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1. And He went out from thence, and came into His own country; and His disciples follow Him.
2. And when the sabbath day was come, He began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing Him were astonished, saying, “From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands?
3. Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us?” And they were offended at Him.
4. But Jesus said unto them, “A prophet is not without honour but in his own country, and among his own kind, and in his own house.”
5. And He could there do no mighty work, save that He laid His hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them.
6. And He marvelled because of their unbelief.
Theophylact: After the miracles which have been related, the Lord returns into His own country, not that He was ignorant that they would despise Him, but that they might have no reason to say, If Thou hadst come, we had believed Thee.
Wherefore it is said, “And He went out from thence, and came into His own country.”
Bede, in Marc., 2, 23: He means by His country, Nazareth, in which He was brought up. But how great the blindness of the Nazarenes! they despise Him, Who 106 by His words and deeds they might know to be the Christ, solely on account of His kindred.
It goes on: “And when the sabbath day was come, He began to teach in the synagogue; and many hearing Him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands?”
By wisdom is meant His doctrine, by powers, the cures and miracles which He did.
It goes on: Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?”
Augustine, de Con. Evan., ii, 42: Matthew indeed says that He was called the son of a carpenter; nor are we to wonder, since both might have been said, for they believed Him to be a carpenter, because He was the son of a carpenter.
Pseudo-Jerome: Jesus is called the son of a workman, of that one, however, whose work was the morning and the sun, that is, the first and second Church, as a figure of which the woman and the damsel are healed.
Bede: For although human things are not to be compared with divine, still the type is complete, because the Father of Christ works by fire and spirit.
It goes on: “The brother of James, and Joses, of Jude, and of Simon. And are not his sisters here with us?”
They bear witness that His brothers and sisters were with Him, who nevertheless are not to be taken for the sons of Joseph or of Mary, as heretics say, but rather, as is usual in Scripture, we must understand them to be His relations, as Abraham and Lot are called brothers, though Lot was brother’s son to Abraham.
“And they were offended at Him.” The stumbling and the error of the Jews is our salvation, and the condemnation of heretics. For so much did they despise the Lord Jesus Christ, as to call Him a carpenter, and son of a carpenter.
It goes on: “And Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country.”
Even Moses bears witness that the Lord is called a Prophet in the Scripture, for predicting His future Incarnation to the sons of Israel, he says, “A Prophet shall the Lord raise up unto you of your brethren.” [Acts 7:37] But not only He Himself, Who is Lord of prophets, but also Elias, Jeremiah, and the remaining lesser prophets, were worse received in their own country than in strange cities, for it is almost natural for men to envy their fellow-townsmen; for they do not consider the present works of the man, but they remember the weakness of Him 107 infancy.
Pseudo-Jerome: Oftentimes also the origin of a man brings him contempt, as it is written, “Who is the son of Jesse?” [1 Sam 25:10] for the Lord “hath respect unto the lowly; as to the proud, He beholdeth them afar off.”
Theophylact: Or again, if the prophet has noble relations, his countrymen hate them, and on that account do not honour the prophet.
There follows, “And He could there do no mighty work, &c.” What, however, is here expressed by He could not, we must take to mean, He did not choose, because it was not that He was weak, but that they were faithless; He does not therefore work any miracles there, for He spared them, lest they should be worthy of greater blame, if they believed not, even with miracles before their eyes.
Or else, for the working of miracles, not only the power of the Worker is necessary, but the faith of the recipient, which was wanting in this case: therefore Jesus did not choose to work any signs there.
There follows: “And He marvelled at their unbelief.”
Bede: Not as if He Who knows all things before they are done, wonders at what He did not expect or look forward to, but knowing the hidden things of the heart, and wishing to intimate to men that it was wonderful, He openly shews that He wonders. And indeed the blindness of the Jews is wonderful, for they neither believed what their prophets said of Christ, nor would in their own persons believe on Christ, Who was born amongst them. Mystically again; Christ is despised in His own house and country, that is, amongst the people of the Jews, and therefore He worked few miracles there, lest they should become altogether inexcusable. But He performs greater miracles every day amongst the Gentiles, not so much in the healing of their bodies, as in the salvation of their souls.
6. —— And He went round about the villages, teaching.
7. And He called unto Him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits;
8. And commanded them that they should take 108 nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse:
9. But be shod with sandals; and not put on two coats.
10. And He said unto them, “In what place soever ye enter into an house, there abide till ye depart from that place.
11. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.”
12. And they went out, and preached that men should repent.
13. And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.
Theophylact: The Lord not only preached in the cities, but also in villages, that we may learn not to despise little things, nor always to seek for great cities, but to sow the word of the Lord in abandoned and lowly villages.
Wherefore it is said, “And He went round about the villages, teaching.”
Bede, in Marc., 2, 24: Now our kind and merciful Lord and Master did not grudge His servants and their disciples His own virtues, and as He Himself had healed every sickness and every infirmity, so also He gave the same power to His disciples.
Wherefore it goes on: “And He called unto Him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits.”
Great is the difference between giving and receiving. Whatsoever He does, is done in His own power, as Lord; if they do any thing, they confess their own weakness and the power of the Lord, saying in the name of Jesus, “Arise, and walk.”
Theophylact: Again He sends the Apostles two and two that they might become more active; for, as says the Preacher, “Two are better than one.” [Eccles 4:9] But if He had sent more than two, there would not have been a sufficient number to allow of their being 109 sent to many villages.
Greg., Hom. in Evan., 17: Further, the Lord sent the disciples to preach, two and two, because there are two precepts of charity, namely, the love of God, and of our neighbour; and charity cannot be between less than two; by this therefore He implies to us, that he who has not charity towards his neighbour, ought in no way to take upon himself the office of preaching.
There follows: “And He commanded them, that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse: but be shod with sandals; and not put on two coats.”
Bede: For such should be the preacher’s trust in God, that, though he takes no thought for supplying his own wants in this present world, yet he should feel most certain that these will not be left unsatisfied, lest whilst his mind is taken up with temporal things, he should provide less of eternal things to others.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: The Lord also gives them this command, that they might shew by their mode of life, how far removed they were from the desire of riches.
Theophylact: Instructing them also by this means not to be fond of receiving gifts, in order too that those, who saw them proclaim poverty, might be reconciled to it, when they saw that the Apostles themselves possessed nothing.
Augustine, de Con. Evan., 2, 30: Or else; according to Matthew, the Lord immediately subjoined, “The workman is worthy of his meat,” [Matt 10:19] which sufficiently proves why He forbade their carrying or possessing such things; not because they were not necessary, but because He sent them in such a way as to shew, that they were due to them from the faithful, to whom they preached the Gospel.
From this it is evident that the Lord did not mean by this precept that the Evangelists ought to live only on the gifts of those to whom they preach the Gospel, else the Apostle transgressed this precept when he procured his livelihood by the labour of his own hands, but He meant that He had given them a power, in virtue of which, they might be assured these things were due to them.
It is also often asked, how it comes that Matthew and Luke have related that the Lord commanded His disciples not to carry even a staff, whilst Mark says, “And He commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only.” Which question is solved, by supposing that the word’s taff’ has a meaning in 110 Mark, who says that it ought to be carried, different from that which it bears in Matthew and Luke, who affirm the contrary. For in a concise way one might say, Take none of the necessaries of life with you, nay, not a staff, save a staff only; so that the saying, nay not a staff, may mean, nay not the smallest thing; but that which is added, “save a staff only,” may mean that, through the power received by them from the Lord, of which a rod is the ensign, nothing, even of those things which they do not carry, will be wanting to them.
The Lord, therefore, said both, but because one Evangelist has not given both, men suppose, that he who has said that the staff, in one sense, should be taken, is contrary to him who again has declared, that, in another sense, it should be left behind: now however that a reason has been given, let no one think so.
So also when Matthew declares that shoes are not to be worn on the journey, he forbids anxiety about them, for the reason why men are anxious about carrying them, is that they may not be without them. This is also to be understood of the two coats, that no man should be troubled about having only that with which he is clad from anxiety lest he should need another, when he could always obtain one from the power given by the Lord.
In like manner Mark, by saying that they are to be shod with sandals or soles, warns us that this mode of protecting the feet has a mystical signification, that the foot should neither be covered above nor be naked on the ground, that is, that the Gospel should neither be hid, nor rest upon earthly comforts; and in that He forbids their possessing or taking with them, or more expressly their wearing, two coats, He bids them walk simply, not with duplicity. But whosoever thinks that the Lord could not in the same discourse say some things figuratively, others in a literal sense, let him look into His other discourses, and he shall see, how rash and ignorant is his judgment.
Bede: Again, by the two tunics He seems to me to mean two sets of clothes; not that in places like Scythia, covered with the ice and snow, a man should be content with only one garment, but by coat, I think a suit of clothing is implied, that being clad with one, we should not keep another through anxiety as to what may happen.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Or else, Matthew and Luke neither allow shoes nor 111 staff, which is meant to point out the highest perfection. But Mark bids them take a staff and be shod with sandals, which is spoken by permission. [see 1 Cor 7:6]
Bede: Again, allegorically; under the figure of a scrip is pointed out the burdens of this world, by bread is meant temporal delights, by money in the purse, the hiding of wisdom; because he who receives the office of a doctor, should neither be weighed down by the burden of worldly affairs, nor be made soft by carnal desires, nor hide the talent of the word committed to him under the case of an inactive body.
It goes on, “And He said unto them, In what place soever ye enter into an house, there abide till ye depart from that place.”
Where He gives a general precept of constancy, that they should look to what is due to the tie of hospitality, adding, that it is inconsistent with the preaching of the kingdom of heaven to run about from house to house.
Theophylact: That is, lest they should be accused of gluttony in passing from one to another. It goes on, “And whoever shall not receive you, &c.” This the Lord commanded them, that they might shew that they had walked a long way for their sakes, and to no purpose. Or, because they received nothing from them, not even dust, which they shake off, that it might be a testimony against them, that is, by way of convicting them.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Or else, that it might be a witness of the toil of the way, which they sustained for them; or as if the dust of the sins of the preachers was turned against themselves.
It goes on: “And they went and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.”
Mark alone mentions their anointing with oil. James however, in his canonical Epistle, says a thing similar. For oil both refreshes our labours, and gives us light and joy; but again, oil signifies the mercy of the unction of God, the healing of infirmity, and the enlightening of the heart, the whole of which is worked by prayer.
Theophylact: It also means, the grace of the Holy Ghost, by which we are eased from our labours, and receive light and spiritual joy.
Bede: Where it is evident from the Apostles themselves, that it 112 is an ancient custom of the holy Church that persons possessed or afflicted with any disease whatever, should be anointed with oil consecrated by priestly blessing.
14. And king Herod heard of Him; (for His name was spread abroad:) and he said, “That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him.”
15. Others said, “That it is Elias.” And others said, “That it is a prophet, or as one of the prophets.”
16. But when Herod heard thereof, he said, “It is John, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead.”
Gloss.: After the preaching of the disciples of Christ, and the working of miracles, the Evangelist fitly subjoins an account of the report, which arose amongst the people.
Wherefore he says, “And king Herod heard of Him.”
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Aut. e Cat. in Marc.: This Herod is the son of the first Herod, under whom Joseph had led Jesus into Egypt. But Matthew calls him Tetrarch, and Luke mentions him as ruling over one fourth of his father’s kingdom; for the Romans after the death of his father divided his kingdom into four parts. But Mark calls him a king, either after the title of his father, or because it was consonant to his own wish.
Pseudo-Jerome: It goes on, “For His name was spread abroad.”
For it is not right that a candle should be placed under a bushel. “And they said,” that is, some of the multitude, “that John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do shew themselves forth in him.”
Bede, in Marc., 2, 25: Here we are taught how great was the envy of the Jews. For, lo, they believe that John, of whom it was said that he did no miracle, could rise from the dead, and that, without the witness of any one. But Jesus, approved of God by miracles and signs, whose resurrection, Angles and Apostles, men and women, preached, they chose to believe was carried away by stealth, rather than suppose that He had risen again.
And these men, in saying that John was risen from the dead, and that therefore mighty works were wrought in him, had just thoughts of the power of 113 the resurrection, for men, when they shall have risen from the dead, shall have much greater power than they possessed when still weighed down by the weakness of the flesh.
There follows: “But others said, that it is Elias.”
Theophylact: For John confuted many men, when he said, “Ye generation of vipers.”
It goes on: “But others said, that it is a prophet, or as one of the prophets.”
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: Is seems to me that this prophet means that one of whom Moses said, “God will raise up a prophet unto thee of thy brethren.” [Deut 18:15] They were right indeed, but because they feared to say openly, This is the Christ, they used the voice of Moses, veiling their own surmise through fear of their rules.
There follows: “But when Herod heard thereof, he said, It is John, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead.” Herod expressly says this in irony.
Theophylact: Or else, Herod, knowing that he without a cause had slain John, who was a just man, thought that he had risen from the dead, and had received through his resurrection the power of working miracles.
Augustine, de Con. Even., ii, 43: But in these words Luke bears witness to Mark, to this point at least, that others and not Herod said that John had risen; but Luke had represented Herod as hesitating and has put down his words as if he said, “John have I beheaded, but who is this of whom I hear such things?” [Luke 9:7]
We must, however, suppose that after this hesitation he had confirmed in his own mind what others had said, for he says to his children, as Matthew relates, “This is John the Baptist, he has risen from the dead.” [Matt 14:2] Or else these words are to be spoken, so as to indicate that he is still hesitating, particularly as Mark who had said above that others had declared that John had risen from the dead, afterwards however is not silent as to Herod’s plainly saying, “It is John, whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead.” Which words also may be spoken in two ways, either they may be understood as those of a man affirming or doubting.
17. For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife: for he had married her.114
18. For John had said unto Herod, “It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother’s wife.”
19. Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not;
20. For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.
21. And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee;
22. And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, “Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee.”
23. And he sware unto her, “Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom.”
24. And she went forth, and said unto her mother, “What shall I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.”
25. And she came in straightway with haste unto the king, and asked, saying, “I will that thou give me by and by in a charger the head of John the Baptist.”
26. And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath’s sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her.
27. And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison,
28. And brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel: and the damsel gave it to her mother.
29. And when the disciples heard of it, they came and took up his corpse, and laid it in a tomb.
Theophylact: The Evangelist Mark, taking occasion from what went before, here relates the death of the Forerunner, saying, “For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife: for he had married her.”
Bede: Ancient history relates, that Philip, the son of Herod the great, under whom the Lord fled into Egypt, the brother of this Herod, under whom Christ suffered, married Herodias, the daughter of king Aretas; but afterwards, that his father-in-law, after certain disagreements had arisen with his son-in-law, had taken his daughter away, and, to the grief of her former husband, had given her in marriage to his enemy; therefore John the Baptist rebukes Herod and Herodias for contracting an unlawful union, and because it was not allowed for a man to marry his brother’s wife during his lifetime.
Theophylact: The law also commanded a brother to marry his brother’s wife, if he died without children; but in this case there was a daughter, which made the marriage criminal.
There follows: “Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not.”
Bede: For Herodias was afraid, lest Herod should repent at some time, or be reconciled to his brother Philip, and so the unlawful marriage be divorced.
It goes on: “For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man, and a holy.”
Gloss.: He feared him, I say, because he revered him, for he knew him to be just in his dealings with men, and holy towards God, and he took care that Herodias should not slay him. “And when he heard him, he did many things,” for he thought that he spake by the Spirit of God, “and heard him gladly,” because he considered that what he said was profitable.
Theophylact: But see how great is the fury of lust, for though Herod had such an awe and fear of John, he forgets it all, that he may minister to his fornication.
Remig.: For his lustful will drove him to lay hands on a man whom he knew to be just and holy. And by this, we may see how a less fault became the cause to him of a greater; as it is said, “He which is filthy, let him be filthy still.” [Rev 22:11]
It goes on: “And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee.”
Bede: The only men 116 whom we read of, as celebrating their birthdays with festive joys are Herod and Pharaoh, but each, with an evil presage, stained his birthday with blood; Herod, however, with so much the greater wickedness, as he slew the holy and guiltless teacher of truth, and that by the wish, and at the instance of a female dancer.
For there follows: “And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee.”
Theophylact: For during the banquet, Satan danced in the person of the damsel, and the wicked oath is completed.
For it goes on: “And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom.”
Bede: His oath does not excuse his murder, for perchance his reason for swearing was, that he might find an opportunity for slaying, and if she had demanded the death of his father and mother, he surely would not have granted it.
It goes on: “And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist.”
Worthy is blood to be asked as the reward of such a deed as dancing.
It goes on: “And she came in straightway with haste, &c.”
Theophylact: The malignant woman begs that the head of John be given to her immediately, that is, at once, in that very hour, for she feared lest Herod should repent.
There follows: “And the king was exceeding sorry.”
Bede: It is usual with Scripture, that the historian should relate events as they were then believed by all, thus Joseph is called the father of Jesus by Mary herself. So now also Herod is said to be “exceeding sorry,” for so the guests thought, since the hypocrite bore sadness on his face, when he had joy in his heart; and he excuses the wickedness by his oath, that he might be impious under pretence of piety.
Wherefore there follows: “For his oath’s sake, and for their sakes who sat with him, he would not reject her.”
Theophylact: Herod not being his own master, but full of lust, fulfilled his oath, and slew the just man; it would have been better however to break his oath, than to commit so great a sin.
Bede: In that again which is added, “And for their sakes who sat with him,” he wishes to make all partakers in 117 his guilt, that a bloody feast might be set before luxurious and impure guests.
Wherefore it goes on: “But sending an executioner, he commanded his head to be brought in a charger.”
Theophylact: ‘Spiculator’ is the name for the public servant commissioned to put men to death.
Bede: Now Herod was not ashamed to bring before his guests the head of a murdered man; but we do not read of such an act of madness in Pharaoh. From both examples, however, it is proved to be more useful, often to call to mind the coming day of our death, by fear and by living chastely, than to celebrate the day of our birth with luxury. For man is born in the world to toil, but the elect pass by death out of the world to repose.
It goes on: “And he beheaded him in prison, &c.”
Greg., Mor., 3, 7: I cannot, without the greatest wonder, reflect that he, who was filled even in his mother’s womb with the spirit of prophecy, and who was the greatest that had arisen amongst those born of women, is sent into prison by wicked men, is beheaded for the dancing of a girl, and though a man of so great austerity, meets death through such a foul instrument. Are we to suppose that there was something evil in his life, to be wiped away by so ignominious a death? When, however, could he commit a sin even in his eating, whose food was only locusts, and wild honey? How could he offend in his conversation, who never quitted the wilderness? How is it that Almighty God so despises in this life those whom He has so sublimely chosen before all ages, if it be not for the reason, which is plain to the piety of the faithful, that He thus sinks them into the lowest place, because He sees how He is rewarding them in the highest, and outwardly He throws them down amongst things despised, because inwardly He draws them up even to incomprehensible things. Let each then infer from this what they shall suffer, whom He rejects, if He so grieves those whom He loves.
There follows: “And when his disciples heard of it, they came and took up his corpse, and laid it in a tomb.”
Bede: Josephus relates, that John was brought bound into the castle of Macheron, and there slain; and ecclesiastical history says [Theodoret, Hist., Eccles., 3, 3] that he was buried in Sebaste, a city of Palestine, once called Samaria. But the beheading of John the Baptist signifies the lessening of that fame, by which he was thought to be Christ 118 by the people, as the raising of our Saviour on the cross typifies the advance of the faith, in that He Himself, who was first looked upon as a prophet by the multitude, was recognized as the Son of God by all the faithful; wherefore John, who was destined to decrease, was born when the daylight begins to wax short; but the Lord at that season of the year in which the day begins to lengthen.
Theophylact: In a mystical way, however, Herod, whose name means, ‘of skin,’ is the people of the Jews, and the wife to whom he was wedded means vain glory, whose daughter even now encircles the Jews with her dance, namely, a false understanding of the Scriptures; they indeed beheaded John, that is, the word of prophecy, and hold to him without Christ, his head.
Pseudo-Jerome: Or else, the head of the law, which is Christ, is cut off from His own body, that is, the Jewish people, and is given to a Gentile damsel, that is, the Roman Church, and the damsel gives it to her adulterous mother, that is, to the synagogue, who in the end will believe. The body of John is buried, his head is put in a dish; thus the human Letter is covered over, the Spirit is honoured, and received on the altar.
30. And the Apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told Him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught.
31. And He said unto them, “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while:” for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.
32. And they departed into a desert place by ship privately.
33. And the people saw them departing, and many knew Him, and ran afoot thither out of all cities, and outwent them, and came together unto Him.
34. And Jesus, when He came out, saw many people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and He began to teach them many things.
Gloss.: The Evangelist, after relating the death of John, gives an account of those things which Christ did with His disciples after the death of John, saying, “And the Apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told Him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught.”
Pseudo-Jerome: For they return to the fountain-head whence the streams flow; those who are sent by God, always offer up thanks for those things which they have received.
Theophylact: Let us also learn, when we are sent on any mission, not to go far away, and not to overstep the bounds of the office committed, but to go often to him, who sends us, and report all that we have done and taught; for we must not only teach but act.
Bede: Not only do the Apostles tell the Lord what they themselves had done and taught, but also His own and John’s disciples together tell Him what John had suffered, during the time that they were occupied in teaching, as Matthew relates.
It goes on: “And He said to them, Come ye yourselves apart, &c.”
Augustine, de Con. Evan., 2, 45: This is said to have taken place, after the passion of John, therefore what is first related took place last, for it was by these events that Herod was moved to say, “This is John the Baptist, whom I beheaded.”
Theophylact: Again, He goes into a desert place from His humility. But Christ makes His disciples rest, that men who are set over others may learn, that they who labour in any work or in the word deserve rest, and ought not to labour continually.
Bede: How arose the necessity for giving rest to His disciples, He shews, when He adds, “For there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat;” we may then see how great was the happiness of that time, both from the toil of the teachers, and from the diligence of the learners.
It goes on: “And embarking in a ship, they departed into a desert place privately.”
The disciples did not enter into the ship alone, but taking up the Lord with them, they went to a desert place, as Matthew shews. [Matt 14] Here He tries the faith of the multitude, and by seeking a desert place He would see whether they care to follow Him. And they follow Him, and not on horseback, nor in carriages, but laboriously coming on foot, they shew how great is their anxiety for their salvation.
There follows: “And the people saw them departing, and many knew Him, and ran afoot 120 thither out of all cities, and outwent them.”
In saying that they outwent them on foot, it is proved that the disciples with the Lord did not reach the other bank of the sea, or of the Jordan, but they went to the nearest places of the same country, where the people of those parts could come to them on foot.
Theophylact: So do thou not wait for Christ till He Himself call you, but outrun Him, and come before Him.
There follows: “And Jesus when He came out saw many people, and was moved with compassion towards them, because they were as sheep having no shepherd.”
The Pharisees being ravening wolves did not feed the sheep, but devoured them; for which reason they gather themselves to Christ, the true Shepherd, who gave them spiritual food, that is, the word of God.
Wherefore it goes on: “And He began to teach them many things.”
For seeing that those who followed Him on account of His miracles were tired from the length of the way, He pitied them, and wished to satisfy their wish by teaching them.
Bede, in Marc., 2, 26: Matthew says that He healed their sick, for the real way of pitying the poor is to open to them the way of truth by teaching them, and to take away their bodily pains.
Pseudo-Jerome: Mystically, however, the Lord took apart those whom He chose, that though living amongst evil men, they might not apply their minds to evil things, as Lot in Sodom, Job in the land of Uz, and Obadiah in the house of Ahab.
Bede, in Marc., 2, 25: Leaving also Judaea, the holy preachers, in the desert of the Church, overwhelmed by the burden of their tribulations amongst the Jews, obtained rest by the imparting of the grace of faith to the Gentiles.
Pseudo-Jerome: Little indeed is the rest of the saints here on earth, long is their labour, but afterwards, they are bidden to rest from their labours. But as in the ark of Noah, the animals that were within were sent forth, and they that were without rushed in, so is it in the Church, Judas went, the thief came to Christ. But as long as men go back from the faith, the Church can have no refuge from grief; for Rachel weeping for her children would not be comforted. Moreover, this world is not the banquet, in which the new wine is drank, when the new song will be sung by men made anew, when this mortal shall have put on immortality.
Bede, in Marc., 2, 26: But when Christ 121 goes to the deserts of the Gentiles, many bands of the faithful leaving the walls of their cities, that is their old manner of living, follow Him.
35. And when the day was now far spent, His disciples came unto Him, and said, “This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed:
36. Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat.”
37. He answered and said unto them, “Give ye them to eat.” And they said unto Him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat?”
38. He saith unto them, “How many loaves have ye? go and see.” And when they knew, they say, “Five, and two fishes.”
39. And He commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass.
40. And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties.
41. And when He had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, He looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided He among them all.
42. And they did all eat, and were filled.
43. And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes.
44. And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men.
Theophylact: The Lord, placing before them, first, what is most profitable, that is, the food of the word of God, afterwards also gave the multitude food for their bodies; in beginning to relate which, the Evangelist say, “And when the 122 day was now far spent, His disciples came unto Him, and said, This is a desert place.
Bede: The time being far spent, points out that it was evening. Wherefore Luke says, “But the day had begun to decline.”
Theophylact: See now, how those who are disciples of Christ grow in love to man, for they pity the multitudes, and come to Christ to intercede for them. But the Lord tried them, to see whether they would know that His power was great enough to feed them.
Wherefore it goes on: “He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat.”
Bede: By these words He calls on His Apostles, to break bread for the people, that they might be able to testify that they had no bread, and thus the greatness of the miracle might become more known.
Theophylact: But the disciples thought that He did not know what was necessary for the feeding of so large a multitude, for their answer shews that they were troubled.
For it goes on, “And they said unto Him, Let us go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat.”
Augustine, de Con. Evan., 2, 46: This in the Gospel of John is the answer to Philip, but Mark gives it as the answer of the disciples, wishing it to be understood that Philip made this answer as a mouthpiece of the others; although he might put the plural number for the singular, as is usual.
It goes on: “And He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see.”
The other Evangelists pass over this being done by the Lord.
It goes on: “And when they knew, they say, “Five, and two fishes.”
This, which was suggested by Andrew, as we learn from John, the other Evangelists, using the plural for the singular, have put into the mouth of the disciples.
It goes on, “And He commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass, and they sat down in ranks by hundreds and by fifties.”
But we need not be perplexed, though Luke says that they were ordered to sit down by fifties, and Mark by hundreds and fifties, for one has mentioned a part, the other the whole. Mark, who mentions the hundreds, fills up what the other has left out.
Theophylact: We are given to understand that they lay down in parties, separate from one another, for what is translated by companies, is repeated twice over in the Greek, as though it were by companies and companies.
It goes on, “And when He had taken the five loaves and the 123 two fishes, He looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke the loaves, and gave them to His disciples to set before them: and the two fishes divided He among them all.”
Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc., see Hom. in Matt., 49: Now it was with fitness that He looked up to heaven, for the Jews, when receiving manna in the desert, presumed to say of God, “Can he give bread?” [Ps 78:20] To prevent this, therefore, before He performed the miracle, He referred to His Father when He was about to do.
Theophylact: He also looks up to heaven, that He may teach us to seek our food from God, and not from the devil, as they do who unjustly feed on other men’s labours. By this also He intimated to the crowd, that He could not be opposed to God, since He called upon God. And He gives the bread to His disciples to set before the multitude, that by handling the bread, they might see that it was an undoubted miracle.
It goes on: “And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments.”
Twelve baskets of fragments remained over and above, that each of the Apostles, carrying a basket on his shoulder, might recognise the unspeakable wonder of the miracle. For it was a proof of overflowing power not only to feed so many men, but also to leave such a superabundance of fragments. Even though Moses gave manna, yet what was given to each was measured by his necessity, and what was over and above was overrun with worms. Elias also fed the woman, but gave her just what was enough for her; but Jesus, being the Lord, makes His gifts with superabundant profusion.
Bede: Again, in a mystical sense, the Saviour refreshes the hungry crowds at the day’s decline, because, either now that the end of the world approaches, or now that the Son of justice has set in death for us, we are saved from wasting away in spiritual hunger. He calls the Apostles to Him at the breaking of bread, intimating that daily by them our hungry souls are fed, that is, by their letters and examples. By the five loaves are figured the Five Books of Moses, by the two fishes, the Psalms and Prophets.
Theophylact: Or the two fishes are the discourses of fishermen, that is, their Epistles and Gospel.
Bede: [ed. note: The same application to the five senses is found in Origen in Matt. 14, 17, and St. Ambrose in Luc., 6, 80. The latter, probably, was the source from which Bede borrowed it, as in both it forms a portion of a comparison between this miracle and that of the four thousand being fed with seven loaves, in which the latter are said to be a type of the Christian, who has given up external things. Origen, Hom. 3 in Leviticus lays it down as a principle, that the number five is almost always taken for the five sense in Scripture.] There are five senses in the outward man 124 which shews that by the five thousand men are meant those who, living in the world, know how to make a good use of external things.
Greg., Mor. 16, 55: The different ranks in which those who ate lie down, mark out the divers churches which make up the one Catholic. [ed. note: The number fifty is connected with rest from sin, or remission, with an allusion to the Jubilee and to Pentecost by Origen in Matt. Tom. xi. 3, and by St. Ambrose Ap. David 8. On number a hundred, as the recognized symbol of perfection, see Benedictine Note] But the Jubilee rest is contained in the mystery of the number fifty, and fifty must be doubled before it reaches up to a hundred. As then the first step is to rest from doing evil, that afterwards the soul may rest more fully from evil thoughts, some lie down in parties of fifty, others of a hundred.
Bede: Again, those men lie down on grass and are fed by the food of the Lord, who have trodden under foot their concupiscences by continence, and apply themselves diligently to hear and fulfil the words of God. [ed. note: see Aurea Catena in Matthew, p. 537] The Saviour, however, does not create a new sort of food; for when He came in the flesh He preached no other things than were predicted, but shewed how pregnant with mysteries of grace were the writings of the Law and the Prophets.
He looks up to heaven, that He may teach us that there we must look for grace. He breaks and distributes to the disciples that they may place the bread before the multitudes, because He has opened the mysteries of prophecy to holy doctors, who are to preach them to the whole world. What is left by the crowd is taken up by the disciples, because the more sacred mysteries, which cannot be received by the foolish, are not to be passed by with negligence, but to be inquired into by the perfect. For by the twelve baskets, the Apostles and the following Doctors are typified, externally indeed despised by men, but inwardly full of healthful food. For all know that carrying baskets is a part of the work of slaves.
Pseudo-Jerome: Or, in the gathering of the twelve baskets full of fragments, is signified the time, when they shall sit on thrones, judging all who are left of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the twelve tribes of Israel, when the remnant of Israel shall be saved.
45. And straightway He constrained His disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while He sent away the people.
46. And when He had sent them away, He departed into a mountain to pray.
47. And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and He alone on the land.
48. And He saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night He cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them.
49. But when they saw Him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out:
50. For they all saw Him, and were troubled. And immediately He talked with them, and saith unto them, “Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid.”
51. And He went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered.
52. For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.
Gloss.: The Lord indeed by the miracle of the loaves shewed that He is the Creator of the world: but now by walking on the waves He proved that He had a body free from the weight of all sin, and by appeasing the winds and by calming the rage of the waves, He declared Himself to be the Master of the elements.
Wherefore it is said, “And straightway He constrained His disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while He sent away the people.”
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: He dismisses indeed the people with His blessing and with some cures. But He constrained His disciples, because they could not without pain separate themselves from Him, and that, not only on account of the very great affection which they had for Him, but also because they were at a loss how He would join them.
Bede, in Marc., 2, 27: But it 126 is with reason that we wonder how Mark says, that after the miracle of the loaves the disciples crossed the sea of Bethsaida, when Luke relates that the miracle was done in the parts of Bethsaida [Luke 9:10], unless we understand that Luke means by the desert which is Bethsaida not the country immediately around the town, but the desert places belonging to it. But when Mark says that they should “go before unto Bethsaida,” the town itself is meant.
It goes on: “And when He had sent them away, He departed into a mountain to pray.”
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: This we must understand of Christ, in that He is man; He does it also to teach us to be constant in prayer.
Theophylact: But when He had dismissed the crowd, He goes up to pray, for prayer requires rest and silence.
Bede, in Marc., 2, 28: Not every man, however, who prays goes up into a mountain, but he alone prays well, who seeks God in prayer. But he who prays for riches or worldly labour, or for the death of his enemy, sends up from the lowest depths his vile prayers to God.
John says, “When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take Him by force and make Him a king, He departed against into a mountain Himself, alone.” [John 6:15]
It goes on: “And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and He alone on the land.”
Theophylact: Now the Lord permitted His disciples to be in danger, that they might learn patience; wherefore He did not immediately come to their aid, but allowed them to remain in danger all night, that He might teach them to wait patiently, and not to hope at once for help in tribulations.
For there follows: “And He saw them toiling in rowing, for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night, He cometh unto them walking upon the sea.”
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: Holy Scripture reckons four watches in the night, making each division three hours; wherefore by the fourth watch it means that which is after the ninth hour, that is, in the tenth or some following hour.
There follows: “And would have passed them.”
Augustine, de Con. Evan., 2, 47: But how could they understand this, except from His going a different way, wishing to pass them as strangers; for they were so far from recognizing Him, as to take Him for a spirit.
For it goes on: “But when they saw Him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out.”
Theophylact: See again how Christ, though He was about to put and end to 127 their dangers, puts them in greater fear. But He immediately reassured them by His voice, for it continues, “And immediately He talked with them, and said unto them, It is I, be not afraid.”
Chrys., Hom. in Matt., 50: As soon then as they knew Him by His voice, their fear left them.
Augustine: How then could He wish to pass them, whose fears He so reassures, if it were not that His wish to pass them would wring from them that cry, which called for His help?
Bede: [ed. note: This opinion with which Theodorus is charged was one held by the Phantasiasts, a sect of the Monophysites. The denial of the human body to our Lord, was a natural consequence of denying Him a human soul, for how could a human body inclose, so to speak, His Divinity? Theodoras was Bishop of Pharan, in Arabia, and was condemned as the author of the Monothelite heresy in the Lateran Council under Pope Martin I, AD 649. The passage from Dionysius is quoted in Actio 3 of the Council, and occurs de Div. Nom, c. 1] But Theodorus, who was Bishop of Phanara, wrote that the Lord had no bodily weight in His flesh, and walked on the sea without weight; but the Catholic faith declares that He had weight according to the flesh. For Dionysius says, We know not how without plunging in His feet, which had bodily weight and the gravity of matter, He could walk on the wet and unstable substance.
Theophylact: Then by entering into the ship, the Lord restrained the tempest. For it continues, “And He went up unto them into the ship, and the wind ceased.” Great indeed is the miracle of our Lord’s walking on the sea, but the tempest and the contrary wind were there as well, to make the miracle greater. For the Apostles, not understanding from the miracle of the five loaves the power of Christ, now more fully knew it from the miracle of the sea.
Wherefore it goes on, “And they were sore amazed in themselves.” For they understood not concerning the loaves.
Bede: The disciples indeed, who were still carnal, were amazed at the greatness of His virtue, they could not yet however recognise in Him the truth of the Divine Majesty. Wherefore it goes on, “For their hearts were hardened.”
But mystically, the toil of the disciples in rowing, and the contrary wind, mark out the labours of the Holy Church, who amidst the beating waves of the world, and the blasts of unclean spirits, strives to reach the repose of her celestial country. And well is it said that the ship was in the midst of the sea, and He alone on land, for sometimes the Church is afflicted by a pressure from the 128 Gentiles so overwhelming, that her Redeemer seems to have entirely deserted her. But the Lord sees His own, toiling on the sea, for, lest they faint in tribulations, He strengthens them by the look of His love, and sometimes frees them by a visible assistance. Further, in the fourth watch He came to them as daylight approached, for when man lifts up his mind to the light of guidance from on high, the Lord will be with him, and the dangers of temptations will be laid asleep.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: Or else, the first watch means the time up to the deluge; the second, up to Moses; the third, up to the coming of the Lord; in the fourth the Lord came and spoke to His disciples.
Bede: Often then does the love of heaven seem to have deserted the faithful in tribulation, so that it may be thought that Jesus wishes to pass by His disciples, as it were, toiling in the sea. And still do heretics suppose that the Lord was a phantom, and did not take upon Him real flesh from the Virgin.
Pseudo-Jerome: And He says to them, “Be of good cheer, it is I,” because we shall see Him as He is. But the wind and the storm ceased when Jesus sat down, that is, reigned in the ship, which is the Catholic Church.
Bede: In whatsoever heart, also, He is present by the grace of His love, there soon all the strivings of vices, and of the adverse world, or of evil spirits, are kept under and put to rest.
53. And when they had passed over, they came into the land of Gennesaret, and drew to the shore.
54. And when they were come out of the ship, straightway they knew Him,
55. And ran through that whole region round about, and began to carry about in beds those that were sick, where they heard He was.
56. And whithersoever He entered, into villages, or cities, or country, they laid the sick in the streets, and besought Him that they might touch if it were but the border of His garment: and as many as touched Him were made whole.
Gloss.: The Evangelist, having shewn the danger which 129 the disciples had sustained in their passage, and their deliverance from it, now shews the place to which they sailed, saying, “And when they had passed over, they came into the land of Gennesaret, and drew to the shore.”
Theophylact: The Lord remained at the above-mentioned place for some time. Therefore the Evangelist subjoins, “And when they had come out of the ship, straightway they knew Him,” That is, the inhabitants of the country.
Bede: But they knew Him by report, not by His features; or through the greatness of His miracles, even His person was known to some. See too how great was the faith of the men of the land of Gennesaret, so that they were not content with the healing of those who were present, but sent to other towns round about, that all might hasten to the Physician; wherefore there follows, “And ran through the whole region round about, and began to carry about in beds those that were sick, where they heard He was.”
Theophylact: For they did not call Him to their houses that He might heal them, but rather the sick themselves were brought to Him.
Wherefore it also follows: “And whithersoever He entered into villages, or cities, or country, &c.”
For the miracle which had been wrought on the woman with an issue of blood, had reached the ears of many, and caused in them that great faith, by which they were healed.
It goes on: “And as many as touched Him were made whole.”
Again, in a mystical sense, do thou understand by the hem of His garment the slightest of His commandments, for whosoever shall transgress it “shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven,” [Matt. 5:19] or else His assumption of our flesh, by which we have come to the Word of God, and afterwards, shall have the enjoyment of His majesty.
Pseudo-Jerome: Furthermore that which is said, “And as many as touched Him were made whole,” shall be fulfilled, when grief and mourning shall fly away.
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