June 21, 2017 | Articles by Rev. David Bodanza
In these parts, most probably think of the "Curse of the Bambino" when they hear the words "the curse." This is the popular superstition that the Boston Red Sox were cursed for 86 years on account of trading Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. Some time prior to 2004, a green bridge over Storrow Drive was changed by vandals from "Reverse Curve" to "Reverse the Curse" and after 2004 to "Curse Reversed." Frankly, an argument may be made that sports (rather than religion) is the opiate of the people, contra Karl Marx. While sports is entertaining, it should not distract us from reality. For many in New England, following the Boston Red Sox may be as important to them as their religion.
Jesus Christ is the center of history. He is the reality we must recognize and revere. He was and is fully God and fully man. He was the only one who fulfilled the law of the Bible by living a perfectly sinless life on earth. Despite his perfect life, He was crucified on the cross by the very people He came to love and rescue. Jesus, the Son of God, came from heaven to earth to take on the curse of the law, to bear the great punishment due each one of his people for their lawlessness. This punishment is completely just. The Bible says that those who do not perfectly obey the law of the Bible are cursed. Is there anyone other than Jesus who has perfectly obeyed the Biblical law set forth in the Ten Commandments? Most of us would be hard-pressed to know what the Ten Commandments are, much less find them in the Bible. We would have an easier time driving down to Gardner City Hall to read the monument.
Ask the average person on the street whether they are going to heaven. Most will answer affirmatively. Then ask them why. The answers will be most revealing. You may hear such things as, "I'm a good person" or "I'm not as a bad as ...." or "I go to church on Sunday" or "I give to charity" or "I never did anything really bad." These answers are a good diagnostic. Such answers show that the person is relying on their own goodness to be right with God. But they forget one thing. They are under a curse because they have not obeyed the law perfectly. No one, except Jesus, has obeyed the law perfectly. “Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10). John Calvin remarked, “And so [Paul] concludes boldly that all are cursed because all have been commanded to keep the law perfectly, and this is because, in the present corruption of our nature, the ability is wanting." We cannot keep the law in our own power, nor do we really want to. Who can truthfully say that they obeyed all of the Ten Commandments? The Ten Commandments provide:
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
“You shall have no other gods before me.
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.
“You shall not murder.
“You shall not commit adultery.
“You shall not steal.
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
“You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's.” (Exodus 20:2-17 ESV)
No one has obeyed each and every one of the Ten Commandments. As result, all of humanity is under a curse by God. "For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, 'Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.'” (Galatians 3:10)
Everlasting life comes when the curse is reversed. The curse is reversed by Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross. "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse on our behalf, for it is written 'Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.'" (Galatians 3:13) Jesus alone has reversed the curse of the law for his people. And who are his people? All those who truly come to him in faith and repentance. He took on the curse for those who truly believe in him.
When we try to get a sense of what Jesus did on the cross, we recount his physical sufferings but know it was his bearing the curse of the law, bearing the punishment of sin, that was the most terrible. Thomas Kelly was right in his old hymn "Stricken, Smitten and Afflicted" when he wrote: "But the deepest stroke that pierced Him, Was the stroke that Justice gave." The hymn poignantly reminds us, "Ye who think of sin but lightly, Nor suppose the evil great, Here may view its nature rightly, Here its guilt may estimate. Mark the Sacrifice appointed! See Who bears the awful load!’Tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed, Son of Man, and Son of God."
The third verse of Isaac Watts' great hymn, "Joy to the World," praises Jesus for what he did on the cross. He makes his blessings flow as far as the curse is found. In another words, Jesus' sacrifice on the cross served to reverse the curse for his people:
No more let sins and sorrows grow,
nor thorns infest the ground;
he comes to make his blessings flow
far as the curse is found,
far as the curse is found,
far as the curse is found.
This is not just some holiday song you hear in the mall sound system while you are doing your Christmas shopping. It is an expression of exuberant praise of Jesus! As Lloyd John Ogilvie put it, "Jesus became 'a curse' in the same sense that 'he was made to be sin,' though he himself was sinless (2 Cor. 5:21). He voluntarily submitted himself to the curse of the law that that curse might be removed from all who truly believe in him." Jesus has come to reverse the curse of death for his people!