Backslap Death in the Face

Cadenced descriptions of Christ’s work have always characterized the voice of his church.

“He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate,” the old creed says, “he suffered death and was buried, and on the third day he rose again.” Straightforward as they are, these words are actually worlds, each one inhabited by more meaning and wonder and — for the poet — endless depths to be mined.

Jackie Hill shows us in this one-minute spoken word about hearing the gospel:

[The preacher] lets them know how God himself — the Ancient of Days, the God who was there before time had a name, the God who keeps this universe on track to show us that he’s running things, reigning supreme — chose to put on human clothes. He put his back on the line so our nature would be put back in line with his. He swallowed the backwash of our sins for our sake. His back was placed on a cross. When the sky turned black the Father turned his back on his Son’s face.

Tears begin to fill [the listener’s] eyes.

His eyes begin to roll back into his face. The preacher continued to tell them how Christ stayed in the cave for three days and proceeded to backslap death in the face. From the grave he got raised like a backwards sunset and that anyone that wanted forgiveness for their wicked ways just had to call on Jesus’s name and they will be saved.

For the full version of this spoken word, check out “The Tale of Two Souls” (five-minute video). Also, watch Jackie explain the meaning of the poem.


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Jonathan Parnell (@jonathanparnell) is a writer and content strategist at Desiring God, and is the lead planter of Cities Church in Minneapolis–Saint Paul, where he lives with his wife, Melissa, and their four children. He is also the co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary.