The Protomartyr Stephen
One of the most interesting and significant facts that encourage us to reflect on the person of Jesus Christ, are the life and the death of His first disciples.
The twelve apostles three and a half years, day in day walked and talked with Him, heard His encouraging words to weary and dispirited, had seen His power, when He helped the sick and the sufferers.
However, after the death of Jesus Christ, the pupils almost completely was in the power of disappointment. Their Teacher was rejected, condemned and crucified. The priests and the heads contemptuously, saying, “he saved Others; Himself he cannot save! if He is the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross and we will believe Him” (Matthew 27:42). The sun of hope came to the disciples, and the darkness enveloped their hearts. The death of Jesus Christ was very surprised by the apostles and threw them in disappointment, sorrow and despair.
Depressed and saddened, afflicted, they gathered in the upper room and locked the door, fearing that they did not suffer the fate of the Teacher.
And suddenly, after some time, the disciples of Jesus Christ is a dramatic change, and they with extraordinary force, clarity and confidence begin to proclaim that God raised up His Son, having loosed the pains of death, and that only through repentance of sins and faith in Him people can be saved. The doctrine they preached unanimously, universally, in spite of all opposition and in the face of the most repulsive misconceptions that you can present to the person. Spreading this new faith, they could rely only on the contempt, opposition, insults, violent persecution, beatings, prison, torture and executions. And yet they courageously preached their faith, and the suffering endured without complaint and even with joy.
In the first centuries of its existence, the Christian Church suffered a brutal persecution, but there have always been people who believed that the preaching of the gospel is more expensive than life itself. Of such the Bible says: “Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and prison. Was stoned to death, sawn, subjected to torture, die by the sword: they wandered about in two goatskins, enduring weaknesses, sorrow, tormented; of whom the world was not worthy: they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth” (Hebrews 11:36-38).
One of the first Ministers of the early Christian Church Stephen was stoned to death because he preached of Jesus Christ. He is at the time of execution would desire mercies of the God for his tormentors.
The Apostle Peter ended his Ministry in Rome, where Emperor Nero ordered to remand him in prison. Being a Jew and foreigner, Peter was condemned to scourging and crucifixion. The face of the terrible death the Apostle esteemed it a joy to die for Jesus Christ his life. He even believed that it would be too great honor to die as his Master died. And he asked his executioners about the last mercy, nailing him to the cross upside down. His request was granted. So died the great Apostle Peter.
The anger of the Emperor was kindled also against the Apostle Paul. Derived from his inability to stop the spread of Christianity even in your own home, he decided to betray the Apostle’s death as soon as found a pretext. Soon Paul was sentenced to a Martyr’s death. Because Roman citizens could not be tortured, he was beheaded. Worried about the strong influence of Paul, the executioners only a few were allowed to be present at the place of execution. They were afraid that, seeing the courageous death of the Apostle, many people might convert to Christianity.
Over his long Ministry, Paul never wavered in his loyalty to Jesus Christ. No matter where he was: in front of angry Jews, or before the Roman authorities, before the furious mob at Lystra, or next to hardened criminals in the Macedonian prison, talking to the sailors, panic-stricken, on a wrecked ship or alone defending his innocence before Nero – he had never been ashamed of the cause he served.
The death of the Apostle Peter
To the extent that, as disciples of Jesus Christ one by one died at the hands of the executioners, survivors invested in their works even more energy and determination. Even in the history of warfare is unlikely to find an example of like heroic constancy, of serenity, of indomitable courage. They had a countless number of occasions again and again carefully to understand the basis of their faith in the testimony of the great events and truths on which it rested. The reason these are brought before them with great frequency in and of themselves were able to quell their enthusiasm. Hard to imagine that they continued so persistently to proclaim the truth, if Jesus Christ really did not rise from the dead, and if the disciples didn’t know about it with such certainty as any other event.
Whether their doctrine is false, they would have to take him not only the most severe of earthly suffering, but all life to suffer the reproaches of conscience. To external MUK would be added the internal, and without hope for the coming peace, without tranquility, which gives a clear conscience, no expectation of honor or respect from the people, without hope for happiness in the afterlife, just as in the earthly.
This behavior of the disciples of Jesus Christ fully would be contrary to ordinary common sense. Because their lives clearly show that they were the same people as we are that they were driven by the same motives, they were concerned with the same hopes, oppressed by the same grief, and covered the same passions, temptations and insecurities as us. And their writings show that they had a sharp mind.
A life fully devoted to Jesus Christ, and the martyrdom of the apostles cannot stand apart from the conviction that God is Jesus, that is the Truth, from which it is impossible to refuse, and for which he may die. But to die with confidence that this is not the end, to die with hope for the continuation of life.
The historical basis of the Christian faith, the truth of the evidence of the New Testament, the life and teachings of Jesus Christ himself, the fact and the significance of His sacrificial death, the historicity of the empty tomb, the testimony of the apostles about the resurrection – all of this suggests that Jesus is the True Son of God Who came to mankind in the flesh in order to help seek and save the lost, to discover God’s love, mercy and patience.
The resistance of the disciples of Jesus Christ speaks of the faithfulness of God’s promises, His unfailing presence and supporting grace. Their life demonstrates that faith can withstand the forces of the world. It allows you to trust God in the darkest hour, and only her eyes can look beyond the present and to properly assess the intrinsic value of eternal treasures.