent, adding, But this man has done nothing wrong: as if to say, Behold a new injury, that innocence should be condemned with crime. We kill the living, He raised the dead. We have stolen from others, He bids us give up even what is our own.
The blessed thief thus taught those that stood by, uttering the words by which he rebuked the other. But when he saw that the ears of those who stood by were stopped up, he turns to Him who knows the hearts; for it follows, And he said to Jesus, Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom. You behold the Crucified, and you acknowledge Him to be your Lord. You see the form of a condemned criminal, and you proclaim the dignity of a king. Stained with a thousand crimes, you ask the Fountain of righteousness to remember your wickedness, saying, But I discover your hidden kingdom; and you turn away my public iniquities, and accept the faith of a secret intention. Wickedness usurped the disciple of truth, truth did not change the disciple of wickedness.
GREG. On the cross nails had fastened his hands and feet, and nothing remained free from torture, but his heart and tongue. By the inspiration of God, the thief offered to Him the whole which he found free, that as it is written, With the heart he might believe to righteousness, with the mouth he might confess to salvation. But the three virtues which the Apostle speaks of, the thief suddenly filled with grace both received and preserved on the cross. He had faith, for example, who believed that God would reign whom he saw dying equally with himself. He had hope who asked for an entrance into His kingdom. He preserved charity also zealously in his death, who for his iniquity reproved his brother and fellow-thief, dying for a like clime to his own.
AMBROSE; A most remarkable example is here given of seeking after conversion, seeing that pardon is so speedily granted to the thief. The Lord quickly pardons, because the thief is quickly converted. And grace is more abundant than prayer; for the Lord ever gives more than He is asked for. The thief asked that He should remember him, but our Lord answers, Verily I say to you, This day shall you be with me in Paradise. To be with Christ is life, and where Christ is, there is His kingdom.
THEOPHYL. And as every king who returns victorious carries in triumph the best of his spoils, so the Lord having despoiled the devil of a portion of his plunder, carries it with Him into Paradise.
CHRYS. Here then might one see the Savior between the thieves weighing in the scales of justice faith, and unbelief. The devil cast Adam out of Paradise. Christ brought the thief into Paradise before the whole world, before the Apostles. By a mere word and by faith alone he entered into Paradise, that no one after his sins might despair of entrance. Mark the rapid change, from the cross to heaven, from condemnation to Paradise, that you may know that the Lord did it all, not with regard to the thief's good intention, but His own mercy.
But if the reward of the good has already taken place, surely a resurrection will be superfluous. For if He introduced the thief into Paradise while his body remained in corruption without, it is clear there is no resurrection of the body. Such are the words of some, But shall the flesh which has partaken of the toil be deprived of the reward? Hear Paul speaking, Then must this corruptible put on incorruption. But if the Lord promised the kingdom of heaven, but introduced the thief into Paradise, He does not yet recompense him the reward. But they say, Under the name of Paradise He signified the kingdom of heaven, using a well-known name in addressing a thief who knew nothing of difficult teaching. Now some do not read it, This day shall you be with me in Paradise, but thus, I say to you on this day, and then follows, You shall be with me in Paradise. But we will add a still more obvious solution. For physicians when they see a man in a desperate state, say, He is already dead. So also the thief, since he no longer fears his falling back to perdition, is said to have entered Paradise.
THEOPHYL. This however is more true than all, that although they have not obtained all the promises, I mean, the thief and the other saints in order that without us they might not be made perfect, they are notwithstanding in the kingdom of heaven and Paradise.
GREG. NYSS. Here again, we must examine how the thief should be thought worthy of Paradise, seeing that a flaming sword prevents the entrance of the saints. But observe that the word of God describes it as turning about, so as it should obstruct the unworthy, but open a free entrance to life to the worthy.
GREG. Or that flaming sword is said to be turning, because that He knew the time would come when it must be removed; when He in truth should come, who by the mystery of His incarnation was to open to us the way of Paradise.
AMBROSE; But it must also be explained how the others, that is, Matthew and Mark, introduced two thieves reviling, while Luke, one reviling, the other resisting him. Perhaps this other at first reviled, but was suddenly converted. It may also have been spoken of one, but in the plural number; as in the Hebrews, They wandered in goat-skins, and they were sawn asunder; whereas Elijah alone is related to have had a goat-skin, and Isaiah to have been sawn asunder. But mystically, the two thieves represent the two sinful people who were to be crucified by baptism with Christ, whose disagreement likewise represents the difference of believers.
BEDE; For as many of us as were baptized in Christ Jesus, were baptized in His death; but we are washed; by baptism, seeing we were sinners. But some, in that they praise God suffering in the flesh, are crowned; others, in that they refuse to have the faith or works of baptism, are deprived of the gift which they have received.
44. And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.
45. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst.
46. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.
CYRIL; As soon as the Lord of all had been given up to be crucified, the whole framework of the world bewailed its rightful Master, and the light was darkened at mid-day, which was a manifest token that the souls of those who crucified Him would suffer darkness.
AUG. What is here said of the darkness, the other two Evangelists, Matthew and Mark confirm, but St. Luke adds the cause whence the darkness arose, saying, And the sun was darkened.
AUG. This darkening of the sun it is quite plain did not happen in the regular and fixed course of the heavenly bodies, because it was then the Passover, which is always celebrated at the full moon. But a regular eclipse of the sun does not take place except at new moon.
DIONYS. When owe were both at Heliopolis together, we both saw at the same time in a marvelous manner the moon meeting the sun, (for it was not then the time of new moon,) and then again from the ninth hour until evening supernaturally brought back to the edge of the sun's diameter. Besides, we observed that this obscuration began from the east, and having reached as far as the sun's western border at length returned, and that the loss and restoration of light took place not from the same side, but from opposite sides of the diameter. Such were the miraculous events of that time, and possible to Christ alone who is the cause of all things.
GREEK EX. This miracle then took place that it might be made known, that He who had undergone death was the Ruler of the whole creation.
AMBROSE; The sun also is eclipsed to the sacrilegious, that it may overshadow the scene of their awful wickedness; darkness was spread over the eyes of the unbelieving, that the light of faith might rise again.
BEDE; But Luke, wishing to join miracle to miracle, adds, And the veil of the temple was rent in two. This took place when our Lord expired, as Matthew and Mark bear witness, but Luke related it by anticipation.
THEOPHYL. By this then our Lord showed that the Holy of Holies should be no longer inaccessible, but being given over into the hands of the Romans, should be defiled, and its entrance laid open.
AMBROSE; The veil also is rent, by which is declared the division of the two people, and the profanation of the synagogue. The old veil is rent that the Church may hang up the new walls of faith. The covering of the synagogue is drawn up, that we may behold with the eyes of the mind the inward mysteries of religion now revealed to us.
THEOPHYL. Whereby it is signified that the veil which kept us asunder from the holy things which are in heaven, is broken through, namely, enmity and sin.
AMBROSE; It took place also at that time when every mystery of Christ's assumed mortality was fulfilled, and His immortality alone remained; as it follows, And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said.
BEDE; By invoking the Father He declares Himself to be the Son of God, but by commending His Spirit, He signifies not the weakness of His strength, but His confidence in the same power with the Father.
AMBROSE; The flesh dies that the Spirit may rise again. The Spirit is commended to the Father, that heavenly things also may be loosed from the chain of iniquity, and peace be made in heaven, which earthly things should follow.
CHRYS. Now this voice teaches us, that the souls of the saints are not henceforth shut up in hell as before, but are with God, Christ being made the beginning of this change.
ATHAN. For He commends to His Father through Himself all mankind quickened in Him; for we are His members; as the Apostle says, You are all one in Christ.
GREG. NYSS. But it becomes us to inquire how our Lord distributes Himself into three parts at once; into the bowels of the earth, as He told the Pharisees; into the Paradise of God, as He told the thief; into the hands of the Father, as it is said here. To those however who rightly consider, it is scarcely worthy of question, for He who by His divine power is in every place, is present in any particular place.
AMBROSE; His spirit then is commended to God, but though He is above He yet gives light to the parts below the earth, that all things may be redeemed. For Christ is all things, and in Christ are all things.
GREG. NYSS. There is another explanation that at the time of His Passion, His Divinity being once united to His humanity, left neither part of His humanity, but of its own accord separated the soul from the body, yet showed itself abiding in each. For through the body in which He suffered death He vanquished the power of death, but through the soul He prepared for the thief an entrance into Paradise. Now Isaiah says of the heavenly Jerusalem, which is no other than Paradise, Upon my hands I have painted your walls; whence it is clear, that he who is in Paradise dwells in the hands of the Father.
DAMASC. Or to speak more expressly, In respect of His body, He was in the grave, in respect of His soul, He was in hell, and with the thief in Paradise; but as God, on the throne with His Father and the Holy Spirit.
THEOPHYL. But crying with a loud voice He gives up the ghost, because He had in Himself the power of laying down His life and taking it up again.
AMBROSE; He gave up His Spirit, because He did not lose it as one unwilling; for what a man sends forth is voluntary, what he loses, compulsory.
47. Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man.
48. And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned.
49. And all his acquaintance, and the women that followed him from Galilee, stood afar off, beholding these things.
AUG. When after uttering that voice He immediately gave up the ghost, those who were present greatly marveled. For those who hung upon the cross were generally tortured by a prolonged death. Hence it is said, Now when the centurion saw, &c.
AUG. There is no contradiction in that the centurion seeing the earthquake marveled, whereas Luke says that he marveled, that Jesus while uttering the loud voice expired, showing what power He had when He was dying. But in that Matthew not only says, at the sight of the earthquake, but added, and at the things that were done, he has made it clear that there was ample room for Luke to say, that the centurion marveled at the death of the Lord. But because Luke also himself said, Now when the centurion saw what was done, he has included in that general expression all the marvelous things which took place at that hour, as if relating one marvelous event of which all those miracles were the parts and members. Again, because one Evangelist stated that the centurion said, Truly this man was the Son of God, but Luke gives the words, was a just man, they might be supposed to differ. But either we ought to understand that both these were said by the centurion, and that one Evangelist related one, another. Or perhaps, that Luke expresses the opinion of the centurion, in what respect he called Him the Son of God. For perhaps the centurion did not know Him to be the Only-begotten, equal to the Father, but called Him the Son of God, because he believed Him to be just, as many just persons are called the sons of God. But again, because Matthew added, those who were with the centurion, while Luke omits this, there is no contradiction, since one says what another is silent about. And Matthew said, They were greatly afraid; but Luke does not say that he feared, but that he glorified God. Who then does not see that by fearing he glorified God?
THEOPHYL. The words of our Lord seem now to be fulfilled, wherein He said, When I shall be lifted up I will draw all men to me. For when lifted upon the cross He drew to Him the thief and the centurion, besides some of the Jews also, of whom it follows, And all the people that came together smote their breasts.
BEDE; By their smiting their breasts as if betokening a penitential sorrow, two things may be understood; either that they bewailed Him unjustly slain whose life they loved, or that remembering that they had demanded His death, they trembled to see Him in death still farther glorified. But we may observe, that the Gentiles fearing God glorify Him with works of public confession; the Jews only striking their breasts returned silent home
AMBROSE; O the breasts of the Jews, harder than the rocks! The Judge acquits, the officer believes, the traitor by his death condemns his own crime, the elements flee away, the earth quakes, the graves are opened; the hardness of the Jews still remains immovable, though the whole world is shaken.
BEDE; Rightly then by the centurion is the faith of the Church signified, which in the silence of the synagogue bears witness to the Son of God. And now is fulfilled that complaint which the Lord makes to His Father, neighbor and friend have you put far from me, and mine acquaintance because of a misery. Hence it follows, And all his acquaintance stood afar off.
THEOPHYL. But the race of women formerly cursed remains and sees all these things; for it follows, And the women which followed him from Galilee, seeing these things. And thus they are the first to be renewed by Justification, or by the blessing which flows from His passion, as also from His resurrection.
50. And, behold, there was a man named Joseph a counselor; and he was a good man, and a just:
51. (The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God.
52. This man went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus.
53. And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen and laid it in a sepulcher that was hewn in stone wherein never man before was laid.
54. And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on.
55. And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulcher, and how his body was laid.
56. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.
GREEK EX. Joseph had been at one time a secret disciple of Christ, but at length bursting through the bonds of fear, and become very zealous, he took down the body of our Lord, basely hanging on the cross; thus gaining a precious Jewel by the meekness of His words. Hence it follows, And, behold, there was a man, named Joseph, a counselor.
BEDE; A counselor, or decurio, is so called because he is of the order of the curia or council, and administers the office of the curia. He is also wont to be called curialis, from his management of civil duties. Joseph then is said to have been of high rank in the world, but of still higher estimation before God; as it follows, A good man, and a just, of Arimathea, a city of the Jews, &c. Arimathea is the same as Ramatha, the city of Helcanah and Samuel.
AUG. Now John says, that Joseph was a disciple of Jesus. Hence it is also here added, Who also himself waited for the kingdom of God.
But it naturally causes surprise how he who for fear was a secret disciple should have dared to beg our Lord's body, which none of those who openly followed Him dared to do; for it is said, This man went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. We must understand then, that he did this from confidence in his rank, by which he might be privileged to enter familiarly into Pilate's presence. But in performing that last funeral rite, he seems to have cared less for the Jews, although it was his custom in hearing our Lord to avoid their hostility.
BEDE; So then being fitted by the righteousness of his works for the burial of our Lord's body, he was worthy by the dignity of his secular power to obtain it. Hence it follows, And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen. By the simple burial of our Lord, the pride of the rich is condemned who not even in their graves can be without their wealth.
ATHAN. They also act absurdly who embalm the bodies of their dead, and do not bury them, even supposing them to be holy. For what can be more holy or greater than our Lord's body? And yet this was placed in a tomb until it rose again the third day. For it follows, And he laid it in a hewn sepulcher.
BEDE; That is, hewn out of a rock, lest if it had been built of many stones, and the foundations of the tomb being dug up after the resurrection, the body should be said to have been stolen away. It is laid also in a new tomb, wherein never man before was laid, lest when the rest of the bodies remained after the resurrection, it might be suspected that some other had risen again. But because man was created on the sixth day, rightly being crucified on the sixth day our Lord fulfilled the secret of man's restitution. It follows, And it was the day of the(Greek), which means the preparation, the name by which they called the sixth day, because on that day they prepared the things which were necessary for the Sabbath. But because on the seventh day the Creator rested from His work, the Lord on the Sabbath rested in the grave. Hence it follows, And the Sabbath was dawning. Now we said above, that all His acquaintance stood afar off, and the women which followed Him. These then of His acquaintance, after His body was taken down, returned to their homes, but the women who more tenderly loved Him, following His funeral, desired to see the place where He was laid.
For it follows, And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulcher, and how his body was laid, that in truth they might make the offerings of their devotion at the proper time.
THEOPHYL. For they had not yet sufficient faith, but prepared as if for a mere man spices and ointments, after the manner of the Jews, who performed such duties to their dead. Hence it follows, And they returned, and prepared spices. For our Lord being buried, they were occupied as long as it was lawful to work, (that is, until sun-set,) in preparing ointments. But it was commanded to keep silence on the Sabbath, that is, rest from evening to evening. For it follows, And rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.
AMBROSE; Now mystically, the just man buries the body of Christ. For the burial of Christ is such as to have no guile or wickedness in it. But rightly did Matthew call the man rich, or by carrying Him that was rich he knew not the poverty of faith. The just man covers the body of Christ with linen. Do you also clothe the body of Christ with His own glory, that you may be yourself just. And if you believe it to be dead, still cover it with the fullness of His own divinity. But the Church also is clothed with the grace of innocence.
BEDE; He also wraps Jesus in clean linen, who ho has received Him with a pure mind.
AMBROSE; Nor without meaning has one Evangelist spoken of a new tomb, another of the tomb of Joseph. For the grave is prepared by those who are under the law of death; the Conqueror of death has no grave of His own. For what fellowship has God with the grave. He alone is enclosed in this tomb, because the death of Christ, although it was common according to the nature of the body, yet was it peculiar in respect of power. But Christ is rightly buried in the tomb of the just, that He may rest in the habitation of justice. For this monument the just man hews out with the piercing word in the hearts of Gentile hardness, that the power of Christ might extend over the nations. And very rightly is there a stone rolled against the tomb; for whoever has in himself truly buried Christ, must diligently guard, lest he lose Him, or lest there be an entrance for unbelief.
BEDE; Now that the Lord is crucified on the sixth day and rests on the seventh, signifies that in the sixth age of the world we must of necessity suffer for Christ, and as it were be crucified to the world. But in the seventh age, that is, after death, our bodies indeed rest in the tombs, but our souls with the Lord. But even at the present time also holy women, (that is, humble souls,) fervent in love, diligently wait upon the Passion of Christ, and if perchance they may be able to imitate Him, with anxious carefulness ponder each step in order, by which this Passion is fulfilled. And having read, heard, and called to mind all these, they next apply themselves to make ready the works of virtue, by which Christ may be pleased, in order that having finished the preparation of this present life, in a blessed rest they may at the time of the resurrection meet Christ with the frankincense of spiritual actions.
Catena Aurea Luke 21Catena Aurea Luke 22