Suppose that you are just a few weeks from completing your university degree. In order to graduate, you need to sit one final exam. So you clear your schedule, take leave from work, and study harder than you’ve ever studied in your life. The day arrives and you could not have been more prepared. But just a few minutes into the exam, you begin to feel extremely anxious. There is not single question that makes sense to you. You frantically work through the questions as best you possibly can, but it doesn’t look good. In fact, it is a complete disaster. You have not answered any of the questions correctly.
Now suppose you have a friend who is sitting beside you during the exam. For whatever reason, they have aced every question. They are on their way to achieving 100%. And they can tell that you have failed. So in some sort of crazy, unheard of, incredibly selfless move, just before the exams are handed in, they take your exam paper and swap it for theirs. They write their name on yours, and your name on theirs. As a result, you will be awarded a grade of 100%, they will be awarded a grade of 0%.
Now all this is incredibly unfair. But it is not unlike what Jesus did for us.
Our life is like one big exam. In order to become part of God’s family and be given a place in heaven, we need to get 100%. But the fact is, we all fail miserably. We do not love as we should love. We fail to forgive those who hurt us. We are often driven by greed and pride. Even when we do good to others, there is nearly always a hint of selfish motivation hidden beneath the surface. The Bible says: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away…there is no one who does good, not even one” (Romans 1:10-12).
The good news is that Jesus lived the perfect life. Though we completely fail the test, Jesus achieved 100%. Not only that, but He offers to swap his grade for ours. So that if a person places their faith in Jesus to save them, God treats them as if they received 100%. They are assured that they are part of God’s family and have a place in heaven because Jesus passed the exam on their behalf. At the same time, God treats Jesus as if He received 0%. Jesus copped the punishment that we deserved. This is what was happening when Jesus was dying on the cross.
Now again, none of this is at all fair. It is completely ridiculous for Jesus to do such a crazy, selfless thing. But this is how much He loves us.
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).