I am only a bystander here, watching the tales of two men’s lives unfold. I’m sitting in the courtroom as the guard brings in the first man. His head is hung low. His chains are still on his hands and feet. I take a glance at the prosecutor gleefully sneering. He knows he has an airtight case. He is sure of his victory, proud that he gets to be a part of this trial to send the accused to their judgment. The Judge enters the courtroom and the proceedings begin.
The prosecutor opens by listing the crimes levied against the accused: malice, slander, deceit, lust, and pride. The man hangs his head even lower. He knows he can’t argue against the charges. He enters a plea of guilty. The prosecutor can barely hide his joy as he awaits the sentence from the Judge – which is surely the full penalty of the law.
But the voice of the counselor interrupts the scene. He says, “Your Honor, of the charges listed against my client, he is surely guilty. He committed each of those in deed and thought. And he surely deserves to be punished. But see, I know him. He chose to love me and follow me, even though he stumbled along the way. So I am offering to pay the full amount of his punishment so that he may go free.”
The courtroom goes silent. The smile quickly vanishes from the prosecutor’s face. He begins to speak but the Judge interrupts. The Judge addresses the counselor and says, “My Son, You do realize that the punishment for his crimes will be death?”
“Yes, your honor. I know that the crimes of the accused have left victims so someone must be punished for it. But my love for him is so great, that I am willing to die so that he may go free, if that is the only way. You can put my innocence onto this man and I will wear the shame and the punishment of his crimes.”
The man looks up with tears in his eyes. The courtroom erupts in applause. What an amazing sacrifice from someone perfectly innocent to bear the price for the crimes of someone completely guilty. Amidst the rejoicing though you hear the prosecutor cry out in anger. He thought he was going to be victorious. He thought he could levy enough accusations at this man to come between him and his Defender. But nothing was able to separate the accused from the Defender.
The Judge declares the man as having righteousness imparted to him from the Defender. He would inherit eternal life. He would be treated as the Judge’s own child.
As the courtroom settles down, the second man enters. He too is in shackles but he bears no shame. He almost seems proud to be in his condition. As he looks at the prosecutor though, a look of shock comes over him. It seems he recognizes the prosecutor.
The man shouts out, “You?!? You are going to prosecute me? But you were there with me! You enticed me to do those things. You told me it was more fun than following a bunch of stuffy rules! You told me I would never be judged for it as long as I didn’t get caught. You told me that this courtroom and this Judge did not exist!”
The prosecutor just laughs.
The man walks over to the counselor. Again, the prosecutor lists the charges: malice, slander, deceit, lust, and pride. The Judge asks for his plea: not guilty.
The man cries out, “I did a lot of good things too! Those weren’t the only things I did. And besides, those things weren’t all that bad either. I mean, there’s a lot worse folks out there than me. I was always nice to people. I had a good career that helped a lot of people. I loved my family and friends. Most of those things didn’t even hurt anyone else. You can’t judge me for this! I didn’t even think you were real so how can I be held accountable?”
The Judge says, “Prideful to the very end, I see. I sent you that coworker to warn you but you only made fun of him. I sent you that cousin but you refused to listen because you thought you were smarter than her. I gave you that friend who told you about a better way to live but you didn’t want to give up your way of life. I revealed myself in countless ways but you followed the foolish counsel of the world. You chose what you wanted to believe despite all the evidence. Now, Counselor, is there anything you would like to state on behalf of your client?”
“No, your honor. I never knew him.”
The Judge pronounced His sentence. The man would be sent away to eternal punishment, the fiery lake of burning sulfur, where there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth. It is a place of everlasting destruction, shut out from the presence of the Lord, where the fire is never put out. So the prosecutor led him out of the courtroom.