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The Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him. Jesus [around AD 30], aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all and ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will make known justice to the peoples. He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; and in his name the peoples will hope.” Matthew 12: 14-21

Earlier this week in St Helier four courageous people spoke clearly and well about why they were not supporters of the Christian religion. Two were States Deputies (Sam Mezec and Montford Tadier), one was a lady engaged in charitable work (Juliet Karugahen) and the fourth a JEP journalist (Ramsay Cudlipp).  The event was organized by Business Connect.

All of the contributions were valid critiques of the Christian religion and, indeed, of all religions. Very broadly (and therefore with some loss of accuracy) the speakers pointed (1) to the evils done over the centuries to others in the name of religion, (2) to the imposition on others of restrictions upon their freedoms for moral reasons decided by the religious, and (3) to the explanations of scientists as to how everything works. The latter should have removed the need for anyone still to require “God” as an explanation.
For a personal response, please look with me at the incident recorded in bold above in Matthew’s biography of Jesus of Nazareth.
 ‘….always be gentle towards everyone.’ (Paul to Titus, letter c. AD 65)

First (1), please note that, at that time, “the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.” These were strongly religious people. Indeed, Jesus was eventually tried and condemned to death by a full-blown highly-religious institution (the Jerusalem Sanhedrin which included many Pharisees). Its sentence was carried out by the pluralistic Romans. Jesus and the Business Connect guest speakers shared common ground: evils have been done and are continuing to be done by organized and disorganized religion, including by those who follow the Christian religion….

Also (1), did you note that when “many followed him” Jesus “healed them all……” Jesus was a life restorer. In fact, the thing that turned the religious Pharisees into destroying conspirators against Jesus was the fact that he had, on a religious day, restored a man’s withered hand. What a contrast.

Second (2), Matthew records that Jesus “ordered them not to make him known.” That is rather strange. Matthew explains why by citing a BC 700 description about the Christ – about the promised Messiah who was to be the saviour of religious Israel. Yes, the religious needed (need) a saviour.

An almost complete copy of the Book of Isaiah was found in 1947 among the Dead Sea Scrolls (used in BC 100) is now in Jerusalem’s Shrine of the Book museum as well as in the Bible. Isaiah was told that God’s coming Messiah would thankfully be very different from the former religious leaders of the Jewish people. The promised Christ (2) would “not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not quench.”

In keeping with that Jesus (2) did not condemn adulterers (or any other perpetrator of harm or evil). Instead he came to make known God’s superb amnesty. He came to bring the realm of heaven to sinful men and women despite their brokenness and near exhaustion from evils around and within them. He did not come to condemn the world but to save the world. Is it true followers of Jesus or followers of the Christian religion who will break bruised reeds or snuff out human lives?
‘….give an answer …. but do this with gentleness and respect.’ (Peter, circular letter, c. AD 62)

Third (3), the Business Connect event attendees all agreed that nothing in this world is without sin, without corruption. Whilst science is increasingly explaining the “how” it cannot explain the “why”. Why so many living flowers; why living birds and fish; why a self-conscious me; why evil and sin? Scientists don’t have any tools with which to fight sin and corruption within. Some leaders do – and look at the harm they do.

Jesus does have the way. Isaiah foretold that “he will make known justice to the peoples.” The peoples won’t hear his voice shouting or see his hand raised to break the already broken “until he brings justice to victory.”

How? True followers of Jesus are like Jesus. In an AD 55 letter, Paul, one of those followers wrote, “I appeal to you, by the humility and gentleness of Christ….” Jesus changes his followers inside.
Richard Syvret

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