Have you ever noticed there are a variety of definitions of what it means to be successful? Miriam-Webster dictionary defines success this way: “The fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame.”
By that definition, Chase Daniel (Eagles), Josh McCown (Browns), Marcus Mariota (Titans), Blake Bortles (Jaguars) are successful NFL quarterbacks. All will earn over $5 million 2016.
By that same definition, Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian are also successful.
Politicians make up their own definitions as well. Only in politics can a candidate finish third or fourth in a primary and claim success.
How would you define success? Since I believe you to be reasonable people, you would probably have a reasonable definition.
- Success might be reaching your goals or meeting expectations.
- Success might be having a healthy and happy family.
- Success might be learning from your mistakes and maturing.
Most likely, your definition of success would include achieving some objective – losing weight, memorizing scripture, or earning a degree.
From the very beginning of time, there has a been a cosmic battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil.
Two powers stand in opposition: God and Satan. In fact, one of the names given to Satan in Scripture is The Adversary. Sounds like a good name for wrestler, but The Adversary isn’t a cartoon figure or a goofball. He is a powerful force that has sought to defeat the ways of God since the beginning.
First recorded conversation we have between God and Satan occurs in Genesis 3. Serpent has deceived Adam and Eve into eating the forbidden fruit.
Here’s the conversation: 14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” — Genesis 3:14-15
The snake is more than a literal snake; rather it is Satan’s personal presence in the garden.
For his part in Fall, Satan is sentenced to two things: humiliation and eventual defeat. God puts “enmity” between Satan and humankind.
Enmity is a stronger word than just conflict. It reflects a life-and-death struggle between two combatants.
From that point forward, Satan has been the Adversary of all people. He shows up in the Old Testament tempting David to take a census of the Israelites and shows up again putting Job to the test.
Jesus references Satan 25 times in Gospels. Early in his ministry, we find Jesus going toe-to-toe with Satan during his temptation in the desert (Matthew 4). Satan throws these temptations at Jesus:
- Turn stones into bread.
- Throw himself from the temple.
- Give you all kingdoms of world if you bow down and worship me.
This struggle between Jesus and Satan isn’t some school yard scuffle. It’s a cosmic battle for the heart, minds, and destinies of people.
The battle continued for the next three years, culminating on the cross. When Jesus died, Satan must have felt successful. Here’s how story continues …
31 Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. 32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. 35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. 36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” 37 and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.” — John 19:31-37
The Romans normally left their victims on the cross until they were absolutely sure the person was dead. But the Jews wanted to get everything ready for the Passover festival.
That’s why they broke the legs of the two criminals crucified along with Jesus – to hasten their death. But Jesus was already dead.
What happens next is quite remarkable …
38 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. — John 19:38-42
Joseph is also a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling body.
With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. 39 He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. — John 19:39
We first meet Nicodemus in John 3 when he comes to Jesus at night. He wants to know how a person can be born again. At some point over the next 16 chapters, something must have changed inside of Nicodemus because here he is with Joseph, a “secret” follower of Jesus.
Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. 40 Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. 41 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. 42 Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there. — John 19:39-42
If you already know the rest of the story, why does this part matter? Honestly, compared to cross and resurrection it seems boring.
The early church didn’t think so. “Crucified, dead, and buried” is how the Apostles’ Creed describes what happened to Jesus after He “suffered under Pontius Pilate.” Why would they include this part?
Jesus’ burial proved that he truly died and he endured curse for his people.
He wasn’t a ghost or apparition.
He really died. And was buried. And then three days later, raised to life!
Jesus had changed something inside of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus for them to risk ridicule and possible punishment by participating in Jesus’ burial.
The question is: Has Jesus changed anything inside of you?