Good Friday always beckons us to think deeply about our role in the execution.
Word spread quickly. The crime was unspeakable. The reward for his capture was great. The government was desperate to get him off the streets. Nobody knew what he was capable of next. Considering him to be exceedingly dangerous, law enforcement planned carefully. For some time, they’d practiced and discussed the take.
When the moment arrived, one of the fugitive’s confidantes revealed his location. As authorities made the arrest, those closest to him pushed back. It was no use. It was as if he knew his fate.
Government officials repeatedly declared that a monster had been taken off the streets. Everyone wanted justice. Believing some level of due process was necessary to keep from giving their power over to the mob, local officials restrained themselves. Everyone knew that this was a big one. Insult after insult flew. Then, the time came.
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When the doors opened, he immediately became aware of how public his case was. Though he’d seen reports and heard rumblings, he wasn’t aware of the magnitude of the hate. The weight of it all was almost too much to carry. Weak in the knees, he determined to keep moving. The people kept calling him a monster. The words were painful. However, it was more painful to realize that they were calling everyone he loved monsters, too. The walk was long.
There was no question what everyone wanted. Death was in the air. The authorities gave him a chance to save his life, but he didn’t take it. Nobody could believe it. Who wouldn’t take the opportunity to save his own life? He was subjected to further punishment and then offered the chance at life again. He declined. Death it was.
The path was long between the place of judgment and the place of execution. At every step, the cries of monster overwhelmed his brain. The religious people seemed to be the ones shouting the loudest. In the midst of it all, he stumbled a few times. I guess that’s the nature of all difficult paths.
As the place of execution approached, the governor had one last chance. Citing his faith, the governor let the killing continue. Waiting for death, the man prayed. Slowly, he was strapped in. His great crime was raised up for all the world to see. God felt so far away. How could he have been so forsaken? His final words echoed in the beings of all who heard them, “Into your hands I commend my spirit.”
Death came with a rush. In great agony, he took his last breath. It was finished.
The accounts of Jesus’ sacrifice and death always move me deeply. But this narrative is not about Jesus. This is a narrative of Rosendo Rodriguez, convicted of killing two women and stuffing their bodies into suitcases. Texas executed him last Tuesday. God was there, and so was I. Under the rain, I watched. While I cannot say what Rodriguez’ crimes meant for his soul, I can say what his execution means for ours.
The message of God died on that gurney. We killed our neighbor. We damned our persecutor. Surely God hates what we have done. Like it or not, our death penalty makes killers of us all. How are we any different than he? Only abolition can save us. The offer of life is on the table.
Will we take the deal?