I’ve never been one for horror movies, nor do I understand the attraction. Sure, I get that some people enjoy the adrenaline rush. But I’ve never understood why this has to be coupled with such graphic depictions of evil. Maybe that’s just me. I often listen to an Elvis CD on the way to work, for example, but tend to skip over the song “Devil in Disguise.” There are just some things people shouldn’t mess with.
No, I don’t attribute every bad thing in the world to Satan, nor do I see demons lurking around every corner. God holds us responsible for our own sin, and we can’t pass the buck by claiming that the devil made us do it. But any serious reading of Scripture has to contend with the reality of Satan, the accuser, the adversary.
Jesus is in the midst of bidding his disciples farewell. Earlier, we were told that Satan entered Judas, sending him out into the night to do his dirty work (John 13:27-30). Satan now reenters the story as Jesus prepares his disciples for what is coming:
I won’t say much more to you because this world’s ruler is coming. He has nothing on me. Rather, he comes so that the world will know that I love the Father and do just as the Father has commanded me. (John 14:30-31a, CEB)
In this corner, the Prince of Peace. In this corner, the prince of this world, who once offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in exchange for his subservience (Matt 4:8-11). Jesus, of course, refused. But the match isn’t over yet.
Through the human agency of Judas and the powers that be, Satan is coming to take Jesus down. To the disciples, it will seem like defeat. But “he has nothing on me,” Jesus says. Despite appearances, Satan has no power over Jesus. The Lord is not the unwitting victim of a monstrous betrayal, nor the patsy of Jerusalem and Rome. He goes to the cross out of love for the Father who has decreed it to be so.
I am reminded here of a scene from C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The Christ-figure, Aslan the Lion, has willingly surrendered himself to the White Witch in exchange for the life of the foolish and selfish boy Edmund. The Witch cackles with glee and she binds Aslan to the Stone Table and cruelly shaves off his magnificent mane. She has what she wants — Aslan’s life — and has no intention of keeping up her end of the bargain once he’s out of the way. She and her minions believe that they’ve won, and there seems to be no hope.
Except that Aslan knows something the White Witch does not, what he calls the “Deep Magic”: “If a willing Victim that has committed no treachery is killed in a traitor’s stead, the Stone Table will crack; and even death itself would turn backwards.”
Smackdown, Narnia style.
Satan comes to win a victory over Jesus. But Jesus turns that victory to defeat. The evil of the cross will not show the world the power of the empire, nor the power of Satan himself, but the love and obedience of the Son. Indeed, remember that Jesus told his disciples that their love for him should result in obedience (John 14:15); the cross was thus the ultimate example for them to follow.
If they are to take up their own crosses as disciples, in the face of the reality of evil, they must do so in the confidence of knowing that they follow the One who has already won the victory.