There is this pervasive image every day where the media presents to its world wide audience the 'passing;' of these upstanding people, many of whom gave their all, or all of what they were able to offer, of themselves, and often to a thankless and unappreciative world, until that is, their life has come to and end – and they die – and the more dramatic a death the more news worthy.
The false philosophical idea being presented is that we have one life, just look at these remarkable and wonderful people who contributed so much to their family, their community, ignoring the wider complications of life, and this is your reward, being remembered for one media 'millisecond' – now, go make your own contribution and that in itself is your reward here on earth.
This is a very powerful philosophical presentation to the masses (that's each of us) but it says nothing of the real issues of our inner being. The deceptively wickedness of each of our hearts is such that this is a message that the real issues need to be pushed under the carpet (as it were) in order than none-of-us has to deal with the reality of life and death.
Easter brings a different message
Easter if anything brings back some of this reality and possibly one of the best and most concise bible passages that bring s all this back into focus is I Timothy 1 verses 15-17.
This is the Apostle Paul, the bishop in his purple (as it were) instructing the young pastor Timothy the practical issues associated with running a congregation. Reading through these Epistles (I and II Timothy) one cannot but be struck by this teaching methodologies – this is how you treat the older people in the church, this is how you handle the needs of the widows and orphans in the church, these are responsibilities of parents and young people. It is very specific.
Likewise the instruction is on what you as a pastor teach the people in your congregation, what should be the initial emphasis, how that should then be broadened to other doctrinal issues and the nature of theologically pastoring your congregation.
We see this come to the fore in verse 15 where Paul tells Timothy that what he is about to say now, is so trustworthy that one could put your house on it (as it were), and here it is: that "Jesus Christ came to save sinners."
This one sentence
In this one sentence is the essence of the instruction of the Gospel presentation. This is at the heart of the matter and it is this that the secular media ignores when presenting the value of people's lives as they report the daily news. This is the core message that the Christian church, each believer, needs to shout (as it were) in order that our hearers are struck with the difference with Jesus' death on the Cross.
This is an occasion of eternal significance and it affects every one of us, no one is immune as death is the end of this physical life and unless you need to have made arrangements for the future. The Ancient Egyptians put toys and gold within the inner chambers of their expensive tombs. Many today throw cheques toward the casket. Neither resolves the eternal issue of sin.
Then Paul goes on with a very strange comment and expands on it in verse 16, that out of all the people in the world, he (the one in purple as it were) was the worst. The question is a classic one, why would he consider himself the very worst with so many pagans and bloodthirsty barbarians around in the ancient world (we have them too, only more sophisticated).
That question is answered by our own personal and very private experiences. I take myself, that when I sin (as preacher Steve Brown of Key Life prays before he launches into his messages, "the preacher stands before you, forgive him his sins for they are many"), the raging debate begins between me and my inner voice (Christians call this the Holy Spirit) that goes something like this: "You, Mark, with 12 years of seminary behind you, 36 years a preacher, look at that sin you've just committed, Yes, I am the worst in the world".
And there it is, just like Paul the Apostle, he too, like you and me, thought that he too was the worst in the world. Yet the Lord forgives and restores a repentant sinner. This is why Jesus died on the Cross. This is the Gospel message and why those philosophical news casts have so much treachery associated with them.
Easter is a time to reflect on such wonderful forgiveness and restoration.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html