At the end of time, billions of people were scattered on the vast plain before God’s Throne. Some shrank back from the brilliant light before them. But many other groups talked heatedly, not cringing with shame, but with belligerence.
“Can God judge us? How can He know about suffering?”, snapped a pert brunette. She ripped open a sleeve to reveal a tattooed number from a Nazi concentration camp. “We endured terror … beating … torture … death!”
In another group a Negro boy lowered his collar. “What about this?” he demanded, showing an ugly rope burn. “Lynched, for no crime but being black.”
In another crowd there was a pregnant schoolgirl with sullen eyes: “Why should I suffer?” she murmured. “It wasn’t my fault.”
Far out across the plain were thousands of such groups. Each had a complaint against God for all the evil and suffering He had permitted in His world. How lucky God was to live in Heaven, where all was sweetness and light, where there was no weeping and fear, no hunger or hatred, no sickness or sorrow. What did God know of all that human-kind had been forced to endure in this world? After all, God leads a rather sheltered sort of life, they said.
So each of these groups sent forth a leader, especially chosen because they had suffered the most. A Jew, a Negro, a person from Hiroshima, a horribly deformed arthritic, a thalidomide child, an AIDS victim. In the center of the vast plain, these leaders consulted with each other. At last they were ready to present their case, item by item, leader by leader, to God. It was rather pertinent.
Before God could be qualified to be their Judge, He must endure what they had endured. Their decision was that God should be sentenced to live on earth as a human being, as a man.
Let him be born of the most despised race, a Jew, in poverty-stricken conditions. Let the legitimacy of his birth be doubted. As a child, let him be forced to flee as a refugee, and live several years in a foreign country. Then give him a work to do, and an ideal to uphold that is so difficult that even his own family will think him out of his mind when he tries to do it. Let him be betrayed by his closest colleague, into the hands of those who hate him. Let him face false charges, be tried by a prejudiced jury, and convicted by a cowardly judge.
At the last, let him see what it means to be terribly, terribly alone – forsaken by all his friends. Let him be tortured. Then let him die. Let him die the most excruciating, and humiliating death possible, before a taunting, reviling crowd, that not only verified his death but contributed to it.
As each leader announced his portion of the sentence, loud murmurs of approval went up from the whole assembled throng. When the last leader had finished pronouncing his part of God’s sentence, there was a long silence. No-one uttered another word. Nobody moved.
For suddenly, everybody knew that God had already served His sentence.
The Long Silence
Today is Good Friday which commemorates the crucifixion and death of a man named Jesus, nearly 2000 years ago. For the follower of Christ, today is a pivotal day… For the rest, it is just another day.
Perhaps you do not believe that Jesus was who He says He was…
C.S. Lewis once said, in his book Mere Christianity:
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not (call him) a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
My friends, Tetelestai… It is finished. Jesus died for your sins, and mine, and now it is finished. The penalty is paid. But the story didn’t end there… It picked back up three days later when He conquered death…
*The present copy was taken from Lambert Dolphin’s site, www.ldolphin.org. Lambert once gave credit to Barry Setterfield, www.setterfield.org, but Barry has said he is not the author. Barry says he got the essay from George Spall, in Queensland, and believes George (deceased) may have been the author. The earliest known copy of the essay appears in the book “The Cross of Christ” by John R.W. Stott (1986) but the essay author is not referenced in that book. Please contact me if you know the author.
–Tetelestai – the last words spoken by Jesus before He died.
–Matthew 26-27; Mark 14-15; Luke 23; John 17-19