This post consists of several sermons: number 60 on Lk 10:1-3; number 61 on Lk 10:3, used for a feast commemorating the Apostles; number 62 on Lk 10:4-7, also for the commemoration of the Apostles; and number 64 on Lk 10:17-20.
10:1-3. After these things the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them two and two before His face, unto every city and place, whither He was about to enter. And He said unto them, The harvest indeed is great, but the labourers few. Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send forth labourers into the harvest.
THE Holy Ghost by the mouth of the holy prophets commanded the ministers of the saving word of the gospel, saying, “Sound the trumpet on the new moon: on the solemn day of your feast.” And to the new moon we may compare the time of our Saviour’s coming. For a new world arose for us, in which all things have become new, as the very wise Paul assures us in his writings. For he says, “The former things have passed away: behold, all things have become new.” By the new moon therefore, and solemn feast, we understand the time of the incarnation of the Only-begotten, when a trumpet sounded loudly and clearly, even that which proclaimed the saving message of the gospel. For is not that a time which invites us to keep festival, when we were justified by faith, and washed from the pollutions of sin, and death abolished, which had tyrannized over us, and Satan ejected from his mastery over us all; and in which by sanctification and justification we have been united to our common Saviour Christ, and enriched with the hope of unending life and glory. These are the loud trumpet’s sounds, and they run not only through Judaea, like that law which was of old, but throughout the whole earth.
And this is pictured for thee in the writings of Moses. For the God of all came down in the likeness of fire on Mount Sinai, and there was a cloud, and darkness, and gloom, and the voice of the trumpet with a loud ringing sound, according to the Scripture. But the notes of the trumpet were, it says, few at first, but afterwards they waxed longer, and became louder and louder continually. What then was it which the shadow of the law signified to us by these things? Was it not this: that |273 at first there were but few to publish the Gospel tidings; but afterwards they became many? And Christ began the work: and having first chosen the twelve apostles, He afterwards appointed, it says, seventy others. And that, not as though those who had been already called to the honour of the apostleship had been guilty of any neglect, or been led into anything unbecoming, but because a great multitude was about to believe in Him. For not Israel only was caught in the net, but also the crowds of the Gentiles. For that the message of salvation would take possession of the whole world, the God of all declared by one of the holy prophets, saying of it, “Judgment springeth up like couch-grass in the furrows of the |274 field.” For like as the couch-grass springs up in the furrows that are left without cultivation, and takes possession of them, and spreads everywhere, constantly advancing onwards, so in an exactly similar manner has judgment, that is to say, the grace that justifieth the world as declared in the saving tidings of the Gospel, taken possession of every city and place.
Besides these twelve therefore, there were also seventy others appointed by Christ. And again a type of this was prefigured in the words of Moses. For at God’s command he also chose seventy, and God sent the Spirit upon those who had been chosen. And yet again, we find the twelve disciples, and these seventy also, indicated to us by the shadow of the law. For it is thus written in the Exodus concerning the children of Israel; “And they came to Marah 2: and the people could not drink the waters of Marah; for they were bitter. And Moses cried unto the Lord, and the Lord shewed him a tree; and he cast it into the waters, and the waters were made sweet.” Now Marah, when translated, means bitterness; and. is taken by us as a type of the law. For the law was bitter, in that it punished with death. And of this Paul is witness, saying, “He that hath despised Moses’ law is put to death without mercy at the mouth of two or three witnesses.” It was bitter therefore, and unendurable to those of old time, and was unacceptable on this account, just as were also those bitter waters. But it also was sweetened by the precious cross, of which that tree there shewn by God to the blessed Moses was a type. For now that the shadow has changed to the spiritual contemplation, we behold with the eyes of the mind the mystery of Christ, that lay hid in the types of the law. Although therefore the law was bitter, it has now ceased to be so any longer.
“And after Marah, they came, it says, to Elim.” And Elim again when translated means an ascent or increase. And what again was there at Elim? “Twelve wells of water, it says, and seventy palm trees.” For as we ascend to more perfect knowledge, and hasten onward to spiritual increase, we |275 find twelve wells, that is, the holy Apostles: and seventy palm trees, those, namely, who were appointed by Christ. And very excellently the disciples 3 are compared to wells, and the seventy, who were subsequently chosen, to palm trees. For as from holy wells we draw from the disciples of our Saviour the knowledge of all good: while we praise the seventy also, and, so to speak, call them palms; for this tree is strong-hearted, and firm of root, and very fruitful, and constantly grows besides the waters. And such we affirm the saints to be: for their mind is pure, and steadfast, and fruitful, and habitually delights itself in the waters of knowledge.
Therefore, to return again to what we were at first saying, the Lord “appointed other seventy.” But some may perchance imagine that the former had been dismissed, and deprived of the honours of the apostleship; and that these were promoted in their stead, as being better able to teach than they were. To remove therefore such thoughts from our minds, He Who knoweth hearts, and is acquainted with things to come, even as it were apologized, saying, “The harvest indeed is great; but the labourers are few: pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send forth labourers into His harvest.” For just as lands covered thick with produce, and broad and long, require numerous and able labourers; so the whole earth, or rather the company of those about to believe in Christ, being great and innumerable, required not a few teachers, but as many as would suffice for the work. And for this reason Christ appointed those who were to be the allies, so to speak, and assistants of the twelve disciples. They went therefore on their mission, being sent two and two to every city and village, crying, as it were, in the words of John, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.”
But observe this: that while He said, “Pray ye the Lord of the harvest to send forth labourers into His harvest,” He did it Himself. And yet Who besides is Lord of the harvest, that is, of the dwellers on earth, but He Who by nature and truly is God. “For to Him belongs the whole earth and its fulness,” as Scripture says: and He is the Creator of all, and its Fashioner. But inasmuch as it belongs to the supreme God |276 alone to send forth labourers, how was it that Christ appointed them? Is He not therefore the Lord of the harvest, and God the Father, by Him and with Him, the Lord of all? All things therefore are His, and there is nothing of all things which are named that belongs to the Father, which is not also the Son’s. For He also said to the Father, “Those whom Thou gavest Me out of the world, Thine they were, and Thou gavest them unto Me.” For, as I said, all those things that belong to the Father are declared to be, and are, the property of the Son, and He is radiant with His Father’s dignities. And the glory of the Godhead belongs to Him, not as a thing conferred and given Him by another; but rather He subsists in honours which are His by nature, as He also doth Who begat Him. And the wise John also affirms that we all are His, thus saying of Him: “I indeed baptize you in water: but after me cometh He Who is mightier than I: He [Who] shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost, and in fire. Whose fan is in His hand, and He will cleanse His floor, and will gather the wheat into His garner, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.”
May it be our lot then as rational wheat, to be carried into God’s treasure house, oven into the mansions that are above: that there, in company with the rest of the saints, we may enjoy the blessings which God bestows in Christ: by Whom, and with Whom, to God the Father be praise and dominion with the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever, Amen 4. |277
SERMON 61 TO BE READ AT THE COMMEMORATION OF THE APOSTLES
10:3. Go: behold, I send you as sheep among wolves.
ALL those who praise the divine and sacred Word correctly, and without error, are, we affirm, the allies of the doctrines of truth, and its host teachers; well knowing how to guide whosoever wish to advance in Christ, rightly unto every good work, and to the life incorruptible, and to participation in the blessings bestowed upon us. Of these most wise Paul also declares, that they are “the lights of the world, holding the word of life.”
Now of these illustrious and famous men the divine disciples were the commencement, and stand foremost in order: for they had as a schoolmaster Him Who is the Giver of all understanding; and Who richly bestoweth His light upon those who love Him. For He is the true light Who illumineth the heavens, even the powers who are above; and delivereth from ignorance and darkness those also upon earth. And observe how He made the appointed teachers of all beneath the sun to be ready workmen, conspicuous for their earnest zeal, and able to win the glory of apostolic victories; preferring none of this world’s affairs to the duty of proclaiming their sacred message, and so bravely disposed in their manly mind as to be superior to all fear, and no whit terrified at hardships, nor alarmed at death itself, when brought upon them for Christ’s sake. For “go,” He says: and in this word “go,” He encourages them to be courageous; makes them eagerly desirous of saintly victories; establishes them in the steadfast resistance of all temptation; and permits them not to shrink from the violence of persecutions. For just as valiant generals, when the battle begins, and the enemy discharge their shafts, encourage those under their command bravely to resist the attacking foe, and to bear themselves manfully against the enemy; using such words as these; ‘Fellow soldiers, let none of these things that |278 ye see trouble your mind; we are not weak and inexperienced in warfare, but know well the ways of battle: we have coats of mail strongly made; armour and swords; bows too and darts: by exertion we shall purchase the victory; stoutheartedness will win for us a right glorious renown:’ so does the Saviour of all, if we may so speak, send forth the disciples against the hosts of unbelievers, saying, “Go; behold, I send you as sheep among wolves.”
What sayest Thou O Lord? How can sheep converse with wolves? When was a wild beast ever at peace with the sheep? Scarcely can the shepherds protect their flocks by gathering them into folds, and shutting them up in enclosures, and frightening the beasts of prey by the barking of dogs, yea, and even themselves fighting in their defence, and running risks to protect the more weakly members of their flock. How then does He command the holy Apostles, who are guileless men, and if we may so speak, sheep, to seek the company of wolves, and go to them of their own accord? Is not the danger manifest? Are they not set as a ready prey for their attacks? How can a sheep prevail over a wolf? How can one so peaceful vanquish the savageness of beasts of prey? Yes, He says, for they all have Me as their Shepherd: small and great; people and princes; teachers and taught. I will be with you and aid you, and deliver you from all evil. I will tame the savage beasts; I will change wolves into sheep; I will make the persecutors become the helpers of the persecuted: and those who wrong My ministers I will make to be sharers in their pious designs. For I make and unmake all things, and there is nothing that can resist My will.
And that this was the actual result, we may see in instances which really occurred. For the divine Paul was a blasphemer, and persecutor, more injurious and cruel than any wolf against those who believed in Christ. Did he then persist in this conduct? Did he continue to be a wolf even unto the end? Far from it: for he was called by Christ, and experienced an unlooked for change. He who in old time was a wolf became more gentle than a lamb; and preached the faith which once he persecuted. And a change so unexpected in its manner was the wonder of all men, and Christ was glorified, Who had changed him from a beast of prey into a lamb. And this the |279 divine Jacob had in his blessings before announced concerning him: “Benjamin is a ravening wolf: in the morning he shall eat flesh: and in the evening divide victual.” For the wise Paul was of the tribe of Benjamin, and, at first, he resisted those who believed in Christ like a ravening wolf; but when a short time had elapsed, a space, so to speak, as from morning to evening, he divided victual. For he taught and preached Jesus: and to those that as yet were babes in intellect he offered milk; but set before the full grown strong meat. In the morning therefore he eats flesh, and in the evening divides victual.
And thus much then briefly respecting the blessed Paul: but let us next discuss from a similar point of view the calling of nations. Let us see whether they too also were not at one time beasts of prey, and fiercer than wolves against the ministers of the gospel message of salvation, but were transformed unto the gentleness and guilelessness which are by Christ’s help. They too persecuted the holy apostles, not so much like men struggling with wolves, as like beasts of prey, raging savagely against sheep. And though they wronged them not, but rather called them to salvation, they stoned them, they imprisoned them, they persecuted them from city to city. And yet those, who thus acted at first, afterwards became gentle and guileless, and like the sheep which once they persecuted.
And who else accomplisheth all these things but Jesus Christ our Lord? For He also it is “Who hath broken down the fence wall that was in the middle, abolishing the law of commandments contained in doctrines; Who hath made the two nations into one new man; Who hath made peace, and reconciled both in one body unto the Father.” For that there have been joined unto the faith in concord and unity of mind and will, the savage in company with the gentle; the impure and sin-stained with the saints; those, that is, of the herds of the Gentiles with those of Israel who believed; the prophet Isaiah shews, thus speaking in the Spirit: “And the wolf shall graze with the lamb; and the leopard rest with the kid; and the bear and the cow shall graze together; and the ox and the lion eat provender together, and their young ones shall be with one another.” Consider, my beloved, and understand that those who were sanctified by faith did not |280 conform to the habits of the heathen, but on the contrary those who were called of the heathen conformed to them. For such beasts as the wolf and lion, the bear and leopard, are eaters of flesh; but those animals which are of a gentle nature, kids and lambs, and steers, feed upon grass. But those beasts of prey, he says, shall graze with these gentle ones, and eat their food. It is not therefore the gentle ones who have conformed to the habits of the savage: but, on the contrary, as I said, the savage who have imitated them. For they have abandoned their cruel disposition for the gentleness that becometh saints, and been changed by Christ, so that the wolves have become lambs; for He it is Who hath made them gentle, and united, as I said, the two nations unto a mind full of the love of God. And this of old the hierophant Moses cried out, saying, “Rejoice, ye nations, with His people; ascribe majesty unto God.” Let us therefore exalt Him and honour Him with praises because of the Saviour and Lord of all: by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever, Amen. |281
SERMON 62 FIT FOR READING ON THE COMMEMORATION OF THE APOSTLES
10:4-7. Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes; and ask not the peace of any one by the way. And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace to this house. And if there be there one5 worthy of peace, your peace shall rest upon him; but if not, it shall return to you. And in that house remain, eating and drinking of their things: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Change not from house to house.
THE prudent and skilful bee visits the flowers in every field and meadow, and gathering the dew that has settled upon them, so makes sweet honey. And Solomon leads us to imitate her conduct, saying, “Draw near to the bee, and learn how industrious she is, and how excellent is her workmanship. She is beloved, therefore, and praised by every man, and her labours kings and private persons employ for their health.” Come, therefore, and let us also, wandering, as it were, around some intellectual meadow, gather the dew let fall by the Holy Ghost upon the divine message of the Gospel, that so being enriched in mind we may bring forth the spiritual honey, even the word profitable and useful to all who thirst after the communication of the divine doctrines, whether they be noble and illustrious, or obscure and private persons in a humble rank of life. For it is written, “Good words are as honeycomb; and their sweetness is healing to the soul.” |282
Now these fair and good words, what else are they than those certainly which Christ spake unto us, making those who love Him skilful by repeated teaching in virtuous pursuits? For take here also as a proof of what I have said the sense of the passage just read to us. “Carry,” it says, “neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes.” Consider, I pray you, here again the nature of the pathway of apostolic virtue set before them. For it was right that they who were to be the lights and teachers of all beneath the heaven, should learn it from no other than from Him Who is the Word that came down from above—-from heaven: the fountain of wisdom and intellectual light; from whom cometh all understanding, and the knowledge of every thing that is good. What, then, He requires of them is, that in preaching to men everywhere the Word that He spake, and in calling the inhabitants of the whole earth to salvation, they should travel about without purse, or scrip, or shoes; and journey rapidly from city to city, and from place to place. And let no man on any account say that the object of His teaching was to make the holy Apostles refuse the use of the ordinary articles of equipment. For what good would it do them, or what harm, to have shoes on their feet, or go without them? But what He does wish them to learn by this command, and to endeavour to practice is certainly this, that they must lay all thought of their sustenance upon Him, and call to remembrance the saint who said, “Cast thy care upon the Lord, and He shall feed thee.” For He giveth the saints what is needful for life, nor speaketh He falsely where He saith, “Be ye not anxious for yourselves as to what ye shall eat, and what drink: nor for your body, what clothing ye shall wear: for your Father knoweth that ye have need of all those things. But seek first His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”
For verily it was fitting and necessary that those who were adorned with apostolic honours, should have a mind free from covetousness, and altogether averse from the receiving of gifts, and content, on the contrary, with what God provides. “For the love of money is the root of all evils” as Scripture declares. They, therefore, in every way must be free and exempt from that which is the root and nourisher of all evils, and must expend, so to say, all their zeal upon their necessary |283 duties, not being exposed to Satan’s attack, us taking with them no worldly wealth, but despising the things of the flesh, and desiring only what God wills.
For just as brave soldiers when they go out to battle carry nothing with them but such equipments only as are suitable for war, so also it was right that those who were sent out by Christ to carry aid to the world, and wage war in behalf of all who were in danger against the “world-rulers of this darkness,” yea, and against Satan himself, should be free from the distractions of this world, and from all worldly anxiety; that being tightly girt, and clad in spiritual armour, they might contend mightily with those who resisted the glory of Christ, and had made all beneath the heaven their prey. For they had caused its inhabitants to worship the creature instead of the Creator, and to offer religious service to the elements of the world. Armed, therefore, with the shield of faith, and the breastplate of righteousness, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, they must prove themselves invincible antagonists to their enemies; and not drag after them a heavy load of things worthy of blame and condemnation: such as are the love of wealth and hoards of base gains, and eagerness after them: for these things turn aside the mind of man from that behaviour which pleaseth God, and permit it not to mount upward to Him, but humble it rather to feelings set upon dust, and earthly things.
In enjoining them, therefore, to take neither scrip nor purse, nor, moreover, to trouble themselves about shoes, He clearly teaches them that his commandment requires them to abandon all carnal wealth, and that His wish is that they should be free from every impediment in entering upon the duty to which they were especially called, of preaching, namely, His mystery to men everywhere, and of winning unto salvation those who were entangled in the nets of destruction.
And to this He adds that “they 6 were not to ask of the |284 peace of any one by the way.” But what harm would this have done the holy apostles? Come, therefore, come, and let us see the reason why it was not right for them to offer greeting to those that met them. Thou doubtless wilt say that it was because it might sometimes happen that those who met them were not believers: and that therefore it would not have been right for those who were ignorant of Him Who by nature and verily is God to be blessed by them. What, therefore, do we say to this? Does it not then seem an incredible supposition that this was the reason why they were commanded not to ask of the peace of any one by the way? For they were sent forth “not so much to call the righteous as sinners to repentance.” And how, therefore, was it not fitting that they who were about to enlighten all who were in darkness, and to bring them unto the acknowledgment of the truth, should rather use gentleness and great kindliness instead of roughly withdrawing themselves from associating with them, and even refusing to ask of their health? For certainly with other good qualities, gentleness of address becometh the saints, and greetings, provided they are made in a fitting manner. And, moreover, those who met them would, of course, sometimes not be unbelievers, but men of their own persuasion, or 7 who had already been enlightened, and to whom it would even be their duty to offer an acknowledgment of love by a kindly greeting.
What, therefore, does Christ teach by this? He does not enjoin them to be rude, nor command them to lay stress upon the not making salutation: such conduct He rather teaches them to avoid. But it is not a thing unbefitting to suppose that when |285 the disciples were travelling about among the cities and villages, to instruct men everywhere in the sacred doctrines, they might wish to do this, perhaps, not with haste, but, so to speak, in a loitering manner, making deviations from the road, and permitting themselves to pay visits, because they wished to see some one or other as being an acquaintance or friend, and so would waste prodigally in unnecessary matters the fitting time for preaching. With great industry, therefore, says He, be zealous in delivering your sacred message; grant not to friendship an unprofitable delay, but let that which is well pleasing to God be preferred by you to all other things: and so practising an irresistible and unhampered diligence, hold fast to your apostolic cares.
Besides this He further commanded them “not to give holiness to dogs, nor again to cast the pearls before swine,” by bestowing upon unbelievers their society in lodging with them: they were rather to grant it to such as were worthy of having it deigned them, by being sons of peace, and yielding obedience to their message. For it would have been a most disgraceful act for them to wish to be intimate with any who were still resisting Christ’s glory, and guilty of the charge of ungodliness. “For what part hath the believer with the unbeliever?” For how could those who had not as yet even listened to their words, but made their instruction, however worthy it was of being embraced, an occasion sometimes even of ridicule, receive them as meriting their admiration? So too at Athens some once ridiculed the divine Paul. For he indeed taught them “that God dwelleth not in temples made with hands,” being incorporeal and infinite, and That Which filleth all, but is contained by none: and declared that he preached unto them “Him Whom though they knew Him not, they imagined they rightly worshipped.” But they being given up to superciliousness, and greatly priding themselves on their fluent tongue, said in their folly, “What would this seed-picker 8 say? For he seemeth to be a setter forth of |286 foreign gods.” Seed-picker was the name they gave to a worthless bird, whose habit it was to pick up the seeds scattered on the roads: and in comparing to it the divine Paul, these foolish men were ridiculing the word of salvation then offered them.
Christ therefore commanded them to lodge with the sons of peace, and to eat at their cost, affirming that this was by a just decree; “for a labourer, He says, is worthy of his hire.” And therefore, let not any of those who acknowledge the truth, disregard or be careless of the duty of honouring the saints: for they bless us, when “sowing to us things spiritual, they reap of us things carnal:” and “the Lord also commanded that those who preach the gospel shall live of the gospel:” since also according to the law of Moses, “those who offered sacrifices shared with the altar.” And let those who are careless of honouring the saints, and illiberally close the hand, be assured that they are deprived of their blessing. But may it be our lot to be partakers of the blessing prepared for them with God, by offering to them as fruit whatever we possess; and by feeling pleasure in so doing; “for Christ loveth a cheerful giver:” by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion with the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever, Amen 9. |287
10:17-20. And the seventy returned with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us in Thy Name. And He said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold I have given you the authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and upon all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. But in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.
IT is somewhere said by one of the holy prophets, “Will the Lord God do anything without revealing the teaching thereof to His servants the prophets?” For the God of all made known to the holy prophets those things which were hereafter to take place, in order that they might previously declare them, that so they might not be disbelieved, when in due time what had been foretold arrived at its fulfilment. And those who will may see that what we have now affirmed is true, even from the present lessons. “For the seventy” it says, “returned with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject to us in Thy Name.” For first of all the twelve disciples had been appointed, holy and elect men, and worthy of all admiration. But inasmuch as, according to Christ’s declaration, “the harvest indeed was great, but the labourers few,” He further, in addition to those first chosen, “appointed seventy others, and sent them to every village and city of Judea before His face,” to be, that is to say, His forerunners, and to preach the things that belonged to Him.
And in sending them, He ennobled them with the grace of the Holy Ghost, and crowned them with the power of working miracles, that they might not be disbelieved by men, nor be supposed to be self-called to the apostleship: just as of old there were some who prophesied, “though they spake not out of the mouth of the Lord,” as Scripture saith, but rather vomited forth lies from their own heart. For God by the voice of Jeremiah somewhere also said, at one time, “I have not sent the prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken unto |292 them, yet they prophesied:” and again at another; “The prophets prophesied lies in My name: I sent them not, neither spake I unto them; neither had I commanded them.” In order, therefore, that men might not subject to such a suspicion those who were commissioned by Christ, He gave them power over unclean spirits, and the ability to perform signs. For when the divine miracle followed close upon their word, no form, either of calumny or of Jewish false-speaking, could find a place against them. For they were convicted of accusing them without reason, or rather of choosing to fight against God. For to be able to work miracles is possible for no man, unless God give him the power and authority thereunto. The grace of the Spirit therefore witnessed of those who had been sent, that they were not persons who ran of themselves, nor self-called to the duty of speaking concerning Christ; but that, on the contrary, they had been appointed to be the ministers of His message.
The authority, however, which they bore to reprove evil spirits, and the power of crushing Satan, was not given them that they might themselves so much be regarded with admiration, as that Christ might be glorified by their means, and be believed on by those whom they taught, as by nature God, and the Son of God; and invested with so great glory and supremacy and might, as to be even able to bestow upon others the power of trampling Satan under their feet.
But they, it says, in that they were counted worthy of so great grace, “returned rejoicing, and saying, Lord, even the devils are subject to us in Thy name.” For they confess the authority of Him Who honoured them, and wonder at the supremacy and greatness of His power. But they seem to have rejoiced, not so much because they were ministers of His message, and had been counted worthy of apostolic honours, as because they had wrought miracles: but it would have been better for them to have reflected, that He gave them the power to work miracles, not that they might be regarded by men with admiration on this account, but rather that what they preached might be believed, the Holy Ghost bearing them witness by divine signs. It would have been better, therefore, had they manifestly rejoiced on account of those rather who had been won by their means, and had made this |293 a cause of exultation. Just as also the very wise Paul gloried in those who had been called by his means, saying, “My joy and my crown.” But they said nothing at all of this kind, but rejoiced only in that they had been able to crush Satan.
And what is Christ’s reply? “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” That is, ‘I am not unaware of this: for inasmuch as ye set out upon this journey, so to speak, by My will, ye have vanquished Satan. “I saw him fall like lightning from heaven.”‘ And this means that he was cast down from on high to earth: from overweening pride to humiliation: from glory to contempt: from great power to utter weakness. And the saying is true: for before the coming of the Saviour, he possessed the world: all was subject to him, and there was no man able to escape the meshes of his overwhelming might: he was worshipped by every one: everywhere he had temples and altars for sacrifice, and an innumerable multitude of worshippers. But because the Only-begotten Word of God has come down from heaven, he has fallen like lightning: for he who of old was bold and supercilious, and who vied with the glory of Deity; he who had as his worshippers all that were in error, is put under the feet of those that worshipped him. Is it not then true, that he has fallen from heaven to earth, by having suffered so great and terrible an overthrow?
Who then is He That hath destroyed his might, and humbled him to this misery? Plainly it was Christ. And this He announced to us in the words, “Behold, I have given you the authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and upon all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you.” ‘But, O Lord, some one may reply, behold already we rejoice in the glory and grace bestowed upon us by Thee: for we have acknowledged that even the devils are subject to us in Thy name. And how then dost Thou proclaim to those who know it, and have openly acknowledged it, “Behold I have given you the authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions?”‘ Yes, He saith, I have carefully on purpose called you to the remembrance of those things which lo! already ye know, that ye may not be carried away with the ignorance of the Jews, who, not understanding the mystery of My incarnation, approach Me as a mere man, and persecute Me, saying, “Why dost Thou, being a man, make Thyself God? And yet it was |294 rather their duty, He says, to have known, that not “as being a man,” to use their words, I affirm of Myself that I am God; but rather that being by nature God, I have put on the form of a slave, and appear on earth as a man like unto you. And what is the proof of these things? “Behold, I have given you the authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions.” But it was not the act of a mere man, nor of one such as we are, to bestow on others an authority so glorious and admirable, as for them to be able to tread upon all the power of the enemy: rather it was a deed suitable to God alone, Who is supreme over all, and crowned with surpassing honours.
it is capable also of being explained in another way. For thus He leaves them no excuse for giving way to cowardice, but rather requires of them to be very hearty and courageous. For such ought those to be who are ministers of the divine word: not subject to timidity, nor overpowered by sloth, but preaching “with great power,” as Scripture saith, and bold in pursuing after those who are drawn up in array against them, and bravely struggling against the enemy; as having Christ to help them, Who will also humble the impure powers of evil under their feet, and with them even Satan himself. What man is there more powerful than “the world-rulers of darkness,” or than that wicked serpent and prince of evil? He therefore who “brake the heads of the dragons,” how can He be too weak to save them from the attacks of any of this world’s inhabitants “Not without benefit, therefore, did Christ proclaim to His disciples: “Behold I have granted you to tread on serpents and scorpions, and upon all the power of the enemy.”
But He also further benefits them by immediately adding; “But in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”: ‘Dost Thou not, O Lord, permit those who have been honoured by Thee to rejoice in their honours? And yet it is written of those who were appointed to the apostleship: “They shall walk, O Lord, in the light of Thy countenance, and in Thy name shall they exult all the day, and in Thy righteousness shall they be exalted. For Thou art the glory of their strength, and in Thy good pleasure shall our horn be exalted.” How then didst Thou command them not to rejoice in the honour and glory which Thou didst Thyself bestow?’ |295 What can we say to this? I answer, that Christ raises them to something greater, and commands them to account it their glory that their names were written in heaven. For it is of the saints that God is thus addressed, “And in Thy book they are all written.”
But besides, to rejoice solely in the fact that they were able to work miracles, and crush the herds of demons, was likely to produce in them possibly the desire also of vainglory:—-and the neighbour, so to speak, and kinsfellow of this passion constantly is pride. Most usefully, therefore, does the Saviour of all rebuke the first boasting, and quickly cuts away the root, so to speak, that had sprung up in them of the base love of glory, imitating good husbandmen, who, immediately that they see a thorn springing up in their pleasure 12 grounds or gardens, tear it up with the teeth of the mattock, before it strike its root deep.
Even though, therefore, we receive some gift from Christ not unworthy of admiration, we must not think too highly of it, but rather make the hope prepared for us our cause of rejoicing, and that our names are written in the companies of the saints, by Christ’s gift, the Saviour of us all, Who, from His love to man bestows, with all besides that we have, this also upon us: by Whom, and with Whom, to God the Father be praise and dominion with the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever, Amen. |296 (source)