Each one of these men spent the remainder of their lives testifying to the reality, mission, and saving grace of Jesus Christ.
By Dr. Donald Whitchard
“But He said, ‘The things impossible with men are possible with God.’ And Peter said, ‘Behold, we have left our own homes, and followed You.’ And He said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life.”
“And He took the Twelve aside and said to them, ‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be delivered to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him, and the third day He will rise again. And they understood none of these things, and this saying was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said.”
- Luke 18:27-34 (NASB)
Jesus and the apostles have watched the young ruler, having been confronted with his self-centered attempts to justify himself before the LORD, has walked away from the potential gift of not just authentic peace with God, but an opportunity to witness and proclaim the truth and mission of the Lord Jesus for the remainder of his days. However, by walking away, he has now become the sorrowful and miserable example of wasted potential and probable loss of his soul all because he would not tear down the idol that his wealth had become and give all to Jesus, who did not go after him to have a further discussion about the issue. This young man was not ready in any way to surrender anything nor himself to Jesus’ call and would end up as a waste of time and effort to do otherwise. The lesson here is that sometimes you need to let the issue drop when talking to someone about Jesus and they do not want to listen or submit to His terms. We need to walk away and focus on the next phase of our own walk with the LORD. They are without excuse.
Jesus says that salvation and attempts on our part to redeem ourselves, no matter how noble the attempt might be, can never be accomplished in our sinful, reprehensible state. The fact that most of humanity tries to settle the issue of religious contentment without the need for God’s intervention shows that we are His enemies and foes, fighting against His terms He has put into place by the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ on the cross and surrendering our lives and all we have to His Sovereign Lordship, trusting Him to cleanse us from our wicked nature.
If we think that some kind of “religious path” apart from a real relationship with God is possible, all we need to do is look at the apostle Paul and his life before Jesus met him on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:1-6). He was religious, seeing the newly formed believers in Jesus as a blasphemous threat against the sanctity of God and needed to be eradicated quickly. He had all the drive, hatred, and rage towards Jesus Christ and His followers that a member of ISIS would have against anyone who did not bow to their fanaticism and bloody rampage today. After his encounter with the risen Christ, this proud, arrogant fanatic became the great lion of God who would spread the gospel throughout the Roman Empire for the rest of his life, writing most of what would become the New Testament.
Paul, and the apostles who followed Jesus willingly and without question at this time, gave up everything they had considered of worth and value, along with the lives they had in order to take up Jesus’ call to follow Him. So far, all had gone well in this journey, but troubles were starting to come up to the surface as the religious officials, their followers, and many in the court of Herod and his toadies began to see Jesus as a troublemaker, insurrectionist, a viable threat to their established corrupt practices and beliefs, and a blasphemer worthy of death. This did not go unnoticed, and Peter said that they had given up their lives in order to follow Him. This statement uncovered a concern that had gone unmentioned up to now, and that was whether it was worth the effort and trouble to stay with Him and wonder if they would get anything out of it in the end. It shows that the apostles were not blindly following some self-delusional sage as if he were the head of a cult demanding total obedience without question or discussion. These men were not a bunch of backwater bumpkins susceptible to anything that sounded like a fantasy or dreamland.
The apostles were real, rugged, hard-working, rough ordinary men with a range of feelings, beliefs, ideas, opinions, and doubts. Scripture tells us that (Matthew 28:16-17; John 20:19-29), and I am glad it is recorded for us. Put yourself in their situation. These men are all devout Jews, growing up being taught and believing that the LORD is God, the LORD is One (Duet.6:1-9), and had been in the synagogue every Sabbath hearing the rabbis read the Scriptures, hearing about the history of their land, their relationship with God, the promise of a Messiah and what He would do for Israel, and learning the details of living a life pleasing to God. Along comes a thirty-year old master carpenter from a little town off the beaten path with a bad reputation (John 1:46), the son of a poor carpenter and a mother who has had to endure the rumors that the first son she had was illegitimate. This carpenter’s son has now turned over the family business to His brothers who did not believe what He was saying or teaching about Himself, thinking that He had lost His mind (Matt. 13:55-56; Mark 3:21; John 7:5). He is now making the claim that He is the fulfillment of the messianic Scriptures by performing undeniable miracles, is seen as an extraordinary teacher, and is casting out demons who scream that He is the Holy One of God.
He has now called a select group of seemingly irrelevant, ordinary bunch including fishermen, a former terrorist, a former tax collector, a student of the Scriptures, a skeptic, two hotheaded brothers who had the tendency to want anyone who challenged them to be destroyed by fire from heaven, and a zealot for the faith who ended up as the group’s treasurer and seemed to be on the level. These devout Jews, adhering to the belief of one God are now following, with some concern, a Man who claims to be the One who was written about by the prophets of Israel.
Scripture also tells us that His followers were egotistical, arrogant, slow to catch on to a teaching, continually trying to be His favorite, were often confused about a teaching, were prejudiced against other nationalities, and when Jesus needed them most, they all ran away like scared rabbits and hid in fear from the authorities while He was undergoing insufferable agony and death. They were not the ones to first see Jesus resurrected either but questioned the very sanity of one of his devoted followers who happened to be a woman when she proclaimed that she had seen Him and talked with Him. Women in that day were considered unreliable in terms of providing eyewitness testimony of a crime or incident in a court of law as well as seen as second-class citizens. This one fact of Jewish society is a legitimate proof of the authenticity of the gospel accounts. This was an embarrassing detail that would have been left out or rewritten if the men had been the first to see the resurrected Jesus.
Each one of these men, save for Judas who had killed himself and was a fraud overall, spent the remainder of their lives testifying to the reality, mission, and saving grace of Jesus Christ at the cost of their lives, save for the apostle John who was the only one to die a natural death of old age (96 A.D.) Each apostle died in ways that we cannot comprehend such as being skinned alive, killed with arrows, spears, crucifixion, hanged, killed by stoning, sawn in half, beheaded, and possibly one being boiled in oil. All these men had to do to keep from being killed was to deny Christ, or to confess that the whole thing had been made up, or to turn on other believers and be set free. None did, and a line of men, women, and children have carried on the story of Jesus Christ, lying in unknown graves, at the bottom of the seas, torn apart by wild animals and their remains burned, tortured to death, or working selflessly for the glory of God and passed away in an obscure part of the world, known only to Him.
There have been scores of tyrants, emperors, popes, sultans, kings, and dictators who wanted to boast that they had rid the world of the name and memory of Jesus Christ. He is remembered and exalted to this day, and his enemies are in the grave awaiting judgment. Too much blood has been spilt for all of this to be a fabrication or misguided zealotry in history or for the sake of the preservation of the Scriptures throughout the centuries. He is worth it, and He is worthy to be praised. His mission was accomplished, and He is LORD. What do you say?
Don was born and raised in the true Cajun Country of Louisiana. He holds a Bachelors Degree in History from Louisiana College, a Masters Degree in Christian Education from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Ministry degree in Pastoral Theology from Andersonville Baptist Seminary in Georgia. Don has served as a pastor, interim pastor, high school teacher, and hospital chaplain over the past thirty years. He currently serves as a volunteer chaplain (2008-present) with St. Francis Hospital and also served as the pastor/teacher from 2013-2016 at the Gospel Rescue Mission, both of which are here in Muskogee. He was called to Meadowbrook in February 0f 2017 and began his ministry in March of that year. He has also served as President of the Muskogee Baptist Association’s Pastors Conference, which is a weekly meeting that presents speakers and ministry ideas and concepts to church leaders in the greater Muskogee area.
Don’s top priority is to see that the good news of Jesus Christ is shared with our lost and hurting world and that the people of God are taught sound doctrine and preparation for our Lord’s soon return.