St Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on John 11:1-45

Chap. 11. 1, 2. Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, of the village of Mary and her sister Martha. And it was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.

With a purpose does the Evangelist make mention of the names of the women, showing that they were distinguished for their piety. Wherefore also the Lord loved them. And of the many things which probably had been done for the Lord by Mary, he mentions the ointment, not at haphazard, but to shew that Mary had such thirst after Christ that she wiped His feet with her own hair, seeking to fasten to herself more really the spiritual blessing which comes from His holy Flesh; for indeed she appears often with much warmth of attachment to have sat close to Christ without being distracted by interruption, and to have been drawn into friendly relationship with Him.

3      His sisters therefore sent unto Him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom Thou lovest is sick.

The women send to the Lord, ever wishing to have Him near them, but on this occasion sending under a fair pretext on account of him who was sick. For they believed that if Christ would only appear the sufferer would be set free from his disease. And they gently remind Him of the love which He had for the sick man, drawing Him thither especially by this means; for they knew that He took thought for this man. And He was able, even though absent, to heal him, as being God and tending all things; nevertheless, they thought that if He were present, He would put forth His hand and awaken him. Not even they possessed as yet the perfection of faith, wherefore also they are troubled, as it seems probable, with the thought that Lazarus would not have been ill at all, had not Christ neglected him: for, say they, since such as are beloved by God possess all good things, why is he whom Thou lovest, sick? Or perhaps they even say: Great is the audacity of the sickness, because it dared to attack such as are beloved by God. And it may be too that they |111 seem to say something of this sort. Since Thou lovest and healest even Thine enemies, much rather oughtest Thou to confer such benefits on them that love Thee. For Thou art able to do all things by merely Thy Will. Therefore their language is full of faith and proves their close relationship to Christ.

4 But when Jesus heard it, He said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified thereby.

The Lord now says this, not that the men may go away and report it to the sisters of Lazarus, but as God foretelling what should come to pass, because He saw that the conclusion of the affair would be for the glory of God; not that the sickness came upon the man for this reason, that He should be glorified; for it would be silly to say this; but since it had come, He also saw that it would result in a wonderful end. And He says that Himself is in His Nature God, for that which is done, is done for His glory. For after saying that the sickness was for the glory of God, He added: That the Son of God may be glorified thereby, speaking concerning Himself.

And if He Himself said that the sickness of Lazarus was not unto death, and yet his death took place, there is nothing to marvel at. For looking on to the final result of the affair, and seeing that He was going to raise him up after a little time, we do not consider anything that took place in the interval, but only how the end would result. For the Lord determined to set forth the weakness of death, and to shew forth all that happened as for the glory of God, that is, of Himself.

6 When therefore He heard that he was sick, He abode at that time two days in the place where He was.

And He deferred His arrival in order that He might not heal him while sick, but raise him when dead; which is a work of greater power, so that He would be more greatly glorified. |112

7, 8 And after this He saith to His disciples, Let us go into Judaea again, His disciples say unto Him. Rabbi, the Jews were but now seeking to stone Thee; and goest Thou thither again?

Now when the Lord said: Let us go into Judaea again, He seems almost to declare “Even though the people there are unworthy of kindness, yet now that an opportunity presents itself of conveying them some advantage, let us go back to them;” but the disciples in their love for Him think it right to try to hinder Him, and moreover as men they suppose that He would be unwilling to put Himself in peril by going amongst the Jews. Wherefore also they remind Him of the madness of the Jews against Him, all but saying: “Why again dost Thou seek to be amidst the unbelieving and ungrateful people who are not softened either by Thy words or even by Thy works? who even yet are of murderous intent against Thee, and who are boiling with passionate rage?” Either then they say this, or their language signifies that He is leading them into evident danger. Nevertheless, they are obedient to their Teacher, as to One Who knows what is best.

9, 10 Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If therefore a man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he may see the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because the light is not in him.

Perhaps He compares to the ever-moving course of the day, the easily-swayed and novelty-loving mind of men, which is not established in one opinion, but vacillates from one way of thinking to another, just as the day changes from one hour to another. And thus also thou wilt understand the words: Are there not twelve hours in the day? That is, “I,” says He, “am the Day and the Light. Therefore, just as it is not possible for the light of the day to fail, without having completed its appointed time; so it is not among possibilities that the illumination which proceeds from Me should be shrouded from the Jews, without having fully reached its fitting measure of |113 philanthropy.” And He speaks of the time of His presence as “day,” and of that before it as “night;” as also when the Lord says: We must work the works of Him that sent us, while it is day. This therefore is what He here says: “It is not now a time for Me to separate Myself from the Jews, even though they be unholy, but I must do all things that pertain to their healing. For they must not now be punished, by having the Divine grace (like the light of the sun) withdrawn from them. But just as the light of the day does not fail until the twelve hours have been completed, so the illumination that proceeds from Me is not shrouded before the proper time; but until I am crucified I remain among the Jews, sending forth unto them like light the understanding of the knowledge of God. For since the Jews are in the darkness of unbelief, and so stumble at Me as at a stone, I must go back to them and enlighten them, that they may desist from their madness in fighting against God.”

11     These things spake He: and after this He saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus is fallen asleep: but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.

“A worthy cause draws Me towards Jerusalem;” for so much is signified by the words: Our friend is fallen asleep; “and if we should let it pass neglected, we should incur the reputation of being devoid of compassion. Wherefore we must avoid the disgrace of such conduct, and run to the help of our friend, despising the plots of the Jews.” And shewing His own God-befitting power, He calls the departure of the human soul from the body by the name of sleep, and very rightly: for He does not think it proper to call it death, Who created man for immortality, according as it is written, and made the generations of the world to be healthful. Moreover, the language is also true, because the temporary death of our body is in the sight of God really a sleep and nothing different, brought to an end by a mere and single sign from that which is by nature Life, namely, Christ. And |114 notice that He did not say: “Lazarus is dead and I go to raise him to life,” but says: “He is fallen asleep,” avoiding boastfulness, for our instruction and profit; for [without some such good reason] He would not have uttered a sentence so obscure in its hidden meaning that not even the disciples themselves understood what was said. For He did not say: “I go to quicken him into life” or “to raise him up from the dead,” but “that I may awake him out of sleep;” which was at the time insufficient to suggest His real meaning.

12, 13 His disciples therefore said, Lord, if he is fallen asleep, he will recover. Now Jesus had spoken of his death; but they thought that He spake of taking rest in sleep.

They, not understanding the force of the words, thought that Jesus spake of taking rest in sleep, which when sick men can do, they generally experience refreshment; wherefore the disciples say: “It is not worth while to go and disturb Lazarus from his sleep, for it does not benefit a sick man to awake him out of sleep.” And this they said, wishing to hinder Him from the journey by remarking that it was not meet to go into the midst of those murderers for the sake of doing something which would produce no good result.

14, 15 Then Jesus said unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.

The disciples therefore not understanding that He had called death by the name of sleep, He made His meaning clearer, saying: He is dead. And He says that He is glad, not out of a love of glory, because He was going to do the marvellous deed, but because this was going to become for the disciples a ground of faith. And the words: I was not there, signify as follows: “If I had been there, he would not have died, because I should have had pity on him when he was suffering only a little; but now in My absence his death has taken place, so that, by raising him |115 life, I shall bestow upon you much advantage through your faith in Me.” And Christ says this, not as being able to do God-befitting deeds only when He was present; but because if He had been present, He could not have neglected His friend until the occurrence of death. And He says: Let us go unto him, as unto a living person; for the dead, inasmuch as they are destined to live, are alive unto Him as God.

16 Thomas therefore, who is called Didymus, said unto his fellow-disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with Him.

The language of Thomas has indeed zeal, but it also has timidity; it was the outcome of devout feeling, but it was mixed with littleness of faith. For he does not endure being left behind, and even tries to persuade the others to adopt the same resolution: nevertheless he thinks that they are destined to suffer [death] at the hands of the Jews, even against the will of Christ, by reason of the murderous passion of the Jews; not looking at the power of the Deliverer, as he ought rather to have done. And Christ made them timid, by enduring with patience beyond measure the sufferings He experienced at the hands of the Jews. Thomas therefore says that they ought not to separate themselves from their Teacher, although undoubted danger lay before them; so, perhaps with a gentle smile, He said: Let us go, that is, Let us die. Or he speaks thus: Of a certainty if we go we shall die: nevertheless let us not refuse to suffer, for we ought not to be cowardly to such a degree; because if He raises the dead, fear is superfluous, for we have One Who is able to raise us again after we have fallen.

17, 18, 19 So when Jesus came to Bethany, He found that he had been in the tomb four days already. Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, fifteen furlongs off; and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to console them concerning their brother.

He mentions also the length of days that had intervened after the death of Lazarus for this reason, that the miracle |116 may be the more marvelled at, and lest any one should chance to say that He had come after one day, and that Lazarus was not dead, but He had raised him up from sickness. And he says that many Jews were in Bethany, although the place was not a populous one, being come out of Jerusalem; for the distance of road between the two places was not so great as to hinder their sincere friends from being with Martha and Mary. And since the miracle was talked about by all in Jerusalem and the country round about, he gives the reason, that as there were many people there, the story was naturally spread abroad in all directions; some telling what had been done from admiration, and others through envy, to attach a false accusation to the miracle through their lying account of it.

20 Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him; but Mary still sat in the house.

Perhaps Martha was the more eager to do such things as might be necessary; wherefore also she first went and met Him: but Mary was the more intelligent. Wherefore, as possessing a more sensitive soul, she remained at home, receiving the attentions of her consoling friends; but Martha, as a simpler person, started off, intoxicated indeed with her grief, but nevertheless acting with more vigour.

21, 22, 23, 24    Martha therefore said unto Jesus, Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. And even now I know that, whatsoever Thou shalt ask of God, God will give Thee. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha answered Him, 1 know that he shall rise again at the last day.

What Martha says, amounts to this. “Not for this reason,” she says, “did my brother die, because the nature of man is subject to death; but because Thou wast not present, Who art able by Thy word to conquer death.” But in her grief, wandering beyond propriety, she considered that the Lord was no longer able to do anything, as the time for help had gone by; and she thought that |117 He had come, not for the raising again of Lazarus, bat that He might console them. For softly and gently she reproaches Him for His tardiness in not immediately coming when it would have been possible for Him to help them, when they sent saying: Lord, behold, he whom Thou lovest is side. And the words: Whatsoever Thou shalt ask of God He will give Thee, are the words of one who is almost afraid to ask plainly what she wishes; nevertheless she stumbles concerning the truth in that she speaks not as to God, but as to one of the saints; His being seen in the flesh causing her to think that whatsoever He should ask as a saint, He would receive from God; not indeed knowing that, being in His Nature God and the Power of the Father, He possesses irresistible might over all things. For if she had known that He was God, she would not have said: If Thou hadst been here; for God is everywhere. Through His aversity to arrogance, however, the Lord did not say: “I will raise up thy brother,” but: “He shall rise again;” all but softly rebuking her and saying: “He indeed rises again as thou wishest, but not as thou thinkest. For if thou supposest that it will be accomplished by prayer and supplication, take upon thyself the part of prayer, but do not bid Me do it, Who am a Wonder-worker, able by My own Might to raise the dead.” The woman having heard this and being ashamed now to say: “Raise him to life,” yet in some degree instigating Him to do the work at once, seems somewhat to be saddened at the postponement of the time, saying: “I know that he shall rise again at the last day, but I long to see before that time the resurrection of my brother.” Again when the Lord said: Thy brother shall rise again, the woman all but signifies her agreement with this doctrine, saying: “I know that; for I believe that the dead will be raised, according as Thou didst teach: For the hour cometh, and they shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done ill, unto the resurrection of judgment. And likewise Isaiah also in the Spirit said: The dead shall be raised and they that are in the tombs shall |118 be awakened. For I do not disbelieve in the doctrine of the resurrection, as the Sadducees do.”

25, 26, 27 Jesus said unto her, I am the Resurrection and the Life; he that believeth on Me though he die, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth on Me, shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto Him. Yea, Lord: I have believed that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God, even He that cometh into the world.

Assuredly a fruit and reward of faith in Christ is eternal life, and in no other way does this come to the soul of man. For although we are all raised to life through Christ, yet this [eternal life given to the faithful] is the true life, namely, to live unendingly in bliss; for to be restored to life only for punishment differs nothing from death. If therefore any one notices that even the saints, who have received promises of life, die; this is nothing, for it is only what naturally comes to pass. And until the proper time has been reserved the display of the grace [of resurrection], which is powerful, not partially, but effectually, in the case of all men, even of those saints who have died in time past and are tasting death for a short time, until the general resurrection. For then, together, all will enjoy the good things. And in saying: Though he die, yet shall he live, the Saviour did not take away the death in this present world: but admits that it has such might against the faithful that it naturally happens to them, and no more; because He has reserved the grace of resurrection until the proper time. He certainly says: “He that helieveth on Me shall not be without a participation in the death of the flesh in the ordinary course of human nature, but nevertheless he will suffer nothing worthy of fear in this, as God is able easily to make alive whomsoever He will.” For he that believeth on Him, hath in the world to come an endless life in bliss and perfect immortality. Wherefore let not any of the unbelieving mock: for Christ did not say: “From this present moment he shall in no wise see death,” but when He said |119 absolutely: “He shall never see death in any wise,” He spake concerning the world to come, reserving the end of the promise until then. And saying unto Martha: Believest thou? He demands the confession of faith as the parent and patron of the [eternal] life; and she readily assented and accurately confesses: not simply believing that He is a Christ and a Son of God; for a prophet also can be a christ, by reason of being anointed, and the same person can be understood to be a son [of God]: but using the definite article and saying: “The Christ, the Son of God,” she confessed the Only and Preeminent and True Son. Therefore her faith was on the Son, not on a creature.

Believest thou in this?

Having previously explained the force of the mystery in Himself, and shown plainly that He is by Nature Life and Very God, He demands assent to the faith, furnishing in this matter a model to the Churches. For we ought not quite vainly to cast our words into the air when we confess the venerable mystery, but to fix the roots of the faith in heart and mind and then to let it bear fruit in our confession; and we ought to believe without any hesitation or double-mindedness. For the double-minded man is insolent and halting as regards the faith; wherefore also he is unstable in all his ways. Nevertheless, it is necessary to know that we make the confession of our faith unto God, although we are questioned by men, I mean those whose lot it is to minister in sacred things, when we say the “I believe” at the reception of Holy Baptism. Certainly therefore to speak falsely and to slip aside towards unbelief is a most aweful thing; lest we may have as both Judge and Witness of our folly the Lord of all Himself, saying: Even I am a Witness, saith the Lord. And we must observe that, as Lazarus was lying dead, on his behalf in a certain way the assent to the faith is demanded of the woman, that the type in this also may have force among the Churches; for when a newborn babe is brought, either to receive the chrism of the catechumenate, or that of the complete- [Christian] -condition at Holy Baptism |120 the person who brings it repeats aloud the “Amen” on its behalf. And on behalf of those who are assailed by extreme sickness, and on that account are going to be baptized, certain persons make the renunciation [of Satan] and the declaration of attachment [to Christ], by an act of charity lending as it were their voices to those who are disabled by sickness: a thing which we see to have been done in the case of Lazarus and his sister. And Martha wisely and prudently first sows the confession of faith, that afterwards she may reap the fruit of it.

28, 29 And when she had said this, she went away, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is here, and calleth thee. And she, when she heard it, arose, and went unto Him.

She went away to call her sister, that she also might share the happiness which arose from the expected event, and receive at once in common with herself the dead one raised again beyond all hope. For she had heard the words: Thy brother shall rise again. And she told the good news of the coming of the Saviour to her sister secretly, because there were sitting by her some of those Jews who felt ill-will towards Christ for His wondrous works.

And we shall not find in the Gospels that Christ said: “Call thy sister to Me;” but Martha taking the undeniable emergency of the affair and the right due to her sister of being invited to come, as equivalent to an uttered command, she speaks as she does. And Mary readily ran towards Him, and was willing to go to meet Him. For how could she help doing this, when she was in such great grief at His absence, and had such a warm feeling of piety and great love towards Him?

30, 31 Now Jesus was not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha met Him. The Jews then which were with her in the house, and were comforting her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up quickly and went out, followed her, saying that she was going unto the tomb to weep there.

The Jews therefore who were present, thinking she had run to the tomb to tear herself [in her grief], follow her; |121 doing this by the will of God, in order that they might go in a body to see the marvellous deed, even without wishing to do so. For had this not taken place by the providence of God, the Evangelist would not have mentioned it; neither would he have written down the concurrent causes of each matter, had he not been everywhere very zealous for the truth. Therefore he stated the cause wherefore many ran to the tomb, and were found there, and became beholders of the marvellous deed, and reported it to others.

32 Mary therefore, when she came where Jesus was, and saw Him, fell down at His feet, saying, Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

Certainly Mary says that death had happened to her brother prematurely through the absence of the Lord, and says that He had come to the house, when the time for healing had passed by: and it is possible also from this to conjecture that she said this as to God Himself; although she did not speak accurately, from thinking that He was not present even though absent in the body. But being more accurate and intelligent than Martha, she did not say: Whatsoever Thou shalt ask of God God will give Thee. Wherefore to her the Lord says nothing, whereas to Martha He spake at some length. And Mary intoxicated with her grief, He does not reprove for saying: ” If Thou hadst been here” to Him Who fills all creation; doing this also for our example, that we should not reprove those who are in an agony of mourning: and He condescends still further, revealing His human nature, and weeps and is troubled, when He sees her weeping and the Jews who came with her also weeping.

33, 34 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, He groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, and said, Where have ye laid him?

Now since Christ was not only God by Nature, but; also Man, He suffers in common with the rest that which is human; and when grief begins somehow to be stirred |122 within Him, and His Holy Flesh now inclines to tears, He does not allow It to indulge in them without restraint, as is the custom with us. But He groans in the spirit, that is, in the power of the Holy Spirit He reproves in some way His Own Flesh: and That, not being able to endure the action of the Godhead united with It, trembles and presents the appearance of trouble. For this I think to be the signification of “He was troubled;for how otherwise could He endure trouble? Shall that Nature which is ever undisturbed and calm be troubled in any way? The flesh therefore is reproved by the Spirit, being taught to feel things beyond its own nature. For indeed on this account the Almighty Word of Glod was made in Flesh, or rather was made Flesh, that He might strengthen the weaknesses of the flesh by the energies of His own Spirit, and withdraw our nature from too earthly feelings, and transform it as it were to such feelings only as are pleasing to God. Surely it is an infirmity of human nature to be abjectly overcome by griefs, but this as well as the rest is brought into subjection, in Christ first, that it may be also in us.

Or thus we must understand the words: He groaned in the spirit and was troubled, viz:—-as equivalent to: “Being moved to compassion by reason of many weeping, He in a manner gave commandment to His own Spirit to overthrow death before the time, and to raise up Lazarus.” And it is not as being ignorant that He asks: Where have ye laid him? For He Who had known of Lazarus’ death when He was in another part of the country, how could He be ignorant about the tomb? But He speaks thus as being averse to arrogance: therefore He did not say: “Let us go to the tomb, for I will awaken him,” although asking the question particularly in the way He did has this significance. Moreover also by saying this, He prepared many to go before Him that they might shew Him that which He sought. With a set purpose therefore He said this also, drawing by His words many to the place, and appears not to know, not at all shrinking from the poverty of |123 man’s condition, although in His Nature God and knowing all things, not only those which have been, but also those which shall be, before their existence.

And the asking a question therefore does not imply any ignorance in Him Who for our sakes was made like unto us, but rather He is shown from this to be equal to the Father; for He too asks a question: Adam, where art thou? Christ also feigns ignorance and inquires: Where have ye laid him? so that through the inquiry a multitude might be gathered together to the manifestation, and that by His enemies, rather than by others, testimony should be given to the miracle of restoring to life one who was already corrupt.

36, 37 The Jews therefore said, Behold how He loved him! But some of them said, Could not this Man, which opened the eyes of him that was blind, have caused that this man also should not die?

Certainly the Evangelist, seeing the tearless Nature weeping, is astonished, although the suffering was peculiar to the flesh, and not suitable to the Godhead. And the Lord weeps, seeing the man made in His own image marred by corruption, that He may put an end to our tears. For for this cause He also died, even that we may be delivered from death. And He weeps a little, and straightway checks His tears; lest He might seem to be at all cruel and inhuman, and at the same time instructing us not to give way overmuch in grief for the dead. For it is one thing to be influenced by sympathy, and another to be effeminate and unmanly. For this cause therefore He permitted His own flesh to weep a little, although it was in its nature tearless and incapable of any grief, so far as regards its own nature. And even they who hate the Lord, admire His tears. For they who follow philosophy to an extreme and have a brilliant reputation therein, shed tears with the greatest reluctance, as overcoming by manly vigour every misfortune. And the Jews thought that He wept on account of the death of Lazarus, but He |124 wept out of compassion for all humanity, not bewailing Lazarus only, but understanding that which happens to all, that the whole of humanity is made subject to death, having justly fallen under so great a penalty. And others, being wounded by envy, said nothing good; for in truth they did not find fault with the Lord for suffering Lazarus to die; for this would have been the language of men who believed that He was able to stay death: but they almost speak thus: “Where is Thy might, O Wonder-worker? For behold, even when Thou wert unwilling, He who was beloved by Thee has died. For that Thou didst love him is evident from Thy weeping. If therefore that which was done to the blind man was the work of Thy might, Thou wouldst be able also to stay death, which is a similar deed beyond the nature of man.” As malignantly rejoicing therefore, because they saw His glory in a manner diminished, they say this.

38, 39 Jesus therefore again groaning in Himself cometh to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone lay against it. And Jesus saith, Take ye away the stone.

Here we understand the groaning as if it were the will struggling with a sort of movement according to its power, both because He rather sternly reproved His grief, and the tears which were about to be shed from His grief. For, as God, He in the way of a master reproves His Manhood, bidding it be manly in sorrowful circumstances; or by His God-befitting movement He distinctly lays it down that we must hence forward overthrow the powerful influence of death. And this He makes manifest by His very own Flesh, and signified by the movement of His Body that which was concealed within. And this is shown here by the expression: “He groaned,” which means, that through the outward action of His Body He indicated His hidden commotion.

And He did not roll away the stone Himself for these two reasons: first, to teach that it was superfluous to work wonders when there was no necessity for them; and |125 secondly, [to teach] that He Himself awakes the dead, but His angels will be at hand to minister in the event, whom indeed the Lord elsewhere in a parable calls reapers.

Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto Him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.

It is usual to refuse to believe in the possibility of great deeds, and to be somewhat reluctant to admire is a feeling which naturally is consequent upon things beyond our experience. It seems to me that even the good Martha suffered this; for the excessive greatness of the event took from her the sure confidence of faith, and the strangeness of the hope bewilders her proper reason. And it is nothing astonishing if she who had confessed her faith is again overtaken by littleness of faith through the excessive greatness of the marvellous deed. And either solely out of honour to Christ she said: By this time he stinketh; that He might not be disgusted by the bad smell of the corpse: or she says this as if from shame. For the relatives of the dead hasten, before the body becomes ill-smelling, to bury it down in the earth, out of consideration for the living, and deeming it a dishonour to the dead that it should become an object of loathing to any.

40 Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou believedst, thou shouldest see the glory of God?

A most excellent thing is faith, when it is produced from an ardent mind; and it has such great power that not only is the believer healed, but in fact others also have been healed besides them that believed; as the paralytic let down [through the tiles] at Capernaum, by the faith of those who carried him; and as Lazarus, by that of his sister, to whom the Lord said: If thou believest, thou shall see the glory of God; all but saying: “Since Lazarus, being dead, is not able to believe, do thou fill up that which is lacking of the faith of him that is dead.” And the form of faith is twofold: first, dogmatic, |126 consisting of an assent of the soul to something, as: He that believeth on the Son is not judged; and secondly, a gift by the participation of grace from Christ: For to one, He says, is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom, and to another faith, which is not merely dogmatic, but also capable of effecting things beyond human power, so as even to remove mountains. The faith of Martha however, by the feebleness of her reason, fell away into unbelief. But the Lord does not permit it to remain so: He effects a speedy remedy for the suffering. For He says she must believe, that she may behold what was beyond hope. For double-mindedness is a great infirmity and deprives us of the gracious gifts of God. Wherefore, by rebuking her, [Christ] warned the whole human race not to be detected in the evil ways of double-mindedness. And shunning vainglory, the Christ did not say: Thou shalt see My glory, but: the glory of God. And the glory of God was the raising the dead. Surely therefore He Himself Who said: I am the Resurrection, is by Nature the God Whose glory He says not long afterwards the woman should see, since Thou wilt suppose that the Truth—-and the Christ is the Truth—-does not lie. And it was promised to her that her dead brother should rise again. And Mary, being more intelligent, utters no word of doubt; but Martha was affected by the disease of double-mindedness.

42 And Jesus lifted up His eyes, and said, Father, I thank Thee that Thou heardest Me. And I knew that Thou hearest Me always: but because of the multitude which standeth by I said it, that they may believe that Thou didst send Me.

Of course it is agreeably to His self-humiliation as a Man that the Christ thus speaks in a lowly manner, not according to the excellency of the Godhead: and He offers His thanks to the Father not on account of Lazarus only, but for the life of all men. For being good, He is of one mind with the Father in bringing back to life the nature of man which had fallen into liability to corruption through its disobedience; and there is no distinction |127 between His goodness and that of the Father. And just as we ourselves even are persuaded by our own reasonings to leave undone what we had intended to do, so also the Lord, being the Word and Counsel of the Father, has made the Father friendly to us. And of course we do not say that what is Divine indulges in anger, but that [God], being just and good, knows when it is the proper time to rebuke, and when it is the proper time to relax. However, the Lord gives thanks, and this He does as a Pattern for us, honouring the Father. But when an equal gives thanks to an equal, he by no means does this as a mark of inferiority of essence. And on this account [Jesus] notifies that because of the multitude He spake thus, all but saying: “I have simulated the outward appearance of prayer, and I gave thanks, in conformity with My assumed condition.” For I knew that Thou hearest Me always. For the one Nature of the Godhead is not disobedient to itself, since the Mind of the Trinity, Father, Son, and Spirit, is One. Knowing therefore, He says, that Our purpose is one and Our will one, because of the multitude I spake thus. And the Christ thus speaks because of the Jews, giving thanks to the Father as if effecting by Him His God-befitting deeds, that they might no more say it was by Beelzebub He did signs. And He also explains His conduct with regard to the outward appearance of prayer, that we may not be caused to stumble, saying: because of the multitude I did this. Moreover, He says: Thou didst send Me, because of the suspicions of the Jews: for I came not of Myself, as do the false prophets; but with Thy approbation and good will I emptied Myself, taking the form of a servant, that I might restore the life to all. The manner of the prayer therefore was in agreement with His assumed condition and suitable to His outward appearance in the flesh, not to the excellency and incomparable splendour of the Godhead. For to ask and to receive would be actions altogether befitting a servant rather than a lord, and are usual with such as are under dominion. Nevertheless, |128 Christ does even these things without blame; for having accepted for Himself the condition of a Man, how could He any longer decline the characteristics of humanity?

For the Son is in every respect perfect in Himself, and in no way does He lack any single excellence. For He is begotten of the Essence of God the Father, and is full of power and of God-befitting glory. Everything is under His feet and there is nothing which His power cannot effect. For, according to the voice of the saint, He can do everything. Yet, although it is true that everything is in His possession, He asks, it is said, from the Father, and receives the heathen and the uttermost parts of the earth as a glorious inheritance. But it is necessary that we should ask how He receives or when: for this is in truth fitting and necessary, I mean, that we should in such matters ask about the times, and investigate the occasions, and make a diligent inquiry as to their significations. When, therefore, He became Man; when He emptied Himself, as it is written; when He humbled Himself to the form of those to whom it is befitting that they should ask; then it was that He both did and spake those things that are befitting to men, and we are told that they were made perfect concerning Him from the Father. For where did He exhibit the outward appearance of humility, or how did that self-emptying show itself victoriously, except that contrary to His Majesty He endured something willingly, when for our sake He emptied Himself? For in the same way that He was weary from the fatigue of the journey, although He is the Lord of Powers; and as He was in need of food, although He is the Bread which came down from heaven, and giveth life to the world; and as He endured death in the flesh, although it is He in Whom we move and have our being; so it is said that He asked, although He is the Lord of all. That when the Only-Begotten became Man, He was not then at first called to His kingdom, we might |129 easily show. But to dispute much about this would be not far removed from folly. Therefore we maintain that what thou hast spoken of was done rather for the same reason. Thinkest thou that the Lord prayed for Lazarus, and thus obtained for him life? But thou wilt not continue to think this at all, when thou art reminded of the words that remain. For He not only said: Father, I thank Thee that Thou heardest Me; but He added further: Because of the multitude which standeth around I said it, that they may believe that Thou didst send Me. And thou seest here the occasion of the prayer clearly. For because the Jews were wicked and bold, so that they made an accusation when the Lord was working miracles, and said that by Beelzebub He performed those God-befitting deeds; therefore He justly refuted the thought that was in them, and shewed that He performed everything together with the Father as God, and did not (like those men the false prophets) come of His own will. Moreover, as regards His choosing to speak words which seemed not right for God, He said: Because of the multitude which standeth around I said it, that they may believe that Thou didst send Me. Had it not therefore been meet to correct the notion of those standing around, in order that it might be understood that the miracle, which He received for Lazarus’ sake, was from above, and from the Father, He would not have said at all these words: Father, I thank Thee that Thou heardest Me. For He was both the Will and the Word, and the Counsel of the Father as regards all excellencies. What counsel did He ask, or what will, or what word, of Him Who begat Him, that He might receive some works,—-when He had the Father in Him by Nature, and He was in the Father, because He was of His Essence? How as one far removed did He ask of the Father, or how was He not able to expel from a corpse sad death, Who even at the beginning formed man out of inanimate matter, and exhibited him animated and rational? We will accept therefore the explanation which does not err in the faith, not of those men who speak foolishly, but of the Scripture |130 spoken by the Spirit, in which there is nothing crooked or perverse.

43, 44 And when He had thus spoken, He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave-clothes; and his face was bound about with a napkin.

O the marvel! the ill-smelling corpse, even after the fourth day from death, He brought forth out of the tomb; and him that was fettered fast and bound hand and foot, He commanded to walk! And immediately, the dead man started up, and the corpse began to run, being delivered from its corruption and losing its bad smell, and escaping through the gates of death, and without any hindrance to running being caused by the bonds. And although deprived of sight by the covering which was over his face, the dead man runs without any hindrance towards Him Who had called him, and recognises the masterful voice. For Christ’s language was God-befitting and His command was kingly, having power to loose from death, and to bring back from corruption, and to exhibit energy beyond expression. The use of a piercing cry, however, was altogether strange and unwonted in the Saviour Christ. For instance, God the Father somewhere says concerning Him: He shall not strive nor cry aloud, and so on. For the works of the true Godhead are without noise or tumult of any kind; and this was the case with Christ, for He is in His Nature God of God and Very God. So then what do we say when we see that He cried aloud in an unusual manner? For surely no one will degrade himself to such a depth of folly as to say that Christ ever went beyond what was fitting or indeed ever erred from absolute perfection. How then is it to be explained? Certainly the cry has a reason and a purport, which we feel it necessary to state. It was for the good of the hearers. Christ wrought the miracle upon Lazarus as a sort of type of the general resurrection of the dead, and that which was fulfilled in the case of an individual He set forth as a |131 beautiful image of what will be universal and common to the whole race. For it is part of our belief that the Lord will come, and we hold that there will be a cry made by the sound of a trumpet, according to the language of Paul, proclaiming the resurrection to those that lie in the earth, although it is manifest that the deed will be effected by the unspeakable power of the Almighty God.

For on this account also the Law given by Moses, when laying down directions concerning the feast of Tabernacles, says: Celebrate it as a memorial of trumpets. For when human bodies are about to be set up again, as tabernacles, and every man’s soul is about to take to itself its own bodily habitation in a way as yet unknown, the masterful command will be previously proclaimed, and the signal of the resurrection will sound forth, even the trump of God, as it is said. As a type therefore of this, in the case of Lazarus Christ uttered a great and audible cry, not much heeding His usual habit, that He might exhibit the type of what is to be expected hereafter.

Jesus saith unto them, Loose him and let him go.

For their good therefore He bade them with their own hands to loose him, that they might have no opportunity of misrepresenting what had been done, but might be witnesses of the miracle. And this too is representative of the general resurrection, when, being loosed from sin and the corruption of death, every one will be set free. For, falling into sin, we have wrapped the shame of it like a veil about the face of our soul, and are fast bound by the cords of death. When therefore the Christ shall at the time of the resurrection bring us out from our tombs in the earth, then in very truth does He loosen us from our former evils, and as it were remove the veil of shame, and command that we be let go freely from that time forward; not under the dominion of sin, not subject to corruption, or indeed any of the other troubles that are wont to cause suffering; so that there will be fulfilled in us that which |132 was said by one of the holy prophets: Ye shall both go forth and leap as calves let loose from bonds.

And consider I pray you the miracle as regards its inner meaning. For if our mind be dead like Lazarus, it behoves our material flesh and our nobler soul, like Martha and Mary [respectively,] to approach the Christ with a confession of faith, and to entreat His help. Then He will stand by us, and command the hardness that lies upon our 1 memory to be taken away, and cry with the loud voice of the Evangelic trumpet: “Come forth from the distractions of the world,” and loose the cords of our sins; so that we may be able in full vigour to devote ourselves to virtue.

45, 46 Many therefore of the Jews, which came to Mary and beheld that which Jesus did, believed on Him. But some of them went away to the Pharisees, and told them that which Jesus had done.

Overcome by the miracle many believe; but others, wounded with envy, deem the marvellous deed a fit opportunity for carrying into effect the intentions of the envious, and reported to the leaders what had taken place; that when those men also were grieved at the works which the Christ had wrought, they might have some consolation of their own grief in the knowledge that others shared their feelings and were partakers of the same foolish grief; and that, as they were unable themselves to injure Him Who had done no wrong, they might rouse to anger against Him those who possessed more power. Source.

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One Response to St Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on John 11:1-45

  1. Pingback: Resources and Commentaries for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year A | stjoeofoblog

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