On Monday night a stunned crowd watched helplessly as flames engulfed Notre Dame, Paris’s world famous, 850 year old, Gothic cathedral. Later as the sun was setting, gentle hymn singing broke out as Parisians and tourists gathered to see what would become of one of France’s most-loved landmarks. The cathedral housed priceless treasures – many of which are said to have been saved from the flames. The building was also immortalised in Victor Hugo’s classic novel “Notre-Dame de Paris”; known in English as “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”.
Almost 2,000 years ago this weekend, another crowd gathered to watch an even more tragic event. Just outside Jerusalem, an innocent man was being publicly executed. His only crime was to have upset the religious authorities. The crowd, made up of friends, family and followers as well as his detractors, watched helplessly as Roman soldiers drove nails through his hands and feet. Fixed to a wooden cross, he was lifted high in the air to die.
Within a few hours of the initial flames, it was announced that Notre Dame would rise again; millions of Euros have already been pledged for the restoration of this magnificent building. But the crowd watching in Jerusalem had no hope. This was the end of their dreams. They had hoped he was the one who would save their nation. He healed the sick; he fed the hungry; he raised the dead. He taught that people should love not only their friends, but also their enemies. He described how each of us are deeply loved by God. Eye-witnesses testified that, “No man ever spoke like this man!” Yet the authorities had their way, and he died.
What the crowd didn’t know was that three days later he would be very much alive again – death could not hold him. What they also didn’t know was that, horrific though it was, his death was part of the plan. The death of the sinless Son of God was the only thing that could pay the price for the things we’ve done wrong; so that if we accept it, you and I can be totally forgiven – the slate wiped clean. God opens the door to eternal life now, not after countless lifetimes as some suggest. So today we can enter a relationship with the Divine, and know His perfect love, discovering how precious we are to Him. Isn’t it wonderful to know that you are worth far more than many cathedrals!
An Easter prayer:
O God, your love amazes me! Why you should care for me after all I’ve done, I don’t know. Thank you Jesus that you died on that cross to give me eternal life. Forgive me for what’s past. I turn to you now; I offer my future to you, and invite you to fill my heart with your love and peace. Thank you Jesus.