A lesson from a “hanging judge”

My wife, Christy, and I recently enjoyed some vacation time in Arkansas. We had a wonderful day with my sister and brother in law as well as my nephew and his family. We enjoyed breakfast with one of Christy’s cousins whom we had never met. We explored Mt Magazine where Christy’s great great grandfather had homesteaded and spent a day in Fort Smith where her father was born.

While in Fort Smith we visited the National Historic Site there and learned about the legendary “Hanging Judge Parker.”  In his 21 years as judge in the federal court there in the late 1800’s he sentenced 160 people to be executed. There is a reconstruction of the original gallows there where as many as six men where hung simultaneously.  It was a rough frontier area at the time and he tried to offset the corruption of his predecessor by bringing justice to the region.

The interesting thing is – Judge Parker was opposed to the death sentence and spoke against capital punishment. He didn’t want to see people die, but felt strongly that he should uphold the law which mandated the death penalty in murder cases. He was compelled to obey the law and so acted accordingly.

That reminds me of our Lord. Christ does not desire that any should be condemned, but came to offer forgiveness and eternal life. The problem is that, just like Judge Parker, He could not ignore the law.  The law of God is right and just and demands payment for sin. Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of sin is death; and it is speaking of spiritual, eternal death. Jesus could not ignore the law, so he did what Judge Parker could not do. He met the demands of the law personally as our substitute. we stand condemned before a holy God, but Christ was willing to be executed in our place. On the cross he experienced death so that he could offer us eternal life. In that way God could be just (holding to the laws demands of righteousness) and yet be the justifier of the one who puts their faith in Christ (Romans 3:26).

As Christy and I stood by that gallows where so many people were executed. It made me contemplate how great our Lord’s love is for us.  Romans 5:8 declares; “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We can choose life instead of death by placing our trust in Him!

In Christ,

Pastor Nord