Recent newspapers have been full of the precipitous stand-off in North Korea, and many other harrowing stories of human suffering, including the stabbing to death of an English girl studying at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In the midst of all this, the Editor of the Daily Telegraph chose to fill the whole of his editorial column on Easter Saturday with a remarkable account of the Easter message, focussing on the fact that Jesus “descended into Hell” so that we could have a hope of Heaven. Here’s the link:
It’s well worth reading and realising that not everyone in the media is anti-Chrstian. Indeed, during this past week there have been several major articles in the Telegraph about the persecution of Christians overseas and the apparent disinterest of politically correct governments in opening their eyes to see that there is a systematic attack of believers going on, especially where radical Islam has a foothold. The ancient Syrian church is all but annihilated and the number of Christians left in Iraq is minimal.
But in the midst of the darkness the light of truth is being shone by the Holy Spirit – especially into the hearts of some Muslims who are sick of what their fellow Muslims are doing in the name of their religion. And many are turning to Jesus. And as we have discovered, there are many who come to Jesus the Healer and then discover that He is also Jesus their Saviour. More former Muslims celebrated Easter this year as devout followers of Jesus than at any other time in human history!
This Easter season has been a poignant time for me as I have meditated on the Sabbath day that divided Easter day from Good Friday. It must have been a day of confusion, uncertainty and fear for the disciples. We can look back with the benefit of hindsight and say to the disciples, “Why were you frightened – didn’t Jesus say He would rise again from the dead?” But if we had been part of that first group of disciples, caught between the tragedy of the day before and promises for the future that had not yet been proven to be true, I’ve no doubt we would have felt just like them.
I was deeply challenged by a comment by Andrew White, the former Vicar of Baghdad, who is now ministering in Jordan. He has on many occasions experienced believers having been tortured and killed for their faith in today’s spiritually hostile world. He is living and working with people who face the possibility of death on a daily basis – people who are trusting that the Jesus who was raised from the dead all those years ago, will be true to His Word and when He comes again and that He will raise them, also, to new life, free at last from the horrors they have experienced in this world.
Andrew’s summary of the world He is living in with believers is that “We are an Easter people, living in a Good Friday world.” This profound statement reflects the very heart of the Gospel – we are Easter people because Jesus was raised from the dead. But we are living in a Good Friday world, where the enemy of souls is still true to his name as a thief and a robber and seeking to cut short the lives of God’s people.
I have been challenged afresh to hold our persecuted brethren across the world in prayer in this their time of hurt, grief, suffering and distress. And through the agency of Ellel Ministries to do as much as we can, with the resources we have, to bring hope and healing to those still suffering, through the deep wounds and scars that mark their journey of faith.