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  • Terry Glaspey

Lenten Journey with Art #6

Piero della Francesco, The Resurrection, c. 1463

In this striking image from Renaissance master Piero della Francesco, Christ strides forth victoriously from His tomb. His resurrected body is a perfect specimen of humanity, though His eyes hint at the cost of the price He has paid on our behalf. He hoists a laburnum, a flag that symbolizes the triumphant power of His victory over Death as He poses, surprisingly casually, with His foot resting upon the lid of the tomb. He is laying claim to a victory, to territory won and recaptured from an occupying power. In front of Him, four soldiers sprawl, sleeping peacefully, unaware of the earth-shattering event that has just taken place.

One of them (second from the left) is likely a self-portrait of the artist, perhaps suggesting that most of us have a tendency to slumber in ignorance of the great things God has done and is doing in our presence. The war was won while the soldiers slept. The world was remade while they dozed. Note that the landscape in the background seems to suggest two different seasons—the winter of our slavery to sin has been replaced by the flourishing of spring and new life. Many of us tend to think of salvation as a largely personal matter, as though the saving of a collection of individual souls was the main purpose for which Christ came. But this is a vision too small. For what He came to do was nothing less than fight a battle to defeat the powers of darkness. It was, in the words of Fleming Rutledge, “a dramatic rescue bid.” Achieving forgiveness for our sins was not adequate for fully resolving the human problem. Humanity needed to be freed from bondage. So Christ invaded a realm that was under the power of the enemy, and His resurrection put to flight the powers of evil, routing the occupying force that previously held sway over us. When we say that Jesus is “Lord,” we assert that our fealty is to the One who came to defeat darkness. With His resurrection everything changed. In this cosmic battle, Christ does not just passively accept the violence that comes against Him. His submission to the cross is a uniquely different kind of violence perpetrated against the powers of hell and death. He has set us free from their dominion by His paradoxical sacrifice, and His victory is decisive. As J. Christian Baker writes: “The final apocalyptic triumph of God does not permit a permanent pocket of evil or resistance to God in his creation.” Christ has struck the decisive blow and we are left with responsibility for participating in the “mop up” operation, for bringing the reality of His Kingdom to earth. We have been given the tools needed to manifest that defeat. The culmination of the Kingdom of our Risen Lord still lies in the future, but each day we have the opportunity and responsibility to expose darkness and move in the direction of the light. Romans 16:20 promises that “the God of peace will soon crush Satan your feet.” Sin, death, and hell are great powers, but the love of Christ is an infinitely greater power.

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