We all love a good trial. Our forefathers were spot-on in describing man as having a “legal frame.” Consider the evidence. Think about your viewing habits. Most trending shows on Netflix revolve around crime or courtroom drama. And lest you think this love of trial drama is simply the undue influence of media, recall the last time you cut the cake at a children’s birthday party. “His piece is bigger!” “She got more icing!” “I wanted the corner piece!” “It’s not fair!” There is no more effective prosecutor than a small child, lodging accusations of unfairness. Children are powerful lawyers, because man has a legal frame. We are born with it. We do not need to learn it.
Made in the image of a just God, we are wired to demand justice. But like everything else about us, the fall corrupted our understanding of justice. We still cry out for it. But instead of understanding it as conformity to God’s character and will, we tether justice to our own will. Few of us decry the privation of others as unfair, but when we are deprived of what we expect we demand justice. But what if we got it? What if we got justice, not according to our own want or will, but according God’s standard – a standard which penetrates beyond our words and actions to our thoughts and attitudes?
Perhaps we love fictional crime drama because it satisfies our need to see justice done, without complicating it with the complexities of our own sin. In sixty minutes, confusion gives way to clarity and good triumphs over evil no matter what means it uses to get there. But our lives are not so tidy. In our real story, we are the fugitives who face a justice none of us can bear. Yet the scales of God’s justice do not weigh the arguments for and against our guilt, but rather God’s justice and His mercy.
It is remarkable how much legal imagery the Bible uses to picture our condition. The Old Testament anticipates a redeemer who will set prisoners free. In the New Testament, both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are pictured as advocates, God the Father is often likened to a judge, redemption depends upon a declaration of judicial righteousness and our condemnation is set aside in Christ. And in a well-known passage in Romans.
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, … so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Romans 3:23-26
History’s greatest courtroom drama is recorded in Matthew 27. Following an irregular grand jury indictment, Jesus is brought before the criminal court on charges trumped up by religious rivals. In Pontius Pilate’s courtroom we see the greatest miscarriage of human justice in history. Everyone is guilty – the judge, the prosecutors, the jury – everyone, that is, except the one on trial. He alone is innocent. Evidence is ignored and the judge is captive public opinion and his own corrupt history. Despite his declarations of Jesus’ innocence, Pilate condemns him to death and compounds injustice by releasing Barabbas, a condemned man, truly guilty of all the charges leveled against Jesus.
As spectators, we recoil at this apparent travesty of justice until we realize we are not just spectators. Jesus is not a hapless victim of human injustice, but a willing sacrifice to divine justice – justice that is rightly ours to bear. It is not just Barabbas’ cross that Jesus bore, but ours. God is just. His justice cannot ignore our crimes or allow them to go unpunished. But in His mercy God is the justifier of those who have faith in Christ.
Join us this Lord’s Day, March 31, as we examine Matthew 27 and consider the greatest courtroom drama in history as it unfolds Christ’s innocence and condemnation for our guilt and pardon. We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock. Click here for directions. Come with a friend and join us for fellowship and worship. We look forward to seeing you there.