40 Patriotic Military Heroes
If I were king, these are the kind of young men I would want in my army:
The 12th Legion: They are strong, brave, experienced in warfare, patriotic, pious – comrades in arms, brothers, ready for battle ; and one time they saved the whole rest of the army nearby through their courageous actions and by the coincidental help of a powerful lighting storm, earning for themselves the nickname: The Lightning Legion!
Young men, like these. 40 of them in the Lightning Legion. An emperor should be proud.
But this emperor had a personal grudge against Christianity. These 40 men were young Christians, faithful to the teachings handed down to them, loyal to the bishop in Rome, and above all, believers in Christ Jesus. The Emperor Licinius wanted them to pledge their loyalty to the Roman gods.
The year is 320 A.D. in the dead of a very cold winter — and no, Constantine did not convert to Christianity and make the whole Roman Empire become Christian! Didn’t happen. In 313 A.D. all religions were decriminalized, including Christianity, but not including everywhere, and this was the province of Armenia, and it was time to get rid of the Christians here.
Each young soldier was told to pay homage to the Roman gods, and one by one, each Christian young soldier that made up this Legion refused.
So, one by one, each young man was chained to the prison wall, and asked again. When they refused to give up their faith in Christ, rocks were thrown at their faces, until they were badly bruised.
They were cajoled, implored, promised good things, warned, and threatened with death. Deny that Jesus ever lived! Deny that Jesus is the Son of God! Deny that Jesus died for your sins! Deny that Jesus has prepared a place for you in Heaven and awaits you there!
All 40 young men were then stripped naked, forced to walk to the center of the frozen lake and made to stand there until they died of exposure. They had time that night to write to their families. Good-byes. Be joyful for us. And one young man wrote his parents to take special care of his younger brother so that he doesn’t fall into the temptations of the world, and so lose his eternal soul. Very touching. A heart full of love, just before his own awful death.
Here is the lake today, but not in winter.
Imagine it frozen, though, and very, very cold. I don’t even visit my own back yard pond in the winter with bare arms. Imagine the 40 young Christian men standing on the ice together in the center.
Temptations and promises were thrown at the soldiers. A large and very warm bath was set up on the shore so that the soldiers could see their relief – if they would deny Christ. And many hours later, one did. Maddened by the effects of the cold winter winds on his body, one young man ran for the bath’s steamy warmth.
As our physiology would have it – the shock of the warm water killed him instantly.
The emperor’s men standing guard around the lake watched it all, and were moved by the steadfast faith of the Christians. What God is worth courage like this? What God can strengthen His followers with joy amidst such suffering?
39? One guard-soldier saw what looked like angelic creatures, shining spirits hover overhead, placing beautiful crowns on the heads of the 39 soldiers, who were singing and praying out loud. He began to understand. The guard-soldier took off his clothes and ran out to join the young men Now there are 40 again.
By morning some of the men remained alive, somewhat. The other guards were told to brake their legs and then throw them in the fires along the shore. The bodies of all the martyrs were burned and the remains thrown into the lake.
Almost immediately their story spread; and they are honored as true martyrs ever since. March 9th and 10th are the days various Christian honor them. Poems, songs, churches and shrines arose in their name, but most important of all, their legacy is that it is possible to endure the worst that the world can give and still hold onto the Faith that has been passed down since the time of Christ. And is certain that you will receive your reward, for ever.
Your nation can turn against you, even the nation you love, but Jesus never will.