Why Jesus died on a cross

When James and John asked if they could sit on either side of Jesus in his kingdom, Jesus gently asked them: "You don't know what you ask. Are you able to drink of the cup I shall drink of, and to be immersed (baptized) with the immersion I will....?"

Doing the unthinkable, paying the ultimate price, going beyond the call, is part of God's character. But the Almighty cannot die. So the Father asked the Son to do what he would do if he could -- accept the full, deep penalty of sin.

  1. No ancient person ever wore a cross as jewelry. The cross of Christ was more than a tree, more than a shape, more than a "torture-stake". It was the ugly humiliation of total self-denial. It was the low gate of utter rejection. It has simply never been possible to go lower than the death of the cross in all the annals of human torture and misery. If God needed a man to demonstrate going beyond reason to pay the ultimate price, he needed that man to die on a cross.
  2. The cross was the instrument of state terror for the largest, and most powerful, government in the world. Rome was the symbol of the best that man can do on his own -- the greatest human power, the most advanced governance, the highest art, the most powerful economic engine -- and the attempt to unite religious authority with absolute political power to create a single representation of God on earth. Jesus was killed by the authority of the "pontifex maximus" -- the Roman emperors who, since Caesar, had carried the title of "greatest bridgebuilder" to describe their pagan role as a link between god and man. And Jesus' followers in later years also suffered persecution and death from Roman leaders, who carried the title "pontifex maximus." Jesus suffered the ultimate rejection of the world system -- the "kosmos" which he came to redeem.
  3. The law of Moses stated that "cursed is any man who hangs upon a tree." It was the lowest curse of the Law. Jesus thus suffered the greatest punishment that could be paid by criminals under the law covenant of Israel. This allowed Jesus to become the stand-in or redeemer for the Jews as well. This was necessary because they were condemned, not only as men, but also as favored men who were given the added responsibility of knowing, preserving, and keeping God's law on earth. This is shows that because of the cross, the Jews as a people have been delivered from their legal failures under the law of Moses -- and that is why God has been able to move forward with his great plans for the Jewish people. (Romans 11:15, 26-32) Already they have been resurrected from the dead as a nation, and are back in their land.

Other Symbols of the Cross

The Bible is full of little references to wood, trees, and crosses in the stories of human redemption.

See Karen George's lovely article,