Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church - Marshfield, WI

Lent Devotional - April 5, 2023

Hymn: “Sing, My Tongue, the Glorious Battle” (LSB #454, v. 1, 4)
 Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle;
Sing the ending of the fray.
Now above the cross, the trophy,
Sound the loud triumphant lay;
Tell how Christ, the world’s redeemer,
As a victim won the day.
Faithful cross, true sign of triumph,
Be for all the noblest tree;
None in foliage, none in blossom,
None in fruit thine equal be;
Symbol of the world’s redemption,
For the weight that hung on thee!
             “To the victims go the spoils.” Wait, no, that’s not how the saying goes. Let me try again…“the dead tree in my backyard is my most productive tree.” Wait, that doesn’t seem right either. These hymn verses are filled with sayings that defy our expectations. Yet, as we have already seen throughout our other devotions this week, it is through weakness, loss, and suffering that the Christ provides for our salvation. The way that Christ chose to save the world defies our expectations, so that it is marvelous in our eyes.

            The battle between good and evil, between God and the devil, which took place on the cross, is over, and Christ was the victim. He was the loser. Nobody seeks to be the victim in our world, yet this is exactly where Christ landed. And yet, to the victim goes the victory. Christ, who suffered the agony, torture, and death of the cross, won the day. The trophy that is above His cross is a sign that reads, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” His stance as a victim redeems the world. By His suffering and death, which by all accounts stands as a loss, He wins the world for Himself. Exactly at the moment when Satan thought he had won…he also lost. Whereas Christ lost by having His heel bitten in death by the ancient serpent, that serpent lost by having His head crushed. The world belongs to Jesus now, the victim of an unjust death. To the victim goes the spoils.

            In the fourth stanza of our hymn, we are led to consider the tree of the cross. It is for us Christians a true sign of triumph, because by this dead and aged tree Christ has won the victory. In fact, no tree in foliage or blossom or fruit is equal to this tree of the cross. Now remember, the cross is two pieces of dead wood. They haven’t borne fruit in quite some time. They haven’t blossomed or flowered in the beauty of spring. This spring, these two pieces of wood are dead and the agents of death. No gardener in their right mind would suggest that the dead tree in their backyard is their favorite and most productive project. You cut it down and throw it away, because dead trees are worthless…but not this dead tree. This tree is the symbol of the world’s redemption and is the noblest of all trees because of the weight that hung upon it. This tree is Jesus’s tree by which He bears the fruit of salvation for all who believe. Even the most productive fruit tree in the most productive orchard in the world has not equaled this tree.

            This glorious battle between Satan and God has been going on for years, since very early in the beginning. After Satan rebelled against God’s authority, he was kicked out of heaven, along with his follower angels. From that moment onward, Satan was going to do whatever he could to get back at the God who had cast him out of paradise. He turned his attention to God’s most treasured possession—His human creatures—and Adam and Eve fell into sin at the devil’s temptation. In that moment, God had promised that the war which had begun in heaven would be finished upon the earth. Satan’s head would be crushed by a coming descendant of Eve.

 Here on the cross, we see the final battle. The war is over, and our Christ has won the victory in the war by losing the battle. Figure that one out! Satan is defeated when Christ is defeated on the cross. This is the ending of the fray. The war has concluded. All those who look to the cross of Jesus Christ in faith share His victory over Satan won on that fateful Friday so long ago. The fruits of this cross are still being borne into our world day after day, something that not even the most productive fruit tree can do forever.

            So, as we look to the cross this Holy Week, what do we see? We see a victim winning the war. We see a sign of triumph in what looks like failure. We see the world’s redeemer gasping, breathing, dying…for you. God grant us to see these things in the days that remain for us.
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