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Trampling Down Death by Death

The Easter hymn known as the “Paschal troparion” is one of the central features of the Easter service in the Orthodox church. The short hymn says, “Christ is risen from the dead, by death trampling death, and to those in the tombs granting life!” This concept is echoed in other hymns as well, reflecting how Christ accomplished His victory.

Thinking on this reminds me again of the purpose for the season of Lent. Lent is considered to be 40 days when you take out Sundays. The connection to other events in the Bible is intentional and it is through our meditation on those events that one of the themes of Lent emerges.

The earliest “40” we have in the Bible is that of the 40 days and nights of rain God sent in the days of Noah. God sees the violence in the world and how everyone in the world had set their hearts to evil except for Noah and his family. God sends rain to wipe out the unrighteousness of the world and bring it back from darkness. God sends rain that destroys every living thing in the world except for those on the ark Noah built.

The other notable 40 day period we find is when Jesus is in the wilderness after being baptized by John in the Jordan. Jesus fasts 40 days and then Satan tempts Him to give up worshipping His Father in return for earthly glory. Jesus sends Satan scurrying by the power of His Word and heads off to call His first disciples.

There is a common theme in both of these cases. The world is full of unrighteousness and, after 40 days of rain, all that remains are some animals, Noah, and his family. Righteous, trusting, faithful Noah rides out the storm to see a bright new day, free from the unrighteousness of the faithless that filled the world around him. Jesus is weak, hungry, and beset by Satan after 40 days. Satan comes on strong and doesn’t hold back. He offers it all. But, his gambit doesn’t succeed. In the battle of words, Jesus is triumphant.

In both cases, despite everything arrayed against God, He still triumphs. God triumphs against a world full of sin in the days of Noah. God triumphs against Satan in the early days of Jesus’ ministry. Now, here in Lent, we look forward to God triumphing over death as well. This becomes one of the themes of Lent. No matter how bleak things look, or how powerful the evil is, God will triumph. God always triumphs. Lent encourages us to take this message and apply it to our own lives. Whether we are beset by sin, Satan, or death, God will triumph. Good Friday comes, but after that we find Easter morning, where everything that has come before is just a memory and we look forward, with Christ, to the everlasting light of day.

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