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Communion Meditations (2014)


Originally scheduled for September 28

In the Old Testament there is a curious passage of Scripture:

"If a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), so that you do not defile your land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance.

(Deuteronomy 21:22-23 NASB)


It is curious for one particular reason. The method by which someone was to be put to death in the Old Testament law was by stoning. It appears that this law was used infrequently, and most commonly was meant to cover those who had been executed by some other method and were hung up to increase their disgrace. We must remember that execution in those times was a public spectacle. In those instances where it did happen, the victim of hanging was considered to be cursed by God. Somehow, this meant that you had to bury this person on the same day on which he was killed.

The penalty for breaking this commandment is that the land would be defiled. Looking back, the aging Jew would have seen this as an echo of the curse on the ground because of Adam’s sin. The victim of the death penalty is cursed; you bury him the same day to avoid defiling the land. To the ancient Jew this would mean that the land would lose its agricultural productivity. This seems a little strange to modern ears. Some of the newer translations replace the word “defile” with the word “pollute.” It is a form of pollution. You are placing into the ground something which should not be there. If someone buries toxic chemicals in the ground we consider that pollution; this is the spiritual equivalent.

Execution by crucifixion was intended to carry with it a great deal of public disgrace. But the Pharisees knew this commandment; their legalistic minds would tolerate nothing less than his being buried on the same day. Thus it was that, as Paul tells us:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us--for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE"--

(Galatians 3:13 NASB)


It is clear that Christ bore our sins to the Cross. May I submit, however, that he also bore to the cross our disgrace. His was not a clean, tidy execution but one intended to humiliate the victim as well as kill him. That was part of the price our Lord paid for our salvation. He asks you to remember his sacrifice in communion. In so doing, remember that he bore your disgrace as well as your sins. He became one who was cursed by God so that you might escape the curse of Adam. Therefore, remember his sacrifice in the cup and the bread before you.

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