Thought for the week: Death at Galway and Golgotha

The city of Galway features in many aspects of Irish culture.
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Singers extol the attractiveness of a ‘Galway girl’; exiles dream of seeing the sun go down on Galway Bay and racehorse trainers compete to win the Galway plate.

In that city visitors can see a remarkable memorial, erected in 1624. Set in a wall on the site of the old gaol is a death’s head and crossbones in black marble. The inscription reads: ” This memorial of the stern and unbending justice of the chief magistrate of this city, James Lynch Fitzstephen, elected mayor in A.D. 1493, who condemned and executed his own guilty son, Walter, on this spot”.

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Most parents, wisely or unwisely, would do anything to spare their children pain and grief. King David of Israel had a unruly son, Absalom. Absalom gloried in his long hair, but when that hair became entangled in the branches of a low tree, he was at the mercy of David’s forces. When news came that Absalom was dead, David wept bitterly, saying what any parent would have said, ‘O my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you’ (2 Samuel 18;33).

Thought for the Week by Rev David ClarkeThought for the Week by Rev David Clarke
Thought for the Week by Rev David Clarke

Judge Fitzstephen’s stern adherence to his concept of the law’s impartiality, led to the death of his son. The message of the New Testament is that though God did not spare his Son, Jesus, his motive was love for lost mankind.

Some take understandable objection to the idea of an innocent person suffering on behalf of the guilty. Many an innocent sister suffers shame and embarrassment because of the scandalous behaviour of a brother.

During the Second World War British prisoners suffered horribly at the hands of the Japanese. Once a work party returned from labouring on the Burma railroad, and handed in their implements. The Japanese guards insisted that one tool was missing and if the stolen item was not returned, the entire group would be shot. Eventually, one prisoner stepped forward, only to be immediately clubbed to death. As the prisoners dispersed it was found that all the implements were in their proper place. One man, knowing himself to be innocent, had given his life for all the rest.

As Peter wrote, ‘Christ died for sins…the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God’ ( 1 Peter 3;16).

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