«For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit» (1 Peter 3:18).
DAVID KOSSOFF narrates how when Rabbi Mark was sitting with the elders of his synagogue, the case of Yeltov, the baker, was brought up. The Rabbi told the group that Yeltov had received flour that had been stolen by the army cook, and he would have to go to jail for several months. After hearing the terrible news, one of the elders mentioned it was impossible to be without bread for so long, so together with the other elders they suggested a solution to the problem: for «Pitzik, the pauper, to take Yeltov’s place in prison.» Mark told them Pitzik had done nothing wrong to deserve going to jail.
Then the elders said, «Neither did Yeltov; he committed a minor crime, but he did it for our sakes.» And they added,’ «Anyhow, it is better for Pitzik to be in prison than roughing it on the streets. In prison he will have his own warm room, three meals a day, clean bedding, and our gratitude.»
Rabbi Mark asked somewhat ironically, «Your gratitude for going to jail for something he did not do?»
«Yes,» they replied, «our gratitude and we will visit him in jail.»
«But he has done nothing wrong!» the Rabbi reminded them again.
«What part of our exchange plan don’t you understand, Rabbi? Shall we explain it to you again?»‘
The story ends by saying the Rabbi did not need them to explain again that the innocent man would take the place of the guilty one. We are the ones who do need to hear again and again that Christ, who was innocent, took the place of guilty humankind. Judas admitted his mistake and said, «l have sinned by betraying innocent blood» (Matthew 27:4). Pilate said to «the chief priests and the crowd, ‘l find no fault in this Man’ » (Luke 23:4).
But declaring Jesus was innocent is not enough; it’s important to accept and understand what Peter said: «For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God» (1 Peter 3:18). The Lord took our cross so that we could enter into His heaven.
Let’s spend time every day telling Jesus how grateful we are for taking our place, because that’s what guarantees He will take us before the very presence of God.