First I must quote from Matthew 20:20. “Are ye able to drink from the cup that I shall drink of?” The disciples must have surely answered in the words of this old hymn, “Are Ye Able, Said the Master,” by Harry S. Mason and Earl Mariatt: “Are ye able,” said the Master, “To be crucified with Me?” “Yea,” the sturdy dreamers answered, “To the death we follow Thee. Lord, we are able. Our spirits are Thine; remold them, make us like Thee, divine. Thy guiding radiance above us shall be a beacon to God, to love and loyalty.”
Let me review who the men were who Jesus called to follow Him, to be his disciples and to drink the cup of martyrdom. A martyr is an individual who willingly allows himself to be tortured, disfigured, mutilated, defiled and/or put to death for the sake of his religious faith. All of the men, but one, whom Jesus called to follow Him died the death of a martyr. Who were they?
— Nathanael, also called Bartholomew, was a fisherman from Cana in Galilee. He became a missionary to Asia and witnessed in present day Turkey. For his preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Armenia, he was martyred when he was flayed to death by a whip. (To “flay” means to strip off the skin by lashing.)
— Matthew, a tax collector, was also called Levi, the publican. He was killed when he was run through by a sword in Ethiopia.
— James, “the lesser or the just,” simply was called to follow Jesus and he did, without hesitation or question. He was the leader of the church in Jerusalem. From over 100 feet above the ground, he was thrown to the pavement from the Temple’s pinnacle, when he refused to deny his faith in Christ. His enemies discovered he had survived the fall and proceeded to beat him to death with clubs, after which they sawed his body into pieces.
— James, “the greater,” son of Zebedee, was also a fisherman by trade. Jesus called him to lifetime of ministry. James was beheaded in Jerusalem. The Roman officer who guarded him was so amazed by his steadfast faith, that he walked with him to the place of his execution. There, he knelt beside the condemned man and professed himself to be a Christian convert.
— Andrew, brother of Simon Peter, was just an ordinary, average man whom Jesus chose. Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross in Patras, Greece. After being whipped severely by seven soldiers, they tied his body to the cross with cords to prolong his agony. He hung on that cross for two days and all the time preached the love of Christ to his tormentors.
— Thaddaeus was called by Jesus and given the authority to heal and to perfrom miracles. He was killed at Ararat by arrows when he refused to deny his faith in Christ.
— Philip, from Galilee, was one of many who heard John the Baptist preach. Philip was martyred by being hanged. He instructed his captors to bury his body in papyrus because he felt unworthy to be shrouded in linen as was Christ.
— Thomas said of himself, “I am not a man of doubt, but one of daring.” He was with Jesus when Lazarus was called from the dead, back into life. Thomas died when he was run through by a lance, or spear, in the East Indies.
— Simon, the Zealot, was a hotheaded member of a revolutionary group which rebelled against Rome. He changed his tactics when Jesus called him to discipleship. Like Andrew, Simon also died on an X-shaped cross in Persia (modern-day Iran).
— Peter, the “rock” on which Christ built his church, was called the “big fisherman.” Christ taught him to cast not his nets for fish, but to become a “fisher of men.” Peter was crucified, upside down, on an X-shaped cross because he told his tormentors he was not worthy to die on the same shaped cross as Jesus.
— Judas Iscariot betrayed the Lord for 30 pieces of silver and, after the crucifixion, hanged himself.
— Matthias replaced the traitor Judas and was later stoned and then beheaded.
— Mark, who wrote the second Gospel, died in Egypt after being dragged by horses through the streets until he was dead.
— Luke, the “physician,” was hanged in Greece because of his enormous popularity and tremendous preaching to the lost.
— John, the apostle, faced martyrdom when he was boiled in oil during a wave of persecution in Rome. Miraculously, he survived and was banished to the mines on the prison island of Patmos, Greece. There he wrote the Book of Revelation. He was later released and returned to serve as Bishop of Edessa in modern Turkey. John died of old age, the only one of the disciples to die peacefully.
With the exception of Judas, all of Christ’s closest followers proved by their ministries and their martyred deaths that they could and did answer the question, “Are ye able to be crucified with me?” They lived their reply. Their love for Christ and loyalty to their faith, even unto the bitter end, gives all Christians something to “ponder in their hearts” during Holy Week.