In the Asia Minor city of Smyrna, persecution broke out against Christians and some were put to death for their faith. But the agitated mob wanted to cut off the church there by getting rid of their leader, the now aged Polycarp. The believers hid Polycarp in a farmhouse. (The leaders there taught that one should not seek out martyrdom, but neither should it be avoided if there was no choice and it meant denying Christ). The authorities found the farm house and came to arrest the old man. He welcomed his captors as if they were old friends and gave them food and drink. He asked for an hour to pray before being taken to the arena. They relented. The hour stretched into two hours. The officers, overhearing his prayers began to wonder what they were doing arresting an old man like this.
Polycarp was brought into the arena. Instead of Polycarp begging for his life we find the proconsul pleading with this aged bishop to just curse Christ so he would be released. Polycarp's reply--our quote at the top--was loud and clear. He was burned alive. The Christians present said there was a joyful radiance on Polycarp's face as he died. Believers were allowed to bury his remains on February 22, probably in the year 155. Churches near and far from Smyrna observed this date in years to come and drew strength from the testimony of this old, old, man who would not deny Christ, no matter what it cost him.