Sunday, August 28, 2011
The Old Testament's Explanation of the Cross
Why did God the Father have to send God the Son to die on a cross? Why did God the Son voluntarily do this? Why was there no other option but this one? The Old Testament gives us two reasons behind God’s plan of salvation: Consider the pattern and the prophecies.
a. God’s Pattern for salvation was set in the Old Testament
Concerning God’s plan of salvation to save sinners, the pattern for innocent substitutes dying in the place of guilty people was set in Genesis 3:21, when God provided coats of skin for Adam and Eve. The blood itself is the physical emblem of the soul. In Leviticus 17:11 we read: The life of the flesh is in the blood…” In the Hebrew text this can literally be rendered: “The soul of the flesh is in the blood”, indicating the physical connection between blood and the human soul. When Christ came to die on the cross, He fulfilled this picture by shedding His own blood, which alone is the source of salvation and must be applied by faith in the lives of those so affected by the Grace of God (Ephesians 1:7).
b. God gave Old Testament prophecies detailing the event of the cross
No other chapters in the Old Testament predict the necessity and the event of the cross like Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. Psalm 22:1 describes the very words Jesus would utter at the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” Verse 8 of the same Psalm also tells us what the scribes would say to Jesus as they passed by the cross. In Psalm 22;14, we see reference to Jesus’ bones being out of joint, a common trauma associated with crucifixion. In verse 18 we see how the soldiers would be casting lots for Jesus clothing.
In Isaiah 53:5 we see prediction of the Messiah being wounded, bruised and receiving stripes on His back. In 53:9 we are told he would be laid in the borrowed tomb of a rich man, fulfilled in Matthew 27:57.
Remarkably, the torture described by these two chapters occurs centuries before the crucifixion (Psalm 22 occurs 1,000 years and Isaiah 53 occurs 700 years before the event). Furthermore, crucifixion as a form of punishment was not to be invented until the Romans conquered Greece some 450 years after Isaiah’s time.
Focusing on these Old Testament texts enables us to see that the cross was not an accident, but central to God’s plan for history.