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November 30, 2014
*Intro* – The SS teacher was teaching the students the meaning of Hallelujah.
When she finished she asked, “Now, what word do church members shout with joy?” “Bingo!” cried one child.
Well, hopefully, our joy in Christ goes just a bit deeper than that, right?
It did for the 72 as they returned from their successful ministry preparing the way for Jesus.
But even they needed a critical mid-course correction.
Jesus joined them in rejoicing over their success, but eventually He pointed them higher.
Last week we saw:
Rejoice in Serving Others*
God has a mission for every believer – something that will take advantage of their secular profession while at the same time bringing glory to Him.
As there are no 2 snowflakes alike, so there are no 2 people alike.
Our greatest joy will come in finding and doing God’s mission for us in serving others.
Rejoice in Subordination of Evil*
The 72 were ecstatic to discover their power over demons.
Jesus replied that in every such victory He saw Satan’s empire crumbling.
Ultimate victory was won by Jesus at the cross where He paid the penalty for sin and snatched victory away from Satan for every person who would ever believe in Him.
But what he won potentially is made actual in every soul that comes to Him in faith, in every demonic temptation rejected, even in every cup of cold water offered in faith.
We can rejoice that we battle in a winning cause.
Rejoice in Security of Believers*
V. 19, “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.”
Not only are they participating in the destruction of Satan’s kingdom, but Jesus adds a new cause for rejoicing.
“Nothing shall hurt you.”
That’s a big promise.
The word “tread” means to stomp or trample underfoot.
The word was used to describe the process of putting great bunches of grapes in a vat with an opening at the bottom.
As people tromped barefoot on the grapes the juice flowed out while the residue stayed in the vat.
Jesus is saying, I’m giving you guys authority to trample on and destroy serpents and scorpions.
The big question: are serpents and scorpions to be understood literally or figuratively.
Some say they are literal.
They use as example Paul in Acts 28 when, after a shipwreck, while gathering firewood, a viper attaches itself to him.
Then Acts 28:5, “He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm.”
They further point to Jesus’ comment in Mark 16:18, “they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them;” and presumptuously hold worship services that feature snake-handling acts, claiming God’s protection.
This almost always ends badly; someone gets killed.
Paul was protected by God from an accidental encounter with a viper, not while putting on a show.
And most of your Bibles will tell you that vv.
9-20 in Mark 16 were not part of the original text, thus, not part of the God-breathed word.
Even if they were, Jesus’ words, they infer protection against incidental danger, not an invitation to put on a circus act.
But several factors suggest a figurative, rather than literal interpretation of the serpents and scorpions.
First, in the near context the disciples talk about demons and Jesus about Satan.
This suggests that serpents and scorpion picture the evil of demons here.
Second, in a discussion involving demons, Satan and serpents, the disciples’ minds would have naturally turned to Gen 3 where Satan approaches Eve as what?
As a serpent.
Thus we have biblical precedent for serpents representing demons.
This analogy is picked up in the book of Revelation where 5 times serpents are referenced, always speaking of Satan or demons as in Rev 20:2, “And he (an angel) seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan.”
Third, the subject here is victory over Satan.
To suddenly introduce literal serpents and scorpion would make no sense.
Finally, Jesus interprets Himself: “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy.”
Who is the enemy here?
A den of snakes?
Of course, not.
Paul describes the enemy in Eph 6:12, “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
Over that enemy, Jesus gives His followers authority by faith.
In light of that He promises, “Nothing shall hurt you.”
Great promise.
Given to all believers in passages like Psa 91:10-12, “no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”
Or Psa 34:7, “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.”
Or Lu 21:18, “But not a hair of your head will perish.”
Nothing can hurt you.
Not a hair of your head will perish.
Scandalous promises.
YET we know that all 11 apostles (less Judas) were severely persecuted and all by John died a martyr’s death.
So did Jesus’ promise of security fail?
Is the insurance policy void?!
No! Jesus’ promise did not fail.
So what gives?! What gives is God’s perspective is wider than ours.
This is not a promise we will never suffer.
It promises no pain without purpose!
It promises meaning behind suffering.
We think suffering is incompatible with victory over Satan; it is not.
The greatest example of this is Jesus.
Why did He come in the first place?
I John 3:8, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”
Jesus came to destroy Satan.
So how did He do that?
By grabbing him by the scruff of the neck and casting him into hell?
Is that how Jesus destroyed Satan?
Just the opposite.
Heb 2:14 says God became man, “that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.”
Jesus destroyed Satan on the cross?
Yes! How could that be?
It could be because there the perfect and holy Son of God suffered the wrath of the Father for the sin of the world.
It could be because having suffered in our place He was raised from the dead!
It looked like Jesus was destroyed.
Three days later He was back and it was Satan that was destroyed.
And now He gifts us to suffer with Him to actualize the defeat of our enemy.
When Jesus says “not a hair of your head will perish,” He means though you die, you will not perish.
When Jesus says, “nothing shall hurt you” He means nothing can happen to your ultimate detriment.
In light of eternity, you will not perish.
In light of eternity, you cannot be hurt.
Not those committed to Him.
He will build a hedge around us like He built around Job which means that even if you suffer physical pain, it will be for God’s glory and our good.
This is like no other insurance policy anywhere.
No one else can make this guarantee.
From a human perspective, it often looks all wrong.
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