“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.”
(2 Corinthians 4: 8- 9 ESV)
“My focus is to forget the pain of life. Forget the pain, mock the pain, reduce it. And laugh.”
In the first century… for Romans, religion was a force that bound families together, bound subjects to their ruler and bound men to the gods. They had a set of public gods, like Jupiter and Mars….Rome added to this collection of gods… both Greek gods as well as a number of foreign cults…Roman worship consisted of gaining the blessings of the gods thereby gaining prosperity for themselves and for their families…their communities…..these Roman gods did not demand moral behavior….but an acute observance of religious rituals……
In first century Judaism, there was found many sects and schools in Jewish society. The Essene’s who separated themselves from the community and thought they possessed the only truth….the Sadducee’s who appear to us to be a social-political party…and of course the infamous Pharisees… seemingly a rigid school of strict adherence to ancestral laws….who enjoyed the undying press of the New Testament and rigorously seen as opponents of Jesus…… there were also the Zealots…which appeared as a political movement interpreted by their own religious understanding…..but the most important group…..the plain Jews….the plain and simple folk who lived their Jewish lives by following the ways in which they were raised…..we see them also mentioned numerous times in the New Testament…..….the adulteress…..Matthew, the tax collector… Peter…who denied knowing Jesus three times….Thomas, the doubter…..the blind…the sick…the hungry…the lepers….the aged…the dying……
…just to name a few….
“…Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I don’t know what will go first, rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity. We’re more popular than Jesus now. Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.”
— John Lennon
When Christianity began to grow and flourish in the first century…its writers began to bring new ideas into the world of human thought and pagan beliefs. No one…not even unbelievers of today… can deny the tremendous impact! The undeniable importance of this radical movement… and of the suffering and the loyalty endured by those early Christians… Unlike their pagan counterparts…the early Christians did not abandon the sick and dying….they did not flee from cities or towns… they faced their own suffering and pain with an eerily sense of complete calmness….
And that new Christian approach to pain and suffering….
A greater room for sorrow and a
Greater basis for hope!
And those thick and ordinary disciples?…..what were their fate?
Peter….martyred in Rome during the reign of the emperor Nero…Peter requested to be crucified upside down so that his death would not be the equal of Jesus…
Andrew…scourged, and then tied rather than nailed to a cross, so that he would suffer for a longer time before dying. He lived for two days, preaching to passersby.
John….the only disciple to not die a violent death…passed away peacefully in Patmos in his old age.
Bartholomew…one account has him beaten and then crucified…the other account… he was skinned alive and then beheaded.
Thomas…martyred by running him through a spear.
Matthew…martyred in Ethiopia where he was supposedly stabbed in the back by a swordsman sent by King Hertacus, after he criticized the Kings morals.
James… at the age of 94, he was beaten and stoned by persecutors, and then they killed him by hitting him in the head with a club.
Thaddaeus…he was crucified at Edessa in 72 A. D.
Simon…he was crucified in 74 A. D. in England.
Judas Iscariot…According to Matthew 27: 3-6 the apostle quickly felt remorse over his betrayal of Jesus and went to the Temple to recant… the high priests ignored his plea…he threw back his 30 pieces of silver that he had been paid and went off and hanged himself.
And…Paul…The Bible does not say when or how Paul died. There is an early tradition by Ignatius probably around 110 AD, that Paul was martyred. Dionysius of Corinth in a letter to the Romans (166–174 AD), stated that Paul and Peter were martyred in Italy. Eusebius also cites the Dionysius passage.
The Acts of Paul, an Apocryphal work written around 160, describes the martyrdom of Paul. According to the Acts of Paul, Nero, condemned Paul to death by decapitation.
“To you, I’m an atheist.
To God, I’m the loyal opposition.”
— Woody Allen
And still…we ask…. “Why should we suffer?”
“Why would a loving God allow such suffering?”
To be continued….