What do you think of when you hear “Waterloo?" Folks in my
generation might first think of the pop band, ABBA, and their hit with the same
name; others may think of a city in Iowa. But, for those raised in England,
Waterloo has a much different meaning. Here’s a quick, and painless, history
lesson. Sunday morning, June 18, 1815, near the town of Waterloo in present-day Belgium, Emperor Napoleon was attempting to take over the world. If Napoleon had won, many believe his next stop would have been the shores of England. The Duke of Wellington was sent with an army to make this Napoleon’s last stand. The fate of Europe hung in the balance.
Across the English Channel, communication occurred by means
of flashing lights. Many on the English side stood waiting to hear the news of
what happened with Wellington’s army. Through the fog, a light on the French
side started to blink. It read, “Wellington” and then a long pause. Then,
“Defeated”. … and nothing else. Panic spread throughout the English countryside.
Villagers started to gather their belongings to flee north. Many feared the
outcome and wondered whether or not England would survive. But a few faithful,
believing in the sovereignty of England, and the strength of Wellington’s
leadership, waited on the shore. As the day passed, the fog cleared. The message
was flashed again. “Wellington” a pause, “Defeated”, a longer pause, “Napoleon”.
Cheers erupted from the shore and messengers were sent quickly to London to say their interpretation of the first message had been wrong. Wellington had defeated Napoleon!
A Biblical commentary that I recently discovered suggests
the story of Waterloo is pretty close to what happened on Good Friday.
The message was sent out from Jerusalem that Jesus had been crucified. It could
have been something like this: “Jesus” pause “Defeated.” Sorrow and despair
would have filled the air along with desperation and depression. Why did we
believe in him? might have run through the minds of many of his followers.
But, like those Brits who stayed by the shore until the fog cleared, some
faithful women hung in there. On Sunday morning, they went to Jesus’ tomb. The fog of death and despair had cleared. The message they received that morning was this: “Jesus. . .Defeated. . .Death”. And this message was the one they passed
to the eleven disciples – Jesus died but was now alive. He had defeated death!
The sovereignty of God had overcome death and the Kingdom of God still
Many times in life, the fog of despair rolls in. Or sometimes it is the fog of misunderstanding or not having the full picture that obscures our vision of the truth which sets us free. Sometimes people call our faith “blind” because we cannot see all the way. In late spring, 1815, they could not see all the way across the English Channel. Likewise in late spring, at Jesus’ last Passover, they could not see all the way through to the joy of Sunday morning. But some waited, listened and watched. And they received the Good News.
Like the women who faithfully went to Jesus’ tomb and found that he was alive; like the faithful English who waited on the shore for a sign of good news from the battlefield; may you also have the faith to stick it out and wait patiently for the Lord, for he has Good News for you,
- Fr. Marshall