GOD'S STRATEGY FOR OUR REDEMPTION AND “A TALE OF TWO CITIES” By Charles Dickens.
Recently the head of our Sunday school asked which one of us had read A TALE OF TWO CITIES. I replied that I had done so in high school. The book was written by Charles Dickens and set in the time of the French revolution/uprising of 1832, that saw very many especially of the aristocratic class executed by decapitation with the guillotine.
During my formative years in high school I was fortunate to have read 2 (Two) of Charles Dickens’ great books OLIVER TWIST and A TALE OF TWO CITIES. I have not had time to revisit these two books ever since but I have managed to retain residual knowledge of the basic story line of both books. A TALE OF TWO CITIES in particular was quite impacting because later as a young man in quest of TRUTH, I found a parallel to the basic story line and God’s plan for our redemption in scriptures.
In the book, the two cities are the cities of London and Paris. A certain Ms Lucy Maneth, daughter of Dr. Maneth who himself had suffered under the harsh laws of state (monarchy), was in love with and engaged to Charles Darny (my spellings here may be incorrect because I have not had time to read the book since high school), who unfortunately was a member of the aristocracy. Charles Darny like very many others of his class was destined for the guillotine. But a certain Sidney Carton who from his name appeared to be English, because of his unqualified love for Lucy Maneth (who incidentally did not love him back in the same terms), to save her from suffering because of Charles Darny’s death, decided to go to the guillotine instead of Charles Darny. Sidney Carton, making the supreme sacrifice, became a substitute for Charles Darny and went to the guillotine (a diabolically ingenious equipment for decapitating people found guilty by the French revolutionaries) in the place of Charles Darny. Sidney Carton, having made the supreme sacrifice out of his love for Lucy Manneth is a TYPE of CHRIST; - only I did not know it at that time, being a more or less lukewarm Moslem youth of 12 years of age and in the lower classes of high school.
Apart from this apparent digression which I am sure was necessary to establish and illustrate TYPING in literary terms by the Sunday school teacher, the kernel of the Sunday school study was actually on the resurrection of Lazarus by Jesus Christ. True our Lord and Savior made it clear that he had not come to the world to overthrow the law but to fulfill it - Matthew 5:17. He nonetheless did not shy away from introducing several innovations, drawing much glory and illumination on scriptures thereby. A few of such are self - evident in the following:
1. The woman taken in adultery instead of being stoned as demanded by the law, was pardoned and warned to sin no more. John 8:4 – 11. Here our Lord stresses forgiveness as a virtue for us to cultivate and mete out to others who transgress the law and offend us.
2. The Lord declared that when one looked upon a woman to lust after her in his heart (it could also be the other way round - i.e. woman lusting after a man) he had committed adultery already with her. Matthew 5:28. That means that our thought - forms can be sinful. Here the Lord is advocating inward and outward holiness.
3. He went on to call The Lord God Almighty “Abba Father.” Mark 14:36. Introducing terms of endearment between God and mankind – an action and idea hitherto unheard of. By this action he abrogated the mental picture of a God bellowing fire and smoke from His nostrils and ears, always looking for men to punish and push into hell. God, all of a sudden can be called and is “Daddy.”
In point of fact two messages were sent to Jesus Christ concerning Lazarus. The first was to the effect that Lazarus was very sick. The second was to announce Lazarus’s death. But Jesus did a really curious thing in that instead of hurrying to be with his beloved friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus which every normal man would have done, scriptures tell us he remained for 2 (Two) in the same place. One would rush to the bedside of a sick friend who one truly loved. And Jesus truly loved Lazarus and his sisters, as evidenced in “Jesus Wept” - John 11:35 - the shortest scripture in the Bible. They were family friends. Yet it took him 3 days to get to Bethany the home of his friends who he loved dearly. Quite a few theologians and pastors have suggested that Jesus did not hurry because he needed to pray and perhaps even fast before the show down he was to have with Satan and his horde of darkness. Though this is not expressly mentioned in scriptures, after my personal experience of the baptism of the Holy Spirit I found myself totally in agreement with this suggestion, which I gradually saw fit to elevate to the position of an assertion, not a mere suggestion.
The Lord was in the process of introducing yet another innovation, perhaps the Magnum Opus of them all. He remained in the same place for 2 days and on the 3rd day left for Bethany. 3 (Three) in scriptural numerology is the number for The Godhead (Trinity - as said by others). I had meditated on this picture as the Holy Spirit caused it to be raised in my mind’s eye. Why did the Lord not wait for 1 or 2 or 4 or 5 or 6 or 7 days? Why 3? The witness in my spirit was and is that Jesus was preparing to announce himself as part of The Godhead, through the process of wrestling the soul of Lazarus from the hands of Satan, the grave and death; and reversing the process of putrefaction of the physical cloak (body) of Lazarus, to make it fit to support a re – entry of the reclaimed soul that will necessarily animate it back to physical vitality. The Body and Soul would only fuse in perfect union if the conditions of both were just right. The Lord, a perfect fusion/union of God and Man established himself as master over Satan, Death, Darkness, etc through this action; thus unambiguously foreshadowing his own resurrection and the promise of our own victory over Satan, Death, Darkness etc for as long as we are his.
The Lord told us that his words are spirit and life - John 6:63 “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” Even The Quran calls Jesus “Word of God” and “Spirit of God.” So the spoken word of our Lord traveled into the nether regions of Satan and wrested the soul of his friend Lazarus, which we all are today for as long as we are his, and brought it back to the land of the living, and simultaneously reversed the process of decaying of the physical body so that the returning soul must find it fit to support it (the soul). Alleluia!!! Beyond all doubt Jesus Christ is part and parcel of The Godhead – The Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
A NECESSARY FLASHBACK.
Nothing could have prepared me, a product of 2 (Two) strong Moslem families for a walk with Jesus Christ. I mean even the thought that I would ever step into a Church building for a worship service would have been considered a curse to me. Growing up in the warm security of my filial setting, I was first of all an indifferent Moslem in name only youth. Of course I went through the motions and looked like all my other Moslem siblings. In my late teens and early twenties a spiritual awakening slowly crept in, and I started looking with steadily maturing inquiring eyes at my surroundings. I sought to have a proper definition of SIN and LOVE from a spiritual perspective instinctively knowing without a shadow of doubt that these 2 (Two) had a cardinal role to play in our appreciation of God and how to serve Him.