You are hereby sentenced to... LIFE?
We have all seen court room dramas on television.
The kind where skilled attorneys battle it out and argue their points to convince the jury and the judge of the guilt or innocence of the accused.
Often, the case is won or lost on some technicality. Time and again the defense manages a last minute save through some clever trick, just as everyone believes that the accused will be sentenced.
So let me take you on a journey to a very special court case that was decided a very long time ago.
An open-and-shut case
This case was what you would call an open-and-shut case. The prosecutor had very damning evidence that the defence battled to refute. In fact, the defence had no leg to stand on. The accused had not only been caught committing a crime, but had in fact been caught committing many crimes. Even if by some miracle he could find a way to explain away one of the crimes, there was no way that he would be able to explain them all away.
The closing arguments were given by the two opposing lawyers, the evidence had been weighed and the accused had been found wanting on several thousand counts of crimes that ranged from lying on the stand, under oath, to stealing and murder.
As the judge walked into the court room the bailiff called out: “ Hear ye, hear ye…the honorable judge Yahweh presiding, let all who stand in his presence fear him, great is his wisdom, swift is his judgment, just are his ways.”
Everyone stood up…the accused’s palms were sweating and his hands trembled. He looked fearfully at the judge. This judge had a reputation. He was a no-nonsense kind of a guy, very fair and very just. The accused’s heart was beating quicker as he realized that this was the end of the road…he would die…that was his fate.
The judged sat down in his chair and collected his thoughts…he looked very sternly at the accused. Peering over the spectacles which were perched on top of his nose he said, “You realize that you are guilty.” The accused nervously nodded, fighting back the tears that were burning his eyes.
“And the penalty for these crimes is death!” The accused started crying…tears rolling down his face…”I’m sorry judge…please believe me.”
The judge looked at him. “I know you are” but the law is the law…someone must pay the price, justice must be served and with that he slammed the gavel onto the bench and bellowed out…”You sir, have been found guilty…your penalty is …..” LIFE!
The accused was openly weeping…shaking his head, he flopped down in his chair. All of a sudden he heard his defence attorney ask. “Excuse me judge, did you say the sentence was LIFE?” “Yes” replied the judge…” the sentence is life.”
“Life in prison?” asked the attorney. “No, just Life, you get to have Life…not death. You see my son has agreed to take the place of the accused and so the sentence for the accused is LIFE.”
You must have guessed by now that this trial was in fact the judgment of mankind. Isn’t it amazing what God in all his wisdom decided to do. Even thought we are clearly guilty he chose to give us life (Romans 3:23 … “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”).
But God could not deny his nature, he could not just forget that there were consequences for the choices we had made. Someone had to pay and that someone was Jesus. In John 3:16 we read “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life, for God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
Man,that statement blows me away. The implications are staggering. A God who is perfect and all-powerful, decided that I was worth the risk. The risk of course, being that he would give his life for me, knowing full well, that I have the choice to throw his sacrifice back in his face.
I don’t know if I could do something like that, be able to give my life as a sacrifice for people that either despise me or just plain ignore me.
It is this mind blowing decision that made it possible for God to be 100% just, and 100% merciful at the same time. Hebrews 9:15 says “For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”
But our story does not quite end there. To get back to the analogy of the judge and the accused used earlier, we pick the story up as the accused finally realizes what is going on:
The accused looked up, drying his teary eyes with the sleeve of the prison outfit that he was wearing. “Are you telling me that I am free?” he said. “Yes” replied the Judge. The accused stood dumb struck. The judge climbed down from his bench and walked over to the accused. As he got closer he put his hand on the broken man’s shoulder and said gently to him. “Do you have a place to live?” The accused looked up confused. ”No”, he said.
The judge looked up at the bailiff and said to him.” Bailiff, prepare a place for this man in my house. Give him the best food and clothes, take care of his every need and please draft the papers.” The bailiff scurried away to do as he was told. Dumbfounded,the accused looked at the judge and said almost pleadingly. “I can’t stay at your house, I have broken every law that you have made. How can I live in your house and eat your food knowing what I have done? And what about your son. Have you forgotten that he is dead because of me? Please just give me my release papers and let me be on my way. I don’t want to burden you further; you have already done so much for me. I really did not deserve mercy in the first place”
The judge looked the accused in the eye and replied: “Your crimes are forgiven, I will remember them no more. You see, sentence has already been passed. My son has died and has been resurrected. He has triumphed over the grave. The papers that I am preparing for you are not release papers, they are adoption papers. I want to adopt you, so that you can share in my inheritance and I want you in my house, I want you in my life.”
Well what do you say to that?
Well what do you so to that…not much I imagine. To this day this concept of grace is one of the most profoundly puzzling things I know of. God did not just remove the death sentence when Jesus died, it was not just a case of saying to us that all is forgiven, he actually goes further and promises us eternal life and makes us heirs to his kingdom.
Ephesians 1:1-6 reads “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. “
Galatians 3:26 tells us: “ You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28: There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
People wonder what the big deal is about God. They wonder if he really cares, if he even knows that they exist. If you truly understand mercy and grace you will realize that no one, not even God, will sacrifice so much in order to save someone that they don’t care about. God desires a deep and meaningful relationship with you; will you take him up on his offer?