Southerners are lousy at being quarantined. Untrained in this discipline by a lack of inclement winter weather, we tear through our stock of quarantine supplies by noon on day one. We love to prep for disaster, but have little patience to live within the parameters of our preparations. We cancel everything in order to stay home, then stand all day with our noses pressed to the glass, itching to get out to see “what’s going on.” Like school children after the first two weeks of summer vacation, we become quickly bored.
As long as our internet does not go out and take with it our Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, we may actually make it. Surrounded by our hoarded TP, we outwait the lengthy COVID 19 incubation period by binge-watching. For my wife and I, our nightly habit is British crime drama. We especially like the adaptations of Ann Cleeves’ crime novels. Her stories are complex. The obvious culprits are never the perpetrators. Only slowly does the truth come into focus as the “DCI” sifts through seemingly endless strands of contradictory evidence. Cleeves’ stories give an appreciation for the complexity of criminal investigation, warning of the dangers of precipitous judgment. To get to the truth, we cannot take a cursory look.
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.
History’s greatest courtroom drama is recorded in the Bible in Luke 22 and 23. Following an irregular grand jury indictment, Jesus is brought before the criminal court on charges trumped up religious rivals. In Pontius Pilate’s courtroom we see the greatest miscarriage of justice in human 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, Pontius Pilate condemns him to death and compounds injustice by releasing a man who is truly guilty of all the charges leveled against Jesus.
As spectators, we recoil at this apparent travesty of justice. But we must look more deeply. No cursory examination of Jesus’ trial reveals the extent of the guilty. It is easy to spot the guilt of the Sanhedrin, of the crowds, of Judas, of Pilate, and of Barabbas. But the investigation must go deeper. For we are not just spectators of this drama. 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 He is the justifier of those who have faith in Christ. Because of this we can have peace with God and with one another. This my friend is good news.
Join us on Facebook Live at 10:30 am this Lord’s Day, March 22, as we examine Luke 22 and 23 and consider the greatest courtroom drama in history as it unfolds Christ’s innocence and condemnation for our guilt and pardon. For more information about how we are gathering for corporate worship amidst calls for “social distancing” go to our post, How to Survive the Pandemic.