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Summary: Jesus, the Baby who was born to die

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DEAD MAN WALKING

The specially invited, all-be-it reluctant, audience stands transfixed. Their eyes are focused on the figure the other side of the glass. His gaze fastens on to the woman. Unblinking, he continues to stare at her, seeming to gain strength from her very presence. The tubes attached to his body feed the lethal substance into him, milliliter by agonizing milliliter. His eyes slowly close as the spark of life ebbs away and is ultimately terminated.

A little while earlier, as the doomed man was lead from his cell to his appointment with the executioner, a solitary voice could be heard echoing through the passages of death row, "Dead man walking. Dead man walking." And so, with this morbid proclamation, the condemned prisoner is lead to his rendezvous with death. The proclamation prophetically prefacing his impending permanent punishment

For those who saw the 1996 movie, "Dead man Walking", starring Sean Penn as condemned rapist, Matthew Poncelet and Susan Sarandon as the compassionate nun, Sister Helen, you could not come away from the film without a sense of abhorrence at the act of capital punishment. If you can remember, around the same time the saga of the Texan ax-murderess unfolded in the media. She had been condemned to die by lethal injection because of the murder of her husband. While in prison she reportedly became converted. Despite numerous public petitions and requests for pardon, she eventually paid the ultimate price for her crime. The movie, Dead Man Walking, gave us an insight as to what transpired on that fateful day.

The cry -- Dead man walking -- how final. How seemingly irrevocable. Regardless of our views on capital punishment -- the death penalty -- we cannot help but be left with a sense of uneasiness at the execution of a fellow human being. Questions naggingly haunt us -- what if the prisoner was not guilty. What if society had made a mistake? What if the evidence was misrepresented?

"Dead man walking." A harbinger of doom. An ultimate declaration of guilt. An appropriate appellation to a deserving inmate on death row.

But how would you feel if you visited the maternity ward at Jan S Marais or Tygerberg or Groot Schuur or Coronation of Livingstone or any of the other hospitals in the country, and as the cries of new born babes rise to blend with the exhausted, excited gasps of brand new parents, the sonorous, sepulchurial, cry of a black-cloaked figure could be heard resonating in the deserted passageway -- "Dead man walking, Dead man walking?"

And yet on that night in Bethlehem, as myriad’s of angels burst into ecstatic praise heralding the birth of a special Baby in that hastily arranged labour ward, an alternative to that celestial composition entitled "Glory to God in the Highest" could very well have been "Dead Man Walking."

For on that night in the little town of Bethlehem, while shepherds did what shepherds do and wise men studied the stars and kings assessed their political futures and priests sought to defend the faith by upholding the status quo and adhering to tradition, a Baby was born to die.


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