How Great is the Difference Between Us and God

Zec 8:20-23 / Lk 9:51-56

From the Writings of the Church Father Cyril of Alexandria

“For when,” it says, “the days were fulfilled for His being taken up, He set His face to go to Jerusalem.” By which is meant, that as the time had now come when at length having borne for us His saving passion, He should ascend to heaven, and dwell with God the Father, He determined to proceed to Jerusalem. For this is, I think, the meaning of His having set His face. He sends, therefore, messengers to prepare a lodging for Him and His companions. And when they came to a village of the Samaritans, they were not received. At this the blessed disciples were indignant, not so much on their own account as because they did not honour Him Who is Saviour and Lord of all. And what followed? They murmured greatly: and as His majesty and power was not unknown to them, they said, “Lord, wilt thou that we bid fire come down from heaven, and consume them?” But Christ rebuked them for so speaking. And in these last words lies the purport of the lesson: and therefore let us accurately examine the whole passage. For it is written, “Churn milk, and it becomes butter.”

It would be untrue, then, to affirm that our Saviour did not know what was about to happen: for as He knows all things, He knew, of course, that His messengers would not be received by the Samaritans. Of this there can be no doubt. Why, then, did He command them to precede Him? The reason of it was His custom assiduously to benefit the holy Apostles in every possible way: and for this end His practice sometimes was to put them to the proof. As for instance, He was sailing once upon the lake of Tiberias with those named above; and while so doing he fell asleep purposely: and a violent wind having risen upon the lake, a rough and unusual storm began to rage, and the boat was in danger, and the crew in alarm. For He intentionally permitted the storm and the fury of the tempest to rage against the ship, to try the faith of the disciples, and to make manifest the greatness of His power. And this, also, was the result. For they, in the littleness of their faith, said, “Master, save us, we perish.” And He at once arose and shewed that He is Lord of the elements; for He rebuked the sea and the tempest, and there was an exceeding great calm. And so also on this occasion: He knew, indeed, that those who went forward to announce that he would lodge with them would not be received by the Samaritans; but He permitted them to go, that this again might be a means of benefiting the holy Apostles.

What, then, was the purpose of this occurrence? He was going up to Jerusalem, as the time of His passion was already drawing near. He was about to endure the contumelies of the Jews; He was about to be set at nought by the scribes and Pharisees; and to suffer those things which they inflicted upon Him when they proceeded to the accomplishment of all violence and wicked audacity. In order, therefore, that they might not be offended when they saw Him suffering, as understanding that He would have them also to be patient, and not to murmur greatly, even though men treat them with contumely, He, so to speak, made the contempt they met with from the Samaritans a preparatory exercise in the matter. They had not received the messengers. It was the duty of the disciples, treading in the footsteps of their Lord, to bear it patiently as becometh saints, and not to say anything of them wrathfully. But they were not yet so disposed; but being seized with too hot indignation, they would have called down fire upon them from heaven, as far as their will went. But Christ rebuked them for so speaking.

See here, I pray, how great is the difference between us and God: for the distance is immeasurable. For He is slow to anger, and long-suffering, and of incomparable gentleness and love to mankind: but we children of earth are quick unto anger, hasty unto impatience, and refuse with indignation to be judged by others when we are found out in committing any wrong act; while we are most ready to find fault with others. And therefore God the Lord of all affirms, saying; “For My thoughts are not as your thoughts, nor your ways as My ways; but as the heaven is far from the earth, so are My ways from your ways, and My thoughts from your thoughts.” Such, then, is He Who is Lord of all: but we, as I said, being readily vexed, and easily led into anger, take sometimes severe and intolerable vengeance upon those who have occasioned us some trifling annoyance: and though commanded to live according to the Gospel, we fall short of the practice commanded by the law. For the law indeed said, “Eye for eye; tooth for tooth; hand for hand:” and commanded that an equal retribution should suffice: but we, as I said, though perhaps we have suffered but a trifling wrong, would retaliate very harshly, not remembering Christ, who said: “The disciple is not greater than his teacher, nor the slave than his master;” Who also, “when He was reviled, reviled not again; when suffering, threatened not; but committed His cause to Him Who judgeth righteously.” As treading this path much-enduring Job also is justly admired: for it is written of him, “What man is like Job, who drinketh wrongs like a draught?” For their benefit, therefore, He rebuked the disciples, gently restraining the sharpness of their wrath, and not permitting them to murmur violently against those who sinned, but persuading them rather to be longsuffering, and to cherish a mind immovable by ought of this.