Having lived in different countries, I had to exchange currency, and sometimes the exchange was good, and sometimes it was not so good. When it was good, I would say, “I got a great exchange today.” Many exchanges take place every day in every part of our world, but I would like to talk about the greatest exchange of all time.
I am referring to what the Apostle Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthians: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). Let us try to understand what Paul meant when he said this.
The Roman Centurion who was in charge of Jesus’ death saw Jesus die, and it greatly influenced his life. Luke records that seeing what happened, he praised God and said, "Surely this was a righteous man” (Luke 23:47).
What are the events the centurion had seen? The Centurion had watched the manner in which Jesus had carried his cross and had responded to the women with kindness as he told them not to weep for him. The Centurion had heard Jesus pray for him and his soldiers to be forgiven, and he heard Jesus promise Paradise to the thief crucified beside him. He had heard Jesus’ triumphant cries from the cross and lastly, as he triumphantly committed his spirit into his father’s hands.
The Centurion had experienced 3 hours of eerie darkness that covered the cross. Though he probably did not know that the prophet Amos had prophesied hundreds of years prior about this darkness, "In that day," declares the Sovereign Lord, "I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight” (Amos 8:9).
Doubtless, the Centurion did not realize what Jesus’ death meant to the world, but he knew it meant something, and he stopped in his tracks and praised God. Through the centuries, God had accepted the sacrifice of animals for the remission of man’s sin, but now the greatest of sacrifices was offered—his son. It was the greatest of exchanges. God received our sin in all its filth and degradation, and we received the righteousness of Jesus Christ—God’s only Son! What an exchange this was!
Peter described it like this: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Pet 2:24).
As Jesus hung on the cross in excruciating agony bearing all our sin—our lies, our deceit, our murders and infidelities, our hate, and all our pride were placed on him. Instead of receiving the just punishment our sins deserved—Jesus received it. Then God gave us the righteousness of Christ. What an exchange! Paul’s words are so profound: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).