Like many men in America, I am interested in the outcome of this weekend’s NFL playoffs. Which teams will win the battles of strategic prowess and player power? At the end of this weekend, there will be only 4 victors remaining in the quest for the Lombardi Trophy. Eventually, there will be but 1 winner left.
As glorious as the battles of the gridiron will be, they simply do not compare with the battles of the Bible. I’m not thinking of David’s slingshot splitting the giant’s skull or Joshua’s marching crumbling the fortress of Jericho. I am thinking of the truly glorious victory Christ won in the battle over the curse of death. All NFL teams and players, along with all the armies on the planet, cannot muster the strength to do battle with death. Christ alone drank death’s poison. He swallowed it to its last drop of destruction. Then, He stood up and walked away. There will be football players—big and strong men of power—who are unable to walk off the field on their own power as a result of doing battle with other men. Not one of these men—and not all of these men put together—can approach the power of Christ. These men cannot overcome death. It takes the power of Christ to conquer death.
And the power of Christ belongs to the followers of Christ who themselves have been set free from the fear of death which once held them captive (Hebrews 2:14-15). So, we see in Stephen—the first martyr after Christ—a display of real power, real victory. Stephen took the stones of hatred flung by religious zealots who were fueled by a murderous fire, and he swallowed their fury, replying to their venomous assault with a prayer of blessing, “Father, forgive them….” Of course, this is how Christ Himself responded to His murderers. And, Stephen is simply dying in obedience to the Living Lord, who commanded His followers, “Bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse” (Romans 12:14; Luke 6:28; Matthew 5:44).
True power is on display in Christ and His persecuted followers because they are able to take every poison, every powerful weapon in the arsenals of their enemies and still stand in victory after the assault is over. No football player or team is able to do that. Christians alone are able. Everyday a Christian stands firm in the face of death somewhere in the world. As Christians, we are more than conquerers through Him who loved us. Even death cannot defeat us. Not even Tom Brady can pass through death without Jesus Christ. So enjoy the games this weekend, but remember who has the real power and the real victory.