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Thomas is a SOON reader from Borno State in Nigeria. He sent us this story.

Many years ago there was a school where the pupils behaved so badly that no teacher could make them listen. The boys were so rough that one teacher after another left the school.

A new teacher

Then, one day, a young man came for the job. The head teacher looked at him. "Young man," he said, "Do you know what will happen to you? You will be beaten up many times by the pupils. For years, every teacher in the school has suffered like this." The young man replied, "I am willing to take that risk."

When the new teacher started work, Tom, one of the biggest boys, whispered, "I won't need any help. I can beat him up myself."

The teacher stood up in front of the class and said, "Good morning. I have come to teach you, but I will need your help. We can't have school without making some rules. You tell me what the rules should be and  I will write them for all of you to see."

School rules

One pupil said, "No stealing."

Another said, "Don't be late for class."

At last they had ten rules. "Now," said the teacher, "A rule is no good unless we agree what the punishment should be. What shall we do with someone who breaks one of the rules?"

"Beat him across the back ten times without his coat on," shouted one of the boys.

"That is a very hard punishment, boys. Will you let me do that if someone breaks a rule?"

"Yes," said all of the class.

A rule is broken

A few days later, Tom's lunch was stolen. The thief was found to be Jim, a hungry little boy aged ten. The next morning the teacher said to the class, "We found the thief and he must be punished. Your rules say that he will be beaten ten times across his back. Jim, come up here!"

Trembling, Jim came slowly to the front of the class. He was wearing a big coat buttoned up to his neck. He said, "Teacher, you can beat me as hard as you like, but please don't make me take my coat off."

"Take that coat off. You helped make the rules."

"Oh, teacher, don't make me!"

He began to undo the buttons on his coat. What did the teacher and all the class see? The boy had no shirt on and only string to keep up his trousers. His body was thin and bony. "How can I beat this boy?" he thought, "But I must do something if I am to keep order in this school."

Everything was quiet in the room. "How is it that you have come to school with no shirt, Jim?" said the teacher.

Jim replied, "My father died and mother is very poor. I have only one shirt and my mother is washing it today. I wore my brother's coat to keep warm."

Substitute

The teacher, with stick in hand, hesitated. Just then, Tom jumped to his feet and said, "Teacher, if you agree to this, I will take Jim's beating for him."

"Yes, there is a rule that one person can take the punishment for another, they can become a substitute. Do you all agree?" the teacher asked.

Tom took off his coat. After five strong hits the stick broke. The teacher hid his head in his hands and thought, "How can I finish this terrible job?" Then he heard the whole school crying. Little Jim reached up and put his arms around Tom's neck. "Tom, I am sorry I stole your lunch, but I was so hungry. Tom, I'll love you until the day I die because you took my punishment for me. I will love you for ever!

Another substitute

Each one of us has broken God's rules and deserves punishment. But Jesus came to the earth to be our substitute. He was hung on a wooden cross and died to take the punishment for all our wrong doing. He never did anything wrong, but died the death that each one of us deserves. But Jesus' story does not end there. He really did die, but he came alive again and lives for ever. He wants us to be his friend, just as Jim wanted to be Tom's friend. Have you thanked Jesus for being your substitute and asked him to be your friend for ever?