They Followed Jesus Anyway

easter

The Resurrection of Christ is real and we know it to be legitimate based on the reaction from His followers. Most of the disciples and many of the close associates of Christ died unnatural deaths proclaiming a risen Jesus. If a resurrected Jesus was simply a plot hatched by these disciples then what are the odds that they would give up worldly advancement only to most likely die for that lie? The reason conspiracies are untrue or fail to get off the ground if they might have been true is that the more people involved the more likely it is that someone will break and give up the lie. Now a resurrected Jesus alive and meeting with his followers was no isolated event. Jesus over many days and weeks appeared to hundreds of people.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 ESV

With this many people involved in a conspiracy how could it last? There is no tradition that any of the disciples rejected the gospel, but there is tradition that they died for this gospel. In the Gospel of John there is an interesting exchange between Peter and Jesus relating to the future hardships and death that Peter would encounter for Christ. After Jesus told Peter that he would die, Peter asked Jesus about John. John the author of this narrative with some years between the conversation and the time of recording the history seems to interject an understanding that the disciples knew they were going to be martyred for the gospel and some most likely had already seen that end.

Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” John 21:20-23 ESV

Jesus also warned the disciples that by following him they would pay a price, that they would not be popular, and he even uses the word “hate” to describe how the world would feel about them. Even today Christians die for proclaiming a risen Jesus and celebrating Easter.

19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. John 15:19-20 ESV

Much of what is listed here is tradition, but with any tradition there is a foundation of truth even if the exact details have been lost. I believe it is safe to take away that many of the original followers of Christ died teaching and preaching about Easter.

Simon (Peter)

Church tradition holds that Peter was crucified upside down by the Romans around 65 AD. He requested to be crucified upside down because he felt unworthy to die the same way as Jesus.

[Jesus speaking to Peter] Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” John 21:18 ESV

Andrew (Peter’s Brother)

Church tradition holds that Andrew was crucified around 69 AD.

James (Son of Zebedee brother of John)

Luke in the book of Acts records how James was killed along with other followers by Herod around 44 AD.

About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword Acts 12:1-2 ESV

Saul (Paul)

Church tradition holds that Paul was imprisoned with Peter and then eventually beheaded around 65 AD.

James (The brother of Jesus)

James was one of the leaders of the church in Jerusalem (Galatians 1:19) and the church tradition holds that he was thrown from one of the higher walls of the temple. When his attackers realized he survived the fall they had him beaten to death with a club (gotquestions.org).

*Revised and Edited. Originally published on Human Effort in April 2014.

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