For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it (Mark 8:35).
Let’s be honest. Crucifixion in every detail looks like a massive defeat. We need to pause before we quickly endow the cross with nobility and glory. The one on the cross is stripped naked and exposed. The crucified are jeered and taunted. Finally, they’re dead. That’s about as defeated as defeated can get. And yet, this loss is somehow God’s victory. Today we listen to C. S. Lewis and Leslie Newbigin to try and make sense of that claim.
At last she drew near. She stood by Aslan’s head. Her face was working and twitching with passion, but his looked up at the sky, still quiet, neither angry nor afraid, but a little sad. Then just before she gave the blow, she stooped down and said in a quivering voice. “And now who has won? Fool, did you think that by all this you would save the human traitor? . . . Understand that you have given me Narnia forever, you have lost your own life and you have not saved his. In this knowledge, despair and die.” (From C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe).
If the cross is the end, then there is no future. But it is not [the end]. The resurrection is the revelation to chosen witnesses of the fact that Jesus who died on the cross is indeed King – conqueror of death and sin, Lord and savior of all. The resurrection is not the reversal of a defeat but the proclamation of a victory. The King reigns from the tree. The reign of God has indeed come upon us, and its sign is not a golden throne but a wooden cross (Leslie Newbigin, Foolishness to the Greeks, 127).
Who wins? Jesus does. We do. His beating heart and breathing lungs were not the only things that stopped on the cross. In his death every shameful memory we have, every whisper of guilt that we still hear, every lousy choice we’ve ever made, every destructive behavior we’ve ever embraced – all of that was put to death once and for all. Who wins? Well . . . you do.
Have you ever experienced a defeat or loss or disappointment that turned out for your good?
Remind us today, O Lord, that you often disguise your best work with the appearance of loss and hopelessness. Help us not to despair as we look at our ravaged world and encounter broken people all around us. Today we look boldly at what seems to be defeat, and we invite you to bring forth new life. Make us confident and expectant as we go through this day. Amen.