By: Garner Fritts
It’s a sad but true fact that injustice goes on in our world all the time. Corrupt leaders pervert Biblical principles of fairness when they practice extortion, bribery and a myriad of other unlawful deeds. Far too often the innocent is punished while the corrupt go free and clear. There is no greater example of this than when our blessed Redeemer stood trial and was thereafter crucified at the hands of merciless sinners.
The beloved physician Luke preserves this scene for us in the twenty-third chapter of his gospel. The words of Jesus were misconstrued and twisted in such a manner as to bring him under condemnation. There was nothing fair about it. Christ was accused of not giving Caesar tribute and of misleading the nation (v.2). It was a lot of generalizations without consideration of proper context.
The scenario fully played itself out against Jesus. The Roman prefect saw nothing that warranted punishment of any sort, let alone death. Yet public pressure from the Jewish leaders forced Pilate into consenting to what he knew was a miscarriage of justice (v.20-24). The sentence did not even fit the crimes presented. Blood flowed from the deep gashes all over Christ’s body as he endured a violent beating, a difficult climb to his place of execution, and the intense suffering on the cross.
Luke points out that Pilate wasn’t the only one who believed a grave travesty was occurring. The Roman prefect stated before all that neither he nor Herod found any fault with Jesus (v.13-15). One of the thieves hanging on a cross beside the Lord recognized the Messiah was being punished unjustly (v.40-42). The Roman centurion acknowledged Christ’s innocence as he expired (v.47). Joseph of Arimathea personally buried the Lord in a new tomb, for he had disagreed with the decision against Jesus (v.50-53).
The injustice had gone even further when a murderous insurrectionist named Barabbas was released by the decree of the crowd (v.18). The Romans had instituted a custom where they granted pardon to a criminal during the feast of the Passover. By all accounts, Barabbas was clearly guilty and should have been the one facing execution, yet he walked away a free man while the innocent One died in the robber’s stead (v.25).
All eyes in the vicinity were on the Master. They were probably trying to glean information from as many witnesses as they could. Some gave biased assessments while others told the facts as best they knew them. Some were perhaps even observing the Lord’s demeanor directly as a way of forming an opinion. No doubt the observers had mixed reactions to the Son of God. Whether they thought justice or injustice was happening; none of them knew enough to come to the full and proper conclusion.
It is probably safe to say that no one in that moment of history would have suspected that an injustice was transpiring and justice was being served at the same time. A great transference was taking place the likes of which the world had never known nor would ever see again. God was suffering wrongfully at the hands of the guilty in order that the sentence against sin could be carried out on the elect’s behalf and justice could subsequently be satisfied. Jesus’ words in v. 34 beautifully speak to this reality: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”
The veil in the Jewish temple, which stood as a sign of God’s separation from the impurity of humanity, was torn in two to commemorate the event. (v.45) It symbolized centuries of injustices that were judged with one single act. Justification was given to those who didn’t deserve it, and it came from the only One who did deserve it.
Have you ever been the victim of an injustice or known others who have? Take heart. Jesus understands, for he has experienced the same thing. An eternal, divine justice was born out of the temporal, mortal injustice perpetrated against him. As it was for our precious Lord, so there are divine reasons for why the Master allows injustice to take place. God is working out a greater good for his people in lieu of our being wrongfully treated (Romans 8:28). Turn these situations over to the Lord, for vengeance is his and his alone (Romans 12:19). Justice will always prevail in the midst of injustice, and the Almighty will be glorified through it all.