16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
There are a lot of verses in the Bible which you might imagine compete for the affection of believers. John 3:16 is obvious. Ephesians 2:8-9 or Joshua 1:9 or Joshua’s words in 24:15 about serving the Lord are regularly cites. David’s 23rd Psalm is dear to many folks. My confirmation verse is John 14:27. Do you know your confirmation verse? Do you have one? Do you have a dear verse of the Bible which guides or comforts you?
I think a strong case could be made for verse 21 in this reading today. This whole passage is potent comfort for the sinners. This last verse, however, is awesome. For our sake, God made Jesus, who did not know sin, to be sin itself. Jesus does not just know what sin is or even become a sinner Himself, but He becomes sin. Jesus gathers the whole world of sin and all that is wrong, and He takes that to himself, becoming the very thing that God hates.
This is purposeful. God does this to Jesus so that we might become not simply righteous people, but the very righteousness of God. Just as Jesus has become sin, we become God’s righteousness. We are not talking about putting on a characteristic or some moral improvement here. This is an essential change to our very nature.
This Holy Week we will once more look upon Jesus hanging on that tree. We will hear his anguished cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The answer to that question is right here. God made the sinless one to become sin. As you hear those words and pray. Remember that the purpose is that you become the very righteousness of God. He has begun this good work in you in Baptism. He brings it to completion on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6, yet another contender for favorite verse). You might memorize this verse and recite it regularly. It defines what you are in Christ.