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Friday, 13 April 2018

Friggatriskaidekaphobia!

This morning, I just wanted to stay in bed. I was afraid to get up, and get washed and dressed. The water would probably be too warm, and I would be scalded; my clothes would disintegrate on my body. If I went into Bergerac, I would probably be involved in a traffic accident; my wallet would be stolen. It is, after all, Friday the 13th - and we all know what that means! Indeed, the heading is the word that describes the irrational fear of this day when it occurs.

Let me state, first of all, that I did get up this morning; washed and dressed; went into Bergerac without any accident; and my wallet is here in my study! Indeed, I have done a great deal during the day without any inexplicable mishap. Of course I am, I would claim, one of the most non-superstitious people around!

However, here in France, I have discovered, many see Friday 13th as a "lucky day". It is claimed that twice as many Loto or Euromillions tickets are purchased on Friday 13th than on a Friday with any other date. Some 10 million superstitous French people will be at the tobacconists to make their purchases.

So what is the origin of the superstition? Believe it, or not, it comes from the Last Supper that the Lord Jesus shared with His disciples, prior to His crucifixion. There were, of course, 13 men present - the Lord and His 'inner band' of 12 including the traitor, Judas Iscariot. In ancient times, 12 was considered to be synonymous with perfection, while 13 was a symbol of imbalance. As a result, many people will avoid having a total of 13 people at a dinner party; in aeroplanes, the rows often go straight from 12 to 14; the majority of hotels miss out a 13th Floor - and even a Room 13 (113, 213, etc). A phobia is, of course, that "irrational fear" that I mentioned above - not "hatred of", in spite of all the silly words such as "homophobia", "Islamophobia", "transphobia", etc.).

What saddens me most about this superstition is that so many are willing to go along with it - in spite of there being no statistical support for Friday 13th being either cursed, or blessed! Yet so few follow up the origin to discover that Jesus of Nazareth went to an excruciating death on a Roman cross, and did so for them! "He paid a debt He did not owe, because I owed a debt I could not pay". My sin (and yours) separates me (and you) from Almighty God, the Creator of all that exists. There is absolutely nothing that I (or you) can do about that, in our own strength, or by our own merit. So, in love, the incarnate God the Son took my place (and yours); paid the penalty for my sin (and yours); and enables me (and you) to have a relationship with the Father, through Him, that is otherwise impossible.

That, in essence, is the Gospel message. It is beautifully encapsulated in those familar words of John 3:16: "God loved the world so much that, in the Persona of the Son, he gave Himself to death even death on a cross, that anyone who places their trust in Him should not perish but have, here and now, His life within them." Okay, those aren't quite the 'familar' words - but they are simply expanding, and paraphrasing what John wrote down. The BIG question is - "What have you done about them?"

At the beginning of the last century, Albert B. Simpson wrote a song. The words are:

  1. 'Jesus is standing in Pilate’s hall,
    Friendless, forsaken, betrayed by all;
    Hearken! what meaneth the sudden call?
    What will you do with Jesus?
    • Refrain:
      What will you do with Jesus?
      Neutral you cannot be;
      Someday your heart will be asking,
      What will He do with me?” (emphasis added).
  2. Jesus is standing on trial still,
    You can be false to Him if you will,
    You can be faithful through good or ill:
    What will you do with Jesus?
  3. Will you evade Him as Pilate tried?
    Or will you choose Him, whate’er betide?
    Vainly you struggle from Him to hide:
    What will you do with Jesus?
  4. Will you, like Peter, your Lord deny?
    Or will you scorn from His foes to fly,
    Daring for Jesus to live or die?
    What will you do with Jesus?
  5. “Jesus, I give Thee my heart today!
    Jesus, I’ll follow Thee all the way,
    Gladly obeying Thee!” will you say:
    “This I will do with Jesus!”'

Are the words of that final verse words that you have said? If not, are they words that you are willing to say, right now? Read, again, the words of the chorus - and ensure that this Friday 13th becomes a day of great blessing for you, as you enter into that new, saving relationship with Almighty God, through the Son, and live in the power of the Spirit. It's the only life worth living!

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