It’s a basic principle of any legal justice system that people should not be convicted or suffer penalties for the offenses of others. And yet that’s exactly what God built into the sacrificial worship life of his Old Testament Israelite people. Every Jew should have been well aware of the concept of substitutionary atonement, i.e., that God would accept the death of an animal in place of the guilty people who brought the sacrifice.
The high priest in Jerusalem, Caiaphas, was the ringleader of priestly hostility to Jesus and his ministry. In giving his blessing to what was basically an assassination plot, he unwittingly enunciated the heart and core of Jesus’ entire mission—to be the Lamb who took away the sins of the world. Truth is truth regardless of who says it: “One of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, ‘You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish’” (John 11:49,50).
Although an unlikely Lenten preacher, Caiaphas put his finger on what the Father had worked out as the grand strategy for the redemption of the human race. Here’s how God could have it both ways—both punishing sinners and forgiving sinners. The guilt of the human race was loaded upon Jesus; his holiness was transferred to the sinners.
Those who believe it have it.