By Paul Koch –
Quite often the Christian life is experienced as a life where we hide our struggles. We come to church with heavy hearts and worries; we come with unanswered questions about very real trials. But no one would know it; we sit in our usual places, dressed in our usual clothes, speak our usual niceties and flash our usual smiles.
This is an etching done by Albrecht Durer and is simply titled, “The Knight, Death, and the Devil.” And the knight pictured here is a great image of our life of faith. There he sits upon his horse, face set stoically forward; he looks a little weary but trudges on. He is protected with the armor he wears but his journey is not yet at its end. Riding next to the night on his journey is that ancient enemy – Death. He holds in his hand an hourglass a constant reminder to the faithful knight that his days are numbered, time is running out. And behind him always lurking in the shadows is the Devil, that great accuser ready to lure the knight off his path.
Here we see the Christian under constant harassment, pursued and tempted to abandon the journey. These very things you see are the struggles and worries and sins of your life, they are not just inconveniences they are attacks pulling you away.
While these may be great enemies of us what are Death and the Devil to the Almighty God? Death tried to stop our God before, death tried to silence him to put parameters on what he could and could not do. If he would dare to bear the sins of mankind they death would be his end. But death was overturned, death was limited, deaths power has been broken. So that fellow riding next to you holding up the hourglass, doing what he can to show you your frailty and the temporal reality of life, he does not get the final say; for he reached out and took hold of the Son of God and in doing so he was defeated. His power lasts only for a moment but the Lord of all eternity has promised victory for you beyond the grave itself.
But still we say, we may have faith that God will deliver his saints, that he will pull us even from beyond the grave to life everlasting but what about the other figure, what about the Devil. Surely he is still there making accusation surely he speaks the truth when he describes our failures when he points out how we do not have any hope in our own strength, that victory is not possible by our efforts. Ah yes but in Christ Jesus, in the very one who silenced Death we have victory over the Devil as well. For your sin has already been accused, judged and paid for in Christ alone! He has shut the serpent’s mouth
And then our God makes a shocking declaration, “I have put my words in your mouth and covered you in the shadow of my hand, establishing the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, and saying to Zion, ‘You are my people’” (Isaiah 51:16). These are Words from outside of us, Words of hope and life, Words that declare you to be the people of God. No matter what death tries to say, no matter what Satan speaks into the night these Words, these Words of the Almighty God ought to ring in your ears today – You are my people.
And notice what he does with these Words, he puts them in the mouths of his people. The Words of hope and life, the Words that speak God’s truth into our hearts they are Words given to our brothers and sisters. Look again at that knight in Durer’s work, perhaps he soldiers on because he has been told by a brother that his destination is sure that the castle far in the background is his and he will make it despite the attacks of Death and the Devil, perhaps that Word goes with him like that trustworthy dog at his feet sprinting along unfazed leading to eternal life.
So on we go, back out into the shadow lands but we do not go alone. We go with a Word of hope in our mouths, a Word for each other, a Word of life and we go boldly forward for we are the people of God.