St. Michael Defeats Satan

Several things struck me about this portrait of St. Michael the archangel defeating the devil that I recently discovered. First, his sword. It is more like a lightsaber than a sword. Although the handle looks like a regular sword handle the blade looks like it is made of fire. This goes along with what Paul says in Ephesians 6:12 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

Since our battle is against the cosmic power over this present darkness, the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places, we need weapons that will work in the spiritual sphere not the physical. For us non-angels, God’s Word is that weapon.

I am also struck by the depiction of the devil in this painting. In many of the paintings of this story from the Bible the devil is pictured as some kind of serpent or inhuman beast. While from the hips down the devil appears serpent-like, the rest of him looks human, especially his face. This reminds us that the devil is most dangerous when he can disguise himself. And what better disguise than a human disguise?

Finally, notice St. Michael’s outfit. While he has angel wings and is dressed in the traditional garb of a warrior, sticking out from under his armor is some delicate lace. This makes sense when you understand that this painting was painted by an artist that lived in an area that was famous for making lace. This painting comes from the collection of South American paintings of Carl and Marilyn Thoma. The identity of the artist is unknown but is believed to be from Bolivia, a country known for its lace.

It is such a common practice to project our own personal and cultural sensibilities on characters from the Bible. For example, no one knows what Jesus looks like but wherever he is depicted around the world he always looks like someone from that area. Among my Christmas decorations I have creches where Jesus is white, black and Hispanic.

The passage of Scripture that tells of St. Michael’s battle with the devil is from Revelation:

[7] Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, [8] but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. [9] And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. (Revelation 12:7-9, ESV)

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