“He Took My Place”

February 29, 2004

“HE TOOK MY PLACE” by Ray Pritchard The current controversy over “The Passion of the Christ” has raised an important point that deserves careful discussion. We know that Jesus died for others. What does that really mean? Perhaps an illustration will help. At the time of the Civil War, there was a band of organized outlaws in the Southwest called the Quantrill Raiders. They would sweep down upon an unsuspecting community on the frontier, rob, pillage, burn, then ride away before help could come. The situation became so desperate that some people in Kansas formed a militia to search out the desperados. They had orders to execute without delay any of the raiders that could be found. Not long afterward a group of these men were captured. A long trench was dug; they were lined up, hands and legs tied, and eyes bandaged. Suddenly, as the firing squad was forming. a young man rushed out of the underbrush, crying out: “Wait! Wait!” Covered by the guns of the firing squad, he approached the officer in command. He pointed to a man who was waiting to be shot, and said: “Let that man go free. He has a wife and four children, and is needed at home. Let me take his place. I am guilty.” It was an extraordinary appeal, but the stranger insisted that it not be denied. After a long consultation, the officers decided to grant the request. They cut the ropes and released the condemned man. The volunteer was put in his place, and fell dead before the firing squad. Later the redeemed man came back to the awful scene of death, uncovered the grave, and found the body of his friend. He put it on the back of a mule and took it to a little cemetery near Kansas City, where he was given a proper burial. There he erected a memorial stone upon which was inscribed the words: HE TOOK MY PLACE. HE DIED FOR ME. There is only one thing lacking in that illustration. The young man who offered to die in the place of another was himself guilty of the same crimes. This story is about one guilty man dying in the place of another. But something much greater happened at the cross. There a truly innocent man died, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God. When Jesus died, he took your place and suffered the penalty meant for you. He who was innocent paid the price that you might go free. This is truly beyond human understanding. As Romans 5:7 notes, perhaps for a righteous man some would dare to die. But who would die for sinners? Only God’s Son would do a thing like that. If we focus only on the physical sufferings of Christ, we will miss the true point of the cross. He died in our place, taking our sin, paying the debt we owed to God. This is the good news the world needs to hear.

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