The man had been walking through the wilderness for several weeks, never stopping to eat but always moving and praying. To the casual observer he would have appeared to have completely lost his way, faint from hunger and wearied by the elements.
He was alone for three weeks, never seeing so much as any wildlife. He prayed diligently the whole time but it was clear things were taking a toll on him. That’s when they decided it was time to pay him a visit.
“You’re going to die if you keep this up, you know.”
The man blinked and peered up, surprised by the sound of someone else’s voice after being surrounded by silence for so long. A stranger stood before him, dressed in white garments, looking neither male nor female but something in between. If he didn’t know any better he would think the person to be an angel. He did know better, though.
“What do you want?” the man asked with a sigh.
Haniel tilted their head to the side and crossed their arms over their chest. “Want? Nothing, really. I was just passing through and saw you here. You don’t look so good, you know. Guess that’s what happens when you wander around in a barren desert without eating for three weeks.”
The man closed his eyes and exhaled. “I’m out here by choice, you know.”
“Oh, sure. Still, you’re growing weak. You came out here to commune with your god, didn’t you? But how do you expect to concentrate if you’re hungry and weary?”
“I’d be able to concentrate better if I weren’t being interrupted,” the man said quietly.
Haniel grinned and stepped toward the man, leaning forward and looking him over curiously. “I’ve heard some interesting things about you, you know.”
“Oh? Such as what?” the man asked, raising an eyebrow.
Haniel watched him for a long moment, running their tongue over their lips before whispering, “That you’re the Son of God. Is that true?”
The man was silent for a moment before replying, “I am.”
“How interesting.” Haniel pressed their hands together and slowly circled around the man, running their eyes over him. He stood motionless and sighed in mild irritation. “So tell me,” Haniel said, “you’re completely human, right? Your body does still require nourishment, does it not?”
“I am, and it does.”
“I see. But theoretically you could call on your godly powers to do whatever you wished, couldn’t you?” Haniel lifted a stone from the ground and held it out to the man. “You could turn this to bread, for instance, couldn’t you?”
The man didn’t respond and merely stared at Haniel with a solemn expression. Haniel paced around him, tossing the stone up in the air and catching it, smirking a little.
“I don’t have to worry about things like eating. I might take on a human skin to interact with the physical realm but I don’t have the weaknesses of a human. I guess you wanted the whole package though, hm? To experience human weakness. How is it? Pretty terrible, I would think. How can you even concentrate with your body screaming out in agony? Why would you even do something like that to yourself?”
“A better question is why do you care what I do?” the man replied.
Haniel blinked and peered at him. “Well to be honest I don’t particularly care, I just find it strange so that’s why I’m asking. I get you’re going on some sort of spiritual journey or whatever, but how is that going to benefit you if you let yourself waste away?”
“It is written: ‘Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’,” the man said in response. Haniel stared rather dully at him.
“And just what is that supposed to mean? Your holy scriptures aren’t going to do you much good if you’re dead.”
“It means we trust God to provide for us when we are in need.” The man narrowed his eyes at Haniel and frowned. “As you said, I am human. Humans can’t very well change stone to bread can they?”
“So you’d rather chance death, is that it?” Haniel tossed the stone in the man’s direction and he caught it in his hand.
“I’m not going to die out here. My Father will provide for me when I am in need.”
Haniel rolled their eyes and turned away. “Fine, do what you want, it’s your funeral. Well, actually if you die out here you won’t even be getting one. No one would find you, hm?”
“Leave me be,” the man said with a sigh. He turned away and began walking down the rocky path. Haniel watched as he departed then inhaled and disappeared in a flutter of wings.
“Good job,” Jophiel said when Haniel returned to her side. “You completely screwed that one up.”
“It’s not my fault he’s completely unreasonable,” Haniel muttered. “How exactly would you have done it differently?”
Jophiel glanced toward them with a sharp gaze and Haniel shrank back, holding their hands up.
“Alright, alright, I screwed up. Sorry.”
Jophiel sighed and turned her attention back to the man in the wilderness. “You’re right, though, he does seem to be rather unreasonable. But perhaps I can use that.”
Haniel raised an eyebrow. “What are you planning to do?”
A grin slowly spread over her lips and she whispered, “See if we can make a show of things.”
The man continued to wander the desert wilderness, praying all the while and listening for his Father’s voice. As he was nearing the end of his time in the wilderness, he heard a different voice. He was surprised to find it was a woman’s voice.
“You look weary. Why don’t you sit and rest?”
He turned and saw a beautiful woman standing before him, dressed in dark colors, a smile on her lips. Though he recognized her for what she was, he did not acknowledge this.
She stepped over to him, scanning him with her eyes, then she said in a quiet, sweet voice, “Why do this to yourself? Pushing to your absolute physical limits, denying yourself of your own basic needs. Doesn’t it hurt?”
“I wouldn’t expect one of your kind to understand,” he said to her.
Jophiel frowned and crossed her arms. “And why would that be?”
“You are of spirit, not of flesh,” he said. “You may have taken on flesh to be in this world, but you are not limited by it.”
“Of course,” she said, “yet you have become so. Was that so you could better understand your precious humanity? Or was there some other reason?” She leaned closer to him and breathed over his ear, “Why have you decided to become weaker?”
He inhaled and stepped away from her with a slight shudder. Jophiel quirked her lips and tilted her head to the side as she gazed at him. “You never did answer my first question, you know.”
“Humans are limited by flesh,” he said. “To nourish the spirit we must deny the flesh.”
“But by flesh you live, and if you deny your flesh it shall perish. All humans are destined to die but only when it is their time. That’s not what you’re trying to do, is it?” She raised an eyebrow.
“Of course not. I still have work here to do. I do this to grow closer to my Father in spirit. When I have finished I shall return to the world to begin my work.”
“And just what would that work be?” Jophiel asked. She pressed her fingers together and circled around him slowly. “I’ve been watching things for a long time, watching and listening. The others don’t know what it is you’re doing yet, do they?”
He stared at her but said nothing. A grin spread over her face and she stepped closer to him.
“No, they don’t. Do you not trust them with such information, or do you just see no need to let them in on it? Afraid they might try to talk you out of it, find another way to do things? Michael is the type to try and work things out his own way.”
“Why are you here?” the man asked.
“I wanted to see you for myself,” Jophiel replied. “Everyone else is so curious about you, but I think I’ve finally got you figured out. Humanity has been on the brink of destruction for a long time. Your Father has threatened to destroy them on more than one occasion even, isn’t that right? But He still claims to love them. He wants to save them. That’s why you’re here, right?”
He was silent for a moment, gazing into her eyes, then he said, “It is.”
“I thought as much. Your Chosen People have been tormented and oppressed for so long by so many different kingdoms, and now they’re under the rule of that Holy Emperor. They’ve been crying out for someone to set them free for so long. That’s why you’re here now, right?”
“Yes,” he said again, sighing a little and seeming to be growing tired of conversing with her while being too polite to say so.
“I want to show you something,” she said. She laid a hand on his shoulder and gripped him tightly, then inhaled. In a flutter of wings they were suddenly standing on the highest point of the temple in the holy city. The man stiffened when he saw how high up they were.
“Look,” Jophiel said, gesturing across the expanse of the city. “The people here have been waiting for so long for their salvation. If you’ve truly come to save them, then why don’t you prove it to them?”
He turned and glanced toward her, narrowing his eyes. “Prove it?”
“If you are truly the Son of God,” Jophiel said, “then throw yourself down from the temple, for all to see. For it is written: ‘He will command His angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” She laid her hands on his shoulders and gripped tightly, leaning closer to whisper in his ear, “Prove to the people that you have the power of heaven on your side. Show them just who you really are.”
The man breathed out deeply as he gazed down at the city, and she could feel him trembling beneath her hands. Then he said, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Jophiel narrowed her eyes and murmured, “But by wandering through the wilderness as you have, expecting Him to take care of you, are you not putting Him to the test that way?”
“Not eating so I can take the time to pray is completely different from throwing myself off the temple,” he replied.
Jophiel glared at him then murmured, “Fine. Have it your way.” She dug her nails into his shoulders as she returned them to the spot they had been in, then she stepped away from him. “The people are never going to accept you as their savior the way you’re doing things now, you know.”
“What makes you so sure?” he asked, glancing back at her.
“They want a king who will deliver them from oppression,” she said. “They want war.”
“Hm.” He shrugged his shoulder and stepped away from her. “I don’t see why it should concern you,” he said.
Jophiel watched as he went back into the wilderness. She grit her teeth before turning away to return to the others.
“What’d I tell you?” Haniel said. “Completely unreasonable.”
“I told you this wasn’t going to work,” Lucifer said with a frown.
“Perhaps not.” Jophiel eyed the two of them for a moment before settling her gaze upon Lucifer. “You should go to him.”
Lucifer raised an eyebrow. “Why? Haven’t we already established that nothing is going to shake him?”
“Oh, come now.” Jophiel walked over to him slowly and laid a hand on his chest, murmuring, “If there’s one thing you’re good at it’s finding out what people truly desire and giving it to them. You have the best chance of all to make this work.”
He frowned then gripped her wrist, yanking her hand away from him. “Is that so? He recognized the two of you. Surely he would recognize me. Why would he ever listen to what I have to say?”
“Because you’re good at sweet talking, that’s why,” she said with a dark grin. “Go to him. See what you can do.”
Lucifer scowled at her then leaned forward and hissed, “I don’t take orders from you.”
“Of course not,” she said with a smile. “It’s merely a suggestion.”
He shoved her away and stomped off, leaving Jophiel and Haniel alone. Haniel tilted their head and murmured, “Do you think he’s gonna do it?”
“There’s no doubt in my mind that he will,” Jophiel said. “I can’t wait to see what he comes up with.”