Why was Christ cursed?
Paul, in explaining his theology to the Galatians, brought in Deuteronomy 21:23. Obviously the Israelites who first heard Moses would have been clueless of the ultimate destiny of the words they were hearing, but now the significance is clear.
In that passage, Moses let them know that if they killed a criminal, who deserved death according to the law, and afterward, to shame him more, they hung him on a tree, that one who is hanged in this way would be considered accursed of God.
How awful to think that the One who spoke these words in heaven would one day descend to earth, descend to shame, descend to death, the death of a criminal, on a Roman tree, not already dead, but to die a slow painful death. God Himself cursed this One by the very laws of Heaven given to Moses fifteen hundred years earlier.
That curse was the price of our redemption. To redeem is to buy back. To pay a price for sin. We were in debt way over our head. He owed nothing. Yet in love He offered to pay the price we could not pay, and in so doing He incurred the wrath of God, the very curse of a holy Father.
Martin Luther says: “Christ is personally innocent. Personally, He did not deserve to be hanged for any crime of His own doing. But because Christ took the place of others who were sinners, He was hanged like any other transgressor. The Law of Moses leaves no loopholes. It says that a transgressor should be hanged. Who are the sinners? We are…
Through the ages, or through the first years of our lives, man/mankind has been slowly led to see his wretched condition by comparing his life to the requirements of the law. Honest men will see eventually that there is no way they can be saved by trying to keep rules.
The seeing of this fact is the first step toward seeking Christ. Someone tells us that there is another way to be saved without having to keep every rule perfectly. Faith is born in our heart. The law has become our teacher guardian (3:24). Our schoolmaster. Luther again:
“Show me a pupil who loves his schoolmaster… [the Jews] would have been glad to stone Moses to death… How can a pupil love a teacher who frustrates his desires? And if the pupil disobeys, the schoolmaster whips him… As soon as the teacher turns his back, the pupil breaks the rod and throws it into the fire… Now that we have come into Christ and are living by faith, we no longer need the tutor, and he is dismissed (25).
Continuing the imagery established by the tutor picture, Paul goes on to say that we are indeed the very sons of God, not because of the tutor, but by simple faith in Jesus Christ (3:26).
The tutor has been dismissed. Thanks for your help, but your services won’t be needed now. I’m a son, a full-fledged member of the family. I’ve learned what I need to learn, namely that the Law cannot save me, and that it will in fact curse me. Good-bye Law, hello grace through faith.
Why was Jesus cursed? So that we would not have to be cursed. It’s that simple.