Many of those whose bodies lie dead and buried will rise up, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting disgrace. Daniel 12:2 (NLT)

On a lonely hill just outside of town stand three crosses. As the sky grew dark a crowd gathered. Some gathered in disgust. The Roman form of execution was too painful, too degrading, to harsh.

Others gathered in mockery. They threw profanity at the trio. It was about time they got what they deserved. The world would be a better place if more criminals were treated this way. Great deterrent, that death penalty.

Some gathered in curiosity-A sort of Bible time gawkers. They had no opinion either way on crucifixion or the trio hanging naked as the darkness descended.

A few gathered in somber silence. Right or wrong, good or bad, these were their friends, their siblings, their children. The crowd gathered at the middle cross seemed somewhat larger, more emotional. In fact, it seems the form hanging in the middle was drawing most of the attention that day. Rumor has it that he was completely innocent of the trumped up charges the Jews leveled against him.

One of the trio began to mock this counterpart in the middle. Even in his dying moments he remained arrogant, loud and angry. Ignoring his own guilt he yelled obscenities at this stranger in the middle.

The other person hung silent for a moment. Watching. Listening. Replaying the episodes of his life that brought him to this point. Finally, he spoke. “Jesus, have mercy on me.” The figure in the middle raised his head and looked with compassion at him. Painstakingly he spoke, “Today you will be with me…” and grace was born.

How could a God of love allow Jesus, the man in the middle to die such a horrific death for crimes he didn’t commit? Rewind the story a few thousand years. A man and woman listen to the deceptive words of Satan. Their decision to disobey God destroyed the balance of divine nature as well as a relationship with the Creator God.

Hell was never created for men and women. Hell was never created for innocent children of abuse, catastrophe or illness. Hell was created as the home for Satan and all his demonic followers. But the sin of Adam and Eve made it impossible for mankind to enter heaven. A sacrifice had to be made and that sacrifice was made complete when Jesus died and rose again.

Our Heavenly Father has no choice when it comes to dealing with sin. He can’t, by his own nature overlook anything that isn’t perfect. God is fair and just. Grace is neither.

What can be fair about a prisoner going to heaven because his last words were begging forgiveness? What can be fair about someone struggling with addictions and constantly receiving forgiveness for the same sin, over and over again? Nothing. It’s not fair. But it wasn’t fair that Jesus died for me either. There was nothing I could do to deserve forgiveness, yet he forgave me anyway. That’s grace.

God would give everything he has to keep you from living eternity in the shame and disgrace of hell. In fact, he already did that day on the cross.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father I thank and praise you for the reminder that I am completely and freely forgiven of my sin because of Jesus. I deserve nothing that you’ve given me and yet you did it all so lovingly. Empower me to live for you and to show others the way to life in eternity with you. In Jesus name, Amen.

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