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1. And He entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand.
2. And they watched Him, whether He would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse Him.
3. And He saith unto the man which had the withered hand, “Stand forth.”
4. And He saith unto them, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill?” But they held their peace.
5. And when He had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, He saith unto the man, “Stretch forth thine hand.” And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.
Theophylact: After confounding the Jews, who had blamed His disciples, for pulling the ears of corn on the sabbath day, by the example of David, the Lord now further bringing them to the truth, works a miracle on the sabbath; shewing that, if it is a pious deed to work miracles on the sabbath for the health of men, it is not wrong to do on the sabbath thing necessary for the body.
He says therefore, “And He entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. And they watched Him, whether He would heal him on the sabbath-day; that they might accuse Him.”
Bede, in Marc., 1, 14: For, since He had defended the breaking of the sabbath, which they objected to His disciples, by an approved example, now they wish, by watching Him, to 55 calumniate Himself, that they might accuse Him of a transgression, if He cured on the sabbath, of cruelty or of folly, if He refused.
It goes on: “And He saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand in the midst.”
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc., see Chrys, Hom. in Matt., 40: He placed him in the midst, that they might be frightened at the sight, and on seeing Him compassionate him, and lay aside their malice.
Bede: And anticipating the calumny of the Jews, which they had prepared for Him, He accused them of violating the precepts of the law, by a wrong interpretation.
Wherefore there follows: “And He saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath-day, or to do evil?”
And this He asks, because they thought that on the sabbath they were to rest even from good works, whilst the law commands to abstain from bad, saying, “Ye shall do no servile work therein;” [Lev 23:7] that is, sin: for “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.” [John 8:34]
What He first says, “to do good on the sabbath-day or to do evil,” is the same as what He afterwards adds, “to save a life or to lose it;” that is, to cure a man or not. Not that God, Who is in the highest degree good, can be the author of perdition to us, but that His not saving is in the language of Scripture to destroy.
but if it be asked, wherefore the Lord, being about to cure the body, asked about the saving of the soul, let him understand either that in the common way of Scripture the soul is put for the man; as it is said, “All the souls that came out of the loins of Jacob;” [Ex 1:5] or because He did those miracles for the saving of a soul, or because the healing itself of the hand signified the saving of the soul.
Augustine, de Con. Evan., ii, 35: But some one may wonder how Matthew could have said, that they themselves asked the Lord, if it was lawful to heal on the sabbath-day; when Mark rather relates that they were asked by our Lord, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath-day, or to do evil?”
Therefore we must understand that they first asked the Lord, if it was lawful to heal on the sabbath-day, then that understanding their thoughts, and that they were seeking an opportunity to accuse Him, He placed in the middle him whom He was about to cure, and put those questions, which Mark and Luke relate. We must then suppose, that when they were silent, He propounded the parable of the sheep, and concluded, that it was lawful to do good on the sabbath-day.
It goes on: “But they were silent.” 56 Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: For they knew that He would certainly cure him.
It goes on: “And looking round about upon them with anger.”
His looking round upon them in anger, and being saddened at the blindness of their hearts, is fitting for His humanity, which He deigned to take upon Himself for us. He connects the working of the miracle with a word, which proves that the man is cured by His voice alone.
It follow therefore, “And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored.” Answering by all these things for His disciples, and at the same time shewing that His life is above the law.
Bede: But mystically, the man with a withered hand shews the human race, dried up as to its fruitfulness in good works, but now cured by the mercy of the Lord; the hand of man, which in our first parent had been dried up when he plucked the fruit of the forbidden tree, through the grace of the Redeemer, Who stretched His guiltless hands on the tree of the cross, has been restored to health by the juices of good works.
Well too was it in the synagogue that the hand was withered; for where the gift of knowledge is greater, there also the danger of inexcusable guilt is greater.
Pseudo-Jerome: Or else it means the avaricious, who, being able to give had rather receive, and love robbery rather than making gifts. And they are commanded to stretch forth their hands, that is, “let him that stole steal no more, but rather let him labour, working with his hand the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.” [Eph 4:28]
Theophylact: Or, he had his right hand withered, who does not the works which belong to the right side; for from the time that our hand is employed in forbidden deeds, from that time it is withered to the working of good. But it will be restored whenever it stands firm in virtue; wherefore Christ saith, “Arise,” that is, from sin, “and stand in the midst;” that thus it may stretch itself forth neither too little nor too much.
6. And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.
7. But Jesus withdrew Himself with His disciples to the sea: and a great multitude from Galilee followed Him, and from Judaea,57
8. And from Jerusalem, and from Idumaea, and from beyond Jordan; and they about Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they had heard what great things He did, came unto Him.
9. And He spake to His disciples, that a small ship should wait on Him, because of the multitude, lest they should throng Him.
10. For He had healed many; insomuch that they pressed upon Him for to touch Him, as many as had plagues.
11. And unclean spirits, when they saw Him, fell down before Him, and cried, saying, “Thou art the Son of God.”
12. And He straitly charged them that they should not make Him known.
Bede, in Marc., 1, 15: The Pharisees, thinking it a crime that at the word of the Lord the hand which was diseased was restored to a sound state, agreed to make a pretext of the words spoken by our Saviour.
Wherefore it is said, “And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.”
As if every one amongst them did not greater things on the sabbath day, carrying food, reaching forth a cup, and whatever else is necessary for meals. Neither could He, Who said and it was done, be convicted of toiling on the sabbath day.
Theophylact: But the soldiers of Herod the king are called Herodians, because a certain new heresy had sprung up, which asserted that Herod was the Christ. For the prophecy of Jacob intimated that when the princes of Judah failed then Christ should come; because therefore in the time of Herod none of the Jewish princes remained, and he, an alien, was the sole ruler, some thought that he was the Christ, and set on foot this heresy. These, therefore, were with the Pharisees trying to kill Christ.
Bede: Or else he calls Herodians the servants of Herod the Tetrarch, who on account of the hatred which their lord had for John, pursued with treachery and hate the Saviour also, Whom John preached.58
It goes on, “But Jesus withdrew Himself with His disciples to the sea;” He fled from their treachery, because the hour of His passion had not yet come, and no place away from Jerusalem was proper for His Passion. By which also He gave an example to His disciples, when they suffer persecution in one city, to flee to another.
Theophylact: At the same time again, He goes away, that by quitting the ungrateful He might do good to more, “for many followed Him, and He healed them.”
For there follows, “And a great multitude from Galilee, &c.” Syrians and Sidonians, being foreigners, receive benefit from Christ; but His kindred the Jews persecute Him: thus there is no profit in relationship, if there be not a similarity in goodness.
Bede: For the strangers followed Him, because they saw the works of His powers, and in order to hear the words of His teaching. But the Jews, induced solely by their opinion of His powers, in a vast multitude come to hear Him, and to beg for His aiding health.
Wherefore there follows, “And He spake to His disciples, that they should wait, &c.”
Theophylact: Consider then how He hid His glory, for He begs for a little ship, lest the crowd should hurt Him, so that entering into it, He might remain unharmed.
It follows, “As many as had scourges, &c.”
But he means by scourges, diseases, for God scourges us, as a father does His children.
Bede: Both therefore fell down before the Lord, those who had the plagues of bodily diseases, and those who were vexed by unclean spirits. The sick did this simply with the intention of obtaining health, but the demoniacs, or rather the devils within them, because under the mastery of a fear of God they were compelled not only to fall down before Him but also to praise His majesty.
Wherefore it goes on, “And they cried out, saying, Thou art the Son of God.”
And here we must wonder at the blindness of the Arians, who, after the glory of His resurrection, deny the Son of God, Whom the devils confess to be the Son of God, though still clothed with human flesh.
There follows, “And He straitly charged them, that they should not make Him known.”
For God said to the sinner, “Why does thou preach my laws?” [Ps 50:16] A sinner is forbidden to preach the Lord, lest any one listening to his preaching should follow him in his error, for the devil is an evil master, who always mingles false things 59 with true, that the semblance of truth may cover the witness of fraud.
But not only devils, but persons healed by Christ, and even Apostles, are ordered to be silent concerning Him before the Passion, lest by the preaching of the majesty of His Divinity, the economy of His Passion should be retarded. But allegorically, in the Lord’s coming out of the synagogue, and then retiring to the sea, He prefigured the salvation of the Gentiles, to whom He deigned to come through their faith, having quitted the Jews on account of their perfidy.
For the nations, driven about in divers by-paths of error, are fitly compared to the unstable sea. [ed. note: see Cyprian, Ep. 63, also Augustine, City of God, Book 20, 16]
Again, a great crowd from various provinces followed Him, because He has received with kindness many nations, who came to Him through the preaching of the Apostles. But the ship waiting upon the Lord in the sea is the Church, collected from amongst the nations; and He goes into it lest the crowd should throng Him, because flying from the troubled minds of carnal persons, He delights to come to those who despise the glory of this world, and to dwell within them.
Further, there is a difference between thronging the Lord, and touching Him; for they throng Him, when by carnal thoughts and deeds they trouble peace, in which truth dwells; but he touches Him, who by faith and love has received Him into his heart; wherefore those who touched Him are said to have been saved.
Theophylact: Morally again, the Herodians, that is, persons who love the lusts of the flesh, wish to slay Christ. For the meaning of Herod is, ‘of skin’ [ed. note: pelliceus, see Hier. de Nom. Hebr.]. But those who quit their country, that is, a carnal mode of living, follow Christ, and their plagues are healed, that is, the sins which wound their conscience. But Jesus in us is our reason, which commands that our vessel, that is, our body, should serve Him, lest the troubles of worldly affairs should press upon our reason.
13. And He goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto Him whom He would: and they came unto Him.
14. And He ordained twelve, that they should be with Him, and that He might send them forth to preach,60
15. And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils:
16. And Simon He surnamed Peter;
17. And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and He surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder:
18. And Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Canaanite,
19. And Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed Him.
Bede, in Marc., 1, 16: After having forbidden the evil spirits to preach Him, He chose holy men, to cast out the unclean spirits, and to preach the Gospel.
Wherefore it is said, “And He went up into a mountain, &c.”
Theophylact: Luke, however, says that He went up to pray, for after the shewing forth of miracles He prays, teaching us that we should give thanks, when we obtain any thing good, and refer it to Divine grace.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: He also instructs the Prelates of the Church to pass the night in prayer before they ordain, that their office be not impeded. When therefore, according to Luke, it was day, He called whom He would; for there were many who followed Him.
Bede: For it was not a matter of their choice and zeal, but of Divine condescension and grace, that they should be called to the Apostleship. The mount also in which the Lord chose His Apostles, shews the lofty righteousness in which they were to be instructed, and which they were about to preach to men.
Pseudo-Jerome: Or spiritually, Christ is the mount, from which living waters flow, and milk is procured for the health of infants; whence the spiritual feast of fat things is made known, and whatsoever is believed to be most highly good is established by the grace of that Mountain.
Those therefore who are highly exalted in merits and in words are called up into a mountain, that the place may correspond to the loftiness of their merits.
It goes on: “And they came unto Him, &c.”
For the Lord loved the beauty of Jacob, [Ps 46] that they might “sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel,” [Matt 19:28] who also 61 in bands of threes and fours watch around the tabernacle of the Lord, and carry the holy words of the Lord, bearing them forward on their actions, as men do burdens on their shoulders.
Bede: For as a sacrament of this the children of Israel once used to encamp about the Tabernacle, so that on each of the four sides of the square three tribes were stationed. Now three times four are twelve, and in three bands of four the Apostles were sent to preach, that through the four quarters of the whole world they might baptize the nations in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
It goes on: “And He gave them power, &c.”
that is, in order that the greatness of their deeds might bear witness to the greatness of their heavenly promises, and that they, who preached unheard-of things, might do unheard-of actions.
Theophylact: Further, He gives the names of the Apostles, that the true Apostles might be known, so that men might avoid the false.
And therefore it continues: “And Simon He surnamed Cephas.”
Augustine, de Con. Evan. ii, 17: But let no one suppose that Simon now received his name and was called Peter, for thus he would make Mark contrary to John, who relates that it had been long before said unto him, “Thou shalt be called Cephas.” [John 1:42]
But Mark gives this account by way of recapitulation; for as he wished to give the names of the twelve Apostles, and was obliged to call him, Peter, his object was to intimate briefly, that he was not called this originally, but that the Lord gave him that name.
Bede: And the reason that the Lord willed that he should at first be called otherwise, was that from the change itself of the name, a mystery might be conveyed to us. Peter then in Latin or in Greek means the same thing as Cephas in Hebrew, and in each language the name is drawn from, a stone.
Nor can it be doubted that is the rock of which Paul spoke, “And this rock was Christ.” [1 Cor 10:4] For as Christ was the true light, and allowed also that the Apostles should be called the light of the world, [Matt 5:14] so also to Simon, who believed on the rock Christ, He gave the name of Rock.
Pseudo-Jerome: Thus from obedience, which Simon signifies, the ascent is made to knowledge, which is meant by Peter.
It goes on: “And James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother.”
Bede: We must connect this with what went before, “He goeth up into a mountain, and calleth.”62
There follows: “And He surnamed them, Boanerges.”
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: He calls the sons of Zebedee by this name, because they were to spread over the world the mighty and illustrious decrees of the Godhead.
Pseudo-Jerome; Or by this the lofty merit of the three mentioned above is shewn, who merited to hear in the mountain the thunders of the Father, when he proclaimed in thunder through a could concerning the Son, “This is My beloved Son;” that they also through the cloud of the flesh and fire of the word, might as it were scatter the thunderbolts in rain on the earth, since the Lord turned the thunderbolts into rain, so that mercy extinguishes what judgment sets on fire.
It goes on: “And Andrew,” who manfully does violence to perdition, so that he had ever ready within him his own death, to give as an answer, [1 Pet 3:15] and his soul was ever in his hands. [Ps 119:109]
Bede: For Andrew is a Greek name, which means ‘manly,’ from (greek word), that is, man, for he manfully adhered to the Lord.
There follows, “And Philip.”
Pseudo-Jerome: Or, ‘the mouth of a lamp,’ that is, one who can throw light by his mouth upon what he has conceived in his heart, to whom the Lord gave the opening of a mouth, which diffused light. We know that this mode of speaking belongs to holy Scripture; for Hebrew names are put down in order to intimate a mystery.
There follows: “And Bartholomew,” which means, the son of him who suspends the waters; of him, that is, who said, “I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.” [Isa 5:6]
But the name of son of God is obtained by peace and loving one’s enemy; for, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they are the sons of God. [Matt 5:9] And, Love your enemies, that ye may be the sons of God. [see Matt 5:44-45]
There follows: “And Matthew,” that is, ‘given,’ to whom it is given by the Lord, not only to obtain remission of sins, but to be enrolled in the number of the Apostles.
“And Thomas,” which means, ‘abyss,’ for men who have knowledge by the power of God, put forward many deep things.
It goes on: “And James the son of Alphaeus,” that is, of ‘the learned,’ or ‘the thousandth,’ beside whom a thousand will fall. [Ps 91:7] This other James is he, whose wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness. [Eph 6:12]
There follows, “And Thaddaeus,” that 63 is, ‘corculum,’ which means, ‘he who guards the heart’ [ed. note: ‘cordis cultor’] , one who keeps his heart in all watchfulness.
Bede: But Thaddaeus is the same person, as Luke calls in the Gospel and in the Acts, Jude of James, for he was the brother of James, the brother of the Lord, as he himself has written in his Epistle.
There follows, “And Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him.”
He has added this by way of distinction from Simon Peter, and Jude the brother of James. Simon is called the Canaanite from Cana, a village in Galilee, and Judas, Scariotes, from the village from which he had his origin, or he is so called from the tribe of Issachar.
Theophylact: Whom he reckons amongst the Apostles, that we may learn that God does not repel any man for wickedness, which is future, but counts him worthy on account of his present virtue.
Pseudo-Jerome: But Simon in interpreted, ‘laying aside sorrow;’ for “blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” [Matt 5:4]
And he is called Canaanite, that is, Zealot, because the zeal of the Lord ate him up. But Judas Iscariot is one who does not do away his sins by repentance. For Judas means, ‘boaster,’ or vain-glorious. And Iscariot, ‘the memory of death.’ But many are the proud and vain-glorious confessors in the Church, as Simon Magus, and Arius, and other heretics, whose deathlike memory is celebrated in the Church, that it may be avoided.
19. ——— And they went into an house.
20. And the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread.
21. And when His friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on Him: for they said, “He is beside himself.”
22. And the Scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, “He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth He out devils.”
Bede: the Lord leads the Apostles, when they were elected, into a house, as if admonishing them, that after 64 having received the Apostleship, they should retire to look on their own consciences.
Wherefore it is said, “And they came into a house, and the multitude came together again, so that they could not eat bread.”
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: Ungrateful indeed were the multitudes of princes, whom their pride hinders from knowledge, but the grateful multitude of the people came to Jesus.
Bede: And blessed indeed the concourse of the crowd, flocking together, whose anxiety to obtain salvation was so great, that they left not the Author of salvation even an hour free to take food. But Him, whom a crowd of strangers loves to follow, His relations hold in little esteem.
For it goes on, “And when His friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold upon Him.”
For since they could not take in the depth of wisdom, which they heard, they thought that He was speaking in a senseless way.
Wherefore it continues, “for they said, He is beside Himself.”
Theophylact: That is, He has a devil and is mad, and therefore they wished to lay hold upon Him, that they might shut Him up as one who had a devil. And even His friends wished to do this, that is, His relations, perchance His countrymen, or His brethren. But it was a silly insanity in them, to conceive that the Worker of such great miracles of Divine Wisdom had become mad.
Bede: Now there is a great difference between those who do not understand the word of God from slowness of intellect, such as those who are here spoken of, and those who purposely blaspheme, of whom it is added, “And the Scribes which came down from Jerusalem, &c.” For what they could not deny they endeavour to pervert by a malicious interpretation, as if they were not the works of God, but of a most unclean spirit, that is, of Beelzebub, who was the God of Ekrom.
For ‘Beel’ means Baal himself, and ‘zebub’ a fly; the meaning of Beelzebub therefore is, the man of flies, on account of the filth of the blood which was offered, from which most unclean rite, they call him prince of the devils, adding, “and by the prince of the devils casteth He out devils.”
Pseudo-Jerome: But mystically, the house to which they came, is the early Church. The crowds which prevent their eating bread are sins and vices; for he who eateth unworthily, “eateth and drinketh damnation to himself.” [1 Cor 11:29]
Bede: The Scribes also coming down from Jerusalem blaspheme. But the multitude from Jerusalem, and from other regions of Judaea, or of the 65 Gentiles, followed the Lord, because so it was to be at the time of His Passion, that a crowd of the people of the Jews should lead Him to Jerusalem with palms and praises, and the Gentiles should desire to see Him; but the Scribes and Pharisees should plot together for His death.
23. And He called them unto Him, and said unto them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan?
24. And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
25. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.
26. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end.
27. No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house.
28. Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme:
29. But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation:”
30. Because they said, “He hath an unclean spirit.”
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: The blasphemy of the Scribes having been detailed, our Lord shews that what they said was impossible, confirming His proof by an example.
Wherefore it says, “And having called them together unto Him, He said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan?” As if He had said, A kingdom divided against itself by civil war must be desolated, which is exemplified both in a house and in a city. Wherefore also if Satan’s kingdom by divided against itself, so that Satan expels Satan from men, the desolation of the kingdom of the devils is at hand.
But their kingdom consists in keeping men under their dominion. If therefore they are driven away from men, it amounts to nothing less 66 than the dissolution of their kingdom. But if they still hold their power over men, it is manifest that the kingdom of evil is still standing, and Satan is not divided against himself.
Gloss.: And because He has already shewn by an example that a devil cannot cast out a devil, He shews how he can be expelled, saying, “No man can enter into a strong man’s house, &c.”
Theophylact: The meaning of the example is this: The devil is the strong man; his goods are the men into whom he is received; unless therefore a man first conquers the devil, how can he deprive him of his goods, that is, of the men whom he has possessed?
So also I who spoil his goods, that is, free men from suffering by his possession, first spoil the devils and vanquish them, and am their enemy. How then can ye say that I have Beelzebub and that being the friend of the devils, I cast them out?
Bede, in Marc., 1, 17: The Lord has also bound the strong man, that is, the devil: which means, He has restrained him from seducing the elect, and entering into his house, the world; He has spoiled his house, and his goods, that is men, because He has snatched them from the snares of the devil, and has united them to His Church.
Or, He has spoiled his house, because the four parts of the world, over which the old enemy had sway, He has distributed to the Apostles and their successors, that they may convert the people to the way of life.
But the Lord shews that they committed a great sin in crying out that which they knew to be of God, was of the devil, when He subjoins, “Verily, I say unto you, All sins are forgiven, &c.” All sins and blasphemies are not indeed remitted to all men, but to those who have gone through a repentance in this life sufficient for their sins; thus neither is Novatus right [ed. note: Novatus was a Carthaginian presbyter, who, after having abetted Felicissimus in his schism against St. Cyprian, came to Rome and joined Novatian against Pope Cornelius, A.D. 251. His error, which is here opposed to Origen’s , consisted in denying that Christ had left with His Church the power of absolving from certain sins, especially from apostasy.], who denied that any pardon should be granted to penitents, who had lapsed in time of martyrdom; nor Origen, who asserts that after the general judgment, after the revolution of ages, all sinners will receive pardon for their sins, which error the following words of the Lord condemn, when He adds, “But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, &c.”67
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: He says indeed, that blasphemy concerning Himself was pardonable, because He then seemed to be a man despised and of the most lowly birth, but, that contumely against God has no remission. Now blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is against God, for the operation of the Holy Ghost is the kingdom of God; and for this reason, He says, that blasphemy against the Holy Ghost cannot be remitted. Instead, however, of what is here added, “But will be in danger of eternal damnation,” another Evangelist says, “Neither in this world, nor in the world to come.” By which is understood, the judgment which is according to the law, and that which is to come.
For the law orders one who blasphemes God to be slain, and in the judgment of the second law he has no remission. However, he who is baptized is taken out of this world; but the Jews were ignorant of the remission which takes place in baptism. [ed. note: A few words are left out in the Catena, which occur in Victor, and which do away with the obscurity of the passage. The missing of the whole is, that though there is no remission either in this world or in the next, yet that baptism is, as it were, a space between the two worlds, where remission can be obtained. The reason, therefore, why this blasphemy could not be remitted, was, because the Jews would not come to Christ’s baptism.]
He therefore who refers to the devil miracles, and the casting out of devils which belong to the Holy Ghost alone, has no room left him for remission of his blasphemy. Neither does it appear that such a blasphemy as this is remitted, since it is against the Holy Ghost.
Wherefore he adds, explaining it, “Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.”
Theophylact: We must however understand, that they will not obtain pardon unless they repent. But since it was at the flesh of Christ that they were offended, even though they did not repent, some excuse was allowed them, and they obtained some remission.
Pseudo-Jerome: Or this is meant; that he will not deserve to work out repentance, so as to be accepted, who, understanding who Christ was, declared that He was the prince of the devils.
Bede: Neither however are those, who do not believe the Holy Spirit to be God, guilty of an unpardonable blasphemy, because they were persuaded to do this by human ignorance, not by devilish malice.
Augustine, Serm., 71, 12, 22: Or else impenitence itself is the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost which hath no remission. For either in his thought 68 or by his tongue, he speaks a word against the Holy Ghost, the forgiver of sins, who treasures up for himself an impenitent heart.
But he subjoins, “Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit,” that he might shew that His reason for saying it, was their declaring that He cast out a devil by Beelzebub, not because there is a blasphemy, which cannot be remitted, since even this might be remitted through a right repentance; but the cause why this sentence was put forth by the Lord, after mentioning the unclean spirit, (who as our Lord shews was divided against himself,) was, that the Holy Ghost even makes those whom He brings together undivided, by His remitting those sins, which divided them from Himself, which gift of remission is resisted by no one, but him who has the hardness of an impenitent heart.
For in another place, the Jews said of the Lord, that He had a devil [John 7:20], without however His saying any thing there about the blasphemy against the Spirit; and the reason is, that they did not there cast in His teeth the unclean spirit, in such a way, that spirit could by their own words be shewn to be divided against Himself, as Beelzebub was here shewn to be, by their saying, that it might be he who cast out devils. [ed. note: St. Augustine explains his meaning by going on to say, that as the Devil was proved by the words of the Jews to be the author of division, so the Holy Ghost was the author of unity, so that one form of blasphemy of the Holy Ghost was rending the unity of the Church, without which there is no remission. St. Ambrose, something in the same way, applies the text to the Arians, as dividing the Holy Trinity, de Fide, i, 1.]
31. There came then His brethren, and His mother, and, standing without, sent unto Him, calling Him.
32. And the multitude sat about Him, and they said unto Him, “Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for Thee.”
33. And He answered them, saying, “Who is My mother, or My brethren?”
34. And He looked round about on them which sat about Him, and said, “Behold My mother and My brethren!”
35. For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is My brother, and My sister, and mother.
Theophylact: Because the relations of the Lord had come to seize upon Him, as if beside Himself, His mother, urged by the sympathy of her love, came to Him.
Wherefore it is said, “And there came unto Him His mother, and, standing without, sent unto Him, calling Him.”
Chrys.: From this it is manifest that His brethren and His mother were not always with Him; but because He was beloved by them, they come from reverence and affection, waiting without.
Wherefore it goes on, “And the multitude sat about Him, &c.”
Bede: The brother of the Lord must not be thought to be the sons of the ever-virgin Mary, as Helvidius says [ed. note: The perpetual virginity of the Mother of God is reckoned by White, Bramhall, Patrick and Pearson, amongst the traditions which have ever been held in the Catholic Church. For an account of the heretics who denied it, see Bp. Pearson on the Creed, Art, 3, p. 272, note x., also Catena Aurea in Matt., p 58, note c], nor the sons of Joseph by a former marriage, as some think, but rather they must be understood to be His relations.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: But another Evangelist says, that His brethren did not believe on Him. [John 7:5] With which this agrees, which says, that they sought Him, waiting without, and with this meaning the Lord does not mention them as relations.
Wherefore it follows, “And He answered them, saying, Who is My mother or My brethren?”
But He does not here mention His mother and His brethren altogether with reproof, but to shew that a man must honour his own soul above all earthly kindred; wherefore this is fitly said to those who called Him to speak with His mother and relations, as if it were a more useful task than the teaching of salvation.
Bede; see Ambr. in Luc. 6, 36: Being asked therefore by a message to go out, He declines, not as though He refused the dutiful service of His mother, but to shew that He owes more to His Father’s mysteries than to His mother’s feelings. Nor does He rudely despise His brothers, but, preferring His spiritual work to fleshly relationship, He teaches us that religion is the bond of the heart rather than that of the body.
Wherefore it goes on, “And looking round about on them which sat about Him, He said, Behold My mother and My brethren.”
Chrys.: By this, the Lord shews that we should honour those who are relations by faith rather than those 70 who are relations by blood. A man indeed is made the mother of Jesus by preaching Him [ed. note: Nearly the same idea occurs in St. Ambrose, in Luc. 2, 8]; for He, as it were, brings forth the Lord, when he pours Him into the heart of his hearers.
Pseudo-Jerome: But let us be assured that we are His brethren and His sisters, if we do the will of the Father; that we may be joint-heirs with Him, for He discerns us not by sex but by our deeds.
Wherefore it goes on: “Whosoever shall do the will of God, &c.”
Theophylact: He does not therefore say this, as denying His mother, but as shewing that He is worthy of honour, not only because she bore Christ, but on account of her possessing every other virtue.
Bede: By mystically, the mother and brother of Jesus means the synagogue, (from which according to the flesh He sprung,) and the Jewish people who, while the Saviour is teaching within, come to Him, and are not able to enter, because they cannot understand spiritual things.
But the crowd eagerly enter, because when the Jews delayed, the Gentiles flocked to Christ; but His kindred, who stand without wishing to see the Lord, are the Jews who obstinately remained without, guarding the letter, and would rather compel the Lord to go forth to them to teach carnal things, than consent to enter in to learn spiritual things of Him.
If therefore not even His parents when standing without are acknowledged, how shall we be acknowledged, if we stand without? [ed. note: see Ambr. in Luc., 6, 37] For the word is within and the light within.
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