Thursday, June 14, 2012

Samson (part 2 of 2)

The similarities between Samson and Jesus did not end with the birth announcements that all spoke of exile and exodus.  Moving further on in the thirteenth chapter of Judges, in reference to Samson we read “The child grew and the Lord empowered him” (13:24b).  In addition, “The Lord’s Spirit began to control him” (13:25a).  Naturally, these two things are crucial components of the story of one of God’s appointed deliverers for His people.  Turning to the Gospel of Luke, we read of Jesus that “the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom, and the favor of God was upon Him” (2:40).  Following those words we read about Jesus’ visit to Jerusalem for Passover at the age of twelve.  That story ends with a reinforcement of what Luke had previously written, informing the reader that “Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and people” (2:52). 

From here, we can skim quickly over the details of Samson’s life.  Naturally, they are not insignificant, but rather, highly instructive.  They show us that Samson was not a deliverer in the way the people of Israel would have expected.  Empowered by the Lord, He spent far too much time with the wrong people (Gentiles/Philistines---the oppressors), hosting parties, and in the company of prostitutes.  Of course, this sounds remarkably similar to what we read of Jesus in the Gospels.  Not only could the people that observed Him during His ministry point to these types of things in the life of Jesus, but it was also true that Jesus was very much unlike what the people of Israel were expecting in their deliverer.  Sure, they would have appreciated some “Samson-like” qualities, such as his killing of the Philistines or his setting their fields on fire, but surely they did not want the Samson-like qualities that Jesus was putting on display. 

Eventually, and without having to recount the back-story, “The Philistines captured him (Samson) and gouged out his eyes.  They brought him to Gaza and bound him in bronze chains” (16:21a).  Samson, already in exile as a member of Israel, subject to the Philistines throughout his twenty-year leading of Israel (15:20), was now experiencing a secondary exile.  With Samson in prison, and with indications that this was after he had spent some measure of time there, “The rulers of the Philistines gathered to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to celebrate.  They said, ‘Our god has handed Samson, our enemy, over to us.’  When the people saw him, they praised their god, saying, ‘Our god has handed our enemy over to us, the one who ruined our land and killed so many of us!’” (16:23-24)  Does this capture and binding of Samson sound anything like that which was experienced by Jesus?  Of course it does. 

Though His eyes were not gouged out, Jesus was most assuredly captured.  Though His capture was not directly carried out by the Romans, we can rest assured that the Roman authorities were quite aware of Jesus and His peaking popularity, and that they had kept a watchful eye on somebody recently hailed by the people as a King.  Apart from that, because the Temple authorities were in collusion with Rome so as to gain and maintain their power and position, and because it was the Temple authorities who were most threatened by Jesus, and because it was a detachment of Temple guard that arrested Jesus in the garden, it is not at all far-fetched to assert that Rome (the oppressor of Israel) was aware of and involved with Jesus’ capture.  Additionally, Jesus, as we know, was brought before the ruling elite.  As a prisoner of the state, we can presume that He had been, at some point, bound with chains.

Jesus was now experiencing a personal exile within exile.  In that exile, He was tried and convicted and sent to a Roman cross.  When He would go down into death, this would be yet another exile, though we know that for Him there was exodus out the other side.  Eventually, Samson would also, in the midst of his exile within exile, stand before a mocking crowd, in much the same way that Jesus was placed before a mocking crowd.  There, Samson would take it upon himself to end his own exile, and that of his people, by going down into death (another exile), pulling down the pillars of the Philistine temple, and killing the rulers of the Philistines in the process.  For Samson, there would be no exodus from that exile in the way of Jesus.  The implication of Scripture, however, was that in his death, he brought about exodus for Israel, as they were rescued from foreign subjugation yet again.  This too, must be said of Jesus. 

With this said, let us back up a bit and make a return to the celebration that took place because of Samson’s being “handed over” to the Philistines by the power of their god, along with what was proclaimed at this celebration.  Are there any similarities between that and what took place at the crucifixion of Jesus?  From the time of Adam’s fall, it can be asserted that man had worshiped himself as god, and indeed, it was one group of men that handed Jesus over to another group of men.  The group of men that took control of Jesus so as to execute Him, actually represented one who deified himself (Caesar), as the pinnacle of man’s idolatrous tendencies.  Because man does not want to blame himself for the fall, for creation’s corruption, and for evil and death in the world, but rather, insists on blaming God, when Jesus, the Messiah, the embodiment of the Creator God was crucified, the collective cry of mankind was “Our god (ourselves) has handed our Enemy (God) over to us, the One Who ruined our land and killed so many of us!” 

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