Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Guilty Gone Free

Isaiah 53:5  “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”

I stood in the courtroom, the tension of impending judgement filled the air.  I looked around the courtroom, anxiously trying to identify the accused.  I wanted to see his face before the judge came in.  I wanted to try to understand what he was thinking.  I wondered how he would react to the verdict we all knew was coming.  Silence came to the courtroom as the officers opened the door to the judge’s chamber, but still I could not see the guilty.  Just then I noticed that while some in the courtroom were watching for the judge to emerge from his chamber, everyone else was looking at me.

Then it came over me like a flood of crushing memory…I was the accused.  It was the evidence in my case that lay exposed before the judge’s bench.  I stood now on the brink of disaster, of the forfeiture of my life, for my crimes were deep and severe, and the punishment to come would certainly reflect the seriousness of my guilt.  There was no way I would be able to pay the fines due for my offenses, no other plea.  I had numbed myself to the reality of my plight, causing myself to look at others for signs of guilt, but all the while it was me.

Quickly, my mind raced…perhaps I could convince the judge that I had changed and that I would never commit such crimes again.  Maybe he would give me credit for all of the other “good” things I had accomplished.  Or perhaps, he might let me go if I offered to do him some favor.  But what favor could be so great that he would turn a blind eye to my case?  No, he was a just judge…he would never pervert justice like that!  My shoulders sank at the dawning realization that nothing would suffice, nothing could shield me from the inevitable.  My only plea was for mercy.  

As the judgement was declared, the word “Guilty” rang in my ears, and all in attendance seemed to finally exhale.  The judge quietly asked, “Do you have anything you wish to say before I render your sentence?”.  I could not even look up at him. I simply whispered, “Please…sir…have mercy.”  The courtroom once again fell silent.

My head was still hanging heavy under the shame I felt, and so I didn’t understand the rustle of cloth and the squeak of an old wooden chair that broke the silence of the room as the judge rose from the bench.  Then, I looked up, confused as I saw the judge stepping down from his perch and walking over to the bailiff of the court.  Bewildered, I watched him pull out his pen and write out a check for the full amount of my fine.  As he handed it to the bailiff, he turned to me, and with tears of compassion in his eyes he said, “You are now free to leave the court, not because you are innocent, but because your fine has been paid.  You are forgiven.”  

Two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, stepped down to pay the penalty for the sins of humanity by offering Himself as the perfect sacrifice that would satisfy eternal justice.  The conflict of God’s loving kindness for humanity, and His absolute adherence to justice found its resolution in the cross of Jesus as His body was broken, and His blood was spilled on our behalf.  Forgiveness of sins is available to all who would surrender their self-made claims  of innocence, and simply cry out for mercy.  God stands ready to heal the wounds of our sin and cleanse the slate of our past.  Come to Jesus, and be saved!

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