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Our Substitute

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!” (Ephesians 2:4–5)

I read a story recently of an ancient nomadic tribe in the great expanse of Siberia. The tribe had a wise and powerful leader who was known for his just and fair leadership. One day it was reported that someone in the tribe had been stealing.

The leader issued the proclamation that the thief, when captured, would be whipped ten times by the tribe’s whip master. But the theft continued. So, the chief kept raising the level of punishment until he got to 40 lashes. He stopped at 40, because 41 was considered the death penalty.

One day the thief was caught in the act, and to the tribe’s horror, the thief turned out to be the leader’s mother. On the day of judgment, the chief was seated on his throne – the whipping post before him, the muscular whip master prepared for his gruesome work. Two large guards brought in the chief’s frail, old mother – tying her to the post and exposing her back.

The entire tribe watched with bated breath. The whip master prepared by cracking the whip in the air. As he approached the trembling woman, the chief held up his hand to stop. He stepped off his throne, removed his shirt, and wrapped his arms around his mother, exposing his own muscular back.

Breaking the heavy silence, he commanded, “Proceed with the punishment.”

I love that story because it is a wonderful illustration of what Jesus did for us on the cross. You and I are the frail, old woman, guilty and under the whip of punishment. Jesus is the just and loving chief who takes the punishment in our place. The God of justice is also the God of mercy!

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