I hid in the olive grove until sunrise tormented by what I had done. How could I have deceived myself into believing the rabbi was a military general? He was simply a good man, a prophet. He was not one to make war. I was harassed by memories of his voice.
I hid my face with my shawl, and made my way back to Jerusalem to discover the fate of my teacher. I went to the house of Abbas, my friend, for the news.
“Judas! Come in and celebrate with us!” Abbas cried when he saw me. He thrust a wine cup into my hand and slapped me across the back. I stared at him blankly, uncomprehending.
Pinching my cheek roughly, he said, “Silly boy! Haven’t you heard the news? Where are your ears?” He checked the sides of my head, smirking. “It is being shouted from the rooftops! The son of Abbas is reprieved of all crimes. My son is free!” Abbas danced around the room in joy.
“What? How?” I asked.
“Governor Pilate gave the people a choice for Passover amnesty, and they chose my son!”
I grabbed the man by his shoulders to make him stand still.
“A choice? Who was the other prisoner?” I could feel my face flushing and my legs began to weaken.
Abbas buried his index finger in my chest.
“Your rabbi!” The man I once called a friend laughed at my misery. “Some messiah he is.”
“Trust those Romans fools to convict the innocent and release the guilty,” I said under my breath.
“Eh? What’s that? The Romans? No boy, it was the Jews who demanded it. My son, he is a hero of the people!” the old man said in earnest. “The people demanded your Rabbi Yeshua be crucified.”
Crucified? Already? The sun had just risen! It was only six hours ago that he was arrested! When did they have time to hold a proper trial?
Bitterly, I shrugged off the old man’s presence and ran through the streets, up the stairs and into the temple. I pushed through the old men crowding the Court of the Women and into the Men’s Court, when a priest collared me and prevented my entry.
“You are uncovered and unclean,” he said motioning to my bare head and the dried blood on my hands and sleeves.
“I’ve done something terrible, sir.”
My anguished emotions and dashed hopes came out in one gasp of agony. I fell to my knees and touched the tassels on his robe, sobbing.
The priest, angered that I’d spread my uncleanness to him, gripped my elbow and pulled me into an inner room and said, “Wait here.”
That, I could not do. Immediately, I pulled the money sack I’d been given, jingling with 30 pieces of my broken heart inside and re-entered the court. I covered my head with my shawl and stalked into the Men’s Court, up to the group of chief priests officiating the morning service.
“I’ve done something and you must fix it.” I looked at each of the men hoping to find a glimmer of pity. I found arrogant disapproval. I tried again because there was nothing left to do but beg. I dropped to my knees.
“Take it.” I held out the coin sack to the nearest priest. “I made a mistake. I never meant for Rabbi Yeshua to be crucified!”
“So what?” the son of Caiaphas, the high priest said. “It’s not our fault he was convicted of crimes against the state.”
My head thundered.
“But he is innocent! You know he is no Zealot!”
The priest shrugged and turned his back to me. The others joined him at the treasury door and went inside. I hurled the coins after them and erupted with rage. I ripped my tunic from neck to hem, screaming for Yahweh to bring justice on these men and me.
I cannot bear what I have done. My guilt … how can I live with it? I am a dead man, and there is no Yeshua to raise me.