The Man We Never Knew

I knew him once, but then, maybe I didn’t. It all seems such a long time ago and things have become confusing. I’m not really sure about anything anymore. I don’t remember him being different from any other child. Never got into too much trouble, although, he did get lost once. To be honest, he was just one of the kids and I did not take much notice. As he got older I remember he used to like walking the hills in the early morning. Liked his own company, I guess – but you’d never know it when you were with him as he always seemed so glad to see you.

It was as a craftsman that I remember him most. For sure, he wasn’t quick, but everything was done with such care. The way he sharpened his tools. The way he worked the wood. The way he understood the grain. It was poetry. Everything with infinite care, everything just right. When he wasn’t busy, he’d practice with off-cuts. Always turning them into something useful, or maybe a toy for some child. He had this knack for knowing exactly what was needed and when. Odd that, now that I think of it, but I didn’t think anything of it then.

I remember going to see him one day when my own work was slack. He was such a pleasure to watch and to talk too. I had interrupted him in the middle of doing something difficult and almost apologised and left, but his welcome was such that I knew there was no need. He showed a piece he was practising on – not that I know why he was practising, it seemed pretty near perfect to me. But then, he had such an eye for detail and it clearly gave him pleasure.

It was while he was describing what he had been doing that old Miriam came in with a broken chair. Well, I am no expert, but if ever there was a chair beyond repair, that was it. He offered to make her another. Her face fell, she could barely make ends meet since her husband died. Yet, before she had a chance to say anything, he said he would be grateful if she’d let him, as it would give him a chance to practice a new joint he’d been working and if she were willing to make him one of her delicious cinnamon cakes, he’d consider it a good trade. It was amazing the way her face changed from despair, to puzzlement, to shear delight. We all burst out laughing at that point, the delight was so tangible. Makes me chuckle still. Of course, she knew that he was all-but giving her a new chair, but as she left, her head was held high. I have to admit though, that she does make really good cinnamon cakes, a real treat – so maybe had not made such a bad trade after all!

When he left, I assumed that he’d make something of himself. I think we all did. Then came all those rumours. We never knew what to make of them. It all seemed so strange, but now, looking back, well… Mind you, we didn’t see any miracles, not back then. He was just one of us, the man we had always known, but, I guess, we never really knew him after all.

Family Letter

Dear Sis,

Are you getting more used to the country yet, or are you still anxious to get back to the city? If it is any consolation, the prospect of revolution appears over, so it should be safe to return any time. To be honest, this may even go down as one of the quietest festivals on record. Once rumours of the events following the crucifixion began to circulate there was a noticeable cooling of the atmosphere. It certainly must have come as a shock to the High Priest that he did not stay dead! Anyway, things are decidedly subdued and there is even rumour that the Legion will leave early this year. Praise God!

This may come as a surprise, in view of my previous euphoria, but after my last letter I became quite depressed for a while. The wait for the Spirit had been longer than we expected and all that time got me thinking about Judas – he was one of my closest friends, after all. So, it is not just that he betrayed Jesus, but I felt betrayed too. I think we all felt it. After all, we all cared for him and I am sure he cared for us too, so none of us can quite believe what happened. I just want to grab him by the collar and demand an explanation, but that isn’t going to happen. It looks as though the rumours I told you about him last time are true, although the various stories don’t quite tie up, it is fairly certain that he is dead – and at his own hand.

Anyway, it has made my head spin. I was beginning to think I would go mad, but fortunately your brother did not go mad -though, no doubt, you may beg to differ! Anyway, John got me thinking on a different track. Judas was his friend too, but one day he made a comment that, “Knowing all, Jesus would have forgiven him.” It was a throw away line, but it had never crossed my mind before. Yet the more I thought about it the more certain I was that John was right. Jesus would have forgiven him. But it was more than that. When John said it, it was as though I physically felt the enormity of what Judas had done as a heavy weight that would crush me, but then I sensed Jesus love, and it was gone. I knew Jesus had forgiven. The crime had been weighed in a balance and, great as it was, it was as nothing to the love of Jesus. Jesus loved Judas, even when he was being betrayed! I just wished Judas could have understood that. If he had, then he might have been back with us, waiting for the Spirit Jesus promised. But such is not to be. It seems that he lost sight of Jesus and it all became too much, driving him half mad. So unnecessary.

Anyway, this parchment is nearly full so I will bring this to a close with one final bit of news. Peter and the leaders decided to appoint a new leader to bring the number back up to twelve – and they chose me! Actually, it was done by lot so this is not too much to brag about and I came in for some ribbing afterwards as the most unlikely leader imaginable! Still, even I could see the funny side. Anyway, I really am out of space now, so the rest will have to wait until you are back.

Love to the family,

Matthias

Caiaphas

The people were milling about in the temple courtyard, little realising what was soon to befall them. Caiaphas stood by the chamber window gazing at the scene. He held Pilate’s letter in his hand, a letter that had been read many times that morning. Pilate had chosen his words carefully, but his meaning was clear: Restore order, or Pilate would do it for him. There was no need to elaborate on the brutality that Pilate would use, but was there really anything he could do? While he was pondering their uncertain future, there was a knock at the door and the Captain of the Guard entered.

Caiaphas did not wait for the captain to speak. “Well? Have they taken the bait?”.

“Yes, my Lord,” the captain hesitated, “but nothing of use. We have had a dozen or so people come forward, but their stories do not agree, and none are close enough to help us to seize him. Shall I increase the reward?”

“No captain. Thirty silver pieces is more than enough. Raising the reward will draw greater attention to what we are doing, and even then I suspect the people we need would not come.”

“Is there nothing we can do, my lord?”

“There is always prayer, but there may be little else. Let us hope that God hears us.” With that Caiaphas dismissed the captain and returned to the window. The people still carried on as before. Best they don’t know, thought Caiaphas.

Caiaphas raised his hands to heaven. For over an hour he prayed, his voice reflecting the desperation he felt. There was a knock on the door and his servant entered.

“There is a ‘Judas’, son of Simon Iscariot, to see you, my lord.”

How many years had it been since he last saw Judas? It must have been more than five years ago. What had he been doing in those years? He did not recall Simon telling him, but then, he probably never asked. Yet now was not a time for catching up with family friends. “Tell him I am sorry. I would love to see him, but now is a bad time. Could he come back tomorrow?”

The servant left, but a few minutes later was back. “He said its urgent. Tomorrow would be too late. He is quite insistent, my lord.”

Caiaphas was annoyed that Judas had not gone away. he did not want the distraction, yet his friend’s son had never come like this before. “Very well, send him in, but tell him he can’t be long.”

Judas entered. “Greetings, Caiaphas.”

“Greetings Judas, and what brings you do my door? But before you start, you need to know there there is some serious trouble in the city, so this needs to be brief and, if you take my advise, you will flee the city as soon as you can. I fear a bloodbath.” Caiaphas could see Judas pause, something was going through the young man’s head, but Caiaphas could not tell what it was.

“I think I may have come for the same reason,” Judas said. “I have been travelling with the prophet Jesus, and I can see the trouble that he has caused.”

Caiaphas felt the goose bumps down his back as his hair stood on end. He could not believe what was happening. Surely, this was God’s answer to prayer.

 

 

 

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Judas

There was a dark cloud on the distant horizon. He could clearly see it. It threatened disaster for the people. It was so obvious to him, that he could not explain why Jesus could not see it – or was refusing too.

“I don’t get it,” his voice raised and excited, “you ride into Jerusalem on a donkey, encouraging all sorts of wild excitement from the crowd. You then make a huge commotion in the Temple and leave the whole city in uproar. Don’t you see that the people are now expecting a revolution? All done under the noses of the cursed Romans when they are here in force! And then we sneak off back to Bethany. There will be a riot! What on earth do you think you are playing at?”

Jesus was not threatened by Judas’ outburst. “I thought you wanted a revolution? Surely you are not scared now that it approaches?”

“No! And you know it. It’s not a revolution I’m scared of, it’s this half revolution that you seem to be planning. Where the people get stirred up, but without anyone to lead them. If you wanted a revolution, I don’t know anyone who would not lay their lives down for it. The people are ready to follow. But you don’t want to lead them, do you? This won’t be a revolution, it will be a slaughter!” And then more calmly, “Don’t you see that?”

“So what would you have me do?”

Judas was exasperated by the man, a man who inspired such love and loyalty, but whom he could never figure out. “You need to choose to either lead this thing properly or, if you will forgive my bluntness, stick to being a wonder worker and prophet.” Judas paused. Getting this off his chest was helping him calm down and he knew he said more than he intended – or meant. “I’m sorry. It’s just that we’ve alerted the Romans to a revolt, and if we are not careful, the next thing will be the Romans decimating Jerusalem – just to teach us a lesson. Don’t you realise that Pilate is looking for an excuse to prove to us who is boss? And you seem to want to give it to him! We must either rise up properly, or lay the business down – at least for the time being.”

Their was a sadness in Jesus eyes, and his words were heavy as he spoke. “I am sorry Judas. I am sorry to have caused you this fear, it is indeed a hard road. Yet I must do what the Father bids me. I know that you cannot see that now, but you will. I too can see much suffering on this road. Yet, the fact remains, I must do what I need to do, just as you too must go and do what you need to do. It is a hard road for both of us.”

Judas got up and left. The conversation had come to an end. He knew that there was no moving the man once his mind was set. Jesus instinct had proved so good in the past, but not in this. Judas had tears in his eyes. He did not fully know why. Something in the sadness of Jesus’ last remark, but also in a sense of loss they he could not explain. A separation, that he neither looked for nor desired. It was this sadness, perhaps, that stopped him asking Jesus to explain his last remark. Was there something that he needed to do? He wasn’t sure, but he thought it might be worth talking to Caiaphas, a close friend of his fathers, and a man who might, just might, have enough influence to help prevent this impending disaster.

Matthias

The wall ahead is barely visible. The only light that has dared enter the prison is a thin ray in which the dust dances incongruously in the gloom. It announces the early morning in its stillness, broken only by the half-innocent scurrying I have been listening to most of the night, wondering what the rats had found. Whatever it was, it did not smell good. Clearly, the Romans had other priorities. Still, it took my mind off the sores that were reminding me that I am still alive – even if the shackles causing them suggested this might soon be rectified. It was strange. I felt oddly at peace, half wondering if some angels would come, as they once had for Peter and Paul. Yet, their work was not yet done, while mine appears to rapidly be coming to an end.

It has been an eventful journey, with few regrets. My childhood was a good one. My family loved me and were very encouraging when I wanted to follow John. They were less enthusiastic when I subsequently started following the Master, but they never made a big issue of it. They never understood him, but then I suppose none of us did really. Oddly enough, it was probably Judas who came closest to understanding, but even he got it wrong in the end. That was a sad chapter. I still miss Judas and it was perhaps why the lot fell on me to replace him. It caused a lot of amusement at the time! Yet it was a privilege, and it is what has led me here. Yet, even this feels a privilege. Odd. I don’t feel scared. Death seems to have so little meaning. A move from the shadows and into the light. The thought of the pain still bothers me though. I have to hold on to the fact that pain, at least, will pass.

Ah! I hear the guard coming. Soon it will be over.


The guards are rough. Ripped from my shackles and dragged to my feet. There is no ceremony here. Shouting commands, but not giving me time to respond before being forced to their will…


I remember the pain, or at least, I think I do. So much seems to have fallen away as I approached the light, such a light – beyond white: intense, burning, clean. It went right through me, exposing so much darkness. I feel so unclean, so out of place. Yet, the light burns with such love that I am drawn ever deeper. But, the closer to the light the more intense the sense of wrong. Split between the desire to flee because of my uncleanness and run further towards the burning love. I am being torn apart. It is unbearable. I can stand it no more. I must flee into the darkness…

No. I sense the presence of Christ. I know my darkness has been dealt with. It is gone forever. There is nothing now stopping me from being consumed by the fire of love…


I do not know how much time has past: it could have been a few minutes or thousands of years for all I know. I am aware of waking again. Everything is somehow different, more intense. The air is fresher, the colours richer, the sounds have filling the air with song. Indeed, this is a new heaven and a new earth.