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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Day 15: Punished in our Place

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 53

"But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all." - Isaiah 53:5-6, ESV

Punished in Our Place

In Sid Fleischman's classic Newberry Award-winning novel, The Whipping Boy, Prince Horace is a spoiled brat who nevertheless cannot be physically punished for his numerous wrongs. Instead, Horace is given Jemmy, a "whipping boy," who is beaten every time Horace misbehaves. Readers feel the tension as Jemmy is beaten for Horace's crimes and feel a sense of justice when Horace is finally beaten when Jemmy is mistaken for the prince. 

It is unfair that Jemmy should be punished for Horace's crimes. Many people have made the same "unfair" objection to the Christian Gospel. 

The cry of "unfair" goes back to the Garden of Eden and the doctrine of original sin or inherited depravity. "In Adam's sin we sinned all" says the old Puritan Primer. Why should's Adam's sin count for all of humanity? Why should everyone be born corrupt because of one man's sin? That hardly seems fair! But would we have done anything different had we been in Adam's place? Hardly.

If it's unfair that we suffer a curse because of Adam's sin, it's also unfair that we should be counted as righteous because of Jesus' obedience. Some have said, "I never asked anyone to die for my sins." They seem ready to stand before God on their own two feet, ready to get what they deserve, to be treated fairly.

Yet what happens when we get what we deserve? What happens when God is fair and justice is consistently applied? We have all sinned against God Almighty. We have all openly, repeatedly, willfully rebelled against our rightful King. We have all habitually violated His good law, the law of love. Can we really handle getting what we deserve?

In The Whipping Boy, Prince Horace is never beaten because he's the prince. For us, God cannot give us what we deserve because we would all be condemned to eternal punishment. It's not that we deserve anything different, but we cannot handle the punishment we deserve. It would utterly undo us forever.

So Jesus willingly took our place. He obeyed perfectly for us. Then, He went to the cross to be cursed for us. When we consider Adam, we can say that would have done no different had we been in his place. But when we consider Jesus- the perfection of His life and the agony of His death- can we say that we would have done what He chose to do, if we were in His place? No! 

Is the Gospel unfair? Yes! It is gloriously, wonderfully, and redemptively unfair! Fairness lands us all in hell forever. Unfair gives us the reward we did not earn for work we did not do and curses Jesus with the hell we deserve on the cross. This is not fair. This is love. It is wonderful beyond all words.

Guilty, vile and helpless we
Spotless Lamb of God was He
Full atonement, can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior! 


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