Summary: God has given His church a mission, God has given each of us a command to go and share the Gospel.
Hope in the Mission of the Church
Throughout the history of the church there have been many who have laid down their lives for Jesus and the message of the gospel.
Even today, there will be people who will suffer persecution for their faith in Christ. There will be those who are mistreated, imprisoned, tortured, raped, beaten, starved or killed today because they believe Jesus is Lord, Saviour, Messiah.
From the days of the early church, all of Jesus disciples except John who died of old age were killed or martyred for their faith.
The twelve apostles were just ordinary working men.
There was nothing special or spectacular about them.
Yet Jesus sent them out with a mission to reach the world.
Mission is a response to the command Jesus gave to His disciples and to each of us in Matthew 28:18-19,
Jesus told His disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
The first group of the disciples were in many ways, the beginning of the church.
Jesus took these ordinary men and formed them into the foundation of His church.
Jesus gave to them and us the most extraordinary task imaginable: sharing the truth of who Jesus was and is to the entire world.
Telling people the truth about sin, the forgiveness that is possible through accepting Jesus as Lord and Saviour.
The disciples spread out across the known world to follow the command of Jesus to share the Gospel, minister to others and evangelize.
The disciples went far and wide with the message of the risen Christ. People heard about Jesus, placed their trust in Him and the church grew.
But as the early church grew, so did the suffering that many would endure for following Jesus.
Jesus the only way, the only truth, the only life, the only hope, the only way to Heaven.
The disciples themselves suffered for their faith and in most cases each of them died because of their testimony that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation.
Church history and other sources record the death of the disciples:
Simon Peter and The Apostle Paul were both martyred in Rome about 66 AD, during the persecution under Emperor Nero.
The Apostle Paul was beheaded.
Peter was crucified, upside down at his request, because he did not feel he was worthy to die in the same way as Jesus.
Andrew, the brother of Peter, went to the area the modern world called the Soviet Union. Christians there claim Andrew was the first to take the message of the gospel to them. Andrew also preached in Asia Minor, modern-day Turkey, and Greece. Andrew went to Patras in western Greece in 69AD, there the Roman proconsul Aegeates debated religion with him. Aegeates tried to convince Andrew to forsake Christianity, so that he would not have to torture and execute him. But, when that didn’t work, he decided to give Andrew the full treatment. Andrew was scourged, and then tied rather than nailed to a cross, so that he would suffer for a longer time before dying. Andrew lived for two days, during which he preached to the people who walked past the cross he was crucified on.
Thomas was active in the area east of Syria. Church history and tradition records Thomas preaching as far east as India where the Marthoma Christians honour him as their founder. They claim that Thomas was killed there when he was when pierced with the spears of four soldiers.
Philip had a powerful ministry in Carthage in North Africa and then in Asia Minor, where it is recorded that the wife of a Roman proconsul was converted. But, the Roman proconsul was not happy that his wife had turned to Jesus so in retaliation the proconsul had Philip arrested in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis.
Philip was scourged, thrown into prison, and then crucified in 54 AD.
Matthew, former tax collector and writer of a Gospel, ministered in Persia and Ethiopia. Matthew was martyred in Ethiopia - stabbed in the back by a swordsman sent by King Hertacus, after he criticized the king’s morals.
Bartholomew had widespread missionary travels attributed to him. He went to India with Thomas and while he was there he translated the Gospel of Matthew for the local church. Bartholomew went back to Armenia, then on to Ethiopia and Southern Arabia where it would seem he really upset a group of idol worshippers. Tradition states that the idolaters beat Bartholomew, then he was skinned alive, then crucified, then to make sure he was really dead he was also beheaded.