Jude stands in the darkness and waits, the eager guards at his shoulder. He can feel the breath of another man on the back of his neck, the heat of a torch not far from his right eye. He’s a big man, clumsy with it, but tonight he’s prepared, he won’t put a foot wrong. The group steps into view, Jesus up front. Jude watches as he slips away from the others. Jude waits for a moment or two then makes his move, as he goes he can hear the grunts of the guards behind him.
Jesus looks him right in the eye as he approaches, nods to him. There’s a flurry of movement, some embracing and Caiaphas saying, ‘Really? Betrayal with a kiss?’ Then the unleashing of weapons, some shouting, slashing and shoving. Three of the guards lose body parts as the disciples swing swords. There’s an aura around the place as a heavenly army seems to arrive with back up. More clashing of metal and slicing of skin. Blood pools in the dirt, splashes on their sandals. Peter loses the tip of a finger. Andrew takes a slice above his left eye. But James and John fight like tornados, felling everything in reach. Soon the guards drop back, the fighting is done and the group chase them from the garden.
Afterwards, after they have taken the High Priest’s House, and set out plans to secure the temple, Jude finds himself sitting opposite Jesus, sharing bread and wine.
‘You did well,’ Jesus says, ‘I knew I was right to choose you. None of the others could have set this up as you did. Well done, good and faithful servant.’
Jude smiles. Words he’s longed to here. Soon they will be in power and no doubt Jesus will need a right hand man. And he will be there to do it, Jesus is telling him this right now. Peter’s too impetuous, too flaky, John and James too loud, the sons of thunder too swaggering, and Andrew never really was leadership quality. Jude feels a pang of conscience and places a leather pouch on the table. He doesn’t need to open it, Jesus knows what’s inside. Every single piece of the thirty. ‘Take it and put it to good use,’ Jesus is saying. ‘You’ll know what to do. You’re good with money.’
Andrew passes and hands Judas a coil of rope. Jude nods and takes it. They eat and separate. Jude takes the bag of money. Fills his palm and walks to the gates of the High priest’s House. A crowd of hopefuls from the nearby slums has gathered. They’re always on Jesus’s tail. Judas lifts his fist and flings the coins towards them. There’s a tumble of bodies and a tussles of fingers and the money is dispersed. Seems so little when shared amongst this bunch. He takes the rope, walks to where Caiaphas is coiled up in a corner, his face like stone.
‘Let’s get this over with,’ Jude says and he grabs the priest’s shoulder and hikes him to his feet. They walk to a tree, Caiaphas offering him a deal as they go. Jude says nothing. Stops under the branch, hurls the rope over, scarfs it around Caiaphas’s neck. With the help of James and John they haul him up, feet kicking, body sending out spasms. It’s not the most efficient of executions. The professionals do it better. But little by little the breath is gone. The enemy extinguished. They leave him hanging. James laughs and pushes Jude. Too hard actually, he is sent sprawling and catches his head on a nearby rock. His eyes stay shut for a moment. The boisterous James and John fade away. He clambers up eventually. It is quiet. Only him and the night. No sign of Jesus or the others. Even Caiaphas has not hung around. It’s over. It’ll never be. He knows that now.
Jude stands in the darkness and waits, regrets at his shoulder. His head full of if onlys. He can feel the chill of the night on the back of his neck, the heat of regret in his being. It could have been so different. Could have been Caiaphas hanging on the rope in front of him. But no. It’ll be his body twitching there, his corpse fighting for a last minute of life. ‘Why? Why wouldn’t Jesus do it my way, why wouldn’t he see it as I did? Why couldn’t I influence him… control him?’ He’d thought it through so carefully, laid his plans, envisioned success. He shakes his head and sighs, his knuckles showing white on his fists as he walks towards the tree…
Isaiah 55 vv 8-9