It was my lucky turn. I had the small, blue postcard in my hand as I stood under my umbrella along Ward Street. A large sign saying “Jury Duty” with an arrow pointing towards the old stone building let me know I was in the right place. I made my way through the metal detector and down the hall to the waiting room. The rain made the day feel a bit dreary. The people inside the room quietly sat down at the socially-distant seats spaced out throughout the room.
Jury duty (albeit a bit of a chore) signifies something wonderfully important: the right of all citizens of this country to a trial by a jury of their peers. Not every person in this world gets that. A lot of people in this world do NOT get that. I found myself thankful for the small reminder of the rights I daily take for granted.
Just that morning, I read about Jesus’ trial in Matthew 26. It was the farthest thing from a fair trial. And at the end of it, his accusers punched him and spat in his face. My heart aches when I imagine what that must have been like.
The judge in charge of the case came into the room. She thanked us for being there and explained the approximate schedule for the upcoming case. She proceeded to tell the room of pensive prospective jurors that if anyone had an undue hardship, they could go to the 3rd floor. There, the judge would either dismiss them from service, or ask them to rejoin all the other randomly-citizens serving their county.
I wasn’t sure if my upcoming trip to see my parents would qualify as “undue hardship,” but I decided to at least give it a try.
I filled out the paperwork, stating that I was planning to be in Texas next week. Then, I waited outside of that 3rd-floor courtroom’s doors, wondering what my future held. Would I have to cancel my plane tickets and hotel reservation? Would I have to go another who-knows-how-many-months before seeing my parents?
In that moment, I felt Jesus asking me to trust him—to remember that he’s the one in control. So, I prayed little prayers in my journal, and my soul settled, knowing that no matter what the judge would decide, it would be ok. Moments later, the bailiff came out and called the names of the people who needed to stay. My name was not called.
Just like that, the weight of what might happen in my future was lifted off my shoulders. What was unknown moments before, now became crystal clear. Just like that, I was released.
As I made my way to my car through the rain, I thought about Jesus and the way he stayed. He was not released.
He stayed in that unjust courtroom… he stayed in front of that biased judge… he stayed on the cross… He stayed, so that we might be released.
We were the ones who should be held captive by the guilt of the bad choices we make and by the hateful things in our hearts. We are the ones who should not be released. But out of his great love for us, he willingly took our place. He stayed, so that we might be freed.
And just like my release from jury duty that day lifted a weight of uncertainty off of my shoulders, the release that Jesus gives us from our guilt removes uncertainty, too. We can easily get caught up in the worries of this world and what will happen after this life. Jesus stayed in an unjust courtroom so that all of our uncertainty about the future or about what might happen might become a certainty. It is a certainty of hope, of life, and of victory. He stayed so that the weight that we once carried would be instantly removed—and for more than just an afternoon or for a month, but for an eternity.
We don’t have to worry about what comes next. We don’t have to wonder about what happens after we die. For those who believe in him, for those who call on his name, he gives the right to become children of God (see John 1:12). And God’s children are FREE, because he stayed.
“By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.”
Romans 5:1-2 from The Message