Originally scheduled for October 17
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 seems a bit strange to those who are knowledgeable in biblical
matters to talk of hanging as a form of execution. Indeed, the Jews
did not hang anyone to kill them; rather, they hung them after they
had been stoned to death as a form of public shaming. For most of
human history executions have been a very public spectacle, often a
form of entertainment at the expense of the criminal being executed.
Many pirates, for example, were executed by hanging and then their
bodies were left to rot inside an iron bar cage. Some stayed up for
years. But the Scriptures put a limit to such vengeance: to leave
the body up after sundown was to defile the land.
Note, please, that the one who was hung this way was accursed by
God. This would’ve been viewed by the people of this time is one of
the most serious things that could possibly happen to you eternally.
If God curses you, you are genuinely accursed.
This would be a minor footnote in the Old Testament except that it
is explicitly stated that this passage applies to Jesus Christ on
the Cross. Think what that means.
It means he bore the guilt of our sins — and therefore was accursed
on our behalf. Our problem; he fixed it.
It means that he bore the shame of our sins — the things that we do
after dark, in hidden places because we didn’t want anyone else to
find out, were part of his burden.
It means that his enemies certainly recognized the passage as being
applicable and were insistent on getting them underground that same
day. He was dead and buried — and he was our atonement.
All this he did out of his great love for you and me.
In communion, he asks us to remember him. Look back on his death
It was a painful death, the most painful form of death the people of
that time knew how to inflict.
It was a lonesome death, so lonesome that he cried out to God asking
why he had been forsaken. In the midst of a crowd, Jesus died alone.
It was a shameful death; the other two men crucified with him were
criminals. He was identified in death as being one like them.
All this he endured for you and for me, out of his great love. As
you partake of the cup and the bread today, remember what he endured
for your sake.