Jon: In the ancient world, many cultures told stories about a monster of death that lurks in the deep, dark sea. In these tales, the dragon, and the sea it lives in, represent the chaos that threatens to drag creation back into nothingness.
Tim: The ancient authors of the Bible not only knew about these symbols, they also used them in stories and poems all over the Bible.
Jon: Really—dragons in the Bible?
Tim: Yes! On the first page of the Bible, God brings order by separating the dry land from the chaotic sea, and there, he contains the sea dragon. 1 And this monster is connected to that dragon-like snake that confronts Adam and Eve in the garden—a spiritual being using the power of chaos and death to lure humans into their own self-destruction. 2 Biblical authors also use dragon imagery to describe violent human kings, like Pharaoh, who enslaved and murdered the ancient Israelites. 3 Even the famous Goliath—the details of his armor and weapons depict him as a scaly, snakey giant. 4
Jon: So the sea dragon is loose in all these forms, but it can be defeated.
Tim: Yes. But be careful because the power of the dragon is strangely appealing. A dragon slayer can be enticed to use the dragon’s power.
Jon: And so become a dragon themselves. 5
Tim: In fact, entire empires can become like dragons. During Israel’s exile in Babylon, the prophet Daniel has a dream about four monstrous beasts rising up out of the sea.
Jon: Whoa—mutant dragons!
Tim: They represent violent kingdoms in league with dark spiritual powers. 6 But then, a new character appears, rising up from the land to sit beside God’s throne. And as the dream ends, Daniel sees those monsters destroyed.
Jon: So who is this dragon slayer?
Tim: Well, Daniel calls him “one like a son of Man.” 7
Jon: The son of man—that’s what Jesus calls himself. 8
Tim: Yes. In fact, the gospel authors depict Jesus confronting the dragon in many ways. Like when he tramples over the stormy sea, 9 or when he resists the tempter in the wilderness, 10 or when he overcomes death and sickness in others. 11 And even when the power of the dragon does its best to entice Jesus …
Jon: Jesus doesn’t give in.
Tim: Jesus resists the dragon in a surprising way. He surrenders his life and willingly enters the belly of the beast. 12
Jon: Wait?! The dragon slayer is slain by the dragon?
Tim: Well, that’s how it seemed. But Jesus trusted in God’s power to create new life on the other side of chaos and death. 13 And he called his followers to confront the dragon in the same way.
Jon: Which means?
Tim: Resist the temptation to use the violent, destructive ways of the dragon. 14 And also, don’t be afraid of it. Jesus’ victory over the beast has created a way to escape its power. 15 And trust in the power of God, who will one day defeat the dragon once and for all. 16