Jane Grey (1537-1553)
Picture this scene with me: 17-year-old Jane Grey, blindfolded, on her knees, and waving her arms in front of her to find the block that would be her last resting place before her beheading.
Eventually she found it, laid her head down, and said these last words:
“Into Thy hands, I commit my spirit.”
Moments before her execution, a medieval churchman was reciting Psalm 51 in Latin – as was customary. This man, John Feckenham, who had before tried to convert Jane back to the beliefs of the Medieval Church, burst into tears halfway through the psalm. You can imagine the emotional turmoil he’d experienced having argued with her previously, and now about to witness her execution.
So, what does Jane do after he stops reciting the psalm? She walks over to him and finishes it.
You see, Jane’s strong faith in Protestant Christianity was a fruit of the Reformation. At this time in history, the Medieval Church still held great power and authority. But this reality didn’t bring her down.
The boldness, courage, and devotion to God she modelled is incredible to witness today – especially in light of her young age.
What We Can Learn From Jane
Jane did not struggle with her accusers, fight with those opposing her, or fear her impending death. She knew who she was in Christ and never compromised on the truth of God’s Word. After reading and hearing about her life, I found two things we can learn from Jane that would only increase our boldness, courage, and devotion in God.
Make a habit of Bible study at a young age
Whether you were Jane’s age (she was saved and began studying the Bible at age ten) or ninety, you’re “young” in the span of eternity. It doesn’t matter your physical age – studying the Bible is essential for the Christian. Jane went so far as to learn koine Greek so she could read her New Testament in the original language. We may not get to that point, but we can certainly read and listen to the Bible in our native language.
Pay special attention to foundational gospel-truths
This isn’t a call to become a formal theologian, but definitely a call to be an informal one. Jane spent mental and spiritual energy and time learning the essential doctrines of her faith. She wasn’t satisfied with “milk truth” but longed for “solid food truth” (Hebrews 5:12-13). This enabled Jane to not be swayed when Feckenham attempted to change her mind. She stood firm. We ought also to stand firm in a world where we’re constantly being challenged for what we believe. This means taking special note of the aspects of the gospel, and learning to define them in your own words.
As a side note, studying the essential truths of the gospel is not only helpful to stand firm, but it’s also incredibly satisfying – emotionally, spiritually, and mentally.
. . .
Some may mourn the fact that Jane was martyred at the young age of 17. Certainly, the situation was awful and evil, but I can’t help but rejoice when hearing about her life. In fact, something about her young age is especially encouraging, as it challenges young people to live a life of boldness, courage, and devotion in God – even to death.
Jane Grey is a spiritual model for us today, and it would only do us good to keep our eyes on her and those like her who’ve followed the example of Christ (Philippians 3:17).
We recently interviewed the popular Church historian, Dr. Michael Haykin, on the life of Jane Grey. He’s done much study on her life, and most (if not all) of the facts and history in this short article are taken from him.