Wonder Women of the Early Church

I’ve seen so much going around recently about how good the movie Wonder Woman is.  I haven’t seen it yet, though I would like to.  But it has been making me think of two women I have learned about recently who would totally qualify as “wonder women”, in my opinion.  Reading about their lives gets me so excited, I just have to share it! Let me introduce you to them (if you haven’t already heard about them).

 

First, let me introduce you to Photina (or sometimes she was called Photini). Her name is Greek and means, “the enlightened one.”  Photina was a brave woman of God who traveled with her family – her two sons and five sisters – to spread the gospel of Jesus in the days when Nero was the Emperor of Rome.  At the time, Nero was arresting and persecuting Christians like crazy.  Photina and her family were warned about the consequences if they chose to live and speak of their Christian faith freely, but nevertheless, they followed Christ openly and faithfully.  Now, get some of this craziness:

 

Nero ordered that those who claimed to belong to Jesus should have their hands beaten with iron rods.  Photina and her family had their hands brutally beaten with iron rods for 3 hours, but FELT NO PAIN!  They sang psalms until their torturers exhausted themselves and in the end, they didn’t even have marks on their hands.

Furious, Nero then devised a plan to kill them with kindness. He tried to allure them with wealth to try and convince them to stop spreading this message of Jesus.  He even sent his own daughter, Domnina, to try and win Phontina over.  Instead of win them over, Domnina ended up converting to Christianity after Phontina had talked about the gospel!  And she was not alone – her servant girls were converted as well.  Crazy! Domnia was baptized and given a new name.

Obviously this did not go over well with Nero.  This time he ordered Photina and her family to be put to death by fire. However when they were thrown into the fire, they wouldn’t catch on fire!  So then Nero ordered execution by poisoning. The toxins had no effect on her or any of the other Christians with her.  Then the one who had been sent to poison them converted to Christianity!

Nero imprisoned them again. They were beaten and tortured for three years. But the more they were oppressed, the more their fame spread.  People came to their cells to receive prayer and hear the gospel, and Roman citizens kept converting to Christianity!

There are records of Photina’s sons having said that regardless of the cost, they wanted to preach the gospel like their mother.

All of them ended up being martyrs of the faith.

Ok, all of that is INSANE.  What a woman of boldness and courage and love for Jesus! I just love how her sons admired her and saw her strength and wanted to minister in her footsteps. And guess where her faith started?  At a well one day when she went to gather water in the middle of the hot day and encountered Jesus, who asked her for a drink.  That’s right – Phontina is the famous Samaritan “Woman at the Well” found in John chapter 4 :).  That has always been one of my favorite stories of Jesus’ ministry, and now it is so cool to reread their encounter, knowing how she gave the rest of her life for his sake.  After learning all of this I went back and read John chapter 4 (and I encourage you to also).  I couldn’t help but smile and feel so excited.  I just imagine Jesus sitting there with her, full of love and compassion, just knowing what God had planned for her life.  I think of all of these people, these Roman citizens and executioners, who God had planned on drawing to Himself in faith.   And how He chose her, HER, of all people to do it.  He chose a woman who was an outcast, a Samaritan (despised by Jews), ashamed of her past, to do some truly significant, powerful work for His kingdom!

 

Next, let me introduce you to Thecla.  Thecla was a beautiful young woman who happened to overhear Paul preach the gospel at a house nearby.  She heard Paul’s call to the men and women to worship Christ.  At the time, Thecla was arranged to marry but once she heard this message, she decided she wanted to give the remainder of her life to spread the glory of God.  At this point Paul had no idea that this woman had overheard him and had come to Christ.  She decided to break off her engagement, in order to do so.  Her conversion and decision did not go over well with her family and her fiance.  They tried to stir up an angry mob against Paul, and this led to Paul being imprisoned.   Here are some bullet points for what happened from there:

 

Thecla used her jewelry to bribe her way into prison to meet Paul and here more about the gospel directly.  When she was found in Paul’s prison cell, Paul was cast outside of the city and Thecla’s mother denounced her, condemning her to death.  She was to be burnt at the stake.  Paul gathered with other Christians to pray earnestly as Thecla went to her death.  She was bound to the stake but was not harmed by the fire. A severe storm came, put out the flames, and terrified the people.  The authorities released her because they thought it was a sign from the Greek gods and they were scared.

On her journey with other Christians to spread the message of Christ, she was condemned to execution again.  This time she was to be thrown to wild beasts to be torn and devoured.  Thecla was stripped naked, chained, and led off to an arena.  The stadium was filled with lions and bears. The first beast to run towards her was a lioness.  But rather than attack her, the lioness turned and stood beside Thecla with a posture of protection! Next, a bear charged towards her.  But before it could reach her, the lioness killed it. Then a male lion attacked, but again the lioness fought to protect Thecla. The battle ended with both lions dying at Thecla’s feet. More animals were sent out, but each one cowered at Thecla’s feet and refused to attack.  The crowd was silent as Thecla stood in the middle of the area, naked and surrounded by dead beasts.  She cried out to the Lord and prayed boldly, in front of everyone. The governor stood up and demanded to know where she got her power from.  She answered by sharing the gospel.  Thousands of people watching converted to Christ that day!  Thecla was clothed and released.

She went on to preach the gospel until she died in her nineties

Wow.  I had never heard of either of these women until recently. These women really seemed to grasp their need for something more and their depravity.  When they met Jesus, they clung to Him at all costs and followed Him, no matter the stakes.  I don’t know about you, but I find their stories so compelling, empowering, and inspiring.

 

Never underestimate what God can do with the fierce and willing hearts of courageous women.  If you are a woman reading this, I really believe that God has a story written for you.  A story where you are so completely loved, as you are, regardless of your past (or present).  A story where the Creator of the Universe calls you to be part of His story – an exciting and dangerous mission to save the world.  I believe you can find exactly what your heart is longing for in knowing Him, and you can have the most satisfying life possible, by giving it fully to Him.

 

Like our sisters Phontina and Thecla, I believe God wants to do great things and draw other people to Himself, through our lives.

 

How is that for #wonderwomangoals ? 😉

 

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