By Karen Woodward
Writer and blogger over at Switchbacks.org
I was recapping college sports scores with some friends earlier this week and eventually got around to a few of Saturday’s more lopsided contests. As the discussion continued, noting that one team had been routed so soundly, I joking said that the losers were the “whipping boy” for the winners. Quite unexpectedly the conversation then turned unto an interesting dialog about the origin of that particular term.
I learned that in the 15th & 16th centuries, the sons of royal family were treated with great care and respect. These privileged princes were only allowed to be physically disciplined by the king himself, and since the ruling monarch rarely took an active role in child-rearing, a dilemma arose about how to properly address the mischievous behavior of a royal child without actually touching them. So the caretakers settled on the idea of what became known as the ‘whipping boy’. This was another male child who was welcomed and received into the royal household to be raised along with the prince. When the heir to the throne needed discipline, the other boy would be whipped in the royal son’s stead.
Doesn’t that sound amazingly like what Jesus does for us? We are loved greatly by the Most High God, but as mortal men and women we cannot endure the punishment that’s due us for our willful sin and disobedience. So in our place, entered the innocent substitute who stood in our place to take our lashes. However this time, the roles were reversed! In the case of Jesus, HE is the royal Son who, knowing the cost, volunteered to receive our punishment so that we could be made forever part of His family.
If we return to medieval history, there are stories of how some of the princes would feel great sympathy and gratitude that another child would have suffered pain in their place. In some cases, the young monarch’s appreciation would carry forward into adulthood and his substitute would be rewarded and cared for for the rest of his life. I wonder, should believers not have a more grateful and enduring attitude knowing what we have been spared through the infinitely worse suffering by Christ on our behalf? Ask yourself, what YOUR response should be to Jesus, who willingly offered Himself, so that you might go free?