By Brock Bondurant
Mark 14:36 – And he said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’
Coming off of Holy Week and all the celebration of Easter, I have one image that provides me comfort as we enter back into the reality of life in a fallen world. Each year after service on Good Friday, I go home and watch The Passion of the Christ. The image that I have in mind is the opening scene of the movie: Jesus, with his full humanity on display, prays in the garden submitting his will to the Father’s will and squashes the head of the snake with his foot. Satan’s last chance at keeping us in slavery is to convince Jesus not to go through with the agony of the cross. Jesus defeats Satan’s temptation – the snake’s last gasp – in the Garden of Gethsemane, moving forward in the fulfillment of Scripture’s first promise in Genesis 3. Speaking to the serpent God says:
15… ‘he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.’
This verse is thought to be the first allusion to the Cross of Christ in all of Scripture, the place where the serpent is defeated. My friend Walt points out how this great struggle between man and the serpent began in the Garden of Eden and ended in the Garden of Gethsemane.
The Garden of Gethsemane was also not the first time that these Jesus and Satan had met. I think back to Luke 4 when Satan goes about tempting Jesus. The devil even quotes Psalm 91 in his temptation:
11For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you, … 12On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.
But Satan must have had an incomplete version of the Psalm. The next verse is:
13You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
Funny how he left that part out.
As Jesus tramples the serpent, leaving the Garden to be put onto the cross that he himself bore, he accomplishes what no other could do. Jesus dies the final true death for all who believe, that by believing they would ascend into resurrected life with the Father for eternity as Christ himself did. With him to the cross he took all of our sin, all of our shame, and the serpent himself. The difference is that Jesus is no longer on that cross, but at the right hand of the Father. Satan on the other hand will not be resurrected. Death will stay dead. His final fate found in Revelation 20:10:
10and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
Even with the victory secure, we still feel the effects of the Enemy. The snake’s venom continues to coarse through our world. There is nowhere his venom isn’t found – our society, our government, our health and education systems, and even the Church. We ourselves have been struck – all of us. But just like Israel in the desert, we must look to the cross for healing – the cross on which the serpent was hung (Numbers 21:4-9). We must believe in the finished work of the cross of Christ. As we believe, we repent, effectively surrendering our will to the will of the Father in the same way of Jesus.
Though we may continue to feel the sting of snake’s bite, or even the pain of a bruised heel, we can take heart that we will join Jesus in Paradise (Luke 23:43). The serpent has been defeated.
31Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. – John 12:31-32