If Satan keeps a calendar, I imagine that the days acknowledging the death and resurrection of Jesus are two of his least favorites. But that’s not to say that he takes the weekend off every year to sit back and imagine what might have been. While we’re having our Good Friday and Easter Sunday services, he’s still roaring and devouring, perhaps more than usual. He knows that he can’t keep Christians from celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus but he can at least trick them into celebrating his way.
So, in the spirit of The Screwtape Letters, here are a few of the marching orders Satan might give to the demons who happen to be patrolling in and around this year’s Easter services.
Cut The Head Off The Snake
The idea of a snake being beheaded, especially at this time of year, is painful and unfortunate but the imagery works here. Attack the pastor. Keep him busy all week so that he has no time to prepare his sermon. Convince him that that wretched hymn about loving to tell the old, old story is a lie. Make him think that the story of the resurrection has grown tired and irrelevant. In the place of that old story, have him preach on how the cross is a giant plus sign, affirming the value and inherent goodness of all human beings.
If he must speak of the resurrection, have him allegorize it. Convince him that a more relevant path is needed to reach today’s audience. So instead of the historical, biblical account of Jesus’ resurrection, have him talk about how the humans can “rise again” from debt, broken relationships and general unhappiness. I get excited just thinking about this.
Remember Our Favorite Weapon
Keep the humans entertained. We are a long way from shutting down these Easter services all together but that doesn’t mean that we can’t make them our own. Your goal should be that when people are walking out of the service, they marvel more at the light show than they do at the resurrected Christ, that they are more impacted by how cool a pastor must be to skip his sermon and play cartoon clips than they are by any actual work of the Spirit and that they leave thinking more about how good they are than they did when they came in.
Keep It Simple
Stay away from the theatrics. People don’t need to see crosses flying off the wall or hear our voices in order for our work to be done. Just keep it simple. And the simplest way for us to work through humans is in the way that they treat each other.
So make sure that whoever is working the nursery that day is in a really bad mood about not getting to be in the worship service. Have her tell as many people as possible—even the guests dropping their kids off—how terrible things are. Keep her from smiling. Never underestimate the harm that a sincere smile can bring to our work. Do what you can to make the pastor ridicule the folks who he hasn’t seen since Christmas. Work to ensure that one of the visitors sits in the place usually reserved for one of the regulars. At the same time, work in that member’s heart to make him feel that he is loosing his church and to treat the guests accordingly. If you can accomplish these simple steps, much of our work will be done and we can move on to a more threatening church next year.
Pastor, if you are committed to telling the old, old story as it is presented in the Bible, this Easter Sunday will be a war. All the forces of hell will be working against you. But you don’t have to be a victim. The risen Savior whom you proclaim has triumphed over Satan and his forces (Colossians 2:15). So act like it. Love boldly and welcome openly on that day. Preach directly, winsomely and biblically.
You are likely to have several guests at your church this Easter Sunday. Make sure that the people sitting in the chairs feel welcomed, but more than that, make sure that they hear the old, old story of Jesus Christ crucified, buried and risen for his people.
But there will be other guests as well. They are the unseen, the disrupters and the obstructionists, keeping men blind to their need for the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). Make sure that these guests are not welcomed. Leave no room for their schemes. Give no platform to their distractions. Pray! Right now, pray. When your prayer is done, pray some more.
Pray that Christ would be glorified.
Pray that believers would be edified.
Pray that the blinders would be removed from the eyes of unbelievers.
And thank God that the gates of hell are no match for the church of the risen Christ.
Featured image is a clip from Matthias Grünewald’s The Resurrection.