“I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. John 16:1-4
Jesus knew what His disciples had in store for them after His ascension. He knew they would be scorned and eventually face execution because of the message they proclaimed. To speak out in the mist of opposition takes courage but to speak out when doing so means your death takes unbelievable courage. To do so means you must be convicted that what you believe is true.
The deaths these men faced were for the most part extremely cruel. In fact the quickest method of execution was beheading. Let’s take a quick look at how tradition says these followers of Jesus died. Peter, Andrew and Philip were crucified with Peter being crucified upside down. James the son of Zebedee was beheaded as was Paul. Bartholomew also called Nathaniel was flayed alive and then beheaded. Matthew killed by an axe and Thomas was killed by a spear. James, son of Alphaeus, stoned and then clubbed to death and Jude was clubbed to death then beheaded. Matthias was stoned and beheaded. Finally Simon the Zealot was sawn in half. Only John was to die of old age and tradition has it that they tried to kill John by boiling him in oil without success. He was then exiled to Patmos where he wrote the book of Revelation and also his Gospel.
These men were executed over the course of about 30 to 40 years so those that were killed last knew what types of death awaited them and still they continued to preach the Gospel message. That kind of strength can only come from God. If they were the only early Christians that met these horrible deaths that would be amazing but they were not alone. In Rome hundreds of Christians were sacrificed in the arena for the entertainment of the Caesars and the crowds. They were killed by gladiators and torn apart by wild beasts and they did not recant their belief in Jesus.
It is rare today that we will face anything stronger than some harsh words or ridicule, yet so many remain quiet. If the early Christians had acted as so many today do Christianity may have died in its infancy. God however will not be denied. He will raise up men and women who will follow Him and get His message to the people. Each of us need to rise to the occasion and be bold in spreading the truth that set us free so others can live in the truth that is Christ.
Have a blessed day