I love the circus. I’ve loved it since I was a kid. There’s something mesmerizing about the blend of all the colors, the lights, the performers. Something almost magical about it.
As I’ve gotten older though, the circus has held a new fascination for me. The “tricks” I saw the performers do as a kid, make my stomach drop now. The trapeze artists swinging high above the ground without a net, the guy on that crazy weighted cylinder thingy that I swear is going to get going too fast and he’s going to smash into the floor of the arena, the woman hanging from her teeth 40 feet in the air. The death defying stuff scares the daylights out of me. What if they really fall…what if the tiger really bites the guy…what if they really don’t defy death and they die right there?
That would pretty much end my days of circus-going.
Harry Houdini is often touted as one of the greatest performers to live. He made a name for himself defying death. “From 1907 and throughout the 1910s, Houdini performed with great success in the United States. He would free himself from jails, handcuffs, chains, ropes, and straitjackets, often while hanging from a rope in plain sight of street audiences. Because of imitators, on January 25, 1908, Houdini put his “handcuff act” behind him and began escaping from a locked, water-filled milk can. The possibility of failure and death thrilled his audiences. Houdini also expanded repertoire with his escape challenge act, in which he invited the public to devise contraptions to hold him. These included nailed packing crates (sometimes lowered into water), riveted boilers, wet-sheets, mailbags, and his most famous act, the Chinese Water Torture Cell, in which he was suspended upside-down in a locked glass-and-steel cabinet full to overflowing with water. The act required that Houdini hold his breath for more than three minutes.” *
Houdini died from an infection caused by a ruptured appendix on October 31, at age 52. In his final weeks, he optimistically held to a strong belief that he would recover, but his last words before dying were reportedly, “I’m tired of fighting.” *
For all the death defying that he devoted his life to performing…that’s all it ever was, a performance. In the end, even the great Houdini couldn’t actually defy death.
Imagine with me for a second, a man hung on a cross. Nailed onto wooden beams, suspended in the air for all to see. The capacity to escape at his fingertips. Angels could have been summoned in a second to heal his wounded hands and feet, to close the gaping hole in his side, and to lift him high into the air off of that cross. But then he’d just have been a fantastic escape artist wouldn’t he?
If he hadn’t died, he couldn’t have defied death. Really and truly defeated it. Plenty of people have challenged death, but to defeat it…well, that takes more than a performer. It takes a Savior.
He didn’t just hop off the cross after an alloted time either.
Even Houdini could only hold his breath for 3 minutes. Jesus was DEAD for 3 days. But that wasn’t the end of our Father’s fight for us.
He was bound in cloths, and placed in the dark. There was a borrowed cave, with a stone rolled in front of it that took multiple men to move into place, and there were armored guards in front of the tomb. Even the officials remembered that this man, Jesus, had told them that He would defy death…
The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard. (Mt 27:62–66)
When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. (Mk 16:1–8)
Drum Roll please….Presenting….The ultimate death-defier …our risen Lord, Jesus Christ.
In that death he took it all. He took our sins and he buried them in the tomb…the same tomb that He walked out of so that we might have life. His death defying act solidifies God’s payment made for our sins. It brings hope of eternal life, and “it gives us the power to live a victorious life.” **
If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Ro 8:11)
And I wonder how often we think that we have to carry an albtross round our neck, or how many times we have stones we think can’t be moved from our lives? Are there sins we think we can’t shake? How often do we think we have to be a Houdini and defy something seemingly impossible in our lives, all by ourselves?
The ultimate death defying act was performed over 2000 years ago, and when you believe it for yourself friends, when you realize that the stone was rolled and the veil was torn to give you full access to the God of all creation…you can hang up your act Houdinis, because the impossible has been done FOR YOU.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Ro 8:37–39)
Easter may have been yesterday, but don’t forget that it brings the reminder of freedom to all of our days. What stones do you need moved from your life? What “impossible” do you need to release to the One who makes all things possible? The stone was moved, death has been defied, and we have been freed! Give it up friends….because He gave it all for you.