But Why did He need to die in this way? Why the Cross? Was there any other way for God to redeem us, beside the Cross?
Before explaining anything we have to understand the basic consequence of our original parents' sin. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God they had to die because they broke the law, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” The result of transgression was twofold in nature.
- The Death sentence, for “the wage of sin is death”[Rom. 6:23)
- The Corruption of human nature-” For God created man to be immortal (incorruption) and made him be an image of his own eternity. Nevertheless through envy of the devil came death into the world [The Book of Wisdom 2:23].” The human nature contaminated when sin comes in and death worked within it.
Out of many possibilities, God had three options (humanly speaking) dealing with Adam’s fall/Sin.
- For Adam to DIE- This contradicts God’s endless love and His Mercy to human. This is what satan longs for after enticing them to sin. God could have created a new Adam, free of course, to fall again and die. This would be a continuous series of victory for Satan. This is against God’s wisdom and honor. God had created a man to enjoy His love, blessing, and sonship. How dare satan deprive of these free gift. St. Athanasius contemplates on this saying “it was better for a man if he wasn’t created than to be created to face this fate.”
- For God to FORGIVE Adam - this contradicts God’s infinite Justice. Forgiveness would have questioned God’s claim of justice and credibility. Because God has told Adam what his decree would be if he transgresses- death. If there had been the only sin, and not its consequence of corruption, repentance would have been “enough?”. Let say for argument sake, God had forgiven Adam. Then Adam’s nature would have remained corrupt. This corruption would have led him to live in a continuous state of sin and remained untruthful. So this was not a good solution either.
- For God to REDEEM Adam- This is the only viable option that would meet God’s love and justice. Through redemption, Adam would need someone to die for him and to renew his human nature.
Since man sinned against infinite God; his sin was limitless demanding limitless punishment which couldn’t be attained through man’s capacity for repentance. Man's nature had become corrupted by sin and it required limitless atonement. Who is limitless except God Himself!. The redeemer needed to be pure, holy, sinless, omnipotent, human, creator and willing to die in Adam’s place. These traits only are found in God. This way Adam would escape death and yet meet God’s justice and love. But how? Why Cross? The Bible says, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”[Gal.3:13]. The Lord has played three roles on the Cross. When Adam and Eve sinned, the result was obvious death! “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Humanity didn’t need only love. If it were, it would have been easy for God to forgive Adam. Adam’s transgression needed also God’s Justice. Humanity needed a redeemer who takes Adam’s place to die and to shed His blood in accordance with the law established in the Old Testament; “without shedding of blood there is no remission.” (Heb. 9:23). The Cross is a sign of Christ’s sacrificial love and Adam’s salvation. St. Gregory the Theologian, said, “humanity has been saved through being unified with God. So the incarnation, along with crucifixion, can fulfill salvation. The cross, then, is an essential matter in the process of salvation”.
The Cross is God’s call to humanity. The bible says “when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” (Jn. 12:32). St. Athanasius explains this saying “ How could He have called us to Him unless he had been crucified. For no man can die with open arms except on the cross. That is why the Lord saw fit to bear this death, to stretch forth His hands so that with one hand He could draw the old nation and with the other draw the nations so that both would unite in His person.”
The cross is our sign to defeat the devil and all evil temptation as Christ defeated all evil with the cross. For this reason, we elevate and bow down before the cross in veneration and worship of God. In one our Church’s hymn, specifically in passion week, we say “Before the Cross, We bow down in Worship, O Master, and your Holy Resurrection, we glorify”.
Hymen of passion week
A journey with The Church fathers..Bishop Moussa
The incarnation.. The journey of God to man.. Bishop Moussa
The passion of Jesus Christ.. Fr. El- Meskeen
The Mystery of the Cross...Fr. El- Meskeen
Reflections on the Life of Jesus Christ. Sami I. Boulos Ph.D
The Life of the Virgin Mary, the THEOTOKOS