When I think of my earliest memories of the word substitute, it brings to mind two impressions: the substitute teacher, and being a “sub” on a sports team. The first you always enjoyed because substitute teachers were something new and different from the monotony and daily grind of the K-12 years. They were generally kind, and almost always lenient (something I invariably needed) and usually less demanding.
Then there was coming off the bench. In sports, being a second (or third) stringer was never any fun. Always hoping the basketball team would get a huge lead that would provide an opportunity to play – at least for the last 30 seconds of the game. Fighting off the temptation to hope that someone would not show up, or even worse – get hurt – so that you might get some playing time. Best thing you could do was work to keep your grades up; knowing that some of the most athletically gifted are not always the brightest; and by the next grading period the team might be reduced to group of smart losers.
Truth be told, we all need a substitute, but of a different and more important kind; and for two primary reasons:
- To fulfill the precepts of the law
- The perfect and holy law of God demands perfect and holy obedience to Him who is the author of it
- Being in a fallen state, (see Genesis 3) we can never fulfill the law’s demands
- To fulfill the penalty of the law
- The law demands passing of judgement on those who fail to meet its requirements
- Romans 6:23 states: “For the wages of sin is death…” Death is required for all sinners and – “all have sinned…” Romans 3: 23
Jesus did come to die for our sins but before he could do that, he had to first live a sinless life on our behalf – all those years from the manger to the cross. Scripture says, “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
“Jesus In My Place”, a song by Matt Pappa and Jonathan Welch says it quite succinctly:
Living the life I could not live
Dying the death that I deserved
Jesus in my place, Jesus in my place
This is hope, this is grace
Jesus in my place
Thanks be to God for his great love that would send his only son – our substitute – to live and die for us! And also for giving us his word in song from excellent writers and musicians like Matt Papa and Jonathan Welch from Summit Worship.