Saint Peter was standing at the gate of heaven talking to each person as they entered. To a taxi driver he said, “You worked hard during your lifetime. That three-storeyed house with a pool is to be your residence.” Next, to a pastor, he said, “Thank you for your work in the church. That little, old house is yours.” Surprised, the pastor exclaimed, “Surely there`s some kind of mistake. The house you said is for the taxi driver must be mine!” Saint Peter responded, “No, there is no mistake. The people riding in his taxi, fearing for their lives, all prayed earnestly while the people in your congregation all slept through your sermons.”
Esther became queen in BC 538. Babylon had been defeated by Persia and many Jews who had been taken to Babylon as captives were still there. King Xerxes (BC 497-475) was emperor over a large kingdom stretching from India to Ethiopia. The king put on a sumptuous banquet in his palace. In order to show off his wife`s beauty, he summoned Queen Vashti to his side. For some reason, the queen ignored the king`s order. The king was furious and banished her. In her place, Esther who was “lovely in form and features” was chosen as queen.
Esther`s parents had both died so she was brought up by her uncle, Mordecai, who was a Jew. Mordecai worked in the Court but he refused to bow to the Prime Minister, Haman. This enraged Haman so much that he plotted to have not just Mordecai but all other Jews as well killed. On learning of this plan Mordecai encouraged Esther to be brave and to plead with the king for mercy for her people. However, Esther had a problem. “All the people knew that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that he be put to death.”
When Esther told Mordecai this he threw out a challenge to her: “If you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father`s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for just such a time as this?” Esther 4:13,14. The blessings of our lives are given to us not just for our own benefit but that we might share the blessing with others. Esther made up her mind and reported to Mordecai, “I will go to the king even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” Esther 4:16. Because of Esther`s decision and actions, the Jews were saved from being massacred.
The name `Christian` means one who is like Jesus, one who learns from Jesus. Just as Jesus sacrificed His life for the salvation of mankind, we should live, not just for ourselves, but for the salvation of others. It is not easy for self-centred sinners such as us to sacrifice ourselves on behalf of others. Prayer, God`s help and the work of the Holy Spirit are needed. “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the gospel will save it.” Mark 8:35.
During the Second World War, Chiune Sugihara, vice consul in Lithuania issued transit visas to Jews who had fled the Nazi persecution. It is said that 6000 people were saved because of him. Risking his life, he disobeyed the orders from the Japanese Foreign Ministry which at that time was in an alliance with Germany and continued issuing transit visas to the refugees.
God values those who risk their lives in order to save others rather than merely striving to be rich and famous. Esther knew that she could lose her life but still stood up for her people. A person becomes more radiant with self-sacrifice. Zhou En Lai.