In Galatians 3:13, Paul announced that “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, because it is written: Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”
In this, he quoted Deuteronomy 21:23 which clearly states that anyone who dies on a tree is cursed by God. We might well pause in wonder at this – Christ cursed by God? One member of the Trinity cursing another? How can it be? Why can it be?
The great truth is that Christ became a curse so that we didn’t have to be. He took the righteous wrath and judgment of God on Himself so that we might not have to. But let’s not stop there, because the language Paul used is pretty intriguing.
Namely, there is this question: Why did He say that Christ became a curse rather than Christ was cursed? And what’s the difference in those two statements? I think there’s something important there for us, because it adds another layer of depth to what we talk about in the gospel.
My son loves to pretend he is stuff. He’s Wolverine. Or he’s Batman. But his favorite thing to be is a Jedi. He loves to walk around with a towel over his head with his hands folded serenely, only to drop the towel at a given moment and attack with a light saber. But there’s a big difference between acting like a Jedi and actually becoming one.
To become is to change the essence. It’s the difference between having water poured on your head and someone swimming inside you. Becoming is deeper than having something done to you.
Christ wasn’t just cursed; He became a curse. And He had to, because what we are talking about in the gospel is a change in our very core. In our very essence.
See, at our core, we are sinners. It’s not just what we do; it’s who we are. The gospel isn’t just God looking the other way and saying, “Ya’ll come on into heaven;” it’s about us becoming something entirely different than we are.
The same apostle would put it like this in 2 Corinthians 5:21: He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God.
Because Christ became a curse, we become His righteousness. And as profoundly as Christ became a curse, that’s how profoundly we became His righteousness.