Did you know that some of the people who started the Church of England as we know it were burned to death as martyrs? Those who think the C of E was merely started by Henry VIII because he wanted a divorce, don’t know the facts.
Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, the man behind our old Prayer Book, was burned to death in Broad Street, Oxford. After two years in prison for his faith, Cranmer signed a recantation (renunciation) of his new Protestant, Reformed C of E faith and affirming allegiance to the Pope. He was “pardoned” by Catholic Queen Mary, but still sentenced to death. On March 21st 1556 dressed in ragged clothes and a dunce’s cap, he was led to St. Mary’s, Oxford, to recant publicly. Instead he renounced his recantation and reaffirmed his Protestant Faith. He was taken out, stripped, chained to a stake piled high with wood and burned alive for his faith. Before he died he held out his right hand to be burned because he had used it to sign his earlier recantation.
The previous October Bishop Hugh Latimer was burned to death with Bishop Nicholas Ridley. Whilst dying, Latimer said: Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.
I thank God for such dedication and self-sacrifice.
How about us? True, we aren’t called upon to be martyred for our faith. Do we really believe in Good Friday? Are we prepared to be truly dedicated and self-sacrificing because of Good Friday?
At the heart of the Christian Faith is the belief that the Son of God who had lived for eternity in the joy of heaven, became a man and was crucified for our sins. God, the judge, paid the penalty for us, the lawbreakers, so that we might be forgiven and eventually join him in that joy of heaven.
Jesus was mocked, beaten up, spat upon, flogged with a leather whip embedded with pieces of metal and stone. Huge nails were hammered through his wrists and feet. He hung in agony and desperate thirst under the hot Middle East sun surrounded by a jeering crowd. Worse, he was bearing our guilt, the guilt of all humanity, which was so terrible he cried out to his Father: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” God-forsakenness is Hell.
If we Christians really believe that, why do we often not live up to it? Why do we tolerate wrong thoughts, words and actions in our lives, for which Jesus died? Why do we give way to fear of ridicule or love of comfort or determination to live as we please and so soft pedal our commitment to Christ?
Do we really believe in Good Friday?
As someone said: “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”
© Tony Higton: see conditions for reproduction