The Justice of Easter

colson2I would venture to guess that justice is not a word that comes quickly to mind when you think about Easter. Maybe my years studying law, fighting for criminal justice reform, and ministering to prisoners have given me a different perspective. You see, I can’t help but think of justice on Easter Sunday, because for the last almost thirty years, I have spent Easter behind bars worshiping the risen Christ with prisoners. Yesterday and Saturday, Mark Earley and I preached in two prisons in Florida. And it is there, in a prison yard, where I see so vividly the contrast between man’s justice and the justice of God. Prisoners, of all people, know that they are paying a price for their crimes—the price of confinement, isolation, soul-crushing boredom, and yes, even fear. Yet they know that their time in prison does not atone for their crimes. They know that their imprisonment alone does not make things right. But the men Mark Earley and I worshiped with this weekend in Florida do know what God’s justice is all about. It’s about the Son of God who mounted the cross and paid the debt of justice in our place. As Christ goes to the cross, He fulfills the words of the prophet Isaiah. He is “pierced for our transgressions” and “crushed for our iniquities.” In His death, “the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him” (53:5). What do these ancient words mean? Justice has been crying out since the first law-breaking bite of forbidden fruit. Can’t you imagine the cry for justice that rose up when Abel’s innocent blood was spilled in the first recorded act of violence? But it did not stop there; the injustice only intensified. From the Egyptians enslaving the Israelites, to the death of an innocent man named Uriah, justice howls for the omnipotent God to set things straight. But not only do we cry out for justice, God also demands justice. Looking at His creatures, He sees a people who are created to worship Him, and yet they defile His image at every turn. He speaks His list of grievances again and again through the prophets. The earth and heavens above groan for justice. On the cross, Jesus Christ pays for all of those who turn to Him in faith. His death is a satisfaction for all of the injustices that people have committed or will commit. When Christ is raised from the dead on Easter Sunday, we see that there is hope of restoration for all perpetrators of injustice. That is something, by the way, that men and women in prisons fully appreciate. The good news though is that the risen Christ is risen hope for all who demand justice and for all whose crimes demand payment. Imagine every prayer that has risen to God for justice from the time of Abel to the atrocities we hear about today in Darfur. Imagine every prayer of true repentance that has also wafted to the throne of grace: from King David, from the prisoner in his cell—or from the man or woman listening on a car radio. Easter is good news indeed for all who look to Christ. Not only do we celebrate the mercy of God, we also celebrate justice satisfied—which is why the psalmist says that in our salvation righteousness and peace kiss each other (Psalm 85:10).  
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For Further Reading and Information
Easter Sunday Behind Bars,” Prison Fellowship, 8 April 2007. BreakPoint Commentary No. 070406, “Echoes of Good Friday: Sacrificial Love.” BreakPoint Commentary No. 060420, “Easter behind Bars: The Transforming Power of Christ.” BreakPoint Commentary No. 030418, “Storming the Gates of Hell: A Lesson from the Prisons.” BreakPoint Commentary No. 020506, “By God’s Grace: Easter at Angola.” Mark L. Earley, “Easter behind Bars: The Transforming Power of Christ,” Prison Fellowship. (This page includes audio and video.) Regis Nicoll, “He Is Risen!: Evidence beyond Reasonable Doubt,” BreakPoint Online, 30 March 2007. Purchase Chuck Colson’s 2002 Easter in Angola message on CD, “Jesus the Prisoner.” Charles Colson and Ellen Vaughn, Being the Body (W Publishing, 2003).


Chuck Colson


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