Author Ava Pennington
Author Ava Pennington
Nothing Fair About Jesus Being Our Substitution

Changing the Way We View Substitution


With Easter fast approaching, I’ve been thinking a lot about substitution. And I suddenly realized that, for all my years of teaching, I’ve missed it. Maybe you have, too.

All too often, we’ve allowed the world’s way of thinking to influence our thoughts about God. For example, in a blog post titled, “In the Beginning,” I explored how the nursery rhyme, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” can influence how we view our Creator God.

You’d think I would have been more aware.

Substitution is a foundational belief of the Christian faith. Christ was our substitute. He died in our place, paying for our sin. Just about every Christian reading this would agree.

But . . . what do we understand being a substitute means?

From my youngest school years, when our teachers were absent, substitute teachers took their place. However, the substitute was rarely as good. Having a substitute teacher usually meant a light day of academics, unruly behavior on the part of more than a few classmates, and filler review work until the real teacher returned.

Or consider how we view substitutes when we cook. When we’re missing a critical ingredient for a favorite recipe, we cast around for an adequate substitute. Ran out of buttermilk? Grab the regular milk and a bit of vinegar or lemon juice. No baking powder? Combine baking soda and a little cream of tartar.

How about life hacks when we don’t have the right tools? No screwdriver? Use a paper clip or small coin. Not ideal, but the substitutes will do in a pinch.


A Different Kind of Substitute

And then we come to Jesus. Our substitute. Yet He’s unlike any substitute we’ve ever known. He’s not a temporary fill-in or space holder. He’s not a second-best solution to our problem. Jesus is the best, most perfect, one-and-only answer to the problem of sin separating us from a holy God. He’s not a spur-of-the-moment choice for a substitute, He is the one whose substitution was planned before the foundation of the world.

Jesus is the only one who ever walked the earth without sin. Therefore, He is the only one who could pay for everyone else’s sin. By His death on the cross, He willingly paid the price, substituting Himself for us and receiving God’s full wrath against your sin and mine.


The Irony

What’s truly ironic is that, for 2,000 years, the world has been trying to create other substitutes for the one-and-only Substitute. Many ways to God instead of one way. No need for a substitute because sin isn’t so bad. Or no need for a substitute because God is too loving to judge sin anyway.

How sad it is that the world dismisses our Substitute, and even Christians can think less of Him without realizing it.

So the next time you think of Jesus as your substitute, forget any previous associations you may have had with substitutes. This Easter, thank God for the ultimate substitution that exchanged our sin for His righteousness, our weakness for His strength, and our grief for His joy!



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