Jesus is Tempted in the wilderness (1st Sunday in Lent)
Hope this title isn’t too controversial, but I’ll say it again in smaller print. Jesus is Satan.
At the beginning of Lent we find Jesus at the end of Lent. Like a dream-space, a hallucinatory time, where time is distorted, nightmares walk around and just to think of a place is to suddenly be in a place. What better time could there be to have a debate with Satan himself.
Jesus is essentially alone. Beginning to starve. Can he trust his senses? He meets Satan, but I suspect that William Blake may be correct in saying; ‘All deities reside in the human breast.’ The three temptations seem all too human for a starving would-be Messiah; to feed his body; to cheat death; to rule the world. Satan seems to be exposing Jesus’ darker impulses, bringing them to light.
This sort of thing wouldn’t be totally out of character for Satan. As a sort of heavenly court prosecutor, Satan bears an uncomfortable light into situations where the ‘official truth’ remains unquestioned. Satan means ‘adversary’, a much needed counterpoint when the path ahead seems all too clear. I’m not saying that Jesus’ mission is wrong, but when everything seems so right we all need someone or something to get us to stop and think, even if that someone is a mythological being crawling out of our own subconscious.
In every age we need ‘satans.’ We need queer activists to interrupt Easter Sermons. We need people to call their governments to account for their moral failings. I don’t think Jesus merely survived his wilderness experience but was in a deeper sense transformed by it. Maybe he learnt that miracles, resurrections and Kingdom-ruling were not meant to be at the heart of his brief life’s ministry. Rather, like Satan, he should stick his neck out, regardless of the cost, when ecclesiastical and secular powers go unchallenged.
We know what often happens to the outsider, the queer, the immigrant and the out-spoken. Like Satan, they get demonized! No surprise then that Satan became the Devil, The Father of Lies and a creature of darkness. A heavenly rebellion had to be invented to keep the responsibility of evil off God’s doorstep.
Jesus and Satan – both scapegoats of a fashion throughout Christian history. A perfect get-out for human wickedness. But scape-goating the outsider never makes for a healthy society and violence towards innocents atones for nothing.