Whitney Johns: The Man in the Jacket & Jesus, Our Advocate

MTS - GreenLine
MTS - GreenLine

SpiritualitySan Diego, CA – Yesterday, I was off from work, so my husband and I took the trolley to downtown San Diego. We both own a car, and from where we live, it takes about fifteen minutes to get downtown by car. San Diego also has a pretty great public transit system, and you can take buses or trolleys to get just about anywhere. From where we live, it takes about forty-five minutes to get downtown by trolley.

Fifteen minutes by car. Forty-five minutes by trolley. We made the obvious decision and took the trolley.

MTS - GreenLine
MTS – GreenLine

Okay, in reality, it wasn’t the most practical decision. But the trolley is a special thing. Among the many reasons the trolley is special is this – it’s a people-watcher’s paradise.

A young Latina woman putting makeup on her eyebrows before work. A middle-aged black woman traveling to the airport, sharing her seat with her suitcases.

An old white man on his way home from the grocery store, recyclable grocery bags in tow. A teenager with headphones on his head.

A mom who is carrying so many bags, it’s clear she doesn’t have a permanent home. And the man in the jacket, hat pulled low over his forehead, slouched over, minding his own business until he gets to his destination.

We paid five dollars for our day passes, took our seats on the trolley, and rode for two stops until the transit security police came on board to check passes as the trolley continued on. They scanned the card of the woman doing her makeup, beep. They scanned the traveling woman’s card, beep. They scanned the card of the man with the groceries, beep. The teenager’s card, beep. The mom’s card, beep. One more person until they came to us. They scanned the card of the man in the jacket. No beep. They tried again. No beep.

This man had quite a few bags of belongings with him as well, which indicated that he might be homeless. When his card didn’t scan, the transit security men asked him for identification. He didn’t have any. Transit security told him he would have to exit the trolley at the next stop if he couldn’t produce a form of identification. He searched his pockets and came up with a medical card.

Security made a call on their phone to check the description of the name on the medical card. They needed to determine if the card was his. The man was quiet and submissive, but I could see the disappointment in his body language. At the next trolley stop, the man in the jacket said to the security men, “Do I get off here?” They nodded and exited the trolley with him.

The transit security men never did make it to my husband and I to check our cards. As the trolley started back up, I looked out the window at the man in the jacket, slumped over on the bench, still very compliant, as the two transit security men stood over him and continued with their protocol. I began to sob.

I don’t know the man’s story. Maybe he is homeless and needed to get downtown where there is always food to be handed out. Maybe he is sick and needed to get to an appointment downtown. Regardless, he didn’t pay for his trolley pass, and he didn’t have any form of identification. He clearly wasn’t having the greatest day.

I don’t know his story, but I know this: he didn’t have anyone to advocate for him.

There was no one to stand up and say, “He can have my day pass; I’ll get off!” (My husband and I didn’t think of this option until after the fact…) There was no one to say, “Here is his identification card. I have it in my wallet!”

There was no one to say, “His card must simply be worn and not scanning. I saw him pay before we got on!” The man in the jacket was clearly at fault for not paying to get on the tram, but there was no one to say, “He’s innocent. He’s done nothing wrong.” There was no one to look at him and say at the least, “I see you. I see your condition. I sympathize with you.” Who could be this man’s advocate? I looked out the window as the trolley rode away, and I sobbed as I thought, if only he had an advocate.

Maybe you’ve never hopped on a trolley without paying and been stopped by the police. However, I can guarantee that you have done something to make yourself guilty before a judge. Through the lens of the gospel, we find that God is perfect and without fault. He is good. There is no evil in him. He is holy.

If you take an honest and humble look deep into your heart, you will find that you are not perfect. Perhaps you will find pride, jealousy, anger, impatience, selfishness, or anything else making it’s home in your heart. This in itself makes us guilty before a holy and perfect God. He has created us in his image, to be like him, to show his glory to the world. When we display pride, jealousy, anger, impatience, selfishness, or anything of the like, we do not display God’s glory.

When we seek after things of the world to satisfy us, we essentially spit in the face of God and say that he is not enough. When we choose our own standards to live by, we say that we are smarter and know what is best for us. We say that we don’t need him. And this, friends, make us all – every single one of us – guilty before a judge. If you are a living and breathing human, you stand guilty before the throne of God. Just like the man in the jacket, I don’t know your story, but I know for sure that this news doesn’t make for the greatest day.

If only you had an advocate. If only there was someone to say, “I see you. I see your condition. I sympathize with you.” If only someone would stand up and say for you, “No, she didn’t pay for her trolley pass, but she can have my pass. I’ll get off!” If only someone would stand up and say for you, “Yes, he is guilty, but I’ll pay the punishment. Let him go free!” Or maybe, “He is innocent. He’s done nothing wrong.”

Friends, take heart. You have an advocate. You have someone to speak on your behalf. You have someone to clear your guilty stance. You have someone to pronounce you innocent. And this was no easy task.

There were only two options for the man in the jacket in his guilty state: either he would pay the fine for his trolley pass, or someone else would have to pay the fine for him.

Friends, there were only two options for you in your guilty state: either you would pay the penalty for your sin against God, or God would pay it for you.

Rejoice! Jesus is our advocate. Jesus stood up for you. Jesus stood in your place. Jesus took your guilt on himself. He paid the price for your rebellion. Though he was completely and utterly sinless, on the cross all of the sin of the world was placed on Jesus, and the full wrath of God was poured out on him. Jesus experienced great physical pain but even worse spiritual suffering. He drank the cup of the wrath of God.

Rejoice in this truth: Because Jesus is your advocate, when you trust in him, there is no wrath left for you. You stand innocent before the throne of a holy and loving God. Jesus’s perfect righteousness covers you. There is nothing left for you except the tender love of a good father.

I sobbed seeing the state of man in the jacket, left without anyone to advocate for him. This tender God, whose name is Love, would not leave you in that helpless state. Even while you were in sin, with no care for God, he sent a sacrifice on your behalf. When you rebelled against him, he provided an advocate for you.

So friends, do you have this advocate? Have you trusted in this selfless Jesus? Not because of the works of your hands, but because of this Jesus, you can confidently stand before the throne of God, shameless and innocent.