Friday, August 16, 2013

Vindication For Joy & Rejoicing (part 1)

May those who desire my vindication shout for joy and rejoice! – Psalm 35:27a  (NET)
The thirty-fifth Psalm begins with “O Lord, fight those who fight with me!  Attack those who attack me!  …Rise up to help me!  …Assure me with these words: I am your deliverer!” (35:1,2b,3b)  As these words are read in the light of the knowledge of the Savior, of His crucifixion at the hands of the Romans at the behest of the Temple authorities, and His unexpected Resurrection from the grave and its signal that death had ultimately been defeated, it would seem to be quite natural to want to place them on the lips of Jesus as He endured what would come to be understood as His saving ordeal. 

However, because Jesus did not speak against His accusers, nor is He said to have spoken against those that carried out the sentence of death that was passed against Him, it is actually not appropriate to have Him asking His God to fight and attack those that were responsible for His death.  Instead, what is recorded is that Jesus asked the one He called Father to readily forgive them for their actions that He believed to have been performed in ignorance.  So if these words are, in fact, to be somehow ascribed to Jesus, with a direction in mind (which does seem like a reasonable proposition), their direction needs to be properly understood. 

Ultimately, who was it that could be said to have fought with Jesus?  Who was it that attacked Him?  Who was His great enemy?  From whom did He desire deliverance?  The answer to these questions is “death.”  If one was to peruse the New Testament writings that reflected on the life and ministry of Jesus, with many of these writings pre-dating the final composition of the Gospels (though oral narratives that would certainly have taken a shape not unlike that which would eventually be written were in circulation), it would be a relatively easy matter to see that some of the earliest believers thought this to be the case.

It would seem then that it was the battle with death into which Jesus asked His Father to enter, to fight on His behalf, to rise up to attack.  Because Jesus entered the battle as well, and did not ask His Father to deliver Him in a way that allowed Him to stand absent from the pain of death, Jesus appeared to know that the cross must be endured.  Owing to that, and if such words could have crossed His mind and His lips, Jesus could be here considered to be asking for an assurance that He would be delivered up from the power of death, after willingly allowing Himself to be overcome by His great enemy.  It must be borne in mind that Jesus did not go into the ordeal of the crucifixion with a knowledge that He would indeed be raised.  He did so with a hope that He would be vindicated and redeemed from the exile into which He was flinging Himself.  

The Resurrection that followed is said to have stripped death of its power.  From that point on, though it would continue to be very real and very present, death would ultimately be a toothless foe in the face of the promise of the power of resurrection and new life for the people of the Creator God.  Death had held sway from the time of the fall, but with the Resurrection, what could be seen as a further request of Jesus, of “May those who seek my life be embarrassed and humiliated!  May those who plan to harm be turned back and ashamed!” (35:4) was answered in the affirmative.  

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