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Dane Skelton is the Pastor of Faith Community Church and the author of Jungle Flight: Spiritual Adventures at the Ends of the Earth, a book of true stories from the ministry of JAARS (formerly Jungle Aviation and Radio Service). His second book, Papua Pilot: Flying the Bible to the Last Lost Peoples, co-authored with the late Paul Westlund, is now available on Amazon.com and Christianbook.com.
Nothing can substitute for a good handle. Think about it: A door without a handle won’t open. A shovel without a handle won’t dig. A bike without a handle won’t steer. A pan without a handle won’t cook (at least not without burning you.)
But handles come in other forms too: When a ball player drops the ball we say, “He couldn’t find the handle.” A car with bad tires is a car that “won’t handle.” A computer without a mouse is a computer without a handle.
To have a handle on something – to have a hold on it – is to have control of it. That’s why Jesus statement in John 14:30-31 is so intriguing.
I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me,(emphasis mine) but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me. Come now; let us leave. (John 14:30-31 NIV)
Jesus spoke these words on Good Friday eve, just after “the last supper.” He was at a crucial moment. If he lost his resolve at this point, or if he gave into the devil, all that he had taught and worked for would come to nothing. If the “prince of this world” could get a handle on him all would be lost.
If the devil had a hold on Jesus, what would it have looked like? Well, the same as it would look on us. So if you want to keep the devil’s hand off the handle of your life, read on.
We can see potential handles in some of the events that happened in Jesus’ life that night and the next day.
THE PRIDE HANDLE (See John 13:13-17 Washing the disciples’ feet).
I once received a backhanded compliment from an x-ray nurse who had just inserted a needle in my arm. (I really hate needles.)
“I wouldn’t have picked you for a minister,” she said.
“Why, do they like needles?”
“You’re not as arrogant for one thing.”
I was embarrassed about the pride of position that prevails among men in my profession. In Jesus there was no pride of position. He washed his disciples’ dirty feet, something only servants did. “Now that you know these things,” he told them, “you will be blessed if you do them.”
He could have said, “The devil will have no hold on you when you embrace humility.”
Remember where we are in the story? Jesus was at the height of his popularity He had just made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Everywhere he went he was mobbed like a rock-star. People called him “Lord, Rabbi, Teacher”. If he had said, “take up arms against Rome” he’d have had an army overnight. He could have had an earthly kingdom in a heartbeat. How many people do you know with that kind of reputation spend much time washing their roadie’s tootsies?
Pride is a handle on your back that the devil can grab and point you where he wants you to go. But the handle was missing on Jesus.
THE RESENTMENT HANDLE (See John 13:21-30. Jesus knew who would betray him.)
Resentment is a state of high annoyance, that contemptuous feeling you have for someone you know is going to betray you and there is nothing you can do about it.
Imagine yourself in Jesus’ sandals. He knew what Judas was going to do. He knew what it was going to cost him when Judas did it. Yet he kept it to himself. How could he do that? The prince of darkness didn’t have the handle of resentment to jerk Jesus around with. How did he avoid resentment? He knew that God was in control (John 14:28). He had no illusions about human beings (13:36-38). He was conscious of a greater reality (14:1-6), a greater purpose for his life.
Calvin Miller, in a work called "The Finale," said: The world (and often the Church) is poor because her fortune is buried in the sky and all her treasure maps are of the earth. When we know that God is in control, people are fallible and heaven is our true home, the prince of this world has no resentment handle on us.
THE ANGER HANDLE (See John 18:10-11. Peter losing his temper and using his sword in the garden of Gethsemane.)
Anger is the emotion of self-preservation. It’s what you feel when you are afraid, when your personal safety is threatened, when the line between right and wrong has been clearly crossed and you’re on the receiving end of injustice.
Jesus had a right to be angry. He had a right to defend himself. He had a right to argue against what was about to be done to him. But he surrendered his right to His Father in order to accomplish the higher good of freeing mankind from sin and its consequences.
Pride, Resentment, Anger – these are the handles the prince of darkness would have used on Jesus. But they weren’t there. They were missing in Jesus. That’s why he is sinless. That’s why we call him Lord.
The devil will use those handles on us if we let him, but we have another option. We can’t escape the temptation to pride or the situations that stimulate fear and anger and resentment, not as long as we’re on this earth. But we can imitate Jesus. We can give the handles to someone else. We can give the handles to him, and when we do, he transforms us. That is the act of surrender. It’s what Jesus did in the garden when he said, “Not my will, but yours be done.” It’s what we can do every day.