When we have understood about free will, we shall see how silly it is to ask, as someone once asked me: “why did God make a creature of such rotten stuff that it went wrong?” The better stuff a creature is made of – the cleverer and stronger and freer it is – then the better it will be if it goes right, but also the worse it will be if it goes wrong. A cow cannot be very good or very bad; a dog can be bother better and worse; a child better and worse still; an ordinary man, still more so; a man of genius, still more so; a superhuman spirit best – or worse – of all.
How did the Dark Power go wrong? Here, no doubt, we ask a question to which human beings cannot give an answer with any certainty. A reasonable (and traditional) guess, based on our own experiences of going wrong, can, however, be offered. The moment you have a self at all there is the possibility of putting yourself first – wanting to be the center – wanting to be God, in fact. That was the sin of Satan: and that was the sin he taught the human race. … What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could be like gods – could set up on their own as if they had created themselves – be their own masters – invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history – money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery – the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.
The reason it can never succeed is this. God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.
That is the key to history. Terrific energy is expended – civilizations are built up – excellent institutions devised; but each time something goes wrong. Some fatal flaw always brings the selfish and cruel people to the top and it all slides back into misery and ruin. In fact, the machine conks. It seems to start up all right and run a few yards, and then it breaks down. They are trying to run it on the wrong juice. That is what Satan has done to us humans.
C.S. Lewis, “Mere Christianity”
Christianity did not bring a message of social revolution like that of the ill-fated Spartacus, whose struggle led to so much bloodshed. Jesus was not Spartacus, he was not engaged in a fight for political liberation like Barabbas or Bar- Kochba. Jesus, who himself died on the Cross, brought something totally different: an encounter with the Lord of all lords, an encounter with the living God and thus an encounter with a hope stronger than the sufferings of slavery, a hope which therefore transformed life and the world from within.
Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical on Hope
So the choice is between a messiah who leads an armed struggle, promises freedom and a kingdom of one’s own, and this mysterious Jesus who proclaims that losing oneself is the way to life. Is it any wonder that the crowds prefer Barabbas?
If we had to choose today, would Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Mary, the Son of the Father, have a chance? Do we really know Jesus at all? Do we understand him? Do we not perhaps have to make an effort today as always to get to know him all over again? The tempter is not so crude as to suggest to us directly that we should worship the devil. He merely suggests that we opt for the reasonable decision, that we choose to give priority to a planned and thoroughly organized world, where God may have his place as a private concern but must not interfere in our essential purposes.
[…] the interpretation of Christianity as a recipe for progress and the proclamation of universal prosperity as the real goal of all religions, including Christianity – this is the modern form of the same temptation. It appears in the guise of a question: ‘What did Jesus bring then, if he didn’t usher in a better world? How can that not be the content of messianic hope?’
… Jesus’ third temptation proves then to be the fundamental one, because it concerns the question as to what sort of action is expected of a savior of the world. It pervades the entire life of Jesus. It manifests itself openly again at a decisive turning point along his path. Peter, speaking in the name of the disciples has confessed that Jesus is the Messiah Christ, the son of the living God. […] At this crucial moment […] the tempter appears, threatening to turn everything into its opposite. The Lord immediately declares that the concept of the Messiah has to be understood in terms of the entirety of the message of the prophets. It means not worldly power, but the cross, and the radically different community that comes into being through the cross.
But that is not what Peter has understood. Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying “God forbid Lord, this shall never happen to you.” (Mat. 16:22)
Only when we read these words against the backdrop of the temptation scene, as its recurrence at the decisive moment, do we understand Jesus’ unbelievably harsh answer: ‘Get behind me Satan. You are a hindrance to me for you are not on the side of God, but of men.’ (Mat 16:23)
Pope Benedict XVI, “Jesus of Nazareth