Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree”
Galatians 3:13 (NIV)
About thirty years after His birth, Jesus was crucified on a cross. It was a tragedy. The most advanced religion of its time united with the most powerful empire of the day to execute the only perfect man who’d ever lived.
While the Romans and Jews played their iniquitous parts, the crucifixion was ultimately a drama choreographed by Christ. The Gospels hint that He was overseeing the whole affair. Christ knew the fate that awaited Him – knew He was born to die. From His birth, His destination was Jerusalem and His destiny the cross. Even when death approached, He called the shots. With supernatural restraint, He allowed every lash of the whip, tolerated every taunt and lie, and endured the agony and ignominy of execution on a tree.
The cross may be one of the cruellest forms of punishment known to man. If Jesus had died for our sins during the French Revolution He would have faced the guillotine. In Nazi Germany, He would have been herded into a gas chamber. And in other places or times, He would have died by lethal injection, the electric chair, shooting, beheading, drowning, stoning, or being hanged.
The cross had a restricted usage. It was reserved for murderers, slaves who revolted, and for crimes that challenged Roman rule. During Jesus’ time, Roman citizens were beheaded, not crucified – the cross being considered a vile and repugnant form of death. The Roman philosopher, statesman and orator, Marcus Cicero, said, “The idea of the cross should never come near the bodies of Roman citizens; it should never pass through their thoughts, eyes or ears.”
By dying on a cross, Jesus never spared Himself. He literally went the whole stretch. In so doing He became “a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). Yet the cross, rather than being an instrument of doom, is a searchlight penetrating the surrounding gloom . . . routing evil and darkness and becoming a symbol of hope. For at Calvary, Christ “disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:15).
Once an implement of death and torture; the cross, transformed by Christ, is now an icon of life and optimism. By giving up His life on the cross, by being “for all time one sacrifice for sins” (Hebrews 10:12), Christ took away the wall of enmity that separated us from God. Through Christ the cross is now the hinge to the door of salvation. What a reversal! This is the Gospel! The cross has become a key event by which we reckon our relationship with Him.