December 1 – Friday of the Twenty-eighth Week after Pentecost (11th of Luke) Luke 20:19–26
War and Peace: Luke 20:19-26, especially vss. 19-20: “And the chief priests and the scribes that very hour sought to lay hands on Him . . . So, they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, that they might seize on His words, in order to deliver Him to the power and the authority of the governor.” Our great God and Savior Jesus Christ took on human flesh in order to free the inhabitants of the earth from mankind’s ancient enemy, abolish death, and destroy sin. Yet, ironically, His incarnation ignited a violent spiritual war. Let us reflect on that wondrous time when our Lord, the God of Peace, waged war against our spiritual enemy and, through His Cross and Passion, established peace for us.
Who is the enemy in today’s lesson? At first glance it appears to be the chief priests, the scribes, and their spies (vss. 19-20). While the Lord is still in Galilee the scribes and Pharisees “begin to assail Him vehemently,” cross-examining Him and “lying in wait for Him, and seeking to catch Him in something He might say, that they might accuse Him” (vs. 11:53-54). By the time the Lord arrives in Jerusalem, these men are His open opponents. Christ prophesies, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed” (vs. 9:22).
Opposition to Christ’s message appears very early in the Gospel (Mk 3:2, 6) and continues throughout His ministry. Now, opportunity presents itself to His opponents at last. One of the Lord’s disciples, Judas Iscariot, goes “his way and conferred with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him to them,” even as they “sought how they might kill Him” (Lk 22:4, 2).
All of these men may be considered His visible enemies, but let us consider the true enemy who lurks behind the scenes. As the chief priests are plotting, “Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot” (vs. 3). This verse changes our perspective on the war for eternal life and points to the underlying reality. Yes, the spies, captains, scribes, Pharisees, chief priests, and a traitor from Christ’s inner circle merge to form a cadre of opposition. However, they are mere enlistees – pawns of the real enemy, Satan.
In fact, the Lord prays for these very men from the Cross, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (vs. 23:34). Surely, He is not praying for the demons! Saint Nikolai of Zicha explains that these men “were not only doing their own will but the will of another. ‘Many dogs’ (Ps 21:16) were gathered to destroy Christ the Lord. When the devil failed to overcome the Lord on the Mount of Temptation with his false promises (Lk 4:1-13), he applied his wiles and strength to destroying the Lord through men by a dishonorable death on the Cross.” However, Saint Nikolai refuses to apply the term many dogs to the men involved, for “David would not have called God’s people, the crown of His creation, dogs, but he called the demons dogs” (Prologue From Ochrid vol. 4, p. 47).
Satan and his minions are the true enemies of Christ our God – and our true enemies as well. These powers set out to kill the Life-giver, but the Lord defeats them by the Cross. Through Christ all men, at all times and everywhere, can become victors in God’s war to free the inhabitants of the earth from the tyranny of the enemy. Let us never cease to pray for the men and women who are being used by Satan to oppose the Gospel of peace on earth, for “God has called us to peace” (1 Cor 7:15).
May the God of peace crush Satan under your feet quickly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen. – Romans 16:20