“For all…are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-­25)

At first glance, it appeared there had been a grave mistake.

Somehow, the Roman state and the hierarchy of religious Jews had erroneously concluded that Jesus Christ was a criminal. Soldiers swarmed the execution site as he was strung between two undistinguished robbers. Written in three different languages, his charge was positioned above the piercing thorns shoved into his brow. His brutalized body was fixed to wooden beams by hammer and nails, the gruesome execution carried out with tools familiar to the Nazarene carpenter.

All four gospel accounts reveal staggering injustice. How dare they treat the Son of God like a common criminal! He allowed them to bind him with ropes and drag him before Pilate. He refused to defend himself before their accusations and accepted their spittle, fists, and lashings without summoning the legions of angels at his disposal. With utter restraint, the Son of God yielded to treatment as a vicious criminal because he was implicitly aware that a great crime had occurred.

God’s holy laws had been violated. This was the crime worthy of excruciating punishment. Ever since Adam and Eve raised their hands in the Garden of Eden and chose contrary to God’s commands, mankind had mimicked their rebellion.

The transgressions of men and women through the ages were punishable by Death (Romans 6:23). The penalty had to fit the enormity of the crime.

The only one whose blood was innocent of any failings, the only one who never had to ask forgiveness of another human being or of God Almighty, was the only one capable of shouldering all we deserved. Every offense against God by every human through all of time was transferred to him in agonizing proportions. “The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).

Jesus’ jail time reconciled us to the Father. He wore the stripes for us to be free. And we are forever free to become all he intended us to be.

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