Matins Devotion: October 13, 2023
The devil is cunning but he doesn’t play chess. That is to say, the devil is skilled at deceiving us and leading us into temptation, but he doesn’t think seven layers deep. He doesn’t run elaborate heists. And he most certainly doesn’t and can’t use power that doesn’t belong to him to deceive or destroy us. This is something Jesus makes clear in our reading from Matthew today when He scoffs at the Pharisees’ suggestion that He is casting out demons by demonic power, that He’s basically using the prince of demons’ authority over lesser demons to cast them out to make it look like He’s the Messiah. Jesus tells us that Satan isn’t a pro-wrestling promoter or a snake oil salesman putting on a fake show so people will follow Him, thinking He’s the Son of God, only to lead them into his jaws.
The devil, Jesus is teaching us, is much simpler. He wants to kill and destroy. He wants his demons possessing and tormenting people, not cast out of people. He wants eyes blinded, tongues stopped, and ears closed. He wants sinners afflicted, not comforted. And he does not have the power to use holy things,in particular the name of Christ and the Gospel message, to accomplish evil. Satan doesn’t play chess. He just knocks over pieces.
But Jesus plays chess. Jesus does think several layers deep. And though He does not create evil or commit evil, He certainly does use the evil others freely commit to conquer Satan, something we see quite clearly in the passion of our Lord. Satan wanted to destroy Jesus, so he entered the heart of Judas. But Christ used that betrayal to put Himself on the path to Calvary where He would crush the head of the serpent. When Pilate asked the bloodthirsty crowd if they wanted Christ or Barabbas, Satan could not resist moving their lips to shriek “Jesus” in an effort to capture the King. But all the while the King was using the devil’s rage to put him in checkmate, to destroy him and conquer him by surrounding Him with the death that forgave your sins and the resurrection that justified you and gave you eternal life.