Shared January 4th, 2015
“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:” (2 Timothy 4:7). “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15).
What do you have left for 2015? Do you have faith? In the Lord, that is? We talked about Paul, how his life ended and that is how we ended last time. Today, we will pick up by looking at others who set stellar examples for us. Look at this: Acts 12:1-2 says that shortly before the day of the Passover, in the year 44 (some 11 years after the death of Christ) (1) James the son of Zebedee was put to death by Herod Agrippa I, with a sword. He was the second recorded martyr after Christ’s death, Stephen being the first.
(2) Simon, surnamed Peter, died 33-34 years after the death of Christ. If you can recall, thrice he denied Christ just before Christ’s crucifixion but because he would not deny the Master again, Roman executioners killed him. Early writers say he died at/about the same time as Paul during Nero’s persecution of A.D. 67-68, that at his own request, he was crucified upside down because he felt he was not truly worthy to die in the same manner as the Master, Jesus Christ. And while no accurate death date is available, it is said that Peter’s brother (3) Andrew, who first introduced Peter to Christ went (by crucifixion, being hanged on an olive tree in Patrae in Achaia) to join Peter and Christ in eternity six years after Peter’s death. Thus he died c. 70 AD.
According to tradition (4) Philip preached in Phrygia where hostile Jews had him tortured and then crucified, and died at Hierapolis (c. 54 AD); of interest, “Fox News July 27, 2011 Tomb of the Apostle Phillip is found in Hierapolis.” Meanwhile, (5) Matthew’s “Gospel of Matthew,” was written some 20 years after Christ’s death. He must have remembered “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20), professing the resurrected Christ unto his death by beheading at Nad-Davar, in Ethiopia, in 60-70 A.D.
“Doubting” (6) Thomas was martyred, sealing his testimony as he was thrust through with lance of pine spears, tormented with red-hot plates, and then burned alive (c. 70 AD). Not sure if he died in Persia or India, but the Latin Church commemorates his martyrdom on December 21 while the Greek Church, on October 6, and the Indians, on July 1.
Because it is mentioned in the Bible, we know that (7) James the son of Alpheus lived at least five years after the death of Christ. Tradition has it that James was thrown down from the temple by the scribes and Pharisees; he was then stoned, and his brains dashed out with a fuller’s club. And (8) Jude a variant of Judas, also referred to as Thaddeus, the one who questioned the Lord: “Judas said to him (not Iscariot), Lord, how is it that you will show yourself to us, and not unto the world?” (John 14:22) got the answer to his question when he witnessed Christ’s resurrection; tradition says he taught in Armenia, Syria and Persia and preached the risen Christ amongst pagan priests in Mesopotamia that, in 72 A.D., he was beaten to death with sticks and buried in Kara Kalisa in what is now Iran.
(9) Simon the Canaanite was the Jewish zealot who strove to set his people free from Roman oppression. After he saw with his own eyes that Christ had been resurrected, he became a zealot of the Gospel in Egypt, Cyrene, other parts of Africa, Mauritania, Britain, Lybia, and Persia. His rest finally came when a Syrian governor crucified him in 74 A.D., say historians. NOTE: For those Africans who reject Christ by claiming and/or using the false excuse that Christianity is the “white man’s religion,” this alone is just one example of the foolishness of such an excuse; the Bible was in Africa way back, in fact, as far back as the Old Testament; satan the deceiver will have your soul if you hold on to this falsity and deprive yourself of the free salvation that Christ offers.
(10) Nathanael (Bartholomew), the first to profess, early in Christ’s ministry, that Christ is the Son of God (John 1:49). It is said that he later, in Armenia, paid for this profession. Unwilling to recant of his proclamation of a risen Christ, he was flayed alive and then beheaded in 70 A.D.
(11) The Apostle John is the only one of the twelve original Apostles to have died a natural death. You know, although he did not die a martyr’s death, he in fact did live a martyr’s life, being exiled to the Island of Patmos under the Emperor Domitian for his proclamation of the risen Christ. There he wrote the last book in the Bible, Revelation. Some traditions tell us that in 95 A.D. he was thrown into boiling oil before the Latin Gate, but he was not killed though undoubtedly scarred for the rest of his life. Isn’t it something that his brother, James, was the first to be killed for his faith while he lived until this time?
(12) Matthias was the one who replaced Judas Iscariot (the betrayer of Christ who hanged himself) as the twelfth Apostle of Christ (Acts 1:26). It is believed by most that Matthias was one of the seventy that Christ sent out during his earthly ministry (Luke 10:1), which therefore is one reason that qualifies him to be an Apostle. He is said to have preached in Ethiopia and later stoned while hanging upon a cross in 70 A.D.
You know, the martyrdom of some of these Apostles are more certain, easily confirmed than others. People may have different degrees of belief regarding the circumstances of their deaths. But when boiled down to the least common denominator, it is easy to believe that all but one of the Apostles suffered and died a martyr’s death, even if we cannot be sure of the exact details. And, this one thing is clear, that they were killed because of two significant things: (1) they proclaimed to have seen Christ die; and, (2) to have evidenced His resurrection. Beloved, they all died because of an unwavering, unrelenting claim that Christ rose from the grave. And by the way, the reason given for their deaths is the same in all accounts. What is left? Faith in Christ!
Proposed prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for these examples. They followed in Jesus’ footsteps and I know I have no excuse. My faith is in You so give me strength for 2015, in Jesus’ most powerful name I pray. Amen!