THE SPIRIT OF MARTYRDOM
We do well to study the spirit of our brethren who have faced death for Christ, and who therefore are certain (Rev. 20: 4) of sharing in the burst of coming Glory. John Willfinger, of the Christian and Missionary Alliance - tempted by the lure of his father and mother, brothers and sisters, and the girl he loved and to whom he was engaged - nevertheless refused to hide, and was shot down in 1944 by the Japanese in Borneo just before, he wrote this letter.
this letter I inform you of my decision, which is the most difficult one of all
my life. Very many people came and asked if they might hide me. But when I prayed and sought the will of the
If I hade, naturally the saints will be forced to lie and disobey others if they hide me. In short, I would be forced to drag them into sin, whereas my intention upon leaving my country and my family was only to make mankind righteous, and not to bring them into sin even though I pay for it with my life. Because of Jesus Christ and His sheep, before I will do anything whatsoever that is not right, I will surely surrender myself. May my Saviour be with me as He has promised, Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Until now he has been with me, and I know that He will be with me until the end. Therefore this is my decision.
Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death: (Rev. 2: 10, 11. N.I.V.).
A MARTYRS DEATH
When John Huss, the Bohemian martyr, was brought out to be burnt, they put on his head a triple crown of paper, with printed devils on it. On seeing it, he said, My Lord, Jesus Christ, for my sake, wore a crown of thorns; why should not I then, for His sake, wear this light crown, be it ever so ignominious? Truly I will do it, and that willingly. When it was set upon his head, the bishops said, Now, we commend thy soul to the devil. But I, said Huss, lifting his eyes to heaven, I do commit my spirit into Thy hands, O Lord Jesus Christ; to Thee I comment my spirit, which Thou hast redeemed. When the faggots were piled to Husss neck, the Duke of Bavaria was officious enough to desire him to adjure. No, said Huss, I never preached any doctrine of an evil tendency; and what I taught with my lips I now seal with my blood.
You stubborn people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: you always resist the Holy Spirit.
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit: (Acts 7: 51, N.I.V.).
Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him with an oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the RESURRECTION of the Christ, that HE [i.e., His soul (verse 27)] was not abandoned to the grave [Gk. in Hades], nor did HIS body [Gk. flesh of Him] undergo decay. For David did not ascend to heaven : (Acts 2: 29-31. cf. verse 27.).
A 1945 MARTYR
By JOAN GODDARD.
It was a very special funeral, Kkosazana, an Indian said. All our European and Bantu missionaries were there. Mhlope had never been ill for a day in all his forty-three years. He was like a brother to me: we were ordained to the ministry in the same year: he has spent all his time preaching Jesus Christ and Him crucified: I, for domestic reasons, had to turn to secular work and now spend all my spare time telling the same blessed story. We were all deeply shocked by his death - he was poisoned.
Dhlamini, I protested, surely poisoning
amongst the Bantu in
Reminiscently he went on There was my friend Umfundisi Ubani. He was heartbroken about sin which was spoiling the witness of his church. M Finally one Sunday he denounced the sin of adultery of which several members were guilty. Outside the lonely church after the service one of a group of Zulu men said, Ill get him to-morrow. In two days he was dead.
Mhlope had just completed a series of revival services in the reserves: he wrote that many had repented and that God was blessing his work. His black face lost its shadowed seriousness and became radiant as he said, Now, he is there in the house not made with hands the subject of his last sermon.
Nkosazana, he continued, you have said true things to me: once it was this some Bantu churches are so dead they might as well be buried; others are glowing with Pentecostal glory, their pastors are like apostles. well, we have in some of our churches here he lifted his finger sternly hypocrites, devils they are, and it is these, not the heathen, who poison faithful preachers many preachers are afraid to preach the gospel, so they compromise Here his voice drifted into an intense whisper: But that is no good.
The office walls seemed to vanish and I saw a company of lowly graves on the side of a lowly hill, wild banana trees faintly stirred in the breeze, and on one grave, newly made was a piece of wood and I saw One like unto the Son of Man and He wrote on the rugged surface: Mhlope, my faithful servant, who shrank not from declaring unto you the whole* counsel of God.
The Christian World, Nov. 8, 1945.
* Paul replied: I admit that I worship the God of our fathers, as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, and I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and* the wicked. So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man: (Acts 24: 10, 14-16, N.I.V.).
[* The disjunction and indicates that the inspired Apostle Paul believed in a select resurrection of REWARD, at the time of Christs return. Phil. 3: 11; Heb. 11: 35b.]
This was the farewell hymn
sung at the wedding of Mr. and Mrs. Marcus Whitman before leaving
All thy scenes, I love them well;
Friends, connections, happy country,
Can I bid you all farewell?
Can I leave you
Far in heathen lands to dwell?
Home, thy joys are passing lovely,
Joys no stranger heart can tell;
Happy Home! tis sure I love thee!
Can I, can I say Farewell?
Can I leave thee
Far in heathen lands to dwell?
Yes, in deserts let me labour;
On the mountains let me tell
Hoe He died, the blessed Saviour,
To redeem a world from hell.
Let me hasten
Far in heathen lands to dwell.
Later, both were massacred.
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his possession, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance: (Heb. 11: 11, 13.).
For sheer exploits of
courage, Christs first disciples were unmatched. Ignatius,
one of the apostolic leaders, was cast to the lions in
He welcomed the lions with a smile.
They which shall be accounted worthy of that to obtain that world [age] and the resurrection [Gk. ek out of] from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection: (Luke 20: 35, 36, A.V.).
By BRUCE F. HUNT
In the days when the lists
of war dead number in thousands, 300 dead may not sound impressive, but if you
stop to consider that this 300 includes men, women, and children from every
walk of life, who were hand-picked for martyrdom over a period of years, not in
any mass arrest, but one by one, each
for his or her testimony, one cannot but pause to wonder. Each had had plenty of opportunity to deny
his faith to save his life. Thousands of Christians,
including missionaries, claimed that there was no harm in bowing to shrines. The
organized denominations, as such, officially had declared shrine worship to be
consistent with Christian practice.
Thus the 300 martyrs, for the most part, singly took their stand, a
pitiful minority, in widely scattered communities throughout
I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.
And now, compelled
by the Spirit, I am going to
Now I know that
none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the KINGDOM will ever see me again.
Therefore, I declareto you today that I am innocent of the blood of all
men. For I have not hesitated to
proclaim to you the WHOLE will of God.
Guard yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you
overseers. Be shepherds of the
The Harlot seated on Seven Hills is, at the end, drunken with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus (Rev. 17: 6). It has been estimated that the Church of Rome has been guilty of the death of more than 50,000,000 believers. On Oct. 16th, a young soldier of the Marines, D. Jose Morado, died in Ferrol del Caudillo. On May 12, 1945, this popular and cheerful young Christian refused to kneel in adoration to the Host, respectfully alleging that he was an Evangelical Christian. For this reason he was barbarously beaten by his colonel and trodden on. The next day he was told to dig a ditch, and was not allowed to rest for a moment until he began to bleed at the mouth. He was taken to the hospital of the military prison and later his wrecked constitution died.
No less is the signal
fidelity of individual believers. Mr. Tsang An-taing, a prominent
CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST
Oh what happiness is it for a soul to be subdued and subject! What great riches is it to be poor! What a mighty honour to be despised! What a height it is to be beaten dawn! What a comfort to be afflicted! What a credit of knowledge it is to be reputed ignorant! And, finally, what a happiness of happiness it is to be crucified with Christ! Let others boast of their riches, dignities, delights, and honours; but to us there is no higher honour than to be denied, despised and crucified with Christ. But what a grief is this, that scarce is there one soul which prizes spiritual pleasures, and is willing to be denied for Christ, embracing His cross with live. Many are they who are called to perfection, but few are they who arrive at it; because they are few who embrace the cross with patience, peace, and resignation. MICHAEL DE MOLINOS.
God takes the most eminent and choicest of His servants for the choicest and most eminent afflictions. They who have received most grace from God are able to bear most afflictions from God. Affliction doth not hit the saint by chance but by direction. God doth not draw his bow at a venture. Everyone of His arrows goes on a special errand and touches no breast but his against whom it is sent. It is not only the grace, but the glory of a believer when he can stand the butt-mark and take affliction quietly. JOSEPH CARYL.
Four centuries have lapsed
since the martyrdom of William Tyndale. Over eighty per cent. of our English versions
of the Bible is the phraseology of Tyndale alone. Just before his death he wrote:- I call God to record that I never altered one syllable of
Gods Word against my conscience, nor would this day, if all that is in the
earth might be given me. He
wrote from abroad to the king of
(These lines were written the day before their author died, October 23, 1936, and were found under his pillow after his death. Suffering acute heart-spasms the day before, he said he had never known greater joy. Bandina, when tossed and gored by bulls in her martyrdom, asked when the tortures were to begin.)
Blandina slave and saint upon the sand
Of the arena all unconscious lay,
Death-gored; then woke, I do not understand
I thought I was to have been gored to-day!
O what a heavenly dream! she said and died.
And found her martyr crown already won,
And joy, once dreamt of here, in heaven begun
For ever in the secret place to bide.
- J. A. RAMSAY.
The annals of martyrdom embody not a few sad and touching incidents. Some, from peculiarity of circumstances, cannot easily be forgotten, as affording illustrations of the support accorded under sufferings most trying to flesh and blood. An instance of this kind is found in the case of Perpetua and Felicitas, two African females, who are believed to have suffered during the first year of the reign of Geta, the son of Severus. There does not appear to have been any general persecution of the Christians at the period in question; but their lives seem ever and anon to have been in jeopardy, from the caprice of an arbitrary proconsul. During times of general rejoicing, their reluctance to mingle in the popular festivities, and their keeping aloof from the public sacrifices offered on such occasions, drew upon them the stigma of disloyalty; their absence suggesting that there was a portion of the community who disapproved of such empty unprofitable rites, and who refrained from entertainments in harmony with the generally debased tone of morals, and involving the wanton destruction or hazard of human or animal life.
Almost at the beginning of the second century, four youthful catechumens, Revocatus and Felicitas, Saturninus and Secundulus, were apprehended, and along with them Vivia Perpetna, a married female of good family and liberal education. She was only about twenty-two years of age; her father and mother were alive; she had two brothers, one, like herself, a catechumen, and she suckled an infant at her breast. After her apprehension, her father, in the tenderness of his affection, made use of various arguments and many pleas, that she might be persuaded to retract. My father, she answered, this vessel, be it a pitcher or anything else, can we call it by any other name? Certainly not, he answered. Nor can I call myself by any other name than a Christian. He left her, enraged at what he considered his daughters obstinacy. The narrative of Perpetuas experience at this time contains the following passage:‑ After being a few days without seeing my father, I was enabled to give thanks to God, and his absence was tempered to my spirit. After a few days we were baptized, and the waters of baptism seemed to give power of endurance to my body. Again a few days, and we were cast into prison. I was terrified, for I had never before seen such total darkness. 0 miserable day! from the dreadful heat of the prisoners crowded together, and the insults of the soldiers. But I was wrung with solicitude for my infant. Two of our deacons, however, by the payment of money, obtained our removal for some hours of the day to a more open part of the prison. Each of the captives then pursued his usual occupation; but I sate and suckled my infant, who was pining away with hunger. In my anxiety, I addressed and consoled my mother, and commended my child to my brother; but I began to pine away at seeing them pine away on my account. For many days I suffered this anxiety, and accustomed my child to remain in the prison with me: recovering my strength, I was relieved from my care and anxiety about my infant, and the prison became to me like a palace; so that I was happier there than I could have been anywhere else.
Perpetua had at this time a peculiar vision, of which the following is a description:‑ She saw a lofty ladder of gold ascending to heaven; around it were swords, lances, hooks, and a great dragon lay at the foot, to seize those who would ascend. Saturus, a distinguished Christian, went up first, beckoned her to follow, and controlled the dragon by the name of Jesus Christ. Ascending, she found herself in a spacious garden, in which sate a man with white hair, in the garb of a shepherd, milking his sheep, with many myriads around him. He welcomed her, and gave her a morsel of cheese. I received it with folded hands, and ate it; and all the saints around exclaimed Amen! I awoke at the sound, with the sweet taste in my mouth, and I related it to my brother; and we knew that our martyrdom was at hand, and we began to have no hope in this world.
Her father paid a second visit. His countenance was full of anxiety, and he said, Have compassion, 0 my daughter, on my grey hairs! have compassion on thy father, if he is worthy of the name! If I have thus brought thee up to the flower of thine age - if I have preferred thee to all thy brothers, expose me not to this disgrace! Look on thy brother! look on thy mother and thy aunt! look on thy child, who cannot live without thee! do not destroy us all! Thus he spake, fondly kissing my hands, and casting himself at my feet. I was grieved; for he alone of our family did not rejoice at my martyrdom; and I consoled him, saying, In this trial, what God wills must take place. Know that we are not in our own power, but in that of God. And he went away sorrowing.
Another day the captives were suddenly brought out of the prison to be examined, an immense multitude having gathered as spectators. When it came to Perpetuas turn to stand at the bar, her father came forward, carrying her child. Drawing her down the stop, he said in a beseeching tone, Have compassion on your infant; while Hilarianus the procurator also spoke, Spare the grey hairs of your father; spare your infant; offer sacrifice for the welfare of the emperor. I answered, I will not sacrifice. Art thou a Christian? demanded Hilarianus, and I answered Yes. While my father stood there to persuade me, Hilarianus ordered him to be thrust down and beaten with rods. The misfortune of my father grieved me. I was as much concerned for his old age as if I had been beaten myself. Being accustomed to suckle my infant, and to keep it with me in the prison, I sent Pomponius the deacon to ask it of my father. My father did not send it; but by the will of God the child no longer desired the breast, and I suffered no uneasiness.
A few days afterwards the keeper of the prison, impressed by their meek endurance, admitted many of the brethren to visit his charge. The night before the captives were to be exposed in the arena, one of their number had a brilliant vision, dreaming that he ascended into the realms of light, into a beautiful garden and a palace, the walls of which were light, where he was not only welcomed by the angels, but by such friends as had preceded him in the same glorious cause.
The narrator then proceeds to give another instance of the triumph of faith. Felicitas being in the eighth month of her pregnancy, was apprehensive lest her martyrdom should be delayed on that account. Her friends engaged with her in prayer, and her travail came on. In her agony, at that most painful period of her sufferings, she seemed about to sink. How then, said one of the servants of the prison, if you cannot bear these pains, will you endure exposure to the wild beasts? On which she replied, I bear now my own sufferings; then there will be One within me who will bear my sufferings for me, because I shall suffer for His sake. She was delivered of a girl, of which a Christian sister took charge.
Perpetua and her companions continued constant to the end. Being harshly treated by a tribune, she remonstrated with a kind of mournful pleasantry, saying that, if ill-used, their appearance would not do credit to the birthday of Caesar, as victims for the sacrifice should be in good condition. All, however, of the sufferers did not speak in the same strain. Thus, being allowed to hold the love-feast in use among early Christians, some of the crowd pressing near, one of them said, Is not to-morrows spectacle enough to satisfy your hate? To-day you look on us with friendly faces; to-morrow you will be our deadly enemies. Mark our countenances, that you may recognise them at the day of judgment. And to Hilarius, sitting on the tribunal, they said, Thou judgest us, but God shall judge thee. Hearing such language, the exasperated populace demanded that they should be scourged. On being conveyed to the place of execution they declined to put on the profane dresses in which it was intended that they should be clad, ‑ the dress respectively of priests of Saturn and priestesses of Ceres. The male portion of the sufferers were exposed to bears and leopards; the women, tied up naked in nets, were to be bored by a furious cow. But the sight of two delicate women thus exposed was too much even for the populace; they were recalled, and permitted to put on some loose robes. Perpetua was tossed into the air, and her garment rent. With a sense of wounded modesty, she endeavoured again to draw the robe over her person; then calmly fastened up her hair, as not deeming it proper that a martyr in Christs cause should die with dishevelled locks, the sign of sorrow. Seeing that Felicitas was stretched wounded on the ground, Perpetua stretched out her hand; and they tottered together towards one of the gates of the arena, where some Christians met them. Hearing her friends voices, Perpetua, who had seemed to have swooned away, partially revived; and until her wounds were pointed out, could hardly be persuaded that she had suffered injury. The people now demanded that an end should be made of the Christians; and the wounded sufferers, being placed in the centre of the arena, were dispatched by the executioners swords.
The daughter of the late Dr. Arthur T. Pierson, who laid down her life in missionary work in India, wrote her brother, a prospective missionary, the following weighty council.
I write words for you to ponder and pray over. Do not go to any foreign field until you know beyond a doubt that God sent you to that particular field at that particular time. If you marry any mission field in haste, you will repent at leisure. There is a romance or halo about being a missionary which disappears when you get on the field, I assure you. And, believe me, from the first minute you step upon shipboard upon your way to the foreign field, the devil and all his agents will attack, and entice, and ensnare you, or try to do all these, in order to defeat the purpose for which you cut loose and launched. Nothing but the fullness of the Holy Spirit will carry anyone through; and if you do not know that you have received this, do not fail to obey the command to tarry ... until ye be endued with the power from on high. Believe me, the foreign field is already full enough of prophets, that have run, and He did not send them.
If you know beyond a doubt - and you may - that God is empowering and sending you there and now, go and fear not; and when through days, months, and years of suffering that are sure to be in this cross-bearing life, the question arises again and again, Why is this? Am I in Gods path? The rock to which you will hold in this sea of distress is God sent me here, I know beyond a doubt, therefore, I may go on fearing nothing, for He is responsible and He alone. But if you do admit, I do not know whether He sent me or not, you will be thrown into an awful distress of mind by the attacks of the great adversary, not knowing what will be the outcome, and you will find yourself crying out, Oh! that it were time to go home. What a fool I was to run ahead of the Lord! Do not think, my brother, that God sends us to the field to sweetly tell of Jesus, and that is all. He sends us there to do what Jesus came into the world to do - to bear the Cross. But we will be able to trudge on, though bowed under the weight of that Cross of suffering, and even of shame, if our hearts are full of Him, and our eyes are ever looking upon the One who is invisible, the One who sent us forth, and, therefore will carry us through. I pray that this message may shake in you all that can be shaken that that which cannot be shaken may remain as the Rock of Ages.
A HEBREW MARTYR
[Mr. Isaac Feinstein was a missionary of the
In the small hours of Sunday, June 22, 1941, war
began. We could hear the thunder of
artillery from the
The same evening your father held his last meeting in our hall. There were only a few present; the awful roar and thunder of artillery were a grave and sinister accompaniment to the service. In a composed, unwavering voice your father spoke his words of encouragement to his congregation. It was as though he knew it was the last time. He put his whole heart into it when he said, Who knows what awaits us in the next few days and where we shall all be next Sunday, but ...
God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore will we not fear, though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea (Psa. 46 : 1, 2).
We spent the nights that followed and most of the days in our air-raid shelter in the cellar. Instead of harmless A.R.P. exercises, we were facing grim reality. We hardly had time to go upstairs to our kitchen to fetch something to eat before having to return to the cellar. The crash of the explosives was terrible. Every time we thought it was our house that had been hit. We could hear the tinkle of broken window panes as explosion followed explosion.
Your fathers calm and self-control were an example to us all. No sooner had the raiders passed over than he wanted to be on the street with a pick and shovel to rescue or help others, wherever the need might be. He would not be stopped by our entreaties, but simply said, You cant know; perhaps some child is buried in the debris and is calling for its mother. I must go and help, and God will bring me safely back.
At first dawn a friend came and implored your father to hide himself. He said there was a plan to arrest or kill all Jews. This, too, I only heard later; otherwise I would have begged him to hide with Christian friends. But he had made up his mind that he could never do this, for it would have brought us and others into danger. So, slowly morning drew on, the morning of the saddest day in your short lives. The shooting and the roar of artillery grew a little weaker, but we had another air raid.
Father came downstairs in the early morning and told us to remain all day in the cellar. My task was to quieten and comfort you and find you something to do. You had to be engrossed with trivial things, while above our heads on the streets of the cruel city terrible things were taking place. All the Jews were being driven together, and every house was being searched for them. One could see long columns among them, being led through the streets to the police headquarters. They had to go with hands held above their heads; if any through sheer weariness let them drop or just could not go any farther, the soldiers who were escorting them beat them with their rifles or prodded them with their bayonets. I have heard that terrible things happened. Old women who could go no farther were killed on the spot and left lying in the gutter. A Rumanian priest could stand these horrors no longer; he begged them to stop, but was shot by his own people. German officers and soldiers stood on the pavement, jeered and photographed the miserable columns with great satisfaction.
I was not able to watch it for long. In any case it was almost over by then your father had been marched off with one of these tragic columns and I followed him to let Sister Olga know what was happening. All forenoon we had sat in our cellar without ally suspicion of what was happening up above. I did go upstairs to fathers study once to see how he was getting on; I asked him why he was so pale and whether he would have something to eat. He smiled sadly and said, You will know why later.
At the end of September, three months after your father had been taken away, it became known in the city that a number of Jews had been released from a concentration camp to help in demolition work. The same evening two men asked to see me, saying they had some thing to tell me. I recognized them as men who used to attend our meetings and knew I could trust them. Their story almost paralysed me with horror. This is what they had to tell.
We were with your husband that Sunday. To all imprisoned with him in the cellar at police headquarters he was a help. In the evening we were taken out into the courtyards of the headquarters. There were so many of us that we lay packed one on top of the other like sardines. We suppose our persecutors hoped we would be hit by bombs, but though they exploded all around us, unfortunately we remained untouched. In the early morning we were taken in long columns to a concentration camp. Feinstein was in the same truck as we. We were packed so tight we could neither move nor breathe - there were 140 of us in a cattle truck that would have taken 40. Doors and windows were shut, all cracks and holes were sealed, and steam was driven in from below. It was a gruesome journey of death. Many went mad, and the cries of those in torment were terrible. From time to time the trucks were left standing for hours in the burning summer heat. Awful things happened which we can never tell. Those of us who survived are haunted by our memories.
Your husband probably did not have to suffer very long. It was not long before he began to repeat psalms in a loud voice, and his face was like the face of an angel. Then he fell asleep and woke no more. During the night at a small Moldavian station the trucks were opened and the corpses fell out. They thought that everyone would have been suffocated on this journey of death. But there were six of us who were only unconscious who were injured as we fell out. Seeing us bleeding they brought us back to life and consciousness with injections; they gave us something to eat and then forced us to bury our dead friends in a common grave. While we were doing this we found our dear Mr. Feinstein. We dug him a separate grave. Before burying him we went through his pockets in the hope of finding his documents or something else to send you, but nothing, not even his watch, was left. He had been stripped of everything beforehand.
They put us in a camp there with many others; we had to work hard and led a miserable life. Often we were sorry that a renewal of life had been granted us. Now they have brought us back here into the city, but nothing good awaits us.
A few days later these two
men did me the service of appearing before the court to testify what they knew
of my husbands death, so that I could get a death certificate. Without this we should never have got a passport
and should not have been able to leave the country. In this way your dear fathers death proved
your salvation, and you were able to go to
‑The Hebrew Christian.
LOVE AND MARTYRDOM
By D. M. PANTON, B.A.
The smiting of the Shepherd was to be the signal not only of the momentary scattering of the sheep, but of the birth of persecution down all the Christian ages. So our Lord, who was sent to the lost sheep of the House of Israel, and was moved with compassion because they were distressed and scattered as sheep not having a shepherd (Matt. 9: 36), quotes the great prophecy of Zechariah (13: 7) Awake, 0 sword, against my shepherd - on the threshold of Gethsemane; and couples with the quotation His own absolute prophecy of the coming fall of all the Apostles. All ye shall be offended in me this night (Matt. 26: 31). Christian persecution was born that night.
Simultaneously, our Lord, as recorded in Luke, discloses the deeply buried reason of all persecution, and at once singles out the one character whose career was to be the Churchs lesson in persecution for all time. He says:‑ Simon, Simon, behold, Satan asked to have you [apostles] - and it has been granted to him that he might SIFT YOU AS WHEAT (Luke 22: 31). Persecution is deliberately sanctioned by God, in order that Satan, acting as a winnowing-fan, may so shake the wheat in the sieve as to separate ripe grain from chaffy grain; and our Lord puts Peter on record as for ever the embodiment of a sifted soul. A chief apostle; a believer in prophesied calamity; passionately set on distinguishing himself in the coming crisis; struck by the storm; a public apostate; a glorious martyr.
First, therefore, Peter embodies for all time the colossal blunder of self-confidence, in an extraordinary revelation for us all, for we are all potential Peters. He replies:‑Even if I must die with thee, yet will I not deny thee (Matt. 26: 33). The Lord says :‑I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, until thou shalt THRICE DENY THAT THOU KNOWEST ME (Luke 22: 34): before this day has gone, you will publicly, deliberately, have become a triple apostate. Peter is without question a sample of myriads of believers down the Christian centuries: no higher Apostle existed in the morning; a public, self-confessed apostate before the cock crew.
Now we get our golden lesson. Our Lord, embodying in Peter a concrete case for the Church of all time, by his three piercing, probing questions not only discloses the antidote to the threefold denial, but reveals that which alone can carry us through martyrdom. He plugs home this one question LOVEST THOU ME? - three times to find what rank we give to His love; for all your collapse, Peter, arose from a lack of sufficient love for your Saviour; and it is love, and love alone, which will carry us through. Lovest thou me? The Lord does not ask, Simon, how much hast thou wept, or.how bitterly? or, How much hast thou fasted, or afflicted thy soul? but, what exactly is the depth of your love for your Lord? The lesson for us is beyond rubies. Not mastery of theology, not a passion for reward, not a hatred of sin, not evangelistic or missionary fervour, not love for our fellow believers - not in these, lovely as they are, is the root of martyrdom: the master-anchor of the martyred soul is a deep, personal love for Christ.*
[* It is extremely valuable that our Lord Himself has defined who it is that loves Him:‑ He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me (John 14: 21). This discloses the gravity of the teaching that Christs commandments, in the Gospels and the Apocalypse, are Jewish and not for us at all.]
The first of our Lords three questions is acutely important. Lovest thou me MORE THAN THESE? Do you so love Me that you can follow Me alone? Can you sacrifice all other love for mine? He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me (Matt. 10: 37). Strong men, mature believers, can tremble and grow white when confronted with a choice between some shibboleth of their group and Scripture - that is, Christ. So Paul had exactly our Lords experience: of Christ we read They all forsook him and fled (Mark 14: 50); and of Paul, just before his martyrdom All forsook me (2 Tim. 4: 16). There is not an ecclesiastical group in the world to-day, whether Roman or Greek or Protestant, to break - or be broken - from which for conscience sake is not one of the sorest trials a child of God can experience. Simon, lovest thou me more than these, the nearest and dearest you have on earth?
So now we have the deeply sanctified character emerging out of persecution. What a profoundly different Peter we behold! Before his fall, it was a proud confidence‑ - If all shall be offended in thee, I shall never he offended: now it is a heart-cry Lord, thou knowest all things - I cannot hide my heart from Thee even if I would, and I rely on Thy omniscience rather than on my own feelings‑ - Thou knowest that I love thee. He is silent on everything now, except his love. Christ can forgive us sins for which we can never forgive ourselves. The Lord is so perfectly contented with the answer, He so completely admits the appeal to His omniscience, that, without the giving assent by a word, He draws the veil from the only martyrdom ever revealed years, nay, decades, before-hand;* and so deeply has He forgiven Peter, so dearly does He love him, so thoroughly does He now trust him, that He gives into his hands the greatest treasure God has on earth, the flock of God which he purchased with his own blood.
[*Peter was crucified in A.D. 64.]
So now we reach the final
staggering word:‑ FOLLOW ME.
What a religion is ours! Christ
lifts up a cross before Peters
eyes, and says, Follow me, and Peter follows him. Who
then is this that gives such commands? A phrase which the Lord omitted to quote
answers:‑ Awake, 0 sword, against my shepherd,
and against THE MAN THAT IS MY FELLOW,
saith the Lord of hosts (Zech. 13: 7).* Peter was right when he said:‑
Lord, thou knowest all things: for Christ had
known that beore a cock crew the
apostle would deny Him thrice; and He knew, thirty years before it happened,
Peters martyrdom by an extremely rare death.
Follow Me for thirty years more of golden service: follow Me in the
production of letters which shall enrich the Church for nearly two thousand
years: follow Me up the Hill of Golgotha: follow
Me into the only class which, as such, is distinguished in the [Millennial] Kingdom (Rev. 20 4)
- the martyrs. The love of Christ triumphs over every
conceivable difficulty. Samuel Rutherford, writing from prison
[* Jewish commentators themselves have admitted that the word amithi (my fellow) implies equality with God; only, since they own not Him who was God and Man, they must interpret it of a false claim on the part of man, overlooking that it is God Himself who thus speaks of the Shepherd of His text (David Baron).]
Camest Thou far, my Beloved
To seek for Thine own?
From Heavens high wonder and glory
I travelld alone.
From height that thine eye neer beholdeth,
Past planet and star,
Down distances measureless, shining:
Yea, I came far.
Didst Thou leave much, 0 Beloved,
In coming for me ?
My Home in the love of My Father
I gave up for thee.
For aye through the song and the music
My heart heard thy call :
I gave up My freedom, My glory,
Yea, I left all.
Didst Thou bear much, my Beloved,
That I might be free?
The thorn-crown, the mocking, the scourging,
The death on the tree;
The wrath of God - ah! this sorrow
That thought cannot touch -
I died from the stroke of His anger:
Yea, I bore much.
Didst Thou love long, 0 Beloved,
With heart that sought me?
Long ages eer worlds were created
My heart yearnd for thee.
Eer ever the rapturous angels
Filld heaven with song,
For thee My heart panted and thirsted;
Yea, I loved long.
Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you: (John 15: 13, 14, R.S.V.).