Around 1515 in Jersey there were ‘Christian’ signs and wonders. A Jerseyman, Richard Mabon, had just returned from pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Richard owned the land on which stood (and still stands) the prehistoric mound of La Hougue Bie and, fired with enthusiasm, he decided to restore the Chapel that stood (and still stands) atop the mound. He had greater aspirations than an impressive building: he hoped his chapel would also become a renowned place of pilgrimage.
It’s reported that he led folk to believe that Mary, the mother of Jesus, appeared to him there. He also had made for the Chapel a statute of Mary that held out one hand to accept offerings. This hand was pierced and if a coin was inserted and fell into a money box a mechanism was triggered that made the hand and arm move and appear to thank the donor. It was also alleged that, using wires, he created an illusion that candles in the Chapel were miraculously suspended in mid-air.
Mabon was also accused of enriching himself. (He was, during his lifetime, Rector of St Martin’s, twice Dean of Jersey and for a time Joint Bailiff.)
Signs and wonders (see above) will arise because they will lead people astray. Why would folk want to lead others astray? (The Greek (apoplanao) means “to mislead”.) For money? To obtain support for themselves? The shadow of Westminster MPs begins to appear....
Maybe today folk are more careful about being misled by signs and wonders. But maybe not because, when things are going wrong, we earnestly want to believe in a “saviour” who presents his claims and makes his promises and shows what he can do – if we follow him.
OK. But how do I know if someone is truly genuine? How can the REAL Christ be identified?
Well, Jesus, the day before he died, left a record of how he could later be identified, and this no doubt applies to his true followers today. On the day before he was killed he told four of them to keep extremely alert because he (‘the master of the house’) would come to them unexpectedly and suddenly. Then he gave four examples of how they could distinguish him when he came. He said it might be –
1. “In the evening.” That very evening, at supper, he disclosed that he knew he was to be betrayed for money by one of his key followers. They all denied it. He knew it. He had come to them. They will need to recognise him, in future, as a person who would go through with betrayal by a close friend – so as to bless others.
2. “At midnight.” That very next midnight, a few hours later, he was in the Garden of Gethsemane and an armed guard came to arrest him and take him to be tried. His key followers all fled. He stayed. He (‘the master’) had come to them. They will, in future, need to recognise him as a person who would go through with being arrested – for others.
3. “When the cock crows.” That next cock-crow his most vocal follower, using curses, declared that he did not know Jesus - while Jesus watched from afar. The ‘master’ had come to him (and them) by going through this early morning suffering alone – for others. They would recognise him in future by that self-giving.
4. “In the morning.” That morning he was falsely convicted, mocked, made to carry his ‘stake’, and killed - by crucifixion. None of his key followers stayed around for that. But the master was recognisable then, at that time - and in later centuries. He would come to them as a man prepared to die – and who does die – for others.
And the false christs come in opposite ways to these.....