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Warrior of the Soul
The people of Jesus' day thought He had come to deliver them from Roman occupation. It's true. He did come to fight a war, but not with imperial Rome.

Two thousand years ago, there was a great cry for a saviour amongst a people who groaned under the unforgiving rule of a foreign empire. Rome had crushed the resources and will of Israel. The Jews were seeking a redeemer, one who could free them from their brutal oppression.

According to the Bible, on the day we now celebrate as Palm Sunday, large crowds of people welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem with shouts of "Hosanna," meaning "Save now!" Their shouts were both a proclamation of praise and an appeal for deliverance. Many were laying their cloaks and palm branches down before Him as a form of royal carpeting. These people were euphoric, believing that finally their victor had come. "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" they cheered. There was such a large gathering of those who celebrated Christ's entry into Jerusalem, the religious leaders who looked on nervously muttered, "Look how the whole world has gone after Him!" (John 12:19). His reputation as a teacher of God's ways, a worker of miracles, a healer of the sick, one who raised the dead and cast out demons, was well known. Surely, many believed, He must also be their divinely appointed warrior against Rome.

As I have reflected upon the Palm Sunday event, I have wondered how many of those who shouted "Hosanna to the Son of David!" believed that Jesus would be a warrior who would champion the cause of a downtrodden Israel? How many of them, therefore, would have been perplexed when Jesus wept upon entering Jerusalem, saying, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace … " (Luke 19:42)? What kind of warrior brings peace?

The truth is that Jesus was the defender of Israel, but not just of Israel. The truth is that Jesus came to fight a war, but His fight was not with imperial Rome. What kind of warrior was Jesus?

The power of sin

Jesus' birth announcement declared that He would "save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). John the Baptist called Him "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). Peter declared, "Everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins" (Acts 10:43).

To battle the power of sin was, in part, the reason Jesus came to earth. "Everyone who sins is a slave to sin" (John 8:34), but Jesus fought to free us from slavery to the power of sin. Jesus is the defender of the soul because He came to break sin's grip on our hearts. In this battle, Jesus was victorious.

The devil

Father of lies, murderer, deceiver, prince of this world, the dragon, the serpent, the evil one, Satan, the devil, a roaring lion—against this dark angelic foe we need a stalwart warrior. Jesus was such a warrior. The Bible declares that Jesus came and died to "destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil" (Hebrews 2:14). John said, "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work" (John 2:8).

The good news is that the devil is now our soul's defeated enemy.

At the beginning of His ministry, the devil tempted Jesus to abandon His mission. Jesus overcame this temptation and routinely exorcised the devil's demonic cohorts. The devil tempted Peter to detour the Lord's work. Jesus prayed for God the Father to protect the disciples from the evil one himself. The devil entered into Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus. This betrayal only furthered the purposes of God.

The good news is that the devil is now our soul's defeated enemy. Yes, he still is active today seeking to destroy the things of God, but he is doing so as a vanquished foe whose sentence to hell is but a breath away. In Jesus, the devil's work was broken; his power over humanity was fractured. The apostle Paul wrote, "Having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross" (Colossians 2:15); "For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son" (Colossians 1:13). Jesus is the defender of the soul because He came to fight its dark adversary. In this battle, Jesus was also victorious.

The fear of death

As Jesus entered Jerusalem on what we now call Palm Sunday, He did so as the hero of the people. Their celebration was soon replaced by betrayal, as the redeemer of the people became the crucified one. The story, however, does not end there. Easter proclaims that the hero rose from the dead. Because of this, we who are in Christ have been freed from the fear of death. As our champion has risen, we too will rise again. Death is not our end. The fear of death is replaced by hope in a risen hero.

Paul proclaimed with joy, "Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:55–57). Jesus promised, "Whoever hears My Word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life" (John 5:24); "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die" (John 11:25–26); "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). When Jesus rose from the grave, death's grip was broken. Those who confess faith in Jesus have a Saviour who has conquered our greatest fear. In this battle, also, Jesus was triumphant.

Human warriors fight against flesh and blood. Jesus' conflict was ultimately with the dark forces of the spiritual realm. Human warriors fight to save their own lives. Jesus fought to save you and me from the power of sin, the destructive forces of the devil and the fear of death.

In the film Gladiator, the Roman general Maximus led his soldiers into battle shouting, "What we do in life echoes to eternity!" Likewise, what we do with Jesus in this life—whether we follow Him or reject Him—also echoes to eternity! Maximus was a skilled warrior, the hero of Rome. My hero is the warrior of the soul, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Philip A. Gunther is senior pastor of Parliament Community Church in Regina.

Originally published in the Mennonite Brethren Herald, March 21, 2006.




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