March 21, 1995
On June 18, 1815, the French under the command of Napoleon were fighting British, Dutch and German troops commanded by Wellington in the famous Battle of Waterloo. The people in England waited for a signal to find out how the battle was going. One of these signal stations was on Winchester Cathedral.
Late in the day, the message flashed from the tower: “W-E-L-L-I-N-G-T-O-N -- D-E-F-E-A-T-E-D- -.” At that moment, a sudden cloud of fog obscured the tower. News of defeat quickly spread throughout the city and sorrow filled the entire country.
Suddenly the fog lifted. The message had four words, not two. It said: “W-E-L-L-I-N-G-T-O-N – D-E-F-E-A-T-E-D- - T-H-E - - E-N-E-M-Y!” It took only a few minutes for the good news to spread. Sorrow was turned into joy. Defeat was turned into victory!
The Israelites knew what it is like to experience dejection and later surprise by seeing “the rest of the story.” Early in their history, Moses led the Israelites to the banks of the Red Sea. The threatening Egyptian army was right behind them. God’s people were angry with Moses for bringing them into this situation. Defeat was certain. Imagine their relief when the sea miraculously parted and Moses led them across. They turned to watch the returning waters sweep their pursuers to defeat.
Years later, another generation of God’s people was taken captive in Israel and hauled off to Babylon. Sorrow filled them. They could not even sing their traditional songs of worship. However, after seventy years, the story took an upward turn. The Babylonian king allowed Nehemiah to return home and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Ezra was allowed to rebuilt the city. Finally, God’s people could go home!
Almost two thousand years ago, a group of men and women also felt great sorrow. The religious establishment had delivered their leader to Roman authorities who put Him to death. Hope and joy died in their hearts. They could not understand what happened. Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead and fed the multitudes. Why then, when the soldiers arrested Him, did He offer no resistance? Their dream of a new kingdom of Israel was now sealed in a tomb covered over with a large stone.
These disciples were like the people of London after the Battle of Waterloo—they only read part of the message. What they saw spelled “C-H-R-I-S-T - - D-E-F-E-A-T-E-D- - -“ Their future was black. Their hearts felt like large stones.
Three days later, the fog lifted and revealed the rest of the message. At first they could not believe it. Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, then to the other women—but their words seemed like nonsense. Finally “He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the believers.” Christ is alive!
The message did begin with sad news: “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures . . . He was buried . . . “ but it ends with glad news: “He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” This message reads: J-E-S-U-S - - D-E-F-E-A-T-E-D - - S-I-N - - A-N-D - - D-E-A-T-H!
Now God’s people rest in joy and full assurance. Our greatest enemy has been swept to defeat and when we die, we can go home!