At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus chose twelve disciples, who later served as His apostles. As history and tradition teaches us, likely all but one, John, died a violent death as martyrs for their faith. Theirs is the ultimate testimony. That is actually the origin of our word martyr; the Greek verb “martureo” means “to be a witness,” “to testify.”
Skeptics, however, will claim that people die daily for what they believe, either as innocent victims, as a result of persecutions or deliberately, like a fanatic Muslim homicide bomber. So dying for one’s faith does not prove anything about the truth of the resurrection.
Wait. Is that correct? What is the difference between an apostle of Christ who was martyred and a fanatic Muslim bomber of today? Yes, both died for their faith. One obvious difference is that Jesus’ apostle was killed by others, whereas the suicide bomber took his own life. Also, the apostle acted out of love, while the suicide bomber was motivated by hate. There is one other difference, and this is of huge importance. Both died for what they believed; however, the suicide bomber based his convictions on what others told him to be true, but the apostle based his faith on what he himself had experienced, the resurrection of Jesus! He did not only believe the resurrection was true, he knew it was true.
Remember what happened when Jesus was captured in the Garden of Gethsemane? “Then all the disciples deserted him and fled” (Matthew 26:54). They were overcome by fear and afraid they would be captured next. Likely, all ran the other way, racing out of Jerusalem in the direction of Bethany. After this initial cowardly reaction, apparently only Peter and John could muster enough courage to go back to Jerusalem to find out what was happening. When confronted, three times Peter denied any knowledge of Jesus (as foretold by Jesus and recorded in all four gospels). Only John was present at the site of the crucifixion (John 19:25-27).
When Jesus was captured, tried, and crucified, his followers were discouraged and depressed. They no longer were confident that Jesus had been sent by God (how could God allow his Son to be crucified?). They certainly did not anticipate a resurrection. So they hid and dispersed. Just as the Jews had planned, the original Jesus movement had died on the cross.
After only a short time a complete reversal of attitude occurred. Something remarkable transformed these cowards into bold and brave men. We see them abandoning their professions and re-grouping to commit themselves to spread a very specific message: Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah of God, who died on the cross, returned to life, and was seen by them. They invested the remainder of their lives proclaiming this, with no payoff from a human point of view. They faced a life of hardship; often being without food, they slept exposed to the elements, were ridiculed, and faced the constant threat of beatings and imprisonments. Finally, most of them died a hideous death as martyrs.
This change of behavior can only be explained by the fact that they were convinced – beyond any doubt –they had seen Jesus alive from the dead. There is no other adequate explanation.
They were the ones who met the living Jesus in person. They were unique. These men knew the resurrection as fact – and not merely believed it by faith. They were not convinced by someone’s testimony, but they had shared time with the resurrected Jesus. Knowing the truth, they were willing to die for it. If they knew it was not true, it is extremely unlikely that all would stick to this deception and would be willing to die for a lie. Would you die for a lie?
The evidence from the changed lives of the apostles after they claimed to have met the resurrected Jesus is a solid historical fact. Their testimony is so sound and convincing that even critical and non-believing scholars accept it: “The only thing we can certainly say to be historical is that there were resurrection appearances in Galilee (and in Jerusalem) soon after Jesus’ death. These appearances cannot be denied.”
About the author:
Rob VandeWeghe is a skeptic turned Christian by studying the
foundations for Christianity. A comprehensive overview of the
evidences, as well as Rob’s book ‘Prepared to
Answer’ are available at
The above article is an excerpt from Rob's book: Prepared to Answer. You can get a copy of this book on his website or as Ebook here on FaithWriters-FaithReaders.