Paul says to the Churches of Galatia that real relationship with God comes only through the Cross of Jesus. Paul says, “I am going to boast about nothing but the cross of our Master, Jesus Christ. Because of that Cross, I have been crucified in relation to the world, set free from the stifling atmosphere of pleasing others and fitting into the little patterns they dictate.” Jesus’ cross does for us what nothing else can do.
The cross fulfills God’s promise. For those who came before Calvary, all that they had was the promise of hope. When man fell from grace, it brought estrangement to the God-man relationship. But, in that bleak moment, God mercifully made a promise: “The seed of the woman will crush the head of the seed of the serpent (Genesis 3:15).” The writer of Hebrews, in the 11th chapter, calls the roll of the great patriarchs of the faith— Joseph and Moses, Rahab and Gideon, Barak and Samson, Jephtha and David, Samuel and the Prophets—and says that their faith was fortified because they held onto a divine promise. And Paul says that, in the cross of Christ, the promise has been fulfilled. This same Paul said that, “I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself (Philippians 3:10).”
There is substitution at the Cross. It was there that Jesus did for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves. Jesus was a sinless Man. On His own, He didn’t have to die the humiliating death of the Cross. But Jesus knew that we weren’t fit for salvation. And so, He was willing put Himself in our place that we might have eternal life. Paul says that, “God put the wrong on Him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God (II Corinthians 5:21).”
This substitution has its origin in the Jewish sin offering. On the Day of Atonement, a special Sin offering was made for the sins of all the people. Both a bull and a goat were sacrificed, and their blood was smeared on the Mercy-seat. But there was another goat in addition to the one that was sacrificed. It was called a scapegoat. On this goat the sins of the people were ceremonially transferred, and then it was driven out into the wilderness to symbolize the sins of the people being removed from God’s sight.
We see that at Calvary, Jesus became our scapegoat. At Calvary, Jesus atoned for our sin; the sin that was rightfully ours was transferred to Him and, through the shedding of His blood, our sin was atoned for.
We have reason to celebrate because Jesus is our Substitute. We don’t have to carry our load by ourselves. Jesus has invited us to shift our load: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest (Matthew 11:28).”