Saturday, April 3, 2010

Holy Saturday Homily - from yesteryear

 “Safe in the Lion’s Den”
Daniel 6:1-24; Matthew 27:57-66

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Daniel and the Lions Den is a favorite Bible Story among children.  It has everything you want in a children’s story:  Excitement, suspense, danger, and the good guy winning in the end.  Fierce lions become tame, cute, cuddly lions when Daniel’s thrown into their midst.  They don’t harm him a bit.  They’re his friends.  Daniel comes out of the Lions den unharmed and victorious.  And the children are filled with glee – they laugh and clap their hands at Daniel’s triumph.  It makes them happy. 
And, there’s nothing at all wrong with this.  This story is a great story to share with children.  But, far too often, the significance of this story is overlooked when it is shared with children.  Too many Christian teachers, who no doubt have the best of intentions, fail to make the proper connection between the story of Daniel and the Lions Den to the story of the Greater Daniel, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  They end up using Daniel as an example to follow, giving the impression to the children that if they’ll just stand firm in the faith, like Daniel did, they’d be just as safe as he was in a den of lions. 
But, that’s really not the point of this story, is it?  I mean, God doesn’t share this story with us in His Holy Word to teach us that if we’ll just be as faithful as Daniel, lions won’t physically harm us.  Please, don’t take a safari to Africa and think that you can walk into a den of lions and come away unharmed.  That’s not the lesson we are to take away from this story.  Wild, untamed lions are dangerous.  They eat people.  Ask the many Christians in the first century who were marched into the Coliseum to be fed to the lions because they refused to deny Jesus Christ.  They’ll tell you. 
No, my friends, God is using a very real and physical event to teach us important spiritual truths.  And, to fully understand the meaning of the story of Daniel and the Lions Den, you must learn the story of the Greater Daniel, Jesus Christ, for the story of Daniel and the Lions Den foreshadows the story of Jesus. 
The parallels between the two stories are simply amazing and unmistakable.  Daniel, because of his faithfulness to Yahweh, makes enemies of the political and religious leaders.  He became distinguished above all the other leaders in the land, and their jealousy and lust for power caused them to search for grounds to persecute him.  So, they plot in secret to entrap him with trumped up charges.  And, they succeed in convincing the King that Daniel must be executed for blasphemy and treason against the state.  The King gives in even though he finds no real fault in Daniel.  He fears that not giving in to these jealous leaders will end up causing a revolt in the land.  Daniel is, thus, thrown into the lion’s den to be executed.  But, miracle of miracles, Daniel is not harmed by the lions and is brought forth out of the den of lions by the King. 
Do you see it?  Is this not exactly what happens with our Lord?  The Jewish religious leaders are jealous of Him, because the people are flocking to Him.  So, they plot.  They try to find a way to do away with Jesus.  And, they end up doing so by bringing trumped up charges of, you guessed it, blasphemy and treason against the state against Him.  And, a reluctant Governor, named Pontius Pilate, finally gives in, even though he himself can find no guilt in Jesus.  He, like King Darius, fears that a riot might break out in the land if he doesn’t give in.  So, Jesus is ordered to be crucified.  And, here’s the only real difference between the stories:  Jesus is actually killed.  He dies on the cross.  But, then, the parallels pick back up again, for, like Daniel, Jesus is placed in a den of sorts – a tomb – and, like Daniel, He emerges from that den unharmed and victorious.  No harm came upon Him while He was in the tomb.  His body did not see decay.  The “lions of Hell” could not harm him one bit.  In fact, just the opposite is true:  He descended into the Lions Den of Hell to proclaim His victory over sin, death, and the devil.  He is, after all the Lion of Judah, the Greater Daniel, the Victorious One.  Thus, He emerges from the tomb unscathed. 
Dear friends in Christ, on this Holy Saturday, as we meditate upon our Lord’s rest in the tomb, let us learn the lesson put before us, namely that our Lord gives us the victory over sin, death, and the devil.  He is the Faithful One, who conquered our foes and destroyed them.  He died for us, that we might be forgiven of all our sins and live with Him forever in Paradise.  And so it is, that we have no fear of the “lions den of Hell,” for the Lion of Judah has done away with Hell’s power over us.  Repent, and turn to Him in faith, and the “lions of Hell” (Satan and his band of demons) will not, indeed, cannot, harm you one iota.  For, like Daniel, and like our Lord, the Greater Daniel, the promise for you is sure and certain that you will rest in your tomb someday only to emerge unharmed and victorious when our Lord returns in great glory. 
Until then, come and receive the sustenance you need to continue your journey through the valley of the shadow of death, the very Body and Blood of the crucified, risen, and ascended Lord, which you receive from His Table.  All glory, honor, and praise be to the Lion of Judah who keeps us safe from the “lions of Hell.”  In His Holy and Precious Name.  Amen.   
Now the peace of God that passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting.  Amen.

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