The inward state of Christ’s disciples, when before His passion He talked with them as with children of great things, but in such a way as befitted the great things to be spoken to children, because, having not yet received the Holy Spirit, as they did after His resurrection, either by His own breathing upon them, or by descent from above, they had a mental capacity for the human rather than the divine,—is everywhere declared through the Gospel by numerous testimonies; and of a piece therewith, is what they said in the lesson before us. For, says the evangelist,
“His disciples said to Him, ‘Ah, now You are speaking plainly, not in any proverb! Now we know that You know all things, and need none to question You; by this we believe that You came from God.’”
The Lord Himself had said shortly before, “These things have I spoken unto you in figurative language: the hour comes, when I shall no more speak to you in proverbs.” How, then, say they, “Ah, now You are speaking plainly, not in any proverb!” Was the hour, indeed, already come, when He had promised that He would no longer speak unto them in proverbs? Certainly that hour had not yet come, for it is shown by the continuation of His words, which run in this way: “These things,” He said, “I have spoken unto you in proverbs: the hour will come when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall show you plainly of my Fr.. At that day you shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Fr. for you: for the Fr. Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came from God. I came forth from the Fr., and have come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Fr.” (vv. 25-28).
Seeing that throughout all these words He is still promising that hour when He shall no more speak in proverbs, but shall show them openly of the Fr.; the hour, when He says that they will ask in His name, and that He will not pray the Fr. for them, on the ground that the Fr. Himself loves them, and that they also have loved Christ, and have believed that He came forth from the Fr., and was come into the world, and was again about to leave the world and go to the Fr.: when thus that hour is still the subject of promise when He was to speak without proverbs, why say they, ‘Ah, now You are speaking plainly, not in any proverb;” but just because those things, which He knows to be proverbs to those who have no understanding, they are still so far from understanding, that they do not even understand that they do not understand them? For they were babes, and had as yet no spiritual discernment of what they heard regarding things that had to do not with the body, but with the spirit.
And still further admonishing them of their age as still small and infirm in regard to the inner man. “Jesus answered them, ‘Do you now believe? The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, every man to his home, and will leave me alone; yet I am not alone, for the Fr. is with Me.” He had said shortly before, “I leave the world, and go to the Fr.;” now He says, “The Fr. is with Me.” Who goes to Him who is with Him? This is a word to him that understands, a proverb to him that does not understand.
In this way that which is now incomprehensible to babes, is absorbed somewhat. Even though it did not yield them solid food, which they cannot yet receive, it denies them not at least a milky diet. It was from this diet that they drew the knowledge that He knew all things, and needed not that any one should ask Him. Indeed, this is why they said that this is a topic worthy of inquiry.
For one would think they should have said, “You do not need to ask anyone” instead of “That any one should ask You.” They had just said, “We are sure that You know all things:” and surely He that knows all things is accustomed rather to be questioned by those who do not know, that in reply to their questions they may hear what they wish from Him who knows all things; and not to be Himself the questioner, as if wishing to know something, when He knows all things. What, then, are we to understand by this, that, when apparently they ought to have said to Him, whom they knew to be omniscient, You do not need to ask any man, they considered it more befitting to say, “You do not need any man should ask You”?
Yes, is it not the case that we read of both being done; such that the Lord both asked, and was asked questions? But this latter is speedily answered: for this was needful not for Him, but for those rather whom He questioned, or by whom He was questioned. For He never questioned anyone for the purpose of learning anything from them, but for the purpose rather of teaching them. And for those who put questions to Him, as desirous of learning something of Him, it was assuredly needful to be made acquainted with some things by Him who knew everything. And doubtless on the same account also it was that He needed not that any man should ask Him. As it is the case that we, when questioned by those who wish to get some information from us, discover by their very questionings what it is that they wish to know, we therefore need to be questioned by those whom we wish to teach, in order that we may be acquainted with their inquiries that call for an answer: but He, who knew all things, had no need even of that, and as little need had He of discovering by their questions what it was that any one desired to know of Him, for before a question was put, He knew the intention of him who was to put it. But He suffered Himself to be questioned on this account, that He might show to those who were then present, or to those who should either hear the things that were to be spoken or read them when written, what was the character of those by whom He was questioned; and in this way we might come to know both the frauds that were powerless to impose upon Him, and the ways of approach that would turn to our profit in His sight. But to foresee the thoughts of men, and thus to have no need that any one should ask Him, was no great matter for God, but great enough for the babes, who said to Him, “By this we believe that You came forth from God.”
A much greater thing it was, for the understanding of which He wished to have their minds expanded and enlarged, that, on their saying, and saying truly, “You came forth from God,” He replied, “The Fr. is with Me;” in order that they should not think that the Son had come forth from the Fr. in any sense that would lead them to suppose that He had also withdrawn from His presence.
And then, in bringing to a close this weighty and protracted discourse, He said, “I have said this to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” The beginning of such tribulation was to be found in that whereof, in order to show that they were infants, to whom, as still wanting in intelligence, and mistaking one thing for another, all the great and divine things He had said were little better than proverbs, He had previously said, “Do you now believe? Behold, the hour comes, yes, is now here, that you will be scattered, every man to his own.”
Such, I say, was the beginning of the tribulation, but not in the same measure of their perseverance. For in adding, “and you shall leave Me alone,” He did not mean that they would be of such a character in the subsequent tribulation, which they should have to endure in the world after His ascension, as thus to desert Him; but that in Him they should have peace by still abiding in Him. But on the occasion of His apprehension, not only did they outwardly abandon His bodily presence, but they mentally abandoned their faith. And to this it is that His words have reference, “Do you now believe? Behold, the hour comes, yes, is now here, that you will be scattered, every man to his own.” as if He had said, You will then be so confounded as to leave behind you even what you now believe.
For they fell into such despair and such a death, so to speak, of their old faith, as was apparent in the case of Cleopas, who, after His resurrection, unaware that he was speaking with Himself, and narrating what had befallen Him, said, “We were hoping that it was He who would have redeemed Israel.” That was the way in which they then left Him, abandoning even the very faith wherewith they had formerly believed in Him. But in that tribulation, which they encountered after His glorification and they themselves had received the Holy Spirit, they did not leave Him: and though they fled from city to city, from Himself they did not flee; but in order that, while having tribulation in the world, they might have peace in Him, instead of being fugitives from Him, it was rather Himself that they made their refuge. For in receiving the Holy Spirit, there was wrought in them the very state described to them now in the words, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” They were of good cheer, and they conquered. But in whom, except in Him? The world could not overcome the members of Him who overcame the world. Therefore the apostle said, “Thanks be unto God, who gives us the victory;” and immediately added, “through our Lord Jesus Christ:” through Him who had said to His own, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”