One of the most confounding aspects of the Gospel is that victory comes through failure. This is what Paul calls “foolishness” in 1 Corinthians 1:18-25. The world wants victory, power, and domination upfront like a superhero with flashing abilities to overcome and light the enemies ablaze. The world wants a Superman that cannot die, so they invent one. The heroes of the modern age are recapitulations of the gods of the past. There may be self-sacrifice in these modern tales of heroism and victory, but rarely does an author, or film director, take the self-sacrifice of the hero to be the actual sacrifice of the self.
No one wants the hero to die. But God is the Author, and His story is the greatest story. In His tale of heroism, the hero dies and in this is victory. The secret weapon of Jesus is failure.
Jesus is not the hero of the story who triumphs by escaping the clutches of the sinister villain. He does not sit beaten and bound in the chair with a smile on His face because He knows the cavalry is coming. He does not have the smirk of the near death hero listening to the mustached villain wax eloquently as the nemesis continues to wave an unloaded gun. Jesus is not the hero who triumphs by escaping death. He didn’t try to outmaneuver the soldiers at Gethsamene. No, none of that will do for victory. That sort of story-telling is second rate. That story is old hat.
Jesus gained the victory by being the firstborn from the dead. His death eats death. His death encompasses the villainous nature of the world and His death is kicking the nature of the Old Adam in the chest. His victory has placed His heel on the throat of the Dragon. And you should see the look of surprise on his serpentine face.
This is the faith that overcomes the world. The faith that believes when the hero gets a bullet to the head, the hero wins.
The story-telling of God shows us that when the faithful lose–they don’t. We all know Stephen’s name for his shed blood and his testimony of the Gospel. We have no idea who threw the stones. Stephen has the victory because when the story comes to a close, he will come back to the stage, they won’t.
As Peter Leithart says, “This means that [the world] can’t do anything to harm us. Nothing. They’ve got no power over us. The world can do its worst, and they can’t touch us. The world lies about us, but we know Jesus is going to judge the world in the end and vindicate his people, stop the mouth of the accuser, reveal the truth. They can slaughter and kill, but eventually we’ll come back, glorified, and even in history our death is the seed that goes into the ground and bears much fruit.”
In other words, the faithful know the secret of life. They can slander our name, accuse, punish, imprison, persecute, and take our lives, because we know the tomb is the gateway to victory.