A Justice for All Times

In Colossians, Paul says of Jesus that, “Having disarmed powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” I find this verse in juxtaposition to apparent reality, and that causes me to pause an ponder. It seems to me that the powers and authorities did a pretty good job of making a “public spectacle” of Jesus. They were rather successful in disarming Him. After all, his little band of “faithful followers”–the ones who nodded in assent when Peter proclaimed, “To whom else shall we go?”–a scattered in horror and fright.

So what exactly does Paul mean? It would make more sense to me if this were in the future tense. “He will disarm powers and authorities, making a public spectacle of them because of His sacrifice on the cross.” That make sense. One day, Jesus will return as the Victor. He will establish perfect rule, and he will forever punish the “powers and authorities” that hold temporary sway over this world. It would even make sense if Paul referred to Jesus’ resurrection here. It seems obvious that the victory over death came, not in the dying, but in the rising again! Death held sway at the cross–but lost its grip on the third day. That is why we can sing, “Death where is your victory? Where oh, grave is your sting.” But on Golgotha, dripping blood and moaning, “I thirst”? This just does not fit the picture of disarming powers, making a public spectacle of his enemies and ultimately triumphing.

Since Paul knew the whole story, I am inclined to think he made a sweeping statement of victory that hinged upon the cross without telling the rest of story. For obviously Jesus had to die before he could rise again, thereby conquering death. And knowing that God exists outside of the limitations of time, we see His entrance into time, as the hinge point for humankind of the ultimate victory that will one day transpire.

But this morning as I was reading a portion of Philip Yancey’s book, “Reaching for the Invisible God”, I was compelled to think that perhaps Paul meant more than either of the above mentioned forms of triumph.  Before Jesus, the “gods” and “heroes” of civilized nations, were proud, strong, capable, and forceful. They banished enemies. They interacted with kings and nobles. They did not stoop to consider the poor and marginalized. They were not concerned with victims, and never intended or expected to become one. They did not subject themselves to current political authorities, and they did not allow mere men to hold sway over their well-being. Jesus is a paradox. He steps onto the pages of humanity as an authority figure with awesome heavenly power, yet one who would rather make friends with fishermen than royalty, who heals the untouchable leper with a touch, who weeps with his friends over the death of a “commoner”, and promotes justice for the poor, the marginalized and the disenfranchised.

Today, these trends in a “Savior” or “Hero” don’t seem that unusual. Robin Hood is a grand example. The stunning part is that the “heroes” of literature and lore since Jesus are in many ways representative of Him intentionally or not. Before Jesus, self-sacrifice for the rejects of society was not a part of the “hero’s” job. Jesus is the one who triumphed over the old system, and by his life and death, instilled in man an example and a way to uphold the cause of the helpless and abused. But it doesn’t end there. For, by His death, Jesus proved that his intent was not merely to make comfortable the uncomfortable or to provide justice for the marginalized, but ultimately to triumph over the “power and authority of this world,” and pave the way for mankind to experience the eternal presence of a just and merciful God. Clearly, Jesus’ triumph is a triumph not merely of the past and present but also of the future.

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