From the Catena Aurea, Patristic Commentary by St Thomas Aquinas.
Catena Aurea - Gospel of Mark Chapter 8
27. And Jesus went out, and His disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way He asked His disciples, saying unto them, “Whom do me say that I am?”
28. And they answered, “John the Baptist: but some say, ‘Elias;’ and others, ‘One of the prophets.’ “
29. And He saith unto them, “But whom say ye that I am?” And Peter answereth and saith unto Him, “Thou art the Christ.”
30. And He charged them that they should tell no man of Him.
31. And He began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
32. And He spake that saying openly. And Peter took Him, and began to rebuke Him.
33. But when He had turned about and looked on His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, “Get thee behind Me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.”
Theophylact: After taking His disciples afar from the Jews, He then asks them concerning Himself, that they might speak the truth without fear of the Jews.
Wherefore it is said, “And Jesus entered, and His disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi.”
Bede, in Marc., 2, 35: Philip was that brother of Herod, of whom we spoke above, who in honour of Tiberius Caesar called that town, which is now called Paneas, Caesarea Philippi.
It goes on, “And by the way He asked His disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am?”
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: He asks the question with a purpose, for it was right that His disciples should praise Him better than the crowd.
Bede: Wherefore He first asks what is the opinion of men, in order to try the faith of the disciples, lest their confession should appear to be founded on the common opinion.
It goes on, “And they answered, saying, ‘Some
158 say John the Baptist, some Elias, and others, One of the prophets.”
Theophylact: For many thought that John had risen from the dead, as even Herod believed, and that he had performed miracles after his resurrection. After however having enquired into the opinion of others, He asks them what was the belief of their own minds on this point.
Wherefore it continues, “And He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?”
Chrys., Hom. in Matt., 54: From the manner, however, itself of the question, He leads them to a higher feeling, and to higher thoughts, concerning Him, that they might not agree with the multitude. But the next words shew what the head of the disciples, the mouth of the Apostles, answered; when all were asked, “Peter answereth and saith unto Him, Thou art the Christ.”
Theophylact: He confesses indeed that He is the Christ announced by the Prophets; but the Evangelist Mark passes over what the Lord answered to his confession, and how He blessed him, lest by this way of relating it, he should seem to be favouring his master Peter; Matthew plainly goes through the whole of it.
Origen, in Matt. Tom., 12, 15: Or else, Mark and Luke, as they wrote that Peter answered, “Thou art the Christ,” without adding what is put down in Matthew, “the Son of the living God,” so they omitted to relate the blessing which was conferred on this confession.
It goes on, “And He charged them that they should tell no man of Him.”
Theophylact: For He wished in the meantime to hide His glory, lest many should be offended because of Him, and so earn a worse punishment.
Chrys.: Or else, that He might wait to fix the pure faith in their minds, till the Crucifixion, which was an offence to them, was over, for after it was once perfected, about the time of His ascension, He said unto the Apostles, “Go ye and teach all nations.”
Theophylact: But after the Lord had accepted the confession of the disciples, who called Him the true God, He then reveals to them the mystery of the Cross.
Wherefore it goes on, “And He began to teach them that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and of the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again; and He spake that saying openly,” that is, concerning His future passion.
But His disciples did not understand the order of the truth, neither could they
159 comprehend His resurrection, but thought it better that He should not suffer.
Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: The reason, however, why the Lord told them this, was to shew, that after His cross and resurrection, Christ must be preached by His witnesses. Again, Peter alone, from the fervour of his disposition, had the boldness to dispute about these things.
Wherefore it goes on, “And Peter took Him up, and began to rebuke Him.”
Bede: This, however, he speaks with the feelings of a man who loves and desires; as if he said, This cannot be, neither can mind ears receive that the Son of God is to be slain.
Chrys.: But how is this, that Peter, gifted with a revelation from the Father, has so soon fallen, and become unstable? Surely, however, it was not wonderful that one who had received no revelation concerning the Passion should be ignorant of this. For that He was the Christ, the Son of the living God, he had learnt by revelation; but the mystery of His cross and resurrection had not yet been revealed to him. He Himself, however, shewing that He must come to His Passion, rebuked Peter.
Wherefore there follows, “And when He had turned about and looked on His disciples, He rebuked Peter, &c.”
Theophylact: For the Lord, wishing to shew that His Passion was to take place on account of the salvation of men, and that Satan alone was unwilling that Christ should suffer, and the race of man be saved, called Peter Satan, because he savoured the things that were of Satan, and, from unwillingness that Christ should suffer, became His adversary; for Satan is interpreted ‘the adversary.’
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: But He saith not to the devil, when tempting Him, “Get thee behind me,” but to Peter He saith, “Get thee behind me,” that is, follow Me, and resist not the design of My voluntary Passion.
There follows, “For thou savourest not the things which be of God, but which be of men.”
Theophylact: He says that Peter savours the things which be of men, in that he in some way savoured carnal affections, for Peter wished that Christ should spare Himself and not be crucified.
34. And when He had called the people unto Him with His disciples also, He said unto them, “Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
16035. For whosoever will save his life shall lost it; but whosoever shall lose his life for My sake and the Gospel’s, the same shall save it.
36. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lost his own soul?
37. Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
38. Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when He cometh in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
Bede: After shewing to His disciples the mystery of His passion and resurrection, He exorts them, as well as the multitude, to follow the example of His passion.
Wherefore it goes on, “And when He had called the people unto Him with His disciples also, He said unto them, Whosoever wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself.”
Chrys., Hom. in Matt., 55: As is He would say to Peter, Thou indeed dost rebuke Me, who am willing to undergo My passion, but I tell thee, that not only is it wrong to prevent Me from suffering, but neither canst thou be saved unless thou thyself diest.
Again He says, “Whosoever wishes to come after Me;” as if He said, I call you to those good things which a man should wish for, I do not force you to evil and burdensome things; for he who does violence to his hearer, often stands in his way; but he who leaves him free, rather draws him to himself. And a man denies himself when he cares not for his body, so that whether it be scourged, or whatever of like nature it may suffer, he bears it patiently.
Theophylact: For a man who denies another, be it brother or father, does not sympathize with him, nor grieve at his fate, though he be wounded and die; thus we ought to despise our body, so that if it should be wounded or hurt in any way, we should not mind its suffering.
Chrys.: But He says not, a man should not spare himself, but what is more, that
he should deny himself, as if he had nothing in common with himself, but face
danger, and look upon such things as if another were suffering; and this is
161 really to spare himself; for parents then most truly act kindly to their children, when they give them up to their masters, with an injunction not to spare them. Again, He shews the degree to which a man should deny himself, when He says, “And take up his cross,” by which He means, even to the most shameful death.
Theophylact: For at that time the cross appeared shameful, because malefactors were fixed to it.
Pseudo-Jerome: Or else, as a skilful pilot, foreseeing a storm in a calm, wishes his sailors to be prepared; so also the Lord says, “If any one will follow me, &c.”
Bede: For we deny ourselves, when we avoid what we were of old, and strive to reach that point, whither we are newly called. And the cross is taken up by us, when either our body is pained by abstinence, or our soul afflicted by fellow-feeling for our neighbour.
Theophylact: But because after the cross we must have a new strength, He adds, “and follow me.”
Chrys.: And this He says, because it may happen that a man may suffer and yet not follow Christ, that is, when he does not suffer for Christ’s sake; for he follows Christ, who walks after Him, and conforms himself to His death, despising those principalities and powers under whose power, before the coming of Christ, he committed sin.
Then there follows, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for My sake and the Gospel’s , the same shall save it.”
I give you these commands, as it were to spare you; for whosoever spares his son, brings him to destruction, but whosoever does not spare him, saves him. It is therefore right to be always prepared for death; for if in the battles of this world, he who is prepared for death fights better than others, though none can restore him to life after death, much more is this the case in spiritual battle, when so great a hope of resurrection is set before him, since he who gives up his soul unto death saves it.
Remig.: And life is to be taken in this place for the present life, and not for the substance itself of the soul.
Chrys.: And therefore He had said, “For whomsoever will save his life shall lose
it,” lest any one should suppose this loss to be equivalent to that salvation,
He adds, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and
lose his own soul, &c.” As if He said, Think not that he has saved his soul, who
has shunned the perils
162 of the cross; for when a man, at the cost of his soul, that is, his life, gains the whole world, what has he besides, now that his soul is perishing? Has he another soul to give for his soul? For a man can give the price of his house in exchange for the house; but in losing his soul, he has not another soul to give. And it is with a purpose that He says, “Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” for God, in exchange for our salvation, has given the precious blood of Jesus Christ.
Bede, in Marc. 2, 36: Or else He says this, because in time of persecution, our life is to be laid aside, but in time of peace, our earthly desires are to be broken, which He implies when He says, “For what shall it profit a man, &c.”
But we are often hindered by a habit of shamefacedness, from expressing with our voice the rectitude which we preserve in our hearts; and therefore it is added, “For whosoever shall confess Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, him also shall the Son of man confess, when He cometh in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
Theophylact: For that faith which only remains in the mind is not sufficient, but the Lord requires also the confession of the mouth; for when the soul is sanctified by faith, the body ought also to be sanctified by confession.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: He then who has learned this, is bound zealously to confess Christ without shame. And this generation is called adulterous, because it has left God the true Bridegroom of the soul, and has refused to follow the doctrine of Christ, but has prostrated itself to the devil and taken up the seeds of impiety, for which reason also it is called sinful. Whosoever therefore amongst them has denied the kingdom of Christ, and the words of God revealed in the Gospel, shall receive a reward befitting His impiety, when He hears in the second advent, “I know you not.” [Matt 7:23]
Theophylact: Him then who shall leave confessed that his God was crucified, Christ Himself also shall confess, not here, where He is esteemed poor and wretched, but in His glory and with a multitude of Angels.
Greg., Hom. in 32, in Evang.: There are however some, who confess Christ,
because they see that all men are Christians; for if the name of Christ were not
at this day in such great glory, the Holy Church would not have so many
professors. The voice of the profession therefore is not sufficient for a trial
163 whilst the profession of the generality defends it from shame.
In the time of peace therefore there is another way, by which we may be known to ourselves. We are ever fearful of being despised by our neighbours, we think it shame to bear injurious words; if perchance we have quarrelled with our neighbour, we blush to be the first to give satisfaction; for our carnal heart, in seeking the glory of this life, disdains humility.
Theophylact: But because He had spoken of His glory, in order to shew that His promises were not vain, He subjoins, “Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here who shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.”
As if He said, Some, that is, Peter, James, and John, shall not taste of death, until I shew them, in my transfiguration, with what glory I am to come in my second advent; for the transfiguration was nothing else, but an announcement of the second coming of Christ, in which also Christ Himself and the Saints will shine.
Bede, in Marc., 3, 36: Truly it was done with a loving foresight, in order that they, having tasted for a brief moment the contemplation of everlasting joy, might with the greater strength bear up under adversity.
Chrys., Hom. in Matt., 56: And He did not declare the names of those who were about to go up, lest the other disciples should feel some touch of human frailty, and He tells it to them beforehand, that they might come with minds better prepared to be taught all that concerned that vision.
Bede: Or else the present Church is called the kingdom of God; and some of the disciples were to live in the body until they should see the Church built up, and raised against the glory of the world; for it was right to make some promises concerning this life to the disciples who were uninstructed, that they might be built up with greater strength for the time to come.
Pseudo-Chrys., Orig. in Matt. tom., 12, 33, 35: But in a mystical sense, Christ is life, and the devil is death, and he tastes of death, who dwells in sin; even now every one, according as he has good or evil doctrines, tastes the bread either of life or of death. And indeed, it is a less evil to see death, a greater to taste of it, still worse to follow it, worst of all to be subject to it.
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