News Commentary: The light of the Gospel in the Life and death of Coach Ed Thomas


There have been a lot of death of famous people mentioned recently.  Not only do we have the recent deaths of Michael Jackson and Farah Fawcett.  Other recent deaths include Ed McMahon, Billy Mays, Fred Travalena, and Karl Malden.   There was another death that has been made public as well.  This death was the tragic murder of high school football coach Ed Thomas.  On June 24th at around 7:45 Am Ed Thomas was shot by former student Mark Becker. 

Normally the deathof a small town football coach would not be anything people really attend to, but attention is drawn to Ed Thomas related to his having coached several NFL players with the most recent being Green Bay Packers linebacker Aaron Kampman, Jacksonville Jaguars center Brad Meester, Detroit Lions defensive end Jared DeVries and Denver Broncos center Casey Wiegmann.  So without contributing to the success of these men’s life within the apex of cultural entertainment, Ed Thomas would be widely known and this article would not be written.

The death of Ed Thomas and the man who killed him shows a contrast in lives.   Ed Thomas was a man who loved God and served others.  He was a man that taught values related to hard work, perseverance, and leadership. He bore witness to the Gospel in both word and action.  According to news reports his life reflected that of a person serving the Kingdom of God versus his own kingdom. He had success and failures in reaching many with the love of God.  His life and impact is exemplified by this quote from Aaron a “Coach Thomas was very special to me and many other young men from the Aplington-Parkersburgcommunities. His legacy for many will be associated with his tremendous success as a football coach. However, I believe his greatest legacy comes not in how many football games he won or lost but in the fact that he was a committed follower of Jesus Christ. He lived his life trying to exemplify this faith and convey those values to those under his influence. His faith in Christ pervaded everything he did and that is why in the midst of the heartache we all feel there is comfort in knowing he is with his Savior.”

In contrast, is the life of his murderer Mark Bennett.  He was a former student and player who has coached by Ed Thomas, yet some how the words and life of Coach Thomas didn’t reach Mark who chose to go a different path then the one taught and demonstrated by Ed.  Rather Mark lived a life caught in the mire of drug addiction.   He reach a point where is mind had been damaged and destroyed, likely do to the drug use.  The end result is the man with the destroyed mind and life took the life of the man who showed him another way.

These two men show the contrast between those who walk in the light of the Gospel and serve the kingdom of God and those lost in darkness.  Darkness seeks to destroy all light.  It seeks to have people lost and without hope.  The man Mark Bennett followed the path of darkness, with momentary pleasure, to the point of destruction.  Coach Ed Thomas walked in the light of the Gospel, even in tought times. He had strong faith, not just in the people in the town he loved, but in Jesus, who he served. 

Now it may seem here that darkness won the battle. The light that was shown in the life of Coach Ed Thomas has been extinguished. Yet, the light of his life still shines.  The impact he had on the town of Parkersburg will not be forgotten.  The words he spoke to the boys he coached will be remembered.  Each person that Coach Ed Thomas touched will think over what Ed Thomas meant and the Gospel he preached and demonstrated.  The end of Coach Thomas life does not end his influence. 

Sure his death brings questions such as how could God allow one who followed Matthew 5:16 (“Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”) so clearly? I read in one article stated that Coach Thomas was the rock on which the town of Parkersburg   Somehow such a statement seems contary to what Coach Thomas lived and demonstrated.  Jesus the Messiah is the rock each of needs to turn.  Perhaps Coach Thomas was called to be with the God, so that others may look to Jesus and not Coach Thomas.  There are plenty of what ifs.  The simple fact is God’s purposes will be served here. That what prince of darkness and all that hates light meant for ill, will serve to reach others with the light of the Gospel. 

 Now word is Parkersburg is a moral town with many churches.  Such a fact is only a surface fact.  The town certainly has many people like Mark Bennett, lost and confused and on the pathway to destruction.  The town probably has fewer who live and follow Jesus in the manner of Coach Ed Thomas. Each person and where they are with God is unique.  Only God  truly knows the heart but the fruit of  the lives lived can be evident.  One who has a light who shined the truth of the Gospel.  One who walked a dark path of destruction.  Each person has a choice which path to follow.  The light of the path is not through self-effort. Ed Thomas lived the way he lived through the power of the Gospel to move beyond serving self to loving and serving others because of Jesus and what he did for each of us at the cross.

My prayer is for each person Coach Thomas impacted that they take a step closer to Jesus.  If they know him not, that they open their eyes and ears and heart to the Gospel and turn to the Kingdom of God.  If they know Jesus that they look for ways they can love others and walk out the Gospel in the world in which they live.   Each person was touched.  Also pray that folks do not turn to the despair of darkness that is exemplified in Mark Bennett’s life and choices but rather the light as shown in Coach Ed Thomas life.  And ultimately pray that God cuts through the damaged mind of Mark Bennett and that he may yet turn to Jesus in repentance.   May those that  were hurt by Mark’s choices be able to turn to light by embracing forgiveness rather then the darkness of hate and bitterness.

In closing, ultimately Coach Thomas has been taken away from the confines of this world into the presence of God almighty.  The tragic loss is felt by those left behind, while Coach Thomas is in the presence of the Light of the World.  No darkness, pain, or suffering.  His service on earth is at an end until the time of Jesus return and the resurrection of the saints.  Mark Bennett on the other hand will be imprisoned one way or another.  His physical status will match the prison he is already in.

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2 Responses

  1. This makes so much more sense if you add this to the end of the story. Coach Thomas is singing his story and others who walked with God are singing next to him in the brilliance of the One who understands all of it.

    His death is only tragic to us and it won’t be once we join him.

  2. Thought I had made reference to that fact. Added a paragraph.

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