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HAYDOCK CATHOLIC BIBLE COMMENTARY ON THE NEW TESTAMENT
Ver. 1. Observe here the malice of the Pharisees; they were more hurt at the cure of the sick man, than at the violation of the sabbath. Therefore, they ask not, Who healed you; but, as if they wished to keep that out of sight, Who told you to take up you bed? S. Chrys. — But he answers: The same who healed me: Why should I not receive orders from him from whom I have received my health? S. Aug. — By the festival, mentioned in v. 1, is generally understood the Passover; and this was the second from the commencement of Christ's ministry. S. Matt. calls it by this name, C. xxvi. 5. S. Mark, C. xiv. 2. and xv. 6. and S. Luke, C. xxiii. 17. For the first Passover, see above, John ii. 13; for the third, John vi. 4; for the fourth and last, Matt. xxvi. 17. The first three are only mentioned by S. John, the fourth by all the evangelists.
Ver. 2. Now there is at Jerusalem a pond, called Probatica. Some translate, the sheep-pond. It is true the Greek word signifies something belonging to sheep. But because the ancient Latin interpreter thought fit to retain the Greek, probatica, and also because of the different expositions, I have not changed the word. Some think it was so called, as being near the gate called the sheep-gate: others, as being near the sheep-market: others, because the sheep that were brought to be sacrificed, were washed in it; or, at least, that the blood and entrails of sheep and beast sacrificed, were thrown into it, or washed there. In the ordinary Greek copies we read thus: there is at, or near, the Probatica, a pond or fish-pond. In Hebrew it was called Bethsaida, a house for fishing: and in most Greek copies, Bethchesda, a house of mercy, (perhaps because of the cures done there) having five porches, covered and arched, for the convenience of the infirm that lay there, waiting for the motion of the water. Wi. — The word probaton, signifies a sheep. This pond is therefore called Probatica, because there the priests washed the sacrifices. S. Aug. — In imitation of this sick man, if we wish to return God thanks for his favours, or to enjoy the pleasure of his company, we must fly the crowd of vain and wicked thoughts that continually tempt us; we must avoid the company of the wicked, and fly to the sanctuary, that we may render our hearts worthy temples of that God who vouchsafes to visit us. Alcuin.
Ver. 4. And an angel of the Lord. In many Greek copies is now wanting, of the Lord; but at least the ancient Fathers, and interpreters, expound it of a true angel, and of a miraculous cure: so that I cannot but wonder that so learned a man as Dr. Hammond, should rather judge these cures to have been natural. By the angel, he would have us to understand a messenger sent from the temple, who was to stir up the blood, and the grosser and thicker parts from the bottom of the pond, and that these cures were made much after the same manner, as, in some cases, persons find a cure by being put into the belly of a beast newly opened. Into what extravagant interpretations are men of learning sometimes led by their private judgment! What scholar of Galen or Hippocrates, ever pretended that this was a certain and infallible cure for all manner of diseases? Yet here we read: that he who got first into this pond, after the motion of the water, was healed, whatsoever distemper he was seized with. The blind are particularly named: Is this a certain remedy that restores sight to the blind? Wi. — The effect produced could not be natural, as only one was cured at each motion of the waters. The longing expectation of the suffering patients, is a mark of the persevering prayer with which poor sinners should solicit the cure of their spiritual infirmities. A.
Ver. 5. Infirmity. The Greek, asqeneia, signifies in its radical interpretation, a loss of strength: in this place it seems to denote a confirmed palsy.
Ver. 6. Wilt thou be made whole? No doubt but the poor man desired nothing more. Christ put this question, to raise him to a lively faith and hope. Wi.
Ver. 8. Arise, take up thy bed, and walk. The man found himself healed at that very moment, and did as he was ordered, though it was the sabbath-day. The Jews blamed him for it: he told them, that he who had healed him, bade him do so. And who it was he knew not, till Jesus finding him in the temple, said to him: (v. 14.) Sin no more, lest some worse thing happen to thee. Upon this he went, not out of malice, but out of gratitude, and told the Jews that Jesus had cured him. Wi.
Ver. 14. Sin no more, &c. By these words our Saviour shews, that his infirmity was sent in punishment of his sins. When our souls are covered with the leprosy of sin, we are frequently insensible of our misfortune; whereas, as soon as the body is attacked with sickness, though ever so inconsiderable, we are not to be pacified till the physician has been consulted, and some remedy applied to remove, if possible, the complaint. S. Chrys. hom. xxxvii. in Joan. — Men are astonished that God, for so short a pleasure as is found in the perpetration of sin, should have decreed an everlasting punishment in the fire of hell; for they say, Shall I be punished for ever, for having indulged a sinful thought for a single moment? But their astonishment will cease, when they consider that punishments are not inflicted on sins in proportion to the length of time that was spent in their perpetration, but that they are proportioned to their malice. Now the malice of sin being infinite, aimed against the infinite majesty and infinite sanctity of God, the punishment, to be any ways commensurate, must be infinite. If, therefore, the sinner dies charged with the infinite debt of mortal sin unrepented of, as the time of mercy and repentance finishes with the present life, the sin must necessarily remain, God's hatred for sin must necessarily remain, and the punishment justly inflicted must necessarily continue. A. — These words are applicable to every penitent sinner, when he returns from the tribunal of confession, and shew how careful he ought to be not to relapse into his former sins. "For he who after pardon sins again, is unworthy of mercy; who being cured, makes himself sick again, and who being cleansed, defiles himself again." Tom. ii. S. Chrys. de lapsu prim. hom. . .
Ver. 17. My father worketh until now: and I work. The Jews looked upon it of obligation to do nothing on the sabbath, because God is said to have rested the seventh day; on which account the rest on the seventh day was commanded. Christ puts them in mind, that though it be said he rested the seventh day, (that is, produced no more new kinds of creatures) yet that God may be said to work always, by preserving and continually governing the world: and I, saith he, do all things that he doth, I work with him, being one and the same in nature and substance with him: nay, even as man, I do nothing but what is conformable to his will; and so you need not fear that I break the sabbath. — The Christian faith teacheth us, that Jesus Christ was both God and Man. The objections of the ancient and modern Arians, only shew that Christ was also truly a man, and that divers things which he speaks of himself, or which are said of him in the holy Scriptures, apply to him as man. Nothing is more certain, and agreed on by all. But at the same time we ought to take notice, that Christ has affirmed many things of himself, and many things are asserted of him in the Scriptures, which by no means could be applied to him unless he were also truly and properly one and the same God with his eternal Father. And these are the passages by which the Arians and Socinians might be convinced of their errors and blasphemies. Wi. — If Christ had not been the natural Son of God, these words, which he says in excuse of his seeming breach of the sabbath, would rather have increased the strength of their accusation. For no governor, when accused of any crime, excuses himself by saying the king does the same. But as the Son is equal to the Father, his excuse is a true one. S. Chrysos. hom. xxxvii. in Joan. — The rest God entered into after the creation, and which he was pleased to honour by that of the sabbath, is no hinderance to the operations of his power in the preservation of his works, nor to the operations of his grace in the sanctification of souls.
Ver. 18. That God was his Father, making himself equal to God. In divers places of the Old Testament, God is called the Father of the Israelites, and they his children: but here, and on several other occasions, the Jews very well saw, that he called God his Father in a quite different sense from that in which he could be said to be their Father; that his words made him equal to God, and that he made himself God. See John x. 33. John xix. 7. Luke xxii. 70. &c. And therefore S. Augustine says on this verse: (Trac. xvii. in Joan.) Behold the Jews understand what the Arians do not. Wi.
Ver. 19. The Son cannot do any thing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do. In like manner, (v. 30.) Christ says, I can do nothing of myself. As I hear, so I judge. Again (C. viii. 28.) I do nothing of myself; but as the Father hath taught me, I speak these things. All these, and the like expressions, may be expounded, with Maldonat and Petavius, (l. ii. de Trin. c. 4.) of Christ, as man. But the ancient Fathers commonly allowed them to be understood of Christ as God, and as the true Son of God proceeding from him from all eternity; as when it is said, the Son cannot do any thing of himself, it is true, because the eternal Son is not of himself, but always proceeds from the Father. 2. Because the works of all the three Persons, by which all things are produced and preserved, are inseparable. 3. When it is said, that the Son doth nothing, but what he seeth the Father doing: that he heareth, as the Father hath taught him, or shewed to him: these expressions bear not the same sense as when they are applied to men, or to an inferior or a scholar, who learns of his master, and follows him; but here, says S. Aug. to see, to hear, to be taught by the Father, is no more than to proceed from him, to do and produce by the same action, all that the Father doth and produceth. This is the general interpretation of the ancient Fathers: S. Athan. S. Basil, S. Greg. Naz. S. Chrys. S. Cyril, S. Amb. S. Aug. The words immediately following, confirm this exposition, when it is said: For what things soever he (the Father) doth, these also in like manner the Son doth, i.e. the very same things by an unity of nature, of will, and of action: nor could these words be true, unless the Son was the same true God with the Father. Wi. — This must be understood, that he cannot do any thing contrary to the will of the Father. He does not say, "The Son does nothing of himself, but the Son can do nothing of himself, in order to shew their likeness and perfect equality." For by saying this, he does not betray any want of power in the Son; but, on the contrary, shews his great power. For when we say that God cannot sin, we do not esteem it a want of power; so when the Son says he cannot do any thing of himself, his meaning is, that he cannot do any thing contrary to the will of the Father; which certainly is a great perfection. S. Chrys. hom. xxxvii. in Joan.
Ver. 20. Greater works than these will he (the Father) shew him, &c. These words may also, with Mald. be expounded of Christ, as man; but the ancient interpreters understand them of Christ, as God, in this sense, that the Father, and the Son, or the Father by the Son, will shew greater miracles hereafter done by Christ, that more persons may admire and believe. Wi.
Ver. 21. For as the Father . . . giveth life, so also the Son giveth life to whom he will; where these words, to give life to whom he will, shew the power of the Son and of the Father to be equal. Wi. — Our Saviour here mentions the greater works he spoke of in the preceding verse; for it is much more wonderful that the dead should rise, than that the sick should recover their health. We are not to understand these words, as if they meant some were raised to life by the Father, and others by the Son; but that the Father raises those whom the Son raises. And lest any one should understand this, that the Father makes use of the Son as his minister, through whose means he raises the dead, he immediately adds, &c. S. Aug. Tract. xxi. in Joan. — We see the lovers of this temporal and perishable life, labour to the utmost of their power, I will not say to avoid death, but merely to prolong their frail existence. If, therefore, men labour with so much solicitude, if they strain every nerve to prolong their lives but for a few years; how foolish and blind to their interest must those be, who live in such a manner as to be deprived of the light of eternal day! S. Aug. De verb. Dni. Serm. 64.
Ver. 22. Neither doth the Father judge any man. It is certain that God is the Judge of all, by divers places of the holy Scriptures; and to judge, belongs both to the Father and to the Son, as they are the same God: so that when it is added, that the Father hath given all judgment to the Son, this is meant of the exterior exercise of his judgment upon all mankind at the end of the world, in as much as Christ then will return, in his human body, to judge all men, even as man, in their bodies. Wi.
Ver. 24. Hath everlasting life. That is, a title to an eternal inheritance of glory, by believing in the Father, and in the Son, and also in the Holy Ghost, as we are taught to believe at our baptism. Wi.
Ver. 25. The hour cometh . . . when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God. Though some understand this of the rising of Lazarus; others of those that rose with Christ at his resurrection: yet by these words, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, seems rather to be signified the general resurrection at the end of the world; and though it be said, that now is the hour, this may be spoken of the last age of the world; and, as S. John says, (1 Ep. ii. 18.) children, it is the last hour. In fine, some interpreters understand these words of a spiritual resurrection from sin, which Christ came to bring to the world. Wi.
Ver. 27. To execute judgment, because he is the Son of man; or, because, he is God made man, and is to come to judgment in a visible manner, to judge all men. Wi.
Ver. 29. Unto the resurrection of judgment. That is, condemnation. Ch.
Ver. 30. I can do nothing of myself, &c. See v. 19. S. Chrys. also take notice, that it may be no less with truth said of the Father, that he can do nothing of himself, nor without his Son, nor both of them without the Holy Ghost; because both they, and their actions, are inseparable. Wi.
Ver. 31. If I bear witness of myself, &c. Christ tells the Jews elsewhere, (c. viii. 14.) that though he should bear witness of himself, it would be true. But the sense of the words in this place is: I could allow you, that if I only gave testimony of myself you might seem to have some reason to except against my testimony: but now besides my own words, you have had also the testimony of John the Baptist, who divers times witnessed that I am the Messias, and the Son of God, come to take away the sins of the world. 2. You have had the testimony of my eternal Father, particularly at my baptism. 3. You have yet a greater testimony, by the works and miracles wrought before your eyes, and at the same time foretold by the prophets. 4. The prophets, and the Scriptures, which you search, or which I remit you to, to search them diligently, these also bear witness concerning me. Wi.
Ver. 38. You do not observe the commandment he gave you, (Deut. xviii. 15. 19.) of listening to the prophet He would send you.
Ver. 39. Or, You search the Scriptures: (scrutamini; ereunate). It is not a command for all to read the Scriptures; but a reproach to the Pharisees, that reading the Scriptures as they did, and thinking to find everlasting life in them, they would not receive him to whom all those Scriptures gave testimony, and through whom alone they could have that true life. Ch. — This hope is the cause and motive which leads to this study; and eternal life is the end they propose to themselves in it. Hence, from the context and mode of argumentation made use of, the indicative, you search, instead of the imperative mood, search ye, is best supported. Catholics are most unjustly accused of depriving the faithful of the use of the holy Scriptures. The council of Trent, (Sess. v. c. i. de reform.) makes this proviso; that in churches where there exists a prebendary, or benefice, set apart for lectures on sacred Scripture, the bishops, &c. shall compel those holding such benefice to expound the sacred Scriptures themselves, should they be equal to the duty; or, by a proper substitute, chosen by the bishop or local ordinary. Also in monasteries of monks, it is prescribed that if abbots neglect, let the bishops of the places compel their compliance; and in convents where studies can be conveniently prosecuted, let there be also a lecturer on Scripture appointed, to be chosen from the most able professors. Moreover, in public universities, where this most honorable and most necessary of all lectures has not been instituted, let the piety and charity of religious princes and governments provide for it; so that the Catholic faith may be defended and strengthened, and sound doctrine protected and propagated. And where the lecture has been instituted, but discontinued, let it be re-established. Moreover, no one was to be appointed to this office, whose life, morals, and learning had not been examined and approved by the bishop of the place, &c.
Ver. 40. And you will not come to me. Christ now gives them reason why they do not receive him, and his doctrine, nor believe in him; because they are void of the love of God, full of self-love, envy, pride, seeking for praise and glory one from another. Hence you will not receive me, who come in the name of my Father, sent to redeem the world. But if another, such as false prophets, or even Antichrist himself, who will pretend to be the Messias, come in his own name, him you will receive. Wi. — It is proper to remark, that the testimonies here adduced all rise gradually one above another, and make a body of evidence that must leave the incredulous Jews without excuse: for they pay no regard to Jesus Christ himself, nor to John the Baptist, nor to the evidence of miracles, nor to the voice of God, nor to the Scriptures, nor even to Moses himself.