I’ve been meditating on Luke 10:17-20 a bit this week. And it’s just like me to get hung up in the weeds and miss the great glorious truth of the passage. I mean think of all the questions in this passage…
- What does Jesus mean about seeing Satan fall like lightning?
- Is that authority to tread on serpents and scorpions still applicable?
- What about the authority over demons, is that something I possess?
- How in the world can Jesus say “nothing shall hurt you” when some of these dudes like died a martyrs death?
It’s that last question that I’m considering today because I hear it spouted out a few times by prosperity “gospel” teachers as evidence that God doesn’t want us sick. Consider this by prosperity teacher Joseph Prince:
Years ago, while traveling on a domestic flight in the United States, I was seated next to a woman whose whole body was tense with fear. Concerned, I asked if I could help her in any way. Between sobs, she told me about her fear of flying. I told her, “Don’t worry. I am on board. Nothing will happen to the plane.” I did not say it with pride. I said it knowing that the Lord was on board the plane with me and that I would have a safe journey because He has promised that “nothing shall by any means hurt you”.
So does Luke 10:19 teach that Christians don’t get in plane crashes? Prince is claiming that it does. So long as “Jesus is with you” nothing shall hurt you. But can that really be defended, by logic, history, or the Scriptures?
A simple follow-up question should solve this one. Are those seventy-two dudes still living on the earth? Unless they are living on that island with 2Pac and Elvis I don’t believe so. This means that at some point and time something hurt them. Their “plane” crashed at some point.
So what are we to conclude from this? If Prince is correct then either Jesus lied to them OR at some point in time he wasn’t with them. Prince is making an absolute claim here—if Jesus is with you nothing will hurt you.
This leaves me wondering what in the world was happening on the Cross. Did Jesus leave Jesus when those spikes were driven into his arm? Or did they just not hurt somehow? When Jesus was writhing in agony and experiencing a bitter thirst and crying out “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me” is this because he was no longer with Himself?
Or are we going to have to claim that Jesus is the only exception because He became sin for us? If so, then what do we make of the beheading of Peter and Paul? Was this because Jesus left them? Or maybe we make the claim that beheadings don’t really hurt all that much. But even still I’m not sure what we do with all the times Paul spoken of being in pain or suffering or despairing of life itself. Is this because Jesus had left him?
Or maybe we should come to the conclusion that Joseph Prince isn’t appropriately applying Luke 10:19. Maybe it isn’t a promise for us avoiding a plane crash. So what does Jesus mean when he says “nothing will hurt you”?
I believe it’s a couple of things. One, I do believe there is a bit of protection that is happening with the disciples. It’s a little like what George Whitefield said, “We are immortal until our work on earth is done.” There is a way in which God does protect us from harm. The Bible makes this clear. And we see an especial protection for the early apostles. But that’s a far cry from saying, “Be of good courage this plane isn’t going down because I’m on it.”
But clearly even that protection is more like Whitefield and less like Joseph Prince. It’s not absolute because if it was then we’d still have an apostle Paul and Peter hanging with us today. (Which might be good because they’d likely shut down the stupid prosperity-gospel).
Secondly, I believe Jesus’ larger point is made in verse 20. It’s true that they are immortal until their work on earth is done. But it’s also true that they are immortal, spiritually speaking, because of the work of Jesus on their behalf. And this is true of us as well.
That’s why I say we get lost in the weeds on this passage getting all wrapped up in demons and scorpions. This passage isn’t fundamentally about demons or Satan falling or nothing harming us. It’s mostly about the beauty and wonder of the gospel. And that’s just like us to miss verse 20 because we are so focused on demonology.
We’ve been given the greatest gift ever. Jesus himself. That’s not a promise for whether or not planes crash down. That’s far too short-sighted. This is a promise for eternal joy in the presence of God Almighty. That has been secured for us. Planes can crash and the promise stands true. Nothing can ultimately hurt us because even our death and suffering ends for our good.
Photo source: here