ࡱ> _a^G |bjbjَ x] $3LLLLLLLL$LLLLLLLLLLLLtL@ @kb^& C H R O N I C L E O F T H E F I E R Y F U R N A C E -- E A R T H I A N N O S T E L L A E 3 0 The Battle of Battles In essence, it was all overmeaning the destiny of mankind, its fate for good or illshortly before dawn. One one side was Yeshua the Nazarene, the failed Messiah who had captivated the common populace but antagonized all the powers that be, political and spiritual. Arrayed against him was, of course, the chief priests, the Pharisees, and the Herodians, and the Romans who were dragged into it against their will completing their powerful coalition. But the human battle was really the least of what Yeshua confronted. All the decisive battles of Earth, whether Carchemish, Issus, Actium, Manizikert, Waterloo, Trafalgar, Stalingrad, Normandy Beachbattles that decided the fate of the whole civilized worldthey were pitiful skirmishes compared with the one Yeshua fought all alone in the Garden of Gethsemane outside Jerusalem. Yeshua left his disciples, even the three closest to him, and went deeper into the garden to pray. It was night, and he could not wait until dawn to rise and pray, for he knew his enemies were plotting even at that moment to surprise and capture him just before the morning light. The Nazarene prayed, quite a bit of the time, stretched out upon the ground, his face in the dirt. Shepherds commonly ran their flocks into such gardens if they could to get the grass and tender herb, so there was no ground cover. Several times he rolled over in agony in the depths of his struggle, as he was assailed by unseen forces that launched every conceivable attack upon him. Hours before his ordeal was up, he was covered in dirt and mud, earth mixed with his own tears. He could not be made to sin against His Father in heaven, but he might be dissuaded from doing the Fathers will. At least that was what Yeshuas chief antagonist that night, Lucifer, wagered. He had attempted to dissuade the Messiah once before, in a cave near the Jordan, just after Yeshuas baptism by the hand of the prophet Johanan. That hadnt worked out, unfortunately, but Lucifer was not much put out by Messiahs clever manipulation of scripture to elude his clutches. Oh no! He hadnt used his chief weapons, by any means. Only if the lesser weapons failed, then he would employ the greater armanents in his arsenal. He still possessed his major artillery intact, and these he knew would do the job. Not even Yeshua, the Miracle-Working rabbi whom all the common rabble loved, could stand up to the blasts He would receive at Gethsemane! But what exactly was the Fathers Will? Lucifer had to pin that point down first, and he thought after much work on the subject that he had finally succeededjust in time, too. He had listened carefully to Yeshuas words from the beginning of His ministry in Galilee, and he knew that the Enemy planned some kind of miraculous escape from death, a spectacular deliverance like the one that he had pulled off at the Red Sea when He divided it, making a path of escape from the pursuing Pharaoh for the fleeing Israelites. He had done it before, and it had worked so well, that of course the Enemy would do it again. Why throw away such a good trick? Lucifer knew also that he had to kill this Messiah, to rid the earth of the possibility of His ever getting the reins of power. He had to disprove all the prophecies in scripture concerning this kingly Messiah, and to do so he had to kill the Messiah. It was that simple. It was either the Messiah, or the Earths legitimate ruler. One had to go. Unfortunately, Yeshua was not just any man, he knew. Oh, he looked like any man, to be sure, and could be cut by thorns and perspire and needed a bath now and then. He ate human food, he cried tears, he laughed, he slept. He did all the things humans commonly did, except commit a sin. But there was another significant difference. He was conceived and born in some way that made him unconquerable, at least in the normal sense. Oh, his mother was an ordinary Jewish maiden, but who was his father? Lucifer investigated and couldnt think Joseph the carpenter was the onewhen hardly anyone in Nazareth believe that. Having missed the conception, he went as soon as he heard something was stirring in Galilee and found a full-grown Messiah pretender. Up to that time this Jewish boy had done nothing spectacular that could have drawn his attention, that would have revealed he was anything other than ordinary. But once the Nazarene turned water into wine at Cana, it was clear what he was up againsta miracle-worker! Even Johanan did not perform miracles. But Yeshua could apparently do anythingfrom turning water to wine, to feeding thousands with a few loaves and fishes, to walking on water, to raising the dead! All the drivel of visionary talk about the Kingdom of Heaven? That didnt alarm Lucifer one iota. It was this stupendous miracle-working power of Yeshuasno one had seen anything quite like it, not in living memory, and certainly not for many hundreds of years in the recorded annals of the Jews. If you tallied up all the miracles of all the prophets, it wouldnt come even close to Yeshuas miracle-working. Could a miracle-worker of this stripe be assassinated? It seemed unlikely, since He might just raise himself up from the dead even if he were killed. Yet Lucifer had to try, just to settle the issue. Yet he never could kill Yeshua. Every time he tried Yeshua escaped. Tantalizingly, Yeshua kept saying he would be killed someday, but try as he might Lucifer couldnt bring it about. Here was his latest opportunity. Jerusalems leaders were all joinedtheir hatred of each others parties put aside temporarily for the common causeagainst the Nazarene, as he was called. The only major party left to convince of Yeshuas necessary death was the RomanPontius Pilatus, by name. Should he take this chance to wipe out the Messiah once and for all? Or would the Enemy in heaven somehow pull of another great escape, another Red Sea deliverance and make all his foes look like utter fools? Lucifer, conferring with his chief aides and military, decided that he could not risk the Messiah getting away yet another time. They knew that if Yeshua continued to win popular support He would soon be accepted as the Messiah, with the chief priests and pharisees effectively swept aside. Would the Romans like that? Of course not! But would they be able to stop this miracle-worker and the whole Jewish people lined up behind him? No, rather than chance Yeshua taking over, it was best to stop him any way possible. As for Yeshuas talk about being slain and rising again the third day, well, that was still talk. What would it matter if he did rise from the grave? Lucifer reasoned with his generals. If he were put to death, then how could he overcome that disgrace in the peoples eyes? They wouldnt believe that anyone who could be killed could possibly help them against the armies of the Romans. Maybe he could raise himself, but how about the whole lot of them? Surely, though stupid as cattle, they werent stupid enough to want to risk it! One thing Lucifer knew he possessed, beyond some great weapons, that no one could take away: his legal claim to Earth. The Enemy had lost Earth when He lost Adam. Adam was no longer the Enemys, and his sovereignty could not possibly be regainednot by Adam, who was dead, and certainly not by this Messiah Yeshua! How was Yeshua going to get it from him? All humanity was under the curse of death. Great or small, king down to field laborer, they feared death, and fear held them in bondage all their brief days! Whats more, they were his subjectsdoing what he wanted them to dofornicate, lie, steal, kill, and all the rest. He, Lucifer, ruled humanity and Earth. All the kingdoms and their glory were his. If this Messiah from Galilee, this country bumpkin, thought he could take them away, it was going to take more than a lot of nice homelies and proverbs and a ministry sprinkled miracles like healing the blind and feeding the people with multiplied loaves and fishes. He, Most High Lucifer, held title to Earth! That was a fact even the Enemy had to acknowledge, he knew. What, then, had he to fear from the Enemy? Well, this Messiah had arisen to contest that claim. Lucifer could identify the threat plainly enough. But if he were killed? How then could that serve his cause? The only possible use the Enemy could make of Yeshuas death was to ether stage a spectacular deliverancepluck him out of the jaws of death at the last momentor stage a spectacular resurrection, like the one at Bethany when Yeshua raised his dead friend, Eliezer. But Lucifer knew the second option wouldnt work very well. The people had seen it done before, and everyone knew Eliezer would someday die again, so nothing really was changed for him. As for the first option, that seemed the most likely to succeed. How can we stop it? Lucifers trembling aides wanted to know. Having thought it out prior to this conference, Lucifer now unveiled his master strategy. After being shown the details, everyone was satisfied, and Lucifer basked in their rejoicing and worship. Most High and Glorious Lucifer!: His underlings shouted, adoring him with utmost fervor. You are all wise! Who can rival so great a power and so great an understanding? Three disciples of the twelve, Johanan, James, and Cephascalled to attend their master in his time of greatest trialslept soundly a few feet away in the garden on the Mount of Olives. They had no idea that they were there to furnish some prayer support in the struggle against all the forces of hell. Cephas, also called Simon, or Petros by the Master, lay dreaming of hauling in a big catch of fish. Johanan had struggled harder to keep away, aware that his Lord was engaged in a spiritual battle of some kind, but something beyond his own powers to resist pressed his eyelids down. Finally, he sighed and gave in and slept. James, too, though a man given to prayer, could not find strength to keep awake. His head lowered, and finally his chin lay on his bosom where he sat, propped against a tree. They slept so deeply that all the snoring Cephas could put out did not trouble any of them, even the lightest sleeper, Simon Zelotes, a sensitive fellow who would jump up at the first chirp of a bird at dawn and then stumble around red-eyed the rest of the day. With the field cleared, it was, then, just Yeshua and Lucifer to begin with. I appreciate how you want to do your Fathers will, Most High and Great Messiah! Lucifer began. Yeshua said nothing, though He knew who was speaking. Lucifer walked round the Messiah where he lay outstretched. He examined every detail of his enemy. My, my, Great One! You are making quite an ordeal of this, arent you! Why the tears? Why so much distress? Is serving Your Father so trying a task as that? Why not consider Your other options then? Hearing nothing from Yeshua, :Lucifer went on. So you arent speaking to me now, Your Majesty! Well, I dont mind if you dont show proper respect to the lord of all the Earth! I think I am big enough to take the slight of the likes of you! Anyway, for your best interests, I am come to remind you of a few things you might have overlooked. I know you came to do whatever good you could, but, really, it isnt necessary. You can see that conditions have greatly improved since Adam and Eve. They had nothing! They lived like untutored savages. But now, with civilization, look at all the wonderful conveniences, all the beauty and grandeur, all the fine manners of court and high society, and the splendid buildings! I, you know, have achieved all this for the sake of my subjects. If only they were a little more grateful! But I am working on that! Meanwhile, you have come to do your Fathers will, whatever that is. I cant say a word against that, of course, since he is your father, not mine! Lucifer, growing bold, moved close in to Yeshua. He stroked Yeshuas tangled, dusty hair away from his sweaty forehead, until Yeshua turned over and looked up into Lucifers face. For a moment their eyes met, and locked. Lucifer couldnt stand the Messiahs direct gaze, which reminded him so unpleasantly of a childs or some animal like a lambs, and twisted his eyes away. He stepped back, then continued with his line of thought. As I was saying, I offered you all this a time back, and you foolishly refused. Apparently, you thought you could get everything I had on your own. Well, you havent succeeded. Rome rules here, under my scepter, of course. And Rome is here to stay, as long as I say so. I know the people are hoping and praying you will lead them as Messiah to victory against the Romans and throw off their yoke. But you have refused to do that too, have you not? Well, if you wont seize political control, or attempt it anyway, what is left for you to do? All your miracle-working has not availed to win the kingdom to you. The forces against you are just too powerful, are they not? They wont let one miracle-working rabbi take over in their stead. No, you miscalculated there! Well, say something! I havent all day to wait for you to find your tongue! Yeshua simply stared at the heavens, as if he had heard absolutely nothing from Lucifer so far. Sighing, Lucifer saw that he might have to work a little harder if he were going to get the tongue-tied Messiah to rise to his bait. Oh, I see what you up to! Dont think I am so stupid! You, Nazarene, intend to steal the kingship from me through this ridiculous dream temple of yours that you think your followers will erect for you. You call it the Kingdom of heaven, which you say is inside your followers! If everyone will agree to love Your Father, and love one another, and never lie, cheat, kill, steal, and fornicate, or worship anything but Your Father, then they will be granted eternal life, as you call it. You promised them a great deal, to be sure! But listen to their contented snores right now! Some loyal disciples they are when you need them! You asked them to watch and pray, and they sleep like dogs before the fire! Well, these are the same men you expect to follow orders and set up your rule on earth! Fat chance of that ever happening! You picked the greatest losers in the whole Jewish raceif you ever expect these fellows to produce anything worthwhile! You know as well as I they cant agree on a single thingand dont understand a word youve said all these three years youve spent with them tagging along after you! The night was ending. The darkness seemed to grow greater as the moments passed and Lucifer continued his tirade. It also grew colder, and the Nazarene got up, clutched his robe closely around his trembling body, and crept away to check on his three closest aides. Finding them asleep, he upbraided them, but it had no effect, and he returned to his post, and began praying once again alone. Let me make it a but more uncomfortable for him! Lucifer thought. He called up a bitter, cold gale, and the wind blew fiercely down upon the Messiah, piercing his night cloak like icy daggers. He decided to continue his talk, though the Messiah had hitherto refused to speak to him. If you want a monologue, then I will give you one! I had hoped for a civil discussion, between two men of known civility and education. Anyway, I pity you! Imagine, believing Your own dream long after it has been utterly disproven! Just look at what you have in store, if this absurd and farfetched Kingdom of Heaven you envisage ever gets going! Pulling out the first of his major weaponry, Lucifer used imaginations to inflict massive doubt. He showed Yeshua in detail what the Nazarene could expect to get from his followers and their descendants. If you should leave here, for one reason or another, you will get nothing but disunity and a breakup of your kingdom into competing, hostile factions. Then they will differ in belief! You wont get them to hold to your teachings for very long. They will soon change every word youve spoken, to suit themselves. Again, to suit themselves, they will ignore what they dont like in your teachings, then emphasize the unimportant details. Their religion will become a big, hollow, pompous show, and you can expect everything Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, and the other prophets witnessed. They will eventually throw off all ties of religion and worship pure nature, the laws of nature. And to justify themselves they can always refer to countless holy men who will write countless volumes all finding fault with the accounts your followers will write about you, stating that the claims that you are the Messiah and, even more far-fetched, the Son of God couldnt possibly be taken seriously by men of intelligence since they were all made by your followers without any real evidence from other sources and authorities. I shall not find any trouble recruiting an army of such useful idiots to pull your disciples accounts of you to shreds! No one will know what to believe about you after Im finished! Now, Messiah, isnt this true? Can you deny it? For the first time, the Messiah responded, with a groan. Aha! Lucifer crowed. I knew you had to see the truth sooner or later! Your great dream, nice as it is, will never work with humans. You know the reason: they are my subjects, not yours! There is no way, as long as they are alive, that they can ever obey your commands or your teachings. I can always get them to do my will, not yours. You know that! So why did you even try to subvert them to your cause? Why? Lucifers gloating and goading of the Messiah produced only what seemed to be pain in the Messiah. The Nazarene rolled as if each word struck him like a sword. Seeing how greatly his words were taking effect, about things he could see the Messiah was greatly troubled about, Lucifer pressed in on this area of pain as hard as he could. You can be sure I will get them to blaspheme your name, even as they are enacting the sacrifices in the temple! I can do that! I will induce them to lead the most unholy, depraved lives and think they are serving you at the same time! And I will have their daughters, even those of the priests, sacrificing their own children to me and to playing the harlot and lying in the marriage bed with every stranger off the street. And they will make theater over you, portraying you as a lover of women, and men too-- The Messiah seemed to be taking these remarks like Roman whip lashes. So Lucifer, along with the icy wind, poured it on all the more fiercely, to break the Messiahs spirit, if possible. Why dont you go back home, Nazarene? Youve achieved nothing essentially! You never will achieve anything here! You know that! And I know that! Why, these ridiculous offscourings of the earth you call disciplestheyll never do your will! For the reason, they cant! Its impossible, what youve asked of them! Be meek, poor in spirit, bless those who curse and persecute you, love your enemies, do good to those who despitefully use you, forgive even as Your Father in heaven forgiveswhat nonsense! And they not only havent understood your commandments, they cant even remember them! Tell me one thing they know from all youve tried to teach them in the last three years! Tell me one thing, Messiah! Thats all I ask. Tell me this one thing, and I will go and leave you alone! The Messiah groaned most horribly, then fell silent as if he had given up the ghost. Lucifer, surprised at the great effect of his charge, went to investigate. He prodded the Messiah, then turned the Messiahs body over. Scarcely breathing, the Messiah lay pale as a corpse, without any breath coming or going. Lucifer was delighted. Had his words sucked all life whatsoever out of the Messiah? Had his words, because they were the truth, been enough to slay the Messiah? Was it all going to be that easy and simple? Wonderful! Wonderful! Suddenly, the Messiah began to choke, then turned to throwing up everything in his stomach until nothing was left. Evidently, he had been fasting, for there was precious little for him to throw up. He retched and retched, doubled over in dry heaves, and Lucifer stepped back, utterly disgusted. Dont you spit your filthy humanity on me! the archangel cried. Ill strike you with lightning for that, if you do! But the Messiah wasnt listening, obviously, as he continued to throw up until he was throwing up bile and blood. Lucifer was now so disgusted, he wanted to leave rather than continue on. How could this Nazarene be any further threat to his kingship over Earth? Clearly, he had achieved all his objectives, using only one weapon in his arsenal. Yet, gradually, the Nazarene recovered, and somehow gathered strength and hope, and lay back down to continue praying. Oh, I see youve thought of some ruse to get round your followers quarreling over fine points of doctine and bitter falling out with each other! Well, it wont work, whatever it is! But how about this, Nazarene? Have you considered how the Romans are going to treat you when you are arrested in a hour or so? This sword thrust was deliberate and swift, and Lucifer saw that it was an immediate success. The Nazarene shuddered as if he had received the sword right in his side, right to the heart! Lucifer immediately pressed the sword deeper still, just to make double sure. Yes, the cruel, brutal, idolatrous Romans! Ive arranged for your arrest, and the procurator, Pontius Pilatus, will probably listen to the chief priests when they demand your execution as a disturber of the nation and a threat to Romes rule. He wont understand a whit of the religious crimes youve committedclaiming to be Son of God (tsk, tsk) and all thatbut he will understand a threat against Rome in this upstart, backward province full of over-zealous pilgrims for the Passover! To quell a possible riot and uprising over your cause, with enough pressure from the temple authorities, he will quite possibly have you crucified As the the word crucified was uttered, Lucifer saw at once he had his victory from the effect on the Nazarene. He had unleashed his major weapon, and it had struck home! The Messiahs face took o n a look of sheer dread, horror, and fear. Yes! he snarled as close to the Messiahs gasping face as he could stand to put his own. Crucified like a common thief or murderer! Stark nakedthink of that! Your mother, disciples, and friends will come and stand and view your stripped thighs and buttocks on the Roman stake! Let them see the urine and feces roll down your legs when your bowels come unloosed in the throes of your pain! Let them see you go blue, then haul yourself up to gasp each breath of air, then sink back down! Let them watch you go blue again, then haul yourself up to breathe, your muscles contracting and knotting all over your body, convulsing and shaking beyond your control! Again, again, again, the whole process repeated over and over until you cant find strength to do it any more, and then you sink down and go blue and black in the face, and your tongue hangs out like a dogs, and you gasp and cant breathe, and choke and choke on your own swollen tongue, and die! Hahaha! What a spectacle! Can you endure that, Nazarene? What possible good can come of that? Lucifer waited, as he had to know certain things before proceeding. Would the Messiah give anything away of what he expected his Father to do in that moment of calamity? But he waited and saw no change in the Nazarene. The Nazarene either could keep a secret, or knew nothing would happen except his death. Which was it? Lucifer had to know. Ho! You expect, I see, that Your Father will send angels and take you off that stake before you die! Then everyone will flock out of the city, behold the great miracle, and proclaim you King of the Jews! Who could stop you then? Why, the least Jew would fight for you like the most savage lion! Yet, as Lucifer examined the Nazarenes face, he could not detect the slightest glimmer that the Nazarene hoped any such thing. Instead, the Nazarene cried out openly in words toward heaven, Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from me; nevertheless, not my will but yours be done. He prayed this three times, as Lucifer discharged his chief weapon, fear of suffering and death, with all his might. The third time the Messiah prayed this simple prayer, blood itself beaded on his forehead! Lucifer could see perfectly in darkness, being darkness himself, so he was surprised! What weaklings these human bodies are! he thought, amazed. I can even make him sweat blood! Encouraged, he stepped back. He would have the Messiah crucified, and he was satisfied that the matter would end there. Anything so weak as this Nazarene, who could sweat blood in distress at the thought of being crucified, was nothing divine enough to worry about! Anyone who could puke up everything in his gall stomach and gall bladder and then bleed from his very forehead at the thought of imminent deathwhy, he was beneath his notice! Why should he even bother with the Nazarene any further? His mission was accomplished. The Messiah was reduced to a nothing! He was ruined, crushed, broken in spirit! He, Lucifer, had witnessed it, and nobody could deny it, that the Nazarene was a hopeless coward and a failure. Let his concoct any miracles he could think of, it would not serve to disguise the truth that he was no Messiah fit for the Jewish people! They, seeing what Lucifer had seen, would hoot and spit upon him, if they didnt kill him on the spot! Well, what next? The arrest! Then the trial, if it came to that. The Sanhedrin, Lucifer knew, would make short work of condemning the Nazarene, and then hand him over to Pontius Pilatus for execution. If all went well, the Roman would see it lay in imperial Romes best interests to get rid of this troublemaker. Then let the Nazarene pull his miracle for his Fathers sake of coming off the stake after he was fastened to it! If he chose that route, it would get him nothing but all the wretchedness Lucifer had been so careful to show the Nazarene during the interviewa divided followingeach sect going its own way and persecuting the others--a falling into heresy and apostasy, moral and spiritual depravitythe whole story of the people of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob since they started out as a nation, repeated ad nauseum. How the wind gusted, throwing dirt and leaves down upon the prostrate, would-be Messiah of the Jews! The rage and fury in it threshed the olive grove, threatening to bring down limbs as it stripped away leaves and small branches. As if in sympathy with the fallen man from Galilee, the limbs scraped together, emitting the most piercing groans and moans. How could the Nazarenes disciples sleep through this? Yet they hugged the ground beneath their cloaks all the harder, dead to the dark world thrashing about and perishing around them. But once his enemy was vanquished, lying abjectly at his feet, Lucifer could not resist the temptation to kick a downed Messiah. How dare you invade my kingdom and seek to overturn my rule! It is impossible anyway, to take my scepter from me! I am king here! And I will always be king! Now, get upif you still can walk upright like a manand As if from obedience to Lucifers command, Yeshua arose, wavering on his feet as the bitter, cold wind at last died down, forced away by a greater power than that had called it forth. Lucifer himself was forced away by a bright, archangelic pillar of light that shone suddenly beside the Nazarene. Who was it? Michael or Gabriel? Lucifer, dazzled momentarily, could not tell. The light put something like glowing grapes to the lips of the Nazarene. He took a little of it, and then stood more erect, smoothing his hair back from his face with his hands and then brushing off the dirt and bits of wind-torn leaves from his robe. The light vanished as quickly as it appeared, and Lucifer watched as the Nazarene walked the distance of a stones throw, found his disciples sleeping, and wakened them. Why do you sleep? he said. Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation. And at that moment a crowd of temple authorities, temple guards, and Roman soldiers, 500 in all, arrived at the garden, Judah the disciple of Yeshua, leading them to the Nazarene whom he identified to them by going up to him and giving him a kiss. Now the kiss wasnt arranged. That was Judahs own idea, and Lucifer was both surprised and pleased. It was something he would have commanded, if he had thought of ita nice, ironical touch, he thought, for a betrayer to give his former master. Lucifers generals came and stood by him. What was that big, nasty light just a moment ago, that came to strengthen the Nazarene? Lucifer, though a bit disturbed, shrugged. Oh, nothing! The usurper will soon be dead! That is for certain! And nothing will come of it! 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