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Rated: E · Short Story · Religious · #1353388
A dramatic, literary examination of Jesus' temptations in the desert.
Heat, dry, stifling. It rises in waves from the sand beneath his feet. It blankets him from the sun above. His skin, stretched tight over a skeletal form, is like leather. It peels from parched lips in sheets. The musty silt of the Jordan is a faint and taunting memory to a throat that screams for liquid with each belabored swallow. He breaths scorched air and is amazed he has breath at all in this godforsaken wilderness.

How long? A day? Seven?


It seemed an eternity since John held him beneath the cool waters.

"You are my son, my beloved..."

His son, His father's son. The Father's Son. The Son.

The sun is hot and it burns. A harsh, white burning. This son is hot and tired. Father why? Why so hot, so harsh. Forty is too long. Too long for a son. Too long in the sun...

"Remember the long way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments..."

Forty days, forty years. You ask so much. You ask too much. To be broken to be burned for what?

For love.

For you Father, because you ask. It is all I need.

He falls, tasting grit between his teeth. He falls prone under the sun and drifts upon waves of heat. His mind rises in supplication to his God. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The God of Moses in the desert. The God of his people. Yahweh. Abba.

He falls.

Eyes, crusted with sand, open slowly in the setting sun. He lies by a well. It always starts by a well. The well in Nazareth. He is home, just a few steps away his mother is baking bread. It's sweet odor comes to him on a breeze that is joyful with cool comfort. His mouth begins to water, the drool, a thick foamy paste, clots in his beard. It is all his dehydrated flesh can produce.

"Mother", his cry is a raspy, half-choked whisper. She hears still the cry of her flesh, and turns her soft smile his way. She welcomes him, eyes pleading, holding a morsel of bread. His stomach churns at the image.

How easy it would be to go home. Simply get up and go home before things got any worse. Turn around while his body still obeyed his will. This would be granted he knows. Even the stones themselves would obey his command. It is in his power to end things here. Now.

"You are my son, my beloved..."


Abba. Ah. Not my will, but thine.

Neither mother nor manna can give him(them) what he needs. They cannot sustain, have not sustained, will not sustain. Only Abba. Only Father. Source of life to the lifeless, hope to the hopeless.

The bread is gone. Only stones now in the setting of the sun.

"One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God!" he rises slowly, turning to the well. The well of his beloved. The well where lovers meet. Leaning, he falls. Cool and dark, it's walls embrace him.

In the heavens, the first stars begin their dance of night.

Morning breaks. Finds the beloved broken beneath a large stone. It shields him from the growing heat. Hunger and thirst have not left him, rage still within, but a new strength fills him nonetheless. The Father, his father remains with him, sustaining him. The Word resonates, true bread, true life. Manna no more. It feeds from within.

This is the message he will bring to Israel; their transgressions are forgiven, the reign of God has come. He will present it to the Temple. He will stand above them all. He will proclaim the Father's love, the year of the Lord's favor. They will receive his Word and...and...

He recalls the prophets, rejection, stoning, death. Beaten, exiled, murdered. Even now there are plots against John.

Abba, Father will remain at my side.

Would he? This Father whose prophets died to proclaim the Word. Would he protect this son (my beloved)?

He finds the temple at his back. It towers above him, shading him from the sun. It is to the Temple he must go and so he climbs to it's highest peak.


A crowd gathers below. It grows as he gazes down. Priests, rabbis, Jews from far and wide. They speak, softy at first, but as their numbers grow, (sand, burning sand) so does their song;

"He will command his angels
concerning you...
On their hands they will,
bear you up,
so that you will not dash your
foot against a stone."

Song shifts to demand. Prayer turns to challenge, anger, outrage!

"Save yourself! If you are the Son of God!"

"He trusts in God; let God deliver him!"

He teeters on the edge of reason. Precarious and weak. The wind howls at his back coaxing, urging, demanding he know. He must know! Must he know?

"You are my son, my beloved..."

"This is our Father! Our FATHER!" he cries, "Would you make the same mistakes again? Again?!" They cannot hear above their own screams, anger sounding like torment. "I will not. For the love of God. For all our sakes. It must end. I will not put the Lord our God to the test!"

Late afternoon. In the shadow of the stone, hot at his back, his breath comes in ragged gasps. he drifts in and out of sleep (perchance to dream?). He wants to leave, longs for cool water and a bed. It is not done. Forty and forty and forty means it is not done until forty is complete.

He wakes to cool night. The breeze refreshes him, awakens his mind and chases the fog of fast and thirst. He will survive this, by the grace of God. He will survive to see the world outside of wilderness. He will carry the Word enfleshed.

He is a realist. They will not all listen. They have ears but cannot hear, eyes but cannot see. But some do. Some will. Many perhaps. They will follow him, learn from him and they will go out into the world to bring others into the light.

Time. These things take time. Years and years to carry this Word. Brick by brick to build a kingdom. Is forty enough? Forty times forty? Seventy times seven?

It it may take forever. He could...

They will do as he teaches. The ones who follow will do without question. His to command. The way of power. many may listen and take to heart this Word of peace, many more will listen to power, and power was something he had in spades! He could feel it coursing through his veins, his life's blood, crying out.

All kings on earth would bow to him, worship him. Worship him!

The reign of God is one thing. The Reign of the Christ...there's a horse of a different color. Nations begin to gather, the faithful(fearful), the kings and queens. Kneel before your king. The world shall be your footstool. "Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna!"

"You are my son, my beloved..."

"'Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him!' " His cry is a peal of thunder across the barren sky. "All that I have, all that I am, is yours Abba. Yours alone." He had mounted the stone again. All the nations of the world lay beneath him, an ocean of peasants, awaiting his command. "not my command, but thine" he whispers.

The stone softens beneath his feet becoming sand, surrounding a small, crystalline pool. Date trees bow their leafy, fruit laden heads toward him, paying homage to their king. A king who would feed the spirit rather than just the body, who would surrender to God instead of test him, who would love and serve the world instead of command it.

A date falls into his hands from above, a precious, heavenly gift. "I thank you Father, for this gift of life." It is sweet on his tongue, water from the pool cools and refreshes his parched throat. He rests, tended by angels. It is done. Is it done? (Forty and forty and forty means it is not done until forty is complete).

Until an opportune time.

He is a different man from the one who entered this wasteland so long ago. He has shared in the sufferings of his people, not simply stood in their place, but along side. He has offered for them, offered with them, the response they could not give on their own. He will go forth to teach forgiving love. They will journey together and where they fall, he will stand and lift them up. The Lord has made a promise;

"..the Lord your God will maintain with you the covenant of loyalty that he swore to your ancestors; he will love you...you shall be the most blessed of peoples..."

"You are my son,  my beloved."
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