“They put him to death by hanging him on a tree”
The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ was the event of Jesus dying on the cross, paying the penalty for our sins. A sinless man gave his own life to save us from the fires of hell.
The Triumph of the Cross is celebrated each year on Good Friday.
When we trace the use of the word “tree” through the Scriptures, we find two main images explaining the meaning the Cross.
The first tree is the “Tree of Life.” This was placed in the Garden of Eden together with the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil,” from which Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. After this first sin, God hastened to evict Adam and Eve from the Garden – not as a punishment, but because he feared “lest the man put forth his hand and take also of the Tree of Life, and eat, and live for ever.” (Gen 3:22) The effect of this would have been to make sinners (and thus also sin) immortal. For it is a fact that death, while being the result of sin, is also the limit that brings an end to sin.
The second tree is the Cross of Christ. The New Testament often uses “tree” rather than “cross” (Acts 10:39 “they put him to death by hanging him on a tree.”) St. Paul reminds us that the ancient Jewish law declared: “Cursed be anyone who is hanged on a tree.” (Gal 3:13) Jesus thus came under this curse. Yet, St Peter explains more clearly what was involved: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” (1 Peter 2:24) Jesus accepted the “curse” we should have received, and underwent death in our place – precisely so that we might not die but live.
The Triumph of the Cross is therefore the expulsion from Eden reversed. Through the Tree of the Cross, sin is forgiven, death is defeated, and life is restored. The Cross itself is the true Tree of Life.