I know this sounds like an innocent, childish episode, but what does it look like to God? Proverbs 6:16 says, “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue…” Every lie is an abomination, a monstrosity, that he hates. He hates it so much because he sees what it does to others made in his image – to fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, and friends.
If we speak the truth to ourselves, we sin every day, either in words, attitudes, or actions. We are stuffed with pride, driven by selfishness, willing to deceive to get what we want, and eager to do good works only if it will garner more praise for ourselves. Isaiah the prophet said all our righteous works are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). If you don’t think you have any sins ask your spouse, family, friends, and coworkers. Romans 3:23 says, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”
Every sin must be made right. For every act of rebellion, there must be a payment. Justice demands an atonement. Because of sin, we are under the just judgment of a holy God, and the penalty for our sin is death. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death…”
As the snakes slithered through the camp, God graciously made a way of salvation. At God’s command, Moses fashioned a bronze snake and placed it high on a pole for all to see. The replica was a straightforward picture of what Jesus did for us on the cross. Something happened when Jesus, the holy Son of God, who hated sin with every fiber in his soul, hung on the cross. Calvary was much more than a fantastic display of love, or a gruesome murder. The sinless Savior, became the thing he hated most. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin…” Galatians 3 says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us…” He became sin. He became the curse.
How does one turn into something else? If a person puts in the practice, preparation, and hard work they can become something – a ballet dancer, lawyer, architect, or doctor. Or, if they surrender to their darker nature, they become thieves, addicts, or swindlers. But 2 Corinthians 5:21 doesn’t say Jesus became a sinner. While tempted as we are, he alone was without sin. The verse is much stronger. He became what John Gill called, “a mass of sin.” As he shouldered the weight of the sins of the world, he became sin in the eyes of God the Father.
1 Peter 2:24 says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross…” I hate poison ivy more than anything. I would never go naked and cover myself head to toe with this toxic leaf. The pain of scourging, the nails in his wrists and feet, and the agony trying to breath were horrendous. Still much greater was the psychic and emotional suffering of bearing what was most toxic to his soul. Because he became sin, he lost what he loved most, his unbroken fellowship with his Father. The moment this sacred bond severed he cried out, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)
On the cross, Jesus became our substitute. A substitute stands in the place of another. Everything we deserved, he took for us out of love. The theological term is substitutionary atonement. We see this in both Old and New Testaments. Isaiah 53:5-6 says, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” And, Romans 4:25 says, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”
If there was another way God would have done it. Sending Jesus as our substitute was the only way for us to find forgiveness and fellowship with him. Jesus humbly allowed himself to endure such agony out of love for you and me. Because he stood in our place we can now have atonement. We can be at one with God. Because he became a curse, the curse of sin is broken.