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The Revelation of Jesus Christ
Weekly Devotional for 2007


Bonus
Extra Week
Page 1

Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death. Rev 2:10b-11.

            Polycarp was the elderly bishop of Smyrna around 155 AD. A crowd in the stadium clamored for his arrest. But when mounted police arrived at his cottage to arrest him, he served them a banquet, requesting an hour of prayer before they took him away. The policemen marveled at his graciousness and lamented that they were required to arrest him. As he marched into the stadium to the roar of the crowd a voice from heaven said, “Be strong, Polycarp, and play the man.”
            He was brought before the Proconsul (governor), who out of respect for his age tried to persuade him by offering a simple way out. “All you have to do is say, ‘Away with the atheists.” This phrase had earlier been used by the crowd with reference to the Christians, who were called atheists because they wouldn’t worship the community’s idols and had no shrines of their own. Polycarp waved his hand toward the heathen crowd in the stadium and said, “Away with the atheists.” Not satisfied, of course, the Proconsul said, “Just curse Christ and I will let you go.”
            Polycarp responded, “Eighty and six years have I served him and he has done me no wrong, how then can I blaspheme my king who saved me?”
            When the Proconsul then threatened him with fire, Polycarp responded, “You threaten me with a fire that burns for just an hour, because you don’t know about the fire of judgment that will come upon all the ungodly. But why do we delay? Bring what you will!”
            When they had placed Polycarp on the wood they wanted to nail him to the stake, but he said, “Let me be as I am. The One who will help me endure the fire will also help me stay here, even without nails.” When they lit the fire it formed a vault around him, looking like an oven; he stood in the center and was not consumed. The crowd, not able to bear their defeat, prevailed upon the executioner to reach in and kill him with a dagger. And so Polycarp died for his faith.[1]
            The threat of death for Christians is not an issue in much of today’s world. It may be easy to consider texts and stories like this irrelevant to our daily lives, especially if we live comfortably in the suburbs. But there is still much to be learned here. The martyrdom of our brothers and sisters in the past and in the present challenges us to count the cost of our faith. How would we fare if placed in similar circumstances? Can our faith grow and mature without such challenges? How much is Jesus truly worth to us?

Lord, help me to count the cost of faith. I want to embrace the little challenges now so I can face whatever may be in store for me.


[1] Based on “The Martyrdom of Polycarp,” in Documents of the Christian Church, second edition, edited by Henry Bettenson (London: Oxford University Press, 1963), 9-12.
 
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