Death Defeated

Haftarah Portion: Vayechi (1 Kings 2:1-12)
Gospel Reading: Acts 2
Commentary by: Matthew Day

If there was anytime in which we were close to the Messianic age, it was during the reigns of David and Solomon. The Scriptures describe this as a time when the sons of Israel had multiplied like stars and like the sands of the sea (1 Kings 4:20). They lived in peace and security, "every man under his vine and under his fig tree" (1 Kings 4:25 ESV). This was the height of Israel's reign, the fulfillment of all the promises contained in the Torah. From here, the Torah should have gone forth from Zion, the nations should have come up to Jerusalem, and the world should have entered an unending golden age of peace. The Messianic era should have descended upon man. God should have looked down upon our faithfulness and swept away sorrow and death forever. What happened?

David died.

So, too, did eventually Solomon. And Jeroboam and Rehoboam. And all of their descendants after them. The Kingdom of Israel collapsed in on itself, splitting in half. Each half slowly descended into idolatry. Sure, there were a few kings who tried to pull them out, to put the children of Israel back on the right path. But, not one could accomplish this impossible feat. Finally the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah went into captivity. The Davidic line, the offspring of the one who was promised to always have someone sitting on the throne, lost their crown. Eventually, Israel was absorbed into the nations. Judah never recovered from her exile, eventually losing not only Jerusalem and the Temple, but the promised land itself. All the curses of the Torah came upon Israel.

It's in the midst of Israel's last flickering flame that we see a group of seemingly drunk men take the stage. Peter and the disciples of Yeshua loudly declare before the Temple,

"Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know-- this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him, "'I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.'
"Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. (Acts 2:22-33 ESV)

David died and was buried. He was merely a man like us all. He could not conquer death through his own will or power, nor could his descendants. What's more, David succumbed to sin. Solomon too. Neither the man after God's own heart nor the wisest king in all history could conquer their passions. They were human and thus confined by the law of sin and death. Salvation would require something greater.

Enter Yeshua. Completely human, so that he might share in our trials. Completely God so that He might conquer death. Yeshua died and was buried, but death could not hold Him. Life was not simply in Him; He was/is life itself! He is the light; darkness cannot stand before Him.

David died, and so did everyone to sit on his throne after him, but the promises of God were fulfilled through Yeshua, son of David, son of God. He is the one who now sits upon the throne, because He alone conquered sin and death. This is the Gospel we proclaim: Death and sin have been defeated. Their power is no more. Yeshua reigns!