Jesus and the Devil Walk into a Bar
Illustrated by Michael Ilkiw
“Buy you a drink?”
“Sure,” the Morning Star glanced over nonchalantly at the Son of Man, “bourbon. Neat.”
“One bourbon, tavern master, and a glass of Sangiovese for me.”
The King of Kings took a seat at the bar beside the Lightbringer. Lucifer played with a book of matches. The pack ignited and the flames danced in shapes of a phoenix, a gryphon, a wyvern. He put it out and the matchbook was unscathed.
“Isn’t it a bit, oh, I don’t know, cannibalistic for you to drink wine?” Lucifer finally spoke.
“Come now,” Jesus of Nazareth said, “let’s not. We only meet once a century. This is neutral ground. Let’s not talk shop.”
“As you wish,” Lucifer, first of the Fallen relented. “I’m sorry. It’s just been a hard century. Do you know how many damned souls we’ve had to process? The numbers are increasing exponentially. Two world wars, genocides, new diseases popping up left and right, and they just keep ravaging their world. Do you know where all that toxic runoff goes? Straight to Hell, that’s where. Haven’t all the prophecies of Revelations come true and then some? When’s the second coming? I mean, officially.”
“Brother,” Jesus sympathized, “listen, you know it’s not my call. Father will tell me when it’s time, and until then you just have to carry on. You were the one who started all this. Don’t forget. That little rebellion of yours.”
Lucifer, Shepherd of Suns, sighed so heavily that the wine glasses on the bar shook and almost shattered.
“Right, right, my rebellion. The act that I was predestined to commit by our almighty, omnipotent Father. Does He punish a lion for killing a lamb? I am what He made me. Not all of us can be the embodiment of love and compassion like you.”
Lucifer took a deep drink of his bourbon. He raised a hand, pointing to his empty rocks glass and another was made for him immediately.
“Oh, brother, this again,” Jesus placed his head in his hands, ran his fingers through his long, lustrous hair. “Look, I’m not going to get into another argument about free will. Can we please just have a nice time tonight? I only get to see my eldest brother once every hundred years and I just want to have a pleasant conversation. Can you do that, please? For me?”
“All right,” Lucifer agreed begrudgingly. “So how are things in the Silver City? Anything new?”
“The Silver City is the same as ever, same as it always will be. Michael manages things mostly. He says hi, by the way. He misses you. We all do.”
“Well, apparently you don’t miss me enough to come visit,” Lucifer crossed his arms. “Except for these little get togethers, the last time I saw anyone besides you was at Golgotha, looking up at your broken body…”
The Star of the Morning took a stuttered breath and sniffled.
“They blamed me,” he whispered, “I would never. Never…”
He downed his glass of bourbon and ordered another. Jesus placed his hand on Lucifer’s back to comfort him. He felt everything the Lightbringer felt. He knew the pain of being blamed for all sin in the world.
“He still talks about you sometimes, you know,” Jesus said.
Lucifer looked up, a wet gleam in his eye.
“Really? Like, what, what does he say?” Lucifer tried hard to keep his quivering lip still.
“That He loves you. That He misses you. That He’s sorry things went the way they did.”
“I’ll never forgive Him you know.” A chill went through the bar. A collective shiver ran through the patrons and staff.
“I know that that’s how you feel. But you know He forgives you. He always has.”
Jesus gave Lucifer his most compassion filled eyes. Lucifer returned his compassion with a look of cold malice.
“Jesus, you know, for all your understanding and empathy, you are truly a dumb boob.”
Lucifer’s eyes burned, Jesus knew the fire and he looked around uncomfortably.
“What do I care for His forgiveness?” Lucifer continued, “10,000 years in Hell. You could never begin to imagine or commiserate with the things I’ve seen. And when this little Earth saga is all over. What then? I’ll never be welcomed back to my home. Forever banished. Forever branded as the Father of Lies, the Adversary, Satan.”
Jesus did not reply right away. He took a sip of his wine. He gave Lucifer a minute to cool down.
“None of us have it easy,” Jesus said, “think about what our Father has had to bear and what He has sacrificed—”
“Stop,” Lucifer interrupted, “just stop there. Sacrifices? Oh, you mean, like you? Like his chosen people? Like the billions of humans who have suffered day in and day out for their entire existence? He created all this. He set the rules for the game. The tyrant doesn’t get my sympathy when the game starts to fall apart. And when it does, He will continue on. New creation, same game. Do you know how many universes He’s made and unmade? It’s just a drop in the bucket to Him.”
“I see,” Jesus drank the rest of his wine without enjoyment and stood up. “I suppose there is nothing left to say then.”
“I suppose not,” Lucifer stared at his glass.
“Will I see you next time?” Jesus asked, though he knew the answer.
Lucifer made no acknowledgement.
“Well, goodbye, brother.”
Jesus placed a pouch of thirty pieces of silver on the bar. He never knew what to tip. Lucifer signaled to the bartender for another, then settled on taking the whole bottle.
“Yea,” Lucifer said bitterly, “goodbye. Give my best to the family.”
He waved without looking. Jesus looked sadly after Lucifer before he left the bar. He knew this would be the last time they met on neutral ground. The next time would be on the fields of Armageddon.