Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. (John 12:31)
On the cross, Jesus utterly defeated Satan and the power of sin and death. How can this be?
We shouldn’t be too surprised. With God’s help, Gideon put the Midianites to flight with only a handful of men armed with torches, trumpets and clay pots (Judges 7:16-25). That’s not much force to bring against an army.
David stood before Goliath, a youth armed with rocks and shepherd’s sling opposing an immense warrior equipped with latest in iron-age armor and weaponry. And we know how that turned out. David slew the giant and Israel chased down the fleeing Philistine army (1 Samuel 17). “It is not by the sword or spear that the Lord saves, for the battle is the Lord’s,” David says.
In the same vein, then, we Jesus, alone on a cross, facing off with the prince of this world, the enemy of all enemies and not just another petty tyrant. And Jesus wins. “Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out,” John quotes Jesus concerning his coming crucifixion.
This is more than we can take in. Jesus’ death looks like a defeat, not a victory. Gideon’s army may have been small, but it chased the Midianites from the field and destroyed them. David stood in the giant’s shadow, but his missile felled the “uncircumcised Philistine,” enabling the Israelites to pursue their enemies and strike them down.
Does Jesus’ death have the same effect? Does Jesus’ death drive out the prince of this world, rob him of his power and ensure his destruction? That precisely is the witness of the New Testament, and particularly the witness of John the evangelist.
Who wins a battle by letting the enemy strike him down? It’s a little too Obi-Wan Kenobi to be true, but it is. At least that’s what John proclaims in his gospel account.
Why does this matter? It’s simple. When life seems to be going to hell all around you … when everything in the world seems to be spinning out of control, remember that God won his biggest battle on a cross.
And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed his truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure;
One little word shall fell him.