The Cosmic Conspiracy, Part 7
The roar of the crowds must have been defining as Jesus descended from Bethany and entered Jerusalem. According to the gospel accounts, multitudes of people were pulling branches off palm trees; some waving them as Jesus rode by on a borrowed donkey, and others laying them down in the street for Jesus to ride over. The mass of people were shouting, Hosanna!, which means “save Lord, now!” They were ecstatic with hope that this, Jesus, was the long awaited Messiah-King coming to take his place and rule over Israel, and rid the nation of the oppression of Rome.
This triumphal parade was so prophetically fitting (and prophecy fulfilling) for Jesus, as the palm branches were ancient symbols of victory, peace, and eternal life. The smug and indignant religious leaders stood by with arms folded and reprimanded Jesus for allowing this blasphemous display of idolatry to continue without His rebuke. Jesus’ response further infuriated them: “if these people do not cry out in praise,” Jesus retorted, “the rocks will cry out!”
As far as the religious establishment was concerned, Jesus was a marked man. For the three years of His ministry Jesus had amassed a huge following throughout Judea because of the good news of the Kingdom of God that He was preaching, and the powerful demonstrations of God’s love that He was releasing through miracles, signs, and wonders. One of the crowd favorites was also Jesus’ propensity to go toe-to-toe with the Pharisees and Sadducees and expose their hypocrisy, and publicly humiliate them with His unmatched wit and wisdom. Jesus was a superhero to the lowly, common folk (and a secret hero to many of the honorable, sincere, religious leaders) and He must be stopped. The only way to stop Him, would be to kill Him.
Satan’s cosmic conspiracy was converging over the city of Jerusalem. All of the players were in place, and now a common cause must be foisted out over the city to paint this would-be messiah as a menace to Judaism, and to the peace of the Roman empire. Without a religious consensus of condemnation from the Jewish high court (the Sanhedrin), a cause for the death sentence under the Law of Moses could not be leveled against Jesus. Without Rome’s approval, a death sentence could not be carried out. Without the swelling tide of Jesus’ savior status among the populace being turned to charlatan status, Jesus was untouchable. Without infiltrating Jesus’ inner circle, 12 men would have to die before Satan could get to Jesus, and that much blood would certainly reveal that a conspiracy was afoot.
The devilish scheme that unfolded over the last week of Jesus’ life would reveal 4 tenets of Satan’s war on humanity, and ultimately against God, that would play out over the centuries right up to our page on God’s calendar. The tactics may vary from time to time and culture to culture, but the targets of Satan’s rage have remained consistent through the ages. As we proceed through the last days of Jesus’ time on Earth, we will pause to identify Satan’s assault on these targets, and in a later post, we will catapult these schemes into our current state of affairs to uncover the same diabolical attacks in action.
A quick recap is in order. By this time in history, Satan and his demonic kingdom had control of 69 of the original 70 nations that were dispersed after God’s judgment at the building of the Tower of Babel (see previous posts in this series). The 70th nation was the Hebrew nation, and the one chosen by God to be the progenitor of the Messiah, Who would destroy Satan and his kingdom of darkness. For centuries, Satan and his hordes had pounded Israel into a rag-tag remnant of holdout Jews that would not let go of the promises of God. Satan had refined his scheme to exploit one of the greatest internal needs of humans - the need to worship. Satan’s trick of choice was the promotion of religion. By the first century, religion was flourishing on the earth. Everyone was worshiping someone (or something). Hinduism, Buddhism, the pantheon of Greek and Roman philosophy and mythology, animism, occultism, and numerous other isms, were all prospering with a stunning success of deception.
Judaism was now the final target. Jerusalem was ground zero for the attack, and Jesus had the crosshairs of Satan’s entire arsenal riveted on His heart. Jesus must be destroyed in order for darkness to fully cover the earth. Satan’s first order of business was to use God’s chosen people and His chosen religion to condemn its promised Messiah. Phase one of Satan’s scheme had to focus on Judaism's top brass, the High Priest and his cronies.
Through millennia of enticing humans to worship everything except Almighty God, Satan had uncovered the fatal flaw of humanity that resulted from the great fall in the Garden. Deep down, in the need for humans to worship something was the latent passion to worship themselves. Satan had the key to unlock the damning passion of self-worship, which he embodied in its total corruption. Religion was the perfect disguise, and self-righteousness was the perfect manifestation.
By the first century, the rules of righteousness of Judaism had burgeoned into a complex maze of do’s and don'ts that only the highly learned, highly pious, and highly committed could ever fulfill. Those who did (or better, appeared to have) were held in high regard and esteem. This created a separation between the saints and the sinners, and the worthy and unworthy. The best law-keepers became the MVP’s, and an elite class of religious superstars came on the scene. Superstar status came with its perks, and by the time Jesus walked through the town and villages of His day, the celebrity status of this elite class had become an oppressive, “more holy than thou,” religious machine that was more interested in personal promotion, power, and position than in the humble pursuit of God’s presence.
Note: Corrupt religious hierarchy has become a very powerful tool in the hand of Satan, and he is using it right up to our day. Satan uses it as a massive crowbar to wrench a gap between those who have direct access to God and those who don’t. Jesus took much time in His teaching to His disciples and the masses when He made statements like:
“You have heard it said, but I say to you” (Matt 5, in reference to the twisted teaching of the religious leaders)
“Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matt. 5:50)
This will be played out over and over again through Church history - more on that later...
The Law of God that was meant to lead His people into a right relationship with Him to prepare the way for the Messiah had become a means of self-righteousness that would do anything to hold onto its position, including killing the Messiah. Jesus’ indictment against the religious rulers was scathing. He called out their hypocrisy time and again. He made public their refusal to recognize Who He was even though they could plainly see in their own prophetic writings that He was its fulfillment. He berated them for suppressing the truth in order to hold onto the glory of their elite status. He condemned them for creating a religious system that was so burdensome that no one, including these leaders, could bear. He declared over them that they were spawn of the devil, himself, and that God was going to leave their precious, holy temple desolate and remove His presence from their beloved religious system. Jesus made Himself the arch enemy of religion and its leaders. Jesus had made phase one of Satan’s scheme to turn the religion of God, Judaism, against Him, very easy indeed.
Phase one, secured. Phase two would be a little trickier.
Now that religion had marked Jesus and His radical agenda as a dire threat that must be eradicated, Satan must isolate Jesus from His closest followers. Killing Jesus’ followers right off would put these 12 men into martyr status, and that usually sparked more passion in the followers of religion than the actual adherence to the teaching of religion. If people are willing to die for a cause, the cause must be a very noble one, and in turn attract more followers. Satan must avoid this at all costs. He must have a plan where Jesus’ followers were willing to choose to abandon, or smear, the cause making the movement seem like it was too hollow to actually be holy, too radical to actually be practical, and ultimately, too good to really be true. No one would die for a good idea.
Satan’s first target was Judas. We are not told much about this man other than that he was the ministry treasurer, he was a thief (he stole money from the treasury box), and he had no desire to help the poor (John 12:6). There is much theological debate around Jesus’ selection of Judas to be one of His 12 disciples. We will leave that for another discussion. From Satan’s point of view, he needed someone who cared more for a personal agenda than for the agenda for the Kingdom and someone who cared more for self-preservation than self-sacrifice. Judas saw Jesus and His teachings as a means to an end. Judas wanted Jesus to be the Messiah on his terms (the Jesus as Savior, but not Lord oxymoron). What was important for the Kingdom became important to Judas where it intersected his own agenda - rid Israel of Rome, get back to life as normal, and keep religion as one of the spokes on the wheel of a life lived for personal comfort and preference.
As Satan watched the band of 12, Judas was easy to spot, and dropping a seed of betrayal into this fertile soil would quickly yield the fruit of selling Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver. This was about 5 weeks wages, just enough for Judas to quit his job as treasurer and find new employment. Judas tried this Jesus sect, and it just didn’t work for him. He was disillusioned with this new religion and it was time to move on. Judas, whether knowingly or not, walked out the back door and left it wide open for the assassins of Jesus to march in.
The means of the betrayal could have only come from the seizing lava of hatred for Jesus that spewed from Satan's core. He would have Judas betray Jesus with a kiss. A betrayal becomes brutal when a person that had intimate access to another’s inner personal life uses that access to expose the other to shame or harm. Imagine the perverted, demonic glee that must have welled up in Satan as Judas struts right up to Jesus, and kissed him on the cheek. It was as if Satan was saying in caustic mocking, “I hate you, and I will manifest my hatred by twisting the most precious expressions of your being- love. These humans are incapable of loving you, and each other. Your love failed. In your face, Jesus!”
Judas was a man possessed. We can point to that and be comforted by the thought that we could never betray Jesus like that. The sad reality is that this betrayal is repeated over and over again every time a follower of Jesus gossips about another person. Jesus taught that whatever we do to the least person was in fact doing that very thing to Jesus. Jesus stood in that cold, dark garden ready to die for everyone, including the people we don’t like, or have been hurt or offended by. In our “private” conversations we expose the weakness and faults of others with not so much of a hint of conviction that we are planting the kiss of betrayal on the cheek of Jesus. In our technological times with instantaneous world-wide access, the kiss of betrayal can go viral and ruin the lives of countless people. The “prince of the power of the air” is blowing his wicked air kisses at Jesus and still shouting, “IN YOUR FACE, JESUS!”
With the backdoor of betrayal flung wide open, it was now time for Satan to get someone to open the front door. It will probably be no surprise who answers the door when Satan knocks. You’ll have to wait until next time to find out...
by Pastor Jim Anan