Sunday, June 9, 2013

Polycarp's Martyrdom: chapters 11-20

At this point, Poly stands before trial, and the Romans, who like him, urge him to pay homage to Caesar.  He will not because he loves Jesus and serves him only.  "Thou threatenest me with fire which burneth for an hour, and after a little is extinguished, but art ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment and of eternal punishment reserved for the godly."  That was his answer.  He could enjoy relief from fire now only to spend eternity in the endless one, or he could die in a fire now and enjoy eternity in the presence of Christ.

The author describes how he was filled with confidence and joy, his face full of grace.  The Romans sentenced him to be burned.  They built the pile and they were going to nail him to it, but Poly said, "Leave me as I am; for he that giveth me strength to endure the fire will also enable me without your securing me by nails to remain without moving in the pile."  At this point, Polycarp is 86 and does not want to live in this world any longer.  If he has to exit by fire, then he will stay in the fire, thankful that he should have a part in the number of His martyrs.

Allegedly, when they lit the first, the flame formed an arch, encircled his body, and he appeared not like burnt flesh but as baked bread.  He gave a sweet odor like incense.  The fire was not consuming Poly, so an executioner pierced him with a dagger.  From the wound came a dove and lots of blood that extinguished the fire.

In Chapter 17, Polycarp is dead.  Chapter 16 is rather flowery in language and does not give them impression that he died at that point, but at this point he's dead.  Here is the party I find odd, don't quite believe, and even if it was true, I agree with the Romans.  Herod told the government not to give his body to his people lest they should worship it.  The same people that burned Polycarp because he would not pay his respects to Caesar would not really care if his followers worshiped his body.

Either way, the folks of Smyrna insisted that it is impossible for them to worship anyone other than Jesus.  Knowing human nature, they are feeling overly-confident.  The Holy Spirit can prevent them from lapsing, but the flesh still wants this world.  Just the same, the centurion burned Poly's body.  The Christians took his bones -- more precious than exquisite jewels, and more purified than gold (no, those aren't words of worship) -- and buried them and plan to celebrate his death anniversary every year.  They just said they would not worship Polycarp, and then they do this.  I think Polycarp would be appalled. 

Poly is known as the 12th martyred in Smyrna.  He now rejoicingly glorifies God in the presence of Christ.  Christ = the Savior of souls, Governor of our bodies, shepherd of the catholic church throughout the world.  He died on the second day of the month Xanthicus and seven days before the Kalends of May, on a Great Sabbath at the 8th hour. 

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