Yes, I must write on this too. Please read one more piece on this event.
I spent much of last night following the reportage of ISIS over the last few months. Unspeakable cruelties, against women, children, fathers, girls, boys. Against Yazidis, Christians, other Muslims. I felt sick, angry. I felt hatred. I did not know what to say except
Lord have mercy, have mercy . . .
But----NO! In my next breath, No mercy. Lord have NO mercy on this evil! Do something! Yes, Lord, have NO mercy and DO something!
Such challenges never go unanswered, it seems. In my gospel readings, I realized the Hebrew people in Jesus' day felt the same. The injustices and unspeakable cruelties against them! They wanted what we want still and now----a Winning God.
A triumphant God, an arm-raised victory-fisted God!!
And this is just who they got! The Messiah they were waiting for, look who He chose! He didn't go to the seats of power; he went straight to the poor, the hungry, the pathetic, the unworthy, the victims.
And there it happened: Healings of every sickness. The dead raised to happy life. Massive feedings from a little lunch. Demons screaming out. The blasting wind and sinking waves scolded into peace. . And finally they got it, these men trailing behind his cloak, watching everyone who touched it get healed.
"Who do you say that I am?" he asks them.
Peter answers, knowing for the first time the truth of his own words, "You are the Christ."
Finally, after so many head-spinning victories and miracles, Peter sees him for who He is.
He is THE CHRIST, the anointed one! They know, finally! What can't this man-God do?? He has done all things well, healed every disease. There is nothing, no demon, no force, no wind, no Pharisee that can take Him down, this Christ!
There He is. I want THIS God, this two-fisted, truth-tongued, all-healing God, who will vanquish all His enemies!
But then, what does Jesus the Christ, the anointed one do, immediately upon that recognition, those words? Listen again:
Peter: "You are THE Christ."
"And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things . … and be rejected . . . and be killed . . .
Do you hear this? Can we hear this through the ears of those men? Now that you know who I am---finally (O ye of so-little faith!)----this is the kind of Who-I-Am I am. I am the Christ, the anointed one who will suffer and be beaten and will die.
No! No! No! Not THAT kind of CHRIST! We want the Winning God, the Victory God, the Vanquishing God!
This is where Peter rebukes Jesus, saying, Never Lord!
And Jesus sees Satan in Peter's human words, which would have been our words.
But of course, Jesus IS the winning God, the victorious God, the Everything-Good God who accomplishes all this with the greatest display of power ever: the power to lay down his life. The power to suffer and die. For us. For evil. For sickness. For his friends. Yes, for his enemies.
And He gives us the power to lay down our lives. Even before the knife, kneeling by the Mediterranean Sea, moments before death. Those men, speaking the name of Jesus until they could not . . . .
ISIS believes they have destroyed these men. ISIS believes they have proven the strength and superior power of Islam over "the nations of the cross." They could not be more wrong. In every act of brutality and murder, ISIS proves their weakness, their evil, their own already-destroyed hearts.
And the ones they kill, attest to the victory of a suffering Christ who lay down his life that we may also lay down ours.
And finally, these men are not dead, but living still.
Lord have mercy?
He already has. In so many ways.
In mostly Muslim Egypt, because of these murders, there is an unprecedented openness and sympathy to the Coptic Christians. 1.65 million tracts have been printed and distributed with Bible verses about blessing in the midst of suffering. And this poignant, powerful poem in colloquial Arabic as well:
Two Rows by the Sea
Who fears the other?
The row in orange, watching
Or the row in black, with minds
evil and broken?
(for more on this, see CT's fascinating coverage here)
I believe there will be much fruit around the world from the words on those pages, from the blood of those men. (Even if the photos were photoshopped and they were not killed "by the sea" but in some studio. No matter.)
Lord have mercy?
He already has. The poem reminds us how.
Because of His mercy, we're freed from
the row we were standing in, the row
in black, knives in hand,
evil and broken."
Because of His mercy, we ask now
that we too would be given
the courage, the faith, the love
to kneel in the sand in orange,
before those who hate us,
with our last breath
the name that can save them too,
Lord, have mercy.
He already has.