Smack dab in the middle of February sits Valentine’s Day, a holiday named, oddly enough, after a Christian martyr and saint, thus, St. Valentine’s Day. (Men, you’ve been warned.) The holiday lives on, indeed, the holiday seems to have a life of its own, even though the life of the saint it was named after is a bit sketchy.
I’ll let Wikipedia do the grunt work here:
A popularly ascribed…identity appears in the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493). Alongside a woodcut portrait of Valentine, the text states that he was a Roman priest martyred during the reign of Claudius. He was arrested and imprisoned upon being caught marrying Christian couples and otherwise aiding Christians who were at the time being persecuted by Claudius in Rome. Helping Christians at this time was considered a crime. Claudius took a liking to this prisoner. However, when Valentinus tried to convert the Emperor, he was condemned to death. He was beaten with clubs and stones; when that failed to kill him, he was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate. Various dates are given for the martyrdom: 269, 270, or 273. (Wikipedia, St. Valentine)
Oh yeah, and he also ticked off the Roman Emperor for refusing to reject the divinity of Jesus. And since the Roman Emperor also thought of himself as divine, there was a bit of competition for that exalted title. If indeed this is the real Valentine from which the holiday is named, he certainly deserved it. Evangelist, preaching the Gospel to the emperor himself; radical, marrying Christians when it was illegal to do so; and finally martyred, killed for what he believed to be true. Apparently, this Valentine really did understand the nature of love: to lay down your life for what you believe, to lay down your life for your friend, Jesus.
Jesus never met the Roman Emperor. There were far too many lower level bureaucrats and politicians standing in between. And all of them, Caiaphas, Herod, and Pilate, had pretty much the same view toward Jesus: he was a problem that needed to be dealt with. And he thought much, much too highly of himself. About midway through the Gospel of John, that is, about midway through Jesus ministry, Caiaphas had already figured out what needed to be done about the “Jesus problem.”
John 11:47–52 (ESV) 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.”
And that is of course what happened. Jesus, God’s Valentine to you and me.
In Christ’s Loving Service,