1. In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples unto Him, and saith unto them,
2. "I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with Me three days, and have nothing to eat:
3. And if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way: for divers of them came from far."
4. And His disciples answered Him, "From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness."
5. And He asked them, "How many loaves have ye?" And they said, "Seven."
6. And He commanded the people to sit down on the ground: and He took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to His disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people.
7. And they had a few small fishes: and He blessed, and commanded to set them also before them.
8. So they did eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets.
9. And they that had eaten were about four thousand: and He sent them away.
Theophylact: After the Lord had performed the former miracle concerning the multiplication of the loaves, now again, a fitting occasion presents itself, and He takes the opportunity of working a similar miracle.
Wherefore it is said, [p. 147] "In those days, the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples unto Him, and saith unto them, I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with Me three days, and have nothing to eat."
For He did not always work miracles concerning the feeding of the multitude, lest they should follow Him for the sake of food; now therefore He would not have performed this miracle, if He had not seen that the multitude was in danger.
Wherefore it goes on: "And if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way: for divers of them came from far."
Bede, in Marc., 2, 32: Why they who came from afar hold out for three days, Matthew says more fully: "And He went up into a mountain, and sat down there, and great multitudes came unto Him, having with them many sick persons, and cast them down at Jesus' feet, and He healed them." [Matt. 15:29-30]
Theophylact: The disciples did not yet understand, nor did they believe in His virtue, notwithstanding former miracles; wherefore it continues, "And His disciples said unto Him, From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?"
But the Lord Himself does not blame them, teaching us that we should not be grievously angry with ignorant men and those who do not understand, but bear with their ignorance.
After this it continues, "And He asked them, How many loaves have ye? and they answered, Seven.
Remig.: Ignorance was not His reason for asking them, but that from their answering, "seven," the miracle might be noised abroad, and become more known in proportion to the smallness of the number.
It goes on: "And He commanded the people to sit down on the ground."
In the former feeding they lay down on grass, in this one on the ground.
It continues, "And He took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake."
In giving thanks, He has left us an example, that for all gifts conferred on us from heaven we should return thanks to Him. And it is to be remarked, that our Lord did not give the bread to the people, but to His disciples, and the disciples to the people.
For it goes on, "and gave to His disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people."
And not only the bread, but the fish also He blessed, and ordered to be set before them.
For there comes after, "And they had a few small fishes: [p. 148] and He blessed, and commanded to set them also before them."
Bede: In this passage then we should notice, in one and the same, our Redeemer, a distinct operation of Divinity and of Manhood; thus the error of Eutyches [ed. note: i.e. the Monothelites], who presumes to lay down the doctrine of one only operation in Christ, is to be cast out far from the Christian pale. For who does not here see that the pity of our Lord for the multitude is the feeling and sympathy of humanity; and that at the same time His satisfying four thousand men with seven loaves and a few fishes, is a work of Divine virtue?
It goes on, "And they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets."
Theophylact: The multitudes who ate and were filled did not take with them the remains of the loaves, but the disciples took them up, and they did before the baskets. In which we learn according to the narration, that we should be content with what is sufficient, and not look for any thing beyond. The number of those who ate is put down, when it is said, "And they that had eaten were about four thousand: and He sent them away;" where we may see that Christ sends no one away fasting, for He wishes all to be nourished by His grace.
Bede: The typical difference between this feeding and the other of the five loaves and two fishes, is, that there the letter of the Old Testament, full of spiritual grace, is signified, but here the truth and grace of the New Testament, which is to be ministered to all the faithful, is pointed out.
Now the multitude remains three days, waiting for the Lord to heal their sick, as Matthew relates, when the elect, in the faith of the Holy Trinity, supplicate for sins, with persevering earnestness; or because they turn themselves to the Lord in deed, in word, and in thought.
Theophylact: Or by those who wait for three days, He means the baptized; for baptism is called illumination, and is performed by true immersion.
Greg., Mor. 1, 19: He does not however wish to dismiss them fasting, lest they should faint by the way; for it is necessary that men should find in what is preached the word of consolation, lest hungering through want of the food of truth, they sink under the toil of this life.
Ambrose, in Luc., 6, 73: The good Lord indeed whilst He requires diligence, gives strength; nor will He dismiss them fasting, "lest they faint by the way," that is, either in the course of this life, or before they have reached the fountainhead [p. 149] of life, that is, the Father, and have learnt that Christ is of the Father, lest haply, after receiving that He is born of a virgin, they begin to esteem His virtue not that of God, but of a man.
Therefore the Lord Jesus divides the food, and His will indeed is to give to all, to deny none; He is the Dispenser of all things, but if thou refusest to stretch forth thy hand to receive the food, thou wilt faint by the way; nor canst thou find fault with Him, who pities and divides.
Bede: But they who return to repentance after the crimes of the flesh, after thefts, violence, and murders, come to the Lord from afar; for in proportion as a man has wandered farther in evil working, so he has wandered farther from Almighty God. The believers amongst the Gentiles came from afar to Christ, but the Jews from near, for they had been taught concerning Him by the letter of the law and the prophets. In the former case, however, of the feeding with five loaves, the multitude lay upon the green grass: here, however, upon the ground, because by the writing of the law, we are ordered to keep under the desires of the flesh, but in the New Testament we are ordered to leave even the earth itself and our temporal goods.
Theophylact: Further, the seven loaves are spiritual discourses, for seven is the number, which points out the Holy Ghost, who perfects all things; for our life is perfected in the number of seven days. [ed. note: The number seven seems to be taken in the Fathers to mean a whole, from the world having been completed in seven days; and St. Ambrose lays it down as a principle of interpretation, in Luc. 7, 95. Theophylact here alludes to the seven ages of man's life; a very similar passage is found in St. Ambrose's 44th Letter, where the whole subject is discussed.]
Pseudo-Jerome: Or else, the seven loaves are the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the fragments of the loaves are the mystical understanding of the first week.
Bede: For our Lord's breaking the bread means the opening of mysteries; His giving of thanks shews how great a joy He feels in the salvation of the human race; His giving the loaves to His disciples that they might set them before the people, signifies that He assigns the spiritual gifts of knowledge to the Apostles, and that it was His will that by their ministry the food of life should be distributed to the Church.
Pseudo-Jerome: The small fishes blessed are the books of the New Testament, for our Lord when risen asks for a piece of broiled fish.
Or else, in these [p. 150] little fishes, we receive the saints, seeing that in the Scriptures of the New Testament are contained the faith, life, and sufferings of them who, snatched away from the troubled waves of this world, have given us by their example spiritual refreshment.
Bede: Again, what was over and above, after the multitude was refreshed, the Apostles take up, because the higher precepts of perfection, to which the multitude cannot attain, belong to those whose life transcends that of the generality of the people of God; nevertheless, the multitude is said to have been satisfied, because though they cannot leave all that they possess, nor come up to that which is spoken of virgins, yet by listening to the commands of the law of God, they attain to everlasting life.
Pseudo-Jerome: Again, the seven baskets are the seven Churches. By the four thousand is meant the year of the new dispensation, with its four seasons. Fitly also are there four thousand, that in the number itself it might be taught us that they were filled with the food of the Gospel.
Theophylact: Or there are four thousand, that is, men perfect in the four virtues; and for this reason, as being more advanced, they ate more, and left fewer fragments. For in this miracle, seven baskets full remain, but in the miracle of the five loaves, twelve, for there were five thousand men, which means men enslaved to the five senses, and for this reason they could not eat, but were satisfied with little, and many remains of the fragments were over and above.
10. And straightway He entered into a ship with His disciples, and came into the parts of Dalmanutha.
11. And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with Him, seeking of Him a sign from heaven, tempting Him.
12. And He sighed deeply in His spirit, and saith, "Why doth this generation seek after a sign? Verily, I say unto you, there shall be no sign given unto this generation."
13. And He left them, and entering into the ship again departed to the other side.
14. Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, [p. 151] neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf.
15. And He charged them, saying, "Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod."
16. And they reasoned among themselves, saying, "It is because we have no bread."
17. And when Jesus knew it, He saith unto them, "Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened?
18. Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?
19. When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up?" They say unto Him, "Twelve."
20. "And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up?" And they said, "Seven."
21. And He said unto them, "How is it that ye do not understand?"
Theophylact: After that our Lord had worked the miracle of the loaves, He immediately retires into another spot, lest on account of the miracle, the multitudes should take Him to make Him a king.
Wherefore it is said, "And straightway He entered into a ship with His disciples, and came into the parts of Dalmanutha."
Augustine, de Con. Evan., 2, 51: Now in Matthew we read that He entered into the parts of Magdala [ed. note: Magedam]. But we cannot doubt that it is the same place under another name; for several manuscripts even of St. Mark have only Magdala.
It goes on, "And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with Him, seeking of Him a sign from heaven, tempting Him."
Bede, in Marc., 2, 33: The Pharisees, then, seek a sign from heaven, that He, Who had for the second time fed many thousands of men with a few loaves of bread, should now, after the example of Moses, refresh the whole nation in the last time with manna [p. 152] sent down from heaven, and dispersed amongst them all.
Theophylact: Or they seek for a sign from heaven, that is, they wish Him to make the sun and moon stand still, to bring down hail, and change the atmosphere; for they thought that He could not perform miracles from heaven, but could only in Beelzebub perform a sign on earth.
Bede: When, as related above, He was about to refresh the believing multitude, He gave thanks, so now, on account of the foolish petition of the Pharisees, He groans; because, bearing about with Him the feelings of human nature, as He rejoices over the salvation of men, so He grieves over their errors.
Wherefore it goes on, "And He groaned in spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? Verily I say unto you, If a sign shall be given to this generation."
That is, no sign shall be given; as it is written in the Psalms, "I have sworn once by my holiness, if I shall fail David," [Ps 80:36] that is, I will not fail David.
Augustine: Let no one, however, be perplexed that the answer which Mark says was given to them, when they sought a sign from heaven, is not the same as that which Matthew relates, namely, that concerning Jonah. He says that the Lord's answer was, that no sign should be given to it; by which we must understand such an one as they asked for, that is, one from heaven; but he has omitted to say, what Matthew has related.
Theophylact: Now, the reason why the Lord did not listen to them was, that the time of signs from heaven had not arrived, that is, the time of the second Advent, when the powers of the heaven shall be shaken, and the moon shall not give her light. But in the time of the first Advent, all things are full of mercy, and such things do not take place.
Bede: For a sign from heaven was not to be given to a generation of men, who tempted the Lord; but to a generation of men seeking the Lord, He shews a sign from heaven, when in the sight of the Apostles He ascended into heaven.
It goes on, "And He left them, and entering into a ship again, He departed to the other side."
Theophylact: The Lord indeed quits the Pharisees, as men uncorrected; for where there is a hope of correction, there it is right to remain; but where the evil is incorrigible, we should go away.
There follows: "Now they had forgotten to take bread, neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf."
Bede: [p. 153] Some may ask, how they had no bread, when they had filled seven baskets just before they embarked in the ship. But Scripture relates that they had forgotten to take them with them, which is a proof how little care they had for the flesh in other things, since in their eagerness to follow the Lord, even the necessity of refreshing their bodies had escaped from their mind.
Theophylact: By a special providence also the disciples forgot to take bread, that they might be blamed by Christ, and thus become better, and arrive at a knowledge of Christ's power.
For it goes on, "And He charged them, saying, Take heed, and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the leaven of Herod."
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: Matthew says, "of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees;" Luke, however, of the Pharisees only. All three, therefore, name the Pharisees, as being the most important of them, but Matthew and Mark have each mentioned one of the secondary sects; and fitly has Mark added "of Herod," as a supplement to Matthew's narrative, in which they were left out.
But in saying this, He by degrees brings the disciples to understanding and faith.
Theophylact: He means by leaven their hurtful and corrupt doctrine, full of the old malice, for the Herodians were the teachers, who said that Herod was the Christ.
Bede: Or, the leaven of the Pharisees is making the decrees of the divine law inferior to the traditions of men, preaching the law in word, attacking it in deed, tempting the Lord, and disbelieving His doctrine and His works; but the leaven of Herod is adultery, murder, rash swearing, a pretence of religion, hatred to Christ and His forerunner.
Theophylact: But the disciples themselves thought that the Lord spoke of the leaven of bread.
Wherefore it goes on, "And they reasoned amongst themselves, saying, it is because we have no bread;" and this they said, as not understanding the power of Christ, who could make bread out of nothing; wherefore the Lord reproves them.
For there follows: "And when Jesus knew it, He said unto them, Why reason ye because ye have no bread?"
Bede: Taking occasion then from the precept, which He had commanded, saying, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the leaven of Herod," our Saviour teaches them what was the meaning of the five and the seven loaves, concerning which He adds, "And do ye not remember, when I brake the five [p. 154] loaves amongst five thousand, and how many baskets full of fragments ye took up?"
For if the leaven mentioned above means perverse traditions, of course the food, with which the people of God was nourished, means the true doctrine.
22. And He cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto Him, and besought Him to touch him.
23. And He took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when He had spit on his eyes, and put His hands upon him, He asked him if he saw ought.
24. And he looked up and said, "I see men as trees, walking."
25. After that He put His hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly.
26. And He sent him away to his house, saying, "Neither go into the town, nor tell it to any in the town."
Gloss.: After the feeding of the multitude, the Evangelist proceeds to the giving sight to the blind, saying, "And they came to Bethsaida, and they bring a blind man to Him, and besought Him to touch him."
Bede, in Marc., 2, 34: Knowing that the touch of the Lord could give sight to a blind man as well as cleanse a leper.
It goes on, "And He took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town."
Theophylact: For Bethsaida appears to have been infected with much infidelity, wherefore the Lord reproaches it, "Woe to thee, Bethsaida, for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes." [Matt. 11, 21] He then takes out of the town the blind man, who had been brought to Him, for the faith of those who brought him was not true faith.
It goes on, "And when He had spit in his eyes, and put His hands upon him, He asked him if he saw ought."
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: He spat indeed, and put His hand [p. 155] upon the blind man, because He wished to shew that wonderful are the effects of the Divine word added to action; for the hand is the symbol of working, but the spittle, of the word proceeding out of the mouth. Again He asked him whether he could see any thing, which He had not done in the case of any whom He had healed, thus shewing that by the weak faith of those who brought him, and of the blind man himself, his eyes could not altogether be opened.
Wherefore there follows: "And He looked up, and said, I see men as trees walking;" because he was still under the influence of unfaithfulness, he said that he saw men obscurely.
Bede: Seeing indeed the shapes of bodies amongst the shadows, but unable to distinguish the outlines of the limbs, from the continued darkness of his sight; just as trees standing thick together are wont to appear to men who see them from afar, or by the dim light of the night, so that it cannot easily be known whether they be trees or men.
Theophylact: But the reason why he did not see at once perfectly, but in part, was, that he had not perfect faith; for healing is bestowed in proportion to faith.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: From the commencement, however, of the return of his senses, He leads him to apprehend things by faith, and thus makes him see perfectly; wherefore it goes on, "After that, He put His hands again upon his eyes, and he began to see," and afterwards he adds, "And he was restored, and saw all things clearly," that is, being perfectly healed in his senses and his intellect.
It goes on, "And He sent him away to his house, saying, Go into thy home, and if thou enter into the town, tell it not to any one."
Theophylact: These precepts He gave him, because they were unfaithful, as has been said, lest perchance he should receive hurt in his soul from them, and they by their unbelief should run into a more grievous crime.
Bede: Or else, He leaves an example to His disciples that they should not seek for popular favour by the miracles which they did.
Pseudo-Jerome: Mystically, however, Bethsaida is interpreted, 'the house of the valley', that is, the world, which is the vale of tears. Again, they bring to the Lord a blind man, that is, one who neither sees what he has been, what he is, nor what he is to be. They ask Him to touch him, for what is being touched, but feeling compunction?
Bede: For the Lord touches us, when He [p. 156] enlightens our minds with the breath of His Spirit, and He stirs us up that we may recognise our own infirmity, and be diligent in good actions. He takes the hand of the blind man, that He may strengthen him to the practice of good woks.
Pseudo-Jerome: And He brings him out of the town, that is, out of the neighborhood of the wicked; and He puts spittle into his eyes, that he may see the will of God, by the breath of the Holy Ghost; and putting His hands upon him, He asked him if he could see, because by the works of the Lord His majesty is seen.
Bede: Or else, putting spittle into the eyes of the blind man, He lays His hands upon him that he may see, because He has wiped away the blindness of the human race both by invisible gifts, and by the Sacrament of His assumed humanity; for the spittle, proceeding from the Head, points out the grace of the Holy Ghost. But though by one word He could cure the man wholly and all at once, still He cures him by degrees, that He may shew the greatness of the blindness of man, which can hardly, and only as it were step by step, be restored to light; and He exhibits to us His grace, by which He furthers each step towards perfection.
Again, whoever is weighed down by a blindness of such long continuance, that he is unable to distinguish between good and evil, sees as it were men like trees walking, because he sees the deeds of the multitude without the light of discretion.
Pseudo-Jerome: Or else, he sees men as trees, because he thinks all men higher than himself. But He put His hands again upon his eyes, that he might see all things clearly, that is, understand invisible things by visible, and with the eye of a pure mind contemplate, what the eye hath not seen, the glorious state of his own soul after the rust of sin. He sent him to his home, that is, to his heart; that he might see in himself things which he had not seen before; for a man despairing of salvation does not think that he can do at all what, when enlightened, he can easily accomplish.
Theophylact: Or else, after He has healed him, He sends him to his home; for the home of every one of us is heaven, and the mansions which are there.
Pseudo-Jerome: And He says to him, "If thou enter into the town, tell it not to any one," that is, relate continually to thy neighbours thy blindness, but never tell them of thy virtue.
27. And Jesus went out, and His disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way He asked His disciples, saying unto them, "Whom do me say that I am?"
28. And they answered, "John the Baptist: but some say, 'Elias;' and others, 'One of the prophets.' "
29. And He saith unto them, "But whom say ye that I am?" And Peter answereth and saith unto Him, "Thou art the Christ."
30. And He charged them that they should tell no man of Him.
31. And He began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
32. And He spake that saying openly. And Peter took Him, and began to rebuke Him.
33. But when He had turned about and looked on His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, "Get thee behind Me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men."
Theophylact: After taking His disciples afar from the Jews, He then asks them concerning Himself, that they might speak the truth without fear of the Jews.
Wherefore it is said, "And Jesus entered, and His disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi."
Bede, in Marc., 2, 35: Philip was that brother of Herod, of whom we spoke above, who in honour of Tiberius Caesar called that town, which is now called Paneas, Caesarea Philippi.
It goes on, "And by the way He asked His disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am?"
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: He asks the question with a purpose, for it was right that His disciples should praise Him better than the crowd.
Bede: Wherefore He first asks what is the opinion of men, in order to try the faith of the disciples, lest their confession should appear to be founded on the common opinion.
It goes on, "And they answered, saying, 'Some [p. 158] say John the Baptist, some Elias, and others, One of the prophets."
Theophylact: For many thought that John had risen from the dead, as even Herod believed, and that he had performed miracles after his resurrection. After however having enquired into the opinion of others, He asks them what was the belief of their own minds on this point.
Wherefore it continues, "And He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?"
Chrys., Hom. in Matt., 54: From the manner, however, itself of the question, He leads them to a higher feeling, and to higher thoughts, concerning Him, that they might not agree with the multitude. But the next words shew what the head of the disciples, the mouth of the Apostles, answered; when all were asked, "Peter answereth and saith unto Him, Thou art the Christ."
Theophylact: He confesses indeed that He is the Christ announced by the Prophets; but the Evangelist Mark passes over what the Lord answered to his confession, and how He blessed him, lest by this way of relating it, he should seem to be favouring his master Peter; Matthew plainly goes through the whole of it.
Origen, in Matt. Tom., 12, 15: Or else, Mark and Luke, as they wrote that Peter answered, "Thou art the Christ," without adding what is put down in Matthew, "the Son of the living God," so they omitted to relate the blessing which was conferred on this confession.
It goes on, "And He charged them that they should tell no man of Him."
Theophylact: For He wished in the meantime to hide His glory, lest many should be offended because of Him, and so earn a worse punishment.
Chrys.: Or else, that He might wait to fix the pure faith in their minds, till the Crucifixion, which was an offence to them, was over, for after it was once perfected, about the time of His ascension, He said unto the Apostles, "Go ye and teach all nations."
Theophylact: But after the Lord had accepted the confession of the disciples, who called Him the true God, He then reveals to them the mystery of the Cross.
Wherefore it goes on, "And He began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and of the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again; and He spake that saying openly," that is, concerning His future passion.
But His disciples did not understand the order of the truth, neither could they [p. 159] comprehend His resurrection, but thought it better that He should not suffer.
Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: The reason, however, why the Lord told them this, was to shew, that after His cross and resurrection, Christ must be preached by His witnesses. Again, Peter alone, from the fervour of his disposition, had the boldness to dispute about these things.
Wherefore it goes on, "And Peter took Him up, and began to rebuke Him."
Bede: This, however, he speaks with the feelings of a man who loves and desires; as if he said, This cannot be, neither can mind ears receive that the Son of God is to be slain.
Chrys.: But how is this, that Peter, gifted with a revelation from the Father, has so soon fallen, and become unstable? Surely, however, it was not wonderful that one who had received no revelation concerning the Passion should be ignorant of this. For that He was the Christ, the Son of the living God, he had learnt by revelation; but the mystery of His cross and resurrection had not yet been revealed to him. He Himself, however, shewing that He must come to His Passion, rebuked Peter.
Wherefore there follows, "And when He had turned about and looked on His disciples, He rebuked Peter, &c."
Theophylact: For the Lord, wishing to shew that His Passion was to take place on account of the salvation of men, and that Satan alone was unwilling that Christ should suffer, and the race of man be saved, called Peter Satan, because he savoured the things that were of Satan, and, from unwillingness that Christ should suffer, became His adversary; for Satan is interpreted 'the adversary.'
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: But He saith not to the devil, when tempting Him, "Get thee behind me," but to Peter He saith, "Get thee behind me," that is, follow Me, and resist not the design of My voluntary Passion.
There follows, "For thou savourest not the things which be of God, but which be of men."
Theophylact: He says that Peter savours the things which be of men, in that he in some way savoured carnal affections, for Peter wished that Christ should spare Himself and not be crucified.
34. And when He had called the people unto Him with His disciples also, He said unto them, "Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
35. For whosoever will save his life shall lost it; but whosoever shall lose his life for My sake and the Gospel's, the same shall save it.
36. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lost his own soul?
37. Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
38. Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when He cometh in the glory of His Father with the holy angels."
Bede: After shewing to His disciples the mystery of His passion and resurrection, He exorts them, as well as the multitude, to follow the example of His passion.
Wherefore it goes on, "And when He had called the people unto Him with His disciples also, He said unto them, Whosoever wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself."
Chrys., Hom. in Matt., 55: As is He would say to Peter, Thou indeed dost rebuke Me, who am willing to undergo My passion, but I tell thee, that not only is it wrong to prevent Me from suffering, but neither canst thou be saved unless thou thyself diest.
Again He says, "Whosoever wishes to come after Me;" as if He said, I call you to those good things which a man should wish for, I do not force you to evil and burdensome things; for he who does violence to his hearer, often stands in his way; but he who leaves him free, rather draws him to himself. And a man denies himself when he cares not for his body, so that whether it be scourged, or whatever of like nature it may suffer, he bears it patiently.
Theophylact: For a man who denies another, be it brother or father, does not sympathize with him, nor grieve at his fate, though he be wounded and die; thus we ought to despise our body, so that if it should be wounded or hurt in any way, we should not mind its suffering.
Chrys.: But He says not, a man should not spare himself, but what is more, that he should deny himself, as if he had nothing in common with himself, but face danger, and look upon such things as if another were suffering; and this is [p. 161] really to spare himself; for parents then most truly act kindly to their children, when they give them up to their masters, with an injunction not to spare them. Again, He shews the degree to which a man should deny himself, when He says, "And take up his cross," by which He means, even to the most shameful death.
Theophylact: For at that time the cross appeared shameful, because malefactors were fixed to it.
Pseudo-Jerome: Or else, as a skilful pilot, foreseeing a storm in a calm, wishes his sailors to be prepared; so also the Lord says, "If any one will follow me, &c."
Bede: For we deny ourselves, when we avoid what we were of old, and strive to reach that point, whither we are newly called. And the cross is taken up by us, when either our body is pained by abstinence, or our soul afflicted by fellow-feeling for our neighbour.
Theophylact: But because after the cross we must have a new strength, He adds, "and follow me."
Chrys.: And this He says, because it may happen that a man may suffer and yet not follow Christ, that is, when he does not suffer for Christ's sake; for he follows Christ, who walks after Him, and conforms himself to His death, despising those principalities and powers under whose power, before the coming of Christ, he committed sin.
Then there follows, "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for My sake and the Gospel's, the same shall save it."
I give you these commands, as it were to spare you; for whosoever spares his son, brings him to destruction, but whosoever does not spare him, saves him. It is therefore right to be always prepared for death; for if in the battles of this world, he who is prepared for death fights better than others, though none can restore him to life after death, much more is this the case in spiritual battle, when so great a hope of resurrection is set before him, since he who gives up his soul unto death saves it.
Remig.: And life is to be taken in this place for the present life, and not for the substance itself of the soul.
Chrys.: And therefore He had said, "For whomsoever will save his life shall lose it," lest any one should suppose this loss to be equivalent to that salvation, He adds, "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul, &c." As if He said, Think not that he has saved his soul, who has shunned the perils [p. 162] of the cross; for when a man, at the cost of his soul, that is, his life, gains the whole world, what has he besides, now that his soul is perishing? Has he another soul to give for his soul? For a man can give the price of his house in exchange for the house; but in losing his soul, he has not another soul to give. And it is with a purpose that He says, "Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" for God, in exchange for our salvation, has given the precious blood of Jesus Christ.
Bede, in Marc. 2, 36: Or else He says this, because in time of persecution, our life is to be laid aside, but in time of peace, our earthly desires are to be broken, which He implies when He says, "For what shall it profit a man, &c."
But we are often hindered by a habit of shamefacedness, from expressing with our voice the rectitude which we preserve in our hearts; and therefore it is added, "For whosoever shall confess Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, him also shall the Son of man confess, when He cometh in the glory of His Father with the holy angels."
Theophylact: For that faith which only remains in the mind is not sufficient, but the Lord requires also the confession of the mouth; for when the soul is sanctified by faith, the body ought also to be sanctified by confession.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: He then who has learned this, is bound zealously to confess Christ without shame. And this generation is called adulterous, because it has left God the true Bridegroom of the soul, and has refused to follow the doctrine of Christ, but has prostrated itself to the devil and taken up the seeds of impiety, for which reason also it is called sinful. Whosoever therefore amongst them has denied the kingdom of Christ, and the words of God revealed in the Gospel, shall receive a reward befitting His impiety, when He hears in the second advent, "I know you not." [Matt 7:23]
Theophylact: Him then who shall leave confessed that his God was crucified, Christ Himself also shall confess, not here, where He is esteemed poor and wretched, but in His glory and with a multitude of Angels.
Greg., Hom. in 32, in Evang.: There are however some, who confess Christ, because they see that all men are Christians; for if the name of Christ were not at this day in such great glory, the Holy Church would not have so many professors. The voice of the profession therefore is not sufficient for a trial of faith [p. 163] whilst the profession of the generality defends it from shame.
In the time of peace therefore there is another way, by which we may be known to ourselves. We are ever fearful of being despised by our neighbours, we think it shame to bear injurious words; if perchance we have quarrelled with our neighbour, we blush to be the first to give satisfaction; for our carnal heart, in seeking the glory of this life, disdains humility.
Theophylact: But because He had spoken of His glory, in order to shew that His promises were not vain, He subjoins, "Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here who shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power."
As if He said, Some, that is, Peter, James, and John, shall not taste of death, until I shew them, in my transfiguration, with what glory I am to come in my second advent; for the transfiguration was nothing else, but an announcement of the second coming of Christ, in which also Christ Himself and the Saints will shine.
Bede, in Marc., 3, 36: Truly it was done with a loving foresight, in order that they, having tasted for a brief moment the contemplation of everlasting joy, might with the greater strength bear up under adversity.
Chrys., Hom. in Matt., 56: And He did not declare the names of those who were about to go up, lest the other disciples should feel some touch of human frailty, and He tells it to them beforehand, that they might come with minds better prepared to be taught all that concerned that vision.
Bede: Or else the present Church is called the kingdom of God; and some of the disciples were to live in the body until they should see the Church built up, and raised against the glory of the world; for it was right to make some promises concerning this life to the disciples who were uninstructed, that they might be built up with greater strength for the time to come.
Pseudo-Chrys., Orig. in Matt. tom., 12, 33, 35: But in a mystical sense, Christ is life, and the devil is death, and he tastes of death, who dwells in sin; even now every one, according as he has good or evil doctrines, tastes the bread either of life or of death. And indeed, it is a less evil to see death, a greater to taste of it, still worse to follow it, worst of all to be subject to it.