At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, Fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing, and not one of them shall fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: better are you than many sparrows. Every one therefore that shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father Who is in Heaven. But he that shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father Who is in Heaven.
Verse 28. Fear not those that, &c. Men are afraid of a prison, yet they are not afraid of hell fire. They fear temporal punishments, but dread not the torments of eternal fire. S. Austin in Baradius. — He who continually fears hell, will never fall into it; but he who is negligent, will undoubtedly fall. S. Chrys. in Baradius.
Verse 29. Are not two sparrows? The sense is, sparrows are of very small value, and yet divine Providence defends and feeds them; how much more, therefore, will not God take care of you, who so far excel them? No one, therefore, will be able to rob you of life without God’s permission. M.
Verse 30. The very hairs, &c. God numbers not the hairs of our heads after the manner of men: but by this our Saviour shews the infinite knowledge the Almighty has of all things, and the goodness of his Providence, watching over every, even the most minute part of the creation. S. Chrysostom. hom. xxxv.
Verse 31. Fear not therefore, &c. Here Christ admonishes us, in our greatest undertakings, to put our trust in God. S. Bernard.
26. Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. 27. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. 28. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
REMIGIUS. To the foregoing consolation He adds another no less, saying, Fear ye not them, namely, the persecutors. And why they were not to fear, He adds, For there is nothing hid which shall not be revealed, nothing secret which shall not be known.
JEROME. How is it then that in the present world, the sins of so many are unknown? It is of the time to come that this is said; the time when God shall judge the hidden things of men, shall enlighten the hidden places of darkness, and shall make manifest the secrets of hearts. The sense is, Fear not the cruelty of the persecutor, or the rage of the blasphemer, for there shall come a day of judgment in which your virtue and their wickedness will be made known.
HILARY. Therefore neither threatening, nor evil speaking, nor power of their enemies should move them, seeing the judgment-day will disclose how empty, how nought all these were.
CHRYSOSTOM. Otherwise; It might seem that what is here said should be applied generally; but it is by no means intended as a general maxim, but is spoken solely with reference to what had gone before with this meaning; If you are grieved when men revile you, think that in a little time you will be delivered from this evil. They call you indeed impostors, sorcerers, seducers, but have a little patience, and all men shall call you the saviours of the world, when in the course of things you shall be found to have been their benefactors, for men will not judge by their words but by the truth of things.
REMIGIUS. Some indeed think that these words convey a promise from our Lord to His disciples, that through them all hidden mysteries should be revealed, which lay beneath the veil of the letter of the Law; whence the Apostle speaks, When they have turned to Christ, then the veil shall be taken away. (2 Cor 3:16.) So the sense would be, Ought you to fear your persecutors, when you are thought worthy that by you the hidden mysteries of the Law and the Prophets should be made manifest?
CHRYSOSTOM. Then having delivered them from all fear, and set them above all calumny, He follows this up appropriately with commanding that their preaching should be free and unreserved; What I say to you in darkness, that speak ye in the light; what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.
JEROME. We do not read that the Lord was wont to discourse to them by night, or to deliver his doctrine in the dark; but He said this because all His discourse is dark to the carnal, and His word night to the unbelieving. What had been spoken by Him they were to deliver again with the confidence of faith and confession.
REMIGIUS. The meaning therefore is, What I say to you in darkness, that is, among the unbelieving Jews, that speak ye in the light, that is, preach it to the believing; what ye hear in the ear, that is, what I say unto you secretly, that preach ye upon the housetops, that is, openly before all men. It is a common phrase, To speak in one’s ear, that is, to speak to him privately.
RABANUS. And what He says, Preach ye upon the housetops, is spoken after the manner of the province of Palestine, where they use to sit upon the roofs of the houses, which are not pointed but flat. That then may be said to be preached upon the housetops which is spoken in the hearing of all men.
GLOSS. (ord.) Otherwise; What I say unto you while you are yet held under carnal fear, that speak ye in the confidence of truth, after ye shall be enlightened by the Holy Spirit; what you have only heard, that preach by doing the same, being raised above your bodies, which are the dwellings of your souls.
JEROME. Otherwise; What you hear in mystery, that teach in plainness of speech; what I have taught you in a corner of Judæa, that proclaim boldly in all quarters of the world.
CHRYSOSTOM. As He said, He that believeth on me, the works that I do he shall do also, and greater things than these shall he do; (John 14:12.) so here He shews that He works all things through them more than through Himself; as though He had said, I have made a beginning, but what is beyond, that I will to complete through your means. So that this is not a command but a prediction, shewing them that they shall overcome all things.
HILARY. Therefore they ought to inculcate constantly the knowledge of God, and the profound secret of evangelic doctrine, to be revealed by the light of preaching; having no fear of those who have power only over the body, but cannot reach the soul; Fear not those that kill the body, but cannot kill the soul.
CHRYSOSTOM. Observe how He sets them above all others, encouraging them to set at nought cares, reproaches, perils, yea even the most terrible of all things, death itself, in comparison of the fear of God. But rather fear him, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
JEROME. This word is not found in the Old Scriptures, but it is first used by the Saviour. Let us enquire then into its origin. We read in more than one place that the idol Baal was near Jerusalem, at the foot of Mount Moriah, by which the brook Siloc flows. This valley and a small level plain was watered and woody, a delightful spot, and a grove in it was consecrated to the idol. To so great folly and madness had the people of Israel come, that, forsaking the neighbourhood of the Temple, they offered their sacrifices there, and concealing an austere ritual under a voluptuous life, they burned their sons in honour of a dæmon. This place was called Gehennom, that is, The valley of the children of Hinnom. These things are fully described in Kings and Chronicles, and the Prophet Jeremiah. (2 Kings 23:10. 2 Chron. 28:3. Jer. 7:32; 32:35.) God threatens that He will fill the place with the carcases of the dead, that it be no more called Tophet and Baal, but Polyandrion, i. e. The tomb of the dead. Hence the torments and eternal pains with which sinners shall be punished are signified by this word.
AUGUSTINE. (De Civ. Dei, xiii. 2.) This cannot be before the soul is so joined to the body, that nothing may sever them. Yet it is rightly called the death of the soul, because it does not live of God; and the death of the body, because though man does not cease to feel, yet because this his feeling has neither pleasure, nor health, but is a pain and a punishment, it is better named death than life.
CHRYSOSTOM. Note also, that He does not hold out to them deliverance from death, but encourages them to despise it; which is a much greater thing than to be rescued from death; also this discourse aids in fixing in their minds the doctrine of immortality.
29. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. 30. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.
CHRYSOSTOM. Having set aside fear of death, that the Apostles should not think that if they were put to death they were deserted by God, He passes to discourse of God’s providence, saying, Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing, and one of them does not fall to the ground without your Father?
JEROME. If these little creations fall not without God’s superintendence and providence, and if things made to perish, perish not without God’s will, you who are immortal ought not to fear that you live without His providence.
HILARY. Figuratively; That which is sold is our soul and body, and that to which it is sold, is sin. They then who sell two sparrows for a farthing, are they who sell themselves for the smallest sin, born for flight, and for reaching heaven with spiritual wings. (vid. Ps. 124:7.) Caught by the bait of present pleasures, and sold to the enjoyment of the world, they barter away their whole selves in such a market. It is of the will of God that one of them rather soar aloft; but the law proceeding according to God’s appointment decrees that one of them should fall. In like manner as, if they soared aloft they would become one spiritual body; so, when sold under sin, the soul gathers earthly matter from the pollution of vice, and there is made of them one body which is committed to earth.
JEROME. That He says, The hairs of your head are all numbered, shews the boundless providence of God towards man, and a care unspeakable that nothing of ours is hid from God.
HILARY. For when any thing is numbered it is carefully watched over.
CHRYSOSTOM. Not that God reckons our hairs, but to shew His diligent knowledge, and great carefulness over us.
JEROME. Those who deny the resurrection of the flesh ridicule the sense of the Church on this place, as if we affirmed that every hair that has ever been cut off by the razor rises again, when the Saviour says, Every hair of your head—not is saved, but—is numbered. Where there is number, knowledge of that number is implied, but not preservation of the same hairs.
AUGUSTINE. (De Civ. Dei, xxii. 19.) Though we may fairly enquire concerning our hair, whether all that has ever been shorn from us will return; for who would not dread such disfigurement. When it is once understood that nothing of our body shall be lost, so as that the form and perfectness of all the parts should be preserved, we at the same time understand that all that would have disfigured our body is to be united or taken up by the whole mass, not affixed to particular parts so as to destroy the frame of the limbs; just as a vessel made of clay, and again reduced to clay, is once more reformed into a vessel, it needs not that that portion of clay which had formed the handle should again form it, or that which had composed the bottom, should again go to the bottom, so long as the whole was remoulded into the whole, the whole clay into the whole vessel, no part being lost. Wherefore if the hair so often shorn away would be a deformity if restored to the place it had been taken from, it will not be restored to that place, but all the materials of the old body will be revived in the new, whatever place they may occupy so as to preserve the mutual fitness of parts. Though what is said in Luke, Not a hair of your head shall fall to the ground, (Luke 21:18.) may be taken of the number, not the length of the hairs, as here also it is said, The hairs of your head are all numbered.
HILARY. For it is an unworthy task to number things that are to perish. Therefore that we should know that nothing of us should perish, we are told that our very hairs are numbered. No accident then that can befal our bodies is to be feared; thus He adds, Fear not, ye are better than many sparrows.
JEROME. This expresses still more clearly the sense as it was above explained, that they should not fear those who can kill the body, for if the least animal falls not without God’s knowledge, how much less a man who is dignified with the Apostolic rank?
HILARY. Or this, ye are better than many sparrows, teaches that the elect faithful are better than the multitude of the unbelieving, for the one fall to earth, the other fly to heaven.
REMIGIUS. Figuratively; Christ is the head, the Apostles the hairs, who are well said to be numbered, because the names of the saints are written in heaven.
32. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. 33. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
CHRYSOSTOM. The Lord having banished that fear which haunted the minds of His disciples, adds further comfort in what follows, not only casting out fear, but by hope of greater rewards encouraging them to a free proclamation of the truth, saying, Every man who shall confess me before men, I also will confess him before my Father which is in heaven. And it is not properly shall confess me, but as it is in the Greek, shall confess in me, shewing that it is not by your own strength but by grace from above, that you confess Him whom you do confess.
HILARY. This He says in conclusion, because it behoves them after being confirmed by such teaching, to have a confident freedom in confessing God.
REMIGIUS. Here is to be understood that confession of which the Apostle speaks, With the heart men believe unto justification, with the month confession is made unto salvation. (Rom. 10:10.) That none therefore might suppose that he could be saved without confession of the mouth, He says not only, He that shall confess me, but adds, before men; and again, He that shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.
HILARY. This teaches us, that in what measure we have borne witness to Him upon earth, in the same shall we have Him to bear witness to us in heaven before the face of God the Father.
CHRYSOSTOM. Here observe that the punishment is manifold more than the evil done, and the reward more than the good done. As much as to say, your deed was more abundant in confessing or denying Me here; so shall My deed to you-ward be more abundant in confessing or denying you there. Wherefore if you have done any good thing, and have not received retribution, be not troubled, for a manifold reward awaits you in the time to come. And if you have done any evil, and have not paid the punishment thereof, do not think that you have escaped, for punishment will overtake you, unless you are changed and become better.
RABANUS. It should be known that not even Pagans can deny the existence of God, but the infidels may deny that the Son as well as the Father is God. The Son confesses men before the Father, because by the Son we have access to the Father, and because the Son saith, Come, ye blessed of my Father. (Mat. 25:34.)
REMIGIUS. And thus He will deny the man that hath denied Him, in that he shall not have access to the Father through Him, and shall be banished from seeing either the Son or the Father in their divine nature.
CHRYSOSTOM. He not only requires faith which is of the mind, but confession which is by the mouth, that He may exalt us higher, and raise us to a more open utterance, and a larger measure of love. For this is spoken not to the Apostles only, but to all; He gives strength not to them only, but to their disciples. And he that observes this precept will not only teach with free utterance, but will easily convince all; for the observance of this command drew many to the Apostles.
RABANUS. Or, He confesses Jesus who by that faith that worketh by love, obediently fulfils His commands; he denies Him who is disobedient.