(Based on a True Story: tomorrow is the anniversary of the event!)
Without question, the man was guilty. As he was standing in the courtroom awaiting sentencing, there was no doubt he was responsible for the crime. The jury would certainly hand down a condemning sentence; the evidence was simply irrefutable. The defendant was silent, convicted both by his peers and his own heart. Though he was adept at hiding and misdirecting past crimes, the man would not argue his case. The prosecuting attorney made the evidence plain, convincing, and beyond any shadow of doubt. As the jury returned from deliberations, the Judge asked the jury, “Have you made a decision?” “Guilty!” said the jury’s foreman. The defendant hung his head in shame. For the crime he committed, the defendant should die. He was moments from his fate.
As all eyes were riveted on the Judge, no one noticed the young child who made his way through the back door and down the courtroom’s center aisle. He came through the swinging gate and made his way to the bench. Shockingly, the Judge did not rebuff the child. Even more surprisingly, the child walked up to the Judge and the Judge bent down to the child; they talked ever so briefly.
As all eyes in the courtroom curiously looked on, the Judge sat back in his chair and contemplated this new development. What the Judge then spoke to the defendant was beyond imagination: “By your own testimony and by the evidence before us, you are guilty of the crime of which you’ve been accused. Your sentence can be no other but death. However, the child standing before us has entered a plea regarding these proceedings. He has expressed a desire to stand in your place and pay for the crime of which you are charged. Upon deliberation and with much sadness, I find the child’s request acceptable. I therefore grant the defendant freedom from the punishment of the law and pronounce the sentence of death upon this child.”
With that stunning turn of events every mouth dropped. There were gasps, sighs, moans and a low rumbling of quizzical chatter throughout the courtroom. No one was more perplexed than the defendant, and no one was prepared for what happened next. It is a day that will be forever imprinted upon the mind of the newly freed defendant. Just then the Judge reached under his bench, pulled out a revolver and pointed it at the child who was taking the place of the guilty defendant. The Judge then exclaimed, “Son, I love you!” And with those few words he pulled the trigger and killed the child. The child was the son of the Judge.
There was dead silence. The defendant was ushered from the courtroom; his manacles were removed; he was set free. As the man left the scene he was looking forward toward his freedom, but almost instinctively he looked backward to the scene that will be forever etched upon his mind: A Judge, with revolver in hand, standing over his son and the son lying dead in a pool of blood.
The story you’ve just read is true. The names have been changed as well as the location, context and content of the events. The place where these events actually occurred was outside the city of Jerusalem, nearly 2000 years ago. The name of the son who was killed is Jesus Christ. His Father is God.
Like the son, the story also has a name: the story is called, the Gospel. The Gospel story literally means, Good News. The Good News is much deeper and broader than what I can communicate here, but one way to express the Gospel is that it is the story of Jesus Christ and all he ever was, is, and ever shall be. In essence, the Gospel means that the debt we owe God because of our sin and sinfulness does not have to be paid by us. The Good News is that Jesus Christ paid the ultimate penalty for the crimes of those He came to save.
You and I can be released of our guilt, if by faith we lay claim to Jesus’ work on our behalf. This is the power of the Gospel. The story is true: the Father killed the Son. (See Isaiah 53:10; Romans 6:23; 5:8; 3:10-12, 21-31.) The 27th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel gives the vivid account of the death of Christ.
Every crime must be punished, and the punishment must be comparable to the crime committed. In the case of sin, since it is a crime against an infinite (unending) being, the payment must be of an infinite nature. Because humans are finite, the best gifts we can offer as payment fall woefully short. (See Isaiah 64:6.) We cannot accumulate enough good deeds in a finite state to offer to an infinite God to pay for an infinite debt.
In the wisdom of God, He sent his Son (who is God in human flesh) to live a perfect life and pay the perfect, infinite price for us (2 Cor. 5:21). To benefit from this “payment in full” and thus receive an everlasting, irrevocable pardon from the guilt and punishment of our sin, we must humble ourselves and look to the Lord Jesus Christ for deliverance. He is the only blameless mediator between the holy God and sinful people (1 Timothy 2:5). Apart from His sinless blood, there is no forgiveness of our sin (Hebrews 9:11-22).
How do you think the convicted man felt after he was set free? How do you think the good news affected him for the rest of his life? A huge burden was amazingly and unexpectedly lifted from his shoulders. The greatest of miracles was his for the taking. Freedom is staring us in the face. No punishment. No pangs of guilt or emptiness in our soul. Peace like a river coursing through our being. It is too good to be true!
But it is true. The power and freedom of the Gospel is for you. Don’t reject it. Run to it and embrace it. It is yours to receive by faith. The abundant grace (unearned favor) of God can be showered upon you. You too can be set free!