Focal Passage: Luke 5:17-26, 29-32
One of my great Christian heroes is
Polycarp. Polycarp would
eventually become the pastor of Smyrna, appointed by the Apostle John who had
mentored Polycarp for years. Polycarp was a humble man, and a faithful servant
of Jesus Christ. Although many prominent Christian leaders were targeted for
death, Polycarp remained free for many years. But as an elderly 86-year-old
saint, the Roman authorities made the execution of Polycarp a priority. Three
days before he was to be arrested, however, Polycarp received a message from
the Lord that he would be taken away and “burned at the stake.”
friends wanted to hide him, but Polycarp would have nothing to do with
deception. When the soldiers came to Polycarp’s home, Polycarp welcomed his
enemies and fed them. His request, which was granted, was that he might pray.
According to tradition, he prayed for two hours, resulting in some of the
soldiers weeping and asking for forgiveness. A few hours later he was readying
himself for his execution. He refused to deny Christ. He would state that he
had served Christ for 86 years, and Christ had never let him down.
How could he blaspheme his Savior and King?
Offering and receiving forgiveness for wrongs committed
makes us better people. Polycarp learned this truth from John. John learned
this truth first-hand from Jesus.
The disciples were able to see forgiveness in action.
As Jesus was teaching in a particular home, the men who
wanted their friend healed realized the only way to get the man to Jesus was by
letting him down through the roof. These helpers had great faith in Jesus, and
they were kind to their friend.
Jesus would heal their friend, but Jesus would also declare
that their friend was freed (forgiven) of his sins. A struggle was going on in
Jesus’ ministry. While His following was steadily growing, so was the
contingent bent on doing Him harm.
Refusing to admit the divine nature of Jesus, these Jewish
religious leaders claimed He was a mere man pretending to be God. They were not
appreciative of Jesus “forgiving sins.” After healing the man, Jesus went to
the home of one of His disciples, Matthew (Levi). Although the scribes and
Pharisees were present, Jesus did not back down. Forgiveness, calling sinners
to repentance, was His No. 1 mission.