May 17, 1382

The air outside was light and fresh, and the city bustled about as usual. There was nothing to tell that this spring day would be different from any other spring day in the past. But the air was heavy with tension inside the meeting hall of Blackfriars, London. Eight bishops and thirty-seven other officials gathered into the room. One man, the Archbishop of Canterbury, cloaked in red, purple and gold, sat as judge. One man, the plain and frail professor and preacher, John Wycliffe, stood as one accused and worthy of death.

What was his crime? Preaching the truth from the Word of God, translating Scripture into English (which no one had ever done before), and worst of all, teaching that the Mass was idolatry. Anathema! The trial was hardly needed. The only question in the bishops’ minds was how Wycliffe ought to die.

* * * * *

“Esteemed members of the council, we are considering in this tri—”

Wait. What was this? Chairs rattled. Curtains swayed. Walls crumbled. The city was in an uproar. Earthquake!

“P-perhaps w-we should a-adjourn,” sputtered some of the men as they prepared to leave.

But the man accused was not afraid. God had kept him safe through trials before, trials that were sure to condemn him to death. God could keep him safe now too. “This earthquake comes as God’s judgment upon this council,” he told them.

“This earthquake comes as the earth heaves of your heresies!” the archbishop replied, and he persuaded the council to stay.

By the end of the day, John Wycliffe was found guilty. No longer would he be allowed to be a professor at Oxford. But the council did not dare sentence him to death. Yet would he be able to preach and teach and translate Scripture. Yet would the work continue that would let many people hear the Word of God with understanding for the very first time in their lives. The man known as the “Morning Star of the Reformation” was used of God for a mighty work, a work that prepared the way for the Reformation to dawn some 130 years later. His life was spared, and so was the truth of Scripture.