“For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.”
–Matthew 25:42-43 (NLT)
Brandon Jones’ palms were sweaty as he entered the courtroom, and his heart began to thud wildly. He knew he was guilty, and he had no doubt that the jury would come to the same conclusion.
His partner in crime, however, was having the opposite reaction. The two had worked together, but while Brandon was anxious, the trial only seemed to harden his partner.
Brandon’s musings were interrupted by the bailiff’s booming monotone voice. “All rise. Department 1 of the superior court is now in session, with the honorable judge Norman Novak presiding. Please be seated.”
The tension in the courtroom grew as the judge scowled over thick glasses. Lost in his thoughts again, Brandon continued to analyze his case until, like the sound of thunder, the judge’s gavel banged down.
Judge Novak began in a solemn voice. “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Calling to order the case of The People vs. Arthur Frederick Bernard Fisher and Brandon David Jones. Are both sides ready?”
the district attorney and the public defender both answered in the affirmative with grave faces. The judge asked, “Will the court please swear in the jury?”
Clearing his throat, the clerk said in a gravelly tone, “Will the jury please stand and raise their right hands?” They did, and after the oath had been said, they were seated.
Brandon leaned forward in anticipation. It was time for each attorney to present their evidence against him. and his partner.
The trial dragged on for hours, and Brandon’s head swam more violently with each opposing witness. He thought about how nice it would be to crawl under a rock. Spurred on by terror, his imagination manufactured the worst of the worst-case scenarios. But suddenly, the loud bang of the gavel brought him back to reality, and he sat up with a start.
Fixing his eyes on the jury, the judge cocked his head and cleared his throat importantly. He stated in a matter-of-fact tone, “You have heard the testimonies of the defendants and several witnesses. It is up to you to decide whether they were telling the truth or not. We will adjourn until 10 o’clock tomorrow morning.”
The next day everyone filed in, and both defendants were brought into the courtroom in chains. Once everyone was seated, the judge commenced.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, what is your verdict?”
“This court finds both Mr. Jones and Mr. Fisher guilty of felony in the first degree against the state of Rome. Therefore, at dawn tomorrow they will both be led in chains to the execution site out of town. Here, this court deems that they will undergo death by crucifixion.”
Brandon Jones couldn’t get the sentence of the court out of his mind. He knew that he would die tomorrow, and he was unable to sleep. So, wondering what his roommate thought about their predicament, he called out.
“Arthur, what should we do? Isn’t God our only hope?”
“Be quiet!” Mr. Fisher’s gruff voice yawned from the other bunk. “If there is a God, He can show me that He exists. Now leave me alone. I’m trying to sleep.”
Then there was silence.
After tossing and turning for a long time, Brandon somehow managed to close his eyes. But he still couldn’t get away from the thoughts that haunted him, and he slipped into a nightmare about another day in court.
Brandon found himself sitting there like a statue, growing more and more petrified by fear as God judged each case. It was quite unsetteling, and Brandon’s stomach churned as he waited. As everything which people had tried to hide was brought into the light, though, Mr. Jones began to wonder. “Is the God I was told about when I was young really able to see the true thoughts and motives of my heart?”
Brandon now reflected on each person in the room more attentively, and during a recess he pondered the accumulated facts. “I admit they are given a fair hearing, and by their own choice they have been removed from God’s presence.”
Soon Brandon had a hard time hearing because of all the loud weeping and wailing, but then his former partner Arthur was finally called to the witness stand. Mr. Jones felt guilty, but he turned his eyes away. The knowledge that he’d be next filled him with fear, and he never heard the pronouncement of Arthur’s sentence.
Then, sure enough, it was Brandon’s turn. He was dragged up to the front, and when he tried to stand before the holy God, his legs began to tremble and buckle. Horrified and speechless, Brandon finally stood before the golden throne encircled by fire, where the Creator of the world was seated. Quaking before Him, the former criminal fell on his face at God’s feet.
When Brandon was lifted up, he heard a deep voice call out, “And now, the case of Jones vs. the God of the universe. Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?”
Once Brandon had weakly answered yes, God began. “How do you plead?”
“Guilty, your honor,” the accused man replied. “I throw myself on the mercy of the court.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Jones. While it is true that my mercies are new every morning, even I have my limits. I have looked over your records, and I admit that you have done some seemingly impressive things.
“I want to be fair, but these good deeds were only done to benefit you. That will be clear for everyone in the courtroom to see, once my chief angel puts the next documents up on the screen. Your wicked life is now revealed, and my file shows that you have been involved in criminal activities. Therefore, everything you did for pure show doesn’t count. The real question before us is: What have you done with my Son?”
“Your Son?” Mr. Jones stammered.
God answered, “Yes, you know Him–Jesus Christ. Am I right that you have rejected Him?”
Brandon swallowed hard. “Yes, your honor, but…”
“Just answer the questions,” God stated sternly. “Your wife tried to tell you about Him, but you chose to go your own way. You pretended to believe in Me when it suited you and your personal motives, but all of your righteousness is as filthy rags.
“Unless you turn to My one and only Son during the final few hours you have left, I will have to pronounce you guilty. In that case, bail is not an option. I am also sad to say that those who reject Me will be eternally separated from Me.”
By now, Brandon’s tears were tumbling down like rain from a bleak sky. Through the storm of regret and fear, Brandon heard the finality of the gavel’s bang. In terror, he looked back over his life. He thought about his mother, who tried to tell him about Jesus. But he wouldn’t listen, and he even made fun of her. He did seem to remember hearing something about God being both loving and merciful, though, and he wondered if that was true.
Brandon suddenly awoke, trembling and sweating. He tried to tell his dream and all his self-reflections to Mr. Fisher, who had been sentenced with him, but Arthur began to laugh and curse.
“What did you expect from the judge? You knew death was coming,” he snarled. “And don’t talk to me about God.” Coming as close as the chains would allow, he spat out, “I once asked God to show me if what the Bible said about Him was true, and all I got was silence. So I don’t believe in Him, and I really don’t care what happens. But if fables make you happy, go right ahead and knock yourself out. We don’t have much time left to argue, anyway.”
Shaking his head, he turned away and mocked, “Listen to the preacher here! If there is a God, He won’t ever forgive the likes of me. It seems awfully convenient to turn to Him right now, if you ask me. Why should I waste the time I have left on silly superstitions?”
Ignoring his partner, Brandon Cried out to God, “If I only had another chance, I would turn to You. I have done so many wrongs, and I know it. I can only hope that Your judgements really are tempered with love.”
The next day, the guard unlocked the cell door and cruelly led the prisoners to the top of the mountain. By the time they had reached it, both men had been beaten severely, and they were crying out in pain. But while Jesus Christ was also in great pain, He looked up to heaven and said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Then suddenly, it dawned on Brandon, and he remembered where he saw Jesus. A large crowd had once gathered to hear Him teach on the shore of the sea of Galilee. Mr. Jones didn’t hear much of what the young minister had said, though. He had been busy picking pockets. But he did get a free lunch out of it. The thief couldn’t help wondering how this ordinary man had fed all those people.
Then he had heard rumors that Jesus thought He was God. His partner Arthur just scoffed, but Brandon had wondered about Christ from that day on. He poked around and found out that Jesus even claimed to have a kingdom of His own.
Now Arthur was saying through clenched teeth, “That Jesus guy hanging between us is such a loser!”
But Brandon retorted, “Don’t you even fear God? We are here justly, but this man is not.”
Turning his head, he gasped, “Jesus, remember me in Your kingdom.”
Jesus forced a weak smile. “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
The thief who came to trust Christ died, and immediately he heard the sound of trumpets and celebration. Men in white clothing greeted him, slapping him on the back.
“We are your fellow servants. Rejoice, Brandon Jones, for you have turned to the one true God!”
While we may not be aware of angels, all of us need to be attuned to God’s voice, for He speaks very clearly today. So if you are like the criminal in the story and you don’t know Him, this same Jesus is pleading with you through the pages of His Word.
It doesn’t matter what you may have done. He invites you to come to Him if you labor under the weight of sin, or you are laden down with the world’s cares. Open your heart to Him today. Tell Christ that you have sinned, and ask Him for forgiveness.
In that same scripture passage, however, Jesus speaks just as clearly to the Christian. He invites all of us who know Him to come to Him with our whole hearts. Do this on a moment-by-moment basis, and lay all your cares and burdens before Him.
While the Christian is not guilty before God because of what Jesus has done, the sad truth is that there are many ways we can tune out God’s voice. Therefore, I’d like to discuss one of the most prevalent distractions.
Many people walk around under a cloud of condemnation. Whether it was a mistake in the past, or taking the blame for something that may not have been entirely your fault, the disciple is admonished to forget the things that are behind them. The next step is to move forward with persistence, and reach out toward the high calling in Christ.
But if God seems silent to you, let me suggest one reason that this may be the case. The Bible says that Satan is our accuser, and when we listen to the doubts and fears which are contrary to God’s Word, we are both listening to the enemy, and squelching the Lord’s voice. For further dirrection, then, make sure you are tuned into the right signal with your whole heart, and then listen for the next step. In order to hear what God has to say, we must agree with Him in prayer that His ways are right, and ask Him for help in taking the next step.
Christians need to come to Jesus in a new way each day. It is not enough to come to Him on a one-time basis, for we tend to get laden down with the burdens of this life very easily and often. Therefore, I pray that you will come to know Him soon if you haven’t already, and then approach the son of God each day, so that you can hear His loving instructions.
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