The Cross and Satan’s Deceptions (17:2)

How easily Jesus could have used His power to blot out His tormentors at the cross. And He knew, moreover, that if He used His power, the people would be pleased. They would follow Him, but for the wrong reason. The people were looking for a Messiah that would use His power to conquer their enemies and set up an earthly kingdom where they could rule over the world. What a temptation it must have been for Christ to demonstrate His power and His majesty, to come down off the cross and blot out the Roman soldiers, to see all the people fall at His feet and worship Him. If He had done that, a cry would have gone throughout Judea and the countries beyond. “The Messiah has come! The Messiah has come!” How rewarding that might have seemed for at least a moment.

Satan had done his best to break down Jesus’ trust in His Father and in His mission to reveal the truth about God. But the things that God desires the most; love, trust, peace and freedom; are not produced by shows of power or force. They are not produced by terrifying people until they fall on their faces in fear. So Satan watched in frustrated fury as Jesus, instead of becoming angry, said to His tormentors: “I forgive you” (Luke 23:34). Satan watched Jesus saying to John, “Please look after My mother” (John 19:25-27). Satan watched Jesus say to the repentant thief, “I would be pleased to remember you when I come into My kingdom” (based on Luke 23:42-43).

Jesus’ behavior at the cross completely refuted Satan’s charges that God is arbitrary, exacting, vengeful, unforgiving, and severe. All the other questions that had been raised about God’s character and government had also been clearly answered, not with claims, but in very costly and painful demonstration (see “Three Questions Regarding the Character of God” in Chapter Eight). The angels in the universe got the message. They have been celebrating ever since. How do you think Satan feels when he hears lyrics like the following?

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty. . . . You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power. . . . Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. Who will not fear [reverence], you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed (Rev 4:8, 11; 15:3-4, NIV).

The object of this praise is God’s own righteousness. That is the crucial issue in the cosmic view that the great controversy theme provides. In the narrower view, we are more preoccupied with what God has done for you and me. But if that were the primary focus, and it is an important one (Rev 5:9-10), they would not be singing about God’s righteousness. God has been accused of being unrighteous and unworthy of the trust and worship of His children throughout the universe. That is also the theme of Romans 3:25-26. Jesus died to demonstrate the righteousness and the trustworthiness of our God. Even before the victory on the cross, as Jesus watched the disciples gradually learning the truth about His Father, He could say that He “saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18, RSV).

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