Imagine two highways that are freshly paved. The asphalt is beautifully black and smooth. Lines are new and clear. This is what I encountered in northwest Texas one evening to study at a colleague’s home about 25 miles away. After concluding our study session I was eager to return home to get some much-needed rest. I was happy to have completed my assignments and now I could enjoy the solitude of the ride back with a little music. After a few minutes into the drive an oncoming vehicle flashed their brights as they passed by. It was now past 10PM and the highway didn’t provide lighting. I was in my parent’s car so I thought to myself that perhaps I’ve not fully turned the headlights on. I checked. Yep! They’re on. Hmmmm. I wondered if one of my headlights was out. Oh well. I wouldn’t know for sure until I reached home. On I went. Then, a second vehicle flashed its brights. I began to feel frustrated, thinking, every car I pass is going to alert me. For a few minutes I didn’t encounter other vehicles. Then, after going up and over an overpass, another car flashes its brights and lays on the horn. “How rude!!” I thought. Suddenly, the most frightening thought occurred. I’d forgotten this route was a split highway. Nothing was wrong with my headlights. I was driving the wrong way!! I quickly pulled onto the correct southeast bound strip of highway. Within minutes a sheriff pulled me over and after approaching my car looked at me in amazement. We both knew I was incredibly lucky to escape oncoming traffic, especially over an overpass, and if I continued on wrong side of the highway I’d have probably gotten in a tragic accident. Obviously, I made it home safely (and without a ticket) to tell this story.
The point I’m making, is that individuals and nations easily choose the wrong way of life. They are even confident the path they’re on is the right one. There are two highways in human history. One is very deadly. Even when others flash their brights and sound loud horns its difficult to convince some that the road they’re on is frighteningly dangerous. After all, we’re all familiar with roads, especially well paved ones that allow us to ride along in comfort. Here’s our critical question to keep in mind: “How can people know they’re not heading in a dangerous direction, especially since the road they’re on appears to be the right one?”
The picture above comes from Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ. The evil-looking character is supposed to invoke the concept of Satan. Satan is likened by the apostle Paul in Ephesians 2:2 as the ruler of the kingdom of the air. The odd sounding adjective “air” likely refers to current common perceptions of a generation. This air contains powerful worldviews that run contrary to a life of godliness in Christ. While in this air, many people can believe themselves to be on the right road, going in the right direction, all at the same time, together, but they are actually understood by God as disobedient.
This is no new thing for Satan. Satan has always been “behind the scenes” when individuals and nations choose the deadly highway. Satan was the motivating force behind Adam and Eve’s tragic decision in the garden, and also when nations ruled the known world from the beginnings of history. Babylon, Greece, and Rome are just a few whose brutality and oppressive nature provided political success and the envy of the world as empires. Often, nations are reinforced by others that they’re on the right highway. For Israel, many reinforced the idea of a victorious Messiah, one that would judge the nations in righteousness. Israel, of course, supposed they’d be exempt from that Messianic judgment. They assured themselves they were on the right side of God’s road. This ruler of the kingdom of the air affected Israel’s long history. The chosen people of God were not exempt from the influence of foreign powers. In fact, Israel became just as poisoned psychologically, and they too, chose the deadly highway.
That deadly highway was full of people in Jesus’ day as well. Even many in Israel envisioned the Messianic promises to be forecasting a return to Davidic and Solomon-like domination of the world through the same kind of brutality and oppression they received from foreign nations. Peter was a clear example, echoing the fervor of fellow Jews when he rebuked Jesus for telling the disciples that their Messiah will be executed by His own people. Peter seemed to be taking Jesus aside after the accolade of his confession, uttering the truth that Jesus was indeed God’s chosen Messiah, and then letting Jesus know in a “not so subtle way” that the fate of Messiah was universal political victory, much like Alexander the Great. What Peter and the disciples would be later be stunned with is that those kind of ambitions, as familiar and natural as they were to many in Israel…were Satanic. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then to hear Jesus call Peter “Satan” (while looking at the disciples; Mark 8:33). “Get Behind Me!”
How Believers Can Flash Their Brights And Sound Their Horns. Today, many Westerners know that Jesus is the source of genuine life, peace and godliness. They know major truths about Jesus and His accomplishment of redeeming humanity. They know that Jesus was raised from death. They know of Jesus’ ascension to the throne of David, God’s throne (Luke 1:30ff). They don’t seem to know how revolutionary Jesus’ kingdom IS to most of the world. Jesus’ kingdom message with all of its contents packs the most powerful punch available.
Many nations around the world only perceive Jesus and His kingdom to be a threat. They understand clearly Jesus doesn’t share sovereignty with other belief systems. “All authority in heaven and on earth” was given to Jesus alone (Matthew 28:16). Corrupt governments that foster demonic allegiances are fully aware of the threats they’re faced with if Christ reigns in their communities and countries, and if their constructs of power actually don’t. Inevitably, they’ll lose their chokehold they’ve tightened on populations through Satanic methods. Sovereign arms of nations that should be used to lift up a heavy human race are instead seen constricting them, just like the arms of their father, the devil.
When Jesus was led into the desert to be tempted by the devil the devil tempted Jesus with authority over the kingdoms of the world. Luke 4:6 states that the devil claimed those kingdoms were in his possession. The verse actually says “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.” The tempting of Jesus in the desert needs to be seen as a special parallel to Israel in the wilderness. Israel, was God’s son, formed in Egypt’s womb of bondage, born out of the waters of the Red Sea. Israel found itself in the wilderness being tempted, but not as a nation that was intended to fail. They were to develop reliance upon God (the manna), and they were to trust God for deliverance from enemies. They were not to be self-seeking, self motivated. They were not to travel the deadly road of foreign nations. Jesus is seen in the desert not yielding to these Messianic temptations. If Jesus was God’s true King then He must not acquire what’s been promised Him via Satanic methods. Surely the Messiah shouldn’t starve to death! What would be wrong with taking advantage of heavenly power to satisfy hunger? Loyalty was at stake. God fed Israel in the wilderness. God will feed the Messiah when appropriate. …Why not take a shortcut to the kingdoms of the world? They were promised the Messiah anyway (cf. Luke 1:30-33), weren’t they? Yes, they were, but for self-serving reasons, not devilish reasons. Israel, God’s son (Exodus 4:22) was to be set high above all the nations of the earth (Deuteronomy 28:1) in order to bless all nations. They were to be a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6) and lead the nations to the one true God. Jesus is fulfilling Israel’s vocation. He’s being the blessing to all nations instead of using the kingdoms of the world for His personal benefit and glory. This is a different Messianic worldview than much of Israel’s. This is the road the nations need to be on.
More to come…
Categories: The Gospel Story