Mediation Monday: Accused, Executed, and Innocent

For millions of Christians around the world, this is Holy Week when we reflect on the last week of Jesus’ life from the time he entered Jerusalem to his death and resurrection. This story is so foundational and familiar that it is easy to “go through the motions” of observing this sacred time. Yet as we enter this Holy Week, I was struck by the realization that Jesus is the most famous victim of the death penalty. He was tortured and executed by the Romans based on false charges brought by religious authorities who accused him of claiming to be a new king challenging the authority of Caesar. Even though the Roman governor Pilate believed Jesus was innocent, he gave into political pressure and authorized Jesus’ horrifying execution by crucifixion. Although God redeemed this tremendous miscarriage of justice through the resurrection, it is a vivid example of the reality that the death penalty is liable to human error and manipulation. This is just as true in the United States of 2019 as it was in first century Israel. Organizations such as the Equal Justice Initiative and The Innocence Project have worked to exonerate innocent people on death rows in various states showing that innocent people continue to be accused of capital crimes. Even when defendants are guilty as charged, there is an obvious disparity in who receives the death penalty based on racial and economic factors. The video by Bryan Stevenson posted below is a brief introduction to this ongoing injustice. As followers of our Lord who was falsely accused, tortured, and executed; we are called to advocate for justice that is truly fair and equal. The death penalty throughout history including our own nation has never been fair or equal.