This week I finished reading the entire Harry Potter series with my nine-year-old, Michael. It took us a year and a half. It had been a long time since I read its stunning conclusion, and this time it resonated with me in a new way.
When Harry was a baby, the evil Voldemort tried to kill him, knowing that somehow that child would be his downfall. But Harry’s mother stepped between him and Harry and took the blow instead, giving her life to save him.
In the final chapters of the seventh book, Harry finds out that because of his mother’s sacrificial love, the killing curse Voldemort aimed at Harry as a baby had bounced back and struck Voldemort instead, breaking off a tiny piece of his soul. That fragment of Voldemort had attached itself to Harry, so that the two became inextricably linked. As long as Harry lived, Voldemort could not die.
Harry now knows what he has to do to end Voldemort’s reign of terror once and for all. He has to let Voldemort kill him.
“I thought he would come,” said Voldemort in his high, clear voice. “I expected him to come.”
Nobody spoke. They seemed as scared as Harry, whose heart was throwing itself against his ribs as though determined to escape the body he was about to cast aside. His hands were sweating as he pulled off the Invisibility Cloak and stuffed it beneath his robes, with his wand. He did not want to be tempted to fight.
“I was, it seems, mistaken,” said Voldemort.
Harry said it as loudly as he could, with all the force he could muster. He did not want to sound afraid….
Voldemort and Harry looked at each other, and now Voldemort tilted his head a little to the side, considering the boy standing before him, and a singularly mirthless smile curled the lipless mouth.
“Harry Potter,” he said very softly. His voice might have been part of the spitting fire. “The Boy Who Lived.”
Voldemort had raised his wand. His head was still tilted to one side, like a curious child, wondering what would happen if he proceeded. Harry looked back into the red eyes, and wanted it to happen now, quickly, while he could still stand, before he lost control, before he betrayed fear –
He saw the mouth move and a flash of green light, and everything was gone.
It looked like it was over, that Voldemort had won.
But Harry didn’t die.
Instead he woke up in a beautiful place full of light and peace. And there was his dear mentor and friend Dumbledore:
“But you’re dead!”
“Oh yes,” said Dumbledore matter-of-factly.
“Then . . . I’m dead too?”
“Ah,” said Dumbledore. smiling still more broadly. “That is the question, isn’t it? On the whole, dear boy, I think not.”
“Not?” repeated Harry.
“Not,” said Dumbledore.
“But I should have died – I didn’t defend myself! I meant to let him kill me!”
“And that,” said Dumbledore, “will, I think, have made all the difference.”
Because of Harry’s willingness to sacrifice himself, the part of Voldemort’s soul that was in Harry had been destroyed. Now there was nothing left to protect Voldemort himself from death. Harry chose to leave his place of rest with Dumbledore and in the battle that ensued, Voldemort was defeated forever.
In October, 2014, I participated in a workshop to analyze the grammars of a dozen languages in Nigeria. The workshop was designed to help the participants, who were translating the Bible into their languages for the first time, discover the structure of their mother tongues.
From the beginning of the training it was clear that there was spiritual opposition to the work we were doing. Participants and their family members got into car accidents or came down with unexplained sicknesses. One day during a session, cell phones began ringing all over the room, bearing the grim news that some of the translators’ home villages had been attacked by Boko Haram. They scrambled to contact loved ones, but many completed the workshop having no idea where their family members were, or whether or not they were still alive. A few lost everything.
The day after the news of the attacks on their villages reached them, the translators gathered for their morning devotions, their emotions raw. Someone spontaneously stood and began to sing, “I Surrender All.” One by one all of them stood and defiantly, passionately released their lives and their families to God:
“All to Jesus I surrender, all to him I freely give. I will ever love and trust him, in his presence daily live. I surrender all, I surrender all. All to thee, my blessed savior, I surrender all.”
I can still hear the harmonies, and see their tears.
What does Harry Potter have to do with persecuted Christians in Nigeria?
Both had to face an enemy bent on destroying them, who used fear and intimidation to try to control them. And both had discovered the secret weapon that would defeat him.
Revelation 12: 10-11 spells it out for us:
Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens,
“It has come at last—salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth—the one who accuses them before our God day and night. And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”
God’s people defeated the dragon, Satan, by trusting in the power of Jesus’ sacrifice, affirming their allegiance to him, and like Harry, “not loving their lives so much as to shrink from death.”
Harry’s secret weapon against Voldemort is ours as well: We defeat Satan by relinquishing everything – our health, our loved ones, our security, our money, our future, and our work – to our loving heavenly Father.
Our Lord Jesus is our example in this. He relinquished his life to his heavenly Father out of obedience to Him. He did not want to suffer. He even asked his Father to take his cup of suffering away, but he submitted himself to God: “Not my will, but yours be done.”
What was the result of Jesus relinquishing his life to the Father? Satan killed him, and like Voldemort, he thought he’d won. But, also just like Voldemort, killing Jesus was the very thing that defeated him forever. He didn’t understand how Jesus could lay down his life willingly. He didn’t understand the mystery of God.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:6-7,
“I speak with words of wisdom, but it is not the kind of wisdom that belongs to this world or to the rulers of this world. No, the wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God—his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. But the rulers of this world have not understood it. If they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”
The ruler of this world didn’t understand God’s wisdom then, and he does not understand it now. The problem with Voldemort and Satan is that both had the same flaw in their plan. They failed to take into account the power of sacrificial love, willingly given.
Just ask Harry. And the Bible translators in Nigeria.