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The French newsweekly Marianne had a good article on religious conversion in its September 25, 2015 issue.

‘Ceux qui se convertissent’ — ‘Those who convert’ — is on their website in two parts here and here.

Whilst this concerns France’s converts to Islam, my American readers might find this of interest. It can only be a matter of time before this phenomenon — also present in the UK — becomes more widespread in the United States.

Highlights follow.

The figures

Dalil Boubakeur, a well-known imam who also serves as president of the French Council of Muslims (CFCM), says that 4,000 French men and women convert to Islam every year.

A national survey conducted by demographics service Ined-Insee in 2011 revealed that among France’s 2.1 million Muslims (some say 5 – 6 million), between 70,000 and 100,000 are French converts.

It should be kept in mind that, despite national councils for Muslims, there is no centralised record-keeping. The lack of reliability of the statistics is made more so by the fact that conversions can be done anywhere — the vow made by converts is simply recited three times before two witnesses. This can take place in a private home or a prison cell without the aid of an imam.

Whatever the case, imams around the country are reporting a steady increase in conversions.

Oddly — alarmingly — imam Abdelmalek of the Paris Mosque says:

Conversions doubled in the months following the events of Charlie

referring to the Charlie Hebdo / Kosher supermarket killings of January 2015.

It’s a worrying development, but Marianne discovered through their interviews that many young men are attracted to becoming warriors and dying in battle!


As Catholicism is the main Christian denomination in France, Marianne focussed on lapsed Catholics for their article.

When I was young — so last century! — 90% of the French identified themselves as Catholics.

Today, that percentage has dropped considerably.

Marianne tells us that more and more French say they have ‘no religion’. Only 66% call themselves Catholic. Of those, only 10% are considered ‘practising’ — attending Mass once a month. Furthermore, for the most part, professed Catholics are older people.

By contrast, Islam is statistically a young person’s faith. Converts to Islam seek to convert their Catholic friends.

Who converts?

Having read about converts to Islam elsewhere in the French press, they share the following characteristics: poor religious instruction, a dysfunctional home, a penchant for crime and the search for structure (Islam) to set everything right. They also view the loving God of Christianity as weak!

More generally, young French people perceive Islam as being trendy, cool and robust.

It’s important to note those because more of us will be encountering such types in future, wherever we live. We should know how to counter these perceptions in a patient, biblical manner — and nip them in the bud.

Charles gave an interview to Marianne. He has taken the name Yunuss for personal and religious purposes. He grew up with an aunt in a council flat and was an active member of the JMJ (Jesus-Mary-Joseph) youth club.

However, as a young adult he left the Church and gravitated to satanism. He drifted into crime and served a prison sentence for robbery; he was part of a gang. He also engaged in gambling, alcoholism and adultery. He converted to Islam in prison because, for him, something was missing from Christianity, in his words:

The fear of God.

He likes that Islam

asks for the avoidance of certain things.

Charles admits that he backslid after his conversion once he left prison. Surviving a fist-fight brought him back to Allah. He now wears a beard, is married to a Muslim who wears a veil and has his own start-up. He enjoys the company of his fellow Muslims and looks forward to their ‘support’ for his business venture.

Another French convert, Régis Fayette, attended Catholic school in his childhood. He drifted into crime in his adolescence and became a Muslim at the age of 16. The two events were concurrent. He then began following a Sufi master and turned his life around. He became a rapper under his new name Abd al Malik. Later, he wrote books about his Muslim experience as a Frenchman. Last autumn, his film Allah bénisse la France (‘Allah blesses France’) appeared in cinemas around the country.

Marianne says that many European converts to Islam find Sufism attractive. A sociologist, Franck Fregosi, says that they are searching for ‘transcendence’ — what traditional Catholics and Anglicans term ‘mysterium tremendum’. Fregosi calls this type of conversion, largely seen among middle-class adults, ‘rational’.

Another of his conversion classifications is ‘proximity’, whereby working class youth without religion are recruited to Islam by the friends on their housing estate in metropolitan suburbs. M’Hammed Henniche, head of the Union of Muslim Associations in Paris’s Seine-Saint-Denis, explains that, often, such young people are struck by a life-changing event: a broken relationship, friend’s suicide, losing a job. Henniche says that Islamic tenets help them to make sense of the event and to move forward (emphasis mine):

We tell them that the right thing to do is to work, even at minimum wage, and to set up their own household rather than to look for the ideal woman or Prince Charming, which is pure telly, not real life. They need a community with regular meetings, prayers five times a day. There are loads of people at the mosque. We help them to find work, a spouse. We don’t leave them alone. Many come to get married.

It sounds rather cult-like, however, what this does say is that social misfits find friends in their spiritual home. In some ways Christianity was like that not so long ago when local churches were not only a place of worship but provided a social-employment network.

Twenty-three-year-old Alexandre-Ali gave his conversion story — one of proximity — to Marianne. His father left the marital home before he was born. The boy grew up in Alfortville, outside Paris. At school, he was intrigued by children who refused to eat pork for lunch. He left school at 14 and started working odd jobs. When he saw his work going nowhere, he attended a local mosque. At the age of 18, he converted, by saying the vow of confession before a friend of his. He said they had to redo it later in front of another witness. It took a few years before Islam had a personal effect on him:

I was very vulgar. I’m now polite. I used to argue with my mother. Now I’m calmer.

He is now married and taking graphic design courses. What he says about his personal associations echoes what M’Hammed Henniche described:

When I slip up, one of my ‘brothers’ helps me get back on the right track. We help each other. We support each other. We call on each other. Before, I knew a lot of people. Today, my circle of friends is smaller, but they are people I trust. I’ve cut bad company out of my life.


I do not have many remedies here other than the usual ones:

  • Make sure your children know and understand the Bible;
  • Teach them how to pray from early childhood, including memorising the Lord’s Prayer, later the Apostle’s Creed;
  • Ensure they understand the beliefs of their denomination;
  • Study the appropriate confessions of faith and short catechisms, where applicable — and encourage young children to memorise important tenets;
  • Be able to explain the Trinity.

Islam is very sure of itself with answers for everything. Denouncing the Trinity as polytheism is one principal way they encourage lax Christians to convert!

May we know the Bible and Christianity sufficiently to encourage and support those in the one, true faith.

Tomorrow: Muslim converts to Christianity my posts discussing Matthew Henry’s commentary on Matthew 10 (here and here), one of his observations deserves to stand alone, specifically that on Matthew 10:25:

It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign[f] those of his household.

Jesus was referring to His healing the man made deaf by demons, documented in Matthew 9:32-34.

As is often the case, Henry explains the immediate context then gives us a practical application for the present day (emphases mine):

They must expect, in the midst of these sufferings, to be branded with the most odious and ignominious names and characters that could be. Persecutors would be ashamed in this world, if they did not first dress up those in bear-skins whom they thus bait, and represent them in such colours as may serve to justify such cruelties. The blackest of all the ill characters they give them is here stated they call them Beelzebub, the name of the prince of the devils, Matthew 10:25. They represent them as ringleaders of the interest of the kingdom of darkness, and since every one thinks he hates the devil, thus they endeavour to make them odious to all mankind. See, and be amazed to see, how this world is imposed upon: [1.] Satan’s sworn enemies are represented as his friends the apostles, who pulled down the devil’s kingdom, were called devils. Thus men laid to their charge, not only things which they knew not, but things which they abhorred, and were directly contrary to, and the reverse of. [2.] Satan’s sworn servants would be thought to be his enemies, and they never more effectually do his work, than when they pretend to be fighting against him. Many times they who themselves are nearest akin to the devil, are most apt to father others upon him and those that paint him on others’ clothes have him reigning in their own hearts. It is well there is a day coming, when (as it follows here, Matthew 10:26) that which is hid will be brought to light.

His words are truisms to remember for believers, especially clergy and those in public life, who suffer false accusations.

Church and state averypoliticalwomancom

Our Lord’s words on persecution in Matthew 10 were at the forefront of my mind at the weekend.

On October 2, 2015, an article appeared in the Daily Mail about the Hussain family from Bradford who converted to Christianity from Islam 15 years ago.

Since 2003, the persecution — broken windscreens and harassment — from Muslim neighbours has not stopped. The police largely refuse to intervene. To date, only one investigated incident has resulted in a successful prosecution. The Mail states:

Mr Hussain said he feels so let down by police he has lodged a complaint with the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

He also criticised the Anglican Church for failing to provide any meaningful support.

In fact (emphases mine):

Mr Hussain had worked as a hospital nurse but was diagnosed with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder and has been unable to work. He owns several properties and now lives off rental income.

Although their faith remains strong, Mr and Mrs Hussain no longer attend church. ‘We have given up on the Church of England, they have done nothing for us,’ said Mr Hussain.

A meeting, arranged by a friend, with a local imam – who ‘listened and promised to help’ – also led to nothing, said Mr Hussain.

A West Yorkshire Police spokesman said: ‘We are aware of an ongoing matter involving Mr Hussain and are working closely with partners to resolve this situation. All reports of crime are taken seriously and are investigated thoroughly.’

Poor reaction

The younger Hussain children attended a local Church of England primary school. Most of the students are Muslim. The Hussains arranged a car sharing arrangement with Muslim neighbours whose children attended the school. When the neighbours found out the Hussains were Christian, the ride-sharing stopped. This escalated as word circulated among the other students at school. The Hussains’ youngest daughter was bullied:

Leena, now 14, was told by her friends ‘our parents say we mustn’t mix with you because you are a convert.’ Mr Hussain said: ‘She was heartbroken and made to feel like a second class citizen.’

England’s foremost Anglican blogger, who writes under the pseudonym of Archbishop Cranmer, finds the school episode:

frankly, quite literally incredible. Teachers and headteachers bend over backwards to ensure that Every Child Matters: when it comes to children’s well-being, Church of England schools have rigorous anti-bullying policies, in accordance with statutory requirements on child protection and safeguarding. And they implement them.

I’m not so sure about it being ‘frankly, quite literally incredible’ under the circumstances. It is quite possible that teachers would not want to intervene in an interfaith conflict, especially if any disciplinary action brought out angry older brothers, fathers and uncles en masse. Has Cranmer thought this through?

He added:

Bradford’s churches and schools are now under new management: the Diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales. The new Bishop of Bradford is the Rt Rev’d Dr Toby Howarth, and his boss is the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Rev’d Nick Baines, who had been Bishop of Bradford for the preceding three years.

He concluded:

If it be the case (and it may well be) that no ministry team in Bradford has provided “any meaningful support” to the Hussain family, might we have a few more details? If it be true (and it may well be) that the Church of England has “done nothing for us”, could we please know a few specifics and particulars, so that Bishop Toby and Bishop Nick might learn from the Church’s past errors, shortcomings and pastoral deficiencies? Instead of just trashing the entire institution (though it may well deserve it) in the Daily Mail, might someone who knows something please get in touch and explain why a brave family of Bradford ex-Muslims has been so terrorised and persecuted by gangs of devout Bradford Muslims that they had no choice but to depart the Church of England?

Why didn’t Cranmer look for more information himself? A simple search would have uncovered InfidelsAreUs, the website of Anniesa Hussain, age 21. Anniesa has documented everything.

Anniesa’s story

Before exploring Anniesa’s story, it is worth mentioning that Mr Hussain was one of the converts featured in a 2008 Dispatches documentary on Channel 4. I saw the programme and was deeply concerned for the safety of all the ex-Muslim families involved. They were incredibly bold to appear on television. Although most of the filming was done discreetly, someone who wanted to harm these people could probably identify them. And so it was in the case of the Hussain family.

However, their persecution did not start then.

Anniesa tells us that it started in 2000. (Incidentally, the family converted to Christianity through a mostly Jamaican Pentecostal church.)

From the time I was 6 years of age, my siblings and I endured daily verbal abuse, physical altercations, car and house window smashing. School playground hostility and school-mate deprivation. Death threats. Mob rule. Initial prevention of riding our bicycles in the neighbour common ground to then prevention of us playing on the street directly outside our property. I watched my father’s effort in erecting a 6ft fence in his backyard to protect his children become effectively decimated. I can’t ever imagine his pain, his helplessness when his fence still never stopped the glass bottles and bricks being hurled at his children as they played in their own back garden.

After the Dispatches programme aired, the Hussains’ neighbours accused Mr Hussain of making hateful statements about Islam, which he never did. Family A spread the rumours. As for school:

Life at school for my youngest sister became increasingly unbearable. She’d come home in tears, weeping that her Pakistani classmates had turned on her and weren’t allowed to associate themselves with a Christian – something I knew all too well. Dad could never comprehend the hostility in he found himself in the school playground as he collected my sister, nor why he would receive glares and jostles as he walked by certain parents. Until one day when he was approached by one parent to say ‘you haven’t said anything offensive about Islam! I’ve researched you on Youtube’. Seeing Dad’s baffled expression he explained that one of the brothers of family A had many of the school parents convinced that Dad was anti-Islamic and was preaching hatred on Youtube. However, upon his own research and refusal to rely on this ‘information’ of Dad, this parent – Muslim himself- proved to be a loyal supporter, berating any school parent who treated Dad with contempt. The school situation deteriorated to the point where the brother of Family A stormed up to Dad provocatively, threatening to kill him in order to goad him into a fight. That incident marked official police involvement in our lives yet again. Numerous meetings have been set up with school leaders, police officers and religious leading figures in the community, to achieve the most politically correct of outcomes: nothing.

Anniesa’s posts are well worth reading in full for the rest of the family’s story. She writes beautifully. I hope she becomes a journalist.

More on the family’s trials

Cranmer might also want to look at the articles about the Hussain family on the Barnabas Fund site.

After Britain’s May 2015 elections, Mr Hussain wrote to his MP. The Barnabas Fund includes the full text of the letter. Part of their preface to it reads as follows:

Nissar Hussain, a British man who converted from Islam to Christianity in 1996, has written a letter to his local MP recounting some of the long catalogue of violence, abuse and other attacks that he has suffered at the hands of some Muslims in the area of Bradford where he lives. Recently Nissar and his wife, Kubra, who have six children, have each had false allegations against them brought to the police for separate “offences” resulting in each of them being held at the police station for hours. Their car has been maliciously damaged four times, making it almost impossible for the family to meet the repair and insurance costs. Yet despite appealing to local authorities and organisations for support, Mr Hussain has struggled to find support and help.

In August 2015, the Barnabas Fund reported:

a mob of around 40 Muslim young men of Pakistani descent gathered outside his home in Bradford on 18 August in a patent display of intimidation.

In response to the Daily Mail article from October, the Fund issued this statement:

Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, says, “Barnabas Fund has supported Nissar Hussain throughout the violence and persecution he faced after his conversion to faith in Christ. We work with converts and with Muslim and Christian leaders to bring about a day when no one will be penalised and persecuted for accepting the claims of Jesus.”

Premier Christian Radio interviewed Mr Hussain after the Mail article appeared. They contacted the police and local clergy for a response:

West Yorkshire Police said in a statement: “We are aware of an ongoing matter involving Mr Hussain and are working closely with partners to resolve this situation.

“All reports of crime are taken seriously and are investigated thoroughly.”

The Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Revd Toby Howarth (in the new Diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales), said: “I am aware of considerable attention and support which has been offered and indeed provided to Mr Hussain by his local Anglican vicar, supported by myself and my predecessor.

“Mr Hussain’s vicar has met with him on many occasions and has worked with the local police, the local council and other bodies including representatives of the local Muslim communities  in trying to resolve this difficult matter.

“I fully support the ongoing work of  the Multi Agency Hate Crime Conference, of which the local vicar is a member, which continues to try to bring a resolution to this situation.”

It would appear that Mr Hussain is not wrong. Indeed, what he has said about lack of real help appears to be accurate.

In 2014, Christian Concern reported that he was planning on starting a series of safe houses in the UK for ex-Muslim converts:

It is hoped that the network, provisionally named “Converts to Jesus”, will launch in the Autumn and be chaired by Nissar Hussain, a convert from Islam, who lives in Bradford. 

Nissar, his wife and children, have all suffered as a result of following Jesus. He has been shunned by his family and labelled a “Christian Jew dog” while his wife has been sworn at and spat upon and his children have been ostracised by school friends.

In a related story from 2014, Rob James for Christian Today said that Jesus is weeping for His Church:

Hussain talked about how he was also upset by the reception he got from Christians. “We are broken people” he said, “I have given up on the Anglican church and independent churches. We are in a no man’s land; we are completely and utterly isolated”.

Is this the kind of Church Jesus envisaged when he said “A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another”?

We need to remember that Jesus views this sort of love as a key to mission too for just before he died he prayed “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me”.

Jesus will build His church, of course. And He will take care of Nissar Hussain and his family. But I do wonder how He feels when he sees a Muslim convert admit that his experience of church has left him feeling “broken” and “utterly isolated”.

Too right! However, how to accomplish this is not easy in a school context when most of the pupils are Muslim. Rightly or wrongly, teachers may well fear reprisals.


The more I read about the Hussains’ plight, the more I pray for them.

However, it is difficult to understand why they have not moved to a safe majority-Christian area after all these years. That is the story which interests me.

Matthew 10:23 says:

When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

Let us pray that the Hussains find a new home in a new community soon. If I see an update, I’ll be sure to report on it.’s post introduced Matthew Henry’s commentary on Matthew 10.

Henry’s exposition is well worth reading in full. It will certainly prove useful to those teaching Bible or youth classes to those who are new to the Gospel. And this will be useful for parents and other family members teaching youngsters in their household about the Apostles. Henry’s words bring the Twelve and their ministry to life. As I have not heard much deep preaching in church or anywhere else on Matthew 10, Henry offers excellent — and concise — explanations of the alternating stark and comforting way Christ taught the Twelve about the consequences of proclaiming the Gospel message.

Yesterday’s post covered the first 15 verses. This entry looks at the rest of the chapter. Excerpts from Henry follow, emphases in bold mine. I have also included a few personal observations.

Matthew 10:16-25 document Christ’s warning about the persecution to come. It is helpful to keep in mind that as the Apostles understood the Messiah was to be a temporal king — in keeping with Jewish teaching of the era — the last thought on their minds was persecution. It is unlikely they grasped the full import of our Lord’s prophetic message. His words hold true for millions around the world — including in the West. I shall write more about this shocking phenomenon tomorrow.

Our Lord was speaking here of the Apostles’ ministries post-Resurrection, when they would be on their own with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. At this point, the Twelve were unaware of His imminent death, resurrection and the first Pentecost.

Persecution — sheep and serpents

Our Lord said (Matthew 10:16, parallel in Luke 10:3):

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

The Apostles were to be gentle and civilised in ministering to those who hated Christ and His followers. However, they were also to act with discernment. In any case, our Lord would ensure that no matter what they suffered they would be with Him for eternity. As to this verse:

… it is rather to be taken as a precept, recommending to us that wisdom of the prudent, which is to understand his way, as useful at all times, but especially in suffering times. “Therefore, because you are exposed, as sheep among wolves be ye wise as serpents not wise as foxes, whose cunning is to deceive others but as serpents, whose policy is only to defend themselves, and to shift for their own safety.” The disciples of Christ are hated and persecuted as serpents, and their ruin is sought, and, therefore, they need the serpent’s wisdom. Note, It is the will of Christ that his people and ministers, being so much exposed to troubles in this world, as they usually are, should not needlessly expose themselves, but use all fair and lawful means for their own preservation

It is the wisdom of the serpent to secure his head, that it may not be broken, to stop his ear to the voice of the charmer (Psalm 58:4,5), and to take shelter in the clefts of the rocks and herein we may be wise as serpents. We must be wise, not to pull trouble upon our own heads wise to keep silence in an evil time, and not to give offence, if we can help it.

Jesus warned that the Apostles would incur the wrath of the Jews and the Romans. The Jews would scourge them then hand them over to the Romans to be put to death. That was the limit the Jews could do in prosecution and persecution:

The Jews did not only scourge them, which was the utmost their remaining power extended to, but when they could go no further themselves, they delivered them up to the Roman powers, as they did Christ, John 18:30.

The shocking irony is that the Bible tells us that the Lord has ordained authority in those governing us to provide social order, yet:

Ye shall be brought before governors and kings (Matthew 10:18), who, having more power, are in a capacity of doing the more mischief. Governors and kings receive their power from Christ (Proverbs 8:15), and should be his servants, and his church’s protectors and nursing-fathers, but they often use their power against him, and are rebels to Christ, and oppressors of his church. The kings of the earth set themselves against his kingdom, Psalm 2:1,2; Acts 4:25,26. Note, It has often been the lot of good men to have great men for their enemies.

When this happens, the Holy Spirit will provide the right words through the persecuted (Matthew 10:20):

For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Even worse than the authorities, however, were family members who would soon be turning new Christians over to the authorities as apostates to be killed. This still happens today:

the enmity of such is commonly most implacable[:] a brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city, Proverbs 18:19. The martyrologies, both ancient and modern, are full of instances of this. Upon the whole matter, it appears, that all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, must suffer persecution and through many tribulations we must expect to enter into the kingdom of God.

Whatever we endure, our Lord tells us to keep our faith (Matthew 10:22):

and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Henry explains:

Note, A believing prospect of the period of our troubles, will be of great use to support us under them. The weary will be at rest, when the wicked cease from troubling, Job 3:17. God will give an expected end, Jeremiah 29:11. The troubles may seem tedious, like the days of a hireling, but, blessed be God, they are not everlasting. Secondly, That while they continue, they may be endured as they are not eternal, so they are not intolerable they may be borne, and borne to the end, because the sufferers shall be borne up under them, in everlasting arms: The strength shall be according to the day, 1 Corinthians 10:13. Thirdly, Salvation will be the eternal recompence of all those that endure to the end. The weather stormy, and the way foul, but the pleasure of home will make amends for all. A believing regard to the crown of glory has been in all ages the cordial and support of suffering saints, 2 Corinthians 4:16,17,18; Hebrews 10:34. This is not only an encouragement to us to endure, but an engagement to endure to the end. They who endure but awhile, and in time of temptation fall away, have run in vain, and lose all that they have attained but they who persevere, are sure of the prize, and they only. Be faithful unto death, and then thou shalt have the crown of life.

When necessary, we should seek shelter elsewhere — as does the serpent — for survival:

In case of imminent peril, the disciples of Christ may and must secure themselves by flight, when God, in his providence, opens to them a door of escape. He that flies may fight again. It is no inglorious thing for Christ’s soldiers to quit their ground, provided they do not quit their colours: they may go out of the way of danger, though they must not go out of the way of duty. Observe Christ’s care of his disciples, in providing places of retreat and shelter for them ordering it so, that persecution rages not in all places at the same time but when one city is made too hot for them, another is reserved for a cooler shade, and a little sanctuary a favour to be used and not to be slighted yet always with this proviso, that no sinful, unlawful means be used to make the escape for then it is not a door of God’s opening.

Our Lord told the Apostles not to try to be His equal but to imitate His example (Matthew 10:24-25). He also made allusion to the Jewish hierarchy putting him in league with Beelzebub — the devil. My readers will remember this from the verses I looked at a few weeks ago — Matthew 9:32-34 — when He healed the man made deaf by demons.

Our Lord said that whatever His enemies accused Him of would also mark His followers — ‘household’ — even more.

‘Fear not’

Despite the perils incurred in following Him, our Lord tells us that He will acknowledge us before His Father in heaven. Therefore, we are not to fear evil men, despite their ability to inflict pain and death.

On this point, Jesus said (Matthew 10:26-27):

26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.[g]

Verse 26 has its parallel in Luke 12:2, about which I wrote in May 2014. (That post also contains the significance of rooftops in Jesus’s time.) On one level, these verses concern the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. However, they also refer to our sins which will be revealed, if not in this world, then on the Last Day.

As to what Jesus was teaching the Apostles when they were alone, He told them to proclaim from the rooftops:

Those ambassadors received their instructions in private, in darkness, in the ear, in corners, in parables. Many things Christ spake openly, and nothing in secret varying from what he preached in public, John 18:20. But the particular instructions which he gave his disciples after his resurrection, concerning the things pertaining to the kingdom of God, were whispered in the ear (Acts 1:3), for then he never showed himself openly. But they must deliver their embassy publicly, in the light, and upon the house-tops for the doctrine of the gospel is what all are concerned in (Proverbs 1:20,21,8:2,3), therefore he that hath ears to hear, let him hear. The first indication of the reception of the Gentiles into the church, was upon a house-top, Acts 10:9. Note, There is no part of Christ’s gospel that needs, upon any account, to be concealed the whole counsel of God must be revealed, Acts 20:27. In never so mixed a multitude let it be plainly and fully delivered.

Further words of comfort came when He told them that God the Father knows our trials, just as He knows when a sparrow dies or the number of hairs on our heads. He created us in His image. Furthermore, we are more valuable than sparrows.

Henry tells us:

Now this God, who has such an eye to the sparrows, because they are his creatures, much more will have an eye to you, who are his children. If a sparrow die not without your Father, surely a man does not,–a Christian,–a minister,–my friend, my child.


If God numbers their hairs, much more does he number their heads, and take care of their lives, their comforts, their souls. It intimates, that God takes more care of them, than they do of themselves.

Love our Lord first

Jesus warned the Apostles — and us — about Christianity dividing a household and about Christian teachings dividing us from the world. Note that He said nothing about earthly peace here (Matthew 10:34):

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

He said that our enemies would come from our own household (Matthew 10:26). Furthermore, we are not to love our own families more than we love Him (Matthew 10:37-38). Ultimately, if we die professing His name, we might lose our temporal life but we will find eternal life (Matthew 10:39).

Henry explains:

First, Before our nearest and dearest relations father or mother, son or daughter. Between these relations, because there is little room left for envy, there is commonly more room for love, and, therefore, these are instanced, as relations which are most likely to affect us. Children must love their parents, and parents must love their children but if they love them better than Christ, they are unworthy of him. As we must not be deterred from Christ by the hatred of our relations which he spoke of (Matthew 10:21,35,36), so we must not be drawn from him, by their love. Christians must be as Levi, who said to his father, I have not seen him, Deuteronomy 33:9.

Secondly, Before our ease and safety. We must take up our cross and follow him, else we are not worthy of him. Here observe, 1. They who would follow Christ, must expect their cross and take it up. 2. In taking up the cross, we must follow Christ’s example, and bear it as he did. 3. It is a great encouragement to us, when we meet with crosses, that in bearing them we follow Christ, who has showed us the way and that if we follow him faithfully, he will lead us through sufferings like him, to glory with him.

Thirdly, Before life itself, Matthew 10:39. He that findeth his life shall lose it he that thinks he had found it when he has saved it, and kept it, by denying Christ, shall lose it in an eternal death but he that loseth his life for Christ’s sake, that will part with it rather than deny Christ, shall find it, to his unspeakable advantage, an eternal life. They are best prepared for the life to come, that sit most loose to this present life.

Rewards for honouring His people

Finally, Jesus said that whoever honours His followers honours Him. Henry observes:

That though the kindness done to Christ’s disciples be never so small, yet if there be occasion for it, and ability to do no more, it shall be accepted, though it be but a cup of cold water given to one of these little ones, Matthew 10:42. They are little ones, poor and weak, and often stand in need of refreshment, and glad of the least. The extremity may be such, that a cup of cold water may be a great favour. Note, Kindnesses shown to Christ’s disciples are valued in Christ’s books, not according to the cost of the gift, but according to the love and affection of the giver. On that score the widow’s mite not only passed current, but was stamped high, Luke 21:3,4. Thus they who are truly rich in graces may be rich in good works, though poor in the world.


There are many lessons to absorb in Matthew 10, one of the most powerful chapters in the Gospels.

We — and our children — are likely to run into resistance to Christ, even those of us who live in the West.

In addition to considering this as historical prophecy from our Lord to the Apostles, we would do well to also apply it to our own lives. Matthew Henry’s commentary goes a long way in unpacking these verses for our benefit. the three-year Lectionary for public worship includes readings from Matthew 10, I will not be covering this chapter in my series Forbidden Bible Verses.

That said, Matthew 10 has some of the most memorable Gospel verses. Matthew Henry’s commentary on our Lord’s preparation of the Twelve Apostles helps to illuminate His teaching and purpose for them. Excerpts follow, emphases in bold mine.

Henry’s commentary will certainly prove useful to those teaching Bible or youth classes to those who are new to the Gospel. And this will be useful for parents and other family members teaching youngsters in their household about the Apostles. Henry’s words bring the Twelve and their ministry to life. Personally, I have not heard much deep preaching in church or anywhere else on Matthew 10.

St Matthew used the end of the preceding chapter to set the readers’ expectations for the selection and training of the Apostles — Matthew 9:35-38:

35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

Authority and the Apostles

Then we read Matthew 10:1:

And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.

Henry explains:

Note, All rightful authority is derived from Jesus Christ. All power is given to him without limitation, and the subordinate powers that be are ordained of him … He gave them power over unclean spirits, and over all manner of sickness. Note, The design of the gospel was to conquer the devil and to cure the world. These preachers were sent out destitute of all external advantages to recommend them they had no wealth, nor learning, nor titles of honour, and they made a very mean figure it was therefore requisite that they should have some extraordinary power to advance them above the scribes.

Matthew gives us the names of the Twelve:

2 The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus;[a] Simon the Zealot,[b] and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Henry explains the word ‘apostle’:

apostles, that is, messengers. An angel, and an apostle, both signify the same thing–one sent on an errand, an ambassador. All faithful ministers are sent of Christ, but they that were first, and immediately, sent by him, are eminently called apostles, the prime ministers of state in his kingdom.

They are named in twos because that is how they were sent out:

at first they were sent forth two and two, because two are better than one they would be serviceable to each other, and the more serviceable jointly to Christ and souls[;] what one forgot the other would remember, and out of the mouth of two witnesses every word would be established. Three couple of them were brethren Peter and Andrew, James and John, and the other James and Lebbeus. Note, Friendship and fellowship ought to be kept up among relations, and to be made serviceable to religion. It is an excellent thing, when brethren by nature are brethren by grace, and those two bonds strengthen each other.

Henry discusses the order of their names:

(3.) Peter is named first, because he was first called or because he was the most forward among them, and upon all occasions made himself the mouth of the rest, and because he was to be the apostle of the circumcision but that gave him no power over the rest of the apostles, nor is there the least mark of any supremacy that was given to him, or ever claimed by him, in this sacred college.

(4.) Matthew, the penman of this gospel, is here joined with Thomas (Matthew 10:3), but in two things there is a variation from the accounts of Mark and Luke, Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15. There, Matthew is put first in that order it appears he was ordained before Thomas but here, in his own catalogue, Thomas is put first. Note, It well becomes the disciples of Christ in honour to prefer one another. There, he is only called Matthew, here Matthew the publican, the toll-gatherer or collector of the customs, who was called from that infamous employment to be an apostle. Note, It is good for those who are advanced to honour with Christ, to look unto the rock whence they were hewn often to remember what they were before Christ called them, that thereby they may be kept humble, and divine grace may be the more glorified. Matthew the apostle was Matthew the publican.

(5.) Simon is called the Canaanite, or rather the Canite, from Cana of Galilee, where probably he was born or Simon the Zealot, which some make to be the signification of Kananites.

As for Judas, his presence as one of the Twelve shows us that we should not be surprised if vile, evil leaders turn up in the Church:

(6.) Judas Iscariot is always named last, and with that black brand upon his name, who also betrayed him which intimates that from the first, Christ knew what a wretch he was, that he had a devil, and would prove a traitor yet Christ took him among the apostles, that it might not be a surprise and discouragement to his church, if, at any time, the vilest scandals should break out in the best societies.

Some we know more about than others:

Note, all the good ministers of Christ are not alike famous, nor their actions alike celebrated.

Why twelve?

Henry explains that the number twelve occurs several times in the Bible:

Their number was twelve, referring to the number of the tribes of Israel, and the sons of Jacob that were the patriarchs of those tribes. The gospel church must be the Israel of God the Jews must be first invited into it the apostles must be spiritual fathers, to beget a seed to Christ. Israel after the flesh is to be rejected for their infidelity these twelve, therefore, are appointed to be the fathers of another Israel. These twelve, by their doctrine, were to judge the twelve tribes of Israel, Luke 22:30. These were the twelve stars that made up the church’s crown (Revelation 12:1): the twelve foundations of the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:12,14), typified by the twelve precious stones in Aaron’s breast-plate, the twelve loaves on the table of show-bread, the twelve wells of water at Elim. This was that famous jury (and to make it a grand jury, Paul was added to it) that was impanelled to enquire between the King of kings, and the body of mankind and, in this chapter, they have their charge given them, by him to whom all judgment was committed.

Our Lord’s instructions

Matthew 10:5-15 has the detail of what Jesus told the Apostles to do. Parallel accounts are in Luke 9:1-6, which I wrote about in 2013, and Mark 6:7-13. I find it useful to list parallel verses found in the other Synoptic Gospels as this helps to establish the veracity of the New Testament. Too many mockers and detractors say that accounts in one Gospel are not corroborated by the others. In most cases, this is simply not true.

Henry breaks down these verses in Matthew 10 and calls our attention to the following:

They must not go into the way of the Gentiles, nor into any road out of the land of Israel, whatever temptations they might have. The Gentiles must not have the gospel brought them, till the Jews have first refused it … If the gospel be hid from any place, Christ thereby hides himself from that place. This restraint was upon them only in their first mission, afterwards they were appointed to go into all the world, and teach all nations.


The first offer of salvation must be made to the Jews, Acts 3:26. Note, Christ had a particular and very tender concern for the house of Israel they were beloved for the fathers’ sakes, Romans 11:28. He looked with compassion upon them as lost sheep, whom he, as a shepherd, was to gather out of the by-paths of sin and error, into which they were gone astray, and in which, if not brought back, they would wander endlessly see Jeremiah 2:6.

From this we get the term ‘Wandering Jew‘, which I haven’t heard in years. The last time was in the 1980s with regard to the plant, a lovely variegated vine which grows quickly and easily.

The nature of the Apostles’ preaching was to proclaim a spiritual kingdom, not a temporal one:

the kingdom of heaven at hand: not so much the personal presence of the king that must not be doated upon but a spiritual kingdom which is to be set up, when his bodily presence is removed, in the hearts of men.

Today, the message is still the same, despite the divine institution of the Church:

when the Spirit was poured out, and the Christian church was formed, this kingdom of heaven came, which was now spoken of as at hand but the kingdom of heaven must still be the subject of our preaching: now it is come, we must tell people it is come to them, and must lay before them the precepts and privileges of it and there is a kingdom of glory yet to come, which we must speak of as at hand, and quicken people to diligence from the consideration of that.

I’m trying to think of the last time I heard an Anglican priest preach about the kingdom of Heaven. Hmm. I could be some time…

Henry explains that the extraordinary gifts the Apostles were given served as the foundation of the Church. They were to be temporary:

to call for miracles now is to lay again the foundation when the building is reared. The point being settled, and the doctrine of Christ sufficiently attested, by the miracles which Christ and his apostles wrought, it is tempting God to ask for more signs.

On this subject, an atheist told me ten years ago that Jesus was nothing more than a gifted magician! Henry makes it clear that Jesus did not work frivolous miracles and nor did He authorise His Apostles to perform them:

not “Go and remove mountains,” or “fetch fire from heaven,” but, Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers. They are sent abroad as public blessings, to intimate to the world, that love and goodness were the spirit and genius of that gospel which they came to preach, and of that kingdom which they were employed to set up the intention of the doctrine they preached, was to heal sick souls, and to raise those that were dead in sin and therefore, perhaps, that of raising the dead is mentioned for though we read not of their raising any to life before the resurrection of Christ, yet they were instrumental to raise many to spiritual life.

The Apostles were not to accept money because Christ freely embued them with powers that were not of their own making or learning. Therefore, it would be wrong to accept payment for something they were not personally responsible for in terms of knowledge or their own ability:

Their power to heal the sick cost them nothing, and, therefore, they must not make any secular advantage to themselves of it.

There is another aspect to this. Henry draws on the dire example of Simon Magus, the magician in Acts who wanted to pay the Apostles to teach him how to work miracles:

Simon Magus would not have offered money for the gifts of the Holy Ghost, if he had not hoped to get money by them Acts 8:18. Note, The consideration of Christ’s freeness in doing good to us, should make us free in doing good to others.

Henry explains the instruction to enquire in every town who the worthy people were:

In the worst of times and places, we may charitably hope that there are some who distinguish themselves, and are better than their neighbours some who swim against the stream, and are as wheat among the chaff. There were saints in Nero’s household. Enquire who is worthy, who there are that have some fear of God before their eyes, and have made a good improvement of the light and knowledge they have. The best are far from meriting the favour of a gospel offer but some would be more likely than others to give the apostles and their message a favourable entertainment, and would not trample these pearls under their feet.

The Apostles had to stay in one house during their stay because:

They are justly suspected, as having no good design, that are often changing their quarters. Note, It becomes the disciples of Christ to make the best of that which is, to abide by it, and not be for shifting upon every dislike or inconvenience.

Where they were not well received, the Apostles were to leave, shaking the dust from that house or city from their feet, an ancient Jewish custom which has its origins in the Old Testament:

The apostles must have no fellowship nor communion with them must not so much as carry away the dust of their city with them. The work of them that turn aside shall not cleave to me, Psalm 101:3. The prophet was not to eat or drink in Bethel, 1 Kings 13:9. [2.] As a denunciation of wrath against them. It was to signify, that they were base and vile as dust, and that God would shake them off. The dust of the apostles’ feet, which they left behind them, would witness against them, and be brought in as evidence, that the gospel had been preached to them, Compare Jam. v. 3. See this practised, Acts 13:51,18:6.

Jesus told the Twelve that judgement would surely come to the places that rejected them:

The condemnation of those that reject the gospel, will in that day be severer and heavier than that of Sodom and Gomorrah. Sodom is said to suffer the vengeance of eternal fire, Jude 1:7. But that vengeance will come with an aggravation upon those that despise the great salvation. Sodom and Gomorrah were exceedingly wicked (Genesis 13:13), and that which filled up the measure of their iniquity was, that they received not the angels that were sent to them, but abused them (Genesis 19:4,5), and hearkened not to their words, Matthew 10:14. And yet it will be more tolerable for them than for those who receive not Christ’s ministers and hearken not to their words. God’s wrath against them will be more flaming, and their own reflections upon themselves more cutting.

Any universalist reading this thinking all are saved would do well to brush up on the New Testament. One reading does not suffice. People who reject Christ will not be saved in the world to come. It may sound unsophisticated to the armchair intellectual, nonetheless it is the unvarnished truth as Jesus told it.

More to come on Matthew 10 from Matthew Henry.

Tomorrow: Jesus on persecution

Bible kevinroosecomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur (‘Jesus’ Power over Death’, Parts 1 and 2).

Matthew 9:18-26

A Girl Restored to Life and a Woman Healed

18 While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. 20 And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, 21 for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” 22 Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly[a] the woman was made well. 23 And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, 24 he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. 25 But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. 26 And the report of this went through all that district.


Matthew structured his Gospel to show the Jews and us that Jesus is the Messiah and Saviour.

His accounts of our Lord’s miracles in chapters 8 and 9 demonstrate His divine power over disease, demons, nature and death.

Over the past few weeks, we have read of Jesus’s cleansing of the leper (Matthew 8:1-4), the healing of the centurion’s service from a distance (Matthew 8:5-13), restoring Peter’s mother-in-law to health (Matthew 8:14-17), stopping the storm (Matthew 8:23-27), driving demons into swine (Matthew 8:28-34) and the healing of the paralysed man (Matthew 9:1-8).

Today we have the healing of the woman issuing blood and raising Jairus’s daughter from the dead.

I wrote at length about Mark’s and Luke’s fuller accounts of these miracles in 2012 and 2013. This means that neither of these miracles appears in the three-year Lectionary, which is a crying shame. They are two creative miracles which occur at approximately the same time and bring much relief to all concerned.

For a fuller explanation of these miracles, please read my discussions of Mark 5:21-34, Mark 5:35-43, Luke 8:40-48 and Luke 8:49-56.

Incidentally, in reading these accounts, we see that one of the biblically perfect numbers — 12 — features prominently. Mark tells us that the girl is 12-years-old. The woman with the blood flow has suffered for 12 years.

Matthew does not name this man as Jairus, although both Mark and Luke do. Matthew merely refers to him as a ruler (verse 18). Jairus, as the other two Gospel writers tell us, was the ruler of the synagogue. This would have been the synagogue in Capernaum.

From this information we can deduce that he was powerful locally and that, in approaching Jesus, going against the norms of his hierarchy in Jerusalem. That said, Jairus had no problem in publicly kneeling before Him. He explained that his daughter has just died but if He were to come and lay His hand on her, she will live.

Matthew Henry tells us that Jairus’s appeal in this situation should be ours as well:

Note, In trouble we should visit God: the death of our relations should drive us to Christ, who is our life it is well if any thing will do it. When affliction is in our families, we must not sit down astonished, but, as Job, fall down and worship.

Jesus immediately followed Jairus to his home (verse 19). On the way, the woman with the blood flow touched the fringe of His garment in desperation (verse 20).

From the time of Moses, women were ritually unclean when they had their menses. They had to live away from the rest of the household and have a ritual bath once their monthly period had ended. (This is something orthodox Jewish women still do.) Anyone who touched a ritually unclean woman or anything of hers was also unclean and needed to be purified according to Jewish law.

Therefore, let us imagine her sense of isolation and loneliness over so many years. We do not know if she lived on her own or adjacent to the family home. In any event, she would have had no visitors or relatives to give her a hug, converse at length with her and share meals with her. If she had been married, it could be that her husband divorced her. She would no doubt have been pondering why she had such a blood flow and what she might have done spiritually to cause it.

To compound matters, Luke tells us that she had spent all her money in vain on physicians for a cure. Remember that, until the 19th century, medicine was largely a primitive affair. In this lady’s era, she was given potions, herbs and, possibly, animal parts wrapped in linen — all of which would have been in vain.

Even worse, this blood flow would have been odorous and painful. It is possible that the lady suffered from obstetric fistula, which is still common today in Africa. As I wrote when examining Luke’s account, Wikipedia describes it as follows (emphases mine):

The most direct consequence of an obstetric fistula is the constant leaking of urine, feces, and blood as a result of a hole that forms between the vagina and bladder or rectum.[11] This endless leaking has both physical and societal penalties. The acid in the urine, feces, and blood causes severe burn wounds on the legs from the continuous dripping.[12] Nerve damage that can result from the leaking can cause women to struggle with walking and eventually lose mobility. In an attempt to avoid the dripping, women limit their intake of water and liquid which can ultimately lead to dangerous cases of dehydration. Ulcerations and infections can persist as well as kidney disease and kidney failure which can each lead to death. Further, only a quarter of women who suffer a fistula in their first birth are able to have a living baby, and therefore have miniscule chances of conceiving a healthy baby later on.

These physical consequences of obstetric fistula lead to severe socio-cultural stigmatization. Most girls are divorced or abandoned by their husbands and partners, disowned by family, ridiculed by friends, and even isolated by health workers. Women with obstetric fistula become worthless in the eyes of society because they are no longer able to give birth and they secrete a harsh odor. [13] Now marginalized members of society, girls are pushed to the brims of their villages and towns, often to live in isolation in a hut where they will likely die from starvation or an infection in the birth canal. The unavoidable odor is viewed as offensive, thus their removal from society is seen as essential. Accounts of women who suffer obstetric fistula proclaim that their lives have been reduced to the leaking of urine, feces, and blood because they are no longer capable or allowed to participate in traditional activities, including the duties of wife and mother. Because such consequences highly stigmatize and marginalize the woman, the intense loneliness and shame can lead to clinical depression and suicidal thoughts. Further, women are sometimes forced to turn to commercial sex work as a means of survival because the extreme poverty and social isolation that results from obstetric fistula eliminates all other income opportunities. Because only 7.5% of women with fistula are able to access treatment (as found by the UNFPA in 2003), the vast majority of women are forced to suffer the consequences of obstructed and prolonged labor simply because options and access to help is so incredibly limited (there is one hospital dedicated to fistula treatment in the world, located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia).[14]

We can better understand why this woman was desperate to touch the fringe of Jesus’s garment (verses 20, 21). Matthew and Luke specify ‘fringe’. John MacArthur explains:

Now, in the Old Testament, in Numbers 15:37-41, and Deuteronomy 22:12, the Jews were told that they were to mark their garments with a zizith.  It’s the Hebrew word.  Basically, it’s translated in the Old Testament fringeKraspedon is the Greek word, and it really means a tassel. And they did this: they wove blue thread through their garment; and they had four tassels of kind of a blue color, a bright blue color on their garment; and those tassels were woven in a certain configuration with certain kinds of thread, seven times around and eight times, and there were, there was the significance of various numbers. But the sum total, without going into detail, was that the threads were put together to represent the word of God, faithfulness, loyalty to the word of God, and holiness unto the Lord.  So that every time a Jew went anywhere, the world knew that he belonged to God.  And every time he took his clothes off or put his clothes on, he saw those things and it was a reminder to him.  We have some of that today.  Some people have a little cross, maybe, that they wear, or sign of a fish; and every time you put that on or you look at it, maybe you’re reminded who you belong to.  That’s what that was for them.

Of course, it was the sign then of being holy unto the Lord; and in Matthew 23:5, it says, “The Pharisees made theirs very big.”  See, the bigger your tassel, the more holy you were, they thought.  And you might be interested to know that in times in Europe when the Jews have been persecuted, they have still worn them, but they’ve worn them on their undergarments; and in contemporary times today, you’ll find them still on the prayer shawl of an orthodox Jew;  little blue tassels.

Mark and Luke record that Jesus felt power going out of Him at the moment the woman touched — actually, grabbed — His fringe. Jesus turned around and asked who had touched His garment. In Matthew’s account, He turns around and sees her.

They also record that she approached Him trembling and falling down at His feet, telling Him about her illness.

Jesus says that her faith has made her well (verse 22). MacArthur says that the word for ‘well’ was not just one denoting physical health but also salvation. All three Gospel accounts in Greek use the word sodzo:

it doesn’t use the word for healing, iaomai, the normal word for healing.  You know what it used?  Sodzo: The word means to be saved

She was fully healed — and saved — at that moment.

Jesus refers to her as ‘daughter’, an affectionate and familial term. She became one of His own at that moment. Earlier in Matthew 9, He called the healed paralytic ‘son’ (Matthew 9:2), and, in that case, the man’s sins were forgiven as well as his body made fully functional once again.

MacArthur analyses her faith:

She had faith, didn’t she?  She said, “If I can just touch that thing.”  You say, “Well, it’s not exactly a perfected mature thing.”  No, it’s almost like superstition, isn’t it?  It’s almost kind of magical.  Say, “Well, the Lord certainly isn’t going to respond to that.”  Listen, faith as the grain of a mustard seed would move a mountain.  The Lord will take, the Lord will take an inadequate faith like the man’s that is somewhat selfish, and He’ll take an inadequate faith like the lady’s that is somewhat superstitious, and He’ll move it from there to the saving faith.  He couldn’t let that lady go or the, or all she would’ve remembered maybe was the superstition.  He had to pull her into the fullness of a relationship. I don’t really believe she was healed by her faith.  I think she was healed by the sovereignty of God.  God chose to heal her.  Jesus just said He’d felt power go out of Him

I think there’s a redemptive element in her faith.  Oh, she wanted to just grab on; and it was kind of a, kind of a superstitious thing, in a way.  Jesus wouldn’t leave it at that.  He drew her out, and He saved her.

Matthew Henry has a similar, but slightly fuller take:

She believed she should be healed if she did but touch the very hem of his garment, the very extremity of it. Note, There is virtue in every thing that belongs to Christ. The holy oil with which the high priest was anointed, ran down to the skirts of his garments, Psalm 133:2. Such a fulness of grace is there in Christ, that from it we may all receive, John 1:16.

… he will not only have his power magnified in her cure, but his grace magnified in her comfort and commendation: the triumphs of her faith must be to her praise and honour. He turned about to see for her (Matthew 9:22), and soon discovered her. Note, It is great encouragement to humble Christians, that they who hide themselves from men are known to Christ, who sees in secret their applications to heaven when most private. Now here,

(1.) He puts gladness into her heart, by that word, Daughter, be of good comfort. She feared being chidden for coming clandestinely, but she is encouraged …

(2.) He puts honour upon her faith. That grace of all others gives most honour to Christ, and therefore he puts most honour upon it Thy faith has made thee whole. Thus by faith she obtained a good report. And as of all graces Christ puts the greatest honour upon faith, so of all believers he puts the greatest honour upon those that are most humble as here on this woman, who had more faith than she thought she had. She had reason to be of good comfort, not only because she was made whole, but because her faith had made her whole

Now we turn to Jairus. When we read of Jesus’s creative miracles, we find people approaching Him in different ways and with various sentiments. Whereas the centurion told Jesus that a word from Him at a distance could heal his servant, Jairus says that if only He lay His hand on his daughter she would come back to life.

Regardless, Jesus knew what was in the heart of everyone He healed. In addition to being restored, their sins were forgiven or He told them they had saving faith. He accepted them whether their faith was lesser or greater, imperfect as it was.

When Jesus reached Jairus’s house, the group of mourners and flute players were already there (verse 23), as Jewish law directed. MacArthur explains:

The Talmud says this, “The husband is bound to bury his dead wife and to make lamentations in mourning for her according to the custom of all countries; and also the very poorest among the Israelites will not allow her less than two flutes and one wailing woman.”  I mean even if you were in abject poverty, you had to hire one wailing woman and two flutes.  Now, if you’re wealthy, the Talmud said, it should be in accord with your wealth.

So here is a man who probably had a lot of means, and the place was filled with flutes, and you could imagine what a mess:  Ripping and tearing, screaming and shrieking and wailing, and guys all over the place playing flutes.  In fact, they did this in the Roman world, too, and they said, and Seneca wrote that there were so many flute players playing, and there was so much screaming at the death of Emperor Claudius that they felt that Claudius himself probably heard it, even though he was dead. So you can see what a funeral was like in those times.

Jesus told the group that the girl was sleeping, not dead (verse 24). Those gathered laughed at Him in their disbelief, even though He was based in Capernaum, so, surely they would have heard of His  restorative miracles.

Henry explains why Jesus used the word ‘sleep’. Briefly, when we die, our souls go to be with the Lord whilst our bodies are at rest in a short death, awaiting the Last Day when we shall be brought together whole in perfection — body and soul — to spend eternity with Him:

They sleep in Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:14) they not only rest from the toils and labours of the day, but rest in hope of a joyful waking again in the morning of the resurrection, when they shall wake refreshed, wake to a new life, wake to be richly dressed and crowned, and wake to sleep no more. (2.) The consideration of this should moderate our grief at the death of our dear relations: “say not, They are lost no, they are but gone before: say not, They are slain no, they are but fallen asleep and the apostle speaks of it as an absurd thing to imagine that they that are fallen asleep in Christ are perished (1 Corinthians 15:18) give place, therefore, to those comforts which the covenant of grace ministers, fetched from the future state, and the glory to be revealed.

The crowd were told to leave the house and wait outside. Jesus entered Jairus’s home, took the girl by the hand and, through His power, she rose from the dead (verse 25).

Matthew’s account tells us that news of this resurrection spread throughout the district (verse 26). By contrast, Mark’s and Luke’s tell us that He told the parents not to speak of it.

Mark’s version has Jesus calling the girl talitha cumi (Mark 5:41), a term of affection which is a warmer way of saying ‘little girl’.

In closing, MacArthur has interesting quotes on life and death with regard to Jesus. They help us to reflect more on Him as Saviour and Redeemer.

The first comes from Mahatma Gandhi:

Fifteen years before Gandhi’s death, he wrote this.  “I must tell you in all humility that Hinduism as I know it entirely satisfies my soul.  It fills my whole being, and I find a solace in the Bhagavad and Upanishads that I miss even in the Sermon on the Mount.”  Utterly at peace, utterly comfortable with his Hinduism.  Just before his death, he wrote this.  “My days are numbered.  I am not likely to live very long, perhaps a year or a little more.  For the first time in 50 years, I find myself in the slough of despond.”  Footnote:  It was interesting; he must have been reading Pilgrim’s Progress.  Then he said this.  “All about me is darkness, and I am desperately praying for light.”  Even Mahatma Gandhi, who seemed to have it all together as he began to face the inevitability of death, saw it all falling apart.

The second — much more encouraging — is from G B Hardy, a Canadian scientist:

When I looked at religion, I said I have two questions.  Question No. 1:  Has anybody ever conquered death?  Question No. 2: If they did, did they make a way for me to conquer, too?”  He said, “I checked the tomb of Buddha, and it was occupied; and I checked the tomb of Confucius, and it was occupied; and I checked the tomb of Mohammed, and it was occupied; and I came to the tomb of Jesus, and it was emptyAnd I said, ‘There is One who conquered death.’  And I asked the second question, ‘Did He make a way for me to do it?’  And I opened the Bible, and He said, ‘Because I live, ye shall live also.'”

May those who continue to doubt be filled with divine grace that they may believe and live for evermore.

Next time: Matthew 9:27-31

Hat tip to my reader Robert Stroud of Mere Inkling for the following story about David Skeel.

Dr Skeel is a professor of corporate law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and author. He is also an elder in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).

A World article relates how David Skeel converted between his second and third year at university. He was an English major at the University of North Carolina. He found he was missing the meaning of some of the assigned texts because he did not understand the biblical references therein:

We read lots of books with biblical themes. I never knew what the themes were because I had never been to Sunday school class. We read a short story by Wright Morris, “The Ram in the Thicket”—I had no idea what the subtext of the story was.

So he decided to take action:

After enduring a class where I felt really ignorant, I decided to read the Bible. The summer after my sophomore year in college a couple of friends and I drove a van across the country. I started reading the Bible in the back of the van …

Soon after:

by the time I’d gotten a few chapters into Genesis I was persuaded it was true. I had never read anything so beautiful, so psychologically real. 

The humanity of the people in Genesis profoundly affected him. That continued as he read the rest of Holy Scripture. Furthermore, by reading about the sins of men and women in the Bible, he began to think more about his own sinfulness:

Any book that doesn’t look like the world we inhabit I don’t find compelling. The flaws made it real to me, and that’s still a big part of what makes it real—that Peter renounced Jesus, when before he was willing to give up his life for Jesus. Those are people I understand. I guess, intuitively, at a very early age I had a sense of my own sin and the sin of people around me. Seeing that portrayed in a complex way I found very powerful and very real.

He was struck by Bible’s complexity and the various genres employed:

The psychological complexity of Christianity was really powerful for me, as was the complexity of the language in the Bible. Truth can’t be conveyed in a single genre, so the Bible’s mix of genres, language, and images is part of the evidence for its veracity. 

When Skeel returned to his fraternity that autumn, he began attending a series of talks on the Gospels designed for fraternities and sororities. Pity, I think, that they were not open to all students, but so be it.

Not everyone supported Skeel’s eventual conversion. One of his room-mates thought it was bunk. However, for Skeel, it was a life-long, life-changing commitment.

Skeel’s books are related to business and economics: Icarus in the Boardroom, Debt’s Dominion, and The New Financial Deal: Understanding the Dodd-Frank Act and Its (Unintended) Consequences.

He has just published a fourth book, True Paradox: How Christianity Makes Sense of Our Complex World. He did so because:

I found it really frustrating to hear biblical Christianity and Christians described in a way that had nothing to do with my faith and what Christianity is. In our culture Christianity is often characterized as simplistic. This book is for people who think there’s no reason to take Christianity seriously. It’s to show people of that sort—they surround me in my professional life—that Christianity is much more plausible than they think.

One can only hope that the new book is successful and that it results in more conversions or at least an acceptance that Christianity is far from simplistic.

From the beginning of the Church, theologians have analysed and explained biblical Christian tenets among each other as well as to laymen. Yes, the Good News is intended for everyone. However, anyone who thinks Christianity is for morons should take several courses in theology. As I’ve said many times before, understanding the Bible properly requires the help of a sound commentary, with nothing extreme.

David Skeel’s is a wonderful conversion story, especially for a professor who teaches corporate law. It is good to read that he is part of a denomination that believes the Bible and adheres to centuries-old confessions of faith.

N.B.: Be careful when reading the World article. You get only so many views of it before you are given a summary and are asked to pay for a subscription.

There are certain tenets most of the world’s societies and cultures have abided by since the dawn of time.

Many consider murder, theft, dishonesty and other violations of human relationships to be taboo.

Such prohibitions hold the world together and prevent it from becoming chaotic and bloody.

I read a concise summary of this in a reader’s comment on Religion News Service. Jack wrote:

There is a thing that Catholics call natural law, Protestants call common grace or general revelation, and Jews call the Noahide laws.

It says that God has revealed to all human beings, through nature, reason, and conscience, the rightness or wrongness of things.

Most secularists and pagans have a similar set of ethics.

This is not intended to be an exhaustive exploration of a topic that fills books and comprises university courses.

Nor is this saying, as many Christians who object to it think, that we do not need the Bible. Not at all.

However, it does point to a commonly shared broad set of universal values in mankind.

Below are a few broad brush citations as examples of the larger picture.

Secularist thought

Aristotle believed mankind was meant to pursue a higher state of being. This quote is from Jonathan Jacob’s paper ‘Aristotle and Maimonides on Virtue and Natural Law’ (pp 47, 48):

In Aristotle’s ethics, practical wisdom is the action-guiding intellectual virtue, and it is crucial to the genuineness and unity of the ethical virtues overall …

In Book 10 of the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle argues that contemplative activity and intellectual immortality are our best end, but also that we are human beings in need of political life and the ethically virtuous activity that is part of our perfection. There is a bit of oscillation between urging us to transcend our humanity and reminding us of it and its needs and excellences; the interpretive difficulties are well known.

Noahide Laws

In 2014, I wrote about the biblical account of Noah and the covenant God made with him and humanity after the flood. God caused the flood because mankind was so evil He decided to destroy everyone except Noah and his family. The rainbow He sent afterward was a sign of this covenant.

That covenant provides the background for the Noahide Laws in Judaism. Judaism holds that the Noahide Laws extend to non-Jews as a sign of divine grace and a share in the world to come.

The New World Encyclopedia lists the seven laws, which forbid murder, theft, unnatural sexual relations and eating a living animal. The seventh law decrees the establishment of a legal system with courts to ensure justice.

Natural law

The Catholic Church and some Protestant denominations (e.g. Church of England) teach that natural law predominates in human behaviour. Thomas Aquinas developed this in a religious and philosophical context.

Wikipedia has this definition of natural law (emphases in the original):

Natural law is a philosophy that certain rights or values are inherent by virtue of human nature, and universally cognizable through human reason. Historically, natural law refers to the use of reason to analyze both social and personal human nature to deduce binding rules of moral behavior. The law of nature, being determined by nature, is universal.[1]

The article explains that natural law was part of ancient Roman and Greek philosophy. It also has a place in Islam.

The Catholic Church:

understands human beings to consist of body and mind, the physical and the non-physical (or soul perhaps), and that the two are inextricably linked.[111] Humans are capable of discerning the difference between good and evil because they have a conscience.[112] There are many manifestations of the good that we can pursue. Some, like procreation, are common to other animals, while others, like the pursuit of truth, are inclinations peculiar to the capacities of human beings.[113]

Natural moral law is concerned with both exterior and interior acts, also known as action and motive. Simply doing the right thing is not enough; to be truly moral one’s motive must be right as well. For example, helping an old lady across the road (good exterior act) to impress someone (bad interior act) is wrong. However, good intentions don’t always lead to good actions. The motive must coincide with the cardinal or theological virtues. Cardinal virtues are acquired through reason applied to nature; they are:

  1. Prudence
  2. Justice
  3. Temperance
  4. Fortitude

The theological virtues are:

  1. Faith
  2. Hope
  3. Charity

According to Aquinas, to lack any of these virtues is to lack the ability to make a moral choice. For example, consider a man who possesses the virtues of justice, prudence, and fortitude, yet lacks temperance. Due to his lack of self-control and desire for pleasure, despite his good intentions, he will find himself swaying from the moral path.

Common grace

The concept of common grace is one that grew out of the Reformation and is predominantly, though perhaps not exclusively, a Calvinist one.

It is not saving grace and its proponents are careful to distinguish between the two.

Wikipedia defines common grace as:

the grace of God that is either common to all humankind, or common to everyone within a particular sphere of influence (limited only by unnecessary cultural factors). It is common because its benefits are experienced by, or intended for, the whole human race without distinction between one person and another. It is grace because it is undeserved and sovereignly bestowed by God. In this sense, it is distinguished from the Calvinistic understanding of special or saving grace, which extends only to those whom God has chosen to redeem.

I’ve written several posts on common grace, which include several citations from the Revd Michael Horton who is also an author and university professor at Westminster Seminary in California.

The Reformed scholar Louis Berkhof wrote:

[Common grace] curbs the destructive power of sin, maintains in a measure the moral order of the universe, thus making an orderly life possible, distributes in varying degrees gifts and talents among men, promotes the development of science and art, and showers untold blessings upon the children of men.

I am not sure why Christians object to a common, natural order amongst everyone. Without it, we would be like the societies which existed in Noah’s time and God would be extremely disgusted with all of us.

Common grace and natural law do not replace or obviate the need for saving grace. No one ever said they did.

However, they do help to explain the survival of people in the world, social order and why we are generally outraged at atrocities such as genocide, war and social problems.

If objectors can come up with better ideas, let them do so.

Bible boy_reading_bibleThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Matthew 9:14-17

A Question About Fasting

14 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast,[a] but your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16 No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. 17 Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”


In 2013, I wrote an extensive post about Luke’s account of this encounter (Luke 5:33-39) which explains every aspect of understanding what John the Baptist’s followers were asking and why.

Mark’s version (Mark 2:18-22) is included in the three-year Lectionary.

That said, I never heard an adequate explanation of this episode in Christ’s ministry until I read John MacArthur’s sermon and Matthew Henry’s commentary two years ago.

To summarise, John the Baptist was in prison when his followers asked Jesus about fasting (verse 14). John the Baptist told them earlier to follow Christ (John 3:28-30):

28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”[j]

However, not everyone heeded that message.

One reason was their desire to imitate John the Baptist, who fasted. Yet, he fasted because he took special Nazirite vows, which only two other men in the Bible took: Samson and Samuel. My post on Luke 1:5-17 explains more about the austere way of life they adopted with regard to appearance, food and drink. Therefore, fasting was not meant for everyone.

Another reason for John’s followers to fast was that a number of them took on a more legalistic lifestyle, following the Pharisees’ instruction to fast twice a week, even though Mosaic Law specified only one day of fasting a year — on Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. John’s people thought they were doing the right thing.

A third reason is that not all of his followers believed Jesus was the Messiah. This was true even when Paul was evangelising. Acts 19:1-7 tells of his journey to Ephesus, where John the Baptist’s followers had evangelised. Ephesus is in modern-day Turkey, so their message had travelled far and wide:

Paul in Ephesus

 1And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. 2And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. 7There were about twelve men in all.

Returning to Matthew, Jesus asked whether wedding guests mourn at a wedding feast where the bridegroom is present (verse 15). He added that there would be time to fast when He was no longer among them — His crucifixion. In that response, He used John the Baptist’s words in the aforementioned passage from John’s Gospel so that they could better understand it.

The reason a wedding feast and bridegroom were used here is that the Jews would have understood that no one fasted during such a happy occasion.

Jesus went on to employ two more well known analogies, those of cloth and wineskins (verses 16, 17). If you have ever tried to patch old cloth with unshrunk cloth, you’ll see it doesn’t work very well and tears along the stitching. The same held true for leather, which was the ancient receptacle for wine.

New wine had to go into new wineskins. And so it is with following Christ. He came to abolish the old system of legalism. This is what He was telling John the Baptist’s followers.  It is a pity that millions of Christians insist on following their own man made rules of behaviour which go far beyond the New Testament. There is much similarity between them and John’s people.

But there was another issue involved. Jesus was indirectly telling John’s followers that, unlike them, His disciples were unaccustomed to a strict Nazirite system and would not be able to follow it.

Matthew Henry explains:

Christ’s disciples were not able to bear these severe exercises so well as those of John and of the Pharisees, which the learned Dr. Whitby gives this reason for: There were among the Jews not only sects of the Pharisees and Essenes, who led an austere life, but also schools of the prophets, who frequently lived in mountains and deserts, and were many of them Nazarites they had also private academies to train men up in a strict discipline and possibly from these many of John’s disciples might come, and many of the Pharisees whereas Christ’s disciples, being taken immediately from their callings, had not been used to such religious austerities, and were unfit for them, and would by them be rather unfitted for their other work.

If our Lord had imposed such a system on the disciples, they would be unable to pay attention to His teachings and then evangelise.

Jesus showed a great deal of mercy to His disciples. He did not wish to put them — or us — off by instituting all manner of onerous tasks and habits. By exacting too much, they could have fallen prey to temptation. Henry adds:

… such is Christ’s care of the little ones of his family, and the lambs of his flock: he gently leads them. For want of this care, many times, the bottles break, and the wine is spilled the profession of many miscarries and comes to nothing, through indiscretion at first. Note, There may be over–doing even in well–doing, a being righteous over-much and such an over–doing as may prove an undoing through the subtlety of Satan.

This is why so many people from legalistic congregations fall away from the Church. They have grown up with a number of prohibitions. They end up rejecting not only those — and rightly — but then go on make the serious mistake of rejecting the Church and Jesus Christ altogether.

John MacArthur says:

… a true believer forsakes legalism.  Forsakes legalism.  We see that in the remaining part of the passage.  He says no to the…to trying to sew a new patch in an old robe, to try to fill up an old wineskin with new wine.  He sees there’s no connection.  He knows you’re not begun in the Spirit and perfected by the law or by some routine or some ritual.  He knows you don’t get entangled again with a yoke of bondage…

Let us pray that those escaping a legalistic upbringing do not reject the Bridegroom or His Bride. May they continue to pray, study the Bible and find a denomination which emphasises Christ’s infinite grace, mercy and love.

Next time: Matthew 9:18-26

My thanks to one of my readers Pastor Michael Ashcraft and Mark Ellis for their excellent news site, Godreports.

From it I learned that the three Americans who bravely subdued Ayoub El Khazzani on August 21, 2015 are practising Christians and attended the same Christian school.

Heroes and believers

Mark Ellis’s article reveals (emphases mine):

The families of the three Americans who foiled a terror attack on a Paris-bound train Friday said their heroism was directly related to their sturdy Christian faith.

“They’re all Christians, they’re all very religious.” Peter Skarlatos, the brother of Alek Skarlatos told the Sacramento Bee.

Anthony Sadler’s father is a Baptist minister in Sacramento. He, Alek Skarlatos and Spencer Stone have all been friends since childhood and attended California’s Freedom Christian School together. They also enjoyed playing military games in their free time.

Sadler is attending university. Stone is an Airman First Class. Skarlatos is in the Oregon National Guard.

The drama took place on a high-speed train going from Amsterdam to Paris. In a BBC interview, Sadler said:

I came to see my friends on my first trip in Europe, and we stopped a terrorist. Kinda crazy.

His father, the Revd Anthony Sadler said he is “still wrapping his head around” events.

Ayoub El Khazzani boarded the train in Brussels, armed with Kalashnikov assault rifle, a Luger automatic pistol, a box-cutter, and multiple rounds of ammunition. He opened fire, injuring a passenger.

A Briton, 62-year-old Chris Norman, a management consultant who lives in France, told The Telegraph that he could hear conversation nearby:

I heard an American saying ‘go get him’, then someone else saying, ‘no you don’t do that’. Then I realised the only way to survive was go for him.

It should be noted that, during this time, train staff had sequestered themselves elsewhere, which came in for heated debate on French talk radio station RMC the following Monday. The BBC article states:

The 554 passengers included French actor Jean-Hugues Anglade, the star of Betty Blue and Nikita, who was lightly wounded breaking glass to sound the alarm.

In an interview with Paris Match magazine, Mr Anglade said train staff entered a private cabin and locked it when they heard gunshots, leaving the passengers alone.

“I thought it was the end, that we were going to die, that he was going to kill us all,” he said.

“I really could see us all dying because we were all prisoners in that train, it would have been impossible to escape from that nightmare.”

Skarlatos told Sky News:

“I just looked at Spencer and said, ‘Let’s go!’,” said Mr Skarlatos from his hotel in Arras, northern France.

Spencer got to the guy first, grabbed the guy by the neck and I grabbed the handgun, got the handgun away from the guy and threw it.

Then I grabbed the AK (assault rifle), which was at his feet, and started muzzle thumping him in the head with it.

Mr Stone was cut by the attacker behind his neck and his thumb was nearly sliced off as the man was wrestled to the ground by the Americans.

Mr Sadler, who also helped to subdue the suspect, said: “The gunman pulls out a boxcutter and slices Spencer a few times.” He added the attacker “never said a word”.

Mr Stone needed surgery on his badly wounded hand, but his friends said he was “doing fine”. A total of three people were injured in the attack. Two are still in hospital.

The BBC reported that Stone, despite his own injuries, went to help the first injured passenger:

“I’m really proud of my friend that he just reacted so quickly and so bravely,” Anthony Sadler said.

“He was really the first one over there. Even after being injured himself, he went to go help the other man who was bleeding also. Without his help, he would have died.

That man was bleeding from his neck profusely.”

Chris Norman, husband and grandfather, helped the three Americans subdue the attacker. He told The Telegraph:

My thought was I am going to die anyway so let’s go. I’d rather die being active than sitting in the corner being shot. Once you start moving, you’re not afraid any more.

Godreports reveals the providential nature of the rescue:

the young men started their trip on a different train car, then switched 30 minutes later to the same car where the gunman opened fire.


El Khazzani drew his pistol and put it to Airman Stone’s head and pulled the trigger twice.

But it clicked twice and didn’t go off,” Airman Stone’s mother, Joyce Eskel, said later, according to news reports.

Pastor Sadler said:

he believes his son and his friends were used by God to disrupt what could have been an awful tragedy.

“We believe God’s providential will worked its way out,” he said. “I’m just thankful they were there and got things done.”

Pastor Sadler said his son has a “great love for his friends. There’s no way he would stand on the sidelines and watch them get attacked,” Sadler Sr. said. “I’m thanking God they were not seriously injured.”

A grateful President François Hollande presented the three Americans with Legion of Honor medals in Paris on Monday, August 24.

Ayoub El Khazzani — criminal

France’s BFM-TV has an article which provides background on El Khazzani based on statements from Paris’s prosecutor François Molins and newspaper reports. A summary follows.

El Khazzani was born in 1989 in Morocco. Upon his arrest in Arras after his train attack, he told investigators that he has two brothers and two sisters. His parents are still alive, but a British newspaper said El Khazzani’s father had not heard from his son for at least a year.

In 2007, he moved to Spain. He lived in Madrid for a time then moved to Algeciras where he lived until 2014. El Pais newspaper says that during this time he was arrested three times for drugs offences, two in Madrid and one on the island of Ceuta, located between Spain and Morocco. He served a prison term for one of these offences. Otherwise, he worked at temporary jobs and was involved in petty crime.

He began listening to speeches from radical Islamists in mosques in Andalucia. By 2012, Spanish police declared him ‘potentially dangerous’ and shared the information with forces securing the borders of Schengen countries.

By 2014, Spain’s antiterrorist police notified their French colleagues that El Khazzani had likely moved somewhere in France. They also said that he went to Syria and then returned to France. French authorities did not confirm this information.

In 2014, the French responded by opening an ‘S’ (security) file on El Khazzani. Then they lost track of him until May 10, 2015, when he was traced in Berlin before travelling to Istanbul. Ten days later, Spanish investigators told the French he had moved to Belgium.

From there, the trail went cold until he boarded the Thalys train on August 21.

El Khazzani told investigators in Arras that he had spent the previous six months travelling in Belgium, Germany, Austria, France and Andorra.

His father told a British newspaper he was sure his son worked for a month in France sometime during Spring 2014.

Belgian investigators are examining links El Khazzani might have had with radical Islamists in the city of Verviers.

As for the train attack, El Khazzani told police he was broke and needed money. He was going to hold up train passengers, nothing more.

The BFM-TV article concludes that his statement was a:

Fantasist version. The young Americans who subdued him had no doubt about his terrorist intentions.

Thank goodness they showed the bravery they did.

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