Communion, Meditating on South Carolina
Snatching Victory from the Jaws of Defeat?
Usually this idea means that one opponent is losing badly, but takes advantage of some miscues by the team in the lead and finds their way to a surprising victory.
Sometimes people think of the Cross and the Resurrection that way – that the devil was winning the battle but fumbled the ball at the one-yard line and let Jesus escape with the win. And make no mistake – there WAS a battle going on between Jesus and the forces arrayed against God and his good will, but this win was no lucky bounce – this was Jesus standing firm, letting Death and Darkness and the Devil do their worst to him – and coming out the other side having defeated them all.
Many texts in the NT mention this battle and victory but one that I particularly like is Hebrews 2:14 that speaks about Jesus partaking of flesh and blood so “that through death he might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.”
The New Testament portrays Christ as doing battle with the devil and the forces of evil that hold this world captive. This particular focus on understanding the atonement would come to be called by the term Christus Victor.
In the Gospels the battle with the devil can be seen from the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry. His temptations set the theme for all that would follow. Sometimes his confrontation with evil was in the form of evil spirits, but more often it was in the form of sickness, prejudice, violence, and sinful actions or attitudes. The battle was fierce. Often he would withdraw to pray. Finally, we see him, as Isaiah prophetically said, “despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief … we esteemed him stricken, smitten, and afflicted … he was wounded for our transgressions … bruised for our iniquities … he was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth …” (Isa 53).
GIVE THANKS FOR THE BREAD
As Jesus hung upon the cross all appeared to be lost. His disciples thought so. The women mourned and the men ran away in fear. Peter denied him. It appeared that the forces of evil had won. Jesus was dead — really dead and buried! Defeated! But then the temple curtain was torn in two from top to bottom, because Jesus’ blood had opened a new way for all to come to God! But then angels rolled away the stone and God raised him from the dead — an authoritative, resounding victory! A victory not “snatched from the jaws of defeat,” but a victory so thorough that its light lets us look back and see that this is how God always planned to win – by overcoming death with love.
As a result we have freedom from death, hope for the life of the age to come, and peace with God. And we have FREEDOM from FEAR, so that we can look death in the eye and LOVE, LOVE even the one who kills us.
This is the victory that led Paul to express our praise in 1 Corinthians 15:
Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?
Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.