“For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Alternate Chronology of the Crucifixion of Jesus
Like Christmas, celebrating Jesus’ birth, we may celebrate these events of the crucifixion on symbolic days which remind us of the literal events, even though we may not be following their exact chronology or dates.
Some scholars argue for a crucifixion on the Thursday of Holy Week followed by two Sabbath days, the Passover Sabbath on Friday and the regular Sabbath on Saturday.
This chronology correlates with Jesus’ predictions:
For just as Jonah was for three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth (Matthew 12:40).
Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. 33 After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again’ (Luke 18:31-33).
The confusion arose because all the gospels say that there was a rush to get his body off the cross and buried before sundown because the “Sabbath” was near. Everyone assumed the reference to “the Sabbath” had to be Saturday so the crucifixion must have been on a Friday. However, as Jews know, the day of Passover itself is also a “Sabbath” or rest day no matter what weekday it falls on. In the year 30 AD Friday, the 15th of the Jewish month Nisan was also a Sabbath so two Sabbaths occurred back to back Friday and Saturday. Matthew seems to know this as he says that the women who visited Jesus’ tomb came early Sunday morning “after the Sabbaths” (Matthew 28:1).
As is often the case, the gospel of John preserves a more accurate chronology of what went on. John specifies that the Wednesday night “last supper” was “before the festival of Passover.” He also notes that when Jesus’ accusers delivered him to be crucified on Thursday morning they would not enter Pilate’s courtyard because they would be defiled and would not be able to eat the Passover that evening (John 18:28). John knows that the Jews would be eating their traditional Seder meal Thursday evening.
Reading Mark, Matthew, and Luke one can get the impression that the “last supper” was the Passover meal. Some have even argued that Jesus might have eaten the Passover meal a day early—knowing ahead of time that he would be dead. But the fact is, Jesus ate no Passover meal in 30 CE. When the Passover meal began at sundown on Thursday, Jesus was dead. He had been hastily put in a tomb until after the festival when a proper funeral could be arranged.
That discussion sent me checking the plural Sabbaths in Matthew 28:1. It is plural and can be used for either Sabbaths or Sabbath, as also in Matthew 12:1. Most translators opt for singular, but a few retain the literal plural, such as these for Matthew 12:1 and 28:1.
At that time did Jesus go on the sabbaths through the corn, and his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck ears, and to eat, (Young’s Literal Translation, by Robert Young who compiled Young’s Analytical Concordance.)
The Bible passages allow for a crucifixion on the Thursday of Holy Week, and even where Sabbath is used in the singular it does indicate that they found the stone rolled away on the first day of the week after that Sabbath.
That Friday may have been a special Passover Sabbath, not just the Saturday. Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down (John 19:31).
Irrespective of the day, the great significance is that the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world was crucified on the Day of Preparation for the Passover, the day on which the Passover lamb was killed so that after sunset the Passover could be celebrated on the next Jewish day beginning after sunset.
Like Christmas, celebrating Jesus’ birth, we may celebrate these events of the crucifixion on symbolic days which remind us of the literal events, even though we may not be following their exact chronology or dates.
I’m content to follow the traditional chronology and dates, as in our diaries, perhaps as symbolic and liturgical reminders of the greatest events in human history.
We do not base our faith, or hopes, on an artifact but, although controversial, it does provide confirmation of the brutal torture and trauma of crucifixion that Jesus suffered.
The Shroud of Turin
Enhanced positive image
The Shroud of Turin is the most intensely investigated religious artifact in history. Many scholars believe it may be the linen cloth that was wrapped around Jesus’ body. Its faint image shows the horrendous wounds of a crucified man with wounds exactly matching the description of Jesus’ death.
Physicist, and founder of the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP), John P. Jackson, has proposed that the image features of the Shroud of Turin were produced by radiation emanating from the body in the Shroud at the moment of resurrection.
The shroud of Turin is a 14.3 foot by 3.7 linen cloth bearing the faint double image (ventral and dorsal) of a naked man who appears to have been crucified (together with burn marks and water stains resulting from fires, one in 1532).
There is a puncture wound on his left wrist (his right wrist is hidden from view), and there are puncture wounds on his feet as if they were pierced by a nail or nails. The back of the man is covered with over 120 scourge marks, apparently imposed by the Roman instrument of torture known as the flagrum (a whip with two or three thongs to which were attached small balls of lead). There is a large puncture wound on the right side between the ribs from which blood and a watery serum have flowed. The image resides only on the top-most fibres of the threads with which the Shroud is woven, and it is a negative image.
Although very faint when viewed as a positive, the image becomes much clearer when darks and lights are reversed.
[Carbon dating in 1988 from a tiny corner of the Shroud dated the sample between 1260 and 1390 AD, but it is argued that the sample came from repaired cloth.]
If the medieval date is right, then this implies that the Shroud is a forgery, when all the scientific evidence we have other than this date implies that it is not a forgery: the image on the Shroud was not drawn or painted (there are no binding agents or particulates on the Shroud in the region of the image); it is a negative created at a time when photography didn’t exist, but it is not a photograph (in contains 3D information and photographs do not), it is not a contact print (parts of the Shroud that were not in contact with the body bear impressions as clear as parts that were in contact with the body); the man in the Shroud has truly been subject to horrific and mortal injuries; he has wounds associated with crucifixion, and the exit wound on the wrist contradicts depictions of the crucifixion in medieval art, but reflects the way in which people were crucified; he is covered with scourge marks clearly inflicted by the Roman instrument of the torture known as the flagrum, and he has puncture wounds on his head consistent with the wearing of a roughly prepared cap of thorns rather than the elegant wreath of thorns depicted by medieval artists; there is a large wound on his right side which matches a spear used by Roman executioners and from which post-mortem blood and a watery serum (visible only by ultraviolet fluorescence photography) have flowed; the blood on the Shroud – that of a real man – contains a high level of bilirubin, a substance associated with severe physical trauma; there are no signs of decomposition, meaning that the body was removed from the Shroud within a few days; the Shroud contains traces of pollen from plants growing only in the area of Jerusalem, some of which are extinct since antiquity, and there are microscopic traces of dirt at the foot of the man in the Shroud that only match limestone found in the area of Jerusalem.
It is the most intriguing and unique relic of its kind and the longstanding irony is – there are legions of professed Christians who have no idea what it is, or that it even exists. The Shroud of Turin is revered as the sacred burial cloth of Jesus Christ and is arguably the most important archaeological artifact ever found. The image on the cloth is like a photographic negative exposed to light that is a detailed portrait of a crucified man. The historical specifics include the multitude of gashes from the scourging, the flow of blood, the presence of Pontius Pilate coins on the eyes, the wounds on the wrists and not the hands, the presence of a pony-tail running down the man’s back, bits of pollen that are unique to the region around Jerusalem are all remarkably accurate.
Blood trickled from the victim’s wrists down his arms, indicating that he hung from his wrists on the cross, not with his arms horizontal as in most crucifixion paintings.
We do not base our faith, or hopes, on an artifact but, although controversial, it does provide confirmation of the brutal torture and trauma of crucifixion that Jesus suffered.
Akiane Kramarik became famous for her paintings and poetry, begun at age four when she started having visions of Jesus and heavenly scenes. An interesting video shows the correlation between the face on the Shroud of Turin and the painting of the vision of Jesus by Akiane: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2AdNTKcGnc
Enhanced Shroud face and Akiane painting.
Visions are subjective and open to interpretation, but we live in a time when increasing numbers of people, especially Muslims, are having visions of Jesus that often bring them to faith in him as their Saviour and Lord. You too can believe in Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, your Saviour and Lord.
Jesus Film Project team members had arranged for a film showing outside a Central Asian village. Upon arrival near the community, an area they knew to be dangerous because of religious radicals, they sensed something was not right.
With no moon, all the team members could see were faint silhouettes of buildings and trees. They felt an unsettling and eerie foreboding but began playing music through the speakers to attract people from the nearby community to the film showing.
Nobody came, which almost never happens. Suddenly, they heard the sound of rustling bushes and the cracking of branches breaking under the feet of 12 radicals rushing toward them. Waving machetes, they screamed, “We are going to kill you and every infidel with you!” The three team members fled for their lives, running as fast as they could to their Jeep. With hearts pounding and fumbling to get the Jeep started, they sped away.
A year later, through prayer, they recognised that those people still needed to hear the Gospel, so they asked the Lord what they should do. In agreement, they felt God urging them to go back, although the risk was great. The members loaded the ‘JESUS’ film and equipment back into their Jeep, along with three boxes of Bibles, and headed for the village, several hours away.
‘Can you give me a ride?’ the police officer asked
On the road, they came to a police checkpoint – a potentially dangerous stop in the road considering the load of Bibles. The officer asked where they were going. Trying to be noncommittal, they said, “We are headed south.” To their surprise, he said “Well so am I. Can you give me a ride?” There was no way they could refuse the officer’s request. Insisting on climbing into the back of the Jeep, the officer sat on a box full of Bibles. They feared if the officer looked into the box, they could be arrested or possibly killed.
So they prayed and drove on. Soon, the team approached another police checkpoint. Popping his head out from the back of the Jeep, the first police officer told the other officers, “I’m with them. You don’t need to search the vehicle.” The police waved them through. This happened at three more police checkpoints, and all three times he got them through. At his request, they drove the officer to his home, where he invited them in for tea. Once there, he asked what they were planning. “We’ve come to show a film about the Great Prophet Isa (Jesus).”
In gratitude for their kindness, the officer asked, “What do you need?” This was the same village where radicals chased them out a year earlier, nearly killing them with machetes. “We need permission,” they answered. “Oh, that’s no problem. My brother is the mayor. Where do you want to show this film?” They asked, “Could we use the town square?” (This is where they had tried unsuccessfully before.) The policeman replied: “Sure, but you know we have some radical elements here. So I’m going to have my police guard you as you show the film.”
That night 167 people came to Christ
The team prayed and set up their equipment. Once again, as they had a year earlier, they played music as darkness fell to draw the people. This time a crowd gathered, sat down and watched ‘JESUS’, hearing the Word of God in their heart language. For the first time in their lives, they learned who Jesus really was. The Holy Spirit ministered to their hearts. Jesus was not just a great prophet, but the Son of God who demonstrated power and authority over sickness and death, was raised from the dead, and offered all who believed in Him eternal life. That night 167 people came to Christ!
These new believers need the support of trained church leaders, but training programs are lacking. And due to the threat of extreme violence, any evangelism must be carried out with sensitivity and wisdom. Please pray for the safety, growth and spiritual maturity of those in underground house churches. Ask God for a miraculous explosion of religious freedom and that believers would be bold in sharing their faith with family and friends.
1980: “JESUS” has first international showing in Hindi to 21 million Indian viewers. First “JESUS” film teams launch in the Philippines.
1984: “JESUS” film translations reach 100.
1985: The ministry “The JESUS Film Project” is founded.
1989: First Soviet Union language premier in Georgia, the birthplace of Stalin.
1991: First convocations on Christian morals and ethics, linked with the “JESUS” film, are held for Russian educators. It becomes the International School Project.
1993: “JESUS” reaches an astonishing one-half billion viewings.
1997: “JESUS” reaches one billion viewings and is translated into 400th language. Dramatic audio/radio versions of “JESUS” developed.
1999: “JESUS” reaches 500 translations. “The Story of Jesus for Children” is produced.
2001: “JESUS” is shown in every country around the globe. Audio/radio translations reach 200. The “JESUS” film is distributed in New York after the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks.
2002: Total viewings: 5 billions, Translations reach 700.
2003: “JESUS” film translations 800, audio/radio translations 300, “JESUS: Fact or Fiction?” apologetic DVD produced and packaged with “JESUS” film.
2004: The Global Short Film Network begins.
2007: 1,000th translation of “JESUS”. The film “Magdalena: Released from Shame” premiers at the United Nations, NY—and in 22 countries.
2009: Film translations: 1,071, Audio/radio translations (“The Story of Jesus”): 423, Translations of “The Story of Jesus for Children”: 135, Translations of “Magdalena: Released from Shame”: 48.
2012: Erick Schenkel named executive director of Jesus Film Project. Jesus Film Project app is released.
2013: 10,000th projector shipped.
2015: Enhanced 35th-anniversary Blu-ray edition of “JESUS” released. Version 2.0 of the Jesus Film Project app makes it easier for people to find videos of Jesus in their own language. Jesus Film Project sets goal to reach 5 billion people by 2025.
2017: 1,500th language produced for the Daasanach people.
Today: Jesus Film Project carries more than than 30 short and feature length films, and has partnered with more than 1,500 ministries to see more than 500 million indicate decisions to follow Jesus.
Many missions organizations have called the JESUS film “one of the greatest evangelistic success stories of all time.”
Jesus Film Project’s goal is to help people experience Jesus in their own language using media tools and momentum-building strategies. The fact that “JESUS” has been recognized by The Guinness Book of World Records as the “Most Translated Film” in history reveals how seriously we take the objective to share the gospel with people from every nation, tribe, and tongue.
Similarly, the Bible is the most translated book in history.
The Bible has been translated into many languages from the biblical languages of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. As of October 2019 the full Bible has been translated into 698 languages, the New Testament has been translated into an additional 1,548 languages and Bible portions or stories into 1,138 other languages. Thus at least some portions of the Bible have been translated into 3,384 languages. (Wikipedia)
The Servant Songs (also called the Servant poems or the Songs of the Suffering Servant) are four songs in the Book of Isaiah in the Hebrew Bible, which include Isaiah 42:1-4; Isaiah 49:1-6; Isaiah 50:4-7; and Isaiah 52:13-53:12. They were first identified by Bernhard Duhm in his 1892 commentary on Isaiah. The songs are four poems written about a certain “servant of YHWH” (Hebrew: עבד יהוה, ‘eḇeḏ Yahweh). God calls the servant to lead the nations, but the servant is horribly abused among them. In the end, he is rewarded.
Some scholars regard Isaiah 61:1-3 as a fifth servant song, although the word “servant” (Hebrew: עבד, ‘eḇeḏ) is not mentioned in the passage. [Wikipedia]
Here are the Servant Songs from the New Revised Standard Version. You can compare other translations in The Bible Gateway
Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. 2 He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; 3 a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. 4 He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching.
Listen to me, O coastlands, pay attention, you peoples from far away! The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me. 2 He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away. 3 And he said to me, ‘You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.’ 4 But I said, ‘I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my cause is with the Lord, and my reward with my God.’
5 And now the Lord says, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honoured in the sight of the Lord, and my God has become my strength— 6 he says, ‘It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.’
The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens— wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. 5 The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backwards. 6 I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.
7 The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.
Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12
See, my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high. 14 Just as there were many who were astonished at him[b] —so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of mortals— 15 so he shall startle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which had not been told them they shall see, and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.
Who has believed what we have heard? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account.
4 Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 8 By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people. 9 They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the Lord shall prosper. 11 Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3 to provide for those who mourn in Zion— to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
See Luke 4:14-21
Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
18 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’
The chapter divisions commonly used today were developed by Stephen Langton, an Archbishop of Canterbury. Langton put the modern chapter divisions into place in around A.D. 1227. The Wycliffe English Bible of 1382 was the first Bible to use this chapter pattern. Since the Wycliffe Bible, nearly all Bible translations have followed Langton’s chapter divisions.
The Hebrew Old Testament was divided into verses by a Jewish rabbi by the name of Nathan in A.D. 1448. Robert Estienne, who was also known as Stephanus, was the first to divide the New Testament into standard numbered verses, in 1555. Stephanus essentially used Nathan’s verse divisions for the Old Testament. Since that time, beginning with the Geneva Bible (1560), the chapter and verse divisions employed by Stephanus have been accepted into nearly all the Bible versions (as in the King James Bible of 1611).
Gutenberg’s printing press, invented around 1440, made Bibles widely available, beginning with the Vulgate Bible in Latin (1450s) without chapters and verses. The use of chapters and verses became normal in the Scriptures from 1560.
A summary of the events on one Jewish Day – from sunset to the next sunset.
The Passover lamb was killed that day. Jesus chose to die on that day, fulfilling the Passover and the prophecies about the Messiah/Christ – God’s Anointed One.
This Blog: selections from the book Crucified and Risen: The Easter Story.
Use and reproduce these resources any way you wish to share the Good News of Easter – He is risen indeed.
From the Introduction
The Easter Story
Tension rose. Many believed that the famous, radical young prophet from the rural hills of the village of Nazareth in the north was the long-awaited Messiah, the Christ. That ancient title Messiah (Hebrew) or Christ (Greek) meant God’s Anointed One. People believed their Messiah would free them from the tyranny of the Roman Empire and establish his eternal kingdom.
Some people, like the Zealots, wanted to fight to free their nation. Roman soldiers savagely crucified these insurrectionists as a public demonstration of the futility of opposing their Empire. One disciple of the young prophet was Simon the Zealot.
Other people, such as the Jewish leaders, co-operated with their Roman overlords, hoping to keep the peace and prevent further invasion and destruction. One of the radical prophet’s disciples was Matthew, approved as a tax collector for Rome. People regarded tax collectors as traitors.
Other disciples of the popular prophet ran a successful fishing business in Galilee, owning many boats and employing many fishermen. They returned to their business after the traumatic and confusing events of their prophet’s arrest, torture and public execution.
This radical young prophet annoyed the Jewish leaders. He broke many of their strict religious laws and traditions. He welcomed all kinds of people and was widely known as a friend of prostitutes and traitors like tax collectors. He visited their homes. He welcomed sinners to join him in the homes of strict religious leaders who were shocked, appalled and angered.
He survived many assassination attempts. Two kings, father and son, wanted to kill him (Matthew 2:13; Luke 13:31). People in his home village attempted to push him over a cliff (Luke 4:29). People in Jerusalem tried to stone him more than once (John 8:59, 10:31). Religious leaders often plotted to kill him (Matthew 12:14, 26:4; Mark 11:18; Luke 19:47). At times, his own family thought he was crazy, and many Jewish leaders said he used demonic powers (Mark 3:21-22).
So, during his three years of public teaching and preaching, he stirred up opposition as well as a huge following of people wanting healing and miracles. Then during his final journey to Jerusalem for that momentous Passover, he warned his closest followers three times that he would be arrested, tortured and executed. They could not comprehend that, and Peter earned a harsh rebuke for disagreeing with Jesus. But Jesus clearly described what lay ahead, as in this explanation:
Then he took the twelve aside and said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be handed over to the Gentiles; and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.’ But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. (Luke 18:31-34, see also Luke 9:22, 44-45)
The High Priest and the chief priests of the ruling Sanhedrin were determined to kill this dangerous, radical young man. Driven by jealousy of his popularity and the threat that his popularity may lead to a possible uprising and severe Roman retaliation (as did happen around 40 years later in 70AD), the religious leaders wanted him dead and his threat removed.
Eventually they did kill him. But he chose the time and the place and the method (John 10:17-18). He was publicly crucified on the day the Passover lambs were killed. He fulfilled prophecies about the Messiah, but even his closest friends did not understand that, until later. One of his disciples betrayed him. Another fought to defend him, slicing off a high priest’s servant’s ear – which needed immediate repair. Then all his friends deserted him and fled. By nine o’clock that morning their leader and friend, the Messiah, was savagely tortured and crucified.
Romans crucified their victims along the main road just outside a town or village. They lopped trees and their victims carried the crossbar to the dreadful execution site where they were nailed to the crossbar and hoisted onto a tree trunk or stake. Peter later wrote that Jesus bore our sins in His own body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24). The execution place just outside Jerusalem’s city wall was called the place of the skull, with graves nearby. There are tombs and graves just outside that city wall even today.
Eye-witnesses saw and heard the horrendous spectacle. A few, like John, saw it from nearby. Spectators taunted the central victim: And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!’ The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ (Luke 23:35-37)
The three victims gasped out brief cries, one with angry accusations: One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ (Luke 23:39)
Soldiers divided the victims’ clothes among themselves, gambling for some. Eventually they smashed the legs of the two victims still alive so they died quickly, no longer able to push up from their spiked feet to gasp more breath. Religious leaders wanted them off the crosses before the Sabbath began at sunset.
The other victim was already dead so one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and blood and water flowed out.
The mystery deepened rapidly. Matthew, the disciple who had been a despised tax collector for Rome, reported that the curtain of the temple was split from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split and tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life and came out of the tombs after the resurrection and went into the city and appeared to many people (Matthew 27:51-52).
Rumours began to spread that weekend.
Most people thought that the unbelievable rumours that the Messiah was alive were impossible, and said so. Loudly.
Only a few, very few at first, thought that it had really happened. Even after a month some still doubted that it actually happened. (Matthew 28:16-17)
They saw the awful, brutal execution. Their leader had been severely flogged and tortured early one morning before his execution. The conquering Romans made sure their victims suffered maximum agony and humiliation on thousands of crosses, suffering publicly and slowly in excruciating pain to their last agonized breath. That’s how we got our English words excruciate (ex-crux – out of the cross) and agony from the Greek word agon (struggle or contest).
Then, on the third day, he mysteriously appeared to many of his friends. That afternoon and evening he explained that the Scriptures said that the Messiah had to suffer:
Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem (Luke 24:25-27, 44-47).
Crucified, as thousands were, their Messiah and King then appeared mysteriously for just over a month from the full moon at Passover until his ascension beyond the clouds. Even his name, Yeshua/Joseph/Jesus told that story. It means God saves.
The Greek word Ἰησοῦς (Iesous, Yeshua), translated mostly as Jesus, but also as Joshua, means God saves, or God is salvation. English translations of the Bible traditionally use ‘Jesus’ when the reference is to Joshua/Yeshua of Nazareth and commonly as ‘Joshua’ for anyone else with that name (see Luke 3:29; Acts 7:45; Hebrews 4:8). So in English the name Jesus became unique for Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world.
These brutal and mysterious events transformed the lives of the people involved and changed the history of the world.
Eye-witnesses wrote their reports on parchments in the Greek language, now incorporated into the New Testament, the most translated and most read book in the world. All or part of it is translated into over 3,000 languages and the whole Bible translated into over 670 languages. I use the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) in this book with other translations added occasionally.
This story covers the most momentous events in history because it not only affected those involved but also changed the lives and eternal destiny of countless millions through history.
Events in this book are reproduced in more detail in my book The Lion of Judah. There I include extra passages, some from Paul’s letters and from various passages in the New Testament including The Revelation.
In this book, I reproduce Bible passages in italics. These passages, translated from the original eye-witness reports, tell the astounding story.
Matthew, Mark and John saw it personally. Luke gathered his reports from eye-witnesses for his two books, the Gospel of Luke and The Acts of the Apostles.
Paul wrote: For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)
John penned the famous words: God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him will not perish but will have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
SUMMARY OF EVENTS
The Last Supper
Preparation of the Passover – Mt 26:17-19 Mk 14:12-16 Lk 22:7-13
Washing the disciples’ feet – Jn 13:1-17
The breaking of bread – Mt 26:26 Mk 14:22 Lk 22:19
‘One of you shall betray me’ – Mt 26:21 Mk 14:18 Lk 22:21 Jn 13:21
‘Is it I ?’ – Mt 26:22-25 Mk 14:19
Giving of the dipped bread – Jn 13:26-27
Departure of Judas Iscariot – Jn 13:30
Peter warned – Mt 26:34 Mk 14:30 Lk 22:34 Jn 13:38
Blessing the cup – Mt 26:27,28 Mk 14:23,24 Lk 22:17
The discourses after supper – Jn 14:1-16:33
Christ’s prayer for his apostles – Jn 17:1-17:26
The hymn – Mt 26:30 Mk 14:26
Gethsemane and Trials
The agony – Mt 26:37 Mk 14:33 Lk 22:39 Jn 18:1
The thrice-repeated prayer – Mt 26:39-44 Mk 14:36-39 Lk 22:42
Sweat and angel support – Lk 22:43,44
The sleep of the apostles – Mt 26:40-45 Mk 14:37-41 Lk 22:45,46
Betrayal by Judas – Mt 26:47-50 Mk 14:34,44 Lk 22:47 Jn 18:2-5
Peter smites Malchus – Mt 26:51 Mk 14:47 Lk 22:50 Jn 18:10
Jesus heals the ear of Malchus – Lk 22:51
Jesus forsaken by disciples – Mt 26:56 Mk 14:50 1) Trial with Annas – Jn 18:12,13 2) Trial with Caiaphas – Mt 26:57 Mk 14:53 Lk 22:54 Jn 18:15
Peter follows Jesus – Mt 26:58 Mk 14:54 Lk 22:55 Jn 18:15
The high priest’s adjuration – Mt 26:63 Mk 14:61
Jesus condemned, buffeted, mocked – Mt 26:66-67 Mk 14:64-65 Lk 22:63-65
Peter’s denial of Christ – Mt 26:69-75 Mk 14:66-72 Lk 22:54-62 Jn 18:17-27 3) Trial with Pilate – Mt 27:1,2 Mk 15:1 Lk 23:1-4 Jn 18:28
Repentance of Judas – Mt 27:3
Pilate comes out to the people – Jn 18:29-32
Pilate speaks to Jesus privately – Jn 18:33-38 4) Trial with Herod – Lk 23:5-11
Jesus mocked, arrayed in purple – Lk 23:5-11 5) Trial with Pilate, scourged – Mt 27:26 Mk 15:15 Jn 19:1
Jesus crowned with thorns – Mt 27:29 Mk 15:17 Jn 19:2
‘Behold the man’ – Jn 19:5
Jesus accused formally – Mt 27:11 Mk 15:2 Lk 23:2
‘Behold your King’ – Jn 19:14
Pilate desires to release him – Mt 27:15 Mk 15:6 Lk 23:17 Jn 19:12
Pilate’s wife message – Mt 27:19
Pilate washes his hands – Mt 27:24
Pilate releases Barabbas – Mt 27:26
Pilate delivers Jesus to be crucified – Mt 27:26 Mk 15:15 Lk 23:25 Jn 19:16
Simon of Cyrene carries the cross – Mt 27:32 Mk 15:21 Lk 23:26
They give Jesus vinegar and gall – Mt 27:34 Mk 15:23 Lk 23:36
They nail him to the cross – Mt 27:35 Mk 15:24,25 Lk 23:33 Jn 19:18
The superscription – Mt 27:37 Mk 15:26 Lk 23:38 Jn 19:19 1) Father, forgive them – Lk 23:34
His garments shared – Mt 27:35 Mk 15:24 Lk 23:34 Jn 19:23
Passers-by and the two thieves revile – Mt 27:39-44 Mk 15:29-32 Lk 23:35
The penitent thief – Lk 23:40 2) Today you will be with me … Lk 23:43 3) Woman, behold your son. … Jn 19:26,27
Darkness over all the land – Mt 27:45 Mk 15:33 Lk 23:44,45 4) My God, my God, why … ? [Psalm 22:1] Mt 27:46 Mk 15:34 5) I thirst – Jn 19:28 [Psalm 22:15 ; 69:3, 21] The vinegar – Mt 27:48 Mk 15:36 Jn 19:29 6) It is finished – Jn 19:30 [It is accomplished] 7) Father, into your hands … [Psalm 31:5] Lk 23:46
Rending of the temple veil – Mt 27:51 Mk 15:38 Lk 23:45
Graves opened, saints resurrected – Mt 27:52
Testimony of Centurion – Mt 27:54 Mk 15:39 Lk 23:47
Watching of the women – Mt 27:55 Mk 15:40 Lk 23:49
The piercing of his side – Jn 19:34
Taken down from the cross – Mt 27:57-60 Mk 15:46 Lk 23:53 Jn 19:38-42
Burial by Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus – Mt 27:57-60 Mk 15:46 Lk 23:53 Jn 19:38-42
A guard placed over the sealed stone – Mt 27:65-66
Women carry spices to the tomb – Mt 28:1 Mk 16:1,2 Lk 24:1
The angel had rolled away the stone – Mt 28:2
Women announce the resurrection – Mt 28:8 Lk 24:9,10 Jn 20:1,2
Peter and John run to the tomb – Lk 24:12 Jn 20:3
The women return to the tomb – Lk 24:1
The guards report to the chief priests – Mt 28:11-15 12 APPEARANCES OF CHRIST 1) To Mary Magdalene – Mk 16:9,10 Jn 20:11-18
2) To the women returning home – Mt 28:9-10
3) To two disciples going to Emmaus – Mk 16:12 Lk 24:13-35
4) To Peter – Lk 24:34 1 Co 15:5
5) To ten Apostles in the upper room – Lk 24:33 Jn 20:19-23
6) To eleven Apostles in the upper room – Mk 16:14 Jn 20:26-29
7) To 500 at once – 1 Cor 15:6
8) To James – 1 Cor 15:6
9) To disciples at the sea of Tiberias – Jn 21:1-23
10) To eleven disciples on a mountain in Galilee – Mt 28:16-20
11) Eating together in Jerusalem – Acts 1:4-5
12) The Ascension from the Mount of Olives – Mk 16:19 Lk 24:50-51 Acts 1:6-9
Jesus explained these events on the afternoon of his Resurrection Sunday:
Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. …
Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you – that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.
I was told by a distinguished rabbi about the ceremony when the Children of Israel presented lambs to the priest. The lamb would be impaled on a horizontal and vertical pole. Its back would be flayed to ensure it was a spotless lamb. None of its bones would be broken, and the blood would be drained from the lamb.
Does that sound familiar? The lamb was roasted on two poles forming a cross. Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, was placed on a cross. His hands and feet were pierced, and none of His bones were broken. Jesus was crucified on the very day the Passover lambs were being offered up.
Dr Michael Evans (Jerusalem Prayer Team)
Nepal: Deaf-mute boy miraculously healed by Jesus.
The boy who could not read, is now studying the Word of God. The boy who could not hear, is listening to teachings and growing in his faith. The boy who could not talk, is now proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ among those who have never heard.
In Nepal, a majoriy Hindu country in the Himalayas with 266 unreached people groups, Christians form only 1% of the population.
In 2017, the Nepali government passed a law that effectively outlaws conversion to Christianity, evangelization, and harming ‘religious sentiment.’ But the more governments try to hinder the growth of the church, the faster it seems to grow, often with miracles. Take the story of 18 year old Tilak, a deaf-mute teenager.
One day Pastor Biju, a church planter affiliated with The Timothy Initiative, stopped to pray with him. As the pastor prayed for deliverance and healing he witnessed a bewildered look on Tilak’s face. Something amazing happened to the deaf-mute boy. Tears streamed down his face, as he discovered that he could hear and speak for the first time in his life. A miraculous healing had just taken place.
Tilak rushed to his mother, who heaved sobs of joy and relief. Her boy was healed, and it was all because of Jesus. The entire family surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ that day.
Tilak and his family became eager to learn more about the God, so they began attending the very first church planted among their people. Now Tilak’s voice was able to join others in worship. As he listened to the teachings of Jesus, he was awed by the miracle that he could hear and understand what was shared.
Then a third miracle happened in Tilak’s life. When he opened God’s Word, he instantly was able to read, without any prior instruction. The symbols on the pages of Scripture came alive and he was given his own Bible to take home.
Tilak, the boy who could not read, is now studying the Word of God. Tilak, the boy who could not hear, is listening to teachings and growing in his faith. Tilak, the boy who could not talk, is now proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ among those who have never heard.
Source: The Timothy Initiative. Joel News, # 1115 , February 25, 2019
1. ‘The Christmas Message’ is an appealing, highly unusual and very creative anthology. After an introduction about the Queen’s public expression of faith, Geoff Waugh provides a selection of noteworthy passages about Christmas from the Queen’s Christmas messages from 1952. He sets them into context by brief historical references, photos, and Christmas stamps. Finally there is an epilogue of famous Christmas hymns and carols including those used in the Christmas Broadcasts. This book would be the perfect Christmas present. – Alison Sherrington (Author)
2. I haven’t seen anyone else draw the events of these years together in this way before. Using the Queen’s speeches not only ties in the unfolding events of our time but reveals a deep spiritual glue that provides a fascinating and intimate insight into the personal life of our Queen. A fascinating read. 5 Stars. – Rev Philip Waugh (Minister)
3. The core of the book is the excerpts from The Queen’s messages. Geoff introduces each broadcast with a short commentary on the events of that year and highlights The Queen’s words in the context of each year, accompanied with appropriate photographs and commemorative stamps. The appendix is a fitting conclusion to this new and innovative approach to the Christmas Story and its clear message of peace and goodwill to all. It is a rewarding experience to read it from cover to cover. – Don Hill (Consultant)
4. The Queen Would Be Proud – 5 stars
What an amazing collection! This has so many wonderful Christmas messages and is a great addition to any family during the holiday season. – Jenny & Benny (Amazon)
God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general … but a Saviour, with the power to forgive. Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. … It is my prayer that … we all might find room in our lives for the message of the angels and for the love of God through Christ our Lord. (2011)
This is the time of year when we remember that God sent his only son ‘to serve, not to be served’. He restored love and service to the centre of our lives in the person of Jesus Christ. (2012)
For Christians, as for all people of faith, reflection, meditation and prayer help us to renew ourselves in God’s love, as we strive daily to become better people. The Christmas message shows us that this love is for everyone. There is no one beyond its reach. (2013)
For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the prince of peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life. A role model of reconciliation and forgiveness, he stretched out his hands in love, acceptance and healing. Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people, of whatever faith or none. (2014)
Despite being displaced and persecuted throughout his short life, Christ’s unchanging message was not one of revenge or violence but simply that we should love one another. (2015)
Jesus Christ lived obscurely for most of his life, and never travelled far. He was maligned and rejected by many, though he had done no wrong. And yet, billions of people now follow his teaching and find in him the guiding light for their lives. I am one of them because Christ’s example helps me see the value of doing small things with great love, whoever does them and whatever they themselves believe. (2016)
We remember the birth of Jesus Christ, whose only sanctuary was a stable in Bethlehem. He knew rejection, hardship and persecution. And, yet, it is Jesus Christ’s generous love and example which has inspired me through good times and bad. (2017)
The Christmas story retains its appeal since it doesn’t provide theoretical explanations for the puzzles of life. Instead, it’s about the birth of a child and the hope that birth 2,000 years ago brought to the world. Only a few people acknowledged Jesus when he was born; now billions follow him. I believe his message of peace on earth and goodwill to all is never out of date. It can be heeded by everyone. It’s needed as much as ever. (2018)
Of course, at the heart of the Christmas story lies the birth of a child, a seemingly small and insignificant step overlooked by many in Bethlehem. But in time, through his teaching and by his example, Jesus Christ would show the world how small steps, taken in faith and in hope, can overcome long-held differences and deep-seated divisions to bring harmony and understanding. (2019)
Printed books have a double page for each of the annual Christmas Broadcasts.
Queen Elizabeth II has spoken about the significance of Christmas to more people than anyone else in history, including 28 million in the UK and many millions more worldwide in just one of her Christmas Broadcasts.
We have annual Christmas Broadcasts from Queen Elizabeth II, freely available on the internet. Her Majesty refers to the meaning and significance of Christmas in them all. I have included selections in this Blog.
Jon Kuhrt wrote a blog about The Queen’s Christmas messages. He was impressed by comments in the 2014 broadcast while working with people affected by homelessness, offending and addictions at the West London Mission. Jon wrote: “I have not been a committed viewer (apart from when I am at my Mum’s when it is compulsory viewing). So I went back and read her previous Christmas messages over the last 5 years.”
Here, I have adapted Jon’s Resistance & Renewalblog in which he describes how The Queen’s Christmas messages are a model of how to talk about faith in the public sphere.
1) The Queen speaks personally
“It is my prayer this Christmas Day that Jesus’ example and teaching will continue to bring people together to give the best of themselves in the service of others.” (2012)
“For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the prince of peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life.” (2014)
Personal testimony is significant and convincing, causing respect in those listening. The Queen is personal in the way she speaks, using words like ‘for me’; ‘my life’ and ‘my prayer’.
2) The Queens speaks compassionately
“Despite being displaced and persecuted throughout his short life, Christ’s unchanging message was not one of revenge or violence but simply that we should love one another.” (2015)
“Christ’s example helps me see the value of doing small things with great love, whoever does them and whatever they themselves believe.” (2016)
Consistently, The Queen and the Royal Family show deep concern for the bereaved and suffering, both in personal contact and in correspondence. The heart of Christmas is about God’s love for everyone, especially the hurting and fallen.
3) The Queen speaks inclusively
“The Christmas message shows us that this love is for everyone. There is no one beyond its reach.” (2013)
“Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people, of whatever faith or none.” (2014)
God’s love is for all people and believing in this love leads us to respect and value everyone. Jon adds, “It resonated with my own experience of meeting The Queen in 1997, when she came to open a new hostel for young homeless people that I was managing. I showed her round and introduced her to all the residents. I had expected it to be quite formal and awkward but I remember how adept she was at talking to such a diverse range of people.”
4) The Queen speaks about Jesus
“This is the time of year when we remember that God sent his only son ‘to serve, not to be served’. He restored love and service to the centre of our lives in the person of Jesus Christ.” (2012)
“God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general … but a Saviour, with the power to forgive.” (2011)
The Queen talks directly about the person at the heart of Christmas, the reason for celebrating. That includes both the example and achievement of Jesus and makes orthodox theology accessible to the widest possible audience.
5) The Queen speaks about faith in action
“Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.” (2011)
“For Christians, as for all people of faith, reflection, meditation and prayer help us to renew ourselves in God’s love, as we strive daily to become better people.” (2013)
Reconciliation, service and love flow from Christian commitment. The Queen talks about what faith does. It makes a difference to how we live and helps us to be ‘better people’.
God really did love the world so much (all races and all religions or none) that he gave us his Son, our Saviour. We celebrate that gift at Christmas.
Excerpts from some of The Queen’s Christmas Broadcasts with links to each Speech.
[Christmas] has, before all, its origin in the homage we pay to a very special Family, who lived long ago in a very ordinary home, in a very unimportant village in the uplands of a small Roman province.
Life in such a place might have been uneventful. But the Light, kindled in Bethlehem and then streaming from the cottage window in Nazareth, has illumined the world for two thousand years. It is in the glow of that bright beam that I wish you all a blessed Christmas and a happy New Year.
I would like to read you a few lines from ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’, because I am sure we can say with Mr Valiant for Truth, these words:
“Though with great difficulty I am got hither, yet now I do not repent me of all the trouble I have been at to arrive where I am. My sword I give to him that shall succeed me in my pilgrimage and my courage and skill to him that can get it. My marks and scars I carry with me, to be a witness for me that I have fought his battles who now will be my rewarder.”
I hope that 1958 may bring you God’s blessing and all the things you long for. And so I wish you all, young and old, wherever you may be, all the fun and enjoyment, and the peace of a very happy Christmas.
Every year at this time the whole Christian world celebrates the birth of the founder of our faith. It is traditionally the time for family reunions, present-giving and children’s parties.
A welcome escape, in fact, from the harsh realities of this troubled world and it is just in times like these, times of tension and anxieties, that the simple story and message of Christmas is most relevant.
The story is of a poor man and his wife who took refuge at night in a stable, where a child was born and laid in the manger. Nothing very spectacular, and yet the event was greeted with that triumphant song: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill towards men.”
For that child was to show that there is nothing in heaven and earth that cannot be achieved by faith and by love and service to one’s neighbour. Christmas may be a Christian festival, but its message goes out to all men and it is echoed by all men of understanding and goodwill everywhere. …
“Oh hush the noise, ye men of strife, and hear the angels sing.” The words of this old carol mean even more today than when they were first written.
The first Royal Christmas Message televised in colour, 1967
Modern communications make it possible for me to talk to you in your homes and to wish you a Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year. These techniques of radio and television are modern, but the Christmas message is timeless.
You may have heard it very often but in the end, no matter what scientific progress we make, the message will count for nothing unless we can achieve real peace and encourage genuine goodwill between individual people and the nations of the world.
Every Christmas I am sustained and encouraged by the happiness and sense of unity which comes from seeing all the members of my family together.
I hope and pray that, with God’s help, this Christmas spirit of family unity will spread and grow among our Commonwealth family of nations.
We are celebrating a birthday – the birthday of a child born nearly 2,000 years ago, who grew up and lived for only about 30 years.
That one person, by his example and by his revelation of the good which is in us all, has made an enormous difference to the lives of people who have come to understand his teaching. His simple message of love has been turning the world upside down ever since. He showed that what people are and what they do, does matter and does make all the difference.
He commanded us to love our neighbours as we love ourselves, but what exactly is meant by ‘loving ourselves’? I believe it means trying to make the most of the abilities we have been given, it means caring for our talents.
It is a matter of making the best of ourselves, not just doing the best for ourselves.
I was glad that the celebrations of my mother’s 80th birthday last summer gave so much pleasure. I wonder whether you remember, during the Thanksgiving Service in St. Paul’s, the congregation singing that wonderful hymn “Immortal, Invisible, God only wise”.
“Now give us we pray thee the Spirit of love, The gift of true wisdom that comes from above, The spirit of service that has naught of pride, The gift of true courage, and thee as our guide.” …
In difficult times we may be tempted to find excuses for self-indulgence and to wash our hands of responsibility. Christmas stands for the opposite. The Wise Men and the Shepherds remind us that it is not enough simply to do our jobs; we need to go out and look for opportunities to help those less fortunate than ourselves, even if that service demands sacrifice.
It was their belief and confidence in God which inspired them to visit the stable and it is this unselfish will to serve that will see us through the difficulties we face.
Christ not only revealed to us the truth in his teachings. He lived by what he believed and gave us the strength to try to do the same – and, finally, on the cross, he showed the supreme example of physical and moral courage.
That sacrifice was the dawn of Christianity and this is why at Christmas time we are inspired by the example of Christ as we celebrate his birth.
It is no easy task to care for and bring up children, whatever your circumstances – whether you are famous or quite unknown. But we could all help by letting the spirit of Christmas fill our homes with love and care and by heeding Our Lord’s injunction to treat others as you would like them to treat you.
When, as the Bible says, Christ grew in wisdom and understanding, he began his task of explaining and teaching just what it is that God wants from us.
The two lessons that he had for us, which he underlined in everything he said and did, are the messages of God’s love and how essential it is that we, too, should love other people. …
The message which God sent us by Christ’s life and example is a very simple one, even though it seems so difficult to put into practice.
I am always moved by those words in St. John’s Gospel which we hear on Christmas Day – “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not”.
We have only to listen to the news to know the truth of that. But the Gospel goes on – “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God”.
For all the inhumanity around us, let us be grateful for those who have received him and who go about quietly doing their work and His will without thought of reward or recognition.
They know that there is an eternal truth of much greater significance than our own triumphs and tragedies, and it is embodied by the Child in the Manger. That is their message of hope.
We can all try to reflect that message of hope in our own lives, in our actions and in our prayers. If we do, the reflection may light the way for others and help them to read the message too. We live in the global village, but villages are made up of families. …
I hope you all enjoy your Christmas. I pray, with you, for a happy and peaceful New Year.
“Blessed be the peacemakers,” Christ said, “for they shall be called the children of God.” It is especially to those of you, often peacemakers without knowing it, who are fearful of a troubled and uncertain future, that I bid a Happy Christmas.
It is your good sense and good will which have achieved so much. It must not and will not go to waste. May there be still happier Christmases to come, for you and your children. You deserve the best of them.
At Christmas I enjoy looking back on some of the events of the year. Many have their roots in history but still have a real point for us today. I recall, especially, a dazzling spring day in Norwich when I attended the Maundy Service, the Cathedral providing a spectacular setting.
The lovely service is always a reminder of Christ’s words to his disciples: “Love one another; as I have loved you”. It sounds so simple yet it proves so hard to obey. …
If only we can live up to the example of the child who was born at Christmas with a love that came to embrace the whole world. If only we can let him recapture for us that time when we faced the future with childhood’s unbounded faith.
Armed with that faith, the New Year, with all its challenges and chances, should hold no terrors for us, and we should be able to embark upon it undaunted.
St Paul spoke of the first Christmas as the kindness of God dawning upon the world. The world needs that kindness now more than ever – the kindness and consideration for others that disarms malice and allows us to get on with one another with respect and affection.
Christmas reassures us that God is with us today. But, as I have discovered afresh for myself this year, he is always present in the kindness shown by our neighbours and the love of our friends and family.
Christmas is the traditional, if not the actual, birthday of a man who was destined to change the course of our history. And today we are celebrating the fact that Jesus Christ was born two thousand years ago; this is the true Millennium anniversary.
The simple facts of Jesus’ life give us little clue as to the influence he was to have on the world. As a boy he learnt his father’s trade as a carpenter. He then became a preacher, recruiting twelve supporters to help him.
But his ministry only lasted a few years and he himself never wrote anything down. In his early thirties he was arrested, tortured and crucified with two criminals. His death might have been the end of the story, but then came the resurrection and with it the foundation of the Christian faith.
Even in our very material age the impact of Christ’s life is all around us. If you want to see an expression of Christian faith you have only to look at our awe-inspiring cathedrals and abbeys, listen to their music, or look at their stained glass windows, their books and their pictures.
But the true measure of Christ’s influence is not only in the lives of the saints but also in the good works quietly done by millions of men and women day in and day out throughout the centuries.
Many will have been inspired by Jesus’ simple but powerful teaching: love God and love thy neighbour as thyself – in other words, treat others as you would like them to treat you. His great emphasis was to give spirituality a practical purpose. …
To many of us our beliefs are of fundamental importance. For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life. I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ’s words and example.
I believe that the Christian message, in the words of a familiar blessing, remains profoundly important to us all:
“Go forth into the world in peace, be of good courage, hold fast that which is good, render to no man evil for evil, strengthen the faint-hearted, support the weak, help the afflicted, honour all men.”
It is a simple message of compassion… and yet as powerful as ever today, two thousand years after Christ’s birth.
Anniversaries are important events in all our lives. Christmas is the anniversary of the birth of Christ over two thousand years ago, but it is much more than that. It is the celebration of the birth of an idea and an ideal. …
I know just how much I rely on my own faith to guide me through the good times and the bad. Each day is a new beginning, I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God.
Like others of you who draw inspiration from your own faith, I draw strength from the message of hope in the Christian gospel.
The Founder of the Christian Faith himself chose twelve disciples to help him in his ministry.
In this country and throughout the Commonwealth there are groups of people who are giving their time generously to make a difference to the lives of others.
As we think of them, and of our Servicemen and women far from home at this Christmas time, I hope we all, whatever our faith, can draw inspiration from the words of the familiar prayer:
“Teach us good Lord To serve thee as thou deservest; To give, and not to count the cost; To fight, and not to heed the wounds; To toil, and not to seek for rest; To labour, and not to ask for any reward; Save that of knowing that we do thy will.”
It is this knowledge which will help us all to enjoy the Festival of Christmas.
Religion and culture are much in the news these days, usually as sources of difference and conflict, rather than for bringing people together. But the irony is that every religion has something to say about tolerance and respecting others.
For me as a Christian one of the most important of these teachings is contained in the parable of the Good Samaritan, when Jesus answers the question “who is my neighbour?”
It is a timeless story of a victim of a mugging who was ignored by his own countrymen but helped by a foreigner – and a despised foreigner at that.
The implication drawn by Jesus is clear. Everyone is our neighbour, no matter what race, creed or colour. The need to look after a fellow human being is far more important than any cultural or religious differences.
Now today, of course, marks the birth of Jesus Christ. Among other things, it is a reminder that it is the story of a family; but of a family in very distressed circumstances. Mary and Joseph found no room at the inn; they had to make do in a stable, and the new-born Jesus had to be laid in a manger. This was a family which had been shut out.
Perhaps it was because of this early experience that, throughout his ministry, Jesus of Nazareth reached out and made friends with people whom others ignored or despised. It was in this way that he proclaimed his belief that, in the end, we are all brothers and sisters in one human family. …
It is all too easy to ‘turn a blind eye’, ‘to pass by on the other side’, and leave it to experts and professionals. All the great religious teachings of the world press home the message that everyone has a responsibility to care for the vulnerable.
Finding hope in adversity is one of the themes of Christmas. Jesus was born into a world full of fear. The angels came to frightened shepherds with hope in their voices: ‘Fear not’, they urged, ‘we bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord.’
Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves – from our recklessness or our greed.
God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general, important though they are, but a Saviour, with the power to forgive. Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God’s love.
In the last verse of this beautiful carol, O Little Town of Bethlehem, there’s a prayer: O Holy Child of Bethlehem, Descend to us we pray. Cast out our sin and enter in. Be born in us today.
It is my prayer that on this Christmas day we might all find room in our lives for the message of the angels and for the love of God through Christ our Lord.
At Christmas I am always struck by how the spirit of togetherness lies also at the heart of the Christmas story. A young mother and a dutiful father with their baby were joined by poor shepherds and visitors from afar. They came with their gifts to worship the Christ child. From that day on he has inspired people to commit themselves to the best interests of others.
This is the time of year when we remember that God sent his only son ‘to serve, not to be served’. He restored love and service to the centre of our lives in the person of Jesus Christ.
It is my prayer this Christmas Day that his example and teaching will continue to bring people together to give the best of themselves in the service of others.
The carol, In The Bleak Midwinter, ends by asking a question of all of us who know the Christmas story, of how God gave himself to us in humble service: ‘What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; if I were a wise man, I would do my part’. The carol gives the answer ‘Yet what I can I give him – give my heart’.
For Christians, as for all people of faith, reflection, meditation and prayer help us to renew ourselves in God’s love, as we strive daily to become better people. The Christmas message shows us that this love is for everyone. There is no one beyond its reach.
On the first Christmas, in the fields above Bethlehem, as they sat in the cold of night watching their resting sheep, the local shepherds must have had no shortage of time for reflection. Suddenly all this was to change. These humble shepherds were the first to hear and ponder the wondrous news of the birth of Christ – the first noel – the joy of which we celebrate today.
[Centenary of the start of World War I, 1914-1918]
‘Reconciliation’ by Josefina de Vasconcellos at Coventry Cathedral
In the ruins of the old Coventry Cathedral is a sculpture of a man and a woman reaching out to embrace each other … inspired by the story of a woman who crossed Europe on foot after the war to find her husband.
In 1914, many people thought the war would be over by Christmas, but sadly by then the trenches were dug and the future shape of the war in Europe was set.
But, as we know, something remarkable did happen that Christmas, exactly a hundred years ago today.
Without any instruction or command, the shooting stopped and German and British soldiers met in No Man’s Land. Photographs were taken and gifts exchanged. It was a Christmas truce. …
For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life.
A role model of reconciliation and forgiveness, he stretched out his hands in love, acceptance and healing. Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people, of whatever faith or none.
Sometimes it seems that reconciliation stands little chance in the face of war and discord. But, as the Christmas truce a century ago reminds us, peace and goodwill have lasting power in the hearts of men and women.
On that chilly Christmas Eve in 1914 many of the German forces sang Silent Night, its haunting melody inching across the line.
That carol is still much-loved today, a legacy of the Christmas truce, and a reminder to us all that even in the unlikeliest of places hope can still be found.
Queen Elizabeth II became the longest-reigning British monarch on 9 September, 2015
It is true that the world has had to confront moments of darkness this year, but the Gospel of John contains a verse of great hope, often read at Christmas carol services: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it”.
One cause for thankfulness this summer was marking 70 years since the end of the Second World War. …
At the end of that war, the people of Oslo began sending an annual gift of a Christmas tree for Trafalgar Square.
It has 500 light bulbs and is enjoyed not just by Christians but by people of all faiths, and of none. At the very top sits a bright star, to represent the Star of Bethlehem.
The custom of topping a tree also goes back to Prince Albert’s time. For his family’s tree, he chose an angel, helping to remind us that the focus of the Christmas story is on one particular family.
For Joseph and Mary, the circumstances of Jesus’s birth – in a stable – were far from ideal, but worse was to come as the family was forced to flee the country.
It’s no surprise that such a human story still captures our imagination and continues to inspire all of us who are Christians, the world over.
Despite being displaced and persecuted throughout his short life, Christ’s unchanging message was not one of revenge or violence but simply that we should love one another.
Although it is not an easy message to follow, we shouldn’t be discouraged; rather, it inspires us to try harder: to be thankful for the people who bring love and happiness into our own lives, and to look for ways of spreading that love to others, whenever and wherever we can.
At Christmas our attention is drawn to the birth of a baby some two thousand years ago. It was the humblest of beginnings, and his parents, Joseph and Mary, did not think they were important.
Jesus Christ lived obscurely for most of his life, and never travelled far. He was maligned and rejected by many, though he had done no wrong. And yet, billions of people now follow his teaching and find in him the guiding light for their lives. I am one of them because Christ’s example helps me see the value of doing small things with great love, whoever does them and whatever they themselves believe.
The message of Christmas reminds us that inspiration is a gift to be given as well as received, and that love begins small but always grows.
Today, we celebrate Christmas, which, itself, is sometimes described as a festival of the home. Families travel long distances to be together.
Volunteers and charities, as well as many churches, arrange meals for the homeless and those who would otherwise be alone on Christmas Day. We remember the birth of Jesus Christ, whose only sanctuary was a stable in Bethlehem. He knew rejection, hardship and persecution.
And, yet, it is Jesus Christ’s generous love and example which has inspired me through good times and bad. Whatever your own experience is this year, wherever and however you are watching, I wish you a peaceful and very happy Christmas.
The Christmas story retains its appeal since it doesn’t provide theoreticalexplanations for the puzzles of life. Instead, it’s about the birth of a child, and the hope that birth 2,000 years ago brought to the world.
Only a few people acknowledged Jesus when he was born; now billions follow him. I believe his message of peace on earth and goodwill to all is never out of date. It can be heeded by everyone. It’s needed as much as ever.
Of course, at the heart of the Christmas story lies the birth of a child, a seemingly small and insignificant step overlooked by many in Bethlehem. But in time, through his teaching and by his example, Jesus Christ would show the world how small steps, taken in faith and in hope, can overcome long-held differences and deep-seated divisions to bring harmony and understanding.
Every year, we herald the coming of Christmas by turning on the lights. And light does more than create a festive mood. Light brings hope. For Christians, Jesus is “the light of the world” but we can’t celebrate his birth today in quite the usual way. …
The teachings of Christ have served as my inner light, as has the sense of purpose we can find in coming together to worship. …
The Bible tells how a star appears in the sky, its light guiding the shepherds and wise men to the scene of Jesus’s birth. Let the light of Christmas, the spirit of selflessness, love, and above all hope, guide us in the times ahead. It is in that spirit I wish you a very happy Christmas.
Messiah – Selections
Messiah is an English-language oratorio composed in 1741 by George Friedrich Handel, with a scriptural text compiled by Charles Jennens from the King James Bible, and from the version of the Psalms included with the Book of Common Prayer.
In Part I the text begins with prophecies by Isaiah and others, and moves to the annunciation to the shepherds, the only “scene” taken from the Gospels.
In Part II, Handel concentrates on the Passion and ends with the “Hallelujah” chorus.
In Part III he covers the resurrection of the dead and Christ’s glorification in heaven.
When King George II attended a royal performance of Messiah he stood up for the Hallelujah Chorus in honour of the King of kings. When the king stood everyone in his presence had to stand. So it became the tradition for the audience to stand up when the Hallelujah Chorus is sung, as millions of us have done in honour of the King of kings.
Chorus — Isaiah 9:6
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
Pifa (Pastoral Symphony)
Soprano Recitative — Luke 2:8-11, 13
There were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night.
And lo! the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Chorus — Luke 2:14
Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth, good will toward men.
Chorus — Revelation 19:6, 11:15, 19:16
Hallelujah! for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
The Kingdom of this world is become the Kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ;
and He shall reign for ever and ever.
King of kings, and Lord of lords.
Lyrics: Holy Bible, Authorised Version, 1611, arranged by Charles Jennens, 1741
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II wrote for this book:
I have been – and remain – very grateful to you for your prayers and to God for His steadfast love. I have indeed seen His faithfulness.
As I embark on my 91st year, I invite you to join me in reflecting on the words of a poem quoted by my father, King George VI, in his Christmas Day broadcast in 1939, the year that this country went to war for the second time in a quarter of a century.
I said to the man who stood at the Gate of the Year
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied, “Go out into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light, and safer than a known way.”