Are you a Christian?
PREVIOUS SECTION - NEXT SECTION - HELP
“Nathanael answered and saith unto Him, Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God, Thou art the King of Israel. Jesus answered, and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig-tree, believest thou? Thou shalt see greater things than these.”
[1.] Beloved, we need much care, much watchfulness, to be able to look into the depth of the Divine Scriptures. For it is not possible to discover their meaning in a careless way, or while we are asleep, but there needs close search, and there needs earnest prayer, that we may be enabled to see some little way into the secrets of the divine oracles. To-day, for instance, here is no trifling question proposed to us, but one which requires much zeal and enquiry. For when Nathanael said, “Thou art the Son of God,” Christ replies, “Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig-tree, believest thou? Thou shalt see greater things than these.”
Now what is the question arising from this passage? It is this.540
And what I say is clear, not from this only, but also from what follows. For Christ added nothing more to Peter, but as though his faith were perfect, said, that upon this confession of his He would build the Church; but in the other case He did nothing like this, but the contrary. For as though some large, and that the better, part were wanting to his confession He added what follows. For what saith He?
Seest thou how He leads him up by little and little from the earth, and causes him no longer to imagine Him a man merely? for One to whom Angels minister, and on whom Angels ascend and descend, how could He be man? For this reason He said, “Thou shalt see greater things than these.” And in proof of this, He introduces the ministry of Angels. And what He means is something of this kind: “Doth this, O Nathanael, seem to thee a great matter, and hast thou for this confessed me to be King of Israel? What then wilt thou say, when thou seest the Angels ascending and descending upon Me?” Persuading him by these words to own Him Lord also of the Angels. For on Him as on the King’s own Son, the royal ministers ascended and descended, once at the season of the Crucifixion, again at the time of the Resurrection and the Ascension, and before this also, when they “came and ministered unto Him” ( Matt. iv. 11 ), when they proclaimed the glad tidings of His birth, and cried, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace” ( Luke ii. 14 ), when they came to Mary, when they came to Joseph.
And He does now what He has done in many instances; He utters two predictions, gives present proof of the one, and confirms that which has to be accomplished by that which is so already. For of His sayings some had been proved, such as, “Before Philip called thee, under the fig-tree I saw thee”; others had yet to come to pass, and had partly done so, namely, the descending and ascending of the Angels, at the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, and the Ascension; and this He renders credible by His words even before the event. For one who had known His power by what had gone before, and heard from Him of things to come, would more readily receive this prediction too.
What then does Nathanael? To this he makes no reply. And therefore at this point Christ stopped His discourse with him, allowing him to consider in private what had been said; and not choosing to pour forth all at once, having cast seed into fertile ground, He then leaves it to shoot at leisure. And this He has shown in another place, where He saith, “The kingdom of heaven is like to a man that soweth good seed, but while he slept, his enemy cometh, and soweth tares among the wheat.”542
I said before that He was best known in Galilee; therefore they invite Him to the marriage, and He comes; for He looked not to His own honor, but to our benefit. He who disdained not to “take upon Him the form of a servant” ( Philip. ii. 7 ), would much less disdain to be present at the marriage of servants; He who sat down “with publicans and sinners” ( Matt. ix. 13 ), would much less refuse to sit down with those present at the marriage. Assuredly they who invited Him had not formed a proper judgment of Him, nor did they invite Him as some great one, but merely as an ordinary acquaintance; and this the Evangelist has hinted at, when he says, “The mother of Jesus was there, and His brethren.” Just as they invited her and His brethren, they invited Jesus.
Here it is worth while to enquire whence it came into His mother’s mind to imagine anything great of her Son; for He had as yet done no miracle, since the Evangelist saith, “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee.” ( c. ii. 11.)
[2.] Now if any say that this is not a sufficient proof that it was the “beginning of His miracles,” because there is added simply “in Cana of Galilee,” as allowing it to have been the first done there, but not altogether and absolutely the first, for He probably might have done others elsewhere, we will make answer to him of that which we have said before. And of what kind? The words of John (the Baptist); “And I knew Him not; but that He should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come, baptizing with water.” Now if He had wrought miracles in early age, the Israelites would not have needed another to declare Him. For He who came among men, and by His miracles was so made known, not to those only in Judæa, but also to those in Syria and beyond, and who did this in three years only, or rather who did not need even these three years to manifest Himself ( Matt. iv. 24 ), for immediately and from the first His fame went abroad everywhere; He, I say, who in a short time so shone forth by the multitude of His miracles, that His name was well known to all, was much less likely, if while a child He had from an early age wrought miracles, to escape notice so long. For what was done would have seemed stranger as done by a boy, and there would have been time for twice or thrice as many, and much more. But in fact He did nothing while He was a child, save only that one thing to which Luke has testified ( Luke ii. 46 ), that at the age of twelve years He sat hearing the doctors, and was thought admirable for His questioning. Besides, it was in accordance with likelihood and reason that He did not begin His signs at once from an early age; for they would have deemed the thing a delusion. For if when He was of full age many suspected this, much more, if while quite young He had wrought miracles, would they have hurried Him sooner and before the proper time to the Cross, in the venom of their malice; and the very facts of the Dispensation would have been discredited.
“How then,” asks some one, “came it into the mind of His mother to imagine anything great of Him?” He was now beginning to reveal Himself, and was plainly discovered by the witness of John, and by what He had said to His disciples. And before all this, the Conception itself and all its attending circumstances544
To prove that He greatly respected His mother, hear Luke relate how He was “subject to” His parents ( Luke ii. 51 ), and our own Evangelist declare how He had forethought for her at the very season of the Crucifixion. For where parents cause no impediment or hindrance in things belonging to God, it is our bounden duty to give way to them, and there is great danger in not doing so; but when they require anything unseasonably, and cause hindrance in any spiritual matter, it is unsafe to obey. And therefore He answered thus in this place, and again elsewhere, “Who is My mother, and who are My brethren?” ( Matt. xii. 48 ), because they did not yet think rightly of Him; and she, because she had borne Him, claimed, according to the custom of other mothers, to direct Him in all things, when she ought to have reverenced and worshiped Him. This then was the reason why He answered as He did on that occasion. For consider what a thing it was, that when all the people high and low were standing round Him, when the multitude was intent on hearing548
[3.] It was then from this motive that He said in this place, “Woman, what have I to do with thee?” and also for another reason not less pressing. What was that? It was, that His miracles might not be suspected. The request ought to have come from those who needed, not from His mother. And why so? Because what is done at the request of one’s friends, great though it be, often causes offense to the spectators; but when they make the request who have the need, the miracle is free from suspicion, the praise unmixed, the benefit great. So if some excellent physician should enter a house where there were many sick, and be spoken to by none of the patients or their relations, but be directed only by his own mother, he would be suspected549
These then were the words, not of one speaking rudely to his mother, but belonging to a wise dispensation, which brought her into a right frame of mind, and provided that the miracles should be attended with that honor which was meet. And setting other things aside, this very appearance which these words have of having been spoken chidingly, is amply enough to show that He held her in high honor, for by His displeasure He showed that He reverenced her greatly; in what manner, we will say in the next discourse. Think of this then, and when you hear a certain woman saying, “Blessed is the womb that bare Thee, and the paps which Thou hast sucked,” and Him answering, “rather blessed are they that do the will of my Father”550