On a recent trip to Spain, I spent a day in Trarragona, the city on the coast where, allegedly, Pontius Pilate was born.
Right beside the sea stand the ruins of an old coliseum that dates back to the earliest days of Christianity. Can you see the large gap in the wall? Through this portal Christians were led to their doom in the center ring, the original “hunger games.” To name the name of Jesus might well mean facing a lion ready to tear you apart. It took four hundred years and an obscure Roman emperor to end this macabre sport.
But there is more to this picture. Look closely at the left hand side and you’ll see the rectangular remnants of two churches from the 6th and 14th century, respectively.
I was staring over the side of this now-tourist attraction when, suddenly, the witness of the ancient church spoke powerfully to me. The very stones that meant evil and defeat and death–these stones–had been dismantled and used to build the Church. On this blood-soaked ground Christians claimed the victory of the risen Christ.
This silent powerful witness of the early church is the story of your life and mine. In the place where you have known defeat, in the greatest wounds of your life…there God builds his new life in you, his “church.”
God disassembles the stones of your demise and creates a little tabernacle where, to the surprise of men and angels, his glory shines through. Who can believe it, really?
Could the man being thrown to the lions in 350 A. D. have pictured a church of worshipping believers on the ground of his execution two hundred years later?
Would you have guessed that a wound of sin and defeat in your own life could become, in some mysterious way, the place where God most pours his life through you?
Behold, I make all things new…