A Job To Die For!

Posted: January 12, 2013 in 99-Uncategorized

In this second installment on Matthew 10:16-25 which is sometimes captioned “Persecution Will Come”, we will focus on Matthew 10:17-20. In these verses, Jesus says, 17 Beware of men, for (AA)they will deliver you over to courts and flog you (AB)in their synagogues, 18 (AC)and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, (AD)to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 (AE)When (AF)they deliver you over, (AG)do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for (AH)what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 (AI)For it is not you who speak, but (AJ)the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” Jesus is talking about the cost of following him. He speaks it directly to the disciples but we hear him through the centuries. Jesus was telling his the disciples that even though they were Jews by birth they were going to be persecuted by their own kind for believing that Jesus was the Messiah. They would be persecuted by non-Jews for challenging their pagan belief systems. In this group of verses, we see two things. First, there is an inherent sense that Christ followers are called to action for it is by action that we will run into conflict. Second, an active Christ follower is one who completely depends on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. From these two points, Christ followers are called to have total trust in Christ through the Holy Spirit and get out there and make a stir!


From the Gospels, we find that the disciples were a pretty clueless lot while Jesus was alive in his human body on earth. We read the gospels and say, “Dudes, you just saw miracles occur at the hand of Jesus but yet you are clueless as to who He is!” With our hindsight historical advantage, we just want to slap them sometimes! However, after Pentecost, they got it! We owe our own acceptance of the Christ as our Savior to these men. Because of these men, Christianity spread quickly and widely through the Roman Empire and even some areas outside it. According to church historical tradition (though not attested to by Scripture), virtually every one of Jesus’ selected ones (stated this way to include Paul and Jesus’ brother, James) died horrible deaths.


According to Go To Questions[1], an internet resource for Christian questions:


  • The only apostle whose death the Bible records is James (Acts 12:2). King Herod had James “put to death with the sword,” likely a reference to beheading. The circumstances of the deaths of the other apostles are related through church tradition, so we should not put too much weight on any of the other accounts.
  • The most commonly accepted church tradition in regard to the death of an apostle is that the apostle Peter was crucified upside-down on an cross in Rome in fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy (John 21:18).
  • Matthew suffered martyrdom in Ethiopia, killed by a sword wound.
  • John faced martyrdom when he was boiled in a huge basin of boiling oil during a wave of persecution in Rome. However, he was miraculously delivered from death. John was then sentenced to the mines on the prison island of Patmos. He wrote his prophetic book of Revelation on Patmos. The apostle John was later freed and returned to what is now modern-day Turkey. He died as an old man, the only apostle to die peacefully.
  • James, the brother of Jesus (not officially an apostle), was the leader of the church in Jerusalem. He was thrown from the southeast pinnacle of the temple (over a hundred feet down) when he refused to deny his faith in Christ. When they discovered that he survived the fall, his enemies beat James to death with a club. This is thought to be the same pinnacle where Satan had taken Jesus during the temptation.
  • Bartholomew, also known as Nathanael, was a missionary to Asia. He witnessed in present-day Turkey and was martyred for his preaching in Armenia, being flayed to death by a whip.
  • Andrew was crucified on an x-shaped cross in Greece. After being whipped severely by seven soldiers, they tied his body to the cross with cords to prolong his agony. His followers reported that when he was led toward the cross, Andrew saluted it in these words: “I have long desired and expected this happy hour. The cross has been consecrated by the body of Christ hanging on it.” He continued to preach to his tormentors for two days until he died.
  • The apostle Thomas was stabbed with a spear in India during one of his missionary trips to establish the church there.
  • Matthias, the apostle chosen to replace the traitor Judas Iscariot, was stoned and then beheaded. He preached in Syria but returned to Rome where he was believed to have been burned to death.[2]
  • The apostle Paul was tortured and then beheaded by the evil Emperor Nero in Rome in A.D. 67. The events leading up to his death are chronicled in 2 Timothy but not the death itself.
  • Simon the Zealot traveled across many parts of the Roman Empire and is believed to have been crucified in Persia.[3]
  • The Apostle Thaddaeus (also known as Judas or Jude the brother of James) was crucified at Edessa.[4]
  • The Apostle James (James the Less) preached in Syria and it is believed that he was clubbed to death.[5]
  • The Apostle Philip became the sixth disciple of Jesus. Philip went to Carthage, Greece, Phrygia, and Syria where he preached and performed miracles. Philip was crucified (the Greeks say head downwards), and then stoned to death.[6]
  • There are traditions regarding the other apostles as well, but none with any reliable historical or traditional support.[7]


These men, when they finally “got it” were an unstoppable force. They knew of Jesus’ warning in Matthew 10:17-20. However, they refused to renounce their faith in Jesus Christ after they had received the Holy Spirit that Jesus sent to them at Pentecost. What was it that drove these guys to the ends of the earth and to willingly die for their beliefs? What was it that allowed them to speak so eloquently such that wherever they were sent they converted people to Christ? What was it that lead them to run afoul of either church or secular authorities each and every one of them (that led to each of their deaths or imprisonments)? The answer lies in two things.


First, they each had personally witnessed the resurrected Christ. This fact alone caused them to doggedly to the death refuse to renounce their faith in Jesus Christ. People don’t go down to the death for a lie that they have been told. They actually saw the resurrected Jesus. Vividly they knew that Jesus was the Son of God. They felt shame for abandoning Him in his hour of human need but when they saw Him resurrected how much more humbled were they to know that they had been in the presence of God himself for the past 3 years. This stoked their flame. It indelibly burned and confirmed their salvation. However, all of these guys were just like any modern day worker, they had jobs. Seeing Jesus resurrected does not alone explain the amazing things they did after Jesus ascended to Heaven. They were humbled and Jesus knew it. They were fully ready in submission to Him. That’s when He sent the Holy Spirit. They were ready. They had hit rock bottom with Jesus death and their reaction to it. They were humbled by the physical presence of a man that knew to be dead but was risen. They were in awe of Jesus for they now knew fully that He was the Son of God. This is all well and good and they may have been great witnesses in their local towns and villages where they lived, worked and played were it not for the receiving of the Holy Spirit into a fully submitted and humbled heart.


These men who we know from the gospels to be silent observers of the glories of Christ ministry here on earth, but after Pentecost they changed the world. The combination of seeing Christ resurrected and receiving the Holy Spirit in total humility made them into the saints that we know today. These men gave up their professions and their homes to spread the good news. The good news that Jesus died for our sins because he was the final sinless sacrifice of atonement but yet, even better, they said He arose from the dead and was the Son of God as He said He was. In that fact, we have hope of eternal life if we only believe this to be true. Jesus said He came to give us life. There is life in Him. This is what these guys empowered by the Holy Spirit spread to the whole world. No longer were we slaves to our sinful ways. To non-Jews with their pagan gods, these guys spread the word of no longer needing to satisfy capricious gods of their own creation. The real God was one in whom there was life eternal through belief in Jesus Christ. They were willing to be imprisoned for it. They were willing to die for it. No human pride, no human possessions were so important to them that they would not walk away from it all to tell the world about their Master. The Holy Spirit gave them all the power of words that they needed to convince anyone and to anger those who were so far gone away from God to the point of killing these men.


Wow! When you think about it; these guys were just ordinary guys. Fishermen. Tentmakers. Tax collectors. They were ordinary just like you and me. What is different about these guys when compared to you and me? It’s this Holy Spirit vs. level of humility thing. It’s this belief in the resurrected Christ thing!


You and I receive the Holy Spirit at our salvation just like the disciples did at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us when we accept Christ as our Savior. As you and I know, it is still a battle after salvation. We do not automatically become saints. There is a battle waged between our sinful lusts and the Holy Spirit. Theologians call this battle sanctification – where over time our sinful self reduces and the Holy Spirit increases. The disciples were so humbled by their failure but yet finding love from the resurrected Christ that they were open to the full power of the Holy Spirit. That is where many of us, me included, struggle. We do not fully submit and I mean fully submit to the Holy Spirit in our lives in the way the disciples did. Yeah, but they were there and they saw everything. Yeah, that empowered them. Sure, that’s true and it would have been really cool to have been part of that. But, Jesus says himself after his resurrection in John 20:29 that “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Let’s remember, these guys were scared and in hiding even though they had seen Jesus in life and seen him for several weeks in resurrection. It was not until Jesus blessed them with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that they became empowered. Immediately, Peter gave the sermon of a lifetime which brought thousands to faith that day. Jesus told them the Holy Spirit would give them the words to say, but wow!


So, we have the same access to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit at salvation. Then, why do I and maybe you not have the same effectiveness as the apostles did? It’s the amount of humility. In humility there is dependence. The apostles were so humbly in submission to their Master through the Holy Spirit that they feared no earthly impediment. Their feared not in the losing of earthly life. They had turned down the noise of their pride that the Holy Spirit absolutely took over their lives. They turned down the noise of what I want and when I want it. They turned down the noise of wanted that next big trinket or toy. They turned down the noise of wanting personal glory through that promotion or that next big business deal. They turned down that noise of worrying what will happen if I step out boldly for Christ. They turned down that noise of what I need to survive. They turned down that noise of the allure of creature comforts. They souls were quiet. There was no noise. That’s when the Holy Spirit can do mighty, mighty things for the kingdom of God through men who have quieted their souls. The Holy Spirit can do mighty things for the kingdom for men who are truly humbled by their failure as men and who rejoice gleefully daily in their unmerited salvation. The Holy Spirit can do mighty things in a soul that has no background noise. That have been mighty men and women of God who have been martyred through the ages because they quieted their souls and submitted to leadings of the Holy Spirit. These people changed the world. These people sacrifice their lives so that we could live in a world free from evil. Down through the ages there have been men and women who took up the torch of the apostles. At the same time, the apostles were rare men. The saints through the centuries have been rare men and women.


This is not to say that there are not believers who quietly are changing the world around them without the publicity of some who are doing the very same thing in a different place. God uses it all. So, this is not to bash believers for not doing things that bring the news media to our doors in awe of us. No, let’s remember it is only through the Holy Spirit that we know who these guys are because they were led to write the New Testament. Most assuredly, each apostle did not do what he did for fame and would feel a bit awkward about the celebrity status they have with us as believers. They did what they did in quiet anonymity at the time. They did what they did for Christ not for the press. Thus, the question becomes for us, how rare are we? Are we so submitted to the Holy Spirit in our lives that we will quietly make an impact in our world? Are we so submitted that we will start to be more bold? Are so submitted that we will allow the Holy Spirit to take over completely to the point that our boldness causes us to leave our comfort zone and do what the Holy Spirit leads us to do?


Man, this was difficult to write because I did not want it to come across that if we do not die for Christ then we have not done enough. That is not true. Many people have made huge impacts for Christ living the Christian life right where they live – just being an example. That can be the most powerful message of all – the humbled heart in total submission to our Lord doing exactly what God wants us to do right here in our own hometown without quitting one’s job and so on. Then, there are those that God has gifted to do just that and that leave it all behind to move to a third world country and do great things for the kingdom. However, in both cases, it is about submitting to the will of the Lord through the Holy Spirit. How submitted are you? How submitted am I? How much of my personal background noise have I gotten rid of so that the Holy Spirit can have full reign in my life? As John the Baptist said, “He must increase and I must decrease!” The apostles lived this! I pray that I am on my way there! I pray that I can get all the noise out and let the Holy Spirit run around all over my soul and lead me to my true ministry for the Lord whether it be in Duncan or Dubai! Amen and Amen!

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