Monday, August 24, 2009

August 24 - Bartholomew, Apostle, Martyr

Bartholomew had followed after Jesus through most of Jesus' ministry and had seen many miracles. Jesus had preached, shared, died, and been raised again from among the dead. After this, he had appeared to the disciples and many others before ascending to the Father with a promise that he would be returning and a command to go into all the world to spread the Gospel he had accomplished and offered to any. Bartholomew took Jesus very seriously and set out east for what would have then been called "India" but included Armenia. Having arrived in Armenia, he went to one of the peoples' temples where they worshiped an idol. Possessing nothing more than the clothes on him, and perhaps a staff, he began to dwell among the poor and sick who desperately sought healing from the idol.

A demon--Astaruth--dwelt in the idol and received the worship and adoration of the sickly and needy. In a particularly cunning ploy, it oppressed many and caused sickness and suffering to those around it. Occasionally, it would release one of them from enough of the pain and sickness to be noticed. This person would, inevitably, attribute their new found "health" to their worship of Astaruth. In relenting slightly from physical abuse and oppression, Astaruth was able to inflict great damage to the soul of its victims. When Bartholomew arrived and began building relationships with the people, they began to notice that Astaruth no longer responded to their worship. They no longer received any manifestations of Astaruth's power and began to worry that Astaruth had forsaken them. None of the idols in the temple that Astaruth used were of any use to the people and they began to fear in their ignorance and desperation.

Some of the desperate people traveled to another temple to seek help and answers as to the silence of their god Astaruth. When they had arrived and made sacrifice to the demon of this temple--Becher--they asked why Astaruth no longer answered their pleas and sacrifices. Becher, perhaps compelled by fear or some other means, informed them that a man named Bartholomew--a friend of the Almighty God--had taken up residence among them and that on his account, Astaruth was being held in chains and bound from coming to the people. They asked how Bartholomew did this and Becher mentioned that Bartholomew was a disciple of Jesus who had died, descended to hell, and overcame death and the lord of Evil. In amazement, they returned to their temple and sought out Bartholomew who had begun healing people from sickness and possession.

King Polymius of Armenia heard of this miraculous healer and called on Bartholomew hoping to convince him to heal his daughter who was possession by a demon. Bartholomew consented and was led to the princess who was bound in chains and shackles because she had become dangerous. She had torn at her own flesh and bitten anybody who came near to her. Bartholomew asked the guards to release her from her chains--even though she did not look healed--and they balked. "Do you not know what she will do to us and you?" they asked. "Let her go, for I have bound the enemy within her. Loose her and give her food and bring her to me in the morning." He retired and, in the morning, they brought the girl to him and he exorcised her. In doing this, he did not simply cast the spirit out of her in a show of sudden and instant power but, rather, demonstrated that the demonic and evil powers that the people of the land struggled against were at the beck and call of Bartholomew's Lord and Savior. Having demonstrated God's power and majesty, he cast the demon out and the girl was fine. Polymius tried to pay him but the wealth was refused. Polymius and his family, and most of the city, converted in awe and amazement.

Having heard of his younger brother's conversion, Astreges--a ruler and opponent of Christians--was enraged at Bartholomew's teachings and actions and sent an army to capture Bartholomew and execute him. They descended upon Armenia and punished many for their conversions before finally seizing the fearless Bartholomew. They demanded that he worship their gods but Bartholomew refused to save his own life by wounding and corrupting his soul. They stripped the skin off of his body and crucified him upside down. Though they hoped to terrify onlookers and purchase their allegiance with fear, Bartholomew died willingly and without resistance and onlookers remembered the majesty and power of Bartholomew's Lord who had overcome death and evil, already, and promised life more abundant and free to all who would have it.

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