"In Our Place"
We heard the Triumphal Entry a mere four months ago when Advent began. Then it was a story of welcome with eager rejoicing—Christ coming into our human flesh and our fallen world. Now we hear the story as we say farewell with somber thanks. Now Jesus marches on to His ultimate mission: to suffer, die, and rise again…for us.
A mere five weeks ago and through the weeks since, Jesus has been engaging in battles and winning victories against Satan and his temptations. Now, we hear the account of the ultimate battle. And it looks like anything but a victory! But Christ was putting Himself in our place. That should have been you and I on that cross!
He is called “king,” and so He is. We should be the kings and the queens, but we fell from our appointed thrones. So Jesus lowers Himself to take the title in mockery and disgrace.
He was falsely accused. We are rightly accused in our transgressions against God and against our various neighbors. But "We have rights!” we insist. Jesus, though, waives His divine rights and privileges and silently endures the shame.
Barabbas was released instead of Jesus. His name means “son of the father.” From the beginning, we should have been the sons and daughters of the heavenly Father. Instead, we were found guilty of rebellion against God and imprisoned in sin. Jesus, the true Son of God, is the innocent One, the One taken into custody so that we guilty ones may go free.
“His blood be on us,” cried the ginned up crowd. A little thing it was, or so they mused. But it was bearing the blame. Do we treat His blood too lightly, as a little thing? Ah, but Jesus’ spilled blood cleanses us from our sinful state and our sinful thoughts, words, and deeds. Pray “His blood be on us” with weighty joy and gratitude when you come to the Table.
He endures the spitting and the mocking. We were the ones who mocked the genuine royalty of being “like God.” We thought it better to rely on ourselves instead of the God who made us in His image. But Jesus endures the spitting and mocking to rescue the likes of us. Jesus was stripped naked to clothe us with His rightness, His image. Truly, this Son of God strips us of the tattered rags of our sin and the false robes of our self-rule.
And the pain on the cross. Excruciating! We think pain is so unfair, something to flee at all costs. Even though we truly deserve it. We would love to drink the drugged wine to ease the pain. Jesus, though, does not deserve the pain; but He takes it, He suffers it, He drinks it down, refusing any pain-killer.
He cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?” We are the ones who should have been and should be forsaken by God, all for turning against Him. But Jesus still trusts His Father in the very midst of being utterly forsaken by Him.
Jesus “yielded up His spirit.” We rail against death at every turn, with every fiber of our being, even though we brought it into God’s good creation. Jesus, though, willingly goes into death, utterly and finally to defeat it.
All of this Jesus did, endured, and suffered in our place.
We call it the “Great Exchange,” the great trading places. “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5).
We also call it “Atonement.” The blood is for cleansing and making us holy. Jesus took our place to make us “at-one” with God once again. “How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:14).
We also call it “Justification.” Though we are sinful and guilty beyond all reasonable doubt, He makes us righteous and innocent through His work on the cross. “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
We also call it “Redemption.” Because of Jesus paying the price, making the ultimate sacrifice, paying the ransom, we are bought back and brought back for life in His kingdom. “You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:18).
We also call it “Reconciliation.” Warring factions are brought back together. Hostile enemies are brought to peaceful life together. Now “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). Amen.