Bill Bright

The wretched, shackled prisoner trembled with fear as he stood before the imposing bench of the toughest, fairest judge in the district. “You have been found guilty,” the judge solemnly announced. Courtroom observers held their breath, waiting for what they were sure was to come.


Without a doubt the man was guilty. The evidence was clear. The judge had no choice but to pronounce a death sentence. There were no appeals for the horrendous crime, no stays of execution allowed.


Suddenly to everyone’s shock, the judge did something unprecedented in legal history. He said to the prisoner, “Justice must be served. You are guilty. You are totally unlovable. Nevertheless, I love you, in spite of yourself. And because of my love for you, I have decided to take your place. I will take your punishment for you. I will die in your place. You are a free man. You can go now.” The judge’s gavel pounded. The courtroom was silent.


After a stunned moment, courtroom guards unlocked the prisoner’s handcuffs and legs irons, removed the judge’s robe, and snapped the irons on his wrists and ankles. As the judge was led away to death row, the shocked prisoner numbly walked out of the courtroom door to freedom, tears of gratitude streaming down his cheeks.


This, of course, is an allegory about God’s mercy. God is the judge. Since He is perfectly just, all His actions must uphold justice. We are like the prisoner. We all deserve the death sentence, because we are all guilty of numerous sins. Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (NIV). In His fairness, God must judge our sin with the punishment it deserves. Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death” (NIV). He cannot allow us to inhabit His perfect heaven, that place without a spot of uncleanness, a thought of wrongdoing, or a charge of guilt.


In the supreme act of mercy, God displayed divine favor and forbearance to us guilty offenders. He took our punishment upon Himself. That is what Jesus Christ did for us at Calvary: “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23, NIV). He did it for the woman caught in adultery and He did it for you and me. By His sacrifice, all who put their trust in Him are declared “not guilty” and freed! That was true mercy and grace.


Because God is holy He cannot tolerate sin. Perfect justice requires that sin must always be punished—no exceptions. All our claims that we were tricked into sin or that we did not know our action was sin gets us nowhere with God.


If that sounds cruel and unfair, here is the good news! Jesus provided a dramatic reprieve from our sentence and punishment. Jesus was beaten, tortured, and hung on a cross to die in our place to satisfy God’s demand for untainted justice. The perfect Judge became our merciful Savior!


Peter explains, “[Jesus] personally carried our sins in His body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By His wounds you are healed” (1 Peter 2:24). When Jesus came, His blood was spilled so we could experience God’s mercy. Jesus’ sacrifice is the ultimate expression of God’s mercy.


Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross also satisfied God’s just nature. God, the divine Judge, showed mercy and clemency for us guilty sinners. It is the mercy of God that sees man weighed down by sin and therefore in a sorry and pitiful condition, needing divine help. At the cross, God’s attributes of both justice and mercy found complete fulfillment—simultaneously and without compromising either one! Is that not amazing?


By Bill Bright (with Brad Bright), GOD, Who Are You Anyway?

©2023 Copyright Bright Media Foundation