1 Corinthians 1:18-25 and John 2:13-22
(Quoted scripture is New International Version)
The man stood before the crucifix in the chapel. The crucifix did not hold a Savior who was emaciated and weak. The Jesus hanging on the cross had huge muscles in His arms and His legs. He was a Savior who conquered Satan, who conquered sin and death. While the man stood there weeping, another man who was in the chapel, saw a glow emanating from him and surrounding him with light.
Joe, my husband and partner in ministry, is passionate about doing the Keryx, prison ministry at the Marquette branch prison. The Keryx is now done in Level 1 through 4. It used to be done in Level 5, which is the level for the hardened criminals, the lifers. He went to the first meeting for the spring Keryx, this past week. One of the men who used to do the Keryx in level 5 was at the meeting. He shared this story at the meeting which Joe shared with me. When I thought about the scripture passages for today, it seemed to me a good illustration of ‘turning the tables.’ Turning the tables on Satan.
In the chapel in Level 5 there is a crucifix made by a prisoner. The crucifix is hewn out of stone. The Jesus hanging on the cross represents the power of God. The man who carved the crucifix understood that the Son of the Almighty God was not weak, but rather His victory over sin and death came because He was the Almighty God, yet fully human. It was the strength, which came from His love for all mankind, which held Him on the cross, and conquered sin and death.
Sunday, the end of the 72 hours of the Keryx ministry, the prisoners have a chance to share what the weekend has meant to them. As this man, who had wept before the crucifix in the chapel, began to share; the man who had witnessed what happened in the chapel heard a noise behind him. He turned to see a huge wave, which knocked some of the prisoners over as it came over them. A wave of Holy Spirit power went through the room and washed over the man sharing his story!
True illustrations, such as this, keep encouraging Christians who are called to share their faith with those who are still lost and suffering from sin. Jesus has the power to turn the tables on Satan’s influence in our lives!
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1, ‘For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”’ Paul knew this from Isaiah 29:14. God is telling the prophet Isaiah, “Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder, the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.”
The Apostle Paul, had come to understand that God’s way of thinking is not like the world’s way of thinking, human wisdom. God offers eternal life, which the world can never give, yet many humans think they have God all figured out. God tells the prophet Isaiah in chapter 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Paul goes on to write, “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles, —” (v. 22-23) The Jews had been looking for the Messiah to be like King David, a warrior king. They could not understand that Jesus was the Messiah, with their worldly wisdom. Besides Jesus was executed as a criminal, and how could a criminal be a savior? The Greeks considered the resurrection of Jesus foolish. They did not believe in bodily resurrection. They did not see in Jesus the powerful characteristics of their mythological gods, and they thought no reputable person would be crucified. To them death was defeat, not victory.
Do you see how the cross turns the tables on human wisdom? We are simply not able to comprehend a love so strong, that our God would die for us! No other worldly religion basis their faith on a God willing to die for them.
Jesus begins to turn the tables on Satan’s influence on humans when He clears the Temple. To turn the table is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘to change your position from one who is disadvantaged, to one who has the advantage.
Jesus was in Jerusalem to celebrate the week-long holiday of the ‘Feast of Unleavened Bread,’ which included a Passover meal. It was during this time that the temple tax must be paid, which would bring money changers to the temple to change the money of people from out of town. They of course, charged exorbitant exchange rates. The people would then buy the animals needed to make their sacrificial offering, and only the animals sold in the market place of the temple were good enough. The sellers could charge anything they wanted. The Temple courts had become a den of robbers and thieves.
Jesus became angry at the abuses going on in the Temple, His Father’s house, the place of worship. ‘In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So, he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” (vv. 14-16)
It was at this point that the tables began to turn against Jesus. He became the disadvantaged one. Up until this point in time, Jesus had just been an irritation to the Jewish leaders. Now all that was about to change. Yet being the disadvantaged one would not last. Jesus would soon turn the tables and have the advantage.
When Jesus declares in verse 19, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days,” The Jewish leaders think he is talking about the Temple in Jerusalem. The disciples would remember that Jesus said this, and verse 22 tells us, “After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scriptures and the words that Jesus had spoken.”
Do you see what happened here? Jesus, the Son of the One True God, allowed himself to be beaten and crucified, that he might turn the tables on Satan, once and for all time. When they buried Jesus in the tomb, they believed Jesus’ life was over. God raised him from the dead three days later, and from that moment and for all time, believers in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the faith that God was raised him from the dead; have the advantage over Satan’s influence in our lives.
Sin has no power over the ones who come humbly before Jesus, and declare, ‘I am a sinner. I confess my sins before you and ask forgiveness. I give you my heart and my life. I want the Holy Spirit’s power to come like a wave over me and wash me clean. Please guide my life from this moment on.’
In some churches Jesus still hangs on the cross. In protestant churches our cross is empty. We celebrate the Risen Savior. From now on whenever I look upon a cross whether an empty cross or a crucifix, Jesus hanging on the cross, I will envision, not a weak and emaciated Savior, but one with huge muscles in his arms and legs. I will envision a Savior who turned the tables on Satan’s influence over my life. I pray you will do the same.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, thank you for your sacrifice of love. Thank you that you humbly suffered and died on the cross to turn the tables on sin and death. I thank you that with your mighty power, you claimed victory over Satan. All praise and glory be to you! Amen
Pastor Rosemary DeHut