What If They’d Refused to Crucify Him?
Satan is our great enemy. He is also an utter fool. Our salvation history, in the light of eternity, is less like a solemn pageant than an episode of The Road Runner. The learned expert hunter, Wile E. Coyote, sets elaborate traps, and unloads vast armaments from Acme Corporation, all to snare and destroy the righteous. Then God speeds them right past or around him, and blows things up in his face.
This feast is the best example. Of course we should contemplate Jesus’ Passion, and accept our share of the blame. Which is to say … all of it. Let’s remember that since He would have died to save just one of us, we’re not much better than Judas in this drama. Or the Chief Priest, or the crowds. But in the very process of doing that, we come across verses like this one: “Let his blood be upon us, and upon our children.” Goaded by the Enemy, anti-Semites have used this line to justify blaming later generations of Jews for the death of Christ.
That always struck me as crazy on the very face of it. “Hey, Abe! It’s your fault Jesus died for me and saved my soul from Hell. Let me … buy you a beer, I guess.” Of course it’s not the fault of the Jews, any more than the Ten Commandments are something they cooked up and had the wit to copyright. Jews are simply human beings par excellence, our stand-ins and representatives in the vast cosmic drama.
Let’s read that line again, in light of that fact. The blood of Jesus upon us and our children. Isn’t that what we want? The blood of Jesus upon us, washing away our sins? Even if we don’t want it, we absolutely need it. Don’t leave this life without it!
God’s Wiles, and Satan’s Blunders
This kind of blessed paradox seems to delight the heart of God. Why else do we call Friday “Good,” except to mock the bumbling of the Enemy who meant it as the worst day in history. He schemed, cajoled, and plotted to murder the Messiah — and it backfired on him spectacularly, saving the souls of trillions.
Had Satan been half as clever as he clearly thinks he is, he wouldn’t have wasted his time tempting God’s son in the desert. Nor would he have whispered to Judas, and Caiaphas, and even Pilate, that Jesus must be murdered. Had the devil been the grand strategist he imagines, he’d have seen Easter coming. And he’d have acted quite differently. Much more like he does today.
The Alt-History of Satan
A Satan who saw Easter coming would have pivoted instantly. He’d have used all his influence to stop any Romans or Jews from harming a hair on Jesus’ head. Or shedding one drop of His blood, lest that one drop be enough to redeem the world.
Instead, this alt-history Satan would have whispered in the ears of the best and brightest … that Jesus was a marvelous, noble moral teacher. Albeit one who sometimes got a little carried away, but then don’t we expect that of geniuses?
In this scenario, Caiaphas and Pilate would have treated Jesus the way Alexander the Great did Diogenes. Remember that anecdote? The vaunting conqueror entered Diogenes’ city, and demanded to see the famous philosopher. When his men led Alexander to the square where that great cynic sat naked in the sun, Alexander marched over and announced himself to Diogenes — who promptly responded by saying that the great king was blocking his share of sunlight. And the great king laughed, shook his head, and walked away smiling.
That’s how Satan now wishes he’d urged the authorities to treat Jesus. They never would have killed Him. They wouldn’t even have arrested Him. In fact, Satan wishes in retrospect that Pilate had sent his soldiers to serve as Jesus’ private security detail.
Since He had no sin, Jesus might not have died. He might not even have aged. He’d have traveled back and forth, preaching His own divinity. And the scribes and Pharisees would have chuckled and waved off his “blasphemies” as the charming antics of a brilliant, if somewhat quixotic, philosopher. They’d have developed a Higher Criticism to explain how His miracles were proof of a potent placebo effect.
The TED Talk on the Mount
Crowds would still have gathered around Jesus. But not of the poor and humble. Instead, the wise and worldly would have arrived at His sermons like TED talks, and taken careful notes. Peter, no doubt, would have set up a thriving gift shop right outside. As the apostles died off of old age, they’d be replaced by professors. The discipline of “religious studies” would have emerged 1900 years before its time. The zealots would have abandoned their desert hideouts, and developed the Social Gospel. They’d have listened to Jesus carefully, sifted out all His supernatural statements, and explained how the “essence” of His message was … political and economic advice for Caesar’s government.
And Caesar might have listened. Maybe not Caligula, but the open-minded Claudius might have traveled to Jerusalem, and tried to consult with Jesus about His ideas for social reform. Jesus would have explained that He was the son of God. Claudius would have answered that he was related to two gods, both Julius and Augustus. Jesus would have tried to explain the difference to him, perhaps hoping this would goad the emperor to finally crown His mission with a Cross, and redeem the world.
But Claudius would hear a silky, Satanic voice in his head prescribing “tolerance,” and he’d have left the room after patting the world’s Creator on his head. Claudius might even have proclaimed himself a “progressive Christian.”
No Cross and No Redemption
And people would have gone dying, except for Jesus. The souls of the just would have slid down into Limbo, to sit with Abraham and Adam, waiting for something to happen. The rest? They’d have gone to Hell, and made the Enemy happy.
Satan missed his chance to treat Jesus that way. But he has learned his lesson, and that’s why in most of the West he offers such treatment to us. He offers “progressive” religion, without either cross or redemption, like a tray of tasty hors d’oeuvres, in the hope that we’ll lose our appetites and skip the Paschal Supper.