Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Bruise the Head

    When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness he appealed to His humanity with the bread, to His faith at the temple and to His pride at the mountain. In the back and forth of temptation and rebuttal, Jesus always refers to scripture. Satan does so only once after taking Jesus to the top of the Temple, urging Him to cast himself down and quoting Psalm 91: 11-12 he says, “For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. They will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone.” Recently while reading this psalm, I recognized these familiar verses and was surprised to read verse 13, “You will tread upon the lion and cobra, the young lion and the serpent you will trample down.” Lion and snake are metaphors used for Satan in scripture (Genesis 3, I Peter 5:8, Revelation 12:9).
   We usually consider the Resurrection as the moment when Christ fulfilled the prophecy of the Messiah’s victory over Satan given in Genesis 3:15 where God curses the serpent for deceiving Eve, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise Him on the heel.” It might be said that Jesus smacked down Satan pretty well in the Temptation also. He doesn’t quote Ps. 91:13 and Genesis 3:15 in reply at the temple but rather Deuteronomy 6:16, “Jesus said to him, ‘On the other hand, it is written, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'" Jesus never defends who He is to Satan. Why not? For one thing Satan only deserves rebuke, not correction. He is not eligible for rehabilitation. Nevertheless this threat to the sanctity of the Messiah is severe. If Jesus follows any suggestion of Satan, whether as menial as turning stone to bread or as catastrophic as falling at his feet in worship, the entire plan of Salvation turns to dust, a cosmic and unredeemable perversion of truth and righteousness. 
   In meeting the challenge of these temptations, the Messiah only defers to the glory of the Father, not the Son. Two roles were assigned to the Messiah by historic prophecy:  King and Servant. A kind of coronation is recorded in Psalm 2, “The One enthroned in heaven... speaks, ‘I have installed my King on Zion, My holy mountain.’” Then the speaker changes from the Father to the Son: “I will declare the LORD’s decree. He said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me and I will make the nations your inheritance and the ends of the earth your possession.’” Yet this is not the verse Jesus quotes to rebuke Satan. Instead He says, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’”
   In the context of His humanity, it is the Servant that prevails over the devil, not the King. Here may be a lesson for us to consider. When we battle temptation without resorting to our pride we “give the devil no opportunity” and we preserve the lordship of Jesus in our life. When we affirm scripture as Jesus did to counter temptation, rather than our self, we wield the sword of the Spirit and preserve our role as servants. As servants in submission to our Master we triumph over evil and remain a force for good.
    A wonderful expansion on our role as servants was recorded by the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:1-18. It is helpful to review and think on his thoughts there.