On this day in history, President Abraham Lincoln delivered his last public address, covering the complex topic of reconstruction. Two days after the surrender of Confederate forces, virtually ending the Civil War, a festive crowd gathered outside the White House, calling for Lincoln. Reporter Noah Brooks noted, “Outside was a vast sea of faces, illuminated by the lights that burned in the festal array of the White House, and stretching far out into the misty darkness … within stood the tall, gaunt figure of the President, deeply thoughtful, intent upon the elucidation of the generous policy which should be pursued toward the South.”
When Lincoln finally addressed the crowd at an open window, he expressed his support for black suffrage. His statement enraged John Wilkes Booth, a member of the audience, who vowed, “That is the last speech he will make.” Booth made good on his threat three days later, when he assassinated Lincoln at Ford’s Theater.
Upon learning of Lincoln’s passing, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton uttered, “Now he belongs to the ages.” Gazing at Lincoln’s remains, Stanton added, “There lies the most perfect ruler of men the world has ever seen.”
No one hailed Jesus as a ruler as he hung from the cross. He had been dubbed a king by the Roman soldiers, but they didn’t hide their sarcasm as they wove a crown of thorns for him and shoved a mock scepter in his hands. Though a sign that read “King of the Jews” had been nailed above Jesus’ head, the crowd was not impressed, heaping insults on him and daring him to come down from the cross. After his death, Christ’s torn body had been removed, cocooned in a linen shroud and sealed in a cold stone tomb. It was not a promising start to a kingship.
At his birth, Magi from the east spied his star and began searching for the Messiah. Arriving in Jerusalem, they asked, “Where is the one who is born King of the Jews?” Eventually they found him in a house with his mother. Years later, lying in a tomb, he was still a king, a perfect ruler who had put his life on the line so all might live.
Soon his bloody burial cloth would be exchanged for a royal robe, and the rock shelf that held his body would be abandoned for a celestial throne. The elders of heaven would bow down, cast off their crowns and sing a new song as the Lamb appeared.
Yet his wounds would remain—an eternal reminder of the price he paid (John 20:27).