Six Clashes between Jesus and Evil
What if you had these six clashes in your first three months on the job? You might not have a job anymore! But Jesus clashes six times in the space of 40 days in the wilderness and in the weeks following this in Nazareth and Capernaum.
You might think of Jesus as meek and mild, always at peace, but in the first days of his ministry as recorded in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus clashes with evil in six important ways. What follows are ways Jesus clashed with the devil, demons, and those who would divert or destroy the mission to preach the good news of the kingdom of God.
1. Jesus clashes with the devil over whose word is authoritative
Jesus quotes (Luke 4:1-4) from Deut. 8:3: “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (emphasis added).
Jesus is not talking about literal bread here but about who has authority for our daily existence. For us today, as with Jesus, authority comes not from the voice of the devil, not from culture’s voices, not from our own voice, but from the mouth of the Lord.
2. Jesus clashes with the devil over who deserves worship
Jesus (Luke 4:5-8) allows the devil to “show” him in a moment all the kingdoms of the world. As if they were his to give, the devil says, “All this I will give you if you … if you bow down and worship me.”
We would never have so much audacity as the devil to ask someone to bow down to us, but we sure do like attention, affirmation, adoration even. Jesus’s clash with the devil over this should give us pause about how much we enjoy giving this kind of attention, affirmation, and adoration to celebrities, politicians, and pastors.
3. Jesus clashes with the devil over assurance of God’s care
Jesus is assured by the devil of the Lord’s care and concern (Luke 4:9-13). “Jump off and watch how angels swoop down to catch you.”
I love the song we sang in our church when I was growing up: “He could have called ten thousand angels.” While the song refers to the cross, the same is true here. He could have done what the devil was suggesting, but Jesus already knew the assurance of God’s care.
4. Jesus clashes with his hometown’s racism
After Jesus reads in the synagogue (Luke 4:14-22), his hometown folks are impressed at what a good reader he is! They say good things about him, amazed at these beautiful prophecies coming from his mouth. Then Jesus begins interpreting the Isaiah scroll, and his take makes the congregation very angry (4:28). What’s his take? What the prophets saw coming is now true: the good news is for everyone, not just Israel, but for all nations.
How open are we to this message of Jesus for everyone? What does it mean to live in our world today with a gospel for all people in our churches? For us in our church, it means loving people who have often been condemned by Christians (such as the LGBTQ community) or subtly looked down upon (such as immigrants and the poor). We continue asking ourselves what it means to truly love all people without judgment but still call people into discipleship with Jesus who directs their lives.
5. Jesus clashes with unclean spirits over who has supreme power over people
Some people think the Holy Spirit does not factor into Luke-Acts much until Acts, but Luke has the Spirit of God operating against the devil and demons from early on in Luke. Thirteen times in Luke 4, the words spirit, holy, and demon appear. That doesn’t even account for the times the devil is mentioned. Certainly, Jesus is clashing with the powers of the dark world. Here (Luke 4:31-37) Jesus clashes with evil spirits. The people wondered at how he had authority over these demons. They were seeing firsthand who the supreme power in the world truly is.
How do we truly walk in this world when it comes to the supreme power in our lives? Do we allow the powers of this dark world to defeat us, or do we read this text as ones who lay hold of the power of Jesus, the Spirit, and the Most High God over evil?
6. Jesus clashes over who has a voice in defining his mission
This is the second time (Luke 4:40-44) Jesus quiets evil spirits who are speaking out of turn. Jesus seems to be completely unwilling for evil spirits to shout and spew the nonsense they speak.
What about you? Do you suffer the voices of fools gladly when they speak all sorts of evil against the church, against the name of Jesus? What does it look like to quiet evil around us today?
At the end of Luke 4, Jesus has a final clash with people who try to divert him from his mission. He makes it clear: “I must preach the good news about God’s kingdom to other towns, too. That is why I was sent” (Luke 4:43).
We may think of Jesus as one who brings only peace, but a big part of the mission of Jesus was a clash with evil. The Spirit of Christ is not passive but active, ready to clash with those who would divert and destroy the mission he proclaims (Luke 4:18-19).