Today we meditate on one of the most incredible cosmic battles that has ever taken place.
From the moment that the devil managed to get Adam and Eve to disobey God he believed he had an airtight victory over humanity.
The devil is cunning. He understood exactly what he was doing in the temptation. This was not just a “I am going to ruin everything” moment but a “I know that what I am planning will doom the human race, this creature created in God’s image, for all eternity to sin and death.”
The result of the disobedience of Adam and Eve was that every single offspring throughout all of history had the inherited DNA, the inherited nature of sin. The devil had locked humanity into a cycle which could not be broken. Yes, people could believe in God and go to heaven – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the Israelites, Rahab etc. But ultimately, the end result would be that God’s creation and the creatures he created in his image would be trapped in this cycle of sin and death and many, many, many would die and belong to the devil.
Satan believed he had irreversibly ruined God’s creation.
The only way out of this cycle would be for a human being to live perfectly. But that could never happen because every human being was the product of man and woman, descendant of Adam and Eve and so at the very moment of conception the sin nature was passed onto the baby and therefore right from the get go, imperfect.
This is why God is so amazing. He formulated the plan that broke the cycle.
Jesus was Born of a virgin and so while fully human, He was not contaminated with the sin nature which Adam passed down through the ages. God himself became a human being and lived on the earth for some 30 plus years perfectly.
No wonder the satanic forces rose up so powerfully during Jesus’ life time and did everything they could to destroy Jesus and his ministry on earth.
And it all culminates in what happened on Good Friday
The final attempt at his destruction was the cross. If the devil knew what the cross would actually achieve he would have tried to have prevent Christ going there. But he didn’t understand. 1 Peter 1 has a remarkable passage which says this Concerning this salvation, the prophets who predicted the grace that would come to you searched and investigated carefully. 11 They probed into what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating when he testified beforehand about the sufferings appointed for Christ and his subsequent glory. 12 They were shown that they were serving not themselves but you, in regard to the things now announced to you through those who proclaimed the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things angels long to catch a glimpse of.
Notice that – the things revealed to the prophets about salvation were things the angels long to catch a glimpse of. The angels in heaven are learning as things unfold on earth. How amazing!
There is a remarkable tension in the events of the cross. From the human point of view it was the greatest crime and tragedy in history. From the divine point of view it was the fulfillment of prophecy and the accomplishment of God’s will.
Both are true.
Pilate and Caiaphas are responsible for their actions and will be judged for the decisions they made but in God’s sovereignty what they planned for evil only ended up fulfilling the purposes of God.
God was right in the midst of the brutality, blood and pain of the cross. He did not avoid it nor did he insulate himself from it – he went through it.
The cross shows us that we must never, as Christians, believe that evil has the power to win. Pilate believed he was in charge – he tells Jesus I have the authority to release you or crucify you” . Having stayed silent to Pilates questions, at this point Jesus corrects him – “You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above”. The delusion of Pilate and Caiaphas and all people who do evil and oppose God or who abuse authority and power is that they think they have authority. They don’t. It’s a lie. God is the one with true authority.
That is why we are commanded to be unafraid of the world and all it can throw at us. Jesus stood calmly in the midst of his trial and in the face of Pilate BECAUSE he knew God’s authority is what really matters and that God alone is able to deliver his servants even from death.
Remember what Jesus taught in Matthew 10:28 do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
All a government, a despot, a dictator, an evil person can do is take our life. Jesus says we must not fear anyone who can kill us, because that is all they are able to do to us.
Notice that Jesus’ calmness makes Pilate afraid. He had never seen such a prisoner before – facing crucifixion Jesus is not begging for mercy and arguing his innocence. He remains silent. He remains calm.
What Jesus showed us on Good Friday is that we can face the most darkest of times in the faith, trust and truth of the victory that God has won. In a few hours, from all who looked on, Jesus’ ministry was about to die and fail. He would be killed a criminal. His promises and his words would come to nothing.
Yet Jesus knew that God would fulfill his promises. That God would do what he said he would do.
We can face the darkest of times in our lives BECAUSE Jesus faced the cross. Death was about to claim something which did not belong to it. Because Jesus was born without sin and lived without sin he did not deserve death. But he entered death in order to shatter it for us. Sin and Death no longer has a hold on us because a perfect human being lived and died.
And because Jesus broke the cycle of sin and death there is no situation – no brutality – no tragedy in which God is not right there with us. On the Cross Jesus defeated Satan’s supposedly airtight trap for humanity.
Finally, I believe that God gave all who looked at the cross a final sign of exactly what was happening. You know that the Pharisees got so angry with the sign over Jesus’ head. John tells us that the sign read “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” John’s account is probably the full wording of the sign. The reason why the Pharisees were incensed at the sign was not what it claimed – they were OK for Jesus to claim he was king of the Jews, they even suggest to Pilate he change the sign to say he claimed to be the King of the Jews – they were angry for another reason.
The sign in hebrew would have been in four Hebrew words – Yeshua / Narazath of / King the and / Jews the of. The first letters of each word are: yod hey vav hey – which spells Yahweh, the Jewish name for God which they believed was so holy it could not be pronounced – but right above Jesus as he dies was the letters of yahweh. That is why the Pharisees were so angry.
The proclamation to the world of who Jesus was and what he was doing was right there above Jesus’ head as he died.
You know, today reminds us that the cross means that you are I are no longer held by the chains of the world’s darkness and pain nor of the cycle of sin and death.God asks us to walk with him even through the pain and the darkness of the situation we face. We are able to because Jesus pronounced just before he died that it was finished. It has been accomplished. The debt has been paid in full.
People can attack us – they can seek to do us harm – they may even appear to be winning or even to have won but God’s promises will prevail and he will protect and uphold each of his children. But we must be like Jesus is the face of the storm – calm and trusting in the Father’s purposes.