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Les Misérables

He entered Jericho and was passing through. And look, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the destroyed.” Luke 19: 1-10
In Guernsey – in 1862, at Hauteville, just above St Peter Port - Victor Hugo wrote the Preface to his new 1,250 page story titled “Les Miserables”. It is one of the most remarkable books in French literature – if not in global literature. 

Let Wikipedia report on it: Beginning in 1815 and culminating in the 1832 June Rebellion in Paris, the novel follows the lives and interactions of several characters, particularly the struggles of ex-convict Jean Valjean and his experience of redemption....... Les Misérables has been popularized through numerous adaptations for the stage, television, and film, including a musical and a film adaptation of that musical. 

“Jean Valjean and his experience of redemption” is Wikipedia’s phrase. Is that true? What redemption? What is redemption? From what was Jean Valjean redeemed?

‘The humanist counsellor cannot give the assurance of sin forgiven, guilt assuaged, life beyond death, a loving God and a caring Jesus.’ (Gerald Larue)
This captivating story has remarkable similarities to the very brief record of Zacchaeus and Jesus in bold above.

In 1815, convict Jean Valjean is released on parole by prison guard Javert after serving a nineteen-year sentence for stealing a loaf of bread and numerous escape attempts. His paroled status ensures he gets no employment or accommodation, but he is offered food and shelter by the Bishop of Digne. Valjean repays the bishop by stealing his silver during the night. When he is captured by the constables, the Bishop tells them that the silver was given as a gift, securing Valjean's release. The Bishop tells Valjean to take the silver and do something worthwhile with his life. Moved by the Bishop's grace, Valjean breaks his parole and vows to start a new life under a new identity.

On the other hand, in bold above, Zacchaeus, the traitorous tax farmer, is shown mercy by Jesus himself.....

Eight years later, Valjean has become a factory owner, [an extraordinary benefactor] and mayor of Montreuil, while Javert has been assigned as his new chief of police. In their initial meeting, Javert suspects Valjean's identity after witnessing his strength as he lifts a heavy cart to free a trapped man. Meanwhile, Fantine, one of Valjean's workers, is discovered by the other women working there to send money to her illegitimate daughter, Cosette, who lives with the unscrupulous Thenardiers.... He vows to Fantine, before she dies, that he will watch over Cosette. 

On the other hand, in bold above, Zacchaeus has decided that, because he has indeed met Jesus, he will give half his goods to the poor....And anything which he has fraudulently taken from another he will restore four times over....

Jean Valjean’s life is then spent living out the love-in-action of Jesus towards him. He pays the Thenardiers so as to release Cosette from them. He and Cosette give alms to the poor and needy – anonymously every day. He has the opportunity (without fear of any reprisals) to eliminate Javert – but instead sets him free. He places his life on the line to save a young man – Marius (who is in love with Cosette) – caught up in the Paris revolution of 1832. He drags the unconscious and injured Marius through the sewers of Paris to save him – anonymously.


‘Humanism is not wrong in its cry for sociological healing, but humanism is not producing it.’ (Francis Schaeffer, philosopher and writer, 1912-1984)
Let Jean Valjean have the last word. He is in his simple lodgings and within moments of death – with Cosette and Marius beside him. All at once he rose to his feet…. He walked with firm step to the wall…., detached from the wall a little copper crucifix that was suspended there, and returned to his seat with all the freedom of movement of perfect health, and said in a loud voice as he laid the crucifix on the table, “Look - the great martyr.”
Richard Syvret

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