“For to me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” NKJV
“For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.” NLT
I wonder how many times I have said that. And if I have, did I really mean it? Would I really find it a gain to die? I know in my heart that it is, but when it came down to it–would I really rather die–for Christ, mind you–then to live? (I would not want to die for anything but Christ..which might include dying to save another.)
And do I really live as Christ? I really have to compare myself to this verse sometimes. I have great admiration for Paul. Because, half the time, I think I end up living as myself, and to die is loss.
I have been reading out of the Martyrs Mirror (also titled Bloody Theater), about how each of the apostles, and people shortly after Jesus’s crucifixion, were persecuted, and eventually martyred. (And these stories are only a fraction of the book, there are hundreds of stories–or at least it seems so. It is about as thick as two and a half Bibles.)
Anyways, it has really challenged me.
These men were devoted to the faith. At least three of the apostles crucified, one of which was Peter who requested to be crucified upside down because he did not deem himself worthy to die like Christ. (His crucifiers were happy to oblige him of course, because it would increase the pain.)
And Andrew, Peters brother, was crucified in a different fashion than Jesus or Peter. (See picture below.) But he was not nailed to the cross, but rather, tied to it, and he hung there for three days instructing the people around him.
(See pictures below for third apostle crucified.)
And of course we all know what happened to Paul, and it is no less significant than any of the others–he was beheaded. James the greater was martyred in the same fashion.
Mark, or John, also John Mark, was “dragged out of the congregation, through the streets and out of the city; so that his flesh everywhere adhered to the stones, and his blood was poured out upon the earth, until he, with the last words of our Saviour, committed his spirit into the hand of the Lord, and expired.” Martyrs Mirror, page 78.
Christians in general were not martyred by any less cruel ways. Many had pitch and such substances poured on them, then tied to stacks and used as torches! And that is only one way in which Nero persecuted them.
James the lesser was thrown off the top of a building and then stoned. And as he was being stoned (for the fall had only broken his legs) he prayed the words of Jesus as he was dying. “Lord, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Hearing this a priest called out for the stoning to stop saying, “What do ye? the Just is praying for us. leave off the stoning!” But someone took a club and hit James over the head with it, killing him. (See page 75 of the Martyrs Mirror.)
And of course, Stephen was stoned to death, which is also no little way to die.
Luke the evangelist, and physician, was hung by the neck on a tree.
(And there are still hundreds of later martyrs and other apostles whom I have not the time to write of. Plus more that were never recorded.)
All these men, died for He who first died. They followed His footsteps to the very end. Some not only followed His footsteps, but spoke His words.
Even today there are persecuted men and women.
And yet I sit here in comfy America.
“..to live is Christ, to die is gain.”