The Martyr

SOLD, Graphite on Paper, 41cm x 36cm (16″x 14″)

“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” (Psalm 116:15)

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)

“But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:20-21)

Oftentimes it is the brutatlity in martyrdom that gets the attention rather than the deep love the martyr has for Jesus. This love empowers them to remain faithful to God even in the face of torture and death. Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Jesus himself showed the full extent of his love for us when he died on the cross in our place (Romans 5:6-11).

The martyr in this drawing has a faint smile because the last thing he saw before he died was Jesus Christ, whom he loved with all his heart, welcoming him home.

I modeled this drawing somewhat after the death of Stephen, the early church’s first martyr. The account of his martyrdom is detailed in the following Biblical passage:

[Stephen is speaking to the Pharisees, a group of Jewish religious leaders who were often hypocritical and who opposed Jesus and put him to death.]

“‘You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One [Jesus]. And now you have betrayed and murdered him–you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it.’

When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’

At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.

While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he fell asleep [figurative speech for death].” (Acts 7:51-60)

This drawing is dedicated to all of the Christians in 2005 who “…did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” (Revelation 12:11).

(See also “Follow Me” (John the Baptist Artworks Series) and “Take Up Your Cross” (John the Baptist Artworks Series)  and “The Stone The Builders Rejected has Become The Cornerstone” (John the Baptist Artworks Series 2).)

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