Encounter in the Desert Part 3: The Adversary

A re-telling of the story of the temptation of Jesus
(The name ‘Jesus’ is the New Testament form of ‘Joshua’)
 If you have not read Part one, you may wish to begin the story there
 

You might wish to open your Bible to Deuteronomy chapter 6-8

The cave in the desert

On the thirty-seventh day, Joshua’s hunger returned. He awoke very hungry. His re-reading from the parchment did not help take his mind off his pain.

The Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing.

His mind fixed on the figs. How he would love to have a fig! Just one! He could taste it as though it were already in his mouth.

Jericho, a town filled with figs, was not so far away, but Joshua put the figs out of his mind. God had brought Joshua to the desert and had supplied him with water. Until God led him from the desert or provided food, Joshua would continue to obey him in the desert and trust him for his needs. He would not fail God in the desert as had the children of Israel.

***

On the thirty-eighth day, Joshua awoke hungrier still. He went to the water depression in the floor of the cave and it was empty. In the evening the depression was still dry. No food; no water. Joshua refused to complain. God had led him into the desert as he had led Israel. He would not lead him into the desert and desert him. Israel had distrusted God and complained; Joshua would not complain.

Hungry and thirsty he read from the parchment,

The Lord your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills.

Pools and springs seemed imaginary. He would settle for a soaked rag.

***

The next day there was still no water in the cave. Joshua was starved and dehydrated, and the heat of the desert affected him physically. Through bleary eyes he read,

The Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

‘Perhaps there was water and manna beyond the cave’, thought Joshua. He struggled to bring himself to his feet and stumbled out of the cave into the fading light. He fell to the ground and crawled through the dust in the darkness until he passed out.

***

“Food!” said a voice near Joshua’s ear. Joshua became aware of the voice as he slowly approached consciousness, but he did not open his eyes.

“Food! Food!” repeated the voice invitingly. Joshua opened his tired eyes into slits to see a dark blurry object sitting near him. Joshua was bone weary. He could feel the dust formed into a crust all over his skin. His hunger and thirst had intensified. His body, in pain, cried out for nourishment.

“Where?” Joshua whispered coarsely through parched lips. His whisper was so slight as to be almost inaudible.

“What do you say?” asked the voice.

“Where is the food?”

The dark, blurry object moved. It was a man. The man looked to his left and then to his right. He swept his arm almost full circle about his body with sleeve flapping. “Food is all around you,” he said.

Joshua gathered enough strength to lift himself a few inches off the rocky ground. He looked around, but there was no food. He looked back to the man who crouched on the ground. He wore a black hooded robe, and Joshua could hardly see his face.

“What do you mean about the food?” Joshua asked.

“There is plenty for you to eat,” said the man. “It is all around you.”

“Where?”

“Here, and there,” replied the man pointing randomly. “Do you not feel your power? From God’s elements you can create your own food.”

Joshua was weary and his thoughts were not sharp. “I do not understand.”

“Just feel your strength,” said the dark-clothed man. “Can you not transform these rocks into loaves of hot, moist bread?”

Even though he was extremely dry, Joshua could feel his mouth become damp from the thought of warm bread. He imagined himself holding it in his hands, breaking it apart, and putting it in his mouth. He could feel the bread touch his lips, his tongue, and the roof of his mouth. He began to chew, but his mouth was empty. He touched his lips with his fingers and found only dust.

“You can have it, you know. Just say the word, and the loaves are yours for the eating. Your belly will be full.”

Joshua knew he could do such a thing. It seemed easy. He would just pick up a stone and, by his simple will, it would become bread. His stomach ached.

“I am the Son of God,” he croaked. “I will trust God and not demean his gift of power.”

“Is God’s gift to you of any account if you starve in this place? Can you establish your kingdom if your bones are bleaching in these sands?”

“It is not right. I will not do it,” said Joshua. He looked more closely at the man, and he seemed familiar. A memory unsuccessfully tried to float into Joshua’s consciousness. “I know you,” he said to the man.

“You do not know me,” he replied. “But you will. My name is Benjamin. We will accomplish great things together. God has sent me to help you develop a strategy for establishing your kingdom.”

Joshua struggled with the face and the memories. “I remember you,” he mumbled.

Benjamin had kept tabs on Joshua from time to time since he was a babe in Miriam’s womb. Perhaps Joshua had noticed him on occasion. “You may remember me, but you do not know who I am!”

Joshua’s face contorted in pain and confusion.

“Do you wish to do great things?” asked Benjamin.

Joshua replied hoarsely through his dry throat, “I wish to obey God.”

Benjamin said, “God has sent you to establish your kingdom among men, and what better way to win men’s loyalty than to feed them. Feed them and they will follow. If you are the son of God, turn these stones to bread!”

Joshua tried to recall what he had been reading about bread. What was it? ‘A land where bread will not be scarce, where bread will not be scarce – not be scarce.’

Suddenly, Joshua interrupted Benjamin, “Man shall not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord!”

The story concludes next time.
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Photo Credit: Βethan via Compfight cc
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11 Responses to Encounter in the Desert Part 3: The Adversary

  1. michaeleeast says:

    It is not clear at this stage who Benjamin is.
    Or whether Joshua is hallucinating.
    The ambiguity seems strangely appropriate..
    Whether the devil exists or not is irrelevant.
    The temptations are real.
    They are the temptations od faith and power.
    I look forwards to the final installment.

    Like

  2. Tim, you are a really good descriptive writer. Looking forward to seeing how you land this plane.

    Like

  3. lotharson says:

    I’m writing a fantasy/science-fiction novel with a messianic hero who is…an atheist.

    I applaud you for blessing us with your imagination!

    Like

  4. Pingback: Encounter in the Desert Part 2: The Parchment | Jesus Without Baggage

  5. lotharson says:

    I am kind of tempted to say something very blasphemous: I tend to believe that the stories you are writing are NOT less inspired than the stories found in the Gospels 😉

    Like

  6. Chuks says:

    To Me The Temptation Of Christ Was The Battle Of The Mind.

    Like

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