March Sermon Illustrations

March 27, 2010

"Jesus Defeated Death"

An aged verger of Winchester Cathedral never tired of standing on the Cathedral roof and relating the story of how the news of Wellington's victory over Napoleon reached England. News of the history-making battle came by a sailing vessel to the south coast, and by semaphore was wig-wagged overland toward London. Atop Winchester Cathedral the semaphore began to spell out the eagerly awaited message: "W-e-l-l-i-n-g­t-o-n—D-e-f-e-a-t-e-d—," and then a dense fog settled oppressively over the land! The semaphore could no longer be seen, and thus the sad, heartbreaking news of the incomplete message went on to London, whelming the country in gloom and despair: "Wellington Defeated!"

But, ere long, the fog lifted, and again the signaling semaphore atop the Cathedral became visible, spelling out the complete message of the battle. "W-e-l­l-i-n-g-t-o-n —D-e-f-e-a-t-e-d—t-h-e—E-n-e-m-y!" Now the message was all the more glorious because of the preceding gloom. Like the spread of a prairie fire, the joyful news spread across the land, and lifted the spirits of the people onto a plane of gratitude and jubilant praise: "Wellington Defeated the Enemy!"

In the long years ago, on a hill lone and gray, situated without the city's gate, the sinless Son of God gave Himself willingly in a vicarious death upon His cruel cross for the sin of the world. The prophet Amos had predicted an interesting thing about the awesome scene in these words: "And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord God, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day" (Amos 8:9). His prophecy was literally fulfilled, for Luke tells us: "And it was about the sixth hour (noon), and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst" (Luke 23:44, 45). As that dense darkness enshrouded the land, obscuring

from the gaze of man the open shame to which the Sufferer on the central cross was being submitted, "Jesus cried with a loud voice," and then He said, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit" (Luke 23:46). As He thus died, the darkness deepened for His fearful followers. To them Calvary meant but one thing: "J-E-S-U-S—D-E-F-E-A-T­E-D." Placing His limp, lifeless body in the borrowed tomb of Joseph of Arimatheea, the persistent thought of their troubled hearts reiterated its hopeless message: "Jesus Defeated!"

During the three days of His entombment, all hell was vibrant with ghoulish glee, for the prince of darkness, Satan, had apparently triumphed over the Sun of righteousness. Did ever a darkness so deep envelop the hearts of God's children as the darkness which whelmed the souls of Jesus' disciples while His body lay in the tomb? We think not! Listen to their dismal dirge: "We trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, today is the third day since these things were done" (Luke 24:21). How unbelieving and undiscerning were His followers: "For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead" (John 20:9)! Betimes, the Saviour had foretold His death and resurrection: "After three days I will rise again" (Matt. 27:63); but they either misunderstood or disbelieved what He said.

The three dreary days dragged to their close, then suddenly the darkness lifted. The white radiance of a Lord's day morning flooded an Eastern garden, as the gladsome, gloom-dispelling news spread: "J-E-S-U-S—D-E-F-E-A-T­E-D—D-E-A-T-H!"—In, "Because He Lives," by Walter Brown Knight.

Subjects: Resurrection

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