We are climbing Jacob’s ladder,
Soldiers of the cross.Jacob’s Ladder (verse 1)
Memorial Day is Monday. Originally called Decorations Day, Memorial Day (not to be confused with Veteran’s Day) was established as a federal holiday in the United States in 1868 to honor and mourn all who have died in the performance of their military duties while actively serving. Indeed a worthy observance.
But Memorial Day also makes my thoughts turn toward those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to Christ. When I was a kid, I transfixed upon a painting in a coffee table art book my parents had depicting the history of Christianity in art. One of my favorite paintings was one of St. Sebastian.
Sebastian was a Christian evangelist who lived in the 3rd Century. In 286, Emperor Diocletian ordered his execution. He was to be bound and shot through with arrows. By the time the archers were done, Sabastian had looked like a “hedgehog.” (Ambrose of Milan). But Sebastian survived, and sometime later, he harangued Diocletian for his persecution of Christians. Astonished and enraged, the Emperor ordered Sebastian clubbed to death and thrown in the sewer. Legend has it his body was retrieved and placed in the catacombs above which sits the Basilica of St. Sabastian.
The Bible speaks to the first soldiers of the cross who paid the ultimate sacrifice of faith. Acts 6-7 speaks to the martyrdom of the deacon, Stephen, who was stoned to death while Saul of Tarsus (later the Apostle Paul) looked on. In Acts 12:1-2, James, son of Zebedee (one of the Sons of Thunder), was put to the sword by Herod Agrippa I. Revelation 2:13 speaks of Antipas burned to death in Pergamum’s “Satan’s Throne.”
John 21:18-19 speaks about the manner of death the Apostle Peter would face. Tradition says he was crucified upside-down because he was not worthy to die as his Lord died.
Traditional also has that the Apostle Paul would be “poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.” (2 Timothy 4:6). Tradition has it that Paul was beheaded in Rome.
There are countless citizens of Heaven (Philippians 3:20-21) who died while serving as “soldiers of the cross.” Some are named and documented by histories such as Perpetua and Felicitas, or the 48 martyrs of Lyon, but countless others unnamed.
As Christians, let us remember these family members as well this Monday.
If you love Him, why not serve Him,
Soldiers of the cross.Jacob’s Ladder (verse 4)