During the war between Britain and France, men were conscripted into the French army by a kind of lottery system. When someones name was drawn, he had to go off to battle. There was one exception to this, however. A person could be exempt if another was willing to take his place.
On one occasion the authorities came to a certain man and told him he was among those who had been chosen. He refused to go, saying, “I was shot 2 years ago.” At first they questioned his sanity, but he insisted that this indeed was the case. He claimed that the military records would show that he had been conscripted 2 years previously and that he had been killed in action. “How can that be?” they questioned. “You are alive now!”
He explained that when his name came up, a close friend said to him, “You have a large family, but I am not married and nobody is dependent upon me. Ill take your name and address and go in your place.” And that is indeed what the record showed.
This rather unusual case was referred to Napoleon Bonaparte, who decided that the country had no legal claim on that man. He was free. He had died in the person of another!
This principle of substitution is also at the heart of the gospel. The Savior willingly took our place, not because He had any less to lose than we, but because of His infinite love. He died in our stead and paid the penalty for our sin. The law, which demands the ultimate punishment, has no claim on us, for we died 1900 years ago in the person of Christ. His finished work is the basis of our salvation. We depend on Himour Substitute!