The kamikaze pilots of Japan during the second world war were placed into a plane filled with explosives. The mission was a one-way trip as a human guidance system for a flying bomb where both plane and pilot are destroyed. The job did not take much skill and the qualifications were not stellar. They were dispensable and one-use only. Training went relatively quick and enforced the idea of total self-sacrifice for Japan and the emperor. The job was to kill while being killed. Once a pilot was trained and the mission arranged there was a farewell ritual and a last letter to home. With the pilot in the plane and the cockpit closed then would be the point of no return. There could be no change of heart nor escape. He was locked and bound into a hopeless, terminal path. Escorting him on his mission were fighter planes whose mission it was to report the results and enforce the goal. The kamikaze pilot was not to deviate from the plan with a sudden desire to live. They would see to it that, one way or another, the Kamikaze pilot was killed. He was flying to his death – that was his sole purpose. In the cockpit he is fixed to a sure conclusion. The pilot could not return. All was lost. The only thing they could look forward to in their future was to be recognized at a special shrine visited by the emperor. The Kamikaze pilots would offer their parting words to each other, “I’ll see you at the shrine.” This is all terribly tragic and empty. Truly, all was lost.
Realistically the Special Attack Unit (as it was called) could not be a long-term tactic. They were steadily forfeiting resources they could not afford to lose. The pool of volunteers was drying up as was the number of useable planes. All were valuable commodities which could not be easily replaced, and as the war continued so did desperation. Soon what had been voluntary became compulsory. A pilot who valued his life and was satisfied with a continuous role in the war was now forced into squandering everything in one shot. Any potential he may have had for future missions would be lost. These pilots had no recourse, no choice and no fighting chance. Escape or surrender were impossible. A man could either be killed for his country or be killed by his country. It all led to death.
This is the sort of situation Satan favors. Everything moves unstoppably toward ruin with obstacles large enough to obscure all option, solution and hide the route to freedom. This is a place purposefully designed to be confusing, isolated and bleak. The machinery is present to resist even a solitary, levelheaded thought. Satan would want to stuff us into an inescapable box where sin is the only answer. This, of course, is only in appearance. It is a ploy. He is incapable of actually creating such a predicament. The words of 1 Corinthians 10:13 exposes Satan’s limitations. These are words from someone who wants us to know the reality of any difficult situation. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. Satan is willing to use anything he can against us. He will use fear to prey on the naive. He will fuel the thoughts of public disgrace to the arrogant. He will lie to both the simple and wise. Apathy, greed, pride and despair are powerful motivators for wrong while demotivating any move to do right. This is the supposed inescapable box. Satan cannot create a condition where wickedness is the only available action. There is a way out. Satan uses the thoughts of dread, embarrassment and despondency to make the way of escape seem the worst possible direction. While it may be painful it will never have the detriment of sin.
In 1 Samuel 13 the Philistines gathered their masses for war at Michmash. Saul was in Gilgal (to the southeast) and waited for Samuel as he was told to do. There would be a sacrifice to God when Samuel arrived. Because of the threat of war, the people were scattering and hiding. Saul became desperate as Samuel was delayed. The Philistines are coming. The people are leaving. Saul knows a sacrifice to Jehovah should be made before he moves against the Philistine army. As he is forced to wait, he worries. With each passing day the enemy may invade further into Israel and his men may abandon him leaving him with a smaller army. Without Samuel he becomes desperate and decides to make the sacrifice on his own. This is something he was not permitted to do and is indefensible. He was unaware his situation became much worse. It is best to have the Philistines as your enemy than God. This would not be his last bad decision.
In 1 Samuel 31 Saul is routed by the Philistines. They are ever closing in. Saul feared what they might do to him as he was King of Israel. He saw himself having few alternatives left and none of them appealing. He could not defeat the Philistines. There were too many. He could not outrun them. He did not want to be captured by them. This would appear to be an inescapable box, a place where no option is good. His saw his one and only choice – suicide. But there was one more choice, one he did not consider – prayer for mercy and salvation. Turn to God. Here is the One who could help in a time of dead end and despair.
The temptations we see every day are not so dramatic or involved. They are only spontaneous desires which Satan uses against us. There are no complex sets of emotional forces pushing us to sin. Nothing is complex about being lured by what we want. It is a matter for the moment and the way of escape is easy, quick and conclusive. The temptation is over, and we move on to what we should have been doing. It is as easy as that, as complicated as that. The temptation is thwarted, and we are strengthened. There is no unavoidable sin or necessary evil. The longing will pass, but the results of sin are disastrous.
Let us now create a word. The word is “virtue-proof.” I think it is an adjective since it seems to describe nouns. So, what does “virtue-proof” mean? We must define it.
1 : Protecting the goals of an evil action to the point of preventing any possible resistance regardless of opposition.
2 : Plunging recklessly into a wicked plan with all steps to eliminate the possibility of changing the plan through a sudden moral impulse.
3 : Assuring the success of evil and the failure of anyone to stop it, including one’s own second thoughts or reconsiderations.
Virtue-proof is similar to foolproof but with a definite distinction. When you try to foolproof something you prepare it so anyone can use it. You cannot get it wrong even if you tried. No matter what happens a foolproof plan should still work. Virtue-proof is different. It is an effort to keep a wicked plan in motion by eliminating any possibility of virtue or goodness from interfering. This includes anyone involved in the plan. Should someone rethink their part they will be powerless to stop it. Let us look at a case in point.
In Mark 15:39 there is a man who was part of the mechanism that crucified Christ. The scheme was set into motion and, as it happened, included him. He is a gearwheel in a dangerous machine intended to be virtue-proof. So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!” This Roman centurion suddenly came to an overdue conclusion. He just witnessed the execution of a Jewish man, but there is more to this than first thought. On the cross are words placed there by the governor of Judea. It is a sign written in in Hebrew, Greek and Latin for all to read: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews(John 19:19). Those words are not mockery. They are not describing the offender’s crimes. This goes deeper by far. A Roman officer now understands the disastrous mistake. On this cross is the Son of God and he helped make it happen. He did his part in killing the Christ and now it was too late. A man simply doing his duty on a very strange day discovers the apparent manipulation behind it. His position was used with so many others to murder the Christ. The powers behind this moved everyone forward in ignorant and fearful compliance. If this centurion had come to the conclusion a few hours earlier, or days earlier, he could have done nothing to change the intended outcome.
Virtue-proof is the strategy of wickedness. It is the only workable plan for plausible victory – everyone moves mindlessly forward regardless of fact or conscience. It must create a godless situation preserved from good. Satan prefers men virtue-proof, easily manipulated and robbed of goodness. Satan would like one whole day that is virtue-proof in which evil reigns and nothing good exists. He wants a reality with God defeated, an eternal reality stripped of love, holiness and forgiveness. Satan wants a world without mercy, without hope, where nothing is sacred, and all is lost – a chaotic, eternal bedlam, an endless madhouse.
This level of evil-at-all-cost is seen in history. It leaves you wondering how people could become involved in unthinkable depths of evil. These individuals seemed reasonable and sensible enough to know better, but somehow sink into a nasty situation that looks unstoppable. But God will stop them all. In Genesis 6:5 the world is filled with an escalating evil. Satan uses the power, talents, wealth and cleverness of men (and anything else he can use) to tear them down, to destroy everything good. Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and thatevery intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. This was a place tainted, gangrenous and perverse. There could not be found a wholesome thought. This is Satan’s sort of world and it took him about 1,500 years from Genesis 3 to Genesis 6 to make it so vile. It appears to be virtue-proof. Nothing good could occur. Good is mocked, banned, hunted and killed. You are either a villain or a victim, the choice is yours. The condition of the world would seem irreversible, pressed beyond the tipping point. Evil begets evil and there is no recovery imaginable. The weight of wickedness grew remarkably with humanity compelling every resource, including all imagination, into sin. Evil wins… except it doesn’t. It never can.
But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD (Genesis 6:8). Satan did not manage to get everyone. There was a family surrounded by wickedness, but they were good. It must have been a difficult life for a righteous family. No doubt, they were in danger from the iniquity and bloodshed around them. When God washed the earth clean with a flood it would have been a different life for them.
God will not allow evil to win. In Hebrews 11:25. Moses had a choice to make, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin. The pleasures of sin are temporary. The power of sin is no better.
Usually people are not totally void of good. Ordinarily there is an assortment of both good and bad as most people do not want to be entirely evil. That level of evil takes them further than they want to go and outside any comfort of how they would like to think of themselves. Shame is a powerful thing and we like to believe better of ourselves, preferring to suppose there is something good about us. But people can get caught up by forces guiding them, funneling them deeper into wicked behavior than expected. The driving undercurrents of a mob make for a case in point. What controls a mob? Sometimes it can be one person provoking people into a combustible mix. At other times the eruption of a mob appears spontaneous and mindless. It explodes out of nowhere into a lethal, unpredictable mass of people without anyone steering it. Most of those involved would never have been so savage by themselves. As is often stated the day after, “Things got out of hand.” The group itself became the heat and the fuel for everyone in the group. A lit mob does not look for a reason nor does it voluntarily stop to consider the outcome and consequence. It cannot be constrained easily nor addressed without power backing the message. It detonates into lawlessness impressed by its own strength and fed by its own mayhem. Anything that is not the mob is a likely target.
A mob is designed to be a virtue-proof entity used to wield power. It uses chaos and confusion to the advantage of keeping everyone in the mob ignited, active and brutal. There are various mobs recorded in the Bible. The one in Ephesus (Acts 19) is quite telling. It begins with one man – Demetrius, a silversmith. This man does not constitute a mob, but his words will bring one about. His influence spreads quickly from a few silversmiths to engulf all Ephesus. There are two verses that tell the dynamics of the mob and the mental state of the people in the mob. So the whole city was filled with confusion, and rushed into the theater with one accord, having seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians, Paul’s travel companions (Acts 19:29). Here they are perplexed and furious. No one understood what this was about, but it must have been bad. So, what do they do? They seize two innocent men. Why? These Macedonian men became instant targets to emotionally driven and confused Ephesians. Something dire was happening, but no one knew what it was or how it started? Some therefore cried one thing and some another, for the assembly was confused, and most of them did not know why they had come together (Acts 19:32). The city clerk quieted them down with a warning that the city could be called into question because of such anarchy and the Romans would employ a heavy hand on them all. The mob was primed to kill, which would have pleased Demetrius, but the voice of reason entered to stop it. This angry Ephesian multitude was spontaneously generated and thus squelched with words of authority and warning. Real orchestration is needed to keep a mob on task.
The next mob is more organized with a plan and oaths to keep all loyal to the goals. In Acts 23:12-15 is a group of evil men who made a pact. They determined to kill Paul and began setting up a virtue-proof plan as best they can. And when it was day, some of the Jews banded together and bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. Now there were more than forty who had formed this conspiracy. They came to the chief priests and elders, and said, “We have bound ourselves under a great oath that we will eat nothing until we have killed Paul. Now you, therefore, together with the council, suggest to the commander that he be brought down to you tomorrow, as though you were going to make further inquiries concerning him; but we are ready to kill him before he comes near.”
Let us examine the details meant to keep this plan intact. There were more than forty men ready to kill. They had enough participants to cover the unexpected. These men gathered to make this murder happen. Everyone must be unswerving, reliable and bolted into place. Therefore, they take a vow to kill Paul and will not eat anything until he is dead. That puts an urgency to it. It should keep things timely and moving at a proper pace. But it also places them in a trapped position. They willingly imposed this by their own vow. The oath’s implication is do or die. Either Paul is killed, or the failed assassins starve to death. Each must commit himself to this evil act or die slowly of starvation. If the group is willing to kill Paul, it is also ready to kill the disloyal. There are to be no second thoughts or sudden bouts of virtue. Murder is the goal. Of course, any of these men could leave this wicked, little group. Anyone of them could do right. But fear locks them into their inescapable box. With full cooperation from the chief priests and elders everything should be sealed tight. Nothing could stop this act of supportive evil. Except Christ has other plans for Paul (Acts 23:11). The plot of so many men is discovered, avoided and comes to nothing. This world is never virtue-proof. Reality is not virtue-proof. It is impossible. God reigns over everything in holiness. His will is done, and Satan is always be disappointed. Satan will always be the loser.
The most curious of all mobs is the one at the crucifixion of Christ. Jerusalem welcomed Jesus as if receiving a king. It is exactly as described in Zechariah 9:9 “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey colt, the foal of a donkey. The people shout aloud what the Pharisees did not want whispered, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” Luke 19:38. It would only be a few days until this city changed its mood. These people, as a whole, are emotionally driven, easily herded and unstable. They welcomed Jesus as the King who comes in the name of Jehovah, and then a few days later force Him to carry His cross out of the city to be killed as a blasphemer. That indeed is a sea-change. But mood swings are in their history. In the beginning of John 6 there are thousands following Jesus. They search for Him diligently and want to make Him king. Toward the end of the chapter (John 6:66) they have shifted their opinion, From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Powerful men in Jerusalem feared this multitude (Matthew 21:26) but knew how to provoke it for what they wanted. They will play on their fear.
The necessary means to turn the people against Christ was set. Everything was firmly in place. The tracks were laid, and the train was ready to push forward. Fear would keep the Jews in line (John 9:22, 12:42) with intimidation so strong that even Peter with his previous bravado would scatter with the rest of the sheep (Zechariah 13:7). The one who was determined that Jesus would not be killed (Matthew 16:22) and was ready to die with Him (Mark 14:31) would deny Him instead. The rulers prodded Pilate through threats intended to drive this politician toward their objective. “If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar” (John 19:12-13). What did they tell Pilate? The message marks their determination, “If you let Jesus go you are Caesar’s enemy, and we will let him know.”
When did these men become interested in loyalty to Caesar? It was Pilate’s deep concerned since his life and career rested on Caesar’s disposition toward him. The rulers of Israel are politically savvy and know how to get Pilate’s attention. John 19:15 But they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar!” See how far they have gone, Caesar before Christ. They also choose Barabbas before Christ. Barabbas was a notorious prisoner (Matthew 27:16), a robber (John 18:40), a murderer in a rebellion (Mark 15:7, Luke 23:19). The rulers controlled the voice of the people for the release of Barabbas. But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus (Matthew 27:20). This was not compassion for Barabbas but hatred of Jesus. Even though Barabbas was an insurgent and cutthroat the Jewish people would have less worry from him than with Caesar. Preferring anyone over Christ is a poor choice. They were willing to take both rather than Jesus, anyone and anything but Christ. Barabbas was now free to do what he had been doing before capture. And Caesar might have been amused if he learned the Jewish leaders chose him over their Messiah – he was their king. Neither is a replacement. This mob gained nothing and lost everything.
Cruelty consumed them. Such malice will strip everything good from them. They broke laws and legal procedures to push their predetermined goal: crucifixion. It is madness under single-minded obsession. They will stop at nothing and pay everything. And all the people answered and said, “His blood be on us and on our children” (Matthew 27:25). When they are willing to utter those words then they are a mob indeed. They do not measure the decision. They do not consider the result. They want justice to be virtue-proof, at least in this trial. They want everyone to feel as though they were in an inescapable box – from the common people to Pilate himself. All opposition is to fear. Be silent or just deny Him (John 18:16-27). All are to think there is no power in righteousness. All are to think there is no choice but to follow those leading this work of evil. Why? They just want Jesus dead. Why? The reasons do not seem to matter, and the price does not matter – until later when suddenly it does. An angry mob is not used for rational reflection. It is to be rash, bad-tempered, and loud. That is what it is. Heedless cruelty is why a mob is used.
Why were these people so ruthless toward Christ? They show more compassion to the thieves crucified with him. In Matthew 27:39-44 they pass by Him and blaspheme Him, and the thieves join in. It was not enough to kill Him; they want to break Him before He dies. In all the head wagging, mocking and spitting something happened. Salvation was done and redemption paid. There was mercy offered. It is not given for the mob, that is an unruly thing, but to each person in it. This is for the individual to be set apart. In quiet moments the consequence for actions become a concern. They suddenly matter. It is possible there were many people in that mob who, on a new day, asked the question, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Acts 2:27. The greatest virtue, the greatest love, the greatest of act of mercy was done. Satan could not stop it. In everything that seemed so entirely void of good brought the greatest good. Who could have predicted it? Certainly, Satan could not have foreseen it. His attempts always run against the impossible. You cannot destroy good. This was his ideal inescapable box. This was his perfect virtue-proof setting and plot against God. When could this ever be repeated? When could this ever be equaled in scope and in masterful manipulation? It cannot be. If Satan failed here, then he can never create his preferred situation free of good, or an inescapable box for all.