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Now the passage of the Scripture that he [an Ethiopian civil servant AD 33 Gaza] was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth [originally written by Isaiah in Jerusalem around BC 710].” And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus (AD 0 – AD 33). From the book of Acts 8: 32-35 (written by Dr Luke around AD 62)

Jersey no longer executes murderers. One Jerseyman who was hanged on Gallows Hill (Westmount today) was Richard Averty. His hanging took place in AD 1555 and it is notable because he was a full-time Churchman, being Proctor to Jersey’s Ecclesiastical Court.

More than that, Jersey’s Dean at the time – Sir John Poulet – tried to move heaven and earth to save his friend, Richard, from the hangman’s noose.

Nevertheless, the story of Richard Averty, Priest, is a story of justice carried out resulting in execution – and not one of justice denied resulting in execution – see bold above.

Balleine’s Biographical Dictionary of Jersey has the details. Apparently Richard Averty was a zealous priest, particularly amongst his fellow-priests. He pursued them ferociously in order to find out and punish any who were not conforming to the rules of the Church in their intimate private lives.

But in that area he himself was secretly sinning.
‘Reputation is sometimes as wide as the horizon when true character is the point of a needle.’ (Henry Ward Beecher, leader in US abolition of slavery, 1813-1887)

He had a long-serving domestic employee – Marie Bellee – who was delivered of a male child one fateful night at Richard’s home in the Parish of St Brelade. It was Richard who alone delivered the baby, baptized it, strangled it and buried it – that same evening – beneath his hearth.

Yes, his crime was carried out for one principal reason – to preserve his reputation in the eyes of others. He had sinned. The fruit of his sin was a tiny life. He buried that fruit.

Can reputation really become a murder motive? It seems so. Maybe reputation is much more a murder motive than most people think…..

The story recorded by Dr Luke (in bold above) tells of an ancient scripture preserved in the national archives of Israel. Writing some 700 years before Jesus Christ was executed in Jerusalem (AD 33), Isaiah recorded a future suffering servant who would be silent before his accusers and totally humiliated in front of them. Justice would be denied to him.

This Jesus was wrongly accused of being an insurgent against the Roman Empire. Pilate found him “Not Guilty” but caved in to organized pressure and released, instead of Jesus, a real insurgent who was a robber and a murderer.

Jesus allowed his reputation (he was a just man, a compassionate healer, a righteous teacher) to be totally demolished – wrongly – by others.
‘It is better to be despised for the right than praised for the wrong.’ (Anon.)

Not so Richard Averty, aided by Dean Poulet. The Dean unsuccessfully attempted to take Priest Richard out of the jurisdiction of the Royal Court and into the jurisdiction of his own Bishop’s Court, held in Jersey. At what is today called Charing Cross at the bottom of King Street and Broad Street, Richard was chained to the hurdle which was to take him to Westmount. There Dean Poulet clothed him in a church surplice, covered him in a vestment.

Reputation led Richard to kill a baby boy. Reputation was counted nothing by Jesus. Why?

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Richard Syvret

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