The 29th February plays a pivotal role in the Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera The Pirates of Penzance. In the story the hero Frederic realizes his pirate apprenticeship binds him till his 21st birthday, but as his birthday falls on the 29th of February it only occurs every fourth year, meaning he would have to wait to his 84th year before he was released from his bonds.
Frederic is a pirate who wants redemption!
Here is a question to consider. What makes our burdens and afflictions so difficult?
In Revelation 2:8-11 we read the letter directed to the Church of Smyrna. Of the seven churches in Revelation, Smyrna is one of the two who are praised but not rebuked. Why? Smyrna were afflicted and lived without material blessings, they were being slandered and persecuted. And it was not as if there was an immediate fix to their situation as Jesus tells them that there would be further suffering and testing.
What makes their burdens and afflictions so difficult is that there is little they can do to stop them. They are helpless. They are stuck – either they throw in the towel (assuming that means no further afflictions – which it doesn’t) or they stand firm (knowing that they will still suffer). Catch 22.
Smyrna is a church who wants redemption.
The letter to this church suggests that they choose the latter – they stand firm and as a result they are commended for it.
Let me ask another question. What makes our burdens and afflictions easier to handle?
In The Pirates of Penzance, Frederic’s only solace is that his true love Mabel agrees to wait for him faithfully. He looks forward to a time when he is no longer bound.
The church of Smyrna are promised two things by Jesus. First that Jesus himself will give them the crown of life (Rev 2:10). Second that those who overcome (the trials) will not be hurt at all by the second death (Rev 2:11).
The faithful ones in Smyrna have much to look forward to – the promise of eternal life and the promise that at judgment day the penalty for their sin will be paid. Surely the reality of those promises makes it easier to carry the burdens and suffer the afflictions that they are told will come.
This is food for our thought. Possibly stretching the illustration a bit far, we are all pirates in that we have rebelled against God, but in Christ we have been redeemed. That means that Christians are a people who live under a promise – one where sin has been redeemed – where eternity is assured – and the hurt that the person who puts their trust in Jesus might experience, will pass when they die or when Jesus returns.
Christians are a people who have redemption.
Happy Leap Year – especially for those who have taken that leap of faith!