Maybe it’s a guy thing, but if someone makes a boast about something, guys just have to challenge them. If someone says, “Oh, I can do forty pushups”, the next guy says, “Oh, that’s great. Just this morning I did a hundred and fifty before breakfast.” If someone starts boasting about how strong they are, I challenge them to an arm-wrestling competition… and I usually lose.
Competitions tell us a lot about who we are. Who’s the best athlete? The winners of the Olympics. Who’s the best speller? We’ve got a Spelling Bee to determine that. Who’s the most beautiful? We have beauty pageants. Who’s the smartest? We watch Jeopardy to find out.
But sometimes competitions have higher stakes. For example, when two nations both have something to prove, they begin a war – and the result is devastating.
The highest stakes possible, then, are not “who’s the smartest” or even “who’s going to control the oil fields in the Middle East.” The highest possible stakes, the greatest commodity, the most valuable thing in the universe is the eternal destiny of human souls. And we have two factions who both want our souls – Satan desperately wants our souls for eternity. And God wants our souls for eternity.
So this great drama of the Paschal Mystery – of Jesus’ Passion, death, and Resurrection – is the great battle, the war, the competition between God and Satan; between the Source of Life and eternal death, between Pure Holiness and sin and evil. Satan’s great weapon is disobedience, which leads to death.
But Jesus Christ, the God-man, became obedient unto death. He willingly allowed Himself to be destroyed by the weapon of the Enemy, and on Good Friday it looked like Satan had won, that death had triumphed. It seemed, to the eyes of the world, that sin and death had won the competition. As God died upon the Cross, it seemed as if He were powerless to defeat His mortal enemy.
Three days later Jesus Christ showed us who was stronger. God is stronger, Life is stronger, Love is stronger than evil, sin, and death.
All of us love a good comeback story, right? Think of Rocky Balboa, or the Miracle on Ice. Things look bleak, the good guys are down for the count, but all of a sudden the good guys come from behind and win. Why do such stories and movies stir our hearts? Perhaps because we know they are hints of the greatest comeback of all time, the ultimate triumph of good over evil.
And it is precisely that which we celebrate this Easter season. If Jesus had remained in the tomb, sin would have won. If the Resurrection had not happened, then death would be victorious. Our Evil Foe would have been stronger than God.
But the tomb is empty, the curse of death has been revoked. The gates of death could not close Him in, the powers of Hell could not vanquish the love which led God to the Cross.
And for those of us who are in Christ – baptized into His death and Resurrection, remaining in the state of grace – we share in that victory! We can say to the Evil One, “You have been conquered! You have been destroyed! My hope is in Christ, Who showed His power by His Resurrection!”
My friends, the war has been fought; the battle has been won. Christ and Satan fought to the death – and One emerged victorious from the tomb.
Originally published at The Cross Stands While the World Turns.
Painting: Hans Memling, Triptych of the Resurrection (c. 1490) / PD-US