Chrysostom on Acts
GRANT, O merciful God, that, as thine holy Apostle Saint James, leaving his father and all that he had, without delay was obedient unto the calling of thy Son Jesus Christ, and followed him; so we, forsaking all worldly and carnal affections, may be evermore ready to follow thy holy commandments; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Psalm 34 Acts xi. 27 St. Matthew xx. 20
And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.
Acts xi. 27IN these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch. And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar. Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea: which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul. Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also.
St. Matthew xx. 20THEN came to him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father. And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren. But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
“Now at that time Herod the King stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the Church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. Then were the days of unleavened bread.”
“At that time,” of course meaning the time immediately following: for this is the custom of Scripture. And he well says that Herod “the king” (did this): this was not he of Christ’s time. Lo, a different sort of trial—and mark what I said in the beginning, how things are blended, how rest and trouble alternate in the whole texture of the history—not now the Jews, nor the Sanhedrim, but the king. Greater the power, the warfare more severe, the more it was done to obtain favor with the Jews. “And,” it says, “he slew James the brother of John with the sword:” (taking him) at random and without selection. But, should any raise a question, why God permitted this, we shall say, that it was for the sake of these (Jews) themselves: thereby, first, convincing them, that even when slain (the Apostles) prevail, just as it was in the case of Stephen: secondly, giving them opportunity, after satiating their rage, to recover from their madness; thirdly, showing them that it was by His permission this was done. “And when he saw,” it says, “that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also. O excessive wickedness! On whose behalf was it, that he gratified them by doing murders thus without plan or reason? “And it was the day of unleavened bread.” Again, the idle preciseness of the Jews: to kill indeed they forbade not, but at such a time they did such things! “Whom having arrested, he put in ward, having delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers.” (v. 4.) This was done both of rage, and of fear. “He slew,” it says, “James the brother of John with the sword.” Do you mark their courage? For, that none may say that without danger or fear of danger they brave death, as being sure of God’s delivering them, therefore he permits some to be put to death, and chief men too, Stephen and James, thereby convincing their slayers themselves, that not even these things make them fall away, and hinder them.....
"At that time,” it says, “Herod the king stretched forth his hands to afflict certain of the Church.” (v. 1.) Like a wild beast, he attacked all indiscriminately and without consideration. This is what Christ said: “My cup indeed ye shall drink, and with the baptism wherewith I am baptized, shall ye be baptized.” (Mark x. 39.) (b) “And he killed James the brother of John.” (v. 2.) For there was also another James, the brother of the Lord: therefore to distinguish him, he says, “The brother of John.” Do you mark that the sum of affairs rested in these three, especially Peter and James? (a) And how was it he did not kill Peter immediately? It mentions the reason: “it was the day of unleavened bread:” and he wished rather to make a display with the killing of him. “And when he saw it pleased the Jews.” (v. 3.) For their own part, they now in consequence of Gamaliel’s advice, abstained from bloodshedding: and besides, did not even invent accusations; but by means of others they compassed the same results. (c) This (counsel of Gamaliel’s) above all was their condemnation: for the preaching was shown to be no longer a thing of men. “He proceeded further to kill Peter also.” (ch. v. 8.) In very deed was that fulfilled, “We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” (Psa. xliv. 13.) “Seeing,” it says, “it was a pleasing thing to the Jews.” (Rom. viii. 36.) A pleasing thing, bloodshed, and unrighteous bloodshed, wickedness, impiety! He ministered to their senseless lusts: for, whereas he ought to have done the contrary, to check their rage, he made them more eager, as if he were an executioner, and not a physician to their diseased minds. (And this) though he had numberless warnings in the case of both his grandfather and his father Herod, how the former in consequence of his putting the children to death suffered the greatest calamities, and the latter by slaying John raised up against himself a grievous war.