Sights and sounds, despite the chaos that surrounded the situation, began to slowly diminish as my eyes, no longer upon Jesus, gazed now on Peter in the near distance; had I just heard with clarity what I never thought possible? Jesus too looked directly at Peter, deep into his eyes, with a look of sheer disbelief, as Peter emphatically denied his association with him to the accuser also nearby. I, myself, had been the recipient of the same look of pain just hours earlier after kissing Jesus on the cheek amongst the guards that I had willfully led to his location. His words pierced my very soul, âJudas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?â The cock that crew, eerily in its timing, echoed through the confines of the room, and Peter, as if all were looking upon him, immediately began to weep and ran from our presence and into the coolness of the morning.
I could not comprehend what I had just witnessed. I had always been the least of the twelve, always feeling inferior in the presence of the others, always somewhat considered the least, and always lingering on the outskirts of intimacy with Him; at least that was my inner perception. But not Peter, he was the one that spoke with authority when Jesus asked us âwhom say ye that I amâ noting eloquently and with surety that âthou are the Christ, and the Son of the living Godâ? I heard him clearly that day, along with the others, as Jesus prophesied over his life that he was âPeter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.â My innermost emotions were in turmoil.
It was no surprise that I would betray Jesus, but not Peter. Where were the rest of us that had given of our very lives to follow Him? We all, for three years, lived closely with Jesus, willingly traveled miles untold, listened intently to his teachings, witnessed unbelievable healings, participated in the deliverance of unclean spirits and countless miracles of all manner, yet, Jesus, was now alone, except for me; I stood by guiltily, regretfully, as they relentlessly tormented Him that I truly loved but had forsaken entirely. Tears dropped uncontrollably and warmed my face as they disappeared into my beard. It was all too much for me, and I wavered, my knees all but buckling as I contemplated the extreme hurt of complete earthly abandonment that must have consumed Jesus.
Eventually, they led him away, to be delivered to Pontus Pilate, and his fate would now lay in the hands of our sworn enemy the Romans. How could this be? I walked the streets aimlessly, unaccompanied, as the crisp morning gave way to the impending heat of the day. The thirty pieces of silver weighed more than heavy on my being as I began to relive, with great despair, the last couple of days; my mind was tired yet small glimpses, snippets, one after the other, unfolded and played out to my dislike. I was a participant at times knowingly and still at other times so very at a loss as to my actionsâ¦
It all seemed to begin one evening, again desperately alone, when there was and entrance, into my very being, from and outside source, similar to the ones I had seen, and heard, depart as Jesus commanded them to flee from countless people, and I felt utterly helpless to its power. My inward thoughts were changing instantaneously; evil meditations and hate filled deliberations soon gave way to that of greed, the singular weakness that dominated my life, and I struggled to combat the imaginations that now had formed a plan to fulfill the lust that consumed me.
I found myself, not quite knowing how, in the very presence of the priests that wanted nothing less than the death of Jesus. How I had arranged this meeting is beyond my remembrance yet there I stood, negotiating with them for a sum of money if I would but betray Him, Jesus, into their hands. They were steadfast in their demands, I was as well, as the darkened eerie presence that now controlled me dictated my every thought. We agreed upon the 30 pieces of silver and I left, wandering the streets, once more alone, despondent, grasping the coins under my tunic, and what I thought would bring me much comfort with its fulfillment was more than heavy in my hand. I felt disgusted, I felt shame, I felt anger, and yet I felt so hopeless to my situation; how had I gotten to this place? I was simply lost.
Time crept by, each hour passing into the next, and I was incapable of feeling, any emotion, and though I knew clearly what I must soon carry out, I was excited to be in the presence of Jesus; there was an inexplicable peace that always loitered in and amongst his presence. I was to dine with him and the other disciples for the Passover meal and as I approached the upper room where we were to meet, I lingered outside of the door without their knowledge. I heard faintly concealed chatter behind the door, and I hesitated further still as I grasped the cool handle. Would Jesus know? He had that uncanny ability to see, beyond the norm, the thoughts of mere men. Would the eleven know? I was held captive, standing without, unable to move as I considered all of these questions and the answers that might accompany them.
It was a most intimate time as Jesusâ words dripped with a richness so unlike any other man that I had been privileged to encounter. I watched Jesus disrobe, and carefully, with the greatest of compassion, wash the feet of my fellow disciples. If I had felt shame before, it was but a foretaste of what I now experienced firsthand as I felt the sensitivity of his hands and their tenderness upon the feet that had walked many streets without purpose and unfortunately, now, with a purpose that entirely displeased me. Now below and directly in front of me with the vessel of water, He looked up at me, and without speaking a word, repeatedly cupped the water and allowed its warmth to cascade down and upon my weary feet. I sat, though surrounded by my peers, for the first time, with Jesus alone and to myself; it was as if there was no one else there as I experienced this outpouring of love, from one man to another. Howâ¦how could I betray this man? My resolve for such a cowardly task of disloyalty now wavered as the stirring of the water, from the basin, filled the room with its orchestration.
We would sit longer still, as in times past, listening to the words that would come forth from Jesus and in an instant, I noticed a change in his countenance. He, with hesitation, slowly looked out and into the room and into each of our eyes as silence fell upon us. With a voice cracking, almost not wanting to speak, he said, âverily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.â I felt a wave of shame envelope my entirety, running all over and through me as the quiet gave way to doubtful discussion and confusion. Others spoke amongst themselves, but I sat, silently, held bound by my thoughts of unfaithfulness.
He then said, âHe it is, to whom I shall give a sop when I have dipped it.â I watched Jesus, with my eyes cast down, incapable of looking up, slowly break a piece of bread from the larger loaf, and as if in slow motion, dip the bread into the cup. His eyes, also held low, eventually could not help but follow the rising of his head and without looking at anyone else, extended forth his hand ever so gradually and towards my direction. Still with my head down, his offering hanging in the air and directly in front of me, I refused to take it. It was so quiet, disturbingly quiet and the awkward moment grew to a crescendo waiting for a response; slowly I began to lift my eyes until they found his fixated upon me. I could no longer decline and reached out, sheepishly, and took the bread that betrayed the betrayer.
At that very moment the evil force, that earlier had influenced me viciously, did so once again with a matched possession. Jesus looked at me, dejected, and simply said, âthat thou doest, do quickly.â I rose from the table, bread in hand, still dripping with the wine, and walked away from the greatest love I had ever experienced and in to a dismal moment of uncertainty. Closing the door behind me, the creak broke the silence that remained in the room and I left not simply crying but weeping.
Father, I have toiled long, in an attempt to understand the mind of Iscariot. I wonder if we might ever truly know the turmoil that this man felt? It is easy in our flesh to judge him so very quickly but when we step back and consider that we too are wrapped in the same sinful covering, capable of the same betrayal and unfaithfulness, shall our hearts not turn from that of stone to ones of compassion?
That evening prior to his betrayal, I see Jesus, resolute, attempting so skillfully, to strengthen Iscariots resolve with the washing of his feet and with his most tender touch; surely Iscariot must have remembered the countless times that the hands of Jesus, placed ever so gently upon suspecting and unsuspecting people, brought healing and forgiveness as they massaged his feet with the same kindness, compassion and care? And finally, as in a last ditch effort, Jesus, hoping so very much, that the handing of the broken bread to him, in such a curious and significant way, would stir deep within Iscariot the moments of times past in their walk together and the desertion of so many disciples. âverily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the world.â
For a certainty, the presence that possessed him was not simply one, or a few of satanâs minions, but rather still and more exceedingly vicious satan himself as noted in thine word, âsatan entered into him.â Though I dare not give satan any credence, can we really begin to imagine the strength which consumed and compelled him to action that fateful night and beyond to that of a noose? Father, many of us reading and considering this life of Iscariot must painfully admit that we too are being held captive by darkened forces. We too are capable of being used as conduits of hate, unforgiveness, spewing words of condemnation, and judgement without even a thought as to the damage we are inflicting upon others. Forgive us Lord, we sit, we stand by, ashamedly guilty of such atrocities, and beg for thine forgiveness that you so wonderfully offered Iscariot that night.
Then there are some that might be reading, believers and non-believers alike on the precipice, held by loneliness, bound by depression, captive to anger, and enslaved by satanâs oppression or possession contemplating, as Iscariot, to simply end a life as it is known with an act that only he, satan, could desire. Iscariot would not see the crucifixion of Jesus and greater still His rising, nor receive the gift of thine Holy Spirit for he listened to the subtle voice that was darkened and acted too quickly. I wonder, if he would have just been patient, with himself, if he could have found that peace that so alluded him and experience the great love that hung on the cross, willingly, that he might have a life filled with possibility? Father, for that person, right now, we ask, that he and or she be reminded with a clarity, hearing you clearly, audibly if need be, of Jesusâ love and the glorious plans you have waiting for them if they will but submit to your will and your desire for their lives.
And Iscariotâ¦I have wept much considering his life. I am no theologian, nor will I argue with such, but I want for him, so very much, to be in your arms even as we speak; somehow I think he is. Will his life, one that held great value, though he be judged so harshly, speak through time, through the ages, through the pages of old, specific and to someone today? You have used so many men, so many women, to speak on your behalfâ¦use Iscariot today once more but let the story be rewritten with an acceptance of your offerings!