“The concept of substitution may be said . . . to lie at the heart of both sin and salvation. For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be. Man claims prerogatives which belong to God alone; God accepts penalties which belong to man alone.”
John. R. W. Stott, The Cross of Christ (p. 160)
Why is Good Friday “good?” One word: Substitution.
Jesus “died for us” (Rom 5:8), “bore our sins in his body” (1 Pt. 2:24), was made “sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:21) become a “curse for us” (Gal. 3:13) by giving “his life as a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45). Jesus did for us what we could never do for ourselves in that he:
- turned God’s righteous wrath away from us and in on Himself
- fulfilled God’s righteous requirements (Rom. 8:3-4)
- provided the means of an eternal relationship with God
As our faithful high priest, Jesus fully represents us in every respect by standing in our place as our sacrifice and Savior; the victim and Victor (Heb. 2:17). The Passover story pictures Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice (Ex. 12:12-13) and the New Testament authors readily applied this to Christ.
- Christ is “a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Pt. 1:19)
- Christ is our Passover lamb (1 Cor. 5:7)
- Christ is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29)
- The only firstborn males who were spared were those from homes that sacrificed a lamb instead.
- The Lord had to see the blood applied to each home before passing over the family indicating personal appropriation
The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) indicates substitutionary sacrifice (Lev. 16):
- Both goats represented one sin offering (v. 5)
- Each goat represented different but complimentary aspects of atonement. The sacrificed goat represented the means of atonement (death) whereas the scapegoat represented the results of atonement (forgiveness). Both were intended as a substitute for the people, symbolically represented by the High Priest laying both hands on the scapegoat and confessing the sins of the people (Lev. 16:21-22).
The author of Hebrews relates these concepts of atonement to Christ’s work on the cross (9:7, 12, 28).
But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance….. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption….so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many.
Christ took our place, bore our sin, became our curse, endured our penalty, and died our death. Therefore, God is not an unwilling judge who has to be persuaded by Jesus to forgive, because it was God himself who provided the atoning sacrifice for all our sin. He has paid our debt in full without remainder!
Now THAT is good news!