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Rev Adam Pawley
The Rector writes,

It is now Lent and in Hope Parish we are of course all becoming enthusiasts of Mark’s Gospel! For Lent & Holy Week Services see the Flyers on our Services page.

Our Sunday preaching is focussed on Mark. Our Lent studies, now underway, are focussed on Mark. Our Holy Week Meditations will be focussed on Mark.

How often do we read the Bible I wonder?

Without the Bible of course we’d have very limited record of who Jesus was (or is), of what Jesus did, (or does!). Without the Bible there would be no Christian faith today. Yet we (I include myself) spend more time (probably) watching soaps and films (or anything else) than we do praying and reading the book that claims to hold the key to life.

The Bible we might think is an old fashioned or unimportant book.
Yet as far as historical writings go it is one of the most (arguably the most) accurate the world possesses. For example of Caesar’s Gallic War, written 58-50BC, there exist today, 9-10 copies, the earliest manuscript is dated 900AD. Of Livy’s Roman history, dated 59BC-17AD, the earliest copy is 900AD and there are 20 known copies. Of the New Testament however, belonging to 40-100AD, the earliest full manuscript is dated 300AD and there exist more than 5000 Greek manuscripts, 10,000 Latin manuscripts and 9,300 manuscripts in other languages! (Source: FF Bruce in Nicky Gumbel, The Alpha Course).

The Bible, we forget too, is actually a ‘library’ (Greek, ‘biblios’) of books. Its 66 books were gathered together into one volume by the early church, because they collectively testify to the same thing: that Jesus, the Son of God (God as a man), is our Messiah (Hebrew) or Christ (Greek), He is our Anointed Saviour. He was born as one of us, that He might die in our place for us and rise again to bring to us forgiveness, healing, wholeness and order to our lives for both today and eternity.

The Old Testament histories tell us of our need for a Saviour. The OT prophets speak of the Messiah who will come to save us. The New Testament gospels give us eye witness accounts of Jesus. The Acts of the Apostles tells of the beginning of the church. The NT Letters tell us the positive differences Jesus made to the first Christians. Revelation tells how Jesus will return and how one day all pain and suffering will cease.

Outside of the Bible too, are other histories such as Josephus’ Antiquities, in which Josephus writes for example, “There was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works – a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles.”

Consider too, the testimonies of those who’ve really given it some thought. Lee Strobel, an atheist come Christian, and Harvard trained law journalist who set himself a two-year project to disprove Christianity wrote in his book’s conclusion (The Case for Christ):
“I was ambushed by the amount and quality of the evidence that Jesus is the unique Son of God. I had seen defendants carted off to the death chamber on much less convincing proof! In light of the convincing facts I had learned during my investigation, in the face of this overwhelming avalanche of evidence in the case for Christ, the great irony was this: it would require much more faith for me to maintain my atheism than to trust in Jesus in Nazareth!”

Today, the Bible sells at 44 million a year and is translated into more than 560 languages. The Bible is the best-selling book of all time (and also the most shoplifted book!) The oldest person on record to enrol in a primary school was aged 84. He enrolled because he wanted to learn to read the Bible. (Sources: The Bible Society). Such interest in the Bible suggests to me it must be one special book and worth a read.

The easiest to read, shortest and probably earliest of the four gospels, that tells the story of the life of Jesus is Mark’s gospel. It is 16 chapters long and can be read in a little over an hour. If you want to get started on the Bible then I encourage you and invite you to read Mark this Lent (and join us for our Lent Course and/or Easter Celebration – details within).

If you’re open to discovering God for yourself too then I encourage you to try praying as you read something like – “God if you are really here, then help me to know it please. Amen.” Jesus’ promise is He won’t let you down.

Christ’s rich blessings on you this Lent, Adam.

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