April 18, 2018
by George Butterfield
Creighton University's School of Law Library
click here for photo and information about the writer

Wednesday of the Third Week of Easter
Lectionary: 275

Acts 8:1b-8
Psalms 66:1-3a, 4-5, 6-7a
John 6:35-40

Celebrating Easter

Easter Prayer for Today

The Servant Girl at Emmaus

Don't Work for Food that Perishes

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

An Easter Blessing

Easter Joy in Everyday Life

Recently my grandson Wyatt was visiting us and playing in the backyard. He picked a dandelion and tried to blow on the top to make the seeds fly into the air. They were not yet ready to be detached so nothing happened. I enjoyed seeing his enthusiasm for the dandelion but I was inwardly glad that those seeds were not ready to go all over the yard. The seeds have little feathery parachutes and can go quite a distance. I would just have more dandelions spread throughout the yard and a harder job killing them off. It was Tertullian who said that "the blood of the martyrs is seed." Like dandelions, kill one and the seed of faith lands all around the martyr and ten more Christians pop up.

This was certainly true of the early Church. Deacon Stephen was killed and the seeds of faith were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria. A man named Saul kept trying to contain the seeds and kill them off but Christianity just spread. It was a bad move on his part. While he had all the Christians in Jerusalem he had a chance to contain their influence. Instead, he killed and imprisoned them, they scattered, and everywhere they went they preached the word. A policy of persecution is essentially doomed to failure. One of the seven Jerusalem deacons who was not killed went to Samaria and proclaimed Christ. They heard the message, saw the victory of Jesus over demonic power and illness, and responded to the Good News with great joy. Now Saul and the persecutors had a mess on their hands. They had inadvertently spread the heresy.

Tyrants consistently believe that killing their opponents will stamp out the opposition and make their reign more secure. On occasion, this tactic may even appear to work. However, New Testament scholar Bishop N.T. Wright, in his magnum opus on the theology of resurrection, "The Resurrection of the Son of God," points out that the doctrine of the resurrection of the body is revolutionary. Tyrants may believe that this life is all there is but, if the revolutionaries believe in the resurrection of the body, then they need not fear for what the tyrant does in this life is not the last word. There is a story in 2 Maccabees, chapter seven, of a mother and seven sons who were executed for not violating the law of God. As he was about to lose his tongue and his hands, one of the brothers said, "It was from heaven that I received these; for the sake of his laws I disregard them; from him I hope to receive them again" (2 Macc. 7:11).

In the Gospel, Jesus states that the will of his Father is that those who believe in him will have eternal life "and I shall raise him on the last day." The Evil One and his henchmen simply cannot win. If they kill Christians, the blood of those martyrs raises up new Christians. And, besides that, they can never ultimately get rid of the people they manage to kill because Jesus promises that he will raise them up. Those who fight against God and kill his children cannot win in the end. They only postpone the inevitable. Jesus is Lord. His children will reign with him. The tyrants of this world will win some battles. But they will lose the war.

Nothing is ultimately lost by those who serve God. So be not afraid. Amen.

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