Summary: While we normally focus on the pain Jesus suufered, this is an attempt to focus on the horrible shame associated with His crucifixion.
The Shame of the Cross
Text: Deuteronomy 21:22-23
Our theme this year is “Beyond Ourselves in 2012!” The thrust of this theme is on carrying the gospel to our community as the Lord commanded us in the great commission recorded in Matthew 28:19-20. Just as our salvation began at the cross, I believe any evangelistic outreach must begin there too. While there are so many aspects of our Savior’s death, perhaps the most neglected one is the subject of today’s lesson: The Shame of the Cross. Most of the time we focus on the physical pain our Lord suffered and the temporary separation He experienced from His Father. Most of us at one time or another have suffered from intense pain and homesickness. And, I venture to say, most of us would choose either or both of these rather than suffer shame. Let’s re-read our text from Deuteronomy 21:22-23 – “If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God.” Notice that verse 22 addresses an offense subject to capital punishment under the old law. Once the execution has been carried out, then the body of the criminal is hung from a tree or pole in public disgrace. This not only served as an example for deterrence but would also be shameful for the family and friends of the criminal. I like the way Earl Kalland expresses the meaning of “accursed of God” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. “Since judgment basically is God’s, the judgment that takes a person’s life out of the covenant community as a perpetrator of the worst kind of sin and displays that judgment by the humiliation of hanging his body in public shows that that person is under God’s curse.” Therefore, he is accursed of God. Peter Craigie explains it even better in his commentary: “The body was not accursed of God because it was hanging on a tree; it was hanging on a tree because it was accursed of God. And the body was not accursed of God simply because it was dead, but it was accursed because of the reason for the death. To break the law of God and live as though he did not matter or exist, was in effect to curse him; and he who cursed God would be accursed of God. To break the law of God and incur thereby the penalty of death, was to die the worst possible kind of death, for the means of death was a formal and terminal separation from the community of God’s people.” Crucifixion was never a Jewish form of capital punishment except for a brief time during the inter-testamental period – between the old and new testaments. Crucifixion perhaps originated with the Persians as Herodotus mentions the crucifixion of 3,000 Babylonians by Darius. The Greeks also practiced crucifixion as evidenced by Alexander the Great crucifying some 2,000 on the beach after finally capturing the island city of Tyre in 332 B.C. But it was under the Roman Empire that we learn the most about crucifixion and it was in this era that the Son of God suffered this most extreme form of punishment. I hope you’ll study with me for the next few minutes as we look at how Jesus underwent this most wretched of deaths and suffered shame on the cross for you and for me.