This Memorial Day weekend we remember those who have battled for our freedom and paid the ultimate sacrifice. Memorials have been erected on battlefields to mark the spot where people gave their lives, showing intense courage and bravery. Those markers are lasting memorials that commemorate a specific sacrifice or action that took place in a specific place at a specific time which made an impact in that moment for the good of others. It’s historical, worth remembering and should cause us to give thanks.
However, as Christians, we also think about the sacrifice that Jesus made on a battlefield called “Calvary.” His death on the cross, though in a specific time and at a specific place which surely made an impact on those present, also made an eternal impact which daily gives us a reason to remember, to give thanks, and to tell the story of the cross so that it can impact, in an eternal way, those who have not yet encountered the cross of Christ. In that respect, Christ’s Cross is not only a lasting memorial, but it is a living memorial.
The crucifixion was more than nails and pain. There was a battle of cosmic proportions going on and Jesus engaged in that battle with “both hands tied behind his back,” so to speak, as he hung there, nailed to the cross.
I Cor. 2:6-8 6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
Colossians 2:13-15 13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
1. I want to convey three things about the power of the cross to you this morning.
The first thought is simply this: Jesus is SMARTER than Satan and this is clearly seen through what took place at the cross.
Jesus may not have looked like a prizefighter, but that was probably intentional. His mission, even thought he talked about it often, was always just under the radar. Even though he told people why he had come, it was always presented in such a way that there was a mystery to it. It wasn’t clear to everyone until it needed to be.
Many times Jesus didn’t even look like he was in the fight. People leveled false accusations against him, and he just kept his mouth shut. The man who had more power than anyone who had ever lived went to his death as if he was powerless. You need to know that was on purpose. Jesus was so calm, cool and collected that those who opposed him didn’t realize he was always in control and was committed 100% to the fight at all times on his way to the cross.
He’d been fighting his whole life. It started when he was just a baby and Satan used King Herod’s jealousy to kill all the first born children in the land. Jesus made a great escape into Egypt with his parents’ help. The game was on from the beginning, my friend. Round one, Jesus.
Round two took place in the desert after Jesus had fasted for 40 days. In this weakened physical condition, Satan came and 3 times tried to defeat Jesus. Each time, Jesus, gave Satan the right hook of God’s Word until the devil was forced to leave in frustration. The tension was mounting. The battle was getting more intense. Round two, Jesus.
As Jesus moved from town to town ministering to the needs of the people, he seemed from a human standpoint, to be nothing more than a traveling preacher with his followers. But in the spiritual realm, he was a man continuously at war. Satan sent the Pharisees and the Scribes to try and trick him. Trap after trap was set. A deceiver was sent to infiltrate the ranks of those closest to Jesus. Judas became an undercover agent for the enemy forces. Satan was laying out a well-conceived plan where Judas would betray his Master into the hands of the enemy, but he would never “one up” Jesus.
Jesus knew everything Satan was planning, and he never left the ring for a second. It may have seemed to those who watched him that Jesus was vulnerable and weak, but from a spiritual standpoint, he was making every demon in hell tremble on a daily basis. One of Satan’s favorite side effects from sin’s entrance into God’s perfect world was sickness and disease. Jesus showed with every healing that he had power over every form of sickness and disease. When Jesus came to town, the blind could see, the deaf could hear, the leper was cleansed, and the crippled would leap for joy.
Jesus would walk right into the enemies’ camp and set captives free! Free from sin. Free from the past. Free to start a new life. “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more!” he said to the woman caught in adultery. Demons would shriek and cry out for mercy when Jesus came near. He could command legions of demons to leave, and they had no choice but to obey. They were powerless against him. Even death, that last great enemy was unable to stop him. When he would speak, the dead would live again! Everything Satan tried was useless. Jesus was a one-man army against the forces of hell. But all this was just the prelude to the final battle. This was just the overture if you will. Jesus was just getting tuned up.
It was gonna get messy and bloody before it was all over, but Jesus never turned back or retreated from the battle. You see, in a battle, you want to be in control. You want to pick the time and place where the confrontation will occur. I want you to know that Creator God has never been out of control of anything at any time. It was never “iffy” if this whole cross idea would go God’s way and gain us the victory through Jesus. We weren’t hoping for the bounce on the three point play or hoping that the ball would stay just inside the foul line. Christ’s death by crucifixion doesn’t in any way suggest he was impaired, incarcerated or being held against his will. Everything that took place was by Divine design according to the will of God when God said so.
Satan didn’t have the upper hand at any time. When he entered Judas and Judas betrayed Jesus, he was playing right into God’s hands and was a catalyst for seeing God’s plan go forward, and he didn’t even know it. Satan was outsmarted at every turn. I Cor. 2:8 says, “8None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” This verse tells us Satan didn’t know what he was doing. He and his imps only had limited knowledge. They only knew what God wanted them to know and nothing more. If they had all knowledge, the scripture says that they wouldn’t have crucified the Lord. The intricacies of the plan of salvation were kept hidden, not only from humanity, but also from the angelic realm which included the satanic opposition. It was brilliance at its best.
I can just see the corners of Satan’s crooked little mouth turned up in satisfaction as the nails were pounded into Jesus’ hands. As if. As if he was really doing something great or clever or lasting. I guess you could say on Sunday morning, the joke was on Satan now wasn’t it?
2. The Cross STRIPPED Satan of His powers.
Colossians 2:15 says, “15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”
On the cross, Jesus had been stripped of his dignity and stripped of his clothes, but my friend, He was never stripped of His power. He was on the cross in full power at every moment. I know that because Colossians says while Jesus was on the cross, He disarmed the powers that opposed Him and us. Do you get the depth of that reality? Hanging on a cross with no use of his arms or legs, Jesus was still more powerful than Satan! Jesus delivered Satan the final blow of the battle while He was physically incapacitated. I’m telling you it’s when 100 out of 100 people would assess a situation and agree there is no hope for victory that God absolutely does His most amazing work.
Do you want to know what the three most beautiful words in the English language are? You might be thinking, “I love you.” Those words are lovely, but never are those words more lavishly or lovingly expressed than when Jesus said three other words. Three other words make my heart sing. Three other words give me eternal freedom and they are the most loving words ever cried. They are a battle cry of victory, and they are the last three words Jesus uttered! “It is finished!” He did what He came to do.
Satan’s whole strategy from the beginning in the Garden of Eden was to put a wedge between us and God. He wanted to keep us from a relationship with God. Paul says our guilt was like a “written code”—an IOU signed by our own hand, promising to obey God. This, by our lack of obedience, announced our guilt. The Jews had contracted to obey the Law of Moses (Deut. 27:14-26; 30:15-20). The Gentiles had countersigned through their consciences to keep the moral Law as they understood it (Romans 2:14-15). The burden of guilt was immense. The more they and we sinned, the more the decrees became “against us” and “opposed to us.” “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Our sin made us guilty. It was a debt against us. But Christ took our debt and nailed it to the Cross and then completely forgave us all.
Up to this time, the Jewish people’s sins were forgiven when they repented by making a sacrifice; records of sins would be blotted out on the annual Day of Atonement. Paul says the atonement occurred forever when the debt was nailed to the cross through the sacrifice of Christ! Christ’s cross made unbroken fellowship with God possible. Talk about a victory over Satan. What he wanted to do in keeping us from a daily unbroken relationship with God was now impossible because of the cross.
Jesus told everyone in Luke 4 that the Spirit of the Lord was upon Him because he was sent to proclaim liberty for the captives and recovery of sight to the blind and to set free the oppressed. He could say “It is finished” because on the cross, He completed that assignment.
Before the cross, the powers of darkness had enslaving powers. The cross changed all of that. Christ redeemed us and brought us out of captivity through the cross by stripping Satan of his power!
The dark powers at work against Jesus couldn’t deter Him from paying for our sin. By offering His life and spilling His blood, He could extend forgiveness of sin to His people. The chief mechanism for enslaving people was sin. The cross set us free! Christ triumphed over sin on the cross which left the powers of darkness naked and without any other tricks up their arms. Enslaving us to sin was Satan’s main weapon. That was his whole arsenal. If he could get people to sin, they would become slaves to sin. Now, because our sin is atoned for, without the power of sin at work in the life of someone, the powers of darkness have nothing else to hold a person captive. Sin was the chain that kept us tied down. Jesus destroyed the chain. Hallelujah!
I Jn. 3:8 says the reason the Son of God came was to “destroy the devil’s work.” Jesus did just that. At the Cross God allowed Christ to become sin for us (II Cor. 5:21) so Satan could exact the death penalty on Christ (even though Christ chose that role; it wasn’t forced on Him). Jesus died in our place. But God used that event to demonstrate that He is able to take the worst Satan can do and turn it into victory. The Cross was supposed to be a victory for Satan and a defeat for God. Instead, the Cross has become the Christian symbol of victory and is proudly on display because there the enemy was defeated once and for all.
Satan being stripped is like the winning army plundering the conquered people. It’s a military term which means Satan has been completely subdued. We have nothing to fear from Satan if we have come to God through the power of the cross. The cross makes it possible for us not only to belong to God, but to be empowered by the same power that Christ has, and “Greater is He that is in us than He that is in the world.” (I Jn. 4:4) Because of the cross, Satan has inadequate powers to defeat anyone who belongs to Jesus.
There was a missionary who came to Africa to preach the Gospel. One day he was going to preach somewhere and he rode on his horse. When the horse got to a certain location, it stopped and refused to move. The man got off the horse and looked around to see what was there. He saw a big snake near a big stone and he was scared.
That reminds me of a few weeks ago when Pastor Thom came home from a conference in Florida. He flew into Columbus and then had to drive home, so he got in late. As he parked in our driveway and walked toward the door, he saw a snake. He went to the garage to get a hoe to kill it and started whacking that snake to death. He did a number on it alright. Joshua’s rubber snake will never be the same! I digress!
Having heard stories of dangerous snakes in Africa, the missionary started to calculate what solution could help out. He decided to quietly move back to his horse and go back home, saying that he would apologize to the congregation for not coming. He then heard the Holy Spirit say he would have failed in his duty, if he did that. He summed up courage and picked stones and threw them at the snake. To his surprise, the snake did not move. He moved back and threw more; then he realized that it was already dead. He had been occupied for about 30 minutes, by a dead, harmless snake.
Listen, Jesus destroyed our enemy, the snake, Satan, yet too often we get hung up and occupied in fear and worry by a dead snake. I’m not saying that Satan can’t harass you. Just because he was defeated doesn’t mean he’s conceded defeat. Just because he doesn’t have the power to take you down doesn’t mean he won’t try. I’ve already established he isn’t very bright. He may not have authority, but he does have influence. He’s still spewing the same persuasive lies to try to deter you from God’s best, but Child of God, you live with confidence and assurance that he can’t overpower you because he suffered a head injury at the foot of the cross. Jesus crushed his head and he has never recovered!
There was a movie about a man who had cancer; it was contained in his arm. Therefore, if the doctors took off his arm, what had the ability to kill him would lose its power. The cancer would be cut off ~ and could do no more harm. There is an occurrence that happens to amputees when they have a limb removed, doctors call it phantom pain. Even though the arm or limb has been removed, the patient will often feel pain where the limb once was. They feel pain and discomfort and other sensations. There is no logical reason for this because the limb is gone – but nevertheless, the pain is very, very real.
This is the way Satan tries to work us over. Colossians 2:15 tells us that Jesus disarmed the enemy – cutting off all his power. He has NO POWER OVER YOU ANY LONGER! Yet, he often comes at you with lies. He comes at you with feelings and thoughts, things that seem very real to you, but, John 8:44 tells us that Satan is the father of lies. He has no truth in him. He has no real power so he has to use the smoke and mirrors of deceit and lies to try to detour you. That is why the Bible declares that he roams about ‘as a’ roaring lion. You see, he is NOT a roaring lion – he just acts like one. He only has the power you give him. James 4:7 says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Tell him to go back to the pit of Hell where he belongs because you have been bought with a price, a high price, and on Easter Sunday morning, the check cleared! Jesus, the sinless Son of God had what it took to purchase you. Don’t be bullied by someone who has already been whipped and stripped of his power.
I Cor. 2:6 reminds us that in addition to Satan being stripped of his powers, he’s been stripped of his plans. He’s on borrowed time. 6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.
He was crushed at the cross and he will be NOTHING when Christ returns. Paul used a strong word in this passage (katargeo) which means to “render powerless,” to “abolish,” and to “wipe out.” They might be a few little victories Satan tries to celebrate, a few little brushfires he gets started between now and the second coming of Christ, but his ultimate doom is certain. Jesus showed he was smarter than the powers of darkness through the cross. He stripped Satan and his workers of their power over believers and
3. He made a public spectacle of them.
In the days of the crucifixion the Romans went off to fight against various enemies, most often against a group that had tried to rebel. When they conquered that enemy, as they most often did, they would bind them together by the hands in a single file and then they would have this big celebration. The celebration would begin with a parade. At the front of the parade would be the conquering General. Then following him would be those soldiers who had acted heroically in the battle. Then the rest of the army. And then at the rear of the procession would be all those who had been conquered and they would be paraded in front of the population. You didn’t want to be the main attraction in a parade like that. That they called a public spectacle. That’s the image Paul was conveying when he described just what Jesus did to Satan.
Jesus’ triumph over death on the cross proved He was forever the champion. Everyone could see, publicly, who was boss. Here Satan is, thinking He’s snuffing out Christ forever only to find Him rising from the dead and assuming the position of “head” over a new body of people He was bringing us into union with Himself. Not only couldn’t Satan get rid of Jesus, but now he has all of us to contend with. It’s like that “Whack a Mole” game at Billy Bob’s. Every time Satan tries to beat one of us down, another one of us pops up and one day, perhaps sooner than he realizes, God the Father will turn to the Son and say, “Game Over,” go get my people and finish Satan off! Because of the cross, the whole world has heard of Satan’s defeat. It is the most talked about victory of all time. Talk about making a public spectacle of Satan!
Satan was outsmarted and stripped of his powers for all to see and this happened on the cross. It is not right to speak of the cross as defeat and the resurrection as victory. It was at the cross that the victory was won. The resurrection is the victory endorsed by God the Father, demonstrated in power, and proclaimed to the whole world.
Since the cross is where the victory took place, as followers of Christ, we are called to stay close to the cross, to identify with the cross, to proclaim the cross and to be crucified to self and alive only to Jesus. It ought to be our home base of safety. Galatians 2:20 says, “20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
I like the way the contemporary Bible translation, the Message, puts our Colossians text.13 When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, 14 the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s Cross. 15 He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets.
Satan’s only hope to destroy you is to keep you from knowing what was accomplished on the cross and embracing what Jesus did there for yourself. Now that you all know, what will you do?