I first heard of Jesus of Nazareth one day around the well in town. My neighbor Zebedee had heard him speaking in Galilee, quoting the old prophet Isaiah, saying “repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Zebedee dismissed this Jesus as kind of a long-haired crackpot, stirring up people and developing a pack of followers. Zebedee’s distrust of Jesus probably had something to do with the fact that two of his sons dropped their fishing nets right in the middle of work and left their father to follow Jesus. But I wanted to see what Jesus was up to, so when I heard that he was preaching from the mountain, I went with the crowds to hear him.
There were so many people who were there that day. I knew right away that Jesus was special. He spoke words of love, yet followed them by words of judgment. He went out of his way to separate us righteous people from the unrighteous ones. All we had to do was to live according to the law, and make sure that others lived according to the law as well. I can do that. And I can definitely help others to see where they fall short of the law.
After his teaching, I pushed to the front of the crowds to see Jesus. I just had to tell him how much he inspired me to be a better person and to help others be better people too. He was talking with an elderly woman who was bent over in pain. Why he was wasting his time with that old woman, I have no idea. He should be talking to bright young leaders in the faith. People who could actually make a difference in bringing about the kingdom of God. I asked if I could follow Jesus, be one of his disciples. He was still talking to that woman, but nodded slowly, his eyes meeting mine. There was something there, a touch of sadness or exhaustion or something. Jesus, I said, you won’t be disappointed in me! I am with you all the way. Just tell me what to do!
There were twelve of us. Jesus sent us out all over the countryside to do healings and to proclaim the good news that the kingdom of heaven has come near. Jesus did some amazing stuff, like casting out demons and feeding five thousand people and healing the sick. But the crowds never got to see what he was really capable of. Like when we disciples saw him walk on water.
But what I never really understood was why Jesus spent so much time with sick people, and old people, and invited little children to come to him. Jesus had real power, and I don’t understand why he wouldn’t use it to make his own life better, and our lives better. We were always scrambling for a few coins to eat and always begging for hospitality from others. When we got into Jerusalem, I started hearing the rumors…”This Jesus is the king of the Jews”….”Jesus is the Son of Man”…and the talk from the soldiers and the chief priests that they wanted to bring Jesus to trial. I knew that if Jesus just showed them what he was capable of, the power and might that he had, the truth would be revealed. I had to do something.
I went to the High Priest’s house. “What will you give me if I take you to Jesus?” They gave me thirty pieces of silver. I knew that we could use this money in our work as disciples, we wouldn’t be hungry again. I just wanted to force Jesus to show the priests and elders that he was not a traitor to the faith, that he was truly the Son of God. “Jesus and the other disciples are having a Passover meal right now. I will take you to them. The man that I kiss is Jesus.”
I took the priests and elders to the upper room. Jesus eyes met mine, he said, “do quickly what you must do.” I kissed him. Then I turned and walked down the stairs. I hid in the darkness. I hope that Jesus would perform some sign, some miracle. Some way to show them that he really is the Son of God. Instead, the crowd started to beat Jesus and drag him away. They wanted him dead. This is not how this was supposed to be. I fled down the stairs and into the street.
I ran to temple and threw down the thirty pieces of silver onto the stone floor. I shouted, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.”
What have I done?!