O Beautiful Confession! (Cyril)

The Bible commentaries and sermons from the early church fathers are often extremely helpful. Quite often I’ll get more out of the commentaries or sermons of Chyrostom, Ambrose, Cyril, and Augustine than the modern commentaries on my shelves. In fact, my own sermons and studies would suffer if I neglected the sermons and commentaries of the fathers. For one example, this morning in my study of Luke 22:32-43 I read Cyril’s exposition of this passage. Here’s what he wrote about the two criminals executed along with Jesus:

Two thieves therefore were hanged with Him, as I said, in mockery even of the passion which brings salvation to the whole world. But of these, the one, it says, resembled in his conduct the impiety of the Jews, belching forth the same words as they did, and giving free utterance to blasphemous expressions. “For if, saith he, Thou be the Christ, save Thyself, and us.”

But the other, following a different course, is justly worthy of our admiration, for he believed in Him. And while suffering so bitter a punishment, he rebuked the vehement outcries of the Jews, and the words of him who was hanging with him. He “confessed his sin, that he might be justified.” He became the accuser of his own wicked ways, that God might remit his guilt; for it is written, “I said that I will confess of myself my iniquity to the Lord, and Thou forgavest the wickedness of my heart.” He bore unto Christ a blameless testimony, and reproved the Jewish want of love to God, and condemned the sentence of Pilate: “for This Man, he says, hath done nothing that is hateful.”

O how beautiful is this confession! How wise the reasonings, and how excellent the thoughts! He became the confessor of the Savior’s glory, and the accuser of the pride of those who crucified Him. What reward therefore did he receive? Of what honours was he counted worthy? Or what benefit did the thief gain who was the first to profess faith? He lit upon a treasure worth the having: he became rich unexpectedly, and possessed of every blessing: he won the inheritance of the saints, and to have his name written above, in heaven: he was in the book of life who was bearing the sentence of death, and is numbered with the dwellers in the city that is above.

Cyril of Alexandria, A Commentary upon the Gospel according to S. Luke, trans. by R. Payne Smith (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1859).

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

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