Dead Man Flying

September 3, 1996

I recently watched the movie Dead Man Walking and was moved by the power of the story. The movie is based on the work of Sister Helen Prejean who acts as spiritual advisor to death-row inmates.

A scene near the end of the movie shows the condemned prisoner, Matthew Poncelet, strapped to a table and elevated in an almost upright position to show the witnesses that he is ready for execution. In this positioning, he looks like he is in a crucifixion pose. At first, I wondered, "Wait, how can they portray this killer in a Christ-like pose."

But only upon later reflection did I realize that this scene was not depicting an image of Christ; instead I understood it to be an image of the robber who hangs beside Jesus at Calvary, the robber who represents us: sinful and undeserving.

That's how I saw Poncelet: sinful and undeserving. We're lucky that God looks deeper. In a very moving scene just prior to the one mentioned above, Poncelet admits to his role in the murders. He accepts responsibility for his actions, he truly and sincerely seeks forgiveness, he makes a choice for life in the midst of death. That's the choice we have to make in the midst of the death and darkness that we face every day.

Luke 23:39-43 – Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, "If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us." But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, "Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong." Then he said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise."

So which robber will you choose to be: the one who rails against Jesus, or the one who believes and will be with Him in paradise?!

About the author:

Derrick Cunningham <cobyouth@presbycan.ca>
Cobourg, Ontario, Canada

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