Studying European history can be both fascinating and frustrating. Understanding the intricacies of all of those nations, borders and rulers could very easily be a life-long pursuit. The history of the continent is filled with claims, and counterclaims as one person after another sought to prove himself the legitimate heir to one of its many kingdoms. There were many who sought to claim thrones and these claims had to be settled through lengthy and detailed examination. Generations, kingdoms, marriages, and thrones had to be examined to understand who had the rightful claim to a throne.
I once found a similar concept of “claiming” in the Bible and it struck me as one of the most terrifying passages of Scripture. I remember as a child finding Revelation a dark and scary book. Visions of beasts and persecution, wrath and disaster played out in my mind as I tried to sleep. But I don’t think that’s any scarier than the implications of what I found in a particular verse.
It comes as Jesus is preparing to leave his disciples for the last time. They are in the upper room together celebrating the last Passover and the first Lord’s Supper. Jesus is giving his disciples their final instructions, telling them that all he has taught them is about to be fulfilled. He is gentle with them, knowing that they are blinded to the reality of what is about to happen. He is kind to promise that he will send His Spirit to indwell and guide and teach them. And then he tells them that it is time for him to leave.
“I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me…” Jesus knew that Satan was about to unleash his full fury upon him. And far, far worse, he knew that Satan’s wrath was as nothing compared to the wrath of God that he would soon have to face. Satan, the ruler of this world, was coming. He was going to drag Jesus, like a helpless, hopeless lamb, through the streets, through the courts, and to the cross where he would be tortured and nailed and pierced in utter agony. Satan was going to do his worst. But Satan would not accomplish what he had hoped. In fact, he would accomplish the very opposite of what he had intended. By inciting the masses to drag Jesus to that tree, Satan would make sure his own doom and ensure the salvation of multitudes of God’s people. Satan could do nothing to Jesus beyond the physical, for he had no claim on him. He had no claim on the Son of God.
The Bible calls Satan the accuser because that is exactly how he does his work. In Revelation 12 we read of a voice that cries out, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.” Satan delights in accusing God’s children of sin. Before the throne of God he tells of our sin and our failure. He tells of his reign in the hearts of all who have sinned. He tells of his rightful claim to the souls of all who have sinned against the Creator.
But he had no claim on Jesus. Satan could not whisper in Jesus’ ear that he was unloving or unworthy or sinful. He could not remind Jesus of sins he had committed, people he had shunned or offenses against God. He could not remind Jesus of impure motives or impure thoughts. Satan was powerless to accuse Jesus. He had no claim against him. In John 8:46 Jesus asked the Pharisees a rhetorical question after they accused him of being in league with Satan. “Which one of you convicts me of sin?,” he asked them. And none of them could answer. They were silent. Satan is likewise unable to convict Jesus of sin. He has no claim. He must stand in silence before the perfection of Jesus.
But not so with us. Satan has a legitimate claim to my soul and yours. Satan can recount endless lists of offenses against God. You and I have committed grevious offenses against God. We have done so joyfully, willingly, deliberately. We have done so as a show of our rebellion against God. We have enjoyed being sinful. We have enjoyed giving Satan a claim on our souls. In a time of judgment there is no doubt that Satan can produce a list of offenses more than sufficient to prove his claim on us. It is a legitimate claim. He has ruled us and we have allowed ourselves to be ruled by him.
Terror should fill the hearts of all who ponder Satan’s claims on their souls. And how could it not? Satan, the accuser, the evil one, wants my soul as his own possession. He has a claim on it. He has a claim on you. How can you not fear as you read those words?
But I thank God that there is more. When Satan flung Jesus upon that cross, he was unwittingly bringing about his own destruction. When Jesus’ time on the cross was complete, he cried out, “It is finished!” It was a cry of triumph–a cry whose fullest meaning we can never know. It was a cry that pierced history–it divided the history of humanity. It was the greatest, purest, most meaningful utterance the world can know. In his death Christ took our sin upon himself. He took the accusations of Satan and bore them on our behalf. As God turned his back on Jesus, while at the same time pouring out his wrath upon him, Jesus atoned for our sins. He entered a claim of his own in the lives of his children. My sin became his and his righteousness became mine.
The accuser lost his claim. When Satan accuses me I am now able to know, to believe, to trust and to affirm that his claim is null and void. I am clothed in Christ’s righteousness. My sin has been removed. My guilt has been taken away. I have been redeemed. And, as the triumphant climber leaves a flag at the peak of a mountain, Jesus Christ has sent his Spirit to live within me and to mark me as his own possession.
Satan may still accuse me. He may still seek to convince me that I am his. But he has lost his claim. Jesus has washed me with his blood. He has set his Spirit within me. Jesus Christ has claimed me as his own. Satan has no claim on me. And that is a glorious, wonderful thing.