Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Punishment Not Deserved

This is a bizarre story. I probably wouldn't even believe it myself if I didn't know the individual personally and we hadn't gotten the frantic phone call to pray right in the middle of the ordeal.

A couple years ago, someone we know well was on a wonderful vacation out of the country. After several days of relaxing and resting, he returned to the U.S. ready to head back to his normal routine. However, upon arriving at the Atlanta airport, he found that there was a problem. He was taken into a back room for questioning. The situation got worse and worse as the story slowly unfolded....

About ten years earlier he had gotten a speeding ticket in a small town. He had long since moved from that town, and somehow the paperwork for his ticket had gotten lost in the shuffle. He had completely forgotten about the ticket and the authorities had never tracked him down about it. He never even thought about the ticket again, until this moment when he was questioned.

Apparently, his passport had been flagged, so upon returning to the country he was taken into custody for questioning. He was completely apologetic and willing to work with them in any way. One would think this would be an easy enough mistake to correct. However, the correct person could not be reached at the courthouse in the small town where the ticket was issued, so he was told that he would have to spend the night in jail. WHAT!!??

Yes. And that is exactly what happened. He was handcuffed and taken to the Atlanta jail. Please try to imagine the diverse reasons that people may be in jail in a major metropolitan city like Atlanta. Let's just say this was definitely not the friendly Andy Griffith type jailhouse. Our friend was scared, and rightly so. The guards spoke to him harshly and rudely. He was cuffed to another prisoner for a while. He was put in the large holding cell for awhile. It was a long and difficult night. Because of a speeding ticket.

After many long hours, the right person was reached in the small town. He was released with great apology and told he never should have had to stay in the jail overnight. In the end it all turned out ok, but it was humiliating and traumatic. His failure to pay the ticket needed to be dealt with, but he received a punishment that was way harsher than it should have been. His crime did not deserve a night in jail.

When I first heard this story, I was shocked and amazed by the whole situation. But, as he related the details, I just kept thinking that this story, while not a perfect illustration, at least points us in the direction of Christ.

Christ came to this earth and lived a perfect life (not even a single speeding ticket...or the first century equivalent of that!), yet He received a punishment that He did not deserve. He was mistreated, abused, humiliated and killed to pay the penalty for crimes He never committed...for your sin and mine.

There is no more appalling and unfair treatment than the shame our Holy and Perfect Lord went through on the cross. As we approach Good Friday, let's contemplate the sacrifice Jesus Christ made on our behalf. He didn't deserve it, but He willingly walked into it, so that we might have a relationship with God both now and forever.

"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in humann likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death -- even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:5-11)

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