Romans 6:9 “For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.”
In 490 B.C. 10,000 Athenians met 20,000 Persians on the shores of Marathon, near Athens, in a battle for the survival of Greece. The Athenian troops, called Hoplites, were little more than heavily armored, spear carrying farmers. So many had been called up to service that there would be no one to defend their homes if this army fell. The Persians, however, were delivered to the shores in 600 ships. They were cavalry, archers, and infantry and they were professional soldiers. The Greeks spread their ranks thin in the center in order to bolster the flanks and then they let the Persians break through when the battle was hottest. Both sides, now unanchored from one another pivoted and slammed headlong into the invading foes. They decimated the Persians, who would not return for nearly a decade to try again. All of this occurred nearly 500 years before the birth of Jesus. Why am I writing to you about it as an Easter message?
One thing I left out about the battle is that the Persians were able to amass such a large force before the battle began because the Athenians were waiting for someone to come and set the balance of forces in their favor. The Spartans. If you haven’t seen the movie “300” do yourself the favor and rent or stream it. It’s not historically accurate in every detail, but one thing that is very true is that the Spartans were brutally trained, highly respected warriors. If you were one of the city-states of Greece and you were going against an empire as vast as Persia you didn’t just want Sparta at the tip of your forces, you NEEDED them. But, alas, they were late getting there. So late they missed the battle entirely. Yet the Athenians saved Greece for all the Greeks. The battle shaped all of Western history after it. Influential historian, John Stuart Mill, said that the battle of Marathon was more important to British history than the battle of Hastings. When the swords and spears of these warriors clashed the world shook.
Every day of our Christian lives we and our churches feel as though we are engaged in a spiritual battle of Marathon. Having half the strength or less than our enemy and spread thin at the middle. When our center breaks it won’t be as part of some grand strategy, no pincer move will follow where we send the Devil limping off for a decade. We endure the attacks, we persevere by faith, and eventually we fall short because it is our defining trait as a people, this inability to win on our own. The difference in every one of our battles and the historic battle of Marathon is that our Sparta is not late to field. He is here and He is well able to win the battle alone. Two thousand years ago at the height of the spiritual battle of the universe the center was broken by a cross and the battle seemed all but lost. But three days later the tide was turned. You know what happened. Jesus returned. The stone that was meant to keep Him entombed was rolled away by The One who made every stone. The King was and is alive! The battle is won! And when Satan is finally sent away at the conclusion of hostilities, he won’t be back in a decade. He won’t be back ever!
Happy Easter everybody!