Over many years of hearing sermons and attending Bible Study classes, I have come to recognise that sadly I have grown casually accustomed to many verses from the Bible. I use the word accustomed here to mean that these verses no longer touch me, but pass over my head. They fly by me, but they don’t touch me. Since they don’t touch me, they have no affect on me.
As I was studying, I came to the realisation that we all grow deaf to much of what we hear, whether we fully understand what we hear, or not. But between these two positions – understanding and not understanding – there is the wide grey middle ground of knowing the words of the scriptural verses, but not really knowing their true meaning. We know, but we don’t know…..
The following three verses are spoken by Jesus and have the same theme:
Matthew 10:39 “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.“
Matthew 16:25 “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.“
John 12:25 “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.“
I know these verses, but when I came to explain them to myself, I found I did not really understand them. I had the gist of the true understanding, but no good examples suitable for explaining it simply to a child. Why a child? Because the teachings of Jesus were in essence so simple that the wise were baffled.
As I studied these three verses, I discovered that amongst other things, they were prophetic, and part of a prophecy written about 500 years before it was acted out in Jerusalem, by the disciples of Jesus. Now the Bible is multi-layered in meaning and understanding, so this article only looks as a small part of all that could be written about these verses.
At the time Jesus was arrested, many things happened all at once in the
Garden of Gethsemane and immediately thereafter. First, the disciples left Jesus, abandoning Him, as Matthew 26:56 says “…. Then all the disciples fled, forsaking Him.” Bluntly put, they all ran to save their lives!
But in John 18:15 we read another little detail, “And Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. That disciple was known to the high priest, and he went in with Jesus into the court of the high priest.” In other words, Peter and “another disciple” followed Jesus at a distance. But then fear overtook Peter and as Jesus had predicted, in Matthew 26:34 “… Truly I say to you that this night, before the cock crows, you shall deny Me three times.”
True to the Lord’s prophecy, Peter duly denied Jesus three time, as he sought to save his life. But it was not just the denial of Peter which Jesus had prophesied. When He spoke in Mark 14;24 He said to the disciples “… All of you will be offended because of Me this night. For it is written, “I will smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.”
Here Jesus was quoting Zechariah 13:7 which reads in full, “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, and against the Man who is My companion, says Jehovah of Hosts; strike the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered. And I will turn My hand on the little ones.”
Thus, after 500 years, on that night in the Garden of Gethsemane, the prophecy of Zechariah came true; as did the prophecies of Jesus from earlier the same day. All the disciples abandoned Jesus. Well, all with the exception of the one whom John 18:15 calls the “another disciple.” It is generally agreed and understood that this other disciple was John, the writer of the Gospel which carries his name, and the writer of the Book of Revelation.
Of the twelve original Disciples, Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus and died almost immediately at his own hands. Then, other than John, the remaining ten, plus all the rest who were with Jesus in Gethsemane abandoned Him, and ran to save their own lives.
Let us now look at the generally agreed common traditions concerning the deaths of the original Disciples:
|crucified on an x-shaped cross. |
flayed to death by a whip.
(son of Zebedee) was beheaded.
thrown down from a height then clubbed to death.
died an old man, the only apostle to die peacefully.
cruelly put to death or crucified.
nailed to the ground with short spears and beheaded.
(Judas Iscariot’s replacement) stoned then beheaded.
beheaded or crucified (upside down).
stabbed with a spear.
*(not officially an apostle)
Out of all the Apostles and Disciples and those known to be in the Garden of Gethsemane, the only one who is known to have died a peaceful and natural death is John, the man who risked his own life and followed Jesus after His arrest and through His trials.
By comparison, those who ran away and abandoned Jesus in order to make sure they saved their own lives, all died un-natural deaths.
In this context the words of Jesus come into sharp focus:
Matthew 16:25 “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Clearly, there are consequences for all followers of Jesus. Now consider; how often have you run off and not done the work of Jesus?