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Thursday, March 22, 2012

I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me. But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them.
John 16:1-4

It is not without significance that our word “martyr” comes from the Greek word Jesus uses for “testify” or “witness” throughout the Gospels. The early followers of Jesus so often faced death as they testified of Jesus, people came to equate being His witness with suffering and death.

It is also not without significance that all the men who sat with Jesus that night in the Upper Room suffered martyrdom, except John, who endured lonely exile on the island of Patmos. John’s brother, James, was beheaded by Herod Agrippa. Philip was scourged and crucified in Phrygia. Matthew was slain with an axe. Andrew was crucified in Achaia. Peter was crucified in Rome upside down, thinking himself unworthy to be crucified as was his Lord. Bartholomew was crucified head down in India. Jude was crucified in Edessa. Thomas was pierced through with a spear in India. Simon the Zealot was crucified in Britain. James the Less was stoned to death in Jerusalem. As far as we know from Biblical sources and early church tradition, the disciples and those who followed soon after gave their lives in testimony. The Bible leads us to believe they were people much like you and me, who decided to follow Jesus.

I often think of this “white-robed army of martyrs” that has gone before us, faithfully bearing testimony to the world. In the face of mockery, slander, persecution, and death, they refused to turn back. I give thanks for them, and pray to God that I might be more faithful. Amy Carmichael, a nineteenth century Irish missionary to India, wrote a poem that surely challenges all of us who want to follow Jesus:

Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land;
I hear them hail thy bright, ascendant star.
Hast thou no scar?

Hast thou no wound?
Yet I was wounded by the archers; spent,
Leaned Me against a tree to die; and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed Me, I swooned.
Hast thou no wound?

No wound? No scar?
Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,
And pierced are the feet that follow Me.
But Thine are whole; can he have followed far
Who hast no wound or scar?


What are there in Jesus’ words today to know; to feel; to do?

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