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10/11th April 2001


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Sermon

Easter Breakfast/Luncheon Address - "The Silence Of The Lamb."

Scripture Reference

Isaiah 53:1-7


We started this year with the cinemas, the Governments, the public and the chief censor, locked in debate over his failure to give the film Hannibal an "R" rating. Just the single name was enough to strike fear into many hearts. Anyone who had seen The Silence of the Lambs knew exactly what Hannibal was all about. It was screened on TV last Saturday. Its restricted rating is because the charming, frightening Doctor Lecter, is a wicked, charming cannibal. Everybody's favorite man-eater, Dr Hannibal The Cannibal Lecter!

The Silence Of The Lambs tore through the box office and swept up Oscars for Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins. In The Silence of the Lambs FBI trainee Clarice Starling is assigned to probe the mind of a convicted murderer - a brilliant, but psychotic, psychiatrist, Dr. Hannibal Lecter. She hopes he will provide clues that will help track down a deranged serial killer. Hannibal picks up the former film's story ten years later, with the mad doctor still at large - much to the dismay of FBI Special Agent Clarice Starling. Hannibal's only living victim is faceless and he offers a $3 million bounty for Dr Hannibal Lecter's capture. The only way to grab him is to dangle Starling as bait. It is a story of cold evil and determined good. Clarice Starling, the FBI profiler, is based upon fact, although the book by Thomas Harris is a novel. The silence of the lambs refers the memory Clarice Starling has of the sounds of the lambs lined up for the spring slaughter. It drives her on to stop this serial killer before he kills another innocent victim. She must find him before other lambs die. The blood of future victims will be upon her head unless she ends the power of evil.

As a profiler, she must bear in her own mind, the pain of the victim and the mind of the victimizer. She must bear the burden of it all at tremendous cost. You can see in her actions the pain of Jesus Christ who took upon His sinless self the sins of the world. Jodie Foster, played the part of Clarice Starling with great feeling, because she, herself, was once the victim of a stalker, the same man who later shot the then-President Ronald Reagan. She journeys into Dr Hannibal Lecter's mind, in order to catch him and prevent any more evil. At Easter, I think about the nature of evil and the silence of the Lamb.

1. THE NATURE OF EVIL.
In the portrayal of evil, Anthony Hopkins is perfect as Dr Hannibal Lecter. He is charming, witty, convincing, attractive and thoroughly evil. Anthony Hopkins describes his character as "a personification of the Devil, and I have always perceived the Devil as very charming, witty, all clever and wise, seductive, sexual - and lethal!" But, someone will cry out, "Isn't evil supposed to be nasty and untrustworthy? Don't we picture the Devil in hoofs and horns?" To which we must reply, "That is the Devil's cleverest trick - getting people to think he is like someone going to a costume party. We take no notice of that image, and that makes the Devil smirk with glee." Dr Lecter reminds us that there is lurking in our nature, something not far below the surface that would drag us down to depths far below that for which God created us. Call it demonic, the Devil, or the dark side of our personality or whatever, there is in the marrow of our bones something that in our deepest moments strikes fear into our hearts, that we could possibly be like that.

Sometimes when the social restraints are lifted, people behave in a sub-human manner. They are more sadistic than animals. Dr Hannibal Lecter personifies many when the restraints are gone. We have pure thoughts and godly actions but impure thoughts and some ungodly actions as well. Weeds grow among the wheat. There is some good in the worst of us and some bad in the best of us. Last Thursday, after Chapel in the City, a lady asked me: "Did God create evil?" Jesus believed the Devil is the personification of evil. He told of a wheat field where an enemy of the farmer came "while everyone was sleeping, and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away." The Evil One is subtle, avoiding confrontation, instead secretly sows seeds of evil in the darkness.

Nothing explains the presence of evil better. Some psychologists, like Carl Jung, believe the origin of evil is within us. Jung said: "We need more understanding of human nature, because the only real danger that exists is man himself. His psyche should be studied because we are the origin of evil." One theologian, Dr Harvie Conn, explains evil on a wide scale as simply the extrapolation of our personal sin and calls it "institutionalized sin", or "structural injustice". Malcolm Muggeridge says: "I have found the Devil easier to believe in than God: for one thing, alas, I have had more to do with him. It seems to me quite extraordinary that anyone should have failed to notice a diabolic presence in the world, pulling downwards as gravity does, instead of pressing upwards as trees and plants do when they grow and reach so resolutely and beautifully after the light. Have we not seen the Devil's destructiveness?"

The lady's question stands: "Did God create evil?" I believe not. In North Canada I stepped outside one night. It was twenty degrees below. The chill cut through my clothing. The night was pitch black. Not a star was to be seen. If I had wandered and lost contact with the house, I would have become disorientated and lost. In that dark and cold I would have perished. It was a heavy, ominous, fearful experience. Science tells me cold and darkness are negative states. Cold is the absence of heat. Darkness the absence of light. Heat and light are primary forms of energy, of activity. Cold and darkness have no substance of their own. Cold and darkness are the lack of heat and light. Yet the pervasiveness of the deathly chill gave the cold an evil purpose. Can it be the same with evil? Evil is the total lack of God's warm love and His enlightening presence. So total is that cold evil, its takes a sense of personification and purpose as we see in Dr Hannibal Lecter.

To fail to acknowledge the presence of evil is to commit yourself to a life-time of self-blame and fruitless effort in eradicating evil. There are dark powers abroad in this world, and any politician or social worker who think they can eradicate evil by social policy is naive, knowing neither history nor the heart of man. To do anything that helps the spread of evil and death - to support the trade that causes people to sell their bodies, to plant landmines where children walk, to inspire hatred on the basis of skin colour, to explode booby trapped cars in street markets, to crucify a good man, to put to death a person because they are frail and ill, to provide facilities to inject more drugs into the addict - is to deprive the world of warmth and light and to empower the force of cold evil.

Yet the mystery of redemptive suffering is this: that in the face of evil the lambs are silent. To resist, to fight, to destroy your enemies is only to perpetuate the evil. The way of Jesus was by suffering love whose example would eventually triumph over evil. Good triumphs over evil as sure as life triumphs over death.

2. THE SILENCE OF THE LAMB.
When Jesus faced the soldiers of the High Priest, He ordered Peter to put up his sword. When cruelly nailed to the Cross by the Romans, He whispered "Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing." We mostly would have screamed, fought back, kicked, cursed, wished we could kill them. But Jesus did not say a word! The old prophecy had said years before when it spoke of what would happen to the Messiah: ISA 53:3-7 "He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth." The silence of the Lamb! There is something majestic, about His control and courage.

Archaeologists have identified where Jesus was born because they have discovered the special fields of the shepherds. Lambs were sacrificed in the Temple in Jerusalem for the sins of believers, and "according to the Law almost everything is purified by blood, and sins are forgiven only if blood is poured out." Heb. 9:22 Every family had to sacrifice a lamb in the Temple, so flocks of suitable lambs were kept nearby five miles south?west from Jerusalem at Bethlehem. The fields were called Migdal Edar, which means "the Tower of the Flock". The Temple shepherds cared for their Lambs 24 hours a day, by night even in winter! The shepherds had no need of a star to guide them. They knew the manger in the fields Migdal Edar! Micah had prophesied 700 years earlier that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, and that Jerusalem would see the demonstration of God's presence and power in a place nearby called The Tower of the Flock or in Hebrew, Midgal Edar! Here, with the sacrificial lambs was born the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world.

John the Baptist looked at Jesus coming to be baptised, and said: "There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." John 1:29 Peter, spoke of Jesus redeeming us: "the costly sacrifice of Christ, who was like a lamb without defect or flaw." 1 Peter 1:19 The Apostle Paul, described what happened in the death of Jesus as "Christ, our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed for us." 1 Cor. 5:7 St John in The Revelation saw the Heavens opened and "I saw a Lamb, standing in the centre of the Throne...the Lamb appeared to have been killed...and I heard angels, thousands and millions of them...and they sang in a loud voice:

"The Lamb who was killed is worthy to receive power, wealth, wisdom and strength, honour, glory, and praise! To Him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb, be praise, honour, glory and might for ever and ever." Rev. 5:6?13

But the price of being the Saviour of the world was high. He would be despised and rejected of men, cast outside the city wall, crucified and buried. And like a Lamb before his shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth. Jesus had said: "I have come in order that you might have life ? life in all of its fullness. I am the good shepherd who is willing to die for His sheep....I am willing to die for them. The Father loves Me because I am willing to give up My life in order that I may receive it back again. No one takes My life from Me. I give it up of My own free will. I have the right to give it up and I have the right to take it back. This is what My Father has commanded me to do." John 10:7?18 The death of Jesus was no evil accident, nor a victory by fearful and rigid men. God allowed the death of His Son. His Son, of His own free will, chose to die. Why? Each person who has sinned deserves to die. But a sacrifice was made instead ? the blood of the sacrificed lamb being given in place of the blood of the person who deserved to die. The guilty sinner deserved to die, but the Lamb's life was the sinner's substitute. The silence of the Lamb as He took our punishment! The Lamb of God taking away the sins of the world! He opened not His mouth! "What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus! What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!" The silence of the Lamb who was taking away the sins of the world!


Carl Jung BBC TV 'Face to Face' John Freeman.
Dr Harvie Conn, A Clarified Vision for Urban Mission
Malcolm Muggeridge "Jesus, the Man Who Lives"
Malcom McKay, "More Than Coincidence"

Rev Dr Gordon Moyes

 



Send an e-mail to Gordon Moyes - gkmoyes@wesleymission.org.au

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