Who does not like the story of David killing Goliath with a sling and a stone? Who is not impressed with Elijah calling down fire from heaven to incinerate the prophets of Baal? But all that is old wine that should not be put in the new wine-bottles of Jesus Christ. David ostensibly offered to kill Goliath in order to become the king’s son-in-law. But Jesus says: “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it.” (Matthew 16:25). When the Zebedee brothers wanted Jesus to emulate Elijah, he rebuked them, maintaining the spirit in them is not the spirit of Elijah.
Jesus’ gospel is not about us killing Goliath. It is about turning the other cheek to Goliath. He says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ “But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:38-44).
It is inconceivable for Jesus to jump down from the cross and say to his opponents what David said to Goliath: “Come here, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field.” (1 Samuel 17:44). Instead, Jesus prayed for them: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34).
Jesus allowed himself to be slapped, kicked, and abused, without putting up any resistance. He refused to defend himself when he could easily have done so. He did not prevent his death, even though it was entirely in his power to do so: “He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7). Jesus’ life provides a completely different message from the cock-and-bull story of David killing Goliath.
Victory in defeat
Have you ever watched a movie in which the protagonist was randomly killed in the end? It is not the stuff by which Hollywood blockbusters are made. In Hollywood, good triumphs vaingloriously over evil. The lone-ranger classically prevails over his cowboy enemies. One solitary Rambo is enough to vanquish a battalion of soldiers. But like the fanciful David and Goliath story, what these depict are the ways of men as opposed to the ways of God.
The story of Jesus does not make an Arnold Schwarzenegger kind of movie. At the end of this film, the great protagonist is not standing victorious. He is hanging dead on a cross. Okay, so he resurrected after three days. Big deal! How many people knew about it? How many people did he reveal himself to? Did I hear you say 120? Just 120? How satisfactory is that?
Would it not have been more appropriate for Jesus to have paid a visit to Pilate on his resurrection and said: “Remember me?” The man might just have died of a heart attack. How about having him knock on the doors of those sceptical Pharisees and say: “Check it out: did you really think you could kill the Son of God?” It would have been great to see them begging for mercy.
So why did Jesus allow himself to be arrested when they could not even arrest Elijah? Why did the flogging, jeering and taunting not provoke a glorious and majestic display of overwhelming divine power? Why did the Saviour of the world fail so woefully to save his own life?
The answer is that Jesus came to give us a radical re-definition of victory. This victory is godly and is therefore not achieved by the sword. It does not come vaingloriously by killing Goliaths. It is not achieved by power or by might. It comes by total submission to the will of God. It comes by turning the other cheek; even in the face of intense provocation and certain death. This divine prescription is anathema to the tall-tale of David killing Goliath.
A Pyrrhic Victory
Mohammed Ali was a wonderful boxer. In my youth, he was my hero. Ali told his opponents the precise round he was going to knock them out beforehand, and then did it in style in that very round. But many of the people Ali knocked out are now far healthier than him. Today, Ali cannot stand still; his hands shake continually from Parkinson’s disease. So I ask myself now: “Did Ali really win those fights in the past for which he was celebrated?”
The man won the fight, but please what did he lose? He won the fight but lost the battle. He won the fight but lost his eye. He won the fight but lost his faith. He won the battle but lost the war. When a man is determined not to sin, he is definitely going to lose in the flesh. Whenever you win in the flesh, count your losses spiritually; name them one by one.
John the Baptist says: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29). According to Jesus’ kingdom dynamics, only the lamb can take away the sin of the world. That lamb cannot be a Goliath-killing David: it must be a sheepish believer who is resolute in following the footsteps of the Good Shepherd.” Jesus says: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16). This is hardly a call for us to go and kill Goliaths.
Jesus teaches that a true believer does not boast of carnal victories. Instead, he is someone who overcomes the world. (John 16:33). He is that man whose children die, and he remains steadfast in the faith. He is the one who gets paralysed in an accident, and yet still testifies to the love of God. He is that unfortunate man whose house is burnt down; whose family perishes; whose business fails and still he sings: “It is well, with my soul.”
How do we gain victory over poverty? We don’t do so by coming into riches. We do so by making poverty inconsequential. If a man “makes it” by winning the lottery, he does not overcome poverty. Although he becomes rich, nevertheless, he can just as easily become poor again. But when a man overcomes poverty, he can never be poor again. He might not be rich; however, poverty would no longer have an effect on him. He can be as poor as a church rat, and yet be as happy as a king.
Jesus, not David, is “the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6). Jesus is the David who would not kill any Goliaths. Therefore, the way of the believer in Christ must be the peaceful way of Jesus and not the malevolent way of Goliath-killing David. (Concluded).