“Daughters of Jerusalem,” he said, “don’t cry for me. Cry for yourselves instead! Cry for your children!” Luke 23:28
This is the voice of a martyr. This is, I think, the conclusion that many a martyr has come too as they suffer affliction for the gospel. At some point, their physical pain is no longer the central issue. They know for whom they suffer and they are resolved to endure it. And whom the martyrs suffer for is for “yourselves and your children.” As Luke draws out in his passion narrative, Jesus suffers in the place of the guilty. The innocent man, Jesus, gets crucified and the guilty man (Barabbas) will go free. It is for the peace and freedom of a world filled with hatred, selfishness, greed, lust, violence, and pride, that martyrs die. The Gospel announcement is, "Jesus is Lord" and that this Lord rules the world through self-giving, sacrificial love, inaugurated through the cross. Kingdoms rise, become tyrannical, and fall, but the Church marches on. Kingdoms, in their arrogance, murder their best citizens because those citizens acknowledge Jesus as Lord instead of Caesar or his heirs, and God continues to raise the Church from the dead. The Church father, Tertullian once famously said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” And why shouldn’t it be? If our Lord Himself inaugurated the Kingdom of God with His own blood, why shouldn’t those who follow him take up the same pattern of life? The martyrs, in the footsteps of Jesus, come to an understanding of what their sacrifice means for the future of the world. The world needs love more than it needs anything, and in the Church, through the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, there "is a love that is as strong as death.” Song of Solomon 8:6. The world was created in self-giving love. The world is sustained by that same faithful love. And the world is saved by the endurance of that self-giving love. Honor the Martyrs today and pray for the suffering church. And yourself stand in the truth and power of the Gospel. May we learn not to weep for ourselves, but to weep for the world that doesn’t know how much “God so loved.” Let the Church arise!