Exegetical Sermon 145 on the Passion

by St. Cyril of Alexandria

Our father among the saints Cyril of Alexandria was the Pope of Alexandria at the time Alexandria was at its height in influence and power within the Roman Empire. Cyril wrote extensively and was a leading protagonist in the Christological controversies of the 4th and 5th centuries. He was a central figure in the Council of Ephesus in 431 which led to the deposition of Nestorius as Archbishop of Constantinople. His reputation within the Orthodox Christian world has led to his acquiring the title “Seal of all the Fathers.”

SERMON CXLV

Luke 22:35-38. And He said to them, When I sent you without purse and without bag and shoes, lacked you anything? And they said, Nothing. And He said to them, But now, he that has a purse, let him take it: and in like manner also a bag: and he that has not one, let him sell his garment, and buy a sword. For I say to you, that this that is written must be accomplished in Me, that he was numbered also with the transgressors. For that which concerns Me has an end. And they said, Lord, behold here are two swords. And He said to them, It is enough.

The blessed Moses impressed the fear of God upon the Israelites by saying,

“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God: for our God is a consuming fire.”

And another holy prophet has also said concerning Him,

“His wrath consumes the princes, and the rocks are melted at Him.”

Moreover the blessed David says of Him somewhere in the Psalms,

“You are to be feared, and who shall rise up before You at Your wrath?”

For what power of man, or of ought whatsoever that is created, can stand against the irresistible force of Almighty God? But His wrath does not descend upon any righteous man whatsoever;—-for God does not commit injustice;—-but upon those rather whose sins are numerous and intolerable, and their wickedness beyond bounds.

And as an example of what we have said, take that which happened to the Jewish multitudes after Christ rose from the dead, and ascended up to heaven.

For God the Father sent to them His Son, inviting them to a service superior to the law, and to the knowledge of all good: He sent Him to free them from all guilt, and deliver them from the stains of sin; to bring them to the adoption of sons, to glory, to honour, and to the communion of the Holy Spirit; to life incorruptible; to never-ending glory; and to the kingdom of heaven.

But though they ought eagerly to have hastened to this  grace, and with grateful praises have honoured Him Who came to aid them, and joyfully have accepted the grace that is by faith, they did verily nothing of the kind, but betook themselves to the very reverse: for they rose up against Him, setting Him at nought by their disobedience, reviling even His divine signs, and after doing and saying every thing that was abominable, finally they crucified Him. And so it became their lot to suffer those things which the company also of the holy prophets had before proclaimed.

For one of them said,

“God shall put them far away, because they did not hear Him, and they shall be wanderers among the nations.”

And again,

“Because Jerusalem is forsaken, and Judah is fallen, and their tongues are with iniquity; they disobey the Lord; therefore now is their glory brought low, and the shame of their faces has stood up against them.”

And in another place they are thus addressed as in the person of God over all;

”And now, because you have done all these works, and I spoke to you and you did not hear, and I called to you and you answered not: therefore will I do to this house, on which My name is called, and wherein you trust; and to this place which I have given to you and to your fathers as I did to Shilom: and I will cast you from before My face, as I cast away your brethren, even the whole seed of Ephraim.”

For they were delivered up, as I have said, to desolation, and were dispersed over all the earth, their temple being consumed with fire, and all Judaea taken captive.

That this would be the case Christ had before announced to the disciples, the occasion which caused Him to speak upon this subject being some such as follows: He had forewarned the admirable Peter, that he would thrice deny Him, at the time namely of His seizure, when the band of Pilate’s soldiers with the officers of the Jews brought Him to the chief priests for judgment: for there Peter denied Him.

And inasmuch as mention had now once been made of His seizure, and of his being taken before Caiaphas, there naturally followed upon this allusion a reference to that also which was next to come to pass, even His passion upon the cross: and then it was that He foretold the war about to burst upon the Jews, and which with unendurable violence spread like some  river over all their land.

On this account He says;

“When I sent you without purse and without bag and shoes, lacked you anything? And they said, No.”

For the Saviour sent the holy apostles, with the command to preach to the inhabitants of every village and city the gospel of the kingdom of heaven, and to heal every grief and every sickness among the people. And on their journey He bade them not to occupy themselves with things that concern the body, but rather without baggage and unencumbered, and resting all their hope of sustenance on Him, so to traverse the land: and this they also did, making themselves an example of praiseworthy and apostolic conduct.

“But now, He says, he that has a purse, let him take it, and a bag in like manner.”

Tell me then, was this because on second thoughts a more serviceable plan was devised? Would it have been better on the former occasion also to have had bag and purse? Or if not, what was the cause of so sudden a change? What need had the holy apostles of purse and bag? What answer must we give to this? That the saying in appearance had reference to them, but in reality applied to the person of every Jew: for they it rather was. whom Christ addressed. For He did not say that the holy apostles must get purse and bag, but that

“whosoever has a purse, let him take it,”

meaning thereby, that whosoever had property in the Jewish territories, should collect all that he had together, and flee, so that if he could any how save himself, he might do so. But any one who had not the means of equipping himself for travel, and who from extreme poverty must continue in the land, let even such one, He says, sell his cloak, and buy a sword: for henceforth the question with all those who continue in the land will not be whether they possess anything or not, but whether they can exist and preserve their lives. For war shall befal them with such unendurable impetuosity, that nothing shall be able to stand against it.

And next He tells them the cause of the evil, and of a tribulation so severe and irremediable befalling them, saying,

“that He is about according to the Scriptures to be numbered with the transgressors,”

plainly referring to His being hung upon the cross with the thieves who were crucified with Him, and so enduring a transgressor’s punishment:

“and the  dispensation, having come to this, will now have an end.”

For He endured indeed for our sakes His saving passion, and thus far the daring wickedness of the Jews proceeded, and this was the consummation of their unbridled fury: but after the passion upon the cross every hand was powerless,

“for the enemy had no advantage over Him, and the Son of wickedness could no more hurt Him.’”

For He arose, having trampled upon the grave; He ascended up into heaven, He sat down on the right hand of God the Father; and hereafter He shall come, not in mean estate, as of old, nor in the measure of human nature, but in the glory of the Father, with the holy angels as His body-guard; and He shall sit also upon the throne of His glory,

“judging the world in righteousness,”

as it is written. Then, as the prophet says,

“they shall look on Him Whom they pierced:”

and Him Whom these wretched beings ridiculed, as they saw Him hang on the precious cross, they shall behold crowned with godlike glory, and in just retribution of their wickedness towards Him, shall fall into the pit of destruction.

“What therefore, He says, concerns Me, has an end,”

as far, that is, as relates to My suffering death in the flesh. And then shall those things which were foretold by the holy prophets in old time, happen to those who slew Him.

And in foretelling these things, the Lord was speaking of what was about to happen to the country of the Jews. But the divine disciples did not understand the deep meaning of what was said, but supposed rather that He meant that swords were necessary, because of the attack about to be made upon Him by the disciple who betrayed Him, and by those who were assembled to seize Him. For this reason they say,

“Lord, behold, here are two swords.”

And what is the Saviour’s reply?

“It is enough.”

Observe how, so to say, He even ridicules their speech, well knowing that the disciples not having understood the force of what was said, thought that swords were required, because of the attack about to be made upon Himself. Fixing His look therefore upon those things which happened to the Jews because of their wicked conduct towards Him, the Saviour, as I said, ridicules their speech, and says,

“It is enough:”

yes, forsooth, two swords are enough to bear the brunt of the war about to come upon them, to meet which  many thousand swords were of no avail. For a mighty resistance was made by the pride of the Jews against the forces of Augustus Caesar: but they availed nothing; for they were besieged with overpowering might, and suffered all misery. For as the prophet Isaiah says,

“That which the holy God purposes, who shall bring to nought? and His hand, when lifted up, who shall turn aside?”

Let us beware therefore of provoking God to anger: for it is a fearful thing to fall into His hands. But to those who believe in Christ He is merciful; even to those who praise Him; who call Him their Redeemer and Deliverer; who minister to Him with spiritual service, and by all virtuous conduct: for if so we act and speak, Christ will make us His own; by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen.

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About Fr. John A. Peck

Director of the Preachers Institute, priest in the Orthodox Church in America, award-winning graphic designer and media consultant, and non-profit administrator.
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