|Posted by Joe Brooks on July 20, 2011 at 3:00 PM|
The following is an excerpt from my book, The Four Pillars of the Kingdom.
“Having fully realized that the whole world is dissolving before our very eyes, it is impossible to ask a more far- reaching question than this: 'Do you believe in Jesus Christ?' ” - Dr. Charles Malik, past Secretary General of the UN
Even if one accepts that there is a cosmic conductor, why choose a Christian one? What is it about Christianity that makes it true while all other religions are false? For me, the existence of a Creator is of itself logical evidence for the validity of the Judeo-Christian narrative. Why? Because it is the only faith that has a Creator that seems to genuinely care for His creation. Nearly every civilization has had a creation myth of some stripe. The Sumerian creation story on the tablet of Nippur, the Cherokee Indians and the Water Beetle narrative, the Mayan gods creating man from the sacred maize, the Greeks began with the yawning void of Chaos that produced the early gods, and so on. However, what most world religions lack is a Creator that takes a genuine interest in humanity. Many of the other religions feature deities that run the gamut from ambivalence to hostility towards their creation; the Greeks having gods that are both. However, only the Judeo-Christian god takes the logical step of being interested in and caring about His handiwork. This makes sense. Why create all of this if you really do not care about it?
That is where I find the Truth in Christianity that is lacking from other religions. The creator, a loving father, who treats his creation as sons and daughters, not pawns in a game, not enemies to malevolently thwart at every turn, but in the way that we would expect a parent to act towards his children. God is love, God is logical, and it is only logical that God would love his creation. It is for this reason, that only the Judeo-Christian narrative rings true. Therefore, my faith in Christ is simple, some would say simplistic. I love Him because He first loved me.
Moreover, what are we to make of the apostles, what of their actions after the death of Christ? If they truly saw Jesus die and entombed like any other false prophet, they must have had an incredible will to carry on the lie of Jesus as Messiah. Ask yourself, would you willingly die in order to perpetuate what you know to be a lie? Would you suffer torture, imprisonment, and a horrible death for no other reason but to continue a grand deception long after you no longer walked the earth? This is the question we have to ask about the original disciples of Jesus Christ. These men walked with Jesus, heard his teachings, and accepted him as the Messiah, the incarnate Son of God. Believing this to be true, they dedicated their lives, unto death, to preaching His gospel, even after seeing Christ's arrest, trial, torture, and execution. If the historical Jesus was but a man, who, after being taken down from the cross, was laid in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea to slowly decompose just like any other living thing, why would the disciples bother carrying on with the lie? There was no money to be gained? No popularity, as their message made them hated, outcasts among their own people. Upon seeing their Christ’s lifeless body, entombed, why did they continue to tell the world that Jesus was the Son of God, even at great risk to their own lives? Were they all lunatics? Were they simply obstinate to the end? Or did they really see their risen savior and that gave them the strength to spend the rest of their lives travelling the known world, in and out of prison, ostracized from their own people, and finally facing death in order that others may live in Him?
Consider the fates of these men (the original twelve and Paul) who Jesus called to be his disciples:
Peter, Simon Peter, Cephas, “the Rock,” a fisherman picked by Jesus to be a follower and one of the most prominent of the disciples. He is also shown to be one of “little faith,” and to ultimately deny his association with Jesus three times, fearing for his own safety. Yet, he was still willing to accept martyrdom in the service of the one who he had denied. Peter was crucified at Rome with his head downwards, as he had desired to suffer. This is why an upside down cross is generally accepted as a symbol of Peter, who did not consider himself worthy enough to die the same way as his Savior. Why would Peter deny his master and then end up willingly dying in His service?
Andrew was Peter’s brother and a fisherman whom Christ called away from his livelihood to become a “fisher of men.” He is said to have been martyred by crucifixion at the city of Patras in Achaea. Andrew was bound, rather than nailed, to a Latin cross of the kind on which Jesus is said to have been crucified; another tradition developed that Andrew had been crucified on an X-shaped cross now known as a "Saint Andrew's Cross" — supposedly at his own request, as he also deemed himself unworthy to be crucified on the same type of cross as Jesus had been.
Agrippa I had James executed by sword. He is the only apostle whose martyrdom is recorded in the New Testament and he is believed to have been the first martyred for Christ. James, one of the “Sons of Thunder” who was rebuked by Jesus for wanting to call down fire on a Samaritan town, was one of only three to bear witness to the Transfiguration.
Philip and Bartholomew were also crucified upside- down. Philip continued to preach from his cross . Because of Philip's preaching, the crowd released Bartholomew from his cross, but Philip insisted that they not release him, and he was stoned while still hanging upside down on the cross.
Bartholomew is said to have been martyred in Albanopolis in Armenia. After the trial and crucifixion of Christ, Bartholomew continued to travel throughout the region and preach the gospel. He made to modern day Armenia where he converted the king to Christianity and was killed by the king’s brother. Some histories have him as being beheaded while others contend that he was flayed while still alive and crucified with his head downward.
Matthew, the tax collector who invited Jesus to his home, much to the consternation of the Pharisees, ended up preaching the gospel as far away as Ethiopia. Little is known of Matthew’s death, but most historians hold that he was martyred, but there is no adequate confirmation. What is known of Matthew’s life after the crucifixion is that he remained a tireless disciple of Christ, with some reports having him as far west as Ethiopia and as far to the east as Persia.
Thomas, “the doubter,” who would not believe in the risen Christ unless he saw the His pierced hands and put his finger in the wounds made by the nails and His spear- pierced side, was condemned to death in India, led out of the city to a hill, and pierced through with spears by four soldiers.
James the “Less,” also James the Just, was sentenced to death for having violated the Torah by preaching that Jesus was the Messiah. He was arrested along many other Christians and was subsequently thrown from the walls of the temple in Jerusalem and then clubbed to death.
Simon the Zealot is believed to have traveled to Egypt, North Africa and perhaps even as far as Britain to preach the gospel of Christ. He is thought to have suffered crucifixion in Persia.
Jude, also known as Thaddeus, whose father was killed for his devotion to Christ, is reported to have suffered martyrdom along with Simon.
Judas, the betrayer of Christ for thirty pieces of silver, the disillusioned disciple who valued money, himself, his revolutionary desires for his country, more than he loved Christ. He became so overwrought with the guilt of having betrayed the innocent blood that he committed suicide.
Pagans dragged Mark, considered the founder of the Christian church in Egypt, behind a horse until his body was in shreds.
John, the other “Son of Thunder” and the beloved disciple, the only one who did not forsake Jesus during His trial and crucifixion, stood faithfully at the foot of the cross. From the cross, Jesus made John the protector and guardian of Mary, His mother. John was also given the Revelation of Jesus Christ on Patmos, detailing the future triumph of his Lord. John was the exception among the disciples, surviving his contemporary apostles and living well into his nineties, dying naturally at Ephesus in about AD 100.
Lastly, Paul, formerly Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee who studied Jewish law under the esteemed Gamaliel, was a persecutor of the early Christians and held the coats of the mob that killed the first martyr, Stephen. Saul was converted after encountering the risen Christ on the road to Damascus and being stricken blind. The same man who had mercilessly terrorized the followers of Jesus came to refer to himself as a servant, or even a slave, of the risen messiah. Paul’s many missionary journeys are epic in their scope. He travelled the known world, preaching the message that he had once tried to stamp out and being persecuted as he had once persecuted others. Finally, after many years in prison, Paul was martyred himself. Being a Roman citizen, he was afforded the more merciful death of beheading, as opposed to the usual crucifixion.
Sure, there have been countless individuals who have died for false causes, but these people generally don’t intentionally die for what they KNOW to be a lie. They believe they have the truth and that belief propels them to act. If Christ did not rise on the third day, and make himself known to his disciples, the disciples would have certainly been a dispirited lot and likely would have scattered, probably searching for the “real” messiah. But they didn’t. Their faithfulness to the "lie" of Jesus as the Messiah was amazing and amazingly stupid considering there was no upside to preaching to the world that a dead man was God. Unless, of course, they were witnesses to the fact that the man they called "Christ" was not dead. The only way that so many people would be willing to suffer persecution, torture, and death is if they knew that He was who He said He was and that fact was proven by virtue of the Resurrection.