Familiarity dulls the Senses
Many of you will know that my wife, Frances and I are keen walkers. We like to do a variety of walks taking in local features like Kingley Vale, the Harting Down Beacon Hill and Cheesefoot Head (and, as we discovered form the locals, woe betide anyone who pronounces that as it is spelt rather than as “Chezfoot”!). However, over these past few months of lockdown we have all been discouraged from leaving our immediate area to start our walks, so we have had to fall back on hikes that begin in Hambledon itself.
Now, I give thanks that the good Lord has placed me in such a beautiful part of His vineyard but even so, doing the same walks again and again, where I know exactly what I shall see every step of the way has come to be a little, shall we say, “samey”. The lack of wild flowers over the winter months has compounded this sense of a lack of new experiences. Where we come to be completely familiar with anything, we tend to value it less and less, forgetting perhaps how we wereblessed by it in the first place. Sometimes our walk through the Christian year can be a little like that as well. By the time you read this, we shall be close to Easter and I wonder if Easter’s very familiarity dulls the incredible message that it contains for each and every one of us.
The incredible Message of Easter re-visited
The unique feature of Christianity is that God was made incarnate, He became man and dwelt among us. God sent His only Son, Jesus, to be born of an earthly mother through the power of the Holy Spirit, and Jesus, as a man, knew every human emotion that we know. More amazing yet was the Father’s design, for God’s plan was that Jesus should carry the burden of sin for the whole world, for all time. The only perfect man, the only man completely without sin, was to die a sinner’s death on a cross of shame so that each one of us should have the opportunity to dwell with Him for all eternity. God Himself was to be nailed to a cross in a public spectacle; Christ was to experience cosmic abandonment on behalf of each one of us.
Jesus died the most agonising death imaginable, whipped to within an inch of His life, stripped naked, nailed to a cross in a spectacle so awful and awe-full that darkness came upon that scene for three hours to hide Him from the world’s gaze (Matthew 27: 45). And Jesus, bearing the burden of the sins of world on His shoulders was, for the first and only time, totally separated from His Father, culminating in Jesus making that mighty cry, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27: 46, NIV). And, as Jesus died that terrible death on the cross, the curtain in the temple separating off the Most Holy place was torn in two (Luke 23: 45) signifying that no longer would we need a high priest to intercede for us but that we should have direct access to God through His Son.
Now, you might ask what father would possibly sacrifice his only son in this way. The answer comes in perhaps the most famous verse in the whole bible: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life” (John 3:16, NIV). God loves each one of us so much that He was willing to make that incredible gift of His only Son so that we might live. This sacrifice, which sets it aside from all the old covenant sacrifices made yearly on the “Day of Atonement”, where the sins of the Jewish people were placed on to a “scape goat” to be driven out into the desert, was for all people, both Jew and Gentile and for all time.
But God’s plan did not end with the sacrifice and death of His Son. Just as Jesus had promised His disciples (although it unlikely that many of them would have expected to see the promise so vividly fulfilled), on the third day after His crucifixion and death, God raised His Son to life in His glorious resurrection on that first Easter Day. Rising again from that tomb, Jesus not only conquered death, but He opened the gates of heaven to all those who truly believe in, and love the Lord Jesus. As that lovely children’s Easter hymn says: “There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin; He only could unlock the gate of Heaven, and let us in.”
The Easter story is truly a demonstration of God’s wonderful mercy towards us and one that must never become dulled to us by its very familiarity. For God so loved the world, indeed.
We at Hambledon Chapel wish you all a blessed Easter and continue to pray for a brighter future for us all through 2021.