I remember in my early days of leading a church having an ultimately pointless discussion about if he entered a 100m race would Jesus always win. The other person had a view of Jesus as being something like superman and would obviously win any race he entered. That is not the Jesus I find in the gospels, he isn’t like the modern comic book superman, we shouldn’t reflect back from our culture onto Jesus. Jesus faced many challenges and battles, not least with Satan. However, the victory is with Jesus.
In this blog I conder the battle with Satan starting with the declaration found in Luke 10.
17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”
18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.
Luke starts describing the long journey Jesus makes towards Jerusalem, where he will eventually be crucified, very early in the gospel. In chapter 10 the journey is already underway. We see an urgency in sending 72 ahead of him to prepare the way, giving them detailed instructions about their role and mission. The verses above describe their return from ministry.
Jesus had begun his ministry with a private battle with Satan, the real enemy, about the nature of his ministry, this is recorded in Luke 4. The battle continues until the last great showdown, when the powers of darkness gather for their final assault. Luke 22v53. The victory won over Satan in the wilderness is here being implemented in the work of 72 of his followers prior to the final victory at the last battle.
Satan literally means accuser. He is found in the heavenly council in the book of Job. He is known for bringing unfounded accusations, even inciting people to do things for which he can then accuse them of later! His final act of rebellion is to turn Jesus away from his calling as Israel’s true Messiah. He has great power and is able to trick the Jewish leaders and others to work on his behalf. Luke makes it clear; the battle isn’t between Jesus and the Jewish leaders; it was really with Satan.
As Tom Wright says,
Jesus’ task is therefore not simply to teach people a new way of life; not simply to offer a new depth of spirituality; not simply to enable them to go to heaven after death. Jesus’ task is to defeat Satan, to break his power, to win the decisive victory which will open the way to God’s new creation in which evil, and even death itself, will be banished.”
So, whilst the 72 were on their urgent mission, Jesus had a vision where he saw that what they were doing was part of the great victory over Satan that started with Jesus overcoming Satan’s temptations and would be completed on the cross. What they were doing was fulfilling Jesus’ mission, which Satan was trying to stop.
However, we need to recognise that even though they were powerfully used, and Satan’s attempt to thwart the mission of Jesus was failing, the battle continued. Even Peter will be sifted like wheat by Satan, 22v31-32, before the final victory can be accomplished.
This is all relevant for us, Satan is defeated but he is still trying to halt Jesus’ mission. Like Peter we can be sifted. However most significantly, like the 72, when we participate in Jesus’ mission Satan falls like lightening from heaven.