It was one of the biggest mismatches in history. Little David, the shepherd boy from the hills of Bethlehem saw the giant from Gath demeaning both Israel and Israel’s God and he reacted. He volunteered to face the giant and went out armed only with a slingshot and five smooth stones. But the power of God was with him and little David slew the giant that day.
Our favorite movies are recreations of the David and Goliath story. One of my favorite movies was Hoosiers, based on a true story. In the 50s in Indiana, where basketball was more of an obsession than a sport, tiny Hickory High School went all the way and won the state basketball championship against schools twenty times their size. David slew Goliath again.
We love those kinds of stories. Cinderella wins the Prince’s heart. Rocky goes the distance with Apollo Creed. Luke destroys the Death Star. The little guy, the nobody, overcomes the odds and achieves something great.
Today, I want to tell you the most important David and Goliath story in the history of the world. It is one you already know, but one you should remember every day of your life.
The story begins with the story that was celebrated throughout the world a week ago, called the Triumphal Entry. Jesus rode down the steep slopes of the Mount of Olives on a donkey, with his disciples and many others rejoicing and catching fire with enthusiasm. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Israel was abuzz with excitement. Maybe this really was the one, maybe Messiah really had come and would set things right. The name Jesus was on every lip and in every conversation.
And then, from the moment the shouts died down as Jesus rode into town, every powerful force on earth came to bear against this one man, against Jesus. No one has ever faced more overwhelming earthly odds than Jesus Christ.
We know from Scriptures like 1 Corinthians 2:8 that Satan was working behind the scenes to move in the events that took place that week. The forces of darkness were concentrated on bringing down the Son of God that week. Satan worked in the heart of Judas to betray his own master, to sell him to his enemies cheap. Satan was certainly gleeful and probably complicit in the scheming and manipulations of the religious leaders. Satan brought out the big guns that week and was bound and determined to bring Jesus crashing down. Never in history, since sin was found in him and he was cast out of heaven, did Satan have such an opportunity to strike against God as he did that week in Jerusalem.
The power of empty religion also came against Jesus Christ that day. When you read the Bible, you see the danger of those who have a form of godliness but deny the real power of God – those who have a surface religion but not a true heart for God. In both the gospels and Acts the greatest enemies of the church were religious people, people who believed in God but did not give their lives to Christ. And during the days following Jesus’ Triumphal Entry, they trained their guns on Jesus in Christ as never before. They tried to trip him up with tricky questions though Jesus turned the tables every time. When their tricks to make Jesus look bad failed, they plotted behind the scenes and arranged to have him arrested. They trumped up charges, they paid false witnesses, they lied and cheated to bring Jesus’ life and ministry to an end. Finally, they stirred up the crowds to call for Barabbas’ release and Jesus’ blood. Those with a religion but no relationship with the Living God did all they could to stop Jesus.
Jesus also came up against the power of Rome, who ruled with an iron fist. Though he had not broken the law, Pilate, in his fear and self-preservation, brought the full force of the Roman government to bear against Jesus. He had Jesus beaten and brutalized, then in cowardice, he washed his hands of him and turned him over to be crucified. Rome had devised a most excruciating form of execution to which they subjected Jesus. Beaten severely, bleeding and bruised, Jesus had no hope of escaping the iron fist of Rome.
We also know that popular opinion had turned on Jesus. Oh, when Jesus had ridden into Jerusalem many had joined with the disciples to hail him, but now that furor had died down. The initial hope of many that a revolution was coming had failed now that Jesus was in custody. The religious leaders did not have to work too hard to stir up the crowd to choose the murdering revolutionary Barabbas over Jesus and to call for Jesus’ blood. The fact is that public opinion against Jesus had already started to turn long before, after the high point of Jesus’ ministry. When Jesus began to teach that people would have to die to themselves, give themselves completely to Christ and follow him unreservedly, many began to turn away. They loved the show, the healings, the miraculous feedings, all of it. But they were not about to give their entire lives to Jesus. The tide of public opinion had already turned against him and the Triumphal Entry was more of a blip on the radar than a trend.
There was one more thing that was working against Jesus that day. He had the most inept, cowardly, even silly band of followers that you could imagine. When he was washing their feet and preparing to die, they were arguing over which of them would be greatest in the kingdom of heaven. In one of the most absurd moments of the entire story, when the soldiers came to Gethsemane to take Jesus away, as Jesus was offering himself willingly as the Lamb of God to die for the sins of the world, Peter picked up a sword and started swinging. Being inept, he only took off a soldier’s ear, which Jesus promptly healed before surrendering himself to them once again. Then all the disciples ran away into hiding. It would have been hard for Jesus to have selected a less able, less reliable, less effective group of men than the Galilean goofballs he had chosen.
Just think of all the forces that were arrayed against Jesus Christ as he was arrested, as he stood before the Council, then before Pilate, as he was beaten and ridiculed, as he carried his cross to Golgotha and as he hung between heaven and earth on the Cross. Every evil power on earth and in the spiritual realm came against him. Satan brought all his power to bear. The spiritually empty religious leaders banded together to manipulate things to bring his life to an end. Public opinion had shifted against him and Jesus was now increasingly unpopular. And his own disciples had failed him. Evil had brought the big guns to bear against Jesus Christ. Yes, it was truly David and Goliath.
But this time, David didn’t stand a chance! Psalm 2:1-4 says this:
Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
Those puny, weak, impotent powers of darkness arrayed against our Savior that day didn’t have a ghost of a chance against Jesus Christ and the power of God. Oh, they thought they did. When they crucified him they thought they had rid themselves of this scourge, but they were wrong. Dead wrong. Make no mistake about it, folks, this was a David and Goliath story. But Jesus was not little David. He was the Goliath! No, not an evil-hearted Goliath, but a mighty warrior nonetheless. Jesus reigns!
When he hung on the cross, it was not the result of wicked men who had done wicked things to him. No, it was the eternal plan. In Colossians 2:13-16, Paul describes what Jesus was doing at the Cross.
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. Colossians 2:13-16
Think about it. The Cross appeared to be the victory of evil men over Jesus, but it turned out to be the death blow to everything that ever set itself against the power of God. Jesus triumphed over Satan, dealing him his death blow. He showed clearly the folly of empty religion. When God has offered himself to us through Christ, why would we settle for anything less? Why would we settle for empty religion when we can have Jesus? Political powers think they are in charge, but Jesus was not only resurrected but he was exalted to the glory and seated at the right hand of God. He waits for the proper moment in God’s timing when he will ride from heaven to strike down all the political powers that stand against him and the government will be upon his shoulders! He will rule as King of kings and Lord of lords over the whole earth. Public opinion does not matter a bit because Jesus is Lord. And, good news, disciples of Jesus Christ – our weakness and failure are not the key issues. He is powerful enough to even use folks like us in his service. Remember, those Galilean goofballs became the most effective missionary force in world history when the power of the Spirit fell on them.
No, they did not stand a chance. They thought they were Goliath crushing little David into the earth. But he rose up from that earth, choked their glee in their throats, triumphed over all the forces of evil and was exalted as Lord of all.
Now, my friends, that leaves me with this important conclusion. You cannot ignore the man who rose from the dead. If Jesus were a political revolutionary, you could choose to side with him or join the other team. If Jesus were just a teacher, you could listen to his words of wisdom and glean what you want from them. If Jesus were a motivational speaker you could write down a few of his inspirational thoughts and use them as they help you. But Jesus is not just a politician or a teacher or a motivator. He is Lord. He rose from the dead and he is Lord of this world. He is the one to whom each of us must answer.
Hear me, please. You cannot ignore Jesus. When he rose from the dead he rendered every excuse null and void. You don’t believe in him? Fine, but you cannot ignore him. He rose from the dead as the Rightful Lord. You are going to bow the knee to him. You will either do it now when yielding to him will bring life and forgiveness and joy. Or you will bow after life as you accept your eternal punishment. You can scoff. You can scorn. You can laugh. You can hate. But one thing you cannot do is ignore Jesus forever.
He is the ultimate Goliath that you are going to have to face one day. But his purpose is not to kill you. Those Jesus conquers find real life – both in eternity and today