Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree. Galatians 3:13
Have you ever asked yourself why it is Jesus Christ died hanging on a tree? Simply asked, why did Jesus die on a cross?
I. Because the cross is prophesied in Scripture -- "for it is written . . ." (Galatians 3:13).
Peter said the prophets "testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ" (I Peter 1:11). Paul said to Agrippa in Caesarea "I say none other than those things which Moses and the prophets said should come, that Christ should suffer" (Acts 26:22). The prophets foretold Jesus would die on a cross.
I have a book in my library written in 1728 by John Gill entitled The Prophecies of the Old Testament Respecting the Messiah Considered; and Proved to be Literally Fulfilled in Jesus. Gill looks at several passages from the Old Testament and shows that the prophets predicted:
Christ would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12).
He would be forsaken by his disciples (Zechariah 13:7).
He would be beaten and scourged (Micah 5:1).
He would die on a cross (Psalm 22).
He would be numbered among thieves (Isaiah 53:12).
His garments would be parted (Psalm 22:18).
He would be given vinegar to drink (Psalm 69:21).
No bones would be broken (Psalm 34:20).
He would die in shame before men (Psalm 22:13).
He would die abandoned by God (Psalm 22:1).
These prophecies, among the hundreds in Scripture literally fulfilled, should give us the assurance that the Bible is truly God's word. No other religious book in the world contains prophecies fulfilled.
How could the prophets of the Old Testament predict the future of the Messiah? Simple. God spoke through His prophets since He alone has the power to know the future. Jesus Christ died on the cross because God intended His Son to die this way, and the evidence is found in the prophecies of Scripture.
But we have not really answered the question, "Why the cross?" Why not some other means?
II. Because the cross is God's symbol of a curse.
Galatians 3:13 is a quotation from God's law to the Jewish nation given in Deuteronomy 21:23.
22. And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree:
23. His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.
An Old Testament Jewish man who rebelled against the Law of God was to be taken outside the camp of stoning and hanged on a tree. This is not the western Gunsmoke form of hanging, but the Jewish hanging of crucifixion.
"They fix a beam in the earth, and a piece of wood goes out of it (near the top of it) and hang him; the hands are spread, and one hand is fastened to the one part of the cross-beam, and the other to the other end" (Jewish Rabbi Jarchi) as quoted by Gill.
The person hanged on a tree in the Old Testament pictured a person "cut off" from God. This cursed person is hanged to demonstrate to others he is cursed by God. Throughout the centuries Jews have mocked Jesus calling him, "he who is hanged."
Jesus Christ, in fulfilling the Law of God, became a curse when He died on a tree at Calvary. Why?
II. Because the cross becomes God's curse for us.
Have you broken the law of God? Are you worthy of the condemnation of God? Are you "cut off" from God because of sin, and feel yourself abandoned by Him? Does the venom of sin flow through you? Sinners have only one hope -- only one escape -- from God's curse of death. The cross of Christ.
We are in the same predicament the children of Israel were in thousands of years ago. Bitten by fiery serpents in the wilderness, facing imminent death, they needed relief. God instructed Moses to build a serpent on a brass pole and to "lift it up." God then said, "Everyone that is bitten, let him look and live" (Numbers 21:8). Look to what? A pole in the ground with a cursed serpent hanging on it? Yes. Look! Look and live! Moses told the people.
When Nicodemus came to Jesus at night and wondered how a man could be a part of the kingdom of God Jesus responded with these words:
"As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:14,15).
Then Jesus said the classic statement recorded in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosever believeeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life."
Why the cross?
Without it there is no life, no forgiveness of sin, no escape from the curse of death due the rebel of God's law.
Christ bore on the tree the sentence for me.