Day 151

Your Trial Will Become Your Triumph

Wisdom Psalm 68:24–26
New Testament John 19:1–22
Old Testament 1 Samuel 26:23–25, 27:1–12, 28:5–19

Introduction

‘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.

Wisdom

Psalm 68:24–26

24 Your procession, God, has come into view,
   the procession of my God and King into the sanctuary.
25 In front are the singers, after them the musicians;
   with them are the young women playing the tambourines.
26 Praise God in the great congregation

Commentary

Triumph of God

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.

Prayer

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).

New Testament

John 19:1–22

Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2 The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe 3 and went up to him again and again, saying, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ And they slapped him in the face.

4 Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, ‘Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.’ 5 When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, ‘Here is the man!’ 6 As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, ‘Crucify! Crucify!’

But Pilate answered, ‘You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.’ 7 The Jewish leaders insisted, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.’

8 When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, 9 and he went back inside the palace. ‘Where do you come from?’ he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 ‘Do you refuse to speak to me?’ Pilate said. ‘Don’t you realise I have power either to free you or to crucify you?’

11 Jesus answered, ‘You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.’

14 ‘Here is your king,’ Pilate said to the Jews.

15 But they shouted, ‘Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!’

‘Shall I crucify your king?’ Pilate asked.

‘We have no king but Caesar,’ the chief priests answered.

16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

19 Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. 20 Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. 21 The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, ‘Do not write “The King of the Jews”, but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.’

22 Pilate answered, ‘What I have written, I have written.’

25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing near by, he said to her, ‘Woman,[b]here is your son,’ 27 and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

Commentary

Triumph of Jesus

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.

Prayer

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).

Old Testament

1 Samuel 26:23–25, 27:1–12, 28:5–19

23 The LORD rewards everyone for their righteousness and faithfulness. The LORD gave you into my hands today, but I would not lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed. 24 As surely as I valued your life today, so may the LORD value my life and deliver me from all trouble.’

25 Then Saul said to David, ‘May you be blessed, David my son; you will do great things and surely triumph.’
So David went on his way, and Saul returned home.

27 But David thought to himself, ‘One of these days I shall be destroyed by the hand of Saul. The best thing I can do is to escape to the land of the Philistines. Then Saul will give up searching for me anywhere in Israel, and I will slip out of his hand.’

2 So David and the six hundred men with him left and went over to Achish son of Maok king of Gath.

12 Achish trusted David and said to himself, ‘He has become so obnoxious to his people, the Israelites, that he will be my servant for life.’

28 5 When Saul saw the Philistine army, he was afraid; terror filled his heart. 6 He enquired of the LORD, but the LORD did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets. 7 Saul then said to his attendants, ‘Find me a woman who is a medium, so that I may go and enquire of her.’

15 Samuel said to Saul, ‘Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?’

‘I am in great distress,’ Saul said. ‘The Philistines are fighting against me, and God has departed from me. … So I have called on you to tell me what to do.’

17 The LORD has done what he predicted through me. The LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hands and given it to one of your neighbours – to David. 18 Because you did not obey the LORD... 19 The LORD will deliver both Israel and you into the hands of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The LORD will also give the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines.

Commentary

Triumph of David

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.

Prayer

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.

Pippa adds

John 19:25–27

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 an operation, or that they’ve gone through difficult or traumatic times. 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 that 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 always caring for our families.

Thought for the Day

The greatest triumphs in our lives sometimes occur when the circumstances seem to be hardest.

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References

Paul Rincon, 'Apollo 13: From Disaster to Triumph', [Online] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8613766.stm [last accessed December 2014].

The Bible with Nicky and Pippa Gumbel (commentary formerly known as Bible in One Year) ©Alpha International 2009. All Rights Reserved.

Compilation of daily Bible readings © Hodder & Stoughton Limited 1988. Published by Hodder & Stoughton Limited as the Bible in One Year.

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 quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)

Scripture quotations marked MSG are taken from The Message, copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers.​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.

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