Sunday, October 27, 2013

Den Of Lions (part 16 of 16)

Why were both Daniel (figuratively) and Jesus (literally) resurrected from their respective (or intended) graves with no injury?  The answer that was given in Daniel’s case, as has already been seen, was “because he had trusted in his God” (6:23b).  This was true of Daniel, and it is equally true of Jesus.  At this point, Daniel could have easily retreated once again into the words of the Psalmist, saying “For He did not despise or detest the suffering of the oppressed; He did not ignore him; when he cried out to Him, He responded” (22:24).  This crying out would be based upon a hopeful trust in the delivering power of Israel’s faithful, covenant God.  Such words could certainly be found, reflecting that same trust, on the lips of a risen Jesus as well.  Trust was paramount.  

Now, the fact that Jesus’ ordeal of suffering is so closely linked to the story of Daniel’s ordeal of suffering, with both sharing the controlling, compelling narrative of the twenty-second Psalm, what now follows in Daniel’s story helps to shed a great deal of light on the response to the stories of Jesus’ Resurrection. 

If Jesus has successfully connected Himself to the story of Daniel, and it seems that He has, then this does not bode well for those who were directly responsible for His death.  For “The king,” who is positioned as the sovereign ruler desirous of appointing a “resurrected” Daniel to a place of rule over his entire kingdom (with all of the connections to the kingdom-related desires of the God of Israel and His messiah that are implied and which would have been well understood in Jesus’ day), “gave another order, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and thrown into the lions’ den---they, their children, and their wives.  They did not even reach the bottom of the den before the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones” (6:24). 

With such a fate in mind, there is little wonder that the chief priests and elders began telling the story that “His disciples came at night and stole His body” (Matthew 28:13b).  It is not difficult to understand why these same men would later order the disciples “not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18b), and later reminded the disciples of this order, saying “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name” (5:28a).  The words that immediately follow the reminder of the order draw direct attention to the men that were cast into the lion’s den, as well as the shouts of the people upon Pilate’s washing of his hands, as they said, “Look, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood on us!” (5:28b) 

When one considers that the story of Daniel, for a number of reasons, was so incredibly important and significant to the Jews of the first century, and that Jesus had so well seized upon that fact (especially during the whole of His ordeal), it makes sense that those who stood to find themselves identified with Daniel’s accusers (and therefore identified with those thrown to the lions) so furious with and desirous of executing (Acts 5:33) those who said things like (noting the parallels with Daniel) “The God of our forefathers raised up Jesus, whom you seized and killed by hanging Him on a tree.  God exalted Him to His right hand as Leader and Savior” (5:30-31a).  Anyone who found him or herself in that position would be just as unwilling to allow this story to be told. 

Ultimately, as was said of Daniel’s God by Darius, as he is said to have echoed what was previously set forth by the Psalmist, would be said of Jesus and His God, by the church, with this communicated to what would eventually be all believers by the Apostle Paul.  Jesus experienced and overcame His own den of lions, and (noting the parallels with Daniel) “As a result God exalted Him and gave Him the Name that is above every name, so that at the Name of Jesus every knee will bow---in heaven and on earth and under the earth---and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).             

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