At the end of time, billions of people were scattered on a great plain before God’s throne. Some of the groups near the front talked heatedly – not with cringing shame before God’s throne, but with embittered belligerence.
“How can God judge us? How can He know about suffering?” snapped a brunette, jerking back a sleeve to reveal a tattooed number from a Nazi concentration camp. “We endured terror, beatings, torture, and death!”
In another group, a black man lowered his collar. “What about this?” he demanded, showing the rope burns. “Lynched for no crime but being black! We’ve suffocated in slave ships, been wrenched from loved ones, and toiled ‘til only death gave release.”
Hundreds of such groups were visible across the plain. Each had a complaint against God for the evil and suffering He permitted in His world. How lucky God was, they all seemed to agree, able to live in heaven where all is sweetness and light, without weeping, fear hunger or hatred. Indeed, what does God know about man? What does He know about being forced to endure the trials of life? After all, God leads pretty sheltered life.
So each group sent out a leader, chosen because he had suffered the most. There was a Jew, a black, an untouchable from India, a person who was illegitimate, a person from Hiroshima and others who had tasted life’s bitterest dregs. At last they were ready to present their case. It was rather simple: Before God would be qualified to be their judge; He must endure what they had endured.
Their decision was that God should be sentenced to live on earth as a man. But because He was God, they set certain safeguards to be sure He would not use His divine powers to help himself.
- Let Him be a Jew.
- Let the legitimacy of His birth be questioned.
- Let Him champion a cause so just, but so radical, it brings upon Him the hate, condemnation and destructive attacks of political and religious authorities.
- Let Him be indicted on false charges, tried before a prejudiced jury and convicted by a cowardly judge.
- Let Him see what it is to be terribly alone and completely abandoned by every living being.
- Let Him be tortured and … let Him die.
- And let His death be humiliating; let it take place beside common criminals, while He is jeered at, mocked, and spit on.
As each leader announced his portion of the sentence, loud murmurs of approval went up from the great throng of people. But suddenly, after the last one had finished pronouncing sentence, there was a long silence. No one uttered another word. No one moved. For suddenly, all recognized the stark reality; God had already served his sentence.