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Cnr of Park Rd and MacMahon St, Hurstville Sundays at 9:30 am and 6:30 pm

Far from the Madding Crowd

With a surgeon’s precision, Gabriel Oak, the hero in Hardy’s ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’, inserted the ‘instrument of salvation’ (Hardy’s words) into the abdomen of the bloated sheep. It was a clever device, the trochar, designed to release the dangerous build-up of gas from a sheep that had eaten too much clover. And it took a clever hand to use it. The piercing needed to happen at just the right point, or the sheep would be inflicted with a fatal wound.

But what a strange twist in the greater story, where on a lonely Judean hill, far from the madding Jerusalem crowd, sin-bloated sheep were rescued not by being themselves pierced, but by the piercing of the Shepherd.  ‘He was pierced for our transgressions’ (God’s words), wrote the ancient prophet Isaiah who foretold the way of salvation. And so he was, said John the Apostle, who stood beside the cross, the instrument of salvation, and witnessed the military lance piercing the side of the greater Gabriel, the Lord Jesus.

It is a clever device, the cross, designed to punish sin in the extreme. And in the hand of a clever Saviour, it can both punish the offender and release him at the same time. And when any bloated and sin-worn sheep turns an eye upward to the Shepherd, the power of the cross is immediately released, transgressions are forgiven, and the vultures that circle overhead are deprived of their meal.

DM 10th Sep 2013

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