What Happened to the Disciples?
This Sunday Brother Adam gave us a homework question. That question was “how many of Jesus’ disciples went on to be martyred for the faith?” So, what is the answer? Well, the traditional answer is 11 and now we will dive a little deeper into that.
Of the 12 disciples that are mentioned in the gospels, 10 of them are martyred. Let’s quickly look at them.
- Peter- Peter was martyred roughly around the same time Paul is (AD 66) in Rome. The traditional story concerning Peter’s death is that he was crucified upside down because he would not be killed in the same way as his Lord. During his ministry after Christ, Peter became the leader of the apostles and wrote 2 books of the New Testament and gave an account for at least the book of Mark.
- Andrew- After the ascension of Christ, Andrew went to Asia Minor, Turkey, and even possibly Russia to proclaim the gospel. Church tradition says that Andrew was crucified in Greece.
- James (son of Zebedee)- James, one of the Sons of Thunder (which is an awesome nickname), was the first apostle to be martyred (AD 44) and the only to have his martyrdom recorded in the Bible. Acts 12:1-2 says “About that time King Herod violently attacked some who belonged to the church, and he executed James, John’s brother, with the sword.” This means that he was more than likely beheaded.
- Bartholomew (Nathaniel)- After the ascension of Christ, Bartholomew went all the way to India preaching the gospel! He also preached in Turkey and Asia Minor where there are different accounts of his death. Some say that he was crucified and upon seeing the cross, Nathaniel saluted it and said, “I have long desired and expected this happy hour. The cross has been consecrated by the body of Christ hanging on it.” Other accounts have Nathaniel being skinned alive; however, it is agreed that he died in Asia Minor around AD 72.
- Matthew- Matthew went on after Christ’s departure to write the gospel of Matthew. His missionary work took Him to Ethiopia where tradition has that he was either staked or impaled by spears to the ground and beheaded.
- Thomas- Thomas went to India after the ascension of Christ and began a church there. Not much is known about his death other than he was stabbed to death.
- Jude- Like many of the other disciples the details on Jude’s death are not clear. We do know that Jude went on to write the book of Jude and he died in Persia. The two traditional accounts of his death are that he was either clubbed to death, crucified, or shot with arrows with no specific year known.
- James (the Less)- James the Less was not the brother of Jesus nor was he John’s brother. Little is known about him but tradition has that he was killed in the same way as James the brother of Christ. This meant that he was taken up to the top of temple, thrown off, and then beaten to death after landing.
- Philip- After Christ’s ascension, Philip went to Turkey and Asia Minor where it is said that he was hanged. His hanging is said to have been with hooks pressed into his shins and then hung upside down.
- Simon (the zealot)- Not much is know about Simon even before Christ’s ascension and less is known after. More than likely Simon ministered alongside Jude and was crucified in Persia.
So, those are the easy ones. After that there is a little more explanation. First, John, the writer of the gospel of John, 1-3 John, and Revelation, was the only apostle to die a peaceful death. He died in Ephesus after being in exile in Patmos.
So then we are still at 10 and how do we get to 11? Well, we get to 11 through Mathias, the disciple named after the death of Judas (Acts 1:18). Mathias was chosen as a disciple (Acts 1:20-26) and, like the other disciples, was martyred in the late 1st century by stoning.
Conclusion: By examining the death of these men, we can see the radical transformation that Christ had on their lives. Men that were tax collectors, fisherman, etc. became gospel preachers traveling far from home so that their Lord could be made known. These men heard Christ tell them to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them all that I have commanded” and it radically changed the way they lived. These men saw every person in their lives as someone who needed the gospel. The disciples walked around the world thinking “I haven’t seen that person so I don’t think they know Christ and I know they need to know Him.” This should be our mindset, so then NRRBC…let’s go BE AND MAKE DISCIPLES!
Questions for kiddos: Who on earth should know that Jesus died and rose again for them?
Who do you know that doesn’t know Jesus?
Do you love Jesus enough to tell others about Him?
How much do you have to love Jesus to be willing to die for him?
Sources: whatchristianswanttoknow.com, neverthirsty.org, and the Christian Standard Bible