History is full of victories. Some, like the Super Bowl, are watched by millions of fully committed fans only to be forgotten the next year by all but the most committed. Some victories actually turn the tide of history from one empire to another, leaving those who follow to speculate on what might have happened had the battle been lost and the tide not turned. Some victors are heralded as the greatest of all time but are later found to have cheated to gain an unfair advantage. Some victories change the course of history but are completely forgotten by later generations. Games, empires, and champions have come and gone over the centuries—some are remembered but most are forgotten.
But there is one battle, one moment, and one champion remembered by all the world, and the victory won was for the whole world and for all time. The location of the battle was obscure in its day but afterward it became the center of the world—the center point of the world’s three great monotheistic religions, whose conflicts with one another have continued to mark it for millennia. This particular battle initially went unnoticed by nearly all the world. It didn’t even look like a battle; instead, it looked like a fairly typical criminal execution of a religious leader rejected by his own people and put to death by an occupying force.
A largely untraveled man, barely an adult by most standards, with only three years as a public presence—without abundant finances, proper education, public writings, a formal organization, or a visible army—fought an invisible battle with an enemy no one acknowledged. He came without conventional weapons, brothers-in-arms, any perceived strategy, and without any apparent pathway to a positive outcome.
He died virtually alone, abandoned by nearly all who called him a friend. He died naked, surrounded by murderers and thieves, as pious religious people cursed, spat at, and reviled him. For the professional soldiers who stood guard near him, it was “just another day.” He died in physical agony . . . for no crime (because those in authority knew he was without fault). Two religious cowards, accompanied by two straggling followers, buried him . . . and that was the end of it.
No one knew what was actually happening. No one could have imagined that a strategy for battle that had unfolded for thousands of years was playing out before their eyes. No one realized that what seemed like epic failure was only the crisis moment that would bring the greatest victory of all time—a victory the whole world would remember forever.
That Friday over 2,000 years ago was the date of the greatest battle of all time, and daybreak the following Sunday testified to the greatest victory of all time. Nothing compares to it.
One man faced all the forces of darkness and the mountain ranges of sin that had piled up over countless years, and he flattened them. His victory was absolute. He was victorious over physical death, the inevitable consequence of even just one sin against God, because Jesus never sinned . . . not even once. He was victorious over Satan and all the allies of that ancient enemy of God; Jesus’ victory removed all power Satan held over this world and the children of God for all time.
Jesus crushed the serpent’s head. He was victorious over all the world’s accumulated sin—past, present, and future—covering over sin’s guilty stain with his perfect blood. As the hymn proclaims, “He arose the victor from the dark domain and he lives forever with his saints to reign!”
It was over 2,000 years ago, but it remains as powerful as if it were yesterday. The world cannot forget Jesus’ victory, though untold numbers have tried to snuff out its memory, explain it away, discount it, and ignore it. Still, the resurrection victory towers over the wrecks of time.
Every other earthly triumph will come and go, many will be forgotten, but this one, only this one, will remain the achievement that will forever define who we were, who we are, and what we will be! Jesus is risen!