“…Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” Mt 20:22
The Laughter of Rabbi Akiva (50 -135 AD) (abbreviated)
After the destruction of the second temple, a tale emerged about three Rabbis visiting the Temple Mount and saw a fox emerging from the place where the Holy of Hollies used to be. Two rabbis started crying, but Rabbi Akiva laughed.
“Why are you laughing?” They asked. “Why are you weeping?” Rabbi Akiva replied.
“A place so holy is now the homes of foxes, and we shouldn’t weep?”
Rabbi Akiva responds, “Now that Uriah’s prophecy has been fulfilled, it is certain that Zechariah’s prophecy will be fulfilled, ‘Old men and women shall yet sit in the streets of Jerusalem, and boys and girls playing in the streets.”
The last type of baptism I want to study is what I call martyrdom, which Merriam-Webster defines as the suffering of death on account of adherence to a cause and especially to one’s religious faith. Also associated with affliction, and torture. In our subject verse, I believe Jesus is eluding to his crucifixion, which He ends the content with: “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Mt 20:28
Martyrs and Martyrdom in Christianity is not something I like to think about, but it happens. I live in a country where I can safely wake up and choose to go to a church on any day of the week without fear for my life, but Christians in other countries do not have this luxury. This luxury, in all honesty, I believe is not biblical.
“As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Romans 8:36
Testimony of the Martyrs
Down through the ages Christians have been killed for their faith. Ten of the eleven remaining apostles died as martyrs. In my personal witnessing experience, an Asian family went through the booth and wanted to know about Jesus. After showing them scripture, the father, son and daughter wanted to commit their lives to Christ, but the mother was unsure, for she was Buddhist.
I closed the Bible being done with scripture. The spirit guided me to speak of the testimony of the martyrs, and how they died to tell us Jesus rose again from the grave! They died for this moment, for this lady to know the truth, that Jesus lives and wants to save you! I asked her to not listen to what I said, but what her heart was telling her. I had called upon the testimony of martyrs as proof of faith, and after careful consideration, the lady surrendered her life to Christ.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
The word Martyr does not appear in the Old Testament, but translation software gave me the following Hebrew word which literally translates to:
(5 50 6 70 40) (300 6 4 100)
An interesting coincidence is the numerical value for tortured is 171, which appears in Isaiah 53:4 in the Hebrew word (ומענה), meaning and afflicted.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
Ironic how this method of study pointed me to the Holy One being tortured and placed on a cross, which depends on your interpretation of Isaiah 53.
Esoterically in the word for torture, the Hebrew letter מ (Mem), is the word for water, and has a shadow meaning of becoming flooded by evil water or destructive passions. The ע (Ayin) is the word for eye. In its shadow form, it is interpreted as beware of what you cannot see, the darkness hidden in the shadows behind you. The ו (Vav) is the word for peg, used to connect, and represents a connection between heaven and earth, and the ones around us. The נ (Nun) for faith and endurance, with a shadow meaning of coldness, and finally the ה (Hei), the word means Lo, behold or here it is. Hei is a sense of being with the power of self-expression.
As we saw in the earlier study, baptism has a sense of being surrounded, and applied to martyrdom in the esoteric sense. I interpret: Being surrounded by destructive passions – the enemy wants to kill, steal, and destroy the Christians. Who is this enemy? The shadow of the Ayin tells us it is a force we cannot see, a darkness hidden in our shadows. When the enemy overtakes a person in this life, the martyr has the power of self-expression, dying for their faith, telling us Behold! Here it is, my faith! Isn’t it odd when these grotesque acts are published, it emboldens more the power of the testimony of the person’s faith?
I have heard it stated, “I kill one Christian, and three more pop up.”
Near the end of the 11th chapter of Hebrews, Paul speaks of the ones martyred for their faith.
“Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mocking and scourging, yes, and of chains and imprisonments. They were stoned, sawn in two, tempted, slain with the sword.” Hebrew 11:35-37
Can you name the martyrs Paul is mentioning here? There is a lesser known book of Isaiah which speaks of his martyrdom, where he was killed by king Manasseh by being sawn in half with a wood saw. This is even discussed in rabbinical literature.
A Special Place and Count in Heaven
As we read in Revelations, it appears martyrs have a special place, under the altar of God.
“When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.” Rev 6:9
Reading a few verses down, we find that God has a count of the martyrs.
“…rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.” Rev 6:11
I believe when this count is complete, the Sixth Seal will be broken.
“For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” Rev 6:17
How does this study personally speak to me? I should not be surprised when I read, see or experience Christians being killed for their faith. It is a part of God’s plan, and those who are martyred have a special place in heaven, right under the altar, right under the throne of God.
Christians have been and will be killed for their faith. Although I abhor these acts of violence, some Christians are baptized with martyrdom from on High, and who is going to go against God? In recent acts, these martyrs have served a purpose as some non-Christians have questioned their own faith and turned to Christianity. I should have faith that God is in control, and he uses His children for His purpose.
At the start of this study I began with a tale of Rabbi Avika laughing upon seeing the destruction of the second temple. He understood it was prophecy unfolding before his eyes, and instead of mourning the loss, he was laughing at what was to come in the future. Biblically, I have to accept that there is a baptism of martyrdom and it is part of God’s plan. As a great evil seems to be overtaking the world, should I be like the two rabbi’s weeping or fearful? Should I hold strong to my faith, and begin laughing, for we are witnessing prophecy unfolding and our redemption drawing nigh? In the Jewish tale, which rabbi are you?
“Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” Luke 21:28