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April 2014

July 23, 2014

Thoughts From The Cottage

Dear Friends

It is the greatest story ever told but we so often miss its power because we know the ending. We live in post-resurrection days so how can we truly understand the emotional turmoil of the events from Palm Sunday to Easter Day. No-one, not the disciples, not Mary, not the Pharisees, not Caiaphas, Herod or Pilate, not the crowd, no-one except Jesus knew what was going to happen. For each of us there was a first time of hearing the story, Vicky Beeching puts it so well in her fabulously moving song ‘The Wonder of The Cross’

1 O precious sight, my Saviour stands,
dying for me with outstretched hands.
O precious sight; I love to gaze,
remembering salvation day,
remembering salvation day.

2 Though my eyes linger on this scene,
may passing time and years not steal
the power with which it impacts me,
the freshness of its mystery,
the freshness of its mystery.

May I never lose the wonder,
the wonder of the cross.
May I see it like the first time,
standing as a sinner lost.

Undone by mercy and left speechless,
watching wide-eyed at the cost.
May I never lose the wonder,
the wonder of the cross.

3 Behold, the God-Man crucified,
the perfect sinless sacrifice.
As blood ran down those nails and wood,
history was split in two,
history was split in two.

4 Behold, the empty wooden tree,
his body gone, alive and free.
We sing with everlasting joy,
for sin and death have been destroyed,
sin and death have been destroyed.

How do we see it like the first time? It seems impossible yet unless we try to do just that Easter is robbed of its power and significance. How do we comprehend the enormity of what Jesus did for us because of his immense love for us? We begin by trying to understand who Jesus is and what he did in 1st Century Palestine. He was, is and always will be the Son of God. It is generally believed by scientists that it took several million years for human beings to evolve and that recognisable human beings appeared around 100,000 years ago. As Christians we believe that God created them and therefore he has had a relationship with the human race all that time. But the pinnacle of his creation ignored him and went their own way. Finally God said enough was enough, that sinning had to stop and he had to show the human race that the instruction manual was correct and that we can live like he intended. So God came in human form. Sadly the sinning did not stop.

Judged by human terms Jesus was an amazing character. Spending time with him was exhilarating and life changing. We read the stories and because they are beyond our reasoning we water them down or explain them away. We must stop doing that and reclaim the historical Jesus. He really did heal the blind, the lame, the sick and raise the dead. He did not discover forgotten wine in the cellar in Cana or persuade 5000 people to share their picnic, he really did turn water into wine and feed 5000 people with two loaves and five fish and finish up with more left over than when he started. To say anything else is to deny our faith, deny the power of God and reduce Christianity to a folk religion. His stories transfixed the audience, his preaching had them riveted to their seats, his admonishing of corrupt and perverted authority was legendary. He did note care who he offended by telling the truth at all times. He was not afraid to tell people to stop sinning yet no-one was excluded from his company.

This was the guy the disciples had followed for three years, the one who was welcomed into Jerusalem as a King. They had had an amazing three years and expectations were high, very high, yet in five days he was dead. What went wrong? Why did the mood change? Quite simply the powers that be felt threatened so they orchestrated events. But Jesus did raise a finger or say a word in his defence. He bore the desertion of his friends, slanderous accusations, sham trials by religious and civic leaders, beatings, torture and finally crucifixion because his immense love for humanity and his total obedience to his Father enabled him to do it. The pain, tears, blood and sweat were all real. Angels did not mop his brow. God did not intervene. He bore it all for you and me. And so that was it. Finally his side was pierced and his legs broken, dead he was put into a tomb that was sealed and guarded. Bereft the disciples hid away in an upper room, scared to venture out.

But as we know it was not the end. On Easter Day the tomb was empty, the graveclothes neatly folded. God had raised Jesus raised from the dead. It took time for the disciples to realise what had happened, some did not even recognise him at first. But it was no dream, no illusion. He talked with them, he ate with them and he commissioned them to take the story, his story, history into the world and carry on his work. We stand in their footsteps, we have been commissioned with the same task. This Easter we must share the real story, not some watered down or glossed over version that reduces the impact, the miraculous, the person of Jesus. And like him we must speak the truth and call upon everyone to live as God intended.

When you open your Easter cards or bite into an Easter Egg, pause, remember the cost of Easter to Jesus and ask him how your life must change, what you must do for him. Then do it! Happy Easter!

Ian

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