"When God chose to take on human flesh, he did not become a priest or a monk, a king or a general, a poet or a philosopher. Instead, he became a death row prisoner, a condemned criminal executed alongside two thieves. Nothing else would do: the living image of the invisible deity could take no truer form than a 'dead man walking,' the lowest of the low.

"Yet we somehow manage to overlook this central fact of our faith. When we think of Jesus, we prefer the beautiful baby in Mary's arms, the miracle worker, the eloquent preacher, or the resurrected Son sitting on a cloud next to his Father. Christ is indeed all of those — but he saved us by submitting himself to a capital punishment as a convicted felon. His most important work was to die as a common criminal.

"To say Jesus was not a 'real' convict because he did not commit any crime is to miss the point entirely, of course. Since the mid-1990s, more than 140 prisoners in this country have been exonerated through DNA tests, and every one of them was a 'real' convict before being proved innocent. A convict is merely a person who has been tried, sentenced, and (in capital cases) executed, regardless of his or her actual guilt."