2001-07-02 - Polycarp
It is a story that is amazing, encouraging, and if you read to the end on Tuesday, also a miracle. It is the story of Polycarp. Polycarp was an early church father who is reported to have know the Apostle Paul. He was burned at the stake in 167 AD at a very old age. Here is an abridgment of his story.
Three days before he was seized, he had a vision while he was praying: He saw his pillar consumed by fire; and turning to the company he said prophetically, "I must be burned alive." Upon hearing that the persons in search of him were just at hand, he retired to another village. Immediately the officers came to his house; and, not finding him, they seized two servants, one of whom was induced, by torture, to confess the place of his retreat. They found him lying in an upper room at the end of the house, whence he might have made his escape, but he would not, saying, "The will of the Lord be done."
When he was brought to the tribunal, the pro-consul asked him if he was Polycarp; to which he assented. The pro-consul then began to exhort him to have pity on his great age, and to swear by the fortune of Caesar, and to reproach Christ, and he would release him. Polycarp gave him this ever memorable reply, "Eighty and six years have I served Him, and he hath never wronged me, and how can I blaspheme my King who hath saved me?"
The pro-consul still urging, "swear by the fortune of Caesar;" Polycarp said, "If you still vainly contend to make me swear by the fortune of Caesar, as you speak, affecting an ignorance of my real character, hear me frankly declaring what I am: I am a Christian." "I have wild beasts," says the pro-consul; "I will expose you to them, unless you repent." "Call them," replies the martyr. "I will tame your spirit by fire," says the pro-counsel, "since you despise the wild beasts, unless you repent."
"You threaten me with fire," answers Polycarp, "which burns for a moment, and will be soon extinct; but you are ignorant of the future judgment, and of the fire of eternal punishment reserved for the ungodly. But why do you delay? Do what you please."
The pro-consul then sent the herald to proclaim thrice, in the midst of the assembly, "Polycarp hath professed himself a Christian." Upon this all the multitude, both of Gentiles and Jews, who dwelt at Smyrna, with insatiate rage, shouted aloud, "This is the doctor of Asia, the father of Christians, the subverter of our gods, who hath taught many not to sacrifice nor to adore."
Conclusion tomorrow, but you can see the strength of this man's faith. See how God crowned his life and faith with a miracle at the end of his life.
Soli Deo Gloria,