Monday, May 28, 2012

Cyprus, AD 365: What an Earthquake Could Not Destroy

Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe … Heb 12:28
Just after dawn on July 21, AD 365, a major earthquake devastated the city of Kourion on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. It also struck southern Greece and Egypt. A fourth-century historian, Ammianus Marcellinus, referred to it in his writings. When archaeologists In the 1980s excavated Kourion, they made a remarkable discovery.
The well-preserved skeletons of a young family of three that had perished that day were lying under the rubble of their collapsed house. The woman, estimated to be about 19 years old, clutched a small child of about 18 months of age to her chest. Her arms were raised to protect the child's head, which was tucked under her chin. The man shielded the woman with his body, stretching his left arm across her to hold the child's back, and putting his left leg up over hers. What a precious picture of a family facing a crisis together.
Their deaths were sudden, violent, and brutal. The neck of the woman was broken at a right angle by falling plaster and stones. The man had his skull crushed by 500-pound stone blocks which were found on top of him. Life is fragile and can be lost in a moment. Natural disasters can destroy everything they touch, whether people or their possessions, in which so many seem to put their trust. Young or old, healthy or ill, rich or poor, ready or not – no one is able to stand in his own strength in the face of such an onslaught. 
            That is not the whole story, however. You and I know of an earlier “earth-shattering” event that took place in Cyprus. In AD 47, when Paul and Barnabas departed from Antioch, they sailed to Cyprus as they began their missionary journey. They proclaimed the gospel in the synagogues. They confronted a magician so that he became blind. The proconsul believed when he saw this, being amazed at the teaching of the Lord (Acts 13:4-12).
            How might the two events – Paul’s visit and the later earthquake – be connected? Those three skeletons belonged to a family that followed Christ. Evidence from the excavations provided decisive proof for all to see. There was a bronze ring near the man's left hand, inscribed with the Greek letters Chi and Rho (the first two letters of the name Christ ) and Alpha and Omega (Rev 1:8; 21:6; 22:13). Because Paul (and later others) spread the gospel on the island of Cyprus, that family could face death with confidence. Nothing could separate them from the love of God in Christ (RRom 8:32-39).
            In a similar way, the passing of each Christian reminds us that God still brings triumph greater than tragedy. Jesus Himself underwent a horrible, brutal death, and overpowered the grave by rising the third day. Therefore He can grant each of us the victory that overcomes aging, cancer, bereavement, and death. As He told John, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades” (Rev 1:17-18).
            Child of God, accept the fact that tragedy may strike, but live with the blessed assurance that you belong to the One greater than death.  Build your life on that kingdom which “cannot be shaken” (Heb 12:28), and share that hope with those who need it so desperately.
-- Cory Collins

1 comment:

amerikiwi said...

Very interesting. Very encouraging. Thank you.