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Home > Fathers of the Church > Homilies on the Gospel of John (Chrysostom) > Homily 39

Homily 39 on the Gospel of John

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John 5:23-24

For My Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment to the Son; that all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father.

1. Beloved, we need great diligence in all things, for we shall render account of and undergo a strict enquiry both of words and works. Our interests stop not with what now is, but a certain other condition of life shall receive us after this, and we shall be brought before a fearful tribunal. For we must appear before the Judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he has done, whether it be good or bad. 2 Corinthians 5:10 Let us ever bear in mind this tribunal, that we may thus be enabled at all times to continue in virtue; for as he who has cast out from his soul that day, rushes like a horse that has burst his bridle to precipices, (for his ways are always defiled Psalm 10:5) and then assigning the reason the Psalmist has added, He puts Your judgments far away out of his sight;) so he that always retains this fear will walk soberly. Remember, says one, your last things, and you shall never do amiss. Sirach 7:40 For He who now has remitted our sins, will then sin in judgment; He who has died for our sake will then appear again to judge all mankind. Unto them that look for Him, says the Apostle, shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation. Hebrews 9:28 Wherefore in this place also He says, My Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment unto the Son; that all men should honor the Son; even as they honor the Father.

Shall we then, says some one, also call Him Father? Away with the thought. He uses the word Son that we may honor Him still remaining a Son, as we honor the Father; but he who calls Him Father does not honor the Son as the Father, but has confounded the whole. Moreover as men are not so much brought to by being benefited as by being punished, on this account He has spoken thus terribly, that even fear may draw them to honor Him. And when He says all, His meaning is this, that He has power to punish and to honor, and does either as He will. The expression has given, is used that you may not suppose Him not to have been Begotten, and so think that there are two Fathers. For all that the Father is, this the Son is also, Begotten, and remaining a Son. And that you may learn that has given is the same as has begotten, hear this very thing declared by another place. As, says Christ, the Father has life in Himself, so has He given to the Son to have life in Himself. John 5:26 What then? Did he first beget and then give Him life? For he who gives, gives to something which is. Was He then begotten without life? Not even the devils could imagine this, for it is very foolish as well as impious. As then has given life is has begotten Him who is Life, so, has given judgment is has begotten Him who shall be Judge.

That you may not when you hear that He has the Father for His cause imagine any difference of essence or inferiority of honor, He comes to judge you, by this proving His Equality. For He who has authority to punish and to honor whom He will, has the same Power with the Father. Since, if this be not the case, if having been begotten He afterwards received the honor, how came it that He was afterwards [thus] honored, by what mode of advancement reached He so far as to receive and be appointed to this dignity? Are ye not ashamed thus impudently to apply to that Pure Nature which admits of no addition these carnal and mean imaginations?

Why then, says some one, does Christ so speak? That His words may be readily received, and to clear the way for sublime sayings; therefore He mixes these with those, and those with these. And observe how (He does it); for it is good to see this from the beginning. He said, My Father works, and I work John 5:17, etc.: declaring by this their Equality and Equal honor. But they sought to kill Him. What does He then? He lowers His form of speech indeed, and puts the same meaning when He says, The Son can do nothing of Himself. Then again He raises His discourse to high matters, saying, Whatever things the Father does, these also does the Son likewise. Then He returns to what is lower, For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that Himself does; and He will show Him greater things than these. Then He rises higher, For as the Father raises up the dead and quickens them, even so the Son quickens whom He will. After this again He joins the high and the low together, For neither does the Father judge any one, but has given all judgment to the Son; then rises again, That all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. Do you see how He varies the discourse, weaving it both of high and low words and expressions, in order that it might be acceptable to the men of that time, and that those who should come after might receive no injury, gaining from the higher part a right opinion of the rest? For if this be not the case, if these sayings were not uttered through condescension, wherefore were the high expressions added? Because one who is entitled to utter great words concerning himself, has, when he says anything mean and low, this reasonable excuse, that he does it for some prudential purpose; but if one who ought to speak meanly of himself says anything great, on what account does he utter words which surpass his nature? This is not for any purpose at all, but an act of extreme impiety.

2. We are therefore able to assign a reason for the lowly expressions, a reason sufficient, and becoming to God, namely, His condescension, His teaching us to be moderate, and the salvation which is thus wrought for us. To declare which He said Himself in another place, These things I say that you might be saved. For when He left His own witness, and betook Himself to that of John, (a thing unworthy of His greatness,) He puts the reason of such lowliness of language, and says, These things I say that you might be saved. And ye who assert that He has not the same authority and power with Him who begot Him, what can you say when you hear Him utter words by which He declares His Authority and Power and Glory equal in respect of the Father? Wherefore, if He be as you assert very inferior, does He claim the same honor? Nor does He stop even here, but goes on to say,

He that honors not the Son honors not the Father which has sent Him. Do you see how the honor of the Son is connected with that of the Father? What of that? says one. We see the same in the case of the Apostles; 'He,' says Christ, 'who receives you receives Me.' Matthew 10:40 But in that place He speaks so, because He makes the concerns of His servants His own; here, because the Essence and the Glory is One (with that of the Father). Therefore it is not said of the Apostles that they may honor, but rightly He says, He that honors not the Son honors not the Father. For where there are two kings, if one is insulted the other is insulted also, and especially when he that is insulted is a son. He is insulted even when one of his soldiers is maltreated; not in the same way as in this case, but as it were in the person of another, while here it is as it were in his own. Wherefore He beforehand said, That they should honor the Son even as they honor the Father, in order that when He should say, He that honors not the Son honors not the Father, you might understand that the honor is the same. For He says not merely, he that honors not the Son, but he that honors Him not so as I have said honors not the Father.

And how, says one, can he that sends and he that is sent be of the same essence? Again, you bring down the argument to carnal things, and perceivest not that all this has been said for no other purpose, but that we might know Him to be The Cause, and not fall into the error of Sabellius, and that in this manner the infirmity of the Jews might be healed, so that He might not be deemed an enemy of God; for they said, This man is not of God John 9:16, This man has not come from God. Now to remove this suspicion, high sayings did not contribute so much as the lowly, and therefore continually and everywhere He said that He had been sent; not that you might suppose that expression to be any lessening of His greatness, but in order to stop their mouths. And for this cause also He constantly betakes Himself to the Father, interposing moreover mention of His own high Parentage. For had He said all in proportion to His dignity, the Jews would not have received His words, since because of a few such expressions, they persecuted and oftentimes stoned Him; and if looking wholly to them He had used none but low expressions, many in after times might have been harmed. Wherefore He mingles and blends His teaching, both by these lowly sayings stopping, as I said, the mouths of the Jews, and also by expressions suited to His dignity banishing from men of sense any mean notion of what He had said, and proving that such a notion did not in any wise apply to Him at all.

The expression having been sent denotes change of place — but God is everywhere present. Wherefore then says He that He was sent? He speaks in an earthly way, declaring His unanimity with the Father. At least He shapes His succeeding words with a desire to effect this.

John 5:24

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that hears My word, and believes in Him that sent Me, has everlasting life.

Do you see how continually He puts the same thing to cure that feeling of suspicion, both in this place and in what follows by fear and by promises of blessings removing their jealousy of Him, and then again condescending greatly in words? For He said not, he that hears My words, and believes in Me, since they would have certainly deemed that to be pride, and a superfluous pomp of words; because, if after a very long time, and ten thousand miracles, they suspected this when He spoke after this manner, much more would they have done so then. It was on this account that at that later period they said to Him, Abraham is dead, and the prophets are dead, how sayest Thou, If a man keep My saying, he shall never taste of death? John 8:52 In order therefore that they may not here also become furious, see what He says, He that hears My word, and believes in Him that sent Me, has everlasting life. This had no small effect in making His discourse acceptable, when they learned that those who hear Him believe in the Father also; for after having received this with readiness, they would more easily receive the rest. So that the very speaking in a humble manner contributed and led the way to higher things; for after saying, has everlasting life, He adds,

And comes not into judgment, but is passed from death unto life.

By these two things He makes His discourse acceptable; first, because it is the Father who is believed on, and then, because the believer enjoys many blessings. And the comes not into judgment means, is not punished, for He speaks not of death here, but of death eternal, as also of the other life which is deathless.

John 5:25

Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour comes, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that have heard shall live.

Having said the words, He speaks also of the proof by deeds. For when He had said, As the Father raises up the dead and quickens them, even so the Son quickens whom He will, that the thing may not seem to be mere boasting and pride, He affords proof by works, saying, The hour comes; then, that you may not deem that the time is long, He adds, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that have heard shall live. Do you see here His absolute and unutterable authority? For as it shall be in the Resurrection, even so, He says, it shall be now. Then too when we hear His voice commanding us we are raised; for, says the Apostle, at the command of God the dead shall arise. And whence, perhaps some one will ask, is it clear that the words are not mere boast? From what He has added, and now is; because had His promises referred only to some future time, His discourse would have been suspected by them, but now He supplies them with a proof: While I, says He, am tarrying among you, this thing shall come to pass; and He would not, had He not possessed the power, have promised for that time, lest through the promise He should incur the greater ridicule. Then too He adds an argument demonstrative of His assertions, saying,

John 5:26

For as the Father has life in Himself, so has He given to the Son to have life in Himself.

3. Do you see that this declares a perfect likeness save in one point, which is the One being a Father, and the Other a Son? For the expression has given, merely introduces this distinction, but declares that all the rest is equal and exactly alike. Whence it is clear that the Son does all things with as much authority and power as the Father, and that He is not empowered from some other source, for He has life so as the Father has. And on this account, what comes after is straightway added, that from this we may understand the other also. What is this then? It is,

John 5:27

Hath given Him authority to execute judgment also.

And wherefore does He continually dwell upon resurrection and judgment? For He says, As the Father raises up the dead and quickens them, even so the Son quickens whom He will: and again, the Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment to the Son: and again, As the Father has life in Himself so has He given to the Son to have life in Himself; and again, They that have heard [the Voice of the Son of God] shall live; and here again, Hath given to Him authority to execute judgment. Wherefore does He dwell on these things continually? I mean, on judgment, and life, and resurrection? It is because these subjects are able most of any to attract even the obstinate hearer. For the man who is persuaded that he shall both rise again and shall give account to Christ of his transgressions, even though he have seen no other sign, yet having admitted this, will surely run to Him to propitiate his Judge.

John 5:28

That He is the Son of Man, marvel not at this.

Paul of Samosata renders it not so; but how? Hath given Him authority to execute judgment, 'because' He is the Son of Man. Now the passage thus read is inconsequent, for He did not receive judgment because He was man, (since then what hindered all men from being judges,) but because He is the Son of that Ineffable Essence, therefore is He Judge. So we must read, That He is the Son of Man, marvel not at this. For when what He said seemed to the hearers inconsistent, and they deemed Him nothing more than mere man, while His words were greater than suited man, yea, or even angel, and were proper to God only, to solve this objection He adds,

John 5:28-29

Marvel not [that He is the Son of Man, ] for the hour is coming in the which they that are in the tombs shall hear His voice and shall go forth, they that have done good to the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

And wherefore said He not, Marvel not that He is the Son of Man, for He is also the Son of God, but rather mentioned the resurrection? He did indeed put this above, by saying, shall hear the Voice of the Son of God. And if here He is silent on the matter, wonder not; for after mentioning a work which was proper to God, He then permits His hearers to collect from it that He was God, and the Son of God. For had this been continually asserted by Himself, it would at that time have offended them, but when proved by the argument of miracles, it rendered His doctrine less burdensome. So they who put together syllogisms, when having laid down their premises they have fairly proved the point in question, frequently do not draw the conclusion themselves, but to render their hearers more fairly disposed, and to make their victory more evident, cause the opponent himself to give the verdict, so that the by-standers may the rather agree with them when their opponents decide in their favor. When therefore He mentioned the resurrection of Lazarus, He spoke not of the Judgment (for it was not for this that Lazarus arose); but when He spoke generally He also added, that they that have done good shall go forth unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of judgment. Thus also John led on his hearers by speaking of the Judgment, and that he that believes not on the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him John 3:36: so too Himself led on Nicodemus: He that believes in the Son, He said to him, is not judged, but he that believes not is judged already John 3:18; and so here He mentions the Judgment-seat and the punishment which shall follow upon evil deeds. For because He had said above, He that hears My words and believes in Him that sent Me, is not judged, lest any one should imagine that this alone is sufficient for salvation, He adds also the result of man's life, declaring that they which have done good shall come forth unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of judgment. Since then He had said that all the world should render account to Him, and that all at His Voice should rise again, a thing new and strange and even now disbelieved by many who seem to have believed, not to say by the Jews at that time, hear how He goes to prove it, again condescending to the infirmity of His hearers.

John 5:30

I can of My own self do nothing; as I hear I judge, and My judgment is just, because I seek not My own will, but the will of Him which sent Me.

Although He had but lately given no trifling proof of the Resurrection by bracing the paralytic; on which account also He had not spoken of the Resurrection before He had done what fell little short of resurrection. And the Judgment He hinted at after He had braced the body, by saying, Behold, you are made whole, sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto you; yet still He proclaimed beforehand the resurrection of Lazarus and of the world. And when He had spoken of these two, that of Lazarus which should come to pass almost immediately, and that of the inhabited world which should be long after, He confirms the first by the paralytic and by the nearness of the time, saying, The hour comes and now is; the other by the raising of Lazarus, by what had already come to pass bringing before their sight what had not yet done so. And this we may observe Him do everywhere, putting (forth) two or three predictions, and always confirming the future by the past.

4. Yet after saying and doing so much, since they still were very weak He is not content, but by other expressions calms their disputatious temper, saying, I can of Myself do nothing; as I hear I judge, and My judgment is just, because I seek not My own will, but the will of Him which sent Me. For since He appeared to make some assertions strange and varying from those of the Prophets, (for they said that it is God who judges all the earth, that is, the human race; and this truth David everywhere loudly proclaimed, He shall judge the people in righteousness, and, God is a righteous Judge, strong and patient Psalm 96:10, and Psalm 7:11, Septuagint; as did all the Prophets and Moses; but Christ said, The Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment to the Son: an expression which was sufficient to perplex a Jew who heard it, and to make him in turn suspect Christ of being an enemy of God,) He here greatly condescends in His speech, and as far as their infirmity requires, in order to pluck up by the roots this pernicious opinion, and says, I can of Myself do nothing; that is, nothing strange, or unlike, or what the Father desires not will you see done or hear said by Me. And having before declared that He was the Son of Man, and because they supposed Him to be a man at that time, so also He puts [His expressions] here. As then when He said above, We speak that we have heard, and testify that we have seen; and when John said, What He has seen He testifies, and no man receives His testimony John 3:32; both expressions are used respecting exact knowledge, not concerning hearing and seeing merely; so in this place when He speaks of hearing, He declares nothing else than that it is impossible for Him to desire anything, save what the Father desires. Still He said not so plainly, (for they would not as yet have at once received it on hearing it thus asserted;) and how? In a manner very condescending and befitting a mere man, As I hear I judge. Again He uses these words in this place, not with reference to instruction, (for He said not, as I am taught, but as I hear;) nor as though He needed to listen, (for not only did He not require to be taught, but He needed not even to listen;) but it was to declare the Unanimity and Identity of [His and the Father's] decision, as though He had said, So I judge, as if it were the Father Himself that judged. Then He adds, and I know that My judgment is just, because I seek not My own will, but the will of Him that sent Me. What sayest Thou? Have You a will different from that of the Father? Yet in another place He says, As I and Thou are One, (speaking of will and unanimity,) grant to these also that they may be one in Us John 17:21; not verbally quoted; that is, in faith concerning Us. Do you see that the words which seem most humble are those which conceal a high meaning? For what He implies is of this kind: not that the will of the Father is one, and His own another; but that, as one will in one mind, so is My own will and My Father's.

And marvel not that He has asserted so close a conjunction; for with reference to the Spirit also Paul has used this illustration: What man knows the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God. Thus Christ's meaning is no other than this: I have not a will different and apart from that of the Father, but if He desires anything, then I also; if I, then He also. As therefore none could object to the Father judging, so neither may any to Me, for the sentence of Each is given from the same Mind. And if He utters these words rather as a man, marvel not, seeing that they still deemed Him to be mere man. Therefore in passages like these it is necessary not merely to enquire into the meaning of the words, but also to take into account the suspicion of the hearers, and listen to what is said as being addressed to that suspicion. Otherwise many difficulties will follow. Consider for instance, He says, I seek not My own will: according to this then His will is different (from that of the Father), is imperfect, nay, not merely imperfect, but even unprofitable. For if it be saving, if it agree with that of the Father, why do You not seek it? Mortals might with reason say so because they have many wills contrary to what seems good to the Father, but Thou, wherefore sayest Thou this, who art in all things like the Father? For this none would say is the language even of a man made perfect and crucified. For if Paul so blended himself with the will of God as to say, I live, yet no longer I, but Christ lives in me Galatians 2:20, how says the Lord of all, I seek not My own will, but the will of Him that sent Me, as though that will were different? What then is His meaning? He applies His discourse as if the case were that of a mere man, and suits His language to the suspicion of His hearers. For when He had, by what had gone before, given proof of His sayings, speaking partly as God, partly as a mere man, He again as a man endeavors to establish the same, and says, My judgment is just. And whence is this seen? Because I seek not My own will, but the will of Him that sent Me. For as in the case of men, he that is free from selfishness cannot be justly charged with having given an unfair decision, so neither will you now be able to accuse Me. He that desires to establish his own, may perhaps by many be suspected of corrupting justice with this intent; but he that looks not to his own, what reason can he have for not deciding justly? Apply now this reasoning to My case. Had I said that I was not sent by the Father, had I not referred to Him the glory of what was done, some of you might perhaps have suspected that desiring to gain honor for Myself, I said the thing that is not; but if I impute and refer what is done to another, wherefore and whence can you have cause to suspect My words? Do you see how He confirmed His discourse, and asserted that His judgment was just by an argument which any common man might have used in defending himself? Do you see how what I have often said is clearly visible? What is that? It is that the exceeding humility of the expressions most persuades men of sense not to receive the words off hand and then fall down [into low thoughts], but rather to take pains that they reach to the height of their meaning; this humility too with much ease then raises up those who were once groveling on the ground.

Now bearing all this in mind, let us not, I exhort you, carelessly pass by Christ's words, but enquire closely into them all, everywhere considering the reason of what has been said; and let us not deem that ignorance and simplicity will be sufficient to excuse us, for He has bidden us not merely to be harmless, but wise. Matthew 10:16 Let us therefore practice wisdom with simplicity, both as to doctrines and the right actions of our lives; let us judge ourselves here, that we be not condemned with the world hereafter; let us act towards our fellow-servants as we desire our Master to act towards us: for (we say), Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Matthew 6:12 I know that the smitten soul endures not meekly, but if we consider that by so doing we do a kindness not to him who has grieved us but to ourselves, we shall soon let go the venom of our wrath; for he who forgave not the hundred pence to him who had transgressed against him, wronged not his fellow-servant but himself, by rendering himself liable for the ten thousand talents of which he had before received forgiveness. Matthew 18:30-34 When therefore we forgive not others, we forgive not ourselves. And so let us not merely say to God, remember not our offenses; but let each also say to himself, let us not remember the offenses of our fellow-servants done against us. For you first give judgment on your own sins, and God judges after; you propose the law concerning remission and punishment, you declare your decision on these matters, and therefore whether God shall or shall not remember, rests with you. For which cause Paul bids us forgive, if any One has cause of complaint against any Colossians 3:13, and not simply forgive, but so that not even any remnants be left behind. Since Christ not only did not publish our transgressions, but did not put us the transgressors in mind of them, nor say, in such and such things have you offended, but remitted and blotted out the handwriting, not reckoning our offenses, as Paul has also declared. Colossians 2:14 Let us too do this; let us wipe away all [trespasses against us] from our minds; and if any good thing has been done to us by him that has grieved us, let us only reckon that; but if anything grievous and hard to bear, let us cast it forth and blot it out, so that not even a vestige of it remain. And if no good has been done us by him, so much the greater recompense and higher credit will be ours if we forgive. Others by watching, by making the earth their bed, by ten thousand hardships, wipe away their sins, but thou by an easier way, I mean by not remembering wrongs, may cause all your trespasses to disappear. Why then do you thrust the sword against yourself, as do mad and frantic men, and banishest yourself from the life which is to come, when you ought to use every means to attain unto it? For if this present life be so desirable, what can one say of that other from which pain, and grief, and mourning, have fled away? There it needs not to fear death, nor imagine any end to those good things. Blessed, thrice blessed, yea, and this many times over, are they who enjoy that blessed rest, while they are miserable, thrice miserable, yea, ten thousand times miserable, who have cast themselves forth from that blessedness. And what, says some one, is it that makes us to enjoy that life? Hear the Judge Himself conversing with a certain young man on this matter. When the young man said, What shall I do to inherit eternal life? Matthew 19:16 Christ, after repeating to him the other commandments, ended with the love of his neighbor. Perhaps like that rich man some of my hearers will say, that we also have kept these, for we neither have robbed, nor killed, nor committed adultery; yet assuredly you will not be able to say this, that you have loved your neighbor as you ought to have loved him. For if a man has envied or spoken evil of another, if he has not helped him when injured, or not imparted to him of his substance, then neither has he loved him. Now Christ has commanded not only this, but something besides. What then is this? Sell, he says, that you have, and give to the poor; and come, follow Me Matthew 19:21: terming the imitating Him in our actions following Him. What learn we hence? First, that he who has not all these things cannot attain unto the chief places in that rest. For after the young man had said, All these things have I done, Christ, as though some great thing were wanting to his being perfectly approved, replied, If you will be perfect, sell that you have, and give to the poor: and come, follow Me. First then we may learn this; secondly, that Christ rebuked the man for his vain boast; for one who lived in such superfluity, and regarded not others living in poverty, how could he love his neighbor? So that neither in this matter did he speak truly. But let us do both the one and the other of these things; let us be eager to empty out our substance, and to purchase heaven. Since if for worldly honor men have often expended their whole possessions, an honor which was to stay here below, and even here not to stay by us long, (for many even much before their deaths have been stripped of their supremacy, and others because of it have often lost their lives, and yet, although aware of this, they expend all for its sake;) if now they do so much for this kind of honor, what can be more wretched than we if for the sake of that honor which abides and which cannot be taken from us we will not give up even a little, nor supply to others those things which in a short time while yet here we shall leave? What madness must it be, when it is in our power voluntarily to give to others, and so to take with us those things of which we shall even against our will be deprived, to refuse to do so? Yet if a man were being led to death, and it were proposed to him to give up all his goods and so go free, we should think a favor was conferred upon him; and shall we, who are being led on the way to the pit, shall we, when it is allowed us to give up half and be free, prefer to be punished, and uselessly to retain what is not ours even to the losing what is so? What excuse shall we have, what claim for pardon, who, when so easy a road has been cut for us unto life, rush down precipices, and travel along an unprofitable path, depriving ourselves of all things both here and hereafter, when we might enjoy both in security? If then we did not so before, let us at least stop now; and coming to ourselves, let us rightly dispose of things present, that we may easily receive those which are to come, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Source. Translated by Charles Marriott. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 14. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1889.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <>.

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