window_pfcross271w St Mary the Virgin Gillingham DorsetBefore concluding my series on John 17, the following posts about Holy Saturday might interest newer subscribers:

What happens on Holy Saturday?

Holy Saturday and food traditions

Now for the third and final part of John 17, Jesus’s High Priestly Prayer. You might wish to read Parts 1 and 2, if you haven’t already.

He has already prayed for Himself in advance of the Crucifixion and for His disciples in His absence.

Today’s passage is Jesus’s prayer for us. Emphases mine below.

20“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

If those words do not encourage one to repent, I’m not sure what will.

How marvellous that the Holy Spirit inspired John to include this beautiful prayer in his Gospel, my favourite.

Verses 20 and 21 tells us that not only does Jesus wish for holy unity among His disciples, He desires it for us as well.

That holy unity with each other is not a oneness with lukewarm believers or those in error, by the way. John MacArthur explains:

He’s not praying that some day all denominations will get together and we’ll have one big ecumenical hash. He’s not praying that we’ll have one-world church, as some have thought. He’s simply praying that believers who share common eternal life, the very life of God dwelling in them, will be united in their separation from all that is ungodly and worldly…expressing spiritual love and power and obedience, all affections for God burning with the same flame, all aims directed at the same end, all pursuing the harmony of love and holiness.

Jesus goes on to say that He has shared His own glory with us (verse 22) and He prays that God will unite us ‘perfectly’ with both Himself and the Father, just as they have been perfectly one since before the beginning of the world (verses 23 and 24). That glory enables us to manifest to the world that Christ is our Redeemer and Saviour.

Jesus says that those who believe in Him know that He is the Son of God (verse 25). He has accomplished this during His earthly ministry, now at an end, and will continue to do so afterward (verse 26).

Jesus expresses His enduring, generous love for us in this marvellous prayer. This love is so deep, abiding and comprehensive that we will never be able to appreciate it until we meet Him face to face, sharing His glory.

This is what the Holy Week, Easter, Ascension and Pentecost story is all about. Many of us can hardly wait to be in His presence and give God all glory. And one day we will.

John MacArthur unpacks these verses for us:

This praying first for our holiness, our oneness in holiness even as the Father and the Son are one in holiness. But secondly, He prays for our eternal fellowship with Him. And this is this most overwhelming thing. This is how the whole prayer ends. It really is overwhelming. “Father, I desire that they also whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am.” I mean, there aren’t even too many famous people in this world who are interested in having us around, are they? We’re not many noble, not many mighty. Nobody in the palaces of the world is calling me. Nobody in the Oval Office ever calls me. Nobody in the Supreme Court wants to run around with me. Nobody is interested in most of us. In fact, I guess in some ways we’re sort of the dregs, aren’t we? Especially in this culture we live in today. Is it not remarkable that the glorious Son of the living God prays to His Father that He might have us with Him? Is that not a staggering thing, an overwhelming request? He asks for the Father to grant the eternal presence of all of us with Him …

He’s anticipating the time on the cross and He’s going to be going through the sin bearing and the suffering and He’s really just saying to the Father, “Hang on to them while I’m gone for a while. And, Lord, bring them to glory, I don’t want to lose any of them. Bring them to that place where they’ll trade this vile body for a body like unto His body.” We will have a body like Jesus Christ, reflecting His glory. To be with Jesus, that’s heaven, that’s heaven. To gaze at His glory, that’s heaven. That’s what it is …

And lastly, the final two verses, verses 25 and 26 … 

These two verses just breathe the confidence that the Father will listen, that the Father will hear. He said, “I’m only asking for those who know You. I’m only asking for those who are Yours. I have known You,” and that’s the basis for asking, “and these have known You,” and that’s the basis for the petition and the blessing.

Here is a perfect illustration of prayer. He knows the will of God and He prays for it. Prayer is not so much about changing God’s mind about things as it is affirming God’s will. That’s why we pray, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come…and the next line says…Thy…what?…will be done.” I tell you, when we think about the Lord interceding for us, it is a staggering thing. And the Son always prays like the Spirit, according to the will of God and the Father will always answer.

As I mentioned in my first two posts on John 17, MacArthur has preached extensively about this one chapter in 1972, 1997 and again in 2002. He has several lengthy sermons on this great prayer.

As generous as this prayer is, it is meant for those who truly believe in Christ. MacArthur warns:

And when it says in verse 20: “Who shall believe on Me,” in that word “Me” is everything that Jesus claimed to be and everything that He said … believing in the total content of Christ. The only way a man ever enters into a right relationship with God is by believing in Christ. I don’t care if he goes to church or does this or does that or has religious feelings, it’s only through believing in Christ, accepting His person, His work and everything He said as fact revelation direct from God. Good works, church membership and anything else have absolutely nothing to do with it.

Now pardon for sin, for example, comes by believing. The Bible says that man is a sinner and consequently will pay the penalty, but Christ comes along and pardons His sin by dying on the cross and bearing the penalty Himself. How do you gain this pardon? You gain this pardon by doing something? No. Acts 10:43 says: “Through His name whosoever believeth on Him shall receive remission of sin.” Pardon comes by believing.

The Bible also talks about the fact that a man can be made just before God. You’re dragged into the court of God, God says you’re a sinner, you’re a sinner, you’re a sinner every way you look at it you’re a sinner, every way you slice it, it comes out sin, from the beginning to the end of your life you’re a sinner. How in the world are you ever going to enter into His presence? Well, God has the right to declare you righteous by virtue of what Jesus did for you. But in order to receive that righteousness and be declared just, Acts 13:39 says: “By Him all that believe are righteous.” It is by doing what that we receive righteousness? By believing. You don’t earn it.

The Bible talks about the fact that God wants to make men His children, that He wants to make us sons of God, adopting us into His family. How do you ever get to be adopted into God’s family? How do you become a child of God? John 1:12: “To as many as received Him, to them gave He the right to be called the sons of God, even to them that do what? … believe on His name.”

The Bible talks about spiritual light that is available. How do you get spiritual light to understand spiritual truth? Jesus said: “Whosoever believeth in Me shall not walk in … what? … darkness.” Believing.

The Bible says that God has made available to men peace and joy. How do you get it? Romans 15:13: “Now the God of hope fill you with all peace and joy in believing.” It’s there all the way through the New Testament. Salvation is a matter of believing.

I hope this short series helps to make the Holy Week and Easter story clearer and Jesus Christ more relevant to us.

May we use the time from Easter to Pentecost to contemplate Christ’s immense and eternal love for us. May we turn from sin by asking for more divine grace and profound faith.

Happy Easter to you all!

 

 

Stained glass cross turbophotocom imagesCAGIG2KHBefore I continue with a miniseries on John 17, newer subscribers might find the following posts about Good Friday helpful:

The greatest reality show ends with a popular vote

Barabbas: an inspiration for liberation theology?

Meditations on the Cross

Reflections on the Crucifixion

Good Friday: in whom can we trust? (John 18:12-27)

Martin Luther’s ‘How to Contemplate Christ’s Sufferings’: the false views

Martin Luther’s ‘How to Contemplate Christ’s Sufferings’: the true views

Martin Luther’s ‘How to Contemplate Christ’s Sufferings’: the comfort

Incidentally, our Lord’s Crucifixion date showed up in a news email I receive from the French site l’Internaute. It was in their ‘on this day in history’ section. The actual date was April 7, 30 AD.

Now on to today’s topic, which relates to Good Friday, that of John 17 — Christ’s High Priestly Prayer with which He concluded the Last Supper.

Yesterday’s post began a three-part study of this prayer which He prayed before going with the remaining eleven Apostles to await His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Up to now, Jesus had protected His followers from harm. However, now was His time — as God preordained from the beginning and prophesied in the Old Testament — to die an excruciating death on the Cross for our sins.

The High Priestly Prayer is the only example we have of how Jesus communicated directly with His Father. And, despite the fact that both are divine and have been forever, Jesus still prayed.

Perhaps John included this beautiful and perfect prayer in his Gospel to give us that example in detail. As Christ prayed, so shall we.

This prayer is divided into three parts. The first five verses are Jesus’s prayer for Himself as he meets His Crucifixion. The next several verses — 6 to 19 — are His prayer for the Apostles and disciples now and as they establish the Church.

The third part — covered tomorrow — is His prayer for us.

Today’s entry concentrates on verses 11 – 19, a continuation of His prayer for the disciples. Emphases mine below:

11And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

Jesus acknowledges that His time on earth is coming to an end (verse 11). For that reason, he prays that God protects His followers and keeps them unified in glorifying Him and holy love (verse 11).

Jesus proclaims that He was a faithful shepherd and lost only the one Apostle in name only — Judas — but says that this was part of His Father’s plan as unveiled in the Old Testament (verse 12).

Verse 13 is particularly striking. He wants His followers to experience His own sense of joy in God.

He goes on to state that His disciples are in the world but not of it and, to this end, preserve them from the snares of Satan (verse 15).

He also asks God to keep them holy, following His word — ‘truth’ (verse 17) — during their ministry (verse 18).

In the final verse — 19 — He says that he must set Himself apart — ‘consecrate’ Himself — by dying so that the people God gave Him can be redeemed eternally.

John MacArthur unpacks the verses at length in several sermons from 1972, 1997 and 2002. One of his sentences sums this passage up beautifully:

What He’s really praying for is this…I want them to continue to radiate My glory even when I’m not there. And that is what He prayed for. He prayed that we would manifest the glory of Jesus Christ even in His absence. The glory of God was revealed in Christ on earth and when He left, Jesus said I want My glory revealed in My church, in My disciples, in My people.

Even though His prayer for us comes later in the chapter, we, too, can derive comfort from His intercession for the disciples.

Those of us who went to Catholic or Protestant schools probably remember teachers, religious and clergy telling us to do everything well ‘for His glory’. Some of us probably took it the wrong way from time to time asking why we had to slave for God. Yet, Jesus’s entire life on earth was lived beginning to end ‘for His glory’. And if Jesus felt such a deep desire to please His Father, shouldn’t we in our Christian walk?

In another sermon, MacArthur discusses what this entails:

we have a divine call to holiness. We, in answer to the prayer of Jesus Christ, must radiate holiness. As an individual, I gain it through the Word. And then as we all grow in the Word, there becomes a oneness of holiness that stands as a testimony in the world. I pray, God, that will be our testimony.

He also tells us what this does not entail, contrary to some denominational beliefs:

God wants faith. God does not want your works, He does not want your religion, He does not want your piousity, that’s, you know, being super religious, you all know that. He does not want your activity; He does not want your membership in the church. He wants your faith commitment to the person of Jesus Christ. And that’s the only kind of person who ever knows God, who ever knows Christ and that’s the only person for whom Jesus intercedes. There are a lot of religious people but they are not those for whom Jesus prays. To be a part of Jesus’ intercessory work, you must believe.

As for the unity and oneness which Jesus prayed the disciples would have, MacArthur says:

there’s an element of this prayer that was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost when the Spirit came and indwelt every believer and continues to do so that we share one common eternal life. There is a spiritual unity that did come to pass in direct answer to this prayer. But I think more than that it’s oneness of a separated body of those who belong to God. It’s a oneness of separation from the world, that we would be one body opposed to the world.

He’s not praying that some day all denominations will get together and we’ll have one big ecumenical hash. He’s not praying that we’ll have one-world church, as some have thought. He’s simply praying that believers who share common eternal life, the very life of God dwelling in them, will be united in their separation from all that is ungodly and worldly…expressing spiritual love and power and obedience, all affections for God burning with the same flame, all aims directed at the same end, all pursuing the harmony of love and holiness.

That’s an essential takeaway message from Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

So often, by the end of Lent, we wonder why we made our voluntary effort for personal sacrifices or extra devotions. Easter comes and a week later, it’s all forgotten for another year.

I think of it differently. Perhaps you also share this outlook. Each Lent to me represents a chance to build up faith and holiness — it’s a concentrated, dedicated time of focus, prayer and private contemplation whilst going about our daily lives.

Each Lent gives us a marvellous time to step back, take stock and pray for more faith, holiness and oneness. It’s a chance to ask the Holy Spirit for more fortitude or wisdom, to ask Jesus to make us more like He is, to ask God for more of His divine grace. All those together — and there are millions of more requests like these — enable us to build our path of sanctification.

That path, bearing the fruits of our faith, will never be completed in this life, but, with the help of the Holy Trinity, may it lead ever heavenward with fewer regrets on our part as we take our last breaths here on earth.

In our final moments, may we say that we, albeit imperfectly, lived for His glory.

Stained glass cross crown 3rexesblogspotcomBefore exploring John 17, what follows are my past posts on Maundy (or Holy) Thursday. They explain the events and traditions surrounding the Last Supper in which Christ instructed us to commemorate His Body and Blood through consecrated bread and wine:

‘One of you will betray Me’

Passover, the Last Supper and the New Covenant

Maundy Thursday and the Last Supper: Jesus’s words of comfort (John 14, mentions the divine mystery which is the Holy Trinity)

John MacArthur on Passover as celebrated at the Last Supper

What is Tenebrae?

What is the Triduum?

Now on to a unique chapter in the New Testament, John 17, which reveals how Jesus prayed to His Father.

We often read that Jesus prayed to Him, but often we have only a statement that He did so or a brief prayer of a verse or two. Of course, we have His Lord’s Prayer for our use, however, John 17, the High Priestly Prayer, gives us the fullest sense of how Christ communicated with God during His time on earth.

As there is much to look at here via John MacArthur’s many sermons on this chapter through the years (1972, 1997 and 2002), it is best covered in three parts. Emphases mine below.

The first is Jesus’s prayer for Himself and a review of His earthly ministry. He said these words after a long discourse and discussion at the Last Supper (John 13 through John 16):

1When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

 6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.

Verses 1 – 5

In the first five verses Jesus prays for Himself. He knows His Crucifixion is approaching (verse 1), but instead of praying for the ability of enduring unimaginable pain through scourging, piercing and hanging on the Cross, He instead prays for the ability to glorify God on this fateful day (verse 2).

Jesus knew He would die crucified. Of this, there was no doubt or no ‘plan gone wrong’. This is what He was sent to accomplish.

Note that He is also aware that it is time for Him to shortly rejoin His Father in heaven and regain the glory they shared together ‘before the world existed’ (verse 5). John includes this in the opening verses of his Gospel (John 1:1-3):

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Also notice that in verse 2 Jesus specifically mentions the granting of eternal life to all whom God has given to Him. Therefore, not everyone will be saved, only those whom God has given to Jesus Christ. He refers to this again in the next several verses.

John 6 tells us that Jesus also talks about this in verses  37-40:

37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39And this is the will of him who sent me,that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

John MacArthur unpacks these first five verses for us in light of the Crucifixion:

To men the cross appears as an instrument of shame, to Christ it meant glory … glory … glory. And so He says, look at it — verse 1, “The hour is come,” what’s the next statement? What’s the next word? “Glorify Thy Son.” How are You going to do that? How You going … to lift Him up and make Him king of Israel? How [are] You going to glorify the Son? How was He glorified? On a cross, wasn’t He?

Now, it seems strange because from a human viewpoint you’d think He would say — Father, exalt Me now to some great role of rule in the world. If it was real glory why you wouldn’t think it would have anything to do with suffering, but it does. Because, you see, the glory came in the purchase of eternal life and the purchase of eternal life depended upon death and so He had to die. And so, Jesus is simply saying – Father, grant that by means of this event, My death … and you must include death, resurrection, ascension and coronation all in it … that by means of this event I may be glorified.

Now, to glorify God or to glorify Christ means to render what is due because of the glory of His attributes. Because of who He is and because of the display of all of His attributes it is to render Him the honor that He is due. And so Christ is simply saying — Father, let’s get at it so I can display these attributes and receive the honor that is due. The cross was glory for Jesus.

Now some have said — Well, Jesus had an ego problem. And He was very selfish. He was saying — Glorify Me. But if you look at the verse again you’ll see that that’s not the case. It says this: “Glorify Thy Son — hina– in order that Thy Son also … what? … may glorify Thee.” See, He didn’t even have Himself in view. He had the Father’s glory in view. And what’s the key to the whole universe? The glory of God.

In another sermon on John 17, MacArthur explains:

God planned into His master plan, the death of Jesus Christ who atoned for the sins of the world. That makes the men who did it no less responsible for their own guilt and their own hate and their own unbelief. But God had designed the death of Christ as a part of His plan. He was born to die.

Why, you read Isaiah 53 and you’ll read the details of His death. You read Psalm 22; centuries before He was ever born, and it gives explicit instruction about what He’s going to say when He’s hanging on the cross, the very words are there. It was no accident when Jesus went to the cross, no accident at all. The cross and all the events ignited by the cross, the resurrection, the ascension and the coronation of Christ and His second coming even, all of those events ignited by the cross were planned by God before the world began, it was no accident. The sovereign God of history said it would happen, prophesied throughout the entire Old Testament that it would happen and it happened. The cross was no accident. Jesus Christ was not just a self-styled martyr dying as an example of a guy who thought something was right and willing to give His life for it. He died as one foreordained before the world began to bear the sins of the world.

Verses 6 – 10

In verses 6 – 19, Jesus prays for His disciples. We’ll look at verses 11-19 tomorrow.

The message here is that Jesus has worked with the people God gave Him. Early in His ministry, Jesus prayed in isolation to make the right choice when selecting His Apostles; here, He acknowledges God gave those men to Him. In turn, Jesus taught them as His Father wished and revealed God to them through Himself.

He also tells God that the men have been faithful to His teachings. He knows — and we know through the Gospels — that they were not perfect, but they attempted to be, with the exception of Judas Iscariot. And God planned Judas’s betrayal, too.

MacArthur explains the difference between the Apostles and the disciples:

as Jesus prays for His disciples, that it is a very specific prayer, He’s praying for the eleven Apostles and for the few disciples that were also with Him. Now you know that there’s a difference between an apostle and a disciple. There are only eleven Apostles plus Matthias who made up the twelfth [later in Acts], plus whom? Paul [also later in Acts]. But then they were specific. But of all of the others who believed in Him, they are all disciples. They are all disciples. Now apostles are also disciples, but not all disciples are apostles, there were only eleven plus Matthias, plus Paul. There are a total of thirteen if you want to include Judas in there; he was by name an apostle, not in fact.

All right, so you and I are disciples but we’re not apostles. Right? So, others who followed Jesus were disciples but they weren’t in that group that belonged to the Apostles.

Now, Jesus then in this prayer, verses 6 to 19, directs His thoughts to this little group of eleven plus the others who believed in Him. How many were there? We don’t know. Maybe 500, for that’s how many saw Him after His resurrection, there were 120 in the upper room praying together, waiting for the Spirit of God and so perhaps somewhere around 500 would be a maximum. Can you imagine the Son of God in human flesh, 33 years on the earth and when it was all over with, 500 believed? But Jesus was pleased because they were the 500 the Father gave Him, see. And they were the 500 who were about to do the impossible

You say — Well, He’s just specifically praying for them? Yes, but in a general sense you will see in this the pattern of His mediating work for all believers because it’s so … it’s so much the same for us. It’s very general.

Now, the disciples, as you know including the eleven and I’ll use the word disciples collectively to refer to all of them; the disciples had really depended upon Jesus Christ. So much so that the thought of losing Him paralyzed them, didn’t it? And He knew in His own heart that even with all the promises that He’d given them in the table-talks in chapter 14, 15 and 16, with all of those wonderful promises, it was really going to be trauma when it all finally broke and when they saw what happened, they were going to scatter as sheep just to the winds … when the shepherd was smitten. And He knew that. And He knew that it would hurt. And He knew that it was going to be a shock like no shock they had ever had. And so, He comes to the Father, not only does He lay on them all these promises one after the other, but He comes to the Father and He prays — Now, Father, make it all happen, care for them. I have to give them to You.

While He was going to go to the cross and bear the sins of the world, He committed them to the care of the Father, that’s essentially what we see here. And though Jesus had promised that He would return, in the form of the Holy Spirit, and that that would even be better because He would not be just with them, He’d be in them, though He had given them all kinds of promises He knew that they were still heading to a trial that would shatter them and so He now prays that the Father would keep them. He had always been their guide, He had always been their guardian, He’d always been their all-sufficient friend, He had borne their infirmities, He had upheld their weaknesses, He had protected them from evil. And He loves them with the fullest capacity of God to love, in the gentleness that is uniquely Jesus Christ; He gives the Father the task of caring for them while He goes to the cross to die for them. You know, you’d think that Jesus Christ somewhere along the line would get a little bit preoccupied with His own problem, but He never does. All He can think about is — Father, Listen, I love them so much I’m going to go die for them, and while I’m dying for them will You watch them?

Tomorrow: John 17:11-19

 

thirty-pieces-of-silver-3cf58ff031d96b76We are now nearing the middle of Holy Week.

The plot against Jesus thickens.

So far, Jesus has confronted the money-changers at the Temple in Jerusalem.

The High Priests, looking on, yearned to arrest Him. But, after their great outpouring of affection for Him on Palm Sunday, what would the people say?

Judas Iscariot visited the Jewish leaders, offering his services. That day is known in traditionalist Catholic circles as Spy Wednesday.

Please visit the links for more information about the most tragic week in history before and since.

This year, my Anglican parish’s Palm Sunday reading included Psalm 118 but omitted the middle verses.

Some clergy think that ‘too much Bible’ bores the congregation. I disagree. This psalm is a case in point.

This is what we heard for the first reading:

1 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
   for his steadfast love endures forever!

 2 Let Israel say,
   “His steadfast love endures forever.”
3 Let the house of Aaron say,
   “His steadfast love endures forever.”
4 Let those who fear the LORD say,
   “His steadfast love endures forever.”

 5 Out of my distress I called on the LORD;
   the LORD answered me and set me free.
6 The LORD is on my side; I will not fear.
   What can man do to me?

19 Open to me the gates of righteousness,
   that I may enter through them
   and give thanks to the LORD.
20This is the gate of the LORD;
    the righteous shall enter through it.
21I thank you that you have answered me
    and have become my salvation.
22 The stone that the builders rejected
   has become the cornerstone.
23This is the LORD’s doing;
   it is marvelous in our eyes.
24This is the day that the LORD has made;
   let us rejoice and be glad in it.

 25Save us, we pray, O LORD!
   O LORD, we pray, give us success!

 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!
   We bless you from the house of the LORD.
27The LORD is God,
   and he has made his light to shine upon us.
Bind the festal sacrifice with cords,
   up to the horns of the altar!

 28You are my God, and I will give thanks to you;
   you are my God; I will extol you.
29 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
   for his steadfast love endures forever!

What follows is what was omitted. One wonders how many people opened their pew Bibles to read these verses (emphases mine below):

7 The LORD is on my side as my helper;
   I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.

 8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD
    than to trust in man.
9It is better to take refuge in the LORD
    than to trust in princes.

 10 All nations surrounded me;
   in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
11They surrounded me, surrounded me on every side;
   in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
12 They surrounded me like bees;
   they went out like a fire among thorns;
   in the name of the LORD I cut them off!
13I was pushed hard, so that I was falling,
   but the LORD helped me.

 14The LORD is my strength and my song;
    he has become my salvation.
15Glad songs of salvation
   are in the tents of the righteous:
“The right hand of the LORD does valiantly,
 16the right hand of the LORD exalts,
   the right hand of the LORD does valiantly!”

 17 I shall not die, but I shall live,
   and recount the deeds of the LORD.
18The LORD has disciplined me severely,
   but he has not given me over to death.

Bible scholars generally agree that David wrote this psalm after fully gaining the kingdom which God intended for him.

Matthew Henry notes that it could have been sung when the Ark of the Covenant was installed in David’s royal city and was sung thereafter during the Feast of the Tabernacles.

Henry explains, citing the King James Version of his time:

He preserves an account of God’s gracious dealings with him in particular, which he communicates to others, that they might thence fetch both songs of praise and supports of faith, and both ways God would have the glory. David had, in his time, waded through a great deal of difficulty, which gave him great experience of God’s goodness

There are many who, when they are lifted up, care not for hearing or speaking of their former depressions but David takes all occasions to remember his own low estateAll the nations adjacent to Israel set themselves to give disturbance to David, when he had newly come to the throne, Philistines, Moabites, Syrians, Ammonites, &c. We read of his enemies round about they were confederate against him, and thought to cut off all succours from him. This endeavour of his enemies to surround him is repeated (Psalm 118:11): They compassed me about, yea, they compassed me about, which intimates that they were virulent and violent, and, for a time, prevalent, in their attempts against him, and when put into disorder they rallied again and pushed on their design … Two ways David was brought into trouble:– (1.) By the injuries that men did him (Psalm 118:13): Thou (O enemy!) hast thrust sore at me, with many a desperate push, that I might fall into sin and into ruin. Thrusting thou hast thrust at me (so the word is), so that I was ready to fall. Satan is the great enemy that thrusts sorely at us by his temptations, to cast us down from our excellency, that we may fall from our God and from our comfort in him and, if God had not upheld us by his grace, his thrusts would have been fatal to us. (2.) By the afflictions which God laid upon him (Psalm 118:18): The Lord has chastened me sore. Men thrust at him for his destruction God chastened him for his instruction. They thrust at him with the malice of enemies God chastened him with the love and tenderness of a Father. Perhaps he refers to the same trouble which God, the author of it, designed for his profit, that by it he might partake of his holiness (Hebrews 12:10) howbeit, men, who were the instruments of it, meant not so, neither did their heart think so, but it was in their heart to cut off and destroy, Isaiah 10:7. What men intend for the greatest mischief God intends for the greatest good, and it is easy to say whose counsel shall stand. God will sanctify the trouble to his people, as it is his chastening, and secure the good he designs and he will guard them against the trouble, as it is the enemies’ thrusting, and secure them from the evil they design, and then we need not fear.

It takes profound faith to believe that God will preserve us through our greatest, most violent trials and tribulations. God used David’s enemies’ attacks to strengthen his love for Him. As Henry says at the beginning of his commentary for Psalm 118:

It appears here, as often as elsewhere, that David had his heart full of the goodness of God. He loved to think of it, loved to speak of it, and was very solicitous that God might have the praise of it and others the comfort of it. The more our hearts are impressed with a sense of God’s goodness the more they will be enlarged in all manner of obedience.

This is why it is so important for us to pray for more faith, especially when things are going well so that we can draw on it during times when it seems as if everything and everyone are working against us. Bible study will also help build our understanding of God’s purpose for us.

However, there is an even greater prophecy here which is why this psalm is chosen as a reading from Palm Sunday through the Easter season. It speaks of Jesus and Jesus himself cites it in referring to Himself.

Matthew 21 begins with His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday. This is the final week of His public ministry. Longtime subscribers of this blog will have followed my Forbidden Bible Verses series which recount the constant verbal assaults on Jesus not only by the Jewish Sanhedrin but also by ordinary people.

Palm Sunday was a brief moment of happiness in our Lord’s ministry on earth. The next few days, which we commemorate during Holy Week, turned so dark and treacherous that He suffered death on the Cross for our sins on Good Friday.

As Henry says of Psalm 118:

In singing this psalm we must glorify God for his goodness, his goodness to us, and especially his goodness to us in Jesus Christ.

Matthew 21 tells us that after riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, He went to the temple and toppled the tables of the money-changers. He then returned to Bethany, where He had been previously with Mary, Martha and Lazarus, whom He resurrected the day before.

Jesus returned to Jerusalem the following day. On His way there, He became hungry and cursed the barren fig tree when he found it had leaves but no fruit. That episode is analagous to those who do not bear fruits of faith; they will die eternally, never seeing God.

At the end of Matthew 21, Jesus had yet another confrontation with the Jewish leaders. He gave them two parables: those of the two sons and the talents. The chapter closes with His citation of Psalm 118:22-23:

22 The stone that the builders rejected
   has become the cornerstone.
23This is the LORD’s doing;
   it is marvelous in our eyes.

Matthew tells us that Jesus went on to warn of condemnation for unbelief:

43Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. 44And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

The chapter ends with this:

45When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. 46And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.

Henry tells us that the last ten verses of Psalm 118 relate specifically to Jesus Christ. Of the gate in verses 19 and 20, he says:

Some by this gate understand Christ, by whom we are taken into fellowship with God and our praises are accepted he is the way there is no coming to the Father but by him (John 14:6), he is the door of the sheep (John 10:9) he is the gate of the temple, by whom, and by whom only, the righteous, and they only, shall enter, and come into God’s righteousness, as the expression is, Psalm 69:27. The psalmist triumphs in the discovery that the gate of righteousness, which had been so long shut, and so long knocked at, was now at length opened. 3. He promises to give thanks to God for this favour (Psalm 118:21): I will praise thee. Those that saw Christ’s day at so great a distance saw cause to praise God for the prospect for in him they saw that God had heard them, had heard the prayers of the Old-Testament saints for the coming of the Messiah, and would be their salvation.

And Peter says the same when the Jewish leaders confronted him and John after they healed a lame man at the temple in Acts 3. They later arrested and held both apostles overnight in custody for speaking of the resurrected Christ to the public. The next day the hierarchy questioned the apostles. This was Peter’s reply (Acts 4:8-12):

8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” 

Psalm 118 tells us that, just as God saved David from death, so He also saved His only begotten Son.

We celebrate His Resurrection on Easter Sunday. He lives forevermore.

May we share the psalmist’s joy on Easter:

24This is the day that the LORD has made;
   let us rejoice and be glad in it.

A few years ago I despaired when I heard a female ex-colleague talk about the ‘marvellous’ lesson her son had had in crèche about Easter weekend.

For those in other parts of the world, England — with an established state church — largely has a four-day weekend, from Good Friday through Easter Monday.

This lady told me during Holy Week, ‘I’m so glad my son has had a good grounding in Easter. The crèche teachers told him and the class that Jesus died and that He was a great man.’

She looked so pleased with herself.  I sat there in stony silence.

I asked her if they had a Part 2 to the course.

‘What do you mean?’ This woman took great pride in her Eastern Orthodoxy, which makes me wonder what exactly they teach.

‘Well, what happened three days after Jesus was crucified?’ I asked.

‘I don’t understand.’

Seriously, as this woman had been going on for the better part of two years about her devout Eastern Orthodoxy, I wanted to give her a verbal tongue-lashing. Not that I would view every adherent of Orthodoxy in that light, but her interpretation of it was grating and frustrating.

However, we were at work.

‘Erm,’ I whispered. ‘There is Easter Sunday.’

‘Oh. All Easter means to me is exchanging stinky boiled eggs in church. I never understood why we did it.’

Please, whether you are in charge of children, nieces, nephews, cousins or grandchildren — kindly ensure that you and they understand the Easter story. Thank you!

 

Palms mexconnectcomAs Holy Week is nearly here, newer subscribers might be interested in reading the following posts from my back catalogue.

Today is Lazarus Saturday:

when Jesus raised Mary and Martha’s brother from the dead (John 11:1-45).  Nowadays, this is commemorated as a feast principally in the Eastern Orthodox Church and Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite.

The link provides more information about our Lord’s last healing miracle in His ministry and its significance from the earliest days of the Church to the present.

Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, which recalls Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The following posts explain more:

The greatest reality story of all time begins on Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday and the Jesus watchers

Palm Sunday: Why palms?

Palm Sunday: Why a donkey?

I highly recommend the last two. The Revd P G Mathew of Grace Valley Christian Center in Davis, California, provides the theological answers.

Finally, if you receive a sheaf of two or three palm leaves at church, this post explains how to plait them to better preserve them during the coming year.

Forbidden Bible Verses returns after Easter.

Sir Ludwig Guttmann.jpgIn August 2012 and March 2014, I posted about the Paralympics.

During the London 2012 Paralympic Games, the BBC broadcast a film which told the story of Dr Ludwig Guttmann and his radical physiotherapy which helped to give new purpose to paralysed soldiers at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire during the Second World War.

The drama, based on Guttmann’s life and his patients’ experiences, is called The Best of Men. The Beeb rebroadcast it during the Sochi games. If you ever have a chance to see it in 2016 (no doubt the next time it will be shown), please don’t miss it. In fact, everyone should see it. (In the US, it might be shown on PBS or the BBC cable channel.)

Guttmann had been working in his native Germany with spinal injury patients since 1917. By 1933, he became the country’s best neurosurgeon. He practiced medicine there until he was forbidden by law, because of the Nazis. Even on Kristallnacht in 1938, he ordered his staff to admit Jews into the wards and provide them temporary sanctuary, even if they had only minor wounds. When the Gestapo eventually arrived, Guttmann told the officers the people were too seriously injured to be arrested. He saved 60 people from the concentration camps.

That anecdote, which appeared in the Daily Mail in August 2012, gives us the measure of the man whom the British Government invited to work at Stoke Mandeville Hospital. Before he reached Stoke Mandeville, he had escaped to Portugal in 1939 on a visa the Nazis gave him, treated a patient there and intended to return to Germany via London. However, the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics (CARA) arranged for him and his family to remain in England.

The Guttmanns settled in Oxford. Guttmann continued his spinal research for four years at the Radcliffe Infirmary. In 1943, the British Government offered him a post at Stoke Mandeville. They invited him to establish the National Spinal Injuries Centre.

As The Best of Men reveals, British medical care for paralytics was shockingly primitive. This is surprising, given that the UK has given the world some of the greatest physicians over the past few centuries.

Essentially, the British medical establishment viewed these men as nothing more than ‘cripples’ who would soon die. This reminds me of the Belgian paediatrician I quoted yesterday, Dr. Gerlant van Berlaer, in my post on children’s euthanasia. In fact, if euthanansia had been legal in Britain, I have no doubt that many doctors would have put these men forward.

When Dr Guttmann first entered his new spinal injuries ward, he was shocked and angered by what he saw. Men were lying in a room which was black as night. In the film, Guttmann rushes to open these heavy blackout curtains and let in sunlight which dazzled the men. They had not seen daylight for some time.

The patients were bound in heavy plaster casts and fitted with catheters. Any nurse will tell you that this produces bedsores and fatal infections of the urinary tract. One young soldier pleaded with Guttmann to kill him. He was in that much pain.

The film shows Guttmann wasting no time in cutting away the plaster casts. What he sees shocks him: huge bedsores on every man’s back. He also removes the catheters surgically.

The spinal injury nurses find his behaviour shocking. One wants to leave. Dr Cowan, the surgeon from whom Guttmann must borrow supplies, is appalled at the notion that physiotherapy could save these men. He expects them to die, as their families have been told routinely.

After painstaking nights of personally turning over the patients every two hours to swab their bedsores, Guttmann develops a way of rehabilitating the men to give them a purpose in life.

As his daughter Eva told the Daily Mail in 2012 (emphases in bold mine):

My father’s big thing was that he was determined to make his patients taxpayers.

After their wounds were healed, the next step was to get the men to sit up at a 90-degree angle. The film shows that if you’ve been propped up at a 45-degree angle for weeks on end, once you fully sit up you also throw up.

Guttmann procured wheelchairs for his patients. He also installed a large worktable at which they sat potting plants and constructing birdhouses.

As they built up their activity levels, the next thing on Guttmann’s agenda for them was physical fitness. According to the film, he had a tough time persuading a PT instructor posted to the hospital to work with the paraplegics. ‘I deal in fitness, not disability,’ the instructor said.

Guttmann pressed on. The film shows us how the nurses began relating to the men as people, not vegetables.

The PT instructor, with Guttmann’s guidance, got the men on the hospital grounds, playing catch and moving on to archery. The unthinkable became routine.

The men built up muscle and energy. They also regained their sense of self.

The film shows them preparing for a competition. Guttmann asks the young man who wanted to die if he was ready to face one of his opponents. The young man replied jovially:

I’ll kill him!

Guttmann smiled wryly and said:

A short time ago you asked me to kill you. Now you’re ready to kill another man. We’re making progress.

However, as one can imagine, Guttmann had to personally deal with areas of deep-seated resistance from his patients and their families.

One example shown in the film was that of the cranky Welsh Cpl Wynne Bowen (Rob Brydon), who adamantly insists on a divorce because he fears he will no longer be able to satisfy his wife. It takes Guttmann a long time to persuade him not to do so.  When Mrs Bowen visits with their two children and says she has put their name on the waiting list for a new one-storey house, Wynne is unimpressed. Guttmann sees how much she loves her husband. Yet, it takes a lot of doing for him to persuade a bitter Wynne to return to Wales for a weekend at home. That Sunday evening, Guttmann, the nurses and the men apprehensively await Bowen’s return. Suddenly, in he rolls singing Men of Harlech at the top of his lungs! He has a future.

Another example — and the film has more — is the time Guttmann spent with parents of a young soldier who will never walk again. The father sees life in a nursing home as the only route. Guttmann has to persuade them that their boy can live in the outside world.

Guttmann’s daughter Eva told the Daily Mail about another patient:

One of them told me he was lying in a corner of the ward feeling sorry for himself and my father came along and asked, “What are you doing?” He said he was waiting to die. So my father said that, whilst you’re waiting for the Good Lord to take you, go to the workshop and do some carpentry, do some work, start a career.

So he did. And this chap told me that after leaving hospital, he actually became the head of a building firm and did very well.

Guttmann referred to his patients as ‘the best of men’ and was eager for them to rejoin society. He believed in the power of sport as a means of physical and mental rehabilitation. The film shows brief newsreel footage of the first two Paralympic Games. The first was held in 1948 and was called the Stoke Mandeville Games. They ran whilst London hosted the Olympics that year.

Wikipedia says:

Dr. Guttmann used the term paraplegic games to National Games held in order to encourage his patients to take part. This came to be known as the Paralympics which only later became the parallel games and included other disabilities.

Four years later:

more than 130 international competitors had entered the Stoke Mandeville Games. As the annual event continued to grow, the ethos and efforts by all those involved started to impress the organisers of the Olympic Games and members of the international community…

His vision of an international games the equivalent of the Olympic Games themselves was realized in 1960 when the International Stoke Mandeville Games were held alongside the official 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. Known at the time as the 9th Annual International Stoke Mandeville Games, and organised under the aegis of the World Federation of Ex-servicemen (an International Working Group on Sport for the Disabled), they are now recognized as the first Paralympic Games. (The term “Paralympic Games” was retroactively applied by the International Olympic Committee in 1984.)[16]

In 1961, Guttmann founded the British Sports Association for the Disabled which would later become known as the English Federation of Disability Sport. In the same year, he became the inaugural President of the International Medical Society of Paraplegia (now the International Spinal Cord Society (ISCoS)).

Guttmann became a British citizen in 1945. A few years later, Guttmann’s efforts received official recognition. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1950. In 1957, he became an Associate Officer of the Venerable Order of St John. He received another honour, that of a Commander of the British Empire (CBE). Queen Elizabeth II knighted him in 1966.

Guttmann died in 1980. Fortunately, his legacy lives on and has expanded around the world.

May the Lord give us more Guttmanns, not only in spinal research and physiotherapy but also in general practice, psychiatry and psychotherapy. We desperately need them.

I hope and pray that we turn away these horrific notions of euthanasia and abortion.

slipperyIn light of yesterday’s post on a European murdering his disabled daughter in France and Paralympians around the world comes the issue of legalised euthanasia for children.

The Netherlands, Luxembourg — and now Belgium — all allow young people to request euthanasia. In the first two countries, a child must have attained the age of 12 in order to do so.

In Belgium, no minimum age exists.

Naturally, proponents of this astounding legislation say it will be used only in the rarest of cases involving terminal illness.

That reminds me of the Roe v Wade debates when abortion supporters said the procedure would only be requested and used when the mother’s health was at risk. I recall discussing the issue with my fellow classmates in Catholic secondary school. I posited that it would eventually become a form of birth control. My classmates told me that I was being alarmist: ‘Don’t be ridiculous! Who would actively seek out an abortion?’

Hmm. Millions of women around the world, a number of them more than once. Tens of millions of foetuses who were divinely intended for this world and never saw it.

From abortion it was but a short step to euthanasia.

In 2005, Gallup’s poll on the subject found that a majority of Christians in the United States support euthanasia: 75% of Catholics, 70% of Protestants and 61% of Evangelicals. A majority of Catholics and Protestants also support physician-assisted suicide, PAS — 60% and 52%, respectively — although only 32% of Evangelicals do.

Now we have children who will be able to ask for the means to end their lives. It may start with the terminally ill but it will surely end up with unhappy youngsters of all kinds. No doubt, some of their parents and other family members will encourage them.

Els van Hoof, a Belgian senator, was one of a small number who voted against the bill. Christian News reports that she told the BBC (emphases mine):

In the beginning, they presented a law that included mentally ill children,” she noted. “During the debate, supporters of euthanasia talked about children with anorexia, children who are tired of life—so how far does it go?”

Paediatrician Dr. Gerlant van Berlaer disagrees:

” … there are children we try to treat but there is nothing we can do to make them better

We are not playing God—these are lives that will end anyway,” he argued. “Their natural end might be miserable or very painful or horrifying, and they might have seen a lot of friends in institutions or hospitals die of the same disease. And if they say, ‘I don’t want to die this way, I want to do it my way,’ and that is the only thing we can do for them as doctors, I think we should be able to do it.”

We all die. The point is dying when the Lord decides it, not us. So, contrary to what van Berlaer says, we are playing God by determining not His timescale but our own — for our comfort and convenience.

Thirty-eight Belgian paediatricians issued a statement countering this perspective, noting:

Even the most complex medical cases can be solved in the current legal framework, with the means and expertise at our disposal,” the translated statement says. “For whom is this legislation therefore designed?”

Children in Belgium are not suffering,” it continues. “The palliative care teams for children are perfectly capable of achieving pain relief, both in hospitals and at home.”

The law passed the lower house in late February 2014. Christian News tells us that most Belgians oppose it. Catholic Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard observed:

The law says adolescents cannot make important decisions on economic or emotional issues, but suddenly they’ve become able to decide that someone should make them die

This ties in tangentially with America’s Cass Sunstein — an early Obama adviser and a father himself — who advocates animal rights over those of humans. This World Net Daily article tells us that he agrees with Jeremy Bentham, one of the stars of Britain’s Enlightenment of the 18th century. Bentham once wrote:

A full-grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day or a week or even a month, old.

Similarly, another of Obama’s early ‘point people’, John Holdren, said that he would favour seizing babies from unwed mothers who refused to have abortions. A chilling thought. In the 1970s, he co-authored a book with Paul and Anne Ehrlich on population control and other aspects of ecoscience. Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Environment still appears on course syllabi on some college campuses. The three authors propose forced marriage or compulsory adoption as well as mandatory sterilisation. They justify it this way:

Policies that may seem totally unacceptable today to the majority of people at large or to their national leaders may be seen as very much the lesser of evils only a few years from now.

That is, sadly, all too true.

Back now to children’s euthanasia. Many of you probably read about this story when it was being debated at the end of last year and early this year. Of its passage into law, business magazine magnate and former presidential candidate Steve Forbes warns:

As euthanasia becomes more accepted—and we become more numb to the horror of murdering people like this—we’ll descend to the next abomination: pressuring the sick to discontinue treatment for a likely fatal illness in the name of ‘saving scarce resources’ for people who have more years ahead of them.

Indeed, we have only to go to the Wikipedia entry for Voluntary Euthanasia to read the rationale, which anyone in the Benelux countries might now hear and adults in many other nations may be given:

Not only will PAS and euthanasia help with psychological suffering and give autonomy to the patient, PAS can help reduce health care costs and free up doctors and nurses. By keeping a terminally-ill patient alive, the patient must pay for any medical necessary procedures. These procedures can include x-rays, prescribed drugs, or any lab tests that needs to be performed. All of these procedures can run up a medical costs. Since the bills will continue to come for the patient, they will lose more of the money they would want to leave behind for their family. If the patient wants to end the suffering, the reason for racking up the bills and keeping the patient alive are lacking (13). Also, the costly treatment to keep the terminally-ill patient alive from medical funding cannot be used for other types of care, like prenatal, where it would save lives and improve long-term quality of life.[37] Along with reduced health care costs, more doctors and nurses could be freed up. A shortage of medical staff is a critical problem hospitals face and studies have found that understaffed hospitals make many mistakes and provide less quality care. Attending to terminally-ill patients, who would rather die, is not the best use of the medical staff. If PAS and euthanasia were legalized, more staff would have time to care for others and there would be an increase in the quality of care administered.[36]

Physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia can lower health care costs, free up doctors and nurses, and give back the right to the patient to practice autonomy. By keeping PAS and euthanasia illegal, each terminally-ill patient is being discriminated against because they are not able put this option into action. Those patients because of their disability do not have the same right as any other person in the United States.[37]

To be fair, the article does explore the opposing right-to-life argument.

However, let’s look at how these arguments could make villains out of religious people — Christians or others — who wish for their relative to die in hospital without assisted or self-imposed suicide.

When families keep the terminally ill in hospital, doctors and nurses could well look upon these people as robbing others of good health. Family requests might end up being ignored. Relatives might be shunned. They might be expected to perform nursing and hospital orderly duties themselves.

The patient will be viewed as a ‘bed-blocker’, a term used of the elderly in Britain’s NHS in the early 1990s. Since then, a number of NHS doctors have written on elderly patients’ admittance forms to casualty the letters DNR: Do Not Resuscitate.

It is ironic that, given our greater overall life expectancy and medical advances, that more of us — children included — will be destined for the scrapheap because we are mere inconveniences to our families or physicians.

God? Who needs Him, eh? We can now take care of all our life and death issues ourselves.

A few weeks ago when wrapping up the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi, I referred to a court case in France involving a man who had murdered his six-year old daughter.

Johana Carneiro was a tetraplaegic who had Down’s Syndrome. She was also an epileptic. She had to be helped with every aspect of her life. The father, Americo Carneiro, formerly of Portugal, is a 44-year old stonemason. Mrs Carneiro is bipolar and, according to her husband, spends most of her days on the sofa. She has also been treated in psychiatric hospitals for her condition.

Consequently, Mr Carneiro himself became severely depressed, seeking refuge in psychotropes and alcohol. By the time he put his hand over his daughter’s mouth whilst she slept on January 3, 2011 in Boulancourt (Seine-et-Marne), the court determined that he had lost aspects of his rational judgment.

During his trial, Carneiro described his daughter as ‘smiling’, ‘cheerful’ and ‘making progress’ in the special school where she went when he was at work. Carneiro said he took desperate measures because he worried for her future should anything happen to him.

Carneiro was so depressed that his original plan was to murder his daughter, then his wife. He intended to commit suicide. He had already transferred €10,000 to his mother’s bank account to cover the cost of their funerals. He testified that he lost the courage to do away with his wife and himself.

Carneiro’s barristers and the judges found this an extremely difficult case. Psychiatrists testified that he was a loving father but emotionally ‘spent’.

Counsel and judges used the following principles to arrive at a suspended sentence of five years in prison. The sentence had to reflect that Carneiro:

1/ Deeply regretted what he did and was severely depressed.

2/ Had no right to take his daughter’s life, even if she was disabled and had Down’s Syndrome.

3/ Had an extreme combination of extenuating circumstances weighing upon him as the head of his family.

Therefore, they determined that his sentence needed to reflect that he acted wrongly whilst at the same time showing the court had compassion for him in his suffering.

It seems another person would have gone to the school early on to ask the specialists for help. Surely, he couldn’t be the only such parent in France needing a lot of support in his situation.

It is not unheard of for mothers of a Down’s Syndrome child to become severly depressed. I knew a lady who spent most days lying in bed. She was on antidepressants. Although she was a nurse before she married and had a family — she had several other healthy children — deep down she felt responsible for her child being born the way he was. They put the boy in a dedicated home for Down’s Syndrome sufferers where he could receive the care he needed. She and her husband — a physician — were practising Catholics. Despite his unpredictable work schedule, he kept the family together on a daily basis, including preparing supper when the children were younger.

Therefore, I do not know why some families fare better than others in this respect. It seems that age, education and money are no barrier to severe depression following the birth of a disabled child. If you have any experience with these situations, please feel free to comment below.

As for the Parlympians and participants in America’s Special Olympics, I am grateful that their parents helped them to thrive despite all odds.

To conclude on this subject, I read the comments following the Carneiro case and was appalled at how many said it was right for the father to murder his daughter because of her severe disabilities. I also know several people who believe that if pregnancy scans discover such a foetus, the mother should have an abortion. Sadly, eugenics is not dead.

A few days after the Carneiro verdict, I read an article on the Episcopal site Stand Firm about a Chinese man who carries his disabled son to and from school every day. It is an 18-mile round trip. The Daily Mail reported on the family. The father said (emphases mine):

‘I have carried him there and back now since last September, every morning I get up at 5am to prepare a lunch for him to eat and then I walk the four-and-a-half miles to the school, and then come back here so I can work to earn money. I then walk back to the school to pick up my son and bring him home.’

He said that he estimates he has walked around 1,600 miles up and down hills backwards and forwards since he started counting: ‘My son with his disabilities is not in a position to walk on his own and it also means that he can’t ride a bike. Despite being 12 he’s just 90 cm tall. But I am proud of the fact that he is already top of his class and I know he will achieve great things. My dream is that he will go to college.’

As Stand Firm’s Sarah Hey says:

So many things run through my head when I read a story like this.

I think I’ve got problems?  I need to think again.

People are really desperate and will do desperate things—some good, some bad. I have so much respect for this man—he does what he must.

How much this man must love his son, as disabled as he is. He has such hopes for him. Such faith. As much as he loves his son, God loves us even more. He is willing to go to immense lengths for us, not merely one time through death on the cross, but every single day in a variety of ways.

I wish the Carneiro family had had a different outcome. Nonetheless, as several French commenters and legal experts have said, Mr Carneiro will have his late daughter on his mind more often than not.

May we remember parents and families of disabled children in our prayers as well as the children themselves. May all be guided by His divine grace.

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WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? If you wish to borrow, 1) please use the link from the post, 2) give credit to Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist, 3) copy only selected paragraphs from the post -- not all of it.
PLAGIARISERS will be named and shamed.
First case: June 2-3, 2011 -- resolved

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