Cyril of Jerusalem on Substitutionary Atonement

Cyril of Jerusalem (ca. 313 – 386) on Isaiah 53:1,7

cyril-of-jerusalem

Isa 53:1-7 O Lord, who has believed our report? and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? (2)  We brought a report as of a child before him; he is as a root in a thirsty land: he has no form nor comeliness; and we saw him, but he had no form nor beauty.  (3) But his form was ignoble, and inferior to that of the children of men; he was a man in suffering, and acquainted with the bearing of sickness, for his face is turned from us: he was dishonored, and not esteemed. (4) He bears our sins, and is pained for us: yet we accounted him to be in trouble, and in suffering, and in affliction.  (5) But he was wounded on account of our sins, and was bruised because of our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and by his bruises we were healed. (6) All we as sheep have gone astray; every one has gone astray in his way; and the Lord gave him up for our sins. (7) And he, because of his affliction, opens not his mouth: he was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is dumb, so he opens not his mouth. 

“But the glory of the Cross led those who were blind through ignorance into light, loosed all who were held fast by sin, and ransomed the whole world of mankind. . . . And wonder not that the whole world was ransomed; for it was no mere man, but the only-begotten Son of God, who died on its behalf. Moreover one man’s sin, even Adam’s, had power to bring death to the world; but if by the trespass of the one death reigned over the world, how shall not life much rather reign by the righteousness of the One? (Romans 5:17-18) And if because of the tree of food they were then cast out of paradise, shall not believers now more easily enter into paradise because of the Tree of Jesus? If the first man formed out of the earth brought in universal death, shall not He who formed him out of the earth bring in eternal life, being Himself the Life? If Phinees, 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 (1 Timothy 2:6), put away the wrath which is against mankind? Let us then not be ashamed of the Cross of our Savior, 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 (Exodus 12:23) far away, did not much rather the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29), 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 (Luke 23:14): and when he gave Him up, and had washed his hands, he said, I am innocent of the blood of this just person. (Matthew 27:24) 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 has done nothing amiss ; for we were present, both you and I, at His judgment.

Jesus then really suffered for all men; for the Cross was no illusion , otherwise our redemption is an illusion also. His death was not a mere show , for then is our salvation also fabulous. If His death was but a show, they were true who said, We remember that that deceiver said, while He was yet alive, After three days I rise again. (Matthew 27:63) His Passion then was real: for He was really crucified, and we are not ashamed thereat; He was crucified, and we deny it not, nay, I rather glory to speak of it. For though I should now deny it, here is Golgotha to confute me, near which we are now assembled; the wood of the Cross confutes me, which was afterwards distributed piecemeal from hence to all the world. I confess the Cross, because I know of the Resurrection; for if, after being crucified, He had remained as He was, I had not perchance confessed it, for I might have concealed both it and my Master; but now that the Resurrection has followed the Cross, I am not ashamed to declare it.

Being then in the flesh like others, He was crucified, but not for the like sins. For He was not led to death for covetousness, since He was a Teacher of poverty; nor was He condemned for concupiscence, for He Himself says plainly, Whosoever shall look upon a woman to lust after her, has committed adultery with her already (Matthew 5:28); not for smiting or striking hastily, for He turned the other cheek also to the smiter; not for despising the Law, for He was the fulfiller of the Law; not for reviling a prophet, for it was Himself who was proclaimed by the Prophets; not for defrauding any of their hire, for He ministered without reward and freely; not for sinning in words, or deeds, or thoughts, He who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth; who when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, threatened not (1 Peter 2:22-23); who came to His passion, not unwillingly, but willing; yea, if any dissuading Him say even now, Be it far from You,Lord, He will say again, Get behind Me, Satan (Matthew 16:22-23). . . . . . 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.

from, Catechetical Lecture 13

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