This Christmas I’m celebrating some of the special blessings we have because Jesus came – things we would not know or have if he had stayed in heaven.
I’m thinking about the interplay of two concepts. The first concept is substitution. Substitution requires equality. One thing can be substituted for another only if they are equal. For example, only a Portuguese soccer player can substitute for a Portuguese soccer player during a World Cup game. Sometimes a cook will not have an ingredient that the recipe calls for. He may substitute one ingredient for the one he doesn’t have, but only if those two ingredients are approximately equal. He can’t substitute salt for sugar and still make a tasty cake! In algebra, substitutions are made all the time. However, two things can only be substituted if they are equal.
The second concept is justice. Justice requires punishment or restitution for crimes. If an individual steals your chocolate, this is a crime! Justice requires that the thief make restitution. The thief should pay back two chocolates for every one that he took from you. Justice may also require that the thief be punished. He may be forced to eat vegetables and sardines.
When these two ideas intersect, justice plus substitution, something remarkable happens. One person commits the crimes and another person is punished or makes restitution. We should observe that this arrangement, is not fair, but it is possible. It isn’t fair for a guilty person to avoid the consequences of his crime. It isn’t fair for an innocent person to be punished or make restitution for a crime that he didn’t commit. However, if both people, the criminal and the innocent person, and the judge are willing, substitution could be made. Willingness isn’t the only requirement. Substitution requires equality. Therefore, only a human can be a substitute for a human. No parent who values justice will put a toy in time out instead of his naughty son. Kids and toys are not equal. Substitution is not possible. Third, only a perfect human can substitute for a sinful human. If the substitute was guilty, he needs to pay for his own crimes and therefore, not be a substitute for someone else’s crimes. Only a perfect human could atone for the sins of humanity. This is what we need. We need a perfect. willing human to be our substitute. The punishment for committing the crime of sin is death, hell, and separation from God. Restitution is impossible. The punishment lasts forever. Our only way out is a willing, perfect, human substitute.
Jesus became a man so that he could be human. He lived a perfect life so that he could be our substitute. Jesus is our substitute! He accepts our punishment. We are his substitute. We receive what he deserves, heaven and friendship with God.
Christmas is a celebration of God making a way to be our substitute.