If you read my posts you will find this to be a bit different in flavor. My request is that you read this one, leaving bias or preconceived ideas at the door. Just humor me for now.
Imagine, you wake up in the back of a transport van. Your wrists and ankles are shackled to a pole attached to the metal bench you’re laying on. Looking down you find you’re dressed in an orange cotton jumpsuit with your full name sown into fabric across your chest. Next to you is an assigned armed guard watching.
“What have I done?” you ponder silently. In frustration you inquire aloud to the guard, “Excuse me, sir. Why am I here? Why have I been apprehended in this way? Where are we going?” The guard sits there ignoring you, as if you spoke nothing.
Imagine, the van stops just about the time you decide to ask the guard once more, with attitude. The back double doors fly open as two more armed guards await your wrists and ankles to be unlocked from the pole. As you continue to wear the shackles, dragging the chain between your feet, you begin to struggle to walk toward the open van doors. The guards reach out, taking you by both arms, pulling you out of the vehicle. They walk you into an enormous courthouse, a stately building, you do not recognize.
Imagine, you gasp at what you see as you are led into a large, wide hallway filled with other people who appear to be in the same circumstance. You are struck by the incredibly long lines of the incarcerated, hugging the walls to the right and the left, as they stand single-file down endless corridors. Each prisoner lacks the individual ID numbers, as you would assume. Instead, each one has their name etched across their torsos, just like yours. As you stumble with the shackles hindering your stride down the hallway, you read some of the names, ordinary names…Bohoah Yudo, Jack Nelson, Zhang Wong, Sherry White, Jesse Mundos, Amy Jones, Ahmad Siddiqui, Running Bear Parker, Angelique Pascal, Lorenzo Giordano…all assorted from every corner of the earth.
Imagine, you have been escorted to a guarded giant set of double doors, made of bronze. This is odd, considering nobody else is in line for this entrance. As you are led to the threshold, the thick doors are opened. As they reveal the interior, your eyes widen in awe of a high judge’s bench made of, what appears to be, the finest mahogany. There are no spectators, or spectator’s chairs. In fact, this courtroom lacks a jury box, as well. Only court officers and clerks are present.
Imagine, an announcement is made that all should rise as the judge is preparing to enter from his chambers. The chamber door opens. An amazing, distinguished, and striking robed man makes an appearance, taking his place at the judge’s seat. You immediately notice the baffling brilliance of his eyes. If you were to describe them, you would say they were transparent, somehow. When he looks into your eyes, you feel as if he has known you all your life. There is a sense he can see through the shell you often use with strangers. What’s more, he never blinks.
“Are the books opened?” he asks the clerks with a reverberating bass voice. You didn’t hear the response as you found yourself mesmerized by three enormous antique books, bound in gold leaf. These books were so thick, it took four clerks to open the volumes.
“Bring the perpetrator before the court,” demands the judge. “The transgressor will remain bound through these proceedings,” the judge adds. As the guards nudge you forward, immediately you wonder what kind of judicial system this is. You know you’ve done nothing wrong, and yet the judge seems to not believe in “innocent until proven guilty.”
Imagine, you stand before this awesome judge as he gazes at your name found in one of the colossal bindings. As he calls you by your full name, including your middle name you never reveal to anyone, the chains hanging off your limbs rattle as you slightly tremble in fear. Furthermore, your very soul quakes as you feel the injustice hovering over you like an anvil ready to drop. His next statement causes your face to go pale as you fight the feeling of tears pushing against your eyelids.
“Are you aware of the charges made against you in this case?” he asks with piercing authority.
You take a deep breath, as if it were your last, and proclaim in a louder voice than you had intended, “No, your honor. I am stunned I am here at all.” The judge nods as if to acknowledge he has heard this before in his court.
With a laser-beam glare, the judge turns his unusual translucent eyes toward a rather polished-looking man standing behind a half-wall, where the jury box would normally be located. He is a handsome looking gent, dressed to the nines, with his hair slicked back in perfect order. To say he looks wealthy and studious would be an understatement.
In a lower tone, unlike any sound from his voice thus far, the judge states, “The prosecutor, your legal adversary, will now recite the charges against you. It is imperative you remain silent, without outbursts, during his delivery. Prosecutor, you may begin.”
The prosecutor rolls out a thick stack of legal documents from his briefcase. He begins thumbing through the papers.
“Your honor, this one has violated every law you so diligently protect,” the prosecutor quickly cites with a silky, smooth voice. He continues, “Naturally, you have the full record already prepared in your book. I will summarize from my copies. To begin with, this one uttered false notions to the parents multiple times, starting at infancy. Later in life, while in heated unjustified anger, there would be thoughts of assault, without striking out. As a preteen, there was a candy bar taken without payment from a local convenient store. There have been periods of lashing out with words of destruction, targeting the spirit of others, with intent, and without good cause. Starting during the teen years, this one followed through with lust for others in the classroom. Then, if that wasn’t enough, your honor, there are countless traffic violations. Yield signs were neglected, yellow traffic lights turned red while in the process of driving through the intersections. At one point underage drinking took over, with bribery in full play, to keep the infraction quiet. While on the subject, there was one DUI, but got away with the transgression. There was an event concerning road rage where the defendant cursed another, while utilizing a selected finger, signaling a violent nature of the heart. I have a list of selective years this one cheated on taxes, unseen by the government. The record shows the act of false statements to a supervisor concerning sick days. When a neighbor bought a bigger house out in the country, this one became secretly envious, followed by malicious desires, developing into severe covetousness. There are charges of delinquent bills from time to time. The removal of love comes and goes. The act of pre-judging fellow man is outrageous on its own. Even discriminatory hatred, applied to others, appears over the decades. Admittedly, there is no guilt of carrying out the act of murder or adultery, but on several occasions the mind entertained as much concerning others. You, yourself, your honor, claimed if one even thinks of murder and adultery, that one is just as guilty as the one who acts upon the thought. May I remind you, this ruling came from your court, your honor. It is your prerogative to expunge the law you so graciously gave, if it serves the defendant well.”
(CRACK!) The gavel came down extremely hard. The walls seemed to vibrate at the crashing sound of the impact.
“ENOUGH! My law set forth is who I am. The law is my very essence. It will be defended. The law is a school teacher, educating the public of a guide for a life of goodness. It will be carried out. Each law will be filled and completed, and will never be removed. Once more, I will remind you of the rules of my court, prosecutor. You have heard it said from this bench in prior cases. As long as there are lawbreakers, if you violate my rules, here, in this place, I will call for your banishment and have you held in contempt. You may continue,” the judge remarks with the pointing of his finger.
“As you please, your honor. As usual, I could go on. The rap sheet is lengthy. The guilt is undeniable inside every day, of every month, of every year of this one’s life. Beyond all, perhaps the most grievous crime, this one wallows in a lack of faith in the Lawgiver, the law’s sincerity, with total disregard of the ramifications. My office recommends extreme punishment to the law’s fullest extent, as written in your own manuals, your honor. I rest my case, your honor.” With that, the prosecutor shuffled his documents as he returned them back to his thick briefcase.
Imagine, you are bursting at the seams to defend your good name. After all, you never thought of yourself as a lawless individual. Most everyone you know would stand by your side, testifying to the fact that you’re a pretty good person overall. Just then, the judge interrupts the thought.
After calling out your name, he asks a hard question, “Do you have counsel to represent you here today?”
You quickly respond in helplessness, “No, your honor. I am without a defender. I do have friends that can testify on my behalf, but…”
“Unfortunately for you, they too are in the halls of lawlessness. Your deeds done are not to be measured by a lawbreaker’s plumb-line. Your peers are not the surveyor. The human heart is faulty. They will morph as their opinions shift. However, the law changes not and is unforgiving. It was etched in ancient stone for a purpose. It is relentless and ferocious. The law is…quite simply…unable to be kept, ” the judge points out.
Imagine, your jaw drops. You are in shock, more than you were in the beginning. You are being prosecuted for transgressions which you always deemed as minimal, unimportant infractions, and now your judge admits nobody can keep the law in its entirety!
In your chains, you melt at the idea of hopelessness. Somehow you are able to catch your breath from this gut-punch, “Your honor, I cannot defend myself against these charges. How can I? The law list is too heavy. It rules over me in such a way that there’s no escape.”
“Yes, the law is rigid. It was written to be so. Where one law is broken, all laws are broken collectively,” the judge explains. “It instructs that no one is good enough to keep its commands as a whole-not even one person outside these walls. As you stand before me, the written record concerning your life is damning, indeed. I find you are guilty as charged. There is a certificate of debt which I will sign. It has my seal. It will state you were born guilty, without self-remedy. The law is clear. The payment for your offenses will be…certain death.”
Imagine your fear, your terror, your inability to redeem yourself. You feel like someone has demanded that you jump across the Grand Canyon. It can’t be done. All you can do is hang your head in shame as the tears begin to build and fall.
Imagine now, at that point, a gentle hand strokes your hair, like your mom did when you were a kid. It startles you, causing you to flinch. Your head snaps back up in reaction. You look quickly to your right to see a man standing next to you. Your eyes glanced his way earlier, but he was unassuming, sitting back away from the proceedings in a shadowed corner. This man would be easily ignored if you strolled by him on the street. He isn’t dressed well for an officer of the court. As you wipe the tears from your eyes, you can see his face more clearly. There’s nothing really handsome about him. In fact, it seems he’s a bit on the weathered side. His hair, clothes, and shoes are unclean and unkempt. His hands are rough, stained from dirt and grime, like a construction worker at the end of a day’s work. It’s a mystery to you just why he is in the presence of such a pristine majestic courtroom. He places his arm around your shoulders as if to comfort, or encourage. You are moved that you find it warm, even consoling where he touches you.
With kind eyes, he speaks softly to you, “Wait here. I will return.”
He addresses the judge with great admiration, “Your honor, this one doesn’t understand how this guilt shrouded life. They don’t know what they are doing. I will approach for private deliberation.” Openly, he is welcomed.
He walks toward the judge’s bench. You can see in their faces that they know one another very well. Instead of asking the judge’s permission for a side bar consultation, the soiled man makes his way unhindered around the mahogany structure, walks by the clerk and bailiff, as they step aside, and straight up the steps to the judge himself. He places his arm around the judge’s shoulders as they begin to consult. You would give anything to hear what is being discussed, but the topic remains a mystery to you, as well as everyone else in the courtroom. Soon thereafter, the man comes down from the judge’s seat, approaching you with a comforting smile of resolution.
He says only one thing as he leans to reach your ear, “You must trust me.”
With that, he steps back from you, turns, and stands between you and the bench, blocking your view of the judge.
The prosecutor, who has been closely watching the unusual conference, speaks up, “I object, your honor! This is highly irregular, and certainly…” (BOOM!) The gavel pounds the bench in force.
“Objection overruled,” declares the judge. Silencing the prosecutor soundly, the judge continues, “It is now official. May the record show the defendant has court appointed counsel at this time. Counselor, I will ask you one more time for the court record. Is it your intention to now represent this defendant, this one who has already been pronounced guilty of lawlessness?”
“Yes, your honor. This one belongs with me,” remarks the defender.
“May it be so. May the record show I have agreed, thus appointing the defender to this defendant,” states the judge.
Your defender faces you once more. He finds you’re fixed on the prosecutor’s smirk as he straightens his tie. At the same time, you feel the eyes of your counselor penetrating your focus. You turn your eyes to his. You sense an assurance from him.
“Believe in what I will do for you,” he says with a deep sound of conviction.
With that, he is escorted out a side door by two guards, as if in protection mode.
You seem frozen at the moment at what just happened, even though you do not understand it.
The judge addresses you once again, “Fortunately for you, there is one of this court who has agreed to defend you, even though you have been found guilty and sentenced already. Many documents must be written and published. There are facts in this case which will be entered into the ledgers. This will take some time. Because you have previously been found guilty by this court, you will not go free, as you count freedom. You will remain shackled and placed in the hallway of lawlessness with the others, who are due in court. There you will remain until you hear your name called. At that time, you will report to the doors of this court for the details of your final sentencing. Do you understand these words I have spoken them to you?”
You hesitate but respond in puzzlement, “Yes, your honor.”
Almost sounding like a counselor himself, the judge speaks to you one last time in a softer tone, “Let it be known, it is not required for you to understand the timing and ways of this court, or its officers. Trust your defender. Listen for your name.”
(BOOM) The gavel comes down as the judge orders, “Court adjourned!”
At this juncture, you are led, with chains rattling, to your hallway of waiting.
Imagine that it seems no time has passed at all when you hear your name called. You look up to see the bailiff standing outside the courtroom doors with documents in hand. Right away, your brows wrinkle, as you whisper to yourself, asking where your defender has been. You fully expected him to consult you in the hallway at some point, but he never arrived. There’s a feeling of unmistakable abandonment as you try to pick yourself up. You stumble a bit with your ankle chains as you attempt to make your way across the hallway toward the waiting bailiff. You approach him. He looks at you as he restates your name, even though it is plainly written across your chest. You acknowledge with a nod of your head, not wanting to hear the outcome of your defender’s work. That is if any work has been done at all.
Imagine your amazement when the bailiff’s next words are, “You are free to go, if you choose.”
The wrinkles on your concerned face vanish as your mouth drops, “WHAT?”
“Yes, you may walk away, if you so desire,” replies the bailiff.
“Wait a minute. How can this be? My defender hasn’t shown his mug at all,” you quickly point out.
“Oh, your defender arrived exactly at the appointed time. The judge is appeased. You were not present to witness it, but he made his appointment,” states the officer.
You cock your head at his strange reply, “What ever do you mean? He arrived? Where?”
“Your defender’s father was there to witness his work on your behalf, until it he could no longer observe,” said the bailiff as he enveloped a document.
You eagerly inquire, “My defender’s father? Who is that?”
The bailiff seems struck by your lack of information, “You didn’t know? How could you NOT know? The judge is your defender’s father.”
In a state of perplexity you try to find the right words to ask, “I don’t get it. That would be a conflict of interest, right?”
“No conflicts between them, ever,” replies the bailiff.
“What did my defender do for my case?” you ask.
At this point the bailiff offers you a document from the court. As you look closer, it is the certificate of debt, describing your crimes, along with the sentencing of capital punishment.
“Your debt has been paid,” explains the officer. “Freedom from the judgment rendered is now available.”
“How…what did…I don’t understand,” you admit.
“A reckoning has been accomplished. Your defender volunteered to pay the debt to the court on your behalf,” explained the man.
You mutter almost under your breath, “You…you mean he…”
“Yes. Your judge and his son, your appointed defender, agreed to release you from your lawlessness status. Your defender volunteered to be sacrificed in your place,” replied the officer. “I was there to witness it. It was brutal, but it was decreed. The judge, once the sacrifice was accomplished, was satisfied with the work of your defender. Retribution has been completed. There is nothing else needed to be done. The court considers the matter finished.”
The magnitude of the news stuns you. You take the certificate of debt from the bailiff as you attempt to summon the right words to the question in the very core of reasoning.
“Why would the judge agree to do this?” you ask.
“Love,” replied the bailiff. “The judge not only pities your plight, but also expresses great compassion from an endless well of love for you. He and his son designed this incredible plan together. Now, it is up to you to accept this gift you have been offered. You can remain in your shackles, or accept this act of the court’s finding of love toward you today. Keep in mind, if you choose to deny it, you will remain condemned.”
“How can I thank him for this?” you inquire. “My defender is dead, but I can still show my gratitude to the judge.”
The bailiff spoke up quickly with urgency, “First, you must take the certificate of debt to the court cashier on your way out. If you choose to accept this offer of love, hand this certificate to the cashier, stating the debt has been paid. The cashier will then stamp it, ‘PAID IN FULL!’ After sealing it, your shackles will be removed. You will then be given new clothing to wear. It truly is a phenomenal great exchange. You will discover the doors are already open for you.”
Sheepishly you bring up the obvious, “I hate to be the devil’s advocate here, but what if he changes his mind and sends his guards to bind me again? Is it possible he will reverse his decision?”
The officer responded, “The judge now sees you as blameless because of his innocent son taking your condemnation upon himself. Trust this decision. It will always be a matter of trust.”
Really, you don’t have to imagine. This is what occurred when Jesus offered Himself to be crucified. For thousands of years it was foretold this was God’s plan. The Old Testament is blanketed with the prophecies of where it would happen, why it would happen, the week it would happen, and how it would happen, including the specific wounds he would receive. On several occasions, Jesus Himself told His followers what would transpire, making it clear He was choosing to give His life away for the redemption of humanity. At the time, they didn’t quite understand it either. Although He had multiple opportunities to change plans and escape the arrest, the sentencing, and the cross, He went out of His way to stand ready for it all. So, some 700 years before Jesus was born, the Old Testament passage was written to assist on identifying Him,
“He was oppressed and He was afflicted. Yet He did not open His mouth. Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth.” – Isaiah 53:7
When you think about it, forgiveness takes sacrifice. It was that way in the Old Testament, as God dealt with humanity’s ills, and the guideline continues today. When forgiving someone who has raped your good name, or one who offended you, you first must swallow down the idea of your gut reaction. When being slandered publicly by someone who walks all over your integrity, your first thought is to ring his neck. A kidnapper takes your four-year old and murders him. Immediately, you want to hunt him/her down to take retribution to satisfy your screaming grief and rage. Am I right? If you’re an average person, you would agree with me on this. To forgive, as you have been forgiven, is to sacrifice your hot satisfaction of revenge. It’s so much easier to punch the offender’s lights out. Forgiveness says, “No. I will not satisfy the overwhelming desire to inflict my retribution on the offender. Instead, I will wipe away the debt I want to levy.” This is what Easter is all about.
Theologically, there is so much more to explain concerning the cross of Christ, along with the plan to redeem fallen humankind since Genesis, and the work of Jesus in the future. However, simplicity was what God decided to spotlight in this case, so we may not have an excuse to ignore His gift.
So, the tomb is empty. But why?
Buried in a borrowed garden tomb of a secretive wealthy follower, Jesus was wrapped, placed in the tomb, and a large stone was rolled over the door with a Roman seal. Several Roman soldiers were placed there to guard the tomb. However, Jesus would not be held by death, or a sealed grave.
Since the payment for our sin is a death sentence, He needed to show proof of His deity. Once a guilty inmate is pronounced dead by lethal injection, he stays dead. That’s the finality of capital punishment. The penalty states, your life is quenched forcibly. Over a three year period, Jesus publicly raised other corpses to life. Even random people came out of their graves the same day Jesus walked out of the tomb. (Matthew 27:50-53) The account in scripture says the righteous dead appeared to many in the city. An event uniquely placed for Jesus’ miraculous actions during this time. He was not bound by nature’s law as He was from outside of nature, looking in. On Easter, Jesus not only proved He once again had power over death itself, authority over the payment for sin, but He also was following through with His teaching of new life offered. Death is final. We all know that. Conquering death is something the living can not do. With Jesus, it is a gateway to eternity for the soul. His sacrifice-replacing my debt for my chronic lawbreaking, satisfied the Author of the Ten Commandments.
The resurrection of Jesus was witnessed by Jews and Gentiles alike. For some forty days after that Sunday morning, He ate, walked, and talked with all of His friends and family. In fact, scripture has an account that speaks of a crowd of over 500 who saw Him after the resurrection. The news of it couldn’t be stopped by the local governing class, or even Rome’s iron fist. Early Christian history is filled with the accounts of Jesus’ followers being tortured, burned alive, and crucified because they would not stop with their testimonies of the risen Messiah. Ask yourself what you would be willing to die for.
So yes, the tomb in Jerusalem is empty. My certificate of debt was paid in full and He, being Who He is, survived it all.
I have been purchased with a great price. My life was changed from old, to new.
“I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men (His disciples) testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world-and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.” – Charles Colson (Special Counsel to Pres. Richard Nixon, commonly known as Nixon’s “Hatchet Man”. He was also named as one of the “Watergate Seven”. He plead guilty to obstruction of justice and served prison time.)
“…having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” – St. Paul – Colossians 2:14 (NAS)
“…that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who 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.… – Jesus – John 3:15-17 (BSB)