Was Jesus a martyr?
The definition of a martyr is one who is killed because of his religious beliefs. This definition cannot be used to describe Jesus’ death, because Jesus was not killed for His religious beliefs. The Bible testifies that Jesus died because the Father determined to put His Son to death to pay for the sins of the world, as Isaiah explains:
Is. 53:3 He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Is. 53:4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
Is. 53:5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
Is. 53:6 All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.
Scripture says plainly that the Lord (i.e., the Father) caused the iniquity of humanity to fall upon Jesus – which is a reference to Jesus taking the sins of the world on Himself as He died on a cross. A martyr dies for his own sake as a result of persecution. That was not the reason for Jesus’ death.
Furthermore, Jesus said plainly that He was voluntarily going to the cross in obedience to the Father, not because He was persecuted:
John 10:14 “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me,
John 10:15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.
John 10:16 “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.
John 10:17 “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again.
John 10:18 “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”
Jesus says no one has taken His life from Him, which is the definition of martyrdom. Rather, Jesus voluntarily gave up His life on the cross. Therefore, Jesus’ death does not fit the definition of the word. Just as Jesus Himself cannot be compared to any other person, since He is the only begotten Son of God, so was His death wholly unique and incomparable to any other death in human history.