Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, "Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days." John 11:38-39
In every generation the Savior's followers have been persecuted. Amazingly, the devil still develops new tactics to use against believers. This devotion deals with a new and innovative persecution.
Believers know that when the Savior walked this earth, it was customary to bury someone soon after they died. As Martha noted in the text above, after a day or two in the oppressive heat, a dead body would produce a nasty odor.
Similar conditions prevail today in a number of places, including the little Lao village of Huey. Two weeks ago, when a Christian woman by the name of Wang passed away, the believers quickly made preparations to have her buried in the town cemetery.
Village officials said, "If you want the lady buried, she has to be buried as a Buddhist." Then they added, if they didn't like it, they could take the body to the city. It was an option they couldn't afford. After the Christians reluctantly agreed, the Buddhist monk said he "didn't bury dead Christians."
It gets worse.
Before I tell you what happened, please remember this is a different culture. No doubt you, as a practical Westerner, have come up with all kinds of options for this woman's funeral. Please believe me when I say your suggestions are probably unthinkable or undoable for the Christians of Huey.
So here's the rest of the story. The day after the monk declined to do the funeral, district officials gave the Christians this ultimatum: "Don't do anything with the dead body. Let the body rot if you insist on clinging to the Christian faith." With the woman's body decomposing, these Christians who had lived their lives as second-class citizens -- remote, removed and scorned, reluctantly consented to the implied demand.
Now this devotion is not designed to condemn this handful of Christians. I have been with many families when a loved one has died. At such an emotion-filled time, not everyone makes the best, the most logical, the wisest or most God-pleasing of choices. After the funeral, the Christians of Huey recognized what they had done; they repented and promised future faithfulness to their living Lord.
So, you wonder, what is the purpose of this devotion? It is twofold:
1. Won't you please remember your persecuted brothers and sisters in the faith? Think upon them and remember them. It is right we do so for the devil is constantly inventing new ways to undermine their faith.
2. Please remember that Satan doesn't confine himself to small Asian villages. Our children and grandchildren are being targeted with faith challenges we have not experienced and might not even understand. Please remember them in your prayers as well.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, the devil walks around this world seeking whom he may devour. Grant Your wisdom, strength and firmness of faith to all Your people, so they may resist his temptations and stand fast in Jesus Christ, their risen Savior and Substitute. In His Name we pray it. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries