Overcoming sin is never an easy task. But overcoming public sin is even more strenuous…especially if you profess to a Christ-follower. By God’s grace, some are able to move beyond their shortcomings. But for others, their sin leads to their downfall.
For Matthew Jarrell, his sin led all the way to his death.
On Thursday, May 19, 2011, Matthew Jarrell was arrested in West Virginia after a woman accused him of sexually assaulting her. He was then taken to the South Central Regional Jail in Kanawha County. Late on the evening of Saturday, May 21, Jarrell used the sheets from his bed to hang himself. Official reports state that he was pronounced dead at a local hospital around 12:30 Sunday morning.
This story is sad for a number of reasons: assault, suicide, death. But the most troubling news is that the imprisoned man who committed suicide was a pastor.
Matthew Jarrell led the Open Door Baptist Church in Mesquite, TX, a community close to Dallas. The news of his arrest and death shocked many at his church, though some were aware of Jarrell’s previous infractions with the law that included soliciting prostitutes and other offenses.
How many times had Jarrell preached about forgiveness, yet when he needed it most, he spurned it.
Sadly, this modern day story is reminiscent of the ancient one regarding Judas, the infamous follower of Jesus who betrayed the Savior, and then, overcome with grief, committed suicide. The account is a familiar one:
Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people came to the decision to put Jesus to death. They bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate, the governor.
When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”
“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”
So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:1-5)
Interestingly, though, Judas wasn’t the only follower of Jesus who committed a grave sin; that same night, Peter denied even knowing Jesus! But, as we’re told in the Gospel of John, Peter sought forgiveness and reconciliation from Jesus face to face:
The third time Jesus said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (John 21:17-19)
Instead of seeking forgiveness, the staple of Christianity, Matthew Jarrell responded to his sin the same way Judas did. He needlessly suffered the same consequence, as well.
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