Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Greatest Story Never Told

The Greatest Story Never Told

Just before Christmas, I noticed a sales desk in the Piccadilly Arcade off Sydney’s bustling Pitt Street. The attendants were promoting a telephone system and handing out free festive sweets.
I picked up a candy cane. ‘Do you know what this represents?’ I asked the young woman sitting there. She looked at me blankly and shook her head.
‘Let me tell you,’ I suggested. ‘The candy cane is shaped like a J which is the first letter of the name of Jesus. It is also like a crook which tells how Jesus is the Good Shepherd who rescues lost sheep. The red stripe reminds us that He gave his blood to save us from sin. The white shows that we are made clean through His sacrifice. And the green represents new life.’
She looked up at me and asked, ‘Are you interested in a better deal on your phone system, sir?’
At that point, another young lady approached. She was tall, bright-eyed and confident—clearly the person in charge. I asked her the same question and gave her the same explanation.
‘Well,’ she replied, ‘You learn something new every day.’
As I left I was angry with myself for not telling the story of the cross in more detail. I had assumed it was a tale they already knew—but was it? How much did they really understand? Were they aware of what happened at Calvary? Did they even know that Jesus was the Son of God? That he had been rejected, scorned and vilified? That he had been crucified? That he had been buried and then rose again?
A few weeks later a Welfare Agency for children had a table in the same place as the phone people. I began to chat with the young Asian man in charge. He was smartly dressed in a dark suit, a cheerful, willing soul who would, I think, have recruited many donors. ‘Can I ask you a question?’ I said.
‘Sure,’ he replied genially.
‘What are you doing to meed the greatest need of these children?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Well, I really admire what your organisation accomplishes. It is a wonderful work. But everyone has a fundamental need which underlies all the others. How are you meeting it with these kids?’
‘I’m not sure what are you referring to,’ he said hesitantly, increasingly unsure of what I meant.
I noticed he was wearing a chain with a crucifix. ‘I’m referring to what’s hanging around your neck,’ I replied.
He fingered the chain, evidently having forgotten what was on it. ‘Oh, you mean religion,’ he said.
‘Not religion—faith. Without faith people have no sense of dignity and without dignity they have no hope,’ I continued, quoting something I had once heard Mother Teresa say.
‘Even rich people need faith,’ I explained. ‘They may have everything they need in a physical sense. But they may also be deeply unhappy or lonely or depressed. They may be materially rich but spiritually bankrupt.’
This registered with him. ‘Spiritually bankrupt, that’s a good phrase,’ he commented.
As I went my way, I hoped it would stay with him.
Later I recalled an occasion when I had taken one of my grand children to a show on the Sunday afternoon before Easter. About thirty of us sat in rows waiting for the program to begin. A bright young tour guide with a cheery smile and a dinkum Aussie accent welcomed us all by saying, ‘It’s great to have you all here today on this – this –
‘Palm Sunday,’ I suggested from the second row, trying to be helpful.
‘What?’ he asked in a puzzled tone.
‘Palm Sunday,’ I repeated.
‘Oh, well, whatever,’ he replied and continued with his spiel.
Evidently, he knew little of the story of Jesus. It used to be called the greatest story ever told. Has it now become, at least for some people, the greatest story never told?
In 1866, during a time of sickness, Katherine (‘Kate’) Hankey, the thirty-two year old daughter of a member of the renowned Clapham Sect, wrote a poem of one hundred stanzas about the life of Jesus. Some of those lines were later set to music and are still sung around the world today. They include—
Tell me the story softly with earnest tones and grave;
Remember I’m the sinner, whom Jesus came to save.
Tell me the story always, if you would really be,
In any time of trouble a comforter to me.
Tell me the old, old story,
Tell me the old, old story,
Tell me the old, old story,
Of Jesus and His love.
The poignancy of her request has not diminished with the passing of the years. But how can people long to hear this story when they don’t know what it is?
It’s a good question.

Barry Chant

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Barry Chant is a regular speaker at church services, seminars, conferences and conventions. Hundreds of thousands of his books have been sold around the world. He has degrees in arts, theology and ministry, a diploma in education and a PhD in history. He was the co-founder and former president of Tabor College, Australia.

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