Your Trial Will Become Your Triumph
Your Trial Will Become Your Triumph
‘Houston, we’ve had a problem,’ were the words of Jim Lovell on the evening of 13 April 1970. Nearly fifty-six hours into the mission to the moon, an explosion aboard the spacecraft plunged the crew into a fight for their survival. Within less than a minute there was a cascade of systems failures throughout the spacecraft. ‘It was all at one time – a monstrous failure,’ said NASA’s flight controller.
The spacecraft looped around the moon, using its gravity to return to earth. Millions of people followed the drama on television. Eventually, the capsule splashed down in the Pacific Ocean near Tonga.
In an article headed ‘Apollo 13: From Disaster to Triumph’ the BBC science reporter wrote, ‘Although the mission was not a success from a conventional perspective, it was a triumph of ingenuity and determination’. Jim Lovell said it showed the people of the world that even if there was a great catastrophe, it could be turned into a success.
The supreme example of triumph coming out of apparent catastrophe is the cross. What seemed to the world to be the ultimate defeat was in fact the ultimate triumph.
Triumph of GodPsalm 68:21-27
As we look around at the world today we see so much evil.
This psalm celebrates God’s ultimate triumph over evil and, in particular, evil nations and empires. You are invited to watch the triumphal entry of God into his temple. God has triumphed. Right will win the day. Human pride and inflated arrogance will one day be humbled before the majesty of God’s just rule.
David describes a triumphal procession celebrating the victory of God over his enemies: ‘Surely God will crush the heads of his enemies... your procession has come into view, O God, the procession of my God and King’ (vv.21,24).
There follows a picture of the worshipping community as it should be, with singers, musicians, tambourines and more, all praising God – and with the princes among them (vv.24–27). They are led by ‘the little tribe of Benjamin’ (v.27). The last and the least will be first.
Lord, I pray that we would see a revival of worship and that the leaders of our nation would be at the heart of worshipping communities, praising God in the great congregation (v.26).
Triumph of JesusJohn 19:1-27
Have you been through hard times in your life? Perhaps you are in the middle of hard times right now and things aren’t looking good in your life at this moment. Remember that at the time of his greatest triumph it did not look good for Jesus.
I remember talking to Father Raniero Cantalamessa, Preacher to the Papal Household, just before he took part in a public debate with one of the ‘New Atheists’. I asked Father Raniero whether he thought he would win. He replied that he did not know. He said he might lose the debate. ‘But,’ he added, ‘God can be glorified in defeat.’
The crucifixion of Jesus shows that God can be glorified in what appears to be a defeat. This is the moment of Jesus’ greatest triumph.
Three times Pilate protested that Jesus was innocent (18:38; 19:4–6), and on two further occasions he tried to get out of allowing Jesus’ death (see also 19:12,14). But in the end he was too weak to act as his conscience led. He ‘caved in to their demand. He turned him over to be crucified’ (v.16, MSG).
Jesus’ death was entirely voluntary. No longer free to move, Jesus was, in fact, the only one who was totally free. Pilate said, ‘Don’t you realise I have power either to free you or to crucify you?’ (v.10). Jesus answered, ‘You haven’t a shred of authority over me except what has been given you from heaven’ (v.11, MSG). The irony was that Jesus had total authority over Pilate.
This was the hour of great darkness. Jesus was flogged, a crown of thorns was put on his head, he was struck in the face, he was handed over to be crucified, he was stripped of his clothes and the soldiers cast lots for his undergarments. Yet through it all, the Scriptures were being fulfilled (vv.23–24).
John emphasises the fulfilment of prophecy and the royalty of Jesus. Throughout Jesus’ trial and crucifixion, there is the constant theme of whether he is a king. The soldiers dress Jesus up as a mock king and shout, ‘Hail, king of the Jews’ (v.3). Pilate declares with bitter irony, ‘Here is your king’ (v.14), and asks, ‘Shall I crucify your king?’ (v.15). The chief priests reply, ‘We have no king but Caesar’ (v.15), and so Pilate has a sign prepared stating: ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews’ (v.19).
As Jesus is being crucified, he looks anything but a king. He is being taunted and mocked. Yet, the irony is that as Pilate organises for the notice to be prepared (in three languages so everyone can read it, v.20), God’s purposes are being fulfilled in proclaiming to the whole world that Jesus is God’s King. He is the King of Love, hidden and silent.
During his trial, Jesus declared to Pilate, ‘You are right in saying that I am a king’ (18:37). However, unlike Caesar, his kingdom is ‘not of this world’ (v.36), for it is an eternal heavenly kingdom. This eternal King is triumphing, not through the might of Roman triumphalism, but through the seeming weakness of death on a cross.
Jesus is triumphing over darkness, evil and sin. Tomorrow we will read those great words, ‘It is finished’ (19:30). Jesus completed the task of bearing the world’s sins in his own body. The greatest victory in the history of the world had been won. This is the triumph of good over evil, of life over death.
His life appears to be a horrible failure. Hate seems to have conquered love. But in fact, the conquered one, who has apparently failed, has in fact triumphed and opened up a source of new life, a new vision for humankind and a new road to peace and unity.
If you are struggling at the moment with the circumstances of your life, stay close to Jesus and remember that God can be glorified in defeat. The greatest triumphs in our lives sometimes occur when the circumstances seem to be hardest.
Lord, thank you that because of your triumph God always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ, and ‘through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him’ (2 Corinthians 2:14).
Triumph of David1 Samuel 26:1-28:25
David’s triumph does not come easily. Victories in life are rarely easy. They generally come after many difficulties and failures.
Saul said to David, ‘May you be blessed, my son David; you will do great things and surely triumph’ (26:25).
It is tragic to see how far Saul had fallen. At one stage he was the Spirit-filled man of God, getting rid of evil from the land. Now he finds himself consulting the very witches he has expelled (chapter 28). Yet even in the Old Testament there were the beginnings of the knowledge of life after death, and that in spite of all he had done, the Lord saved Saul – ‘tomorrow you and your sons will be with me’ (28:19).
We also see the worst side of David’s character. He joins the Philistines, lives by deceit and murders women and children (chapter 27). He has to sink to the lowest depths to hide what he is doing. The picture the Bible paints of David is far from perfect, and yet God uses him despite his failings and failures.
On the other hand, we also see David at his best. David had an opportunity to take revenge on Saul, who was trying to kill him. However, David refused to take revenge. He had great respect for Saul, because he was in a position of authority.
He says, ‘Who can lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless?… The Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed’ (26:9,11).
David stayed loyal and faithful to Saul, despite the fact that Saul was trying to murder him. Follow David’s example and refuse to be led into sin in an attempt to break free of a person’s authority over you.
Even Saul recognises David’s ‘righteousness and faithfulness’ (v.23). Saul sees that he ‘will do great things and surely triumph’ (v.25).
The life of David teaches us not to expect instant success and triumph. Often, God prepares us through the years of obscurity, difficulty and even defeat or failure. It is in these times of testing that, like David, we must never act out of revenge but rather treat everyone with love, honour and respect.
Lord, thank you that you use us powerfully in spite of our many failings. Thank you that our triumph over evil is only possible through the triumph of Jesus on the cross and in his resurrection.
I can’t imagine what Mary the Mother of Jesus was going through as she stood at the cross, watching her son dying. It was bad enough when one of our children broke a leg and another had to have an operation. Watching your children suffer is the most painful thing. Mary is an inspiration as a mother, and the love between mother and son is so touching. Sometimes just being there is all you can do.
Jesus’ concern and provision for his mother, even at this most difficult moment of his life, is a reminder of the importance of caring for our families.
Verse of the Day
‘You would have no power… if it were not given to you from above’ (John 19:11).
Paul Rincon, 'Apollo 13: From Disaster to Triumph', [Online] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8613766.stm [last accessed December 2014].
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.