By St. AUGUSTINE [354-430]
What next? Suffered under Pontius Pilot. He was in office as governor and was the judge, this same Pontius Pilot, what time as Christ suffered. In the name of the judge there is a mark of the times, when He suffered under Pontius Pilot: when He suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried. Who? What? For whom? Who? God’s Only Son, our Lord. What? Crucified, dead, and buried. For whom? For ungodly and sinners. Great condescension, great grace! What shall I render unto the Lord for all that He has bestowed on me?
Of His cross what shall I speak, what say? This extremest kind of death He chose, that not any kind of death might make His Martyrs afraid. The doctrine He showed in His life as Man, the example of patience He demonstrated in His Cross. There, you have the work, that He was crucified; example of the work, the Cross; reward of the work, Resurrection. He showed us in the Cross what we ought to endure, He showed in the Resurrection what we have to hope. Just like a consummate task-master in the matches of the arena, He said, Do, and bear; do the work and receive the prize; strive in the match and you shall be crowned. What is the work? Obedience. What the prize? Resurrection without death. Why did I add, without death? Because Lazarus rose, and died: Christ rose again, dies no more, death will no longer have dominion over Him.
Scripture says, You have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord. When we read what great trials Job endured, it makes one shudder, it makes one shrink, it makes one quake. And what did he receive? The double of what he had lost. Let not a man therefore with an eye to temporal rewards be willing to have patience, and say to himself, Let me endure loss, God will give me back sons twice as many; Job received double of all, and begot as many sons as he had buried. Then is this not the double? Yes, precisely the double, because the former sons still lived. Let none say, Let me bear evils, and God will repay me as He repaid Job: that it be now no longer patience but avarice. For if it was not patience which that Saint had, nor a brave enduring of all that came upon him; the testimony which the Lord gave, whence should he have it? Have you observed, says the Lord, my servant Job? For there is not like him any on the earth, a man without fault, true worshiper of God. What a testimony, my brethren, did this holy man deserve of the Lord! And yet him a bad woman sought by her persuasion to deceive, she too representing that serpent, who, like as in Paradise he deceived the man whom God first made, so likewise here by suggesting blasphemy thought to be able to deceive a man who pleased God. What things he suffered, my brethren! Who can have so much to suffer in his estate, his house, his sons, his flesh, yea in his very wife who was left to be his tempter! But even her who was left, the devil would have taken away long ago, but that he kept her to be his helper: because by Eve he had mastered the first man, therefore had he kept an Eve. What things, then, he suffered! He lost all that he had; his house fell; would that were all! It crushed his sons also. And, to see that patience had great place in him, hear what he answered; The Lord gave, the Lord has taken away; as it pleased the Lord, so has it been done; blessed be the name of the Lord. He has taken what He gave, is He lost Who gave? He has taken what He gave. As if he should say, He has taken away all, let Him take all, send me away naked, and let me keep Him. What shall I lack if I have God? Or what is the good of all else to me, if I have not God? Then it came to his flesh, he was stricken with a wound from head to foot; he was one running sore, one mass of crawling worms: and showed himself immovable in his God, stood fixed. The woman wanted, devil’s helper as she was not husband’s comforter, to put him up to blasphemy God. How long, said she, do you suffer so and so; speak some word against the Lord, and die. So then, because he had been brought low, he was to be exalted. And this the Lord did, in order to show it to men; as for His servant, He kept greater things for him in heaven. So then Job who was brought low, He exalted; the devil who was lifted up, He brought low: for He puts down one and sets up another. But let not any man, my beloved brethren, when he suffers any such-like tribulations, look for a reward here: for instance, if he suffer any losses, let him not perhaps say, The Lord gave, the Lord has taken away; as it pleased the Lord, so is it done: blessed be the name of the Lord; only with the mind to receive twice as much again. Let patience praise God, not avarice. If what you have lost you seek to receive back twofold, and therefore praise God, it is of covetousness you praise, not of love. Do not imagine this to be the example of that holy man; you deceive yourself. When Job was enduring all, he was not hoping for to have twice as much again. Both in his first confession when he bore up under his losses, and bore out to the grave the dead bodies of his sons, and in the second when he was now suffering torments of sores in his flesh, you may observe what I am saying. Of his former confession the words run thus: The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away: as it pleased the Lord, so is it done: blessed be the name of the Lord. He might have said, The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; He that took away can once more give; can bring back more than He took. He said not this, but, As it pleased the Lord, said he, so is it done: because it pleases Him, let it please me: let not that which has pleased the good Lord misplease His submissive servant; what pleased the Physician, not misplease the sick man. Hear his other confession: You have spoken, said he to his wife, like one of the foolish women. If we have received good at the hand of the Lord, why shall we not bear evil? He did not add, what, if he had said it, would have been true. The Lord is able both to bring back my flesh into its former condition, and that which He has taken away from us, to make manifold more: lest he should seem to have endured in hope of this. This was not what he said, not what he hoped. But, that we might be taught, did the Lord that for him, not hoping for it, by which we should be taught, that God was with him: because if He had not also restored to him those things, there was the crown indeed, but hidden, and we could not see it. And therefore what says the divine Scripture in exhorting patience and hope of things future, not reward of things present? You have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord. Why is it, the patience of Job, and not, You have seen the end of Job himself? You would open your mouth for the twice as much; would say, Thanks be to God; let me bear up: I receive twice as much again, like Job. Patience of Job, end of the Lord. The patience of Job we know, and the end of the Lord we know. What end of the Lord?My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me? They are the words of the Lord hanging on the cross. He did as it were leave Him for present felicity, not leave Him for eternal immortality. In this is the end of the Lord. The Jews hold Him, the Jews insult, the Jews bind Him, crown Him with thorns, dishonor Him with spitting, scourge Him, overwhelm Him with revilings, hang Him upon the tree, pierce Him with a spear, last of all bury Him. He was as it were left: but by whom? By those insulting ones. Therefore you shall but to this end have patience, that you may rise again and not die, that is, never die, even as Christ. For so we read, Christ rising from the dead henceforth dies not. (Ascends to Heaven #E)
Source. Translated by H. Browne. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 3. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1307.htm>.