I this week visited Blackburn Courthouse which contains a number of very fine Victorian courtrooms where justice is dispensed to the various characters brought before the Bench. Court 1 is a large room filled with lots of lovely wooden seating with rich leather cushions and stained glass windows depicting royal and national symbols. Above the Bench where the magistrates sit is the Royal Coat of Arms, symbolising the Queen's authority, and above that is a stained glass window. The window cannot be seen by the magistrates, which is above and behind them, but is visible to everyone else in the court. It is a picture of Justice, depicted as a woman, angry and vengeful, and wielding a sword.
Defendants brought up the stairs from the cells into the dock must face the Bench as well as Madam Justice glaring down, imperiously, from above. She reminds them that, if guilty, they must expect the full penalty of the law. A crime has been committed, retribution must follow.
There is, however, another stained glass window in the court. Like the one described above, it is high up towards the ceiling and is of a woman. It cannot be seen by anyone in the room save the three magistrates who are hearing pleas and weighing up the evidence. She looks down on them. She too carries a sword, but it is firmly sheathed, and in her other hand she offers an olive branch. She is clothed in green, and carries the name of Mercy. She implores the magistrates to show compassion and understanding, to forgive and allow a second chance.
When I read of God in Scripture, He is entirely righteous and pure. So much so, that I cannot even enter His presence. My many sins condemn me, crying out to Him from the ground. The Great White Throne judgment in the Book of Revelation fills me with terror. And yet, while I behold God's dreadful office of Judge, He is looking beyond me. I see Justice's unsheathed sword, but He sees Christ upon the Cross. Jesus made propitiation for my crimes; He pleads 'Father, forgive him!'. I cannot see the Cross, nor Christ, but the Father can, and He intercedes for me in the heavenly court:
Because the sinless Saviour died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him, and pardon me.