Sunday, 30 March 2008

Les Miserables - indeed

We were very grateful for the TicketMaster vouchers that my parents bought us… it meant that we could do no other than treat ourselves to a trip to the theatre… Adele fancied a musical... so we booked our seats for Les Mis. I had heard a lot about this production, it seems to be “the show” to see in the West End, or at least was at one time.

While Adele’s sister cuts Adele’s hair – and they have their girly chat – praise God for an upstairs - I’m free again to put thoughts to paper…

The show was great… but I went away with a niggle in my mind. How could the audience offer such rapturous applause? Don’t get me wrong – the production was excellent, and worthy of such applause… but had people lost the deeply depressing story that had ensued… had they forgotten that life is unfair – the man who spends twenty years on the chain-gang for stealing some bread for his starving family?

Had they forgotten about the respectable lady who had to become a prostitute in order to feed her child? Had they forgotten that the young idealistic students had all lost their lives at the barricade – for seemingly no reason at all? Had they forgotten the song of the women – where nothing ever changes, where we’re simply turning through the years… where minutes turn to hours and hours into years? Had they forgotten the song of Marius “empty chairs at empty tables, now my friends are dead and gone. Phantom faces at the window, phantom shadows on the floor. Empty chairs at empty tables, where my friends will sing no more”?

It was a hard to pill to swallow as I watched… and odd that the audience would applaud with such gusto with whistles and cheers at the depressing storyline. The audience was lost… oblivious to their own state; deaf to the story that spoke so loudly to their lives; blind to the fragility and ‘pointlessness’ of their lives as shown before them on the stage. That can be the only answer as to why they went out so happy and cheerful!

Praise God that according to His great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading!!!

Three men on a Cross...

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong." And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
[Luke 23:39-43 ESV

Three men, each hanging on a cross… their hands and feet nailed… death is close for each one of them…

In agony, despised by his nation, nailed as a criminal, derided by onlookers, deserted by his friends, the so called Saviour of the World – looking utterly pathetic, weak, foolish… Is this the Jesus you see?

The Thief who Railed
Mocks the pathetic looking Jesus… “Save yourself and us!”, he cries… thinking that if he is the so called Saviour – surely he can take himself off the cross, saving Himself, and the thieves… The thief sees nothing but a foolish, deluded man, dying on the cross for the lies he’s been spreading…

The Thief who Repented
Yet the final person in our scene sees a different Jesus… Firstly, the thief recognises his own position… a guilty man, who has lived a life in the wrong, and his punishment is awaiting him, beyond his death… Yet in Jesus, he sees a man who is utterly innocent, a man crucified for doing no wrong… more than this, he sees Jesus the Lord, the rightful king of a kingdom, a kingdom that is brought about exactly by Him dying on the cross… this is no foolish man dying for a lie… it is the Son of God bringing in His Kingdom by dying an innocent death for the wicked… What a great faith this thief has. “A great faith that can see the sun under so thick a cloud, that can discover a Christ, a Saviour, under such a poor, scorned, despised, crucified Jesus, and call him Lord” [Lightfoot, C17th]. So little evidence of the kingdom as Jesus hangs on the cross - yet this thief calls upon Him as his Lord to be remembered in His kingdom. And see the compassion he has, that in the throws of death – he would share his faith with his fellow criminal thief!!!

And what compassion we see in Jesus… that amongst his pain, suffering, agony… his weakness… he would offer such a great assurance “today you will be with me in paradise”… as Jesus dies, so he offers eternal life…

Remember the tomb of Jesus was found gloriously empty!

Remember the Thief who Repented – he’s in Paradise today!

Remember the Thief who Railed – he died without Jesus!

Friday, 28 March 2008

Jesus - His Majesty and Humanity

I thought I would write my first proper post, while my wife is attempting a Sudoku – and the Chinese is settling down inside… helped along I’m sure by the abundance of Easter chocolate.

I have been reading Hebrews 1 and 2 this week – how great that these two chapters lie side-by-side…

Chapter 1 overflows with the majesty of Jesus… the exact imprint of God, the radiance of the glory of God… creator of the world, sustaining it by his word, sat at the right hand of God… Of whom of the angels has God said “you are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Or “I shall be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”. His throne will last forever, he laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of his hands… yet they will perish, but he will remain – his years will have no end! (No wonder we’re to listen to him!!!)

This is Jesus in all his glory and majesty!!

Yet the writer continues, in chapter 2, to tell of a very different Jesus. A Jesus who is made lower than the angels… a Jesus who becomes a man, taking on flesh… a Jesus who suffers, in the flesh … a Jesus who dies in the flesh…

A Jesus who becomes a human being, so as to suffer as a human being… so as to die as a human being – and so to destroy the enemy of all human beings – death; the power of the devil.

Jesus had to become a man, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest, making atonement for the sins of the people… so that they might become His brothers.

How quick I am to separate these two aspects of Jesus, his Majesty and his Humanity – and my how that undermines the Gospel…

How quick I am to see Jesus the Man dying for me – and to not see Jesus the Son of God becoming a man to die for me… it’s just a few extra words, but moves the Gospel so much deeper in my heart… reminding me of just how amazingly relational the Gospel is… Jesus giving up the glory of Heaven, in order to suffer and die – for his brothers!!! Through faith we’re brothers of Jesus… a brotherly relationship with the very same Majestic Son of chapter 1… how amazing… and therefore children of God, with the same relationship (and inheritance) as the Son has with His Father… what a great Gospel we have!

Thursday, 27 March 2008

J C Ryle ... Holiness

They cease to disregard the opinion of man; they imbibe a morbid fear of 'extreme views', and are filled with a cautious dread of giving offence. And at last the man who at one time seemed likely to be a real successor of the apostles and a good soldier of Christ, settles down on his lees as a clerical gardener, farmer or diner out, by whom nobody is offended and nobody is saved.His church becomes half empty; his influence dwindles away; the world has bound him hand and foot. He was walked in the steps of Lot's wife. He has looked back.