What's up with the verses in Galatians? I think it is chapter 3 where we are told that Jesus was a curse. I don't understand it.
The passage you are referring to is found in Galatians 3:13-14.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us – for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE” – in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (NASB) Gal. 3:13 -14
To answer your question, we will first discover what the curse is about and then we will find out why it is applied to Jesus.
Ancient Israel used four methods for putting criminals to death: “stoning, burning, the sword, and strangulation” (Dr. J. H. Hertz. Pentateuch & Haftorahs. Soncino Press, London. 1960. p. 842.). A criminal or an enemy could then be hung on a tree until evening as a spectacle to everyone of their evil deeds. Joshua 10:25-26 is an excellent example of this humiliation. “Hanging on a tree” was a symbol of humiliation. God did not want a person to be hung on a tree unless he/she had been killed for disobeying God’s moral law. Therefore, God established this law.
If a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), . . . (NASB) Deut. 21:22-23
Hanging was for an exceptionally wicked man or woman.
Applied To Jesus
Jesus was “cursed” before He died on that Roman cross which was made out of wood. The scriptures tell us that Jesus was a holy baby (Luke 1:35); He found favor with God as a young person (Luke 2:52); and at the beginning of His ministry God the Father said, “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased . . .” (Matt. 3:17). Near the end of Jesus’ ministry, God the Father repeated the statement, “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased” at the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:5). Finally, Jesus died on a cross for the sins of every man and woman. The scriptures say that Jesus was perfect. He was sinless. We deserved to die because of our sins. He did not. Therefore, when He willingly died a physical death on a cross in our place – for our sins – He became a “curse.” The Apostle Peter repeats this fact in His writings and to a crowd which was listening to him preach about Jesus Christ.
. . . and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness . . . (NASB) 1 Pet. 2:24
But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross.” (NASB) Acts 5:29-30
Jesus died on the cross and continued hanging on it until that evening. So when we come to Gal. 3:13-14, the Apostle Paul says that we can inherit the promise of the Spirit by faith – by believing in Jesus. This is possible because Jesus became a curse – bore our sins – when He hung on the cross – a tree.
Why did Jesus do this? Because He loves you. It is that simple. Now He asks you to believe or trust in Him. Find out how on the page “Searching for God.”