“About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also… “ vs.12:1-3
Jesus told James in Mark 10:39 that he would drink from his cup and share in his “Baptism.” All of his disciples ended up drinking from his cup.
Persecution and suffering of the Disciples
· Peter: A Fire in Rome, under Nero, He blamed Christians and began persecuting them. In 60AD, Peter, was crucified. He is stated to have said he was not worthy to be crucified the same way as Jesus and asked to be crucified upside down. He was crucified with praise coming from his lips
· James: Son of Zebedee, faithful, and he was beheaded for his faith. The martyrdom of James is recorded in the New Testament of the Bible, in Acts 12:1-2. He was executed, with a sword, by order of King Herod Agrippa I in the year 44 AD:
· Phillip: "He labored diligently in Upper Asia, and suffered martyrdom at Heliopolis, in Phrygia. He was scourged, thrown into prison as a crippled, and afterwards crucified, A.D. 54."
· Matthew: served in Parathia and Ethiopia, among the cannibals. In the latter country he suffered martyrdom, being slain with a halberd in the city of Nadabah, A.D. 60."
· Andrew: the bashful brother of Peter, he did not end up bashful. He became a missionary to many lands. He was the first missionary to Russia, The cythians, probably the most barbaric people of the first century. Andrew might have been martyred in Achaia or Patrae, both of which are places in the western part of Greece. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, "It is generally agreed that he was crucified by order of the Roman Governor, Aegeas or Aegeates, at Patrae in Achaia. Taken under arrest and scourged by 7 men with rods. And then he was bound, not nailed, to the cross, in order to prolong his sufferings. The cross on which he suffered is commonly held to have been an X shaped cross, the decussate cross, now known as St. Andrew's Cross. When Andrew was brought to the cross he replied to the cross, “Oh precious cross. Thou has been consecrated by the body of my Lord, adorned with his limbs, I come to thee exalting and glad. Receive me into thy arms. That he who redeemed me by thee, may receive me on thee.” And he was crucified. His martyrdom took place during the reign of Nero, on 30 November, A.D. 60); and both the Latin and Greek Churches keep 30 November as his feast."
· Thomas: Called Didymus, Doubting Thomas, no. He preached the Gospel in Parthia and India, where exciting the rage of the pagan priests, he was imprisoned, tortured by the priests, and martyred by being stabbed repeatedly with spears.
· John: ministered in Emphasis for many years, founded churches in Smyrna, Loudiosia, Thia, Pergamous, Philidelphia, and others. He was Captured by the emperor who threw him into a pot of boiling oil. Miraculously he escaped with scars.. The emperor was superstitious of him. So he put him on The Island of Patimous where he was haunted and hunted by enimies for his faith. Only apostle we believe to die from natural causes.
· Bartholomew: According to Eusebius, Christian writer who lived during the 4th Century of this era (about 1600 years ago), Bartholomew traveled to India to preach to the people there, leaving behind a copy of the Gospel of Matthew. Bartholomew was martyred by King Astyages in Armedia: He ordered the holy apostle Bartholomew to be beaten with rods; and after having been scourged, to be beheaded."
· James son of Alphaeus: according to Foxs' Book of Martyrs, was beaten, stoned and clubbed to death.
· Judas: Judas Iscariot was not a martyr. He killed himself after betraying Jesus.
· Thaddeus (Jude): was crucified, "Jude, the brother of James, was commonly called Thaddeus. He was crucified at Edessa, A.D. 72."
· Simon: Surnamed Zelot, preached the Gospel in Mauritania, Africa, and even in Britain, in which latter country he was crucified, A.D. 74.
I don’t know what your future is, and I do not know what mine is. We may see a day when we are called to pay for our faith with our own blood. However, I know one way you can pretty well make sure you won’t be called to martyrdom. That you won’t be persecuted, that you won’t endure suffering. How?
Continue to adhere to and follow the others idols in the world as well as Jesus.
Continue in materialism and drive new cars, but put an Ichtus on the rear bumper.
Continue To build and live in nice, comfortable homes with back decks, but hang a cross on an interior wall.
Continue to invest, in wear, and advertise materialism to the world, but wear a gold cross hidden under your shirt.
Continue to believe that “church” is a building and being a “disciple of Christ” simply means attending that building once a week.
Continue in to be silent in conversations when Christ is being mocked or sin is being exhalted.
Continue to be silent in sharing the talking about Jesus to your co-workers, classmates, family, and friends.
Continue to turn you head and cling to your resources when confronted with injustice, starvation, homelessness, and suffering in the world and your neighborhood.
If You continue to do all this, I can almost guarantee you will never be persecuted or suffer for your faith.
But then nothing will ever come of your faith.
Everyone of those who were martyred Exhibited Immediate Costly Radical Obedience (IRCO).
Everyone of those who were martyred, were active in their faith.
Everyone who died was an “all in” disciple of Christ.
Everyone who was martyred could have avoided it.
None had to die! None had to go through Persecution or suffering for their faith.
Everyone that did, went through it because they knew Jesus is worthy of it.
If Jesus in some way spoke to you and told you the name of someone you did not know, and that person you did not know, was lost, unsaved, and was going to spend eternity in hell. And Jesus said He wanted to use you, and could use you to “save” him, but it would cost you your life, would you lay down your life? How about if it was a bus full of people? What about a city full of people? How about a family member? If Jesus said you are blessed, because by your suffering, persecution and laying down your life this person or persons are going to enter the kingdom of God for all eternity. Would you be excited and praise God, or step back in horror?
It comes down to the struggle of loyalty to the world, and the Kingdom of Heaven. We say this is not our home, that God is better than anything: our health, our wealth, our reputation, our lives; but when pressed, we hesitate, we back down, we have to think about it.
The Apostle Peter was bold and brash disciple of Christ. He proclaimed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, he drew a sword and cut off a man’s ear in the garden trying to protect Jesus. But when he was faced with the possibility of persecution and suffering for his faith, he bailed and three times he denied his faith. He chose life and his personal comfort over his character and life with Christ. As if Peter did not deny Jesus, there is a good chance there would have been four crosses on the hillside the next morning.
Yet a few weeks later The Acts of the Apostles, as we read a few days ago in chapter two, Peter boldly, in the face of great persecution and suffering, openly declared his faith and shared the Gospel of Christ and thousands came to faith in Christ. As we also read, He with joy received beatings and imprisonment for his faith. And he was crucified upside down, joyously for his faith. What changed in him? What instilled in him the complete understanding that God is worthy of all and any suffering he might endure for his faith? The power and indwelling of the Holy Spirit that Jesus breathed into him and his encounter with the risen Christ. As bold, strong and determined as Peter was in his flesh, in and by his flesh alone he was too weak to stand firm in the face of persecution. And what is true of Peter, is true for me and you.
We cannot on our own, no matter how religious we may try to become or what restrictions we place on ourselves in our flesh, without the indwelling of and pushing deeper into and receiving the Holy Spirit personally into our lives, form a heart and soul that truly trusts, risks all, obeys, and believes that God is worthy of all and any suffering and persecution we may endure for our faith.
Pray today that we as individuals and a church can lives out a faith in which Jesus is worthy of it all. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you what that looks like in your life and us as a community of faith.
Please share your reflections to this post or the verses and reflections the Holy Spirit led you into in Acts 12.