Saturday, February 25, 2012

February 25 - Nestor of Magydos, Martyr, Bishop, Follower of the Lamb

Publius knew he was right--he didn't necessarily like that he was right but he was certain nonetheless. As the governor appointed by Rome to manage and control Pamphylia, he knew that Nestor was going to be a problem. After all, Nestor refused to be quiet no matter how much Publius or Publius' men insisted that silence was better for him since Rome was now ruled by Decius. This led Publius to wonder openly why a man would knowingly flirt with torture and death for the sake of people who could not repay his loyalty. Especially when, by Publius' reasoning, there seemed to be no reason why Nestor couldn't continue as priest and bishop if he submitted himself to Rome and those in power in Pamphylia. Nestor's silence could not be persuaded, though, and Publius was becoming increasingly frustrated with the speed at which the Christian groups were growing. No matter how hard he tried to dissolve and crush them, they continued to grow unabated. In many ways, it seemed that his efforts had only made it worse. The Christians looked to Nestor for leadership and he provided it ably. So, Publius was confident that he was right when he said, "Until we have got the better of the bishop, we shall be powerless against the Christians."

So, Nestor was arrested by the order of the emperor Decius through his servant Publius andheld by Roman soldiers against his will. The Christiancommunities responded in a way that confounded Publius when they praised God for Nestor's faith and prayed that he would not relent under the pressure that Rome would predictably apply. Meanwhile, Nestor had a vision while sleeping in his cell. In the vision, he watched as a lamb was led from its pen to the place appointed for its sacrifice. He watched as it was bound and laid upon an altar. After the lamb was slaughtered, Nestor awoke with confidence and resolve. He eagerly told of his dream to those Christians brave enough to visit him in prison and offered only one interpretation: his Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb that was Slain, had called him to follow after him in martyrdom. His visitors rejoiced with him even while they mourned their own loss as Rome prepared to deprive the Church of a bishop and provide for the Church another martyr. Publius was shocked to see Nestor's apparent lack of fear but he proceeded with his horrible task.

Publius followed through with Decius' wishes and tortured Nestor cruelly. After all, if Publius wished to keep his position and his favor with Rome, then he had no choice but to punish and kill Rome's enemies--loyalty has its benefits but it also has its costs. When Nestor refused to deny his faith and make a sacrifice to the gods of Rome, Publius encouraged him to make the sacrifice even if he didn't mean it. Publius didn't understand why Nestor found this proposal so horrid but then Publius didn't understand that for Nestor to do so would be to place his faith in the saving power of Rome over that of his Lord who also died innocently.So,Nestor was crucified by Roman command and eagerly followed his Lord from this world to the next.The Church that Decius and Publius hoped to crush by murdering one of its bishops grew even more in the gruesome wake of Nestor's martyrdom. Publius had been so confident that he was right--surely, killing their leader should crush their spirits!--but he was magnificently wrong. What Publius and Rome never quite understood, and what they still don't understand today, is that there was another Shepherd who watched over all the little sheep who followed after him, of which Nestor was only one. Publius had known he was right, but--praise God--he was gloriously wrong.

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