What is the Christian response to the death of an earthly tyrant? Surely we are not to delight in the death, any death, of another human being – one who bears the image of God. And yet, it seems that at least a measure of justice has been carried out. We acknowledge (with a mixture of sadness and relief) that one responsible for so much death and terror has been punished.
Some may question the purpose of an execution, especially a public one. Corina and I were discussing the event this morning, recalling the overthrow of the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in the final days of 1989. The images of the Romanian dictator and his wife being shot to death in a courtyard were seared into the consciousness of my wife, who was only 9 at the time.
But those images, haunting and gruesome as they were, had to be released. Otherwise, rumors would have continued to persist that maybe Ceausescu had escaped. Perhaps he was planning to take over the government again. Maybe he was secretly watching to see who was supporting the revolution, and then plotting the moment he could pounce on those who had desired freedom. The people were gripped by the widespread fear that Ceausescu would soon restore his reign and mete out his “justice.”
For a people who have lived in terror and oppression under a dictator’s thumb, only the death – the public death - of the leader will suffice. Any other solution simply creates the ghastly ghost of a tyrant, a ghost whose shadow can loom greater than his existence.
Jesus’ death on the cross was perhaps the most unjust sentence ever carried out, for He, the innocent One, was condemned to die the brutal death of a criminal. And yet, the cross is where true justice took place, where injustice and sin and Satan were defeated at their own game. The cross is where satisfaction was made, where forgiveness was purchased, where reconcilation was put into effect.
The resurrection brought the defeat of death itself. Christ’s cross and resurrection represent the triumphant victory of God – the defeat of Satan, the tyrant whose influence is greater and more deadly than any earthly ruler that may come to power. The cross, the very instrument upon which Jesus was hoisted up as a public spectacle, the punishment that defied anyone to argue with Roman power – that cross was actually the place where God turned the tables, ”disarming the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” (Col. 2:15)
For those who have lived under the tyranny and oppression of the Evil One, enslaved to sinful and selfish desires, nothing else will do but the glorious, public defeat of evil that took place in the cross and resurrection of our Lord.
written by Trevin Wax. © 2007 Kingdom People Blog