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Friday, 6 December 2013

Nelson Mandela

The major news item, all day today, has been the death of Nelson Mandela.  Mr Mandela has been a very significant figure on the world stage since his release from prison in 1990.  He was instrumental in bringing apartheid to an end, and was the first indigenous President of South Africa.

Tributes have been flowing in from all over the world, as well as from within South Africa, and one would not deny that many of them are well-deserved.  However ... ... ...!!

As news of Mr Mandela's death broke, hundreds of South Africans filled the streets around his home in the upmarket Johannesburg suburb of Houghton, many singing songs of tribute, and dancing.  One, reportedly, carried a sign saying: "He will rule the universe with God." .    Others have spoken of him as having been "the saviour of South Africa", and many have commented on his capacity to forgive.

In just a couple of weeks' time, much of the world will celebrate Christmas.  For many, that celebration will be more of a 'winterfest' than anything else.  However, there will be those who will remember that, over 2,000 years ago, Almighty God, the Creator and Sustainer of all that exists, entered our time-space continuum as a human child, in an obscure little country on the edge of the Roman empire.  "Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail! the incarnate Deity."   And that was not the end of the story.  Because that Child grew to manhood and, after a public ministry of about three years, was crucified by the Roman authorities, at the instigation of the Jewish hierarchy.

This was, of course, the Man known as Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the Messiah.  It is He, and He alone, Who will rule the universe with the Father (see Rev.5:13, inter al); He, and He alone, is the Saviour of South Africa - and of the whole world (John 3:16-17); He was able to say - as He hung on that cross, aware that He had only to say the word, and the Father would send more than twelve legions of angels to rescue Him (Matt.26:53) - "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34).

Some, who have not been caught up in the adulation of the late Mr Mandela, have pointed out that he had been a terrorist (remembering that one man's terrorist is another man's 'freedom fighter'!), and that we should be remembering those for whose deaths he was, directly or indirectly, responsible.  However, when it comes to Jesus, He alone was able to ask even His enemies: "Which of you convicts me of sin?" (John 8:46).  Even one of those crucified alongside Him recognised this: "One of the criminals who were hanged railed at Him, saying, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!"  But the other rebuked him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong."  And he said, "Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom."  And He said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise." (Luke 23:39-43; emphasis added).

Two other things need to be emphasised.  The first is that death could not hold Jesus.  He rose from the dead, victorious over it, and hell, and the grave.  The second is that He is coming again.  There will be a second advent - perhaps much sooner than many expect - when He will come, not as a human infant, but as King of kings, and Lord of lords.

May all who access this blog "... abide in Him, so that when He appears we may have confidence and not shrink from Him in shame at His coming." (I John 2:28).

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