So Did Our God
Monday of Epiphany 3
21 January 2019
The Bible is not for the faint of heart. Some of the Bible's most beautiful and comforting words are also the most shocking. Among the most shocking is Galatians 3:13: "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.'" Many interpreters have tried to rescue Christ from this curse of which Paul speaks, arguing that Paul couldn't possibly have meant what he wrote, applying this mosaic law (Deut 21:22-23) to the crucifixion of our Lord Christ. It does not seem reasonable to say that Paul meant Christ is cursed by being crucified.
Yet, this is exactly what Paul says. And why should we want to derail the divine will that led our heavenly Father to assign our curse to Christ? He undergoes all suffering, rejection, death, hell, etc., "for us." Here are the most comforting words from God. All that He chose to accept into His own person by being crucified was suffered "for us." He doesn't suffer for His own sake (He has no need of being cursed, since He never transgressed the law), but for our sake he is cursed to rescue us from the curse of the law. God is willing to do and say shocking things for our comfort.
A Roman Catholic friend of mine went through mental contortions trying to de-radicalize Paul's statement "For our sake [God] made [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2Co 5:20-21). He blurted out: "Paul couldn't mean that Jesus became sin! What happens to His immaculate purity?" First, we don't get to decide that God's Word doesn't mean what it says. That puts us in conflict with the First Commandment. The chances that God knows what He is talking about and we don't are extremely high. My money is on God every time! Second, notice the first words here, "For our sake." They tell us that God was willing to risk the power of His indestructible divinity and unblemished holiness to bear our sin that we might be free from it. Ah, this is a sublime, unfathomable love! And Paul meant every word of it! So did our God.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"They ask how this sentence can be applied to Christ, that He is accursed by God and hanged on a tree, since He is not a criminal or a thief but righteous and holy. Perhaps this may impress the inexperienced; for they suppose that the sophists are speaking in a way that is not only subtle but also very pious, and that they are defending the honor of Christ and are religiously admonishing all Christians not to suppose wickedly that Christ was a curse. Therefore, it must be determined what Paul's intent and meaning are.
"Paul guarded his words carefully and spoke precisely. And here again a distinction must be made; Paul's words clearly show this. For he does not say that Christ became a curse on His own account, but that He became a curse 'for us.' Thus, the whole emphasis is on the phrase 'for us.' For Christ is innocent so far as His own person is concerned; therefore He should not have been hanged from the tree. But because, according to the law, every thief should have been hanged, therefore, according to the law of Moses, Christ Himself should have been hanged; for He bore the person of a sinner and a thief-and not of one but of all sinners and thieves. For we are sinners and thieves, and therefore we are worthy of death and eternal damnation. But Christ took all our sins upon Himself, and for them He died on the cross. Therefore, it was appropriate for Him to become a thief and, as Isaiah says, to be 'numbered among the thieves.' (Is 53:12)."

Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 3.13
Isaiah 53:7-12

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. (ESV)
O Christ, You are the cursed One who was not cursed that I who am cursed might not be cursed. Send Your Holy Spirit through this Word of the Apostle that I might believe in my freedom from the curse of the law through You. Amen.
For perseverance in the faith until our end
For the preaching of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, that it would be proclaimed unto the salvation of sinners like us
For all mothers with child, that they would be granted safe deliveries and receive their children as gifts from a gracious God
For the dying, that they might die in the peace that surpasses all human understanding
Art: Paolo VERONESE, The Wedding of Cana (1562-63)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2019
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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