A story by Andrew van der Bijl (1928- ), ‘Brother Andrew’, Christian missionary to persecuted Christians, founder of Open Doors organization; known as “God’s Smuggler’ for smuggling Bibles into nations where God’s Word is forbidden.
At the time of the cruel persecution in the Soviet Union under Stalin, public meetings were regularly held in order to ridicule religion, the church and the priests. On one occasion the inhabitants of a town were summoned to the main square. From a platform on the square, a fluent ‘scholarly’ atheist, who seemed to have many proofs against the Bible, God and the clergy, addressed the public.
The crowd had listened silently. But when the local priest was called to the front to answer this brilliant oration, an uneasy muttering rippled through the crowd. The man went and stood close to the microphone and everyone held his breath. The tension could be cut with a knife, and you could hear a pin drop. What would his answer be?
We shall never know what went on in the heart of this man – his fear, his prayer – but at last his voice could be heard, resounding through the loudspeakers, not only to the crowd, but also to a large part of the city: “Khristos voskrese!” Christ is risen!
For one split second there was silence. A shudder went through the crowd and then, as a blazing testimony to the priest and to the atheist opponent, the cry broke out, unanimous and powerful: “Voistinu voskrese!” The Lord is risen indeed!
That was a bad day for atheistic propaganda in Russia. It was also a bad day for the religious leaders in Jerusalem, nearly 2,000 years ago, because they had to bribe the soldiers with much money to get them to tell lies (Matthew 28:12-13). It was also a bad day for the guards who “became like dead men” (Matthew 28:4).
But it was a bad day especially for the devil because if he had known this, he “would not have crucified the Lord of Glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8).
The one who believes in the Cross and the Resurrection takes the side of those who are persecuted. Or, to put it another way, whoever identifies with the Persecuted Church stands in the power of the Resurrection – a target of misguided and corrupt people, but nevertheless together with the mighty Conqueror. The Lamb conquers and we conquer too– in Him. Hallelujah!
Matthew 28:5-7 — The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
I Corinthians 2:6-8 — We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
EASTER PRAYER, 1766, by Samuel Johnson (1709-1784): Almighty and most merciful Father, before whom I now appear laden with the sins of another year, suffer me yet again to call upon Thee for pardon and peace. O God! grant me repentance, grant me reformation. Grant that I may be no longer distracted with doubts, and harassed with vain terrors. Grant that I may no longer linger in perplexity, nor waste in idleness that life which Thou hast given and preserved. Grant that I may serve thee in firm faith and diligent endeavor, and that I may discharge the duties of my calling with tranquility and constancy. Take not, O God, Thy Holy Spirit from me; but grant that I may so direct my life by thy holy laws, as that, when Thou shalt call me hence, I may pass by a holy and happy death to a life of everlasting and unchangeable joy. Amen.