Posts Tagged ‘battle between good and evil’

Satan falling from heaven

July 6, 2019

Pentecost 4 – 2019
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
Marian Free

In the name of God who has power over life and death, good and evil. Amen.

“I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning.” Jesus’ response to the mission of the seventy is quite incredible. What was it about their actions that led Jesus to make such a pronouncement? No other gospel records the sending out of seventy disciples and no other gospel records Jesus’ dramatic, visionary exclamation. It is only in Luke that the seventy (some versions say 72) are, like John the Baptist sent out before Jesus to prepare the way for him. Interestingly, the commissioning of the seventy follows Jesus’ severe words about discipleship – “let the dead bury their own dead.” That means that those who remain understand the consequences of following Jesus. They must leave everything behind and there is no safety net.

When Jesus appoints the seventy, he gives them strict instructions as to where to go, what to pack and how to respond to rejection. The disciples are directed to take nothing except their faith to support them – no purse, no bag, no sandals. Unarmed, they are sent out as “lambs in the midst of wolves”. Now they have come back to Jesus. Not only have they have survived, they have also learnt that God is to be trusted! No wonder that they have returned with joy – amazed and elated by what they have achieved in Jesus’ name: “in your name even the demons submit to us!” The disciples are like a bunch of school children, bursting to share their adventures and successes with Jesus.

Underlying the Gospel of Luke is a cosmic battle between good and evil, between Jesus and Satan. The battle begins at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry when Jesus is tempted in the wilderness. Here Jesus has an apparently decisive victory over Satan. To Satan’s disappointment (and surprise), Jesus is not seduced by easy solutions, marvelous feats or by the promise of power. Jesus’ responses to Satan make it quite clear that he will serve God, and God alone, no matter what the cost.  Apparently, Satan is not convinced that the battle has been won, he still believes he has a chance to gain the ascendancy. He does not slink away with his tail between his legs (as he appears to do in the gospels of Mark and Matthew). Instead, we are told that he “departs from Jesus until an opportune time”. From Satan’s point of view, it is not over till it is over. As we will see, Satan appears again at the end of the story when he enters into Judas Iscariot who, spurred on by him, will betray Jesus to the chief priests and the offices of the Temple police. (Having failed to influence Jesus, Satan finds a weak link in Judas and possibly in the other disciples whom “he will sift like wheat”.)

Jesus proves more than a match for his adversary – he knows that the stakes are high, but nothing will prevent him from focusing on the task ahead. His exclamation in response to the disciple’s report on their mission may reflect Jesus’ confidence that, whatever happens to him, his mission will not fail. It is clear to him that the disciples have discovered their own role in the defeat of evil. Like Jesus, they have not succumbed to the temptation to rely entirely on themselves. From the way in which they report their experience it is obvious that the disciples understand that it is not by their own power or ability that the demons are cast out, rather is the power of Jesus’ name that causes the demons to submit. The disciples’ self-awareness and humility, their willingness to give credit where credit is due may give Jesus an assurance that his mission is in the right hands. Jesus can be sure that Satan will not regain his place in the world – even after Jesus’ death.

No wonder Jesus exclaims: “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning.” It is a prophetic statement based on his new found evidence that the disciples are to be trusted, that they understand that God alone can defeat evil and that ministry in the service of God is not about self-aggrandisement, but about trusting in God and giving credit where credit is due.

In today’s world, in which the balance of power is shifting and in which self-centredness and greed appear to be gaining an upper hand, can we still be confident that the powers of evil have been defeated? Was Jesus prophetic statement misguided? Was his trust in we, his modern disciples, misguided? Are we tempted to rely on our own strengths to combat the power of evil or are we, like Jesus and the seventy, ready and willing to ignore our need for recognition and success so that we might truly submit to God and allow God to work through us so that evil does not and cannot get the upper hand?

May Jesus’ prophetic vision be as true now as it was when he proclaimed: “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning” and affirmed all that the disciples had done.

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