The world just celebrated the murder of an important man. His name and picture were prominent in major magazines and newspapers. This man has millions of followers all over the world. He often had to work in seclusion, surrounded by a few loyal followers. There are those who believe his movement will die, while his disciples predict ultimate victory. Houses of worship were filled with his converts. He had great wealth but died with little save a hasty burial. No one will ever know for sure where he was buried nor find his body. Many cheered his death, while many mourned. Some say justice was served; others call it a senseless murder. Many called him a demon; some called him a god.
Let's see a raise of hands: How many think I'm talking about Osama bin Laden? Hands down. How many are thinking about Jesus Christ? Hands down. Apparently, there is no hands down winner.
There are parallels that can be drawn between events in both men's lives. However, there are grave distinctions as well.
On Sunday, April 30, 2011, Osama bin Laden, the world's most wanted man, was murdered and the world celebrated. On Friday, April 22, we commemorated the death of Jesus Christ, the world's most despised man (Isaiah 53:3). Three days later, Sunday, April 24, we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Three days after bin Laden died, he was still dead. What is the difference?
Osama bin Laden was an evil man, a sinner. Before we judge him, remember, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). "As it is written: 'There is none righteous, no, not one'" (Romans 3:10). That has held true for all of human history, except for one person: "Christ . . . Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth" (1 Peter 2:21, 22). This is the only sinless man, "whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it" (Acts 2:24).
One reaction to bin Laden's murder was revulsion that anyone would celebrate another's death. Keeping in mind that all are under the sentence of death (Hebrews 9:27), we cannot rejoice. Even a holy God declares, "Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked . . . and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?" (Ezekiel 18:23). God's desire is for sinners to turn to Him in repentance, not die in their sins. He is not a gleeful executioner that takes great delight in gory deaths. He must exact justice but is just as ready to forgive.
If this is so, then why do we celebrate the death of the only sinless man who ever lived? The murder of Christ (and murder it was!) must have been the greatest breach of justice imaginable. Had he died for himself, that would be true. However, "While we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly" (Romans 5:6). "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed" (1 Peter 2:24).
We rejoice in a terrorist's death because it removes some evil from the world. We rejoice in the death of this wholly righteous Savior because he removes all evil from our selves. This is Jesus Christ, "the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins" (Colossians 1:13, 14).
President Obama's first words were, "We got him!" The enemies of Jesus rejoiced that they "got him." Three days later, they lost him. For those who believe in his resurrection, "We got him!"
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