"From now on, wearing his clothes,
I would be treated the way he had been treated."
In 1944 British soldier Denis Avey willingly walked into Auschwitz III. Already a POW he freely exchanged places with a Dutch Jew from the concentration camp. The following is his recollection of that crucial moment:
He closed the door on the turmoil of that hideous construction site and shuffled out of his grimy striped uniform. He threw the thin garments to me and I pulled them on without hesitation. Then I watched as he dragged on my British army battledress, casting looks over his shoulder at the door as he did it.
He was a Dutch Jew and I knew him as Hans. With that simple exchange between the two of us I had given away the protection of the Geneva Convention: I'd given my uniform, my lifeline, my best chance of surviving that dreadful place, to another man.
From now on, wearing his clothes, I would be treated the way he had been treated.
It was the middle of 1944 when I entered Auschwitz III of my own free will.The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz, p. 3-4
This extraordinary tale of courage, a story that could so easily have been lost to human memory, is but the faintest echo of the decisive moment in the great saga of redemption: that Christ should bear our sin, and that we should be clothed in his righteousness. That he should be treated as our sins deserve, exposed to our merited punishment, and that the Father should see us in the Son of his love, his Beloved, with whom he is well pleased.
As Calvin expressed it:
Christ was put in place of evildoers as surety and pledge -- submitting himself even as the accused -- to bear and suffer all the punishments that they ought to have sustained.Institutes, 1.2.XVI.10
The nineteenth century Scottish NT scholar George Smeaton was right to state this truth as follows:
The element of substitution, that is, of an exchange of places, constitutes the very core of the atonement; and this is also the Gospel in a single word...
But this substitution was no make-believe, no mere semblance, but a true exchange of places -- the most real of facts. He was accounted as the sinner not by a mere as if He were so, but because he was made sin (2 Cor. 5:21), and hence was treated as a sinner.Christ's Doctrine of the Atonement, p. 93, 95.
And finally these apposite words came from the pen of Herman Bavinck:
The mystical and moral interpretation of Jesus' suffering and death cannot be maintained if it is not acknowledged beforehand that in a legal sense he suffered and died in our place...
For when it says that Christ, though personally without sin, has been put forward as an expiation to show God's righteousness [Rom. 3:25], has been made to be sin for us [2 Cor. 5:21], became a curse for us [Gal. 3:13], bore our sins in his body on the tree [1 Peter 2:24]...then we can construe the interconnection between all these scriptural pronouncements in no other way than that Christ put himself in our place, has borne the punishment of our sin, satisfied God's justice, and so secured salvation for us.Reformed Dogmatics Volume 3: Sin and Salvation in Christ, p. 398