Hebrews 9 v 27 And just as it is appointed for men to die once and after that comes judgement, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many will appear a second time, not to deal with sins but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him.
The passing of Nelson Mandela this past week and the worldwide outpouring of grief, celebration and tributes that followed – prompts one to think of the difference between the way the news of Mandela’s death was received by the world and the news of the death of Jesus Christ as Saviour was received.
Nelson Mandela was undoubtedly a very great man whose political achievements and stature are known to all and all especially South Africans, salute him as a leader worthy of honour. But it is troubling to note that sometimes the honour accorded to him almost borders on idolatry. I thought it might be helpful to draw certain contrasts to help us to keep perspective on this matter. I will set it out as follows:-
Both Mandela and Christ were born in humble circumstances and lived their early years in obscurity and poverty.
Mandela’s birth was a normal household event, but Christ’s birth was announced by angels.
Although difficult for him, Mandela received an education and became a lawyer but Christ, although educated to a point as Jewish boys were, received no great acclaim as a scholar and became a carpenter.
Both Mandela and Christ lived under oppressive political regimes.
Mandela gave himself to the struggle for political freedom but Christ knew that true freedom lay much deeper than a change of the political order.
Mandela believed that the eradication of racism, the establishment of democracy and equality for all people would set everyone free, but Christ said “if the Son should make you free you shall be free indeed.”
Both Mandela and Christ suffered rejection for their beliefs but Mandela was tried and imprisoned, whereas Christ was tried and was crucified.
Mandela fought courageously for political freedom and human dignity. I will never forget his phone call to me the morning after the St. James Massacre in July 1993 in which he expressed his deep outrage for what happened to us at the church and voiced his heartfelt compassion for the victims and his good wishes for the church members. But Christ fought to free us from the oppression of our own hearts, to change us within, forgive our sins, unite us together as one new family regardless of race or background and save us for eternity.
Mandela was hailed the world over as a hero and a liberator, Christ was despised and rejected by men. Mandela, although a great man, was not perfect. Like all human beings he had feet of clay. Christ was without sin, pure and undefiled.
Long before Mandela declared his love for children, Christ said “let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom belongs to such as these.” (Mark10v14)
Mandela died after a long illness, in old age and greatly honoured. Christ was killed at the age of 33. He was crucified as a common criminal.
Mandela died but he will not rise on the third day. Christ rose on the third day to demonstrate He had conquered death and won salvation for all who would believe in him.
Mandela was a man of the soil. Christ was the Son of God.
Mandela changed the course of South African history, and some claim, the history of the world. However, we know that many parts of the world, including Africa remain unaffected by Mandela’s great example. It is certainly true that Mandela impacted his generation enormously. But Christ has changed the course of the history of the world for over two thousand years. Generation by generation, His influence has impacted people from every nation and all parts of the earth. His teaching has also impacted all dimensions of life from the arts to the sciences.
Mandela died a great man and a hero, but Christ died as the Saviour of mankind.
It is only human nature to want to pour our grief and admiration out upon Nelson Mandela and give to him all the accolades we can. But it is also a good time to remember that by good deeds no one can earn their way into the kingdom of God.
In fact just as good deeds cannot save us, neither can GREAT deeds save us. Nelson Mandela was a great man who did great things for which we should all be grateful, but Christ was the greatest man that ever lived who did the greatest thing for mankind – he set us free from the curse of sin, judgement and eternal death.
Let us be sure to give credit to where credit is due and so it is right that we should honour the memory of Nelson Mandela for his achievements and statesmanship. But let us remember that no matter how great human beings may be, we are all still sinners – in need of a Saviour. There is only one Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, and while the world may forget him and human heroes my obliterate him for a while, eventually the real needs of the human heart will slowly re-assert itself and once again we will be looking for the answer to the cry of our souls, for which no human leader can provide.
Yes, Nelson Mandela died a hero and quite rightly so. But Jesus Christ died as Saviour – the only one God has given to us.
Nelson Mandela died, for all his greatness, as the rest of mankind dies. Hebrews 9 v 27 tells us we are all appointed to die once. Death is an appointment with God, which God makes and it awaits us all, great and small.
But Christ died for a different purpose – as an offering for the sins of many. He died as our ransom, atonement and substitute, so that we may be free of judgement, fear and constant personal failure and regret.
The world will pour out its accolades in the next few days and great things will be said about Nelson Mandela. But Heaven pours out its accolades on Jesus Christ and no greater accolade can be said than that recorded in Revelation 5 v 11
WORTHY IS THE LAMB, WHO WAS SLAIN TO RECEIVE POWER AND WEALTH AND WISDOM AND STRENGTH AND HONOUR AND GLORY AND PRAISE.
Honour your heroes
But worship only the Saviour.