We all filed into the court room and stood in front of our respective chairs to wait for orders. “All rise for the Honorable Court!” The judge walked in and promptly told us to be seated. The case to be tried was between the State and a middle-aged woman, Brenda.* The State had convicted her of a felony back in October 2011, and she now had the chance to plead her case.
We were sworn in, and then sat there in thick silence. The lawyers gave their introductions, and onward we went. Seven hours later we’d heard it all. The charged crime gave no small consequences – certainly enough to ruin a life. Was it necessary?
She’d made mistakes. In fact, she’d made a lot of mistakes. She was a complete and utter mess, a train wreck to say the least. The State attorney presented her case professionally, convincingly, and accurately. The State trooper testified against Brenda in the most polite and honest way; she had done her job the night of the crime. And then Brenda was called up to the witness stand.
She should have just stopped the trial before it began. Nearly everything she did, from the way she walked to the platform to the words she spoke, pointed against her cause. She couldn’t keep the story straight. She brought in new information partway through and tried to pass blame on others, including her own brother who was not in any way connected to the case. All of a sudden she had every ailment the world could offer; her wrists were recovering from being broken, so the handcuffs hurt and the trooper should be sued; she had asthma and a fractured skull so she couldn’t physically complete some of the trooper’s tests; her anxiety caused her to do stupid things – the list went on and on. She couldn’t answer the questions asked by the State. She found the most inappropriate times to laugh. Her performance in that courtroom was as misleading and deceptive as it was that night in October.
After the closing arguments we were put in a room for jury deliberation. All of us were against her – not one of us believed her story. We agreed that she was an absolute mess from head to toe, regardless of her claims. She deserved the conviction, and the sentence that followed. We just had to prove it.
We tried. The twelve of us tried every possible angle, looking for some way to convict her. But we had no evidence; it was one testimony against another. No police reports, no medical records, no video tapes or images. Nothing. And nothing, when put against the defendant, yields exactly that – nothing! She walked into that courtroom innocent until proven guilty. No one, not even the State, could prove her guilty. The worst part is that she knew it. She manipulated and cried and worked the system to get her little self right out of there, free of charge. It worked.
I got out to the car furious that justice hadn’t been given. More accurately, that legally justice wasn’t able to be given. It was a scandal – a big, fat, ugly scandal that deserved the worst. Brenda was wrong, she is mentally and emotionally unstable, and she shouldn’t be allowed where she can endanger others. I wanted to march right back in there, look her in the eye, and tell her that not one of us jurors believed she was innocent.
And that’s when the Lord reminded me of another scandal. One that I’d known about much longer than I’d known about this case. A big, encompassing, beautiful scandal that boggles my mind. You see, there was a Man who lived on earth and only did good. He never did anything wrong; He helped people, healed people, gave people food and drink that would leave them forever quenched and full. He even told them the Way of eternal life, and of peace and joy and love.
Yet people accused Him and brought Him before the court. They ridiculed Him and hurled insults at Him; they beat Him and spit on Him. And then they convicted an innocent Man and nailed Him to a cross with a crown of thorns pressed into His head and stripes of blood all over His chest and back.
But that’s not the scandal God reminded me of. The scandal came three days later, when that same Man, Jesus, rose up from the grave and re-entered the world. He re-entered the sin and the pain and the injustice. He went back to the people who had crucified Him! He revisited the people held down by sin and told them their chains had been lifted. He revisited the people who mocked Him and said He’d forgiven them. He revisited the one who had three times denied Him and gave him yet another chance.
That wasn’t what anyone was expecting. That is the scandal of Grace. Not one of us humans is deserving of anything good, yet that’s all that Jesus gives. We fail Him and He never fails us. He died and then rose, and conquered sin once and for all so that we never need to be separated from Himself. Our sin no longer binds us; our mockery no longer keeps us away; our denial is only final at the end of our lives, not during them.
I think back to the court case and how unfair the outcome was. I still believe Brenda deserves consequences for her actions; the Bible is clear that boundaries and regulations are necessary. But I also think about my life and how unfair the outcome is – I’ve floundered in sin and made chaos out of peace and anger out of joy – and Jesus still says, “It is finished.” Done. He took my sin, paid the price, and pursues me desperately. It’s a scandal that brings tears to my eyes because I know the injustice. He didn’t have to do it; He could have left us here and watched us flail, or He could have said, “Enough!” and wiped us out completely. But He didn’t. He shows His perfect love regardless of what we do.
I pray you have the most blessed and joyful Easter.
*Name changed to protect privacy.