I don’t know how we get on these enlightening talks at the dinner table, but the other day we – the kids and Mom and I – got onto hell. Yes, hell, home of Satan.
You know, Satan, the entity who prowls around the earth looking to wreak one sort of havoc or another. (Not to be confused with former Boston Bruin, Miroslav Satan, featured in this humorous shootout video from the KHL’s recent All-Star game. And not to be confused with the horned guy in red tights, carrying a pitchfork, immortalized in, say, those old Gary Larson cartoons.)
But before I share what was said at the table, another brief picture, this one given by Andrew G. Hodges in the introduction to this book that I just picked off the shelf this week, a picture of Satan as a nicely-dressed man, maybe a little on the short side, winsome smile, kind, gentle, I’m imagining a driver’s cap and maybe a bit of a London accent.
You’re Jesus and you sense that something big is about to happen and then it does. This very charming man rides up to you on his bicycle and wishes you the top of the day and engages you in conversation and you both laugh and then he proceeds to tell you things about yourself, and your Father, that shows he really does know something about something.
You find him to be so encouraging that when he tells you that he just saw your Father and how proud your Father is of you, and because you’re doing so well at it all – you have just fasted for 40 days – your Father now wants you to start using your power a bit more.
So he says, ‘Here, Jesus, just turn these stones to bread. I mean, you are hungry after all, aren’t you?’ You both laugh again. And you think, does my Father really want me to do this? And things start spinning a bit.
This, to me, is believable temptation. And I’d argue, more than the guy in red leotards, a believable picture of Satan, a force who more than anything wants to separate anyone he can from a loving God, a separation and state of existence that is in the end … hell.
One other story before I share what was said at the dinner table:
It’s a story about a little girl – let’s call her Hannah – who one day was rather lost. She was so lost and her father loved her so much that he got the whole town to look for her. All day. And everyone looked and looked. But she was nowhere to be found and it eventually got dark and so all the townspeople had to stop looking and went home.
But the father kept looking all night, even in the blackest part of the night, because he loved his daughter more than anyone even imagined. And he looked all night everywhere, in all the places that the little girl might be, and finally, finally, just before dawn, he found her curled up, fast asleep in some nearby woods.
And when he bent down to kiss her, the little girl who had been lost, awoke and opened her eyes and reached up to hug the father and said, “Daddy, I found you!”
So we’re all at the dinner table and somehow this sort of Easter in January discussion opens up with the kids and the question was raised, so what in the world was Jesus doing between Good Friday and Easter Sunday? There’s some significant time ticking by here. And I made the point that according to the New Testament book written by ‘Ol Saint Peter – and, granted, it’s mystery how he knew – that during this time Jesus was actually in hell.
“In hell?” Hannah said, scrunching up her face, as if she had a piece of broccoli on her fork. “What was Jesus doing in hell?”
“He was setting souls free,” I said.
Now of course not everyone believes this is the case, or in a literal hell, or a literal Satan, and this is to be appreciated, and I suppose in the end their argument is with ‘Ol Saint Peter more than me or anyone else. But, whatever the case, my daughter Hannah then said something that I’ll never forget and what made me think of the above story of that lost little girl.
Hannah said, “Daddy, do you mean that if I was in hell, Jesus would find me there?”
“Hannah,” I said, “That is exactly right. And don’t you ever forget it. Jesus can find you no matter where you are. Even in hell.”