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the substitute

... the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom [Greek lytron = the price to release a life from slavery or captivity] for many.          Matthew 20: 28 [Words of Jesus Christ about himself AD 33 recorded by his key follower, Matthew, former civil servant]

 

We all expect the States busily to make new Laws this year. These will require us to do certain things or not to do certain things. If we, then, fail to do the thing prescribed or do the thing proscribed (the forbidden thing) we run the risk of being found guilty of what, in Jersey, is known as an "offence".

And there is a very common formula used in Jersey's Laws these days to set out the liability, the penalty that then falls upon us. For example: '…the person shall be guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale [i.e. up to £2,000], or both.' Jersey's Attorney General always examines new Laws in draft so as to ensure that the punishment fits the crime: that the penalties for differing offences are consistent among themselves and are fitting given the nature and effect of the crime.

The alternative punishments are intriguing. As well as the fact that both can be required of the offender. 

Is £2,000 really equivalent to imprisonment for six months? And, thinking "outside the box", if the States had to decide this year upon a new Law under which a particular offence carried a (genuine) penalty of imprisonment-for-life, should the Law prescribe a level of fine as an alternative?

No. Because the rich could then get away with everything........

That’s why a further (unwritten but correct) requirement is built into our Laws: it is the guilty who go to jail and not another person on their behalf.....

And we all agree that ultimately justice should require of each man and woman a personal accountability for his or her misdeeds and failures. No substitutes. No scapegoats.

But that is precisely where we are quite wrong according to Jesus Christ and the Bible.

The Bible, written over a period of perhaps 2,000 years, has always envisaged scapegoats, substitutes for evildoers. Back in 1350 BC, Leviticus, written by Moses, gave instructions about the sending into the desert of a goat (chosen by the throw of a dice) that symbolically bore the punishments that the people should have received. 

Sacrifices of bulls and goats over the centuries in the Jerusalem Temple of King Solomon (BC 979-930) and in the Second Temple built by Ezra (BC 537-516) were instituted to "take away sin". But those rituals were only pointing forward to the true scapegoat (see quotation above).

In other words, there is an effective "Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free" card for each one of us in the Bible: Jesus Christ the Substitute, who died not for his own offences but for those of others.

Life-imprisonment? Did you know that the highest possible Court has sentenced me, Richard Syvret, to that? And rightly so because I was born wanting the very most and the very best for myself and wanting nothing, least of all Almighty God, to get in the way of me achieving my own destiny – good as that appeared to me to be. The sentence is being carried out now - I am on death row. Death is the awful end of life imprisonment unless I can find a substitute whilst serving my sentence.

I have found him - or, rather, he has found me in my prison cell.

 
‘‘Payment God cannot twice demand: First, at my Saviour's bleeding hand, And then again at mine.' (A M Toplady, Hymn writer, 1740-1778)
 
‘Blest cross! Blest sepulchre! Blest rather be - the man that there was put to shame for me.' (John Bunyan in Pilgrim's Progress, 1684)
 
Richard Syvret

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