Originally scheduled for July 17
The English language word “substitute” has a curious
contradiction in its meaning. There are two possible uses.
A substitute might be something which is not quite as desirable as
the original. For example, if you are making a casserole, the recipe
might call for cream of asparagus soup. You go to the cupboard and
find nothing but cream of mushroom soup, so you use that instead.
It’s a substitute which is not as good as than the original intended
A substitute might also be something which is superior to the
original item. Baseball enthusiasts are familiar with this. If your
lumbering, slow footed first baseman gets a hit and winds up on
first base, the manager may decide to substitute a pinch runner.
That player is much more likely to steal second base, and in that
sense is a superior form of substitute. Similarly, you might send up
a pinch-hitter for the same reasons.
It is clear from the
Scriptures that Christ is our substitute. He substitutes for us in
atoning for our sins. As such he is the superior form of substitute.
To understand this we must remember that Christ is our Passover
lamb. There are regulations for sacrifices in the Old Testament, and
he better fulfills them.
First, unlike all of us, he is without defect — he is sinless. The
Passover lamb had to be without defect, a perfect example of the
flock. None of us are sinless; therefore none of us are qualified to
make such a sacrifice effective. He is, as Athanasius put it,
“perfect God and perfect man.” There is no one who is equivalent to
Next, he was sacrificed at the perfect time. There is a sense in
which he was sacrificed at the perfect time in history for the
founding of the church. Even locally, however, he meets the perfect
time requirement as he was sacrificed at the same time the Passover
lambs were being killed. This is not a coincidence.
Finally, he was sacrificed at the right place. He died outside the
city walls, as is fitting for a sin offering. This commandment goes
back to the time of Moses, so that the sin offering would be
separated from the people. Our sins were laid on his shoulders and
he carried them outside the walls.
Communion brings us to
remember this sacrifice. The cup represents his perfect blood, shed
for our sins. We recall the Scripture says there is no remission of
sin without the shedding of blood. We remember that perfect
sacrifice. Similarly, the bread reminds us of his body, given up for
us. In these two emblems we see that sacrifice, the suffering that
he went through — and the resulting salvation of those he loves.
It is fitting that we take this in worthy manner. How does one do
this? By being honest with yourself. Look into your own life and see
if there is a besetting sin that needs his helping hands. See if
there is something you have between you and your Christian brother
that needs to be resolved, and prepared to do so. Most of all, as
you partake, do so with a solemn reverence fitting the greatest
outpouring of love mankind will ever see.