Once upon a time there was an evil snake which had had the unpleasant experience of its very best, most pleasant good memories turning into its very worst, most painful bad memories. What it thought was the Best Day of Its Life had turned out to be the Worst Day of Its Life.
The snake hated Jesus. It hated Him very, very much. So when the snake actually got to torture Jesus, kill Jesus, and do pretty much everything it had ever wanted to Jesus, that seemed like it would be a good memory for the snake, right? The snake got to see Jesus flogged and tortured and it thought that was wonderfully great fun. And then it had the horrible, sinking realization that Jesus’ wounds were healing people. The snake didn’t like to see people being healed, not one bit. And even worse, Jesus’ wounds just wouldn’t stop healing people. Every stripe inflicted on Jesus could heal any number of people in all times and all places for all generations and even give healing would last for all eternity! Those brief, thirty-minutes of snaky-pleasure seeing Jesus suffer had turned into the anguish of seeing person after person after person live happily ever after (including Jesus), and there was nothing the snake could do about it! That was a bad memory.
And that was not the end of the bad memories. The snake got to see Jesus humiliated and stripped naked and hung up in shame before all the world. It thought that was pretty fantastic. It got to see Him mocked and insulted. That was fun. The snake had even more fun by slithering around and whispering lots of nasty things to say to Jesus in the ears of every person who would listen. And then, the very best part was that Jesus actually died. The snake hadn’t been sure that that would happen, or was even possible. But it did. He was really, truly dead and limp and silent and not about to go around doing anything anymore, which was good, because the snake did not like any of the things that Jesus did!
And then there was a ripping sound, and the curtain in the temple ripped from top to bottom. And the snake felt a shiver go down its snaky spine, and it wondered if that ripping sound meant something, and if so, what.
So the snake slithered off to find Jesus’ friends, and it sat outside their door and whispered, “Be afraid… be afraid… be afraid… I’ll get you too…. I’ll get you too…” until they all bolted and barred the door and sat inside shaking and crying, which was kind of fun if you were a snake and you were bored. But that didn’t stay a good memory, oh no…
Everything turned upside down in the end. The day the snake thought it had won, it lost. The day it thought it had defeated Jesus was the day Jesus defeated it. The day it bit Jesus on the heel, hard, was the day that Jesus crushed its head. The day it thought it had humiliated Jesus forever was the day He was glorified. The day that Jesus was stripped naked ended up being the day He exposed the snake to public disgrace, triumphing over it by His cross. The day it had thought would be Jesus’ Worst Memory and Jesus’ Friends Worst Memory turned out to be one of their very favorite memories of all. And did Jesus stay dead? Oh no, He did not. He came bouncing back, very much not-dead and announcing that He was now King of the world. He marched right through the door that His friends had locked, as if it wasn’t even there. And of course inside they stopped shaking and crying and despairing and listening to the snake and being afraid, and instead they started rejoicing. So all the snake had accomplished in scaring them was give Jesus the chance to show off that He could now, on top of saving the world and defeating death, also walk through doors!
It was not fun to have your head crushed. It was extra and especially not fun to have your head crushed on the day you thought you had won. And it was extra and most especially not fun to have people remember this humiliation, and tell everybody they knew about it, and worst of all, write SONGS about it!
The snake would have felt a little better if everybody had at least FORGOTTEN that Jesus had died for them and had lived as if they were still guilty and under condemnation (It went around trying to get people to live like this as much as it could). But no, they went all over the world telling each other about Jesus dying for them, and mentioning that He had defeated the snake, and death, and sin, and etc. etc. etc. and then writing songs about it and getting together and singing them every single week (on the anniversary day of Jesus coming back to life, go figure). The snake hated the songs, every last one of them. It hated “What Can Wash Away My Sins?” and “There is Power In the Blood” and “The Old Rugged Cross” and “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross” and all the new ones people kept writing every week to say “Thank you Jesus for dying for us! You are so fantastic! We are so happy that You won!” and that they then translated into new languages and kept spreading all over the world.
So the snake responded to its pain and humiliation in its usual snaky way: it decided it would feel a little better if it could make as many other people miserable in the same way as it possibly could. So it set out to turn other people’s good memories into bad memories in as many ways as it could think of. It liked to see if it could turn people’s marriages into divorces, because then their very happiest wedding memories became their most painful and bitter memories of disappointment and betrayal. It liked it when someone died and the people who had loved them found all their happy memories of that person hurt. It liked to take people’s happiest experiences of God and see if it couldn’t come along and twist or pervert something so that the memory wouldn’t be a good one anymore. So it went for a little girl’s joy and tried to steal it, tried to take it, tried to turn her most glorious memories of the victory of Jesus in her life into shame and confusion. It went for a young man’s joy and tried to steal it, tried to turn his sweetest memories into painful reminders. Because the snake had bad memories too, and it could never forget.
And whenever somebody had a memory that made them cry, whether it was the memory of a failure, or a sin, or an injury, or a trauma, or a loss, or of being confused, or of being afraid, or of being ashamed, the snake tried to make them remember that memory as much as it possibly could. It tried to see how many times it could get the same person to cry over the same bad memory. It was like a game for the snake. After all, the snake had no hope left, no hope of ever winning and defeating Jesus now, nothing left to do but play games and try to make other people cry before Jesus came back again and even tears would be no more.
Because the snake knew that that day was coming, even when it managed to get the children of God to forget. Sometimes it would laugh to itself bitterly when it had got some child of Jesus’ to writhe in pain and cry over her most painful memory, and think to itself, “You think that’s bad, kid? Your worst memory is NOTHING compared to my worst memory!” And the snake’s worst memory, of the day Jesus’ died for His people, was the children’s best memory. And the snake’s best memories, of the days it had gotten the children to fail and fall and fear, were the children’s worst memories. But there could be no doubt as to whose bad memory and whose good memory would win out in the end.
Because after all, who wrote triumphant songs about the little girl’s pain? Who wrote victory songs about the young man’s failures? Who wrote songs about anybody else’s worst memory? And what would they sing about in heaven?
For crying out loud, they wouldn’t even HAVE bad memories in heaven. Jesus would have come along behind and worked every last thing out for their good and there wouldn’t be a memory in the world that didn’t make them erupt in praise for what God had done with it! The snake would be falling and falling and falling into a bottomless pit, and if it could still hear sounds from up above at the top, it knew it would hear them still singing about its worst memory, it knew that the song they would be singing would be,
“Worthy are You
Our Lord and Christ
For You were slain
And purchased with Your blood
Men for God…”
And the song would go on for all eternity.
And every child of God the snake had tried to torment would be singing too, and never ever stop.
And what difference would it make, really, that maybe now, for a few tearful, forgiven minutes, it had ever succeeded in getting them to forget?