When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
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But when Herod, says the Scripture, had heard, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Herod naturally, as being king, and afraid both for himself and for his children; but why Jerusalem? Surely the prophets had foretold Him a Saviour, and Benefactor, and a Deliverer from above. Wherefore then was Jerusalem troubled? From the same feeling which caused them before also to turn away from God when pouring His benefits on them, and to be mindful of the flesh-pots of Egypt, while in the enjoyment of great freedom.
But mark, I pray you, the accuracy of the prophets. For this selfsame thing also had the prophet foretold from the first, saying, They would be glad, if they had been burnt with fire; for unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.
But nevertheless, although troubled, they seek not to see what has happened, neither do they follow the wise men, nor make any particular inquiry; to such a degree were they at once both contentious and careless above all men. For when they had reason rather to pride themselves that the king was born among them, and had attracted to Him the land of the Persians, and they were on the point of having all subject to them, as though their affairs had advanced towards improvement, and from the very outset His empire had become so glorious; nevertheless, they do not even for this become better. And yet they were but just delivered from their captivity there; and it was natural for them to think (even if they knew none of those things that are high and mysterious, but formed their judgment from what is present only), If they thus tremble before our king at His birth, much more when grown up will they fear and obey Him, and our estate will be more glorious than that of the barbarians.
7. But none of these things thoroughly awakens them, so great was their dullness, and with this their envy also: both which we must with exact care root out of our mind; and he must be more fervent than fire who is to stand in such an array. Wherefore also Christ said, I have come to send fire on earth, and I would it were already kindled. in the same lot with it, even so godly tears are a germ of perpetual and unfading joy. In this way the very harlot became more honorable than virgins when seized by this fire. That is, being thoroughly warmed by repentance, she was thenceforth carried out of herself by her longing desire toward Christ; loosing her hair, and drenching with her tears His holy feet, and wiping them with her own tresses, and exhausting the ointment. And all these were outward results, but those wrought in her mind were far more fervent than these; which things God Himself alone beheld. And therefore, every one, when he hears, rejoices with her and takes delight in her good works, and acquits her of every blame. But if we that are evil pass this judgment, consider what sentence she obtained from that God who is a lover of mankind; and how much, even before God's gifts, her repentance caused her to reap in the way of blessing.
For much as after a violent burst of rain, there is a clear open sky; so likewise when tears are pouring down, a calm arises, and serenity, and the darkness that ensues on our sins quite disappears. And like as by water and the spirit, so by tears and confession are we cleansed the second time; unless we be acting thus for display and vanity: for as to a woman whose tears were of that sort, I should call her justly condemnable, more than if she decked herself out with lines and coloring. For I seek those tears which are shed not for display, but in compunction; those which trickle down secretly and in closets, and in sight of no man, softly and noiselessly; those which arise from a certain depth of mind, those shed in anguish and in sorrow, those which are for God alone; such as were Hannah's, for her lips moved, it is said, but her voice was not heard; however, her tears alone uttered a cry more clear than any trumpet. And because of this, God also opened her womb, and made the hard rock a fruitful field.
If you also weep thus, you have become a follower of your Lord. Yea, for He also wept, both over Lazarus, and over the city; and touching Judas He was greatly troubled. And this indeed one may often see Him do, but nowhere laugh, nay, nor smile but a little; no one at least of the evangelists has mentioned this. Therefore also with regard to Paul, that he wept, that he did so three years night and day, both he has said of himself, and others say this of him; but that he laughed, neither has he said himself anywhere, neither has so much as one other of the saints, either concerning him, or any other like him; but this is said of Sarah only, Genesis 18:12-15 when she is blamed, and of the son of Noe, when for a freeman he became a slave. Genesis 9:25
9. And these things I say, not to suppress all laughter, but to take away dissipation of mind. For wherefore, I pray you, are you luxurious and dissolute, while you are still liable to such heavy charges, and are to stand at a fearful judgment-seat, and to give a strict account of all that has been done here? Yes: for we are to give an account both of what we have sinned willingly, and what against our will:— for whosoever shall deny me, says He, before men, him will I also deny before my Father: Matthew 10:33 — and surely such a denial is against our will; but nevertheless it does not escape punishment, but of it too we have to give account:— both of what we know, and of what we do not know; For I know nothing by myself, says one, yet am I not hereby justified: 1 Corinthians 4:4 — both for what we have done in ignorance, and what in knowledge; For I bear them record, it is said, that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge; Romans 10:2 but yet this does not suffice for an excuse for them. And when writing to the Corinthians also he says, For I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
The things then being so great, for which you are to give account, do you sit laughing and talking wittily, and giving yourself up to luxury? Why, one may say, if I did not so, but mourned, what would be the profit? Very great indeed; even so great, as it is not possible so much as to set it forth by word. For while, before the temporal tribunals, be your weeping ever so abundant, you can not escape punishment after the sentence; here, on the contrary, should you only sigh, you have annulled the sentence, and hast obtained pardon. Therefore it is that Christ discourses to us much of mourning, and blesses them that mourn, and pronounces them that laugh wretched. For this is not the theatre for laughter, neither did we come together for this intent, that we may give way to immoderate mirth, but that we may groan, and by this groaning inherit a kingdom. But you, when standing by a king, dost not endure so much as merely to smile; having then the Lord of the angels dwelling in you, do you not stand with trembling, and all due self-restraint, but rather laughest, oftentimes when He is displeased? And do you not consider that you provoke Him in this way more than by your sins? For God is not wont to turn Himself away so much from them that sin, as from those that are not awestruck after their sin.
But for all this, some are of so senseless a disposition, as even after these words to say, Nay, far be it from me to weep at any time, but may God grant me to laugh and to play all my days. And what can be more childish than this mind? For it is not God that grants to play, but the devil. At least hear, what was the portion of them that played. The people, it is said, sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Such were they at Sodom, such were they at the time of the deluge. For touching them of Sodom likewise it is said, that in pride, and in plenty, and in fullness of bread, they waxed wanton. Ezekiel 16:49 And they who were in Noah's time, seeing the ark a preparing for so many years, lived on in senseless mirth, forseeing nought of what was coming. For this cause also the flood came and swept them all away, and wrought in that instant the common shipwreck of the world.
Ask not then of God these things, which you receive of the devil. For it is God's part to give a contrite and humbled heart, sober, self-possessed, and awestruck, full of repentance and compunction. These are His gifts, forasmuch as it is also of these things that we are most in need. Yes, for a grievous conflict is at hand, and against the powers unseen is our wrestling; against the spiritual wickednesses Ephesians 6:12 our fight, against principalities, against powers our warfare: and it is well for us, if when we are earnest and sober and thoroughly awakened, we can be able to sustain that savage phalanx. But if we are laughing and sporting, and always taking things easily, even before the conflict, we shall be overthrown by our own remissness.
10. It becomes not us then to be continually laughing, and to be dissolute, and luxurious, but it belongs to those upon the stage, the harlot women, the men that are trimmed for this intent, parasites, and flatterers; not them that are called unto heaven, not them that are enrolled into the city above, not them that bear spiritual arms, but them that are enlisted on the devil's side. For it is he, yea, it is he, that even made the thing an art, that he might weaken Christ's soldiers, and soften the nerves of their zeal. For this cause he also built theatres in the cities, and having trained those buffoons, by their pernicious influence he causes that kind of pestilence to light upon the whole city, persuading men to follow those things which Paul bade us flee, foolish talking and jesting. Ephesians 5:4 And what is yet more grievous than these things is the subject of the laughter. For when they that act those absurd things utter any word of blasphemy or filthiness, then many among the more thoughtless laugh and are pleased, applauding in them what they ought to stone them for; and drawing down on their own heads by this amusement the furnace of fire. For they who praise the utterers of such words, it is these above all who induce men so to speak: wherefore they must be more justly accountable for the penalty allotted to these things. For were there no one to be a spectator in such cases, neither would there be one to act; but when they see you forsaking your workshops, and your crafts, and your income from these, and in short everything, for the sake of continuing there, they derive hence a greater forwardness, and exert a greater diligence about these things.
And this I say, not freeing them from reproof, but that you may learn that it is you chiefly who supply the principle and root of such lawlessness; ye who consume your whole day on these matters, and profanely exhibit the sacred things of marriage, and make an open mock of the great mystery. For not even he who acts these things is so much the offender, as you are before him; thou who biddest him make a play on these things, or rather who not only biddest him, but art even zealous about it, taking delight, and laughing, and praising what is done, and in every way gaining strength for such workshops of the devil.
Tell me then, with what eyes will you after this look upon your wife at home, having seen her insulted there? Or how do you not blush being put in mind of the partner of your home, when you see nature herself put to an open shame? Nay, tell me not, that what is done is acting; for this acting has made many adulterers, and subverted many families. And it is for this most especially that I grieve, that what is done does not so much as seem evil, but there is even applause and clamor, and much laughter, at commission of so foul adultery. What do you say? That what is done is acting? Why, for this selfsame reason they must be worthy of ten thousand deaths, that what things all laws command men to flee, they have taken pains to imitate. For if the thing itself be bad, the imitation thereof also is bad. And I do not yet say how many adulterers they make who act these scenes of adultery, how they render the spectators of such things bold and shameless; for nothing is more full of whoredom and boldness than an eye that endures to look at such things.
And thou in a market-place wouldest not choose to see a woman stripped naked, or rather not even in a house, but callest such a thing an outrage. And go up into the theatre, to insult the common nature of men and women, and disgrace your own eyes? For say not this, that she that is stripped is an harlot; but that the nature is the same, and they are bodies alike, both that of the harlot, and that of the free-woman. For if this be nothing amiss, what is the cause that if you were to see this done in a market place, you would both hasten away yourself, and drive thence her who was behaving herself unseemly? Or is it that when we are apart, then such a thing is outrageous, but when we are assembled and all sitting together, it is no longer equally shameful? Nay, this is absurdity and a disgrace, and words of the utmost madness; and it were better to besmear the eyes all over with mud and mire than to be a spectator of such a transgression. For surely mire is not so much an hurt to an eye, as an unchaste sight, and the spectacle of a woman stripped naked. Hear, for example, what it was that caused nakedness at the beginning, and read the occasion of such disgrace. What then did cause nakedness? Our disobedience, and the devil's counsel. Thus, from the first, even from the very beginning, this was his contrivance. Yet they were at least ashamed when they were naked, but you take a pride in it; having, according to that saying of the apostle, your glory in your shame. Philippians 3:19
How then will your wife thenceforward look upon you, when you are returned from such wickedness? How receive you? How speak to you, after you have so publicly put to shame the common nature of woman, and art made by such a sight the harlots' captive and slave?
Now if you grieve at hearing these things, I thank you much, for who is he that makes me glad, but he which is made sorry by me? 2 Corinthians 2:2 Do not then ever cease to grieve and be vexed for them, for the sorrow that comes of such things will be to you a beginning of a change for the better. For this cause I also have made my language the stronger, that by cutting deeper I might free you from the venom of them that intoxicate you; that I might bring you back to a pure health of soul; which God grant we may all enjoy by all means, and attain unto the rewards laid up for these good deeds; by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.