Expectant faces stared at me. My mind was fumbling on what to do. I felt really lost. I felt hopeless. I couldn’t give up and just go down from where I was standing. I took this mission, I had to stand up for it and go for it even if I was already losing face.
There is a big difference between being required to stand before an expectant crowd and conversing to an individual. I could attest to that. Whenever I stand and try to interpret the prayers in sign language during Sabbath, I felt like melting or breaking in pieces. Most times, the signs which should have been so basic seemed to have leaked out of my brain that in the end I felt like moving my hands for the sake of moving them.
I find it ironic since I have been with our church’s Deaf Ministry for more than two years since its conception. All I could ever do is to talk to them and tell short stories. I kept on trying to take it to another level which is interpreting prayers and songs, but somehow I forget the words as I go along. I have proven to myself that I have bad hand-eye coordination, now I seem to believe that I have a bad ear-hand coordination as well.
Such is the dilemma of would-be interpreters. The biggest let down so far is to see those expectant faces clamoring to understand the word of God or the prayer, but is hindered by the floundering newbie interpreter. The biggest disappointment is not getting the right message across.
The same dilemma occurs also when you speak in front of a crowd. Rarely would you meet a person who was born very much at ease talking in front of a large crowd. Most people would start with shaking knees and quivering lips. Some would even stammer or forget words or entire phrases. It is always easier to talk to one person than to talk to a large crowd. In most cases, the whole message rarely gets across.
Imagine the pressure, if you were tasked to speak before a crowd who are sure not to believe in a word you said. What if the listeners have already made up their minds and would want you to follow their frame of mind? Would you still stand up for what you believed in? How far would you stand up for what you believed is right?
During a time of great darkness, these questions plagued two men who have seen the light. The year was 1400s and there has been a great darkness all over the world – Intellectual and spiritual darkness that is. Yet what’s amazing to all kinds and states of darkness, it always yields to light. More so that during the time of the dark ages, men like John Huss and Jerome of Prague were awakened to spread the light.
In the 6th chapter of the Great Controversy, Mrs. White narrates the story of these two men whose intertwined lives helped open the mind of Martin Luther.
However, John Huss awakening never happened over night.
At a time when there were three claimants to the title of pope: Pope Gregory XII, Avignon Pope Benedict XIII and Pope Alexander V. All three were claiming to be the pope and using their claim to send out edicts and papal bulls. All three though were bent on ending John Wycliffe’s influence. They started burning all of Wycliffes books and papers. Not all were burned. Jerome of Prague brought one and influenced John Huss so much that he translated it into their mother tongue and spread it out to everyone including the monarchy.
John Huss was excommunicated and all of Prague was brought under the interdict. “In that age this sentence, whenever pronounced, created widespread alarm. The ceremonies by which it was accompanied were well adapted to strike terror to a people who looked upon the pope as the representative of God Himself, holding the keys of heaven and hell, and possessing power to invoke temporal as well as spiritual judgments. It was believed that the gates of heaven were closed against the region smitten with interdict; that until it should please the pope to remove the ban, the dead were shut out from the abodes of bliss. In token of this terrible calamity, all the services of religion were suspended. The churches were closed. Marriages were solemnized in the churchyard. The dead, denied burial in consecrated ground, were interred, without the rites of sepulture, in the ditches or the fields. Thus by measures which appealed to the imagination, Rome essayed to control the consciences of men.” (The Great Controversy, p. 101)
Though the city was in turmoil, Huss and Jerome continued studying and writing. They touched upon most of the crucial doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church particularly ecclesiology or the branch of theology concerned with the nature and functions of the Church, Indulgences, and the Eucharist (Communion). He even traveled throughout the country preaching to crowds.
“God permitted great light to shine upon the minds of these chosen men, revealing to them many of the errors of Rome; but they did not receive all the light that was to be given to the world. Through these, His servants, God was leading the people out of the darkness of Romanism; but there were many and great obstacles for them to meet, and He led them on, step by step, as they could bear it. They were not prepared to receive all the light at once. Like the full glory of the noontide sun to those who have long dwelt in darkness, it would, if presented, have caused them to turn away. Therefore He revealed it to the leaders little by little, as it could be received by the people. From century to century, other faithful workers were to follow, to lead the people on still farther in the path of reform.” (The Great Controversy, p. 103).
There was trouble ever where. The three popes kept on contending for supremacy. The whole of Europe was divided. The city of Prague was still under the interdict. John Huss and Jerome were still preaching throughout the city.
In a bid to straighten things out, a council was called at Constance. All three popes were to gather there with all the pomposity they could muster. John Huss was also summoned. He was hesitant to go but with assurance from the King of Bohemia that he would be protected, he set off to go.
The protection did little, in Constance, he was imprisoned by the popes and cardinals. After which he was tried in front of all the other priests. He was forced to take back what he wrote and said. He was asked to recant three times before passing his sentence. His strength from God made him keep a stand. In front of all the expectant faces of the bishops and priests, he refused to take back what he said. Thus, he was sentenced to death by burning at the stake.
As his sentence was about to be carried out, he was asked once more to recant. His reply was firm and noble. “With what face, then, should I behold the heavens? How should I look on those multitudes of men to whom I have preached the pure gospel? No; I esteem their salvation more than this poor body, now appointed unto death.”
Once more, when he was fastened to the stake, and the fire was about to be kindled, he was asked again to save himself and repent of his errors. The expectant faces became disappointed with his reply: “What errors,” said Huss, “shall I renounce? I know myself guilty of none. I call God to witness that all that I have written and preached has been with the view of rescuing souls from sin and perdition; and, therefore, most joyfully will I confirm with my blood that truth which I have written and preached.” When the flames kindled about him, he began to sing, “Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me,” and so continued till his voice was silenced forever.
Jerome was also executed a few years later. He recanted but he tried to take it back and stood firm to the truth. Before getting his sentence, he accused the priests and bishops. “You condemned Wycliffe and John Huss, not for having shaken the doctrine of the church, but simply because they branded with reprobation the scandals proceeding from the clergy,—their pomp, their pride, and all the vices of the prelates and priests. The things which they have affirmed, and which are irrefutable, I also think and declare, like them.”
The enraged popes and priests burned him at the stake.
Though both men died their legacy left a huge scar on Bohemia. Civil unrest erupted. People fought against the church particularly those who were influenced by their preaching and writings. Years later, a man named Martin Luther took to Wycliffe, Huss and Jerome’s writings to a whole new level.
Imagine what standing up before an angry mob meant for them! Would you do the same thing given the circumstances?