Polycarp was a pastor of a church in what is now Turkey. In AD155 he was arrested and sentenced to death by burning. However, his captors said that he could escape his sentence and be set free if he would only curse Christ and confess that Caesar was Lord. If he would just do this, he could save himself a horrible death. Polycarp’s replied, “Eighty-six years I have served Christ and He has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” Many in his day gave in to the pressure to escape the horrible fate that awaited Christians during this time of persecution. But, as Polycarp’s Lord was faithful to him. so he would be to Him – for eighty-six years.
He did not say, “Well, I am old and weak and need to take it easy.” He did not say. “He will forgive me anyway.” He did not say, “I guess I should retire soon.” He served Jesus Christ til the very end. He was an important and influential leader in the church until his death. He served his Lord faithfully, even in his old age (and 86 was really old back then). Polycarp’s later years may have been his most influential. His most important service to the church occurred after what we may consider retirement age. And, of course, how he died and his courage in the midst of it has been a strong encouragement for almost two thousand years. Polycarp finished well.