Once a man huddled in a dark cell, shaking. He had killed someone, and now he deserved to die. He was waiting to die with a whole group of other murderers.
The man shook harder. He was scared, but he knew he deserved death. He and all the men around him did. There would be no mercy for the likes of them.
As the guards came and took them away, a guard pulled this man away from the others. The guard led him toward a door. “Not you. You are being set free.”
“Set free? Why? I deserve to die with the others.” The man didn’t understand what was going on. He deserved to die. So why was he being set free?
“A stranger came and died in your place. Since punishment has been made, you are free to go.”
Free? The man’s legs shook so much he could barely walk. Why had that stranger done that? And for him? It was a mercy he didn’t deserve. He hadn’t earned it. He wasn’t any better than the other murderers. Yet he was the one being set free.
Thankful for the new life he had been given, the freed man lived the rest of his life working hard and doing good things.
Christ died in our place as payment for our sins. We didn’t deserve to have Him die for us. We don’t have any goodness in ourselves. But in grace, God chose to love His people and gave Jesus to die for us. Reformers like Martin Luther fought for the truth that mercy is found only in God’s undeserved grace.