The Story: Jerry Sandusky will likely spend the rest of his life in prison. Yesterday, Judge John Cleland sentenced the 68-year-old former Penn State assistant football coach to no less than 30 years in prison for child sex abuse. His maximum sentence is 60 years.
According to one report, it was an emotional hearing in which victims recounted the horrors they endured while Sandusky insisted on his innocence, even portraying himself as a victim.
"All the qualities that make you successful concealed your vices," Cleland told the former coach. "This, in my view, makes you dangerous." The judge also noted the long-term damage Sandusky inflicted on his victims: "This crime is not only what you did to their bodies, but their psyche and souls." Cleland then concluded by addressing the victims themselves: "The fact that you were assaulted is no cause for shame....It is for your courage that you will be remembered."
The Background: It's been almost a year since the Penn State scandal erupted, resulting in the firing of legendary head football coach Joe Paterno and the forced resignation of longtime university president, Graham Spanier.
On June 22, a 12-person jury concluded that Sandusky, who retired from Penn State in 1999, used his access to university facilities and his foundation for underprivileged youth to sexually abuse 10 boys over a 15-year period. He was convicted on 45 of 48 counts.
Why It Matters: This is a horrific and heartbreaking story. We can sympathize with the anger expressed by Victim No. 9's mother, who yesterday told Sandusky, "Whatever comes to you I hope it is tenfold for what you did to my son and others."
Startling, therefore, were the words of Victim No. 6. Looking into his abuser's face, the victim reportedly said: "If you seek forgiveness, Jesus will forgive you. There's not any other way. Please repent, or there is a bigger judgment to come."
Saul of Tarsus was a news headline sort of sinner, too. As he later reflected:
Formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent....The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. (1 Tim. 1:13, 15-16)
The astonishing news of Christianity is that God's eternal Son didn't launch a rescue mission for mild sinners. He came for the sick---for blasphemers, persecutors, insolent opponents. Yes, even for child sex abusers.
The world won't forgive you, Jerry, but Jesus will. Turn to him in trust. Calvary's repentant thief bears loud witness that it's not too late.
The gospel of the bloody cross declares that you can sit in a cold prison cell freer than ever before.
Matt Smethurst serves as associate editor for The Gospel Coalition. He and his wife, Maghan, have two children and live in Louisville, Kentucky, where they belong to Third Avenue Baptist Church. You can follow him on Twitter.