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“Mercy Resting Upon Wrath!” John 8: 12-20 Key verse(s): 16: “‘But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me.’”



The young man sat before the bench, head held low, hands hanging loosely at his side. His crime had been serious and parents, family and all who knew him had been shocked by what he had done. The jury had found him guilty on all charges and now all that remained to be done was for the judge to pass sentence. As the judge entered the courtroom and order was called, those present, including the young man, arose. As everyone returned to their seats, the young man heard the words that he had been dreading: “The defendant will rise and face the court.” The moment had come and he knew that his entire future now rested in the hands of the man he was now facing.


The judge repeated the charges and reiterated the finding of guilty by the jury on each charge. The young man winced as each charge and finding was repeated. “On the charge of aiding and abetting a criminal act involving the transportation of stolen goods, the defendant has been found guilty. On the charge of evading an officer, the defendant has been found guilty. On the charge of possession of a fireman, the defendant has been found guilty. On the charge of . . .” The charges, six in all, echoed throughout the young man’s mind. How would he ever be able to face his parents, his friends, and especially his girl friend again? Would the judge be lenient since he had never been in trouble before? Would he receive prison time and, if so, how much? What would prison be like? As the judge rattled on, the scene in the courtroom became surreal, almost like a bad dream. He lifted his face toward the bench as the judge finished his recitation “ . . . you have been found guilty” and paused.


The judge brought his eyes directly into focus on the defendant as he began his sentencing. “I hope that you know the seriousness of what you have done. James Rogers, you have affected the lives of your parents and everyone who loves you. The law is very specific in demonstrating how serious your offenses are. The penalties it calls for in these circumstances are not lenient. However, this is your first offense and I believe that you are sorry for what you have done. You have shown great remorse in the course of this trial. The character witnesses that were called in your defense spoke highly of you. I have spoken with your parents and have come to the conclusion that there will be no repeat of this behavior. Therefore, I sentence you to one year of probation and two hundred hours of community service.” With those words the young man suddenly felt a cooling sense of relief filter down from his head to his toes. His knees wobbled and he grabbed for his attorney’s coat sleeve feeling that in a moment he might collapse under the strain of the situation.


Following these comforting words, the judge’s merciful countenance slowly began to change. With a stern look toward the young man he added, “It is my job to protect society from those who seek to harm her. It is also my job to uphold the law and punish those who disobey that law.” He then asked the young man to approach the bench. James wondered if there would be additional punishment since the judge was deliberately writing something down on a piece of paper. He folded it and placed it within an envelope. “James, within this envelope are the penalties that I could have brought to bear on you today. I want you to go home and read them over with your parents. And, remember, even though it is my job to show mercy when I feel that it is warranted, if you disregard that mercy I will be forced to do exactly what is written on this sheet of paper. It is now your job to make sure that my mercy will never be transformed into anger.”


Mercy resting upon wrath. That’s what makes a judge powerful and makes the law effective. When a defendant knows that mercy scorned translates into wrath realized, it becomes a very effective deterrent to repeat offenses. Just as a good judge is always concerned first with mercy and then with wrath, so too our Savior, Jesus Christ, is first and foremost the merciful servant. His primary role is always a loving friend. In John 3:17 the Bible tells us that he did not come into this world to “condemn but to save.” Yet, if you and I do not submit to that mercy; if we scorn his loving offer to bear our sins for us, He is left with no alternative than to condemn us to the punishment that we deserved in the first place. Christ came into the world to bless, not to punish. Genesis 22 tells us that through Him all the world will be “blessed.” But, when that blessing is ignored and sin is embraced, the curse of the Law must be brought to bear upon those who disdain that love. The judgement of Christ will be harsh when there is no faithfulness on our part. If we reject the help and comfort of Christ, there is no alternative to paying the price. Hell is assured.

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