The words seemed to bring a startling chill to the hot and humid summer air. "You, Simon Mariot, will be charged with the following accounts of crime. If you are convicted, you will be sentenced to death by the fiery stake. Are you clear on this?"
"Yes." The man deeply prayed inside himself. He knew that if he was to go home, the Lord would except him with open arms.
"You are charged with the following: Preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ in restricted areas, smuggling Bibles to people in the prison court yard, continuing after warnings to smuggle the Bible into camps and areas also restricted, preaching in the streets, and refusing to conform to the King's Religion. Do you hereby acknowledge that you are guilty of one or more of these crimes?"
He could not--would not--deny spreading the gospel to the lost souls of that country. He knew that "blessed are the persecuted for Christ's sake, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven." He knew that a place awaited him in glory. That mansion that the Lord was building for him. His answer came without hesitation.
The head Officer spoke to his soldiers, "Lead him to the courtyard, the trial shall begin!"
They grabbed him by his arms, jerked them behind his back, and locked him in shackles and chains. They led him away, and the righteous criminal prayed as he walked into the courtyard.
The people gathered in hoards. How dare someone break the Law of Religion. How dare anyone preach a message opposite of what they believed. They surely wanted to be there to see him punished. The voices echoed in the air as if it was an enclosed building. The eyes stared at the figure before them with hate. Though religious they claimed to be, they had a hatred for the man before them. They couldn't tolerate a challenge to their principles.
Order came and the court was in session; the trial was ready to begin.
"We are gathered here under criminal conduct performed by the figure before you. He does not deny that he committed even one of the charges that will be presented.
The prosecution may step forward." It did, and with a hateful stare to the yet-convicted. The prosecution started in. "Now, Mariot, have you not," he was yelling already, "preached against the wills and laws of the land everyday that you have been in our country?"
He would not deny. "Yes, I have spread the truth to the people of this land." Those words infuriated the prosecution, and those attending. Talking began to get loud. The judge yelled for order and the crowd quieted.
"Yes, you say, and do not deny. Did you not know that it was against the law to preach your blasphemous message? Wait, let me rephrase the question. Did you know that it was against our law to preach the message you have, or anything against our belief?"
"Yes, I did know."
"Do you think you do not have to obey the laws of our land?"
"I cannot deny my Lord."
"So, even now, you refuse to change and deny your God to spare your life. You crazy fool!"
"Wait, let the case be carried out."
"Is it not true that you intentionally, against the order of the High Priest of our land, proceeded to smuggle copies of your Bible into prisons and homes?"
"It is true. I shall not deny the name of my Lord, even unto my death."
The prosecution was even more furious. How dare their power to kill be mocked by fearlessness!
The eyes of the men before him were hellish, like the hell he knew existed, and that he knew he wouldn't go to. They seemed to glow with an evil red. He wasn't scared, he knew that if he didn't have Jesus in his heart, he would have surely given up by now, just for the look in their eyes. It would be that frightening if he wasn't a Christian.
"Begin his punishment! We find him guilty! He is sarcastic and blasphemous against our religion and we will not have it! Let your God save you, if he is so awesome!"
They grabbed him by the arms and led him to a pole that was straight up out of the ground. On each side were cuff-like rings that were to opened and out around his wrist. He saw it coming and didn't resist. He knew it would be painful but he just prayed. Lord, I will not deny you, and if I have to, I will stand up to this test of my faith. I will not deny you. Be with me, Lord.
Just as his Savior had taken stripes for him years ago, he took the beating of his back with as much grace as he could. The first strike came the hardest and the second lessened little. The flesh that covered his back was instantly ripped open in a strip of ripped flesh and blood. The whip contained pieces of bone and as it wrapped around his naked upper torso, it dug into his ribs. As they pulled back on the whip, it ripped the flesh and jerked his body to the side it struck. Blood ran down his sides and back. Each strike became less painful only because he began to grow numb.
Eleven lashes later, they paused to provide another chance for him to convert to their religion. If he did, he would survive and they would allow his wounds to heal, even treat him with the medical attention available.
"Do you deny your God and accept ours? This is one more chance to spare your life, blasphemer! Do you accept!?"
His body hung limp and weak, yet with strength he managed to answer, "I...will...never deny my...God. Even unto death."
The accusers were furious again. One of the soldiers in charge ordered a bucket of water to be brought to the site. Salt water.
"Throw it on him!"
The carrier hesitated, but in fear of his life, did as instructed. He took the bucket back with a full swing and then threw the water onto the back of the accused.
He screamed out in pain. A scream so shrill no one could remember having heard a worse sound. The crowd was silenced by what they witnessed. It was as if they went from condemning to pardoning. They couldn't say anything, they just watched in horror. Some even began to weep.
The piercing screams of pain continued as they threw another bucket of water onto his back. Then the highest ranking soldier ordered it stopped. "Enough. Surely he will deny now, and end his suffering." He turned his attention to the pain-ridden man. "Do you? This is your last chance. Do you deny?"
With barely a whisper, he answered, "No, I cannot." His body fell limp and unconscious.
The lead soldier was furious. The sun blazed onto them with terrible heat that decided his next move. "Move him to a prison cell, he will be burned tomorrow in the mid-day heat so that he may not only scorch from the flames, but the sun's heat as well."
And that was that. The soldiers moved the body to an empty cell and laid Simon Mariot, the man who would not give up his belief, on his stomach. They let him be, either to die in the night, or the next afternoon. Either way, they had no emotion attached to this human that lay before them as they left him alone.
Night fell and talk spread of the afternoon's trial. Some had wanted the man to be killed then, some had thought he should be allowed to leave the country. It all depended on who heard who. The talks were quiet, for if a soldier heard, he would have them killed. Between the people themselves, opinions were heard loud and clear.
The sun rose with a mystifying light. Simon had gone from an unconscious sleep, to excruciating pain during the night. He could not move but lay on his back feeling the sting of air on his bones. And now, the sun came in through the small barred window of his cell and shone in his eyes. He cried out to God to take him home, if that was His will, before falling unconscious.
He was awakened by the clanking of chains, which he soon realized were to be for himself. He looked up, dazed from sleep, and finally focused on two Roman soldiers. He remembered them from the day before. The same faces, not those of concern, but of duty. Simon Mariot, about to be marched to his death, prayed silently to the God he would not deny.
The soldiers stood him up and locked the chains around his wrists and ankles. There were voices coming from outside the cell. The soldiers left, and Simon was standing alone in the cell. He hadn't realized it before, but he wasn't the only one in the prison. He looked behind him and saw another man looking through the cell window at him. At this point the Lord spoke to his heart, "Go pray with this man, he desires to know me as you know me. He has heard about your faith." Simon obeyed, and before he knew it, he was right in front of the window.
"My friend, what occupies your thoughts?"
"I have heard of your faith to your god. The religion that is taught here I do not relate to. I feel as though I am not only a prisoner for the crimes I have done, but there seems to be no forgiveness in these beliefs that we are forced to accept. I have heard you talk about the forgiveness of your god. And how great his love is. That he sent his son to die for your sins. I want to know your god. But will he forgive and accept me?"
"My God, will be your God, and just as He has given His son for me, He has given his son for you. All you need do is ask him into your life and you will be forgiven of you sins. He will then be Lord of your life."
"What do I do? Will you help me?"
"Yes, I will pray with you."
"My name is Peter." Simon led him in the sinners prayer. Peter was now a Christian, another man who might have to give his life for the cause of Christ. But he was willing to by the confession he had just made. It was amazing, though. Hours had actually gone by and it was afternoon. The Lord had provided a way to lead a soul to Him. He had provided a way where there would have been none. And now it was time to carry out the Lord's plan.
The soldiers were back. This time with more hate. They grabbed him with more force than even the day before and out the prison doors they went. Simon tried to keep his eyes closed as they led him to the stake. He could feel the intense heat of the sun even now in the shade.
The stake was now before him. The soldiers unshackled his ankles and his wrists and led him up a two step staircase. With his back to the tall object of death, they tied his arms around the stake and behind him with large ropes that had been soaking in gasoline. His end was near. Simon prayed silently. Lord take me now, into Your hands goes my spirit. With that he bowed his head and gave up his soul. The Lord took the breath from his mouth just as the flames began to engulf him. As those who persecuted him watched and saw what they thought was the rightful punishment of a criminal, Simon Mariot's soul was in Paradise.
Back in the prison cell, three more people gave their heart to the Lord from the witnessing of Peter while the stake was ablaze. This was it. The trail of the martyr that started with Peter, was continuing with these three souls, and the souls that were soon to be saved. The country was now an open sea, and there were now four new souls to take a step of faith onto that water.
This is not the end, for the Trail of the Martyr shall continue as long as one is willing to give life for the cause of Christ and witness to lost souls...........