Was it a substitute punishment? Did Christ, who was free of sin, take upon himself the punishment otherwise deserved by sinners? Instead of punishing sinners for their sins, did God punish Christ, who was free of sin, in their place, by making him suffer and die on the Cross? The implication of that idea is that all sins must be offset by a certain amount of punishment, but that the punishment of one sinless person was of such magnitude that it could redress the imbalance caused by the sins of many others. Thus, God's anger at the sinfulness of mankind was placated by having someone to punish who did not deserve it.
It is difficult to find the logic in that idea, however, and it presupposes a God who is cruel. Why would a good and just God require the one person who was perfectly obedient to him to undergo a terrible fate solely for the purpose of excusing others from the consequences of their disobedience? It seems unlikely that the kind of God we believe in would have chosen the crucifixion as the means of our salvation merely because he needed somebody to punish.
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