Episode 40: The Failure of Satan to Thwart God's Plan

Peace to Live By Episode 40: The Failure of Satan to Thwart God's Plan - Daniel Litton
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[Transcripts may not match broadcasted sermon word for word, and may contain extra material that was cut from the broadcast due to time constraints]

       I hope everyone is doing well today.

       All the way throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry, and up to the point where he went to the cross, Satan was constantly trying to foil God’s plan. He wanted to stop God’s plan of saving humans through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for us, so that no one would have any hope of every being saved from their sins. Well, as we know, God always wins. His plans cannot be stopped, and even though Satan can seemingly try to give God a run for his money, God will always accomplish what he sets out to and intends to accomplish. God always wins.

       Today, I want to examine how Satan tried to stop God’s plan in the life of our Lord, all the way from the beginning of Jesus’ life to the cross. Indeed, Satan was always active on the sidelines, and then on the front lines, hoping to have grand success at foiling God’s plan. But what Satan doesn’t understand is that God’s Word must be accomplished in all aspects, and it is and will be accomplished. Remember what Jesus has told us, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18, ESV).

       We don’t have to go very far into the life of Jesus to see Satan trying to stop God’s plan in action. To get started, if we go to Matthew chapter 2 we can see Satan working through King Herod. Remember, King Herod was very concerned about the birth of the Christ, for he was afraid the King of the Jews would be born, grow up, and try to overtake him. We find in Matthew chapter 2 that Herod was asking the chief priests of Israel and the scribes where the Christ would be born, and of course they told him Bethlehem. And he tried to get in on the good side with the wise men who had seen the great star in the sky, which was to lead them to Jesus the infant. Herod wanted the wise men to tell them where the Christ was, because really, in reality, Satan was working through him to try to kill the child.

       We understand that after the wise men had visited with Jesus, giving him their gifts, that they were warned in a dream not to return to King Herod, and they obey the Lord and did not. Then we read in Matthew chapter 2, in verse 16, “Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men” (Matthew 2:16, ESV). Now, he figured this out by calculating the time from when the star first appeared, as told by the wise men in their visit to Herod before they went to see Jesus. And we can see Satan’s great evil in his murdering of all of these Israeli children. He wanted to kill Jesus.

       Now, both Matthew and Luke recorded for us the temptations of Jesus by Satan in the wilderness, or desert. It was part of God’s plan, however, for the Spirit of God led him there. And we see how Satan pressed him hard. Remember, Jesus was at the end of his fasting period, as Matthew tells us. First, Satan tried to appeal to his basic hunger, trying to appeal to the weakness of his flesh. And this is where Satan is most successful with us most of the time. When that didn’t work, Satan tried to get Jesus to show off his power and connection to God by getting him to jump off the Temple in front of everyone, but land on the ground okay. Of course, Jesus wasn’t going to do that, as that would be a misuse of God’s power, among other things.

       Finally, Satan tried to get him to bow and worship him, as he promised him he would have given him all the kingdoms of the world if he did. Luke recorded for us that Satan said, ““To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours” (Luke 4:6-7, ESV). And interestingly enough, Satan probably could have given all of them to him, at that time. So, Satan tried to get Jesus to be impatient. But Jesus didn’t yield of course, and now, we see that he has everything in his hands, not just the kingdoms of the Word. He is God himself. He was God himself and is God himself. And Satan even tempted him with other things, it would appear, which neither Matthew nor Luke actually recorded, but Luke did tells us, “And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13, ESV).

       Now, we see that when Satan cannot get to Jesus directly, he then moves his focus to perverting the minds of the Scribes and Pharisees to come against Jesus. He plays off their pride and desire to do things their way, which is really Satan’s way anyway. Satan leads them to constantly test and bother Jesus, be jealous of him, and say things against him, both publicly and privately. We see even in Matthew chapter 12 that the Pharisees were saying that the miracles Jesus did were coming from Beelzebul, the prince of demons, instead of from God himself. But Jesus knew what they were thinking, and he even said to them,

““Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matthew 12:25-28, ESV).

And Jesus warned them that their speaking against the Holy Spirit would not be forgiven by God. But the warning did not even seem to phase them at all.

       Satan would also try to use Peter, Jesus’ chief follower, in order to make Jesus believe he was not going to have to go to the cross. I think we all remember that story. It was that famous conversation that occurred between Jesus and Peter, of which Jesus rebuked Peter. It is found in Matthew chapter 16, among other passages. It is recorded:

“From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Matthew 16:21-23, ESV).

So, we can see here that Satan had been filling Peter’s mind, through Peter’s own weakness, to try to convince Jesus that what God had already told him would happen to him in Jerusalem wouldn’t actually in fact happen to him. As an aside, the Holy Spirit told Paul what would happen to him in Acts chapter 21.

       So the chief priests and Pharisees would continue to come against Jesus, and be a bother to him throughout his ministry. And they would be the ones that Satan would use to devise plans to have him arrested. Matthew tells us, in chapter 26, “the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him” (Matthew 26:3-4, ESV). But Satan wasn’t just working in their minds. He was also working in the mind of Judas Iscariot, who was one of Jesus’ close disciples, being one of the Twelve. Indeed, Jesus had many disciples, but Judas was numbered in the twelve top ones, the ones closets to him.

       Jesus eats the Passover with the Twelve, and he then institutes the Lord’s Supper. During the actual Passover meal, it is recorded by John,

““It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night” (John 13:26-30, ESV).

So, it wasn’t only Judas’ bad thinking that led to Christ’s betrayal, but Satan was actually behind the whole thing. And Jesus had him leave before instituting the Lord’s Supper. And Luke tells us that after the Lord’s Supper, Jesus said to the Eleven disciples: “For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors. ’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment” (Luke 22:37, ESV). Jesus had to go to the cross, for the Old Testament had testified that it would be so.

       You see, that’s what we often don’t understand about things in the Bible that happened or even things that happen in our world today. When evil things happen, it’s not just that a person had a bad thought, or series of bad thoughts, that led to an evil deed. It’s not that people are only the problem. But really, Satan and his demons are behind great acts of wickedness. They were behind things like the September 11 terrorist attacks, or even to use a more recent example, the pilot that flew that airplane into the side of a mountain. That wasn’t just that troubled pilot’s decision. Satan and his demons are behind those types of things. There is a spiritual war going on, which we, as humans, cannot see with our eyes, at least, most of the time. But we do see the results of that warfare, like in the violence I just talked about. Jesus tells us of Satan, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him” (John 8:44, ESV).

       Now if we go to the Garden at Gethsemane, in Matthew chapter 26, before Jesus was arrested, Jesus was taking in the full realization of all that was about to take place. He even said to Peter, James, and John, ““My soul is very sorrowful, even to death” (Matthew 26:38, ESV). Now, it could be that Satan was tempting Jesus to walk away from the cross, since Jesus knew what was going to happen. And Jesus prays to God and asks him to take the cup of the cross away from him. He asks God if there is a way everyone in the world can have a chance at being saved without him going to the cross. But God knew that there was no other alternative, and Jesus was obedient to the Father, to the point of death, even death on a Roman cross, as the Apostle Paul talked about in Philippians 2:8. If Jesus hadn’t gone to the cross, you, me, and everyone in the world would have been condemned. But despite the unbelievable suffering the stood before him, he went to the cross for all of us. He despised the shame, as the writer of Hebrews has told us (see Hebrews 12:2). He knew the joy that would be his afterward.

       So, let us turn to Luke chapter 22 because I want us to get a full picture here into what was taking place when Jesus was arrested. This is a long chapter, but let us go to verse 47. Luke gives us the best account of what happened. Jesus had been praying to God and was also struggling with Peter, James, and John to get them to stay awake and pray. But they didn’t. Jesus saw his betrayer coming, with the mob. We’ll pick up in verse 47. It is written:

“While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness” (Luke 22:47-53, ESV).

That last verse here is the key, for Jesus said, “this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” He had already testified to the Jewish leaders that they were of their father, the devil, and worked to do his wishes. And here again was Satan’s wishes in full bloom, for Jesus was being arrested.

       We can see the violence and malice of the Jewish leaders when Jesus went from trial to trial, in a hurried up, illegal way in order to have him put to death. As we are in Luke chapter 22, let’s go ahead and look at Jesus before the Jewish council. Let’s pick up in verse 66:

“When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council, and they said, “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips” (Luke 22:66-71, ESV).

So, Jesus makes it clear to them that he is in fact the Christ, the Son of God. But like he told the leaders, they wouldn’t believe him. They thought there was no way this man could be the Messiah, for he didn’t do things the way they did them and he wasn’t full of pride and pomp like they were.

       It would seem that somehow Satan thought he could make Jesus’ death so bad that there was no way he could rise from the dead. For Jesus went through great suffering on his way to the cross, as he endured the flogging, mocking, beatings, and even carrying his own cross. And then after Jesus had died, he had a spear pierced through his side. Satan made sure that Jesus’ persecutors and executioners gave Jesus that hardest time possible. He made sure it was miserable, perhaps in hopes that Jesus would give up and quit. But Jesus endured all the way to the end. Therefore, after carrying his own cross but with the help of Simon, Jesus was crucified. And with him were two criminal as crucified. Let’s continue in Luke’s account, starting in verse 32:

“Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.

“One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:32-43, ESV).

So, even in the midst of all of that, someone had common sense. And it was one of the robbers who had been crucified with Jesus. And even though he had just been saved (and he wasn’t water baptized by the way), he was going to be with Jesus in paradise that very day!

       So, we all know the story of how Jesus was pierced, taken off the cross, and then put in the tomb by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. So, despite all of Satan’s efforts to keep Jesus in the tomb or seemingly somehow prevent him from resurrecting, even trying to guard the tomb with a small army, one angel would cause this army to become as dead men. Matthew records this awesome account, in Matthew chapter 28. It says,

“And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men” (Matthew 28:2-4, ESV).

Therefore, Satan’s setup of a small Roman band of soldiers was no match against just one angel from Heaven. And since Satan could not stop Jesus’ resurrection, he turned back to the hearts of the Jewish leaders. He got them to have the guards lie about what had happened at the tomb. Matthew records for us starting in verse 11:

“behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep. ’ And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day” (Matthew 28:11-15, ESV).

So, Satan’s final sin was getting the Jewish people to disbelieve in the resurrection of Jesus, the Messiah for them and for the whole world. It was still that way when Matthew wrote his account, and it is still that way today for the Jewish people.

       In conclusion today, perhaps you've been listening to all that I've been talking about, about how Satan tried in many ways to stop God’s plan of Jesus going to the cross. Perhaps you, yourself, are all too familiar with Satan’s bad plans in your own life. Perhaps you have followed the wrong ways of doing things, and your life has gotten messed up pretty bad. The Good News today is that God can put you on a straight path, and make things right with you and him. He can give you his Truth, which will lead your life in the right direction, away from the failing ways of this world and from Satan’s wrong paths.

       But perhaps maybe what I've said today has been new to you, or maybe you've heard it many times before, but you have never believed on Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins. Remember, God wants everyone to come to know him—no matter who you are. He offers his free gift of salvation and eternal life to whoever will believe in him. He died on the cross as your perfect substitute and rose from the dead defeating the power of sin and Satan altogether. Jesus can set you free from your sins today, and he can also give you freedom from their stronghold. You don't have to keep living in bondage today. No matter what you've done—all sin can be forgiven through Jesus' sacrifice on your behalf on the cross.

       Being at peace with God is very important today. You don't want to leave this earth without that peace. Don't think you're smarter than God today. No one—no matter how smart you think you are, no matter how much credit you give yourself—can escape from God's wrath in the future apart from Christ. God doesn't want to have to send anyone to Hell for their sins against him. Don't choose hell today. Don't choose to keep your sin today. Turn from your sin, and accept Jesus' perfect sacrifice on your behalf. He did it for you, so you can truly be free. No one is really free apart from the freedom that God offers through Christ. Oh, you may think you're free, but you haven't experienced true freedom until your in a right and everlasting relationship with God, the Creator of all things.

       If you would like to accept Jesus today as your personal Lord and Savior, then follow my lead in this prayer:

God, I am not right with you. I have sinned my whole life, living doing things the way I have wanted to do them. But today I accept your free gift of salvation and eternal life through Jesus. I believe Jesus did die on the cross for my sins, and that he rose from the dead and is back in heaven with you. I give my life back to you, Father, and want you to make me new. I want to be like Jesus. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.

       Let us pray:

       Holy Father, thank you for the opportunity to revisit accounts from your Word of things that actually happened—that really took place in the past, many of which we think about every year at this time of Easter. It is good for us to consider these things anew again today. I pray for those who have just accepted Jesus. I pray that you would lead them in their new faith and make them become like Jesus in their lives. I pray for those who still haven't accepted the Truth. I pray that they would take your words seriously and accept them, Lord, for no one ever knows how time they have left on this earth. Bless us today, blessed Father, and make us become more like Jesus. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

-Daniel Litton