CONSIDERATIONS ON THE PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST
Pride was the cause of the sin of Adam, and, consequently, of the ruin of the human race. On this account Jesus Christ came to repair this ruin by His own humiliation, not refusing to embrace the shame of all the insults His enemies offered Him, as He had Himself predicted by David: Because for thy sake I have borne reproach, confusion hath covered my face (Ps. lxviii. 8). The whole life of our Redeemer was filled with shame and insults which He received from men; and He did not refuse to accept them, even to the extent of death itself, in order to deliver us from eternal shame: Who, having joy set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame (Heb. xii. 2).
O God, who would not mourn for Jesus, and who would not love Him, if he would but consider what He suffered for the three hours during which His crucifixion lasted and in His agony upon the Cross? All His limbs were stricken and tormented, and one could not relieve the other. The afflicted Lord on that bed of pain could not move, being fastened with nails in His hands and feet; all His most sacred flesh was full of wounds, while the wounds of His hands and feet were most painful, and were compelled to sustain His whole body; so that wheresoever He rested upon that Cross, whether on His hands or His feet, there His pains increased. It may be truly said that in those three hours of agony Jesus suffered as many deaths as He passed moments upon the Cross. O innocent Lamb Who hast suffered such things for me, have mercy upon me! Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me!
Yet these outward pains of the body were the least bitter; the inward pains of the soul were far greater. His blessed soul was all desolate, and deprived of every drop of consolation and sensible relief; all was weariness, sorrow, and affliction. This He uttered in the words: My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Matt. xxvii. 46). Drowned in this sea of inward and outward grief, our Saviour, so worthy of our love, thought fit to end His life, as He had foretold by the mouth of David: I am come into the depths of the sea, and a tempest hath overwhelmed me (Ps. lxviii. 3).
Behold, at the very time that Jesus was in agony upon the Cross, and was drawing near to death, all they who stood near Him, priests, scribes, elders, and soldiers, never ceased adding to His pangs with insults and mockeries. St. Matthew writes: They that passed by blasphemed him, wagging their heads (Matt. xxvii. 39). This was already prophesied by David, when he wrote, speaking in the person of Christ: All they that saw me reviled me, they spoke with their lips, and wagged their head (Ps. xxi. 8).
They who passed before Him said: Vah! Thou that destroyest the temple of God, and in three days dost rebuild it, save thy own self; if thou be the Son of God, come down from the Cross (Matt. xxvii. 40). Thou hast boasted, they said, that Thou wouldst destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days. Yet Jesus had not said that He could destroy the material temple and raise it again in three days; but He had said: Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again (Jo. ii. 19). With these words He indeed intended to express His own power; but He really (as Euthymius and others explain it) spoke allegorically, foretelling that, through the act of the Jews, His soul would be one day separated from His body, but that in three days it would rise again.
They said: Save thyself. O ungrateful men! If this great Son of God when He was made Man, had chosen to save Himself, He would not voluntarily have chosen death.
If thou art the Son of God, come down from the cross (Matt. xxvii. 40); yet, if Jesus had come down, He would not have accomplished our Redemption by His death. We could not have been delivered from eternal death. “He would not come down,” says St. Ambrose, “lest when He came down, I should die.” Theophylact writes, that they who said this spoke by the instigation of the devil who sought to hinder our salvation which Jesus was about to accomplish by means of the Cross. And he adds that the Lord would not have ascended the Cross had He been willing to descend from it without accomplishing our Redemption. St. John Chrysostom also says that the Jews uttered this insult in order that Jesus might die insulted as an impostor in the sight of all men, and be proved unable to deliver Himself from the Cross, after He had boasted that He was the Son of God.
St. John Chrysostom remarks that the Jews ignorantly said: If thou be the Son of God, come down from the Cross; for if Jesus had come down from the Cross before He had died, He would not have been that Son of God Who was promised, and Who was to save us by His death. On this account, says the Saint, He did not come down from the Cross until He was dead, because He had come down from Heaven for the very purpose of giving His life for our salvation. St. Athanasius makes the same remark, saying that our Redeemer chose to be known as the true Son of God, not by coming down from the Cross, but by remaining upon it till He was dead. And thus it was foretold by the Prophets that our Redeemer must be crucified and die, as St. Paul wrote: Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, for it is written: Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree (Gal. iii. 13).