By the year 1812, the majority of the European continent was under the control of the famed French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. In that year, Napoleon attacked Russia, which led to his downfall and abdication. He was then exiled to the little island of Elba in the Mediterranean Sea. Three years later, in March 1815, Napoleon escaped from Elba and returned to France. Men gathered once again under the French flag and Europe again faced the prospects of war.
Word soon spread throughout Europe that Napoleon’s army was on the march. Knowing that Napoleon’s earlier plan was to invade Britain, the British Army was assembled. Led by the Duke of Wellington, the British Army and its allies approached the village of Waterloo (which is now a part of Belgium) to challenge the invading Napoleon and his troops. Hanging upon this battle was whether Napoleon would regain power and control all of Europe.
If Napoleon’s army were to break through Wellington’s troops, the people of Britain were poised for his invasion into England. To help them be prepared, a series of messengers were stationed on hilltops throughout the region from Waterloo to London. Each messenger was to relay by semaphore the outcome of the battle. With a semaphore, a person holds a flag in each hand. The position in which each flag is held represents a single letter. The last messenger in the chain was stationed for several days in the tower of London’s famed Winchester Cathedral.
Finally, the words of a message were spelled out from the first hill where the messenger was observing the battle. One by one the letters were signaled to read: “Wellington defeated.” At that point a mist swept across the region and the messenger on the hill could no longer be spotted. Rapidly, the semaphore was repeated from hilltop to hilltop until the message finally reached London. A heavy gloom quickly fell over London as the word of the national tragedy was received.
The messenger waited for the mist to clear to receive further information. Finally, the mist cleared, and the semaphore started again. In the clearness of the sky two additional words were added to the message which now fully read, “Wellington defeated the enemy.” Again, the news rapidly spread over England and the nation rejoiced. Church bells pealed and people cheered in the streets. That deadly first message was only the first part of a message that became good news.
This story from European history helps capture the demeanor of those friends and foes who gathered at the crucifixion of Christ. During this event, the sun was blotted out and the earth trembled. When darkness veiled the cross of Jesus at Calvary, “the Place of the Skull,” the message seemed to sadly announce, “Jesus defeated.” It is reported that Dionysius the Aeropagite, a non-believer, exclaimed “Either a god is dying or the whole world is in dissolution!”
No doubt the Pharisees, chief priests, and scribes smugly thought, “Jesus defeated!” That was probably the sad assumption of Jesus’ followers. All of their hopes seemed to be dashed by the reality there before them – “Jesus defeated!”
However, three days later at a garden tomb on Sunday morning, the mist and darkness lifted, and the full message came through: “Jesus defeated death!” Jesus had defeated even the power of death and had risen in a transformed body that left the tomb and his grave clothes empty. This reality is the only reasonable explanation of what transformed cowardly and dismayed disciples at the cross into zealous, determined evangelists. They would confidently turn the world upside down as God empowered them to declare the Good News.
Some enjoy speculating how the proof of a non-resurrected Christ would change the face of Christianity. Some liberal elements of Protestantism even seek to minister while operating under that skeptical misrepresentation. However, it is Biblically clear: without a resurrected Christ, there is NO Christianity! The message would revert to “Jesus defeated” instead of “Jesus defeated death!”
Please do not miss this point: the death of Jesus by crucifixion would have been a devastating defeat instead of a great victory had Jesus not risen from the dead. That Jesus was the Christ was proved by His rising from the dead and appearing personally to many witnesses as recorded in the last chapter of each of the four Gospels and in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8. The witnesses included Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb, Peter, James, two disciples at evening on the road to Emmaus, the disciples in a closed room at Jerusalem, more disciples eight days later when Thomas was present with them, the disciples in Galilee, and “five hundred of the brothers at the same time,” as well as to the Apostle Paul.
The fact of the resurrection ensures that the Christian’s faith is not in vain and that sin is completely forgiven. 1 Corinthians 15:17 emphasizes “if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” The word “futile” (“vain” KJV) means “useless.” Faith based upon a myth is a useless faith.
Only the resurrection of Christ ensures that there is life beyond the grave for His followers. 1 Corinthians 15:18 warns that no resurrection means that “those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” If Christ’s resurrection is merely wishful thinking, then we are foolish to expect to see our loved ones again who have died believing in Jesus Christ.
The fact of the resurrection guarantees the final destruction of death. “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For ‘He has put all things under His feet.’” 1 Corinthians 15:24-27
The fact of the resurrection ensures that the enterprise of the Gospel will prosper and succeed. Jesus triumphantly declared prior to His return to heaven, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
The in-depth commentary regarding the eternal significance of Jesus’ resurrection concludes with the strong statement of 1 Corinthians 15:56-57 – “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Jesus defeated death! Victory is secured! You have His word on it!
Ken Floyd, April 2021
What magical sounds, sights, or smells transport you back to your childhood? When I hear the words, “Once upon a time,” I’m instantly a child again. I love story; it captures elusive truth and hands it to me so I can carry it close to my heart.
Once upon a time the prophet, Jeremiah, dared to tell a terrible truth. Judah, his homeland, was at war with Babylon.
“Babylon is going to win this war,” Jeremiah proclaimed in a message from God. “Everyone who stays in Jerusalem will die, but those who leave and go over to the Babylonians will live.”
What? Defect to the enemy? Traitor! That’s how many people branded Jeremiah. His wasn’t a message any red-blooded patriot wanted to hear.
Some politicians who were members of the royal family were outraged. “Kill Jeremiah,” they said to King Zedekiah. “He’s bad for morale. He’s weakening the military and the people with his words.”
“Do what you want.” The king shrugged. “I’m not strong enough to stand against your wishes.”
The politicians wanted Jeremiah dead, but they didn’t want to murder him outright. That wouldn’t look good, and they didn’t want blood on their hands. So, they lowered him with ropes into a deep, narrow cistern where he sunk in mud. He could die a slow and painful death from exposure or starvation there, but they hadn’t exactly murdered him themselves, had they?
Shivering and miserable, stuck in mud and his own filth, unable to climb out of the pit, Jeremiah began the slow process of dying. What would claim him first, starvation or exposure? No wonder Jeremiah’s nickname was “the weeping prophet.”
What had he done to earn such terrible suffering? He’d told a hard truth God had instructed him to tell. He hadn’t liked sharing it; Jeremiah loved his country and wanted it to prosper as much as the next patriot. Now he was dying in agony, forgotten by God and man.
Or was he? God never forgets, and God always has a man.
Ebed-Melech, an Ethiopian servant, was God’s man.
Bravely, he told the king. “Those princes of yours have done a wicked thing. Jeremiah is starving to death.”
The easily influenced king said, “Take thirty men with you, and get Jeremiah out of that pit before he dies.”
It wouldn’t take thirty men to pull one emaciated prophet from a pit; the men were for protection.
Ebed-Melech grabbed some ropes and old rags and hurried to the pit.
Someone defined compassion as “your pain in my heart.” Ebed-Melech felt compassion. He must have imagined what it would feel like to be in so much pain, half starved, and then hauled up by ropes. How could he make it easier for Jeremiah?
“Put these rags under your arms so the ropes don’t cut into your skin,” he called down to Jeremiah. Then they hauled Jeremiah up to safety.
Wanted: Kindness and old rags.
It seems that kindness felt but not acted out turns to callousness. We see and hear of so much need, so much agony in the world around us. People are suffering in pits of pain, mentally, physically, emotionally. We hear it on the news; we read it on Facebook.
What would Ebed-Melech do? We might want to haul everyone out of pits; that we cannot do, but a little kindness goes a long way to someone suffering. I think old E.M., if he were alive today, would find a way to send a rag even if it were just by a card or a name breathed in prayer. And if he could do more, he would do that too.
I love story, and Paul Harvey’s “The Rest of the Story” was one of my favorites. What was the rest of the story for E.M.? Jerusalem did fall to Babylon, just as Jeremiah had said, but God spared E.M.’s life. You can read about it in Jeremiah 39:15-18.
Ebed-Melech wasn’t even his real name; those words just mean “servant of the king.”
Once upon a time, there was a nameless man, who did a great deed of kindness with a heartful of courage and a handful of old rags. I bow to you, E.M. We desperately need more of you in the hurting story our world is writing today. May your tribe increase!
by Donna Poole, Lickley Corners Baptist Church, Pittsford, Michigan
Donna Poole has served for many years with her pastor-husband John at Lickley Corners Baptist Church in Pittsford, MI. The MARBC family has been praying for Donna as she continues treatments to deal with Stage 4 lung cancer. Donna is a prolific writer who shares often about the life she and John share as a pastoral couple in rural Michigan. Her new book, "If the Creek Don't Rise" has recently been released for purchase on Amazon. It is the second part of a two volume set titled, "Life at the Corners." The first book in the set, "Corners Church," is also available on Amazon books.
[Click here to see Donna Poole's books at Amazon](https://smile.amazon.com/Creek-Dont-Rise-Donna-Poole/dp/B08R8ZDFN5/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2EQQIYAFCG0GF&dchild=1&keywords=if+the+creek+dont+rise+donna+poole&qid=1614637747&sprefix=If+the+Creek,aps,188&sr=8-1)