Why was Jesus crucified?

by St. John Chrysostom

In fact, He conducted us to the ancient story to forestall anyone's saying, "How is it possible for those who believe in the Crucified One to be saved, inasmuch as He Himself was possessed by death?"

It is possible, for, if the Jews escaped death by looking upon the brazen image of a serpent, then with much greater reason would those who believe in the Crucified One enjoy an even greater benefit. For the crucifixion took place, not by reason of the impotence of the Crucified, and not by reason of the superior strength of the Jews; it was because, "God loved the world" that His living Temple was crucified. "That those who believe in him may not perish, but may have life everlasting".

Do you perceive the reason for the crucifixion and for the salvation proceeding from it? Do you perceive the relationship of the figure with the reality? In the former, the Jews escaped death, but it was temporal death; in the latter, the faithful escape eternal death. In the former, the uplifted serpent healed the bites of serpents; in the latter, the crucified Jesus healed the wounds inflicted by the spiritual dragon. In the former, he who looked with these eyes of earth was healed; in the latter, he who gazes with the eyes of his mind lays aside all his sins.

In the former, there was the uplifted brass fashioned in the likeness of a serpent; in the latter, the Lord's body formed by the Spirit. A serpent inflicted the bite in the former, and a serpent healed it; so also in the latter, death destroyed and death saved. But the destroying serpent possessed poison, while the Saviour was free from poison. And here similarly once more: the death which destroyed us had sin as the serpent has poison, but the death of the Lord was free from all sin just as indeed the brazen serpent was, of poison. The Scripture says about Jesus:

"Who did no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth" (1 Peter 2:22).

And this it is also which St Paul said:

"Disarming the Principalities and Powers, he displayed them openly, leading them away in triumph by force of it" (2 Col. 2:15).

from The Orthodox Messenger, August 1990
published bi-monthly by the SA Central Youth

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