Sunday, March 6, 2016

Thunderstruck.

Fourth Sunday in Lent...

Today's reading in the Catholic church is the story of the Prodigal Son (from Luke 15), but I wanted to go back a little in Luke to chapter 10. I've been re-reading some C. S. Lewis, and although this verse hasn't come up, it reminded me of this, Luke 10:18 (KJV, for you old-schoolers):

And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.

It's one little line with no further information; it's part of Jesus' explanation as to why he has been able to grant safety from the power of the Enemy to his apostles. It's the kind of verse I would shoot past as I blah-blah-blah-begat-begat my way through the Bible, ignoramus that I am, except for its amazing imagery. It immediately tells us several important things:

1) There is a Satan, and he fell. 

It's a key issue -- and it's strange to me that there are people who believe in Jesus but not in Satan. Jesus certainly believed in Satan. In the next verse He describes Satan as the Enemy. He wouldn't do that if there were no Satan, or Satan was just some guy.

I guess it's a temptation among well-meaning people who see evil as a psychological problem rather than a force so real that it actually exists outside human beings. Perhaps they think Luke just stuck that line in chapter 10 because he believed in Satan. But if you start thinking that way, why would you trust the Gospels for any information about Jesus at all?

It also tells us that Satan was in a good state once, and plummeted to a bad state. He didn't start out being rotten.

2) Jesus was there to see it happen. 

This was dogma I always had trouble with, the doctrine that Jesus was present with God before the world was made. I thought that was something the guys in collars just made up. And yet it's right there. We know Satan's been at us in one way or another since the beginning, so if Jesus was present, it follows that He too has been around at least that long. If you accept His words, you have to accept that as well.

It brings me back to that famous quote from Lewis in Mere Christianity: 

You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

3) About the manner of the fall.  



It's an amazing image---when we think of the fall of Satan we might imagine a body being cast from a great height into a great depth, but this is more than that. This is sudden, shocking, brilliant. Lucifer means "light bringer," suggesting a good and righteous duty, but it also tells us how a creature of light would fall---blazing, like lightning; instantly; and amid a terrifying storm.

Jesus was the greatest storyteller in history, as seen in the power and depth of the parables; His concision is such that He could have told War and Peace in a fortune cookie. Here, in just eight words (in the English translation), "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven," He packs a dazzling image with a wealth of information. He puts things unknowable to men in a way that we can grasp. In every profession we see Him turn to---writer, teacher, preacher, doctor, psychologist, boss, vintner---He was the best.

Okay, that's enough depth for me. Tune in tomorrow when I'm back to eating something or complaining about the dog.
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