Perhaps inspired by some of our Christmas Carols, we often paint an ideal picture of the first Christmas. Cattle were lowing quietly and the baby Jesus – no crying He made. I’m sure on some level there was a holy hush the night Jesus was born, after all God's plan was being unveiled in our midst. But we do well to remember the intense spiritual warfare which swirled around Christ’s birth.
The Apostle John informs us in Revelation that Satan sought to devour and destroy the Christ child the moment He was born. This was played out in real-time when Herod issued his edict for all baby boys in Bethlehem to be killed; an effort to wipe out Herod's perceived competition. This was not the first time Satan opposed the person or work of Christ, nor was it the last!
Centuries prior, Pharaoh and the Egyptians feared the Israelites would overtake the land. He ordered all male Hebrew babies to be killed. Why would Satan incite such a travesty through this ethnic cleansing? It was an attempt to disrupt the lineage of Christ; the Messiah was promised to come through Abraham’s seed. No Jews, no Savior.
Now let’s fast forward to Christ’s ministry. As Satan was unsuccessful in wiping Him out at birth, he tried to take Him down at the beginning of His ministry. Remember the temptations of Christ? “All these kingdoms and more, I’ll give you; just bow down and worship me.” What was Satan after? If Christ were to sin by worshiping Satan, the only One worthy to die for sinners would be disqualified. Take out the sinless aspect of Jesus’ sacrifice, and He has died in vain.
When Jesus began speaking plainly about Calvary, who was there to rebuke Him for such an absurd notion? Our friend Peter. Totally missed the point: “No, Lord…you’ll never die such a death!” We would expect more from Jesus’ student. Jesus’ reply sheds light on what was really going on: “Get behind me, Satan.” Satan’s efforts to dissuade Jesus of His need to suffer reveal his intent to sidetrack Jesus from the cross, for Calvary was the last place he wanted Jesus to move toward. A Savior who doesn’t die for the people is no Savior at all.
Satan’s efforts only intensified at Calvary. When was the last time you sweat drops of blood when you prayed? Satan’s buffeting of Christ was so intense an angel was sent to strengthen Him. Jesus agonized over the brutality of the path ahead, but submitted Himself to His Father’s will. Imagine hanging on the cross, half-dead, at eye level of those hurling insults at you. Shamed and in excruciating pain, I’m sure Christ was tempted to push the Easy Button and summon the angels to His rescue. Then there was the peanut gallery on either side of Him – in His dying moments He was insulted by convicted criminals suffering justly for their actions. From soldiers to bystanders and religious leaders to criminals, the temptation was you don’t belong here, get down while you can! Imagine if Christ, in His humanity, had succumbed to his ego being trampled and walked away from it all.
Satan always opposes the person and work of Christ; he opposed His birth and He opposed His death. And how is this relevant to us? The Apostle John also informs us in Revelation that Satan now chases after the true Israel: those who obey God’s commands and hold to the testimony of Jesus. Christians can expect the same satanic onslaught in our own lives, because he hates it when we yield to the Spirit and raise our children in His ways. He is full of fury as he knows his time is short.
To temper this stark reality, remember three truths this Christmas. First, despite all Satan’s opposition, Jesus Christ was born according to God’s plan at just the right time. Try as he might, Satan could never spoil that holy night, for it was of course God's plan. Second, Satan’s efforts to dissuade or disqualify Jesus from His sufferings were inconsequential. Christ suffered from before the foundation of the world and crushed Satan at the Cross. God’s plans are rooted in eternity are not subject to majority vote. The victory belongs to Christ and we are co-heirs with Him. Finally, Christ always leads us to victory as we trust Him and follow His leading, for greater is He who is in us than He who is in the world. And, He has promised to never leave nor forsake us. This Christmas, be alert to the spiritual warfare inherent in our lives. And, remember the Reason for the Season: Christ the Lord was born and laid down His life for us all! Praise God for unchanging hope and enduring joy.
- Pastor Colin