They were executed in the early dawn. All eight of them. Convicted and sentenced to death, they fought hard for mercy. They wanted mercy because they had received mercy in return. It was the mercy of a transformed life. The mercy of a second chance. And they wanted to return that same mercy back by living a life that their loved ones can be proud of (and indeed they have). They wanted to pay back to society what they have taken in that one isolated act of folly. And indeed they had paid in full and many are in return indebted to them for how they had lived and treasured their life; every single moment of it to their very last breath.
Yet that morning, they were denied mercy when it counted the most. When it could have made the biggest humanitarian impact with ripples that would go beyond the empty jingoism of politics and the stiff upper lip of justice, the power-that-be sadly missed an invaluable opportunity to do what's right and make a lasting and deep impact.
In the ten years in remand awaiting an appeal and a pardon, they had made a difference with what little they had in possession, dreams and resources. It was an enduring difference that a broken and contrite heart often make. They were a shining city on a hill; even on a hill that overlooks a certain fate pending.
They set hearts ablaze with their compassion, love and selfless contribution. Even from the narrow confinement of prison, they rocked the world with their fight for life, for hope, and for real change. They can't wait to show the world that redemption is not just a word, it was a life - a living breathing life impacting another life like a candle passing its flame to another.
Standing before the firing squad intent on carrying out their orders, they neither flinched nor bore grudges. In fact, it was reported that they sang. Yes, they sang their hearts out. They sang Amazing Grace just after midnight. Alas, when the night was the darkest, their hearts were the brightest!
What's so amazing about this grace you ask? It is amazing because even when death reared its ugly head, even when justice and mercy were withheld from them by the cowardice of men to do what is resoundingly right, even when their redeemed and transformed lives were reduced to a size no bigger than the cross-hair of the scope of a rifle, they sang with gladness and bonded together with love.
Like a joyous choir, they let it out with no fear of death because death has indeed lost its sting. Defanged, they stared at death and neutralized its hold on their life. One pastor who was there exclaimed, "It was breathtaking. This was the first time I witnessed someone so excited to meet their God." Another clergyman remarked, "Everyone was looking forward, it seems everyone accepted their fate."
That was how amazing His grace was! That was how transforming the celebration of life after life was! It may be the still night air hovering over Nusakambangan island that morning, but the readiness, the anticipation, the bravery, and the faith demonstrated by all eight of them were uncontainable. It was immeasurable. It was unbelievable.
None of them opted to be blindfolded. They wanted to look into the eyes of their executioner while they sang and disturb the false peace of those who think their conscience is clear. And before their executioner pulled the trigger, they were heartily declaring the timeless hymn Bless the Lord O My Soul.
If there ever were a Sunday service of such conviction, faith and courage, with voices that sung with such hope and passion, not a single soul in the service would have left unsure and unchanged.
Let me end with a statement released by the family of two of the executed, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran: "Today we lost Myuran and Andrew. Our sons, our brothers. In the 10 years since they were arrested, they did all they could to make amends, helping many others. They asked for mercy, but there was none. They were immensely grateful for all the support they received. We too, will be forever grateful."
Rest in peace, brothers of our resurrected Savior. You are no stranger to me. Your struggles and fight for life are all too familiar to me. And I would have lived my life in vain if I should think for a moment that my life is not worth living, not worth fighting for, and not worth overcoming for His glory. Cheerz.