Conversations Before the Cross #1: Satan Speaks
A Monologue by Rev. James Eaton, Pastor
First Congregational Church of Albany, NY
First Sunday in Lent/A • March 5, 2016
I thought today would be a good day for me to come and explain. I get called Satan but what does that really mean? “Tempter”—it’s just a title. Now this business with Jesus: you have to look at the whole picture, at what I was trying to do as well as what happened, not just some made for the Bible story written down years later by someone who wasn’t even there. Maybe you’ve had problems yourself with the press. So I’m here to set the record straight.
I’d like to point out that no one has ever suggested I harmed Jesus in any way out in the wilderness. Read the story: there’s no violence, no coercion, no threats. The truth is, I saw him as a young man in need of a mentor. It gets lonely being God’s loyal opposition. You come to a point in your life and look around at what you’ve done: sure, it amounts to something but who is it for? Who’s going to take over someday? I was out for my walk in the world and all of a sudden it hit me: him! This intense young man. It isn’t that easy to find people like that. Most people go stumbling along, just trying to avoid the next pothole. It’s hard to get people to think of eternity as anything other than an insurance plan, to see it as the fabric of what is and isn’t, to be ready to argue about its shape and texture and color. He was that kind: consumed by eternity every moment, breathing it the way most people breathe air.
I didn’t want to hurt him, I just wanted to help him, to teach him something about the ways of the world. “Son of God” is a great title but you need a little street sense, too. You need someone to take you around, show you the ropes, teach you to play an angle. I wanted to offer my services as a guide.
I knew it might not be an easy sell. I’ve had a lot of bad press over the years and I have to admit there have been some…excesses.
No one’s perfect. I understand that the business with the fruit from the tree of life isn’t quite what was intended but I continue to believe I was technically correct. That is to say, when that woman quoted what had been said about the fruit, I knew immediately that it sounded too extreme and all I did was say so. And of course I was right, they didn’t die, at least not at once. I admit I could have been a little more careful. Hey, she should have been more careful, right? Caveat emptor: let the fruit buyers beware. You have to take care of number one first and if she didn’t, well is that really my fault?
But I understand that even though I think I have operated in a way that is approximately above board and in many cases more or less correct, some stories have painted me in an unfavorable light. The business with the fruit; that thing with Job, which again, was not my fault, just acting under orders. So I knew that I needed to win the confidence of this Jesus and I thought: I know what he needs and I’ll jus help him.
So I went out to the wilderness. By the way, if you have any thoughts of doing something like this, I highly recommend you go to Palm Springs or Florida instead of the Judaean wilderness. Better yet, if you feel that somehow your soul would benefit from sitting around in the hot sun, why not just go to a tanning salon? But of course there he was, out there in the wilderness, typical young man, do it the hard way. So I dropped in. And I thought, ok, start with the basics, let him show off a little. The truth is, frankly, that I hadn’t had any lunch, so when I noticed we were alone, I quietly suggested he make us some bread from the stones. Simple trick, Moses did more or less the same thing, I thought it would be a natural beginning. Is this so wrong? I’m sitting in the heat with a guy who is obviously hungry. Can’t you study or meditate or whatever just as well on a full stomach? That’s all I thought: put some pounds on the guy, he’s a little thin.
Well, of course, he comes back with a Bible verse, like a Rabbi or something. So then I thought, let’s have a little fun and whisked him off—at my own expense I’d like to point out—to Jerusalem. We both knew there’s no way the security angels are gonna let this guy hit the ground. I just thought, hey, a little free jumping, no bungee cord needed, step off and fly. Live a little, doesn’t that make sense?
All I wanted was a little compromise. I wanted to say, you can’t really go the whole way with the big guy, no one does, not really, so why not compromise a little. I mean, a little religion is good, especially on your tax return but you don’t have to take it so seriously, do you? You don’t have to let it interfere with your life. But he wouldn’t, wouldn’t have it.
He missed a great opportunity: wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t play, wouldn’t…compromise.“Worship the Lord and serve him only.”—that’s it, all he said. Is that any way to live?
What could I do? What could I say? He was a hard case. I was getting hungrier by then. First things first, you have to take care of your own needs before anything else…and, well, I did notice that storm cloud his father uses to mark entrances with up over the next mountain and I knew he wouldn’t understand, he is so …definite. So I left. I thought…maybe another time. But I’m still looking…looking for people who want to compromise.