Summary: A dialogue between Jesus and Satan in the wilderness.
Style: Dramatic, with touches of “black” humour. Duration: 12min
Scripture: Luke 4: 1-13, or any “Wilderness temptation” passage
Actors: 2M, although the character of Satan could be female.
Scene: Jesus wandering in the desert, looking rather gaunt. The devil appears.
Devil: Hi there, thin one! Been here long?
You look like you haven’t eaten in weeks.
Jesus: Five to be exact. And five days.
Devil: Let me see - that makes 40 days. Very biblical!
Jesus: I thought so.
Devil: What’s the matter? Lose out in love or something?
Jesus: I’m the son of God.
Devil: O brother! Another one! You’re the third Messiah I’ve met out here this month.
Jesus: You’re no fool. You know who I am!
Devil: And you know who I am. Been waiting for you, friend. It’s lonely out here, isn’t it? Let’s have a little chat. Or maybe a little lunch. You must be plenty hungry. They say sand is good for the digestion, but it can’t be too nourishing.
Jesus: I’m starving.
Devil: Why do you do it? Put yourself through it, out here I mean?
Jesus: I was led here - told to go into the desert.
Devil: What for?
Jesus: All my life I have been trying to understand who I am. And what I am here for. And now I know I have some decisions to make.
- should I stay at home and remain a carpenter all my life? somehow that just doesn’t have all the answers for me.
- you know, in my heart, there is this yearning to make things better for people. And there are so many choices.
- and that’s why I’m here - to wrestle with the angels and sort out what to make of my life.
- should I be a rabbi - a teacher.
- should I join the zealots and try to make things better by overthrowing the Romans.
- should I be a healer - a doctor.
I don’t really know yet. But I’ve been here for 40 days now, and one thing keeps coming through clearly. God has something in mind and soul for me - something I have to be prepared for…
Devil: Preparation for …?
Jesus: My death.
Devil: Yeah, sure - listen, stay out here a few more days and that won’t be too difficult. What else?
Jesus: To understand the burdens of God’s people.
Devil: This is a good way of doing that, all right. Starving. Lonely. But, listen, why bother - if you’re the Messiah?
Jesus: The Son of Man must suffer many things. The Son of God must become flesh and know the sufferings of humanity.
Devil: So - let me get this right. You are out here to get good and hungry and grieve for the world and get ready for death. Boy, I’ll bet you are a real scream at parties.
Jesus: I came to meet you, too. To face my own temptations.
Devil: That’s why we’re here, all right. Look, why don’t you just forget all the high-falutin’ Messiah business and get back to this lunch thing. Have something to eat - you are human aren’t you? Starving?
Jesus: I am. But we have no food.
Devil: Oh, go chew a rock!
Devil: Turn those stones to bread! You can do it!
Jesus: It’s not the way for me.
Devil: Why not?
Jesus: The whole world is starving.
Devil: I get it. You’re really taking this hunger of the world business seriously.
Jesus: It’s a serious business.
Devil: Sure, sure - so why not make enough to feed the world? What would be wrong with turning stones to bread?
Devil: What about the starving millions?
Jesus: It wouldn’t solve the problems.
Devil: What more do you want? You got the chance to do all things those well-intentioned mortals have been trying to do for centuries - feed the hungry. Why, you could put the refugee camps, World Vision, Salvation Army, Red Cross - right out of business!Isn’t that what they’re trying to do? Just look after people’s day to day needs? Whose side are you on, anyway?
Jesus: I suspect it’s not yours.
Devil: Wise guy. Think what a perfect world it would be if you agreed to put an end to all that starvation. People are dying of hunger every day and you won’t even turn a few rocks into bread. Miracle worker! Ha! Do you value rocks more than people? Are you too stubborn? Or do you want more than that?
Jesus: It is not enough! The world needs more than bread. It needs justice - and new life.
Devil: My, my! Aren’t we demanding! I suppose if you were running the show, you’d change all that - create more just structures, equal distribution of wealth, rights and power for the poor.
Jesus: It crossed my mind.
Devil: You’re not the first one down that road, friend. But you know, these mere mortals never seem to get it right. They always seem to get corrupted by their own power. They start off with good intentions, but then they become part of the problem instead of the solution.
Jesus: They try their best.
Jesus: Right. Sometimes.
Devil: Well, OK. But try this one on for size. I really think you could do a better job. You could run the world. Think about it. Now follow me. Climb up this hill and look around at all those kingdoms. Now, this, my friend, is your lucky day. I like you, kid. You’re going to go places. For you I have a special deal.
Jesus: You selling used chariots?
Devil: You really like this world, don’t you? You care about people. You want them to be happy. You want to get rid of the gamblers and the folk who push other people around. Well, you can do it. We can do it. Tell ya what I’m gonna do…
Jesus: Well? Go ahead…
Devil: I’m gonna give you all those kingdoms - it’s all yours. Redo the economies, settle the land claims, turn swords to combines. You name it - it’s yours.
Jesus: That’s big stuff coming from you. It sounds tempting.
Devil: It’s supposed to be tempting. Now you’re getting the point. I am willing to share that power. Just you and me.
Jesus: On one condition?
Devil: Maybe some small print in the contract.
Devil: Worship me.
Jesus: You’ve got to be kidding.
Devil: What are you so uptight about? Do I smell funny or something?
Jesus: Fishy … Look, I’m the Son of God. I can’t worship you!
Devil: What’s wrong with being the big cheese in the world? There is nothing more valuable than having all the power over the earth.
Jesus: There is!
Devil: Name it.
Jesus: Faithfulness to God.
Devil: And you don’t think this is what God has in mind for you? Isn’t this what God would want?
Jesus: I don’t play God. I follow God’s leading.
Devil: And just where do you think this God of yours is leading you?
Jesus: To Jerusalem.
Devil: For what purpose?
Jesus: That I may die. That God might have victory over death.
Devil: I think you’ve been in the sun too long! Now why in the name of the hot place would you want to do that? That is a very silly idea of yours. Don’t go there. Think more pleasant thoughts… say, I have an idea. We could set you up as a sort of death-defier. Escape artist. Star billing. Why not now? Why not a little sneak preview? If you are the son of God, you should be able to throw yourself down from here and land without a scratch! Your scriptures say, and hey, you do read your Bible don’t you? - anyway, it says, right there in the Psalms - God will give angels charge of you - to guard you. Now that’s nice, isn’t it? With a promise like that, how can you go wrong?
(Jesus is silent.)
Unless you’re not the Messiah! No, you’re not! You’re as phony as a three shekel bill. You won’t turn stone to bread, or die and come back to life, because you can’t!
Jesus: I should play God - just for you? (silence)
Devil: Maybe not for me - but the world is waiting for you!
Jesus: Why are you so impatient? God’s purposes will be worked out. God’s justice will come. There will be peace. Death will be overcome, and fear.
Devil: Who are you trying to kid? You won’t fool anybody. You can’t bring this about on your own. You’re following the wrong path.
Jesus: The only path I see is the one I’m taking. They’ll remember my way.
Devil: That’s the point! Why not take a short cut? Let me be your guide. The choices are so much simpler.
Jesus: And slippery. And the stakes are high.
Devil: You’re putting yourself in for a lot of pain. It doesn’t need to happen
Jesus: I think we’ve had our conversation. I’m leaving now.
Devil: Look, don’t think I’m pushy. But where are you going now?
Jesus: To Jerusalem.
Devil: You better be careful. The Romans don’t like people who draw a crowd. The crowds are very fickle. And the Pharisees are very temperamental. You won’t get out of there alive. They’ll kill you there.
Jesus: I know what I’m doing. This is God’s way.
(c) Copyright Jim Hatherly. Originally written c. 1980, re-edited and used many times since.
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