TEMPTATION

Based on Mark 4:1-11

I have been watching, and it is my time. This Jesus, my enemy, has put himself in my path and made himself available to me. Fool! His pride will be his downfall and my victory! He is weak, tired, and lonely, and my minions have spent the last forty days tweaking his emotions and taunting him. I have watched him walk the desert, the stones cutting his feet and the sun burning his skin. He may be divine, but he is also human. His humanity will be the crack in his armor that I need to bring him down. FOOL! He thinks that I have no power, but I do! And since he shares the essence of humanity, when I bring him down I can take down the whole human race as well! I am sure I can turn him to me in this condition. I can barely contain my glee!

He sits there, alone, at the entrance to his cave. The sun has made the sand hot enough to cook on, but he has no food. I know he must be hungry, and he is facing his future while he is tired. Perfect! Let the sun burn his eyes, and I will burn his soul!

I come from behind him, in the shadows of the cave. Making my voice calm and soothing, I greet him. Jesus pulls himself to his feet and turns to me. His eyes watch me carefully.

I know he’s hungry, having fasted for so many days. My minions have made sure to remind him of this every day, reminding him of the sweet dates and the aroma of fresh bread to be found in the nearby town. Unfortunately, he never followed up on their suggestions. Perhaps I can be more persuasive. “Jesus, you must be hungry,” I say as I walk slowly around the cave. I gather some rocks into a small pile in the middle of the cave floor. I exude the odor of fresh bread and meat as I move. I know he is watching me, and I surely must be having an effect on him. I wave my hand toward the rocks, and his eyes follow. I walk closer, still emitting the aroma of a feast. I see him swallow, and I try not to smile. I have him! “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” My voice is soft and smooth, like oil. Jesus stares at the stones, and I can imagine him seeing not stones, but loaves of bread and cheese. He swallows again. “DO IT!” I almost shout, but I control myself. I don’t want to push him too hard.

Jesus tears his eyes from the small pile and turns to me. He opens his mouth to speak, and I am ready to shriek my victory, but instead of words of capitulation he speaks the words “It is written: ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.’”

I step back and prepare to lunge at him, but must control myself. I am forbidden to touch him, and I damn those restrictions. I must try again! I wave my hand, and we find ourselves on the top of the temple. I have the house of God under my feet, which gives me an intoxicating sense of power. Jesus is standing next to me on the parapet, and we watch the people below us. Those puny beings, going about their insignificant lives, not knowing that their souls are in my hands! I turn to the man next to me and make my demand: “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you and ‘with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.'” I try to put the thought into his head “How many will follow me if they see the angels protecting me? My father will not allow me to fall!” I push these thoughts and try not to push him myself. Damn these restrictions! I want to push him, to see him fall in front of his people, and force God to accommodate my desires! Whether Jesus falls to his death or is saved by the angels, I will win either way. I hold my hands tightly together, struggling to restrain myself. I am almost dancing from foot to foot with the tension. Jesus says aloud, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.'” I spin with anger and rage, and he smirks! He smirks at me! Well, I will fix that!

Next, I take him to a high mountain. The air is crisp, clean, and cool. I know how it must feel after sweating in the desert for so long. I see Jesus take a deep breath and I let him enjoy the change of locale for a few moments. He relaxes, and we gaze for a long time over the land we can survey from this vantage point. It gives me a few moments to collect myself as well. We can see dozens of towns, and the farmlands form ordered patches of green, some of them separated by silver streams. We can see the roads that connect all the villages, and we watch the travelers. From this distance, they seem almost to not move at all. I let Jesus look over these kingdoms for a good, long time, thinking about all of those lost souls. I chew on a piece of grass and watch Jesus’ face. Finally, I decide to make my move.

“All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me,” I said. As king, he could force all of the inhabitants to follow him and worship according to his desires. Almost thinking aloud, I had the thought “Think of all the people you could save if you became king. They would listen to their king, wouldn’t they? With that kind of power, you could impose your faith on them and they wouldn’t dare disobey, would they? These people need a strong and benevolent leader, the kind of king that I know you would be. Think of the wonderful things you could do for them – in this life and the next! They would follow such a king willingly and your strength would grow! And other rulers would hear of your benevolence and your strength and come to believe as well! Think of all the souls you could save, if you would just take me up on my offer! Power to rule, and power to save!” I watched him carefully, holding my breath, but his answer was quickly given and decisive. “Get away, Satan! It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.'” He turned his back and walked away from me.

My shrieks were not the anticipated cries of victory, but of failure and anger. How dare he! He refused my power and then he turned his back on me! ME! The light bearer had been denied not once, but three times, and then snubbed! I threw Jesus back into his cave in the desert and retreated to my abode. I may have failed this time, but there would be other opportunities. I would continue my work on a smaller scale among the humans, but I would be watching Jesus. There would be another chance, and I do not want to miss it.

In the meantime, I called my minions to me and punished them for their failure.