Lent 2015, Day Twenty-One—Cyril of Jerusalem

Cyril (AD 313-386) was Bishop of Jerusalem for over thirty years.  The citation below comes from his Catechetical Lectures (lecture 13), this particular lecture being based on Isaiah 53.  You may access all these catechetical lectures here.

If Phinehas, when he waxed zealous and slew the evil-doer, staved the wrath of God, shall not Jesus, who slew not another, but gave up Himself for a ransom, put away the wrath which is against mankind?  (2)

Let us then not be ashamed of the Cross of our Saviour, but rather glory in it.  For the word of the Cross is unto Jews a stumbling-block, and unto Gentiles foolishness, but to us salvation: and to them that are perishing it is foolishness, but unto us which are being saved it is the power of God.  For it was not a mere man who died for us, as I said before, but the Son of God, God made man.  Further, if the lamb under Moses drove the destroyer far away, did not much rather the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world, deliver us from our sins?  The blood of a silly sheep gave salvation; and shall not the Blood of the Only-begotten much rather save?  If any disbelieve the power of the Crucified, let him ask the devils; if any believe not words, let him believe what he sees.  Many have been crucified throughout the world, but by none of these are the devils scared; but when they see even the Sign of the Cross of Christ, who was crucified for us, they shudder.  For those men died for their own sins, but Christ for the sins of others; for He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth.  It is not Peter who says this, for then we might suspect that he was partial to his Teacher; but it is Isaiah who says it, who was not indeed present with Him in the flesh, but in the Spirit foresaw His coming in the flesh.  Yet why now bring the Prophet only as a witness?  Take for a witness Pilate himself, who gave sentence upon Him, saying, “I find no fault in this Man”: and when he gave Him up, and had washed his hands, he said, I am innocent of the blood of this just person.  There is yet another witness of the sinlessness of Jesus—the robber, the first man admitted into Paradise; who rebuked his fellow, and said, “We receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man hath done nothing amiss.”  (3)

Jesus then really suffered for all men; for the Cross was no illusion, otherwise our redemption is an illusion also . . . (4)

And wouldest thou be persuaded that He came to His passion willingly?  Others, who foreknow it not, die unwillingly; but He spoke before of His passion:  “Behold, the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.”  But knowest thou wherefore this Friend of man shunned not death?  It was lest the whole world should perish in its sins. “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and the Son of man shall be betrayed, and shall be crucified.”  And again, “He stedfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.”  (6)

He gave not up His life by compulsion, nor was He put to death by murderous violence, but of His own accord.  Hear what He says:  “I have power to lay down My life, and I have power to take it again.”: I yield it of My own choice to My enemies; for unless I chose, this could not be.  He came therefore of His own set purpose to His passion, rejoicing in His noble deed, smiling at the crown, cheered by the salvation of mankind; not ashamed of the Cross, for it was to save the world.  For it was no common man who suffered, but God in man’s nature, striving for the prize of His patience.  (6)

And the crown itself was a mystery; for it was a remission of sins, a release from the curse.  (17)

Adam received the sentence, “Cursed is the ground in thy labours; thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee.”  For this cause Jesus assumes the thorns, that He may cancel the sentence . . .  (18)

These things the Saviour endured, and made peace through the Blood of His Cross, for things in heaven, and things in earth.  For we were enemies of God through sin, and God had appointed the sinner to die.  There must needs therefore have happened one of two things; either that God, in His truth, should destroy all men, or that in His loving-kindness He should cancel the sentence.  But behold the wisdom of God; He preserved both the truth of His sentence, and the exercise of His loving-kindness.  Christ took our sins in His body on the tree, that we by His death might die to sin, and live unto righteousness. . . .  The transgression of sinners was not so great as the righteousness of Him who died for them; the sin which we committed was not so great as the righteousness which He wrought who laid down His life for us—who laid it down when He pleased, and took it again when He pleased.  (33)

Jerry Shepherd
Lent
March 13, 2015

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