Thursday, February 23, 2012

Story from church history: Polycarp burned at the stake

An elderly man in his eighties sat at a table eating dinner. Polycarp knew his life was in danger. A group of Christians had just been executed in the arena on account of their faith. But Polycarp refused to leave Rome. The Romans were executing any self-proclaimed Christians, and pagans were betraying those they knew to be Christians. After the recent executions, the crowd in the arena had chanted for Polycarp’s death.

A renowned follower of Christ and bishop of Smyrna, Polycarp had become a Christian under the tutelage of John the apostle. Recently, the Roman proconsul had been looking for him for days. After arresting and torturing one of Polycarp’s servants, they finally learned where he was staying. The soldiers came into the house, but instead of fleeing, Polycarp calmly stated, “God’s will be done.”

Polycarp asked that food be brought for the soldiers, and he requested an hour for prayer. Amazed by Polycarp’s fearlessness, especially for a man his age, the hardened Roman soldiers granted his request. He prayed for two hours for all the Christians he knew and for the universal church, and the soldiers let him.

A proconsul (an important magistrate) ordered Polycarp to renounce Christ and give obedience to Caesar as Lord. Polycarp answered, "Eighty and six years have I served Christ, nor has He ever done me any harm. How, then, could I blaspheme my King who saved me? You threaten the fire that burns for an hour and then is quenched; but you know not of the fire of the judgment to come, and the fire of eternal punishment. Bring what you will."

Polycarp, the last one of those personally taught by the apostles, was burned at the stake on this day, February 23, 155.

Excerpted from Foxe: Voices of the Martyrs and an article by Dan Graves.

1 comment:

  1. "You threaten the fire that burns for an hour and then is quenched; but you know not of the fire of the judgment to come, and the fire of eternal punishment. Bring what you will." Wow, now that is a profound statement!

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