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Reflections on Easter and the persecuted church

March 24, 2024 by Abigail Hart in Seasonal Devotionals

1. Easter and the Persecuted Church: Mary Magdalene

John 20:11 tells us that after Jesus’ death, “Mary stood outside the tomb weeping.” Imagine the utter heartbreak she must have felt. Jesus had healed Mary of her demons and utterly transformed her life. Then she witnessed His painful sacrifice on the cross.

But everything changed in an instant when the resurrected King revealed Himself to Mary. “Go and tell My brothers,” Jesus instructed. Surely her once-sorrowful heart leapt with excitement and joy as she declared to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!”

Mary’s story brings to mind our friend, Eun-Young: a North Korean defector. Like Mary, Eun-Young often felt like an outcast in her community. And when she fled to China, sex traffickers forced her into a situation that would cause her tremendous shame and suffering. 

During her journey to freedom in South Korea, Eun-Young discovered the hope of Christ. She, too, found healing and purpose in following Jesus—and joyfully sharing His message with others. 

Both of these women demonstrate how difficult life experiences can prepare our hearts to fully receive the power of God’s redemption. In looking at the lessons of our biblical predecessors and our persecuted family, we learn this: by clinging to faith through trials, we can emerge as joyful witnesses.  

We invite you to pray this short prayer now and then watch Eun-Young’s powerful story below as you contemplate the parallels of Easter and the persecuted church.

Prayer of Reflection:
Lord, during this Lenten season, prepare our hearts to celebrate Your resurrection. We thank You for the women of the Bible and those in the persecuted church who teach us how to weather sorrowful moments. Bless our hard-pressed sisters around the world who suffer because of their faith, and fill them with the unmatched joy of Your presence—that they might share it with others. Amen. 

2. Easter and the Persecuted Church: Doubting Thomas

As we continue our devotional on Easter and the persecuted church, consider the testimony of someone who initially felt intense skepticism toward the resurrection. 

According to John 20:25, after Jesus’ crucifixion and death, Thomas refused to believe the testimony of the disciples who had seen the risen Christ. “Unless I see the nail marks and put my finger where the nails were, I will not believe,” Thomas insisted. 

But when Jesus appeared to Thomas and invited him to touch His scarred hands and side, Thomas exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” All of his doubts suddenly vanished upon personally experiencing the resurrected Savior. 

Thomas’ swift change of heart is reminiscent of our persecuted brother, Dongwon. He was once steeped in North Korea’s atheistic traditions; he thought of Christianity as a mere myth. But after a pastor personally shared the gospel with him, Dongwon’s doubts melted away in an instant.

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Learning of Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection immediately opened Dongwon’s heart and mind. Weeping uncontrollably, he surrendered his life to Christ, overcoming decades of anti-religious conditioning in a moment. 

Both Thomas and Dongwon show us how merciful God is—even amid times of skepticism when we may lack the faith to believe. Through His compassionate revelation of divine grace, the Lord transforms our doubts into bold conviction.  

Please pray and then watch Dongwon’s incredible story below. 

Prayer of Reflection:
Lord Jesus, we look forward to celebrating Your resurrection with the Body of Christ and our persecuted family around the world on Easter Sunday. We give thanks for disciples like Thomas and Dongwon; they remind us how Your love, grace and mercy transcend unbelief. Please strengthen our hurting brothers & sisters with bold faith and help them overcome doubts during times of immense hardship. Amen.

3. Easter and the Persecuted Church: The Road to Emmaus

Walking to a village about seven miles from Jerusalem, two of Jesus’ followers grappled with intense despair—unaware that the resurrected Christ was actually journeying right alongside them. As they agonized over His suffering and death, Jesus was present. After He broke bread with them, their eyes were suddenly opened and their sorrow turned to something altogether different: amazement! 

Similarly, our persecuted family members, Sayad and Ruth, traveled down their own road of suffering and despair. They endured decades of anguish laboring as bonded slaves in Pakistan’s brick kilns. Yet with unrelenting faith, Sayad prayed nightly for deliverance. “Only Jesus Christ will hear our prayers,” he declared. And through the years, Jesus was with them. 

Just as our Savior lifted the two followers on the road to Emmaus out their despair, He lifted Sayad and Ruth out of their trouble. Indeed, the couple were full of awe and gratitude after God answered their prayers and their debts were paid off through the kindness of the Body of Christ! 

What we learn from both of these stories, old and new, is that God journeys with us—even when we cannot sense His presence. No matter how crushing life’s burdens feel, we are not alone. The Lord walks beside us, ready to lift our spirits and restore our hope in Him. 

Let’s pray together now as we reflect on the lessons of Easter and the persecuted church. And then we invite you to watch Sayad and Ruth’s story below.  

Prayer of Reflection:
God, we look ahead with anticipation for a joyous Easter Sunday. Please protect our persecuted family members as they celebrate Your resurrection in dark nations and boldly share the Good News with others. Lord, we are thankful for Your appearance on the road to Emmaus. Help us to reflect upon the difficult roads we have walked—and the times You’ve met us in our need. May we remember that, according to Matthew 28:20, You are with us always. Amen. 

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