Did it matter how the promised Savior died? Why a cross?
After all, it was for heresy that Jesus was brought to trial by the religious establishment. And the required punishment for heretics was stoning. In fact, the fledgling Church’s very first martyr, Stephen, was stoned by an enraged mob for speaking what they believed were heresies—even as a man from Tarsus named Saul looked on approvingly.
So, why wasn’t Jesus stoned?
We know that Jesus, the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” was the living fulfillment of all the types and shadows embodied by the Passover lamb. The tens of thousands of Passover lambs being sacrificed over on the Temple mount the same day Jesus was crucified died by the knife of a Levitical priest.
So, if Jesus had similarly been sliced asunder with a Roman sword, would His shed blood have been just as efficacious?
First, the Word of God makes it clear that the shedding of the Messiah’s innocent blood was indeed a vital aspect of His sacrifice. And the Roman process of crucifixion was an appallingly bloody affair. As the writer of Hebrews declares, “without the shedding of blood there is no remission” of sin.
On the eve of His death, Jesus Himself pointed symbolically to a cup of wine and said, “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matt. 26:28)
Yes, the role of Jesus’ shed blood cannot be over-emphasized. However, the mission of Jesus . . . the reason He left Heaven’s splendor and became the Last Adam . . . was to roll back the curse that descended upon all mankind, indeed upon all the Earth, when the First Adam fell.
That fall happened at a tree—the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And for reasons we may not fully understand this side of Glory, there is something significant about a death on a tree that points back to that fall and the resultant curse. In Deuteronomy 21:22-23 we find:
“If a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God) . . .
The Jews of Jesus day were very attuned to the implications of this passage. They viewed crucifixion as the worst fate that could befall any Jew. Such a person was under a curse and irredeemable. But it was the Apostle Paul who, by divine inspiration and revelation, grasped the full curse-repealing implications of death on a tree. He had those implications in mind when he penned Galatians 3:13: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.”
Yes, the shedding of that blood—a blood utterly untainted by the stain of sin—was essential to effect a redemption that would pass legal muster in the Court of Heaven. But a sacrificial death that would once-and-for-all-time roll back the curse had to be a death on a tree.
What’s more, there had to be thorns at that tree because thorns were a God-declared outcome of that curse’s unfolding. Thus we find thorns cruelly pressed into the Lamb’s brow.
And it had to be a naked and shameful death because the very first indicator that Adam and Eve had fallen under sin’s power was their shame-filled realization of their nakedness.
No. There was no other possible death for that “Seed” promised to Eve. The One whose heel the serpent would bruise. The One who, in His victory over Death, would crush the head of that Serpent of old and make all things new.
It had to be a cross.