Pastor's Message for June

THE WAGES OF SIN AND THE REWARD OF JESUS

On 29 April, at 3:25 AEST, when most Australians were in deep slumber, the Chan and Sukumaran families were wide awake. Awake because their hearts were broken. Reformed convicts, Bali Nine drug smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran lost their appeal for clemency and were executed by the Indonesian firing squad. .. Tipped off by the Australian Federal Police and arrested in Indonesia for attempting to smuggle 8kgs of heroin into Australia, they were convicted and sentenced to death in 2005. The news of their death sent shockwaves across Australia, a country that abolished capital punishment in 1967. Party leaders expressed their horror over what they viewed as an inhumane punishment. Prime Minister Tony Abbott calls the execution cruel and unnecessary and intends to temporarily sever diplomatic ties with Indonesia as a sign of protest.

According to www.news.com: "Chan and Sukumaran, executed with seven other people also convicted of drugs charges, had spent their time in prison bent on rehabilitation. The former trained as a priest, was recently ordained and on Monday married the young woman he loved, in a prison ceremony. The latter became an accomplished painter and completed an arts degree. Both worked to rehabilitate other jail inmates."

Bible Society's Chris Makin reported Chan's testimony in August 2013 -...Just before my court date, I remember reading Mark 11:23-24, where it says that if you have enough faith you can say to this mountain, 'Be removed' and God will do it. So I said, 'God if you're real and if this is true, I want you to free me, and if you do I'll serve you every day for the rest of my life.' I went to my court hearing and they convicted me and gave me the death penalty. When I got back to my cell, I said, 'God, I asked you to set me free, not kill me.' God spoke to me and said, 'Andrew, I have set you free from the inside out, I have given you life!' From that moment on I haven't stopped worshipping Him. I had never sung before, never led worship, until Jesus set me free. My last appeal is on the President's desk for review. If he doesn't grant it, I'll be executed this year. It's not that I fear death, but I promised Him I'd serve Him for the rest of my life, and I feel I have more things to do. So if you want to pray, you could pray I'll be released.

Execution is cruel. One of the cruellest methods of execution invented was crucifixion. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, crucifixion was "an important method of capital punishment particularly among the Persians, Seleucids, Carthaginians, and Romans from about the 6th century BCE to the 4th century CE. Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor, abolished it in the Roman Empire in the early 4th century CE out of veneration for Jesus Christ, the most famous victim of crucifixion. Crucifixion was most frequently used to punish political or religious agitators, pirates, slaves, or those who had no civil rights. Crucifixion was most frequently used to punish political or religious agitators, pirates, slaves, or those who had no civil rights. In 519 BCE Darius I, king of Persia, crucified 3,000 political opponents in Babylon; in 88 BCE Alexander Jannaeus, the Judaean king and high priest, crucified 800 Pharisaic opponents; and about 32 CE Pontius Pilate had Jesus of Nazareth put to death by crucifixion."

According to the Jewish prophet Isaiah, the death of Jesus was for the sins of the world: "Surely [Jesus] took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all."

A Jewish Rabbi-turned-follower of Jesus echoed this message in his letter to Christians in the city of Colosse: "...in Jesus all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell...making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before [God]"

One of the two crucified next to Jesus repented on the cross and Jesus said to him: "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise." Jesus was risen to life and was witnessed by hundreds of people. He once said to Martha of Bethany, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die" Like the dying thief on the cross to whom Jesus promised eternal life in heaven, by his own admission and Jesus' assurance we can believe that Andrew Chan is in heaven today. Because of that terrible death Jesus suffered on the cross, we can be forgiven and find freedom from sin just like Andrew - 'Andrew, I have set you free from the inside out, I have given you life!'

Written by Matana Pachua (a friend and former colleague of Pastor Bruce)

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