"What are you willing to give me to deliver him up to you?"
My own voice echoed in my mind as I ran down the dark alley. The coins clanked together softly in the bag attached to my belt. In my mind's eye, I saw them, gleaming red in the light of the torches as Caiphas counted them one by one.
I shook my head to clear it. That was then. Tonight, the conclusion of the bargain. The occasional dog barked in the distance, but I encountered none of the dirty beasts to impede my way. My running feet bore me swiftly down the narrow passage. Easily dodging any obstacles, I leapt lightly over the occasional pool of muck. The full moon illuminated the alleyway almost as clearly as daytime. I breathed thanks to God that there were no impediments to my destination! This swift passage could only be His doing.
I had to stop for a moment, and leaned up against a wall to catch my breath, which misted in the cool night air. I was assaulted by the smells of Passover supper, the acrid tang of wood smoke, the rotten stink of garbage. I tried to breath through my mouth.
I couldn't stop for long. Obviously I had not been as careful as I thought. Jesus must know something. A trickle of unease ran down my spine again as I recalled the supper I left only moments before, and his softly spoken words: "Truly I say to you that one of you will betray me".
Strange how his eyes had sought mine out. I had held his gaze steadily though, even made a joke. I don't think the others noticed.
It was then my courage had almost deserted me. After all, I had traveled with this man for three years. I had hoped and planned with the rest. Finally Israel would be free! But now here we were in Jerusalem, and what was he doing? Eating the Passover supper, and then the usual prayer at Gethsemane. If he truly was the Messiah, like he encouraged us to believe, he should have been gathering support, proclaiming himself. The whole city would have risen behind him the day he rode in on that donkey! But nothing. The others were confused too, especially Simon the Zealot. But only I am willing to do what must be done now; by myself, as usual.
I pushed myself away from the wall and sprinted ahead. Only two blocks to go now - I could glimpse the Temple's imposing edifice up ahead between the closely crowded buildings. As I entered the outer courtyard, I saw with relief that my messenger must have done his work. A crowd stood there, torches bobbing as they spoke quietly together. On its fringes I saw some Romans, firelight glinting off their armor. Gentile dogs! Caiphas' doing, I was sure.
As I pounded to a stop in front of them, an older man, whom I recognized from my visit to the high priests' quarters, stepped out to greet me.
"We must hurry!" I panted. "He's in the Gethsemane Garden."
The man nodded.
"How will we know him?" he asked.
"Let me go in ahead. He'll be the one I greet first."
He waited a moment until I had caught my breath, and then followed behind me as I led the way back. The mob shuffled behind, the Roman soldiers impassively escorting us. I despised their presence, but reluctantly admitted their need. There could be trouble.
I was worried that maybe Jesus would not be there, but as we entered the Garden I spotted him through the olive trees. Peter and John, as I expected, were not far from his side. The moon shone brightly, making his fine robe gleam white as he turned to me.
My step faltered in that moment, but I pressed on. God must want this. It's been too easy.
And it was easy. I grasped his shoulders and kissed him in greeting. But I wasn't prepared for his words.
"Friend, must you betray me with a kiss?"
I dropped my hands in shock even as the mob surged forward.
Then they were gone, the disciples scattered, the garden quiet under the moonlight. I stood forgotten. A dog howled , and suddenly I bent over and emptied my stomach violently. I leaned against a tree and wiped my mouth, dark triumph whirling around me.
Strange, I thought. He seemed so willing to go.
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