Sometimes our world can look dark, whether from the many wars and terrible things that happen across the earth, or from the problems and trials we ourselves face. And it was the same in Jesus’ day. At the start of Luke chapter 3, which sets the scene for the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, Luke lets us know a little bit of what the world was like in Jesus’ day by telling us who was in power at the time:
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar – when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas…
This collection of seven rulers makes for a pretty dark list! Tiberius Caesar, an emperor whose armies were occupying Jesus’ homeland , Pontius Pilate the local leader of the occupying forces who was complicit in the murder of Jesus, the Tetrarchs Herod and Philip, sons of the murderous tyrant Herod the Great, who lived decadent lives and had John the Baptist summarily executed, and Annas and Caiaphas, the religious leaders who tried to stop what God was doing through Jesus. A world that was ruled by such men would have often been a dark place to live in.
However, God chose these dark times to do the most amazing thing – to come down from heaven and come to humanity in the form of his son Jesus Christ! This should be an encouragement to us when we feel that the world around us is dark. Instead of despairing we should instead wait in hope for God to act, and trust that he ultimately will act to end all evil and suffering in the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Rev. Ben Soderlund
There are three amazing moments currently happening in world history:
Firstly, according to the United Nations, there will likely be a world population of 8 billion people by 2023. According to one BBC report, there have been 100 billion people who have lived throughout history. There have never been so many people alive as today!
Secondly, related to world population, infant mortality rates and other key indicators are improving. Bill Gates has recently stated: “The world is healthier and safer than ever. The number of children who die every year has been cut in half since 1990 and keeps going down. The number of mothers who die has also dropped dramatically. So has extreme poverty—declining by nearly half in just 20 years”. There are still many serious consequences of poverty and war, but Bill Gates’ observations should encourage us.
Thirdly, we live in a time of incredible communion technology. Wikipedia suggests that about 51% of the world’s population have internet access. This may be too conservative, as some estimates are that mobile phone usage will reach 5 billion people next year.
If we put all these facts together, we can try to discern what God is doing. Could it be that we are entering a new global age of evangelisation? It has never been easier to travel, print, or communicate the good news of Jesus Christ. There have never been so many people alive as today. What a great moment to be involved in mission!
Christians are not wishful thinkers. Our faith is based on the evidence of the empty tomb of Jesus. I love this explanation by J.I. Packer, the author of “Knowing God”:
“ Optimism hopes for the best without any guarantee of its arriving and is often no more than whistling in the dark.
Christian hope, by contrast, is faith looking ahead to the fulfillment of the promises of God, as when the Anglican burial service inters the corpse ‘in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection to eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ.’
Optimism is a wish without warrant; Christian hope is a certainty, guaranteed by God himself.
Optimism reflects ignorance as to whether good things will ever actually come.
Christian hope expresses knowledge that every day of his life, and every moment beyond it, the believer can say with truth, on the basis of God’s own commitment, that the best is yet to come.”
Will you walk in the rock solid and certain hope given through Jesus?
Welcome to Berwick Anglican Church in the name of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. As we gather this week we welcome you to remember this central event that changed history forever.
This central event flows through into the very fabric of our being, to be cross shaped people in our day to day lives. We invite you to join our community as Christ changes us to be more like him.
Our regular services include:
- Sunday 8:30am – Classic Anglican Prayer Book Service.
- Sunday 10:15am – Family Service with Sunday school.
- Sunday 5:00pm – Afternoon Service with Sunday school.
- Thursday 10:00am – Holy Communion Service.
May you be blessed as we worship the risen King together this week.
I have enjoyed our study of Nehemiah over the past few weeks and it’s exciting, action packed and triumphal story of the rebuilding of Jerusalem. But the final chapter of Nehemiah, chapter 13, ends on a note of disappointment. So much so that biblical scholar Don Carson quips that a good alternative title for Nehemiah might be the ‘Triumph and Failure of Reformation and Revival’!
In the final chapter, Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem for a second term as Governor, only to find that all those promises the people made to once again live according to God’s covenant… have been broken. The spiritual reforms that Nehemiah and Ezra brought in turned out to be short lived and skin deep. Jerusalem’s walls might be restored, but the hearts of God’s people still need much work.
Chronologically Nehemiah is set right near the end of the Old Testament’s story. And its ending that highlights the reality of human sin, is discouraging. But this ending also sets the seen for Jesus to come to God’s people and do for them what Nehemiah could not; rebuild their hearts!
And on Palm Sunday, hope begins that Nehemiah’s disappointment might be overturned! Because Jesus finally accomplished on his cross what God had long promised his people: ‘I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; ‘I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh’ (Ezekiel 36:26).
So let us be thankful for Jesus, the Greater Nehemiah, who came to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, ultimately to die on Good Friday, to once and for all take away the sin of his people.
Rev. Ben Soderlund