For the week of August 21, 2010 / 11 Elul 5770
Torah: Devarim / Deuteronomy 21:10 - 25:19
Haftarah: Isaiah 54:1-10
The Cursed Messiah
And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance. (Devarim / Deuteronomy 21:22-23; ESV)
I referred to these verses two weeks ago when I mentioned how years ago I encountered the faulty logic of claiming that because Yeshua was hung on a tree to die, he was cursed, and therefore could not have been the Messiah. At that time I explained that we cannot determine the state of a person's standing with God based on their circumstances.
There is a sense in which Yeshua was cursed - not because of wrongdoing on his part - but because of his taking our sin upon himself. As our sin bearer, he suffered the penalty of our wrongs by dying a humiliating and excruciating death on our behalf.
That Yeshua was cursed is clearly stated in the New Covenant writings. Paul writes:
Even though Yeshua himself did nothing to deserve this curse, he willingly took it upon himself so that we could be free from God's wrath.
Yeshua's own fulfillment of Torah is evidenced in his death. For the Torah states that those so hanged should not be left all night lest the land be defiled. The Roman custom of crucifixion was known to last sometimes for days. But Yeshua died more quickly than expected. In fact, the accounts of his death clearly suggest that he willed his death once he satisfied God's requirements for him (see Matthew 27:50, Luke 23:44-46, John 19:28-30). This enabled him to be buried on the same day just as the Torah directs. He completely fulfilled the Torah by not only adhering to its moral and religious precepts but also by receiving its curses.
The idea that someone could bear the punishment deserved by another may seem strange, but not from God's perspective. The Torah demonstrates this principle vividly through the sacrificial system. Innumerable innocent animals were cursed to die because of the sins of the people. However strange, brutal, or unfair this may appear it is the way it works. God had intended for his Son to become a curse for us cursed ones and provided a clear illustration of this reality through the sacrifices.
The curse upon the Messiah is not the final word, however. As we read in Mishlei (English: Proverbs), "Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying, a curse that is causeless does not alight" (Mishlei / Proverbs 26:2). If any curse was causeless it was the one borne by the Messiah. Therefore the curse could not remain upon him, death was defeated and he rose from the dead, providing the way for those who trust in him to also rise from the dead at the end of the age.
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