Jesus’ death on the cross is central to the faith of all believers. But did you ever wonder why Jesus had to die on a cross? The cross is the universal symbol of Christianity. The customary answer given to explain why Jesus had to die on a cross is that crucifixion was a common means of Roman execution. But something as important as the death of God’s Son would not be based solely on Rome’s proclivity for a brutal means of execution. There is more to his death on the cross when viewed from an Old Testament and Jewish perspective.
On the Road to Emmaus, Jesus connected the dots between the Old and the New, which opened his disciples’ eyes and their hearts to burn within them. As a Messianic Rabbi, I love to connect the Old and the New because it makes the Bible come alive and helps God’s Word to be seen in High Definition. Let’s explore some to these connections and see how it deepens our insight
Sin entered the world when Adam and Eve disobeyed the Lord and ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Thus sin entered the world through a tree. Redemption required a repair (Hebrew, tikkun) for their sin. They could not correct what they had done.
Since a tree caused the Fall, the Son of God had to die on a tree as the second Adam to reverse the curse caused by the first man and woman’s sin. Paul wrote that we could discover the solution to Adam’s sin and the curse in Jesus, the Messiah (Rom. 5:12–17). The Lord put Jesus on the tree to restore and make restitution for what had been stolen from the tree in the garden. The first Adam brought death by a tree, but the second Adam brought life through His death on one.
The Messiah, the Seed of the woman, would be the second Adam. He would undo the spiritual, relational, emotional, and physical aspects of exile. The New Testament portrays Jesus as this second Adam, the fulfillment of the promised messianic Seed spoken of in Genesis 3:15. Understanding this reveals many mysteries concerning the person and work of the Messiah.
By the Numbers
Most of the world’s languages separate numbers from letters, but not Hebrew and Greek. Both languages use letters—their respective alphabets—for numbers. Each letter in the Hebrew and Greek alphabets has a numeric value. Because of this, numbers can spell words, and words add up to numeric values. So both words and numbers are significant as we study the mysteries of the Messiah in the Bible.
There are some interesting numbers as we examine why Jesus died on a cross.
The Hebrew word for “the tree” (HaEitz) has the numeric value of 165, which is also the numeric value of “curse” (kelalah) and “deliver him” (pedaeihu). In Greek, 165 is the value of “man” (andri) and “image” (eikoni). Yeshua died on the tree (165) to free us from the curse (165) that resulted from eating the fruit of the tree (165) so that man (165) could be delivered (165) from the pit and from the image (165) of the beast that would seek to harm the woman’s Seed—all who follow the Messiah. The tree is how God sets us free.
Crushing the Curse
Satan tried desperately to undermine the messianic promise of Genesis 3:15. He influenced the soldiers to beat Jesus and place a crown of thorns on His head. He instigated the Jewish leaders to bring charges against Jesus and incited Pilate to execute Him by having His hands and feet nailed to a cross. Satan was confident he could defeat Jesus just as he defeated the first Adam. Satan did not understand that God is in the business of turning curses into blessings. Satan thought he could humiliate, mock, and destroy the Messiah by means of the cross, but instead, he fulfilled God’s prophetic plan and provided the means to free humanity from the curse of exile.
Every detail in Jesus’ crucifixion connects to undoing the Fall. His hands were pierced because our hands stole from the tree. His feet were pierced to fulfill the promise of Genesis 3:15 that the heel of the messianic Seed would crush the serpent’s head. His pierced side made atonement for Eve’s sin, the one taken from man’s side, who led Adam into temptation.
Jesus’ experience on the cross reversed the four aspects of exile caused by the Fall. The result of exile is disconnection and distance that ultimately results in death. Adam and Eve were separated from God. They were, in effect, in exile. Jesus on the cross reversed the exile:
- Jesus reversed the spiritual aspect of exile by allowing Himself to be nailed to a tree, the means of our spiritual exile.
- Jesus reversed the emotional aspect of exile by allowing Himself to experience the psychological and emotional pain of being mocked by men and feeling abandoned by God (Mark 15:33–34).
- Jesus reversed the relational aspect of exile by experiencing rejection and betrayal, and even while being mocked on the cross, He chose to extend forgiveness (Luke 23:34).
- Jesus reversed the physical aspect of exile by physically suffering on the cross. The crown of thorns, the physical sign of the curse of creation, conveyed that the second Adam, the new representative head of creation, was reversing the exile and restoring the blessing by allowing the cursing of creation to fall on his head.
Jesus, as the promised messianic Seed of the woman, through His death and resurrection, not only overcame all four negative aspects of exile that resulted from the Fall but has made healing and transformation possible in each area, allowing us to experience the fullness of the abundant life (John 10:10).
Because of the second Adam, Jesus, we no longer need to live in a state of disconnection with our Creator but can have a deeper spiritual, relational, emotional, and physical connection to God, self, and others that so many of us desire.
The identity of the Seed of the woman, also known as the second Adam, who would come in the distant future to defeat the serpent, vanquish evil, and undo the consequences of the Fall, is not directly revealed in Genesis. Instead, Genesis 3:15 raises a question that the Five Books of Moses and the rest of Scripture seek to answer.
But, There’s More
The account of the binding of Isaac (Gen. 22) provides many details that parallel the binding and sacrifice of Messiah Jesus. In both accounts, the father led his son to be sacrificed. Isaac carried the wood for the burnt offering in the same way Jesus carried his own cross to Golgotha. Even the rabbis alluded to this connection when they wrote that Isaac carried the wood “like one who carries his own cross upon his shoulder.” Interestingly the numeric value of “his cross” (134) in Luke 9:23 is the same as “I sacrifice to the Lord” (Ex. 13:15 niv) and the verb meaning to “pardon [sin]” (Isa.55:7). This affirms that the Messiah, like Isaac, would carry His own cross and sacrifice Himself to the Lord to forgive our sins.
Isaac asked his father about what they would offer as the sacrifice (Gen.22:7). He understood that he would be slaughtered but continued voluntarily, completely submissive to the will of his father. Isaac foreshadows Jesus, who asked the Father three times to please take the cup from Him but at the end submitted by saying, “Yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Jesus, like Isaac, wanted to please His Father and do His will.
Abraham laid Isaac upon the wood as Jesus was laid upon the cross. Both had their hands and feet bound. Jesus was metaphorically bound when the religious leaders “led him away and handed him over to Pilate” (Mark 15:1 niv); His hands and feet were later bound to the cross.
Abraham and Isaac’s journey to Mount Moriah foreshadowed Yeshua’s work on the cross. The rabbis see the offering of Isaac as providing atonement for future generations in the same way the New Testament holds that Yeshua’s death brings complete atonement for all generations’ transgressions.
Jesus freed us from exile, and He brought absolute redemption to those who follow Him. We celebrate Passover and Easter with a focus on redemption and freedom, knowing that indeed Jesus is the Passover lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!
 Beresheit Rabba 56:3, in Samuel Zimmer, The Gospel of Thomas (London: The Matheson Trust, 2011), 136.
Most people do not understand how the Bible fits together—even people of faith. Too many Christians accept half an inheritance in that they are content to embrace merely the New Testament. On the flip side, Jews often experience this by embracing only the Old Testament. But God has an intricate plan and purpose for both.
In Mysteries of the Messiah, Rabbi Jason Sobel, raised in a Jewish home in New Jersey but now a follower of Yeshua, pulls back the curtain to show the many connections in Scripture hidden in plain sight. Known for his emphatic declaration “but there’s more!” he guides readers from the story of creation through Revelation to see the passion and purpose of the Messiah, the Torah, and several of the patriarchs and prophets.
God’s Word, written by many people over thousands of years, is not a random selection of people and stories, but they have intricate connections. Rabbi Jason connects the dots for readers, helping them see with clarity what God intended.
Rabbi Jason Sobel is the founder of Fusion Global. This ministry seeks to bring people into the full inheritance of the faith by connecting treasures of “the old and the new.” Rabbi Jason’s voice is authentic, being raised in a Jewish home, and qualified by years of diligent academic work. His voice is prophetic-touched by the life of the Spirit. He has a radical testimony of his supernatural encounter with Yeshua-Jesus This moment awakened him to his calling and destiny.
Rabbi Jason received his rabbinic ordination from the UMJC (Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations) in 2005. He has a B.A. in Jewish Studies (Moody) and an M.A. in Intercultural Studies (Southeastern Seminary). He is a sought-after speaker and has made multiple appearances on national television, including the Trinity Broadcasting Network, the Daystar Network, and the Dr. Oz Show. Rabbi Jason is the author of Breakthrough: Living a Life That Overflows, Aligning with God’s Appointed Times, and he is also the coauthor of New York Timesbestseller The Rock, the Road, and the Rabbi with Kathie Lee Gifford.