The terrorist acts in Manchester and London over the last two weeks remind us of the fragility of life. Two young Australian women were amongst those who died in London. Our hearts go out to families who have lost loved ones. And we pray for them.
Because of the increasing uncertainties of life, it’s important that we stop and ask ourselves what we really believe. I suggest this because in troubled times we need the assurance of faith for our own sake and for the sake of our testimony to others.
HG Wells, author of The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine, wrote: “I am an historian. I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.”
Why would a professed unbeliever say that ‘Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history’? What is it about Jesus of Nazareth that has captured the attention of great and lesser minds, from amongst all peoples? Is it the power of his words, the magnetism of his personality, the integrity of his life even in the face of the gross injustice perpetrated against him? Or is it his extraordinary feats, noted by contemporary historians such as Josephus?
There’s something we often forget about the New Testament Gospels: they were not written by just one narrator, or even by Jesus himself. There are Matthew and John, who were amongst the twelve eyewitnesses to Jesus over three years. Also, there was Mark who most likely obtained his information from Peter, another one of the twelve ‘witnesses’. And there was Luke the physician, who assures us of his careful and thorough research. Given Jesus’ unique claims and his teaching, his authority and his compassion, it is important we are assured that the facts are true.
In tough times, it is useful to recall examples of Jesus’ authority and care for his people. Luke 8:40-56 tells us of two sets of people faced with suffering and anguish – the first, a woman who had an incurable hemorrhage for twelve years; the second, a man whose twelve-year-old daughter was dying. Both turned to Jesus for help. In him, both found the help they needed.
Mysteriously awesome. Jairus, a recognized synagogue ruler, was charged with ensuring that the law of Moses was taught and upheld. Yet he made no claims to his position when he met with Jesus. Rather, he fell at Jesus’ feet, humbly asking for help. And when the sick woman interrupted Jesus’ progress to his house, Jairus did not object, despite his anxiety. He had a quiet confidence in Jesus. During the delay, news came that his daughter had died. With breathtaking confidence, Jesus urged him not to fear. Rather ‘believe’.
His words underline a major theme in Luke 8. With Jesus, the fear that grips us can give way to the release which faith allows. Arriving at Jairus’s house, Jesus passed by the mourning and disbelieving crowds. Going to the girl’s bedside and taking her hand he said, ‘Child, arise.’ At that she rose and was given food.
Jesus’ miracles point to his real nature – he is truly God in human form. Furthermore, they are mini-portraits of the deeper blessings he offers our suffering world. He invites us all to lean on him in our time of need. He will not always remove our suffering now, but he does promise to be with us. He is also committed to providing a future where there will be no crying or pain.
So important is this theme that we are addressing it and related questions at the Anglican Connection Conference in Dallas next week (June 13-15). Dr Paul Barnett, one of the keynote speakers, is addressing the theme, ‘Good News that is True News.
Prayer Almighty and everlasting God, you have given us your servants grace by the confession of a true faith to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and by your divine power to worship you as One: we pray that you would keep us steadfast in this faith and evermore defend us from all adversities; through Christ our Lord. Amen. (BCP Trinity Sunday)