Glory in Defeat

Glory in Defeat

The Bible tells of many great feats achieved by all sorts of people, from an unbelieving pagan becoming a father of faith, a prostitute who saves her family by sheltering a couple of spies, a fugitive shepherd who confronts a military power with a pole, an orphaned girl becoming a queen who saves her people from destruction, and many others.

There is one story that is the story of all stories, a story that has its echoes in every great tale told, a story that is hardwired into the human heart, because it is the story of the redemption of sinful humankind. What’s more, is that the stories I’ve just mentioned are some of the ones that form the preconditions for the story of redemption, because they were the human ancestors of the man in question.

This is the story of the Cross of Calvary.

The story starts with the unlikely events of an elderly couple who couldn’t have children having a son they called John. Even more unlikely, the mother of John has a cousin Mary, who has a baby without a human father. When Jesus was born, his mother was a virgin. Four eyewitnesses tell the story from different viewpoints. They tell of miracles, of amazing leadership, and how Jesus was ideally positioned and equipped to overthrow the Roman rule that many believed God’s promised Messiah would achieve. Maybe Judas believed that he could set Jesus up to start the revolution that almost all Israel hoped for that would free them from the Roman tyranny. So persuaded were Jesus’ followers that they argued about the positions they would hold in his new kingdom, a kingdom he often told them of.

Yet, when Judas betrays Jesus, it starts a chain of events that would end with a scene of extreme brutality and violence that result in his excruciating death on a Roman cross. His closest friends and mother watch the hope of Israel die a slow, painful death and even those provoking him to action appear to fail to get him to defend himself.

He is ultimately buried in a borrowed tomb, while his closest followers cowered in room where they feared what would become of them. The benefit of hindsight dims the pain of despair that all who believed in him experienced. The strongest candidate to be the Jews’ saviour had been thoroughly humiliated.

Has your greatest hope ever been crushed like that? Have you been confronted with defeat and humiliation? Have all the great promises you’ve had been brought to nothing?

Behind the scenes, Jesus was disarming Satan and taking the captors captive, until he on this we celebrate all over the world, would re-emerge from death and appear to upwards of 600 people at various times over a period of time.

Jesus would ascend into heaven, but following the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on his followers, a mere 120 or so people, the world would never be the same again.

Ephesians 1: 21-23 NIV That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

The most dramatic demonstration of his ongoing presence with his followers is first evidenced by a man called Stephen.

Acts 7:55-56 NIV 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

You see, even in Stephen’s death, he had a vision that would take him through his apparent defeat! Stephen was getting a standing ovation from Jesus. Jesus was honouring the first Christian martyr.

Jesus and all but one of his followers have died violent deaths. Yet we have hope! We have been commanded to share the hope we have, hope regardless of circumstances. Today, Jesus can turn your defeats into victories! Put him in charge and give him the honour!

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