"How terrible for you, teachers of the law and Pharisees! You are hypocrites! You close the door for people to enter the kingdom of heaven. You yourselves don't enter, and you stop others who are trying to enter.”
-- Matthew 23:13
The official account is that on July 17, 1918, agents of the Bolshevik secret police brutally murdered Czar Nicholas II, his wife and five children. One of these children was beautiful 17-year-old Anastasia, the youngest daughter of the ill-fated ruler.
It was a barbaric act that effectively wiped out the Russian monarchy that had ruled the once great nation for centuries.
Or did it?
About two years after the massacre, a suicidal young woman was pulled from a canal in Berlin, Germany. She refused for months to identify herself. But eventually, she began claiming to be Grand Duchess Anastasia. Many people called her an obvious fraud and imposter. But she did have several reputable supporters. A member of European royalty sent “Anastasia” a list of questions that only a family member could answer. And he was reportedly satisfied with her responses. Others who interviewed her also agreed that maybe – just maybe – Anastasia had survived her execution.
The young women immigrated to the United States, married and eventually settled down in Charlottesville, Virginia. Later known as Anna Anderson, she continued her claims to Russian royalty until her death in 1984. Scores of books, movies and TV shows even backed her story. But then it happened; DNA testing revealed that Anna Anderson was in fact a Polish factory worker named Franziska Schanzkowska.
Anna Anderson went to her grave after decades of living a lie. No doubt that countless supporters were disappointed when modern science revealed the truth. And countless detractors no doubt proclaimed, “Just as I thought… I knew it all along!”
Today, there are millions of people around the world who are considering Christianity and the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. They want to know if these “People of the Word” really live out each day what’s preached on Sundays, or if they’re just hypocrites who are living out a lie.
It’s a valid question that everyone who calls him or herself a Christ-follower must consider. Although none of us is perfect and we all fall far short of God’s high standards, the thoughts, words and deeds of true Christ-followers reflect the inner workings of God’s power through the Holy Spirit. So when that day finally comes when we meet Jesus face-to-face, may our encounter be like that of Nathanael, one of Christ’s original disciples.
“Now here is a true man of Israel,” proclaimed Jesus when He first met His future follower. “There is no deceit in him!”Nathanael was stunned because He had never seen Jesus. But as God in human form, Jesus knew everything about Nathanael; just as intimately as He knows today about our own thoughts, motives – and most importantly – our hearts.