15. Mobilizing the Forces

        Jesus was beginning to mobilize his forces for the battle that lay ahead.  Gabriel and his twelve legions of angels were always ready but this would be a battle first and foremost on the human plane.  This battle would need new warriors, fishermen, tax collectors, farmers, even zealots.

He had revealed his glory to his disciples and they believed in him.  They were at his side to witness the healings, to rejoice when the captives were set free.  They listened to his teachings and, when they were alone, he answered their questions and taught them further. 

         Jesus had spent the night in prayer before he had chosen the twelve and they were good choices.  Peter, the rock, and his younger brother Andrew.  James and Yochanan, the fiery tempered sons of Zebedee.  Philip and Nathanael, Matthew, Judas son of Alpheus, and the others. 

But there was a traitor among them, and this troubled the heart of Jesus.  He knew that betrayal was part of the Father’s plan for him, but woe to him through whom it comes!

         Jesus had been demonstrating his power and testing the faith of his disciples for almost two years now.   He had healed the sick and cast out demons.  He had opened the Scriptures to them and revealed the heart of the Father.

Peter had tested his faith by walking on the water for a few steps before he was horrified at his own impetuousness and slipped down into the sea.  They had witnessed his power over the forces of the wind and rain when he commanded the seas to be calm.  And now, they had even seen his power over death in the raising of Jairus’ daughter.

         Oh, how difficult it is, thought Gabriel, to relearn the ways of faith in a world so content with their own strength and abilities.

The grace of God that allows them to retain some of their strength and intelligence in a world that has rebelled against its Creator, is a double edged sword.  It is necessary for life to go on until the plan is complete, but it lulls the unwary into thinking that faith is not essential to life itself, but rather optional, an extra, perhaps even a bonus.  But not essential.

What a mistake that is, thought Gabriel, and so very difficult to teach without many examples and testings and encouragements.  But they were almost ready.

         Before Jesus could send out the twelve to preach the good news in his name, there was one more thing to be done.  He called them together and gave them power and authority over all devils and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.

         He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey; neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread, nor money; and let none of you take a spare tunic.  Whatever house you enter, stay there; and when you leave, let it be from there.  As for those who do not welcome you, when you leave their town shake the dust from your feet as a sign to them.”

So they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the Good News and healing everywhere. And later Jesus sent out the seventy-two with the same instructions and with the same authority.

         And they came back rejoicing.  Their joy was contagious and there was much backslapping and joyous hugs and eager storytelling while Jesus sat looking into the fire with a grim smile on his face.  The time of testing had not yet come, but it would.

How many of them would stand in that day?  Gabriel wondered.

They enjoyed the power and authority he had given them over demonic forces and for the healing of sicknesses.  But only one thing was necessary, there was only one foundation that would stand the ravages of the storms that would surely come.  Only one thing that pleased his Father above everything else: faith.

         When their understanding failed them, would they have faith?  When God was silent and did not answer their prayers, would they have faith?  When the persecution draws near and touches them in pain and suffering, would they have faith?  When they faced the gates of hell itself, would they enter with Jesus and free the captives there, or would they falter for a lack of faith? 

         This authority over demons and sickness was temporary, external, specific to a certain task, like much of the work of the Holy Presence in the ancient world before now.  But Jesus desired to give them the fullness of the Spirit, Gabriel knew, so that their authority would be permanent, so that the Holy Presence would live within them, so that they could do even greater things than Jesus, himself, had done.

But that is why he was there, Gabriel reminded himself, to make that possible.

         The seventy-two also came back rejoicing, “Lord,” they said, “even the devils submit to us when we use your name.” 

And looking into the future, Jesus said to them, “I watched Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  Yes, I have given you power to tread underfoot serpents and scorpions and the whole strength of the enemy;  nothing shall ever hurt you.”

He paused, looking at them intently.  “Yet do not rejoice that the Spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.”

         Gabriel knew that many of Jesus’ followers would fall away, but he also knew that Jesus would not lose even one of his chosen twelve except for the betrayer who would make his choice at the appointed time.

 

 

*****

         Quickly the messenger flew towards Yerushalayim.  His Evil Master would want to hear this report immediately. 

I watched Satan fall like lightning from Heaven.

What did it mean?  When would it happen?  What could they do? 

Fear drove the demon furiously, thoughts of the terror of the Abyss chasing him toward Lucifer’s palace.

        

 

*****

         Tundrac was pleased with himself.  He had found a weak link, a small opening in the protection around Jesus.  He laughed deliriously with glee, relief sweeping over him.  He had thought Jesus to be invincible, but like all great leaders he, too, had his weak spot.  His own kindness would do him in. 

         One of his messengers had come back with the news that Judas Iscariot, part of the inner ring of disciples closest to Jesus, had been seen taking money from the treasury for his own use.

Thievery, thought Tundrac, how can I use that?

It wasn’t the thievery itself that was so important but the weakness that it showed, that could be exploited.  He would give this opportunity some serious thought.  The question was how to use it to their best advantage.

         Tundrac was not so naive as not to realize who Jesus was.  The whole demonic world knew the truth, and it scared them.  But they didn’t know what He was up to, and that uncertainty made it difficult to know whether to plunge into a direct, all out battle or to find subtler ways of dealing with the crisis.  Their authority on earth, in the hearts of men had been recognized by heaven for centuries.  They could not, would not doubt that it would continue.  But what was Jesus up to? 

         The general consensus of his captains and princes, in the absence of any word from Below, was that Jesus was weak.  At least weaker than they had expected him to be.  And the weak point seemed to be his bodily form, his flesh.  Somehow he had given up his Divine power without giving up his Divine nature.  He was truly a man, but remained truly God.  His only source of power, while in this body was through the Presence of the Spirit.

They had constantly harassed him, looking for ways to tempt him, to bring down this fortress of righteousness with which he was cloaked.  They had no hold on him, no authority in him, and it frustrated them to no end.  But they kept trying, because they didn’t know what else to do.

         What if he could be separated from his body?  What if they could get him killed?  The initial reports had indicated that even death, which had been their domain for so long, had nothing in this man.  He would not die, unless he chose to or unless he was forced to.

Well, he certainly isn’t going to choose to die, grumbled Tundrac, but I wonder if we could force his hand and so get rid of him and get things back to normal.  After all, it was his presence in bodily form that was the problem.  Take away the body and perhaps he would retreat to his place in Heaven and leave them in peace.  Or so they hoped! 

He would ponder that option and in the meantime, get some of his best demons to work on this man Judas.  He gave his orders and they were carried out swiftly.

 

 

*****

         The disciples had barely returned from their mission, when Jesus suggested that they retreat to a quieter place away from the crowds to talk and be refreshed.  But it was not to be.  Gabriel sighed with concern for his mighty Master, so weak with weariness that he stumbled repeatedly over the rough stones of the path into the mountains.

         The crowds followed them so far away from the towns that a crisis quickly developed.  It was late afternoon when the Twelve came to him and said, “Send the people away, and they can go to the villages and farms around about to find lodging and food; for we are in a lonely place here.”

         And Jesus, in the presence of the other disciples, turned to Philip and asked him, “where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?”  He only said this to test Philip’s faith; he himself knew exactly what he was going to do.

         Philip answered, “Two hundred denarii would only buy enough to give them a small piece each.” 

         One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, “there is a small boy here with five barley loaves and two fish; but what is that between so many?”

         Jesus said to them, “Make the people sit down.”

What followed was a miracle the likes of which none of them had ever known and Gabriel smiled for the sheer joy of it.  It was so practical and so ancient a demonstration of God’s care for them that no one doubted who Jesus was.  They all remembered the manna that God had provided every day for forty years while their forefathers had wandered through the desert.  Here Jesus was demonstrating that he was that same God, that same caregiver.

         Of course, the people did not realize that they were so impressed with this miracle not because of their faith but because of their fear.  The fear of poverty, the fear of hunger, the fear of the uncertain future even if they had enough today.

Jesus had taught them to have faith in their God who takes care of even the smallest sparrow, and that each one of them was worth more than many sparrows.  But faith was a difficult road for them to follow.  It was easier to see than believe.  It was easier to have than to have not and need faith.

And so, as crowds do the world over, they wanted to make him King who would give them food.  And when food was not enough, then, just like in Rome, it would be food and drink, or food and housing, or food and entertainment.

That was not the kind of authority Jesus wanted or needed, Gabriel knew. 

         The people, seeing this sign that he had given, said, “This really is the prophet who is to come into the world.” 

Jesus, who could see they were about to come and take him by force and make him King, escaped back into the hills by himself.

 

 

*****

 

My Jesus, My Savior

Lord, there is none like You

All of my days, I want to praise

The wonders of your mighty love.

 

My comfort, My shelter

Tower of refuge and strength

Let every breath and all that I am

Never cease to worship you.

 

Shout to the Lord all the earth, let us sing

Power and majesty, Praise to the King

Mountains bow down and the seas will roar

At the sound of your name.

I sing for joy at the work of your hand

Forever I´ll love you, Forever I´ll stand

Nothing compares to the promise I have in you.

 

My Jesus, My Savior

Lord, there is none like You

All of my days, I want to praise

The wonders of your mighty love.

 

My comfort, My shelter

Tower of refuge and strength

Let every breath and all that I am

Never cease to worship you.

 

Shout to the Lord all the earth, let us sing

Power and majesty, Praise to the King

Mountains bow down and the seas will roar

At the sound of your name.

I sing for joy at the work of your hand

Forever I´ll love you, Forever I´ll stand

Nothing compares to the promise I have in you

 

 

Shout to the Lord all the earth, let us sing

Power and majesty, Praise to the King

Mountains bow down and the seas will roar

At the sound of your name.

I sing for joy at the work of your hand

Forever I´ll love you, Forever I´ll stand

Nothing compares to the promise I have in you

 

 

*****

         The Evil One was back. 

Tundrac could tell that he was not happy.  The scowl on his darkly handsome face terrified him, and Tundrac wondered what he would say about his report.  In the absence of any word, Tundrac had acted alone, trying to handle the crisis as best he could.  But now he wondered if this initiative would be taken as mere impertinence.

He gulped noisily at the thought of what his punishment would be.  He did not even dare to hope that what he had done would be considered good or even clever.  He just wanted to survive with his head still on his shoulders. 

         Strangely, Lucifer merely waved him away as if to say that the report was not important one way or the other.  And it wasn’t.  Not any more.

 

 

*****

         Lucifer brooded over what he had heard.  The reports on Jesus’ activity concerned him more than what his own forces had been doing.  They could do nothing!  Nothing!  His frustration threatened to strangle him with its passion.

The report on Judas was interesting.  He would see what could be done with him but the real question was: What was Jesus up to?  He decided that he had to have first hand recognizance of the situation from now on, until he could figure out what to do.

         He arose from his throne in the palace and the captains and princes attending him stood at attention, not daring to ruffle even one dark feather as Lucifer glared at them, evaluating their readiness for the battle that lay ahead.  He had his best troops with him and they would have to be ready for the worst.

         Although the word that the Dark One had returned had already gone out, Lucifer unfurled his beautiful dark wings and began to grow in width and stature until he filled the entire room with his presence.  And he continued to grow through the roof upwards and upwards until only his feet remained in the palace and his dark shadow covered the entire land. 

 

 

*****

Every demonic and angelic eye in the entire country turned toward Yerushalayim to see the cause of the disturbance they felt in the spiritual realm, and they beheld Lucifer, in all of his power and dark glory making his presence known.

Although the demons trembled, and the angels took note, Gabriel merely smiled to himself at the useless arrogance of his brother.  The Divine Sting was already in motion, and there was a greater Presence already in the land. 

 

 

*****

         “I tell you most solemnly,” Jesus was saying to the crowds who had found him again on the other side of the lake, “you are not looking for me because you have seen the signs but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat.  Do not work for food that cannot last, but work for food that endures to eternal life.”

         The crowds listened but did not hear what Jesus was saying.  They asked again for a sign.  “Our fathers had manna to eat in the desert, what sign will you give to show us that we should believe in you?”

         It was stubborn unbelief that continued to ask for signs when signs had already been given.  Did they want to be entertained or would they embrace true faith?  It was time for the testing and the separating out of those who would go on with Jesus and those who would not. 

         “I am the bread of life,” Jesus said.  “If you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in you.  Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day.  For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.”

         After hearing this, many of Jesus’ own followers said, “This is intolerable language.  How could anyone accept it?”

         For the sake of his own followers, and to make their choice clear, he clarified further what he was teaching.  “As I, who am sent by the living Father, myself draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will draw life from me.”

         Again, it was stubborn unbelief that saw in Jesus’ teaching merely a physical eating of flesh and a drinking of blood.  Jesus knew it.  Like Gideon separating out those who would be ready for battle, Jesus knew that he would be left with just a few, but they would be the chosen and they would be the stronger for it.  The battle, after all, was not to the mighty but to those who had faith. 

         And Jesus said, “It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer.  The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.”

         After this, many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him.  It was a gradual thing but by nightfall it was obvious.  They had left him.

         Then Jesus said to the Twelve, “What about you, do you want to go away too?”

Simon Peter answered, “Lord, who shall we go to?  You have the message of eternal life, and we believe;  we know that you are the Holy One of God.” 

         Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, you Twelve?  Yet one of you is a devil.”   The disciples sat as still as stones upon the earth, their stunned faces not daring to look at one another for fear of accusation.

And Jesus went off by himself to pray.

 

 

*****

         Lucifer was uneasy.  Did Jesus already know about the infiltrator, the thief, the devil?  That was a surprise. 

Satan had been carefully probing into the mind and spirit of Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, while he was listening to the conversation.  It had already become obvious that Jesus was ignoring his presence and Lucifer wasn’t even sure whether Jesus knew that he was there.  Yet he had called one of them a devil, just when Satan had been exercising some direct authority over the mind of Judas. 

He stood up swiftly, drawing his sword and looking around him.

         But no one challenged him, the angelic guard remained wary but distant allowing the Evil One to do as he wished.

Lucifer could see his young brother Gabriel nearby looking hard and grim.  Lucifer smiled at him with a taunting grin as if he were a mischievous boy getting away with something. 

         Well, he had hoped he would be able to use this Judas, and he was not disappointed.  His spirit was more open and receptive than he had thought it would be.  But he wasn’t entirely sure.  Jesus had been mysterious about it all, as if he was grieved and upset.  But Jesus had not told the disciples who of them it was. They, too, were upset and unsure of what Jesus had meant.  It had taken them by surprise.

         In a little while Jesus came back and, squatting by the fire, he picked up a stick and started to poke the pieces of wood into the center of the fire.  Jesus did not look at his disciples seated around him, talking quietly in groups of two or three, or simply gazing into the fire in dazed unbelief at the desertion of so many of their friends and, in some cases, even relatives. 

         But the talk quieted down as the disciples sensed that something important was about to happen.  Jesus quietly asked them a question. “Who do the crowds say I am?”  He did not look up at them but continued to play with the fire.

         Lucifer immediately perked up and started to listen intently.  This, of course, was a key question.  With his influence, he had been able to capitalize on the unbelief of the crowds and cause a general desertion of the troops that Jesus had been mobilizing.

He wasn’t sure that it would help since he still could not figure out what Jesus was up to but one had to do something! 

Now Lucifer wanted to see how far he could penetrate into the inner circle, so he was very interested in evaluating their level of faith in him. 

         Philip spoke up and said, “Some say that you are Yochanan ben Zechariah raised from the dead.  That put the fear of God into Herod, I’ll bet.”[20]  That was good for a quiet chuckle all around.

         Someone else offered, “I have heard people say that you are Elijah, who was promised to prepare the way for the Maschiach.”

“Others are saying that you might be Jeremiah or one of the other prophets, come to life again.”

         “But you,” Jesus said quietly, “who do you say I am?”

 

 

*****

         The silence was broken almost immediately by Simon Peter.  It was time to speak. He had wanted to say something, do something, fight somehow this desertion, this cowardice that the others had shown.  He had not understood every thing that Jesus had said about eating flesh and drinking blood but he knew who Jesus was.  And that was enough.  He had seen things that he would never have believed without seeing them with his own eyes.

         He had himself walked on the water last night, and it had worked!  It had until he had lost sight of Jesus, had lost faith in his power, had looked around at the rolling, crashing waves and fear had taken a icy grip on his heart and he had sunk immediately into the water, his head ducking under for a moment, water entering his mouth and nose and ears.

A fisherman who couldn’t swim, who feared the water, the thought shamed him.  He had cried out to Jesus who had grabbed his forearm with his own and pulled him back into the boat.  It was at the point that Jesus had responded to his cry for help and grabbed his arm, that Peter had looked into his eyes and seen there a depth of love and delight in him that he had never experienced before.

Jesus loved him.  He knew him, his impetuousness, his pride, his weakness and yet Jesus loved him and Peter would not, under any circumstances, desert him. 

         Filled with a senseless pounding of the heart and sweaty palms as if he were about to address a crowd of people, Simon Peter spoke up and said forcefully, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!”

 

 

*****

         Lucifer reeled back at the sudden spiritual power that radiated from Simon Peter in that moment.  Gathering himself again, he saw a glint of joy flicker in the eyes of Gabriel for a moment and wondered suspiciously what it meant.

Why was this so important?  His demonic forces have been blurting out this truth for months already, according to Tundrac’s reports.  The Pharisees didn’t believe it, of course, and the disciples had their doubts.  But now, in the face of desertion and seeming failure, Simon Peter had taken his stand with Jesus.

         Faith in God was always dangerous, Lucifer knew. 

He had fought many battles which were won or lost on the basis of that faith.  Some of his greatest triumphs were triumphs of deception and doubt and disbelief among God’s own people.  Of course, some of his greatest failures had come about because of unexpected faith in the face of great adversity.  He had learned to strike a balance between enough problems and suffering to cause discouragement and unbelief but not enough to send these worthless humans to seek the face of God in faith and humility.

         So Peter would be more dangerous in this new found faith of his.  All that Jesus had accomplished was to redirect faith towards himself and not just towards the Father.  This redirection of faith was obvious to the spiritual world but for some reason it was new and absolutely essential on the human level.

But Lucifer was patient and so he settled his ruffled feathers and listened intently to Jesus’ words, trying to find out what his plan of action would be. 

         “Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man!”  Jesus was saying.  “Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven.”

 Ah, that explains the spiritual brilliance, thought Lucifer.

         “So I now say to you:  You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my fellowship of people called out from the world, my Church.   And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it.”

          Lucifer inhaled sharply as Jesus revealed his purpose and goal.

“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven:  whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.”  Then Jesus gave the disciples strict orders not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.

         Lucifer could not believe his luck.  Still he trembled slightly at the thought of the great battle that lay ahead.  Now he knew what was coming, he knew the Plan.  Jesus had indeed come to the earth as a mighty, divine warrior king, but he had decided not to proceed with a direct frontal assault on the kingdoms of the earth, as many of his captains thought.

For some reason that still eluded him, Jesus had decided to spend his time with a small group of uneducated fishermen, tax collectors and other generally unsavory people.  Why he didn’t seek out the strongest, the wisest, the boldest people to be his inner circle of supporters, Lucifer didn’t understand.  Jesus had just confirmed that these twelve would be given great authority in his coming kingdom.

Well, it didn’t matter now.  Lucifer imagined for a moment what an army full of warriors like Joshua and Elijah and David would do to his own troops and it made him shudder.  It would be a difficult battle, he knew, and he had to make his plans. 

         Lucifer was just preparing to fly off to his base in Yerushalayim to prepare his battle plans when he was taken completely off guard by Jesus’ next words.

“The Son of Man,” Jesus was saying, “is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.”

         Lucifer saw the look of anguish on Jesus face as he spoke and he was completely bewildered.  Just when he thought he understood, he realized that he didn’t understand at all.  He wanted to scream his frustration to the heavens, but he knew the heavens didn’t care about his frustrations one wit.  He settled down once again to hear more of this strange prophecy.

         He noticed that the disciples, and particularly Simon Peter, still aglow with the praise he had received for his stand of faith, were as bewildered as he was. 

Hmm, he thought, maybe Peter could be encouraged a little to get more information out of Jesus.  Maybe he could stir up his natural impulsiveness in a new direction.

         While the other disciples discussed furiously but quietly among themselves, Peter got up and took Jesus aside to remonstrate with him.  “Heaven preserve you, Lord,” he said, “this must not happen to you.”  It was said in love and concern and both Peter and Lucifer were taken aback by Jesus’ sudden and ferocious attack.

         Jesus had turned quickly around to face Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan!  You are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.”

         Lucifer was shocked at the passion of his attack.  Jesus had named Lucifer by name but, more than that, he was furious.  Why?

And immediately, Lucifer remembered the temptations in the desert.  There was something here that he could not quite get a grasp on.  There was an opportunity here but he couldn’t identify it yet.  He bowed his head in concentration and clenched his fists while he forced himself to think and rethink all of his assumptions about this man, Jesus. 

          It was a prophecy, Lucifer thought.

         He had learned to take prophecy seriously, once he understood it.  This was a prophecy of Jesus’ own death.

His own death, wondered Lucifer.  How could it be?  Lucifer, himself, had no power to bring death to this man.  He could live forever, what was the point in dying?  Although a warrior-church without a leader was much easier to handle.  Lucifer was already pleased at the prospect. 

Jesus was willing to die?  He would die at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, the leaders of Isra´el?  Well, he could probably arrange that, if he thought he could get away with it! 

Tundrac had already put the wheels in motion for exactly that kind of attack.  Up until now, Satan had not thought it possible to accomplish.  Jesus was too strong.  But now, Jesus was prophesying his own death at the hands of Satan’s minions, at the hand of Satan himself.

         And with that thought, an overwhelming wave of bloodlust thrust up through his evil soul and threatened to choke him.  It was so powerful, so deliciously sweet, so desirable that Lucifer was paralyzed with the intensity of it.  He had never in his entire existence experienced anything like it.

Gabriel was watching him, obviously bewildered at this wanton display of lust, confused by the weakness that had come over his elder brother.

 If the angels had attacked at that moment they would have overcome him, Lucifer was sure.  But they did not move, and they allowed him the few long moments he needed to get himself under control once again. 

         What was that all about?  Lucifer trembled slightly.  He knew that something had changed deep within him.  A deep and terrible desire had been born within him, and it was like nothing he had ever before experienced.  He loved it, he treasured it but he did not yet understand it. 

  Slowly, slowly, he thought to himself.  Think it through.  What happened? 

         Then he knew, and the desire responded to the knowledge like a young colt kicking up his heels.  It was a strange sensation but now he knew what it was.  He had realized that it would be by his own hand that Jesus would die.

Oh, the delicious irony of it all!  The one thing that he desired above all, the one moment he would sacrifice anything for, was being given to him on a silver platter.  To be able to spit in the face of the one he hated above all, to be able to slap the face of the one face that he abhorred above all.  To be able to thrust the cold shaft of his death sword through that soul, Lucifer rejoiced with all his heart, what sweet, delicious joy that would be!!

         But it was dangerous!  the thought came unbidden into his mind.

Yes, he agreed with himself, it was dangerous.  He hadn’t forgotten the last part of the prophecy – that Jesus expected to rise again.  He would see about that!  Once he had authority in a man, in sin or in death, he would not let go.

God would have to destroy death and hell itself before he would give this one up, Lucifer thought grimly.  But it was dangerous.

         Why was Jesus suggesting that he would be willing to die?  What did he want in return?  Death was his domain, Lucifer reminded himself, his territory, and Heaven had to acknowledge it.  Jesus didn’t have to die, but he was willing to do so.  Why? 

Then, as if he had completely forgotten, he remembered that there were two sides to the Messianic prophecies about Jesus.  On the one hand he would be a mighty Divine warrior king and on the other, he would be a suffering servant.  Lucifer had largely ignored the second in general confusion as to why God would even remotely want to suffer for his people.

For his people?  Is that the key?  Was he offering himself as a substitute for his people?  How many people?  Just a handful of Jews, probably.  He could live with that!

Oh, he would give up more than that to get his hands on Jesus. Lucifer wanted to shout and laugh for joy but he knew that Gabriel was watching.

     Content for now, Lucifer rose into the air and, with the anticipation of fulfilling his deepest lust, he soared off with a mighty rushing of wings and his captains and princes flew after him in a black, whirling cloud.

 

 

*****

         Gabriel was grim with the knowledge that the temptation had taken root in the very depths of Lucifer’s soul.  The trap had been laid, the bait had been taken, and now it was time to prepare for the final scene. 

         A whirlwind of activity followed, with healings and teaching and the demonstration of authority over the demons.  Jesus continued to build faith in his disciples, spending more and more time with them alone, preparing them for the final stages of his Master Plan. 

         Six days after Peter’s profession of faith, Jesus took him and James and his brother Yochanan and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone.  There he showed them his glory while he conversed with Mosheh and Elijah.  His face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light.

  And while he was still talking with them, suddenly a bright cloud covered them with shadow, and from the cloud there came a voice which said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favor.  Listen to him.”

         Jesus had allowed his closest disciples to witness this Divine strategy session to increase their faith and so that they could testify to his glory after he had risen from the dead.  All of this was in preparation for one of the greatest works that Jesus would perform to demonstrate who he was.  And Gabriel was awash with the thrill of it.

             It would happen in the home of Lazarus.

 

 

*****

The flurry of activity both human and demonic in the Sanhedrin was a reflection of the troubling times.  Tundrac was striding back and forth, at once bellowing orders and complaining at the incompetence of his captains to do the simplest things.  At his side, like a thin dark shadow was another demonic presence, Slimfroth, who was the prince of this place.

         The Sanhedrin was in an uproar as first one scribe and then another tried to out shout the other, angry beyond words, and frightened.  Everyone had an opinion here, and three or four different interpretations of what had happened.  And there in the center of the confusion sat the High Priest, silent and brooding, with a few of the cooler heads sitting nearby.

         The messenger, out of breath and gasping, had just shouted out his news upon barging into the meeting. 

 

 

*****

Caiaphas, the High Priest, was annoyed by the rash manner of the interruption, but when he heard the news he reluctantly decided to let that brashness pass for now.  Raising a hand he waved the assembly to silence, and at first, amazingly, he was almost ignored.  But then, realizing what was happening, the scribes and elders began to quiet down to hear what Caiaphas had to say.

The demonic forces also became quiet to hear the news and decide what it might mean. 

         Caiaphas spoke quietly but firmly to the messenger. “I will forgive your impertinence in interrupting this assembly, if you speak slowly and clearly, and tell us what happened.”  The menace in his voice was unmistakable.

The messenger gulped nervously and tried to stammer out a reply.

“Slowly and clearly,” the high priest said again with venom in his voice.

 

 

*****

         The messenger took a deep breath and began his story.  He had charged into the room to shout the news that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead.  Most of them knew Lazarus, and some had even been to see his sisters to give their condolences.  Lazarus had been dead for three or four days already.  It was unbelievable!

 Now he had to tell the story in all of it’s gory detail, the stench of the body, the weeping of the sisters, Mary and Martha, the tears of Jesus, and the final staggering certainty that Lazarus was alive again.  And as he finished his story, the room erupted once again in an orgy of questions, and contradictions, and unbelief.

 

 

*****

         Slimfroth slid up beside Tundrac and spoke nervously under his breath, “Are you certain, Massster, that thisss isss what the Evil One desiressss,” the hiss in his voice betraying his fear.

         “You doubt me?” growled Tundrac.

         “No, Massster, never.  I merely desssire to make certain what it isss that you wisssh me to do.” Slimfroth licked his lips nervously.

         “You have your orders, fulfill them.”

         “Yesss, my Most Unholy Massster,” muttered Slimfroth as he slithered away to take up his post beside Caiaphas.    

         Caiaphas had quieted the assembly once more and allowed a more orderly discussion of the events and their implications.

One young scribe stood up and spoke harshly. “Here is this man working all these signs and what action are we taking?”  He glared at his associates arrayed around the room.  “If we let him go on in this way everybody will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy the Holy Place and our nation.”[28]

 

 

*****

         Gabriel was hidden in a corner of the roof, his glory veiled, his presence unnoticed.  He had followed the messenger into this den of demonic activity and had managed to get within hearing distance without being noticed.

He shook his head sadly as he heard the irrationality of unbelief express itself in this young scribe.  Did they not see how illogical it all was?  Jesus demonstrates who he is by a great and awesome sign, and they are worried that everybody will follow him and be healed, be released from demonic oppression, be taught the truth and live in love and communion with each other. They would love their enemies, return good for evil, and respect the authority of Ceasar and pay him his due. 

Gabriel wondered to himself, exactly why the Romans would come to destroy the Holy Place and the nation.  Jesus would transform this province from one of the most difficult to one of the most cooperative provinces in the Empire!

         But of course logic and truth had nothing to do with it.  The leap in logic was demonic in intent if not in origin.  Almost the entire assembly was in agreement.  There were two or three older Pharisees that were uncomfortable with this whole direction but they were afraid to say anything, at least not yet.  Among them was Nicodemus, who had spoken in secret with Jesus, and Joseph of Araemethia, and also Gamaliel the Elder, the grandson of the great rabbi Hillel who had brought much moderation and common sense to the Pharisaic tradition two generations ago. 

         Caiaphas, the high priest that year, said, “You don’t seem to have grasped the situation at all;  you fail to see that it is better for one man to die for the people, than for the whole nation to be destroyed.”

Gabriel knew that Caiaphas did not speak in his own person, it was as high priest that he made this prophecy that Jesus was to die for the nation – and not for the nation only, but to gather together in unity the scattered children of God.

 

 

*****

         Tundrac was pleased.  It was going well, and Caiaphas had clearly set the direction of the whole assembly on an irreversible course.  They would act, they would deal with the situation.  Jesus must die.

Tundrac noticed that Slimfroth was quite agitated and he motioned for him to come and make his report.  As he slithered to his side, Tundrac congratulated him on his good work.

         “B-b-but, my M-massster, it wasss not me!”  Slimfroth stammered.

           “Are you telling me that it was that fool’s own idea,” Tundrac scoffed, “that’s hard to believe.”

              “N-n-no, my M-massster, it was not him.”

         Tundrac had started to walk away, but immediately whirled around and grabbed Slimfroth by the throat, strangling him while he breathed fire into his slimy face as he asked in a low growl of terrible menace, “Who, dare I ask, was it then?”

Of course, Slimfroth couldn’t answer as he dangled helplessly in the iron grip of his Master.  But it didn’t matter, Tundrac knew and he looked carefully around the room, peering especially into the hidden corners where the Enemy might be concealed.

But Gabriel was already long gone and Tundrac was left with the uneasy feeling that he was being used.  The Evil One needed to hear this report as quickly as possible.  Tundrac could smell a trap. 

With a roar of frustration he rose into the air and made for the palace to make his report. 

         From that day on the Pharisees determined to kill Jesus, and not only him, but Lazarus as well.   He had been dead once, this time he will stay dead.

And the demons laughed with great cackling glee at the entertainment.  It was almost as if the evil that they had begun was taking on a life of its own.  The bloodlust was like that, they knew.  It grew and grew until there was no stopping it.  Now these humans wanted to kill Lazarus as well, because he was alive and should be dead.  They thought it quite funny, really.

 

 

*****

         It lay like a serpent coiled in his bosom, asleep for now, but able to raise its ugly head and strike at any moment.  And Lucifer both thrilled in the sensation and feared it.  It was the strangest thing.  He had not felt the purity of temptation for eons since the very beginning when he had sensed that first awakening of desire for something more.  He had nursed it, loved it, and finally he had acted upon the desire that had grown within him.

         He had never regretted his decision.  He was content in the role that he had taken upon himself, the authority that he had carved out for himself on this earthly globe.  The desire for worship and the craving for glory were his daily companions.  He lived and bathed daily in his hatred for the three that were one, who kept for Himself all the glory, all the majesty, all the worship.  Lucifer had grown accustomed to that desire and that hatred and his whole existence was controlled and guided by it. 

         But here was something new that yet was ancient.  The sensation thrilled him to the core of his being.  This was what he created, this was what he birthed in the hearts of his slaves.  This great, choking paralysis of desire and fear.  A desire for the forbidden, for the dangerous possibility, and a fear of the consequences.

A fear of the consequences?  Since when did he fear anything, Lucifer asked himself.  But he was afraid.  What he wanted to do with all of his heart was terribly dangerous and he could sense a trap.

          Tundrac had come with his report and misgivings.  He had good instincts Lucifer reminded himself to make more use of him in the days ahead.

         Obviously the raising of Lazarus was a direct attack on his domain.  The demonic gatekeepers had been harassed and kept at bay for three days not able to claim the spirit of the dead Lazarus.  They had called for reinforcements but the battle had been heavily supported as if all of the efforts of heaven had been targeted on this one event.  Lucifer had decided not to get involved, to leave the spoil to the victors and bide his time for the real battle.

Let Jesus have his day in the sun, he thought.  The darkness will be gathering soon.  Lucifer smiled.

         He knew what he would do.  He would attack in two separate and distinct ways.  He had two opportunities and he would exploit both of them at once.  On the one hand, the wheels were already in motion for the death of Jesus.  It wouldn’t have an effect on his Divinity but it would frustrate his plans somewhat to be deprived of his bodily form.  Lucifer knew that he was probably helping Jesus to accomplish exactly what he wanted to do, but he was willing to be used up to a point.  If Jesus wanted to suffer for his people, then Lucifer would be willing to oblige.  It was a good trade.  The Jewish people for a chance to slap God in the face.

         The lust mounted up in him again, spinning out of control and he lifted his face to the night sky and howled his glee and outrageous joy that such an opportunity should be given him.  And the entire assembly of captains and princes and demons of all kinds throughout the city, hesitantly at first, but then with more and more abandon, joined in the howling and backslapping and contagious evil pleasure at the thought of what lay ahead.  And never was there such joy in Hell as the joy this greatest of all evils brought. 

         A long time later, with his captains still smirking and giggling impishly, Lucifer returned to his brooding in an evil temper.  Was he some third-rate novice, that he would lose control like this?  He frowned ferociously and concentrated on the problem at hand.

         The question of Jesus’s death was under control.  The Pharisees had been encouraged to find a final solution to Jesus, and Tundrac could well take care of those preparations.  But he was under strict orders not to proceed until he was given the final word from the Evil One himself.

         This had to be handled very, very carefully.  One misstep and heads would roll, he had promised them.  Wait for my word.

Lucifer himself wanted to handle Judas, who would betray Jesus to the mob.  The trick would be to arrest Jesus quietly, away from the crowds and deal with him before anybody knew what was happening.  But the city was riddled with secret places and was full of the Passover crowds.  They would need someone to take the temple guards directly to him, and get them close enough so that Jesus couldn’t slip away in the darkness.

         To facilitate that direct attack on Jesus, Lucifer had made application in the throne room of Almighty God to deal with the disciples.  They, at least, were still under his authority and he would deal with them in his own way.

         But Lucifer had another plan that he would implement at the same time.  In fact, everything depended on how this second plan unfolded.

         He hadn’t forgotten that little chink in Jesus’ armor that he had discovered in the desert.  Jesus had reinforced it when he had spoken so harshly to Peter about his coming death.

Obviously, Jesus was not the entirely willing sacrifice that he pretended to be, Lucifer thought.  He was to be the substitute, he was to be the one who would suffer for the people and obviously he didn’t relish the idea.

Why would he?  Lucifer thought.  He still couldn’t get his mind around the idea of the hated Eternal Word in the flesh being willing to take any punishment he, Lucifer, was able to dish out.

         To face the pain and torture of the cross and die as a criminal on behalf of these puny, worthless humans?  He’s crazy!  He claims to love them, but he abhors me.  He knows what I can do to him!  I have no authority in him but what if the Father hands him over to me?  That seemed to be the plan.  What great luck!  Lucifer did not believe in luck but he didn’t know what else to call this great movement of events that would so fulfill his every desire, his eternal hatred.

         But he had to remember to stay focused.  He needed to explore this opportunity to see if temptation could be turned into desire and desire into sin.

Lucifer knew that temptation in and of itself was not necessarily wrong.  Usually, the strength of the temptation was rooted in evil desires but not always.  He had tempted the more obstinate holy men with good things, unselfish things that were nevertheless not the will of God for them at that time.  Whether they choose evil or whether they choose good, they were still the ones doing the choosing.  The fruit of the tree is still in their hand, the pulp of disobedience still in their mouth, the juice of unholy desire still runs down their face.

  All that they needed to do is choose obedience and the power of temptation was broken.  It was the one thing Lucifer tried to keep hidden from the minds of men – the simplicity of obedience.

         No doubt Jesus knew all this and understood it well but the desire to avoid the hell that Lucifer would inflict upon him was there, and that desire he might be able to exploit.

Wise in the ways of temptation, Lucifer decided to stay close to his nemesis and await his opportunity.  In any case, the rest of the plan was underway and he could concentrate his full attention on Jesus.

It would be decided soon, he made his decision, before the Passover celebration.

And having decided on his course of action, Lucifer allowed himself the small, careful indulgence of planning a particularly painful death for Jesus.  He smiled to himself, he would not let this opportunity slip through his fingers unless absolutely necessary.

 

 

*****

         Tundrac was ready.  All the preparations were complete, but he was still uneasy.  It was all fine and great that he had to await the word from his Master before launching the final attack on Jesus but these human vermin were not entirely under his control.  They were acting on their own.  This was what their own evil natures desired, to rid themselves of this man Jesus before he completely stripped them of their hold over the people.  The demons merely encouraged what was already there.  But how to control it?

         Even his own demons were gathering in groups of two or three throughout the city and boasting of what they would do to him.  This Passover would be the greatest celebration of their evil existence.  Tundrac knew there was a line he could not cross.  When the bloodlust was upon them, he could not control them any longer.  He would have to try to divert their lusts to other channels, if it came to that.

         Perhaps, Tundrac mused, a few convicted criminals could be taken care of at the same time!?  That would be fitting company for this great demonic feast and hopefully adequate food for his demonic hordes if the overall plan had to be abandoned as too dangerous.

In the deepest parts of his evil nature he could sense a trapBut dangerous or not, even he felt the deep craving desire to get close enough to spit in that hated face.

We will see, he thought, hatching his own plans for the Passover, we will see…

 

 

*****

Jesus set his face toward Yerushalayim.  He was determined to go through with it no matter what.  Taking the Twelve to one side he said to them, “Now we are going up to Yerushalayim, and the Son of Man is about to be handed over to the chief priests and scribes.  They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the pagans to be mocked and scourged and crucified; and on the third day he will rise again.”

The disciples didn’t know what to say so they said nothing.  When Jesus entered his black moods it affected all of them and they were mystified and worried and, yes, even scared. 

They had thrown their lot in with him and if he couldn’t protect himself, what would happen to them?

 But Jesus was determined to go to Yerushalayim and they would go with him, though none of them really knew the depths of the drama that would unfold there. 

 

 

*****

 

 


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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