On the Incarnation of the Word 24 – Jesus Did Not Control or Devise the Manner of His Death

Posted: September 16th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Incarnation of the Word | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on On the Incarnation of the Word 24 – Jesus Did Not Control or Devise the Manner of His Death

I have a sense that many evangelicals today might have a hard time wrapping their head around or accepting this section of Athanasius’ treatise. I could be wrong, of course, but it seems to me sometimes that many perceive Jesus as orchestrating, devising, choosing, and managing the Cross as his means of death. He accepted it, of course, when he had the power to refuse it. But that’s not quite the same thing.

Part of Athanasius’ objection is that if Jesus had died a public, glorious death, people would not have believed that he was powerful against every type of death, but only a noble death. By dying in the most shameful and ignoble form of execution devised, he demonstrated that he had power over all death. But he then extends that point.

And just as a noble wrestler, great in skill and courage, does not pick out his antagonists for himself, lest he should raise a suspicion of his being afraid of some of them, but puts it in the choice of the onlookers, and especially so if they happen to be his enemies, so that against whomsoever they match him, him he may throw, and be believed superior to them all; so also the Life of all, our Lord and Saviour, even Christ, did not devise a death for His own body, so as not to appear to be fearing some other death; but He accepted on the Cross, and endured, a death inflicted by others, and above all by His enemies, which they thought dreadful and ignominious and not to be faced; so that this also being destroyed, both He Himself might be believed to be the Life, and the power of death be brought utterly to nought. So something surprising and startling has happened; for the death, which they thought to inflict as a disgrace, was actually a monument of victory against death itself. Whence neither did He suffer the death of John, his head being severed, nor, as Esaias, was He sawn in sunder; in order that even in death He might still keep His body undivided and in perfect soundness, and no pretext be afforded to those that would divide the Church.

The Cross was devised and inflicted on Jesus by his enemies. He accepted it, but he did not orchestrate it. And the death intended to disgrace him became a symbol of victory instead.

And don’t miss the last point. Jesus did keep his body undivided in his death so that no pretext could be afforded to those who would divide the Church. Athanasius connects the Church directly to Christ’s physical body. When we strive to divide the church, as is extremely common today, what exactly are doing? It’s something to think about.


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