…by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
The scene has been played out over the entire course of fallen human history: two great armies come to oppose one another on the field of battle. For those who would like to predict the winner of such a battle, they would carefully examine the number of soldiers, the quality and number of their weapons, battle readiness, along with any number of other factors that can best be used to determine the victor. Generally speaking and judging by merely outwards standards, the best bet would be to choose the stronger army with the better weapons. Nine out of ten War Rooms agree: the bigger, better, stronger, swifter, more skilled army will win. It is just hard to overcome the advantage of apparent, overwhelming power. Strength overcomes weakness.
In our ongoing and soon ending study in the book of Revelation, we have been learning this through the lens of that book’s depiction of Jesus, our victorious Savior. Chapter 19 presents the most vivid picture of our great King as John sees Him in this way: “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. 13 He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” Who could stand in the Day of His fury? Though all the kings of the earth with all their armies would gather together against the Lord’s Anointed, they would be like a colony of ants against the single shoe of a child. Strength will overcome weakness.
But it has not always been so in God’s providence—at times He has desired to show that apparent weakness indeed triumphs over great displays of strength. How many times do we read on the pages of the Old Testament an account of God’s people gathered in fear before great armies only to be victorious through the strong arm of the Lord—Gideon and his 300 men; Hezekiah and Jerusalem against the great Assyrian army of Sennacharib; a shepherd boy against a warrior giant. God was constantly reminding His people that they were to trust not in outward appearances of strength and might, but in the One Who is all-powerful (all power!) and will surely conquer all His enemies no matter how formidable they may seem. But there is no place where that truth was displayed more clearly than on an old rugged cross outside the city gates of Jerusalem some 2,000 years ago.
Satan had been waging war against God for millennia. The earthly battle between heaven and hell was first joined in the Garden of Eden, where Satan tempted Eve to commit the first sin. Ever since then, Satan has tried to destroy God’s people by leading them further into sin. He watched with uncontained glee as human beings fell more and more helplessly into debt. He knew that we would never be able to pay what we owed to God for breaking His law. But there was one thing that Satan forgot to include in his calculations. He did not count on the triumph of the cross. He did not know that Jesus Christ would pay the full price for sin by dying on the cross. He could not see that when Jesus was crucified, the infinite debt we owe to God would be nailed there with Him. By the time Satan realized that the cross was the triumph of God rather than the death of God, it was too late. (Salvation By Crucifixion, by Philip Graham Ryken, p. 66).
Our text above from Colossians 2 makes the point that the “handwriting of requirements” that were against us (speaking of the Law of God) was nailed to the cross and therefore taken away. Through that Law, Satan and his demons possessed “the power of sin and the authority of death over God’s people.” What a formidable army against us—against you and me: the Law as the grounds of Satan’s accusations against us. We were surely dead on arrival—doomed at the outset and outflanked on every front.
The beauty of the cross is seen in its triumph through apparent weakness. The cross was an “emblem of suffering and shame,” for cursed by God was everyone who hung on a tree. From human eyes, the scene appeared to be hopeless and indeed many (including the two disciples on the road to Emmaus on Resurrection Sunday, as we learned this past Lord’s Day evening) believed that any hope to their miserable condition was lost with the death of Jesus. But through apparent weakness, God was gaining the victory! The power and authority of Satan and the Law was “neutralized on the cross.” Matthew Henry states it this way: “The devil and all the powers of hell were conquered and disarmed by the dying Redeemer.” He triumphed over all through suffering on the cross. Apparent weakness overcame apparent strength.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we will gather together this Lord’s Day around a simple table with even simpler elements placed upon them. They speak of this great triumph and victory, even though the Table is spread in the presence of our enemies and all that is arrayed against us. Come with faith in the One Who died for you and paid your infinite debt. And no matter what you are facing now in this fallen world on your way to glory, remember these words He speaks to us: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Come and freely take of His inexhaustible grace for you!
Rejoicing in our Victorious Savior,
Pastor Ted Trefsgar