In the days of the Roman Emperors, persecution against the Christians in Lyon was at its peak.
They were being thrown out of houses, shops and businesses. These faithful followers of the Way were ridiculed, mocked, beaten and robbed by mobs. They would be arrested, brought before the authorities and those who remained faithful, boldly confessed Christ as their Lord.
15 year old Blandina was a Christian slave girl who served a rich woman, who was also a Christian. Perhaps she was led to the Lord under the preaching of Pothinus, who was sent by Polycarp of Smyrna to plant a church in her hometown. Blandina was described as a ‘slight, frail, despised woman,’ who made such an impact on the watching world, that those who would die on the same day as her, even her mistress, were forgotten. Not much is known about Blandina’s life before her last day, but we can imagine her with a slim form, long black hair, tied back with a scarf as she went about her day’s work, dark eyes full of warmth and a shy, but ready smile.
When Blandina was led before the authorities for her case to be judged, the crowd grew wild with excitement knowing that slaves were privy to all that went on in the master’s family. Finally, the truth would come to light. Surely this slave would tell rather than be torn apart by the beasts in the arena. Upon her firm resolve to not deny her Lord, she was laid upon the rack again and again. After each turn, she was given a chance to worship the idols. She replied, “I am a Christian and there is nothing wrong done by us.”
She spent the night encouraging her fellow prisoners, gaining courage for the next day.
When the morning of the Roman games dawned, Blandina, her mistress and other friends were called out from the underground tunnels of the Amphitheater of the Three Gauls and into the vast arena. The hot August sun beat down on the sand as the bloodthirsty crowd arose, cheering as one for the sport that they were to witness.
The men were flogged and set on a burning iron chair. Blandina was tied to a stake with her arms outstretched and starved beasts were let out of their cages. As she hung between life and death, the girl sang praises to God as if unconscious of the pain her body was enduring. The watching Christians were inspired by her faith. “They looked upon their sister and were reminded of the One who was crucified for them.” Miraculously, not one of the animals touched the young maiden or the burning flesh of the dying men. The heads of the men were split, thus ending their lives and Blandina was returned to her cell unharmed. The Christians believed that God was preserving her for further trials, that the victory over the evil force might be greater.
Because of her unrelenting determination for one so young and seemingly weak, Blandina was persecuted more than the others until even her torturers were exhausted and said that there was nothing else they could do to break her. Throughout their constant torments, all Blandina would reply was, “I am a Christian and there is nothing wrong done by us.”
On the last day of the games, Blandina and a boy of about the same age, Ponticus, were led out and forced to watch the execution of their fellow Christians, citizens of Rome. This was their last chance to deny their Lord. Then it was their turn.
Ponticus died calmly with the spiritual inspiration of his young friend in his ears. Blandina had seen so much suffering, she had encouraged each martyr as he met his death and she had witnessed them go to their King. Now Blandina too, was ready to meet her Savior. Praying and suffering, she was laid upon a burning iron, yet still lived.
This account was written of her final hours, “After the scourging, after the wild beasts and after the roasting seat, she was finally enclosed in a net, and thrown before a bull. And having been tossed about by the animal, but feeling none of the things which were happening to her, on account of her hope and firm hold upon what had been entrusted to her, and her communion with Christ, she also was sacrificed.”
It is said that the spectators were so affected they called for a mercy stroke. Blandina was released from her sufferings with a dagger. Free at last! The pagans admitted that never before had they seen such courage and heroism in a slave girl. The bodies of the martyrs were exposed for six days, then burned and the ashes were thrown into the Rhone.
The pagans vainly hoped to prevent the resurrection of the Christians by keeping them from a burial, not knowing that, ‘to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.’ Blandina’s story is a beautiful picture of how a young believer can make such an impact on both Christians and pagans. It shows the power of Christ in a slave girl who saw that the pleasures of this world do not compare with the glory of the world to come. Because of her faith in her great Savior, Blandina remained steadfast to the end and at last received her reward, a crown of glory that does not fade away. What are you living for? As a young man or woman seek to faithfully love and follow Christ wherever He has put you. He asks for faithfulness and victory follows (Liddell).