Two Old Men

Tolstoy appeared on my listening list this week, which was somewhat intriguing. Why would Tolstoy appear? But I had been listening to John Lennox, and Tolstoy’s short story illustrated one of Lennox’s brief characterisations of the distinction between true and false religion, between true and false love. The resurrection of the Lord Jesus, which is celebrated by many in the West, but in the East, and so not also for these two old men, for another five weeks, is the evidence of this distinction. The tomb in which he was lain is emptied, and despite attempts to cover up the resurrection it is well attested in history.

Two Old Men: Tolstoy

Tolstoy’s two old men had in their younger years agreed together to go on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. He tells us of their adventures on their way, after Elisha had finally persuaded Ephraim that they must go else they shall become too old to do so. They also faced difficulty and adversity, not always their own. Elisha had set out in thankfulness for the forgiveness that he knew resided in the faith of the Lord Jesus. Ephraim set out in the hope that his obedience and pilgrimage would count him in good stead in the final reckoning.

This is the essence of faith in Jesus. In his death he cried out: Finished! He did everything, and obtained everything, that would be required to make us acceptable to God. When we walk with Jesus we walk knowing that we have already been accepted by God, and so do not need to earn any points. Jesus has enough for all of us. If we try to walk any other way, we are in a continual struggle to earn enough points to become acceptable to God, and are only certain of one thing – failure to earn enough.

John Lennox puts it slightly differently, and use a cook book in his illustration. Tolstoy speaks in the same way. Elisha fails to reach Jerusalem. Ephraim arrives and returns home, convinced that somehow Elisha overtook him on the way.

Chris was born. Christ died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.

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