Friday, October 3, 2008

How Hearts Were Changed

In the last post, we looked closely at the crucifixion of Jesus to show that He really was dead, then we looked a little into the resurrection, and the events surrounding the empty tomb. Even though we've already looked a little at the apostles reactions to the resurrection, I'd like to go a little more into the people who were closest to Jesus before He was crucified, their change after His resurrection, and some other ways which look closely at how Jesus' life, death and resurrection changed the world.
First of all, the people. Who actually saw Jesus after His resurrection? We know He appeared to his disciples more than a few times. How about those who didn't believe His claims to be Messiah- His own family? His brothers were embarrassed by His words. James hung out with the Pharisees, and he and his brothers mocked Jesus. James actually went on to become a leader in the early church. He wrote the Epistle of James, which states, " I, James, a bond servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ" James was later stoned to death for his belief in his brother, Jesus, whom he once mocked. It would take something extraordinary to change from disbelief to quickly accepting death for a "change of mind".
Back up to the night before Jesus' arrest in the garden. Jesus was with His closest disciples in that garden. When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, the disciples fled out of fear that they would be arrested and suffer the same fate as their leader. After the crucifixion, the disciples hid behind locked doors- afraid they would hear the soldiers come looking for them. Something happened though, in this upper room, which changed a group of scared and defeated men, to there they soon proudly, loudly and courageously proclaimed the Word of the Gospel in a time where the authorities were quick in punishing those who were spreading this strange new gospel. These same men did willingly suffer beatings, prison and eventually death for their faith in Jesus. Andrew, brother of Peter, the first disciple of Jesus became a preacher in Greece among other places. He proclaimed the love and forgiveness of Jesus as he was led to his own cross. Peter, the one who denied knowing Jesus three times the night of His arrest, who was afraid of "being found out" as one of those disciples, requested to be crucified upside down, because he felt he was unworthy of the same death that Jesus suffered. Matthew, once a tax collector, and after the resurrection, wrote the gospel in Hebrew and also was a missionary in Ethiopia and Egypt. He was speared to death for his testimony of Jesus. Simon, brother of Jude and James, became a Bishop in Jerusalem. He was later crucified in Egypt in the time of Trajan the emperor. The other Simon, the apostle became a preacher and spread the Gospel throughout North Africa and also in Britain. He was also crucified for his testimony. Philip became a missionary in what is now Turkey, was not only crucified but also stoned to death for his preaching of salvation in Jesus. Mark became an evangelist and first Bishop of Alexandria in Egypt. For his preaching the Gospel, he was burned alive. Bartholomew is said to have preached and translate the gospel of Matthew for the Indians before being beaten, crucified then beheaded in Armenia. And Thomas- whatever happened to that doubter? Doubting Thomas who wouldn't believe in Jesus' resurrection until he could put his finger in the wounds of Jesus before he would believe. Thomas became a preacher all across the middle east, into Asia to India where he was shot with a dart.
Now, all the close disciples of Jesus were put to death for their faith in Christ, except for John, son of Zebedee, who may have been the same John who went on to write the Book of Revelation. John was not martyred for his belief, but instead exiled to an Island off of Greece named Patmos.
Not all of the people who saw Jesus alive after the resurrection suffered death sentences, but under the brutal regimes of emperors such as Caligula, Nero, and Domitian, who slaughtered thousands of new Christians. The were put to death in some cases for the entertainment of the people. Put to stakes, drawn and quartered, thrown to lions and other horrible punishments. It was not easy to become a believer of the "new" Christian religion back then, and in many cases around the world today it is still not easy. Christians know that they may suffer, as they have always known, because Jesus told His followers they would suffer. If the resurrection never happened, people would not have suffered. there would have been no need. However, the fact that so many of the followers and disciples willingly took punishment even to death, for preaching and teaching the Word of Jesus proves the resurrection of Jesus Christ. No one would make that kind of change for a known lie. Men will always be willing to die for what they believe in- but NO ONE will die for what they know to be a lie.
As any Christian will proclaim, that we have a faith not based on a myth or fable. Our faith rests firmly on an empty tomb and a resurrected Savior. if we suffer because of His name, we suffer willingly.
In the next post, we'll look at an argument that you may have heard already. Jesus: lunatic, liar or Lord?

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