Ending the Mischief
Reflecting on The Resurrection of the Lord: Two Days after Easter Day (Year C)
Psalter: Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Old Testament: Judges 4:17-23; 5:24-31a
Epistle: Revelation 12:1-12
Mighty God, in whom we know the power of redemption, you stand among us in the shadows of our time. As we move through every sorry and trial of this life, uphold us with knowledge of the final morning when, in the glorious presence of your risen Son, we will share in his resurrection, redeemed and restored to the fullness of life and forever freed to be your people. Amen.
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, proclaiming, “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Messiah, for the accuser of our comrades has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not cling to life even in the face of death. Rejoice then, you heavens and those who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you with great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” (Revelation 12:10-12)
On April 9, 1865 Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant in Appomattox, Virginia, effectively ending the long and bloody Civil War. But because of the communication methods of the day, not everyone one both sides of the fighting received word until days or week later. The last soldier killed in the Civil War was Union Private John Jefferson Williams. He was killed a little over a month after Lee’s surrender on May 13, 1865 at the Battle of Palmito Ranch east of Brownsville, Texas. He died during a battle in which the war was over. I suppose it could be said in modern verbiage that Williams and the other soldiers fighting there had not yet received the memo.
It is the conviction of the writers of the New Testament that in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the evil forces, the devil, the principalities and powers have been defeated. Notice it’s not will be defeated. They have been defeated. It’s, as we might say, all over but the shouting. The problem is that the devil hasn’t received the memo or better, he knows he’s been defeated and he’s going to do his best to take as many with him to defeat as possible. The theologian, Karl Barth put it this way:
The Easter message tells us that our enemies—sin, the curse, and death—are beaten. Ultimately they can longer start mischief. They still behave as though the game were not decided, the battle not fought; we must still reckon with them, but fundamentally we must cease to fear them anymore.
I have known some Christians who give the devil more than his due. They don’t just reckon with him; rather they act as if the war is far from over. They seem to talk more about Satan than they do God. They act as the the devil is everywhere, but only God is omnipresent, that is in all places at all times. Yes, the forces of evil are going to go down with their dark colors, but they are already defeated. There is nowhere, no place where they can plant their flag, for Jesus, the Lamb has triumphed through his cross.
Easter reminds us of the certainty of the outcome. As Billy Graham said of the book of Revelation, “I have read the last book of the Bible. We win!” We do not ignore evil. Indeed, we must engage it; for we are now able through the victory of Jesus to be a suffering presence in the world, to oppose evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. But let us never let the magnitude of the human condition to forget that the principalities and powers are in the death rattle. They are making noise and still doing damage, but they are fighting a battle in which the war is already over.
Vicit Agnus Noster—”Our Lamb has Conquered.”
Check out my book, The Politics of Witness, here.