Reloaded: The Martyrdom of Polycarp

(The following is a re-telling/parody of the original story of the actual martyrdom of Polycarp. For the original historical account, please click here.)

Polycarp, the pastor of the First Church of Smyrna, made his way to the front of the church to shake the hands of parishioners on their way out the door. He had preached a particularly moving message that morning, one he knew would liberate many to live the life of Christ. Pastor Polycarp explained how by turning the other cheek, praying for your enemies, and not looking out for your own rights, one would embrace the cross of Jesus Christ. And by embracing the cross, one would find true and everlasting life.

One by one members of his church stopped to thank him for being so bold and truthful in the pulpit. One woman thanked him for the message, and rejoiced over the new found freedom she had in the Savior. No longer would she be shackled by the past, and the family that had mistreated her as a child. Instead of looking at her father in hatred for the abuse she suffered at his hands, she would look at him in love, forgiving him not only as an act of her will, but as an act that extended out of the depths of her heart. A heart that had been changed once and for all.

Pastor Polycarp was touched by this testimony. He was an aged man-- eighty-six years old. And though he had seen Christ touch the lives of many over the years, and had heard dozens of such testimonies similar to this woman, he never ceased to be blessed every time somebody stopped to tell him what Christ had done for them. He was excited to be a participant of the new creation God was forming, and he listened to each story as if it were the first time he had ever heard such a thing. It never failed to move him to tears.

Pastor Polycarp slowly made his way home after Sunday morning service. It was a beautiful day. So much so that one could almost forget that the times one was living in were dangerous times. The Roman government had recently started cracking down on Christians. Gathering together was becoming more and more difficult. It was not uncommon for Christians to be harassed by small mobs in the streets. A few of the members of the First Church of Smyrna had nearly died in one recent incident. The entire church was on alert.

Finally making it home, pastor Polycarp and his extended family settled in for the day. Carefully looking behind him, Polycarp closed the door and locked it. He was a little worried after seeing a few Roman soldiers patrolling the street. He is pretty sure that he heard a small child point him out to one of the soldiers. "That's Polycarp right there!"

Rome had become particularly interested in who the leaders of the churches were in recent times. They identified them as part of the "sect" that was causing trouble throughout the Empire. After consulting some of the oracles, many in the government believed that if they could undermine the leadership of the church, that they would appease the gods and restore Rome to the glory she once knew. Life and liberty would be theirs again!

As Polycarp and his family quietly ate dinner, they heard a commotion outside. It was the sound of hoofs beating against the cobblestone road outside. There were voices shouting back and forth at one another. Everything became quiet. Then a pounding was heard.

"Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, in the name of Caesar, we command you to open up your door!"

Polycarp thought this day might come. He understood the times he was living in, and paid very close attention to the news. Rome had finally come for him! Everybody stood up at the table, as Polycarp made his way to the door. He carefully opened it.

"Are you Polycarp, leader of the local Christian sect?"

"Why, yes I am. How can I help you?"

"Polycarp, you are under arrest! You are being tried with treason, and disturbing the peace of Rome!"

Finally, the day he had long dreaded was here. A cold chill went down his spine. Looking the Roman soldier in the eye, Polycarp calmly replied, "One moment sir. Please allow me to gather my things." The soldier nodded, and Polycarp turned around and made his way for his bedroom. Polycarp knew what he must do.

As he walked across the hallway, Polycarp stopped, and kissed his wife on the head. "My love!" He bent over and gave one of his grand-children a warm hug. Everybody in the room began to weep. Tearing up himself, with a deep emotion clearly in his voice, he said to everybody, "Don't worry. It will be ok."

As Polycarp made his way up the stairs, the cold chill that had rushed down his spine now became a white heat burning in his heart. His eyes went from being sad with tears to being mad with anger. He began to mutter whispers under his breath.

"This cannot happen to me!"

"My family is in danger... I must protect them!"

"How dare Rome violate my rights... I'm a citizen! I've done nothing wrong!"

"This is a grave injustice!"

"I must do something!"

As Polycarp made his way into the bedroom, he knelt at his bedside. Then, he stuck his hand under the mattress, and began to feel around. There it is. He found it. A long blade he could conceal under his cloak.

Making his way back down the stairs, he reassured his family that everything would be ok. He told them not to worry. God would look out after him. He made his way over to the Roman soldier who was impatiently waiting for him.

"Are you ready to go?" the soldier asked.

Polycarp nodded.

The soldier grabbed him by the arm, and led him outside. Polycarp's family lamented in anguish as they saw their beloved led away to the slaughter.

Polycarp kept his eyes wide open. Because of his age, he knew if he were to be successful, he must take advantage of the most opportune moment. He knew he would only get one chance.

And finally, the time came. The soldier became careless in his handling of Polycarp. As he secured Polycarp to his chariot, his eye caught a local temple prostitute as she made her way down the street. Briefly turning his back to Polycarp, the pastor saw his opportunity had finally come.

Reaching into his cloak, Polycarp grabbed his sword and quickly pushed the point of it through the exposed back side of the solider. Air quickly left the lungs of the unsuspecting man, as he fell over into a heap on the ground.

Before the other Roman soldiers could notice, Polycarp quickly ducked into a dark alley next to his house. He called out to his family through a window. Quickly, they all snuck out the back door, and fled to the catacombs.

There for the next several weeks, Polycarp gathered members of his congregation for secret meetings in which they plotted the overthrow of the oppressive Roman government.

"For the past few decades, our presence as Christians has been rapidly growing. And the more we grow, the more Rome tries to oppress us and to trample on our rights. But as citizens of the Republic, we cannot allow this to happen. Rome will not deny us of our God given rights. We have the right to assemble and worship God as we see fit. We have the freedom of speech. We have the right to bear arms! And wherever an oppressive dictator exists, God demands we throw off the chains of our oppression, and fight for our freedom."

And as Polycarp thundered from his make-shift pulpit under the streets of Rome, an arrow suddenly pierced his heart as hundreds of soldiers quickly descended upon the assembly. After the clamor had settled, a search was made for the body of Polycarp. Finding it, they brought it above the streets, and set it on fire in a public square for all to see.

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