Stories From the Field

Heroic Death

The picture above is of Vasil Levski, a Bulgarian national hero. 35 years before Bulgaria won freedom from the Ottoman empire, Levski was sentenced to death for his role in seeking to free the Bulgarians from Ottoman rule. Ordained as a monk in the Orthodox church, Levski left his church role to become a revolutionary. He was a master of disguise and there are many stories of his daring, his courage, and his sacrifice. He is even referred to as the Apostle of Freedom. Just as Americans revere George Washington, many Bulgarians revere Levski, and there’s even a soccer team that has taken his name for their team. The anniversary of his death on February 18, 1873, has become a national holiday.

This year the 18th fell on our penultimate Bible Study. One of the participants brought a poem about Levski written by one of Levski’s contemporaries (another Bulgarian hero, a writer named Ivan Vasov) that had been translated into English. The participant asked to read it out loud to celebrate the holiday. The poem compares Levski to Jesus, dying for the freedom of his people. That statement gives me pause as I consider how I view Jesus. Is he merely a martyr to me? I value having good theology, so of course, I would say, “No! He didn’t stay dead. He’s not a martyr; He is God!”

Gospel oriented conversations often end up here. The question of who Jesus actually is–is he a legend like Robinhood? Was he a Jewish freedom fighter? Was he a martyr? As we talk with people who have heard and believed these things, the gospel becomes more and more beautiful. We get to tell people that Jesus was a better hero because He is God AND He wants a relationship with us now. The invitation is not merely to adhere to a set of rules or to follow a teaching. The invitation is to know and love and be known and loved by the Creator of the Universe.


andin order to; used instead of “to”, especially after try, come, goMore (Definitions, Synonyms, Translation)