The truth that God is with us and that Jesus has died instead of us is indeed glorious. But without knowing that God is for us, victory would not be ours. We need more than a shoulder to cry on. We need more than hands and feet that will take the nails that we deserve. We need the strong arms of a Savior who comes back from the dead. Because of the cross and resurrection, God is now for us. Christ has conquered.
The Defeat of Evil
Anyone near the cross of Jesus on that fateful day in the first century would have thought that he was just another would-be Messiah. A miserable failure. Another leader who got caught in the crosshairs of Roman imperialism.
Satan saw this Jesus on the cross and believed he had triumphed. Jesus looked shameful. There he was – naked and bleeding, shamed and scorned and mocked. As he died, everyone thought he had been defeated.
But the truth is… Satan was being disarmed, displayed, defeated and shamed. Yes, Jesus appeared to be stripped and defeated, but through his obedient death on the cross, Satan and all the forces of hell were being conquered. Satan was contributing to his own demise. Evil committed suicide when it put Jesus on the cross. As John Stott writes:
“What looks like (and indeed was) the defeat of Goodness by evil is also, and more certainly, the defeat of evil by Goodness. Overcome there, he was himself overcoming. Crushed by the ruthless power of Rome, he was himself crushing the serpent’s head. The victim was the victor, and the cross is still the throne from which he rules the world.”
So here is the paradox: in the midst of human suffering and shame, in the midst of Christ’s agony, we see the strange but wonderful plan of God – that through this the world would be changed. That through this the world would be put back together again. That through this apparent defeat, God would achieve his greatest victory. The serpent’s head was crushed by the Savior’s heel.
The Son of God became what we were not so that we could become what he is.
Jesus – the Bread of Life – hungered, that we might be filled.
Jesus – the fountain of Life – was thirsty, that we might be satisfied.
Jesus – the Power of God – grew weak, that we might be strong.
Jesus – the Truth – was accused of false witness, that we might be declared righteous.
Jesus – the Healer – was wounded, that we might be restored.
Jesus – the very source of Life – died, that we might live.
Christ conquers sin, death and the grave, freeing us from the power of the evil one.
Christ resists temptation, freeing us from our inclination to always choose our own way over God’s.
Christ calls people, freeing us from being focused on ourselves.
Christ casts out demons, freeing us from oppression.
Christ heals, freeing us from sickness.
Christ forgives, freeing us from guilt and sin.
Christ teaches, freeing us from misunderstandings about God and his Law.
Christ loves, freeing us from the futility of trying to earn favor with God.
Christ comes back from the dead, freeing us from the sting of death.
Christ gives us his Spirit, freeing us from being motivated only by our selfishness.
Christ promises to return, freeing us from despair that history is pointless and not moving anywhere.
My mind returned to those dead leaves that lay before me and my son on that crisp autumn morning. I cannot help but reflect upon the beauty of redemption. Beautiful, but lifeless leaves. They reflect the beauty of Christ’s death and the promise that new life is coming closer day by day. Spring is coming. Christ is coming. The Messiah who makes all things new.
Here is love vast as the ocean
Loving kindness as the flood
When the Prince of life, our ransom
Shed for us His precious blood
Who His love will not remember?
Who can cease to sing His praise?
He can never be forgotten
Throughout Heaven’s eternal days
On the Mount of Crucifixion
Fountains opened deep and wide
Through the floodgates of God’s mercy
Flowed a vast and gracious tide
Grace and love, like mighty rivers
Poured incessant from above
And Heaven’s peace and perfect justice
Kissed a guilty world in love