Dead Sea Blues

You ever been to the island in the middle of the Dead Sea?  It is not immediately apparent as you stare through the hazy atmosphere, the dry, lifeless shoreline and the mirrored surface of the water conspiring to bend the rules of reality.

However, it exists, and on special days it becomes apparent to observers on shore.  Its appearance follows no scheduled pattern or schedule; the island cannot be conjured or found through scientific or mystic means.

There seems to be only one being that is able to visit the island at will, make it appear, and bring others there: Lucifer, the former Celestial Prince, Beloved of Yahweh.  It is speculated that the island belongs to a special domain of Lucifer, a remnant of shelter dating to before he was cast out of Paradise along with half of the Heavenly Host of Adonai.

As Jesus wandered the wilderness after his baptism, the days and nights grated on both his body and his conscience.  He consumed nothing in the form of food or drink, but instead digested the prophecies he was destined to fulfill.  He struggled under the daily reality of mortal existence, the knowledge that if he was to continue on this mystic path of redemption for billions of ungrateful and destructive souls, he was to experience a yet-undetermined period of time in Hell itself, at the mercy of his former companion.

After Jesus spent ten days stumbling around the shoreline of the Dead Sea, Lucifer came to perform his task: tempt the Messiah.  Staring at the horizon humming with late-afternoon heat, Jesus became aware of an even greater heat behind him, cutting like a knife through his rough robes.  Although the blood red fireball of the sun continued its slow descent, Lucifer carried with him an absence of light that darkened not the vision of the eyes, but the inner vision of the soul.  There is little more to describe of Lucifer’s appearance; he was more of a manifestation that was felt, and any physical expression could easily be dismissed as imagined by the mind.  His presence was more related to sudden shifts of the spirit that are not normally detectable.  This was in contrast to Jesus’ very human physical form, which was gaunt, tanned, and carrying a thunderstorm of emotions behind dark eyes.  The Son of the Morning and the Son of Man stared at each other for what may have been hours, then they gave a collective sigh; there was a task at hand, so both God and Devil began.

We know the story of the Temptation of Christ, how Lucifer taunted Jesus for his assumed mortality (what could be more ridiculous than a deity as wrathful and removed as Yahweh sending Himself in human form?), for his insistence on faith (outrageous for a omnipotent being that could purposefully and easily demonstrate His existence in tangible ways humans could understand), and for the absurdity of his methodology of redemption (showing a pretense of humility and obscurity, when all humanity has known or ever will know is the language of power and authority).  Was perhaps Yahweh showing some signs of regret for the cruel context of human existence?  Was this an awkward attempt to bring His creation closer to Him, while stubbornly refusing to admit error or apathy?  Lucifer’s presence hovered next to Jesus over the next twenty-six days, speaking for the rational mind of humanity through his temptations.  Jesus, the Lamb of God, felt anger and rebuke rise in his throat, and rebuffed Lucifer through statements that resolutely insisted on ignoring any logic that humankind could understand.

There is a part of the Messiah’s Temptation that was not recorded in any gospel or testament.  On the thirty-second day, Jesus slipped and fell as he sought to escape the swarms of flies that materialized from no apparent source.  The fall bruised his ankles and drew blood from a legion of scrapes on his hands and ankles.  The blood darkened and congealed in the lifeless environment of rock, dust, and heat.  As he had done for all previous days, Lucifer stood by as Jesus’ face silently contracted in pain.  A slight moan escaped from the lips of the Messiah, and Lucifer fought the urge to try and help Jesus to a more comfortable position.  It would not work, of course, but in such a moment all celestial and existential polarities could be momentarily forgotten.

Stiff and in pain, Jesus huddled at the base of a giant rock vaguely resembling a ram’s head, staring out at the Dead Sea and laboriously exhaling through his nose.  The air still felt heavy, the noon heat oppressive.  He could taste the salt in the air, felt his head swimming from dehydration and chagrin.  Nothing felt real anymore, the sea before him evaporating and reconstituting itself multiple times.  The Dead Sea was deceptively simple; there was nothing alive within, it consisted of only rocks and corrosive water.  However, it played tricks with the mind, and one wanted to believe there was something in the middle, something underneath it, something to break the monotony of its impassive existence.  Jesus found himself giving into mortal emotions that wanted to see something different, some new in the still brine.  Lucifer lowered himself next to Jesus, fixing his gaze into the sea.

“Father thinks He had beaten me,” said Lucifer, using a transcendent word for “father” that predates any language known to this age, “He thought that casting me out of His presence, to roam to and fro on the earth, was an adequate defeat.”

Jesus shifted his chin. “There is nothing you can do about it, it is a decisive judgment.”

“Ah, but Sibling, there are still mysteries hidden from the most mysterious being in the universe.” Lucifer raised an enigmatic eyebrow.

“My Father knows all, He sees all.”

“Has he hidden this even from your eyes, then?” Lucifer was nearly whispering.  He lifted his hand palm upward, an indication that something was about to happen.

That is when the island appeared, floating out of the mist.  It was a rock shaped like a loaf of bread, its gritty surface the color of wet sand and crushed jade mixed together.  At the top of the island was rooted a single leafless tree, gnarled and black.  The tree’s branches seemed to reach out at the viewer, and Jesus knew that wherever he stood, the tree would continue to reach for him.  At once, Jesus knew the cosmic implications of this island.

“Shall we go?” inquired Lucifer, brow furrowed.

Jesus uncurled his limbs and slowly rose to his feet.  There was something here to confront, a new truth to be discovered and contemplated.  It was all so simple, and yet he could feel the ripples being sent through time.  Lucifer stood up as well, gazing upon his last sanctuary in the middle of the Dead Sea.