Few doctrines are as important as Jesus Christ's substitutionary atonement (which is defined well in the graphic above). I love Jesus for both who he is and for what he has done. Therefore, I cherish the atoning work as my substitute sacrifice on the cross.
In the bible we see a consistent pattern of substitutionary sacrifice. For example, just before the Hebrews escaped from Egypt after years of captivity they killed a lamb without blemish and put the blood over their doors. If anyone failed to do this (the Egyptians), the firstborn was killed.
During the hundreds of years of tabernacle and then temple sacrifices the people understood that the sacrifices paid what they owed (for example).
In Isaiah 53:4-6, the high point of the final Suffering Servant passage, we read the following prophecy:
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
In the New Testament we see Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of the O.T. prophecies. One of my favorite verses in the entire bible is II Corinthians 5:21. Paul tells us, "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." We see that Jesus became sin (took on our sin), and in this great exchange we receive his righteousness. What an amazing gift!
In I Peter 2:24 we read, "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed." Jesus was our substitute, taking our sins upon himself. He was the spotless lamb, executed in our place.
Elsewhere Paul writes, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us — for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree' — so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith" (Gal. 3:13-14). This description of Christ's work informs us that Jesus bought us back from our impossible sin debt by becoming the curse we deserve.
In Colossians 2:13-14 we see the following, "And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross." God has made us spiritually alive by cancelling the legal debt we could not pay. How? He accomplished this by nailing it to the cross (specifically by nailing Christ to the cross).
I cherish Christ's finished and accomplished work at Calvary because it is at the center of salvation. Jesus atoned for our wretched sinfulness by becoming that sin for us. He stood in our place and took what we deserved. He became the curse we could not pay. He, the perfect lamb, gave himself up as our atoning sacrifice.
Jesus Christ is our one and only, infinitely perfect substitute sacrifice! All praise and honor are due his name!