Holy Week 2011


People get me wrong. It's been happening since I was three. It's the first thing I can clearly remember. We were playing a game and the rest of the boys kept on pushing Andrew out of the circle so, without thinking about it, I shoved the boys on either side of me to make room for him and one of them fell over and banged his head and I was punished for being aggressive.

Every time I make a spontaneous gesture I'm accused of being impetuous and even bad tempered. He wasn't like that - well, only once - which is why I wanted to follow him from the very first time I saw him. Some people say it was the miracle of the fish but I'd made up my mind before that. I just wanted a good catch to leave behind for the family so they would not mind so much if I left for a while. When the net almost broke we all laughed but it was still important to get the fish in. I might not be the world's most elegant talker but I do know how to fish; and he appreciated that. He said that I'd have to be a fisher of people and I liked that.

From the beginning he was clear that I was second in command. I thought this was a bit rash of him. After all, young John was much cleverer than me and James was much more passionate about it all; but he said that I was a rock, that I could be depended on. I can't see why he was so constant when I fell short so often. Still, he never told me off - except that once - and when I was impetuous he would laugh with me rather than at me. He had a way of slowing me down just a little when I was about to go over the top. He would say: "My dad and I know how anxious you are to please; you don't have to prove anything to us." But it wasn't a matter of proving anything. It wasn't showing off, or anything calculated like that; I just did things because it seemed to me that they needed doing.

But he couldn't mind me all of the time so I did get myself into a mess now and again. The first really embarrassing incident was when he seemed to be walking on the lake and he called out my name and, you've got it, without thinking I just jumped out of the boat to go to him. It was all right till I thought about it; and then I began to sink and had to get back to the boat before I went under. I know some people will think that I was a bit of an idiot but he just said how nice it was that I'd ventured out and how funny I looked trying to stay upright.

Those were the days, those days in Galilee, when he taught the people in between fishing to keep the family going. He was often quite difficult to fathom because of the way he said things; but we all loved him. We would do anything for him. And that was before the really big miracles started. It was wild enough when he turned the water into wine - he did like a glass of wine, unlike the holy men they tell you about in the synagogue - but when he started performing mass feedings we just couldn't believe it. He even held a major feeding event for Gentiles; but by then we were so awestruck that we couldn't argue, even if we wanted to. We thought, for the first time in our lives, that something good was never going to end. We should have known better. Nothing good ever lasts if you're poor.

It all changed when he started talking about going to Jerusalem. That was when we had our only real row, when I tried to stop him coming here and he told me not to tempt him; it was difficult enough, he said, facing up to what was going to happen to him, without his best friend trying to hold him back. You see, although he told me off it was softened by him calling me his best friend. He said he would have to come to Jerusalem and die; and that was it; and I would have to accept it, so I did. Well, almost.

It was all going so well, in spite of his gloomy prophesies, until a few hours ago. The arrival in Jerusalem went like clockwork and we put on a really good show. I wasn't sure about the bust up with the Temple traders but it was only a bit of knock-about. Not like him at all; but he was under a lot of pressure.

After we arrived he was being hard pressed during the day with Pharisees, Sadducees, lawyers and officials trying to get him to say something silly or damning but, as you would expect, he kept his head; you should have seen their faces when he told them to be faithful to God and pay their taxes! The pressure might have been building up but he was on top form. And we got him off to Bethany every evening where he could get a good rest.

And the arrangements for the big meal all went well, even though the owner of the building was a bit odd, I mean, when have you ever seen a man carrying a pitcher of water? Jeshua was still saying some ominous things but I must say I was getting used to the mood music. To be honest, we were all getting used to his rather gloomy moods. He didn't laugh so much as he did back in Galilee but who would hold that against him. Jerusalem is a grim place. My job, as I saw it, was to make sure he had everything he needed and I felt almost calm after the meal when we went to the olive grove. Something odd had been going on with Judas but I didn't take much notice as he was always a bit odd. I should have spotted something but I didn't. So we went to the olive grove after a really inspirational meal where he talked for a long time about going away; but we didn't really follow and his smile was so reassuring.

But something must have affected him when he was praying just a short distance from us because he came over to us a couple of times looking, well, distracted. The wine we'd all had at the meal didn't help and we were all a bit drowsy which meant that he looked a bit frightening when he came over to say that he felt something terrible was going to happen. And then it did. I blame myself for not being ready. I should have been more careful with the wine but he never commented on things like that. And when Judas came with a bunch of Temple officials and guards all I could remember was my promise to defend him, so I lashed out. And he looked at me and just said: "Come on now. There's no need for that. If I needed that kind of help my dad would see me right" which I should have remembered he would. So Jeshua fixed the servant's ear; and winked at me, as if to say: "We won't mention this again".

Before I could recover my composure, the guards were marching him off and the others had disappeared into the night. I blame myself for not organising things better. We should have had a contingency plan for this kind of situation. After all, the authorities had been making enough fuss but we all thought he would somehow sort everything out. He talked about dying because the prophets said that it had to be that way; but we still thought he would fix everything. Since the beginning I might have been some sort of organiser but he was really the one who was in control.

Anyway, I was just wondering what to do when the moon came from behind a cloud and I saw John loping off. He was the brightest so I thought I would be wise to stick with him. "What will they do?" I asked him when I caught up. "It's difficult to say," he said. "It could be anything from a bit of a ticking off for preaching in the Temple to as much as a flogging, just to get the point across. But the only way to find out is to follow him. They're taking him to the High Priest's house and I know someone there who will let us into the courtyard where we can wait to see what happens."

We hurried into the city centre and John got us admitted to the courtyard and we stood round a fire to keep warm. John had gone away to find out what was going on and I felt isolated and a bit threatened. The runners for the high officials were standing in a knot saying nasty things about Jeshua; they said he was a fraud, just a bumped-up peasant from Galilee. I was about to go over and put them straight when a servant girl, looking really frightened - she must have seen the threat in my face - asked if I was really one of the followers of Jeshua and to sooth her I just said: "No. Don't worry. I won't do anything rash." I was trying to stay calm, right out of character, but I really was. Then somebody else asked and to keep consistent I said the same thing. And again, the same thing. Then I heard a cock crow and I remembered what he said I shouldn't have pretended I wasn't one of his followers. I should have allowed myself to be my usual self and let them have it; but in being too careful to do the right thing, I did the wrong thing.

Not that I've had much time to reflect. Since then it's gone from bad, to worse, to despair. When we heard that they had condemned Jeshua to crucifixion, we could hardly believe it. How could they condemn him just for some rather provocative preaching? John said he couldn't believe it, that they had broken the law; but what does that matter to powerful people from Jerusalem dealing with a humble preacher from Galilee?

As soon as we heard the news we all decided to go to Golgotha together, to support each other. And here we are. Desperate, helpless, trying not to cry. John and Mary have gone close because he seemed to want them  for something; and I don't mind really. I am his best friend but John has his job to do as the record keeper.

I've seen enough violence in my time but nothing like this. I mean, you can see from the faces of the ones either side of him that they're a bit rough and probably deserve what's coming to then; but my Lord and Master? What has he done? He's challenged the authorities and he did say that really holy people and the authorities were always in conflict and that he'd be caught up in it. But crucifixion! You can hardly believe it. We're used to rough treatment but this is out of order.

I want to lash out again at some of the officials who are walking past, taking a sadistic look; but there are Roman soldiers over there and I just have to put up with it.

You might think that I am heartless because I'm thinking about what to do next. But you have to. There are scores of his followers, mostly from Galilee, and we have to keep together until we can make arrangements for going home. Apart from the fact that it's far too dangerous for us to stay here, it's also too expensive. Judas and his moneybag have both disappeared, so here we are.

Look, the only way I can love him is by doing something. I can't find nice words or make a speech. I can go on organising his followers until there's no more need for it; and then I will have to go back to fishing. I'll make sure, for his sake - that's what he would want me to do - that everybody is all right.

John and Mary are coming back and he's shouting something. I can't bear it. I will have to try and hear what he's saying. Poor Master; such nice hands for a builder, such a beautiful face covered in blood, such laughing eyes grown dull. He is looking at me now but he's stopped shouting. His breathing is heavy and slow. "It won't be long now, Master. You'll soon be back with your dad."