Thursday, October 14, 2010
THE FORTY WRESTLERS
To be a Christian meant death, even to those who served Nero best. So a decree was dispatched to Vespasian, "If there be any among the soldiers who cling to the faith of the Christians, they must die!"
The decree was received in the dead of winter, while the soldiers were camped on the shore of a frozen lake. The winter had been hard, but the hardships the men had endured together had only served to unite them more closely. So it was with a sinking heart that Vespasian read the emperor's message. He called the soldiers together and asked, "Are there any among you who cling to the faith of the Christians? If so let him step forward!" Forty wrestlers instantly stepped forward two paces, respectfully saluted, and stood at attention. Vespasian paused.
He had not expected so many. "the decree has come from your emperor," he said, "that any who cling to the faith of the Christians must die! For the sake of your country, your comrades, your loved ones, renounce this false faith!" Not one of the forty moved. "Until sundown I shall await your answer," said Vespasian. Sundown came. Again the question was asked, "Are there any among you who cling to the faith of the Christians? If so let them step forward!"
Again the forty wrestlers stepped forward and stood at attention. Vespasian pleaded with them long and earnestly without prevailing upon a single man to deny his Lord. Finally he said, "The decree of the Emperor must be obeyed, but I am not willing that your blood be on your comrades.
I am going to order you to march out on the lake of ice and I shall leave you there to the mercy of the elements. Fires, however, will be burning on the shore, and at the largest I will be waiting to welcome any willing to renounce this false faith."
All through the long hours of the night Vespasian stood by his campfire and waited, and all through the long night came back to him fainter and fainter the wrestlers' song. As it neared morning one figure, overcome by exposure, crept quietly toward the fire. In the extremity of his suffering he renounced his Lord. Faintly, but clearly, from out of the darkness came the song.
"Thirty-nine wrestlers, wrestling for thee, O Christ, to win for thee the victory and from thee, the victor's crown!"
Vespasian looked at the figure drawing close to the fire and then out into the darkness whence came the song of faith. Once again he looked. Perhaps he saw the greater light shining there in the Darkness! Off came his helmet, down went his shield and he sprang upon the ice crying, "Forty wrestlers, wrestling for thee, O Christ, to win for thee the victory and from thee, the victor's crown!"
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
It is my testimony that Jesus is the Christ. That he is the Son of God and that his gospel has brought millions happiness and truth. If we have faith, repent, are baptized, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost and endure to the end then we can return to our Father in Heaven.