CONSIDERATIONS ON THE PASSION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
When the Divine Word offered Himself to redeem mankind, there were before Him two ways of redeeming the world, the one of joy and glory, the other of pains and insults. But as it was His will, not only by His coming to deliver man from eternal death, but also to call forth the love of all the hearts of men, He rejected the way of joy and glory, and chose that of pains and insults: Having joy set before him, he endured the cross (Heb. xii. 2). In order that He might satisfy the Divine justice for us, and, at the same time, inflame us with His holy love, He was willing to endure the burden of all our sins; that, dying upon a Cross, He might obtain for us grace and the life of the Blessed. This is what Isaias intended to express when he said: He himself hath borne our infirmities, and carried our sorrows (Is. liii. 4).
Of this there were two express figures in the Old Testament; the first was the annual ceremony of the scape-goat, and the high priest presented as bearing all the sins of the people, and therefore all, loading it with curses, drove it into the desert, to be the object of the wrath of God. This scape-goat was a figure of our Redeemer, Who was willing to load Himself with all the curses deserved by us for our sins; being made a curse for us, in order that He might obtain for us the Divine blessing. Therefore the Apostle wrote in another place: He made him to be sin for us, who knew not sin, that we might be made the justice of God in him (2 Cor. v. 21). That is, as St. Ambrose and St. Anselm explain it, He made Him to be sin Who was Innocence itself. Jesus presented Himself to His Father as if He had been sin itself. In a word, Jesus took upon Himself the character of a sinner, and endured the pains due to us sinners, in order to render us just before God. The second type of the sacrifice that Jesus Christ offered to the Eternal Father for us upon the Cross was that brazen serpent fixed to a tree, by looking upon which the Jews who were bitten by fiery serpents were healed (Num. xxi. 8). Accordingly, St. John writes: As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that every one who believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life (Jo. iii. 14).
We must here notice that in the Book of Wisdom, the shameful death of Jesus Christ is clearly foretold. Although the words of the passage referred to may apply to the death of every just man, yet, say Tertullian, St. Cyprian, St. Jerome, and many other holy Fathers, that they principally refer to the death of Christ. We read: If he is the true Son of God, he will accept him, and deliver him (Wis. 18). These words exactly correspond with what the Jews said when Jesus was upon the Cross: He trusted in God; let him deliver him, if he will have him; for he said, I am the Son of God (Matt. xxvii. 43). The wise Man goes on to say, Let us try him with insults and torments (that is, those of the Cross), and let us prove his patience; let us condemn him to the most shameful death (Wis. ii. 19, 20). The Jews chose the death of the Cross for Jesus Christ, because it is shameful, in order that His Name might be forever infamous, and no more held in remembrance, according to the other text of Jeremias: Let us cast wood into his bread, and wipe him out from the land of the living, and his name shall be remembered no more (Jer. xi. 19). How, then, can the Jews of the present day say that it is false that Christ, because His life was ended by a shameful death, was the promised Messias, when the Prophets themselves foretold that He would die a most dishonourable death?
And Jesus accepted such a death. He died to pay the price of our sins; and therefore, as a sinner, He desired to be circumcised; to be redeemed with a price when He was presented in the Temple; to receive the baptism of repentance from the Baptist; and lastly, in His Passion, to be nailed upon the Cross to atone for our guilty wanderings; to atone for our avarice by being stripped of His garments; for our pride, by the insults He endured; for our desires of power, by submitting himself to the executioner; for our evil thoughts, by His crown of thorns; for our intemperance, by the gall He tasted; and by the pangs of His body for our sensual delights.