The week-end has been filled with shows about the assassination of President Kennedy that happened 50 years ago last Friday. I have actually been to Dealey Plaza in Dallas where the President was hit with the fatal shots that caused his death 30 minutes later at Parkland Hospital. Although I am usually pretty busy during my many business trips to Dallas (I have been there more than 75 times), on several occasions I have found myself strangely drawn to the “grassy knoll” and the 6th floor museum now housed in the book depository building where Oswald fired those fatal shots.
If you have never been to the area, it is a little eery. Traffic moves up and down the street and there, in the middle of one of the lanes of traffic, is a white “X” – the spot where Kennedy was hit. Hardly anybody stops and looks, but I have been past the spot several times. In fact, on December 8th, I am heading to Dallas once again and Janet will be joining me this time. It will be the first trip for her to the city, other than periodic lay-overs at the airport en route to somewhere else. And yep, you guessed it, we will stay downtown at the famous Adolphus Hotel, several blocks from Dealey Plaza. I can’t even imagine going back there, to the Adolphus (it’s been several years at least now), without taking Janet to the this famous site.
I’m sure that it has something to do with both of us having been at the same place back in November, 1963, when we first heard about the death of Kennedy. And most of us who were around back then also remember that Officer J. D. Tippit was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald on the same day that Oswald killed Kennedy. Tippit was a veteran of the Dallas Police Department and was in pursuit of Oswald after the assassination. There have been many memorials and specials regarding the life and death of Tippit and while he is a as an integral part of the entire sequence of events, his death has been overshadowed by several more visible events – among them the morbid fascination with the life and death of Lee H. Oswald.
Oswald, in custody with the Dallas Police Department, was being prepared to be transported to a more secure county jail, when Jack Ruby, a local nightclub owner, stepped forward and shot Oswald at 12:20 pm as he was walking between several officers. Immediately, Ruby was detained. This all happened 50 years ago today – Nov. 24, 1963. Ruby was charged with the murder of Oswald, witnessed by millions of people on live television. He said that he had shot Oswald to spare the country the heartache and sadness of a trial and this way, the mourning of the nation could begin. He said that he was so grief stricken that he suffered a mental lapse and was “insane” when he killed Oswald. He was tried in 1964 and died before he could be re-tried in Wichita, KS after the Court of Appeals overturned his conviction and death sentence – citing that his first trial in Dallas was a sham and there was no way that he could have received a fair trial in Dallas.
There have been hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pages, written on the death of Kennedy. We have heard from almost everyone – except Oswald. There is no comprehensive documentation of anything he said while in custody – between his capture and the time he was killed – it seems that nothing was recorded. While some people believe that Ruby, a small time hoodlum who was friendly with police, did the country a favor by sparing US citizens the expense and emotional turmoil of a trial, many others believe that Ruby was just as guilty as Oswald.
There were even reports that Ruby was dying of cancer and that is why he killed Oswald – if Ruby was found guilty, he would die before he was ever punished for the crime. While it is true that Ruby eventually died of a pulmonary embolism caused by cancer in his brain, liver and lungs, we do not know if he had cancer at the time of his crime. But Ruby did take justice into his own hands, and that isn’t what God would have us do.
The verse for this evening is from Rom. 12:19,”Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” In other words, it is not us to us to take revenge ourselves. God instituted government and judges to handle these responsibilities – not hoodlums and street thugs. My encouragement this evening is that even when it is difficult, God wants us to rest in the knowledge that He will handle things and in the end, everything will turn out for the better. My prayer is that you will trust in the Lord with all your heart and leave the settling of your “scores” to Him. After all, you and I are probably too emotional to handle these things ourselves and even if we could be objective, we’re best leaving it up to God. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…