“A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on.” Yesterday I noticed this statement by President John F. Kennedy on an airport advertisement for the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. This is the site where Lee Harvey Oswald stood 48 years ago when he shot and killed the president.
It would be difficult to think of a crime that changed history more significantly. In fact, you would have to go back in American history nearly 100 years to find a similar tragedy of comparable importance.
The similarities between Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy are remarkable. Mr. Lincoln was elected to Congress in 1846; Mr. Kennedy was elected to Congress in 1946. Mr. Lincoln was elected president in 1860; Mr. Kennedy was elected president in 1960. Mr. Lincoln’s secretary was named Kennedy; Mr. Kennedy’s secretary was named Lincoln. Both men were shot on a Friday, assassinated by Southerners; both were succeeded by Southerners named Johnson.
Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Mr. Lincoln, was born in 1808; Lyndon Johnson, who succeeded Mr. Kennedy, was born in 1908. John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated Mr. Lincoln, was born in 1839; Lee Harvey Oswald, who assassinated Mr. Kennedy, was born in 1939.
I have stood several times beside the spot where Oswald made his fateful shot. A few weeks ago I sat in the balcony of Ford Theatre in Washington, D.C., directly across from the box where Mr. Lincoln was assassinated. Both places overwhelm their visitors with the gravity of the events they witnessed.
Remembering these famous deaths and their now-historic sites, my mind is drawn this morning to another crime scene. An innocent victim was executed here as well. But unlike Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy, he knew long before this day arrived that he would suffer and die. In fact, he chose to undergo this horrendous assassination when he could easily have fled to safety and lived for many years in security.
Why does Jesus’ death matter so much on this Thanksgiving week? Because President Kennedy was right: an idea lives on. Oswald Chambers stated in yesterday’s My Utmost For His Highest, “God could forgive men in no other way than by the death of His Son…. The greatest note of triumph that ever sounded in the ears of a startled universe was that sounded on the Cross of Christ–‘It is finished.’ That is the last word in the Redemption of man.”
If you’re looking for reasons to be thankful this week, you might consider the question: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).