Last night, I went on Youtube and watched videos of reactions to people’s prison sentences. I watched people’s reactions to having a life sentence or being on death row. This isn’t what I usually watch but for some reason, I was drawn to this. As I learned about their crimes, the judgement and their reactions, something stirred inside me. On one hand, I felt anger, hatred and a sense of righteousness. After all, they deserved what they got. I felt angry because they could cry over their own life, but they obviously didn’t hold their victim’s life with the same value..
But as I watched someone, who was told he faced death row, something whispered in my ear; “Jesus died for you.” It was bizarre and heartfelt at the same time. These murderers; who laughed when the judge read out his crimes, who were angry at their sentence as if they did not deserve to die, who looked back once more at the camera before being led away by the police; these were the people Jesus had laid his life for even though they did not deserve it.
Deserve. That word came up many times in my mind, in the judges’ mouths and in the comments below. These monsters deserved what they got. They didn’t deserve to live. They didn’t deserve to ever be let out of prison. Deserve.
But don’t we all deserve this punishment?
Jesus came to this earth to save sinners through his death and resurrection. We are all sinners. No matter how many good acts we perform, no matter how clean our record may be, but in the eyes of God, we are sinners, we fall short of his righteousness. Since the punishment for sin is death, we deserve to die.
It was hard to get my head around that these murderers and I both deserved to die but this was the revelation I had while I watched these videos.
What was even more incredible, was that for the first time, I gave thought to the murderer who was let go by Pilate and at the request of the Jews. I had never cared much about this detail but suddenly, it was significant to my life. Jesus took the place of Barrabas and died in his place. He did the same for you and me.
If I wasn’t already convicted of self righteousness, God gave me another verse. It was when Jesus gave his sermon on a mountain and explained the ten commandments in more depths, so that the Jews would learn that the law was impossible to follow by their own will or might.
Jesus told them that anger, in the eyes of God, is the same as murder. Just like how murder is subject to judgement, so too is being angry with someone. We must go so far as to hold our tongues from calling someone stupid or a fool (Mathew 5:21-26, NIV).
The ones who, by human law, are good citizens, and the ones who, by the same law, are in jail or on death row, are all sinners in God’s eyes. Jesus died for the whole world, not for the people who deserved everlasting life. In fact, none of us falls in that category.
We fall short of God’s holiness, righteousness, and standards. We can not hope to obey the law if we do not find grace in Jesus.
After watching these videos, I watched a lighter video-a cat in a shark costume on a roomba, chasing a duck-because I didn’t want to go to sleep with these dark thoughts. But after this, I prayed a heartfelt prayer to God. I thanked God that, exactly like Barrabas, Jesus took my place at the cross and he died for my sins, so that I may be forgiven. For it is only by God’s grace that I can be righteous in His eyes.