John the Baptist cried out, “Behold, here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
Recently, I watched a debate on Youtube between an atheist philosopher and a Christian apologist. The conversation was fascinating as these two gentlemen outlined their reasons for belief and non-belief. Particularly fascinating was one of the arguments the philosopher made against Christianity. I will paraphrase what was said and will not get the quote exact.
“I don’t find the idea of taking another’s punishment too satisfactory,” the philosopher said. “Let’s say we travel back in time when caning was considered a legitimate type of punishment. We know that’s pretty barbaric now, but let’s just ride with it for the sake of argument. Let’s say a boy gets caught doing something in a class, and he is going to be caned for breaking the rule. There is a girl in the class who decides she can take the punishment and that she’s been good enough for one reason or another. She tells the teacher she volunteers to take the boy’s place. The teacher, for one reason or another, doesn’t care who he canes, so the teacher accepts the proposal. The girl gets caned for the boy and everyone is satisfied. That doesn’t seem like too compelling an argument for me.”
Unfortunately, because of the limitations of the debate, the Christian apologist isn’t allowed to respond in full. He only gets one statement in, “Arguments from analogy tend to fall short.” I wish he’d of had more time to expand on that thought. I’d have loved to hear his response. Because I’d love to hear how it matches up with my own. For if I were engaged in that debate and had the opportunity to follow up on the philosopher’s comment, I would have said thus:
I actually agree with you that your analogy isn’t exactly satisfying. It doesn’t grab one’s attention too well, and it certainly makes a mockery out of justice–at least in the form in which you presented it. But I will hold your analogy. I won’t change the basic story. I would simply like to add to it.
Let’s add the fact that the girl in the story has loved the boy who was caught breaking the rule for a long, long time. For years, she had a crush on him, and she willingly made her intentions known to him. She told him over and over of her love. She would make him gifts. She would help him at various times and places.
The boy was rather wishy-washy. At times, he would welcome the girl’s advances. At times, he would reciprocate her love. But more often than not, another girl would catch his attention, and he would go flying off. He’d come back from time to time, and the girl who loved him always took him back hoping he’d stay with her for good. Yet it never seemed to take place. The boy never could fully commit to the girl.
The girl’s friends mocked her. “You could do better. Forget that boy, he isn’t good enough for you. Give up on him. Find a better boy.” But the girl refused to do such a thing. Even though it made perfect sense to find someone else, her heart was consumed for love of this boy.
And so, when the boy was caught and would suffer caning, dreadful thoughts entered the girl’s head. She couldn’t bear the thought of her love suffering all that pain and agony. She couldn’t bear the thought of him having to go through that ordeal. She volunteered to take his place. She pleaded with the teacher until he relented. “But I won’t take it easy on you,” he said.
“I wouldn’t expect you to,” she replied.
When her friends found out what she would do, they thought her absolutely mad. “Why in the world are you doing this? Why would you put yourself through all that pain and agony? You are certifiable! He absolutely, positively isn’t worth this.” Others just shook their heads in bewilderment.
“But I love him,” was all the girl could say.
The boy, for his part was quite leery of his impending punishment. He wasn’t altogether sure he could withstand caning. He had bragged to others about how strong he was and how he’d never scream or cry out. But he had seen others caned. He knew how even the strongest would end up screaming in agony begging the punisher to stop. Dread started to fill his heart as the day drew nigh for his sentence to be carried out.
But then, he heard the news. He would receive no punishment. Someone had volunteered to take his place. Sighs of relief, but also a new sense: a sense of wonderment. Who would take his place? Who had volunteered to receive the punishment due for him?
The day of the sentence came, and the boy heard the cries of agony as the caning took place. The smacks of the cane resounded through the schoolyard. Soon, it was class time. All the students headed to their respective rooms, and when the boy entered, he saw the girl sitting hunched over in pain. He saw the red streaks of blood seeping through her shirt. He then knew who volunteered to take his punishment–the one who had professed her love to him time and time again. A love that he had played and toyed with but had never fully reciprocated.
At this point, I would pause for dramatic effect. I would shift in my seat and look at the audience in full. Then, I would continue letting every word sink in:
That boy now has a choice. A very important choice. He can simply walk away from the situation. He can thumb his nose at what that girl did for him and continue to do the same sorts of things he did before. Or, he can truly recognize this girl’s tremendous love for him. He can recognize the pain and suffering she undertook for him simply because she loved him. He can recognize he didn’t deserve what she did for him, and he can ponder all those times he let her down by playing with her and then chasing after other girls. He can realize his wrongs and then spend every day giving thanks to that girl for what she did for him and committing himself to loving her as much as she loved him.
That kind of love has a deep affect on people. It’s the kind of love God has for you and for me.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son so that all those who believe in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world not to condemn the world but so that the world may be saved through Him.
“Behold! Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
Jesus took your sin. Jesus took your place. Jesus took your punishment. How you respond is how you choose to Live God’s Word Daily. Amen.