Saturday, January 3, 2015

Sending the Seventy, part 24: Treading on Serpents and Scorpions

The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name." And He said to them, "I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven." (Luke 10:17-20 NASB)
(Note: This post is a continuation of part 23, and you can read it here.) 

Our verse today is one of those that has been part of a controversy in the church because of the ones who have interpreted it, in conjunction with Mark 16, to suggest that "true believers" of Christ can handle serpents (rattlesnakes and other poisonous snakes) without harm, even when a snake bite results in envenomation.  When we look at this passage in context, however, I believe we will see it a little differently. The seventy sent-ones had just returned from their journey of sharing the good news of Jesus and healing the sick. They were filled with joy over the results of their labors and rejoiced that "even the demons are subject to us in Your name." 

They rejoiced in what they saw with their physical eyes. Jesus, however, shared and rejoiced in what He saw with His spiritual eyes. "I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning." Immediately following that statement, He said, "Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you." Because Jesus was speaking in the previous sentence from a spiritual perspective, He was almost certainly continuing in a spiritual perspective. 

The word translated as "tread" is pateĊ, which is defined by BLB as "to advance by setting foot upon, tread upon, to encounter successfully the greatest perils from the machinations and persecutions with which Satan would fain thwart the preaching of the gospel."  The idea of "treading upon serpents" is that we would walk over the serpent successfully and walk past all the power of the enemy (Satan) as  we, through our obedient service to Christ, participate in the destruction of the kingdom of the evil one.  The "treading" does not require us to pick up a literal snake. The "treading" requires us to obey Christ in sharing the Good News of Christ to all we encounter, thus overcoming the power of that spiritual serpent, Satan, by the power of God Almighty.

The very first prophecy of the Messiah occurs in Genesis 3:15 as God cursed the serpent because of his part in the sin of Adam and Eve. These words of Jesus in Luke 10 are almost certainly a direct reference to that curse. Read it and consider.

"And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel." Geneses 3:15 NASB

Clearly, the heel of Christ and the head of the serpent Satan have a figurative encounter here. Although the serpent Satan will deliver a bruise to Christ's heel, it will not be a terminal wound. The heel of Christ, however, will "bruise" the head of Satan, delivering a fatal blow. (If the head is crushed, it is fatal.) 

Let's put all this rambling together. When we serve Christ in obedience as the seventy sent-ones did, we participate in destruction of the kingdom of the evil one. Christ has given his obedient followers the authority to "tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy". He has given us the authority to participate with Him in the fatal bruise on the head of the serpent Satan. If we have authority to tread "over all the power of the enemy", then there is no power of Satan that can stand against the power of the Lord Jesus Christ. No power. None whatsoever. 

Selah. Pause and consider.

If there is no power of Satan that can stand against the Kingdom of God, why do we allow him to cause such havoc in our lives? Why do we submit to the temptations he offers us? It is well past time for the body of Christ to embrace this truth. Jesus has given us all the authority we need to tread on the head of the enemy of our soul, resisting his temptations, and defeating his power in our lives. Let us embrace the truth that we can be free if we will be free, and live accordingly.