Photo courtesy of this website.
A dear friend of mine had two press tickets to the musical Camelot, and so these two college gals enjoyed a night of culture (don’t worry, it was followed up by a good dose of Waffle House afterwards). I know, I have generous friends in high places.
And unlikely of unlikely things, sitting in a dark theater watching people in flowing medieval costumes, I found the Gospel.
In this story, there is a kind and somewhat unsure-of-himself but wise king, King Arthur. He hates the current system of handling disputes among nights and kingdoms, which is sheer violence. So he creates a system of justice, of trial by jury, etc. etc. It is his great life’s work.
Anyway, he’s married to this beautiful lady named Guinevere. And they’re quite in love. Well, until the knight Lancelot comes into the picture. One thing leads to another, Guinevere strays, and the two are caught in an illegal embrace and Guinevere is charged with high treason. She appears at the court her husband has designed, and she is sentenced to death by burning at the stake.
And so ensues a tragic scene at the court. The stage is strangely and darkly lit, and Arthur is shown in agony. He loves his wife, but he is a just man. Caught between love and law, what is he to do? Does he save the lady he loves and so neglect the system of justice he has worked so hard to build? Or does he sentence her to death and betray his own heart?
There’s no good way for the writers to get out of this one; and in my mind, the story ends quite unsatisfactorily. But it got me to thinking: isn’t the Gospel a result of the same dilemma?
So there is this God, who creates everything. He makes for himself a people and he delights in them, loves them, cares for them.
And they are unfaithful. They stray. They find their delight (though it cannot be as deep), in other things. Money. Possessions. Success. Praise. Sex. Anything but God. They “exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever”. (Romans 1:25).
And they have transgressed of their own free will and the law that this good God created is clear: they stand condemned. And the Romans road leads you true- the wages of sin is death. And the judgment is serious, and it is true, and it is right. It is death, and wrath, and fury. He is just and his righteousness shall not be mocked by the deeds of man.
All this, yes all this, is in the character of God. He is ultimately good and not one deviation from perfection will he accept.
But I read in my Bible that he is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Psalm 103:8). I read in my Bible “I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God, so turn, and live.” (Ezekiel 18:32). I read in my Bible that God, yes, holiest God, says of his people that he has been “broken over their whoring heart that has departed from me and over their eyes that go whoring after their idols.” (Ezekiel 6:9). And I read and you read that God so loved the world and that the steadfast love of the Lord endures forever and we know, O church, that his love for us is like that of a husband for his bride.
And here you stand in the courtroom. The judge is your husband, and you have transgressed. And because he is just, he will uphold the law.
And you stand in the judgment seat and nothing looks good for you—you strayed, you were unfaithful, of your own free will. And you stand condemned. Death and wrath await people such as you.
There’s no way to write yourself out of this one.
But lo, a strange turn of events. The judge steps out of his seat and walks toward you. Towards the judgment seat. And gently, gently, he edges you out. You are still disheveled, broken from the faithlessness that got you here in the first place. And you step out of the seat of judgment and he steps in. And the trial proceeds. A sentence is passed. It is your sentence, for your unfaithfulness, your sins. But it is not laid upon you. It is laid upon the one in the judgment seat. The one against whom you transgressed.
And he is led to death and you are left to life.
This man, the judge, the creator, the lover, is brutally slayed. He lies stone-cold in the place of the dead and the reality of all that you strayed from pierces you as a sword through the heart. And the weight of sin and love weighs upon you, and you weep.
And here the story would end, in love and law satisfied, but in love broken by death.
And here it seems to me how the resurrection is so wonderful. Author God will not leave the story in death, for he himself is life eternal, spirit unending.
And so, as you weep by the grave, over the body of one whose love you still cannot fathom, you see a shadow of movement. And the scars which once bound this God-man to lifelessness bind him no more, and he stands, and he is alive. And because your life is now bound up in his, so are you.
For in this transaction, you died with him to your sin, to your faithlessness, and you were raised to walk in newness of life with Christ Jesus. Oh glorious day, this divine man went to the cross and rose from the dead and proved that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
And God in his infinite wisdom, when caught between love and law, has satisfied both. Oh follow him! Oh, weak that you are, love him back! Let him catch you up in his life and free you from your sins. This most holy God is just indeed, and he is the lover of your soul! Respond to him. Follow him. Love him.