The Gospel Centres On Jesus' Well-Defined Death
When I was about age six, a tall, pale white man stumbled into my home village of Dibagat in the northern jungles of the Philippine island of Luzon. The man didn’t speak our language, so our elders asked him the best they knew how, “Why are you here?”
“I’ve come to learn your language,” he said. “I’d like to write it down and then give you God’s Word in your language.”
We started teaching this man, Dick Roe, our language. Maybe his God could free us from the spirits.
When I was about thirteen, Dick had to return to the United States to raise support for his ministry. Before he left, he translated the gospel of Mark and gave me a copy. Sitting on top of a rock, I read the gospel of Mark in my heart language. It felt like I was actually there, seeing the characters.
The further I read, the more distressed I felt. A mob of people came to get Jesus out of the garden of Gethsemane. What did he do wrong? They accused him of all kinds of false things. They mocked him, spat on him, beat him, and took him before Pilate. Then came the scourge and the crown of thorns. It was excruciating to read that they forced him to carry a wooden cross and then nailed him to it.
Deep in my heart, a hatred of God swelled. I shook my fist and shouted, “I hate you, God, for being so powerless! Why should I believe in a powerless God like you?” I threw the gospel of Mark down to the rocks and started walking home. I couldn’t understand why God wouldn’t protect his own Son. Our headhunters defended us to the death. Because of them, no one could touch us. I wanted a god like that, someone who would protect me from the spirits that demanded we sacrifice our cows, chickens, pigs, and dogs. This God didn’t even save his own Son.
Suddenly God reached down into my heart. “Nard, don’t you understand?” I heard him say. “That’s how much I love you. I gave my Son on your behalf.” For the first time, I understood grace. I understood how much God loved me.
“God, if you love me that much,” I prayed, “I want to give you my life, my heart. It’s all yours.” I went back and began to read further in Mark. I read that Jesus rose from the grave on the third day. Nobody in all of Dibagat, nobody from among the Isnag people, had ever risen from the grave. The resurrection story changed my life.
—Nard Pugyao, “Penetrating Power,” Decision (July–August 2006)