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192 A.D. - Haralambos (or Charalambos) Becomes 'The Man They Could Not Kill'

 

 

 

The word Martyr is a Greek word roughly translating as 'witness'. Martyred basically means 'bore witness'. But in Christian vernacular it has come to mean 'died for the Gospel and Jesus'. And some say the toughest martyrdom ever faced was that of Haralambos in 192 A.D.  His name is Charalambos instead of Haralambos in some cultures' remembrance of him. 

The man became a priest at an early age, and was known for his zeal. He preached the Gospel in an area of Greece known as Magnesia. This area was named from an early Macedonian tribe called the Magnetes. Both Manganese and Magnesium take their name from the region, and Magnesia is where the word 'magnet' originated, as well. It was first settled in the 11th century B.C., and well settled by the 7th century B.C. And it was largely pagan in Haralambos' time.

 

 

As he preached through a great many years there a time of persecution arose. Despite being told to cease his Christian witness, he preached on in Jesus's name, spreading the Gospel without fear. Eventually the Governor of Magnesia, a man named Loukianos, took him prisoner and began having him tortured for refusing to recant Christ and worship the locally revered idols.  He intended that Haralambos should fold and publically deny Jesus.  Though neither the first nor the last torturing of a Christian witness, Haralambos's torture was intense and lengthy, and in that region of the world has stood the test of time as one of the worst cruelest incidents of Christian torture..  The amazing part, really, is that Haralambos was not just an old man by that time, not just a senior citizen....he was thought to be, in the accounts that I found, a man of over 100 years of age.  This intense damage and pain was endured by a centenarian.     

At first he was merely tied to a post in the public square to be ridiculed by the pagans. Even this bears the hardship of being physically restrained for long periods in uncomfortable positions, having no recourse to restrooms, and being spit upon or whatever other indignity the passing person should decide to bestow upon you. But he bore up under it, and continued to preach as he was being mocked and humiliated.

He was then, intermittantly and for some unrecorded number of days, struck sporadically with sharp edged sticks of iron by soldiers, causing him to bleed from many wounds. But he did not die from this and he did not lose courage, but continued on in his preaching. Some of his time now was spent incarcerated in jail cells.

People began to come to him, admiring his holiness and courage. Some asked him to pray for them, and Jesus allowed him to perform some great miracles.  It is recorded that blindness was cured in some, and lameness in some. This caused the people to take up his cause, and he became very popular with many. Crowds gathered. This was opposite of the desired affect, so naturally the Governor became more upset towards him. 

Loukianos now had him drug through the streets by horses by a rope tied to his beard. No doubt painful, this did not kill him either. And he did not deny Jesus, despite the agony he must have experienced.  An account endures that both the Governor and his chief military commander became so angry at his stubbornness that they came up to the old man to beat on him personally.  But when Lucius, the military commander, tried to swing a rod and strike him hard his arms were cut off near the wrist by an unseen sword.  And the Governor Loukianos, who was attempting to spit into Haralambos' face, had his head twisted around far backwards and held there, again by unseen forces.  They both panicked and asked Haralambos to pray for them, and were said to be miraculously healed.  The severed arms were held to place and reattached.  Their own attitudes towards Haralambos were then changed according to some accounts, and both became Christian believers, but by then there were higher powers that they answered to that had become interested.   

People were then beginning to refer to Haralambos as 'the man they cannot kill'. He was the center of growing attention, and so a great many came and heard the Gospel and received miracles through him. Some said he must be Jesus, now returned. He quickly refuted this idea, saying that he was merely an instrument currently chosen by Jesus to reach their ears with the Gospel.

A Roman Emperor (apparently 'Servius' or 'Severus') heard of this going on and was angered by it, being a pagan himself. He had Haralambos brought to the city of Antioch to be tortured in his presence in about 192 A.D. Here the tortures took on some other nasty faces: he was led through the streets with a horses bridle in his mouth, and after some time they moved on to another:  he was nailed to a cross with reportedly over 100 large but non-lethally placed iron spikes driven through his body. Imagine 100 spikes - some of our current youth have a better idea of it than us older folk, right? Still he did not die and did not recant. He was removed from the cross, and for a follow up torture he was whipped until the skin was basically gone from his back, but still he lived and still preached.

It had now been a couple of months of steadily worsening torture. It's hard to imagine what he must have looked like. Jesus Himself must have been maintaining his life at this point. It was finally decided by the Emperor that it was time to behead 'the man they could not kill.' Two soldiers, Porphiros and Babtos, came forward to do the deed, but they were not allowed! 

A loud and quite audible voice seemed to those present to come from the sky. It said "Well done, My faithful servant. Enter into the Kingdom of Heaven." At that moment Haralambos's body went limp as it gave up his life, before the stroke of the sword could occur.

The two would-be executioners were awestruck by the voice and what they saw happen, probably by what they had heard of this man.  They both knelt publicly, on the spot, and asked Jesus' forgiveness. For this transgression against his pagan gods and his authority the Emperor had them both beheaded. They are also mentioned in some annals as martyrs as they too died for the name of the Lord. But not, it must be admitted, so hard a death as Haralambos (Charalambos.) It was witnesses of his caliber and level of faith that caused even hardened observers of their hardships and sufferings to wonder at it all, and to personally look into the name of Jesus. Praise the Lord, and a well earned salute to our brother Haralambos.

Will we be able to suffer pains (very great agonizing pains, long wearying pains) with such courage if we are ever tested, and not forsake the name of Jesus Who endured such pains Himself in order to shed the one blood so precious to the Father that it is allowed to atone for the sins of those who accept the New Covenant in Christ's blood?  If our test ever comes, may we call on God for strength, and then persevere!

©2017 Daniel Curry & 'Deeds of God' Website