Hours later, when the townspeople calmed down, they talked and they argued whether God sent this quake as a curse. Some said, "He's angry at Bishop Courtney." Others said, "He's angry at John Wycliffe." Tempers flared and people shouted. This was the talk of the town in every home, every hall, and every street.
The clergy and the Lollards felt the earthquake too, at the house of Black Friars. When the aging, sick John Wycliffe heard about it, he declared that God was on his side. Wycliffe said that the twenty-four statements that he sent against the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church were Biblical, and God had sent an earthquake to tell England that he was right. By now, I'm sure, you're asking, ÒWho was John Wycliffe and what were his statements?"
John Wycliffe was a teacher in a university called Oxford. He had caused a stir in the church because he said the pope, the top church leader in Rome, may not charge taxes to the English people. The kings, princes, and lords, loved what he said, for they didn't like that either. Wycliffe, too, spoke against the evil behaviour of many church leaders who lived worldly lives and didn't lead or teach the people. The teachings of relics and indulgences and the superstitions which many people believed, Wycliffe condemned. Many, disgusted with the evil in the Church, supported him as well. But, when Wycliffe condemned the Mass, the churchÕs practice of the LordÕs Supper, the church leaders who hated him already, were outraged. They had a synod at the house of the Black Friars to condemn him as a heretic. When the synod was about to end on Wednesday, May 21, 1382, the earthquake shook London.
The Roman Catholic church taught, and still teaches, that the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper miraculously turns into the real body and blood of Jesus. At this time, much money was spent building huge and beautiful cathedrals to house what they believed was the Great Miracle--Jesus becoming body and blood from the bread and wine. When John Wycliffe wrote against this doctrine and argued that the body and blood were a sign of Jesus' body and blood, he was not popular. Even his friends deserted him. Furthermore, he could no longer teach at the University of Oxford.
John Wycliffe paid a price for teaching the truths of Scripture. He knew the price before he wrote and spoke, and he was willing to stand alone for what the Scriptures said. His students, the Lollards, in fact, paid the price with their lives. Many were martyred. John Wycliffe died from sickness in 1384. In 1428 his bones were dug up, burned, and the ashes scattered in the Swift River. That is how much the Roman Catholic Church hated him!
About that earthquake--what was GodÕs meaning anyway? Did He send an earthquake to show His support for John Wycliffe? That's not very clear, I think. What is clear, however, is what Jesus said, "And there shall be earthquakes in divers [various] placesÓ (Mark 13:8). Older children, look up Òearthquake zonesÓ in an Encyclopedia. YouÕll find that London, England is kilometers away from any earthquake zone. Just as Jesus said, earthquakes will be in various places, even places you'd least expect an earthquake would happen.
The earthquake was a sign of the last days, but so were the Biblical teachings and the courage of John Wycliffe. Years later, John Hus, a Reformer, read Wycliffe's writings in Bohemia, and agreed with him. He taught what Wycliffe argued and he was martyred for it. Martin Luther, in turn, read what John Hus wrote. These three men believed that the Scripture was the final word of Truth and belonged in the hands of all people in their own language. What followed was the Reformation which we remember every October 31st. It happened, just as Jesus said, "They shall be hated of all men for my name's sake."
As we remember the Reformation and men like John Wycliffe, let us remember that we live in the last days, when Satan and his followers will oppose the true church of Jesus Christ. They will not win, however, because Jesus said, "I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against itÓ (Matthew 16:18). There have been and will be times when God showed and shows that He converts His people, sometimes so many, that the world is turned upside down, as during the Reformation. When the earth shakes under our feet, Christ says, "Surely I come quickly" and His people cry out, "Even so, come Lord Jesus.Ó (Revelation 22: 20).