“Resurrection Sunday”, as many like to call Easter, is only about a month away and around the world, Christians are preparing to celebrate. Multitudes in this country are hoping and praying that the current decline in COVID cases will herald a further lifting of restrictions and that Easter, 2021 will finally see a return to more normal church gatherings and more traditional Easter services. Whether that happens or not, preparing for Easter can cover a wide range of attitudes and activities.
A Time for Personal Reflection ~
Regardless of how we approach the anniversary of the most significant series of events since creation, some time should be set aside for serious personal introspection. Along those lines, this much is clear . . . To think about what the resurrection of Jesus Christ means for each of us without including the personal implications of the events leading up to it is like eating the sugary junk food promoted by the commercialization of Easter. It may gratify our spiritual taste buds for a moment or two, but it will fail to add nourishment and strength to the body. So, in an effort to avoid a “candy egg and chocolate rabbit” kind of Easter, we’d like to suggest interrupting our own holiday preparations and investing some time thinking about how Jesus might have prepared for it.
When we consider the things that took place in Jesus’ life, it’s always beneficial to remember that though Jesus was and is the Son of God, He was also a human being. His body reacted to conditions He encountered in the same way ours does. That was no less true as He approached Jerusalem and contemplated the things that would lead to the culmination of His earthly ministry.
Preparing for Conflict ~
In light of that, we might respectfully suggest that future celebrations may not have been in the forefront of Jesus’ mind. The events about to unfold would be commemorated forever, but first, there was a battle to prepare for. We would do well to remember that, as we approach another anniversary of those events, because there are battles lying ahead for us as well.
The idea of battles evokes images of military engagements, and in those days, there was a procedure that announced the impending conflict. When commanders gathered their troops for battle and strategically arranged them for combat, they were said to have placed the battle “in array”. That meant that their troops were deployed and ready to engage the enemy. The battles we face on a personal level aren’t the same as military engagements, but sometimes there are similarities and things we can learn from them. One of which is that battles don’t always follow the established rules of engagement. God often chooses to reveal strategies and tactics that no one could have predicted. One famous example has helpful lessons for us as we prepare for our own battles, and the story begins with a familiar military observation:
For Israel and the Philistines had drawn up in battle array, army against army. (1 Samuel 17:21 NKJV)
Arrayed for Combat ~
David, a key player in this well-known battle, was merely a young shepherd at the time. When he arrived on the scene, the forces mentioned above had been set in battle array for weeks, and a fight of some kind was inevitable. But our concerns reach far beyond that point, so let’s first pause and fast forward to the situation waiting for Jesus in Jerusalem. If we borrow the military terminology from the earlier days of David, we might say that before Jesus ever arrived, the enemy had set his forces in battle array against Him, and a fight was inevitable.
All those committed to extinguishing Jesus’ voice once and for all were in place and waiting for Him before He ever got to Jerusalem. Just as David descended into the valley where Goliath was waiting to kill him, Jesus was entering territory controlled by enemies bent on His destruction.
Facing an opponent with tremendous strength and ability is intimidating in any context, but it takes a special kind of courage and confidence to engage them in territory they already control. Both David and Jesus did that, and there are lessons in those conflicts that we need to learn as we fast-forward yet again to where we are today.
Forces Are Deployed ~ As the holiest day on our calendar approaches, we followers of Jesus find ourselves surrounded by a culture characterized by conflict and contention. We would much prefer to simply pause from the chaos for a while and celebrate the grandest event in human history since creation, but we’re continually confronted by challenges that interfere with that. Our peace of mind is shaken nearly every day by some new attack on our freedom or some new proclamation threatening our foundational values. It’s clear that forces have been set in array against those who support the free expression of Biblical Christianity and that conflicts of some kind are inevitable. Scripture provides us with some helpful lessons revealed in the battles fought by David and the Lord, Himself:
- Doing battle on the enemy’s turf doesn’t mean using the enemy’s tactics. Maintaining our distinctive identity as followers of Jesus is never more important than when we’re confronted by those who vehemently oppose Him. Employing hateful language, abusive rhetoric, and arrogant attitudes isn’t necessary to defend what we believe.
- The current culture is obsessed with manipulating and attempting to manage how others see them. Unfortunately, Christians are often portrayed as foolish, uninformed, inadequate, and socially unacceptable. We must remember that on the surface, both David and the Lord appeared to be weak, ill equipped, alone, and defenseless, too, but those perceptions couldn’t have been farther from the truth. What we need prior to engaging the enemy is not an army of attorneys, a friendly press corps, a wealthy donor, a body guard, or some charismatic religious icon supporting us. What we need is lots of intimate, personal communion with the One we’re sent to represent.
- In battles, courage is vital, and the courage that David displayed didn’t come from vast military experience, or an intense training regimen, or unusual expertise in hand-to-hand combat. It flowed from a profound awareness that neither the fight nor the victory would be his. Both would be God’s alone. Goliath and his Philistine commanders had defied the God of Israel. It was God whom they had challenged, and it was God Himself who would take care of vindicating His name.
- As believers, we may feel attacked when God’s principles are assaulted and His designs are mocked, but remember … “we” are only incidental. We must be an extension of the One who sent us in His name, and if we make the battle all about us, or our image, or our welfare, then our only real hope of victory is lost.
Our prayer is that the Easter we’re preparing for will be a peaceful, uplifting, joyful time, full of love and praise and the kind of family togetherness that will fuel happy memories for generations to come. But when we find ourselves called upon to take a stand for the One we serve, “be prepared” by remembering that He fought a battle for us that we could never have won on our own. He took our sins in His own body. He suffered and died on the cross in our place, and when He had overcome every enemy hell could produce, He invited us to share that victory with Him. When the battles come, may we place our confidence in the One whose death and resurrection guaranteed this glorious proclamation for each of us:
The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:56–57 NKJV)
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below. Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .
- “Doing battle on the enemy’s turf does not mean using the enemy’s tactics. Maintaining our distinctive identity as followers of Jesus is never more important than when we’re confronted by those who vehemently oppose Him.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Prior to engaging the enemy, we don’t need an army of attorneys, a friendly press, a wealthy donor, a body guard, or some charismatic religious icon supporting us. We need intimate, personal communion with the One we’re sent to represent.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Courage is vital, and the courage that David displayed didn’t come from vast military experience, an intense training regimen, or unusual expertise in hand-to-hand combat. Both the fight and the victory would be God’s alone.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “As believers, ‘we’ are only incidental. We must be an extension of the One who sent us in His name, and if we make the battle all about us, or our image, or our welfare, instead of Him, then our only real hope of victory is lost.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “When called upon to take a stand for the One we serve, remember . . . He fought a battle for us that we could never have won on our own. After overcoming every enemy hell could produce, He invited us to share that victory with Him.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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