Easter marks the greatest miscarriage of justice in history – the murder of God’s Son carried out legally with judicial pomp. Jesus was rejected by his own people, denied justice by the Temple Courts, the High Priest, King Herod and Pilate the Roman governor. History is filled with examples of the innocent being denied justice. If we can kill God’s Son, small wonder that ordinary people find power, law and politics used against them.
The trial of Jesus was illegally held at night and the outcome was predetermined. He had to die. Unlawful violence and threats pressured the accused to incriminate himself. Judges screamed in his face, court officials punched him and spat on him. Not even salaried liars could not agree on their evidence. When the prisoner spoke his few dignified words they were twisted against him. No one wanted to hear or believe the truth: that he was the Messiah, their King.
No law of God or man had been broken by this prisoner. Yet without any logic or justice, a death-sentence was pronounced on an innocent man. His death was popular with a fanatical crowd. It made political sense to Pilate and Herod, but no crime requiring punishment had been committed.
Why did the religious and civil trials result in a guilty man (Barabbas) being set free and an innocent man (Jesus) being sentenced to die? Why did Jesus meekly accept his pathetic fate? Why did God permit the outrage of a cursed death on a tree for his own Son?
April 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jr, murdered to silence his advocacy for social and racial justice. King perceptively said, “Jesus Christ was an extremist for love, truth and goodness.” This world cannot stand to hear the truth of God because we are in collective rebellion. It was inevitable that a rebel-world of sinners would condemn the innocent representative of God. Jesus gave the verdict on us: “Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:18).
If a jury were asked to judge humanity, we would be found guilty. We tried Jesus, we conspired to find him guilty because we are a rebel race. John Stott said, “Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us… we have to see it as something done by us.”
Humanity was on trial when Jesus came among us. We have proved our guilt. We do not deserve God’s mercy or merit his justice. And yet, the Judge of Humanity went on trial and accepted our condemnation precisely because he was willing to stand in the place of guilty sinners. He faced our lack of justice and faced the more terrible weight of God’s lawful and just anger against our sins.
At the cross, God provides a way, the only just way, to set the guilty free. We are on trial when we come face to face with Jesus. How do we respond to his love for us, his trial and his death? Be grateful that Jesus’ extreme love stood in the dock, walked to the tree, and took the condemnation that we all deserve.
Angus MacRae is the minister at Dingwall & Strathpeffer Free Church and Moderator-designate of the 2018 Free Church General Assembly.