I remember the days in school when we had a substitute teacher. A non-regular taking the place of the regular. One in the place of another. That usually meant busy work or a class full of hooligans acting a fool. With my class it most mostly the later.
One in the place of another. Substitute.
The Old Testament preaches the gospel. The New Testament authors, having learned Jesus’ interpretative methods, are not making up new material. These inspired authors are interpreting their Scriptures in light of Jesus’ fulfillment of them.
God himself sets the pattern of substitution in Genesis 3 when man’s flimsy attempt to cover his shame with fig leaves comes up short and God himself executes judgment on man’s sin by taking it out on some innocent animals in order to cover the rebellious humans.
One in the place of another. The innocent taking just wrath for sinners. The guilty being covered in the sacrificial innocence of another. God the author making it all happen. Justice, mercy and love all wrapped up into one.
The cost and curse of sin is death. So God, being all-wise, defeats the curse and pays the cost by the curse itself. God uses death to kill death and spare the objects of his mercy.
This pattern can be found all over the Old Testament, and it’s intended to cause us to anticipate the hero of the story, Jesus, God himself, come in the flesh to trample over death through and by death.
The ultimate substitute? Jesus. What the animals could not do eternally, Jesus did.
This is love.
Romans 5:6-11 (ESV) For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Rejoice that God himself executed all his righteous anger toward me on Jesus, God in the flesh, so he himself could defeat sin and death in me and give me life. My death for His life.
My only response to that is awe.
That’s what we revel in this week Christians! This is not a somber week. We are on the other side of the cross. Jesus is alive, and we celebrate the marvelous day of substitution all week-long.
Get after some enjoying Jesus! He’s alive you know.