Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Luke 4:21-30

Luk 4:21  And he began to say to them: This day is fulfilled this scripture in your ears.

He began to say to them, “this day is fulfilled this scripture  (‘which has sounded,’ says Euthymius, and the Syriac version), in your ears”. This day is fulfilled in your hearing this prophecy of Isaiah, while you hear me preaching to you and to the rest of the poor of Galilee the year of full remission, and I am prepared to do, nay, I have already done in Capernaum, all that Isaiah has here foretold. I am the Messiah of whom Isaiah there prophesies, whom you, in accordance with the predictions of Jacob and Daniel, are already eagerly expecting every moment. For, though Jesus does not clearly say that He is the Messiah, yet He tacitly implies it.

Luk 4:22  And all gave testimony to him. And they wondered at the words of grace that proceeded from his mouth. And they said: Is not this the son of Joseph?

all gave testimony to him–that He spoke well, not that He was the Messiah. Hence they call Him “the son of Joseph;” and, a little after, when they were rebuked by Him, they despised Him and wished to cast Him down headlong. So, nowadays, many people praise a preacher so long as he says to them what is pleasing and elegant, but when he attacks their vices they abuse and persecute him. Such is the way of the fickle multitude, who love themselves and their own desires. However, Bede takes this as meaning that they bore witness that He was the Messiah of whom Isaiah had prophesied these things; and he adds:—”How great their blindness, when, only on account of their knowledge of His origin, and because they had seen Him nourished, and that He had developed, through the stages of life among themselves, they set Him at nought whom, by his words and works, they knew to be Christ.”

And they wondered at his words of grace. “Words of grace,” he calls them (1) gracious, beautiful, suave, and pleasant; (2) full of grace and the Holy Spirit; (3) efficacious to move and persuade; (4) full of wisdom and eloquence, so as to convince those that heard them. For Christ spoke with a tongue that was more than human. “He was teaching them as one having power, and not as the Scribes,” Matt 7:29.

Luk 4:23  And he said to them: Doubtless you will say to me this similitude: Physician, heal thyself. As great things as we have heard done in Capharnaum, do also here in thy own country.

And he said to them, doubtless you will say to me this similitude (in the Greek παζαβολὴν—parable, proverb, or adage, in common use), Physician, heal thyself—that is, cure Thine own people and Thine own country, which should be as dear to Thee as Thyself; cure Thy fellow Nazarenes as Thou hast cured or art said to have cured the Capernaites. Thus it was that Christ presently explains it, He, by His Divine Spirit, seeing the hidden thoughts of the Nazarenes, and that they were wishing in their hearts for that which He now said. Anticipating their secret thought, He meets and answers it. “It was common among the Jews,” says Titus, “to taunt physicians who had caught any disease with this impudent and ironical saying, Physician, heal thyself.” For the common sense of mankind holds, and reason favours the opinion, that he who cannot cure himself, or neglects to do so, cannot cure others or should not attempt it. In point of fact, however, experience not seldom shows that the physician who cures others is unable to effect his own cure, but hands himself over to other physicians to be treated, because appetite often blinds the reason, and diseases obscure one’s scientific knowledge. Hence we judge better and more safely about the diseases of others than about our own. Self-love often perverts our judgment, so that Solomon warns us with the words, “Lean not unto thine own understanding,” Prov 3:5.

Tropologically: S. Anthony thus expounded the saying “Physician, heal thyself;” He that will cure the faults of others let him first cure his own. For they that will help others before they cure themselves shall relapse into their own faults. Indeed experience teaches us that they who remedy any fault in themselves easily cure it in others.

As great things as we have heard done in Capharnaum, do also here in thy own country. Hence it is, plain that these events took place in Nazareth after Jesus had preached and worked many miracles in the city of Capernaum, as has been said at v. 16, and S. Augustine (De Consensu, bk. ii. cap. 42) observes. The Gloss interprets, “We do not believe what a vague rumour has published, seeing that among us, on whom favours of the kind would have been more fittingly conferred, Thou hast done no such work.” Here in Nazareth, Thy fatherland which conceived Thee, nourished Thee, and brought Thee unto manhood, Thou hast brethren, sisters, kinsfolk, and neighbours, some rich, others poor, some sick, others suffering in other respects. Why then dost Thou not miraculously succour these Thine own people, to whom Thou art bound by blood, by love of home, and by natural affection?

Luk 4:24  And he said: Amen I say to you that no prophet is accepted in his own country.

Ye, 0 Nazarenes, despise Me as your fellow-townsman, and the son of a carpenter; wherefore you are unworthy that I should confer benefits upon you., Therefore (says the Interlinear), I work not among you, not because I hate my own country, but because you are incredulous.  S. Cyril adds that a citizen, being always near to his fellow-citizens, is deprived of the reverence which is his due at the hands of those who know him.

Thirdly, S. Chrysostom says, “Christ had abstained from miracles among the Nazarenes that He might not provoke them to envy.” For, as S. Ambrose says, God is a despiser of the envious; and the Gloss remarks that it is almost natural for fellow-citizens to envy one another; nor do they take account of merit, but call to mind a man’s frail childhood

Chrysologus (Serm. 48, at the end,) remarks, “To be powerful is, among one’s own people, a biting and a burning; to be eminent among one’s fellow-citizens and neighbours burns up one’s neighbours’ glory; and if neighbours owe honour to a neighbour they count it slavery.” There is an amusing apologue of a parrot, which touches this subject. A parrot, brought from the East to the West, where birds of this kind are not common, wondered that he was held in greater esteem and honour than he had been accustomed to in his own country. He occupied an ivory cage plaited with silver wire, and fed on the daintiest viands, such as did not fall to the share of the others, which were only western birds, but inferior to himself neither in beauty nor in the power of imitating the human voice. Then says a turtle-dove, shut up in the same cage with him, “There is nothing wonderful in this, for no one receives in his own country the honour which is his due.”

Tropologically: Christ here teaches the faithful, particularly men devoted to the Apostolic calling, that they ought to curb or to divert themselves of all excessive affection for their own country and kinsfolk, that they may be useful to all men—

“The fishes’ native country is the boundless sea;
Let the wide earth the brave man’s country be.”

S. Gregory Nazianzen (Orat. xviii.) says very well, “For great and noble men there is one country—that Jerusalem which is perceived by the mind, not those countries which we see here, now inhabited by one race of men, now by another.” And again (Orat. xxv.) “These earthly fatherlands, these differences of race, are the scenes, the illusions, of this our short fleeting life. For whatsoever country each one has previously got possession of, whether by injustice or by misfortune, that is called his country, while we are all alike strangers and sojourners, however much we may play upon the meaning of words.” Such was S. Basil, of whom S. Gregory of Nyssa, in his life, writes, “Basil the Great was free from the fear of exile, because he held that the only fatherland of men was Paradise, and regarded all the earth as nature’s common place of exile.”

Luk 4:25  In truth I say to You, there were many widows in the days of Elias (Elijah) in Israel, when heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there was a great famine throughout all the earth.
Luk 4:26  And to none of them was Elias (Elijah) sent, but to Sarepta (Zarephath) of Sidon, to a widow woman.

Three years and six months. This does not appear in the Old Testatment, but Jesus, as God, knew it, and revealed it to S. James, (James 5:17), for as to what is said in 1 Kings 18:1, “The word of the Lord came to Elias, in the third year, saying, Go and show thyself to Ahab that I may give rain upon the face of the earth.” This third year is not to be taken from the beginning of the drought, but as from the sojourn of Elias in Sarepta.

Throughout all the earth. In all the land—Israel and the neighbouring region, such as Sidon, and Sarepta, where this widow was.

The sense is that, as Elias, in the time of the famine, procured food for no Israelite, but only for the widow of Sarepta, a Sidonian, a Gentile, and a foreigner, because, valuing the prophet very highly, and believing him that God would provide for her hunger according to his word, she gave him the little oil and meal which she had, postponing her own and her children’s wants to his; so Christ, in like manner, puts the Capernaites before the Nazarenes, His own fellow-citizens, because the former hear Him as a Teacher sent from Heaven, honour Him and pay Him respect, but the latter despise Him as a carpenter, and their own fellow-townsman; and so He imparts to the former the spiritual bread of heavenly doctrine and miracles, but leaves the latter in their spiritual want. For Elias was the type and precursor of Christ, and the widow of Sarepta the type and first-fruits of the Gentiles whom Christ preferred before the Jews, His fellow-countrymen. Bede says that “Sidon” in Hebrew signifies “useless hunting;” “Sarepta,” “conflagration” or “neediness”—namely, of bread; that is, the Gentile world given up to the pursuit of worldly things, and suffering from the conflagration of their carnal passions and the want of spiritual bread. Elias is the prophetic, word, which, being received, feeds the hearts of them that believe.

Luk 4:27  And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Eliseus (Elisha) the prophet: and none of them was cleansed but Naaman the Syrian.

Naaman the Syrian, a foreigner and a Gentile (2 Kings 5). As Elisha, following his master Elias, did not prophecy to the Jews, his own people, but to foreigners, and did not therefore heal the lepers that were in Judæa, but Naaman the Gentile, by reason of his faith and their incredulity; so I preach and work miracles among these Capernaite strangers, on account of their faith, reverence, and good-will towards Me, but I leave you Nazarenes alone for your infidelity, your irreverence, and your contempt of Me. For Elisha, like Elias, was a type and forerunner of Christ; and Naaman the Gentile, a type of the Gentiles to whom Christ, leaving the Jews, would, by the apostles, transfer His faith, His church, and His grace. So Bede, Titus, Theophylact, Euthymius, Jansenius, Toletus, and others.

Luk 4:28  And all they in the synagogue, hearing these things, were filled with anger.

And all in the synagogue…were filled with anger–because they knew that they were touched by these two examples of the widow and Naaman, as being incredulous, and that a slur was cast upon them as being unworthy of the miracles of Jesus; and again because they were indignant that Jesus, their fellow-townsman and equal, should compare Himself with, and place Himself before, Elias and Elisha, nay, make Himself out the Messiah, from the prophecy of Isaiah; and, lastly, because Christ hinted that He would transfer His gifts from the Jews to the Gentiles. So S. Thomas, Toletus, Francis Lucas, and others

Luk 4:29  And they rose up and thrust him out of the city: and they brought him to the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong.

They brought him to the brow of a hill. they dragged Him, as it seemed to them, by violence, but, in reality, Christ of His own accord allowed Himself to be led and dragged. The Greek word  ηγαγον implies a forceful act of leading or driving, as one might do to a stubborn mule.

That they might cast him down headlong—from the top of the hill to the bottom, and so kill Him, as one who had defamed his own native place, and inflicted injury and insult upon it; and therefore they brought Him forth outside of the city, as being unworthy of it, that they might cast Him from the top of the mountain, dash Him down upon the rocks, and break His whole body to pieces. This was a grievous piece of violence on the part of the Nazarenes against Christ, their fellow-citizen, and thus, as Euthymius observes, they confirmed in act, what He had spoken in words, namely, that a prophet is not held in honour in his own country, but dishonoured, nay, slain; and that therefore the Nazarenes were unworthy of the preaching and miracles of Christ.

S. Bonaventure, Toletus, and others add, that they took Christ out of the city to the top of the hill that they might slay Him as a blasphemer, because He had made Himself the Messiah. For though, by the law, the blasphemer was to be stoned, still they wished to cast Christ headlong upon the rocks and stones, because this is the same as if they had stoned Him. Whether the stones are cast at the man, or the man hurled headlong upon the stones, is all one; indeed, the latter is more cruel and terrible. So it was that they cast S. Stephen out of Jerusalem as a blasphemer, and stoned him; and S. James, the first Bishop of Jerusalem, was hurled down from a pinnacle of the Temple as a blasphemer, because He taught that Christ was the Messiah.

S. Ambrose points out that these men were worse than the devil, who did but set Christ upon a pinnacle of the Temple, and say to Him, “Cast thyself down,” while these did their best to hurl Him down by force. “The heritage of the disciples,” he says, “is worse than that of the master – he tempts the Lord by word, they attempt His life by their act—he says, ‘Cast thyself down,’ they do Him violence in order to cast Him down.”

Luk 4:30  But he passing through the midst of them, went his way.

Maldonatus thinks that Christ here made Himself invisible, S. Ambrose and Bede that He changed their wills, so that they consented to let Him go. Others hold the better opinion that Christ turned away their imagination or their eyes, or suspended their consciousness and held their hands and feet, so that, like men bereft of their senses, though they saw Him they could not or dared not lay hold of Him. Wherefore Christ here manifested His Godhead. S. Ambrose says, “Behold! the minds of these furious men, being suddenly changed, or stupefied, He goes down through the midst of them.” And he adds the reason, “For when He wills He is taken; when He wills He slips away; when He wills He is slain; because His hour had not yet come,” John vii. 30. For as yet he must preach, and at last be crucified at Jerusalem by the Father’s decree, but not cast down headlong in Nazareth. So Bede, S. Chrysostom, Euthymius, and others. Brocardus, in his “Description of the Holy Land,” gives the tradition that Christ glided away from out of the hands of the Jews, and suddenly appeared on the opposite side of the mountain, and that therefore the place is called “the Leap of the Lord.”  N. de Lyra adds that the rock on which Christ stood yielded, and received like wax the impress of His feet, just as, when ascending into heaven from Mount Olivet, He left the marks of His feet there. This is what Adrichomius says, in his “Description of the Holy Land,” on the word “the Leap of the Lord:” “The tradition is that Christ fled to a high mountain, which is called from that circumstance ‘the Leap of the Lord,’ and that, at the touch of His garment, the rock flowed, and being melted and loosened like wax, made a kind of hollow for the Lord’s body to be received in and protected, a hollow of a capacity equal to the quantity of the Lord’s body. And in this, even at the present day, the lineaments and folds of the garment on the Lord’s back, and the marks of His feet are preserved, marked out as though by the hand of a sculptor.” This, however, lacks confirmation.

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One Response to Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Luke 4:21-30

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C | stjoeofoblog

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