EASTER SPELLS VICTORY
Do you recall Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington (1769-1852), renowned British soldier and statesman? Many events surrounded his famous victory, the “Waterloo Campaign,” in which Napoleon was defeated. Not the least of these involved the historic return of a ship to England to convey the message of victory. When fog hindered the ship’s entering harbour, a message was spelled out across its side to the waiting thousands on shore.
The message read: WELLINGTON DEFEATED. Throughout England, this tragic news spread as wildfire. Mourning was rampant.
But sorrow was short-lived. That night the fog lifted. In the morning the assembling crowds read the full message:
WELLINGTON DEFEATED THE ENEMY.
This message, too, hastily spread through England. Never in England’s history was any message conveyed with such joy and happy tears, for the supposedly defeated Wellington was victorious after all.
The tables were turned. In the wake of defeat, victory, joy, celebration!
Jesus Defeated the Enemy
Easter Sunday we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the grave. Easter spells victory-victory in the wake of supposed defeat.
On Easter morning, Jesus turned the tables on Satan. His death on Friday appeared to read to disciples standing on the shore of their grief: JESUS DEFEATED! Due to foggy minds, they could not see the whole message of Good Friday: JESUS DEFEATED THE ENEMY! (Heb. 2:14) For them, it was a tragic Friday-a ‘bad” Friday, Satan’s Friday.
When Jesus died. His followers mourned, shut doors, and prepared spices. The heavy fog of disillusionment overwhelmed them. “We trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel” (Lk. 24:21). Our Jesus defeated! Our Jesus declared dead by the state, Pilate, priests, and the church itself!
But on resurrection morning, the fog lifted. “Victorious” grave-keepers became as dead men defeated when the “defeated” dead Man arose with victorious power. Grey mist dissipated into blue sky; tears of sorrow into tears of joy.
Jesus arose! Jesus was alive! Jesus was victorious! Jesus defeated the enemy!
That’s the first great message of Easter: Jesus defeats all enemies.
He defeats Satan. Jesus’ empty grave spells Satan’s eternal grave. All of Satan’s guards, seals, and hellish powers could not retain a dead Jesus; how shall he ever withstand a returning living Jesus?
True believer, keep courage: Satan is mighty, but Jesus is Almighty. Satan is a roaring lion, but is he not on Jesus’ leash? Jesus knows how much you can endure. He knows how many links to let out on Satan’s chain (1 Cor. 10:13). Though you think the links too many, fear not; your Master knows what you need better than you. Trust Him. In Joseph’s garden, He easily ripped through satanic seals, dissipated satanic wax, and stupefied satanic guards. Shall He not tame Satan also for you? Indeed, has He not already done so numerous times when the lions you feared in your future path proved chained upon arrival?
Seek grace to dispel the mist of unbelief. Be not faithless, but believing: Jesus defeated the enemy!
Not Satan only, but all in his camp and of his spirit, Jesus defeated all enemies.
Through resurrection. He took the sting from death (1 Cor. 15:55a). Death, true believer, is now a passageway to eternal life for you. “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54b). Though you often struggle to grasp it, death for you is gain (Phil. 1:21). You cannot die to die because Jesus died to live that you might live.
In resurrection. He sanctified the grave for you (1 Cor. 15:55b). “He changed your grave into a bed,” wrote James Durham. “The grave is a temporary pillow,” wrote another.
In resurrection, He underlined the burial of hell for you. He confirmed the removal of the law’s curse. He pronounced the forgiveness of sin (1 Cor. 15:56-57).
In short, on Easter morning, Jesus removed everything that stands in the way between God and you.
Including you. In resurrecting. He left all that is earthly behind, symbolized by His remaining grave-clothes. His resurrection is God’s pledge that you too shall one day leave behind all your sin-clothes, infirmities, and “old nature” inconsistencies. Jesus’ resurrection guarantees the ultimate defeat in you of all that is evil.
In heaven, all your evil shall be walled out and all God’s good shall be walled in. You shall have no more trouble with yourself. No more backsliding, lovelessness, unbelief. No more sin, internal warfare, or temptation. Happily, your old nature and sin will be defeated forever.
Jesus Gained the Victory
As great as Jesus’ defeat of the enemy is, such defeat is only one of three great Easter truths. A second is this: Jesus gained the victory!
For the disciples, Easter was joy, tears, spread news, glad tidings -in a word, victory: “The Lord is risen indeed!”
The joyous victory of Jesus’ followers on Resurrection Day far surpassed that of England’s. The return of Jesus was more than the return of Wellington. Why?
First, resurrection made sense out of all Jesus’ sufferings. It preached gospel victory in Jesus’ dying for sinners. The resurrected Jesus opened to His disciples His fulness as Priest and King (Lk. 24:27).
Second, resurrection underlined the victory of personal salvation. To serve a dead Jesus with spices, out of love, may be an outlet for grief, but does not remove the need for a personal, living, Almighty Saviour to serve me with the spices of His salvation. We cannot save a dead Jesus; a living Jesus needs to save us. Indeed, our spices are often hindrances for it is the empty hand that needs a living Jesus (Mt. 28:1-10). In short, resurrection fruits include the whole gamut of salvation’s benefits: regeneration, justification, sanctification, and the guarantee of a blessed resurrection (Rom. 4:25; 2 Cor. 15:20).
Third, resurrection spelled victory for Christianity itself. It laid a future, yes, the future, in the lap of the church (Mt. 28:20).
Fourth, resurrection spelled victory for God Himself. Because of Easter, Jesus’ death is ultimately “God’s Friday” as the church originally called it- “God’s” and therefore “Good.” But why “God’s”? Because there God could pronounce His justice satisfied. With joy, He could sheathe the sword of wrath against the sins of His elect. With joy, He could rend the temple’s veil and grant immediate access to Himself for the vilest Jew and Gentile. But the best proof that Good Friday is God’s Friday is Easter itself. With joy. God raised Jesus from the dead as a victorious declarative “Amen” of satisfaction upon all the mediatorial work of His Son (Rom. 4:25).
Finally, the united power of Good Friday and Easter spells victory. Good Friday and Easter are inseparable. They are the two hinges upon which God swings wide the door of salvation. They are the two sides of the coin of heaven’s mintage which, when experientially known, pass for authentic currency at the pearly gates of bliss.
Jesus Lives as Resurrected Lord
I once asked a four-year-old why Jesus’ disciples were sad the first time he left them (Good Friday) but not the second (Ascension). I received this unforgettable answer: “The second time Jesus was still alive.”
Is not this the third and ultimate heartbeat of Easter’s victorious note? Jesus lives as resurrected Lord!
Resurrection means: Jesus lives on. Jesus is alive and continues to hold the keys of heaven and hell, death and life, grave and resurrection, in His hand.
That is why Easter naturally leads to Jesus’ ascension, intercession, and second coming.
That is why the author of the epistle to the Hebrews could assuringly write: “Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25).
That is why Paul could boast in Jesus: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13).
That is why the early church greeted each other with, “The Lord is risen indeed!”
That is why Martin Luther called Easter Christianity’s greatest feast and could claim, “Vici! Vici! [I have conquered. I have conquered.]” Through the ongoing ministry of Jesus, the church goes on.
That is why our Lord’s Supper form rightly says: Let us lift our hearts “on high in heaven, where Christ Jesus is our Advocate, at the right hand of His heavenly Father, whither all the articles of our faith lead us.”
And that is why you, true believer, shall forever gain the victory, You can neither make nor keep yourself alive. But the living Jesus does both. Through resurrection power. He teaches you experientially what you need to know to live in comfort and die in peace: deliverance (for He gains the victory), and gratitude (for He lives as resurrected Lord).
We wish you a blessed Easter – an Easter in which you look to the living Lord by faith. Only in Jesus at God’s right hand will you find what you are seeking: salvation, forgiveness, sanctification, guidance, daily strength, prayer, thanksgiving, love, fellowship, hope, and a future. Yes, Jesus is the Answer, God’s Answer, for life and death. Don’t turn to the empty cistern of self and self-righteousness, or to the spoiled manna of past experiences.
Don’t despair. All these things are not against you. You shall not enter the eternal harbour defeated. You only read it that way now because your mind is in the thick fog of unbelief. Rather, you shall enter the haven of eternal rest defeating the enemy. For the greater Joseph is yet alive and is Governor over all – also over the ‘Egyptian world” around you and in you (cf. Gen. 45:26). Like Jacob, your heart may faint at such a message for you can “believe it not” (Gen. 45:26a), but still he answered, “It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die” (Gen. 45.28).
May God grant you Jacob’s answer in relation to Jesus’ Lordship this Easter. Seek grace to treat Him as Lord this Easter season. GO to Him who is yet alive. At God’s right hand you shall not be disappointed.
“Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57).
Rev. J. R. Beeke
Reprinted by kind permission, from the American Banner of Truth.