Having seen a trial that ended in execution, Avi was entirely undone as Hans turned his attention toward Rachit. He was so frightened that without realizing it, he was clutching Amos' sleeve. He could hardly breathe. Thinking of such dark things was more than Avi had ever had to endure.
“What are the charges,” Low King Hans asked. One of his staff called out the infractions in an emotionless voice.
“One count of unforgiveness, and one count of insult,” the attendant said.
“Thank you,” Hans said before turning toward Rachit. “Has the defendant had to stand trial before?”
“One prior, your honor,” the attendant said. At the words, Avi thought there must be some kind of mistake. He had never heard of any such incident. Hans inquired further. “Where was the trial?”
“Jerusalem Court,” the attendant said. With that, a murmur rippled through the courtroom. Avi gasped. How was this possible? How could Rachit have been put on trial in Jerusalem? To Avi's knowledge, the only time he had ever been to the Capital was when he was chosen for the Jerusalem Delegation. Avi put his hand over his mouth, trying to stifle his exasperation. Rachit had always been tight-lipped about his trip to the Capital. Now Avi could suspect the reason for such quiet.
“Rachit, how do you plead to the charges?” Hans asked. At last, Rachit spoke. The sound of his voice was like someone Avi had never heard before. Instead of the loud bravado of confident self-reliance, Rachit spoke in a broken whisper.
“I’m guilty on all counts and beg the King’s mercy,” Rachit said.
“Well, that's a welcome relief,” Hans said with the slightest smile. “So, have you believed in the Lord, our Emperor, for his promise of eternal life?”
“Not until early this morning.”
“Well, that’s interesting,” Hans said. He stepped in front of where Rachit was sitting and pulled up a chair. He sat with him as if they were lifelong friends. His tone was warm and inviting. “Tell me about how it happened?”
“For my entire life, I've done my best to obey the King's commands,” Rachit said. “They've been a burden to me, but I was determined. I always thought if I obeyed, that should be good enough. Last night, when I lost my temper, it scared me. I felt out of control. Even as I was refusing to forgive my nephew and niece, I knew that I was breaking the law.”
“You were frightened?” Hans asked.
“Yeah, especially when these guys showed up.” Rachit pointed to the three angelic guards who stood around him. The courtroom laughed mildly. “It was mostly pride that kept me from believing in King Yeshua.”
“What do you mean?” Hans asked.
“I saw myself as a good person. I’m moral and pretty much well behaved. I thought I was good enough. Though, last night when I was sitting in my cell, I got to talking to Zath.” Rachit pointed to one of the celestials. “Even though I’d heard it a thousand times before, it suddenly made sense coming from a star-born guard.”
“What made sense?” Hans asked.
“Well, it's like this. The King's law demands that I be perfect in body and mind. My pride told me I could be perfect if I tried really hard. So, I've tried hard. For over a century, I've been trying. I just kept coming back to the same thing. Eventually, I lose my temper. Rather than be mad at myself, it made me mad at the King. I mean, why would the King's commandments be so hard to follow? Last night, I realized the answer. It isn't just hard; it's impossible. At least it's impossible on my own. But now I see, that's exactly the point. The law is there to show me I'm not perfect, I can't measure up, I need help, a different approach.”
“So what happened?” Hans asked.
“I was asking myself, 'What's wrong with me.' I could see my direction. With every attempt to be perfect under the law, I was getting worse, not better. I could feel it in my heart. I saw it, kind of like a vision or something. If I was determined to continue on this path, eventually, my life would end. I'd step far enough out of line, and that would be it. There was nothing I could do about it. It was inevitable. Then it hit me. The only way for me to escape this cycle of failure was to be changed by the Emperor. It wasn't better morality that I needed; it was a free gift. Though the broadcasts talk about it all the time, and so do the shepherds, I finally recognized I had been resisting putting my faith in the King. I had never believed in the King for eternal life. Since I had never done that, I wasn't able to obey, I mean really obey.”
“So, what d’you do?”
"So, that's what I did right there in my jail cell. I believed In King Yeshua for his free gift of eternal life. Zath and the others celebrated as soon as they saw the change. Apparently, they can see stuff like that.”
At his uncle’s words, Avi and Carina looked at each other. Avi’s mouth fell open. How could this be? Was it possible that Uncle Rachit had never believed? There had been certain subjects that Rachit was not eager to talk about, and moments where he seemed to sympathize with rebels, but Avi never suspected that Rachit might not be a believer.
“Do you feel different today?” Hans asked Rachit.
“Yes!” Rachit almost shouted. “I see it now. I was never intended to follow the law perfectly apart from the King's help. I had to fail to realize I needed him. As soon as I believed in him for his gift of life, I could feel the change. It doesn't seem like a burden anymore. I want to please him; I want to obey.”
“That's beautifully put. Let's talk about what happened last night between Avi, Carina, and you,” Hans said.
“Yes. My behavior was shameful. Avi has been getting noticed for his faithfulness to the King. I've been jealous of his recognition. I had an outburst of anger at him and Carina, and for a moment, I intended not to forgive them. I am ashamed of what I've done.”
“They are here right now,” Hans said.
“Yes, Your Honor. Might I be permitted to speak to them?” Rachit said.
“Absolutely,” Hans welcomed eagerly.
Rachit stood and turned toward the back of the room. Avi’s eyes filled with tears. Rachit spoke across the room as sobs broke his words into pieces.
“Avi and Carina. I am so sorry for how I've treated you. I was wrong on every account. Please forgive me?” Both Avi and Carina nodded as tears of joy gushed down their faces. “Thank you,” he said as he turned back to Hans.
“Since you've believed in Jesus, He has forgiven you,” Hans said with another growing smile. Rachit wiped his eyes as he nodded.
“May I speak freely, Sir?” Rachit asked.
“Certainly,” Hans said.
“I am so thankful for the Emperor's swift justice. It seemed harsh to me at first, but I recognize its beauty now. Had I not been caught last night, I would still have a growing rebellion in my heart at this moment. I just want to say thank you to our Lord for his merciful justice, which is designed to move us toward the light. There was a momentary pain in being caught in the dark. But it is overtaken by this surpassing joy of having eternal life and being in fellowship with Him and with all of you. I can hardly imagine why I had resisted putting my faith in the King for so long.”
“This is so much easier with those who have faith in the King,” Hans said as he rose to his feet. “God’s Spirit does all the work, and we just get to sit back and watch.” Those in attendance laughed joyfully. There was a kind of relief that washed over the room.
“Now for your sentence,” Hans said. “You've been forgiven in the Spiritual realm by the King. You've been forgiven in the social realm by your friends. You've begged for the King's mercy, and you shall have it in the physical realm as well. I sentence you to the minimum penalty—one night in jail. Since you spent last night in jail, I'll consider that debt to the kingdom already paid. Thank you, Rachit, for your openness to the faith. I'm excited to see how you serve him. You are free to go.” The courtroom clapped at the outcome. Avi, Amos, and Carina rose with the others in ovation.
In the noise, Avi could see Low King Hans hug Rachit warmly. They had a brief conversation which Avi could not hear before Rachit was released. Avi and Carina made their way through the crowd and wrapped their arms around him.