2 Corinthians 5:21 - Artist's Meditations
"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
This mixed-media piece meditates on this astonishing verse which describes, in part, what theologians call the "substitutionary atonement of Christ" and the "imputation of Christ's righteousness." I call it "Amazing News!"
The sculpture follows the verse thematically from left to right. The first (empty) cross on the far left signifies Christ's righteousness: "Him who knew no sin." Like Christ, that cross is free from any sinful "filling." The next cross (filled with bullet lead and casings) signifies Jesus Christ being made sin for those He came to redeem: "to be sin on our behalf." The bullet lead and casings are a metaphor for all the murderous and sinful thoughts, words, and deeds all people possess. In this astonishing act of divine grace, Jesus, the pure and sinless One, becomes our sin - becomes our bullet lead and casings - so that He can pay the penalty we deserve for our sin.
The next cross (also filled with bullet lead and casings) highlights the affirmation in this verse that we are sinners filled with murderous and sinful thoughts, words, and deeds: "so that we." The last (empty) cross signifies the reason Jesus "became sin for" for His people: "so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." It is through a trusting relationship of repentance and faith in Christ (re: "in Him") that we are saved and receive all the benefits of His saving work described in this verse. It also signifies that through faith in Christ, God actually "imputes" (i.e., ascribes or gives) us His righteousness.
The focal object for all this work is the cross. It was on the cross that Christ "became sin that we might become the righteousness of God." Along with the cross, the sculpture highlights the nature of this work with a background of crimson and silver - two colors which hint at the blood of Christ and the glory of Christ in shedding His blood for His people on the cross. Everything about 2 Corinthians 5:21 is made possible only by the death of Christ; an act of immeasurable, sacrificial agony (blood) and royal dignity (silver).
In a phrase, this verse and this sculpture picture the "amazing exchange": Jesus takes our sin and its penalty and gives us His life and righteousness. And we get to receive and rest upon this work of Christ by faith, as He says in Ephesians 2:4-9.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
What amazing news! What an amazing exchange! I am reminded of Romans 5:7-8, "For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
I pray that this little description, and even more, the truths of 2 Corinthians 5:21, grip our hearts and compel us to fly to Christ in faith for forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life.