7 Reasons Why Christ Died on a Wooden Cross (from Saint Thomas Aquinas)

When I was kid, I loved to read mysteries. My favorite was a series called Encyclopedia Brown about a childhood version of Sherlock Holmes who would solve mysteries in his neighborhood. Why do I still like mysteries? Mysteries give you many little facts that add up to one big impressive fact. Mysteries are mental puzzles. It requires a keen mind to put it together. When somebody solves the mystery, there is a great sense of delight in all who have followed the details.
The Bible is like a dramatic mystery story. The entire Old Testament is full of clues. All of these clues lead the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. However, most Jews at the time of Christ (those who were trying to solve the mystery of the Old Testament) failed to solve the mystery. At the moment of the final solution, what others have called “the climax of the covenant,” they rejected the obvious fulfillment of every single clue: Jesus Christ.{I catalogued over 300 Old Testament prophecies about Christ in my book The Crucified Rabbi, if you’re interested in learning more about this.}

But here’s what makes this mystery of redemption so amazing. The rejection of the mystery was the ultimate fulfillment of the mystery! The ultimate failure to organize all the “clues” (prophecy) led the rejection and murder of the one who was the Solution, our Lord Jesus Christ.
One of the most interesting “clues” or “mysteries” was the Messiah and Son of God should die on a Roman wooden cross outside the city of Jerusalem. If you’re like me, we are accustomed to the idea of the cross. But think about how scandalous it was for the Jewish Messiah to die on a Gentile instrument of torture. Consider how amazing it is that God chose to use a Roman instrument of capital punishment to bring about human redemption. Hail the wood of the cross!
To allow to better appreciate this, here are Saint Thomas Aquinas’ SEVEN reason for why Christ died on a wooden cross. I like to read these over every year during Holy Week:
First, Augustine observed that crucifixion is not only painful, it is painful and public. The public nature of Christ’s death inspires us to face death heroically.
Second, Augustine observed that since Adam brought death through a tree, it was fitting that the New Adam destroy death by hanging on a tree.
Third, John Chrysostom and Theophylact observed that by being lifted up on the cross, Christ sanctified the air.
Fourth, Athanasius observed that by being lifted up on the cross, Christ shows that He has prepared the ascent into Heaven.
Fifth, Gregory of Nyssa observed that the shape of the cross was fitting for because it extends in the four directions and is therefore universal. Also, Athanasius wrote that the one outstretched arm sanctified the those in the past and the other arm as outstretched to the future. So we have both a spacial and temporal universality signified in the crucifixion.
Sixth, Augustine says the parts of the cross signifies the following:
  • Breadth – This pertains to Christ’s hands and thus “good works”
  • Length – This pertains to the upright nature of a tree and thus “longanimity”.
  • Height – This pertains to the top and Christ’s head and “the good hope” of the faithful.
  • Base – The base is the root and it is hidden, thus it signifies “grace”.
Seventh, Augustine observes that wood is salutary in the Old Covenant. Wood saved Noah in the Flood. Moses divided the sea with a wooden rod; purified water with wood, and brought forth water with his wooden rod. Also, the Ark of the Covenant was made of wood.
from Saint Thomas Aquinas Summa theologiae III q. 46, a. 4.
As you can see, the crucifixion of Christ our Lord is layered with meaning and symbolism. It is a conclusion to the mystery that we could have never guessed!
If you like this type of writing and theological mystery, please take a look at my latest book The Eternal City. There is a whole chapter in the book on the mystery of Christ dying on a wooden, Roman cross and how it relates to the Roman Catholic Church. It’s not accidents that Catholics make the sign of the (Roman) cross before and after prayers.
I am convinced that you’ll love the book and benefit from it. In fact, I offer a 100% money back guarantee on all my books. If you read one of my books and didn’t like it, I’ll send you a personal check to cover the cost. No questions asked. I’m that convinced that you’ll like my books. Moreover, the reviews on amazon confirm that people love the book.
You can get the book here at amazon.com:
Have a great Holy Week!

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