A visiting speaker was explaining the idea of a “substitute.” He said, “You know, when you break a window and you put a piece of cardboard temporarily in its place? Well, that’s what I am. I’m that piece of cardboard.” Later a woman came to him with words of encouragement. “Listen,” she said, “You’re not a piece of cardboard – You’re a real pane (pain).”
The idea of “substitution” is a major theme of Isaiah’s masterful Song of the Suffering Servant. In Isaiah 53:4, he says, “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” Our griefs…our sorrows.
In each case the pronominal suffix “our” occurs and indicates that Messiah is not suffering for His own griefs and sorrows, but for the griefs and sorrows of others. That is the idea of substitution – one taking the place of another.
Edward J. Young, the Hebrew scholar, makes this comment: “So prominent is the idea of substitution, that one scholar (by no means a conservative) felt compelled to write ‘substitutionary suffering is expressed in this divine oracle in not less than five sentences. It is as though God could not do enough to make this clear.’”
The point is this: Christ’s death was for you and for me. He didn’t die as a martyr; and He didn’t die merely as a moral example. His death was a substitutionary sacrifice for the sins of others –one Man dying for the sins of the world. The hymn writer put it this way: “O Christ, what burdens bowed Thy head; Our load was laid on Thee; Thou stoodest in the sinners’ stead; Bearest all my ills for me. A Victim led – Thy blood was shed; Now there’s no load for me.”
Say – aren’t you glad that Christ was our substitute, and paid your debt?