February 21,2021 The First Sunday of Lent (Cycle B)
The tie in between today’s readings: Satan, the Watchers, and the Invisible Battle
After the fall of Adam and Eve, the Lord predicts the Serpent’s destruction through the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15). The war is on! The enemies of God have a three-prong attack against this Promised One: destroy His bloodline, make Him disqualify Himself through sin, and kill Him before He can fulfill the mission. Our reading in 1 Peter 3:18-22 and its’ connection to Noah in Genesis 9:8-15 picks up on the first part of the plan. It also brings up some very puzzling questions about Jesus and the disobedient spirits. For answers, you have to look at the extra canonical books, most notably 1 Enoch. Since these apocryphal books contain truth but are not the truth as the scriptures are, you need to proceed cautiously with them lest they lead you off the path and leave you lost in the tall grass. Nevertheless, this incident is also referenced in another New Testament book: Jude 1:6 and the Apostle’s Creed, making it worthwhile to explore these extra Biblical writings for the background information needed to fill in the gaps. With that said, let’s draw back the curtain and examine the invisible battle against the only hope for mankind’s redemption, Jesus, the Messiah.
1 Enoch tells us that, as man multiplied on the earth, the Lord set up angels to watch over and guide them back to Him. Unfortunately, two hundred of these “Watchers” make a pact to take on a physical nature and mix themselves with humanity through marriage (and rape), resulting in a hybrid offspring of giants: Nephilim (Genesis 6:4, 1 Enoch 7:1-6, Jubilees 5:1). They also teach mankind the forbidden knowledge of sorcery, astrology, and seduction. The angel, Azazel, worse of all, teaches the art of war. The world is in total upheaval. Sin is running amok. Violence is everywhere. The enemies of God are on the verge of victory as their angelic DNA corrupts the human gene pool and, with it, the Messiah’s qualifications, while their Nephilim progeny threaten to wipeout and displace mankind entirely from the earth. Enter Noah and the ark. For whatever reasons, the Lord had for choosing him, surely a main one was that he had one of the last pure human bloodlines. It takes Noah one hundred and twenty years to complete his mission. During this time God puts His Archangels to work. Gabriel initiates a civil war among the giants in which they destroy themselves. Raphael binds Azazel’s hands and casts him into a deep desert ravine. Michael imprisons the rest of the Watchers deep in the earth. The deluge comes and purges the world of corrupt humanity. Then, the Lord starts again with eight people, a rainbow, and a promise of no more floods. The Bible tells us that races of giants still flourished even after all this. There are several theories on how they resurfaced making great speculation topics for podcasts, but not here. Suffice it to say that God takes a major PR hit from modern ignorant critics when He orders their total annihilation during the conquest of the Promised Land. Their extinction is finally accomplished during the time of King David. The first prong of the attack on the Messiah is over.
In the brief account of our gospel reading in Mark 1:12-15, Satan fails to tempt Jesus to sin in his weakened wilderness condition. Thankfully, the other gospels have a little more meat on them concerning this encounter. The point is that the Devil and men alike relentlessly peppered our Lord with situations and urgings to get Him to disobey His Father. He was tempted in all things, but never sinned (Hebrews 4:15). He never lost His qualification to be the spotless Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. With His testing in the desert in the rearview mirror, Jesus goes on the offensive. He begins with His call for all to repent and believe the gospel because the Kingdom of God is at hand. People marvel wherever He goes. His teachings are astounding. His miracles are undeniable. He can’t be trapped, tricked, or tripped up by the authorities. There is nothing left for his enemies to do but to eliminate this Messiah before it’s too late and everything gets out of hand.
It’s not that attempts on Jesus’ life never happened before the cross. When He’s a baby, Herod slaughters a whole town of toddlers in an effort to get to Him. The Holy Family escapes because they have an angel earning warning system. Satan attempts to drown Him in a tempest on the Sea of Galilee. But what can you do when the guy can calm the waves and walk on the water? His frenzied neighbors in the hometown synagogue try to throw Him off a cliff when He tells them that He is the Messiah. Jesus just walks right past them. His time had not yet come. His enemies are frustrated, to say the least. But then, Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey in His Triumphal Entry. The fact that He is fulfilling Messianic prophesy is not lost on the crowd and raising Lazarus from the dead just a few days earlier doesn’t hurt your street creds either. They are ready to claim Him as their political King and start the revolt against Rome. The chief priest and rulers are scared to death! They thoroughly commit themselves to His demise. Better that one man die than the whole nation. Then, out of the blue, the ever-opportunistic Judas shows up with an offer to giftwrap Jesus for them. Alleluia! Their prayers are answered. On Holy Thursday night, Satan enters Judas and initiates operation “Kiss and Tell” in the garden of Gethsemane. The powers of an invisible fallen world manipulate unwitting men into torturing and executing of the Son of God. It’s not until well into the crucifixion that they get the feeling that something is wrong and call for the Christ to come down off His cross. Too late! It had always been God’s plan that His Son should die this way. The dark world never fathomed this. As the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:8, “…had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.” Since the fall of man in Eden, the Almighty played the rebellious spiritual and physical worlds like a grand chess master and now on Calvary, with the cry of, “It is finished.” It was check and mate!
While Christ’s body lays in the tomb to be resurrected on Easter Sunday, things are happening behind the scenes in the spiritual world. In Paradise, Jesus greets all of the Old Testament believers, the thief on the cross being the newest arrival, with the great news of their salvation. The gates of heaven are open, and He will lead them there! Jesus also descends to pay a visit to the imprisoned Watchers in Hell. His message: “I am victorious. Your doom is sealed.” Apparently, they will stay in their confinement until they are loosed upon the earth during the Great Tribulation. After that, Judgement Day!
The war is over, but evil is not done! Darkness craves for all the souls it can get. Satan’s campaign against Christ’s Body, the Church will continue until the end. We come back around to 1 Peter 3:21 where the Apostle ties in Noah’s ark with Baptism. He starts by saying that Baptism is not an outward water washing ceremony. Baptism means something! It is your faith union into Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. It is your commitment to the new life that Jesus gives you in salvation. As it says in our reading in Psalm 25:4-9, it’s a life of learning, forgiveness, humility, and walking in faith. Just as the flood was a strike against evil in Noah’s time, Baptism is your public stand with Christ and your battle cry against the Devil. If you have not yet come to the cross by faith for your salvation, if you have not yet committed to Christ as your Lord and Savior and made you Baptismal vows real in your life, now’s the time! Turn from your sins! Renounce Satan! Put on the full armor of God and fight the good fight of faith! Be fearless! Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4). Our God reigns! Alleluia!