“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us (for it is written, cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree).” (Gal. 3:13)
So what is the status of the Jews and others who lived by the law in the past? They have had the curse of the law removed. The curse came because it was impossible to live strictly and completely by the law. Accepting the law as the means of justification meant that you also accepted the fact that you were required to keep every single part of it. Over the years, Jewish Rabbis had developed a set of rules to govern the rules. They built hedges around the law to prevent violating it and the accumulation of the hedges just added to the problem. Jesus was probably addressing this problem when He spoke of the scribes and Pharisees in Matt. 23:4, “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.”
Peter made a similar statement in the famous conference in Jerusalem when circumcision was called for the Gentiles. Acts 15:9-11 tells us, “…and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
Peter sounds a lot like Paul doesn’t he? Law versus grace. The law was a burden, a yoke on the neck of Jews and Gentiles. This difficulty may well have been behind Jesus offer of an easy burden and a light yoke (Matt. 11:30). This statement came after Jesus encouraged the people to take His yoke and learn from Him. He who became the curse for us by bearing our sins on the cross offers rest for our souls. The heavy laden and labored Jews to whom Jesus was appearing were not tired of physical work, they were laboring under the burden of the curse of the law. By coming to Jesus and taking up his yoke instead of the yoke of the law they would find living for God so much easier and their souls would finally find rest in the affirmation that the curse was gone.
The passage quoted by Paul was in reference to people who had been stoned for disobedience to the law. Their bodies were then fastened to a tree or wooden stake so that all could see. Violation of the law led to death and curse. All you lived under the law were under that curse since all had sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Because Jesus took all our sins he was also fastened to a tree so that he could bear our curse. Why Paul is asking, would you want to submit to that life of cursing again?
Jesus redeemed us. He paid our debt. He bore our sins and stood as the ransom for our souls. Jesus came to set the captives free. Mankind was being held prisoner by its sins and was totally unable to pay its ransom price. Like redeeming a ring in a pawn shop, Jesus offered His blood as payment for us. Without the shedding of blood, we are told, there can be no forgiveness.
Task for Today: Listen to the voice of Jesus as He calls you to take up His yoke and learn of Him. Trying to earn your way to heaven by being good is a terrible yoke. Instead, put the burden of the gospel on, bear the yoke of good news and feel how light they are. Rejoice in the truth that you are not under a curse but have been redeemed.