It is a question I hear often during this time of year.
Did Satan know that Jesus’ death would redeem the world?
Though Scripture does not address this question specifically, we can assume that he did.
On the road to Emmaus, Jesus told Cleopas and his fellow traveler that the Hebrew Scriptures foretold that the Messiah would have to suffer and die. Also, on the way to Jerusalem, Jesus predicted His death and resurrection three times to the disciples. If Jesus expected His disciples to know and understand the redemptive meaning of His death, we can assume that Satan knew as well.
Inevitably, the next question I’m asked is, “Then why did Satan not try to stop it?”
First of all, one thing we have to understand about Satan is that his malice is greater than his intelligence. That is, his desire to do evil overwhelms his rational powers, as considerable as they may be. In the case of Jesus’ death, the devil took so much delight in seeing the Son of God rejected, tortured and killed that it made him forget the meaning of Jesus’ sacrifice.
It is the same experience we have, for instance, if we decide to drink too much even though we know we’ll be sick the next day. Satan fed off the bloodthirsty crowd and became inebriated by the orgy of hate he incited. It made him powerless to give any thought to how all this would ultimately result in his undoing.
Secondly, Satan saw in Jesus’ suffering and death an opportunity to destroy the apostles. What would Jesus’ death mean if there were no one left to announce it? Always on the prowl to poach souls, he had already corrupted Judas and came close to leading Peter along the same path of despair. He hoped to sow enough discouragement in the apostles that they would abandon Jesus altogether. And, along the way, he could cement hate into the hearts of the religious leaders, Roman authorities and all those who got in line to insult, spit at and strike the Son of God.
Finally, Satan was ultimately powerless to prevent the crucifixion even if he had wanted to. Jesus clearly tells His disciples that He is laying down His live freely. He is no victim in this barbarous spectacle. It was all preordained before the creation of the world for our salvation. No power in heaven or on earth, besides God Himself, could have put an end to it.
We should never forget that Satan is furiously plotting our ruin. He is extremely dangerous because, like a cornered animal, he knows he is beaten and has nothing to lose. However, his efforts are futile. Christ will reign forever, and we with Him, if we take up our cross and follow Him. That is the true meaning of these days of torture and triumph.