Boxers often train with a punching bag. A punching bag is a heavy bag (40-100 lbs) that hangs from above so you can hit it. Fighters use them to increase their power and improve their technique. Even if you aren’t training for a fight, hitting a punching bag is great exercise! It builds strength and stamina while burning tons of calories.
There are emotional benefits too. Hitting a punching bag helps relieve stress and anger. Some people imagine they are hitting a person or situation that is stressing them out or making them angry. Punching a bag lets you blow off steam while exercising. And it’s obviously much safer than actually hitting someone who makes you mad!
This is exactly what God has done for us in Jesus. In the first stage of the “plan of salvation,” He chose us to be saved. In the next stage, He sent Jesus to be the provision for our sins. He hung Jesus on the cross like a punching bag and took out His anger on Jesus instead of us.
God Passes over Us
Before sending Jesus, God accepted animal sacrifices from the Israelites. This began when He delivered them from slavery in Egypt. Before inflicting the Tenth Plague, He commands each Israelite family to sacrifice a lamb and spread its blood on the doorway to their houses.
He explains, “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn…The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you” (Exodus 11:12-13).
Paul compares Jesus to these lambs. He declares that “Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7). When Jesus died on the cross, He spread His blood over us. In other words, He died so His blood would protect us from God’s wrath.
Just as God allowed a lamb to die on behalf of Israel’s firstborn, so He allowed Jesus to die on behalf of us. And just as He passed over the Israelites’ houses, so His destructive wrath passes over us.
God Makes Atonement for Us
“Atonement” means to make something right or cover over wrongdoing. God allowed priests to atone for Israel’s sins by offering animal sacrifices. This was so important that He set aside a special day for it in Israel’s calendar – the Day of Atonement.
On this day, the priest offered sacrifices for his sins and those of the people. Then he was to designate a “scapegoat.” God says, “He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it…all the Israelites’ sins…and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the wilderness…the goat will carry on itself all their sins to a remote place.” (Leviticus 16:21-22)
God sent Jesus to make atonement for us. He put our sins on Jesus’ head and made Him suffer in our place. John says, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10). This fulfills what Isaiah predicted: “The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
God’s saving plan required Him to send Jesus as the provision for our sins. On the cross, Jesus became a divine punching bag. Every ounce of pain He experienced during the crucifixion was another blow from the Father. As He struck Jesus with fist, whip, thorn, nail, and spear, He imagined it was us. All so we could be forgiven!
Afterthought: The Divine Piñata
A punching bag is a gruesome image. A happier analogy is a piñata. A piñata is a container made of paper mache that hangs from above. They are usually filled with candy. Children take turns hitting them with a stick until they burst, then frantically collect as much candy as they can!
This too illustrates what God has done for us. Jesus said, “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24) In the same way, His life had to be beaten out of Him to be imparted to us.
On the cross, God hit Jesus until He burst. This was so the Holy Spirit, forgiveness of sins and eternal life would spill out of Him unto us.
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