Lydia stood at the door, anxiously waiting for her son. He ran out of the shadows into her arms, “Matko!”
“I’m here for only a little while, Mother.”
“I have breakfast ready for you.”
“Uncle Polycarp sends his love.”
“I’m worried about him. He continues to convert the Romans to Christianity. Matko, my son, please be careful.”
“Be careful? All around us is danger, Mother, but yes, I’ll be careful. I’ve been given an important job. Carrying this letter from Apostle John to these seven churches – well, I mustn’t shirk my duties. I knew it would be dangerous when I agreed.”
“You’re all I have left, Son.”
“Please talk with Anna for me; I can’t think of marriage right now. It wouldn’t be fair. I love her, though, Mama, with all my heart. Please help her understand that.”
“I’ll talk to her, My Son. Now you must leave before the sun comes out.”
“May the Lord bless you and keep you, Son,” Lydia whispered, as she wiped away her tears.
“’He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” Matko’s voice rang out in the synagogue. The elders from the small Church of Philadelphia stood up with Matko as he read the letter. “’…you have kept my Word and have not denied my Name.’”
The people lay prostrate on the floor, weeping. Anna and Lydia stood in the back, hidden in the heavy curtain, tightly holding each other’s hand. With the reading over, Anna fled from her hiding place and fell at Matko’s feet.
“My Darling, please get up.” Matko lifted her and held her in his arms.
“Please, Matko, marry me. I don’t care about the danger.”
“No, I can’t do that, Anna, dear.”
“I’ll follow you. You can’t stop me. I’ll follow you to death.”
“Sweet Anna, my heart is breaking.” A friend pulled him away from his Intended as he cried out, “Stay with Mama. Please.”
Matko stood bravely at the Church of Smyrna, reading what the Lord had to say about them through their Brother John. “’Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
Later that night, Matko smuggled his uncle out of Smyrna. Unbeknownst to them, Anna followed along behind, dressed as a man, keeping an eye out for her Beloved. Beside her was Lydia.
Horses tramped through the village road. Guards yelled to the crowd, “Caesar is Lord!” They broke through the door and dragged out the old man Polycarp, throwing him onto a waiting horse. The visiting men from the Church of Philadelphia were rounded up and forced to walk behind the parade of soldiers.
Anna made her way to Matko and threw back her hood. “I had to be with you.”
“Anna, no. Run while you can. Please.”
“I will not, My Love. I told you I would be with you even ‘til death.”
All this Lydia watched and heard from the shadows and her heart filled with hatred for the Romans. She plotted what could be done to save her son.
“Your life for three words, ‘Caesar is Lord’ – that’s all we ask.” The Captain begged for compliance, for he had come to like this old man and his nephew.
“"He's been my God eighty-six years, and he has never betrayed me yet. How can I now betray my Lord and my Savior Jesus Christ?’"
Given no alternative, the guards rounded up the group and nailed them to stakes and set them on fire.
Matko and Anna met their fate, side-by-side; Anna’s eyes were on her Beloved and Matko’s voice rang out from the flames, “Jesus says, ‘To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne…’”
Tears fell down Lydia’s cheeks, unchecked. She screamed, “Matko, Polycarp, please renounce your faith! Say it – Caesar is Lord!”
“Mama, no! I will never.”
Lydia bowed down to the authorities.
“You cannot stray from your faith to save me. They’ll kill you anyway. You will go to hell. Please, Mother, don’t do it,” Matko begged from his fiery throne.
“Please spare my child and I will say what you want.”
In the air, there was an aroma of baking bread, not the putrid smell of burning flesh. Polycarp, Matko, and Anna, along with the other men, met their Lord that day.
Lydia did not.
Authors note: This is a fictionalized account of the martyrdom of Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna. All scripture references are from Revelation 2 & 3 (NIV.) There is also a direct quote from Polycarp’s life which is found in various places on the internet.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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