Jesus defeated death by death. As the song goes, He was “trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.” He embraced the cross, which was the very symbol of wickedness, evil, shame, and death, and He turned it into something so beautiful that we kiss it, and we wear it as a necklace, and we wear it on our shirts. He took what the world said is shameful, and He exalted it and used that for the world’s salvation. Now, to do something like that requires the power of God, that great reversal. And He does it over and over.
Look at the tower of Babel. Man’s sin comes along, and both in protection of man and also in judgment for his sin, God confuses the languages so they can’t work together to continue building this tower of Babel. And then we see this great reversal of it at Pentecost, where now, instead of languages dividing people, they unite them, because now everybody hears in their own language the speaking of the praises and the Gospel of God.
But notice, it’s not the type of reversal we would expect. See, for us, we think to reverse something, you just have to throw it out, you have to undo it. To reverse it, we think, “Oh, well, you would have to make it so the whole world just speaks one language again.”
No, God kept it like a scar, and then He glorified it, just like the scars on the risen Lord. And He said, “No, this happened at the tower of Babel. Languages have been divided, and now there’s multiple languages everywhere. And instead of throwing that history away, instead of canceling it out and going back to square one, no, now, in all languages we will hear the praises of Christ, in all these languages we are going to hear the Gospel. Men, you messed things up back here at the tower of Babel. And instead of undoing all those languages that came about because of it, every single one of those languages are to be used at Pascha, to say ‘Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!’ ‘Christos voskrese! . . .’ ‘Christus resurrexit! . . .’ ” We are going to hear the praises of God in every language.
That’s how He reverses evil. He doesn’t just triumph over it by stomping on it. He triumphs over it by taking the very thing that was evil, gutting it of all the evil, and then glorifying it and turning it into something beautiful.
That’s what He did with the cross. That’s what He did at the tower of Babel, with the languages. That’s what He did with his own body, for in His glorified, resurrected body that shines with the uncreated light of God, you can still feel the scars in His hands and in His side. He didn’t erase them. He glorified them.
And that is what he does with your life, and with mine. And you see, in our worldly way of thinking, we just want to jump in a time machine, and go back and undo that embarrassing thing that we did 30 years ago, that horrible thing that we committed 10 years ago, that injustice that we suffered–if we could just go back and undo that. But God doesn’t give us the time machine. He gives us the cross. The same cross that He bore, He gives us to bear.
And just as He “tramples down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life,” He invites us to walk that same trail that He blazed to Golgotha, to strip off everything that is proud and worldly, to take off all of our pride, to humble ourselves before him and our brothers, to carry the cross of affliction and suffering upon our backs, and just at the moment that the world thinks it has won, just at the moment the world thinks it has defeated us, is the moment in which we triumph.
Jesus said, “If I am lifted up . . .”–and He is not talking about us praising Him; He is talking about being lifted up upon the cross in crucifixion–“If I am lifted up, I will draw all men unto myself.”
Do you want to draw people to you, that they may follow you as you follow Christ? Do you want to draw people to Christ? Well, then you too must be lifted up, you too must be crucified: crucified in your passions, crucified in your flesh, crucified in your selfishness, and your pride, in your desires, laying down your life for God, for your spouse, for your children, for your neighbors, and yes, even for your enemies.
The bad things that have happened to you, the bad things you have suffered, God doesn’t make you forget them. God doesn’t put you in a time machine and let you go back and change them. But He changes them. He redefines them. He gives you a chance to take all that manure and turn it into fertilizer, so that just as His scars are healing, the scars of our lives may no longer be something that we are ashamed of, may no longer be something that we cower in darkness in bitter regret, but may be scars that we display with gratitude to the world, because they are a testament to the fact that God has healed us from those wounds.