The season of Lent began today. Each year, the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday are a time for sincere reflection on the life and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Why did Jesus become “one of us” – a man? What was the purpose of his life and death? The prophet Isaiah says this:
“He was pierced through for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon him, and by his scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on him.” (Isaiah 53:5-6 NASB)
Author Alan Balmer suggests that the word “commutation” gives us a foundational understanding of what Jesus has done for us. The dictionary defines “commutation” as “the act of substituting one thing for another; substitution; exchange; the substitution of one kind of payment for another.”
The Bible tells us that every person faces a sentence of death because of sin. We are sinners. We commit sins. But the reason for the judgment against us is not because of specific sins we commit, but because at heart we are sinners. As Isaiah said, we have “. . . turned to our own way.” We have rejected God’s way for our lives, and the result is that we have the nature of a rebel, which shows itself in “transgressions” and “iniquities;” that is, sins. Our sinful heart leads us to a sinful life.
But what Jesus did for us made it possible for God to “commute” the sentence of eternal death that we face. He does this as a free gift because of his love and mercy. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23 NASB). What Jesus did was two-fold. He lived a perfect and sinless life as a man – the only perfect human. “Jesus performed an act of substitution on our behalf when he went willingly to the cross in order to be crucified. In that one act, he bore the penalty of our sin and exchanged his life for our life. What should have been a verdict of guilty for you, me, and all humanity was wiped clean by this unreal act of his love that he performed for our benefit” (Alan Balmer). God “commuted” our death sentence because of “the substitution of one kind of payment for another;” the life of Jesus exchanged for your life – and my life – and the life of anyone who will turn to Christ in repentance and faith.
Songwriter Chris Tomlin has given us a beautiful expression of this wonderful truth:
He became sin, who knew no sin, that we might become his righteousness.
He humbled himself and carried the cross; love so amazing! Love so amazing!
Jesus Messiah! Name above all names! Blessed Redeemer! Emmanuel!
The rescue for sinners, the ransom from heaven.
Jesus Messiah, Lord of all!
Let’s use the season of Lent this year to ask God for a fresh love and appreciation for his gift of salvation in Jesus Christ.
Rusty Rabon is the pastor of Grace Chapel.