A Better And Wiser Judge
Horace Gray was a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. During one of his cases, a criminal was about to be released, not because he was innocent, but because of a technicality. As Gray prepared to release the man, he said this to the man:
I know that you are guilty and you know it. And I want you to remember that one day you will stand before a better and wiser judge, and that there you will be dealt with according to justice and not according to law.
The Guilty Among the Innocent
Prussian king Frederick the Great was once touring a Berlin prison. The prisoners fell on their knees before him to proclaim their innocence—except for one man, who remained silent. Frederick called to him, “Why are you here?”
“Armed robbery, Your Majesty,” was the reply.
“And are you guilty?”
“Yes indeed, Your Majesty, I deserve my punishment.”
Frederick then summoned the jailer and ordered him, “Release this guilty wretch at once. I will not have him kept in this prison where he will corrupt all the fine innocent people who occupy it.”
Today in the Word, December 4, 1992.
The Quasimodo Complex
Two decades after I worked with the airmen, I read a fascinating article, “The Quasimodo Complex,” in the British Journal of Plastic Surgery, Two physicians reported in 1967 on a landmark study of eleven thousand prison inmates who had committed murder, prostitution, rape, and other serious crimes. Medicine has long known that emotional conflict may produce physical illness. These doctors raised the possibility of the reverse syndrome. Physical deformity may lead to emotional distress that results in crime, according to the article, 20 percent of adults have surgically correctable facial deformities (protruding ears, misshapen noses, receding chins, acne scars, birthmarks, eye deformities). The researchers found that fully 60 percent of the eleven thousand offenders had such deformities.
The authors, who named the phenomenon after Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre Dame, raised disturbing questions. Had these criminals encountered rejection and bullying from school classmates because of their deformities? And could the cruelty of other children have bred in them a response of revenge hostility that later led to criminal acts?
Authors proposed a program of corrective plastic surgery for prison inmates. If society rejects some members because of physical appearance, they reasoned, perhaps altering that appearance will change how they are treated and thus how they behave. Whether a murderer on death row or a pilot in the RAF, a person forms a self-image based largely on what kind of image other people mirror back.
The report on Quasimodo prisoners reduces to statistics a truth that every burn victim and disabled person knows all too well. We humans give inordinate regard to the physical body, or shell, that we inhabit.
Taken from Fearfully and Wonderfully: The Marvel of Bearing God’s name: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry by Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey Copyright (c) 2019 by Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com
What I have Written, I have Written
Custom required posting a sign called a titulus cruces above the crucified person’s head, listing his crimes. Pilate dictated the Lord’s inscription as, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (Jn 19:19). Disturbed by this identification, the chief priests confronted Pilate again. “Don’t call him king of the Jews,” they argued. “Say that he claimed to be king of the Jews.” Pilate refused. “What I have written, I have written,” he answered (Jn 9:22).
Early Christians also turned their eyes toward the Savior’s titulus. But in a twist of meaning, they honored its inscription. By the early Middle Ages believers easily recognized the initials INRI as an abbreviation for lesvs Nazarenvs Rex Ivdaeorvm. Or “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” in Latin. Eventually the inscription—and then the abbreviation—appeared in Western sculpture and paintings of the crucifixion.