Disciples of Jesus

The apostles and first disciples of Jesus were eyewitnesses of the events surrounding Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. If anyone had firsthand knowledge that these events were untrue it would have be those closest to Jesus.

Just put yourself in the place of someone who followed a charismatic leader. A leader that held a crowd's attention with fascinating stories and wise sayings. A leader that criticized the current religious leaders for their hypocrisies. And a leader that seemed to heal people in ways that were unexplainable.

And, what would you do if later you found out that this leader was a fraud? What if you found out that he faked the healings and there was absolutely no verifiable evidence that anyone was actually healed? What if you found that he quoted others without giving them credit but claimed them as his own thoughts?

Would you still contribute to his "ministry"? Would you still recommend him to your friends?

You would probably stop supporting him immediately. You'd probably tell everyone you knew that this fraud was bilking the public of their money. No, you wouldn't speak kindly of him at all.

Now think about this. If Jesus were a fraud, we would hardly expect his followers to dedicate their lives to furthering his message.

In fact, nearly all of Jesus' followers abandoned him after he was captured by the mob at Gethsemane. Peter followed the mob to see what was going to happen. But, when Peter was identified as a follower of Jesus he denied it and fled the scene.

The average person's picture of a Messiah was that of a political leader that would start a revolution to overthrow the Roman government and re-establish the Kingdom of Israel. This was the expectation of the people. The people expressed this from the time of:

  • Jesus' birth (King Herod asks, "Where was the king of the Jews born?": Matthew 2:2)
  • During his ministry (Mother of two disciples asks that her sons be given positions of power in the kingdom: Matthew 20:20-21; People were about to take Jesus by force to make him their king: John 6:15)
  • At his death (The accusation of Jesus was that "This is Jesus the king of the Jews": Matthew 27:37; and the scribes and Pharisees mocked Jesus asking that the king of the Jews come down from the cross: Mark 15:32)
  • After he rose from the dead (Disciples on the road to Emmaus lament because they thought Jesus would redeem Israel: Luke 24:21; Disciples ask if Jesus would now establish the kingdom: Acts 1:6-7)

It was only after the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples at Pentecost that they realized that the "kingdom" Jesus brought was not a physical kingdom but a spiritual one. The kingdom they were establishing was a spiritual kingdom in opposition to the spiritual kingdom of Satan.

In his first message at the beginning of the church, Peter declared that Jesus had been raised up to sit on a throne at the right hand of God and was now their Lord (Acts 2:29-36).

Despite their initial misunderstanding, all of his apostles and many disciples dedicated their lives to the proclamation of the good news regarding Jesus. And many paid for proclaiming that sometimes unpopular message by giving their lives as martyrs.

Stores of how the disciples and apostles lived and died come down to use from various sources. Most of the writings we have come from those who lived several hundred years after Jesus. Some of these writers were:

  • Origen of Alexandria lived from about 185 to 254 AD.
  • Eusebius Pamphili was the Bishop of Caesarea in Palistine. He lived from about 260 to 341 AD.
  • St. Jerome was born about 340 and died in 420 AD.

The traditions passed on to us show the apostles taking the good news to far distant people. The apostles willingly traveled and withstood persecution to the point of death to deliver that message.

The best descriptions of the Apostles and their journeys and how they were martyred is found in Fox.s Book of Martyrs, Bee Edition, published by Butler Brothers (no date, probably around 1887).

James the Great

The next martyr we meet with, according to St. Luke, in the History of the Apostles' Acts, was James the son of Zebedee, the elder brother of John, and a relative of our Lord; for his mother Salome was a cousin-german to the Virgin Mary. It was not until ten years after the death of Stephen, that the second martyrdom took place; for no sooner had Herod Agrippa been appointed governor of Judea, than, with a view to ingratiate himself with them, he raised a sharp persecution against the christians, and determined to make an effectual blow, by striking at their leaders. The account given us by an eminent primitive writer, Clemens Alexandrinus, ought not to be overlooked; that, as James was led to the place of martyrdom, his accuser was brought to repent of his conduct by the apostle's extraordinary courage and undauntedness, and fell down at his feet to request his pardon, professing himself a christian, and resolving that James should not receive the crown of martyrdom alone. Hence they were both beheaded at the same time. This did the first apostolic martyr cheerfully and resolutely receive the cup, which he had told our Saviour he was ready to drink. Timon and Parmenas suffered martyrdom about the same time; the one at Plillippi, and the other in Macedonia. These events took place A.D. 44.

Phillip

Was born at Bethsaida, in Galilee, and was the first called by the name of "Disciple." He laboured diligently in Upper Asia, and suffered martyrdom at Heliopolis, in Phrygia. He was scourged, thrown into prison, and afterwards crucified, A.D. 54.

Matthew

Whose occupation was that of a tool-gatherer, was born at Nazareth. He wrote his gospel in Hebrew, which was afterwards translated into Greek by James the Less. The scene of his labours was Parthia, and Ethiopia, in which latter county he suffered martyrdom, being slain with a halbred in the city of Nadabah, A.D. 60.

James the Less

Is supposed by some to have been the brother of our Lord, by a former wife of Joseph. This is very doubtful, and accords too much with the catholic superstition, that Mary never had any other children except our Saviour. He was elected to the oversight of the churches of Jerusalem; and was the author of the epistle ascribed to James in the sacred canon. At the age of ninety-four, he was beat and stoned by the Jews; and finally had his brains dashed out with a fuller's club.

Matthias

Of whom less is know than of most of the other disciples, was elected to fill the vacant place of Judas. He was stoned at Jerusalem and then beheaded.

Andrew

Was the bother of Peter. He preached to gospel to many Asiatic nations; but on his arrival at Edessa, he was taken and crucified on a cross, with two ends of which were fixed transversely in the ground. Hence the derivation of the term, St. Andrew's Cross.

St. Mark

Was born of Jewish parents of the tribe of Levi. He is supposed to have been converted to christianity by Peter, whom he served as an amanuensis, and under whose inspection he wrote his gospel in the Greek language. Mark was dragged to pieces by the people of Alexandria, at the great solemnity of Serapis their idol, ending his life under their merciless hands.

Peter

Was born at Bethsaida, in Galilee. He was by occupation a fisherman. Christ gave him a name which in Syriac implies a rock. Peter is supposed to have suffered martyrdom at Rome, during the reign of the emperor Nero, being crucified with his head downward, at his own request. [It is, however, very uncertain, whether Peter ever visited Rome at all. The evidence rather favouring the supposition that he ended his days in some other country.--Ed.]

Paul

The great apostle of the Gentiles, was a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, a native of Tarsus in Cilicia, and before his conversion was called Saul. After suffering various persecutions at Jerusalem, Iconum, Lystra, Phillippi and Thessalonica, he was carried prisoner to Rome, were he continued to two years, and was then released. He afterwards visited the churches of Greece and Rome, and preached the gospel in Spain and France, but returning to Rome, he was apprehended by order of Nero, and beheaded.

Jude

The brother of James, was commonly called Thaddeus. He was crucified at Edessa, A.D. 72.

Bartholomew

Preached in several countries, and having translated the gospel of Matthew into the language of India, he propagated it in that country. He was at length cruelly beaten and then crucified by the impatient idolaters.

Thomas

Called Didymus, preached the gospel in Parthia and India, where exciting the rage of the pagan priests, he was martyred by being thrust through with a spear.

Luke

The evangelist, was the author of the gospel which goes under his name. He traveled with Paul through various countries, and is supposed to have been hanged on an olive tree, by the idolatrous priests of Greece.

Simon

Surnamed Zelotes, preached the gospel in Mauritania, Africa, and even in Britain, which later country he was crucified, A.D. 74.

John

The "beloved disciple," was brother to James the Great. The churches of Smyrna, Pergamos, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea, and Thyatira, were founded by him. From Ephesus he was ordered to be sent to Rome, where it is affirmed he was cast into a cauldron of boiling oil. He escaped by a miracle, without injury. Domitian afterwards banished him to the Isle of Patmos, where he wrote the Book of Revelation. Nerva, the successor of Domitian, recalled him. He was the only apostle who escaped a violent death.

Barnabas

Was of Cyprus, but of Jewish descent, his death is supposed to have taken place about A.D. 73.

And not only the apostles died. But, thousands of others died because of their beliefs. In Roman times Christians were crucified, given over to the lions, beheaded, and burned alive on stakes. Yet, they held on to their beliefs right to their deaths.

In more modern times, thousands of Christians died at the hands of the Roman Catholic Church during the cruelties of the inquisition. More thousands have died during prosecutions in countries controlled by other religious or philosophical systems. Yet, in spite of this, they held on to their beliefs with hope for their salvation.

The message of Jesus is one of salvation. Those who believe that message are happy to let others hear of God's love for them.

Because this message is one of love rather than hate, you should consider it as a guide for your life.


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