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Tsar Embraces Kingdom

 

The Russian Tsar that Embraced the Kingdom of Heaven

What would happen if the ruler of a major country started reading the Sermon on the Mount? What if he was curious about his countrymen who lived according to Christ's teachings? What if, while visiting these nonresistant people, he realized Christians could not go to war or punish people. What if this Tsar liked what he saw and realized he could no longer run his country and follow Christ. No, Tsar Alexander did not formally step down. But what he allegedly did is shocking and unexpected.

INTRODUCTION

Tsar Alexander I was the grandson of Catherine the Great and ruled Russia during the wars with Napoleon. Alexander was crowned tsar in 1801 at the tender age of 23, one day after conspirators murdered his dad. Alexander made many reforms that made him popular with his people. He relaxed censorship, encouraged public education, prohibited torture and allowed peasants to buy their freedom from serfdom. Alexander also stopped the persecution of Spirit Christians, Old Believers and other nonresistant sects.

While Alexander did much to make his people happy and peaceful, four years after becoming tsar, the invading armies of Napoleon brought war, hardship and death.

Napoleon had crowned himself emperor of France and planned to take over Europe, and possibly the whole world. On December 2, 1805, at Austerlitz, (now the Czech Republic)) Alexander was swept up with ninety thousand soldiers headed for the Austrian front. Alexander heard the hoofbeats, the roar of cannons and the terrible screams of dying horses and men. He was horrified. By the end of the day, 24,000 soldiers lay sprawled out dead on the rye and potato fields, and 11,000 more had fallen into French hands. This was one of Napoleon's greatest victories and Alexander's horrific confirmation that war is the devil's feast.

On June 24, 1812, Napoleon invaded Russia with 600,000 men. They met the Russians west of Moscow and fought all day until late at night. Suddenly the Russians retreated, set Moscow on fire and disappeared into forests north and east to Siberia.

This move baffled Napoleon as he entered the empty city. There was nothing to do but set up camp and begin looking for Russians to conquer. Winter came and the French soldiers shivered and grew hungry. Many turned sick and died.

"The flames of Moscow lit my soul" Alexander said. He wanted to know Christ and he spent his evenings studying the Bible to find out what God was saying. On December 6, 1812, Napoleon left Russia. And that very same day Alexander signed the charter for a Russian Bible Society to translate the Scriptures into modern Russian.

Alexander prepared to sign a peace treaty to decide what to do with Napoleon after his first defeat. As the generals coldly rattled off the statistics of the thousands of Russians who had died, Alexander cried in his heart for every young man who had lost his life in senseless combat. He pictured their mothers wringing their hands and out crying to God from straw-thatched houses, their fathers left alone with the work and the children whose big brothers would never come back.

Alexander denounced the war and called Europe to repentance. The generals looked at him strangely and whispered among themselves that the tsar must have gone mad.

Napoleon returned on June 18, 1815, and German and British troops defeated him at Waterloo, but Alexander's mind was elsewhere. He grappled with such questions as, "Is holding private property wrong?" "How can Christians punish others and go to war?" Alexander visited Mennonites, Dukhobors and Molokan villages where the young men had never held guns or sworn an oath.

After his visits, Alexander's struggles to know the Kingdom of Heaven intensified. How could a statesman and ruler, the tsar of Russia, live like Christ? How could he live by the Sermon on the Mount and still maintain his office?

His role as Tsar weighed heavily on him, and he did not hide the fact from his family and friends that he desired to abdicate. By 1825, the Tsar - to use Alexander’s own words - felt “crushed beneath the terrible burden of a crown.”

His wife became ill and they decided to set out for a Russian outpost on the windy shores of the Sea of Azov where they spent two months talking things over and growing closer. Then Alexander made a short trip to the Crimea, and on his return he suddenly died ... or did he?

After his death - on the 19th of November, 1825, at his palace in the Crimean, people thought that something else had happened to their Tsar:

Did he really die?

Maybe he was so overwhelmed with the weight of his office that he laid down his burdens and became a monk?

Was he really buried at the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg?

Was Feodor Kuzmich, a mysterious hermit who showed-up in Siberia during 1836, really Alexander I?

Alexander's sealed coffin did not reach St. Petersburg for several months.

Surprisingly, thirty-five years later, a monk at a monastery in Siberia recorded the death of a pilgrim, Fedor Kuzmich. In the margin notes it says, "This man bore an exact resemblance to Tsar Alexander I of Russia."

So persistent were the rumors about what had really happened to the Tsar that, in 1917, when the Bolsheviks took over Russia, his coffin was opened for inspection.

To the surprise of some, but not all ... the coffin ... was... empty.

Christ's peace and blessings to you my friends.