Today’s meditation contains the last words of several martyrs who died because they would not deny their faith in Jesus Christ. Most of the quotes are taken from the book Jesus Freaks: Martyrs/Stories of Those Who Stood for Jesus, published in 1999 by Bethany House Publishers, along with Voice of the Martyrs (www.persecution.com).
“Do your worst, I am a Christian. Christ is my help and supporter, and thus armed, I will never serve your gods nor do I fear your authority or that of your master, the Emperor. Commence your torments as soon as your please, and make use of every means that your evil can invent, and you shall find in the end that I am not to be shaken from my resolution.”
–Andronicus, Roman Empire, 303 A. D. He had been thrown into prison because he was unwilling to deny the Christian faith. Then he was whipped and his bleeding wounds were rubbed with salt. He was brought out of prison and tortured again, thrown to the wild beasts, and finally killed with a sword. He was steadfast to the end. (page 146)
“However it goes with me, I labor that you may have the Gospel preached among you. Though it cost my life, I think it well bestowed.”
–John Peary, Martyred in Wales, 1593 (page 180)
“Lord, open the king of England’s eyes.”
–William Tyndale (1494-1536). Tyndale translated much of the Bible into English. This was illegal, and after being betrayed by a friend he was arrested, convicted of treason and heresy, and burned at the stake. Eyes were opened, and 75 years later the officially sanctioned King James Version of the Bible was published (1611).
“You can kill us, but you cannot do us any real harm.”
–Justin Martyr, Martyred in Rome, 165 A D. (page 245)
Emperor Valerian of Rome ordered St. Lawrence (225-258) to bring him all the treasures of the church. St. Lawrence said it would take a while to gather it all together. He was given three days. Lawrence then quickly distributed all the church’s wealth among the poor. Three days later, he brought to the emperor several of the poor and the sick from the city. “Here,” St. Lawrence said, “are the true treasures of the church.” Valerian was angered and condemned Lawrence to a slow and cruel death. He was tied to an iron grill over a slow fire that roasted his flesh little by little. He remained faithful to his Lord and defiant of earthly authority. Near the end, he said to cheerfully the judge:
“You can turn me over now. I’m done on this side.”
He is now the patron saint of cooks, chefs, and comedians.
“Dear friends, I do not suffer today for any crime, but only for the defense of the faith of Jesus Christ. As other faithful martyrs have offered themselves gladly, knowing that they will receive eternal joy, I praise God today that he has called me also to seal up His truth with my life. I have received this life from him, and I willingly offer it for His glory. If you want to escape eternal death, depend only on Jesus Christ and His mercy. Pray, people, while there is time. Lord, have mercy on me.”
–Walter Milne, Scotland, martyred in 1551 at the age of 82. After being inspired by Milne’s words at his trial and execution, so many people declared themselves willing to die for their faith that the government re-examined their views on executing ‘heretics.’ (page 275)
John Bradford, the well-loved pastor of St. Paul’s Church in London, was thrown into prison for his beliefs that differed from the state church. After two years in prison, he was sentenced to be burned at the stake. With him was John Leaf, a teenager, who also refused to deny his faith. After forgiving his persecutors and asking the crowd to pray for him, John Bradford turned to John Leaf and said:
“Be of good comfort, brother, for we shall have a merry supper with the Lord tonight.” (page 178)
“God, accept all my sufferings– my tiredness, my humiliations, my tears, my hunger, my suffering of cold, and all the bitterness accumulated in my soul… And, dear Lord, have pity on those who persecute and torture us day and night. Grant them, too, the divine grace of knowing the sweetness and happiness of your love.”
–Woman in Siberia, circa 1960’s (page 117)
“Why should I fear you? You already have me in bonds. What more can you do? Shoot me, if you must. That is all you have left. I do not fear you, because my Lord has said, ‘Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell'” (Matthew 10:28)
–Li, China in mid-1960’s (page 174)
I Peter 4:12-13 — Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. –Peter the Apostle, martyred in Rome, 65 A.D.
Acts 7:59-60 — 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. –The last words of Stephen, the first Christian Martyr, circa 34 A. D.
Matthew 10:16-20 — (Jesus said), “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”
THE LAST WORDS OF JESUS (Luke 23:46):
Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.
The Stoning of Stephen, Gustave Dore (1832-1883)