“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)
The opening scene in Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ shows Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, in deep agony, sweating blood, as he prays to his Father. The burden of what he’s about to do on the cross is weighing on him and Satan is there, tempting him. A snake slithers up to Jesus’ hands. Jesus stands up, bracing himself, and stomps on the serpent. While Jesus really did pray in the garden before going to the cross, we can’t be so sure about stomping on the snake. Whether it really happened is beside the point. The scene is visually referencing something quite important from the beginning of the biblical story.
In Genesis 3, after Adam and Eve sinned, God immediately made a promise to the Satan who posed as a serpent that fateful day. The serpent had deceived the first humans. Their sin brought death to God’s perfect world. But the serpent would not have the last laugh. God promised that Eve’s offspring would come to do battle against the serpent. The offspring would bruise the serpent’s head; the serpent would bruise his heel. In other words, the serpent would suffer a fatal blow, but it wouldn’t be a pain-free victory for the offspring. This offspring is none other than Jesus. The fatal blow happened on the cross.
At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus endured Satan’s temptations, unlike Adam. Throughout his life on earth, he delivered people from demonic possession as a sign that the kingdom of light was dawning and would overwhelm the kingdom of darkness. Then, on the cross, Jesus satisfied the wrath of God on sinners like you and me, delivering the death-blow to sin, evil, death, and Satan himself.
Christmas is God’s declaration of war on the serpent. The same helpless baby born in Bethlehem grew up to triumph over the serpent. As the Scriptures say, “He partook of [flesh and blood] that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14).
Scripture and Reflection Questions
Read Hebrews 2:5-18
- How real is it to you that Jesus has triumphed over Satan?
- How is it that Jesus’ death destroys 1) the one who has the power of death? and 2) death itself?
- When you consider that Jesus was made like you, in order to save you, how does this influence your appreciation for his endurance in temptation? How can his victory change you?
- Are you enslaved to the fear of death? How do you need Jesus to free you today?