Friday, October 27, 2006

Your Day in Court

The atmosphere was tense. There is always a strange mixture of excitement and uneasiness among those who witness an electric-chair execution. The only one who seemed to be full of unmixed joy—actually it was more like sadistic exultation—was the executioner himself, a Mr. B.L.Z. Bub. Mr. Bub was a bent, lumpy sort of fellow with vacant eyes and unusually long incisors. The joke around the jailhouse was that he also had a pointed tail which he tucked into his trousers, but no one would ever admit to actually having seen it. Anyway, his hand was on the lever, just about ready to yank it down and send the lethal shock into Mr. Mann, the poor slouch who was fidgeting in the chair and apparently talking to himself.

At that moment, the Counsel for the Defense entered the room, politely but decisively brushing past the security guards, walking with a quick yet purposeful and measured step. "Wait!" he cried, "Don't throw the switch! His case is not over yet!" Mr. Bub sneered his best sneer and growled, "You're not going to win this one, Mr. Counsel for the Defense!" With that he pulled the lever and instantly electrocuted Mr. Mann.

The onlookers gasped but the Counsel for the Defense, Mr. L.J. Christ, remained calm. He walked over to Mr. Mann's slumped body, looked upward briefly, and then touched him. To the utter amazement of all, Mr. Mann returned to life. "There will be a retrial," declared Mr. Christ. Mr. Bub's face went ashen and he wet his pants. But he regained a measure of composure as he thought to himself, "It's not lost yet. We still have the best prosecutor in the world!"

Soon came the day of the new trial. With an air of arrogant confidence, the prosecutor strode in. His name was Mr. Infernos Diablo (nicknamed “The Adversary,” because he was so darn mean and contrary). As usual, he was "dressed to kill," and he was accompanied by two of his most proficient assistant-attorneys, Mr. Principality and Mr. Power. He was leafing through his large dossier on Mr. Mann, chortling with satisfaction over all the evidence he had amassed against him.

Then the Judge appeared. Mr. Diablo looked up from his papers. His smirk changed to a grimace and he emitted a small groan which was heard only by his colleagues. He didn't like this Judge, because he was too lenient towards the accused (at least in Mr. Diablo's estimation). In fact, this Judge was so compassionate that he had earned the nickname, "The Father." "Well, it doesn't matter," muttered the prosecutor, "I have so much evidence against that imbecile in the defendant's chair that there's no way he can be acquitted."

So the trial began. Present were the Judge, Mr. Christ, Mr. Mann, Mr. Diablo, Mr. Principality and Mr. Power, and numerous curious onlookers—more than curious actually, for somehow they sensed that they had a vested interest in this case. The court stenographer was a young woman, Miss Theotokos. People would often comment that Mr. Christ bore a striking resemblance to Miss Theotokos, and wondered if the two were related. She was also a favorite of "The Father," who knew that she always let things be done according to his word.

The prosecutor carried the contents of his bulging briefcase to the stand. He began methodically to read off a list of Mr. Mann's crimes, beginning from when he was but a child. All in the courtroom marveled at how Mr. Diablo could have had access to all that information, and at his thorough documentation, though they were a bit uncomfortable with his vicious, accusatory style.

"Objection!" Mr. Christ interrupted the litany of woes. "A number of these crimes were committed in ignorance or without full knowledge or consent." Mr. Diablo shot back with, "Ignorance is bliss, but it doesn't stand up in court!" Both looked to the Judge. "Objection sustained," he firmly stated. In a bit of a huff, the prosecutor returned to grilling poor Mr. Mann, who was by now reduced to a quivering mass of fearful jelly, though he was somewhat relieved by the Judge's ruling. At length, the prosecutor finished, saying with satisfaction, "I rest my case." The Judge asked reflectively, "Do you ever rest, Mr. Diablo?" "Not until my work is done," he replied with a phony smile (the Judge knew it was phony, because he could see the hatred in Diablo's eyes).

Now it was time for the cross-examination. Mr. Christ came up to the stand and mercifully sized up his client, who at this point looked like he could use a miracle. "Are you sorry for your crimes?" he gently inquired. "Yes, sir," the trembling man responded. "Good," acknowledged the Counsel for the Defense. "Now, are you going to change your life?" "You bet!" Mr. Mann replied, showing some signs of hope for the first time. "One more question," said Mr. Christ. "Do you believe that God forgives your sins?"

"Objection!" shouted Mr. Diablo, rising from his chair, suddenly sweating. But before he could say anything else, the Judge said, "Overruled!" Mr. Christ repeated his question and Mr. Mann cried, "Amen!—I mean, yes, I believe!" "Thank you, Mr. Mann," said Mr. Christ with a smile. Then to the Judge: "Now I rest my case."

"Stupid," thought Mr. Diablo, recovering his irrational arrogance. "He doesn't know anything about law or justice. This case is still mine."

"Before I make my judgment," said the Judge, "I would like to review the evidence which the prosecution has provided. Mr. Diablo, may I see your dossier?" Mr. Diablo's enthusiasm was returning. "Hmm," he thought, "maybe the old man is going to come around after all." He strutted up to the bench and presented the evidence, forgetting for the time being why this judge was so often called "The Father."

The Judge turned to the stenographer. "Miss Theotokos, do you have with you the special "Cross-examiner" I like to use when reviewing such cases?" "Always, Father—I mean, Your Honor," she sweetly replied. As she said this she handed him a large, cross-shaped eraser. The Judge went down the list, erasing every crime, one by one (this is sometimes referred to as "Crossing off"). As the prosecutor witnessed this, he began to get hot under the collar (come to think of it, he's always hot under the collar!).

"There!" the Judge said at last, dumping the ream into the trash basket. "Mr. Diablo, your evidence is worthless. I hereby acquit Mr. Mann of all charges, on the basis of the work that Mr. Christ has done on his behalf." "You can't do that!" shrieked Mr. Diablo, having lost every shred of composure. "It is finished," declared Mr. Christ.

Still not willing to admit defeat, Mr. Diablo held a quick conference with his crafty colleagues, Mr. Principality and Mr. Power. "We can accuse Mann of having lied in his testimony. Then he can't be acquitted—even the Judge knows that!" said Principality. "Or we can find some technicality to show that the Counsel for the Defense was not acting in accordance with the law!" added Power.

So all together they descended upon Mr. Mann, who was still on the stand. But when they looked at him, ready to begin their interrogation, all they saw was the face of Mr. Christ! "Can any of you convict me of sin?" he calmly asked. As he said this, the courtroom was filled with a marvelous and indescribable light, as a shimmering dove appeared and rested upon him. All in the courtroom then knew the truth, and they knew Mr. Mann would be set free.

At that point, Mr. Diablo and his henchmen realized it was over; they had lost, and lost big. They stormed out of the courthouse, humiliated, elbowing their way through the snickering onlookers. All that could be heard from Mr. Diablo was some muttering about a travesty of justice...

Meanwhile Mr. Mann was rejoicing and could not contain his gratitude. "The Father" and Mr. Christ and Miss Theotokos congratulated him. The Judge did give him a gentle admonishment, however: "Your faith has saved you. I do not condemn you. Go in peace and sin no more." "We'll be available whenever you need us," added Mr. Christ. "Just ask for 'The Father'—in my name."

This story was told once before, though much more concisely: "And you, who were dead in sins...God made alive together with Christ, having forgiven us all our trespasses, wiping out the handwriting of the testimony against us; this He has taken out of the way, nailing it to the Cross. He disarmed the principalities and powers and exposed them publicly, triumphing over them in Christ" (Col. 2: 13-15).