The Damned Thing Was Empty

Satan enjoyed that Friday intensely.

He perched on the cross, watching the Son of God suffering and dying, sin piled on his boney shoulders, occasionally crying out in pain.

He crept up beside him to mock and jeer. He made his way through the crowd, throwing fuel on the fire of hatred and spite in the men who mumbled, “He saved others, but he can’t save himself” and shouted with a laugh, “Come on down! Then we will worship you!”

He enjoyed sticking his sword through the heart of Jesus’ mother who was weeping in a heap a few yards from the cross, while Jesus writhed in agony, seemingly helpless to put a stop to it.

And he enjoyed stroking the egos of the religious leaders standing at a distance, stirring up an almost sexual glee in their flesh as they watched their enemy finally get what he deserved.

When Christ gave up and died (the first on the hill to cash it in, the demons pointed out with a scoff), the Devil laughed himself hoarse. The sight of the King of Kings, slumped against that pole, his eyes vacant, the birds of prey already swooping closer and closer, was too hilarious for words.

The Christ’s hold—or what had remained of it—on this wicked planet had finally been broken. Decisively. It was now the exclusive property of the Devil and his angels. If Satan had any doubt of that, it was put to rest when he heard the news that the curtain in the temple was split in two (so long, “holy place!”) and a surge of supernatural energy had caused hundreds of people to start seeing ghosts all over the city!

The age of evil—unfettered evil—was now beginning.

Saturday was a field day for Satan. He was usually in a foul mood on the Sabbath, but not today; not ever again! He attended a Roman orgy, the stoning of a young child, and several pagan temple services. And between each, he made a stop back at the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, where Jesus’ dead body lay at room temperature.

As for Jesus’ soul, it was in Hades with all the pitiful slaves of sin and objects of wrath who had died before him. How utterly stupid of God himself to become sin and tempt fate on a Roman cross. Didn’t he know that, to the Prince of Darkness, a cross was like a lyre in the hands of a skilled musician?

The Devil spent the evening curled up under the bloated body of Judas Isacriot, hanging dead from a tree. Treachery was a great dessert, and Satan lingered there, dreaming about what he would do to his slaves tomorrow.

Then came Sunday.

Satan first heard the report from a demonic foot soldier who had been skulking around the garden tomb, then from some higher-ups whom he had years earlier assigned to follow the Twelve at a distance.

The reports were all vague, but together they painted a unified and horrifying picture: the stone had been moved, the tomb was empty. The women weren’t crying—they were laughing! The peasant fisherman (just two days ago running scared from the action and cowering in an upper chamber) were running to the tomb, emboldened.

They were all telling and retelling stories about seeing the Christ. Seeing him alive and well!

Satan rushed to the tomb.

The damned thing was empty.

He then rushed to the mouth of Hades. Christ was gone. And he’d taken many of the other souls with him. All of Satan’s greatest trophies were gone, escaped! He skulked and moped and roamed the earth, hoping to calm himself by once again taking in the scope of his kingdom.

But something was different. Many of his slaves were being set free. One by one, their massive iron slave collars were falling away, replaced by a yoke that was easy and light, signifying that they now belonged, not to him, but to the Christ.

In a rage, he ascended to the gates of heaven. He would take his grievance into the courtroom of God, where he went regularly to accuse his slaves and keep them firmly in his grip. As he neared God’s abode, he rehearsed in his mind what he would say, how he would make his case and appeal to justice—after all, he had won at the hill called The Skull, and to the victor goes the spoils!

But the gates were locked. You can’t come in, he was told. Never again. You’ve been locked out, your access revoked. The dragon is cast down to the earth.

“But who will stand between God and man?” Satan protested. “Who will do what I have always done? Who will accuse and bring charges and point out their filth?”

Your position has been eliminated, came the reply. Christ himself now stands between God and man, but not to accuse and condemn. He is there as mediator, to make peace.

As he descended back to the earth, Satan felt his stomach tighten. He could see that it was already spreading. The filthy, fleshy creatures were still telling that horrible story and it was oozing into every corner of Satan’s kingdom. The servants of the Christ were telling it to the slaves, whose collars were falling off left and right with a deafening clang. And they were telling it to each other, giving each other strength and comfort.

Satan had to stop this. He would put a stop to it. It was then that he noticed the chains binding him, holding him back from deceiving the nations. He was helpless to stem the spread of the story. It was too powerful. Christ was too powerful. And with every re-telling, even the filthy flesh-bags who worshiped the Christ were ever-more powerful. As he finished his descent and his talons touched down on the earth, Satan made a decision. There was only one thing to do.

He had to distract them from telling the story.

Zach Bartels

I’m pastor at Judson Baptist Church in Lansing, MI and the author of Playing Saint, The Last Con, and a few other books. I’m husband to Erin, father to Calvin, and lover of gourmet coffee and fine cigars. He's the author of Playing Saint and The Last Con