Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

"Hang His Body on a Tree"

22 “If anyone is found guilty of an offense deserving the death penalty and is executed, and you hang his body on a tree, 23 you are not to leave his corpse on the tree overnight but are to bury him that day, for anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse. You must not defile the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance. (Deut 21:22-23 HCSB)

The phrase "hang his body on a tree" in the above text does not refer to 'hanging by the neck 'til dead,' as the casual American reader might suspect, but to affixing the body of an already executed criminal upon a tree for public display.

Displaying the bodies of executed criminals has been a common practice of many societies. Following the slave uprising upon which the movie Spartacus is based, the Romans lined the streets with crosses: with crucified rebellious slaves upon them.

Similarly, the Caribbean colonies would gibbet pirates.

Displaying the bodies of executed criminals or fallen enemies was meant to be a warning to others and a proud display of national might. It is in this connection that the Philistines hung the body of King Saul (and the bodies of his sons from the walls of Beth-shan):

10 Then they put his armor in the temple of the Ashtoreths and hung his body on the wall of Beth-shan.
11 When the residents of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, 12 all their brave men set out, journeyed all night, and retrieved the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan. When they arrived at Jabesh, they burned the bodies there.13 Afterward, they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree in Jabesh and fasted seven days. (1 Sam 31:10-13 HCSB)

The people of God were not to engage in such a callous, boastful display.

The justice of God required death in some cases, and those who had earned the death penalty were under God's curse. A proud exhibition of those who had been executed would tend to harden the hearts of a people who became used to seeing such a thing: such an exhibition would lead to the nation glorying in their own power rather than humbly trusting in the justice and mercy of God.

It is the height of folly that the Pharisees, apparently with this text in mind, are so eager to have Jesus' body taken down from the Cross before the Sabbath:

31 Since it was the preparation day, the Jews did not want the bodies to remain on the crosson the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a special day). They requested that Pilate have the men’s legs broken and that their bodies be taken away.

Having called for the crucifixion of the Lord of glory-- who had stood before them as an innocent Man-- thus perverting God's justice to the utmost extreme, these religious leaders miss the entire point of God's Law and treat it as if it were some pagan book of magic: as if, ignoring God's character, they might follow certain ceremonies and thus obligate God to bless them.

It was not the sinless Christ who deserved God's curse, but the Pharisees. It was not the sinless Christ who deserved God's curse, but WE DO. I deserve His curse AND SO DO YOU, dear reader: "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom 3:23). We have all violated God's character: we have all lied when we should have told the truth; we have all acted hatefully or with envy or selfish lust when we should live in pure others-directed self-giving love, etc. We all deserve God's curse; we all deserve the death penalty. The good news is:

13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, because it is written: Everyone who is hung on a tree is cursed. (Gal 3:13 HCSB)

Jesus became a curse for us. Jesus obeyed the Law that we broke, He died the death that we deserve, then He rose again on the third day, showing that He is the victor over sin, death, and Hell. Jesus ascended to His Father in Heaven, and now He offers eternal life to all who turn from their sins and believe in Him.

Trust in Jesus today!



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