They were good men by pretty much any standard.
Able-bodied, hard workers who only wanted to provide for their families, but there was no work available. So they counted the cost, took a big risk, and crossed a border into dangerous territory in search of jobs.
And we all know what happened. We’ve seen the photos. Twenty-one men kneeling on a beach, each with a black-clad, faceless executioner standing at his back. Like lambs that are led to the slaughter, and like sheep that before their shearers are silent, they opened not their mouths. And their captors knew no mercy.
Good men as the world counts goodness. But much more than that. Christians. Servants of God. Knit together in their mother’s wombs, set apart, adopted, chosen, beloved. Purchased with the blood of Christ, redeemed for His pleasure and glory.
And what their captors can’t know is that not one word God spoke concerning those beloved sons failed. All were brought to pass.
And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.“
Evil is never going to learn. Arrogance can’t understand the power of the laid-down life. And hate can’t fathom the greater love. When satan entered into Judas at the Last Supper, he tipped the first domino in the final chain of events that crushed his own head.
And so they knelt, men of whom the world is not worthy, twenty-one grains of wheat violently planted on that beach before the eyes of a watching world. And if you think for one minute that evil won, you don’t know the law of the upside-down kingdom.
They were portrayed as powerless victims before the eyes of a watching world, but in the realer Real, they were ushered as overcoming conquerors into the presence of their Lord, who found them faithful and counted them worthy to suffer for His Name.
They were good men who only wanted to provide for their families, but God had a higher calling in mind. And He will never leave or forsake the families they left behind. Their plight is on the radar of every believer now. We are their family.
When ISIS called the execution, “A Message Signed With Blood to the Nation of the Cross,” they might as well have said, “Hey, Christians. You say you’re blood-bought. A chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Well, prove it. Are you willing to count the cost and take up your crosses, too?”
And once again, evil plays into God’s hand. Because it’s a question we must answer, and must not answer lightly. If I claim that God counted these men worthy — that their deaths were purposeful and their reward is great — then I must be prepared to take the same stand if it’s my husband or son or grandson kneeling on that beach.
The cost is real.
Twenty-one grains of wheat, never meant to remain alone, but rather to bear much fruit — a harvest of fellow servants stirred from slumber and self-indulgence to follow Jesus with joyful abandon wherever He leads, whatever the price.
And we don’t have the luxury of ignoring the call, because to not choose is to choose.
The seeds have been planted, and the harvest will come.
Will we be part of it?