I sit in this jail cell knowing won’t be long before my execution. I hope I am not disgracing the Lord I serve by hoping it will be a simple beheading and not crucifixion, like they did to the Messiah.
My name is Matthias. I was one of the earliest disciples of Jesus of Nazareth. After His crucifixion and resurrection, I was chosen to take the place of the traitor Judas Iscariot. This is my story.
I had been a devout but dissatisfied believer in the God of our fathers from the time I was a boy. I paid attention when the scribes, the men of wisdom in the Holy Scriptures, spoke. I sought them out when I had time, even as a boy, and questioned them. It seemed to me that of all people on earth, the children of Israel are the most favored people to walk the earth. To be the Chosen People of the only true God! What more could one ask? But I learned from the Torah that we had not always deserved the favor of Yehovah. When my ancestors turned away from Him to dead idols, what could Yehovah do but punish them? If He had not, He would have been no God at all!
The prophet Isaiah said we were to be “a light to the Gentiles”, but the Pharisees scorned the Gentiles. Even though we, the people of Israel, had done as much evil as the Gentiles, and without excuse, because we had the Laws of our God written down. We had had prophets who heard instructions from the Most High and told them to the people and to our leaders. The Torah records Moses’ words in the Book of Deuteronomy, “You have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land— the great trials which your eyes have seen, the signs, and those great wonders.” Yet with all these signs, my people still turned away from Him whenever they began to feel comfortable.
How can the Gentiles be righteous, when they are without the Law and the Prophets? We should have been witnesses, examples, of the abundant love and mercy of our God. Instead, our leaders, because of their own pride, chose to pretend that we were better than the Gentiles. Our leaders were greedy, arrogant hypocrites who used their offices to make themselves rich and powerful.
I said these things to those who needed to hear them, and was soon threatened and told to leave the Temple. But I found some sympathetic ears, and through them had opportunities to read and discuss the Torah even more. Praises to the Most High, Who did not leave us ignorant of Himself or of what He requires from us!
Yet many times I was confused by what I read, especially when I read about the Messiah. He seemed to be two people, one a conqueror and one a victim of some terrible injustice. I could not make sense of it, and in the end I began to drift away from my reading and tried to forget the burning in my heart for something more. But I genuinely desired, no, hungered for, the righteous Kingdom of God the Holy Scriptures spoke of.
Most of the Jewish world was shocked awake when a lone desert dweller called John the Baptizer began warning us that the Kingdom of God was near, and we should all be baptized as a sign of our repentance for our sins. He spoke with urgency and deep sincerity. He soon had devoted disciples helping him baptize the thousands who responded with hungry hearts to this loud, clear voice of authority.
It was Lemuel, a scribe, who told me about John Baptizer. We both wondered, “Can it be true? Can our people be at the beginning of the Kingdom of God coming to us? Are we going to see the fulfillment of the hope of Israel?”
One day not long after, Lemuel told me that a man known as Jesus of Nazareth was performing awesome, powerful miracles and preaching that the Kingdom of God was “at hand!“
I began listening to Jesus whenever I could find Him. He spoke with calm certainty and a perfect knowledge of the Scriptures. I rejoiced in His words! He became so popular that He was a threat to the power of the scribes and Pharisees, and a threat of revolution that the Romans would surely crush mercilessly. Unless of course, He was the Messiah, in which case Rome was about to become ashes. So I thought. I became one of His disciples, because I came to believe that He was the Messiah our prophets told us would come.
It’s so simple, looking back, but all was so dark then. He was, and is, the Messiah. The Prophet Daniel was told in a vision that the Anointed One, the Prince, would come to Israel to atone for iniquity. Atonement is not accomplished without blood sacrifice. We had sacrificed bulls, goats, and lambs for hundreds of years, so what kind of sacrifice could do more?
The sacrifice of a sinless “near kinsman” was required, as the Law of the Most High established before we ever came into the Promised Land. But who is without sin, as King David said?
The Messiah. Jesus of Nazareth. Even His enemies testified to His innocence. Pilate declared that He found “nothing worthy of death in this man”, and tried to persuade the accusers to release Jesus. A thief dying on the cross next to Him declared, “We deserve what we’re getting, but this man has done no wrong.” I was present when Jesus publicly challenged His most bitter enemies, “Which of you can convict me of even one sin?” And the Pharisees are expert in finding sins in the most innocent. They were silent.
But they fabricated a charge and used political fear to control Pilate, and the Messiah was crucified. He was our final Passover Lamb. At first none of us understood. We were devastated.
Then – I’m smiling and laughing as I write this! – three days later, the Most High raised Him from the dead! We found it impossible to believe at first, but He returned to us and spent more than a month with us, proving many times that it was He and that He was alive, not a ghost!
We couldn’t be silent. Israel had to know! The Most High had accomplished forgiveness of sins and eternal life to everyone who believed in Jesus! And having seen Jesus raise people from the dead, having seen Him come back from the dead Himself, how could we be silent?
Much of my life since then has been fear, harassment, a beating now and then … but who cares? Since Pentecost, we His disciples have fulfilled His prophecy that we would also do miracles in His name! The miracles are great joy in themselves, but it is what the miracles tell people that matters: the Most High is the only true God, and we His disciples are authorized to offer in Jesus’ holy name eternal life and joy, and forgiveness of sins, to all who will believe in Jesus!
They think they are going to kill me! I am having trouble controlling my laughter! I serve the only God Who can raise the dead! I can’t be killed!
Neither can they. But if they do not change their minds about Jesus and ask God to forgive their sins for His sake before they die, they will spend eternity in pain and suffering, and the greatest suffering will be this: it didn’t have to be. On the cross, King Jesus prayed for the Roman soldiers who had driven the nails into His body: “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing!” He warned the Pharisees, and everyone, “… I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”
The ocean of God’s mercy seems limitless, but it does have an end. Beware that you do not scorn His offer once too often. The penalty is horrible – and eternal.