A few years ago, I was attending a Bible Study, and that particular day, unbeknownst to all of us, was the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. In order to get the meaning of the day across, the Bible Study leader had arranged that a military personnel would barge into our study, unannounced, and demand that all of our Bibles be confiscated. When we were all told to hand over our Bibles, we thought it was for real! It was frightening! For me, the most frightening part was the thought that I could lose my Bible, and so I hid my Bible under the table while many in the room handed theirs over. I would rather have risked myself than lose that precious book. Later everyone’s Bibles were returned, yet knowing that for some in the world that very day, the outcome wouldn’t be so simple and painless.
During WWII, a Dutch watchmaker and his daughters risked their lives to save Jewish people and were eventually caught and sentenced to a concentration camp for their “crimes”. Corrie ten Boom, one of the daughters was the only one of her family to make it out of the concentration camp alive, and she tells their story in “The Hiding Place”, an amazing book of heroism and faith. She and her sister had decided long before they were caught, that should something happen, Corrie would carry the Bible in a small bag hung around her neck. Through all of the forced strip searches that these two sisters endured, the small bag around Corrie’s neck went undetected. It was truly a miracle. But, had she been caught carrying such contraband, it would have cost her life, and probably tortuously so.
I have heard stories of prison guards tearing up Bibles in Communist countries for the purpose of using the pages as toilet paper, only to have those cleaning out the fowl buckets find the soiled pages, clean them up, and then share them secretly with other prisoners, each risking their lives to read even a small portion of this precious book – with the same zeal that a starving person would cherish even the moldiest of food in order to satiate their hunger.
Why? What is so important about this one book, that there would be such a response? Many a philosopher and religious zealot, many a prophet have written books that have so captured the hearts and minds of millions that they have willingly gone to their deaths, but there is no book like this one. The Apostle Peter said it well in John 6:60-68. Jesus had just finished teaching the crowd, and what he’d had to say greatly offended even many of those who had up until that point been following him regularly.
60 Many of his disciples said, “This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?”
61 Jesus was aware that his disciples were complaining, so he said to them,“Does this offend you? 62 Then what will you think if you see the Son of Man ascend to heaven again? 63 The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But some of you do not believe me.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning which ones didn’t believe, and he knew who would betray him.) 65 Then he said,“That is why I said that people can’t come to me unless the Father gives them to me.”
66 At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. 67 Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?”
68 Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. 69 We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.” (italics mine)
This book is like no other in that it gives life to those drowning in shame and guilt, and hope to those who have lost all possibility of change. It gives light to those who live in darkness, and breath to those whose lives have been so pain-filled that they have no breath left. All because the words of this book beacon a relationship with the living author.
If you’ve tried to read this book before and found it boring or hard to understand, I would give you a challenge. I’ve linked the book of John beginning with chapter 1, where the above passage has come from. Read one chapter a day and begin each day by asking Jesus to show you who he is in the words you read. Do this every day until the book is finished. This book is in story format, and so is easy to read. (The version I have chosen in the link is NLT, a more modern translation.) After you have finished, I would love for you to tag me, and let me know what happened. I guarantee it will change you one way or another, because Jesus does that.
Lord, right now I pray for anyone who has read these words and is being moved by your Spirit to take the challenge. Open your word to them, and show them the truth of who you are. Thank you. In Jesus’ name, amen.