Christ as Conqueror and King

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel”
— Genesis 3:15 ESV

As the Lord uttered this definitive statement in the Garden I can imagine the ground shaking, His voice resounding in the ears of the man, the woman, the serpent, and all creation. For in this statement, God’s momentous plan of Satan’s defeat and man’s redemption were revealed. This violent and yet hopeful statement in Genesis 3:15 is beautifully reflected upon both in Ilya Efimovich Repin’s painting, Temptation, and in Benjamin Britten’s musical composition, “This Little Babe.”  

Britten’s piece opens with the quick and anticipatory plucks of a harp before a choir of young boys who begin to sing of just who this little babe was. We are familiar with his being wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manager. We are even familiar with his humble entrance to the world – being born to a man and woman who were of little significance in and of themselves. We also often sing of the joyous praises offered by angels, shepherds, and wise kings at his birth. Britten spends little time on these details. Rather, he focuses on the reason for his coming. This little babe, who likely shivered in the cool evening air of Bethlehem on the night of his birth, is the one promised to come and “rifle Satan’s hold.” As Britten so masterfully conveys through the voices of young boy sopranos, this was no ordinary babe. While possessing the gentile, helpless, and simply adorable traits that make any of us stop in our tracks to enjoy and comment on, this baby also possessed the mission, burden, and frightening ferocity of warrior who comes to achieve a great victory.  

From our perspective, the camp of this warrior child has no strategic placement or necessary modes of defense. In fact, as Britten describes, “his camp is pitched in a stall.” Of his bulwark, we see not but a “broken wall.” And yet Britten calls us to side with this child in his fight and trust in him as our guard. For the child in this stall is the Conquering King, the one who brings the defeat of Satan through an act of humble obedience to the will of his Father. Repin, in his painting, presents that moment of Satan’s messy and brutal defeat to the Conquering King Jesus. However, just as in Britten’s composition, Repin also depicts this warrior King Jesus as humble though immovable at the final tantrum of Satan.

Indeed we have great reason to rejoice at Christmas time as we reflect upon the gruesome picture of Genesis 3:15 and the messy nature of Repin’s piece. For the little babe in the manger is also the Conquering King who in being bruised has squelched the power of Satan that we might receive salvation from judgment, peace with God, and eternal life and relationship with him. Here, oh Eve, is your offspring. Here, oh Satan, is destruction. Here, oh man, is your Conquering King. Place your hope in him! 

This little babe just three days old,
Is come to rival Satan’s hold
All hell doth at his presence quake,
though he himself for cold do shake;
For in this weak unarmored wise
the gates of hell he will surprise.

With tears he fights and wins the field,
his naked breast stands for a shield.
His battering shot are babish cries,
his arrows looks of weeping eyes.
His martial ensigns Cold and Need,
and feeble flesh his warrior’s steed.

His camp is pitched in a stall,
his bulwark but a broken wall;
The crib his trench, haystalks his stakes,
of shepherds he his muster makes.
And thus as sure his foe to wound,
the angels’ trumps alarum sound

My soul with Christ join thou in fight;
stick to the tents that he hath pight.
Within his crib is surest ward;
this little Babe will by thy guard.
If thou wilt foil thy foes with joy, then
flit not from this heavenly boy!
— "This Little Babe" - Benjamin Britten
Temptation  -   Ilya Repin

Temptation - Ilya Repin