THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST - in two volumes - by Père M.-J. Lagrange, O.P. - Translated by members of the English Dominican Province.London Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., Publishers to the Holy See. - Nihil Obstat: Ernestus Messenger, PH.D., Censor deputatus, Imprimatur: Leonellus Can. Evans, Vic. Gen. - Westmonasterii, die 23a Martii 1938. - First published by Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd 1938. - Prepared for katapi by Paul Ingram 2007.

CHAPTER IV: FORMATION OF THE DISCIPLES AND MINISTRY, CHIEFLY OUTSIDE GALILEE

HOME | Contents | Introduction | 111-3.Pentecost at Jerusalem | PART II.

THE first year's preaching ends in failure, despite the evergrowing enthusiasm of the people;
and it is St. John,
the revealer of the Word Incarnate,
the evangelist who is accused of transforming the whole gospel in order to glorify the Word,
it is St. John who declares to us that failure
along with its causes in the plainest terms.
But the truths that come most into conflict with our fallen nature
are the truths that are most salutary for the soul.
Henceforward, at any rate, there was no more room for illusion;
the disciples are forewarned.

From this time
Jesus was to devote Himself more fully to the formation of those who are called to carry on His mission;
His own special work is to consist in the surrender of His life.
During the days now to come He will plainly foretell both His Passion and His Death,
and He will declare what are the hard conditions under which men must work out their salvation.
But although He is to suffer and to die,
nevertheless the kingdom of God is to be established after His Resurrection,
concerning which He now speaks openly.
Galilee has refused to understand what kind of Messiah He is;
He now leaves Galilee in order to visit the northern frontiers of Palestine,
and afterwards Jerusalem, Judaea, and Peraea.
It is not any fear of Herod which decides Him to go away:
He knows only too well that He will receive still less consideration at Jerusalem.
But it is there principally, face to face with the rabbis,
in the very centre of worship and religious teaching,
in His Father's temple,
that He is to reveal what He is.

We have seen that during this first year He went up to Jerusalem for the Pasch.
Did He return thither for Pentecost and the feast of Tabernacles?
It may have been so, but at all events St. John says nothing about it.
[We follow the order given by the tradition of the ancient gospel harmonies which places the events of Chapter VI before those of Chapter V.]
Either these journeys never occurred, or if they did, nothing happened worthy of note for the progress of the gospel.
To the mind of St. John, this first year was sufficiently accounted for by the ministry in Galilee.
During the second year, however,
he brings Jesus to Jerusalem for the feasts of Pentecost, Tabernacles, and the Dedication;
and each of these pilgrimages is made the occasion of some fresh development in the revelation of Christ's divinity.

Surprise is caused by these two different forms of teaching used by Our Lord:
one in Galilee, represented by Peter's catechesis as given us by St. Mark;
the other chiefly at Jerusalem, shown to us in the recollections of St. John.
We are far from saying that St. Peter did not accompany his Master to the Holy City;
but he was certainly less at home there than John,
who had - we do not know how - connections at Jerusalem even amongst the hierarchy.
Perhaps, too, Peter thought that the conversations
or, to tell the truth, the disputes into which Jesus was drawn by the hostility of the Pharisees,
were of too subtle a quality to serve as matter for his own daily preaching to the people.
There is no reason also why we should not see something of St. John's own genius
in the manner in which Jesus' teaching at Jerusalem is presented.
But in the other gospels too the revelations of this second year are more profound,
there is more light thrown on the person of Jesus,
on His own sacrifice,
and on the sacrifices which He demands on the part of others.
We are in a loftier region, in a more rarefied atmosphere.
The determination of His enemies becomes more marked,
the devotion of the disciples more deliberate though still imperfect,
and it is gradually strengthened by closer communion with their Master.
He is engaged in founding the Church instead of that earthly kingdom with which He will have nothing to do.
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I. PENTECOST AT JERUSALEM

Jerusalem in the time of Jesus. The Temple Mount from the south.The pool of Bezetha at Jerusalem. Jesus heals a sick man (111-3).

John v.1-47; vii.1.

The Paschal season, already near when Jesus multiplied the loaves, was spent by Him in Galilee.
Afterwards He went up to Jerusalem for some feast of the Jews which is not described more fully, but cannot be other than Pentecost since it was followed by the feast of Tabernacles.
'The feast of Weeks,' so called in Hebrew because the people then offered in the Temple the first-fruits of the harvest ripened during the seven weeks after the Pasch, was named Pentecost in Greek, an equivalent name since it means (the feast) 'of the fiftieth day.'
By the time of Jesus an historical commemoration had been attached to this feast, namely that of the promulgation of the covenant on Sinai.
It therefore provided an occasion for renewing one's zeal for the observance of the Law.

Pool of Bethesda today.Now it happened that Jesus, as He was either entering or leaving the Temple, went into the porch or colonnade surrounding the pool situated near the city-gate called the Sheep-gate, so named because by that way the sacrificial lambs were brought to the Temple.
This pool was in the gorge which of old had served as a protection for the northern wall of the Temple, and it was cut out of the side of a hill which had recently been included within the city-walls.
The hill was called by the Aramaic name Bezatha, and the pool naturally bore the same name.
It was oblong in shape, surrounded by four colonnades and divided into two equal squares by a fifth colonnade.
This arrangement, which we are able to recognize with certainty from the excavations,
[Cf. Jerusalem (Vincent et Abel), II, 4, pp. 685 ff. and PI. 75.]
throws light on the passage in St. John, who thus shows himself to have been perfectly acquainted with the place.
[He says that the pool is at Jerusalem, and that is quite correct, for there is no reason to doubt that it was still there during the period of Roman domination in Palestine.
People still believed in the miraculous efficacy of its water (cf. op. cit., p. 694).
A certain healing power was attributed to the water and was probably more active when the fresh water, held back by a sluice, entered the pool and caused the water to bubble.
The Jews were no doubt disposed to attribute a supernatural power to the water,
and that opinion has crept into the gospel text by means of a gloss, verse 4, which we do not hold to be authentic.]

Jesus found there a great number of sick people, blind, lame, and halt, all begging for alms, though they were there in the hope of something better than alms.
In fact they hoped for a cure, for the one at all events who should first succeed in throwing himself into the pool after the water was moved.
[Strack and Billerbeck (II, p. 454) quote the Rabbi Tanchuma (circa AD. 380), who speaks of a man cured of the itch by bathing in the lake of Tiberias at the moment when the fountain of Miriam began to gush up to the surface of the water.
That was regarded as a miracle, and no doubt they believed that only one person could benefit each time.]

Among the cripples Jesus saw one who was a paralytic, according to the description of ancient tradition.
Whatever was his malady, he was incapable of moving at least to this extent that, by the time he had painfully got ready to go down into the pool at the bubbling up of the water, someone else would be there before him.

Jesus offers to heal him,
and without even requiring from him that act of faith which He saw him prepared to make,
said: 'Arise, take up thy bed and walk.'
The man, conscious that he was cured, picked up his pallet and went away.

Now it was a Sabbath day.
This remark is not made by the evangelist out of a mere love for exact detail:
it is of weighty importance.
Not only had Jesus worked a cure on the Sabbath day without urgent need, but, what was more serious.
He had commanded the healed man to carry away his pallet.
Now it was considered unlawful even to wear ornaments on one's dress that it might be necessary to fasten or unfasten on the Sabbath.
[To this the rabbis added casuistical subtleties about the gravity or lightness of the fault.
Jeremias (xvii, 21 ff.) had indeed forbidden the carrying of burdens, but for purposes of trade (cf. Nehemias xiii.19 ff.).]

Such a violation of the customs introduced by their forefathers could not be borne by the Jews, that is to say, by those Pharisees and Scribes attached to strict traditional observance who were the adversaries of Jesus.
The man doubtless considered that one who had power to cure him must be a good interpreter of the Law.
But who was He?
He does not know what to reply to the Jews who question him minutely.
So little intention had Jesus of parading His power that He had vanished in the crowd.
Later the paralytic finds Him in the Temple, ascertains His name and informs his questioners.
At once they remember that Jesus is an old offender of whom they had somewhat lost sight.
[Matthew xii.14, etc.]

Seeing their displeasure,
He shows Himself quite willing to explain His conduct:
'My Father worketh until now, and I also work.'
The origin of the institution of the Sabbath was due to the fact that God rested on the seventh day.
[Genesis ii.1-3; Exodus xx.11; xxxi.17.]

Instructed Jews, however, were quite aware that this rest of God was only a figurative expression to mark the stability of the order which God had brought into the world.
God is ever working, otherwise everything would crumble into nothing.
Like God, Jesus also works, interpreting the Sabbath in the spirit in which it had been instituted.
There was nothing blasphemous in His words when understood in this way, not even for the Pharisees.
But they interpret His words as meaning that Jesus claims the right to work as the equal of God:
and if He were only a man, as they thought Him, that would have been blasphemy.
They will later condemn Him to death for that very reason.

But the time had not yet come for making that solemn declaration of His equality with God;
so instead of answering: 'It is true: I am equal to God ' - or rather:
'Because I am God I am equal to the Father' -
He merely asserts His right as one sent by His Father.
His reasoning, however, far from excluding the fact of His divinity,
on the contrary takes it for granted,
since the one who is sent is the only Son of the Father;
yet He has received in His human nature certain prerogatives which are consequent on the personal union of that nature with the divine nature, and it is on these prerogatives that He now insists.
Such is St. Cyril of Alexandria's interpretation of this discourse, in which Jesus seeks to calm the anger of the Jews by adapting His language to harmonize with that human aspect of His which was due to a nature really human, but a human nature which was at the same time endowed with the highest privileges.

Jesus could hardly begin more modestly
than by saying, as He does, to those who accuse Him of daring to set Himself up as the rival of the Father:
'The Son cannot do anything of Himself but what He seeth the Father doing ...
for the Father loveth the Son and sheweth Him all that He doth ...'

[Nevertheless, it has been possible to interpret this phrase in the trinitarian sense, for the divine, uncreated, eternal nature of the Son, identical with the nature of the Father, is yet received from the Father, who is the sole principle of the nature of the Son.
Filius habet potestatem a Patre a quo habet naturam. (St. Thomas, la, Q., 42, a, 6, ad i.)
But taking the discourse altogether, the Son is speaking as exercising the mission of His Incarnation.]

The rather long discourse uttered by Jesus on this occasion was free from interruption, which we may take as a sign that His words did not seem too bold to the mind of His Jewish audience.
He does not proclaim Himself to be the Messiah;
that title, as understood by the Jews, would be at variance with His mission.
He is, if they like to think so, a spiritual Messiah such as He had revealed Himself in Galilee, and the Son of God to whom the Father shows His works because the Father gives Him power to perform these mighty miracles.
The chief work He has come to do is that of bestowing life on those who seem to be alive, but who are dead in the sight of God.
Let them believe that He is sent by God, let them honour the Son, and they will have eternal life within them.
The Son communicates to them the life that He has received from His Father, and He will judge them in the name of the Father.
That voice of the Son, which now begets in them spiritual life by means of faith, is the same voice which will be heard once more at the resurrection, whether it be resurrection unto life or resurrection unto death.

Here we recognize again the teaching of the first part of the sermon on the Bread of Life,
though now without the symbolism introduced by the multiplication of the loaves.
The idea of Jesus as judge adds nothing essential to that teaching,
for those who believe are not judged because they have already passed from death to life.
The distinctive note of the present discourse is this revelation of the intimate relationship that exists between the Father and the Son, a revelation which prepares the way for the declaration of identity of nature in Father and Son;
a declaration, however, which in no way militates against that relationship of Father to Son and Son to Father which implies that they must be two distinct persons.

In the latter part of this discourse Jesus points out to the Jews the reasons why they ought to believe in the mission that He has received simply under His character as Son.
The grounds of such a belief are not capable of being arrived at by a process of reasoning from self-evident principles, for the mission of the Son depends solely on the Father's will.
It was a question of fact, and as in every question of fact there was no other course but to examine the testimony of witnesses. There was first the testimony of John the Baptist, of whom Jesus speaks in the past tense;
John was therefore already dead.
[Here we have a very important indication and reason for assigning the Bezatha incident to the Pentecost following John's death.
He was beheaded shortly before the Pasch.]

After his death the Jews seem to have become more favourably disposed towards him,
doubtless because he had died a martyr's death in defence of the Law.
But Jesus reminds them how John had borne witness to the truth by pointing to the one who was to come after him.

A mere man's testimony, however, was not in itself sufficient in the present case, though the testimony of this last of the prophets was not without weight in Israel.
There was a further testimony which was of a more conclusive character, namely the witness of deeds, that is to say the testimony of miracles by which men might recognize that a person was sent by God.
Even at Sinai their ancestors had not seen God Himself nor heard His voice.
This very feast of Pentecost which the Jews were now celebrating could not but recall to their minds the memory of Moses, the great mediator between Israel and God, whose testimony was recorded in the Scriptures where it stood for the very testimony of God Himself.
Since the Jews are so diligent in searching the Scriptures,
it ought to be evident to them that the Scriptures also bear witness to Jesus.
But the fact is that only too often the chief motive of their studies was to obtain among one another a reputation for learning, and they were far from being inspired simply by the love of God.
Therefore Moses, the greatest of those to whom God had entrusted His word, the very prophet in whom they set their hopes, Moses himself shall be their accuser before God:

'For,' as Jesus adds, 'he wrote of Me.'

The Synoptic Gospels reason in precisely the same way, though in different terms and in a less didactic manner.
John's testimony was indeed precious,
but after all it was rather Jesus who had given authoritative testimony to John [Matthew xi.7-10, Luke vii.24-27.],
than John to Jesus.
The Father had given testimony to Jesus by means of all those miracles enumerated by the Synoptists which St. John barely mentions, and by those expulsions of the devil concerning which the fourth gospel is completely silent.
All four gospels, however, are careful to make that appeal to the testimony of Scripture which Jesus here lays down as a principle, though the Synoptists,
St. Matthew especially [Matthew xxi.42; xxii.43 and parallels.],
do so in a much plainer fashion than does St. John.
St. Paul could not help seeing how in the person of Jesus were thus linked up together the Old and the New Covenants.
The error of Marcion in making the Old and New Testaments opposed one to the other is therefore without a shred of evidence.
And at this time, when, to the great scandal of the Jews, so many impostors were publishing absurd claims to divinity based on old pagan fables, Israel ought to have felt herself reassured when she saw how strictly Jesus, God's ambassador, adhered to the words spoken of old by God.
It was no new religion that He was putting forward;
He did no more than include Himself in the worship paid to the Father, whose Son He was.
What He proposed to the Jews was a development of their faith,
parallel with the development that had taken place in their Law.
And all this He does with an infinite reverence for His Father
from whom He derives all that He has and is,
whose will is His law:
His Father, the source of life and last end
unto which all things are led by the Son.

The only effect produced by all this on these ill-disposed Jews was that they made up their minds to do Jesus to death.
He therefore retraces His steps to Galilee. [John vii.1.]
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