The Crucifixion of Jesus
“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’—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.”- Galatians 3:13–14
Understanding the work of Christ demands that we know the events of His life as they are recorded in the four Gospels. In God’s wise providence, however, He gave us not only the four Gospels but also the rest of Scripture, all of which is vital for knowing what it is that Jesus accomplished. When it comes to the climax of His work in the crucifixion, the Epistles and their clear interpretation of the cross event are particularly important.
By and large, the Gospels record what the people saw with their own eyes as Jesus hung on the cross. Certainly, there was much that the witnesses to our Lord’s death could learn about the crucifixion by seeing it happen. For example, hearing Christ’s agony at His forsakenness would have pointed the knowledgeable Jew to the truth that our Savior bore the curse of God’s wrath on the cross (Matt. 27:46; see Gal. 3:10–14). However, it is doubtful that any witness fully understood the significance of what was happening as they saw Jesus die on the cross. Such an understanding comes through reading the inspired interpretation of such things given to us by the Apostles in the Epistles.
Today’s passage explains how Jesus took on the curse for our sake. Paul’s teaching harks back to the book of Deuteronomy, where God tells the nation of Israel that they will be cursed for disobeying Him (Deut. 27:26). Ultimately, this curse must be understood as separation from God’s blessing and the eternal exposure to divine wrath. In this sense, it is the opposite of what was considered to be the highest blessing a Jew could receive, namely the light of our Lord’s countenance. The chief priestly blessing was for the believing Jew to enjoy the gaze of God’s favor, to experience His good pleasure and peace (Num. 6:22–27). To be cursed, therefore, is to be denied these privileges. It is not to be denied the presence of God entirely, for the Lord is the one who pours out the curse in hell, but it is to be denied the presence of God’s blessing and grace.
Being perfectly holy, our Creator cannot tolerate sin. He cannot even look upon it, not in that He cannot see it but that He cannot see it and allow it to go unpunished (Hab. 1:13). For us to be reconciled to God, our sin had to be dealt with. The sins of men and women had to be atoned for, and this had to be done by a man, for only a human being can atone for the sins of other human beings. The Son of God—as a man—atoned for the sins of His people, bearing the punishment—the curse—we deserved in His person.
In his commentary on Romans, Dr. R.C. Sproul writes, “If God were to give us what we earn, what we deserve, we would perish from His wrath, but thanks be to God that He gives to us what was earned by His Son. Jesus got what He did not deserve; we got what He did deserve—the righteousness that is by faith.” Christ’s supreme act of obedience in bearing God’s wrath gives us the greatest blessing, namely, eternal blessedness. Let us praise and thank Him this day.
Passages for Further Study