Today on Palm Sunday, the time the entire Christian family remembers Jesus’ royal entrance into Jerusalem as it has done for millennia, we also mourn our Coptic brothers and sisters in Egypt who were murdered by Muslim terrorists while they observed the holy day in church. Seeing the images of their blood soaked palm fronds by which they honoured the Lord struck me deeply as well as evoking powerful biblical imagery. It symbolised who they were. They were martyrs of the faith.
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been…
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”…
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?”
I said to him, “Sir, you know.”
And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” – Revelation 6:9-11, 7:9-10, 7:13-17 ESV
Though their blood was shed they continue to wave their palms before the Lord, celebrating the Lamb who first shed his blood for them. They are with the Lord which is far better awaiting a better resurrection. The Christian hope defies the power of fear and death because it is rooted in a saviour who has conquered death. It is this hope that sustains our brothers and sisters like the ones who were martyred today who live in very difficult parts of the world.
Frankly, the church has never seen greater persecution today than it has than at any other point in its history. For the last couple of years, Christians have statistically been the most persecuted group of people in the world. Those of us fortunate to live in parts of the world where you can freely practice your faith we need to remember them. If we are truly part of God’s family, we must care about what is happening to our siblings in other parts of the world. Events like this remind us of what it means to be a Christian. We cannot take our faith for granted while others are being killed for it. We seriously need to wake up.