Faith— 02/03/2022

“Dead Man Walking!”

By Pastor Ron Buxton

I’ve not seen the movie, but I’m borrowing its title today. Before arriving in Texas more than 20 years ago, I had considerable ministry experience in prisons in my home state of Maine. And that’s where I heard about that expression “dead man walking” for the first time. Allow me to share something amazing with you based upon that phrase.

Now, to be clear, the state of Maine has not had capital punishment since 1887. However, that expression “dead man walking” refers to a chanted jeer aimed at a prisoner in their final walk towards their execution. And, according to historians, that gruesome tradition dates back to the early 20th century. Nevertheless, if you think about it, it is a very hypocritical thing to shout. Why? Those same prisoners were awaiting their own future executions.

Folks, I recognize two spiritual applications to that phrase “dead man walking”. First, I would attribute the most important application to a statement made by John the Baptist in the New Testament. As he saw Jesus Christ walking towards him, John openly declared: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Why would he say that? Well, according to the Old Testament sacrificial system, a perfect lamb was offered yearly at Yom Kippur to die symbolically for Israel’s national sins. And so, prophetically, John the Baptist recognized the hidden purpose that Christ came to fulfill. You see, John knew that Christ–for the next three years–was a “dead man walking” towards His own substitute execution on the cross of Calvary. No doubt, the jeers that awaited him on the Via Dolorosa would have been comparable to those prisoners chanting “dead man walking” almost twenty centuries later!

Nonetheless, here’s where I want to shift gears into a second application that applies to us all. Truth be told, couldn’t we be like those hypocritical prisoners gleefully chanting that grim phrase? Are we kidding ourselves that we’re going to live forever in our present condition? That is, are we kidding ourselves to think that soon enough we’ll not walk–one last time–before our own deaths?

In the literary genius of C.S. Lewis, he calls the Christian salvation experience “the good infection”. What he meant is that folks that get close enough to Jesus Christ (trusting Him for the forgiveness of their sins) will “catch” all that mankind ever needs. You see, by God’s amazing grace, they’ll receive all the benefits of what Christ Himself overcame!

Now, allow me to end with a very contemporary application. Under normal circumstances, vaccines are created by taking a dead virus and injecting that into a healthy body. Doing that, the healthy body can itself create anti-bodies to fight that particular virus. Folks, Christ has killed the “virus” of sin, death, and hell. That one-time “dead man walking” took away our need to fear death ever again! Hallelujah! He took that walk for us!


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