By Tom Quiner
Men have been known to go to their death for something in which they believe. Those men are few and far between.
Men don’t give up their lives easily.
Do men go to their death for a lie? No they don’t, because our lives are too precious to us. The ultimate sacrifice, the ultimate expression of courage by giving up one’s own life, is only witnessed in men and women who firmly believe in a just cause or transcendent principle.
On this Easter vigil, it is relevant to consider the question: would you die for a lie?
The events put in place by the crucifixion of a man named Jesus two-thousand years ago force us to address that question.
Jesus had twelve disciples. Judas betrayed him and ultimately committed suicide for his betrayal. The remaining eleven disciples claim to have witnessed the resurrected Jesus. They spent the rest of their lives not only sticking to that story, but spreading it.
They spread the story that Jesus was the Son of God who came back to life three days after his execution. They spread this story even though it was dangerous to do so. The Jewish authorities had executed Jesus for His claims. His surviving disciples risked the same fate by sticking to the story.
So, were the disciples lying? Were they spreading the lie that Jesus had been resurrected even though the lie they told might get them killed?
Or were they risking their lives because they had witnessed a miracle? Were they simply doing what the Son of God told them to do because the Truth was more important than their personal safety?
It seems as if we’re left with three choices as we ponder this dilemma:
1. The disciples were liars, spreading a lie about a false new religion that might get them killed.
2. The disciples were telling the truth, even though it might get them killed.
3. The entire historical account has been manufactured.
And yet, historical evidence from the Bible itself is compelling. Coupled with non-Biblical sources, it is impossible to discount the existence of Jesus and his crucifixion.
Here’s a reference of the early Christians as reported by Roman historian, Tacitus, in about 116 A.D. as he explained how Nero tried to blame Christians for a fire that engulfed Rome:
Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite punishments on a class hated for their disgraceful acts, called Chrestians by the populace. Christ, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty (i.e., Crucifixion) during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.
Another Roman, Pliny the Younger, a Magistrate, wrote about the early Christians in his letter to Trajan:
Meanwhile, in the case of those who were denounced to me as Christians, I have observed the following procedure: I interrogated these as to whether they were Christians; those who confessed I interrogated a second and a third time, threatening them with punishment; those who persisted I ordered executed. For I had no doubt that, whatever the nature of their creed, stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy surely deserve to be punished. There were others possessed of the same folly; but because they were Roman citizens, I signed an order for them to be transferred to Rome.
These early Christians witnessed the resurrected Christ or knew people who had. They were willing to die for the Truth.
What happened to the original disciples of Christ? Peter himself was crucified some 33 years after Christ.
James was put to death by Herod Agrippa.
Andrew was crucified.
Matthew was believed to have been martyred in Ethiopia.
Thomas was martyred at the tip of a lance.
James of Alpheus was stoned.
Thaddeus was martyred in what is now Iran.
All of these men either died for a lie or for the truth. Which do you think it is?
Would you die for a lie?