2. Now when John had heard in the
prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,
3. And said unto him, "Art thou he that should
come, or do we look for another?"
4. Jesus answered and said unto them, "Go
and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see:
5. The blind receive their sight, and the
lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised
up, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them. [p. 404]
6. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not
be offended in me."
Gloss, non occ.: The Evangelist had shewn above how by Christ's miracles
and teaching, both His disciples and the multitudes had been instructed;
he now shews how this instruction had reached even to John's disciples,
so that they seemed to have some jealousy towards Christ; "John, when he
had heard in his bonds the works of Christ, sent two of his disciples to
say unto him, Art thou he that should come, or look we for another?
Greg., Hom in Ev. vi. 1: We must enquire how John, who is a prophet
and more than a prophet, who made known the Lord when He came to be baptized,
saying, "Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sine of the world!
-- why, when he was afterwards cast into prison, he should send his disciples
to ask, "Art thou he that should come, or look we for another?"
Did he not know Him whom he had pointed out to others; or was he uncertain
whether this was He, whom by foretelling, by baptizing, and by making known,
he had proclaimed to be He?
Ambrose, Ambros., in Luc 7:19: Some understand it thus; That it was
a great thing that John should be so far a prophet, as to acknowledge Christ,
and to preach remission of sin; but that like a pious prophet; he could
not think that He whom he had believed to be He that should come, was to
suffer death; he doubted therefore though not in faith, yet in love. So
Peter also doubted, saying, "This be far from thee, Lord; this shall not
be unto thee." [Matt 16:22]
Chrys.: But this seems hardly reasonable. For John was not in ignorance
of His death, but was the first to preach it, saying, "Behold the Lamb
of God, that taketh. away the sins of the world." For thus calling Him
the Lamb, he plainly shews forth the Cross; and no otherwise than by the
Cross did He take away the sins of the world. Also how is he a greater
prophet than these, if he knew not those things which all the prophets
knew; for Isaiah says, "He was led as a sheep to the slaughter." [Isa 53:7]
Greg.: But this question may be answered in a better way if we attend
to the order of time. At the waters of Jordan he had affirmed that this
was the Redeemer of the world: after he was thrown into prison, he enquires
if this was He [p. 405] that should come -- not that he doubted that this
was the Redeemer of the world, but he asks that he may know whether He
who in His own person had come into the world, would in His own person
descend also to the world below.
Jerome: Hence he frames his question thus, "Art thou he that is to come?"
Not, Art Thou He that hast come? And the sense is, Direct me, since I am
about to go down into the lower parts of the earth, whether I shall announce
Thee to the spirits beneath also; or whether Thou as the Son of God may
not taste death, but will send another to this sacrament?
Chrys.: But is this a more reasonable explanation than the other? for
why then did he not say, Art Thou He that is coming to the world beneath?
and not simply, "Art thou he that is to come?"
And the reason of his seeking to know, namely, that he might preach
Him there, is even ridiculous. For the present life is the time of grace,
and after death the judgment and punishment; therefore there was no need
of a forerunnner thither. Again, if the unbelievers who should believe
after death should be saved, then none would perish; all would then repent
and worship; "for every knee shall bow, both of things in heaven, and things
on earth, and things under the earth." [Phil 2:10]
Gloss, non occ.: But it ought to be observed, that Jerome and Gregory
did not say that John was to proclaim Christ's coming to the world beneath,
to the end that the unbelievers there might be converted to the faith,
but that the righteous who abode in expectation of Christ, should be comforted
by His near approach.
Hilary: It is indeed certain, that he who as forerunner proclaimed Christ's
coming, as prophet knew Him when He stood before him, and worshipped Him
as Confessor when He came to him, could not fall into error from such abundant
knowledge. Nor can it be believed that the grace of the Holy Spirit failed
him when thrown into prison, seeing He should hereafter minister the light
of His power to the Apostles when they were in prison.
Jerome: Therefore he does not ask as being himself ignorant. But as
the Saviour asks where Lazarus is buried, [margin note John 11:23] in order
that they who shewed Him the sepulchre might be so far prepared for faith,
and believe that the dead was verily raised again -- so John, about to
be put to death by Herod, sends his disciples to Christ, [p. 406] that
by this opportunity of seeing His signs and wonders they might believe
on Him, and so might learn through their master's enquiry.
But John's disciples had somewhat of bitterness and jealousy towards
the Lord, as their former enquiry shewed, "Why do thee and the Pharisees
fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?
Chrys.: Yet whilst John was with them he held them rightly convinced
concerning Christ. But when he was going to die, he was more concerned
on their behalf. For he feared that he might leave his disciples a prey
to some pernicious doctrine, and that they should remain separate from
Christ, to whom it had been his care to bring all his followers from the
Had he said to them, Depart from me, for He is better than me, he would
not have prevailed with them, as they would have supposed that he spoke
this in humility, which opinion would have drawn them more closely to him.
What then does he? He waits to hear through them that Christ works miracles.
Nor did he send all, but two only, (whom perhaps he chose as more ready
to believe than the rest,) that the reason of his enquiry might be unsuspected,
and that from the things themselves which they should see they might understand
the difference between him and Jesus.
Hilary: John then is providing not for his own, but his disciples' ignorance;
that they might know that it was no other whom he had proclaimed, he sent
them to see His works, that the works might establish what John had spoken;
and that they should not look for any other Christ, than Him to whom His
works had borne testimony.
Chrys.: So also Christ as knowing the mind of John, said not, I am He;
for thus He would have put an obstacle in the way of those that heard Him,
who would have at least thought within themselves, if they did not say,
what the Jews did say to Christ, "Thou bearest witness of thyself." [John
Therefore He would have them learn from His miracles, and so presented
His doctrine to them more clear, and without suspicion. For the testimony
of deeds is stronger than the testimony of words. Therefore He straightway
healed a number of blind, and lame, and many other, for the sake not of
John who had knowledge, but of others who doubted; as it follows, "And
Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and tell John what ye have heard
[p. 407] and seen; The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the Gospel preached to
Jerome: This last is no less than the first. And understand it as if
it had been said, Even "the poor;" that so between noble and mean, rich
and poor, there may be no difference in preaching. This approves the strictness
of the master, this the truth of the teacher, that in His sight every one
who can be saved is equal.
Chrys.: "And blessed is he who shall not be offended in me," is directed
against the messengers; they were offended in Him. But He not publishing
their doubts, and leaving it to their conscience alone, thus privately
introduced a refutation of them.
Hilary: This saying, that they were blessed from whom there should be
no offence in Him, shewed them what it was that John had provided against
in sending them. For John, through fear of this very thing, had sent his
disciples that they might hear Christ.
Greg., Hom in Ev., vi. 1: Otherwise; The mind of unbelievers was greatly
offended concerning Christ, because after many miracles done, they saw
Him at length put to death; whence Paul speaks, "We preach Christ crucified,
to the Jews a stumbling-block." [1 Cor 1:23]
What then does that mean, "Blessed is he who shall not be offended in
me," but a direct allusion to the humiliation of His death; as much as
to say, I do indeed wonderful works, but do not disdain to suffer humble
things, Because then I follow you in death, men must be careful not to
despise in Me My death, while they reverence My wonderful works.
Hilary: In these things which were done concerning John, there is a
deep store of mystic meaning. The very condition and circumstances of a
prophet are themselves a prophecy.
John signifies the Law; for the Law proclaimed Christ, preaching remission
of sins, and giving promise of the kingdom of heaven. Also when the Law
was on the point of expiring, (having been, through the sins of the people,
which hindered them from understanding what it spake of Christ, as it were
shut up in bonds and in prison,) it sends men to the contemplation of the
Gospel, that unbelief might see the truth of its words established by deeds.
Ambrose: And perhaps the two disciples sent are the two people; those
of the Jews, and those of the Gentiles who believed.
7. And as they departed, Jesus began to say
unto the multitudes concerning John, "What went ye out into the wilderness
to see? A reed shaken with the wind?
8. But what went ye out for to see? A man
clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings'
9. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet?
yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.
10. For this is he, of whom it is written,
Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way
Chrys., Hom xxxvii: Sufficient had been now done for John's disciples;
they returned certified concerning Christ by the wonderful works which
they had seen. But it behoved that the multitude also should be corrected,
which had conceived many things amiss from the question of John's disciples,
not knowing the purpose of John in sending them. They might say, He who
bare such witness to Christ, is now of another mind, and doubts whether
this be He. Doth he this because he hath jealousy against Jesus! Has the
prison taken away his courage? Or spake he before but empty and untrue
Hilary: Therefore that this might not lead them to think of John as
though he were offended concerning Christ, it continues, "When they had
gone away, Jesus began to speak to the multitudes concerning John."
Chrys.: "As they departed," that He should not seem to speak flattery
of the man; and in correcting the error of the multitude, He does not openly
expose their secret suspicions, but by framing his words against what was
in their hearts, He shews that He knows hidden things. But He said not
as to the Jews, "Why think ye evil in your hearts? though indeed it was
evil that they had thought; yet it proceeded not from wickedness, but from
ignorance; there- fore He spake not to them harshly, but answered for John,
shewing that he had not fallen from his former opinion. This He teaches
them, not by His word only, but by their [p. 409] own witness, the witness
of their own actions, as well as their own words.
"What went ye out into the wilderness to see?" As much as to say, Why
did ye leave the towns and go out into the wilderness? So great multitudes
would not have gone with such haste into the desert, if they had not thought
that they should see one great, and wonderful, one more stable than the
Pseudo-Chrys.: They had not gone out at this time into the desert to
see John, for he was not now in the deaert, but in prison; but He speaks
of the past time while John was yet in the desert, and the people flocked
Chrys.: And note that making no mention of any other fault, He clears
John of fickleness, which the multitude had suspected him of, saying, "A
reed shaken by the wind?"
Greg., Hom in Ev. vi. 2: This He proposes, not to assert, but to deny.
For if but a breath of air touch a reed, it bends it one way or other;
a type of the carnal mind, which leans to either side, according as the
breath of praise or detraction reaches it.
A reed shaken by the wind John was not, for no variety of circumstance
bent him from his uprightness. The Lord's meaning then is,
Jerome: Was it for this ye went out into the desert to see a man like
unto a reed, and carried about by every wind, so that in lightness of mind
he doubts concerning Him whom once he preached? Or it may be he is roused
against Me by the sting of envy, and he seeks empty honour by his preaching,
that he may thereof make gain. Why should he covet wealth? that he may
have dainty fare? But his food is locusts and wild honey. That he may wear
soft raiment? But his clothing is camel's hair. This is that He adds, "But
what went ye out for to see a man clothed in soft raiment?
Chrys.: Otherwise; That John is not as a waving reed, yourselves have
shewn by going out unto the desert to him. Nor can any say that John was
once firm, but has since become wilful and wavering; for as some are prone
to anger by natural disposition, others become so by long weakness and
indu1gence, so in inconstancy, some are by nature inconstant, some become
so by yielding to their own humour and self-indulgence. But John was neither
inconstant by natural disposition; this he means by saying, "What went
ye out for to see, a reed shaken by the wind?" Neither had he corrupted
an excellent nature by [p. 410] self-indulgence, for that he had not served
the flesh is shewn by his raiment, his abode in the desert, his prison.
Had he sought soft raiment, he would not have dwelt in the desert, but
in kings' houses; "Lo they that are clothed in soft raiment, are in kings'
Jerome: This teaches that an austere life and strict preaching ought
to shun kings' courts and the palaces of the rich and luxurious.
Greg., Hom in Ev., vi., 3: Let no one suppose that there is nothing
sinful in luxury and rich dress; if pursuit of such things had been blameless,
the Lord would not have thus commended John for the coarseness of his raiment,
nor would Peter have checked the desire of fine clothes in women as he
does, "Not in costly raiment." [1 Pet 3:3]
Aug., Doctr. Christ., iii, 12: In all such things we blame not the use
of the things, but the lust of those that use them. For whoever uses the
good things in his reach more sparingly than are the habits of those with
whom he lives, is either temperate or superstitious. Whoever again uses
them in a measure exceeding the practice of the good among whom he lives,
either has some [margin note: aliquid] meaning therein, or else is dissolute.
Chrys.: Having described his habits of life from his dwelling-place,
his dress, and the concourse of men to hear him, He now brings in that
he is also a prophet, "But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea,
I say unto you, and more than a prophet."
Greg, Hom. in Ev., vi. 5: The office of a prophet is to foretel things
to come, not to shew them present. John therefore is more than a prophet,
because Him whom he had foretold by going before Him, the same he shewed
as present by pointing Him out.
Jerome: In this he is also greater than the other prophets, that to
his prophetic privilege is added the reward of the Baptist that he should
baptize his Lord.
Chrys.: Then he shews in what respect He is greater, saying, "This is
he of whom it is written, Behold, I send my angel before thy face."
Jerome: To add to this great worthiness of John, He brings a passage
from Malachias, in which he is spoken of as an Angel. [ref Mal 3:1] We
must suppose that John is here called an Angel, not as partaking the Angelic
nature, but from the dignity of his office as a forerunner of the Lord.
Greg.: For the Greek word Angel, is in Latin Nuntius, 'a messenger.'
He therefore who came to bear a heavenly message is rightly called an Angel,
that [p. 411] he may preserve in his title the dignity which he performs
in his office.
Chrys.: He shews wherein it is that John is greater than the Prophets,
namely, in that he is nigh unto Christ, as he says, "I send before thy
face," that is, near Thee, as those that walk next to the king's chariot
are more illustrious than others, so likewise is John because of his nearness
Pseudo-Chrys.: Also the other Prophets were sent to announce Christ's
coming, but John to prepare His way, as it follows, "who shall make ready
thy way before thee;"
Gloss, interlin.: That is, shall open the hearts of Thy hearers by preaching
repentance and baptizing.
Jerome: Mystically; The desert is that which is deserted of the Holy
Spirit, where there is no habitation of God; in the reed is signified a
man who in outward show lives a pious life, but lacks all real fruit within
himself, fair outside, within hollow, moved with every breath of wind,
that is, with every impulse of unclean spirits, having no firmness to remain
still, devoid of the marrow of the soul; by the garment wherewith his body
is clothed is his mind shewn, that it is lost in luxury and self-indulgence.
The kings are the fallen angels; they are they who are powerful in this
life, and the lords of this world. Thus, "They that are clothed in soft
raiment are in kings' houses;" that is, those whose bodies are enervated
and destroyed by luxury, it is clear are possessed by demons.
Greg.: Also John was not "clothed in soft raiment," that is, he did
not encourage sinners in their sinful life by speaking smooth things, but
rebuked them with sharpness and rigour, saying, "Generation of vipers,
&c." [Matt 3:7]