Who Was the Guilty?
… But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
Last week, I did my duty as a citizen and served on a jury in a court of law.
But the criminal case was not as black-and-white as I would have liked, and the jury was faced with making a decision based on testimony that was full of holes and paltry evidence that was not very helpful at all.
Nine women and three men spent two days mulling over what we had heard and seen. We struggled to keep our emotions at bay. We thumped our heads each time we wandered off into speculation. And those of us who knew the Lord (There were believers in our group—one being a former church friend I had not seen in twenty years and was selected for the very same jury! A coincidence? I think not.) sought divine guidance as we sorted through the facts.
"Beyond a reasonable doubt." That was our charge as members of the jury as we made our decision. And believe me, we all were very conflicted and had numerous doubts. None of us knew for sure who was telling the truth: the plaintiff or the defendant. And since the defendant didn't testify and the plaintiff's story was one way in the police report and another way on the stand, that didn't help us either.
"God knows who is lying here," I thought. "He knows the heart. And he knows what we don't and maybe never will know."
How agonizing to try and render a verdict when we didn't know all of the facts! Two persons' lives were in the balance. One might be locked away in prison. And the other might not see justice being served. What were we supposed to do?
As some of the other believers on the jury did, I petitioned the Lord in the wee hours and asked him to help me make the right decision. ("Give me wisdom and discernment, Lord. I want to do the right thing.") In the end, God gave me peace, and I knew that ultimately whoever was lying would stand before our Maker and answer. And while none of us knew for sure, we made do with the information we had, agreed that the prosecution had not proven its case "beyond a reasonable doubt" and then rendered a verdict of "not guilty."
One week later, I am still mulling over this experience—especially in light of Holy Week. I can only think of my own defense and of my life's testimony. My guilt. And the sin (past and present) that is at the fore in my mind. As I've pondered my transgressions, I have imagined myself on the stand, testifying when asked about what I have done. Am I truthful? Am I exposing all of the sin in my heart? Or am I trying to cover up what I have done?
I can't imagine having to testify like that in a court setting. But Good Friday reminds me of the one who took on my sin, became the guilty and paid for my transgressions—for my actions that would have doomed me were it not for the blood of Christ which breaks the power of cancelled sin, covers me in righteousness and reconciles me to God (John 1:29, Romans 5:9).
As you reflect on what transpired at the Crucifixion of Jesus, as you remember what Christ has done for you, know that he is standing in your place. He has taken on my guilt and your guilt, so that the chains of death may be broken. So that we who have believed in his name might have eternal life (John 5:24).
Intersecting Faith & Life:
What if you had to take the witness stand and give public testimony of every transgression you have ever committed? Ever. Every thought. Every word. Every action. Overwhelming, right? How emotional would you be? How full of shame and grief and guilt? Tap in to those feelings today and remember what Jesus did for you as you observe Good Friday. It is a solemn day, yes, but it is good because he died on the cross for you. Remember and rejoice. Hallelujah! What a Savior.
Ah, Holy Jesus
Words: Johann Heermann, 1630
Music: Johann Cruger, 1899
Ah, holy Jesus, how hast Thou offended,
That man to judge Thee hath in hate pretended?
By foes derided, by Thine own rejected,
O most afflicted.
Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon Thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone Thee.
'Twas I, Lord, Jesus, I it was denied Thee!
I crucified Thee.
Lo, the Good Shepherd for the sheep is offered;
The slave hath sinned, and the Son hath suffered;
For man's atonement, while he nothing heedeth,
For me, kind Jesus, was Thy incarnation,
Thy mortal sorrow, and Thy life's oblation;
Thy death of anguish and Thy bitter passion,
For my salvation.
Therefore, kind Jesus, since I cannot pay Thee,
I do adore Thee, and will ever pray Thee,
Think on Thy pity and Thy love unswerving,
Not my deserving.