Good Friday Meditations – The Selfless Substitute

Good Friday Meditations: The Selfless Substitute

Our second contemplative reflection on the atonement of Christ revolves around the universal human experience of guilt. This model was popularized by the Protestant Reformers, but nascent forms of it can be seen in some of the Early Church Fathers—like in the writings of St. Augustine, for example. In Scripture, this view of Christ’s atoning work is most clearly presented in the book of Isaiah and the various epistles of Paul. 
The Model of Selfless Substitution

Metaphorical Reflection:

Moved by love and compassion, in an ancient court of law, a prosecutor voluntarily takes the place of a man convicted of a heinous crime, exonerating the criminal by serving his sentence in his stead. This scenario is brought to life in the story of Jesus and Barabbas before Pontius Pilate (Matt 27:15-26).    



The cross of Christ involves a “great interchange.” Jesus lived a perfect life, fulfilling all the righteous standards of God. He did this for us. He came to represent us, to stand in solidarity with us and live vicariously for us—such that his righteous accomplishments would become our accomplishments. His victories were to be our victories! 

God the Son did not simply come, however, to give us what was his, but also to take what was ours. At Golgotha, Jesus bore the totality of human guilt, facing its full consequences. A universal transference of divine righteousness for human guilt took place on the cross: my guilt for his righteousness; his righteousness for my guilt. God in Christ, the epitome of self-sacrificial love, stood in our place and took the punishment of our sin upon himself as our substitute.      

Biblical Meditations:

  • Isa 53:1-12 (“he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities” // “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” // “…when his soul makes an offering for guilt” // “…make many to be accounted righteous” // “he bore the sin of many”) 
  • 1 Pet 3:18: “For Christ also suffered once for [original Greek: “in exchange for,” “on behalf of,” “in place of”] sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the Spirit” 
  • Gal 3:13: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us….” 
  • 2 Cor 5:21: “For our sake he [the Father] made him [the Son] to be sin who

knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” 

  • Rom 4:1-12; Rom 8:1; Gal 5:1 

Leave a Reply