Since Major League Baseball’s Opening Day is this Thursday, I’ll start with a baseball story. When the Boston Red Sox defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2004 World Series, many saw it as a win that “reversed the curse” allegedly caused when the Red Sox traded Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees in 1920. Some labeled it “the Curse of the Bambino.” The Red Sox, who had last won the World Series in 1918, did not win a Series again until the historic year of 2004.
In contemporary culture, the idea of a curse is often associated with a magic spell of some kind, something from the world of witchcraft or zombies. But in biblical culture and terminology, a curse implies being separated from God and thus subject to his holy judgment.
Paul used an Old Testament requirement involving the treatment of cursed individuals to explain the impact of Jesus’ death on the cross. He wrote, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” (Galatians 3:13, New American Standard Bible; quoting Deuteronomy 21:23).
The context of the Deuteronomy verse indicates that a person who “hangs on a tree” (perhaps a wooden post of some kind) has already been put to death for committing a capital crime (v. 22). Peter Craigie wrote, “To break the law of God and live as though he did not matter or exist, was in effect to curse him; and he who cursed God would be accursed of God” (The Book of Deuteronomy, Eerdmans, 1976, p. 285).
Paul’s use of this passage in Deuteronomy should heighten our awareness of (and gratitude for) what Jesus’ death on the cross accomplished. Jesus did not live as though God “did not matter or exist.” Jesus was a sinless individual. Jesus reversed sin’s curse by taking that curse upon himself. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Jesus’ separation from God, his being “forsaken” (Matthew 27:46), allowed us to be forgiven and reunited with God as his children. His motivation for doing so is best captured in the words of a hymn, “What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss to bear the dreadful curse for my soul!”
That message is also captured in the act of worship through Communion. Sin’s curse has been removed by the Savior’s cure. The curse has indeed been reversed.