The Oasis - July 26, 2023

Author: Rev. Dan Hollis
July 26, 2023

     The Ancient Greeks had their tales of Sisyphus—a king cursed by the gods to roll a great boulder up to the top of a mountain, but every time he neared the top, the boulder would roll back down. Bill Murray’s most well-known film is arguably “Groundhog Day,” a story of a man stuck in a loop, repeating the same day over and over again no matter what he does differently or what progress he achieves. The sixth album of folk singer Patrick Sky was called “Two Steps Forward, One Step Back,” Vladimir Lenin once penned a treatise titled “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back,” and in 2021 Olivia Rodrigo released a song named “One Step Forward, Three Steps Back.” It sounds to me like the feeling of making progress only to lose ground is a universal experience.
     Well here’s a story I heard from someone or other when I was a kid, a story which stuck with me ever since, retold in my own words:

     Jesus and the Devil were having an argument. The Devil thought he was smarter, faster, and just plain better than Jesus in every way. Jesus, of course, disagreed. “There’s nothing that you can do that I can’t do better, and in half the time!” boasted the Devil. The corridors of Heaven echoed with the sounds of their debate, until finally God could take it no longer. You see, God had been hard at work trying to sort out this whole Y2K problem before it was too late, but all that racket was making it impossible to think straight. So God posed a challenge to them. Whoever could make the best computer program before the clock struck midnight on January 1st of the year 2000 would win the dispute.
     So, the angels Gabriel and Michael wheeled out two Commodore 64s and two dot-matrix printers (Heaven was a little behind on the digital revolution, you understand), and Jesus and the Devil got to work.
     The Devil’s fingers flew across the keys, smoke rising from the friction as lines and lines of code appeared on the screen faster and faster. Jesus was more of an IBM Selectric kind of guy, so he typed a little more deliberately, but before long both coders had done some truly impressive work.
     Finally, the end was fast approaching. The programmers laid down their finishing touches and prepared to hit PRINT so that their work could be judged. But just as their fingers hovered over the button and the clock began to chime… the power went out. The stars flickered, the celestial choir faded to silence, and the motor running the Stairway to Heaven whirred to a halt.
     And the screens of both computers winked out.
     The Devil roared and raged, all his hard work gone in an instant. And sure enough, when moments later the power came back on and the computers hummed back to life, every last line of code had been lost. But the clock was still chiming; he still had time! Frantically, he bent to the keyboard, desperate to have something, anything to show to God when the clock struck twelve. And yet Jesus, seated across the way, his sandaled feet up on the desk, looked at ease, completely unbothered. This confounded the Devil, and only drove him to type faster, the keys melting beneath his furious touch.
     At the tenth chime, Jesus leaned forward and pressed the PRINT key.
     At the eleventh chime, without time to test what little code he had managed to lay down, the Devil pressed PRINT as well.
     The clock struck twelve.
     The Devil’s printer whirred, whined, shuddered, and spit out one page of text, no doubt full of typos. But even as the sweat steamed off his brow, he knew he had Jesus beat.
     Until he looked at Jesus’ printer. Page after page after page poured out, an accordion of perforated paper accumulating in a neat stack on the floor, each sheet filled with lines and lines of code.
     “I don’t understand!” the Devil stammered. “We both lost power at the same time! How do you have so much work done?!”
     The Son of God’s reply was simple and to the point: “Jesus SAVES.”

Help Us to Help Others

Together, we can bring Christ's word and work to the world.