As I type this, I’m still in Rome. It’s Thursday here… I come home on Sunday.
What a joy to walk streets and to stand in front of places where no doubt the Apostles Paul and Peter stood…to be where so many were martyred and spilled their blood for the faith. Their convictions ran deep and they BELIEVED the gospel enough to defend it with their lives.
On Saturday, I will have the privilege of stepping inside the Coliseum: the place of gladiator games, exotic wild animal exhibitions, and execution of criminals (many of whom were Jesus-followers who refused to worship Roman Gods). The Coliseum at one time held between 50,000-80,000 attenders, averaging 65,000 who were hungry to watch blood shed for the purpose of entertainment.
Hard to fathom, right?
Even more, so sobering.
These “games,” unbelievably, lasted almost four centuries.
I recall reading in Foxes Book of Martyrs about the day the games “ended”…just before the Coliseum was turned into a quarry.
One man made the difference.
Did you catch that? ONE! MAN!
His name was Telemachus.
His heart beat with a burden to speak out against the shedding of blood, the cruelty of the games, and the malevolent, barbaric, horrors of “creative” killing.
The Lord had spoken to him.
The gospel was his mission.
To speak against the games as he defended the gospel became his entire purpose.
So, he traveled to Rome from somewhere in Asia.
He happened to arrive on a day of celebration that followed some big military victory for the Roman army.
Telemachus approached the Coliseum and jumped over the wall, as two gladiators were in combat.
Stepping between them, he looked up at the crowds and began shouting his message, as they momentarily quieted at hearing his voice.
“In the name of Jesus Christ, the Lord of Lords, and the King of Kings, I command these games be stopped. Do not requite God’s mercy by shedding innocent blood.”
Disgruntled the onlookers began to throw down rotten fruit, daggers, stones, anything that could act as a “missile,” and the crowd screamed out with a cacophony of sound that accompanied those projectiles.
Hoping to gain the crowd’s applause and favor, one of the two gladiators raised his battle axe and sunk it deep into the skull of Telemachus.
As his body fell lifeless to the ground, a shift took place among the crowd and silence profoundly fell over the arena.
In that moment, as if the message born on the breeze tendered each individual heart, the crowd appeared to recognize a new truth:
BRAVERY AND COURAGE ARE MUCH GREATER IN POWER AND STRENGTH THAN ANY GLADIATOR.
Slowly, person by person, the crowd left the Coliseum and never returned.
The games found their demise.
The appetites of the people began to change.
An interesting story, isn’t it?
Where's our Coliseum?
What message would the Lord ask us to share?
I can, but think of one thing.
It’s the same message, the same mission of Telemachus…it’s the gospel.
We, Jesus-Followers, are being asked to carry the gospel within our cities, our states, our countries, and throughout all the world.
Not embarrassed by it.
Not silent to it.
Not turning our heads.
Not loudly. Lovingly.
There is a gospel-illiteracy; yes, even in America, and we are all partly to blame.
There is an understanding among many with a canyon as wide as the Grand one in Arizona where the message is concerned.
It’s time to find our voices…
The Apostle Paul had found his years before this, but his challenge is forever true and for us today.
…For I am put here for the defense of the gospel (Phil 1:16) - Paul, in prison.
Wherever you are…you have been “put” (ordained and appointed) for the gospel!