A martyr is someone who is ready to sacrifice themselves for their belief in order to bring a change in the world. Saint Stephen is known as the first Christian martyr for his devotion and loyalty to God.
Even though Christians from all corners of the world currently celebrate certain saints for the extraordinary things they have done during their lives, their inspiring selflessness, and mostly they are remembered for the love they carried for Jesus Christ, some Christians have no idea they had to endure tragic events because they chose to follow the Savior of the world.
It is true that religion is extremely different today than it was when Jesus walked among us. But just how different? Well, for starters, Christianity was considered a crime. Therefore, all who claimed their love for Jesus Christ were abused both physically and verbally. Some were even killed with no questions asked.
Every single follower of Christ who died because they were not afraid to tell the world about Him, and His greatness, is considered a Christian martyr.
Jesus still loved people, even those who made sure He wouldn’t love him. His witnesses wanted to follow in His footsteps, even if that meant dying for what they believed in, their God.
What Exactly Is a Christian Martyr?
Although the origins of this word are cruel and plain horrific, Christian martyrs are praised for their courage and determination to remain loyal to God, even if they were ridiculed, laughed at, or at times, even in great danger. For example, the first Christian martyr, Saint Stephen, was killed because he proudly displayed his faith in Jesus.
However, even when he knew that his end was near, it is said that he was in a praying position, on his knees with his palms together. This quickly became a symbol of victory—the victory of the spirit over the human form.
For Christians in the 1st century, the common understanding was that “to be a Christian means to suffer.” So they suffered for their King, for their faith. And most importantly, for each other in order to keep Christianity alive. Such acts of martyrdom were inspired by Jesus Christ Himself when he decided to let humankind end His human form rather than fight them to prove He was indeed the chosen one and He would save them all.
In the following years, after Saint Stephen’s death, Christians started showcasing martyrs in art, holding a palm branch. The palm branch is a symbol of victory. It is also speculated that all tombs that featured a palm branch detail meant a Christian martyr was buried there.
The palm was always considered a “rich” plant by all religions. In Islamic culture, the palm is a symbol of hospitality. Many cultures located in the Middle East believe the palm is regal because the presence of this tree around a body of water proves that the water is a gift from the above.
Why Are Martyrs Important to Christianity?
Martyrs are important to Christianity even today, because they prove once again that loving Jesus is not a crime. Most Christian martyrs died hoping that one day their love and religion won’t be considered illegal. While today we are free to choose and follow a religion however we please, it is essential to remember those that made this possible.
The first Christian martyr, Saint Stephan, died in Jerusalem on the 26th of December, standing up for what he believed in, Jesus Christ.
At the same time, martyrs are respected because after their passing. It is considered they have fulfilled their duties as servants of God. It is also important to understand that these people don’t seek any rewards; they are just fighting for their beliefs. A Christian martyr fights to prove his undying love for God and His religion.
Christians believe in life after death and that God will once again come to rescue them, just as He saved Jesus Christ when He was resurrected. Therefore, dying to Christians would only mean that they get rid of their human form. And allow their spirit to be with the All-loving Father.
In the modern day, martyrs are considered “heroes.” They are heroes because they paved the way for the Christians of today, and they made religion, as we know it, happen. Without their sacrifices, nobody can tell what Christianity would have become. Some speculate that Christians would have been marginalized without Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr. And they were shunned by society for much longer than they did.
Why Is the Virgin Mary Known as the Queen of Martyrs?
The Virgin Mary is known throughout the Christian world for being the Queen of Martyrs, not because she was the first Christian martyr. But because she was present for all significant events in Jesus Christ’s life. From being born to be killed and ultimately resurrected. Even though it is never mentioned that she was physically hurt in any way, she was the one who brought Him to the world.
She was there with the other believers, following him. Many people wonder why she gets this title if she was never tortured physically like the other martyrs. What these people fail to remember is that the torture of one’s soul is much worse.
“Regina Martyrum,” as people called her at that time, deserves this title without a doubt for all of her sufferings when she was following Jesus Christ in His life. It is cruel to question if her suffering was real. It is even more heartbreaking to try to imagine.
As a mother, watching your one and only son being ridiculed from birth and abused throughout His life. Beaten and ultimately killed for trying to spread happiness and wanting to bring humankind together. She was not one of the martyrs who died for believing in Jesus Christ.
Or, being a devout Christian, she was not the first Christian martyr. But she most definitely died inside when they took her son away. And for this, she will forever be remembered as the Queen of martyrs everywhere.