He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
2 Corinthians 5:21
On the cross, we see God didn’t pour God’s wrath on Jesus to appease divine justice. Humans poured their wrath on Jesus to appease their justice and in suffering through this, Jesus showed the true character of the Father by not reacting retributivley but by crying out “Father forgive them”. As this picture above states if God doesn’t follow God’s own gospel, which is built on enemy love and peace, it would all fall apart and lose its credibility.
This is what is meant by Jesus bearing or taking our sins on himself. What it means when it says “He became sin who knew no sin” is He took our violence and accusations on himself and was then murdered for it.
We became the righteousness of God through Christ because Jesus exposed this system and as the representative of the entire human race, revealed that humanity has always been loved and cherished without having to do anything. When we live into the life of him, we too expose sin for what it truly is. Then our union with God and divine blessing are revealed. If you are interested in a more accurate biblical definition of sin click here
The first time sin is mentioned in the Bible is when Cain, forgetting he was loved and blessed by God, became angry and essentially accused Abel for his anger and murdered him, hoping this would create peace. In the same way, Jesus, like Abel, was innocently murdered as a way to keep the peace amongst the people of both the religious and empire systems. He became the scapegoat.
The violence from the foundations of the world culminated in the murder of God. This is what is meant by “the lamb was slain from the foundations of the world.”
Luke’s gospel says it this way “from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.“. Meaning the violence from the very first murder to the prophets will culminate to the death, or violent murder of Emmanuel.
But God doesn’t respond with appeasement. Why would murder appease the God of peace that Jesus fully revealed God to be? Instead forgiveness is what is shown. And the resurrection vindicated the entirety of Jesus’ life and crucifixion.
In this way the cross shows solidarity with both the victim AND the victimizer. This was a sacrifice from God to humanity, not an appeasement or payoff of God to God that is somehow controlled by a punitive justice system. This was the ultimate display of God’s true justice and how God defeats sin. This is the foolishness of the Cross and the way of Jesus and those who follow him. This is the way the early Christians lived and believed before aligning with empire through Constantine. The way to world peace looks like Jesus and most clearly displayed on the cross.
Where Christians went wrong is when we assigned the justice of empire and religious systems to the cross, to God and reading scripture through that lens. As seen above though, there is a more ancient way. A better way. The way of the non violent, forgiving, merciful, always inclusive, Son of a carpenter who “became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God”.