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The Shadow

Based on Mathew 4:1-11

After his baptism, Jesus is led into the desert by the Holy Spirit to be tempted by the devil.

Copyright Gavin Owen 2016

How many days had it been now? It must be ... forty. Forty days and nights alone here in the desert without eating anything. He was so hungry, so tired, so weak. Jesus closed his eyes and he began to pray, it was the only thing that took his mind off the ache in his stomach, it was the only thing that had kept him going this last month.

When he opened his eyes, he saw it. A shadow, as if someone was standing behind him. He looked over his shoulder to see who was there, but the shadow shifted, darting from side to side as Jesus looked to his left and his right.

Jesus nodded to himself, he knew who was with him – the tempter, the devil, the angel who had tried to take God's place and had fallen from heaven. “You stay behind me,” he thought to himself, “where you belong. Now what are you waiting for? I know why you're here.”

And then he heard it, the voice that was ancient and dry but smooth as silk. “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus looked at the stones scattered across the desert floor. He could do it; he could turn them into bread in the blink of an eye. It was tempting, it would be so good to eat, to stop the pain, to make himself feel better. Who would blame him? Who wouldn't do the same in his place? “No!” Jesus said to himself, “Those are his thoughts, not mine. He is a liar, but I am the truth!” And he began to fill his mind with the words of his Father in heaven, words that God had spoken to Moses more than a thousand years ago, words that Jesus had learned by heart when he was just a boy.

“It is written,” Jesus answered, “‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

The shadow seemed to tremble and there was a noise like a hiss and a rattle and then [CLICK] the sound of fingers clicking. Immediately the world jumped sideways, everything went blurred and then, as it slowly came back into focus, Jesus realised that he was no longer standing in the desert, he was standing on the roof of the temple in the city of Jerusalem.

The shadow was bigger now, hiding the sunlight from the people down below, but the voice was still the same. “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written, ‘He will command his angels to protect you, they will lift you up in their hands so that you will not even hit your foot against a stone.’”

“Clever,” thought Jesus, “He's trying to use my Father's words against me, using the Bible to make what is wrong seem right.”

“It is also written,” said Jesus aloud, “‘Do not test the Lord your God.’”

Now the shadow shook and snarled like a wild animal. There was another clicking of fingers [CLICK] and the world fell away beneath them until they were wrapped in clouds. When the clouds parted, Jesus found himself standing on top of a mountain. Stretched out before him was the glory of God's creation – hills and valleys, woods and fields, seas and rivers, flocks of birds in the sky, herds of beasts on the land, fish that leapt from the waters, plants and flowers in every colour of the rainbow. It was beautiful and the most beautiful thing of all were all the nations of people that God had made.

The shadow was even bigger now, as if it was trying to cover the whole world in darkness, but the voice was still the same. “I will give all of this to you, if you will bow down and worship me.”

“Enough!” thought Jesus, “I will not listen to any more of this.”

“Get away from me!” he commanded, “For it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’”

The shadow let out a howl of rage and rushed towards him. Everything went black and then ... he was back in the desert, alone again. Feeling exhausted, Jesus sank to the ground and closed his eyes. At once he felt healing hands resting on his shoulders and he knew that his Father had sent angels from heaven to help him. The battle was won, but the war ... the war was only just beginning.