For those who do not remember “Watergate,” this is the name of an office building complex, The Watergate Office Buildings and Hotel in Washington, D.C., where the Democratic National Convention housed its headquarters in 1972. A break-in, most likely authorized by then President Nixon, set the stage for most of the distrust of government currently rampant, resulted in the only resignation of a sitting president of the US and brings me to “The Only ‘Proof’ of the Resurrection” of Jesus. The metonym Watergate came to encompass any associated activities surrounding the scandal. The use of the suffix “-gate” after an identifying term has since become synonymous with political or public scandal, including irangate, travelgate, Reagangate and slapgate just to name a few.
One of Nixon’s “henchmen,” Charles Colson, sometimes called “Nixon’s hatchet man,” was one of the “Watergate Seven,” chief architects of the crimes associated to Watergate and its subsequent cover-up. He was also one of 48 convictions that served prison time as a consequence and accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior while in prison, penning Born Again from this experience.
Mr. Colson, as he began to minister to others in the US prison system, said regarding his conversion, “I know the Resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead; then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned or put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world – and we couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.” Born Again by Charles Colson.
Following is a brief overview of how each of the twelve original apostles died as well as other martyrs of the first century. May this remind us that our sufferings in the US (so far) are minor to compare to the intense persecution and cold cruelty faced by the apostles and disciples during their time for the sake Jesus. Our troubles are also significantly less than many Christ-followers in other nations where simply owning or reading a Bible can result in arrest and death. Many Chinese Christ-followers do not expect to live 70-80 years, anticipating that perhaps they will be able to lead some of their prison guards to the Lord after they are arrested and before they die for their faith!
“Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” (John 12:25-26)
“If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:20)
Why do we feel sleepy in prayer, but stay awake through a three-hour movie? Why are we so bored when we read the Bible, but find it easy to read novels? Why is it so easy to ignore a Tweet about God, yet forward the latest Kardashian news? Why is it so easy to praise a celebrity, but so difficult to engage with our Creator?
Next week, I will discuss why Jesus left earth and did not stay to show off His crucifixion wounds to curiosity-seekers to prove His Resurrection.
Besides the original twelve, this list includes Matthias (elected to replace Judas, the Betrayer), Stephen, the first to die for his faith in Jesus, the apostle Paul (“as one born out of due time”-1 Corinthians 15:8), Mark, the author of The Gospel of Mark, Luke, the author of The Gospel of Luke and The Acts of the Apostles, and James, the brother of Jesus. These are recorded in Foxes’ Book of Martyrs (except for Judas Iscariot, recorded in Matthew 25 and Acts 1).
- Judas Iscariot (who betrayed Jesus): He hanged himself in suicide over the guilt of having betrayed “innocent blood.”
- Peter: Under Nero’s persecution, he was crucified upside-down (~A.D. 64-68). He requested the inverted crucifixion because he felt unworthy to die in the same way that Jesus Christ had died.
- Andrew the brother of Peter: He was crucified on an X-shaped cross in Patras, Greece, hence the name “St. Andrew’s Cross.” After being whipped severely by seven soldiers they tied his body to the cross with cords rather than nails, to prolong his agony. His followers reported that, when he was led toward the cross, Andrew saluted it in these words, “I have long desired and expected this happy hour. The cross has been consecrated by the body of Christ hanging on it.” He continued to preach to his tormentors for two days until he expired.
- James the son of Zebedee: As a strong leader of the church, James was beheaded at Jerusalem in A.D. 44 by Herod Agrippa (see Acts 12:2). The Roman officer who guarded James was amazed at James’ calm as he defended his faith at his trial. Later, as the officer walked beside James to the place of execution, he declared his new faith to the judge and knelt beside James and was also beheaded as a Christian.
- John the son of Zebedee: Facing martyrdom, he was boiled in huge basin of boiling oil during a wave of persecution in Rome. However, he was miraculously delivered from death. John was then sentenced to the mines on the prison Isle of Patmos. The apostle John was later freed and returned to serve as the pastor of Edessa in modern Turkey. He died as an old man (~A.D. 100-105), the only apostle to die peacefully.
- Phillip: In Hieropolis, Turkey, he was scourged, imprisoned and eventually crucified in A.D. 54.
- Bartholomew: Also known as Nathaniel, he was a missionary to Asia (modern Turkey). Bartholomew was martyred for his preaching in Armenia where he was flayed to death with knives.
- Matthew: He suffered martyrdom in Ethiopia for preaching about Jesus; killed by a sword in A.D. 60.
- Thomas: He was stabbed with a spear in India during one of his missionary trips to establish another church in the subcontinent (~A.D. 70).
- James the son of Alphaeus: He was crucified in Lower Egypt and then sawed in pieces in A.D. 62.
- Simon the Zealot: He was crucified in Britain in A.D. 74 for preaching “foreign gods.”
- Judas, also called Thaddeus: He was killed with arrows when he refused to deny his faith in Christ.
- Matthias: The apostle chosen to replace the traitor Judas Iscariot, he was stoned and then beheaded.
- Stephen, a deacon of Acts 6: The first martyr was stoned to death, recorded in Acts 7:54-60.
- Paul: He was tortured and then beheaded by Emperor Nero at Rome in A.D. 67. Paul endured a lengthy imprisonment, which allowed him to write many of his letters to the churches he had formed throughout the Roman Empire. These epistles, which taught many of the foundational doctrines of Christianity, form a large portion of the New Testament.
- Mark the author of The Gospel of Mark: He was dragged by horses through the streets of Alexandria, Egypt until he was dead.
- Luke: He was hanged in Greece as a result of his tremendous preaching to the lost.
- James the brother of Jesus: As the respected leader of the church in Jerusalem, he was thrown over a hundred feet down from the southeast pinnacle of the Temple when he refused to deny his faith in Christ. When they discovered that he survived the fall, his enemies stoned and beat James to death with a fuller’s club, crushing his skull until his brains spilled out.
“There have been times of late when I have had to hold on to one text with all my might: ‘It is required in stewards that a man may be found faithful.’ Praise God, it does not say ‘successful’.” Amy Wilson-Carmichael, Things as they Are (1 Corinthians 4:2)