For those with some experience in the sports world, the word “substitution” is a double-edged sword. If you’re the kind of person who spent a reasonable amount of time on the bench (like me) then you love the word, because that’s the moment you waited for: the substitution.
A substitution was great! It meant you–the substitute–were going into the game to get some minutes. Maybe, just maybe, you could spark something with those minutes. You knew it was best to maximize your minutes, no matter what.
On the other hand, if you were a starter, the substitution was something you dreaded a bit. First of all, someone not as good as you (wouldn’t he be the starter, otherwise?) was going in the game. Secondly, the substitute was costing you minutes. He was snagging your opportunity to make a game-changing impact.
But in the Biblical world (as opposed to the sports world), the substitution is always a matter of wonder and joy. Just like in the story of Jesus and Barabbas. Barabbas was a notorious criminal. Jesus was innocent.
In the ultimate irony, Barabbas is released and given his freedom. Jesus is crucified.
It’s the perfect metaphor. I deserve to receive God’s wrath because of my constant idolatry, unbelief and disobedience of God. The one who is condemned should be me.
But Jesus took my condemnation for me. He is my substitute. And that’s why I can take this beautiful promise and apply it to myself: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1, NIV).
So can you. Because he’s your substitute too.
And that’s why there’s no more beautiful word than the word “substitution.”
“But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. ‘Which of the two do you want me to release to you?’ asked the governor. ‘Barabbas,’ they answered. ‘What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ Pilate asked. They all answered, ‘Crucify him!'” (Matthew 27:20-22 NIV).
Our Bible reading for Thursday, February 12, is Exodus 11:1 – 12:51, Matthew 27:11-44 and Psalm 21:1-7.
Header image based on "It Is Finished" by abcdz2000, CC By-SA 2.0