Startled Again by the Cross

photography credit: Meredith Elsen

I spent some time yesterday listening to a couple sermons that centered on the cross, most notably Tim Keller’s “He Died for Our Sins” message (it’s free on iTunes if you want to listen).

As I listened to these messages and let the words of Scripture sink into my heart, I was startled again by what the cross of Christ actually means.

Jesus’ death made him, as Keller says, the substitutionary atonement for us. Jesus became our substitute on the cross, and, in effect, we switched places with him. He took what we deserved–death, pain, suffering–and in return, we get what he deserves–life, resurrection, glory.

I’m not sure I have a great picture of what a substitute is; as a teacher, my idea of a substitute is someone who holds down the fort until the real teacher is able to come back.

But Christ as Substitute is the ultimate kind of substitution. Unlike a substitute in a classroom, his substitution is permanent. His substitution is of the sacrificial kind, and, as a sacrifice is wont to do, changes everything about the one who is sacrificing–and the one who is being sacrificed for.

Because Christ stepped in and swapped places with the sinner, the broken, and the wounding, we all of us are now able to be as he is. Fully loved. Made new. Glory-filled.

This cross points to the best news I have ever, ever heard.

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