Some years ago Harrison Ford had folks on the edge of their seats with the movie version of The Fugitive – spun off of the old TV series.
The doctor was falsely accused, convicted and sentenced to die for the murder of his wife. Of course, everyone knows that the one-armed man did it.
On the way to execution the doctor escapes. His time on the run, all the while seeking to prove his innocence, is the subject of the movie.
We are outraged when the clearly guilty go free. We are stunned when we hear of someone spending years in prison – even on death row – for a crime they did not commit. We are troubled by some justice system that requires parental consent for a girl to get her ears pierced, but denies her parents the right to even know that she is getting an abortion.
Solomon wrote in Proverbs: “He that justifieth (acquits) the wicked and he that condemneth the just, even they both are an abomination to the Lord.”
In an ironic way, this is what happens in the Lenten history of our Savior. The guilty – a criminal named Barabbas – is acquitted – gets off free as a bird. The innocent One – Jesus – is convicted and goes to the cross.
Barabbas is not the only one who gets off the hook. You and I – in fact, the whole human race – are justified – acquitted – declared not guilty because Another has taken our place beneath the heavy hand of divine justice. God uses a great miscarriage of justice to save us.
God did it this way, says St. Paul, to show that He is “just and the One who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”
On the cross, God was true to His perfect justice. He punished every sin by punishing Jesus in our place. On the cross, He also was true to His perfect love. He forgave every sin – justified us – precisely because His only Son took the rap for us. The door of the everlasting prison house swings open and we are free! We are not told what Barabbas did with his undeserved freedom and fresh start. But we have been given the same fresh start. What shall we do with it?