This struggle between Satan and God’s beloved Son is evident throughout the life of Jesus. Probably the devil worked upon Joseph at the very beginning to suggest to him that Mary was pregnant by another man, and that he should therefore expose her. However, we are told that Joseph planned instead to put her away privately, but nevertheless to turn away rather than provide the protection that God put Joseph into the story to do. It required an angel to come to Joseph. God intervened so Joseph would take Mary under his wing and protect her from the kind of things that would be said and done if she were exposed in that manner.
God was working in the story, but the devil was working too. He turned Herod, who was jealous of any pretender to the throne, against the child. Herod got word of this baby born in Bethlehem, and sent his soldiers to kill all the children two years of age and under. That came from Satan, who was trying to get at Jesus Christ. Again God warned Joseph in a dream, so Joseph took Mary and Jesus down to Egypt where they lived until Herod died.
Eventually the time came when Jesus began his public ministry. The very first event that occurred during that ministry was Jesus’ being led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit. There the devil appeared and tried to tempt him. Satan wanted Jesus to take the power that was his and use it for personal advantage rather than go to the cross. Jesus withstood Satan every time by quoting from the Bible. He overcame him then, as he did throughout his entire life.
Finally, we come down to that last week. At that point, Satan was beginning to work within the Master’s inner circle. We know that he worked upon Peter. He got Peter to deny the Lord, but Peter was simply weak. We know the devil was involved in that, because Jesus had warned Peter in advance of what was coming. Jesus said, “Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32).
So Satan was working on Peter, and Satan was working on Judas, too. Jesus actually called him a “child of Satan.” And so the sad moment comes when this one who had followed the holy Jesus throughout three years of his ministry actually conspires with his enemies to have him handed over to them and be crucified. You have the events of that last day—the arrest in the garden by night, which was illegal, the trial by night by the Sanhedrin, which was illegal, the breaking of all the rules, and that quick hearing before Pilate. Eventually, there is the flogging, the sentence, and the pounding of the nails and the crucifixion. And, oh, Satan must have been standing back and literally jumping up and down with glee because at last he had succeeded in doing what he most wanted to do: to kill the Son of God. He had gotten him. He had gotten him where he could get at him, and he had manipulated things to have him killed.
Yet what a fool Satan proved to be! Satan had forgotten the prophecy that said, “He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” All he was doing was striking out at the heel of Jesus Christ, and he was forgetting that his own head was going to be crushed in the process. By the very death that Satan had conspired to achieve, God, in the Person of Jesus Christ, was achieving the salvation of the race—all who had been given to him, who would be united to him by saving faith—so that Jesus’ death became their death. Jesus was punished for their sin so that they could enter into the grace of salvation, the grace that God was supplying and prophesying as early as the Garden of Eden.