But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.
- Matthew 10:33
When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
- Acts 7:64-60
On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”
From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)
- John 6:60-71
Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.
- Romans 5:7
“Polycarp was bishop of Smyrna for many years. As a young man he sat at the feet of the apostle john and he also met Irenaeus, the most important Christian figure of the late second century. He received a letter from Ignatius, while still a young bishop, and later himself wrote a letter to the church at Philippi. Polycarp was martyred, probably in 155 (possibly 166 or 177), as an old man. A stirring account of his martyrdom survives in The Letter of the Smyrnaeans on the Martyrdom of Polycarp. The Roman governor tried to persuade Polycarp to revile Christ in order to gain his freedom, but he replied, ‘Eighty-six years I have been his servant and he has done me no wrong. How can I then blaspheme my king who saved me?’ ”
- Tony Lane, A Concise History of Christian Thought
There is not much here about Polycarp or his philosophy, but the last statement could fill many posts.
Rev. Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins wrote Polycarp into their fictional story of the Apostle John. They had Polycarp taking dictation for John’s books, the Gospel, the letters, and Revelation. It was a fictional story, but it could have happened in that fashion. John wrote those things late in life. He may have needed a younger and steadier hand.
Over the years, from before Polycarp to the present day, there have been people who could have saved their physical life by simply denying Jesus.
It is the fact that none of the Apostles denied the resurrection, at least in part, that helped lead Lee Strobel to Christ. How could Stephen deny Christ when he looked up to heaven and saw Jesus sitting at God’s right hand?
But does each martyr get that visual assurance? No, I doubt if Polycarp had the heavens open for him to see Jesus. Regardless, Polycarp could not deny The One Who Saved Him. We must rely on faith.
I have heard two stories about the origin of the Christian Song, I Have Decided to Follow Jesus. The one that I like the best is that a missionary went to a remote tribe in India to spread the Gospel. The village chieftain was afraid of this new teaching and said that anyone that became a Christian would be killed. One family accepted Jesus and the father was brought before the chieftain. He was allowed to turn back to the tribal customs, but he said, “I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back.” He was immediately killed, but the missionary heard the words and used those words to write the song. The other version is that the missionary had already written the song and the father sang the song as they killed him. Like I say, I like the first version of the story better.
But we do not need a gun to our head or a spear to our heart to have opportunities to disown Jesus.
After many disciples left Jesus, shortly after feeding the 5,000, Jesus asked the Twelve and as usual Peter was the mouthpiece. “Where else can we go?” They, with the exception of Judas Iscariot, had made their life-long commitment to Jesus and His teaching. No turning back.
We can be tempted to do something that does not reflect God in our lives. And many times, we play down our Christianity, sometimes as a work requirement. When I was laid off at my last job, we had owners from Austria, and we could be fired for having a Bible on our desk. But long before then, I worked with Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and Buddhists, along with atheists and agnostics. I was willing and ready to answer questions, and I did so, but I could be fired for “not respecting the beliefs of others.” But it seemed that I did not have to say anything for them to know who my Lord was.
But even thought this one statement before his martyrdom is all this book speaks of the philosophy of Polycarp, it is enough.
I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back.
If you like these Tuesday morning essays about philosophy and other “heavy topics,” but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Tuesday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.