What if Jesus had said yes to Satan?

 Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to you if you will worship me.”

What would the world look like today if Jesus had said yes to Satan?

What if, when Satan offered Our Lord all the kingdoms of the earth, Jesus had said yes?

What if, like the Saturday Night Live skit, dJesus, Our Savior had used his powers to force people to bend their knee to Him?

These questions strike to the heart of other questions. Why does God allow people to rape, torture and murder innocent children? Why would He allow cancer? Why doesn’t He stop us from harming one another so viciously?

Why, in short, does He tolerate a creation that rejects Him and what He has taught us to do and so often goes in the opposite and entirely cruel and destructive direction?

If He is God, why does He allow so much suffering?

I have heard people say things like this when they were in the extremities of pain and loss. Their question was not so much an accusation as it was a kind of prayer, a cry from the depths.

On the other hand, it has become fashionable in certain circles for privileged people to ask questions like these as a method of self-justification or simply as a way to attack faith. This  nonsense of blaming God for our sins is becoming an increasingly accepted way to brush aside personal responsibility for our actions. Instead of acknowledging what we have done wrong, we point out that someone else is doing just as bad or worse.

Who better to blame for all the sins of humanity than a God who has the power to stop us from harming one another and will not do it? So, the fashion of the day is misplaced blame. We hold God accountable for human depravity.

But what would happen if God stopped us from sinning? What would have happened if Jesus had been the kind of conquering messiah the Jewish people wanted? What, in short, would happen if God was more like us?

I am the first to admit that if I was God every rapist and child batterer on this planet would be a pile of ash. Poof! And they would be on their slimy way to hell.

But God doesn’t operate that way, even when we wish He would.

He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry. 

Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.”

Jesus said “No” to Satan’s offer of worldly power. He turned His back on the temptation to use His power for Himself, even for something as simple as turning stone to bread to eat when He was hungry. He said no to all of it, and by doing that took the first steps to the cross.

Our eternal salvation began with that series of “nos” to the prince of darkness and his tempting offers to make right with might.

The truth is that even when God directs us, he always leaves us the choice of saying no to Him. He sets before us life and death, and then He lets us chose. He gives us a radical type of freedom that allows us to literally do our worst, including mocking, criticizing and attacking Him.

When Jesus said no to the control of earthly kingdoms, He was also saying no to the use of force to convert us.

God’s Kingdom is made of free people who freely chose to follow Him. The narrow way is narrow precisely because so many people would rather go the way of power and license, of selfishness and greed rather than give themselves to a Lord Who chose suffering and death over all earthly power.

Why the cross? Why did Jesus have to suffer and die on the cross; beaten, tortured, mocked, naked and humiliated? Why was this necessary to save us? Why didn’t He just reach out and save us with a magical touch?

From the beginnings of Christianity to now the cross has been a scandal. It is the subject of mockery from today’s evangelical atheists just as it was the subject of mockery by the Romans. The Romans saw the cross as ignoble. It was shameful, a disgrace, to die in such a manner; proof that the person who suffered it was from the scum classes of society and essentially worthless. The idea that Christians claimed such a victim as their god was, to them, ludicrous.

Today’s atheists are not so class conscious. They hang their critiques on a distaste for the whole affair. They sneer at the bloodshed and suffering and rebuke Christians for what they claim is a morbid worship of death.

But in truth the cross was the greatest gift of love ever given to humankind. The cross was not the only way God could have saved us. But it was the only way He could have done it and left us free.

Frank Weathers, who blogs at Why I Am Catholic, published an interesting post a few days ago. He commented on the Saturday Night Live skit, DJesus, that mocked our Lord by casting him as a violent, vengeful killer who wreaked havoc on everyone who ever crossed Him. Frank raised the question, “What would things be like if Jesus had been this vengeful god the skit portrayed?”

I think another way to ask that question is, What would things be like if Jesus had said yes to Satan in the wilderness?

The answer is probably along the lines of Jesus as He is portrayed in the SNL skit, only much worse than anything we can imagine. People of the first century were accustomed to gods who hungered for power — over each other, and over human beings. Humanity had long worshiped various deities who craved death and demanded that their followers slaughter their children, captives and other helpless ones as sacrifices to them.

How is that so different from our current culture of abortion, euthanasia and meaningless wars? St Augustine said these early gods were in fact demons. If he was right, then it appears these same demons are working through people today. They have not changed their tactics. They have only changed their names and their arguments.

God doesn’t allow suffering. He allows us our freedom and we cause the suffering. God doesn’t rape and torture. He doesn’t send drones, tell lies and ignore the elderly, sick, poor and helpless in our midst. We do that.

What God does is allow us to choose who we will serve. Jesus was born in a stable and died on a cross to open a path to salvation and eternal life for us. He suffered all this because by suffering it  He could both redeem us and leave us free to reject the redemption He offered.

God lets us chose. He sets before us life and death and then He lets us chose. That is the way things are because on that day so long ago, Jesus made His own choice. He said “no” to satan and turned His face to the path that led Him to the cross.

  • Andiron

    All of this,
    All of this can be yours.
    Just gimme what I want,
    and no one gets hurt.

    • http://coalitionforclarity.blogspot.com/ Robert King

      It’s everything I wish I didn’t know
      but you
      give me something
      I can feel

  • Becky

    I get what you’re saying for human-created evils, but I struggle with why God allows tsunamis, cancer, and the like. I don’t usually despair over it, but I struggle with it.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      We all do.

      • http://fpb.livejournal.com/ Fabio P.Barbieri

        I think some of us need to take the doctrine of eternal life a bit more seriously. If this world is only the examination room for our real life in eternity, what difference does it make how the Examiner calls us out of it?

  • Bill S

    Becky,

    I don’t believe in the Christian God, but I do see God as the intelligence behind everything that appears to exist and happen by design. To keep it simple, I just say I’m an atheist because the God I believe in isn’t a person who demands my belief.

    Nonetheless I think you will believe me if I tell you that things happen at random. I don’t think you can believe anything else that I can tell you, but you have to believe in the laws of nature and sciences like medicine and meteorology and try not to attribute every random event that occurs and is subject to the laws of nature to the creative intelligence that you call God. I doubt that this God would micromanage the universe.

    If this comment is deleted, then I can’t answer your concerns. If not, then I hope you find this response helpful. It is a response that a priest should give to a victim of a tragedy.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Bill, I don’t have any concerns. I deleted your other comment because it was just a repetitive rehash of saying that the Scriptures are untrue and there is no God. After you’ve said it a few thousand times, you need to think of something else to contribute.

      Having said that, I do think your views are evolving (pun intended.) The laws of physics, biology, etc, only prove that God created the universe in an orderly, discernable fashion and that He gave human beings the intellect to be able to discern this order. After all, He made us the lords of creation, didn’t He? Is it any surprise that He also equipped us to understand creation?

      Of course, I attribute every random event to God, since He is the author of all creation, I attribute all existence to Him it could not be otherwise. There would be no random events without Him. That does not mean that I think He actively directs every move we make or thought we have. Far from it. This entire post was about how He made us free beings.

      Think about that Bill. He not only gave us the intellect to be able to unravel how He does things, but He gave us the freedom to do what we want with the knowledge.

      We are not slaves; not to circumstance or the laws of nature or to God Himself. We are free. Utterly and completely free to think, live, love, create, destroy and grow in our understanding.

      If that doesn’t make us His beloved, what does?

      God is real Bill. And He loves us.

  • SteveP

    Rebecca Hamilton: Thank you for the image of the painting.

  • Bill S

    Some scientists are beginning to believe that there was an intelligence that created the universe for the sole purpose of developing the intelligence needed to observe its creation. As scientists, they believe that by observing everything, they are fulfilling the purpose of creation. In other words, we have been created so that someone will be here to observe creation. Otherwise it is all for not.

    • http://coalitionforclarity.blogspot.com/ Robert King

      Curious: how is “for the sole purpose of developing the intelligence needed to observe its creation” different from “demanding my belief”? Both seem to say that humanity (at the minimum; perhaps there are other material intelligences out there) ought to pay attention to the creator. But one makes sense to you and the other does not. Why?

  • Bill S

    The intelligence that I am coming to believe in has no way of caring whether anyone believes in it or not. It is like gravity caring if anyone believes in it. As opposed to what people call “God” it is impersonal. I know I am just being a heretic instead of an atheist. Yes, humanity ought to pay attention to its creator. But, to me, the creator does not have our likeness and image or our emotions like the need for people to like us or believe in us. I’m just thinking out loud. I can’t prove any of this.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      You’re just making up a god Bill. There’s a real one.

  • Bill S

    For the sake of argument (which seems to be my OCD), lets just say that there have been a thousand gods worshipped by humans. I know the number is much higher than that, but let’s just say 1000 for the sake of argument.

    You say that 999 gods were made up but one is the true God. I just add one more to that list. But are all 1000 gods attempts to define the one true God? Or is it just 999? What if we have been misled in our attempt to define the one true God?

  • PatrickG

    I think there are two points here- one of them regards evil human behavior. But the other involves agents of suffering that are not evil, but simply are. You mentioned one- cancer. Sins are not part of any oncogenesis pathway I’m aware of. Why, then, would an intervening God allow it to exist?

  • Bill S

    “Of course, I attribute every random event to God, since He is the author of all creation, I attribute all existence to Him it could not be otherwise.”

    I can buy the notion that all creation came from one source, and that creator role is attributed to God. Therefore, in a general sense, everything that happens can be traced back to the uncaused cause. This is different from saying that when my mother died of cancer leaving behind a husband and four children, God was somehow involved. Random mutations of cells are just that, random. There is no one to blame or credit for any random event. That’s why they call it random.

  • Bill S

    Is that what you believe? That this world is the examination room for our real life in eternity?

    Fabio, this here is our life. When my brain stops working (and it is already on the decline), I will lose all consciousness without which I will be no more.

    Why do you think I am so negative?

    • http://fpb.livejournal.com/ Fabio P.Barbieri

      I am not trying to change anyone’s mind. I am just trying to make people remember that the Catholic view of the world takes this world to be the mere examination chamber for the next. On the one hand, we all die; on the other, we all shall live. And that being the case, I fail to see the importance of the argument from pain against the Catholic philosophy. It is important to you because you are not Catholic; but if we take the doctrine of Eternal Life seriously, then it cannot contradict our faith. And it follows that I can’t take seriously anyone who claims that the argument from pain made them lose their faith. It can’t have been much of a faith, if that can undermine it. The Fellow we worship, after all, died one of the nastiest and most prolonged deaths imaginable. And long before He did, He said that we should all be ready to do the same: “Take up your cross” (i.e., your instrument of slow execution) “and follow Me.”

  • Vernon Kuznia

    Rebecca,

    This was great. I took many things away from this post (especially that the cross was the only way God could save us and still let us be free), but I was wondering if you’d speak a bit more to one idea that you wrote and maybe also to my thoughts about that idea. That idea was this:

    “God doesn’t allow suffering. He allows us our freedom and we cause the suffering. ”

    I initially agreed with this thought, because it sounded similar to the idea that God doesn’t send anyone to Hell, but instead we make choices that reject God and thus send ourselves there. Then I thought of Paul who pleaded with God three times to take a thorn from his flesh, and God replied that my grace is enough. And I wondered if or how your statement might be reconciled with Paul’s experience. Is it possible that you may have inadvertently confused suffering with the acts done (rape, ignoring the poor, etc) that cause the suffering?

    I think that while it’s obviously true what you wrote that “God doesn’t rape and torture. He doesn’t send drones, tell lies and ignore the elderly, sick, poor and helpless in our midst. We do that.” The victims of these acts certainly do suffer and it’s likely that God does in fact allow that suffering (just as he did Paul’s). Certainly it would not be impossible for him to instantly take suffering away from a rape victim or from the sick or poor who are ignored. We may not always understand why God allows suffering or exactly how it can be redemptive, but it seems like in the cases of Paul and the crucifixion of Jesus that he does allow it just as he allows people to choose to do the evil acts that cause the suffering.

    I also think that just knowing and trusting that God sometimes allows suffering may sometimes be the only thing that enables a person to endure pain and continue on instead of giving up.

    Thanks for letting me work my thoughts out here in the comment box. I certainly could be way off in left-field on this. I’d love to know what you think.

    • pagansister

      Vernon K., what is gained by suffering, that you feel God “sometimes allows”? I watched my mother slowly die, bed ridden, with Parkinson’s, for 2 years. She was a Christian. What did she gain? It wasn’t due to anything she ever did in her life. It most certainly didn’t make her stronger—she died, a little each day. Her mind was gone, no control of her bodily functions etc. I can’t deal with “allowing folks to suffer” being anything but uncaring.

      • Rebecca Hamilton

        I haven’t read this who thread, so my comment may not make sense. But … given that … what she “gained” was eternal life.

        • pagansister

          I’d like to believe that, but IMO, she lives in our memories of her and her life. She will live to her great grandson, because we will tell him about her. Her suffering was unnecessary.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Vernon I did narrow the focus of what I was saying. There’s only so much you can get to in a small blogpost. You’ve raised a valid point. One that I’ll take on in the future. It’s really too complex to hammer out here. I will say that my take on it is moderated by the fact that our suffering comes from living in a fallen world, that it is very short-term (although it doesn’t seem that way at the time) when it is balanced against eternal life, and that God always take a long view.

      There have been times in my life when I prayed to be relieved of a painful situation and the answer was no. I usually saw the reason for this later. But I also know that sometimes it’s not given to us to see the reason in this life. As Paul says, “we see only in part, through a glass darkly, but we will see in whole.” When we leave this life, it will all make sense. I don’t know how much it will matter at that point, we will see.

  • Bill S

    I can’t understand why my comment about the randomness of life was deleted. It is an essential fact of life that everyone needs to understand.

  • Bill S

    “I am just trying to make people remember that the Catholic view of the world takes this world to be the mere examination chamber for the next.”

    Maybe this view is good for society in that it makes people be on their very best behavior. But there’s absolutely no truth to it. It’s just a way of controlling people.

    We are mammals with a proportionally larger brain than other animals. That doesn’t mean that our death is any different than the death of any living being. What happens to your dog when it dies? The same happens to you.

    This is your life. It’s not an examination to be used to judge your character. We can waste this life worrying about being judged or we can live it.

  • pagansister

    I tend to agree, Bill S. This life isn’t a rehearsal for another one.


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