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John 11:28-38

28. Having said these things, she went away, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is here, and calleth for thee. 29. As soon as she heard it, she immediately arose, and came to him. 30. Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was in the place where Martha met him. 31. Then the Jews, who were with her in the house, and comforted her, perceiving that Mary suddenly arose and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth to the tomb, to weep there. 32. Mary therefore, having come where Jesus was, and having seen him, fell at his feet, saying to him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother would not have died. 33. Jesus therefore, when he saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also 320320     “Aussi.” weeping, groaned in his spirit, and was troubled, 34. And said, Where have you laid him? They say to him, Lord, come and see. 35. Jesus wept. 36. The Jews therefore said, Behold how he loved him? 321321     “Voyez comme il l’aimoit!” — “see how he loved him!” 37. And some of them said, Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not die? 38. Then Jesus, again groaning within himself, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was placed on it.

 

28. And called Mary, her sister. It was probably at the request of Martha, that Christ remained on the outside of the village, that he might not enter into so great an assembly of people; for she dreaded the danger, because Christ had but lately escaped with difficulty from instant death. Accordingly, that the rumor about his arrival might not spread farther, she makes it known privately to her sister.

The Master is here. The word Master shows in what estimation Christ was held among those pious women. Though they had not hitherto profited so much as they might have done, still it was a great matter that they were entirely devoted to him as his disciples; and Mary’s sudden departure, to come and meet him, was a proof that she regarded him with no ordinary reverence.

31. Then the Jews who were with her. Though Martha was permitted by Christ to return home for the purpose of withdrawing her sister from the numerous assembly, yet Christ had another design in view, which was, that the Jews might be witnesses of the miracle. True, they have no thought of it, but it was no new thing that men should be led, as it were in darkness, and by the secret providence of God, where they did not intend to go. They think that Mary is going to the tomb, according to the custom of those who seek excitements of their grief. For it is a very prevalent disease, that husbands deprived of their wives, parents deprived of their children, and, on the other hand, wives deprived of their husbands, and children deprived of their parents or other relatives and friends, are eager to increase their grief by every possible method. It is also customary to resort to various contrivances for this purpose. The affections of men are already sufficiently disordered; but it is still worse, 322322     “Mais voyci le pis.” that they inflame them by new excitements, that they may rush against God with greater ardor and violence. It was their duty to dissuade Mary from going, that the sight of the tomb might not give fresh occasion for her grief; yet they do not venture to apply so harsh a remedy, but even themselves contribute to the excess of her grief, by accompanying her to the tomb. Thus it frequently happens, that they who treat too gently the excesses of their friends do them little good by their consolations.

32. She fell at his feet. From her falling down at his feet we learn that Christ was honored in that house beyond the ordinary custom of men. For, though it was customary to throw themselves down on the ground in the presence of kings and great men, yet as Christ had nothing about him, according to the flesh, that was royal or magnificent, it was for a different purpose that Mary fell down at his feet Indeed, she would not have done so, if she had not been convinced that he was the Son of God.

Lord, if thou hadst been here. Though she appears to speak of Christ respectfully, yet we have lately pointed out what is faulty in these words; for the power of Christ, which filled heaven and earth, ought not to have been limited to his bodily presence.

33. He groaned in his spirit. If Christ had not been excited to compassion by their tears, he would rather have kept his countenance unmoved, but when, of his own accord, he conforms to those mourners, so far as to weep along with them, 323323     “Quand de son bon gre il se conforme a ces pleurans, jusques pleurer avec eux.” he gives proof that he has sympathy, (συμπάθεια.) For the cause of this feeling is, in my opinion, expressed by the Evangelist, when he says that Christ saw Mary and the rest weeping Yet I have no doubt that Christ contemplated something higher, namely, the general misery of the whole human race; for he knew well what had been enjoined on him by the Father, and why he was sent into the world, namely, to free us from all evils. As he has actually done this, so he intended to show that he accomplished it with warmth and earnestness. Accordingly, when he is about to raise Lazarus, before granting deliverance or aid, by the groaning of his spirit, by a strong feeling of grief, and by tears, he shows that he is as much affected by our distresses as if he had endured them in his own person.

But how do groaning and trouble of mind belong to the person of the Son of God? As some reckon it absurd to say that Christ, as one of the number of human beings, was subject to human passions, they think that the only way in which he experienced grief or joy was, that he received in himself those feelings, whenever he thought proper, by some secret dispensation. It is in this sense, Augustine thinks, that the Evangelist says that he was troubled, because other men are hurried along by their feelings, which exercise dominion, or rather tyranny, to trouble their minds. He considers the meaning therefore to be, that Christ, though otherwise tranquil and free from all passion, brought groaning and grief upon himself of his own accord. But this simplicity will, in my opinion, be more agreeable to Scripture, if we say that the Son of God, having clothed himself with our flesh, of his own accord clothed himself also with human feelings, so that he did not differ at all from his brethren, sin only excepted. In this way we detract nothing from the glory of Christ, when we say that it was a voluntary submission, by which he was brought to resemble us in the feelings of the soul. Besides, as he submitted from the very commencement, we must not imagine that he was free and exempt from those feelings; and in this respect he proved himself to be our brother, in order to assure us, that we have a Mediator, who willingly pardons our infirmities, and who is ready to assist those infirmities which he has experienced in himself.

It will perhaps be objected, that the passions of men are sinful, and therefore it cannot be admitted that we have them in common with the Son of God. I reply, there is a wide difference between Christ and us. For the reason why our feelings are sinful is, that they rush on without restraint, and suffer no limit; but in Christ the feelings were adjusted and regulated in obedience to God, and were altogether free from sin. To express it more fully, 324324     “Pour mieux dire.” the feelings of men are sinful and perverse on two accounts; first, because they are hurried along by impetuous motion, and are not regulated by the true rule of modesty; and, secondly, because they do not always arise from a lawful cause, or, at least, are not directed to a lawful end. I say that there is excess, because no person rejoices or grieves, so far only as is sufficient, or as God permits, and there are even some who shake themselves loose from all restraint. The vanity of our understanding brings us grief or sadness, on account of trifles, or for no reason whatever, because we are too much devoted to the world. Nothing of this nature was to be found in Christ; for he had no passion or affection of his own that ever went beyond its proper bounds; he had not one that was not proper, and founded on reason and sound judgment.

To make this matter still more clear, it will be of importance for us to distinguish between man’s first nature, as it was created by God, and this degenerate nature, which is corrupted by sin. When God created man, he implanted affections in him, but affections which were obedient and submissive to reason. That those affections are now disorderly and rebellious is an accidental fault; that is, it proceeds from some other cause than from the Creator. 325325     “C’est a dire, venant d’ailleurs que du Createur.” Now Christ took upon him human affections, but without (ἀταξία) disorder; for he who obeys the passions of the flesh is not obedient to God. Christ was indeed troubled and vehemently agitated; but, at the same time, he kept himself in subjection to the will of the Father. In short, if you compare his passions with ours, they will differ not less than pure and clear water, flowing in a gentle course, differs from dirty and muddy foam.

The example of Christ ought to be sufficient of itself for setting aside the unbending sternness which the Stoics demand; for whence ought we to look for the rule of supreme perfection but from Christ? We ought rather to endeavor to correct and subdue that obstinacy which pervades our affections on account of the sin of Adam, and, in so doing, to follow Christ as our leader, that he may bring us into subjection. Thus Paul does not demand from us hardened stupidity, but enjoins us to observe moderation

in our mourning, that we may not abandon ourselves to grief, like unbelievers who have no hope
(1 Thessalonians 4:13;)

for even Christ took our affections into himself, that by his power we may subdue every thing in them that is sinful.

36. Behold, how he loved him! The Evangelist John here describes to us two different opinions which were formed about Christ. As to the former, who said, Behold, how he loved him! though they think less highly of Christ than they ought to have done, since they ascribe to him nothing but what may belong to a man, yet they speak of him with greater candor and modesty than the latter, who maliciously slander him for not having hindered Lazarus from dying. For, though they applaud the power of Christ, of which the former said nothing, yet they do so, not without bringing against him some reproach. It is evident enough from their words, that the miracles which Christ had performed were not unknown to them; but so much the more base is their ingratitude, that they do not scruple to complain, because now, in a single instance, he abstained from working. Men have always been ungrateful to God in the same manner, and continue to be so. If he does not grant all our wishes, we immediately launch into complaints: “Since he has been accustomed to aid us hitherto, why does he now forsake and disappoint us?” There is here a twofold disease. First, though we rashly desire what is not expedient for us, yet we wish to subject God to the perverse desires of the flesh. Secondly, we are rude in our demands, and the ardor of impatience hurries us before the time.

38. Jesus therefore again groaning within himself. Christ does not approach the sepulcher as an idle spectator, but as a champion who prepares for a contest; and therefore we need not wonder that he again groans; for the violent tyranny of death, which he had to conquer, is placed before his eyes. Some explain this groan to have arisen from indignation, because he was offended at that unbelief of which we have spoken. But another reason appears to me far more appropriate, namely, that he contemplated the transaction itself rather than the men. Next follow various circumstances, which tend to display more fully the power of Christ in raising Lazarus. I refer to the time of four days, during which the tomb had been secured by a stone, which Christ commands to be removed in presence of all.


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