This short message was the introduction of the idea of “substitution” as found in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus substituted His perfect life for our broken lives and by way the way of faith we can live forever in His way of life.
In the mid 1500’s there was an Irish boy named Barnaby Fitzpatrick. At about the age of 6 he had a great opportunity given to him. He was sent, by his dad, to be the companion of Prince Edward of England.
Now that was a great opportunity. Princes didn’t have many friends, actually nearly none. So Barnaby got to eat with the Prince, live with the Prince and go to school with the Prince. They became very close, like brothers. But there was this other thing that went along with being the companion of the Prince.
With the idea of the “Divine right of Kings”, the only person who had the standing to punish a misbehaving prince was the king. He wasn’t around very much in the upbringing of his son though. So what did you do when you were the tutor or the nurse or whatever, and the Prince acted up and needed to be disciplined? Well that was Barnaby’s problem.
They would punish Barnaby, in front of the Edward, for things like not doing his homework or mouthing off to someone or getting into other mischief. That’s where we eventually got the term “whipping boy.” Barnaby considered it part of the job. In one way it worked to help Edward to behave because, as he saw his dear childhood friend punished for what he did, it made him think twice before he misbehaved.
How would you characterize that practice, of punishing the whipping boy for the prince’s foibles? Unfair.
Today we’re remembering another substitution. Here it is from Matthew 27:15-22.
“Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to releasing to the multitude one prisoner whom they wished. And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. Therefore, when they had gathered together, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew that they had handed Him over because of envy. While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, “Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him.” But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor answered and said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” They said, “Barabbas!” Pilate said to them, “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said to him, “Let Him be crucified!””
Here we have the perfect Son of God, Jesus Christ, taken to Pilate, the Roman authority. The demand of the Jews was that He be crucified on a wooden cross, the worst punishment the Romans could think of to control society by fear.
Pilate interviewed Jesus and found that He wasn’t guilty of anything. So he offered to the crowd a way for Jesus to be released. At the feast of Passover time, Pilate would release a prisoner of the people’s choice. Perfect! Offer Jesus to them.
But amazingly, they asked for a prisoner who was an insurrectionist, Barabbas, who had led an attempt to rebel against the Romans, ended up murdering someone in the process, and was now in prison for the attempt. Presumably Barabbas would be up for crucifixion himself. So Pilate, literally washing his hands of the matter, released Barabbas and substituted Jesus.
The perfect for the guilty. The innocent for the murderer. The perfect whipping boy for the evil prince.
It was Barabbas that was released. But you know, your name could be just as valid.
1 Peter 2:21-25
“For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
How would you categorize that substitution? Unfair! Oh, but good for me.
If you’ve been born again: Live like you were set free, because you were. His blood, His sacrifice was a substitution. Live now for Him.
If you have never been involved in The Great Substitution before this, let the exchange be made now. You’re guilty, that’s for sure. He’s perfect, that’s also for sure. Until you give your life over for substitution, you’ll retain your guilt. You’ll bear your own punishment forever. Unless you come to the Cross of Jesus and let Him by faith, substitute His life for yours.