Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers, I will give permission to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God.
Unlike many of our other “clever words,” this one is actually quite common in Classical Greek! In fact, νικάω (nikaō) is a verb that students often encounter early on in their Greek studies, in part because it provides an example of a distinct pattern of conjugation (but we don’t need to worry about that here). Its familiarity is probably due, in part, to its broad usage -- it can describe victories in battle, athletic contexts, law courts, and arguments, and might often be better translated as “to prevail.”
Wondrous things are promised to the churches that conquer or win νικάω: the morning star, manna, fruit from the tree of life, white robes, among other things. But how does the church go about winning? If we look to Jesus, victory does not involve fierce battles and daring deeds, but the cross. A Christian is victorious not through winning but through losing.
Not necessarily heroic losing either. Song, story, and cinema glorify the idea of a last stand. The hero dies in a fiery battle, resolving the problem through bloodshed, his enemies’ and his own. But if the cross shows us anything, it is that we are not the heroes in this story. Jesus is the savior and we are the saved, freed to lose because victory is not up to us. What if apostasy protects a loved one? What if denying Christ means we get to live and witness another day? What if lying about our belief shelters the vulnerable? And what if at the end of all of this apostasy and denial and lying we turn to Christ, trusting in his mercy for a messy world? It may not be heroic, it may not get us a halo or stained glass window, but it does proclaim Jesus, and Jesus wins in the end.
Questions for Reflection
When have you experienced failure as a Christian? How have you encountered Jesus in failure?
About the Blog
Journey through the season of Advent with daily updates on the adventures of St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Belliacre, MI as they attempt to cobble together a Christmas Pageant with an unlikely cast of characters.
Stephanie is an art educator and a landscape/portrait artist. Her inspirations come from the amazing people she meets and the gorgeous state of Michigan as well as her home state of Florida. She and he husband love nature. They are out in the water during the summer months and on the snow in the winter enjoying the simple pleasures of life.