are the scars on your hands
shaped like nails,
or the piercing fangs
of a snake?

Jesus was in great anguish of spirit, and he exclaimed, “The truth is, one of you will
betray me!”
—Jesus’s announcement to his followers on the last
night of his life (John 13:21)

I think the most successful lies are the ones that lie closest to the truth. They’re the hardest ones to spot because they look so much like truth that they slip past us unnoticed. Then, choice by choice, we edge closer and closer to the forbidden. Through little lies Satan makes rebellion sound so reasonable and compromise seem like no big deal.

Judas Iscariot was one of the original disciples Jesus had chosen early in his preaching ministry. Judas was also highly trusted, having charge of the group’s collective finances. But as Passover approached, “Satan entered into Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve disciples, and he went over to the leading priests and captains of the Temple guard to discuss the best way to betray Jesus to them” (Luke 22:3-4).

I wonder what lies Satan whispered to Judas, what truths he twisted in order to pry open the door to Judas’s soul and convince him to betray his friend.

“Jesus needs your help, Judas. He needs someone to spark the revolt. It could be you. You could sit by his side in the new kingdom!”

“Jesus is a failure. He doesn’t have what it takes. Why let this opportunity pass you by? Cut your losses. Make a few bucks and get out while you can.”

“They won’t be able to stop Jesus, so this way everyone wins. You get some extra silver, they get to arrest the prophet, and he gets to establish his kingdom. He’ll thank you for it later. Trust me.”

Why is it so easy to listen to the whisperings of a snake and so hard to hear the voice of the Lamb? Why are we drawn so naturally to illusion and so slow to pursue the truth? I think it’s because ever since Adam and Eve’s fatal choice, the jargon of temptation has been our natural tongue and the dialect of love has been a foreign language.It’s taken me a while, but I’ve finally realized that no matter where I go or what I’m doing, I’ll never be immune from temptation. Never.

The evil one still hisses out his luring, juicy lies. His venom still infects our choices, poisons our relationships, and distorts our priorities, despite our best intentions and noblest goals. I think we don’t notice the glistening fangs because we don’t want to. According to Jesus, our souls prefer darkness to light (see John 3:19). So we step into the nest of vipers time after time, even though we already know where it is and how to avoid it, because there’s nothing so alluring as the sweet whisperings of the forbidden.

I don’t suppose many people believe in the devil anymore, or at least if we do, we don’t take him very seriously. Maybe we think he’s symbolic of the evil in all of us, or a mythic representation of our greatest fears, or a literary device used to explain the inexplicable evil of our world. I don’t know.

Whatever you may think of the devil, Jesus believed in him and took him quite seriously. Jesus always referred to Satan in personal terms rather than symbolic ones. Jesus called him “the evil one” (John 17:15), not “the evil idea.” Once Jesus called him “the father of lies” ( John 8:43-45), not “the symbolic representation of things that aren’t true.” Jesus viewed the devil as a real adversary in the real world.

Jesus warned his followers about listening to Satan, prayed for God to protect them from Satan, and told them to ask for their own protection as well. “Don’t let us yield to temptation,” he taught them to pray, “but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13).

The ancient adversary of God was the one tempting Eve with the fruit, luring Cain into the field, weaving doubt into the minds of the Israelites, coaxing Jesus to prove himself in the wilderness, and now possessing Judas during the Passover feast. He slithered through all of history to strike at the heart of God.

Jesus once said, “This is war, and there is no neutral ground. If you’re not on my side, you’re the enemy; if you’re not helping, you’re making things worse” (Luke 11:23 Message). Now as Jesus entered Jerusalem and the Passover celebration drew near, Judas chose a side. This friend of Jesus chose the way of the snake.

touching the unseen

darkness swirls around me,
laughing wicked thoughts,
clawing at my feet.
it’s so easy to slip
when i’m living this close
to the escarpment of hell.

o lord of life,
draw me closer to the light!
let love become the language
of my heart once again.