Commentary on the Feast of the Apostles by Saint John Chrysostom

SaintPeterAndSaintPaul.jpg“And when He had called unto Him,” it saith, “His twelve disciples,
He gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal
all manner of sickness, and all manner of disease.”

Still the Spirit was not yet given. For “there was not yet,” it
saith, “a Spirit, because that Jesus was not yet glorified.” How
then did they cast out the spirits? By His command, by His authority.

And mark, I pray thee, also, how well timed was the mission. For not at
the beginning did He send them; but when they had enjoyed sufficiently the
advantage of following Him, and had seen a dead person raised, and the sea
rebuked, and devils expelled, and a paralytic new-strung, and sins
remitted, and a leper cleansed, and had received a sufficient proof of His
power, both by deeds and words, then He sends them forth: and not to
dangerous acts, for as yet there was no danger in Palestine, but they had
only to stand against evil speakings. However, even of this He forewarns
them, I mean of their perils; preparing them even before the time, and
making them feel as in conflict by His continual predictions of that sort.

Then, since He had mentioned to us two pairs of apostles, that of
Peter, and that of John, and after those had pointed out the calling of
Matthew, but had said nothing to us either of the calling or of the name
of the other apostles; here of necessity He sets down the list of them,
and their number, and makes known their names, saying thus:

“Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; first, Simon, who is
called Peter.”

Because there was also another Simon, the Canaanite; and there was Judas
Iscariot, and Judas the brother of James; and James the son of Alphaeus,
and James the son of Zebedee.

Now Mark doth also put them according to their dignity; for after the two
leaders, He then numbers Andrew; but our evangelist not so, but without
distinction; or rather He sets before himself even Thomas who came far
short of him.

But let us look at the list of them from the beginning.

“First, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother.”

Even this is no small praise. For the one he named from his virtue, the
other from his high kindred, which was in conformity to his disposition.

Then, “James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother.”

Seest thou how He arranges them not according to their dignity. For to me
John seems to be greater, not only than the others, but even than his

After this, when he had said, “Philip, and Bartholomew,” he
added, “Thomas, and Matthew the Publican.”

But Luke not so, but in the opposite order, and he puts him before Thomas

Next, “James the son of Alphaeus.” For there was, as I have
already said, the son of Zebedee also. Then after having mentioned “Lebbaeus,
whose surname was Thaddaeus,” and “Simon” Zelotes, whom he
calls also “the Canaanite,” he comes to the traitor. And not as
a sort of enemy or foe, but as one writing a history, so hath he described
him. He saith not, “the unholy, the all unholy one,” but hath
named him from his city, “Judas Iscariot.” Because there was
also another Judas, “Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus,”
who, Luke saith, was the brother of James, saying, “Judas the brother
of James.” Therefore to distinguish him from this man, it saith,
“Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.” And he is not ashamed
to say, “who also betrayed Him.” So far were they from ever
disguising aught even of those things that seem to be matters of reproach.

And first of all, and leader of the choir, is the “unlearned, the
ignorant man.”

But let us see whither, and to whom, He sends them.

“These twelve,” it is said, “Jesus sent forth.”

What manner of men were these? The fishermen, the publicans: for indeed
four were fishermen and two publicans, Matthew and James, and one was even
a traitor. And what saith He to them? He presently charges them, saying,

“Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the
Samaritans enter ye not; but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of

“For think not at all,” saith He, “because they insult me,
and call me demoniac, that I hate them and turn away from them. Nay, as I
sought earnestly to amend them in the first place, so keeping you away
from all the rest, to them do I send you as teachers and physicians. And I
not only forbid you to preach to others before these, but I do not suffer
you so much as to touch upon the road that leads thither, nor to enter
into such a city.” Because the Samaritans too are in a state of
enmity with the Jews. And yet it was an easier thing to deal with them,
for they were much more favorably disposed to the faith; but the case of
these was more difficult. But for all this, He sends them on the harder
task, indicating his guardian care of them, and stopping the mouths of the
Jews, and preparing the way for the teaching of the apostles, that people
might not hereafter blame them for “entering in to men
uncircumcised,” and think they had a just cause for shunning and
abhorring them. And he calls them “lost,” not “stray,”
“sheep,” in every way contriving how to excuse them, and whining
their mind to himself.

6. “And as ye go,” saith He, “preach, saying, The kingdom
of Heaven is at hand.”

Seest thou the greatness of their ministry? Seest thou the dignity of
apostles? Of nothing that is the object of sense are they commanded to
speak, nor such as Moses spake of, and the prophets before them, but of
some new and strange things. For while the former preached no such things,
but earth, and the good things in the earth, these preached the kingdom of
Heaven, and whatever is there.

And not from this circumstance only were these the greater, but also from
their obedience: in that they shrink not, nor are they backward, like
those of old; but, warned as they are of perils, and wars, and of those
insupportable evils, they receive with great obedience His injunctions, as
being heralds of a kingdom.

“And what marvel,” saith one, “if having nothing to preach
that is dismal or grievous, they readily obeyed?” What sayest thou?
nothing grievous enjoined them? Dost thou not hear of the prisons, the
executions, the civil wars, the hatred of all men? all which, He said a
little while after, they must undergo. True, as to other men, He sent them
to be procurers and heralds of innumerable blessings: but for themselves,
He said and proclaimed beforehand, that they were to suffer terrible and
incurable ills.

After this, to make them trustworthy, He saith,

“Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils: freely ye have
received, freely give.”

See how He provides for their conduct, and that no less than for their
miracles, implying that the miracles without this are nothing. Thus He
both quells their pride by saying, “Freely ye have received, freely
give;” and takes order for their being clear of covetousness.
Moreover, lest it should be thought their own work, and they be lifted up
by the signs that were wrought, He saith, “freely ye have
received.” “Ye bestow no favor on them that receive you, for not
for a price did ye receive these things, nor after toil: for the grace is
mine. In like manner therefore give ye to them also, for there is no
finding a price worthy of them.”

7. After this plucking up immediately the root of the evils, He saith,

“Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor
scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet a

He said not, “take them not with you,” but, “even if you
can obtain them from another, flee the evil disease.” And you see
that hereby He was answering many good purposes; first setting His
disciples above suspicion; secondly, freeing them from all care, so that
they might give all their leisure to the word; thirdly, teaching them His
own power. Of this accordingly He quite speaks out to them afterwards,
“Lacked ye anything, when I sent you naked and unshod?”

He did not at once say, “Provide not,” but when He had said,
“Cleanse the lepers, cast out devils,” then He said,
“Provide nothing; freely ye have received, freely give;” by His
way of ordering things consulting at once for their interest, their
credit, and their ability.

But perhaps some one may say, that the rest may not be unaccountable, but
“not to have a scrip for the journey, neither two coats, nor a staff,
nor shoes,” why did He enjoin this? Being minded to train them up
unto all perfection; since even further back, He had suffered them not to
take thought so much as for the next day. For even to the whole world He
was to send them out as teachers. Therefore of men He makes them even
angels (so to speak); releasing them from all worldly care, so that they
should be possessed with one care alone, that of their teaching; or rather
even from that He releases them, saying, “Take no thought how or what
ye shall speak.”

And thus, what seems to be very grievous and galling, this He shows to be
especially light and easy for them. For nothing makes men so cheerful as
being freed from anxiety and care; and especially when it is granted them,
being so freed, to lack nothing, God being present, and becoming to them
instead of all things.

Next, lest they should say, “whence then are we to obtain our
necessary food?” He saith not unto them, “Ye have heard that I
have told you before, ‘Behold the fowls of the air;'” (for they were
not yet able to realise this commandment in their actions); but He added
what came far short of this, saying, “For the workman is worthy of
his meat;” declaring that they must be nourished by their disciples,
that neither they might be high minded towards those whom they were
teaching, as though giving all and receiving nothing at their hands; nor
these again break away, as being despised by their teachers.

After this, that they may not say, “Dost thou then command us to live
by begging?” and be ashamed of this, He signifies the thing to be a
debt, both by calling them “workmen,” and by terming what was
given, “hire.” For “think not,” saith He,
“because the labor is in words, that the benefit conferred by you is
small; nay, for the thing hath much toil; and whatsoever they that are
taught may give, it is not a free gift which they bestow, but a recompence
which they render: “for the workman is worthy of his meat.” But
this He said, not as declaring so much to be the worth of the apostles’
labors, far from it; God forbid: but as both making it a law for them to
seek nothing more, and as convincing the givers, that what they do is not
an act of liberality, but a debt.

8. “And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, inquire who in
it is worthy: and there abide till ye go thence.”

That is, “it follows not,” saith He, “from my saying, ‘The
workman is worthy of his meat,’ that I have opened to you all men’s doors:
but herein also do I require you to use much circumspection. For this will
profit you both in respect of your credit, and for your very maintenance.
For if he is worthy, he will surely give you food; more especially when ye
ask nothing beyond mere necessaries.”

And He not only requires them to seek out worthy persons, but also not to
change house for house, whereby they would neither vex him that is
receiving them, nor themselves get the character of gluttony and
self-indulgence. For this He declared by saying, “There abide till ye
go thence.” And this one may perceive from the other evangelists

Seest thou how He made them honorable by this also, and those that
received them careful; by signifying that they rather are the gainers,
both in honor, and in respect of advantage?

Then pursuing again the same subject, He saith,

“And when ye come into an house, salute it. And if the house be
worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it be not worthy, let your
peace return to you.”

Seest thou how far He declines not to carry His injunctions? And very
fitly. For as champions of godliness, and preachers to the whole world,
was He training them. And in that regard disposing them to practise
moderation, and making them objects of love, He saith,

“And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye
depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily
I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and
Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.”

That is, “do not,” saith He, “because ye are teachers,
therefore wait to be saluted by others, but be first in showing that
respect.” Then, implying that this is not a mere salutation, but a
blessing, He saith, “If the house be worthy, it shall come upon
it,” but if it deal insolently, its first punishment will be, not to
have the benefit of your peace; and the second, that it shall suffer the
doom of Sodom.” “And what,” it will be said, “is their
punishment to us?” Ye will have the houses of such as are worthy.

But what means, “Shake off the dust of your feet?” It is either
to signify their having received nothing of them, or to be a witness to
them of the long journey, which they had travelled for their sake.

But mark, I pray thee, how He doth not even yet give the whole to them.
For neither doth He as yet bestow upon them foreknowledge, so as to learn
who is worthy, and who is not so; but He bids them inquire, and await the
trial. How then did He Himself abide with a publican? Because he was
become worthy by his conversion.

And mark, I pray thee, how when He had stripped them of all, He gave them
all, by suffering them to abide in the houses of those who became
disciples, and to enter therein, having nothing. For thus both themselves
were freed from anxiety, and they would convince the others, that for
their salvation only are they come; first by bringing in nothing with
them. then by requiring no more of them than necessaries, lastly, by not
entering all their houses without distinction.

Since not by the signs only did He desire them to appear illustrious, but
even before the signs, by their own virtue. For nothing so much
characterizes strictness of life, as to be free from superfluities, and so
far as may be, from wants. This even the false apostles knew. Wherefore
Paul also said, “That wherein they glory, they may be found even as

But if when we are in a strange country, and are going unto persons
unknown to us, we must seek nothing more than our food for the day, much
more when abiding at home.

9. These things let us not hear only, but also imitate. For not of the
apostles alone are they said, but also of the saints afterwards. Let us
therefore become worthy to entertain them. For according to the
disposition of the entertainers this peace both comes and flies away
again. For not only on the courageous speaking of them that teach, but
also on the worthiness of them that receive, doth this effect follow.

Neither let us account it a small loss, not to enjoy such peace. For this
peace the prophet also from of old proclaims, saying, “How beautiful
are the feet of them that bring good tidings of peace.” Then to
explain the value thereof he added, “That bring good tidings of good

This peace Christ also declared to be great, when He said, “Peace I
leave with you, my peace I give unto you.” And we should do all
things, so as to enjoy it, both at home and in church. For in the very
church too the presiding minister gives peace. And this which we speak of
is a type of that. And you should receive it with all alacrity, in heart
before the actual communion. For if not to impart it after the communion
be disgusting, how much more disgusting to repel from you him that
pronounces it!

For thee the presbyter sits, for thee the teacher stands, laboring and
toiling. What plea then wilt thou have, for not affording him so much
welcome as to listen to Him? For indeed the church is the common home of
all, and when ye have first occupied it, we enter in, strictly observing
the type which they exhibited. For this cause we also pronounce
“peace” in common to all, directly as we enter, according to
that law.

Let no one therefore be careless, no one inattentive, when the priests
have entered in and are teaching; for there is really no small punishment
appointed for this. Yea, and I for one would rather enter into any of your
houses ten thousand times, and find myself baffled, than not be heard when
I speak here. This latter is to me harder to bear than the other, by how
much this house is of greater dignity; our great possessions being verily
laid up here, here all the hopes we have. For what is here, that is not
great and awful? Thus both this table is far more precious and delightful
than the other, and this candle-stick than the candlestick there. And this
they know, as many as have put away diseases by anointing themselves with
oil in faith and in due season. And this coffer too is far better and more
indispensable than that other chest; for it hath not clothes but alms shut
up in it; even though they be few that own them. Here too is a couch
better than that other; for the repose of the divine Scriptures is more
delightful than any couch.

And had we attained to excellence in respect of concord, then had we no
other home beside this. And that there is nothing over-burdensome in this
saying, the “three thousand,” bear witness, and the “five
thousand,” who had but one home, one table, one soul; for “the
multitude of them that believed,” we read, “were of one heart
and of one soul.” But since we fall far short of their virtue, and
dwell scattered in our several homes, let us at least, when we meet here,
be earnest in so doing. Because though in all other things we be destitute
and poor, yet in these we are rich. Wherefore here at least receive us
with love when we come in unto you. And when I say, “Peace be unto
you,” and ye say, “And with thy spirit,” say it not with
the voice only, but also with the mind; not in mouth, but in understanding
also. But if, while here thou sayest, “Peace also to thy
spirit,” out of doors thou art mine enemy, spitting at and
calumniating me. and secretly aspersing me with innumerable reproaches;
what manner of peace is this?

For I indeed, though thou speak evil of me ten thousand times, give thee
that peace with a pure heart, with sincerity of purpose, and I can say
nothing evil at any time of thee; for I have a father’s bowels. And if I
rebuke thee at any time, I do it out of concern for thee. But as for thee,
by thy secret carping at me, and not receiving me in the Lord’s house, I
fear lest thou shouldest in return add to my despondency; not for thine
insulting me, not for thy casting me out, but for thy rejecting our peace,
and drawing down upon thyself that grievous punishment.

For though I shake not off the dust, though I turn not away, what is
threatened remains unchanged. For I indeed oftentimes pronounce peace to
you, and will not cease from continually speaking it; and if, besides your
insults, ye receive me not, even then I shake not off the dust; not that I
am disobedient to our Lord, but that I vehemently burn for you. And
besides, I have suffered nothing at all for you; I have neither come a
long journey, nor with that garb and that voluntary poverty am I come
(therefore we first blame ourselves), nor without shoes and a second coat;
and perhaps this is why ye also fail of your part. However, this is not a
sufficient plea for you; but while our condemnation is greater, to you it
imparts no excuse.

10. Then the houses were churches, but now the church is become a house.
Then one might say nothing worldly in a house, now one may say nothing
spiritual in a church, but even here ye bring in the business from the
market place, and while God is discoursing, ye leave off listening in
silence to His sayings, and bring in the contrary things, and make
discord. And I would it were your own affairs, but now the things which
are nothing to you, those ye both speak and hear.

For this I lament, and will not cease lamenting. For I have no power to
quit this house, but here we must needs remain until we depart from this
present life. “Receive us” therefore, as Paul commanded. For his
language in that place related not to a meal, but to the temper and mind.
This we also seek of you, even love, that fervent and genuine affection.
But if ye endure not even this, at least love yourselves, and lay aside
your present remissness. This is sufficient for our consolation, if we see
you approving yourselves, and becoming better men. So will I also myself
show forth increased love, even “though the more abundantly I love
you, the less I be loved.”

For indeed there are many things to bind us together. One table is set
before all, one Father begat us, we are all the issue of the same throes,
the same drink hath been given to all; or rather not only the same drink,
but also to drink out of one cup. For our Father desiring to lead us to a
kindly affection, hath devised this also, that we should drink out of one
cup; a thing which belongs to intense love.

But “there is no comparison between the apostles and us.” I
confess it too, and would never deny it. For I say not, to themselves, but
not even to their shadows are we comparable.

But nevertheless, let your part be done. This will have no tendency to
disgrace you but rather to profit you the more. For when even to unworthy
persons ye show so much love and obedience, then shall ye receive the
greater reward.

For neither are they our own words which we speak, since ye have no
teacher at all on earth; but what we have received, that we also give, and
in giving we seek for nothing else from you, but to be loved only. And if
we be unworthy even of this, yet by our loving you we shall quickly be
worthy. Although we are commanded to love not them only that love us, but
even our enemies. Who then is so hardhearted, who so savage, that after
having received such a law, he should abhor and hate even them that love
him, full as he may be of innumerable evils?

We have partaken of a spiritual table, let us be partakers also of
spiritual love. For if robbers, on partaking of salt, forget their
character; what excuse shall we have, who are continually partaking of the
Lord’s body, and do not imitate even their gentleness? And yet to many,
not one table only, but even to be of one city, hath sufficed for
friendship; but we, when we have the same city, and the same house, and
table, and way, and door, and root, and life, and head, and the same
shepherd, and king, and teacher, and judge, and maker, and father, and to
whom all things are common; what indulgence can we deserve, if we be
divided one from another?

11. But the miracles, perhaps, are what ye seek after, such as they
wrought when they entered in; the lepers cleansed, the devils driven out,
and the dead raised? Nay, but this is the great indication of your high
birth, and of your love, that ye should believe God without pledges. And
in fact this, and one other thing, were the reasons why God made miracles
to cease. I mean, that if when miracles are not performed, they that plume
themselves on other advantages,-for instance, either on the word of
wisdom, or on show of piety,-grow vainglorious, are puffed up, are
separated one from another; did miracles also take place, how could there
but be violent rendings? And that what I say is not mere conjecture, the
Corinthians bear witness, who from this cause were divided into many

Do not thou therefore seek signs, but the soul’s health. Seek not to see
one dead man raised; nay, for thou hast learnt that the whole world is
arising. Seek not to see a blind man healed, but behold all now restored
unto that better and more profitable sight; and do thou too learn to look
chastely, and amend thine eye.

For in truth, if we all lived as we ought, workers of miracles would not
be admired so much as we by the children of the heathen. For as to the
signs, they often carry with them either a notion of mere fancy, or
another evil suspicion, although ours be not such. But a pure life cannot
admit of any such reproach; yea, all men’s mouths are stopped by the
acquisition of virtue.

Let virtue then be our study: for abundant are her riches, and great the
wonder wrought in her. She bestows the true freedom, and causes the same
to be discerned even in slavery, not releasing from slavery, but While men
continue slaves, exhibiting them more honorable than freemen; which is
much more than giving them freedom: not making the poor man rich, but
while he continues poor, exhibiting him wealthier than the rich.

But if thou wouldest work miracles also, be rid of transgressions, and
thou hast quite accomplished it. Yea, for sin is a great demon, beloved;
and if thou exterminate this, thou hast wrought a greater thing than they
who drive out ten thousand demons. Do thou listen to Paul, how he speaks,
and prefers virtue to miracles. “But covet earnestly,” saith he,
“the best gifts: and yet show I unto you a more excellent way.”
And when he was to declare this “way,” he spoke not of raising
the dead, not of cleansing of lepers, not of any other such thing; but in
Mace of all these he set charity. Hearken also unto Christ, saying,
“Rejoice not that the demons obey you, but that your names are
written in Heaven.”69 And again before this, “Many will say to
me in that day, Have we not prophesied in Thy name, and cast out devils,
and done many mighty works, and then I will profess unto them, I know you
not.”70 And when He was about to be crucified, He called His
disciples, and said unto them, “By this shall all men know that ye
are my disciples,” not “if ye cast out devils,” but
“if ye have love one to another.”71 And again, “Hereby
shall all men know that Thou hast sent me;” not “if these men
raise the dead,” but, “if they be one.”72

For, as to miracles, they oftentimes, while they profiled another, have
injured him who had the power, by lifting him up to pride and vainglory,
or haply in some other way: but in our works there is no place for any
such suspicion, but they profit both such as follow them, and many others.

These then let us perform with much diligence. For if thou change from
inhumanity to almsgiving, thou hast stretched forth the hand that was
withered. If thou withdraw from theatres and go to the church, thou hast
cured the lame foot. If thou draw back thine eyes from an harlot, and from
beauty not thine own, thou hast opened them when they were blind. If
instead of satanical songs, thou hast learnt spiritual psalms, being dumb,
thou hast spoken.

These are the greatest miracles, these the wonderful signs. If we go on
working these signs, we shall both ourselves be a great and admirable sort
of persons through these, and shall win over all the wicked unto virtue,
and shall enjoy the life to come; unto which may we all attain, by the
grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and
might forever and ever. Amen.

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