In the Courtroom, by Carol Russell

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I would like you to engage your imagination. So get comfy, close your eyes if it helps. You won’t be required to interact but you will be required to witness what takes place. You each have a seat in the public gallery of a courtroom. Not just any courtroom but the courtroom of heaven where God sits as Judge. So best behaviour at all times, no shouting out and definitely no throwing things from the gallery!
This public gallery is a large balcony which runs around a circular room and is accessed by two flights of stairs, one either side of the main doorway. So climb the stairs and take your seat. As you sit and look down into the room you will see it is well lit and being circular there are no corners for shadows to hide. Court is nearly in session. Can you see the Judge sitting ready?
His hands on the arms of His throne ready to proceed. Remember it’s His courtroom so He’s in
charge and the verdict is final. No appeals! The only other person in the room at this moment is me, feeling very small in front of a very big Judge in a very big, mostly empty room. Between the throne and me there is a long wooden table. Court is now in session.
Something catches my eye to my right. A door is opening but with the size of the courtroom I
can’t really see who is entering. I can see the person is wearing a black suit and is coming
towards us. As he gets closer I see a tall, slender man. His hair is as black as his suit and
straight. So straight! He must have spent ages with the hair straighteners, there’s not a kink in
sight! It hangs level with his angular jawline. His cheek bones are so pronounced it makes his
cheeks look slightly sunken in and his nose is very straight and pointed. He’s not handsome in
any way and he’s walking upright and with confidence. His black suit seems to absorb some of the light and dull the area around him. He is holding a large book under his left arm and his right hand is curled over the top edge. His fingernails are beautifully manicured. He clearly is
particular about his appearance. As he walks in front of me he turns his head in my direction
and I see a mocking look in his cold eyes and his mouth forms a cocky smile. He turns to the
Judge and speaks, ‘Your honour’. He says. His voice sounds like breaking glass! ‘I have written
in this book the charges I place against the defendant.’ and with that he bangs the book down on the table with such a force it reverberates around the courtroom. The cover of the book is elaborate with fine beadwork and beautiful colours and across the centre, stitched beautifully, is my name. He opens it up to the first page and begins to read from, what looks to me like a list. I start reading upside down and I’m horrified! It’s a list of the things I have done wrong in my life.
It starts right back when I was at school. I look at how many pages this book has, it is so thick!
And then the penny drops! My hands go to my mouth in disbelief. In this book is everything I
have ever said or done that’s, let’s put it like this, less than good! Things known and things I
thought no-one knew! And he’s reeling them off to the Judge. ‘Kicked Belinda in the shins, stole Alison’s sweets, cheated in that maths test…’ He had all the dates and times. He has been very meticulous in his evidence logging! I didn’t remember half the things he mentioned!! And these are just the childish things. Wait till he gets further on in the book! Page after page he recounts the bad stuff I have done. Then he skips over several pages and starts on the bad things I have said. Each time I swore, when I shouted in anger, and as a teenager that covers a few pages!!
The times I have spoken unkindly, it was all there. And I couldn’t deny any of it! I thought I felt
small to start with but with every accusation I am shrinking smaller still and my accuser hasn’t finished by a long way! Again he skips some pages and moves onto things I should have done and didn’t. The texts I should have sent, the phone calls I should have made, the visits I should have taken the time to do and just, well, didn’t. When that really needy person came into the supermarket and I hid two isles away because I didn’t want to engage in conversation with them. And not only had he logged these incidents he’s also logged the excuses I’d made to justify my lack of action. I hadn’t murdered anyone but there were people I seriously didn’t like. I haven’t worshipped carved images but I have allowed things to become precious and a bit too important to me. All this was being presented before the Judge. And not just any judge! The Judge. I am convinced my accuser is getting more and more confident with every page he turns and I’m convinced he looks taller. His voice keeps recounting my faults and failings but for me his voice fades out as I jump down the rabbit hole of despair.
A sound draws me back. Another door opens to my left this time. I look and see a light. A very
bright light. Like a mirror reflecting the sun. It’s coming our way. In fact it’s moving very quickly in our direction and I see it’s a man and there’s only one man that can radiate such pure light. It’s Jesus. Before He reaches us His voice thunders out! ‘Enough!’ A soft smile appears on the face of the Judge. Jesus also has a book in his hands. It’s not elaborate with beads and colourful decorations. It’s plain brown leather and inscribed boldly on the cover are the words ‘The Lambs Book of Life.’ I glance over at my accuser. Is that concern I see on his face? Jesus places His book on the table and opens it. He looks my accuser in the eye, points to a page and says, ‘Her name is written here.’ He keeps His eyes fixed on my accuser. I look over at the page Jesus is pointing at, hoping that no lightning bolts are coming my way for peeking at it, and I can see, reading upside down, my name written in gold script. I’m think now that Jesus will reel off some of the good things I have done. Some of the good things I have said. Some of the things I didn’t shy away from doing. But He doesn’t. He gestures again towards the page, still looking my accuser in the eye, and says again, ‘Her name is written here. That’s enough.’ He doesn’t shout; in fact He speaks quite quietly. But there is an authority that no one would argue with. This is a done deal. There is no argument. Then a cry comes from the opposition. ‘NO!’ I follow his gaze as he looks at his book. The pages are turning red! And now they are white. Pure white. And there’s nothing written there. He’s frantically flicking through each page but they are all blank.
He closes it and my name has been erased from the cover. He turns towards the Judge ‘But
Judge, I read out to you all that evidence of wrongs, with times and dates’. ‘Did you?’ was the
reply. ‘I don’t remember any wrongs. I just see the blood of Jesus, My Son and the person stood in front of me dressed in white. My verdict is not guilty.’ Jesus slowly takes a step towards my accuser who recoils. Another step and he recoils even more. I don’t think he looks so tall any more and his confidence seems to have followed my despair down that rabbit hole! He slinks towards the door and by the time he reaches the exit his slinking has turned to slithering. I look at Jesus, I look at the Judge and they’re both smiling … at me. Everything my accuser presented to the Judge was true. I was guilty of it all but my debt has been paid in full. Jesus paid the required price so I didn’t have to.There is nothing I can do now but fall on my knees in worship.
The room starts to fill. You’ll get a better view of this than me from up in the gallery because my face is planted in the floor! Angels are flooding the room and a song is starting to rise. You’ll hear it soon. As the room fills, the intensity of the song is becoming immense. I think the room will burst with the fullness of it. It’s not washing over me it’s driving its way through me.
Holy, holy, holy,
Holy, holy, holy
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord.
Holy, holy, holy,
Holy, holy, holy
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord.
You see mercy and grace have won. I have accepted that Good Friday was for me. The day
when Jesus was whipped and beaten, spat upon and nailed to a cross of wood was the day my debt was paid. And I have embraced that and that was enough. Ok folks. Court is adjourned.
You may leave the courtroom.
Mercy and grace is available to all of us but we have to receive it, embrace it. It’s like any gift,
you have to reach out and take it, then unwrap it to get the full benefit of it. But this gift is way
better than Auntie Mable’s homemade Christmas jumper! Mercy and grace fit us perfectly. They wrap around us so snuggly and they last a lifetime. In fact they ensure our eternity with Jesus.
Most of us have grasped hold of this amazing gift with both hands. Can I just encourage you: on those days when everything goes wrong, when you feel you’re at your wits end, when it looks pretty dark out there and your duvet offers you the only comfort, in the words from the Sound of Music, when the dog bites, when the bee stings, when you’re feeling sad, those days where you can’t find anything to be grateful for, here are two things you can say thank you for every day.
Mercy and grace.
If you haven’t grasped hold of this gift I would ask you to consider this. It is written: ‘For this is
how much God loved the world—he gave his one and only, unique Son as a gift. So now
everyone who believes in him will never perish but experience everlasting life’. Maybe ‘the
world’ sounds a bit corporate. A bit big, impersonal. So I’ll break it down a bit. For this is how
God loved the guy in the petrol station, the kid next door who is really loud and keeps kicking his ball into your garden, the girl on the supermarket checkout, the waitress in the cafe, the nurse and doctor on the front line, the office cleaner, the person dying alone in their hospital bed, the homeless person begging on the street, the single parent so worried about paying their bills and feeding their children, that top London executive with money to burn, the footballer, the actor, the person in prison for murder, theft, drug running, the guy peddaling drugs in that alley, the child that’s abused, the person abusing that child. God loved the world. No exceptions. Every person – including you. Now let’s bring it up close and personal. I’m going to read it again and when I get to ‘the world’ I’m going to pause and ask you to put your name in the gap. ‘For this is how much God loved ……………….—he gave his one and only, unique Son as a gift.’ Please consider this gift of Jesus, of mercy and grace. Think back to the courtroom. What stood out for you and why? Look up the biblical meaning of mercy and grace. They are an underserved gift offered to us from a Father who loves us unconditionally, accepts us as we are and welcomes us into His family.