Monday, December 31, 2012

Satan vs. Judas; Satan vs. Peter

Recently I became perplexed as heard two separate Bible passages in the same sitting.  On occasion I listen to the Bible on audio CD during my daily commute.  When I put in the Gospel of Luke to listen to the Christmas narrative, I continued listening.  At chapter 22, I heard this:
"Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve.  He (Judas) went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him (Jesus) to them.  And they were glad, and agreed to give him money.  So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray (Jesus) to them in the absence of a crowd." (verses 3-6)
and this:
(Jesus speaking to Peter): "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.  And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.  Peter said to him, 'Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.'  Jesus said, 'I tell you Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.'" (verses 31-34)
This blog post is to call attention to these contrasting events and see what we can learn about God through them.

Here's what is going on:  the first Christmas has come and gone about 33 years ago.  The Jewish Passover is coming, this particular one will be what we call the Last Supper.  Jesus is about to be arrested and crucified.  As this good vs. evil drama plays out, Satan engages by trying to get two of the 12 disciples to come over to the dark side. He completely succeeds in getting Judas, but Jesus interceeds for Peter.  What do we make of this difference?

We can find a clue in the Old Testament book of Job.  Satan wants to torment Job, a righteous man, thinking severe trials will move Job to abandon his trust in God.  However, Satan can only act with God's permission, and God grants limited permission.  At the end, God's goodness triumphs over the Devil.  The insight we gain here is that God is sovereign, even against Satan's schemes.

Fast Forward to the Passover, and we have a similar situation.  Satan wants Peter, but cannot have him without God's permission.  Jesus grants that Peter would later deny Jesus three times, but through Jesus's prayer, Peter repents and is restored.

In the case of Judas, it appears as if Jesus allows Satan to "enter into" Judas, and we later come to find out that Jesus's arrest, leading to his crucifixion, occurs through the betrayal of Judas.

We can conclude then that the betrayal, arrest, and death of Jesus are God's plan.  God did not watch helplessly as a good teacher is treated unfairly.  God did not scramble for a "Plan B."  Instead, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit saved us through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, using Satan and sinful people to achieve the plan.

This past Christmas season has been difficult to understand.  We see the good vs. evil battle all around us:  a time of giving vs. economic uncertainty, peace vs. anguish, goodwill toward others vs. shootings and death.

Please know that God is in control.  It seems counter-intuitive that God would ordain evil to bring about good.  It seems unfair when trials and bad things happen to us.  A simple blog post like this won't make the pain go away.  What we can do, though, is put our trust in a Savior who did not stay a baby in a manger, but who "works all things together for good (Romans 8:28)"

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