Winning

“Don’t worry, the good guys always win!” I reassure my kids as they hide their faces under blankets in fear of what’s going to happen next. Every time we sit down for a “Mommy and Chicas Movie Night,” it’s a guarantee that these words will come out of my mouth at least once. The movies we watch aren’t even that scary – mostly cartoon comedies involving animals (“Angry Birds” and “Minions” are our favorites as of late) – but we (yes, ‘we’) all still need the reminder!

Every remotely suspenseful movie or show follows a similar pattern as the plot comes to a close. At the beginning, a problem is introduced and from that point on, the audience is taken on a roller coaster ride of apparent victory and defeat for the hero. First they’re losing, then they’re winning, then they’re losing, then they’re winning again. Then, out of nowhere there’s a surprise twist and it seems defeat is imminent – until the hero pulls off a miracle and triumphs!

Thankfully, even when watching a kids movie I’ve never seen before, I can guarantee my girls they have nothing to worry about! The good guys will always win! There have been times, though, where I feel I may be doing them a disservice because in real life, the “good guys” don’t always win.

Or do they?

At Easter we celebrate the greatest victory ever – but it’s a victory that didn’t always look like a victory…

The plot starts with a God who creates the human race and then chooses one family to be His people. He promises them His presence and protection, plus land and a great Kingdom of their own!

Then there’s a famine and they’re forced to be slaves in Egypt for hundreds of years. But wait! Through a series of supernatural signs and wonders, God frees them to go, take the Promised Land, and become a nation – which they do!

Sadly, though, things go bad and they lose everything. Defeated, scattered, and taken captive, they hold on to the hope of a coming Messiah – a Savior who would be sent by God and, with God’s power, win back their land and restore their Kingdom!

Unfortunately, “the people thought the Messiah would be the man who could beat Rome, and if you were in his shoes, you couldn’t know until you tried. The penalty for failure was crucifixion. If you got crucified, you were not the Messiah. There were at least eighteen Messiah candidates that we know if in Jesus’ day. They all met the same fate.”* Can you imagine what it was like for the people to get their hopes up only to have them dashed again and again?

But then this guy Jesus shows up and there’s something different about Him. The miracles He’s performing are proof that He has God’s power and He’s drawing crowds by the thousands! The rumors are flying – could He be the one?

In Mark 8:27-29, “Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, ‘Who do people say I am?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’ ‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah.'”

This was a gi-normous claim! Essentially, Peter was saying, “You’re the one! You’re the Savior who’s come to restore the kingdom!”

But then Jesus says this in Mark 8:31-33:
“He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.”

Matthew 16:22 records Peter as saying, “‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!'” We’re quick to tear Peter down for this statement, but death, especially death by crucifixion at the hands of Rome, would mean failure – to Peter it would prove Jesus was not the Messiah!

Then it happens – the worst fear of Peter and so many others comes to be as they witness His arrest, trial, and crucifixion. And, “with a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last” (Mark 15:37) This is that part of the plot where all hope is lost and defeat seems imminent.

But wait! On the third day, some women go to the tomb, only to find, “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.” (Matthew 28:6) The hero triumphs in the end!

It looked like Jesus lost, but He didn’t! It looked like failure, but it turned out to be the greatest success of all time. He didn’t win the battle they were expecting Him to win in the way they were expecting Him to win it, but He won for them something far superior – the ability for anyone and everyone to become a child of God and a member of His eternal Kingdom just by believing in Him. We now have the promise of His permanent presence and protection in this life and for eternity!

Although I’m not a fan of suspense, Tim has recently convinced me to broaden my television horizons beyond sitcoms and reality shows. Last night, as we were watching one of our new favorites, we got to a scene where an FBI agent was walking into a creepy abandoned underground storage bunker. “No! Don’t do it!” I said as I covered my eyes in fear.

A few seconds later, I came to my senses, picked up my head and said, “Duh! She’s one of the main characters! They’re not going to kill her off now!” And suddenly, with this assurance, I was able to watch the rest of the scene without hiding.

In church this Sunday in Vermont, Pastor Chris said about the resurrection: “If this really happened, and we believe it as Christians, then what in the world do we have to fear?”

It’s not naive to believe that the good guys always win because it’s true! God is God and nothing will ever defeat Him or His purposes. The plots of our individual lives may go up and down like the movies, but even when it looks like all hope is lost, we have nothing to worry about because God is still winning! And when He’s winning, we’re winning – no matter what the circumstances look like.

*”Who Is This Man?” by John Ortberg, p. 166

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