The sun had dipped behind the hills when the children cried out, “Jesus! Jesus, tell us a story! Tell us a story.” Some of the disciples frowned, some of the mothers shushed them, but Jesus smiled. The day had been long, but the evening meal had been pleasant and in this company of friends there was a sense of peace.
“I will tell you a story,” he said to them, which caused an outbreak of cheers and giggles. “I will tell you a story, a true story. And how do I know that it is a true story? I know that it is a true story because it happened to me.”
He motioned for everyone to gather near and to sit themselves comfortable wherever they could to hear him. “In the days shortly after the Baptizer, Yohanan, washed me in the waters of the Jordan I began to feel a wind at my back – pushing me, driving me out toward the wild places, the places where the jackals and the screech owls make their homes. This wind was driving me into the desert where the demons live…”
“Jesus,” one of the children whispered, “is this going to be a scary story?”
Jesus brushed her cheek. “Yes, dear one. But do not fear. I’m here to tell you the story, aren’t I? The demons did not get me.” The girl gave him a smile and he continued.
“So after fasting for forty days and for forty nights I followed this wind. I was very hungry and very weak, but I followed the wind into the desert where I was tempted by the devil. The Tempter came to me and said to me, ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said to me, ‘then tell these stones to become bread.’
“And I saw that there were many stones there on the ground that could have become delicious loaves of barley bread, and I was very hungry, but I said to the Tempter, ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but by the words that come from the mouth of God the Father.’”
“That’s what Moses wrote!” shouted one of the boys at Jesus’ knee.
“Indeed, you are correct, Abishur. What a fine scholar you’ll be one day.” The boy blushed under Jesus’ praise.
“The devil then took me by the hand and carried me off to Jerusalem, the holy city, and had me stand on the highest point of the temple.”
“Weren’t you scared?” asked another of children.
“Yes, I was. Very scared. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest, because we were very high off the ground. And the Tempter said to me, ‘If you are the Son of God throw yourself down from here, for it is written, He will command the angels about you and they will lift you up in their hands so that you won’t even strike your toe against a stone.’
“But I said to him, ‘It is written: Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ And again the Tempter took me by the hand and carried me up to the top of a very high mountain – it was so high that we could see the entire world stretched out before us – and the Tempter showed me all the kingdoms of the world. There was Edom, and there was Egypt, and there was Rome, and here was Israel. ‘All this I will give to you,’ the Tempter said to me, ‘if you will but bow down and worship me now.’
There were gasps from the children, and several of the adults as well.
“But I said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan!’” Jesus flung his arms and hands through the air. “Away from me! For it is written, Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’ And with that the Temper ran away, shaking and trembling.”
“How did you get down from the mountain?” asked the children.
“Angels came and carried me home.” And Jesus, seeing their tired eyes and hearing their yawns, said, “Now, I think that it is time for you to go to bed. Your mothers will be quite cross with me If I continue with another story.” The children stood and stretched, for they were very tired. Some of them hugged Jesus before wandering towards their beds. And when the children and women had moved away, the disciples moved closer to their master.
“Rabbi, what a wonderful story, but, come on, Jesus… Where is such a high mountain from which you could see the entire world? And angels carried you home? Did that really happen?”
Jesus smiled at his disciples and winked.