Polycarp of Smyrna: Ungovernable wrath and the vision that should be fulfilled

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When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly. 1 Peter 2:23

“Saying these things and more besides, he was inspired with courage and joy, and his countenance was filled with grace, so that not only did it not drop in dismay at the things which were said to him, but on the contrary the proconsul was astounded and sent his own herald to proclaim three times in the midst of the stadium, ‘Polycarp hath confessed himself to be a Christian.’

When this was proclaimed by the herald, the whole multitude both of Gentiles and of Jews who dwelt in Smyrna cried out with ungovernable wrath and with a loud shout, ‘This is the teacher of Asia, the father of the Christians, the puller down of our gods, who teacheth numbers not to sacrifice nor worship.’ Saying these things, they shouted aloud and asked the Asiarch Philip to let a lion loose upon Polycarp. But he said that it was not lawful for him, since he had brought the sports to a close.

Then they thought fit to shout out with one accord that Polycarp should be burned alive. For it must needs be that the matter of the vision should be fulfilled, which was shown him concerning his pillow, when he saw it on fire while praying, and turning round he said prophetically to the faithful who were with him, ‘I must needs be burned alive.’”

Polycarp of Smyrna in Martyrdom of Polycarp 12.1-3, translated by J.B. Lightfoot.

Today marks day three of finding inspiration from this classic story (and I promise not to reveal the ending). You must needs read it for yourself.

Disciples in the early church who identified with Christ had to be willing to face “ungovernable wrath.” Are you? What do you do when the going gets tough?

As GTP staff, board, and regional facilitators have reported the challenges associated with professing, like Polycarp, to be “Christian,” I marvel at how their stories match this one.

Their generosity is limitless. Their faith is fearless. And their confidence, in the face of “ungovernable wrath” is governed by the Father.

Jesus, help us hold nothing back and be willing to sacrifice everything so that the world will know You are the greatest treasure of all. Amen.