CHRIST BECAME A CURSE FOR US Galatians 3:1-14 June 16, 2013

(the video didn’t work on this one…so here’s the sermon text. Peace – PJ)
Jokes often involve ethnic groups and it’s hard to know sometimes which nationality to poke fun at. So we’ll pick on the Norwegians.
Back in the immigration of the late 1800’s, there was a Norwegian who came to this country by the name of Lars Larson. Lars was a bank robber in Norway and decided to continue his ways in this country.
He would rob the banks in Southern Minnesota and hide his loot. No one could ever catch him. He was so successful that the country Sherriff deputized a whole bunch of local townsfolk to try and catch him.
Late one afternoon, one of those deputies saw Lars slipping across a farmer’s field, and trailed him. He watched as Lars went into his favorite watering hole to relax.
The deputy snuck up behind Lars and put a pistol to his head. The deputy said, “I know who you are, Lars Larson, and I’ve come to get back all the money that you’ve stolen from the banks of Southern Minnesota. Unless you give it to me, I’m going to blow your brains out.”
There was one difficulty. Lars could not speak English and the Deputy could not speak Norwegian. There they were, two adults at a verbal impasse, but a man’s brain was about to be blown out if some sort of translation did not take place.
Well, an enterprising man by the name of Johnny Johnson saw this, and said, “I am bilingual; do you want me to translate?” The deputy nodded. So this man, speaking in Norwegian, told Lars that the deputy was going to blow his brains out if he didn’t tell him where the money was hidden. Nervously, Lars answered back in Norwegian as the translator listened: “Tell that deputy that I have not spent any of the money. If he will go down to the drug store, face north, count five stones in the curbing, he will find a loose one there; pull it out and all the money is behind it. Please tell him; I don’t want him to shoot me.” The translator thought about this for a while, and then turned to the deputy and said in English, “Lars Larson is a brave man. He says he is ready to die.”
Now I don’t know what happened. But, obviously, translation was a big issue in that story. And it’s a big issue for us as seek to make the biblical message understandable.
And so, this morning, we look at our Bible reading from Galatians, and we look verse 13 of that reading which says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, by becoming a curse for us.”
If someone is cursed it means they are written off, doomed, condemned, and yet, here, at the heart of Paul’s teaching about our redemption, he says that Christ became a curse on the cross for us.
To help us understand this, let’s look at two expressions in our scripture lesson. First, the curse of the law – Look at verse 10: “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse, for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law.”
There were preachers in Galatia teaching that Christians must rely on doing the laws of the Old Testament in order to be accepted by God. Paul is saying, “no,” the laws in the Old Testament do not make us acceptable before God…we cannot earn our forgiveness or salvation – it is a gift given to us by faith in Christ, not faith in the law or faith in good deeds.
In order to show the law’s inability to make us right before God, Paul points out that disobedience to the law involves a curse, eventuating in death. Paul quotes Deut. 27 where the curse of disobedience is laid out as a warning to the Israelites. Here are a few verses: “Cursed be anyone who makes an idol; cursed be anyone who dishonors father or mother; cursed by anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice.”(15,16,19)
On and on, the list goes, until the conclusion: “Cursed be anyone who does not uphold the words of this law by observing them.” (vs26) There are 613 laws in the first 5 books of the Old Testament. No one can keep them all. If the law is the measure of our acceptance before God, we have all fallen short.
But notice the next expression, verse 13: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law; by becoming a curse for us.”
To be “redeemed” was a term used in ancient times when slaves were bought out of slavery and set free. It was said that they were “redeemed.” In the Bible, this term describes what Christ has done for us. Christ, by his death and resurrection, has set us free from the curse of the law. In this matter of being accepted before God, the law no longer has any hold on us. We are not written off, doomed, or condemned. All this is possible, because Christ became a curse for us on the cross.
Think of it this way: There is an exchange on the cross. Jesus takes our sin and gives us his righteousness. Jesus takes our disobedience and gives us his perfect obedience. Jesus takes our status as condemned sinners and gives us his status as a child of God.
There’s a story told by missionaries to China several years ago. Following the communist revolution in China in 1948, two young men were given the job of destroying Christian churches. One evening, after they had destroyed a small church, they decided to sleep in it that night. As they were lying on the floor, one of them saw a crucifix high on the wall.
He looked at it for a while, and then said to his companion, “Do you see the picture of God nailed to that stick of wood?”
“Yes,” the other responded, “but what of it?” The first answered, “You know, I never saw a God who suffered before.”
This is what makes Christianity unique: God sent his Son, who voluntarily submitted himself to the curse of the law, that that curse might be removed from us.
And then the final point, all this is for a purpose. Paul tells us the purpose of Christ becoming a curse for us on the cross: verse 14 of our reading from Galatians, it says, “so that we might receive the power of the Spirit through faith.
Christ gives us his Spirit to be with us, in every day and in every way, leading us to a fuller expression of what it means to live as children of God. Allow me to illustrate:
Perhaps you’ve felt that curse. Perhaps you’ve come to know that helpless feeling when you can’t get it all together. You’ve felt the sting of guilt, and sensed that there is something in us that does battle against our desire to do what is right. The Apostle Paul would call that knowledge of your own brokenness, the Spirit’s power at work in you.
Perhaps you’ve acknowledged your sin to God, and asked for his forgiveness, knowing that if God treated us according to our sin, it wouldn’t be pretty. So, you pray for God’s mercy and God’s help. Once again, Paul would say that prayer is the Spirit’s power at work in you.
And perhaps, you have felt deep down inside, a blessed assurance that sometimes causes you to well-up with joy – the assurance that “Christ has taken away my sins, even mine, and I am accepted into God’s eternal kingdom.” Once again, Paul would call that sense of assurance the Spirit’s power at work in you.
And the Spirit’s power will continue to lead you. In Galatians chapter 5, Paul will tell us the fruits of the Spirit’s work in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
The Spirit is with you. The Spirit will lead you. And that’s exactly Paul’s point: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law. Our salvation will not be found by faith in the law, but by faith in Christ.

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About pastorjohnwaseca

ELCA Lutheran Pastor
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