The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor …
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor. Isaiah 63:1-3
You might recognize the first seven lines of this prophesy in Isaiah as the passage Jesus read when He read from the Torah in the Jewish temple and announced that He was the fulfillment of these very words. The passage goes on to speak of a great exchange — that Jesus would bestow upon His people “a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” Ashes on our heads, mourning in our hearts, and a spirit of despair in our souls … any of that sound familiar? How many of you have felt any one of these things at any given time? How would you like to trade them in for something much better? This is what the cross has done for us. It has made possible this kind of exchange for all who believe.
That’s why it’s called a substitutionary atonement — big theological words for “the great exchange.” Jesus took our place on the cross so that God could make us right with Him. “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). We exchange our sin for His righteousness. Doesn’t make any sense, does it? But that’s the way it works. That’s His plan. And aren’t you glad?
So we trade in these sinful, worn-out lives for something new — a new life, a new start, new beginnings every day — that’s what Easter is all about. Welcome to the most preposterous trade deal in the history of the universe! Welcome to the gospel of welcome — grace turned outward!