Did I care? How could I not care? He was everything to me. He is all I have lived for these forty years. I suppose I can understand how it happened - why it happened. There but for the grace of God! I suppose I've even forgiven .... I know that He'd want me to - but I can never forget! Perhaps it just had to happen that way.
Was I jealous? I had no need to be! At first I didn't realize what was
the matter. After all, I was little more than a child. The Master's boy!
Later on I felt pity and even tried to help him in my faltering inadequate
way, but I think that only made things harder for him. I don't think it
was my interfering that drove him to it. I think he was set on his course
in spite of anything that I could have done. After all, it wasn't me that
was the issue. It was him!
I suppose he was jealous of me, though. It would have been heroic of him not to have been. He must have suffered terribly to do such a thing. Did he ever forgive himself? Somehow I doubt it, he was too noble to do that; too proud, too principled. I pray that he finds peace. I owe him at least that. He has few others to pray for him.
What did His mother think of it all? She couldn't understand. She adored Him - but didn't we all? She was so innocent. Unsullied by this world. In her heart she couldn't accept that anyone could have reason to harm Him - least of all one of his friends, and we were all his friends: He told us that at the last.
What of my brother? I never really knew what he made of it all. He was part of the inner circle, but he never discussed these matters with me, and he died not so long after. I wish it had been me instead.
What of Peter? Oh, he was out of his bumbling, well meaning depth. I don't think he ever really understood. Heart of gold, brain of straw. The rumours we put about have his name written all over them! I went along with them, though. I'm not trying to say that I wasn't to blame. I knew better. I could have stopped it. I chose not to. I hope he forgives me.
Why don't you ask me about Lazarus? It all began with Lazarus. Lazarus and his sisters. Now that was a house! Famous for miles. He always mixed with that sort. He had no time for the respectable. He always said that they had no need for him - were blind to their need, I'd say! I think the first time we sampled Lazarus' hospitality was after He'd rescued Mary from the mob, that day in the Temple. I think she fell for Him on first sight - she owed Him her life after all, and His presence was something else. You couldn't meet Him and not have your life changed one way or another, and that was frightening.
He was a sign of contradiction. You saw yourself in his eyes as He saw you, and it was never comfortable - but you also saw His unconditional love for you. At that moment you had to decide: whether you were for Him, in spite of yourself; or against Him, in spite of yourself. At least, that's how I felt - and it's how Mary behaved, so I guess she felt the same.
I can still remember the look of amazement in Lazarus' eyes when we turned up at his doors. Disbelief became fear; became shame; became defiance; became capitulation, in a moment as He said "Peace be with you". The house emptied! Clients tumbled out onto the street in disarray. Bethany never forgot the day that Lazarus' house was purged! All the sisters left, except Mary and Martha. Those two were inseparable - like Naomi and Ruth of old - and they stood by Lazarus till the end. That night the best wine came out and we celebrated The Kingdom till the small hours.
When things quietened down, it became obvious that something was going on. Jesus and Lazarus were deep in conversation, and a joy shone on Lazarus' face as I have never seen before or since. For the first time in my life I knew what it was to be excluded, but then Jesus beckoned and Lazarus nodded with a smile, and I knew that everything was all right. I went over to join them and we talked of the mysteries of life and of love and of laughter. Eventually, first Mary and then Martha joined us. I don't think we slept a wink that night, but when the sun rose I was as refreshed as if I'd spent the night on a feather bed in Herod's palace!
That was the first of many visits. Whenever the demands of the crowd became too much for him, Jesus would set off for Bethany. Somehow, Lazarus always seemed to be expecting us, Martha would have prepared a meal and Mary would meet us on the outskirts of the town with all the news.
I don't know how the others took it. These three were not part of the normal following - after all, they didn't follow! They seemed to be - home, I guess that's the only way of describing it, home! I suppose he needed that, after the way he was treated at Nazareth. His Mother had to stay there on the whole - she had family commitments, after all - but once or twice she too found her own way to the House at Bethany.
Yes I was bitter! What do you expect? Good name, good looks - and a pure heart I had. I think only John understood Him any better - but He had time for John. Somehow after we first met ... and something clicked, something ran away with my mind, my heart and my soul - He smiled at me (a crooked smile that spoke of pain as well as love). He never had time for me. Oh, He put me in charge of the money and always expected me to have everything organized (I ran the show, if the truth be known!) and He never criticized me - but He never thanked me, He never praised me. It was as if I wasn't there. The invisible man. The unloved. At first I thought that if I poured out my soul for Him, showed how I could anticipate His every desire (and I could!), that He would appreciate me - but it was a thankless task. The more invaluable I made myself, the more invisible I became. I was taken ever more for granted.
We were at Bethany every other week, or so it seemed. The women waited on Him hand and foot, and were thanked. More! They were involved in the most intimate conversations along with John and Lazarus. Peter and James never had a look in, let alone me. More than once I sobbed myself to sleep. Once Nathaniel heard me and asked what was wrong - sweet boy - but I couldn't bring myself too explain. I'm sorry to say that I think I may have been quite harsh with him.
Towards the end I was clutching at straws. I thought of speaking to John, but couldn't summon up the courage - and what could I have said, anyhow? What good would it have done? Then Jesus announced that Lazarus was dead and that we were going to Bethany once more.
Peter and James protested it wasn't safe to go south so close to the Passover. The authorities were looking for any excuse to act against us. I knew they were right - only repeating what Nichodemus had said the week before, but I knew He'd take no notice. Stubborn? When He decided on a course of action, woe betide anyone who stood in His way! "Begone, Satan!" that's what He'd likely say to anyone who dared to contradict Him. Tolerance was not His prominent virtue. "Are you with me or against me?" that was more His style!
As I recall, it was Thomas who broke the ice: "Look, he's going whether we approve or not! Who are we to tell You what to do, anyhow, Lord? I don't know about you lot, but if the Master is going to Judea and if it's time for me to die by His side, why that's good enough for me!"
Thomas had the size of things very well.
On the way to Bethany, we were met by Martha. Her eyes were red with tears, her mouth bitter with recriminations. "The one you love is dead!" she told Jesus. "You are Life itself. If you'd hurried to his side you would have saved him. Death wouldn't abide your presence!" How wrong she was. He made no answer, He didn't refuse her confidence, He didn't defend his negligence. But how could He have known to come any earlier? How did He know to come at all? It wasn't fair! Why did He bother with these people anyway? They were the lowest sort! How could a few tears make up for a life's whoring? How could tears make up for the betrayal of love, for the death of hope - when only cold faith remains?
Later on Mary appeared. Chalk and cheese. Calm like the eye of the storm. She was distressed all right, but she bore it as an emblem of faith - as if she knew what was going to happen. Jesus said "Show me, my dear" and she nodded and took him by the hand and led him to the grave.
After days of restraint, the tears welled forth. His darling was dead. His Sacred Heart began to break that day, and I don't think it will ever heal - but the precious blood that wells there is impotent to satisfy those who deny their love. The Unforgiven.
He prayed aloud. He admitted putting off his arrival so that Lazarus would die! He asked Lazarus' forgiveness. He groaned as if his own life was over.
He had the stone rolled away and entered the tomb. We heard him call out "Lazarus, come back to me!" He reached down and raised up the corpse, and it walked from the grave with him.
Jesus took Lazarus in his arms and gently removed the grave bands. Lazarus seemed bemused, as if waking from the deepest slumber, but he smiled a child's contented smile - safe in Jesus' arms. "Stay a while with me, Lord of my Life," he begged, and Jesus replied: "I will".
Lazarus was the same and yet different. At peace, and happy like I've never seen anyone. No false grin, as you see on the face of a fanatic: a whistfulness; sorrow and regret were mixed in with the undemonstrative joy that danced just behind his eyes.
The dinner we had that night was the second most memorable of my life. Jesus was so tender with Lazarus. For once John made way at table and Lazarus shared the Master's couch. I yearned for his arms. No one dared to ask or say anything. We'd seen prodigies before, but now none of our certainties were certain. This man was more than Messiah. He made my flesh creep. It was exciting and eerie and fearful to be near him, only love could cast out this fear. I loved Him so much.
Martha and Mary were so happy. John was adoring. Thomas smug - as if he'd known this would happen all along! Peter was bemused.
Of course, once the rumours started to circulate, there was no hope for Jesus. This story was just too big and too well attested. The priests had put up with Him till now. No more: they simply couldn't tolerate this!
Things all started to go obviously wrong when Simon Ben Micah invited us to dinner a week later. Simon was a Pharisee. I never was sure whether this was an honest invitation or a put-up job. Lazarus, Jesus and the Twelve were guests of honour, and Martha and Mary were invited to act as hostesses alongside Simon's wife and two daughters.
At first the dinner went well enough. Simon made polite conversation with Peter and James, then tried to ascertain from Lazarus what memory he had of death. He was disappointed when Lazarus first claimed not to recall a great deal and then declined to say what he did recall. Jesus made some remark about how the living should concern themselves with life and let death take care of itself. I remember wondering how Simon would respond - the Pharisees were interested in life after death and this sounded like a rebuttal of their beliefs - but he never had a chance, for at that moment a commotion was to be heard coming from the kitchen, then Mary burst into the room, all in tears.
She ran and fell down at the foot of Jesus' couch and began to anoint him with fragrant oil. The conversation ground to a halt as the exotic scent filled the room. At last Simon spoke: "What are you doing, woman? That ointment must be worth a prince's ransom. Such profligacy doesn't become your master!"
Jesus looked at Simon. Such a pained expression I have never seen. He beckoned for Mary to approach him, gave her a kiss and sat her down on his couch; indicating that John should get up from his place to make room for her. Someone took in a sharp breath. It was unheard of to share a dinner couch with a woman!
"Oh, Simon!" Jesus sighed. "Are you such a stranger to love? I have forgiven this child very much, and she loves me truly because of it. More: she knows that I shall soon be taken from her by those who refuse my forgiveness, and her heart is breaking because of it. How shall I deny her this ministry? In this loveless world, her act is as great a solace to me as it is to her. There will always be good causes for you to lavish your charity on - and be sure that you do so - but I shall not be with you much longer: so take your opportunities as you may. I tell you that Mary will be remembered for this act of burning love until the end of the world: and you for your cold heart."
Oh that did not go down well! John was in tears and Simon was speechless. After a few minutes, Jesus got up and we all made our excuses and left.
That night I went to Him. I had no nard. Though I was charged with what little money we had, I didn't spend it on perfume. All I had was my love. For once He welcomed me. Such sorrowful eyes. He accepted my tears as a libation. He took me in His arms, and I held Him tight to my breast. I felt his heart beating next to mine, and for a moment I knew peace in my life. He finished up comforting me; though I had gone to comfort Him. Then He told me to go and never seek His presence again. I don't know what I said or did to offend Him. I couldn't have done anything, I didn't have the chance!
From the heights to the depths. I was shattered. I thought that for a moment I had his love, but then it seemed he'd just been playing with me. He was everything to me and I was nothing to Him! Why had He ever taken me to Him? It was much worse to have known His love and to have lost it than never to have know it at all! I fled into the night.
From that day my heart was bitter inside me. Every sign of affection for anyone - especially John - twisted the knife that pierced my heart. My pain must have been visible because Matthew asked what was wrong and if he could help, but I gave him short shrift.
God help me!
Judas was in a very strange frame of mind. His eyes followed my Son like beacons, and tears never seemed far from them. He seemed to be in great anguish of soul. My stomach turned over. Something told me that here before me was great peril, both for my Son and for his Friend. My heart went out to Judas and I spoke words of comfort to him. He collapsed on my breast. He couldn't speak, but somehow we seemed to share something unspeakable. I was filled with a whelling horror and an impulse to cast this man from me, but I refused. Somehow I knew that this was my greatest test, and that if I pushed this man from me a great harm would befall the world - so I hugged him tight and embraced the pain. A sword pierced my soul.
"Whatever happens, know that I will always be a mother for you, Judas" I said. "I don't know what you're feeling or why, and it doesn't matter. It only matters that you love Him and that you're hurting."
I wiped away his tears and he left me. I never knew if I did the right thing, or if it helped. I can't understand why he should have done what he did. I shall never understand, but I forgive him.
So much pain.
Why did I treat Judas so? Of course I loved him - I loved them all! Oh there was a special place in my heart for Lazarus and another for John, they were my darlings - my consolations in this world - a reminder that the life my Father gave wasn't meant meant to be trouble, strife and pain but only joy! Judas could never be that, he was always a pain in my heart.
But yes - I must not avoid the point - I loved him. When I first saw him, I knew that he was my destiny, my partner in the dance that would lead to my death. Only one who loved me so well could play that part, and my heart went out to him in ecstatic fearful recognition. I was as a naive virgin before him, for he was to overcome me; by my will, but also by his. This was a thrill for me as nothing else could be, for the Master to be mastered is a terrible thing. Not least for the Master.
I knew that it was necessary for me to plumb the depths of depravatity, or I could not light up the darkest places. For that I was borne into the world. To deny the darkness. To bare witness without compromise to the truth. To shout it out when no-one would listen; to proclaim "Justice and Mercy" in season and out of season. To shine Truth's revealing light both where it was a comfort and where it was no such thing - for in the end Truth is all that matters and though it may hurt it always heals and brings freedom.
It was necessary for me to know the kiss of betrayed love, the anguish of utter loss of friendship, even the loneliness of separation from My Father.
Infinitely necessary but infinitely regrettable.
Yes, he was sorry. Of course he was sorry. You don't kill the thing you love without living to regret it. I tried to comfort him, though - to be honest - I felt like tearing his heart out. I failed.
It seems he felt that the Master had in some way slighted him, and in desperation to revenge himself he had believed the half-truths fed him by Simon BarMicah. I suppose Simon had noted Judas' unease at the fiasco at Bethany a fortnight earlier and had made the opportunity to approach him with a proposal to "put Jesus in his place". There was to be no question of executing "the rabble rouser", as this would "make a martyr" of Him but only of humiliating Him before the Council.
In the end, Judas agreed to help the Sanhedran to abduct Jesus with as little fuss as possible on the understanding that he would eventually be released.
Well, you know how the story continues, that bit of the folk-lore is true. We went to Gethsemene after supper, as was our custom when staying in Jerusalem. Most unusually, Jesus insisted on staying there until the small hours. It was as if he was waiting for something to happen - and it did!
When Jesus was arrested we all fled. I can't rightly recall what I did those next few hours. All I know is that I eventually found my way back to our lodgings, John-Mark's house and there bumped into Judas.
Yes he was sorry, but I don't know if he was ever able to forgive himself.
There is always hope.
The stories about Lazarus were just too much, something had to be done. It was quite bad enough that Jesus was said to have favoured a filthy Roman by healing his catamite - and complimented the swine on "his faith". What do I care if the Roman was "sympathetic" to our cause? They are all the same; dissipated, degenerate, depraved, perfidious!
It was insufferable that he sought the company of low-life: whores; pimps and collaborators and made these oddballs his closest disciples. It cried to high heaven for vengeance that he consorted with Lazarus, corruption of corruptions, and kept a boy himself! A pseudo-rabbi following barbaric customs!
How dare he call us "whited sepulchres" our concern is to maintain the purity of the Faith, to preserve standards of public morality and to uphold the Law. All that he said and did was contrary to this. Without order there is only chaos and morbidity. In attacking us he attacked the Law itself, and the principal of Law: family life; piety; deference to authority; and denial of self in favour of the common good. All these bulwarks of society he would have swept aside! No decent man could abide this.
It was worth putting up with his insults, though, to have one of his own turn against him. I guess that Judas must have thought he'd gone too far that night. I could see the marks of disillusionment gathering on his face, so I wasn't surprised when he agreed to meet with me three days later.
I fed Judas the story the Council had agreed upon. Jesus had to be taken down a peg or two. To this end He was to be hauled up before the Sanhedran and be made to look a fool, but we'd need to spirit Him away out of the sight of his adoring public or there'd be a riot. We had to present the mob with a fait acompli, so that they would react to the spectacle of a humiliated pseudo-Messiah rather than a wronged people's hero. He lapped this up. Naturally, we had no intention of letting Jesus off so lightly. In point of fact, the High Priest had already cleared the principal of an execution with Pilate, but Judas wasn't to know that.
He wasn't interested in payment, but I insisted. The Council didn't want it looking as if he was on the inside of a conspiracy. Thirty pieces of Roman silver, he unwillingly took. We wanted to be able to say that we'd bought him and so be able to undermine his credibility, whatever he might say against us in the future. We needn't have bothered, his erstwhile comrades did our work for us!
Agony upon agony.
At least John would remember something of my words, I knew that and took comfort from the fact.
They still didn't understand that all I had to say was that God is Love: Absolutely - and that they must live out this fact in their lives: defer to each other; cherish each other; serve each other; seek to understand and affirm each other; rejoice in each other. I scandalized them by my insistence. They persisted in seeing me only as Master; as Lord; as Commander: they would not see me as Lover and Beloved. So I stripped off my tunic and stood exposed before them, as vulnerable as a slave, and washed their feet. I showed myself to them: yearning that they might understand what Love meant. Even so they twisted it. Some saw it as an act of personal humiliation, of self-sacrifice, while others took it as the enactment of some new purification ritual: as if the baptism they had already received in my Spirit wasn't enough!
I despaired of them!
Judas flinched when I touched his feet, as if a snake had bitten his heel, but I did not flinch from honouring him, it was the least that I could do. If there had been any other way for him and for me....
Even after my lesson in love, they began to argue who should have precedence at table.
"Enough! John, come to my side; Judas at my right; Peter lie there...."I placed them according to my will. As always, John shared my couch as was his proper place; but Judas had the place of honour. Somehow we understood each other.
Then I set the action in motion.
"Blessed Art Thou, King of the Universe!I passed the chalice to Judas, and our last supper together began.
From your abundance comes this cup of wine:
joy for our hearts and solace for our souls!
I shall not drink again with you, my friends,
until the coming of the Kingdom of My Father."
"One of you is to betray me."They didn't like that! Stunned silence then frantic speculation. Denial. No one dared ask me who.
"My destiny lies before me as it may,Silence.
and I freely accept My Father's Will:
but sorrowful is the heart and
sad the path of he who paves my way."
At last Peter dared as much as to nudge John and whisper "Ask him who, boy!"
As if I couldn't hear him!
"Who do you mean, Master?", John murmured in my ear.
"He who I now honour, my love." I replied, quietly.I took bread, broke it and offered it to my friend, to my master, to my betrayer, to my lover, to my overcomer - to all of these. To Judas.
He took the morsel from me with a grimace. I felt the pain in his soul. I yearned to reach out, to touch and heal, but was constrained. We each had our sufferings, Judas and I. We needed each other.
"I am sorry, my friend," I thought.He arose and went out into the dark.
"What you must do, go now and do quickly!" I said.
He gave me wine to drink, then bread to eat, then sent me on my way into the darkness. The scape-goat for all eternity. Always to be blamed, to be held responsible, to be dismissed and berated. As if you haven't done the same yourself! Love is a terrible thing. It so easily becomes jealousy and hatred and resentment and revenge - but you know that, I think!
I fled that place of homely light and warmth, of brotherhood, family and friendship. I passed from the Kingdom of Love into the Kingdom of Madness and began my tumble into infinity.
I met with the captain of the temple guard as agreed and told him to have his cohort ready, then I returned to wait outside John-Mark's house for the fellowship to emerge. The wait was an eternity. Within me, my blood ran cold.
At last they appeared. I hid in a doorway. I'm sure that He saw me.
But He made no sign.
If he'd have beckoned me, perhaps I'd have run to Him and poured out my soul at His feet and begged His forgiveness with my tears and perhaps He'd have lifted my to my feet and held me in His arms.
"I am the Way, the Truth and the Life!" He said.
But He made no sign.
I followed Him. I knew where He was going. He always went to Gethsemene. Once they passed through the Eye of the Needle they started to sing Psalms.
"I will bless The Lord at all times,I followed in silence.
His praise shall always be on my lips.
My soul boasts in the Lord,
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Come, praise the Lord with me,
let us exalt His Name together!"
"Stay awake and hold vigil with me tonight. Pray that you do not fall prey to the darkness!" I heard Him say. Then He walked towards my hiding place, and fell on His knees in anguished prayer.
Startled, I made to go, but His presence held me. I couldn't leave that place. The world stopped in its tracks. Nature could not allow that I would do what I had determined to do: but do it I would. I would be invisible no longer. I would make Him notice me, to take account of me - if not love and value me. He had hurt me so badly, I would make Him hurt in return. I loved Him and now I hated Him. If I couldn't make Him love me, then I could surely make Him hate me!
How wrong I was.
"Father, please take this bitter cup away from me!"
Then the figure of Lazarus loomed out of the dark. A young man, wearing only a linen sheet.
The tension snapped. I was free. Free falling.
"Enough!" I heard him say. "He is come for me, and I must be on my way."
I was confused, wondering at His meaning. Then I recognized Judas approaching at the head of a small crowd. I relaxed. It seemed that Jesus had indeed sent Judas on a confidential errand and he was now returning. Perhaps these were people of Nichodemus' party, eager to meet with the Master by night. Perhaps this Passover would see Jesus acclaimed by the Sanhedran, I thought - fool that I was!
Judas approached Jesus. "My friend, why are you hear?" Jesus asked, a pained expression on his face.
Judas simply bowed and said "Master" in a loud voice and kissed Jesus. Then uproar, as it became clear that the crowd that were following behind Judas was a cohort of soldiers not Elders of the Council.
"Whom do you seek?" Jesus' voice lifted above the shouting.
"Jesus of Nazareth!" cried a voice from the crowd.
"Well, I am He," the Master replied. "Let these others go."
The crowd fell back, deterred by nothing more than the command in his voice. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Matthew turn to flee. I guess the others had gone already. I panicked, drew the short sword I was carrying and lashed out at Judas. He squealed in pain as I took off his ear!
"Put the sword away, Peter." he said to me, quietly. Then in a loud voice "Shall I not drink this cup, that my Father has given me?" He reached out, and the ear was restored.
Then I fled too.
To teach you a lesson, Lord! To force you to notice me. To force you to cry out to me for mercy.
To betray you, my Love.
He left with the soldiers so meekly. Like a lamb taken by the Levites from the field to the Altar of Sacrifice, knowing nothing of its fate - and so calm.
But He knew!
I found myself alone in the garden. The soldiers were well on their way back up the valley, the din of their passage fading into the distance. The others had fled in fear for their lives. The Pascal moon shone close to full. Still and certain in the sky. The stars were dimmed by its brilliance.
I was alone. So alone.
Why am I here?
I made my way back to the City; to the house of Caiaphas, the High Priest, but I was refused admittance. A dread dawned upon my soul. Hours later the doors burst open and there He was. He had been beaten and was manacled. He was taken off in the direction of the Prefecture. Then I knew the truth of it - what I had done. They were going to turn the Master over to their master as I had turned Him over to them!
I was undone.
I forced my way inside and stood before the elders still gathered around the High Priest. "I have betrayed innocent blood!" I cried.
"What affair is that of ours?" replied Simon BenMicah. "You have been paid, be on your way!"
I threw the blood money at their feet and fled.
The sun rose over the Kidron valley as I ran without
At first Martha couldn't understand his story. He seemed quite mad to her. Then the truth gradually forced itself on her and she was beside herself. By the time we decided to make our way back to Jerusalem it was too late. First Thomas, then Andrew and Nathaniel arrived with the news that the Master was dead.
They shunned Judas.
"How can you harbour him, after what he did?" Nathaniel demanded.
"Because it is what the Master wanted, and because I think I can half understand what happened." I said.
Judas would not show his face, but cowered in a darkened room at the rear of the house - refusing food and drink. Still, I went to him. I didn't speak (what was there to say?) but somehow my heart understood. Perhaps it was some intuition from the time I slept, perhaps a silent word of wisdom, perhaps it was just simple compassion. I kept silent vigil with Judas. In that silence, heart spoke to heart.
On the third day, He came to us.