This is said of God: “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” (Colossians 2:15)
He triumphed over all the powers and authorities, whoever or whatever they are, and he exposed them in a public manner. He didn’t out-talk them! He outlived them! He didn’t simply out-fox them! He out-suffered them! These powers and authorities that dominated the creation and showed their character and power in and through the structures by which humans live, they were stripped of their grand reputation and made a public spectacle. And it was done in the crucified Christ in the crucifixion itself. The cross, in the most graphic way, spoke of weakness and vulnerability and yet it was there the powers and authorities that claimed world dominion were exposed. Sin and suffering and loss weren’t the only realities that were present in that supreme moment of human history—triumph was being worked out!
And that way of humiliation and vulnerability that the Blessed Lord took in his earthly ministry he takes in this very age when he offers himself to people all over the planet as a preached Christ; a Christ who now reveals himself not only in what is preached but in the act of preaching. In 1 Corinthians 1:17-21 Christ is the one who reveals himself in the form of a preached Christ [see Ephesians 2:16-17]. What is preached is folly and those who preach it are fools but it His chosen way [1 Corinthians 4:8-13]; this is the way the blessed Lord Jesus goes about his redeeming self-giving. It isn’t only what is preached—it is the act of preaching.
Is that not astonishing? Is that not adventure?
Can you believe that even in and through the presence of your pain and suffering and loss that Jesus continues to choose the way of humiliation and vulnerability? If you could be persuaded that this was true—could you embrace it and bear your awful burdens with a gladder heart and filled with faith?
This timeless act in history speaks its message to every generation that is intimidated by the powers. Every new generation invests these satanic forces and powers with an authority they don’t have but all who have seen—really seen—the cross and been drawn to it, they have accessed the truth that the death of Jesus heralds. The powers are helpless before the weakness of God!
But that truth’s shown not in the absence of all suffering and loss—it’s shown in the very place where some silly people say God is not! And the suffering of Christians (if and when it comes) is their destiny! They are the body of Christ (Colossians 1:24) and Peter told his suffering brothers and sisters (1 Peter 4:12-13), “Don’t think it’s a strange thing that is happening to you…”
The Christ bore the sicknesses and the disease of the hurting human family (Matthew 8:16-17) and so do Christians! Christ continues to work in us for the world! We are up to our necks in trouble for the world!
Agnostic psychologist and pragmatist, William James, said more than he knew when he said it seems as if “there is something very wild in the universe and we are required to redeem it.”
There’s a God-denying look about this life and this world. The truth of Colossians 2:15 is to be brought to the whole of creation in every generation. This is the adventure! This is what the elect have been called to bear witness to in life and liturgy. Baptism is death-defying; even in a world filled with death! The Supper of the Lord is death-defying; even in a world where Death struts as if it were Lord.
Colossians 2:15 makes the truth known that God’s power is always made fully present in and through weakness. It is the ever-present cross that defeats the ever-present evil. This is the adventure!
The gospel has been reduced to a tame humaneness. Let’s all be nice people, saying nice things, going to nice churches and having nice kids so that we can be sure of a nice place in a nice city in the here and now and then after death we can go to live in a nice one that has golden streets.
This isn’t what Christ came to the cross for. This isn’t what ripped Paul away from his blameless life under the Torah and sent him careering half way across the world leaving pints of blood on the streets he ran through or was beaten senseless on. And it isn’t what made believers leap out of bed in the morning with shining eyes when they remembered they now lived in a world that had a new Lord and King. Well, all right, we’re not all going through that kind of experience but our faith-brothers and sisters and fathers and mothers down the centuries have and we’re their children! Their story is ours and the grand finale will be glorious beyond our imagining!
T.S. Eliot sensed this and it led him to say, “I would rather walk daily—as I do—in terror of eternity as to believe that this whole life is a child’s game, at the end of which, every participant receives an equally worthless prize.”
We didn’t learn a watered-down view of the gospel from the Christ or from any of those who knew him best. The gospel is the good news about God! It’s the good news about God being righteous because he is faithful to his commitment to his beloved creation. He came in and as Jesus Christ on a rescue mission to save us from ourselves and to give us fullness of life; life that is brim full of life. He came to make war with the satanic powers and authorities that we’ve invested with dominion and to expose them in the most profound but ironic way; by enduring a public “hanging by the neck until dead” and then showing himself alive, glorious, majestic, deathless and a world’s Savior.
Wouldn’t it be wondrously good news if it were true that one day, at a given moment in history, all the satanic forces were gathered together in all their perverse power and that they were defeated? Wouldn’t it be wondrously good news if it were true that one day, at a certain spot on this very planet all the demonic forces that show themselves in corrupted and corrupting political and social forces were gathered together in all their power and they were made a spectacle of? The good news is that that’s exactly what happened!
“And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” (Colossians 2:15) By the Cross! And suffering Christians today for all their tears and awful pain gladly embrace Christ’s agenda and method because that’s who they are! They participate in the sufferings of Jesus Christ and the Spirit of God and of glory rests on them (1 Peter 3:13-14 and 4:13). In the face of Matthew 8:16-17 and 2 Corinthians 1, what nonsense it is to narrow the significance of Christian suffering down only to that which is “persecution”. As the body of Christ they bear the hurt of the world!
Now that’s adventure and that’s good news! In his body, the Church, Jesus Christ is showing again and again and again and again and again, all over creation, what he did with once and for all effectiveness—proclaiming his Lordship.
Don’t mistake ceaseless hand wringing for biblical based sympathy. Don’t mistake the whimpering preaching/teaching you hear or the repetitive trotting out of moral platitudes for the throbbing gospel that comes gushing from the heart of God, written in his Drama and lived out in the world. Nobody loves you like God! Nobody! But Christians are the extension of the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ and that Christ lives and triumphs in and through them every day, making the Lord’s power perfect through weakness and vulnerability (2 Corinthians 12:1-10). The dynamic and creative Spirit of God is still very much alive and shapes and sustains the new creation in Jesus even during the dullest looking days.
If the sense of adventure’s gone out of us it isn’t because the gospel’s become dull, it isn’t because God has gone into permanent hiding or that Jesus wishes he were the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! If it isn’t there it’s because we and our leaders have lost our way, lost our vision and have fossilized.
Ask for the gospel!
©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.