“ And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. “ ----Jn. 9:23
Polycarp was the beloved overseer of the church in Smyrna (Asia Minor) in the era immediately following the death of the original apostles. Early Christian writers such as Irenaeus and Tertullian both gave testimony that Polycarp both knew and was a disciple directly trained by the Apostle John when he was living in Ephesus during his old age. During his lifetime Polycarp’s central work was preserving the understanding of the gospel that was taught by the Lord’s Apostles. Even in this early era people were taking the words of Jesus and giving them new interpretations that were in sync with the times but were far from what Jesus meant when He said them. Part of the reason why we can be confident that the scriptures and gospel have not been diluted or distorted is because of this early work of the church’s leaders.
But the one thing that Polycarp is best known for is not his life’s work (important as it was) but his savage death at the hands of Roman soldiers. Though not the first martyr for the sake of Christ, Polycarp was one of the most well-known. If you want to read the brief account of Polycarp’s martyrdom go to: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/martyrdompolycarp-lake.html.
What is important about Polycarp’s martyrdom is that it set a gold standard for Christians to follow over the next few centuries as imperial Rome pressured Christians to renounce Christ and worship the genius of the emperor. What is interesting about Polycarp’s story is that at every turn there is close parallel with the passion of Christ and how it unfolded. Manfully facing torture and death for the sake of your Lord became the ultimate form of worship and renouncing of this world. Polycarp was burned at the stake on February 23, 155. This became a Christian holiday that was surpassed only by Christmas in the centuries that followed. For his faithfulness and example, in the face of losing everything, we consider Polycarp as a Father of the church.