Wise as Serpents: Light Comes into the World — and Evil Attacks (Part 3 of a sermon series by Jeff Crippen)
Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men. . . (Matthew 10:16-17a)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)
I like the Christmas story as given here in John’s Gospel best of all. The Word made flesh dwelling among us. Light and Life coming into the world. It is a Creation story, you see. A New Creation story with a new Adam as our Savior.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
This is Christmas, you see. John gives us the theological interpretation of what was really happening in Bethlehem’s manger. The Light, the Glory of God, had entered the world in flesh. The Creator had come to His creation, but His creatures did not know Him. Now, what I would like to draw our attention to this morning is John’s statement in verses 4-5:
In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Darkness. Always keep Genesis 1 in mind as you read John 1.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (Gen 1:1-3)
You have the very same thing in John 1, only the darkness there is spiritual darkness in a fallen world. Mankind was fallen and therefore dead to God. Light and life were absent. And then the Light comes, shining, ready to give life to men. Darkness. Notice that darkness and light here are both represented as being active and opposed to one another. The darkness would overcome the light if it could.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The moment Christ comes, evil springs up, striving to overcome and extinguish His Light.
Christmas arrives, and the enemy goes to work. It has been that way since Eden, as we saw last week, and it remains that way to this day. When Christ comes, evil comes. Where the light of the gospel goes, the darkness of Satan will most certainly rise up to extinguish it. Sadly the church today is largely living in denial of these facts, no matter how often they quote Peter’s warning about the devil prowling around like a lion or Jesus’ warning of wolves in wool. This is why the wicked are able to remain in the pew unmolested, un-confronted, and even enabled in their evil.
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Cor 4:3-4)
What is a very large part of the New Testament (if not the whole Bible) but an account of how the kingdom of darkness works to overcome the kingdom of Christ? It cannot. It will never succeed in the end. No more than darkness can prevail in a dark room when you flip the light switch.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God. (John 3:16-21)
Matthew’s account of the birth of Christ is a perfect example of these things. The Babe comes into the world, and immediately the enemy opposes with murderous intent. Follow as I read:
Matt 2:1-23 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.'” Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”
After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”
But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.
Herod here, of course is the prime agent of Satan working with the intent of extinguishing the Light by killing this child. This shows us the depths of Satan’s hatred of Christ, and of his fear of Him as well. The Lord Jesus Christ was hated with a murderous hatred from the very time He was born. When Christ comes, and where Christ comes, evil will most surely show up. Think about it. The MOMENT Christ was born, evil was already moving to kill him. I suppose you could even find statements in Scripture that would indicate evil was working BEFORE His birth to extinguish this Light.
In fact, this is true. Think back through the Old Testament, right from the beginning. What do you have? You have two seeds, the one trying to destroy the other. Two kingdoms at war. If the Jews knew this:
Matt 2:3-5 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet
. . . then you can be sure that the devil knew it. The entire Old Testament is an account of the seed and line of Abraham being subject to attacks of all kinds. Satan knew this promise well:
Gen 3:14-15 The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
So the enemy knew these promises. He knew of this Seed of the woman, and as we go down through the Old Testament you have this very broad description of this Promised One progressively narrowed:
- He would come from Seth, not Cain
- He would be a descendant of Shem, Noah’s son (see Gen 9 and 11)
Gen 9:26-27 He also said, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant.”
- Then Abraham is identified —
Gen 15:1-6 After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
And on it goes. Isaac, the son of promise. Jacob, not Esau. From Judah, not from the other sons of Jacob, Messiah would come. A son of David. And so He did:
Luk 2:21-32 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”
Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”
There it is then. At the same time we have this wonderful announcement of the birth of Christ, we must also understand that the battle was raging that very moment and that it is still raging. Wherever Christ is, wherever His people are, wherever His Word is announced, evil is going to show up and work to murder and lie. . . [continued]
Audio and PDF of this sermon here.