“For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.” – Philippians 1:20–21.
How do you define risk? To me, risk is simply an action that exposes you to the possibility of loss or injury. Taking risks can result in losing money, losing face, losing your health and even losing your life. Whenever people are trying to sell the stock market, they tell you upfront, “do not invest money you cannot afford to lose. There are risks with any stock transaction.” So how do you weigh the risk versus the possible reward?
If you were a first century Christian, it was very difficult to avoid risk, especially if you were in Rome. The Roman Empire could be a very dangerous place for early Christians. One of the most famous events was the great Rome fire. In A.D. 64, Rome was destroyed by a great fire: only four of its fourteen quarters remained intact. The emperor Nero was blamed by the Roman populace, and in turn blamed the Christians. The Roman historian Tacitus explains what happened:
“…Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called ‘Chrestians’ by the populace. 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.”
These early Christians knew the risk. Christianity was punishable by death during this era. Every conceivable method was used to stop them from talking. But many Christians refused to break with their faith. So how do you explain their testimony? What caused them to go everywhere telling the message of the risen Christ? There was no visible benefit to them. They gained no prestige, wealth, increased social status or material benefits from their whole-hearted and total allegiance to this “risen Christ.” Yet, they laid down their lives as the ultimate proof of their complete confidence in the truth of their message.
Likewise the disciples who witnessed Jesus’ resurrection testified to it with their lives. Their testimony has inspired millions more to follow suit—to suffer persecution and death at the hands of an unbelieving world for the knowledge that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. That He came to earth to die for our sins as was foretold in the Bible hundreds of years before His miraculous birth. That He died upon the cross and rose again. That He presented Himself to hundreds of people before returning to Heaven. That He will return again at the end of the age. These men and the early Christians did not proclaim the Gospel with their words. They cried out to the world with their very lives.
- How did the Risen Savior motivate early believers?
- If Jesus rising from the dead was a hoax, do you think Christianity would have spread across the world?
- What does the risen Savior mean to us today?