John xix. 16-18.-"Then delivered he Him therefore unto them to be
crucified. And they took Jesus, and led Him away. And He, bearing His Cross,
went forth into a place called the place of a skull, where they crucified
[1.] `Successes' have terrible power to cast down or draw aside those
who take not heed. Thus the Jews, who at first enjoyed the influence of
God, sought the law of royalty from the Gentiles, and in the wilderness
after the manna remembered the onions. In the same way here, refusing the
Kingdom of Christ, they invited to themselves that of Caesar. Wherefore
God set a king over them, according to their own decision. When then Pilate
heard these things, he delivered Him to be crucified. Utterly without reason.
For when he ought to have enquired whether Christ had aimed at sovereign
power, he pronounced the sentence through fear alone. Yet that this might
not befall him, Christ said beforehand, "My kingdom is not of this world";
but he having given himself wholly up to present things, would practice
no great amount of wisdom. And yet his wife's dream should have been sufficient
to terrify him; but by none of these things was he made better, nor did
he look to heaven, but delivered Him up. And now they laid the cross upon
Him as a malefactor. For even the wood they abominated, and endured not
even to touch it. This was also the case in the type; for Isaac bare the
wood. But then the matter stopped at the will of his father, for it was
the type; while here it proceeded to action, for it was the reality.
"And He came to the place of a skull." Some say that Adam died there,
and there lieth; and that Jesus in this place where death had reigned,
there also set up the trophy. For He went forth bearing the Cross as a
trophy over the tyranny of death: and as conquerors do, so He bare upon
His shoulders the symbol of victory. What matter if the Jews did these
things with a different intent. They crucified Him too with thieves, in
this also unintentionally fulfilling prophecy; for what they did for insult
contributed to the truth, that thou mayest learn how great is its power,
since the Prophet had foretold of old, that "He was numbered with the transgressors."
(Isa. liii. 12.) The devil therefore wished to cast a veil over what was
done, but was unable; for the three were crucified, but Jesus alone was
glorious, that thou mayest learn, that His power effected all. Yet the
miracles took place when the three had been nailed to the cross; but no
one attributed anything of what was done to either of those others, but
to Jesus only; so entirely was the plot of the devil rendered vain, and
all returned upon his own head. For even of these two, one was saved. He
therefore did not insult the glory of the Cross, but contributed to it
not a little. For it was not a less matter than shaking the rocks, to change
a thief upon the cross, and to bring him unto Paradise.
Ver. 19. "And Pilate wrote a title."
At the same time requiting the Jews, and making a defense for Christ.
For since, they had given Him up as worthless, and attempted to confirm
this sentence by making Him share the punishment of the robbers, in order
that for the future it might be in no maws power to prefer evil charges
against him, or to accuse him as a worthless and wicked person, to close
moreover their mouths and the mouths of all who might desire to accuse
Him, and to show that they had risen up against their own King, Pilate
thus placed, as on a trophy, those letters, which utter a clear voice,
and show forth His Victory, and proclaim His Kingdom, though not in its
completeness. And this he made manifest not in a single tongue, but in
three languages; for since it was likely that there would be a mixed multitude
among the Jews on account of the Feast, in order that none might be ignorant
of the defense, he publicly recorded the madness of the Jews, in all the
languages. For they bore malice against Him even when crucified. "Yet what
did this harm you? Nothing. For if He was a mortal and weak, and was about
to become extinct, why did ye fear the letters asserting that He is the
King of the Jews?" And what do they ask? "Say that `he said.' For now it
is an assertion, and a general sentence, but if `he said' be added, the
charge is shown to be one arising from his own rashness and arrogance."
Still Pilate was not turned aside, but stood to his first decision. And
it is no little thing that is dispensed even from this circumstance, but
the whole matter. For since the wood of the cross was buried, because no
one was careful to take it up, inasmuch as fear was pressing, and the believers
were hurrying to other urgent matters; and since it was in after times
to be sought for, and it was likely that the three crosses would lie together,
in order that the Lord's might not be unknown, it was made manifest to
all, first by its lying in the middle, and then by the title. For those
of the thieves had no titles.
[2.] The soldiers parted the garments, but not the coat. See the prophecies
in every instance fulfilled by their wickednesses; for this also had been
predicted of old; yet there were three crucified, but the matters of the
prophecies were fulfilled in Him. For why did they not this in the case
of the others, but in His case only? Consider too, I pray you, the exactness
of the prophecy. For the Prophet saith not only, that they "parted," but
that they "did not part." The rest therefore they divided, the coat they
divided not, but committed the matter to a decision by lot. And the, "Woven
from the top" (ver. 23) is not put without a purpose; but some say that
a figurative assertion is declared by it, that the Crucified was not simply
man, but had also the Divinity from above. Others say that the Evangelist
describes the very form of the coat. For since in Palestine they put together
two strips of cloth and so weave their garments, John, to show that the
coat was of this kind, saith, "Woven from the top"; and to me he seems
to say this, alluding to the poorness of the garments, and that as in all
other things, so in dress also, He followed a simple fashion.
Ver. 24. "These things the soldiers did." But He on the Cross,
committeth His mother to the disciple, teaching us even to our last breath
to show every care for our parents. When indeed she unseasonably troubled
Him, He said, "Woman, what have I to do with thee?" (c. ii. 4.) And, "Who
is My mother?" (Matt. xii. 48.) But here He showeth much loving affection,
and committeth her to the disciple whom He loved. Again John conceals himself,
in modesty; for had he desired to boast, he would have also put in the
cause for which he was loved, since probably it was some great and wonderful
one. But wherefore doth He converse on nothing else with John, nor comfort
him when desponding? Because it was no time for comforting by words; besides,
it was no little thing for him to be honored with such honor, and to receive
the reward of steadfastness. But do thou consider, I pray, how even on
the cross He did everything without being troubled, speaking with the disciple
concerning His mother, fulfilling prophecies, holding forth good hopes
to the thief. Yet before He was crucified He appeareth sweating, agonized,
fearing. What then can this mean? Nothing difficult, nothing doubtful.
There indeed the weakness of nature had been shown, here was being shown
the excess of Power. Besides, by these two things He teacheth us, even
if before things terrible we be troubled, not on that account to shrink
from things terrible, but when we have embarked in the contest to deem
all things possible and easy. Let us then not tremble at death. Our soul
hath by nature the love of life, but it lies with us either to loose the
bands of nature, and make this desire weak; or else to tighten them, and
make the desire more tyrannous. For as we have the desire of sexual intercourse,
but when we practice true wisdom we render the desire weak, so also it
falls out in the case of life; and as God hath annexed carnal desire to
the generation of children, to maintain a succession among us, without
however forbidding us from traveling the higher road of continence; so
also He hath implanted in us the love of life, forbidding us from destroying
ourselves, but not hindering our despising the present life. And it behooves
us, knowing this, to observe due measure, and neither to go at any time
to death of our own accord, even though ten thousand terrible things possess
us; nor yet when dragged to it, for the sake of what is pleasing to God,
to shrink back from and fear it, but boldly to strip for it, preferring
the future to the present life.
But the women stood by the Cross, and the weaker sex then appeared the
manlier (ver. 25); so entirely henceforth were all things transformed.
[3.] And He, having committed His mother to John, said, "Behold thy
Son." (Ver. 26.) O the honor! with what honor did He honor the disciple!
when He Himself was now departing, He committed her to the disciple to
take care of. For since it was likely that, being His mother, she would
grieve, and require protection, He with reason entrusted her to the beloved.
To him He saith, "Behold thy mother." (Ver. 27.) This He said, knitting
them together in charity; which the disciple understanding, took her to
his own home. "But why made He no mention of any other woman, although
another stood there?" To teach us to pay more than ordinary respect to
our mothers. For as when parents oppose us on spiritual matters, we must
not even own them, so when they do not hinder us, we ought to pay them
all becoming respect, and to prefer them before others, because they begat
us, because they bred us up, because they bare for us ten thousand terrible
things. And by these words He silenceth the shamelessness of Marcion; for
if He were not born according to the flesh, nor had a mother, wherefore
taketh He such forethought for her alone?
Ver. 28. "After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished."
That is, "that nothing was wanting to the Dispensation." For He was
everywhere desirous to show, that this Death was of a new kind, if indeed
the whole lay in the power of the Person dying, and death came not on the
Body before He willed it; and He willed it after He had fulfilled all things.
Therefore also He said, "I have power to lay down My life; and I have power
to take it again." (c. x. 18.) Knowing therefore that all things were fulfilled,
Here again fulfilling a prophecy. But consider, I pray, the accursed
nature of the bystanders. Though we have ten thousand enemies, and have
suffered intolerable things at their hands, yet when we see them perishing,
we relent; but they did not even so make peace with Him, nor were tamed
by what they saw, but rather became more savage, and increased their irony;
and having brought to Him vinegar on a sponge, as men bring it to the condemned,
thus they gave Him to drink; since it is on this account that the hyssop
Ver. 30. "Having therefore received it, He saith, It is finished."
Seest thou how He doth all things calmly, and with power? And what follows
shows this. For when all had been completed,
"He bowed His head, (this had not been nailed,) and gave up the ghost."
That is, "died." Yet to expire does not come after the bowing the head;
but here, on the contrary, it doth. For He did not, when He had expired,
bow His head, as happens with us, but when He had bent His head, then He
expired. By all which things the Evangelist hath shown, that He was Lord
But the Jews, on the other hand, who swallowed the camel and strained
at the gnat, having wrought so atrocious a deed, are very precise concerning
Ver. 31. "Because it was the Preparation, that the bodies should
not remain upon the cross - they besought Pilate that their legs might
Seest thou how strong a thing is truth? By means of the very things
which are the objects of their zeal, prophecy is fulfilled, for by occasion
of those things, this plain prediction, unconnected with them, receives
its accomplishment. For the soldiers when they came, brake the legs of
the others, but not those of Christ. Yet these to gratify the Jews pierced
His side with a spear, and now insulted the dead body. O abominable and
accursed purpose! Yet, beloved, be not thou confounded, be not thou desponding;
for the things which these men did from a wicked will, fought on the side
of the truth. Since there was a prophecy, saying, (from this circumstance,
"They shall look on Him whom they pierced." (Ver. 37; Zech. xii. 10.) And
not this only, but the deed then dared was a demonstration of the faith,
to those who should afterwards disbelieve; as to Thomas, and those like
him. With this too an ineffable mystery was accomplished. For "there came
forth water and blood." Not without a purpose, or by chance, did those
founts come forth, but because by means of these two together the Church
consisteth. And the initiated know it, being by water indeed regenerate,
and nourished by the Blood and the Flesh. Hence the Mysteries take their
beginning; that when thou approachest to that awful cup, thou mayest so
approach, as drinking from the very side.
Ver. 35. "And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true."
That is, "I heard it not from others, but was myself present and saw
it, and the testimony is true." As may be supposed. For he relates an insult
done; he relates not anything great and admirable, that thou shouldest
suspect his narrative; but securing the mouths of heretics, and loudly
proclaiming beforehand the Mysteries that should be, and beholding the
treasure laid up in them, he is very exact concerning what took place.
And that prophecy also is fulfilled,
Vet. 36. "A bone of Him shall not be broken." (Ex. xii. 46; Num.
For even if this was said with reference to the lamb of the Jews, still
it was for the sake of the reality that the type preceded, and in Him the
prophecy was more fully accomplished. On this account the Evangelist brought
forward the Prophet. For since by continually producing himself as witness
he would have seemed unworthy of credit, he brings Moses to help him, and
saith, that neither did this come to pass without a purpose, but was written
before of old. And this is the meaning of the words, "A bone of Him shall
not be broken." Again he confirms the Prophet's words by his own witness.
"These things," saith he, "I have told you, that ye might learn that great
is the connection of the type with the reality." Seest thou what pains
he takes to make that believed which seemed to be matter of reproach, and
bringing shame? For that the soldier should insult even the dead body,
was far worse than being crucified. "But still, even these things," he
saith, "I have told, and told with much earnestness, `that ye might believe.'
(Ver. 35.) Let none then be unbelieving, nor through shame injure our cause.
For the things which appear to be most shameful, are the very venerable
records of our good things."