What The Papers Say

Today is Easter Day, so may I wish you a very Happy Easter! “At Easter Christians will be remembering how Jesus Christ showed the ultimate service and hope of eternal life through his death and resurrection. Let us resolve to show some of that service by giving some of our most vulnerable a new life, and a hope for the future.” These are not my words, but the words of David Burrowes, the British Member of Parliament for Enfield Southgate, writing in the Huffington Post, as he makes an impassioned plea for the British authorities to help individual refugees settle into normal life here in the UK more quickly. What a surprise to find someone in public life acknowledging the fact that Jesus did actually die and rise again!

Recently I have read much ‘fake news’, or more correctly false information, about Jesus; from online comments declaring that Jesus never existed and that there’s no evidence that he ever did, to a historian who claims that Jesus was really a warrior king called Izas Manu of Edessa and Adiabene. So what a surprise it was to find an article by Dr Simon Gathercole on the Guardian.com website last week, which spelled out the historical facts, showing that Jesus really did exist. It’s conclusions are that, “the historical evidence for Jesus of Nazareth is both long-established and widespread,” and “the value of this evidence is that it is both early and detailed.”

The Guardian article goes on to say that, “Strikingly, there was never any debate in the ancient world about whether Jesus of Nazareth was a historical figure.” Yet today there are intellectuals who still deny the existence of Jesus, declaring it simply a myth. But as the article says, this “Jesus-myth” approach is criticised most heavily by the two mainstream historians “Maurice Casey (formerly of Nottingham University) and Bart Ehrman (University of North Carolina)”, who are themselves atheists, and have nothing to gain by suggesting that Jesus actually lived. In fact they describe the “Jesus-myth” approach as “pseudo-scholarship”. I have met many people, who tell me Jesus wasn’t a historical figure, but who have never studied the evidence. Is it that they are afraid of what they might find? Because the evidence for his existence also corroborates his words, which are both life-giving and full of love, yet personally challenging. He is a fascinating figure.

The video above asks the question, “Do you know Him?” Yes, the historical Jesus can not only be known about, but can also be known personally today. “Do you know Him?”


The French Resurrection

Our hearts go out to the people of Brussels following Tuesday’s tragic events. The links with Paris are all too obvious; not just the linked individuals involved in bringing terror to these two capital cities, but also the suffering and bereavement brought upon these two innocent, peace-loving populations.

So soon after the tragedy – it was only five days ago, it is difficult to imagine how change may come or indeed whether there is any hope for the future. Yet the human spirit will always rise to the challenge. As Winston Churchill was once quoted as saying, “We must never, never, never give up!” A great example of perseverance in the midst of destruction is the small French port of St. Malo in Brittany.

Place Vauban, St. Malo

St Malo is a gem on Brittany’s northern Emerald Coast; a historic fortress town with wide, sandy beaches below its medieval walls. It was occupied by the German army in WWII. Following the D-Day invasion, Hitler refused to allow the occupying force of just 70 German soldiers to surrender. The resulting Allied bombing and artillery brought the town to its knees – literally! Over three-quarters of the tall, granite buildings were destroyed, yet the town was painstakingly rebuilt, and today is a testament to the vision and skills of Raymond Cornon and his team of architects.

Par US Army — Cropped from FileSaint-Malo Bombings 1.jpg, Domaine public, httpscommons.wikimedia.1024px-Bombardement_du_Grand_Bé_par_des_B-24_Liberators_de_la_8th_Air_Force_américaine_en_août_1944
B24 of 8th US Air Force over St. Malo. (Public domain)

A town, however, is more than a collection of houses and streets. It is made up of families and friends, lives and livelihoods. The restoration of St Malo was an amazing achievement, and today is well worth a visit, but how wonderful to see the life return, the bustling market, the busy streets, the smiles on the faces. The joy of the citizens of St Malo in the video below contrasts sharply with the utter destruction of WWII. Life can never be totally extinguished; a point echoed by Archbishop Justin Welby earlier today, when he said,  “Easter proclaims to us in flesh and blood that fear and death and terror are not the last words.”

Today is, of course, Easter Sunday, when we celebrate someone who’s resurrection changed the world for the better, guaranteeing new life to all who will receive his gift of forgiveness and freedom. As Bob Gass wrote in his latest post, “His resurrection guarantees yours.”

For two excellent blog posts on St Malo, check out:

St-Malo, France: Then and Now ~ January 30, 2016 by Julie H. Ferguson

Poets, Pancakes and Pirates ~ 25 March, 2010 by Caroline Johnson

From death to life

Outside the empty tomb

Today we remember the culmination of a battle won, we celebrate a great victory. It’s a victory that has changed the course of history and dramatically altered the quality of life of millions on this planet, yet strangely is understood by so few.

Almost two thousand years ago, and documented by a variety of historians of the time, Jesus died on a Roman cross outside the walls of Jerusalem; but His death was planned before the world began. In fact He said that He came to give His life as a ransom. It was to be a divine exchange: Jesus’ perfection sacrificed for our guilt, that we may go free, forgiven, accepted and cleansed for all eternity.

Death is a formidable enemy. It is something that none of us can avoid, but it was helpless against Jesus. Yes, He succumbed to death, but that was His choice. It could not hold Him, as hundreds of witnesses at the time could testify (1 Corinthians 15:6). He rose from the dead, even keeping an appointment in Galilee that He made before His death (Matthew 26:32; John 21).

Throughout His time on earth, He frequently spoke about life; not just humdrum, everyday life, but a new quality of life that continues into eternity, and that is on offer to all who will put their trust in Him. John, one of His closest followers, records His words: “I came to give life with joy and abundance.” “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” “Whoever trusts in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life.” “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

However, Jesus didn’t just talk about it, He fought the battle with death and came out the victor, and because of what He did two thousand years ago, we have the opportunity today to receive that free gift of life, life in all its fulness, life for all eternity.

To find out more, check out: Time to Change.

The Passover Lamb

The Cross
The Passover Lamb

Tomorrow is Good Friday, the first day of the Easter weekend. Cadbury’s Creme Eggs have been in the shops for months, and families are packing for the Easter getaway.

This year Easter falls at the same time as the Jewish festival of Pesach (Passover). In fact that famous Easter meal, the Last Supper, was actually a very Jewish Passover meal, where a Jewish rabbi and his twelve students recalled the miraculous deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. This meal was a bitter-sweet occasion for the rabbi as only he knew that he would leave there to face torture and death. It was to be his life for ours, his goodness and purity for our wrongdoing and rebellion. Just as Jewish people around the world remember the Passover lamb that gave its life to save the lives of others, here we have Jesus – his real name was Yeshua – who had lived a spotless life, but gave it so that others may be free, forgiven, accepted and loved by their Creator. In so doing he fulfilled the prophecies of the Hebrew King David and the prophet Isaiah.

Another rabbi, Sha’ul, or Paul the apostle as he’s more commonly known, writes about this event, but in doing so he leaves a challenge for us all.

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t only look out  for your own interests, but take an interest in others too. You must have the same attitude as that of Yeshua the Messiah:

“Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Yeshua every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Yeshua the Messiah is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:3-11)