The 2nd Evidence of the bodily resurrection of Jesus is supplied when we look at the lives of the men who followed Him (the Apostles). Let’s look at them right after the crucifixion and then after He had ascended.
First, Jesus knew that His followers would scatter when it came time for Him to go to His sacrificial and substitutionary death for us. Matthew 26: 31 On the way, Jesus told them, “Tonight all of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say, ‘God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32 But after I have been raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there.” This was a prophetic word about Jesus that is quoted from the book of Zechariah 13:7 in the Old Testament.
Jesus knew they would scatter. They did. They milled around and were generally depressed. Mark 16: 9 After Jesus rose from the dead early on Sunday morning, the first person who saw him was Mary Magdalene, the woman from whom he had cast out seven demons. 10 She went to the disciples, who were grieving and weeping, and told them what had happened. 11 But when she told them that Jesus was alive and she had seen him, they didn’t believe her.
They thought Jesus was God and now they didn’t seem to know what to do. Had he really died? What were they to do now? However, after these men saw Jesus and received the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) and the power of The Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4) everything changed. They each began to serve God with zeal and power. However, that isn’t where the evidence is strongest. The strongest evidence comes when we look into history and see these men lay down their lives for the cause of Christ. They became martyrs. Read what history says about them…
James was put to death by Herod Agrippa I in 44 AD (Acts 12:1).
The details of the deaths of three of the apostles (John, the Beloved, Bartholomew and Simon the Canaanite) are not known at all, either by tradition or early historians. Although, John was exiled to Patmos (where he received and wrote The Revelation).
Peter died 33-34 years after the death of Christ. According to Smith’s Bible Dictionary there is “satisfactory evidence that he and Paul were the founders of the church at Rome, and died in that city. The time and manner of the apostle’s martyrdom are less certain. According to the early writers, he died at or about the same time with Paul, and in the Neronian persecution, A.D. 67,68. All agree that he was crucified. Origen says that Peter felt himself to be unworthy to be put to death in the same manner as his Master, and was therefore, at his own request, crucified with his head downward.”
Andrew: No accurate death date given. A variety of traditions say he preached in Scythia, in Greece, in Asia Minor and Thrace. He is reported to have been crucified at Patrae in Achaia.
Philip: According to tradition he preached in Phrygia, and died at Hierapolis. On 7-27-11, his tomb is found in Hierapolis.
Matthew: He must have lived many years as an apostle, since he was the author of the Gospel of Matthew which was written at least twenty years after the death of Christ. There is reason to believe that he stayed for fifteen years at Jerusalem, after which he went as missionary to the Persians, Parthians and Medes. He is said to have died a martyr in Ethiopia.
Thomas: The earlier traditions, as believed in the fourth century, say he preached in Parthia or Persia, and was finally buried at Edessa. The later traditions carry him farther east. His martyrdom whether in Persia or India, is said to have been by a lance, and is commemorated by the Latin Church on December 21 the Greek Church on October 6, and by the Indians on July 1.
James Alpheus : We know he lived at least five years after the death of Christ because of mentions in the Bible. According to tradition, James son of Alpheus was thrown down from the temple by the scribes and Pharisees; he was then stoned, and his brains dashed out with a fuller’s club.
Jude (Thaddeus): according to tradition Jude taught in Armenia, Syria and Persia where he was martyred. Tradition tells us he was buried in Kara Kalisa in what is now Iran.
These men each went their own way (as they sensed The Lord’s leading). They went to fulfill the command of Jesus to Go. They didn’t retire. They didn’t slow down. Revelation 12:11 is a fitting description as ‘they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die’.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes people will lay down their lives and be wrong. I don’t believe that’s what happened here. Let the evidence begin to pile up in your mind. First, these men where transformed (as we looked at Peter’s transformation yesterday) and now they are filled with enough power and courage to live a life serving Jesus all the way to their death…many of those deaths martyrdom’s for their faith.
My heart swells as I see their faith in the Risen Lord Jesus. When we believe in Jesus, and the mighty power that brought Him back from death, we tap into the same faith and power that was at work in the lives of these men of old. They, like us, weren’t really all that special. They were just called by God, and equipped by God, and then obedient to God. Are we?