In Dealey Plaza, Dallas, there painted in the middle of Elm street is an unassuming “x”. If you were not acquainted with American history you might be forgiven for walking past it not knowing what it means. But if you were passingly familiar with November 22 1963, the Texas School Book Depository, or Lee Harvey Oswald then you might stop and ponder for a moment the terrible significance of those two crossed lines of paint. They mark the exact spot where 50 years ago President John F. Kennedy was assassinated before horrified spectators and a stunned world.
Scholars and pundits have argued at great length as to the significance of that tragic event. While he was not the first leader assassinated in office, nor will he, sadly, be the last; for 50 years his death has been seen by many as something different. What might have been if only he hadn’t died so young, so untimely? How would our world be different today? Would it have changed US relations with Russia or China? Would Vietnam have played out differently? Would there be less division and distrust between government and her people, due in large part, some argue, to those who followed in his office? Putting aside all the lingering conspiracy theories surrounding the president’s death, most people do agree that on that November day 50 years ago the United States lost their innocence. Lost, in a very palpable way, their idealism that everything would only ever get better as time went on.
It is a pall that many people still struggle under today … and for good reason. I’m not sure that anyone still holds to the idea that things are only getting better. We just seem to go from one bad thing to another. One tragedy to another. Once disaster to another. One weak or corrupt leader to another. But then again, not even JFK was without his certain public shortcomings. And so, even if he had avoided that spot marked to this day on the pavement in Dealey Plaza, I don’t think it would have changed the world we live in. At least not significantly. The world was broken 50 years ago, and it is broken now, and not even a man like JFK can change it.
But there is one man who saved it. On another fateful day long long ago in an event equally profound and seemingly tragic, a popular young leader was killed in his prime. Witnessed again, by horrified spectators and a stunned world. If you were not acquainted with Biblical history you might be forgiven for walking past the signs of that cross not fully knowing what it means.
Yet in those ubiquitous symbols of the Christian faith, looming large at the front and on the top of every church, etched and embossed in book upon book, wrought in silver and gold and hung on bedroom walls, and countless necks … in that unassuming cross rests the memory of an event (THE event) of world-changing significance. Scholars and pundits have argued at great length as to the significance of that event. And there are of course, all kinds of lingering conspiracy theories surrounding the events. But in that death of Jesus Christ on a cross outside of Jerusalem the world forever changed. Not through innocence lost, rather innocence restored. Paid for in the innocent blood and willing sacrifice of a great leader for His beloved people. The world changed, yet not for the death of idealism, but in the birth of hope, and faith, and love.
Jesus our king made his way through the streets of Jerusalem that fateful day, but not as an unwitting victim. He did it knowing full well what lay ahead. And He went up anyway, to deliver us from darkness to His own kingdom. He redeemed this world from death and destruction. Defeated the ancient enemies of mankind – sin, death and the devil. He gave us a future that will not only be better, but the very best. And the cross, marks the spot where it all happened. It is tragic when a leader is stolen from his people. And so we grieve with those who still grieve the events of November 22, 1963. But it is glorious when the rightful king lays down His life that His people might live in peace and security after Him. And in that everlasting promise we rejoice, in the face of all that this world may yet take from us.