Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness, fasting and praying. At the end of the time, the devil came to tempt Him.

If we gather together all the clues about timing scattered through the gospels, it’s apparent that Jesus was baptised at Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan on the first day of the month of Elul and was tested by the satan on the tenth day of the month of Tishrei—which in the Hebrew calendar is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

This date is the anniversary of the day Moses returned from his final trip to Mount Sinai, bearing a second set of tablets and bringing a message of forgiveness about the golden calf.

The forty-day period Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness corresponded to the traditional season of soul-searching and repentance which is still practised by observant Jews today—it is a time set apart for a return to the Lord.

What a significant day Yom Kippur was for testing and temptation! It’s a threshold day—its name, kippur, is related to a covering and a cornerstone, and in addition Jesus would be at the very beginning of His ministry the very next day. He would walk out of the wilderness, go back to Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan and be proclaimed as the ‘Lamb of God’ by His cousin, John the Baptist.

However, before that happened, the temptations occurred. And Python was there. Whether or not ‘the devil’ is the same spirit in all three tests, I’m not sure. One thing I do know—it’s a question never asked. It’s presumed that the devil, the satan, the adversary is always the same spirit. In the time of Jesus, this would not have been an automatic assumption: writings of that period refer to ‘many satans’, meaning many enemies or many accusers.

Still, Python was there. This may seem like a bold assertion since the text doesn’t say so explicitly. However, it does say so implicitly. Python was so indecently famous, its commonly known aspects were enough to identify it.

Three times the devil uses the word, ‘if’, which was deeply associated in the ancient mind with Python. It was iconic, used as a symbol at Python’s most celebrated temple—the shrine of Python Apollo at Delphi in Greece—and engraved in plaques of gold, silver and wood.

The words of the devil would have given the game away as to Python’s involvement in the temptation.

If You are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.

Matthew 4:3 NIV

If You are the Son of God, throw yourself down.

Matthew 4:5 NIV

All this I will give You, if You will bow down and worship me.

Matthew 4:9 NIV

Back in sessions 16 and 17, I looked at the Hebrew word for if and why it is associated with the rights of Python to test us.

If is normally a simple indicator of choice. But when Python faced Jesus, the ‘ifs’ became accusations.

This is Grace Drops and I’m Anne Hamilton. God grant you wisdom to choose the right ‘if’.

Thank you to Lorna Skinner of for the background music.

More on the spirit of Python can be found in the paperback or ebook, Dealing with Python: Spirit of Constriction, Strategies for the Threshold #1.