This past Friday, I joined other members of my church and that of other churches within Toronto for a multi-church Good Friday service. It was a fantastic night of joyous singing, eager sermon listening, and memorable fellowship with old and new friends. However, it was also one of the rare Friday nights when I wasn’t at home watching Dateline NBC (maybe I shouldn’t admit that). Dateline is a TV news magazine show that often features murder mysteries, including episodes that detail cases involving wrongful convictions.

It is through one of these episodes that I learned about Johnny Hincapie, a man who served over 25 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, until the Innocence Project helped to finally set him free last year. In case you are unfamiliar with the Innocence Project, the organization describes themselves as an “organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing and reforms to the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice.”

As I was thinking about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ over the Easter weekend, I was reminded of the words of Johnny Hincapie shortly after his exoneration. Speaking to reporters, a tearful Hincapie said, “I owe tremendous love, energy, and gratefulness to [the people that helped set me free]

Johnny Hincapie was naturally very grateful for the Innocence Project’s role in helping to set him free. After all, he served 25 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. Still, why was Johnny Hincapie and the Innocence Project in my mind over the weekend as I was pondering over the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?

Well, it’s simple: The Innocence Project was dedicated to Johnny Hincapie’s exoneration because he was an innocent man. However, Jesus Christ is dedicated to our justification particularly because of our sins.

Jesus’ death and resurrection—the justification project—is the highlight of God’s dedication to save humanity from sin and its eternal consequences.

God’s dedication to save sinners began with the virgin birth of Jesus, who being fully God and fully man, lived a perfect and sinless life, and willingly sacrificed Himself on a cross—taking our sinful record on Himself and giving those who would believe and follow Him His own righteous record. He did this so that upon suffering the wrath of God the Father to the point of His death, and resurrecting three days later; sinners would be declared righteous on Christ’s account and saved from the wrath of God in Hell. Therefore, anyone who trust in Jesus Christ for salvation is legally declared righteous (justified) by God.

So as incredible as the Johnny Hincapie story is, he is merely an innocent man who has finally been granted what was owed to him, his freedom. I on the other hand am guilty of many sins, and yet, I have been granted what isn’t owed to me, a declaration of righteousness by God (justification), because Jesus Christ served my punishment for me on the cross. Hincapie was an innocent man exonerated by DNA evidence; I am a guilty man justified by the blood of God.

So “I owe tremendous love, energy, and gratefulness to” God’s justification project. I hope you are too.

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” (Romans 4:7-8)