“Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.
Larvae Appeared In My Cereal
I opened the cereal box I had been eating from for a month and there they were, larvae. It made me wonder if I hadn’t noticed them the last time I ate cereal. I once had a similar experience with maggots. I was taking out the trash and when I opened the can there were maggots all over a discarded piece of meat. It seemed strange because they weren’t there the day before, but suddenly, there they were. Both the larvae in the cereal box and the maggots on the meat seemed to appear out of nowhere.
These experiences fit perfectly with the theory of spontaneous generation, or the idea that life can spontaneously come from non-life. The living larvae seemed to have been created from the dead grain in the cereal. The maggots seemed to have been created from the dead meat in the trash can. Aristotle was one of the early supporters of this idea. Scientists and the Western world believed it for two millennia. Then the famous scientist Louis Pasteur came along and proved otherwise. He revealed that there’s an unseen world of microorganisms that exists along side the world observable with the naked eye. And these microorganisms are necessary for life to occur. Under a microscope we can see these organisms.
Before Pasteur’s work and before the microscope their existence was only theoretical and generally not recognized.
The Unseen World
In our text Jesus talks about an unseen “ruler of this world” being judged and cast out. Jesus has spoken of this unseen ruler before. Jesus said he saw him “fall like lightning from heaven.” And he said, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (Luke 10:18, John 8:44)
Jesus often speaks of the unseen. He said, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24)
In some circles today, if you speak about Satan, or demons, or other aspects of the unseen world to which they belong, you’re not taken seriously. Maybe you’re even ridiculed. But in those same circles you can talk about quantum particles or microbiology and those ideas are accepted.
The Existence Of Evil
For two millennia the scientific community didn’t understand the unseen world of microbiology. I think that in the same way, some people don’t understand the unseen world spoken of by Jesus.
While researching for this article I read a few paragraphs about sixteen killers who tortured their victims. My intent was to include an anecdote about evil but I find that I can’t do it. After reading a few paragraphs I abandoned the idea. It’s just too horrifying.
I don’t understand evil. I don’t understand the racism demonstrated in Charlottesville a few weeks ago. I don’t understand serial killers. I don’t understand Hitler, Stalin, or Pol Pot. I don’t understand why there’s a family with six generations of alcoholism. I don’t understand why people commit acts of evil. I can’t see the forces behind these occurrences of evil.
Sometimes I can’t see the forces of good either. The single mom who works two jobs and still finds a way to be there for her kids: I don’t understand how she can do that, and I can’t see the spiritual forces behind her love and devotion.
There’s an account in the bible about unseen forces. The king of Syria was at war with Israel but every time they made plans for battle the Israelites knew ahead of time what they were, because the prophet Elisha would reveal the information to the king of Israel. So one night the king of Syria took his army to the town of Dothan where Elisha lived, and he surrounded it.
When Elisha’s servant woke up the next morning he looked out at the Syrian army and said, “Alas, my master. What shall we do?”
Elisha said, “Don’t be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
Then Elisha prayed, “Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.”
And God answered Elisha’s prayer and the young man saw horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:8-23)
Before Pasteur and the microscope you couldn’t convince a scientist there was an unseen microbiological world that has a massive impact on the world we can see with the naked eye, and hear with our ears, and touch with our hands.
Are you reading this blog post on your phone or computer? Before the German physicist Heinrich Hertz proved the existence of radio waves, you couldn’t convince a scientist there was an unseen world of radio waves. It’s radio waves that transmit the signal to and from your cell phone and computer, whether it uses a cell tower or a wireless router. The invisible world of radio waves has a massive impact on the world we can see with the naked eye, and hear with our ears, and touch with our hands.
In the account of God’s unseen army, Elisha and the young man with him were given the ability to see what is normally unseen. They were given a “microscope” or an “instrument that detects radio waves” if you will. Maybe someday there will be a way for all of us to see the world Elisha and his servant saw.
The Solution To Evil
Last night Kathy and I watched the movie Woodlawn. Based on a true story, it’s about a high school in Birmingham, Alabama that had five hundred African-American kids from a black neighborhood bused in every day. There was intense racial tension in that high school as a result. One line in the movie went like this: “We have five hundred kids bused in who don’t want to be here, and two thousand kids who don’t want them here! What are we supposed to do?”
What happened was a man named Hank Erwin (played by Sean Astin, the actor who played Sam in the Lord of the Rings movies) came to the football team to talk to them about Jesus. The whole team responded. Eventually most of the school responded. And as people found their common identity in Jesus, the hate and racism evaporated.
“Now the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.
It’s been said that Jesus’ body lifted up on the cross is where hate went to die.
As I observe the ineffectiveness of man’s efforts to combat evil with political systems and temporal strategies, I’m increasingly convinced that Jesus is the solution to evil.
If we, like the kids at Woodlawn High School, find our identity in Jesus, rather than our political party, or our race, or our gender, we’ll find peace.
If we find our identity in the Prince of Peace, we’ll find peace here on earth.
“On earth as it is in heaven.”
Much of this blog post was inspired by Randy Remington’s excellent teaching, Spiritual Forces: Worship as Warfare, Aug. 27, 2017
Image of scientist and microscope via George Hodan, publicdomainpictures.net.