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Suicide and attempted suicide

Jesus asked [the boy’s] father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “If you can! All things are possible to one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief.”       Mark 9: 21-23 [c. AD 32, Galilee, Israel]


The news was released a few days ago by Jersey’s Medical Officer of Health. Twenty-five people in Jersey committed suicide in 2009. In Jersey out of only 92,500 folk? That’s 27.0 per 100,000.


The highest recorded UK suicide rate was in 1998 (and 1992) at 21.1 per 100,000. The UK rate was 17.1 in 2008. So we’re now higher than the UK has ever been. In this idyllic, economically-successful, place?


It must be right that Southampton University specialists continue to probe this issue.


Around AD 32 Jesus came face to face with a juvenile who had repeatedly attempted suicide (see bold above).


What was the diagnosis and what was the outcome?


First, let’s hear what his father told Jesus. “Teacher, I brought my son to you because he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him it throws him down and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid.” The father’s diagnosis is that “he has a spirit”.


Here and elsewhere in first century Greek literature the word “spirit” is used to mean that intangible part of every human being that is “life” in that human being. “Spirit” is the result of an equation. If you take (me alive) and subtract from it (my dead body) the result is (my spirit). First-century simplistic maybe - but practical and understandable nevertheless.


Jesus asked for the boy to be brought to him. When this is done the spirit in the boy convulses him and he falls on the ground and foams at the mouth. Then the father gives additional information to Jesus, hitherto unsaid. (How typical of us to withhold from everyone key facts about our real problems.....)


See bold above. In fact, this boy has often attempted suicide.


Then the incident continues as in bold above..... And after that, acting quickly so as to avoid publicity, Jesus rebukes this spirit, commands it to exit the boy and never to enter him again.


If you were the father would you not have been greatly concerned – to the point of distraction? If spirit is, in the understanding of the time (and even today), the difference between the boy alive and the boy dead - then Jesus’ instruction to the boy’s spirit to exit the boy will, in fact, reduce the boy to a dead body.


And, in fact, Mark records that, once the spirit had “come out, the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.””


But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose......


The boy had received a replacement life spirit – he was alive as all could see.


Even before Jesus commenced his public ministry in AD 30, his forerunner, John the Baptist, kept on stating to the crowds who came to hear him, “After me comes one who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to stop down and untie. ...He will baptise you with the holy spirit.”


He can put a new spirit into those who are suicidal.

‘No creature but man willingly kills itself.’ (Thomas Watson, English preacher and author, 1620-1686)
 ‘We may not ourselves loose our spirits [by suicide], but let God let them out of prison.’ (John Boys, Author and historian, 1571-1625)
Richard Syvret

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