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2. First Miracle, Cleansing of Temple
1And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: 2and Jesus also was bidden, and his disciples, to the marriage. 3And when the wine failed, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. 4And Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. 5His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. 6Now there were six waterpots of stone set there after the Jews' manner of purifying, containing two or three firkins apiece. 7Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. 8And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the ruler of the feast. And they bare it. 9And when the ruler of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and knew not whence it was (but the servants that had drawn the water knew), the ruler of the feast calleth the bridegroom, 10and saith unto him, Every man setteth on first the good wine; and when men have drunk freely, then that which is worse: thou hast kept the good wine until now. 11This beginning of his signs did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested his glory; and his disciples believed on him. 12After this he went down to Capernaum, he, and his mother, and his brethren, and his disciples; and there they abode not many days. 13And the passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14And he found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: 15and he made a scourge of cords, and cast all out of the temple, both the sheep and the oxen; and he poured out the changers' money, and overthrew their tables; 16and to them that sold the doves he said, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house a house of merchandise. 17His disciples remembered that it was written, Zeal for thy house shall eat me up. 18The Jews therefore answered and said unto him, What sign showest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? 19Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. 20The Jews therefore said, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou raise it up in three days? 21But he spake of the temple of his body. 22When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he spake this; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said. 23Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, during the feast, many believed on his name, beholding his signs which he did. 24But Jesus did not trust himself unto them, for that he knew all men, 25and because he needed not that any one should bear witness concerning man; for he himself knew what was in man.
1. There was a marriage in Cana of Galilee. As this narrative contains the first miracle which Christ performed, it would be proper for us, were it on this ground alone, to consider the narrative attentively; though — as we shall afterwards see — there are other reasons which recommend it to our notice. But while we proceed, the various advantages arising from it will be more clearly seen. The Evangelist first mentions Cana of Galilee, not that which was situated towards Zare-phath (1 Kings 17:9; Obadiah 20; Luke 4:26) or Sarepta, between Tyre and Sidon, and was called the greater in comparison of this latter Cana, which is placed by some in the tribe of Zebulun, and by others in the tribe of Asher. For Jerome too assures us that, even in his time, there existed a small town which bore that name. There is reason to believe that it was near the city of Nazareth, since the mother of Christ came there to attend the marriage. From the fourth chapter of this book it will be seen that it was not more than one day’s journey distant from Capernaum. That it lay not far from the city of Bethsaida may also be inferred from the circumstance, that three days after Christ had been in those territories, the marriage was celebrated — the Evangelist tells us — in Cana of Galilee. There may have been also a third Cana, not far from Jerusalem, and yet out of Galilee; but I leave this undetermined, because I am unacquainted with it.
And the mother of Jesus was there. It was probably one of Christ’s near relations who married a wife; for Jesus is mentioned as having accompanied his mother. From the fact that the disciples also are invited, we may infer how plain and frugal was his way of living; for he lived in common with them. It may be thought strange, however, that a man who has no great wealth or abundance (as will be made evident from the scarcity of the wine) invites four or five other persons, on Christ’s account. But the poor are readier and more frank in their invitations; because they are not, like the rich, afraid of being disgraced, if they do not treat their guests with great costliness and splendor; for the poor adhere more zealously to the ancient custom of having an extended acquaintance.
Again, it may be supposed to show a want of courtesy, that the bridegroom allows his guests, in the middle of the entertainment, to be in want of wine; for it looks like a man of little thoughtfulness not to have a sufficiency of wine for his guests. I reply, nothing is here related which does not frequently happen, especially when people are not accustomed to the daily use of wine. Besides, the context shows, that it was towards the conclusion of the banquet that the wine fell short, when, according to custom, it might be supposed that they had already drunk enough; for the master of the feast thus speaks, Other men place worse wine before those who have drunk enough, but thou hast kept the best till now. Besides, I have no doubt that all this was regulated by the Providence of God, that there might be room for the miracle.
3. The mother of Jesus saith to him. It may be doubted if she expected or asked any thing from her Son, since he had not yet performed any miracle; and it is possible that, without expecting any remedy of this sort, she advised him to give some pious exhortations which would have the effect of preventing the guests from feeling uneasiness, and at the same time of relieving the shame of the bridegroom. I consider her words to be expressive of (συμπαθεία) earnest compassion; for the holy woman, perceiving that those who had been invited were likely to consider themselves as having been treated with disrespect, and to murmur against the bridegroom, and that the entertainment might in that way be disturbed, wished that some means of soothing them could be adopted. Chrysostom throws out a suspicion that she was moved by the feelings of a woman to seek I know not what favor for herself and her Son; but this conjecture is not supported by any argument.
4. Woman, what have I to do with thee? Why does Christ repel her so rashly? I reply, though she was not moved by ambition, nor by any carnal affection, still she did wrong in going beyond her proper bounds. Her anxiety about the inconvenience endured by others, and her desire to have it in some way mitigated, proceeded from humanity, and ought to be regarded as a virtue; but still, by putting herself forward, she might obscure the glory of Christ. Though it ought also to be observed, that what Christ spoke was not so much for her sake as for the sake of others. Her modesty and piety were too great, to need so severe a chastisement. Besides, she did not knowingly and willingly offend; but Christ only meets the danger, that no improper use may be made of what his mother had said, as if it were in obedience to her command that he afterwards performed the miracle.
The Greek words (Τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοὶ) literally mean, What to me and to thee? But the Greek phraseology is of the same import with the Latin — Quid tibi mecum? (what hast thou to do with me?) The old translator led many people into a mistake, by supposing Christ to have asserted, that it was no concern of his, or of his mother’s, if the wine fell short. But from the second clause we may easily conclude how far removed this is from Christ’s meaning; for he takes upon himself this concern, and declares that it belongs to him to do so, when he adds, my hour is not yet come. Both ought to be joined together — that Christ understands what it is necessary for him to do, and yet that he will not act in this matter at his mother’s suggestion.
It is a remarkable passage certainly; for why does he absolutely refuse to his mother what he freely granted afterwards, on so many occasions, to all sorts of persons? Again, why is he not satisfied with a bare refusal? and why does he reduce her to the ordinary rank of women, and not even deign to call her mother? This saying of Christ openly and manifestly warns men to beware lest, by too superstitiously elevating the honor of the name of mother in the Virgin Mary, 4545 “En la vierge Marie.” they transfer to her what belongs exclusively to God. Christ, therefore, addresses his mother in this manner, in order to lay down a perpetual and general instruction to all ages, that his divine glory must not be obscured by excessive honor paid to his mother.
How necessary this warning became, in consequence of the gross and disgraceful superstitions which followed afterwards, is too well known. For Mary has been constituted the Queen of Heaven, the Hope, the Life, and the Salvation of the world; and, in short, their fury and madness proceeded so far that they stripped Christ of his spoils, and left him almost naked. And when we condemn those horrid blasphemies against the Son of God, the Papists call us malignant and envious; and — what is worse — they maliciously slander us as deadly foes to the honor of the holy Virgin. As if she had not all the honor that is due to her, unless she were made a Goddess; or as if it were treating her with respect, to adorn her with blasphemous titles, and to substitute her in the room of Christ. The Papists, therefore, offer a grievous insult to Mary when, in order to disfigure her by false praises, they take from God what belongs to Him.
My hour is not yet come. He means that he has not hitherto delayed through carelessness or indolence, but at the same time he states indirectly that he will attend to the matter, when the proper time for it shall arrive. As he reproves his mother for unseasonable haste, so, on the other hand, he gives reason to expect a miracle. The holy Virgin acknowledges both, for she abstains from addressing him any farther; and when she advises the servants to do whatever he commands, she shows that she expects something now. But the instruction conveyed here is still more extensive that whenever the Lord holds us in suspense, and delays his aid, he is not therefore asleep, but, on the contrary, regulates all His works in such a manner that he does nothing but at the proper time. Those who have applied this passage to prove that the time of events is appointed by Fate, are too ridiculous to require a single word to be said for refuting them. The hour of Christ sometimes denotes the hour which had been appointed to him by the Father; and by his time he will afterwards designate what he found to be convenient and suitable for executing the commands of his Father; but in this place he claims the right to take and choose the time for working and for displaying his Divine power. 4646 “De bosongner et desployer sa virtue Divine.”
5. His mother saith to the servants. Here the holy Virgin gives an instance of true obedience which she owed to her Son, 4747 “a son Fils.” when the question related, not to the relative duties of mankind, but to his divine power. She modestly acquiesces, therefore, in Christ’s reply; and in like manner exhorts others to comply with his injunctions. I acknowledge, indeed, that what the Virgin now said related to the present occurrence, and amounted to a declaration that, in this instance, she had no authority, and that Christ would do, according to his own pleasure, whatever he thought right. But if you attend closely to her design, the statement which she made is still more extensive; for she first disclaims and lays aside the power which she might seem to have improperly usurped; and next, she ascribes the whole authority to Christ, when she bids them do whatever he shall command. We are taught generally by these words, that if we desire any thing from Christ, we will not obtain our wishes, unless we depend on him alone, look to him, and, in short, do whatever he commands On the other hand, he does not send us to his mother, but rather invites us to himself.
6. And there were there six water-pots of stone. According to the computation of Budaeus, we infer that these water-pots were very large; for as the metreta 4848 The exact size of the firkin cannot be easily ascertained. If μετρητὴς be here used by the Evangelist as a purely Greek word, we must conclude it to be an Attic measure, which was nearly equal to nine English gallons. If, again, it be placed here as a substitute for the Hebrew word בת, (Bath,) as the Septuagint has done in 2 Chronicles 4:5, it will probably be rated at seven gallons and a half. — Ed (μετρητὴς) contains twenty congii, each contained, at least, a Sextier of this country. 4949 “De ce pays de Savoye;” — “of this country, Savoy.” Christ supplied them, therefore, with a great abundance of wine, as much as would be sufficient for a banquet to a hundred and fifty men. Besides, both the number and the size of the water-pots serve to prove the truth of the miracle. If there had been only two or three jars, many might have suspected that they had been brought from some other place. If in one vessel only the water had been changed into wine, the certainty of the miracle would not have been so obvious, or so well ascertained. It is not, therefore, without a good reason that the Evangelist mentions the number of the water-pots, and states how much they contained.
It arose from superstition that vessels so numerous and so large were placed there. They had the ceremony of washing, indeed, prescribed to them by the Law of God; but as the world is prone to excess in outward matters, the Jews, not satisfied with the simplicity which God had enjoined, amused themselves with continual washings; and as superstition is ambitious, they undoubtedly served the purpose of display, as we see at the present day in Popery, that every thing which is said to belong to the worship of God is arranged for pure display. There was, then, a twofold error: that without the command of God, they engaged in a superfluous ceremony of their own invention; and next, that, under the pretense of religion, ambition reigned amidst that display. Some Popish scoundrels have manifested an amazing degree of wickedness, when they had the effrontery to say that they had among their relics those water-pots with which Christ performed this miracle in Cana, and exhibited some of them, 5050 “Qu’ils avoyent entre leurs reliques de ces cruches, esquelles Christ avoit fait ce miracle en Cana, et en monstroyent.” which, first, are of small size, and, next, are unequal in size. And in the present day, when the light of the Gospel shines so clearly around us, they are not ashamed to practice those tricks, which certainly is not to deceive by enchantments, but daringly to mock men as if they were blind; and the world, which does not perceive such gross mockery, is evidently bewitched by Satan.
7. Fill the water-pots with water. The servants might be apt to look upon this injunction as absurd; for they had already more than enough of water. But in this way the Lord often acts towards us, that his power may be more illustriously displayed by an unexpected result; though this circumstance is added to magnify the miracle; for when the servants drew wine out of vessels which had been filled with water, no suspicion can remain.
8. And carry to the master of the feast. For the same reason as before, Christ wished that the flavor of the wine should be tried by the master of the feast, before it had been tasted by himself, or by any other of the guests; and the readiness with which the servants obey him in all things shows us the great reverence and respect in which he was held by them. The Evangelist gives the name of the master of the feast to him who had the charge of preparing the banquet and arranging the tables; not that the banquet was costly and magnificent, but because the honorable appellations borrowed from the luxury and splendor of the rich are applied even to the marriages of the poor. But it is wonderful that a large quantity of wine, and of the very best wine, is supplied by Christ, who is a teacher of sobriety. I reply, when God daily gives us a large supply of wine, it is our own fault if his kindness is an excitement to luxury; but, on the other hand, it is an undoubted trial of our sobriety, if we are sparing and moderate in the midst of abundance; as Paul boasts that he had learned to know both how to be full and to be hungry, (Philippians 4:12.)
11. This beginning of miracles. The meaning is, that this was the first of Christ’s miracles; for when the angels announced to the shepherds that he was born in Bethlehem, (Luke 2:8,) when the star appeared to the Magi, (Matthew 2:2,) when the Holy Spirit descended on him in the shape of a dove, (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; John 1:32,) though these were miracles, yet, strictly speaking, they were not performed by him; but the Evangelist now speaks of the miracles of which he was himself the Author. For it is a frivolous and absurd interpretation which some give, that this is reckoned the first among the miracles which Christ performed in Cana of Galilee; as if a place, in which we do not read that he ever was more than twice, had been selected by him for a display of his power. It was rather the design of the Evangelist to mark the order of time which Christ followed in the exercise of his power. For until he was thirty years of age, he kept himself concealed at home, like one who held no public office. Having been consecrated, at his baptism, to the discharge of his office, he then began to appear in public, and to show by clear proofs for what purpose he was sent by the Father. We need not wonder, therefore, if he delayed till this time the first proof of his Divinity. It is a high honor given to marriage, that Christ not only deigned to be present at a nuptial banquet, but honored it with his first miracle. There are some ancient Canons which forbid the clergy to attend a marriage. The reason of the prohibition was, that by being the spectators of the wickedness which was usually practiced on such occasions, they might in some measure be regarded as approving of it. But it would have been far better to carry to such places so much gravity as to restrain the licentiousness in which unprincipled and abandoned men indulge, when they are withdrawn from the eyes of others. Let us, on the contrary, take Christ’s example for our rule; and let us not suppose that any thing else than what we read that he did can be profitable to us.
And manifested his glory; that is, because he then gave a striking and illustrious proof, by which it was ascertained that he was the Son of God; for all the miracles which he exhibited to the world were so many demonstrations of his divine power. The proper time for displaying his glory was now come, when he wished to make himself known agreeably to the command of his Father. Hence, also, we learn the end of miracles; for this expression amounts to a declaration that Christ, in order to manifest his glory, performed this miracle. What, then, ought we to think of those miracles which obscure the glory of Christ?
And his disciples believed on him. If they were disciples, they must already have possessed some faith; but as they had hitherto followed him with a faith which was not distinct and firm, they began at that time to devote themselves to him, so as to acknowledge him to be the Messiah, such as he had already been announced to them. The forbearance of Christ is great in reckoning as disciples those whose faith is so small. And indeed this doctrine extends generally to us all; for the faith which is now full grown had at first its infancy, nor is it so perfect in any as not to make it necessary that all to a man should make progress in believing. Thus, they who now believed may be said to begin to believe, so far as they daily make progress towards the end of their faith. Let those who have obtained the first-fruits of faith labor always to make progress. These words point out likewise the advantage of miracles; namely, that they ought to be viewed as intended for the confirmation and progress of faith. Whoever twists them to any other purpose corrupts and debases the whole use of them; as we see that Papists boast of their pretended miracles for no other purpose than to bury faith, and to turn away the minds of men from Christ to the creatures.
12. He went down to Capernaum. The Evangelist passes to an additional narrative; for having resolved to collect a few things worthy of remembrance which the other three had left out, he states the time when the occurrence which he is about to relate took place; for the other three also relate what we here read that Christ did, but the diversity of the time shows that it was a similar event, but not the same. On two occasions, then, did Christ cleanse the temple from base and profane merchandise; once, when he was beginning to discharge his commission, and another time, (Matthew 21:12; Mark 11:15; Luke 19:45,) when he was about to leave the world and go to the Father, (John 16:28.)
To obtain a general view of the passage, it will be necessary briefly to examine the details in their order. That oxen, and sheep, and doves, were exposed to sale in the temple, and that money-changers were sitting there, was not without a plausible excuse. For they might allege that the merchandise transacted there was not irreligious, but, on the contrary, related to the sacred worship of God, that every person might obtain, without difficulty, what he might offer to the Lord; and, certainly, it was exceedingly convenient for godly persons to find oblations of any sort laid ready to their hand, and in this way to be freed from the trouble of running about in various directions to obtain them. We are apt to wonder, therefore, why Christ was so highly displeased with it. But there are two reasons which deserve our attention. First, as the Priests abused this merchandise for their own gain and avarice, such a mockery of God could not be endured. Secondly, whatever excuse men may plead, as soon as they depart, however slightly, from the command of God, they deserve reproof and need correction. And this is the chief reason why Christ undertook to purify the temple; for he distinctly states that the temple of God is not a place of merchandise
But it may be asked, Why did he not rather begin with doctrine? For it seems to be a disorderly and improper method to apply the hand for correcting faults, before the remedy of doctrine has been applied. But Christ had a different object in view: for the time being now at hand when he would publicly discharge the office assigned to him by the Father, he wished in some way to take possession of the temple, and to give a proof of his divine authority. And that all might be attentive to his doctrine, it was necessary that something new and strange should be done to awaken their sluggish and drowsy minds. Now, the temple was a sanctuary of heavenly doctrine and of true religion. Since he wished to restore purity of doctrine, it was of great importance that he should prove himself to be the Lord of the temple. Besides, there was no other way in which he could bring back sacrifices and the other exercises of religion to their spiritual design than by removing the abuse of them. What he did at that time was, therefore, a sort of preface to that reformation which the Father had sent him to accomplish. In a word, it was proper that the Jews should be aroused by this example to expect from Christ something that was unusual and out of the ordinary course; and it was also necessary to remind them that the worship of God had been corrupted and perverted, that they might not object to the reformation of those abuses
And his brethren. Why the brethren of Christ accompanied him, cannot be determined with certainty, unless, perhaps, they intended to go along with him to Jerusalem. The word brethren, it is well known, is employed, in the Hebrew language, to denote cousins and other relatives.
13. And the passover of the Jews was at hand; therefore Jesus went up to Jerusalem. The Greek words καὶ ἀνέβη, may be literally rendered, and he went up; but the Evangelist has used the copulative and instead of therefore; for he means that Christ went up at that time, in order to celebrate the passover at Jerusalem. There were two reasons why he did so; for since the Son of God became subject to the Law on our account, he intended, by observing with exactness all the precepts of the Law, to present in his own person a pattern of entire subjection and obedience. Again, as he could do more good, when there was a multitude of people, he almost always availed himself of such an occasion. Whenever, therefore, we shall afterwards find it said that Christ came to Jerusalem at the feast, let the reader observe that he did so, first, that along with others he might observe the exercises of religion which God had appointed, and, next, that he might publish his doctrine amidst a larger concourse of people.
16. Make not my Father’s house a house of merchandise. At the second time that he drove the traders out of the Temple, the Evangelists relate that he used sharper and more severe language; for he said, that they had made the Temple of God a den of robbers, (Matthew 21:13;) and this was proper to be done, when a milder chastisement was of no avail. At present, he merely warns them not to profane the Temple of God by applying it to improper uses. The Temple was called the house of God; because it was the will of God that there He should be peculiarly invoked; because there He displayed his power; because, finally, he had set it apart to spiritual and holy services.
My Father’s house. Christ declares himself to be the Son of God, in order to show that he has a right and authority to cleanse the Temple. As Christ here assigns a reason for what he did, if we wish to derive any advantage from it, we must attend chiefly to this sentence. Why, then, does he drive the buyers and sellers out of the Temple? It is that he may bring back to its original purity the worship of God, which had been corrupted by the wickedness of men, and in this way may restore and maintain the holiness of the Temple. Now that temple, we know, was erected, that it might be a shadow of those things the lively image of which is to be found in Christ. Thai; it might continue to be devoted to God, it was necessary that it should be applied exclusively to spiritual purposes. For this reason he pronounces it to be unlawful that it should be converted into a market-place; for he founds his statement on the command of God, which we ought always to observe. Whatever deceptions Satan may employ, let us know that any departure — however small — from the command of God is wicked. It was a plausible and imposing disguise, that; the worship of God was aided and promoted, when the sacrifices which were to be offered by believers were laid ready to their hand; but as God had appropriated his Temple to different purposes, Christ disregards the objections that might be offered against the order which God had appointed.
The same arguments do not apply, in the present day, to our buildings for public worship; but what is said about the ancient Temple applies properly and strictly to the Church, for it is the heavenly sanctuary of God on earth. We ought always, therefore, to keep before our eyes the majesty of God, which dwells in the Church, that it may not be defiled by any pollutions; and the only way in which its holiness can remain unimpaired is, that nothing shall be admitted into it that is at variance with the word of God.
17. And his disciples remembered. It is to no purpose that some people tease themselves with the inquiry how the disciples remembered a passage of Scripture, with the meaning of which they were hitherto unacquainted. For we must not understand that this passage of Scripture came to their remembrance at that time; but afterwards, when, having been taught by God, they considered with themselves what was the meaning of this action of Christ, by the direction of the Holy Spirit this passage of Scripture occurred to them. And, indeed, it does not always happen that the reason of God’s works is immediately perceived by us, but afterwards, in process of time, He makes known to us his purpose. And this is a bridle exceedingly well adapted to restrain our presumption, that we may not murmur against God, if at any time our judgment does not entirely approve of what he does. We are at the same time reminded, that when God holds us as it were in suspense, it is our duty to wait for the time of more abundant knowledge, and to restrain the excessive haste which is natural to us; for the reason why God delays the full manifestation of his works is, that he may keep us humble.
The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up. The meaning is, that the disciples at length came to know, that the zeal for the house of God, with which Christ burned, excited him to drive out of it those profanations. By a figure of speech, in which a part is taken for the whole, David employs the name of the temple to denote the whole worship of God; for the entire verse runs thus:
the zeal of thy house hath eaten me up, and the reproaches of them who reproached thee have fallen on me, (Psalm 69:9.)
The second clause corresponds to the first, or rather it is nothing else than a repetition explaining what had been said. The amount of both clauses is, that David’s anxiety about maintaining the worship of God was so intense, that he cheerfully laid down his head to receive all the reproaches which wicked men threw against God; and that he burned with such zeal, that this single feeling swallowed up every other. He tells us that he himself had such feelings; but there can be no doubt that he described in his own person what strictly belonged to the Messiah.
Accordingly, the Evangelist says, that this was one of the marks by which the disciples knew that it was Jesus who protected and restored the kingdom of God. Now observe that they followed the guidance of Scripture, in order to form such an opinion concerning Christ as they ought to entertain; and, indeed, no man will ever learn what Christ is, or the object of what he did and suffered, unless he has been taught and guided by Scripture. So far, then, as each of us shall desire to make progress in the knowledge of Christ, it will be necessary that Scripture shall be the subject of our diligent and constant meditation. Igor is it without a good reason that David mentions the house of God, when the divine glory is concerned; for though God is sufficient for himself, and needs not the services of any, yet he wishes that his glory should be displayed in the Church. In this way he gives a remarkable proof of his love towards us, because he unites his glory — as it were, by an indissoluble link — with our salvation.
Now as Paul informs us that, in the example of the head, a general doctrine is presented to the whole body, (Romans 15:3,) let each of us apply to the invitation of Christ, that — so far as lies in our power — we may not permit the temple of God to be in any way polluted. But, at the same time, we must beware lest any man transgress the bounds of his calling. All of us ought to have zeal in common with the Son of God; but all are not at liberty to seize a whip, that we may correct vices with our hands; for we have not received the same power, nor have we been entrusted with the same commission.
18. What sign showest thou to us? When in so large an assembly no man laid hands on Christ, and none of the dealers in cattle or of the money-changers repelled him by violence, we may conclude that they were all stunned and struck with astonishment by the hand of God. And, therefore, if they had not been utterly blinded, this would have been a sufficiently evident miracle, that one man against a great multitude, an unarmed man against strong men, all unknown man against so great rulers, attempted so great an achievement. For since they were far stronger, why did they not oppose him, but because their hands were loosened and — as it were — broken?
Yet they have some ground for putting the question; for it does not belong to every man to change suddenly, if any thing is faulty or displeases him in the temple of God. All are, indeed, at liberty to condemn corruptions; but if a private man put forth his hand to remove them, he will be accused of rashness. As the custom of selling in the temple had been generally received, Christ attempted what was new and uncommon; and therefore they properly call on him to prove that he was sent by God; for they found their argument on this principle, that in public administration it is not lawful to make any change without an undoubted calling and command of God. But they erred on another point, by refusing to admit the calling of Christ, unless he had performed a miracle; for it was not an invariable rule that the Prophets and other ministers of God should perform miracles; and God did not limit himself to this necessity. They do wrong, therefore, in laying down a law to God by demanding a sign. When the Evangelist says that the Jews asked him, he unquestionably means by that term the multitude who were standing there, and, as it were, the whole body of the Church; as if he had said, that it was not the speech of one or two persons, but of the people.
19. Destroy this temple. This is an allegorical mode of expression; and Christ intentionally spoke with that degree of obscurity, because he reckoned them unworthy of a direct reply; as he elsewhere declares that he speaks to them in parables, because they are unable to comprehend the mysteries of the heavenly kingdom, (Matthew 13:13.) But first he refuses to them the sign which they demanded, either because it would have been of no advantage, or because he knew that it was not the proper time. Some compliances he occasionally made even with their unreasonable requests, and there must have been a strong reason why he now refused. Yet that they may not seize on this as a pretense for excusing themselves, he declares that his power will be approved and confirmed by a sign of no ordinary value; for no greater approbation of the divine power in Christ could be desired than his resurrection from the dead. But he conveys this information figuratively, because he does not reckon them worthy of an explicit promise. In short, he treats unbelievers as they deserve, and at the same time protects himself against all contempt. It was not yet made evident, indeed, that they were obstinate, but Christ knew well what was the state of their feelings.
But it may be asked, since he performed so many miracles, and of various kinds, why does he now mention but one? I answer, he said nothing about all the other miracles, First, because his resurrection alone was sufficient to shut their mouth: Secondly, he was unwilling to expose the power of God to their ridicule; for even respecting the glory of his resurrection he spoke allegorically: Thirdly, I say that he produced what was appropriate to the case in hand; for, by these words, he shows that all authority over the Temple belongs to him, since his power is so great in building the true Temple of God.
This temple. Though he uses the word temple in accommodation to the present occurrence, yet the body of Christ is justly and appropriately called a temple. The body of each of us is called a tabernacle, (2 Corinthians 5:4; 2 Peter 1:13,) because the soul dwells in it; but the body of Christ was the abode of his Divinity. For we know that the Son of God clothed himself with our nature in such a manner that the eternal majesty of God dwelt in the flesh which he assumed, as in his sanctuary.
The argument of Nestorius, who abused this passage to prove that it is not one and the same Christ who is God and man, may be easily refuted. He reasoned thus: the Son of God dwelt in the flesh, as in a temple; therefore the natures are distinct, so that the same person was not God and man. But this argument might be applied to men; for it will follow that it is not one man whose soul dwells in the body as in a tabernacle; and, therefore, it is folly to torture this form of expression for the purpose of taking away the unity of Person in Christ. It ought to be observed, that our bodies also are called temples of God, (1 Corinthians 3:16, and 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16) but it is in a different sense, namely, because God dwells in us by the power and grace of his Spirit; but in Christ the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily, so that he is truly God manifested in flesh, (1 Timothy 3:16.)
I will raise it up again. Here Christ claims for himself the glory of his resurrection, though, in many passages of Scripture, it is declared to be the work of God the Father. But these two statements perfectly agree with each other; for, in order to give us exalted conceptions of the power of God, Scripture expressly ascribes to the Father that he raised up his Son from the dead; but here, Christ in a special manner asserts his own Divinity. And Paul reconciles both.
If the Spirit of Him, that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you,
While he makes the Spirit the Author of the resurrection, he calls Him indiscriminately sometimes the Spirit of Christ, and sometimes the Spirit of the Father.
20. Forty and six years. The computation of Daniel agrees with this passage, (Daniel 9:25;) for he reckons seven weeks, which make Forty-nine years; but, before the last of these weeks had ended, the temple was finished. The time described in the history of Ezra is much shorter; but, though it has some appearance of contradiction, it is not at all at variance with the words of the Prophet. For, when the sanctuary had been reared, before the building of the temple was completed, they began to offer sacrifices. The work was afterwards stopped for a long time through the indolence of the people, as plainly appears from the complaints of the Prophet Haggai 1:4; for he severely reproves the Jews for being too earnestly engaged in building their private dwellings, while they left the Temple of God in an unfinished state.
But why does he mention that temple which had been destroyed by Herod about forty years before that time? For the temple which they had at that time, though it had been built with great magnificence and at a vast expense, had been completed by Herod, contrary to the expectation of men, as is related by Josephus, (Ant. Book 15. chapter 11.) I think it probable that this new building of the temple was reckoned as if the ancient temple had always remained in its original condition, that it might be regarded with greater veneration; and that they spoke in the usual and ordinary manner, that their fathers, with the greatest difficulty, had scarcely built the temple in Forty-six, years
This reply shows plainly enough what was their intention in asking a sign; for if they had been ready to obey, with reverence, a Prophet sent by God, they would not have so disdainfully rejected what he had said to them about the confirmation of his office. They wish to have some testimony of divine power, and yet they receive nothing which does not correspond to the feeble capacity of man. Thus the Papists in the present day demand miracles, not that they would give way to the power of God, (for it is a settled principle with them to prefer men to God, and not to move a hair’s breadth from what they have received by custom and usage;) but that they may not appear to have no reason for rebelling against God, they hold out this excuse as a cloak for their obstinacy. In such a manner do the minds of unbelievers storm in them with blind impetuosity, that they desire to have the hand of God exhibited to them and yet do not wish that it should be divine.
When therefore he was risen from the dead. This recollection was similar to the former, which the Evangelist lately mentioned, (verse 17.) The Evangelist did not understand Christ when he said this; but the doctrine, which appeared to have been useless, and to have vanished into air, afterwards produced fruit in its own time. Although, therefore, many of the actions and sayings of our Lord are obscure for a time, we must not give them up in despair, or despise that which we do not all at once understand. 5252 “Il ne faut pas pourtant quitter la tout par desespoir, ne mespriser ce que nous n’entendons pas tout incontinent.” We ought to observe the connection of the words, that they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had spoken; for the Evangelist means that, by comparing the Scripture with the word of Christ, they were aided in making progress in faith.
23. Many believed. The Evangelist appropriately connects this narrative with the former. Christ had not given such a sign as the Jews demanded; and now, when he produced no good effect on them by many miracles — except that they entertained a cold faith, which was only the shadow of faith — this event sufficiently proves that they did not deserve that he should comply with their wishes. It was, indeed, some fruit of the signs, that many believed in Christ, and in his name, so as to profess that they wished to follow his doctrine; for name is here put for authority. This appearance of faith, which hitherto was fruitless, might ultimately be changed into true faith, and might be a useful preparation for celebrating the name of Christ among others; and yet what we have said is true, that they were far from having proper feelings, so as to profit by the works of God, as they ought to have done.
Yet this was not a pretended faith by which they wished to gain reputation among men; for they were convinced that Christ was some great Prophet, and perhaps they even ascribed to him the honor of being the Messiah, of whom there was at that time a strong and general expectation. But as they did not understand the peculiar office of the Messiah, their faith was absurd, because it was exclusively directed to the world and earthly things. It was also a cold belief, and unaccompanied by the true feelings of the heart. For hypocrites assent to the Gospel, not that they may devote themselves in obedience to Christ, nor that with sincere piety they may follow Christ when he calls them, but because they do not venture to reject entirely the truth which they have known, and especially when they can find no reason for opposing it. For as they do not voluntarily, or of their own accord, make war with God, so when they perceive that his doctrine is opposed to their flesh and to their perverse desires, they are immediately offended, or at least withdraw from the faith which they had already embraced.
When the Evangelist says, therefore, that those men believed, I do not understand that they counterfeited a faith which did not exist, but that they were in some way constrained to enroll themselves as the followers of Christ; and yet it appears that their faith was not true and genuine, because Christ excludes them from the number of those on whose sentiments reliance might be placed. Besides, that faith depended solely on miracles, and had no root in the Gospel, and therefore could not be steady or permanent. Miracles do indeed assist the children of God in arriving at the truth; but it does not amount to actual believing, when they admire the power of God so as merely to believe that it is true, but not to subject themselves wholly to it. And, therefore, when we speak generally about faith, let us know that there is a kind of faith which is perceived by the understanding only, and afterwards quickly disappears, because it is not fixed in the heart; and that is the faith which James calls dead; but true faith always depends on the Spirit of regeneration, (James 2:17, 20, 26.) Observe, that all do not derive equal profit from the works of God; for some are led by them to God, and others are only driven by a blind impulse, so that, while they perceive indeed the power of God, still they do not cease to wander in their own imaginations.
24. But Christ did not rely on them. Those who explain the meaning to be, that Christ was on his guard against them, because he knew that they were not upright and faithful, do not appear to me to express sufficiently well the meaning of the Evangelist. Still less do I agree with what Augustine says about recent converts. The Evangelist rather means, in my opinion, that Christ did not reckon them to be genuine disciples, but despised them as volatile and unsteady. It is a passage which ought to be carefully observed, that not all who profess to be Christ’s followers are such in his estimation. But we ought also to add the reason which immediately follows:
Because he knew them all. Nothing is more dangerous than hypocrisy, for this reason among others, that it is an exceedingly common fault. There is scarcely any man who is not pleased with himself; and while we deceive ourselves by empty flatteries, we imagine that God is blind like ourselves. But here we are reminded how widely his judgment differs from ours; for he sees clearly those things which we cannot perceive, because they are concealed by some disguise; and he estimates according to their hidden source, that is, according to the most secret feeling of the heart, those things which dazzle our eyes by false luster. This is what Solomon says, that
God weighs in his balance the hearts of men, while they flatter themselves in their ways, (Proverbs 21:2.)
Let us remember, therefore, that none are the true disciples of Christ but those whom He approves, because in such a matter He alone is competent to decide and to judge.
A question now arises: when the Evangelist says that Christ knew them all, does he mean those only of whom he had lately spoken, or does the expression refer to the whole human race? Some extend it to the universal nature of man, and think that the whole world is here condemned for wicked and perfidious hypocrisy. And, certainly, it is a true statement, that Christ can find in men no reason why he should deign to place them in the number of his followers; but I do not see that this agrees with the context, and therefore I limit it to those who had been formerly mentioned.
25. For he knew what was in man. As it might be doubted whence Christ obtained this knowledge, the Evangelist anticipates this question, and replies that Christ perceived every thing in men that is concealed from our view, so that he could on his own authority make a distinction among men. Christ, therefore, who knows the hearts, had no need of any one to inform him what sort of men they were. He knew them to have such a disposition and such feelings, that he justly regarded them as persons who did not belong to him.
The question put by some — whether we too are authorized by the example of Christ to hold those persons as suspected who have not given us proof of their sincerity — has nothing to do with the present passage. There is a wide difference between him and us; for Christ knew the very roots of the trees, but, except from the fruits which appear outwardly, we cannot discover what is the nature of any one tree. Besides, as Paul tells us, that charity is not suspicious, (1 Corinthians 13:5,) we have no right to entertain unfavorable suspicions about men who are unknown to us. But, that we may not always be deceived by hypocrites, and that the Church may not be too much exposed to their wicked impostures, it belongs to Christ to impart to us the Spirit of discretion.