A Footstool for Your Feet (Psalm 110)
1. YHWH said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” This verse from our psalm for today is a great Ascension text. The imagery here, though, has a more militaristic tone than many people realize. Really, it will make a lot of people uncomfortable. In the Ancient Near East, it was customary at the end of a battle for the losing king to be thrown down face first at the feet of the winning king. The winning king would then step on the losing king’s neck. The losing king was literally made a footstool for the winning king. This is what we celebrate here tonight.
2. We’re celebrating something like THAT? It seems such a barbarous thing. However, we’ve been on both sides of this scene. Let’s go back to the Garden of Eden for a moment. Adam and Eve have just been condemned by God. With one temptation, Satan has successfully conquered them. Adam and Eve have been thrown down before Satan’s feet. His foot is coming down to crush them and there is nothing they can do to stop it. But it wasn’t just Adam and Eve who were conquered. We were conquered too. Even before we were born, we were defeated. We were born slaves. However, instead of leaving Adam and Eve and all their descendents in their slavery, God gives Adam and Eve their first taste of Gospel—Gospel that is also for you and me: God promises that one of Adam and Eve’s descendents will crush the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15). One day, they and we would be free from the serpent’s temptations and slavery. One day, the serpent who had deceived them would be thrown down before one of their own children. The serpent who thought he had finally won the day would be thrown facedown in front of one who had beaten him. The serpent would have his neck trampled as he was made a footstool for the Savior of the world. The serpent—the temporal master—would become a slave.
3. The serpent did all he could. Jesus was dead on the Cross. Satan saw our Lord die. It was all over. God gave it His best, but God’s best just wasn’t good enough. Well, it wouldn’t have been good enough if Good Friday was the end of the story. But, Good Friday isn’t the end of the story. Good Friday is the beginning of the story. Even though Jesus died on the Cross as part of the serpent’s plan, His death was also part of God’s plan. Jesus did not stay dead. Three days later, on Easter morning, Christ rose from the grave. Alive again nevermore to die! We celebrate this rising to life during the forty days that Christ showed Himself on the earth after His resurrection—the forty days between Easter Sunday and Ascension Thursday. It’s not just a one-day festival like the Super Bowl. It’s a whole season of celebration. The battle IS over. The victor has been decided. Satan has defeated us, but he could not defeat Him who has gone into battle for us. The serpent’s foot is no longer a threat to us. We have been freed of his slavery by our Baptism into Christ. We are strengthened for our battles by being fed with our Lord’s victorious Body and Blood. In the moment that Jesus ascends into Heaven, Satan is thrown down from Heaven to earth. He is thrown face first onto the ground to be a footstool for the Savior of the world. Now, we understand the victorious army and life.
4. That’s why we celebrate the crushing of a head! As with many defeated kings before him, Satan’s head is crushed by the foot of Christ. God’s promise in Genesis is fulfilled. We are free. However, Satan does not die. Yet. He’s still living. He’s still tormenting us. That’s evidenced by the world around us. But his power has been crushed. Satan gave Jesus everything he had. Satan even killed our Lord. But, thanks be to God, by that death, Jesus overcame Satan, death and Hell so that Satan cannot crush us, death cannot hold us and Hell cannot have us at all. Our risen Savior triumphed over them and is now seated at God’s right hand. Ruling the universe He created until the day of His return when, as the Apostles were told in our first reading, Christ will return descending on a cloud. Then Satan will never afflict us again. Until He returns, we praise Him for His victory for us and the eternal life which He has given us. Christ is risen!