Acts 5:40b-41 They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.
One of the books I’ve read that really moved me was The Heavenly Man – the story of Brother Yun. He was not unknown to me as I had the privilege of hearing him speak a few years ago at a conference focused on Afghanistan. He is a leader in the Back to Jerusalem movement involving Chinese Christians.
His personal story involves a great deal of suffering for the gospel of Christ. But he counts that suffering as joy because of the privilege of being a Christian and serving Jesus. His focus was not on himself but upon the Lord and fulfilling the opportunities that the Lord gave him.
In recounting what has transpired in the church in China, he presents an accounting of what happened to the apostles and some key early Christians. It was good to be reminded that nearly all of them were destined to be martyrs. They loved and served our Lord Jesus and that righteous road they walked led to an end that not many of us would sign up for. I wonder if our tendency would be to view such a fate as being due to our failure to really follow the Lord – rather than it being the culmination of following Him. Needless to say, I was, and am, greatly humbled and moved by the recounting of their destinies.
There are some variances in the historical records we have but here is one accounting of those who have gone before us:
- John – exiled to Patmos
- Stephen – stoned to death by an angry mob (note: might he have made it out of that situation alive if God had not given him a vision of heaven in the midst of it?)
- Matthew – stabbed to death by an angry mob in Persia
- Mark – died as two horses pulled his legs apart
- Doctor Luke – was cruelly hanged
- Peter – crucified on a cross
- Philip – crucified on a cross
- Simon – crucified on a cross
- Bartholomew – skinned alive by heathen
- Thomas – died in India as five horses pulled his body apart
- James (Apostle) – beheaded by Herod
- (Little) James – cut in half by a sharp saw
- James (brother of Jesus) – stoned to death
- Judas – tied to a pillar and shot with arrows
- Matthias – beheaded in Jerusalem
- Andrew – crucified on a cross (like an X – became known as St Andrew’s cross)
- Paul – a martyr under Emperor Nero
May our hearts be so consumed with love from and for our Lord that we too will joyously follow Him wherever He leads. There is a world out there that needs to know Him.