The Life of our LORD (Part 4 of 4) by Charles Dickens

Today is the final of four posts during this Christmas 2011 season where we are showcasing a little-known book by Charles Dickens (yes, that Charles Dickens…of A Christmas Carol fame).  This tremendously personal retelling of the life of our LORD and Savior’s story was written especially for his children and was not originally intended for publication.  It is a tribute to Dickens’ heart and humanity, and also, of course, his deep devotion to Our Lord.  Charles Dickens frequently shared the gospel to his children and made mention of the LORD in his letters to them.  We hope you will be edified by Dickens’ “The Life of our LORD” .

To read Part 1, click on December 18th on the calendar

To read Part 2, click on December 20th on the calendar

To read Part 3, click on December 22nd on the calendar

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CHAPTER THE TENTH

After a short time, Peter and another Disciple took heart, and secretly followed the guard to the house of Caiaphas the High Priest, whither Jesus was taken, and where the Scribes and others were assembled to question Him. Peter stood at the door, but the other disciple, who was known to the High Priest, went in, and presently returning, asked the woman, who kept the door, to admit Peter too. She, looking at him said, “Are you not one of the Disciples?” He said, “I am not.” So she let him in; and he stood before a fire that was there, warming himself, among the servants and officers who were crowded round it. For it was very cold.

Some of these men asked him the same question as the woman had done, and said, “Are you not one of the disciples?” He again denied it, and said, “I am not.” One of them, who was related to that man whose ear Peter had cut off with his sword, said “ Did I not see you in the garden with him?” Peter again denied it with an oath, and said, “I do not know the man.” Immediately the cock crew, and Jesus turning round, looked stedfastly at Peter. Then Peter remembered what He had said – that before the cock crew, he would deny Him thrice – and went out, and wept bitterly.

Among other questions that were put to Jesus, the High Priest asked Him what He had taught the people. To which He answered that He had taught them in the open day, and in the open streets, and that the priests should ask the people what they had learned of Him. One of the officers struck Jesus with his hand for this reply; and two false witnesses coming in, said they had heard Him say that He could destroy the Temple of God and build it again in three days. Jesus answered little; but the Scribes and Priests agreed that He was guilty of blasphemy, and should be put to death; and they spat upon, and beat him.

When Judas Iscariot saw that His Master was indeed condemned, he was so full of horror for what he had done, that he took the Thirty Pieces of Silver back to the chief Priests, and said “I have betrayed innocent blood! I cannot keep it!” with those words, he threw the money down upon the floor, and rushing away, wild with despair, hanged himself. The rope, being weak, broke with the weight of his body, and it fell down on the ground, after Death, all bruised and burst, – a dreadful sight to see! The chief Priests, not knowing what else to do with the Thirty Pieces of Silver, bought a burying-place for strangers with it, the proper name of which was The Potters’ Field. But the people called it The Field of Blood ever afterwards.

Jesus was taken from the High Priests’ to the Judgment Hall where Pontius Pilate, the Governor, sat, to administer Justice. Pilate (who was not a Jew) said to Him “your own Nation, the Jews, and your own Priests have delivered you to me.  What have you done?” Finding that He had done no harm, Pilate went out and told the Jews so; but they said “He has been teaching the People what is not true and what is wrong; and he began to do so, long ago, in Galilee.” As Herod had the right to punish people who offended against the law in Galilee, Pilate said, “I find no wrong in him. Let him be taken before Herod!”

They carried Him accordingly before Herod, where he sat surrounded by his stern soldiers and men in armour. And these laughed at, Jesus, and dressed him, in mockery, in a fine robe, and sent him back to Pilate. And Pilate called the Priests and People together again, and said “I find no wrong in this man; neither does Herod. He has done nothing to deserve death.” But they cried out, “He has, he has! Yes, yes! Let him be killed!”

Pilate was troubled in his mind to hear them so clamorous against Jesus Christ. His wife, too, had dreamed all night about it, and sent to him upon the Judgment Seat saying “Have nothing to do with that just man!” As it was the custom of the feast of the Passover to give some prisoner his liberty, Pilate endeavoured to persuade the people to ask for the release of Jesus. But they said (being very ignorant and passionate, and being told to do so, by the Priests) “No, no, we will not have him released. Release Barabbas, and let this man be crucified!”

Barabbas was a wicked criminal, in jail for his crimes, and in danger of being put to death.

Pilate, finding the people so determined against Jesus, delivered him to the soldiers to be scourged – that is beaten. They plaited a crown of thorns, and put it on his head, and dressed Him in a purple robe, and spat upon him, and struck him with their hands, and said “Hail, King of the Jews!” – remembering that the crowd had called him the Son of David when he entered into Jerusalem. And they ill-used him in many cruel ways; but Jesus bore it patiently, and only said “Father! Forgive them! They know not what they do!”

Once more, Pilate brought Him out before the people, dressed in the purple robe and crown of thorns, and said “ Behold the man!” They cried out, savagely, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” So did the chief Priests and officers. “Take him and crucify him yourselves,” said Pilate. “I find no fault in him.” But they cried out, “He called himself the Son of the God; and that, by the Jewish Law is Death! And he called himself King of the Jews; and that is against the Roman Law, for we have no King but Caesar, who is the Roman Emperor. If you let him go, you are not Caesar’s friend. Crucify him! Crucify him!”

When Pilate saw that he could not prevail with them, however hard he tried, he called for water, and washing his hands before the crowd, said, “I am innocent of the blood of this just person.” Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified; and they, shouting and gathering round Him, and treating him (who still prayed for them to God) with cruelty and insult, took Him away.

CHAPTER THE ELEVENTH

 
        That you may know what the People meant when they said “Crucify him!” I must tell you that in those times, which were very cruel times indeed (let us thank God and Jesus Christ that they are past!) it was the custom to kill people who were sentenced to Death, by nailing them alive on a great wooden Cross, planted upright in the ground, and leaving them there, exposed to the Sun and Wind, and day and night, until they died of pain and thirst. It was the custom too, to make them walk to the place of execution, carrying the cross-piece of wood to which their hands were to be afterwards nailed; that their shame and suffering might be the greater.

Bearing his Cross, upon his shoulder, like the commonest and most wicked criminal, our blessed Saviour, Jesus Christ, surrounded by the persecuting crowd, went out of Jerusalem to a place called in the Hebrew language, Golgotha; that is, the place of a scull. And being come to a hill called Mount Calvary, they hammered cruel nails through his hands and feet and nailed him on the Cross, between two other crosses on each of which, a common thief was nailed in agony. Over His head, they fastened this writing “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” – in three languages; in Hebrew, in Greek, and in Latin.

Meantime, a guard of four soldiers, sitting on the ground, divided His clothes (which they had taken off) into four parcels for themselves, and cast lots for His coat, and sat there, gambling and talking, while He suffered. They offered him vinegar to drink, mixed with gall; and wine, mixed with myrrh, but he took none. And the wicked people who passed that way, mocked him, and said “If Thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.” The Chief Priests also mocked Him, and said “He came to save Sinners. Let him save himself!” One of the Thieves too, railed at him, in his torture, and said, ‘If Thou be Christ, save thyself, and us.” But the other Thief, who was penitent, said “ Lord! Remember me when Thou comest into Thy Kingdom!” And Jesus answered, “ Today, thou shalt be with me in Paradise.”

None were there, to take pity on Him, but one disciple and four women. God blessed those women for their true and tender hearts! They were, the mother of Jesus, his mother’s sister, Mary, the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene who had twice dried his feet upon her hair. The disciple was he whom Jesus loved – John, who had leaned upon his breast and asked Him which was the Betrayer. When Jesus saw them standing at the foot of the Cross, He said to His mother that John would be her son, to comfort her when He was dead; and from that hour John was as a son to her, and loved her.

At about the sixth hour, a deep and terrible darkness came over all the land, and lasted until the ninth hour, when Jesus cried out, with a loud voice, “My God, My God, why has Thou forsaken me!” The soldiers, hearing him, dipped a sponge in some vinegar, that was standing there, and fastening it to long reed, put it up to His Mouth. When He had received it, He said “It is finished!” – And crying “Father! Into thy hands I commend my Spirit!” – died.

Then, there was a dreadful earthquake; and the Great wall of the Temple, cracked; and the rocks were rent asunder. The guard, terrified at these sights, said to each other, “Surely this was the Son of God!” – and the People who had been watching the cross from a distance (among whom were many women) smote upon their breasts, and went fearfully and sadly, home.

The next day, being the Sabbath, the Jews were anxious that the Bodies should be taken down at once, and made that request to Pilate. Therefore some soldiers came, and broke the legs of the two criminals to kill them; but coming to Jesus, and finding Him already dead, they only pierced his side with a spear. From the wound, there came out, blood and water.

There was a good man named Joseph of Arimathea – a Jewish City – who believed in Christ, and going to Pilate privately (for fear of the Jews) begged that he might have the body. Pilate consenting, he and one Nicodemus, rolled it in linen and spices – it was the custom of the Jews to prepare bodies for burial in that way – and buried it in a new tomb or sepulchre, which had been cut out of a rock in a garden near to the place of Crucifixion, and where no one had ever yet been buried. They then rolled a great stone to the mouth of the sepulchre, and left Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting there, watching it.

The Chief Priests and Pharisees remembering that Jesus Christ had said to his disciples that He would rise from the grave on the third day after His death, went to Pilate and prayed that the Sepulchre might be well taken care off until that day, lest the disciples should steal the Body, and afterwards say to the people that Christ was risen from the dead. Pilate agreeing to this, a guard of soldiers was set over it constantly, and the stone was sealed up besides. And so it remained, watched and sealed, until the third day; which was the first day of the week.

When that morning began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, and some other women, came to the Sepulchre, with some more spices which they had prepared. As they were saying to each other, “How shall we roll away the stone?” the earth trembled and shook, and an angel, descending from Heaven, rolled it back, and then sat resting on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his garments were white as snow; and at sight of him, the men of the guard fainted away with fear, as if they were dead.

Mary Magdalene saw the stone rolled away, and waiting to see no more, ran to Peter and John who were coming towards the place, and said “They have taken away the Lord and we know not where they have laid him!” They immediately ran to the Tomb, but John, being the faster of the two, outran the other, and got there first. He stooped down, and looked in, and saw the linen cloths in which the body had been wrapped, lying there; but he did not go in. When Peter came up, he went in, and saw the linen clothes lying in one place, and a napkin that had been bound about the head, in another. John also went in then, and saw the same things. Then they went home, to tell the rest.

But Mary Magdalene remained outside the sepulcher, weeping. After a little time, she stooped down, and looked in, and saw Two angels, clothed in white, sitting where the body of Christ had lain. These said to her, “Woman, why weepest Thou?” She answered, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.” As she gave his answer, she turned round, and saw Jesus standing behind her, but did not Then know Him. “Woman,” said He, “Why weepest Thou? what seekest thou?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, replied, “Sir! If thou hast borne my Lord hence, tell me where Thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus pronounced her name, “Mary.” Then she knew him, and, starting, exclaimed “Master!” – “Touch me not,” said Christ; “for I am not yet ascended to my father; but go to my disciples, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and to your God!”

Accordingly, Mary Magdalene went and told the Disciples that she had seen Christ, and what He had said to her; and with them she found the other women whom she had left at the Sepulchre when she had gone to call those two disciples Peter and John. These women told her and the rest, that they had seen at the Tomb, two men in shining garments, at sight of whom they had been afraid, and had bent down, but who had told them that the Lord was risen; and also that as they came to tell this, they had seen Christ, on the way, and had held him by the feet, and worshipped Him. But these accounts seemed to the apostles at that time, as idle tales, and they did not believe them.

The soldiers of the guard too, when they recovered from their fainted-fit, and went to the Chief Priests to tell them what they had seen, were silenced with large sums of money, and were told by them to say that the Disciples had stolen the Body away while they were asleep.

But it happened that on that same day, Simon and Cleopas – Simon one of the twelve Apostles, and Cleopas one of the followers of Christ were walking to a village called Emmaus, at some little distance from Jerusalem, and were talking, by the way, upon the death and resurrection of Christ, when they were joined by a stranger, who explained the Scriptures to them, and told them a great deal about God, so that they wondered at his knowledge. As the night was fast coming on when they reached the village, they asked this stranger to stay with them, which he consented to do. When they all three sat down to supper, he took some bread, and blessed it, and broke it as Christ had done at the Last Supper. Looking on him in wonder they found that his face was changed before them, and that it was Christ himself; and as they looked on him, he disappeared.

They instantly rose up, and returned to Jerusalem, and finding the disciples sitting together, told them what they had seen. While they were speaking, Jesus suddenly stood in the midst of all the company, and said “Peace be unto ye!” Seeing that they were greatly frightened, he shewed them his hands and feet, and invited them to touch Him; and, to encourage them and give them time to recover themselves, he ate a piece of broiled fish and a piece of honeycomb before them all.

But Thomas, one of the Twelve Apostles, was not there, at that time; and when the rest said to him afterwards, “we have seen the Lord!” he answered “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe!” At that moment, though the doors were all shut, Jesus again appeared, standing among them, and said “Peace be unto you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side; and be no faithless, but believing.” And Thomas answered, and said to him, “ My Lord and my God!” Then said Jesus, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou has believed. Blessed are they that have not seen me, and yet have believed.”

After that time, Jesus Christ was seen by five hundred of his followers at once, and He remained with others of them forty days, teaching them, and instructing them to go forth into the world, and preach His gospel and religion; not minding what wicked men might do to them. And conducting his disciples at last, out of Jerusalem as far as Bethany, he blessed them, and ascended in a cloud to Heaven, and took His place at the right hand of God. And while they gazed into the bright blue sky where He had vanished, two white- robed angels appeared among them, and told them that as they had seen Christ ascend to Heaven, so He would, one day, come descending from it, to judge the World.

When Christ was seen no more, the Apostles began to teach the People as He had commanded them. And having chosen a new apostle, named Matthias, to replace the Wicked Judas, they wandered into all countries, telling the People of Christ’s Life and Death – and of His Crucifixion and Resurrection – and of the Lessons he had taught – and baptizing them in Christ’s name. And through the power He had given them they healed the sick, and gave sight to the Blind, and speech to the Dumb, and Hearing to the Deaf, as he had done. And Peter being thrown into Prison, was delivered from it, in the dead of night, by an Angel: and once, his words before God caused a man named Ananias, and his wife Sapphira, who had told a lie, to be struck down dead, upon the Earth.

Wherever they went, they were persecuted and cruelly treated; and one man named Saul who had held the clothes of some barbarous persons who pelted one of the Christians named Stephen, to death with stones, was always active in doing them harm. But God turned Saul’s heart afterwards; for as he was travelling to Damascus to find out some Christians who were there, and drag them to prison, there shone about him a great light from Heaven; a voice cried, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me!” and he was struck down from his horse, by an invisible hand, in sight of all the guards and soldiers who were riding with him. When they raised him, they found that he was blind; and so he remained for three days, neither eating nor drinking, until one of the Christians (sent to him by an angel for that purpose) restored his sight in the name of Jesus Christ. After which, he became a Christians, and preached, and taught, and believed, with the apostles, and did great service.

They took the name of Christians from Our Saviour Christ, and carried Crosses as their sign, because upon a Cross He had suffered Death. The religions that were then in the World were false and brutal, and encouraged men to violence. Beasts, and even men, were killed in the churches, in the belief that the smell of their blood was pleasant to the Gods – there were supposed to be a great many Gods – and many most cruel and disgusting ceremonies prevailed. Yet, for all this, and though the christian Religion was such a true, and kind, and good one, the Priests of the old Religions long persuaded the people to do all possible hurt to the christians; and christians were hanged, beheaded, burnt, buried alive, and devoured in Theatres by Wild Beasts for the public amusement, during many years. Nothing would silence them, or terrify them though; for they knew that if they did their duty, they would go to Heaven. So thousands upon thousands of christians sprung up and taught the people and were cruelly killed, and were succeeded by other Christians, until the Religion gradually became the great religion of the world.

Remember! – It is christianity TO DO GOOD always – even to those who do evil to us. It is christianity to love our neighbour as ourself, and to do to all men as we would have them Do to us. It is christianity to be gentle, merciful, and forgiving, and to keep those qualities quiet in our own hearts, and never make a boast of them, or of our prayers or of our love of God, but always to shew that we love Him by humbly trying to do right in everything. If we do this, and remember the life and lessons of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and try to act up to them, we may confidently hope that God will forgive us our sins and mistakes, and enable us to live and die in Peace.

THE END

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We hope you have been edified by this series over the last week.  If you have, please let us know.

To God Be The Glory!

2 Responses to The Life of our LORD (Part 4 of 4) by Charles Dickens

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