There I’m stood, waiting, in a crowd, a wide space open before us, a few women talk animatedly in the open. But we can’t hear everything they’re saying, and as their voices disappear a wave of quiet falls over us all. My friend turns to look the other way, I begin to follow her gaze and see, like the gentle movement of water, the faces of those surrounding me turning with hers, their eyes focusing on one central point. But what are they looking at? What can they see? And then the same vision that holds their gaze fills my own. I see him. In clothing of vibrant white, stood calm and triumphant, I see him risen. I reach out for the attention of another friend and I point towards the scene. I see in his face the same wonder that I felt on my own. I am part of the crowd, we are the audience, and the wide space is the stage, the actors before us recall the profound moments of Christ’s resurrection in ‘The Passion of Jesus’.
‘What would I write about?’ This was my thought as my mum suggested that I began a blog. And I searched my experience for what I could talk about that would truly be relevant to other peoples lives. I love to read and I love to write. I love Harry Potter. But where would I begin? And yet, of course, I was forgetting what was most important to me, my faith. This is where I must begin. ‘When would I begin?’ I wondered next. In summer, when I was back home from University, with more time than I have yet planned what to do with? But I was doing it again, I was pushing away from me something that I wished to share.
It was Easter Weekend when I was reminded of how wonderful it would be to share my experience of God in my life. Amongst celebrations, with a Good Friday service, the performance of ‘The Passion of Jesus’ and wonderful roast dinners, I was asked to give my testimony. I was asked to share my experience of Christianity with my church, The Globe Church, during the Easter Sunday service. And I was scared, even with a friend interviewing me, asking me questions, prompting me. But at the same time, I new that this was important, that even my experience could be of some use to others…
Did you hear about Christianity growing up?
I always knew that my choices, decisions and beliefs would be my own. Whilst my family did not view Christianity as relevant to their lives, there was, in our house, one Bible tucked away on our bookshelf downstairs, and for a long time it stayed there. I went to a Church of England school and I had a wonderful and supportive Christian friend. However, at that time I still believed the Christian message to be that one could be saved and receive eternal life by their good works, rather than, as I came to realise, that one can be saved through putting their trust in the fact that when Christ died on the cross, he took on our sins so that we may receive freedom and be without sin in God’s eyes. I see now that my eyes had not yet been opened. An important change came when me and my Christian friend, Kez, moved school in sixth year to join her best friend from church, Beth. As the three of us became close, I was blessed with a way to find out more about their beliefs; I began to become more intrigued by the Christian faith.
How did you hear about Jesus? What did you think?
With my two closest friends following Jesus, Christianity became very present in conversation. I see now God’s will in the fact that everything at the time seemed to contain some consideration of religion, my subjects at school, for example. In a way, we were given prompts that led to conversations about what my friends believed and what it meant to be Christian. I began to hope that it would come up in conversation more often, I became increasingly intrigued and wanted to know more and more about who Jesus was. I knew then that I had to read the gospels myself, to find out not just who Jesus was to my friends, but who Jesus was to me. And so, on Christmas Day, just over a year ago, I took the Bible that had sat on our bookshelf for years, and I began to read.
And, without telling my friends, across half a year, I read the Gospel of Mathew, the Gospel of Mark, the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of John. I began to read and I did not stop, I wanted to find out more and more about what Jesus did and his unfailing love for this world. My understanding changed greatly, I began to realise what trusting in Jesus meant and I saw how Jesus reached out to everyone, no matter who they were in society and no matter what they had done. I knew then, that the gospel was not something for me to read in secret and to have only a surface understanding. And so, in the summer following that Christmas, I wrote a letter to Beth and Kez, perhaps out of fear of bringing up something so important in conversation, telling them that I had read the gospels.
At that point I didn’t realise how important it was to them that I showed a wish to explore Jesus and Christianity. This was when Beth asked me if I wanted to do Uncover Luke with her. Uncover Luke is a copy of Luke’s gospel that provides a selection of bible studies allowing those who are new to the Bible to explore the character of Jesus and what he did in an accessible and illuminating way. Uncover was a wonderful opportunity for me. I began to really understand the deeper meaning behind certain passages in the Bible, rather than only taking them for surface value.
I saw the love and the forgiveness of Jesus and I began to understand more and more of who Jesus was to me, and who I was in relation to Him.
Hearing the personal testimony of Kez and Beth and their families allowed me to see Christ within an individual’s and a family’s life. This brought me to reflect on the impact that following Jesus could have on my life.
What difference did that first term at University and The Globe Church make?
As I began to question who Jesus was to me, I looked ahead at my first term of University. At this time, me and Beth had applied to do English at the same University, Kings College London. However, A Levels proved to be a very hard time for me and I had little confidence that I would ever achieve the grades that I needed to get to where I wanted to be. I was scared that, if I didn’t go to University with Beth, I wouldn’t have the courage to find a church or go to Christian Union myself. I felt that I needed someone to guide me into exploring Christianity further. And actually, when it came to it, I didn’t get the grades, I fell short. But, by what I now view to be God’s will, I was still accepted into Kings and, not only was I to live in the same building as Beth, but, without our influence, in the same flat. I felt secure in knowing that I had a friend beside me in a time when the idea of faith was becoming ever more important to me.
And so, on our first full day of living in London, Beth and her parents invited me to come with them to the Sunday service of a new church plant nearby. The Globe Church was a blessing to me as I began University. From the first weekend I was given a sense of security in how The Globe had welcomed Beth and I into the church family and how in the first sermon alone I was brought to understand a great deal more about who Jesus was to me, and who I was to God. As we travelled through the gospel of Mark in our Sunday services I was again and again stimulated and inspired to look at what God had done for me and the impact that Jesus has in my life. And as we looked at the Character of God in our Wednesday bible studies I became more and more certain of the truth of God’s presence and of His love, sacrifice and grace.
It’s Easter Sunday – what does Jesus’s death and resurrection mean to you?
I know that the answer I give here cannot encompass everything I feel. I suppose my first thought is that I am so very grateful. I deserve nothing, I do not deserve the grace and mercy of God, and yet when Jesus died on the cross, he died to save me, to save everyone. And through Jesus’ sacrifice, every day, with every sin I commit, I am forgiven, because Jesus took on my sins so that I could be seen as pure in God’s eyes. And knowing, too, that in Christ’s resurrection he defeated death and in dong so gave us the way to eternal life with God.
Now that you follow Jesus, what kind of difference does that make to your life?
Knowing that I can depend upon God has been an amazing change in my life. Before I followed Jesus, I was easily overcome by stresses and anxieties in my life and now I know that my faith is the most important thing and that whatever I am going through I can rely on the fact that it is part of God’s plan. And I hope, also, that I have been able to show Christ’s love to others, and that through my faith people may be able to see the truth and the glory of the suffering and sacrifice that Jesus underwent for us.
Good Friday Service
The sermon begins with an image of Postman’s Park. Phil, a leader at The Globe, speaks of how this park contains plaques commemorating people who have laid down their lives for someone else. He speaks of how stories of self sacrifice are central within the books that we read and the stories that we hear, and how the remembrance of the lives commemorated in Postman’s Park moves us, stirs our hearts.
But there is a greater sacrifice.
He brings us to question ourselves. Would we lay down our lives for someone we loved, would we die for a family member or a friend? We are all in agreement, we would. Would we give our life for a stranger? Probably, is the thought, their life is most definitely worth saving. But would we lay down our life for someone who we know has done great wrong? This trips us, we stop and wonder, we don’t know.
But this is what Jesus did.
Romans 5.8 – ‘While we were still sinners, Christ died for us’
And then comes the question, what do we see sin to be? Do we see it as something small, as eating chocolate when we’ve been told we shouldn’t? Do we see it as something beyond us, as only considering murder, terrorism…? When Jesus was tormented before his crucifixion he was blindfolded, his attackers wished for the Son of God to be at their mercy. Although we may deny it, we are the same. We want to live how we want to, to limit God, we are sinners and we want to blindfold God. And we do this in different ways, by shutting out God or pretending that He does not exist, by ignoring God, by turning away from Him. And we have to realise that this is not ok. We need rescuing from God’s anger, we need to be saved and we must realise this.
Jesus died for sinners, he died for those who blindfolded him and hit him, he died for us. And this is a unique kind of sacrifice. God demonstrated his own love for us by sending his son to die for us. We often fail to realise the truth of his love for us, but we must realise that he laid down his life for us, he demonstrated his love by giving his life on our behalf.
God demonstrated his love for me, whilst I was still a sinner, Christ died for me, whilst we were still sinners, Christ died for us. And if we are shown love and mercy, if someone reaches out to saves us, like those commemorated in Postman’s Park, and gives their life for the sake of our own, we wouldn’t let them die in vain, we would let them save us.
We must let Him save us.
‘How do you feel?’ ‘Scared.’ Why was I scared? I was sharing my own experience, no one would be testing me. Perhaps because I knew how important this was, perhaps I was scared that I wouldn’t do my testimony justice. And yet, I knew all along that it didn’t matter how I felt, because when it came to it, I did not have to depend upon myself for my words, I could depend upon God. And that was what happened. Up to the moment before I was called forward I was nervous, but as I spoke I was calm, I said what I had wanted to say, my words were brought together more smoothly than I could have planned. And whatever I was feeling, I knew that God was with me.
The Passion of Jesus – Trafalgar Square
After the Good Friday service, a group of people from our church would be going to Trafalgar Square to see ‘The Passion of Jesus’, a play re-enacting the latter period of Jesus’ life. We rushed back to the flat because we wanted to invite our friend, this was a play for everyone to see. It was a gloriously sunny day, as though the weather had joined the celebration and memory of Good Friday. And so Beth, our friend, Cian, and I enjoyed our walk by the Thames and down the Strand towards the beautiful Trafalgar Square. When we arrived, the crowds were already waiting. I looked around for our friends from church and finally saw them, sat on the ground amongst the quickly developing audience. We wouldn’t be able to join them, but that was ok, the important thing was that we were here together and that we had the privilege of seeing events of the Gospel recalled before us.
And so we became part of the crowd, our view somewhat obscured. But this brought the experience yet more to life. It was as though part of the crowds that followed Jesus and listened to his teachings, part of the crowd that called praise as he entered Jerusalem. And, as a sobering fact, it was as though we were part of the crowd that watched his crucifixion, perhaps even the crowd that called for it. And this realisation reminded me again of what it meant to be a Christian, of what it meant to admit that we have done wrong, that we were sinners and that we had turned away from God. And in admitting this, having the faith to trust that in Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, moments that brought themselves to life before us, he took our sins away so that we may be forgiven by God.
And. quite simply, the play was amazing. The script was a work of art, intertwining teachings from throughout the Gospels and placing them in the setting and the context of the latter period of Jesus’ life. The acting was wonderful, even more so when one remembers that they contribute not for their personal gain but only for the possibility of sharing their faith. And together, the actors, the audience, everyone involved, the crowd felt to be united. We were seeing the character of Jesus, not just the events of the Gospel but His love and the way in which he touched the lives of those who followed him. It was as though a community had developed in the heart of London, brought together by the memory of the events that were performed before us.
Easter Sunday Sermon – Down the Mountain
And so, as the time passes between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, we recall, the passage of time between the very crucifixion of Jesus and the Resurrection. And yet we now have the resurrection in which we can trust the Jesus’ sacrifice has been accepted by God and that death has truly been overcome. And so our pastor, Jonty, begins the sermon by showing us the glory and wonder of how Jesus defeated death.We focus upon the chapter 9 of the Gospel of Mark. This chapter follows the experience of the disciples, Peter, James and John as Jesus leads them up the mountain and as they encounter the presence of God. This is followed by a reminder of what is yet to come for Jesus, as they return down the mountain towards the crowds that follow him.
Jonty shows us the two main images of Jesus that we should hold: Jesus at the top of the mountain and Jesus at the bottom of the mountain. In the Bible, mountains are often a picture of the meeting place between heaven and earth, between God and man. At the top of the mountain, Peter, James and John witness the transfiguration of Jesus. The ‘dazzling white’ that Jesus is described to show provides an image of the glory of God, whilst the appearance of Moses and Elijah calls back to earlier moments in the Bible where figures were described to have encountered God. We realise here that the disciples are encountering God, that Jesus is God and that Jesus is showing His glory. The truth of Jesus’ glory is heightened in the very voice of God: ‘This is my son, whom I love, listen to him’. With these words we know that the actions of Jesus are showing us the will and the love and the grace of God.
And so if Jesus is fully God, as we are shown by this transfiguration, how can it be that he comes to suffer and to die on the cross? This is because Jesus is both fully God and fully man. Jesus is neither just a man nor God alone, neither is he half man and half God, with the ability to change between. Jesus is fully God and fully man. This may be hard for us encompass, how can Jesus be both fully one thing and fully something else? This is because Jesus possesses the full glory of God, but does not express it fully. In coming back down the mountain, Jesus became ordinary and weak as humankind is. He comes back down the mountain because that is the road he must walk, because he must face what awaits him, he must walk the road of suffering to the cross.
And through the crucifixion, Jesus gives his life to save us, he takes on our sins so that we may be forgiven in the eyes of God. And because Jesus is fully man he could die for us. Because Jesus is fully God, he could save us.
And through the resurrection we know that God has forgiven us. And that we may receive eternal life if only we trust that Jesus died to save us.