John 21:1, 4-9, 12-14
At that time, Jesus revealed himself again
to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias….
When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore;
but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?”
They answered him, “No.”
So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat
and you will find something.”
So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in
because of the number of fish.
So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.”
When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord,
he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad,
and jumped into the sea.
The other disciples came in the boat,
for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards,
dragging the net with the fish.
When they climbed out on shore,
they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread….
Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.”
And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?”
because they realized it was the Lord.
Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them,
and in like manner the fish.
This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples
after being raised from the dead.
Acts of the Apostles 5:27-32, 40b-41
When the captain and the court officers had brought the apostles in
and made them stand before the Sanhedrin,
the high priest questioned them,
“We gave you strict orders, did we not,
to stop teaching in that name?
Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching
and want to bring this man’s blood upon us.”
But Peter and the apostles said in reply,
“We must obey God rather than men.
The God of our ancestors raised Jesus,
though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree.
God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior
to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins.
We are witnesses of these things,
as is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”
The Sanhedrin ordered the apostles
to stop speaking in the name of Jesus, and dismissed them.
So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin,
rejoicing that they had been found worthy
to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.
In my post of January 23, 2022, “Sunday Devotional: Faith, Evidence and Logic,” I made the case for Christian belief not based exclusively on faith, but also on empirical evidence and logical reasoning.
The empirical evidence for Christianity includes the testimonies of percipient witnesses. A “percipient witness” is defined by Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary as “A witness who testifies about things she or he actually perceived. For example, an eyewitness.” Those testimonies are critical to the determination of truth in law.
In Jesus’ time when there were no technological devices to record empirical phenomena and events, percipient witnesses were particularly important in providing testimonials about truths.
The Apostles and disciples who were percipient witnesses of Jesus the Christ –some of whom were fed a breakfast of fish cooked by the resurrected Jesus, as recounted in the above passage from John 21 — were willing to die for they had seen and heard because, as recounted in the above passage from Acts 5, “We must obey God rather than men.”
This is how the Apostles were martyred, testifying to the truth they’d witnessed until their last breath:
- St. Stephen, the first martyr of Christianity, was stoned to death in Jerusalem, c. AD 34.
- St. James, son of Zebedee and brother of St. John the Apostle, was the first Apostle to be martyred. King Herod had St. James beheaded in 44 AD.
- St. James, son of Alpheus, was reported by the Jewish historian Josephus to have been stoned and then clubbed to death in 62 AD.
- St. Jude Thaddaeus was crucified in Syria, c. 65 AD.
- St. Simon the Zealot ministered in Persia and was sawn in half, c. 65 AD after refusing to sacrifice to the sun god.
- St. Peter and St. Paul were both martyred in Rome about 66 AD, during the persecution under Emperor Nero. St. Paul was beheaded. St. Peter was crucified, upside down at his request, because he did not feel he was worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord.
- St. Mark, a rope around his neck, was dragged to death in Alexandria, Egypt, in AD 68.
- St. Thomas was pierced to death in India, 72 AD, where the ancient Marthoma Christians revere him as their founder.
- St. Matthias, who was chosen to replace Judas, was burned to death in Syria, c. 80 AD.
- St. Bartholomew (identified as Nathaniel in the Gospel of John) is believed to have been skinned alive and crucified. He ministered in India with St. Thomas, in Armenia, Ethiopia and Southern Arabia.
- St. Philip was crucified in Hierapolis, Asia Minor, 80 AD, for converting the wife of a Roman proconsul. He also ministered in North Africa.
- St. Andrew was crucified in Patras, Greece. He also preached in Asia Minor and modern-day Turkey. Christians in the former Soviet Union say he was the first to bring the Gospel to their land.
- St. Matthew was beheaded in Ethiopia. He had also ministered in Persia.
- St. John was the only Apostle who died a natural death from old age, after surviving an ordeal of being thrown into boiling oil. He was the leader of the church in Ephesus and is said to have taken care of Mary the mother of Jesus in his home. In mid-90s AD, he was exiled to the island of Patmos, where he wrote the last book of the New Testament–the Revelation.
Ask yourself this:
Why would the Apostles and countless Christians who followed, willingly be tortured and killed for a lie?
And would you, in our troubled time, be prepared at whatever costs to “obey God rather than men”?
May the love and peace of Jesus Christ our Lord be with you, and remember to tell Him that you love Him with your whole heart, your whole soul, your whole mind, and with every ounce of your strength.