Father Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on on John 14:1-12

Joh 14:1  Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God: believe also in me.

Let not your heart, &c. Christ saw that the minds of His disciples were troubled, i.e. anxious and sorrowful, because He had foretold them that His own departure and Passion, through the treachery of Judas, was at hand, as well as the scandal of Peter’s threefold denial of Him. For they feared lest they also through dread of the Jews should betray Christ. For if Peter, who seemed as firm as a rock, was about to do so, would not the rest, who were weaker and more timid, do the same? Christ heals this their perturbation by the words, You believe in God, believe also in Me.

The Greek reads for you believe, πιστεύετε, i.e. Believe you in God, or, you believe, &c. The meaning is, If ye believe in God, as I know ye do, believe also in Me, and consequently trust Me. For I am God. By this faith and confidence ye may overcome all your fears, and be made partakers of my promises. Cast all your cares and anxieties upon Me, your Lord and your God. For although I go away from you as to My bodily presence, yet in My spirit, in My care and guidance of you, I shall be always with you.

Listen to S. Chrysostom. He shows the power of His Divinity, setting out what they had in their minds. As if He said, “Ye fear the adversity which hangs over Me and you. Lay aside your fear. For faith in Me and the Father is mightier than those things which will come upon us. And nothing can prevail against it.” And S. Augustine says, “Lest as men they should fear the death of Christ, and so be troubled, He consoles them, declaring that He is God. As though He said, Ye fear death for this form of a servant; let not your heart be troubled, the form of God will raise it up.” Moreover Christ did this, as Ribera says, like husbandmen who attach a weakly vine to an elm, that it may from the elm receive strength to mount up and grow, even though wind and storms rage against it. Thus the Lord joins the apostles to Himself as a most strong wall, by faith: as it is said in Ps. 26, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom then shall I fear?” Let the Christian think that the same thing is said to himself by Christ when he is harassed by temptation, trouble, or fear. “Thou believest in God, believe also in thy Christ. He will be present with thee, and give thee strength. He will open out for thee a way of escape, and make thee conqueror.”

Joh 14:2  In my Father’s house there are many mansions. If not, I would have told you: because I go to prepare a place for you.

In My Father’s house. Christ had said that He was about to go to the Father, and that Peter would follow Him thither, but He had said nothing concerning the other disciples. They feared therefore that they should be shut out from the Father’s house and from heaven. This fear Christ removes. “Fear not, for though it be that I do not take you with Me now to My Father’s kingdom, yet I will cause you to follow Me in due time. Do not suppose that Peter only will follow Me thither, as if there were only room for Myself and Peter. I tell you there will not be wanting room for you likewise. For in My Father’s house are many mansions. For heaven is a vast empyrean, and has innumerable mansions, sufficient to hold all men whatsoever.” So SS. Augustine and Chrysostom.

Moreover, the expression many, intimates that there are in heaven various degrees and ranks of blessedness and glory. As it were said, To each saint shall be his own place in heaven, to each his own beatitude, his own glory, in accordance with the merit of each. So the Fathers against Jovinian, who thought that as all virtues are equal, so likewise would be all rewards in heaven.

Listen to St. Gregory (lib. 4, “Moral,” ch. 31), “In the many mansions shall be a concordant diversity of requital. For so great shall be the might of the love which shall unite us in that house of peace, that whatsoever any one shall not receive in himself, he shall rejoice to have received it in another. Wherefore, although all did not labour equally in the vineyard, yet every one received a penny. And indeed with the Father there are many mansion, and yet the different labourers receive the same penny, because to all shall be the one blessed gladness, although not to all the same sublimity of life.” The same S. Gregory says, that to a certain Stephen these many mansions were shown full of a marvellous light. Christ then by these words, and by this exhibition of the heavenly reward, animates the apostles, so that they should not dread the temptations and persecutions which were impending over them, but should rather court them, forasmuch as by their means they were about to obtain such rewards.

If not, I would have told you, i.e., if it were otherwise, I would have told you. First, it is as though He said, “I would have told you that I was going away that I might go to prepare a place for you in heaven, unless there were already many mansions prepared there; but because they are already prepared, I said not to you, “I will go to prepare them.”

Following the Greek and Syriac, which omit the word that before I go, Arias Montanus simply expounds as follows: “There are many mansions in My Father’s house. If it were not so I would tell you plainly; nor would I deceive you with the vain hope that I am going to prepare a place for you.” As though He said, “Since I so greatly love you, that I am going away from you for the sake of preparing a place for you, how should I suffer you to be deceived in so great a matter? To prepare a place is to come into possession of heaven, which until that time had been closed to man. When I ascend, the heavens shall be opened to you, according as it is said, ‘Lift your gates, ye princes, and the King of glory, shall come in,’ (Ps 24 Vulg.); and, ‘He shall ascend preparing the way before them.’” (Mic. ii. Vulg.)

You will say, if mansions were already prepared for the apostles in heaven, why does Christ go to prepare a place for them? I answer, both are true. For, 1st, these mansions were prepared for the apostles and the rest of the elect from all eternity, by God’s predestination, in the first intention, as it were. 2d, Christ went, nevertheless, to prepare them in act, as it were; namely, to bring the apostles into possession of them so to say. Moreover, Christ made plain the way to heaven, which before was shut, by His ascension. For He by His own blood and death upon the cross paid to God the price of those heavenly mansions, and by that price purchased them for us. Moreover, when Christ ascended, He sent the Holy Ghost from heaven, that He, by His peace, might render the apostles and the rest of the elect worthy of heaven.

So S. Augustine. “How,” saith he, “does He prepare, if there are already many? They are not yet in existence if they are still to be prepared. But they do already exist by predestination. Otherwise, He would have said, I will go and prepare, i.e., I will predestinate. But it was because they were not prepared as a matter of actual existence that He said, If I go away and prepare, &c., He is preparing the mansions by preparing their destined inhabitants. For that is the house of God, of which the apostle says, ‘The temple of God is holy, which temple are ye.’ It is still being built, it is yet being prepared. He speaks of going away to prepare, because the just live by faith. For if thou seest there is no faith, the thing is hid that it may be believed, then is the place being prepared if there is a life of faith; being believed it is desired, that that which is longed for may be possessed. He goes away by becoming unseen. He comes by appearing. But unless He abide with us to rule us, that we may make progress in good living, we shall not have a place prepared for us where we can abide in continual gladness.”

Joh 14:3  And if I shall go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself: that where I am, you also may be.

And if I shall go, &c. If, i.e., when, I go away into heaven and there prepare a place for you and all your successors, that is, for all the elect, by giving them through the ages the Holy Ghost, and His grace by which He may prepare them for celestial glory; when, I say, this has been accomplished, then I will come again in the day of judgment, and receive you all to Myself, and crown you with a worthy reward in heaven.

Joh 14:4  And whither I go you know: and the way you know.

And whither I go, you know, &c.; i.e., Ye can, and ought easily know, because ye have often heard of Me that I am going to the Father in heaven, and that the road to heaven is My faith, doctrine, passion, and cross. The Apostles knew that Christ had said these things, but they did not yet understand them, which was the reason why they did not remember them. So S. Augustine, Maldonatus.

Joh 14:5  Thomas saith to him: Lord, we know not whither thou goest. And how can we know the way?

Thomas saith to Him, &c. Since we know not whither Thou goest, how can we know the way? For he who knows not the goal to which a way leads, cannot be said to know the way to that goal. We indeed have heard Thee say that Thou art going to Thy Father’s house, where there are many mansions, to prepare us a place. But where is this Father’s house? Where are those many mansions? If this house is heaven, as we suppose it is, declare the matter to us more fully and explicitly. Explain to us concerning these mansions where and in what region they are. For the vastness of heaven, or rather of the many heavens, is infinite. Thus Thomas. “But Christ,” as Cyril says, “gave no response to this overweening curiosity. For He does not explain the whole subject, but leaving that for a fitting season, He unfolds only what is necessary for the present time.”

Joh 14:6  Jesus saith to him: I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me.

Jesus saith to him, &c. Briefly the genuine meaning is this. “Thou askest, 0 Thomas, two questions, viz., about My way and its terminus, whither I am going, and what road? I answer thus, ‘I am the way which thou seekest, a way not deceitful, but true, a way which leads to true life, even to God the Father in heaven, where is My Father’s house, in which are the many mansions I have spoken of.’” Wherefore He adds, by way of explanation, No man cometh to the Father but by Me. The Father, therefore, is the goal or terminus. I am the way to it. I am the way, i.e. I am the teacher, the guide, and the leader of the true way which leads straight to the eternal and beatific life. I am the way, because I point out and teach the true faith and the holy living, which is the true way to everlasting life. There is an allusion to Isa 30:20-21, “Thine eyes shall see thy teachers, and thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.”

But because some ways are true and right, others false and erroneous, therefore is Christ called the way and the truth, i.e. the true and right way according to the words in Isa. xxxv. 8, “And this shall be to you the direct way, so that fools shall not err in it.” (Vulg.) As though Christ said, both Jewish and Gentile philosophers have taught many things concerning blessedness and the virtues which as a road lead to blessedness, yet they have fallen into many errors, and so have led men not to life, but to the destruction of hell. For as they made blessedness—not true indeed, but false blessedness—to consist in riches, honours, and vain science, so they have gone themselves, and led others into no good, or true, but into a false way. But I teach true faith and unity and those other virtues by which you may arrive by a direct way at that true and eternal life which is with the Father, and therefore with Me. For I and the Father are one. For as the Father is beatific life, both formal and causative, because He communicates the same to us, and also objective life, because He is the author of the beatific vision, so likewise am I the very self-same life and truth. I therefore am He who points out to you the right road to heaven. I am He who as the Truth delivers you from every error of the mind. I am He who leads you to true life.

From hence it is plain that Christ is the way:—1. Because by the merit of His Passion He has opened to us the way to heaven. 2. Because by His doctrine He shows us the same way. 3. Because He inspires us with faith-and grace and good works and merits, by which as by a path we walk to life eternal. 4. Because by this way of a holy life and by His Passion He has gone before us, treading it first Himself, that we might follow Him in the same, and imitating Him, arrive at the heaven whither He has gone.

This is the genuine meaning of this passage. But since this is a golden saying of Christ, let us listen to various comments and observations of the Fathers upon it.

1 S. Leo (Serm. 2, de Resur.) says, “Christ is the way of holy conversation, the truth of Divine doctrine, the life of everlasting blessedness.”

2. S. Cyril saith, “Christ is our way by the actions of His life, the truth by a right faith, the life by the well-spring of sanctification.” The meaning is, No one cometh to the Father, who is the true life and blessedness, except by love he walk in Me, who am the way; and by faith believe in Me, who am the truth; and by hope confide in Me, who am eternal life.

3. S. Bernard (Serm. 2, de. Ascens.), “Let us follow Thee, 0 Lord, by Thee, to Thee: for Thou art the way, the truth, and the life—the way by example, the truth by promise, the life by reward.” And the same S. Bernard (Serm. 2, de. Cœna. Dom.) says, “I am the way by which you must go; the truth, to which you must come; the life, in which you must abide.”

4. S. Augustine says, “Christ is the way according to His humanity by which He comes to us, and returns to the Father. The same is the truth and the life according to His Divinity.” Again he says (Serm. 55, de. Verb. Dom.), “What road dost thou wish to go? I am the way. Whither wilt thou go? I am the truth. Where wilt thou abide? I am the life. Every man desires truth and life. Even the philosophers saw in some dim way that God was truth and life, but not all found the way. Therefore the Word of God who is with the Father is truth and life, by becoming man is made the way. Walk by this Man, and thou wilt arrive at God. It is better to limp in the way than to walk bravely outside of the way.” The same S. Augustine (Tract. 69) further says, “By the form of a servant the Lord came to us, and returned to Himself, taking back flesh from death unto life. By the flesh He came as God to man, the Truth to liars. For let God be true, but every man a liar.”

5.  S. Hilary (lib. 7, de Trin.) says, “He who is the way cannot lead us wrong. Nor does He who is the truth deceive by illusions. Nor does He who is the life leave us in the terror of death. If I am the way, ye need no other guide. If I am the truth, I cannot declare what is false. If the life, even though ye die, ye shall come to Me.”

6.  S. Chrysostom says, “I am the way, because by Me ye shall come. I am the truth, because the things which I have spoken are beyond questioning. I am the life, because not even death itself can hinder you from coming to Me.”

7.  S. Ambrose (lib. de bono mort.), “Christ saith, I am the way, &c. Let us walk in this way, let us hold the truth, let us follow the life. It is the way which brings us, the truth which confirms us, the life which is given them that persevere.” And again he saith, “We follow Thee, 0 Lord Jesus; but call us that we may follow, for no one ascends without Thee. Receive us as the way, confirm us as the truth, quicken us as the life.”

Symbolically, Christ is the way of beginners, purifying them by a hatred of sin, and a detestation of their past life. The same is the truth of the more advanced, illuminating them by the examples of virtues, and the desire of a new and holy conversation. The same is the life of the perfect, uniting them to God by the affections of pure love. Hear S. Bernard, summing up many things. “I am the way of light and calm, truth that liveth without pain, life that is happy and pleasant. I am the way upon the cross, the truth in the pit itself, the life in the joy of resurrection. I am the way, in which there are neither thorns nor thistles. The truth, in which there is no sting of falsehood. The life, in which he that is dead lives again. I am the right way, the perfect truth, the life that shall never end. I am the way of reconciliation, the truth of recompense, the life of eternal blessedness. No man cometh to the Father but by Me, i.e., no man cometh to Me, the truth and the life, except by Me the way.”

Tropologically, S. Basil remarks “that Christ is called the way, to denote that Christians ought daily to walk and proceed in the path of virtue, according to the words in the Psalms, ‘They shall go from virtue to virtue’ (Vulg.). For in truth this is the good way, knowing no devious wanderings; I mean our Lord Jesus Christ, who truly is good, who leads us to the Father. For no one, saith He, cometh to the Father but by Me. Such is the way of our return to God through His Son.” Thus far S. Basil, who says that Christ is the way, not only by faith, but by the exercise of virtues.

Anagogically, S. Augustine (de Sent. num. 268), “The Lord saith, I am the way, the truth, and the life, i.e. by Me you must walk, to Me you must come, in Me you must remain. For when we come to Him we arrive also at the Father, because by means of His equal He to whom He is equal is known. And the Holy Spirit binds and most closely unites us to Him, so that we may abide in the perfect and unchangeable Good for ever.”

Hence S. Bernard, when he was dying, appeared to a certain absent friend saying that he was going upwards, “for the truth is above.” For below in earth there is nothing but vanity and falsehood, as we are taught in Ecclesiastes. “Here,” said S. Bernard, “there is no knowledge, no recognition of the truth; above is there plenitude of science, above is the true knowledge of the truth.” And two of S. Benedict’s monks had this vision of him when he was dying. They beheld a path stretching direct from his cell to heaven, eastwards. This path was spread with tapestry, and bright with innumerable lamps. A man of venerable aspect, and clad in glorious apparel, stood over the monks, and asked them, Whose was the path which they beheld? They replied that they knew not. Then he said, “This is the way by which Benedict, the beloved of the Lord, ascendeth to heaven” (S. Greg. Dial. 1. 2 c. 37).

No man cometh, &c. Because I am the way to the Father, who is the goal and terminus. No man, i.e. humanity; but Suarez adds, of angels also. For he thinks that all the angels have received all their graces and glory from Christ and His merits.

Joh 14:7  If you had known me, you would without doubt have known my Father also: and from henceforth you shall know him. And you have seen him.

If you had known Me, &c. Christ meets an objection. The disciples might have objected, “Thou, 0 Christ, declarest that Thou art the way, but the Father is the goal to which thou goest. But we do not know the Father, wherefore neither do we know the goal to which both Thou and we are going. Cause us therefore to know the Father. Again, if the Father is the goal, Thou the way, how sayest Thou, I am the way, the truth, and the life? That is both the way and the goal?” Christ answers that both are true. “For I,” saith He, “have one essence with the Father, one and the same Godhead. Wherefore, if ye had known Me clearly and fully, ye would have known My Father also;” for the Apostles knew indeed and believed that Christ was the Son of God, but they did not as yet believe that He was consubstantial with the Father; but they did know this after they had received the Holy Ghost. Wherefore He adds,

And from henceforth you shall know him. And you have seen him. Ye shall know is the reading of the Vulgate, of S. Chrysostom, and S. Hilary. He means, Ye shall know the Father at Pentecost by the illumination of the Holy Ghost; yea, ye have already seen Him in Me, for he who seeth Me seeth My Father also, as Christ subjoins. The Greek, Syriac, and Arabic read γινώσκετε, you know, in the present tense. “Even now ye know the Father, because ye have seen Him in Me working so many miracles. For although ye have not seen Him as He is in His Essence and Godhead, ye have seen Him veiled in My humanity, as with a cloud, by means of the signs and miracles, which, like thunderings and lightnings, come forth from It.” So S. Cyril.

Joh 14:8  Philip saith to him: Lord, shew us the Father; and it is enough for us.

Philip saith to Him, &c.—Philip did not understand Christ’s answer; how, namely, he who knows Christ knows also the Father. He urges therefore Christ to show them the Father Himself. “Thou sayest that the Father is in Thee, as it were lies hid in Thee. Open Thyself, and shew Him to us.”

And it is enough for us. 1st. Says S. Chrysostom, we desire nothing else but to be shown the Father.

2d.  S. Cyril, It is enough for us, viz., for blessedness, that we should be delivered from all trouble and sorrow; for since the Father is God He will bless us.

3d. It sufficeth us, for confounding the Jews, who deny that Thou art the Son of God.

4th. And more simply, as though it were said, “instead of all the reasons which Thou, 0 Christ, bringest together, to console us in our sorrow for Thy death, we ask one, that Thou wouldst show us the Father. This one will suffice us instead of all the rest.”

Anagogically. Hear S. Augustine, “With that joy which shall fill us with His countenance nothing more will be required.” This Philip well understood when he said, Lord, shew us the Father; and it is enough for us.  But he did not yet understand that he might say, Lord, show us Thyself, and it sufficeth us. But that he might understand this, he received the answer, Have I been so long time with you? &c

Herein is that saying of S. Augustine true, “Thou sufficest for God, let God be sufficient for thee.” For God is Saddai, i.e., sufficiency, abundance of all good things.” Wherefore the Psalmist says, “We shall be satisfied when Thy glory shall appear” (Psa_16:15); and, “They shall be inebriated from the richness of Thy house, and Thou shalt give them drink from the torrent of Thy pleasure” (Psa 35:9); and, “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides Thee. My flesh and my heart faileth; but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever” (Ps 73:25-26).

The reason à priori is, because God made man after His own image and likeness, wherefore He gave him an infinite capacity, and infinite desires, such as cannot be satisfied with any finite goods. Therefore it is necessary that God alone, who is infinite Good, should fill and satisfy that capacity. As S. Augustine says (lib. 1, Conf. c. 1), “0 Lord, thou hast made us for Thyself, and our heart is restless until it rests in Thee.” And the same saith (in Ps. 62.), “Lovest thou riches? God Himself will be thy riches. Lovest thou a fountain of good? What is more excellent than wisdom? What more full of light? Whatever here can be loved, He who made all things shall be Thine instead of all things.”

Joh 14:9  Jesus saith to him: Have I been so long a time with you and have you not known me? Philip, he that seeth me seeth the Father also. How sayest thou: Shew us the Father?

Jesus saith to him, Have I been so long time—three years and a half—conversing with you I have taught you who I am, and yet have you not known Me? The Greek S. Chrysostom and S. Cyril make thou hast not known Me in the sing., that indeed I am not only man, but the Son of God; not diverse in essence and existence from Him, but consubstantial with God the Father. For therefore having seen Me, you still desire to see the Father, because you think that I have a nature wholly different from the Father. As though Philip said, I have seen Jesus the Son of God: it remains for me to see His Father, as being different from Him, as is the case with men. This was the root of Philip’s mistake, which Christ removes by what follows.

Philip, he that seeth Me, seeth, &c. “Since I and the Father are plainly one and the same in the essence of Godhead—one, I say, not only in likeness, but one indivisibly, therefore he who sees Me in the Humanity which I have assumed, inasmuch as he sees Me, sees My Father also, for I and My Father are one.” Where observe, in Christ the Humanity was seen per se, but the Godhead per accidens. For It was seen not as It is in Itself, but through the Humanity, even as the soul is seen by means of the body in which it moves and operates. Wherefore he who with his bodily eye (with regard to which principally Philip asked, and Christ answered) beheld this Man, namely Jesus, per se, beheld indirectly, and per accidens His Godhead, because this Man was truly God. I am speaking as regards the essence of the Godhead, which is common to the Father and the Son. For as regards Person, it was indeed the Person of the Son which assumed human nature, not the Person of the Father. Wherefore he who directly saw this Man (Christ), directly saw the Person of God the Son lying hid in the manhood, but not the Person of God the Father, except by concomitance, as I shall show in ver. 10. Wherefore he who sees or recognises the Godhead of the Son, recognises also the Godhead of the Father, because They are one and the same. So S. Augustine, Cyril, Chrysostom, Hilary, and other Fathers passim. From this passage they prove against the Arians, 1. That Jesus was really God, so that those who saw that Man likewise saw God. 2. That there was one Person of the Father, another of the Son, which the Sabellians denied. For diversity of Persons is denoted by the words Me and Father. 3. That the Son is Consubstantial with the Father. For unless They were Consubstantial, the Son might be seen without seeing the Father: and vice versa, the Father might be seen without beholding the Son, even as happens with men. “You err therefore, 0 Philip, when having seen Me, you desire to see the Father, as though you were about to see another God, and another Deity, when there is but one and the same. How then sayest thou, Show us the Father, when I have shown Him unto thee in Myself?”

This is the true sense in which Christ answers directly the question and meaning of Philip. But because Christ, taking occasion, as He is wont, from the question to rise and to carry His hearers with Him to a loftier height, this passage may, as to its second intention, be taken to apply to the perfect and proper cognition of the Father and the Son, whether by faith or by sight. As it were, He who seeth Me according to the Divinity, seeth also the Father. Because, although He is distinct from Me, yet am I in Him and He in Me by identity of nature. Wherefore He who sees, i.e., who believes, that I am the Son of God, also sees, i.e. believes, that God is my Father. And he who through the beatific vision intuitively beholds Me, intuitively beholds the Father also. So S. Cyril, Augustine, Chrysostom, Maldonatus, and others. Also Suarez, who shows from this passage that the Blessed who see the Divine Essence see also Three Persons in It.

Joh 14:10  Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I speak to you, I speak not of myself. But the Father who abideth in me, he doth the works.

Do you not believe that I am in the Father, &c. Observe 1. Here again the distinction of the Divine Persons is signified. Nor is any one properly said to be in himself, but in another. 2. The oneness of the Divine Nature is signified. For because the Father and the Son are, and exist in one and the same Divine Nature, therefore the Father is in the Son, and the Son in the Father. Christ proved this by the effect. For He had His doctrine and works from the Father, and common with the Father. Therefore He had the same common Nature with Him. Hence, 3. By this saying is consequently signified the perfect and intimate union and indwelling of one Divine person in the Other, and the converse. By which it comes to pass that the Father is in the Son and the Holy Ghost, the Son in the Father and the Holy Ghost, the Holy Ghost in the Father and the Son. Damascene (1. de Fid. c. 11) calls this, πεζιχώζησις, and from him the schoolmen call it circumincessio. Concerning which mystery S. Augustine treats (l. 6, de Trin. c. ult.) and S. Hilary (lib. 4, de Trin.) Each one of the Divine Persons is in each of the others, not only as regards Their Essence, but also as regards Their relation and proper Person, because all are most intimately conjoined and united with One Another. Whence it follows that he who fully knows and beholds one Divine Person- as, for example, the Son—as the Blessed see Him, not only sees the Godhead common to the Father and the Son, but sees also the very Person of the Father, both because the Person of the Father is most intimately related to the Person of the Son, and also because in that relationship is included the essential order. For it is the Father who of His Essence begetteth the Son. And this is what Christ here means when He saith, Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me?

The words that I speak, &c. They are not human but Divine words. They proceed not from My Humanity, but from My Divinity, which I have received of the Father. Wherefore whoso heareth Me speak, heareth not so much Me as God the Father speaking in Me and by Me. Observe, the Godhead common to the Father and the Son was the efficient cause of the Divine words which Christ uttered. Yet the thing signified by the words was often peculiar to the Person of the Son, not of the Father, as when He said, “I am the Son of God,” “I have taken flesh,” “The things which I say and do I have received of the Father.” For these things He said concerning Himself, not the Father, as is plain. For not the Father was made man, but the Son. And yet the Father equally with the Son was the efficient cause as well of the Incarnation, as of the words uttered by the Word Incarnate. For the works of the Holy Trinity, ad extra, as theologians say, are undivided, and common to all the Three Divine Persons.

But the Father who abideth in Me, &c. The Father, as the prime source not only of creatures, but of the other Divine Persons, that is, the Son and the Holy Ghost. For when the Father by begetting communicated His Divinity to the Son, He communicated also His omnipotence, virtue, and power of working. Wherefore, if not the Son but the Father Himself had assumed Humanity, He would have spoken and done the self-same things which the Son spoke and did. For the Father both spoke and wrought in the Son: and also there is one Godhead and omnipotence of the Father and the Son, which spoke and wrought all things through the Humanity which He assumed. Wherefore Christ left it to be gathered by the Apostles that when they saw and heard Him speaking they were to think that they saw and heard the Father. “From these My words and deeds,” as Ribera paraphrases, “ye are able to understand how good My Father is, how kind, how much He loves you. From My miracles ye may know My omnipotence, and that I know all things, and have in Me all good. From whence ye understand that the Father likewise hath the same. And since these external things lead you to the knowledge of such great good things, what, think ye, will be yours when ye shall behold My and the Father’s Essence without glass, or figure?

Joh 14:11  Believe you not that I am in the Father and the Father in me?
Joh 14:12  Otherwise believe for the very works’ sake. Amen, amen, I say to you, he that believeth in me, the works that I do, he also shall do: and greater than these shall he do.

Believe you not that I am in the Father? &c. For believe ye not? the Greek has πιστέυετέ μοι, Believe Me. But the meaning is the same, and one includes the other. Believe you not that I am in the Father, &c. i.e., “Believe, because I assert this to you.” “But if ye do not believe this simply on My assertion, at least believe on account of the works themselves, because the Father by working in Me and by Me so many and so great miracles, shows by those very works that He dwelleth in Me, and doeth by Me such mighty things.”

Amen, Amen, I say to you, whoso believer in Me, &c. Christ wishes to prove that He is in the Father, and the Father in Him. The force of the argument stands thus: he that believeth that the Father is in Me, by this faith, or by the power and virtue of this faith, shall do similar Divine works and miracles to those which I do; yea, he shall do greater than I do. Therefore that faith must needs be true, which believes that the Father is in Me, and worketh in Me. For the Father worketh by true faith, and by miraculous works affords to such an one testimony of the truth, but not to a false faith, for otherwise, He who is the prime Verity would be a witness and approver of a lie.

And greater works, &c. Not every believer, but some of them, such as the Apostles and apostolic men.

What were these greater works? 1. Origen (Hom. 7, in Num.) thinks that such things are meant as feeble men overcoming the flesh, the world, and the devil. For, saith he, it is a greater thing that Christ should overcome in us, than that He should overcome in Himself.

2.  S. Chrysostom thinks that the greater works were such as that Peter should heal the sick by his shadow, which Christ did not do.

3. And better.  S. Augustine thinks that these greater works were the conversion of all the nations of the whole world by twelve Apostles. For Christ converted a far less number, or only about 500. Listen to S. Augustine, whose diffuse words I have contracted into a few: “What are those greater works? Are they perchance such as that Peter healed by his shadow? For it is a greater thing to be healed by one’s shadow than by the fringe of one’s garment. But when He said those things He was referring to the works of His words. When He said, The Father abiding in Me, He doeth the works, He called the words which He spoke works, the fruit of which was their faith. For when His disciples preached the Gospel, not merely a few in number like themselves, but nations believed. The rich man departed from the Lord sorrowful. Yet afterwards what that one man would not do, many did when He spake by His disciples. ‘Then he speaks of a marvellous paradox.’ I say that herein is something greater than to create the heavens and the earth. For these shall pass away, but the salvation and justification of the elect shall endure. There are also in heaven the angels who are the work of Christ. And although it be an equal display of power to create them and to justify the ungodly, yet is this latter a greater work of mercy. However, there is no need to understand all the works of Christ when He saith, greater works shall he do. For perchance He spoke of those which He was then doing. Now it is a less thing to preach the words of justice which He did for our sake than it is to justify the ungodly, and this He so works in us that we work also.”

You will ask why Christ willed to do greater works by the Apostles than by Himself. I reply, 1. Because He wished the faith in Him to be gradually disseminated, and thus to grow, lest if it should grow up suddenly it should be supposed to be fancy, and He Himself a magician, or impostor. For that which grows by degrees, by degrees gains confidence, and is more durable.

2. That the modesty as well as the power of Jesus might be commended. That it might be seen that He was not only mighty in Himself to work, but that He was able to infuse the same powers of working in an equal, and even in a greater degree, into His Apostles. For the Apostles did not do these works by their own power, but by Christ’s.

3. Because it behoved Christ first to suffer and to die, and by His death to merit those wonderful works, which. afterwards He wrought by His Apostles.

4. Because it behoved Christ first to rise and ascend into Heaven, and then to send the Holy Ghost, who should work such great miracles. This reason Christ adds, when He says, Because I go to the Father.

Let prelates and superiors here learn from Christ to keep for themselves the lower and meaner offices, and to leave to their inferiors the greater and more honourable. They will do greater things by their subjects than by themselves. For what the subject doeth, the superior is considered to do through him.  S. Ignatius, the Founder of our Society, when he was made General, publicly catechised, whilst he left to his companions under him the honour of filling notable pulpits.

Because I go to the Father. When after death I have obtained the victory, and have triumphed over the world, the devil, and hell, I will ascend in glory to the Father’s throne, and thenceforward I will, through you, show forth greater works than I did whilst I was yet struggling in this life. There is no reason why I should then veil my face in poverty and humility, as I have done when I willed to submit to My Passion for the redemption of mankind. That being accomplished, I shall go up to My Father, who wills that My Name shall be manifested and adored in all the world by the preaching of the Apostles. Wherefore He will work greater things by them than He wrought by Me in this life. So S. Cyril (lib. ix. c. 41).

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One Response to Father Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on on John 14:1-12

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

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