This is the second part:
- Matthias (chosen to replace Judas Iscariot) – He was stoned & then beheaded
- Paul / Saul of Tarsus – tortured and then beheaded by Emperor Nero in Rome (around 67 AD)
Many of the disciples of Jesus died cruel deaths for remaining faithful to their faith and for preaching the gospel. The irony is that all of these men needed to do to escape a cruel execution was simple: to denounce their faith in Jesus.
Yet, they decided not to denounce Jesus. Why?
People do not die for a lie – these disciples must have seen something that made them choose their cruel death over denouncing their faith.
Human nature is such that no sane man would give up his own life to a belief that he knows is untrue. If anyone knew for sure whether Jesus did or did not resurrect from His death, it would be His disciples. In fact, Christianity was not spread by Jesus, but by these disciples. They willingly went out to tell about Jesus’ resurrection while putting their life on the line.
The historical fact that many of these disciples decided to give up their own life to tell the world that “Jesus has resurrected” is a very strong evidence that what they died for is the truth! The reason that many of these disciples were executed is this:
They refuse to renounce their Lord Jesus, the Christ. That is the truth they are willing to die for.
Two more testimonies
There are 2 other men who offer an even stronger testimony to Jesus’ resurrection:
James, the (half) brother of Jesus and Paul. Both of these persons were anti-Jesus before their conversion; and yet later in their lives, both of them were willing to give their life to Jesus whom they willingly called “Lord”. The Bible tells us that James did not believe in Him: John 7:5 “For His brothers did not believe in Him”.
It should not be surprising that Jesus’ own brothers would not believe: imagine growing up with Jesus, and one day your brother claims to be the Son of God. Hard to believe, isn’t it?
The Jewish Historian Josephus told us that James was martyred in Jerusalem:
In Antiquities, Book 20, Chapter 9:
“Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the Sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned”.
(Note that Josephus was not a Christian and his work was mainly to write about Jewish history – his mentioning of Jesus and James affirms the historicity of Jesus and James as actual persons in history)
Paul writes in 1Corinthians 15:1-7: 1Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.
7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles . . .
That’s it. If you see someone back alive after seeing Him died and be buried, the event can really change your mind about Him.
Paul himself confessed that he was persecuting Christians before his conversion.
According to his own words, Jesus appeared to Him on the way to Damascus (to round-up Christians – see Acts, Chapter 9) and his life was turned upside down; it was changed.
His belief in Jesus was backed by his martyrdom in Rome (he was decapitated) – that’s quite a turnaround from someone who could not care less about Christians to someone who would give up his own life for the belief. The only explanation is that Paul did see Jesus on that road to Damascus.