John 12:27–36 (ESV) Jesus said, “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them.
In our Easter 5 Gospel (John 16:5-15), the third and final thing (after sin and righteousness) that Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will prove that the world is wrong and guilty “concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”
It should be obvious to everyone that the devil is the ruler of this sinful world because of the great amount of evil, destruction, and death that hangs over all mankind. And that is exactly what Jesus calls Satan here: “the ruler of this world.” Yet Jesus does not stop at saying the devil is the ruler of this world; Jesus goes on to say that Satan has been judged. As Jesus neared His time of suffering and death, He said, “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” Then St. John adds: "He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.” (John 12:31-33)
Jesus predicted that His death on the cross would overcome the devil’s power once and for all. Satan’s greatest delight has always been in accusing people of their sins and convincing them that they are hellbound. Yet on the cross, Jesus drew all the world’s sins into Himself to suffer for them and to release us from the devil’s bondage. When our sins are on Jesus and not on us, then we can confidently respond to the devil, “No, devil, I am a forgiven sinner. My sins have been laid on Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God. I belong to Him, and I am no longer under your power. I may be in your world, but I am not of that world; I am in Christ’s Kingdom.” As we confess in the Small Catechism, Jesus has “redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, that I may be His own.” Now we belong to Jesus, not to the devil, for we have been snatched out of the world’s grasp and into Christ’s.
Yet while we are in the Kingdom of Jesus under His reign, the devil is still the ruler of this sinful, perishing world between now and the last day. God has judged the devil by convicting him of his crimes and he has been sentenced to an eternity in hell, but for a short time, the devil is, as it were, out on parole in the world, with very tight restrictions. The judgment is made, but the punishment will not completely be doled out until the last day.
In the meantime, we need to always keep an eye out for the devil so that we may know how to avoid Him. The devil rules the sinful, perishing world, with all its unbelief and corruption, so the influence of the world is one way he tries to get at us. Likewise, he makes use of our sinful flesh to attempt to overwhelm the new creature that was given to us in Baptism.
But you need not fear Satan, for he is judged and you are in Christ through Baptism and faith, and in Christ, the devil cannot hurt you. That is why you need the Holy Spirit’s work in your life when He is calling you to repentance and faith, showing you the right knowledge of sin and righteousness and judgment: that is, for the sake of Jesus, all of your sin is forgiven, you are clothed with Christ’s own righteousness that saves you eternally, Satan has been judged, so you have nothing to fear in the final judgment.
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, giver and perfecter of our faith, we thank and praise You for continuing among us the preaching of Your Gospel for our instruction and edification. Send Your blessing upon the Word, which has been spoken to us, and by Your Holy Spirit increase our saving knowledge of You, that day by day we may be strengthened in the divine truth and remain steadfast in Your grace. Give us strength to fight the good fight and by faith to overcome all the temptations of Satan, the flesh, and the world so that we may finally receive the salvation of our souls; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.