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Charlie Hebdo – and change within

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and look and see, something greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and look and see, something greater than Solomon is here." Matthew 12: 38-42
 

The former French President, Nicholas Sarkozy, said last week, “War has been declared on France ....declared by barbarians who deny the very idea of civilisation, universal values and humanism.” That’s rather frightening given that it was barbarians who did actually overthrow the Roman Empire centuries ago, despite its highly-organised multi-faith government.

This world of ours has always had barbarians in it. Lord Byron’s epic poem, “The Assyrians came down – like a wolf – on the sheep fold” immortalised the cruel Assyrians who were greatly feared for their barbarism around 700 BC.

 
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‘Somehow, for all the wondrous glimpses of ‘goodness’ I see in society, there remains the unmistakable stain of selfishness, violence and greed.’ (John Dickson, Australian writer)

The national archives of Israel have preserved a book from that very time – a book about a preacher named Jonah. Yes, Jonah of the Big Fish. Almighty God instructed Jonah – a minor prophet from Galilee in northern Israel – to go to Nineveh, the great Assyrian capital city, and to tell them that in three days their city, built upon the suffering of others, would be destroyed.

Jonah was none too happy to confront those barbarians.

Nineveh is today named Mosul. Mosul - Nineveh - since June last year - has been the headquarters of IS – the so-called Islamic State.

What did Nineveh do when Jonah gave them the three-day destruction message around 700 BC? From the Assyrian Emperor downwards they all repented, they did a 180 degree U-turn – they all changed their mindsets.

What can be done about barbarism today? Is there a present day Jonah with God’s message? Are tens of thousands of police officers with AK 47s all we have at our disposal?

From Matthew’s first-century biography of Jesus (see bold above), we know that Jesus referred to Nineveh and to Jonah.  “The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation. By this generation Jesus meant with the people living in peaceful Galilee in Jesus’ day. The people of Nineveh will rise upwards at the judgment compared with people today, Jesus said, because they changed their minds when they heard Jonah and a greater than Jonah is here.

If you were radicalised, would a stream of AK 47 bullets make you change your mind – assuming they all missed you? What would? A preacher?

Matthew records that the folk to whom Jesus was speaking about Nineveh and Jonah (see bold above) asked for a sign – a miracle to help them to change.

His answer was very clear. Only one sign would be given to them: Jonah. Jesus added, “Just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” – in the grave.

 
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‘Jesus’ death is both glorious and victorious inasmuch as he triumphed over death by deliberately going through with it – not to bless himself but for his enemies’ (Anon.)

Jesus would be killed. He himself would go to a cruel and awful death to show the love of God to those who killed him. He would do that to help them to change.

Only a truly good man will die for his enemies. Would that be more effective for you than streams of AK 47 bullets? Or does it leave you, as it were, cold?

 
Richard Syvret

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