Fighting The Dragon Matthew 4:1

Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. - Matthew 4:1

If you look at the back of an old British sovereign or a five-shilling coin, you will see there the figure of a man on horseback tilting at a dragon which is writhing at his feet. His spear is broken in the reptile's side, but the creature is fatally wounded, and the man is coming to close quarters to dispatch it with his sword. This is Saint George, the patron saint of England. In ancient times the English went into battle to the war-cry of "St. George for merrie England," or "God and Saint George"

The reason why St. George was chosen as the special saint of England is said to be this. Robert, the son of William the Conqueror, went to the Holy Land as a Crusader. While he was besieging Antioch, he was in great difficulty, when suddenly St. George appeared bearing a shield with a red cross, and having with him a great army in white. This so terrified the infidels that they fled.

That is one of many legends told about this saint. The one which explains why he is represented as killing a dragon is told in the Golden Legend.

One day, it is said, St. George came to the city of Silene in the province of Libya. Now, close to this city there was a lake where dwelt a fierce dragon that terrorized all the country. Every day he had to be fed with two sheep, and when the sheep began to run short they gave him a man and a sheep.

Naturally nobody wanted to become a breakfast for the dragon, and so the people of the city resolved that they would cast lots among the children and young people of the town. On whomsoever the lot should fall that person should be the next victim.

Now it so happened that the lot fell on the king's daughter. And when the news was brought to the king he wept bitterly and begged for eight days' respite. At the end of the eight days he dressed his daughter as if for her wedding and he led her to the place where the dragon lived.

Just then St. George passed by, and when he saw a lady in deep woe he demanded to know the cause. On hearing the reason he mounted his horse and rode forth to fight the dragon. He smote it with his spear, threw it to the ground, and slew it. Then he delivered the princess to her father; and the king and all his people were baptized and became Christians.

So much for the quaint old legend, but what of St. George himself? Who was he, and where did he live?

There are so many accounts of St. George that it is impossible now to say which are true and which are false. The most likely is that he was born in Cappadocia, and afterwards lived in Palestine. His parents were Christians, and of noble birth, and when he grew up he entered the Roman army. His courage and faithfulness gained promotion for him, and he was a favorite with the Emperor Diocletian. But Diocletian began to persecute the Christians, and then St. George could no longer serve under him. He gave up his high position, and left the army. He had enlisted as a soldier under another Master. He was even bold enough to remonstrate with Diocletian for his cruelty. The Emperor sent him to prison, and tried by every means to induce him to give up being a Christian. First he offered him honors, and then he ordered him to be tortured. But it was useless. He endured the most terrible torture with dauntless courage, and at last he was beheaded, faithful to the end.

Here was a dragon indeed for St. George to fight, the dragon of temptation to sin, which pressed him hard. But though the fight was a very hard one, and he died in the conflict, he died conqueror.

We all have our dragon to fight, our own special dragon, which no one can fight for us. It may be bad temper, or untruthfulness, or selfishness. It may be some evil in the world around us which we must defeat for the sake of others - some injustice, or some cruelty to the helpless, which it falls to our lot to fight for their sakes.

But let us remember that the dragon can be conquered. Christ, our Master, met the dragon too for our sakes and overcame him. He overcame that we may overcome by His help, and if we fight in His strength we are sure of victory.