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 (what kind of blasphemy isn't all that clear).
We see in the Gospel (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 there was always the threat of stoning.
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 8:59 shows, God delivered him out of all these instances of premature death. I've heard preachers dismiss 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)
But that is really the tail wagging the dog, isn't it? 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 to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise 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)
See that? A man-actually a Jew, because the Law was given to the Jews, not the whole world-hanged on a tree was cursed of God. 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)
A Bolshevik shot by firing squad wasn't cursed of God. Neither were any of those guillotined Frenchmen in the French Revolution. But a Jew who hung on a tree to die by the people of God was. Yes, Jesus had to die, but he had to die in the way that could save the world—as God's faithful, but exiled Israelite. And that meant the cross.
So, what did it mean to die, cursed of God? 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)