There is this verse that I quote a lot. Colossians 2.15:
“He [Jesus] disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them by it [the cross]. ”
I quoted it last night for a friend. Texted it to her as soon as it came to mind. Claimed it over her as I prayed for her. I turned over to go to sleep, when tears flooded my tired eyes. Painfully aware of the battle raging not just over my friend miles away, but even in my own body, my broken voice whispered:
“They don’t feel disarmed, father.”
I’m the one who feels disarmed.
Struck down with whips, disrobed and mocked, chained, halfway driven to death, then placed on an instrument of torture to die–this is how disarmed feels.
But rewind those images of self-centered romanticism concerning my own pain, my own cross.
See Jesus kneeling over me, shielding the blows from my skin in exchange for his own. See him allowing his robe to be taken, and placing it on me in exchange for nothing. Hear him mocked, humiliated in exchange for my chains being broken, silenced in exchange for my freedom song rising over his groanings as death drew nearer and nearer. See him nailed to the cross–in exchange for me walking away unscathed.
But not unchanged.
Because three days later, he overcame those exchanges for his own exchange: death for life, sin for forgiveness, wrath for mercy, condemnation for grace. To defeat my self-sufficiency with a love too strong to resist. To arise from the dead, the first but not the last eternal resurrection, victory at last won.
Disarming comes with defeat. When an army overtakes another force, the first thing those who are overcome drop to the ground are their weapons: that their hands may fly up into the air, that their knees may hit the ground hard, that their heads may hang low in submission. The cross of Jesus defeats the enemy’s tactics and powers; the resurrection exalts Him over their supposed sovereignty.
Speaking of Jesus, the author of Hebrews writes:
“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the Word of His power (He is in control). After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…” (1.3)
and God echoes the exaltation of Jesus, saying,
“Sit down at my right hand, until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”
We are waiting for that to happen. Jesus’ feet aren’t propped up just yet. I picture His feet behind Him at times, behind His bent knees…as He now “lives to make intercession for the saints.” (7.25)
But at the exact same time, we’re told that it has happened. That He has “disarmed” the enemies. And He has. The resurrection is the proof. The worst of their tactics–death–couldn’t overcome our Savior and Lord. They are “put to open shame” because of this blunder. They thought they had won. Turns out their victory was reversed by the resurrection. God pulled a “trump card” in the resurrection, as my greek professor always said, and “triumphed over them.”
They are disarmed. Ultimately, their tactics won’t work. But right now, all evidence points to the contrary. Friends experience their minds attacked every night with horrible nightmares. My body sometimes still feels so weak. A train hits a car full of kids. Thousands of children die in acid attacks. Humans are trafficked as slaves. While the world looks on, the majority ignorant and unmoved.
We who know the victory have to stand in the victory, even when we cannot see it. That is what faith is all about anyway: being certain of what we do not see; hoping for what is unassured by circumstances (11.1).
The good news is that God doesn’t ask us to stand rigidly, making rote repetitions of words we cannot feel. He welcomes words like I whispered in the dark last night. He wants vulnerable, intimate, honest admissions from our hearts. He already knows each one, and He already knows the ways in which He will answer us in those words we offer to Him, the ways in which He will tell us to take our stand.
For me, it was a solid reply: write it down; listen to me and write it down. I turned back over in the dark, grabbed my phone again and wrote out a couple of paragraphs, which begin this post. He asked me to be vulnerable not just with Him, but with others. He flashed images in my mind of the victory already won over the pain I imagined being measured blow-for-blow over my own defeated self. He redeemed those images by His own. He told me to keep writing.
The bottom line is this: both parties stand defeated at the cross.
Our enemies are not yet to their knees, under the feet of Jesus.
Oh but I am. Hands up, knees bent, guns down, head hung low: submitted to the True Victor.
Self-sufficiency ruined by the self-humiliation of Jesus. Self-dependence cut off by the perfect obedience of the Son. For at the end of me–there He stands…
“For in Him the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in Him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In Him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them by it.”