This past Sunday was Palm Sunday, the Christian holiday that ushers in Holy Week. It celebrates the “triumphal entry” of Jesus into Jerusalem (Mk 11:1-11). Seen with the insight of hindsight, though, this is one of the oddest “triumphal entries” one could imagine. It is the triumphal kick-off for what will be the death of the Son of God.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about the common “courtroom” analogy for the Gospel. You’ve surely heard it: You are standing before a judge. You are guilty. The punishment is death. It is a right and just penalty for your crimes. But then Jesus comes in and freely offers to take your punishment for you on your behalf so you can be set free. Will you accept this gracious offer?
Many an atheist has pointed out the logical flaws in this analogy, but I think there are even bigger issues I have with it. Really, it only works if the parties involved in this switch are seen as equals. A pure man for a guilty man — seems like an even trade, right? But how then does the death of this one man absolve the sins of a multitude? How is this even just?