This is a copy of my article for the MARCH 2016 edition of the Billericay ‘Around Town Magazine’
At a time when we are making progress in virtually every field of science and technology; no one has improved on the words Jesus spoke. Jesus’ teaching is widely acknowledged to be some of the greatest teaching the world has ever heard – it is often described as the foundation of Western civilisation. What Jesus taught was simple, authoritative and of universal significance. It’s amazing how many people think they are quoting Shakespeare when they are actually quoting from the ‘Sermon on the Mount.’Bernard Ramm, an American professor, said this about Jesus’ teachings:
“They are read more, quoted more, loved more, believed more, and translated more because they are the greatest words ever spoken … No other man’s words have the appeal of Jesus’ words because no other man can answer those fundamental human questions as Jesus answered them. They are the kind of words and the kind of answers we would expect God to give.”
Jesus’ teaching and character has impressed millions who would not call themselves Christians. In Jesus, we see a perfectly balanced human being: we see strength without hardness; gentleness without fragility; courage without recklessness; authority without arrogance; humility but not weakness; joy but never at another’s expense; kindness but not indulgence. He was a person in whom even his enemies could find no fault. The British journalist Matthew Parris, who describes himself as ‘an avowed atheist’, wrote in The Spectator:
“I’ve got such huge respect for Jesus because his life was so radical, it was so inconvenient … If Jesus had not existed, the church most certainly would not have invented him.”
One of the fascinating (or radical) things about Jesus’ teaching is that so much of it was centered on himself: ‘I am the bread of life’ (John 6:35). ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness …’ (John 8:12). ‘I am the resurrection and the life’ (John 11:25-26).
History is littered with politicians, religious leaders, academics, researchers, lawyers and detectives, who have all attempted to establish that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, yet their conclusions, however disagreeable to them, state that only a resurrection from the dead can adequately account for the phenomenon they were investigating. Professor Thomas Arnold was headmaster of Rugby for 14 years, a chair of Modern History at Oxford and author of a famous three-volume history of Rome. He was well acquainted with the value of evidence in determining historical facts and concluded:
“I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God has given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead.”
That’s why Easter is such a significant celebration in the Christian Church. May I extend an invitation to join with us here at Emmanuel (see opposite) or any of the great churches in Billericay, as we journey through Holy Week from the Praise of Palm Sunday; Poignancy of Maundy Thursday; Sorrow of Good Friday; Fun of Family Time and the Joy of Celebration on Easter Day. May God’s richest blessing be upon you as you prepare to celebrate all that Easter brings.
But be warned! Strange things happen when we follow Jesus! He turns our lives upside down! He challenges our morals, values and priorities. Our lives are never the same again. Hallelujah!