ALL PART OF THE PLAN
I never understood why He chose me. I was the odd one out, a Judean in a group of Galileans. I don’t think He understood either. He just seemed to know that I was meant to be one of the twelve.
He was good to me, He put me in charge of our money, despite the fact that some thought I was a thief. (Or maybe it was because some thought I was a thief?)
It was wonderful being one of His chosen ones. We travelled all over Galilee and Judea together and everywhere we went we were greeted by hundreds of people, all wanting to see Him, to hear Him, to be healed by Him. I had never thought I could be treated as someone so important, yet know myself it was only because of Him, nothing to do with my merits.
We were in Caesarea Philippi when He started to prepare us for what had to happen. First He asked us who people thought He was and we told him some thought He was John the Baptist returned, or perhaps Elijah or maybe one of the other prophets. Then He asked us who we thought He was. It was Peter who summoned up the courage to answer for all of us that we knew He was the Messiah.
As soon as He knew that we all recognised Him as the Messiah, he told us not to tell anyone. I didn’t really understand why we should keep it secret, probably he thought it was important for people to recognise Him for themselves. Then He started to explain to us that He would have to suffer arrest and death. It was Peter again who spoke (I think for all of us), telling Him that suffering and death wasn’t necessary. Of course He told Peter off for “thinking as a man” but we all desperately wanted Peter to be right so this life with Him would last forever.
After that day I spent many sleepless night-time hours remembering all that I had learned as a boy about the Messiah. There were many different prophecies, and even more different interpretations of those prophecies. I tried to think of all the ones telling of the redemption of Israel and Judah and of how people believed the Messiah would lead His people to glory, but I kept coming back to the image of the Messiah as the shepherd of His people. He had used that image Himself. From there inevitably came the picture of the lamb led to the slaughter, which I just couldn’t put out of my mind during those long nights.
He reminded us on other occasions of what His fate must be but I don’t think we understood how imminent it was. Even when He told us as we were going to Jerusalem for Passover that it was then that it would happen. I just remember we all got angry with James and John for asking if they could sit next to Him in Heaven. He asked if they could drink the cup that He was to drink and they said “Yes” sounding as if they didn’t really know what he was getting at. Looking back I think He was trying to tell them they would also have to suffer and be killed.
All thought of suffering and death went away when we got to Jerusalem. He rode into the city like a king, but on a colt, just like the prophecy. It seemed that everyone in the city came to cheer Him on. There was no doubt then He was the Messiah. The only dissent came from the priests, who refuse to believe in Him. The mood soon changed though. He went to the temple to pray quietly and the sight of all the bustle and commerce going on there was too much for him to cope with. We’d never seen Him like that, shouting and overturning tables. Looking back it was understandable given His anxiety about what He was about to face. He went back frequently to the Temple and each time the priests tried to get Him to say something blasphemous so they could arrest Him. Of course He answered all their questions perfectly.
I don’t know at what point He recognised the irony of the situation. He needed to be arrested to fulfil His destiny and the priests wanted to arrest Him but were not prepared to do it in public without absolute proof of His guilt. Obviously He eventually realised that someone had to give them the opportunity to arrest Him in private. It was after our final supper together I realised that “someone” was me. I looked around when He said “Someone will betray me,” and it was clear I was the only one who understood it as a request, not a rebuke. I asked Him not to make me, “Not I, Lord!” but I knew it would only add to His troubles if I didn’t accept His will. And so I left.
The difficult bit was deciding what to tell the priests. That I wanted to force his hand to declare uprising against the heathen invaders? I don’t think they’d have wanted that, they seem happy with the amount of power the Romans have given them. Should I tell them the truth? Jesus is the Messiah and he knows that his ministry on earth is done and now he must offer himself as the ultimate sacrifice? That is definitely not what they wanted to hear. I finally settled for self-interest. Told them the movement was running out of steam and I wanted money to get out before public opinion turned on us for not delivering.
So now He’s dead. Crucified.
And I just don’t know what to do. I can’t go back to Peter and the others, they don’t understand yet what it is all about. I can’t go back to my life before Him, I’ve been changed too much by Him. That leaves suicide or exile. Do I kill myself and take the place in Heaven that He promised us all? Or do I mingle with the crowds who will be leaving Jerusalem tomorrow and go far enough away to be able to tell people all about Him and his message without being recognised? I can’t decide for myself. Which is why I am sitting here, staring from a distance at a cave with a stone newly rolled to block its entrance and soldiers standing guard outside. In that cave is the answer to everyone’s questions.