Today something very unexpected could happen. A sunny day could become the darkest day of my life. A well-ordered day could be turned upside down in a second.
It was Saturday morning. The 63 year old judge had heard that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was in town to meet and greet her constituents. She had chosen 7100N Oracle Road – Safeway to be the open-air location to talk to the people she served in the US Congress. Judge John Roll dropped by to thank Giffords for her assistance in dealing with the high number of immigration cases in their district.
Ron Barber, an aide to Gabrielle Giffords, was there that morning. He immediately recognized the Judge. They were old friends. They first met back in 1965 at university. After many years of very little contact, their friendship had been renewed recently as they worked on government issues together.
Judge Roll, with both hands gave his old friend Ron Barber a warm handshake. When he saw that Giffords was busy with others, he said he’d drop by again to say ‘hi’ to her. Barber, knowing how busy the Judge was, assured him that he’d make sure he got to see Giffords in just a couple of minutes.
It was at that moment on Saturday morning, January 8, 2011, 10:10AM that the unexpected happened. The upbeat day instantly became an incredibly dark day. A young man, armed with a Glock Model 19, 9mm handgun and a box of ammo opened fire within a couple of feet. The first victim was Congresswoman Giffords. (1)
And then Ron Barber was shot in the face and thigh – close range. Judge John Roll, the father of three sons and husband of Maureen, immediately responded. With his right hand, he pushed Mr. Barber down to the ground and guided him with his left hand. The Judge literally laid on top of Mr. Barber covering him up and leaving his own back exposed to the bullets of the gunman.
Six people died and thirteen others were wounded. Judge John Roll was among those who died. Ron Barber lived. It was a week and half later that Mr. Barber learned of the Judge’s selfless sacrifice to save him.
An emotional Mr. Barber told reporters: “I feel terrible of course, that he was there to help me and that got him shot, that he would have given his life for me…But I know John and I know him enough to know he’s a very caring and compassionate person…he was a great judge, a great human being, an incredible family man and a real person,” he said. (2)
Judge John Roll becoming Mr. Barber’s saviour reminds me of another Judge who was also compassionate, very caring and He too became a saviour. But there are dimensions to this unique Judge and Saviour that outshine all other stories ever told.
The Judge in this story was God our Creator. We had greatly offended Him by our sins and our rebellion. We turned away from Him and our hatred was directed towards Him. We treated Him as dirt. The offense to the Judge was very direct and personal.
The punishment for such capital offenses in God’s universe was death. (Romans 6:23) The Creator/Judge had made that ruling and it was right and fair. He is holy and all sin must be dealt with. He also pronounced every person guilty. (Romans 3:23)
Even though many offenders would remain hostile and rebellious towards the Judge – He was loving and compassionate towards all. Amazingly so!
The Judge became the Saviour. He came down to earth. He proved on many occasions that He was God in human flesh. He had come to earth to provide a cover, a shield for those who were destined to die eternally because of their sin.
Jesus came into the world to save sinners. He came to die for our offenses and on behalf of the offenders. He exposed His back to multiple bloody lashes as His own creatures brutally whipped Him. He took all the spit, the bruises, the ridicule and scorn. He felt the long thorns in his forehead. He took the nails. Ultimately, He took the full load of our sins upon Himself and suffered on the Cross and died.
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree,
that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.
By his wounds you have been healed.”
Christ took the full punishment for our sins.
When I realized that the Judge, who said I was guilty, stepped down in amazing love to save me from the punishment my sins deserved, my heart was melted with appreciation. In Tucson, Arizona, Mr. Barber is appreciating the fact that Judge Roll gave his life for him. A friend died for a friend.
The story of God’s love and compassion goes far beyond that beautiful story. On the Cross, Christ died for sinners. Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6). Christ died for those who still treated Him with hatred and contempt. (Romans 5:10) He died for them. He died for us. He died for me.
I have warmly thanked Him and expressed my appreciation for His death on my behalf. I have told Him multiple times that I love Him and I am overwhelmed when I think that because of His death and by His wounds I am spiritually healed and eternally saved.
But what about you? Have you ever thanked the Judge for becoming your Saviour?
Safeway Shooting Scene: http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2011/01/rep_gabrielle_giffords_shot_in.html
Judge John Roll: www.uscourts.gov