The Glorious Exchange
Growing up as a preachers kid, I have very fond memories of Easter. The church where my Dad pastored always held a Good Friday service that I can remember vividly, even now. The most memorable part being when we would walk up to the front, as one would do to receive communion, but on Good Friday, my father would also place a nail in our palm. A nail like the one that was driven into the hands of our innocent Christ.
But my father didn’t just gently place the nail in our palm. He applied pressure. Just enough pressure to make you flinch. And he would say “This is how much He loves you.”
Oddly enough, I always looked forward to this experience. It was holy. It was deeply personal. It was an invitation to sit with the brutality of what Jesus endured to rescue me.
But the one thing I missed as I returned to my seat and felt a tinge of pain in the palm of my hand is that Jesus didn’t just endure physical torture and pain. It wasn’t just physical agony. He also endured inexplicable heartbreak when he was separated from his Father as he took on the sin of the entire human race. Yours. Mine. All of it.
He paid the price for every single way we fall short of God’s holiness. And not just the ways we fall short in word and deed but in our motives and even in the very thoughts of our hearts. Every sin washed away. And not washed away like you might imagine a chalkboard - where residue and reminders of what was done remain. But washed white as snow. To be remembered no more. He makes us clean. He became sin so that we become the righteousness of God. (2Cor 5:21). It’s called the glorious exchange for a good reason.
But there was even more that I didn’t understand when that nail was pressed into my palm. Jesus didn’t just take my sin. He took my shame. Oh how profound this is for our ability to live in freedom.
Jesus didn’t say “I’ll take your sin but you’ll have to carry your shame. Feeling ashamed about what you did will help keep you from doing it again.” No. That’s not what Jesus said. But that’s how most of us live. And Jesus wants to set us free. Completely and abundantly free from the power of sin and the power of shame in our lives. He wants us to walk in the grace that He so lavishly gives us because grace not only frees us, it changes us.
Shame is the merciless critic in our heads that speaks condemnation to our hearts. But we have a merciful Savior who hung on a cross, bearing the weight of our shame, so that we could walk in freedom from it.
Isaiah 53:3-6 reads:
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Though Jesus was faced with the same temptations we face, and He was pursued by Satan to the same sinfulness, Jesus remained without blemish or blame. The sinless, spotless, Lamb of God. He was the only One who can (and did!) fulfill the rigorous demands of the law, securing God’s eternal favor for us (1 Peter 1:18-19).
This means it’s the perfection of Christ, not our performance (how well we’re doing) or our progress (how much we’re growing) that makes us pleasing to God.
The price was paid and the point was made. You are free. Free from the power of sin and free from the sting of shame. Jesus took it all. You are free to live your life like that Good News is true. He chose the nails because He loves you that much.