Commentary for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
Explore Sunday’s readings using a wide selection of Catholic and ecumenical commentators with excerpts; Church Fathers; Life Recovery commentary for each of the readings
Explore Sunday’s readings using a wide selection of Catholic and ecumenical commentators with excerpts; Church Fathers; Life Recovery commentary for each of the readings
PREACHING THE LECTIONARY by Reginald Fuller
FIRST READING:The appointment of this reading for today is governed by the parallel between the choice made at Shechem and the choice confronting the disciples after the discourse in John 6. The challenge “Choose this day whom you will serve” parallels “Will you also go away?”; and the response “We will serve the Lord, for he is our God” parallels Peter’s response, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
RESPONSORIAL PSALM: Of this psalm the Jerome Biblical Commentary states: “A wisdom psalm, though it is widely classified as a psalm of thanksgiving.”
SECOND READING:The author’s doctrine of the Church is not built up from below, from a natural understanding of marriage; rather, his understanding of marriage is built from above, from a theological understanding of the mystical union between Christ and his Church.
GOSPEL: Our passage, therefore, is not speaking of the sacrament but of the reception of the revelation of Jesus as the heavenly wisdom, the bread from heaven. In other words, it refers back to John 6:35-50, not to John 6:51c-59, which, as we have seen, are best understood as a later redactional addition.
Today’s Gospel reading concludes the four-week Sunday meditation on the Eucharist from Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse in the 6th chapter of St. John’s Gospel. At the end of His discourse, Jesus challenges the Twelve Apostles to make a choice: will they chose to believe and accept the New Covenant and the promise of eternal life that Jesus offers in His flesh and blood, or will they walk away and return to their former lives before He called them to discipleship.
Joshua’s challenge to the children of Israel, and the announcement of his decision in the First Reading, prefigures the decision of the Twelve Apostles in the Gospel reading. When the Israelites completed the first phase of the conquest of the Promised Land, Joshua allotted territory to the new generation of the twelve tribes who were the holy warrior descendants of the Exodus generation. In the allotment of the land, God’s servant, Joshua, had come to the end of his mission. He called the tribes together for a National Assembly at Shechem in central Canaan and challenged the children of Israel to renew their commitment to the Sinai Covenant. Joshua called upon them to continue the oath they swore to Yahweh to live as a holy people in obedience to all of God’s commands and prohibitions and to reap God’s covenant blessings living in the Promised Land. His challenge was to either renew their oath to the covenant or to relinquish God’s protection and go to serve the false gods of the Canaanites and other Gentile peoples of the region. In making the challenge, Joshua answered for himself and his family saying, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord!” (Josh 24:15). It is a decision every family is still making.
Response: Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.
In the Responsorial Psalm, we repeat the same response from Psalm 34:9, “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord,” that we have been singing since the 19th Sunday. The psalmist has experienced the power of the Lord in his own life in the midst of distress, and he bears witness to the Lord’s faithfulness, deliverance, and protection. Our response invites the liturgical assembly to “taste,” meaning to experience, God’s goodness for themselves by appealing to His mercy and taking refuge in Him through the blessings He gives us by receiving Christ in the sacred communion meal of the Eucharist.
Since the 19th Sunday, we have been singing the same response from Psalm 34:9, “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” The title in verse 1 identifies this as a psalm of David, the first Davidic king of Israel and the ancestor of Jesus (Mt 1:1). The psalmist begins by praising God, and he invites the humble (lowly) in the liturgical assembly to also unite themselves to God (verses 2-3). The other verses in 16-21 give his reasons why the Lord deserves praise.
The psalmist, having experienced the power of the Lord in his own life in the midst of distress, bears witness to the Lord’s faithfulness, deliverance, and protection. Our response, from 34:9, invites the liturgical assembly to “taste,” meaning to experience, God’s goodness for themselves by appealing to God’s mercy and taking refuge in Him. The Gospel of John alludes to verse 21 as a prophecy fulfilled in Jesus’ crucifixion: For this happened so that the scripture passage might be fulfilled: “Not a bone of it will be broken” (Jn 19:36). According to the Law, the bones of a Passover victim must not be broken for the sacrifice to be acceptable (Ex 12:46). Jesus was humanity’s Passover sacrifice, redeeming us from eternal death just as God saved the firstborn Israelites from death when they were obedient to God’s command and covered their doors with the blood of the Passover victims in the sign of a cross from their thresholds to their lintels and two doorposts in the first Passover.
In the Second Reading, St. Paul encourages the Ephesian Christians to be imitators of Christ by demonstrating love to others in the same way that Christ loves them. He uses marital love as a metaphor for the love between Jesus and His Church. Paul urges Christians to demonstrate a strong and unselfish mutual love, especially in their marital relationship. In making the comparison between the marriage of a woman and a man and Christ and the Church, Paul makes these two concepts complement and illuminate each other. Christ is the husband of the Church because, as the Head of the Body of Christ, He loves the Church like a man loves his wife and takes the Church as His Bride in the Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist.
The Gospel Reading reminds us that we declare our commitment to the New Covenant in Christ Jesus through the Sacraments Jesus gave us, especially in the Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist. As we heard in the Second Reading, Jesus gave us the Sacrament of Baptism so that we might be sanctified/made holy by Christ the Bridegroom through a spiritual rebirth by water and the Spirit as cherished members of the Bride of Christ that is the Church. And, it is through the Eucharist that we continually renew our covenant commitment, as He nourishes us with His own Body and Blood on our journey through earthly life to the Promised Land of Heaven. Therefore, every generation must answer the same challenge Jesus made to His disciples. In the Mass, you declare your faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior as you make your way to the altar to renew your covenant commitment by receiving Christ in the Eucharist. Have the commitment of Joshua by announcing “I will serve the Lord,” the courage of St. Peter in declaring “We have come to believe that You are the Holy One of God!” and have faith in the words of the Psalmist who calls us to “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord,” for He “redeems the lives of His loyal servants!” (Ps 34:9, 23).
JOB 38:2–39:30 God used a series of questions to illustrate how little Job knew about creation and God’s ways. If Job knew nothing of these mysteries, how could he know anything about God’s character? All Job could do was worship and trust God.
We, too, wonder why we suffer. We wonder why bad things happen to us and those we love. But like Job, we are finite and cannot understand the ways of our infinite God. All we can do is praise him and await his deliverance.
Then I will appoint responsible shepherds who will care for them, and they will never be afraid again. Not a single one will be lost or missing. I, the LORD, have spoken!
JER 23:1-4 Shepherds—the leaders of God’s people—who were supposed to care for God’s “sheep” had scattered and forsaken them. Since Judah’s leaders had led God’s people astray, God promised to punish the leaders and gather his people “back to their own sheepfold.” He vowed to place them in the care of responsible shepherds who would love and tend them. Jesus is our good shepherd, loving us and tending us as his flock (see John 10:1-18).
If we are willing to seek out and follow his will for our life, there is hope for us, no matter how far we may have strayed.
Joshua 24:14 NLT
“So fear the LORD and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD alone.
JOSHUA 24:14-18 Joshua concluded by challenging the people to serve the true God and to reject the gods their ancestors had so foolishly served in the wilderness and in Egypt. He then mockingly suggested that if the people were so unwise as to not worship the God of Israel as the only true God, then they should choose to serve either the gods of the Euphrates region or the gods of those heathen nations living in the Promised Land. Joshua and his family, however, would serve the God of Israel. The people responded positively to Joshua’s challenge and declared their undying commitment to the one true God.
Each day we make a decision whom we will serve, either God or this world. What a wonderful experience to be able to firmly assert that you will serve only the Lord!
JOSHUA 24:14-18– A Meru proverb from Kenya says, Niku gwatuka maguru ta mbiti, meaning, “This is how to split your legs like the hyena.” A story is told that a hyena spotted a goat grazing in a field and gave chase. The goat ran for its life. It arrived at a fork on the path and took one. When the hyena got to the same junction, he could not decide which path to take. He told himself, “If I take this one, I may miss the goat. But if I take the other one I may miss the goat.” He kept thinking about it, giving the goat time to get home to safety.
Finally, the hyena, not wanting to choose one path and risk losing the goat, decided to take both paths! After a short distance, he tore himself in the middle and died.
Many things compete for our attention and affection. The world lures us with alcohol, wealth through corruption, adultery, love of power and money, and many other temptations. Like the hyena, many Christians are caught in the middle, wanting both what the world has to offer and also wanting God’s blessing (Matthew 7:13-14).
Joshua told the Israelites that they must put away the gods whom their forefathers had served on the other side of the river and in Egypt. He implored them to serve the Lord, but then left the final decision to them by saying “Choose today whom you will serve.” But then Joshua added, “As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).
Psalm 34:2 NLT
I will boast only in the LORD; let all who are helpless take heart.
PSALM 34:1-7 When we experience deliverance through God’s power, it should be natural for us to praise him and share the good news with others. If we care about other people who suffer as we did, we would be selfish not to tell how God has delivered us. Boasting about our God and the help he has given us is one kind of boasting that is good. This kind of godly boasting will not only encourage others in the recovery process, but it will also strengthen our faith in God.
Ephesians 5:25 NLT
For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her
Ephesians 5:21-33 When our life is out of control, family tensions and conflict are common. Paul tells us that the home should be a place where love and mutual respect are shown. Husbands and wives should love each other and be sensitive to each other’s needs, showing the same love Christ showed the church. The painful consequences of our addiction are felt most deeply by our family. By selfishly seeking to meet our own needs through addictive behavior, we have neglected and hurt the people it was our responsibility to love and support. Rebuilding family relationships is one of the most important tasks we face in recovery. As we admit the nature of our wrongs and seek to make amends to our loved ones, we can begin to reestablish a family atmosphere of love and mutual respect.
EPHESIANS 5:21-32 – Self-actualization or self-fulfillment is not the opposite of self-denial. Self-denial, according to Jesus, is the only road to self-fulfilment. We save our lives by losing them for Christ’s sake. Willingness to be “last” makes us “first.” Again, it must be made clear—if we are to have a creative, redemptive understanding of submission—that self-denial is not the same thing as self-contempt. Unfortunately, some expressions of Christian piety have equated the two. To a marked degree, the monastic movement was a world-denying, self-mortification movement that stimulated an ascetic spirituality in which the flesh was evil and had to be “whipped” into subjection to the Spirit. This was rooted in a misunderstanding of Paul’s teaching about “flesh and spirit” (see commentary on Gal. 2:17–21), and denied God’s affirmation of His creation as good. Thus, self-denial issued in self-contempt. To practice self-denial out of a stance of self-contempt never produces the abundant life of joy which is the birthright of persons in Christ.
Jesus made the ability to love ourselves the foundation for loving and reaching out to others (Matt. 22:39). Self-contempt says we have no worth; self-denial declares that we are of infinite worth—as are others—and life is found in the rhythm of affirming ourselves and others in the act of “loving others as ourselves.” It is in this context that submission is to be understood and practiced.
Submission is an ethical theme that runs throughout the New Testament. It is to be the posture of all Christians because we are to follow the crucified Lord who emptied himself to become the servant of all. Submission is the cross-style to which we are called. Jesus not only died a cross-death, He lived a cross-life of submission and service.
John 6:68 NLT
Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.
John 6:68-69 Sales pitches for enticing products assault us daily. Publishers’ sweepstakes, lottery games, television specials, political causes, religious gurus all call for our time, money, and devotion. They promise to give us what we need and desire. When all is said and done, however, we are left with Peter’s question, “Lord, to whom would we go?”
Jesus is the answer to our every need—including recovery. He alone can deliver us from our powerful addiction or compulsion. He alone deserves our total commitment.
JOHN 6:60-69 The real presence of Christ, whether in the liturgy of sacrament or in the sacramentality of everyday life, is the only real power available to us in pastoral ministry. We do not wield this power as an instrument, but we allow ourselves to be wielded by it. The spiritual presence of the living Christ, in and through the body of—and the bodies of—believers, is life-giving to the world. The descending of the Son of Man into the flesh (sarx) demonstrates that the flesh is not useless when animated by the Spirit (pneuma). If we were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before (v. 62), we would know him to be the Word that was in the beginning, through whom all things came into being, and by whom all flesh is infused with eternal life (1:1–4, 14).
What may often feel to us like useless, powerless flesh contains more than meets the eye, more than is felt in the bones. We demonstrate the reality of this living Word through the pastoral ministry of the church and through the earthly, fleshly presence of the body of believers in the world, when we enter into places of suffering where life is ebbing away, or is stagnant, or has been permanently scarred or brutally ended. The church does not enter these contexts so much with clear statements of meaning as with a profound personal presence, with a spiritual life that flows in a region deeper than rational comprehension. The living Word begets belief that is more relationship than comprehension, more trust than intellectual assent.
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60. Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?
61. When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?
62. What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?
63. It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
64. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.
65. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.
66. From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
67. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?
68. Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.
69. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.
70. Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?
71. He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxvii. 2) Such is our Lord’s discourse. The people did not perceive that it had a deep meaning, or, that grace went along with it: but receiving the matter in their own way, and taking His words in a human sense, understood Him as if He spoke of cutting of the flesh of the Word into pieces, for distribution to those who believed on Him: Many therefore, not of His enemies, but even of His disciples, when they heard this, said, This is an hard saying, who can hear it?
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlvii. 2) i. e. difficult to receive, too much for their weakness. They thought He spoke above Himself, and more loftily than He had a right to do; and so said they, Who can bear it? which was answering in fact for themselves, that they could not.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxvii. 2) And if His disciples thought that saying hard, what would His enemies think? Yet it was necessary to declare a thing, which would be unintelligible to men. God’s mysteries should draw men’s attention, not enmity.
THEOPHYLACT. When you hear, however, of His disciples murmuring, understand not those really such, but rather some who, as far as their air and behaviour went, seemed to be receiving instruction from Him. For among His disciples were some of the people, who were called such, because they stayed some time with His disciples.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxvii. 3) They spoke, however, so as not to be heard by Him. But He, who knew what was in them, heard within Himself: When Jesus knew within Himself that His disciples murmured at it, He said unto them, Doth this offend you?
ALCUIN. i. e. that I said, you should eat My flesh, and drink My blood.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlvii. 2) The revelation however of these hidden things was a mark of His Divinity: hence the meaning of what follows; And if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where He was before; supply, What will ye say? He said the same to Nathanael, Because I said to thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? Thou shalt see greater things than these. He does not add difficulty to difficulty, but to convince them by the number and greatness of His doctrines. For if He had merely said that He came down from heaven, without adding any thing further, he would have offended His hearers more; but by saying that His flesh is the life of the world, and that as He was sent by the living Father, so He liveth by the Father; and at last by adding that He came down from heaven, He removed all doubt. Nor does He mean to scandalize His disciples, but rather to remove their scandal. For so long as they thought Him the Son of Joseph, they could not receive His doctrines; but if they once believed that He had come down from heaven, and would ascend thither, they would be much more willing and able to admit them.
AUGUSTINE. Or, these words are an answer to their mistake. They supposed that He was going to distribute His body in bits: whereas He tells them now, that He should ascend to heaven whole and entire: What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where He was before? ye will then see that He does not distribute His body in the way ye think. Again; Christ became the Son of man, of the Virgin Mary here upon earth, and took flesh upon Him: He says then, What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where He was before? to let us know that Christ, God and man, is one person, not two; and the object of one faith, not a quaternity, but a Trinity. He was the Son of man in heaven, as He was Son of God upon earth; the Son of God upon earth by assumption of the flesh, the Son of man in heaven, by the unity of the person.
THEOPHYLACT. Do not suppose from this that the body of Christ came down from heaven, as the heretics Marcion and Apollinarius say; but only that the Son of God and the Son of man are one and the same.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlvii. 3) He tries to remove their difficulties in another way, as follows, It is the spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing: that is to say, You ought to understand My words in a spiritual sense: he who understands them carnally is profited nothing. To interpret carnally is to take a proposition in its bare literal meaning, and allow no other. But we should not judge of mysteries in this way; but examine them with the inward eye; i. e. understand them spiritually. It was carnal to doubt how our Lord could give His flesh to eat. What then? Is it not real flesh? Yea, verily. In saying then that the flesh profiteth nothing, He does not speak of His own flesh, but that of the carnal hearer of His word.
AUGUSTINE. (Tract. xxvii. s. 5) Or thus, the flesh profiteth nothing. They had understood by His flesh, as it were, of a carcase, that was to be cut up, and sold in the shambles, not of a body animated by the spirit. Join the spirit to the flesh, and it profiteth much: for if the flesh profited not, the Word would not have become flesh, and dwelt among us. The Spirit hath done much for our salvation, by means of the flesh.
AUGUSTINE. For the flesh does not cleanse of itself, but by the Word who assumed it: which Word, being the principle of life in all things, having taken up soul and body, cleanseth the souls and bodies of those that believe. It is the spirit, then, that quickeneth: the flesh profiteth nothing; i. e. the flesh as they understood it. I do not, He seems to say, give My body to be eaten in this sense. He ought not to think of the flesh carnally: The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlvii. 2) i. e. are spiritual, have nothing carnal in them, produce no effects of the natural sort; not being under the dominion of that law of necessity, and order of nature established on earth.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxvii) If then thou understandest them spiritually, they are life and spirit to thee: if carnally, even then they are life and spirit, but not to thee. Our Lord declares that in eating His body, and drinking His blood, we dwell in Him, and He in us. But what has the power to affect this, except love? The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, which is given to us. (Rom. 5:5)
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlvii. 2) Having spoken of His words being taken carnally, He adds, But there are some of you that believe not. Some, He says, not including His disciples in the number. This insight shews His high nature.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxvii. s. 7) He says not, There are some among you who understand not; but gives the reason why they do not understand. The Prophet said, Except ye believe, ye shall not understanda. (Is. 7:9) For how can he who opposes be quickened? An adversary, though he avert not his face, yet closes his mind to the ray of light which should penetrate him. But let men believe, and open their eyes, and they will be enlightened.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlvii. 2) To let you know that it was before these words, and not after, that the people murmured and were offended, the Evangelist adds, For Jesus knew from the beginning, who they were that believed not, and who should betray Him.
THEOPHYLACT. The Evangelist wishes to shew us, that He knew all things before the foundation of the world: which was a proof of His divinity.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxvii. 7) And after distinguishing those who believed from those who did not believe, our Lord gives the reason of the unbelief of the latter, And He said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto Me, except it were given him of My Father.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlvi. 2) As if He said, Men’s unbelief does not disturb or astonish Me: I know to whom the Father hath given to come to Me. He mentions the Father, to shew first that He had no eye to His own glory; secondly, that God was His Father, and not Joseph.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxvii. 7) So then (our) faith is given to us: and no small gift it is. Wherefore rejoice if thou believest; but be not lifted up, for what hast thou which thou didst not receive? (1 Cor. 4:7.) And that this grace is given to some, and not to others, no one can doubt, without going against the plainest declarations of Scripture. As for the question, why it is not given to all, this cannot disquiet the believer, who knows that in consequence of the sin of one man, all are justly liable to condemnation; and that no blame could attach to God, even if none were pardoned; it being of His great mercy only that so many are. And why He pardons one rather than another, rests with Him, whose judgments are unsearchable, and His ways past finding out.
And from that time many of the disciples went back, and walked no more with Him.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlvii. 3) He does not say, withdrewb, but went back, i. e. from being good hearers, from the belief which they once had.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxvii. 8) Being cut off from the body, their life was gone. They were no longer in the body; they were created among the unbelieving. There went back not a few, but many alter Satan, not alter Christ; as the Apostle says of some women, For some had already turned aside after Satan. (1 Tim. 5:15). Our Lord says to Peter, Get thee behind Me. He does not tell Peter to go after Satan.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlvi. 2) But it may be asked, what reason was there for speaking words to them which did not edify, but might rather have injured them? It was very useful and necessary; for this reason, they had been just now urgent in petitioning for bodily food, and reminding Him of that which had been given to their fathers. So He reminds them here of spiritual food; to shew that all those miracles were typical. They ought not then to have been offended, but should have enquired of Him further. The scandal was owing to their fatuity, not to the difficulty of the truths declared by our Lord.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxvii. 8) And perhaps this took place for our consolation; since it sometimes happens that a man says what is true, and what He says is not understood, and they which hear are offended and go. Then the man is sorry he spoke what was true; for he says to himself, I ought not to have spoken it; and yet our Lord was in the same case. He spoke the truth, and destroyed many. But He is not disturbed at it, because He knew from the beginning which would believe. We, if this happens to us, are disturbed. Let us desire consolation then from our Lord’s example; and withal use caution in our speech.
BEDE. Our Lord knew well the intentions of the other disciples which stayed, as to staying or going; but yet He put the question to them, in order to prove their faith, and hold it up to imitation: Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlvii. 3) This was the right way to retain them. Had He praised them, they would naturally, as men do, have thought that they were conferring a favour upon Christ, by not leaving Him: by shewing, as He did, that He did not need their company, He made them hold the more closely by Him. He does not say, however, Go away, as this would have been to cast them off, but asks whether they wished to go away; thus preventing their staying with Him from any feeling of shame or necessity: for to stay from necessity would be the same as going away. Peter, who loved his brethren, replies for the whole number, Lord, to whom shall we go?
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxvii. s. 9) As if he said, Thou castest us from Thee: give us another to whom we shall go, if we leave Thee.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlvii. 3) A speech of the greatest love: proving that Christ was more precious to them than father or mother. And that it might not seem to be said, from thinking that there was no one whose guidance they could look to, he adds, Thou hast the words of eternal life: which shewed that he remembered his Master’s words, I will raise Him up, and, hath eternal life. The Jews said, Is not this the Son of Joseph? how differently Peter: We believe and are sure, that Thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxvii. s. 9) For we believed, in order to know. Had we wished first to know, and then to believe, we could never have been able to believe. This we believe, and know, that Thou art the Christ the Son of God; i. e. that Thou art eternal life, and that in Thy flesh and blood Thou givest what Thou art Thyself.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlvii. 3) Peter however having said, We believe, our Lord excepts Judas from the number of those who believed: Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? i. e. Do not suppose that, because you have followed Me, I shall not reprove the wicked among you. It is worth enquiring, why the disciples say nothing here, whereas afterwards they ask in fear, Lord, is it I? (Matt. 26:22) But Peter had not yet been told, Get thee behind Me, Satan; (Mat. 16:23) and therefore had as yet no fear of this sort. Our Lord however does not say here, One of you shall betray Me, but, is a devil: so that they did not know what the speech meant, and thought that it was only a case of wickedness in general, that He was reproving. The Gentiles on the subject of election blame Christ foolishly. His election does not impose any necessity upon the person with respect to the future, but leaves it in the power of His will to be saved or perish.
BEDE. Or we must say, that He elected the eleven for one purpose, the twelfth for another: the eleven to fill the place of Apostles, and persevere in it unto the end; the twelfth to the service of betraying Him, which was the means of saving the human race.
AUGUSTINE. (Tr. xxvii. s. 10) He was elected to be an involuntary and unconscious instrument of producing the greatest good. For as the wicked turn the good works of God to an evil use, so reversely God turns the evil works of man to good. What can be worse than what Judas did? Yet our Lord made a good use of his wickedness; allowing Himself to be betrayed, that He might redeem us. In, Have I not chosen you twelve, twelve seems to be a sacred number used in the case of those, who were to spread the doctrine of the Trinity through the four quarters of the world. Nor was the virtue of that number impaired, by one perishing; inasmuch as another was substituted in his room.
GREGORY. (Moral. 1. xiii. c. xxxiv.) One of you is a devil: the bodyb is here named after its head.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xlvii. 4) Mark the wisdom of Christ: He neither, by exposing him, makes him shameless and contentious; nor again emboldens him, by allowing him to think himself concealed.
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