The Greatest Exchange
Adapted from Kiss the Wave by Dave Furman
By Dave Furman
Kelly Gissendaner was on death row for almost two decades for the murder of her husband. She planned the murder and convinced her lover to kidnap her husband and kill him in the woods. Afterward they set the evidence on fire. Their motive was to collect a life insurance policy and receive sole ownership of the house the Gissendaners had just purchased. A jury convicted Kelly of murder for her role in the crime, and after refusing a plea deal, she was given a death sentence.
While she sat on death row, Kelly’s entire life changed. She was transformed as she came to understand that Jesus died for her. She encountered the Bible and the truth of the gospel. God worked in her heart to bring her to repentance of her sins and to faith in Christ. The fruit of Kelly’s transformation was on display for all to see. Kelly began to minister to the other women in prison and led various Bible studies. She counseled women through an air vent and prevented some women from committing suicide.
Perhaps the biggest change was that, in Christ, she found peace in the midst of the storm of death she was facing. She was in awe that Jesus took her place on the ultimate death row. On one occasion she said, “I have learned first-hand that no one, not even me, is beyond redemption through God’s grace and mercy. I have learned to place my hope in the God I now know, the God whose plans and promises are made known to me in the whole story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.” Her hope was not in her continued breaths in this life, but in her union with Christ in this life and in the next. She was a shipwrecked woman who finally found land.
Not all of us have been convicted of murder, but all of us have at one time rejected God. The Bible is clear that we are all under an eternal death sentence and apart from God’s intervention we would all sit on death row facing a forever death. The truth of God’s holiness and our sin means we can never be in his presence unless something changes. We are not simply in need of an inspiring example—we need a saving substitute. We need someone who will take our punishment.
When Jesus was being tried for crimes he did not commit, the Roman governor Pilate gave the people a choice: He could release Jesus, an innocent man, or a man called Barabbas, who was a known terrorist. The crowd chose Barabbas and demanded Jesus to be crucified. The crowd chose a murderer over the one who brings the dead back to life. They chose evil over the one who loves perfectly.
Put yourself in Barabbas’s place for a minute. You are walking to your death in chains and then all of a sudden, when you least expect it, you are free. Then you hear the words begin again: “Crucify him, crucify him.” You see another person walking by. Those chants are not for you. The guards are dragging another one to his death— Jesus of Nazareth. He’s beaten and flogged and is forced to carry his cross to his death. It’s the very cross you had imagined yourself carrying only moments earlier. You think to yourself, “That’s my death he’s dying.”
The Bible says of Jesus that “For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). You and I are sinners. We sit in a spiritual prison, bound helpless, awaiting the day when we will receive the just punishment we deserve. We sit on the death row of all death rows waiting to be dragged out to death not knowing when God’s righteous judgment will come down. But the good news is that when you repent of your sin and trust in Jesus to save you, Jesus goes off to the cross in your place. He gets what you deserve; you get what he deserves. It is the greatest exchange in all of history. Jesus gives up his life so you can have life.
You and I are Barabbas. We need someone to take our place, and Jesus has done that for us. He willingly took the wrath of God upon himself. On the cross, Jesus absorbed all our wickedness. He has poured out his perfect love upon us.
First Peter 3:18 says, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.” Jesus was leading a true revolution. You can always stop a Barabbas, but you can’t stop Jesus. He took our place on the cross so that the greatest exchange in all of history would bring you to God.
If you are reading this and want Jesus Christ to become your substitute and exchange your sin for his glory, call out to him right now with a prayer like this:
Heavenly Father, I believe that Jesus Christ is your Son, and that he died on the cross to save me from my sin. I believe that he rose again to life, and that he invites me to live forever with him in heaven as part of your family. Because of what Jesus has done, I ask you to forgive me of my sin and give me eternal life. Please guide me to a Bible-believing church where I can grow as a Christian with others who love Jesus. Amen.