Cast of Characters:
GRIPETHISTLE: Come in!
SNEERWICK: [Entering] Professor Gripethistle?
GRIPETHISTLE: Ah. it's young Sneerwick, isn't it?
SNEERWICK: That's right sir. I'm glad you remember me.
GRIPETHISTLE: I could hardly forget. You were one of my best students. Cruel, cheating, bone idle. I wish more demons were like you.
SNEERWICK: That's very kind of you, sir.
GRIPETHISTLE: I keep hearing your name mentioned around Hades. You seem to have done very well for yourself - friends in low places, tipped for one of the really bottom jobs.
SNEERWICK: Well, professor, it's about a particular job that I came to see you.
GRIPETHISTLE: What is it? Starting a war? Supervising a plague?
SNEERWICK: No, nothing like that. It's tempting someone to do wrong.
GRIPETHISTLE: What! Just a straightforward temptation? Surely one of your junior staff could handle it.
SNEERWICK: Well, it's not exactly straightforward....
GRIPETHISTLE: I don't see... [sudden realisation] Hang on, just who is it you have to tempt?
SNEERWICK: I don't like to mention his name...
GRIPETHISTLE: It's not you-know-who is it?
SNEERWICK: I'm afraid it is. That's why I've come to see you. I'd hoped you might be able to give a bit of advice.
GRIPETHISTLE: I'll do what I can, but it's not going to be easy. Let's see... What temptations does he normally give in to?
SNEERWICK: That's right. None. Zero. Nil. Nought. We've kept a very close eye on him and he has never done anything wrong.
GRIPETHISTLE: What, never?
SNEERWICK: No, never.
GRIPETHISTLE: What, never?
GRIPETHISTLE: Right, so let's start from first principles. What did I teach you about tempting? What's the first step?
SNEERWICK: Strengths and Weaknesses.
GRIPETHISTLE: Good. His strengths are .... ?
SNEERWICK: He's the Son of God. He's full of the Spirit. He knows exactly what's right and what's wrong....
GRIPETHISTLE: Perhaps we ought to list his weaknesses....
SNEERWICK: Er... [pause, as both think]
GRIPETHISTLE: Maybe we need to start from a different angle. Where is he at the moment?
SNEERWICK: He's in the wilderness.
GRIPETHISTLE: What's he doing there?
SNEERWICK: Getting ready for his ministry I suppose. He's been baptised by John and now he's spending forty days fasting as some kind of spiritual discipline.
GRIPETHISTLE: Aha! There's his weak spot. He may be the Son of God, but he is also human and so he has all the usual human frailties.
GRIPETHISTLE: Think about it. Doesn't forty days without food make one weak?
SNEERWICK: No, professor, I think it makes about six weeks.
GRIPETHISTLE: I mean, weak as in frail, as in hungry, as in ravenously starving. Get him to eat something.
SNEERWICK: But eating isn't wrong, is it?
GRIPETHISTLE: Not normally, but in this case he's deliberately chosen not to eat. If he gives in now, it will show a lack of discipline and make it much easier for us to persuade him to give in to his human weaknesses on other occasions.
SNEERWICK: Brilliant! I'll go straight away. I'll remind him that his mum cooks the best lamb stew in Nazareth and suggest that he pops home for a quick snack.
GRIPETHISTLE: Here's an even better idea. He's the Son of God, right? He can work miracles, right? Get him to turn some stones into bread. That will be two sins in one - breaking his discipline and using his powers for his own selfish needs.
SNEERWICK: Thanks, professor [rushing out] I'll let you know how I get on.
SNEERWICK: [knocking and entering] Hello, professor Gripethistle.
GRIPETHISTLE: Ah, Sneerwick, come in. How did it go?
GRIPETHISTLE: Wasn't he hungry then?
SNEERWICK: Oh, he was hungry all right, but he just said there were more important things in life than food.
GRIPETHISTLE: Like what?
SNEERWICK: Like the word of God.
GRIPETHISTLE: He's got a point there. I assumed that being human, he would have thought the same as all the other humans - that feeding his stomach is more important than feeding his spirit.
SNEERWICK: Any other ideas, professor?
GRIPETHISTLE: Well, Sneerwick, there is one thing humans want even more than bread.
GRIPETHISTLE: I was thinking of power - being in control of other people, being famous, being the boss, the big cheese.
SNEERWICK: I get the idea. But how do I use that to tempt him?
GRIPETHISTLE: Simple. Promise him power if he worships you instead of God. Tell him he can have all the kingdoms of the world if he bows down to you.
SNEERWICK: I can see two problems with that. One is that the kingdoms of the world don't belong to us, they belong to God.
SNEERWICK: Well, if I promise to give him something that doesn't belong to me, it would be a lie.
SNEERWICK: Oh yes. I'd forgotten. I'm allowed to lie, aren't I.
GRIPETHISTLE: Exactly. And your second problem?
SNEERWICK: Whenever I put my right finger in my left ear [does so], my head falls off.
SNEERWICK: No. I was lying. Just practising. The second problem is this - God, who owns all the kingdoms of the world has promised to give them to him anyway.
GRIPETHISTLE: Yes, but that won't be for ages yet. And he'll have to earn them by going through a lot of effort and considerable pain. What you can promise him is instant power at little or no cost. In fact, that gives me an idea for the future... Instead of people having to work for what they need or want, why not give it to them first and get them to do all the work after. Offer them instant satisfaction with no effort.
SNEERWICK: What, you mean tell people they can have what they want today and not have to pay for it until maybe weeks after?
GRIPETHISTLE: That's the idea.
SNEERWICK: It'll never catch on.
GRIPETHISTLE: You're probably right. Still you never know....
SNEERWICK: Getting back to the particular issue in hand, professor - how can instant power be attractive when you-know-who knows he's going to be Lord of it all anyway.
GRIPETHISTLE: Use your imagination, Sneerwick. Don't give him time to think. Dazzle him with all the splendours of the kingdoms.
SNEERWICK: OK, professor, I'll give it a whirl [exits]
SNEERWICK: [entering] It worked!
GRIPETHISTLE: Did it?
SNEERWICK: No, I'm lying again.
GRIPETHISTLE: What went wrong?
SNEERWICK: He's too devoted to God. Won't worship anyone else.
GRIPETHISTLE: Devoted to God is he? Hmmm.... [thinking]
SNEERWICK: Trusts him utterly.
GRIPETHISTLE: I think we're going to have to get a bit sneaky, Sneerwick. Turn his devotion to God against him.
SNEERWICK: How's that?
GRIPETHISTLE: Sneerwick, what would you do if I gave you a hundred pounds?
SNEERWICK: I'd faint with shock.
GRIPETHISTLE: Yes, and what would you do when you came to?
SNEERWICK: I'd count it.
SNEERWICK: Because I don't trust you.
GRIPETHISTLE: Exactly. [pause]
SNEERWICK: I think I've missed something. Shall I go out and come in again?
GRIPETHISTLE: No, look, lets take it step by step. Assume that you trust me.
,SNEERWICK: Hang on, Professor Gripethistle, as much as I respect your advice, I trust you about as far as I could throw a particularly fat elephant with one arm tied behind my back and the wind against me.
GRIPETHISTLE: Yes, but assume you trust me.
SNEERWICK: OK, I'll try to imagine it [frowns in concentration] Right I trust you implicitly.
GRIPETHISTLE: Now assume I give you a sealed envelope and tell you that it contains a hundred pounds in crisp new tenners. I ask you to put it away safely for a rainy day. What do you do?
SNEERWICK: I open it and count the money.
GRIPETHISTLE: Is that because it's a rainy day?
SNEERWICK: No, it's because I want to prove to myself the money is all there.
GRIPETHISTLE: But I've told you it's all there. How do you think I'd feel when you open the envelope. It's as good as calling me a liar to my face.
SNEERWICK: I'm still not sure...
GRIPETHISTLE: Look, God has promised his Son that whatever happens he will take care of him. Right?
SNEERWICK: I'm with you so far.
GRIPETHISTLE: But how can you-know-who be certain that God will be there to help him when he's in trouble?
SNEERWICK: He can't .... [realising the plan] unless he puts himself into such danger that God will have to help him out of it.
GRIPETHISTLE: And ... ?
SNEERWICK: And that will be like opening the envelope to check - he will be calling God a liar. God will be furious that his Son hasn't trusted him and he probably won't speak to him ever again! Brilliant!
GRIPETHISTLE: So all we have to do is get you-know-who to do something dangerous.
SNEERWICK: Like eating a scorpion sandwich!
GRIPETHISTLE: He's on a fast, remember.
SNEERWICK: OK, like tying a metal spike to his head and standing outside in a thunderstorm.
GRIPETHISTLE: I don't think they've worked out the principles of static electricity yet.
SNEERWICK: Something simple then - jumping off a cliff.
GRIPETHISTLE: Not bad, but what about jumping off the temple roof?
SNEERWICK: Fantastic! Thanks, professor. [rushes out]
SNEERWICK: [entering] I give up!
GRIPETHISTLE: What's the matter?
SNEERWICK: We've tried all we can think of and he won't budge two point five centimetres. He won't give in to hunger. He won't take the easy way to success. He won't even make certain of God's care. He's just not human.
GRIPETHISTLE: Oh no, I'm afraid he's very much human. That's the trouble.
SNEERWICK: How's that?
GRIPETHISTLE: If he were some kind of superhuman then we wouldn't have to worry. But if he, as a human being, can resist all our temptations, then what's to stop other humans resisting us.
SNEERWICK: They wouldn't! They couldn't! ... could they?
GRIPETHISTLE: They could with his help.
SNEERWICK: [Wailing pathetically] So what are we going to do?
GRIPETHISTLE: Oh, we'll get him in the end. Don't you worry. He's fresh and keen at the moment, but give him a few years. All the hassle of teaching and preaching. All the effort of healing people. All the frustration of people who are against him. We'll keep at him. Until one day, maybe late at night when he's absolutely exhausted, when he's alone because even his close friends have fallen asleep... one day he won't be able to resist any longer [they begin to leave, Gripethistle's arm around Sneerwick's shoulders] and then my dear, Sneerwick, we'll have him!
SNEERWICK: I hope you're right Professor. I hope you're right [exit]