Laughing jester *47 X 37 cm *1500s

During one of his stand-up routines late in life, Mark Twain said he’d always wanted to meet Satan. Shake his hand. (I paraphrase from memory)…”He must have had executive experience. After all, he is spiritual head of half the world…..and the political head of the whole of it.” (drum roll).

Twain had a peculiarly American humorous look at Old Clootie, and I always felt Satan never liked being thought of that way, to be considered no more than a  bully on the strip-joint side of town, or a petty politician at Town Hall. Either would have been a great slight in the Devil’s eyes.

With Twain’s sense of humor in mind, I’d always wanted to write a “Devil’s History of the United States” based largely on the cat-and-mouse game he always thought he was playing with the Creator, Who (possibly) never considered Satan as anything more than an irritant, an annoying gnat. For you see, in history’s more notable events, such as the Resurrection and creation of the United States, both of which turned History entirely on it its head, Satan was nowhere to be seen and God always one step ahead.

Indeed, the only face-to-face confrontation with God’s plans, besides that apple-encounter with Eve in the Garden, was when Clootie met Jesus in the Wilderness just before He began His ministry. It couldn’t have been a chance meeting.

In the process, he proved, even double-downed on Twain’s observation that Satan was indeed the political head of the whole world, for he laid them all out in front of Jesus, offering them to Him…if only He’d bow down and worship him instead.

While Twain, in 1900, would have been correct to state that Satan was the spiritual head of “only” half the world, in whatever year the 30-year old Jesus was in the Wilderness, Satan was truly the spiritual head of the whole world as well, but that tiny dot in Judaea. However much haughty Protestant preachers in South Carolina want to go on about God always having been in charge of Man’s affairs, neither was He, or did He even pretend to be. For you see, if we could color the world in reds and blue the way we do today, it would have been all blue, controlled entirely by pagans and barbarians who worshiped idols, even trees, except that one small, lone red dot on the world map, Judaea, itself only a glimmer of its former self, and here in the time of Christ, a province of back-to-back-to-back Persian, Greek and Roman conquerors, running back over 400 years.

What’s more interesting, since preachers who preach the Old Testament never really mention it, is that from the beginning, after the Flood, Yahweh’s (God’s) domain was scarcely little more than a “thin red line” running from Abraham through Jacob and Joseph to Egypt, and then, at the able hands of Moses, out of Egypt back to the land God had originally promised in his Covenant with Abraham, 365 years earlier, and then approximately 1600 years of highs and lows that brought them to this tiny red area of Judaea. (That “thin red line” is my contribution to David M Poff’s recent book, A User’s Guide to Our Imperfect Union”, worth a read if we can ever find a publisher.)

So when Twain was glibly remarking about Christianity having gained “half the spiritual world” in 2000 years (give or take) he was speaking about one of the most remarkable (and under-appreciated) events in all history…for you see, it all began when 120 men (and women) departed Jerusalem just 50 days after the Resurrection, having just been blessed with the gift-of-tongues, armed only with their personal knowledge of this Man, what He taught and that He had been crucified, and on the third day arose.

So, how did Satan miss this?

Enter Agatha Christie with a plot, and Mark Twain with the side bar.

I’ve always wanted to write this tale as an Agatha Christie short story, for the absence of God’s greatest antagonist at these very crucial junctures, the Resurrection, and Pentecost from which the Word went forward, and eventually found its way to the shores of North America without really carrying any king’s flag is a mystery in itself.

How could Old Clootie have missed this? How could the self-named arch-demon of God, knowing His plan from the Beginning, by tempting Eve, messing that plan up, then recognizing His Son who would soon begin preaching, having the presence of mind to try to seduce Him in the Wilderness, knowing the threat He posed to the kingdoms (plural) he’d amassed since the first Temple was destroyed 500 years earlier… How could he have missed what happened between the Crucifixion and Pentecost, just 50 days?

 

Well, I spent a lot of time in the Balkans  and enjoyed many discussions (over rakia) with scientists mostly, some of whom were well read in the medieval history of their Orthodox Church. After 45 years under communism, their taste for religion was one not quite the same as you would recognize it. But they said some churches in the east had a special day for Caiaphas, the chief priest of the Sadducees, and principal go-between the Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate, and the people, and who convinced Pilate to order the crucifixion of Jesus. Western Christians had never seen Caiaphas as a good guy.

So, why would Christians set aside a feast day for Jesus’ principal tormentor and adversary?

 

After securing the execution order, It’s suggested that it was Caiaphas who asked Pilate to station a guard (or guards) at the tomb, warning him that some of Jesus’s followers might come and steal the body away on the third day, because it had been foretold that this would happen. The record (Matthew) isn’t clear whether it was Roman legions or local troops who were ordered there, since Matthew got all this information second-hand himself, but indeed according the Matthew, and angel came and rolled away the stone, and the guard(s) passed out from fear.

While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’  If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed.

Apparently nothing ever made it on the nightly news in Jerusalem, or made it back to Pilate. Rumors spun around Jerusalem, but there were no confirmed sightings. So Caiaphas believed his butt was covered. Jesus reportedly appeared in several places over the next 30 days before the Ascension, but not within hearing-range of the centers of government or high Synagogue.

So where was Satan? Now some people think devils can just float around like drones, watching events unseen, but apparently even Satan had to have a snitch network. Even Mark Twain would have agreed that Satan didn’t hang out on street corners using pimps for listening posts or runners. Satan, in whatever guise he used, hung with management. At the top. So what Satan told Caiaphas, his principal agent, was to urge Pilate to crucify him, and once that was done, insure His stay in the tomb was permanent.

He never once talked to a guard.

So Pilate, having no knowledge that Christ was even missing from the tomb, had no cause to raise any alarm. And Caiaphas, with the heart of a Lindsey Graham, figured as long a Pilate didn’t know about that incident at the Tomb, neither was Satan.

So for 50 days no one was even looking for Jesus. And then came God’s hole card, when the Holy Spirit came down onto 120 of His followers of them gathered in Jerusalem, Pentecost it’s called, 10 days after the Ascension, and gave them all the gift of tongues, to head in 120 different directions, each with just-a-little-different description of just what Jesus said and did, and began preaching the Good News.

Many or most were martyred, only nobody knows how long they’d been at it before Satan ever found out. But by then it was too late. It took him 800 years to regain even half the territory he had lost.

Just imagine how many different ways good storytellers could tell that tale, from 33 AD to 800 AD, and challenge virtually every priest and preacher who ever came down the pike since, yet never mess up a single hair on the true story or message of Jesus Christ, or the grand plan of God.

A great lesson about how to use our thinking skills, for the one main thing we know that Satan is in command of the 7 deadly sins, and he really has figured out the ways of the 7 virtues, and knows how to compete with them.

And vice versa.

Lesson: Do not let someone move you to anger if the Evil behind that person is bigger than that person could ever possibly be. Think Swalwell or AOC. Swat him or her aside, and focus on that next level of evil, someone who can at least think past their own tiny vanities, appetites or ambitions. Piss on them. Then go to even the next, if need be. You will eventually get to the Big Guy in the front office and you will know you’re close because of the smell of sulfur.

Then back away, and retool, unless you are well armed with knowledge and strength of heart.

 

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