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Who Was the First Christian Martyr? (Y1.T1.D57)

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When I typed this question into Google, Stephen's name came up big and bold. And while Stephen was the first to die after Jesus' resurrection, for me, Christianity began with the birth of Christ. Of course, "The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch" (Acts 11:26) which was after Stephen's death.

So if you follow the logic that Christians are Christ-followers, then John the Baptist—one of the earliest believers in Jesus the Christ—was the first Christian who was martyred.

His death didn't happen right away. In my day 23 post, we read about how Herod had arrested John the Baptist because he told the king, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife" (Mark 6:18)—Herodias—as your wife.

This was why John the Baptist was arrested and jailed, but Herod had no plans to execute him, keeping him locked up for almost two years. Consider the following timeline from the website, Bible Q:Bible Questions Answered:

The synoptic Gospels place John the Baptist’s death just before the feeding of the 5,000, and John’s Gospel places that event around . . . one year before Jesus died. We know that at the time of the first Passover in Jesus’ ministry, John the Baptist had not yet been imprisoned (John 3:24) . . . the next event recorded in John’s Gospel is Jesus returning to Galilee (John 4:3), which Matthew says was prompted by John’s imprisonment (Matthew 4:12). So there is good evidence that John was in prison for nearly two years — beginning just after the first Passover in Jesus' ministry and ending a year before Jesus died.

In Mark 6 we read how Herod "feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe. When he heard him, he did many things, and he heard him gladly" (v. 19–20).

John wasn't executed because he rebuffed the king. The king himself was "exceedingly sorry" (Mark 6:26) about John's death. Herodias had John beheaded because of his loud proclamations for lawbreakers to repent. And why did he do that? "Because the kingdom of heaven [was] at hand" (Matthew 3:2).

In the Bible passages in my last post, Jesus told his disciples they'd be martyred. And while John was the first, he wouldn't be the last. According to the research of Open Doors’ 2021 World Watch List—the most in-depth investigative report focusing on global Christian persecution available "each day . . . from October 2019 to September 2020, an average of 13 Christians were violently killed for their faith."

Like John, we can "know that if the earthly house of our tent is dissolved, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal, in the heavens" (2 Corinthians 5:1).

I Give My Life to You, Lord

19 Herodias set herself against him [John the Baptist], and desired to kill him, but she couldn’t, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe. When he heard him, he did many things, and he heard him gladly. (Mark 6:19-20)

Mark 6:21-28, Matthew 14:6-11

Matthew 6:25–33, Luke 12:22–31

34 Therefore don’t be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Each day’s own evil is sufficient. (Matthew 6:34)

32 Don’t be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom. 33 Sell that which you have, and give gifts to the needy. Make for yourselves purses which don’t grow old, a treasure in the heavens that doesn’t fail, where no thief approaches, neither moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Luke 12:32–34)

Matthew 14:1–2, Mark 6:14, Luke 9:7

Mark 6:15–16, Luke 9:8–9

Meditation Moment

Dear God,

My thoughts are not Your thoughts, neither are my ways Your ways for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are Your ways and thoughts higher (Isaiah 55:89). I can't pretend to understand why some of us live in areas of safety, while others face danger every day. What I do know is You are patient with mankind, not wishing that anyone should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Help me daily, seek Your kingdom first knowing You will provide what I need (Luke 12:31).


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