God’s grace arrives just as we need it, appropriate for every challenge. Even if we’re lonely? Even if we’re ill? Yes. Even if we’re tortured? Even then.

Michael Sattler, born in Germany around 1490, became a Benedictine monk. As he studied Paul’s letters, he grew dissatisfied, left the monastery, married, and became a Lutheran. Sometime later he became convinced of believer’s baptism and became an Anabaptist of growing renown whose ministry attracted both converts and enemies.

Sattler, his wife, and a handful of associates were arrested in the mid-1520s and imprisoned in the tower of Binsdorf, where he wrote a letter to his flock: The brethren have doubtless informed you that some of us are in prison. Numerous accusations were preferred against us by our adversaries; at one time they threatened us with the gallows; at another with fire and sword. In this extremity, I surrendered myself entirely to the Lord’s will, and prepared myself, together with all brethren and wife, to die for his testimony’s sake.

On May 20, 1527 his torture, a prelude to execution, began at city center where his tongue was sliced. Chunks of flesh were torn from his body with red-hot tongs, and he was forged to a cart. On the way to the stake execution the tongs were applied five times again. Still able to speak, the unshakable Sattler prayed for his persecutors. After being bound to a ladder with ropes and pushed into the fire, he admonished the people, the judges, and the mayor to repent and be converted. “Almighty, eternal God,” he prayed, “Thou art the way and the truth: because I have not been shown to be in error, I will with thy help to this day testify to the truth and seal it with my blood.” As soon as the ropes on his wrists were burned, Sattler raised the two forefingers of his hand giving the promised signal to his brothers that a martyr’s death was bearable. Then the assembled crowd heard coming from his seared lips, “Father, I commend my spirit into Thy hands.”

Sattler’s wife was executed by drowning eight days later.

Others were made fun of and beaten with whips, and some were chained in jail. Still others were stoned to death or sawed in two or killed with swords. Some had nothing but sheep skins or goat skins to wear. They were poor, mistreated, and tortured. The world did not deserve these good people. … (Hebrews 11:36-38)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). May 19.

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