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Saturday, 21 September 2013

"HE IS RISEN!!!" Then Silence...

I can never forget one Saturday afternoon during 1996 at Leicester Square (pronounced Lester) in the heart of Theatreland at the West End in London. Perhaps equivalent to the Broadway in New York, it was not out of place to witness a public speaker standing on a soapbox addressing a crowd of listeners. He sounded American, and he seemed stuck for an answer when among the listening audience, a Muslim called out;
In what way is your Jesus Christ any better or more superior than our prophet Mohammad?

I watched the orator as he stood there, desperately racking his brains to come out with a convincing answer. To him, the two original religious leaders were both influential enough to draw followers for generations to come. Both groups fought in the past to spread and defend their faith. Therefore it is concluded that both founders had valid, true-to-life teachings which made an impact to their listeners and followers. Yet I began to feel something stirring within me, and it grew so strong that I was practically unable to restrain myself. Then the words exploded out of my mouth:

The whole area fell into silence. I thought, whoops, I better get out of here. Fortunately, that wasn't difficult, as there is always a crowd of pedestrians sauntering at a leisurely pace past the Empire theatre. It was easy to melt into the crowd as I made my way over Charing Cross Road, heading for a Travel Bookshop located near Covent Garden. Yet despite my trembling over what could have happened, I felt a wave of joy in my soul. The reason for this was that this could have only been the work of the Holy Spirit.

There are times like this when the Holy Spirit within rises to the occasion. And there are plenty of other times when he doesn't, or he does not seem to, or he seems to be totally absent in a given situation. Such seemed to be the case at a hospital ward in Reading, a large town more than forty miles west of Central London. It is here where I visit my wife Alex every evening without fail. Her bed is among five others, three of these occupied by long-stay female patients who are into their eighties. If there was a place where I feel so helpless, I think this is it. At a nearby single-bed ward across the corridor another octogenarian lies in her bed, her occasional screaming drifting through the building, as if her time had come and she is facing Judgement. Back in Alex's ward, one dear lady with Alzheimer's cries out, Nurse, Nurse, Please nurse, Please a member of staff is busy attending another patient or is carrying out a task in the corridor. Every day one of her offspring comes in to visit. She has a son and two daughters, all middle-aged, and some grown-up grandchildren. Yet, at times when she is by herself, her cries of desperation can be heartbreaking to hear, as well as thoroughly annoying to the female in the next bed, herself into her eighties.
One of the striking effects of this hospital atmosphere is the total lack of praise and thanksgiving to God, or the absence of hope of eternity with the Lord in Heaven. There used to be a time when the hospital chaplain called regularly, especially on Sundays. I recall a motorcycle accident having put me in hospital for a few days in 1976, and I clearly recall the hospital chaplain chatting to me while confined in bed. At present, according to my knowledge, in all the hours I spent at my wife's bedside, no chaplain had ever called - if he did, Alex would have said so at once as soon as I walked through the doors. Someone to offer hope, easily recognisable by his clerical garb and white dog collar. At least all the patients would have known who he was.
A simple message - that Jesus Christ died on the cross to atone for their sins, and believing in their heart that God had raised him from the dead, thus confessing him as Lord - would offer peace and hope in the twilight of their lives. I have wondered, and I felt bothered too, on why I was so powerless to help them in the ward. Especially as I was leaving to return home one late evening, and two of the octogenarians, one directly opposite the other, both reached out to me, begging me to help them get out of bed. Not having the authority to lift a finger, I was helpless, I could not say anything, and I walked out of the ward under a raft of guilt and impotence.
This experience has made me wonder how Peter or Paul would have reacted given such a situation. One thing I am aware of - that with one of those two apostles, all the patients in the ward would have benefited, most likely in both physical and spiritual healing. So why the big difference between them and such like myself?
I recall one house group meeting in the 1980s where a verse in the Gospel of John was discussed. It read, He that believeth in me, the works that I do he shall do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father (14:12 KJV.)
We tried so hard to convince ourselves that this verse must be true, as Jesus himself had promised it. But as we reflected on ourselves, each one of us knew well enough that wasn't the case. Jesus had healed many. In forty years of being a Christian, I never healed anyone. The same with casting out demons, a ministry, I have to admit, I would shy away from. Raising someone from the dead? Jesus did that, at least twice. Peter did too. But so far I hadn't. Performing other miracles? No, not that either. Yet I have read several stories of miracles performed in our day. One case which struck me was one performed by a Dutch female minister, Corrie Ten Boom. One day she was by a riverbank, teaching an outdoor group of boys about the miracle of the fishes caught in Peter's net, after the resurrection of Jesus. One of the boys sneered at the reality of the miracle. Just as handy that there happened to be a pail nearby. Corrie took the bucket, immersed it into the river close to the sneering lad, then pulled the bucket out of the water and emptied it of fish, so many that they formed a heap right in front of the startled youth! The lad grew up to become a noted evangelist.

Corrie's miracle is typical in conveying a message, and it's the same kind as those found in the Bible. Nowadays we tend to see the church as a spiritual alternative to the national health service. Only this week I received news from a good friend of mine away on a mission in Africa. His updating had stories of physical healing, forgiving of past disputes, even "generational healing" - meaning to be set free from the consequence of parental or ancestral sins, which is advocated by many Charismatic churches. But most important, out in Africa, people believed in Jesus as the Messiah and were saved. And by becoming acquainted with the Bible, I have detected a strong link between this message of salvation and miracles, including physical healing, something which seemed to have been overlooked by many Charismatic churches in favour of healing in a sense of a spiritual health service.

The whole of the ministry of Jesus Christ before his death, was centred on who he was. Every miracle performed by him was meant to be the backing proof of who he was: the Christ. In John's Gospel, we have Jesus telling his doubting onlookers that if they don't believe in him for who he was, then at least believe for the sake of his works (John 10:37-38.) The whole of the 11th chapter of John's Gospel is devoted to the raising of Lazarus from the dead. In verse 42, Jesus gave the very reason behind the miracle, that those who witnessed it would believe that God sent him. In verse 45, the ultimate goal behind the miracle was achieved: many of the Jews believed in him, that is, that he was the Messiah. In verses 47 and 48, a council was held by the unbelieving Pharisees, on the basis that if they let Jesus perform his miracles, the whole world would turn to him, and they with the rest of the nation will be seized by the Romans for their betrayal.

The first miracle done after the ascension of the resurrected Jesus was the healing of a cripple (Acts 3:1-10.) When the crowds who saw the miracle wondered, Peter gave the reason for the miracle - to persuade the onlookers that the Jesus they had crucified is indeed the Christ, and in verse 19, Peter told them to repent, that is, to change their minds from thinking that the one they crucified was an impostor, to believing that he is the Christ, which was parallel to the command given in his earlier sermon delivered in Acts 2.

The debate over the healing of the cripple spills into the fourth chapter. Here, the Sanhedrin held a council over the healing of the cripple. In verse 4, we are told that the miracle of the cripple healed and the reason for it, led to a further five thousand witnesses of the miracle to believe that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the Christ, and they were saved.

Corrie Ten Boom's miracle of the bucket of fishes, parallel to the net of fishes recorded in John 21:6, was meant to bring the sneering youngster to salvation. Her miracle worked. Not only did the boy believe that this Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, but he grew up to become an evangelist, with many more believing as a result of hearing his testimony. And what about my own answer shouted to the audience in London? Was this the work of the Holy Spirit? I believe it was. And the result? I think that from the answer I gave, someone, somewhere, believed, and was saved. I don't know who, but God does.

How I wish for the Holy Spirit would manifest himself in the hospital wards, perform a miracle and save those elderly patients. And I much sooner see this coming from someone other than myself, than not to see it at all.


  1. Hi Frank,
    yes I believe that you were meant to shout out that Jesus was raised from the dead, the Lord has a plan and uses all of us at different times to carry out that plan.
    God bless

  2. Praise God, Frank, that you let the Holy Spirit use you to proclaim His Name in this highly effective way to a very large gathering! Only Christians can say that we serve a risen Savior! The tombs of Mohammed, Buddha, and all others but Christ's are not empty. Perhaps God has brought you and Alex to the hospital to witness for Him, for such a time as this, to bring hope to those who so badly need it. Praying for you both.
    God bless,

  3. Jesus had grown up in Nazareth, and seen and heard of his miracles repeatedly, and had chosen not to believe. Matthew 13;58 declares, "And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief." They had already made their choice, and as Jesus told the rich man in Luke 16:29, another miracle would not change their decision if they would not hear without the miracles. If they will not listen to your and Alex's testimony, miracles would not result in their being saved either. Why should God waste miracles on people who will not believe?

  4. Great post Frank, the usual high standard; not bad for a window cleaner hey?! Life is a miracle, childbirth is a miracle, a sunset is a miracle, nature is a miracle, if people can't see that as wonderful in itself, then what's the chance they will believe anything else?

    I include your beautiful wife and you as well in my prayers, I think we are all praying you and your wife; I hope she gets better soon.