Why the Cross?


What is so special about a cross?

I ask this question every now and then to friends and acquaintances, and they all look at me like I've lost my mind or committed some kind of blasphemy. 

We see in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) that Jesus was given all kinds of opportunities to die. First, there was Herod. 

Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceedingly wroth, and sent forth and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. (Matthew 2:16) 

There was the time the Jews wanted to throw Jesus off a cliff. 

And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill wherein their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. (Luke 4:28, 29) 

And the constant threat of being stoned to death. 

Then they took up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them. (John 8:59) 

Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. (John 10:31) 

As John writes, God delivered him out of all these instances of what we might call premature death. I've heard preachers dismiss Jesus dying any of these ways on the basis of Psalm 34:20. 

He keepeth all his bones: not any one of them is broken. (Psalm 34:20) 

Jesus couldn't have been stoned or thrown off a cliff because that would have broken some of his bones, they say. But isn't that really the tail wagging the dog? I'm pretty sure Herod would have accommodated this scripture if given the chance. 

So, why a cross? The answer is buried in Deuteronomy, one of those books in your Bible that still has the gold edges on it. 

And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt surely bury him at day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that the land be not defiled, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance. (Deuteronomy 21:22, 23)

Did you see that? If a Jew (because the Law was given to the Jews)—not a pagan, a Scythian, or even a Barbarian—committed a sin worthy of death and was hung on a tree, he'd be cursed of God. That is, he'd be exiled from the people, from the land, and even from the Father himself. The apostle Paul recognized this in his letter to the Galatians. 

Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the [L]aw, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree, (Galatians 3:13)

So, think about this a minute. If Jesus had been killed by the knife, by being stoned, or by being thrown off a cliff, he wouldn't have fulfilled Deuteronomy 21. That's why it was crucial that he die by crucifixion. He had to become a curse for us to redeem us. We hear it in his scream. 

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!?! (Mark 15:34)