Polycarp

Polycarp (2nd Century)

Can you imagine what it was like for the church in Smyrna as they watched their beloved and aged pastor burn at the stake? Polycarp was his name; he was a disciple of Jesus’ disciple, the Apostle John. One could tell it immediately because he possessed the same tenderness and compassion as his mentor. Polycarp was Bishop of the church at Smyrna (present day Turkey).
 
Persecution broke out in Smyrna and many Christians were fed to the wild beasts in the arena. The godless and bloodthirsty crowd called for the carcass of the leader – Polycarp. The authorities sent a search party to find him. He had been taken into hiding for some Christians but the Romans tortured two young believers until they finally disclosed his location. When the authorities’ arrival was announced there was still time to whisk Polycarp away but he refused to go saying, “God’s will be done.”
 
In one of the most touching instances of Christian grace imaginable Polycarp welcomes his captors as if they were friends. He talked with them and insisted they eat a meal. He made only one request before being taken away – he asked for one hour to pray.
 
The Roman soldiers listened to his prayer. Their hearts melted and they gave him 2 hours to pray. They had second thoughts as well and were overheard asking each other why they were sent to arrest him? Other authorities also experienced a warmed heart when Polycarp arrived. The Proconsul tried to find a way to release him too. “Curse God and I will let you go!” he pleaded. Polycarp’s reply was: “For eighty-six years I have served him. He has never done me wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King was has saved me?” The Proconsul again looked for a way out. “Then do this old man, just swear by the spirit of the emperor and that will be sufficient.’ Polycarp’s reply was: “If you imagine for a moment that I would do that, then I think you pretend that you don’t know who I am. Hear it plainly. I am a Christian.” More entreaties by the Proconsul Polycarp stood firm. The proconsul threatened with the wild beasts. Polycarp’s reply was: “Bring them forth. I would change my mind if it meant going from worst to best, but not to change from right to wrong.” The Proconsul threatened, “I will burn you alive!” Polycarp’s reply was: “You threaten with fire that burns for an hour and is over but the judgment on the ungodly is forever.”
 
The fires engulfed him. The witnesses noticed his faith and joy. He was finished off with a dagger. He was buried for the cause of Christ on February 22, 155 A.D. It was as much a day of victory as it was a day of tragedy. Polycarp illustrated the power of knowing Jesus intimately. Intimately enough to follow Him into the flames. As Jesus said, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”


Stories That Inspire
Webpage icon Stories That Inspire
Printer Printable Version