Antonius Pius, was emperor of Rome from 139 to 161 AD. Polycarp, who was a disciple of St. John the Apostle occupies a very important place in the history of the early Church. His writings have survived from that era and he may have been responsible for completing, editing, as well as, publishing the New Testament. He was martyred in 155 AD. Marcus Aurelius became emperor in 161 AD. Was he influenced by Polycarp? The Philosophical Emperor did say: “It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.”
So how does a man live? Joseph B. Fuiten writes about the space that exists on every tombstone between the year-of-birth and the Year-of-death. You know the space I’m talking about, it’s symbolized by a “dash”. “The content of our “dash” varies. But in the end, the workmen still chisel only a dash. It reminds us of the stark truth: Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgement, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people…”
When Polycarp was being led to the place that he would be burned to death he, as well as, many of his followers heard a “loud voice” above the crowd saying: “Be strong Polycarp and play the man.”
The Romans actually pleaded with him to deny Jesus and be saved from the fiery-flames! Polycarp spoke for the ages: “Fourscore and six years have I served Him, and He has done me no harm. How then can I curse my King that saved me!” When the fires became a blazing inferno, Polycarp did not burn! A soldier had to take a spear and stab him before the crowd lost control. His blood extinguished the fires.
I don’t have any evidence that Marcus Aurelius was influenced by Polycarp, but he did say: “Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one!” I hope you’re working on your “dash” today, you’ve gotta make life happen. Ain’t it so!
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