The Defeat that Ended in Victory

SIR, WE WOULD SEE JESUS

VII. “The Defeat that Ended in Victory”

John Chapter 20

Easter Sunday

AUDIO – The Defeat That Ended in Victory

On that first Easter morning more than 2000 years ago, there were many people in Jerusalem who were utterly confident that they had sent Jesus to complete defeat.

Indeed, it seemed as though they had.  The city was quiet and secure now; it had not been the week before.

Dominating the Passover celebration had been the figure of this Galilean Preacher-carpenter.

On the first day of the week He had entered the city like a conquering hero.  The mobs had shouted His praise to the skies.

In token of triumph they had filled the air with waving palm branches; they had spread their coats in the road so that Jesus could ride over them.

Once in the city, Christ had gone to the temple.  There he had thrown things into what undoubtedly to some had seemed utmost confusion.

He had invaded the booths of the money changers; He had overturned their counters, their coins he had sent rolling along the marble floors.

He has set free the lambs which were being sold for sacrifice.

He had opened the doors of the cages which had imprisoned the sacrificial doves.

Then, with a compelling gesture, He had driven forth from the temple those of whom he said “It is written, My Father’s house shall be called a House of Prayer but you have made it a den of robbers.”

He had preached also….preached what to the ears of many, was a strange doctrine.  The most important commandments He said; were those which spoke of love ….Love of God and love of man.  He had not referred at all to the legalistically encrusted observances of the Jewish code.

He had made no reference to the necessity for burnt offerings.  Beyond that, he had even dared criticize the religious and the social leaders of the day.

To their faces He had called the Scribes and Pharisees “Hypocrites!”

The common people had heard him gladly.  For a time it looked as though they have crowned this peasant King.

He completely disrupted the status quo.  Actually it had been a period of three years now that this man had been a source of trouble to the religious authorities.

First they had been bewildered by Him.

This gave way to jealousy of His vast following.

Then they had become filled with fear that bred hatred for Him.

At last, when they had deemed as their patience had reached its limits, they had planned, they had schemed they had found ways and means, and a few days before, Jesus had been executed.

Now, on this first Easter morning, more than 2000 years ago, this carpenter-preacher, this teacher-prophet, this self-styled Son of man and Son of God was no longer a threat to the order of things.

They were utterly confident that they had sent Christ down to complete defeat.

 

II.

In the early morning light of this first day of the new week…a man looking out from the vantage point of one of the  high places of the temple, might have allowed his eyes to wander across the city, and past its walls to a hilltop called Calvary.

Outlined against the light cast by the first rays of the morning sun; He would have seen three naked, black crosses.

Two thieves had been crucified on these crosses, one on either side, and on the center cross had hung Jesus of Nazareth.

True, it was that at the actual time of the crucifixion, some of those who had been responsible for Jesus’ death, had almost repented of their part in the execution.

For as Jesus had hung on the cross, it had seemed that the very forces of nature had been in league with him.   The land had trembled with earthquakes; clouds and darkness had overcast the sky; thunder had roared both near and far.

In the temple, the very veil in the sanctuary had been torn in two.

Fear and panic had seized many, and there were those who had echoed the words of the Roman centurion; “Truly, this man was a Son of God.”   But, Jesus had been pronounced dead.  His body had been taken down from the cross. It had been placed in a tomb in the garden of Joseph of Arimathia.

A great stone had been rolled in front of the tomb.  The tomb had been sealed.

At the request of the Jewish authorities; a Roman guard had been posted to avoid any possible trouble at the grave.

Not only had Jesus “been taken care of” but his followers had been dispersed.

It has been described….

“His followers had fled like frightened sheep; their hopes all wrecked by the catastrophe…..their hearts had turned to water when He died.”

For the disciples and friends of Jesus:

“All life’s hope and joy had fled…their Lord was dead…their Lord was dead.”

Well indeed, might someone have looked upon that empty center cross and thought “Verily, one more life has been lost, one more hope has been blasted, one more meaningless sacrifice of a good man had been made – and mankind is no better off than before.  Even Jesus had been defeated.”

 

III.

But, “God works in Mysterious ways, His wonders to perform”,

In the silence of that night now with tumult and shouting; not with cheering of crowds nor royal acclaim; But in the quiet of the early morning hour on the first day of the week before it was yet light, Jesus came forth from the tomb – alive!

Concerning that historic event we have heard in the scripture of the morning. Matthew tells us about it.

And so does Mark, and Luke and John and Paul.

He, who had been crucified,

He whom the soldiers and the priests and the onlookers had seen die; He who had been pronounced dead by the proper authorities, He who had been wrapped in burial shrouds, He who had been sealed in the tomb…. came forth alive. What seemed ultimate defeat became the prelude to eternal victory.

 

IV.

Look at the measure of this victory!

First it was a victory over environment and circumstances.

The Jewish people of whom Jesus was one, was a despised minority.  They were a part of one of the smallest of the nations ruled by Rome.

Of this little group, Jesus was one of the most humble.  He had neither earthly power to wield, nor earthly riches with which to impress.  He was a carpenter’s son, a carpenter Himself, a peasant son of a peasant father.

Amid the greatness and grandeur that was Rome, He was a little man indeed, but he, and he alone, brings hope to our day as he did to His.

It was upon His teachings that the world builds its ideals.

It is from truths taught by Him, that the world develops its most enlightened moral and social standards.

This itinerant preacher rises so far above and beyond His earthly environment and circumstance that for centuries, past, present, and yet to come, He is the beacon light which guides us to human progress, more noble living, and the more abundant life.

Secondly, the victory achieved by Jesus was a victory over the short sighted and off-times blind leaders of his day.

The majority of the members of the Sanhedrin, most of the scribes and Pharisees, the leading “statesmen” of Israel were without either vision or understanding.

Their eyes were so closely glued to their own selfish interests; their hearts were so set on their temple monopolies; their minds could conceive of nothing greater, than the size of their financial holdings.  Their personal problems and prejudices loomed, with such mountainous heights before them, that they were unable to lift up their eyes and see in Jesus the coming of the Kingdom of God.

Over these men, who had been genuinely found standing against God, Jesus had won a great victory.

Thirdly, the victory achieved by Christ was a victory over the fear, and the despair, and the lack of faith, of his own followers.

In the power of their resurrected Lord they became truly changed men.  Through them, and through those that truly believed in Him, down through the ages, Christ worked and accomplished His purpose.

Fourthly, even more compelling is the fact that in Christ, we win victories today.

In the hearts and lives of millions, His gospel and His truth, His commandments and His authority, His faith and His hope, and His love, had firmly established.

Seeing Him and trusting in Him, people find that they have power:

In the presence of fear….to master it.

In the presence of temptation….to conquer it.

In the presence of evil….to fight it.

In the presence of crisis…to make the right decision.

In the presence of death…to calmly accept it.

Knowing that “because He lives, we, too, shall live.”

Every man, woman and child who lives in love and not in hate;

Everyone who practices, as well as preaches, the percepts of Christianity; Every individual who has the courage, as well as the endurance, to stand up for the right, despite disappointments; to rebuild lives, which seem sometimes shattered by events. Every such life is a living testimony to the power of God in the risen Christ, A living testimony to the victory that came out of defeat!

Across the world today millions are gathered in services just like this.  Multitudes of devout Christians have come to glorify and praise God, because, through Jesus Christ, victory has been achieved in their lives.

Christ’s was the defeat that ended in victory!

“To man it seemed that evil had prevailed, that His fair life had altogether failed, and naught was left but what the Cross impaled;

But God saw otherwise!

It seemed as though His life had gone for naught,

Nothing to show for that long battle fought,

But a pale prisoner to the gallows brought, —

But God saw otherwise!

No lasting good seemed ever like to come

Of all His sowing, – neither fruit nor bloom,

Instead – a felons cross, an alien tomb; —

But God saw otherwise!

We, too, at times, come nigh to lose our hope,

When with life’s evils we no more can cope,

And in the dark with heavy hearts we grope; —

But God sees otherwise!”

Christ’s was the defeat that ended in victory!

And not only for yesterday, but for today.

And not only here and now, amongst you and me, but across the world.

The story is told that:

“A fiery Communist was speaking to an audience of his “enlightened” fellow Russians at a mass meeting in a Soviet city.

He captivated the crowd, telling how a group of people entered a monastery at a time when it was filled with worshippers.

In this monastery were supposed to repose the holy relics of a saint which the people had held in reverent regard for generations.

The coffin was broken into, and nothing was found save a doll stuffed with shavings and rotten wood.

The confused and deceived people then turned on the priests, tore down the religious banners, and desecrated that which formerly they had held in awe. The story is received with loud applause.

The crowd is ready to depart when “an old priest ascends the vacant platform; a big cross of gold gleams on his breast.  The people wonder what will happen.

Some laugh at the old man, but the priest utters only 3 words – “Christ is risen!”

His voice reaches every nook of the auditorium.

A sort of strange excitement begins to spread; an unexpected, incomprehensible feeling of rapture.  Half the audience hoots and laughs;

Half respond in chorus – “He is risen, indeed!”

“Christ is risen!” the old priest repeats.  This time in a powerful, deep, inspired voice.

It seems as if around his white hair a light radiates.  The hooting and the laughter cease.

“He is risen indeed” chants the crowd.

The priest lifts up the gleaming cross…“Christ is risen!”

The tall column of the auditorium seems to tremble. “He is risen indeed!” Resounds the din of the answer.

That public place, about to chant the praise of Marx and Lenin, is rather suddenly and strangely transformed into a church of the living God.”

“Christ is risen! He is risen indeed.” Conqueror over death and the grave victor over both the best and worst that man can do.

John Oxrenhan has summed it all up in twenty-four words entitled “Then and Now” –

“THEN – Crowned with the thorn,

He died,

The death of scorn….

The crucified:

NOW…..THINE IS THE KINGDOM

AND THE POWER

AND THE GLORY

FOREVER

AMEN”

 

Christ and through Him….ours….is the defeat that ends in victory.

 

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