“For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men.” 1st Corinthians 4:9-10
From nearly the first moment of the first phone call about Becky’s accident and death I’ve had a sense of being ‘on display.’ There is something about the death of a loved one that brings the lives of those left behind into the spotlight. People who care about us are saddened and seek us out to express their care and concern. People who don’t know us well and know that we’ve lived a life of faith watch us from a distance to see how that faith helps us now. Those in the midst of their own loss and grief gravitate to us to seek and give help in how to make it through loss. And I’ve had the sense of being on display to angels as well as men – that this loss and our reaction to it is not going un-noticed in the spiritual realm.
I’m intrigued at my response to this sense of being ‘on display.’ It is as if from the beginning I’ve felt compelled to be an open book – to write down and live out and talk about the very real struggle to glorify God in this place that I’d rather not be. Paul’s comments in 1st Corinthians 4:9-10 capture my feelings well. He speaks of being made a ‘spectacle’ – the Greek word ‘theatron’ which means just what it sounds like – a place where games and dramatic spectacles are exhibited. His comments about being ‘on display at the end of the procession’ raise the picture of a parade of Roman gladiators into the arena with the men and women condemned to die at their hands on parade behind them.
But this ‘death spectacle’ is completely turned under the ministry of Jesus Christ. I love the passage of scripture in Isaiah 61 that Jesus claims as his mission statement in Luke 4:16-21. Jesus came to preach good news . . . to proclaim freedom . . . to bind up the brokenhearted . . . to comfort all who mourn . . . to bestow on them (me!!) a crown of beauty and a garment of praise. The spectacle of what was meant for death in my life is redeemed to beauty through the power of Christ for the display of His splendor! “To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” Jude 24-25
“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion — to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.” Isaiah 61:1-3