The Lord has taken away your punishment . . . Zephaniah 3:15 (NIV)
A student at Treverton College in Mooi River, South Africa, had flunked out of Mathematics and transferred to Biblical Studies. From the moment she stepped into the Biblical Studies class she had a bad attitude and, despite the disciplinary efforts that the teacher was forced to employ, her disruptive behaviour continued. I heard about the problem when, at his wit’s end, the Biblical Studies teacher told the other teachers during a lunch break about the girl’s issues and how he was “really, really battling!”
The matter finally came to a head when, after yet another heated and defiant altercation with the teacher, the girl refused to do the punishment he’d set for her. It was the last straw. The teacher was out of options and sent her to the principal.
Arriving at the principal’s office she was asked to tell him about the situation. She launched into an explanation. While she was blaming everyone else for her poor behaviour the principal began to formulate a plan of action. When she’d had her say, the principal knew what to do. Leaning back in his chair he waited for the silence to grow heavy, then in a voice that was barely above a whisper he leaned forward and said; “I’ll do the punishment for you.” The girl was absolutely flabbergasted. It was the last thing she’d expected. The principal’s response threw her completely off guard. So she did what she usually did, she launched into another tirade, eventually declaring, “No! I’ll do my own punishment!” The principal, deeply saddened by her lack of remorse, dismissed the student to go and do the punishment.
The offer made by the Treverton College principal is somewhat reminiscent of the action taken by Jesus Christ. On behalf of humanity . . . for every sinner . . . Christ took the punishment that we deserved for our sin, by suffering and dying on the cross.
What grace! Christ “was pierced for our transgressions (and) crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him . . .” (Isaiah 53:5). Wow! Christ took the punishment that was our due – a remarkable act, to say the least. He did what no-one expected. Who would have thought that Christ, by His own accord, would lay down his life for us?
Sadly, in our angry, arrogant, antagonistic sort of way there are some of us who just can’t get our heads around the fact that Christ was punished so that we could be whole. Much like the Treverton student who wouldn’t accept the principal’s offer to do her punishment for her, we won’t accept the fact that Christ took it upon Himself to pay the penalty for our sin. And when that happens, when we refuse the grace of Christ, God gives us over to the folly of our sin (cf. Job 8:4).