He was a beggar on the streets. And, he was as good as dead if he didn't receive a blessing. The words, "you're cursed" haunted his mind. He was cursed and it was his own fault. He took what wasn't his to take; he stole from the dead and, in doing so, he became eerily acquainted with the dead.
In the movie Coco, a boy finds himself cursed and sentenced to the land of the dead if he does not obtain a blessing. On top of that, only someone in his own family can give a blessing to undo the curse. The boy receives a blessing from his family, but there's another hurdle-it is conditional. He is given a blessing to return but never again may he play music.
Some blessing. The words that were supposed to set him free only imprisoned him under a new law. Music, his passion in life, must cease. He was bound to sacrifice his love of music to return to the land of the living. It was not so much a blessing as it was a transaction. But, then again, as the saying goes beggars can't be choosers.
As the story unfolds, he sets out on a quest for a new blessing because he refuses to just take what he gets. He will earn his freedom, he will prove his worth by obtaining the blessing on his own merit. Sure, the blessing must come from outside of himself from another family member but he would prove to them he deserved every word of that blessing.
Like the boy in the movie, we are under a curse. The curse of the Law upon sinners is this; the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), no one is righteousness (Romans 3:10–11). The Law leaves us in the same condition as the boy, we are nothing more than beggars. "The law is good, but since the fall its holiness condemns us all; It dooms us for our sins to die and has no pow'r to justify," writes hymnist Matthias Loy.
Here's the problem; we cannot escape the curse of sin. We are spiritually dead beggars incapable of raising ourselves to the land of the living. Just as beggars can't be choosers, neither can they be givers. We cannot give anything to God, not even a crumb of own "good works." We can only receive. We cannot escape the curse of sin. We must receive the blessing as a true beggar.
Just like in the movie Coco, our curse can only be lifted and taken away by someone in our family tree. Our curse can only be taken away by someone else. And, it is. Jesus, our brother takes our curse upon Himself. He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The blessing of the Gospel is this; we are forgiven and made righteous for the sake of Christ who became the curse of sin for us.
In his lectures on the book of Galatians, Martin Luther describes God's blessing, "Now the blessing is nothing else than the promise of the Gospel. And that all the nations are blessed means that all the nations hear the blessing, or that the divine blessing, which is the promise, is preached and spread among all nations through the Gospel.”
The Gospel is unconditional, unlike the blessing the boy received. The Gospel requires no action, no sacrifice, no holiness from us. It only comes with good and gracious gifts bought with the precious blood of our Lord. The blessing our Lord gives to us is His sacrifice for us; His death in our place.
Martin Luther, in his commentary on Galatians, states, "For we hear that our sins are forgiven and that we are His children, with whom He does not want to be wrathful, but whom He wants to liberate from sin, death, and all evil, and to whom He wants to grant righteousness, life, and His kingdom." The blessings of our Lord overflows as He graciously delivers His precious gifts in baptism, the Lord's Supper, and in the words of absolution.
As sinful beggars we can't be choosers. We have nothing to give. But, into our empty hands our Lord deposits His bountiful gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation. Christ comes to us not with curses but with blessings. He comes as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Kathy graduated from Wisconsin Lutheran College with a B.A. in Media Design. She is currently a writing contributor with Christ Hold Fast, Higher Things, and Coffee by Gillespie, as well as a freelance graphic designer. She is the co-author of The Sinner/Saint Lenten Devotional from 1517 Publishing.