2 Corinthians 5:21 may be the most horrifying verse in Scripture, for it reveals the fact that Jesus, who was holy, righteous, and perfectly sinless, became sin for us. God made Him who knew no sin, to be sin for us.
The Horror of the Cross
Can you imagine the horror, the shame, and the guilt that poured upon Jesus while He hung upon the cross?
We, who are born in sin and who are accustomed to sin’s constant presence within us, still feel shame and guilt when we sin. Imagine then how it would feel for God in the flesh, who is perfectly holy and righteous, and for whom sin is the exact antithesis and opposite of everything about His being, to not just take on a few sins, but to actually become sin for the entire world? It is shocking and horrifying to think about.
The Love of the Cross
But it is also incredibly loving, for God, who alone knows the full ramifications and consequences of sin, knew that only in this way could He have the relationship and fellowship with us that He so desires. Only by taking sin upon Himself could He finally, ultimately, and completely defeat sin, death, and the devil. So He did it.
Jesus became sin for us and gave us His righteousness.
Jesus accepted our sin into Himself.
He breathed it in, soaked it up, and allowed it to consume Him from within.
Why? Because He loves us, and He knows that if He does not become sin for us, if He does not let sin consume Him, it will destroy and consume us.
Jesus Became Sin
The truth of 2 Corinthians 5:21 is for every single person who has ever lived and who will ever live. It is for every single person who has drawn breath. It is for every single sin that has ever been committed and ever will be. Jesus draws them all into Himself and becomes sin for us!
On the cross, Jesus is both the most beautiful thing the world has ever seen, and the most loathsome. Jesus is the most righteous and the most sinful. The cross of Jesus is full of love and horror.
Love, because of what Jesus did, but horror, because of what Jesus became: He became sin. This is the truth of 2 Corinthians 5:21. Jesus became sin for us. God made Him to be sin. Jesus was despised, rejected, and loathed (Isa 53:2-6). People looked upon Him with revulsion. Even God rejected Him (Matt 27:46).
God Became Sin
All of this helps us understand exactly what was going on in the violent portrayals of God in the Old Testament. If it is on the cross that Jesus most fully reveals God, and it is on the cross that Jesus became sin for the world, then this means that God also was becoming sin for the world.
Just as Jesus became repulsive on the cross by taking on the sin of the world, the proper response to reading about the violence of God in the Old Testament is to be repulsed. We are repulsed by the violence of God in the Old Testament because we are supposed to be repulsed. The violence of God in the Old Testament is God taking on the sin of Israel.
This is a challenge thought, I know, so let us approach it from another perspective, from the perspective of God Himself. To do this, we must remember everything we have seen in this series so far (see the list of posts below).
We must remember that the Bible is inspired and inerrant. It records exactly what God wanted recorded. We must remember that when we read about God in the Old Testament, we read Jesus back into those passages, rather than read those depictions of God forward onto Jesus. We must remember that Jesus came to destroy the devil’s work, and that the primary way Jesus did all this is by taking all the devil’s work into Himself upon the cross by becoming the sin of the world.
God inspired the Old Testament authors to write about Him in a violent way so that He could do the same thing for Israel that Jesus did on the cross: Just as Jesus became sin for us, God became sin for Israel.
I will further explain and unpack this idea in future posts… for now, how does it strike you?