May 26, 2014
John 17: 1-11
Author: Scott Hoezee
Comments and Observations
Every once in a while someone discovers a recording that until then no one knew existed. Maybe it’s John F. Kennedy on the phone with Nikita Khrushchev or some other famous person having a conversation with yet another high profile person. Once the recording comes out, it’s fascinating because now we get to eavesdrop on an important conversation that took place between two really famous and important people.
John 17 gives us the chance to “overhear” an intimate conversation between Jesus and his Father.
Talk about the ultimate eavesdrop!!!
When you think about it, it’s rather stunning to realize that we are privy here to a conversation between two members of the divine Trinity. That alone is a signal that the things Jesus is praying about are already true: namely, that through the glory of Jesus’ ministry, we have gained access to the God of the universe. Jesus prays for the Father to be mindful of us, to protect us, and the mere fact that we get to hear Jesus ask for this is proof right there that this is going to come to pass. Indeed, it’s true already!
That’s why we get to hear all this.
Jesus here distinguishes between “the world” and his own followers. For the moment, he has only the followers in mind. He’s praying for believers, not for the rest of the world. But the fact is that there is a distinction to be observed between the church and the rest of the world and, further, we know from earlier in John and in Jesus’ discourses that we can anticipate the world no more recognizing us than it recognized Jesus. And since we know what that clueless world ended up doing to Jesus . . . well, we can assume more of the same will come to us latter-day folks who bear Jesus’ name.
So we do face a hostile world. But the good news of this prayer is that we don’t face it alone. We’ve got no less than the Sovereign God of the universe on our side!
But there is one line in John 17:11 that is worth pondering. Jesus asks the Father to protect us “by the power of your name,” which is intriguing all by itself, but then Jesus goes on to say that the name in question is “the name you gave me.” Just what name is this? Raymond Brown believes that the name in question is essentially “Yahweh” or the great “I AM” of the Jewish tradition. If so, and in the context of John’s gospel, this corresponds to the “EGO EIMI” formula that Jesus used again and again in the fourth gospel’s famous series of “I Am” statements (“I am the bread of life . . . I am the light of the world . . .etc.).
God is the great I AM of Israel, the God who told Moses “I am what I am and I will be what I will be.” The fullness of this God came to us in Jesus. He gave glory to God through all that he said and did here on earth. We share in that glory! What’s more, we benefit from and live off the riches of God’s glorious power as he guards and nurtures and protects the church at all times. There is glory all around, even if we too often lack the eyes to see it.
There is a lot going on in this oft-called “High Priestly Prayer” of Jesus in John 17. But on the Sunday between the Ascension and Pentecost when the Lectionary assigns this particular text, we are reminded that although Jesus has gone away physically and is now in session at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, the power of God the Father Almighty is right here with us by the Holy Spirit.
In John 17, we get to eavesdrop on a conversation between Jesus and his Father. Sometimes eavesdropping is a bad thing, of course. But sometimes when you overhear a conversation, you hear people you love saying really wonderful things about you. And when that happens, you feel great. Christians listening in on this conversation have every reason to feel great based on what they hear! We are a people of glory protected by the glorious power and love of God. What a gift it is that Jesus let us listen in on his prayer!
John 17:11 is the only place in the New Testament where God is referred to as “Holy Father.” Although Jesus is now and again referred to as the “Holy One” and we know that the Spirit is ever and always the “Holy Spirit” in Acts and thereafter, this is the only place where the Father is called “Holy Father.” It may not be a terribly significant point but in this context it may be part of John’s attempt to invoke the traditions of Israel and of God’s being the Holy One of Israel in connection with verse 11’s further mention of “the name” of God by which Jesus asks the Father to protect the church.
In John 17 Jesus prays to the Father to protect his people, to be in and with and for his people. But often we in the church forget that all the energy and love of the Father is with us, is inside us. Have you ever seen one of those Hoberman Spheres? A scientist by the name of Hoberman figured out how to make an amazing thing called an “icosadodecohedron.” It is a round ball made up of hundreds of rods, each one of which is multi-jointed to others. (See this demo video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Q63hSmbhxA ).
Some years ago at a science museum in New Jersey, my family and I saw a giant one of these in the museum’s great hall. When that particular Hoberman Sphere is fully expanded, it is a ball that spans probably thirty or more feet in diameter–it’s quite huge. But when it is compacted and all the parts of the sphere are collapsed in on each other, the whole thing shrinks down to something not much bigger than a giant beach ball.
The power of God in the church is like that. The Father’s power spans the universe and beyond. Yet by a miracle of God’s Holy Spirit, it can collapse down into something that can fit right inside the church. And when by faith that power is inside of you, then you know that God’s might is always in service of love for God’s children. It’s the mystery of the incarnation all over again. When the apostle John began his gospel, he was very clear that the Son of God was the Word of God who had made this entire creation. But then he says, “The Word became flesh.” The powerful Son of God who fashioned every atom in the universe somehow managed to contract all the way down to no more than a zygote inside a maiden’s uterus. The Word of the Father, full of grace and truth and containing the very power of creation, made himself so small that for a time, you would have needed a microscope to see him!
In a poignant moment of C.S. Lewis’s “Chronicles of Narnia,” the children at one point walk into what appeared from the outside to be no more than a shabby little building. But once they step into it, they discover a vastness they could not have guessed at before. “Why,” Lucy exclaims, “it’s bigger on the inside than on the outside.” “Yes,” another character replies, “something like that once happened on earth. In a place called Bethlehem there was a tiny stable whose inside was bigger than its outside because that stable contained the whole world.”
Acts 1: 6-14
Author: Scott Hoezee
Comments, Observations, and Questions to Consider
When it comes to what’s up and what’s down in this passage, there is a lot of back-and-forth when you think about it.
First off, as we begin Acts, Jesus is where he has been for about the last six weeks: he is mostly here on this earth walking around with, eating dinner with, and conversing with the disciples. What’s more, he is doing all of that in his new resurrection body. So Jesus is still “down here” with us on earth. And the disciples’ minds are still focused on this earth too.
“Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
Forty days post-Easter and they are still focused on the same old political, earthly kingdom that kept them from really understanding Jesus’ mission for years.
Jesus deflects that, of course, but still tells them that something of the main “action” of what is to come will indeed be right here on this earth. Power is coming but it will come to the disciples down here and it will empower witness and work down here, too (which is why Jesus goes on to detail some geographical place names as the target of the work).
But no sooner does Jesus say this and he is taken up into the skies and clean out of the sight of the disciples. The text does not record this for us but you just have to assume that despite how often Jesus had mentioned going to be with his Father again and leaving the world and all that, there was no way the disciples were ready for this disappearing act. We are told they kept intently looking up to where Jesus had gone but I assume they did this with mouths hanging open. Yes, Jesus had been known to come and go—to pop into and out of rooms—rather suddenly and mysteriously ever since he came back from the dead but this time looked different, this time looked, well, final.
However, as an instant sign that Jesus’ having gone up was not an indication that the work was leaving with him, the next thing you know, there are angels standing with them. And please notice: Angels standing with them down here on earth. Mostly if you want to see an angel, you’d guess you have to look up, not down, not beside you, not at your back. But not this time. As a further sign that the work of witness to Jesus was going to be a decidedly earthly affair, the angels are down here too. They tell the disciples that Jesus will indeed come back one day via this route (in reverse) but it won’t be on account of the disciples’ staring uselessly into the clouds.
So, having had their orientation returned to terra firma, the disciples hoof it back to Jerusalem where they do the eminently practical and down-to-earth thing of replacing Judas with Matthias (that is just beyond the boundary of this lection). But before they do that they do something else: they pray. A lot.
We are not told directly that they prayed to Jesus or to the Father through Jesus. Either would be a new way to pray for these Jewish people raised on the Shema of Deuteronomy 6 and being the fierce monotheists that they were. But you get the sense they did pray to Jesus (here is one of the building blocks of the Doctrine of the Trinity as it would later be developed) and/or to the “Father” whom Jesus had referred to in verse 7 but perhaps they prayed to this Father in the name of the Jesus who had revealed the Father to them in the first place. And although we are likewise not told what they prayed about or for, you sense it is for guidance, for direction, and for the very power to do the work here on earth that Jesus had promised them. If it had not been clear before that the work was going to take place here on earth, it was very clear now and so the first order of business was to ask for the guidance and the energy to do it well.
This all happened a week-and-a-half before Pentecost, of course, but really the church’s posture has not changed that much in 2,000 years. We’re still down here, Jesus is still at the right hand of the Father, and we still have more work to do than we could possibly do alone and/or without the very power of God flowing into us. So very much of everything the church is about centers on and flows from prayer. The angels may have as much as told the disciples to take their eyes off the heavens for now but our hearts through prayer are still very much stayed upon Jesus as the sole source of all the power we need to witness to his Gospel.
One last note: I believe Acts 1:14 is the last reference in the Bible to Jesus’ mother Mary. At the beginning of his Gospel, Luke lavished more attention on Mary than any other New Testament writer. Now here in Acts Luke rounds all of that out by depicting for us readers the mother of Jesus praying right alongside everyone else.
Mary prayed. She prayed to her boy. There is something so very poignant about that.
As the angel Gabriel predicted, future generations have indeed risen up to call Mary “Blessed” among all people as being the chosen bearer of the Messiah. Protestants don’t have much truck with all that has been put on Mary in the Roman Catholic tradition but that Mary deserves a place of honor among the saints is undeniable.
Still, this last portrait of Mary in prayer and joining the other disciples to pray for the power needed to do the work Jesus needs his Church to do is a fine reminder that in the end it’s not about Mary or Peter or James or John or any other human or leader of the Church you could name from across the past two millennia.
It’s about Jesus. It’s about the power of his Holy Spirit. It’s about the Gospel and the Good News that the world needs to hear about loud and clear no less today than on that long ago day in Jerusalem.
Years ago a fellow German major at Calvin College was delighted to purchase an old German fairy tale book at a local garage sale. We enjoyed putting our German to use by reading these children’s stories, although we were surprised at how horrifying some of them were. Because unlike the American versions of these stories, which seem to have been sanitized and tidied up, the original German tales are brutal. The stories are designed to teach children lessons, and the authors obviously believed that scaring the wits out of kids was the best way to get the point across.
One story I remember was titled “Hans Guck-in-der-Luft,” which I would roughly translate, “Hans Head in-the-Clouds” (literally: Hans Look-in-the-Air). The story is meant to teach children to pay attention to what they are doing and where they are going. To make the point the title character of Hans is a little boy who is forever daydreaming, forever walking around with his eyes fixed on birds, butterflies, treetops. The result is that he keeps bumping into lampposts, tripping over uneven sidewalks, running into old ladies. Throughout the story adults chide Hans for his dreaminess and they warn him to pay attention, to get his head out of the clouds. But Hans does not listen and so at the end of the story he walks straight off a cliff and is smashed to death on the rocks below. Sweet dreams, boys and girls!
Psalm 68: 1-10, 32-35
Author: Doug Bratt
Comments and Observations
Scholars seem to almost enjoy asserting that Psalm 68 is difficult to understand and, as a result, preach and teach. They apparently almost relish joining the “many” whom the Jewish Study Bible asserts consider this to be “the most difficult psalm in the Psalter.” Scholars like to remind us that this psalm contains some difficult words, murky syntax and mysterious metaphors and allusions.
Old Testament scholar James Limburg, however, suggests Psalm 68’s difficulties have been exaggerated. It is clear, after all, that it celebrates God’s power to save and thanks the Lord for salvation. As such, study and contemplation of it can both help and strengthen Christian faith.
Psalm 68 begins with what Kathryn L. Roberts calls echoes of “the ritual battle call that signified the presence of the ark of the Lord on the field of Israel’s early battles.” In Numbers 10, after all, we read, “Whenever the ark set out, Moses said, ‘Rise up, O Lord! May your enemies be scattered, may your foes flee before you’.”
This adds to the martial tone of Psalm 68 that makes so many modern scholars nervous. Its God is a warrior who scatters God’s enemies (1) and “blows away” the wicked that “perish before God” (2). Yet all of this pales, says J. Clinton McCann, before verses 11-23’s portrayal of God as what McCann calls “a sort of male, macho, military commander.” It’s no wonder, then, that the Lectionary omits that section that contains some of Psalm 68’s most violent imagery from the text it appoints for this Sunday.
Even Psalm 68’s limited battle imagery to which the Lectionary points, however, calls for careful reflection by those who wish to preach and teach it. The Church has, after all, always been tempted to claim its martial imagery for itself, sometimes imposing violent military solutions on spiritual problems. God doesn’t allow the Church to wrap its own kinds of violence in Psalm 68’s flag.
But the psalm’s depiction of God’s violent reactions to evil remind us that evil is both real and potent. Evil sometimes robs children of their fathers and wives of their husbands (5). Evil can have the effect of isolating people from each other (6). People are sometimes imprisoned (6) out of evil motives. God’s enemies sometimes wreak great destruction on God’s creation and its creatures.
So while Jesus turns his followers away from violent responses to violence, Psalm 68 recognizes God sometimes must respond to evil with violence. In fact, precisely because God reigns and promises to bring evil and its perpetrators to justice, God’s adopted children can “turn the other cheek,” as well as love and pray for our enemies, even as we do what we can to protect vulnerable members of society (5-6) from the effects of evil.
That’s precisely, after all, what Psalm 68 insists God does. God’s people can sing with joy to God because God is not just mighty, but also merciful. God is concerned about people who need God’s help because they have no one else to turn to. God uses God’s power to “fight” for those on society’s margins. God serves as a Parent to orphans and Protector of widows. God even cares for the lonely and the prisoners.
In fact, Psalm 68 suggests, God extends God’s gracious care even to the neediest parts of God’s creation. “You gave abundant showers, O God, you refreshed your weary inheritance,” the psalmist sings in verse 9. Yet by refreshing the most vulnerable parts of creation, the psalmist celebrates, God even refreshed the most vulnerable members of his society: “And from your bounty, O God, you provided for the poor” (10).
On the 7th Sunday of Easter, what’s often called Ascension Sunday, the Lectionary pairs Psalm 68 with Acts 1:6-14’s account of Jesus return to the heavenly realm. There Jesus insists it’s not for his disciples to know the Father’s schedule for his return to complete the Kingdom. It’s for the disciples, instead, to witness to that kingdom whose qualities Psalm 68:5-6 reflect.
The Lectionary also links Psalm 68 to I Peter 4:12-14 and 5:6-11’s call to Jesus’ followers to remain faithful in the face of the persecution often wreaked by God’s enemies of whom the psalm speaks. Such persecution, says the apostle, is a cause for rejoicing because it’s prompted by Gods’ peoples’ faithfulness and is rewarded by God’s blessings, exultation and support.
Psalm 68 is also tied by the Lectionary to John 17:1-11’s account of the first third of Jesus’ high priestly prayer. There Jesus begs his Father to glorify himself through Jesus’ obedience all the way to the cross. Jesus also intercedes before his Father on behalf of his disciples who will endure the kind of wrath of God’s enemies that Psalm 68 describes.
It’s said that Old 113’s setting of Psalm 68 became a kind of Marseilles, an anthem for France’s persecuted Huguenot minority. It’s said when they were tied to the stake or led to the guillotine, martyrs would sing palms like it so passionately that their captors would cut out their tongues to silence them. At least until recently, it was the hymn with which the Huguenot Church of Charleston, SC would open each of its worship services.
1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11
Author: Stan Mast
Comments, Observations, and Questions to Consider
The Revised Common Lectionary brings the Easter season to a rousing conclusion with these selected verses from I Peter. As we have seen week after week, this letter deals with suffering, particularly unjust suffering, suffering visited upon Christians precisely because they are Christians. Like successive waves rolling toward the beach, Peter returns to the subject again and again. Here we have Peter’s last words of counsel to his suffering flock. He offers them a fresh new perspective on their suffering (4:12-14); he commands them to do specific things in the face of such suffering (5:6-9); and he gives them a bracing promise designed to strengthen them in their suffering (5:10-11).
I use the phrase “fresh new perspective” not because Peter’s words are so different from other Gospel words about suffering, but because they are so different from the usual human perspective on suffering. Most of us respond to suffering with one word. Why? Why me? Why this? Why now? Particularly if we believe that God loves as his beloved children, we Christians ask this “why” with special passion. “My God, my God, why…?” This question presupposes that suffering shouldn’t happen to anyone, especially someone like me. Or it protests that it is happening to me more than to others.
Peter silences our “why” by saying, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange is happening to you.” This suffering is not unusual; it should not surprise you. This is the way life is, not just for the human race (though that is definitely true), but especially for Christians. Peter conveys that last thought by his choice of the word purosis (translated “painful trial” by the NIV). It’s a word that refers most often to the application of fire to metal to purify it. Peter has already used this idea in 1:6, 7. Our sufferings are used by God to make our faith pure. That’s not to say that God causes this suffering; it is to say that God uses it for a very good purpose. Our suffering is part of God’s way of turning us into pure gold.
So, rather than asking “why,” we should “rejoice….” That’s crazy! Rejoice in what? Here Peter says a shocking thing. Rejoice “that you participate in the suffering of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” Two things beg for comment here. First, it is a magnificent thing that our suffering somehow participates in the sufferings of Christ, but what on earth can that mean? Well, it can’t mean that our suffering is redemptive in the sense that it can save anyone (as Christ’s once for all suffering did). But it can mean that, like Christ’s suffering, our suffering is caused by the opposition of evil to God, that it is part of the general cost of bringing salvation to the world, and that it is part of the way in which God brings us to righteousness. (I. Howard Marshall suggests these thoughts.) In other words, the sufferings of Christians are part of our union with Christ and, thus, are of a different order than ordinary suffering.
Second, Peter’s words about being “overjoyed when his glory is revealed” sound a great deal like “pie in the sky.” Put up with your suffering now because someday everything will be just great. Never mind that you are in utter agony. Rejoice anyway because someday you’ll see the glory of Jesus and that will make you forget all about your suffering. Such “pie in the sky” theology has long been mocked as “the opiate of the people.” It deadens the pain of life so much that Christians are passive in the face of injustice. It keeps people from rising up and changing their situations.
There’s no doubt that the accusation has some truth in it. But elsewhere Peter calls us to live such good lives in the world, lives of such holiness and brotherly love and honesty, that the world praises God for the difference we make. And, quite apart from the abuse of the doctrine of Christ’s glorious return, it is clear that the Bible does teach it over and over again. It is part of the Gospel, and it does help to know that his return will be so glorious that our sorrow will turn into overflowing joy.
Besides that, Peter makes it very clear that the Christian life is much more than simply waiting to see Christ’s glory in the last day. In fact, he says, “the Spirit of glory and of God [already] rest on you.” “If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed….” That’s a theme running through the NT. Jesus said it in Matthew 5:11, 12 and John 15:18-20. The early Christians experienced it in Acts 5:41 and 14:22. Paul taught it again and again in Romans 8:17, II Cor. 1:5, Phil. 3:10 and II Tim. 3:12.
Here Peter explains what that blessing is. Unfortunately he does so with some of the most difficult Greek in the NT. But the sense seems to be that the Spirit of God is upon us when we suffer unjustly, and that gives us a share in the glory of God right now. Perhaps the best way to think of this is to remember the martyrdom of Stephen. Acts 7 says that his face was like an angel’s face, that he was full of the Holy Spirit, and that he saw the glory of God. In other words, if we suffer because of the name of Christ, the Holy Spirit will rest upon us in some glorious way that we can’t imagine. There is a present blessing for us when we suffer as Christians.
Peter goes on to say some hard things about judgment in connection with such suffering, but the lectionary skips those verses. So will I, because what we’ve reflected on so far demonstrates what I meant when I said that Peter offers us a fresh new perspective on suffering in these verses.
In the rest of our reading, he also issues some very direct orders or, more accurately, some very helpful pastoral advice. Here are two things you should do when you are faced with such suffering. The first has to do with God (verses 6 and 7) and the second with the devil (8 and 9). God will use your suffering to lift you up to greater glory. The devil will use it to drag you down and devour you. So when you suffer as a Christian, humble yourself under God’s sovereign hand. Don’t fight him; trust him. And when you suffer as a Christian, watch out for the devil. Fight him with all the faith you can muster.
The idea of “humbling ourselves under God’s mighty hand” might seem a bit demeaning at first. I mean, here I am suffering like a dog and now I have to cringe before the God who is in some way responsible for this pain. But that is not at all what Peter means. The “mighty hand of God” can refer to God’s hand as it tests us through suffering (see above). But usually that phrase refers to God’s sovereignty being exercised in redeeming his people. Think of the mighty hand of God delivering Israel from Egypt.
Notice that the very next verse speaks of God’s care. Indeed, verse 7 is a subordinate clause, spelling out what it means to humble ourselves under God’s hand. It means that we cast our cares on him because he cares so much about us. Humbling ourselves before God in our suffering isn’t about abject resignation or cringing self-abnegation. It’s about admitting that we are simply creatures, that we are fragile, and that we must rely on God’s care in our suffering. “Humble yourself” means let God be God and relax into God’s care. Cast yourself into his mighty hand and rest there. “He will lift you up in due time.” The Greek there is ev kairoi (as opposed to chronos), which suggests “in God’s special time.”
But don’t ever rest when it comes to the devil, because he is always prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. The call to be self-controlled (the Greek has the connotation of staying sober rather than getting drunk) and alert is heard again and again in primitive Christian teaching. The devil is a deceiver; the word “enemy” is antidikos (an opponent in a lawsuit) and the word devil is diabolos (accuser, cf. Job 1). He will try to use your suffering to make you doubt the loving care of God. He will oppose you by accusing God of unfairness or injustice or cruelty or apathy. He will be subtle, like the serpent in the garden, so that you can’t identify his accusations against God as demonic lies. Therefore, you have to be in full command of your senses and completely alert. He is in reality a roaring lion who only wants to devour your faith, so that you turn away from God and into his yawning maw.
The devil’s aim is to destroy your faith. Don’t let him do it. Fight him. Resist him. The only way to resist him is to stand firm in your faith. You can’t do that alone; he is too much for you. But you don’t have to do resist him alone, because you have a band of brothers (and sisters) around the world that is going through the very thing you are. Peter isn’t saying that misery loves company. He is saying that we are part of a world-wide community engaged in a titanic struggle that Jesus has already won (cf. last week’s comments on I Peter 3:18-22).
Peter’s encouraging words give us a glimpse of the contact between the tiny scattered churches in the first century. They knew of each other and that helped them as they struggled with suffering. Our individualistic brand of Christianity can learn from their mutual support long before there were smart phones.
After laying out a refreshing new perspective on suffering, Peter gives his suffering brothers and sisters some bracing counsel about what to do in the face of that suffering. But he doesn’t end his letter with a pep talk about what they must do. He ends with a promise about God will do. We must stand firm, but the reality is that our final hope is in God, not in our efforts. And God will come through for us.
Peter describes God in a lovely phrase here—“the God of all grace,” the God whose grace is sufficient for every situation. The grace of God has called you in Christ. The grace of God will give you his eternal glory. The grace of God is available and abundant all the time. And the God of all grace is almighty. So, after you have suffered a little while, the power of God will raise you up. It is fascinating, but not surprising that Peter began his letter with a reference to Easter and now he ends it with a similar emphasis. One scholar suggests that we see all of I Peter as an Easter catechesis. Here’s how we should live in the light of Easter when the world is hostile to us.
Peter uses four powerful words to describe how God will give new life to those who have suffered for the name of Christ. It is difficult to distinguish the nuances of meaning in these four verbs. “Restore” is katartidzeiv means to put in order or complete or repair. He will put all things back in the right place. That sounds like Shalom, doesn’t it? The rest of the verbs suggest various degrees of strength and solidity. After being abused and broken and scattered by the forces aligned against you, God himself will put you back together, make you strong, and set your lives on a foundation so firm that you will never be shaken again. Let that firm promise strengthen your faith.
Peter ends with a short, but powerful doxology. “To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.” The God of all grace is the God of all power. The God who promises to do all of these things for you is fully able to do it. The mighty hand of God that seems to be against you will raise you up, even as he raised Jesus up. Thus endeth our reading for this seventh Sunday of the Easter season.
In a world that either denies the existence of the devil or glorifies his power in scary movies, even many Christians don’t take very seriously the real threat he is to our lives. C.S. Lewis can help us appreciate the devil’s efforts to “devour us.” In his classic Screwtape Letters, Lewis portrays a couple of devils plotting to lure a seeker away from God. From the very beginning the senior devil, Screwtape, reminds his nephew, Wormwood, that humans are merely food for demons. In fact, says Screwtape, if the younger devil fails in his efforts to tempt the human, then Wormwood himself might be devoured for his mistake. “Bring us back food or be food yourself,” growls Screwtape. Contrary to the lies he spreads, the devil is not out to make human life easier, sexier, richer, or in any other way better. He is out to make human life a midnight snack.