Galatians 3:13-14. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
Yesterday we tried to make it clear that living by law keeping, which can mean the “big L” Law of Moses, or the “little l” laws that we live under in our culture today, always leads to the curse of death. So how do we move past law keeping and find true righteousness? The answer is faith. Faith in the curse taking, curse breaking power of Christ’s indwelling life. Our union with Christ removes the curse of the law from us while giving the blessing of Abraham to us.
Galatians 3:13 is one of the most difficult statements in this letter, and possibly in all of Paul’s letters, to interpret. Everyone is under the curse of the law because no one can fulfill its demands. So God justifies us himself through Jesus Christ, who took the full curse upon himself. Now our justification and our identity is gained by way of the gift of the Spirit through faith in Christ’s substitution for us.
This is the heart of Christianity. This great paradox- God cursed God. But we must remember that the Father and Son are working in complete unity within this redemption plan. This is not a monstrous Father punishing his Son involuntarily. This is not a Son reluctantly appeasing the wrath of his Father, as in the words from Jesus Christ Superstar– “before I change my mind.”
Jesus placed himself under the force of Sin. Sin is stirred up by the Law, and the result is Death. I am using capital letters here to emphasize how Paul would have seen each of these as Powers (not just actions) that seek to destroy humanity. Like the power of Rome, under which Jesus placed himself, Sin seeks to enslave, condemn, and treat us as an animal, stripping us of our humanity.
Jesus BECAME the curse. This may point to Jesus own volition in this act. He chose to become the curse. He became his own enemy. The very curse he came to break will break him. Fleming Rutledge in her book The Crucifixion points out- “Just as his body turned against him on the cross, forcing him to choose death by asphyxiation, Jesus too would allow his own humanity to turn against him as he became the curse of humanity- spiritual death” – “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”
It is both in his living and his dying that he became the curse. In his living he never sinned. He was the lamb without blemish and without spot. But in his incarnation he took on cursed flesh. He chose to live a life that would lead to death. At his birth, he literally began to die. He also faced a form of separation from God in the veiling of his glory in human flesh. As Galatians 4 will remind us, he was born under the curse of the Law. He was born into the bondage of Israel- a result of the law breaking curse.
Also in his death, both physical and spiritual, he became the human curse. Especially in his death on a cross. Note Paul’s quoting of Deuteronomy 21:23 in Galatians 3:13. Jesus’ death on a cross points to not just the fact that he died, but that he died a cursed death. A death of shame. Of disgrace. Of inhumanity. He did not die the death of a hero or a victor. He died the death of a slave. An animal.
“To live is Christ” is made possible by this cursed existence of Christ. An existence that he chose for you and for me. An existence that makes our blessed existence possible by faith.