12. Birth Pangs

          He was unprotected, Gabriel thought, and he knew it.

Well, he was a man of courage that was obvious.  But going into the desert with him , without any cover, without any troops to back him up, seemed foolish.  It was the strongman’s domain after all.  But Gabriel had learned a long time ago to trust this man that he was sworn to protect.

         This man? Gabriel thought with wonder, no, he was more than that!  That was the thing that had shocked them all – yes, and thrilled them all with the boldness of it. But it was dangerous.  The Voice becoming flesh, the Word taking upon itself skin and sinew and bones!

         Gabriel shuddered at the enormity of it.  He could be hurt, his blood, his life could be spilt upon the ground.  He could go hungry, he could cry human tears. Gabriel paused. Yes, he could cry with them, be hungry with them, hurt with them, but how would that help other than to show His love for them?  Maybe love was enough. 

         Gabriel had been pondering these things for almost thirty earth years since he had first been given his assignment.  He did not understand it all, but he would protect him the best he could with the twelve legions of angels under his command.

         A captain came to report.   “All the forces have been arrayed around the desert.  The entire twelve legions have been deployed.  There will be no interference from the enemy forces.”

         “Thank you,” Gabriel replied.

         The desert was secure, good.  Not that it mattered really.  The danger would come from inside the desert not outside.  But their orders had been clear: isolate these two in the desert region.  Still, they were ready to move in at a moment’s notice, just in case they were needed. 

         The special forces he had at his command were hand-picked for their boldness in battle and they had proved it a number of times in the past thirty years.  Even so, the mission had been undercover for most of that time.  It was defensive only.  That God would become flesh was, in itself, an act of enormous risks but to become a baby in the midst of enemy territory, simply defied imagination.  Gabriel remembered the early years with a mixture of dread and wonderment.  It was all so hard to believe. 

         That had all changed a few days ago when Jesus had gone to the Jordan river to be baptized by Yochanan.  Not only had he identified himself with the ministry of Yochanan, not only had he fulfilled every spiritual requirement as a true son of Isra´el in preparation for his coming ministry, but he had announced to the spiritual and earthly kingdoms who he was.

         “This is my Son, upon whom my favor rests.”  The Father’s voice had rolled like thunder in the clear summer sky.  Just so that there was no doubt, even if doubt continued, and incredulity.  Then upon this man had come the Holy Presence in such power and fullness that the demonic forces present at the baptism had been hurled back, dazed and filled with dread. 

         It was out in the open now.  And the reports had gone quickly to Lucifer working his evil plans in the seat of worldly power in Rome.  But he had come, and he had come immediately.

 

 

*****

         It was not totally unexpected, but Lucifer knew that he had to nip these things in the bud.  There had been other Maschiachs, other claims to the prophecies and each one had been dealt with quickly and decisively.

         Theudas hadn’t called himself the Maschiach, but he had hinted strongly enough and there were always those who would follow so long as they could strike back at Rome.  But he, and four hundred of his followers, were out-maneuvered and out-fought.  The demons had enjoyed the slaughter that day with their usual sick depravity.  The sight of blood drove them wild with bloodlust.

         Then there was Judas the Galilean, who was already at work attracting supporters at the time of the Roman census.  He, too, had been taken care of quickly.  Together with more than two thousand of the ringleaders, Judas was crucified by the Romans, his body left to rot in the hot sun of the Promised Land.

 This Jesus would be no different, or so his captains believed.

         But he was different! Lucifer could feel it.  As efficient as the angels had been to keep a protective cover around Jesus throughout his childhood, he had been seen and observed and the news had gotten back to Rome.  There were no firm conclusions yet, but suspicions were growing.

Now that Jesus had declared himself, the Evil One had come immediately, following him into the desert.  He wanted to take his own measure of this man who claimed to be the Son of God. 

        

 

*****

         Mary knew that he was different from other children.  In truth, she knew it already before he was born.  But seeing it for herself was another thing.  She loved him – Oh, how she loved him this special child of hers. 

         She was sitting in the sun on a bench against the outer wall of their simple home.  The sun had not yet reached its strength and she closed her eyes and turned her face toward the warmth, a silent prayer of thanks in her heart.  She always took a few moments in the middle of the morning just to sit and watch him play.

         He wasn’t a beautiful child, as most people would see him.  Yet he was the most beautiful child she had ever known. It wasn’t just because she loved him.  Other people noticed it too.  He was good!  His beauty shone from within.  He didn’t do anything strange or miraculous, as you might well expect.  No, it was more subtle than that.

         He was growing up strong.  He never had a problem with any of the childhood sicknesses that seemed to plague other families.  They were careful to be sure, but no more careful than any other caring family.  He played well with the other children.  He never fought or argued over the few wooden toys that Joseph, her husband, had made for them.  His brothers loved him and he took care of them as an older brother should.  He was never filled with the pettiness, or selfishness one often sees in children.  He was good!  And it was a joy to be his mother. 

         She was a small woman, a girl by some standards, of twenty one years.  Her hair was brown in color and straight, except when she curled it upon her head and pinned it there trailing a colorful piece of cloth down her back.   Her eyes were dark as night and beautiful; her frame small and petite.

She had been fifteen when it all began, and it had been a difficult and dangerous time.  Oh, but she wouldn’t change any of it for the world.  She lived every day with the wonders of her memories and the pain of the prophecies spoken about her and her child. 

         Her child? 

She was never sure if he was the child or she was.  He looked at her with such deep love and compassion, such seriousness of demeanor, such gentleness, that she wondered if he could see into the depths of her soul.  At other times he was very much her child, and she was filled with joy to provide him with such daily necessities as food and drink, teaching him, as with any child, to care for himself, to speak, to read, to help care for the younger children.

         The sun was a welcome relief from the dinginess and shadow of the house, but after a while the heat became difficult to bear and Mary was heavy with the coming of another child.  In a moment she would get up slowly and work her way back into the house.  The birthing time would come soon, she knew.

         They were poor but they were happy, Mary thought.  If you could call it poor to be the family in which the Maschiach was born.  Yes, she was happy and they had always had enough.  Joseph was a good man, a good carpenter and he had favor with the men of Nazareth.

It had not always been so peaceful.  Her memories of the early days were filled with wonder and danger.  Mary once again pondered them and their meaning for her child and for Isra´el.

 

 

*****

         Tundrac bellowed his displeasure with a roar of rage as he swatted the messenger into the next room with a mighty blow.

“I-I-I’m sorry, your worship,” the messenger imp stammered, limping carefully back into the room, dragging a broken wing behind him.  But not too close, he wasn’t a total fool. 

         “Why was this not reported sooner?”  The prince of Yerushalayim bared his teeth in menace, his nostrils puffing a swirling, sulfuric smoke.  He was a demon of formidable size and arrogance.  The personal mentor of King Herod, he had the fiefdom of Isra´el under his control.

         “They had good enemy cover and they slipped out of our hands.  They have been gone two days and are already into the desert,” whimpered the messenger.  He just wanted to get out, quickly.

         “Bring them to me,” Tundrac said menacingly, “NOWWWW!”  Again his roar bellowed through the palace as the messenger scurried to obey.

         He had been uneasy for almost two years and now this.  It had started with the angelic sighting over the fields of Beth-lehem singing some accursed song.  The sky had been filled with them, legions of angels that had struck terror into the hearts of his minions for miles around.  The blinding light had even been seen from the rooftops of Yerushalayim, so there had been no doubt.  He had sent his troops to investigate but everything had quieted down and there were more pressing matters at hand. 

         His temple spies had reported a little while later some strange things that were happening in the temple precincts.  That old scoundrel Simeon had spoken one last prophecy before he died, about some baby who had been circumcised, and Anna, the old woman who couldn’t hold her tongue, was telling everyone that the Maschiach had come.  Well, he had heard it all before and it usually amounted to nothing.  What disturbed him was that those two old warriors were involved.  Simeon and Anna, detestable as they might be, were not fools and they had him worried. 

         He knew the prophecies.  He had heard about the warrior-king who was supposed to come and defeat the enemies of Isra´el but the heavens had been quiet now for almost four hundred years.  Tundrac wasn’t sure if it was all a big hoax or only the lull before the storm. 

         Then there was the star over Beth-lehem.

Aaaagghh, how he hated that thing!  It’s spiritual radiance hung like Damocles sword over his domain.  It was dangerous!  It had appeared almost two years ago and it wouldn’t go away.  He had consulted the best astrologers, the best scholars, but they could tell him nothing he didn’t already know.

         Then the visitors had come.  They were obviously learned and powerful men with their entourage of servants and camels and strange dress.  It was from them that he had learned the stars meaning.  The birth of a King!  Impossible!  Absurd! 

Tundrac slowed his angry striding and sunk into his throne in the great stone hearth in the middle of King Herod’s audience chamber.  He ignored the comings and goings of his human counterparts, who were also filled with disorder and confusion.  The other demonic captains knew enough not to interfere when their prince had that look on his face.

The visitors from the east had come with their interpretation of the star’s meaning, asking directions to the home of the infant king of the Jews.  What luck that they had come to the palace first.  Of course, they had no notion of the internal politics of Isra´el, other than its subjugation by Rome.  They expected to find the infant king in the palace in Yerushalayim.

         King Herod, at his subconscious prompting, had handled it well.  Feigning a desire to worship this long awaited king, he had convinced these magi that he was a devout man who also awaited the redemption of Isra´el.  It helped that the magi expected Herod, as a Jew, to welcome a deliverer.  But Herod was only a half-Jew and totally involved with Roman influence and politics.  If it were not for the might of Rome, his own people would have murdered him long ago.  But he had a strong position and would not be easy to dislodge.  True to his nature, he would deal ruthlessly with any contender to his throne.

         Of course, the magi knew nothing of this.  And so they promised to bring back word of this child as soon as he was found.  Then Herod would take care of it quickly and quietly.  At least, that had been the plan.  Until now!

         They had consulted the chief priests and the scribes, now that they knew this star had to do with the possibility of a Maschiach and they had sent the magi off to Beth-lehem with an appropriate demonic escort.  And now this!

“Fooools, all of you!”  Tundrac screamed his frustration.

How could a few magi slip out of Isra´el without anyone seeing them?  The enemy was cloaking them, but even that should have been recognized for what it was.  It meant that the magi had found the baby, or, at least, a baby, that they thought was the Maschiach.  And if the angelic forces were protecting them, it meant that it was true, it was all true!  It meant that they were aware of his plans, that he intended to kill the baby as soon as it was located.  Perhaps, perhaps, he could still be on time.  He had to try.

         Tundrac barked out his orders, while Herod mobilized his forces.  It would take a few hours for the Roman soldiers to get to Beth-lehem by horseback and there was no more time to waste.  Forget secrecy, the enemy was on to them.  It was time to strike and strike hard.  All the new born infants under two years old would be killed in Beth-lehem and if they were lucky they would get him.

If not, Tundrac thought, he would still have made his presence felt and it would look good on the report he would have to send to Rome.

 

 

*****

         “Joseph, Joseph.”  The voice was urgent and insistent.

“Get up, take the child and his mother with you, and escape into Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, because Herod intends to search for the child and do away with him.” 

         Gabriel watched as Joseph hurriedly arose and prepared for the journey.  It wasn’t the first time it had happened.

Gabriel remembered the early days when he had come to Mary with the good news, to announce the birth of the Maschiach.  She had been overawed but obedient, submitting herself in joy to whatever God wanted to do with her.  Such a young child, full of faith, a true daughter of Isra´el.  A woman blessed above other women to be granted the privilege of being the mother of the Maschiach. 

         She knew there would be scandal.  Her name would be smeared, the young child called a bastard.  She would most probably lose Joseph, who was a good man.

That would hurt. 

But Adonai Elohim Almighty had chosen her to bear the holy seed and bring the Maschiach into the world.  She would not deny Him, no matter the price.  She was of royal blood and she would serve her people the best way she knew how. 

         Joseph would have broken off the engagement but quietly for her sake, Gabriel knew, because he truly loved her.[20]  Even so, he could not defile himself before God and break faith with his family and his people with an adulteress.

He had been hurt and confused, but the law was clear.  He, too, could not deny his God and would obey Him, even in this matter of the heart. 

         But Gabriel had been given permission to speak to him in a dream and explain.  And Joseph had responded well.  That had not been a foregone conclusion.  He had been given the choice.  He had not been commanded to marry her but an explanation had been given, difficult though it would be for others to believe.  It was not an easy thing.  Joseph would share her shame by taking upon himself the guilt of an illegitimate child.  They would believe that it had been Joseph who had put his seed within her before the appointed time and all other explanations would be scoffed at.

         It was love, Gabriel knew, that decided the issue.  Love for God and love for this woman.  When Joseph realized that he could spare her the shame of this pregnancy and carry it upon his own shoulders, there was no question of what he would do.  Of course, he would not know her intimately until after the birth of this child and, of course, they would have to move.  But they had to travel to Beth-lehem for the census later on in the year anyway.  They would stay there.

In the meantime, Mary could go visit her cousin, Elizabeth, and somehow they would keep it as quiet as possible.   And that was how it was.

 

 

*****

         The joy she encountered in Elizabeth’s home was unexpected but welcome.  The strange greeting her cousin had given her, even before she knew that Mary was pregnant, was a wonderful confirmation of God’s care for her.  She had worried about telling Elizabeth the whole story, trying to explain it all and perhaps not being believed.  But she needn’t have worried because God had been doing marvelous things in their lives as well.  Adonai Elohim was taking care of them at each step of the way. 

         Mary stayed with her cousin for three months and then returned to the glances and the shunning silences of her neighbors and friends in Nazareth until it was time to make the long, tedious journey to Beth-lehem in the south.

When the time came, she was large with the child inside her.  Although the donkey was a blessing, it was also quite uncomfortable for a pregnant woman who should have been at home in bed.  They had to stop many times upon the way to rest.

         The night they arrived in Beth-lehem, it was bustling with the activity of so many visitors that they could not find a place to stay.  At first she was depressed at the thought of sleeping out of doors, even if many other families were doing the same thing.

It wasn’t the same, she felt.  She was about to give birth.  There was no birth mother to help her.  There were no soothing hands to smooth away her pain or to explain to her the ways of birth.  It was her first, and she was alone.  Well, there was Joseph, but he was a man.  He shouldn’t even be there, but there was no one else. 

         And on that holy night, in a corner of the courtyard of an inn that had turned them away, the Savior of the world was born to a poor country family in the backwash of the mightiest empire the world has ever known.  Born in the presence of donkeys and goats, wrapped in rags and strips of cloth, the infant king was laid in a straw-filled eating trough for animals.

         She nursed him at her breast, she held him in her arms and caressed his skin and wondered at ever wrinkle and blemish, his dark baby hair already a wet mop upon his head.  The newness of life, the newness of a soul born into the world was a delicious wonder for her and Joseph.  But there were no words for the wonder of who this baby really was.  To see him, he looked no different than any other.  But he was different, she knew and they were filled with tender awe. 

         When the shepherds came that night, shyly coughing at a safe distance to get their attention, Mary covered herself and held the baby in her arms and Joseph beckoned them to come near.  They came with such reverence, and looked upon him with such awe and excitement, that Mary was already weeping quietly for the joy of it.  Her God was not a God of the rich and powerful.  He saw the people, the poor, the downtrodden and he lifted them up.  He had chosen them, Joseph and Mary, poor and forgotten though they were.  He had chosen the simple, often brutish, shepherds to come and worship the infant King.  And when they had told their story, she was filled with wonder at this baby in her arms that could claim the adoration of heaven upon his birth.

 

 

*****

         Gabriel remembered the song they sang that night.  Glory to God in the Highest!  Peace on earth, good will toward men!  Oh, how the heavens had rejoiced!

It did not matter that they were in enemy territory.  It did not matter that he lay as a vulnerable baby on a bed of straw, part of a poor man’s family.  The King of Kings had been born, the Maschiach had come, the redemption was near, and the heavens could not keep silent!  They had to sing out their praise.  And they did, with all their hearts and the demons trembled to hear it.

Our job was to accompany the shepherds to Bethlehem and to make sure they were safe from interference or attack.  We had not seen the baby ourselves yet and we were anxious to be there and to experience the greatest story ever told.

O holy night, the stars are brightly shinning

It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth

Long lay the world in sin and error pinning

Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth

 

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn

 

Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices

O night divine, O night when Christ was born

O night divine, O night, O night divine

 

Truly he taught us to love one another

His law is love and his gospel is peace

Change shall he bring for the slave is our brother

And in his name all oppression shall cease

 

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we

Let all within us praise his holy name

 

Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices

O night divine, O night when Christ was born

O night divine, O night, O night divine

 

 

*****

         The rush of hooves and the frantic barking of the dogs in the early dawn light began to wake the people.  Fathers hurried to the doorways of their homes trying to make sense of the disturbance.  On the edge of the town, cries and shouts of anger and fear were heard as more and more voices were raised in a terrible symphony of confusion and pain.

         To the demonic forces, it was a beautiful killing. They raised their evil voices in spiritual counterpoint urging the soldiers on, building the bloodlust, overcoming any sympathy as they did their demonic work.

         Their orders were clear: kill all baby boys under two years old without exception.  And soldiers, being what they were, didn’t discriminate very well between baby boys and baby girls, or check too closely the ages of the children.  If they looked young enough they were killed, just to make sure. 

         And if a father or brother interfered, they were run through with the sword and left bleeding upon the ground.  If a young maiden looked inviting as they rousted families from their sleep, so much the better and some of them took a few minutes to enjoy themselves before getting on with the massacre. 

         The town had been surrounded and the soldiers worked their way systematically towards the center.  The massacre took the entire day, most of the killing taking place in the center plaza where many families had huddled in terror.

         The killing bloodlust had driven the demonic presence wild with pleasure and they could not stop, they would not stop until it was done.  They were worse in this regard than their human counterparts.  They, at least, were disciplined, some revolted at what they were doing, some of them showing a bit of restraint and common sense.  But the demons could not be controlled, though their captain shouted, and cursed them over and over again, until he, too, plunged into the middle of the howling orgy trying to get his fill. 

         When the dust finally settled, the wailing started.  A deep, ancient wailing that could be heard throughout the spiritual realm.  A wailing echoing from human hearts, to the heart of Rachel herself, to the heart of God.

         Gabriel and his brothers had been busy.  Though they had been forbidden to interfere with the massacre itself, they were set to protect each murdered soul, each person who fell under the sword that day, for they would all be brought into the Presence of God immediately.

         The demons did not like it.  They had anticipated having those souls for themselves to feast on.  But this sacrifice of blood would not feed their lusts and so they were left unfulfilled.  They witnessed the bloodletting, but they tasted none of it.  Every last victim was redeemed!  And the great horde of demons howled in frustration and anger, biting and kicking and spitting on one another, as the angles kept them at bay, guarding each soul as it fell, flaming swords drawn, and flying off with them to heaven. 

         In that great confusion of killing, no one could tell whether or not the right baby had been killed, whether or not the threat had been taken care of.  But the report went back to Yerushalayim, and the arrogance of evil assumed that if everything was quiet, it was safe.  After a few years, the uneasiness seemed to fade and life went on as it normally did.

         Only Tundrac remained suspicious, knowing that if the child were still alive, he would be growing up and preparing for battle. 

And so it was, though it would be a battle the likes of which no one had ever seen. . .

 

 

*****

         Watching him grow up was both fascinating and troubling.  Exactly how does one raise the Maschiach?  Mary wondered as she washed clothes and sheets at the river side.  She was hunched down with the other women by the stream of water that ran past the town.  There was a friendly camaraderie here that Mary liked.  Not that they paid much attention to her.  She was a quiet woman, full of the dignity of her chosen purpose.

         They were back in Nazareth again, where the family home was.  Although they weren’t really accepted –  more tolerated than anything else –  they didn’t make it worse by making claims about their son, Jesus.

He would make his own declarations, Mary knew, when the right time came. 

         The time in Egypt had been good.It was almost as if Adonai Elohim had known that they would have to flee to Egypt.  He had brought those three strange kings from the East with their wonderful gifts of incense, gold and myrrh.  All of them expensive items, and very useful in Egypt.  They had left immediately that night and only much later heard the news of the massacre.  They had joined a caravan heading for Egypt and bought passage.  The trip itself was long and dangerous but in the company of good men they were brought safely to the Kingdoms of the Nile. 

         For many years already, a prominent Jewish community had flourished there on the banks of the Nile.  There they had first translated the ancient scriptures from Hebrew to Greek, allowing a wider access to the Torah and the Writings for the Jews of the Diaspora.

         In Egypt they had lived for a number of years until God called them back to the Promised Land.  When the news came that Herod had died, they took the remaining money they had gotten for the holy gifts and traveled back to Nazareth.  There Joseph had set himself up as the local carpenter and they had settled into the quiet of small town life, away from the dangers of the big city.

         They had been quiet years, but intriguing as well.  Jesus had grown up strong and healthy.  He was well-liked by everyone and wise beyond his years.  He had a self-awareness that always left them in some doubt as to what he was really thinking.  Just when they thought they were teaching him something about life, he would make a comment that left them wondering who was the teacher and who the student. 

         They had decided a long time ago, she and Joseph, that they would raise him as a true son of Isra´el.  They would complete the law in every way as it applied to their firstborn son.  They would treat him well, and teach him the ways of the Lord and the truths of the Torah.

And he accepted it all in quiet dignity, thinking deeply about the things he read and the discussions he had with his father, Joseph.  But of his own mind, he revealed very little. 

         Mary had shared with him all the wonders she and Joseph had witnessed surrounding his birth and he questioned her closely on all the details until he knew the stories better than she did.  In his studies of the Torah he was particularly interested in the beginnings of things as well as in the Messianic prophecies.  He knew that they believed him to be the Maschiach.  But he said nothing. 

 

 

*****

         Upon the completion of his twelfth year, Mary and Joseph, Jesus and his brothers, all went up to Yerushalayim for the Passover as was their custom.  It was there, in the confusion of the pageantry and bustle of the many visitors to the city that Jesus had been briefly lost – or was it Mary and Joseph?

He had been in the Temple, discussing the Scriptures with the experts of the Law.  For three days he had talked with them, staying in their homes and treated as their guest.  As a young man of twelve years, he was considered a man before the Law, but still a son under the authority of his parents.  And as a man, he listened, and discussed, and explained to them not just the Law of God but the heart of the Father. 

         It was really the first time that Mary understood what he thought of himself.  They had treated him as a lost child in a big city, memories of earlier danger spurring them on in their desperate search.  Exasperated, they finally found him in the Temple and poured out their frustration as if somehow he had been in the wrong.  For the briefest of moments he opened his soul to them and showed them a self-awareness that was sacred and wonderful to behold.

“Did you not know that I must be busy with my Father’s affairs?”

         Of course, if they had stopped and thought, they would have realized that he would be in the Temple, in his Father’s house.  It was one of those things that made immediate sense once you heard it.  Even so, they didn’t really understand it for many more years to come. 

 

 

*****

         Gamaliel looked thoughtfully after the boy as his mother and father led him away.  Joseph stood beside him, half hidden in the afternoon shadows of the Temple portico.

         “That is an extraordinary child,” Joseph said, standing at his side.

         Gamaliel didn’t even look at his friend.  He just nodded his head in agreement, lost for words.

         “Shall I send someone to follow them and inquire about the boy?”

         For a long moment Gamaliel said nothing.

“No,” he replied finally.  “A child like that cannot stay hidden long.”   Some of the rabbis saw in this boy a wisdom beyond his years, others only saw the arrogance of intuitive answers not based on anything more than the boy’s own perceptions.  But there was more.  He had a seriousness and intensity of purpose seldom seen in one so young.  And for some reason, Gamaliel feared for the boy.

         With a final look at the boy disappearing into the crowds, Gamaliel turned and began to climb the stairs back into the Temple for the start of the evening sacrifice.

 

 

*****

         Gabriel was fascinated with Jesus.  He had been chosen as his personal guardian and would willingly protect him with his life.  So he had the opportunity to observe Him whom he had known before, in his new role, his new identity.  It filled the mind with a dazzling wonderment to consider what He had done.  And he knew that Lucifer would never believe it!

         Lucifer was nothing if not arrogant, but he was no fool.  The problem was that he did not understand love.  Even in humans, he tended to make the same mistakes over and over again.  Although he was learning, Gabriel reminded himself.

The Evil One despised these creatures of the dust, but yearned for their worship.  Even though it was entirely unsatisfying, it was a dark addiction for which the only cure was beyond Lucifer’s understanding, much less his grasp but that was the way of Evil.

         He simply didn’t understand that these humans were made in the image of God.  That spark of the divine, that reflection, dulled though it was, still had some effect on them.  Sometimes thinking and simple logic could get out of hand and land a demonic mentor into trouble.  Sometimes love and compassion would crop up in the most unlikely places and wreck havoc on carefully laid demonic plans.  Sometimes the beauty of a sunset, or the tears of a child would break through the tough, disciplined hearts of the Roman soldiers and people would be spared that were slated for death.  These humans were not so easy to deal with and one had to take great care not to ignore these lapses of character, these troublesome divine glitches that threatened to undo evil intentions. 

         And so it was here.  Lucifer would have a difficult time believing that the Majesty would put His life at risk in enemy territory by becoming flesh.  What would be gained by it?  What use would it be? 

Oh certainly, sending a Maschiach, a warrior-king, to save His people from their enemies, that could be handled.  Satan knew that he had authority, a foothold in each life that was born in his domain.  He could control a Maschiach, he could slowly but carefully undermine his authority, or insinuate himself into a weakness in his character and control him from within.  If it came to that, he would take care of it personally and he was a Grand Master at this game.  Gabriel knew how he thought. 

         But, even so, a Maschiach was one thing, God in the flesh was quite another.   By the time Satan figured it out, the strongman would be bound and the looting would begin.  Jesus would be unhindered in his ministry of healing and freeing captives from their demonic prisons.  And so the second phase of the Divine Strategy would be set in motion.

For now, the enemy was off balance, confused, unsure of what was happening and that would be enough to get started with.  For evil was evil’s greatest enemy and that was the heart of the sting operation now in motion. 

         In this infant child, the Godhead had divested Himself of His power, His omnipresence, His knowledge of all things and had submitted Himself and humbled Himself to become man.  Somehow, Gabriel knew, He was still able to hold the world together by the power of His Word[33] and at the same time, in this man, live and breathe and have His being.

It was magnificent!  No wonder Lucifer wouldn’t believe it, Gabriel thought, he had difficulty believing it himself.

         It was only by the infilling of Ruach HaKodesh in abundant measure that Jesus was able to perform the healing miracles that demonstrated who he was.  Otherwise, he was simply Himself. 

But from Gabriel’s point of view, it was also a question of protection.  At least Jesus would not face the Prince of Darkness without the power of the Holy Presence within him.  That was why he was baptized first, why he prayed first, [35] why he was filled with the power of the Spirit first.  Though that power could also become a temptation in the wrong hands.  In the final analysis, the only real protection he had was in his heart, in his integrity, in his love for his Father.

         With the baptism over and the infilling complete, the Father had announced to the world who this man was and the battle had begun.  The Devil would want to do his own recognizance to make sure he understood who he was dealing with, what he was up to and, ultimately, what to do about him.

 And so the Spirit of God had driven Jesus, unprotected, into the desert wilderness to begin the battle alone.

 

 

*****

The Temptations of the Cross by Bert Amsing
Copyright 2012 by vanKregten Publishers. All rights reserved.
http://www.desertwarrior.net    https://desertwarriornet.wordpress.com/

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