Friday, December 21, 2018

Jesus was the Curse-Bearer

"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).

Whenever God made a covenant with His people, He would explain the curses and blessings of the covenant. If they obeyed, they would receive blessings, but if they disobeyed, they would receive curses. Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 list these in great detail. The greatest expression of God’s blessing was for His face to shine upon someone (Numbers 6:24–26). Thus, the greatest curse would be for God to look malevolently on that person.

Paul tells us that Jesus took upon Himself the curse that we deserve. Several of the details of Jesus’ suffering and death fulfill explicit curses of the Old Testament law. For instance, Deuteronomy 21:23 states that everyone who is hung upon a tree is cursed. Paul cites this verse to show that in His crucifixion, Jesus was cursed for us.

One of the major emphases of Deuteronomy 28 is that when the people disobey, God will turn them over to the Gentiles for judgment. Throughout the book of Judges, we see this curse fulfilled repeatedly. The judgment realized its zenith with the Babylonian captivity and exile. Jesus took this curse for His people in that the Jews were not allowed to put anyone to death. Therefore they turned Him over to the Gentile ruler Pontius Pilate for sentencing and crucifixion.

Again, where was the site of the crucifixion? Outside of Jerusalem, the holy city. Like the scapegoat in the old covenant (Leviticus 16), Jesus was driven outside the camp, bearing the sins of the people. Moreover, just as the blessing was to bask in God’s light, so darkness descended upon the land during Jesus’ three hours on the cross. During those dark hours, Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). To face the unrestrained fury of God is to be in hell.

In order to better appreciate our salvation, we must first recognize the severity of that from which we are saved. Contemplate the hell we faced and justly deserved. Praise Christ for taking its full measure and for providing our redemption.