Today is Holy Saturday. This Holy Week we have experienced the profound and deeply moving re-telling of the story of the last days of Jesus Christ on earth. We have once again devoted ourselves to understanding more of God’s love for each of us, and for the world, through the gift of His Son. We again contemplate the Passion of Jesus, His suffering and sacrifice, through the reading of Scripture, in Psalms, prayer, music and song, remembering and meditating upon this deep Spiritual mystery.
Luke 14, verse 27 “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
There are no half measures when we truly dedicate ourselves to following the teaching of Jesus Christ, and stand with Him against the dark evil that seeks to destroy the beauty of this world. Christ’s message of pure love shines in the darkness, and illuminates that which we often do not wish to see. The Light Of The World confronts darkness, and exposes the hideous reality of evil.
Matthew 10, verse 22 “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
Asad Shah was a devout Muslim, originally from the Pakistani city of Rabwah, living in the Shawlands district of Glasgow in Scotland, Great Britain. He was a popular and hard working shopkeeper, well known in the local community. He was often described as being a pillar of his community. He was in the habit of sending Christmas and Easter cards and gifts to his customers, and was well acquainted with the local families who visited his store. He was also in the habit of posting stories and encouraging messages on his Facebook and Google Plus pages. He had previously spoken out against violence and hatred, and called for “unconditional real love for all mankind”.
But everything was about to change forever, just two days ago, when he posted this message online:
“Good Friday and a very Happy Easter, especially to my beloved Christian nation.
“Let’s follow the real footstep of beloved holy Jesus Christ and get the real success in both worlds.”
Four hours later he was murdered, brutally attacked in his shop by another Muslim, for posting his message of hope and love, and his wish for peace and reconciliation. He simply spoke the message that Christ came to bring to our broken world, calling on willing and loving hearts to follow Him in the way of peace, love and truth. For doing this, Asad Shah paid with his life.
Matthew Verse 28 “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the evil one who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Hundreds of residents, politicians and shop owners yesterday paid tribute to the 40-year-old “peacemaker” who went “above and beyond what a shopkeeper should do for his community.” Thousands of flowers were laid on the pavement outside his store, candles were lit and the whole community came together in tearful vigil to stand with his family and friends, remembering a man of gentleness and peace who did not deserve to die.
This is but one tiny example of the evil that insidiously manifests itself in the world through the lives of those who reject the pure love of God as revealed in Jesus Christ, and which has caused suffering for countless million down the ages.
How can I rejoice in the love of Christ and the resurrection tomorrow morning, in the face of such evil? How do I choose to respond?
John 12, verse 24. “I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. (26) Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me.”
All I can do is simply pray for the will to forgive, the mind of Christ to understand, and the fortitude to put into practice the hard and difficult teachings of Jesus in my own daily life. Today, I remember the agony of Jesus, separated from His Father, shouldering and taking upon and into Himself all the evil of this world, every dark thought, word and deed, paying the ultimate price in His personal sacrifice for us and all people.
John 5, verse 24 “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”
There is no doubt in my mind that Asad Shah knew Jesus Christ, and also willingly forgave the ignorant man who took his life. It would not be possible for him to write messages such as those he had posted, and behave the way he did in his life if this was not the case. We know from his writing that Shah was a man who understood that violence is never the answer, that he had embraced the way of peace. He was not afraid to stand out from the crowd, risk his reputation, and say what he knew to be true, even at the risk of his own safety. His actions and life showed the local community that he indeed walked the Way of peace and truth. Would I have had similar courage? Probably not.
Revelation 21, verse 4 “ ….He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order has passed away. (5) …‘I am making all things new’ … ‘write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’”
And tomorrow, as we turn from remembering the darkness of Christ’s separation and sacrifice this Holy Saturday to the resurrection joy of Easter Morning, we can celebrate honestly, with faith, and in hopeful trust. We do so in the knowledge that our loved and ones and those who have gone before us are safe in the arms of Love. And we also remember the countless souls across the ages that paid the ultimate price for following the Way of Christ, speaking His words of peace and reconciliation. Those faithful servants of Jesus, including Asad Shah, who are rejoicing on a different shore, in the eternal light and presence of God’s love, peace, joy.
All Jesus Christ asks of each of us, is that our willing hearts would speak of His love, and put His words into action in our daily lives. Whatever the cost.
Image by fredrik Andreasson (used by permission via Creative Commons).