20 September 2011

The Real Lions' Den

The final few days of Jesus' earthly life share remarkable parallels with Daniel's brush with the furry felines in Daniel 6.

Both Daniel and Jesus . . .
. . . are lonely faithful Israelites who find themselves in a land under Gentile rule (Dan 6:1);

. . . are filled with God's Spirit (Dan 6:3; Luke 4:1, 14);

. . . are conspired against by ill-meaning, jealous men of influence (Dan 6:4; Matt 26:3-4);

. . . are above reproach, making it impossible for their antagonists to find fault with them (Dan 6:4; Matt 26:59-60);

. . . are found guilty through treachery (Dan 6:4-9; Matt 27:20);

. . . pray to God, alone, before the impending arrest (Dan 6:10; Matt 26:36);

. . . are presented to a Gentile ruler who would prefer to side with the accused (Dan 6:14; John 19:4);

. . . have a stone rolled over the opening of where they have been placed (Dan 6:17; Matt 27:60);

. . . are, against expectation, found alive in the morning (Dan 6:19; Matt 28:5-6)

. . . are brought up out of a hole in the ground where the stone has now been removed (Dan 6:23; Matt 28:6);

. . . convince a Gentile observer that they were blameless (Dan 6:22-23; Mark 15:39).
There is one great difference, of course. Daniel was spared; Jesus was not. From one perspective, of course, both Daniel and Jesus were unjustly accused, arraigned, and placed in a hole out of which they both miraculously arose in full vindication. Yet the fearful demise to which Daniel was handed over never overtook him. He escaped. He was spared. The fearful demise to which Jesus was handed over did overtake him (Mark 14:34; 15:24). He did not escape. He was not spared.

I'm not saying Matthew or any of the other Gospel writers had Daniel 6 in mind as they wrote. Maybe they did, maybe not. For myself, I find it hard to imagine that the thought never crossed their mind, in light of how well all four obviously knew their Bibles.

But even if they didn't consciously write of Jesus' passion against the backdrop of Daniel 6, must we not remember that Jesus himself recapitulates--repeats and sums up in a supremely heightened moment of redemptive climax--all the mighty acts of God recorded in the Bible, and indeed all of human history, and, even more than this, as Goldsworthy has argued, all reality (Greek readers, note the use of anakephalaioo in Eph 1:10)? If so, must we not, soberly yet openly, anticipate that there may be redemptive-historical connections that become clearer with the passing of time, while no more real than than they always were? Is there not much that we can view from our vantage point in history which may be beyond the conscious awareness of the biblical writers, yet which is nevertheless latent in what these biblical authors wrote? Was not the Bible, and history, written by human authors and by a divine Author? Does not God work in identifiable patterns that snowball down through history--out of which an entire discipline (typology) has arisen?

I believe that as a Christian I must read Daniel 6 in the knowledge that there was someone who was thrown into a den of lions and torn to shreds. The real lions' den. Daniel prayed in his room, and was thrown into the den, but spared--only, ultimately, because Jesus prayed in the garden, was denied and thrown into the den, and not spared.

When Jesus went to the cross he was punished so that you and I can know that whether we are spared the lions or eaten, whether circumstantial hell breaks loose over our lives or not--and in some way, at some time, it will--it can only be for our good, out of love, not for our punishment, out of wrath.

The only lion that could ever truly harm us has been de-fanged (Col 2:15; 1 Pet 5:8). The fangs of condemnation sank into another.

1 comment:

Eric said...

Wow. Thank you for this.

I certainly agree that Jesus is the key to all Scriptures, and also all created reality. I have to admit, thought, I'm not at all sure how to go about interpreting creation and history in relation to Christ. Oh well.

I'm definitely saving this - thank you again, Dane.