We find substitutes in all walks of life. In healthcare, “generics” are medicines that have been produced as substitutes for more expensive products. In the food industry there are now products which are advertised and sold as “meat substitutes” and in many sporting events, substitutes are players who take the place of others who have been injured, are too tired to continue or who the manager deems are having a bad game.
In times of war we also hear of brave soldiers giving their lives so that others might live. In a way becoming a substitute for others. The story of one such soldier is told by Ernest Gordon in his book “Miracle on the River Kwai”. Several Scottish Soldiers had been caught by the Japanese and had been placed in a concentration camp where they were forced to work building a railway line through the jungle. At the end of one grueling days work, a shovel was reported missing. The Japanese officer in charge of the camp was furious and demanded the person who took the shovel to step forward at once or he would kill all the prisoners on the spot! He was renowned for his cruelty and all the prisoners knew he wasn’t making an idle threat. After some time, one man stepped forward. In a fit of blind rage, the camp officer picked up a shovel and beat the man to death. Handing the bloodied implement to one of the guards he ordered it and all the other shovels be put back under lock and key after a recount. Soon there was a shout of surprise, all the shovels were accounted for! There had been a miscount the first-time round! That brave soldier who stepped forward had given his life so that his fellow prisoners might live.
Yet, the greatest ever account of one dying as a substitute for others is that of God’s own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. At Easter, on Good Friday, God’s children remember the time when Jesus died to save them from their sin. On a cruel Roman Cross, Jesus Christ paid the penalty for the sins that each one of God’s children had and ever would commit. He was their substitute! He faced God’s wrath for their sin on their behalf. We know that Christ’s death was the full and sufficient payment too because God raised Him from the dead three days later and it is His resurrection that Christians celebrate on Easter Sunday.
Ordinary people like you and me may be able to give our lives to save others from physical death for a time but it is only in trusting the Lord Jesus and His work on the cross that we are saved from spiritual death and an eternal conscious separation from God and all that is good. It is my prayer that you will realise the seriousness of your own sin in the sight of a righteous and holy God and that you will place your trust in Jesus, who Himself said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6.
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