Where Is Your Cross?
Lately I have been watching some shows on the lives of the apostles after the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus. The lives they lived and the tribulations they suffered through to bear witness and testify the good new to the world. How easy do we have it compared to them? What tribulations do we have now? Oh No, my cell phone battery died! Our toughest challenge is should we speak up for Jesus because we are afraid of the embarrassment. Hmmm, makes you question your devotion and faith doesn’t it? And it should!
Compare that to the lives that 11 left everything pursued him without wavering. Many lives were saved because of the Apostles’ determination strengthened by the Holy Spirit. But at the end, all of them were martyred except for Judas the betrayer who committed suicide and John who lived a full life. Additionally, they were not just killed, they were slowly and painfully killed in most cases. They carried their crosses until they we crucified on them. That’s how focused they were on following Christ.
How The 12 Apostles Died*
- Peter was crucified upside down by Nero
- Andrew, Peter’s brother, was scourged and tied, not nailed, to a cross so it took him days to die.
- James, son of Zebedee, was beheaded (Acts 12:1-19)
- Philip died in Egypt where he was scourged, tossed in prison, and finally crucified.
- Bartholomew was either beaten and crucified or skinned alive and beheaded. Depends on which account you choose to believe.
- Thomas was run through with a spear after angering the local religious authorities.
- James, son of Alphaeus, lived a long life until he was beaten and stoned to death by persecutors at 94 years old.
- Matthew was stabbed in the back by a swordsman sent by King Hertacus.
- Thaddeus was crucified in Edessa
- Simon the Canaanite was crucified in England
- Judas committed suicide after his betrayal.
- John passed away peacefully in Patmos
So 10 of the 12 disciples of Christ died violently for preaching the Gospel of Christ to the world. And that was just their deaths not to mention all who died for believing. Many, like Peter, spent a lot of time in prison and were tortured over the years too. This is true dedication and reminded me of this verse:
“And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” ~ Luke 9:23-24
We Have Failed!
Almost all of them took up their cross, many literally, to follow Jesus. How many of us would do that today? How many of us have even been close to being in that position? Sure there are some evangelists that travel into some unfriendly territories and have had their faith tested. But for most of us, we live a cushy life where our faith and dedication is never really put to a test. Even when it is slightly test we fail.
To be fair most of us would never have the the faith to follow Christ where he has gone. Most of us hide in our safe churches and when the heat is on, we deny him like Peter did. We have all failed at this at some point. We are afraid of what people think of us more than what God thinks of us. If Peter failed as an Apostle who knew Jesus and witnessed the Gospel preached personally, what hope is there for us?
We have all failed, just like Peter. But if we truly have our hearts focused on following our Lord, we must carry our cross wherever he leads us. How easy is it today when there is little risk of being put to death for our beliefs. At most these days,we get some ridicule. However, if we can’t handle a little ridicule, how can we handle the more difficult path to come? It seems to me that our relationship with God was built on sand in that case and we should take an honest look at our relationship with Him.
Will You Take Up Your Cross?
The good news for us is we can learn and gain strength through our submission to God through Jesus and the strength of the Holy Spirit that he grants us. Peter failed by denying Christ 3 times but he learned from his mistakes and became the Rock that Christ founded his Church on and performed great works in the name of Jesus. More importantly he never denied Jesus again no matter the trials he went through. So can you take up your cross and not longer be embarrassed by your faith in Jesus? If you fall, and you will, can you get back up, put that cross on your shoulder and follow our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on to his promised kingdom.
* “How Did The Apostles Die?” by Patrick J Kiger, National Geographic, February 19, 2015