Podcast: 24 April 2020

Hello! It’s Friday, and we come to the end of another week of podcasts from STC Sheffield.

It has been lovely to be with you this week, and I’m looking forward to hearing what my friend and colleague Tom Finnemore has to say about the subsequent chapters of Galatians next week. Do make sure to listen to him.

In the meantime, our Bible reading today is Galatians Chapter 3 verses 10-14. I’m going to use the Message translation to focus on the last 2 verses.

“Christ redeemed us from that self-defeating, cursed life by absorbing it completely into himself. Do you remember the Scripture that says, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”? That is what happened when Jesus was nailed to the cross: He became a curse, and at the same time dissolved the curse. And now, because of that, the air is cleared.”


From this passage, I’d like us to look at four words: Absorbing, Cursed, Dissolved and Cleared.

Firstly, absorbing.

The picture that springs to mind when I think of something being completely absorbed is kitchen roll!

In fact advertising gurus spend hours telling us just how much more absorbent each new brand on the market is.  The pictures on TV show spills of water, and then a piece of kitchen towel is laid on top, and all the liquid is completely absorbed into it.

I love the way the Message translation uses the word ‘absorbing’ because it helps to give us a much deeper understanding and expression of what Christ does for us.

When it comes to our sin, we sometimes use the analogy of being washed clean by Christ.  And whilst this is obviously true, we shouldn’t conjure up some image of Jesus holding up a hose pipe and spraying us down, or just throwing a bucket of water at us.

Christ doesn’t clean us at a distance, being careful not to get himself dirty.

No, we are cleaned by Christ because he absorbs our sin completely into himself.  We become clean, as he becomes dirty.

And so we move onto the second word: Cursed.

To say something or someone is cursed is quite harsh, jarring language that we don’t often use.  But as Paul uses it so many times in this passage, we can’t avoid unpacking what it means or represents.  I am really grateful to have had a Bible commentary to help me understand this language and imagery before doing the podcast!

Being cursed in this context means being rejected by God, but even more than its meaning, to the Jews hearing Paul’s words, they would link being cursed to condemnation and death.

In the Old Testament, those who broke the laws of God were sentenced to death by stoning and then hung on a stake – a piece of wood, a tree – as an indication that they were cursed.  It was an outward, visible sign to others – a symbol that they had been rejected by God.

This is why Jesus – the Messiah, God’s supposedly anointed one, being hung on a tree – a wooden cross – was so shocking to the Jews.  It meant he had died under a divine curse.  It just didn’t make sense to them that the King of Heaven, the Christ, would die like this.

What they, and us today, need to realise is that Jesus was not on the cross because of his law-breaking.  It was because he had absorbed all of our sin.  He took our curse.

However, as we know, the story does not end with Jesus cursed and rejected by God on the cross.

And so we move onto the third word: Dissolved

I am sure that when most of you think about the word dissolve, you think about what happens when you add sugar or salt to water.

I am not a Chemistry teacher, so what follows is a simple explanation of that – please don’t send me any feedback!

When you add salt to water, the positive part of the water molecule has the power to attract the negative chloride ions of salt, and at the same time the sodium ions in the salt are pulled to the other part of the water molecule.  The charge, or the power, of the water breaks apart the salt, until it doesn’t exist anymore.  The same is true when you add sugar to water.  The water literally breaks the bonds that hold the sugar together, until it is gone.

When Jesus was on the cross his position as the Son of God and his perfection as a sinless man meant that He had the power to break the bonds of sin – the curse laid upon him – until they no longer existed.  And then, as we celebrate on Easter Day, he rose again.  He pulled off the grave clothes.  Death was gone.

Finally, the air is cleared.

I’d like to use a slightly unusual illustration for this final word – cleared.

As some of you may know, in the Ward family we love James Bond films.  Last week we watched ‘You Only Live Twice.’

By today’s standard, the special effects are dreadful, but it is the one where Blofeld launches a spacecraft that is large enough to completely consume American and Russian rockets.  They are not destroyed, but instead they are literally absorbed into this other spaceship.

As this happens, whereas there were 2 dots on the radar at ground control, one of them is no longer visible.  Anyone trying to see the Russian or American spacecraft would find the screen cleared.

I wanted to use this example, because I think it helps to explain how the markers of sin get to be cleared from our life, through what Jesus did on the cross over 2000 years ago.

Because although this did happen as an historical event, all that time ago, Christ is alive and present now, and we need to be found in him today.

As we read in 2 Corinthians Chapter 5, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.”

If we are in Christ, then when God looks upon us he will no longer see the marks and stains of sin that lead to condemnation; instead only Christ will be visible – our sins are cleared from his view.  Because of this we are rescued from our old, cursed life that led to death, and instead we can enjoy a new life full of God’s Spirit whilst we are alive, and look forward to the promise of an eternal life with Him when we die.

Our sins are absorbed by Christ, he was cursed for us when he died on the cross, he dissolved the power of death, and because of this our old life is cleared away – we are a new creation in Christ.


Lord Jesus, thank you for everything that you did for us when you died on the cross.  Thank you that we are a new creation.  Fill us with your Holy Spirit and help us to remain in you today.  Amen.

BIBLE READING: Galatians 3:10-14 (MSG)

So those now who live by faith are blessed along with Abraham, who lived by faith—this is no new doctrine! And that means that anyone who tries to live by his own effort, independent of God, is doomed to failure. Scripture backs this up: “Utterly cursed is every person who fails to carry out every detail written in the Book of the law.”

The obvious impossibility of carrying out such a moral program should make it plain that no one can sustain a relationship with God that way. The person who lives in right relationship with God does it by embracing what God arranges for him. Doing things for God is the opposite of entering into what God does for you. Habakkuk had it right: “The person who believes God, is set right by God—and that’s the real life.” Rule-keeping does not naturally evolve into living by faith, but only perpetuates itself in more and more rule-keeping, a fact observed in Scripture: “The one who does these things [rule-keeping] continues to live by them.”

Christ redeemed us from that self-defeating, cursed life by absorbing it completely into himself. Do you remember the Scripture that says, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”? That is what happened when Jesus was nailed to the cross: He became a curse, and at the same time dissolved the curse. And now, because of that, the air is cleared and we can see that Abraham’s blessing is present and available for non-Jews, too. We are all able to receive God’s life, his Spirit, in and with us by believing—just the way Abraham received it.