It happened quite a few years ago but it was so dramatic that I, along with many people, still recall it and remember it vividly when asked about it. It was a European cup final and, to all intents and purposes, the team I supported was going to lose. The other team was winning 2-1 and any hope of a recovery and victory was fading fast. Nothing was going right. My team was seemingly doing everything alright but there was no sign of the two goals we needed to score to win the trophy.
Time was running out fast and hope of a victory was fading even faster when a big cheer went up from the supporters. Another player was warming up on the touch line and on he came as a substitute for another player who had not been able to do what he was supposed to do to win the game.
The substitute took the place of the one who was taken off and, to the absolute amazement and appreciation of the supporters, went on to score the two goals that were needed for an unexpected and unlikely victory. Even better; the second goal came in the dying seconds of the game. The substitute had won the game. The trophy and the glory of such a victory was ours; it was shared with the manager, the rest of the team and those who had supported them through it all.
Although no one thought it at the time the manager knew exactly what he was doing as he had waited for just the right time to make the substitution. That's the strange thing about time isn't it? We had scored the first goal and, when we were winning, time seemed to go very slowly as the other team gradually became stronger and scored the two goals they thought would secure them the victory. When we were losing and the end of the game was approaching time seemed to go very quickly and hope was fading fast of a victory.
That story set me thinking. It makes me appreciate how Jesus took my place as my substitute. At Calvary He took my place in redeeming sacrifice. It was me that deserved to die but it was Jesus that died in my place. It was my sin that deserved the due punishment but it was He who stepped in, at the right time, to take my sin, shame and punishment upon himself. The just died for the unjust. God sent Jesus to die in our place so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21) What a substitution!! What an exchange!! What glory!!
Just one of the incredible things about God is His sense of time. It's totally different from our concept of time. The Bible clearly tells us that it was when the hour had fully come that He sent his only begotten Son to atone for our sins. In other words He came on and took our place, as our substitute, just at the right time. There are those who may ask the question, "Why not sooner?" The answer is that God knew the right time.
Just one of the incredible things about Jesus is that, in view of who He is, He was willing to die in our place. The aim of the footballer we spoke of earlier was simple. He had the prospect of some form of glory before him if he could achieve that purpose for which he was sent on to the field. But it was different for Jesus.
The Word who was with God, and who was God, became flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth but, in fact, His immediate aim was not his own glory. It was suffering, of such an intensity that we will never fully fathom, purely for our sake and for the sake of the glory of his Father's name. The truth in which we can all share and in which we can equally rejoice is that He endured the suffering and accomplished the victory. That was the glory that was set before him.
This is the time of the year to appreciate fully God's plan to substitute you. You may be thinking that time is running out and you have yet to secure the victory in some area of your life? It might be sorrow or regret. It might be affliction or oppression. It might even be some habit that always rears its head when you thought you already had the victory. You feel as though nothing's changed, it will never change, the clock is ticking and time is running out.
If that is so remember this. God sent Jesus to be your substitute; to do what you cannot do. The wonder of that is that He has overcome the world, and that through his overcoming, you are more than a conqueror. Now we can share in the glory of that victory just as everyone shared in the glory of that football victory years ago. The substitute won the reward but we all share the trophy. Now there's a thought.
Isaiah 53:4-6 surely He has borne our grief and carried our sorrows yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities. Upon him was the chastisement that made us whole and, with his stripes, we are healed.