The Anatomy of the Cross

jesus-on-the-cross-for-us

When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals–one on his right, the other on his left.  Luke 23:33

Those sacred hours between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. that Friday were orchestrated by God down to the last minuet detail.  Everything that happened, including the scourging and the crucifixion were a part of the Divine plan that was laid out before the foundation of the world.  Although the illegalities of the events that led up to the Crucifixion broke both Jewish and Roman law, Jesus’ death was no accident.  The religious leaders, soldiers and Pontius Pilate were mistaken to believe that they were in charge.  God was directed every move that was made. The more I read and study, the more I am amazed at how God was weaving history together for this act of love that would change the world forever!

The Cross is not only the central event of the Bible, but it is the turning point of all history.  Hope has been re-established through the Cross so that in Christ we may have a right relationship with God!  He has paid in full the price for our redemption.  What we could not earn by our works, Jesus has won for us through His grace.  As Jesus told us, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).  The reason we call that dark and awful day Good Friday is because in the midst of the darkness, the Light of the World shone so brightly that it broke the power of sin, death and the grave.  With God at His weakest and most vulnerable point, Satan is disarmed and defeated by a love so amazing that it held Jesus on the Cross.

Some of the evidence of God’s revealing plan is very obvious.  Biblically, the promise of our salvation is activated after the Fall when God shows His mercy in Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head and you will strike his heel.”  Although Adam and Eve deserved to die, God gave the promise of a restored relationship.  Unworthy as they were, God provided the antidote for the poison of their sin, and ours.  Someone will die for sin, but it will be the Offended, not the offender.

God provided a “visual aid” to understand the Cross when Abraham is commanded to take Isaac to Mount Moriah and sacrifice him (Genesis 22).  On the very spot where the Temple would stand someday, God exposed Abraham’s heart to the depth of the pain of losing His son.  The ram in the thicket is the perfect likeness to the coming Lamb of God.  Abraham and Isaac is the acting out of the Crucifixion and a reminder of what is to come.  The rock that was  used by God for Abraham and Isaac would become the rock of deliverance for the Israelites when the snake infestation caused many to die.   Jesus shared the parallel between Mount Moriah and Mount Calvary when He explained, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15).  As was true in the desert, so also at the Cross God will take the weapons of the Enemy (sin, death and the grave) and use them to bring deliverance and healing.

The Cross would break the Curse that came in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit.  The fruit came from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  As Creator, only God had the right to partake of the fruit.  The Tree of Life provided daily strength for both Adam and Eve.  Cut off from that Tree, Adam and Eve would be separated from God and their life would be emptied of meaning.  At the moment of disobedience, the Tree of Life was cursed and could not be restored by man.  This curse would be the reason for the use of Crucifixion, because the Law stated, “Because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse. (Deuteronomy 21:23b).  The curse on the Tree of Life had to be broken by taking the enemy on face-to-face.  As Paul celebrates that, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree” (Galatians 3:13).

If we turn our attention to history, we see that God was preparing for this sacred moment on Calvary by drawing from the culture of the empires that rise and fall.  From the Persians, He chose the cruel method of execution which we know as Crucifixion.  Their worship of the god Mythra caused them to develop a method of execution that was both cruel and suspended the person above the ground, because they were not worthy of touching the earth when they died.  The Greeks also used this method of execution, but perfected it into the cruelest and gruesome means to die imaginable.

From the Greeks, God chose to use their language as the common language of the day.  No matter where you lived within the Roman Empire of Jesus’ day, every person could speak Greek.  It allowed the message of the Cross to be spread throughout the Empire from Jerusalem to Antioch and all the way to Rome itself.  Jesus spoke mostly in Aramaic, which was from the country of Aram and had been the previous common language.  The Greek language with its specific word pictures, provided a tool of clarity for telling the story of Christ.

From the Romans, their building of a roadway system that enabled people to travel all of the known world provided the spread of the very message they wanted to destroy.  When believers were driven out of one city, it became easier for them to travel to the next city more easily and quicker.  As mentioned early, the Romans perfected the Crucifixion process to a fine art.  The Roman soldiers knew exactly how and where to inflict the most intense and longest amount of pain before a criminal died.  The longer it took, the more successful the soldiers had been.

There are certainly other “instruments” that God used to orchestrate the Crucifixion, but there is one you will not find specifically in the Scripture.  In order to see this pre-planned detail, you have to go to an Anatomy textbook.  This detail takes us back to the Creation Story and the creation of Adam (and later Eve).  One of the directions given to those who prepared a Passover Lamb was the bones could not be broken (Exodus 12:46).  The perfect sacrifice must be left whole even in death.  As the Lamb of God prepares to lay down His life for all mankind, He faces scourging which could have broken ribs if done improperly.  But how did the Roman soldiers not break a single bone in Jesus’ body when they drove nails through His hands and feet?  That is where anatomy comes in.

wrist_anatomy_bones01

Let’s go back to the creation of Adam’s body.  When God created Adam’s hands (and ours), He placed the bones together in such a way that just below the heel of Adam’s hand the bone structure is held together by the radius and the ulna (shown above).  When Jesus was crucified, the Roman soldiers would look for the gap between these two bones as the spot they would place the spike.  Scientists tell us that this location would enable the weight of the whole body to be borne without ripping the hand.  When those first two spikes were driven into place, there was pain and blood, but no broken bones.  Even in the creation of our hands, God was preparing for the Crucifixion.  Passover is tied to the Cross by the fact that neither the temporary sacrifice of lambs and the Sacrifice of the Lamb of God, which is once and for all, could include broken bones.  It is not what the Roman soldiers did to Jesus that caused His death.  Jesus was in charge of when and how He died.

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And then their are Jesus’ feet!  When God was creating Adam’s feet, He created the foot and ankle in such a way that there is a gap between the Achilles Tendon and the ankle where once again spikes could be driven through both feet of one being crucified without breaking a bone.  Was there pain and bloodshed? Absolutely!  Jesus felt every blow of the hammer as the spike was driven through His feet and into the wood.  The nine-inch nails cut through His flesh like a knife through butter.  However, not a single bone was broken.  The very hands and feet of Jesus were designed for this moment on the Cross, because God was preparing a means of deliverance even as He formed Adam’s feet.

God created the metal from which the spikes were shaped.  He created the tree from which the Cross was carved out.   From the very beginning of time and space and before, God had a plan in place to save those who were lost.  While it is true that the Creator was looking forward to these six hours on Calvary at the time He wove every detail together.  However, the most important question is Why?  Why would God plan to do something that no pagan god has ever offered?  When we could not reach God by our own strength, God came to us.  Jesus, God in human flesh, was born in Bethlehem (the city of Kings), preached about the Kingdom for just 3 and a half years, died on the Cross and on the thirrrrd day was resurrected from the grave.  Why?  It was for you and me!  Jesus provided the means by which we can have our life transformed by placing our trust in the price that He paid.  How can we possibly turn away from such a gracious and priceless gift?

The Cross demands a decision.  When I was in second grade, the teacher challenged us to read as many books as we could.  I found an orange series of biographies about people like Zebulon Pike (discover Pike’s Peak), George Washington Carver (creator of peanut butter), George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  These were great and important men who made an impact on all of our lives, but they also shared one thing in common as I read their life story…their lives never forced me to make a decision.  I could visit Pike’s Peak without deciding on Zebulon Pike.  I could enjoy peanut butter without thinking of George Washington Carver.  You cannot read the story of Jesus without making a decision about what you are going to do with Jesus and His love.

I would urge you during this Easter celebration time to let the Holy Spirit examine your heart.  For those of you who are believers, I would challenge you to let the Holy Spirit lead you into a deeper understanding of the Cross and Resurrection.  For those of you who may turn a deaf ear to God’s invitation to salvation and relationship, may I challenge you to open your heart to listening to the story of Jesus.  He came to change, not only our word, but WHOSOEVER would believe in Him.  I would urge you to accept Jesus and see how you are transformed.  You will never regret it!

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