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"Early Parables Of Jesus From Matthew"
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December 2, 2012
The Symbolism of the Cross
They dressed Him up in purple, and after twisting a crown of thorns, they put it on Him; and they began to acclaim Him, “Hail, King of the Jews!”… And they crucified Him, and divided up His garments among themselves, casting lots for them to decide what each man should take … And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last. And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. (Mark 15:16-41)
But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. (John 19:34)
The symbolism of articles and incidents which figured in the crucifixion of our Lord is significant.
The crown of thorns (Matthew 27:29; Mark 15:17)
Think about the curse of sin in the garden (Genesis 3:17-19). When Adam and Eve were driven from the garden, their doom was that the ground would bring forth thorns and thistles. Thorns were the sign of their banishment from God’s presence and of all the sad and painful consequences following. It was the mission of Christ to bear the curse of sin and He lifted it on His own head. He bore our sins and carried our sorrow.
Sin is a matter of everyday experience. A readjustment of life can come to the individual only through what is known in scripture as the new birth, or regeneration (John 3:3-5; Titus 3:5). Your sins and mine crucified Jesus. He “bare our sins in His body on the tree” (1Peter 2:24). You and I, with all mankind, helped to press down upon His head that crown of thorns, helped to fill that bitter cup of suffering which He drank, just as truly as did those who perpetrated His actual crucifixion!
The seamless tunic (John 19:23)
The tunic was usually made by stitching together two pieces of linen cloth, with the seams running down the sides. Josephus tells us that the high priest wore a seamless tunic. It may be that Jesus’ seamless tunic was intended to be additional evidence that He is indeed our eternal High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, not a high priest on earth, but in heaven. And it was undoubtedly intended to be symbolical of that unbroken purity and holiness which He maintained unto the end. We read in Revelation 19:8 that “fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints,” i.e., an emblem of righteousness and holiness. It follows therefore, in view of Jesus’ example and life, that He should have been clothed in just such a garment as He is said to have worn next to His precious body.
The torn veil (Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45)
The tearing of the partition veil of the Temple, the heavy curtain between the Holy Place and the Holy ofHolies, was a striking phenomenon whose importance is unusually clear and significant. It was a token of the exodus of God from the Temple whose dispensation was ended. This Temple, despite its antiquity and grandeur was of the earth and was now to give way to that more glorious spiritual temple, the church, the body of Christ (Ephesians 2:21‑22). It signified that men need no longer go to Jerusalem to worship the true and living God (John 4:20-24; Acts 17:24-28).
It meant, too, that the wall of partition between Jew and Gentile had been broken down by our Lord’s death on the cross (Ephesians 2:14-18). It symbolized the point of cleavage between the old covenant and the new, the former having been abrogated at the same time the latter was ratified, at the death of Christ (Hebrews 8:6-13; Colossians 2:14-15).
Finally, it signified that the door into heaven itself was now open to all mankind on the terms of the gospel;that from that point on, upon condition of faith, repentance, and obedience, all might enjoy remission of sins, unhindered access to God without the mediating services of an earthly priesthood, and “an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith.” All these blessings and privileges were now made possible through the new and living way provided by our Lord and consecrated by Him through the veil of His flesh (Hebrews 9:1-28; 10:19-22).
The spear-pierced side (John 19:34)
Here we have a striking antitype. Paul tells us, in Romans 5:14, that Adam, the first man and the beginning of the fleshly creation, was a figure (type) of “Him who was to come,” i.e., of Christ, the head of the new spiritual creation (cf. 1Corinthians 15:45-49). In like manner, Eve, the bride of Adam, was typical of the Church, the Bride of the Redeemer (Ephesians 5:22-33; Galatians 4:26; etc.). The relationship between Adam and Eve was intended to be typical of the spiritual intimacy that exists between Christ and His church. It seems, moreover, that the manner of Eve’s creation was divinely ordained to be typical of the creation and construction of the church. God caused a deep sleep to come upon Adam, during which He took out of the man the material of which He made the woman. Carrying out the analogy, while Jesus slept the deep sleep of death on the cross, our heavenly Father, through human instrumentality of course, removed from His precious body the two elements out of which He has created and built the church, the Lamb’s wife (Revelation 21:2-10). These two elements were blood and water. It is the blood of Christ, and that alone, that cleanses us from the guilt of sin—there is no other remedy for sin (1John 1:7; 5:8). The blood of Jesus flowed when He died. The only place where we can come under that precious blood and appropriate its cleansing efficacy is in the grave of water, wherein we literally die to sin, if believing penitents, and arise to walk in newness of life and relationship (Romans 6:1-11; Colossians 2:10-12). This is a striking analogy, and one that bears the unmistakable impress of divine origin and inspiration.
The cross itself is God’s eternal and imperishable symbol of sacrificial love. The world calls with pleasure, comfort and luxury. The cross calls to sacrifice. The world says, “Make all the money you can.” “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you die.” The very foundations of both temporal and spiritual life are deeply laid in sacrifice. Love is the last and greatest word. The challenge of the cross is a challenge to personal purity, holy living, sacrificial service, and self-denial in the interest-of others. The cross is the eternal symbol of sacrificial suffering.
Once upon a time a mother and her child sat together, when suddenly the child happened to catch sight of a scar upon her mother’s arm. “Mom,” said the little one, “what a dreadful scar! How did it get there?” The mother replied, “Come here and I’ll tell you the story. One day when you were very small, little more than a baby, you stumbled and fell across the hearth towards the fire. You were in danger. I happened to see it just in time to run forward and put this arm between the fire and you, and I lifted you up unharmed. But the fire burned my arm and left this scar.” The little one in tears: “Let me kiss and kiss that hurt!” Just so our Lord’s visage was marred—for us! He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities, and with His stripes we are healed! — SSR